2014-04-26

How ridiculous does it have to get?

Double standards.

I can't help thinking there's a better term.

I wish that this kind of overwhelmingly obvious and in-your-face examples of the hypocrisy embodied by most of the stereotypes and received wisdom that attempt to marginalize women in politics (and indeed in many other pursuits) would eventually make a difference.

But I worry that it won't.

It seems like "the people we like" can do no wrong, and the "people we don't like" just can't seem to do anything right, and they're always walking on eggs and trying really hard to be "good ones" and not ruffle any feathers.

That works both ways, though.  But that's not what I'm talking about now.

One interesting thing is that open any "out there" women's magazine like Bust or what-have-you and it seems you're eventually going to see something about how women can in fact pee standing up, and that all women should try it to somehow prove that they're just as good as men, equal to men.

As Simone de Beauvoir points out in Le Deuxième Sexe  there is nothing intrinsically  humiliating or "less than" or inferior in having to pee in a squatting position.

That's attached to the act because women are "wanted to be" seen as inferior, so anything they do is seen as evidence of their inferiority, their "unattractive otherness".

This actually works against men in this case in an interesting way.  Men are basically forced to pee standing up, even from a young age, and this is cast in terms of some kind of "badge of masculitity" conjoined with all of the horrible homophobia and other social taboos and other things men have to put up with in addition to lots of shaming from mothers since it is, after all, harder to pee standing up, more risk of accidents (I could get into the details of that), harder to figure out when you're trying to learn to pee by yourself to begin with, and so forth, and so little boys are labeled as "maturing more slowly" and having "toilet issues" and so forth.  In short, it cuts both ways.  Men are forced to do a lot of things in order to keep this particular stigma attached to women.

It's a similar deal with the "display of emotions".  It's horrible not to be able to display emotion.  It's like not being allowed to go to the bathroom...ever.  If held too long, like elimination of other bodily waste products, the result is severe health problems and ultimately big, embarrassing messes that humiliate everyone.

Just like being forced to always pee standing up for fear of being labeled some kind of weirdo, or "faggot" or something and subsequently ostracized or beaten to death, men in American society are not allowed to show emotion other than the football emotions (lust, rage, or exultation), or face the same consequences.

Women are not so constrained, which is great for them, but having free access to this natural bodily function has been stigmatized at the expense of both genders: women get stigmatized and men don't get to experience being fully physically alive and their health suffers as a result.  A good cry is always better in public, in the presence of caring others, or even if not, just to have it clears out all of those cobwebs and helps one think straight again on whatever question it is.  Stuffing everything all the time eventually leaves one completely reactive and unable to think and in pain or on the verge of being in pain about nearly everything.

But that's not the issue here.

It seems like it is, but it isn't.  Yes, crying and showing emotions (all emotions) is good.  That's why we have emotions.  I see that men are not allowed to have emotions as kind of another issue.  It's not so much that men need to be more like women or something.

The problem is that women are thought of as inferior and so that anything they do is seen as evidence of this inferiority. Talking about peeing standing up or crying in public or which way you roll the toilet paper or whether you squeeze the toothpaste from the bottom is all a smokescreen for the real issue: that women are not seen as truly equal.

Women are equal.

Women are different.

Women are different from men, and yet they are equal to men.  We are mixing apples and oranges when we talk about how women need to pee standing up or men need to start crying or women stop or whatever.

Jon Stewart's video is a demonstration of how if men do it (cry, get emotional in politics) it's good, but if women do it, it's bad, a sign of  "weakness" (womanliness).  The floodgates are starting to open up for men, and everybody's saying it's great (for men), but it's still the same for women.

Women just aren't as good and we're willing to go to even more and more ridiculous lengths to justify this.  It will never end.  The doublespeak, the double standards, the status quo apologies will never end so long as we avoid the problem.  We hate women, we hate womanliness, and this is almost certainly the basis for male homophobia and what a horrible whip this is for American men.

And it's not just men hating women, but women hate themselves. Women's internalized oppression is almost certainly worse than anything men are dishing out.  And even if most or all men were to stop  dishing out oppression towards women, the internalized oppression would still be there, and might not go away by itself.

I don't know what the answer is.

I do know that women are different to men.  I know that I don't want that to change.  I like women.  They're like regular people except they have these exciting little glowing force fields around them that make them somehow extraordinarily interesting.  They have gotten the shit beaten out of them by their parents, their families, and by society in slightly different ways to how I have, and so they can offer me this little suggestion of hope that maybe things don't have to be exactly the way that I've always been told they have to be.

And maybe I can offer women the same little sliver of hope in return.  Maybe it's not really as bad as you've been told it is.  The demon in my head is trying to kill me, but not trying to kill you, so maybe I can help you and you can help me and we can both get a little bit better.

The part that I can't get my head around is that women sometimes seem like they might like men in rather the same way.  Men have penises, tend to be hairy, don't have boobs (per se), tend to be on average a little bigger and maybe a little firmer, and it seems that women might sometimes think that's kind of cool, and I like to hear them talk about that on the rare occasions that they do.

It gives me hope.

That's one of the reasons that contemporary pseudo-crypto-feminism worries me, too.

It seems that maybe the only way to stop hating women is to start celebrating women, which means celebrating the things that make women different, and maybe boiling those things down to the things that really make women different, not the stupid arbitrary crap that gets dumped on them.  It also means we're going to have to celebrate the things that made men different, too.

Cooking and sewing and cleaning is not intrinsically a "woman thing".  Men like to say it is (less than they used to), women like to say it is (as much as they ever did, it seems), but it isn't.

Giving birth to babies probably is.  This may be a much, much bigger thing than it's generally given credit for.  It may be related to society wanting to control women, men having to be the ones to go to war, and so on and so forth.  We can't pretend this one away.

Breastfeeding kind of is, but it turns out that men can do it too, and maybe there's something to that. If we're going to celebrate how men and women are equal, I think we also need to celebrate the ways in which they are different, but this might not be as big a one as we think.

If pseudo-crypto-feminists make penises out to be "scary" and hairiness or speaking in "booming voices" out to be brutish or threatening, then in the same stroke they are also making vaginas out to be "gross", boobs to be "stupid", and uteruses and menstruation out to be "messy and complicated" or what-have-you.

You can't ignore them, you can't pretend they're the same, because they aren't.  You probably can't relate exactly to the other gender's experience of their own body, either. You have to talk about that stuff.  There's too much assuming.  How do I know?  Because every time I've heard women talk about men's bodies and their experience of their sexuality and what it's like to have an erection or what-have-you, what they have said has invariably been dead wrong.

And it doesn't occur to women (or to men) to ask  the other side for the facts, for the straight dope.  That's a big part of the problem, I think, and maybe it's insurmountable.  That's what I'm researching now -- whether these kinds of systems of thought and behavior can be changed, and if so, how to do it.

We can't ignore our own bodies, because they are who we are.  A man will never be a woman and vice versa, and even somebody who is somewhere in-between or who changes from one to the other will not be able to know exactly all of the possibilities, at least not all at once.  There are two (or more) possibilities, you get to be one of them. I get to know, if I can remember, what it's like to be a child in the 70s and 80s, but not at any other time.  I can compare my experience to another, but I still have to ask them, if I want to know what it was like to be a child in the 40s or 50s, or nowadays.

It's a constructive process.  If I think I know it all from the start then I shan't succeed.

The Feminine Mystique.  de Beauvoir talks about similar things.  If women remain mysterious to men, and men to women (even if slightly less so), then equal rights are probably not going to happen.  Separate-but-equal is a pipe dream.

We need goals.  We need dialogue about goals.  What do we want our society of equality to look like?  How are we going to acknowledge and celebrate our gender differences?

Do women need to be able to bring their suckling babies to the office with them right after they give birth?  That might be a really good idea for a lot of reasons.  Men and women need to discuss that kind of thing -- together.

How can workplaces support this?  What about women who work in manufacturing or other such where there might be safety hazards?

Why do we spend millions on wheelchair ramps, special elevators and doors, for the disabled, but nothing on half the population, i.e., women?  How much more need we spend on women?  And how?  Do men need more accommodation than they're currently getting?

Why separate bathrooms?  I do  talk with superiors and coworkers in the bathroom at work, information is exchanged, decisions are made, and women are excluded.  Even just greetings and chit-chat is valuable.  Are the ways men and women go to the bathroom, our processes and body parts are so frightening and horrible to one another, or the mutual mystique would be shattered so as to ruin something?  What is the nature of this strange fear, and what could we do to overcome it?

The legal system still operates around a basic paradigm of the ownership of women (and children) and men, corporations, clans, families, are somehow (sort of) selected as the arbitrary owners.  We probably have to admit this, and confront it, and probably decide what we would rather things look like instead.

Does society, the government really have to control women's bodies?  Women make babies from nothing.  This is a powerful fact.  Really the government's only job is to register the creation of new people and to some degree "track" the noteworthy things that happen to them, including their eventual deaths.  A child comes into existence, lives through its minority as the responsibility of some full citizen, should said citizen die or become indisposed in that interval, the child becomes a "ward of the state" and so on.  Once upon a time, the church kept track of all of these things.

Women are the engines that drive all of this.  In a sense, the government has to keep track of them.

Men love women.  Who knows why?  Men will admit that it makes no sense, but also that there is no way around it.  The urge to seek the society of women is overwhelmingly powerful.  I don't know if it's the same for women, anywhere near -- probably not, maybe not even close.

It's a stupid, magical fact, but it gives women a lot of power, and it probably also gives governments a lot of power (over men).

Nature decided that there should be about 50/50 men and women.  If a church or government went directly to the women to control them and their fertility, which would make sense, i.e., make the women the full citizens and just ignore the men, leaving them to sort of buzz in and about like electrons orbiting the central female nuclear core, then said government would effectively have no control over the men, that other 50% who since they don't have uteruses may be made to work long hours or be sent off to war without impacting the birthrate.

Maybe it makes more sense to place the men in a position of "ownership" over the women, so each woman is still controlled, registered with the government, but so are each of the men, since they are attached to the women.  Obviously, any children belong to the woman, but make them, too, owned by the attached man, which further nails him down and makes him easy to keep track of, pay taxes, serve in the army, etc.

Maybe that's why we have marriage.  It seems to be a tool of control of citizens by the government -- that seems almost obvious -- but exactly how it works and how it came into being is debatable.  Governments sure do like marriage -- that's a documented fact.

Maybe governments can't invade women's lives any less.  The Prussian government of Frederick II obliged women to go around to the police and report their menstruations, for one thing.  Maybe we should do that, too.  Do we need to?  Do we need to do anything else?  What's the minimum?

On that note, in Japan, a woman can call into work with a "sei-ri-bi" (menstruation / PMS day) once per month (in practice, two or three days per month are not uncommon).  In talking with my female friends and hearing about what they go through (and the fact that I suffer from rapid-cycling bipolar mood swings myself I can sympathize a bit -- although I'm usually spared cramping and bleeding) that sounds like a fine thing.  Does that undermine women, make them seem weak, expose them to resentment from men, or does it represent a normal, kind, reasonable acknowledgement of a basic physiological difference between the genders?

It could be either one.

There's more to being "fair" than just not being cruel.

But not being cruel is always a good start.

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