military style = women-style.

I am talking about my experiences on practical  in the school system in Australia. I failed this, after doing really well in all the academic part of the course. (The practice came at the end.) What really shocked me was the way Australian school children viewed their teachers in terms of gender. Specifically, I COULD NOT discipline them if I took an authoritative approach (although a male colleague of mine was able to take that approach with good effect). I had to take a soft and nurturing approach, instead (which did not jive with my personality, and which I was unable to do.) It was also clear to me that all the other female teachers were taking this motherly approach to get things done.

I view female authority differently, because I was brought up and educated within a colonial society (Rhodesia), which had a military model of discipline, and not a parenting model. So, I had a healthy respect for  my female teachers from the word go. It seems that a softer, more parental based approach, does not incline the students to become respectful to any women who happen to be  unlike  their early childhood mothers.

zimbabwe not so free

A 57 year-old activist from the pressure group Woman of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), who had been arrested on 10 different occasions and had been physically and mentally abused by the police each time, has died. Ninety-eight activists from WOZA and their male counterparts, who were protesting against escalating state sponsored violence, were arrested by the police earlier this month.

Fifteen opposition activists were abducted from a house belonging to an MDC member in Chipinge South and a police chief threatened to invoke the shoot-to-kill order against MDC activists if they went ahead with a planned rally in Chimanimani.

Contentious developments on the election front include the appointment of five former government employees to positions of influence in the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. The appointments have been condemned by the opposition and civil society.

meet the groom and bride

Still reading Simone de Beauvoir, and I’m wondering and I’m wondering. This book was published in 1949, but Lord be gracious and shed some light on things for me — some things are surely like the present.

I like the idea that Beauvoir has that women, meeting among themselves, are actually ‘behind the scenes’ of the great drama that is to be their presentation of themselves before men. It accounts for the fact that there are certain women I can talk to who really leave me with the feeling that I’ve not so much engaged with something living as talked through them. “This is not the scene, this is not the scene,” they tell themselves. Christian meetings, any events that ceremonially presequal marriage, the vulgar emptiness of time before the workers are compelled by the clock to put on their appropriate public faces — all these involve conceptually “behind the scenes” chatter. All of these situations sadden me.

Perhaps, however, this is the meaning of the inevitable and emotionally drab hen’s nights or bachelorette parties. For, according to Beauvoir, women may let down their hair in company not mixed by men. The image of a troop of women cacophornicating raucously is the stage curtain drawn back to reveal the stage cast and crew, not yet attired in mixed-company appropriate feminine dignity.

The groom has his own behind the scenes humiliation rituals. Not unlike the bride to be, he is also thingified. He is the vanishing thing of his playmates, soon to become her thing.

At the performance of the wedding, he takes pride of place, having paid his friends their paltry dues. The bride and her entourage are now transformed into perfectly tranquil social fixtures, not a hair out of place. They are now ‘on stage’ for the patriarchy.

The transformation of bride and groom is complete — he has acquired his symbolic realm to rule over. She has acquired the will to conform.

zee pill

This has been a rough week, because for some reason I’ve had the most severe allergic headache on and off, throughout the week.

It very likely has to do with my weaning from the pill. I’m giving it a break, in order to develop muscular abs. The hormones tend to weaken the muscle development in that area. Yet, I am very susceptible to wind born allergens, and somehow I seem to have less protection from the violence of allergic attack off the pill as compared to on it.

Nevermind.

Gender dies hard

Gender is such a tiresome social construct. Yesterday I did behold that Simone de Beauvoir, the feminist herself, was of the opinion that Herman Melville wrote with better breadth and depth than Emily Brontë. I must say that I’m not of the same opinion, and you can almost sense a certain amount of masculinist elitism seeping through de Beauvoir’s utterances in The Second Sex.
You often find such semi-clad protuberances in the attitudes of certain types of feminist. Now, I am in no way a thinker who considers personal experience anything other than a field of question marks to be decoded. Personal experience is not in itself and for itself, because of the hideous accretions of the question marks which always seem to envelop one’s ‘pure experiences’. Due to this realisation, my approach to life has been both subjective AND extremely analytical. Yet one wouldn’t know this if one failed to engage me in a conversation. The ultimate key would be to ask.
De Beauvoir’s view of the women of her time is that they weren’t objective enough. They were unable to affect an attitude that was disinterested and analytical . Her diligence in pointing this out is commendable. Yet, today, we have altogether a different problem, I think. The naïve realism that underlies de Beauvoir’s critique of the women of her time had given way to a much more vicious and insidious form of political warfare. Whereas de Beauvoir felt it sufficed to point out that women ought to aim to be more analytical, these days one can actually be more analytical, and it is still not seen that one is more analytical.
This brings me back to the issue of feminists who do not see other women for what they are — for it is women who fail here as well as men. When I was attempting my Dip. Ed., I had to write a little essay on my personal philosophy of pedagogy. Not knowing where to start, I took a stab, and I will have to say that my 800 words or so were oh so abstract.
The female teacher of this course announced in due course how fascinated she was to find that all the female students wrote in highly personal ways, whereas the male students wrote abstractly, philosophically.
And hereby lies a tail for a wily cat.  Gender ideologies die hard, and it is rarely enough to read what somebody is saying, try to take it in, without relying on an invidious interpretive mechanism of a gender ideology.
I do my best to avoid being mangled by the social system. When my views are being misrepresented — as they often are — my analytical mind detects a false note. Call my contentions with the system of gender all too personal, if you like — but in doing so, you will only succeed in proving my point.

I had a dream, I had a dream

I had a dream last night — a disturbing one. It reminded me of a conclusion that I have been coming to of late: that the basis of sexism is ‘small man syndrome’.

It is only those who have been psychologically mutilated who need to make others smaller, to try to compensate.

A happy human being has no such drive, but those who believe enough in a strong leader — an alpha male — allow themselves to be turned into betas by the psychology of subservience which lives in their hearts. This, my friends, this ape-like subservience is mutilation, and the more you keep it up, the more it’s going to harm you.

Having accepted harm, these males become sexist — wanting to make someone else smaller than they are, in order to feel better about their mutiliation. (It goes without saying that this is not an effective strategy for feeling better about yourself. You can’t get back the self respect and freedom you have lost by inflicting pain on others. You just remain immature by thinking that way.)

say what?


Hattie was kind enough to give me a link to the assorted web pages of some right winger from my original homeland. (He lives in Australia, now!)

I found the following diatribe of his fascinating for its extreme wrong-headedness (at least in terms of my own experiences):

So for many women the choice is between exciting (powerful or vigorous) bastards and reliable wimps. Many women dislike that choice so much that they never marry or have children (and many men are so bad at meeting such requirements that no women ever choose them). Attractive women, however, can wait for a “right” (reliable and strong) man to come along but other women (e.g. overweight women) may have to take any offer that comes up or go without entirely. By the same token “right” men (capable men who are nice to women) can wait for a “right” (attractive, capable and good-hearted) woman to come along as they know that many women will show interest in them.

Well, granted he does say, “for many women” rather than “for everyone”. Yet, why does excitingness and stability need to imply two different sorts of men? I mean, really, children, can’t we think outside of the box yet, at this late stage of the game. I mean, Bill Gates would weep torrents of cave-man tears at the reality we’ve all hedged ourselves into, if our friend is actually correct.

Also, he doesn’t understand that fatness can be aesthetically and culturally prized — for example, the Bantu of his home continent. Why? Because the ability to get fat is a sign of abundance, which only the wealthy can demonstrate. To be fat is to be considered attractive.

ECHIDNE OF THE SNAKES: melodramatic and manipulative

ECHIDNE OF THE SNAKES: a melodramatic and manipulative woman.

Women who try to get society’s authorities to help them oppose the patriarchy are usually considered melodramatic and manipulative — more so if they are actually in real danger, and are expressing real responses to that threat. Such was the case with a 20 year old Brit, of Kurdish ancestry  who was slain by her father recently.

Unfortunately (and I speak from personal experience), if one is a migrant and doesn’t know the ins and outs of the new patriarchal culture yet, it is even harder than for one who does, to know how to speak to the authorities in a way that will get around their normal, inbuilt patriarchal prejudices.

It is to be expected that most migrants (especially in the naïvety and splendour of their youth) will attempt to speak to their new authorities in a simple and direct way. Regrettably, it would seem that approach is also rarely efficacious. Indeed, if one really wanted the authorities to take seriously the idea that one’s father wanted to kill one, the victim would have to start her speech in a more indirect and elaborate way.

She would have to begin by navigating the violent and hair-raising cultural rocks of women’s presumed hysteria. So, her first strenuous task would be to convince the police officer that she was very, very rational, very in touch with the unavoidable need to be a non-hysterical citizen in her new environment.

She would then have to move on to educating the officer about some of the differences between her own culture (which, despite her new location, still held sway) as compared to the culture that she had now entered. She would have to explain in detail that honour killings were still a real threat to her in the new world — as well as why this was so. She would then have to move on to supply a concrete evidence to prove her fears that she could soon be strangled by her father and put into a suitcase (which actually happened).

It would be best to have something he’d said on tape, or at very least a written copy of his threats, recorded accurately and transposed on a certain date. After this, she would still have to convince the police officer that she was a well-adjusted citizen — happy to be in the new culture and ready to do her bit to serve it. (It wouldn’t serve to her advantage if she showed the slightest trace of maladjustment as this would only serve to boost the basis for a “hysteria” deflection of her plea.)

In other words, if the 20-year-old Kurdish Brit was an emotional superwoman (unmoved by anything that had happened to her), and if she had at least a masters in social science (or a similar field), she would have had a fighting chance at preventing this honour killing, which took her life in Britain recently.

As it stood, (and lacking these credentials),the stark facts of the situation show that survival of the fittest is survival of the fittest —– and this Kurd certainly deserved to die, for that’s what happened.

Is my cynicism about patriarchal society in the slightest bit misplaced?

 

Mikey, women and child, blather

Read some Nietzsche today — “mother and child” — to remind myself how much I’ve intellectually arrived. By contemporary standards, a male Nietzschean would be incredibly feminine in his sense of modesty and inability to grasp the world. But, not being “worldly” in morals, or being capable of understanding the actual harshness of the world, was considered, in the 19th century, to be a feminine attribute.

In general, I think that the comparatively harsher conditions that women are forced to face (and I mean this as relative to the conditions which a middle class male generally and commonly faces), has produced a tendency for self-educated women to be more mature than their male counterparts are. This has to do with many a woman’s absolute NEED to learn — in order to get themselves out of the binds that society has put them into. It is rarely the case that a man will feel a need to learn about things with as much force of desperation and intensity as many women do. (There are some exceptions to this rule though — Mike, in himself, being one of them.)

When women try to bring legitimate charges of unfairness to public view, they are very often dismissed for being “too sensitive”, no matter if they are, personally, very sensitive or not. (I’ve been accused of this — but of course — yet, usually the accusations slice me up the other way as being way too “insensitive”. So, basically, the imputation is that I am not silent enough, and not yielding enough, and that this is my problem and not anybody else’s.)

So women regularly have a harsher experience in society than their male equivalents do. This means that they are more readily exposed to a catalyst for thinking than their equivalent men are. This,of course, can serve to ground them, more thoroughly, in a material basis for political reality than others who do not face arbitrary discrimination and vindictive behaviour directed at them for no reason.

the real state of gender

I have an ongoing hypothesis. Let me explain it, once again. It has to do with character structure. Let me begin by saying that although I don’t think that character structure is completely immutable, I do think that one’s early impressions of life can sometimes leave emotional grooves in our minds which are hard to shift. Perhaps this is generally the case. The issue I am considering here has to do with gender. Those of you who know me will also know that I’ve been chipping away at gender issues for the longest duration. In this little flight of fanciful speculation I’ll go on to do more of same.

First let me rewind. One of the first impressions I received from my teachers in Australian schools is that both males and females had relatively little authority compared to what I had been used to. I found that their lack of authority made it hard for me to focus on what they said — so no doubt my grades suffered somewhat, compared to what might otherwise have been the case.

As I left school and gained further and different experiences in various workplaces, I discovered that generally women in my arena were not expected to have authority. I found this strange, because it was not what I had been used to, from my schooling. “Naturally,” I had already the feeling that secretaries and most if not all clerical workers were unauthoritative. Yet I was surprised to discover that my women colleagues had unathoritative alliances with me — that is, they couldn’t stand up for what was right in any sense that was independent from general emotional dynamics pertaining to the system as a whole. So, whatever the workplace situation I was in, I soon discovered that I could have “friendships” in form but not in content — in other words, only very superficial relationships. I would not be assured of the backing of any woman speaking from an authoritative moral or individualist’s perspective. I soon found this out. The best I could hope from would be that others saw things my way because this suited their own pre-existing pragmatics.

This was quite a change from what I’d previously experienced in Zimbabwe. I had to understand that friendships basically had no meaning — at least in the important ways that I had previously valued them (for instance, in the sense that one stands up for friends.) It was an earth-shattering shock for me to discover this. Basically, the psychological ground gave way beneath me. I couldnt believe the women with whom I thought I’d shared a simple but implicit trust had absolutely no substance! I had been backstabbed, spied on (on behalf of the managers) and my confidences had been betrayed.

Still, I thought that this experience was a mystery. I didn’t trace it then — as I do now — to a habituated lack of female power. I had been let down only because I had expected the presence of female power where there was none.

So, that was my first devastating introduction as to what it meant to be really living in the first world. Primarily, it meant giving up the possibility of having female friendships, in order to preserve my personal safety — both psychologically and socially. This was painful to recognise — but like a cancer, my hopes in having female friends has to be excised. I wanted to live, after all.

Later, when I tried to do school teaching, I learned that females can, indeed, survive in this society, if only they adopt a different attitude to authority — that is, the attitude of a suppliant. I was astonished by this, because I simply hadn’t thought of this kind of solution to a lack of personal power, before. After I realised this (belatedly), I tried to adopt the feminine attitude towards power. It didn’t really gel with my personality though, because my female teachers — the early ones whom I’d respected — had been nothing like this. To behave in a manner which was different from how I felt inside — this was enormously stressful for me. It was almost as if automatic processes like breathing or digesting suddenly had to be done by a conscious act of will. So, naturally, I failed miserably at being a female teacher in a feminine-authoritative way (that is, I couldn’t affect a demeanour of being both supplicant and authoritative, simultaneously.) If my own teachers had been feminine in their authoritativeness, I’m sure I would have pulled off such an act. And yet, I couldn’t do it.

My model of authority was more masculine. I’d expected teachers — male and female — to tell me what to do, and then to reinforce that with firm discipline. I’d also been accustomed to the idea, “we do this because it is right,” rather than, “we do this because it is in the nature of things — and because it serves our interests.” (It is doubtful that I could see how “interests” as a concept for why we do anything could mean more than “because we’re here.” I’m idealist, and unmaterialist, in that sense.) So, in my experiences at school, I understood the reasons why female authority was so weak in the society at large. I understood why friendships with most women (as with those extremely disempowered) would never work.

I still do not find the actual manifestation of female power, in the rare instances that it still occurs, to be at all a strange thing. When women get higher rankings in the martial arts gym, and it feeds their confidence up to the point where they see fit to assert their own particular sense of authority, I see this as the most natural thing in the world. It is like they got their confidence back from wherever it was hiding. They’ve had to earn it back, but now they are asserting it. If only more did, the world would be a better place for me!

~JA


you are my brain, therefore we need a lobotomy!

Actually, and I might have said this before, but my father thought that I was part of his brain. Not the good part, mind you. He was all of the good part. He thought I was the part of his identity which he didn’t like about himself. Because he thought I was an unruly part of his own brain, he had to keep control over me at all times. This was harder for him to do when I was quiet, minding my own business, keeping to myself — so, he had to provoke me, outrage me, get me to speak out, so that he could then manage to somehow dominate me and gain a sense of control again, over his “own brain”. I tell you, only feminists would believe this. This kind of insanity is barely distinguishable from normal, everyday sexism in most of the world’s eyes. In any case, I raised the issue of his behaviour with a number of people and nobody did anything — except later it turned out that I was being blamed in some ways. It seemed that my father’s illusion that I was an unruly part of his brain had been conveyed to my extended family as, somehow, reality.

Let it be known

Ever since my teenage years, my father has not been passive-aggressive but outright aggressive. He has deliberately obfuscated all my attempts to communicate, because of his views on gender.

The first instance of this that I can recall (which stuck out in my mind because of its complete nonsensical, inexplicable nature), was when I was riding my horse. My father and I had gone down to the stables together, for me to ride what was once his horse and now mine. Needless to say, this was a very old horse.

Sometimes, due to her age, or because I hadn’t cleaned out her hooves with sufficient care, my horse would move with a slight trace of stiffness, or lameness.

As I pushed the horse into a canter, I sensed a real stiffness in her hind legs. Something was not quite right. I mentioned this to my father, who had always been happy to talk about horses and their conditions before. For the first time, his answer to me didn’t make any sense. I had said that there was something that didn’t feel right about the horses gait. I had meant that I could sense this kinesthetically, as her rider. There was a particular arching of the hindquarters; the movement wasn’t smooth. My father, however, answered in a way totally divorced from the context. He had decided that by “feeling right” I meant that term emotionally, as in not feeling happy. He gave me a speech about feelings being “for artists” and that they did not matter.

Ever since around this time, the logical and normative meaning of a sentence has been lost on my father. His hatred and fear of me prevents him from putting what I’m saying into a normal, logical context. Instead, he produces distracted and distant interpretations of my speech, based upon his own emotional state (which he falsely attributes to my own emotional state).

As a result of this treatment, for a long time I became very non-emotional: Very reluctant to dare to have emotions at all.

patriarchal madness

How does the threatened patriarchy respond so that laughing women know they are being threatening somehow?

The patriarchy responds by persecution, but without stating why it is persecuting. It responds with victimisation of the laughers, in such as way that those victimised for laughing are forced to do a total conscience examination in order to attempt to figure out how and where they went wrong in their overall social conduct. Finally, despite relentless self-examination, the victim is likely to come up empty handed, having concluded that there was nothing logically wrong with her behaviour. Alas, this is the most unfortunate conclusion for the victim, since, not having any clear idea on how she infringed upon proper social values to the degree of warranting the punishment that was dealt out to her, AND not wanting to err in such a way as to invite another dolling out of the same punishment, she is likely to curtail her behaviour in total.

on not existing (and ceasing to exist)

Regarding this: http://majikthise.typepad.com/majikthise_/2007/03/ptsd_cheesecake.html

Given that we live in a patriarchy, wherein women are cast as ethereal little butterflies, existing for male pleasure and men are actors, the meaning of a photograph will be derived from within a patriarchal context. Perhaps the photographer sees this as inavoidable.

My view is that for the photographer to attempt to speak from outside of a patriarchal context would have been too risky for her. She might have got no message across at all by being confrontational.

Supposing her photos told the truth — not in an indirect way, and by using suggestibility of damage, but by showing the damage more directly? You would see images of women fully dressed in combat gear, staring the photographer directly in the eye, with a look on their faces which told the full story. Yet, such photos could not be published as this sort of negative situationalisation of women is unthinkable within the patriarchy. To negate the image of women as happy go lucky butterflies, who are beyond pain and distress, is to annihilate the patriarchal image of women altogether. Therefore, it is possible that the culturally indoctinated viewer looking at such honest pictures might not see anything at all — or more specifically, he (or she) would see something quite specific, but what this viewer saw would make them turn their heads and shut their eyes and not want to read further. They would retreat in militant ignorance because of a reality which does not fit the dominant paradigm.

So, instead, the photographer poses the women in such a way that their demeanour flatters the viewer. If she looks away from the camera, or looks passively up at him (or her), the viewer has the idea that they are still in control and have nothing to feel threatened by. A slightly distracted or cheese-cakey demeanour might even give the male viewer the impression that he has a better grasp on what it means to be “her” than she does. After all, he is “facing” her, but she cannot “face” him.

Having the right character for the job

A lot of bosses require women to be very suppliant — although this is generally not stated as part of any job description. So when it is found that the women are not this way, they are considered to be somehow unruly of defiant, even (or especially) when they are doing their job very efficiently, with a very high degree of self-discipline. (What aggravates these kinds of sexist bosses is that the discipline is internal to the employee and does not come from above.)

What is perceived in the female employee and what is actually present in her character become two very different things under these circumstances.

female gender stereotypes as self-fulfilling prophesies

Woman are commonly regarded as “emotional and hence unreliable” (according to Ginmar). I have formed various strategies for accommodating this societal perceptual warp whilst not being overly damaged by it. (A martial arts equivalent would be to gain advantages by reading one’s opponent more accurately, whilst keeping one’s head cool.)

Hereforth is the best answer I have come up with: I respond to this problematic of biased perceptions first by becoming very reliable in relation to those people who treat me well. Simultanously, I consciously become very unreliable vis-a-vis those who do not credit me with any intelligence or do not show respect for my personal integrity.

Consequently, whenever and if I am simply assumed to be unreliable (despite not showing myself to be so in any well-defined ways), then I at least get to enjoy the benefits of the assumption, by actively remaining my own person. In other words, if you simply presume that I am a slacker, then you will find that towards you I will indeed seem very indifferent and slack. Alternatively, treat me as a person of integrity, and you can always expect the very best from me.

Admitting weakness

It hath been said: “The idea that showing weakness is essentially unmasculine is a huge problem”.

This is a very interesting facet of social life, and it is very correct to point it out. What I have found out about “weakness”, though, is quite interesting. Sometimes — if not usually — there is actually no correlate between what is perceived as weakness and a genuine condition of debility, or inability to act and think, at all.

So, I find that very often somebody will take something I say or do as a kind of confession of weakness (and not, well really the opposite state of being really honest about myself because I am thick-skinned and quite able to show the contempt). Well, I find that this indifference, because it departs from the norm and looks like a confessional mode, is treated like weakness.

What I am hinting at, in a roundabout way, is that it is almost not even necessary to exert much aggressive energy, one way or another, when someone assumes my strength to be  weakness. They expose their own real weakness, and somehow they also walk away being hurt.

It’s really magic!