Radfem-ological Images (Klondike Bar)

by FCM

i was disturbed by this commercial and the truism it illustrates about het partnerships in general: men “not listening” to their wives and gfs does happen, and its frequent enough that everyone knows about it.  and as i learned when i googled it, feministing has done a brief takedown of its own: the above video is disturbing because its “blatantly sexist” and its blatantly sexist because it features “rewarding a man for briefly listening to his wife.”  yes, all true!  but…whats “sexist” about it specifically?  and why is this a problem, and why is it a problem for feminists?  i mean, anyone would have hurt feelings if they were ignored this way, wouldnt they?  is “sexism” *just* about hurting womens feelings?

clearly, the answer to this is no.  feminism is not about catering to or protecting womens feelings, as if womens subjective experience of the things that are done to us under patriarchy is the real problem, and definitely *not* the demonstrable harms that flow to us from misogynist institutions and the behaviors and entitlements of misogynist men.  we must understand this, if we are to get anything done, and if our critiques of media images are to be meaningful: its the demonstrable harms to women we are talking about, perpetrated on women by men, to benefit themselves.  we are talking about context.  “sexism” isnt just a word, or an idea, its a tapestry of interlocking systems of sexualized oppression that work in tandem to destroy women, and elevate men.

speaking of context, heres another ad for klondike bar featuring another misogynist pasttime: hating on mothers-in-law:

again, this is a “hurtful” image and a sexist commentary, used to sell ice cream (WTF?)  but why is it harmful?  how is any of this specifically harmful to women, or what does it demonstrate about the interlocking systems of sexualized oppression that work in tandem to destroy us?

when taken together, i think these two media images* illustrate how the het partnership is designed to be socially isolating to women (ie, its intentional).  our male partners arent expected to listen to us or nurture us emotionally, intellectually or any other way really…but we also arent allowed to hang out with our female family members anymore, either, or have them “hanging around” anymore after we are sexually partnered off with men.  women are expected to abandon our female family members specifically, (mothers and sisters are especially not welcome) and put all our time and energy into building up our partnerships and building up our partners, but they arent expected to give anything back.  and (AND!) we also arent allowed to fill the obvious gaps left by the het partnership model with anything else, especially anything of substance: women who have loved and nurtured us for decades (but who have faults, sometimes severe ones) and particularly mothers, who are old enough to know better and who have been there, done that in many ways, and perhaps have managed to cast off some of the trappings of femininity and patriarchal mandates in their old age.  this seems specifically forbidden, in the context of the het partnership.

why is this a problem?  well, its a problem because isolating women makes us more dependent on men; making sure we are unfulfilled makes it likely that we will work very hard to make our het partnerships “fulfilling” but in the end, all this time and energy is probably misplaced.  the het partnership model is fundamentally flawed, really: two people do not a “support system” make, and men usually die first.  hello!  women are pretty much guaranteed to be left alone and vulnerable, even under the best of circumstances (ie.  a “happy” het partnership that lasts a long time).

and its a problem because the wisdom of women is not properly passed down like knowledge must be, in order to give historical context.  women who dont like PIV (for example) think they are the only ones that have ever felt that way, and they run to doctors for help (thats about 16 red flags right there, just in that sentence alone, in case anyones counting).  women who sense (correctly) that theres something fundamentally terrifying about the het partnership and womens vulnerability in it, are left trying futiley to “save their marriages” instead of forming all-female living spaces free from men, and male influence, and mens PIV entitlement, and abandoning the het partnership model entirely.

and all of this is deliberate, on the part of men.  thats the thing.  once you see the result of a system or a behavior, and you continue to do it anyway, it becomes very obviously deliberate.  and in the case of the het partnership, the desired result appears to be this: socially isolating women and cutting them off from real nurturing, especially from older females, so that they continue to have PIV with men who demand PIV within the context of het partnerships, and so that women spend all their time and energy building up men, instead of providing a safe place for themselves and other girls and women.  thats whats offensive about these images: they illustrate misogynist patriarchal institutions that work together, to benefit men financially, sexually and in every other way, at womens expense.

*i actually had another video in mind that i think better illustrates the isolating exclusion-of-female-relatives issue, but i couldnt find it anywhere online, which i found strange.  i wanted to use the new wells fargo mortgage pre-approval commercial, where dood doesnt want to live across the street from his wifes sister…but its not like this isnt a running theme.  other media images demonstrating the same thing are everywhere; the prevalence of this message in general is kind of the whole problem.  ie. its het-partnership propaganda, where the het partnership model is specifically deleterious to women, and elevates men at womens expense.

12 Responses to “Radfem-ological Images (Klondike Bar)”

  1. FCM – THANK YOU for taking down the “its sexist because it hurts women’s feelings” concept. No doubt many feelings are hurt when women have their menfolk called out by other women for their behavior. It doesn’t even begin to address what specifically is sexist.
    So yes, women have to endure relationships with men that they personally find to not be nurturing. Womens relationships with other women who have been in their lives often since birth must be viewed as a burden/roadblock towards heterosexual happiness. Its all so completely dehumanizing and painful and yet its considered a joke that can be used to sell a few ice cream bars. It reaffirms in the collective consciousness that men cannot possibly empathize or be real partners to women and also reaffirms to women that they need to put up with it instead of actually having fulfilling relationships with other women.

  2. Excellent points, FCM. Yes, exactly, it’s not about hurt feelings, we have to see what’s beyond that all the way to why this even exists and what keeps it from dying out.

    Women are fully capable of teaching themselves and each other to not only put up with this behavior by men, but to deny their own experiences and needs so they can just survive in relationships with men and in the greater patriarchal society. Men’s behavior is completely normalized — not the least of which by the media, which is designed and controlled by men, naturally. But women have to learn — through constant personal exposure to that type of male behavior — to not question that they are partners, friends, and co-workers with people who couldn’t care less about women’s feelings, ideas, and interests. And women experience this on the continuum from hurt feelings and neglect to physical harms that can’t be survived. Causing women to become inured to greater and greater harm to themselves and others is a form of grooming that the patriarchy does to all women.

    Billions and billions of experiences in that continuum congeal into the mass shared awareness and decision that keeps women believing that denying their experiences and feelings is normal, healthy, and necessary. And the longer an individual woman does that without ever questioning why she is doing that, the more likely she is to get more hardened to not just her own emotional experiences, but then the physical harms as well. This also translates into framing other women’s experiences as trivial. We’re meant to laugh at how silly women’s hurt feelings are while ignoring that men do not stop at the beginning of the continuum, but follow right through to the end with sickening frequency.

    All of the grooming and practice makes it damn hard for women to be in community with other women who are also so groomed. But it makes clear how mothers can feed their daughters into the same machine that ground them up previously. I’ve seen girls who were sensitive and alive to the people around them grow over decades to be women who shrug off other women’s suffering, including that of their own female friends and relatives. They’ve become enmeshed in the male framing of women’s experiences and then even less likely to even believe there is something else possible, let alone preferable. At that point, not only does a woman have less chance of being able to be in community with other women, but has no way of even imagining herself as the type of person who could be in such a place and dismisses the possibility as ridiculous. And the beat goes on, unless a woman wrests herself away from that machine entirely and does so even if she doesn’t believe it’s possible.

  3. It’s true about men wanting to keep women apart. They sometimes do it directly, but also by demeaning the things women do when they are together as stupid, or “hen parties” as they used to say. But as a child I loved being with all women and as an adult I’m realizing how very important that is. I’ve become aware that I don’t like the company of men, so why should I have to put up with it, unless it’s unavoidable to do the things I need to do (like a job).

    This post reminded me of something. My father’s misogyny (not just patriarchy, but misogyny) came out in many ways, but a huge way for me as a kid was that he continually put down his own mother and my mother’s mother. He was sneering and dismissive of his own mother blaming her for all his problems. After all, she cooked (quite excellently), made a beautiful and comfortable house, and put up with my grandfather, an alcoholic with little complaint. She’d cook for my father and his family anytime we wanted to visit. But still, she was to blame. He never said much about his own father. She was a great grandma, always made us feel special. But he hated my mother’s mother much more. He just hated her with a vengeance. She raised two kids during the depression as a single mother since her husband disappeared. She was crushingly poor and led a very hard life. But she had pride that did not falter and she did not like my father, and that was clear to me. That, he could not tolerate. I’m glad she stood up to him, not too directly, since she was not a rude person, but not pretending to like him, either No scraping and bowing from her. My father treated his own mother and my mother, his wife as if they were stupid.

    It affected my view of these women, though I always preferred them to my father. I hated being with him. He made us all uptight. I loved being with my mother and grandmothers, even my maternal grandmother who, I suspect, did not like kids. Still, she tried. She was interesting. But I did not respect them nearly as much as they deserved. Not open disrespect, but in my own mind, not thinking of them as smart women. (Which I see now, they sure as hell were/are!) Even though I was lied to every day of my life by my father and the whole culture about the value of women, it did not stop me from preferring the company of the women, and having far more love for the women. And I did learn to respect them.

    When my father died, I grieved. He was my father, after all. But I also was glad that my mother was free of him. And that’s the sad truth of it.

  4. Reading this thread has been the best part of my day, which was already a really good day. Thanks so much to you all. xoxox Mary

  5. How I know this place both on a personal and global level , having a SiL who has done all in his power to keep my Daughter from us and her family. She would not give up her womon friends she had loads so in the end he took them abroad to live on the basis they could have a better material ‘life style’ and would ease his work stress!!!!!!! She bought the whole package despite being brought up to ‘think for her self’!!!!! Obviously not thinking enough…..

    I witness all her creativity being invested in building him a ‘home’ while he lords it about her and their two daughters she has become dependant on him totally since he moved them abroad. 7000 miles away from female family and friends…..

    On a daily basis I see womon isolating themselves in het relationships , looking sad and lonely but working their socks off to make a silk purse out of a bulls ear.

    These sexist adverts re enforce womons powerlessness and reaffirm sexist stereotypes that are enabled to be passed by males into the next male generation and thereby securing the continuation of womons oppression as if it were ‘normal’……

    Personally I cannot wait for the revolution…..

  6. Just wanted to say hi because I’ve been reading back through the posts and they’re excellent. My brain’s swimming with new understanding.

    I think it’s the more sublte subversion of women in everyday life that’s harder to pin down (for anyone other than radfems) and this is an excellent example.

  7. Thanks Lisa! I’m glad you’re reading and enjoying what you find here. And thanks for commenting, because I’ve been meaning to get back to this discussion…

  8. i think many women understand this on a personal and global level, and that many of the things we are pointing out in all the articles on this blog are really part of womens shared knowledge and shared experience…and that women arent stupid. noans comment above is excellent (as usual!) and brings home the point that women KNOW they dont like PIV, they KNOW they dont like being socially isolated, and they regularly deny their own experience or downplay the harms and pain because they HAVE TO, to survive. its not as if women are misreading any of this: if the women stopped “consenting” to PIV, many of their male partners WOULD leave. women arent imagining this; its real, and its a real danger, especially after she has been cut off from friends and family for enough time, and is financially dependent on her male partner and literally cannot afford to have him walk away. and its not as if one woman can suddenly wake up from her nightmare, and cut off the PIV or leave the man, and she would be welcomed back into the arms of a real community, or a female community: most of our female friends are doing the same thing we are, and our mothers too, and we wouldnt even be welcome in thier marital homes, just like they wouldnt be welcome in ours, or for very long, if thier het partnerships failed and they had nowhere else to go.

    this is what is required to survive rape culture, when you are female: there *is* no other community, so we depend on the het partnership for everything, including food and shelter, and to not have to prostitute, or be sexually available to all men, or many men to survive. instead, we make ourselves sexually available to ONE man, and turn off that part of our brains that knows PIV is harmful and stressful for us (and not to men) and we downplay the bladder infections, pregnancy scares, and lack of real pleasure because there is no other alternative. many women have even managed to convince themselves that they are the “sexual aggressors” which is very convenient indeed, since if they werent having regular “sex” (ESPECIALLY for a political or feminist reason!) their male partners would leave.

    the ONLY WAY i was able to end PIV in my relationship, is that i could financially and socially afford to have him walk, if thats what he decided to do. RIGHT NOW, i am healthy enough and young enough and have enough support that i could make it alone, if he left me. many women arent in that position, and i wont be, myself, after enough time passes. all of us become more vulnerable health-wise as we age, and mothers die for example. if i found myself alone at this point, i would be able to make it, but barely. and my mother is thinking about getting rid of her nigel too. i think if i actually left mine or if he left me and i needed somewhere to go, my mother would take me in. this wasnt always the case, and it wasnt the case 5-10 years ago when i was first partnering with nigel, and when i first decided to co-habitate with him, because i literally had nowhere else to go after we both graduated from school.

  9. and i would also add that lesbian romantic-partnerships that mirror the het model (2 adult plus possibly children) leave women very vulnerable too, although the PIV entitlement isnt there, which is not a small thing. 2 people do not a support system make: people die, they have wandering eyes, etc. and the social isolation is still a problem, when we choose to build up one relationship and one person, at the expense of all others, or at our own expense. lesbian love-partnering is harm-reduction for sure, but its not revolutionary for women. its more of the same old shit in many ways (but again, the absence of PIV entitlement and attendant problems is a HUGE difference than cannot be ignored).

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