On Gender as Personality

by allecto

As many Aussies do over the holiday period, I went to the movies to watch some trash. I had a particular film in mind so I went to the website of the local cinema. As per usual every single movie advertisement featured men or male characters front and centre, with long lists of male actors names covering the poster and a few token females thrown in. The only exception to this was the poster advertising the American remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. On the poster for this movie there is a young woman, stripped to her waist. A man is standing behind her with his arm clenched over her breasts as if she is his possession. This year, as with every other year, women’s role as owned possessions is made crystal clear in Hollywood.

On New Years Eve I had the fortune to be invited to a feminist friends house and we welcomed in the new year in fervent discussion. I was discussing with her the above situation and she said something brilliant which clicked everything in place in my mind in relation to the way that women are depicted in malestream movies. She was talking about the Smurfs movie and how shocked she was that something so misogynist could be made in 2011! Her analysis was that every male smurf had a distinct personality which set him apart from the other smurfs and set the tone of their character. But when it comes to the token female smurf, her gender *is* her personality. (conversation with J, 1/1/12)

This insight hits the nail on the head for so much of film/literature analysis. It is also the reason why most movies being made nowadays only ever seem to have one female character, and why those token female characters are SO. FUCKING. BORING. Men who write female characters in movies mistake gender for character and personality. And women’s gender is our sexy, thin, beautiful, alluring sexxxxy sexiness. Sexy sexiness is our gender and hence our personality. There can only be one character whose gender is her personality or the film would have no traction as many/all of the characters would be the same.

Children’s movies like the Smurfs are especially bad at perpetuating gender as personality misogyny. A recent blog post by Margot Magowan, Girls gone missing: kids’movie posters in 2011, highlights the pervasive trend in kids movies of centering heavily on male characters and having little to no female presence in them at all. She also points out the importance of the poster images as reference points of our near total erasure. The fact is that men see women as having no distinct character or personality. We cannot have equal representation in movies where men are centralised, as our gender erases our potential as interesting characters.

What is worse is that this understanding that women’s gender is our personality permeates society as a whole and men interact with women as if we are our gender. A recent facebook conversation I observed involved a woman advertising a room in her house to let. A male ‘friend’ of hers asked, “Do you come with the room?” Another male ‘friend’ chimed in, “only if you make her.”  Voila. So neatly these men reduced this young woman’s character and personality down to rapeable object.

If we are depicted as our gender, as sexy sex, as objects, as possessions, then men will continue to interact with us as if we are our gender and not as full human beings with personalities and characters that should have nothing at all to do with our gender. As long as women are shown as cardboard caricatures of what men wish us to be like we will never have realistic and diverse representations of what it means to be female. We are so much more than what we are depicted as.

41 Comments to “On Gender as Personality”

  1. A few years ago Cormac McCarthy wrote a novel called The Road. My recollection is that he won the Pulitzer Prize for this novel. So I read it… and wanted to throw the book across the room. The main reason was that the book portrayed a post-apocalyptic world and guess who survived? a man and his son. The book is boring, the conversations between the two characters have nothing to make you want to keep reading. In addition, McCarthy has a throw away comment about there being no insects. This is basic: if no insects have survived, the chances of their being any people around is highly unlikely. Then finally a few other people appear. I think there were three women: one was pregnant; another was dead; and I think the third was feeding a lot of people. These women had usefulness or were past usefulness. In addition, it is one of the worst edited books I have ever read (apostrophes missing; capitals not in place or in the wrong place). I truly do not understand how this book could win any prize; and then to have all the bods on the Book Show talk about how brilliant the book was made me wonder whether anyone in this country has any critical faculties at all!!

  2. Thank you!! I am starting to hate pop culture for this exact reason. It’s all so formulaic & male-centric, the girls are only ever sexxxxxy, and it’s just SO.FUCKING.BORING.

  3. This was beautifully expressed. Your statement reflects what I think about whenever I must be subjected to viewing malestream media. I have tried to eliminate as much as I can from my information diet. I see all of these messages as a deterrent to people feeling empowered and truly deserving of respect as individuals. More people need to step up and just inform themselves as to what they are consuming. Anything that enters our body, via media, our food or anything other input we receive, contributes to how we see. Everyone needs to be more selective and inquisitive and ask themselves, “Am I unhappy? Is it because not so deep down I feel betrayed by my society. I feel misled and taken advantage of…men and women are put into gender roles, and capitalist hegemony in general, and forced to believe in a relationship not based on love and respect, but based on the government trying to keep us in line – creating our roles and convincing us it is for the best.

  4. Great post, Allecto. I get so angry looking at movie posters and the above is the worst. Lisbeth has power (limited, but still) so of course she is reduced to a fuckable body to make her less threatening. And worse, she is owned by the creepy father-figure/lover. Disgusting.
    If you’re a girl on school holidays at the moment in my town the only girl characters you’re going to see are the Chippettes in the latest Chipmunk movie. I joke not. They’re called the fucking Chippettes and judging by the previews all they do is chase after the Chipmunks. It’s so abysmal.
    And Susan, don’t even get me started on The Road!!! Cormac McCarthy is a misogynist old creep and a terrible writer. Of course the mother kills herself, abandoning her son. Lucky the noble father carries on. . . oh please! That would never happen. Don’t bother with his other books, either. He is obsessed with hillbilly incest and gruesome murder, revolting ghoul that he is.
    In pop culture women are either castrating mothers, fuck-holes or non-existent and I am thoroughly sick of it!

  5. Yep, the male “thinking”-process is very boring. Talk about lack of depth. Even all the “great philosopher”-dudes would prattle on about how awesome they were because of their dicks. Hubris, pure hubris. And yet, they’re “geniuses” some how. Oh, what a privilege to own language and to (re)define words, whenever it suits you. If they’re so “deep” and able to grasp complex, multifaceted characters and concepts, then they would have figured out a long fucking time ago that womankind is not a monolith; we are our merely gender…that shit was foisted upon us against our will, by them! But it’s harder to oppress complex, dynamic beings, that’s why they need us to barely have a two-dimensional personality; ie: reduce us to a cliche, a caricature.

  6. When my oldest kids were little in the 80s, is when the Smurfs tv-cartoon was introduced. They loved it, I hated it–for exactly the reason you name. Every smurf is male but one; all those males get a particular personhood/character trait but the one girl gets to be only a girl. And oh yeah, worst of all, perhaps, is that their Parent and Esteemed Leader is also male–Papa Smurf. I didn’t prevent them from watching it, but I did talk to them about the characterizations involved and how stupid they were.

    As for “Girl” w/Dragon Tat–oy. As if we need ever more, and ever more graphic depictions, of horrific masculine violence against womyn. As if we are to be happy that ‘at least the lead was a womyn’ (tho called a ‘girl’) and that she was fierce, smart, strong. As if we are not to notice that her entire life and self had been consumed by that male violence, nor notice that she had chosen violent retribution in classic male style as her raison d’etre.

  7. Why was this movie re-made…? I guess cos western slobs dont want to have to READ (ugh!) but also to cast a better looking bloke (for the ladies) and more importantly a softer, sweeter, skinnier, more innocent looking actress to play Lisbeth. Sigh.

  8. Great post! A truth that we would always need repeated.

    Gets me thinking, maybe we should add your criterion to the bechdel test! (which, by the way, should apply to any book, any song, any meeting, and to reality in general)
    1. Are there 2 or more women?
    2. Do they have names?
    3. Are they talking about something other than men?
    4. Do they have character traits other than their gender?

    This analysis of women’s gender (=sex object) being their personality in film, vs. men having complex, distinctive human traits of their own, the subject to whom the spectator identifies, even when men are absent (and so the spectator gets to objectify the women through the eyes of the camera/ the men in the film who objectify and possess the women): I had the chance to learn it a year ago or so in my films studies course.

    When it dawned to me that society is structured around this model – as if the whole society was like a film designed by men from men’s eyes where women are nothing more than sex (gender) to men and men are the thinking, creating, strong, complex human subjects to which everyone identifies to: eveything cracked open in my mind, I started understanding the full horror of patriarchy, this is when my feminist journey began.

    @Susan: so typical! Men can get away with writing unimaginative, predictable, boring formulaic shit, because they’re men – I sometimes work in film and i see it aaaaaallllllll the fucking time!!!!! It makes me crazy. All they’re capable of doing is crappy, duh-y remakes of already crappy, duh-y stories. It’s not their work being prized, but their dicks.

  9. Thanks for all the comments!

    @Susan: Of course The Road won a pirze and was made into a blockbuster movie to boot. Men write the most atrocious shit and get lauded for it all the time.

    @PW: It is hideously boring to be female and want to engage meaningfully with literature and film. If movies don’t send me to sleep they send me into a rage instead…

    @rapideyemvmt: This being a rad fem blog, we obviously disagree about the cause of women’s oppression. You say capitalism, I say male supremacy. But thanks for your kind words.

    @Hannah: Am really not a fan at all of The Dragon Tattoo. I really think that they are incredibly misogynist books/films, whether Lisbeth is wearing a shirt or not. And they made a Chippettes movie? Urgh, sounds awful. I feel so sorry for female children growing up in our disgusting culture today.

    @Mocha Erinyes:Absolutely.

    @ Hari B: It is so hard to find positive media for our children. If we had alternatives to give them it wouldn’t be quite so bad, but movies/media made specifically for female children are horrifically misogynist as well.

    @witchwind: Yes, it should be incorporated into the Bechdel Test. There are so many films that would fall into this trap. I would *definitely* argue that in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Swedish version), Lisbeth is in no way a fleshed out character. She is very much a representation of gender. A collection of stereotypes. The funky, sexy goth chick. The rape victim. The vengeful, dangerous woman. She doesn’t feel at all real to me. She is written like an object, not a person.

  10. I think the very point in ‘Tattoo’ is that you are supposed to understand that her entire life has been surrounded by and shaped by male violence. And that is what has made Lisbeth who she is. That doesn’t mean that the directors of either version didn’t get off or want their audiences to get off on the very graphic screen representations of some of that violence, while Lisbeth’s relationship with Miriam and other women are kept to an on screen minimum (less in the US version than the Swedish one).

    As for the Chipmunk movie, having actually seen the latest high pitched warbling incarnation, it is the Chipettes who are largely portrayed as clever here. Not that anyone in a chipmunk film is overly smart but Alvin is shown as insecure and reckless, Theodore as a fraidy cat and Simon as geeky but dashing under the influence of poison. Jeanette is smart but swept away by poison Simon; Eleanor is up for adventure that’s cut off when she falls; and Brittney is the only one with sense and clever skills, outdoing Alvin. It was still abou what you would expect, but the girls go off on their own adventures and in many ways outshine the boys.

  11. As a kid, I was not allowed to watch the any commercial kids’ cartoons, or any movie (except Pippi Longstocking and Mathilda), for these reasons.
    I can think of only two kids cartoons in which females have clearly a character/soul: “Angela Anaconda” (but that one is old) and “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic”. In “The Powerpuff Girls”, the three girls did have distinct traits, but their “personalities” were more like stereotypes.

    What is really annoying to me, is that some men dare to complain about the fact that “men are always portrayed as bad” (in serious movies) or “men are always portrayed as wimps” (in comedy movies). I have heard numerous men whine about this. But if men are portrayed as aggressors it’s because it is like that in reality (duh); beause men get off on that; and because men would never want the aggressor to be female (too scary). And if men are portrayed as wimps in comedy it means they are viewed as the opposite (dominant and strong) in reality, otherwise, it wouldn’t be regarded as funny in the first place.

  12. Makes depressing but not surprising reading sexism is the weapon used in every epoch by the patriarchy to reduce our personhood and humanity object of retail value only. Men control the media few womon want to see this nasty reality too busy hussling for the menz .As an older womon its like groundhog day every day the same old tropes same old fog womon playing the game to survive thats how it is for younger womon older womon struggle to be seen but we have our sabotaging ways x

  13. Thanks Allecto for this great post, and the great points you’ve made.

    As you say, “If we are depicted as our gender, as sexy sex, as objects, as possessions, then men will continue to interact with us as if we are our gender and not as full human beings with personalities and characters that should have nothing at all to do with our gender. As long as women are shown as cardboard caricatures of what men wish us to be like we will never have realistic and diverse representations of what it means to be female.”

    This is why we need feminist women creating media of all kinds. I was going to cite Dora the Explorer as one example of a positive media portrayal of female children, but then I saw this updated version of Dora and cringed http://www.deseretnews.com/article/705291219/After-Dora-uproar-Nick-and-Mattel-soothe-moms.html?pg=1.

  14. ARGH, yeah, great ‘soothing of moms’ there, Mattel, telling them to STFU basically… that’s pretty much the male definition of soothing, isn’t it: shutting women up with anything from mansplaining to threats of violence, or a combination of the two. FUCK that shit, I looked NOTHING like Dora the p0rnstitute at 10. Who are they trying to fool?! AAAAAAGH!!!!!

    This week I shut down at least 10 ‘conversations’ with d00ds after they called me a pet name or referred to me a a girl. Gave them each ONE WARNING not to do that, which in true manly style, they ignored. I literally shut them down and walked away. The raging and mantrums were predictable. Yelling things to my back as I walked away from them… I’ve got no more patience for that shit, and I thank all of you women for helping me lose my patience. 😀

    And, yeah- haven’t seen a good new movie in years. This toxic patriarchal culture is rotting from the inside.

    What I wouldn’t do for a good, well-paying, non-degrading job, and an existence free from male intimidation and violence… I am always ready to pick up and move at a moment’s notice… where is our sanctuary…? 😦

  15. Amazing post, Allecto, and thanks to your friend for this light bulb moment! Gender as personality is a concept that I can really get some mileage out of. Thankyou again.

    Two movies last year did not make me want to throw up. “The Runaways” and “Made in Dagenham” both pass the Bechdel including if we add the new category of having a personality besides gender (great idea witchwind).

    As for The Road, it doesn’t take much for a man to be lauded as a literary genius. I nearly sprained my eye sockets reading that trash. The glorification of the heroic single dad and the absent dead mother. Please. This has been a common theme in pop culture for decades! Susan Faludi talked about it in 1990! But this guy is praised for his “originality”?

  16. Thank you for this post and the website which I just discovered and love! I have just discovered radfem blogs and there is not enough 24 hours in a day for me to catch up for all those years missed. I cant help but notice all the misogyny in the media. If I express those feelings to my boyfriend (not a reference, I know, but I am living with him so we mostly watch television/movies together) I am told ‘oh please, dont start on this’ (meaning ‘things are doing fine for me and I do not want to disrupt this state of affairs by thinking about how it is to see the world from a woman’s point of view’). As for my female friends, they too do not seem willing to talk about those issues which they seem to think as boring or depressing (although I feel that they do not want to confront this reality by fear of what it might reveal… you know, once you open this door…).
    I recently moved and found schoolbooks from my childhood. I read a story I wrote in one of my religion class when I was in elementary school. We had to write a story ending by ‘the moral of this story is …’. All the characters in my story are male. Their maleness not being relevant to the story, it seems I then automaticaly chose to portray male characters, as we learn men are the human beings by default (and that being especially true in a religion class). I felt sad reading that story, as though girls are being thought to view girls – themselves – as secondary characters. I am sure no boy in the class wrote a story with an all-female cast (since sex was not part of the story, there would be no need to introduce a female human being).
    It is important that we denounce this out loud. Once the sexist radar is on, it is impossible to turn it off, and considering the world we live in, it is always buzzing! This blog helps me put words to what I always felt, that there was something fundamentally wrong with this world, but had difficulty expressing (as feminism is being kept marginalised in this society, and we know why!). I knew I was not crazy, now I know I am a radical feminist (another word for ‘enlightened woman’).
    p.s. I am a french Canadian, please excuse my english ( as I am sure I made many grammar errors…)

  17. The heroic single dad and the absent dead mother? That’s a patriarchal myth retraceable to since men could write. All men’s religions are based on this matricidal-genocidal theme, all foundational patriarchal myths and stories! Re: Christian god, buddhist god, muslim god, jewish god, aztec gods, maya gods, toltec gods, greek gods, every single male hero, etc, etc. snore… The only difference with secular countries is that men have decided to replace their god (enough with this pretend super male, they’re the one ruling after all!).

  18. Perhaps we should remake a radfem version of the bechdel test video. I’d do it right now (as in now) if it wasn’t for the fact I don’t want to show my face.

  19. Writing main/strong girl characters is not enough! Angela Anaconda was the star but the show was almost entirely about how much she hated Nanette, the blonde bitch/girly-girl in her class. More patriarchal propaganda pitting girls against each other.
    And as for My little Pony, well, I haven’t seen the show but the toys make me retch. My sister and I call them My Little Pornies. They look like they’re presenting, ffs.
    My mum told me that she had a hard time finding appropriate books for us when we were kids. She would send away for stuff or visit the feminist bookshop. She would despair at the male-centric culture but she said what spurred her on was the thought that things would be better for our daughters.
    Sorry, mum. The feminist bookshop has closed down, things are way worse than you could ever have imagined and I will never bring a child into this world.

  20. witchwind, wow, I had no idea it went back that far. I mean I did, I knew that men’s religions are about erasing mothers, but I never made the connection between that and pop cultural representations. That’s what I love about this site; women building on each other’s knowledge.

  21. @Misfit: Your comment is really touching, thanks. It is a profound experience when we know we are not crazy/are searching and we find feminism. I remember being there too in my early 20s, devouring every rad fem book I could lay my hands on and reading blogs like crazy. It is absolutely impossible to shut your eyes once you begin to see. Radical feminism triggers something both inside and outside of you that will change your whole life. But yes, it is often a very isolating experience. Thank goddess for blogs.

    @Hannah: Yes, having a highly functioning feminist critical/analytical ability of film, tv and literature means that it is SO difficult to enjoy the vast majority of what passes for entertainment. I found Angela Anaconda to be a horrible representation of girlhood. So many of these shows have pretty, blonde female children depicted as conniving manipulative, spoiled and selfish. I am thinking of characters like Angelica in Rugrats for example. In reality it is the male child that is generally the bully, beating up the other kids and stealing their toys.

  22. I pretty much stopped going movies because of this. And I love a well made film, But not a woman- hating one, which almost all of them are. Even Iciar Bollain’s new film “Hasta La Lluvia” is completely male-centric. Her other two films are strong feminst works. What happened? Well, this one was made with her (male) partner, a big budget, and Gael Garcia


  23. Another thought – from that facebook post.
    Women, to men, are the touchables. I can’t stand how many men try to get their touching from women, and touch us in a way they’d never dream of doing to a male friend.
    I just ended one more friendship w/ a man because of this.

  24. Gender as personality. That explains it! I’ve been a bit troubled by the fact that except for some really big names, women all look alike to me in films and TV. But I can distinguish the men just fine! Stillwater can rattle off the actresses’ names. My daughter can tell me what other movies they played in. I draw a complete blank. They all look, act, dress and speak the same to me. I recognize the different names, but if you asked me to match the name to a picture, I can’t do it. Nothing stands out to me. You’ve just given me some insights into to why that might be. The same blonde hair, the same haircuts, the same height, weight, figures, the same style of dress, the ages, the same voices, all blur together and don’t stand out to me. What does stand out to me is personality. But if women’s personalities are all being depicted as gender, that is also all going to look the same to me. But the actresses whose personalities shine through, those are the actresses I can distinguish!

    Needless to say, I don’t watch much film or TV. I think I’ve gone to theaters twice in the last 5 years. All film and TV these days seem to revolve around a handful of dreadfully boring plots. Men have no originality and are about as interesting as cardboard. It’s the same tired old male wet dreams being played out over and over again ad nauseum. Women only serve as props. To insure audiences that their hero boys aren’t gay. Little wonder all these props look the same to me. They all play the same role and serve the same purpose.

  25. @Julia: “women are the touchables”.
    Yep, right on. Women don’t own their bodies, they’re owned by men. That men allow themselves to touch us all the time or intrude into our space / come up close to us in ways that they would never do to other men is a symptom that men own our bodies. The more power a man has, the more space he owns, the more women he can “buy” and intrude into (rape & assault).

  26. julia– “I pretty much stopped going movies because of this. And I love a well made film, But not a woman- hating one, which almost all of them are.”

    Same here. Besides, to me the entertainment industry (including music and pro sports) is a prime example of the way patriarchy in these days of it’s fall has so totally trivialized life by making people ‘superstars’ who contribute exactly nothing to the good of life. It is not that I think we should have no leisure time entertainment in the form of music, drama or athletics–people everywhere over time have always done this. And surely, some individuals always stood out for their talent in these things. Yet in no culture anywhere, were mere entertainers elevated to such a status as to be rewarded so gigantically–especially obscene, considering that these ‘talents’ offer so little to anyone in an era when so many are hungry, besieged, homeless….. We have our ‘brangelinas’ of course, who gain further fame by being generous with their wealth….and yet as much as they give away to the needy, they still live as Kings/Queens while so many others starve. It makes me sick to ponder–because it is not just the privilege of 2 such as them, but the fact that western culture does worship, and reward so hugely, people whose ‘work’ is essentially a ripoff of life on all levels. Including the extreme waste of material and energy resources involved in film making, pro sports, music industry.

    As for “women are the touchables”–yes, in every way. With male hands, voices, thoughts, we can be freely invaded. I recently had an experience of trying to explain to a male acquaintance how extremely objectionable I found his behavior in this respect–in his case, not touching me physically but attempting to regale me re: a sexual-fantasy convo he and his housemate recently had concerning me. This, mind you, upon bumping into each other on the street, not having seen each other in years and NEVER having been friends…but within about 2min, he’d started on this topic. I immediately stopped his flow with a casual insertion of a pretext necessitating my immediate departure, but a few weeks later we ran into each other again at Occupy–for various reasons, I ultimately asked another Occupier to sit with us while I told that idiot what was on my mind. He was so shocked…”b-b-.but it was harmless, I meant to flatter you, and and…” “NO! It is an invasion, not a flattery. You think my sexuality is your business to claim at will, and you think I must show interest in your sexuality whenever you want that. Have your little fantasies, whatever–BUT LEAVE ME OUT OF IT, I don’t want to know. Why would you think I do? We are no more than most casual of acquaintances! If I don’t invite you, then you are violating me, do you get that?” Oh the shock and chagrin, oh the deep deep puzzlement/bewilderment. Their privilege to own us for whatever prurient (or maternal) needs is so invisible to them.

    Sadly it is also too invisible to most womyn–perhaps most bafflingly to those fun fems who think they ’empowered’ to capitalize on erotic appeal. Gah.

  27. Grrr! I work in a shop and I have lost count of the times men have patted me on the shoulder or the head, whilst calling me ‘girl’ (usually after twenty minutes of boring me with their unsolicited life stories). They just have to put me in my place.

  28. i have thought that ‘owning’ a ‘look’ was about as close as women are supposed to get to actually having personalities. there is so much reading out there about how to get your “look” to match your personality and this is supposed to help us be “expressive” but what the hell does clothing have to do with it really? progressive types see fundamentalist women (with the nearly-identical floor-length dresses and waist-length hair) as being scarily identical, but its possible that those women had personalities, isnt it? sure it could be beaten out of them easy enough, and fundie religions and female-role enforcement does tend to do that. but fashionistas arent immune to misogyny and female-role enforcement that crushes womens spirits are they? how could they be? they couldnt be, and they arent. womens fashion is a cheap (and expensive) substitute for womens personalities shining through, and we are supposed to be ok with that (at least we arent all wearing identical floor-length dresses…..)

  29. FCM–“sure it could be beaten out of them easy enough, and fundie religions and female-role enforcement does tend to do that. but fashionistas arent immune to misogyny and female-role enforcement that crushes womens spirits are they? ”

    Thing is, everyone is laboring under the same fundamental religion of patriarchy, complete with female role-enforcement. All the various religions, and non-religious too, just amount to different ‘sects’ of patriarchy–THE religion of the planet, which is infinitely adaptable to cultures, to religious believers/non-believers alike. YK?

    As someone who’s worked with the Plain People (identical long dresses/hair-in-covered-buns), it’s actually been quite interesting to see how the valuing of modesty/anti-vanity of dressing alike (with both womyn’s and men’s ‘uniforms’) tends to remove some barriers to personality. Obviously, the religious stuff is confining in significant ways. Not so obviously, when you dispense with a notion of ‘dressing to suit your personality’, you further dispense with even thinking about dressing, then more unique and subtle elements of personality do tend to shine through.

    So, working with the Plain has been valuable for me in learning, as you say, that “womens fashion is a cheap (and expensive) substitute for womens personalities shining through” (not that I’ve ever been much the fashionista). Yeah, fashion is a substitute for personality–a literal and figurative draping of it–and no matter how hard one tries to make it match self, fashion is not the real thing.

    Written while wearing my own chosen winter uniform…jeans, turtleneck, fleece vest. Solid colors. LOL

  30. “Sorry, mum. The feminist bookshop has closed down, things are way worse than you could ever have imagined”


  31. Hari B, what a horrible situation! The man’s response does not surprise me at all, it’s like every man I’ve ever met.
    I called out what some would consider ‘lightweight’ sexual harrasement at Occupy
    Tucson. It has to start somewhere, and I’m too old to let this kind of thing go. He reacted like all men do. Some of the women I told backed me, and some thought it was ‘no big deal’, but I wanted them all to know who it was so they could
    be forewarned.

    I will not dedicate myself to any movement that does not put women first.

  32. How much longer must we sit here and watch Hollywood break down women into lifeless sexual object for the patriarchy? It’s disgusting and what’s worse is that the media in America has everyone thinking that this is one of the greatest times to be alive even though half the population is being oppressed.

  33. Julia–it was…very icky to be around that guy, although somewhat satisfying to tell him off. Our ‘witness’ was a young Black man, pretty radical in his political thinking. Not as a feminist–wrt race, but he had at least an awareness of oppression along with a stronger spine than most, and that’s why I asked him to witness…unfortunately the few womyn were way too sissy. He also had a pretty healthy respect for a strong spoken, takes-no-shit older womyn. I blew even his socks off, but he totally backed me when the white dude tried to make excuses. And he thanked me for further opening his eyes to this stuff, unlike the white dude who openly hated on me after that or the ones who simply denied-denied-denied. But still, it was not the worst of the oppressive crap I experienced in Occupy, which is why I left it after about a month. I could even have dealt with the men, prolly–it was the mansplaining, man-identified womyn who provided the last straw. The womyn– who privately told me they agreed with my assessment of the male domination, but refused to speak with me in GAs about it. When I confronted one on this, she said ”you made yourself a martyr, and no one else wants to do that”. I said: “What you mean is, by your refusal to back me in meetings, I was MADE into a target–nope, not a martyr, won’t stick around for this”. And then there was the queer-identified (and self-identified ‘feminist’) womyn who told me that by saying I wanted to see more womyn in Occupy, I was ‘erasing’ transwomyn…she knew, because she had a trans friend who was SO hurt when I said I wanted more womyn to be in Occupy. WTF? Gah.

  34. Sandra–we don’t have to sit by and watch Hollywood do this. I don’t watch any film that objectifies womyn this way (which means I don’t watch many films!). And I make sure to mention out loud where I see the occasional real womyn in media…and also point out where male-dominance and female objectification and ‘charicaturizing’ happens in media. Some publish critiques, to further spread the word.

  35. Hari-It’s just so frustrating and I feel like writing critiques or challenging mainstream ideas is just pointless because it seems like we can’t make a difference. No one cares about what women say, they just label us as abnormal and sweep us under the rug when we try and speak up about our plight.

  36. Sandra–I hear your despair about making a difference, and the understanding that “No one cares about what womyn say”, etc. I’ve felt that despair again and again–so deeply at times it comes close to leading to my self-annihilation. But every time I get to that place, I remember a couple of hugely important things: one, it is not that *I* actually want to die! It is very much that *patriarchy* (and at times, individual reps of it, such as abusive men or enslaved/enslaving womyn I’ve known)–it is patriarchy that wants me dead. If not literally dead, then at least erased sufficiently to be no threat.

    And also, social change takes a long time–it just doesn’t happen in the course of one generation (not without major systemic collapse forcing it, anyway). Those who seek deep change in culture have to hold on to their vision, against all the psychological and social forces working against us, or that change will never happen at all. Feeling despair, taking breaks from action toward change, is normal and probably necessary for individuals…so, you take a break, take care of yourself, restore your energy and begin anew.

    Third, our critiques, together with various other feminist acts in our lives, DO impact other people more than we realize. The nay-sayers often speak the loudest, and want to make it seem otherwise–want us to believe real change is not possible (and would be so bad for everyone!). Yet I can tell you from my own experiences–the influence IS felt, though sometimes it can take a long while to manifest. We plant seeds, through words and actions/choices–and they do sprout even if some sprout only in the teeniest way, that sprout seemingly dead but really in a kind of stasis that gives way to rampant growth later. Some seeds seem to just lay there, or be washed away by rain or killed by drought—but they endure, to sprout later. I know this because just often enough, I’ve had womyn tell me of my positive impact on them–sometimes years later. Something I said/wrote…something they saw me do (or heard about)…they might have even thought at the time that I was just nuts, ‘too angry’, ‘unfair’, whatever…but suddenly it all makes sense. Suddenly, their own life provides the moment of illumination and things I (and other feminists) represent just falls into place with a little click that shifts everything tremendously.

    We must never underestimate our power to bring the power of truth into the world. We must remember our personal power, and also remember that the despair and self-negation is simply a tool of patriarchy at work in us. So often, my way out of despair has been to affirm to myself: even if I am the ONLY one who thinks and feels like this, even if it actually DOES mean I’m just fucking nuts, still, IT’S MY TRUTH. It’s my own deepest self in operation, speaking and acting. It is–I AM–worth loving and fully affirming, worth feeding and empowering in all ways both mundane and sublime. It does–I DO–have the right to be, and also to know that as with all in this world, I have an impact on this world even as the smallest stone tossed into a pond makes ripples affecting all the water there.

    No one else has to appear to be listening, to make the words of critique saying, for one’s own sanity. No one else has to seem to be watching with approval, to make all feminists acts worth doing. We need only our own approval–though the company of a group like this really really helps!

  37. oops: to make the words of critique WORTH saying, for one’s own sanity.

  38. i love so much what you just wrote, tears came to my eyes. It is beautiful, I had to tell you. Thanks.

  39. Thank you Hari, your comment was very powerful and helped push away the despair starting to engulf my mind, spirit and heart.

  40. You are welcome. You too, MissFit, if you were talking to me. ❤

    I like to scream into pillows, or have a good hard cry, when I start feeling engulfed…nothing like some physical dramatics of emotion to clear the cloud of despair now and then!

  41. yes, I was talking to you Hari B. ‘Physical dramatics of emotion’ are routine for me too!

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