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POETRYETC  March 2006

POETRYETC March 2006

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Subject:

Re: Feminism: an aside

From:

Alison Croggon <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Poetryetc provides a venue for a dialogue relating to poetry and poetics <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 31 Mar 2006 09:30:48 +1000

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text/plain

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Today I find myself feeling a little thoughtful. Primarily, made thoughtful
by how simply stating a fact - that there are systemic gendered biases that
penalise women in certain very real ways in contemporary society (rather
more so in the US than here, I think) is immediately to be labelled as an
angry, vengeful, man-hating feminist. Irrational, I think Mark said,
although I have been very careful to be rational; or full of impotent anger
which leads nowhere. Again, Mark's taunt is, what are you going to do about
it? You don't have a Plan (though one might as easily ask what his Plan is
to combat female circumcision). The answer is, of course, that I do what I
can, in all the aspects of my life: how I raise my sons and daughter, how I
relate to men and women, how I write about art, how I write for young
people, how I write poems; I am a writer, after all, and not an activist,
and my main concerns are to do with complexity and process rather than
ideological explication. But in all those activities, I am always thinking
about the complexities of these issues, and act according to my thinking.

The counterargument is always, but men suffer too. This is of course
unarguable. Another is that gender, like all social patternings, is context
specific. This is also correct. However, this does nothing to erase those
inequities I quoted earlier, which exist in all societies.

Women face specific prejudices because they are women. In the worst cases,
this becomes punishment for being female, or for stepping outside the bounds
of what is considered proper for women. (An example of what I mean is the
subtext of the pro-life activists, who are not interested in making sure
women and children have good lives - otherwise they would support
contraception, education, welfare for single mothers, &c - but are
interested in making sure that women are punished for having sex). The
boundaries for men and women are very different: men have boundaries too,
but for the moment I am not speaking about men. Rape is a kind of sexual
punishment that is reinforced rather than otherwise by the judicial system.
If the work of women is valued less than the work of men, it ensures that
women don't value their work, something that is supported by all our
economic markers (capitalist society would collapse without the unpaid and
mainly unremarked and generally low-status work of women). All these
mechanisms exist in a complex hierarchical economic system which also
ensures that most men get it in the neck as well. But to say that women face
specific problems in both macro and micro ways is not to say that men don't
face problems. It is not to say that women are powerless, either. Nor that
women don't participate in their own social subjugation. It is simply to say
that these problems exist, and are real; and I wonder why what seems to me
uncontroversially obvious (the rape statistics, the domestic violence
statistics, the income statistics, which are only crude measurings of
something much more complex and endemic) can be so quickly brushed aside as
insignificant or simply wrong, subsumed in other arguments that centralise
male problems, and that to be concerned about them is so easily to be
dismissed as angry, irrational or extreme.

Is it really just more palatable to speak about female circumcision (which
is those others, not us) than it is to speak about manifest problems in our
own societies? Is the 14 year old who gets breast implants for her birthday
any less oppressed than the child who is genitally mutilated? Does the fact
that she is making a "choice" in a consumerist society therefore make it ok?
I have never seen outside a newsagents a picture of a naked man gagged and
in a dog collar on all fours, as I have seen of a woman. I never had to
explain such an image of men to my children. I have been dismissed from a
job at which I was perfectly competent because I was a mother, and so
couldn't be expected to be as committed as a childless woman, although the
same question never arose with fathers. (By a woman, I might add). I see
every day around me in the suburb where I live very damaged people, and
women are damaged in quite specific ways that are different from the damages
of men. And so on.

Anyway, I'm not going to say much more about this. I have sometimes thought
that the main line of attack against feminism is to bore women to death by
making them repeat the obvious again and again until everyone is dizzy and
has forgotten what the point was in the first place. In any case, it's been
interesting watching the mechanisms of this discussion.

All best

A



Alison Croggon

Blog: http://theatrenotes.blogspot.com
Editor, Masthead:  http://masthead.net.au
Home page: http://alisoncroggon.com

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