The latest Carnival of Feminists from Mind the Gap is amazing, and has heaps of stuff that I want to respond to. I thought I'd start with a question about women and patriarchy from Den of the Biting Bever.
I was reading some comments last night and a thoughtful commenter made a post that really struck a chord in me. In it she asked how I feel about those women who work in the sex industry, and, more generally, how I feel about women who seem to propagate everything that the Patriarchy stands for. The women on "Girls gone wild" jumped immediately to mind. As I was reading the comment the confusion of the poster came through. She noted having some frustration at these women, as well as sadness. She asked if I had any ideas why it is that many women who were abused become advocates of children and women while others seem to try to mold themselves to men's desires.I have an answer that works for me, I don't know if it'll work for others. I don't think the examples she gives are particularly difficult, since she focuses on sex workers, and women without power. I don't understand why anyone would hold sex workers responsible for the objectification of women. The blame for that lies quite squarely with men.
The comment was thoughtful and, for me anyway, thought provoking. The first part that got to me was the feelings of frustration at these women who seem so bent on helping with their own demise. I know exactly what she means. And it brings into sharp focus for me a question that I've often mulled over but still have a hard time trying to answer.
Should we be blaming women too? At what point do women stop being innocent victims and start being held responsible for the role they play? Do they ever? Are they ever responsible for their actions under a repressive society?
These questions were in my head all day yesterday and I've decided to write about it, even if I don’t' have the answers. Maybe it will set someone else's mind to wandering and they can provide an answer.
But then I long ago developed a simple answer to the question of blaming women for the oppression we face, and that comes from looking at feminist history
A lot of the most important feminist ideas and theory now have their origins in the women's liberation movements of the 1960s and 1970s. In the late 1960s an American feminist group released rats at a bridal show (I think it was W.I.T.C.H - Women's International Terorist Conspiracy from Hell, but it could have been another group on the East Coast). They had perfectly good reasons for doing so - at the time rape within marriage was legal, and they . The problem was the women at the bridal show
So they looked at what they did and realised that it wasn't OK to attack women for their survival strategies. This became known as the pro-woman line, and it's a really important part of my feminism.
I do make an important amendment - I have no problem judging women with power and the way they use that power. I used to have a T-shirt saying Jenny Shipley is Not My Sister, and I wore it with pride, by cutting benefits she attacked the livelihoods of huge numbers of women.
Now this isn't a particularly easy position to maintain. A whole lot of women's survival strategies drive me absolutely insane, and others simply have to be challenged. I was at my little sister's 18th birthday party and the girls there were policing each other's dress and sexuality full-on (and I learned a new disturbing term 'asian skirt' - I didn't need to know that existed). I do try and talk about this with my sister, but I don't hold her and her friends responsible for society's policing of women's bodies, that would be ridiculous.
There's a different between judging and arguing though. It's the difference between saying 'you're insane' and 'we live in an insane world, here's why'. But unless women have actual real power over other women's lives (and the 'power' of being a porn star doesn't count) then they are our sisters and