Sunday, May 03, 2009

But There's No Patriarchy!

This was about five months ago -- I was sitting at Aikido, prepping for Chaucer, which is often how I spend the hour and forty minutes of the kid's Aikido session, half-studying Chaucer or History of the English Language, half-watching the sensei put the tiny students through their paces -- anyway, this fellow and his wife and their two sons came into the viewing area.

The guy is your typical Fuck Smith male: yellow polo shirt, too much aftershave, tennis tan.  Upper middle class tool.  The woman is that guy's woman: khaki capri trousers, neat makeup, sleek hair just below her ears, anxious eyes.

The kids are pricks-in-training.  One is about nine, the other is maybe eleven. I can tell from the get-go that they have not been doing Aikido previously -- Aikido is a defensive martial arts, we have no contests, it's not about winning.  The sensei says at least twice a session, usually to the little boys, "If you're getting there first, you're probably doing it wrong.  I want it right, not fast."

These kids started snarling and whining, at once: "There's girls out there," the older one said.  "What kind of martial arts has girls?  I'm not doing anything with girls."

I looked up at the parents, pointedly.  I was the only parent in the observing area that day.

The father: oblivious.  I don't mean he pretended -- I mean, he really did not know I was there.  Probably, for him, I was not there -- a woman in jeans and a thermal shirt, no make up, battered tennis shoes?  Obviously I did not actually exist.  The mother kind of winced her eyes and huddled further down in her chair.

"Let's go," the older son demanded.  Mind you, they had been in the observing area about twenty seconds at this point.  Also, the observing area is about two feet from the dojo, and this kid is not speaking quietly. "We're not doing this.  This is stupid.  Girls?"

The father said nothing.

The mother, without looking at the father, said, "We're here to think about it.  Just--"

Speaking to her like she was -- I really can't describe the contempt in his voice -- the kid said, "It's stupid.  Look how stupid it is!  That's not a martial art!"

(Out on the mat, the students were doing throws and pins, pretty good ones too.  I saw the sensei glance over.  He is famously difficult to fluster.)

The mother, not looking at the father, not looking at her children, said, "Just sit down and watch.  If--"

The father walked out.  Not a word.  Walked out.

Jeering, the older son said, "We're not doing this crap.  Girls?"

He walked out, too.  The second son hesitated, and the mother got him by the arm and made him sit down.  "Just watch," she said.  "Just think about it."

"I don't want to," he said, desperately, furiously, whining.  "I want to go out with Dad."

"Just for ten minutes," she said, her voice muted and flat.

I was biting so hard on my tongue my ears were ringing.

They stayed ten minutes.  And here is what happened next: the kids joined the dojo.  Mom brings them to class.  Dad never appears.  Mom never speaks to anyone.  Older kid and younger kid make sexist comments on a regular basis, which, if sensei hears them, he calls them on it.  But he's not always around.  My kid gets exposed to this crap.

Why am I thinking about this now? 

This, at punkassblog, which brought it back -- that event, and hundreds of others.

There's no patriarchy, the tools tell us.

What oppression, they tell us.

Women have it lucky, they say.  Even Gin and Tacos, and you know I love Ed at Gin and Tacos, even he made that crack, joking, oh, he was joking, but you know, it ain't fucking funny.  Being told, every day of your life, okay, maybe not every single day, but over and over, that you can't do it, that you don't belong in the room, that you made it to the room because you have nice tits, that no one wants you around (Christ, no girls, please), that it's discrimination if someone happens to choose you (White Males Need Not Apply), that everyone knows you ruined the economy or you ruined the country or you ruined the school system or you wanted to be raped or you want to be beat up or you want to wreck some guy's life, that's why you got pregnant with his child, just so you could steal his money --

And you walk in a room, and half the guys there, they aren't thinking you're a human being.  You're tits on a stick to them.  You're something they might want to fuck.  Or, you know, not worth fucking, and therefore worthless.

And you can't get healthcare for vital issues, and you can't get paid the same as any guy, and you can't do the jobs that pay the most, and any job you can do immediately becomes a girl job and stops being worth much, and before you ever, ever, ever leave the house you know you better check yourself, bitch: is it late at night? Are you dressed right?  Have you been drinking?  Don't you go wandering around this world like you own your own body, slut.  You're just asking for it.  Manipulating, triangulating, scheming girl.

But there's no patriarchy.



a.e. said...

Wow--glad I found your blog. What a disturbing experience at the zendo. I'm not surprised, sad to say, since I think sexism is so internalized most don't even realize they're doing it. (of course mr. polo shirt probably does) but isn't it interesting that even young boys are being trained to disdain anything that can be linked to girls or femininity? If girls are doing it it must be bad? When does it stop?

Bardiac said...

Patriarchy sucks :(

It doesn't end until we really have a revolution.

Anonymous said...

I'll reply with something more intelligent later but I want you to know that after initially reading this, I am in tears. Honestly. You get it. I can't get it.

heidi daisybones said...

Aaaand, that is how I fell in love with Delegar. MOAR Feminist moms, intarwebz- right now!!!

XO, and good to blog-meet you, with thanks to

Augmata said...

Do I simply call you mindlessly furious and leave it at that? No. Why not?

Because the anger in your post is - just as every other reaction by a living being to something that affects it in a negative way - causal and, in that sense, necessary.

Do people hate or hold contempt for someone or -thing causelessly? No. So these boys must have had a reason for having such problems with engaging in an activity shared by girls. This reason seems to be - in assumed causal order - experimental social structures deemed advantageous for survival based on the tendencies of sexual dimorphism among humans, macrosocial congealing of these structures, organically emerging mechanisms for their defence, which are seen here on a microsocial level in the boys' notion of masculinity and urge to acquire it.

- if one of patriarchy's main foci were the privileging of everyone with a penis, there would be no incentive for the formation of mechanisms defending the structure against people with a penis - like the heavy pressure on men to be masculine (enforced by both females and males who have internalised the structure)

- if one of patriarchy's main foci were the disprivileging of everyone with a vagina, there would be no incentive essential to the structure for people with a vagina to adhere to its rules - see the urge of many people to occupy a role typically considered "feminine"

1. Could you give me your definition of "patriarchy"?
2. Could you state your reasons for attributing the existence, preservation and all favourable effects of "patriarchy" to men?
3. Most of the attitudes you mention near the end of your post might not be held by a majority of western men.