How the Patriarchy Plays Out on Female Bodies

Women must conform.

Occasionally, I meet a woman who thinks that her only currency in life is being sexy, and that never fails to make me profoundly sad. I picture her intelligence, her humor, her creativity, her compassion, and all her other skills atrophying while she focuses intensely on that sexiness for as long as it lasts. (And it never lasts, young ladies. Trust me.) So eventually she’s left with “nothing but” all those underused qualities, and she has to learn late in life how to employ them. Kudos to those who manage to put that off, in spite of so much wasted time.

The most frustrating thing about women such as these is that they definitely did not come up with those warped priorities independently. All young girls get that memo, the world over. They are bombarded with it from all sides, even from friends and family. And the messages can be mixed, too. We shouldn’t be sluts, but we should dress up as naughty nurses for that late night Halloween party. The fact that we all don’t turn into vapid Barbie Dolls who are devoid of genitalia speaks to our resilience and formidable ability to survive.

Even in countries where women are supposed to cover up and remain chaste, there’s this underlying lesson that their sexiness is such a force that the men around them can’t control themselves, and if they don’t dress conservatively, then they will suffer the consequences for bewitching innocent men by not keeping their own power in check.

We are told that we must sit with our knees together. We are told not to be provocative. We are told that we should smile more, even while graciously tolerating unwelcome advances.

Here’s a disturbing statistic for you, found amongst a mountain of disturbing statistics on the RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) website. Every 68 seconds another American is sexually assaulted, and 90 percent of those victims are female. Every 9 minutes, the victim is a child. Think of that the next time you’re watching the second hand of the clock, hoping for time to pass. Perhaps if we discarded minutes and instead used rape statistics to measure time, we could learn to talk about it and come up with ways to prevent these weak men from running amok.

While doing research for this post, I came across an article by Dr. Jessica Taylor that turns this female oppression into a fascinating pep talk. I encourage you to read the whole article, but here’s just one intriguing paragraph:

“Men don’t oppress women because they think they are stupid, incompetent, weak or incapable – they oppress women because they know that we aren’t any of those things. They know that given the chance, we will change the world in several ways which will permanently dismantle male supremacy. And they don’t want that.”

She goes on to explain that rape and oppression of women are found the world over, and that there’s no society on earth where females have equal control of their lives, finances, education and governments. This has nothing to do with any flaws we ourselves possess.

It is in the best interest of the patriarchy to keep us from realizing that we are just as skillful, intelligent and powerful as they are. To do so, they must keep us under tight control. They target the most private and intimate parts of us to maintain that control.

Women are expected to conform to men’s standards of beauty. As male tastes change, various female body parts are supposed to increase or decrease in size. We’re supposed to wear more or less makeup and clothing. When we can’t keep up with these ever-changing standards that are so out of our control, we are to consider ourselves failures.

We are expected to submit to or abstain from sex regardless of mood, all at the whim of our fathers, brothers, husbands and often bosses. We are expected to blame ourselves for rape. In many countries we are not even allowed to keep our sexual organs, because our pleasure is threatening and/or intolerable. And many women and girls do not get to choose their mates.

A more sobering quote from that article is as follows: “No one has to work very hard to control or manipulate women and girls who already view themselves as sex objects to be used, abused, controlled or enjoyed by men.”

Another level of control, of course, is that of our fertility. Patriarchal organizations would have you believe that birth control is evil because we must procreate, and if we do get pregnant, we must see it through regardless of our personal wishes, physical or mental health, or finances.

If we suffer when we menstruate, we are emotionally out of control. If we can’t have children, we are barren. If we enter menopause, we are dried up. If a man decides to “spread his seed” with us and we’re underage, then we are teases and jail bait. And the poorer we are, the more likely our wombs will be for sale. We can be surrogates. We can have a bride price. We are given away at the altar, from one man to the next. Having children will keep us close to home.

I had to go to ten different gynecologists before I found one who would tie my tubes, because you never know, I might change my mind. I was 35. I never changed my mind.

According to this article in Ms. Magazine, even our hair is a source of control. We are pressured to dye our hair when it turns grey because the older we appear to be, the less value we have and the less we are seen by society. We are often told how we must wear our hair in the workplace. We are told that some hair colors and textures are more valuable and more indicative of beauty than others. If you didn’t win that particular lottery, then you must spend a fortune to try to make your hair conform, and that’s money we could be investing to get ahead.

On the other hand, some parts of our bodies shouldn’t have hair at all, while other parts should be plucked and bleached and shaped into submission. If you’re too hairy, you’re too manly, too radical, and, heaven help us, unhygienic.

If we were in full control of our bodies, the make up and fashion industries as we know them today would not exist. Surrogacy would look very different. The weight loss industry would disintegrate. The military/industrial complex would be a helluva lot less complex. Plastic surgery would no longer be the cash cow that it currently is.

Every woman on earth has had her body judged. You need to gain or lose weight. Your skin should be bleached, tanned, or moisturized. You’re too this, that, or the other thing. Because of that, you’re not enough.

Your body must be used to attract others. Are you passing or failing in that quest? There is a reason why girls are ten times more likely to have eating disorders than boys. And we are told we can’t be beautiful without the help of beauty enhancing products. So where does that leave our self-esteem?

We can’t be allowed to have positive self-esteem, because that might lead to self-confidence. Then we’d be considered too outspoken. It would be preferable if we didn’t speak at all. We are set up for failure, because our success would lead to patriarchal chaos.

The FBI tells us that 97 percent of crime is committed by men. The femicide rate increased by 33 percent in 2020. Women are all but trained to live in fear of violence, and that impacts our ability to act independently.  How long must we lie back and take this?

Here’s an interesting bit of trivia for you: The verb cleave, according to fundamentalists and Promise Keepers, means sticking to something like glue. As in, we should cleave to our husbands. But they neglect to mention that this word also has another meaning that is equally valid, that of cutting or splitting something apart with a sharp instrument.  

If anyone ever dares tell me I should cleave to a man, I’ll be tempted to say, “Okey Dokey… Brace yourself…”

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Crime Used to Be So Much Easier to Commit

Shame on me.

Without going into enough detail to incriminate myself, I must admit that I’m a criminal. (Don’t act so shocked. You’ve probably bent a rule or two yourself.)

Back before airport security was tight, I did something that would probably have me doing time these days. A college friend of mine took a flight and before it took off, the airline staff asked for volunteers to be bumped off the flight. They’d be put on the next flight and get a free, non-transferrable round-trip ticket anywhere in the continental US, to be redeemed within a year. My friend shot her hand up, even though she knew she wouldn’t be back to the US during that period. She’s from Europe.

They gave her a paper ticket. She gave it to me. And I used it. This was back before airlines had gotten into the pesky habit of asking to see your ID before you got on the plane. Pretty much anybody could go anywhere, and bring their foot-long Bowie knife with them in case they got the urge to trim their nails in flight. Those were the days. You actually had leg room and a decent in-flight meal, and the plane was half empty so you could usually stretch out and take a nap afterward. (You young people have no idea.)

All I had to do was forge my friend’s signature (I practiced for weeks) and pretend to be someone I didn’t even look like, and I was able to fly out to visit my niece and nephew at a time when I could have never afforded to do so on my own.

And lightning has yet to strike me dead.

I’ve also been known in my more poverty-stricken youth to reuse uncancelled postage stamps. One time I may have let a cashier ring my zucchini up as much cheaper cucumber, too. And I borrowed a friend’s asthma inhaler at a time when I was uninsured and couldn’t afford to refill my prescription. Shame on me.

Now that I’m more financially comfortable, I can afford to be much more law-abiding, and allow my morals and better nature to come to the forefront. What can I say? Poverty makes you do stuff.

Having said that, I must admit that I still pee in the shower occasionally, albeit right over the drain. My bladder is a corrupting influence. So sue me.

I guess I just blew my chance of ever running for public office…

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Can People Get Any More Stupid?

Do the right thing.

Just when I think I’ve heard it all, I learn that there are actually people out there who will forge a COVID-19 Vaccine Card for you. Really. You can’t make this stuff up.

Before you read any further, let me make something perfectly clear. Forging a federal document is a felony. So is possessing one. Don’t believe me? Check out this article here.

What an idiotic risk to take. Don’t do it. But if you are that foolish, the forging of a vaccine card is also borderline insane for a variety of reasons. First of all, here in the U.S. the vaccine is free. Whereas, according to this article at least, getting the forged card will cost you about 20 bucks.

So you’re telling me you’d rather spend 20 bucks than get a vaccine that just might save your life, and the lives of your loved ones, just so you can get into a concert or an amusement park without getting jabbed? You have devolved so completely as a human being that you prefer being a criminal to being healthy? You prefer the inconvenience of years of federal prison to the inconvenience of a needle stick that takes less than 30 seconds? You’d rather go to a concert and potentially infect everyone in your vicinity, as opposed to getting the vaccine and going legitimately? You’re willing to go to jail to make a political point instead of doing the right thing for your community?

What the HELL is wrong with you?

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Little Punks All Grown Up

You can never be completely sure of the content of someone else’s character.

Thirty years ago, a friend said to me, “Every time I meet a German male of a certain age, I wonder what role he played in the Nazi Party.” It kind of made my blood run cold, if I’m honest. But now that generation has, for the most part, died off.

But when you think about it (even though these things are on a different scale entirely), there are little criminals in every generation. Sometimes I look at the adults I know and I remember that all of us have gone through the stupid adolescent stage, and that means, purely from a statistical standpoint, that a certain percentage used to be dumb-a$$ little punks.

That CEO may have delighted in keying cars when he was 13. Your postman may have thought it was funny to make sexually harassing anonymous phone calls. Your spouse might have been into shoplifting.

Bullies grow up, too. Some of them outgrow that tendency. Others, unfortunately, become your supervisor. I shudder to think what antics Donald Trump got up to when he was 12. It wouldn’t surprise me if he pulled the wings off flies.

And while certain behaviors should be written off as the foibles of youth, and people really can mature and change, a lot of criminal behavior is an innate part of one’s psychological makeup, and the only reason that person is still out amongst us is that he or she just never got caught. You can never be completely sure of the content of someone else’s character.

Something to think about.

Psycho

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Score One for Nature!

Even if it were true (and it’s most definitely not) that rhino horns held medicinal properties, that doesn’t give you the right to kill them.

I’m not a violent person. I don’t even believe in the death penalty. But when I stumbled across this article about three rhino poachers getting killed by a pride of lions, I have to say that I was kind of pleased by the justice that Mother Nature meted out.

Even if it were true (and it’s most definitely not) that rhino horns held medicinal properties, that doesn’t give you the right to kill them. And if you are stupid enough to break into a game PRESERVE full of wild animals to commit this crime, you certainly can’t blame the lions for viewing you as a delicious midnight snack. You were about to do what you do, so they did what they do. Fair’s fair.

You were committing a crime. You were in a place where you had no right to be. Nature stepped up, leaving nothing but your shoes and your gloves and one skull behind, along with the nefarious weapons you planned to use to commit your atrocity.

Sometimes justice balances the scale in unexpected ways. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If I didn’t believe so firmly in karma, I’d probably implode under the sheer weight of my righteous indignation. Fortunately, a little of that weight was lifted this time around.

Lions

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Do You Even HEAR Yourself?

It happened again the other day. I was listening to NPR on my commute to work, and I heard something that almost made me swerve off the road. When am I ever going to learn?

I can’t even tell you what the story was about, such was my level of outrage afterward. All I know is it was some official or other asking people to come forward if they had any information about some crime or other. Here’s what got me: The official said, “You never know. Maybe he heard something at the bar, or maybe she heard some pillow talk…”

Perhaps I’m a little too raw in this, the #MeToo era. Perhaps I’m being overly sensitive. Maybe most people didn’t hear that comment the way I did. But I want to know why SHE has to hear something through pillow talk, and HE gets to go to the bar.

Pillow talk? Seriously? Yes, we women are wily. We’re so sexually liberated that we lure people into our beds and get them to confess to all manner of shenanigans. Because when you put women and pillows together, my, my… nothing good can come from that.

Whereas men can only talk to each other when they’re wasted. Actually, both genders should be insulted by this bozo. The assumptions he makes about the way we all live our lives… it’s condescending. It’s disgusting.

He probably calls women “gals” too. Or “little ladies”. And he probably doesn’t even realize what he’s doing.

But you know what really, really gets my knickers in a twist? It’s that a huge number of the people reading this are probably saying, “What’s the big deal?”

The big deal is that it’s 20 freakin’ 18, and you still can’t see why stupid freakin’ micro-aggressions like this are a big deal. That’s what the big deal is.

End of rant.

pillowtalk
We haven’t moved very far from 1959.

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A Solution to Gerrymandering

Gerrymandering, or the deliberate manipulation of the shape of voter districts to ensure a particular political outcome, is one of the most common forms of corruption in the United States. This crime is perpetrated against the American people by both Republicans and Democrats. We all know it. It has to stop.

Here’s why it hasn’t. In every state in the union, either the Democrats or the Republicans are in power. And the party in power just loves Gerrymandering, because it’s a way for them to remain in power. The citizens of this country need to take that power back.

The people in the great state of North Carolina have been given a wake-up call. Their gerrymandered districts were deemed unconstitutional by a lower court. Unfortunately, it just got overturned by the supreme court. (Bias, anyone?) They need to make changes.

But they are hardly the only state with insanely shaped voting districts. Check out this district in Florida. It even stretches a tentacle right down the center of the St. Johns River, without touching dry land for miles, in order to exclude some people and include others. It helped an extremely corrupt Corrine Brown remain in the US House of Representatives from 1993 to 2017. She is now a convicted felon. Finally.

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Here’s what has to happen: We need to create a law that requires all districts to be in the shape of squares or rectangles. They should be required to have only four 90 degree angles, with one exception: Allowances should be made for the uneven borders between states.

This would still allow for some manipulation. I suspect we’d see radical differences in square sizes, and some strangely long and skinny rectangles. But even so, the power to predict outcomes will be much more limited.

The thing is, until all the people, on both sides of the political spectrum, get together and agree on this one issue, there will be no justice for any of us. We need an organization to take this on as a pet project, and inform the people that they are being manipulated. It’s time to take back control so that our politicians represent the will of the people.

Let’s hear it for 90 degree angles!

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Stupid, Stupid Boy

So, it’s fairly certain that one of the biggest fires in Oregon at the moment was started by a 15-year-old boy playfully throwing a smoke bomb into a ravine while hiking in the woods. To hell with burn bans. The world is one big video game! Woo hoo! If we destroy everything, we just hit the reset button, right?

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. The vast majority of the crime and destruction in this world is perpetrated by boys between the ages of 15 and 24, regardless of race or religion. It’s like they take out their brains and set them on a dusty shelf in the back of their closets for a decade.

I know that’s a sweeping generalization. I’m sure there are plenty of good kids wandering around. But from a statistical standpoint, I wouldn’t bet the farm on any of them. When it comes to violence, theft, graffiti, traffic accidents, bar fights, rape, DUI, and general stupidity, the numbers bear me out.

I hope there are consequences for this kid. I hope he has to help fight this fire. I hope he has to walk through the devastated landscape afterwards and see what he’s done. Somehow, someone has to get through to him.

He won’t be in the stupid stage forever. How will he feel in his 30’s about what he did? This may sound strange, but I hope he regrets it quite a lot. Because that will show that he has developed some sort of a moral compass, as painful as it will be for him. If, on the other hand, he laughs it off, is allowed to get over it, or becomes angry and bitter and stays stuck in his stupidity, then heaven help us all.

forest-fire

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Fascism: The Warning Signs

Very often, I hear people confuse Communism and Socialism and Fascism. They use the terms interchangeably, which makes me realize they really haven’t a clue as to each system’s basic tenets. They have just been taught that they mean “bad” and feel that’s all they need to know. I find this very disheartening, and potentially dangerous. Knowledge is power.

At this moment in history, I am particularly concerned about Fascism. What follows is a basic primer, Fourteen Defining Characteristics of Fascism, by Dr. Lawrence Britt. I will leave it to you to decide if these characteristics seem eerily familiar. Heaven help us all.

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Dr. Lawrence Britt has examined the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia) and several Latin American regimes. Britt found 14 defining characteristics common to each: 

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism – Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights – Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of “need.” The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a unifying Cause – The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial, ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.

4. Supremacy of the Military – Even when there are wide spread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

5. Rampant Sexism – The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution.

6. Controlled Mass Media – Sometimes to media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.

7. Obsession with National Security – Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

8. Religion and Government are Intertwined – Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government’s policies or actions.

9. Corporate Power is Protected – The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

10. Labor Power is Suppressed – Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.

11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts – Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked.

12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment – Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.

13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption – Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

14. Fraudulent Elections – Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

From Liberty Forum

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Peace and Quiet

As I write this, a construction crew is tearing up the pavement on my bridge. It’s long overdue, and I’m really looking forward to not having potholes in my parking space anymore, but still, they are making an ungodly racket. I’ve actually had to resort to wearing earplugs, which is making it quite a challenge to hear boats when they request a bridge opening.

Peace is closely linked to quiet for a very good reason. I’m finding it really hard to concentrate due to this hullabaloo, and even harder to write. I’ve noticed I’m shaking my leg again, just like I did throughout my teen years. That’s evidence of an unsettled spirit.

If you don’t have quiet, you can’t think clearly. If you can’t think clearly, you make poor decisions. Poor decisions rarely lead to peaceful outcomes. At least that’s been my experience. If you ever want to see me contemplate violence, just let a neighborhood car alarm go off at 3 a.m., and let it continue to blare until the battery runs out. That’s pitchfork and torch time, as far as I’m concerned.

I always used to think that big cities were more crime-ridden than small towns because of the concentrated population. Now I’m beginning to wonder if it has more to do with the fact that in the country you can actually hear yourself think. Thinking people are less apt to break laws.

You’ll never see anyone meditating on a construction site. It’s not an ideal place to practice Tai Chi, either. Maybe if I calmly repeat, “Bye-bye, potholes,” as if it’s a mantra, while taking deep cleansing breaths, I’ll exit this experience with my sanity intact.

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