My daughter has a saying she learned at school.
“Thoughts become words, words lead to actions, actions become habits, and habits create your character.”
When she told me this saying, it made me think of a Maya Angelou quote on the same subject,
This in turn reminded me of an exchange between myself and a guy I knew many years ago. We’ll call him Bob (and FYI, this is paraphrased because I don’t remember the conversation verbatim from over a decade ago).
Bob: “I just don’t get it, you seem to get bitches without any trouble, but I can’t get bitches at all.”
Me: “Calling women bitches probably doesn’t help your cause.”
Bob: “It’s not like I call them that to their face.”
Me: “Doesn’t matter. When you call women bitches, you’re thinking of them as bitches, and it affects your thoughts and actions so that you treat them like bitches. I don’t know any women who enjoy that.”
Bob: “So I should stop calling women bitches? And then they’ll like me?”
Me: “That couldn’t hurt. But really, you should stop thinking of women as bitches, and treat them like people. People like to be treated like people.”
It’s the same line of thinking that makes me hate it when people call something they don’t like “gay.” I can’t tell you how many times, when I was teaching, I had to come down on kids for saying “that’s gay” about something they didn’t like. When you say something bad is “gay,” you equate gay and bad in your mind, even if it’s just in order to form the sentence. The thing is, the more you connect “gay” and “bad” in your mind, for any reason, the stronger the connection between those two concepts becomes, after time causing you to dislike things you would label as “gay,” which can lead you to homophobia.
This is why dehumanizing terms like “gook,” “kraut,” “jap,” “haji,” “redskin,” and the like have been much more popular in wartime with various cultures. It’s a lot easier to slaughter people when you’re thinking of them as something other than human beings. It’s also a lot easier to enslave and torment “niggers” than it would be to do the same to “people of color.” It’s easier to objectify and disrespect “bitches” than it is to do so with “women.”
Which leads me to this article, “Unmasking the Patriarchal Values in Halloween Costumes: Naughty Leopards, Sassy Space Girls and Warrior Ninjas.” At which point I feel I must offer this disclaimer:
I am not a misogynist. I am not a misandrist. I am not a feminist, nor am I an MRA. I can identify with certain goals and complaints of both groups, and there are others with which I don’t agree. Do not label me as any of these things. Doing so is not only disingenuous and misleading, it is patently false. I respect people as people regardless of their sex and/or gender. I am raising my daughters to do the same; to respect themselves and others as people above all else. End of disclaimer, back to the show.
This article is steeped in bullshit. As are, in my less than humble opinion, all articles and any other complaints pointing to “The Patriarchy.”
Is the article correct that Halloween costumes degrade and sexualize women? Yes. Is it unfair and sexist that all the specifically female-oriented costumes seem to have “sexy” in the title, as though women are only important due to their sex appeal? Absolutely. Are women portrayed and pigeonholed as almost completely sexual objects in our greater culture at large? No argument here, that is the truth. I have daughters, and I hate the fact that this is the truth. Which is why I didn’t buy them any of these costumes. Instead, we made our costumes, and both of them played male animal characters from a favorite cartoon show.
That said, they have, in years past, also been princesses, fairies, and the like, depending on how they felt like dressing for Halloween. And I encouraged them in all of these choices, because the point is for them to exercise making choices for themselves. That is what empowerment is, after all. And let it never be said that I wouldn’t want my daughters (or yours, for that matter) to grow up to be empowered, willing and able to make their own choices as responsible adults.
But I digress a little here. Back to the terrifying specter of “The Patriarchy.”
Like a specter, it’s not real (and no, Paul Elam, there is no matriarchy, either, so just… don’t).
Men are objectified, just like women are. We’re just objectified in different, albeit no less dehumanizing, ways. For instance:
It’s a common trope in comedy that women love a man in uniform, because “When you see a man in uniform, you can always smell… BENEFITS”. How about other things that attract women to a man in uniform? Things like loving a Naval uniform because “It is good to have guys like this around us knowing they are there to defend us,” or how about a doctors’ outfit because “they make us feel safe,” or a tailored suit because “the suit represents [to] me the respectful man who has power and who is smart enough to lead a company or either a country!” Even the article that started this whole tirade mentions that “Costumes geared toward boys represent characteristics, as evidenced in the names, and/or professions that elicit social respect and financial stability read: utility. Those marketed to girls highlight comparatively diminutive qualities and roles… indicating that one is pleasant, or sexually available” (italics represent my own comments).
The “sexy nurse” costume objectifies women as a sex object, while the “doctor” costume has the same objectifying effect, only it objectifies men as a means to gain security and status. Women = sex toys, while men = tools.
And before you start screaming “Not all women are like that!” and mocking my point with “What about teh menz?” let me remind you that Partiarchy is defined as “a social system in which males are the primary authority figures central to social organization… and where fathers hold authority over women and children. It implies the institutions of male rule and privilege, and entails female subordination.” Men are the authority figures, in other words. Not a majority of authority figures are men, but men are the authority figures, deriving such authority from subjugation of women. And if women are subjugated in our society to benefit men, could this happen without the severest of consequences?
What about this, on national television?
Could these facts be true, if women in general were at the mercy of men in general (my comments are in italics)?
- In the United States, more men are victims of rape each year than women.
- In many parts of the U.S., men who are victims of domestic or sexual abuse have no access to resources such as safe houses; in many places (including, as it turns out, my home town of Portland, OR) the laws and policies that enable resources for at-risk victims are written in such a gender-specific way as to only apply to women.
- If you fall behind on your child support payments because you have lost your job, you can be sent to prison – and in your trial you are not entitled to legal representation – The only other group not entitled to a jury trial and an attorney are suspected terrorists.
- If an adult woman molests a male child, and that molestation results in a pregnancy, that boy can be forced to pay child support for his offspring once he becomes a wage-earning adult.
Look, people. All this Patriarchy vs. Matriarchy, MRA’s vs. feminists, “which sex is oppressing the other” is straight out of Willie fucking Lynch, and it’s important that you see it. It’s divide and conquer, simple as that.
We don’t live in a Patriarchy. We don’t live in a Matriarchy. We live in a good old fashioned God Damned Oligarchy, and anyone telling you that the struggles faced by any group of people aren’t part of an overall rich vs. poor narrative is a big fat fucking liar, or at best has their head up their ass.
I guess what I’m trying to get at is this.
When you call the Oligarchy a Patriarchy, you’re implying that men in general are responsible. That may not be what you initially mean, but that’s what you’re doing.
Yes you are. No, stop arguing, and listen.
If you are using the term, you know that the word is derived from “Pater,” the Latin reference to fathers, and knowing that, you create a connection in your brain between a word that means “father,” and an oppressor. And I am here to tell you, calling an oppressive system “father” is pretty fucked up. It’s like saying something you don’t like is “gay.” It’s like calling your enemy a “kraut.” And it has the same effect on your psyche. And as a father, who has never oppressed anyone, I rightly take offense to this term that dehumanizes me, as well as denigrating the role I play in the lives of my children.
Moreover, not only does the term “Patriarchy” as used in our American parlance degrade men at large as an oppressor class and a faceless enemy, it’s not even God Damned accurate!
So get it right, people. There’s nothing wrong with being pissed about “sexy” [insert whatever profession you wish] costumes being the only female-specific option. I don’t like it either, and I’m with you on that. But blame your objectification on the right people. The people who objectify me just as harshly. The people who look at all of us as nothing more than tools to be used, objects to be played with and thrown away. Don’t waste your time fighting a “Patriarchy” that isn’t real. Turn your energy, your fury, your snarky internet comments, toward the Oligarchy that’s actually at fault.
And for fuck’s sake, please remember that looking sexy on Halloween isn’t exactly the worst thing in the world to begin with.