Saturday, December 6, 2008

Remembering the women murdered by an antifeminist killer, at École Polytechnique

I welcome visitors here to link their way over to the blog, Womanist Musings (also linked to from this blog's mainpage), for an important piece on the anniversary of a mass killing of women in a university in Montréal, Canada, many years ago, but no so many that they are not being remembered.

Only the beginning of her blogpost is reposted here:

For women across Canada, December 6 is a day that we are reminded that despite the gains of feminism and women’s work to end gender based violence; we are still marginalized and vulnerable bodies. It is the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre. On this day we think of Geneviève Bergeron, Hélène Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, Anne-Marie Edward, Maud Haviernick, Maryse Laganière, Maryse Leclair, Anne-Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier, Michèle Richard, Annie St-Arneault, Annie Turcotte, and Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz.

To ensure that there was no confusion as to why he felt the need to enter École Polytechnique and massacre 14 women, Marc Lépine left behind a detailed three page letter in which he blamed feminists for being “so opportunistic they neglect to profit from the knowledge accumulated by men through the ages. They always try to misrepresent them every time they can”. He considered himself to be “rational” and therefore felt his rage against feminists was justified. He went on to state in his suicide note,” why persevere to exist if it is only to please the government. Being rather backward-looking by nature (except for science), the feminists have always enraged me. They want to keep the advantages of women (e.g. cheaper insurance, extended maternity leave preceded by a preventative leave, etc.) while seizing for themselves those of men.” Lépine was so angry at the loss of unearned male privilege due to the advances of feminism; his letter also included a list of nineteen other women that he also wished to see dead.

Celie's newest writing: “You Told Harpo To Beat Me?”: How Hip Hop Music Defines and Divides Black Women

It is with gratitude and congratulations that I post here the link to Celie's latest feminist writing. As noted in my comment below it, I think this essay is "awesome". You can see more of her writings at her blog, Celie's Revenge, linked to from my blog.

Below, I've copied and pasted just a snippet of it, hoping it will lead you to read the rest of it. [The "her" being referred to is Karrine Stephans.] It is copyrighted work, 2008, by Celie's Revenge.
In researching peoples reactions to her celebrity status for being a former music video dancer and groupie, Ms. Steffan's disgrace appears to be in writing a book and still not being well enough to admit that she was nothing more to these men than a "piece of ass." Some argue that she's glamorizing being a "hoochie" and is a bad example for young women. I can't imagine any literate female reading her book and seeing glamour in giving a blow-job until your nose bleeds. Steffans makes herself look bad: no matter how many books she sells or university campuses she visits her past and her rise to “fame” reflects a view of herself that many people will never reconsider. Through the sexist lens we use to judge women's truth-telling and experience she comes out looking even worse than the men. It is misogynistic to solely denounce women for holding a view of themselves that men won't release them from. It is misogynistic to focus on what's wrong with the women without leveling serious criticism at the men who create and maintain systems of abuse that exist to meet men's sexual demands, not women's. --Celie's Revenge

"Can what pornographers do be regarded as harmless fun?" A response

Liberals love to speak about human acts, sexual and otherwise, as if there were no real world in which such acts exist. "What if we didn't live in a patriarchal society?" heterosexual men have asked me, again and again, with an optimism that isn't shared by me, given my stance against pornographers and pimps. They follow it up with the question they most want an answer to: "Would pornography then, be OK for me to look at?"

My answer is usually this:
"Let's have that conversation after there ceases to be a patriarchal society."

Sometimes they get the point. Sometimes they are determined: "No, really, WHAT IF there were no patriarchal societies?? Would you say that me looking at pornography was bad, then?" After reminding them I'm neither their priest nor pastor, I usually say, "I don't think you looking at pornography is 'bad' now, in your oh-so-guilty, Christian-dominated society's moral sense of the word bad. It's not 'bad' in the sense that some Christian preachers have taught us that masturbation is 'bad'. It's not 'bad' like that. It's bad like war is bad, like rape is bad, like genocide is bad. And 'bad' is not the most appropriate adjective to describe any of those atrocities. You won't likely hear me say that 'The genocide of Indigenous North Americans is bad'. Or 'the Nazi holocaust was bad'. Or 'the Maafa was bad'. You'll likely hear me say those are all examples of unfathomably cruel atrocities, horrible crimes against humanity, an outrage and a cause for enormous grief at what human beings are capable of doing to other humans beings."

I continue:
"I think you habitually looking at pornography is, for various reasons, harmful to women as a political class of humans beings, a political class as socially and culturally diverse as any group of human beings, reduced to one or two things--sl*t or not-sl*t--by men who cannot see the extraordinary diversity in womankind, let alone appreciate and celebrate women's diversity. I believe your practice of looking at, and getting off to, pornography is harmful in ways you cannot imagine, to any woman who sleeps with you. Were you sexually interested in me, there's not a chance in hell of me sleeping with you, if your primary sexual activity was looking at exploited, objectified human beings for fun or pleasure, pretending they are not just as real as you are. Or, I certainly hope there wouldn't be a chance in hell."

I continue:
"If looking at industry pornography does nothing else (and it does much, much more), it reinforces in you a male supremacist entitlement to have visual access to women's bodies whenever you desire to. In my view, and in the view of many feminists, this is unjust. You are not entitled to have access-upon-desire (or demand) to women's bodies. I mean, in reality, you are: this patriarchal society imbues you with that entitlement. I am saying, that entitlement is fucked up, it is harmful and dehumanising to women, it is dehumanising to you, and it is profitable for pimps who don't give a shit about girls' or women's freedom from exploitation and degradation."

"Our society is fundamentally fucked up, and that is one way in which it is so. Your viewing of women who were or are inside corporate systems of patriarchal exploitation also further exploits the photographed women whose histories you cannot know. And from speaking with many men I do know this: most men do not wish to know about those girls' or women's lives, their particular histories, the actual conditions they live with in order to become pornographically photographed or videotaped. I can't tell you what each woman's story is, nor do I claim that every woman in pornography is an incest or rape survivor. I knew a woman who found stripping to be at times empowering and also degrading--both. My point is that you can't know who is and who isn't a survivor of incest or rape, and the degree to which that, coupled with her being preyed upon by a pimp, led her to be visually available to you now. You assuming she isn't a survivor of abuse and meaningfully chose to be in pornography because that is what she most looks forward to in life, is utterly self-serving on your part and a cowardly way to avoid responsibility for participating in an industry that turns women into wh*res in men's imaginations. No woman is a wh*re. No woman."

"If at the end of the day or night, after you've spent several hours mindlessly or studiously glaring at images or videos of women sexually exposed inside the pornography industry, if at the end of that time you believe that some women deserve to be treated this way, that some women are on this Earth 'for you', that some women's humanity is reducible to their painted or Photoshopped genitals, or that women are "hot" to the extent that they are visually and physically vulnerable and accessible to men like you; if you believe all that so you don't have to feel implicated in an atrocity called the gross sexual exploitation and degradation of women, for men's pleasure and profit, including your own pleasure, then you ought to know that you have been lied to by pornographers and other pimps. You have been told a pack of lies that costs many women, inside and outside the pornography industry, their dignity and their lives. You need to know there's blood on your hands, the blood of women tortured, enslaved, and killed for men's entertainment. Because that is part of the industry you enjoy. When you accept all of that, and still feel compelled to look at those images, then ask yourself what being human means. And let me and every woman in your life know the answer."

Learning from Women: a Note to Men

In my experience, there is a great deal that men refuse to know about each other and ourselves.

Over the last many years, ever since studying feminism and Womanism, and befriending feminists, mostly but not entirely radical feminists, I have had many things pointed out to me by individual women, and by Womanist and feminist writings about men. What I have appreciated about these women is their seemingly tireless faith that men can be better: more humane, more compassionate, more empathic towards women, less harsh and more loving to women, men, and children, more concerned about social and economic justice and human rights.

Lorde knows, this faith is grounded in little more than the occasional, anecdotal success. Overall, men remain resistant to learning about ourselves as women see and experience us. When men do listen, and learn, women are called all sorts of names by more "manly" men, eager to instill in all men the notion that "you are the master of your own domain". When men speak out against men's sexism, we too encounter the misogynist terms usually reserved for women. I've been called them all, including fa**ot and c*nt. This is to be expected, of course. And I am well aware that what I get from men (in anti-woman hostility) is a drop in the misogynists' ocean compared to what men do to the women who attempt to succeed in holding men fully accountable. To all the women who strive to do this: good luck, and may you, miraculously, be spared men's abuses in the process of doing so.

Men assume the many ways we (mis)perceive and (mis)interpret women's actions are Truth--get out the chisels and stone as the words leave men's tongues-. We enjoy the delusion that our speech, like the white male sky-god's words-sent-directly-from-heaven, is infallible, incapable of being seriously biased, distorted and skewed, only subjective. Our words are--sorry fellas--never immortal truth, and often are not even mundanely truthful or, sadly, even honest.

Men have historically and cross-culturally, if not universally, possessed the power to name reality, including the power to define what is meant by "woman" (in many languages). Given this power, men, collectively, have ensured that there are several variations of misogynist men's fantasies of what "woman" is. This is accomplished with mythology, the apparent Word from that supernatural male sky-god, and, more commonly, with actual force either sufficient and excessive enough to ensure that at least some women will accommodate (read: be socially manipulated and intimately coerced by, or forced under fear of death) men's wishes for what woman is to be, for man(un)kind.

I have had many hundreds of occasions to be in the presence of allegedly "loving husbands" who speak to the women who are married to them with an annoying, habituated condescension or a gross, ugly passion to subordinate the women these men once upon a time promised to honor and cherish.

Consciously or not, these interruptions and corrections of women's speech is usually quite effective in humiliating and subordinating her to him. There are many variations of such misogynist verbal insults. On the most kind and considerate end, I hear husbands remind their wives, "No, honey: that's not how it went." "No it didn't happen like that, sweetie. Let me tell the story correctly." "No, darling, you keep getting that part wrong. It couldn't have happened in the winter. I'm certain it was summer."

When the wife responds, if the wive responds, with such comments as "Honey, I believe it WAS wintertime because I was the one who had to drive our child to the hospital and the roads were very icy that day" the put-off husband hurrumphs or stews, pissed off not only that he was wrong (again) but that his incorrect memory was exposed to another man (me). Any exposure of a man's ego as fallible or flawed is considered to be a serious offense by men. And men do react. Sometimes they scowl and pout, passive-aggressively demanding "their" woman's caring attention resume at once. At other times they immediately shame the wives. Sometimes husbands beat the shit out of their wives. Sometimes husbands kill them.

Note: these husbands habitually and chronically cut down women by "correcting" their wives' versions of reality. This is "how it should be". This is not to be commented on, by me, by her, or by anyone else. He is supposed to be entitled to do this, among many other things, that demonstrate his dominance inside the household. (So much for that perennial misogynist myth that "men control the public realm, while women control the private realm".) Wives and mothers being in charge of clothing the children, doing the dishes, vacuuming, and washing hubby's underwear and other laundry doesn't constitute a form of "control" that I consider to be meaningfully liberating for women.

I do consider this work admirable and important, however, and I know from helping women with children do this work, all day long, that it is exhausting. I see the exhaustion on the women's faces, often only four hours into the day that began at 6:00am. I see how they collapse on a couch at the end of a very long day, in which so many things have had to be done, all in a certain order, while "the man of the house" is out working for pay, oblivious as to what being a home-maker is. My mother and my grandmothers were all home-makers. And both grandmothers worked outside of the house as well. The men in my family have benefited greatly from this "arrangement": food was served to us, our clothes were cleaned, our home environments were not filthy. To say home-makers, disproportionately female, do not get the respect they deserve--let alone a living wage for services rendered--is one among many understatements of any given year.

Over the years, I've had my consciousness directed, almost always by a woman, to what I'm doing that is oppressive to women or politically/personally hurtful to a woman. Often, this insight is one that I have either been utterly clueless about, or willfully didn't want to have brought to my attention. Women have remained my friends after witnessing me do some of the same shit over and over. Eventually I get it enough to give those women reason to continue on in the friendship. I will own that have less patience with men, and often think women who experience the same shit over and over should just dump men's asses onto the street, or road, or into the hills, including my own ass. The reason I believe this is because implicit in the dynamic of being called out, is the assumption that it is women, not men, who must call out this misogynist behavior. If women want a deeper level of humanity from men, they will have to at least three-quarters of the work in getting him to see that being more humane is good not only for her (because, Lorde knows, that's not enough of a motivator!), but also for him and their relationship.