In relation to my next-to-most-recent post that happened to mention the madonna-whore dichotomy, a poster, puckrockhockeymom, made mention of it while she waxed eloquent on a Feministe post that was itself inspired by a PostSecret postcard which read “My greatest fear is that I’m good enough to f*ck but not good enough to love”.
Highlights from punkrockhockeymom’s post:
I don’t think anyone said male disdain for partners is universal. In fact, I think the comments and the discussion demonstrate that even the internalized self-doubt and fear created by the madonna/whore dichotomy isn’t universally experienced.
[N]either that postcard nor, I think, this discussion is about any particular male disdain for his sex-partners. What’s going on inside of me isn’t about any man’s actions or beliefs. For me, this discussion is more about the patriarchal tropes imposed on all members of this society and what effects those have on women oppressed by them, internally.
[M]y internal vulnerabilities, when they surface, are frankly deeply ingrained and far beyond any guy’s response to my sexuality. In fact, there have been times where the current man in my life at the time has been feminist, respectful, supportive, and all manner of fabulous, and unable to draw me out of that particular funk when I get in it. Individual guys can impose that dichotomy, but those who do are enacting the societally imposed dichotomy. I’m not “looking for a good guy” who won’t treat me that way, I’m looking for ways to keep fighting the pressure to internalize the slut-shaming mechanisms imposed by the “umbrella” of patriarchy.
And that is, in a nutshell, something I haven’t been able to express myself, and is, in fact, the basic premise behind “it’s not about you”, i.e., it’s not about the menz. Individual men are not the problem. The systematic, institutionalized devaluation and objectification of women is the problem in that the byproduct of this devaluation and objectification is that women are conditioned to have internal responses of shame and guilt about their sexuality and other forms of self-determination, so that their behavior more often reflects the approved societal norms: heterosexuality, monogamy, the nuclear family with the male at its head, females as secondary to males, male-as-default.
Even the Judeo-Christian creation myth performs this function. In fact, I can’t think of a better illustration: God (visualized as male, the Father) creates the world, then creates “Man”, decides Man needs some extra help around Creation, and creates “Woman”:
“So the Lord Go caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. / Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man” (Genesis 2:21-22, NIV).
And Man immediately announced himself complicit in the subjugation of woman:
“The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones / and flesh of my flesh; / she shall be called “woman,” / for she was taken out of man’ ” (Genesis 2:23, NIV).
The next verse goes on to announce heterosexuality, monogamy, and female dependence on the male as the way to go:
“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united with his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24, NIV).
Even if you don’t know chapter and verse (I looked these up, thanks), chances are you’ve heard of this one. God creates Man, then creates Woman out of Man. The structure of this story is important. Man was complete, if a bit lonely, but then the Creator doesn’t make another fully autonomous creature like Man to be his equal, but takes a portion of Man, a small bit that he won’t really miss, and makes Woman from that, intended to be a help to Man. Woman’s creation, place and purpose are all bound up in Man — She has no existence apart from him. Man and Woman are made to be together, in a 1:1 ratio, and Man possesses all ownership and agency: He leaves his parents, he is united with his wife, and only then is there talk of “they”.
There. The patriarchy reinforces the Judeo-Christian belief system*, and vice versa.
And punkrockhockeymom summarizes for me:
My feminism is not about finding or making better men, it’s about “woman” being defined as “human” without reference to men (be they good or bad, feminist or misogynist) and independent of her sexual behavior or identity.
Update: Punkrockhockeymom has morphed her Feministe comment into a post on her LJ. We now return you to your regularly scheduled footnotes.
*Which is, incidentally, of the same origin as Islam. Differentiating between Christianity and Islam is, as far as I am concerned, an artificial construct used to justify attack on the other. They’re really not all that different.
**And then I got all excited on the Feministe post and commented there too. This is what I mean by ‘comments gone wild‘.