Blog Review: My Ecdysis

September 19, 2009

My Ecdysis is a somewhat rarely updated blog, but the posts are worth the wait. Lisa, the writer, has been blogging for three years, and she’s grown and shifted through those years in really interesting ways. For me, one of the best qualities of Lisa’s blogging is the way she doesn’t just talk about the ways our personal lives have larger political and social meaning—in fact, she rarely explicitly mentions it. Instead, she talks about her life, the the radical nature of that is just taken for granted.

Lisa gets major credit for introducing the word “kyriarchy” to a broader audience of feminist bloggers. If it hadn’t been for her popularization of this concept, which came out of an obscure theologian (as a theologian, I can tell you that hardly anyone pays attention to theologians except other theologians), a lot of really important discussions would never have happened in the feminist blogosphere. Her blog also gives a particularly subtle and interesting take on spirituality and feminism, a subject close to my own heart. Her contributions on that subject are well worth pondering.

Overall, My Ecdysis is definitely worth checking out.

A few great posts at My Ecdysis:
My Nicaraguan Father: Reflections on Feminism, Letters, and Digital Media
No Country for Men and Fathers?
No Person is “Born to Rape”

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Today in fauxgressive land, this article, complete with simplistic graphs, makes the dubious claim that women’s happiness decreases with better opportunity. It is yet another in a series of what seems like about seventy bajillion similar pieces earnestly wondering why women are so unhappy, what with the fact that feminism fixed all that pesky inequality, and hinting that maybe feminism really just makes the ladeez miserable. Basically, author Marcus Buckingham points to two findings: women’s unhappiness increases as they get older, and women’s unhappiness has increased over the past thirty years. Men have shown the opposite trends. From this he draws the following:

Wherever researchers have been able to collect reliable data on happiness, the finding is always the same: greater educational, political, and employment opportunities have corresponded to decreases in life happiness for women, as compared to men.

And he just can’t figure out why!

So if it’s not the hours, or the attitudes, and if the inequality of home-work is fast disappearing, where does that leave us?

Let’s assume for a moment that it has actually been conclusively shown that these factors are not linked to happiness in women. And let’s take a stab that gets at one of many reasons life gets harder for women but easier for men with age.

Women are taught to value themselves according to how attractive they are to men. They are also taught to value romantic relationships highly, and to expect that getting married and having babies babies BABIES will make them happy.

How do you think women’s lives mesh with those expectations as they age? I propose: often not very well.

Men, on the other hand, are told to value themselves according to how much money they have.

In general, would you say that men have more or less money as they get older?

Oh! And excuse me Mr. Thousand Pound Gorilla in the corner? Would you say pressure on men to live up to the ridiculous standards of patriarchal masculinity is greater or lesser as they age?

Not surprisingly, becoming invisible and being devalued by society is distressing to most women. I actually look forward to some aspects of it (you can do all sorts of exciting things when no one notices you), but that is because of a lot of conscious thought on my part about what it means to age as a woman in a patriarchal society.

Not surprisingly, life is easier for men when they’re not constantly being asked to “prove” their masculinity, and when they feel they have accomplished the things society expects of them.

I don’t see what this has to do with increased opportunities for women. I really don’t. Do you?

The loss of happiness in women over the past 30 years could seem to have a greater correlation to increased opportunities for women, if you believe that feminism really did win educational and employment opportunities for women without any losses in other areas that impact our quality of life.

However, you may have noticed that there has been a slight rabid backlash to the feminist movement. This backlash has focused in large part on women’s physical appearance. As women’s access to the public sphere has increased, media images of female beauty have become increasingly unattainable, and women have been increasingly encouraged to value themselves according to how sexually pleasing they are to men.

You may also have noticed that this backlash has included a small uptick in crushing pressure to be “perfect” according to wildly different and even contradictory standards.

If you ask me, a more valid study of whether women’s happiness goes down when they have more power, money, and opportunity would not just measure whether women in the U.S. have become happier since the feminist movement, since feminist gains have been uneven and often counterbalanced by losses, and since all kinds of other factors (like how acceptable they feel it is to express unhappiness, and whether they feel they should have lots of opportunities) have an impact on women’s self-reported happiness over time. It would measure whether women in countries that have more power, money, and opportunity are less happy than their counterparts in countries where women have less power, money, and opportunity.

It tuns out that this information is, in fact, available.

Drumroll please.

Women in more gender equal societies like Denmark are generally happier than women in less gender equal societies like Poland, Slovenia, and the Ukraine!

Men in more gender equal societies are also generally happier.

In fact, overall, EVERYONE is happier in more gender equal societies!

But then, I suppose Feminism Makes People Happy wasn’t the headline they were looking for.

So Self-Righteous

September 13, 2009

I always find it ironic when someone accuses activists of being self-righteous and judgmental. Because, hey, person criticizing and passing judgement on another person’s behavior? By criticizing someone for being self-righteous and judgmental, dontcha think you’re being a little self-righteous? And judgmental?

Despite the fun irony, I do have to recognize there are some serious implications to accusations that people who oppose the status quo are self-righteous. That trope prevents a lot of people from doing social justice work, or calling other people out for their misogyny, racism, heterosexism, etc. They don’t want to be uncool and no fun, so they shut up. They focus on not-self-righteous things, like watching football, or wearing the right American Apparel leg warmers, or reading the New Yorker, or whatever it is not-self-righteous people do.

You know what? Activists are self-righteous. Damn straight. We believe in our personal system of ethics and values, and we try to live up to those values. We take them seriously. I don’t think this is a problem. Because, when you come down to it, anyone who has a meaningful sense of lived morality does the same thing. They really believe what they believe. They think other people should too. There’s nothing wrong with that.

People who don’t have a sense of morality of some kind are generally quite mentally ill, and while they may not be self-righteous, they have other issues that make them a difficult golf buddy.

The only difference between those who oppose the status quo and those who support it is that those who support it are rarely put in a position where they must either accept behavior they feel is unethical or speak out against it. Their values are upheld by all of the institutions and structures around them. They rarely see violations of their ethical code, because their ethical code is dominant. When they do see violations, they can usually be sure that most people will agree with them, and violators will be punished by existing systems.

For instance, most people believe that serial murder is wrong. No one is considered “self-righteous” for saying that serial killers should not do what they’re doing. In fact, a judge at sentencing could give a long-winded, harshly worded speech about why a murderer should not have killed people, and most of us would consider that judge to be giving the murderer the talking to he deserves.

However, most people do not believe that war is wrong. So a pacifist saying that we shouldn’t go to war and kill people will not receive the same social approval as the judge. The pacifist will often be labeled self-righteous, although they really have not done anything different from your average murder denouncer. Even if they’re gentle and respectful and try to express their beliefs in the most loving way possible, people are likely to view them as a little bit sanctimonious. Just ‘cuz they’re challenging the Way Things Are and Always Will Be, and no one is supposed to do that.

There’s nothing wrong with trying to convince other people that your ethical code is worth following. In fact, I think it’s silencing and stifling, and even dangerous, to try to force people to keep their ideas about right and wrong private. We need people to challenge the status quo, and we need to have public conversations about ethics. The more we tell anyone questioning The Way Things Are to shut up because they’re being self-righteous, the less likely we are, as a society, to get ourselves checked when we go off the rails. When we start torturing people, or destroying civil liberties… You see where this is going? We need people who are willing to stand up for what they believe in.

When people get called out on stuff or have their privilege questioned, they get defensive. So they respond with a counterattack, claiming that whoever called them out has some kind of problem that devalues their observation. And anyone who won’t just let it lie when they see harm being done gets labelled “self-righteous,” “judgmental,” and “preachy.”

You know what? Martin Luther King was so preachy he was a damn preacher. There are worse things to be.

Ah, the unintended consequences of blog titles.

This is a blog devoted to discussing various aspects of systematic oppression, especially gender oppression.

However, it would appear that a surprising number of people do google searches on pathological narcissism every day, and they’re ending up here.

So, in the coming weeks, I’ll be writing a little bit about Narcissistic Personality Disorder. As it so happens, I have a bit of experience with someone who has NPD, and I know that people are probably in a pretty terrible place if they’re googling that particular beast.

In the meantime, if you’re looking for resources, you might want to check out this blog. It’s not being updated anymore, but there’s a lot of good info there. The author definitely takes an angry, even vengeful approach to people with NPD that I don’t share, though I certainly understand it. But despite the anger, the information is good. And there’s a healthy dose of self-protection in righteous anger sometimes.

There’s also a bunch of stuff online by someone who has NPD, Sam Vatkin. The information he gives is often good, but you must remember that he has the disorder, which means he is a sadist with an inflated sense of himself and a disdain for others. Including you, his reader. He sneaks sadism into his writing, because that’s who he is. He says things that have the potential to make you feel bad about yourself, particularly if you have been victimized by someone with NPD. It’s also important to note that he’s not a mental health professional. He’s just someone who can speak from experience because he has NPD. So, I’m not going to link to him. But, being warned, you can check out the information he offers. I did find it helpful myself, in concert with the blog I linked to above.

If you’ve never dealt closely with someone with NPD, neither Vatkin or that blog will make much sense to you. Thank your stars, hope it never will, and go get yourself an Icee.

If, however, you have experienced abuse at the hands of someone with NPD, the descriptions will instantly make what seemed like unrelated events fall into place. I’m sorry you’re going through whatever made you google your way here, and I hope that things get better for you soon.

I’d like to…

September 8, 2009

Part two in an ongoing series…

be able to wander into a movie with a bunch of new acquaintances knowing that there was absolutely no chance that I’d be surprised by a super hilarious rape scene in the dvd extras, and that if such a scene did appear, there would be no way anyone would actually laugh.

I’d like to…

September 6, 2009

Part one in an ongoing series…

There are a lot of things I would like to do but can’t because of kyriarchy.

I would like to take a walk alone right now.

To the extent that opposition to kyriarchy is a deeply felt, non-theoretical, fully incorporated aspect of our being, we will be unable to enjoy the elements of a work of art that rely on kyriarchy. Not because we think the art is “wrong” in an abstract moral or political sense. Not because we think we “shouldn’t” like it.

Because that art will make us feel pain.