Tuesday 27 September 2011

Time to Set Down the Tools

There's been some brouhaha recently on my second home, reddit, with respect to the recent creation of a "kinder, gentler" men's rights subreddit (r/masculism) whose stated intention was to build bridges of understanding and find common ground between MRAs and moderate feminists. Team up for equality! Yay!

A few feminists (mostly regular trolls of r/mensrights, but a few well-meaning ones) have already stormed off in a huff, citing the "rabid MRA spittle" of anger that "already permeates" the subreddit, after only being open for business a week or two, and others have retreated to r/egalitarian or r/equality after being forced to hear their beloved feminism maligned.

Some MRAs, on the other hand, accuse some posters and the head moderator of bias, intellectual dishonesty, intentional skullduggery, sock-puppetry, and an agenda of distract/divide/appropriate and thus conquer the MRM.

There have been complaints by MRAs regarding the name of the subreddit, indicating a degree of worry that an "ism" is, sorta by definition, based on ideological and advocacy concerns that don't necessarily conform to equality of rights between men and women. "Will masculism become like feminism, which has arguably become a movement with nothing much left that needs doing, but which doesn't know how to stop advancing women's interests for fun and profit?" Unlike feminism, the MRM's stated goals are right there in its name--and many members look forward to a day when they can declare "mission accomplished" and cease their work. (Personally, considering the state of things now and the natural, cultural and legal obstacles in the way, I'm neither holding my breath nor dreaming of drinking pina coladas on some beach anytime soon.)

I myself did not have high hopes for r/masculism, though it was difficult for me to articulate exactly why. Given that my SO was called on board to help moderate the forum, has had long discussions with its creator, and that he seemed cautiously optimistic about finding some common ground, I was really bothered by my misgivings, especially since it was very difficult for me to determine their exact source. He is...well, much more forgiving of wrongheadedness in others than I am, and has characterized me as antagonistic at times. And while this is certainly true--I can antagonize like whoa and like damn when someone is being obtuse or intellectually dishonest--I don't agree that allowing bullshit to stand is in any way correct or helpful.

My intuition was that I would not be able to participate on the subreddit in any meaningful way without having to don the mantle of "bullshit-caller" constantly, and after perusing some of the posts and participating in the comments, this intuition seems to have been accurate.

But it wasn't until I briefly discussed it with my SO yesterday morning, that I finally pinpointed the source of my doubts. When I mentioned that r/masculism was losing credibility with MRAs, he told me, "Seems to me that what MRAs want from feminists is an apology, and what feminists want is to not have to admit that feminism has fucked up or that they're wrong."

And while I think there is a grain of truth in what he said, I don't believe it's a true or complete picture of the situation. I don't think MRAs want an apology. I don't think they're that petty. What they do want is for feminists to acknowledge their fallibility, that they got it fundamentally wrong right from the start, and that they are continuing to get it wrong.

A quick look at some of the links and comments posted on r/masculism reveals that this is not something feminists seem prepared to do. Many links go to seemingly supportive articles on feminist blogs--blogs with other articles that are altogether different, such as this one, purporting to be supportive of helping male victims of domestic violence, which states:

I wish they had done a fourth ad showing a boy child as a future victim. Men are a minority of victims of intimate violence, but “minority” doesn’t mean “nonexistent.” There are male victims of intimate violence who require assistance, and there seems to be virtually no outreach to abused men. (The Family Place provides assistance to both female and male victims of violence.)
But the best evidence we have indicates that most intimate violence — and in particular, the most severe and harmful cases — are typically cases of men abusing women. Given that context, it’s ridiculous that Glenn objects to the depiction of women suffering from male abusers. It’s notable that Glenn didn’t work to have a new ad added to the campaign, reaching out to male victims of abuse; that’s a goal I could support. Instead, he campaigned to have these adsremoved. Whatever his intent, what Glenn’s demands called for wasn’t inclusion of male victims, but the erasure of female victims and male perpetrators.

...and which decry the efforts of the MRM as "anti-feminist", the tone being that "anti-feminist" is synonymous with being anti-woman, or with tearing down battered women's shelters, or with being against equal rights.

What MRAs want from feminists is an acknowledgement of empirically proven reality, and the above quote falls WAY short of that. What MRAs want from feminists is full concession that feminist interpretations of DV, rape and patriarchy itself are, and always have been, completely wrongheaded.

Yet when I mentioned to one commenter in r/masculism:
The entire feminist line of thought wrt rape being about power rather than sex is analogous to their views on domestic violence as evidenced in VAWA. The entire thing is constructed on the premise that both rape and domestic violence are patriarchal crimes--society-wide patriarchal oppression of women enacted on a microscale.
Both DV and rape (feminist interpretations thereof, I mean) have been held up as supporting evidence for the more general feminist Patriarchy Theory that formed the basis of feminist discourse on gender and power structures, privilege/disadvantage, gendered oppression, etc, and even helped to develop what many call "intellectual tools" for examining those issues (otherwise known as the feminist lens).
If there is mainstream acceptance that rape is NOT primarily about patriarchal power structures or views of women, and DV is NOT patriarchal oppression and violence on a microscale, it serves to discredit the entirety of feminist thought on gender, and on the nature of the tools we must use to examine it.
Feminist academics have a vested interest in dismissing all evidence that their supporting evidence is inaccurate or flawed, which makes their efforts to dismiss, discredit, disregard, manipulate and ignore the mountains of evidence wrt DV being essentially ungendered, very understandable (though no less malfeasant).
When you look at child abuse PSAs, the abuser is almost inevitably male, despite the empirically proven fact that mothers abuse and kill their children at a much higher rate than fathers do. While male child abusers do indeed exist, this mainstreaming of only one side of the problem poisons social perceptions of maleness and leaves women completely unaccountable for their (larger) share of the problem.
This is what we're talking about.
...what I get in response, over and over, is the same tired reasoning that it is "useful to examine" the different gendered motivations men and women have to hit each other, and how cultural views of women inform them--such as a woman who hits may feel like she's standing up for herself, or may not actually be trying to strike fear into a partner. Just more of the same--that men must be hitting for reasons consistent with the patriarchal terrorist paradigm, and that who knows (or cares) why women hit, so long as we can make excuses for them?

The CTS studies on domestic violence point to ungendered motivations for hitting. The only aspect of domestic violence that seems to be gendered to any degree is in the reporting differences between men and women--men are less likely to report being victimized (for a variety of reasons), men are more likely to understate both their own and their partners' perpetration (possibly indicating shame wrt both, or a desire to protect a female partner from consequences), and women are more likely to overstate both their own victimization (heh) and their own perpetration (wowza).

If domestic violence is gendered at all, it is in that as a culture, we teach boys and men that it is always wrong to hit girls and women, and we do not teach girls and women the inverse--in fact, we teach them that hitting boys and men is hunky dory, even funny, and an avenue to empowerment for which they will face no consequences, not even getting hit back. And we teach them that it is never okay for anyone to hit them, ever, for any reason, and if someone does hit them they are being victimized and deserve protection.

Is it any wonder then that woman will happily overstate their own perpetration? With the culture telling them men are fair game for a beating, and the law letting them off the hook for any bad behavior so long as they cry "victim", is it any wonder that they will overstate their victim status?

But no. The feminist paradigm of domestic violence as inherently gendered in its perpetration (wrt both rates and motivations) is entrenched in the hearts and minds of feminists. Men hit women because they view women as "less than". Men hit women more often than the inverse. If women do hit men as often, then men are less harmed by it.


How do you deal with someone like that? How do you find common ground? How do you attempt to do this and reconcile it with any sort of personal integrity or ethical dedication to truth? How do you attempt to find common ground with someone who refuses to set down the faulty tools they've been taught to use when examining what society, and gender's place in it, looks like?

Here's a snippet of conversation I recently had with a feminist man on reddit. His sally:
So what about 'women's lib'? not even 60 years later and I'm supposed to believe that everything[sic] that not only did they already achieve equality but they were the ones actually causing the oppression the entire time?
You have a long history of claiming that, and I can't imagine how you convinced yourself that. Trading protection from work, war, hunger, etc for being a sex object? Seems like a fairly one sided deal, no? Women get all these things and only have to give up one. That would be pretty oppressive if it was women who were forcing men to protect them. Is that what you think is happening? Women are wielding sex as a weapon to get what they want?
Is that because sex is a powerful weapon, or because it's the only agency that traditionally woman has?
My reply:
I've never said that women caused the oppression. Only that they benefited from it and encouraged and enforced it, because the nature of the world up until recently would have rendered the alternative far more oppressive to them.
His response:
Wait, so you actually agree with me that women's power in a 'traditional society' is derived sexually?
my head just exploded.
My riposte:
Women certainly had other forms of agency available to them. Those forms of agency, however, had significant downsides and obstacles.
Listen, monogamy was a model of human interaction that springs from the cave, and could be rendered down to a very simple and powerful exchange:
A man got a shot at fathering children. In return for that shot, he provided resources and protection to his woman and children.
The majority of human behavior--especially, but not exclusively, wrt male/female interactions--can be inevitably reduced to a few primary motivators--individual survival, the ability to successfully pass on one's genes (generation and survival of offspring), and tribalism (bonds of family, community, etc).
For women, sex wasn't the only avenue to agency. It was just the one with the best cost/benefit ratio for most.

And that was pretty much the end of the conversation. He had nothing more to say. In light of our subsequent conversations, he's not convinced, but there was no logical argument with which he could refute my own.

There is no room in his feminist worldview for him--even as a man--to examine the issue from the other side of the gender fence, or through a different lens but that of feminism. For him, a woman was a sex object, and this was the worst thing ever (even if it was her best option at the time and improved her quality of life--not because of men or society, but because she could not realistically bring up children without being dependent on a man's resources).

There was no thought in his mind for where exactly this arrangement left a man, wrt sexual and reproductive agency. How this transaction objectified HIM. While it is sad that 400 years ago a woman's primary value was her ability to provide a man with children, it is equally sad to me that a man's primary value to a woman (and to the perpetuation of society) was his ability to provide a woman (and her children) with resources.

Warren Farrell called it "success objectification", and it is every bit as terrible and restricting and dehumanizing as sexual objectification, and just as much still with us today. If a woman had to sell access to her body in return for a living, then a man had to sell a living for access to a woman's body, didn't he? If either party wanted to procreate, this was the best deal available to each of them, even if it objectively sucked.

And all feminism's talk of historical male agency...well, yeah, I'm willing to concede that on the surface, men had more options--a million different forms of wage slavery (in a coal mine or a foundery or a factory or a forge or a barrister's office or a barracks) to choose from if they wanted a ticket in the genetic lottery. But if they wanted a ticket, they had to pay for it with cash on the table.

It isn't agency if you have to do it. It's only a choice between one form of slavery or another, a choice to either make horseshoes or plough a field all day, instead of writing poetry like you really wanted to, because writing poetry might keep your own belly full, but wouldn't bring you a "marrying wage".

My adversary on the internet is wearing very special glasses, and those glasses only allow him to see certain things from very specific angles. Those things all have to do with how women have always had things awful compared to men. Those glasses make him believe that it was obviously much worse to derive power with respect to the opposite gender through sexuality than through being seen as a walking ATM. He doesn't even see the men who sacrificed their health and their lives, the hours upon hours upon hours of labor when they'd rather have been doing something else, in order to spare their women the need to make those sacrifices themselves.

Those glasses make him believe that even though women initiate violence more than men do in relationships, that women are still more often the victims of violence in relationships because their reasons for hitting are different than men's. They make him believe that poster campaigns like this one and this one are better than nothing, instead of worse than nothing because they are lying to us about the nature of the problem, about the nature of society--both pre and post-feminism--and about the nature of men.

And while many would insist that any help--even wrongheaded help--is better than none, that if a feminist believes men are "the minority" of victims of severe DV still deserve support then we should bring that feminist on board...it just leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

Because that is not alliance--it's conditional assistance, and it is conditional upon them being allowed to go on believing the same lies as before, and spreading them, and feeding the problem even as they're supposedly trying to solve it. And someone who cannot or will not see truth, who is lying even when he believes he's telling the truth, isn't someone you can trust as far as you can throw him.

Thursday 15 September 2011

Feminism and Gender Enforcement

I know most of you are probably expecting this to be a diatribe about how feminism has vilified and demonized male sexuality, and criticized the aggressive qualities (ambition, achievement, competitiveness, assertiveness) of masculinity that have been so useful to society since the dawn of time.

I mean, it's no secret to those in the know that feminism is all too happy to reinforce, manipulate and even codify the cultural norms surrounding maleness--in domestic violence discourse, policy and law, sexual assault discourse, policy and law, family law, etc.

But what I want to talk about is how feminism has manipulated and enforced other masculine qualities that most people don't spend a lot of time thinking about in any depth with respect to feminism. I mean, if society has been well-served by the men who were ambitious and high-achieving--the scientists, inventors, artists, leaders, etc, who inhabited the upper echelons of social status--well, for every William Shakespeare or Henry V or Sir Isaac Newton, there were a thousand or ten thousand male cogs in the machinery of society, dutifully bending their backs and making the whole thing work, often at the expense of their health, their happiness and their lives.

These men were dutiful, honorable, responsible, self-sacrificing, generous, hard-working, decent, and devoted to those in their care. "Nose to the grindstone", "get 'er done", "a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do", "grow up, get a job, do something with your life."

I've often thought that there's not that much difference between a "mangina" and what has always been thought of as a "real man". Both manginas and real men are generous, thoughtful of others (especially women), and put the benefit of others (especially women) before themselves. Manginas have been accused, probably accurately, of behaving this way out of a (mostly vain) hope of being rewarded with pussy. Real men, throughout history, did this because it needed to be done, and because up until very recently, a real man's efforts and sacrifices were worth the rewards he received, even if those rewards only consisted of social acknowledgment and appreciation and the returned devotion of a woman.

A real man will help a woman move her shit, and expect a thank you. A mangina will go way out of his way to ingratiate himself by helping her, and then tolerate being treated like an asshole for it.

And "guys"? When a woman needs to lug her furniture from one apartment to another, "guys" duck her calls and let them go to voice mail. And if she wants a commitment? Forget that shit, he's got his XBox.

The collective feminist gnashing of teeth over this state of affairs has been no less frenzied than that of more traditional arms of society, as they all scratch their heads and wonder whatever happened to real men.

We've gotten so used to men's sense of duty, obligation and responsibility toward women, children and society, that we didn't even know what we had until we realized it was going extinct. And you see the anger and lamentation over men abandoning those roles nowhere more than in what many feminists have to say about "guys".

Guys--or MGTOW--are characterized by feminists and traditionalists alike as irresponsible to the point of repugnance, commitment-phobic, losers, Peter Pans, wasting their lives, and refusing to "grow up". Keep in mind, these men aren't welfare cases. They're self-sufficient, not leeching off their families or society. They don't peel up and down suburban streets at 3 AM waking up babies and kicking over mailboxes, or refuse to pay their taxes. But as Kay Hymowitz once put it, they're free to live in "pig heaven" until women get sick of it and go to a sperm bank.

But think about what this kind of criticism is actually saying about our expectations--even feminists' expectations--of men.

The complaint is not that they're a burden on others or on society, but that they refuse to take on anyone else's burdens. This is a far cry from the very occasional, heavily-qualified criticisms we hear of women--and utter condemnation of men--when they willingly take on a responsibility by, say, having children, and then fail to live up to it. No, this is all about, "You men are not doing what women want, and what women want is to be given what they want."

Women have spent the last 50 to 75 years challenging the roles they used to be stuck in, sort of negotiating and renegotiating with society as to exactly what was acceptable and what was pushing too far too fast. They've cast off their shackles, been free to define themselves as women, and to put personal fulfilment first. Until recently, for men, it's been mostly business as usual--they've worked, achieved, devoted themselves to women and children, and continued to put the good of others before themselves.

And I think women, and society, sort of figured that men would just keep doing it--working, being responsible, being dutiful and honorable, toiling and sacrificing for the betterment of society or the benefit of women, achieving, building, etc... even though a huge number of the benefits men were given in exchange for these efforts and for putting others first have been effectively removed. What used to be a well-compensated bondage is now an entirely onerous form of imprisonment. 

I mean really, how long can you expect a man to continue living up to those expectations when society stops respecting or appreciating them for it, when society only threatens to take away what he's built and what he loves, shoves its hands deeper into his pockets, and constantly tells him he's an idiot, or evil, or unnecessary, or a piece of shit?

A lot of feminist writers have been taking great pains to tell everyone for years about what giant assholes men are and have always been. And even when men do awesome things, like working around the clock digging children out of a collapsed school after a tsunami, it's just another opportunity to remind people how the chaos of the situation puts children at risk from pedophiles (who are always men, of course). When men die saving lives, they're called police officers or firefighters, but when they mow down a bunch of innocent people at a mall, they're gunmen. Hell, even the millions of men whose lives have been callously and brutally thrown away on battlefields through history--even their suffering and tragedy can be appropriated by feminists to prove to everyone who'll listen that women have always had it worse. 

Can anyone blame men for finally starting to say fuck this shit, why try to cram yourself into that mold if you're just going to be called an asshole? Some--PUAs, most notably--are even saying, "Fuck, if I have the name, I might as well have the game."

For the first time in history, men are starting to do what makes them happy, even if it doesn't benefit women or society, hell, even if it pisses women and society off. And EVERYBODY'S freaking out about it.

I'm not gonna lie, it's a tough pill for everyone to swallow, because those characteristics--duty, honor, devotion, self-sacrifice, responsibility--are the very characteristics that societies are largely built on. Without them, it's every human for him/herself, isn't it?

And feminism--which pushed women to live for their own fulfilment, to be true to themselves, to break out of the roles they were stuck in, who insist patriarchal gender norms harm everyone--should be celebrating men's increasing casting-off of their shackles, of men's smashing of patriarchy by eschewing traditional masculinity in favor of smoking pot with their buddies. But they aren't. Because feminism itself has been as dependent on those particular male roles as individual women have been throughout human history.

I mean, the entire feminist movement, and society's reaction to it (swift capitulation), boils down to the interaction of two traditional gender norms, right? Women wanted to be protected, provided for and given the things they want and need. And men have, for the most part, kept doing that, for decades, even as what women say they want and need has changed. Mostly male governments have passed laws and enacted public policy that gave women what they wanted (freedom, protection, provision, support, and opportunity) and individual men have also continued to keep giving women what they say they want and need (freedom, provision, support, understanding, accommodation).

Those are the two patriarchal gender norms that have been at work throughout the entire timeline of the feminist movement--women asking for something, and men doing it or going along with it to make women happy. So I suppose it's been something of a shock to women when men started putting their foot down and saying, "Yeah, I don't think so. Me first now. I got shit of my own to deal with." The men's rights movement has only driven this point home for feminists and women in general, and it's like two gender norms going kablooie all at once--women being indulged in their needs and desires, and men being indulgent of them.

And the most radical feminists? I kind of think of radical feminism itself as a kind of collective shit-test. Sort of a "Are you guys really gonna let us get away with this? Huh, I guess you are... Okay, how about this? We're really talking some shit about you now. You gonna let that stand? Hmmm.... Okay, well, I bet you're not gonna put up with THIS!" 

And the longer people have put up with it and let them get away with it, the higher they've escalated the test. The collective temper tantrum that's begun over men starting to put their foot down--whether it's through activism and advocacy for the equality of men, or through playing XBox and refusing to devote themselves to doing what women want them to--rivals the antics of any three-year-old denied candy in a grocery store check-out line.

And me? Do I want men to cast off those roles they've had throughout history? To be honest, no. Those roles are beneficial to society, and they get shit done that needs to get done. But do I blame men for saying, "Hells, no, I only look out for me now"? Why would they do anything different? There's no individual benefit in men living up to those standards anymore--not even appreciation--only risk, punishment and the reward of being called an asshole no matter what you do. 

Who the fuck needs that?

Tuesday 13 September 2011

Woman and Black are Not the Same Thing

The other day, I had someone who identified himself as a feminist man, tell me that he is certain that women are more disadvantaged than men in our society because men hold more positions of power and influence than women.

I told him that when examining patterns of oppression, advantage, disadvantage and privilege, one cannot look only at the top. One must look downward as well (to the needless deaths, the incarcerated, the homeless, the suicides, the impoverished, etc), and frankly, men dominate the numbers there, too. They always have, and their domination of these areas has become even more lopsided relative to women as women break through the glass ceiling without concurrently breaking through the glass basement.

He replied that looking to those in power has always been a good indicator of privilege and oppression, citing apartheid South Africa and Jim Crow America as examples. Whites at the top, therefore whites are privileged. When I asked him if he did indeed feel that the experience of women throughout history was remotely comparable to the experiences of blacks during slavery, he replied "Absolutely."

I was shocked. And a little sick to my stomach. And I began to realize one of the reasons why I've been seeing more and more women of color throw up their hands and disavow mainstream feminism.

Anyone who has read my piece on Patriarchy will know that in my view, patriarchy was not a system of oppression, but a collective strategy for dealing with a world that was very different from what the world looks like now. Differences in biology that go just a little deeper than the color of one's skin, and a history of public sphere labor that more closely resembled the work portrayed on "Dirty Jobs" (only without the machinery) than "The Office" made it essentially impossible throughout most of humanity's time on this planet for women to collectively put their hands to "men's work".

The most effective team strategy humans ever stumbled on for perpetuation of the species, one that has been seen in some form or other throughout most of human history, was the pairing of a resource-gathering unit with a child-caring unit. Given the fact that until very recently, any sexually active woman was, or could have been, pregnant at any given time, that she was the sole member of the team who had the necessary equipment to provide food to a child in its infancy, and that the vast majority of public sphere work was either beyond her physical capabilities or more ably performed by the larger, stronger, faster man, it should really come as no surprise that the vast majority of societies have always arranged themselves this way. It was, up until recently, virtually impossible for men and women to swap roles on the team.

Then the nature of public sphere work began to shift dramatically with the Industrial Revolution, assembly lines, and automation, allowing women entry into jobs outside the home and giving them the tools to be able to compete with men. But even so, it wasn't until women got control over their fertility (the pill) and were provided with realistic options that eliminated their children's physical dependence on them and only them (bottles, formula, disposable diapers, regulated daycare providers), AND the workplace became dominated by service jobs rather than resource ones, that women gained some serious equality in the working world and became 50% of the workforce.

To say that this means men and women are equal is...disingenuous. Women and men are not equal and can never be, because men are still larger and stronger than women, and women are still the ones who gestate and lactate. What it does mean is that both public and private sphere work have changed in such as way as to make the biological differences between the sexes largely irrelevant. A father cannot lactate, but he can bottle-feed a baby as well as any woman can, and so can a daycare provider. A woman could never have been reasonably be expected to cut down trees with a handsaw for a living or harvest grain with a scythe, but she *can* file documents, run an office, diagnose an illness, operate a forklift, drive a taxi, enter data on a computer or work a cash register as ably as any man.

The biological differences between men and women are not even remotely the same as the skin-deep differences between black people and white people. Women's unique gendered disadvantages throughout history can ALL be traced back to those very real and significant biological differences between the sexes. Women were forced into their roles not by men, but by reality. And men's options were, realistically, not much more varied than women's.

The disadvantages blacks faced under slavery, and the ones they still struggle to overcome even now? Those disadvantages owed to nothing more than the color of their skin, and what that signified with respect to their status as persons to those in power. How on earth can the two be considered even remotely comparable?

Moreover, when we examine oppression with respect to men and women and their relative places in society through history, we see men at the top and men at the bottom. If we looked only at the top, as feminists have been, and are still, wont to do, we could say men were the privileged class and women oppressed. But if we look only at the bottom, and the expectations and obligations required of men that were not required of women, we could just as accurately and justifiably say that women were the privileged class and men the oppressed.

While there were downsides to being a woman, there were upsides to being one as well.

  • She might have less freedom of movement, but she had a greater expectation of safety and protection than a man did.
  • She might not be able to own property, but she had an often legally codified entitlement to financial support from men.
  • She might not be able to work outside the home, but at the same time, she wasn't expected to risk life, health and limb earning money.
  • She may have been "stuck" at home with the kids, but she wasn't "stuck" for 12 hours a day in a coal mine, either.
  • She may have been under her husband's authority, but if she committed a crime, she wouldn't be held fully accountable for her actions.
  • The upper echelons of power and influence were mostly (not completely) barred to her, but she couldn't be ordered against her will to die for her country, either.
When we examine the pattern of oppression, disadvantage and privilege with respect to black people and white people during slavery, things are rather more...uh...black and white. You looked up, and you saw all whites. You looked down to the very bottom and you saw mostly blacks. And things still very much look that way even now--the higher up you go in the strata of society, the whiter things look. And blacks still disproportionately dominate the areas of greatest disenfranchisement--the poor, the incarcerated, the uneducated. All based on a difference that is no more relevant than eye color or the size of one's nose.

And what, pray tell, were the "upsides" to being black in America during slavery? Can anyone here name a single white slave owner who ever died to save the lives of his black slaves? Who ever gave up a space in a lifeboat to his black slave and chose himself to go down with a ship? Who ever stood with a rifle between his black slaves and an enemy to defend their lives, rather than his right to own them?

Can anyone even imagine a white slave owner working 16 hours in a field while his black slaves stayed inside and kept his house tidy, then coming home and sharing the fruits of his labors with his black slaves?

Did a black woman who was the sexual partner of a white man have any expectation of respect, lifelong provision or shelter, or of sharing the benefits of his quality of life and his social status? Or was she just an object of the moment, free to be used and cast aside at will? Did a black man who was obligated to obey his owner's wife have any legal right or recourse when she turned around and pointed a finger and claimed he raped her? Or was he swinging from a tree within hours?

Can anyone imagine a reality where a white slave owner would perform physically gruelling or dangerous work his black slave was incapable of? Or would he simply set more slaves to the task, or work his slave to his death, or discard his used-up slave and buy a better one? If women were truly oppressed by men, would they have been spared the most onerous and dangerous work because they were less physically capable of it, or would men have simply assigned more women to the task?

Can anyone here name a single black person, man or woman, who rose to a state-sanctioned position of serious political power during slavery? Off the top of my head, I can name a fuck-ton of women who have been heads of state, going as far back as Ancient Egypt. The greatest and most notable black leaders emerging from Jim Crow America and apartheid South Africa rose to influence by opposing the government, not being elected to it, because they had no avenue to power within a system that oppressed them.

Women have always been less likely to be punished than men for the crimes they commit, and less severely punished. When, under slavery or Jim Crow laws, did black people enjoy this advantage? While women historically had to defer to men, in return for this disadvantage they have always been held less accountable for their actions. Black slaves, on the other hand, were under the total authority of their owners, and could be (and often were) brutally punished or executed--without trial--for crimes not their own.

Even now in these "enlightened" times, blacks are not only more likely to be convicted of crimes than whites, but their sentences are disproportionately long compared to whites. At the same time, while women no longer have to defer to men in any aspect of life in the west, they are STILL not held as accountable for their crimes as men are.

While a woman had less freedom of movement than a man, she had a socially and legally enforced expectation of safety and protection from the harshness of the world. Black slaves, on the other hand, had NO freedom of movement, and no right to any expectation of protection from those in authority over them, or from greater society.

Women had no money of "their own" (once they were married, anyway), but the most difficult, dirty, nasty, smelly, dangerous, physically arduous jobs (other than childbirth) belonged to someone else. And slaves? Do I really need to outline how it was downside all around for them in this area too?

When one wishes to identify groups which oppress and those which are oppressed, one simply cannot look only at the top of society and draw all your conclusions from who occupies those positions. In order to be oppressors, a group doesn't just have to occupy positions of power, but they have to, you know, do some oppressing. And while the biological differences between men and women could be said to be oppressive to both parties with respect to the expectations, obligations, choices, freedoms and rights afforded to each group, the oppressor responsible for patriarchy was not men, but nature.

The nature of human sex differences and the nature of the world we lived in, wherein some choices were simply not realistically open to either gender. Roles were rigidly enforced because rigid enforcement was beneficial to the stability of society. Was a man "oppressed" by women because his inability to lactate forced him into the role of provider rather than a possibly preferred role of nurturer? How then can we characterize a woman as oppressed by men because her inability to control her fertility and the limitations of her physical size and strength kept her from earning her own money working in a foundery?

The only quantifiable, material, functional and practical difference between black people and white people? Skin color. That's it. And yet it is black people, who won the right to vote before women did, who are facing a more difficult and arduous struggle for equality with whites than the women who have breezed to equal, near equal, or better than equal status with men in the space of a century. It is black people--not women--who even now inhabit an average position of lower social, educational, legal and economic status than white people in America, who are still disproportionately represented among the incarcerated, the poor, and a dozen other areas of real disenfranchisement.

And that's because the oppression of black people in America was--and is--really-and-for-true, one-way, genuine oppression that looked NOTHING like the experience of women relative to men at any point in human history.

Patriarchy was a cost/benefit partnership where men and women each bore some of the costs and reaped some of the benefits. Slavery was a cost/benefit system of oppression where all the benefits were reaped by one party and all the costs borne by the other.

To compare the experience of women--a valued, protected and provided-for class--throughout history with that of black people under slavery and apartheid is a slap in the face to every single black man who died wrongfully imprisoned in South Africa, to every single black woman who was forced onto her back by her white owner, to every single black man who was ever executed by a mob without trial, to every single black person who lived and died in bondage or in a concentration camp, and every single black person who still struggles to overcome the lingering and devastating effects of the utterly baseless, unjustifiable and man-made oppression of slavery and segregation.

So I just wanted to repeat, so we're all clear on this:

Women and Black are NOT the same thing.