Thus Spake Zuska

Welcome to our discussion of The Gender Knot by Allan Johnson. This is the first post in the discussion series. We will be discussing Chapter 1 “Where Are We?” You can find all posts connected to this discussion here.

I just noted a potential problem. There is an updated edition of the book now available. Right now I am working with a 1997 edition. I haven’t decided if I will purchase the new edition; for now, I am going to keep going with my old one. But, if you are working with a new edition, you may encounter something in the book that I have left out. If so, please feel free to make note of this in the comments! And please feel free to comment extensively.

As I noted earlier, the first chapter is available online here. If you haven’t had a chance to read the chapter, maybe you’d like to go now and read the introductory pages at least up to the subheader “Male Dominance” (pages 3, 4 and top of page 5).

Early on in the first chapter of The Gender Knot, Allan Johnson has this to say [emphasis mine]:

Patriarchy is not simply another way of saying ‘men.’ Patriarchy is a kind of society, and a society is more than a collection of people.

That may be the most important take-home message from this whole first chapter. It’s not about you, personally. It’s not even about some particular bunch of d00ds. It’s about a system, and how we all interact with it.

So, what is that system?


Johnson defines it thus:

A society is patriarchal to the degree that it is male-dominated, male-identified, and male-centered. It also involves as one of its key aspects the oppression of women.

Male-dominated means what? Most of the people in positions of authority are men. Wherever you look, in the political, economic, legal, religious, educational, military, or domestic realm, you will find that the majority of those in positions of authority are men. Johnson notes that people wonder of a woman who finds her way into such a position whether she’ll measure up to the boys, but no one every remarks of men “I wonder if he’ll be as good a [president/CEO/provost/fireman/fill-in-the-blank] as a woman”. Male dominance leads to power differences between men and women, of course as men accrue more wealth, but also as they shape culture to serve their needs. Would a woman-dominated legislature have been as likely, for example, to pass laws making it legal for men to rape their wives? Most crucially, because we tend to conflate the superiority of a position with the people in it, male dominance contributes to the notion of male superiority over women.

Male-identified means what? All that is “good, desirable, preferable, or normal” is associated with men and masculinity. Don’t believe it? Why do we still cling to the notion that “man” means the same thing as “human” and “he” should be good enough to mean “he and she”? Because, you know, men are the thing and women are the exception. Society’s core values get coded as masculine. Johnson notes as examples: control, strength, efficiency, competitiveness, toughness, coolness under pressure, logic, forcefulness, decisiveness, rationality, autonomy, self-sufficiency, and control over emotions. These are associated with valued work, which in turn has been organized in ways that require these qualities for success.

Engineering is one of those socially valued (well-paid, relatively high status) types of work that is most assuredly male-identified. Here’s what happened when I worked with one class of first-year engineering students on issues of gender in engineering. (See Burack and Franks, Telling Stories About Engineering.)

Students were separated into four groups. Each group was given a list of 40 adjectives, taken from the Bem Sex Roles Inventory. Groups were given written instructions to sort the words into two categories. Two of the groups were asked to sort the words into the categories “masculine” and “feminine” while the other two were asked to sort the words into the categories “engineer” and “non-engineer”. Across groups, the sorting into masculine and engineer resulted in virtually the same lists, as did the sorting into feminine and non-engineer, suggesting a common understanding of both gender and of the ideal attributes of engineers. The students, all of whom considered themselves relatively unprejudiced and bias-free, were astonished to find that their groups’ understanding of what it means to be an engineer and what it means to be feminine were mutually exclusive. It should be noted that all of the students in the class were members of underrepresented minority groups, and approximately 25 percent of the students were female, unusual for engineering classrooms. Thus, it is not just in-group members who understand and accept the unspoken definitions of who “belongs” in the in-group and who does not.

What this means, as Johnson notes, is that while a young boy might have to make an effort to see himself as an engineer, a young girl has to make the effort to see herself as a woman engineer. She has to work on that adjective.

Johnson notes several more important things related to the issue of male-identification. Cultural romanticization of women – the sentimentality of Mother’s Day, for example – has little to no effect on how real women are valued and actually treated day to day. We may have Secretaries’ Day but look at what Lilly Ledbetter went through. And pointing to a few examples of powerful women here and there throughout history does not undermine the notion of patriarchy. They are surrounded by powerful men, and operate in societies organized on a patriarchal model.

That’s why a program such as NSF’s ADVANCE works not just to put more women into faculty positions or a few department head or dean positions (though those are also goals of the program), but to actually transform the institutional structures that support and promote women’s exclusion from science and engineering. You can’t just add women and stir.

The last thing to say about male-identification is that it offers the opportunity for even the lowest placed men to feel superior in some way to the highest placed women. They can identify with powerful male leaders as men, and they can hope, at least through fantasizing, to sexually dominate any woman, even the most highly placed.

Male-centered means what? D00ds, it’s all about you! Your stories in the newspaper, on the news, in the movies! Male experience offered up as human experience. If there’s a movie about deep bonds of friendship, who do you think it’s going to feature? Why, Kevin Costner, in Dances With Wolves! Now that is a film about life. Otherwise it would be a chick flick. And men should be the focus everywhere. The best illustration of this is Johnson’s example of a group of women out for a few drinks, approached by a man who asks “are you ladies alone?” Because of course, if they are without a man, they must be “alone”. Their own company could not be sufficient unto itself and surely they are just waiting for a man to enter their midst.

Ironically, most men don’t, however, feel at the center of things. They need women’s attention to help them feel at the center where they think they belong. Johnson makes note of Virginia Woolf’s famous quote about how women serve as ” ‘looking-glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size’ “. Men find affirmation, in patriarchy, through what they accomplish – they must be seen – and women learn to focus on others. These two things reinforce each other.

If a woman’s attention is diverted for even an instant, it threatens to make men disappear, because that very attention is needed to make men feel twice-life size as they need to, to feel that they matter. This is why time and again, when you see a women-centered discussion start up on a blog, you will inevitably have some d00d pipe up and ask, in one form or another, “but what about us poor menz?” Seeing women focus their attention solely and completely on themselves and other women is, in a very real sense, threatening to men.

Finally, Johnson notes how difficult it is for men to form true close friendships with each other: “[O]ne of many patriarchal paradoxes: that men live in a male-centered society and yet act as though the reality of other men’s inner lives matters very little”.

In Part 2 of this post, we’ll cover Women and Patriarchy and Deep Structures. Meanwhile, some questions to ponder. What do and don’t you understand about patriarchy as a system after reading this? How do the concepts of male-dominated, male-identified, and male-centered help illustrate the system for you? Can you think of examples from your life, or popular culture, or anywhere in our society? If you are a guy, do you think you depend on women’s attention to help you feel good about yourself? If so, in what ways? Do you think your friendships with other men do or do not focus much on their inner lives?

Other questions? Comment away, I’m anxious to hear from you.

Comments

  1. #1 bill
    May 27, 2009

    men live in a male-centered society and yet act as though the reality of other men’s inner lives matters very little

    This is part of the answer to “but what about us poor menz?”. How many grown men have you known whose emotional functioning was on the level of a teenage boy? That’s a result of patriarchy, too. Men stand to gain a good deal from changing the status quo, including freedom from gender roles that lead to impoverished inner lives and stunted emotional development.

  2. #2 Donna B.
    May 27, 2009

    I’ve now observed three generations of male/female relations in my family. I must wonder if the segregation of the sexes sometimes empowered women over men.

    And I have observed that it is the women in my family who have had tremendous influence over what their men did for a living. For example, while my mother suffered the hardships of intense physical labor in support of my father’s business, she reaped the reward of a large financial payoff along with him. She also gained equality of partnership because her contributions were equal to his.

    Several of my aunts, on the other hand, demanded the steady weekly income and benefits of their husbands’ working for a large industry. In return for this demand, they submitted to their husbands in a way my mother did not.

    I’m not trying to say that women are not male-dominated, as my mother certainly felt she was. What I’m trying to get at is that there seem to be times when we women are throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

    I can’t but help remember the time (I was 18) when my father told me to listen to my mother because she was the smartest person he knew.

    My mother always admitted that she married my father because he was NOT a farmer and the main thing she wanted to do was get out of the cotton fields. Even in the ’40s when they married, my mother was supporting herself and having a good life.

    Is it wrong for women to be partners with their men and mutually enjoying the benefits? I’m not being sarcastic in saying this as I have 3 daughters who have completely different choices as to how they will live their lives and I cannot find a true fault with any of them.

  3. #3 Zuska
    May 28, 2009

    Donna B, the best way I can think of to reply to your comment is to do a slight edit to the last two paragraphs, thus:

    My father always admitted that he married my mother because she was NOT a farmer and the main thing he wanted to do was get out of the cotton fields. Even in the ’40s when they married, my father was supporting himself and having a good life.

    Is it wrong for men to be partners with their women and mutually enjoying the benefits? I’m not being sarcastic in saying this as I have 3 sons who have completely different choices as to how they will live their lives and I cannot find a true fault with any of them.

    Would anyone ever write in this manner about their father or their sons? I think not. We don’t expect our fathers to have been “rescued” from their lives of grinding poverty and hard work through a strategic marriage to a strong woman with good financial prospects. We don’t speak admiringly of our fathers for having supported themselves in the brief span of time before they hitched their economic wagon to a woman and, thankfully, didn’t have to rely on themselves anymore. We don’t wring our hands with worry about whether or not our sons should enter marriage and strive to be equal partners – because we don’t fear our sons will lose themselves in marriage. We also don’t expect them to reap economic benefits from marriage. Though they do, they do; it’s just that the benefit is not counted and paid for in actual cash. Women’s unpaid labor often goes unnoticed, let alone unpaid.

    I am not anti-marriage – I’ve been married twice! – but marriage, especially in its economic aspects, is patriarchal to the core.

  4. #4 jc
    May 28, 2009

    Here’s my running thoughts:
    Male-dominated businesses, academia, government means that when a woman gets hired, she is replacing the d00d that came before her or she is being hired to fill a slot that d00ds can’t or don’t want (service work, secretary, domestics). The low status stuff ties into male “learned helplessness” like the discussion going on over at IBTP with women doing laundry (and I love love love Sarah Haskins). If a man were to voluntarily do one of those low-status jobs, he gives up power, even though he can physically turn on the coffee machine (and like magic, he somehow gets coffee outta that thing when no one’s looking). Hiring a “little woman” to make the coffee, iron the pants, starch the shirts gives him power over her, while she also gives him that time back for manly stuff, like making phone calls and golf games.

    If men occupy the majority of positions in power, then men must be superior! If men keep women out of positions of power, then men must be superior! If men design everything on the planet to fit a man’s hands (and women can’t use men’s contraptions), then men must be superior! If men make up the rules for every goddamn thing, then something is seriously fucked up when a woman prevails. If a woman gets to a position of power, then some d00d put her there because surely, I mean come on!, she didn’t do it all by her widdle self. And if a women does OMG get to a position of power, FUCK! D00D! Ball got dropped! Ovaries win! Shit, d00ds can’t let that happen again. This is that critical 10% threshold that men see red with. I think you, Z, have talked it about it before, but when men walk in a 50M-50F room, they perceive men in the minority. Women at higher numbers skeeves them out. When men walk in a 80M-20W, it seems “normal” to them, as it should be, all is right with the world.

    Women are objects to be possessed and controlled which is why “crime of passion” and “ladykiller” makes me hurl hurl hurl. When he’s done with her, he kills her. Problem solved. Children are also possessed and controlled. And he can get away with it! All he has to do is a pull a Chris Brown and say “I’m not a monster”, gather up some d00ds to affirm d00dliness and status as one of the guys, and say the (alleged, whatev) assault of his girlfriend was a big misunderstanding, “people hate me”, hey, check out the new album! Just don’t apologize. That’s for pussies.

    Illusion of gender equality: the numbers of men and women may be 50/50, but if men hold the power, then it’s not equality.

    Male centered world: Sunday talking news heads, highest paid entertainers (more $$$ = more value), sports legends, HIStory, book authors, google “scientist” and on and on. Movies are a great example. Sleepless In Seattle is heartwarming crap about single fatherhood, yet I can’t think of one movie glorifying single motherhood. D00dly movies have half-naked women sex scenes just to make sure the d00ds stay awake and alert to the PG13-rated explosions and violence. Now, a d00d getting naked is a big deal (pun intended). It’s either *very* serious acting or fucking hilarious (not sex scenes), like Dennis Franz jumping in the ocean for City of Angels. We’ll talk porn later.

    When men don’t get the loving eyes of a woman peeking under her batting eyelashes at how great, strong, and handsome he is, then she is labeled 1) lesbian or 2) castrating man-hating bitch. This expectation of approval goes beyond the admiration from wives, daughters, and mothers, and poses serious problems for their egos when women co-workers and bosses have no rosy looking-goggles. Men are indeed threatened by rejection of their privilege.

    “Men dominate conversations by talking more, interrupting more, and controlling content.” FUCK YES. Any woman who’s every been in a faculty meeting will thump their heads on the table with that one. An idea by a women has to be repeated at least twice and then picked up and repeated verbatim by a d00d before HE’S acknowledged for a great fucking idea!

    The “number one!” is hilarious too. YEAH BABY YEAH I RULE is what I hear. I say “rule what?, not me man!” The throne is in the bathroom. Larger than life, pumped up, we are the champions, who’s the man, who’s your daddy, I pity the fool, take that motherfucker is all about verbalizing positions of winners and losers, and plays into the “women just aren’t competitive” crap. or girly men. not like Arnold or MrT.

    Engineeresses! LOVE!

  5. #5 CCPhysicist
    May 28, 2009

    In the movies! Indeed. It is the rare movie, even “chick flicks”, where the number of actors does not exceed the number of actresses – usually by a large factor.

    And yet, apropos your subject, even the exception can prove the rule: One outstanding movie with an all-female cast (no man is seen at any time, not even in a bit part) – “The Women” (1939) based on a play by Clare Boothe Luce – is still all about men! It shows up periodically on TCM and is currently scheduled for June 28 and July 2 if you want to watch it with this in mind.

  6. #6 DJ
    May 28, 2009

    This is a tentative post, frankly I feel a little shy to be posting.

    I see a lot of justified anger in the previous comment by jc. I also know its not about me, I’m not the d00d or d00ds in question. But it sets a tone that is painful to respond to. I know not all males are participating in patriarchy, I sure hope I can refrain from coming off as a bad one.

    Zuska,
    In your comment responding to Donna B., you did a gender role reversal to highlight the absurdity of traditional patriarchal marriage. I’m just curious, but if it were truly reversed then it would still be patriarchy right? I mean it is about the core of gender dominance, not the gender correct? I’m not leading up to any snark or anything, just genuinely curious.

    I grew up in a household of women, my mother was a strong and independant single woman who never defined herself by any man’s measure. My sisters were readily capable of learning how to value themselves as unique and powerful people by following mom’s example. As far as I know they continue to do so. We really don’t speak of those kinds of things very much. I only bring it up to highlight that I am somewhat familiar with feminism and patriarchy. I have a few female feminist friends who enlighten me (sometimes taking me to events like listening to Bell Hooks talk in Portland, OR which was very enjoyable), but I am by no means “cured” of patriarchal behaviors.

    It is easy to fall back asleep as a male. Male privilege makes that easy. It shouldn’t be so easy, and I think places that get in your face and make you uncomfortable are places that make you think. Like me posting here now. I am exceedingly uncomfortable, but I’m awake. So I’m not at all saying the post that makes me uncomforable is bad, in fact I’d say it’s very very good.

    Oh my, I just realized I was going to post on the subject of the blog and got sidetracked by the comments and personal anecdote (hopefully not too annoying of one). I understand the concepts of the core of patriarchy, I read the chapter and found it to be helpful in that regard. Though I’ve never felt like the “center” even when in a relationship. It may have something to do with how I was raised. I dunno.

    Thanks for this Zuska

  7. #7 Change
    May 28, 2009

    Thank you Zuska for the outreach.

    As an undergrad and a grad student in engineering I used to think that I have to conform to the norms (norms being male-identified)–I dressed plainly and tried to hide my feminine side altogether.

    Also I observed from the colleagues at work that it’s perfectly OK to talk about football. I do sometimes take part in these conversations. But the male colleagues look down upon the female colleagues when we talk about our knitting projects or such.

    One of my female colleagues once remarked that white men don’t really care what race, culture, or sex you belong to as long as you act like a white heterosexual male.

    Another thing I’m just wondering about: Don’t women also have a part in perpetuating patriarchy? Some of the remarks I heard of me (or them) not being as competent as men are from women.

  8. #8 Julia
    May 28, 2009

    One of my female colleagues once remarked that white men don’t really care what race, culture, or sex you belong to as long as you act like a white heterosexual male.

    I love this quote. I am going to Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V this all over the place.

    I like to derail the hell out of the white, heterosexual male domination by talking loud, talking lots, and having breasts all over the place.

    Interestingly, my (white, hetero, male) partner enjoys doing this as much as I do. If a conversation starts sounding too “blokish” to him, he will interject his views on crafting and cooking, or make some homoerotic banter, to point out that just because people might happen to be WHM, they don’t have to *act* like it.

    Thank you, Zuska, this was a very lucid, succint analysis of a tricky topic.

  9. #9 Laura
    May 28, 2009

    Great post, Zuska. As a chick who never got around to taking women’s studies classes back in college, I find myself ignorant of a lot of basic concepts, vocabulary, etc. that come up in discussions of feminism. I’m embarking on a little self-guided tour of important books, but a moderated discussion like this is really helpful and gets me thinking in new directions. Your response to Donna B. with the gender inversions really opened my eyes today. Thanks.

  10. #10 SKM
    May 28, 2009

    I know not all males are participating in patriarchy, I sure hope I can refrain from coming off as a bad one.–DJ

    But that’s just it. We all participate in the patriarchy (men, women, intersex). We don’t have a choice whether or not to participate, just in how we choose to participate.

    On page 14 of the 1997 edition, Johnson writes,

    As a system, patriarchy provides paths of least resistance that encourage men to to accept gender privilege and perpetuate women’s oppression, if only through silence. And its paths of least resistance encourage women to accept and adapt to their oppressed position even to the extent of undermining women’s movements to bring about change. We can’t avoid participating in patriarchy; it has been handed to us. But we can choose how to participate in it, how to relate to the paths of least resistance that patriarchy lays out for us, how to be not merely part of the problem, but also part of the solution.

    This is a key point in chapter 1: that patriarchy is a system, and does not refer to individuals. That being so, we can’t just opt out, however much we would like to.

    And don’t be shy to comment, DJ–that’s what this thread is for.

  11. #11 SKM
    May 28, 2009

    Another thing I’m just wondering about: Don’t women also have a part in perpetuating patriarchy? Some of the remarks I heard of me (or them) not being as competent as men are from women.–Change

    Sorry–missed this one. Please see the part I just quoted above, where Johnson explains how women are motivated to undermine women’s equality movements, etc. It seems counterintuitive until you really get your head around the idea that patriarchy is not individuals, that nobody can opt out, that we ALL participate, no exception. Hard to accept, but there it is.

    I think in America especially we are so in love with the myth of individualism that it’s hard to see ourselves as unwitting participants in group dynamics.

    Later in Chapter 1, Johnson addresses how something so pervasive can be so invisible.

  12. #12 Comrade PhysioProf
    May 28, 2009

    Later in Chapter 1, Johnson addresses how something so pervasive can be so invisible.

    This is the easy part. Just imagine asking a fish what it thinks about water: Water? What the fuck are you talking about?

  13. #13 DJ
    May 28, 2009

    SKM,
    That makes sense, I got that from the reading but didn’t translate it well into my comment (may have something to do with how late it was here). I guess the idea I meant to convey was that not all men are eager or willing participants in the system. I should have said it that way, that was what I meant by it. I gets teh stoopidz at 1:30 in the morning. :)

  14. #14 Roi des Foux
    May 28, 2009

    This chapter helped me understand the concept of patriarchy as a system, not people. I was certainly aware of institutions and laws that were misogynistic, but I thought of it as “the patriarchal men and women” vs. “the feminist women and men”, whereas it would be more accurate to say that we are all participating in a patriarchy, and there are some working to reinforce the system while others work to change it. The former viewpoint pushed me more towards changing individual minds, whereas now I realize better how important it is to effect systemic change. I am curious about how important each kind of change is, i.e. what difference would there be between converting 50% of d00dly d00ds (all along the wealth/power spectrum) to feminism without major systemic changes, and enacting sweeping changes in laws (both passing new laws and seeing that all laws are enforced justly) while making film/TV/popular literature/advertising non-misogynistic, without converting an appreciable number of d00dly d00ds?

    I don’t think I depend on women’s attention to feel good about myself, because I’ve tried very hard to make myself someone who doesn’t need anyone’s attention to feel good about myself. It’s true that from puberty on, I was either with someone or desperately wanting to be with someone (the former situation arising for the entirety of my pre-college years and all too frequently since then), but I’ve always attributed that to a basic human need for physical intimacy. I certainly haven’t had a problem “disappearing” when it a woman’s attention turns from me “even for an instant”. I’m polyamorous, and I’ve had no problem kissing a girlfriend goodnight before she went off to sleep with someone else. When my girlfriend decided that she wanted to spend the holidays in Germany with her other boyfriend, I missed her terribly, but I didn’t feel lessened by her absence.

    I’ve certainly noticed a pattern in my friendships. A couple years back, I figured out the list of everyone I’d ever considered a close friend. #2 on the list was a guy; the other 9 were women. (And he’s gay, fwiw.) (And I’m straight, fwiw.) I’ve always thought that women are just so much more interesting, and so much easier to develop emotional bonds with. (I’ve also wondered if I’m only interested befriending women as a means to get them into bed, and it wouldn’t surprise me if there’s an element of that.) I’ve also had a (woman) friend tell me that the reason I only have woman friends is because I’m incredibly introverted. Men will try to befriend me for a bit then give up, whereas women will see getting me to open up as a project.

    I’m also like Julia’s partner in that I’m disappointingly, boringly heterosexual and apparently very masculine, but I delight in shocking people with non-heteronormativity. I was just a bridal attendant at my sister’s wedding (she had me wear a tux). She says that people would ask her if she was going to have all her bridal attendants (2 men 2 women) wear dresses, and she’d say “Well I know one of them would wear a dress if I asked him to,” and the other person would laugh, because they didn’t realize she was serious.

    Ok, hope that didn’t come off as too much of a self-love fest.

  15. #15 RichB
    May 28, 2009

    So much of this post, and the comments has resonated with me, that it is hard to pick out examples… but I will try, first by my answers to Z’s questions…

    What do and don’t you understand about patriarchy as a system after reading this?

    That it’s not “feminists vs. non-feminists”, nor “men vs. women”, nor any “X vs. Y”. It is all of us in the same boat, choosing to keep the existing system, or choosing to change the system. If I can refer to a geeky, male-centric action movie, it is Lawrence Fishburne asking Keanu Reaves “Do you want the red pill or the blue one?” Keep living your life, head down, conforming, or have your eyes opened and be enlightened.

    How do the concepts of male-dominated, male-identified, and male-centered help illustrate the system for you? >/i>

    Very well. I had the concepts in my head, but it always helps to see things concretely.

    Can you think of examples from your life, or popular culture, or anywhere in our society?

    Too many to list … But one notable anectode. I was watching “The Little Mermaid” with some family members (and of course, little kids). I know it is typical Disney crap, but at the end, when Ariel’s father uses his magic to give her legs and let her be with her true love, my mother spat out “Once again, she needs daddy’s help to survive in the world.” I had seen the movie before, and never looked at it that way (duh!).

    If you are a guy, do you think you depend on women’s attention to help you feel good about yourself? If so, in what ways?

    Yes. I’m posting this comment, right? And I’m trying to describe all the ways that I’m enlightened, right?

    That was sarcasm, but it is true to some extent. I’m posting my ideas/feelings, and looking for feedback. Hopefully it will be positive, but even negative will help.

    Do you think your friendships with other men do or do not focus much on their inner lives?

    What friends? I don’t have any male friends for exactly that reason. I’m expected to talk about chopping wood, or playing golf, or lifting weights, or the sport that is in season, or fixing my car, or even some topics like politics, etc. As a geeky guy, talking about computers isn’t “manly” enough, and perish the thought of talking about my hopes and dreams, my addictions (and resultant depression), my love for my kids, etc. At family gatherings, I’m where the ladies are because I simply cannot relate to other men at all.

    @DJ,
    It is easy to fall back asleep as a male. Male privilege makes that easy. It shouldn’t be so easy, and I think places that get in your face and make you uncomfortable are places that make you think.

    YES! Uncomfortable is good, as far as I am seeing.

    @SKM,

    I think in America especially we are so in love with the myth of individualism that it’s hard to see ourselves as unwitting participants in group dynamics.

    Oh yeah. I think a sociology class should be mandatory. If we’re all non-conformists, doesn’t that mean we are conforming to being non-conformists? :-)

  16. #16 Donna B.
    May 28, 2009

    Zuska, for one thing, my father wanted to get off the farm as badly as my mother did. That’s not relevant to what you are saying, it’s just that my parents were quite different from most other couples in the 1940s.

    And you missed the part about how some of my aunts demanded and got from their husbands a concession to do things their way.

    Frankly, I wouldn’t have a man who needed my attention to make him feel life-sized. And I can’t understand a woman who needs male attention of the same type to feel good about herself either.

    I’m much older (I think) than most women writing here, so my perspective is bound to be different. But I hope you won’t discount my views.

  17. #17 SKM
    May 28, 2009

    The fact that patriarchy refers to a system and not to individuals is also key to understanding why intent does not matter when someone makes a comment or commits an act that furthers gender bias.

    Often, when a person is called out for making such a comment, voices chime in with “well, s/he didn’t mean it that way!”, or “s/he’s ignorant, but did not intend to be sexist!”, as though that renders the criticism irrelevant. But sexism, like patriarchy, is a system, not individuals (Johnson gets to that later in Chapter one as well). Since we are all part of a system that is reinforced by just doing nothing, some of our words and actions are very likely to reinforce that system too, no matter our intent. In short, a person does not have to “be a sexist” to behave in ways that bolster a sexist system*.


    *we also seem to have many who think that calling someone a sexist (or racist, xenophobe, etc.) is way worse than actually being those things, but that’s a subject for another thread.

  18. #18 cicely
    May 28, 2009

    I don’t have anything substantive to say; but this is very interesting, and I’m looking forward to following along.

    I may even point my husband this way and see what that provokes. :)

  19. #19 Danimal
    May 28, 2009

    Interesting read. While I may have something to say, I currently do not have the time to address it in any substantial way. Perhaps, tomorrow.

  20. #20 JLK
    May 28, 2009

    Brilliant post, Zuska. I look forward to more.

  21. #21 CCPhysicist
    May 28, 2009

    Note to Zuska and other readers on the Revised Edition:

    The most significant difference between the two editions, as described in the Preface to the Revised Edition, is that he moved Chapter 4 up so it is now Chapter 2, “moving the discussion of patriarchy to where it’s needed most.” Clearly this change will impact those who have the new edition! You might consider whether it makes sense to take up the old Chapter 4 next.

    In Chapter 1, he says he describes “in greater detail the characteristics of patriarchy, especially male identification”.

    Third, he says he “expands the discussion of individuals and systems, with the addition of a graphic that I’ve found very useful with a wide variety of audiences.” I assume he is referring to experience gained from talks given at colleges and universities since the book came out 12 years ago.

    Fourth, he says he has provided more information about Robert Bly and Sam Keen, “whose work I often use to exemplify typical “men’s movement” takes on patriarchy and gender inequality. Because many readers may be unfamiliar with them, I hope this will make the discussion more useful.” Good idea, because this reader recognizes the first name but is unfamiliar with both of them.

    Finally, he has brought the book “up to date” to include references to such events as 9/11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that followed. He points out that 9/11 did not really Change Everything because the response of the US was typical of centuries of patriarchal dynamics.

    The Table of Contents of the Revised Edition reads:

    1. Where Are We
    2. Patriarchy, the System: …
    3. Why Patriarchy?
    4. Ideology, Myth, and Magic: …
    5. Feminists and Feminism
    6. Thinking about Patriarchy: …
    7. What Patriarchy?
    8. It Must be Women
    9. Shame, Guilt, and Responsibility
    10. Unraveling the Gender Knot

  22. #22 The Nerd
    May 28, 2009

    Ooo, very good discussion! I hope you are going to write about the rest of the chapters as well.

  23. #23 CCPhysicist
    May 28, 2009

    I guess my latest post (outlining the differences between the original edition and the revised one I am reading on Kindle) will appear after this one because I included some hyperlinks. I was going to add that references to page numbers mean zip to someone reading the heavily revised new edition, not to mention someone reading it on a Kindle!

    My thoughts on the discussion so far are

    a) Today I wandered over to Wannabe Flagship to talk to any of my former students who might be around, and one invited me to sit in the engineering mechanics class he was going to next. Young women made up a bit more than 10% of the class, so Zuska’s comments related to that general situation remain a valid problem.

    b) The first paragraph of jc@4 looks strange from where I sit, because women are routinely hired over men at our CC without regard to anything except teaching skills. In particular, this is done without regard to the clear views of many of our students that women can’t possibly have credentials and expertise at the college level. [Would more men at the K-5 level help this perception?] But I agree 100% about men needing approval from women, just not with the perceived reason why. Men are very VERY insecure behind the bluster, a point that shows up often in this book. And men share only half of the responsibility for creating our current culture, just as they share only part of the responsibility for the significant differences between our current culture and what it was like a century ago or even (now within my own experience) a half century ago.

    c) I was quite taken by Zuska’s story about the lists produced by engineering students. To what extent are the women who rise to management level (like at my CC, which has quite a few of them) ones who have those “masculine” approaches to situations that arise at the management level? Is a seemingly odd situation (where the more nurturing Dean is male and the strict policy geek Dean is female) a result of an attempt to play a role in the Patriarchy to get that position? It’s pretty odd to hear female faculty express discontent with a woman as Dean.

  24. #24 Zuska
    May 28, 2009

    Readers, first I want to thank you all for the incredible discussion you have going on here and I hope you will keep it going. The quality of the comments is just tremendous, I am very grateful to all of you.

    CCPhysicist, thanks for alerting me to the change-up in the new edition. I’m now thinking I’m going to have to break down and get the new edition.

    Part 2 of the Ch. 1 post should go up, I hope, Friday or Saturday.

    Donna B.: do you find nothing of interest in the gender reversal I did with the quote from your comment? And by the way, the quote from Virginia Woolf about women holding up a mirror possessing the ability to reflect men back at twice normal size is not limited to men and women in a romantic or even marital relationship. It applies to any time men and women are interacting – in educational settings, in the workplace, in social settings, between fathers and daughters, other family relationships, friends, even casual acquaintances. It would be nice to think that one were exempt from that insight but I would venture to say that we have all, at one time or another, participated in that dynamic.

  25. #25 Zuska
    May 28, 2009

    Also, there’s this, Donna B.:

    And you missed the part about how some of my aunts demanded and got from their husbands a concession to do things their way.

    In a truly equal relationship, where one gender does not have the upper hand over the other, the woman does not need to “demand concessions” from her husband. The woman and man would be discussing things and making decisions together as mutual partners, trying to figure out what was best for each other and for them together as a couple.

    Or so I dream…

  26. #26 jc
    May 28, 2009

    CCPhysicist, I have no experience with CCs (I only read Dean Dad occasionally), but I have taught at minority SLAC, “R2″, and “R1″ schools. The trend in the sciences is that women are becoming more successful getting hired and promoted at SLAC and R2 schools because there’s a heavier teaching component and less eat or be eaten by grant$/research mentality. There’s also lesser salary compared to R1. The R1 culture has changed in the past decade to a $$$ model, which is why alot of older profs will openly say in today’s funding climate with the sheer numbers of PhDs in the job market, they don’t think they would get hired (they got hired when teaching had a higher status/value and emphasis was not on reeling in grant$). Now, teaching is on par with service work at R1s, where the breakdown can be 60/20/20 R/T/S. $$$ is power since you can buy yourself out of teaching to do research, and you can increase your salary with grant$. So there’s power differentials between small/large schools, CC/SLAC/R2/R1, science/non-science depts, etc. which further complicates gender dynamics and the added perception of value ($$$ or status) to the patriarchy. Similar to your experience with CC women being hired over men based on teaching, leafy schools hire mostly based on research lineage and $$$, and we know that men really outcompete women in fed grant$, so women are at a disadvantage at the start. The ADVANCE program is the best chance we have at the moment for women being successful at R1s because there’s fed $$$ and a support system. There’s also more pressure now at R2s to rake in $$$.

    My mother is an elem teacher and women definitely outnumber men at the K-5 level, but I think we can track the numbers back to “women’s work” attitude. Low status, low pay. I have quite a few former undergrads now doing MAT degrees because there’s a need for math/science teachers, but society equates pay to value, and we undervalue teachers. The MAT students in their programs are mostly women. We can also think about other careers that are crappy paying but predominantly male, like policeMen and fireMen. The difference is it’s MANLY work. Power (insert Tim Allen’s grunt, rrrawr rawr rawr). Higher status. Those reflecting goggles reflect hero status from the general public even though it’s service-oriented.

  27. #27 Peggy
    May 29, 2009

    Ironically, most men don’t, however, feel at the center of things. They need women’s attention to help them feel at the center where they think they belong.

    It’s an interesting point, but I’m not sure it’s always true. It seems to me that there are male activities where the focus is being perceived as “better” by other dudes, where the measure could be knowledgeableness, or cleverness, or physical superiority. Womanly attention is accepted, but not as important as being acknowledged as the “best” by others deemed worthy of giving their opinion (i.e., other dudes).

    Johnson talks about it a bit, but emphasizes that attention from other men is secondary to attention from women. So I’m wondering if I’m way off base and just misinterpreting things from the outside of male social interactions.

  28. #28 Change
    May 29, 2009

    Thanks SKM (11). I wasn’t being quite articulate. My point was something on the lines of what DJ (13) said. Aren’t there willing female participants in patriarchy? We seem to talk about them less than we do about willing male participants in the system. Could it be because there are only a handful of women in positions of power to affect change?

    Roi des Foux (14) A couple years back, I figured out the list of everyone I’d ever considered a close friend. #2 on the list was a guy; the other 9 were women.

    Some of my male friends share things with me that they do not share with their male friends. I’m not the prodding kind but would listen with genuine concern. These friends, as far as I know, are not sexually interested in me, neither me in them. Does this mean that they do not get the “attention”/support they want/need from their male friends? I don’t know.

    RichB (15), Love the The Matrix movie reference.

    One the topic of male identification and male centeredness in pop culture, sometime ago I watched a movie (in my native language) that my friends (male and some female, from homeland) raved about. It was a movie about people of about my age with similar background and their relationships (with partners and friends). My friends said that it’s a movie that we ALL can relate to. I hated the movie because it highlighted the friendships between men and the romantic relationships between men and women. All the interesting ideas (either a vacation trip or a new business model) except one seemed to be made by men. The movie showed as if women go to their friends only when they need to talk about their male romantic partner. I definitely did not relate to this movie.

  29. #29 Change
    May 29, 2009

    Realized that I just gave RichB (15) the attention.

  30. #30 SKM
    May 29, 2009

    @Change:
    Aren’t there willing female participants in patriarchy?
    Yes, as much as one can be a “willing” participant in something the very existence of which one is not aware. Most people go along to get along, and that includes women. Most people take whatever avenues to power are open to them, even if it’s a false power (and they don’t recognize it as false, because they have uncritically accepted conventional wisdom).

    Besides, so what if there are “willing” female participants? Why focus on them? As you said, for the most part, they are not the ones with power. I don’t think you are looking for ways to blame women for the current trouble we’re all in, but a lot (maybe even most?) people are, so I’d look very closely at temptations to focus on ‘women’s share of blame/responsibility/etc’. I put single-quotes around that because nobody here said it, but it is a very common cultural subtext we need to recognize.

    And Change, if you like the Matrix analogy, you’ll enjoy this essay about sexism, where Melissa McEwan uses the analogy to great effect: Feminism 101: Sexism Is A Matter Of Opinion.

    As for giving RichB the attention: well, this is an outreach project for dudes!

  31. #31 SKM
    May 29, 2009

    CCPhysicist writes,
    But I agree 100% about men needing approval from women, just not with the perceived reason why. Men are very VERY insecure behind the bluster, a point that shows up often in this book. And men share only half of the responsibility for creating our current culture

    Three things:
    1) I think I may misunderstand you here–are you offering men’s insecurity as an alternative explanation for men’s need of approval? Because to me the insecurity seems to follow very well from Johnson’s premises. If male-centeredness makes men need to see themselves as bigger than life at all times, of course that’s going to lead to insecurities.

    I think this is related to what’s known as the myth of fragile masculinity: if manliness is defined in contradistinction to the feminine, it can be “revoked” for the slightest infraction against properly “manly” behavior. A man can be told he’s not a “real” man if he does not properly inhabit the larger-than-life, socially dominant center of things. Naturally this would lead to insecurity!

    2) As for men “sharing only half the responsibility for creating our current culture”, I think that does not follow. The culture is male-dominated, male-focused, and male-centered. Men are half the people, but hold more than half the power. So the path of least resistance gives them more than half the influence over culture.

    But more importantly,
    3) Talking about who is “responsible” for the current situation runs counter to one of Johnson’s main points in chapter 1: individuals are not personally responsible for “creating” patriarchal culture. It’s a system; one which has been “handed to us”, as Johnson puts it. The only way to get our heads around this issue is to move beyond apportioning blame.

  32. #32 Zuska
    May 29, 2009

    Excellent points,SKM, stated quite clearly.

    This discussion reminds me in many ways of my first women’s studies course, in the passion, depth, intelligence, and insightfulness of the comments here. In that class, the prof laid out the material and got out of the way to let us discuss. Please carry on, everyone!

  33. #33 CCPhysicist
    May 29, 2009

    jc@26:
    Having been at an R1 for many years in a research position, I agree fully. However, I know of instances where the “trailing spouse” was male because the woman was a leader in an important research area. She was also trained in Europe, which puts a different spin on things. Is Europe less patriarchal overall, or is there some other difference?

    My comment on K-5 was overly terse. I know the reality, even though a man taught in my elementary school. The question is whether we should be encouraging men to enter that career at the same time we encourage women to enter other careers? Would that change reduce or eliminate the perception that women lack expertise at the HS and college level?

    SKM @30:
    There is quite a difference between the role of women in my suburban high school of the late 60s and the women in some of the failing schools in the service area of my CC in the 00s. One can argue at length as to who is responsible for hip-hop thug culture where unemployable ex-cons live as parasites off of the single mom who is working and attending school and raising children, but the young women appear to make those choices very willingly.

    SKM @31:
    You probably misunderstand me. I think men are human and, like women, have a wide range of personalities that have to accommodate to the local culture as they grow up. I don’t believe there are innate huge differences between male and female personalities. I also think we are all social creatures, and both men and women need the approval of others to feel comfortable as social creatures. We all start out life insecure. I’d love to see an example of a modern culture where no one is insecure. How it is manifest depends on culture, but it is always there.

    There is a self-contradiction when it is claimed that men need the approval of women because men are dominant, and that women need the approval of men because men are dominant. I agree that much of the insecurity is manifest in our culture for just the reasons that Johnson presents, but I also think some of his premises are demonstrably false or irrelevant today.

    But I really don’t get your main point. If, as you state, insecurity follows naturally when the status of “real man” can be revoked by our culture (a point I agree with), then there is no myth! You just proved it was real, whether it is because “you can’t be a man because you don’t smoke the same cigarette as me”, or because you haven’t committed an armed robbery, or you won’t chug a pitcher of beer.

    You definitely misunderstood the point you address in item 3, partly by clipping my sentence where you did. If you read it all, you will see that I was talking about who was responsible for CHANGING our culture from what it was a century ago – where all of Johnson’s premises were clearly supportable by observation – to what it is today (at least in the suburban culture I generally experience, not the one referred to above). Anyone who thinks America is the same as it was in 1959 just hasn’t been paying attention or read about the 50s and 60s in a textbook.

  34. #34 RichB
    May 29, 2009

    @CC (33)
    Anyone who thinks America is the same as it was in 1959 just hasn’t been paying attention or read about the 50s and 60s in a textbook.

    Some things may or may not be the same, but I don’t think we can fool ourselves into thinking it’s all that “different”. In other words, just because there are more women in power positions, and pay in some areas is getting better, and more people are aware of the issues, society is overall not much different. To me, it reminds of the Civil Rights movement. Some battles were won, and some rights secured, and progress was made, but are we racist-free? If you have ever been some areas around Atlanta, you’d swear it was still the 1960’s.

    @jc (26):
    My mother is an elem teacher and women definitely outnumber men at the K-5 level
    @cc(33):
    Would that change reduce or eliminate the perception that women lack expertise at the HS and college level?

    My wife is a Special Ed teacher for grades 4-6, and in her school both teachers and staff are predominantly female. I wonder if this is not because women are perceived as inferior for upper-grades, but because society tells them to “mother” the younger children. Because of my wife’s social circle, I meet a lot of teachers, and a large percentage of the women entering the field seem to “want” to go to the elementary level.

  35. #35 Zuska
    May 29, 2009

    Some reality checks: Allan Johnson is not writing about America of the 1950’s and 1960’s. He’s writing about today. It’s not a retrospective book, it’s about the situation facing us now.

    Where the women are: it’s true many K-12 teachers are women, especially K-6 teachers. But who are the principals and superintendents? IIRC, the administrative structure of our public schools is still male-dominated. What about community colleges? Same story. Women on the faculty, not so much on administration – though you see them there more than you do as you go up the academic institutional ladder. Across academia, women tend to be clustered at institutions of lower academic prestige (community colleges rather than RI institutions) and in instructor or adjunct positions rather than tenure-track positions. A good recent book which surveys this situation with lots of good data is “Unfinished Agendas: New and Continuing Gender Challenges in Higher Education” ed. Judith Glazer-Raymo.

    Please note: when I talk about “academic prestige” I do not mean to belittle community colleges. I think they are extremely important and undervalued institutions. But in the pecking order of academia there is a hierarchy and community colleges are considered to be less prestigious places to work than R1 institutions. Whether prestige is all it’s cracked up to be or the most important consideration in the world is a topic for another day.

  36. #36 J. J. Ramsey
    May 29, 2009

    Finally, Johnson notes how difficult it is for men to form true close friendships with each other: “[O]ne of many patriarchal paradoxes: that men live in a male-centered society and yet act as though the reality of other men’s inner lives matters very little”.

    This is a part that I find questionable. It seems to have more to do with Western cultural norms than it does with patriarchy. The Biblical relationship between David and Jonathan comes to mind as a counterexample, and the accounts of that come from a culture that is blatantly patriarchal.

    This part from Chapter 1 looks a bit like it buys into stereotypes of conflict and war as a masculine thing:

    It is easier to allow women to practice law than to question adversarial conflict as a model for resolving disputes and achieving justice. It has been even easier to admit women to military combat roles than to question the acceptability of warfare and its attendant images of patriarchal masculine power and heroism as instruments of national policy.

    Ok, conflict and war are in practice a male-dominated thing, but that probably has more to do with men happening to be the ones with the power than it does with the nature of men. I think he’s accidentally buying into some of the assumptions of our patriarchal culture.

    That said, judging from Chapter 1, the author is very good at pointing out just how lopsided our culture is in favoring males, and I look forward to further blogging on The Gender Knot.

  37. #37 SKM
    May 29, 2009

    One can argue at length as to who is responsible for hip-hop thug culture where unemployable ex-cons live as parasites off of the single mom who is working and attending school and raising children, but the young women appear to make those choices very willingly.

    Okay, I’ll just reiterate my suggestion that we not spend this thread discussing how women are responsible for their own oppression (let alone women who are doubly and triply marginalized by race and socioeconomic status). it’s off-topic and antithetical to Johnson’s purpose.

  38. #38 Asphericity
    May 29, 2009

    I would like to highlight something that SKM (#17) said, because I think it doesn’t get said enough:

    The fact that patriarchy refers to a system and not to individuals is also key to understanding why intent does not matter when someone makes a comment or commits an act that furthers gender bias.

    This does not mean that everyone gets a free pass to say whatever they want just because we’re all participating in the patriarchy. Rather, it shows how each of us (men and women) constantly reinforces the status quo simply by taking the “path of least resistance,” even if we don’t intend to. Knowing this, therefore, we all have a responsibility to consider our words and actions carefully. I really like this call to mindfulness from Johnson. I hope in upcoming chapters we’ll see more details on how to prod ourselves (and others) to question our societal instincts more consistently.

  39. #39 Brian
    May 29, 2009

    SKM – I don’t think that was necessarily assigning responsibility to those women. The patriarchy is not homogenous – upper middle class white patriarchy is different than lower class black patriarchy. It’s easy to find something wrong with ex-cons sponging off working mothers because that is not something (I’m making an assumption here) that is part of the culture of most people here. The interesting thing is *why* women would willingly make that choice, and I think it again comes down to the pervasiveness of patriarchal culture. They’re not to blame for it, they’re just so inured that other options may not occur to them. And this is not something that is unique to lower class minority women.

    I think the point of that chapter in the book (I haven’t read it, but what I understand from people’s comments here) is that the pervasiveness of culture makes it difficult to see exactly how the patriarchy is oppressing women unless you stand outside of it. In this case, the added oppression of socioeconomic and racial marginalization makes the oppression more obvious. But in every type of patriarchy, there is invisible oppression because it doesn’t occur to the participants that things *could be* any other way.

  40. #40 SKM
    May 29, 2009

    J.J. Ramsey writes,
    Ok, conflict and war are in practice a male-dominated thing, but that probably has more to do with men happening to be the ones with the power than it does with the nature of men. I think he’s accidentally buying into some of the assumptions of our patriarchal culture.

    It seems you actually agree with Johnson that warfare etc. is in practice male-dominated but is not in the nature of men. If Johnson had used he word “male” instead of “masculine” in the phrase “warfare and its attendant images of patriarchal masculine power”, I’d think he was buying into essentialist stereotypes too. But Johnson is not saying that conflict and war are in the nature of men; he’s saying that they are in western culture’s concept of masculinity. That may sound like a dodge, but sex (male) and gender (masculine) are not interchangeable in sociology.

    Maleness is a biological category (sex); masculinity is a performance–a repertoire of behaviors prescribed by culture (gender). My understanding is that in sociology, “masculinity” is every bit as much a technical term as, say, “nucleus reticularis tegmenti pontis” is in neuroanatomy.

    IOW, Johnson says that conflict and war are a masculine thing, but not a male thing. Is that clear? Perhaps Johnson should have made the distinction clearer in his text.

    It is especially confusing, given that in biology we use “masculine” in a biological sense (e.g. masculinization of a fetus by androgens).

  41. #41 DJ
    May 30, 2009

    I am learning a lot from this discussion. Gonna have to pick up the book so I can keep up.

  42. #42 CCPhysicist
    May 30, 2009

    He may not have written the book in the 50s, but he writes about many things as if it was 1970. His statements about marriage, for example, would sound like utter nonsense to many of the women in my classroom. His generalizations may also have a significant regional bias, since my observations are limited to similarly sized cities in only two regions of the country.

    Zuska, it is the rare elementary school in my area that has a male principal. I’m not sure if there is more than one. The middle schools I know about have female principals, but I think a majority of the local high schools currently have male principals.

    At my CC, a majority of the Deans are women and the provost is a woman, as are several other VPs. The difference between here and an R1 (including the one down the road) is dramatic, a point made in FSP’s most recent blog. (She was suffering from total cognitive dissonance while talking to another FSP, one at a 4-year school.) I don’t know the current M/F ratio for faculty, but the ratio in admin is similar to the ratio for full time professors, and our adjuncts mirror our full-time staff. Your description of some national data on gender ratios, although typical at an R1 (in my experience), has zero relevance to my work environment or the power relationships that exist here. (We have far greater problems getting students to respect the women with power in the institution than we do within the institution itself.)

    If that makes our college second class, so be it. I’ll take a second class institution whose faculty are professionally competent over the train wreck that was the engineering classroom I witnessed last week at a nearby R1.

  43. #43 J. J. Ramsey
    May 30, 2009

    SKM:

    It seems you actually agree with Johnson that warfare etc. is in practice male-dominated but is not in the nature of men.

    But then why the implication that a non-patriarchal culture would be more free of conflict than a patriarchal one? Why not suppose a culture where being competitive or warlike is simply separate from one’s masculinity or femininity?

    IMHO, a big part of the problem of patriarchy is the very idea that some repertoires of behaviors are appropriate for males but not females and vice versa.

  44. #44 jc
    May 30, 2009

    Education used to be glamourous, high status, and high paying, even at the lower levels because of the Male Centerness. Women used to not be allowed in school at all (ultimate control). What has happened is exactly JJ Ramsey’s (36) point: women were added and stirred. Yippee! Same thing with everything else. “Equal Opportunity”! But it’s a total sham.

    For a cards comparison, it’s like girls from birth being given a deuce and boys being given an ace by the P that also determines the ongoing life game is Blackjack (21), so boys have many more options to pick up 10 (the 10 cards or any face cards) needed for 21 (autowin). Girls have less possibility for 21 without the advantageous ace. The boys know they carry an ace, the girls know that each boy has an ace. The girls know they have an uphill battle from a 2 to 21 and the boys know the girls start with deuces. A girl may win if 1) the boy doesn’t pick up a 10 or face card on the first draw and leaves room for her to win with a higher total or 2) the boy doesn’t pick up a 10 or face card on the first draw, he has to draw more cards, and goes bust. When boy wins, he’s Master Of The Universe!! NUMBER ONE!! W00T!!! (oh yeah, if he loses, the girl got lucky, it was rigged!?WTF!, or he was having a bad day)

    But let’s go beyond winner and loser hooplah. Let’s have some rounds with jackpots, some with small payout. The path of least resistance doesn’t sound like the most appropriate phrase for what’s happening. Girls use more energy and time than boys drawing card after card overall. Girls know the boys all have one ace so it’s natural that the boys will flood the jackpot rounds. Therefore, I think it’s more about sizing up the competition, not necessarily finding the easiest route to a win (because there isn’t an “easy route to win” for women). To tie this back to academia, women have a better chance at walking away with success (a job!) at the lower levels of the playing field (less male-centerness, less power, less prestige to the P, more women). The women are starting with deuces and they have to work their way up to 21/win each time *sigh*. The men are starting with an ace each time, so it makes more sense for men to start higher up where there is more male-centerness, more power, more prestige, women are in service/controlled roles more than power/controlling roles. Rinse and repeat your whole life for every single thing. Jobs, awards, grants, promotions.

    CC, adding men to the lower rungs instead of adding women to the higher rungs doesn’t balance the playing field because lower rungs are low value to the P. That’s the add men and stir equivalent with numbers, but not equivalent with power (holding an ace). Men will take over. Look what’s happened to nursing schools. They upped the pay for newcomer profs, men got and took the $$$ jobs (which infuriates long tenured women profs who are now on par with the n00bie d00ds! guess what, men are now gaining in administration!). Women profs in science at all levels make less than men. Men make up the majority of administration, so the discrimination continues because men value men more than women (and women get punished for asking/demanding more, those whiny ungrateful bitches).

    Men also get the flap of “male nurse” like “female professors” because of the wrapping professions with gender (value, really). Male elementary teachers just like male nurses also have to deal with the gay perception (not “real” men, because “real” men are in power positions), just like women professors and CEOs deal with the lesbian ball-busting bitch label (not “real” women). Any exception to the rule has to be somehow justified, even with a steaming pile of horseshit.

    If women raise their numbers for positions of power, then the myth of male superiority blows up. The men have power to lose in everything, so they tighten the hatches, keep the P at all costs!!11!!WAR!!, which is what keeps subtle and not so subtle discrimination and violence at such high numbers. The d00ds feel threatened constantly that all the rosy goggles will fall off the wimmins who then turn the tables on the d00ds (domesticated damnation anyone?! Househusbands of the OC?)

  45. #45 SKM
    May 31, 2009

    But then why the implication that a non-patriarchal culture would be more free of conflict than a patriarchal one?–J.J. Ramsey

    Well, I think the implication is that a non-hierarchical, more cooperative culture would be lower in conflict than a culture based on dominance and control. The fact that Johnson uses the term “patriarchal” has nothing to do with gender essentialism. It’s just descriptive of a hierarchy in which power follows the father’s line. In a control-based society where power followed the mother’s line, there would also be violent conflict. The bottom line here is that “patriarchy” is not a code word for “men”. That’s one of the key concepts of this first chapter section.

    BTW, Johnson addresses your questions a little later in the book. Chapter 2 is devoted entirely to the concept of patriarchy, for instance.

    IMHO, a big part of the problem of patriarchy is the very idea that some repertoires of behaviors are appropriate for males but not females and vice versa.
    I agree.

  46. #46 J. J. Ramsey
    May 31, 2009

    Well, I think the implication is that a non-hierarchical, more cooperative culture would be lower in conflict than a culture based on dominance and control. The fact that Johnson uses the term “patriarchal” has nothing to do with gender essentialism. It’s just descriptive of a hierarchy in which power follows the father’s line. In a control-based society where power followed the mother’s line, there would also be violent conflict.

    But you can just as well have a culture of dominance and control without either patriarchy or matriarchy, with power flowing down lines that have nothing to do with sex or lineage at all. So why bring up the idea of a non-hierarchical, more cooperative culture as if it were in contrast to patriarchy?

  47. #47 SKM
    May 31, 2009

    But you can just as well have a culture of dominance and control without either patriarchy or matriarchy, with power flowing down lines that have nothing to do with sex or lineage at all.

    But we don’t. We have patriarchy. And again, there is nothing gender-essentialist about acknowledging reality.

    Really, this is not going anywhere. If you read the rest of the book and still feel Johnson is a gender essentialist, we’ll all be better equipped to discuss it with more info.

  48. #48 SKM
    May 31, 2009

    So why bring up the idea of a non-hierarchical, more cooperative culture as if it were in contrast to patriarchy?

    it IS in contrast to patriarchy. ANY -archy is going to be in contrast to a non-dominance-based culture.

    “Patriarchy” is a description of what we have, not a statement on the nature of men.

    I’m going to leave it there for the moment.

  49. #49 PhilB
    June 2, 2009

    SKM, I think that statement about patriarchy and the nature of men in #48 is key. Honestly, I think that’s my biggest takeaway from this thread, although I haven’t read the book. It has often seemed to me that a theme from the women’s movement is: patriarchy is bad, patriarchies are run by men, therefor men are bad. Of course, this provokes a defensive reaction in quite a few and my instinct is that the tone of many arguments about the women’s movement would change considerably if that concept of patriarchy was used more often.

  50. #50 SKM
    June 2, 2009

    It has often seemed to me that a theme from the women’s movement is: patriarchy is bad, patriarchies are run by men, therefor men are bad. Of course, this provokes a defensive reaction in quite a few –PhilB

    It seems to you that that’s a theme of the women’s movement, but it is not. It seems that way because of the long campaign to discredit women’s movements. (Johnson covers this in The Gender Knot too–the book is really a good read!)

    What I’m saying is that it is not feminists who say that men are bad, etc. etc. it is others who say that feminists say that in order to make them look unreasonable. And yes, even if one can find a woman or two who identifies as feminist saying men are bad, that doesn’t make it an accurate picture of the field.

    If one feels relatively well-served by the status quo, discrediting movements to change the status quo makes a lot of sense.

    my instinct is that the tone of many arguments about the women’s movement would change considerably if that concept of patriarchy was used more often

    Well, that isn’t just one concept of patriarchy, it is THE concept of patriarchy that Johnson lays out. It’s nothing new or different from what feminists refer to regularly.

    Maybe I misunderstand, but it sounds like you’re saying that those in the women’s movement just aren’t explaining it right, and that if they did they would be accepted. Alas, that is not the case for the reason I gave above about motivations to preserve the status quo.

    This last point isn’t directed at PhilB personally, but in general, too much burden is placed on feminists to explain every concept from scratch to each newbie in terms that will not threaten them. This does not happen in most other fields. If you’re a physicist, and you go to a biology journal club, it’s assumed that you’ll read the paper and look up any basic terms you don’t understand before entering the discussion.

    Similarly, the burden is on those who would discuss the women’s movement to learn the applicable technical terms from sociology, just as it is on those who would discuss biology to learn the applicable technical terms in that field.

  51. #51 PhilB
    June 2, 2009

    “Males and males only are the originators, planners, controllers, and legitimators of patriarchy.” – Mary Daly, Gyn/Ecology The Metaethics of Radical Feminism, (Boston: Beacon Press, 1978), p. 29.

    Could you please explain, how my perception of the above statement would be wrong? Or. at least try to understand how that theme has seemed to be common in the woment’s movement, and not by people trying to “dismantle the movement.”

  52. #52 PhilB
    June 2, 2009

    SKM, What I’m getting at is that patriarchy is an emotionally loaded concept that can come with a lot of baggage on the part of both the listener and speaker. It is wise of anyone involved in these sorts of discussions to be aware of that whether speaking or listening.

  53. #53 J. J. Ramsey
    June 2, 2009

    PhilB: “Could you please explain, how my perception of the above statement would be wrong?”

    Your perception of the statement may be correct, but you are quoting from a book about radical feminism. There are feminists who complain about misandry as well as misogyny and even point out how misogyny can be a form of misandry as well:

    “Men can’t help themselves! Why are you punishing us for our biology?”

    Wow, and people say feminists hate men. If you genuinely believe men just have to objectify women, because it’s hardwired into them to regard those possessing vaginas as occasionally entertaining fuckdolls rather than people, and that objectification just has to ooze all over the pages of stories about good costumes vs evil costumes (plus explosions!) then you have a really, really low opinion of men.

    Actually, the blog to which I linked is a fountain of down-to-earth feminism, which is not about hating men at all, but about (gasp!) fairness.

  54. #54 Brian
    June 2, 2009

    Phil, if your willingness to learn about feminism involves spending five seconds on Wikipedia and then immediately piping up “I found someone who says men are bad!” – I suggest you did not pay attention at all to what SKM said and thus you are completely irrelevant to the discussion. Yes, Mary Daly thinks men are bad – her utopian future is a society completely composed of women.

    And the thing is, you’re still letting your whininess get in the way of actually learning something. When you hear the words “racism” or “white privilege,” do you feel compelled to say something about the put-upon white people and how it’s black people’s fault too? After all, the majority of black people go along to get along and are thus “complicit” in the system, right? Plus, they get all these benefits out of it. Like TVs. And cars. They wouldn’t have had those if white people had left them back in Africa, right? And some of them – people like Larry Elder – even think that the system is working out pretty good, so we don’t need messy things like affirmative action.

    No, I really doubt that you do (if you do, you’re hopelessly confused). Racism in this country is largely something instigated and supported by white people. It gives them unearned power. The patriarchy is something largely instigated and supported by men. It gives them unearned power. Even though both groups – white people and men – would actually be better off, along with everybody else, in a more egalitarian society.

    Please try listening.

  55. #55 SKM
    June 2, 2009

    PhilB, thanks for clarifying your comment at #51. You have a good point that patriarchy is an emotionally loaded concept, and my physics parallel is imperfect. My point though is that so often the listener makes no effort to understand the meaning of the technical terms involved, and instead demands explanations. This often leaves the emotional work once again to women (that is, the task of scrubbing round the “emotionally loaded” concepts so male listeners won’t feel alienated).

    J.J. Ramsey, I would submit that even Mary Daly’s radical comment does not say that all men are bad. At all. So the perception of that particular statement is not correct I think.

    That said, the thing I disagree with Daly about there is the part where she says that it’s only men who perpetuate patriarchy. But as I said upthread, nor do I think that women and men are equally responsible for perpetuating patriarchy. More than half the power = more than half the influence over culture.

    I couldn’t agree with you more that anti-feminists are the real man-haters.

    Anyway, this thread is supposed to be about Johnson’s book, and I really don’t want to get sidetracked on Daly or any other individual feminist. Johnson does get into radical feminism a little later in the book.

    For people who are commenting without having read any of the book, this would be a good time to start.

  56. #56 SKM
    June 2, 2009

    I should also add that picking Daly as the one quotable feminist voice is problematical at best. Daly is, to put it mildly, problematic. My point was that a narrow reading of that one small quoted snippet doesn’t even say what PhilB claims it does. And picking Daly is disingenuous at best.

    OK– no more Daly or parsing wikiquotes from individual feminists now, I mean it!
    (and no, I do not want a peanut!)

  57. #57 PhilB
    June 3, 2009

    Brian: I’ll try listening if you try not putting words in my mouth or making presumptous conclusions about my inner most thoughts.

    SKM: Thank you for discussing this, I do appreciate it. I would use an opposing example many of the critical thinking/skeptic blogs out there and the occasions when creationists/woo purveyors show up. A great amount of effort is spent attempting to help those commentors understand the real issues of physics, medicine, biology etc involved. Sure often it fails. The the effort is still made. And yes, the burden of the effort is still on the scientists to explain these concepts in a way the listener will understand. Sure it would be better if the folks of woo actually researched the science but not everyone is going to have even an undergraduate background in the subject.

    As to picking a more radical voice to quote and whether that’s disingenious. I dunno I’ve seen similar things in religion where a radical extreme voice pops up and gets heard. I’m willing to bet there are centrist-conservatives facepalming everytime Michelle Bachman opens her mouth. Is it fair to the mainstream, maybe not, but like any orchastra of voices one bad note from the brass section can make the entire thing sound nasty.

    I do apologize though, I was attempting to disprove your absoluteist statement about feminists. I went back and reread and I hadn’t paid attention to the qualifying statement about it not being “an accurate picture of the field”. So the Mary Daly quote wasn’t a proper response to that statement.

  58. #58 bellacoker
    June 3, 2009

    @PhilB:
    Some feminists do hate men and blame them completely for the oppression of women, but feminism is not monolithic. No movement is, including physics :).

    But those who are threatened by the aims of feminism pull out the most radical voices to discredit every feminist, which is a lot like saying we shouldn’t listen to Martin Luther King because Louis Farrakhan doesn’t like white people. It can’t be argued that he does (because he says he doesn’t), and white people should say that he might have a good reason not to like us, but he doesn’t discredit everyone who is working toward racial equality.

    This is addressed later in the book, I’m sure, but minorities are held up as being representative of their entire class in a way members of the majority group are not. So, Mary Daly is being held up as a representation of ALL feminists, when that is not the case.

  59. #59 Zuska
    June 3, 2009

    Just a quick note to say I am not ignoring you all, but am with mom this week and no time to really do much on the blog, let alone get up my part 2 post on the book. I’m sorry, dear readers, especially when you are doing such a great discussion job here. I am loving this.

  60. #60 RichB
    June 4, 2009

    @PhilB (57):I would use an opposing example many of the critical thinking/skeptic blogs out there and the occasions when creationists/woo purveyors show up. A great amount of effort is spent attempting to help those commentors understand the real issues of physics, medicine, biology etc involved

    Hmmm… I’m not so sure. If you showed up on Orac’s blog and said “I think homeopathy works, but could someone explain to me how a chemical bond is formed?” you’d get quite the Insolent smackdown. You have to show that you have made some effort to understand the issue. If you go and spout your opinion as fact, and have nothing to back it up, you will be marginalized rapidly. If you were to say “I read study X and it seems to point to this conclusion, but book Y and study Z oppose it”, you’d get a better response. Any incidental explanation is really just part of the argument for or against a certain issue.

    Is it fair to the mainstream, maybe not, but like any orchestra of voices one bad note from the brass section can make the entire thing sound nasty.

    Well, bellacoker addressed this in #58, but to turn it around a bit… Does any crazy white person make all whites crazy? Does a radical Christian make all Christians radical? Now, substitute a minority. The answer changes… Even if many of the majority are branded, the remainder to not get the brand. However, for minorities, this is not true. So, I think the quote-mining is particularly bad in this case.

    Rich B.

  61. #61 PhilB
    June 4, 2009

    RichB, At the same time, it has been recognized that snark, while fun and sometimes effective at releiving frustration, is often detrimental to the conversation.

    Well, bellacoker addressed this in #58, but to turn it around a bit… Does any crazy white person make all whites crazy? Does a radical Christian make all Christians radical? Now, substitute a minority. The answer changes…

    This is a common phenomenon across the board, where one person is held up as representative of a group or sub-group. And, I think we can agree that a sample size of one is never going to be an accurate representation of a larger group. It happens with white men as well, but yes, it’s extremely bad with minority groups.

    Allow me to try and clarify, because bellocoker really nailed some of what I was trying to get it at. All movement’s are made up of multiple voices. My intent was not to show an example of THE voice of feminism, but show A voice as an example these voices are also out there and how they could color the perception of a casual listener.

    My perception, until this thread, had been that the radical voices (i.e. those who see no difference between a patriarcal system and men as a whole) were a bigger part of the mainstream. My intuitive response on learning the exact opposite was that if others held similar perceptions that it would make conversations that could have been productive turn into negative experiences.

  62. #62 Zuska
    June 5, 2009

    My perception, until this thread, had been that the radical voices (i.e. those who see no difference between a patriarcal system and men as a whole) were a bigger part of the mainstream. My intuitive response on learning the exact opposite was that if others held similar perceptions that it would make conversations that could have been productive turn into negative experiences.

    Might I suggest that you had that perception because the backlash against feminism works very, very hard to create that perception in peoples’ minds? Why does Rush Limbaugh work so hard to make feminazi a popular term? So that we can all be scared of the hairy-legged man-hating castrating feminist bitches. And that way we don’t really have to listen to anything they are actually saying, much less think about it.

    You could have been having many, many, many productive conversations and experiences if (1) you had been more open to do so in the past and (2) there wasn’t so much shit floating around in the culture encouraging you to simultaneously hate, fear, mock, and scorn feminists and distorting all they say and do.

  63. #63 PhilB
    June 5, 2009

    Might I suggest that you had that perception because the backlash against feminism works very, very hard to create that perception in peoples’ minds? Why does Rush Limbaugh work so hard to make feminazi a popular term? So that we can all be scared of the hairy-legged man-hating castrating feminist bitches. And that way we don’t really have to listen to anything they are actually saying, much less think about it.

    I very much agree with you, but I’d argue that it’s a contributing factor. If we use the Civil Rights movement as an example, yes there was a backlash of people claiming that black men would rape white women and assult their families. On the other hand there were elements like Malcolm X who were advocating violence. MLK was very much afraid that Malcolm was doing blacks a disservice with his message.

    Everyone has baggage that can prevent productive conversations, if not couples counseling would die a quick death. There have definitely been points in the past where I haven’t been as open as I could have been. I can admit that. But, it’s true for everyone not just men or women.

  64. #64 Zuska
    June 9, 2009

    Mm, I think that’s not such a good example. Have you ever actually read anything Malcolm X wrote or listened to anything he said? Or do you just have this impression that he was this scary radical white-folk-hatin’ element that even MLK Jr didn’t like so he must be bad?

    But beyond that, here’s something for you to ponder: as a woman, I am well aware that there are many men who rape and batter women, including women they know and are intimately involved with. I know that there are many men who look down on women, speak ill of them, call them by vile names, say the most horrible kinds of things about women as a group, disparage women, malign, demean, and dismiss women, belittle or deny the accomplishments of women. There are men who make porn films in which women are degraded and defiled purely for the pleasure and amusement of men. All of this goes on daily – and yet many, if not most, if not nearly all, women, including and especially feminist women, are willing to engage men in ongoing debate in how to make this world a better and more equitable and just place.

    If we can put up with all the shit thrown at us on a daily basis that comes in an unceasing stream from a source that is unremittingly male, without ascribing a shit-stream as an inherent feature of all men’s nature and thus writing off engagement with them completely – why, then, is it so hard for men to see past the disturbing words of a few angry women and engage with feminists calling for equity and social justice?

    “Oh, I would have been all about that call for a better world, but an angry woman made me feel bad, so I just couldn’t think about it.” Seriously? That’s the privilege talking, dude. Women don’t have a choice about ignoring what the men are saying and doing, but men can sure as hell decide to ignore what women – especially feminist women – say and do, especially when paying attention means upsetting the comfy cozy privileged life.

    Believe me, I understand. The same thing applies to me when I look at the areas of privilege in my own life – my heterosexuality, my whiteness, having been raised Christian, and, as an adult, the class privilege that a life in science moved me into.

  65. #65 SKM
    June 9, 2009

    Believe me, I understand. The same thing applies to me when I look at the areas of privilege in my own life – my heterosexuality, my whiteness, having been raised Christian, and, as an adult, the class privilege that a life in science moved me into.–Zuska

    This entire comment is really well-put. Please, dear readers, read the comment again, and then once more, especially if you have the urge to post a comment explaining away Zuska’s points.

  66. #66 PhilB
    June 9, 2009

    If I may make one defense of my example. That (“scary radical white-folk-hatin'”) would not be my specific impression, but that my impression is partly based on Malcolm’s contemporary criticism of the “Farce on Washington” in ’63 and MLK Jr’s own mixed feelings about the man inclucing specific criticisms about Malcom’s methods (including urging blacks to “prepare to engage in violence”) for approaching the “race problem”.

    Outside of that, because your comment is well done, I’ll just say thank you. This has been thought provoking and fun.

  67. #67 femprof
    June 12, 2009

    Coming late to this but I could not help but wonder how many men here are writing comments without having done the reading vs how many women here. I think that men on average feel more entitled to share their opinion even if it is not informed. Reminds me of all those students who join in an in-class discussion without having done the homework or who make irrelevant comments in seminars with no real understanding of the topic in question. Guess what? Most of those, at least in my experience, have been men…

  68. #68 Arthur
    July 17, 2009

    We know that male attributes have a much wider variance than female attributes. There are many more men at the highest level of IQ, ability for spatial perception, aggression, competitiveness, ability to concieve of and create complex systems, desire to take risk, desire for high achievement, desire to dominante others and the environment etc., there are also more men at the bottom, BUT those who rule come from the high end not the low end. All of these impulses are biologically based even if they may be increased by social conditioning. Would women lock themselves in a room for a month and compose the “Messiah”, or spend a tortured night on the beach discovering what we call Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle or sail into the dangerous and unknown Atlantic Ocean to discover a new world, or venture to the moon ,so on and so on?????

    Of course not, Mother Nature wouldn’t stand for it for obvious reason(survival of the species).

    Brain research over the last 30 years has begun to show how the male and female brain differ and why men have always played the role of creator and destroyer.

    Although deep down in our genes men create the material culture to make themselves more desirerable to women, i.e., men compete, women choose.

  69. #69 jc
    July 17, 2009

    @68
    another dude who thinks marking up a thread with piss is an intellectual contribution.

  70. #70 Arthur
    July 18, 2009

    something every women should read:

    http://denisdutton.com/baumeister.htm

  71. #71 Peggy
    July 18, 2009

    Would women [...] venture to the moon …

    There have bee a number of women who had the desire to be astronauts but were explicitly excluded by NASA. The same has been true in many other fields that were considered the domain of men, like music, like science: women with the talent and desire to achieve were either told they could not participate or their achievements were never acknowledged.

    Handel likely wouldn’t have written Messiah either if he wasn’t a professional composer. He didn’t compose merely because the muse took him – he was paid, and it was his job. That doesn’t take away from his enormous talent, but we’ll never know whether there were others of his genius who had neither the free time nor means to spend their time composing.

    And the same is true for women in science. Women with an aptitude and interest in science have been actively discouraged from pursuing those interests, and were explicitly excluded from scientific societies and networking with their potential peers. Your example scientist- Heisenberg – wasn’t a lone genius. He had close working (and I believe personal) relationships with other physicists, and so had the opportunity to work out his ideas through discussions with them. Do you think he would have made his discoveries if he had been able to find an academic appointment, but instead was told to stay home and take care of his wife and children?

    There are vanishingly few “geniuses” who have made great achievements without financial, professional and personal support. Women have historically been excluded from such support – and to some extent that still going on today. The generalizations you made are meaningless in the absence of a level playing field.

  72. #72 Arthur
    July 18, 2009

    there is no level playing field in that the number of men vs women at the highest level of IQ etc is exponentially higher. Twice as many men as women with IQ 120 or greater, 70 times as many with IQ 170 or greater. Add 10 times the testosterone and you see there is no level playing field but you will have to blame Mother Nature. So maybe once in a 1000 years there might be a women with the intellect of the higest achieveing men. But don’t bet on it.

  73. #73 Zuska
    July 18, 2009

    Arthur is full of crap. Don’t take his troll bait.

  74. #74 Arthur
    July 18, 2009
  75. #75 Zuska
    July 19, 2009

    Shorter Charles Murray: blah blah blah white menz are so uber cool, wimminz and colored folks are dumb blah blah blah and I haz statistics! so there!

    That dude has been debunked so many times it isn’t even worth the electrons it would take to go over why his work is so full of crap.

  76. #76 Arthur
    July 19, 2009

    Biology is Destiny after all the rants

    http://www.popecenter.org/commentaries/article.html?id=2135

  77. #77 Arthur
    July 19, 2009

    i’ll leave you with this short thought, you can continue to knock your heads against the wall of biological reality

    http://alfin2100.blogspot.com/2008/12/wyou can continue to bathy-do-males-have-superior-spatial.html

  78. #79 Luna_the_cat
    July 20, 2009

    Don’t worry, I think we can all tell that Arthur is trolling desperately.

  79. #80 Peggy
    July 20, 2009

    Ah, I shouldn’t have wasted all those electrons replying. Sorry about feeding the troll.

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