Thursday, July 10, 2008

I'll be post-feminist in a post-patriarchy, part 2

I was reading Broadsheet this morning, Salon's women's issues blog and came upon this gem of an editorial called Gender stereotypes hurt men too. I am pondering whether to send it to my husband or not. DH ("dear husband" for those not familiar with the term) is a wonderful mix of contradictions as far as women are concerned.

DH is a Chief in the Navy--that's a high ranking enlisted person, but not an officer--and when he went through the induction, he had to choose a sponsor. He chose his woman supervisor. He admires her terribly. For her part, she is both girly and a very, very tough, no nonsense Chief who is the Navy's literal #1 at what she does. His closest cronies are other women chiefs. His wife (me) is one of those tough, competent women, too. It's like magnetism, he's both drawn to and repelled by strong women in ways that neither he nor I understand.

Yet right now, he is waiting for his mentor to retire and he chafes under her running of the department. He describes it as being "under her thumb" and the expression on his face when he says that is of a little boy whose mother has told him not to do something he wants to do. He's a very stubborn man, but it irks me that he reacts so instinctively as if the woman in character is the mother/bitch. He's be chafing if he was in the same situation with a male leader, but the psychologial dynamic is really, REALLY different as I have observed in the past.

This is just one example of this kind of unconscious bias I find in my own, admittedly, quite evolved husband. There are others examples as well, some of them closer to home. It irks me. It's kind of like prefacing anti-semetic remarks with, "I have Jewish friends..."

The recent primary season has really affected me. I've seen the way Hillary was treated and I don't like it. A lot of the grassroots nastiness would not have happened to a man, even a man that is hated as much as some people hate Hillary. There were people who hated George W Bush that much in the last election and you didn't see nutcrackers in the airport. No one has asked Obama to pick some cotton--that would be offensive and racist. But it's okay to talk about Hillary as a ball-buster, an all too powerful image of the woman in charge, or to imply that she ought to be home ironing and housekeeping--that's humor.

Somewhere along the line, I realized that we are NOT living in a post-patriarchy like I thought we were. As many opportunities as women have now, we are living in a society where sexism is knitted into the fabric, and it's A-OK with a whole lot of the people! And I am just not A-OK with that. It jabs me on a very fundamental level. I am not sure that as a society, we have moved as far past sex as we have past race--and we haven't moved very damned far past race! It's hard to hope with Obama when you're watching even the main stream media grind Hillary for having--gasp--boobs and showing them under a relatively conservative neckline. And so, much as it chafes, and much as I can't figure out where I belong, I find that I have become a feminist.

I'm hoping, someday, my husband becomes one, too.


Skye said...

Good post. I also have a somewhat pre-feminist husband. His values are in the right place, but some of his attitudes need to catch up.

I would caution you, though, about using the "no one's been that racist to Obama" card, because yes, people have. In fact, the Clinton campaign has. Just like the Obama campaign has used some pretty sexist language about Clinton.

It's ok to say "the sexism that Hillary has experienced is wrong" without ranking it against a black man's experience. It's also more respectful than saying essentially "This is bad, and look, white women have it worse than black men!"

And let's not even talk about Michelle Obama being labeled a "baby mama" by Fox News. She gets the racism *and* sexism, what fun!

Carolyn Erickson said...

No matter who you are, if you run for President you're going to be criticised for something. (George Bush was. Clinton was. etc. etc.)

I think the fact that we have a black person and a woman running for our highest political office - and both having VERY GOOD chances of winning - says a lot about us as citizens.

And there's the other thing to think about - the difference between the hype you hear and what the majority of people in this country think. Your DH may bristle under a woman's authority, but it sounds like he's the kind of guy who would vigourously defend her right to that position. And you say yourself that he would feel the same way if his boss was a man.

So, if his boss *was* male, he wouldn't say (or think) anything sexist, but he would find something. Right? I mean, right? Don't we do that when we're frustrated by someone? An intellectual might call someone a hick redneck and the hick might call him a stuffed shirt (or something far more colorful). In fact, Larry the Cable Guy is so funny because he plays to the prejudice so many people have toward folks who don't have a Harvard ejjamacation.

And as someone who has friends who are rednecks, I'm thinking of starting a sensitivity training program to be marketed to universities and homeowners' associations.

(I'm kidding, but trying to make a point. Have I made any sense?)

Carolyn Erickson said...

... And I blame my mixed up spellings on my Canadian friends rather than lack of education. ;O)

Dejah said...

Please note that I didn't say "no one's been that racist to Obama." I said that asking Obama to pick some cotton would be as racist as saying, "Iron my shirt" to Hillary. At that point which I wrote this post, no one had come close to saying anything as insulting as "iron my shirt." I think we'd both agree that "baby Mama" crack qualifies, but to my recollection, it came after.

And the problem with my husband was that he didn't really identify the **authority** as the problem. He identified her being a woman as the problem. That's sexism and it's an ugly thing to find in one's husband.

Serenity Now! said...

I knew my hubby was sexist when I married him... I just choose to ignore it most of the time. Normally it's just an opinion ... it's not like it stops me from going out and being successful! :0)

Skye said...

Dejah, thanks for the clarification. I think I didn't word my statement very well, since I think I meant about the same thing when I typed "no one's been that racist to Obama" - I meant "no one has been as racist to Obama as people have been to Hillary."

What do you think of this one: