Patriarchal Women IV: A Manifesto

Patriarchy is of course held together by a number of ideological state apparatuses. Churches and schools are obvious examples. My observations suggest to me that the following, “softer” instututions, even though apparently “feminist” or modifiable to feminist ends, often function as running dogs of patriarchy:

1. Academic departments of Women’s Studies: they are called this, but in many cases they are really the Ladies’ Auxiliary. I do not think these programs are revolutionary any longer. In some cases they are barely reformist. They say they are undertaking analysis and critique, but much of what they actually undertake is justification.

2. Women’s magazines: where shopping is “empowering,” and Huxley’s soma is marketed. O Brave New World.

3. Psychotherapy: where insecurity is “health” and systematic weakening is undertaken to achieve it.

4. 12 step groups: where we learn to remain in dangerous and unhealthy situations, because all problems can be resolved by a change in our own attitude. Societal change is not necessary, and you need not leave the discomfort of your home. This is a perfect recipe for women’s oppression.

I would also suggest that these institutions tend to create new “soft” agents for the patriarchy, more effective than any priest.


8 thoughts on “Patriarchal Women IV: A Manifesto

  1. Number one pushes transgender inclusion, something I have a major problem with. Because with this inclusion comes acceptance and blind faith in patriarchal medicine and the erasure of a female born female experiences. I am reading more and more cases where a MTF is taking over female spaces, telling females how they should be females, etc. In other words, more men telling women what to do and how, just now the men are disguised as women.

    Shopping is NOT empowering. It is stressful. It takes money. It takes cognitive dissonance to have stuff knowing that stuff contributed to oppressing people and scorching the earth. Having stuff takes space. Having stuff causes worries that someone else will take that stuff away from you. Shopping adds to communities falling apart. Keeping up with the Joneses have never been confused with keeping up with the Jones’ morality, good character, or sense of right or wrong, it has been about obtaining the material goods the Joneses have obtained, thus causing other people in the world to be oppressed and of course scorching the earth by raping the earth of resources, more recourses than necessary to live, more resources than necessary to have a little fun diversion in one’s life. Materialism is destroying the earth.

    I cannot even wrap my mind around number three. I expect therapy to empower me, by revealing my weaknesses, my blind faults, rebuilding my lack of motivation. If therapy is not empowering it is a waste of my time.

    I scoff at 12 steps.

  2. I hate to say it, but I’m afraid I may be with you on women’s studies score. After too many close observations of the way women’s studies colleagues have approached personnel issues at the institutions where I’ve worked, I really can’t say much for the application of progressive feminist politics that issue out of these groups.

  3. I am confused as to how psychotherapy would ever be considered a “feminist” institution. I, of course, was not around during the big boom of persons such as C. Rogers. I have seen video taped sessions that seemed more like a Catholic confession. Have things changed since then? Can’t get my brain around this…

  4. So now I know about C. Rogers – very interesting – – !

    Catholic confession, yes – to bring you into the fold, get your mind onto the straight and narrow, etc., this is why I call it + 12 steps “reeducation.” And I think both are devastatingly antifeminist and anti-woman.

    The idea that women are defective is key to both, and to the misogyny of our culture. However: more women go to therapy … it is sold and marketed in women’s magazines … Freud’s big contribution, flawed as it was, was to actually listen to what women said … and the therapy that I went to and have been railing about in here specifically sold itself as “feminist,” “woman-centered,” and so on.

    I really don’t know. When I was a child there were all of these adults involved in encounter groups, primal scream therapy (yes!), reevaluation counseling, etc., and it was supposed to be to rescue them from the neuroses inculcated by The Culture – so it was subversive / countercultural. But it was the feminist consciousness raising groups who actually talked about women and women’s issues, and strengthened women.

    I am slightly gullible – would have said therapy was about freedom and clarity, not self-blame, social control, and the pursuit of “happiness” – until I tried it!!! I have come to the conclusion that it is decidedly antifeminist and so I wish I’d had the clarity to be “confused as to how psychotherapy would ever be considered a ‘feminist’ institution.”

    In therapy and in 12 step groups I forced my brain around a lot of convoluted stuff I really ought not to have tried to “get [it] around.”


  5. Interesting list.

    1. WS departments are–surprise, surprise–more about power than “empowerment,” just like any other part of an academic institution. The tricky part is that the power moves are disguised under the cloak of “sisterhood” or other laudable aims.
    2. Women’s magazines are what they are: a product to sell unnecessary junk. If “empowerment” is the message that’ll sell, that’s the one they’ll use. I think they do a lot of harm, but the ones that really do harm are the ones aimed at teenage girls.
    3 & 4. Don’t know much about these and don’t usually see them as defined by and for women, though that’s not to say they aren’t.

  6. Undine – you’re wiser and/or quicker on the uptake than I am, or so it seems to me.

    On 1 and 2 – I seem to have low tolerance for manipulation and duplicity, and I am vulnerable to guilt trips. This is why I hate Women’s Studies more than I hate other power-mad departments. I suppose I have noticed that kind of duplicity in Chicano/Latino Studies and Asian American Studies as well, when there are people with a lot of class privilege, or who have been honorary whites for a long time, and now use the Program to manipulate other Persons of Color with less class privilege. But I have not observed it to the degree as I have in Women’s Studies – perhaps because I am a Woman and not a Minority, I do not know. But I feel like those African-American and other Black persons who say they would rather deal with the Klan than with a faux progressive. And in my experience white, middle to upper middle class women are far more invested in the System than any POC’s. Teenage girl magazines, good point.

    On 3 and 4 – Al-Anon and Alateen were invented for wives and children of alcoholics (who were men). They are supposed to learn there how they contributed to creating the situation, and how they can lead happy lives without leaving the situation, even if the situation itself does not change. In the therapeutic spinoffs, you learn you are permanently damaged if you have an alcoholic parent – even if that was 20 years ago and you have not dealt with any alcoholics since.

    I think this all dovetails perfectly with the patriarchal / misogynistic definition of women as defective. If you do not say you are defective you are “in denial.”

  7. Oh good, another rebel! 🙂 Honestly … I didn’t realize how much these last two institutions had eroded me until I started actively trying to reclaim the quality of life I had had Before. I have been discouraged the last couple of days – and found that what helped was to say explicitly, look, you do not have an Al-Anon sponsor or a therapist to report to. You do not have to find fault with yourself like that. You can go about your life without worrying about things – you can be grown up! AARGH. The way of thinking I learned is hard to shake off, and was scary to learn … but was scariest just to be in.

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