Sunday 31 March 2002

Sisterhood

In Woman’s Inhumanity to Woman, pioneer feminist Phyllis Chesler documents “the usually underhanded and often devastating ways that women attack each other.” Salon reviewer Laura Miller summarizes Chesler’s findings:

Groups of women tend to espouse an “illusion of equality” (and uniformity) in which variations from the norm are seen as dangerous betrayals. “Any expression of anger or the introduction of a tabooed subject may result in the group’s scapegoating of one or two of its members,” she observes. Because one of the biggest taboos is against any overt display of female aggression, these attacks are invariably covert, indirect and maddeningly unexplained—which makes them especially devastating. “Most women have a repertoire of techniques with which to weaken, disorient, humiliate or banish other female group members,” Chesler writes.

Margaret Talbot’s recent New York Times article, Girls Just Want to Be Mean, explains in intricate detail how this repertoire of techniques is learned and honed in middle-school. Girls are just as aggressive, the research shows, though in different ways:

They were not as likely to engage in physical fights, for example, but their superior social intelligence enabled them to wage complicated battles with other girls aimed at damaging relationships or reputations—leaving nasty messages by cellphone or spreading scurrilous rumors by e-mail, making friends with one girl as revenge against another, gossiping about someone just loudly enough to be overheard. Turning the notion of women’s greater empathy on its head, Bjorkqvist focused on the destructive uses to which such emotional attunement could be put. ‘’Girls can better understand how other girls feel,’’ as he puts it, ‘’so they know better how to harm them.’’

After years of listening to interminable rhetoric about how “women enlightened by feminism would live and work together in perfect, nonhierarchical, mutually supportive solidarity,” it’s a relief to have one’s empirical observations borne out by research. Women have warm, intimate, supportive friendships. Women compete ruthlessly and undermine each other. Welcome to the real world.

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Comments

Jonathon, thanks for posting this link and discussion and your observations. I've seen exactly the same thing, but when I was younger I was so brainwashed that I couldn't accept it. I was taught that men were terrible and women were saints. There's still almost no support for a discussion of this subject. But if you think about it, if you gave one group moral superiority over another and forced the other to stay silent, that's got to lead to an abusive situation, as it has. That's one of the reasons I was so glad to see a piece written by a feminist that said that women do bash men, sometimes even physically, and that men are entitled to equal protection. I called that feminism with philosophy. Much of what passes for feminism is just a power grab.

Posted by dave winer on 31 March 2002 (Comment Permalink)

The softening of male genitalia in American culture began in the sixties and has gone unabatted. Can you imgaine how many would flee the US if a draft was called up these days in comparison with the anti-war sixties? All of this goes hand in hand with moral relatvisim. leftist terrorism, and weak, mitigated, measured French-type responses to volient aggression. In America we give our boys barbies in the rest of the world they give them weapons training.
After 6 months of the 'war on terror' we are negotiating moraility by rewarding and appeasing terrorism by arabs against Israel. Talk about balls. The average Israelite has more courage than the US trained soldier. They live close to arab neighborhoods. Israelis have held the line for some 30 years since the Munich olympics. We have for hardly 6 months. I regret that Bush and his doctrine might have really been a turning point for humanity and civilization but we seem to be degenerating back into intellectualized approval of human slaughter ala 1930s.
Is war good, course not, is war necessary, sometimes. is restraint an option, only if your sucicidal.
The best quote I ever heard about modern leftism aka terrorism was by Golda Meir "Terrorism will stop when the arabs love thier children more than they hate us."
I think the moral of this story is nationalism isn't such a bad thing after all. By providing a national identity for various types of peoples in common geography (the continental US). The 60s introduced the 'salad bowl' immasculated male and the 90s taught us the 'melting pot' was the apex of the US republic.
Happy Bloody Easter!
PS talk about a 'cycle of violence' history repeating the subjugation and annihilaition fo the most ancient, persecuted, hated religious minorty in the world. During this holiday I would like to say I am standing up and being counted in support for Jews and Israel from their arab murderers.

Posted by Michael Glazer on 31 March 2002 (Comment Permalink)

Well. A thoughtful post, Jonathon, and not such thoughtful responses in the comments. "Much of what passes for feminism is just a power grab." Yes, if you consider that women were fairly powerless in the first place. Forty years later, how many female members of Congress are there? We ain't there yet. But we are getting there. When people can seriously throw Condi Rice's name into the Vice-Presidential ring, when Elizabeth Dole is being considered a serious candidate for PRESIDENT, we are making progress. The fact that the "sisterhood" of women doesn't exist neither surprises nor impresses me, but like Jonathon I applaud women finally having the courage to point this out to the world at large. And yes, there is female abuse of spouses, but it is so small a piece of the overall spousal abuse problem that yes, it is overlooked. Mea culpa. Happy? Michael, I don't know which America you're living in, but it's not related to mine. One of the articles I read (Christian Science Monitor, I believe) about our soldiers in Afghanistan related a fascinating statistic: After every battle, there is always a percentage of combat fatigue (shell-shock). After the recent battle, there were almost no soldiers who reported problems sleeping, nightmares, the usual symptoms of combat fatigue. The Army psychiatrist interviewed attributed this to the sense of purpose the soldiers feel--the rightness of their cause. No moral equivocators there.
If war broke out, and the draft was imposed--which would happen ONLY in the event of a catastrophic destruction of our current armed forces--I think you'd be very surprised at the results of America's youth. But the Army doesn't want a draft. Why put unwilling draftees in combat when you already have an entire (trained) volunteer Army?
However, if you're that concerned about the softening of the American penis, you can find the nearest recruiting station in every phone book. Look in the blue pages, under government offices. Federal.
Best of luck to you.

Posted by Meryl Yourish on 31 March 2002 (Comment Permalink)

Hi Meryl I have dual citizenship and I am both a military reservist in Israel and America. Me and my family sacrifice a lot for others to live free.
Sheel shock, nightmares, army psychatrists etc.. relate exactly to my point. Thank you for pointing out and proving my thoughts.

Posted by Michael Glazer on 31 March 2002 (Comment Permalink)

Thanks Meryl for the perfect demo. I wonder after reading your response what I wrote that you disagree with. BTW, my state has two female senators. Not much has changed though, they are bought and paid for like all the others.

Posted by dave winer on 31 March 2002 (Comment Permalink)

I think there is a common misconception that feminism (i.e. as I define feminism, which is equality of men and women) implies sisterhood implies solidarity. In actuality, sisterhood, as we see with "brotherhood", is more myth than reality. Women are no different from men in that we can be petty, angry, sly, and vicious. And, as with men, we can be brave, funny, kind, and loving.
However, since women have only recently been allowed on the fields of battle, our tongues have been our swords, and our wits our shields. And we've refined both to devestating precision, as you note in your earlier posting about Shonagon and Murasaki.

Posted by Burningbird on 31 March 2002 (Comment Permalink)

The 60's feminists weren't just for women's power, but also had a wider political agenda. The more radical people were pushed aside, while the more mainstream people performed the power grab. Not that there's anything inherently wrong with a female power grab. Why should only men be allowed to be powerful? Why should power be dominated by whites?
I think feminists recognize that there are some feminists who are into the power grab (republicrat women), and "real feminists" who are about the radical destruction of all power. They're more like anarchists.
There's all this talk about "women are just like men", but they're not. They're biologically different. They have fewer liberties and rights, and are screwed over economically. Their social role is more restrictive. They suffer more violent crime and physical abuse.
This is not to discount the validity of experiences to the contrary. Men are abused by women, daily, but they're only around 10% of the victims. Men are shut out of some industries, but so are women, and they're shut out of the lucrative ones (like construction work), while they're allowed into ones that pay less. Both men and women do evil shit, but men who do evil shit are less likely to be called "bitches", and less likely to suffer for it.
Also, the moral judgments about the american male population aren't rendered only by women. They're also made by other men, because men make nearly all of the up the intellectual class. And, they're certainly published by men, who own most of the media in the world. So, Dave Winer's bad feelings aren't due just to power grabbing women, but also power grabbing men.
Maybe those men feel guilty about it, and decided to take out their angst on Winer.
All these men bitching about feminists need to grow some balls.
One last thing - it's good to see that Michael Glazer isn't letting his Jewish heritage get in the way of advocating for Fascism.

Posted by john kawakami on 31 March 2002 (Comment Permalink)

Actually I'm Christian, Episcopalian that is. But I do take your identifying me as Jewsih as a compliment, thank you and may god have mercy on you.

Posted by Michael Glazer on 31 March 2002 (Comment Permalink)

"All these men bitching about feminists need to grow some balls." Wow breath-taking male-bashing from a man.
Thanks for the demo.

Posted by dave winer on 1 April 2002 (Comment Permalink)

Yes, and we also have a breathtaking example of anti-Semitism. Hold the Jews up to the highest of standards, because after all, they whine about having been oppressed for thousands of years, so they have to be perfect themselves and never, ever be less moral and just than God Himself. Except going by last name isn't always the smartest of notions, as shown. So Michael isn't a Jew. But I am. Nice one, John.
The radical feminists were pushed aside in the sixties? Where? The radical left in the U.S. completely overtook the feminist movement in the U.S. So much so that most women today refuse to even _call_ themselves feminists anymore, for fear of being linked with the "man-hating, bra-burning" radical feminists. For the record: I am a feminist. Not a radical left feminist, just a woman who believes in fiscal and political equality. I don't believe that men and women can ever be exactly the same, and only a few nutcases extend that theory.
Michael, shell-shock and trauma are a fact of battle, and to ignore them is to irrevocably harm your troops. It has nothing to do with the "feminization" of men, and everything to do with recognizing--and fixing--problems.
I still think you're dead wrong about the character of the average American. Look at the police and firemen and EMT workers who rushed into the WTC after the planes hit them--they had a job to do, they knew it was a risk, they went anyway--and many died. And civilians stayed and helped others get out alive. There were many stories of courage and heroism that day. If Americans seem soft, it's because any people seems soft that is not challenged. It's the softness of peace. That doesn't mean we're not ready to defend ourselves.
Dave, it's the fact that you constantly harp on how women aren't saints, and don't have the moral superiority that they claim to have. Uh--we never claimed it. You put it on us. Your take on feminism seems to be that it's a bunch of women sitting around bashing men and trying to gain power just to gain power, or that women are trying to insist they're no different from men. You take the wildest extremes and put them on all women. That's what I take issue with the most.

Posted by Meryl Yourish on 1 April 2002 (Comment Permalink)

'The softening of male genitalia in American culture', so to speak, is an old saw that gets paraded out everytime some segment of the country gets concerned about their own particular cultural fetishes going out of fashion. Read Anthony Rotundo's book 'American Manhood' for a history of all the times macho politicians from Teddy Roosevelt to Ronald Reagan have bemoaned the diminishing American masculinity, and all the different ways they defined it along the way. It's troubling that we so quickly assume a gain for women necessitates a loss for men. One of the positive changes brought about by decades of feminist visibility is the option for both men AND women to be able to present themselves in ways they're most comfortable. We don't need to all act like June Cleaver and Mike Tyson in order to be taken seriously - there can be as much variation within men and women as there is between them. There are problems with institutionalized feminism, true, especially when there is no room left for case by case decisions and 'solutions' come from a universally applicable feminist brush. Just as there is a problem anytime a universalist approach is sought to individual questions.
Men aren't saints. Women aren't saints either. Margaret Thatcher was as cruel and inhuman as Ronald Reagan, but not because she was a woman. The only significance to her being a woman was that she was the first to reach her position. What she did in that office reflects on her as an individual, and doesn't mean that all women in office will be cruel any more than Bill Clinton being a hypersexual slime means that every other man in office is one too.

Posted by steve on 1 April 2002 (Comment Permalink)

While I blinked at Steve's _hypersexual slime_, I appreciate his focus back on the topic. To say that _feminism_ implies some form of sisterhood and that all women will join hands and become one happy family is to deny our individuality. There are women I like and admire and there are women I can't stand, and the fact that they are women has nothing to do with it -- it's what the people say and do that I focus on, not their sex. Same goes for men.
Personally, I admire an extremely well-crafted verbal cut, whether delivered by a man or a woman. And I find that I prefer this over the other ways of solving problems such as use of fists, guns, and tanks.
I'm not sure where the current Israeli/Palestinian conflict enters into this conversation, outside of the fact that it is on most of our minds -- deservedly so. Regardless, I noticed that there were men in this comment thread that were, to be blunt, bashing each other. Not necessarily with style or finesse, but definitely with passion.
From this, I guess one could say that "Boys just want to be mean".
(I should start up my weblog and write these things in it -- but this dropping opinions in posting comments, it's quite fun.)

Posted by Burningbird on 1 April 2002 (Comment Permalink)

Shelley, don't get me wrong: I voted for the 'hypersexual slime', and I liked a lot of his politics, but that doesn't mean I'd invite him over for dinner with my wife or daughter (if I had a wife and daughter). He may have enacted some strong support for gender and sexual equality, but that doesn't mean he embodied it. But that's a conversation for another day.

Posted by steve on 1 April 2002 (Comment Permalink)

Hi Shelley Here's the connection for the newbies.
The sad fact about Israel's frontier problems are the immoral reaction of the intellectual, leftists of America, Western Europe and the Arab world's approval is a clear correspondence to the leftist moral relativists that sprang from the like-minded thinking of the leftism from the 60s divisness.
White flight wasn't a fantasy it was a reaction to a reality not an ideal.
If a civilized 'intellectual' leftist from a civilized free country can't condem terrorism against Israelites how do we expect those in tyrannical arab countries to do the same.
That is the point. 60s Idealists (whom deny reality) spawned (literally (raised (ala marin county))) the moral relativists view of murder and basically legitimized and positivly approved murder. Remember now murder is a bad thing a very old-fashioned bad thing here in the West at least (reasons for social contract foundations of civilizations etc..).
If you can't make the obvious historical connection to the present day arab blood lust and western leftist approval of said slaughter, I would suggest you enter my daughters 4th grade public classroom for a lesson.

Posted by Michael Glazer on 1 April 2002 (Comment Permalink)

Meryl: "Your take on feminism seems to be that it's a bunch of women sitting around bashing men and trying to gain power just to gain power, or that women are trying to insist they're no different from men. You take the wildest extremes.." Cute technique. Put words in my mouth and disagree with them.
I've written a lot about this, no need do guess what I "seem" to say, but if you want clarification just ask -- no need to guess.

Posted by dave winer on 1 April 2002 (Comment Permalink)

Meryl above indulges in her usual 'blame everyone else but don't ever look at me' games, and I must admit I'm sick of it. Michael Glazier's supposed 'facts' are best dismissed as a bad joke... Some blunt _real_ facts about domestic violence: female _physical_ assault on males is far from rare. Given that that class of assault is usually systematically shut out from studies, it's sometimes difficult to get hard stats. However, as far as we can tell from hospital stats here in Australia and in the US (details available if required), the female:male ratio for physical injury in domestic violence is definitely not more than about 3:1, and is most probably somewhere between 1.5:1 and 1:1, though there are some indications that the ratio is less than parity (i.e. that _more_ males are injured than females). There is no doubt whatsoever that the more serious the injury, the more likely the victim is to be male.
When it comes to non-physical assault, there is equally no doubt whatsoever that females are the most violent and, especially, abusive sex: the regular US National Family Violence Survey, for example, has shown that consistently for at least the last thirty years. So it's a bit unfortunate that the gender-politics of those last thirty years have concentrated on _increasing_ women's weaponry... which is what I suspect Meryl thinks of as 'power'.
Think again. The physics definition of power is "the ability to do work". By the time we get into the human domain, we need to expand that definition a fair bit: in my own work I define power as "the ability to work/play/learn/relate, as an expression of personal choice, personal responsibility and personal purpose" (and shared purpose too). _Anything else that calls itself 'power' is likely to be violence, abuse or both_.
So try using that definition as a diagnostic. It becomes horribly clear that Meryl's and Michael Glazier's comments alike confuse and conflate power with violence and abuse; it's equally clear that BB's and Dave Winer's comments don't - though they're the ones that get attacked.
Men are violent; women are violent. Women are abusive; men are abusive. And the moment we pretend otherwise, we're actually _increasing_ that abuse and violence. Although there _are_ some clear gender-preferences in the forms used, the extent of and reliance on abuse and violence is not gendered at all. It all arises from the same human mistake: the desire to 'export' or offload feelings of powerlessness onto others, going round and round in circles in a pathetic game of 'pass the parcel'.
Surely there must be some way in which we can all collectively grow up, and move beyond the present 'paediarchy' - "rule by, for and on behalf of the childish"? Because if we don't, we ain't got much time left...

Posted by Tom Graves on 3 April 2002 (Comment Permalink)

Thanks to Karl Martino for pointing
to this thread from his blog this morning, although I'm mystified at his statement that it's been hijacked. I think this has been one of the most illuminating threads I've seen in a comment section in a long time. To Tom, there is a way we can all "collectively grow up," by treating all adults as human beings regardless of their bodies, give them the chance to be responsible for their own feelings, and don't take the bait when someone acts invasively, starts speaking on your behalf, starts making you responsible for statistics or your ancestors, both of which we have no control over and therefore no responsibility for.
Let's look for people we can work with, life is too short to worry about fixing all the problems.

Posted by dave winer on 6 April 2002 (Comment Permalink)

This discussion is now closed. My thanks to everyone who contributed.

© Copyright 2007 Jonathon Delacour