Troubling quotations from “To wonder women”
Letter to the Editor | Friday, February 2, 2018
Recently, after writing my viewpoint article “Pro-life and pro-woman…?” our campus has become captivated by the idea of coexistence between pro-woman and pro-life positions. In the flurry of intellectual rhetoric that has ensued, I read a viewpoint written by a brilliant friend of mine. Regardless of what follows in this article, I want this friend to know that I respect her deeply as a human being, intellectual and millennial activist.
However, as I read her open letter “To wonder women”, I couldn’t help but recognize her article as one riddled by a subconscious perpetuation of contemporary sexism. The following are the four ideas expressed in the article that most troubled me. Please note that in an attempt to avoid both accusations of and the manifestation of mansplaining, I have asked the editors of The Observer to exclude my viewpoint from publication in the case of a woman submitting a response following the same vein of this article. It is beyond a safe bet to assume that a woman would more aptly elaborate on the following objections. At any rate, the following four quotes from “To wonder women,” in my mind, show the thought process not of a feminist, but rather of a cog in the patriarchal machine.
- “To my left, my smiling partner carries, ‘This p—- grabs back.’ And I would hesitate. What kind of woman is this march celebrating?”
In this statement, the author of “To wonder women” is imagining a scenario in which she is part of the Women’s March. While the passage’s eloquence is undeniable, there is a much more sinister assumption found in the literary crypts: that revolutionary rhetoric is socially unacceptable of a woman. This quotation, in and of itself, signals to readers that not only is it unacceptable for women to challenge norms, but that to do so somehow is a measure of “what kind of woman” they are. The author (implicitly, I believe) has chosen to confirm the sexist myth of the “unbecoming” woman who challenges authority.
- “‘Rise up, Man!’ Rise up, and acknowledge the incredible gift that is a woman.”
For this quote, perhaps I’m a bit over-reactive. Perhaps my viewing lens of sociology and American history has made me a bit oversensitive in regard to viewing human beings as “gifts.” This statement implies that a woman’s worth is found not in her humanness but rather in her woman-ness. It allows for the idea of ‘woman’ to include exclusive and stringent criteria. It allows for gendered stereotypes. It allows for dangerous rhetoric and action toward transgendered women. Yes, women are incredible and strong and intelligent and worthy and insert adjective here — I agree. But, they are these things not due to their woman-ness but rather due to their humanness.
- “Indeed, racism and profanity do not make America great. Still, is calling men bigots our best example of love trumping hate? If women had been in power for far too long, and a man made these statements against the matriarchy, I’d think he was in danger of becoming the very tyranny his marginalized gender opposed.”
This statement reveals a common misconception found in the belief that fighting the patriarchy is in fact fighting men. By standing up to the patriarchy in the manner that contemporary feminist movements do is not at all fighting men. It is fighting the system. Taking down the patriarchy does not mean enslaving men. To believe contemporary feminism is in opposition to men is equivalent to believing that the LGBTQ community is opposed to the non-LGBTQ community. It is equivalent to believing that Black Lives Matter is anti-police and anti-white. It is equivalent to believing that prison-reform is anti-law. It is equivalent to believing that to be pro-Palestinian means murdering all Israelis. Social movements, specifically in the contemporary United States, have never been about bringing down the oppressive but rather uplifting the oppressed. Contemporary feminism is not about bringing down men but rather uplifting women of all creed, sex, color and sexual orientation.
- Does profanity command respect?
Hell yes it does. To respond to profanity from a woman’s mouth in disgust is textbook sexism. End of story. Profanities are some of the most powerful words in a protester’s lexicon. To rob women protesters of the power of profanity is chauvinistic especially given the fact that profanity has, in the past, been used to bring countless women down.
Just as profanities are powerful, language generally is important. The myth of “words doing no harm” is entirely false. Words inspire movements. Words create hate. Words create discrimination. I am sure that my, as I said before, brilliant friend didn’t mean for her article to be riddled with so much sexism. But, that’s part of the problem. Recognition is the first step toward improvement. If we, as human beings, rely too much upon our social and cultural predispositions we suffer the risk of unknowingly perpetuating the most dangerous ideologies from our world’s marred past. We can do much better.
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.