What is it about this culture of fear in our society? What Prof. Barry Glassner explored so well in The Culture of Fear: Why Americans are Afraid of the Wrong Things has another dimension that he refuses to admit: that there is indeed a patricarchy that oppresses and marginalizes women. (To be fair, he seems to have a rather level-headed view of individual issues, like rape, but views much feminist talk as fear-mongering talk: "...feminist spokeswomen have mongered fears about sinister breeds of men who exist in nowhere near the high numbers they allege." He scoffs at "proof of the ravages of patriarchy and the need for fundamental social reform." [p. xxvii, paperback edition] And this is from the introduction, setting the tone for this whole book!
To be sure, everyone can get carried away. But what is it about men that makes them so g.d. blind to the privileges they enjoy over women? Glassner, for example, seems to believe that indictment of the patriarchal culture requires firm evidence of high percentages of men of evil and malicious nature, and seems entirely blind to the fact that it does not take a majority to oppress and abuse women, and it does not take evil and malice to behave in ways that degrade, devalue, and, yes, oppress women.
What makes men so blind to things like not taking women seriously, or valuing women by physical attractiveness, or how men like to place themselves in the role of arbiter of what is right and wrong? (They will listen to women, and pat themselves on the back for doing so, but will never question their assumption of the role of judge as to whether the woman's perspective has merit, let alone whether it should be applied to action.)
I suggest that there is something to fear about the patriarchy. There are a lot of things to fear. For women, the reasons are legion. (Read D.A. Clarke's poem, privilege, for a most-eloquent list.)
But what about our society as a whole -- the whole world, for that matter? Are there not aspects of the patriarchy that have potentially dire consequences for the future of our civilization?
Let's look at war, and how so much of it is wrapped up in macho posturing and grossly violent attempts to get the other guy to back down. The Clauswitzian notion that war is politics continued by other means is limited in that it fails to recognize how much of war is a matter of men acting on feelings of insecurity -- feelings caused in part by the actions of other men, but arising largely out of their own unrequited desires for security through total control and needs to be the most manly man among men.
Look at our culture, and how so many men today consider compromise as failure, and see men who do not operate by aggressiveness and attempts at domination as "girlie men." Look at how they consider "girlie men" to be inferior by merit of being like women, like girls.
Let's look at the religious right, a culture built up and around a view of the world with a man as Creator. Look at the culture where men are the arbiters of the Creator's intentions. Look at a patriarchy within the patriarchy where maleness creates all life, nurtures all life, defines all life, and judges all life. Look at the church building, the male womb with its gothic pubic decoration, its gilted vulva (doors), its long vaginal canal that leads to the cerivcal altar, where the insemination by the Creator's word, performed by a man, takes place for all, often echoed with a physical insemination of the body of the Son into the receiving egg of the parishoner, so that he (and she, too, in limited ways) can go forth to inseminate others with the male seed of the church.
Let's look at how this religion emerged from cultures with both matriarchal and patriarchal traditions and was coopted by the patriarchal (and pagan) Roman Empire into a misogynistic dynasty that made women into property to be owned and controlled. Let's look at how Islam offers a divergent view, where several men are arbiters of the Creator's word, and how women are still made into property to be owned and controlled.
Let's look at our modern nation, which rejected a Constitutional Amendment that simply codified what seemed so obvious: that women are equal to men under the law. Look at how the patriarchal religions led the greater patriarchy in a charge to prevent the the ERA from passing. Look at how the slave states were the ones resisting the ERA.
Let's look at how the patriarchy that claims to be so suspicious of government (for it violates their own authority) refuses to even see the same issue when it comes to governmental authority over a woman's body. Look at how the patriarchy villifies single women who are mothers, condemning them for having their babies, and condemning the rest for not having babies.
Let's listen to how the leaders of the patriarchy speak of how other cultures do not respect women, and let's look at these same leaders refuse to provide foreign aid unless these other cultures enact policies and laws that disempower women and take away women's control over their own bodies. Look at how teen pregnancy has become a moral issue rather than a health policy issue.
Let's listen to these spokesmen of the patriarchy rant and rave about how our culture, in this season of giving and charity, is failing not by too much crass commercialism but rather by not embracing enough the Son. Let's listen to the patriarchal leaders call women who reject their authority "feminazis" and "witches." Look at them rail against Madonna for making money on their lust, and then again with renewed vigor when she dares embrace the Kaballah. Look at them rail against Martha Stewart for daring to do what they do, and criticize her for not being a nice (billionaire) woman. Look at them spit and sputter over Hilary for ... well, being smart and being a woman and not playing the role of vacuous first lady. Look at how they did the same with Teresa.
Let's look at the supposed defenders of women's rights and how they dismiss feminist concerns about violence against women in our own country. Look at how they, too, love to strike the manly pose. Look at how they bow to the manlier men and strive to play their game so they, too, can be manlier.
Let's look at how women can play the babe and create money-making deals for the men in Hollywood, but female directors are mistrusted and marginalized. Let's look at the groping reputation of Hollywood's Republican Governator.
Let's look at how the woman who claims sexual assault is put on trial because she dares accuse the sports star who happens to be the darling of the liberal establishment. Let's look at how only one woman's name comes up in any discussion of the next generation of network news anchors. Let's look at how Janet Jackson's breast is more of an obscenity than the killing done on the same day.
Let's look at all these things, and so many more, and consider: Is it blindness or misogyny that produces these things?
Fear-mongering happens a lot. But sometimes there really are scary things, and when it comes to issues like these, it seems that men, even well-intentioned men, are deaf, dumb and blind to them. Individually, men can be quite wonderful. But our culture does need some fixing.
Of course, men will have to weigh these words and pass judgment. Who am I but some uppity bitch?
p.s. - I know this could have been more cheerful, given the season. But there's always egg nog, bourbon and chocolate.