YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

October 7, 2015

The Patriarchal Family: what could possibly go wrong?

patriarchal-familiesFirst read this account of patriarchy as contrasted with feminism: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patriarchy.

The call for the strong father-led family did not originate with Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s call for the [patriarchal] family: Jindal’s antidote to the Roseburg, Oregon massacre. Like other conservatives, he blames social decadence on moral laxity, accelerated by abortion rights, bad mothers, and video games. “Garbage in, garbage out,” he proclaimed. (https://www.bobbyjindal.com/jindal-we-fill-our-culture-with-garbage/)

This battle cry did not originate with social conservatives like Jindal, but with such mavericks  as D. H. Lawrence, Gregory Bateson and Henry A. Murray, all of whom worried that relationships in the modern family were gravely flawed, as I showed in these blogs: https://clarespark.com/2011/03/27/progressive-mind-managers-ca-1941-42/ (especially the material in bold face type on Gregory Bateson, objecting to mother-son bonding), this collage taken from various 20th century masculinists, including Henry A. Murray warning about the feminization of American culture, Picasso, and another writer for Survey Graphic: https://yankeedoodlesoc.files.wordpress.com/2010/02/image-861.jpg, and https://clarespark.com/2009/11/16/panic-attacks-and-separation-anxiety/.  Double binds inherent in social democracies (the unstated conflict between Truth and Order) were blamed on feminization, particularly the rise of the moral mother as husbands left home for offices and factories: https://clarespark.com/2009/10/24/murdered-by-the-mob-moral-mothers-and-symbolist-poets-2/

Here are some of the other complications that can emerge with the stern, disciplinary father who compensates for the too-attaching, seductive mother:

Corporal punishment. It was not long ago that whips, belts, and other paraphernalia were wielded by the male. “Wait until your father gets home!” warned the unconditionally loving mother. But even if father eschews beatings, there is much evidence that parental quarreling in front of the children is also traumatic. At every stage in development, we search for safety and family division can be terrifying.

What might be the consequences of spanking and whipping? Over-identification with “authority” at the least. Any form of social protest will be viewed as illegitimate and dangerous to the adult veteran of harsh childhood discipline. Adult sexuality is likely to be sadomasochistic in practice.

Catting around for him, but not for her. I need not belabor the double standard.

Divorce. No-fault divorces, easy to get, may result in the high rate of failed marriages and traumatized children. Romantic love may fade as pre-marital idealizations are shattered by the boredom of everyday life, despite television commercials to the contrary. Community property states are deterrents, so pre-nuptial agreements are demanded before assuming the risk of dividing property half and half. [Update: some readers took this to mean that I am against all divorces, but recent research suggests that single mothers are not to blame for delinquent children; that it depends on the skills of the single parent whether or not children are raised without trauma (look up Rebecca Ryan’s research at Georgetown U.)]

Need I go on? The irony is that authoritarian families (located in either Left, Right, or middle) engender revolt in the children, especially after puberty as the peer group more and more takes over in the inculcation of “values.” Conservatives do what they can to ignore this platitude, but no study in child development will deny its validity. (For a related blog, see https://clarespark.com/2014/08/14/understanding-obamas-ongoing-appeal/.)

thrash

 

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June 15, 2015

Hillary Clinton and second wave feminism: Looking Backwards

Suffragettes, NYT, 1921

Suffragettes, NYT, 1921

Mrs. Clinton’s most recent rollout relied on two elements of sentimentality*: the log cabin rags-to-riches theme made famous by the Jacksonians, and the tribute to her mother and grandmother in the closing moments of her speech, thus linking her to the white-garbed, very pure tail end of first wave feminists who struggled for Votes for Women.

This is what the second wave of feminism hath wrought: a woman riding on the coattails of a former president, and a woman demanding to be the first person of her gender to hold the highest office of the land.

Forget her silence about trade deals and foreign policy, even though, were she elected, she would be commander-in-chief of the military, whose connection to foreign relations needs no mention here.. Because any famous woman will do, especially if she mouths aging communist platitudes such as income inequality. After all, the second wave feminists came out of the antiwar movement that has never lost its glamour for Hollywood producers and writers—just look at the highly touted series Aquarius, alleging darkly that unspeakable atrocities were visited on the peasants of Viet Nam, and developing the theme that Charlie Manson was in league with murderous, crypto-gay, impure Republicans.

“Rags to Riches” late 19th C.

The Clinton speech took its own swipe at (reactionary) Republicans as the enemies of the Progress that she associates with “the workers” who are now magically absorbed into the “middle class” that she so aggressively defends, as if we remained mired in the Middle Ages when small producers were the objects of elite defenders of the status quo.

It is the role of ideology to create consensus, but at what price?

* Sentiment reformism bases its appeal on a purified, transformed heart, evading the appeal to a change of mind, by contrast, rational appeals based on increased understanding of policy. Sentimental reformism is hence irrational.

Movie poster, 1941

Movie poster, 1941

September 12, 2014

Ray Rice and domestic abuse of women

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 6:11 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Misogyny-Dog-ILL-SHOW-YOU-CHILD-SUPThe news has been dominated this week by conflicting opinions on NFL star Ray Rice’s knockout punch to his then fiancée Janay Palmer. This blog is about the shallow coverage of a widespread and subtle problem: the generalized abuse of women, married or single. [For a related illustrated blog see https://clarespark.com/2009/10/25/the-ultimate-s-m-humiliation/.%5D

On Fox News Channel, only Dagen McDowell has appropriately addressed the issue of why abused women don’t leave their marriages or violent lovers. Look for the financial considerations, she cried, almost in an unplanned and exasperated outburst on Hannity. There is more to this story than even the Fox Business personality imagined.

Before I launch into the blog, let me clarify my own position: I take the battle of the sexes for granted. Generally, men are stronger than women, and their much vaunted “protection” is offered only as long as the “girls” don’t cross the line into some version of egalitarianism grounded in rationalism. That line is constantly moving (especially with the revitalization of one version of feminism (see https://clarespark.com/2012/11/15/female-genitals-as-red-flag/), but some features of misogyny and sexism remain invisible to mass media, which generally cater to men (in sports coverage), but must pull in women viewers as well.

Take the terror of aging for one example. We stigmatize pedophiles, while promoting the beauty ideal in  very young girls (or boys!), with perfect skin and little body fat, for breasts and bellies remind men of their mothers, from whom separation has never been achieved, or is at best, ambivalent. The mother-son dyad is probably the key to misogyny and few will talk about “attachment theory” for John Bowlby and his followers in psychiatry don’t sit well with feminists on the lam from the boredom of early child-rearing (see https://clarespark.com/2009/11/16/panic-attacks-and-separation-anxiety/).

Take the mandatory wearing of high heels for another. The Foxy ladies on Fox News Channel are not only heavily made up and “lookers” but invariably wear high heels, which orthopedists agree lead to ankle, feet, knee and back problems later in life. But what does the young hip woman care? She is competing with other women for the favors of powerful men with jobs and/or prospects, and will humiliate her body to cater to male fetishism that finds high heels sexy, signifying the inability to run away from [male] predators. And yet many Western women look down on Chinese foot binding from another era as hopelessly stupid and retrograde. Nothing so undesirable as the little old ladies from Pasadena wearing white sneakers.

When I first came to Los Angeles in 1959, I discovered that the wives of my husband’s local friends were able to talk ONLY about children, nursery schools, home decor, and vacations. I am not exaggerating. Those subjects encompassed their worlds, and the fact that I joined the men in discussing public affairs was awesome, but also a big freaky (did I even know what I was talking about? No, but I had a strong mother).

Has feminism changed all that? Do conservative advocates for two parent households emphasize the need for educated, outspoken, book-reading wives, or are they silent on matters of enormous import? (A reminder here that religion has long been the province of females in the home, as Ann Douglas complained long ago in The Feminization of American Culture. She was contradicted by “domestic feminists” who claimed that the rise of the “moral mother” since industrialism removed the paterfamilias from the home, thus empowered women to make the whole world home-like, i.e. to support the welfare state.) No one in academe will argue against the claim that paternal authority has been weakened over the last few centuries. Perhaps conservative initiatives to reinstate the two parent family aims to correct this imbalance. But will pater help with the labor of housekeeping, cooking, and child-rearing? Not so fast: the vagueness of this call to papa-led families is silent on this crucial subject.

misogyny2jpg

Finally, many couples make a trade-off: men will meekly acquiesce to many female demands in the home, but she had better not depart from stereotyped female roles, including the supplying of sex on demand.

Is it any wonder that most women, even those in the Western world, are obsessed with plastic surgery, hair, make-up, and the exact amount of muscle “toning” to please the ever-dominant male? The silence on this subject of female powerlessness is deafening. (See https://clarespark.com/2013/03/27/power-in-gay-andor-heterosexual-attachments/.)

celebs_with_plastic_surgery_640_28

December 13, 2013

Culture wars, religion, and the (neurotic?) historian

modernity1One reason for the endurance of the American experiment is cultural and religious pluralism as guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. And yet, every year about this time, renewed angst and outrage is expressed that “secular progressives” are out to remove the Christ from Christmas. I have written endless blogs on the culture wars; see https://clarespark.com/2013/01/02/index-to-blogs-on-culture-wars/.

But I have not always spelled out in plain language how a historian differs from an organic conservative or a leftist whose ideology is a substitute for religion. [Note: this blog is not intended as an attack on either religion or leftism as such. It is about the tools in the historian’s tool box, and what may not be used in our analyses. I admit that the writing of history is an enlightenment science.]

First, a historian may choose to write a history of a religion or of religious conflict. But if that writer is making judgments within a particular religion, and defending that religion against competitors, that person is not a historian, but a special pleader or advocate. Such a one is Bill O’Reilly, one of the most popular and prolific of the would-be “moderates” and healers, but whose world view is possibly tempered  by Rerum Novarum (see the encyclical by Pope Leo XIII, 1891), by his desire to maintain his audience ratings, and the protection of his own considerable wealth. It is no accident that O’Reilly becomes especially heated when “atheists” attack Christmas.  Or, for another example, see my essay on “cultural historian” Nicholas Boyle: https://clarespark.com/2009/07/04/unfinished-revolutions-and-contested-notions-of-identity/.

Second, a religious framework may implicitly deny human agency and institutional structures, relying instead on “Providence,” “God’s plan,” or any other superhuman force (e.g. “dialectical materialism” or any other telos) that determines the destinies of humans and planets. There are some deep ecologists who view “Nature” within a religious framework, hence tend to be allergic to facts that contradict their often apocalyptic predictions.

Third, as in the case of Goethe scholar Nicholas Boyle, such an organic conservative in historian’s clothing may refuse to mark turning points in world history: historians call this marking of “change over time”  “periodization.” Current organicist/mystical examples are nostalgic for the Middle Ages, when troublesome challenges to authority are believed to have been alleviated by the Good King or “the King’s touch.” See https://clarespark.com/2013/05/30/nostalgia-for-the-middle-ages/.

Another feature of the Middle Ages was the absence of feminism, for birth control in its modern forms was unknown at that time, and women were lucky to live beyond child-bearing age. Television pundits or even fictional characters in the media may view themselves as good Kings, uniting warring factions/taming the wild man within, as Good Kings were imagined to do. For instance, the episode of Blue Bloods broadcast December 13, 2013, served the multicultural agenda by showing sympathy for a disaffected Muslim, who had already bombed his local mosque and was determined to bomb thousands of fellow Muslims in a big parade. Why? Losing his job as a computer technician had alienated the terrorist from God and Allah’s plan for his life. But the good King, in the guise of a NYC Catholic policeman, returned him to peace and tolerance by showing him his daughter, a symbol for all the other innocent children who would be harmed were the Muslim not to divulge where he had planted the fatal bomb. Order and inter-religious comity was restored to interchangeable persons of “faith.” (For a related blog emphasizing the power of “family” rhetoric, with the family/tribe headed by the charismatic leader see https://clarespark.com/2012/09/07/charisma-and-symbolic-politics/.)

Modernity is a distinct period in world history, and remains hotly contested. Why? Because technology has wrested control from the old elites, who are now routinely criticized by dissenters.  Historians are, or should be, professional dissenters. It is our role to unearth materials that change our view of past and present.  We do not throw up road blocks to such adventures into the unknown, nor do we claim that earthly knowledge is inevitably distorted and unreliable, nor do we fail to identify terrorists as a sop to the levelers of multiculturalism. That does not mean that it is child’s play to assign causes and effects, or that there is no ambiguity in separating human agency (free will) from structural imperative. Indeed, Herman Melville wrote a classic book about just that subject: see https://clarespark.com/2013/01/08/is-ahab-ahab-the-free-will-debate/ That is why (necessarily secular) historians are troublemakers, and must face public and often professional obloquy, for many powerfully placed historians are protecting their jobs, and, sad to say, the early work that got them tenure. It is they who usually control academic publication. And many a ‘modern’ artist resents the “mechanization” they see everywhere. For that reason, I call them primitivists. (See https://clarespark.com/2013/04/16/blogs-on-anarchismpunkprimitivism/.) modernlife Reconfiguring the past is not yet classified as a personality disorder, but it is a source of very objective anxiety. And such kaleidoscopic new looks may have nothing to say about “progress.”

June 2, 2013

Hair and Make-up: Megyn Kelly smackdown

bettygrable2

[Update 10-26-16:last night, MK demanded that Trump “take responsibility” for his insults in an interview with Mike Pence, then took on Newt Gingrich who failed to back down in their dispute over media bias.]

[Update, 10-1-16: Megyn Kelly continues to present herself as a feminist, while seemingly regressing to an “aw shucks” parody of femininity and defending (obesity) in the name of outraged womanhood.]

Megyn Kelly, often considered the brainiest of Fox News Channel anchors, does not overtly define herself as a feminist, but she sure sounded like one in her spirited and feisty interviews with Lou Dobbs (Fox News Channel commentator) and Erick Erickson (editor of Redstate.com), May 31, 2013. So much so that liberal blogs have been gleefully covering her encounter with the two conservative males.

(See the smackdown here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hN_EP3zcUXs )

Before I go on to the time wasted by women in decking themselves out as dolls and harem girls (Betty Grable, illustrated: the number  one pinup girl in WW2), I must make this point about the internal contradiction of some “Christian” thought: Much of what Dobbs and Erickson presented as incontrovertible truth relies upon some brand of sociobiology: men were, they insisted, biologically determined to be protectors of the weaker females, especially during the vulnerable period of pregnancy and child-rearing. Working women who defied these God- and Nature-given sex roles are obviously responsible for social decadence and worse. (The same would go for ‘unnatural’ gay marriages where the usual division of labor between father and mother would not prevail.)

On the other hand, many social conservatives often believe that our species is not in Nature, but stands above it: nothing so irritating as a Spinoza follower, who often drops into pantheism.  (See Leon Wieseltier’s commencement speech quoted here: https://clarespark.com/2013/05/30/nostalgia-for-the-middle-ages/. Wieseltier draws a sharp line between Man and Nature and laments the period when the two were conflated. )

I would have preferred that Megyn Kelly, herself an experienced lawyer, point out this contradiction, but she chose to stand up for working women and for married gay parents, suggesting that research had shown that their children were not harmed by the lack of a traditional father and mother.

Nothwithstanding her smackdown of Dobbs and Erickson, Kelly is a babe, whatever she says about herself;  I felt some cognitive dissonance watching her stand up to the two conservatives, for she is a beautiful, expertly-coiffed, heavily made-up blonde. After seeing the encounter yesterday, I thought I should say something about “hair and makeup”, those two time-consuming, nature-defying imperatives for women out in the world or waiting at home for the male breadwinner to return to his castle.

Antiquity-dreams...Deviant Art

Antiquity-dreams…Deviant Art

In the nineteenth century, during the first wave of feminism, the female pioneers whose tireless efforts and dedication gave women the consideration and political power they wield today, were not babes. They were usually religious Protestants, were plainly dressed, and certainly did not waste hours and hours on coloring their hair or applying make-up to enhance their lips, cheeks, and eyes, let alone painting their fingernails and toenails or lusting after high heeled shoes by Christian Louboutin. Rather, such decorations were generally confined to actresses and fancy women.  There were not enough hours in the day for self-education (19th century women did not attend male colleges or have their own–with a few exceptions– and were denied entrance to the professions, though their [maternal]nursing skills were highly valued); these heroic early feminists were traveling to remote parts of America to further feminist  causes (including abolition, temperance, votes for women, cleaning up corrupt city governments, and rescuing prostitutes from a life of disease, degradation and early death). Some of them were unmarried, while others had large families: household help was cheaper and husbands pitched in. In regarding their intertwined efforts at elevating our country, historian David Pivar has described their cause as a “purity crusade.”

Generally considered to be killjoys determined to pry into the affairs of men, these women have been caricatured by other male opponents.  As a rising class, as progressive women “who want to make the whole world home-like”, they are blamed for “the nanny state” and for “the fetishism of facts.” Their masculinist opponents “want a girl, just like the girl that married dear old Dad.” Lots of luck, guys. (For more blogs on the various stages of feminism, see https://clarespark.com/2012/09/04/links-to-blogs-on-feminism/, or its twin https://clarespark.com/2012/03/19/links-to-feminist-blogs/.)

The photographer of the Deviant Art image is John Lynn of SNTP, and is on Facebook, as is Raven Winter, stylist and model.

its time to wear the pants

September 4, 2012

Links to some blogs on feminism

Crone with fruit

https://clarespark.com/2016/06/09/sex-and-aggression-in-hillarys-following-in-either-gender/

https://clarespark.com/2016/05/06/the-womens-vote/

https://clarespark.com/2016/04/29/the-woman-card/

https://clarespark.com/2016/04/01/70s-feminism-and-its-bizarre-legacy/

https://clarespark.com/2015/07/26/masters-of-sex-second-wave-feminism-and-the-ratings-game/

https://clarespark.com/2015/03/21/great-goddess-feminism-the-phyllis-chesler-model/

https://clarespark.com/2015/01/10/the-case-for-feminism/

https://clarespark.com/2014/12/18/rape-culture/

https://clarespark.com/2014/06/14/is-the-us-feminized-a-fathers-day-blog/

https://clarespark.com/2014/01/23/androgyny/

https://clarespark.com/2013/10/22/masters-of-sex-and-70s-feminism/

https://clarespark.com/2013/05/02/teen-age-sex/

https://clarespark.com/2013/09/15/authenticity-and-the-bottled-up/

https://clarespark.com/2013/06/14/father-dear-father-come-home-with-me-now/ (includes material on gender roles)

https://clarespark.com/2013/06/02/hair-and-make-up-megyn-kelly-smackdown/

https://clarespark.com/2012/10/03/the-sexual-revolution-2/

https://clarespark.com/2012/12/26/martha-gellhorn-blogs/

https://clarespark.com/2012/05/10/androgyny-with-an-aside-on-edna-ferber/

https://clarespark.com/2012/03/03/sluts-and-pigs/ (retitled Limbaugh v. Fluke)

https://clarespark.com/2012/09/01/sex-sex-and-less-sex/

https://clarespark.com/2012/07/29/girls-or-the-new-lost-generation/

https://clarespark.com/2012/11/15/female-genitals-as-red-flag/

https://clarespark.com/2012/09/08/what-is-a-materialist/

https://clarespark.com/2012/01/07/feminism-and-its-publicists/

https://clarespark.com/2011/11/12/the-woman-question-in-saul-bellows-herzog/

https://clarespark.com/2011/04/27/james-m-cains-gorgon-gals-2/ (retitled Film noir decoded)

https://clarespark.com/2009/12/23/she-who-gets-slapped-the-magic-of-middle-aged-boomerdom/

https://clarespark.com/2009/10/20/news-from-the-social-justice-front/

https://clarespark.com/2009/10/23/murdered-by-the-mob-moral-mothers-and-symbolist-poets/

https://clarespark.com/2009/10/24/murdered-by-the-mob-moral-mothers-and-symbolist-poets-2/

Hecate Crone

March 19, 2012

Links to feminist blogs

Bocklin’s Medusa

https://clarespark.com/2009/07/13/eros-and-the-middle-manager-s-m-with-implications-for-multiculturalism/.

https://clarespark.com/2009/10/23/murdered-by-the-mob-moral-mothers-and-symbolist-poets/

https://clarespark.com/2009/12/13/klara-hitlers-son-and-jewish-blood/.

https://clarespark.com/2009/12/23/she-who-gets-slapped-the-magic-of-middle-aged-boomerdom/

Feminist in love series (collages): https://clarespark.com/2011/01/06/feminist-in-love-1/,

https://clarespark.com/2011/01/06/feminist-in-love-2/,

https://clarespark.com/2011/01/06/feminist-in-love-3/.

https://clarespark.com/2011/11/12/the-woman-question-in-saul-bellows-herzog/

https://clarespark.com/2012/01/07/feminism-and-its-publicists/.

https://clarespark.com/2012/02/13/feminism-on-the-docket-2/.

https://clarespark.com/2012/03/18/history-as-trauma-2-rosebud-version/.

https://clarespark.com/2012/09/01/sex-sex-and-less-sex/ (On Shulamith Firestone and second wave feminism)

https://clarespark.com/2012/11/15/female-genitals-as-red-flag/

https://clarespark.com/2012/03/31/nell-painters-history-of-white-people/.

https://clarespark.com/2012/03/22/3760/ (on the Great Dumbing Down)

https://clarespark.com/2013/06/02/hair-and-make-up-megyn-kelly-smackdown/

February 13, 2012

Feminism on the docket (2)

Gorgon, recent rendering

During a long thread on my Facebook page that started by my remark that I found it incomprehensible how feminists could simultaneously fight the Catholic Church on matters having to do with reproductive rights, and also to stick with the Democratic Party position on illegal Latino immigration that, if perpetuated, would drastically enhance the voting power of the Catholic Church, an institution that entwines sexuality with procreation, preaches abstinence until marriage, and forbids abortion, contraception, and abortifacients. As the thread lengthened, it evolved into a debate over the respective policies of Democrats and Republicans, with feminism firmly attached to the Democratic Party. I then promised a blog on how it was that I call myself a feminist.

First, consider the world in which I grew up. When the famed David Riesman wrote to a prominent teacher of American literature, Richard Chase, the mutual loyalty to traditional sex roles was apparent. (This excerpt is from my Hunting Captain Ahab: Psychological Warfare and the Melville Revival.) I was sixteen years old, and still in high school. Had I read this private letter then, I would not have noticed that “the artist” was a male, nor would I have suspected that young women at Smith College were aggressively contesting Riesman’s segregating “bluestocking” “girl(s)” to weekday “blue-jeans informality.”

[University of Chicago Committee on Human Development sociologist David Riesman to Chase, 15 Apr. 1953:] What remarkable observations are contained in your letter of April 1! I wish you could write something about these experiences you have had with students. Your point that art is “insincere” seems to me a correct interpretation. The artist is not “being himself” so that the standard question “who does he think he is” is particularly applicable.  I spoke recently at Smith College and got into a lengthy discussion in which I was defending the non-coeducational colleges. The students attacked me very, very fiercely on the ground that segregation is insincere and artificial and they would not listen to the possible advantages when, for instance, I suggested that it was pleasant to vary one’s pace, to live in an exciting intellectual and blue stocking culture five days a week and a boy-girl culture on the week-ends. They felt it was just this dichotomy which was insincere. They were in search of a blue-jeans informality seven days a week. [End, Riesman letter to Chase, first published in my book. Chase died under mysterious circumstances, a possible suicide, at the pinnacle of his career.]

Although I was an outstanding student at Forest Hills High School at the time, it never occurred to me that I should develop myself in any direction that conflicted with marriage and a family. I was, in short, the very type of woman to whom Betty Friedan was writing in The Feminine Mystique. Nor did I find friends or role models at Cornell University who deviated from the type.

[A brief digression, though I don’t like to talk about my family: My mother didn’t like housework or cooking, and was absent from the home much of the time, either doing social work (investigating welfare recipients in Harlem or writing gossipy pieces for the local press in Queens, New York). I felt obliged to take her place, probably to curry favor with my father the doctor, whom I worshipped. Yet this same male hero warned me not to allow boys and romance to derail from my future as either a great artist or a great scientist of some kind. “Men are all fickle,” he warned, binding me to him ever closely, while my mother warned me that men preferred women as “cows” and who listened to them intently. When he left my mother at my age 19, I was literally hysterical with grief, and used my fellowship at Harvard to find a father-substitute, i.e., a husband. Those were great hunting grounds for a girl who could cook. And I was a good listener.]

As I have related here before (https://clarespark.com/2012/01/07/feminism-and-its-publicists/), I was appalled by the second wave of feminism. I was still married and had yet to antagonize my husband by following his suggestion that I follow up an invitation to produce and write radio documentaries on the art world for the local Pacifica radio station. I mention this, because he probably wanted both a traditional wife and my development as a creative person (I had been painting and practicing the piano assiduously during the marriage), little dreaming that public activity would turn my head and render me less submissive to his authority.

During that period (1969-71), I supposed that indeed, I could “have it all” as such feminists as Betty Friedan were claiming. She was mistaken. I was not of that generation of women whose husbands shared in child care and housework and who delighted in the extra-family accomplishments of their wives. Very few such men existed, and if they were so enlightened, were already “taken.”

My husband declared, three years into my life as a radio producer and personality, that he was leaving me for another woman. Thus, this man, a Harvard Law School graduate and good liberal, emancipated me for a second time. And yet, to this day, I would have sacrificed my life in the wide, wide world, for my children (ages 10, 8, and 3 in 1971), had such a gesture saved their lives from the indelible trauma of a broken family.

So, I have great sympathy for those “traditional” women who are suspicious of “secular” feminists, and who put their children’s welfare above their own “fulfillment” as professionals or artists. I also understand those working class women who must work outside the home to support their children or to supplement the family income. I also sympathize with “conservative” women who are alarmed by the hyper-sexualization of popular culture, and the general dumbing down, acting out, and licentiousness that afflicts our period.

I am not sympathetic to those women who, in a stunning but predictable role-reversal, use the feminist revolution to dominate and guilt-trip their mates, using the generally subordinate position of women (still!) as if their significant others had single-handedly opposed the Enlightenment and those revolutions and advances in medicine that suddenly or incrementally adjusted the status and aspirations of women. The Battle of the Sexes rages on, and I feel empathy for both sides in a struggle that will probably never end, for the genders are put together differently.

Feminism is about female solidarity, equality of opportunity and real choices for young persons of both genders. The women artists and designers whose careers I had helped promote on the radio in the 1970s have allied themselves, with few exceptions, to the “anti-imperialist” Left from which they had originally emanated. Talented as they are and were, as cultural relativists they betray all the social revolutions that endowed them with public voices.

Medusa, A. Bocklin

January 6, 2011

Feminist in Love (2)

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Collage by Clare Spark, early 1990s

May 8, 2010

The Free Will-Determinism Debate

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exhibition announcement, Cal State Dominguez Hills

My fight with a Reagan Republican Catholic who hates housework and feminism. 

Two days ago, a Facebook friend who describes herself as a Reagan conservative and as a Catholic, posted on her FB page a protest against housework, which she HATED (she did use caps).  I responded, unwarily, that “after the revolution, men would clean a new dirty house every day.” I was thinking of the day workers (often illegals) whose life did in fact consist of such dreary and repetitive tasks, not pacing their work as a stay-at-home middle-class housewife might (with the potential cooperation of a considerate family), but faced with the accumulation of many days of scum, grease, and other forms of dirt, and dependent on the savvy of the employer with respect to toxic chemicals and allergens. What followed next was a stressful interaction, for this person was in a rage against me, and my supposed cohort, 60s feminists such as Gloria Steinem, who were melded in her mind as disgruntled man-haters. If I had had any painful experiences, I had it coming to me.  Women in general had no grievances: she loved men, period. There was no way to pacify her, but it did give me an insight into how those second-wave feminists might be regarded by a conservative woman age 41. This happened the day of the stock market plunge, and to calm myself I wrote the recent blog on social cohesion and adjustment.

 Some personal history.   Oddly enough, during the late 1960s when I heard the first rumblings of the new feminism, I thought that these must be unnatural women who had abandoned their maternal responsibilities. (I was not that different from the conservative woman who freaked out on May 6.)  Not long afterwards, I began my radio programs on the art world and how artists were faring in powerful arts institutions. That activity took me away from the nest into a wider world of political and social controversy, and the spell of traditional marriage was broken and my political education finally began in fits and starts, but I remained relatively naïve, compared to what I might have been had I been raised in a feminist household. Meanwhile, I had used my Pacifica radio program to publicize the growing movement of feminist art and design, and collected slides of sex and violence in the images of women artists and photographers while I was teaching part-time at Calarts. At some point, during this period of personal transition, I must have read Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex (a book that was not only pro-woman, but anti-imperialist), for I used passages from that book to illustrate the slide show I presented during the 1970s at numerous public venues. After I had returned to graduate school, I saw that the 60s women’s movement had elevated some feminists to prestigious positions in the postmodern academy where they confined themselves to women’s issues, and with a few exceptions, did not embed the situation of women in a larger social context. And most disturbingly, some of the women I had assisted had bonded either with the Left (even when those Left factions were supporting Third World countries that were barbaric with respect to gender relations) or had gone entirely mystical.

 Am I socially irresponsible?   To return to the subject at hand: my Facebook adversary had resorted to “free will” as her explanation for my failed marriage. It later occurred to me that she, like many other religious conservatives, had rejected any kind of historical, materialist, and structural explanation for the condition of women, including her own: She was a good woman, had chosen a good man (who did the floors for her), and I was very bad and irresponsible, deserving my fate.  Oddly, she, the out-of-control happy/unhappy housewife, was in a fury, while I remained relatively placid (though inwardly churning) as I attempted to explain myself, finally ending the FB friendship as it was clear that our differences were too deep to negotiate.  

Return of the unrepressed.    As prior blogs here should have made clear, it is difficult, if not impossible, to reconstruct a personal history that cleanly separates structure from agency, or as Herman Melville constantly reminds us in his stories, to separate “fixed-fate” from “free will.” We are left with uncertainty and ambiguity–a no-no to classicizing politicos of either Left or Right who prefer clean boundaries to messy conjectures and possible contradictions. And here, perhaps, we come to the double-binds I have been relating on this website.

    The law holds us personally responsible for all infractions, and yet many of the television crime shows depend on “profiles” of the criminal to track him or her down. These profiles commonly relate parenting deficits and other family catastrophes that shaped , indeed sculpted the future murderer or rapist. In Richard Wright’s Native Son, Bigger Thomas’s lawyer, a Jew named Max, unsuccessfully uses Bigger’s childhood and adolescence of racial oppression and trauma to argue for Bigger’s acquittal in several murders, one accidental, the other deliberate. Nor could any other type of insanity defense been effective, for the McNaughton Rule (still holding in half the states of the U.S.?) states that the test for insanity is to be incapable of distinguishing right from wrong. And long before that, Adam and Eve were expelled from Paradise for eating of the Apple of the Tree of Knowledge—the knowledge of good and evil that elevated them, hubristically, to equality with God. And Eve, distant mother of Pierrot and Lulu,  is the femme fatale in the story. (I am inviting my lawyer friends to explain to me how there is no double bind as described above.)

    Cherchez la femme as they say, but don’t look for me.  I’m still in hiding. And Happy Mother’s Day.

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