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« OSU's Jennifer Lewis On Gender Balance, Submission & Women's Power | Main | With Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann & Evangelicals, America Loses Its Mind »
Saturday
Oct292011

America's Feminists Are Misquoted & Discredited By Our Daughters

Taryn Andreatta in ‘The Offering’

Taryn Andreatta On Artistic Nudity, the Female Body, Feminism & Divinity AOC Sensual Rebel (formerly Anne’s Sensually Yours)

Taryn Andreatta Interview

In posting Taryn’s interview and editorial a couple weeks ago, I wrote of feeling ambivalence about the answers in her interview. Several threads of thought upset me intensely.

1) The first was what I believe is her very narrow definition of feminism, a vision of me — as I explained to her — that not only doesn’t fit me at all but was never the subject of any of the consciousness-raising sessions that I attended.

It is true that in those sessions, we discussed the implications for our own hearts, minds and livelihoods of being almost always the object and rarely the subject. Unlike Taryn, we rejected the idea that women really hold all the power; we just don’t know how to use it.

Without being dismissive in any way of Taryn’s pov, reality is that even women living in New York in the late ’60s couldn’t legally book a hotel room in their own name. They did, of course, with hotel keepers looking the other way, but the act was illegal. 

Natural Submission of Women

Sex in Nature AOC Apple Valley

2) It is true that I and most feminists uncategorically rejected the concept of the “natural submission of women”. Not only is this theory not true in much of the natural world where females dominate the decision of whether or not to reproduce, but embracing it asks too much of my rational mind.

In the same way that I reject the most binding of monotheism’s patriarchal, strict governance of female virtue, I reject Taryn’s theoretical embrace of the natural submission of women. (Note that Taryn clarified in private conversations that she does see women as leaders in business or as religious leaders. I am admittedly confused by how she reconciles submission to men with taming them at the same time, because the historical record on men’s treatment of women is so clear. We’ve submitted for thousands of years, so how we use our submission to make the world a better place is beyond me.)

Unfortunately, this philosophical rejection of female power and influence has been used against us not only by the religious authorities on every continent, and by the lies of social conservatives in America. Now American feminists find ourselves on the defensive against talented, artistic, articulate young women like Taryn.

I can fight Pope Benedict and Michele Bachmann, but fighting Taryn tears me to pieces. Her version of second wave feminism causes me much pain at a time when we are trying to mobilize women and men of every age against the personhood amendment which will not only end all abortion rights in America, but also birth control, stem cell research and the success of in vitro fertilization. The first vote in this dramatic turn of events for American women comes in Mississippi in about 10 days.

The ism that the truth will set us free has never applied to American feminism, due to the deeply religious nature of our culture, the primacy of testosterone-ridden traditionalism in our heritage, and the centuries-old psychological beast of generations on every continent feeling the need to discredit each other as part of their own liberation.

Molly Jong-Fast’s summer pronouncement that women worldwide have all the rights they need, and her humiliation of her mother writer Erica Jong’s feminist values as being the provenance of luxury-living, educated (white) women are the best current example of younger women needing to establish their own self identity by metaphorically slaying their mothers.

In the case of American feminism, daughters are slaying the ideals of the women who bore them at the expense — not only of themselves — but their own daughters and future generations of American women. It is our daughters who are handing the social conservatives all women on a silver platter, and I fail to see the power of those actions.

Feminism and the Question of Objectification

A bit overwhelmed by Taryn’s philosophy of the natural order between the sexes, I’ve returned to my own feminist texts and discussions about second wave feminist perspectives. A good place for young  women to learn what we really said is the Stanford (University) Encyclopedia of Philosophy. The section Feminist Perspectives on Objectification addresses Taryn’s assertions about feminism directly, providing an excellent review of the totality of feminist thought and not the much-quoted words and now sacrosanct truths about feminism uttered by Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon.

These two scholars do not constitute in any way the totality of feminism’s perspective on Objectification.

Michelle Ellsworth in ‘The Objectification of Things’

Objectification is a notion central to feminist theory. It can be roughly defined as the seeing and/or treating a person, usually a woman, as an object. In this entry, the focus is primarily on sexual objectification, objectification occurring in the sexual realm. Martha Nussbaum (1995, 257) has identified seven features that are involved in the idea of treating a person as an object:

  1. instrumentality: the treatment of a person as a tool for the objectifier’s purposes;
  2. denial of autonomy: the treatment of a person as lacking in autonomy and self-determination;
  3. inertness: the treatment of a person as lacking in agency, and perhaps also in activity;
  4. fungibility: the treatment of a person as interchangeable with other objects;
  5. violability: the treatment of a person as lacking in boundary-integrity;
  6. ownership: the treatment of a person as something that is owned by another (can be bought or sold);
  7. denial of subjectivity: the treatment of a person as something whose experiences and feelings (if any) need not be taken into account.

Rae Langton (2009, 228–229) has added three more features to Nussbaum’s list:

  1. reduction to body: the treatment of a person as identified with their body, or body parts;
  2. reduction to appearance: the treatment of a person primarily in terms of how they look, or how they appear to the senses;
  3. silencing: the treatment of a person as if they are silent, lacking the capacity to speak.

The majority of the thinkers discussing objectification have taken it to be a morally problematic phenomenon. This is particularly the case in feminist discussions of pornography. Anti-pornography feminists Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin, influenced by Immanuel Kant’s conception of objectification, have famously argued that, due to men’s consumption of pornography, women as a group are reduced to the status of mere tools for men’s purposes. Moreover, feminists like Bartky and Bordo have argued that women are objectified through being excessively preoccupied with their appearance. Important recent work by feminists has also been devoted to exploring the connection between objectivity and objectification. Recently, some thinkers, such as Martha Nussbaum, have challenged the idea that objectification is a necessarily negative phenomenon, arguing for the possibility of positive objectification. While treating a person as an object (in one or more of the ways mentioned above) is often problematic, Nussbaum argues that objectification can in some contexts take benign or even positive forms, and can constitute a valuable and enjoyable part of our lives.

Millions of women, including me, have always sided with Nussbaum’s assertion that objectification isn’t always a bad state of affairs for either women or men.

Femism asked women to THINK about our intentions and the meaning of our actions as they impacted ourselves and those around us.

Feminism asked women to not behave like fashionista robots on cruise control with corporate America, with men generally, and with our patriarchal institutions. For those who condemn the use of the word ‘patriarchy’ by second-wave feminists, I believe the definition fits.

Mirriam-Webster defines patriarchy as a social organization marked by the supremacy of the father in the clan or family, the legal dependence of wives and children, and the reckoning of descent and inheritance in the male line; broadly : control by men of a disproportionately large share of power.

Just a few weeks ago, I shared with readers that Anne — of all women — tried to save a moment of inexplicable penis deflation and shattered male ego by submitting to a spanking. This distraction was my own clever idea, not his. Understanding how obsessed men are about an erect cock, I used myself to try to save his male ego — because I liked him.

In this case, the selfless act was for my good friend, and not for me. As a victim of serious physical, verbal and sexual abuse, I find nothing sensually thrilling about being spanked or humiliated. BDSM lite is fine and can be fun.

Trying to salvage the sexual situation, I knew we were doomed. Writing that I never saw this man again, I  neglected to mention that he called me last summer to apologize, saying I was the most incredible woman he had ever known.

Standing Against the Masters of the Universe

Copper & brass phallus sculpture at Vintage Modern Furniture GalleryWe are not meant to be lovers — this master of the Wall Street universe and I. Seven years younger than me, he has two young, totally-spoiled daughters and an obsession with money. Extreme materialism was never my source of pleasure and meaning in life, and this was all my friend talked about.

Simply stated, his Rembrandts bored me.

My point is that most feminists do not hate men. New research verifies that feminists not only are married but have much lower divorce rates. Men married to feminists say they are really happy with us, when social researchers actually bother to ask men about their views. It seems that feminists are actually ready to go the extra mile, understanding the reality that social conservatives of every skin color have much higher divorce rates. For all their amens, they watch more porn and get divorced more often.

Yes, we do tend to be better educated women than non feminists, and our education and thinking prowess is held against us as a sign of female arrogance.

3) I happen to agree with Taryn about the female’s natural alliance with nature. Like so many AOC readers and friends I asked to counsel me on how to respond to her editorial, we all agree about the need to once again honor nature and sensuality. 

This feminist writer has even linked the killing of dolphins in Taiji, Japan to male dominance and too much testosterone. Concurrent with the advent of monotheism and at the time of Aristotle, men assumed control and responsibility for women, animals and plants in formalized treatises including the Bible. In a period of about 300 years, men consulted directly with God, gaining complete control over all life on the planet. 

Prior to Aristotle, it was a capital crime punishable by death to kill dolphins in Greece. After monotheism — well, the dreadful dolphin and whale story belongs to Moby Dick.

In the past readers have pointed out the evolution from hunting to farming, and the subsequent rise of private property as the reasons for women’s downfall. Without a doubt, the decline for women began with these changes in how societies lived. But monotheism and Aristotle nailed our coffins shut, making the natural submission of women the law of the land — and virtuous, to boot.

Thereafter, a woman standing up for herself was going against the laws of nature and God himself. With the majority of American women (not men) believing that God is a man who notes our every move, no wonder the natural submission of women is the unstated law of the land from sea to shining sea.

To this day, men — not women because except for Europe, we do not have political or business-decision-making power — make a mess of the entire ecosystem, and I refuse to be apologetic or submissive about telling the truths of history.

To argue that men become so lost in their love for women that they must destroy the planet to get their sense of manhood back is a train of thought that escapes my eclectic and far-reaching, but not limitless, mental capacity.

Until a few days ago, I felt that I would end this belated essay with the line ‘I just don’t buy it, Taryn.’ And I don’t. (Oct. 31, 2011. I have now pubished the followup conversations between myself and Taryn, so that the record is public. I admittedly take issue with the reader below who suggests that my thoughts here represent a knee jerk reaction to Taryn’s infinite feminine wisdom about the failings of feminism. In fact our conversations went on for days, and then I thought for almost two weeks before writing.)

But a ray of light came from another young woman, someone from my past who is very precious to me — the daughter I never had, but a young woman I nurtured often for eight years. 

A Broader Frame of Reference on Women’s Natural Submission

Taryn Andreatta in ‘The Offering’

Jennifer Lewis wrote her response to the Taryn Andreatta images and editorial with no coaching from me and without knowing my specific concerns about compromising feminism and femininity with women worldwide. It’s not an exaggeration to say that countless women hang on my every statement these days.

Moving from bride burning in India to the natural submission of women is very tough for me. I have great respect for traditional values — but putting women in the oven or setting them on fire for the slightest infraction is not in my book of gospels. I fear the words natural submission, traditional,  God-given and countless other words associated with women’s ‘natural’ roles.

At the same time, I was never a woman who wanted to be ‘like a man’ or who struggled with concepts that men’s and women’s brains are different and other scientific distinctions — especially those validated by female scientists. It is women researchers who are turning over countless male-generated isms these days about the natural order of gender relations in the animal world.

Archaeological digs are also rewriting women’s history, an advancement endorsed by many of the top men in Biblical and theological studies.

While I adore men, I beieve that women are the superior gender and will never take my marching orders from men unless I am burned at the stake. I do not respect the patriarchy at all, based on global history, and prefer to have women very involved as leaders at every level of government and business.

Ms. Lewis’s words create a blended perspective that I can embrace whole-heartedly. Perhaps a year or two younger than Taryn — or the same age — Jennifer just began working on her masters/doctorate in social work at Ohio State University. Jennifer’s words carry none of the anti-feminism weight that has pained me for the past several weeks, leaving me liberated to once again appreciate the beauty, if not the total message of Taryn’s ‘The Offering’. 

You can read Jennifer Lewis’s thoughts on the topic of women, gender balance and submission. As for me, I must carry on and fight the personhood amendment that would take away Jennifer and Taryn’s right to birth control, if they are fortunate enough to live in the great state of Mississippi.

I also advise Jennifer and Taryn to stay out of Utah, where miscarriage almost became a felony in the fall of 2010, except for a thinking governor who promised to veto it. In fact, the personhood amendment will almost certainly subject any woman who experiences a miscarriage to legal scrutiny by the authorities.

Given the reality that about 600,000 women experience natural miscarriages (not counting abortions) every year — 1 in 10 pregnancies — this new scrutiny of women’s bodies will put the most incredible financial strains on America’s judicial system. 

As for women’s psyches, I suppose having the police authorities at women’s bedsides will put stress on them, too. If you’re a natural submissive, perhaps it’s not so bad. I read countless women saying that the judicial whip is a big sexual turn-on. These women are accustomed to being under the patriarchal microscope, so what’s a bit of jail time in America.

For the feminists amongst us, jail is not our favorite sexual fantasy, perhaps making us really dull-women brainiacs in bed after all. Wouldn’t that be a hoot!!! To be continued …  Anne

Reader Comments (3)

Anne,

The unenlightened reader might very well come away from your post with the impression that Taryn is an abortionist parolee intent on bankrupting the judicial system while killing dolphins on the side!

The classic, knee-jerk response above misses the depth and genius of Taryn's vision for a society that encourages full expression of natural gifts. Considering gender roles through the prism of an "offering" is a remarkable paradigm shift: that the power rests with the giver, not the taker.

In a dystopian America -- where men with deadened eyes wander foreclosed neighborhoods, backs lashed with straps of Baby Bjorns, and women quest for illusory success on terms that were defined by the patriarchy -- Taryn's reimagination of the traditional feels radical and uplifting. She challenges the creative class in particular to escape dogma and embrace natural virtue, enabling art that is true, and therefore lasting.

While this may feel like a rejection of 1960s feminism, (an ungrateful daughter partying off of mommy's paycheck), it is instead a nuanced reflection on the successes and failures of the movement, and a provocative effort to reclaim the root of its namesake.

-Daniel

Note from Anne: I have decided to publish the subsequent dialogue between Taryn and myself, as I sought clarification and an understanding of her words about feminism in 'The Offering'.

http://www.anneofcarversville.com/sensuality/2011/10/31/the-offering-dialogue-on-feminism-anne-enke-taryn-andreatta.html

October 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel Hemingway

Dear Daniel. Taryn and I have discussed in depth as friends, my reactions to her post. Taryn is the idealist -- as am I -- but I am also a pragmatist. Taryn's views are not reclaiming the namesake views of Gloria Steinem, Anita Hill, Bella Abzug and countless second wave feminists including me, who she discredits and dismisses with her words.

Mine is not the "classic, knee-jerk response" that misses the depth and genius of Taryn's vision blah, blah, blah. Given the depth of my AOC writing and a life of activities challenging us to think differently, my record is clear. You are probably the first person not to include me as a member of the creative class, 250,000 of them who find value in my words and opinions monthly.

By her own private admission, Taryn agrees that she doesn't even know what's she's talking about, when she makes statements about American feminists. The most depressing part about my followup dialogue with her, trying to better understand her views, was Taryn's accusing me of trying to 'rough her up' her with questions, to toughen her up.

I was astonished and very depressed over her playing the victim twice with me & ended the conversation out of concern for my reputation. I can't afford to be accused of manhandling another woman. I have all the commentary between us & trust me, I was not aggressive with Taryn Andreatta in asking her to help me understand her points. Again, your suggestion of a knee-jerk reaction on my part ignores very substantial conversation that went on between us. You must think I'm a pretty empty-headed woman.

If Taryn has any guts, she will back me up on these statements. Perhaps this unintended dialogue will test her own mettle, which was not my intention. But your comments require me to defend myself and my own competency.

Taryn sees herself as man's muse, and that is her right. Many women prefer this role in life. Had Taryn not made feminism the problem, I would have said nothing about her interview and only praised her lovely images, even though some are problematic for me.

The last of Taryn's images is one of the most depressing, disempowering visions of female submission that I have ever seen. The fact that it comes from a young woman I have promoted more than any other depresses the hell out of me. I'm entitled to feel that way last I looked.

I remind readers of the 40,000 women who are flogged every year in Sudan for inappropriate dress. They do not find Taryn's image empowering at all but a reflection of their shame and guilt. For this reason they were lashed countless times, and left with scars forever.

There is NO nuanced refection in Taryn's views as far as I am concerned. It is a distortion of the facts by a young woman who -- by her own admission -- does not know what she is talking about on the subject of feminism. Read Jennifer Lewis's reflections on Taryn's post, which are very supportive. The AOC conversation is not unbalanced around Taryn at all.

Women and men from all over the world read AOC -- many of them in India and Africa. They EXPECT ME to respond because Taryn's words are confusing frankly. She makes dramatic statements and condemnation of feminism as the problem. Did you read her taking on corporate America? I didn't. Did you read her talking about men also being part of the problem? I didn't. Her focus is poor men being emasculated of their natural roles as protectors by aggressive feminists.

I suggest that you, too, Daniel grasp the real point of my post, because you, too, sound like you've bought into the Phyllis Schlafly vision of American feminists. It is a lie & I'm tired of reading the anti-feminist poppycock as women lose the right to birth control in America. I don't hear you protesting those essential points in this essay. How about you standing up for us in the Republican War on Women? We'd appreciate your support.

Men have the power and men have screwed up the world. Sorry, but that's a fact, and if the shoe is uncomfortable, it's too bad. Millions of men -- most notably the brilliant writer Michael Lewis was on Charlie Rose two weeks ago saying these exact words. I nearly fell off the sofa. Lewis is not blaming the feminists but the men in charge for a wide variety of bad-boy behavior.

http://www.charlierose.com/view/content/11924

So you start imagining a new world where women actually help make the rules like in Scandinavia and do not tell me that everything will be better if women just understand our innate, natural state of submission to men, as Taryn promotes. I have no interest in men unleashing any more testosterone on the planet without the active, involved, decision-making influence of women. Even the US military says that bringing women to real power is our only hope in the 21st century.

Now if you will forgive me, I will go back to bride burning in India, saving dolphins in Japan and proving that Aristotle and Pope Benedict are full of crap on the subject of women. Perhaps the truth of women's history isn't just about the patriarchy. Perhaps it's also about America's men of the left, who sold out the women's movement lock, stock and barrel. They, too, preferred to be in charge with women taking notes.

I have saved the butts of more men in corporate America than I can count, and they will tell you so. My relations with men are superb, and I have the support of many. Having walked on water for men for decades and with pleasure, I now want them to walk on water for me because American women are really up against the wall in the Republican War on Women.

As I explained to Taryn, muses speak oracles for all women. And I expect her to clarify her words in terms that we can understand. After starting this ball rolling, she is now absent from the party. If she is a leader as she professes to be, I suggest that she weigh in on these important topics for us all.

Thanks for sharing your wisdom, Daniel.

October 31, 2011 | Registered CommenterAnne

Dear Anne…

This is a very pertinent post concerning a dynamic of life that will repeat both in the personal and in the socio-political, there's a key thought here that feminism must address if ceFeminist is to remain a viable force. As a feminist you speak for the women of the world, which includes the mothers of the world. As a consequence of speaking for the mothers of the world feminism must acknowledge the art of parenting, the nurture and education of the young into functioning adults of self will and self determination. Parenting is an art of deep subtlety and nuance that applies every bit as much within social movements as it does between the literal mother and child.

To understand the attitude the younger women bring to the subject of being a woman one must address the question from the perspective of how those younger women were (socially) parented. I'm not speaking just of how they were parented by the women who gave birth to their body but equally what they acquired from the women who parented the evolution of their attitudes and assumptions. To deal with the things in your post what’s needed is an empirical understanding concerning the bucket definition "generation gap," because bottom line is that's what your post is dealing with.

Consider the child. The child does not understand the world it lives in. The child does not have the depth of experience to provide the lines of causal connection for the intellect to ponder, all the child has are disconnected and seemingly random events. The child is capable of observation, but totally dependent on the parent for understanding. The child is more than capable of observation, the child is compelled to observation, and what does the child observe the most? The parent, of course.

As the child ages events begin to fall into patterns, the child begins assigning causes to events building the framework of a rational existence. In many if not most cases the events crossing the child's perception are a consequence of the parent's focus on the event. The events associated to the parents’ focus are the largest single source of the unexplained, the behavior of the parent in regards to such events the first understanding the child will seek. But the events are not the only unexplained thing crossing the child’s perception, the emotions inspired by those events are equally on the stage. This is a most important fact to hold in focus, for this is where a great deal more than simply the "generation gap" begins.

The child is busy assigning reasons to things, granted working with an immature and incomplete understanding, but totally engrossed in the task. Errors are to be expected. Errors concerning matters of fact have a way of self correcting, the evidence of reality doesn’t support the error, sooner or later it is revealed to the intellect. But the errors in assigning emotions as the result of events are much more enduring and play a much, much larger role than the intellect in driving both the attitudes and the actions of a life.

Once again consider the child, but this time focus on how those emotional associations are formed. Consider how the spectrum of the parent’s focus impacts on the child. Obviously the wider the parent’s spectrum the more choices become available to the child, and with the increase in choices the greater the child’s chances of making correct, or nearly correct, associations between the emotion and the event occupying the same point in time. When the parent presents a limited, or singular, focus on life the child is all but compelled to assume whatever that focus might be is playing a major role in every event and every emotion tagged to the same time as that event. The error count is going to go sky high, so high the child come into adulthood is very likely to recognize the commonality and reject everything associated as an error in the attempt to bring their own life to balance.

Is it any wonder that the daughters of the most dedicated of the feminists have the attitudes they do? Their mothers totally dedicated their lives to breaking over the momentum of an entire culture’s attitudes about womanhood, how could those daughters have grown into anything else? The lesson ceFeminist must understand to complete her work is the concept of balance between the passion of her calling and the diversity of the emotional needs of her children as they grow, the balance her children will need if they are to mature into individuals who will support her calling into the future.

December 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCyranos DeMet

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