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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Man's Heaven is a Woman's Hell (mid 2000s)

by Kirsten Anderberg (www.kirstenanderberg.com)
We all have heard women complain about subjugation while working in the civil rights movement in the 1960's and 70's. Women witnessed their participation in a movement that supposedly was based on freedom for all, yet women were relegated to secondary, submissive, objectified, and servitude status continually throughout this time of supposed "liberation" and "civil rights." Women from white suburb progressive activism, to Black Panthers, all complained of the same problem. Subjugation based on gender. So the fact that this is continuing on in the realm of anarchy today is not surprising. My assessment of anarchy in the current U.S. incarnation is a lot of white men want MORE freedoms, and those desired freedoms actually DO include sexually objectifying, and being served by, women. It is becoming more and more clear to me that just as Public Enemy correctly sings "A White Man's Heaven is a Black Man's Hell," that a "Man's Heaven is a Woman's Hell." We cannot meet both desires, it is a zero sum game the way men are playing it. If women in anarchy want to quit serving men and being reduced to our genitals and breasts, and men in anarchy really secretly want women to make their food, watch their kids, not attend school, and to be sexually available and made up in chemicals, lingerie, heels and diet aids to sexually titillate them at all times, while doing men's laundry and washing most of their dishes, we have a problem. A HUGE problem.
Men who claim to be anarchists or feminists should do their own cooking, cleaning, and childcare. That, for me, is rule # 1. Any man who claims to be an anarchist or feminist, while he has women making his food regularly, is a joke. Any male "feminist" who relegates dish washing, from pots and pans used in food preparation to dishes and utensils used in serving and eating food, to women, is a Manarchist, not an anarchist. And any man who does not do an equal share of his own childcare responsiblities cannot be an anarchist or feminist either. There is no way around it. Part of anarchy is picking up your own responsibilities. Men who leave cooking, cleaning, and childcare predominantly to women are oppressive. I hear adult men trying to justify their laziness, saying the women "want" to cook for them, or their mothers "like" to sew their buttons on for them when they are 30 years old, like one 30 year old guy I know who has a PhD in engineering, ironically. Buttons miff him, but he is an engineer. Hmmm.
This idea that women "like to" and "want to" clean up after, and serve, men is quite self-serving for men. If men only listen to or interact with women when they serve them food, for instance, then the women serve food. If most men were equally praising the women for working on their PhD.'s as they are women for serving men, we would be getting somewhere. It is just a sign of a woman who has low self-esteem most often, and nothing else, if she "wants" to serve men endlessly by doing their cooking, cleaning, childcare, etc. She, very often, was not given any other real options to earn respect or acceptance.
That reminds me of another guy I know who tried to relegate all diaper duties of his son onto the mom claiming he could not work velcro. He can tune his hammered dulcimer, but he can't work velcro. Hmmm. The wool diaper covers his son wore had little velcro strips to close the leg areas. I watched him try to claim he could not "work" velcro, so his wife had to do his kid's diaper one Thanksgiving. He wanted his wife to stop cooking, to change diapers, while he did nothing. So, I stepped in and taught this 30+ year old man how to "work" velcro, to empower him to be able to change his own son's diaper, for god's sake. I am sorry, but that is just plain pathetic nonsense. I took this idiot's hands, and put one side of the velcro in it, then put the other side of velcro in his other hand, then pushed his hands together. Wow! It was that easy. I had to deal with this guy in my performing circle for years, and now he is in some activist circles in Seattle, but I lost all respect for this guy years ago. Watching how he sits around being served by women, while his male child watches that behavior, cancels out anything "radical" he may have to say. A guy who dodged doing his own kid's diapers for a long time with some phoney selfish crap about not being able to work velcro is not a feminist, is not progressive, is not on my side. He is on the side I am working to abolish.
When I first returned to college, I was in a speech class with a woman who was in her 40's, and was in the same women's reentry program I was in, so I wanted to support her. She came to me freaked out, because we had to write a controversial speech for our speech class and she said she could not do that. I asked why not. She said she had done nothing but cook, clean and work for her husband and four sons for the last 20 years. She said she has no idea what is going on in the world, had not read a paper or watched TV news in years, and she simply felt incapable of writing something controversial. She could not think up one controversial topic to write about, was a complaint she had. This shocked me, as I am an endless fount of ideas for controversial speeches. But I watched her, and I was a mom of a 4 year old boy at that time, and I vowed to always keep a life going outside of serving men and my son, so that I would be whole and healthy 20 years down the road. It occurred to me that her dilemma really was not that she had not done anything or thought anything controversial in 20 years, it was that she had been beaten down to a point where she had no independence and confidence anymore. That, to me, seemed to be the issue. She was trying to learn how to think independently and that came BEFORE the speech, but the speech triggered the independent thinking. The woman finally did a speech on the controversial subject of flossing teeth. She made an argument that people did not take flossing seriously, and gave out little floss samples, and I just loved her for it. She was very brave and I say that with the utmost sincerity.
I feel when men say things like women want to clean up after them or do their dishes and cooking and childcare, that they are just oppressing the woman further, even if it is subtle, and that type of behavior does not empower her, but further beat her down, reinforcing servitude as her most prominent and useful talent. My mom was a concert pianist, then a stewardess who flew around the world to places like Russia, Cuba, Alaska, Greece, Hawaii, etc. Then, in 1959, she had to make a choice. Her career or marriage, because she was not allowed to have both. Northwest Orient Airlines, the company she worked for, made her choose one or the other. Since our society rewards women for becoming a wife and mother more than for independent careers, my mom chose wife and mother. But as she was locked up on a cul-de-sac in a suburb in Los Angeles, cooking, cleaning, doing endless childcare, chained to the house, with no intellectual stimulation, she literally went nuts. She complained that the other moms on the block wanted to talk about the latest TV show or a new store in town, when my mom wanted to talk politics and art. My dad was flying off to his exciting jobs in the aerospace program, all over the world, as a well-paid engineer, but my mom could fly no more. She had to sit at home with me getting more and more dark and depressed, dependent on my dad, who was gone a lot. My dad was still out in the world, participating in the world, yet had a home and wife and child waiting anytime he came home, to serve him. My mom was relegated to servitude and it killed a part of her soul most certainly. And it was due to her gender. Later women sued that airline for sex discrimination so women are not forced to make such devastating choices anymore. My mom knew she got the raw end of the deal, and tried to keep things like the "I Hate To Cookbook" and other things dissing housework and cooking as crappy women's work that should be simplified, not glorified, around to influence her daughter, me, to not follow in her steps of serving a man. I could see she wanted out, and it made me think I never wanted to step in to that mess of marriage, servitude of men, etc.
Holly Near wrote a song called "Old Time Woman," about an older woman helping a younger woman through some of her troubles:
"She told me she'd never had a man, till she was firmly wed,
Never understood her ma, until her pa was dead,
Still, her man came first, and then her 13 sons,
It wasn't until they had all gone away
That she started to have any kind of fun at all!
I wanted to make her young again but all I could do was cry
She took my swollen cheek in hand,
And made me look her in the eye,
She said, "If I had not suffered,
You wouldn't be wearing those jeans,
Bein' an old time woman,
Ain't as bad as it seems.""
Emma Goldman, an anarchist that male anarchists recognize and give props to, says this issue of domestic servitude by women is a serious matter that directly affects anarchy. Yet I see most male anarchists trying to pooh pooh this issue. Or they will validate the issue, even maybe publish the issue, but in real life, women still are doing their dishes and cooking! They want to be served like kings by women, while claiming to be sensitive to hierarchies and elitism! Just like men did in the civil rights era when I was a child. But I am not buying mere words this time, based on the experience my sisters had in the 60's. Males need to PROVE they are not using women for servitude as second class citizens by, um, NOT ALLOWING WOMEN TO SERVE THEM. This same idea was applied to feminism. Men complained of a double standard when women wanted equal rights but wanted to play dumb when it came to car mechanics and power tools. So, women learned how to do mechanics and to use power tools. It is the same thing that men need to do now. Work through the uncomfortableness to end sexist crap we inherited.
Pro-active anarchist men clean up dishes they dirty BEFORE they are asked and BEFORE A WOMAN CAN DO IT FOR THEM. (A common trick of lazy males is to wait until a woman does it for him, or to do the cleaning so ineptly that the woman takes over, or to simply feign absolute incompetence as the guy who could not "work" velcro on diapers.) Pro-active, pro-feminist men clean up more messes than they make, just like women have done forever. Pro-active anarchist men cook more food for others than they allow to be cooked for them, just like most women. Pro-active men schedule childcare in equal amounts with the mother of the child. Pro-active men participate as fully as women in childrearing, without being asked or prodded. Pro-active anarchist men try to support as many women as men in their work, like feminist activists try to. So, pro-active anarchist men SEEK OUT new and exciting projects about, by, and for women, like they have for male projects forever. Anarchist men really have to be pro-active at this point, and anything less really should be interpreted as a desire to maintain a gender hierarchy and male elitism.
I began to refuse to cook and clean for men in 2003, and it has drastically changed my life. I am dead serious. I have spent unbelievable amounts of my time on Earth serving men as a woman's duty that was taken for granted completely. And I have become a pro-active poverty and feminist activist, which means I do not silently sit by while sexism and classism occurs just because the men have power and to confront them is scary. Women who confront anarchist men about the issues of male elitism meet all kinds of comical defensive behavior from Manarchists. I am learning how to just laugh at them when they puff their alpha male chests at me, claiming anarchy as THEIR terrain, THEIR DOMAIN, so to speak, just like they said about houses we all lived in for generations. No, women are not here to serve men dinner, nor are we going to submit to them in an anarchy power struggle. If anarchy is some male elitist fiction, we do not need it. If anarchy is what Emma Goldman was talking about, where women are freed of discriminatory servitude, then the men of anarchy need to start LIVING that reality, not just talk about it. Or if anarchist men are waiting for women to FORCE them into treating women equally, that is pretty lame too. So don't complain, men, as women become more and more aggressive and militant in our assertion of our human rights over our servitude. And let it be known, the longer men make women wait for this equality, the more hostile we will naturally become.
I want to see anarchist men LEADING the childcare equity revolution with women. I want to see anarchist men NOT ALLOWING women to serve them, and to start giving back for years of female servitude they have already benefited from. I want to see anarchist men quit rationalizing their laziness, and to start seeing anarchist men as the first in the kitchen to do dishes always, just as women have done for years for most men. I want to see male culture quit treating women like a Playboy centerfold they can just jack off on, with or without our consent. I want men to quit acting so threatened by older women, by larger women, by smarter women, by athletic women, by feminist women. "I want men to be so disciplined, that they go crazy in the name of creation, not destruction." - Rob Brezsny.
Emma Goldman was right on target when she said the domestic situation was of utmost priority for the liberation of society. And I see men, more often than not, thwarting domestic duties upon women, still. And what is worse, men often then deny they are doing that, or deny knowledge of their own passing of the buck on cleaning, cooking, childcare, etc. As if denying they are using women for free labor makes it so. No, women are still doing this free labor, while the majority of men are using women for unpaid labor. Feminism says that women need to not allow men to abuse them as second class citizens like that. But the way I interpret anarchy, I think it says that men need to not allow themselves to oppress women, not that women need to patrol and police men into proper equity behavior.
Men treating women with equity is as much about men as it is about women. Men are benefiting from women's servitude. And it is men's job to figure out how to stop having an existence that is based upon the oppression of women as unpaid laborers for their lifestyle. Much of the male freedom in the world is based on women not being free, stuck at home, taking care of the man's children, which includes cleaning, cooking, etc. The majority of women I talk to want to work outside the home, and be economically independent of men, but someone has to do the childcare, cooking, cleaning, etc., and men are paid more in society, and are promoted more and get into grad school more, etc. And the men who create welfare moms walk free, faceless, while all the stigma is heaped on the moms, for the men not doing their part! It is painted as if men do important things so women just need to wave our pom-poms for them at home with the kids! I do not believe any man who says he is an anarchist, if a woman cooks for him more often than he does for women, if a woman cleans his dishes more often than he does others' dishes, and if someone else does more of his child's childcare than he does. Words are cheap. Action talks.
Kirsten Anderberg. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint/publish, please contact Kirsten at kirstena@resist.ca.

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