Why we need feminist men, reason #258

I’ve never been particularly involved in politics. Really, the most involved I’ve ever been is participating in the 2004 Iowa (Democratic) Caucus, and that was as much a whim as anything else. So paying attention to the candidates in the current cycle and seeing all of that mess is a bit of a new thing for me. I wanted to talk a bit about what it’s meant for me to be an uninformed voter, and why having the opportunity for everybody to learn about the candidates is an important part of democracy.

When I participated in the 2004 caucus, I really appreciated the fact that I could go there, talk to people, and find out about the candidates before making my decision. I didn’t need to come in with any research done (which is not to say I shouldn’t have done any, but given the person I was at the time, that wasn’t going to happen). After moving to Illinois, I’ve realized what a unique opportunity the caucus system really is.

See, moving to Illinois came with moving in with J. And J is far more politically involved than I am, at least in terms of knowing about the candidates and paying attention to what they do and say. He’s the sort of guy who comes home from work and immediately starts watching videos on YouTube about politics. I have no doubt that if we had a TV, he’d spend much of his free time watching political news there, too.

This last fall, J became really interested in the Ron Paul campaign. He even made some contributions on the big donation days, and he was telling everyone he knew about this guy. I’d never heard of him before, but I listened to J talk about him, and saw how excited everyone was getting, and I thought “Hey, maybe there’s something to this guy.” So I listened to his speeches, and thought “Okay, no foreign involvement, not going to happen but that makes sense.” Then I did something I hadn’t ever done with a candidate before: I looked at his official positions. And then I was confused. Pro-life, pro-gun, all of that. An immigration stance that includes the call to “End birthright citizenship.” (What does that even mean? How should citizenship be defined, then?) But also anti-Iraq, and supported by veterans. J’s dad is a veteran, so I can see why J values those issues.

But this isn’t about Ron Paul. See, while J was talking up Ron Paul to other people, there was always the other side – why he wouldn’t vote for a Democrat in the primary. (J is more of a Democrat than a Republican, all things considered.) All the Democratic candidates received an assessment, but the one that always stuck out in my mind was that for Hillary – “she’s just scary”. I don’t think he meant this in a sexist way; I think he was talking about her stance on the issues. Though honestly, I don’t know. And here’s where this gets hard for me to talk about, because I’m embarrassed to admit: I never looked at any other candidate before I voted in the Illinois primary. I’m not sure why exactly. It’s probably the same reason I don’t do other things that I know I should, or that are good for me – whatever that reason is.

Super Tuesday rolled around, and J and I walked over to the polling place. I didn’t really want to go. After all, I didn’t have enough information to make an informed decision. On my own, I might have accepted that the time had come to do the research I’d procrastinated on, and spent a little time looking around before I went. But J wanted to go right now, as he usually does when he sets his mind to something, and so I went.

And this is the point where feminism and being an uninformed voter meet. See, in the Illinois primary, you walk in and ask for either a Republican or a Democrat ticket. J went first, and got his Republican ballot so he could vote for Ron Paul. Then I had a moment to think – vote for the candidate I know a little about, or choose between several I know nothing about? Well, I took the Republican ballot. And I’ll never forget – J said, in a shocked sort of way, “You’re going to do it?”

I did.

I wish I hadn’t.

That sort of thing is why I love J. He gets things sometimes that I haven’t yet fully come to understand. In this case, he understood that no matter how much he talked about Ron Paul and badmouthed the Democrats, he would not think me less of a person if I voted for one of them. J understands that I have the full agency to vote my conscience, even if I disagree with him, and that he has no right to judge my personhood based on my choice.

In part, I think J is able to understand this because he occupies a privileged position in society in most ways. Because of that, he is able to exercise his agency as a person without expecting that he will lose opportunities or status if he makes the “wrong” choice. In other words, he can honestly not care what other people think. J is a feminist (aka, an all-around great guy) he respects all people as full people, with the ability to make their own decisions. That’s a big part of why I love him.

It’s also why I need feminism, and why I am a feminist. Because the patriarchal system of power taught me to place so much value in other people’s opinions. So much value that I saw my vote as mattering, not for the effect it would have on the election, but for the effect it would have on J’s opinion of me. I’m not the first one to be in that position, and unless we work to give all people the same agency regardless of their opinions, I won’t be the last.

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9 Comments »

  1. rideronthet said

    I usually don’t enjoy personal stories, but this was good. If you want to understand where Dr. Paul comes from politically, read The Road to Serfdom.
    Also, read this little blurb about feminism/racism:
    http://fearistyranny.wordpress.com/2008/03/02/activist-re-inventions/

  2. Gretchen said

    Thanks for your comment. I read that article you linked to, and to me it takes a stand I’ve been hearing a lot lately – “Civil rights movements got what they wanted. What’s the big deal?” To which the main response I have is this: legal equality is not equality of opportunity, and neither is true equality. And while I don’t have the background to address the detail of legal issues surrounding race, I can say that as long as the Equal Rights Amendment is not passed, there is not legal equality either.

    The common objection to that, of course, is “We have equal rights already – why do we need an amendment to the Constitution?” And the answer is the same answer that the people who want a heterosexual marriage amendment would give: To prevent the situation from changing. If we as a country truly valued equal rights for all people regardless of sex, there would be no debate about the ERA, because we would see that as a value worth protecting. As it stands, the only reason I see to object to the ERA is that it threatens the status quo.

    As for Clinton/Obama as examples of “look how far we’ve come!”, I absolutely agree. But that’s like looking back at the 100-mile point of a trip that lasts 1000 miles and saying “We’ve gone such a long way, why do we need to keep going?” The only people who can decide whether a group of activists has achieved their goals are the activists themselves. Others can certainly question whether they were honest about their goals to begin with, but it is part of giving people full agency to allow activists to continue their work for as long as they feel fit.

  3. DSL said

    Well, equality is one thing. Although if one tries to ENFORCE equality through so-called legal mechanisms, we will lose our freedoms. This is well-established by all of history. Equality — or Freedom — take your pick. This is evidenced day-by-day throughout the land. Whatever the State touches, it turns toward it’s benefit. Just enough of the citizens get a benefit for The State to keep up the facade that they are primarily here for our benefit, as our servants. But so many people believe it it might as well be true.

    An Equal Rights Amendment, no matter how carefully crafted (but necessarily compromised by competing political and economic interests) WILL be twisted to enforce the Status Quo, if by that, you mean the so-called patriarchal power structure. Just like the Indians, the Blacks, soon the Hispanics, certain forces are trying to make women into dependents on The State as well. That is why the government was all to happy to give women more frights to work. Now, they could tax EVERYONE. YIPPEE. (Just for fun, try Googling: gloria steinem ms magazine cia — and read for a while. You might start to get a better and bigger picture of what is going on in this world and country.)

    A primary driving force of Federal Power is to make us all dependent and subservient to them. ANY move to use the Feds or Amendments to secure a right or benefit will be, by definition, a support of patriarchy.

    One of the primary issues the Founding Fathers struggled with is the knowledge that whenever you give The State the power to do something FOR you, you also give them to power to do something TO you. (The U.S. Supreme Court stated in a court case that the power to tax is also the power to destroy.) This is why the Founders put strict limitations on what the federal government could stick its nose into. They were forbidden to involve themselves in the day-to-day economic affairs of people, stay out of religion, and certainly social issues were left to The People to work out peacefully amongst themselves. — Unfortunately, Alexander Hamilton was a centralist, and the Constitution had too many potential loopholes in it. The principle of restricted government was abandoned. Although undermining this principle began immediately after the Constitution was signed, Abe Lincoln was the first to take the foundations of freedom out from under the United States Constitution in a major way.

    Lincoln used the cover-story of anti-slavery in order to consolidate the political power of the Federal State and industrial power of Big Business (which work in lock step and of course is the basis of fascism. Anytime you here the words pubic/private partnership, LOOKOUT.) Lincoln said he was freeing the slaves, but in reality all but eliminated the Rights of The People and their States. (He did not use slavery as his justification for the Civil War until over a year into the conflict, when he was losing a lot of support for the war) He facilitated the killing of at least 630,000 soldiers, and destroyed the property and livelihoods of millions of people in The South, which took them decades to recover from, and probably set race relations back 100 years, at least. In the mean time, most of the major powers on Earth, including the English who until the early 1900’s were known as the most brutal political and economic enforcers on Earth, eliminated slavery without violence or war.

    What I do not understand about people who seek peace is they want The State to do it for them. Yet the only tool The State has to bring about its’ intentions is a monopoly on the Police Power, also known as violence. (You can look that up in any good legal encyclopedia.) Rather than using persuasion, The State uses Force as its bottom line of power.

    Everyone used to know this, from George Washington on down, until the public school system started eliminating the true history and real principles of American government from its teachings, and replaced it with centralist propaganda, a trend that began when, in the late 1800’s, John D. Rockefellar and Andrew Carnegie financed the beginning of the transformation of American Education into United States indoctrination. This included the historically unsupportable and failed belief that the government is here to help us. (This is further enhanced by U.S. citizens socially and economically destructive belief that someone else is supposed to take care of us — from cradle to grave, as they say.)

    It could be argued that the move toward truly human, non-violent civilization includes the movement from force to persuasion. But rather than involve themselves in directly persuading other people in what we think is right, then we just get a law passed, instead. Then, all of those who do not agree with our law can be fined, arrested, jailed, or worse, if they do not go along with The State’s (and our) new legal pronouncements. How much more authoritarian or patriarchal can you get?

    In this day and age, anyone who wants to resort to the violence based powers of The State is, by definition, encouraging the use of violence in order to get their way. This is probably why so many feminists really like Hillary: she will stop at nothing, including advocating the bombing of untold numbers of human beings, to consolidate her power. And remember Ms. Madeline Albright, Secretary of State under the Clintons: on national TV, she proclaimed that the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi women and children (because of the Sanctions Bill kept during his whole term in office) were “worth it.” Hundreds of thousands of people died to get one man, Saddam Hussein. And this started with the Clintons, not George Bush. (Actually, Daddy Bush started it, but Clinton kept the whole thing going, and, with the urging of Hillary, added the Kosovo scam in to boot.) In fact, George is just now catching up to the Clinton’s death toll in Iraq alone. Just like Bill, Hillary is bought and paid for by the military /industrial AND the medical/industrial, complex.

    A Constitutional Amendment is an admission that We, The People, have failed at Civilization — moving from force top persuasion. We must, apparently, resort to violence — the power and force of the Federal Government — to institutionalize, by threat of force, our personal preferences of how WE think life should be conducted and lived by ALL people. Just because 51 per cent of the people vote to make it legal, does not make it any less violence or force based. Another reason why the Founding Fathers warned against a pure democracy, and why the United States of America was set up as a Constitutional Republic, not a democracy. But how many people even know there is a difference now-a-days, let alone define it?

    True equality will only be achieved when people stop using The State — inherently violence based solutions — and move toward persuasion of our fellow women and men, to achieve our vision of society. Increasing numbers of people, including Blacks, are seeing that using the State to gain equality may very well have been a very wrong turn.

    If we can not persuade people to cooperate with us and our particular vision, maybe its not as good an idea as it looks; or maybe our civilization is doomed anyway. In that case, relying on The State will only hurry up the destruction of our civilization, as it always has throughout history. We will also have the pleasure of living under even more of a police state.

    And if you study the 14th Amendment and its aftermath, you might see that while it was written on the surface to free the Black people, it actually put everyone in the country under a centralized authoritarian control, and opened that door to a huge power grab by the corporations. Constitutional Amendments that pretend to be able to produce things like equality are just the kind of fairy tales that the Power Elite wants you to believe. And if it passes, they WILL find a way to turn it against your hopes and desires. It WILL be turned toward the patriarchy you so hate.

    But the history of that requires you do some homework, and the assignments will not come from any school or media sources that are in bed with the government. It takes some digging.

    Take Care,
    David Scott Lynn

  4. rideronthet said

    David, I was just about to say that (in not so many words). Well done.

  5. […] Why we need feminist men, reason #258 By Gretchen This last fall, J became really interested in the Ron Paul campaign. He even made some contributions on the big donation days, and he was telling everyone he knew about this guy. I’d never heard of him before, but I listened to J talk … Doing It Wrong – https://doingitwrongblog.wordpress.com […]

  6. As for Clinton/Obama as examples of “look how far we’ve come!”, I absolutely agree. But that’s like looking back at the 100-mile point of a trip that lasts 1000 miles and saying “We’ve gone such a long way, why do we need to keep going?” The only people who can decide whether a group of activists has achieved their goals are the activists themselves. Others can certainly question whether they were honest about their goals to begin with, but it is part of giving people full agency to allow activists to continue their work for as long as they feel fit.

    That’s an excellent analogy. The folks up above are ignoring the fact that no matter what the side effects, when Lincoln abolished slavery, he also abolished slavery. And if reconstruction had been allowed to continue, instead of the US moving back to the states rights/Jim Crowe era we would probably be better off than with the incomplete regulation we got. They also ignore the fact that thanks to many laws that were passed after civil rights struggles there is far more equality (although not 100%) between races than there was before the 60s, and that you and I are now allowed to go to school, get degrees from colleges, own property, divorce more easily, sit on juries, vote, run for president, etc., etc. and are viewed as much more equal than we were before these laws were passed. I do not understand how my agency as a person would be lessened at all if even the most sexist ass had to make sure that I was paid as much as a man is at my job.

  7. rideronthet said

    there is a new civil rights movement. its manifesto is called the U.S. Constitution. Stop wasting your time on the civil rights movements that have already succeeded in changing attitudes, and join the new one.

  8. Gretchen said

    DSL, thanks for your comment. I took a bit to respond because I wanted to give you a thoughtful answer.

    I think that we agree on one thing: a state that depends on violence to achieve its aims is never ultimately to the benefit of those who are not in a position of power – that is to say, those who are privileged. And it is an issue that many movements are currently struggling with, as they find that they are accused of supporting some aspects of the social system while changing others (for example, white feminists accused of ignoring women of color – see this article for a good analysis of this). However, that does not mean that we should not strive to change the legal system.

    It would be ideal, of course, if “persuading” people really was the most effective way to change systems of oppression. It is certainly a necessary part of any attempt to do so, which is why allies of the privileged group are a crucial part of any movement. However, one of the privileges that come with being in power is the option to ignore anyone who is not in power – in other words, to not listen to someone who is trying to persuade you, and to make them be quiet by force or by more subtle methods if they don’t stop. The people who gain enough from their position of power that they are unwilling to listen to anyone are the reason laws are necessary – and those people will still exist as long as there is any power hierarchy.

    Let me give an example. Most reasonable people would agree that all people who are equally capable of completing the requirements of a job should have an equal chance of getting and/or keeping that job. In our current power structure, however, a young, white, Christian male is most likely to get the job (unless perhaps it’s a job stereotypically held by a person of a certain gender or race). Non-discrimination laws provide some method of recourse for the blatant instances of discrimination in hiring practices. (I’m not speaking here of affirmative action, which is another issue.) Can these laws be abused? Certainly. Can those in power find ways around them? Of course. But it seems foolish to argue that our situation would be better without them. Finding ways around new laws takes time – and in that time, society revises its definition of what is and is not acceptable. The result is what you can see all around you. Sexism and racism and all other forms of privilege still exist, certainly. But it is no longer acceptable to express them in many ways that were once common. Perhaps someday it will no longer be acceptable to express them at all.

    And rideronthet – which version of the US Constitution? The original? The one with just the bill of rights? or the current one? I like many things about the current one, and I definitely think that we can do better in following it, but that doesn’t mean I think there’s no room for change in other areas the Constitution doesn’t address.

  9. […] Why we need feminist men, reason #258 « Doing It Wrong This is a well-written post and an interesting story – just stay away from the Rob Paul trolls in the comments. (tags: politics feminism gender men women) […]

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