Skip to content

Rambling on a Tangent

August 9, 2010

Valerie M is talking about straight women.  The conversation brought a few things to my mind, but I didn’t want to clutter her comments with not-quite-related stuff, so I figured I’d write about it here.  I’ve been meaning to anyway.

First, I think that heterosexuality gets conflated with marriage, and while they’re related, they are actually two distinct institutions.  So, I want to discuss them both.

As I said there, I don’t necessarily think that ‘straight’ has only to do with on-going sexual/romantic relationships with males, or the intention of similar interactions in the future.  Most of it, as with any political categorization, has to do with privilege.  I was celibate for 8 years myself, but that did very little to stop me being a recipient of het privilege.  I certainly wasn’t persecuted as a lesbian for the majority of those years.

Besides that, there are plenty of married women who aren’t having sexual/romantic relationships with males, especially older women, yet most of them still remain vastly straight-identified, and they of course still receive the social benefits of their relationships.  My mother stayed with my father for years without even the pretense of romance, until he eventually left her.  So, it’s definitely not just about sex and romance, and I think that women who focus on that aspect to the exclusion of any other critique are doing themselves, and feminism, a disservice.

Marriage itself has always been first and foremost an economic institution, where the productivity and reproductivity of wives are exploited by husbands.  It is to wives what capitalism is to the proletariat.  And, even though it is exploitative,  it bestows privilege on those who engage, just as those who have jobs are privileged over those who don’t – and not just because of money.  Even trust fund babies are looked down on in comparison to those who work their way into wealth.

I suppose what I’m trying to get at, here, is that there are certain parallels that tend to be ignored for the purposes of self-congratulation.  Certainly, some women do enjoy sexual congress with males, and thereby take eager part in their own oppression (and ours, those of us who don’t) .  But, capitalism being built on the oppression of women as it is, it is also problematic that some women extol the merits of employment in male-owned companies.  Women should certainly seek out independence from males, but I don’t think that financial freedom from a husband is the same thing as independence from males outright.

The fact of the matter is that there really are very very few women who actually practice separatism.  No woman who works for males, directly or indirectly, husband or CEO,  is a separatist.  No woman living in a house built by/sold by, or rented housing owned by, males is a separatist.  No woman taking money from males for her own profit is a separatist.  I’m not sure, frankly, that there are any separatists at all in the first world – at least not like the separatist women in Umoja, Kenya, and not like the separatist women of PNG.  But I don’t think that should stop any woman from advocating for separatism any more than reliance on males should have stopped women from advocating for our freedom at any other point in history.  Separatism, feminism – these are strategies and critiques.  They aren’t, for the most part, at least at this point, descriptions of the lives of individual women.

I don’t say this, of course, to excuse any woman for happily and enthusiastically engaging in behaviors that are counterproductive to separatist/feminist goals.  I only say it to offer some perspective.

4 Comments
  1. August 9, 2010 5:05 pm

    Thanks for this Margaret. Something about all this over at mine has really made me quite angry and I can’t put it into words yet. But this helps I think.

  2. Mary Sunshine permalink
    August 9, 2010 5:41 pm

    Thank you, thank you Margaret for articulating an awareness that I have had for many years, and of I have been too dispirited to speak.

    It is a necessary starting point for any discussion of separatism.

  3. August 10, 2010 1:22 am

    I’m glad to hear it might be of some help, Valerie, disjointed as it is.

    Mary, it’s nice to know that other women also have that awareness. It begins to feel sometimes as though some women in the first world actually believe that they live separatist lives! I mean, we all do what we can, those of us who understand feminist critique of male supremacy enough to know that separatism is the only tactic that would set us free. But no one entangled in a first world economy founded on the suffering of black and other nonwhite colonized women – least of all those who are happily entangled in it – is actually independent of males or uninvolved in the maintenance of male interests.

    It really does come down to eagerness, too. There is a huge difference to me between a woman who works because she thinks it is a great virtue to be richer than most other women, and a woman who is more acutely aware of being trapped in a male system of dominance in her job. There is a huge difference to me between a woman who would go out of her way to adopt a mentally handicapped boy to whom society has placed on her no burden of obligation or responsibility, and a woman who bore a son she’d never give life if she could go back and do it over again.

    I think these nuances are often deliberately kept out of the discussion.

    • August 10, 2010 11:58 am

      There is a huge difference to me between a woman who would go out of her way to adopt a mentally handicapped boy to whom society has placed on her no burden of obligation or responsibility, and a woman who bore a son she’d never give life if she could go back and do it over again.

      That made me cry for real. I love you Margie

Comments are closed.

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: