Zora Neale Hurston in her 1937 novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, fashioned a memorable picture of a problem.
“De nigger woman is de mule uh de world so fur as Ah can see . . . ‘worked tuh death,” “ruint wid mistreatment,” yet strong enough to carry impossible “loads” nobody else wants to “tote.”
Pointing out problems and solutions is dangerous work.
Dangerous to friendships and established structures of hierarchy. Perhaps this is why so many anti-feminists try to count their blessings. If we have nothing to complain over, nothing to fix except our ingratitude, then the problem can be easily solved.
I used to think that way.
I’m very good at counting my blessings.
This week my husband forwarded, “Patriarchy Shmatriarchy” written by GirlWritesWhat at The Good Men Project. The author, a pessimistic divorced mother of three writes “to convince anyone who’ll listen to start thinking of men as human beings, and start insisting women collectively grow up.”
She believes women use men like tools. ”While a man used a scythe to get grain, the tool a woman used to get grain was…well, a man. While a man used a spear to defend his home from invaders, the weapon a woman used was–yup, you guessed it–a man.
Women, even feminists, “still seem perfectly fine enforcing male gender characteristics that are of benefit to them–utility, self-sacrifice, disposability and resource acquisition–and feminists don’t seem that interested in changing this. In the advancement of women’s interests, they’ve dismantled most of the benefits men enjoyed under patriarchy, while leaving the costs and responsibilities untouched.”
In other worlds, feminism hasn’t been good to men. GirlsWritesThat thinks the arrangement is great, so we should be glad for it. Keep on using men and stop complaining.
Count our blessings.
I disagree, anytime we use an ideology to oppress each other (patriarchy or feminism) we’re failing to be appropriately human. We’re also failing in the Golden Rule.
What stood out to me from GirlWritesWhat is her point that even within patriarchy women have rarely slunk down in submissive fashion. Even (especially?) the most submissive of wives knows how to manipulate her husband to get what she wants. I’m not saying she DOES, I’m saying she KNOWS HOW.
But our real lives don’t show either men or women completely dominating. Men are not just tools in the hand of women. Women are not simply sitting inside embroidering pillowcases while the men sweat to bring in food and haul water. Home is not a castle, and then workplace is not a labor camp.
In 2012 millions of women are still the ones who draw water for their homes, on their shoulders, on their heads, toting the weight miles.
Women are still the mules of the world. And then, again, so are men. The important question: are we willing mules? Do we want to be mules?
Out of my quiet home into the hot yard I walked to interview all the males on the job site today.
They didn’t sound like mules. They all commented on liking the back-breaking, heat-searing, tangible, physical work. One excavator called it “honest.” Each shook their heads over the idea of an air-conditioned office. Why weren’t more women out there with them?
They didn’t know. But they didn’t feel pressured to provide for a woman or family. Most of them were single.
My husband often says, “Feminism revealed the crisis of masculinity, it didn’t create it.”
The crisis: men don’t know what it means to be male. And in the same vein, neither do women. Because we’re grasping for a role we define in contrast or in disdain of each other. You are not more of a man because you lead a woman. You are not more of a woman because you’ve caught a man.
You are not more of a man because you use women like tools. It’s childish thinking to think women cannot lead.
You are not more of a woman because you use men like tools. It’s childish thinking to think men have to be trained.
Our disdain is thick and disguised.
For the men I know, many of them are taken more seriously outside the home: the workplace, the church, the government. And in these realms, men aren’t sure how a woman, even more a mother of young children, can contribute.
The solution isn’t taking patriarchy or feminism as a battering ram for our just rewards. Nor is it giving up and just hauling more water.
How do we learn to take the opposite sex more seriously, instead of using them for our ends?