Lucy and Todd

“Feminism and Family” (Edinburgh Book Festival Debate)

In Recent Articles on August 21, 2013 at 5:16 pm

(What follows is a slightly extended version of LE’s speech at the debate on Aug. 20, 2013, at which Alan Bissett also spoke. Chaired by Kate Mosse.)

‘Marriage,’ Stevenson wrote, ‘is an institution recognized by the police.’

The home was originally constructed to protect and perpetuate the species. Birds do it. Bees do it. Caring for offspring is considered by most creatures their most important task, often coming before self-preservation. Think of salmon painfully jumping up waterfalls, or mother bears risking all for their cubs. But in our society domesticity and motherhood have been downgraded to the lowliest of pursuits. We are all supposed to neglect our children now in favor of work, work, work. The kids are offloaded onto childminders, who are ill-trained and ill-paid. Or grandparents, who have to  give up their retirements to provide free childcare. Women get their little maternity leave, men even shorter paternity leave, and then you’re on your own.

In the patriarchal system, founded on war, domesticity is denigrated, while bombs and guns are revered: in other words, anything that can DESTROY a home is okay.

Women earn less but spend more, on clothes for work, and all the cosmetics, beauty treatments, gym membership and plastic surgery they’re supposed to buy into in order to appeal to men. But do men appeal to women? There used to be an understanding that men would pay for stuff, because women had less money. Men used to pay for the drinks at least. Sometimes with a string attached. Now women have to pretend they’re above needing men’s money. But the thing is, they do need it and they deserve it. Being a woman is so expensive. Men should pay for everything. They own the world, they made it the mess it is, they should pay!

How about Nigella Lawson, refusing to take any of Saatchi’s cash? What was all that about? Okay, she has her own money, but why not take his as well? What sort of example does that set? Saatchi owes her big-time, after all those years of alleged temper tantrums. After all those cupcakes, and picnics on planes!

Men are really very little help to women anymore. They don’t support them financially. Their contribution to pregnancy is ludicrous. Okay, fathers sometimes change nappies and handle the barbecue. Big deal. Women are forced to become single parents, because men are so lazy or unfeeling or violent or insolvent. Men seem to have NO responsibilities, while women have them all. And then single mothers get demonized by the government, and men form hooligan gangs called Fathers4Justice. There’s no ‘justice’ in any of it.

We have all been persuaded that work will save us, that women must infiltrate the workforce. But doing two jobs, at home and at work, hasn’t helped women’s status one bit, it’s just made them more exhausted and more compliant. Why should women have to work so hard anyway? In prehistory, so-called because it predates the history of patriarchy, people worked a three to four-hour day, leaving plenty of leisure time. Prehistoric women had time to invent agriculture, astronomy, medicine, spirituality and the arts. Now we just slog for men in dead-end jobs and head home to do the washing-up.

Working-class women have always worked, that’s nothing new, and where did it get them? It’s slavery. Women don’t get to do anything the way they want, and have to look pleasant about it at the same time! Where are the advantages, where are the thrills, what’s in it for the woman as she hoovers and yells at the kids and sorts out the bills, while the man’s upstairs watching his requisite five hours of porn or football or curling and skittles?

We’ve tried doing everything the male way, and it’s brought life on earth to its knees. So I don’t think feminism’s dead. But I think it’s in its infancy. Young women act like the word ‘feminism’ is naughty, like ‘socialism’ or ‘asylum seeker’. Feminism Lite makes it all seem friendly and apolitical. But sexism really can’t be separated from every other kind of hideous injustice: racism, anti-semitism and homophobia, capitalism, sadism, the despoiling of the earth, the mistreatment of animals, genocide. They are all of a piece, the stuff of brutes. And we have to do something about it – urgently. We can’t just sit around on our plump little incomes, or not so plump, and let men wreck everything.

I’ve seen enough misogyny for a lifetime. I baulk when I hear about unequal pay and unfair housework rotas and twitter rudeness. I can’t take any more wife beating and family annihilations – when men kill their whole families, in the ultimate form of punishment within the domestic sphere.

I’m sick of porn, sick of page 3, and nit-picking about the different ‘types’ of rape. I’m sick of the obsession with looks and the self-mutilation that comes with it. I’m sick of watching women ruin their ankles in high heels on cobbled streets to please men who ignore, discard and undervalue them. I’m sick of children not being able to play outdoors. I’m sick of the way women are treated in the arts too, and in the literary world, where male writers are still considered the Real Thing.

I’ve simply had it with men’s disrespect for women. It’s obscene, it’s shameful, and it’s ruinous for human civilisation and the natural world. I’m no longer trying to understand it, I’ve had it! Judges saying little girls asked for it when exploited by 40-year-old men. Men throwing acid in women’s faces. The threats made against Criado-Perez, for getting Jane Austen’s head on a banknote. Or the way Marion Bartoli was treated, for daring to win Wimbledon.

While writing Mimi, I compiled scrapbooks. Cuttings from newspapers, just from one year, 2011, on rapes and murders of women. Another on family annihilation. Another on war. Torture. Gun rampages. One on all the non-violent forms of sexism. I needed two books to cover all the murders!

Let me describe a little utopia:

Living by a lake is a thriving and contented community. They base their family life on women and women’s sexual pleasure. All money and property are handed down the female line, and women never marry. At puberty, girls are given their own bedrooms and there they conduct their love lives. Sex is only consensual, and male partners arrive at night and leave by the morning. Men make no claims on women, and any offspring are brought up by the mother’s extended family.

The women are not ashamed of their sexuality, no big issue is made of virginity, and no one denigrates women for having several partners, or for having children by different men. The women in this community enjoy a rare freedom of action, being in complete control of their sexual and procreative lives. And … everybody’s happy.

The thing is, this isn’t made up. This utopia exists. It is the way things are run in the Mosuo culture, which was featured in the Guardian today (Aug. 20, 2013). 40 or 50,000 people still live this way. As an anthropologist points out on Wikipedia, the Mosuo traditions challenge a lot of handy assumptions we have in the West about family life:

1, that marriage is a universal institution
2, that marital harmony profoundly affects the stability of children
and 3, that parents who have multiple partners jeopardize their kids’ development.

Not so. Unmarried parents living in a misogynistic culture may well jeopardize their kids’ sense of stability and security, whatever they do – but Mosuo parents do not.

One of the last matrilineal societies in the world, the Mosuo system fits right in with the simple solution I offer in Mimi.

As I said before, it’s time men did something to help us. Women have done enough. We’re tired. We want to put our feet up. We don’t want to take out the trash, only to be treated like trash ourselves, like witches and bitches. Why can’t men do something? I’m sure there are a lot of men out there who are equally sick of women getting raped and murdered, men who don’t like sex slavery and don’t approve of the capitalist usurpation of every last resource. Men who would rather not have to worry about their lovers and sisters and mothers and daughters coming to harm through misogynistic acts. A lot of men want a happy home!

(We can deal with the less amenable ones later. And Fathers4Justice.)

Here’s what I think we should do. Men have run the world with money. So give women the money. If each man gave his money to one or more women, wealth would eventually lie in female hands. I think this is the only way for women to get both the respect and the down-time they deserve. I call it the Odalisque Revolution, because it will allow women to relax, to become centers, beacons even, of pleasure-seeking. And once women own all the land, all the houses, all the schools and hospitals and offices, it will become unthinkable to violate them.

Wouldn’t it be a great joke on the male death wish if we could accomplish this peaceful revolution behind the scenes, merely by moving money around?

Well, I said I believe there are men who’d like to do something to change the sexist culture we’re all stuck in. Yet not one has written to me since the book came out in February, asking for his Mea Culpa Declaration to be stamped, which would allow him to join the Odalisque Revolution. This surprises me somewhat. Where are the men who truly want to help women, and humanity? Where are the heroic men who will save us? All they have to do is sign this:

THE MEA CULPA DECLARATION

I, the undersigned, confess to having, consciously or not, overtly or not, been part of a worldwide terrorist conspiracy that has constrained women’s lives through centuries of violence, repression, distress, and discouragement.

I recognize that this treatment of women has been a ploy in a power game, the result of male cowardice, stupidity, perversity, and corruption; and that the status of men has been artificially exalted by it.

I acknowledge that vast numbers of women have been unfairly treated throughout the period of male rule. I therefore apologize for any tyrannical behavior of my own, and that of other men, and pledge to do my utmost to prevent such injuries, insults, and injustices from occurring ever again.

I apologize for stubborn male resistance over the centuries to women’s ideas, thoughts, decisions, and remarks—in the home, at work, in business, in the arts, in education, and in government. In light of this loss of female input over centuries, I now agree to abide by the decisions women make, without resorting to mindless criticisms, meaningless reflex contradictions, and senseless derision, no matter how wacko or whimsical the ideas expressed by women may seem to me to be.

I renounce male power and privilege, on the grounds that they were unsportingly won. I wish to relinquish all remaining economic, social, and political advantages I may have obtained either as a mere consequence of being male, or because of my active participation (now regretted) in misogynist acts of terror.

In aid of this, I have transferred and/or will transfer, and will continue to transfer, my financial resources to a woman or women, with no strings attached.

By such means, I hope to foster a more humane environment, in which women are less likely to be mistreated and maligned.

It is my hope that the hand-over of power and property to women will ultimately lead to a transformation of society, benefiting people, animals, and the natural world, as well as insuring a future for human culture, and the preservation and continuation of artistic endeavors.

I believe in the pleasure principle, and therefore renounce the male work ethic, an indecency imposed by men who wished to profit from subjugation. I hereby attest the inalienable right of all creatures to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Name:

Date:

***

Enough tweaking of the sexist hierarchy here and there, enough promises of equality. Equality just won’t do it anymore. It doesn’t work. What we need is female supremacy. The only answer to male domination is ZERO TOLERANCE.

(copyright: LE)

Advertisements
  1. what Lucy said, signed A. Man

  2. […] “Feminism and Family” (Edinburgh Book Festival Debate). […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: