Tag Archives: Patriarchy

It feels really good to stop explaining yourself.

17 Jan

Something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is the compulsion a lot of women (it sounds like) feel to explain their thoughts, feelings, rationale, etc, often preemptively.  I know I’ve certainly done it, and been doing it for a long time. It’s an automatic response. Or sometimes, I’ll augment an explanation with something that borders on an apology, for no fucking reason at all that I can really articulate. Or I might use diction that’s friendlier/softer/more mealymouthed in an effort to…avoid offending someone? I don’t even know why.

Why is this a default mode of communication for so many women? We all know women are socialized to be polite, unassertive, and deferential, while men are socialized to be assertive, unapologetic, and, to a degree, entitled. When your culture is telling you that you have an innate right to be assertive, there’s no need to explain yourself. And when your culture tells you there are things to which you are entitled, there’s no reason not to be assertive. The other side of this stupid coin is that the socialization of women as polite, unassertive, and deferential means that when a woman does have to speak up about something, the need to explain often follows closely behind, perhaps as an apology for having to say/insist/do x/y/z.  A third side to this coin is that Western culture tells women they need to second-guess themselves all the time – this is not a message as thoroughly entrenched and manifested for men. When I was 18, I went into a Schuck’s to get a fuel pump. A kindly, plump, approaching-elderly white guy was the employee who looked up which kind I’d need. After he’d figured it out, he said, ‘So, you just want one?’ Confused, I said yes. He chuckled and then said, ‘Oh, I wouldn’t have sold you two.’ As though I were so unknowledgeable about my own car, I might believe it required two fuel pumps. This is what I mean. There’s an assumption propagated in our culture and the patriarchy that women are ripe to be taken for a ride, presumably so blithely ignorant of nearly everything that one must wonder how they managed to survive so long without falling  into an open manhole (how’s that for symbolism?), absent the steady, omniscient male guidance required to keep them safe. The patriarchy tells us (and, indeed, is founded upon this very notion) that men know best. About everything.

I’ve been making a conscious effort to not automatically explain myself so much.

It came to light that my auto insurance provider, Amica, had been joyously fucking me over for a while. I was getting an unwarranted shitty rate for my super safe Honda sedan and spotless driving record, and then the premium went up $30 more dollars per month than I was told it would come the new year. I’d been with Amica for three years, and had not once received any additional discounts – the only thing I got were rate increases and a card of gratitude. You want to show me gratitude? Cover a month’s premium. I mean, come on. I know you’re thankful for my money, you sure as shit don’t have to kill the environment by mailing out a card to tell me that. So I used their online chat feature, which, as an introvert who hates phones, I have to admit I love, to be like ‘wtf?’ After some derping, the representative told me there was a ‘statewide increase,’ and then offered to take off collision coverage, which would save me ~$500 a year. Fuck that. That sounds more beneficial to Amica than to me, given the ACV of my car. So I declined and decided to start looking around for different insurance.

When my jiu jitsu friend and smart numbers guy hooked me up with his agent at State Farm’s info, I learned that for coverage that was not only the equivalent of Amica’s, but a little better, I could save $730 per year. Upon this discovery, I was PISSED. So I took again to the chat feature to cancel my policy. And I was so pissed I had absolutely no inclination to be wooed by any attempts to retain my business.

It was really gratifying to say what was on my mind without having to reformulate the diction to be less assertive/potentially offensive. As you’ll see, I wasn’t being an asshole to the rep. That’s not ‘not automatically explaining myself so much,’ that’s being an asshole to the rep. I don’t advocate being an asshole unless someone has demonstrated they don’t have any regard for the boundaries you’ve set, demanding a more forceful conveyance of your message, until they get the picture. So, what I said is in green. My commentary/what I might’ve said if compelled to explain myself will be in blue. I’ve taken out some boring/inconsequential parts.

Rachel N.: Welcome to Amica Chat!  How may I assist you today?
Sydnie : Hi Rachel, I want to cancel my auto policy (“Hi Rachel, I need to cancel my auto policy.” No, I don’t need to, in the strictest sense; I want to because Amica’s being terrible.)
Rachel N.: Sure we would be happy to assist you with that and discuss that with you further.  We do have reps available now on the phone that could assist you.  800-242-6422 (<— bullshit tactic to try to retain my business, I know this because….)
Sydnie : I was talking to a rep named Anne earlier today and was under the impression I could do it via the chat feature (“If possible, I would prefer to do it via chat.” Also, there’s no discussion to be had. There’s just cancelling. I don’t need your tricky corporate doublespeak!)
Rachel N.: What is your reason for wanting to cancel your policy?
Sydnie : absurd and ever increasing premiums (“The rates have just risen too much for me.” Notice how I’d be taking the regrettable onus of cancellation upon myself because it’s too much for ME. Not because Amica is being fucking outrageous.)
Rachel N.: I see. What company did you switch to? (At this point, I know her questions are an attempt to keep me on, but I’m more interested in expressing that I’m pissed than not answering these questions.)
Sydnie : State Farm
Rachel N.: Do you know what coverage they are providing you?> (Are you fucking kidding me? Of course I know. I just got it.)
Sydnie : yes, it’s the same as what I have at Amica, plus a little more (“Yes, it’s [here I’d probably list the bare bones of my coverage. Why should I feel like I should do that? Fuck her questions].”)
Rachel N.: Ok, so that was with state minimum liability and $500 deductibles?
Sydnie : yes
Rachel N.: Did you do a 1 year or 6 month policy with them?
Sydnie : Why do you need this information to cancel my policy? (“Hmm, I think it’s a six month policy.” What the fuck? I know it’s a six month policy. But my instinct is to sound apologetic and a little unsure of myself.)
Rachel N.: We want to make sure that you are really getting a better deal and are being taken care of. (lol) We also like to see who we are losing our business to, etc. 
Sydnie : It’s a six month policy. It would have been nice to see this concern when I initially asked about the increase in premiums last month. Instead, I was offered the option to remove the collision coverage.
Rachel N.: I understand, I am sorry that it wasn’t discussed at that time.  How much are you going to be saving with them?
Sydnie : saving slightly less than half . (“Well the monthly premium is $xx and they go year round, not ten months like Amica, so that’s $YYY.” Why am I explaining my math?!)
Rachel N.: Ok.  So about $500 savings a year.
Rachel N.: And when does your new policy start with State Farm?
Sydnie : I’ll be saving ~$700 a year, since my premium with Amica is $YYYY. (“I think I’ll be saving around $700 a year, since my premium with Amica is $YYYY?” I don’t think, I know, and why am I asking for her affirmation?! She was hella off the first time!)
Sydnie : It’s already started, so canceling can take effect right away. (“I just started it, so we can cancel it as of today, if possible.” Like it’s a joint enterprise?)
Rachel N.: Oops, was looking at the wrong policy, yes that is correct. Ok, we would like to regain your business in the future, is it ok if we contact you next year to see if we can give you a better rate at that time?
Sydnie : Honestly I’m surprised the difference is so great, given that State Farm is one of the brick and mortar types with customers assigned to agents. (I probably wouldn’t have said this at all. I was curious if she’d provide any further info about why the difference was so great.)
Sydnie : sure
Rachel N.: Right.  Well we hate to lose your business.  I understand that price is a big factor.
Sydnie : I appreciate the sentiment but if there had been any good will efforts in the past, especially given my spotless driving record, I might’ve been more amenable to staying. But a difference this big? It’s hard not to feel like one might be getting fleeced. (“Yeah, price is a big factor. :-/”)

She ignored that entirely, and the rest of the conversation was about the minutia of refunds, etc. It was, for once, a satisfying conversation where I didn’t come away feeling a little compromised.

Anybody else have this type of default response? Or used to?


Hey guys, no one blames you for liking those Kyra Gracie pics.

18 Sep

To the guys:

After the pics from Kyra Gracie’s recent photo shoot showed up online, lots of women in martial arts voiced their displeasure, which Grappling Girl explains so masterfully I’m not going to rehash it here (also in that post are numerous examples of the type of pictures in question, including the actual Kyra Gracie pics. check out that kimura pic. tell me that that doesn’t insult you, as a bjj practicioner. her elbow is up way high, she’s kimura-ing from the dubious choice of a poor half guard, and there’s so much space between them you could just wedge a guy in there to complete the fantasy, which would probably be more honest anyway. or that rear naked choke pic – since when is grabbing the biceps a reasonable defense? “Oooh yeah, hot girls doing shitty jiu jitsu, that’s what I want to see!”).

When the pics surfaced, and women in martial arts/BJJ started objecting, one of the inevitable responses that comes along in situations like this (and did in this one) is what I’m going to call the Biological Imperative Defense. It goes like this:

“What’s wrong with liking to look at pictures of beautiful women? She has an incredible body and is a master of this thing I’m super passionate about, of COURSE I like seeing her all sexy. I’m a (straight/bi) man. It’s natural that I like to see sexy pictures of sexy women.” Or something to that effect. I’m just pulling stuff from the recesses of my memory, but you probably know the type of comment I mean.

When you hear people objecting to those pictures, maybe you consider those objections, and then experience something of a cognitive dissonance because you still find those pictures sexy and fun to look at. And the question that logically follows that train of thought is, “if these pictures are demeaning/objectifying/offensive, but I’m still enjoying them, what does that say about me and my sexuality?” Not much, as far as I’m concerned. Basically, all that makes me think is, ‘here’s a straight/bi dude who likes sexy pictures of women.’ You are not to blame for pictures like that, or the ire they draw, or for finding them titillating. The (reasonable) people who are voicing their problems with it are not blaming you – not directly, and not by extension for enjoying them. I’m prepared to look at pics of Carlos Condit shirtless all day, if that’s what it takes to prove to you I think there’s nothing wrong with it.

There’s nothing wrong with liking those pictures, and that’s not what’s ruffling feathers. No joke. No one – no one reasonable, anyway – expects that a straight/bi man would not be intrigued to see sexy pictures of a woman he finds sexy, and no one could blame him for it. No one’s objecting to your sexuality (unless, of course, you’re expressing it in a tasteless, demeaning way and making comments about hoping to get caught in her triangle or whatever. Then you might get some flak. Incidentally, the proliferation of crass comments is an example of the effect of the patriarchy – thinking that those comments are reasonable, appropriate, and relevant, regardless of how they may make half the population feel (alienated, objectified, marginalized, dehumanized, disregarded, etc). Do you remember how displeased Jon Hamm was when the media was freaking out about his junkThis is what happens on the daily with women’s bodies.)*

The whole Kyra Gracie thing is not a new discussion. In fact, it’s just another iteration of the main issue at the core of feminism. And in any discussion where one group is drawing attention to the negative impact of another group’s actions/reach/legacy, and you are a member (willing or not) of the latter, it’s easy to start feeling defensive. I understand why you might. A major, integral, and intractable part of your identity belongs to a group that, it sounds like, is under fire. But the thing is, it’s not feminists vs. men. When feminists point out an injustice/mechanism of oppression/sexist thing, it’s not an attack on men at large. It’s often not even an attack on a man, unless it’s something irrefutably fucking horrific and sexist. It’s an attack on the system of oppression. You are not necessarily or by default an active cog in the system of the oppression of women. And you can certainly choose not to be. So, good news, you don’t have to feel defensive and under attack…since you’re not.

To make sure we’re on the same page and working with the same basic understanding of this rhetoric, here’s a very brief explanation of one of the main concepts shaping it:

The Patriarchy
A social system in which the male is the primary authority figure central to social organization and the central roles of political leadership, moral authority, and control of property, and where fathers hold authority over women and children. It implies the institutions of male rule and privilege, and entails female subordination. (<– that’s from Wikipedia; emphasis is mine.)

A popular way of dismissing and ridiculing feminism is to make fun of any reference to the patriarchy. My guess is that to those unfamiliar with it, it may sound like it’s bordering on being a conspiracy theory. So let’s optimistically assume there’s not an intentional, conscious, and collective effort to sustain the patriarchy. Let’s just look at the facts.

The majority of world leaders, politicians, CEOs, the clergy, etc, are men. The US is, by definition, essentially a patriarchy. Maybe not the patriarchy of Georgian England, but still a patriarchy. And even if no party to the patriarchy is literally saying, “Women, we require your subordination,” efforts abound to ensure it – ludicrous reproductive health legislature, the systematic deconstruction of any powerful (or potentially powerful) woman’s appearance, women being treated as ornamentation/decor/trophies in the media, etc. Let’s be generous and assume much of that is a straight-from-hell holdover of less enlightened days, and not a conscious effort (except the policy-making stuff…that’s about as conscious as it gets) to be assholes.

So if it’s not conscious and intentional, then all these manifestations of sexism, rape culture, the minimization of women and their concerns, etc, are emblematic of an insidious, far-reaching cultural subconsciousness that suggests these things are expected, reasonable, and fair. And when feminists point out that a lot of this shit shouldn’t be the status quo, is not reasonable, and is not fair, and then have it dismissed by, primarily, men in power who seem to think they’re both the Masters of the Universe and the arbiters of How Things Are? You can see how a group of oppressed people being told they’re not being oppressed by their oppressors is a pretty maddening thing. Even if the oppressors are not consciously, intentionally, and avowedly trying to oppress/contribute to the oppression of women, it can still happen. This is the patriarchy in 21st century America (well, that’s a brief and incomplete description, but hopefully you get the idea).

So what might this all mean for you?
What would women in martial arts/feminists want out of you? A greater awareness of the systems that result in this being almost de rigueur for many women in the public eye, regardless of occupation. An understanding of why the people who don’t like it feel that way. An understanding of how it makes your female training partners feel to be represented like that. And, of course, the understanding that it’s not you personally as a man against whom feminists are railing. That’s my guess, anyway. That’s what I want.

I’m not saying this to pander to any guys who might read this. No ‘hey bro, I’m a cool chick, I can hang with the guys and understand that you’re guys and you’re attracted to sexy women (if you’re straight/bi) and I’m one of the crew.’ I’m saying this because it’s a fact that I don’t see mentioned, and its omission results in an unnecessary straw man-type dialogue that distracts from the actual concern. And I’m also saying it because, really, guys. It’s not us versus you, unless you’re an asshole, but you’re probably not, especially if you’re engaged enough to read this far. And I’m also saying it because I like you guys! A lot! I like you guys so much I can even envision marrying one of you some day! I operate under the assumption that people are inherently good and generally have good intentions, and I approach discussions of equality with that M.O. I’ve always been treated with respect by all the guys with whom I’ve ever trained, and if that genuine affection for men, as fellow human beings, is not currently a part of the discussion, it’s an oversight. It’s vital and germane to effective communication. The efforts for equality are collaborative, and we need allies. And, if you’re in favor of equality, and not sexist, it’s not hard to be an ally. We want you with us. We’re psyched when you’re with us. SO psyched. And, really…why wouldn’t you want to be an ally?

Daniel Strauss. Enjoy!


*in my research, I discovered that, hilariously, Salon has the topic “jon hamm’s penis“. sadly, there is only one article within it. 😥