I was just reading a post in a blog I occasionally glance over, "Ramblings of a Kajira". I'll freely admit, I am both fascinated and a little wary of Gorean dynamics, but am generally pretty happy to live and let live. An ex girlfriend of mine is now a very happily married and collared slave (not Gorean, though) and I feel confident she has the means to engage in a discourse about roles and gender. Not my thing, and I've written about why before, but whatevs.
But this one post I read on this Kajira blog really triggered some squick. It's a post about feminism, and ooooooh boy when you get Gorean slaves and hardcore feminists together it can be an interesting fight. Granted, neither really listens to the other, so it's also less of a debate and more of two monologues competing, but I digress.
So one woman posts in her blog a letter to her daughter. I've read through this letter and yeah, I pretty much agree with the points that get made- you make your own happiness, don't wait to be rescued, expect respect and give yourself that same respect, honor your intelligence. Fair enough, pretty reasonable things that media depictions of what is feminine tend to beat down with a bimbo stick.
And I came to this letter because of a blog from Emma over at Ramblings of a Kajira, a post titled "what feminism REALLY is". I'm always interested in various interpretations of feminism, especially around sexuality, considering sexiness is often wrapped up in gender essentialism. Emma's rant, however, tends to miss the point I think.
For example- "No one else can/should control you or make you happy." Emma's response is to say that this approach is detached, that of course others influence your emotions- but I think perhaps this can be better rephrased, because I think Emma is ranting about something the OP didn't say. "No one is responsible for your happiness, and happiness is not possible all the time" is perhaps a bit more accurate. Your brain isn't capable of handling serotonin non-stop- serotonin being the happy molecule. Can other people "make" you happy? No. Should you depend on others to "make" you happy? Nope. Expecting others to manage your happiness is a form of giving away personal control- and responsibility- in a way that's unhealthy and codependent. And, let's face it, many depictions of romance suggest that a man is a woman's path to fulfillment and happiness (particularly poignant around V Day), so it's fair to make a point of saying that by giving over your emotional self-control to others, you're letting them control you. And not in the obvious collar-and-leash way, but rather in subtle, often manipulative ways that don't revolve around informed consent.
Or "don't wait to be rescued". Emma seems to suggest that "being rescued" is the same as "asking for help" which is completely off the mark. Waiting for other people to fix things for you is passive and lacking in agency. Asking people to help you is active and engaging agency. Not the same thing at all! But the linking and merging of these two ideas is too common, I think, and makes people hesitate to ask for the help they need. I guess it's the difference between saying "it's ok to ask for help, but not ok to be helpless without it". Emma says,
"I think rather than teaching someone that no one else has any control, it would be better to teach that there are people in positions of power and authority over people, and to respect that authority will make them have a lot more success in life if they don’t try to fight it."
But I disagree. I think that interpersonal intelligence often involves knowing who the authority figures are, and when/how to pick those battles with them. Some battles are worth fighting, and actually can garner respect, after all. I remember reading that men get raises more often than women because they're more likely to ask for them on a regular basis. Advocating for yourself in an appropriate way will reward you- passively waiting will not.
And really, at the heart of the matter, is this rant about empowerment (biggest issue highlighted)-
"While I think women needed equal pay, equal rights, etc, we have given up so much for that. to the point that if we just want to be moms, wives, we are no longer able to do that with out being looked down on for those choices.
We aren’t allowed to be women anymore. We aren’t allowed to love, to trust, to rely on a partner, or to even be true to our natures or personalities. We have to lead even if we are wired to want to follow and trust a honorable man.
We are taught as women that men are never honorable and if we decide to allow him to lead, that we are weak and setting women back."
It's not a new argument, I guess. But it bothers me. "We aren't allowed to be women anymore" suggests that only by being moms and wives are we fulfilling our "true natures". And that is one of my major squicks with Gor. I can appreciate the nice slave positions and terms, I can overlook the terrible writing. But I am not at all ok with Gor's theory that there is One True Way to be masculine and One True Way to be feminine, and just because one girl who is mouthy and opinionated decides to attempt to alter her personality to be more passive, that this is the Natural Way of Things.
Um, no. Sorry. This whole myth of female passiveness came about as a way of controlling women as property, not because of some realization of what women need, but rather as a way of forcing women out of roles of power. It was a cultural raping of agency. It was not brought about by the women saying "oh gee I really wish I could just kneel at the feet of some awesome hunk o man flesh", but rather men saying "right, now that we're settling into towns and agricultural communities, we need to make sure that the kids our women bear are ours". It's actually pretty capitalist. Before that, nomadic communities had a lot of respect for the power of childbirth, along with the fact that by necessity everyone had to pitch in together.
There's a lot of what gets called "human nature" that isn't, really. It's culture. Made by the people who make culture (often men, often white men, often straight white well-off men). It's not natural, actually. And here is where I finally draw the line.
First off? There is a difference between love and codependence. There is. Thanks to a big media push, they may seem the same, but when you're watching chick flicks and Lifetime, you're learning a really unhealthy message- that love = codependency. Codependency is messed up, and causes unhealthy spirals of behavior that will drive you both mental and make it incredibly difficult to leave. Codependency makes love into a drug, like heroin, that's difficult to escape.
Look. If you want to be a submissive or slave, and you're your own person who can take care of themselves and be independent but want to give that over to someone else, that's awesome. Dominant folk like me are glad for submissive folk like you (but seriously, be honest- are you submissive because you want to be or because you're scared of personal responsibility?). But while that may feel natural FOR YOU, do not try to say, suggest, or hint that all others of your gender are just deceiving themselves or aren't REALLY happy because they're fighting this gender role. This Male/Female dichotomy is FUNDAMENTALLY FLAWED. Sorry to burst your bubble, but not everyone fits into it, which means it's not a working model. Gender is a spectrum. Which means that male-bodied folk behave in a variety of ways, and female-bodied folk behave in a variety of ways, too. If there is a tendency among these socially constructed genders, I would argue that it has more to do with culture than nature.
I am not attracted to dominance because of OR in spite of being a woman. I am just attracted to dominance. What I've got between my legs has nothing to do with it. And feminism, at least the branch I subscribe to, is trying to get to that point- away from this idea that there's a Male Way to Be and a Female Way to Be.
Emma? Your post suggests exactly the problem, even as you try to say that feminism is supposed to protect your right to choose. Yes, feminism is about agency and choice- but then, in order to fully have agency and choice, we need to not be pressured/forced into antiquated ideas of what is masculine or feminine behavior. If you identify as masculine and you knit, it's a masculine behavior. If you identify as feminine and you change tires, it's a feminine behavior. Actions are not gendered- the way we perceive them is.