At first I thought, “Should I feel bad about giving these internalized-misogynist websites traffic?” Then I realized that there is no greater joy than the fact that my website will come up on their referring traffic statistics and I feel better. The truth is that I’ve given this website more traffic over the years than I could ever cultivate from one blog post. I’ve been visiting for years pouring over the articles and visiting its favorite links for a peek into bizarro world.
A lot of anti-oppression folks may be looking for something more challenging to the status quo than feminism and there are a lot more looking for something a lot less challenging to the status quo if not a full on societal reversal back to the days when men were in charge and gosh darnit, women liked it that way. These are folks who believe in the “the patriarchy” and think it’s the best thing possible for society.
It’s not just being conservative, it’s a full on call for women to be baby machines (hello quiverfull movement) and for the right to vote to be repealed. It’s a straight up condemnation of educating women outside of the home for any grade level lest the ladies have some semblance of autonomous life skills that would allow them to change their minds and escape with basic knowledge of how the “heathen world” works. Domesticity is next to godliness and it contains a long precedent of abuse.
One article, “No Shades Of Grey” sums up the tone of this scary movement: there is no nuance, there is only biblical patriarchy. It’s a total denial of subjective truth and that’s bigger than a theoretical issue. When you deny the multitude of realities happening in any given frame of life then you have set the stage for totalitarianism. There’s no way around that.
You see, there are individual points I agree with on your average biblical anti-feminist sampling. Yes, I agree that consumerism has established impossible beauty standards and I do believe that our cultural constructs cultivate more than a few major problems. I think a DIY ethos is awesome and I agree that being connected to what you eat, wear, and consume on a regular basis is a way to demonstrate respect for earth and human labor. I think there is a culture of sexual objectification and expectation that women should dress to impress men solely through sex appeal and fascist aesthetic standards. I don’t think that being a stay-at-home parent is a sign of failure and I think that networked homeschooling is a respectable option.
I just get a little scared when 24/7 kinky power exchanges are combined with biological determinism, law, and morality. I get scared when we’ve moved beyond honoring the domestic sphere and making it mandatory. I get scared when men are equated to the very voice of god, always. I get scared when we deprive young women with the skill sets they need to navigate the world.
You can always choose to live a modest life off the grid. It’s a whole lot harder to come of age totally off the grid, without any education outside of a bible, and without any skills other than making babies and raising them. Motherhood is not mandatory nor is it always a blessing. Sex is not evil and a casual understanding of biology makes it clear that it’s just as much about pleasure as it is about reproduction if not more. Most of all, I’m scared when all of society’s problems can be pegged on what women have done. I’m not exasperating when I speak of these fundamentalist movements as a Christian taliban, especially when women’s modesty means covering from head to toe to ensure that men don’t experience arousal and descend into sinful thoughts.
Then again, any regular reader of this blog knows that pointing out why the extreme Christian fundamentalists are a horror show for progress and equality. That’s the interesting thing to me–your average run of the mill Christian will probably annoy me. You know the type, the ones who say things like “I don’t hate gays, I totally love their sass! It’s just that marriage is a man and woman thing. Don’t get mad at me!! It’s just my belief, mmmkay?!” There are even “moderate” fundamentalists (that just shows you how long the crazy train really is, doesn’t it?) who believe that rape is bad most of the time and killing abortion doctors is tragic but probably a good thing in the long run and that evolution is just a theory and these folks would be considered wacky liberals by the LAF, Titus II, Quiverfull crowd.
And that’s why I can’t look away. It’s that Nietzche quote about looking into the abyss and having it stare back at you. We are beyond the valley of the mommy bloggers, past the land of the Mormons, and right in the shadow of a terrifying patriarchy that is really into women being meek unless they’re berating other women for not being meek enough. In between the recipes and patterns for ankle length dresses and so-cute-you-could-kill-someone decorations there is the nightmare version of what a simple and traditional life would be like.
Modesty doctrines are not the response to a culture where women are sexually objectified. The extreme modesty doctrine teaches young women that they don’t own their bodies. Now, extreme fundamentalists are up front about this: God owns the body and he entrusts his daughters bodies to their fathers. It has the added benefit of telling them that their bodies are a mechanism for evil. That to turn someone on is to (literally) but them at risk of eternal damnation.
There are more and more people speaking up about the abuse they’ve experienced growing up and being indoctrinated into these organizations. It’s so easy to chuckle at extremists but we have to remember that children in these massive households that are isolated from the world did not consent to that life. Undoing that kind of damage is exceptionally hard because it means breaking down an entire reality. Leaving more or less requires the individual to experience a painful break from everything they’ve taken for granted and it’s going to look and feel like a psychotic episode for that individual. It requires tremendous support and when we persist in thinking that these beliefs are choices for everyone, we make it harder.
I don’t know why I visit Ladies Against Feminism and why I keep up with their platitudes from the edge of sanity and why I visit their favorite bloggers and check out their links to “modest retailers.” There is the understanding that it was pure random luck that “I” (whatever that means, really) assembled at my own place and time and got to develop an independent intellect. When I first visited it was to laugh at the ludicrous ideas, the shoddy logic, and the backward ideas that violence against women would all end if women just started wearing what men told them and started keeping house a little better. Now it’s something darker and that might have to do with the fact that I would be considered a solid, dangerous threat.
If Gail Dines thinks that feminist pornographers are pimps and traitors to women, I shudder to think what would happen if I were trapped in a community with that overall mindset. Unlike many other “Mommy Blogs” written by conservative or religious women with gorgeous photographs, luscious recipes, and snaps of life that really seem to be about relishing what a gift life is, the blogs organized under “Biblical Womanhood” or “Noble Femininity” or “Quiverfull” or straight up “biblical anti-feminism” are more vicious and you can see a huge number of entries written by the devout that are just about coping with the lifestyle through fervent prayers for grace and submission.
If a blog after blog dedicated solely to “raising homemakers” in 2012 doesn’t alert you to the fact that misogyny is just as popular as ever, I don’t know what will. To restate: deciding that you want to be a homemaker is awesome but deciding that your daughter is going to be a homemaker is patently fucked up. There is no shame about the brainwashing when someone talks about how they’re going to ‘train’ their daughters to be humble, meek, and subservient women who never leave home without a male escort without more literacy than it takes to read a recipe.
There’s also something humbling about the reminder that the human mind will seek “empowerment” in any situation as a way to protect mental health. We seek out pleasure and we have such adept brains that we can find hope and personal strength and positive growth from even the most limiting of circumstances. I can also see how oppression persists and the ways we protect ourselves from the most pressing dangers we experience in our individual contexts.
Maybe I also read these blogs as a way to solidify my own arguments and ideas. When I find an idea we share in common, I look for the subtle nuances that distinguish the behaviors. In the boldest forms of sexism I can gain greater understanding of its more covert forms. I appreciate those who believe in quality and push pause on their own paradigms to make sure that they aren’t stepping on others.
The mystery that makes these blogs the most compelling are just how female driven the movement seems to be as a whole. It’s a sharp reminder that a solitary activist cannot change the world. You have to learn how to communicate and negotiate radical inclusiveness for progressive cultural change to occur. When you recognize that the most vocal proponents of the Quiverfull movement or “biblical womanhood” or “Titus II” really are the women trapped in their own homes you realize what a cage a calcified vision of the world can be. It’s so vital to expose yourself to new ideas your entire life and to encourage the development of compassion. Making fun of the “Ladies Against Feminism” won’t do anything to help fight for equality. Those blogging that a woman’s place in the home today might be the same people standing at my side tomorrow and I have no idea what resources have been denied to them that enforce this hateful world view.
Internalized hate is bigger than the queer community. Sex workers have a lot of internalized shame and so do many women. What makes these blogs scariest of all is the fact that their ideas are not fringe, not when mainstream politicians call rape “a means of conception” or debate the nature of a “legitimate rape.” The scary thing is just how close to home it really is and how widespread a methodology of enforced ignorance is in the “land of the free.”
Most of all, I want anyone who might be coming to my blog from any of these to know is that I don’t think you’re stupid. I think you’ve been lied to and abused. I want you to know that you are worthy of freedom and pleasure and sunshine and not always being the perfect wife, mother, or daughter. I don’t think shame is helpful here and I know that it’s hard to identify a gut urge to leave when you’ve been told to defer to your husband or pastor on all issues.