Friday, October 31, 2008

My philosophy paper...it's pretty depressing for women...

The question was posed: Is it possible to honor women without honoring the patriarchy that created the concept of women also? (This is really philosophical, so to any men reading this DO NOT go out and start disrespecting women on account of my writing...its just food for thought) Ok, here it is:


It is difficult to accept that, philosophically, it is impossible to fully respect and honor women without also honoring patriarchy. I say this because as a woman and a feminist, I live my life in hopes of breaking down the constructs of patriarchy in my life and celebrating my femininity. But if the definition of a woman and all she encompasses is constructed by patriarchy, philosophically, she does not exist outside its barriers. So, now I ask myself the question: who and what could I possibly be, if not a “woman”?

A woman, by patriarchal standards, exemplifies weakness, emotionality, motherliness, apprehension, and submission. She exists exclusively as the binary opposite of the man. According to patriarchy, without man, there is no woman, simply because she has no purpose outside of male pleasure and satisfaction. As farfetched as these claims seem, our society has reinforced these ideals of female inferiority.

We, as women, live our lives in false consciousness. We believe we are freely choosing any and every decision we make, whether it be what man to marry, which outfit to wear, or what hairstyle to sport. The problem is that these decisions did not arise from our own biological conscience; they are constructs of androcentrism. As children, we are taught that a real woman desires and eventually marries a man. The first problem with this is that women are forced into heterosexuality before we can even conceptualize sex. As a result, any woman who cannot conform to the hetero expectation becomes an “Other” in society (I say “woman who cannot conform” because I do not believe heterosexuality is biological but is forced, therefore, it can inevitably be resisted by those who are biologically inclined to do so). She suffers, not only the plight of all women qua women, but an added barrier of oppression as well: heterosexism.

The second problem is that marriage in itself is oppressive to women. The concept of marriage originated as a way for men to officially own women. In fact, women were literally considered to be property once a marriage agreement was finalized. Today, women believe we have more freedom than our ancestral sisters, but this is our own false consciousness of the situation. It is still tabooed for two women to be in a committed sexual relationship and the marriage between two women (and two men) is outlawed in most states in the U.S.

The choosing of clothing, as minute as it may seem, generally is a result of patriarchy. Our society (male-dominated society) tells us what to wear in order to attract men. This goes for hairstyles as well. We dress ourselves in what we believe is most attractive to men; therefore we are not freely choosing what we wear. We paint ourselves in chemical-based cosmetics to cover our true beauty and create what is beautiful in the eyes of men. This is not freedom! We have all been forced into this way of thinking, believing, and living.

To answer my earlier question of what I am outside of being a woman, I say that I am whoever my Creator created me to be, and by “Creator”, I mean the High Power who created us all. It is my new belief that the Creator fashioned me with a vagina, uterus, and birthing capabilities, but it did not create a “woman”; I was assigned my role once I entered into this world. My womanhood is social, as is the womanhood of most women. So, by this logic, it would be impossible to honor “women” without honoring the patriarchal force which created the concept of “women”. This is a very philosophical way of viewing this topic; I acknowledge the difficulty in coming to these realizations, both for myself and any woman who reads these pages.

4 comments:

K. said...

Nice paper. Thanks for posting it. Nice blog too-glad I visited :)

Hanif said...

Excellent writing. I must however take issue with your postulation that marriage was created for the express purpose of female subjection. If I'm not mistaken such an idea presupposes that marriage was either a) created at once, in one fell swoop, or b) sprang up in each community wherein it has taken root independently yet with the same goals in mind which would,( being as it is an institution that was supposedly created by...men(?) correct???) imply some inherent impetus to suppress femininity in the male pshyche. An argument that I hardly find tenable. Not sure if this was what you were saying, but this is just what I came away from it with. In general when we put forth ideas from ourselves with the intention of raising awareness and by extension of that questioning the flawed belief constructs that impede the manifestation of our full potential as a human race, we must be certain such ideas are airtight as one flawed or wholly unsupported argument can make the underlying concept for which we are arguing, namely liberation of the self, appear to be ludicrous.
You might want to look into some of the indigenous (read: NOT Berber,lol.) tribes in Western Africa. Though I'm no scholar on the subject, I can recall reading about how they were quite matrilineal. The westerners bastardized many beautiful concepts and when the apparent contradictions (created through flawed interpretation, practice) in those institutions became apparent they made arguments for idea being flawed in it's entirety so as to remove blame from themselves. Think on it

Dekk said...

Hanif,

In no way was I under the impression that Randa was implying that there is, in your words, "some inherent impetus to suppress femininity in the male psyche." The male psyche is relative to each individual who may identify as male. It is my impression that Randa is exploring the dynamics of patriarchy, which is an institution composed of a variety of different things. Limiting patriarchy to the "male psyche" would be inconclusive, so it is no wonder that your response is somewhat cynical. Nothing in our society, including you, me or Randa, is exempt from patriarchy. Men comprise the dominant paradigm in America (and most of the world at large) and as a result all of our perceptions are inherently from that of a patriarchal lens. Even your understanding of indigenous tribes in Western Africa is westernized, patriarchal and in your terms “bastardized”. I assume that you have spent most of your life in America and that much of your familiarization with this topic was read in English. Whether you recognize it or not, it is almost impossible for our perspective to rest outside of bastardized, western philosophy until we completely remove ourselves from it. After all, we are born (or at least assimilated) westerners debating western concepts in western language with western technology. In fact, the term “western” itself is western. This is not to say that researching other cultures is pointless or unfruitful. However, no amount of research is capable of counteracting years of patriarchal socialization. There is no “airtight” argument in any aspect of philosophy, so it should be no surprise that Randa’s work comes with holes, as does both of our opinions. None of us are right or wrong. We can only choose to agree or disagree, so long as we never refuse to learn from one another (opinion).

Peace!

Hanif said...

Dekker,
Good point, I'm pondering it...