Tag Archives: patriarchy

The Obruni Diaries: Relationship Checklists

20 Nov

by Allyn Faenza

Earlier this semester I was tuning into the local radio station to hear two friends’ weekly radio show. Each week they present a controversial topic and ask Ghanaian and international students to express their opinions on air. Seeing as they are both males in their twenties and trying to appeal to their audience, more often than not the weekly topic is about romantic relationships. One week, the conversation centered around the “relationship check-list” and attraction. There were four Ghanaian women, two Ghanaian men, and two international students involved in the talk.

My DJ friends began the talk by asking the participants to name five qualities or attributes that would attract them to someone of the opposite sex. My international friend responded first by saying that she was looking for someone who shares the same religion and work ethic as her, is compassionate, physically attractive, and musical. As she was explaining her list, I could hear some of the Ghanaian women giggling. The DJs asked them to comment on why they found her list amusing, and all four of them responded that the list was valid, but she was forgetting one huge point.

As the show went on, each of the Ghanaian women listed the attributes that must be present for them to be attracted to a man. While their answered varied due to their different personalities and backgrounds, all of them said finances were the main factor that would make or break their opinions about a man. One girl stated, “If a man likes what he sees, he should have the money to maintain it! That means paying for my nail and hair appointments, taking me shopping… I am just playing the game.” The girls hummed in agreement. Some chimed in saying, “A man’s job is to work and provide for me.” “He should take me places, give me things.”

These relationship expectations seem problematic to me. I do not know if my expectations of romantic relationships come from my experiences with my own family, from a result of culture, or from a combination of the two. But with a culture that is so family-centered and anti-individualistic, I thought the radio show conversation would be about how men and women work as a team to create something together, something beyond just one person’s capabilities.

I have been to different parts of Ghana and spent time with a few families. Each of them has a complex familial structure that would take years to fully comprehend. Neighbors support one another and the people who occupy the physical space of the home is a fluid group. In the native language Twi, the word for cousins is the same word as sibling, and all female relatives are referred to as “maame.” I was confused to find the women their age interested in maintaining the gender roles that leave males and females confined to traditional jobs, responsibilities, and behaviors. I thought the women would want to be empowered by their education; I thought they would be searching for more, expecting more of themselves, striving to create new expectations for women in Ghana.

Enforcing the patriarchal structure is as simple as maintaining gender expectations. When women in Ghana question why the men in their lives don’t support women in the workplace, I challenge them to look no further than their relationship check-lists. I challenge women to look beyond their wants and see how their actions are playing into the larger system of gender normativity. Because, after all, there is a difference between playing the game and playing into an oppressive patriarchy.

An Open Letter to Raylan Alleman

25 Sep

Dear Raylan Alleman,

Yes, I am in fact responding because I’m one of those pesky feminists that went off to college, forgetting my proper place as a woman. You wrote an article last week called “6 Reasons (+2) to NOT Send Your Daughter to College.” [n.b. I’m sure it’s been a while since you’ve been at college, but 6+2=8 and split infinitives are grammatically incorrect—just for future reference] Normally I ignore articles like yours, but somehow it’s gotten quite a bit of attention, so I thought I would take the time to respond and further advance “the feminist agenda.” I’ll try to use that masculine logic concept to examine your “practical wisdom.”

First, let’s look at the common objections to your argument that you presented.

  • You don’t believe in educating women. You assert that college and education have very little to do with each other, despite colleges being the bastions of higher education and the liberal arts—the foundation of a strong education. So we women can obviously just go to the library and learn what we could have learned in a classroom. I see. I’d like to ask if you’ve read Beowulf in old English on your own. Have you? I read it with a professor and had the opportunity to examine ways it’s been translated. That was great. Unfortunately, I can’t do that alone in the library. But I see now—that’s inappropriate for my gender. I should just study Catholic doctrine at home. It’s funny that I actually attend a Catholic university where I’ve taken classes that involved reading the Catechism, the Bible, and papal encyclicals—but I’m sure I would have gotten just as much out of them alone in my room without any sort of discussion. Plus, if I did opt for pre-professional training, that might convince me that I could try to have a career…what a shame.
  •  You believe in oppressing women. No, no, no—we’re clearly misconstruing the argument that a woman’s duty lies in her maternal and domestic duties, which don’t require “learning.” Don’t get me wrong, I have a great deal of admiration for those women who choose to have families, but to state that having a career is the work of evil feminists and Satan…are we really going to play the devil card this early? Let’s just allow society and our economic structure to collapse as we remove half the workforce so that “the terrorists devil doesn’t win!”
  • God calls women to use their talents. Of course these talents are limited to child rearing and homeschooling, and if one feels an aversion to children, she should be immediately directed toward the single life or that of a religious sister, which, by your standards, means she also has no appropriate talent. (Awkward…)
  • A woman needs to have something to provide income in case her husband dies, becomes disabled, or leaves her. Obviously in a world with high rates of violent crime, dangerous jobs, and fatal illnesses, death is incredibly unlikely. Becoming disabled is also clearly not a possibility for anyone who might be working a blue-collar “manly” job. And leaving a spouse? In a world where the divorce rate is near 50%? Crazy. Impossible! So remote! Just get that super affordable insurance… Plus, let’s just remind women that they throw their “COMPLETE trust and future on a man” because it’s always smart to become completely dependent on someone else.

So now, after suffering along through that superb display of logic, we get to the promised 6 8 points.

  1. She will attract the wrong types of men. Right. Education couldn’t possibly provide her with the foresight or maturity needed to avoid marrying a lazy man who doesn’t value her. No. The way to attract the “right type of man” is to have no college degree or work experience and go looking for someone who won’t let her work and insists she stay home, have children, then homeschool them while doing all the household tasks. I don’t know about anyone else, but support of the patriarchy is my favorite character trait in a man.
  2. She will be in a near occasion of sin. Now, I’m Catholic, so let’s look at it from a Catholic perspective. There’s no place we’ve ever seen living amid sin while resisting temptation as a positive life choice that actually teaches one how to be virtuous. In fact, we should probably condemn Jesus for spending those forty days and nights in the desert when he let the devil come tempt him day in and day out because living in a state of temptation is just wrong. And all those times he interacted with beggars and corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes? Those were mistakes. Clearly we shouldn’t learn anything from those stories, though we should make sure to take books like Leviticus at face value.
  3. She will not learn to be a wife and mother. “Nothing that is taught in a college curriculum is geared toward domestic homemaking.” For those who want to have a family, I’m sure there’s nothing helpful about the skills of multitasking or person-to-person interaction in different situations. Those pesky colleges just keep insisting on giving women skills for professional careers, tempting them to be manly and to have careers. And for those of us who don’t want children, giving us the ability to have a career is just double-temptation!
  4. The cost of a degree is becoming more difficult to recoup. I’ll give you that, though I’m going to help advance your point even further by pointing out that even in those “masculine fields,” women make less than their male counterparts. Though, I’ll go so far as to say the cost of a degree is actually becoming crazy high for everyone. As an English major, I’ll almost give you this point. Luckily my husbandless, childless life will suit the salary of a barista quite well.
  5. You don’t have to prove anything to the world. I’ll admit, I think our society does assume everyone will go to college and we’ve devalued blue-collar work to an unacceptable level. However, I’m not at college to prove anything to the world. In fact, I don’t think most people are paying $60,000 per year to prove something to the world—that’s the most expensive way to win an argument ever. My economics class would also suggest that the cost-benefit analysis of that amount of debt to pride in having “shown the world up” shows one side to be far more rational. The reasons I’m in college have everything to do with preparing myself for future professional success, pursuing my academic passions, and making myself into a better person who can truly contribute to the world.
  6. It could be a near occasion of sin for the parents. Oh man, I’m an only child and my parents don’t pay for my education? You mean they chose to make an economically sound decision for them and they’re teaching me responsibility while I work and educate myself? I feel gypped…thanks a lot.
  7. She will regret it. Spot on, truly, spot on. Those feminists—they’ll get you every time! I let them talk me into packing my bags, heading down to our nation’s capital, and receiving a first-rate liberal arts education. I’ve read Shakespeare with renowned scholars, met Nancy Pelosi at President Obama’s speech, and made friends I’ll have with me for the rest of my life. If that’s not the definition of regret, I don’t know what is.
  8. It could interfere with a religious vocation. You’re so right. Those Jesuit ideals of discernment and introspection couldn’t possibly inspire anyone to consider what God might be calling them to do in life. And those IHM sisters who ran my high school and Immaculata University—well they were just preaching up the wrong tree.

Well, as wonderfully compelling as your logic has been, I have to remain adamant about being an “evil feminist.” I just cannot bring myself to refute the value of a college degree in my life. Your rhetoric was compelling and your reasoning flawless, yet somehow, I remain staunch in my choice to attend college. I remain staunch in my right to female independence, of my right to not marry or have children if I so choose, of my right to pursue a career in any field I see fit, of my right to have the tools and resources to function in an increasingly educated society, of my right to stand up and tell people like you, Mr. Alleman, that we will not be treated as distinctly “other” citizens, forced to fit neatly into the boxes you’ve carved out for us, left at home to be obedient and submissive to our husbands, and deprived of formative life experiences that have the potential to shape us into the best people we can be.

Sincerely,

Emily Coccia

Queer Men Should Be Concerned About the Patriarchy

23 Sep

I have been a member of the queer community for most of my life and have been a vocal member now for some time. Though I may not participate that often by doing things like going to the LGBTQ resource center or volunteering at the HRC, I identify as a member of the queer community. I feel as if I have interacted with enough of my own community to point out some things that I have noticed.

The queer community is pretty great. It allows a voice for those who have been voiceless for generations. It provides a safe space for those who are otherwise ostracized, psychologically tormented, or physically abused. It allows people to interact with others who share their identifiers in a world filled with oppression.

However, the queer community is not perfect. Despite being a place that tends to question and blur gender, there are many aspects of the queer community that enforce gender very heavily. For example, I have heard in safe spaces like queer clubs, “I’m gay, boobs are gross, so why are those girls wearing clothes that show them off?”

Unless these girls are completely oblivious and did not notice the drag show that was occuring, I’m pretty sure they were fully aware of the clientele of the establishment. And because they are aware of the clientele, they are aware that you are not interested in them sexually. I know it’s difficult to understand, and it has been stated by many feminists many times, but there is a possibility that the women dressed that way for themselves and not for male attention. If they were going to a queer club, they in fact probably want no male attention. In fact, they may have dressed that way to get female attention. Just because you are male and they are female does not mean that they dressed themselves sexually for you.

I understand that straight people in your safe space are annoying. People don’t go to a place heavily populated by queer people to meet straight people. Fetishization of a community should not be tolerated.At the same time, you cannot disregard allies. Allies are still members of the queer community and if an ally is not helping but wants to, then tell them how to help. Pushing ignorant people out of your life will not end ignorance.

Another thing I have heard from several men in the queer community is that they don’t care about feminism because they are not women and it does not affect them. But feminism isn’t a “woman issue,” it’s a gender issue. Self-identifying men, I know it’s crazy, but you are a member of society, so therefore you have a gender. What’s ridiculous is that I have heard these same people use the argument: “Don’t ask me who the woman is in this relationship because we’re both men.” Is that argument not about gender? Does this argument not identify the problems with traditional gender roles in society? There is no woman in this relationship because it is not a heteronormative relationship. If you use that argument then you are a feminist because you are concerned with the destruction of the patriarchy.

Gay men, just because you are attracted to men does not mean that women are inferior. Just because you are not interested in women sexually does not mean that you should disregard them or their struggles. Just because you do not want to have sex with women does not mean you are allowed to touch a woman without her consent. Based on your sexual orientation, you defy your gender role. If you want equality in the world, you need to help feminists in dismantling the patriarchy. It is the patriarchy, not allies, that are oppressing you.