Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Queer eye for the straight woman

By Guest Columnist Genet

We have a long history of straight women and their interactions with gay men. And with Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, we have a long running T.V. show in which gay men "improve" straight men.

But we have yet to have a dialogue about lesbians and how they interact with straight men, and nothing really about straight women and lesbians. Since we don't live with men, we see them only in their public roles. Lesbian commentary in the blog world on this subject is pretty scarce.

This lack of literary and social attention to the strengths and culture of lesbians is quite typical. Women are ignored in discourse of all kinds. It often doesn't look like it, because seemingly, there are so many visible women in the media, in political life and amongst authors. But look again. Looks are deceptive.

As an outsider to the straight world, I often see things that straight women overlook. I see their financial vulnerablity, I see them overworking, and I see them missing the big picture of patriarchy.

What could straight women learn from lesbians? One thing they could learn is how to speak up more in public, and to rise to conversational challenges. I've seen women avoid any kind of controntation. They fear strong opinions a lot of the time. I rarely see straight women come out with strong opinions, unless they are in the field of ideas. For example, straight women journalists will speak up, because it's their job, women's studies professors will critique society because it's part of their job.

Women who don't have "opinion jobs" often have no opinions, and this is what often amazes me about straight women. Lesbians, on the other hand, can be real estate agents, and they'll have political opinions, or they'll be contrarian in public -- not afraid to upset apple carts.

Straight women want to believe there has been social change and then you read Jane Fonda's recent book. She was fighting for Native American Rights, supporting the Black Panthers, and working to end a war -- her cause, the cause of women, was something she didn't discover until much later. She was the thrall of three husbands and would bend to their lives. She finally did come to a feminist stance but in her personal life she still struggled with being a people pleaser -- a disgusting "disease" that women are very susceptible to.

She is very honest in admitting how hard it is for women to break through to a real self that is not a male pleaser. It was a life long struggle for Fonda to do this. Her book provided useful keys to the peculiar way in which straight women are in denial about their servitude to men.

You'll see survey after survey saying men still don't share housework equally in the home, and yet straight women think they can "change" men. Let me put this as Lesbianati bluntly as I can: YOU CAN'T CHANGE MEN! Get over that fantasy.

What you can change are your own rules of engagement. You don't have to live with men and get stuck doing any menial work for them, for example. You cannot have children and concentrate on developing fully your mind. You can look at the world and overpopulation, and decide to get out of the child care business altogether.

You can know that your intellectual development comes first, and not any man's. Men may be clever patriarchs but they'll also give in if women demand change and stick to their demands. Men in my office never utter sexist jokes now because they know I'll come down on them like a ton of bricks, and they'll be subject to punishment in the corporation. They know this. I'm not fooled by their silence. I know they operate out of fear of punishment.

Fear of punishment is about the only thing men really understand. I'm not interested in their "inner change." I'm only interested in their silence. They can be sexist underneath but I don't care. I know they will be bad till the day they die. But that silence is wonderful because it means women have won a battle to shut up men in the work place. And shutting them up is delightful. I enjoy their silence and I love to hear them whine about political correctness -- which is their resentment at being told they have to shut up or get hit with a harrassment suit.

Straight women always defend men. When I challenge men publicly, straight women whimpily come to their rescue! It disgusts me.

Straight women are in bad shape and they refuse to wake up. They fear being called feminists, they fear lesbians, they fear being powerful in public. They fear confrontation.

What I've discovered in my interactions with the enemy, and men are the enemies of women worldwide, is look at what they do, not what they say. Look at male-led wars, male rape in war, male treatment of women in public. Take a hard look at what men do to women in cities. Take a look at what they do in public space. They're a bad lot and they don't intend to change.

No amount of evidence can wake straight women up for some reason. But women worldwide really should take a hard look at the earth because we are going down if we don't get rid of male dominance worldwide. This dominance is destroying the earth. Fundamentalism of all kinds is really about the rise yet again of patriarchy and male dominance. That's its real agenda.

All terrorist groups are really men's clubs gone nuts. So what are women of the Middle East doing? Women are half the world's population, and yet, most women still feel afraid of even offending men at a dinner table. I, on the other hand, delight in offending men. I like to give them a taste of their own medicine. But if I do this, some dopey straight women will whine, "Well, men are oppressed too." I'd put this in a southern accent but it could offend Becki Jayne.

Just once, I'd like to see a straight woman stick her neck out and give the man a verbal knockout punch too. Just once, I'd like to see them roar with anger at the next man who even dares to call a woman a "bitch."

The social politeness of straight women will be the death of the planet. Maybe I just call men's bluffs. I know that I can demand my freedom without giving a damn about my oppressors. I don't apologize to men, I call them on their evil. And worldwide now, their terror is evil, their fundamentalism is evil, their churches are schools of woman hatred. But despite all this evidence, I can still hear the whining sound of straight women, "Oh, please, Mr. Man, my man is different, my man is like MLK, my man is like Gandhi, my man is a freedom fighter, my man is Hezbollah...whine, whine, whine."

If you look at the personal lives of all these so-called "great men" you'll see the same old sexist idiots. Why don't we judge men's personal lives as harshly as we do women's? Why don't we call male freedom fighters on their absolute hypocrisy? They aren't freedom fighters in their own home ever!

If you don't have equality in the home, you are never free! Never. Men will never work in the home to the degree that women do. Men will never attend to child care with the same concern as women. Never ever. I don't really care what arguments people use to explain the sexism of men and the stupidity of women for giving in to it, but I do know that once you set a strong course for your intellectual life, and your life of the mind, you'll succeed.

When you change the rules of the game, then men will go along. They are essentially cowards in the personal realm. When women stop attending woman-hating churches, then we'll see change, for example. Maybe straight women are so used to the male command voice, that they go to Catholic Churches and Mormon Churches like sheep. Do African-American men go to churches that talk about how blacks should be silent in the church, and how they should obey their slave masters because Jesus never objected to slavery? But women will go to churches and listen to men tell them how to be submissive to men, submissive to husbands, and they'll sit in those pews and stay in those pews.

When women get as angry about sexism as African-Americans get angry at racism, then we'll see real progress. A question I often ask straight women is, "Where is your passionate anger, and where is your desire to walk out of patriarchy the way Mary Daly did?" Just what is it about those woman-hating churches that you so love? It makes no sense to me.

I want to challenge straight women out in Blogland to read this column and answer my questions. I dare you to rise to the occasion, but I bet you'll be so tempted to defend the poor helpless men. You'll be tempted.