Reviews

The Creation of Patriarchy (and of prostitution)

Oxford University Press, 1986

I have just read Gerda Lerner’s The Creation of Patriarchy and am most impressed by this well-structured and documented book. With overwhelming material she shows how the patriarchal model of society has been built up over a period of nearly 2500 years from appr. 3100 to 600 BC in the Mesopotamian societies. Later this model was transferred to Europe. The book shows how patriarchy started with the appropriation by men of women’s sexual and reproductive capacity. This began prior to the formation of private property and class society.

Patriarchy as historical phenomenon

One could easily decome depressed by such a book and yet I think that there are so many positive lessons and pearls of wisdom in it. Let me start with the obvious one: if patriarchy is a creation, it can also be ended. Not easily, not in one stroke, but over time. And also, that we should not chose for the opposite ruling form: a matriarchy in the sense of women ruling men, which would be equally bad. Instead, we should choose for a plurality of ways governing people, just as there was before patriarchy. But this time with more respect for women and girls.

Prostitution as historical phenomenon

worship of Aphrodite

Secondly, the book shows that prostitution is neither the oldest profession nor an eternal one. This one too is an historical phenomenon and can be changed. Commercial prostitution developed in the hallways and the square around the temples in the Near-East. Inside the temples sometimes also another type, namely temple prostitution, took place with the priestesses orwith someone else to worship the goddess. This was also combined now and then with gifts. These two different forms of sexual activities should not be confused, because while the former looked down on femininity, the latter worshipped it.

The importance of woman’s rulership over her body

Thirdly, the insight: if men’s power over women has started by controlling their sexual and reproductive capacities, how right are we in emphasizing the importance of women’s rulership over her own body. How crucial this is. Not a side issue, but the crucial, fundamental one. And that we should never forget to emphasize the importance of this. Feminism may have been succesfull in giving us many rights, equal to men, but is has not become superfluous. After all, this issue remains in need of our care and alertness.

The dangerous division between ‘respectful’ and ‘disrespectful’ women

Fourthly, Gerda Lerner’ lesson that the oppression of women and slavery of women has worked by the the division made between so-called ‘respectful’ and ‘disrespectful’ women. The first category was those connected to one man ( a husband, father etc.) who operated as a kind of ‘protector’ /loverboy for them. The second group were seen as whores or otherwise ‘loose’ women. This has undermined the solidarity between women. We should be wary that this keeps happening again, now for instance with the veil as a symbol of the division between ‘devout women’ versus ‘atheistic loose women’ or seen from the other viewpoint as ‘repressed women’ versus ‘liberated’ women.

Think for yourself

Foto door julie aagaard op Pexels.com

Finally, I find the last pages of the book the most inspiring. Here Lerner calls us up to think for ourselves and no longer letteing ourselves be caught by following the pathways of male thinkers and philosophers. She says: “in accepting such a dialogue, thinking woman stays for longer than is useful within the great boundaries or the question-setting defined by ‘the great men’. And just as long as she does this, the source of new insight is closed to her”(1986, p. 227). According to her we need to getting rid of the “great men in our heads and substituting them by ourselves, our sisters, our anonymous foremothers” (p. 227).

Foto door bruce mars op Pexels.com

Yet as she says, the alternative does not lie in following a female thinker instead, but äbove all, we need to develop intellectual courage, the courage to stand alone” , to think for ourselves, “trusting our own, the female experience” and to ässer the right to reorder the world”(p. 228). Incredibly inspiring. Indeed, let us start today!

Verbal Defense

Handy Sentences for Too-Kind People

Always be nice to others?

We all know that most women have been conditioned to be kind to other people all the time. Even to people who are not all kind to them or who cross their boundaries. Many men deal with the same issue. Yet what do you do about this when you, like me, are a secondary-responding person? Do you recognize this: at that moment you freeze and only afterwards at night you realize what the perfect answer would have been?

The other cheek?

If you turn the other cheek, after being hit, you’ll be hit again. If you just smile or be silent after a rude remark, there will be a nastier remark some time afterwards. And if you answer every time someone asks you an inpertinent question, they will dig even further next time.

Agression or assertiveness?

I do not argue here for down-right aggression, but for trying to feel whether someone is o.k. or not o.k. for you. And for the cases when it isn’t here are some sentences that might help women and men who struggle with this. They are not the quickest or funniest responses, but handy sentences that can be used in multiple occassions for secundary-responding people. This way you are being nice to yourself for a change.

In cases of an unwelcome request:

  • “Sorry, I cannot”. (and if they persist simply: “I have other obligations”.
  • ” I’ll have to think about this. I’ll come back to you about it”.
  • “Thanks, but no thanks”.
  • “I am flattered, but no”.
  • “With all due respect, but no”

In cases of impertinent questions by family and friends:

  • “It just does not feel right answering this”.
  • “I do not feel comfortable answering this”.
  • “I cannot answer this, sorry”.
  • “Sorry, this is private”.
  • ” Sorry, this is too personal”.
  • “It has been lovely to talk to you, but I need to go back to work now”.
  • “Sorry, I need to go to the bathroom” (and there you think about how to answer or you simply start a new topic).
  • “You should ask him/her directly” . (if it is about another person).
  • (With a smile:) “You can always ask, but it does not mean you’ll get an answer”.
  • “‘With all due respect, but you are crossing my boundaries here”.
  • (With a smile:)”what is this? A police interogation? I hope I am not obliged to answer this.”
  • “You should start working for the police”.
  • “Even my best friend/my mother would not ask me this!”
  • “Curiosity kills the cat”.
  • “I am an open book for the part I want to be read. The rest I keep to myself”.

In cases of impertinent questions by relative strangers:

  • All of the above.
  • “Are you always/often like this?”
  • “What business is this of yours?”
  • “Do you mind bothering someone else?” and leave.

In cases of insults:

  • “I respect myself too much to listen any longer to this”.
  • “Stop! This is enough! I am going now”.
  • “I am not going to lower myself to this level. I will leave now”.
  • “Sorry, but you are going too far” (and leave).

In cases of unwelcome touching:

  • “Stop, I do not like it!”
  • “Stop, this is irritating!”(and shrug your shoulders as if you are removing a dirty insect).
  • “I do not like this now”.
  • “No, not now, thank you”.
  • “Leave it!”
  • “Leave me alone!”

No reasons needed

Whatever sentence you use, do not feel obliged to give reasons or to elaborate. This will often only lead to more questions and remarks of the other. You do not need to give any reason at all. That you feel uncomfortable is enough. If the other persists, just leave. Practise some of the sentences which feel easy enough for you to use. Practise them with your child for instance. It can be great fun and it is also good for them being able to say to authority figures: “with all due respect, but….”. Let us thus not always be nice to others, but especially to ourselves!

Sexuality

Sex, Tea and the King-Servant Game

Sexual desires

Last time I wrote about the simple statement ‘Stop, I don’t like it’ when someone , it does not matter who, touches you and it does not feel right. https://thepositivefeministphilosopher.com/2018/12/20/your-body-is-your-body/

A while ago I had an incident about this with someone who claimed: “but we had agreed we could have friendship AND sex!?”

Sex like a cup of tea

Yes we can. But not at ANY moment! Like my good friend Ingrid, I compare this with drinking a cup of tea. You may have asked yesterday for a cup of black tea with milk and no sugar yesterday and really enjoyed drinking it. Yet this does not mean that you want the same tea today. Maybe you want it without milk and with sugar. Or pure. Or herbal tea. Or no tea at all, but a strong cup of coffee now.

Lap dog

Well my reply did not go very well in the above-mentioned incident. He became angry and said he felt like a lap dog having to beg for a cookie each time. So that was that. End of the friendship too. But it can also open a great time of experiments for both of you of what you like and in what way at a particular time.

King-Servant game

An easy and pleasurable way to practice this with a partner playing the Yin-Yang or King-Servant game. You put the alarm-clock for twenty minutes and the person who starts of being the king or queen declares a very specific wish and the way it should be executed. The ‘servant’ feels whether he or she can do this within his or her boundaries and tries to do it exactly as requested. If it is beyond the other person’s boundaries, he or she proposes something that lies within it and still goes in the direction of the request. After twenty minutes the roles will be reversed.

So be aware of routines and always ask what and how the other person would like now. Have fun in playing!

Woman enjoying a cup of tea.
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Geen categorie, Sexuality

Your body is YOUR body

Recently I read that Emperor Joseph II of the Austrian empire abolished serfdom `by royal decision’ in 1781.

Serfdom; I thought, what is that exactly? In Dutch it is called lijfeigenschap,in German Leibeigenschaft,in Spanish servidumbre and in French bondage servage. It means according to Wikipedia: `the situation that someone’s body is considered as the property of the ruler in a certain geographical area’. In England it became obsolete in the 15th till 16th century, claimes Wikipedia.

Oh really? How many husbands, boyfriends and those who consider themselves boyfriends find it normal or `their right’ to touch you everywhere without asking you whether you like it. As if your body was theirs, their property to serve them. How many of them consider themselves implicitly as being the rulers in the geographical area: your bed, your house or anywhere near them. (The same applies of course to women touching men.)

Yet as I told my son since he was 3 years old,` your body is your body and yours only. If someone,  it does not matter who, touches you and you don’t like it, tell them. Say with an earnest face and with your hand upwards: Stop/No, I don’t like it. That is all. No explanations needed’.

So it does not matter whether we are married or had incredible sex yesterday. If you don’t like it, you don’t like it. Full stop. Of course you must not have put your feelings away. Otherwise you will ignore the warning signs of your body. And then you lose the control over your life. You only have one life and one body, so remember…

your body is  your body!

Foto door Quang Anh Ha Nguyen op Pexels.com