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!

Announcement

Hurray: Book Contract!

Publisher Aspekt is going to publish my historical novel: “Het Land van Thorn. Een vondelinge in een 800-jarig Limburgs vrouwenrijk”. You will have noticed that I have been silent in this blog for a while. Sorry! The reason was that I was working on the last version of the manuscript. But now it will be published in Dutch within eight months and later I am going to publish in it English under another title.

Contract signed and posted!

An 800-year old Limburgian women’s empire

The story is about the foundling Anna in an 800-year-old Limburgian women’s empire within the current territory of the Netherlands. What? Women have ruled for 800 years there? Why have we not heard about this in our history lessons? You know, because it has been HIStory and not HERstory for a very long time! Slowly, we are changing this and this novel will be part of that proces.

Aquarel of Castle of Thorn

Women’s Power in Thorn

In the Land of Thorn women had civil, politital and even military power. They were not nuns even though they looked liked them. But they did not have to give the oaths of obedience, chastity and poverty. The ‘stift’ Anna was placed in was more like a boarding school for girls and women of very high nobility. They received an education making them suitable to marry counts, dukes and kings. At the head of the government supporting this structure was a Queen-Abbess.

Reconstruction of the dress the nobel women from Thorn worn in church

The story: Anna, a foundling

The story starts in Thorn, near Roermond, 1788. Anna is a foundling who, after charity, was admitted to the “Stift”, the boarding school, after her birth. She is afraid that she will be sent away now that she is eighteen. Anna wants to become important for other foundlings someday and find out who her parents are or were. She just doesn’t know how. Then an interesting offer is maid to her.

Ä Young Gril Reading” by Fragonard

The political situation

The turmoil in Anna’s heart is reflected in her environment. It is a revolutionary period, certainly in Limburg. In The United Dutch Republic, the patriots push William V, its representative on the defense. His wife Wilhelmina of Prussia calls in her brother, the King of Prussia, who comes with an army. Eventually the patriots gain more power and Willem V flees with Wilhelmina to England. The Batavian Republic is created, but Prussia, Austria and France prey on the Limburg territory. Will this 800-year-old women’s kingdom Het Land van Thorn survive?

Thorn in the time of the book: end 18th century

A question

If you want to be put on an email list in order to follow the Dutch or English publication, please send me an e-mail at: thepositivefeministphilosopher@gmail.com. Now I am ready to write more regularly blogs for you! Promised!

Reviews

Weissensee

The Weissensee series

I have just binge-watched the German Netflix series Weissensee. In my view it is the best series since the German series Heimat (now also available on Netflix). The three series of Heimat are situated in the 1930s and 40s in Germany, showing the terribly consequences of when everyone attempts to conform to one set of political ideal and one set of ideal human type. Yielding to their fear. Fascism in a small village in Baiern.

The Heimat series

Vaclav Havel: Attempt to live in Truth

Weissensee could be seen as a modern follow-up from this. Yet the latter three series are put in Ost-Berlin from 1980 untill 1990. It is the DDR-time and the circumstances of this Stazi-period are in several respects comparable to the Nazi time. Yet Weissensee has a young man and woman as their main characters who try to live in truth. Indeed, their story can be seen as a cinematic translation of the philosophic book, Power of the Powerless or with the more intruguing German title: Versuch in der Warhheit zu leben (1978) from the later Czeck prime minister Vaclav Havel.https://s3.amazonaws.com/Random_Public_Files/powerless.pdf It shows how extremely difficult it is to live in truth. It shows the braveness of these young people. But also that love and truth are the only important things in life.

Gender aspects in Weissensee

What makes Weissensee also intriguing and even more interesting than Vaclav Havel’s book is that the series also illuminates the gender aspects of the challenges of living in truth. Several times the series indicate how the DDR men are pressed to keep everything in control, not just at their work, in their social appearance, but also within their families. So the men are the ones been primarily assigned to control their wives and children to conform and to not speak the truth. The men also force their female partners to keep their children in control. When the men are absent in families as we see in examples, mothers are easily forced or lured in to help the Stazis out of fear for what will happen to their children. I will not reveal the plot. Just watch it: breath-taking!

Gender aspects in Weissensee

Current city state control

After having watched this, I start to read the letters from my city government of Rotterdam with a new perspective. I see that several letters start with “We have been told that you are….” and and continue with “Would you please come to the office to ‘clarify this matter’?” The source is not indicated and the civil servants feel no need to tell me this. Or: ‘We are investigating whether you still have a right to ….. Would you please send us the following information and see us at the office to help us sorting this out?” Or also: “If you do not give us this information, this could have serious consequences”. I need to think of how to behave in these administrative control issues.

Challenge to live authentically in relationships

Authentic relationship talks in Weissensee

Finally, I see a great challenge following from Weissensee for all of us to try to live in truth, not only where it concerns politics or civil administration, but also in our relationships. How to live authentically, being ourselves and telling the truth, while not trying to harm the ones with whom we are in a relationship with. How extremely difficult is this! But what a great challenge! Love and truth are after all the only things really worth in life.

Women in Positions of Power

Carnaval and the Emerging Princess

Princess Suus I from Ohé en Laak, Volkskrant.

Yesterday I went to Carnaval in Breda and I am happy to report that the Princess is gaining power at the Dutch Carnaval. I don’t mean sexual power. Women have had that always. So also at Carnaval. No, I am referring to that bastion of power: the function of Princedom. In this, someone chosen by the Carnaval’s Council of Eleven receives the town’s key from the Mayor to rule over town for five days in a different way.

Princess Gerrie I from Afferen, Carnaval 2018.

For centuries this position was reserved for men only, just like the position of the Council of Eleven itself. Strange in fact. Because Carnaval is about the reversal of roles. The king becomes a jester. A reserved woman becomes a witch. The rich man is dressed up as a beggar. An old lady is suddenly Little Red Riding Hood. And so on. This includes the dress-ups as members of the other sex. Women have for centuries dressed-up during Carnaval as Robin Hood, knights, firemen and sailors. In some places like in the Belgium Aalst, men have also done this for centuries.

A few Dirty Jeanets from Aalst. Carnaval 2019. Photo Marieke van der Velde. Volkskrant.

In Aalst, this figure is called Dirty Jeanet and it arose out of poverty. Workers did not have money to buy a Carnaval costume, so they used their wives’ or mothers’ clothes and underwear. Yesterday in Breda I have seen an enormous number of men dressed up as Queens, Countesses, actresses and maids. Good for you: men! So sex reversals have existed at Carnaval for a long time. Except for the position of the Prince!



Prinses Rachelle en Prins Calvin from Son en Breugel– Carnaval 2019

Yet, recently even at that bastion of power the Princess is coming up. To my knowledge, the first Carnaval Princess appeared in the Netherlands in 1969: Princess Bep I in Someren-Heide and ruled there for six years. In 1998 Betke I was chosen in Valkenswaard. She called herself Prince Betke I, because as she argued: it is a position, just like the Mayor. And in Ossenisse, Princess Margaretha has already ruled for 25 years, with an all-female Council of Eleven.

Raad van Elf van Ossenisse 2018

Lately, we see in many villages and town a Youth Princess and her female Adjudant. And even the adult position of the Princedom is now and then given to women. Yet, in the biggest Dutch Carnaval cities, the opposition against this is severe. The people in power say that we have to respect the century-old Carnaval traditions or that the Statutes of the Carnaval clubs do not allow this.

Princes Linda van District Antwerpen Belgium, Carnaval 2019.

But now something interesting is happening. In the Carnaval cities Weert and Tilburg, female members of the official city councils have raised questions in council meetings about that male monopoly and have asked a change in the Statutes at this point. In Weert they have lost, but in Tilburg they have won! Already a female member of the Council of Eleven has been admitted. So members of city councils and of Carnaval clubs elsewhere: please follow this example and pave the road for the Carnaval Princess in this way.

After all: Carnaval is about the reversal of roles!

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!

Feminist Philosophers

Margaret Fuller: Apple as Apple, Woman as Woman

Are you sometimes drawn against feminism, presuming it declares equality and sameness between the sexes?

Fuller in Context

Listen then in this series of feminist philosophers to the American feminist Margaret Fuller who wrote Woman in the Nineteenth Century in 1844. Fuller was a Christian feminist. (Can these exist? Yes they can, did and do exist. She is for instance just as furious about men kidnapping their children as feminists today). More specifically, she was a transcendentalist, believing that there exists a piece of the divine in each of us. Other members of this circle were Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henri David Thoreau, and Thomas Carlyle. Fuller was also the chief editor of their magazine The Dial. Like other transcendentalists, she emphasizes the soul and the values of self-reliance and growth. We all have to fulfill our own nature.

Masculinity and Femininity

‘The growth of Man is two-fold, masculine and feminine.
So far as these two methods can be distinguished, they are so as
Energy and Harmony;
Power and Beauty;
Intellect and Love;’ (p. 378)

Masculinity is however according to Fuller not exclusively found in men, nor femininity exclusively in women.

‘These two sides are supposed to be expressed in Man and Woman, that is, as the more and the less, for the faculties have not been given pure to either, but only in preponderance. There are also exceptions in great number, such as men of far more beauty than power, and the reverse. But, as a general rule, it seems to have been the intention to give a preponderance on the one side, that is called masculine, and on the other, one that is called feminine.’
(P. 378)
Fuller calls them ‘twin exponents of a divine thought’ (p.39).

Feminism of Difference

Although she insists that all occupations should be open to women, on equal rights and equal representation, she develops a feminism of difference.

‘Ye cannot believe it, men; but the only reason why women over assume what is more appropriate to you, is because you prevent them from finding out what is fit for themselves. Were they free, were they wise fully to develop the strength and beauty of Woman; they would never wish to be men, or man-like.’
(P. 142.)

Femininity has had no chance to unfold freely by the restrictions put by men.
‘It may be said that Man does not have his fair play either; his energies are repressed and distorted by the interposition of artificial obstacles. Ay, but he himself has put them there; they have grown out of his own imperfections.’ (P. 112)

If women were free

Fuller insists that if obstacles are withdrawn, not all women will become alike, because we are each individual souls and also have a combination of femininity and masculinity. But the world would see more femininity unfolded in both the private and the public sphere, both in women and in men. What this will look like, we can only dream of. We should not restrict the natural growth of individual souls. We can therefore not insist that it would look like anything of the women and men of the past.

On the other hand, if real freedom existed, women would not develop themselves as men, but as women:

‘It is not Woman, but the law of right, the law of growth, that speaks in us, and demands the perfection of each being in its kind—apple as apple, Woman as Woman.’ (p. 397).

Photo by Public Domain Pictures on Pexels.com


The Way

Many people say that equal rights and equal chances to representation are sufficient. They also think that since we have those in the west, feminism has become superfluous. Margaret Fuller emphasizes that something else is also needed. Women need to be sure of their wants to realize self-reliance. ‘The difficulty is to got them to the point from which they shall naturally develop self-respect, and learn self-help'(p. 93).

The good news is that we are in the process of getting there. But have we reached it. I think not. And you?

Quotes taken from: Fuller, Margaret. ‘Woman in the Nineteenth Century / and Kindred Papers Relating to the Sphere, Condition and Duties, of Woman.’ iBooks. The Gutenberg Project. http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/8642/pg8642.epub?session_id=6bb7fa09dc7f5c58e18e03088baa7bf7f1bce99d

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