Monday, November 02, 2009

My Blogday Week Post I

This blog turns six next Sunday, and in its honor I'm going to republish some of my very first posts. I used to edit in those days! Also, I took the goddess role more seriously.

Here is an excerpt from one of the very first posts. It is on Mummy Wars and still pretty relevant. The bit I reproduce here gives you my theory of what drives those wars (other than the spectators eating their popcorn while watching with enjoyment):

The human cultures have a biased view of women. Mostly, men are seen as individuals, but women are seen only partially as individuals and largely as members of an amorphous mass 'womanhood'. Think of actors: male actors are not asked the sorts of questions that women actors are, about how they cope with combining family and career, about how they stay beautiful. Men are asked individual questions about their acting choices and lives. Women are asked largely 'woman' questions (how do you compare to other women?). And so on.

So all humans, to some extent, see women as a mass and men as individuals. If these humans happen to be women themselves, they will partly view themselves as individuals, but also keep asking themselves how they compare to others in the mass 'women'. All other women then affect their self-esteem; others' choices affect how right our choices look. If a woman stays at home with the children and another one works outside the home but also has children, their choices are not seen as independent of each other. One woman affects the other, her self-esteem and the society's judgment of her 'goodness'. And this effect goes both ways. A working mother will be blamed because she is not at home, a stay-at-home mother feels that her choices are made unimportant by the existence of women who appear to be able to both work for money and care for children. Thus, both feel exposed and criticized by the existence of the other's different life. Sisterhood? Not likely. But it doesn't have to be so.

There are two secret devices that cause the Mummy Wars. One I have already referred to: women's tendency to be treated as an undifferentiated mass of femaleness, both by men and by women themselves, when in fact we are all individuals with different temperaments, talents, limitations and life situations. The second one is the presumption that if two women make opposite choices, one of these choices must be wrong. This I call false duality. It is false, because we don't apply it to people's choices in general. Matt may choose to enter into engineering, Jessica into medicine. Yet nobody would argue that EITHER Matt OR Jessica must be right.

But when we talk about the 'female' kinds of choices, suddenly one choice must be right and the other wrong. This is because we see all women as essentially the same woman in this sphere, and therefore it appears obvious that one of the choices is better than the other. This is wrong, an example of false dualism, and it is false because all women are not the same woman.

These two devices also explain why women often have the tendency to be more judgmental towards other women than men. What other women do affects the self-esteem of the judging woman. What men do has no such effect in general cases, because the same false dualism is not applied to men.

So we women (I'll count myself here as one, to look less judgmental here...) are cruel to our sisters, we keep them in line, because if we don't do so, our own self-image might shatter. This is all so sad and all so unnecessary. If we could only climb over the obstacles of regarding womanhood as one amorphous lump and of making snappy falsely dualistic judgments we could actually approach some idea of realistic sisterhood, lower our weapons in the Mummy Wars, pack up our armor and go into life.

Let the audience watch the empty arena, or get a life, too.