Tag Archives: male-female dynamics

Surviving Heteronormativity 

17 Aug

As a queer feminist cis woman in a relationship with a straight man, I find myself struggling every day against heteronormative patriarchy. It is a toxic cloud that I am holding at bay purely by the strength of my wit and my will. Some days are harder than others. Some oppressive interactions are more subtle while some are more overt. It leaves me feeling like I am teetering upon a tightrope, wondering what will be the element that will cause me to lose my balance, and with it, the independent identity I have worked so hard to cultivate. But through it all, I am learning some important lessons about how to resist and challenge the slow erosion of my independence and suppression of my spirit that is characteristic of what happens to women in heteronormative sexist relationships, and it is these that I wish to share with you today.

Lesson 1. You are in control of yourself.

One of the founding principles of heteronormative capitalist patriarchy is its ability to make women believe that they have no other option than to remain in relationships that leave them feeling unsatisfied at best, and victimised at worst. Once linked to men’s traditional role as financial provider, women are taught that to catch and to keep a man, and eventually, to bear his children, is the epitome of womanhood and the highest expression of femininity. The result of this schooling, even in an era where many women are now the breadwinners of the family, is that we stay with men who are not right for us and put up with behaviour that is selfish, disrespectful and often abusive. The fact that so many men act in these ways, that it is tolerated, normalised, and even becomes an object for comedy, is a sure sign of the sickness that pathologises our society. 

So what can be done to challenge this? We need to learn that at any point, no matter how embedded we are in a bad relationship or an unfair partnership, how long we have been with them, how many kids we have together or what other people will think, we possess within us the ability to resist, say no and to walk away from situations that oppress us. Although it may be difficult to see an alternative or a way out, this is something we can strive for and work towards. We can speak to our partner about our needs and get out if our requests go unheard. We can ask for help in this process if we need it. We do not deserve to be treated badly and we were not meant to suffer in silence, unloved and unappreciated. We must remember that we have choices and that even though we cannot control the actions of others, we can control how we respond to them. And if that response is to remove yourself from a situation, then so be it.

Lesson 2. Retain your independent thought. 

Another holdover from centuries of unbridled capitalist patriarchy is the notion that after marriage, or in the contemporary era, coupledom, man and woman are united and they become one entity. However, what we often fail to discuss is that in a union of people who, in the eyes of society, are not equals to begin with, the thoughts, opinions and beliefs of the person who is higher on the social ladder will undoubtedly win out over those of the person who is lower. We see this manifest in many ways, such as how men often get the final word in decision making (“Let me just check with my husband/I want to do X or Y but my guy doesn’t approve”) or disciplining (“Ask your father/Wait till your father gets home”). It is also apparent in how many women act as mouthpieces for their husband or boyfriend’s opinions. 

Often the process of mind control takes place through a gradual chipping away at a woman’s independent thought. We enter relationships as individuals with our own ideas and opinions, but over time we may allow those opinions to be set aside in favour of those of the man we love, because we wish to please him. This in itself may be seen as honourable, but only in the context discussed above where your main aim is to keep your man, no matter how pushy or selfish or ungrateful he may be. In reality, it is dangerous and leads to an unhealthy self-denial, the practice of self-silencing and the disappearance of our individuality. Do not let this happen to you. 

Lesson 3. Make space for yourself.

Something that can really help us retain our independent thought, listen to our intuition, articulate and act upon what we need is maintaining our personal space. This is space in both the physical and mental sense. Find some time each day to be alone with yourself, even if it is just a few minutes in the bathroom or a short trip to the store, and be intentional with this time. Bring a small notebook and write down your thoughts, or clear your mind of everyone and everything and just focus on your breath. Repeat a positive affirmation to yourself and remember that in this moment, you are enough. 

Humans are social creatures. Loneliness is one of our greatest fears. But if you learn to be as committed to yourself as you are to your partner, then you will find it enjoyable to spend time working on yourself, developing your interests, pursuing your passions, and doing the things that make you happy.  You can share these things with others if it is appropriate, and you should make and maintain friendships outside of your relationship, both to quell co-dependency and to experience the fulfilment that comes from being yourself and doing the things you want to do, whether or not your partner does them with you. This is key to lasting intimacy and also to maintaining monogamy, if that is the intention for your relationship. The sex and relationship expert Esther Perel has said: “We need multiple connections, multiple attachments. If you start to feel that you have given up too many parts of yourself to be with your partner, then one day you will end up looking for another person in order to reconnect with those lost parts.”

Make space for yourself to think your own thoughts and to see the world from your own point of view. This doesn’t mean shutting down debate or never compromising in a fair way, but really listening to your own feelings, making up your mind for yourself and not putting up with having those thoughts and feelings dismissed or ignored. But in order to make that happen, you have to set the example by not dismissing or ignoring them yourself. You have nothing to fear from being alone. You are complete unto yourself. You were fine before they came into your life, and if one day you break up, you will be fine after they are gone. Anyone who truly loves you will learn to see and respect that, and if they do not, then you’re better off without them. 

In Solidarity With #ThisTweetCalledMyBack

18 Dec

Last week, a collective of the seven of the most incisive and insightful feminist/womanist social and cultural critics working in contemporary digital media, who are Black Women, AfroIndigenous and women of color, began a social media blackout. Over the past five years, across various social media platforms, they have created what they describe as “an entire framework with which to understand gender violence and racial hierarchy in a global and U.S. context“, one which is deeply analytical and highly critical of mainstream feminism and heteropatriarchy, as well as cishet activist movements. We at Sisters of Resistance have often engaged with, been challenged by, and learned from them and their work.

And yet, as they explain, far from being celebrated and embraced for the enormity of the work and contributions they have made to 4th wave and digital feminism, their body of work has been colonized, plagiarized by mainstream white feminism and mainstream media while they themselves have been vilified, said to constitute ‘Toxic Twitter”, had their livelihoods threatened and their physical and mental welfare put at stake. Rejected, harassed and provoked by people in mainstream media, academia, and the non-profit industrial complex, who at the same time hijack their prolific and movement-inspiring thought and theory, this collective of women is taking a stand against the status quo with this statement and their conspicuous absence from Twitter.

Here are some of the questions that they ask:

In an age where young women often have cell phones with internet access before they have access to healthcare and social services, why are so many so quick to demean the work of digital feminism in the hands of Black women? When depression, anxiety and disability make it so that getting out of bed, much less into the streets, is a debilitating challenge and risk, why do we demean social media and tell people they cant fully engage without taking up physical space? Whose interests are we centering if we constantly hyperfocus on the limits of grassroots social media, instead of the impact and possibilities, while not making the physical spaces safe or accessible for these women?

They point out that an expanded understanding of violence is necessary to address the kinds of issues they and many others like them/us face and experience, even within “leftist” and “activist” circles:

Once we expand our understanding of violence to include plagiarism, harassment, gaslighting, emotional abuse, ableism and exploitation of labor, we find huge fissures in a movement that the women we are prescribing solutions for fall through on a daily basis. We find a replicated system of violence that prioritizes those closer to systemic and hierarchal values of bodies rather than anti-violence.

They challenge those who will listen to consider the following questions, which are incredibly necessary for our time:

“How do we, as a movement, engage unaffiliated women with no institutional covering or backing, on the grassroots level? How do we close ranks around these women in both digital and physical spaces so that they can continue this work? There is a refusal to legitimize the words of women of color without the backing of academia, established media, and non-profit monikers. How do we then legitimize the lens with which marginalized women of color view their lives and the spaces where they are actually allowed to assert their agency?

The collective includes: @tgirlinterruptd, @chiefelk, @bad_dominicana, @aurabogado, @so_treu, @blackamazon, @thetrudz

Those who have signed in solidarity include: @blackgirldanger, @cheuya, @notallthots, @jazzagold, @natashavianna, @mizzblossom, @sarahkendzior, @scATX, @lilybolourian.

At the same time, we wish to call to mind @redlightvoices, who we believe has been very much a part of this same wave of work, and who expressed many of the same sentiments during the time that she was still on Twitter.

We have so much respect for all of these women. We offer them our solidarity and support in their decision to step out of the Twitterverse and assert their humanity in the face of such despicable systemic discrimination and harassment. We stand with you! #ThisTweetCalledMyBack


Individual personal statements are also being posted here.

Read more about the groundbreaking work by radical women of color, This Bridge Called My Back, the 1981 anthology, to which the conversation #ThisTweetCalledMyBack refers.

Rondeau Redouble

14 Oct

There are so many kinds of awful men –
One can’t avoid them all. She often said
She’d never make the same mistake again;
She always made a new mistake instead.
The chinless type who made her feel ill-bred;
The practised charmer, less than charming when
He talked about the wife and kids and fled –
There are so many kinds of awful men.
The half-crazed hippy, deeply into Zen,
Whose cryptic homilies she came to dread;
The fervent youth who worshipped Tony Benn –
‘One can’t avoid them all,’she often said.
The ageing banker, rich and overfed,
Who held forth on the dollar and then yen –
Though there were many more mistakes ahead,
She’d never make the same mistake again.
The budding poet, scribbling in his den
Odes not to her but to his pussy, Fred;
The drunk who fell asleep at nine or ten –
She always made a new mistake instead.
And so the gambler was at least unwed
And didn’t preach or sneer or wield a pen
Or hoard his wealth or take the Scotch to bed.
She’d lived and learned and lived and learned but then
There are so many kinds

poem by Wendy Cope, b. 1945

12 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Marry Him

26 May

Under patriarchy, expectations of monogamy and compulsory heterosexuality mean women are conditioned from childhood to be on the lookout (or compulsively searching) for “the one,” her “soulmate,” or Mr. Right.  This is a fantasy induced by a combination of Disney princesses, white dresses and storybook weddings, as well as social and cultural influences, public discourse, mass media and celebrity culture.  What this means is that many of us are so eager to get married, and so conditioned to be the damsel in distress or unconditionally self-sacrificing for “love,” we often overlook some basic things that illustrate how, far from being a prince or knight come to rescue you, your intimate partner may be in fact dangerous to your sense of self, your individual identity and your independent thought.  You do not need rescuing, and no one should make you feel that you do.  If any man in your life exhibits the below behaviours, he is at worst an abuser or at best an emotional/financial drain; you are better off without him.  In particular, don’t marry him. He is so not worth it.  See also: How to Leave a Bad Relationship.

12 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Marry Him

  1. He interrupts what you are doing to demand his dinner. He demands his dinner. He seems to think his dinner is your priority/responsibility.
  2. He interrupts what you are doing to demand anything.
  3. He expects things from you he wouldn’t do for you, and doesn’t do himself – e.g. washing his clothes, caring for his children, paying for or “helping” him with his large bills/expenses.  He does not share equally in what would be the tasks of a marriage.
  4. His “affection” is always aggressive and only manifests when he wants something.  He withholds attention, and if he does give it, he expects/requires you to respond positively to his advances. Sisters of Resistance place coercion on the spectrum of sexual harassment, assault and rape. In our experience coercion is common and we call it when we see it. (In the case of rape, help is available. International Resources)
  5. He cuts you off from your friends and family. Tactics may include: judging your friends and relatives, telling you who he likes and doesn’t like, or who you are allowed to see and when, if at all. (See:  Narcissist Abuser).
  6. He has cheated on you.  Or when you got together, he was cheating on someone else.
  7. He doesn’t have a life. (See: Peter Pan Man)
  8. He puts you down, ridicules, or degrades you.  This wears away at your self-confidence while keeping you trying harder to win his love.  He may say he is just joking, but that shit ain’t funny. (Men have sayings that relate directly to this one: “Treat her mean, keep her keen” UK /  “You treat a girl like dirt, she’ll stick to you like mud “ USA) (See:  Narcissist Abuser).
  9. He is always negative/moaning/feeling sorry for himself.  He expects you to carry this emotional burden.
  10. He only speaks badly of his exes and past relationships, painting them always as being in the wrong.  He accepts no responsibility for the ending of past relationships and breakups.  (He probably doesn’t accept much responsibility anyway.)
  11. If he already has kids, and he has not raised them well, why would you (possibly) want to make more with him?
  12. If things have only gotten worse since you moved in together, why get married and make that shit permanent? Continue reading

Handy Reference Guide to Identifying Oppressive Silencing

18 Mar

To assist you in identifying and resisting dominant and unequal power relationships in your life, we’ve compiled a list of common phrases people in historically dominant roles have been conditioned to and may use to try to silence oppressed others, particularly when they perceive their dominance to be challenged.

The quotations below were used by men against women and are thus patriarchal; however, one could expect to find similar strategic dismissals and silencing of the accounts and concerns of people of color, working class and poor people, queer and LGBTQI people, young people, fat people, disabled people, and other marginalized folks in the discourses of those who discriminate against them. The simultaneous and intersecting nature of oppression is also considered here.

These strategies, and others we may have missed, can be found in any order, but from our experiences attempts to silence us commonly go something like this:

Assert authority
Question your knowledge/judgment
Delegitimize your response
Delegitimize you
Enforce dominant point of view
Shut down debate or conversation

Continue reading