Wednesday, April 26, 2006
potato, potahtoe: you say responsibility, i say misogyny
The other day, I was called irresponsible. I’m a little puzzled. I mean, I pay taxes, have a job, go to church (I even believe in Christianity), vote, brush my teeth and wash my face. I’ve never been arrested, I’ve never struggled with addictions, and I’ve never even been fined for anything. I’ve never been a single mother (or even been pregnant), I’ve never been on welfare (though I’ve been laid off a couple times) and I’ve never had the police visit my apartment to shut down a raging party.
By the standards of most people, parents included, I am the picture of Responsibility. Wherefore this ‘irresponsibility’?
I suspect that when the word Irresponsible is thrown around or directed at women like me, it is not ‘sloppy living’ or ‘wastrel-ness’ that they really mean. No, I think, for a certain group of people (men who believe that women need to learn their 'place' – a problematic, gendered and racially charged word that should NEVER be used here), what is called 'irresponsibility' is actually a cover for another word, ‘misogyny.'
Isn’t language wonderful? We can say a word but actually be thinking something else entirely!
(The weighty word Responsibility reminds me of something from Foucault: the panopticon. a structure to keep the human subject completely under surveillance and, through surveillance, control the subject .)
Of course I don’t think my life is irresponsible at all. I just define my responsibilities differently, according to my values. I put a very low priority on resting in my 'place.' You may even call me uppity. In this particular case, my irresponsibility stems from the fact that I ignore the ‘natural’ hierarchy established in the bible (God/man/woman on the bottom). I don’t just ignore that hierarchy; I think it’s irrelevant and bogus.
Like, am I subject to *all* men, or just the one I’m married to?
If I’m not married, is it my father I’m supposed to be subject to?
What if I don’t live with my father?
What if my father is dead?
What man am I supposed to be subject to then? Is it the next closest man in my family or just the one who lives across my hall?
Does this apply to just Christian women or would this also apply to slightly spiritual agnostics?
If it’s just Christian woman, are we subject to only the men in our church or perhaps men from visiting churches?
And what about men from other denominations?
Like, I’m Presbyterian – would this mean that a Methodist had mastery over me? Or a Catholic? And what about those free-wheeling Pentecostals?
If that’s real life, then every woman would be at the mercy of some whack-job simply because he had testicles. (And what do we call that? Patriarchy.)
And isn’t that what we’re really talking about? Patriarchal control. It’s all to put a woman in a tiny box and see her rattle around in it like a discarded toy. If you feel that a woman has a ‘place’ and should inhabit only two roles (wife and mother) in the human ‘chain of command’ you’re a straight up misogynist. You don’t respect women or value women; to you, women are objects to be mastered and used. And if that’s the ideology behind Responsibility/Irresponsibility, I’m willing to be that slacker.
(And I think it’s interesting that when you search for pictures under ‘women’ and ‘responsibility’ in Getty Images, they give you babies and marriage. haven't we progressed at all??)