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L.

I have a similar answer when my feminist friends ask me, "Why are you still Catholic?"

The Happy Feminist

I was actually thinking of Catholics and Mormons when I wrote this post!

David Thompson

His history is my history. I inherited many of my cultural and religious attitudes from him.

No. His history is his own. Your history and attitude are the summation of your own experiences, and while he may have played a role in some of those experiences, he played no role in many more of them and had no role in your perception of those experiences.

Staircase Witch

Any feminist who grew up in a conservative environment with inflexible ideas about what women should and should not do struggles with this to some extent. I call it being "wired" a certain way over the course of one's childhood. You're not born wanting a doll instead of a toy truck, or feeling that you should be the one who sacrifices your life goals for your partner, or that there's something wrong with you because you aren't a mother, but you're wired to believe those things by your parents, your religious institutions, your teachers, and your cultural environment. You may be exposed along the way to alternate views, but they never really take hold.

(I was raised Methodist, but in a rural area where most people were one fundamentalist Christian flavor or another.)

I started to break free of those things when I was in my twenties, but it's still a struggle. And it's hard to explain to my husband why I still feel responsible for most of the housework and why I still view his happiness and satisfaction as more important than mine. It's nothing compared to what Saudi or Iranian women have to deal with, of course; I look at them and I feel ashamed for not being able to overcome what are minor difficulties in comparison. But the guilt is always going to be there, and to a certain extent, the alienation from my family and a lot of the people around whom I grew up.

It's a point of contention between us. My husband, who was always encouraged to think of himself as able to do anything, understands only intellectually why I don't believe that about myself. He thinks you can just flip a switch and see the world and your relationship to it differently. I know it requires rewiring, and I haven't figured out how to rewire myself.

TangoMan

but you're wired to believe those things by your parents, your religious institutions, your teachers, and your cultural environment.

and

why I still view his happiness and satisfaction as more important than mine.

Why restrict your thinking on these question to strictly environmental inputs? The brain chemistry of men and women is different:

tinkering with brain chemicals can take an additional toll, blunting emotions and interfering with intense romantic love and long-term attachment.

Or see this:

Oxytocin is the hormone that tightens the parent-child bond. Knock out the oxytocin gene in female mice, and they lose the ability to nurse their young. Inject oxytocin into animals, and they show grooming behaviour and an increased faithfulness to one mate.

My point is that even if you diligently work on re-engineering your social environment to something more to your ideological liking and you still find yourself believing certain things, acting in certain ways, or feeling certain thoughts, all of which are not congruent with what your ideology tells you should be the case, then perhaps you've reached the limits of social re-engineering and you're now butting up against biology.

The Happy Feminist

Are you testing me, Tango Man? I hope not. I really hope that the readers of this blog will try to abide in good faith by the spirit of my stated rules and guidelines for discussion. That having been said, your comment is off-topic. Nature vs. nurture is not the topic of this thread.

David Thompson

The brain chemistry of men and women is different...

No, they are distinct but not different. Believing they are different is something you were taught.

t. comfyshoes

When I read this post, the connection it made for me was not so much on the macro level, as the micro level of my own life: I love the person I am, and even though I'm struggling with depression I know I'm extremely fortunate to be where I am, and with the people around me. So when I look back at some of the rotten things that have happened in my past, or my family's past, what can I say about them?

If I wish that my mother and her first love had stood up against their parents' opposition and gotten married anyway (she was Christian, he was Jewish) and she hadn't ended up stuck with my dad, that's wishing myself out of existence.

If I wish any of the bad things that have happened to me didn't happen, I may not be wishing myself out of existence, but who knows what all else would be different.

I guess what I'm trying to say in a roundabout, not-making-sense kind of way, is that if you embrace the present, you have to embrace the past that lead to it, no matter how bad parts of it are. All you can really do is work on the future.

I can't accomplish much, for example, by getting all bent out of shape that anti-Semitism kept my mom from the man who may have been her true love. However, I can work for a future where that kind of thing doesn't happen, regardless of the fact that prejudice was literally necessary to bring me into existence.

The Happy Feminist

My weekend plans got canceled, so I'll be watching the threads! No porn or ethnic slurs after all, as Will had suggested! Thanks comfyshoes for keeping the thread back on point.

Deborah

But for many women out there, being a feminist means to reject or to live in contradiction with their culture or their religion.

As I was raised as an Orthodox Jew, I certainly can relate to this struggle. A lot of things in my religion made me feel sick to my stomach, but I didn’t want to abandon my culture and people. After all, there are a lot of things about Judaism and Jews that simply take my breath away and make me swell with pride.

Fortunately, oftentimes this struggle isn’t as "gory" as it seems to be. I, for example, simply shifted towards the left of my religion — Reform Judaism — and managed to preserve both my feminist and Jewish identity.

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