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h sofia

I've found that even in middle class, these kinds of ideas persist. A lot of what I've seen seems to be about "keeping the family together" - the woman takes on a martyr/saint persona and is determined to "pray" her way through an incredibly humiliating and degrading marriage.

Yes, the reality is worse than we who are middle class. One can be an educated chauvinist, but chauvinism combined with all kinds of ignorance and a culture of violence is truly horrifying. Horrible things happen to women abroad, but we need to look at what is happening in our very own country. My mother knew a woman who worked in social services in a very poor and semi-rural county. The things she saw on a daily basis broke her heart. One of her last cases involved a young mother who whose abusive boyfriend decided to "punish" her for "getting" pregnant again: he sprayed Raid into her vagina. She wouldn't have even reported it; she only came in because she was sick, and didn't realize that she was suffering from the toxic effects of the Raid.

Those living in poverty tend to have a lot more triggers for violence and acting out, and less mediating opportunities. Another factor is that contraception and abortion is still treated with suspicion and derision among most. As one young man (father of two unplanned children) said to me, "I guess I'm just going to have to figure out how to make this work because I'm not going to kill my babies like those rich, white people do." Of course, he was talking about abortion.

I know my thoughts are not organized well; I have to get back to work.

Stephanie

I live rurally and the attitudes and behaviors you describe seem very present. Even in LA County.

Ann

Once I was driving through the Texas panhandle and I could only get one radio station, which was airing some sort of conservative Christian advice show. Nearly every woman that called in (and the callers were all women) had a story to tell about an abusive or neglectful or otherwise shitty relationship, and the advice to every single one of them was to pray a lot but to otherwise suck it up because when you said "till death do us part" that's what you meant and it's too late now. It was horrible to listen to. Much of the time the women were devout Christians but said their husbands weren't, which invalidates about half Crystal's arguments. Quite convenient for the men when their wives believe that they must "reverence" and obey their husbands whether the slimeballs deserve it or not. ARGH.

TangoMan

My respect for feminism would rise quite a bit if I saw more effort extended to bettering the lives of the women you profile instead of the bulk of feminists setting off on Larry Summers witchhunts or agitating about the lack of women law partners.

On a related note, how does it feel to be on the front lines witnessing the dygenic rise in America? It doesn't surprise me that you see this type of social malignancy generation after generation and following our conversation yesterday, the best and brightest amongst us are quite frequently not having children. Think about it in personal terms - the feminist message becomes ever more marginalized and restricted to a shrinking constituency.

Jaymi

I realize almost on a daily basis the privilaged life I lead and how out of touch with the bulk of American problems I am. This is one of them. I hear a lot of stories about the unbelieveable (and yes to me it feels unbelievable) things men from certain cultures do to women and see nothing wrong in the thinking, in the logic. And I'm left to wonder what I can do from my position in life to better the lives of these women, to change the minds of these men. It is a truely daunting task...

The Happy Feminist

Tango Man, I don't have the impression that the "bulk" of feminism is focused on the elite, although that is certainly a common accusation. And don't get me wrong, I think equity is crucial at all levels of society from the very poorest segments all the way up to the elite universities and boardrooms. So I am quite happy to spend a lot of time tearing apart Larry Summers even while poor women are forced to bear unwanted to children. Caring about one does not preclude caring about the other.

But where have you been while feminists have been reforming the public consciousness about domestic violence? Where have you been while feminists have been decrying the threats to abortion rights -- threats that will primarily affect poor rural women who cannot easily get to states or countries where abortion will continue to be available? Are you really unaware of worldwide efforts to help women who are subject to circumcision, infibulation, and honor killings?

As for the "dysgenic rise," I assume you are referring to the fact that we feminists are depriving the world of our superior DNA. I have been mulling over some ideas for a post on this subject -- but it will have to wait for another day. I won't say when because I've already broken blog promises to post about a variety of other things.

The Happy Feminist

Jaymi, it may depend on where you live, but in my experience, there tend to be a number of organizations on a local level where you can help, such as domestic violence shelters and educational outreach groups, or groups that provide resources for people (including women) struggling to break out of poverty. Unfortunately, it is often easier to try to help the women than to reach out to the men (until they get caught up in the criminal justice system).

j0

TangoMan:
What HF said. Be an ally IF you share feminist goals, don't just criticize feminists because we haven't yet conquered all the problems caused by the pressures of patriarchy, poverty, etc., etc. that have plagued this planet for millenia. Respect for you would rise if there were more effort to walk the walk rather than engage in witch-hunt-like attacks in the feminist blogosphere.

TangoMan

Where have you been while feminists have been decrying the threats to abortion rights

As an escort at a clinic I had to confront the protesting mobs on a regular basis. I'm prepared to defend the position that my stance on "reproductive rights" is broader than most of the commenters here.

Are you really unaware of worldwide efforts to help women who are subject to circumcision, infibulation, and honor killings?

The feminist noise machine is much louder on Larry Summers' alleged sins than it ever was on the Ethopian Fistula Epidemic or on Mauritania's Wife-Fattening Traditions, or on the treatment of women in the Third World. The responses of the noise machine are not proportionate to the problems and to me that is quite telling. More concern about Dr. Nancy Hopkins and her being prone to vapors than the actual physical harm, murder, burnings, acid attacks, etc that are inflicted upon women the world over.

The Happy Feminist

Tango Man, the point is that there is quite a LOT of noise on abortion rights. I am glad that you have stepped up to help, but I think it's a distortion to say that feminism is primarily about acieving equity among Ivy League graduates. Abortion rights, which have been front and center, are far more a problem for poor women than they are for women like me.

On the other hand, your perception that American feminism is a movement for white, upper class women is widely shared, even in feminist circles. Like the very healthiest of thinkers though, feminists engage in pretty strict self-criticism and self-analysis and this one is a hot-button issue.

That having been said, I refuse to temper my noise on any injustice just because there could be some other or worse injustice I could be talking about. The idea that our concerns are petty and bourgeois is something that has been used against feminists for ages. (As in, "Why are you women complaining about your unimportant little issues when racial segregation still exists and our boys are dying in Vietnam?")

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