Friday, October 9, 2015

The Creation of Patriarchy by Gerda Lerner - A book I am choosing to read

Do we all know who Gerda Lerner is? No, of course we don't. Gerda Lerner was a feminist historian who said some really kickass things, and whom I discovered through the glory that is Tumblr.


The whole wonderful gifset is here, but here's its essence:


So in 1986, she published the first of two volumes, The Creation of Patriarchy. Ever since reading Hanne Blank's completely wonderful Straight: A Surprisingly Short History of Heterosexuality, I've been extremely interested in the idea of 'doxa' or 'this is right because it's how things are and how everyone knows it should be.' WHICH IS A CULTURAL CONSTRUCT.

Gerda Lerner looked at how our culture is set up and HAS been set up for millennia and said "Well, I wonder if we can trace the roots of patriarchy," and then she spent seven years researching and writing a book about it. A lot of which centers around Mesopotamia, because apparently there's a ton of information out there about Mesopotamia?

Um, apparently this is where Mesopotamia was

I'm only on chapter 2, but on the "How Academically-Written Is This Book" scale, it's like a 6 or 7, so I have zero hope of finishing it soon. Let's talk about highlights so far!

In the intro, she differentiates between 'history' and 'History,' which is how she is defining the unrecorded past vs. the recorded and interpreted past. Guess who seriously gets screwed over in the recorded and interpreted past, as opposed to what actually went down back then? (hint: it's ladies)

Another question which I hoped my study would address concerned the long delay (over 3500 years) in women's coming to consciousness of their own subordinate position in society. What could explain it? What could explain women's historical "complicity" in upholding the patriarchal system that subordinated them and in transmitting that system, generation after generation, to their children of both sexes?

Now I'm not sure when she's saying our consciousness of this began, because The Book of the City of Ladies by Christine de Pizan from 1405 is pretty much her going "Wait, wtf, why does it have to be like this? I'm pretty sure I'm smart and awesome." But given how far back humanity's past goes, and how infrequent recorded comments like de Pizan's have been throughout history, I'm pretty sure it's only recently we've had the massive groundswell of women echoing de Pizan's comment.

Chapter 1 is called "Origins" and talks about how to frame the questions for this sort of topic. We obviously approach history and everything in life with a value-ridden framework that we can't free ourselves from, so it's important to take that framework into account.

For the historian, the more important and significant question is this: how, when, and why did female subordination come into existence?

Most of chapter 1 is spent discussing the major positions (in 1986 at least) on those three questions, which were held by traditionalists, feminists, and Marxists. That last one seems reeeal specific, but I'm gonna accept it because I don't know any better.

One of her more excellent points in this early chapter is that traditionalists
expect women to follow the same roles and occupations that were functional and species-essential in the Neolithic. They accept cultural changes by which men have freed themselves from biological necessity. The supplanting of hard physical labor by the labor of machines is considered progress; only women, in their view, are doomed forever to species-service through their biology . . . At a time when overpopulation and exhaustion of natural resources represent a real danger for human survival, to curb women's procreative capacities may be more "adaptive" than to foster them.
 Something I'd like to have verified is if hunter-gatherer societies, despite placing a higher VALUE on the results of big game hunting, in fact depended more on gathering and small game in their day-to-day existence. That sounds right, but we also hunted a whole lot of large species to extinction when we came to North America, so we had to have been killing them pretty often.

I tweeted at anthropologist John Hawks about this and his response was fairly vague (not his fault! the reality is vague!):

Sooooo "kinda." Kinda is the answer. Depends on where you lived.

Lerner seems to approach her subject pretty fairly -- when another academic stated that the position of goddesses in a culture meant they were a matriarchy, she says:

In view of the historical evidence for the coexistence of symbolic idolatry of women and the actual low status of women, such as the cult of the Virgin Mary in the Middle Ages, the cult of the lady of the plantation in antebellum America, or that of the Hollywood star in contemporary society, one hesitates to elevate such evidence to historical proof.

  The other chapters in the book are:

2. A Working Hypothesis
3. The Stand-in Wife and the Pawn
4. The Woman Slave
5. The Wife and the Concubine
6. Veiling the Woman
7. The Goddesses
8. The Patriarchs
9. The Covenant
10. Symbols
11. The Creation of Patriarchy

Gerda Lerner is most probably the shit.

Yes. Most probably indeed.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Monkalong II: If you're a lady over 40 in this book, you're probably already dead

EVERYONE HAS A STORY. And Don Raymond certainly has one. Which he would like to tell you about. In excruciating detail.


So the section (which I'm sorry we had to read all of, but we had to get through it eventually) is Don Lorenzo's BFF Don Raymond's endless story about how he got around to banging Don Lorenzo's sister. THAT WAS FOR REAL THE REASON FOR IT. 

Basically, he almost got murdered by some banditti in the forest, then he saved a baroness while his servants were stabbed to death, then he fell in love with the baroness's niece, but the baroness was in love with Don Raymond (which is obvs pathetic because she's over 40 and M.G. Lewis is not on board with that age being a thing for women)

Main things we should note:

1. The wife of the banditti leader, Marguerite, makes "a sallad." So apparently that was a thing in the 18th century. And now I want to look up the history of salad.


2. Don Raymond is a dick for not telling Agnes his real name. Like, yeah, I get it when you're first meeting her, 'cause you want her to fall in love with you and not your heaps and heaps of Scrooge McDuck coins, but when you're about to elope with her, MAYBE say "Hey, so I totes didn't trust you before, but my name isn't Alphonso hahaha call me Raymond I know they're about equally bad as names so you shouldn't care."

3. Agnes is going around, drawing pictures of bleeding nuns and nobody thinks this is weird.

While I sat upon a broken ridge of the Hill, the stillness of the scene inspired me with melancholy ideas not altogether unpleasing.
 Romantics suck.

An Author, whether good or bad, or between both, is an Animal whom everybody is privileged to attack; For though All are not able to write books, all conceive themselves able to judge them.
 Give it UP for Matthew Lewiiiiiiis. Tellin' it like it IS.

So, I'm psyched for the story to finally move forward, and it looks like the Monk is in the VERY NEXT CHAPTER, having just banged Rosaritilda. Exciting.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Alternate T-Shirt Slogans for the Suffragette Movie

Look. I want the Suffragette movie to succeed. Probably more than some.

I'm just saying.

But their unfortunately chosen t-shirt slogan has rightly angered many people. Because guys. Guys. For reals?

I know this is a quote by Emmeline Pankhurst, but this movie is definitely being marketed to Americans and MERYL STREEP IS AN AMERICAN and someone on this photoshoot should've stepped up and said "Um...sooooo...hey. Maybe...maybe not this."

So. Here're some t-shirt slogans they could've used that aren't the terrible idea they ended up going with:

I'd rather be a rebel than a piece of property.

Speak up til they're speechless

I'd rather be in Minangkabau (Get it? 'Cause they have a matrilineal society)

And even going with their original intent, here're adapted Emmeline Pankhurst quotes:

Not a Law-Breaker But a Law-Maker

Make noise til they hear you

Deeds, Not Words

Or, as my friend Doug suggests, "I Wanna Vote, You Fuck."

What I'm saying guys could've tried just a little bit harder.

I'm a writer. I think I know what I'm talking about.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Then Comes Marriage by Roberta Kaplan: "I am the Jewish lesbian from New York who's going to win this case"

Roberta Kaplan is the lawyer who the LGBT population and its opposition watched unswervingly as she took the case of United States v. Windsor all the way to the Supreme Court in 2013, ultimately arguing for and achieving the striking down of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prohibited gay and lesbian married couples from being recognized at the federal level, thereby denying them Social Security benefits, joint tax filing, military pensions for bereaved spouses, and over 1000 other rights given to all other married couples in the United States.

Then Comes Marriage is necessary to a nation that is already taking marriage equality for granted. For LGBT citizens, this may be a self-protective instinct. There was so much heartache and disappointment, so many horrible things said, and a seemingly insurmountable wall of majority disapproval, that forgetting it seems the best way to move on. But if we remember how hard it was to get here, we treasure it all the more.

Kaplan's book takes you through the emotions you felt during the fight for marriage equality (or makes you feel them for the first time). It reminded me of the best and worst moments of that time, while adding immense depth to the experience by talking about what was going on behind the scenes as Kaplan and her team at the law firm Paul, Weiss -- in conjunction with several LGBT rights groups -- figured out how they could win their case for 84-year-old Edie Windsor and, by extension, LGBT people across the country.

Kaplan (and co-writer Lisa Dickey) interweave Kaplan's own coming out experience with the history of LGBT rights in America, culminating in her meeting with Edie Windsor, as the recent widow fought an estate tax of over $360,000 that the federal government said she had to pay. DOMA barred her marriage to Thea Spyer from being recognized.

This marriage.

I knew the outcome of the case and could quote from the oral arguments and I still felt anxious while reading about it. I felt like I was right back in the midst of constantly alternating between joy and nail-biting -- one of the greatest moments of said joy being during oral arguments when Justice Kagan brought up the 1996 House Report to the lawyer defending DOMA (Paul Clement). After stating that

So we have a whole series of cases which suggest the following, which suggest that when Congress targets a group that is not everybody's favorite group in the world, that we look at those cases with some -- even if they're not suspect -- with some rigor to say do we really think that Congress was doing this for uniformity reasons, or do we think that Congress' judgment was infected by dislike, by fear, by animus, and so forth?

Clement works hard to backpedal from that, and then Kagan drops this:

[W]hat happened in 1996 -- and I'm going to quote from the House Report here -- is that Congress decided to "reflect and honor a collective moral judgment" and to express "moral disapproval of homosexuality." Is that what happened in 1996?

How do you answer that. You can't. An absolute gasp goes up from the courtroom at that moment. That is how far we had come from 1996 to 2013.

This was, of course, made eminently clear when Justice Kennedy issued his majority opinion on June 26, 2013, where he spoke of the "equal dignity" of same-sex marriage, and declared Section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional.

Reading about the decision once again made me think of people like Anne Lister, Oscar Wilde, Frances Willard, Rock Hudson, and countless others throughout the centuries who had to hide part of who they were and could not receive the honor due to the relationships they had with the people they loved. Striking down Section 3 of DOMA was a key part of giving a long-marginalized and abused group of Americans their right to equality. Marriage is "a personal promise that is shared with the community," and as of 2013, the United States government recognized that and stated its LGBT citizens deserved to celebrate that promise just as much as anyone else.

I cried throughout this book. Occasionally from sadness, more often from joyful remembrances. I think the best note to end on is Edie Windsor's response to why there was a "sea change" in American opinion regarding gay marriage.

"Some brave person woke up one morning and said, 'I'm gay' ... and then another person did it, and then another..."

Let's never forget that.

Friday, October 2, 2015

October Book Releases Make Me Want to Cry From an Abundance of Riches

It's October, which means The Month When Everything Gets Published For Some Reason. Is it people going back to school? Settling in for the certainly long winter? WHO KNOWS, but these are all damn exciting books and I want to read them all:

Then Comes Marriage
, Roberta Kaplan. Note: I have finished this and I LOVE IT SO MUCH. Let's all read about gay rights and then have a celebratory dance party, which I shall DJ as I do not dance.

The Witches, Stacy Schiff. Currently residing at my girlfriend's apartment, but I am totes going to read it, because Salem witch trials, who doesn't want that in October.

Lafayette in the Somewhat United States, Sarah Vowell. I know Vowell didn't plan for the publication of this to coincide with Hamilton madness, but that is FORTUITOUS timing and I already think this book is the bee's knees as of a quarter of the way through it.

Carry On, Rainbow Rowell. Yeah, like we're not reading the newest RR book.

The Sword of Summer, Rick Riordan. My Rick Riordan craze happened RIGHT before I started book blogging, but this latest mythology series of his is about Norse mythology and GOOD LORD I WILL BE READING IT.

The Givenness of Things, Marilynne Robinson. Aren't we all supposed to love Marilynne Robinson? She seems so wise. So I'm pretty sure essays by her are a thing that should be read.


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Monkalong Part I: I lust for the enjoyment of your person

Who the hell is Matthew Lewis?

No no, not him.

The author of The Monk (1796) wrote this ridiculous, ridiculous book when he was 19. He also became a member of Parliament the year it came out. He obviously just took the Gothic movement and ran with it, and he wrote a number of other Gothic works (mostly plays) before dying of yellow fever at age 42.

The Monk is THE BEST AND WORST and we're reading it because it makes no sense and has demon nuns and should be read. This week was chapters 1 and 2 where the following occurred:

It's somewhere in Spain and there's a famous friar about to speak at a church, so no one can get a seat, INCLUDING an old (read 50 year old) woman and her veiled young beautiful niece, but two knights see the niece's neck and're like "hey, there's probably some nice stuff under there" and give up their seats just in case. There's some introducing, some awkward and pretty aggro flirting, and the knights find out she's there to ask a Marquis to keep paying for her to live in a castle. So say we all.

This Marquis is having some secret liaison with a nun named Agnes (rename in next draft, Agnes is not a good sexytimes name), but Famous Friar finds out and sentences her to....something harsh. They don't detail what. Then she curses him to learn what human frailty is and THAT IMMEDIATELY HAPPENS.

Because there's a young man in the monastery who keeps like a towel wrapped around his head as far as I can guess, and he's super-into Famous Friar, but then it's revealed ohhhh shit, he's a lady. An apparently innocent but PROBABLY DEVIOUS AND MAYBE SATANIC lady. Famous Friar tries to resist her for like two seconds, but she's ridic hot, so instead it turns into:

There's a lot of bosoms happening here. Not that I'm complaining. But the 18th century knew what it liked and what it liked was apparently ladyboobs.

The section stopped at them making out. With boobs obvs mentioned, because this is Matthew Lewis, and I think we should all just get used to seeing them because there's a lot left of the book.

[T]he Altar sank down, and in its place appeared an abyss vomiting forth clouds of flame. Uttering a loud and terrible cry the Monster plunged into the Gulph, and in his fall attempted to drag Antonia with him.

You guys, but have you actually been PICTURING this book?

I'm pretty sure The Monk is gonna be the best October read ever, and I hope there're ghosts and vampires and stuff. WE SHALL SEE.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Monkalong Reminder

THE MONK IS COMING. This Thursday, to be precise. If you're participating in the readalong and feel like being in on the first post (we really don't care when you start linking up your posts, tbh), then read chapters 1-2.

The signup post, which also has the schedule, is in my sidebar. COME READ THIS 1796 NOVEL WITH US. It's bonkers.