Sunday, January 21, 2007

I have a different approach

In an argument between a radical feminist and a transgendered woman, Heart wrote the following:

…to be born into the world female is to experience a certain kind of brutality at the hands of men from the moment of one’s birth and in an ongoing way, until we die. All of us born female know this brutality, recognize it, and have made our way against it and in the face of it. It is reflected in women’s art, writings, medicine, spirituality, specific traditions and practices, herstory, stories. It is evident in the way we encounter one another and in the way we encounter men and society just in general. Whatever women have created, whatever ways women have been in the world, have made for ourselves in the world, all of it has been touched by the brutality of our subordination as females, and that is the experience out of which we all, as females, must necessarily speak and do our own work. To be less than conscious here is to deny the facts of women’s subordination and is to actively disrespect women and our struggle for full humanity and so is to participate in our ongoing subordination. To appropriate our lives and experiences, or our writings, our work, is deeply disrespectful (and some other things worth talking about for a long time) in the same way other kinds of appropriation along the lines I’ve already mentioned are deeply disrespectful. Appropriation wherever it happens makes resistance to having been colonized and brutalized that much more difficult and real revolution and the upending of patriarchy that much more distant and out of reach to us.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot for a reason that is specific to my own life. I am the youngest of three children. I am the only girl. My parents were married for 15 years before I was born. My birth changed everything.

My father is dead now, but when he was alive he was diagnosed as a sociopath. This means that he can tell the difference between right and wrong, but he just doesn’t care. He was raised by an incredibly mean-spirited mother. She followed child-raising theories by the infamous Dr. Watson who believed children should be forced to fit into your lifestyle, not vice versa.

Dad managed to get by in life for many years. He was a successful college professor and administrator. He was a charming and funny man. He was also a successful con artist who never got caught.

That all came to an end one day in 1956 when he was startled to find he was capable of creating a girl child. From that point on, things went straight to hell. I was the trigger that sent him off the rails. From the day I was born.

You can imagine the details and they aren’t important. The first 20 years of my life were fucked up. The next 10 years were a time of painful growth and hard work to create a different kind of life for myself.

I lived in a world in which every system failed. The legal system failed me. The clergy failed me. The health care system failed me.

Nevertheless, I was loved. When it mattered, there were other people: friends, relatives, teachers and neighbors, even strangers. These people reached out a hand when I needed it. Every time they helped me, I grew stronger. Every time they gave me hope, I was able to survive another day.

I had lived with a person who took the low road every single time he had a choice. And yet the world contained people who made the right choice and they transformed my life.

I can’t sum this up with a cutesy rebuttal to Heart’s assessment of growing up female. I disagree with focusing on the pain. I know I would not be alive today if I hadn’t seen the hope, the promise, and the beauty that is one person helping another.


rabfish said...


thank you