Patriarchy and Self-Censorship

menEven as I wrote the previous blog, I felt that niggling worm of doubt, as in every women’s brain, telling me, “don’t offend them” “be a good girl” “don’t make the male pastors mad” and then I began to realize that I’ve been so brainwashed by patriarchy that I fear my own thoughts! My gender has been brainwashed so well, that I don’t realize I’m self-censoring until long after the fact. I then think, “whoa! wait a minute. What do I care that a bunch of hypocritical mega-pastors or male pastor wanna-be’s are going to think about me or what I post here?” Well, then I got pissed! I mean EVEN now, the self-censoring impulse is scary because it is so ingrained and unconscious. For those who never has to censor their own writing, Ala Mark Driscoll and ilk, they just wouldn’t understand what that means. Everyone knows, after all, that every drop of wisdom that comes from men’s mouths is worth sucking up. Men are God’s anointed and we should treat them like God “himself.” They are prophets, priests, and kings, and we but their subjects. More like objects. In Christendom women are to watch how they eat, dress, talk, sit, portray their sexuality, or worship, all towards the view of how men see us. We are trained never to offend and lure those poor, weak men into sexual traps yet we are to blame if they don’t find us sexually available enough. As Luce Irigaray writes, “Women are marked phallicly by their fathers, husbands, procurers. And this branding determines their value in sexual commerce. Woman is never anything but the locus of a more or less competitive exchange between two men…” (Feminisms, This Sex Which is Not One, page 368). This describes Mrs. Haggard to a tee. She is Ted Haggard’s wife and fodder for Mark Driscoll’s speculation, never a woman in her own right with feelings and desires that neither one probably bothered to think about.

So, when we write, women are trained to write good things, pretty things, things that won’t offend those delicate male sensibilities. How dare we challenge the church hierarchy. God will probably punish us if we dare speak against his chosen ones. If we do dare, we are witches, bitches, cunts, and whores. How dare we offend them! Who do we think we are??? We are still under Eve’s curse after all (even though men aren’t under Adam’s any longer) and should be confined to our proper sphere; the home. We cannot be trusted to interpret or write for ourselves. We should not dare to be creative, to write, to sing, to dance, or to be sexually available to whomever we wish. We are property after all! This is why our writing is so powerful and web blogging so liberating. We can say what we want to say. Sure we will always get chastised by idiots that attempt to take us down a peg or two with their male bombast (some male-bombasticized-women included), but the good feminist writers will ignore such drivel. Delete them as they deserve. The point is not to give in to such attempts at censorship. God knows (and I mean that literally), men never self-censor.

In regards to writing, Helene Cixous, the French feminist, writes brilliantly that

Women must write her self; must write about women and bring women to writing, from which they have been driven away as violently as from their bodies–for the same reasons, by the same law, with the same fatal goal. Women must put herself into the text–as into the world and into history–by her own movement…and why don’t you write? Write! Writing is for you, you are for you; your body is yours, take it. I know why you haven’t medusa laughs written…Because writing is at once too high, too great for you, it’s reserved for the great–that is for “great men;” and it’s “silly.” Besides, you’ve written a little, in secret. And it wasn’t good, because it was in secret, and because you punished yourself for writing, because you didn’t go all the way…Write, let no one hold you back, let nothing stop you; not man, not the imbecilic capitalist machinery; in which publishing houses are the crafty, obsequious relayers of imperatives handed down by an economy that works against us and off our backs; and not yourself. Smug-faced readers, managing editors, and big bosses don’t like the true texts of women–female-sexed texts. That kind scares them (Feminisms, “Laugh of the Medusa,” pg. 348)

Cixous’ treatise on why women censor themselves is a perfect feminist analysis of male control, even over the bodies of women. For Cixous, writing is another expression of our bodies. We, ourselves, write because we cannot help it. It’s our blood, our life. “Censor the body,” she writes, “and you censor breath and speech at the same time” (350). To write and give expression in history is to change history. Myth is nothing but men changing history to suit their purposes and ends through writing and storytelling. Therefore, women must write to change history for ourselves. It is the only non-violent, productive means we have at our disposal to counteract a culture of violence that would silence women for speaking or writing. How do men silence/censor us? They do it by making us feel guilty. “Guilty of everything, guilty at every turn; for having desires, for not having any; for being frigid, for being “too hot;” for not being both at once; for being too motherly and not enough; for having children, for not having any…” (351).

So, I refuse to feel guilty about offending anyone. I refuse to give them that power over me. I will write what I think. I’m tired of being corrected by men who think they know more than I do, either by virtue of being men, or by virtue of some sort of cyber-privilege. Well, as Sigourney Weaver notoriously said as she entered the infamous badly-written chompers and before being censored in Galaxy Quest, “Well, fuck that!” (yes,! i said the f word again)

3 thoughts on “Patriarchy and Self-Censorship

  1. Heavy – yet – uplifting.

    I must read this again and again. I must digest and live this breathing mantra.

    Tell me, what about how we women inflict the thoughts of a male shaped society unto our fellow women?

  2. SurfaceEarth,

    We do it by censoring other women the “male way.” By becoming those who censor others and somehow make them feel that what they think or say is “not right.” We censor the body by projecting the male view of the perfect woman onto our mothers and daughters.

    To get along in this society, I personally have adopted some supposedly “male” characteristics, as have you have most likely in your job as well. We need to in order to get along in our jobs and in our everyday lives. However, by doing so, we adopt some of their less savory hierarchical habits: intimidation, belittling, scorn, etc. I do it all the time and have to catch myself, but it’s difficult.

    I think we need a more egalitarian approach where everyone is heard without fear of censure and with respect to all ideas no matter how absurd we think they are. But patriarchy won’t allow women to even come to the table with ideas. Feminists have always said that much like slaves ridding themselves of their masters, that it’s ok to use the master’s tools to dismantle the master’s house, but how much do we without tainting ourselves in the process? I’m still working on it.

  3. That’s it, I like this, because it removes blame, and I don’t like tossing around blame much, because I feel at some level of existence we have all been shaped, male or female, and now we need to simply evolve.

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