August 11, 2006

"Woman's Inhumanity to Woman."

That's a book by Phyllis Chesler, cited by Simon in the comments to the Condi post I wrote this morning. I read the comment right after writing the Britney post just now and went back to see that the author of the cruel Daily Mail article was written by a woman. And there's a lot of material in a new vlog I recorded yesterday -- just wait! -- on this subject.

Let's look at the reviews of the Chesler book on the Amazon page:
From Publishers Weekly

Chesler, author of the bestselling Woman and Madness, explores the "shadow side" of sisterhood: women treating each other badly. How could her own mother have been so mean to her? How could someone who "borrowed" published ideas from her not acknowledge her or say "thank you"? In this treatise on breaking the "cycle of cruelty" between women, controversial feminist Chesler addresses why sisters fight, why some women prefer to work for men rather than for women, and other highly subjective cases of woman/woman cruelty. From the "demented Demeters" and "murderous Electras" of Greek mythology to modern-day Mommie Dearest, Chesler warns, mothers and daughters are doomed. Whether they acknowledge their mothers' viciousness, as Chesler does, or whether they're "unconscious" and suffer "amnesia" about the hurt, she says, the patterns are set. Throughout girlhood and into adult life, women repeat the basic lesson in Chesler's words, "maternal envy teaches daughters to be passive, fearful, conformist, obedient as well as similarly cruel to other women." Thus, she says, "an assertive woman manager might be viewed as bitchy and non-maternal." This comment is certainly more digestible than, say, "what complicates the aging process is a woman's life-long experience of all other women as rivals and potential replacements." Chesler draws her evidence from interviews with an unspecified group of women with horror stories: backstabbing by feminist colleagues, sadistic gynecologists, battering lesbians, etc....

From Library Journal

Second Wave feminists have for 30-plus years operated under the assumption that sisterhood is powerful. Indeed, women acting in concert have forced society to redefine gender, domestic relations, and the workplace. Still, despite huge gains in public visibility, female ascendance has been hampered by a rarely acknowledged reality: women often betray, hurt, and humiliate one another. Mothers stymie daughters, biological sisters compete, girlfriends gossip maliciously, and women bosses exert arbitrary and capricious authority....
Can I get a witness?

36 comments:

Troy said...

Just ask yourself WWGAOD... What would Gayle and Oprah do? (Not each other apparently).

My wife had a job a few years ago where she was in charge of 6 women -- it was the single most damaging experience (personally) she's ever had. Anecdotal evidence no doubt -- since I've had 3 female bosses in my career thus far and all of them were highly competent and great mentors to me.

PatCA said...

"Can I get a witness"?

Amen, sister!

This more vicious side of femininity is largely ignored by feminism, for obvious reasons.

Bissage said...

Well, I don't know how my woman treats other women, but my sweet lovin' woman knows just how to treat me right.

Here's your witness.

Elizabeth said...

Women are human. What a surprise!

Ann has frequently, and accurately, pointed to the fluffed-up "women are good, men are bad" stories. We're more complex than that. Women compete, women are shallow, women are not trustworthy.

Oh, and women are loyal, women back each other up, women have integrity.

Any human behavior or value you can name, you can find a woman who exhibits or possesses it. Women are human after all.

Elizabeth said...

I believe Adrienne Rich wrote on this in an essay, "On Lies, Secrets and Silences," about integrity among women. It's been awhile since I read it; I'll be interested to re-read it now in comparison with this article and the reviews cited.

Christy said...

Guess I was oblivious. Granted I worked mainly for and with men, but I did have two women bosses. Both were entirely supportive. The older one had fought to get where she was and couldn't give up fighting -- even for me when I didn't want her to. In fact the only woman I worked with who stabbed me in the back was a world class physicist who had escaped from Romania before Ceaucescu was overthrown. I always attributed her behavior to the extreme paranoia that allowed her to funtion in the horrible society there.

So I guess I agree that behavior comes from what has worked before, but its not a male or female issue.

Henry said...

What Elizabeth said (10:26 AM).

It reminds me of an essay the satirist Florence King wrote about feminist misanthropy. She writes something like this (but much punchier): Women this ready to spot incest and necrophilia [she has the references] clearly have a fondness for believing ill of people.

So Chesler is writing about abuse and betrayal, but it sounds like the same thing. People are mean. Women hardest hit.

class-factotum said...

There is no sisterhood at work!!! I have worked with men and I have worked with women. Both will stab you in the back but women will smile and pretend to be your friend while they're doing it. Men at least show you the knife.

Elizabeth said...

class, I've been stabbed by smiling men, so there goes that stereotype. Now I have to go to iTunes and serve up some Staple Singers, "Smiling Faces." Can you dig it?

MadisonMan said...

I preferred the Undisputed Truth version of Smiling Faces.

Troy said...

I don't think it takes much motivation for you to "have" to go to iTunes Elizabeth.

Elizabeth said...

I think this is a terribly important topic; the myth of sisterhood's solidarity is restrictive, reductive, romantic and unrealistic. I give all people the benefit of the doubt as to their integrity and honesty, and in reality, I've found far more support from women, and men, than I've ever encountered lies, manipulation or any other nastiness. But because of the romanticized "sisterhood" ideal, I've found myself more disenchanted when in conflict with another woman. Isn't it unfair of me to feel more betrayed by a woman, or to expect hardball from a man?

Elizabeth said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Elizabeth said...

MM, thanks for reminding me of that one. I'll have to get a playlist going!

Troy, it's work, it's hard work!

Pogo said...

I don't think the idea of women as mere humans is so shocking to people, it's rather that one has to overcome a half-century or more from feminism describing all social problems as having arisen from the cold hand of dead white males.

Cultural icons like the movie "9 to 5" suggested that male bosses were evil and stupid, and if we just did the obvious nurturing woman thing, offices would be havens with plants and babies and jobsharing and hugs and chocolate and did I say hugs?

But just try to mention such stuff, and you'll be ridiculed for taking movies seriously, or ridiculed that you ever took any of the feminist Females are Better and need men like a fish needs a bicycle mantra as if people actually meant it.

For the record, my worst boss was a narcissist male, second place was a quisling female (who took a curious pride in making female students cry). I agree with Elizabeth that a romantic ideal for women is unfair. I'd be happy if, accepting that myth, our culture would drop that notion from its storylines.

Simon said...

It's intriguing to see Elizabeth justifying adopting male behavioral patterns by saying "Women are human ... What a surprise!" Where is it written in stone that humans beave like like? Why is it that feminism has been perverted into a demand that women should be able to behave as badly as men, vs. a demand that men behave better? Why - as I'm sure the anti-pornography Chesler would point out - is it considered progress for feminism when instead of closing down Playboy, they're opening Playgirl for business? Is this really HUMAN nature, or is it MALE nature, now being aped by those who see imitation as easier than reform?

Simon said...

"But just try to mention such stuff, and you'll be ridiculed for taking movies seriously, or ridiculed that you ever took any of the feminist Females are Better and need men like a fish needs a bicycle mantra as if people actually meant it.
"

Well, as I understand it, there are two predominant schools of thought within feminism: that men and women are exactly the same, or that men and women are different and women are better. I think the former proposition is utterly preposterous (these are people who never learned the difference between "equal" and "identical" - a common theme among liberals who regard all ideas as equal except the ones which are different to theirs), but I have a great deal of sympathy towards the latter.

Aspasia M. said...

Didn't Mary Wolstonecraft address the relative morality of women?

Virtue can only flourish among equals.

Isn't there a rather famous quote that feminism is the radical concept that women are human?
----------------------

Well, as I understand it, there are two predominant schools of thought within feminism: that men and women are exactly the same, or that men and women are different and women are better.

I'm no expert, but that's not how I see the field.

There's a school of thought that says social construction heavily determines behavior. Within this concept are various strands, which include ideas that biology can have some influence. (ie - high testosterone levels can make kids more active.) However, the social construction of gender can be just as powerful, if not more powerful, then biology.

There's also a largely discredited idea of gender "essentialism" in which woman are "better" or have specific "ways of being" that specifically derive from their sex.
----------------------
And because this post cries for for Wollstonecraft: (and maybe some John Stewart Mill):

In fact, it is a farce to call any being virtuous whose virtues do not result from the exercise of its own reason.

and, of course:

Make women rational creatures, and free citizens, and they will quickly become good wives; - that is, if men do not neglect the duties of husbands and fathers.
Mary Wollstonecraft

And, of course, John Stewart Mill (1869) The Subjection of Women:

Neither does it avail anything to say that the nature of the two sexes adapts them to their present functions and position, and renders these appropriate to them. Standing on the ground of common sense and the constitution of the human mind, I deny that anyone knows, or can know, the nature of the two sexes, as long as they have only been seen in their present relation to one another. If men had ever been found in society without women, or women without men, or if there had been a society of men and women in which the women were not under the control of the men, something might have been positively known about the mental and moral differences which may be inherent in the nature of each. What is now called the nature of women is an eminently artificial thing — the result of forced repression in some directions, unnatural stimulation in others.

Doug said...

I have brought how some women can be catty, hateful, harmful to other women to feminists before, and predictably, their response is "it is the fault of men" They believe it is because women are trying to either please men, submit to the male dominated world, or suffer a severe case of gender self loathing that causes women to act that way.

One women's studies major I discuss these things with asserts there are no real differences between the sexes, the ones that exist are the result of generations of sexism.

She would also reference all these faults in men,(aggresiveness, controlling nature, etc. ), but when I brought up what I thought were faults in some women, she said it was due to the way women need to function in the sexist society. So basically, the faults of men are because men suck, the faults of women are because men suck.

Aspasia M. said...

Doug,

Are you saying that women are biologically determined to be "catty, hateful and harmful to other women"?

Is this, in your opinion, specific to a feminine character that compose the "real differences" between the sexes?

Simon said...

Geoduck -
I've got to admit, I have some sympathy for the essentialist argument. I see no reason why equality has to be measured at the lowest common denominator.

Also, I think there's a wry paraphrasing of that statement (maybe from the Feminists for Life group which argue - not unreasonably - that "abortion is a reflection that [] society has failed to meet the needs of women") that says something like "pro-life feminism is the radical notion that unborn women are people too".

Simon said...

Doug said...
"One women's studies major I discuss these things with asserts there are no real differences between the sexes, the ones that exist are the result of generations of sexism."

To the extent that this is true, she's talking about so many generations of sexism that it becomes more apt to talk about it in terms of evolutionary biology. That is, in the strictest sense, she may be correct, but only if one overlooks that the number of generations she is talking about are astronomical and have become embedded in our bodies and our brain's physical structure as much as in our culture (it was always apparent that our bodies are very different, but the last bastion of the "we're the same really" idea - that male and female brains are identical - died swiftly with the introduction of MRI scanners). Barabara & Allen Pease and Steven Pinker and written interesting books on the subjects of how evolutionary biology has shaped women and men's psychological and physiological differences.

Aspasia M. said...

I certainly agree that different biology creates biological differences. (This includes hormonal differences, different health needs including pre-natal care of increased folic acid and iron, ect.)

Pregnant women should not be discriminated against in the health system in any way. These biological differences must be taken into account by society. Anything less is unjust. For example, pregnant women have just as much right to be covered by health insurance as non-pregnant women.

I am away from my books - but there was a legal case out of California from about 20 years ago that actually did not agree with this concept of justice and equality. (Can you believe it? The case actually ruled that a workers health insurance plan did not need to cover the costs of pregnancy & labor because pregnancy was a "natural" condition. Thus, the case ruled it was not a question of equality. As if it's a good idea to have a baby without medical help and supervision. Pffft!) The pregnancy discrimination acts were needed to correct this legal problem.

----------------------
However, I would condemn anyone who claimed women -- as a class of people -- were inherently less virtuous, less honorable, or posessed less intelligence then men because of their biological differences.

Likewise, I would condemn anyone who claimed men -- as a class of people -- were less virtuous, honorable or intelligent then women because of their biological differences.

In a nutshell, that's my view.

Doug said...

Doug,
Are you saying that women are biologically determined to be "catty, hateful and harmful to other women"?


I am not sure if it is biological, I can see how back stabbing between women in some instances could be as a means to attract or win a man, especially in a social setting (sort of like the female version of what guys call c*#@blocking) Men behave in similar fashions, but when they act like fools to impress women (such as acting like a tough guy, chest thumping things), it is taken as a character flaw of the male gender, at least it is by me. Some feminists don't think of female attempts to attract men as a character flaw in women, but in men.

I don't view this characteristic as one of the "real differences" between the sexes, especially because I have seen plenty of men act this way at times.

My issue with it is that I tire of hearing some people blame so many problems on men, (not talking about you) but won't look inward and see that there are problems that can be solved within the gender without having to scapegoat the other gender.

Doug said...

Simon, the thing about the MRI is something that I have brought up and she pretty much still thinks the brains are all the same, it is just changed as we age and society entrenches us into our gender roles, and that changes the brain chemistry.

She goes as far as to say that the nuturing nature of a women is due to male imposed gender roles, while I see it quite differenly. If something is growing in you and feeding off your body, and completely dependent upon you, like a baby is dependent upon its mother, that promotes a nuturing nature.

Simon said...

Geoduck:
"Pregnant women should not be discriminated against in the health system in any way. These biological differences must be taken into account by society."

As far as healthcare is concerned, I'm in full agreement, but I don't agree with something that tends to follow from that statement which is that pregnancy cannot be grounds for dismissal, or that companies should be legally forced to hold open a position for a worker on maternity (or paternity leave). To be sure, companies should be encouraged to do so by government, by whatever means that seem apt, and there should certainly be a social opporbrium on companies that do not, but I tend to think that government regulates best when it regulates least, a fortiori where consequences of voluntary conduct - and pregnancy is a consequence of voluntary conduct - is concerned.

"I would condemn anyone who claimed men -- as a class of people -- were less virtuous, honorable or intelligent then women because of their biological differences."

I apparently stand duly condemned. Not for the first time, I am sure, and doubtless not for the last. ;) I generally have a lower opinion of men than of women, a great distrust of their motives and actions, and I generally find it harder to relate to and get along with them. Maybe that's just a product of the men and women I've dealt with in life, I don't know, but what I do know is that if I'm out walking in the evening, even in our cosy little suburban neighbourhood, to see a male is to be concerned about their intentions. In general, I think a world with a little less testosterone would be a much better place.

Aspasia M. said...

Simon,

Hmmm...well, I certainly don't want to discount the effects of testosterone. I worked as a camp counselor as summer job when in college, and for one session of a science day camp, I and one other counselor were in charge of 9 little 4th grade boys. Oh My! In our other sessions we had mixed groups of boys and girls in the 2nd and 3rd grade.

There was a huge difference in energy level. And for some strange reason, in the morning, the boys wanted to stay inside and draw. This would last for about 5 minutes before they ran around inside. At which time I would push them outside to play a energy draining game (which was hopefully educational) that got them to run around outside.

These were bright little boys who were not inherently less moral or virtuous then the little girls who came to camp. (More generally rambunctious, yes, but that is a different trait from virtue, morality, honor, intelligence, ect.)

I guess I think the urges of hormones can be controlled by intelligence, rationality, morality, and society -- thus meaning that biology is ultimately less important then societal factors that lead to behavior, the creation of morality, intelligence, and other personality traits.

Simon said...

"There was a huge difference in energy level. And for some strange reason, in the morning, the boys wanted to stay inside and draw. This would last for about 5 minutes before they ran around inside. At which time I would push them outside to play a energy draining game (which was hopefully educational) that got them to run around outside."

Well, education is probably the most obvious case of a public institution in desparate need of being liberated from politically correct ideas of equality requiring sameness. Boys and girls learn differently, and should thus be taught differently. Since this cannot be accomplished in the same classroom, it is inescapable that even if you don't have single-gender schools, single gender classes are the way to go. I think to try and force two groups who learn in different ways and at different speeds and who require different teaching strategies to learn in the same way at the same pace is to do considerable disservice to them, something that holds true whether the group are boys and girls or learning-disadvantaged and ... oh, whatever the politically correct term for the non-retarded is this week.

Simon said...

By the way, talking of ludicrous political correctness in language - I was asked to remove the term "niggardly" from a formal report recently. Crazy! It's not even spelled the same way as the "N" word! Perhaps I should also remove my use of the term "fluctuate," I suggested, since it sounds a little too much like "fuck" for comfort.

Wasn't the lesson learned from the David Howard non-scandal that people like Marshall Brown and Anthony Williams should be sent to remedial English school, not public office?

P. Froward said...

Hm. My mom and my sister get along pretty well.

The it's-all-men's-fault/women-are-inherently-virtuous school of feminism is just nineteenth century angel-in-the-home garbage with a new coat of paint, anyhow. Which means, of course, that we can blame that on men too!


Er... just to be clear, the last sentence was a joke.

Elizabeth said...

Well, as I understand it, there are two predominant schools of thought within feminism: that men and women are exactly the same, or that men and women are different and women are better.

Well, you're missing at least one other predominant school, and its absence explains your other odd assumptions, such as that recognizing women's complexity is tantamount to arguing that women should take up men's behaviors, that these unidentified behaviors are "male," and that the options seem to be "demand[ing] that women behave as badly as men" or that women make men behave better.

Can I just save time and say, duh, no, to all that?

Kathy said...

In general, I think a world with a little less testosterone would be a much better place.

Oh, for goodness sakes. Have you ever been in an all-female environment for an extended period of time? Women aren't inherently any more virtuous (or less) than men. They can be more fastidious about certain niceties of social interaction, but if you overlook those niceties they are also more likely to respond with hostility. If the world were populated only by females (leaving aside the question of reproduction, of course), you would not have a bastion of peace and love. Woman's hostility to woman is not a recent phenomenon nor is it a product of their interaction with men.

I personally work better with men than women, although as I mature I'm getting better at the skills needed to relate well to women. The more typically feminine women are, the harder it is for me. What does typically femine mean in this context? I guess I mean the kind of women (and maybe typically femine was a poor choice of descriptor) who focus more on social status, personal appearance, bonding with other women, that sort of thing. I know many nice women who fall in that category, but I find them hard to really relate to. I often neglect the niceties of social interaction demanded by some women, and this is not an offense that's easily overlooked in many female circles.

tcd said...

geoduck said, "Pregnant women should not be discriminated against in the health system in any way."

Huh? How are they being discriminated against? I hope you don't mean that the big bad insurance industry is committing the discrimination. If women want maternity coverage, they can always add a maternity endorsement to their medical insurance policy for additional premium. An insurance policy is a contract, not a tool of discrimination. Insurance carriers are in business to make a profit, they are not in business to make puppy dogs and rainbows.

Aspasia M. said...

Huh? How are they being discriminated against? I hope you don't mean that the big bad insurance industry is committing the discrimination.


In two specific cases the court defined pregnancy as a condition that did not require medical help or supervision.

If you think pregnant women don't need health coverage, that's your buisness. Of course, I disagree.
--------

I was talking about this case from Cal. and the subsequent pregnancy discrimination act --

(cut from wikipedia.)

Two major cases in the 70s appear to be directly responsible for the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The first, Geduldig vs. Aiello (1974), ruled that the exclusion of medical benefits for pregnant women in California by the California State Disability Insurance program was non-discriminatory.

“While it is true that only women can become pregnant…the [California State Disability Insurance] program divides potential recipients into two groups- pregnant women and nonpregnant persons. While the first group is exclusively female, the second group includes members of both sexes. The fiscal and actuarial benefits of the program thus accrue to members of both sexes.” -From Geduldig vs. Aiello

In 1976 General Electric v. Gilbert, 429 U.S. 125, set a similar precedent for private insurance through an employer.

The uproar from these two decisions appears to have directly fueled the creation of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act by Congress.

tcd said...

I think your summary of the issue is a bit misleading. I believe that generally, most employer-provided and individual health insurance policies will exclude maternity coverage unless a rider is added to the base policy available to all employees or policyholders. It's not that pregnant women are declined health care, they just need to pay extra premium for maternity care (although complications from pregnancy are covered as a general rule). This is not discrimination, it's actuarial sense. If men were the ones to bear children, they would have to pay extra as well. Likewise, women with infertility issues will also not be covered for infertility treatments. Insurance is a business like any other business. It's about numbers, not emotions.

Chloe said...

Fact 1, accept the one way war against feminity by one type of male . Women were taught that they were inferior, wrong and dirty, all reasons to hate themselves. And so pick up where where that one type of male left off, she vents and projects her own self loathing on to other women as well as looking at women through the misogynist eyes and identifying with the male. Women were taught to hate themselves, and encouraged to compete for male favor. This is the major factor here. males created a culture condemning passivity yet raising girls to be so.

That is why it is woman's inhumanity torwards woman and not woman's inhumanity to humanity.
It is an issue in itself and is complicated by the second point if it comes up.
Second, The darkside of the humanbeing is an issue in itself. and people have writen about man's crime against humanity.
I'd hope that someone with a phd could rule out woman's self loathing and acting out the sterotypes by misogyist( his lie will become true because she will act out what she has heard- false self/ playing a character) form a human bully, and even the actual darkside by nature of a human female or male.

This book only exposes the self loathing vented due to mysogyny.
by accident you see examples of actual enviromental differences. male bully hits because males are taught to fight. female bullies are verbal, females who want male approval act butch.

third, it is male propagand that feminist say women good guys bad. That is evident of the problem.
Feminist do point out the crimes of some males in the name of gender, and should emphasize the males who stood up for them and behaved like brothers. feminist fought for the brother/sister relationship , and a place in society.

finally, the actual darksid of feminity would be sex and death. In the sense that she created life and would go on the power trip to end it. All other darksides by a nature are the same: fear of the unknown, anger, need to belong at any cost, us vs them /survival instinct,and fear of difference to name a few.