I want to introduce myself as an able-bodied 25-year-old woman, as half-Lebanese, a U.S. citizen, a graduate student, a trained anthropologist, etc. before asserting: it is markedly challenging being a woman. I have it good, or am fortunate, in that I have never been homeless, I have never struggled in abject poverty, I am not a refugee or internally displaced person fleeing violence and depravity, I am not a person of color or of a religious faith who is constantly policed, etc.; however, there is a succinct type of oppression that women like me face of which other people may identify with along other demographic terms. This is a mental oppression in which women are taught, and even forced with physical violence, to regard themselves lowly, to refrain from voicing their worldviews, and to be passive and subservient in the names of “respect” and “civility.”
Even immediate family members will “love you,” but use this “love” as a means of control to make you submissive to them. This article is about how “love,” or misguided and flawed acts of love — or what we think are acts of love — are actually tools of oppression, specifically in terms of the familial architecture.
Misogyny is deeply, deeply embedded in the familial architecture not only in material terms historically (see Marxist-Feminist literature), but also psycho-socially in the way humans interact with each other. Misogyny is ideology that is reproduced, time and time again, in U.S. culture. There is explicit misogyny in the forms of, for example, overt physical violence and verbal degradation towards women, but there is also implicit misogyny in the forms of gaslighting and other “mind-games” seeking to temper a woman’s propensity to voice her worldview and stick-up for herself in pivotal moments.
In the book, Bad Feminist (2014), Roxane Gay writes about and analyzes the movie, Young Adult, writing:
Mavis is beautiful, cold, calculating, self-absorbed, full of odd tics, insensitive, and largely dysfunctional in nearly every aspect of her life. These are, apparently, unacceptable traits for a woman…Some reviews go so far as to suggest that Mavis is mentally ill, because there’s nothing more reliable than armchair diagnosis by disapproving critics…Ebert and many others require an explanation for Mavis’ behavior. They require a diagnosis for her unlikability in order to tolerate her. The simplest explanation, of Mavis as human, will not suffice.(Gay 2014, 84-85) (My Emphasis)
Psycho-socially, women are mistreated fundamentally, in the media, as evidenced in Gay’s analysis above, but also in the family. A borne female child does not get the same regard and treatment in the U.S. as a borne male child, because of the toxic culture humans in the U.S. have fostered.
In the book, All About Love: New Visions (2001), Bell Hooks dissects loveand discusses how to actually and properly love people; this entails that “love and abuse cannot coexist” (Hooks 2001, 6). As Terry Crews said in an interview on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah: “it’s impossible to love someone and control them at the same time.” In other words, what we think are acts of love can actually be abusive. Real and proper acts of love, therefore, require that abuse is not present and that, instead, genuine care and other factors are. Hooks writes:
Affection is only one ingredient to love. To truly love we must learn to mix various ingredients-care, affection, recognition, respect, commitment, and trust, as well as honest and open communication. (Hooks 2001, 5)
The family is the arena in which misogynistic dynamics first play out in an individual’s life, impacting his/her/their self-esteem and ability to grow and navigate the world as adults. However, in light of the 2018 “Zero Tolerance” immigration policy that the Trump administration has issued in the U.S. calling for the separation of refugee parents from their children and both of their imprisonments (in cages) across the country, it is important to discuss the prevalent response to the policy, which asserts: “families belong together.”
This article will not mince words: Trump’s immigration policy and ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) are abhorrently inhumane and violating these refugees’ basic human rights. The U.S. needs to be welcoming of immigrants not only because the country is founded upon and — albeit controversially — fueled by immigration and was even initially stolen through genocidal measures from Indigenous Americans, but also because those seeking asylum deserve to be protected. The hypocrisy that is the fact that the U.S. was originated via colonization and then immigration and how now future immigrants are hunted down and persecuted by the state makes blatantly apparent, once again, that the U.S. is deeply racist and set on serving only the wealthiest who can afford to pay their way out of these and other dilemmas, including maintaining health (e.g., food security), attaining healthcare, navigating the criminal justice system (evident in the notorious disparities between White and people of color residents in policing and the prosecution of crimes), and others. Of course, families do belong together; this article merely makes the case that the family, as constructed in the U.S., needs to be improved upon to achieve equality between women and men and along other demographic terms.
Women need to rise-up, speak out, and support and empower each other, working with their allies towards intentionally making this integral culture change not only against misogyny, but also against other forms of oppression against our brothers and sisters, comrades, and fellow human beings along other terms, including race, other gender identifiers — including non-binary conforming people — sex, class, citizenship, etc. Oppression felt by an individual does not occur in a vacuum. Oppression is interlinked: overarching systems (e.g., global, unregulated capitalism and nationalism) containing structures (e.g., institutions), of which exert forces (e.g., racism, sexism, and hetero-normativity), oppress and impact individuals across the field in both similar, or overlapping, and different ways. As a collective, humans need to research and study the intersections of these qualitative variables and the similarities and differences in the types of oppression experienced by a wide array of people in differing socio-economic circumstances. In this, cultural context is also essential in that one must situate a person or group’s circumstance within his/her/their own asserted worldview, so as not to ultimately create an ethnocentric agenda for action. Therefore, this is a call for both macro-and-micro-lens analyses that need to be reevaluated constantly. In this case, the macro-lens entails the broader relationship between groups of people to each other, while the micro-lens entails the relationships found within a group of people.
I am tired; I need and deserve to be treated equally to White men and to be seen and treated as a human being; so do immigrants, people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, Muslim people, etc. I can only imagine how devastating these times we live in are for those less privileged than myself. This is furthermore a call to mobilize privilege. This should be done in a two-fold way. First, reflect upon your family’s dynamics. Do not claim to be unbiased or blind to sex, gender, race, etc. Think of each individual in the family as a building block and visualize their relationship to others in the overall familial architecture. Similar to what Voltaire writes in Candide(1759), we must “tend to our gardens,” i.e., nurture and work at these family relationships, introspective and considerate of others’ socio-economic circumstances. Second, apply this knowledge that is gained from coming to understand our respective familial relationships to humanity at large, being mindful of the ways in which both our oppressions and privileges are inter-linked.
Gay, Roxane. 2014. Bad Feminist. Harper Perennial.
Hooks, Bell. 2001. All About Love: New Visions. Harper Collins Publishers.