personal is political - opinion

Ok, I'm really not having much luck with my new cleaner. The same one from a few posts ago who was ranting about immigrants, who has a habit of initiating conversations about topical and personal issues. So today, I was not in my office when she was here because I was putting my shopping away, and as always, a mere nod or a "Mhm" was enough to encourage her. She started asking me about being a doctor, and what kind I was, and as I politely replied, hoping that would be the end of that, she said, with a longing look in her eyes, that she always wanted to study medicine but...

And then, instead of reflecting on whatever pain she has due to being denied better opportunities in life as a woman from underprivileged background, she narrowed her beady eyes at me and said, "You know what I hate most? All those breastfeeding mothers insisting on uncovering themselves in public, what attention seekers and oh, those feminists going on about sexism, which isn't even a real thing, they are the worst, I mean, those women don't even know what they want anymore!" There was a lot of gleeful venom in her expression which was particularly upsetting.

I stopped her diatribe by saying that I was horrified by women throwing other women under the bus like that, but she just smiled and kept talking. In the end, I had to tell her three times to "Just clean my house, please" before she got it, and started to apologise for speaking out of turn. I told her that we aren't from the same sphere and that we really can't discuss issues she obviously knows very little about, and what followed was her scrubbing extra hard and apologising some more, which was extremely awkward. And now, instead of writing my novel, I am wasting spoons writing this.

What I wanted to ask her, however, was whether she ever breastfed and whether she understood the requirements of a baby and that not every woman has the luxury of being at home when her child needs feeding, and that breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world and as such, should not be forced to hide. I wanted to ask her what in particular offends her about seeing female breast sucked by a child, that isn't rooted in pornography and male sexual exploitation of women? I wanted to say that misogyny and patriarchy mean that 50% of the population still live in the society that works almost exactly the same as it did when women were considered property and could be raped and impregnated with impunity, and if they die or get old, be replaced by a younger reproductive slave. The same society that conducted sexualised torture of women in public places, burning and penetrating and tearing their clothes off on a mere accusation. Today, the same murderous misogyny, torture devices and all, has found home in pornography that is now viewed by boys as young as 11 even though over 80% of it features violence toward women, and sexualises sadism through BDSM, and grooming young girls to give up all their boundaries for sexual pleasure of men. So not much has really changed, not in our heads at least, and if you've been born with a vagina, the stakes are still high. Persecuting young mothers and women in general has all the rhetoric of a witch hunt - making women out to be disgusting, wrong and punishment-worthy, for just being biological human females.

I wanted to point out to the woman who scrubs toilets for a living (I am yet to meet a male maid) that women not only earn less for the same work or that they are steered towards low-paid work through various methods inherent in our society, but that women are brutalised, murdered, raped, harassed, beaten, used for their bodies, punished for their bodies, and all this capitalism and patriarchy seek to normalise through getting women to just "accept their lot". Just like destitute women who still work in prostitution have to live in denial and even try to convince themselves that they like their "job" of being raped for money, whilst numbing their ptsd with drugs and alcohol and ending up with shorter lifespans, diseases, and ruined lives (if they are lucky to survive), women who live in patriarchy often resort to numbing via hatred and competition with other women and girls, so that they can live in the illusion that as long as they are fulfilling patriarchal demands, they will be spared from its violence. Witch hunting of feminists, rape survivors, breastfeeding mothers and any women or girls who go against the proscribed gender norms, and this takes form of death and rape threats, misogynistic insults, getting them fired, de-platformed, smeared in public, even physically harmed, serves as a constant reminder of what women are risking if they refuse to conform. Because who is really offended by a naked breast with a new life latched onto it? A man who is conflicted about his hard-on caused by seeing female breasts outside of sexual context. And, perhaps a woman who has learned to internalise misogyny and cope with all the free sexual, psychological, emotional and physical labour she is forced to provide, by passively-aggressivelly throwing other women under the bus. And for what? Brownie points and approving nods of the most dangerous animal on earth - a human male.

95% of all violence world-wide is committed by men, and most of the time victims are women. Most of the violent acts women commit, world-wide, are committed in self-defence. This is the factual reality of the world we are living in, as per all the crime agencies and WHO statistics. So any woman who starts a sentence with "Well, nothing like that ever happened to me" has only one way to finish that sentence in my opinion - with words "I guess I was really lucky". Not to use (questionable) absence of male violence in her own, privileged life, to deny compassion and understanding to women who aren't as lucky as her. Worst of all, having worked with people for a while, I know that every women, regardless of whether she recognises it as such, has intimate knowledge of male violence. It's violence directed exclusively at women that causes body hatred for her life-giving fat cells and body hair that protects her sensitive parts, which leads to ruined health and drained bank accounts (in a world where she is paid less, and less likely to be given best medical care to begin with). Sexism and even misogyny by her own father, brother, husband, friends, teachers, whether to be made silent and small, or to serve as physical and verbal punching bag, is also violence, as is her own mother's and sister's and friends' jealousy and sabotage. This intimate violence is only reinforced at every turn, through sex-based discrimination (not gender! gender is a social construct, her biology is why she is targeted, abusers couldn't care less how she 'identifies'), or being catcalled, or near raped, or raped, or hit, or injured and then let down by the legal system when she seeks justice. As for only too real medical neglect of women as a group, breastfeeding witch hunt is a part of that neglect, which is caused by male resentment over one thing they cannot bully their way into doing - birthing and feeding children with their bodies. History of modern civilisation is history of enslavement of women through their reproductive functions, and I am not saying it is easy to grasp (or accept) all this, especially if you are a woman who has to find a measure of safety and happiness in such a world, but women using misogyny to abuse other women? HELL NO.

So I didn't say any of this to my cleaner. I can see all this cause and effect play out, and I feel sad for her. She reads whatever misogynistic rag of a newspaper, probably The Sun, and she just got seduced with their latest propaganda piece. She's been replacing books, research and critical thinking with reading those papers and she believes that the papers that lied (and still lie) about wars, rapists and paedophiles, are now telling the truth about immigrants and young women. Why does she believe it so readily? Maybe because she isn't in the target group, so she feels comfortable being a part of a lynch mob. Also, it's safer in the mob, than to outside of it. Woman surviving patriarchy 101.

Sense of belonging is a funny thing, we all crave it, and just as every monster in history has exploited it, many intellectually lazy, resentful people are sold a daily dose of belonging by misogynistic, xenophobic, perverted and violent media. And if I can't do anything to affect a greater change, other than to write about it, at least I don't have to be paying for that. And I'd rather not have it in my home either.

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