Characteristics of male power include:
the power of men
- to deny women [our own] sexuality
[by means of clitoridectomy and infibulation; chastity belts; punishment, including death, for female adultery; punishment, including death, for lesbian sexuality; psychoanalytic denial of the clitoris; strictures against masturbation; denial of maternal and postmenopausal sensuality; unnecessary hysterectomy; pseudolesbian images in media and literature; closing of archives and destruction of documents relating to lesbian existence]
- or to force it [male sexuality] upon them
[by means of rape (including marital rape) and wife beating; father-daughter, brother-sister incest; the socialization of women to feel that male sexual “drive” amounts to a right; idealization of heterosexual romance in art, literature, media, advertising, etc.; child marriage; arranged marriage; prostitution; the harem; psychoanalytic doctrines of frigidity and vaginal orgasm; pornographic depictions of women responding pleasurably to sexual violence and humiliation (a subliminal message being that sadistic heterosexuality is more “normal” than sensuality between women)];
- to command or exploit their labor to control their produce
[by means of the institutions of marriage and motherhood as unpaid production; the horizontal segregation of women in paid employment; the decoy of the upwardly mobile token woman; male control of abortion, contraception, and childbirth; enforced sterilization; pimping; female infanticide, which robs mothers of daughters and contributes to generalized devaluation of women];
- to control or rob them of their children
[by means of father-right and “legal kidnapping”; enforced sterilization; systematized infanticide; seizure of children from lesbian mothers by the courts; the malpractice of male obstetrics; use of the mother as “token torturer” in genital mutilation or in binding the daughter’s feet (or mind) to fit her for marriage]
- to confine them physically and prevent their movement
[by means of rape as terrorism, keeping women off the streets; purdah; foot-binding; atrophying of women’s athletic capabilities; haute couture, “feminine” dress codes; the veil; sexual harassment on the streets; horizontal segregation of women in employment; prescriptions for “full-time” mothering; enforced economic dependence of wives]
- to use them as objects in male transactions
[use of women as “gifts”; bride-price; pimping; arranged marriage; use of women as entertainers to facilitate male deals, e.g., wife-hostess, cocktail waitress required to dress for male sexual titillation, call girls, “bunnies,” geisha, kisaeng prostitutes, secretaries];
- to cramp their creativeness
[witch persecutions as campaigns against midwives and female healers and as pogrom against independent, “unassimilated” women; definition of male pursuits as more valuable than female within any culture, so that cultural values become embodiment of male subjectivity; restriction of female self- fulfillment to marriage and motherhood; sexual exploitation of women by male artists and teachers; the social and economic disruption of women’s creative aspirations; erasure of female tradition]; and
- to withhold from them large areas of the society’s knowledge and cultural attainments
[by means of noneducation of females (60% of the world’s illiterates are women); the “Great Silence” regarding women and particularly lesbian existence in history and culture; sex-role stereotyping which deflects women from science, technology, and other “masculine” pursuits; male social/professional bonding which excludes women; discrimination against women in the professions].
Adrienne Rich, “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence” (1980), pp. 638-40, as printed in Signs 5 (4), pp. 631-660.
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