Roger Ebert and Feminism

In my limited looking around the internet, I occasionally read Roger Ebert’s blog. One of his recent entries is titled “An affront to the eyes of God.” He uses what I like to call the “authorities agree with me” argument. In talking about Mary Magdalene, he touches on the old idea that Jesus was really in love with Mary Magdalene by saying that while “most people know” John was called “the most beloved disciple […] a great many modern Biblical scholars believe that his name was substituted somewhere along the line for Magdalene’s.”  Makes me wonder if Ebert thinks a great many scholars believe in the Priory of Sion too. He probably doesn’t, but I wonder all the same.

Ebert uses the post, predictably in this era and culture, to discuss patriarchy. Notably he avoids bringing in the word misogyny, but he implies patriarchy is inherently misogynist nonetheless. “To put it bluntly, I believe the world is patriarchal because men are bigger and stronger than women, and can beat them up.” “There must be something abhorrent to some men in the ideas of female rights and equality. Does it threaten them? Does it diminish them?”

Also of interest were some of the comments made about his post. “This is a brave article. It’s a shame more opinion makers do not attack the entrenched patriarchalism in our societies,” said commenter dmar91. In what world does this person live, I have to wonder. “This inherent misogyny that seems to run through so much of life on Earth is one of the many reasons why I gave up religion altogether,” said commenter Alex in Chicago, as if somehow without religion there would be no misogyny. Commenter Noah M quoted something or someone called “L’Ennemi” (which seems to be French for “the enemy”) as having said, “The irrational fear men have of women is one of the most tragic and evil things that has come about in all of human development. We will be a great species only when we can eliminate that fear.” Which makes me laugh. The irrational fear men have of women? Really? In my experience, people who say things like that are usually individual women who have an irrational fear of men. It’s always somewhat amusing to me the way some people who claim to be for equality among people talk in terms that generalize and dehumanize.

In my quick scan of the comments at the Ebert blog for the “An affront to the eyes of God” post, one of the saddest I saw came from the commenter thelittlepecan.

Roger,

YES, Yes, yes!!!

In doing research for a paper recently, I quickly discovered (to an extent I had not realized before, even though I was raised Southern Baptist) that women make quick work of themselves.

When women have been convinced that strength comes from submission, there is little need for men to protect their status quo. So many women (especially the religious right) willingly hand over their equitable future.

This reminds me of the old saying, “None are so hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.” But not for the reasons the commenter might think. She essentially equates submission with handing over ones equitable future. An equitable future is, presumably, one of fairness and equality, but also, if we use the commenter’s apparent reasoning, one where women never submit to men.

The problem with the comments and with Ebert’s post is the underlying assumption that there is something inherently unfair and oppressive in a woman being submissive. There is a notion underneath all this talk of patriarchy and misogyny and equitable futures that no woman would ever be submissive if submission were not forced upon her by men. It is a variation on the old “I know what is best for everyone” arrogance. Yes, the religious structures Ebert and other complain about are guilty of that arrogance, but in their reaction to it Ebert and the others end up staking out similar ground.

Equality is not going to be achieved by pitting women against men or vice versa. It will not be achieved by pitting feminists against non-feminists. It will not be achieved by pitting misogynists against misandrists. I watch people complain about inequalities. They always complain about the group and that group. This group hates and/or fears that group. The complainers want this group and that group to be equal in all things all the time in every situation. What is often missed by the complainers (besides the fact that sort equality is never going to happen) is that part of the problem lies in thinking of people as groups.

Oh I know, someone is scoffing and saying that I just don’t understand how hard it is to be a woman and how easy men have it all the time. Even if that were true, so what? Life is full of obstacles. And no matter how disadvantaged you may think women are, being a man has plenty of difficulties too. Oh but women don’t make as much, women aren’t respected in this or that, women aren’t blah blah blah. So change it. I’m not saying there are not inequalities that should be addressed. Of course there are. That is not an excuse, however, to define for other women how they should behave or what they should want or what should make them happy.

If you want equality, stop thinking of people as members of groups. Think of people as individuals. Some women do not want to submit. You should still acknowledge that some some women do want to submit. It is possible to be a feminist woman, to believe that women and men are of equal worth and should be free to choose their own paths, and to choose to submit to a man. It is possible to be a feminist man, to believe that women and men are of equal worth and should be free to choose their own paths, and to be a Dominant. Women are not liberated from an oppressive patriarchy by putting them into a “this is how feminists/equal women behave” box. That just exchanges one set of fettering rules for another. Until women (and men) are allowed to be individuals, they cannot and will not be equal or free.

7 Responses to “Roger Ebert and Feminism”

  1. missysubmits Says:

    I find equality to be a sentiment fraught with disappointment. We are not all equals. It is right for a society to strive for equal opportunities offered to all, but expectations of equality between individuals feels forced and unrealistic. Most men can overpower me physically. I accept that. I can overpower a good many mentally. That has both its benefits and limitations, of which I also accept. It however makes submission harder. I require mental domination to submit. Maybe all subs do. My intelligence limits me in that capacity.

    • Aside from whatever limits a Dom might place on you, your relationship limits are, generally speaking, all up to you. If something is a limit for you, it is because you make it so.

      • This is the only thing you have told me that I don’t agree with.

          • Just the last part about I make the limits in my life. I don’t see how that is entirely possible. I have many times thought my life would be easier if I were less … fill in whatever.

          • Most limits we make ourselves. We say “I can’t do that,” when the truth is we are just uncomfortable doing it for one reason or another. Maybe we think we cannot do a thing as well as someone else. Or we are afraid of what doing a thing will mean. Or we think we cannot overcome some thing we see as a limitation. But most of the time, it is only a limitation if we let it be. People have weaknesses and strengths. And sometimes we get them confused. But not all weaknesses are limitations. And sometimes our strengths can seem to hold us back. But that, in my opinion, is a matter of perspective.

            Sometimes our perspective on these things grows out of things we were taught. Changing that perspective can be difficult. Sometimes one needs the help of others. Imagine trying to read a book with the paper pressed up against your nose. You cannot see many words, and focusing on them can be difficult. You are so close to your own situation, that you have a difficult time seeing with clarity more than what is right before you. Everyone has this problem.

            The point is, we humans limit ourselves as often as not. And it can be hard to see. But if you can step back a little, you can get a better perspective.

  2. I am too close to my own painting. All I see are the details and not the painting. I suppose I am guilty of it too. Thank God for the help of others. Where would we be without it? I would like to have a conversation with you at some point about God.

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