Friday, June 18, 2010

The kyriarchal litterbox.

Image: An orange and white cat poops into a litterbox. A red scoop lies to the right of the box, and a blue package of litter with Chinese characters lies to the left.

Since I’m a feminist writer, I traffic in dissent. I’m used to getting varieties of dispute: friendly, thoughtful, and welcome sometimes, rude, defensive, and hostile other times. I’ve gotten violent threats and slurs, like most writers. But I also get people who articulate their heated dissent through dismissing my attention to something they consider disposable.

Don’t you have anything better to do? There's more important shit to worry about. Jeez, are you offended by everything? You’re just looking for things to bitch about.

That last, in particular, makes me laugh.

Yeah, troll, I am totally looking for things to complain about. I am seeking them out. I am trying to find reflections of the kyriarchy in everything because they’re not, you know, literally everywhere. They’re not at all embedded in me, and my life, and my words and my actions and the actions of those I love the most, of the media I love the most, of the things we eat and do and drink and say and wear and fuck and are.

You’re scrutinizing every little thing, what’s the big deal? gets my bitterest chuckles.

Because I let so many words and actions, from friends and lovers and reading material, go uncritiqued. Because I receive so many sexist and ableist messages meant to tear me down that succeed in beating me into submission. Because hundreds of times a day, the kyriarchy is actively making my life richer and my body more valuable at the expense of others.

In my draft folder, there are at least a dozen files with long long lists of things I want to write about that I haven’t gotten around to. There are more half-finished drafts on injustices old, new, and timeless.

For each post that makes it somewhere where people read it, I begin at least five. For each post idea on kyriarchy I articulate, there are at least 10 instances that I note to someone. For each instances, there are at least 25 needles of oppression that I note only to myself. And for every needle of oppression, there are at least 50 that I don’t notice, 50 messages that contribute to my self-hatred, 50 waves that push me above and others underwater, that I just don’t notice.

The kyriarchy is not the boogeyman. It’s not some sly specific force that some council of 12 cis het abled mono white partnered thin USian rich men that okay these messages and send them out. It’s something that’s built up slowly over thousands and thousands of years, on the backs of millions and billions of disenfranchised and enslaved individuals. It's something that implicates all of us.

Feminism is not a conspiracy theory and I am not making shit up when I say we value some bodies more than others – whether I’m writing about real people or fictional characters. It is what we live in and with and as. It is embedded in us and our lives. When I write about the problems I see in the world, I am only saying the things I am able to say: the shit that is most obvious and most important to point out from my perspective, the shit particularly that other people don't notice.

And for every little sling you, troll, think is nothing, is overreacting? That is only one grain of kitty litter in the stinky shitbox of kyriarchy. You can continue to spray air freshener and pretend it’s not a problem, but stay out of my way while I wield my scoop.


  1. Thank you thank you thank you. I too hear the "you're just LOOKING for shit to complain about" retort. Logically why should I do this? If anything, I'd MUCH rather not have to complain about anything - but in this patriarchal world that's kind of tough.

    Another phrase often thrown around is: "Well life isn't fair. That's just the way it is." Talk about a defeatist attitude. There is absolutely no reason to perpetuate something just because of tradition. When we look back in history, we celebrate those who shook things up and initiated change. Just because it's the 21st century does not mean we're not in need of evolution.

    I appreciate your litter box metaphor - these "insignificant" issues women face pile on top of each other into a huge mountain.

  2. "In my draft folder, there are at least a dozen files with long long lists of things I want to write about that I haven’t gotten around to. There are more half-finished drafts on injustices old, new, and timeless."

    Yes, this!

    It's not like we have to look very hard at all to find the stuff our nightmares are made of.

    Also, I absolutely adore your litter box analogy. I shall from now on view my blog and my activism as a "pooper scooper".

  3. @Anon: yes, exactly. It is hard, hard work to keep up with this, to keep questioning yourself and your privileges when you're already told by the world to hate yourself for the ways you are marginalized.

    @jemima - 've been really glad to see you round these parts, I really liked your comments on Feministe and I hope you'll stick around :)


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