The socialization of both men and women about romantic love and all its burdens still weigh on us, as much as we would like to have broken with it. This is not surprising, since one of the fundamental features of power is the construction of docile bodies, of subjects that submit to the rules established by the system.
We are talking about a system that is sustained thanks to the invisibility, subjugation and the role of caregivers assigned to us women. Neoliberalism and patriarchy go hand in hand, just as they go hand in hand with racism, classism and ableism.
It should be noted that when we talk about this system we are not referring to Hobbes’s Leviathan, although it sometimes seems so, but to a very complex political, social and economic ideology and theory, which plays with power relations and people’s lives. It is not about a deity or an invisible hand, but about a set of structures that privilege a few people and despise the rest, privilege the male over the female, the white over the racialized person, etc..
Therefore, there can be no capitalist feminism. Capitalism is founded on the invisible work of women. And when we white Western bourgeois women have freed ourselves from it, we have done so at the expense of the most precarious classes, of racialized and migrant people.
Despite having achieved certain privileges due to our whiteness and social class, we continue to fall into the nets of the system. Not only because of the machismo that we all experience socially, but also in our affective relationships. These are imbued with that patriarchal mandate that leads us to take on the role of caregivers, mothers, psychologists and sexual objects. And to them the role of protectors, alpha males and knights-errant. It is no coincidence that children’s toys are related to violence, to games outside, to competitiveness; and those of the girls with care, with the interior of the house and with compassion.
And if we continue with this analysis in adolescence, these stereotypes increase. From my role as a teacher I have come across classes, occupied mostly by male adolescents, in which roles typical of a toxic masculinity that should have become obsolete were put into play. But they, my students, despite the fact that they are usually more aware of the prevailing machismo in society, also take up the roles of caregivers, of mothers. However, here I see a ray of hope, since I perceive in them a feminist conscience that I would have liked to have at their age.
These examples are a sample of what society has taught us, which is to pay attention to those men who are going to do us the most harm, those who lack empathy and are just capricious children, with low self-esteem, who hide it behind a male appearance. Also in those who believe they are the prince of the story and who have to protect women, who seek recognition for having fulfilled the patriarchal social mandate. And protect us from whom? Of other males who consider that they can exert their desire and whim on me, that my body is a terrain of conquest, as is the earth or other non-human beings.
We see again the thread that ties the patriarchal system with neoliberalism, where women, the earth and other non-human beings are equated. Silvia Federici has already marked very well how the original appropriation and the stigmatization of women and their submission went hand in hand at the beginning of capitalism. Federici’s analysis in his work Caliban and the witch perfectly discovers that link between capitalism and machismo.
Being a gentleman is nothing more than another disguise for this system of domination, another way of keeping us women subject to this game of submission, of dependence on men. It is a way of dressing with a suit of supposed respect for the marking that this system gives us women. And let’s not be naive, we fall into it.
On the other hand, they have taught us that if we react to their violence or domination, that if we raise our voices, that if we are rude, not only is it not acceptable in a woman, but it can be dangerous, since they have been educated to see ourselves as pieces to hunt, to conquer. And we have learned this very well, since we have come across situations where our integrity, our rights and even our lives are in danger since we are children.
Release theories and give solutions
At the symbolic level, it is also seen how the system has generated a way to control women. I already wrote an article about the legitimacy of the word that spoke of this. But I don’t want to delve into this point now, but into another trait that moves at that level, which consists of how some men consider that life has to solve you.
It happens to me quite often that when I tell a male Cishetero friend about a problem, he quickly tells me what to do, sometimes without even really listening. Active listening is not his thing. Society has taught them to speak, to spout their theories right and left, but not to listen, to assess how the other feels and to understand without judging.
This does not mean that there are not women who do not also fall into this role. As Simone de Beauvoir pointed out, society has constructed the masculine role as the norm and the feminine as the Other. In this way many of us grew up thinking that the normal thing, the permissible thing if you wanted to be taken into account, was to copy the male model.
There is something about chivalry that has caught my attention when I have argued with a friend about it. When I blamed him that this protective behavior towards women was sexist, his response has been to bring up care. The neoliberal, sexist, racist system, etc. knows how to move very well. His capacity for resilience is undeniable. Taking care to justify behavior that implies subjugating the woman, putting her in a dependent role towards the man, is just another way of going back to the same thing. It is to fall into assigned roles, this time with the infantilization of women
It should not be forgotten that, from the dichotomous perspective of this system, emotion is characteristic of women and reason is characteristic of men. Hence, when it comes to feelings, they turn to us to be their private therapists and, when it comes to giving a rational response, they believe that they are going to give us the most logical position.
So, no, it is not care to take for granted that I am not capable of thinking, to try to give me solutions and advice that I have not asked for. Care is listening, as my friends usually do; is to empathize with the other person. Expect her to ask you for her advice or help, since you are not a knight errant who is going to solve anything.
Enough of gentlemen who want to protect us from threats that they themselves generate and enough of trying to fix our lives as if we knew nothing. This story comes to an end. We will come out of social conditioning like Nora from the dollhouse, since we are not that role that society has imposed on us. If men want to follow us, they too will have to shed their role as gentlemen and take on that of companions.