PRISONS OF THE MIND
It is a truism that we are more IMPRISONED by our culture than we are by biology or physics. It is harder to shatter this plexiglass prison than it is to break through the glass ceiling.
Any women of this century, who have struggled to escape the bondage of thousands of years of laws that served custom, but seldom reason, are painfully aware of this.
This holiday season is filled with stories of courage and sacrifice, of heroism and deeds of mercy. This is not one of them.
This is a story of failure brought about by women who were, and are, unable to escape the constricts of their culture. It concerns a now defunct woman's list on the internet.
The women who shared their story with us did so on our promise to preserve their anonymity, so we report their story, but have changed all of the names.
Probably all of us female internet junkies have had some experience with the disruptive forces that come into being when a man, out purely for kicks, subscribes to a women's list.
The results are that some women get angry and demand his removal; some women feel it their motherly duty to educate/placate the man; and some suck up to him.
For eons, woman has relied on man for protection. She even endured his battering in payment for his protection for her and her children. She did not contest his right of control over her -- the CULTURAL prison.
This led to another cultural phenomena, sometimes referred to as the "mother syndrome," where women may actually turn on other women to protect a man. This is often seen by agencies that try to help battered women.
Then there is the BIOLOGICAL prison best understood by the example of how a girl/woman will ABANDON her girl/woman friend, and any plans they have made, if a boy/man asks her to go with him.
Hormones play a large part here but there is also a cultural influence at work. Our society places more value on a girl/woman that is able to show she is attractive to a boy/man.
As a result of eons of reinforcement, most women still look outside of themselves, usually to men, for approval.
That being said, here is the story: We'll call the list "Friends," for that is what these women became, and were, for several years. They had "met" on another list and decided to form one that was smaller and safer -- JUST WOMEN. This was accepted by one and all as the *prime directive*.
There would be NO exceptions to this rule. All agreed.
"Friends" became a secure area in cyberspace where they could vent, exchange information, rant, rave and converse. Opinions differed, but there was no rancor. They freely exchanged addresses and other information. Some even visited each other.
Membership was by invitation only. A member could introduce other women to the list for its approval. They were given the "Friends" purity test. They submitted an autobiography.
Member honesty was not only assumed, it was considered to be rock solid and it was for several years, until one woman, Clara, knowingly recommended a man to the "Friends" list.
She brought him in under a woman's name. She certified him a woman. He submitted the required auto bio as a woman. We'll call him Fredi.
Not long after, some of the women on the list began to feel uncomfortable. At first it was vague and disquieting but then it became suspicion.
One of the women checked into the information that Fredi had given the group about himself and found that no such person existed at the location he had given.
She discussed her findings privately with some others on the list and it was decided that they would do nothing at that time since the others in the group seemed to be O.K. with Fredi.
But they no longer felt safe. They made their contributions either informational pieces or jokes, nothing personal.
They kept this up even though Fredi often tried to bait them into being confrontational.
It went on like this for a time, then the most immature woman on the Friendship list, Anne, happened onto Fredi's web page where she learned that he was a man.
For a time, she kept this information to herself, but eventually, she presented her findings to the list. In a post pretending to ask an innocent question, she demonstrated how much she was reveling in her trouble-making announcement.
"Gee." She posted innocently, "Fredi looks like a man. Am I missing something here?"
It hit most of the women like a bombshell, but not Fredi and his sponsor, Clara.
They responded that this was just a game they played called, "Genderf**king." "Like, chill out! A person should be able to feel like a woman or a man -- sometimes one and sometimes the other."
Now at this point if you're thinking that the women "Friends" bonded together and kicked the interloper and the traitor off the list -- think again.
Certainly, most of the women were hurt and angry, justifiable so, and they spoke out strongly. They had trusted Clara and she had betrayed their trust. They saw her perfidy as similar to Linda Tripp secretly taping her friend Monica Lewinski.
However, their comments earned them several explicit and punitive broadsides from Fredi. He called them ignorant and uniformed. He said they were discriminating against HIM! He demanded that they apologize.
He insisted that he was the wounded one here and was under attack even though he had done nothing wrong.
This brought the "mothers" into it. They fell all over themselves protecting "this poor, misused man."
End game? I'm sure you all know it. Fredi easily convinced the "mothers" to turn against the angry women. The "Friends List" sunk under the weight of several tons of cultural conditioning.
Everyone lost except Fredi and Clara who surely had lots of fun.
As did sweet little Anne. This classic spoiled brat, having creating havoc for her own enjoyment, pretended she had no part in it.
With all the phony piety usually associated with the Rychus Right, Anne sent a final triple play post to the list blaming each of the angry women; praising the "mothers" and kissing up to Fredi.
So, how far have YOU climbed out of the morass of YOUR cultural prison?
Copyright 1998 Renee T. Louise and Ruth M. Sprague, Ph.D. These articles may be republished for noncommercial use only, provided that they are copied intact, and that this copyright notice is attached. Address all queries to: twanda@ConnRiver.net.
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