Monday, July 28, 2008

Who's in charge?

It's t_w's fault I'm posting this. Just for the record.

So. Once v handed me the Taken in Hand URL, I did some looking around the website, and I think t_b_c is right: for all that it's a defiantly men-in-charge concept, there's something about the tone that suggests otherwise.

[I shouldn't even have to tell you this, but the quotes that follow are not suitable for work, for children, for the easily squicked, and according to at least one friend of mine, it's possibly not good reading for abuse survivors. Or people who are just enraged by anti-feminist quotes.]

For instance, the author of My Treasure is clearly fighting a rearguard action.
"The one nestling in my arms is mine and she belongs to me. She approaches reality in different roles; when tackling the world, she is Woman, a link in the chain of Women. And when not in my arms, I will be the wind beneath her wings, or her loudest cheerleader, or simply get out of her way. But when at the end of the day, when she snuggles into my arms, when I bury my face in her hair, she is my treasure and mine to cherish and use, mine to compel and deny."[1]
Yeah, so you're All Man and totally The Boss of Her except when you're cheerleading or singing Bette Midler songs at her. Got it.

And the annoyingly titled Watch what she does, not what she says has a similar sort of bluster. It starts out compliant (When I was in college, I was trying to make myself into a man who values equality in all spheres of his life, as women kept saying that they wanted men who agreed with their political views), makes a brief jab at arguing with those Radical Feminists (Eventually the language of radical feminism disappears or diminishes as the relationship progresses, because the woman is in fact mistaken in thinking that she wants an egalitarian relationship in which man and woman provide precisely the same input financially and in every other way), and when we get to his own marriage, we find that his TiH victory consists of getting a woman to marry him:
On a personal note, I am married to the finest taken-in-hand woman in the world. Yes, she made me breakfast in bed this very morning!
Although she was never a feminist, she used be very opposed to marriage and even living in a couple relationship, and she used to say that men should not be in charge of a family, etc. etc.[2]
So his aggressive campaign of door-opening and gallantry has got him married--and, presuming he got what he wanted there, married to a woman who doesn't "provide precisely the same input financially,"--and all she has to do is sometimes make breakfast in bed for a guy she presumably loves anyway? SWEET. Seriously, sign me up: he sounds like an absolute darling, that man, and I'm willing to bet his wife adores him. In fact, once you get past the aggressive titles of some of their posts, a lot of these men--not all, but many--sound sweetly gallant and gentle.

Of course some of them are, ahem, stricter adherents to the whole Domestic Discipline thing, but luckily for my purposes they're also unintentionally hilarious. Like this guy, who obviously failed both Anatomy and Metaphor:
But it wasn’t just her behind that was exposed. It was also her heart. And I considered it the greatest gift that a woman could give to her man. And that’s exactly what I told her. And as I gently caressed her ‘heart’ I told her how much I love her. [3]
And to think I didn't expect to find anything to laugh about in that essay--its title was ominous (She may not know it yet, but I'm taking her in hand), and it opened with serious creepiness: "We have just begun our Taken In Hand relationship, my wife and I. She doesn’t yet know she’s in a Taken In Hand relationship." Uh. Yeah. Creepy.

But turns out even that guy, a practitioner of the full-blown over-the-knee spanking kind of Domestic Discipline, is a pussycat at heart, waiting for permission before he proceeds.
My wife had asked me to spank her about a year ago so that was running through my mind as I surfed. But when I spanked her last year it was so against the grain of everything that I had been taught at home and in society, that I was very uncomfortable with it....I was beginning to again appreciate my masculinity. I’d wanted to make a move on the first day but was a little too nervous.[4]
Say it with me: AWWWWWWWWW. He's just an absolute lamb, no? He's stepped up to his masculinity and taken control of their relationship by doing the thing she asked him to do in the first place. Seriously, I am probably more threatening than that guy.

Which lead us to Loving Female Authority, which in direct contrast to the overwhelming vibe of "Must shore up traditional male authority, if she'll let me" of the consensual spanking the TiH people go in for, boldly claims:
I have studied men, women, sexuality, and societal roles in great detail. I have come to understand submissive men and it is my goal to challenge the female to rise up and to assume her proper place in her relationship, which is to be in charge. [5]
While we're on the subject of FemDommes, there's also Around Her Finger, a word choice I Cannot. Even. Begin. to share my glee at, SRSLY, DYING OF LOLS NOW. To quote tlgn, "Also, AHF is totally about a submissive husband's needs, which his wife is supposed to accommodate. This seems a little...contrary to the point. And there's surprisingly little anal sex on that site."

Although honestly, the TiH wives, some of whom choose not to work outside the home and who get spanked if that's okay with them sound pretty firmly in control and empowered as well, if you think about it. I mean, they certainly don't sound as if they've been forced into a lifestyle they hate or anything. Plus, unlike the Loving Female Authority, there's no suggestion most of them end up dressed in leather lingerie and high heels. I don't know about you, but the minute someone tells me I should be wearing high heels to assert my authority, I start to be suspicious of their desire to empower me.
Wear high heel shoes whenever you can. A lot of men have foot and leg fetishes and seeing an attractive woman wearing high heel shoes can make them weak and submissive. Now, I understand about how uncomfortable they can be at times so you don't have to wear them all of the time but whenever you are going out somewhere and you want to feel extra sexy, don't forget about your shoes.[6, How To Unleash Your Female Power]
Yeah, no. The promised trade-off of "a man that would not only do all of his chores like cutting the grass and washing the cars, but would also do housework, the laundry, the grocery shopping, and even the cooking" is not worth the implied trade-off of spending the day in heels and PVC. If I'm going to be in charge, I'm also in charge of costuming. Not to mention, I don't think I could live with someone doing everything for me like that.

You know what's interesting, though? The Loving Female Authority site reaches for the Bible to reinforce its authority.
God also made you to be in authority over men. God created Eve to be Adam's "helper". The word helper in the Bible is translated from the Hebrew word "ezer". That word means one who helps from a position of authority. It is the same word that is used to describe God in many scriptures that declare how God will help us. It is always from a position of strength and authority. That is the position the female has over the male. [7, How To Unleash Your Female Power]
Which, of course, the Domestic Discipline people do too. Just the other way around.
A Christian Domestic Discipline marriage is one that is set up according to Biblical standards; that is, the husband is the authority in the household. The wife is submissive to her husband as is fit in the Lord and her husband loves her as himself. He has the ultimate authority in his household, but it is tempered with the knowledge that he must answer to God for his actions and decisions. He has the authority to spank his wife for punishment....In CDD, the husband has authority to spank the wife. The wife does not have authority to spank her husband.[8]
And since I've mentioned religion: the prize for Most New Age-y Site Calling Itself Christian goes to The Christian FemDomme.
Ok, so you've looked into yourself to make sure that you are coming at this from the right angle. Now you want to know how on earth can you fit being a female dominant with being a Christian. First off, be thankful for the way God made you. Don't allow people who may be very traditional make you feel bad because you aren't a meek mild submissive. Accept that its ok if they don't understand. Many won't understand how you can reconcile being a FemDomme with being a Christian. As long as you are right with God and not disobeying Him, you are ok.[9]

That last sentence makes me grind my teeth in irritation, for some reason. But it's worth clicking just to check out the convoluted reasoning, whereby it's okay to be a Christian FemDomme because you aren't usurping your husband's spiritual authority, you're just spanking him and stuff.

I hate to be cynical, but in the end--no pun intended--I can't help thinking these people are bringing out awfully big guns to try to justify a little power-exchange and spanking. I mean, do they really have to construct an elaborate "philosophy," complete with Biblical quotes, just to work out how to divvy up the housework and who gets to spank whom? I'm the first to agree sexuality is important, but it isn't the only, or even the most, important thing in life. And these sites keep seeming to try to say something more profound about male-female relationships and personal growth, but at the end of the day, the content is mostly just housework and sex (kudos to Taken in Hand for trying to have some deeper discussions than that). Depressing, really.

Though I will, in fairness, add the following insight from a wise friend: "The only thing is, there is a general impression that any idea of sexual specificity or difference has been really wiped out. I imagine these people think that they must start again from the ground up." He could well be right there; the parts I find tedious, the reiteration of who does what household chores, could indeed be because there are no shared cultural assumptions to fall back on. That would also explain why it reminds me of a rulebook for an elaborate game (like the instruction books that used to come with D&D kits): they can't assume any of their ideas and nuances will be "givens," so they have to spell them out over and over. Oddly, one of the clearest statements of the traditional division of labour comes from the LFD site: "his chores" are carwashing and lawnmowing, "her chores" (even if she does get him to do them) are laundry and cooking. Interesting.

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