Heroes and the Penis Prerequisite
A handful of years ago, I was teaching a small class of really motivated, super-smart Chinese girls. I’d just spent a hellish year teaching high school – one of the worst years, if not the worst year, of employment in my life – in the Chinese countryside. I tried to wash away that year in a seaside city at a small, private language school with small summer classes. This group of young women was a salve on a wound that unfortunately still hasn’t healed.
We were doing a short unit on heroes and role models. We were using a crappy textbook produced through some Western-Chinese collaboration, and I hated it. It was sexist and as with any and every book trying to teach Western culture to non-Westerners, it did a piss poor job. Anyhow, as I didn’t like the discussion of heroes in the book, I decided give my own rendition. You see, all the book’s examples were men – men of the Western persuasion – and not a one of them was interesting or heroic. But then, throughout the world, we celebrate men for mediocrity and often, overlook atrocities they commit to celebrate that mediocrity.
So I did some research and looked for women in China, current and past, in a range of domains, that could be put up for nomination as heroes. I chose human rights activists, political leaders, anti-censorship advocates, athletes, actors, even a warrior.
And the girls, smart though they were, only recognized a few of them. I was first shocked, then unsurprised, then saddened. Just like in the West, women are not only barred from public life, but they are barred from recognition, from history, from memory, despite being the ones who actually keep this world running. Throughout the world, we celebrate the mediocrity of men over even the most amazing of women.
Fast forward a little to the years I’ve been teaching college and post-graduate students. Every semester, either through speech-giving assignments or through class discussion, I get students to talk about role models and heroes. And here are my data.
Out of hundreds and hundreds of students in four years of doing this, only two students have provided a woman as a role model or hero. And those women were the students’ mothers.
Many of the male heroes have been killers/soldiers. We’ve had notorious Western rapist athletes nominated. Mao Ze Dong, the great brainwasher and killer of millions. Winston Churchill, the man who perfected the concentration camp and had thousands of South African women and children starved, raped, or killed. We’ve had a few capitalists. Writers. Lots of fathers. Male humanitarians or social justice warriors are never mentioned as heroes – there aren’t that many of those comparatively, I suppose. Plus, activism is still frowned upon and frequently punished in China.
In China or elsewhere, I can’t figure out what makes these nominees heroes or role models other than possessing a penis. It’s not just that women have been barred from doing ‘great’ things. The fact that so many people see fathers as heroes or role models indicates that it is the penis and the qualities that only a penis-wielder is (incorrectly) believed to possess that are important in defining heroism or role-modelship. It has little to do with the accomplishments themselves. If we had a scale with men on one side and women on the other, and we had the ability to see who actually did what (i.e., we could see through stolen ideas, credit-taking, silencing, etc.) and you added weight for objectively positive accomplishments (creating and improving life and knowledge), and subtracted for objectively negative, destructive things (war, cruelty, immorality, development of weapons, greed, etc), women would, hands down, be the greatest contributors, the heroes, the role models. I truly wish there were a way to uncover truth, to reward merit, to encourage positive contribution.
We can’t do that under male rule. Merit will never be recognized under Patriarchy.
Fists and penises used to win the power, (later) the money and the ability to write history. Once money and power were firmly in the hands of men, it became just the threat of violence that has continued to erase women and keep the definition of heroism out of more objective hands.
In short, whom we honour and reward in our global society has little to do with good works or positive accomplishments or contributions. As with everything, it is all about dick. And I’m so very tired of worshipping violence and lies.
Posted on November 10, 2015, in Education, Feminism, Male Privilege, Misogyny, Patriarchy and tagged bravery, China, merit, penis, power, silencing. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Heroes and the Penis Prerequisite.