Thursday, April 17, 2008

I was a teenage patriarchy-whore.

Update: I am not particularly happy with this post. It lacks sophistication, at the least, and at the worst it is probably somewhat offensive and definitely privileged. I am keeping it, as is, because I have yet to come up with a better way to explain the name of my blog. I am keeping the name of my blog because it would be a very big project to try to change it. Any links I'd ever posted anywhere would be broken, unless I searched them out and fixed them. Is that a good reason not to try to come up with something better? Not particularly. I apologize. If anyone ever actually comments or emails me to tell me that they find the title to be particularly upsetting, then I will make the effort.

Okay. So. A "patriarchy-whore."

This term is one that, as far as I know, I coined. I suppose it might have slipped into my brain from web-browsing, and if that's the case, my apologies for appropriating it.

A patriarchy-whore is a woman who, almost needless to say, whores herself out to the patriarchy. In exchange for the approval of the patriarchal system (i.e. "patriarchal pats on the head"), the P-W performs various acts of parroting, submission, and sucking up. There are very strong parallels between a "patriarchy-whore" and actual sex workers, but there are two important differences. One, money is necessary, while patriarchal approval is not. Two, it is possible to engage in sex work without demeaning oneself. The reverse is not true for patriarchy-whoring. Thus, a patriarchy-whore can be "reformed," because, honestly, there is no excuse or legitimate reason for reinforcing the patriarchy in the ways that a patriarchy whore does (examples to follow. I am NOT by any stretch of the imagination trying to slam anyone who conforms to patriarchal principles as a matter of survival).

How was I, in particular, a patriarchy-whore? Funny story...

In high school, I worked at a GameStop. If you don't know, or couldn't figure it out, they're a store that sells videogames. I don't know how widespread they are, nationwide, but they're all over the Midwest. They also now own EB Games, if you're familiar with that company.

Back to the story. I was the only woman on the staff. When I started, there was a 40-something manager dude (he was later fired for "loss prevention," i.e. skimming money off refunds), 5 or so 20-something dudes, and another high school age dude. I managed to get an interview only because my last name can be pronounced, at first glance, as "Booger," and thus the fellas thought it was hilarious. Then they met me and realize I actually play games (not to mention being hella responsible and organized and all that shit), and I was in.

I was ecstatic. The reasons for this are varied and complex, and trying to remember this from 5 years ago is not going to help me fill in all the details. But. Not only was I happy simply to have a job (it was the only offer I got, actually, out of all the ones I tried) - yay gas money! - but it was a job at a videogame store. And I was a girl. A high school girl, desperate for approval and to be "cool." And if you spend any time in the gamer world, or even just tangentially brush against it, you know that women gamers are touted as "hawt."

I realized, in very short order, that if I was vocal about liking the games they liked, I was rewarded. "Jamie, you're the most awesome girl I know!" "Jamie, I wish my girlfriend liked videogames like you do!" And these guys, these twenty-something, videogaming guys were hot. Or, well, two of them were, at least. ^_^ The slightest bit of praise that fell from their lips was like the fucking breath of life or something.

I started to discover more things I could do/say to get their approval. Like nodding along and agreeing when they dissed their girlfriends behind their backs. Talking about how much I hated girls. Saying that girls are catty, and dumb, and why can't they play videogames, why aren't girls more interesting. Agreeing that the catfight that happened in front of the store was hot (not shitting you).

As time at the store went on, I started to get invited to weekend Halo parties (Halo being, if you don't know, only one of the most popular/famous first-person-shooters ever. If you didn't play, you weren't a gamer, in the culture of this store. That's not to say they had bad taste. They also played awesome shit like Morrowind). In order to garner still more favor, I started spending my hard-earned cash (of which I barely made enough to get to and from work & school) on food for the guys. Whatever they wanted - pizza, White Castle, you name it.

I was their willing pet and servant.

And that's just one example of how I whored for the patriarchy. There were other ways, more subtle and common. Name-dropping my workplace, for one. If I wanted guys at school to notice me, pay attention to me, actually listen to what I had to say, I'd mention I worked at GameStop.

This behavior continued into college. I go to Michigan Technological University, which is a very science-oriented school. There are a lot of geeks/nerds/people-interested-in-my-interests here. I spent my freshman year building my geek cred and vacuuming up as many drooling, obsessed, nerdy guy fans as I could.

I should note that I'm not proud of this. And I haven't even started on all the things I did/said that were detrimental to my mental health. Denying things that I enjoyed/wanted that had the stigma of "too girly" so that I could be cool.

Even after I found a boyfriend, I still did these things. It wasn't until last summer ('07) that I found feminism and the concept finally started to sink in that I didn't need to act for male approval.

I suppose a better title would be "reforming patriarchy-whore." Sometimes I still catch myself doing these things. Especially with building geek cred. And especially when doing things, not because I particularly want to do them, but so that my significant other can brag about me to his buddies (this one has dropped off sharply, but I still think about it a lot. I've made huge strides in not acting on those thoughts, though. Due in large part to talking to him and realizing - yes, I'm dumb for not getting this on my own - that he would brag about me anyway because he loves me).

So. That's what a patriarchy-whore is, and that's why I'm a Reformed Patriarchy-Whore.

1 comment:

CJWidmayer said...

J--

good post! I don't think I really realized you were doing all that stuff for those reasons way back when. But it makes sense, now, in retrospect.

Can I just say, "Good for you!" I know that you're on this road into feminism, but its good to see how you feel you're changing. And I can tell it's important to you!

Anyway, love you, dear!