Sunday, June 08, 2014


“In the practice of hegemony, imperial dominance is established by means of cultural imperialism.  The imposition of the hegemon's way of life — an imperial template and bureaucracies (social, economic, educational, governing) — transforms the concrete imperialism of direct military domination into the abstract power of the status quo, indirect imperial domination.

I never really understood what hegemony meant, so I looked it up.  Now I recognize it.  The current USA version is “Mommieism.”  Daddies do the war, Mommies do the homestuff.  That means Mommies do the shopping and decide where the furniture goes.  It means mommies discipline the children and answer the door.  It means that a lot of women who have never really gotten past high school cliques and standards are in control of daily life.  And I do mean CONTROL.  But they have no chance to find out there is a world outside their bubble.  Too many escape only into immersive fiction that tells them how cherished they are in the end.  High school values, high school rules.  It works for the Hutterites who borrow Christian fiction from the local library by the boxful.  Literally.  Real boxes.

Institutions are built on the assumption of these current hegemonic cultural values: control, order, regimen.  But the cultural roles divide the territory into those who decide on the goals and standards (male) and those who make the population conform to them (female).  As soon as soldiers began to be compliance-monitors instead of warriors, women were admitted.  As soon as cops began to be rule-enforcers instead of dangerous emergency intervenors, women were admitted.  As soon as ministers began to be consolers and counselors instead of denominational leaders and daring theologians, women were admitted.

We hear a lot about the 1% and how they have most of the money.  There is another 1% that sets the goals for institutions and they have the power.  They're male, usually white.  Institutions reinforce the gender-role split.  Maybe they invented it.  Nurses are female, doctors are male, brain surgeons rule.

Lisa Edestein sans cleavage

There’s an exception: when females SEEM to be the leaders and making decisions they are usually subject to either larger umbrella management or covert shadow boards.  (Example:  "House, M.D." where the hospital administrator is an over-dressed female who "has no choice".)  I once took my pickiup to a "women's mechanic," owned by a woman and therefore claiming to be more trustworthy.  They screwed up, but when I went back to demand reparation, the woman disappeared and her husband came out instead.

When I was the student rep on the Meadville/Lombard trustee board, I thought they were actually in control and presented as my report a rather wacky cartoon summary of the problems that needed to be addressed.  It turned out my job actually had been to make everything look good, because people were on the board who were only there to supply money.  Being on the board was a big honor and they were expected to reciprocate.   I chatted a bit with a wealthy woman who wanted to explain all about flying saucers.   Alerted and thereafter paying close attention, I realized that there were three very powerful men from wealthy churches who went apart to a room where they could smoke and work on a bottle of single malt Scotch.  THEY decided our course of action, which was -- of course -- to maintain the status quo, though it meant losing money in the actual operation.  It would not interrupt the flow of donations and denominational subsidy.

The other students could not see this.  (I was forty, they were twenty.)  I think that a few years managing churches would open their eyes.  But I also predict that it would not take long for the male ministers to recognize the wisdom of going along with the church administrator, the choir leader, and the religious education director, leaving the minister to preach and sit behind the big desk.  (Such secondary church staff was usually female or maybe closeted gay.)  This was 1980 or so.  Soon the feminist movement would notice churches:  then both the choir director and the religious education director would demand to be called ministers, as well as whatever older, semi-retired, female, or otherwise willing person would take on visiting the sick and doing a little social action -- the low status stuff.  They knew there was no money in those roles, but there was honor, a title.  And control of those vulnerable people.

I used to have a classmate at M/L who would say,  “This seminary would be a great place if you could just get rid of the students.”  They DID figure that out. ("The thesis is in the mail.")  Universities are corporate institutions, governed by the goal of profit, and therefore delegating the low-reward practice of classroom teaching to women, immigrants, and beginners as adjunct faculty, for less pay.  Front-line interface with young people who might differ or argue interferes with an important person’s research, even their relationships with other important persons.  The media doesn’t understand how to cover students learning, but they “get” breakthroughs and prizes, which are -- plain and simple -- access to money.

So males, when they are children or just learning and therefore not much skilled, are controlled by adult women who do not admit their marching orders come from powerful men.  And the result, esp. for males, is often frustration, resistance, and a fulminating hatred of women as a category.  In reciprocity, women become monsters, as depicted by Glenn Close wearing expensive suits on "Damages."  Bunny-boilers.

But this is a white suburban version of male/female.  In the black ghetto, on the rez, in the hunter/gatherer tribes, women rule.  Or at least can dominate their realm.  They still live in a bubble, but daddy never comes home from work.  (This is changing.)

High school rules mean appearance is everything: decorate your locker.  Value the small, the sentimental, the sweet, the little, the scrubbed, the sparkly.  Scrapbook life.  If as an adult you somehow you get access to money, use it to travel in your portable bubble, either a big RV or the nice motel franchises or a resort liner or a packaged tour.  No risk, no foul.  And so the small churches in small towns become hegemonic one-celled congregations who hire women, older men, minorities -- maybe part-time or shared.  Safe people.  (Small town schools aren’t quite the same because the Chamber of Commerce will demand that the school teams be winners because it's good for business -- that means male coaches, as aggressive as can be tolerated. And a certain amount of sexual bad behavior is also often tolerated.)

This rant is grotesque.  It has just enough explanatory truth in it to be worth thinking about.  Put on your list of considerations things like mass shootings by young men, domestic violence by older men, the eviction of male children from families, oppressive cops, and the hiring of seminary presidents.  (But don't forget that the president of Harvard was run out by angry feminists.)  Why are terrorists usually male and why would they capture a couple of hundred little girls?  The problem is not that they are female, the problem is not even that they are powerless.  They are the most vulnerable so the most easily managed, and so valueless that they were not protected.  Now they are big sentimental favs in the USA. The problem is that so far we have not discovered a political arrangement that can withstand the plain old mammal pattern of male dominance.  Call it sociobiology but only if you must.  Just pay attention.

Diagnosis is SO complex.

Even though the female lions are the main hunters, it is the males who eat the most.  Whether we’re talking democracy, communism, socialism, anarchism, or any other system, the males manage to get control at the top and push the dirty work off onto women, children, stigmatized, uneducated, meek people.

Julia Lesage

A more orderly and formal discussion of this topic is at   The title of the paper is “The Hegemonic Female Fantasy.”   A quote:  “The term originally derives from the Greek and was used to describe Athens’ prestige and influence over the other Greek city states. The concept of hegemony is most useful if seen as operating on two interrelated and mutually reinforcing levels: the institutional and the psychological. The dominant class has the power to write history and impose norms because it controls and directs economic, state, cultural, scientific, religious, educational, etc., institutions. In this sense, the health care system or the educational system not only deliver material services but are also ideological systems. In the cultural sphere, some institutions are tied directly to the state (e.g., public education) and some indirectly through grants (e.g., private universities). Even the independent arts depend on institutions for funding and exhibition and shape their products accordingly. Furthermore, certain major institutions comprise generally agreed upon systems for conducting personal affairs, and these shape women's lives directly, namely the institutions of marriage, the family, and heterosexuality.”

The essay quoted above is by Julia Lesage, an emeritus professor at the U of Oregon.  She comes from the context of film study, which is often more illuminating than, say, sociology or psych.  Less conforming than politics. 

It’s an open question whether the middle class values of marriage, family and heterosexuality are now disintegrating because women have awakened, or because economics will simply not support the current hegemony, which arises from the descending middle class.  (Theoretically invested in the values of Queen Victoria, even as they act like Gordon Gecko.)  The lesson of history is that most systems in the end are toppled by greed.  Not greed for money, but greed for power, which the Greeks would agree makes people of any gender blind.  Soon the golden eggs are not coming fast enough and someone wants to press the geese.

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