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From My Corpus Callosum

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January 1, 2000: Happy Millenial New Year! For the uninitiated, the title of this webpage is derived from "Dr" Gray himself. In What Your Mother Couldn't Tell You and Your Father Didn't Know, he makes a big deal about the size of women's corpus callosi, which is larger than men's. Without using any citations from reputable scientific studies, he says that we women are great emotional "connectors" because of it (see Chapter 4). With such a prime example of "Dr" Gray's approach to sex and gender, how could I resist naming this section after my larger-than-life corpus callosum?

As usual, this page contains the most interesting commentary on Out of the Cave. Thank you for your accolades, your support, and your challenges. Due to your queries, I have updated the FAQ. Please take a moment to check it out.

And now, let's enjoy the most interesting letters which appeared in the summer of 1999:


Taking the Oprah-tunity

Date: Sun, 27 Jun 1999 18:39:17 -0700
From: allured@laol.net
Organization: McNeese State University
Subject: Oprah and John Gray

Hi. Thanks for a terrific web site. I will definitely bookmark it and direct my Women's Studies students to it. They are all familiar with John Gray, not necessarily because they read his books, but because they saw him on Oprah. I don't know how many times she has had him on her show, but I wish she would quit. Just out of curiousity, have you ever tried to contact her to direct her (or her staff) to your web site? You would think if enough of us complained to her about her "love affair" with John Gray and his pop theories, maybe she would see the light. She has enormous influence, and it's important that she know what a disservice she is doing.

Thanks again for taking the time and trouble to educate the unenlightened.

Sincerely,
Janet Allured, Ph.D.


That accolade was music to my ears, Janet. Concerning Oprah's addiction to John Gray, I'd say it's fed by a fast food culture that wants "just add water" solutions to complex relationship problems. Needless to say, it doesn't want to hear about the role patriarchy plays in them. Many of us are getting disgusted not only with her worship of John Gray but with her boring TV show. Yes, I have written to Oprah and did tell her about my web site. I never got an answer. Susan Hamson also wrote and told her about "The Rebuttal From Uranus" but never got an reply.

Janet, in my Wisdom From Womanism section of Those Martian Women!, I commented on how individual womanists and feminists have written to Oprah and have gotten ignored. This problem is so systemic that I strongly believe we need a new type of feminist organization: one which will be a "Nader's Raiders" type of watchdog group for the relationships industry. If you are a subscriber to WMST-L, do a search on "Kathleen Trigiani" and check out the post where I described my idea in some detail. I think I wrote the post when the group was talking about Dr. Laura. So you could probably do a "Dr. Laura" search, too.

I strongly believe we need to encourage talented GenX feminist organizers to start this watchdog group. The Oprahs, Dr. Lauras, and "Dr" Grays of the world will only respond to an organized "army" of challengers. Indeed, I think it would be a fun lesson in activism to see how WS students would go about starting a relationships industry watchdog group. They could learn about fund raising, consciousness raising, dealing with the media, motivating volunteers, dealing with opposition, etc. Perhaps the whole class could send a petition to Oprah and have their friends sign it. Again, this experience could be quite educational for students. It could also help them appreciate the hard work that goes into activism.



Could You Do a Website on Warren Farrell?

From: crice@skion.com
Subject: your essays
Date: Tue, 6 Jul 1999 13:40:19 -0400

I really, truly appreciate your thoughtful and informative essays. Thank you! It has begun to seem to me that the internet is a wasteland of anti-feminist misinformation. I am particularly frustrated with the father's rights/men's movement crowd. It seems to me that every on-line forum I go to, especially if it is about women's issues, is flooded with diatribes by these men. No matter what you are trying to talk about, they are there with their claims that men are the oppressed sex, that the US is really a matriarchy, that the culture demeans men, that radical feminists control the government and the media. After awhile it gets quite isolating when there seem to be no voices to the contrary. I was wondering, do you know if there is anyone who has critiqued their darling, Warren Farrell, the way you have John Gray? Or - would you do it some day? Are there some good sources of information about these movements? It seems like the men's movement sites just refer to one another in a circle, but few people outside of them write much about them. Or maybe I am just missing it. I wonder whether they are much of a force (in terms of numbers) or if they are just a few internet cranks. I wonder what their connection to right wing groups is. I wonder how many of them are batterers (since they commonly put up sites downplaying the issue of domestic violence, and are fond of citing studies which purport to show that women are just as violent/more violent than men or that women initiate domestic violence). I am really curious about these pests but I don't know where to go...

Anyway thanks again for your efforts. Your writings really ring true to me.

Catherine Rice


Thanks for the accolade. You're so right about the internet being a wasteland of anti-feminist misinformation. That is one reason why I wrote Those Martian Women! along with a Feminist Links addendum. Even in feminist discussion groups, there's always some patriarchal male who hasn't done his homework but thinks he's an expert on feminism. And he can always find a female protector in the group. Sigh. On the plus side, feminist women and men do fight back and on the moderated sites, the bad boys either start behaving or they drop their subscription. Still, these sites are not "safe" by any stretch of the imagination. I'm sure that anti-feminists lurk more on feminist listservs than vice-versa. Where do they get the time? ;-)

I share your frustrations with the father's rights/men's movement crowd, as I think they're dangerous to the welfare of children and families. Trish Wilson has written several pungent articles on the issue for Feminista! and The Women's Network. Also, NOW is beginning to take on this issue. Check out their website and start subscribing to their action alerts. BTW, I laugh uproariously at the men's movement claim that radical feminists control the government. I mean, the Women's Bureau can't even say patriarchy and the EEOC barely knows how to spell the word, much less talk about it. To top it off, these agencies are woefully underfunded. If you want to know the real meaning of radical feminism, check out the It's Patriarchy, Stupid! section of Those Martian Women!

Concerning Warren Farrell, I don't know of any website which specializes in criticizing him. However, Trish Wilson nicely skewered his work in her review of Women Can't Hear What Men Don't Say. Several feminists have critiqued him in their books. Check out the following:

Allan G. Johnson, The Gender Knot: Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy
Susan Faludi, Backlash: The Undeclared War on American Women
R.W. Connell, Masculinities
Michael S. Kimmel (editor), The Politics of Manhood: Profeminist Men Respond to the Mythopoetic Men's Movement (And the Mythopoetic Leaders Answer)

All are available via amazon.com.

As far as my doing a website on Farrell, I'm flattered that you asked, but I barely have enough time to do Out of the Cave: Exploring Gray's Anatomy. ;-) I can only handle one misogynist at a time. Catherine, you sound REALLY interested in the issue. Why don't you create your own website? I strongly suggest that you get acquainted with Trish Wilson, Lilly Pintea-Reed, and Juliette Cutler Page of Feminista! Trish Wilson in particular would have LOTS of info for you. Also, I suggest that you get on WMST-L and POWR-L and ask for info about these issues. You sound like you're dying to get your teeth into this problem.

Webwork is time-consuming, but it's also very rewarding. If you like, I could refer you to three people who could help you build the site. Of course, you could design it yourself, but web artists have lots of resources at their disposal. They can be expensive, but they also provide a professional polish that gives the site more credibility.

Catherine, we DESPERATELY need a website completely devoted to Warren Farrell and the fathers' "rights" movement. Susan Hamson and I are ordinary people with no connections to "the rich and powerful". And yet, we're doing the only consistent feminist critiques of John Gray within the whole media. Use the internet for your activism. It's the only "speakers' corner" we have these days. I guarandamtee, as they say in Cajun country, that the mass media is NOT going to do any expose on the fathers' "rights" movement. We have to take the issue into our own hands.



Mars&Venus in China

Date: Fri, 23 Jul 1999 23:31:18 -0500 (EST)
From: mithomps@indiana.edu
Subject: Great website

I greatly enjoyed reading what you have put up so far on "Out of the Cave." I found your page in a roundabout manner--one of my favorite websites is Heartless Bitches International, which has a link to Susan Hamson's page, which I read all the way through as soon as I saw the link. Back in 1992 or so I sat through a talk by a woman I know slightly in which she touted MMWV as a good guide to relationships, but what she told of it rubbed me the wrong way and surprised me no end because she's intelligent and ambitious. (This was shortly after the book was published, and I certainly hope that with the passage of time and the expansion of Gray's literary empire she's come to loathe the books.) It was a wonder to read SH's site and see how transparent his sexism is.

It reminded me of a major part of my undergraduate education. I specialized in Chinese history and culture as one of my subjects, and got a full course of Chinese literature to help meet the requirements for a linguistics degree. Several of the greatest classical Chinese novels touch on the same issues your site raises and John Gray studiously avoids. Traditional Chinese society was, of course, classically, quintessentially patriarchal; the inherent inferiority of women was explicitly stated in Chinese thought--yang is the male principle, characterizing activity and strength, while yin is the female principle, passive and weak. (Nor is Taoism different; it merely reversed the valuation given to both categories, to oversimplify a lot.) Men and women have mutually supporting, complementary roles, but there was a natural hierarchy to the two by which women were by nature restricted to the subordinate, private sphere, bound to the will of the father, the husband and then the son, and there were codes of behavior following automatically from the character of each bond--particularly from the fact that the woman was, in this view, naturally inferior. And unlike John Gray, some Chinese thinkers critically examined the effect such ideas had on human character.

In the late imperial period (Ming and Qing dynasties), numerous novels played around with these ideas. The most interesting is the novel often considered the classic Chinese erotic novel, _Plum in the Golden Vase_. However, it's more than that. The first major female character is a singing girl named Golden Lotus (Jinlian), which is also the most common euphemism for bound feet. She was raised from childhood to be appealing to men, especially by her very small bound feet, and her childhood is decribed in such a way that the binding of her feet symbolizes the binding of her character into the narrow role she was raised to play. The novel begins with a brief discussion of the treatment of the relationship between men and women in earlier literature, in which women are simultaneously extolled for their beauty and appeal and condemned for the lust, immorality, and crimes they inspire (and commit). In short, the role women grow up to fill in life straitens their characters. It's an odd, ambivalent book, yet it leaves John Gray in the dust--what sort of man and woman would you get if you brought his caricatures to life? And what happens to a couple who force themselves into the roles he peddles? At least the Chinese made no bones about equal worth and status somehow growing out of (or rather papered over) ineluctable natural differences. That's refreshingly honest after John Gray's stale fare.

And more deeply, these scholars were not taken with the way Chinese society made mandatory and metaphysically given human relationships that should have been ordered by natural sentiment. After reading them, John Gray comes across as a puny little piker who can't (or won't) see beyond the categories he grew up in and preaches. I think it's great you set up a site to examine the ideas he tacitly accepts. It's a fine opportunity, as you mentioned, to make women and men both think about the broader issues Gray's books bring up, since his view of marriage as a court with a king and a serving girl is simply inhumane. Good luck with your site.

Mikael Thompson
Bloomington, Indiana


I thoroughly enjoyed your letter and always love to hear about non-Western ways of "doing gender". Chinese society is undoubtedly patriarchal, but it's awfully ethnocentric of Westerners to think that Asians have never challenged "the way things are" and that "American women should be grateful because it's so much worse in [name a third world country]". Your letter helps raise consciousness.

I also enjoy the Heartless Bitches International site. Around the world, feminists are expanding the definition of bitch. Great fun!



Men Starting to Take Responsibility for Patriarchy

From: greg.chivers@themutual.net
Subject: Essays
Date: Wed, 11 Aug 1999 13:56:52 +0100

Kathleen
I've enjoyed your first two essays very much and have found them at a very important time in my life. I've recently lost a relationship which I refuse to just let go without really questioning what happened. I started reading Venus & Mars and found myself suspicious of it from day one as I tried to read it from my ex-partner's viewpoint as well as mine. I realised that it was a good starting point (and only a starting point) for some, but didn't really "cut it" for me. It created more questions than answers. Having found "The Rebuttal From Uranus" I came across your work on patriarchy and feel that I've finally found the area that I need to examine to avoid continuing the same old patterns in my life. I actually feel liberated by having an understanding of what I feel has been the cause of problems for me almost from day one. I believe understanding a patriarchal viewpoint is essential in modern life. I fear we have much work to do!

Greg Chivers - Yorkshire, England


Greg, your letter was lovely. I obviously agree that understanding patriarchy is essential in today's society. Indeed, I think it's the only way we're going to get some gender peace. Those of us who believe that way are hardly the majority. But I'm convinced that truth has a way of sticking around. And I know enough history to believe that if we stick to our principles, breakthroughs will eventually come.

I'm wondering, Greg, have you read sociologist Allan G. Johnson's The Gender Knot: Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy yet? It's available via www.amazon.com. It sounds like you would really enjoy it. If only it were as available as those Mars&Venus books . . .

Best wishes on your continuing journey of discovery. You are a voice of hope.


Date: Fri, 30 Jul 1999 12:02:33 -0500
From: peted@wans.net
Subject: "Five Essays By Kathleen Trigiani"

Dear Ms. Trigiani,

I am a Intentional Interim Pastor in the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod and consider myself fairly liberal. I have also enjoyed MMWV and often used some of his stories and descriptions in Bible Classes and Sermons. Not a lot, but enough.

Then a number of months ago someone on another list referenced your Webpage. I took the plunge, read and printed those pages. I was amazed at my naivete, and as my sainted father would say, in German, of course, "Such stupidity!" I had never taken the time to sit down and really study what this man was really saying!

I want to thank you for taking the time and energy, giving me, and those who take the time to read your work, an in-depth look at this quackery! Needless to say, MMWV will never again be used by me in the same way as I have in the past. I now have many examples from his work that undermine him and conventional wisdom.

I have been reading "The Gender Knot" and my eyes have been further opened.

Again, many thanks!

-- Peter Diebenow


Pete, your letter was a lovely example of Lutheran grace. Considering the LCMS ultra-patriarchal stance on women, how do you survive? I've heard some horror stories, but then, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), which has ordained women since 1970, also has its problems on gender issues. All the churches are struggling.

Indeed, I've been hearing stories about how so many churches are using those Mars&Venus books. But then, many churches, including the ones that ordain women, support men like James Dobson and Gary Smalley, who are quite similar to "Dr" Gray. Oy vey! It's hopeful to see people like you starting to study what "Dr" Gray is really saying. It's quite devastating, especially when he talks about sexuality in a very "I-It" way, not the egalitarian "I-Thou" way. Now you can use the Mars&Venus books to show how NOT to have a relationship. ;-)

I'm very happy that you have read Allan Johnson's The Gender Knot: Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy. When I read it for the second time, I thought of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's theology. It sounded like a secular version of the view that in situations of evil, nobody is totally innocent ("collective guilt", to use that most unglamorous phrase). I'm not trying to hint that Johnson is stealing Bonhoeffer's ideas. Far from it. It's just that in their own distinct ways, both men reject the notion that society is just a collection of autonomous individuals and that we're not our brother and sister's keeper. Johnson approaches it from a secular sociological paradigm while Bonhoeffer views it from a confessional Lutheran perspective.

Johnson's work seems to be resonating with some Lutherans, for he spoke at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa this past September. In this age of "cheap grace" on gender and race issues, it's awfully refreshing to hear some individuals giving their own version of "grace is free, but it's not cheap". Johnson's work is going to be around for a long, long time.





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