When we can’t see men as the oppressors, men’s violence is suppressed in the unconscious realm (or in the “subliminal sea”1) and what remains visible and conscious to us in the foreground2 is the betrayal by puppeted women orchestrated/remote-controlled by the invisible male lords/puppeteers.
Failing to see men’s oppression and turning our anger against women is fundamentally based on amnesia: our forgetting of men’s genocide. The depth of this insight popped up to me with instant clarity as a friend of mine and I were discussing why some women so readily turned against other women even in cases such as having been raped or tortured by their fathers. For months one woman angrily resented her mother for about everything her father had subjected her to, and instead felt sympathy for him. Her mother wasn’t enough this, she had failed to do that, etc. There were vast periods of torture she had forgotten but she remembered the lies her father had told her about her mother and this is what stayed. However when she started recovering memories of what her father had done to her, her anger against her mother abated, she began to see how she too was victimised as a wife to her father and started to express anger against him.
This works on all levels. Our capacity to feel empathy towards women, to reverse the reversals and to make the connections about men’s violence is deeply and directly connected to our uncovering of the suppressed memories of what men have done to us. When we forget the oppressor, there is no other option than to turn against women, because that’s how patriarchy is configured: there is one oppressor class, men, and one oppressed class, women, and if you’re not against men, then it’s mechanically at the expense of women and of ourselves. There is no in-between, or third outlet: women are the only counterpoint to men’s violence. Either we see men as the oppressors and therefore our rage is turned against them, either we have effaced some or all of their role as oppressors and we automatically resent women for one thing or another.
The amnesia is organised both on an individual level and collective level.
It’s individual in that men’s violence and psychic warfare tactics which causes the amnesia happens to each one of us. Individually, we are forced to suppress some awareness and memory of what individual men or institutions have inflicted on us and on our female peers at various points in our lives (violence from our father, husbands, brothers or other males / institutions). The amnesia is organised on this micro level through the lies and reversals of the perpetrators, the denials and terror of our peers and the complicity of surrounding men with the perpetrators. The true stories of rapes against our sisters, mother, aunts, grand-mothers, cousins and daughters will be silenced. We will never understand why our aunt was alcoholic all her life or why our mother had fits of crying and nervous breakdowns every now and then, or why our friend became muted after the age of 8. Men will tell us they are crazy, liars, will instil distrust and contempt in these women. We will never or rarely be told about the women who escaped, the lesbians, feminists or spinsters, whether in school, by our peers or family.
The amnesia is also organised by men collectively: the perpetrators’ lies wouldn’t have so much impact on us if men’s violence wasn’t so absolutely obliterated from discourse everywhere we go – nothing in foreground reality, whether written or spoken, ever confirms the reality and depth of the what we’re subjected to, it is spookily omni-absent. Men have monopolised the power of naming and thereby blocked our capacity to even name our experience and ourselves with their words. We live in this reality of war-zone under male-rule, dying inside and outside, yet all there is to see on the surface are those tantalising fake smiles, “sex”, “marriage” and plastic happiness. For this silence to be maintained, men actively repress our re-calling of the genocide and be-speaking of the truth. They erase all evidence of their crimes, both external historical evidence and in our own psyche, by reprogramming our minds. They erase our culture, our writings, our art, our discoveries, our history of liberation, our presence and love to ourselves. In this context we have forgotten who we are before we could even know who we were.
Amnesia is also a form of dissociation. It’s a coping mechanism to ongoing trauma when the violence is both unescapable and unacknowledged. It is one of the many ways in which the self splinters itself for survival – which is why so many of us suffer various degrees of “multiple personalities” from having to forget event after event, life after life, each time having to distance ourselves farther from who we were and reinvent a new plastic persona in the attempt to add more make-up over our suffering.
It splinters the most traumatic parts from our conscious memory and digs them deep into the unconscious memory, which then only resurfaces in cryptic ways: through flashes, panic attacks, physical and psychic disorders, cancer, etc. Formulating the truth of men’s oppression even in thought being an unthinkable crime, these cryptic ‘symptoms’ or outbursts are messages from ourselves to desperately try to reconnect and awaken our consciousness, to break the spell of dissociation and phallic coding so we reintegrate and get away from the source of harm (men). These messages are there to bring the truth back into our conscious thoughts and direct our rage at men instead of against ourselves. We are saying to ourselves “hello, I’m here”. “Doing this to me is harmful”. “I’ve been hurt.” “These rapes / violations / insults / psychic devastation have hurt me”.
Anyway, all this to say that I recently realised more than ever the importance of seeing and naming the connections, and how this is really the first momentum of liberation because organised amnesia is men’s primary form of psychic – and therefore physical – annihilation of women. Without consciousness there is no doing, and by destroying our knowing/seeing (or pushing it into unconscious, subliminal realms), men paralyse our doing and being.
Amnesia, the obliterating of men’s past and present violence and erasure of our past and present selves, leads to blindly turning against women and more generally, to what Mary Daly calls aphasia, the “inability to Name the Background reality as well as foreground fabrications and the connections among these” and to apraxia, the “inability to act as Radical Feminists” (Outercourse, p. 6 and 195).
Intersectionality, just as any form of anti-feminism, are part of men’s phallic lies and global brainwashing tactics which generate amnesia and the inward-twisting of rage against ourselves and other women. Again, to paraphrase Mary Daly, exorcising amnesia requires acts of unforgetting and be-speaking, of unmasking and breaking through the foreground lies into our background presence. The task of the radical feminist is to actively explicate the connections, to make the reversals, fragmentation, destruction and genocide explicit and overt. (P. 6-11, Outercourse).
“Knowledge [of patriarchal horror] … is compelling and expelling. When a woman really faces the horror she is morally compelled to Act (overcome apraxia) and to begin changing/Be-Witching. She becomes empowered to expel the demonic embedded Self-censor within, who has blocked her from Spinning. She dares to begin Be-Witching.” (P. 197, Outercourse).
1Term by Mary Daly : the Sea of subliminal knowledge, knowledge which is covert, “Background” knowledge that is shared by women in patriarchy (Outercourse p. 13).
Background means “the Realm of Wild Reality; the Homeland of Women’s Selves and of all other Others; the Time/Space where auras of plants, planets, stars, animals and all Other animate beings connect.” (Wickedary, by Mary Daly and Jane Caputi).
2Foreground is defined as “male-centered and monodimensional arena where fabrication, objectification, and alienation takes place; zone of fixed feelings, perceptions, behaviours; the elementary world: FLATLAND”. (Wickedary, by Mary Daly and Jane Caputi).