Do you feel guilty about Male oppression?
This man found the answer as he got in his car. !
Returning to Detroit from an academic conference, my head was still buzzing with what I had learned from the feminists. All of them were doing work in feminist deconstruction, and joyfully working out its implications. Following their lead, I came to see that the organized world is a text that expresses male domination. Furthermore, I understood that the male principle is domination. If that text could be deconstructed, domination itself could be overcome and the female principle — warm, nurturant, and life-giving — would be able to emerge.
The shuttle bus took me to long-term parking and I found my little car, waiting for me where I had left it. Without even thinking, I opened the door and began to get in. And that was when the thought hit me. Getting into the car … why obviously the car was a female and, expressing a masculinity which I now understood to permeate me to my core, I was about to about to enter her and use her for my own purposes in just the same way that men have used women for thousands of years.
I stepped back from her, astonished by the power of my insight. For I saw that there was a larger dimension involved than my simply entering this car at this time. Indeed, it became clear enough to me in this moment, the whole pattern of male domination over the female was present here. And this was so perhaps least of all with regard to my entering the car and forcing her to do my will. More important, I came to realize, was the fact that the car itself, while clearly female, had been interpenetrated by male desires; her beautiful feminine essence warped and degraded by the domination of the phallus.
At that point I decided that I had to deconstruct the car; not for her sake alone, nor even for the sake of all the females of which she was a part, but for myself and all males as well. Crippled and driven by our own phallic assumptions, we had been deprived of the beauty that could exist if the female principle were allowed its sway. In a small way, I saw, I could start here. I could remove the influence of male domination from this beautiful car and leave her to express her female essence in a way that she, and only she, would determine.
I began with the item that first struck my attention: the driveshaft. Driveshaft, get it? This was obviously a penis. In the trunk was a hacksaw. I took it out and began to cut through. It was hard work, and it was hot, but as I gave up my doubts and hesitancies, it was as if I had discovered a new source of energy, for the work appeared to become lighter. And, indeed, as the hacksaw bit through the last of the metal, and as the driveshaft fell away from the car, I too felt lightened, relieved of a weighty burden that I had carried all my life. Now, it was plain to me, I had passed the point of no-return. I was committed by my own actions. I could not turn back.
Next I turned to a more subtle instance of the domination of male values — the steering system. Think of it. You turn the steering wheel a certain amount and the car turns by a similar amount. So rational, so logocentric, so cold, so quintessentially male. This would never do. With my hacksaw I cut out a length of the steering column and, in its place, I inserted an old inner tube that I had been carrying around. Fastened to both ends of the gap in the column, the inner tube would act like a large rubber band. Now, turn the steering wheel and perhaps something will happen. And perhaps it won’t. So full of freedom! So intuitive! So warm! So feminine! Irigaray herself could not have done better.
Next my attention fastened upon the wheels. The wheels, with their fullness and roundness, seemed to me at first to be contrary to my overall judgment. Could they be a feminine element in the car? But then my thought led me to recognize the subtle sexism inherent in their use. For each of these wheels was penetrated and subservient to an axle, whose bidding they were forced to do. Moreover, it was the wheels that were burdened with the punishment of the road. The axles needed to do nothing but turn. Master and slave. Here it was again. Moreover, as I thought about the matter, an even deeper level of offense made itself known to me. Each axle penetrated and dominated two wheels. Not only were the poor wheels raped and dominated, they were devalued as well. This could clearly not be allowed to pass. I removed the wheels from the axles and placed them in the front seat. Henceforth, they would ride in the position of honor that they deserved. The axles, now in contact with the road surface, would have to endure the suffering which formerly they had imposed on gentler others. Let justice be done. They deserved no pity.
Finally, I came to the part of the car that seemed most obviously male. It was the engine. Gas drinker, fume maker, taking from Mother Nature and giving back junk. This was what it meant to be male expressed in its essence. And for what were these lovely hydrocarbons consumed ? Speed, power, the lust of going ever faster. Competition, domination …The male image was unavoidable. Certainly no woman has ever been interested in stuff like that.
But as I thought about the engine the thought occurred to me that this image of the engine serving the purpose of domination had, literally, only scratched the surface. For when I began to think of what was going on within the engine, my horror and my shame came unbound. For there, within the engine, where outsiders could not see, the most terrible scenes of male brutality occurred. The engine, I came to realize, ran on rape. The pistons penetrated the cylinder heads and they did this each time the crankshaft turned. This was not only rape, it was gang rape and it happened with unbelievable speed and under the most appalling circumstances. Two thousand, three thousand, four thousand … up to six thousand Rapes Per Minute! And the heat, the pressure, the sheer unrestrained violence! Tears in my eyes, I ripped the cylinder head from the engine and placed the poor battered dear in the rear seat. Never again would this be allowed to happen. Never.
But my new consciousness understood that simply rescuing the cylinder head would not suffice. Payment would have to be exacted for the crime. Moreover, punishing the pistons would not be sufficient. The entire infrastructure of male domination that supported, encouraged, and even demanded this outrage would have to suffer as well. The sun was beginning to set as I took my hacksaw to the pistons, and I knew that my work had just begun. After the pistons, the connecting rods would have to go, then the bearings, the flywheel, the crankshaft, the engine casings… they would all have to pay.
It was mid-morning when I cut up the last piece of the engine. My heart relieved of its guilt, I put a plant where it had been. Mother Nature and the car could now be one. But I was tired. The night had been long and hard. I wished I could get into the beautiful car, now restored to her pristine state, and drive her home. But I knew that this was not to be. I would impose my male will on her no longer. She was free to go her own feminine way. I began the long walk home, wondering where her path would lead her.