Sonia Johnson on seasoning and collective self-determination

When I say that all women have been seasoned as slaves and prostitutes, I’m talking about seasoning that began at home. All other societal institutions avidly participated in it, of course. But no matter how we’re seasoned — as prostitute or wife, which is the same thing — we’re seasoned in the patriarchal family almost exclusively to serve sexual functions. No matter what form seasoning takes, it always has the same goal — to make us feel worthless and dependent…It functions to make us believe passionately that we need a savior, that men must save us, that we have to go through them to be saved. That somehow we’ve got to get them to change their minds about us. We’ve got to make them agree that their behavior is terrible and get them to stop it…That’s the goal of seasoning: to make us believe that we must always go through someone else to be free. Of course, the reason we’re taught this is because freedom never happens that way. Tyrants never free the slaves. It’s an historical truth that the oppressed must always rise and free themselves…The truth is that radical change, change at the root, must be made by us…But conditioned, seasoned as we are, this is the most difficult possible conception for us, and most of us continue to believe that we must make men change their ways, that we are dependent upon legislators to pass laws, for instance. Good grief! When have those in control ever given up a significant amount of it to those they control? Can you think of a single time in history? …This is the main goal of seasoning: to make us believe the men must change the world for us and that we’re powerless to change reality unless the men change first. But the truth is that they’re not going to change — can’t change — so we don’t have to waste our time trying to get them to any more. We are the ones who must change, because we can. And when we change, everything outside us will have to change to accommodate our new way of being in the world.


From “Taking Our Eyes Off the Guys” by Sonia Johnson in The Sexual Liberals and the Attack on Feminism edited by Dorchen Leidholdt and Janice G. Raymond (1990, Pergamon Press), pp. 57-58.

Originally published on FR on 4/18/2008


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