Stepford Students: The Obsession to Control Our Minds
The chastity belt is symbolic of how society controls minorities and the poor; it extends to higher education where the chastity belt controls the memory of students. It is a metaphor for society’s obsession to control everything from the vagina to our minds.
I cannot vouch for the authenticity of the history of chastity belts. Some say that they were first mentioned in 16th Century Renaissance poetry. Others claim that they came about during the Crusades of the 12th Century when the crusaders wanted to protect “their” vaginas. The literature concedes that the earliest contraptionscannot be found in museums, not appearing until the 19th century.
Apologists claim that they were not for women; only to keep kids from masturbating (today chastity belts for dogs). They say that “uninterrupted long-term wear caused genitourinary infection, abrasive wounds, sepsis and eventual death.”
From my viewpoint, the state through structural controls has put a chastity belt on our minds that through uninterrupted wearing has caused long-term damage. This metaphor could easily be extended to higher education.
The obsession to control has damaged our ability to distinguish reality. It is clear that the purpose of structural control is to keep women and men faithful to the accepted historical narratives, and make inequality sound reasonable or at least the norm.
Structural controls are nothing new. The Roman Catholic Church has a long history of controlling the narrative. From the beginning of the colonization of Mexico, the Spaniards changed Indian societies to make them more malleable and profitable. While they allowed many Indian villages to survive, they changed them structurally.
In order to control the Indians, colonial authorities grouped native communities into municipios, townships. The largest town of the municipio was the cabecera, or the seat of the municipal government. This strengthened colonial control of the native villages.
The purpose was to isolate natives in order for them to identify with the local village rather than forming class or ethnic identities. This division made it difficult for the different communities to unite against Spanish rule, destroying intercommunity regional networks and the pre-invasion world system. It concentrated power in the hands of Indian caciques, chiefs, who ran the local system, and were loyal to the Spaniards.
All official government business was conducted in Spanish. If a native or a casta of mixed race spoke Spanish, he or she was considered superior to those who did not. The Christian God supplanted the indigenous gods with the Spanish friars racializing the natives classifying them as incapable of governing themselves.
The rule was the more Spanish you looked, the more rights you had.
Before the Conquest, women generally married at about 20 years of age. After the Conquest, females married as young 12 or 14. A 20-year-old male who married to a 14-year-old girl held much more power than he would if both were 20 years old.
Colonization led to the breakdown of the traditional indigenous family framework, which was based on an extended family rather than a highly patriarchal nuclear family that the Spaniards favored. The purpose was so that “the Indians would be easier to supervise and control if divided into small nuclear households.”
Within the structures of society there is always the obsession to control; the locking of a chastity belt over our minds.
Things we take for granted such as architecture, according to Dolores Hayden, define roles. That is why feminists have demanded a new architecture to redefine our roles. Nineteenth century feminists wanted apartment houses without kitchens with communal meals prepared and delivered to the individual apartments; they wanted communal day care within the living complexes.
In the early 1950s, housing developers, architects, and real estate agents came up with the ideal chastity belt, the single-family suburban home.
They modified the house making the cooking quarters the command post connecting the kitchen to the living and dining rooms. It connected the wife to the entire house, making her the caretaker.
In the San Fernando Valley, the houses all looked alike. The front lawns were green, the greener the better. In times of drought many would spray paint their lawns green.
The house was encased by a brick cement block wall, resembling the chastity belt, preventing the next door neighbor from taking a peak.
This was in contrast to the older homes in the barrios that had a large porch looking out onto the neighborhood. If there was a fence it was a chain link Sears model. The lawns were not green, and if the owner or renter wanted he/she put his/her car in the middle of the lawn, and look out on the street with an ¿y que? look.
The ideal society for the new corporate man was the Stepford wife. The name is taken from the movie The Stepford Wives, a 1972 satire, where the corporation creates submissive housewives in an idyllic Connecticut neighborhood by making them robots. Always recently showered, they never had a headache at night, and they always said yes.
The principle is the same as the chastity belt to isolate women and to control them.
The industrial strategy was to create a society of frozen dinners made on an assembly line. Women would be used as producers, and probably would be occupationally segregated.
Whether as in the case of the crusaders or the conquistadores the goal was to totally control labor and all resources for profit.
Today, we have entered a post-industrial period where the design of the chastity belt has changed. The current phase is rapidly taking racism and class exploitation to a higher state.
The goal of the current privatization is total control of society by the superrich. The strategy is to transfer all public property into the hands of the one percent. In the United States it is personified by the Koch Brothers who were well on their way to controlling the State of Arizona.
Their objective was to “reform” the tax structure so not to pay any taxes – or any of the costs of social production.
An example was California Governor Ronald Reagan’s dismantling of the state’s mental health system in the late 1960s. Another was Reagan’s attempt to raise the fees at the University of California system. He publicly stated that if students had to work more and pay for their education that they would be too tired to carry a picket sign.
Evidently Reagan’s plan was successful. State university students who were paying $50 a semester in 1969 are now paying over $3200, which is 70 to 80 percent the cost of instruction. Throughout the United States students have become Stepford students.
Mexico is going through a similar process; as we speak its educational system is being privatized. Thus far it there is the illusion that students have prevented privatization and the raising of tuition. However, the bureaucracy of UNAM (la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México) is slowly eating away at the notion of a free and Open University.
The World Bank is the prime mover of privatization in Mexico. It is tightening the chastity belt. Ambitious managers at UNAM want outside funding that to them means prestige. They suffer from an inferiority complex that drives them to adopt neo-liberal fads. Thus far they have been unable to tax students; however, this is changing. A chastity belt is being fitted that is made in the USA. Neo-liberal educators are waiting for their Stepford students.
Rodolfo F. Acuña