(Essay 1) What Is Gender-specific Profitability? by Stacey Hughes

stacey hughes pic 6
Painting by Stacey Hughes

I coined the term gender-specific profitability in regard to weighing and measuring POWER.

In my early youth I worked with young homeless girls, in an accommodation service we were establishing, ALL of whom (by chance) happened to have been sexually abused.

It became apparent to me at that point in time in my life that there were some universal commonalities about the sexual abuse of children (both males and females) and a historical precedence for the abuse of the feminine bodymind.


Studying for a Social Welfare diploma, I had dipped my toes into the deep waters of sociology, politics, psychology and bio-social problems (drug and alcohol addiction, domestic violence, racism, etc), and was reading widely in both philosophy and feminism (women’s studies). It quickly became apparent to me that gender specificity was a social construct which served others more than it was indicative of any essential truth about women (or for that matter about men). Further study for a BA in philosophy brought me head to head with diverse cultural and philosophical values which were applied to women’s bodyminds.

It made me ask questions about the essential nature of women, the essential nature of man and the nature of power itself as I delved into the historical social frameworks given to women (and men) to adhere to.   It became all too obvious that too often women were considered to be merely empty things which gained meaning and social value only by being the appendages of man… that men had gained the illusion of primacy in life and had been given legitimacy as ‘selves’ through being endorsed by the notion of an absolute power (God). Women were seconded, not as thinkers or creators of life or shapers of culture, but as merely the possessions of men:  their father’s daughters, their husband’s wives and the mothers of men’s children.   It was disturbing to me that this seemed to be a universally accepted social construct and it disturbed me to consider that this was held as some kind of universal and essential truth about “woman”.

I read my first passage of the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (borrowed from the local library) which stated: “Women cannot be mates, too long have they been cats and birds and at best cows.”  Had Nietzsche still been alive, I could have shoved his conviction fair up his backside in rage at his androcentric perception of women. Indeed, I rejected Nietzsche outright as a misogynist and made a decision that I would no longer endorse male teachers of any kind, I would not read men at all. I would, for a period of twelve months, endeavour to seek wise women; women of knowledge and power and learn from them alone… or else have to concede that women must be these empty, stupid, uninventive ‘non-beings’ and helpmeets that history was describing to me.

I surely make it sound like this was all a smooth and logical progression for me and that I had remained whole and unbroken by my experiences working with sexually abused children/girls/young women… but I was not. I was utterly broken and felt daily, momentarily, as if I had had my skin peeled off and was raw to every single thing that touched me; everything I felt was raw and unnerving. I suffered from deep- seated anxiety that made me tremble at the inferences of people’s speech and made me shake down to my bones to even begin to speak my own truth about how I was weighing and measuring power; who had it, who could steal it, who it served, who was denied it and what people were doing with it. I no longer trusted men and was incapable (was emotionally unavailable and living in my head) of being loving and dynamic and comfortable in my own skin. I was, in the way of any Aspergian individual, utterly obsessed both with shaping my own subjectivity in the light of what I was learning and with the dreadful conditions given to the existence of female bodyminds.   Worst of all for me was that I had lost my laughter, I had lost the ability to be the lighthearted and joyful being I had always known myself to be.   I was completely devastated and at odds with the world.

It was my very good fortune to have been born to a family where reading and research and being curious was the norm.   I read broadly and deeply and, since I was unfit for living a ‘normal’ and well-adjusted life and could not ‘go back’ to where I had started from, I travelled (without the means to make that a comfortable or indulgent experience for me). I had to put myself at risk in order to attempt to believe that I was safe in the world, that I was not an object which could be abused and degraded by male bodyminds at any or every turn.   I hitchhiked and constantly challenged both my own perceptions of the meaning of my  existence and those of individuals I met along the way.   When any man or woman suggested that I was not safe hitchhiking as a woman, I would speak about sexual assault in a very open and honest manner (confronting the truth head on instead of fleeing from it) and about my experiences of power and abusers of power.   Nothing less than the truth would serve me.

For the most part, I found human beings (of either sex) to be decent and kind folk. The less anyone had the more they also risked and shared the little they owned, while the more they had the more fearful they were of both sharing or losing what they had.   Nobody ever threatened me or assaulted me and, as much as I would never encourage anyone else to do what I had done, that process gave me back to myself.  At the end of that healing time I had tested my theory and proved to myself (if not to anyone else) that my instinctive and intuitive self had some kind of intact power with which I could function in the world.   I did a polarity therapy course during that time and learned to deal with my high anxiety and excessive energy by grounding myself through working certain earthing points, and eventually I learned how to stop trembling and shaking.  (An intense condition called for an intense remedy.)   If anyone tried to insist that female bodyminds are unsafe in the world I would make them tell me what they knew of this subject because I knew only that I was not yesterday’s ‘news’… that I was not somebody that someone else had murdered or raped. And, irrespective of anyone else’s perspective, it was necessary for my mental health that I felt myself to be at liberty in the world SO LONG AS nobody else, in this moment, was attempting to subvert my power.

I stand by that honesty still today.   So long as I am communicating with another being willing to communicate, I am at liberty to live unassaulted and to assert my subjectivity.   The only threat to that well-being was the psychopath who had no empathy for other beings and whose will to power was willing to annihilate my will to power.   I never met anyone of that nature and I never want to. My subjectivity can never have any value to them and I want to be far from their will to power OVER other beings.

To be continued.

Read Meet Mago Contributor Stacey Hughes.


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