Anger is a political act. Women getting irate about their chronic and continuing poor standing in all aspects of their lives is an extremely political act; the status quo is dependent on tradition being upheld, and women disrupting that narrative is one of the essential liberating struggles of modern society. Despite not being female, I have some thoughts on feminism. You don’t need me mansplaining, and I’d hate to be regarded as doing so. As such, you can choose to listen to me, or ignore me completely: I’m fine with either.
Action based on anger is important, but it’s not always the best way. The Ukraine debacle was helped by action based on anger, and the wasted potential of the London Riots was action based on anger. Direct action like this is immediate and noticeable, but it does not provide new avenues. In an incredibly anti-feminist political framework, deliberation, synthesis of ideas and collaboration are also needed to push feminism forward.
Transforming anger into any form of activism, however, depends on agency. Personal agency is something that feminism, in all its forms, argues that women have diminished levels of in the world as we currently know it.
Defining feminism and the patriarchy
Feminism is defined by bell hooks as the “struggle to end sexist oppression”. What both libertarian and the so-called radical feminists (‘radfems’) share is an understanding that female agency is undermined by patriarchy. Patriarchy is what Cathia Jenainati refers to as the “power relations in which women’s interests are subordinated to the interests of men”. This includes (but is not limited to) the “sexual division of labour and social organisation of procreation to the internalised norms of femininity by which we live”.
The libertarian feminists claim their agency by simply doing as they wish, the ‘radfem’ by diminishing the agency of others. I’d agree that it’s conducive to movement to not engage in the inverted sexism that ‘radfems’ can indulge in. They represent a vocal fringe group at best, but their major successes seem to lie in giving douche-nozzle Men’s Rights Activists ammunition to attack feminism as a whole.
Men’s Rights Activism is rooted in fear and in misunderstanding feminism
That said, I loathe Men’s Rights Activism. Any student of gender worth their weight knows that feminism includes men’s rights. It’s not about women ruling the world in the way that men do. It’s about equality, and I genuinely think that scares them. They don’t understand equality; even their definitions of equality are incredibly patriarchal. “But what about men”.
I worry that there are many men who are actually feminists at heart, wanting equality for the sexes, but are told that feminism is female superiority. This is not true. What it’s really about is being regarded as a human being, not a ‘female’ human being. What MRA’s so often label as misandry, or the hatred of men, is in fact hatred of the patriarchy, which is very different.
At some level, most men know that women have a rough time, but instead of facing their own actions, and taking responsibility, MRA’s will play victim. They will argue that feminism prevents them from ‘x’ or ‘y’, regardless of the pain that that will cause. Their patriarchal view of the world MUST be right, because if they don’t have their dominant identity as men, what do they have? In their effort to show the gender fascism of ‘feminazis’, all MRA’s succeed in doing is showing their own ‘meninazism’. They rely so heavily on a patriarchal definition of equality, gender and fairness that they will often defeat their own arguments. I believe that this is due to fear and guilt.
My honest belief is that the Patriarchy is the panicked response, of men, to the goddess-like ability to produce life. Men produce millions of sperm cells, which means that they could easily be thinned out of the population, and be used as studs to carry on human life. Why do you think conservative governments hate single mothers? They prove that women don’t need men. The two-parent ideal is a myth, and if it has any psychological value, it is merely due to the hetero-normative, capitalist value systems of the nuclear family. If people don’t live up to these values, then women will be defined in relation to men as “abnormal”, “wrong” or “unable to keep a man”, even in cases where it was the man who was at fault.
Different types of feminism
I would disagree with many critics who believe that feminism has been ‘diluted’ by differing approaches. Each ‘wave’ of feminism has involved an increasing amount of varying voices and viewpoints, slowly progressing towards and forming intersectional feminism. Many activists, academics and feminist intellectuals have called for an approach that combines various methods of investigating gender, providing something worth more than the sum of its parts. That is to say, taking one idea (a thesis) and smashing it intellectually into another idea (antithesis) and reaching a satisfying outcome (synthesis). This is what intersectionalism is: throwing the many feminist forms into a pot, keeping the strengths and doing away with the weaknesses.
Like any great social movement, feminism needs space to breathe, experiment and grow. It cannot be acted upon at first notice; first we must think. All of those involved in feminism must build bridges, share understanding and think together for true equity. If we do not lament our ills, we will never reach a true understanding of the solution(s). For this solution to be found and change to be enacted, we need consensus. The way consensus is reached is through negotiation with the masses. How do you negotiate with the masses in the modern era? Through the mass media.
The importance of representation
This is the biggest hurdle for feminism. Not over-analysis or unevenly weighted discourse against action, but representation. That is representation of feminists and feminists’ discourse. By and large, the question of female agency is ignored, rebutted or taken for granted by the mainstream media. Feminism is arguably de-clawed by lack of visible agency in the public arena. The mediated, repeated images of femininity that we see via mass media have huge effects on the efficacy of both discourse and active participation. Perhaps there is only so much a GIF-set of a feminist beat poet on Tumblr will achieve, but I’d rather see that than the same images of women in pre-defined, gender-specific roles of motherhood, bitchiness or titillation. We are given Katie Hopkins and Beyonce, when there are those beat poets and third-wave post-feminist pornographers doing the real ground work. Not for profit, but progress.
An activist is indeed someone who activates, and the best way to do so is to discuss, think and plan. But, what an activist has, and I can’t stress this enough, is the recognition of their own personal, self-actualised agency. Activism relies on this personal agency, political consciousness and solidarity. Three things the media wants to say it gives you, but slyly takes away. It provides you with its view and doesn’t care for yours. It’s a one-way conversation with someone who doesn’t want to listen. Activists discuss with other activists, plan and do. Considering how few women feel any agency in the face of capitalist patriarchy, the armchair is often the only place in which to participate.
This must end. Break the narrative cycle fed to you by the lying box in the corner of the room, sign on and hash it out.
SMASH THE PATRIARCHY!