Can feminism survive in an increasingly exclusive narrative that places men in subservient positions, while seeking to takeover the patriarchy rather than destroy it?
Let me begin with the definition of ‘feminism’ I am working from, given my understanding and acceptance.
Feminism is anti-patriarchy, in the political, cultural and socioeconomic ways which it exists.
The patriarchy is predicated upon these two things.
- The belief that superior force is the ultimate arbiter of all human endeavors and conflicts, essentially that might makes right.
- Centralized, structured hierarchy which uses organized aggression to protect itself from those whom it oppresses.
Given this interpretation I suggest that centralized hierarchical structures, namely the nation state, are the chief grievance of feminism. These structures make possible the domination of oligarchs, racists, misogynists and the entire spectrum of those who delight and/or profit in institutionalized inequality. But where inequality is often focused on today, the fact that the power to do so was predicated in the institutions which create, reinforce and protect those activities goes largely unappreciated in mainstream feminist narratives.
These structures, while usually classist, racist, misogynistic, etc., prey on human beings of all orientations. It is for this reason that feminism is inclusive to the plight of all of humanity, and should not discriminate by race, class, gender or other orientations.
The term ‘feminism’ represents the seed of the movement in which women began to reject their diminished role in society, which was propagated by hierarchies, religion and social norms and beliefs. Soon the movement splintered into two camps. The suffragists were focused on the right for women to vote and hold office, essentially, to be full participants in the patriarchy. But on the other hand were the anarchists, who sought to destroy the very structures and values of the patriarchy. Suffragists were willing to turn a blind eye to slavery, racism and class issues; so long as they got to be equal to men in the constructs of men. The anarchists were concerned with the plight of all individuals, and the damage that a ruling elite did to humanity and the environment. And so for this reason I will refer to the anarchists as the true remnants of feminism, which came to mean far more than the gendered moniker seemed to imply.
A parallel can be drawn here with the term ‘racism’. In a colloquial sense it can be used to mean ‘bigotry’ or ‘prejudice’. But as the issues were examined further, it became pertinent to have a way to specifically address areas in which bigotry and prejudice had been normalized and institutionalized. Most people who study these issues understand that ‘racism’ has a very specific meaning, and that is often robbed of all nuance of those specifics in mainstream culture. I would suggest that colloquial uses of feminism are just as lacking in detail and recognition of other areas of inequality. And just as some people get very angry when you try to explain the differences between bigotry/prejudice and racism, other people will get angry when you try to point out the difference between anti-patriarchal feminism and the modern extensions of women’s suffrage.
The term ‘anarchist’ has since come to mean many contradictory and confusing things, and to most people it conjures up something impossible, irresponsible and/or terrifying. Yet what early feminists like Margaret Mead meant by anarchism had nothing to do with total chaos, but only sought to organize on small scales with equal participation and consideration for all. No states or nations, just communities where bureaucracy and hierarchy became obsolete, managed instead by voluntary association, direct and transparent democracies and participatory labor for community services and infrastructure. And not only is that still a noble cause, but one made increasingly possible by technology and cultural innovations.
And so I explicitly reject any form of feminism which:
- Does not reject the patriarchy, but seeks only more roles for women within it.
- Does not reject all other forms of inequality, such as race and class; and treats men as second class citizens of the movement with labels like ‘ally’.
Not only do I find those practices to be hypocritical and repulsive, I think they are threatening to women and feminism alike. They create division and privilege, which does not lead to equality nor empowerment. And they will not be effective in convincing men of the inclusiveness at the heart of the movement, which will stall any changes that need to be made for the well-being of women and the rest of oppressed peoples.
So I will stick to my narrative, and we can be full partners in destroying the patriarchy if you will accept my insistence on inclusion. But I will not be a sidekick and I will not be silenced by ‘mansplaining’ accusations that misuse the term to try to automatically dominate a conversation. I am not an ally nor an outsider, nor obliged to obedience based on gender or other orientations. But no matter how much you lose track of the main goal, or hypocritically dehumanize me, I will always be there working to make our common oppressors obsolete.
Many of the thoughts here were conceived of during
responses to THIS EARLIER ARTICLE.