Wandering Thoughts on Feminism
Because of the field of study I’m in, the definition of the word feminism is of powerful personal importance. I’m always faintly surprised at the astonishingly ridiculous I sometimes hear regarding feminism, too: things like the movement is full of sexually frustrated lesbians, or it’s embarrassing to be associated with such a (supposedly) retrograde social movement, or even — the most personally astonishing — that there’s no need for it anymore! More and more I’m finding bell hooks to be extraordinarily perceptive. From her slim but fascinating 2000 book Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics, we get the following:
Masses of people think that feminism is always and only about women seeking to be equal to men. And a huge majority of these folks think feminism is anti-male. Their misunderstanding of feminist politics reflects the reality that most folks learn about feminism from patriarchal mass media. (pg. 1)
As someone who also believes bell hooks’ definition of feminism as “a movement to end sexist oppression” (pg. 6), the only thing I might add to her words is the following:
- Have rape and domestic violence been extinguished everywhere in the world?
- Are women and men — regardless of race, age, sexual preference, or any other superficial quantifier the individual cannot control — paid the same amount for the same jobs, and have the same job opportunities?
- Are all people regarded as completely and uniquely owning their own bodies?
- Is household work divided equitably between all the members of a household, and do all parents have — and take! — equal access to parental leave?
- Are the positions of cultural “rulership” (e.g.: governmental, religious, social, etc.) filled such that they reflect the statistical make-up of the population?
- Are the prisons practically emptied, with their former denizens now holding good and productive jobs?
If the answer to those questions is anything but a resounding, “YES!” …then there is still dire need for feminism in the world today.
Consequently, due to these beliefs I find homophobia to be a tragically misinformed attempt to force socially accepted but nevertheless sexist role models upon us all. Thus, despite liking their sandwiches, as well as some of their corporate culture, for me this means I cannot in good conscience support Chick-fil-A any longer — especially considering their decision to treat different-sex marriages as somehow privileged by their personal god.
This also means that when I noticed the construction site signs for a new Chick-fil-A going up in Sunnyvale near the intersection of W. El Camino Real and S. Matilda Avenue… there was a small, mischievous part of me that wished to hang, on the surrounding chainlink fence, a NO H8! sign. Yes, I was sorely tempted… but I guess I’ll be good. This time. ;) Because of bell hooks’ writing:
Visionary feminism is a wise and loving politics. It is rooted in the love of male and female being, refusing to privilege one over the other. The soul of feminist politics is the commitment to ending patriarchal domination of women and men, girls and boys. Love cannot exist in any relationship that is based on domination and coercion. Males cannot love themselves in patriarchal culture if their very self-definition relies on submission to patriarchal rules. When men embrace feminist thinking and preactice, which emphasizes the value of mutual growth and self-actualization in all relationships, their emotional well-being will be enhanced. A genuine feminist politics always brings us from bondage to freedom, from lovelessness to loving. (The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love, 2003 pg. 123)
There is a rather large backlash against anything ‘feminism’ and I wasn’t quite sure where it was coming about. Then I remembered a book I read about a year ago — it wasn’t a great book, at the time, but it had a lot of interesting ideas, just too many of them. One of the concepts the book had was the idea of an emergent organization. This particular org was out to change the world violently, but it had, apparently, sprung into being based solely on communication, exchange of ideas, and the mutation and viral spread of memes via confirmation bias; this particular org also needed, and had, a variety of technically-oriented people, but that’s almost secondary.
In any case, it was a slightly unbelievable tale, and the org managed to break the world down to the Stone Age. But what struck me is that the strong backlash against feminism is just that sort of emergent behavior.
Feminism itself had always had an uphill battle; sad, deluded Phyllis Schlaefly was hardly the most vocal or effective opponent in the past forty years, just one of the more well-known. But progress was, slowly, being made, I think. In fits and small starts, short little steps. It was with the explosion of the Internet, and more importantly the ability for people in disparate geographies to find people of like ideologies, that triggered this virulent new offensive.
The process seemed to go somewhat like this: Scared intimidated men see women starting to assert themselves, and build on laughable, mockable whining of the nearly-buried ‘Mens’ Rights’ movement. Scared intimidated men congregate on the net, exchanging ideas and reinforcing biases. Scared intimidated men start to believe that they must preserve the Manosphere, and start to lash out. Bolstered by weight of numbers and mutual egging-on, they grow in volume if not in numbers. Mass media, always a multi-headed hydra, takes three directions: (1) decry the words and actions of the mens’ rights activists (MRAs) and in so doing amplify that message to even more receptive people, (2) portray it as a delicious controversy to sit back and watch while waiting for So You Think You Can Marry An American Survivor Dynasty or whatever pablum du jour is on next, and (3) enthusiastically broadcast the message of the MRAs as a counter to the growing awareness of the need for feminism because nothing gets viewers like making them afraid then telling them you’re on their side, honest.
I firmly believe that the Internet is one of the greatest achievements of the human race. I also (somewhat) firmly believe that if anything is going to bring about the collapse of civilization, it will be reactionaries using the Internet.