Saturday, November 15, 2008

Gender Equality Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry

“Feminism” has got to be one of the most misused words in the English language. Definition: “belief in the political, social, and economic equality of women.” It’s hard to argue with that. Of course “equality” becomes problematic when you are dealing with two groups of people who are different; men and women sometimes have different needs and desires. But when it comes to things like career availability and salary and being able to leave the house without wearing a veil, we all want the same thing.

But we don’t all always want the same thing for each other. And that’s the root of the problem: when one person thinks s/he knows feminism what another person needs or wants, better than that person does. In some cases, of course, this is entirely possible. But I don’t particularly like the idea of a guy in the deep South with an “ARYAN POWER” tattoo on his forehead decided whether or not I should have access to contraception.

But there is another threat to true feminism, and it’s in a place you might not expect. Radical feminism.

A house divided against itself cannot stand, and boy, are feminists divided. Just like any group that is entirely self-identified, it’s hard to figure out exactly what the tenets are – but one particularly prominent voice of radical feminism on the internet is Livejournal user _allecto_, whose denouncement of Joss Whedon’s T.V. series “Firefly” has gained much attention. I won’t go into the minutiae of it, because that’s not important. What is important is this statement:

I support women but not their choices. Choice for women is not the same as self-determiniation. I support women to become self-centering and self-determinining. I do not support their patriarchally constricted 'choices'.

Oh, and by the way, rape isn’t rape either.

I believe in the radical feminist definition of rape. That is that men who pressure women into sex are rapists. That women who are pressured are not freely consenting and are therefore being raped. There have been a few discussions recently in the rad fem blogosphere debating whether all male initiated sex is rape, given that women are politically, socially and economically subordinate to men. So, in my understanding of Joss Whedon as a rapist is hinges on my definition of rape. I would argue that most 'sex' between men and women, in the contemporary 'sex-positive', pornographic, male-supremacist culture, is rape.

When a rape survivor stepped up in the comments and said:

However, I think you should know, as you seem to be so pro-women, that as a female rape victim (and hey, rape can happen to men too! it does!), the way you are throwing around the word 'rape' is something I find incredibly offensive. You (and the radical feminist blogosphere in general, though I know you're only one person and not representative of a whole) should really seriously reconsider the way you're using the word like it means nothing.

The response was:

This post was about Joss Whedon, Firefly and misogyny. Please address the topic. If you have a problem with the Radical Feminist view of rape then make a post on your own blog argueing against Andrea Dworkin, Catharine MacKinnon and Robin Morgan. This is a Radical Feminist space and as such I support the Radical Feminist definition of rape.

Well, I haven’t been violently raped, but I can sure as hell bet that it’s a lot more traumatic than being “raped” under _allecto_’s definition. Not that it matters; _allecto_ is one of those people who has ascribed herself so fiercely to a “GREATER GOOD” that the feelings of individuals no longer matter.

But basically, what all this boils down to is that radical feminists like _allecto_ want women to behave in a specific way: generally speaking, they should shun the patriarchy (which is almost every aspect of modern life, according to them) and be in a loving supportive relationship with another woman. Because otherwise they are gender traitors. (Judging someone for their “choices” while “supporting” them is one of those lame things that fundies say about homosexuals all the time. And it always rings hollow.)

And no, I have no idea how she expects the species to continue.

Things get a bit more muddled as one delves into some of her other writings. Though she clearly states:

Under patriarchy, rape and sex are not discrete either as concepts or as acts. Simply put, male dominance means that sex is some guy acting his sexual fantasy upon the prone body of a woman. That is exactly what fucking is. That is exactly what sex is. What I was trying to describe as sex is not sex simply because sex is male dominance is intercourse is rapist.


…nor am I so cynical to believe that no men are capable of interacting with women as human beings. I have been objectified by women before and I have met men who are capable of respecting women as discrete, inviolable individuals. This doesn’t mean that fucking isn’t an act of male dominance it just means that lesbianism as an act of political resistance has been co-opted and controlled by the ‘queer’ malestream and that men are not biologically programmed for rape and conquest, they just use that as an excuse.

So you can have sex with a man as long as you’re not having sex. Is radical feminism, after all, just holding a state of mind? It’s now beginning to sound uncomfortably like neo-Christianity, the kind where all you have to do is keep Jesus in your heart and pray without ceasing and as long as you’re sorry it will all work out ok. Which is fine in your personal life, but if you’re going to run around espousing a socio-political viewpoint that wants to change the status quo, or patriarchy, or whatever, then it doesn’t make sense.

I am all for feminism. I am all for teaching little boys that little girls are different, but at the same time, people just like you. And eventually, the world will be run by men and women who understand and respect each other.

And I don’t want anyone telling me what I can and cannot do as a woman. I don’t want men telling me, and I don’t want other women telling me. In my life I have never felt limited by the gender I was born with, and I am truly disgusted at the idea of being judged for my choices, whether those choices are to lose weight, shave my legs, sleep with a man, or watch Firefly.

(Speaking of weight loss, I meant to integrate some discussion of Ariel Stalling’s blog post “Fat is a feminist issue” but I got too carried away. Anyway, suffice it to say, it’s just another case of feminism limiting women instead of empowering them. Her post was dissected by radical feminists elsewhere on the internet, coming to the basic conclusion that all her motives were wrong and she was a terrible person for wanting to look good.)