Why I say NO to mixed “feminist” action
I am reading growing criticisms of one billion rise.
There is nothing new in those criticisms which haven’t already been said, in various forms, about “slutwalk,” about UK feminista, etc. In recent months/years, new activities, with sight feminist reformist goals, have sprung up. All these activities have one common theme – men must not, at any cost, feel excluded from what women do to fight against our oppression. It goes without saying that these new initiatives have the potential to be popular and widespread, given they are no threat to the status quo.
Some in radical feminist circles say it’s good that young women become awakened to feminist action, no matter how liberal, how mixed, how gentle, that activism is.
I disagree. I say we should be working together to create a strong radical feminist women-only movement with an emphasis on activism and not allow ourselves to be diluted into working in, and with, these liberal off-shoots of feminism. If women are to be inspired into feminist activism, let them be inspired into joining the fight for our liberation, not some bland watered down version where we all relax and have a cup of tea with our enemy.
Discussions on a facebook friend’s wall and a blog post by Carolyn Gage http://carolyngage.weebly.com/2/post/2013/02/movement-vs-dance-moves.html about one billion rise turn to the familiar argument of “We aren’t naming the agent here”. My blog post is about WHY the phenomenon of not naming male violence occurs. If an (alleged) feminist action is mixed, it is immediately saying something political about its priorities. It is saying “it is more important to us that men feel welcomed and supported here than it is that we prioritize fighting women’s oppression”
I understand why this is. I understand that centuries of patriarchy has conditioned women to be polite to men, to put men’s needs first, to not go out of our way to reject men for fear of the worst kinds of backlashes, and that the deeply embedded institution of compulsory heterosexuality means women too often feel obliged to affirm, again and again, how much they love the men in their lives.
None of this takes away the fact that (radical) feminism is about the liberation of women. “Gender neutrality” or “gender equality” are two drab meaningless phrases trotted out to fool women that feminism is about anything other than their fight for freedom. The shift means feminism is framed to be about men, or trans/queer people, or about other oppressions, such as class. Women, yet again, even in their own movement, are sidelined; their actions futile as their agenda gets more and more reformist in order to accommodate men and their needs and wishes.
When socialists organise uprisings do they send letters to the rich and powerful inviting them to join in?
No they don’t.
Historically, did disabled people and black people invite non-disabled people and white people to join their self-organised activist movements?
No, they did not.
And the reason for this is they know, and knew, that the very people they would be inviting were part of the problem and that they had to articulate what that problem is, and organise against it, in order to be free of it. The struggle is diluted if those who take part are, however unwittingly, members of the oppressor group and yet, undeterred by that, still occupy the spaces of protest. It is not a coincidence that this is a phenomenon dogging contemporary feminism. Many women live intimately with the enemy – separating herself, defining her rights and expressions of freedom are political acts. Creating women-only spaces, and defending them, is a political act.
And so, no I won’t be dancing with one billion rise, although I too love to dance. I will not be colluding with the de-radicalisation of feminism by taking part in any feminist action involving men. We have to defend women-only spaces and activism, at all costs, it’s our path to freedom.
I am reminded of a photo doing the rounds on facebook recently. It was of a placard which originally read: “End violence against women” and “women” was crossed out and replaced by “everyone” with the “o” written in the form of the trans symbol. When we aren’t upfront and clear that the fight is against male violence and male supremacy, the feminist movement de-radicalises. There is one group who can always be relied on to name male violence and male supremacy – and that is radical feminists. Again, it is no coincidence that our movement is seen as “fringe” and irrelevant and not malestream – we attack the status quo through the very act of naming the class of men as the problem.
I never thought the time would come when I wished “feminism” wasn’t so popular. It’s become so popular that the meaning of the word is lost. I never thought I’d long for the days when feminism was a word which people resisted because it meant “hairy, man-hating lesbians”. In that stereotype lies a much closer truth about what feminism is, and should be, than today’s shiny, glossy performances where all are welcome.