Sunday, March 17, 2013

Why Your Feminist Praxis is Shit: Liberalism and Contemporary Feminism

[insert glitter pink mirror of venus symbol here whatever] 
“Feminism isn’t a dirty word. It’s not like we’re a deranged group who think women should take over the planet, raise our young on our own and eliminate men from the picture. Feminism is about women having all the rights that men have.” 
All feminist thought is not equal, and pretending that we should accept all feminist practices because critiquing them is "girl-hate" is self-aggrandizement, and those of us who believe in a more liberative feminism should say so. 

There is no move towards equality being exercised if contemporary feminist movement's goal is solely that "women should be equal to men," and should pronounce their visibility more in male-dominated areas, such as finance, STEM fields, and government. Why is this lazy? Because it does not allow women and other genders from developing a full political consciousness - we are only told that feminism must just encourage girls and women (and while we're talking, women meaning cis-women) into male-dominated spaces, full-stop. When we are told that visibility is the issue, we are not allowed the curiosity to wonder why we need to enter spaces at the top where men oppress everyone - we do not question that underlining suggestion that all women need to do to stop their own oppression and better themselves is to become oppressors, too. Become venture capitalists, and you, too, will be free.

We are aware that squeezing water droplets to allow the thirsty below to drink is not only insufficient, but also cruel, that trickle down economics doesn't work - so why is this believed to be the opposite in contemporary feminist thought? All women, all people, do not benefit when the focus is narrow, when the focus concerns the small group of middle-class, straight, able-bodied, married, white women. How is Naomi Wolf's vagina book going to help poor, Latina women stop rape culture? And better yet, when is this narrow group of people going to realize that these politics of me, myself, and I, will bite them back in the ass? As is reinforced throughout the world, but especially in the Western world, no one cares when you are no longer young and beautiful. Your "the personal is political" praxis will not save you:
Over time the slogan "the personal is political" (which was first used to stress that woman's everyday reality is informed and shaped by politics and is necessarily political) became a means of encouraging women to think that the experience of discrimination, exploitation, or oppression automatically corresponded with an understanding of the ideological and institutional apparatus shaping one's social status. As a consequence, many women who had not fully examined their situation never developed a sophisticated understanding of their political reality and its relationship to that of women as a collective group. They were encouraged to focus on giving voice to personal experience. Like revolutionaries working to change the lot of colonized people globally, it is necessary for feminist activists to stress that the ability to see and describe one's own reality is a significant step in the long process of self-recovery, but it is only a beginning. When women internalized the idea that describing their own woe was synonymous with developing a critical political consciousness, the progress of feminist movement was stalled.
Veiling your lack of empathy towards those of the Global South, those who are no cis, those who are not white, and those who have no money, who are vocalize their pain, their survival, their thoughts as not being "accessible" is laziness at best and oppressive at worst. You become an oppressor when you couch your feminist praxis in this way.
Let’s start by pointing out that intersectionality isn’t such a scary word, and gasp, plenty of people who haven’t been university-educated are capable of looking it up and understanding it. Here’s a good definition. It’s not that hard to understand. It’s essentially a useful way of saying that things like sexuality, race, class, religion and ability overlap. For example, a white woman’s experience of sexism may be vastly different from a black woman’s. Has your brain died from exhaustion yet? It’s so condescending to suggest that non-academics just aren’t smart enough to get this.  But let’s move on to another point. If it does require some effort to learn what intersectionality means and to engage with it as a key feminist issue, so what? Once again, people who haven’t been to university are more than capable of learning new things. We are required, on a daily basis, to confront new words and terminology in news articles about specific issues regarding the economy, the environment and political debate. And we learn them, and nobody goes out of their way to suggest to scientists or economists that by using specific terminology, they are ‘elitist’. So why should feminism be any different?
Use the master's tools, then you become the oppressor. Even if it is painted in smiles and makeup and lipstick, liberalism does not free anyone: it gives bones to marginalized people while upholding the power of the privileged and elites; once it feels threatened, it will attempt to crush any dissent. If your feminism can't recognize the humanity of others, the necessity of liberation for everyone, that your feelings do not override the suffering and reality of oppression for others, then your feminism is a steaming pile of shit. And you should admit it: you are using the master's tools as a way to uphold the master's house. 

1 comment:

Val said...

OMG.i love did you put my thoughts into such specific words.
Get out of my head.

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