Radical Feminism

I’ve agonised a few times as to whether I should write this particular article. It’s something that first popped onto my radar a few years ago, when I came across a deeply flawed review of the sci-fi series Firefly, which suggested the show condoned a lot of anti-women behaviour, and even implied the show’s producer (Joss Whedon of Buffy fame) raped his wife.

No, you didn’t read that wrong. That was actually the title of one of the anti-Firefly posts – ‘A Rapist’s View of the World‘.

Let it be said before I really begin in earnest that I am all in favour of equality. Women should earn the same wage as men for doing the same job, and have all the same opportunities to succeed. Feminism is defined as ‘the  advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of equality between the sexes‘, which is a worthy goal. As the father to a daughter, I very much want my little girl to grow up with the same rights and opportunities as any man. The fact she is female should have no bearing on what she can achieve.

Feminism, like a lot of things, comes in different types. You have moderate feminism, which promotes equality through controlled, patient means. Some aspects of feminism have linked themselves to economic concerns (Marxist feminism), and then you have radical feminism.

Radical feminists tend to be louder than their contemporaries, meaning that their views get a lot of exposure. It ought to be noted that not every radical feminist practices a ‘hate men’ agenda, but most want equality too – but on very different terms.

The idea is to create a society where concepts such as gender don’t exist, along with the constructs that arise from these concepts. Some radfems argue these points more fiercely than others.

Gender is a patriarchal construct, used to subdue female-born into becoming ‘women’, who are expected (through societal manipulation) to be subservient to male-born (men).

Men are also being manipulated into this caste system, expected to fulfil roles of their own.

The ‘tearing down’ of the establishment is quite a popular idea with radical feminists.

There is a radical feminism website, Deep Green Resistance, that offers some fascinating insight into radical feminist thinking:

But if the implication is that it’s women’s job to take care of men, we reject that. Men need to take care of themselves and each other. We want to point out that this question of men’s emotional well-being is a central one to way too many people. No one has ever—not once—asked us about women’s emotional well-being, or implied that it’s men’s job to take care of women, even though it’s men who are committing the violence.

It’s true that male-on-female violence is considerably greater than the other way around. I won’t deny that and it needs to change. Indeed, any violence from one person directed at another needs to be dealt with.

That said, I wish to address other parts of this paragraph. The emotional well-being of women is important. Not every man dismisses this and indeed, this is part of the reason why men go to work every day, working hard, to provide food and shelter for their loved ones (men taking care of women and children through doing this work). I am surprised this is completely overlooked.

I love my wife. I want to do right by her. I love my daughter – I want to do right by her. I work hard to keep a roof over their heads and food in their stomachs. I do my best to treat them to things they want and need, at my own expense too. You might argue this is a construct of false gender – but nevertheless, to dismiss the role men play in supporting their families is offensive – I would never dismiss the role a woman plays in looking after their children, and nor would I expect them to be the only party responsible for looking after children (nor do I expect women to conform to the expectation that they should stay at home and be homemakers), yet Deep Green Resistance is quite dismissive of what men contribute, and the idea that men might actually care about how their wives and partners feel.

DGR is about more than radical feminism – tied to these ideas are notions of doing away with civilisation as we know it completely, for the sake of the planet and humanity’s survival. I dare say their aims and goals are not likely to go mainstream any time soon. I will however draw attention to the fact that they are not so vocal on the ‘man-hating‘ element that radical feminism is unfortunately known for.

To quote from the link above:

I hate men. Yes, I am a feminist. No, not all feminists hate men. But at this point in my life I have begun to wonder why any woman with half a brain would NOT hate men. It is perhaps testament to the amazing moral superiority of women that most women do not hate men in spite of the tortures men inflict upon them, their children, and each other. Or perhaps it is a reason why feminism has not succeeded. Perhaps in order for women to stop being chattel under the bootheels of cruel, stupid men, they will have to learn to hate men at least a little.

Whether radical feminists like or not, this is the predominant image that radical feminism has. Some (not all, I hasten to add) radical feminists love to make sweeping generalisations about men, about how they act and how they inflict cruelty upon women. If there was a movement out there whereby men made similar statements about women… well, we can all agree such a movement would be rightly condemned, as it should be.

Radical Feminism and Transphopia

There’s a certain element of radical feminism (again, I must stress not all) that have adopted a decidedly anti-transsexual agenda. The root of this can be explained through DGR’s statement here:

Radical feminists also believe that women have the right to define their boundaries and decide who is allowed in their space. We believe all oppressed groups have that right. We have been called transphobic because the women of DGR do not want men—people born male and socialized into masculinity—in women-only spaces. DGR stands with women in that decision.

Yet earlier on, the same site has this to say:

Radical feminists are critical of gender itself. We are not gender reformists–we are gender abolitionists. Without the socially constructed gender roles that form the basis of patriarchy, all people would be free to dress, behave, and love others in whatever way they wished, no matter what kind of body they had.

Whilst DGR is not condoning anti-transsexual and transphobic behaviour, there is an element of hypocrisy here. In one paragraph, they speak of doing away with social constructs of gender and that all people should be free to express themselves in any way they choose – then they apply gender and social constructs as the reason they would exclude transsexuals from their spaces – the man who became a woman is the product of a patriarchy, and therefore not welcome.

Yet the man who became a woman became a woman because they did not identify as male and with every fibre of their being considered themselves female – it seems to me that DGR are overlooking this.

There are further examples of radical feminists being vocal in their exclusion of transsexuals:

From a site called TERF (which is not a radical feminist site, but points out some notable quotes from radical feminists):

Today the Frankenstein phenomenon is omnipresent not only in religious myth, but in its offspring, phallocratic technology. The insane desire for power, the madness of boundary violation, is the mark of necrophiliacs who sense the lack of soul/spirit/life-loving principle with themselves and therefore try to invade and kill off all spirit, substituting conglomerates of corpses. This necrophilic invasion/elimination takes a variety of forms. Transsexualism is an example.

 Mary Daly, PhD, TERF author, lecturer & academic from her book, Gyn/ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism pp 70 – 71

The irony is, radical feminists who target transsexuals have more in common with far-right fanatics (whom they deeply oppose in other ways) than they might care to believe. The Star Observer newspaper in Australia ran an article in March about a prominent radical feminist, Shelia Jeffreys. Jeffreys had this to say:

“In the States for instance they (trans people) were often compared to the black and white minstrels. The black and white minstrels were white men who dressed up with blackface to imitate what they thought were the behaviours of black singers and entertainers. That was seen as very insulting by the black community,”

“Transgenderism for men is about the right to imitate and pretend to be members of the subordinate class even though they are members of – biologically and were brought up in – the superior class. That was problematic for the black and white minstrels. It’s problematic generally when a group of people claim to be another group of subordinate people.”

Suggesting transsexuals or those who desire sex changes are in fact, using the same tactics as racists, is a not-so-subtle means of dismissing an entire group, and one step away from encouraging persecution of that group. It is not an invasion of space – it is a quirk of biology that compels some men to consider themselves women (just as it’s a quirk of biology that some men and women are gay). It isn’t a choice, I doubt it’s something that trans-people find easy to deal with, and they do not deserve transphobic attitudes. Given radical feminism’s schools of thought on oppression and persecution, I find it bizarre that this attitude exists within the movement.

What do other Feminists think?

Honestly, I don’t know, since finding the answer to that question online is proving harder than I thought. I am endeavouring to find out, so I may well add the answer to this page at a later date.

What do I think?

Radicalism tends not to be looked upon favourably. It is however, usually the branch of any movement that is heard the most, because even as a minority, the radical element is the loudest, brashest, most controversial element. Radical feminism is certainly loud, unashamed of promoting women’s rights and spaces, and not shirking from pushing its agenda of removing gender and social constructs from the equation.

Do they have a point though?

My own view is no. Well, not completely. As I said at the start of this post, I am very much in favour of equality for all. However, the fact is, I am a man. I am certainly not the strongest or smartest man, but I am a man. It is part of my identity. Does that place certain expectations upon me? Of course it does. Are these expectations necessarily fair? Not always. Whilst radical feminists may feel that current social models are in place to oppress women, an argument could be made that we are all expected to perform certain functions – that the system keeps us all in certain places. I am expected to be the primary breadwinner, because that’s the male role in society – to go out and go to work, to be hardy in the face of adversity, to not cry but to be strong and brave. I am expected to mask my emotions, to just get on with it.

I don’t identify myself in that way. I define myself, first and foremost, as a human being. Being a man is part of that but only part. I don’t use being a man as an excuse to get away with certain behaviour, I don’t use it as an excuse for failures of any kind. I define myself as a husband, a father, a sci-fi fan, a Formula 1 fan, a lover of football, burgers, Disney, gadgets, and coffee. I chose all of those things, so you might say, I am defined by who I choose to be. Yes, not everyone can choose – their voices are silenced by oppressive forces – but a patriarchal society is not the root cause of all evil – not if everyone is given the right to choose their own fate. What we need to do – all of us, men and women – is fight for those rights, not along gender lines, but along human lines. It does not matter who is discriminating who and why – it all needs to be opposed.

To any feminists who read this – radical or otherwise – I would of course be interested in what you have to say. I do not delete or refuse to approve comments made that disagree with me, only those which are filled with vitriol and anger. Make a compelling case, and you will have a voice here.

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