Posts Tagged ‘Feminism

23
Dec
11

The Feminist Post

I’ll admit, I’ve been avoiding doing this post. Feminism is such a broad, complex, and controversial topic that I know, even as I’m writing this, I’m going to be struggling to cover even the most basic points. Nevertheless, this is a topic I’ve been wanting to touch on for no small amount of time, and with the ever increasing number of feminist issues being brought up and examined in our society, I figured it’d be best to try to tackle a few of the more primary elements of feminism, capitalism, and communism.

 

Now deciding exactly where to start when discussing feminism is difficult- after all, with feminism pertaining to the treatment of women, one would technically have to start at the very beginning of human history. So, for the sake of simplicity, let’s deal with the feminism that we’re all probably most familiar with.

Now I’m assuming we’re all fairly familiar with the basic evolution of the feminist movement that we’re taught in school. In the decades following the end of the American civil war, women get it into their heads that they ought to have the same basic rights as men, most notably, the right to vote. After a long struggle, women achieve this right, and then nothing happens for a long while.

World War II rolls around and, with most of the men off fighting in Europe, Africa, and the Pacific Rim, women took their places in the factories and plants, demonstrating that they were just as capable as those they replaced. To an extent, the workplace opened up for women. Nevertheless, gender rolls remained more or less the same, with women (largely) in the kitchen and men in the office. Not until the 60s and 70s are the issues of gender inequality really addressed, with women at long last (permanently) opening up the workplace, political office, etc. Indeed, so momentous were the achievements of the 60s, 70s (and to an extent 80s) that today the exact direction of the feminist movement is yet unknown.

See, there’s the core problem that I want to discuss here- at least, it’s part of it. It’s the attitudes that people have towards feminism today, be it the tiny but vocal “men are evil” fringe-group of feminism (as much as it pains us, we have to admit that such people do exist) to the anti-feminist ramblings of Pat Robertson and his ilk.

Pat Robertson: Basing his ministry on the hope that God will once again speak through an ass...

But neither of those extremes quite compares to what I believe to be the single greatest threat to the feminist movement: apathy.
The prevalent idea on Feminism seems to be that it has served its purpose, and that modern day feminists are either “female-supremacists” or are focused on minor issues. And that perspective doesn’t seem to be without basis either- from my research and conversations, the majority of feminist activism falls into one of two categories, (1) attacking minute issues of gender inequality or stereotyping or (2) attacking gender inequality in other countries.

 

Not that there’s anything wrong in attacking contemporary gender inequality- after all, inequality, regardless of how small, is still inequality. Take, for example, one of my personal peeves- high heels.

Yeah, I'd like to buy a shoe that's an affront to the laws of physics and basic human anotomy...

Now there’s nothing about the high-heeled shoe that is remotely natural or practical, and yet it’s seen as proper for both the workplace and for formal occasions. Again, nothing- nothing– about this design is useful, in fact, it’s straight up damaging– and that’s just from wearing the things. Try to imagine the equivalent for a man; imagine a shirt that both restricted all major movement and deformed your spine. Despite this flying in the face of reason and basic human dignity, this shoe is marketed to women as an acceptable, nay, essential part of one’s wardrobe.

An issue of women’s rights and dignity? Absolutely. But does it compare really to voting or being able to work the same jobs a man can? Not really.

As for the question of gender inequality in other countries, certainly it does exist and exists on a level on which feminism ought to be involved. The problem here however is the issue of culture. Too often I hear feminists railing on the hijab (head covering worn by Muslim women) without fully understanding the dynamics behind them.

Despite the hijab (or fuller covering) being required in a few countries, the vast majority of Muslim women wear head coverings because the choose to. In certain areas of the world, such things are simply part of the culture, and criticism on this from is shortsighted and patronizing. Indeed, the equivalent would be women from a culture with little to no clothing (certain tribal people in the Amazon, for example) criticizing Western women for wearing shirts.

 

In short, you can see why people have difficulty getting behind the contemporary feminist movement. With the issues being addressed either (comparatively) small or outside of the West (in case you haven’t noticed, I’m focusing here on western feminism- other places in the world have different approaches and issues), feminism and issues of women’s rights really don’t seem all that relevant or important.

 

Now of course, that simply isn’t so.

Granted, while the individual points touched upon by contemporary feminism may seem, when looked at in isolation, “nitpicking”, but let’s add all this up for a moment. You’ve got certain expectations placed upon women by culture to buy and consume and struggle to meet an unattainable lifestyle, be it a standard of beauty, some kind of “perfect” balance between work, family, and self, and so on. Take all of this, every role model presented to women, from the time they’re born on; every hobby or activity meant to be “girlish” or “womanly”; and then compound it with every depiction of female life hurled at us from advertising, television, music, film- you name it. The end result is one warped perception of femininity.

 

Like so

And despite this general issue of the degradation of femininity, I honestly don’t believe that could get behind the contemporary feminist movement either- not for a lack of belief in gender equality, but simply for the fact that the feminist movement, like many movements in society, is stuck treating the symptoms rather than the disease. And what is that disease?

Objectification.

The turning of people into commodities. Perhaps the best way to explain it would be to take a brief look at an offshoot of feminism.

Now I’m not exactly sure what to name this particular perspective- suffice it to say that it’s a brand of “feminism” actually embracing the use of women as sex objects or the like. The basic line of thought is “Hey, if feminism is about empowering women, then what’s more empowering than the ability to use our bodies or our sexuality for our own gain?”. Of course this is completely ridiculous- one could just as easily claim that a black man or woman performing in a minstrel show for money is “empowering”. You can’t sell yourself, you are yourself- at least, that’s how it ought to be. But we live in a capitalist society where anything that can turn a profit will turn a profit, regardless of the effects to human dignity.

And obviously I don’t need to get too into detail about the mentalities that arise out of objectification. For men, women are subhuman- they are, as the word suggests, objects to be had. The Communist Manifesto itself discusses the abuse of women arising from the capitalist system.

“The bourgeois sees his wife a mere instrument of production. He hears that the instruments of production are to be exploited in common, and, naturally, can come to no other conclusion that the lot of being common to all will likewise fall to the women… Our bourgeois, not content with having wives and daughters of their proletarians at their disposal, not to speak of common prostitutes, take the greatest pleasure in seducing each other’s wives. “

And this is merely the male perspective. Consider the effects this mentality has on women, being taught from their infancy that they exist to be used, possessed, and sold.

And it’s not that the contemporary feminist movement is not aware of this issue, however, with capitalism seen as the only option for society, the idea that anything more can be done than superficially building up a counter-culture (hey- that’s still an important element of the movement) is unfortunately not even considered (a sweeping generalization, but you get the idea). At the end of the day, if true gender equality is to be met, then objectification must be destroyed, and objectification is a production of the capitalist system. It seems a great tragedy that still today we have to be told that human beings are not objects to be bought or sold, or to be used to sell cars or cologne or food or clothing. Human beings are not things which can be possessed. Human beings are meant for freedom- in the end, that’s what feminism is truly about: freedom.

01
Jul
11

Joining the Party: Freedom Socialist Party (Part V)

 

The thing that’s probably most striking about the Freedom Socialist Party is that describes itself as advocating Socialist Feminism. Now obviously, all Marxists advocate feminism- there’s even an entire section of the Communist Manifesto dedicated to calling for women’s rights. Feminism is something that’s simply assumed of revolutionary groups- so I was naturally curious as to why the FSP chose to emphasize feminism.

 

The FSP states:

Women are the most oppressed of every oppressed group. No one needs revolutionary transformation of society worse than they do and no other group has the capacity to unite the oppressed in a mighty, working class movement that addresses all the injustices suffered by the dispossessed under capitalism…

The profit system survives on women’s unpaid labor in the home and low-waged labor in market place… This is a radicalizing expereince and accounts for the tremendous role women play, particularly women of color and indigenous women, as leaders in the struggle for revolutionary change.

In short, Communism must be achieved by the oppressed, and women are the oppressed of the oppressed.

That’s certainly something I can get behind. Indeed, as leftists, we probably need to be talking about feminism more. Whether its due to complacency with our feminist roots or the illusion of gender-equality today, we’ve really seemed to have slacked off in defending equality and fighting women’s exploitation.

But back to the party.

 

Among the pros of the FSP are:

  • An emphasis on the oft-neglected struggle for gender-equality.
  • A focus on the role that oppressed minorities play, including racial minorities and the LBGT community.
  • The FSP, from what I can discern from their website, is an extremely active group.

Among the cons are:

  • The FSP is a relatively small organization, and largely localized to the West Coast. This is really the only problem that I could find- but it’s a big one. If I’m not living in a major city on the west coast, there’s really not a lot that I can do. Sure, one could argue that I should join and recruit others (spreading the reach of the FSP), but part of the reason I’m looking for a party is because I don’t know any other Marxists.

 

My conclusion?

Despite being a pretty nice-looking organization, the FSP just seems too small and localized for me to join it. It’s a pity- if the organization were more widespread, the FSP would be near the top of my list.