Hooray! Feminists have managed to make inequality between the sexes so obviously ludicrous, so obviously discriminatory, so unpalatable, that even men want in on the act. Sadly though, I think this is more an ‘own goal’ than a cause for celebration. It’s not unusual any more for a man to say that he’s a feminist, and it’s even less unusual for women to say that men can and should be involved in feminism. But for this to have become possible, it has been necessary for a shift in the understanding of what feminism is. Feminism, women’s fight for liberation from male oppression, has become widely understood as the struggle for gender equality. That this shift has happened as men have clamoured to be involved, is not a coincidence. Invite the oppressor to the game and the goal shifts. But the shift renders feminism meaningless. Gender is a social construct, it is one of patriarchy’s best tools for maintaining inequality and the illusion that inequality between the sexes is natural and inevitable. Gender is a hierarchy, it is subordination and domination sugar coated in pink and blue. Gender equality is an oxymoron, gender is inequality. Feminism needs to fight for the eradication of gender, not for it to be enshrined and protected in legislation.
As Andrea Dworkin identified, feminism requires that which patriarchy destroys in women, our ability to confront and resist male power. As women, too many of us are caught up in societal Stockholm syndrome. As an oppressed group too many of us have bonded with those who hold power and see society though their perspective. It is an understandable survival strategy, but it is also one of the ways our collusion is created. I understand how women love their male partners, their sons, fathers, male friends and relatives. I understand that some men, maybe even many or most men, are good men who respect women and purport to or even genuinely desire equality with women. As a sentient human being I understand that masculinity encompasses ways of being that some men reject or even feel imprisoned by. As a human being, I can sympathise with and support their desire for change. Yet cries that ‘patriarchy hurts men too’ leave the feminist in me unmoved. These positions are not mutually exclusive, but feminism needs to centre on women’s oppression, tinkering with gender equality will never produce the change for women that feminism demands. Whilst feminism must ensure that the additional structural oppressions faced by some women are not ignored and cannot be blind to the ways that class and race bring advantages for some women and disadvantages for others, the focus must be on women’s oppressions, not on men.
When we look at male violence against women, the difference between a liberal and a radical feminist analysis is the difference between looking for individual or class solutions. One of the biggest gains of feminism is getting male violence against women on to the policy agenda and almost seen as a mainstream issue. The biggest threat against this gain, is that those male dominated institutions of power, under the auspices of dealing with the problem, have shaken all but the barest hint of feminist analysis from discourse on the issue. To end male violence against women, we need to end male power, and dismantle all the institutions that uphold male supremacy. It is this power that creates and is reinforced by male violence against women. We will never end male violence by believing that we can change one man at a time, though sensitising education programmes. We will never end male violence against women by being gentle to men and sympathetic to the harms of masculinity to men, not without destroying the institutions that uphold and create male supremacy. We will never end male violence against women, against children, even against other men, if we fail to recognise and name men as the overwhelming primary perpetrators of almost all forms of violence.
Male involvement in the field of male violence against women became ‘men can be victims too’, became the failure to name male violence and this allows male violence against women as a cause and consequence of inequality to continue. How many men genuinely choose not to see the massive imbalance that is violence between the sexes, male violence against women? How many men do not know that rape, assault and murder of women are wrong? Men who want to support women in our struggle to end male violence need to join us naming the problem, they should not need to demand access to our spaces to do so. Men need to see male violence against women as the problem, not create women’s violence against men as a false equivalent and not place this as secondary to them learning how not to be harmed by masculinity. When we look at homicide, there is no sex equivalence, women are overwhelmingly killed by men; men too, are overwhelmingly killed by men. When men kill their women partners and ex-partners, it is usually after subjecting them to years of abuse, the comparatively few women who kill male partners or exes, usually do so after they themselves have been subject to years of abuse. There is no equivalence, not in rate, not in precursor to killing. Men need to learn to listen to feminists, to learn from us, rather than fight to have their voices be the ones that feminists listen to.
If our goal as feminists is not mass social change, the eradication of male power, but gradual blurring of the boundaries between what is deemed masculine and feminine, then sex inequality will never be erased. None of this means that men do not have a role in creating change, but that feminism has a particular role in creating how we understand the change that is needed. We can’t create equality from a system that is predicated upon inequality. We cannot afford for feminism to become the fight for gender equality rather than the end of male supremacy. This is why feminism cannot be for or about men. If our feminism does not make this obvious, which sex benefits from things staying as they are?
Karen Ingala Smith, read the full article here.