Everyone views the world through their own particular lenses, which are constructed by their many personal experiences and understandings of the world. My world is viewed through gender and inequality radar-goggles.There is a fair amount to see through these goggles at the moment.
The capitalist-patriarchal world we live in only serves a few – that is: all men and especially middle and upper class white men.
Power is concentrated at levels never seen before, entirely avoidable poverty is rampant, environments world over are sacrificed for momentary whims of ‘modern living’ and monetary greed. Women and their children are found at the bottom of the heap – time and time again. This is a major concern of mine. Because, I am a women. I have children. And 51% of the world are women (or however they identify themselves to be, by this I mean not cis-male). Believe it or not, we were all children once. Also, many of us are likely to have children ourselves.
Then, and this is where it gets wild, children become adults, and that is how humans make more humans. Thus we should all be concerned. We should all be feminist.
Still I’m really confused as to why some people don’t identify as feminist, or reject the need for or notion of feminism completely. Far too many people just opt out. Either because they can or because they do not know (we don’t know until we know, right?). Dangerously, for those who ‘can’ it is because they are not directly effected by the ills of the world, by oppression or injustice, or at least they think they aren’t. Patriarchy is designed in their favour, or mabye they choose to ignore it?
I don’t know all the reasons that people find feminism a hard pill to swallow. But one thing I know for sure is the media and our own systems, such as the education system, mislead us. We are raised to believe that, at least in the western world, or the ‘developed’ world, we are now all equal. There is a woman CEO, and Helen Clark might be the UN something a rather. Naaw, that is just so nice. I’ve only just heard the news. I’ll stop all my whingeing now. JUST KIDDDDDDDING. Check our history…..we have come a long way, yes, but there is a long road still to march.
Now, some people don’t identify as feminist and fight capitalism and patriarchy because they are far to busy SURVIVING. Kind of hard to figure out why you are living in a rubbish dump with your children, if you actually live on the scraps of humanity. Or why, despite your absolute best efforts, and the hardest of work, you are still living in a car in New Zealand. There are simply more important and urgent things to do. The oppressed are just that. Oppressed. It is really hard to fight back, or to even know that there is a struggle going on, if your immediate, base human needs are not being met. This is how capitalism and patriarchy are designed. This is how it works. Power and resources to the few, scraps for everyone else, and if anyone complains, chuck em’ a bone. Or shut them up completely (round up the activitists, throw away the key!)
Here are a few other ideas I have as to why people avoid feminism.
- They think it makes them seem aggressive or unattractive
- They think they have a good lot in life, and that everyone just needs to try their best to achieve freedom/equality/equity and so on
- OR they don’t understand the language used in feminist or political discussion
Now, this is where I want to Flip the Script. Language is a massive barrier for so many people. Illiteracy is a massive problem in shutting millions out of the conversation (and must be the subject of another post entirely). Even if you are literate – language can remain an obstacle. I know this from discussions with friends about feminism. The blank stares and replies of ‘ahhh’ say it all. I am sorry if I ever contribute to this, I’m sure I do. I said cis-male in the third paragraph for goodness sake.
I want to remedy this, and collaborate with you all.
Here is an absolutely non-exhaustive list of some amazing vocabulary that I believe we all need to wrap our brains and tongues around. It is collated from the ideas of many feminists, and not necessarily always my own – it is a moving beast. Please, hit me back in the comments if you would like to add to this list. It was first published by Freerange Press in 2015…. you can download the journal it first appeared in, at the same time as making a $5 donation to the Women’s Refugee. Win win!
Say what? Feminist, queer and revolutionary vocabulary
Some say it is about the equality or equity of the sexes, but when ‘sex’ isn’t that simple – and there is more than ‘man’ and ‘woman’ in this world – you see that feminism is rather complex! It is a movement and analysis that recognises the inseparable combinations that exist between patriarchy, cis-male (“status quo-male”) privilege, capitalism, homophobia and white privilege to name a few. It is the knowledge that these combinations form political, social and economic power structures, which create injustices for and oppress non cis-male people. Feminism is a lens in which to view and understand the world – a vehicle for change.
Patriarchy describes male-dominated power structures, which permeate throughout organised society, in political systems as well as in individual relationships. It is systemic bias against women and non cis-male people. Patriarchy can be recognised as the intuitions and companies that are run in the majority by men that mostly benefit men; where taking maternity leave or breastfeeding a baby at work is a problem; where being a transsexual makes using the toilets an issue. Patriarchy is also a family group or community controlled by powerful men – fathers and grandfathers who give more privilege to boys and men in that group.
Patriarchy is a world that benefits cis-men over everyone else. Patriarchy describes male-dominated power structures, which permeate throughout organised society, in political systems as well as in individual relationships. It is systemic bias against women and non cis-male people. Patriarchy can be recognised as the intuitions and companies that are run in the majority by men that mostly benefit men; where taking maternity leave or breastfeeding a baby at work is a problem; where being a transsexual makes using the toilets an issue. Patriarchy is also a family group or community controlled by powerful men – fathers and grandfathers who give more privilege to boys and men in that group. Patriarchy is a world that benefits cis-men over everyone else.
Gender essentialism is such a commonly held belief that most people wouldn’t know they hold it. It drives many unconscious behaviours and forms the basis of most patriarchal, misogynistic and sexist actions, arguments and discussions. It is the basic idea that men and women act in inherently different ways and as such have different options in life because of intrinsic biological differences between the genders.
Gender essentialism often excuses gender-based oppressions and discriminations in societies, such as what roles parents play, what jobs people hold, expectations held of each other and skill bases. Gender essentialism simultaneously reinforces gender stereotypes, while being informed by them. Gender essentialism relies on the perpetuation of a binary, polarised world, free of ambiguity, where two neat tidy genders exist and know their place in the world.
‘Cis’ (pronounced ‘sis’) is Latin for ‘on the side of’ and is the antonym to ‘trans’ meaning ‘on the other side/across from’. Cis-male and cis-female people are those who feel there is a match between their assigned birth sex and the gender they feel themselves to be, in contrast to transsexual people. The term was created so cis-men and cis-women aren’t seen as the normal standard from which everyone else deviates, whereby people such as transsexuals and LBGTIQ would be viewed as abnormal.
LGBT – LGBTI – LGBTIQ – These initials mean ‘Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender/sexual, Intersex, Queer’, and represent the diversity in sexualities, genders and cultures that are subject to discrimination, persecution and violence globally. They can also be used to refer to someone who is non-heterosexual/cis-gendered.
To quote Mani Mitchell: ‘Intersex is a medical umbrella term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.’
A dislike, ingrained prejudice and/or contempt of women which can manifest in numerous ways, including sexual discrimination, violence against women and the sexual objectification of women.
Oppressed, repressed or suppressed?
To oppress is to keep a person or group powerless by unjust force or authority. To repress is to hold back by coercion, or hold down by force. Suppression means to put an end to, to inhibit, and to keep from being revealed (knowledge or recognition for example). These are some of patriarchy’s best-prized tools in the power tool kit.
The unjust or prejudicial treatment of different groups of people, usually based on the grounds of race, age, or sex or sexuality.
First wave feminism
Feminism initially emerged from the Western world to the backdrop of the age of the Enlightenment (1650s – 1780s) when analysis, reason and the individualistic thinking of philosophers and scientists challenged traditional authorities of the Church and Throne. Debates around women, colonialism and slavery abound, however women were almost entirely kept from the table, creating a pro-male movement. Then came the intense industrialisation of the West in the 1800s, starting in Europe. For women this meant further burden in addition to childbearing and mammoth Victorian work loads running small holdings and households; women and children now also worked in factories and businesses, but had none of the rights afforded to men to safeguard their working conditions, politics of the day or land and sexual rights.
Fed up with their lot, women of the Commonwealth and America demanded change. The defining struggle for the first wave was women winning the battle for the vote. The suffragette movement officially started in America at the Seneca Falls Convention, 1848, but New Zealand was the first country where all women could vote in 1893, followed by America in 1920 and Britain in 1928. This was feminism by and for the white middle and upper-class women and their families. For this reason the second wave was born.
Second wave feminism
Loosely framed by the civil rights movement and anti-Vietnam War protests of the 1960s through to the neoliberal politics of the 1980s and 1990s, the second wave sought emancipation and equality for women on the basis of economics, sexuality and politics. There was a growing recognition of the multiple oppressions and battles that women faced in this wave. Where black women, lesbian women and indigenous women from all around the world had been left out of the equation, there was now some representation for them in feminism. Connections were made between broad political structures such as capitalism, war, patriarchy and heteronormativity, as well as the roles of women as wives and mothers. Sex and gender were differentiated as a biological base and social constructs. Sexuality and reproductive rights became central issues. The women’s struggle was associated with the class struggle, the personal was now political, and everyone was invited to bang a drum on the march.
Third wave feminism
Although many legal and institutional rights had now been granted to women as a result of the second wave, the 1990s children of the second wave feminists had something else to say. Informed by post-colonial and post-modern thinking, they wanted changes in media representation of women and of gender stereotyping. The focus shifted from what was good for all women, based on the personal being political, to ‘micro-politics’, where women were encouraged to use their own personal identities to define what being a feminist meant to them. A woman could wear lipstick and high heels, run a boardroom and still be a feminist. Language such as ‘slut’ and ‘bitch’, deemed misogynistic in the second wave, was reclaimed in order to suffocate sexist language.
The fourth wave
Has it arrived and when? It is differentiated from its predecessors by its use of the internet. The fourth wave’s creation-in-action is evidenced online in forums, blogs, social media and clicktavism causes. The third wave’s increasing intersectionality has brought all sorts of individuals and groups into the frame and to the screen. There is no one experience, no one feminism. However, the fourth wave also looks back to the second to inform its arguments about the state of the world, a world controlled by patriarchal capitalists and run by the West, taking into account issues such as climate change, severe poverty and systemic racism.
Intersectionality describes the ways in which oppressive institutions (racism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, classism, ageism etc.) are all interconnected and cannot be seen, challenged or unravelled separately. This concept first came from Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989, and helps us to understand the complexities of individual experience and systemic oppressions.
For as many women as there are in the world, there are arguably as many feminisms. Check them out sometime! Eco-feminism, Marxist, socialist, mana wahine, radical, liberal, post-modern, post-structural, anarcha-fem, new age, black, womanist, separatist, cultural, lesbian, Chicana, standpoint, libertarian……feminism to name a few.
Heteronormativity are the actions of a gender essentialist’s ideal world, one in which men and women fall into distinct categories with clear roles and expectations, where heterosexuality is the norm reinforced in power structures such as legislation and the media.
Attitudes, bias and discriminations that favour opposite sex relationships and heteronormativity. It is based on the presumption that people are heterosexual – the expected ‘superior’ norm.
The powerful combination of a heterosexual bias society run by a patriarchy. Most nation-states and ruling classes could be described as such. From America to Saudi Arabia, from New Zealand to Indonesia. Where straight men rule the roost.
Where people socialise with their own gender most of the time, or in certain situations such as work or sports teams. Homosocialisation reinforces gender stereotypes, gender roles, gendered division of time, education and work. It is self-perpetuating.
An acronym for Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist. Feminists who state that trans-women aren’t really women, thinking the only women are those born with a vagina and XX chromosomes. Gender essentialists through and through.
Sex Worker Exclusionary Radical Feminism, which opposes women’s participation in prostitution and pornography. Swerfs sometimes and often unintentionally, do not include sex-workers in conversations and debate.
An internet troll/trolling
Someone who finds pleasure in seeking opportunities to disrupt and derail discussions and debates in online forums, blogs and social media. For the fun of pointless argument, and sometimes more sinisterly, to meaninglessly detract attention from important conversations.
When the audience is constructed from the perspective of heterosexual men. The male gaze is so powerful in media that it now dictates the content of most mainstream films, TV, music videos and advertisements. Men are situated as the watchers, women as watched; men active, women passive. Buy the product, get the girl or be the girl. Think car ads, female roles in action films, central-main characters on TV and superheros.
Rape culture as a term is designed to show the ways in which society blames victims of sexual assault and normalises male sexual violence. It is a culture that encourages boys and men to be macho and aggressive, and girls and women to be submissive and compliant. A society that allows a quarter of women and girls to be raped or sexually assaulted, and 1/6 of men and boys. Where 3 per cent of rapists are jailed after just 6 per cent of rapes and assaults are ever reported. A social culture in which rape jokes and cat calls are heard and normalised, where the male gaze pervades pop music and the visual arts. Where children are sexualised by clothing and toy companies. Rape culture has implications for all and is everyone’s issue regardless of gender.
HIT ME WITH MORE IDEAS PEOPLE…….