|The Thistle||Volume 13, Number 2: Sept./Oct., 2000.|
The Angry Feminist
The most powerful tool of any oppressor is marginalizing those who stand up against them. In few cases has this weapon been employed against a group more thoroughly than it has against women. Just stop for a moment and think about the imagery that the term FEMINIST conjures up in your mind, especially if you do not consider yourself to be one. Almost invariably you will find mixed among whatever personal experiences you may have had the now classic image of the angry, man eating, lesbian, bitch. But how many of this rare breed have any of us actually met. (Personally I have never met one, but I sure hope I do someday.) Now ask yourself why is this image so universal if the personalities are so rare. The answer to this question is quite simply that those men who perpetuate the culture of male dominance are COWARDS. They are so terrified of loosing their power or of even facing a strong, intelligent, passionate woman that they have to invested a tremendous effort in using propaganda and the mass media to propagate the so called cult of true womanhood. In other words they have helped to create a culture where women are defined in respect to a male created model of femininity that values vulnerability, passivity, softness, incompetence, domesticity, infantilization, and narcissism. By marginalizing all women in this way they hope to mold subjects through socialization who will just sit back and accept their subordinate position as a natural one and thus outside of their ability to change. This image has the added benefit to these phallus wielders of making any woman who stands up to them and who breaks the mold they created by definition abnormal and therefore something easy to dismiss out of hand. This definition of femininity and its cultural implications are the true origins of the myth of the asexual man hating feminist.
In fact, this image of feminists has been around almost as long as there have been feminists. One has only to look back to the suffrage movement in this country when modern feminism was first brought into the public sphere to see what I mean. The early suffragettes were seen as neurotic victims of penis envy who wanted to be men and who were so frustrated by their inability to do so that they wanted to destroy all men in an act of bitter revenge. When one actually looks a little deeper one finds that many of those early heroines like Mary Wollstoncraft, Angelina Grimke, Ernestine Rose, Margaret Fuller, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Julia Ward Howe, and Margaret Sanger were all married and openly and deeply passionate towards their lovers in a time when this was not socially acceptable. But just as important as their private lives, it must be realized that their desire to fight for equality was not defined in relation to any man, but instead came from a drive deep within themselves and was the same force that drove those women who choose never to marry like Susan B. Anthony. When these women were fighting for the right to vote and for the reform of property and marriage laws they were often met with argument that involving women in the world of industry or politics would destroy their gentler nature. Even the social revolutionary Karl Marx could not escape this type of thinking and on a number of occasions held up the fact that capitalism “forces” women into the workforce as evidence of the moral degradation caused by this economic system. If such a progressive mind as Marx could help propagate the cult of true womanhood, what chance did the truth have against the reactionary men trying to hold on to the power they possessed.
If one skips ahead to the 1960’s when the modern incarnation of feminism finally broke through the suffocating culture of the 1950’s one finds the same types of imagery pop up to once again try and lump all feminists into a single box and then shove them off to the fringes of society. It was during this time that the image of the asexual spinster so common in the early suffrage movement changed slightly to better fit the times and became the image of the butch lesbian wearing a crew cut, burning bras, and never shaving. Feminist, however, retained their angry man hating status which still served to frighten the more conservative women and all but a handful of men from actually examining the movement for themselves and finding out the truth. The truth was that, like the suffragettes, the feminists of the 1960’s were bold, intelligent, fearless women who reclaimed their sexuality and began the work of liberating themselves and their generation from the overt discrimination still so rampant in education, the workplace, and in society at large. Unfortunately, the assholes of this era reaped an unexpected benefit of this type of counter revolutionary propaganda by forcing some of the feminists of the era to try and live up to the radical name they had been given and in doing so they polarized the movement and did in fact scare away many of the people needed to effect real social change.
So how do we overcome this powerful if predictable tool of the oppressor if it is able to so easily turn those fighting against it into “crazies” who are easily dismissed. That is a question which, unfortunately, I do not have an answer for. My only hope is that the more people aquatint themselves with the true nature of feminism, the more first hand experience will replace the official propaganda. Once people are no longer afraid to label themselves or their friends feminists, the media and those who control the media will find it much harder to convince us what women or men should look or act like and we will all be begin to be able to develop free from gender stereotypes. Feminism is not about women seizing power and wielding it for themselves in domination of men, nor is it about forcing the same behavior upon us all. Feminists do not suffer from penis envy just because they want to compete in the same world as men, nor are they amoral sexual degenerates just because they seek to lay claim to their own bodies and their own sexuality and do not want to be shackled by the creations of the male dominated fashion industry. Feminism as I see and feel it is about bringing about the freedom necessary to take us all one step closer to being truly human, and that is a message which no amount of advertising or propaganda will be able to suppress forever as long as we continue to fight with all our strength.
|The Thistle||Volume 13, Number 2: Sept./Oct., 2000.|