This message brought to you on behalf of entitled, scared men everywhere...

This message brought to you on behalf of entitled, scared men everywhere… (see more on the ‘equality trap’)

I do love my subscription to the OED word of the day mailing list, and metagrobolize is just too good a word to forget; thus I need to use it a bunch and get it implanted into my vocabulary, pardon my logophilia.

I’ve been reading with much more frequency as late definitions of feminism in which the stated goal of feminism is for women to achieve equal rights with men and then, once this goal has been achieved, *poof* the need for feminism is over.   It would seem a large proportion of male commentators (and some females as well) believe that we have reached this post-feminist age and women should just STFU already and revel in how damn good it is for them.

I find this analysis of feminism problematic because if focuses on the individual struggle rather that the broader struggle women face as class in patriarchal society.  Bell Hooks does an admirable job of describing exactly what is problematic with the focus of much of what liberal feminism is all about.

“Like revolutionaries working to change the lot of colonized people globally, it is necessary for feminist activists to stress that the ability to see and describe one’s own reality is a significant step in the process of self-recovery, but it only a beginning. When women internalized the idea that describing their own woe was synonymous with developing a critical political consciousness, the progress of feminist movement was stalled.  Starting form such incomplete perspectives, it is not surprising that theories and strategies were developed that were collectively inadequate and misguided.  To correct this inadequacy  past analysis we must now encourage women to develop a keen, comprehensive understand of women’s political reality.  Broad perspectives can only emerge as we examine both the personal that is political, the politics of society as a whole, and global revolutionary politics. 

[…]    By repudiating the popular notion that the focus of the feminist movement should be social equality of the sexes and by emphasizing eradication of the cultural basis of group oppression, our own analysis would require an exploration of all aspects of women’s political reality.  This would mean that race and class oppression would be recognized as feminist issues with as much relevance as sexism.”

-Bell Hooks: Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center, p.26-27

The equality trap is quite endemic in liberal feminism, it is easily derailed by dudes into making feminism about them and their problems (many a precious male tear has been shed about specific instances where they happen to get the short end of the stick, thus proving that if you were *really* about equality you would fix this problem too).  Past the problem of dudes (MRA’s in particular, whose goal seems only to be a race to sully as many comments sections as possible with their misogyny) that other problem is that much of liberal feminism largely ignores the structural features of society that reinforce, replicate, and promulgate the patriarchal norms of society that what are causing the problems in the first place.

How does one achieve ‘equality’ when the normative features of society intrinsically promote systemic inequality? Ignoring the power gradients and class structure of society in feminist analysis is essentially reinforcing the status quo.  Dudes love much of what liberal feminism offers as their power and status in society is not threatened in the very least by much of what liberal feminism advocates.  Grrl ‘power’ and exercising your ‘right’ to express your femininity may feel very empowerful as an individual, but does it advance the cause of women as a class (see also much of the dude positive, sex-positive ballyhoo that’s floating around)?    This is not intended as a smackdown of any particular brand of feminism because engaging in any sort of feminist activity is in itself a revolutionary act.

However, sometimes a different tool-set is required to identify, undermine. and ultimately smash the toxic patriarchal constructs our society is based on – reading people like Bell Hooks, Gail Dines, Andrea Dworkin are a great place to start.