The Mysterious Case of the Feminist Non-Revolution

Patriarchy is a raw and brutal deal for everyone, that is true, but it is women and children and marginalised men who pay the biggest price. We feminists never started this so-called battle of the sexes, but we are going to end it and we are certainly going to win.

When is a revolution not a revolution? When it's about Women's Liberation of course; surprise, surprise. I'm tired of a feminism that acquiesces, of a feminism that smashes its own foundation instead of the patriarchy. Feminism is a global, political social justice movement for the liberation of women and society based on equality for all people. Yet unfortunately, all too often proponents of feminism spend their valuable time and energies excusing themselves and their politics and trying to persuade everyone that feminism is not a big hairy scary threat, like some spider lurking in your supermarket bananas.

I'm talking of course about the feminism that asks questions later and apologises first. I'm talking about feminists who maintain and promote the misogynist myths about feminism by, ironically, underpinning them every time they bleat on about these myths being lies. We don't need to keep apologising to men for our existence, proud history and promising future. We don't need to keep assuring the world that feminist politics are good for everyone. We don't need to keep reassuring everyone that not all feminists are lesbians and that we don't hate men. Stop apologising for our movement! Reject and don't repeat the homophobia and misogyny which gives such refrains their power, and means they are wrongly understood universally as being an insult in the first place.

At the risk of doing exactly what I'm rallying against, of course feminism is not about hating men and of course, in the long run, feminist politics are good for everyone, including men. The real question we should be asking though is not, ad infinitum and incessantly, do feminists hate men; but instead, why do so many men appear to hate women? We need to get real, if some women do hate men that should hardly be a surprise, given what some men do to women and given what our male dominated culture does to women. What is actually amazing is that more women don't hate men, given the cultural tide of unchecked and unremarkable woman-hating that we are overwhelmed with on a daily basis. What is admirable is the unflinching and brave optimism of feminism in the face of that, with its defining belief that men and women are human beings capable of change and capable of doing things better than this.

We need to get real about what a revolutionary social justice movement actually is. It involves change I'm afraid. Sorry, but you can't have some sort of fluffy revolution that leaves everything intact the way it is, that's called maintaining a status-quo, that would be a non-revolution. But that seems to be exactly what some people think feminism is all about. Too many seem reassured by the notion that feminism will just unfold one day like a daffodil, and that nothing needs to alter and nobody will find the process challenging or difficult, and everyone will see how it makes their lives better while miraculously not changing their lives one bit. Revolutionary movements are a threat to the status-quo; that's their whole purpose.

Let's go back to basics for a moment. Feminism is a movement for women's liberation; liberation from male supremacy otherwise known as patriarchy. Feminism takes as a given that society is currently unequal along the lines of sex and it exists in reaction to that and strives to end that unbalanced and unhealthy situation. However, too often in feminist narratives I see things like unequal pay, rape and sexual abuse and the underrepresentation of women in power for example, treated like accidents; as if these things just happen like bad weather. Feminism is portrayed as some sort of philanthropy that grew up around these unfortunate events; events which nobody likes, and which everyone wishes would stop happening and doesn't really know why they keep on happening. The inconvenient truth is that we aren't all in this together. Oppression doesn't abide by equal opportunities law; it isn't fifty-fifty, it doesn't affect all people equally nor is it perpetrated by all people equally. Hate crime, marginalisation, discrimination and violence follow the false but all too real fault lines we have constructed in society; they follow the lines of sex, race and class for example. Feminism cannot go forward as a movement tackling symptoms while not naming the cause. Women's oppression and sexual violence against women is not an accident of nature. Women as a group are oppressed because men as a group oppress women.

Men as a group or class benefit in varying degrees from this current unequal situation which many of them see as the norm because it is the norm. Many men also rightly perceive feminism as a threat to whatever privileges they enjoy as a result of this current inequality. This perception may be conscious or purely instinctive, but either way, too many men are defensive and angry about feminism because they regard even minor and liberal claims for equality as an attack. Their anti-feminism can be seen as a form of self-defence which is in actuality a superiority-defence. Their anxiety is by no means misplaced.

It seems that many men can see what some feminists cannot, or refuse to see, which is that feminism is indeed a threat to men, all of them, every single one, even the nice ones. The goal of women's liberation involves righting the unequal balance between women and men. That doesn't mean leaving the system as it is but with women in charge instead of men, that's a simplistic, reductionist and offensive caricature of feminism. Instead it means changing the whole system so that power is not something you hold and use over as many other people as you can for your own gain, but something you share amongst for the benefit of all. In order for a feminist revolution to actually happen, men will have to lose some of the, albeit varying, benefits they gain from women's oppression. That won't happen overnight, nor will it happen easily, nor should we expect men as a whole to embrace the concept with open arms.

So, if we can get through this business without taking up arms then we're doing well. A more equal and just world, one no longer built on competition and hierarchy, would indeed be better for everyone and most men are not profiteering a great deal from patriarchy. Patriarchy is a raw and brutal deal for everyone, that is true, but it is women and children and marginalised men who pay the biggest price. We feminists never started this so-called battle of the sexes, but we are going to end it and we are certainly going to win. Forty years ago our Sisters knew then what we know now, which is that nothing lasts forever and that change is inevitable.

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