Thursday, January 13, 2011

Gold Rings and Hand Grenades

[TW: Violence]

Now, this article, entitled "'Feminism' in Gaza: Women Train as Suicide Bombers," is bizarre. It begins:

"'Terrorist feminists' in Hamas-controlled Gaza are training to be suicide bombers and to shoot machine guns to kill Israelis."

While also disturbing, I say this article is bizarre because the article uses quotations to call these women "terrorist feminists," but nowhere does the journalist indicate who is calling them that or why their actions are particularly "feminist." The article continues, offering only this sort-of explanation as to how the women are "feminists":

"The women said they see nothing unusual in fighting alongside men because women also serve in the 'Zionist' army. One woman wore gold rings on one hand while holding a hand grenade in the other."

Based only on what's presented in the article, I gather that the journalist is calling these women "terrorist feminists" solely because they are women doing something, in this case terrorism, that is stereotypically masculine. Yet, if female terrorists are feminists, what are male terrorists?

Within the answer to this question lies the biggest pitfall of so-called equality feminism.

When a society that constantly denigrates femininity defines feminism as "equality between men and women," stereotypically feminine traits, like caring and nonviolence, are rejected as inferior while stereotypically masculine traits, such as domination and violence, are upheld and viewed as the default and universally human. So, rather than dismantling violent patriarchal values, some see it as a feminist success story for women to do anything a man can do, even if it is suicide bombing.

When this happens, anti-feminists, such as the author of this particular cited piece, note with glee what "feminism" has wrought for women, the implication being that we need to get our asses back into the kitchen and STFU because obviously this shows us ladies that we didn't realize how good we had it there.

In one sense, these female terrorists are breaking down the gender binary by demonstrating that, despite their pretty shiny lady rings, they are capable of the stereotypically-masculine endeavor of inflicting great violence upon others. Those who insist that certain traits are inherently male or inherently female, essentialist thinking that is seen among some feminists and anti-feminists alike, would do well to remember these women.

Indeed, Riane Eisner has aptly noted that the dominator gender stereotypes, these violent values that women are expected to assimilate themselves into in a so-called post-feminist world, are learned.

Yet, it is sometimes overlooked that just as women are imprisoned within the gender binary and are not allowed to be fully-human, neither are men. Within the alleged universality of manhood, it is therefore forgotten that being a man is a particular, rather than a general, experience. The unstated assumption is that how men learn to be is how people just inherently are.

If, unlike men, female terrorists are by definition feminists and their gender is notable when referring to them, it is implied that men who kill are only fulfilling their natural god-given role as members of the murderer class. It means that men who kill cannot be expected to do better because violence is a fundamental part of what men are, an unflattering and frightening definition of manhood that too many nonetheless embrace.

Equality means that, if killers are what men are, killers are what women must become because what men are is what "people" are.

Is that really our feminist struggle?

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