Thursday, August 9, 2012

Beware the Marginalization of Women in Feminism

It's become abundantly clear to me that some people's biggest problem with many feminists is the intentional and therefore uppity centering of women in which many feminists engage.

Taken to an extreme, some men's entitlement to always be centered in all narratives everywhere becomes apparent when the failure to center men then becomes their working definition of "misandry."

In Joanna Russ's To Write Like a Woman: Essays on Feminism and Science Fiction, she surveyed both feminist and (what would today be called) MRA/anti-feminist science fiction. She noticed that a common theme among feminist science fiction was women building their own societies free from men, male aggression, and war.

I don't agree with the simplistic gender essentialism and trans*misogyny implicated in the premises of some of the books she surveys, but I will note that these societies are (some)women-centric.

The MRA/anti-feminist themes, in contrast, tended to run along the lines of men entering women's simultaneously all-powerful-yet-totally-stupid-and-incompetent "gynocracies" and over-taking these societies via the incredible power of their penises and/or some other phallic object.  In one story, a male character lands on a female-only planet, the remnants of an ancient sex war that he describes as having been"'started by some idiotic feminist movement somewhere.'" ("Presumably," Russ interjects, "the same idiots who built the Lunar Battle Computer.")

She then notes:
"In three of the ten stories, women are not actively engaged in fighting men; they have merely withdrawn from men's company- but the challenge to male domination is seen as identical."
And, while the women in the MRA/anti-feminist stories are often framed as wanting to do away with men, the men are not willing to do away with women. It's as though the men require the existence of a separate group, perhaps their sex/gender "opposites," to exist on the periphery, whom they can be dominant over.

Russ ended by noting that while the feminist stories were grounded in the women characters' yearning to defend themselves and a desire to, for once, be central figures rather than marginals objects, the anti-feminist stories not only weren't written for women, they weren't even about women. They were written by people who seemed to know nothing about women and very little about feminism. Indeed, the common theme of the stories was of men drafting "a permanent class of worshippers"and subordinates- women- who would keep men central.

When men complain that (lady?) feminists don't talk enough about men while simultaneously stating that they don't even want us to talk about men since we don't do it well anyway, I see not only incoherence and an ineffective strategy for men's advocacy, but a similar pattern.

We are at once all-powerful in the realm of gender talk and totally taken seriously by all members of society, yet also totally inept at talking about gender.

Now, to be clear, I do think men have a place in feminism. I certainly try to write thoughtfully and adequately about men's issues- and I do so despite the ignorant men who don't read my blog yet who nonetheless mansplain at me not to be "too self-congratulatory about" doing so since feminists "are bad at it anyway." I also think the work that many feminists, even if woman-centric, can tangentially help men's lives. And, I admire the work that some male feminists are doing with respect to talking about gender issues from a male and male-centric perspective.

Yet, if you scratch the surface, some critiques of feminism don't seem to be written for feminists. For, if they were, they would include some sort of meaningful call to action and some thoughtful organizing of men beyond feeding into their anger, hatred, and resentment of and at feminism and feminists. Some critiques seem to serve the purpose of giving men the justification to say, "See, that's why I'll never be a feminist," even if, in reality, they actually have many points of agreements with many feminists.

These critiques, often treating feminism in absurdly generalized monolithic "the feminists" and "feminism" language, also aren't often about specific, actual feminists who actually write stuff in the real world (unless they're named Andrea Dworkin or Valeria Solanas). They're aimed, just kinda in general, at "feminism," bemoaning it for not creating the same shitstorms for men that it does for women.

It's still not clear why men don't start these shit-storms they want started on their own, whether they call themselves feminists or not.

That they don't, makes some (many? most?) critiques rendered by non-feminists appear instead to be about trying to tear down those who make women and women's concerns central.

Some of them don't seem to want us to go away, they just .... want us to STFU and let them do the talking about gender if we can't even center men, okay?

Like I said, the critiques are not always coherent or even written for us.

From some of these voices, we can barely get a begrudging concession that many feminists might be busy talking about things that are important to women's lives, even if we do care very much about men. What that tells me is that such people don't seem too care much about learning about women or feminism, they just know they don't like that we're talking about women *gasp* more than we we're talking about men!! And we can't have that now, can we?

Even if we're not actively hating men (and most of us, I reckon, don't hate men), what we're not doing is centering them. It seems as though the threat to male dominance is seen as identical.

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