equality vs liberation.
Someone wrote to me some time back – one of those folks who claim that feminism is an irrational rant, and that men are the ones who are discriminated against. (For any further explanation on that head, sorry – youll have to question this species yourself!) why, they demanded triumphantly, do feminists never fight to be in the army? At the time I was too impatient to say much beyond this:
1. factually incorrect. There are feminist movements demanding that women be allowed into the armed forces.
2. I personally am for peace: violence is always a last option, and even then, it is not a solution. so I wouldn’t ever fight for access to violence – for man or woman.
Lets toss some ideas around shall we….
Lets start with the same army issue. Feminism is often open to a lot of misinterpretation because there is no one spokeswoman, no one definition. In this army issue too, there are different stands amongst the feminists. These are the two main camps-
One group of feminists thinks the right to defend and protect should be a feminist cause. Only first class citizens are allowed to defend their state and protect it. Their contention therefore, is that women should not be denied this privilege and treated as second class citizens simply because of their sex. Another angle is that women should protect women and children, and not allow it to be a male prerogative (breaking the habit of learned helplessness). Which indisputably does make sense.
The other group of feminists thinks that since the army is such a patriarchy stronghold, women cannot survive in the army without trying to play by the system – and when a woman slaps her thigh, mocks ten subordinates with sexual innuendos and helps to beat up a prisoner to show that shes as “ballsy” as any male soldier, she is doing herself and womenkind a lot of harm. The stories of the army’s ill treatment of women, of the kind of humiliation that women suffer in the armed forces are beyond count. So this camps contention is “are we liberated just because we can be as brutal as men?” While we may gain equality that way, liberation is still a far cry.
It is sad that for most of us, the feminine principle is only defined around the masculine: we simply look at the masculine and say yeah, everything that’s not like that is feminine. And so women remain the “other sex”. Unimportant, and not worthy of thought.
Even people who are liberal and progressive, speak of giving women “the same rights of men”. When are we going to stop and look at what women are entitled to in their own right?! This may seem like nitpicking, because when you look at gender neutral stuff like the right to education or religion, then this attitude doesn’t seem to particularly handicap the women, right? But consider something like reproductive health, contraception, birth control, abortion, safe sex, pregnancy and motherhood - all these intrinsically female concerns get ignored.
Patriarchy, while affecting women the most, also has its damaging effects on men. Women have been methodically taught to hate their bodies, that anything natural is ugly. That’s not news. But men are taught this too, and everyday in increasing doses. This morning I saw a tube of fairness cream for men. Ah-a! Welcome to our world. Now they too can spend heaps of money, time and effort to no avail, trying desperately to match up to unrealistic stereotypes. Now were all equal….. and in chains together.
nope. even if it were real, equality is no substitute for liberation.
Labels: feminist issues