Feminism is Hurting Itself

“I think you can love a person too much.”

You put someone up on a pedestal, and all of a sudden, from that perspective, you notice what’s wrong – a hair out of place, a run in a stocking, a broken bone. You spend all your time and energy making it right, and all the while, you are falling apart yourself. You don’t even realize what you look like, how far you’ve deteriorated because you only have eyes for someone else.” 
― Jodi PicoultHandle with Care

We’re currently living in a high-pressured kettle that could blow at any moment. From political upheaval all across America, from climate-deniers claiming the government is at fault for weather anomalies like Hurrican Irma, Jose, and Katria. Black Lives Matter has been accused of being racist? All the while, American history was founded upon slavery.

There is a particular social issue that is close to my heart, mainly because I grew up with a foster-mother who was passionate about women’s equality. She taught me the value, importance and ethical responsibilities that came with defending those who society-at-large marginalized. She was very vocal. I remember that she told me she walked away from the Church because a male pastor told her, she would not be allowed to come back unless she wore a dress (she wore pants). So, she never went to church again, she walked away from institutional religion altogether!  She taught me from a young age that women were inherently equal. Intrinsically valuable.

Ironically, I grew up in the same house she did, with a physically abusive father/husband. It took her a long to eventually stick up for herself; as kids, we didn’t know what to do. We feared our dad. But, I remember one day, my dad came home from work with holes in his face. He told me something dropped on his face at work, and that was it. No one questioned it. Years later, before my mom died, she told me it was her. She had, had it! She decided to stay with my dad (not sure I agree with that!) but that he was not going to hurt her anymore. The years ahead were filled with a precarious foundation of power-taking between my mom and dad. They would still get in fights. My dad would still threaten, but this time, my mom would respond with the same aggression, claiming it was feminism. Now, this leads me to my point of this article.

If feminism defines itself as simply a mirror to what it’s against, namely things like patriarchy, machismo, male-centered, gender-based value statements and claims, and misogyny and offers no balanced alternatives, there is nothing revolutionary about that. Should women be angry? Hell, yes! Should women demand recognition? Of course! We need to change the narrative, but not at the risk of just momentary emotional reward. There needs to be a less reactionary approach, one that doesn’t also rely on trope-based hermeneutics, where every situation out there is read as some opportunity to attack patriarchy. Should we have patriarchy in society, no! But, we have to see the long-haul here, not just look to be satiated by in-the-moment reactionaryism – is there a place for that? Yes, of course. But, the point here is to be strategic.

Now, for those who read this, it’s easy to dismiss this as ‘mansplaining’ which has been used as a linguistic device to shut down discourse (or rightfully so, misogynists!). There is no attempt to mansplain here. It’s an attempt to bridge the divide where we assume that one people group or one gender group has all the answers to fix society. That’s just the boring old attempt as corporate messianism. We need to work together, not against each other. Use the frustration to fuel creative alternatives. Let discourse be the seedbed for revolutionary changes.

Recently, in Bristol (UK), there was a guy who was interviewed. He told of how he and his girlfriend broke up, and there was nothing bad about the relationship, they just drifted apart. That’s all the media gave to his story, that’s all that he gave in his interview. That’s all we got. Then the Twitterverse went on a tirade.

Where some feminists just scapegoated this guy as a creep, as someone who was invading her ‘space’ by assuming she couldn’t choose herself whether what he did had any romantic value. See, the irony here, we invaded their relationship. We decided for them. We claim power has been abused. And yet, we use media, social media, and our opinions as forms of power through language. Is what he did creepy? Possibly. But, I don’t know the guy, I don’t know his intentions. 30-60 years ago, this kind of gesture would have been seen as a romantic and welcomed by many. In fact, Hollywood movies are alight with those examples. So, what is the point here? Romantic gestures and their critiques, is not a sign of feminism, they’re a sign of the times and how our cultural zeitgeist has changed the socio-romantic rules and narrative.

Where some feminists just scapegoated this guy as a creep, as someone who was invading her ‘space’ by assuming she couldn’t choose herself whether what he did had any romantic value. See, the irony here, we invaded their relationship. We decided for them. We claim power has been abused. And yet, we use media, social media, and our opinions as forms of power through language. Is what he did creepy? Possibly. But, I don’t know the guy, I don’t know his intentions. We can’t universalize our critique; every time a guy/girl performs some form of the romantic act, as a rule, to live by.  I can definitely see how it could be perceived as a creepy gesture. But, it is our place to impose our worldview on their relationship? Wouldn’t it be better to talk to them directly? 30-60 years ago, this kind of gesture would have been seen as a romantic and welcomed by many. In fact, Hollywood movies are alight with those examples. So, what is the point here? Romantic gestures and their critiques, is not a sign of feminism, they’re a sign of the times and how our cultural zeitgeist has changed the socio-romantic rules and narrative.

We can’t universalize our critique; every time a guy/girl performs some form of the romantic act, as a rule, to live by.  I can definitely see how it could be perceived as a creepy gesture. But, it is our place to impose our worldview on their relationship? Wouldn’t it be better to talk to them directly? 30-60 years ago, this kind of gesture would have been seen as a romantic and welcomed by many. In fact, Hollywood movies are alight with those examples. So, what is the point here? Romantic gestures and their critiques are not a sign of feminism, they’re a sign of the times and how our cultural zeitgeist has changed the socio-romantic rules and narrative.

There is a point here about the media always looking to turn every act into a spectacle. That the media perverts us into pedestrian voyeurs into the lives of others. And we then assume that voyeurism gives us the power to then put on display our worldviews and opinions on the subject. This tells us more about how we have to reify the human opinion and think very highly of ourselves. And this is not saying, that we should not care for one another, or protect one another – its one of our evolutionary gifts. Compassion should be something we embrace, there are neuro-cognitive health-related benefits to helping each other. But, we can’t become alarmists. We live in an age of alarmism right now, from new forms of conservatism in politics, from racially-biased police, over-filled prisons, the rise of the KKK (never thought I would write that!), among other global issues, like climate change, genocide and etc. Alarmism just forces us to then reinterpret every event as if it’s going to be the end of the world. Our amygdalae are over stressed and we react like our ancestors did when they were running from Mammoths.

If we are going to scrutinize romanticism, it can’t just be from feminism to patriarchy – yet, THAT critique NEEDS to happen. It must also include its current incarnations, in films, on the television, in advertisements and is rooted is the only form of relationality between heteronormative couples. This is a conversation that has no easy answers. What are your thoughts?

 

 

 

 

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