We Need More of This
Posted on August 24, 2008
Jess H has got a post up at Feministe entitled “Towards a Liberationist Feminism (Or, I Hope Pro-Capitalist Feminism is an Oxymoron)”, that for me is like a breath of fresh air wafting through the blogosphere.
It’s an American site, so the feminists she references as having built a legacy for us to work from may not necessarily accord with the list I would use, but apart from that it’s a faultless piece of work.
Of course there’s an argument to be made that this kind of analysis is too elitist and too ‘academic’ to appeal to many grassroots activists, as well as an argument to be made that we haven’t really got time for intellectual debates about intersectionality et al, when out in the real world women are dying and suffering violence on an unprecedented scale: a lot of the time I would probably be the one putting those arguments.
But sometimes, just sometimes, it’s nice to kick back and read something like this, especially when, if you’re anything like me, your reaction is one of: “Yes! Thank fuck someone else gets it!”
I particularly like:
“I cannot envision a liberation-oriented, social-justice feminism that does not challenge class hierarchy and economic exploitation. And I don’t believe there can be a pro-capitalist challenge to economic domination because I believe capitalism, even “regulated capitalism,” is rooted in economic hierarchy and exploitation — as well as a focus on money/the financial bottom line as some kind of ultimate determinant that will solve and resolve everything else. The planet, society, cultures, people—all are more complicated than that. Capitalism, for all its supporting myths of individuality and freedom, is a blunt system that ignores, excuses, fails to integrate way too much.”
I agree with all of this, however, where I think Jess and I may part company is in thinking that the overthrow of capitalism will automatically herald the end of hierarchies and exploitation, or as she puts it:
“I do think that resisting capitalism, globally, is integral to antiracist, progressive, social-justice feminisms — that is, the only kinds of feminism I think have a chance of liberating anyone/everyone.”
It will take more than the restructuring of societies and economic systems to bring an end to rampant misogyny, oppression and exploitation. For that to happen, men’s attitudes also need to change. I can’t help thinking that achieving that revolution is a bigger and far more difficult task than all the rest put together.
Hey, thanks for “getting it” too.
I’d go further than you. I think that without feminism a new economic system is doomed to failure.
Thanks marytracy. To be honest I think you’re right. Makes you realise just how much work we’ve got to do doesn’t it? Still, as someone very wise said to me recently:
“No one ever said this was going to be easy.”
I was very, very surprised to see Jess’s post on Feministe. Very different to their usual postings.
But it was a good post.
Yes indeed it will take more than restructuring societies and economics because central to all of these is the male-centered perspective. Meaning, as you rightly wrote Cath, men’s beliefs, prvileges and attitudes will have to change.
In fact Bell Hooks and Patricia Hill Collins among other feminist writers have already written about the core issues and it is how hierarchy is maintained and justified. Challenging capitalism alone will not work because capitalism is only one sympton so we need to look behind capitalism and see how it is accepted and justified. Hierarchal power is at the core and it is how this power is distributed and enforced which is central. Therefore, say, just by ‘allowing’ one subordinate group to gain more power does not alter how hierarchal male power continues to be enforced.
We need theory because without it we cannot begin to understand how male power and male domination is maintained, just ified and organised. But it is when theory becomes obtuse then many will simply ‘switch off.’ Therefore, without understanding how male violence against women enforces and maintains the continued subordination of women yet at the same time gives a little power to some women who conform. By understanding how male violence works enables women to challenge its justification and denials more effectively.
Ok I’ve decided I no longer want to discuss what feminism is, any more than I want to discuss angels dancing on the point of a needle. However – you can’t have a social justice movement if it’s just about making some people equal with some other privileged people. What is puzzling to me is why this is news?
Hi Polly, I suppose what’s news is that a “mainstream” fem site like Feministe is actually having the debate. Unfortunately there will be some people on there for whom these concepts will be a revelation.
Christ, I sound old and patronising!
So anyway, how many angels do you reckon could dance on the point of a needle – and does it depend on what sort of dance they’re doing?
Well the correct answer is of course an infinite number because angels have no physical dimensions, but strangely that doesn’t prevent them being in a particular place.
I don’t read feministe, but I presume it is very much of the empowerfullmentness school of feminism. Personally I don’t think you can disentangle capitalism – as the chief source of power in the human race as currently constructed and other ‘isms’. Capitalism has its sticky fingers in everything. It’s all about money and property as that Engels bloke pointed out.