What is Feminism?

Feminism describes any movement which aims at advancing rights and understanding of women, in any facet of life. It has evolved over the past century or so into a colourful tradition shaping society, culture, theory and ideology.

Essentially arising from the fact that for millennia – man, presumably since he is the larger, quite naturally, subjugated his female counterpart to a status somewhere between himself, and his horse; excluding a Queen or other lady of nobility, in which case they were presumably considered a distant cousin of God or something, and were probably pretty well off.

It isn’t that man doesn’t love woman, just look back over the tradition of romance in literature and art and see, in times long before women had a formal education, let alone a vote, man swooned after his lady, was driven to the edge of his sanity by infatuation, dueled at dawn with pistols.

Unfortunately, though, to the tuned-in reader of today, it’s pretty clear that being a trophy for man was about the end of her role in the world. Women traded by fathers having been pretty much universally commonplace, the surname of the nice young gent usually branded onto and above the female identity, and away she goes to a life of housekeeping, until probable death around the seventh parturition.

In the nineteenth century though certain female mavericks had begun standing up, to give public speeches, which became demonstrations, and marches. By 1918, nearing the end of the first world war, the suffragette movement in the United Kingdom had succeeded in gaining the first women the vote. Although only women who were over thirty years of age, and who were home-owners; which was probably fairly complicated considering they still couldn’t access decent professions, but hey, it was a start.

For the rest of the early and mid-twentieth century, women made innumerable gains in all those little things we take for granted in life, like control of own finances, healthcare, property rights, and so on. Until she had gained by about the sixties a kind of de facto “equality” in society. From this point, feminists had begun returning to overlooked issues such as family structure, sexual relationships, and lack of representation in politics.

Interestingly the global history of government, democracy, capitalism, communism or anything else involving power, law, punishment and society includes very minimal influence from women, so that in sum, the tradition of established law making and society shaping has been almost exclusively decided by males, or in other words, is patriarchal, and still today is.

With the increased power of woman’s voice, this type of opinion was beginning to gain an increased attention, and many began to conclude that the testosterone pumped white man who had done so much to establish law, order, and society, was perhaps doing so under his own terms, leading to a vast array of feminist literature and theory, culminating with publications like Valery Solanas S.C.U.M. manifesto.

S.C.U.M or the Society for Cutting Up Men manifesto posits many very interesting ideas, most prominent though is that men are incapable of any inherent pleasure above what sensation offers, cannot empathize with others, and is rather entirely isolated in his ego; he is incomplete in his possession of a Y chromosome, and thus suffers “pussy envy”, and commits his time to an effort to become female and to project and transfer male characteristics onto the female.

It becomes patently obviously therefore that the only moral solution would be to eradicate the male gender, with the help of science, just as we have dealt with other sweeping diseases. For these reasons, Solanas posits, that the accidental Man constructs civilization as we know it, and as by-products of this she considers: war, religion, the money system, competitivity, violence, oppression, and so on in this light.

Though often regarded as a satire, it seems most likely that Solanas did, to some strong degree exhibit the beliefs expressed within the manifesto, especially since she was eventually arrested for attempted murder, for the shooting of artist Andy Warhol. Her text is, therefore, satirical in a similar sense to Jonathan Swift’s essay – A Modest Proposal, suggesting that the Irish roasted unwanted babies for nourishment as a resolve for the Irish famine. A satirical and extreme solution, for a none the less very real and seriously perceived problem.

All of these claims throw up a complexity in the discourse of gender relations. Whilst initially claims for equality between gender was the objective for feminism, aspiring toward a world where we see each other as the same. A more modern sentiment of feminism seems to make a clear and intentional distinction between a: violent, competitive, and egotistic male, and a: peaceful, cooperative, thoughtful, and caring female.

Much of the time, however, this distinction may only be implicitly obvious in feminist texts, insofar as much of feminism is devoted to highlighting victimization and imbalance in society, and justifiably so, though since criticism is scarcely met with proactive suggestions as solutions, the importance of the voice is often overlooked.

And whilst the distinction, being perhaps not totally unfounded in terms of biology, and with our common association of fighting seeming decidedly masculine; the move to separate though is a foul one, and which is founded in coincidence as much as in causation.

Wars were rife historically not merely because of the overtly masculine rule of nation states, but of a necessity which stems from nature. Our ancestors strived toward survival in a way which we might easily and often overlook today. Droughts, floods, disease, or poor crop yield could decimate a population. In this scenario, it is entirely natural to do anything necessary to ensure survival for the self as well as the group or family and is, in fact, a distinctly animal instinct found even in the most passive creatures.

We should instead consider that as a woman has the capacity to be violent or aggressive, so can a man be gentle, nurturing, and such-and-such. In other words that education is key, and not genetic structure. The lines of distinction deserve erasing, not emboldening.

Along these lines, I would think that as a woman is freer to adopt the historically conventional characteristics reserved for man; equally, man feels more confident to embrace his femininity, and both will naturally move closer toward a gender equilibrium. Why be one when we might be both? The concept of an androgynous character seems like an all-encompassing solution to gender concerns.

Today things seem to have come a very long way, and the generation of youth now upon us seems to demonstrate an unrivaled time for gender equality. When we consider the fashion and icons for young girls in the West today, allowing almost unbarred expression of personality, taste, sexuality. But we mustn’t forget to turn and question, is this in itself not only a new expression of manifest objectification of women by male-dominated industry?

We must also be cautious not to forget that so many women around the world are still facing mutilation of their genitalia, the widespread convention of wearing niqabs seems unabashed oppression (he said controversially), multiple wives in this culture, the gender imbalance concerns in China, and the list goes on. For this reason, and in creating a conducive dialogue, we must remember to highlight and to celebrate the advances we have made.

Some of the persisting major issues in the UK still include unequivocal pay, despite women consistently trumping men academically. Likewise, we frequently see a kind of mass revolt against women of achievement, the targeting of famous women in the recent nude image leaks as a considerable example. Where we might have found equally many visitors if the images had been hunky somewhat famous men, it seems unlikely that we would have seen the individuals branded: sluts, and whores, who seemingly deserve their privacy to be breached, and who should be disgraced or ashamed.

Likewise, we’re a culture responsible for creating concepts like ‘Sugar Daddies’, where wealthy sad older fellows make a fetish of economic desperation by buying not only sex but a virtual girlfriend experience. Similarly, prostitution remains an underworld trading in human (almost exclusively female) bodies for use which seemingly would lose every: oppressive, gang-related, and well, rapey element involved if people were granted legal ownership of their own body to do with what they would.

And the question still persists, how on earth would women run a modern society? There are several noted matriarchal societies still in existence today, and whilst in general the men belonging to these societies use their strengths to support, and serve their group or clan, we find no noteworthy examples of oppression or violence against them, or toward outsiders of the society. Though unfortunately the examples we have offered no direct parallel to our technological worldview, it still seems as though the idea might be worthy enough that we might run some small social studies into the area of balanced governance, or… something?

Distinguishing two branches of feminism here might seem to be a little reductive of all the complexities in the area of discourse though it works as a very basic divide which is apparent in much feminist thought. The one type which seems always to aim at equity, mutual-identification, peace, love, and in short: those characteristics which Valerie Solanas highlights as being feminine qualities. The second type, a more antagonistic feminism, is ironically that associated with the thought of Solanas, and which is characterised more closely with her qualities of Man, evoking: separation, competition, egoism, misunderstanding, hatred, and war.

And whilst here we take on (even admire) some of the ideas expressed by Solanas, we should at very least note that her text is vile, hateful, and in its tone – entirely self-contradictory. This antagonistic feminism strives not toward equality but is rather defined by negation. She is a feminist in the same sense that all MCPs (male chauvinist pigs) get their name, or all racists quite similarly. Her aims are to differentiate, criticise, and preach hatred and misunderstanding, and as such she is a part of the long tradition which builds walls between people in confusion. Their thought is self-contradictory clearly as it exhibits the closed minded, unsympathetic characteristics which they purport as belonging only to the incomplete male.

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