Feminism identifies patriarchy as the root of social inequality; though oppression also exists along ethnic, religious, national and cultural axes which overlap to create multiple layers of marginalization and discrimination, all societies (with a mere handful of exceptions) are built on a system of male domination of females. Though the term ‘radical’ is widely interpreted to mean ‘extreme’ particularly in the realm of politics, the etymology of the word is far less loaded while illuminating a crucial point:
late 14c., in a medieval philosophical sense, from Late Latin radicalis “of or having roots,” from Latin radix (genitive radicis) “root” (from PIE root *wrād- “branch, root”). Meaning “going to the origin, essential” is from 1650s. Radical sign in mathematics is from 1680s.
Radical feminism therefore seeks to address the root of patriarchy – why it exists and how it functions. The goal of any system of oppression is the accumulation and control of resources: one group wants something another has; usually land, natural resources, and labour. What resource do women have that men want? Labour, certainly, but more fundamentally it’s the ability to reproduce the species. Men need women in order to have offspring who can carry on their legacy, take care of them when they’re elderly or ill, and bring honour to the family name – their name, of course.
The historical accumulation and maintenance of power and capital by men is a massive barrier that women as a class are still struggling to overcome. Women are aware that men are generally physically stronger than them. The prevalence of male violence against women presents enough of a threat to deter women from ending relationships with men, standing up to them, and choosing to prioritize their own lives and the lives women more generally.
But brute force alone isn’t enough. No system of oppression is complete without social engineering. Those without power must not only be convinced that they can’t win if they fight back; they must be convinced that fighting back is unacceptable or unthinkable. Enter the system of gender, or gender roles, as it’s more commonly known. Gender consists of sex role stereotypes that decree what each sex is supposed to do in relation to each other, i.e. masculinity and femininity. Masculinity is the social institution that gives males permission to be domineering, self-centred, and sociopathic. Femininity, on the other hand, grooms, coerces, and punishes women and girls into centring the feelings and demands of boys and men, arranging their appearance in relation to the male gaze and porn culture, and compromising their own self-interest and well-being in order to meet the expectation that they be managers and carers for all.
Gender permeates all cultures, all economic classes, all households. Whether one’s parents are liberal or conservative, religious or atheist, single-parent or traditional, gender roles are imposed both explicitly and subtly through limitless sources. Children grow up understanding what’s expected based on biological sex as reinforced by interactions with students and teachers, nannies, neighbours, politicians, business leaders, religious leaders, TV commercials, movies, toys, clothing, music, family friends, relatives, etc. No one escapes sexist brainwashing no matter how progressive one’s immediate family might be in theory or practice, and men benefit from sexism no matter how progressive they appear or try to be. Regardless of men’s individual upbringing or intentions, they have a vested interest in patriarchy and they don’t have to make any effort to wield that power. They’re born with it just as females are born into a role designed to force women to accommodate that power.
“Many women, I think, resist feminism because it is an agony to be fully conscious of the brutal misogyny which permeates culture, society, and all personal relationships.”
— Renee Gerlich (@renee_jg) January 31, 2019
Is it any wonder that feminist spaces (places where women can gather freely without interference from men) is the only true safe haven for women? Feminism isn’t for white women, or educated women, or English-speaking women, or rich women, or conventionally attractive women, or heterosexual women. Nor is it for liberal or left-wing women alone. Feminism is for all women, even those who don’t identify as feminists, and even those whose political views we find repugnant.
Recently, three UK feminists traveled to Washington, D.C. to speak to politicians of all stripes about the importance of maintaining sex-based protections under Title IX as trans activists push to replace the protected category of sex with gender identity. These women are Posie Parker (AKA Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull), Venice Allan (AKA Dr RadFem), and Julia Long. An uproar has ensued because Posie and Julia confronted two individuals, one of whom is Sarah McBride, a male who identifies as a woman and is the National Press Secretary for the Human Rights Campaign. McBride is lobbying the U.S. government to eliminate sex-based protections. Natasha Chart explains the context for the campaign:
McBride was there that morning to argue that girls in school have no right to bodily privacy when changing for gym class or when first managing menstruation in what should be girls-only bathrooms. McBride was there to argue for an end to girls’ sports, because they want boys to be able to join the girls’ sports teams. McBride was there to overturn decades of women’s rights advocacy, at the head of a movement that has brutally silenced women who dissent.
Posie posted a video of the interaction with McBride which was instantly denounced by LGBTQ+ organizations and websites like Gay Star News and PinkNews as a shocking incident of harassment and transphobia. Let’s see if their interpretation is fair and accurate:
First off, what right do men have to equivocate on the rights of women to be recognized as a class of people with unique challenges and needs? What right does any group have to tell children that they’re born wrong and to lead them toward permanent, dangerous medical procedures as they struggle to negotiate gender roles? It’s not surprising that organizations supportive of gender ideology would characterize this encounter in an unfavourable light. But what’s kept me awake this past week has been the way in which prominent feminists have torn into Posie and Julia, accusing them of launching an embarassing ambush, causing harm, and declaring these feminists a liability. These criticisms aren’t coming from liberal feminists. They’re coming from feminists who have vocally opposed the genderbread nonsense and have had the courage to say that actually, women are adult human females and nothing else.
What I see in this video are two men who hate women being paid good money to reverse feminists’ achievements in the name of human rights and progressive politics. I see two women seizing an opportunity and asking these men to be accountable. They didn’t call anyone names. They didn’t curse. They didn’t yell. And if you notice, the first thing McBride does when the women walk in is turn his head away from them and ignore them. Yet he’s being cajoled as a victim. Something doesn’t feel right about this. I realize that Posie has made controversial statements in the past but that doesn’t mean everything she does is wrong. This looks to me like an attempt by popular feminists who oppose gender self-declaration to purge feminists they view as problematic as they gain acknowledgement in mainstream politics.
I wonder whether the real controversy here is the fact that Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF) organized the campaign and they’ve partnered with conservative organizations to oppose gender self-declaration. Another feminist coalition, Hands Across The Aisle, is also not above working with people from the Right to defend the boundaries of women and girls, and to recognize biological sex as legally, socially and materially significant to women’s lives. That includes women from conservative families and communities. Likewise, children from all walks of life have a right to be protected regardless of where the adults around them fall on the political spectrum. Progressives like to think that conservatives are brutes who don’t care about women, and most of them don’t, but neither do progressives. So liberals support abortion rights. That’s easy. Men on the Left support abortion because they benefit from it; it means they may not have to take responsibility if they get a woman pregnant.
It’s recently dawned on me that some lefty men probably realize exactly how much they benefit from the myth that abortion is the only significant women’s issue. Brilliant way to keep liberal women from working with conservative women on any other issues.
— CorrienteCanta (@corrientecanta) February 1, 2019
Liberals support the sex trade, pornography and surrogacy – all industries that exploit women. It was a conservative government under Stephen Harper in Canada that implemented the Nordic Model, as some liberal countries have also done. The Left, usually consisting of the Greens, NDP and Labour, has been the home of misogynists who wish to abolish the word ‘woman’ and replace it with ‘womxn’ (they don’t seem to mind the word ‘men’, interestingly). It’s liberals who are responsible for giving awards and positions to men who identify as women instead of actual women. It’s liberals who congratulate men for competing in women’s sports and stealing their medals. It’s liberals who turn a blind eye to arranged marriages, child marriage, female genital mutilation, honour killings, and acid attacks. It’s liberals who’ve embraced the words ‘TERF’ and ‘cis’. It’s liberals who argue that feminine beauty practices are a matter of personal choice and are empowering.
Feminists who criticize other women for working with conservatives don’t seem to realize that there’s no such thing as a a pure ally. No matter where you turn, the organization you’re working with – unless it’s a radical feminist group – will support you in some ways while undermining you in others. Hasn’t that always been the case? Even parties that purport to centre women purge feminists who dare say that men can’t be women and that women are oppressed because of our biological sex. I understand why it’s controversial to speak at an event hosted by a group like the Heritage Foundation and I’ll never question a woman who doesn’t feel comfortable doing so. I get it. But even in this hostile climate, I think it says a lot that an organization that opposes gay rights invited radical feminists to share their views, whereas the Left tries to shut radical feminists down every chance they get.
How do we advocate for women if we can’t say what a woman is? How do we support lesbians if we’re not allowed to define sexual orientation according to biological sex? Leftists who shun women for working with others on some issues are hypocrites who’ve hated women all along anyway. If they cared, they would have listened in the first place and not forced feminists to go looking elsewhere for support.