Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Reactionary feminism and its sacred cows

I find it tedious. I find it predictable. I find it exhausting and I find that it drains my intellectual resources. However, I am fully aware that this is exactly what it is supposed to do.

I am talking, once again, of the countless self-congratulatory misrepresentations of what is going on on this blog, and in the field of masculine issues in general. For whatever reason, there is great need in some of the more fundamentalist and extremist regions of the so-called feminist camp, to dismiss, disqualify and denigrate what you might call the 'male perspective.'

The people that do this have a number of assumptions that they regard as scared cows and here are the chief ones.
  1. Patriarchy exists. That is, the whole history of human culture and certainly recent social development can be characterised as the power of men over women. Not only that, that inherent in most human societies, there is a systematic hatred of women.
  2. That male sexuality is inherently violent. If you don't believe this is a scared cow, examine the framework of the debate around rape. Rape as a social phenomenon is rarely treated as merely a crime, or as an example of transgressive behaviour. Rather, there seems to be a pathological investment in demonstrating that rape is normal. Despite the fact that most, if not all, of the research done into the causes of and psychological factors involved in, rape, clearly show it to be something associated with psychologically transgressive, and abnormal behavioural pathologies.

Now, these two factors form the groundwork of what has become the Men's Rights Movement. What is the Men's Rights Movement? The truth is I am not sure. Because every time I type the name into google, I find pages and pages of results of hate campaigns against the very notion that there could be men's rights. The reason for this is that scared cow number 1. is directly challenged by the very existence of such movement. And a lot of careers, and a lot of people's self-image would be reduced to nothing if the idea of Patriarchal tyranny was thrown into question.

However, my point is this. My blog is intended to challenge these two fundamental assumptions that I believe have clouded and misrepresented the gender debate since the feminist movement became a serious social force for change. So let's be clear. For all you self-congratulators that think I have no point to make, that I am just 'getting shit off my chest' and 'ranting', let us settle it once and for all.

The gender debate needs to evolve. I believe that the idea of Patriarchy is at best anachronistic. At worst, it is a form of insidious propaganda, that actually disenfranchises men from any debate around cultural norms and gender-based abuse. It means that the mainstream academic and journalistic arena is able to systematically deny or dismiss the rising statistics around male domestic abuse victims, male suicide and homosexual rape. Within the context of a culture that accepts the 'Patriarchy Paradigm', these issues are at best fringe problems. That's why every time you try to raise the issue with a feminist, you get a sarcastic 'oh no, what about about the menz.'

MRAs like to say the reason for this is because patriarchy theory is an entrenchment of the cultural belief that men are expendable, and so, who cares about male issues? Women and children first. But I am not so much interested in that line of argument. It can only go so far, and it does deny the real abuses and systematic assault on women by our culture.

Rather, my motivation in getting into this debate was to try and go deeper than I felt most feminists I talked to wanted to go. Unlike MRAs I recognise that rape is a political problem. Unlike most MRAs, I recognise that men have politicised their status as men to maintain power over women, and I recognise that this performs a social function, and that there are tangible investments for this happening.

The issue is not whether these abuses exist, but about the context in which we debate these issues. Terms such as 'Patriarchy', 'Rape Culture' and 'Male Power' are misleading simplifications of very real issues.
They are misleading because they pathologise, without actually offering any kind of explanation or strategy for effective change. 

A lot of radical feminism masquerades as revolutionary thinking, but it in fact draws terrifyingly reactionary conclusions from otherwise revolutionary premises. It's one thing to notice the gender power games that exist on a political and cultural level. It's another thing to conclude that these dysfunctional and violent relationships demonstrate, without controversy, that all social power is male, and that society is a superstructure dedicated to the abuse and subjugation of women.

I say that such conclusions are reactionary, because I believe that far from being radical and new, they are part of a wider, longer-lasting cultural meme about female vulnerability. In a word, they are simply a sign of Little Red Riding Hood Complex. And this is where the MRAs are onto something.

What feminism calls Patriarchy, I would simply call gender-normativity. The system of dividing emotional, psychic, and political territory between genders, according to social function. Whether we like it or not, this is most likely how our society has functioned for centuries. Men took on high risk activity, while women were protected species, along with children. It comes down to child birth, and it's all a bit obvious.

However, the truth of human life was probably far more complex. To say that women didn't engage in high risk activity is crude and simplistic. That women should be protected probably came later, when there became classes of men and women were dislocated from any kind of high risk lifestyle at all.

So this is where Little Red Riding Hood complex comes from. It is a bourgeois, anachronistic representation of female vulnerability. It has its foundations in the natural EVOLUTIONARY division of gender roles, but it is a gross distortion of those divisions.

The standard feminist interpretation of this is that men force women to play the role of innocent madonna, child-like fairy queen. But that interpretation only covers part of the story. Where Patriarchy theory falls short is in simply assuming that women hold no responsibility for the divisions in gender-norms. The Little Red Riding Hood complex, and what I call mainstream, pseudo-feminism, is grounded in this very middle-class, very simplistic interpretation of gender norms and expectations. And it suits a lot of people, and much of the debate around gender issues is framed in this way: Men have had, and still have, the power. Masculinity and patriarchy are the same thing. Hetero-normativity and heterosexual masculinity, are the same thing. Male sexuality, and power-based, violent sexuality, are the same thing.

Again, supposedly radical feminism, starts with premises about gender power games, and draws deeply reactionary conclusions that correspond to, and entrench, bourgeois, anachronistic conclusions about male power.

Now there are a couple of reasons why this pisses me off. Firstly, it means that all men are tarred with the same brush. It means that each man, despite the great improvements in female status within society, is educated to view himself through the prism of an outdated, politically charged, and fundamentally false, idea of their own privilege and sexual power. So, under the guise of radical feminism, deeply abusive ideals of masculinity are perpetuated and entrenched, by the simple fact that many feminists are unwilling to accept that their interpretations of male power are at best simplistic.

Secondly, however, and somewhat more importantly, these misrepresentations of masculinity piss me off because they have far reaching social consequences.

Unless we actually view the division of gender roles as abusive in both directions, and unless we dismantle the dangerous and backward-looking assumptions of male power that have now permeated our media mainstream, there is going to be no advance in dealing with male violence, rape, inequality, and masculine socio-pathology. In fact, far from actually offering a route to social change, mainstream feminism is in danger of entrenching archaic Judeo-Christian beliefs about masculinity as a pathology, and as a result, will entrench the very gender divisions it professes to combat. 

1 comment:

  1. You are lumping anti-feminists all into the same category. I speak to and work with many anti feminists who are very supportive of women's human rights. Not all of us think like or agree with reactionary PUAs. Some of us are just sick of the agentic state control that feminism seems to be a part of. Where I am from in the UK women are heavily and aggressively ostracized into taking birth control and sometimes even into having abortions. 1% of children in any given district of Britain (1.3% in south wales) are in state care. Up to 90% of the younger ones will be products of contested adoption, which means that their families have no say. This is all based totally on hearsay of professionals through secret kangaroo courts and no tangible evidence is ever needed. Men are treated like criminals at the very mention of rape or domestic violence and they are guilty until proven innocent. 3rd wave feminists will do anything to rip apart families and will do anything to ostracize anyone who doesn't agree with them. The state has monopolized in on women and children.