Counterpoint

The biggest problem with American feminism today is its
obsession with women.

Yes, you heard me. It’s time for those of us who care deeply
about eliminating sexism to stop caring so damn much about what
women, as a group, are doing. Because a useful, idealistic,
transformative progressive feminism is not about women. It’s about
gender and all the legal and cultural rules that govern it, and
it’s about power — who has it and what they do with it.

A transformative progressive feminism envisions a world that is
different in two major, related ways. Most obviously, this world
would be one in which gender does not determine social roles or
expected behavior. More broadly, it would be one in which people
are not sacrificed on the altar of profit — which would mean
universal health care, living wages, and drastically reduced
consumption with an end to the voracious marketing machine that
fuels it. The link between these two elements is clear: Gender,
like race, is a socially enforced category that shores up a
consumer capitalist system by providing opportunities for marketing
and exploitation.

But much of the contemporary American feminist movement is
preoccupied with the mistaken belief — call it femmenism
— that female leadership is inherently different; that having more
women in positions of power, authority, or visibility will
automatically lead to, or can be equated with, feminist social
change; that women are uniquely equipped as a force for action on a
given issue; and that isolating feminist work as solely pertaining
to women is necessary or even useful. The most pressing issues
facing women worldwide — slave wages, inadequate health care
systems, environmental degradation, the endless war and
surveillance society of Bush-era neoconservatism, and the rampant
corporate profiteering involved in all of the above — are (a) no
less important to feminists just because they also happen to be the
most pressing issues facing men; and (b) directly related to the
particularly ruthless brand of global capitalism we’re currently
living under. This vulture capitalism would not magically disappear
if women were in charge of more stuff. Racism would not go away.
Hell, sexism itself would probably be alive and kicking. God knows
the gender binary would be stronger than ever. In short, the actual
workings of power will not change with more chromosomal diversity
among the powerful.

Yes, gender difference exists. Of course women often behave
differently, see the world differently, and have different
political views — when they have been raised with
sugar-and-spice-and-everything-nice expectations. But such
differences are neither automatic (as the evolutionary biologists
would have us believe) nor universal (as the cultural essentialists
assert).

If we cling to any gender categories at all, we lose out on
tremendous liberatory potential. In other words, the half-witted,
sentimental obsession with women that is femmenism causes sloppy
thinking, intellectual dishonesty, and massive strategic errors.
Thanks to the tremendous feminist work of the past century, we have
the opportunity to leave that obsession behind. If vital feminist
work is going to continue, we need to seize it.

This is an excerpt from a longer article that can be found at
LiP magazine’s Web site:

www.LiPmagazine.org/articles/featjervis_femmenism.html
.

UTNE
UTNE
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