Dare to Call It Feminism
They feel the heat. They detect the shifting wind. They have taken note of the upwelling thunderclouds on the horizon. They have hearkened to the distant rumble of artillery. They have caught the sinister metallic scraping noise of weapons being sharpened in the night.
All right, you get the idea. The feminists are finally getting wise to their objective position. It has belatedly dawned upon a critical number of them that the game is changing, that they now confront an enemy who is tough and smart and aggressively recruiting and not about to call it a day.
They are retreating—cautiously, cautiously—in the best array they can manage, from terrain they can no longer occupy without exposing their flank. They are tactically regrouping and retrenching along what they are pleased to consider defensible high ground.
And this "defensible high ground"—it signifies what, precisely? Simply put, it signifies ground which they can feel unashamed to stand upon. More simply, it signifies the core identity of feminism as such—for who would wish to identify with something shameful, and then defend it? At long last the feminists have understood the imperative to make clear what feminism is and what feminism is not. They can no longer postpone this—they must define themselves, or be defined!
HOWEVER: they must accomplish their task in terms that won't prove disgraceful or embarrassing to their movement, and this could involve throwing away certain elements whose lack would render feminism as ineffectual as the celebrated bulldog with rubber teeth!
For to discard the ugly, controversial parts of feminism, would extract feminism's fangs and make feminism no better than a tepid liberal humanism—at which point the word feminism itself would have no further utility. Deep in their emotional basement the feminists know this; it afflicts them with a mental distress, an anxiety approaching cognitive dissonance. Call it the battle for feminism's soul. It sets a fork in their road from which neither choice leads to any acceptable endpoint: whether to identify as something honorable yet ineffectual, or as something effectual yet shameful. This poses a dilemma.
But that is feminism's misfortune and none of my own, and I have no commission to apply soothing ointment to their mental distress. Once again, the matter in point concerns the identity of feminism as such. The core identity, I mean. For some time, the feminists have tried to whitewash their endeavor by shifting the blame for anything unsavory onto what they are pleased to call 'straw feminism'. This is typically proffered in the spirit of rebuttal, as when some critic is a mite too keen upon their tracks. In this way the feminists hope to duck holistic responsibility for feminism's larger impact on the social ecology—as if the hand which flings the stone should say, "I am not the ripples on the pond!"
So-called straw feminism is simply the itchy home truth about feminism, as mirrored in the world generally, focused to a point of descriptive combustion by a lynx-eyed MRA, and disavowed by feminists who wish the obvious to pass unremarked. It is feminism's manifested quintessence, writ large upon the broad parchment of human affairs; it is the "fruits by which ye shall know them."
Feminism on its face being incoherent, and the world being filled with feminists of every flavor who often say things that starkly contradict each other, nearly any searching generalization you might care to make will be branded as 'straw feminism' by at least some percentage of feminists somewhere, somehow, at some time. It seems the auditorium is packed to the rafters with "straw", and this makes orderly understanding of feminism as a global phenomenon quite difficult.
So . . . at the end of the day, what IS feminism? Will the real feminism please stand up? Or is ALL of it the real feminism?
Again, if you take away the reprehensible bits, you will end with a so-called feminism which amounts to mere platitude—an insipid porridge of no original character and no world-altering potential. And if that is all that feminism was ever meant to be, who'd have bothered to launch it in the first place?
All feminist thinking, if it be essentially feminist, is built upon the fixed premise that man equals bad and woman equals good. Nearly all subsequent feminist theory and feminist rhetoric is merely a complicated gloss upon this theme, meant to uphold it continually as a subtext while denying that any such meaning is actually intended. This has been, for the feminists, a double-minded juggling act of singular complexity.
The plain bald-headed truth is, that feminism equals female supremacism—and the dual equation of male bad/female good constitutes the necessary first step toward the construction of such a viewpoint. These two expressions—feminism and female supremacism—are interchangeable. Close observation of the world, and a steadfast interrogational scrutiny upon this point, will yield abundant evidence for the veracity of such a conclusion. I would charge others in the Movement to look and see for themselves, and I am confident they will second my judgment and join their varied voices to my own.
That said, I will now take upon myself to define the core identity of feminism. Or if not precisely defining it, at any rate bestowing on the reader a conceptual vantage point overlooking the particular valley which I, the present writer, have specifically in view. My task then, is to set you upon a hilltop and make you see. What follows will no doubt qualify, in the opinion of some, as straw-feminist consensus building. However, since that "some" is not my targeted audience, I don't honestly give a snap what they think.
I will be presenting some links for you to click upon, but please don't click upon them until you have read this entire post straight through. Then you can go back and start clicking.
First, I would like to introduce you to a woman whom many of you already know about, but many others do not. Rasa von Werder is manifestly an embarrassment, and I've seen enough of the general run of feminists to predict that most of them would curl their noses and dutifully declare, "She's not really a feminist! She's a wingnut!!" Yes, they find Rasa von Werder embarrassing! They don't want to be shoved into the same box with her; they don't want to be tarred with the same brush!
Yet I would insist that Rasa von Werder is a feminist par excellence: if you tell me she's not a feminist, try telling me the Dalai Lama is not a Buddhist! If I describe to you a waterfowl that walks with a waddle, has webbed feet, an extended neck, a thick rounded bill, and makes a noise like "quack-quack", would you tell me it's a sparrow? A hummingbird?
Now, Rasa von Werder is emphatically not a tepid liberal humanist. Such is my considered opinion, and you may lean toward a similar assessment after watching this 9-minute YouTube video, titled "Male Domination is Coming to an End":
I would say that Rasa preaches a rather bizarre form of Gnosticism. But that aside, I cannot in good faith exclude her from the category of "feminist". She scores far too highly on the duck test. Her discourse, as you will note, is peppered with those classic feminist catchwords and phrases that we love so dearly: matriarchy, patriarchy, misogyny, sexism, female empowerment, the feminine divine, "women are nurturers", and so on. And most of all, Rasa von Werder is certifiably a female supremacist—she makes absolutely no bones about this:
"My lectures are going to hit harder and harder as I elucidate the Natural Superiority of women & how Mother God has decided to deal with men."Again, Rasa is not the tepid liberal humanist—no feminist can be that without emasculating feminism itself! Rasa also doesn't know how to keep her mouth shut, for she exhibits the unsavory elements without which feminism would no longer be feminism at all; she pulls the dirty undergarments from the hamper and strews them all over the house for the world to behold! The more prudent feminists are wise enough to keep it tucked away—out of the world's sight and out of the world's mind! But not our gal Rasa—oh no, she's out of the closet! And for that we could even thank her, for she gives the game away!
To declare that Rasa von Werder is "only a cult leader" should prompt us to ask whether feminism itself—all of it!—is in fact precisely the "cult" in question. Feminism and Werderism very clearly have their metabolic root element in common, and it would be fatuous to pretend that they don't exist upon the same operational spectrum. The viability of both is contingent upon anti-male bigotry of a very specific kind; subtract this ingredient and both entities—feminism and Werderism—would effectively vanish. In sum, their difference is peripheral only; at the core, they are indistinguishable. If Rasa is the leader of a cult, I can see no good reason not to call that cult feminism. This makes even more sense when you consider that there are many different kinds of feminism—as the feminists themselves will diligently inform you! So I think it is safe to venture that Rasa von Werder's cult is at least a kind of feminism—which therefore makes it feminism!
Next, let's have a look at everybody's favorite feminist embarrassment. Valerie Solanas is worse than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick; I can hardly blame the feminists for getting their panties in a pretzel when Valerie's name is shoved accusatorily in their faces! And yet here I go, doing it again!
The SCUM Manifesto was ahead of its time, and that makes it intriguing. This booklet is stuffed to the gills with glimmerings and foreshadowings of things to come—things we could scarcely have foreseen from the vantage point of 1968. In retrospect, it reads like a coded blueprint for the entire anti-male culture war which has taken root and spread like a mat of choking vegetation over the last 40 years. Mark you, events have not unfolded literally as the work describes—nobody, Solanas least of all, expected that! What matters is the mindset which this lurid female-supremacist sermon transpires—a mindset which has propagated, more or less noticeably, over a wide radius and into many unexpected corners.
Plenty of feminists take umbrage at the suggestion that Valerie Solanas was herself a feminist, yet nothing hinders my own belief that Solanas was that indeed. The SCUM Manifesto is female-supremacist through and through—try telling me it isn't! At any rate, feminist or no, it is hard to dispute that Valerie Solanas occupies a distinctive niche in the feminist pantheon. She and her work are widely known, and I don't need Johnny Carson in a turban to tell me she'd win a higher approval rating among the feminist population than from the population at large. Or would you insist that feminists who profess to find value in Valerie, or who voice opinions reminiscent of hers, are not really feminists? You would need to include the likes of Robin Morgan, Vivian Gornick, Ti-Grace Atkinson, Florynce Kennedy, Sally Miller Gearhart, Andrea Dworkin, Sheila Jeffreys, Mary Daly, Cheris Kramerae, Paula Treichler, Susan Griffin, Barbara Jordan, Jodie Foster, Sharon Stone, Marilyn French, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Ann Oakley, Rasa von Werder, the Feminist Initiative party in Sweden, and . . . a passel of critters you've known on the internet! Are none of these people feminists? Are some of them not feminists? Are any of them feminists? Finally, feminist or no, have they anything significantly in common? Are they animated by a common spirit . . . or aren't they? Do they dance to the same fiddler. . . or don't they?
But do I mean to promote a big-bang theory of female supremacism, with Valerie Solanas as a point-source for all the man-hating in the women's movement? Bless you no—not even close! To the contrary, I believe that feminism is a great, wide river fed by an array of streams. Valerie Solanas is but one of many, many tributaries to that muddy Mississippi, and rest assured: feminism (man-hating or otherwise) would have happened with or without her! Still, Valerie Solanas crossed the bridge when she crossed it, and did what she did when she did it, and for that reason she has revelatory importance which merits examination.
Was Valerie Solanas a transmitter, or a reciever? Did she beam instructions to the world which the world acted upon, or did she merely sample the zeitgeist like a satellite dish and then transcribe the findings into her own idiom? Either is possible, and I would even venture that both at once are probable. I would say that people like Solanas give form and voice to latent energies which are already present in society; they cast their memes upon the water, and the latent energy is thereby able to cluster and gain direction. They insinuate their suggestions into the world under the color of something ludic and ironic, something "artsy". This slips into the meme-pool beneath the radar, is propagated mind to mind, breaks into separate streams, loses authorial identity, undergoes a stylistic transmutation at each transfer, but through it all carries intact a miniscule seed of its original purpose. Therefore, "the more it changes, the more it stays the same". But take heed: at some unremarked point the impulse will cease to be ludic and ironic—although in this case it is needless to add that the Solanian "cutting up" of men is not physical but rather cultural, political and psychological.
The SCUM Manifesto is an eerily prophetic document that repays diligent study. You will feel as if you are viewing forty years of social history through a pair of x-ray spectacles. Therefore I recommend that you spend plenty of time scrutinizing this piece of writing: the "eureka" flashes will amaze you! Indeed, the SCUM Manifesto has been described as feminism's "magnetic north", and one readily discerns the justice in that appraisal when the recent feminist evolution of society is considered. Just don't take it literally, but rather know it for what it is: a literary cargo container filled with encrypted behavior cues and psychic triggers, colloidally suspended in a matrix of Freudian psychology.
Finally, we turn to the third of the featured items in today's lecture:
The Redstockings Manifesto was published in New York City in 1969, and its principal author appears to have been the Marxist-inspired Shulamith Firestone—who also wrote a well-known book called The Dialectic of Sex.
Redstockings differs from the the preachings of Valerie Solanas or Rasa von Werder in that it does not expressly advance the idea of female supremacism. Granted that by its hostility toward men it paves the way to such a conclusion, but it falls short of stating the conclusion in set terms.
Redstockings also amounts to an elliptical summary of the patriarchy theory, even though the word patriarchy itself nowhere appears. Again, as with female supremacism, Redstockings suggestively paves the road to such a conclusion—and both conclusions are easily supplied by any reader so inclined.
But for our purpose, the most important thing about the Redstockings Manifesto is that nobody can plausibly aver that it isn't really feminism. Redstockings is very much indeed a politically conceived feminist document—a kind of party platform. I would be interested to meet the feminist answer expert who could put the case otherwise. I believe that Redstockings contains so much that is essential to feminism, that to shine a blazing daylight upon it would be the same as if we had pulled up feminism altogether by the roots.
And knowing Redstockings to be essentially feminist, we can easily use it for a measuring rod. We need only line it up against a given body of speech or writing to obtain a rough-and-ready spectral analysis.
Further, we can challenge any self-declared feminist to put her money where her mouth is. For example, if for some odd reason she insists that Redstockings "isn't really feminist", we can reasonably require of her that she disown it, and thereafter restate for our benefit what she thinks feminism really means—simply as a way of setting the record straight! And more: we can place her words and actions under a microscope for any sign of intellectual complicity with the Redstockings ideology, and demand the highest standards of probity in her conduct.
If she agrees that Redstockings is feminist, but perkily informs us that she herself is some different kind of feminist, then her case varies only superficially from that outlined above. Either way, it comes to the same thing: she finds the document embarrassing and wants to distance herself. And either way, we would hold her feet to the same fire.
Finally, if our hypothetical feminist proudly declares herself a Redstockings loyalist and bids us go to the devil, then she will have damned herself out of her own totalitarian mouth—which is to say, she will have metaphorically inserted her head in the noose. We would thereafter hold her to a nuanced accounting for the nuanced implications of her stated ideology.
At the end of the day, the world contains two kinds of people: Those who will abjure the Redstockings Manifesto, and those who won't. Friends, that is how we separate the sheep from the goats. Redstockings seems almost purpose-made for the job because it covers so much territory in such a small package. I could hardly ask for a more concise resumé of feminism's key points—and almost anybody can read it in five minutes.
So much for the three illustrative examples. I had set out to define the core identity of feminism—such was my stated task earlier in the article. But my manner of going about this was a bit unconventional. For although I included some discussion of the three items, my central method has been precisely NOT to make explications in my own words, but merely point to something and say, "Look! See for yourself!"
What is common to all three examples is a keenly-annunciated hostility toward men. I admit the examples differ among themselves in certain particulars: Rasa von Werder talks about patriarchy and advocates female supremacy, yet implies that she is not herself a feminist. Solanas advocates female supremacy quite vociferously, implies the existence of patriarchy, yet makes no use of the actual terms feminist, feminism, and patriarchy. The Redstockings Manifesto echoes the mood of Solanas, but does so in more restrained language and without any trace of poetic license or irony. Redstockings likewise nowhere employs the terms feminist, feminism, or patriarchy—nor does it expressly advocate female supremacism.
But again, all three examples show a keenly-annunciated hostility toward men—that much stands out in boldface! Additionally, all three examples either postulate the existence of patriarchy and advocate female supremacy, or establish a moral tone that naturally fosters belief in such things. Simply stated, all three examples display a variety of critically important arrows pointing in the same direction.
These arrows all point toward something which is not friendly toward males, or toward maleness. Some nameless but objectively existing force, ranging freely in the world and operating at will, which clearly seeks to do you harm if you happen to possess a penis.
That force is real. It is out there. It is active. It exists. It is politically organized. Do I dare to call it "feminism"? Or is that the wrong word?
But why not call it feminism? Granted, female supremacism would also be a likely choice, but I have explained already why feminism and female supremacism are interchangeable terms, so why not simply call it feminism? If nothing else, it is easier to pronounce—four syllables as against eight! And too, feminism sounds like a naturally compressed version of female supremacism. A portmanteau.
Really, this "nameless force" ought to have a name! Nameless things are powerful things because you cannot point to them or effectively talk about them. You cannot "shake a stick" at them. But when you give the nameless thing a name, all of that changes. By naming it, you give it a silhouette. You give it a profile. You skyline it on the ridge-top. You make it available as a target—of words, meanings, discussions, delimitations, understandings, eventually actions. By naming it, you loosen its grip upon your world. You weaken its hold. Power told is power lost!
So why not call it feminism? That word—feminism—is up for grabs. The feminists haven't yet settled on what it means, even if they are feeling a growing pressure to do so. But the bottom line is, that they are loath to take responsibility for their own terminology because, if they did so, it would commit them to the consequences of their (hidden) ideology. It would condense their fuzzy borders and burn away the convenient fog which cloaks their devices. I hope I have made clear by now that there is a part of feminism which the feminists wish to sweep under the rug—or to put it plainly, they wish to leave this part of feminism undefined. This they accomplish by persistently changing the subject, by eternally redirecting attention away from the region of embarrassment. It's an old, old trick—practitioners of stage magic know it well!
Again, there is a nameless force at work in the world which aims to harm you if you are male. So why not give it a name? Why not call it feminism? If they insist on keeping things in the dark, then clearly somebody must shine a light! Friends, that somebody is US! And what our torch reveals is the part of feminism which the feminists don't want to acknowledge. Clearly, this too is a part of feminism!
So why not call it feminism?? Can you offer a better description of feminism than as a triumphalist, hate-driven movement for female supremacy, combined with a one-sided political advocacy for women's interests, accompanied by a near-complete vacuum on the theme of ethical behavior toward men, which preaches with a forked tongue out of both sides of its mouth?
Hark! Do I hear an outraged howl of "straw feminism"? No, I think that choice of terminologies is too complicated. Plain old feminism will do quite nicely, thank you! And although I fully understand that many self-declared feminists might wish to preserve the good name of their movement, I fear it is getting rather late in the day for that! They should have thought of it earlier.
Yes, there is a force at work in the world, whose object is to work the undoing of men. I have, as a kind of rhetorical formality, played the game of calling this force "nameless", even though I knew perfectly well all along what to call it. But look now; let us imagine a bottle with a label, and let us imagine that this label says "grenadine". Now let us picture another bottle, and this time let us suppose the label reads "rat poison". So far, so good. But have you noticed something amiss? Yes! I haven't said one single word on what the bottles actually contain! I have only reported what is printed on the labels, but for all you know, both bottles might contain rat poison! Clearly, to trust a label—ANY label—is an act of faith! One thing and one thing only ought to concern you—the actual content of the bottle!
The secret of life is to know what's really in the bottle! Don't let the labels, or the bottles themselves, tangle your head like seaweed in a propeller! You must know that this deceitful world plays never-ending tricks with bottles and labels—and with words! And in the end you must learn to know things by their right names and give everything that comes your way a discriminating sniff test! And no matter what the label says, or how pretty the bottle looks, or how ugly the bottle looks, the stuff inside the bottle IS WHAT IT IS WHAT IT IS WHAT IT IS!
My friend: be a man who knows what is! Use the same name always for the same thing. You may call it grenadine, or rat poison, or even "feminism", but give it a name and know what that name means. Know what it refers to; know what it points to! And know what is really in the bottle!
Well. Now it is almost time for you to click on those links, yes?
Watch the Rasa von Werder video. Then, while Rasa's voice is still echoing in your memory, go to the SCUM Manifesto and sample a few extended passages. Finally, read the Redstockings Manifesto slowly and thoughtfully in its entirety.
Then sit back and let the separate juices from all three items flow and meld together in your mind until they form a conceptual hologram. Savor this final impression. Reflect upon it. Ponder the significance of it.
I submit that what you are experiencing is crude, unrefined feminism straight from the pump. Yes, I say it is the real feminism! As real as real gets! What do you think—does "feminism" sound like a suitable name for it? Can you think of a better?
Really: why not call it feminism?