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Radical [Apr. 19th, 2013|08:08 pm]
I'm reading an article in the April 15th New Yorker, about the passing of one of the first radical feminists, Shulamith Firestone. I'd never heard of her. There's a bit in there about she and her co-activists went to see the woman who drafted the first ERA in 1921, Alice Paul. I'd never heard of her, either. Ms. Paul was suspicious of them, and pointed to a wall of portraits of suffragettes, and the new guard couldn't recognize the old guard, either.

The article makes me want to be a radical feminist. Another passage discusses how Shulamith (Shulie) never gave an inch, never backed down, and how she had that in common with her Orthodox Jewish father. They would get into screaming matches wherein they would threaten to kill each other. And it made me realize that no compromises is so clean and appealing and satisfying, when it's on your side of course. The other side is hard headed and plain wrong. BUT THEY ARE WRONG. I can probably make a better argument for equality for all than you can for oppression. I take the point, though, that not bending to anyone has its flaws as well as its strengths. Just like any sort of way of living, I guess. Even the heinous ones.

There are several interesting passages that I'd like to reproduce and comment on in detail, but first I want to talk a little bit about being very confused.

I'm not very successful at most things in my life. I've failed, I've quit, and I don't give it my goddamned all. I psych myself out. I have terrible habits. I should be studying and grading right now. I see things in my classes and in my life that very well might have a sexist element. For my background assumptions, know that I believe that everyone is an -ist, and that it's just not really possible not to be, given the way society and our brains function. We are pattern sensing machines, and sometimes (most of the time?) that goes way above and beyond what it has to. Our brains think in patterns, they accept patterns, they find patterns where there are none, and that's just what stereotypes are.

I'm a racist, you're a racist. I'm sexist, so are you. I'm aware of it though! And I try and compensate. I try to challenge my beliefs. But perhaps not enough, because I've certainly sunk into the status quo on many factors in life, so much so that the status quo has solidified into my actual personality. Keep that in mind, because that is one factor of the confusion.

Another is the state of feminism today. It's pervasive and widespread, and there are many varying opinions on how successful it has been, in all areas of public and private life (if there is such a thing anymore. Perhaps there never was?) Women have progressed, surely. At least in the Western world. But how much foundational change can happen in 40 years?

Firestone, quoted in the article, says:

Feminists have to question, not just all of Western culture, but the organization of culture itself, and further, even the very organization of nature. Many women give up in despair; if that's how deep it goes they don't want to know.

That right there is amazing to me.

Question nature?

And why fucking not?

I've heard so many times how it's just "natural" for women to be in an inferior position in society, because they are physically weaker, and it somehow follows that that means it is inevitable that women are subjugated. As if there are no other factors in life! As if we don't use our powers of reason to decide for ourselves about a variety of matters all of the damn time! "Well, gee, okay! I have slightly fewer muscles than you, so that must mean I am totally stupid and worthless! I should just let you have power over me!"

I want to find a new way to radically change things. When I try, of course I can't. It seems like all the things are already out there, right? People have already suggested everything that there can be, as far as social organization goes. Right? Of course not. That's what everyone thinks before the next new idea comes along. Standing on the shoulders of giants isn't the only thing that is supposed to happen. You're supposed to actually look out and see further. But I haven't been able to do so so far, I think.

And now we're looped back around, to my utter incompetence.

How much of it is from me as me, and how much of it is institutional sexism? It seems to me that people don't take me seriously when I talk. They wave away my ideas and say the dreaded "yes but" before I can even get two sentences out. It frustrates me. But that might just be a consequence of 1) my personality, 2) my inexperience in almost everything---perpetually at square one, and 3) my lack of confidence. But it also might have to do with my being a woman in a world of inequality. And it's not like those things are all discrete entities, either. My personality has been shaped a bit or more by the world, and if it is a sexist world (which it is), then I am going to self-loathe, and have a confidence problem. Saying it that way sounds so trite, but confidence is more than just extroverted and public. It also has to do with how I frame my problems, my daily life, what I choose to do privately and publicly.

So I'm confused.

I'm done for now. But I want to talk about being, becoming, and remaining radical. I want to talk about those passages. I want to not care when people dislike or hate me, or at least not let it deter me from radicalizing at all, if I really want to. I'd apply this sort of thinking to animals as well, and poverty. I want to root out my unexamined notions. I want to change, truly change. But I won't, in all likelihood I'm one of those who has given up in despair. I am tired for no reason, I am depleted. It's so fucking HARD.

[User Picture]From: likethewatch
2013-04-22 04:20 am (UTC)
I'd like to engage you on this. I read the same article and was energized. I identify as more of a Marxist feminist, and the feminist part is having some trouble with contemporary individuals calling themselves feminists, and who ideologically oppose the work men want to do in studying their own condition. This is not my feminism.

We're individuals. You can't "blame" any of your identities for the totality of your life. There is a human drive to make sense of the world by finding patterns, but the nature of life is constant change, also, and so we are stymied. The best thing we can do is try to be open to the truth without ideology or stereotype, but this is hard to do.
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