Posted on | August 30, 2014 | 18 Comments
“[R]adical feminism offers a theory central to which is an analysis of lesbianism and heterosexuality as political institutions and a rejection of personalized interpretations. . . .
“Central to radical feminism is the belief that the patriarchy (not capitalism or sex roles or socialization or individual sexist men) is the root of all forms of oppression; that all men benefit from and maintain it and are, therefore, our political enemies. Within this framework, heterosexuality, far from existing as a ‘natural state,’ ‘personal choice’ or ‘sexual orientation,’ is described as a socially constructed and institutionalized structure which is instrumental in the perpetuation of male supremacy. . . .
“Radical feminism thus contradicts each of the tenets of liberal humanistic theorizing about lesbianism. . . .
“The major impact of the radical feminist approach to lesbianism is in reasserting the political implications of lesbianism and replacing the so-called ‘personal’ back into the realm of the public and political.”
— Celia Kitzinger, The Social Construction of Lesbianism (1987)
Here we have a bold and clear statement as to the meaning of the term “radical feminism,” which sets the term in distinction to “liberal humanistic theorizing,” and I am profoundly grateful for Professor Kitzinger’s candor. Ever since I began analyzing radical feminist theory in January, I’ve had to deal with the usual aspersions that feminists hurl toward any critic (especially any male critic) who points out the ultimate significance of the famed feminist phrase, “The personal is political.”
A male critic of feminism who notes the movement’s implacable hostility to men is accused of being ignorant of real feminism and, if he comments on the association between feminism and lesbianism, he is condemned as a homophobe, allegedly expressing irrational fear and insecurity. Yet I am neither ignorant, fearful nor insecure, and am merely stating the fact that feminism means exactly what Professor Kitzinger says it means. If all feminists were as intellectually consistent as Professor Kitzinger, at least critics like myself wouldn’t have to deal with the pervasive dishonesty and self-contradicting claims of soi-disant “feminists” who think their philosophy is compatible with heterosexuality.
Feminism is fixated on equality between the sexes, and views systematic domination by males as a group (i.e., patriarchy) as the source of an inequality that is oppressive to women as a group. That is to say, the difficulties experienced by individual women are not really personal, nor can blame for such difficulties be limited to any individual man. Rather, each woman’s difficulties result from her membership in the collective group “women,” which exposes her to oppression by the collective group “men.” If a woman is raped, therefore, it is not sufficient from a feminist perspective that the criminal perpetrator be apprehended and punished; rather, this crime is viewed by feminists as essentially political, intrinsic to the male-dominated patriarchal system, from which all men benefit and for which all men are responsible.
“The radical feminist argument is that men have forced women into heterosexuality in order to exploit them, and that lesbians, in rejecting male definitions of sexuality, are undermining the patriarchy. . . .
“Lesbianism is . . . fundamentally a challenge to patriarchal definitions of women.”
— Celia Kitzinger, The Social Construction of Lesbianism (1987)
This collectivist, systematic concept (female oppression under patriarchy) is what “feminism” means as a political philosophy. This is what is expressed in talk of “rape culture.” This is what the slogan “Yes All Women” is about. This is why lesbian feminists who have never had sex with men (and with whom it is unlikely any man would ever want to have sex) nevertheless adamantly support abortion and contraception as fundamental “women’s rights.” If the personal is political, if women are viewed as a collective group, and if all males are part of the oppressive patriarchy, then lesbians have a political voice in how heterosexual women live their lives. Indeed, feminist theory implies, lesbians have a greater stake in a heterosexual woman’s life than does her own husband.
Such is the implicit logic of feminism, at any rate, yet most people (male or female) who accept the “feminist” label have not followed the premises of this collectivist/egalitarian worldview to their logical conclusion. Most people who accept the feminist label think it’s just about “fairness,” a feminism defined mainly by women’s advancement in education and professional careers. However, this “liberal humanistic” perspective is ultimately illogical, if the fundamental premises of feminist ideology are actually true.
Nor is “liberal humanistic” feminism what is generally taught today in university Women’s Studies programs. In the past 20 years, radicals have increasingly come to dominate Women’s Studies, so that when Carmen Rios describes how she became a “raging lesbian feminist” in the Women Studies program at American University, nobody really thinks of this as unusual. Nor is anyone really surprised to learn that Feminist Frontiers, the most commonly assigned anthology of feminist literature, a basic textbook for introductory Women’s Studies classes, is edited by three radical lesbians. This is simply what “feminism” signifies within academia in the 21st century, and this feminism — so clearly described by Celia Kitzinger in 1987 — does not seek toleration and compromise. When radical feminists say they want to “smash patriarchy,” what do you think they mean? And what do you think that means for the future?
“Men are the enemy. Heterosexual women are collaborators with the enemy. . . . Every women who lives with or f–ks a man helps to maintain the oppression of her sisters and hinders our struggle.”
— Leeds Revolutionary Feminist Group, “Political Lesbianism: The Case Against Heterosexuality,” 1981
You tell ’em, sisters! This is not something I agree with, of course. I do not think of myself as an enemy of women, nor do I think my wife is helping “maintain the oppression of her sisters.” But if feminism’s basic ideology is true — if all women (collectively) are oppressed by all men (collectively) — then the radical lesbians are right, and at least one can respect their honesty in stating it clearly. If feminism is true, then the woman who denounces heterosexuality as an “institutionalized structure which is instrumental in the perpetuation of male supremacy” deserves credit for having the courage to challenge “male supremacy” directly.
Ah, but feminism is not true — these women are hopelessly deranged, and the patriarchy that Professor Kitzinger describes as “the root of all forms of oppression” is a sort of paranoid delusion. Not only do heterosexual women laugh at this madness, but even most lesbians don’t buy into this political “struggle” against “male supremacy.” When its principles are stated explicitly, feminism is recognized as a joke, which is exactly why most feminists are so tangled up in contradictions, unable to state their feminist politics as meaning much more than (a) legal abortion and (b) vote Democrat!
That kind of dumbed-down “feminism” might be helpful in electing Democrats, but it’s never really going to change women’s lives, certainly not for the better. (If you want to know what kind of change you get by voting Democrat, take a look at Detroit.) This kind of “feminism” — Jessica Valenti’s kind of feminism — is little more than a vehicle for the careers of female journalists who want to get paid to complain about men. Women who buy into this peevish petulance and call it “feminism” are too dumb to see through the scam.
What’s weird is that radical feminists, despite their delusions, occasionally find some actual truth. Say what you will about Cathy Brennan, at least she knows that someone with XY chromosomes and a penis can’t become a “woman” by putting on a dress and a wig. And say anything you want about Julie Bindel, but she had the guts to tell the truth about the Pakistani rape gangs in England.
Not for a minute do I accede to the claims of such radical lesbians that my four sons and I, as men, are the “political enemies” of my wife and two daughters, as women. Are we the patriarchy? Is my daughter being oppressed by my son-in-law? Sane normal people don’t think in such terms, but feminists are neither sane nor normal.
We must therefore be grateful when insane abnormal women like Professor Celia Kitzinger state their beliefs honestly. It’s the truthless hired liars like Jessica Valenti who do real harm, telling foolish women that feminism is compatible with heterosexuality.
Feminism tells women they're oppressed. If women don't feel oppressed, feminism tells women their feelings are wrong.
— Robert Stacy McCain (@rsmccain) August 28, 2014