I've been admiring Thinking Girl's Feminism Friday archive so much that I'm nicking the idea, and I would encourage other bloggers to do the same. Not necessarily every Friday, but every now and then, when you have an opinionated big-picture essay bursting to get out, let that post loose on a Friday and give it the "Feminism Friday" category tag to make it easy to find on search engines. We can have a multitude of virtual feminist salons!
For FF101's first Feminism Friday Salon, I present a guest op-ed by Lori Heine, a fairly new but frequent commenter at Pandagon. Lori adds:
I'm a playwright and essayist, whose work most often appears in the GLBT webzine Whosoever. I live with seven cats and one poor, outnumbered little dog. I am single, eligible and searching for the ultimate woman.This essay came about from Lori's ruminations on two of the questions in this blog's masthead: "Does feminism matter?" and "What can I do for feminism?". Please add your own ideas on those two questions, and any responses/arguments provoked by Lori's essay, in comments (please go check out Thinking Girl's archive as well). If you've decided to put up a Feminism Friday post yourself, link to that for us as well, please.
Friday Feminism Op-Ed
by Lori Heine
A non-feminist world, throughout history, has almost always been an anti-female world. It is dominated by a human race perilously out of balance.
Every animal species, in order to survive, has evolved in a way that enables its feminine side to exist in harmony with the masculine. For the sake of survival, all the caring and nurturing, creatively-collaborative qualities of a species are given equal prominence with its defensive, acquisitive, possessive and self-interested characteristics. Even most males in the animal world have a highly-developed feminine side. An overemphasis on the masculine would ultimately mean the destruction of the species. No matter how safe it might be from its outside enemies, its members would inevitably be unable to cooperate with one another and eventually destroy each other and themselves.
Feminism does not seek to destroy the masculine, but merely to bring it into harmony with the feminine so that a healthy balance may be maintained. A healthy society respects the feminine and gives it room to realize its full potential. An unhealthy society, in which the masculine suppresses and oppresses the feminine – valorizing selfishness, competitiveness, acquisitiveness and possessiveness – is not long for this world.
Might a society that goes too far to the feminine extreme also destroy itself? We don’t know. History offers no precedent of such a thing. Since it’s never happened (and men are, by their very nature, unlikely to let it), it’s hard to tell if this is a legitimate worry. As it is highly unlikely that such a thing would ever be allowed to happen, it’s doubtful we need lose sleep over the prospect.
As a matter of fact, feminism enables the masculine side of human nature as well. Patriarchy forces girls and women to suppress that element in themselves. This is yet another way to keep people from being complete. It also attempts to deny those who are female the ability to defend themselves from male bullying. “Real” women are not supposed to stand up for themselves.
There are, however, many constructive ways for both women and men to resist this oppression. To begin with, we can recognize how crucial it is that society – and the individuals in it – respect the feminine. There is no need to fear that this might “weaken” men, as every whole human being is a balance of both the masculine and the feminine. We can strive to be complete human beings, regardless of our gender. And do our utmost to allow all other human beings to do the same.
If you are female, waste no time wishing you had been born a man. Seek access, for yourself and other women, to all privileges men have traditionally hoarded for themselves. A bigger pool of human talent and good ideas expands the potential for every person. If the best among us are allowed to reach their full potential, they will contribute to the quality of life for us all.
If you are male, dedicate yourself to justice for all. A world in which the rights of any human being are trampled upon is a world in which no one’s rights are secure. A world in which most other people are happy will be a world in which it is more likely that you will be happy, too. Unhappiness and injustice are like contagious diseases, and when a society is infected with them, the growth and potential fulfillment of every individual – female or male – is severely inhibited.
We can refuse to listen idly to sexist remarks or ignorant stereotyping about women. Whenever the opportunity presents itself, we can ask questions that do not seem to occur to others. Let’s help people think in creative and liberating new ways. How many of the diseases that still plague humankind might have been cured years ago, had women been permitted equal access to careers in science and medicine? How many devastating wars might have been avoided, had more women been given the chance not only to govern, but to make the presence of the feminine perspective felt on a wider scale?
Feminism is all about liberation – for men, as well as women, and for straights as well as gays. Most of the great leaps in human rights have taken place because of the influence of women. The feminine influence in society has made life better for everyone. Had we waited for men alone to change things for the better, most of us – including most men – would still be waiting.
The children of happy and fulfilled mothers grow up to be happier adults. This is as true of sons as it is of daughters. It has been widely observed that the men who respect women generally seem happier, and more at peace with themselves and other men, than do those who are contemptuous of women. It doesn’t hurt for us to point this out when we get the chance.
The male-supremacist insistence on seeing men and women as two totally different species is suicidal. And unchecked, it can only get worse. Where will the male-supremacists allow it to end? Will they be happy when they’ve exercised the ultimate in masculine self-assertion? Thanks to one of the chief male contributions to history, the nuclear weapon, we may one day get the chance to find out.
Socializing boys to be “all boy” is essentially dehumanizing. In their compulsion to separate themselves from every trace of femininity, men have succumbed to a sort of insanity. They are now being made to believe that showing any emotion beyond derisive humor, rage and lust (for women, of course, in a detached and objectified sense) is “girly.” At no time in history have men ever been so limited. They are no longer allowed to feel, to learn anything in school (again, too “girly”) or even to take the most basic care of their own health.
If that isn’t insanity, then what is?
They can abuse alcohol, drive recklessly, deny themselves medical care and do their utmost to kill themselves and others. They’ve come a long way, baby.
Some people – including many women – say that it’s the name “feminist” they find objectionable. Call it something else, they say, and they will be fine with it. “Mankind,” “fellow man,” and the rest – terms that make maleness the all-encompassing human norm – they have no problem with, but a word, merely suggesting that women are people too, sends them into a tizzy. Even those who embrace the concept have been bullied out of using the word. But if the word itself can no longer be used, how much longer will the concept itself be permitted?
Feminism is nothing less than an attempt to bring humanity into harmonious wholeness. As yet another generation of American GI’s returns from yet another senseless conquest war – trained to kill, to suppress feelings, to scorn compassion – we will have to deal, once again, with the fallout of male supremacy. Another generation of young people have been broken, inside and out. And what do the powers-that-be blame for the problem, as they do for every other? Why feminism, of course.
But are feminists the crazy ones? Watch Spike TV for an hour and you’ll find out. No, watch the news for even half an hour and you’ll know the answer to that.
(C) 2007 Lori Heine
Have a lovely weekend, everybody!