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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Sexual Ethics and Politics » Radical feminism

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Author Topic: Radical feminism
Gwaihir
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What is it?

Kind of a silly question, I guess, but I hear a lot of women describing themselves as radical feminists. What does it mean?
I was having a conversation about it with a friend and he was under the impression that "radical" was a negative connotation affixed to people and that radical feminists just wanted role reversal.

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Ikeren
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From my understanding, feminism falls in 3 categories:

Radical: The plight of feminism is the fault of a patriarchical society and can be solved going to a matriarchical society.

Social: Blame part of the problem on men, and part of the problem on cultural/economic problems that are in place.

Liberal: Feminists that campaign for equality of opportunity, more rights, equal treatment.

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19, male, interested in Sadomasochism (BDSM) and some bisexual tendancies.

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Heather
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Whoo, boy are those off-base, only one in terms of how it's defined, but more to the point, in terms of how they're presented.

Ultimtely, the end-goal of pretty much ANY "brand" of feminism is the same: to reach a social, economic, political and interpersonal state of equality for women globally.

I presume by "social" feminism, Ikeren is actually referring to socialist feminism, which isn't about who you blame -- feminism is a political, active movement, it's not about who blames who, but about what actions one does to acheive equality. To that end, socialist feminism is esentially a blend of radical feminism and marxist feminism, putting forth that both the cultural and economic oppressions patriarchy creates are the primary sources of women's oppression. Liberal feminsim, as a whole, sets forth that equality can be achieved through the existing system we have, without seeking to challenge men as a class or patriarchy as the previaling power paradigm, by simply getting changes made for women, and rights given, within that same system.

I do not know of any cornerstone radfem theorists who are suggesting matriarchy. In fact, since in actuality, radfem theory centers on how ANY system of oppression suppresses equality (including racism, classism, ableism, thw works), so pushing for one system of oppression rather than another would be in direct conflict to radical feminist theory.

Radical means "going to the root," and the radical feminist viewpoint, overall, is that the root cause of sexism is partiarchy (and primarily, how gender roles and relationships under that system -- from the very interpersonal to how those relationships effect political power, economic structures, the works), and that our oppressions can't be fixed by making patriarchy "better," or by patriarchy granting women extra rights as some sort of gift, but by identifying that cause, deconstructing it, and seeking to abolish it, with the aim of getting out of power-over/power-under structures, period, and the aim of abolishing a system which puts men in charge of women's rights and lives.

Most people base what radical feminism is not on ever having read any theory, but on how it's presented by tohers, and most commonly, by others who are the most freaked out by it and misrepresent it in the first place.

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dstafne
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In Richard Dawkins' book "Unweaving the Rainbow", he mentions some very radical feminists who questioned the validity of scientific experimentation because it was primarily developed by "white Victorian males". This extremist feminist critique of science is disturbing, because scientific method is the most reliable way ever discovered to understand the natural universe.

Incensed at the silliness of that, I looked online for feminist criticism of science, and discovered that most of it is very reasonable, and not at all like the stupidity quoted in the Dawkins book. Most of it doesn't question the existence of objective reality or scientific logic, it just points out--very reasonably--that everyone brings biases into their work, and understanding the inherent biases of traditionally male-dominated science can help us find a truer, more objective picture of the world.

Males in charge of today's male-dominated society have screwed things up, but I have two questions for radical (political) feminists:

1) How would the non-patriarchal society work, and how would it improve on today's society?

2) How do you propose a practical transition to a non-patriarchal society?

[ 07-31-2007, 05:10 PM: Message edited by: dstafne ]

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Imagine.

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Ikeren
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*Shrug*. I was just referring to what I was taught in my sociology class.

I don't suppose you'd suggest some reading on the subject if you have a moment, please?

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19, male, interested in Sadomasochism (BDSM) and some bisexual tendancies.

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RadicalFemme82
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bell hooks, <u>Feminism Is For Everybody</u> is a great primer to feminism, a quick read and readily avalible if you're looking to get started.

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Emily
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"when I dare to be powerful- use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less important whether I am afraid." Audre Lorde

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AM
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Another good book I recommend to my friends is "The Gender Knot: Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy" by Allan G. Johnson. He does an excellent job of explaining how our complex patriarchal social system operates and oppresses in various ways while discouraging dissent.

Without repeating too much of what Heather and dstafne already said, Radical Feminism can also be considered a philosophy that claims equality as the central ideal. It debunks the outdated and erroneous notion that certain groups or types of people are superior or inferior in relation to others on the basis of biological variants, such as race and gender.

While it is pro-woman, the theory is not anti-male and does acknowledge that men also face oppression from other men corresponding with their rank within the socio-economic and racial hierarchy. A lot of the misunderstandings seem to come into play as it relates to gender because a patriarchy, by definition, places men in a superior position to women categorically.

dstafne: I wish there were simple, clear-cut answers to your questions. Radical feminism still isn't a socially-acceptable belief system because, obviously, it challenges the status quo, so it's tough to say how to go about implementing its teachings on the wide-scale. Because everything's gone global these days, affecting major change in one place wouldn't likely hold permanently as other nations/states/cultures are likely to exert enormous social pressure to co-opt the changed sect, or else overtake it by force. To dismantle patriarchy in a meaningful way would mean to do so globally, which would be no easy feat and likely will take many generations (perhaps centuries) to be realized. Not to mention there is majority opposition to the principles and ideals set forth by radical feminism.

As for what kind of non-patriarchal society would replace the patriarchy, well, that differs depending on the faction you're speaking to. I personally support a more restricted, ethical form of capitalism (assuming such a system would be feasible to manage), though some others lean toward Marxist teachings.

I think that would be the beauty of a new social experiment of this kind: having the freedom to explore the different possibilities to find out what does work for the betterment of the lives all humans. This is a huge world we live in, so shouldn't we experience more variety than we have currently? Instead of promoting a new world order, I think it's important to break it down to smaller, more manageable sections and communities and let the people within decide for themselves.

But we're still in the phase of proving that patriarchy is a real threat for most and explaining why, far from serious discussions of how dismantle and resettle our camps.

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echomikeromeo
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I think that the popular perception of radical feminism is a negative one because it is often set in opposition to sex-positive feminism. It's the arguments over things like the morality of pornography and certain sexual preferences and practices that have put radical feminism in the public eye - but I'd imagine that such black-and-white views would distort the philosophy.
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Gwaihir
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Hmm. . coming back to this thread after. . well, a year, basically I've got more issues concerning feminism.

I got into a debate with some people about why I think pornography is wrong--that it's harmful to women, etc, and they just replied with

"Oh well, MEN get abused in pornography too!"
and of course, the ever popular: "Well, porn is ok because the women choose to do it."

and: "Well, you just think all men are evil!" even though I never said anything of the sort, though I did try to point out that most of the horrible things that happen in this world are committed by men and that the societies that are so harmful to all of us were established by men but they constantly refrain with: "Well, women do bad things too! It's not just men! Women had a hand in forming sexist societies, too, I mean, look at female rulers like Bloody Mary, she was a tyrant. ." and whatnot.

They're just so ridiculous arguments, but I don't know how to counter them. Am I the one who's wrong or are they? I feel in my heart that I'm coming from a place that's concerned with the feminine plight and the collective human plight in general, but we just go around in circles in this argument and I don't know what to do. [Frown]

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