The Unfiltered Thoughts Of An Entitled, Demanding Feminist
Lately, in the wake of Sarah Everard’s murder, I have heard echoes of poisonous, derogatory remarks piercing their way through my head, with sexist sentiment resounding of the archaic belief that women are too sensitive, demanding too much and we should be grateful that we even have a place in society that is a (marginal) improvement from what it historically has been. These remarks have stretched from personal attacks towards me to the vitriol that permeates public attention, and the destruction to my activist hope for change, any faith I have in myself as a human being in this world and as a woman in our society has been almost too heavy a burden to bear.
I have been accused of “bitching about my entitled little life”, making everything about the patriarchy, shamed for being a feminist, a vehement “man-hater” and this is not even to touch on the grossly misappropriated frustration when I discuss racism. I mean, even just writing this out makes my chest ache and my head hurt.
The nucleus of this discourse tackling the patriarchy and how it helps faciliate capitalism through the feminist lens is so often lost or overlooked because for one thing, it is a colossal subject with so many nuances, intersections and factors that can tangent off into conversational branches of their own, and for another, its critique on the systems we have grown up in, existing so prevalently in our history lessons as part and parcel of our socialisation — especially since a lot of our history lessons start from when capitalist ideas begun to arouse — potently threatens everything we (think we) know. The same way religious partisans are so swift to retaliate difficult questions by speaking over or defiantly proclaiming that any challenge is blasphemous and will only end in a hell-bent fate, the infrastructure of our socio-political grasp on sex and gender is delicate, constructed by flimsy paper cards, so easily blown apart by a wind of logic and rationale.
Admittedly, my knowledge on capitalism is not mad impressive, I only possess a loosely strung together picture of its inception and fruition, but I can discern on the little that I do know that capitalism was ensconced on patriarchal ideology, alongside racist, ableist, classist and other creed. In many critical analyses of capitalism in the works of Marx for instance, or Foucault, we see the part women play in the operation and functioning of capitalism absent from the conversation. Silvia Federici does a fantastic thesis on this in Caliban and the Witch and from what I’ve read so far, I can confidently deduce that women have been a vital vehicle to exploit, abuse and control, that, sadly, prevails insidiously in the minds of the general population today, globally, and that is including the west.
We can see how there are elements of policing women’s bodies and behaviours in our present, with painfully recent reports surfacing on how women at Sarah Everard’s vigil were brutally manhandled by officers when they had not posed any threat, instead going to pay tribute and protest in the face of violence against women. There was absolutely NO necessity for the way those men had tackled these women and it highlighted how undoubtedly desperate we are to talk about the abuse of power in the forms of male dominance and public authority (the police force).
It’s very easy to sweep the massive subject of violence against girls and women into one, great umbrella issue, ultimately disregarding the pockets that flourish underneath it (like cultural frameworks, justice and legal systems, polarised political thought etc), but now that we have drawn attention to this epidemic, we can begin to really chip away at the corners to expose the distinctions within this subject matter.
Shedding light on the generic roles of men and women needs more refining — we have to thoroughly observe the identities of the two and the attitudes surrounding them; the intersections of each expression and those that lie in between like non-binary, transpeople and so on; their extensions concerning race, class, ability, sexuality; disparities within the workforce and social fabric that stitches our lifestyles together through the application of gender profiling and expectations. It’s like an iceberg, beginning from the sharp top and shaving our way through each layer to unravel added substance that holds up the overarching problem.
If we drop the words “patriarchy”, “feminism”, “dismantling”, “inclusivity”, “fascist”, “capitalism” (I mean, these are scratching the surface), conservative or conservative-leaning antagonisers, whose guards are already standing to attention upon introduction into the conversation, begin to draw out their weapons, ready to aim and fire. They will use any methods to shut down and disparage their opponent without taking any real earnestness to ponder and reflect on what is being exchanged and I almost don’t blame them. These seemingly big words can sound intimidating and as attacks rather than enticement to invite wholesome debates compared to those who do use them so casually and effortlessly (I sprinkle them in regular chats with all sorts of people so the meaning they carry is slightly diluted, although no less significant).
So when we do speak of these ideas, whoever firmly stands in opposition to us are prepared to feel attacked, with tactics lined up in their heads to either defend or offend. I often find they are inclined to offend, though. Now, naturally, liberals and neo-liberals are hardly exempt from critique and in fact, both positions can lead to such heated debate that actually doesn’t harmonise the dichotomous viewpoints but rather further polarises them. The junction we started at falls apart into a chasm, leaving two floating opponents with arms folded in stubborn disagreement and a chin tilted away in vexation.
It goes without saying that the above scenario is particularly counterproductive and a far cry for taking a step towards progress. If anything, it’s knocking us back, morphing our end goal into much more of a distant dream than a tangible reality.
Terms like “patriarchy”, “intersectional feminism” and “dismantling colonial structures” or anything of that sentiment can plunge one’s self-esteem on intellectual adequacy, which likely instigates their reactive urge to launch abusive language, adopt tactics like gaslighting and [man/white]splaining (as we see in the egregious style of Piers Morgan), especially when laden with facts and stats. The inability to admit fault or error, supported by a stern and adamant refusal to accept anything but their own truth (or rather perception of what’s true) hinders and obstructs mobility to even talk about the matter.
The reality is this: women on the whole can vote, they can work, they can make a choice to have a career or be a housewife, they can walk down the street. Nothing is superficially stopping them from pursuing any of these rights but that doesn’t mean any of these come without a cost.
Legislations declare it an act of discrimination to mistreat someone based on gender, race, class, (dis)ability etc, with a possibility (note: not a certainty) of facing repercussions, but that doesn’t patch up the loophole where someone can perpetrate prejudicial microggressions. Racial slurs, for example, sit on a very fine line between being outright and suggestively racist, clouding the waters in which one might interpret it as a spearhead attack on their ethnicity or a poorly-worded comment out of context. Coded language mask the implicit biases of managers who don’t promote women because they aren’t “strong” minded enough, too much of a “pushover”, guided by their “emotions” instead of “rationality” or insufficiently “confident” to make “big decisions”. B*tch! Tell me a woman is incapable of making big decisions when many of us have to weigh up a career prospect or carrying a baby for 9 months, never mind the lifelong commitment to raising, supporting and loving a child unconditionally! Or even remaining loyal to a job engagement so as not to be seen as “not having our priorities straight” when juggling the dilemma of ensuring (our) child is picked up from school.
Sure, there isn’t a physical hurdle blocking our path to walk outdoors but there aren’t hurdles from blocking predators from assaulting, harassing and brutalising us, either.
So here we are. Realising that these material improvements can only advance our ranks in society so far but that the attitudes many people continue to latch onto profoundly impact the quality of life women deserve to have.
Please, keep belittling us and shaking your head in exasperation as we moan and whine and weep over “not feeling safe” and how we should be allowed to wear what we want that won’t attract or invite unsolicited sexual attention or, God forbid, r*pe, and that we don’t like being called sensitive or weak or overly emotional when in actuality, we ungratefully have the right to work and choose what we do and how we do things, but y’all are missing the damn point.
Making these choices doesn’t come so easily because for most of us, our rationale behind these decisions are so embedded in our psyche to just f*cking survive in this world what with it being part of existing as a woman, and we weigh our options based on what will not lead us down a path that might end us up in the hands of an aggressive, entitled dangerous man who could rob us of our life, if not out dignity.
And if that doesn’t get through to you, because our take on what “dignity” means apparently differs from yours, then you’re honestly so drenched, so soaked, so drowned in privilege, so blinkered to hearing and listening to anyone who doesn’t share the same lifestyle, livelihood and outlook as you, perceiving them (i.e. us/women) being a menace, a nuisance and crybabies.
I don’t want to waste my breath on imbeciles who are unrelenting in their views. My ancestral activists, women and men alike, of all genders and sexualities, ages, ableism, races and classes, did not sacrifice their lives or themselves for us to scrape by at the bottom of the barrel. They fought for generations to follow to bloom, prosper and excel in whatever way we wish, so we could walk beside each other rather than at fragmented starting points. To work, to freely roam streets and public spaces, to vote, to be liberated are not luxuries and should not be treated as such.
For those who are afraid that once we finally hit these milestones, we will be demanding for more, then get yourselves ready because there will always be more. We be coming for it…