Monday, November 12, 2012

Society has Failed Feminism?

Last night I read a very good article on AlterNet about the way our society's view of libido and sexuality is so broken that many of our cultural problems with gender, sex & equality can trace at least a portion of their insidiousness and apparent unshakeability to that broken conception. It got me thinking about how the feminist movement set out to raise social awareness, elevate women to an equal status in society, undermine rape culture and generally make society a place where all human beings can have an equal claim to a healthy life & to comfortably express their economic potential, identity, gender, sexuality and personality. The line of thought inevitably led me to a realization:

We have put a lot of social discourse into attaining the feminist goal, but very little by way or real, legitimate effort has been made toward acheiving that goal. The fact is, our society has largely accepted the precepts of equality that feminism has brought to its attention. The fact that with that acceptance has come so very few results, to my mind, means one thing and one thing only. Society has failed feminism.

It's a bigger problem than some out there might wish to admit. As much as the feminist critique largely focuses on redressing those sectors of our society and culture where there has been abject failure to ensure the physical and mental health, economic well-being and equal status of women, we often forget the consequences of those failures. Women are not the only victims of this social failure (as the AlterNet article touches on). When women cannot expect to make the salary they deserve, the economy suffers and problems of unemployment can quickly be exacerbated; when women cannot expect to control their reproductive lives, the health and social costs to society can become staggering, social mobility for men and women at the bottom of the economic spectrum becomes utterly stunted; when women cannot expect to be believed when they claim that they have been raped, men cannot expect their sisters, mothers, aunts, neices or daughters to feel safe, be safe or expect justice; when society paints every woman as a sexual commodity, it robs our government of true representation because women cannot be expected under such circumstances to compete fairly in the democratic process; it means that men can only expect to be viewed as predators or consumers of sex and marginalizes assertive women, emotionally sensitive or expressive men and anyone at all who isn't willing to agree to be a dominantly sexual man or a submissively sexual woman.

That is a very short list. But it speaks to an unbearable failure. It speaks to a society that values neither women, nor men, nor anyone at all - or at least that the value assigned to each is lower than anyone really agrees it should be.

The most terrifying part of that failure is that we all have internalized it to some extent. I am, with the love of my life, living in a sex-positive open relationship and I wrestle with unreasonable and ineffable guilt every time I spend a moment with another woman. I struggle with jealousy whenever my love spends time with another man. But it doesn't make sense. I want to spend the rest of my life with her and she with me, we love each other comepletely and we ensure that every moment we have together is ours in a way I don't think I've ever experienced. And yet... I feel society's yoke around my neck. I'm certain, to a lesser or greater extent, you, my reader, do as well.

I think it is necessary for us, as a precondition to living up to the expectations and ideals of the feminist movement, that we attempt to shake off that yoke. It cripples our capacity to move forward by impairing rational moral thought. It cripples our capacity for compassion for the same reason. We need to be better than we are. I need to be better than I am.

1 comment:

tahir sumar said...
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