Posts tagged Radical feminism

Privilege and patriarchy

<p>Hey Marja,</p>

<p>Thanks for this. I’m sorry I’m late to the discussion. A couple of halting suggestions.</p>

<blockquote><p>Does patriarchy even exist any more? Men die sooner. Men get imprisoned more often.</p></blockquote>

<p>I guess this depends on what group of phenomena “patriarchy” is supposed to be encompassing. The strand of radical feminism I’ve always identified with has seen patriarchy as rooted primarily in men’s violence against women, and especially the sexualized violence of rape, wife-beating, abortion laws, etc. As much has been done to challenge all of these, they are still everywhere and still largely committed with impunity, and I think as long as, e.g., men are raping 1 out of every 4 women, and this has systemic effects on constraining women’s behavior and gender expression, patriarchy as I understand it is still in place.</p>

<p>It’s true that men get imprisoned more often, but as far as I know that’s always been true, as long as there have been prisons. Prison is oppression, but at present it’s almost exclusively form of oppression that some men inflict on other men. (Maybe that will change as more women become police, prison-guards, and political office-holders, but at present all those are still predominantly the province of states-men.) And I think the major causes of, e.g., men’s shorter life expectancies (labor conditions under state capitalism, violence among men, etc.) are also examples of things men do to other men. But hasn’t patriarchy, as a hierarchical structure, has always included internal hierarchy among the patriarchs, and intersected with cross-cutting forms of oppression?</p>

<blockquote><p>Is privilege the best way of thinking about it?</p></blockquote>

<p>I’m inclined to doubt it. But I’m increasingly uncertain that “privilege” is the best way of thinking about much of anything; I’m not sure if we have the same reasons for worrying in this case. I’m worried because I’m worried about how far the all-encompassing use of “privilege” to explain has shifted the focus from what oppressors do to what oppressors have. Of course there were reasons for that — unpacking invisible knapsacks and making privileged people aware of the limitations of their own standpoint and all that — but what we have now is a basically epistemological approach (about becoming aware of, and owning, how much “privilege” you do or don’t have) to the micropolitics of one-to-one or one-to-many power-relationships — an approach which provided a handy conceptual tool for the analysis and criticism of individual beliefs, attitudes, conduct, epistemic standpoints, etc. — but which seems to have been wrenched out of that context and awkwardly repurposed into an all-encompassing framework for viewing all forms of oppression, exploitation, bigotry, ignorance, alienation, interpersonal friction, or abusive behavior. I do think that one effect of this is that it has proved really, extremely awkward for any attempt to talk about power relationships that involve more than two sides, and hence also for horizontal, diagonal, or intersectional power (such as the hierarchies of power among men under male supremacy, for example; or the way in which “cis” women, trans women, trans men, gay men, genderqueer folks, children, etc. are all oppressed — but differently oppressed, in different directions, by patriarchal violence).</p>

<p>Everything else is really interesting and important; I just wish I had something more articulate to say about it.</p>

Re: Aliens Among Us

langa: Those on the left are afraid of alienating the radical feminists, many of whom consider porn to be the worst thing in the world.


  1. Antipornography radical feminists generally oppose, and have repeatedly come out against, the kind of nasty remarks and polemical abuse that’s directed against women in pornography from people (mainly men) on the political Left and Right. Whether you think we are right about pornography or not, I don’t think this is an accurate understanding of the position towards women in the pornography industry.

  2. I can find no evidence at all that much of anybody in the mainstream Left is particularly afraid of alienating antipornography radical feminists, or really cares what radical feminists in general think (whether they are antipornography or not). Do you really think that someone like Catharine MacKinnon or Susan Brownmiller has very much influence over what people in common liberal or Leftist discourse, outside of specifically feminist political spaces, think it is or is not acceptable to say?

The idea that people on the male Left really want to object to nasty remarks about the women in pornography, but fear of radical feminist backlash is somehow holding them back, strikes me as bizarre.

Re: Kulcherel Littorasy


I can’t see much evidence of any exploitation of women by men.

Of course you can’t. Sex-class is so deep as to be invisible.

If you want to find evidence of systemic male oppression of women, there’s a lot of detailed discussion of it in those feminist books that you haven’t read. I can make some suggestions for places to start, if you’d like.


If there really is a male conspiracy against females …

There is as far as I know no serious feminist theorist in the world who believes, or who has ever claimed, that there is any kind of conscious global conspiracy by men against women. Feminist theory, especially radical feminist theory, makes frequent use of concepts like “patriarchy” and “rape culture,” but that’s not the same thing as a deliberate plan to keep women down. You don’t need a conscious global conspiracy in order for there to be large social structures with intense systemic effects that tend to benefit men as a class and hurt women as a class. The second article that Roderick refers you to, Women and the Invisible Fist, specifically discusses this point at some length.

Hope this helps.

Re: Radical Feminism and Ron Paul

Keith wrote: “Also when I read that radical feminist literature the thought that kept going though my head was how similar it was to some KKK propaganda I had seen before. I wonder if you would be so quick to excuse pictures of people with grotesquely large lips being lynched.”

White supremacist caricatures of black men and women were forms of propaganda by the supporters and perpetrators of an actually existing pervasive system of violence (lynch law under white supremacy) that killed, maimed, and terrorized thousands of innocent people. Their purpose was to support and reinforce that system of violent domination in the name of race privilege.

Radical feminist caricatures of men are a response by the VICTIMS of an actually existing pervasive system of violence (male violence against women) that kills, maims, rapes, and otherwise terrorizes millions of innocent women. Their purpose is to PROTEST and UNDERMINE that violence in the name of sex equality.

This facile attempt to equate the two, while completely ignoring their contrary relationships to a context of actually existing violent domination, is grotesque. It also completely glosses over what should be a central issue for libertarians — whether the violence depicted is aggressive, or a defense against prior aggression.

Re: My brief appearance on “His Side with Glenn Sacks”

A couple further questions:

  1. Why marginalize or abandon Robin Morgan? Of course, everyone has a mind of their own and people shouldn’t have to answer for every wack thing that another person who shares their political convictions says, but it would be a serious mistake to suggest that Morgan—who played an instrumental role in founding New York Radical Women and WITCH, putting on the Miss America protests, organized abortion speak-outs and put together Sisterhood is Powerful, and has been a formative influence on outlets such as Ms. Magazine—is some kind of nutty fringe figure. She’s a radical figure, yes, but “radical” isn’t necessarily a term of criticism, and radical feminism has always been an absolutely essential part of Second Wave feminist theory and practice. Any story of the movement that doesn’t centrally involve her in her role as an organizer, writer, and editor has got to be a seriously distorted one.

    And—let’s put the cards on the table after all—I can’t think of a single quote by Robin Morgan that the Men’s Rights bully-boys drag out that actually has anything at all objectionable in it. What specifically is the point on which she shouldn’t be defended against her accusers?

  2. While we’re at it, what is supposed to be wrong with man-hating, anyway? If some feminists do hate men, would that mean that there is something wrong with their position?

    I, for one, hate men. Not all of them, but lots of them. And I hate them precisely because they act like men are supposed to act. I.E. because they are controlling, exploitative, rude, callous, and/or violent, just like they were brought up to be. I hate men who act like that and I hate myself when I realize that I’ve acted that way. I don’t think it’s because I’m a neurotic bundle of self-loathing or because I’m aiming to become one; it’s because I think that all of us men have a long way to go to break ourselves out of habits and beliefs that keep us from acting like decent human beings as often as we should. We grow up thinking that we have the right to do a lot of fucked up stuff and then we usually go on to do it at some point or another. Often at many points throughout our lives.

    There are many men that I love and mostly trust but I love them and mostly trust them for the demonstrable steps they’ve taken away from the way that men are normally expected to act. And I’m doing what I can to help the efforts to change those expectations and those actions—in myself, and in others when I can reach them—but I can’t say I blame a woman at all if she doesn’t like most men or doesn’t necessarily trust our motives straight off the bat.

    That doesn’t strike me as unreasoned bigotry; it strikes me as a rational response to the empirical evidence.