On a daily basis I encounter online a general cluelessness as to what Feminism is all about, primarily from younger women who call themselves feminists. The daily onslaught of misinformation includes “but men are victims too”, “what about the men?”, “that statement is anti-male”, etc.
Feminism—it’s NOT about men! The clue is in what feminism used to be more commonly called back in the days of the Second Wave—Women’s Liberation. To spell it out (even though in my opinion, the name is fairly self-explanatory), the Women’s Liberation Movement (aka Feminism) is about female liberation from male domination and control. It was not, nor was it ever about making the world a better place for men, even though the ‘unintended’ side effect of a more feminist-led society does have benefit for males, that is not Feminism’s primary goal.
But obviously, I need to spell it out more clearly. If you call yourself a Feminist, then the group of people you are working for are females, all females, regardless of race, age, disability, class; to improve the lives of all females born under a system of male supremacy; and recognising that just by virtue of being born female, females will be discriminated against from cradle to grave.
Now, if you want to go around and ‘make the world a better place for all people, regardless of gender (ie sex)’, then go ahead—but it is not Feminism, it is Humanitarianism. That is fine, as far as it goes, but Humanitarianism will never address the underlying inequality of a male supremacist society, Humanitarianism acts more like a charitable organisation, just helping out groups most affected (which would include poor men, men of colour, as well as the women of those groups). If the system that caused that inequality remains intact, then it is a never-ending supply of victims to help out.
Which does seem rather pointless in the long term. Which is where Radical Feminism comes in. The ‘radical’ in Radical Feminism means ‘getting to the root causes’ and to overthrow the system. This is where Radical Feminism differs from Liberal Feminism, Liberal Feminism being positioned between Humanitarianism and Radical Feminism. The common element between Humanitarianism and Liberal Feminism is in not really wanting to change the system, just tinker around the edges a little bit. The resemblance between Radical Feminism and Liberal Feminism is (or at least should be) the focus on one group (females) across the various groups (race, class) of society. I had to add the ‘should be’, because Liberal Feminism is now so damned focused on ‘what about the men’, that it has truly lost its way.
It is probably worth noting that most of the young women today who have the confusion about Feminism, were all born within the Backlash to Second Wave Feminism. Some of these young women have also done ‘Gender Studies’ at university, however, ‘Gender Studies’ is also part of the Backlash. It used to be called Women’s Studies, and like all proper feminism, focused on females!
I may make this a ‘Part 1’ post, with ‘Part 2′ addressing “How do you know if you are a Radical Feminist or a Liberal Feminist?’. Because not every feminist is automatically a Radical Feminist, even if the name sounds really hip and edgy.