Thursday, June 10, 2010

Morning Manifesto

I am a feminist. By this I mean I speak out against a socially constructed system of dominance where what is identified as male in our society (a cultural construct, not the biology itself) is systematically and institutionally advantaged over that which is identified as female or not-male. I take this stance in the pursuit of morality and justice for all but particularly, as a feminist, for females. I am therefore opposed to the institution of male domination in all its permutations.

As a feminist who helped define, by theory and by works, the meaning of my movement, I do not grant you the right to support male domination and still call yourself a feminist. I will not allow my movement to be coopted in this way.

I will cry foul when you disingenuously dilute the concept of male domination as gender imbalance. The struggle to topple racism is not an effort to create a "color-blind" world or even primarily to address "racial imbalance" (nor is the colonization of the Americas based on "triangular trade", it is based on the enslavement of Africans and indigenous Americans by white Europeans.) To be anti-racist is to be, primarily, in opposition to the institution of white supremacy. Unraveling social injustice demands we clearly name who is targeted for oppression in a system and who is not targeted.

Under sexism, it is not "gender" which is targeted, it is any human who is identified as Not Male, which includes all females, all males "tainted" by being perceived as partly female, and all human beings otherwise perceived as ambiguously gendered. The default human being under male supremacy is Male. Those who are non-target for a given oppression in a social construct do suffer from existence in a dehumanized environment but they are not targeted for that oppression, and the effects on their lives must be named as different.

I will cry foul when you distort this demand for justice as being "anti-male". To insist on equal citizenship and access to all human rights for females is "anti-male" only if you believe males have claim to more than their equal share, which means you subscribe to male domination.

I will cry foul when you resort to essentialism and biological determinism, even if you are within my movement. One of the founding principles of feminism is "Biology is not destiny." Having a uterus has NO inherent relationship to my intelligence, goodness, strength, morality, attire, nurturing, valor, or power except what is assigned to my gender by male supremacy and conditioned into every female from the instant of birth using every cultural tool available. The story of human evolution is the story of using culture and conditioning to advance our species, often in contradiction to biology and instinct. When you claim a biological reason for your learned behavior, I will dispute you because feminism is not fatalistic about human possibility.

I will not allow feminism to be portrayed as standing in conflict against other liberation struggles, because that is the lie of patriarchy: That there is "not enough for everyone to be free" and we must compete for liberation against other groups also targeted by patriarchy. The dismantling of male supremacy can ONLY be done in tandem with the dismantling of classism and of white supremacy. The patriarchy is a well-integrated, mundane institution that passes for reality. If you are confused about that reality -- if you try to rank oppressions or advocate for one liberation push at the expense of another -- I will endeavor to clear your confusion, especially if we are in alliance together. But I will be public about your confusion, even if we are allies.

The nature of oppressive conditioning is that it must be administered to everyone, target and non-target alike. We all resist this distortion to the point of death as children. We cannot help but accept it, including internalized oppression about our own targeted groups. It is our work as adults to expose and unlearn this conditioning, first admitting it is there and forgiving ourselves for having been unable to stop it as infants. We are all target in some areas, non-target in others. We need every human being alive to repair the world.

I undertake the dismantling of the patriarchy as a feminist with full comprehension that this will mean going to the root, re-examining, re-inventing, facing possible chaos that is a human response to unfamiliar environments. Thus, by definition, I am a radical feminist.

"Look at me as if you had never seen a woman before."

(The people responsible for my being able to articulate this statement are far too numerous to mention, but in particular at this moment, I want to thank Ricky Sherover-Marcuse who invented "intersectionality" as an activism tool before it was taken over by the academy; the revolutionary poetic voice of Judy Grahn; and the writing of Denise Thompson and her choice to define feminism.)