What would an ideal feminist world look like?
- Women would RULE and men would have to crawl around at our feet getting us chocolate
- A land of bra burning, hairy lesbians out to get YOU!
- There would be no gender binaries or heteronormativity…
At school, when I got teased for being a feminist, I used to say (rather smugly): “feminism just means that men and women should be equal, what’s the fucking problem with that?”
Nowadays I am often told that things are a bit more complicated than that, that equality is too simple a term for the vast and varied concepts that feminism embodies.
As an example of equality, or at least an attempt to redress some kind of balance, I went to see the Vagina Monologues last night (at Queens, very good, get tickets). but I came out wandering, can saying CUNT VAGINA VAGINA CUNT VAGINA ever drown out the PENIS PENIS PENIS PENIS PENIS that reverberates through media and cultural airwaves pretty much 24/7. And is that perhaps a childish way to go about it?
Can the patriarchy be overthrown by giving women everything that men have?
Many groups appropriate feminism to their cause, they tell us that we can’t overthrow the patriarchy, without first eliminating capitalism/ the corporate world/fossil fuels/religion (delete as appropriate). That there are more important inequalities that need to be addressed first, economic, class or national inequalities. Though it is important that these varied groups recognise the women’s struggle, they cannot be one and the same thing. If you go too far down that line you end up discussing whether the patriarchy does or doesn’t have a material basis, and no one wants to be there… Feminism has to exist as a political entity of its own right, perhaps allied to but not dependant on socialism/environmentalism/secularism/anarchism or any other of that ilk.
What about a world in which there was no such thing as gender? Where your genitals differentiated you only in so much as blondes from brunettes today (I just realised that brunette doesn’t have a masculine equivalent, how annoying). Perhaps this is the only way to overthrow the patriarchy but it does not seem particularly tempting. Is our identity as women not important in itself, surely it is not only the result of oppression but something to celebrate and take pride in? But then perhaps this identity is only constructed for me, after all what do I have in common with most women in the world apart from my genitals… and childbirth – which is definitely not something I would like to define me.
There is talk of a destruction of binaries, a creation of spectrums or better still circles, where there is no beginning, no ending no possibility of superiority, because who knows which way up a circle goes?
But ultimately equality still sums it up for me. In a world in which men and women were educated the same, paid the same, spent the same amount of time on childcare, had equal freedom to dress how they pleased, go where they wanted. In a society in which children were taught from a young age that it is not always “daddy that goes out to work and mummy who does the cooking” and girls were not given dolls to look after, to feed, change nappies; while boys have cars and skellektrix (not sure how to spell that but god did I want one).
Could we create a society where women would not be objectified, where sex work would not have to exist, and rape would be unthinkable? Not now when vulnerability is reason enough for exploitation. Where women’s bodies are seen as capital which can be used exchangeably. But by rejecting the essentialisation of womanhood (for which plays such as the Vagina Monologues are partly responsible) and forcefully asserting our equality to and independence from men perhaps we can make a start.