The Lie That’s Killing Feminism

Internalized misogyny runs deep. Even insightful women may find themselves suspicious of women-lead movements.

Van Badham writes for Guardian Australia. In addition to the coolest name in journalism, this week she has some sharp words about the current state of the Battle of the Sexes.

Pink Couch Convo

Boys are yucky, and you’re just as good as they are!

She trumpets the results of a new study from the University of Bath: Married mothers who earn more than their husbands take on an even greater share of the housework, a study from the University of Bath in the UK has found – the more they earned over their partner, the more housework they did.

“Women who earn more than men do more household labour, it concludes, because the situation implies a gender norm variation for which women feel obliged to compensate.”

She’s playing his role, and centuries of debasement mean he can’t bring himself to adopt hers. But the laundry ain’t gonna do itself.

“Why obliged? The study says conceptions of masculinity are near inextricable from the ancient ‘male breadwinner’ role.

Oh, come now! Can men really be expected to adjust? Those creatures who forged civilization and colonized the planet navigating by the stars – Can we really expect them to behave intelligently?

Sarcasm aside, Van makes a very important point – “I'll say what the study can't: Women learn, as girls, there is no greater danger than a man who perceives his masculinity is threatened by them.”

Here she pokes the doughy center of every heterosexual relationship – A man’s greatest fear is a woman laughing at him, while a woman’s greatest fear is that a man will kill her. When your potential partners are also your biggest potential threat, not all the tension is sexual. You don’t need to shoot a gun to know it’s best to treat them all as if they’re loaded.

But, rather than dig into this power imbalance and why it lingers despite economic changes, Van blurs micro and macro to basically blame ‘society’: “Straight domestic relationships are where the deeply ingrained gender stereotypes go, like vampires, to feed on women's blood and maintain eternal life.”

Rising From The Grave

No! My instincts died with my innocence!

Why are these gender stereotypes so ingrained?? Could it have anything to do with the inevitable interactions of mechanistic material dynamics? Making six figures won’t make you stronger than him. The sweetest man in the world cannot gestate your child for you. If we’re talking about the mundane frustrations of family life, we must acknowledge the whole, gritty picture. Otherwise we’re just feeling sorry for ourselves.

Alas, Van’s deep digs at Liberal Feminism belie her ignorance of anything happening outside of it – A mutant alliance of conservative radicals and biologically-determinist feminist separatists…”

Wow, you sure got my number there, Van. My husband will be very interested to know I’m not speaking to him anymore, right after you finish explaining what ‘biologically-determinist’ actually means.

“…are out to insist that the greatest threat to women is not the intimate partner violence of fact, but the swim-champ trans women of fiction.”

A link takes us to a denial of Lia Thomas’ physical advantages. Here we have an explicit demonstration of the limits of LibFem analysis – Van can’t address the physical, material  factors that shape women’s domestic lives because she’d have to admit that we are different from men, after all.

Liberal Feminism long ago gave away the Different But Equal card in exchange for entrance to the Cool Boys Club. To highlight the distinction of femaleness is to admit we don’t belong.

And while chiding LibFems, Van is singing the same song, “An avalanche of actively anti-trans legislation in the United States” Pause for the obligatory reminder that outlawing the mutilation of healthy children is pro-children, not anti-trans. 

“…is not an ‘over there’ problem when its scare-campaign talking points – always directed at women – are echoed both by Australia's conservative MPs and the ambitious boys of its liberal Greens.” Leaving aside Aussie politics, it’s pretty rich to complain about scare-campaign talking points right after regurgitating one!

In The Backyard

All this feels strangely familiar!

Perhaps these campaigns are aimed at women because there’s a movement afoot, Van. And there’s always room for a smart woman like you.

“Dare I suggest that the aggressive scapegoating of transgender women by an invested, patriarchal hierarchy is a cunning misdirection, given that more money and more power for the lucky few has still not provided women with gender equality in the home?”

Observations this astute tend to get a person labeled a conspiracy theorist. But who put the transwomen there, Van? After so many feminist gains, why are we defending the very definition of the word ‘woman’ in public discourse and law?

"’Woman’ is a problematised term not because of any transgender activism.” Really? Because ‘inclusive language’ is kinda their thing. “It's because the modern expectations of what it means to be a "woman" are so demanding, contradictory and structurally unsatisfying, they are impossible for everyone.”

That’s why the gates are left undefended – We’ve gotten so busy pushing ourselves and hating ourselves and dumping our negativity onto other women that we’ve forgotten what it’s all for.

And Van points this out- It’s really nice to finally see someone else bringing this up. She describes how we’re immersed in a “culturally mainstreamed, ‘go girl’ liberal feminism that has massaged ‘girls can do anything’ to mean ‘girls should do everything, all the time’. 

“You must have #nolimits – especially when it comes to sexual experimentation – and yet confidently enforce boundaries, ‘dump the motherfucker already’ but have #couplegoals!” Yep, those double standards are a bitch. But when even adult human females struggle to be women, the temptation for fellas to show us girls how it’s done must be overwhelming!

Bandaged

Oh, you’re definitely a better shot than me – I don’t even know how you did that!

Van tears into Liberal Feminist messaging with a vengeance that feels personal, “The most important job in the world is still being a mother, so be an active parent, but not a helicopter parent. You should pursue your own dreams, but think outside the box, achieve a work-life balance but also lean in, ask for that raise, #BelieveAchieve and smash the glass ceiling. With your perfect face.

A line truly worthy of a cathartic spit-take.

“It's the old paradox that insists the apex of womanhood is to be simultaneously virgin, mother and whore – except also now do this backwards in heels, making six figures on a keto diet at yoga while vacuuming and everything's live on Instagram.”

Just reading that leaves me breathless – And she didn’t even mention the kids! The relentless spinning of the modern woman, our perpetual multitasking, keeps us drained and preoccupied. Which suits those who benefit from our current system just fine.

Culture is not encouraging this because it reflects any aspiration of the modern woman to be exhausted, strung out and burdened by feelings of performance failure. It's because the patriarchy has realised Liberal Feminism's potential to leave women so individually overburdened, stressed and anxious they don't revolt against the vampiric masculinities in their lives.”

Vampire Standing Victim Kneeling

Holy shit, Gary! Close the door, it’s freezing!

That, and we all have a vampire we know and love. Tearing down the patriarchy cannot begin with tearing down our homes.

Working with men to end patriarchy may seem like a paradox, but I’m starting to think it’s the only way. No one said marriage was easy. Straight women are down in the trenches on the front lines of the Battle of the Sexes, with no clear strategy and no reinforcements. If we coordinate, we can push for the basic equality we all want – Freedom from fear.

Van is good at identifying problems. Resisting the urge to put the onus on individuals, she waves instead toward the nebulous evil of ‘patriarchy.’ Because patriarchy makes women more detail-oriented and gives men a narrow pelvis… They never quite think it through, do they?

Because to do that would be to admit defeat in Liberal Feminism’s most precious skirmish – That men and women are exactly the same (aside from the obvious external differences). That femaleness is so insignificant, it has no material impact on us whatsoever.

This is the blatant lie that’s killing feminism. Adhering to this lie makes any real analysis of our lives impossible.

It blinds us to our situation. It keeps us from seeing our shared problems. Giving in to this unearned ancient shame keeps us isolated and trapped in a man’s world.

Go Make Sammiches

I told you, babydoll, this is a business meeting! Go and fetch me and the guys some drinks!

Sure, a lot of the crap between women and men is cultural static. But a lot of that static emanates from hard realities of material existence that no amount of Leaning In will change.

Tuning out that static is important. But those of us on the front lines have a duty to trace it to its source, to stop allowing ourselves to be distracted from what our instincts are telling us.

This vital discussion can’t be had while smart women like Van Badham are still willfully ignoring the obvious. Collective amnesia will continue to ensure life’s traps ensnare all of us, one by one. 

Unless we can forgive ourselves for being female, feminism is doomed.

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