Thursday, September 18, 2008

Feminism's Hidden Agenda


By Pamela Suffield

On the surface, Feminism seems a simple enough movement. What does it want? Equality of opportunity for both women and men. A chance to choose, instead of being forced into the straitjacket of conventional roles. Fairness. Reasonableness. A sharing of power, money and status between the sexes, instead of everything being hogged by men. Who can argue with that, especially since it is "politically correct" to espouse such goals? We may find Feminism something of a bore these days, but at least we are clear about its objectives - empowerment of women so that they become equal with men.

Underneath this perfectly reasonable and ideologically sound credo is a completely different desire, as yet almost entirely unvoiced, except by a brave few. Many women (and men) want to live in a world led by females. The reasons are as many and varied as the people wishing such a world. "Women's turn now," is one reason given by people sick of the world as it is. Men have had their chance. They cocked it up, so give a women a go! After all they can't do a worse job. Maybe there'll be less war, if women get to make the decisions, since the rampant aggressiveness of males will be held in check. The conflict and hierarchical structures patriarchy has invented will disappear, because women know how to cooperate. They know how to live happily without destroying the environment to make a quick buck.

Oh yes, oh yes!" many men say, even if it's deep in their hearts, because the thought of being dominated by a "strong" woman thrills them beyond measure. This is seen as a sexual perversion by "macho" men, but it exists. Look also at the anger voiced by many women about the oppression of the last few thousand years. There is a well of deep hatred there, a need to destroy all that men have achieved, all that men are! Such a need can't be met by gender equality, but within a society that gives power to women and in which they can expect revenge.

Sound sick? There are also powerful desires for a world led by women which are sane, sound and rational. It's a necessity, for example, for us to learn to cooperate with each other globally, to nurture both ourselves and the planet, to learn to live harmoniously. Our emphasis upon competition, struggle and speed not to mention our blind acceptance of science as the way forward in all situations, has brought us to our knees. Women, when they don't attempt to become aggressive, patriarchal "men in frocks," are perhaps more capable of producing a happy world than men. Their unsung potential for wisdom and leadership by example remains untapped and undeveloped, and many people, secretly for the most part, would like to see them replacing the largely corrupt and self-serving males who rule our lives. I could go on, but hopefully you get the picture. Underneath the apparently "fair" demand for equality between men and women is a hidden agenda - sometimes hidden to the people who want it to happen - which clamors for a female-led society. Please.

So why don't we hear more about this desire? An obvious reason could be that it doesn't exist, and women really do want only half the cake. Somehow they will find a way to balance the structures and goals of society to meet the needs of both men and women, without disadvantaging either. We will then live in harmonious, equal bliss forever.

It's impossible. Equality is a rational, logical ideal, a typical invention of patriarchy; a product of left-brain thinking. It can't exist, because human beings don't operate solely from a basis of logic, but via a whole parcel of emotional and spiritual needs, which can't be met by dividing an imaginary cake, however fairly. Women may want to share in the profits of patriarchy at the moment, but they will soon see that all of its structures, its goals, its ways of operating, are completely at odds with their nature, whatever that turns out to be. They may buy into it for awhile, become judges and managing directors, but soon come to see that the cost is too high, for them as well as for others. The whole system has to be dismantled, because it was erected in the first place to fulfill the goals of patriarchal males; their need for power over others, money, status and control. You can only produce equality in this system with more control, so that you can nit-pickingly parcel out rights, opportunities and the fruits of exploitation in an even-handed way.

Equality takes no account of personal evolution or the multifarious emotional needs of individuals. Before we begin, it defines what is valuable, and then insists on building structures to ensure we get our "share" - whether we want it or not. Maybe I don't want an equal right to be a boss and stamp on the faces of my employees. Maybe I don't want the freedom to work twelve hours a day in a munitions factory along with the boys. Maybe I don't want to be coerced into yet another set of "shoulds" and "oughts," so that society can pat itself on the back that I now have equal access to the roles of murderer, criminal, soldier as well as politician, doctor and artist.

I want more than this. I want the whole of society to change, and for women to be in on the ground floor, shaping the world in a different way, producing a more loving and less destructive environment. I also believe women can do it, though not yet; it's too soon. We have only just begun to cotton on to the fact that everything we think we want, everything we believe in, everything we aspire to, has been defined by a small number of dominant males. They wrote the books, passed the laws, disseminated the propaganda and spouted the bullshit. It will take us a long time to see through it all. As the light dawns, we'll see what fools we were, and begin to live our lives according to the needs of all of us, not just a select few. In such a world, women will be at the center, not because they force others into submission, but because the human race has a deep psychological and spiritual need to reverse the patriarchy and explore its opposite. No amount of proselytizing about equality can counter that need, especially after millennia of male domination. Hopefully, we will give a massive shrug, shake off the beliefs and patterns of the past, and explore what it's like to listen to women. Really listen. Having tried both ways, maybe then we can find some way to apply all we've learned in a world where men and women have their natures and experiences equally valued.

Very few people are willing to contemplate a female-centered society, let alone speak about it. It's an idea whose time has not yet come, and one would risk abuse suggesting it. So it's not surprising what we find it difficult to see that it's the next step after throwing off the shackles of male domination and will lead to greater happiness for both sexes.

Most women have very little confidence as yet. They've been belittled and told they're barely human for thousands of years. They're judged by values which are defined by men, so it's difficult to see themselves without that filter of prejudice. Most men don't yet know how to support and encourage women; they themselves are confused about what their new role is in the changing panorama of sexual stereotyping. It's all a bit of a muddle, and so women feel that being given or achieving "equality" within a completely male run world is as much as they can dare hope for. At the moment, they still listen to men, defer to them, and define themselves according to male criteria of "success. So we see the rise of the powerful, aggressive woman, who is usually a substitute patriarchal man, and just as likely to shit on you from a great height as he is. Who would want a world run by people like that? Not me. They're like the "nouveau riche," power and money is so new to them, and their models are so unappealing - successful men- that to contemplate handing the reins of power over to them sends a shudder down the spine of anyone who feels we need something different, not more of the same. So we reject the idea, which might be surfacing into our conscious minds, that a society guided by women could be a good idea.

Not only do women lack confidence in themselves, they still have too much fear of patriarchal men to voice any kind of desire for a female-led world. It's been difficult enough accumulating the few rights they have against the resistance of society. They wait fearfully for the backlash from men, who are still massively powerful, and might push them back under if they get too "uppity." They are still beaten in their houses, raped in the streets and excluded from those positions of authority which men want to keep for themselves. What would happen if they said that the world needs to look to women for the way forward? At the least they'd be laughed at. "Women! They can't even program the video recorder, let alone run the planet!" At the worst there might be wholesale violence against women who made such suggestions. Faced with their fears of what men might still do to them, many women conclude that equality if fine! Patriarchal men move from having the whole of the cake to having half of it. That's fair, isn't it? Faced with the suggestion that women could move from having none of the cake to cooking it by a completely different recipe, many people recoil in horror. No way! Women might abuse men in the same way men hurt and humiliated women. It seems safer by far, to both sexes, to go for equality, which at least leaves you with a 50% chance of getting your way if you're a man, and a 50% chance of opting out of growth if you're a woman.

It can't work. Men and women need to learn completely different lessons now, and taboos about fairness have to go. It may relieve some of our anxieties to feel that we can, if we try hard enough, parcel out money, power and opportunity even-handedly. However, it may not be the right thing to do to ensure that humanity learns from its mistakes. Women have often been referred to as the "fairer" sex - fairer in terms of "niceness," unselfishness and nurturing. They may find it difficult to relinquish the pay-off from feeling themselves morally superior to men. They at least don't behave aggressively and tyrannically, don't put their needs before those of others, and are much more capable of empathy. We know from many studies that women find ways of avoiding success, and where promotion is available, shrink from accepting. It is not just lack of confidence, or fear of becoming unattractive to men, but a real terror that if they do join in the patriarchy at the "boss" level they might become tyrants, just like men. It's a strong taboo, and one that i feel many women have. Even acknowledging competitiveness, aggression and selfishness in themselves is problematical for many women, so the idea of leading or shaping society is hardly likely to occur to them.

What about men? Are there any men other than the ones who want a dominatrix who long for a new way? I think there are, though they are hardly likely to broadcast their opinion that it's time women took over. The "macho" image they are supposed to present to the world is still very strong, and they are often surrounded by men who express hostility to women in many ways. Caring and cooperation is still seen as "wimpish" behavior, likely to interfere with the ruthless pursuit of personal ambition. Men are as heavily conditioned as women into socially acceptable behavior, and find that even the notion of "equality" is quite frightening because it's new. How are they supposed to behave towards women now, without risking ridicule and criticism? It's not easy. So why should they go beyond what's currently asked of them, and consider women as leaders? Well for one thing, they live in a world where other men with more power than they have, push them around, attack them in the streets just as much, if not more than they do women, and use them as disposable pawns. Very few get to be the ones giving the orders, and with so much "accountability" around, even fewer have power without massive responsibility. A world without violent and competitive males calling the shots might be quite appealing emotionally, especially if rigidly structured hierarchies of power and status disappear as well. We underestimate just how many men are sick of the patriarchy, and once it occurs to them, might welcome a woman-centered world.

I haven't said much about how a matricentric society could function, largely because I don't know. If we go back a few thousand years, we can find matrilinear societies, goddesses, and an absence of war, well-documented by present day scholars. However, we have no way of going back to the patterns of those times and must find a new way. And a female led society may produce its own problems, in the way patriarchy has. It can't be a simple flipping of the coin, with the only change being that women oppress men, who are the subservient slaves of females. Women are intrinsically different from men; how different we won't know until women shake off their patriarchal conditioning. Feminism may seem to try to persuade us that equality should be our goal, but many of its followers really would like women to have their turn. Worth a try?