Column: Feminism has a right to anger
In a society where women are still oppressed, they should absolutely use their experiences to fuel the fight toward progress.
Nov. 13, 2013
The opinions expressed by The Maneater columnists do not represent the opinions of The Maneater editorial board.
Last week, I wrote a column on some popular misconceptions of feminism, and in response to the piece, someone commented with an argument I hadn’t quite been addressing. The following statement was made by the commenter:
“Is that what feminism in practice? I think not. One of the main problems with ‘feminism’ is that it exploits the legitimate claims of equal rights as a cloak to usher in its divisive, hateful and neurotic interests. Interests that are plainly anti-male and not at all about equal rights. It’s about Female Supremacy, Nothing More, Nothing Less.”
This contention is followed by a number of quotes from “famous feminists” in an attempt to support the claim that feminism is a furtive attempt at gynocracy. Since the argument is made primarily through these quotations, I'll address the quotations themselves. Sure, I could just as easily say “the views of the few do not reflect the views of the many,” but where's the fun in that?
“To call a man an animal is to flatter him; he’s a machine, a walking dildo.” — Valerie Solanas
Solanas suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and was famous for an assassination attempt on Andy Warhol. Since she was raised in the early 20th century, I'll assert that her disability and radical thought process was simply a product of her upbringing and the context in which she was raised, and such a statement serves as both an excuse and a reason for her above claim.
To be blunt about it, I can't imagine being a woman raised in the social toxicity of World War II America, and anyone who says he or she wouldn't dabble in a bit of radical feminism under such circumstances is a veritable liar. If we're being honest, misanthropic sentiment was probably quite the popular fashion; atomic bombs, internment camps, Nazi Germany, apartheid and similarly dark times tend to make people pessimists.
“I want to see a man beaten to a bloody pulp with a high-heel shoved in his mouth, like an apple in the mouth of a pig.” — Andrea Dworkin
I'll admit, this is a disturbingly graphic depiction of hostility. Of course, it makes me curious as to why Dworkin, an advocate against pop-cultural and systemic violence, would ever say such a thing?
Oh, what's that, Google? Andrea Dworkin never said this, and men's rights activists and their silly little blogs and creepy tattoos are full of it?
The Internet, trusted confidante as it may be, has a nasty habit of backstabbing any unwitting user when it comes to sources. There is absolutely no record of Dworkin espousing such a violent sentiment, and on the contrary, if you Google “Andrea Dworkin quotes,” this fictitious gem won't be in the first few pages of results. Maybe it would show up if you Googled “feminists are really mean,” along with videos of Aryan supremacy and articles titled “Why Walter White was in the right.”
“All men are rapists, and that’s all they are.” — Marilyn French
Marilyn French is an author. With that in mind, our next assumption should be, “I wonder if this quote is from some sort of book?” As it just so happens, it is. This excerpt is from a fictitious, aggressive character in her novel, “The Women’s Room” — and as such, I see no harm or foul.
If it's any consolation, I certainly understand blurring the line between fictional novels and real life. Have you read “The NSA Really Sucks” by George Orwell? It's fantastic.
“Men who are unjustly accused of rape can sometimes gain from the experience.” — Catherine Comins
Here's where it gets a bit messy for me. This quote is not direct but instead a TIME Magazine writer’s indirect quote of Comins, former assistant dean for student life at Vassar College. Still, I’d contend that there's something of value we can dissect from its sentiment.
Indeed, to argue for “rape culture,” people commonly cite the epidemic of women reporting sexual assaults, only to be met with apathy or disbelief from authorities, friends and even parents. As such, women are forced to become survivors of a psychological and physical iteration of torture with little to no network of reliable support. Their claims are often dismissed as irrelevant or superfluous.
The sentiment expressed by Catherine Comins, then, essentially states that if something similar were to happen to men — being wrongly accused of committing rape — then we would understand what it's like to be a woman in contemporary society, particularly a survivor of sexual assault.
Do I think men should be wrongfully accused of rape? Absolutely not. Indeed, as a male, I can't even begin to comprehend the abject misery associated with such an experience — but I think that's Comins' point. Women are all too often forced into a similarly voiceless anguish, and my only contention with Comins, then, is some poor word choice.
Finally, I'll admit that being wrongfully accused of a crime and being a victim of a crime no one believes occurred aren't quite the same. For all intents and purposes, they can be considered parallel, as they are both life-changing, miserable experiences stemming from a social disbelief or a prevailing apathy.
“I feel that ‘man-hating’ is an honorable and viable political act, that the oppressed have a right to class-hatred against the class that is oppressing them.” – Robin Morgan
Again, this one is a bit messy, as I think there's some value to be found here as well. As a society, we have a way of stigmatizing anger as objectively wrong or amoral; this couldn't be further from the truth. As humans in an overstimulating society, it's becoming increasingly important for us to learn to express our emotions and use them for positive effect and result. In the case of anger, we should seek to relieve it of its stigma, as it is often turned into a very necessary passion for inspiring instances of change.
To argue the point, I'll contend that some feminists may very well be angry persons. But let me be clear: This doesn't mean they're unhappy, bitter or disagreeable. On the contrary, it means that they have an opportunity to segue their anger into a brilliant passion for social justice and equal rights.
Let me put it another way; who the hell has the right to say a woman should be silent while she is forced to exist in a culture that is apathetic toward rape, relentless in its use of gender roles, and insistent on dealing women lower pay? Indeed, complacency is the soul and sword of oppression and the mortal enemy of progress, and it's damn near heartwarming to see women getting furious over their social standing.
These examples don't extend solely to feminism. On the contrary, I encourage people to let students complain about a broken education system instead of telling them they're not smart enough. Let the LGBT community get pissed off because they can't marry in their home state of Missouri, because who can really afford New York and a diamond ring? And finally, let's let women get mad that they get paid 70 cents on the dollar, or that people don't believe them when they're assaulted.
Should feminists turn their anger into rage? Never. Rage is aimless, painful, pointless and ill-conceived. Should they turn it into a blazing passion and a welcome desire to make the world a better place? The answer is a resounding yes, and I'd argue that's what most feminists do.
MU students can learn quite a few things from these refutations. For one, please source check quotes. If the only context in which you find an incidence of a quotation is something like “lolomgwtfquotes.com,” I suggest you don't use it. Secondly, let's take the stigma off of anger and passion; when people are, for lack of a better term, screwed over by a broken system, let's let them be mad for a change.