Radical feminism, by definition, seeks to dis-cover and examine the root of women’s global oppression by men, and the sources of male power. In our work, we have discovered that there are several key themes that appear over and over, and which transcend time and place — this is evidence that women’s oppression by men is class-based, that is, that women as a sexual class, around the world, share the experience of being oppressed by men because we are women.
In this series, republished in part from Radfem-ological Images, we present 17 themes for discussion and analysis. Like all radical feminists previously and presently, we do this because it is the truth, and radical feminists accept the truth no matter what it is, especially the truths about women’s lives and what men do to us.
In Part Two, we present the following themes: Male entitlement; Mansplaining/women’s perspective is wrong; Necrophilia; Normalize abuse/neglect; and Normalize porn/prostitution. Part One is here.
Below are several common themes which function as the mechanisms of women’s real-life oppression by men and the foundations of male individual and institutional power; and some common manifestations of those themes:
Under patriarchy, being male is the only thing one needs to gain access to the good things in life, including gainful employment, physical safety and comfort, and sexual access to women. Even oafish or “beta” males are entitled to have a woman as a domestic, sexual and reproductive slave and we see this portrayal often such as in television shows such as “The Big Bang Theory” or VH-1’s reality series “The Pickup Artist“. Because they were born into the privileged class, all males are also entitled to financial and material success, including driving nice cars, wearing stylish clothes, or living in nice homes, even when they very obviously do not deserve it because they are incompetent, or where they cannot afford it, often leeching off of women, including girlfriends, mothers, and wives or committing crimes to achieve the lifestyles to which they feel entitled. Men are entitled to literally do whatever they want without suffering any consequences of any kind, or where others suffer the consequences of men’s actions, such as where men eat obviously unhealthy food because it tastes good, without regard for their health, or engage in dangerous “jackass” type stunts, extreme sports and other activities where women will be the ones taking care of them when they inevitably fall ill or are hurt. Also included is men’s PIV-entitlement, where men fully expect sexual access to women but where the reproductive consequences are women’s to bear alone.
Male entitlement supports male power. It is never questioned that the world owes men what women can only dream of having, such as financial security, physical safety, and bodily autonomy; when men are deprived of these things, it is seen as a devastating blow, and much time and energy is spent on remedying perceived slights that men experience, usually at the hands of other men. Male-centric “social justice” movements consist of socially or politically “underprivileged” men fighting amongst each other to be treated as privileged white men are treated, including their unquestioned, unfettered access to women; meanwhile, all men continue to use women as their sexual, domestic and reproductive slaves and social justice movements do not address or satisfactorily address institutionalized misogyny, sex-based discrimination or male abuses of women. And because men are deferred to and praised even when they don’t deserve it, and only because they are men, men are known to overestimate their own abilities and feel and exude “confidence” even when they are actually incompetent or perform in the below-average range on any task; however, patriarchy rewards “confidence” as a personality trait in men even when it is baseless. The actual and perceived entitlement that all men are born with normalizes and naturalizes male “success” even when their material wealth, career successes, familial status and sexual access to women are achieved through unethical and even violent means, including violent or organized crime, political corruption, systemic institutional discrimination against women, economic coercion and rape.
Mansplaining/women’s perspective is wrong
Under patriarchy, men mansplain to women constantly. Often, men mansplain to women who do not like pornography why it’s really harmless, or mansplain to women who criticize or abstain from PIV on political grounds or women who do not enjoy PIV that they are just “doing it wrong.” Doctors and other experts and professionals are actually experts in mansplaining and professional mansplainers; unsurprisingly, male experts — being male — often mansplain to women on the topics of PIV and porn too. Of course, from women’s perspective, not liking porn and PIV is very reasonable, where porn is often documentary evidence of coercive sex (i.e. rape) and implies risk of unwanted pregnancy and infection, and where pornographic imagery provides no obvious indicators that the “sex” is consensual, and where the circumstances do not imply consent. Rather than acknowledging the validity of women’s perspective on any issue, which is based on centuries of collective lived experience and biological reality as well as individual and even professional expertise, women’s perspective is considered defective or based in ignorance.
Mansplaining supports male power. Mansplanations are not merely a waste of women’s time or inane — but essentially harmless — babbling by oafish men; in actuality, mansplanations are an exercise in forced-perspective, where men force women to view the world the proper way, which under patriarchy means through men’s eyes. Mansplanations are thought-terminating — they are intended to and do actually stop women’s thought processes and women’s discussions in their tracks, where those processes and discussions are coming dangerously close to representing a female-centric reality, or where men’s interests are not being properly represented and catered to. The intent of mansplaining is to get women “back on track” to furthering the patriarchal agenda, and to undermine the true revolutionary potential of majority-female or female-only spaces where women are free to go to the ends of our thoughts, based on our shared reality and experiences and our hope for a better future, and our shared, sincere desire for the end of patriarchy and undermining of male power. Because of male entitlement, men are simply used to unearned deference on every issue (especially from women) and having sexual and other access to women and women’s spaces, including inside our discussions and in our heads.
Under patriarchy, boys and men are obsessed with death. Mary Daly referred to this obvious male preoccupation with death as “necrophilia,” meaning the love of death. Men’s necrophilic tendencies are not limited to literally sticking their dicks into corpses, although it includes that; necrophilia refers to men’s obsession with death and all things related to death and antithetical to life, including neglect and abuse, causing reproductive harm, rape, murder, torture, war, inflicting physical and emotional pain generally, and placing themselves and others in harm’s way in every way. Where women are interested in and indeed heavily invested in preserving and nurturing life, often because they have to, or face legal or social consequences if they fail, men are working very hard to undermine women’s efforts to nurture life at every turn.
Necrophilia supports male power. Obviously, the power to take life or to cause extreme suffering is a form of power, and men embrace this power fully when they torture and kill animals, girls and women, and each other. Where boys and men are obsessed with death and creating destruction, women are left to perform damage control, utilizing all their time, energy and resources on mitigating the harm that men inflict; women are then left with few or no resources to use towards building a female-centered culture or to support our own interests. This diversion of women’s resources away from woman-centered and non-patriarchal ends is deliberate. The unusual man who is even slightly interested in nurturing or preserving life is the beneficiary of enormous false gratitude, but when women make a mistake or are unable to perform caretaking duties at a high level for any reason, we are severely punished by patriarchal institutions which place extreme controls on women’s lives and enforce our caretaking role with institutional violence, including incarceration. Of course, it is frequently men’s necrophilic actions such as PIV-centric sexuality creating unwanted or ambivalent children, or men harming themselves and others, that create the need for women’s usually unpaid, institutionally-unsupported caretaking labor in the first place, and opening the door to patriarchal institutional control over women’s lives. Granting men the power to open the door to institutional patriarchal control over women is critically important to and supportive of male power.
Under patriarchy, the abuse and neglect women and children suffer at men’s hands are normalized such as in women putting up with oafish husbands who are inadequate partners, or worse. Heterosexual “romantic love” and marriage, which are almost always based on intercourse and women’s financial dependance, are privileged over all other relationships, especially over woman-centered sexual, platonic, familial or sisterly love that would benefit women and center women’s needs. Men cannot or will not take care of their own children, pets or even houseplants in a way that sustains life and this is regarded as humorous; often we are even let in on the joke, whereby men are only pretending to be incompetent so that their female partners will just do everything ourselves. Men do stupid and dangerous things and get themselves hurt, leaving women saddled with additional unpaid domestic caretaking duties.
Normalizing abuse/neglect supports male power. Normalizing abuse/neglect normalizes and legitimizes the way men “do business” when it comes to the primary (heterosexual) relationship where men are abusive and neglectful generally compared to women. Marriage and the nuclear family are the center of the patriarchal power structure and are normalized, despite failing to meet women’s needs and despite being the source of so much female suffering around the world. Normalizing abuse/neglect leads women to believe that it is they who “love too much” rather than men who love too little, and stops women’s thought processes short of considering spinsterhood, lesbianism or political lesbianism as legitimate identities or behaviors more in line with their values, attractions or interests, and prevents women from considering individual or political solutions to the problem of unsatisfying, degrading or dangerous partnerships with abusive or neglectful men. Normalizing abuse/neglect invisiblizes the abusive and neglectful patriarchal context within which women live our lives, and women’s individual misfortunes, no matter how common or foreseeable, are treated as isolated and individual “bad luck” rather than evidence that male-centric reality, institutions and cultural practices are deliberately harmful and neglectful of women’s interests generally.
Under patriarchy, pornography and prostitution are normalized. Very young girls are sexualized as in baby beauty-pageants and “prosti-tot” culture and fashion, while practices that were once largely or exclusively confined to stripping, porn and prostitution are becoming normalized such as pole-dancing workouts, heterosexual anal intercourse and feigned enthusiasm for PIV. Feminist critics have noted that pornographic imagery and values are invading mainstream media more and more, which is particularly terrifying, considering that porn is getting more and more violent and woman-hating.
Normalizing porn/prostitution supports male power. Normalizing porn and prostitution normalizes intercourse and a male-centric construction of sex and women’s sexuality that centers the penis, and has little to do with female pleasure, and a lot to do with women’s pain and suffering, including women’s reproductive-related suffering, on a global scale. Normalizing a global industry that profits from the “sex” of women, including coerced “sex” otherwise known as rape, normalizes the fact that females are the sex class and the rape class; males are not. Both women and men are put in their respective places with this knowledge: men internalize and bond over the knowledge that they are the sexual and economic power-elite and have a permanent underclass of sexual slaves at their disposal, while girls and women internalize the knowledge that extreme sexualized abuse and extreme objectification including repeated rape and worse are what await us if we do not “succeed” materially or financially, where “success” for women almost always requires pleasing men and serving patriarchal ends through marriage, employment or (often) both. Both the pornography industry and the global trade in raped, trafficked and prostituted girls and women are extremely lucrative and support men’s economic power. Women in prostitution and porn and trafficked women’s “earning potential” actually decrease over time, despite gaining “work experience” and seniority that is valuable in other work contexts. This is evidence that they are victims of a unique exploitation, and not “workers” in an ordinary or legitimate sense, yet the exploitation is made unobvious.
Normalizing porn and prostitution, where they are experienced or expected to be experienced in a positive light is a daily exercise in forced-perspective, where girls and women are taught to see the world through men’s eyes and never through women’s: if we did view either of these things through women’s eyes, we would see not pleasure or even sexuality, but extreme pain and fear, economic and physical coercion including violence, rape and rape-trafficking and rape-slavery, drug and alcohol addiction, unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease, and woman-murder. That these things are a part of “sex” or sexuality or sexual pleasure is a decidedly male-centric and penis-centric point of view that is rarely shared by the women involved in the industry, and is not shared by women who report that they do not like watching or performing in pornography, but a negative response is never normalized no matter how common (or reasonable) it actually is. Women who are brutalized by these industries, as well as the men who brutalize them are invisiblized; there is no agent of harm because there is no harm where only or primarily women are harmed and men are not.
Please stay tuned for Part Three, and feel free to add comments and further analysis below.