You don’t have to go far to discover what the world at large thinks of Radical Feminists. We’re man-hating lesbians, we’re hairy, scary and ugly. We’re taking it too far, we’re crazy, extreme, mentally unstable. We want to take over the world and kill all men. We are aggressive and intimidating. I have lost count of how many times I have read comments like ‘I’m all for equality, but those radical feminists ruin it for everyone’. This is never qualified with what we are ruining or how. And when I ask for examples, I never get a response. I think a lot of people read ‘radical’ and hear ‘militant’.
1.(especially of change or action) relating to or affecting the fundamental nature of something; far-reaching or thorough.“a radical overhaul of the existing regulatory framework”
synonyms: thoroughgoing, thorough, complete, total, entire, absolute, utter, comprehensive, exhaustive, root-and-branch, sweeping, far-reaching, wide-ranging, extensive, profound, drastic, severe, serious, major,“radical reform is long overdue” antonyms: superficial
forming an inherent or fundamental part of the nature of someone or something.“the assumption of radical differences between the mental attributes of literate and non-literate peoples”
synonyms: fundamental, basic, essential, quintessential; More antonyms: minor
(of surgery or medical treatment) thorough and intended to be completely curative.
2.characterized by departure from tradition; innovative or progressive.“the city is known for its radical approach to transport policy”
1.Notice how a lot of the synonyms for ‘militant’ match the things that radical feminists are accused of being?Go back to the dictionary meaning of ‘radical’. It is presented in a pretty positive light. So why aren’t Radical Feminists seen so positively? We want to get to the core of the issue, to fix things properly from the base up. We don’t want violence or force. We want to unite the world, not divide it.A radical approach is not a series of band-aids. It is systemic restructure with the goal of making a better world for every person.
I think the reason why radical feminism resonates with me is that it is simple and it is logical. It began when I was first able to see the ways that I was being oppressed and objectified in my own life and realised that I had the option to say ‘no’. Bit by bit I started saying ‘no’ to the things that men expected of me simply for being a woman. I began to question my role in the game, in the system. I began to see the widespread inequality and the oppression of women in even my supposedly civilised and progressive part of the world.
I breezed through exploring the concept of choice, because of the things I had experienced that I could have prevented, but which would probably have led to a worse fate if I had resisted. Freedom is not being forced to choose the lesser of two evils.
As I peeled away all the baggage that our patriarchal society burdens every woman with as she grows up, I saw at the bottom the answer to the ‘problem’ of equality: that we are all people, and we should all be treated with respect.
From that basis, you start to challenge the things that get in the way of that ideal. First, the stringent reinforcement of the gender binary. This division of people into one of two groups is what makes inequality possible in the first place. Once divided, one group takes all the power and designates the other group as objects to be used as they see fit.
And so, radical feminism rejects anything that gives one group power over the other. This includes privileges like economic advantage, higher social regard, higher perceived intelligence and higher perceived value. It includes ‘gender roles’ that leave women to do the bulk of the labour for little or no money. We criticise anything that devalues the oppressed portion of the population. This includes things like the beauty standard imposed upon women, and male entitlement to sexual access to women and children.
Radical feminism really is simple. And unless you particularly benefit from men having power over women, it is also harmless. So I have to conclude that those who seek to discredit radical feminism and make such a simple concept appear so muddy are those who profit from the exploitation, degradation and commodification of women and girls.
Meanwhile, there is nothing wrong with wanting to be heard, with not being attracted to men, with not artificially making yourself attractive to men, even with not being completely mentally healthy. We are all people, and we are not perfect. We still deserve to be treated with respect. It is not complicated. I just want us all to cast aside the bullshit and be people in whichever way allows us to do the most good. That is my radical feminism.