Here’s a remedy for some of the generalized feminism-bashing and accusations that feminists as a hive-mind are misandrist. Feminists quite correctly insist that there are many feminisms. It’s a request for a little more attention to detail, and it’s more than reasonable. So let’s look at what is misandrist about radical feminism and see if that is foundational to any other kind of feminism, if other feminists use its terminology, formulations and theoretical assumptions.
When it comes to rebutting the accusation of misandry, Fidelbogen has a simple solution – one can simply renounce and abjure the explicitly man-hating aspects of other people’s feminism.
Let’s see how wide and deep the distinction between radical feminists and other feminists really is. Let’s focus on a early founding group.The Redstockings were a radical feminist group formed in New York in 1969. (There was also another independent Redstockings group in San Francisco.) The full text of the manifesto is below at the bottom of the post.
Can we agree that it is a fair statement of the radical feminist position?
If so, can we then also agree that the way to distinguish one’s position and one’s feminism from those angry man-hating radical feminists is to reject their misandrist positions?
And what are those misandrist positions? Let’s lift them from the text of the Redstockings Manifesto itself:
1. Our oppression is total, affecting every facet of our lives. We are exploited as sex objects, breeders, domestic servants, and cheap labor. We are considered inferior beings, whose only purpose is to enhance men’s lives. Our humanity is denied.
By describing women’s oppression and ignoring men’s exactly identical oppression, this formulation erases it, and that is misandrist. That the value of men in this society is based solely on our utility to women is not only so general that it is easy to demonstrate, but also so general that it fades into the background and becomes invisible.
2. All men receive economic, sexual, and psychological benefits from male supremacy. All men have oppressed women….
….. We call on all men to give up their male privilege
Barbara Nussbaum identified denial of autonomy as an indicator of objectification. Borgification of men and women into classes is both misandrist and misogynist. The notion of male privilege proceeds from this borgification of men and is inseparable from it.
3. To blame institutions implies that men and women are equally victimized, obscures the fact that men benefit from the subordination of women, and gives men the excuse that they are forced to be oppressors…. We also reject the idea that women consent to or are to blame for their own oppression.
Here the manifesto denies that men are constrained by society and insists that women are. This is not only objectification of women in the form of inertia, the denial of agency, but it is a blatantly discriminatory double standard. The only discernible basis for this discrimination is that men are objects without rights or any claim to judgment under the same standard, rather than human beings.
4. We do not need to change ourselves, but to change men.
The authority to change others is a claim of ownership. Barbara Nussbaum identifies ownership as an indicator of objectification.
5. The most slanderous evasion of all is that women can oppress men.
Again, Barbara Nussbaum identifies violability and denial of subjectivity as indicators of objectification. Denying that women can and do oppress men and boys, harming us in institutional and structural ways, is to excuse the violence and harm that women do men based on the violability of men. And when men come forward and recount how they have been harmed and continue to be harmed, any attempt to deny that or to silence them is a denial of subjectivity.
To summarize, here’s a list of what is misandrist in the Redstockings Manifesto:
1. Objectification of men (and women) by means of reductionist class analysis.
2. Demonization of men as the oppressor class.
3. Denial of harms to men as merited to members of an oppressor class
4. Double standards in analysis biased against men
So the question is how often do we see this kind of terminolgy and discourse in non-radical feminst spaces, or hear it from one of the “That’s Not My Feminism” feminists?
Fidelbogen drew up an oath of abjuration for feminists who did not want to be considered misandrist. I offer my own, which is more detailed. If a feminist doesn’t care whether he or she is considered misandrist, that is fine, that is a personal choice. But it is their choice and they can accept the consequences of it.
Oath of Rejection of Misandry
1. I renounce and reject any analysis that objectifies or dehumanizes either men or women by crudely and reductionistically lumping them into classes and that denies their individuality or individual agency.
2. I therefore renounce and reject any analysis that identifies all men as oppressors and all women as victims, or that denies that men can be victims or that women can be oppressors, or that denies that these power differences can be based on gender roles alone.
3. I also renounce and reject formulations or slogans based on accusing men of being oppressors as a class such as “male privilege”, and “men can stop rape”, in the absence of female equivalents or formulations that include male victims on the same basis as female victims.
4. I renounce and reject gender-based discrimination. I reject analysis that uses false equivalencies to minimize harms to men, such as: equating rape of women to murder of men or insults to women’s faithfulness with paternity fraud against men, that seek to explain away harms to men as insignificant because they are done by other men, that seek to exculpate women for blaming men for the violence that women do to them or their children. I condemn any gender-based discrimination before the law, whether intentional or simply resulting in disparate impact – the female sentencing discount, gendered disparities in scholarships, institutional support groups or quality of instruction and educational outcomes in government-run education, disparities in the family court system resulting in disparate rates of child custody and disparate treatment of parental misconduct, and all other forms of governmental and institutional gender discrimination. I condemn gender-based infringements on due process and other Constitutional rights.
5. I renounce and reject the demonization of human sexuality, either as dangerous and creepy or as sluttish and dirty, or as perverted or unnatural. I reject notions such as “rape culture” and “male gaze”.
6. I renounce and reject any social or political project that treats one gender as morally inferior to another. I reject calls from women to “fix” men and attempts by women, or their male enablers, to define or decree what constitutes a “good man” a “real man” or masculinity.
So there’s the oath a feminist can take before witnesses to remove any doubt she or he is misandrist. Just swear off “male privilege”, “male gaze”, “rape culture” and all special pleading for either gender. It’s simple egalitarianism.
I After centuries of individual and preliminary political struggle, women are uniting to achieve their final liberation from male supremacy. Redstockings is dedicated to building this unity and winning our freedom.
II Women are an oppressed class. Our oppression is total, affecting every facet of our lives. We are exploited as sex objects, breeders, domestic servants, and cheap labor. We are considered inferior beings, whose only purpose is to enhance men’s lives. Our humanity is denied. Our prescribed behavior is enforced by the threat of physical violence.
Because we have lived so intimately with our oppressors, in isolation from each other, we have been kept from seeing our personal suffering as a political condition. This creates the illusion that a woman’s relationship with her man is a matter of interplay between two unique personalities, and can be worked out individually. In reality, every such relationship is a class relationship, and the conflicts between individual men and women are political conflicts that can only be solved collectively.
III We identify the agents of our oppression as men. Male supremacy is the oldest, most basic form of domination. All other forms of exploitation and oppression (racism, capitalism, imperialism, etc.) are extensions of male supremacy: men dominate women, a few men dominate the rest. All power structures throughout history have been male-dominated and male-oriented. Men have controlled all political, economic and cultural institutions and backed up this control with physical force. They have used their power to keep women in an inferior position. All men receive economic, sexual, and psychological benefits from male supremacy. All men have oppressed women.
IV Attempts have been made to shift the burden of responsibility from men to institutions or to women themselves. We condemn these arguments as evasions. Institutions alone do not oppress; they are merely tools of the oppressor. To blame institutions implies that men and women are equally victimized, obscures the fact that men benefit from the subordination of women, and gives men the excuse that they are forced to be oppressors. On the contrary, any man is free to renounce his superior position, provided that he is willing to be treated like a woman by other men.
We also reject the idea that women consent to or are to blame for their own oppression. Women’s submission is not the result of brain-washing, stupidity or mental illness but of continual, daily pressure from men. We do not need to change ourselves, but to change men.
The most slanderous evasion of all is that women can oppress men. The basis for this illusion is the isolation of individual relationships from their political context and the tendency of men to see any legitimate challenge to their privileges as persecution.
V We regard our personal experience, and our feelings about that experience, as the basis for an analysis of our common situation. We cannot rely on existing ideologies as they are all products of male supremacist culture. We question every generalization and accept none that are not confirmed by our experience.
Our chief task at present is to develop female class consciousness through sharing experience and publicly exposing the sexist foundation of all our institutions. Consciousness-raising is not “therapy,” which implies the existence of individual solutions and falsely assumes that the male-female relationship is purely personal, but the only method by which we can ensure that our program for liberation is based on the concrete realities of our lives.
The first requirement for raising class consciousness is honesty, in private and in public, with ourselves and other women.
VI We identify with all women. We define our best interest as that of the poorest, most brutally exploited woman.
We repudiate all economic, racial, educational or status privileges that divide us from other women. We are determined to recognize and eliminate any prejudices we may hold against other women.
We are committed to achieving internal democracy. We will do whatever is necessary to ensure that every woman in our movement has an equal chance to participate, assume responsibility, and develop her political potential.
VII We call on all our sisters to unite with us in struggle.
We call on all men to give up their male privilege and support women’s liberation in the interest of our humanity and their own.
In fighting for our liberation we will always take the side of women against their oppressors. We will not ask what is “revolutionary” or “reformist,” only what is good for women.
The time for individual skirmishes has passed. This time we are going all the way.
July 7, 1969
Redstockings P.O. Box 748* Stuyvesant Station New York, N.Y. 10009