At which point exactly did Women’s Liberation become a dirty word? Women’s Liberation is now somehow something that we can’t talk about, and we have to be happy with the ‘modest and proper’ goal of achieving equality?! You can’t ask anymore: equality to what? The miserable and overworked men who drive themselves to early graves so much through the pursuit of ‘happiness’ through fleeting and long debunked notions of monetary wealth and power? Was it around the same time that Susan Faludi wrote Backlash, around 30 years ago? Or before then? How do we get out of this perplexing state of affairs?
I feel cheated. I never got to enjoy it. It feels like I’m expected to be grateful to the Suffragettes that they won me the vote, and simply skip Women’s Lib, pretending that it never happened, and as if everything is going in the right direction – towards equality. And as a feminist brought up on second wave literature, I cannot do that in clear conscience. Even IF (which is a big if!) the equality illusion, as the brilliant Kat Banyard appropriately named it, was in fact an achievable goal, I am not going to sit there and pretend like it’s enough. I am now a full time feminist and I do not intend to dedicate my life’s work to a goal that is an unsustainable lie.
Firstly, equality to men in the current hyper-capitalism climate, becomes a quick path to destruction: men complete with each other, day in and day out, for resources that are not the key to human happiness, and drive many more men to suicide than women. Secondly, the resources that we fight for, use and abuse, in the course of this mad competition, are scarce and the maddening rate at which we exploit them makes their scarcity a fast-approaching global crisis.
But let’s go back to the core of the issue here. Ever since I’d learned about the Women’s Lib Movement, I felt like I should have been born right then. I am a women’s libber at heart. There. It’s out. I said it.
The other day, I organised a screening of women’s history films at the Feminist Library. It was lovely – a cross-generational audience joined us for the event, including a few women from the WLM, and the discussion afterwards was quite enlightening. We screened Feminist: Stories from Women’s Liberation, and one of the topics discussed in the film is how the Suffragettes were seen at the time. And it turns out, they were seen at just like second wavers are now! And it was the young, revolutionary, radical feminists that were the new exciting thing then!
Does it really have to take us 100 years to appreciate and celebrate the amazing women who came before us and won the rights that we enjoy and often take for granted now? We don’t have to agree with them on everything, that’s not the point. But we enjoy the fruits of their struggles now, all the while acting as if their fight was irrelevant.
Most women my age don’t even know what Women’s Lib Movement is – including the feminist ones! We’re supposed to go to work, study, vote – and generally pretend or tirelessly strive to be equal to men until we get there. Because the unspoken assumption is that we will get there, and if we haven’t already – it’s just one of those small hiccups that will ‘NATURALLY’ come with time. And then we go there and we’re surprised that we’re miserable. Of course, I know we are still far from equal. But I have worked in companies that are dominated by women and where I haven’t really seen workplace harassment, and they were still largely miserable places to be! All this competition – and for what?! To sit in a place that makes you want to fall asleep on good days and blow your brains out on bad ones, for most of your waking hours, until you’re retired and potentially too tired to enjoy your life?!
The problem is sex. We have been lied to by the post-feminist armies of backlash and we largely bought it – sex in the 21st century is the liberated kind (even when nobody who says it ever knows what women’s liberation really was meant to be, unless you define it as hardcore porn type sex, where a woman is something that a man takes, uses and discards when he’s finished…). Now we’re supposed to pretend we enjoy it because the media sold us on porn. In the 21st century, liberated women enjoy porny stuff, regardless how painful it looks or sounds. After all, what is a woman if not an object to be penetrated in multiple ways, preferably at the same time…
If this sounds like the ramblings of a drunk idiot, worry not, I know. We live in a mad world, which is always a little bit Trump-like – loud, proud and dumb. We just don’t stop to think about it so much. Sometimes one just really needs to express these thoughts out loud to realise just how painfully obvious the ridiculousness is.
I have a feeling that most women actually feel in their gut, in their bones just how wildly outrageous it all is – it’s just that the armies of the status quo have gotten into our heads so much, that we rarely think about questioning it, let alone saying it. And you can only realise the ridiculousness of it all when you admit it, out loud.
Go on, do it, it’s freeing, I kid you not!
But in all seriousness now, how do we break from this vicious circle? How do we finally wake up and realise that we have been silent enough? That maybe it is time at last to celebrate the Andrea Dworkins of this world? Because maybe, just maybe, they weren’t as mad as patriarchy told us they were, when they called out violence for what it was. And maybe they were right when they said that porn wasn’t sex…
Again, you don’ have to agree with everything that the Dworkins of the world are saying. The key is realising the lie that they were all the modern day witches. To be fair to witches, the same thing happened to their story. But that’s a story for another time… The stories of women who are not afraid to say their truth are always twisted and used against them. The key to women’s liberation is actually for us, women, to stop believing those lies, and to stand with our sisters.