Posted by: annek86 | October 3, 2007

Progress in Theory

I have been reading some contemporary feminist theories, or feminisms, (as I have recently heard them called) that have raised a disturbing issue for me. While I enjoy the idea of constantly evolving theory that works to perhaps patch up holes left in other theories, or even to create something brand new, I am seeing a unfortunate trend in separatism. I guess I’ll jump on the bandwagon and pick on the author everyone else has…. Charlotte Bunch proposes explicitly tearing down our current society and rebuilding it without men. She sees change as only occurring through the use of lesbianism as a political tool, and as being utterly impossible with any energies of women being exerted towards anything male.

Our discussion the other day questioned the validity of a successful society that excluded men, and that was in turned questioned with the idea that we are once again putting our energies and concerns in the realm of male progress, which takes the focus away from the progress of women. I disagree. To not question the validity of a feminist argument or theory is shortsighted and ultimately disadvantageous to women. To be integrative of the human spectrum (females and males) in creating viable theory is necessary. I do not believe that the exclusion of male presence within society would be ultimately beneficial. First there are the logistical issues of procreation (which I assume people think is an alright notion), and the demands of redefining and rebuilding an entire economic/labor force, etc. But there are also other factors. To completely diminish the benefits that can be found in the male experience rings to me as an example of how easy it would be to then translate that into diminishing people at other levels (race, class, etc.) It is already an evident concern for me in the various readings I have done where women ‘advocating for feminism’ are only advocating their brand of feminism, and for their type of feminist. To rule out men, is to start sliding down a very slippery slope. As a quick note, I do understand the anger and desire for radical action, and the honest desire to permanently exclude those people responsible for our oppression from our future and experience. However, I see danger in that, and I still see value in the male experience – but not the male-dominated system. Back to what I was saying earlier….

To purport that women would never engage in denigrating other women based on perceived differences, (skin color, etc.) is naive and dehumanizing. Not all aspects of humanity are pretty or reflect things such as tolerance, but to deny them their validity is to diminish human experience. There is a broad spectrum of personalities, talents, and abilities that are held amongst women, and among those possible traits are the ability to envy, hate, manipulate, and so on. I am not excited about the idea of women tearing down other women, nor do i think its healthy or useful to focus on that. I am not a doom say-er, and I don’t believe women would emulate systems of oppression in their restructuring of society. I see an overall vision of women working on themselves, and on each other, to combat all forms of oppression. And I know women are the ones who will be tearing down and rebuilding all oppressive institutions. I am simply concerned with maintaining an open view to the complexity of human experience. And I am particularly concerned that the elitism and separatism within some of the feminist frameworks of action and theory will hinder our ultimate goal of human liberty.

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Responses

  1. I feel that the point in this post was very well put. It seems quite unlikely that an all female society would not experience conflicts of its own. I also feel that expecting heterosexual women to just “drop” their desires for relationships with men does not serve women. It does not leave room for women to have the freedom of choosing who they have emotional/sexual connections with. Isn’t liberation and freedom for women one of our ultimate goals as feminists?
    This post also made another point clear to me. As an opressed group, I think it’s fair to say that we want to be seen as humans as well as individuals. Reducing someone to their sex or gender to create a devide between women and men does not serve this purpose.

  2. I also fully agree with your side of the argument here. The idea of separatism that was mentioned, especially in the case of Charlotte Bunch’s essay, inspired many of the same feelings that you described here. To think that the most viable choice for women to make in order to exist in a free, equal society would be to exclude men completely raises some questions for me. By eliminating men from her idea of utopia, isn’t Bunch still focusing a lot of her energy and thought on men? It just seems slightly contradictory; as if the only way women can succeed in creating a societal system is to cut men out of the picture completely.

    The connection that I continued to make after reading Charlotte Bunch’s essay, and now your post, is to “Theory and Justice” by Avery Gordon that we read in Week 1. I was reminded of the idea of complex personhood, and the integral part that plays in justice and freedom. It seems that Bunch’s idea of utopia, and the choices women must make to gain freedom and justice (in her mind), are simultaneously denying those ideals.

  3. I feel you all make very excellent points. To boast that certain women neglect their desires of men does not coincide with the idea of freedom to choose.

    I think Bell Hooks would say that Bunch’s largest mistake was to make Lesbianism a political lifestyle. Just as making Feminism a political lifestyle leads to exclusion and alienation of many other women who self-identify with many groups. By making either of these a lifestyle says that you must choose us over them. A concept that is not advantageous for anyone.

    Another flaw that should be mentioned is that when lesbianism is used as a political tool in which everyone should choose to be homosexual devalues the true experiences of homosexuals in a society that has a very real problem with heterosexism.


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