I've threatened to expose my views on feminism before on this blog, I think I may even have noted my rejection of the term 'feminism', but I must thank Women Rule Writer over at the Anti-Room for finally drawing out of me exactly what it is about the term that doesn't agree with me.
I think I'd like to add to my comment there - but to put it here rather than gobbling up any more comments space there - and say that, for me, patriarchy is at its strongest and conversely least detected within our language system. I'm not suggesting we change the language or that it would be possible or acceptable to drop gender markers, for example, from it - though this would whittle down discrimination at least in the written form. Shock horror, I don't even have the answer! But I do strongly, passionately believe that our entire value system is flawed and language is where it's clearest to see the discrimination, though most often ignored, and where it is easiest to stop. However, we have to learn to recognise it.
Our entire language is an extension of patriarchy. We don't gender every word so we have a better chance than, say, the French to rectify this but we do have gender in the language. Fact. We have masculine and feminine. Pretty simple so far, pretty fair, nest-ce pas? OK but what I think happens, all too often, still (no I am not the first to note this nor do I claim to have some enlightened position on the situation here), is how the masculine word is favoured over the feminine. Waiter/waitress (caps omission deliberate). Think up a few binaries. Try it. I am aware that there's some work being done to address this imbalance - actor is now favoured over the actor/actress dichotomy - this is progress and it's as much as we can aim for in the now given that we have to privilege one term over another ultimately to banish the inequality. It's much less practical to think up a whole new, gender neutral, term than it is to drop the recessive term in favour of the one we've privileged. But just take a look at the word we favour. In our promotion of actor, for example, we are acknowledging the superfluousness of the word actress. We are acknowledging that the feminine state was nothing more than a suffix to a male preference. All our progress looks, from this perspective, like a lot of running backwards - running with gusto, but not quite progress. And not equality. But a start. I do not think there is a solution to be found in privileging the feminine term either, I must stress that, my aim is not for an inverted form of sexism - patriarchy with a feminine hat (ouch - self-loather?) - I want equality.
And that's essentially it - no cure, no big fix because I don't think society is ready for what it would take to fix the inherent discrimination hardwired within our respective cultures. And, respect is key here. A lot of ands, but as me granny said, a lot of 'ands make light work. So it's not easy to remove the discrimination from language or to achieve equality through deconstructing binaries but it is what I advocate and what I believe in and what I believe we can all work together to achieve, AND before you criticise it - you taken a look at your beliefs lately?
Therefore, my thanks to Women Rule Writer, and to every woman who has stood up and been counted for her rights and beliefs. But here's to every other person who's been discriminated against, of whatever other gender, race, (choose own marker) variation because feminism is not just for women, it benefits us all - but can we have a fairer name?
PS. is fair regarded as a feminine word? If so, take that last line as irony. Balance things out.
Maybe someone can get me started on class distinctions - that's bound to amuse. Discrimination and oppression wear many hats but all smell the same to me.