coursework: feminist theory

in one of my women’s studies classes, we talked about the theory that the hegemonic construction of what women are supposed to be emphasizes beauty and its importance so forcibly in order to ensure that women are preoccupied by the constant pursuit of beauty and are therefore distracted from other injustices that they might otherwise challenge.

i think about that sometimes.

You won’t solve any issues in this class. The most I can hope for you to attain here is awareness of this life-long struggle… You are part of the feminist movement. Maintain your unease and form your own identity. Live a conscious life.
—  my feminist thought professor
Something I’ve noticed about Culture and Therapy

Many of my friends from grad school and practicing, whether they practice from CBT, psychodynamic, or humanistic orientations, will say that culture doesn’t really come up in their sessions.  And, aside from that being incorrect because culture is always present, I wonder if they actively avoid it or simply never introduce it.

As I’ve grown as a professional I’ve tweaked how I introduce myself and my practice.  I work from an ACT and Relational Cultural Theory blend.  Explaining ACT is pretty simple and people can google it and a bunch of things, even workbooks and studies will come up.  People are familiar with the idea of mindfulness and other very basic concepts.  I can site the neurological research on mindfulness, relaxation, and meditation.  

But explaining RCT is a bit different.  I tell clients that this means I will spend a bit of time asking them about all of the various systems and relationships in their life, school, work, friends, family, partner, etc.  And I want to know what conflicts come up and what stressors effect this.  How do you feel connected or disconnected from those systems and relationships.  I don’t always say “your ethnic culture” or anything like that in this introduction.  But as I grow, I do address in with different language.  I’ve noticed that, since I’ve started laying out my intro like this people begin to say “my culture,” “my background,” “my family,” “how my community is raised” much more often.  They also say “my way went against my culture,” “this wasn’t okay in my community,” etc. And they are able to discuss it in a way that is more nuanced, they see the good and bad of their relationship with their culture, what they hold closest to in their culture and what they shy away from.  

I guess what I’m saying it that when people don’t bring up culture, I doubt that it is ever because it doesn’t impact them or it’s no important in therapy.  It’s not always a “big issues” that people will comment on or bring in.  But it is present and it is important.  

Women are objects

Men are also objects.

People exist. Consequently, they’re objects.

In the same way that hippies dont understand that everything is chemicals, feminists dont seem to understand that everything is objects. Everything made of matter is an object. People, believe it or not, are made of matter, and made of chemicals too. To recognize someone’s existence, let alone interacting with them in any way, is to recognize they are a physical object.

Women are also people, and so are men. Objects and people are not mutually exclusive things. Objectification is not real, it’s a made up concept from feminist theory. Objectification is not real, but dehumanization is. Objectification is where you view a woman -specifically a woman, by definition- as an object, which they are. By definition, you objectify women. By definition, you cant objectify men. It’s a magic trick. It’s impossible to not “objectify” anyone, even if it were a word that included something that happens to men. Because of the meaning of the word objectification, feminist could see you interact with any woman, and complain that you are objectifying her. Dehumanization, on the other hand, is where you view a person as inhuman, as though they are lesser than the inherent qualities of every person, where you deny their individual agency, individual interests, individual worth, and the natural rights of the individual…

Wait… denial of individuality….

…Oh hey, feminist theory and marxist theory do that in their conflict theories, it’s called collectivism. They even erase your kindness, love, integrity, and humanity by claiming those are really just a deceptive, manipulative struggle for power between you -not as an individual, but as a representative of a group- and all other groups of people.

Their marxist ‘conflict theory’ and subsequent ‘social conflict theories‘ of feminism are each are built on the premise that the individual is irrelevant to political analysis and subsequent political goals.

Forget the individual, forget their personal agency, personal interests, personal value, and individual rights, those apparently dont exist or dont matter at all. It’s why they dont care what happens to a male victim or female perpetrator. That’s why they like the term social justice instead of individual justice, individualism, or simply justice, it’s because they think the individual is a force of inherent evil. It’s why they only care when the victim is a ”victim class”, and then they still dont care about the person personally, they only care about them the as a representative of an oppression narrative about an “oppressed group”. It’s about using the victim as a martyr for their political aims. They don’t care about the individual victim, they care about what is done to a person *as a woman*, or *as a “person of color”*, or *as “lgbtq”*. It’s not about the individual rights of women, or whatever group, it’s about women’s rights as a group -group rights. Social justice theories view everyone and everything in society as a political representative of a collective (and an expression of oppression). Everything is political to them, one of their early mottos was literally “personal is political” which may as well have been “big brother is watching”. Maybe a specific individual who advocates social justice recognizes the significance of the individual, but they certainly didnt get that idea from social justice. Socialist justice reduces everyone to a superficial identity, forgoing their individual significance as a human being, painting them as a collectivized group with interests based on their gender, sexuality, race, etc, then claim everyone else are the ones who maliciously objectify people.

Amazing little switcharoo they did there.

As women, we have been taught either to ignore our differences, or to view them as causes for separation and suspicion rather than as forces for change. Without community there is no liberation, only the most vulnerable and temporary armistice between an individual and her oppression. But community must not mean a shedding of our differences, nor the pathetic pretense that these differences do not exist.

Those of us who stand outside the circle of this society’s definition of acceptable women; those of us who have been forged in the crucibles of difference– those of us who are poor, who are lesbians, who are Black, who are older – know that survival is not an academic skill. It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths. For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. And this fact is only threatening to those women who still define the master’s house as their only source of support.

—  Audre Lorde, The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House

Intersectionality is a pretty-sounding word that essentially functions as an excuse for feminism to hijack and claim ownership of areas of life that fall outside the scope of feminist theory. Basically, feminists are trying to re-define feminism as synonymous with humanism, and extend feminism’s relevance by making it into “the one-stop-shop for all your social justice needs”. 

 TL;DR “intersectionality” is just a bullshit power-grab. [x]

Second, instead of the state and nation being real essentialized objects, feminist theories tend to explore them as relational entities that need to be perpetually reproduced through discourses, practices, or material circuits. Feminist scholars explore the power relations behind these constructions, the femininities and masculinities they rely on and reproduce, and their differentiated gender impacts. State processes, policies, institutions, discourses, practices, and norms are shown to be gendered and gendering and constitutive of gender orders. States and nations are also racialized and sexualized in that they use norms around heterosexuality to reproduce the state and nation.
—  Johanna Kantola, “State/Nation,” in Oxford Handbook of Feminist Theory, ed. Disch and Hawkesworth, pp. 915-6 
[E]thical relations are much more complex than the radical feminist discourse of child sexual abuse would have us believe. For if we are to use the inequality-of-power argument to disqualify all adult-child sex as unethical, then surely we ought to apply the same logical and ethical test to all other adult-child interactions.
—  Steven Angelides, “Feminism, Child Sexual Abuse, and the Erasure of Child Sexuality” (151)
The focus on “sexual liberation” has always carried with it the assumption that the goal of such efforts is to make it possible for individuals to engage in more and/or better sexual activity. Yet one aspect of sexual norms that many people find oppressive is the assumption that one “should” be engaged in sexual activity. This “should” is one expression of sexual coercion. Advocates of sexual liberation often imply that any individual who is not concerned about the quality of their experience or exercising greater sexual freedom is mentally disturbed or sexually repressed. When primary emphasis is placed on ending sexual oppression rather than on sexual liberation it is possible to envision a society in which it is as much an expression of sexual freedom to choose not to participate in sexual activity as it is to choose to participate.

Sexual norms as they are currently socially constructed have always privileged active sexual expression over sexual desire. To act sexually is deemed natural, normal—to not act, unnatural, abnormal. Such thinking corresponds with sexist role patterning. Men are socialized to act sexually, women to not act (or to simply react to male sexual advances). Women’s liberationists’ insistence that women should be sexually active as a gesture of liberation helped free female sexuality from the restraints imposed upon it by repressive double standards, but it did not remove the stigma attached to sexual inactivity. Until that stigma is removed, women and men will not feel free to participate in sexual activity when they desire. They will continue to respond to coercion, either the sexist coercion that pushes young men to act sexually to prove their “masculinity” (i.e., their heterosexuality) or the sexual coercion that compels young women to respond to such advances to prove their “femininity” (i.e., their willingess to be heterosexual sex objects). The removal of the social stigma attached to sexual inactivity would amount to a change in sexual norms.
—  bell hooks, Feminist Theory: from margin to center