If you are a Radical Feminist, do you really want to dismantle the patriarchy and rebuild society?

(45 Posts)

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

SuperB0F Tue 02-Oct-12 16:55:11

Can I have a cup of tea and a lie-down before I think about it?

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TheDoctrineOfSnatch Tue 02-Oct-12 17:05:41

Really good question! I think I'm more of a change from within person so I will watch with interest.

Yes, I would want that.

But not in a 'French revolution, heads rolling' kind of way.

I think a lot of the dismantling is only going to be obvious once we've done it and we're looking back. Like with the vote for women - that was actually a fairly gradual process, but we look back and it's seen as a single fight (because the impact for all of us now is so fundamental).

I'd love to think that in 2250 or whenever, people will be teaching children '... and this is how the world was before the patriarchy fell in [time not too far from 2012!]'. Rather like the Roman empire 'falling' ... it didn't literally happen all in one swoop, but once it had happened, the impact was huge.

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getmorenappies Tue 02-Oct-12 18:15:33

Gandhi achieved big changes without violence.

I think if all women acted as one and wanted to get rid of the patriarchy it could be done.

Mmm. I dunno. I would hope there wouldn't be bloodshed (we're more civilized than we were), and what I was getting at was, lots of things happened to contribute to the 'fall' that weren't bloody at all ... just gradual change and weakening of a sytem. But I don't want to push the parallel too much.

I think all the things we are doing, which people make a huge fuss about, do contribute to changes that will eventually be big. Like the way attitudes to rape keep being pushed to change.

Women not being legally owned by men is a huge bit of social change. But the steps leading up to it are quite gradual ... getting the vote, being allowed to marry who we want or not marry, being legally responsible for children, being able to work, laws on rape, etc. etc. I think we're still in the middle of this bit of change. But I think maybe in a couple of hundred years people will look back and interpret it as all part of one big, radical change in society, rather than a series of small steps.

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

I don't think it is (but I get what you're saying).

I'm saying, I think even when a system is dismantled, it does happen from within. There is no 'outside' of the patriarchy.

But this may be me misunderstanding the terms.

I'd say I want it dismantled because I don't have any affection for the structures that are patriarchial, and I don't believe that we 'needed' the patriarchy in order to develop things like trade or economics - I think they would have developed differently outside the patriarchy, sure, but I don't worry that if we got rid of patriarchy, we would get rid of all the good stuff too.

Not sure if I am making sense here, I am interested to see what other people say.

msrisotto Tue 02-Oct-12 18:34:56

I really struggle with the idea of dismantling society, it's not an ikea bookshelf! So yeah, changing from within it is.

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

I have the same understanding of liberal and radical feminism. But I don't think we need to have a bloody rebellion in order for there to be change.

My understanding is that, after a lot of change, we'd look back and see that the root structure of society had been taken to pieces. It seems to me that, if we agree with live in a patriarchial society, all change is change from within - but it may be change that results in a complete restructuring.

<ties self in knots>

TeiTetua Tue 02-Oct-12 19:13:40

Maybe it's not a case of the radical saying "We need to see blood running in the streets" and the liberal saying "Oh no, we could never have that" (which might mean nothing much will happen).

It could be the radical saying "All this is evil, everything must change" while the liberal says "I want to change this and this and that" and by the time s/he is done, it amounts to most things anyway. But by presenting it as a series of steps which don't change society out of all recognition, it seems achievable and not too frightening to contemplate.

I think it might be like the difference between top-down and bottom-up thinkers - you know how some people think of all the changes they'd want to make that are near to them, and eventually those changes form up into a pattern? That's liberal. Whereas radicals are focussed on the structure, so they make changes that they think will most likely bring that structure down.

Someone mentioned recently, the example of radical feminists working with right-wing law makers, which seems like an odd thing to do, but which they knew would make the big structural changes they wanted to see.

Himalaya Tue 02-Oct-12 19:36:59

That bastard Gandhi?

Never mention That Bastard Ghandi.


EatsBrainsAndLeaves Tue 02-Oct-12 19:46:35

Who knows how patriarchy would be dismantled? Obviously there is not a "right" answer to this. But if you think about major changes to systems - such as the change from a Feudal to a Capitalist system. The reality is there wasnt 1 revolution that overthrew it. Because these systems have many facets it was a long process.

Individual bits may have been violent e.g. challenging individual feudal landlords, but it wasnt a bloody revolution.

Similarly with the fall of communism. It wasnt one big battle. There were lots of individual challenges to it, some bloody some very peaceful.

Getting rid of patriarchy I suspect wont be 1 big bloody revolution. It will be a series of fights across many fronts. Some legal, some personal, some campaigns, etc. And it wont suddenly happen.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Tue 02-Oct-12 19:48:59

I like your last post LRD, I can see how that could be a workable distinction that didn't require bloodshed.

I agree with this.

I think maybe it's hard for UK-based people to think about it, because we never had a fully feudal system, the Romans withdrew peacefully, and compared to lots of countries we didn't have a hugely bloody shift to Protestantism. And of course we still have a monarchy, we never rebelled against it. But I think it is true that revolution has to be a fight on many fronts.

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EatsBrainsAndLeaves Tue 02-Oct-12 20:17:55

Certainly there might be individual campaigns that are not peaceful. For example a demonstration that turns violent. But overall I think it will be a process of change over a few years. Because patriarchy is such an overarching system, its not like the bloody overthrow of a Government. It needs to be tackled on so many fronts.

MiniTheMinx Tue 02-Oct-12 20:26:27

I think Eats makes a great deal of sense on this, I don't see change as happening out of nowhere with one big bloody battle either. I think the conditions social and economic must be right. In the case of the peasants revolt, it came about because of some tax?? (I think) the revolt itself didn't actually over throw the feudal lords but because the peasants were in revolt at a time when there was a shortage of labour, the elite had to pay attention. So the social conditions of their lives were grim and the economic situation was one of empowered labour. Which makes me think that if anyone single act where to eventually "smash" the patriarchy without the support of allies women would already have to be in quite an empowered position, at least in some respects. As LRD points out in years to come they might look back and see just one single event as being the catalyst.

YY, I agree, I don't think the idea of non-peaceful campaigns bothers me.

It would be very hard to be a Saudi woman and not do things that were illegal, or disturbed the peace of that society - the fact is that women are living under a legal system where basic rights are not legal rights.

EatsBrainsAndLeaves Tue 02-Oct-12 20:47:50

Agree LRD. And i agree though that we are not talking about 1 bloody revolution. That is what people sometimes imagine - that we are going to stary handing out the guns and train an army. It wont happen that way.

kim147 Tue 02-Oct-12 20:49:24

[Boring history bit, since you mentioned in mini - the Peasants' Revolt has a shedload of causes, including taxes and people's sense of social order changing, but it also has causes in religion. There was a movement to make the Bible available in English for everyone, not just Latin, and the peasants' revolt is seen as part of this move. It didn't get all the results that were hoped for ... but I've seen arguments saying that, without it, we'd still be nowhere. So, y'know ...

FWIW, the Lollards (the religious movement involved with the Peasants' Revolt) wanted to ordain women priests. So ... social change and feminist change get caught up together, even in this situation where it wouldn't be obvious for 500 years that the idea of women priests was both revolutionary, and achievable.]

MiniTheMinx Tue 02-Oct-12 21:20:42

Women are the revolutionary class grin I didn't know about the church and the women priests.

I think there are great similarities between the Rad and marxist thinking in terms of how change happens. From my understanding Radical feminists try to raise the consciousness of women, so that ALL women can see and understand their oppression. Only when women are aware can they act. Marx spoke about raising the consciousness of the working class, only when people were conscious of their class and their relationship to the "other" class would they act. So if you use the same reasoning " A class in itself and a class for itself" it is possible to see that if women were not just the sex class "in itself" but "for itself" then change could happen.

Yeah, I reckon Marx nicked it all off Mary Wollstonecraft! grin wink

I actually don't think we can dismantle the patriarchy peacefully. You're talking about a system thousands of years old, with very powerful interests seeing any challenge as an existential threat that they will respond to forcefully.

This is why I'm more of a change from within person, because I think you need to sort of 'trick' the powers that be and also be patient and wait for the more bigoted generations and regimes to die off.

FWIW I think the patriarchy will disappear in the wake of some other cataclysm, like a global uprising against the capitalist order (which is not doing too well at the mo). In the vacuum that follows, we have a chance to institute something new. Sort of like in Iceland -- on a small scale obviously! -- when the economy fell into the ruins and they put a lot of women in charge to fix everything.

I find that a depressing parallel.

(Not having a go, you understand, just because it suggests women will always be secondary to some other event)

Hullygully Tue 02-Oct-12 21:56:30

Educate sons and change the laws.

Much more peaceful and a lot less effort than storming the bastions.

MiniTheMinx Tue 02-Oct-12 21:58:24

grin had to be, behind every great man there is an even greater women.

RumbleGreen Tue 02-Oct-12 22:11:29

I wonder about this but I don't really see how a change from within could really work. Patriarchy is thousands of years old (if not tens of thousands) a system so part of us that at best you could probably only water it down rather than completely change it. Ultimately men would have to change so you have to reach out to men somehow. Or women can filter themselves into all the top positions and try to force change but that wouldn't work on a global scale.

So how would you dismantle something which makes up the foundation of our society without it needing some massive event which would result in suffering for many atleast for a time? Also if such an event happen you would have to be quick often in power vaccums it is the most power hungry and willing to use any means necessary that end up on top unless people are prepared for that.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Tue 02-Oct-12 22:14:54

LRD I don't think it means women are secondary just that any
Major change has several factors eg the campaign for women's suffrage was speeded up by WWI and women undertaking more visible roles at work whilst men went to war.

Oh, I am probably being horribly pessimistic, doctrine.

I take your point.

I think I'm just thinking of all of those smug history books I've read, that present women's suffrage as a result of brave, good, impressive men fighting in WWI. You know?

summerflower Tue 02-Oct-12 22:26:34

I see the difference between liberal and radical feminism thus (bearing in mind that I am by no means well read on the subject and may well be wrong!).

Liberal feminism is indeed about ensuring legal and political equality so that women have the same opportunities and chances as men and are not discriminated against. Whether women then succeed or fail is an individual matter as the chances are the same (theoretically) for men and women.

With radical feminism, analysis of patriarchal society suggests that legal and political equality is not enough, one has to address the underlying values of society which privilege men, which give men power and status and which devalue attributes traditionally seen as feminine (caring, emotions, nurture and so on). When I hear the phrase dismantle the patriarchy, I don’t think it is meant in terms of an actual physical revolution, but challenging and changing those underlying values and attitudes.

However, I (depressingly) think that the only way to really dismantle the patriarchy is to convince men that it also harms them and that a more equal society benefits everyone. I am not sure that opting out works long term on a societal level, though it clearly is an option at an individual level to an extent. I tend to agree that the experience of thousands of years would suggest that change/dismantling is not going to happen in a hurry.

In terms of cataclysmic events, there was a brief period when the Berlin wall came down where it seemed in former eastern bloc countries that a new kind of social democracy could be founded. There were flourishing feminist groups. It didn't take long for the capitalist west to get in there and women to lose what benefits they had previously had.

SuperB0F Tue 02-Oct-12 22:30:38

I thought the Lollards were the precursor to the nethuns? confused

Damn, you caught me.

It's true.

They annoyed the Catholics by writing 'hun' all over the Bible, which is why the King James version has 'hun' all through the ten commandments in the first printed edition.

Himalaya Tue 02-Oct-12 22:32:23

I tend to think that the roots of what we call patriarchy are so deeply embedded in our biology, and in the systems that we depend on - (governments, banks, economy, education, trade, everything etc... as Eleanor says) that it doesn't really make sense to talk about overthrowing, or dismantling, although we can reform stuff.

I think (predictably enough) that complex systems mainly change by evolving. Which is a lot of incremental changes, and a few disruptive ones. We don't talk about computers overthrowing typewriters, or modern english overthrowing Chaucer's english. But change happens.

The trick is working out how to steer it, accelerate it, give it a push in the right direction.

OneMoreChap Wed 03-Oct-12 10:12:26

kim147 ah yes, the "let's put women back as the gatekeepers of sex" approach. That will do wonders for the respect of both men and women grin

I can see as Himalaya suggests change by evolving; I thought, in my ignorance, that the radical approach suggested an inability to change the system from within [hence the women-only spaces, deep analysis, cadre approach].

That way, and the language used overthrow, smash etc. suggests an old style revolution. These rarely end well... cf. the Rose/Silk/Rainbow revolutions in Eastern Europe, on which the judges are still out to some extent.

I think rather that revolutions don't start very well -- destruction is messy and a lot of people die. But in the longer run, they often (not always) turn out to be for the best -- or would we rather be living under monarchies, dictatorships or colonial regimes? Whatever the problems in our current political order, there are many improvements as well.

That said, I don't think you really can have an old-style revolution against the patriarchy. It's not a political regime.

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Hullygully Wed 03-Oct-12 11:45:02

At least part of the problem is that an awful lot of women are perfectly happy with the way things are.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Wed 03-Oct-12 16:32:45

Maybe imperfectly happy Hully, but I agree.

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