Published February 5, 2014
“Feminism” contains a lot in it of which its subscribers might not perhaps be aware. It is often presented as merely being a statement to the effect of “Women should have equal rights”, but while that may be a convenient banner for its armies to gather beneath, that formulation of Feminism’s central tenant is not one that preceded Feminism, and around which women merely spontaneously coalesced. Rather, Feminism has a history all its own, and has within it a genetic inheritance, notions and ideas, and a particular, even systemic way of structuring those things into a coherent worldview bequeathed to it by its various antecedents, which were required in the first place for Feminist discourse to be possible at all.
Feminism has a great many things available to it in its theoretical toolkit. Certain types of criticisms it makes of things, as well as singular concepts that appear natural to it and that its adherents everywhere may be frequently observed to employ. It’s characteristic of Feminism to say that a gender role is culturally, not biologically determined. That culture imposes upon women certain traits and behaviors which, in conforming to them, women are to some meaningful degree oppressed by society.
This is the notion that the “Patriarchy” is meant to express.
So much of Feminist criticism operates in this conceptual dimension, that the ability of feminists to make such criticisms is one it could not possibly survive without:
“The media typically portrays women in such and such a way, or in doing this or that thing, and the behavior of women across our society is conditioned by such portrayals. Therefore women should not be presented as such in films, video games, books, photographs etc, but should be portrayed in a different way so as to condition them differently so that they’ll do different things that will be much better than the things they’ve thusfar been conditioned to do.”
But it cannot be taken for granted what criticisms assuming this form intellectually and philosophically presuppose. For such arguments to be grounded at all, for them to possess any legitimacy, or carry any conceptual weight whatsoever, the idea of the sort of behavioral conditioning inherent in them must be in some way conceded or previously established.
It is the conceptual groundwork provided by Marxism that Feminism has been constructed atop, upon concepts it has repurposed from Marxism, as well as the various derivatives of Marxism, that it relies. Some form of a sociological or Marxist historical/cultural materialism is nothing less than the proverbial wind beneath Feminism’s wings so to speak, and because of this, Feminism is not simply sympathetic or inclined towards Marxism, but, from its initial appearance during the 1960s to the present day, has regardless of its everyday believers’ knowing it or not, from day one taken Marx as a given.
The presupposition that this sort Materialism is an accurate description of how Human society functions, and how individuals interact with that society, has particular existential and teleological implications of enormous consequence as to how certain fundamental philosophical questions are to be properly answered. Questions concerning no less than human agency and self awareness, as well as the ultimate purpose and end of human civilization.
To represent Feminism as being only a belief that “Women should have equal rights” is more than a little problematic having said that. In the West, and in the United States more specifically, how the majority of us orient ourselves towards the concept of a “Right”, is to a large degree colored by how “Rights” were understood by the authors of the American constitution and the many similar documents upon which the modern European nation states are founded. The “Rights” to which Feminism believes women are entitled, are things to which human beings are entitled, and are of significant enough value to be worth making a claim upon, only in the context of Enlightenment political and moral philosophy, and Free Market Capitalism. That Feminists insist “Women should have equal rights” is all Feminism amounts to as a political ideology, while at the same time furthering that ideology by means of arguments whose validity presupposes a philosophical outlook in which those rights are completely valueless, is a difficult thing to stomach.
For that matter the Materialism of Feminist critique, in the exact same way that it considers human behavior conditioned by a process of socialization individuals are subjected to throughout their lives, and the teleological consequences of such a view, present it with a philosophical problem of serious importance as to its own nature. If Feminism means to elevate women from a condition of servitude, and secure for them rights through which their free will as individual human agents is affirmed, and if Feminism emerged to liberate women as a whole from within the community of women itself as a genuine manifestation of that very free will, how can we reconcile those things with the materialism Feminism relies upon to achieve its stated goals, the fatalistic picture that it paints of our existence as human beings, and the causal determination of human history that would arise as the natural consequence of that materialism being correct?
Was Feminism as a movement self determining, created by concerned women insisting our society acknowledge them as possessing free will and the natural rights owed to them because of that fact? Or was it only another link added to the causal chain of history to which all material circumstances are attached, with the conditions for its very possibility determined by the so-called Patriarchy prior of its own coming into existence, that our species would thereby be further advanced along the path it has and always will inexorably follow towards some historical end entirely beyond either our control, or understanding?