Ladann Kiassat //
Often when I start befriending a new acquaintance, they quickly learn that I am a feminist. Usually, with replies or rebuttals saying, “you’re not like that type of feminist, right?” I am always baffled. Is there another definition of a feminist? A feminist is one who believes in the sexes’ social, economic, and political equality. Simple, yet a supposed cloud of “vagueness” surrounds this definition derived from the idea that women want, well, anything more than just that. My analysis is very surface-level, involving no intersectionality and assuming a somewhat perfect society in a later scenario.
Feminism manifests itself in every aspect of society. Social equality has to do with how we interact with one another; essentially, the persona we choose to put forth into the multifaceted world. Economic equality has to do with what job a man gets versus a woman’s job based on identical credentials. Political equality has to do with our right to our voices as we are living, breathing citizens. I try to always look at life in a very practical and straightforward way.
I’ve never staunchly been against men, and I don’t think I ever will be, but Valerie Solanas SCUM Manifesto was quite convincing. She argues that men have ruined the world, and it is up to women to fix it. I don’t usually fancy these types of commentary, as I am always hesitant about the presented bias, but how can it not be when it is written from the point of view of a woman? Her writing got me thinking about many things in my life that I never really thought about. Why do we have all-female gyms? Why are there “all-women” institutions at all? We have all heard about the don’t walk alone at night if you’re a girl, and usually, and usually, it is “because men are gross,” “men are horny,” “men want to exert power onto women,” but why? Think about this from the third person’s perspective observing an interaction between a man and a woman. It’s pretty interesting because I believe it is a lot deeper than most people are willing to contemplate.
Fundamentally, what is the root cause of this weird relationship between men and women? You can make many arguments about patriarchal history and how men have always imposed their will onto women but even this, I feel, is short of the explanation I am looking for. At first sight, Solanas’s SCUM manifesto answers a lot of these questions in almost the most outlandish and immature way. She argues that men are somewhat of these “incomplete females .” When I read this, I laughed. “Being an incomplete female, the male spends his life attempting to complete himself, to become female” at this point, I was ready to say this wasn’t for me. Given the time this was written, 1967, many of Solanas’s ideas feel outdated, but I am more interested in her train of thought Solo coming to these conclusions. I think I deduced her train of thought from this excerpt, which happens to be my favorite:
“The female’s individuality, which he is acutely aware of, but which he doesn’t comprehend and isn’t capable of relating to or grasping emotionally, frightens and upsets him and fills him with envy. So he denies it in her and proceeds to define everyone in terms of his or her function or use, assigning to himself, of course, the most important functions — doctor, president, scientist — therefore providing himself with an identity, if not individuality, and tries to convince himself and women (he’s succeeded best at convincing women) that the female function is to bear and raise children and to relax, comfort and boost the ego if the male; that her function is such as to make her interchangeable with every other female. In actual fact, the female function is to relate, groove, love and be herself, irreplaceable by anyone else; the male function is to produce sperm. We now have sperm banks. In actual fact, the female function is to explore, discover, invent, solve problems crack jokes, make music — all with love. In other words, create a magic world.”
This excerpt really took me back because Solana’s describes a transcendental type of comprehension that women have as a result of their heightened sense of emotion.The man provides himself with an identity that is, in theory, interchangeable, and knows it and exerts this force on women’s identity that their role is also interchangeable. Still, in reality, the role of a woman isn’t. From the time they are born, a deep-rooted patriarchal society rears boys, even the most respectful and kind, to know that they have some power over women. How is it a small boy knows they have some inherent control over a woman if they have never witnessed in any way before? Suppose they had never violated a woman or seen anybody ever violate a woman, or haven’t seen a woman get talked down on or anything else involving the slight degrading of women in our society. Would a small child ever believe that they have this power if women were seen as equal in every aspect of their life? I think in a perfect society, no, they would have no way of knowing. Usually, when you turn on the tv, some underlying sexist innuendos, functioning to pull in viewers. A child wakes up in the morning and sees his dad yelling at his mom, and her defense mechanism is to close herself off with her arms to shield herself. You see men staring at women in overly flirtatious ways in everyday life. It is everywhere, and it is deep-rooted into our culture, almost as if there is nothing wrong with it. What do Solona’s words mean in this context?
Culture customs manifest themselves through space and time, and this isn’t deep at all. The idea of the interchangeability of women from a male perspective is so far past a cultural custom, but the modern day feminst movement has added a huge level of resistance to it. Promotion of the interchangeability of women can be seen on mass dating platforms as a marketing strategy. However, men are interchangeable in that sense too, but I think that men still treat women as if they are interchangeable far more than women do; in fact, what other notion are you perpetuating when you stare at a girls body at a gym then go home and make love to your wife. What else is there to it ? “All-women” facilities exist because when women are vulnerable, their identities mean nothing and they just become another object to look at..This is why the individuality of women is so important to them. I think we are constantly trying to prove to the male dominant force around us that we are different from others, in turn, we compete with other girls for that title of “different,” coined the term “pick me, girl,” which is a title looked down upon by other girls. Of course, straight women (which I can speak about because I identify as heterosexual) more often cater to a male gaze, but speaking from this perspective goes beyond looking suitable for yourself. It goes to the extent of being different from every other girl around me because I am constantly trying to be “different,” but we are all already diverse.
When it comes to sexual assault, that culture itself perpetuates the interchangeability of the female. When a man violates a woman, a woman doesn’t mean anything to them. It wouldn’t matter if that woman were violated because all women are the same. All of them feel the same, and men exert this power on women because it doesn’t matter. There are varying degrees of how men view women as interchangeable. It gives a lot of insight, especially to me, into how men view women. I think man or woman, your perception of the world and the persona that is its derivative, whether good or bad, makes you not interchangeable. No two people are the same, and that goes for men too. I can explain the shortcomings of men all I want. Still, in reality, given this history, they will always have the upper hand as a collective whole because I mentioned that this interchangeability is in every nook and crack of society. This is a static reality that is never going to completely change. I don’t believe that telling young girls they shouldn’t go out because of men is the right way to approach this. Instead, the core of the truth must be presented so young girls understand the “why.” Because if they don’t know the “why,” they will revert to blaming themselves for their given attributes, when in reality, in the eyes of a man, those attributes are interchangeable and make no difference in the context of the situation. Though, this gloomy conclusion does not go without saying that the changes we have implemented in our society to combat these ideals are making incredible changes in the validation of women as members of society. Who’s to know that in 100 years, we will have become a society where these norms will no longer exist.