I am going to begin this essay with some nerd lore.
In JRR Tolkien’s Middle Earth, elves are an immortal race of staggering beauty, deep wisdom, rich culture and advanced magical propensity. The elves often find themselves at odds with the orcs, a hideous race who live for violence and destruction. In Tolkien’s The Silmarillion, it is revealed that orcs were actually the creation of an evil lord named Melkor, later known as Morgoth, who captured a group of elves and imprisoned them. The elves “by slow arts of cruelty were corrupted and enslaved; and thus did Melkor breed the hideous race of the Orcs in envy and mockery of the Elves, of whom they were afterwards the bitterest foes.”
I always think of this when I see trends in our society which began as healthy and good impulses, but which over time became twisted and warped by egotism and manipulation. Something springs up in human consciousness out of inspiration and natural compassion, quickly gains public support because truth is attractive, and then is eventually hijacked and perverted as power finds a way to twist that energy in a way it can use and exploit. It becomes “orc-ified”.
You can see examples of this orcification spring up everywhere in real time. You can watch it in yourself as your own ego tries to hijack your own healthy impulses to aggrandize and masturbate itself, and you can watch them in society at large as well. A recent and extremely blatant example would be when the enthusiastic grassroots populism of the Bernie Sanders campaign was twisted by the Democratic establishment into the #Resistance movement after the 2016 election. Now many of the progressives who I once saw sincerely pushing away from oligarchy and endless war can be seen smearing Julian Assange and cheerleading for new cold war escalations with their support for the CIA/CNN Russia narrative.
Other examples abound. America’s brilliant civil rights activism has been largely co-opted by the good cop/bad cop game of partisan dynamics which now sees Black Americans supporting a party that does absolutely nothing to protect them from police brutality, economic hardship, a depraved legal system etc, for no other reason than that the Republicans are even crueler to them than the Democrats are. On the other side of the aisle, healthy impulses to minimize government intrusiveness and corruption have been used by manipulators like the Koch brothers under the banner of “libertarianism” to strip corporations of their regulations without ever diminishing government size or corporatist influence upon it, effectively leaving only end-stage neoliberalism and hemorrhage-upward economics. The healthy impulse toward truth is orcified to manufacture support for internet censorship under the pretense of protecting the public from “fake news” and “Russian propaganda”, the healthy impulse to protect and defend is orcified into support for “humanitarian” war, and the healthy impulse to become a better person is orcified into religions and philosophies which have been popularized by the powerful in the service of the powerful.
Anywhere you see a healthy impulse arising in society, you will see attempts to twist it into the service of power, and this is very much the case with feminism.
When I talk about being a feminist, I get a mix of three reactions:
- People who either understand what I mean by that word or put the necessary amount of effort into understanding.
- People who assume I am saying that I hate men, which is just a silly projection that people who hate women have made up in their imaginations.
- People who assume I mean the warped, orcified version of feminism that they see promulgated in mainstream culture to manipulate women into supporting a system that was designed by men and for men.
And it is a simple fact that the near entirety of human civilization has been designed by men. All around the world for thousands of years, wherever a civilization sprang up, the larger, stronger gender was naturally in a position to assert dominance over the way that civilization was run. Leadership systems were invented by men, social hierarchies were invented by men, marriage was invented by men, family structural norms were designed by men, money was invented by men, war was invented by men, and men invented religions which just so happened to have patriarchal gods who all agreed that the way men had set things up was indeed right and just.
Women were essentially property throughout most of this, and thus had very little input into how any of it was set up. Generation after generation after generation of women were born into this male-engineered society, over thousands and thousands of years, into a system so deeply and extensively normalized that it’s almost impossible to imagine what our society might look like had it not been dominated entirely by men throughout its history.
And then, very, very recently in the grand scheme of things, a healthy impulse emerged among women to cease being second-class citizens, and to instead stand as equals with their brothers.
In response, after much whining and foot-dragging, the men who ran things said in effect, “Right. Okay. You want equality? Fine. The jobs we invented are over there, the capitol building for the government we invented is over there, the bank for the economic system we invented is across the street, the Department of War is two blocks that way, and the Church of the Patriarchal God is around the corner. Welcome to equality!”
And some rich guys standing by watching leaned in and whispered to each other, “Sweet, double the workforce! We can halve their wages!”
And that natural, healthy impulse toward true equality became quickly orcified. “Equality” now looks like women working full time to keep their heads above water in an economic system designed by men while still being expected to raise healthy children, and “feminism” looks like fighting men for a few more scraps from the oligarchic table while voting to elect women to the male-designed government. It is an energetic funnel into a system which was not built with any interest in women’s strengths (and yes, like men we do have our own strengths) or women’s struggles. This is what feminists are pointing to when they use the word patriarchy.
True feminism is about picking apart that entire system. Fake feminism is about bolstering and feeding into it.
True feminism values motherhood and caregiving roles, not just with empty “Gosh, yeah, hardest job in the world” words and a pat on the back now and then, but with the same valuing system which rewards industriousness and other masculine accomplishments; in the current system that would mean receiving an equal amount of money for that work instead of having to rely on the hopefully charitable inclinations of a husband. Fake feminism encourages women to take on jobs that are valued by the patriarchal mindset and perform the full-time task of mothering in their spare time. For free, because the herculean job of motherhood “is its own reward” (*cough* bullshit *cough cough*).
True feminism questions the very nature of the governmental systems which were designed hundreds of years ago by men who owned wives as functional property, and takes seriously the goal of removing all toxic dynamics from within them. Fake feminism endorses those governmental systems and teaches that the most feminist thing anyone can do is elect women like Hillary Clinton who have clawed their way to the top by their facilitation of war, crony capitalism and rape culture.
True feminism aggressively attacks the cultural mind viruses which say that no sometimes means yes, that a wife must perform sexually for her husband, that it’s okay to manipulate or guilt a woman into sex, that anyone else should have any say in what a woman does with her own reproductive system, that women ought to be subservient and humble, that it’s okay to harm a woman if she steps out of line. Fake feminism only touches on those things when it is politically advantageous and can be used as a weapon to attack rival ideological factions.
True feminism works to untangle all the toxic, pernicious knots in social consciousness one by one, leaving no norm unquestioned and no default assumption untested, since the reality of patriarchy is interwoven throughout every single aspect of society without exception. Fake feminism leaves all the male-programmed default settings in place, then adds on a few cosmetic accessories like equal pay for equal patriarchal work.
True feminism is as deeply revolutionary as anything can be, since its realization necessarily means a complete revision of society from the ground up in order to allow the feminine influence to be truly heard in our culture. Fake feminism gives you a pussy hat, a twenty-three cent raise, and an “I Voted” sticker.
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