To everyone – woman and man – who says they’re a feminist because they believe in equality, I have to ask you, what does it look like, this equality that you speak of?
Gender. You probably want gender equality, don’t you? But gender is inequality. Gender is the convenient invention, the way we train women and men to be different, to be unequal. Gender equality is a smokescreen. Gender is a hierarchy. Feminine, masculine, they can never be equal, they are subordination and domination dressed up in frilly pink and crisp blue.
You mean wage equality, right? Are you going to achieve that by equal pay for equal work? Yes? Or no? ‘Cos that’ll never do it. Work has no inherent value and just somehow, we’ve ended up with women’s work undervalued, so unless we all do more of the same, or unless we increase the value of what we see as ‘women’s work’, we’re stuck. Wage equality without radical reform, is an impossible dream, never to be realised with the Equal Pay Act.
Child birth? Are you looking for a brave new world where that is equal? Or a world where bearing and rearing children does not render women unequal? Are men gonna wipe an equal number of bums? Babies bums? Sick folk’s bums? Old folk’s bums? Equality of sharing, caring, cleaning and weaning.
What about valuing women for how we look? You know, the patriarchal fuckability test? Are men going to be equally judged by what they look like, rather than what they do? Women can chose to walk in painful heels, to maximise their ‘assets’, to flaunt or enhance their curves. Some women enjoy that femininity shit, don’t they? You surely believe in a woman’s right to choose, don’t you? Of course you do. But what do we chose? Why do we? If we’re equal, would we? And those that choose not to, will they be equal too?
What about war? Do you want women to start an equal number of wars to men? To fight and die in equal numbers to men? To rape in equal numbers to men? For men to be raped in equal numbers to women? Which is it? How’s that going to work under your equality? What about no war? Maybe no war. But in this man made world of arbitrary boundaries and power struggles, how’re you going to achieve no war?
Democracy’s great, isn’t it? A cornerstone of equality, maybe, for sure? But only 24% of the UK cabinet are women. You’ll sort that out in the name of equality, won’t you? And where’s the equality when 6 percent of children go to independent schools but make up 45% of the cabinet? When 61% of the cabinet graduated from just two universities? 5% percent of the cabinet – two people – are from black and minority ethnic backgrounds. What’s democracy again? Power of the people, ruling through freely elected representatives? It’s just that not everyone gets an equal chance of representing. Just not rule by representative representatives.
What about the sale and purchase of women? Are men going to be commodified just the same? Objectified? Pornified? Trafficked? Pimped? Ah, yes, but what about choice again? That old turkey. A woman’s right to choose to sell sex? Are men going to make the same choices? If not, why not? Where’s the market? And how come it’s poor women, black women, in some counties indigenous women, who disproportionately make that choice? What about their equality? What about mine? If some women are commodities and some men are buyers, how can any of us ever be equal? If my sisters are for sale, they cannot be, I cannot be, equal.
Equality under the law? Yeah, surely you want that too. But how are you going to get that, with laws written by rich white men to protect the interests of rich white men? When we have a legal system celebrated for innocent until proven guilty. When insufficient evidence is synonymous with lack of guilt, with innocence. Can’t you see how it’s stacked? When poor people, black people and women who have been abused are disproportionately found guilty, disproportionately disbelieved, where’s the equality?
When the Equality Act 2010 covers age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership, and pregnancy and maternity but not class, not poverty, what is even the point of pretending it’s about equality?
Male violence against women? Bet you believe in equality there too, don’t you? Domestic violence is gender neutral, right? Rape? Those hidden male victims? If you refuse to see inequality, if you don’t even believe that most violence is perpetrated by men, how are you going to achieve equality? Which equality are you going for there? Increasing the number of male victims? Increasing the number of female perpetrators? Can’t be reducing male violence, can it? Male violence isn’t a thing, is it?
In all this and more, equality just doesn’t provide the answers. Equality is a condition of a just society, not a cure for an unjust one. So when I say feminism isn’t about equality, it’s about women’s liberation from men’s oppression, this is what I mean. Ending inequality is a big part of feminism, of course it is. But equality is impossible in the society that we have. That’s why feminists talk about smashing patriarchy because we need to think bigger. I don’t even know what a society free of patriarchy would look like. I don’t know how we’ll get there, but I know we’ll never get there down the road called ‘equality’.
Early this year, I heard Bea Campbell ask ‘What would a world without male violence look like?’ Shit. I can’t even imagine that.