Friday, September 25, 2015

Feminism Friday: A Little about Radical Feminism

I've often discussed global and transnational feminisms and intersectionality on this blog. These branches of feminism are particularly developed by women of color (for example, Kimberle Crenshaw developed intersectionality).

I've touched on White Feminism, but I haven't discussed one of its major strains: Radical Feminism.

Radical feminism was part of the women's liberation movement and second-wave feminism in the 1960s, and continues as a strain of feminism today. As with any other feminism, there can be many variations on the theme. The Chorus I sing in recognizes that feminism can be defined in many ways, and does not attempt to define the feminism of the singers.

In my encounters with radical feminists online, they appear to build on the concept of the gender binary, and the ways in which society has allowed anatomy to determine a person's destiny as a human being.

Many of the radical feminists online criticize religion as a tool of the patriarchy, and particularly religious dress as a form of women's oppression. Transnational feminism (which intersectionality is a part of) recognizes that many women draw strength from their faith, even if it is one of the traditional Abrahamic religions. There are Muslim feminists, Jewish feminists, Catholic and other traditional Christian feminists who draw on the stories of the women in the respective traditions.

Some radical feminists are "trans exclusionary" (what intersectional feminists may abbreviate as "TERF"s), who consider trans women to be men invading women's spaces. While they have a few good points about how men should be allowed to wear whatever they want, and all genders should be able to do whatever jobs they want... so many of the arguments in the Wikipedia article are harmful.

Unfortunately, the exclusion of trans women from feminist spaces has had the effect of leaving trans women unsupported, with nowhere to go. Trans women (and men) have unique insights into the kyriarchy and systems of oppression, that cis-gendered people don't experience, as this article discusses:

Why Aren't Women Advancing At Work? Ask a Transgender Person.

Because Intersectionality embraces non-binary gender expressions (as well as a variety of religious beliefs and expressions), proponents of intersectional feminism often find themselves in opposition to radical feminism. Intersectional feminism recognizes Trans women as women, and works to include these women in their safe spaces.

I will admit that on my journey towards becoming an LGBT Ally, it took me longest to understand the transgender aspects. But knowing someone, caring about someone, made it easy. I don't need to know their anatomy, I just need to treat them with respect and honor their preferred pronouns.