No Malicious Intent

August 21, 2007

You know those people who are “all for equality” but refuse to be called “feminists”? The ones who proudly paste that god-awful “I’m not a feminist but” image on their webspace? (I honestly hate that tract. It manages to claim all the triumphs of the feminist movement while denigrating the people who, in identifying as feminists, managed to bring about those crucial changes. I digress.) At this point, I should probably fully disclose the fact that in my youth I was one of those people, but way back then I was also a fundie right-winger. I don’t think people should be held accountable for youthful indiscretions – I mean, that’s why most juvenile records are sealed right?

Then again, the I’m-not a-feminist-but people aren’t half as bad as the people who just plain don’t see the need for feminism and instead see it as a divisive movement that (and this is an actual quote[1], I kid you not) “spreads hate”. Call me naïve but I honestly believe that the only reason people like this exist is because of a fundamental misunderstanding not of feminism but of the patriarchy.


The patriarchy is not fuelled by malicious intent. There is no one behind the scenes “keeping women down”. Don’t ignore the guy behind the curtain, there is no one behind the curtain. See with phrases like “fight the patriarchy”, it’s almost like there is an enemy to fight, to conquer. Let me explain.

The best analogy I have ever come across for the patriarchy is the Matrix. We all exist in it. We don’t even know it’s there. When we do know it’s there, it is impossible to return to living within the system as you used to before. There are tonnes more parallels, you can come up with them yourself. Where this analogy trips itself up (for me, anyway) is where you can go at it with ambulatory, machine-gun-toting robots and impotence causing EMPs and hope to defeat it. That victory over the Matrix can be achieved through combat. You see, when it comes to the patriarchy, it doesn’t matter that I know kung-fu.

Changing the world we live in though, to make things more equitable and ethical cannot be achieved through warfare in the big-floating-ships-with-sexy-commanders sense. Fighting the patriarchy only involves exposing it, talking about it, shifting the collective consciousness. That is because there is no organized malicious thought behind patriarchal norms. Are there people who work towards upholding it? Sure! Just like that guy in the Matrix who really liked his steak. But there is no Colonel Sanders in a room full of televisions to backtalk to. There is no figurehead. All the patriarchy is, really, are our cultural norms. I submit that the personification of the patriarchy is what confounds most people and leads to the image of the man-hating, combat-boot wearing feminist.

The real danger in all of this of course is when people fail to see that there is an oppressive force that maintains inequitable norms at all. Afterall, the devil’s greatest trick is to convince us that he doesn’t exist.

[1] From an MSN conversation I was having with an acquaintance. The transcript of the second half of the conversation can be found here. I don’t suggest you read it though. You might be better off reading comments on Youtube.



  1. I hate hate hate the fucking graphic.

    The words the writer chose to employ drives me nuts. “I enjoy the option”,”It can be convenient”,”It’s really swell”.. These words are so fucking passive it makes our rights sound like a luxurious treat that we enjoy on the side. Oh how lovely someone decided to bestow such treats on us!

    You know what? I really enjoy slipping into a pair of well-made shoes. I think it’s swell when I eat rich chocolate.

    But my right to be treated as a human being is not “swell”, nor is it “pleasing” or “convenient”. Fuck that passive shit.

  2. See when I read that tract, I’m totally reminded of my teenage self. I wanted to be an equal human being, but I still wanted to be “feminine” which means using baby-waby words like “really swell” and “awfully useful” so I’m not all threatening and assertive (and un-feminine).

    I hate that tract. But if it catches the eye of boy-crazy teenage girls that are concerned about distancing themselves from hairy-legged, combat-boot wearing, man-hating sapphists and sets them on the path to “fighting the patriarchy” I suppose it sort of redeems itself. Sort of.

  3. See, I always thought that image was sarcastic. Maybe that’s a little naive of me…

    I guess the only reason I don’t like the word ‘feminist’ is that it can be applied to people whose political and social beliefs I totally disagree with and do not want to be associated with. This is not to say that I disagree with the feminist movement – or even that I don’t self-identify as a feminist. But, for the sheer sake of clarity, I often won’t use the word. I don’t like quibbling about semantics, because too much of the time it turns into a distraction from the more important issues at hand. What I call myself is not important. What I believe and do is.

  4. To me, not identifying as a feminist undermines the movement as a whole. At its core, feminism = equality. Sure there are petty, divisive, niggling details, but that’s true for any large movement that encompasses many different viewpoints and priorities.

    Besides, if misogynistic groups like Feminists for Life can use the f-word, why can’t we? Those of us whose actions and beliefs are actually aligned with the idea that women, like men are agents in the world shouldn’t shy away from the label. When we’re scared of calling ourselves feminists, the patriarchy scores another point. And trust me, they don’t need it.

  5. […] It’s not a choice to reject that power either – how else are you supposed to navigate society? It’s like the Matrix, without the option of getting the fuck out […]

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