Why Feminism Needs Men

We cannot expand the sphere of women’s rights through stereotypes that always result in fewer rights for another group

Socialism did not imply the automatic emancipation of women. (Photo: Flickr)

Spanish – Saying “you are the rapist,” this ad hominem, as proposed by the Chilean collective Las Tesis, implies suspending the presumption of innocence.

It is also equivalent to their speculative reasoning: the frequent practice of blaming the victims of rape, for example, by asking, “where was she or how did she dress?” As an ad feminam argument, the latter also operates on the logic of non-discrimination.

The feminist agenda -an agenda for equality- ends up being a zero-sum game. It is no longer a cooperative game. We cannot expand the sphere of women’s rights through stereotypes that always result in fewer rights for another group. Building citizenship is a positive-sum game. Otherwise, it is futile.

“The oppressive state is a male rapist,” says the song. The state has gender there. The reasoning of anarchist inspiration is in harmony with that of Marxism, an ideology for which capitalism also had gender.

For Engels in particular, this was the result of social relations anchored in the private property regime, which included women as commodities. The exploitation of women by men was analogous to, and derived from, the exploitation of the proletariat by the bourgeois. Classless society would resolve both conflicts simultaneously.

However, the reality of socialist regimes made it clear that the supposed emancipation of the proletariat did not bring about the empowerment of women. Men and women’s incomes barely matched. In other areas, such as civil rights, political representation, autonomy, cultural rights, and identity, women remained as subjugated as they were under capitalism. In fact, they were further oppressed because they had no voice nor vote.

The anarchist utopia of the extinction of the state, as suggested by The Theses, operates similarly. As an oppressor, the state is responsible for the oppression of women, thus acquiring an eminently masculine identity. For the oppression of women to cease, the state must then disappear, not because it is the state but because it is a man.

The first problem of this utopia is the reality because no even slightly complicated form of collective life is reproduced in time without a state. In other words, every political community requires an institution capable of exercising the monopoly of force, taxation, and the administration of justice.

The additional problem is intellectual. Utopias usually tend to favor extremism. A movement of egalitarian social change runs the risk of being diluted into a cult or faction. This is what anarchism ended in, long before the emergence of the feminist movement.

“Feminism is a man’s business,” I wrote some time ago because no agenda for material equality (equal income for equal work) or formal equality (equality before the law) thrives by excluding half of society. Any successful social change movement is fundamentally a grand coalition.

A few reminders: men legislated the women’s suffrage. White people also advocated the end of racial segregation. The bourgeoisie accepted labor rights. Enlightened conservatives supported the welfare state.

In short, when the grieving parties mobilize themselves bottom-up, they succeed in instilling an issue in the public discourse. But the institutional change that makes it a reality requires a much broader social base.

Going back to what I said earlier: the construction of citizenship is a positive-sum game, or it is futile. Feminism needs men, not the stigmatization of men.

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