Julie Matthaei, Barbara Brandt
About Feminist Transformation
Equal Opportunity: Labor
Valuing the Devalued
FEMINIST TRANSFORMATION AND YOU
Heal Yourself, Heal Your World: Feminist Transformation can help you find your true self, empower yourself, and heal yourself and your relationships. And in its organized forms, it is helping transform our world into a more just, free, and sustainable place. This website is dedicated to connecting you to the many different forms of Feminist Transformation, both individual and organizational, so that you can heal yourself and your relationships, and/or link up to feminist organizations which are transforming and saving our world.
Feminism is for Everyone! Feminist Transformation strives to liberate half of the human race -- women -- from subordination to men. But it is not just a women's movement. Feminist Transformation seeks to free men as well as women from unhealthy and oppressive gender straightjackets. Further, Feminist Transformation is helping us solve humankinds' most pressing problems, from alienating and violent love relationships, to heartless, unjust and unsustainable economic practices, to oppressive childrearing practices, to deadly and destructive wars. As bel hooks has written, "feminism is for everyone"! (read more on feminist vs. women's movement)
WHAT IS FEMINIST TRANSFORMATION TRANSFORMING?
Femininst Transformation, in all its many forms, is a deeply-seated response to the restriction and inequities of gender oppression, especially by women, but also by many men. In organized women's movements, it also seeks to eradicate other forms of oppression and injustice which women suffer from, such as racism, class oppression, and the destruction of nature. Gender oppression puts all of us in gender straightjackets, subordinates women and the feminine, and imbalances and distorts our personalities and our social institutions. Gender oppression is one dimension of the hierarchical polarization paradigm, which has organized social relationships in the West for millenia. This paradigm polarizes people into opposed and unequal groups along a variety of interconnected dimensions (genders, races, classes, nations, etc.) (read more about the hierarchical polarization paradigm and social transformation; link to main tc page)(read more about gender oppression)
FEMINIST TRANSFORMATION IS EVERYWHERE
Feminist Transformation is far more complex and multi-faceted than most of us realize. It has many, many faces, and now exists all over the globe. In this website, we will focus on Feminist Transformation in the United States, which involves seven distinct processes which together are transforming the system of gender oppression. Each process is expressed both through personal healing and transformation, and through organized movements for the transformation of social values, practices, and institutions.
- THE FEMINIST QUESTIONING/ENVISIONING PROCESS proclaims gender oppression as unjust and oppressive, challenges its naturaless and inevitability, and envisions a world free of gender unfreedom and inequality. (linked to qu/env main)
--THE VALUING THE DEVALUED FEMININE PROCESS strives to revalue feminine traits and activities, such as paid care-giving work, homemaking and child-rearing, and community-building, which are crucial to a healthy self and to a balanced, sustainable society.
-- THE GENDER INTEGRATIVE PROCESS strives to help women (and men) express and balance the feminine and masculine sides of ourselves, and to participate in and balance paid work and family.
--THE FEMINIST DISCERNMENT PROCESS radically rethinks and strives to reconstruct of all aspects of our lives, including our values, our social practices, and cultural, familial, and economic, and political institutions so that they are free from the distortions and injustices connected to gender oppression.
-- THE FEMINIST COMBINING PROCESS: Women's movements seek justice and freedom for women. Because women suffer from unequal oppositions other than gender (e.g. race, class, sexuality, religion, nationality), women's movements which combat gender injustices AND other forms of unfreedom and injustice which impact women are formed. And because men also suffer from gender oppression, care about women, and/or are committed to opposing all injustice, men combine with women in feminist movement.
-- THE FEMINIST UNIFYING/DIVERSIFYING/GLOBALIZING PROCESS: In a wave of globalization from below, women organize across national boundaries to combat the many injustices against women. And feminist values and principles begin to be adopted by global organizations seeking economic justice, democracy, and peace, such as the World Social Forum.
Women's movement and feminist movement are very similar, but feminist movement is the more all-encompassing term. Women's movement is the main type of feminist movement thus far in history. It involves women coming together as women in opposition to a shared problem, such as sex discrimination, domestic violence, or underpayment and devaluation of their work. Women involved in women's movements often call themselves feminists. Women's movements tend to exclude men, and tend to focus on problems related to male domination, the exclusion of women from masculine activities, and the devaluation of women's traditional work. However, the fact that some of their constituency also suffer from race, class, homophobia, and other types of oppression tend to lead women's movements to target other kinds of oppression besides gender.
Women's movement is a type of feminist movement. On this website, we define people, groups, or institutions as feminist if they are involved in transforming some aspect of gender oppression -- even if they don't define themselves as such. Some women are not feminists, and some men are; indeed, many men are currently involved in feminist transformative processes. While feminism per se does not require an anti-racist, pro-gay, or economic justice perspective, it's commitment to freeing women from all types of domination tends to link it with these and other struggles against oppression.
Progressive social movements can adopt feminist principles and work for feminist transformation even if they are not women's movements, properly speaking. And the lesbian/gay, transsexual, and transgender movements are pro-feminist because they seek to transform key aspects of gender oppression.
While feminist transformation has already eroded significant parts of gender oppression, it is helpful to study the five pillars of gender oppression, which still organize much of social life and are built into current familial, economic, and political institutions.
GENDER ASCRIPTION: At birth, everyone is still assigned to a gender role, according to whether they are categorized as male or female (endnote re hard to assign people). Males are assigned the masculine gender identity and gender role, and have to strive to become men. Females are assigned the feminine gender identity and gender role, and have to strive to become women. Parents, schools, and culture play a key role in teaching children the roles that go along with their gender identities.
GENDER POLARIZATION: The gender identities roles assigned to males and females are opposite and mutually exclusive straight-jackets that limit our self-expression and keep us from being whole. Males, assigned to the masculine gender role and to manhood, are forbidden to be feminine or act like women. Females, assigned to the feminine gender role and to womanhood, are forbidden to be masculine or act like men. Polarized gender identities and roles are enforced through a rigid sexual division of labor, which defines certain activities as EITHER men's work OR women's work. For example, an adult woman's traditional work is homemaking and childrearing within her family, and an adult man's work is earning income for his family ("breadwinning") in the economy.
THE NATURAL FAMILY: Under gender oppression, family life is based on the metaphor of sexual reproduction. Just as males and females need one another to produce offspring, so men and women need to marry "the opposite sex" and parent children together (where parenting is defined at its core as natural parenting, biologically creating a child). Any other form of sexuality is seen as unnatural or immoral, and any other form of parenting as unreal (who are the adopted child's real parents?) Meanwhile, the sexual division of labor makes the genders opposite, complementary, and dependent upon one another, providing the social cement for the heterosexual marriage.
GENDER INEQUALITY: Social values, practices, and institutions create gender inequality in two ways. First, they value and reward men and that which is masculine, above women and that which is feminine. Second, they place men in positions of power over women, both in the household, and in economic and political spheres. While other systems of oppression such as class and race intersect with gender, and often place white women above men of color in the social hierarchy, all adult men are given power over women in their own racial-class group, if only the power of domestic violence.
GENDER ENFORCEMENT: Why have people accepted gender roles, if they are unnatural, restrictive, and oppressive to at least half the human race? Religion and science have rationalized gender roles with claims that God and/or Nature are the cause of the differences and inequality between men and women. Thus, before feminist movement, most women and men simply took unequal and polarized gender roles as given, internalized them, and passed them on to their children. Meanwhile, anyone who dared deviate from prescribed gender roles was stigmatized and discriminated against. Violence and the threat of it -- of husbands against disobedient wives, of society against gays, lesbians, and men who are "sissies" -- also enforces gender roles. Thus gender oppression has been perpetuated across the generations and through history. Showing that gender roles -- and women's restricted and subordinate social position -- are not dictated by nature or by God, but are actually constructed by ourselves and by our society, and enforced through oppression and self-repression, is an important part of the feminist questioning/envisioning process (link to feminist questioning/envisioning process).