New rules for post-patriarchal systems and societies

 

Photo by Annie Spratt on unsplash.com

„The enemy of feminism isn’t men. It’s patriarchy, and patriarchy is not men. It is a system, and women can support the system of patriarchy just as men can support the fight for gender equality.“ (Justine Musk)

Most people are done with patriarchy. No, really. I mean it. They have analyzed and studied it. They have experienced its narrow limitations and its discriminatory nature. They came to the conclusion, that patriarchal systems are counterintuitive in times, where we’d rather embrace diversity than stick to predominantly male monocultures. We need a multitude of perspectives in order to cope with what we have framed in a cryptic acronym: „VUCA“. Volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity.

And yet, we haven’t abolished patriarchy once and for all. We still rely on it in times of radical change. This is absurd. We almost behave like alcoholics, well aware of the fatal implications of the drug.

But why?

Female authority as a key concept

Antje Schrupp, a German political scientist, feminist and author, wrote an excellent piece on female authority back in 2001, in which she describes how the patriarchal system remains in charge simply because a trusted new approach is yet to be established. Patriarchy’s logic, Schrupp explains, has left women with only two alternatives: They can either adapt to roles and behaviors typically framed as female, or, they can strive to become like men themselves. And, of course, this is a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea.

Sometimes, while trying to fully grasp the implications of patriarchal systems, I get the impression that there’s a fight going on on all sides: a fight for the interpretation sovereignty about what is to become an alternative system to patriarchy. And only after having read Antje Schrupp’s essay, I have understood that we are still lacking such a new order. The disorder, Schrupp has already been pointing at some twenty years ago, is still affecting large parts of our systems today.

This disorder leads to an increasing alienation: Women (and more and more men) feel like they don’t belong any more. Whether it is political parties, transnational organizations or companies: All of these institutions find it harder and harder to create attraction and, even harder, retention. And I have an inkling, that this may well have to do with the rules, by which they are still playing out campaigns or employer branding.

New rules, new narratives

The old narratives won’t resonate any longer. But what’s next then? Is this just a challenge for a new kind of storytelling? I believe, that it’s a discussion much more fundamental. It’s about a completely new set of rules.

There are still no widely accepted rules for social cooperation in a post-patriarchal society. And a lot of people (women* and men*) remain „within the logic of the patriarchy by constantly protesting against its rules or by interpreting their feeling of alienation by claiming that the patriarchy has indeed not ended yet.“

We are still struggling, both with the alienation by existing systems and with our inability to live and act by a fundamentally new set of rules. This might also explain, for example, why some men are fighting organizational promotion of women as being discriminatory against their own career advancements.

Men being stuck in traditional dramas

Instead of focusing on their impact while changing the existing system, these men are acting within the old paradigms of a system they almost certainly despise for its discriminatory setup. They simply can’t see any other way, they’re stuck in a mono perspective: get a job, make a career, establish a status and thus become attractive for a partner–then (and only then) you can have a family and a meaningful life.

It’s pretty obvious that this way of defining meaning in life has several inherent dangers. If you pursue such a one-way street in life, you’ll lack resilience every time something goes wrong. You’re only option will be to push through. The outcome can be devastating, when relationships, finances and health are at risk.

Our individual and collective actions are once again lagging behind our ways of thinking, which are already crossing boundaries from time to time. We have adopted new ways of thinking our societies, economies, businesses etc., but our actions still support the very foundations of the systems in charge, above all: the patriarchy.

Caring economy as an alternative framework

In order to overcome this paradox, we must change our reference point. No longer should we make the existing system the foundation of all our endeavors and ambitions, but a new system of sustainable relationships, where humans are no longer a disposable factor within certain economic cycles, but at the center of a caring economy. This may sound comparatively socialistic when we first hear it, but, in fact, it is most certainly the only way of creating a future foundation of social welfare economies.

Spheres of the Economy (from: “The UN Women Gender and Economics Training Manual”, p. 34)

If we take a look at the spheres of the economy  it becomes obvious, that there are two spheres which represent a monetized economy (finance and production), while the remaining two spheres (reproduction and nature) are part of a non-monetized (or: maintenance) economy. We are looking at nothing less than at the core of capitalism’s drama. The barrier between production and reproduction marks the single point of failure of our economic system: It is a system of exploitation. And a one-way street.

By breaking up the barriers between the two spheres which are so deeply interlinked and dependent on each other, we could initiate a holistic approach to answering fundamental questions: How do we want to live and work together in a future where paid work will become an increasingly volatile factor while care work will even more become the centerpiece of functioning societies?

„Female“ symbolic order

Women are the cornerstone of such a caring economy. In a talk from 2017, author, philosopher and learning therapist Dorothee Markert relates to the Italian feminist thinkers, who recommend substituting female power relationships by authority relationships. Markert, once again, points to Antje Schrupp, who argues in her publication „ABC des guten Lebens“ for these new kinds of relationships among women, which could create a new foundation of social cooperation and unleash „independency from a male-shaped symbolic order“.

The key question for me would be: How can I create impact and how can I support the development and establishing of a „female*“ symbolic order? I have no answers yet, only ideas. But I am curious and thus looking forward to seeing the debate unfold.

AuthorRobert Franken

The feminist debate is still relevant – and a law against internet hatred and harassment has become a necessity

Author: Henrik Marstal (author and musician) 

In the often heated debate about feminism, it has become customary for debaters to promote their great difficulties with the very word. Some have even argued that this is the movement’s greatest challenge.

Others argue that we should talk about “equality” instead of feminism, for this is what feminism is actually about. Or that feminism simply means “reverse discrimination of women”. These are relevant objections because feminism may appear a bit restricted at the very definition of the word.

Let’s begin with the latter: No. There are very few feminists who want women to dominate the world by establishing a matriarchal system – i.e. the equivalent of the current patriarchy which seems to be the actual cause of the problems of equality which all people might be subjected to. Continue reading “The feminist debate is still relevant – and a law against internet hatred and harassment has become a necessity”

Feminism is for all of us

Author: Henrik Marstal (writer and musician) 

Some time ago, the international initiative #WomenAgainstFeminism flourished on various social media. Within a remarkably short period of time, thousands of women united because they felt repelled by feminism.

In Denmark, a 23-year-old female educationalist caused a stir in the national media by stating that because feminists hate men, they make her feel ashamed of her own sex. A Danish female blogger even opposed to any kind of feminist thought and compared feminism to religious fanaticism – and me, an outspoken feminist and a blogger myself, being her only example.

Thus, for many people, feminism is simply a word they do not bother to learn (more) about. Moreover, it is a word that apparently is connected with something negative and annoying because feminism is perceived as sincerely superfluous and irrelevant. But I am pretty sure that this resistance is primarily an expression of a universal truth: pressure causes counter-pressure. While a feminist approach as being a solution to many of the world’s problems has shown growing attention among people all over the Western world, the resistance to this approach has been on the rise, too.

This resistance comes not only from men, who regard the movement as a serious threat to inherited patriarchal privileges. It also comes from privileged women, who do not want to be reminded of the fact that they still find themselves in a highly unequal position compared to men concerning economic matters, power, justice etc.

Many people subscribe to the notion of feminism as being a totalitarian ideology with its  primary purpose being to spread misandry (male hatred), to claim womanhood as a victim, to promote a matriarchal world order and to offend patriarchal matters, even in places where women feel quite satisfied with the state of affairs.

But if these people asked feminists what they want to focus on, most of them will come up with an answer that doesn’t quite fit all the resentment. I bet that most feminists would answer that they are working to fully realize equality matters between the sexes in terms of politics, social issues, sexuality, economy and notions of power. And while they answer, they will refer to statistics, reports, studies and empirical observations rather than to their own emotions.

The Swedish author and feminist Nina Björk has said it like this:

“Feminism is a political movement with its goal being to make gender an uninteresting category in everyones’ social lives.”

Ulla Tornemand, a chairwoman from Danish Women’s Society (founded in 1871) , puts it this way:

“Being a feminist means working to end oppression, discrimination and exploitation of people just because of their gender, ethnicity, social class, sexual orientation and/or other issues. The correspondence of the movement’s name with the female gender is historically conditioned. So today, to be a feminist is to believe in and work for equality.”

So, with a few radical exceptions, feminists are neither male-haters or religious fanatics. For the same reason, a rapidly growing number of men have declared themselves feminists. These men, I believe, know that true equality between the sexes will help putting an end to patriarchal norms which are of no benefit for them, either.

In the aforementioned #WomenAgainstFeminism movement, there were several women with a handwritten sign which rejected feminism, including a woman with a sign that said: “I do not need feminism because I enjoy being a stay-at-home housewife and do not feel less valuable for that reason.”

Unfortunately, this woman did not know what feminism is all about. Had she known, she would have been aware that feminists do not look down on housewives, and that the movement works for equal rights between the genders in connection with childbirths, divorces and parental rights.

One of my friends paraphrased the woman’s statement like this:

“I do not need feminism because I am totally indifferent to all the women who do not thrive in the traditional roles which men often expect us to join. I therefore give up everything that feminists before my time fought for so fiercely and sometimes paid a high price for: my voice and vote, my education right, my right to be respected for who I am, my right to not constantly be viewed as a sex object by all men (until I get about the age of 45-50 years), my right to abortion and my right not to be beaten, raped or murdered by my partner. These are all factors which, even in the 21st century, are still not taken for granted outside the Western World – and only to a certain extent within this area.”

The woman might also be devoid of empathy for other women; devoid of empathy for the 29,000 women who each year are subject to domestic violence in Denmark alone (10,000 of them are exposed to repeated, serious abuse). Moreover, she might be devoid of empathy for women who suffer from having less favourable terms in economic, social or legal matters.

Finally, she might be devoid of empathy with women for whom gender stereotyping in the media, in advertising, in fashion and in porn hampers their self-expression and drains their self-esteem. This applies not less to the many women who have repeatedly been experiencing serious problems with sexism, threats of rape as well as rape without being taken seriously by the authorities as well as their friends and families.

It seems that we could draw a parallel line between the women’s liberation movement and the labor movement: Both made enormous progress for a very large social group, and both will continue to be necessary. If not, the world as we know it runs the risk of being pulled back in time. To all of us, it is indeed true that equality never happened automatically – it has to be fought for every inch.

Not many people would have missed the trade union movement. I am sure that many people admit that something similar is true for the women’s liberation movement. So put down the reservations, all you people out there: Feminism is for all of us.

Feminism for men  –  a manual

Author: Robert Franken (blogger and digital consultant)

It’s been quite some time since I’ve been following the debate on gender equality and feminism. And the longer I’ve listening, the more I can feel how hard it seems to be for men to come to terms with the concept, the vocabulary and their own attitude towards these issues.

This very often leads to a severe lack of participation from the male side in the debate as well as in the organizational change process. And this is the main reason for the whole issue to be somehow stalled: 50 % attention rate simply isn’t enough.

Unfortunately, there is a significant degree of negative agitation and even aggressive animosity withinthis set of topics. Some of my male colleagues not only fail to support the feminist idea, their slogans are often a direct attack on one of the most important questions of our lifetime: How do we want to live and work together in the future?

One could use one’s energy for the search for reasons why male participation is so low or to campaign against more or less open aggression by the male side. But without the knowledge of where the obvious male discomfort is rooted, there won’t be much progress.

From my point of view, there are three categories of men: Continue reading “Feminism for men  –  a manual”