In a couple of weeks I will be marking the 12th anniversary of the first publication of my article Fundamentalist Feminism.
I re-publish that article here today, February 15th 2017, for a number of reasons, including as a prelude to an upcoming third conversation with the feminist Marxist thinker Selma James, best known, according to Wikipedia, as the founder of the International Wages For Housework Campaign.
As a feminist myself, I am obliged to problematize what Wikipedia apparently accepts uncritically.
Is there not a paradox here, possibly?
How is it that the woman who has perhaps done more than anyone else to have a spotlight shone on the economic value of women’s unwaged, private or invisible work, can be considered “best known” for work done in the glare of public scrutiny?
What of her private, unwaged, invisible work legacy?
Shouldn’t that work be “rescued” from obscurity?
During a brief conversation with James today, only our second so far and occurring exactly on the first anniversary of our first conversation, which took place on February 15, 2017, intriguingly, I got a glimpse into how she resolves this paradox by asserting her right to privacy.
I also got a sense, of the depth of her and my shared belief in serendipity as she agreed that the mirroring dates of our twin conversations was noteworthy.
James, the third wife and long-time collaborator of Trinidadian Trotskyist CLR James also flashed me a hint of her extraordinary humility, saying of her relationship with the Caribbean bard “I was just his secretary, really.”
And the crisis that is a consequence as much of James’ working class roots, perhaps, as it is a tributary of the tangled relations at the heart of male-female interdependence generally, is thus brought into stark relief.
The obscurity at the interface of human procreation and productivity, the conception and birthing of every “brain child” remains intact for James, despite her being a mother of millions, conceptually.
I address this morphological marital dilemma, a crisis of identity, essentially, in Fundamentalist Feminism where I explore what I call “gender complementarity”.
And I am anticipating a lengthy and fruitful Correspondence with James around these and related issues as we pursue what from my point of view seems like a dialogue that was divinely destined to be.
Working as a paid “carer” myself, in both knowledge trading (intellectual property) and the less glamorous “adult nappy changing” and wider “carnal knowledge” curating (bodily health maintaining) capacities, I feel both a sense of indebtedness to James and a sense of unease.
Where might these signs of serendipity and synchronicity lead?
Might she one day be a nurse-needing participant in my Holistic Home Care and Hospitality project, like the oracle Janice Gurney?
What should I make of my connections to James through a Europe-based Barbadian colleague who apparently shares what from my point of view is a flawed, Fentonesque confidence in the potential of literacy?
And then there is James’ picturesque and “picturate” presaging of the artist Deborah Liversage, so near and dear to me…
What omen, good or ill, might one cipher from the proximity of my second conversation with James, born Weinstein, to the emergence of the “Me too” movement and my own irregular, oracular literary and other efforts to ensure that this extraordinarily movie and wider media manufactured tempest does not wipe the long, low frequency record of female-on-female sexual harassment, rape and murder clean?
Might my “channeling” of both Selma’s and her late husband’s theorizing around the issue of homosexuality prompt the “seen it all” actress Sharon Stone, of Mosaic fame currently, to finally answer the question I put to her, via Twitter, about female-female sexual violence in the movie and wider media industry?
A constructive engagement with the less prominent National Union of Journalists members Arjum Wahid and Nick McGowan-Lowe about the relevance of my “Help Google Be Good” petition to the journalism profession may be more likely.
In that petition I liken excessive elements of Google’s information ecology footprint to Harvey Weinstein’s catalytic and as is now clear, catastrophic libidinous lechery, incidentally.
And somewhere along that rope there is a knot called Gaia Pope, that ties James’ views on epilepsy to a testimony of hope: a lump in this writer’s throat that is free of the mild malignancy of Geoffrey Boycott’s cricket commentary.
A grammar school educated Rachael Heyhoe-Flint approximating cricket shero James might not be.
But the 87 year old has not only demonstrated comparable moral mettle but also outlived the younger Baroness Heyhoe-Flint who died aged 77 last January.
Like her late cricketer-historian husband who died age 88 in 1989, James therefore demonstrates a penchant for pragmatically penetrating all kinds of boundaries.
February 15th, 2018
A major threat to women, men and the family: a threat to humanity
Introduction: an appeal to the United Nations and other international agencies
My purpose here is to expose fundamentalist feminism, an ideological and political movement that I believe is one of the greatest threats facing women, men, the family and society generally today.
I have chosen to deal with this issue on the eve of International Women’s Day precisely because I hope to attract the attention of bodies such as the United Nations to this issue.
There is a view, in some quarters, that the work of the United Nations and other international agencies is excessively and unjustly influenced by feminist politicos whose zeal to advance women’s issues is not being balanced by a reasonable concern for challenges facing men.
This certainly is one way of interpreting the comments of Barbadian Parliamentarian Trevor Prescod who, while addressing a men’s meeting some years ago expressed the concern that attempts by males to bring balance to gender issues in international meetings were being more or less “shouted down” by women. Prescod suggested that women attending such meetings were “winning” the arguments by virtue of the sheer number of them present.
Of course, it stands to reason that in the absence of meaningful dialogue – where all sides to an issue are given a reasonable hearing, there can be no real winners. The reduction of discussion on gender issues to a “war of words” between the sexes benefits no one, for as Calypsonian Singing Sandra of Trinidad and Tobago has said, “Nobody; nobody wins a war”.
When dialogue on gender issues deteriorates into a verbal war between males and females, as in physical war, perhaps more so – because without meaningful dialogue there can be no hope for genuine solutions – it is our essential humanity, which transcends gender, ethnic, religious and similar boundaries, that suffers.
I pray that this appeal will have some weight and consequences among the male and female personnel of international agencies and all others who have the interest of humanity at heart. If one man, woman or child is helped by this initiative my purpose will have been achieved.
My purpose here is to expose fundamentalist feminism, an ideological and political movement that I believe is one of the greatest threats facing women, men, the family and society generally today.
Fundamentalist feminism defined
Basically, fundamentalist feminism is an aggregate or body of ideas that promote an unrealistic, and unhealthy concept of women by exaggerating their strengths and virtues and concealing their vices and weaknesses. At the heart of fundamentalist feminism, is the suggestion that women are capable only of good, and not of evil.
Essentially, fundamentalist feminism blames men and men’s dominance (also called “patriarchy”) of politics, religion, business, the family etc, for most or all of the problems facing society.
Fundamentalist feminism overlooks or conceals the complicity of women (mothers, wives, sisters, consorts and other women) in the “evil that men do”.
Fundamentalist feminists label instances of such “complicity” as evidence of women’s victimization and abuse, freeing them of both blame and responsibility.
It is to that extent – at least – essentially anti-feminist, dis-empowering women.
Like fundamentalist religious, racial, political and other ideological systems, fundamentalist feminism is based on predominantly simplistic, one-sided analysis that favors its “messiah-types”.
So, just as Christians, Rastafarians, black people or white people are viewed as “infallible” heroes in their respective fundamentalist systems, women are viewed as humanity’s only hope in fundamentalist feminism.
The interdependence of males and females – an essential feature of the human condition and an inescapable prerequisite of our material and spiritual well-being, that is normally apparent to all – is thus ignored or understated by fundamentalist feminists.
The joint responsibility of men and women for humanity’s successes and failures is denied.
The basic belief of fundamentalist feminism is that women are good and men are bad: women are non-violent and peacemakers, men are violent and war mongers; women are honest, men are dishonest. In short, fundamentalist feminism teaches that women are morally superior to men.
Fundamentalist feminism is therefore a kind of “reverse chauvinism”.
It has roots in the challenge of the women’s movement to “male chauvinism”, but unlike the more salutary segments of the women’s movement, it is not concerned with gender “equality”. Fundamentalist feminism audaciously declares the superiority of women! The goal of empowerment for women is not advanced in the context of equality, but rather in the context of domination.
Writing on feminist legal theory, Erin Pizzey, founder of the women’s refuge movement, notes in a December 2000 article that “the ideology of legal feminism today goes far beyond the original and widely supported goal of equal treatment for both sexes.” She says “The new agenda is to redistribute power from the ‘dominant class’ (men) to the ‘subordinate class’ (women), and such key concepts of Western jurisprudence as judicial neutrality and individual rights are declared to be patriarchal fictions designed to protect male privilege.”
On November 18th 2005, I sought to share Pizzey’s views with an audience gathered at the eleventh annual Caribbean Women Catalysts for Change Lecture, hosted by the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus’ Centre for Gender and Development Studies. The lecture was delivered by Madame Justice Desiree Bernard, the first female judge of the recently instituted Caribbean Court of Justice.
I was disappointed, though not surprised, to find that no one else attending the lecture, male or female, seemed to have heard of Pizzey. This “anonymity” accords with Pizzey’s own testimony of the ostracism to which she has been subjected by many influential feminists and their male supporters, because of her views. It supports her assessment that:
“There was, and still is, a strict censorship against anyone trying to break the code of silence. No one wants to acknowledge the extent of the damage that the feminist movement has done to the family and to men in the last thirty years.”
Pizzey does not claim to be a feminist or any other “ist”. She describes herself simply as ‘a lover of God in all his aspects.’ She did join the women’s movement in her native England in 1971.
However, she says she did so with reservations because of the movement’s leftist and totalitarian leanings. She speaks of standing up in many “violent and threatening collectives” of the movement, to tell its leaders that “hating all men” was not something she wanted to be a part of. She says she was “hated with a passion” because of her views and ultimately excluded from this “liberation” movement.
Pizzey also tells of boycotts by members of the press, withdrawn invitations to speak publicly and other obstacles that have been set in her path since she has left the movement and has been seeking to challenge what she sees as its ill-founded and socially destructive strains – what I call fundamentalist feminism.
Concerns I share with Pizzey include:
- fundamentalist feminist propagation of such erroneous ideas as a) women are not as capable of violence as men b) women are not as likely to abuse children as men and therefore make better parents than men and c) women are less likely than men to be afflicted by “political power-hunger”
- fundamentalist feminist corruption of the legal system, leading to a) fathers of children being denied their rights b) the introduction of laws that are founded on presumptions of women’s innocence or are otherwise biased toward women
- fundamentalist feminist influence on education leading to discrimination against boys by both male and female teachers
- fundamentalist feminist domination of the discipline of “women studies” (I benefited from a few courses in this discipline and think it has redeeming qualities but I am not sure Pizzey would agree)
- fundamentalist feminists’ high-jacking of the legitimate causes of women – for political and monetary gain, and
- media cover-up or suppression of the very real short-comings and dangers of fundamentalist feminism.
I also identify in a profoundly personal way with Pizzey’s story. I share the following details of my own experience because I think it provides significant insights into the essential pathos of the fundamentalist feminist psyche (power-hungriness and glory grabbing – what I call the Lie-e-lah syndrome) and its opportunistic operation in the political realm.
By exposing the evil that fundamentalist feminism generates I hope to encourage a more wholesome, authentic feminism. I do not believe fundamentalist feminism’s primary threats are its threats to men’s well-being: I believe its primary threats are to the well-being of women.
Just as fundamentalist Christianity is anti-Christian at its core, so too fundamentalist feminism is profoundly anti-feminist. Rooted in a denial of truth, it tends toward self-alienation and therefore exposes women to delusions (of insignificance or grandeur).
The stories of the sociopathic behaviour of two individuals recounted here, makes this clear. Their stories, intertwined with my own, are set out below. I have given them fictitious but appropriate names – “The Liar” and “Market Guilt” – to conceal their identities. I have also “confused” their genders, deliberately using masculine or feminine nouns and pronouns inaccurately to refer to either or both them, and in some cases, to their allies and/or consorts.
In addition to further concealing their identities, this strategy of “gender confusion” reinforces two recurring points made here: 1. that fundamentalist feminism is profoundly antifeminist and 2) that not only females embrace and/or exploit fundamentalist feminist ideas to serve their misguided, selfish political or other agendas. At a deeper, symbolic level, it also hints at the complex “homo-ideological” (on the verge of homosexual) properties of the fundamentalist feminist psyche.
At a basic level, of course, the concealment of these individuals’ identities also protects me from legal liability. I can vouch for the truth of what I say here, but it has so far been impossible to find anyone else that can do that who is willing to. A wall of intimidating silence has been constructed to shield The Liar and Market Guilt from the just consequences of the distressingly deceitful behaviour they and their allies have perpetrated.
Even the office of the Ombudsman in Barbados, to which I turned for relief around 2000-2001 has failed to breach that wall. I hope the publication of this document will inspire at least one of the persons who can corroborate my story with the courage he/she needs to do so.
My experience of fundamentalist feminism
I have never joined a feminist organization, but like Pizzey, I have been a supporter of legitimate, genuine feminist causes for many years. Among other things, as a free-lance journalist I have written and produced material on Violence Against Women for UNIFEM and the Caribbean Media Corporation (formerly the Caribbean News Agency or CANA). I was also the privileged, sole male participant at a “round-table” on women in politics, hosted by the Caribbean Association for Feminist Research (CAFRA), some years ago.
Like Pizzey, I too have suffered exclusion, victimization and isolation by feminists because of my refusal to ignore the shortcomings of feminism. And, just as there seems to be an attempt to erase Pizzey’s contribution to women’s causes and her very existence from history, there seems to be an attempt to erase my own work and existence, in the Barbadian and wider Caribbean context.
The media in Barbados is playing a critical role in this. On the March 14th, 2002 edition of the popular local radio call-in program “Brass Tacks”, senior Starcom Network staff member and host David Ellis launched a broadside against my organization Intelek International and myself. I had by then been engaged in a little publicized “feud” with other staff members or associates of Starcom Network, or its parent organization, the Nation Publishing Company for some time.
One catalyst for this “feud’, was a dispute I had with The Liar, a former media personality, over an extravagantly unethical breach of intellectual property he committed against me. This man/woman has for some time challenged my contribution to an artistic production in which he/she participated in the late 1990s. I contested, and still contest, her failure to mention my contribution to that production when he announced the credits the night of the production.
My dispute with this individual escalated as members of Barbados’ feminist movement, led by Market Guilt rallied to cover-up or otherwise excuse The Liar’s “oversight”. Among other things, Mr. Guilt, an acknowledged psychiatric sufferer (possibly a schizophrenic) has argued that The Liar was entitled to use an idea to which I introduced her because no one can claim “ownership” of an idea. I am familiar with this view, held by many communist-leaning persons, but have never seriously engaged Ms. Guilt on it because the fundamental point for me was The Liar’s failure to acknowledge my contribution on the night of the production. I thought, and still think this was the least she could do, since she had asked my permission to use the idea.
The dispute has escalated even further though, taking on political dimensions, as one of the organizations hosting the production became a catalyst for the cultural renaissance that is currently sweeping Barbados. Bolstered by the innocent and perhaps naÃ¯ve attention of then Minister of Education, Culture, Youth Affairs and Sport (subsequetly Barbados’ Attorney General, now Minister of Economic Development) Mia Mottley, The Liar went on to claim that she was “the Founder” of that organization.
I view this exaggeration as a spectacular manifestation of the “Lie-e-lah” syndrome, to which fundamentalist feminism is prone, because of its power hungry, glory grabbing and truth-twisting propensities. It is more accurate to view Market Guilt, and other persons as co-founders of the organization in question.
The founding of this organization is in fact a fine example of the operation of the male-female interdependence to which I referred above.
However, The Liar’s coveting of the “founder” role is consistent with the unethical breach of and flagrant disregard for principles of intellectual property that remains the genesis of our dispute – and my dispute with Market Guilt.
Indeed, Ms. Mottley, The Liar, Market Guilt and other local fundamentalist feminists seem to prefer a radical feminist interpretation of the history of the organization that erases the seminal male influences behind it, represented by its male founding members. They seem to favour a fundamentalist feminist interpreta tion of Barbados’ cultural legacy that exaggerates women’s contributions – implying that the organization in question was the product of a virtual “virgin birth”. They seem committed to projecting the idea that it is mainly women who were (and are) prepared to bear the sacrifices and take the risks that have transformed the particular area of Barbados’ cultural landscape with which I am concerned, from a virtual barren wasteland (as far as the current generation of practitioners is concerned (no disrespect is intended toward outstanding Barbadian forerunners of this artistic discipline), to the fruitful plain that it now is.
Actually, one highly placed female academic has even gone so far as to declare that women may be more disposed to be this kind of artist because they are more spiritual than men! The “virgin birth” view of the organization merits more scrutiny than may at first be apparent.
Now, I am not suggesting that this academic is a fundamentalist feminist. On the contrary, my interactions with her suggest that she is a quite reasonable human being whose thinking is characterized by balance, not extreme opinion. A successful academic, she certainly does not seem disposed to the power-hunger or glory grabbing of the Lie-e- lah syndrome.
I therefore believe this academic’s views were arrived at by a simple observation of the current gender profile of Barbados’ cultural landscape. The fact is, thanks largely to the manipulations of fundamentalist feminists, and the complicit, slanted and superficial reporting of the males and females of local media houses who support them, it may well appear that Barbados’ current cultural renaissance originated with and is being led by females. The ill-founded projection of The Liar as the initiator and embodiment of this renaissance has been critical in the creation and perpetuation of this false impression.
That exaggerated, Lie-e-lan impression of Barbados’ current cultural flowering is based fundamentally on a denial or devaluation of the role of male artists – including my own role. And, at least in my case, this denial or devaluation has not come about “accidentally”: it has been achieved by a sustained, systematic campaign of character assassination, beginning with the charge that my disagreement with The Liar over the project mentioned above, stemmed from my being jealous over her success with that project.
I have been represented as an envious, dishonest and unprincipled person, seeking to reap success where I have not sown the requisite seeds of creative or administrative effort. I have been hated, shunned and ridiculed by fellow artists in Barbados’ relatively close-knit creative community. I have been made the object of (and still am plagued by) an unofficial boycott or “embargo” of some kind, which limits my capacity to trade as fully as I desire in intellectual property in this country. I believe the following incidents and situations are evidence of this boycott or embargo:
- The non-playing of music and other audio material I have produced by local radio stations.
- The silence of media personnel and other social commentators on my contribution to Barbados’ current cultural renaissance.
- The omission of any reference to my work among that of Barbadian artists who were featured on an edition of the Art Club, a television program produced by ARTV in London, and aired on CNN several times a week.
- The omission of any reference to my work in the UNESCO/NCF sponsored “Country Cultural System, Profile: Barbados”, authored by Dr. Glenford D. Howe”.
- The rescinding of an invitation to present copies of a poster I published (the “Bowler’s Psalm”) to the West Indies cricket team (I had previously presented the team with copies of my “Batsman’s Psalm”).
- A “side-lining” I suffered after I was invited to participate in a popular local cricket discussion radio program.
- The rescinding of an invitation I received to perform some of my work at a local farewell function for a foreign diplomat.
These incidents and situations are just a sample of the “violence” to which I have been subjected as my conflict with The Liar and Barbados’ fundamentalist feminists has escalated and widened. I refer to it as violence because this is precisely what it is.
In her 1997 book When She Was Bad: Violent Women and the Myth of Innocence (New York: Viking, ISBN: 0-607-85925-7) Patricia Pearson highlights this kind of violence, known as “indirect aggression”. Indirect aggression, as noted by Stuart Birks of Massey University, New Zealand, in his review of Pearon’s book, has been defined by Finnish psychologist Kaj Bjorkqvist as “‘a kind of social manipulation: the aggressor manipulates others to attack the victim, or, by other means, makes use of the social structure in order to harm the target person, without being personally involved in the attack.'”
Pearson says girls develop the capacity for indirect aggression from very early. Distinguishing indirect aggression from the physical, direct violence commonly ascribed to men, she says,
“… as soon as girls hone their verbal and social skills, at around ten or eleven, they become aggressors of a different kind. They abandon physical aggression, even though their pre-pubescent hormones are still no different than boys’, and adopt a new set of tactics: they bully, they name call, they set up and frame fellow kids. They become masters of indirection.”
I believe an extraordinary example of such violence against myself and my organization (Intelek International) occurred in 1998 or so, when a function I had organized with a local government department was “hijacked” by The Liar, probably with the help of Market Guilt.
I had been in dialogue with members of a local NGO that was the immediate organizer of the event, and had arranged to have members of an organization with which The Liar and I were affiliated perform as part of their programme. On the evening for which the reading was scheduled, The Liar had commandeered the proceedings by the time I arrived. When I inquired with an official of the government department as to what had transpired, I was informed that The Liar had been identified as the leader of our organization, and therefore the person with whom the organizers of the event should do business. I had presumably been represented as an impostor, glory-grabber or other fraud.
Needless to say these and other indirect assaults by The Liar, Market Guilt and their fundamentalist feminist backers have taken and continue to take a tremendous toll on me physically, emotionally and financially. They impact negatively on my capacity to nurture and provide for my wife and daughter and participate to the optimum of my ability as a productive member of Barbados’ creative community.
Other prey and predators in Barbados’ fundamentalist feminist politics
Yet, I am not the only victim. I stated earlier that fundamentalist feminism is antifeminist at its core. I know of a number of female artists who have also suffered indirect aggression and have been similarly disadvantaged by local fundamentalist feminists. Theirs and other examples illustrate the opportunistic, unprincipled character of fundamentalist feminism. Like Christian and other forms of fundamentalism, it is a malleable ideological construct, lacking sound historical, factual grounding. This lack of authenticity makes it a widely adaptable tool that can be manipulated by males and females alike, to serve their selfish ends.
Many males have benefited from the entrenchment of fundamentalist feminism in Barbadian politics, the media and broader commerce including: publishers/publicists, cultural and political activists, poets and politicians.
Their examples are a chronicle of falsehood oriented, “unholy alliances” that demonstrate the extraordinarily adaptable character of fundamentalist feminism, for some who benefit now, it would appear, were at one time objects of considerable indirect and direct (at least verbally) aggression by local feminists. Of course, as an instance of political conflict, their examples would have to be weighed with due regard to their own exploitation of Barbados’ feminist and wider female lobby and vote.
The vagaries of fundamentalist feminism therefore do not manifest themselves with any kind of consistency or coherence. Its fruit are varied, and even contradictory because, again, of its lack of rootedness in reality – its lack of authenticity. This feature also accounts for the ease with which it can fuse with or fuel the agendas of other ideological systems, such as Christianity, Communism, Capitalism, Rastafarianism and Pan Africanism.
Fundamentalist feminism’s adaptation by males to purely personal ends, whims and fancies is probably best demonstrated by the examples of individuals in the publicity/publishing field, who are some of The Liar’s most committed supporters. Each has reaped personal benefits, though of different kinds, by either perpetuating The Liar’s exaggerated opinion of his contribution to Barbados’ current cultural renaissance or by shielding him from accountability for that exaggeration and related dubious deeds. One, a married man with whom she has been sharing an adulterous relationship for many years, is now the mother of The Liar’s child.
In the case of two others, the dividends have been particularly significant: they include support for the suggestion that a publication with which they and The Liar are associated was the critical catalyst behind Barbados’ current literary and broader cultural renaissance. Actually, responsibility for Barbados’ current cultural renaissance is so highly prized, that it has even attracted “claims” from Prime Minister Owen Arthur, who assumed his Government’s ministerial portfolio for culture in 2001.
The exploitation of the vagaries of fundamentalist feminism in the cultural and political arena by government and opposition actors in Barbados is particularly instructive. There is no question in this writer’s mind that the popularity that some government and opposition figures have enjoyed has in large measure been achieved by accommodations reached with some of this country’s most unprincipled fundamentalist feminists – women and men who are determined to assume positions of power in this country at any cost!
Personally, I shudder at what the implications of that alliance – which crosses political party lines – could mean for Barbadians.
At the very least, it could lead to the concealment (and/or corruption) of the Christocentric focus of the current cultural renaissance in this country. Communist, Pan Africanist and Rastafarian or Rastafari-sympathizing fundamentalist feminists in this country seem intent on erasing or obscuring any evidence of the Christocentric roots of this renaissance, especially as represented in my own work. The intention, it appears, is to claim the contemporary “revolution” in cultural consciousness for the more militant activists who have been labouring long for Barbados’ cultural liberation.
I do not object to the honouring of the years of cultural activism by persons like Elombe Mottley, the Mighty Gabby, Cynthia Wilson, Kamau Brathwaite or the younger Aja, Arturro Tappin and Market Guilt. I however object to the suggestion that these and other Communist, Socialist, Pan Africanist or Rastafarian oriented cultural and political activists were the principle or only catalysts of Barbados’ current cultural renaissance. Such a view marginalizes and minimizes the crucial reconciliation and syncretization of Christian and nationalist currents that myself and others (like the Reverends Harcourt Blackett, Dean Harold Crichlow, Canons Andrew Hatch and Noel Titus and Father Clement Paul) represent. It misrepresents the historical evolution that has led to the emergence of such fundamentalist and broader Christian cultural initiatives as the use of steel pan in churches, the Experience Christian Calypso Tent and the participation of fundamentalist church oriented groups like “Living Springs Dance Academy” in the National Independence Festival of Creative Arts (NIFCA).
I explore these issues more fully in another document I am currently preparing. There I look, among other things, at some of the schizophrenic analysis and outcomes of the cultural awakening currently sweeping Barbados. My main concern here though is the schizophrenic analysis and society fragmenting fruit of fundamentalist feminism.
The “battle of the sexes” is with us to stay. This is probably the oldest conflict known to man, and I see no logical reason to expect it to go away. Actually, I believe gender conflict is a quite basic, natural and potentially wholesome part of the process of human development. I believe it is a primary forum for the transmission of values such as honesty, patience, humility respect and tolerance; I believe that from childhood onward, gender differences play a key role in our development of conflict resolution skills.
The emergence of fundamentalist feminism, a perversion of the legitimate concerns of the feminism of the 19th and 20th centuries, stems from our perennial, repeated failure to manage this age-old conflict. At the deepest psychic and most distant historical level, it stems from humanity’s unhealthy, idealistic longing for and preoccupation with perfection.
In another discourse (“The Bible: Beauty and Terror Reconciled”) I identify this longing as a key factor behind the intimidating and exploitation breeding perception of scripture that I call the “terror of the Bible”. I speak in that text of the “propensity of the human mind to seek to establish some infallible, unquestionable, unchanging authority around which we may order our perception of reality and regulate our conduct.”
In the context of fundamentalist feminism, this “authority” becomes feminity, as defined by fundamentalist feminists. For fundamentalist feminists, womanhood is the “inerrant and infallible” guide to truth – in more or less the same manner as “the Bible” is the “inerrant and infallible” guide to truth for fundamentalist Christians. In either case, what is needed is a more realistic, dynamic and, to that extent, authentic understanding of both authority and truth. (Let me say here that while useful and entertaining the treatment of “the sacred feminine” as a locus of power in Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code”, probably does not facilitate this end as well as some might think).
In layman’s terms, no man or woman, is always right. No human being is perfect. No human system of government is perfect. A dynamic, difference and change respecting understanding of authority and truth takes into account the fallibility of all humanity and all human systems of control and government. Such an understanding leads us to value each other more, irrespective of gender, racial, religious or any other ideological differences: it emphasizes our interdependence.
In the domestic context, a dynamic, difference and change respecting understanding of authority and truth will help male and female partners share the leadership role, recognizing that this is a function more so, than an office. The “head of the household” model of home management, promoted by many churches and the Men’s Educational and Support Association of Barbados (MESA, of which I was the first Secretary) and other men’s organization is as defective as its fundamentalist feminist counterparts. Husbands and wives (or male and female partners) need to be tutored in a dynamic paradigm of leadership that emphasizes sharing of responsibilities in the context of agreed values and goals. These goal and values need to be viewed as the foundation upon which the home is built and the “head” that the homebuilders serve. The Principle-centred, value based teachings of leadership trainer Steven R. Covey point in the right direction.
Furthermore, the indispensable value of truth needs to be emphasized. Wholesome relationships between men and women cannot be attained in the absence of honesty – especially honesty with oneself. We need to be able to admit when we are wrong; we need to be able to face our failings if there is to be balance and harmony in our relationships with others.
Patricia Pearson’s book emphasizes the need to acknowledge unpleasant truths where they exist. In her chapter on women in prisons, she suggests we will not solve a problem if we deny its existence or its true nature. The fundamentalist feminist Lie-e-lah syndrome thrives on denial and self-deception.
While Pearson’s book concentrates on extreme violence, much of what she says can be adapted to refer to more common interaction. Much insight can be gained from shifting one’s perspective away from the prevailing paradigm which focuses on men’s shortcomings and looking at the role of both males and females in instigating and perpetuating violence – physical and psychological.
In an advertisement televised as part of the recent UNIFEM project, International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the Sixteen Days of Activism Global Campaign, Barbadian calypsonian Allison Hinds expressed the desire – and right – of Caribbean women to express themselves without fear. The prevailing paradigm, with its roots and fruit in fundamentalist feminism, is itself intimidating. As Starcom network’s David Ellis suggested some time ago during an edition of Brass Tacks, any challenge of the prevailing paradigm is met with swift, sweeping claims of male insensitivity, bias, pettiness or worst (also recall parliamentarian Prescod’s views, shared in the introduction above). Pizzey’s and my own marginalization are also evidence of the treatment those who challenge this paradigm can expect – regardless of their gender.
I hope that the publication of this essay and the account here of my own, ongoing struggle against this paradigm serves as a source of encouragement to those who may feel that they are alone in their own struggles. I hope my own continued quest for “poetic justice” will serve as a source of inspiration and courage for men and women to speak out against the scourge of fundamentalist feminism. I will be happy to assist with the publication or dissemination of such stories in any way that I can. I can be reached at the following email address:
In the service of beauty and truth,
March 5th, 2006