I don’t know when I fell asleep and missed out on a new wave of feminism that prides itself on judging a woman’s politics by her behaviour in the romantic sphere. But clearly it happened sometime this year, and the comments section on this article was born.
Directed to it by its author I found myself flung into a dimension in which a question like “Is it anti-feminist to sleep with another woman’s man?” was not only considered – but was debated, quite heatedly, by a group of very diverse and seemingly intelligent women.
Needless to say – I was furious.
At an elementary level I can understand how such a question can appeal to human logic. One can say (and in fact many did) that by betraying another woman emotionally, a feminist is going against one of the backbones of feminism–a promotion of solidarity in the fight against patriarchy; and in the process harming another woman for her own gain.
But that’s just it — the whole premise negates the last bit of that sentence: ‘fight against patriarchy’ — which is the point. By focusing on the betrayal-of-another-woman bit – one fails to recognise what the point of that sacred solidarity is. It is about the fight against something. It is not simply sisterhood for the sake of sisterhood.
We are not supposed to be sitting around a fire painting matching flowers onto our jeans and singing ‘khumbaya’ — we are meant to be ‘fighting the good fight’: destroying the institutions that oppress women on a daily basis.It is about fighting the systems that have been set in place by hundreds of years of unquestioned patriarchy that threaten women’s right to freedom of choice.
It is not about angrily denouncing feminism because a ‘feminist [expletive]’ ‘stole’ your man. And the very discussion of such a notion fills me with simultaneous rage and hopelessness.
Looking through that article and its lively comments section; I witnessed a great number of intelligent, feisty women seriously question the idea of subscribing to feminism because the article (and other commenters) argued that feminism is about ‘freeing oneself from notions of romantic ownership’ and ultimately spitting in the face of accepted social behaviour.
Now, that ideology is all well and good – and I would be a naughty feminist if I didn’t applaud women for fostering ‘new’ principles regarding romantic/sexual politics.
But to lump that all up with feminism is a bitter joke. One we are the butt of.
But I haven’t even gotten to what got me all riled up– the placing of men in the centre of a debate about feminism. What?! What on this unbelievable earth do romantic relationships with men have to do with feminism? Had this article generalized its logic to the entire sphere of human sexuality, perhaps I’d have been able to go to bed that night, with dry eyes. But instead, once again, men were put at the centre of a movement that has nothing to do with them individually.
A topic that was once a source of intellectual stimulation for women everywhere, was dragged to its knees and relegated to the petty realms of ‘twitter relationship talk’ — essentially, a sphere where open-mindedness goes to die.
Having an affair with another woman’s (formerly) monogamous partner will put a dent in feminism as much as refraining from doing so will promote its effectiveness. What I’m saying is: this. does. not. matter.
If this was really about ‘sisterhood’ and this topic was really discussed with an understanding of feminism and patriarchy — we would be able to arrive at the same conclusion: it is a culture of mysogny that has created this very wedge between women (the very wedge that sees some women place romantic relations with men so highly that they look at a movement that seeks to liberate them with squirrel-like suspicion).
Incidentally, it also is patriarchy that has created this thirst for a mythical super-level of ‘sisterhood’.
Why target an intellectual movement when it is your manner of dealing with romantic turmoil that should be assessed?
Where else does this logic hold?
Are Marxists judged as being anti-communist when they get ‘seconds’ at a wedding buffet?
Are pan-Africanists shamed for being ‘anti-Africa’ when they overtake a fellow citizen on the highway?
And if so, where does it end?
Will we begin accusing women of being ‘anti-feminist’ for coughing in the vicinity of other women? Will we support this accusation by claiming that compromising another woman’s health is an affront to ‘sisterhood’?
As a mathematician, I’m obsessed with finding out where the limits of this logic might be found. Because it sure seems to me that the women pausing to question their husband’s mistresses’ political stance weren’t all that into feminism to begin with.
But perhaps, more importantly, as a feminist, I recognise that at this juncture in African history — we cannot afford to eschew efforts that philosophies like this seek to add to the self-actualization of the continent’s future leaders.
Follow Siyanda on Twitter @siyandawrites – Or contact her at siyandawrites[at]gmail.com