Feminism Has to Be About More Than Pissing Off Patriarchy

A few nights ago I was on the phone with one of my close friends having one of those conversations good girlfriends have when we talk about everything and nothing. We’d been on the phone giggling and dishing all day. By 1 AM, the conversation had turned — or should I say returned — to sex. My girl, who’s maintained she’s a proud hoe who stopped counting how many dudes she’s slept with, got real with me.

Many times before we’ve talked about how she’s never had a boyfriend, her relationships having never progressed beyond “talking” or “chilling.” She said¬†that much of her sexual experience, especially when she was a teen, had been her sleeping with men to get them to like her.¬†“And it never worked,” she admitted.

Listening to my friend, whom I love and cherish, talk about her misguided attempts to use sex to gain love saddened me. Up until that point, I’d always been amused by sex stories. She seemed to fully embrace the feminist notion that there is freedom in sexual promiscuity. Everyday she and I are giggling at memes and tweets of women proudly professing that they’re hoes. Being a woman who refuses to police other women’s bodies, I¬†supported my friend using her body how she wanted.

Thanks to many modern feminists,¬†“hoe”¬†has been flipped, turning from simply a misogynist slur hurled at women who refuse to conform to sexist ideals of purity and maintaining a low body count into a badge of honor for women who maintain total control of their¬†bodies and sexual pleasure. There’s power in that shift for sure. Women are waking up and realizing that compromising their own carnal pleasure to adhere to restrictive standards about what constitutes our worth as female beings earns us nothing.

That night though, I realized that some¬†of the rhetoric being pushed on women by contemporary radical feminists is¬†less about¬†truly liberating us from the sexism and misogyny¬†which has suffocated us for centuries than it is about¬†pissing of misogynists.¬†In that sense, feminist rhetoric often morphs into an ideological version of the terrible twos¬†in which nuance and the fight for every woman to chart out her own course for empowerment individually are¬†being replaced with a dogma of which the paramount element is merely an unwavering rejection of tradition, without regard to whether a woman is rejecting traditional roles and thinking only because she doesn’t want to appear oppressed.¬†Freedom should mean just that. If feminist doctrine becomes nothing more than a new set rules women must follow to be “free” then it becomes just as restrictive and oppressive as the patriarchy it is supposed to demolish.¬†As I’ve said often, “Feminism is counterproductive if it defines women’s liberation as simply antonymous to patriarchy.”

“If he says ‘yes,’ you say ‘no,'” is not a sustainable path to freedom. Certainly patriarchy and its archaic tenets are one of the founding principles of the white supremacist oppressive machine. And there’s no doubt that those tenets provide the basis for the rigid definition of womanhood that has seen so many women who dare to refuse to contort and shrink to fit into that box written off as worthless. Still, countering traditional oppression with a sweeping philosophy that any woman who coincidentally finds her own peace in tradition does little to truly create a society where a woman’s freedom is both self-directed and completely personal.

Now I’m by no means asserting that there aren’t many woman who live and swear by the “hoe is life” motto. Nobody loves a good hoe tale of meeting a dude in a hotel for a “no strings” fuck session. And I certainly don’t mean to claim that the entirety of my friend’s sexual experience has been an unsuccessful quest for love rather than learning what she likes and enjoying some good dick.

But there’s a responsibility that comes with the fight for all women, and the oft neglected piece of that fight is impressing upon women and girls that they owe themselves to no one, man nor woman. A woman has no more responsibility to bounce from lover to lover to satisfy some abstract concept of¬†freedom¬†than she does to stay with one partner to satisfy patriarchy.¬†And we have to make and keep space for the women who enjoy missionary sex with the lights off, believe in waiting three months before having sex and prefer to keep talk about their sex lives private the same as we do the orgy-loving, fuck-when-I-want,¬†“Bitch, guess¬†whose dick I bounced on this weekend”¬†women who are the poster child for sexual liberation.

If all that sex leaves a woman feeling as¬†empty¬†and filled with regret as the sexual repression we’re trying to break free from, then it’s become no more than a tool to piss off patriarchy at the expense of its victims. So if we’re going to encourage women to own their bodies, that encouragement cannot come with the caveat that ownership is absolutely synonymous with fucking multiple partners. “Do you” has to really mean “do you.”

We can’t go about our liberation trying to convince every woman that wanting love and holding off on sex until she feels a connection with a potential partner is oppressive. Despite the witty tweets, many women aren’t built to detach emotion from sex. And that’s okay. I’m here for women’s choice. So if a woman is making a conscious decision to be sexually conservative, after weighing her own feelings and personal values, and

can offer the same respect for body autonomy to her more liberal sisters, I support her.

Let not our mission to emancipate women turn into¬†the¬†one-size fits all feminism that dictates how a woman must express that emancipation. Let us¬†stay committed to promoting the “auto” in autonomy.¬†Let us not turn into the other side of the patriarchal coin.

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