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Friday, 15 February 2013

The problem of ‘issue feminism’

Bell Hooks
As it’s nearly RHUL Fem Soc’s 2nd birthday, it seems like a good time to look at what we do and how we can improve on it, not just as a society, but as feminist activists. As a feminism society, we have campaigned very well on various issues – trans* issues, body image, porn, women in academia, and so on. We have fought hard and more importantly got great results, such as gender-neutral pronouns in General Meetings.

These issues are extremely important to discuss and organise around, but they are just that: individual issues. They are not, in and of themselves, the be-all and end-all of what feminism is and what feminism should be about. They are symptoms, not causes. The cause is what we should also be looking at. All of the above issues are not made in a vacuum: they are all connected. We need to look not just at what is wrong with the world and how the world is sexist, transphobic, homophobic, etc. but why it is that way.

Feminism, we all acknowledge, is not a uniform movement; within it there are myriad strands: anarcha-feminism, socialist feminism, liberal feminism, radical feminism. What we need to do is look at what these different viewpoints say about the material circumstances which lead to institutional discrimination in society. We need to look at society and ask the very simple question ‘how did we get in this mess?’

These different ideologies provide different answers to the root of oppression and look at different aspects of patriarchy and oppression and, therefore, have different definitions of the extent of patriarchal oppressions. In order to progress and become better activists and better feminist, we need to ask ourselves these questions. We need to look at different theories and come to our conclusions about the root of oppression so as to aide our activism and to direct our activism, whether that widens the scope of what we think counts as a feminist issue or not.

And so what we need to do is to discuss further the root of oppressions within the society through a series of talks and discussions from feminists of different traditions to help us to think more broadly about oppression and its causes, not just its symptoms. 

By Jack Saffery-Rowe

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