I have attempted to translate a blog entry of one of my favourite German feminist blogs . Antje Schrupp (http://antjeschrupp.com) writes about all sorts of topics, personal and political, that deal with issues concerning feminism and gender and are usually a very worthwhile read. Recently, she posted a topic called “Fünfzehn Thesen zu Feminismus und Post-Gender” which I would like to share with you because I think it sums up a lot of issues that most (post)feminists come across at some point.
I have to point out that this is not a professional translation and has not been developed in cooperation with the author of the original. Therefore I apologize if I may have confused the meaning of certain words that mean the same in German. However, I do believe that I managed to adequately convey the ideas of the fifteen points. I personally agree with the majority of them, even though I might have phrased them differently, but I certainly appreciate Antje Schrupp’s attempt to create a concise overview of current (post)feminist concerns. You can find the German original here:
(For further explanations of her theses check out the comments section below her post.)
Fifteen Theses Concerning Feminism and Post-gender
1. The most important point concerning “gender” has nothing to do with women but is, in fact, the criticism of the masculine as the norm or standard towards which one should orient oneself. Women certainly come into play, given that feminists were the first ones to question the norm of the masculine.
2. It is appropriate to argue that gender clichés should be refused in general but it can easily distract from the actual problem: the masculine has been the only gender to ever place itself as the norm. However, “the masculine” is not always identical with “male”. There have always been men who criticized the patriarchal order, and women who supported it.
3. The main feature of patriarchy has not been to attribute certain clichés to men and women, but to interpret certain differences between humans (mainly but not only sexual differences) hierarchically, in the sense of “normal” and “deficient”. Meaning “men are normal humans” (humans as “mankind”, as suggested by the English language) and “women are deficient humans” (if human at all). This creates a model for the hierarchization and normalization of other differences (skin color, sexual orientation, age etc.).
4. The emphasis on biological clichés of womanhood and manhood became increasingly meaningful as the legitimacy of gender hierarchies was troubled by the Enlightenment era and its premise of the equality of all people. Therefore, the overcoming of gender clichés (“post-gender”) does not guarantee the freedom of all people and certainly not the freedom of women. Post-gender thinking can in fact cause its opposite: the reconfirmation of the “unimportance” of women.
5. Women’s freedom cannot be achieved by eliminating ‘Women’.
6. There are a number of reasons for differences between people. Whether these reasons are grounded biologically or socially may be interesting to investigate, but in the end that is not what is important. After all, in a political sense the most interesting differences are the ones chosen by people to purposefully and actively differentiate themselves from other people.
7. It should be common knowledge that no one can act completely detached from their social background, their own body, their cultural heritage or other outside influences. The “autonomous I” is a construct of male (Western?) philosophy. Human freedom is always freedom in relativity; it only exists in combination with physicality, nature and social belonging.
8. Liberal politics is not the claim of the equality of all people (which can only be thought abstractly), but the creative and appropriate way to deal with the (existing) inequality of the people, without creating another form of domination.
9. The idea of “post-gender” implies the tracing back of these inequalities to exclusively individual differences. This, however, does not only run the risk of ignoring the distinctive power of social conventions and norms, but also of reintroducing the masculine as norm “through the back-door”. Masculinity has historically been one and the same with the “gender-neutral human”. Masculinity never understood itself as consistent, but rather always as versatile. “Consistent” – in the sense of stereotypes – has always defined the “others”, specifically women.
10. Therefore, an important feminist strategy is to acknowledge the differences among women, to render them visible and to debate them publicly. Its practical execution is the conscious cultivation of relationships among women, and the acknowledgment of female authority, without assuming a consistent “We” of all women. This is the only way to establish women’s freedom. However, this naturally does not rule out women having relationships with men or other genders, be it privately or politically.
11. Free womanhood means neither the assimilation into, nor the separation from, the masculine. There is a difference between women and men which is not symmetrical and determinable but only reveals itself in a concrete situation (or does not). Women are neither the same as men, nor are they different. They are as they are. The masculine is not a criterion, neither in its positive nor in its negative sense (but it may be an inspiration and encouragement).
12. A free society which has overcome the gender dualism is not a genderless society but one of gender versatility. Whether there are two, three, four or five genders is of no importance and depends on many different factors. The important point is: there should be more than one!
13. Women and men (and other genders as well as other “Others”) should communicate and exchange ideas about the formation of the world in which they live and should negotiate those ideas free from domination. This can only happen based on a free female (meaning gender-versatile) difference. Every perspective insisting on a supposedly universal norm is to be rejected. There is no higher standard to which everyone is supposedly subordinate. That is the essence of pluralism.
14. The essential stimulus of feminism for a free society lies in this: to free difference from the trap of its hierarchical and power-related interpretations. Free women, meaning those who neither submit to female stereotypes, nor accept the masculine as norm, have brought sexual difference (and difference in general) into the world’s political discourse as a factor to be reckoned with.
15. However, this practice is not limited to women. Men as well as all other genders can -and should- participate in it. After all, it is not about lobbying for women’s interests but about a world which allows for a good life for all people.