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United We Stand

This rather angry blog post lambasting Plan’s use of pink and other hyper-feminine symbols was published recently in ‘This Magazine’ (Canada). I’ll say right off the bat in case someone is eagerly expecting a passionate defence: I won’t use this space to justify Plan’s marketing decisions. Actually I’m quite happy for people to engage in a healthy debate on marketing messages; especially those who intend to change social injustices through fundraising (see here for my blog on the ‘the girl store’). I would, however, like to use Wendy Glauser’s analysis to talk about an issue that goes to the very heart of the feminist movement:

Radical Feminism vs. Liberal Feminism.

Radical feminists believe that change will only come from completely dismantling the hegemonic patriarchal social system. This is epitomized by Audrey Lorde’s famous essay (1979): “Those of us who stand outside the circle of this society’s definition of acceptable women; those of us who have been forged in the crucibles of difference – those of us who are poor, who are lesbians, who are Black, who are older – know that…the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. And this fact is only threatening to those women who still define the master’s house as their only source of support.”

Liberal feminists on the other hand are very happy to use the master’s tools against the master. They believe that you can subvert the system from within through political and legal reform. Catharine MacKinnon is a good example (2007): “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights defines what a human being is. In 1948, it told the world what a person, as a person, is entitled to. It has been fifty years. Are women human yet?…If women were human, would we have so little voice in public deliberations and in governments in the countries where we live? Would we be hidden behind veils and imprisoned in houses and stoned and shot for refusing? Would be beaten nearly to death, and to death, by men with whom we are close? Would we be sexually molested in our families? Would we be raped in genocide to terrorize and eject and destroy our ethnic communities, and raped again in that undeclared war that goes on every day in every country in the world in what is called peacetime? If women were human, would our violation be enjoyed by our violators? And if we were human, when these things happened, would virtually nothing be done about it?”

And so we hear this debate echoed everyday. For some of us the only way to affect real change is through a radical political movement (through, according to Glauser, ‘sabotage…mobilization…disruption’). For others the best way to really change lives is by using the only tools we have, the language of human rights or the color pink, to try and change hearts and minds. Both methods are needed and both can co-exist side by side.

Tomorrow is International Women’s Day. I would like, for at least 24 hours, to see all feminists stand together in solidarity and respect, compassion and friendship.

For if we won’t support each other then surely the master has already won.

Keshet Bachan

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