Feminism is divided. One side says without patriarchy women would think like men- which makes trans women doubly deluded. It dates back at least to Mary Wollstonecraft, and may include Artemisia Gentileschi, whom I love: raped then forced to become engaged to her rapist, or she would be seen as dishonoured: see the strength of her Judith or Susannah. I hear the anger, and admire the people.
And the other side discerns differences between the sexes, and celebrates them. In 1999, in the white heat of my spiritual awakening, I read Feminist Counselling in Action by Jocelyn Chaplin. She wrote it in 1988. Thinking, society, have moved on, and even Chaplin apologises for using the words ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’ which she places in quotation marks: they are burdened by so many layers of socially constructed meaning that I would prefer not to use them at all… ‘female’ and ‘male’ imply some rigid biological determinism that I also reject. This book does, however, stress real differences in ways of thinking that thousands of years of patriarchy have associated with females and males respectively.
She values feminine thinking, as do I. It is not all women, or no men. She posits a masculine control model, with a strong mind rigidly controlling a vulnerable body, against a feminine rhythm model with the person flowing between mind and body, joy and sorrow, valuing both. Masculine hierarchies emphasise competing opposites. Non-hierarchical feminism stresses interconnected opposites, which she dates back to neolithic Goddess worship.
She also writes of helping a woman assert herself against a harassing male; replacing patriarchal dominance with feminist equality. What am I to make of this: one client saw her rational side as cold and calculating. She wanted to get rid of it altogether. Its opposite, the feeling side, was seen as all good. In counselling she was able to see both sides as valuable… the very thing we call our weakness can be our greatest strength. There is patriarchal conditioning, overcome. Her model is a saner maturity for men and women; though valuing the feminine.
1988 is so long ago. Mrs Thatcher had changed Britain; but the Left was still resisting. The people won the second world war, and decisively voted for equality after. Without the Labour government in 1945, my father could not have gone to University after demob. In the 1970s, Britain was at its most equal.
I love the Icelandic drama Trapped. Dark things happen: a man discovers his friend is responsible for his daughter burning to death: so he burns him to death in his shed. Yet against the unforgiving icy landscape, people must all come together, work together, to survive.
These are huge themes. I am not saying Radical feminism is right-wing. I value its anger which is passionate energy for change. But I beg you: please, please, can there be some space for me?