The Power of Complaints

JULIA SERRA | OPINION COLUMNIST

Do I dare disturb the universe? In a minute there is time for decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.” -T.S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”

In the fight for gender equality, there’s a sense of frivolity to everything “decision and revision” that is taken. The work we do inspires change, no doubt, but somehow the small changes never seem to add up. No matter the intentions, our actions are continually taken out of context and compared to the stereotypical norm. Women who take leadership roles tend to be idolized for their sexuality rather than their ideas and some of the most ground-breaking artists have been discarded solely for their gender. It is as if we are all in some whirlwind of despairing destiny, which there is no method of escaping. One is often compelled to ask herself, “should I just wander? Is my constant reaching towards something that is better merely being retracted by fate?” However, it’s not an inevitable plummet that is opposing the progress of the feminist movement. Our barrier is a sneakily masked version of the patriarchy, dictating the motions of the movement, perpetuating a false focus on “action” and a shift away from vocalizing the issues.

One of the biggest criticisms of the feminist movement is that it’s lacking the action necessary to cause legitimate change; that it’s a platform based on complaints. When faced with the problems that this fatally systemized society presents, we all have choices, and there are actions that must be taken. As anti-feminists claim that the oppression of women comes from our own failure to break social norms, the natural reaction, is to combat that with action. Women stop “complaining” and start shaping their own lives. While there are noble intentions, these actions are only absorbed into the context of the reigning patriarchal system. There is a certain responsibility to deny the roles you are oppressed into, but simply “taking action” is not enough to close these gaps. Women can run for president, become CEOs and pursue STEM based careers but this isn’t going to get rid of the patriarchy. Our legacy is controlled by the system we create it in and the systems with which the future will look upon us. Strong, successful women are not admired for the action they take, instead they become sex symbols, prudes, bitches or even more tragically, become forgotten altogether.

In 2010, 83 percent of the Tate Modern’s collection was created by male artists. Yet it’s hard to argue that 83 percent of people creating works of art in the modern era are men. There are thousands of women who are acting against the patriarchal canon with their works, yet they continue to be forgotten by a systemically oppressive system. In order for these women to truly create change, the actions women take to oppose the system must be accompanied by a direct, vocalized, attack of injustice. To speak out is their claim to their own future, to describe their own legacy. They must create their own context in which their work can exist; it is only then that they have control over their own legacy.

Of course, due to the nature of the patriarchy, even vocalizations will be taken out of context. Feminists have become “feminazis” and are repeatedly criticized for being too outspoken. But how will our actions have any meaning if feminism refuses to combat the context they are being presented in. The level of freedom women have today, inarguably an improvement from previous eras, did not come without its fair share of “complaining.” Why should the movement attempt to fit into the mold their opponent is presenting?

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