Monday, October 16, 2006


Fight the System

A recent conversation made me question the way I think about feminist societal change. What is the best way to bring about change? What is the most ethical? Do these two necessarily coincide?
Let me explain:
As a feminist, should I work within the current system—that is, go along with whatever I need to, brush aside my objections to whatever the status quo is and do my damndest to achieve a higher position of power—in order to catalyze change? Or do I reject the status quo and instead attempt to create a new system from scratch: one that tears down the current markers of achievement and creates alternate pathways to power? Is the second option even viable if you are not already in a position of power?
"Working within the system" could involve all sorts of things: exploiting any advantages women do get in the workplace (i.e., if flirting helps you get somewhere, go for it!), following Carly Fiorina's model (gritting your teeth through business meetings at strip clubs), and generally actively allowing 'the system' to continue unabated until you garner enough clout to truly make change...What I fear is that once you get high enough in that chain, any impetus you had to make change will be gone. You will be too comfortable, losing sight of the inherent oppression that the 'system' creates.
"Fighting the sytem" constitutes an active attempt to reform the system before you even enter (although you could argue that we're all already in that system by virtue of being alive), refusing to accept the norms that structure the system, believing that society systematically exploits groups of people (including, but not limited to, women) and actively seeking to avoid being an agent in that exploitation.

Are these two approaches too simplistic? Too complicated? Unrealistic?



Anonymous melanie said...

it's me again. about your dilemma - I feel ya! And the problem with working from outside the system is that it's such a bigger task, it requires so much more dedication, and in the end (I feel) less is accomplished because every step is so much harder! But maybe the little you achieve from outside the system goes farther than strides made from inside? Because maybe as long as the system stands any progress is going to hit a glass wall. You should check out the article "The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle The Master's House" by Audre Lourde, if you haven't read it already. It faces the same question. But despite Ms. Lourde, I have to admit that I personnally am choosing to buy in...the hard part is making sure I don't then sell out!
The blog is looking great. I'm so damn impressed!

2:22 PM  

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