Tale of an evolution that forgot to include womankind: The war between Patriarchy and Feminism
"I do not think men and women are two different kinds of beings. Even as a child, I always insisted on doing everything that my brothers did".
Human evolution as we know today is very frequently rationalised in accordance to the social progress humans make. We have done such a pronounced job moving forward that it almost becomes impossible for us to look deeper into what still exists as a problem. Women have for long been subjected to every kind of unfair treatment and animality based on their gender. This violent subjugation was at a point of time normalised in movies, texts, and books, but its actuality was very close to dystopian notions. Therefore, the assorted waves of feminism targeted these institutions that had taken up the idea of this unfair subordination. Since the beginning of this movement, it has faced strong resistance from conservative right-wing organisations and fascist legislations. Despite that, these movements have vastly uplifted the known status of women and have been liberating ever since. Known to be a classic masterpiece of these feminist waves and a key text against patriarchy and political institutions promoting it, Kate Millet's "sexual politics" has for decades been the elucidating element of showcasing patriarchy, subjugation of women, ubiquitous presence of male domination in political, literary and social framework. Being a literary criticism at large, Millet essentially covers the work of D.H Lawrence, John Stuart Mill, George Meredith, John Ruskin, Henry Miller, John Mailer and Sigmund Freud. Being a radical feminist herself, Millet has aptly and comprehensively described the landscape where women were reduced to sex dolls, their only purpose being sexual appeasement to men. Activists have for long preached that revolution is inevitable. Therefore it should be helped along. According to me, this classic feminist text has opened dimensions and portals of feminist theories that guide us towards a better society for women at large and directed feminism towards a properly guided path. For me, reading sexual politics in light of what is known now about rape, sexual harassment, pornography, sexual abuse, prostitution, forced gender roles is that male dominance, potentiated and centrally entitled and expressed sexually, is the key to politics.
Sexual Politics originated an idea that has been a wellspring of the movement of women it defined and inspired, one that remains so prescient that it is still ahead-even far ahead - of most thinking and action to this day. First published in 1969, the book initiated the filling of one of the most urgent needs of our time: a cogent, coherent, accurate, compelling theory of male "power first over women and then over lesser men" (269). "Sex is deep at the heart of our troubles. ..." Kate Millett wrote then," and unless we eliminate the most pernicious of our systems of oppression, unless we go to the very centre of the sexual politic and its sick delirium of power and violence, all our efforts at liberation will only land us again in the same primordial stews" This was new. How right she was, we know now more than anyone. In this book, millet initiated the analysis that the sexualisation of power is the basis of oppression.
She observed and trenchantly dissects its deployment across time, space and culture and insists with humour but without apology on liberation of everyone from it. In her analysis, as well as the women’s movement that followed, sexuality is socially, not naturally, constructed or driven, it is a gendered relation in a social space, not an internal essence or biological drive. Social roles, gender-based temperaments produce and reproduce sexual scripts of unfair male domination.
This outstanding work accurately depicts all existing gender issues that are firmly embedded in our society. Perhaps nothing is a more disheartening indicator of the male supremacist mentality's inhumanity than the “underclass” or so as they refer, being assigned softer human attributes such as attachment, sensitivity, friendliness, and cheerfulness. There are a slew of "nutritive" feminine roles masked here that the man has ascribed to the female because he disregards their value and utility in himself, preferring that they exist simply to serve his wants. The recognition of "masculine" and "feminine" behaviours in sociology is the outcome of punishment and reward used to carefully condition and reinforce behaviour. This also follows the usual practise of hiding and romanticising through the use of terminology; female subjugation is referred to as "nurturance, submission, and responsibility," while male supremacy is referred to as "self-reliance and achievement." As a result, every technique of reinforcing this adherence to sex-role stereotypes was internalised as a "productive function." This form of cultural conditioning has aided men in maintaining a social order in which they have authority and autonomy over the entire female species. Octavia butler in her book ‘ parable of the sower’ wrote,”And the only way to prove to yourself that you have power is to use it.” According to me, women have always been strong and feminism is not about making them strong but about realising that you still have the strength that your ancestors were deprived of . A close analysis of Millet’s work relates to this realisation and subsequent demand for liberation.
Going through the chapters of this classic, the initial pages investigate the trajectory of the origins of these anti-feminist theories through the work of Victorian authors specifically Miller and Ruskin. These also envelope the resistance revolution and the hugely inspired movements all around the world. Second, comes the exhaustive and across the board chapter on Freud, for whom came into the landscape the counter-revolution. For Freud, she mentions, the psychoanalytic theory of feminism was never an issue to be written about because it deftly placed males over females and gave leverage to the former. Freud talks about female 'maladjustment' in a masculine society. He regarded the establishment of patriarchal families as the civilisation's achievement. Millet to this said that since he was admittedly wrong about what women want, it was unfortunate he proceeded to construct female sexual psychology. The book's third part draws in the thought-provoking arguments of the chauvinist writers who are perceived to be scholarly and witty. These writers use pornographic content to belittle women and mainly introduce them as sex dolls, often described as "mute cunts” in their work. Millet objects to these works being released and published without any censorship.
Ontological descriptions of women in various books trivialise them; therefore, Millet used the term "sexual politicians" actively and in a cardinal context by attacking the subsistent mentality of these authors who have written about women in such pathetic and low regard. She thereby brings in the metaphorical authoritarian system in a western society where womankind is nothing more than an irritating minority that must be put down and effectively controlled to maintain a "social order". The patriarchal propagandists, in the first place, subjugate women, refer to them as sex objects, portray male domination as fine chivalry, and establish an ever-lasting war of male protection among women. These subtle concepts can be figured out from every author's work that has been criticised in Millet's work. However, Millet's focal point is the sophism that patriarchy brings with itself, allowing others to believe and bow to its authoritarianism. Ample evidence for Kate's critique of sexuality as eroticised power has emerged worldwide data in the form of rape, domestic violence, harassment etc.
A keynote thesis she addresses is the cultural establishment of patriarchy through historical events from the consequent phases of the Neolithic revolution. Furthermore, she seeks the ascendance of patriarchy from mythological politics of overthrowing the goddesses, specifically the mother-goddess, the earthy forerunner, Aphrodite, who trounced the gods of war in the Bronze Age and Minerva, the goddess of practical reasoning, the city protectress and the goddess of war. Oresteia of Aeschylus and The Furies followed it. It showcases the deeply imbibed patriarchy in the mythological realm, which supported Millet's claim. With time, people are seen to come to reasonable terms with these goddesses, their powers and civilised crafts and a contrast detachment from patriarchal autonomy in a mythological context. This catalogue is a perfect paradigm that demonstrates women's liberation and acceptance in areas that are in preponderance predominated by manhood. In other mythological pieces of literature, Ann Curthoys adds, "Women do not appear in most histories. The nature and effect of this… is not discussed. Sexual habits and beliefs have not been studied enough." This shows how womanhood was camouflaged by overriding belief in male superiority.As the whole subject of sex is covered with shame, ridicule, and counter-revolution, adherence to sexual stereotype became a new morality, good and evil virtue, sympathy and judgment in all fields
According to me, there should have been chance to see a more tangible way to deal with the historical backdrop of women in the public arena since its hard to acknowledge and to maintain a continuous flow of the possibility that the post-modern time frame has achieved abrupt freedom after such an extremely long time. Because for long, the idea of repression of females likely served and gave men access to women, even where they think - a woman saying ‘no’ to sex is a superficial veil of imposed social learning that contradicts natural desires.
Through this, Millet questions Normal Mailer and his exemplification of the "no means yes" sexual repression hypothesis. All things considered, the history on papers has tailed off. We know minimal with regards to the genuine part of women in past social orders. We might know quite a bit of what scholarly philosophers thought, yet minimal on what the uneducated many said and did. I think, sexual politics still holds relevance, not only because it promote feminism but because it is somewhere a raw and striking intersection of politics and sexuality that underpins furtherances even today. All in all, it is a gripping read and a key text for ground-breaking contemporary feminist theories.