If it’s not Feminist, then it’s not my Polyamory

Apologies for such silence on the blog these past weeks; we were gone on a family vacation, and since coming home I’ve had a handful of other writing projects requiring my attention.

I’m still at work on other things, but I wanted to take just a quick moment to talk about how essential I think feminism to polyamory. Which should be somewhat obvious by the series I write here about feminism and poly, but sometimes I think there’s a difference between merely recognizing an intersection vs. saying that activism in one area absolutely requires awareness and attention to another. And as I’ve encountered some really anti-feminist thought in some poly spaces recently, I really feel the need to briefly try to drive home how vital this connection is.

First, compulsory monogamy is, itself, a patriarchal institution. And I don’t think we can fight that institution in any meaningful way without unpacking its patriarchal legacy. If we say we want to challenge compulsory monogamy but we don’t make that challenge from an explicitly feminist perspective, then I think we’ll always fall a great deal short of really dismantling that institution at its roots. The entire dialogue around people having “ownership” of one another in romantic relationships is really rooted in notions of male ownership of women. Obviously, there are plenty of women who don’t want to “share” their partners, either (and not sharing can be totally fine, as long as its a conscious choice and not the result of a social mandate), but that doesn’t change the fact that the whole construction of “ownership” in marriage was never a two-way street.

And second, I think that poly without feminism can potentially be a rather dangerous thing. If polyamory is just a means of reproducing traditional sexist dynamics in relationships with multiple partners, then we’re stepping dangerously close to everything that’s wrong with traditional patriarchal “one man-many women” polygamy. I see polyamory veering close to this in relationships with the so-called “one-penis-policy,” for example, where a husband is permitted to date women, but his wife is only permitted to date women herself and forbidden from dating other men. With all of the problematic sexist gender dynamics that are potentially present in our sex and dating lives, I think that men wishing to engage in relationships with multiple women must be even more vigilant about upholding feminist values, because the potential harm and potential replication of patriarchal power structures might be even greater when a man is in a position of dominance over not just one woman, but several. I’m honestly not interested in fighting for the sexual liberation of men who will only use non-monogamy as a path to “conquer” a greater number of women.

To summarize, then, though I’ll say much more on this in the future, I’m entirely uninterested in participating in any kind of poly activism that isn’t explicitly feminist. To me, separating the two is incorrect both personally and politically.

(and of course, I believe that feminism needs to make room for a critique of compulsory monogamy, as well. More on that to come, too…)

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2 thoughts on “If it’s not Feminist, then it’s not my Polyamory

  1. Roxanne

    This gives me a LOT to think about! I am a woman and my understanding of feminism has always been: “I am woman hear me roar! I can do anything a man can do only better! If I decide I want a man in my life, he’d better play by my rules!” That has always grated on my nerves. I prefer a philosophy that is more equalism. Men and women are the same. They can do the same things – job wise – and they can both take care of their children. The ideal way is to designate one parent as the principle wage earner and one parent as the primary care giver, and it could very well be the mom working and the dad at home. (Or both at work.) I think that both partners need to set and agree to terms for the relationship. In other words, an equal relationship.
    When I hear that relationships need to be feminist, I immediately think that means the woman will be the one in charge, but the way you are saying it is that to you, feminism = equal partnership. I have a hard time wrapping my head around that. As I said, you have given me a lot to think about, lol1 🙂

    Reply
    1. Angi Post author

      Thanks Roxanne, I’m glad I’ve given you some things to think about! 🙂 Feminism is definitely not in any way about the superiority of women, it’s about equality. The reason it’s called “feminism” and not just “humanism” is because it’s specifically about women achieving equality which we don’t currently have (this piece offers a really great explanation of that: http://jezebel.com/5992479/if-i-admit-that-hating-men-is-a-thing-will-you-stop-turning-it-into-a-self+fulfilling-prophecy). I’m about as deeply in the “feminist trenches” as one can get (outside of this blog, I write primarily for feminist publications on topics like reproductive rights and sexual violence), and I have never met a single feminist whose feminist vision is one in which women have superiority over men. That’s just a common mis-characterization used to discredit feminism.

      If you’re interested in reading more, I think Feminism is for Everybody by bell hooks is probably the best basic intro to feminism there is 🙂

      Reply

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