You’ve seen T-shirts with this inscription one too many times and it does really read like a very witty and modern slogan for a print tee shirt. One I wouldn’t be wearing.
In 2015, Rachel Berks, owner of Otherwild, worked with lesbian historian Liza Cowan to re-create a tee captured in one of Cowan’s 1975 photographs: Alix Dobkin in a t-shirt reading “The Future is Female.”
Alix Dobkin, an American folk singer/songwriter and feminist activist, is widely known for her female-only activism and is consciously about the exclusion of males.
In one letter to the National Center for Lesbian Rights, she explained, “For over twenty years men have declared themselves ‘women,’ manipulated their bodies and then demanded the feminist seal of approval from survivors of girlhood…. [My lyrics] are not ‘oppressive’ but refer to those of us who have a girlhood & a clitoris, & no one else.”
While many argue that the slogan is just a representation of a future of more female inclusiveness, the originator clearly had a different ideology, one I consider quite counter intuitive to modern feminist movements across the globe.
Generally, feminism is the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of equality between the sexes. Girls should be allowed to go to school and not be married off tenderly regardless of where they are in the world because boys aren’t. Women should be allowed to run for office or vote during elections because men are and both genders are equally deserving of being treated like human beings because they are. And so on.
“The first time we see a woman take up her pen in defense of her sex was Christine de Pizan who wrote Epitre au Dieu d’Amour (Epistle to the God of Love) in the 15th century,” writes Simone de Beauvoir. However, as far as the history of feminism and feminist movements go, historians agree with the three wave categorisation.
The first wave of feminism occurred between the nineteenth and twentieth century in the UK and the US and was focused on political rights for women especially the women’s suffrage or rights to vote during this period. American first-wave feminism is considered to have ended with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution (1919), granting women the right to vote in all states.
The second wave of feminism which occurred from the early 1960s to the late 1980s, while building on the political leanings of the first wave, was more focused on the equality of both genders and cultural constructs that permitted and fostered imbalance between how both sexes were treated. Second-wave feminists saw women’s cultural and political inequalities as inextricably linked and encouraged women to understand aspects of their personal lives as deeply politicized and as reflecting sexist power structures.
Third-wave feminism began in the early 1990s and has extended into modern day feminist movements and ideologies. The third wave arose as a response to perceived failures of the second wave and also as a response to the backlash against initiatives and movements created by the second wave. Third-wave feminism seeks to challenge or avoid what it deems the second wave’s essentialist definitions of femininity, which (according to them) over-emphasize the experiences of upper middle-class white women.
In recent times, there exists numerous ideologies and feminist movements around the world. There are the ego-cultural feminists, the radicals, the liberal/reforms, the electoral, academic, ecofeminists, the list goes on. At the core of all these ideologies however, is the insistence that many societies around the world have been patriarchal for ages and that there has always existed an unequal and sometimes oppressive imbalance between how both genders are treated. The underlying goal of feminism therefore, from time immemorial, has been to achieve a balance of opportunities and quality of life between both genders, not to have someone live less than human because of what gender they are born with.
The idea that the Future is Female is therefore, not only counter intuitive, but very limiting and backward. Because it tips the balance the other way and sets us back centuries to a world where one gender is dominating over the other. If there’s anything the centuries of activism and movements should teach us, it is to be wary of falling back into this trap.
“Feminism advocates for the political, social, and economical equality of all genders,” an article on Odyssey says.
“Do you think that women should have the same rights as men? Do you believe that they should have access to the same opportunities, including equal pay for equal work? Congratulations, you believe in the basic tenets of feminism.”
What this means is that there can be no one-sided approach to this solution because it is one that involves two parties. The idea that the Future is Female is therefore, also misleading and will lend no hand to the successes of the past feminist movements nor that of the future. Imagine that North Korea and the US continued its face-off. Neither of the two leaders speaking to each other, but only calling out sanctions and sending across abusive words for months on end, while the issue of uncontrolled nuclear weapon testings continued? Would the slightest of resolutions have resulted?
We simply cannot continue to talk about how to fix the gender gaps in our society and have just one gender at the table.
But equally important, maybe more so, is the fact that instead of setting a table for women in another part of the room and turning them into superior beings, women must be brought to sit at the table with the men.
Men must begin to unlearn these harmful practices and ideologies that they subconsciously or consciously propel in their families, churches, local communities and society as a whole.
Men must be included in the empowerment programmes, the walks, the peaceful protests, the pact signings, the government/stakeholder meetings. Men must be made to understand how these decisions that they make, the ones they have made at a table without women, have robbed women of the lives deserving of them primarily as human beings, how these decisions have robbed their communities of the impact of women and from women.
Feminism should be intersectional because if indeed the Future is Female, what happens to the gender outliers? How are their rights protected? Are they undeserving of equal opportunities and fair treatments because they do not align with binary gender constructs?
The Future isn’t Female. The Future is Us. The Future is Fair. The Future is Equal. How about these slogans for your tee-shirt?
Image Credits: Pexels.com, BrandstoLife