There is no correlation between difference and danger. Yet, differences are regularly considered threatening. In fact, much of Western society’s patriarchal energy is spent categorizing, controlling, managing and fighting difference. Difference is so ingrained within the psyche that most differences are understood to be antithetical, perhaps even unbridgeable, opposites. Good/bad, black/white, rich/poor, women/men and human/animal are just a few examples. To further amplify this distinction, patriarchy considers one aspect of the difference more valuable than the other.
Feminism seeks to end this value-laden, polarization of difference. In its earliest days, many feminists were convinced that advocating sameness was the best solution. Abolition, the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) and the right to vote were parts of this liberal agenda. While sameness worked in some respects especially in terms of ending slavery and gaining the right to vote, the sameness platform also, albeit perhaps unknowingly and considerably to a lesser degree, bought into patriarchal views of the dangers of difference. For example, ending slavery did not end racism nor did gaining the right to vote mean that women were equipped or allowed to think independently of their husbands. Other first-wave feminists who advocated women as pure and moral persons and elevated motherhood fared little better playing into the patriarchal ideals of biological determinism and essentialism. Continue reading “On Difference by Ivy Helman.”