Prescriptive Feminism is Patriarchy Lite


Addendum: After more recent events with Melissa McEwan’s whiny apologism for feminism trying to morally mandate us out of existance and pathetic privilege mongering, as well as her entire site engaging in apologism for her, I finally came to the realization that feminism is fucked as a movement. The rot is in the core, there’s no hope for it ever being anything but a transphobic, racist, ableist, cissexist, anti sex worker, anti porn worker, anti unlimited self determination of women of all types movement. So, this post is now considered mild apologism, since it separates feminism from prescriptive feminism. In reality all of feminism is prescriptive and toxic, the question is “to what degree”. So I apologize for the apologism. Consider that retracted. PF is feminism. They are one in the same.

I’m sure you all remember femihaterade’s little spiel of stupidity (that ended in horrific cisfail, transphobia and all around disgusting privileged hate mongering) where she asserted all porn is rape (I won’t be linking to her, I don’t give business to types like that). Beyond being some blatant trolling (and not very good trolling either) its one very massive example of what folks in the bizness of marginalization activism like to call prescriptive feminism.

Feminism is, as mentioned in previous posts, a rights specialization of egalitarianism. It concentrates on the axes faced by women for the most part (usually failing with the intersections faced by trans women, women of color, women with disabilities, poor women, women from other cultures and especially anyone with several of those axes on her head). Feminism’s purpose is, put plainly, to free women to do what we want unfettered by bigotry and ownership by others. To help us escape control by a society that seeks to take away our rights to do what we will with our own bodies, to follow our own self determination and to prevent others from forcing on us things that impact us in ways we don’t want.

The patriarchy (the axis of marginalization for women, cis and trans, with a lot of blending with the axis of transphobia in the form of transmisogyny for women of the trans variety only) is largely a system that seeks to and often succeeds at stripping us of our self determination, our autonomy and our rights to do with our bodies what we will. This system seeks to control our bodies against our will, forcing us to do things its way (like say, not aborting, ever. Or being sexually available to any man who wants us). All of this is based on being forced, a lack of agency and will in the occurrence. There are women who would never personally abort and there are women who fuck every man they see. But they’re doing this out of their own agency and will, while the patriarchy attempts to force all women to fit certain zones, irregardless of our personal needs. This is what feminism fights.

Well, except for prescriptive feminism. And therein lies the problem. Prescriptive feminism is feminism wherein women try to tell other women what to do. Not only prescribing how to be a feminist but even attempting to deny other women our self determination, agency and will. Sound familiar? You might think I’m overreacting. So let’s give some examples. Prescriptive feminism (let’s call it PF for short) often carries certain memes and conserved claims in it. For one, PF often treats any self expression of one that matches traditional views of women as self oppression or oppression enabling. Stay at home mom? You’re a patriarchy enabler and oppressing yourself. Open to sex all willy nilly? Patriarchy enabler and oppressing yourself (some will even assert you’re being raped, when you’re actively seeking this sex out and enjoying it). Wear dresses and makeup? Enabler and self oppresser. They actively seek to prevent people from engaging in these actions, even if these actions are the ones people chose for themselves because they make them happy. More examples? Porn and sex work. Yes, there are women who work in porn and sex work because they have no other options, are trapped and fucked over. But PF assumes all women who work in porn and sex work are exploited and used and have no options. If you dare to differ regarding your own porn acting, sex work or say something like stripping, if you dare to say, “hey, actually I like doing this. It’s fun, interesting and it pays good money” you’re suddenly a patriarchy enabler and a self oppresser and they insist that you stop. Some will, like the example above, even claim you’re being raped no matter how much you state, “no, I’m not being raped, I enjoy this. Wtf is wrong with you?”

Extreme examples of PF will often go anti kink as well, attacking heterosexual BDSM relationships in which the guy is the dom/sadist and the girl is the sub/masochist. Note that they have nothing to say about homosexual BDSM relationships or het relationships where the girl is the dom. Even more extreme examples (which thankfully are entirely rare) will go so far as to assert that having heterosexual sex at all is an act of self oppression and enabling of the patriarchy. These PF types will often appropriate gay culture and call themselves “political lesbians”, while still basking in their straight privilege. Obviously prescriptive feminism is even worse to trans women then it is to cis women. Our expression is taken even worse and we’re often called infiltrators. But that’s more the general cissexism of feminism as an overall movement, and less something specific to PF. They’re simply worse to us because they see nothing wrong with denying cis women self determination, so the cissexism is given far more leeway to thrive in their worldviews by their willingness to deny agency, will and choice to women. This also plays out in ableism in the PF submovement (which often is aggravated by a willingness to ignore agency normally) and likely affects PF racism too (although being that I’m white, I can only speculate based on what I’m told)

So, PF denies women our right to self determination and tries to dictate how we should live our lives. It tells us we’re not allowed to make certain choice with our bodies and lifestyles, claiming that its doing so for our own good. Sound familiar? Of course it does. That’s what the patriarchy axis does. Prescriptive feminism is patriarchy lite. It limits less things than the patriarchy, but still nevertheless engages in truly misogynistic shit stirring and attacks on the self determination of women (sometimes to the point of engaging in rape apologism against sex positive folk) all in the name of bringing down the patriarchy. Which, amusingly (and depressingly), its actions do anything but. PF enforces things on women, forcing women to follow paths that we don’t want to follow, much like patriarchy does. It uses the same tools. Slut shaming, intimidation, misogynist attacks, rape apologism, expressions of ownership, trolling, condescending explanations, fallacies and dismissing personal experience as lesser than ideology. This is not just done to trans women, PF does this to all women.

PF is the usual modus operandi of Internet RadFems™ (a group of “radical” feminists that spend most of their time on the internet hating on trans women, ignoring trans men, claiming nonbinaries don’t exist, making up strawfeminist fallacies of sex positive women, treating sex workers like shit and practicing the same shit that the patriarchy does for their PF). It is commonly referred to as Feminist Fascism and tends towards misandry and misogyny in equal amounts (although in different ways for both). It is also the most common source of strawfeminists against the entirety of the movement itself, the strawfeminist used to make the word “Feminazi” by that bastard Rush Limbaugh and generally are used as an example of what all feminism is in an attempt to fuck up the efforts of feminists all over. So in this way, PF types actually damage the progress feminism is making by creating genuine examples of batshit, painfully wrong stupidity, that the Trapdoor Trolls of the “Anti Misandry” Movement (the guys that pretend to support guys’ gender expression being freed up but tend more towards trolling feminists and hating women), the right wing misogynist fuckheads and other patriarchy enforcers use to discredit feminists that aren’t ironic misogynistic fascists. So PF is especially ironic and awful, in that it enables the patriarchy even more by creating strawfeminists to attack feminists with by its nasty attempts to limit women. PF is also one of the myriad reasons why so many young women won’t identify as feminists, to avoid association with those types and to avoid being told what to do by other women.

In the end, all women, all of us, deserve autonomy, self determination, agency and our will to be honored and respected. If I or another wants to work in porn? Don’t tell us we’re being raped when we’re not. If you know a girl who wears dresses, shaves her legs and wears makeup, don’t harass her about it. It’s her own damn choice. A woman who chooses not to get an abortion is making just as valid of a choice as a woman who chooses to get one. A stay at home mom who wants to have her kids and loves deeply being a mother deserves just as much respect for her choices as a business world career woman who sharks her way through wall street. Having sex with men is not self oppression if you actually want to have sex with men. Consensual BDSM is not oppression. Sex workers who want to be sex workers, who enjoy their job and like their work are not victims who need to be “rescued” by you. The fact that I never shave my legs, wear pants and t-shirts (often baggy pants), the fact that I am not interested in or want men, the fact that I have no interest in sex work (although I would be interested in limited work in erotica, if it wouldn’t hurt my career chances in biotechnology), the fact that I don’t want children, don’t want to be married, hate dresses, almost never wear makeup, does not mean that every other woman is exactly like me. I would not dare to tell anyone who wants to do those things or enjoys them to stop. Doing so is denying women agency. Prescriptive Feminism denies Agency.

And so, PF is the lite beer version of patriarchy. They are enabling oppression. They are oppressing other women. And the whole way there, they’re giving the patriarchy every inch of the weapons it needs to strip all of feminism of its numbers. It’s about time they stopped.

It’s about time we were allowed to make our own damn choices.

34 Responses to “Prescriptive Feminism is Patriarchy Lite”

  1. There’s not a thing I would add to this, because it is exactly on point. PF is the reason I abandoned any engagement with, “Feminism,” as an organized movement. I said it over at the hate parade, I’ll say it here: Oppressive advocacy is still oppression.
    Thank you for putting the cohesive statement out here.

  2. To be fair to feminism, not all of it is PF. Unless you believe it to be completely unsalvageable as a movement overall, it’s a bit unfair to feminism and good feminists to abandon the movement due to the fanatics in it.

  3. Fuck, I have to write this fucking thing over again. -_-

    I, personally, believe that the movement is not only salvageable, but it is also not damaged by these people. Believe it or not, but misogyny does come from the apes of the media complex like Limbaugh(fuck sideways cocksucker), but is actually primordial and there is nothing that can be done about that. However, those who are willing to stick with it can work to impress a less hostile viewpoint in the patriarchy.

    As for these prescriptive feminists of which you speak, who gives a flying fuck what they say. It is there given right to believe and express themselves as they wish and they are doing so. And, as they exercise their rights, so do most other women. No one is going to do or do anything just because some angry person posts something online-love ya, RP :)-but will according to their will. Do not allow some fucker to influence you in ways you wish not be manipulated(it is possible to influence a person to do exactly the opposite of what you are telling the to do) as it can lead to your own Dehumanization.

    So do as you will and ignore the people you know cannot have reasonable discourse with. Or else your Autonomy truly is Lost.

    I will stop the random song references now. XD

  4. I disagree that misogyny is primordial. There’s no biological or neurological evidence to suggest this.

    Also, these people do actually do harm, by hurting others and influencing some. Angry people on the internet have a surprising amount of influence on their readers, which is why I try to avoid being a tool. XD

  5. Damn, another thing we don’t see eye to eye on. Oh well. XD

  6. 6 Ash

    Hey I came across this post via tags and I’d just like to say A+.

  7. 7 Sas

    I’ve had a PF type tell me that all BDSM is wrong (regardless of orientation or the sex of its participants) because any power imbalance in sex, even in play, is degrading. So the boundary can go even further and more constrictive than you mentioned.

  8. Oh wow. That’s some hella extremism. Thanks for bringing that to my attention. I wasn’t aware it was taken that far by some.

  9. hey, i just wanted to say that i think your post is great, but i’m unsure if i really like this sort of feminism being labeled ‘prescriptive feminism’. mainly because prescriptive statements do not necessarily deny agency. for example, my assertion that people should check their privilege is a prescriptive statement that i think you would agree with. saying that feminism should not deny women’s agency is also a prescriptive statement. really, any kind of system that involves ethics is probably going to have prescriptive claims to some degree.

    i think something akin to ‘agency-denying’ feminism albeit perhaps less cumbersome would get your point across without casting too wide a net around prescriptive statements.

    i’m probably nit-picking a bit too much here though so feel free to disregard this comment

  10. It is a bit nit-picky but it’s still good to discuss.

    Prescriptive feminism could be seen as a shortening of Lifestyle, Body and Life Prescriptive Feminism. Folk do prescribe changes to those who are privileged, yes, but it’s the attacks on lifestyles, bodies and lives that define PF.

    To be honest, it’s essentially an element of feminism in general, to try to deny other women agency cuz we’re living our lives in a way that doesn’t toe the party line. Pretty many any feminist out there has done it at least once. But yeah, I can see how (even with it being a bit nit picky) you could have that concern about the wording.

  11. Too much bullcrap from radical PF drove me away from the entire feminist movement until I came across non-prescriptive feminist blogs. I don’t think there is any reason women need to prove our right to agency by being enough not like traditional women stereotypes.

  12. I disagree that PF is like lite beer. It’s more like moonshine, like the type that’s half a step away from being paint thinner leaving the drinker with several fewer brain cells with each swig. But this entire post was full of WIN and QFT.

  13. I do believe, “Feminism,” as an ethos, can be salvaged. I just think that reclamation is coming by individuals being small-f, “feminists,” rather than getting sucked into the media-exploitative, cookie-cutter Big F, “Feminism.” The Dworkin-MacKinnon mob survives on nothing but regimented misogynistic protectionism of women and hatred of men. Protectionist, prescriptive, patriarchal and exclusionist modes that ONLY garner media attention and more adversarial language from men isn’t exactly my idea of equality. I have loads of other problems with the theory and methods employed, but most of all, I object to the presumption. I don’t speak for all women, just for myself. I’d appreciate not being told that my own perfectly healthy and valid thoughts, feelings and behavior are stupid, wrong, and evil, thus I avoid those people.
    My mode is to find people who don’t make judgments about WHY I want equality and freedom, but want to work to get those things for everyone. Women’s rights are human rights, trans-rights are human rights, etc.
    There are good feminists out there, including you.
    I’ll keep finding them. :)

  14. I have been told I have a slight penchant for understatement. XD Moonshine it is.

  15. Awesome post. Though, I heard it best from one Farrellite on anti-misandry:

    The patriarchy oppresses women (makes them sex objects) and oppresses men (makes them success objects) I oppose both forms of discrimination. So yeah, I’d gladly call my politics anti-misandry. Though, any man who is opposed to my body being my choice is certainly no anti-sexist.

  16. Excellent post. Totally agree.

    I could go round and round (and I have) with folks about what exactly these feminists are.

    Have you read much about the early 80’s porn wars, and how MacKinnon came out of nowhere, a lawyer, and hooked up with Dworkin and the christian right? Or how the women’s studies departments everywhere were started (as in they took female teachers from other disciplines to head the women’s studies – and some of them didn’t identify as feminists at the time) – or checked out the recommended reading stuff and syllabi for women’s studies courses today? It’s fucking freaky, some won’t see what is so wrong with it, but you probably will…

    I mean, if I were the sort of person who entertained those ridiculous notions called “conspiracy theories”, I’d totally see a conspiracy of Rushdoony proportions in all that stuff.

  17. I wouldn’t call it a conspiracy. Conspiracies require secrecy. XD They’re blatantly and openly forcing women into a different set of boxes. Just like the patriarchy does, they just do it in a different set of directions. It’s the same old oppression, repackaged by women, for women, fucking over women, but pretending to be helpful.

    It just goes to show that oftentimes our own worst enemies are ourselves. Because no one inspires trust among women like another woman, and that is so painfully easy for bad people to exploit.

  18. 18 makomk

    The main people who were historically affected by this attitude to BDSM actually seem to have been lesbians, probably because they’re the only ones that these feminists had any power over. Details are a pain to track down, though: there’s not that much good information on the nastier aspects. (I still haven’t managed to find details of the supposed crowbar attack on the lesbian S&M club Chain Reaction in London by a gang of masked women anywhere. Confirming the club ever actually existed was hard enough.)

  19. Would “dogmatic” be any better than “prescriptive”? I’m trying to think of a word that means “agency-denying” but I don’t think there is one.

  20. Yeah, heh, it is hard to find a word that means agency-denying any better than the words agency-denying. Even dogmatic doesn’t quite do it.

  21. 21 Jean Valjean

    In order to really understand feminism we need only realize what patriarchy is.

    In feminism women complain and explain their problems and perceived injustices. They assign blame for those things to men and simultaneously outline the things that men need to do to fix those problems. From equal pay, to reproductive rights all solutions to feminist problems requires that men make changes.

    In patriarchy men (allegedly) control everything. How do women get anything in patriarchy then? If a woman needs more protection from someone harassing her, more food, more money for clothes or medicines who does she go to? She goes to her father, brother, husband, and even her sons.

    “Here comes the new boss same as the old boss.”

    The only real difference in feminism isn’t how women get what they want but rather who they are turning to. Instead of individual men to whom women would be obliged to have some loyalty in return women can by-pass men altogether and go to the government a.k.a. the uber father.

    How can women empower themselves to be independent and autonomous when they lay all their issues at the feet of men to “fix” for them?

    Feminism is patriarchy. Call it socialist feminism, equity feminism, gender feminism, but the unifying theme of all feminism is that women are somehow disadvantaged, weak, oppresses, repressed and that it is the fault of men. And now that we’ve expressed our greivances it is up to men to provide for us like they always have.

    No word yet on reproductive equality for men, spending equality for men, parental rights equality for men, or military obligation equality for men, or prison sentencing equality for men, or workplace deathrate equality, or access to health care equality, or longevity equality, or protection from violence equality for men, and let’s not forget the drastic changes in education which have caused boys to fall farther and farther behind girls in education . Bah! That’s just sexist talk.

    Thank you.

  22. I’m not saying there isn’t injustices that are caused by a society that creates gender hegemony and gender segregation. On the contrary, there very much is. And certainly men play a role in this systemic set of problems, so expecting some work on their part to solve gender equality issues is only reasonable (as well as the fact that I’m sure you’re aware of, the gender issues that men face won’t get solved if men don’t deal with the system overall. So more than just charity or principle).

    I’m merely pointing out that there are branches of feminism that subjugate women. They do exactly what they seek to fight. That’s all.

  23. 23 Kite

    “lesbians, probably because they’re the only ones that these feminists had any power over”

    Jeezus could you be any more patronising? As for it being only lesbians, I can personally attest growing up that a wide fucking sector of society disapproves of BDSM and even for its “inequality”, it’s just that the rationale is couched in different words. Sick of dykes being singled out for more widespread bigotry, though of course we hella sure aren’t free of it. Thank fuck that society at large these days seems a little more accepting, even if you’re still thought fundamentally mentally unbalanced.

  24. 24 Kite

    God, I thought prescriptive feminism was a mostly-dead bogeyman. There’s still nasty little pockets of it here and there, and every now and then some campus Women’s Room goes crazy with McCarthyist fervour, but it’s more of a straw-woman these days. Everywhere is hierarchical and essentialist thinking, and it’s easy to assign different essentialist values to that hierarchy. Yeah sure you can find examples in feminism, as you can in every fucking type of attempting-to-be-progressive thinking, but I wouldn’t single feminism out in particular. It’s gone through a lot since the simplistic early days of flipping the hierarchy upside down, and it’s no longer isolated from other strands and struggles, or really an “F” for feminist anymore. It’s not just about “women” as an essentialist group with supposed distinct identities and issues, and only the fundamentalists, naive and complacent-lazy really think that seriously any more. Or the bigoted. Which is not a small group, but then, hey, most people are fundamentalists, naive or complacent-lazy. Or bigoted. We’re not talking about taking them seriously.

  25. It isn’t dead unfortunately. It survives to enough of a degree to poison the efforts of feminism normally.

    As for singling out feminism, really? What? This blog is very heavily involved in discussing gender inequality. Feminism is one of the most relevant movements to discuss when you’re talking gender inequality. I’m not singling out anyone. I’m discussing the relevant movement’s issues. And yes, these things are still issues, even if they aren’t present in the majority. Because a huge portion of a movement’s involvement in society is its message, which is a case of image.

    I’m frankly amazed that you think, “we don’t take these people seriously” is a good reason to dismiss the issue. Because other people do.

  26. 26 Gogo

    Thank you for this. This is the brand of feminism I grew up with and lead to so much angst in my early years. I’ve struggled for a long time, interested in human rights yet not wanting to listen to endless theorizing about how porn and sex are baaad. Well, until the privileged having the discussion decide that its okay for them, because its DIFFERENT than us plebs. I’ve eventually found less dogmatic circles, but it took a lot of work. Work that not many other people can afford, so its always an uphill battle to get actual work done. :/

    I don’t mean for this to be a downer comment, but seeing more people address this makes me feel less like I’m jumping at shadows.

  27. 27 Peritract

    Sorry, coming late to the party. But I read this article, and the argument you link through to, and I have to say I agree with you.

    Thank you for considering an emotive issue reasonably – more people like you are needed.

  28. 28 Jean Valjean

    “I’m not saying there isn’t injustices that are caused by a society that creates gender hegemony and gender segregation. On the contrary, there very much is. And certainly men play a role in this systemic set of problems, so expecting some work on their part to solve gender equality issues is only reasonable (as well as the fact that I’m sure you’re aware of, the gender issues that men face won’t get solved if men don’t deal with the system overall. So more than just charity or principle).”

    Great. And how many “Men’s Studies” courses are there on college campuses? I know of none. Why? Because women are allowed to compete against men but men are discouraged and even punished for competing back.

    How can we expect men to fight the inequalities, some of them created by feminism, when we aren’t even allowed to organize on college campuses and when we do organize we are regarded as misogynists and women haters?

    In 1972 the ration of women to men on college campuses was 40/60 respectively and it was regarded by feminists as a “clear sign of sexist discrimination”. Universities responded in kind.

    Now that ratio is reversed and women find their numbers to men 60/40 and the feminist response is ,”This is great. There’s nothing wrong here!”. Clearly, if the former was sexism then so is the latter. Males are not getting their fair share of educational funding and are not being encouraged equally to pursue a college education.

    We’re all equal but “women” are more equal is the unwritten law of feminism. It’s OK when women discriminate. It’s only wrong when it happens to men.

  29. @Jean:

    You’re off. Male privilege is still alive and well. Feminism post second wave doesn’t create any inequalities (second wave called for elimination and subjugation of men so they definitely were fucked up, plus transmisogyny, transphobia, racism, ableism, etc) for men so you’re off there too. See the fact is, you’re seeing the small efforts to level the playing field (and your numbers for women vs. men on campuses, do back it up with actual sources) as being inequalities because you are blissfully unaware (or willfully ignorant) of the privilege that men hold in society. So in society we are not all equal. The media is still structured around the heterosexual cis white man’s gaze and needs, poisoning women with self esteem problems, society teaching us that we’re lesser with subtle messages.

    Sexism is merely more subtle. Not dead. Men are privileged. Simple fact. And prejudice from women isn’t okay. It just isn’t sexism because sexism is systemic. Power + prejudice = ism

  30. 30 Jean Valjean

    I disagree entirely about male privilege. Whatever so called “privilege” that exists ONLY exists so that males can do what is necessary to attract a mate and support her while she produces children. All of male “privilege” hinges on his obligations to women.

    Contrast this to the feminist desire for “liberation” which is to eliminate her obligations to men while strengthening his obligations to her.

    Furthermore, I’ve seen the lists of so called “male privilege” and most of them amount to little more than anecdote and confer no real benefit to men. And when coupled with the social obligations that men have and women DO NOT have they can no longer be described as privileges. Well at least not “male privilege”. But female privilege? You betcha.

    Start a thread on it and I’ll explain it more or direct me to one where you’d like to discuss it.


  31. @Jean:


    Jean, you really have absolutely no clue what you’re talking about, honestly. Those obligations aren’t really obligatory. The fact is, guys could take multiple social paths. The only path a woman had was to be property of a man. Things have gotten better but not fully. Men still do have far more social mobility, the ability to take on obligations or not, enter a path or not out of millions, whereas women face resistance on all paths but property.

    The lists of male privilege are the truth. As a trans woman who identified as a guy pre realization, I experienced a smaller fraction of male privilege than you do (due to internalizing certain social messages because of subconscious association between me and women due to my need to have a female associated body structure and my subconscious association between having such structure and being a woman.) but I still experienced it. While society treated me as a guy, I had many of the things on that so list and then they were removed post transition, automatically, throughout society.

    So you are woefully mistaken.

  32. 32 Abigail

    Dear Genderbitch,

    I do not think I have learned anything from your post but that some feminists are overly black and white or reactive in their thinking- patriarchy requires dresses and makeup, PF forbids them, both are equally wrong. But then I think you fall into the same trap, you are categorising different kinds of feminist argument as prescriptive, oppressive, and bad. Perhaps they are, but rather than arguing and classifying and seeking to understand with words, could you see these things as human expressions, and just React to them, without needing to prove to anyone that your reactions were good or bad?

    Oppressed, pretending to be male, all my reactions were Bad, so I had to justify them. And I sort of carried on that habit, but I begin to see that it may not be necessary. My reactions are good enough, and if anyone disagrees, I hope to pay that person just the amount of attention I need to, for my needs.

  33. @Abigail: If we do not comprehend the world around us, we can not fight those things that hurt us. I do react to things. But there are times when I need to discuss where bad things are being done to me and others so that I can have aid in my reactions. Otherwise we’re all just tiny lemmings being picked off by the wolves behind us as we run off cliffs.

  1. 1 Privilege & Activism « Inquisitive Spark

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