Feminist Thinking
Alex Coughlin

It is important for me to start this piece with a note about myself and my views on feminism. I have expanded my critical understanding of feminism, both materially and emotionally at an explosive pace over the last two years. I have been challenged, accepted, rejected and reborn in terms of the way I see feminism. With this evolution has come growing pains, but also the knowledge that the process is fluid. We must keep gaining perspective. I will, and must, keep growing, learning and changing in terms of my views on feminism. To not do so would be to deny the process, perhaps the most important part of all on one’s enactment of feminism. Being a white, educated, male feminist is an interesting existence. All around me, I see the devices and structures that continually support me and marginalize women (amongst others) and I have to ask myself the most productive way to destroy these systems. I must admit it is slightly counterintuitive because so many of these structural inequities privilege me. But, when I construct the way I think of feminism and my role within in it, I see a struggle and a glorious conclusion. The resistance that all feminists have engaged in must have a final destination, a clear goal: equity. For if it were not for a true uncompromising goal all of the work that we have pursued, our efforts would be solely academic.

So with this in mind, I enjoy asking the “rubber meets the road” questions. As I am sure some of you can empathize, I have grown tired with the so called “ivory tower” which both defines and confines modern academia and the splintered, micromanaged ways we live in post-modernity. I am curious to explore how we can address and tear down the patriarchal structures that have defined the lives of so many with our own hands and words. But planning for it only does so much good, the true answer (and challenge) is to get out and live one’s feminism. This is the gauntlet that has been laid down: act on your convictions.

I see the challenges of modern feminism as an ongoing social movement. So from this assumption, I ask myself how are we most productively going to get to the place we want to find ourselves, our society? With this epistemological perspective in mind, I see power feminism as the most commanding concept to me and my views of feminism. Patriarchy has been cruel to women, and will continue to do so. But the theorems of power feminism look to harness the power and momentum of this cruelty to re-center themselves within society. Simply put, the master’s tools can be used against him with great success. In the case of power feminism, the same issues, words and situations that arbitrarily kept women subordinate can be reversed and renegotiated to a condition of power. There is nothing about these power structures that are inherently masculine, but they have been molded to subordinate women. As Carillo notes (14) “the question of power has always been central to feminism.” So with the power that is available in mind, the redefining of power structures which are already engrained in society is the fastest and most comprehensive route to where we want to go.

The world is changing in many ways. The promises of equity by the founding fathers are coming closer and closer to fruition. But I submit that the change is not fast enough. As Marx said it would, all that is solid has melted into air, the things that have constrained women can be provide their liberation as well. For feminists, there are two keys. First, we must operate as a collective, with an agreed upon goal, no matter how farfetched or seemingly difficult. Rhetorically, when we have a united vision we also have a united voice and identity that is too loud and large to be ignored. Second, we must not be timid but be concise and confident; we are doing the right thing. The systems are there waiting to be reclaimed, they are growing weaker as we grow stronger. Claim your own agency. Harden your skin. Soften your heart. Tell your stories. Fight for your sisters. Accept nothing until we have reached our destination.

Alex T. Coughlin is a writer and political critic. He received his B.A. in communication from Saint John’s University (Minn.) and M.A. in communication studies from Colorado State University. His focus is on communication, rhetoric and discourse in American politics.

You can contact him at coughlinalext@gmail.com.