The Perils of Cooptation

In her book “No Logo”, Naomi Klein writes that ‘In the early 90s, the political agenda of the civil movements and that of the women’s movements were used to make brand-content and marketing niche strategies.’

What I take this to mean is that, the brands took a small part of what people were fighting for, increased the media visibility of women and minorities, then sold it back to us so we are made to believe that “great strides have been made in women’s empowerment, men are finally involved” and so feminism “will only bring a greater divide.” I have two problems with this: Firstly, I’m tired of being told “women are empowered enough” and secondly, I hate how women’s right’s issues only seem to really become important when men are involved. Instead of really being allies, men are assuming leadership in the discourse, and we women permit it because somehow we are relieved that the men are finally “concerned and active.”

My greatest fear is that the continuing misconception of feminism just “disempowering” men and the combination of self-righteous, abstract “higher good” attitudes somehow introduces “manhood” as the real issue. This is proven each time someone asks me “what men have where women have feminism” or “why should men be involved in women’s issues?”

Unless we want feminism and the fight for women’s rights and equality to be reduced to nothing more than “feel good” pep talks, without questioning the pillars of how the world works, we cannot afford to opt out. I understand only too well the desire to believe that we are not all that oppressed, but while we can be forgiven for tuning down oppression in our personal lives (like I often just grin and bear it), we will not get anywhere if we do not recognise the forces keeping all human beings oppressed. We cannot afford to turn a blind eye to the patriarchy that surrounds us!