Liberated through Submission? The Worthy Woman’s Conference as a Case Study of Formenism
In this article, Nadar and Potgieter use the Worthy Women's Conference as a case study, describing and analyzing how this movement creates and maintains what they call the formenist position. Formenism, like masculinism, subscribes to a belief in the inherent superiority of men over women, but unlike masculinism it is not an ideology developed and sustained by men, but an ideology designed, constructed, and sustained by women. Like its phonetics suggests, this is a concept for men—that is to say, men are the chief beneficiaries of the hierarchical social positioning that it advocates. They conduct their evaluation of the movement through a feminist analysis of the discourses presented in various sources. Nadar and Potgieter argue that the complementarian “liberation through submission” discourse created through the formenist position seems palatable for at least three reasons: (1) because it relies on a power that is not forceful (sovereign) but disciplinary à la Michel Foucault's notion of power, (2) because patriarchal bargaining pays a dividend of increased responsibility for men that ultimately reduces the burdens of family life that women have traditionally carried, and (3) because it aids in the reduction of existential anxiety caused by radical changes in South Africa. Nadar and Potgieter assert that while the formenist discourse might seem liberatory and harmless, when one views it through a feminist lens, a number of drawbacks come into focus—drawbacks that can ultimately put women's well-being and fundamental freedoms at risk.
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