Essay: Become a Menace to Your Enemies

I will no longer lightly walk behind

a one of you who fear me:

                                     Be afraid.

I plan to give you reasons for your jumpy fits

and facial tics

I will not walk politely on the pavements anymore

- June Jordan, I Must Become a Menace to my Enemies, 1976

Feminism is a daily revolution.

It is not a coat I pull out of the closet whenever a man has been a shit to me and it is not a keepsake I remember once every four years as the entire world, not just the US, holds its breath in anticipation of the fuckery that awaits after the polls close. 

When so many people around the world pay more attention to the U.S. Presidential Election than to elections in their own country, it is imperative that we pledge allegiance to fighting fascism wherever we are. That we declare our independence from patriarchy wherever we are.

Whoever is declared the winner after the polls close, there are multiple fights still ahead. White supremacy, misogyny, capitalism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, ageism, and a host of bigotries will not disappear, regardless of who occupies the White House for the next four years. And feminism is how I fight them all.

Feminism is not easy or nice; it is fire and a fight. I am not playing; I am here to destroy. Feminism is the destruction of patriarchy; daily, because patriarchy will not be packing up and leaving, never to return, when the polls close.

To be free, I practice Feminism in 3D: Defy, Disobey and Disrupt.

Feminism demands. A lot. It demands more than equality with cisgender heterosexual men. Men are not my yardstick. If men themselves are not free of the ravages of racism, capitalism and other forms of oppression, it is not enough to say I want to be equal to them. As long as patriarchy remains unchallenged, men will continue to be the default and the standard against which everything is measured.

Feminism is not about doing what men do or being what men can be. I do not want what men have. I want much more. 

I want to be free. That is a demand I make daily.

To be free, I practice Feminism in 3D: Defy, Disobey and Disrupt.

Everyday. Not just every four years.

The 7 Necessary Sins for Women and Girls

Daily acts of defiance, disobedience and disruption of the patriarchy are the workouts that build up feminist muscles and accumulate power. 

That power makes me, to quote June Jordan, “a menace to my enemies.” 

My enemies are the oppressions that patriarchy embracing, suffocating, and eating us in the way an octopus would. That’s how I define patriarchy. The textbook definition tells us that patriarchy is a system of oppressions that privileges male dominance. To understand why patriarchy does not mean men and how some women benefit from patriarchy, and to make that textbook definition easier to understand, I liken patriarchy to an octopus.

I am a menace to the patriarchy; I am here to destroy it: wherever it lives, however it manifests, whoever carries its water. Every day.

I want you to remember that, wherever you are. And to keep the patriarchy in your crosshairs every day.

Build your feminist power and know that to be powerful is not to do or be what a man can do or be and that power is more complicated than presidents and elected representatives. Power lives in more places than the presidential office. Feminism insists that there is a difference between power wielded in service of a few and power wielded in service of all.

Patriarchy too often throws women crumbs in return for a limited form of power. Women who accept those crumbs are expected in return to uphold patriarchy, internalize its dictates, police other women and never forget that power bestowed is power that can be retracted. 

I don’t want crumbs; I want the whole cake, and I want to bake it myself. Refuse the crumbs of patriarchy. Vow instead to destroy it and its measly crumbs.

Pledge, every day, your allegiance to feminism.

Declare, every day, your war against fascism.

June Jordan was a Black bisexual poet, feminist and activist whose words keep aflame the pilot light of revolution in my heart. Her 1976 poem I Must Become a Menace to My Enemies reminds me of the centrality of love in the feminist revolution. Not love for my enemies. I am a menace to them. Love for comrades. Love for those flexing feminist muscles of defiance, disobedience, and disruption to destroy the patriarchy, before and after elections. 

It is why I begin each day with a tweet sending love and solidarity to the world. 

“And if I 

if I ever let love go

because the hatred and the whisperings

become a phantom dictate I o-

bey in lieu of impulse and realities

(the blossoming flamingos of my

wild mimosa trees)

then let love freeze me

out.

I must become

I must become a menace to my enemies.”

Unless you are a wealthy, able-bodied, cisgender, heterosexual (white) man, patriarchy should be your enemy too. That octopus has enough tentacles for so many of us. 

Today is a reminder of the way the U.S. holds so much of the world hostage with its power. And it is a day to remember what power we have to fight back, wherever we are. 

Pledge, every day, your allegiance to feminism.

Declare, every day, your war against fascism.

Vow, every day, to destroy patriarchy.

Reject, every day, the crumbs of patriarchy and make your own cake.

Fuck the patriarchy.

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Mona Eltahawy is a feminist author, commentator and disruptor of patriarchy. Her first book Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution (2105) targeted patriarchy in the Middle East and North Africa and her second The Seven Necessary Sins For Women and Girls (2019) took her disruption worldwide. Her commentary has appeared in media around the world and she makes video essays and writes a newsletter as FEMINIST GIANT.  

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