A few years ago I enthusiastically embraced the feminist label. Its ideals felt realistic and egalitarian and I hadn’t yet encountered any of the radicals that receive so much attention now. Enrollment in a gender studies course familiarized me with the vocabulary and recent postulates. Now, the outspoken members representing the movement have betrayed the basic principles of the earlier feminist movements and created a toxic environment to make social progress.
Modern feminism and its millennial spin-off were ostensibly about challenging oppressive narratives, yet now the presiding narrative is decidedly feminist and decidedly oppressive (for issues like free speech, equal protection, due process, scapegoat culture, etc.). It is the dominant culture: gender studies degrees are available at every university. Television and other media have learned to pander and cater to feminist ideals for viewership and left wing brownie points. Feminists, in debates, have searched for things to find sexist or oppressive that only ten years ago were not and still much credibility has been given to their furthest reaches by mainstream journalism, legislation and dictionaries, which are the ultimate democratic platforms. Given this, it must be concluded that feminism is the establishment, and, as with any establishment, those who would oppose get their voices silenced or skewered.
So, it can no longer be pretended that feminism is an underdog idea. And as usual, the status quo comes with its share of censorship. When someone is critical of feminism I have often seen their views get conflated with some form of bigotry à la fallacious generalizations and stereotypes. Judging Zoe Quinn, videogame developer, for allegedly cheating on her boyfriend with five men can get the speaker accused of slut-shaming, which just isn’t the same thing at all as the original judgment. Pointing out that obesity is unhealthy can get someone grouped as a body-shamer. The other day, a Facebook friend of mine posted “…do not tell people they lost weight. do not tell people they gained weight. please. it is not your place” [sic]. The discussion on weight, apparently, belongs only to an individual with themselves.
Of course, movements never refer to their policing as “censorship” when it can be avoided, epitomized by this euphemization on a popular feminist website: “Since we are not the government, this isn’t censorship — this is how we institute anti-oppression.”
This is the same movement that, in the last few years, has extended no-platforming from the exclusion of burgeoning fascists to the exclusion of intellectuals who lack zeal for mainstream feminism. The same movement that pushes safe spaces and harasses faculty for not using trigger warnings. The same movement that leads to the defunding of schools when their programs don’t align properly with the agenda. The same movement that, should its vocalists be taken literally, would have the next generation coddled in ignorance and isolation.
If you haven’t been following Gamergate and anti-GG, it’s unclear what the battle is anymore — if creative expression needs to be strangled anywhere it runs free, if select feminists are trying to force women into activities they statistically don’t enjoy, or if anything perceived as a “men’s playground” needs to be dissolved. In the debate, opponents would just as soon swear to Gamergates’ collective misogyny as to the conclusion that women supporting Gamergate are out for male attention. Another paradoxical incantation is that women game as much as men yet more women need to be invited into the gaming world. The contradictions are seemingly intrinsic to young feminists. The jeer of “masculinity so fragile” is near ubiquitous on websites for edgy young adults, by the same visionaries who affirm an oppressive patriarchy. Feminists on social media claim to deplore racism but are socially protected in general vilification of what they perceive to be dominant. The movement is supposed to fight for trans rights but instead millennials consistently humiliate the authenticity of the experience by convoluting the gender identity field with absurdities. The mental gymnastics required to quasi-validate certain feminist ideological commitments are too demanding even for the most trained in manipulative rhetoric.
Segregation is unity. Advantages are equality. The same radicals that are, or are masquerading as, modern feminists would ace interviews for the Ministry of Truth.
Some of the accepted ideas of the main movement are questionable, regardless of the extremists. One of feminism’s fundamental staples that I’m reluctant to believe concerns sexual objectification in advertisements, mainly that it disproportionately happens to women. I’m in further disbelief that sexual objectification is inherently a bad thing and not just a signature of a sexually-liberated society. Also, the idea that Barbie dolls teach men that women are objects is as ridiculous as the argument that videogames cause violent behavior. Human beings distinguish between plastic and flesh. And human beings, including men, are not inherently evil or misogynistic.
Alongside that, it doesn’t take more than attending one social gathering to understand we do not live in a rape culture. Yet writers for popular magazines, under the guise of feminism, claim that men believe they have a right to rape, rape is as American as apple pie, rape is the norm, and rape jokes create a rape culture. The White House even stated America has a “tolerance” for rape. You do not have to do research to understand how despised rape is in North America, yet people masquerading as feminists have already convinced the major sources of information that our culture is immersed in it. It is unapologetic bullshit.
Now, modern feminism does cover important points. Intersectional feminism (the fact that this branch exists alone should raise some questions about the inclusiveness of its root movement) has attempted to carry the weight of racial disparities, such as in the criminal justice system. To blindly carry on writing about feminism without addressing its faults is naïve, as foolish as criticizing its entire movement without addressing its modern accomplishments. It would be ignorant to say it’s a wholly progressive movement for tolerance and it would be dishonest to say it’s inherently anti-male. In the post-information age there is no sure fire way to decipher true from false news aside from the utilization of personal experience; a federally-backed statistic can come out and another that completely contradicts it, equally credible. All information is politicized before presentation. Cyphering through the truth of the matter takes critical thinking and experience to form educated conclusions.
A number of people have had the experience with feminism such that it would be unethical to not describe themselves as feminists. Conversely, a number of people have had the experience with feminism such that aligning with it would be unethical and morally reprehensible. This movement boils down to your personal encounters with it – such is the consequence of a peoples’ ideology that is progressing heavily online without positively identifiable leaders. Your core values aren’t adequate for identification because there are numerous other, similar movements for the millennial progressive and feminism in different situations isn’t any particular way. To each individual feminism means something different and these different perspectives are all valid so long as the experience they’re built upon actually transpired.
So, what does feminism really stand for? At its best: socio-economic equality of the sexes; the canonization of new ideas, particularly about gender and intersectional marginalization; implantation of merit-based diversity in the workplace and political sphere; and liberty for women across the globe. At its worse: censorship, most efficaciously of opposing viewpoints and politically incorrect comedy; racial hatred manifest as appropriate political opinion; reactionary rhetoric; first-world problems; and victim manufacturing.
I support sex workers. I support LGBTQ+. I’m pro-choice. I’m pro-diversity. I think MRAs are ridiculous. I’ve been all these things ever since I could form an opinion. You can want liberties and social equality without being a feminist, and in fact, more people want equality than identify themselves as feminists. This consideration alone should demonstrate the lack of need for the label. But only one thing is certain: if you support the restriction of free speech outside of genuinely dangerous scenarios, you are sympathetic to fascism. Modern feminists would do well to distinguish themselves from neofascists.