Some outsider thoughts on modern feminism

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. 

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9 thoughts on “Some outsider thoughts on modern feminism

  1. But is a bunch of crazies proof that an idea is obsolete? That it’s dangerous?

    Can’t we disagree with people underneath the same label as us?

    At least you didn’t take the worst examples. Most critics of Anita Sarkeesian are just people who have no grasp of literary theory (I already refuted Thunderf00t. He must be the sort of person who thinks ‘Worldbuilding’ is a good thing in novels). Yes, there’s too much dogma in contemporary feminism but we still need it to question assumptions about gender and sexuality.

    We could use an alternative to MRA’s though. Instead of addressing legitimate issues, what we do with the male identity in a world affected by feminism, they just attack feminists. They seem less concerned with the pains of raped males, and more with using them as evidence feminism is bad.

    • To directly respond: Maybe. When a bunch of crazies become a majority of crazies, the movement ought to be abandoned, to reform as a new enterprise with more compatible priorities or dissipate and be rekindled years later with the same name but more worthy followers. I think that new enterprise is egalitarianism. Feminism has already dissipated and reformed multiple times throughout the last century, and its battles (originally suffrage, abortion rights and sexual liberation) have already been won (a good thing). I refrained from discussion of Sarkeesian and similar spectacles because, among other reasons, it would be disingenuous for my argument. They don’t adequately represent the majority of feminists and they’ve been conclusively outed as liars, scam artists and radicals ad nauseum. Their followers are the lowest common denominator and the least self-aware of anyone in the socio-political field. However, Sarkeesian’s ideas are shared by many of those that first corrupted feminism into the mishegas it is now.

      We may still need feminism to further understand the complexities of gender and sexuality. Modern feminism can be a useful tool in that light. Surely the demolition of gender roles would be a win for domestic and global liberty, and educating the general populace about sexuality is conducive to an atmosphere of equality. However, feminism certainly isn’t necessary to install these virtues as other, more logically founded, ideologies take its spot.

      Men’s Rights Activists tend to be ridiculous and fueled by the same sexist, retributive practices advocated by modern feminists. Actual members of the movement, have, however, like feminists, had valid points and conducted themselves intelligently. And you’re right – when women’s rape is brought up by activists, online-based MRAs will point out the unhighlighted prevalence of men’s rape to compete, but will not petition in the streets for awareness – exactly like the largely-white users that respond to #BlackLivesMatter with #AllLiveMatter: they want attention, they want to compete, but they will not fight for justice. They just want to use it as evidence that feminism or BLM is bad.

      • I heard all about Sakreesian’s ‘lying’ and ‘scamming’ and so forth. It doesn’t music her analysis any less or more valid. To use more extreme examples, Lovecraft’s racism and Watkins’ crime don’t affect their artistic products.

        I think the problem with contemporary feminism is that it went from being rebellious and questioning to dogmatic. It can praise ‘inclusivity’ all it wants, but I generally see a lot of thought-terminating cliches, guidelines how to restrain people, viewing victimhood as some sort of nobility and so forth.

        The best example is when feminists side with Islam against the ‘racism’ against it (Hate crimes are mostly against Jews. Facts found under the rug!). Islam is misogynistic, more than other Abrahamic religions. Yet because it’s not ‘Western’ it doesn’t get criticized.

        Basically, when this phase of Oppression Olympics and obsession with privilege will die, I think the movement will improve greatly. The best way to do it is not to ask whether or not we need feminism because it’s here. The best thing to do is to address specific points (I had a post about manspreading, for example). I’d treat MRA’s the same way. I haven’t been impressed with what I’ve been by them so far, but I won’t write off anyone because s/he considers himself an MRA. I’ll address their claims.

  2. There’s a lot to think about there, and there’s a lot there I disagree with. But let me focus on an agreement, and take it one step beyond where you take it:

    I think the term “slut shaming” should be consigned to the trash bin altogether. The point is not that the term can be abused, as you’ve suggested–though that’s true. It’s that the term really is an “anti-concept” in Ayn Rand’s sense of that term: it’s a piece of semantic blackmail that gloms together a whole series of totally unrelated ideas, claims to name some determinate phenomenon, and then demands that we all join in the circle jerk of presumed agreement over the agreed-upon verdict on this phenomenon. Now “slut shaming” has spawned a whole series of terms in the X-shaming family. They should all be destroyed.

    First of all, there is an OBVIOUS distinction to be drawn between making a judgment, voicing a judgment out loud, and voicing a judgment of SHAME out loud. To say that an action is an object of adverse moral judgment is not to say that when you voice the judgment, you are “shaming” anyone. If someone is late to an appointment, and I say “you’re late, dammit,” I’m not “shaming” them. I’m voicing my irritation at them, and that irritation may be justified. To describe this as “shaming” is, frankly, pathologically narcissistic and stupid. But it’s now become widespread.

    Second, “slut” is a term of abuse. Like all profane terms of abuse, its meaning is conveniently elastic. But there is no requirement that a moral judgment involve abuse, or be elastic. You can make a judgment that is adverse but not abusive, and you can use terminology that has a determinate meaning. Beyond that, regardless of recent (desperate) attempts at semantic revision, the word “slut” applies much more to women than to men. But sexual judgments apply to anyone with a sexuality. So the attempt to describe the act of making a judgment via the word “slut” is just a tendentious attempt to suggest that moral judgments about sexuality are inherently, a priori focused on women’s sexuality (and are therefore sexist). Every element in this chain of reasoning is wrong.

    Once you get these points out of the way, it becomes clear that the phrase “slut shaming” is just a way of insisting (without argument) that sexuality is beyond moral judgment, at least when it’s consensual. But this is a very strange departure from the old feminist position (itself exaggerated and wrongheaded) that “the personal is the political.” So we seem to have swung from one ridiculous extreme to the other. Once upon a time, everything was fair game for judgment. Now nothing is. But the remedy is not to keep oscillating from one idiocy to its opposite. It’s to find the mean between the extremes, which isn’t possible in the climate of rancor and censorship that’s become the trademark of the “trigger happy” campus left.

    To put the point more neutrally but more problematically for contemporary moral sensibilities: Is it self-evident that uncommitted promiscuity and hook-ups in the name of nothing more than physical pleasure is a good idea–whether you’re male, female, straight, gay, bi, or anything else? The answer is, no. The phrase “slut shaming” is a just tortured way of evading that obvious fact– a fact known to just about everyone who’s ever had sex (even if you have to be middle aged and single to say it out loud).

    I’m about as sympathetic to feminism as any straight male can be, but when things get as fucking stupid as contemporary feminist rhetoric has become, I have to take the same attitude toward feminism as I eventually had to take toward Objectivism, and some other -isms I was once attracted to: I have to jump ship. Instead of fixating on microaggressions, I think feminists might want to ask how much sacrificium intellectus is required to hop on the bandwagon they’re driving. Once it reaches a certain level, they shouldn’t be surprised when lots of passengers, both male and female, hop off.

    • “To put the point more neutrally but more problematically for contemporary moral sensibilities: Is it self-evident that uncommitted promiscuity and hook-ups in the name of nothing more than physical pleasure is a good idea–whether you’re male, female, straight, gay, bi, or anything else? The answer is, no. The phrase “slut shaming” is a just tortured way of evading that obvious fact– a fact known to just about everyone who’s ever had sex (even if you have to be middle aged and single to say it out loud).”

      I’ll turn that around and ask why you think “uncommitted promiscuity and hookups” are a self-evident wrong, and why the hell you get to make that very personal judgement for other people. In my opinion, you don’t. You don’t have to like it, but ultimately, unless that person is engaging in actual non-consensual sexual actions, or you’re in an intimate relationship with that person yourself, such things really aren’t any of your business. That seems self-evident to me, at least if the idea of “libertarian” means anything at all.

      Basically, I don’t think it’s OK to put other people down for having what you think is too much or too unconventional sex, or conversely, too little or too conventional sex. Sure, you can have your opinions about it, and certainly let other people’s examples guide your own choices positively or negatively, but ultimately, its important to recognize there’s a point where your judgement ends and other people’s autonomy begins.

      • I didn’t say that uncommitted promiscuity and hook-ups are a self-evident wrong. I said that it’s not self-evident that they’re right. The first claim doesn’t follow from the other (at all). Hook ups could be non-self-evidently wrong or non-self-evidently right, after all. Or some of them could be right and some wrong, etc.

        Your comment is is what happens when people become captive of dogmas. They forget the myriad possibilities that arise if you peek beyond the dogma, and somehow assume that if you question their dogma you’re asserting something very specific that you haven’t said at all.

        I get to make that very personal judgment for the reason “I get” to make any judgment: because I’m a thinking person, and judging is what thinking people do. You don’t have to like it, but unlike you, I simply don’t believe your dogma that any sex is OK as long as it’s consensual, regardless of any other consideration. I don’t think that’s try of any other kind of human interaction, so why would it be true of sex? Anyway, there is such a subject as “sexual ethics,” and like any other kind of ethics, it involves making judgments of oneself and others. Saying that is not incompatible with libertarianism, but it turns out that I’m not a libertarian.

        By the way, this may shock you, but once upon a time, feminists used to say that porn was problematic even if…wait for this…it was entirely consensual. Imagine that. In those ancient times, a view like yours, questioning feminists’ right to question porn, would have been laughed off the stage as epitomizing sexism. Now the same view is being hauled out as epitomizing women’s sexual liberation. What this proves is that fashions change, but dogmatism always stays the same.

        If I can have my opinions about something, as you say I can, why can’t I express them candidly, unless there’s some kind of free floating ban in our culture on the expression of candor? That’s what you really seem to be after, despite your getting on your high horse about what you take to be my interference in other people’s business. That’s not just the problem with feminism today, but with the entire psycho-babbling ethos of academic life today. Candor is too much to tolerate, and too much to handle.

        Trust me, my judgments don’t adversely affect anyone’s autonomy. If a person is autonomously hooking up with someone, do you really think that a comment on an academic blog is going to get in the way?

  3. “But only one thing is certain: if you support the restriction of free speech, you are sympathetic to fascism.”

    I’d say ‘sympathetic’ is not a strong enough word. Maybe it’s just me but there seems to be an increased desire to restrict speech. As an academic I find the trend towards ‘safe zones’ on campuses very disturbing.

  4. “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.”

    While this is a minor point in your article, I need to ask why you need to go there. For over a year, one of the points at least some of us have been trying to emphasize is that the complaints that coalesced into “GamerGate” are not about who Zoe Quinn may or may not have slept with. The grievances are about an insider culture in game journalism (which is what Quinn’s alleged screwing around was merely a symbol of) and the kind of political and cultural hegemony this clique has been pushing. In other words, this was never really about Quinn’s personal life, but about larger issues, and the only reason that Quinn even remained an issue was because she continued to inject herself into the anti-GG fight in a very public way, notably lobbying a United Nations agency along with Anita Sarkeesian into issuing a downright embarrassing report that it later had to withdraw.

    In fact, I find it downright unhelpful that over one year on, you’re still harping on Quinn’s alleged “promiscuity” as if it were 1) anybody’s business, and 2) relevant to the issues at hand. It’s the kind of thing that anti-GG loves to point to claim that GamerGate has always been primarily about attacking individual women rather than anything that involves real issues.

    As for “slut shaming” in general, I do think it’s a valid thing to oppose, but I’ll address that in response to the comment above.

    • You’ve completely misunderstood the object of that sentence. It was not about Gamergate – I purposefully did not divulge too meticulously into that arena, although I’m glad you have. It’s just an example of feminist bloggers confusing judgment with shaming, which I think Irfan Khawaja made an excellent point about (even if other parts of his post feel medieval). In fact, you yourself have made the same confusion and, again, added to the sensitive hysteria.

      Swap out Zoe Quinn’s name and the sentence holds the exact same value, but now you can view it unaffiliated with enigmatic Gamergate history. Maybe I should have used a different example originally. I’m not “harping” on anything. My point was that being upset about cheating is not the same thing as being upset with promiscuity. Your confusion shows by your quotes around “promiscuity” – nowhere have I indicated that promiscuity is a bad thing, but myself and the general populace do agree that sleeping around behind your partner’s back is a bad thing. Of course slut-shaming is a grossly intrusive and outdated thing to do; women can be sluts, men can be sluts, it’s all the same and no one should have an opinion on it. Alas cheating is entirely different, and should not be protected by our sensitive reactions to anything sexually related. That is the point I was trying to make.

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