I haven’t wanted to do too many posts on feminism or anything related to it, aside from my explanation of why I can’t call myself one, because I didn’t want to be known as “that horrible anti-feminist blogger who should probably die in a fire.” I can’t actually be an anti-feminist for the same reasons that I can’t be a feminist, and I really don’t want to die in a fire, but really…the ship on my not offending people has kind of already sailed, so whatever. I can post about feminism if I want to, dammit.
Recently, a movement called “Women Against Feminism” sprouted up online, and the responses to it interest me. As for the movement itself, I don’t know yet. I mean, I guess it’s good that people are questioning what feminism really means today but…it’s one of those movements where people hold signs up next to their face and then post the pictures on Tumblr. Why do people do that? Why would you hold a sign up next to your face, giving internet trolls the ability to Photoshop not only the sign, but also your face, indefinitely? Why can’t you just not hold up a sign right next to your face? I generally strive to understand, but this is one of those things I may just never get.
But back on topic, the responses to this movement from people who self-identify as feminists are what I want to talk about. All over the place, feminists are complaining about how foolish and misinformed these poor women are. The consensus of opinion is that these women can’t possibly understand what feminism really means, because if they did, they would realize just how wrong they are not to run into feminism’s warm embrace. Why do feminists put great stock in women’s ability to make choices– in fact, the necessity of allowing women to make their own choices– but if that choice is ever to reject the political movement known as feminism, women’s choices are suddenly suspect and need correction?
This is what fascinates me: according to feminists, it seems there can be no such thing as a well-informed, legitimate rejection of feminism. Anyone who doesn’t buy into feminist ideology is seen as misinformed, often pitifully so. I wonder: do any feminists accept the existence of a woman who is well-informed about feminism, has not failed to do her due diligence when it comes to shopping for political ideologies, and yet still rejects the classification? Are truly non-feminist women strange, mythical creatures like Bigfoot, or perhaps the Loch Ness Monster? I actually would like a feminist to womansplain this to me sometime; I’m hoping I’ve actually been the Loch Ness Monster this whole time and just never knew.
Anyway, while most articles I’ve seen on the topic thus far take the “These poor, misinformed creatures!” approach, this article from the Huffington Post (“Stop Blaming Anti-Feminist Young Women For Feminism’s Marketing Problems”) is a step in the right direction, because at least it acknowledges that feminism has any kind of problem whatsoever. Alyx Gorman argues, quite rightly I think, that if you discover feminism through the internet, you’re likely going to discover a lot of hyper-pissed off women arguing with each other (and men of course), often with tons of in-group jargon, and that doesn’t make a good impression. Her point is that a lot of the women involved with “Women Against Feminism,” have probably seen the worst of feminism online, and if they have, that’s not really their fault.
Still, as much as I appreciate Gorman’s honesty, I have to take issue with her main point; that feminism has a “marketing problem,” which could be fixed with the right attitude. For her, the substance of the movement is fine, it’s just that substance isn’t being communicated effectively. I disagree: Feminism doesn’t have a marketing problem, it has an incoherence problem. To the extent that feminist “marketing” exists, it is extremely effective in that it fully portrays just how stratified and divisive feminism really is right now.
You’ve got the “Feminism means equality, PERIOD, DEAL WITH IT,” Feminists, the “Feminism is about universal love and respect and that’s the opposite of violence,” Feminists, the “Feminism is about fighting back against the Patriarchy and that requires violence by definition!” Feminists, the “I totally love men and would never discriminate against a man, but can we talk about microaggressions now?” Feminists, the “Consent doesn’t count unless its repeatedly given, over and over again, explicitly, otherwise its rape and also the worst thing that can ever happen to anyone,” Feminists, the “Capitalism is a tool of men to subjugate women therefore only a utopian, non-commercial society will eliminate female victimhood,” Feminists, the “Feminism is about giving the power back to any and all marginalized groups because INTERSECTIONALITY, have you heard the GOOD NEWS about INTERSECTIONALITY?” and so on and so forth; there’s lots more. And that’s just talking about some of the relatively legit aspects of feminism, without getting into the batshit crazy radical feminist stuff, like “No woman has EVER not been raped, because women are too victimized to be capable of consent.”
Of course, those different feminist beliefs don’t necessarily contradict each other…until suddenly, they do. Then it’s bedlam, hence people screaming at each other ’till they’re blue in the face and young women getting turned off to the whole thing. Plus, feminists tend to slide from one classification to the other depending on whatever’s politically expedient at the moment; of course, when all else fails because someone has pointed out the holes in their logic (hopefully that person isn’t a man, but it does happen) they all conveniently become “I just want equality!” Feminists. Calling this behavior hypocritical and self-serving is actually charitable; I don’t have a proper word for how cowardly this actually is. For more about how this works, called the “motte and bailey” (or more colloquially, bait-and-switch) strategy, visit Slate Star Codex.
But we’re not done with the Huffpo article yet! See, her answer to the “marketing” problem is to make sure that girls are exposed to feminism nice and young, and preferably by a smiling, non-batshit crazy person who isn’t screaming something about privilege or oppression:
Feminism has a marketing problem. But we can fix it. We can make sure that the first time someone encounters feminism, it’s attached to a friendly, human face. When they’re very, very young. We can make sure as many people as possible get to that third act with us. That they know why the gun went off.
That way, years later, when everyone is shouting, they’ll remember that on some level, we’re all shouting for the same outcome.
You know, if you need to indoctrinate people when they’re “very, very” young, otherwise they may never get it, what you actually have is a cult.
If it was a sound political movement, people wouldn’t need to be indoctrinated from a young age just to find it palatable enough to identify with. If fully-grown adults cannot be persuaded to come over to your cause because it makes no sense to them, maybe the answer (to a moral human being) isn’t to start indoctrinating them before they’ve gained the skill to reason, so they’re already biased in your favor before they develop logical faculties. Maybe if you need to do that, as a crutch, there’s something seriously wrong.
However, there is one point that the responses to Women Against Feminism (such as this article) have made that gives me some pause: the fact that it’s perhaps easy to reject Feminism in 2014, when women in the First World are college educated and have myriad choices available to them that first- and second-wave feminists generally didn’t. By renouncing today’s feminism, is that disrespecting or discounting the efforts of the feminists of decades past, who fought for the very real freedoms that we are fortunate to enjoy today?
I think that’s a subject for another blog post (so maybe wait two days), but in general, I don’t think renouncing the modern incarnation of feminism means I’m being disrespectful of original-recipe feminism. After all, I respect the Republican Party that Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt represented; I don’t think my rejection of today’s GOP is in any way a betrayal of Teddy Roosevelt. I may be betraying Teddy Roosevelt for many other reasons, but that’s between me and TR.
So no; I can’t speak for any of the women who are posting pictures of themselves holding up signs, but I don’t think they’re necessarily ignorant or disrespectful of the real strides that past feminists have made. Granted, some of them are probably ignorant just because any given group of people is going to include the ignorant, but not all. And I bet there are some who have nothing but respect for what the movement once was decades ago, but that’s not enough to silence their concerns about what it’s become. It’s certainly not enough to silence mine.