Saturday, April 11, 2015

What is Feminism? Or: the Battle for Feminism's Soul

What is feminism? What ISN’T feminism? These are vital questions, and controversy has swirled around them for years. This controversy is no storm in a teacup, for I can assure you that much rides upon the outcome.

When a non-feminist encounters a feminist, the mood is sooner or later bound to get testy. To state that another way, each party carries a psychic atmosphere of her own, and these atmospheres are bound to clash. The encompassing social ambience will not accomodate both of them; one or the other must yield. As they say in the old western movies, “this town ain’t big enough for both of us.”

The unspoken tension between feminist and non-feminist will eventually come to a head and show itself openly. This regularly happens in a small way, in the social microcosm. It has not yet happened in a grand, conclusive way, in the societal macrocosm, although it is our job to accelerate the arrival of that day. But on whatever scale it occurs, the confrontation rides upon a mutual assessment between these two parties or, if you will, between these two principles.

Hence the typical pattern of interchange between a feminist and a non-feminist. The non-feminist will make known her feelings about feminism and the feminist will, mildly or otherwise, “get defensive”. So what is happening in these discussions? Clearly, the talkers are talking past each other because they are talking about two different things. The feminist’s “feminism” is NOT the same thing as the non-feminist’s “feminism”. Each conversant has a different mental picture of what the word feminism signifies in real world terms.

The non-feminist looks upon feminism as the less desirable option; that is what makes him not a feminist. Meanwhile, the feminist looks upon feminism as something sacred, and for that reason looks upon the non-feminist standpoint as akin to sacrilege. Please bear these points in mind.

Again I put it to you: what is feminism, and what ISN’T feminism? We need to address that pesky little question with exactitude in order to reach any over-arching conclusion about feminism’s desirability or lack of it. Therefore feminism, the object under examination, must be pinned down, immobilized, and forced to become a definite something; only in that way does it become examinable and susceptible to evaluation. So answers need to arrive, and they need to arrive from authoritative sources. Consequently, the question of authority itself comes to the fore, as does the question of questioning authority.

Briefly then, who has authority to tell the world what feminism is or is not? Does the feminist have such authority? Does the non-feminist have such authority? Or do they each in their own way have such authority?

In the present talk, my contention is that any person at all may at least presume to speak with authority on the question of what is or isn’t feminism. Anybody may set up shop in this trade, and there are no licensing requirements. Self-declared participation in feminism itself is no prerequisite for this. If that word (feminism) points to any discoverable object at all, we must allow that the pathways of discovery are manifold and not subject to any monopoly. Anybody may compete in this market, although success will vary according to the governing criteria. So, it is the governing criteria which are now under consideration.

“But wait!”, I hear some feminist interject. “Only a feminist has any true authority to say what feminism is or is not, because only a feminist has participated in feminism and truly LIVED feminism. No outsider has any authority to tell ME what feminism is or is not!”

I would reply, that your communal experience among self-styled feminists grants you no authority but to speak of what you and others underwent in your time together, and what you felt and concluded from this. Your particular viewpoint and your especial path of knowledge are in no sense privileged. Neither is it taken on faith that you would evaluate your position honestly. Hence, your authority is merely clubbish, a compound of social memories mingled with selective awareness and possibly wishful thinking. And while these club memories might constitute authority of a parochial sort, there are other forms of authority, from other sources, which must not be neglected. Do not forget that others can view your club from an outward aspect—does that count for nothing?

“But wait!”, I hear that feminist interject again. “I have studied feminism for years, and I have read all the books, and I have earned a degree in women’s studies. Don’t tell me your authority equals mine, mister!”

I would reply, that if in addition to hanging out with supposed feminists, you boast of a scholastic or intellectual authority, you must remember that you aren’t the only one who can read books and think about things. Others, very different from you, are avid readers and thinkers also—and they do not have the same emotional filters that you have. So they are free to follow their own unblinkered genius, to quaff from fountains of knowledge that would not occur to you, to generalize, to factor-analyze, to string the dots together and formulate conclusions that might differ markedly from your own.

“But wait!”, our feminist chimes in for a third time. “I am a WOMAN! How dare you tell me what feminism is or is not!”

I would reply: “Quite right, you are a woman. And I am a Sagittarius.”

And I repeat: ANYBODY may presume to say what feminism is, or what feminism is not. It adds no weight to your claim to merely call yourself a feminist. It gives you no head start in the game. After all, anybody can say “I am a feminist”. Talk is cheap, and whether you call yourself a feminist, or call yourself a two-headed Patagonian, has no bearing on your claim to expertise.

And again I say, that a lot rides upon the outcome of this controversy. We must eventually decide in very exact terms what feminism is or is not, and the question is so important that I have given it a special name which hints at the magnitude of it. I call this question the battle for feminism’s soul, and I wish to make known why I do so. As I have already suggested, we seek not only to discover what feminism IS . .. but to determine whether it is right or wrong, desirable or undesirable, noble or ignoble.

Up until now, the feminists have claimed a monopoly of discourse in this realm, thought-policing the avenues of conversation leading into it or out of it and transforming the world of respectable mainstream opinion into an echo chamber where only feminist questions are permitted to be raised, and only feminist answers permitted to be formulated. Not surprisingly, the feminists have concluded that feminism is desirable and honorable. However, they have consistently shrouded in fog the plain and simple definition of feminism, making available so many so-called “answers”, and such inadequate ones, that there is effectively no answer at all.

And that, I submit, is the weak point where we as counter-feminist seekers of truth must conduct our drilling operations.

Which indeed we have done. And after years of work, we have concluded this: that the “nice” parts of feminism are not feminism’s soul, because they do not quintessentially belong to feminism. Rather, they belong to the world at large, and to the realm of liberal humanist bromide. They belong to the generally received body of traditional opinions about fair play, common decency and the like, and if they were broken loose from feminism they could just as well sail under their own flag. Certainly, they don't need some new-fangled monikker like “feminism”.

And yet, they serve feminism as a masking device because they obscure the vital presence of that OTHER feminism, the not-nice kind whose sole purpose is to boost the female-supremacist agenda.

Yes, we have concluded that female supremacism is feminism’s soul. For it is indeed, by any measure, more significant, interesting, original and consequential than liberal platitudes—and politically more profound in its implications, by an order of magnitude.

Already, I can hear a howl of protest. “No! That’s NOT what feminism really is!”

And I would reply: “Bad luck! You’ve had YEARS to tell the world what feminism really is. Now it is the world’s turn to tell feminism what feminism really is!”

The battle for feminism’s soul, is the battle to define feminism’s core minima in both a moral and practical sense and, by so doing, gain effective control over feminism’s narrative in pragmatic, real-world terms. It is the world’s turn to tell feminism what feminism is, and this will come about by shifting the center of narrative authority away from feminism itself. If you are a self-declared feminist, your supposed “inside” knowledge of feminism is worth no more than the “outside” knowledge which others can provide —THEIR knowledge can be as  revelatory as any other.

Accordingly, the nasty bits which outsiders may remark about feminism are not regrettable, accidental, outlying features. They are as much a part of “real” feminism as anything your friendly neighborhood Earnest Feminist would urge you to believe. If these things are feminism’s “excrescence”, it is because they have been excreted, or forced out from the center, which makes the center their point of origin. Accordingly, our task as counter-feminist propagators of knowledge is to factor feminism’s excrescence into its essence. Or as certain wits and wags will be quick to say: to feed feminism its own shit!

Yes. The world has long been an object of the feminist gaze, so it is time to flip the script, and make feminism an object for the world. They have been gazing into the abyss long enough; now the abyss is gazing into them.

Such is the battle for feminism’s soul.

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