We say that feminism has fuzzy borders. By this we mean that it is unclear where feminism ends and the rest of the world begins. Feminism makes its presence known in a confused and varied way, and appears unbounded by consistent rules or reasonings. This makes it difficult to inscribe a boundary around either the theory of feminism, or the practice of it.
Furthermore, it can be a tough job to sort out who is feminist from who isn't. Indeed, you will get self-declared feminists who show little sign of being feminist, and self declared non-feminists who show considerable sign of being feminist. People are fuzzy-minded about all this, which naturally increases the fuzzy border effect. A generally muddled use of terminology further complicates the picture.
The influence of feminist ideology spreads like a corona, well beyond the community of certifiable feminists, and feminism itself becomes so effectively camouflaged that meaningful conversation about it becomes nearly impossible. It is small wonder that people entertain confused and varied ideas upon this topic.
For that reason, the essential difficulty takes the form of a question: What is (or isn't) "feminism"?
As suggested, not everybody agrees on the answer. Feminists do not always agree with other feminists, and non-feminists do not always agree with other non-feminists. I could add that feminists and non-feminists do not always agree, but that is to be expected.
If feminists themselves cannot agree on what feminism is, then no self-declared feminist holds any mandate to tell the rest of the world what feminism is. That is a critically important realization. Their writ does not bind us, and we've as good a license as they do to take a shot at this question. Granted that they are free to tell us what they wish us to accept, we are not bound to go along.
Many feminists will insist that all feminists do agree on the dictionary definition of feminism, which features the popular buzzword "equality". But their claim is problematic because the agreement in question is rhetorical rather than substantive. Overall feminist behavior hints powerfully at motives other than making things "equal" between the sexes, and I have even known individual feminists to snort with derision at the mention of "equality" with men.
Nor have I ever heard any feminist address the question of "equality" between the feminist sector and the non-feminist sector.
More to the point, their claim is problematic because the dictionary definition of feminism is intellectually vacuous. It requires a wealth of explanation to make it meaningful or useful, and in the course of such explanation its meaninglessness and uselessness soon become evident.
At the same time, the dictionary definition is interpreted differently by different feminists, which spawns a range of different feminisms in both theory and practice. Therefore we stand upon our statement that feminists do not always agree on what feminism is.
However, even if they did agree on what feminism is, we would still not be bound to limit our study of feminism to the pathways of feminist-guided understanding. Our prerogative as free non-feminist men and women is to study feminism by any lateral epistemology or hermeneutic of suspicion we please, and to frame our conclusions accordingly. Feminism, as we say, is an object for the world's gaze.
That is true on its own account, under the liberty of the non-feminist sector. Our path of knowledge is not the path of feminist subjectivism, for the right to reject feminism is meaningless without the right to think independently of it.
When a feminist says that feminism is XYZ, it does not necessarily follow that feminism is XYZ. We can and must assert non-feminist epistemic authority. That is, we can and must define feminism for ourselves.
Such being said, we must first examine the evidence. Since the feminists have a number of feminisms on offer, we must array these under a strong light and look for the operative property that would bind them together as a SET. This would form the nucleus for a working definition that non-feminist truth-seekers could generally roll with.
We are proposing an ideal understanding that must be established if counter-feminist efforts are to become politically efficient. That is imperative. We mustn't talk past each other when we are discussing the feminist problem. We must concur upon the answer to "what is feminism?" because we must concur upon a target of non-feminist operations. We have given the proposed understanding a special name: target consensus.
The pop phrase "no right or wrong answers" is out of place here. There is a right answer to the question "what is feminism?", and it runs as follows:
"Feminism is the project to increase the power of women with no clear endpoint uniformly stipulated."
Increasing the power of women is the operative property that binds together all feminisms as a set. Everything else is details. Our deceptively simple saying is the focal point for ALL target consensus, and the essential truth about feminism is rolled up inside of it. The range of feminist operation is accounted for, including the apparent contradiction that feminism does not empower anti-feminist women against feminism.
Any account of feminism which does not flow from this axiomatic sentence, or mesh with it, or walk in step with it, is simply wrong. The sentence should be central to your thinking. You should memorize it, and spread it through speech and writing any way you can.
Think of target consensus as a work in progress, or if you will, a convergence of understanding. In the course of building target consensus, we sweep the fuzz away. We blow the radar chaff out of the sky. We clarify how feminist mystification operates in the service of feminist power, and we transmit this politically efficient realization to more and more people. Gradually it all comes into focus. We arrive on the same page, and we understand why we have got to be on that particular page and not some other page.
Owing to the fuzzy border effect, the approach to feminism is uneven and rife with ambiguity. It is hard to pinpoint exactly where (in theory or practice) feminism begins, so it is hard to know where to begin attacking it. Attacks, when they occur, will fall wide of the mark and do limited damage. This partly explains why feminism appears to be "bulletproof".
The fuzzy border effect lends a misleading impression that feminism is incoherent, but that is the whole point of the thing: to mislead. Feminism might look incoherent on the surface, but the deeper you drill into its sequestered workings, the more coherent it finally proves to be.
In other words, once you penetrate the atmospheric shroud of cognitive fragmentation, you land on something solid. Feminism becomes intelligible, and although it is still tainted by what you might call design flaws, there is no longer any mystery about it.
All feminist operations converge toward a central purpose, and these operations are of two classes: direct operations and distraction operations.
Direct operations serve the purpose directly: by maximizing female advantage directly or by advocating such.
Distraction operations serve the purpose indirectly: by sidetracking critical attention from the questionable morality of what is being done.
Both classes of operation make it possible for the feminist project to continue in effect - hence, you would say, those operations converge.
So for example, when feminist activists implemented the Duluth model years ago, it was a direct operation. More recently, when some feminist told you that not all feminists support the Duluth model, it was a distraction operation. Yet the Duluth model as a central, salient fact, continues in effect by the convergent benefit of those operations. Furthermore, feminism's defining guilt (in this case, the creation of the Duluth Model) has been shunted out of the conversation.
Feminism's fuzzy perimeter is a system of interlaced distraction operations that keep your mind wandering from one distraction to another. As you scan for the convergent truth, these operations deflect your attention into an erratic orbital path AROUND that truth. You never get to grips with feminism's core, which goes undetected and continues in effect.
To say that all feminist operations converge toward a central purpose, is to say that they all converge toward feminism's essence.
That essence, simply put, is female supremacism and the drive to maximize female advantage. We have described feminism as the project to increase female power with no concisely understood goal, and which mindset but female supremacism would such a project ultimately comport with? Where but female supremacy could such a project ultimately terminate? These are among the stubbornly persistent questions that all feminists must ultimately answer.
Consciously or not, feminism gravitates toward female supremacy as a logical endpoint. If left to its devices, that is where feminist operation would ultimately take us, and it would do this as naturally as water running downhill.
This natural process has a simple name: moral confluence.
Moral confluence holds no greater mystery than when like-minded people act in concert - we see this every day. So while I don't doubt that various feminists do sometimes meet and conspire (especially the academic ones), let none call me a "conspiracy theorist", since I believe that moral confluence (which happens spontaneously) accounts for most of the action. Does water "conspire" to run downhill?
Until a concise political endpoint for the feminist project has been uniformly stipulated by the feminists themselves, we may assume that feminism is gravitating toward its evident logical endpoint, and that this logical endpoint is identical with a political endpoint even if the latter is left unstated. In other words, we may treat feminism and female supremacism as interchangeable terms.
Feminism's goalposts are on a rubber time horizon that stretches and stretches. No future female advancement will ever be quite good enough, for the simple reason that life for women will never be quite perfect. The feminists will always interpret said imperfection as "inequality", and make this a pretext to maximize female advantage just a little bit more.
By the way, feminism's claim to support "equality" is Orwellian manipulation of language. Call this Femspeak. It is not inherently clear what "equality" means in the first place; we know only that this is a halo word with primitive emotional appeal or, simply put, a fetish. It "sounds beautiful", and for a simpleton that is good enough. However, feminist behavior bears witness to what "equality" might look like when it finally gets instituted in feminist style.
In this, as with all things feminist, non-feminist men and women are entitled to harbor suspicions. You cannot know the core truth about feminism if you don't know the moral truth about it, and that moral truth is not pretty. It is a truth which feminism, understandably, must hide: from you, and even from itself. After all, female supremacism has ugly implications even if you dress it up as something benevolent.
So feminism needs deniability, and the fuzzy border effect generates this to perfection. The trick is contained in such expressions as "feminism is not monolithic", or "X is not really feminism", or the hardy perennial "not all feminists are like that" (abbreviated as NAFALT). All such talk partakes either of the "no true Scotsman" fallacy or the "good cop/bad cop" gambit, and we should recognize these distraction operations for what they are.
It doesn't matter if all feminists are "like that" or not. It matters only that a critical number are, that this critical number is pulling the world in a certain direction, and that the innocent "who. . me?" feminists are doing diddly to stop them.
All feminists are morally confluent with all other feminists, which effectively makes feminism a social organism. However, you are not to know this. All who oppose feminism and seek the truth about it, are to be kept wandering in a cloud of muddled distraction and false understanding.....
Different feminisms, with different rules, different principles and different points of focus, are bombarding you from all directions. It seems unclear which of them is the "real" feminism, yet the answer is simple: they are ALL the real feminism. I mean, they are all real...are they not?
More to the point, they all contribute to feminism's ultimate purpose in the way that all parts of an organism contribute to the organism's ultimate purpose.
The different feminisms sometimes contradict each other, but this paradoxically makes feminism stronger. It means that feminism as a whole can keep different rule sets in play, shifting from one to another as conditions require: when the chess game goes against you, switch to basketball or backgammon! Or simply knock the game board over.
On a scale of years, feminism as a whole can shift from one rule set to another. On a scale of minutes, a single feminist can do the same thing within a single conversation.
What's more subtle, is that there are potentially as many feminisms as there are feminists. The major schools of feminism are continually shedding a detritus of words and ideas into the cultural ideosphere. These fragments, broken loose from their origins, are available on a mix-and-match basis to anybody who happens upon them.
The fruit of such recombinant intellectual DNA will be idiosyncratic at the very least, not to say solipsistic. (Think of Tumblr feminism.) All the same, feminism propagates enormously in this way, and becomes enormously more fuzzy.
Feminism seems incoherent only if you assume that it is, at root, honorable or respectable. This assumption sets a mental filter upon your understanding, but you cannot know this until the filter gets lifted. However, once you wake up to the fact there is nothing honorable or respectable about feminism (apart from its fine-sounding rhetoric), the incoherence (the fuzzy border) vanishes and the truth emerges with stark clarity.
By the end of the day, feminism has effectively NO rules apart from the meta-rules of taking advantage and gaining the upper hand - and this smacks of nothing honorable or respectable. Feminism has many conditional rules, but these are incoherent because they are forever shifting to maximize female advantage under shifting conditions. However, the meta-rules, which govern how the shifting operates, are quite unvarying: always maximize female advantage.
To the politically naive, that might not be apparent. "Obviously", they might say, "not all feminists are like that." By way of example, they might point to certain sayers of fine-sounding things which make our eyes glaze over.
Those fine-sounding ones are the moderate feminists, the liberal feminists, the friendly feminists. They are the ones with "good intentions", but we all know which broad highway is paved with such intentions.
Such feminists are not the real movers and shapers. You could as well call them political zeros, or less politely, useful idiots. They serve two main purposes. The first: to float around in the fuzzy border zone sounding honorable and respectable, so that feminism will sound honorable and respectable. The second: to sow confusion and create distraction - hence, the more you listen to these distraction operators with an uncritical ear, the less you will understand about the true state of the feminist project, or the true state of the political game at large.
There is more in this vein. For example, we all know that feminism obtains perks and goodies for women. Well, that sounds sort of nice until you realize that such activity works effectively as a system of moral bribery - there's one point to bear in mind. Another point is that politically naive people (men and women both) will conclude from this that feminism is honorable and respectable, and "speak no evil" about it. Such people, though otherwise well-intentioned, may be described as patsies, enablers, or passive supporters.
Consider the hackneyed statement that "feminism got women the vote!" One could dispute whether "feminism" per se did this, although it is safe to say that "a certain combination of people and forces" did this.
But that is a separate discussion. Our point here is that women's enfranchisement verily boosted the feminist project by boosting female power in general, and that this has tended to extort the gratitude of women in general.
Furthermore, since people typically agree that women's suffrage was an honorable and respectable cause, and since "feminism" is typically given credit for it, anybody who challenges feminism is drawn up short here. So it is moral bribery, moral intimidation and moral camouflage all rolled into one.
To summarize: imagine that a crook or bully has allegedly performed some noble service in the past and demands gratitude forever after, come what may. Crudely but accurately, that is how feminism operates.
Once again, there is nothing honorable or respectable about feminism: at the core of the feminist project lies something which is very simply...rotten. A heart of darkness. How else can we put it? As said earlier, you cannot know the truth about feminism if you don't know the moral truth about it. And the majority of feminists are in moral confluence both to advance the feminist project and to hide the moral truth about feminism.
Moral confluence belongs to an apparatus of mystification which lets feminism operate generally undetected. This apparatus ought to have a special name so that we can reference it quickly in conversation.
Turning to the the language of zoology we find, ready-made, the word "crypsis". Crypsis means anything which an animal in the wild might do to escape observation. Feminism has a similar need to escape observation, but here it is MORAL observation that must be avoided. Such observation, after all, could lead to a disruption of the feminist project by non-feminist observers who find that project morally objectionable.
You would say that feminism needs a kind of "moral crypsis", and we shall add this expedient term to our lexicon.
Moral crypsis, simply put, is how feminism veils its true nature through a multitude of distraction operations. It is a component of moral confluence. We have already sketched the process pretty fully, but will add that distraction in its many forms weaves moral crypsis as a camouflage net. Beneath this net, feminism's core truth lies sequestered in its morally unambiguous glory. One must only pull aside the net to gain a view of this.
We all know that hating men is the main show for feminism. If the anti-male hate engine were not perpetually chugging away below the floorboards, feminism as a movement would lack the motive force to keep moving. However, man-hating must be denied and concealed for the sake of public image, and that is where moral crypsis steps in.
It is true that the most radical of feminists will openly flaunt their hatred of men, but others have got to be more circumspect. That is why they will hide their misandry even from themselves if necessary. That is why all feminists are either man-haters, or to some degree morally confluent with man-hating.
The moderate feminists are the worst because they occupy the front line of moral crypsis. They are the facade, and without their endlessly iterated mantra that "not all feminists are like that" (NAFALT!), feminism's ugly core couldn't stay under wraps for long.
So the extreme radicals are the only truthful feminists, since they are the only ones who will frankly endorse the outcome which feminism's core logic dictates. In other words, they are willing to throw off moral crypsis. They are the most respectable of feminists because they lack the vice of hypocrisy. Theirs is the virtue of moral honesty; they have the goodness to be clear, and for this we can thank them.
Moral crypsis conceals feminism's morally criminal nature. Feminist apologists (typically the academic sort) must "talk around" this criminal nature in order to rationalize feminism's existence, and they do so by concocting ever more elaborate skeins of theory - basically, as a stalling tactic to throw the anti-feminist hounds off the scent. (Some feminist, reading this right now, is already mentally composing such strategems.)
All of this belongs to the fuzzy border mechanism, but we, constraining the conversation within clearly defined parameters, make such maneuvering impossible.
Our endeavor is to COLLAPSE feminism's fuzzy borders, to constrain the indeterminacy of those borders by an act of moral observation, to flatten it into an abrupt line that will mark feminism's actual perimeter.
People must be compelled to "think through" feminism's implications in the light of target consensus. As this progresses, the fog will dissipate and feminism's true boundary will emerge. The sight of it will not be pretty, and for individual feminists this will entail an existential crisis with life-changing consequences.
We must force the question "are you feminist or non-feminist?", and make this the meta-frame of reference which sets the stage for the entire cultural discourse. The meaning of "feminist" and "non-feminist" will not be directly clear to everybody (or not at first) but the counter-feminist project is to make this clear, bit by bit, by forcing the question and building the conversation around it.
By reason of the question being forced, the politically naive fence-sitters will need to re-evaluate any position (or lack of such) which they had previously held. Having done so, they might decide that they are in the feminist camp after all, and migrate to the feminist side of the field.
That is FINE. If they cannot be staunch in their standpoint, we are happy to see them travel. For this, they have our blessing. It is imperative that we prune the tangled deadwood, and we urge such people to go, by all means, and join the feminists. Otherwise they will unhappily find themselves in the political crossfire, and we would rather see them avoid that.
In the end, the world will become politically polarized along the line of feminist v. non-feminist. This polarization will be strongly marked. The correct understanding of feminism, as target consensus, will become decisively clear and embedded in the language. There will be no more fuzzy borders. There will be no longer any question where feminism ends and the rest of the world begins.
That is what we mean by "collapsing feminism's fuzzy borders". In this manner, we disable the mechanism of moral crypsis and make it impossible for feminism to hide.
As for the feminists themselves, they have no brakes. They are ideological robots who lack the common humanity or common moral instinct to know when they'd best not push a given envelope any further. Since they haven't got brakes, they cannot stop themselves - and that is why somebody else must do the job for them.
In conclusion: the task of seeing through feminist mystification, and the task of helping others to see through it, are plagued by the identical difficulty. To see through it is a battle. To explain it to others is the same battle again, time after time.
A full account of these things could occupy an entire book, but the present article is hardly that. We aim only to lay out the critical points, and by so doing, motivate others to think further and write their own books if the spirit moves them.