Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Overwriting Feminist Categories

(This article first appeared on the original Counter-Feminist blog, in October 2006.)

ometimes new thinking requires new categories. To that end I would like to introduce an alternative taxonomy, a different way of parsing the data. Please understand that customary feminist taxonomies do not map to this schemaonly individual feminists do.

Disaffection toward the male sex is distributed along a continuum that we shall call the misandric axis. This axis ranges all the way from white-hot animosity at one end, to mild dissatisfaction (barely worth a mention ) at the other. Between the two lies every shade you can imagine. The misandric axis should not be visualized as a line; the term "axis" is conceptual only, meant to suggest a transitional spectrum.

Misandric axis refers strictly to disaffection toward men, of whatever degree. That and nothing else. It has no reference to any other phenomenon that might be arrayed on a continuum.

In our present system, we make concession to the naive popular understanding of "radical". When most people say "radical feminist", they are talking about a hateful, extreme person who is "way out there". We shall adopt the identical meaning in our own analysis, even though feminists themselves adhere to a different usage.

However, while sanctioning the common manner of speech, we also employ the etymological sense of "radical" as denoting root—in this case, the root of feminism itself. The exoteric meaning of "radical" just happens to coincide with the esoteric truth about feminism, and we shall make use of this happy conjunction.

Radical feminism, then, means exactly the same as thing "man-hating feminism". Man-hating is the quintessential core, or root, of feminism. A radical feminist, being "of the root", is ipso facto a man-hating feminist. And the more man-hating she is, the more radical she is.

Radical feminism should be distinguished from milder forms of the ideology. Most women are not man-haters—and even those who are, are not all equally hateful. But given that man-hating is what fuels the movement, the less man-hating a particular feminist is the more feministically marginal she is. The strength of feminism derives from man-hating; who hates men the most is a strong feminist, and the weaker is her hatred of men the weaker is her feminism. (Called "weak" because it is only weakly connected to the root.)

Radical feminism may be divided into the twin categories of academic radical and pop radical. These sectors are on a par as regards their hatred of men, but they differ in point of intellectual sophistication.

By "academic" I mean bookishly well-educated. Frequently this implies an ongoing connection to the world of colleges and universities. Note that not all academic feminists are radical; sometimes they are weak feminists.

By "pop", I mean an eclectic pastiche of ideological tag-ends, t-shirt slogans, sound bites, ipso factoids, bathroom wall graffiti and "cheap shots", all of a pronounced anti-male tone, which the individual finds useful or gratifying. (Think of the recent "boys are stupid" t-shirts marketed to adolescent girls.) Intellectual substance is neither necessary, nor desireable, nor even possible for pop feminism—if it gets too deep, it won't remain "pop".

The pops and the academics are two ends of a continuum. To speak of them as discrete categories is simply a rhetorical convenience. Bear that in mind.

Academic feminists (man-hating or otherwise) wish to distance themselves from the pop-radicals, who are like uncouth country cousins airing the dirty family "unmentionables" in front of the high-class people whom they (the academic feminists) wish to impress. They believe (or wish the rest of us to believe that they believe) that pop feminism is not the real feminism—and they wish the rest of us to believe this likewise!

Pop-radical feminism is in no important way distinct from radical feminism generally, being indeed the caricatural excresence of radical feminism. As befits caricature, it Reveals Truth by Exaggeration. What the intelligentsia have devised upon their Mt. Olympus is, after a trickle-down interval, taken up at the so-called street level by people with primal sensibilities and undisciplined impulses, who very likely wouldn't know Susan B. Anthony from Anthony Quinn.

The end product is oddly transformed but fundamentally the same: with layers of academic varnish stripped away, the authentic core of radical feminism stands naked to the world's gaze."Oh, he's such a patriarchal jerk; he forgets to lower the seat, he forgets to shave, he forgot all about our anniversary, he never buys me any presents, he ignores me, he bores me! etc. . . .". Don't laugh; some are exactly that ignorant. A slightly greater number are not quite so primitive . . . but close. And so on up the scale by incremental shadings.

The most quintessentially revealing things about feminism as a whole issue from the mouths of pop-radical feminists. These people aren't trying to fool anyone, or else they are too ignorant to realize that they aren't fooling anyone, but either way they are fools in broad daylight and for this we could even thank them, for they give the game away. Their very presence is a kind of marker dye revealing the course of deeper currents.

Yes, radical pop feminism is very much the "real" feminism. Why? Because it is radical. Radical means "of the root", and that's as real, or authentic, as it gets. When the average person says "radical feminist" it is very often with pop radical feminists in mind. However, the average person is also aware of such academic radicals as Greer, MacKinnon, Morgan, Dworkin, Firestone, and other feminosi of their sort, and knows enough to classify them too as "radical". Here, the average person displays a rough-and-ready acumen that is seaworthy. The pop radicals and the academic radicals are cut from the same cloth, but the academics have a better tailor.

Radical feminists, whether academic or pop, have colonized the feminist gestalt, infusing their flavor, their purpose and their sepsis into the whole of it. Those who insist that they are "not that kind of feminist" would be well advised to swear off the word "feminism" and start a different movement under a different name.

There is also a weak pop feminism, about which little need be said other than: it is eclectic and watered down -- distant from the root of feminism like any other kind of weak feminism.

Old-school feminism is the venerable doctrine that non-physical sexual differences are socially constructed. Classic timeworn example: little girls get Barbie to play with, little boys get G.I. Joe, and such training provides the formative template for behavior differences later in life—based on the theory that as the twig is bent, so the tree's inclined. This might also be named "nurture feminism", because it teaches that gender formation is due entirely to the way children are reared—or nurtured. Old-school feminists feel that anything which establishes a biogenetic base for behavioral sex difference might validate different roles for men and women and thereby, so to say, shove women back into the kitchen. Old-schoolers are motivated by what they conceive to be political necessity, fearing science might reveal something that would put them out of business.

The present writer's sympathies, such as they are, lean toward old-school feminism. I would like to believe that men and women are more alike than different, that what difference they do possess ought not be "celebrated" but rather permitted to operate nonchalantly below the floorboards, and that the assumption of their essential similarity ought to make the foundation for whatever lies ahead. Sexual stereotyping rubs my fur the wrong way. However, I am prepared for the extinction of my personal preferences. It may turn out that reality has different ideas—that men and women are indeed fundamentally different despite what I or any old-school feminist wants to believe. It may indeed transpire that men and women are biologically predisposed to enact different roles upon the stage of life. And if —IF!—that proves to be the case I shall step aside, let nature assert itself, and bow to the inevitability of so-called patriarchy. The truth bothers me none.

Difference feminism,
unlike old-school feminism, accommodates the possibility that men and women are psychologically different for biogenetic reasons. More importantly, difference feminism seeks to make political hay out of this possibility, by which I mean that the difference feminist seeks new ways to empower women by highlighting the idea of biogenetic difference, thereby spawning a universe of differential advocacies. In a nutshell, the difference feminist is happy to acknowledge biogenetic difference IF (big "if"!) this would seem to underwrite some manner of innate female superiority. In cases where such appears lacking, the difference feminist prefers keep it in the background in fuzzy focus. It is always a cherry-picking exercise.

Since difference feminism teaches (or at least allows the possibility) that men and women are different by nature, we could call it "nature feminism". Here, an objection might be raised: that difference feminism doesn't necessarily believe in biogenetic difference, but only that "difference" (in the sense of separation) should be accentuated or enforced. Yet whatever the merit of this objection, it ought to be understood that difference feminism is situated on a downhill slope leading toward a naturist epistemology. Difference feminists cannot long maintain their position if they don't reach a stabilizing decision upon the nature/nurture question. And if they come down on the nurturist side, the tenability of their position, in the long run, is rendered problematic. For this reason, I contend that an intellectually valid difference feminism would require a belief in biogenetic difference. Self-described "difference feminists" who believe otherwise are casting themselves adrift in cognitive space. I, unconcerned, leave them to their travels.

Difference feminism has been taken up largely by a younger generation of feminists, who are more flexibly opportunistic than their older sisters, and able to scent opportunity where the latter cannot or will not. Difference feminists are sharper and hipper; they know that biogenetic difference could endow women with a multitude of new entitlements and new ways to assert dominion over men. It could also pave the way for junk-science proofs of natural female superiority. The sky's the limit....

This is the only ultimately significant doctrinal difference in all of feminism. The nature/nurture divide is the grand watershed of the entire present-day women's movement, whether the movement's partisans acknowledge this or not. No dichotomy, in a structural sense, is more fundamental. And yet, both divisions of feminist doctrine map equally well to the misandric axis. Both old-school feminism and difference feminism have a roughly equal distribution of man-haters within their ranks. In theory, this ought to unite them, but....they appear to squabble a bit. This latter seems to have very little pragmatic importance, so I leave it to others to ponder the reason for it.

Granted, feminism contains plenty of other (trivially different) sects and coteries, but from a counter-feminist standpoint these are of no greater interest than a mountain of red herrings. Study it if you wish, but don't let it monopolize your time or cloud your understanding.

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