There are lots of reasons not to like the modern feminist movement; its infantilising safe-space policies, it’s authoritarian policing of language and it’s commensurate hostility to free speech. Fortunately, none of these glaring pitfalls of a supposedly egalitarian and progressive movement need pointing out. We are just as saturated with the clarion sound of libertarian voices as we are with the collective shriek of a dwindling group of feminist harpies. From the myth-busting factual feminist Christina Hoff Sommers to the poignant observations of Cathy Young, from the enlightened views of Ella Whelan to the empowered bellows of Eleanor Sharman; the voice of reason is louder than ever.
A repulsion at the proliferation of the coddled western feminist is something that many of us now share. We are disquieted by the culturally stifling idea of the microagression, the bubble-wrapped embrace of the trigger-warning and the de-facto consultancy with the privilege hierarchy that we must all take before we engage with or criticise our interlocutors. For it is through the lens of this dystopian outlook that criticism becomes harassment and facts about the wage gap perforate the self-blown bubbles of one’s safe space. As the acclaimed 19th season of South Park so simply put it, it appears the neofeminist movement’s aim is to avoid a collision with the intrusive molestations of…reality.
It is difficult to coax out any sympathy and grant the radical feminist ideology the virtue of being grounded in good intentions gone awry in practice. The best I can muster is to suggest that social justice warriors are unable to see what a friend once referred to as the hypocrisy of their outrage. These self-appointed arbitrators of unfairness are emblazoned with identity politics which begins to defeat itself once married with SJW outrage culture. There has been no greater distillation of this in recent times than that provided by the Goldsmiths feminist society. So outraged by the rising tide of anti-muslim bigotry, the FemSoc at Goldsmiths decided to show solidarity with the Islamic society in trying to suppress the voice of Maryam Namazie. With her tireless pursuit of Islamic reform and outspoken repulsion at the deeply sexist tenets of many Islamic interpretations, one might expect a feminist society would welcome Maryam as a bulwark against misogyny. But as Sam Harris put it in his recent Ask Me Anything:
Feminists are not taking the side of women treated badly in the Muslim community, but instead taking the side of the thugs who would treat them badly.
This is a clear symptom of what author James Lindsay recently termed ‘ophobaphobia’; the irrational fear of being called an X-ophobe. Fear of being called Islamophobic is central to this affliction, and the resultant behaviour is a sour mix of hypocritical and censorious. I have previously drawn parity between God and the patriarchy, namely their shared impotence, but it is here that I make further religious comparisons between radical feminism and abject piety. Sanctimonious authoritarians are themselves a secular brand of zealot, but the great mediator for them is the privilege hierarchy instead of holy scripture. Whilst Islam looks to God’s word to justify sexism, feminism looks to the privilege hierarchy to justify supporting an intolerant but oppressed minority. Tolerating intolerance is unquestionable if the intolerant are perceived to be marginalised. But as Ayan Hirsi Ali remarks:
Tolerating intolerance is cowardice.
At the core of what disturbs the great majority of us who don’t identify as feminists is the internal inconsistencies of the ideology. This groupthink comes bolstered by an equally contradictory bastardisation of language. I have met those of the ‘intersectional’ persuasion who claim that discriminatory language or behaviour extended to a white person by a person of colour can never be racist but is instead always prejudice. This attempted support is at best a patronising policing of language and at worst an authoritative decree that anyone who isn’t white is too oppressed to be an oppressor. The idea is that racism has to be systemic, a tool in a one way power dynamic, which sounds vaguely meretricious until you realise ‘institutional racism’ is already a pretty good term for that. Don’t take away the right of any racial minority to truly believe at their very core their race is superior to another and don’t take away the power of the concomitant word we all use to define such a belief.
But the most glaring contradiction of a purportedly empowering movement is its smarmy insistence that those who choose to tackle injustice from outside the clique are missing a trick. How can a movement claim to be anything like empowering – to stand for liberation and encourage self-expression – if the entire endeavour is tangled up in the catch-22 of asserting that empowerment only comes through conformity. ‘You just don’t get it like I do,’ comes the voice of the intersectional feminist to those unencumbered by the regulations of identity politics.
I have witnessed the tentacles of this progressive sanctimony extend to outlining exactly how a black person interested in joining the military should see the irony of his career choice. How in the US, the systemic and militarised brutality of the state in the oppressive policing of black communities should be enough for every proud young black person to discontinue their interest in fighting for their country. This might be the condescending height of the feminist mindset. In short, the vitriol spouted at those who decide to think for themselves is the blatant antithesis to supporting personal freedom. This is dependency feminism. This is the totalitarian cries of ‘you must join us’. This is the promise that the only struggle worth fighting is the shared struggle of the socially conscious feminist.
As the free-thinking El Tivípata wrote via the HoneyBadgerBrigade, depending on feminism for liberty is a phenomena that exists because ‘neofeminism seeks women’s obedience.’ It inculcates young women with the hostile imagery of unnavigable patriarchal terrain and feeds them patent lies that universities and workplaces are strongholds of toxic masculinity. Once the victimhood-complex has infiltrated, then comes the promise that modern feminism is the remedy. Therefore, to deny the feminist tag, as 80% of Americans now do, is cultural heresy; question the orthodoxy and risk being labelled a misogynist, sexist, racist or most harrowing of all, a microagressor! Decide to take the view – somewhere between contrarian and blasphemous – that we don’t live in a rape culture and that the statistics are biased, and prepare to be called a rape apologist. This is to act as if the call for scrupulous research is the antithesis to progress instead of its bastion – note how the only progress a call for substantive evidence might hinder is the propaganda laden narrative of advocacy statistics and rape hysteria.
This narrative is easily decipherable in an age where every campus FemSoc has a direct twitter feed to their flock of justice warriors who scroll and browse impatiently, ready to become suddenly and suitably pissed-off by bad jokes or bad outfits. These sheep come equipped to vandalise other people’s preferred unsafe spaces – or as most people call them, debate halls – by pulling fire alarms or making a mess with blood-red paint. In fact, it became so blindingly evident just how scripted the feminist narrative is when a good vagina-celebrating feminist forgot to catch up on her twitter feed and so didn’t know the trans community are the en-vogue oppressed demographic. Long story short, don’t sell vagina-themed cupcakes and call it ‘Project Vulva’ if you don’t want to be called transmisogynistic.
You can imagine for yourself the pointed finger of the outraged feminist tracing the boxes of the oppression pyramid, confirming that vagina-by-birth females are currently one rung more privileged than transexuals. The same referral to the hierarchy must’ve taken place when feminists tried to convince us that the term ‘pregnant women’ is transphobic – as some females don’t have wombs and some men can be pregnant too – and that menstruation is not just a women’s issue because it ostracizes men with vaginas, or women without them…I don’t know, who can keep up!
So if you decide the great battles of equality were won in the time of second-wave feminism and that now we’re finding excuses to fill the void, appeasing our urge for social justice by calling out nauseatingly trivial social transgressions, well then you’re probably a meninist! (I speak from personal experience when I say this, as a quick glance at the comments on articles I have shared will confirm.) There’s no argument that the social justice cause has become increasingly trite as legal equality has incrementally dawned upon us. So now, a room full of white people is a microagression, all right-wing thought breaks the safe-space policy and a dignitary of equity feminism is almost shut down for being ‘triggering’.
Must we really succumb to the banshee call of the feminist only to focus on not calling Hilary Clinton ‘inaccessible’ or ‘difficult’ instead of perhaps addressing the plight of genuinely persecuted, enslaved, humiliated or even gang-raped muslim women. This peculiar blind spot in the neofeminist movement was recently noted by Sam Harris – the co-author of ‘Islam and the future of tolerance’ – who submitted:
If you really care about women, it’s the little girls that are getting bullets in their heads for going to school, or their faces burned off with battery acid for leaving their husbands…that’s real misogyny. It’s not the stray remarks about Hilary’s hair-do that you should be worried about.
So why are we being told we must sit hand-in-hand with people who support the intolerant roars of the Islamic Society at Goldsmiths over the reasonable voice of Maryam Namazie, one of so very few ex-muslims brave enough to stand up for those subjugated muslim girls. Why must we embrace a movement that claims to be for everyone only to be told, upon asking for one day to talk about male suicide, that we are spouting misogynistic rhetoric. Must we really spend so much effort trying to tell young women it’s okay to be a marine biologist – as Verizon’s ‘Inspire Her Mind’ ad did – when women already hold the majority of marine biology degrees? In doing so, Verizon simultaneously muddied the message of personal freedom by demeaning a little girl who was more interested in her appearance than a science fair leaflet. Who is prepared to join the subset of a group so poisoned by their own politics that they believe Martin Luther King Junior isn’t progressive enough? This self-parody is beyond ridicule.
Yet still anyone who decides to tackle what is left of inequality in the western world without feminist fortifications faces the harsh condemnation of this new SJW cult. And it is these people that I commend: those whose empowerment comes through opposing the grievance narrative, those whose feminism is factual, those who argue men are also facing complex problems, those who fight for anything from individual persecution to theocratic oppression without craving a sleazy feminist pat-on-the-back; those who, despite the mass call from progressives to do otherwise, don’t seek freedom by way of dependency and don’t rely on third-wave feminism for their personal liberation. As Eleanor Sharman put it so eloquently:
The answer to the problems we face as women is not to submit to the embrace of victim feminism, but to stand up for ourselves.