Tuesday, July 15, 2014

An introspective introduction to Feminism Week

For the next week or so, I’m going to be writing exclusively about feminism. The first post in this sequence, which both makes clear the need for feminism and outlines what I see as its major problems, has already been posted. You should read that post before you read this one. Subsequent posts will relay my many thoughts on how to fix the problems it identifies.

Before I go further, I wish once more to clarify my intentions. The second half of my first post featured some pretty sharp criticism of both feminism and feminists. What will follow in the coming days will be plenty more where that came from. Taken in isolation, some viewers may have a hard time believing that I am a sincere ally of a movement I seem to do nothing but condemn. I included Parts I and II of my first post in part to preempt that misunderstanding. Even so, I feel compelled to reemphasize my belief that the good in feminism far outweighs the bad. Feminists are usually right. The more I have been exposed to feminist ideas, the more feminist I have become. Even in its current state, feminism is a beneficial contributor to an important public dialogue that educates many. The criticism that precedes and follows this post is merely an attempt to tease out the good, valuable and worthwhile parts from the things I believe are bad and unhealthy and making the movement unpalatable to so many potential allies.

With that said, the fact that prefer to focus my blogging efforts on the negative aspects of a movement I think is mostly good says something about me, and I’m not sure what it is yet. Most feminists would assure me it’s because feminism is a threat to the deeply ingrained power I have been socialized to see as natural. Maybe that was true at first; I do remember an initial defensive reaction to things I misinterpreted as an attack on me. But like I said in my last post, I think I’m over that now. I have a different theory, and it’s much more personal.

I think what makes me more animated about the bad in feminism than the good is a fundamental and titanic incongruence between how feminists and I have chosen to pursue justice. I chose the strategy of stewarding the public discourse. As a debate team member, newspaper editor, editorialist, and avid blogger, I've pretty much devoted my spare energies in life to the notion that exchanging our ideas is a worthwhile and productive endeavor. Sometimes it obsesses me; it’s why I stay up until 6:00 AM trying to articulate just one last thought, and then one more, panicked I’ll lose them to the forgetfulness of sleep. In any case, I am wholly committed to this process. I enjoy it, I learn from it, and believe it or not I occasionally contribute something worthwhile to the discussion.

Perhaps this is why I find today’s feminists so exasperating. I am frustrated to the point of exhaustion, dismayed to the point of disgust by their seemingly complete inability to even fathom a clash of ideas that does not address the identity of the people presenting them. Who you are, what privilege you have, and what power relation you find yourself in are literally all that matters. The words you type are meaningless! I mourn for a discourse based on reason and logic, in which the actual sentences produced by ones mouth or keyboard determine who is right and wrong. I grieve because this time honored process of comparing ideas has been killed by a narrative that assigns rightness and wrongness before the speakers have spoken. My humble little blog is formed on the premise that it’s “The Thought that Counts”, but the atmosphere of modern feminism seems to me the antithesis of that concept.

So yes I feel threatened, but not in the same way other men do when their privilege is illuminated. I don’t feel threatened by talking about rape culture, or sexual harassment, or victim blaming, or sexist language, or by men’s role in those things. It’s more accurate to say I feel threatened by not talking about it. I feel ideologically, intellectually threatened by the idea that because those conversations are likely to offend, they are therefore fruitless and a hassle and not worth the bother. And that, more than anything else, is what I’ll discuss this week.

It’s an ambitious topic, but if nothing else, I’ll get a lot off my chest.

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