Is Feminism a Good Thing?
~It is an Object for the World!
But I would first remind you of the painfully evident: that by the rules of the present age you cannot attack feminism—it is out of bounds to do so, socially prohibited to do so, culturally interdicted to do so. You might as well urinate on the Mona Lisa; such would be the magnitude of the sacrilege. And yet there is no escape-hatch, for to capitulate in despair is not an option, to plead futility is not an option, to turn the other cheek is not an option. Attack you must, or you will BE attacked—and they will slowly, patiently, persistently grind you into sawdust. But you already knew that, didn't you?
So the only way out is forward. We are saddled with the burden of investigation, and the task is twofold. Firstly: we must enquire to know how the world maintains feminism on its altar of untouchable sanctitude. Secondly: we must enquire to know how we might deactivate the mechanism described in the first part.
The investigation gets underway with a simple observation: that the word feminism is a shibboleth. And what is a shibboleth? It is a widely held belief that interferes with the ability to speak or think about things without preconception.
Feminism is not simply a word, it is a hot potato—a word with connotations, a word with baggage, a word with a muddled and controversial belief system standing behind it. And owing to the muddle and controversy, hardly anybody remains entirely rational when the shibboleth is spoken: far too much is at stake for most people to speak or think without preconception! When this word vibrates in the air, you can feel an iron cage sliding into place around people's heads—the clang is nearly audible! In fact, the word is rarely spoken in common settings. But when it is, it normally generates a discomfort zone, at which people will silently agree to "not go there", and quickly change the subject.
A shibboleth is meant to separate one demographic sector from another by means of a test. In the celebrated Old Testament story, wrong pronunciation of this word would betray you as a foreigner. Nowadays, the word feminism serves analogously—although pronunciation is no longer under scrutiny, but rather a psychic undertone that signals membership or non-membership in a certain cultural paradigm. This word (and the emotion it triggers) divides the world into two distinctly polarized sociopolitical groupings—meaning that the ensemble of varied opinions within each group will cluster around the word feminism with a signature unique to that group and markedly unlike the opposing group. The shibboleth separates the oil from the water, due to the feelings and associations it conjures.
In keeping with the system laid down elsewhere, I will call these sociopolitical groupings the feminist sector and the non-feminist sector. The terms establish a polarity, but note that a middle zone lies between the extremities—a non-activated region composed of people who have either no opinion about feminism, or an opinion that leans only weakly in either direction but remains unmarked by appreciable passion. Yet in the fullness of time, owing to certain developments, we may expect this middle zone to grow more and more activated (galvanized) so that a stronger demarcation will emerge between the feminist and non-feminist sectors.
I, the present writer, formerly inhabited that middle zone of lukewarm opinion described above. I am a living case of the transformation that can occur.
The feminist sector morally dominates and intimidates the NF sector by reason of its organization, infiltration of the media, penetration of state apparatus, group consciousness, group solidarity and so on. Therefore the feminist sector enjoys a power advantage. The NF sector submits meekly to a feminist hegemony because, stated simply, it has no collective self-awareness and does not understand the form and structure of the opposing power. Moreover, it is prey to a certain emotion that I will call superstition.
All of these factors (and others) help to explain why it is socially taboo to attack or even mildly criticize feminism—because there is a comparative power vacuum on the NF side, whose only resource is "passive numbers". So the NF sector in its political inertia cannot muster any will-to-assert-the-contrary, and therefore the feminist sector (being the only assertive party) wins by default.
To sum up: feminism is, for the feminist sector, a sacred ox. And heaven help us, but thou shalt not gore the sacred ox! And the followers of this ox have turned their worship into a virtual state religion, a cult whose power, mystery, mana, gravitas, hierophantic mumbo-jumbo and so on have inspired, in the minds of a good many people, the emotion called superstition. All of which is a complicated way of saying that they have arrogated the moral high ground on a dubious warrant, and gulled a lot of people into playing their game.
Understand, that it makes no part of the present talk to enquire into the history behind this. We don't care to know how it came to be this way, but rather how it remains this way. How, we would like to know, does the device sustain and renew itself, day in and day out? The answer is, that feminism occupies the moral high ground by a semantic trick that is simple to comprehend.
Consider once again, that feminism is a sacred ox. In common with cultists everywhere, the followers of this ox-cult have entrusted their lives to the power of a fixed idea—or more accurately many such ideas, but only one of these will concern us now because it is pivotal and uniquely consequential.
Briefly, the worshippers of the feminist ox embrace the fixed idea that "feminism is a Good Thing." The fixed idea makes the sacred ox sacred: it must be a good thing, or why would anybody worship it? This idea is anchored to the bedrock with steel bolts; the thought that feminism could be other than a Good Thing cannot meaningfully exist for them at all! Any such possibility is ruled out of consideration and therefore unavailable for discussion.
Such is the semantic trick. The rest is details, and I will look into some of these.
For many years, the feminists have drilled and instilled the idea that feminism is "pro-woman". That is another way of saying that feminism is a good thing, because pro-woman certainly means good for women. And they so far contrive to sell this idea, that they presume to call themselves the women's movement. In this way, they have stuck a label on a bottle to distract attention from what the bottle actually contains. For if feminism is "pro-woman" (as the label seems to imply), then by clear insinuation it follows that whosoever speaks against feminism is anti-woman.
On the identical principle, I could start a movement called "the good guys". Then I and my "good guys" could be any kind of bastards we wanted to be, and since we were the good guys nobody would dare to speak against us—for that would make them the bad guys, right?
Less hypothetical would be the term "progressive", which is a name that an actual political tribe has bestowed on itself. Clearly, if you aren't one of this tribe, you are regressive, correct? Precious little choice they give you: be one of us, or be damned!
To commandeer the moral high ground by semantical handy-dandy is nothing new. Human beings have been practicing that little dodge for as long as they've been practicing politics, which is a long time. In the case of feminism, the trick is more subtle because unlike (say) "good guys" the term "feminism" carries no self-evidential, or prima facie, recommendation. The idea that feminism is a good thing is a sociological myth that was cemented in place by a lot of work over the years. They had to "make it stick", but they have succeeded, for it is now stuck very well indeed!
So in order to break free from this deceitfully constructed mental log-jam, we need to pose certain questions. For example:
"You say that feminism is pro-woman. But what ELSE is it?"
What's wanted here, is a full disclosure of ingredients: what else is in the bottle? If the feminists are not forthcoming upon this point, then I must make my own examination. And if, having done so, I conclude that feminism ought to be rejected out of hand owing to some other things which it contains, this will shift the burden onto the feminists to rationalize the presence of those other things. At this stage, feminism would need to undergo a self-criticism, an identity crisis, a self-redefinition—or else incur the risk of a wholesale and warrantable repudiation by the non-feminist sector.
To ask "is feminism a good thing?" is very little different than to ask "is X a good thing?" One must enquire to know the value of X—and by that value I mean everything which feminism might plausibly be shown to contain. X means the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, about feminism. The quest for the value of X, and the contest to assign this value, we call the Battle for Feminism's Soul.
In the feminist mind, there is a cognitive disconnection between what feminism means to them, and what feminism is in fact. The shibboleth enforces a deeply-cloven and profoundly consequential split, in feminist cognition, between the subjective and objective dimensions of knowledge. If it often appears that feminists are living in their own world, it is because they are in fact doing so.
The feminists refuse to heed signals from the non-feminist sector, and it does not occur to them that such feedback could be objectively explanatory of the nature of feminism itself. This betrays a one-sidedness, an arrogance, a hubris, a perverse subjectivity. To the feminist mindset, the fixed idea that feminism is a good thing invalidates all contrary data, and by the same stroke it invalidates all human expounders of such data.
Plainly stated, you are worth hearing only insofar as you rubberstamp the feminist worldview. And when push comes to shove, one easily foretells that feminism will try to run non-feminism straight into the ground— for, being feminism, it can scarcely behave otherwise! It is not difficult to discern the shape of feminist meta-ethics, and to fast-forward its probabilities into the future for an extrapolated view of the eventual consequences.
All of this from an ideology which arrogates a universal power of moral explanation. But however far feminism might aspire to become the world, or pretend to be the world, it is in fact not the world. It is only a mental filter, a set of tinted goggles that certain people insist on wearing for personal reasons that would be of scant interest were it not for the political power the illusion has garnered.
So how does this illusion function in practice? By what steps does the believer assemble the illusion in her (or his) mind and then launch it into operation?
Here is the recipe. Begin with the fixed idea that "feminism is a good thing". Once you have that part nailed down, you can directly derail any suggestion to the contrary, because the axiom that "feminism is a good thing" immediately proves those people wrong! Moreover, since they are attacking a good thing, it demonstrates not only that their ideas are wrong, but that they themselves are personally "not right", and therefore cannot possibly have right ideas—because how can "wrong" people have right ideas? Right?
Sounds moronically simple. But since these people are apt to be subtle morons, we must look into some further wrinkles. For example, if some challenger rattles off three or four reasons why feminism is not a good thing, assure the person that the items in question are either a.) not really feminism, or b.) some other kind of feminism (but not your kind!). Then dismiss the subject as quickly as possible, and proceed to "accentuate the positive" by lauding the merits of your feminism, while paying no further mind to your challenger's objections, and indeed washing your hands of those objections altogether.
Finally, bask in the warm afterglow of knowing that feminism is a good thing after all, and that while those who challenge it aren't necessarily "bad" people, they are most certainly deluded people, and that if they pig-headedly insist on being deluded even after you have kindly set them straight, then yes, they really are bad people. But either way, bad or merely deluded, they are not to be taken seriously and must eventually be "corrected" in one way or another.
Such is the power of the shibboleth; such is the power of the fixed idea. So it becomes a serious question whether such people as feminists should enjoy an unlimited license of self-definition or self-interpretation. Why should this thing called feminism be only what these people called feminists would have us believe it is? Are these people called feminists the only people with eyes to see, and brains to think? Are they? And are these people called feminists really thick enough to think that the rest of us are so thick that we can draw no intelligent conclusion about what feminism is? They must think we're jolly thick, all right!
When hard-pressed, many a standard feminist will fall back upon the dictionary definition of feminism:
feminism n. Belief in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.
As you'll have noted, there is a glaring cognitive disconnection between the term and the definition which follows. But that aside, the definition itself is not particularly enlightening. Admittedly, it sounds like a good thing. But otherwise it sounds fuzzy, open-ended and evasive. It is a writhing octopus of multivalencies, and so full of holes that you could drive a fleet of trucks through and steal the furniture along the way. But here, let's try a second definition, albeit one that you won't find in any dictionary:
feminism n. Anything that strengthens women at the expense of men.
There is, on the surface of the case, no special reason to favor the first definition over the second. And the second, unlike the first, is "tight as a drum", with a somewhat operational, even algorithmic character that might be expected to generate a more convergent body of solutions. If you are a feminist, you might not like the second definition (because it sounds shameful), but mere subjective distaste would not be adequate to rule out the veracity or utility of it.
But the first definition more usefully captures the spirit of understanding common to feminist-inclined people, male and female alike. When you probe such people as to the meaning of feminism, you will find that feminism is little more to them than a golden word with a halo of emotions and talking-points clustered around it. Yet despite their manifest want of cogent knowledge, these people are unanimous upon the fixed idea that feminism is a good thing.
Now turn your gaze from the common roads of life to the recondite world of feminist academia. What do you find? The identical fixed idea that feminism is a good thing, but with this difference, that the fixed idea is elaborately camouflaged beneath a gloss of educated terminology. Yet more concerningly, (and quite unlike the discourses of common life) you will find in feminist academia both a keen understanding of what the second definition implies, and a stubborn determination to suppress the damaging consequences for feminism which arise from such implications. The academic feminists know perfectly well what is going on, and they work to spackle this over by a game of theory-building that never ends. Plainly stated, the job of feminist academia is to bamboozle us with smokescreens and give us the runaround ad infinitum, so that the truth will not emerge.
Among both commoners and academics, the fixed practice is to disallow any critique of feminism on the ground that such criticism attacks a good thing. The academics, however, take it a step further when they aggressively devise sophisticated intellectual strategies to counteract and eventually "correct" the non-feminist elements who voice such criticisms. But in either case, the feminists operate from a standpoint of FEMINIST TRIUMPHALISM—which means the dogmatic conviction that feminism has achieved an objective moral triumph absolved from all further discussion. Such is their fixed idea; such is the pivot-point on which their world turns.
Here again we contemplate the Battle for Feminism's Soul. This is high drama. The adherents of feminism believe that they have triumphed, that the world rightfully belongs to them, that they may rightfully extend feminist custodialism and feminist tutelage into every possible corner of life by means of perpetual revolution, until nothing in the world lives independently of feminism—at which point feminism (at least in theory) will become the world. Yet the grubby truth is, that feminism is only a balloon waiting to die of overinflation. And in the aftermath of that messy explosion, the timeless world that we have always known—albeit in a damaged condition—will go on as we have always known it. Brief indeed, shall be feminism's eternity.
The battle for feminism's soul means the power to speak the final word, or the controlling word, on what feminism objectively IS. . . or isn't. Consider: if somebody had the power to describe and evaluate you in whatever terms they saw fit, and upon so doing their word about you became THE truth about you, then in a very practical sense you might say that your soul was no longer in your own keeping.
The NF sector now has the controlling word on what feminism objectively is or isn't. The feminists may natter at will, about us and about our world; they may pontificate and palaver; they may undertake to bind us in elaborate skeins of academic theory and recursive doubletalk. But this is all in vain because we now have the power to rip their cobwebs asunder. It is as simple as making up our minds to do so, and then doing so. And what is holding us back? Cobwebs!
The feminists insist that feminism is objectively a good thing and yet invariably something is wrong, because they can never tell you the whole truth about feminism. They themselves—or most of them at any rate—demonstrably have no clear idea what feminism is at all. And yet they have the crust to say, or to imply, or to assume, that feminism is a good thing. But how can they possibly know this? They have no better warrant for such knowledge than their fixed determination to believe at all costs, and in the face of all contrary argument.
There is one group of feminists (the majority) who cannot cogently explain what feminism IS. There is another group who can indeed do so, yet cannot cogently rationalize the adverse consequences which their explanation might generate. And there is a final group which rationalizes those adverse consequences only by militantly shifting the blame onto men and absolving women of virtually all moral accountability. (This third group is female supremacist by a de facto process of elimination, because no other endpoint logically coheres with their moral standpoint. )
All of feminism is situated on a slippery slope leading toward female supremacism as a moral endpoint. Note the progression: from those who possess no cogent understanding of what feminism is, to those who do possess such understanding but maneuver to avoid the implications, to those who militantly embrace the implications and damn the torpedoes! These three layers of feminist cognition operate as an integrated cultural organism, with a distribution of functions across many sectors.
That the majority of self-proclaimed feminists would not appreciate hearing such things, will not deter the present writer's assessment. And it is upon precisely the foundation here suggested, that the NF sector may claim to speak the controlling word about feminism. Feminism as a whole has no unified conscious knowledge of itself as a whole—meaning that feminist self-knowledge is not uniformly transmitted from one end of the femplex to the other. The different parts operate in oblivion to each other, or semi-oblivion to each other, or varying degrees of moral disassociation from each other.
And so, feminism in the sum total of its ideations, actions and consequences, exists as a public object—an object for the world. This means that although the feminists are free to interpret themselves and explain themselves and rationalize themselves and change their disguise as often as they wish, the non-feminist sector may likewise claim as much expertise about feminism as any feminist might claim. Feminism is by default an object for the world because it is not and cannot be—consistently, rationally or honestly—an object for itself. We, of the NF sector, are free to be scientists who analyze feminism and experiment with it, free to be artists who sketch and paint pictures of it, free to be preachers who preach about it, free to be guitar players who write songs about it, free to be MRAs who philosophize about it, free to be comedians who make jokes about it, and so on.
And above all else we are free, upon the strength of independent criteria, to draw conclusions as we see fit regarding the inherent goodness or badness of it. Feminism is an object for the world, but feminism is not the world. It is rather, a portion of the world—but the remaining portion is larger, and entitled to exist, and entitled to a voice upon all matters which vitally pertain to it.
Some people believe that feminism is a good thing. Others believe the contrary, and it is even conceivable that some people would regard feminism as a merely indifferent thing—as I myself once did. Truly there are many shades of belief in this realm of speculation. At all events, the time has come to kick over the traces and open the field to a universal free-for-all. The power of the shibboleth can and must be broken, so let the word feminism be opened to discussion, and let the thing which the word signifies be correspondingly opened to whatever dissection the discussion might entail.
It is clear to the present writer, that feminism on its collective mind level does not genuinely know itself, that it cannot or will not acknowledge the moral variety of its own composition—from whence it follows that feminism cannot accurately assess its own consequentiality in terms of the social ecology. Thus, a critical dimension of understanding has been omitted, and given the nature of the case the task falls upon others to make good this omission. And by "others", I mean people other than feminists; I mean people whose non-inclusion in the feminist enterprise is keenly delineated.
For the truth about feminism can never be known to those who occupy the standpoint of feminist triumphalism; such a standpoint can by its nature never admit the possibility that feminism is other than a good thing. And being incapable of such admission, it follows that the standpoint can never process counter-indicative data in a manner that is intellectually honest. So the standpoint is equipped from the outset with an intellectually dishonest mental filter that colors its entire outlook on the world. We call this mental filter FEMINIST SUBJECTIVISM, and it is a direct consequence of feminist triumphalism.
But in the end, this is very simple. If the bottle contains a few harmless things, and also a few things that might kill you, then answer fast: is the stuff in the bottle good . . . or not good? You should demand, up front, an honest list of ALL the ingredients . . . shouldn't you? And so it is in the battle for feminism's soul. It is the battle of the bottle: the battle to know what is in the bottle and to name what is in the bottle. What, really, is the value of X?
So. . . is feminism a good thing? One must enquire to know what is really in the bottle, for that is the only way one can ever hope to learn. But where to begin?
Begin by floating this query into the world, in whatever manner your ingenuity might suggest, as one of a number of distributed questions that will eventually be so circulated.
Yes, questions are worth as much as answers, for asking the right question is like shaking the answer tree and watching the fruit fall. So propose a question for general consideration. Circulate that question, and by so doing activate the collective mind along the chosen path of enquiry, lighting the way into a targeted zone of discourse. The question becomes a distributed project, with a battery of mental firepower brought to bear upon the task from all directions.
Distributed questions ought to be carefully formulated so as to address structural weak points, and the question whether feminism is a "good thing" answers very much to this purpose.
Is feminism a good thing? The opposing sector will NOT be happy to hear this. It is blasphemy to even intone such a proposal at all, and it will make them madder than a one-legged kangaroo on a skateboard—particularly if the question will not go away! Particularly if the question pops up everywhere, again and again, more and more as time goes by, and always in a voice that is unfailingly nonchalant and blander than butterscotch pudding.
Eventually, the question will settle into the landscape, take root, and grow. Then the culture will not be rid of it, particularly when a popular discourse springs to life around it, and people grow addicted to the liberative enjoyment such discourse introduces into their lives.
Such is the Achilles heel of feminism. To merely pose the question whether feminism is or is not "a good thing" insinuates that it is perfectly acceptable to harbor an unorthodox opinion upon that point—which in turn undermines and problematizes orthodoxy itself. It further insinuates that the realm of non-orthodox sentiment makes a proper field for extended discussion—and who knows, maybe even academic discussion!
One thing, as you see, leads to another. And big things have small beginnings. At any rate it, is certain that you've got to begin somewhere. Not necessarily a single somewhere; it could be a lot of different somewheres in a lot of different places by a lot of different people. But still, the only you that you have. . . is YOU, and you can't spread yourself too thin, so you need to begin at some somewhere . . . and here I have suggested one such somewhere. What counts here is the principle that lies behind this, and the potential utility that lies behind the principle—and I hope that somebody, somewhere, has found inspiration or food for thought in all of this.
I leave you with this parting thought: if the opposing sector is entitled to its fixed idea—that feminism is a good thing—then we of the NF sector are equally but oppositely entitled to our own fixed idea—that feminism is a bad thing, or at least an indifferent thing. And there we sit, like the gingham dog and the calico cat, staring mournfully at one another across the fault-line in our fixities.
But the ball is in their court. The burden is upon them, and they have a choice—not a choice that our side extends as an ultimatum, but rather a choice embedded in the nature of things, a choice that is bigger than all of us.
And that choice is: to Co-Exist, or to Not Exist.
The burden, as I say, is upon them. And if they decline the first option, that is where the hurly-burly begins. ;)