Feminist Subjectivism in Action
The phrase feminist subjectivism crops up around here quite a bit, and today I stumbled upon a stellar example of the phenomenon in question. In fact, the example is so good that I couldn't dream of not sharing. Briefly, we here confront a person who seems to be a feminist, which is to say, a feminist triumphalist. And this person harbors an intellectual deficiency that virtually every feminist I've ever known is afflicted with, namely, that he can't or won't recognize that people outside the circle of feminist indoctrination have a different view of feminism -- and many other things! -- than do people inside that circle.
This citizen's name is Gregory Pettigrew, and he blogs at LiveJournal under the monniker of Etherial. I will send you now to the LJ post under discussion, which is short and contains 2 links. Be sure to follow the second of those links in order to fully appreciate what is going on here:
You will see that Gregory has linked to my very own CF post explaining the nature of patriarchy. And he sweeps my entire thesis off the table with a short, dismissive backhand, as follows:
"That is, of course, not remotely what patriarchy is."But of course, he has no authority to say that, does he? Well, does he? What fountain does HE think his authority flows from, anyway? Where does he get HIS pontification license, eh? What gives him in particular the right to tell the rest of us what patriarchy--remotely or otherwise!--is or is not?
All right. If he had paid closer attention to my essay, he'd have understood the real point of it: that I was factor-analyzing feminist semantics from a non-feminist point of view. But you see, these people lack the gift to see themselves as others see them. However, I am one of those "others", and I am gifted to see these people as they cannot, or will not, see themselves. See? So I am able to make good their lack, and in that respect I render them a service!
Yes. Every house has both an inside and an outside, and if you don't "get out much", you will never learn what your house looks like from the outside . . . will you? Very well, Gregory devotes two or three short paragraphs to explaining what "patriarchy" (according to him) really is. And when I study Gregory's description, I feel myself in the presence of -- let me say it -- a cultic understanding of the world. Honestly now, I can't think of a better name for what I am reading!
What Gregory describes, is not so much the real world as a consensus about the world that he shares with a certain peer group. The configuration of notions which he offers up, along with the "spin" he sets upon these notions, is only arbitrary or interpretive, and often of arguable veracity:
"As a man, Patriarchy is my enemy. Patriarchy says I don't get to cry at movies unless they're about sports. Patriarchy says that I must act like a predator to find a mate. Patriarchy says that I must be better than my spouse at just about everything, except cooking, cleaning, and raising the kids. Patriarchy says that children belong with their mother, even when the mother is an abusive psychopath. Patriarchy says that I am sick and wrong for even thinking about being my children's primary caregiver. Patriarchy says that I am sick and wrong for being bisexual. Patriarchy says the only emotions I get to feel are anger, pride, and shame. And Patriarchy insults my abilities by giving me an unfair advantage over women."My chief quarrel with Gregory is NOT that I disagree with what he is saying, but that I do not feel he has truly said anything, and that I am somehow burdened with an implicit requirement to take his speech seriously -- I mean, to discharge an opinion or adopt a moral standpoint toward something that is, frankly, nothing. I feel that Gregory has fobbed or foisted this on me. And I don't take it kindly, because I think it is asking too much of anybody that they should be called upon to think or feel something about nothing.
The droning, deadening, hypnotic reiteration in "patriarchy says . . patriarchy says" is the oldest technique in the demagogue's manual -- Hitler and Goebbels used this little trick all the time! One flatulent asseveration after another after another, ad nauseam! Pure, pompous windbaggery, and pure, unadulterated nothing! Why, you would damn near think patriarchy was a living person who could literally say all of those amazing things which, according to Gregory, it is forever saying to us!
All right, so according to Gregory, patriarchy, a personified non-person, is mandating a crapload of different things. And if you scan the paragraph, you will indeed find a cluttered ragbag of violations which somebody is allegedly inflicting on somebody, somehow, somewhere, at some time -- although none too clear as to particulars! However, we are assured this is all the doing of . . . patriarchy!
When I read all of this, my eyes glaze over. In some cases, I can't even conceptualize what he is talking about -- it is entirely abstract and untethered from anything I find existentially meaningful. In other cases, I do know what he's talking about, but I honestly don't give a rip -- for example, crying at the movies: I've never done that and never wanted to, and cannot understand why anybody would! And in still other cases, I can see no evidence that the things in question are actually occurring -- or at least not uniformly enough, or on a grand enough scale, to justify the hype they've been invested with.
I should add that the passage highlighted in red is a very dirty land grab: it tries to steal a grubby half-acre of moral high ground to which feminism holds no title.
So again, I believe we are reading something which describes a cultic understanding of the world -- a selective understanding, a cherry-picked understanding, an understanding held in common by certain people who take their understanding for objective truth, and from this conclude that they occupy a privileged position of hegemonic normativity. But these people are not like you and I; they are very different from us, and for that reason, they work a hardship on us and introduce tortuous complexities into our lives. They believe that they "are the world", in a way that they themselves find meaningful, yet fail to comprehend that the rest of us, also, are the world.
Such. . . is feminist subjectivism.
It is as if a conceptual or cognitive event horizon separates their world from ours, that no communication is possible across that barrier, that we are under no obligation to get sucked in, and finally, that they have no moral right to drag us in.
No. We cannot reasonably require everybody on earth to fathom what the hell people like Gregory Pettigrew are talking about, when they spin such cobwebs as they do. And further, we are not amiss to believe that quite a few reasonable folk could, by altogether valid and honorable pathways of ratiocination, arrive at a markedly different understanding of the world that is entirely respectable on its own merits. Simply put, feminism is not the only game in town.