Fixing American Feminism
I suspect this is a western issue really, but I will stick to what I unfortunately know about American feminists and social justice warriors. This is not a critique of fighting for justice but it is an examination of the fruitless tactics American SJWs (social justice warriors) and feminists use regularly.
1. Over-Embracing Feelings/Anecdote: If you’re a feminist you’re certainly going to roll your eyes at this one, we’ve all seen how patriarchy has labeled women as hysterical, emotional, feeling-mongers. But if we’re going to be real, this is what many people in this movement have become. One large conglomerate of ‘feelers’ that obsess over anecdote and applaud themselves for being ‘outraged’ and for ‘ranting’. Go to a blog like Blackgirldangerous and every single essay is dripping with strictly personal experiences, vantage points, and words like ‘outrage’ and ‘rant’ pop up around every corner. The movement could really help itself by blogging less and doing more, being less outraged and being more proactive (and that doesn’t include street theatre), and instead of trying to hold individuals on the street accountable for bigotry, try holding institutions responsible.
2. Attacking, Not Analyzing: For every time I have challenged feminists I have received personal attacks, accusations of racism, and a complete failure to address my points. Often times a person posts an essay about privilege and when someone like myself questions points in the article, instead of defending it with rational, reasonable arguments the person quickly whips out the non-sequitur and the ad hominem. This is when you know you are on to something, when the person fails utterly to address you. Simply because an article talks about a topic you enjoy doesn’t mean it is gold, it is possible for an article to discuss a real issue but to do so in a vacuous, feckless way. If you believe in your movement and its ideas then you should be willing to defend them, even when under attack and you should have the maturity to do so without resorting to adolescent insults. You appear hypocritical if you post these articles/points and then reject reasonable critiques of them and you weaken the image of your movement.
3. Reverse Racism: Again, I can see your eyes rolling. I know this is used by a lot of racist, conservative whites to bogart and sabotage minority spaces and criticisms of the status-quo, but it does actually exist. It just isn’t institutional, and obviously that is a really important difference, but it does still matter. You can’t claim to be against bigotry of all sorts and then support bigoted messages or generalizations. We all get angry at the status-quo and sometimes that makes us generalize the empowered groups we view as responsible. It would be easy for me to hate heterosexuals all the time, but it wouldn’t make much sense, nor would it accomplish anything. There are many hetero-folk that have supported actively or passively the gay rights movement and merely being hetero does not make you an oppressor. It just makes you a holder of privilege, but that isn’t a reason to dislike someone. Privilege happens to us whether we like it or not and we all have it in one form or another. So if you walk around saying things like, Fucking white people, or Fucking men, or Fucking Heteros…well then, you’ve slipped and just fallen victim to the unreasonable hatred of people you are fighting against. You spend a lot of time making people be accountable for their oppressive ideas, every now and then you should check your own.
4. Projecting America’s Gender/Racial Politics on the World: I’m sorry but…the world isn’t America. And your concept of what constitutes diversity, privilege, and gender does not necessarily translate to every country on the planet. I’ll give you a Russian example. Many of my female Russian acquaintances have expressed confusion over American women’s view of ‘sexism’ in the workplace. Many Russian women view mild comments about their attire, bodies, or femininity as compliments and don’t feel the need to file a lawsuit when their co-worker or boss comments on their appearance. (This is not to diminish experiences, but just to say that it can come down to how someone feels about a situation) It is a different culture here and outlook on what constitutes professional or appropriate behavior. Boundaries can be different in other countries and still be as reasonable. American gay activists could learn a thing or two as well when they critique the Russian government and expect Russians to focus narrowly on gay rights. There are, in fact, many improvements needed here that could benefit everyone and sometimes the western fixation on one minority group appears both short-sighted and even supercilious.
Further, the notion of race as defined by skin color is as primitive as it is misguided – this is also unequivocally a European invention so when you think you’re being progressive and feminist by grouping all brown people into the same category as ‘people of color’ you are actually supporting a very old and racist concept while dismissing the diversity of innumerable ethnic groups. Black people in Texas have nothing in common with black people in Sudan, just as white-skinned people in Turkey and North Africa have nothing in common with the French or Canadians. Whiteness, as defined by skin-tone, is not restricted to Europe either as many North African, Middle Eastern, and Middle Asian people are rather light skinned. Feminism needs to stop conflating skin color, ethnicity, and culture. They are distinct from one another.
5. Obsession with Identity: If you find yourself sobbing in the arms of your therapist every time someone asks you where you ‘really’ come from (yes, I’m talking about microaggressions) then maybe you should consider living as a monk in a monastery somewhere. It just isn’t that big of a deal. If your self-worth is tied up in something as arbitrary as what skin tone or mother country your parents or grandparents come from, then maybe you should consider cultivating a personality. There are easy, non-combative, and even humorous ways of dealing with a person’s unintentional ignorance. Try not to mistake incompetence for malice so much, you’ll be a happier person. My sexuality, for example, is an important part of who I am (for practical reasons) but it isn’t the most important or only part. Here in Russia I don’t ever get to talk about my personal life with students due to the homophobia here, but because I am a complicated, multifaceted person, it doesn’t seriously impact my relationships. My personality and identity are much greater than the dictates of my genetics. Rise above petty notions of patriotism, nationalism, and ancestry. If who you are depends strictly on where you come from then I fear you may be chained to the past and bereft of any ability to adapt, change, and self-develop. Identity is complicated, feminists need to stop reducing it to a skin-tone or an ancestor. And if you have to call something a ‘microaggression’, maybe it’s because you don’t have any real aggression in your life, be thankful for that.