Truth, an Existential Threat
I was recently engaged in a slight tussle with a relative on facebook which made me think about how easily overlooked the point of a statement can be when the audience’s mood is elsewhere.
This individual has a thing about educating people on menstruation and had just posted an article to this effect about ‘menstruation costs’ which accrue as a result of ignoring the female cycle. I saw this thread and in an effort to stop it from dying decided to post along a similar vein, stating how I felt about America’s hypocrisy when she courts Saudi Arabia while lambasting Russia’s human rights track record.
I then mentioned in the comment that Russia had a remarkably high percentage of women in managerial positions compared to the West’s average in an attempt to make a point about gender equality in Russia versus Saudi Arabia.
Now, this was in no way intended to detract from my relative’s article nor was it to make a point about menstruation specifically. It was just a commentary loosely related to the subject of gender equality and was meant to agree with the most general point regarding prioritizing human rights issues appropriately since her article highlights the lack of focus on women’s bodies and their needs.
Anyway…they quip back with this cutesy one liner about how no one should base the morality of a nation upon one statistic. And that is where we are going to begin my friends.
We’ve all done this at one time or another, missed the point. But it seems to happen more often with some people than others and those tend to be the people with a single agenda and team for which they fight tooth and nail for, even when it is in direct opposition with the truth.
Religious zealots, patriots, and social justice warriors are great examples of such individuals but really anyone intensely advocating for a single cause with a black and white solution in their hand is likely to fall victim to this kind of intellectual myopia.
Feminists are a particularly relevant example of such people in America today. They are very fond of distilling everything down to some obvious root cause which, were it addressed, would solve the problem in its entirety. These ‘solutions’ are further corrupted by a grievous misunderstanding of the picture at large so that in essence, the solution is to a problem that doesn’t really exist as they understand it.
An example might be feminism’s claim that patriarchy is the cause of sexism which is the result of too many empowered men and too few empowered women. Following this train of logic leads us to their simple solution; empower more women as compared to men to alter the institutional balance of power. This root cause and its simple solution, however, are based upon a few unproven and erroneous assumptions.
This first assumes that where any example of sexism can be made it is an implicit result of misogyny. In other words, confirmation bias. A prime example being the lack of female representation in engineering majors across America. Is this due to a conspiracy to keep women out of engineering or could there be other factors, such as preference?
Secondly, it assumes that men and women are absolutely equal, dismissing biology entirely. So if a man is chosen over a woman for a heavy lifting job it is because of patriarchy again, instead of a necessary requisite for physical strength which men as a group are better equipped for.
Thirdly, it assumes that what sexism does empirically exist is the simple result of too many men in power and too few women. This is problematic since it clearly implies that women are never and cannot be agents of sexism.
If, however, these assumptions are incorrect then feminism’s understanding of the problem is false, rendering the solution meaningless.
While ironic it is no accident that American feminists respond so hysterically to legitimate ideological critiques. Much like the intransigent religious zealot, because their entire ideological identity is built around a single, central premise from which all their beliefs ramify, it is of existential importance that they silence and pillory any and all oppositional encounters.
This brings me to the article’s point. For the reason stated above these individuals are not merely disinterested in the truth but diametrically opposed to it when and where it opposes the premise of their ideology.
In my relative’s case, small as it is, the threat is to the ridiculous notion that cultural views on menstruation can be specifically addressed and redound to any real, sustainable good for women. My comment, despite not in any way being targeted, did make a point about prioritizing the big picture and big issues over the comparatively small and inane. Suffrage, for example, over body image or equal access to education over no fault divorce laws.
This is not to say that something like menstruation taboos are unimportant. It is indicative of a larger problem but it is not the point.
For these reasons, knowing your audience is important when sussing out why it is they refuse to stay on topic. It is also a key to understanding why, when a person is invested enough in a cause, they will actually support its continuance as opposed to its resolution to keep themselves relevant. Note that many professional feminists today will speak less about progress while feverishly caterwauling about how much worse things have become. After all, so long as patriarchy is the problem they remain relevant and the same is true for many other cases.
Practitioners of critical thought understand that the empirical reality is what matters, not the words you choose to describe it. One can avoid these kinds of ideological biases and blindnesses by remaining loyal to the pursuit of truth and reality while steering clear of forming an identity around one cause. There is certainly nothing wrong with having a mission but there is something wrong with redefining the truth of that mission to meet your psychological needs.