Fleetches, flootches, and feminism4

An indirect response to Lindy West

A friend recently posted me Lindy West’s March 28 article from Jezebel in response to me using the #antifeminist tag on some of my recent tweets: one about a proposal in Australia to introduce women-only train carriages, issued on International Women’s Day, and another about Adria Richards and Donglegate.

It’s been suggested to me more than once, and I’ve only used it twice, that the #antifeminist hashtag is a disgusting thing. This in spite of its being used, among other things, by women posting about how feminism isn’t compulsory: that women can take responsibility for their own lives without pinning their hopes on reform of a system, because they are self-determined outside of or in spite of that system. This is one version of what it means to be antifeminist: to say that if you’re unhappy with your situation it’s you that’s got to change it. Antifeminism can be individualism, if feminism is a collectivism. For my part, I’m interested in the case that feminism is a sexism, and that if one is antisexist, one should also be antifeminist.

No doubt part of what draws ire about this label or position is that it draws too wide a circle. Credit to those who speak to me about the issue (rather than unfriending, blocking, or insulting me on social media), for bringing this into focus. There are many kinds of feminism. In fact, when I’ve asked female friends who identify as feminist what feminism means to them, I’ve typically gotten a unique answer. Every one seems to have their own idea of what feminism is.

So what I mean when I say I’m antifeminist (for the moment), is that I’m antifeminist4.

The what now?

We could talk about first-wave, second-wave, third-wave feminism and so on, but repeating the terms will get old fast. So I’m going to talk about feminism1 through feminism4. Understand that this discussion is exploratory, and not intended to be authoritative. I’m telling a story, but that story is a work in progress, and an attempt at reaching understanding through dialog. Also, while some of these map to historical movements, it’s my belief that feminisms 1 + 2 are still active and relevant, and also that they may be present, in part, in the thought of people who I would call feminists4.

Feminism1 begins in the 18th century and runs (as a movement) through to the achievement of universal suffrage throughout the rich countries of the west, but still has relevance in other parts of the world, such as parts of the middle east. Feminism1 is a humanist movement, and asks for the rigorous application of universal human rights—particularly those core rights to life, liberty and property, to women. These rights are now decisively guaranteed throughout the OECD countries, where women are entitled to equal treatment under, and are not actively discriminated against by, the law.

Feminism2 follows feminism1. This is the feminism of Simone de Beauvoir and Virginia Woolf, which asserts women’s right to self-realization against the demand or expectation that they devote themselves to the service of husband and family at the expense of their own individual desires and interests. This is also a humanistic feminism—an interest in self-realization is seen as a legitimate, universal human characteristic that women have been denied the opportunity to pursue.

Feminism3 is the feminism of the late 20th century. In this period, existing revolutionary politics, particularly orthodox Marxism, are transforming into fractured identity politics, in part as a response to the discrediting of communism by the murderousness and economic failure of the USSR and China, and in further part because the long economic boom from immediately after WW2 until 2007 dramatically lifted living standards and eroded the working class’s incentive to revolt. Radical political and cultural theorists and activists turned their attention to the struggles of “oppressed” or otherwise disadvantaged groups, many of which (but not women) were minorities, to continue the cause of revolution.

Feminism3, like all identity politics, is not a humanist movement. It is grounded in specific demands for the advancement of the interests of a particular group, which are not necessarily founded in universal human rights. Feminism3 includes affirmative action among its methods. Feminism3 is also acutely concerned with turning legislative acknowledgment of female equality into real material gains for actual women.

Feminism4 might be a strawman. Might. In a sense you could say that feminism4 is a sacrificial anode, a speculative “movement” or phase onto which we can load contemporary feminism’s worst proponents and features without dismissing feminism in general. Feminism4, I propose, is feminism3 that has forgotten that the old humanistic movements turned into sectional lobby groups to keep anyone interested in revolution when the old working class was disappearing or deserting traditional Marxism. By feminism4, identity politics has turned into a war of all against all, where every group that can mount or manufacture a case for being or having been oppressed or disadvantaged pleads to government for special payments, allowances and subsidies, special protections and privileges, without regard to whether those payments and privileges may weigh upon the rights, or through taxation the incomes, of other interest groups.

Feminism4 also moves towards popularizing some of the notions of radical feminism, such as that rape is an integral part of patriarchal (read “contemporary”) culture and of male sexuality.

But that’s all a preamble. The intention is to talk about Lindy West’s March 28 article on Jezebel. A friend tweeted it to me, and I feel that to him, rather than to Lindy West, I owe it a response.

One final note before I properly begin: most of what I’m saying is about the way things are in what I’ll call “the rich world.” This might be something like what readers think of as “the West” or “the OECD countries.” But there are places in the world where women are routinely subject to degrading, inhumane, and brutal treatment that is a manifestation of the very deepest human evil. There are also violent, coercive, and psychopathic individuals within our rich societies that subject women to similar degrading, inhumane, and brutal treatment on a localized basis.

How to address this (and it must be addressed) raises uncomfortable questions about how far we may go in the use of force, surveillance, and other means to root out injustice. These are questions for another time. I will only say for now that I hold the solutions to inhumanity must follow some version of: “the maximum freedom for each compatible with the freedom of all,” that the rule of law is must be preserved, and that we must always act as if there are basic negative rights to life, liberty, and property that may be abrogated only in the gravest of circumstances, if ever.

Now, my response to Lindy West. You will need access to the original to fully process it, as I have provided only the headings, and select quotes, to indicate which part of the piece I am addressing.

If I Admit That Hating Men is a Thing, Will You Stop Turning it Into a Self-fulfilling Prophecy?

Okay, so maybe you are a man.

The first error is right here: you don’t have to be a man to say that feminism4 is misandric (which I don’t, by the way, but I wouldn’t have to be a man to say it). And actually, one of the issues with feminism4 is that it insists that whether you are a man is relevant to your judgment of feminism4—which is a sexist point.

Maybe you haven’t had the easiest ride in life … It is hard to be a human. I am so sorry. … none of these terrible, painful problems in your life were caused by the spectre of “misandry.” … the most powerful proponent of misandry in modern internet discourse is you — specifically, your dogged insistence that misandry is a genuine, systemic, oppressive force on par with misogyny. … Feminism is, in essence, a social justice movement—it wants to take the side of the alienated and the marginalized, and that includes alienated and marginalized men. Please stop turning us against you.

It’s not my intention to call feminism as a whole, or even feminism4 specifically, misandric. My contention is rather that it is a sexist ideology, in part because of its reading every problem in terms of gender, in part of its being specifically aimed at the advancement of the interests of a particular sex, and in part due to its proponents’ tendency to draw attention to their critics’ sex, race, and orientation.

Nor is it, I think, entirely West’s intention to say that men who identify misandry as a problem are blaming it on feminism.

I do have an issue with feminists4 levelling the word “misogyny” at many men. The way I define it, “misogyny” means hatred of women. There are men who hate women as women, but for many, the holding of a position that is antagonistic to a particular feminist aim (particularly a feminist4 aim) does not entail such a hatred. For instance, Tony Abbott, currently the Australian opposition leader, is frequently labelled a misogynist, among other things for his 2006 opposition to access to RU486 (the morning after pill). But Abbott doesn’t, I believe, hate women. He is a Catholic, and he allows his religious beliefs about sexuality and the place of women in society to intrude upon his duties as a legislator. I believe this is wrong because regardless of the veracity of its cosmology, Catholicism’s ethical teachings are coercive and sex-negative. You might mistake this for misogyny, but only if you held the reductive view that all opposition to feminist aims has misogyny at its root, or if you were ignorant of his religious beliefs, their content, and their role in shaping his choices.

“Misogynist,” as it’s more commonly used by feminists4, actually seems to mean “a position which is antithetical to feminist4 interests.” Calling someone misogynist in this way is a hyperbolic claim that often falsely paints any objection to part of the feminist4 project as evidence of sexist hatred. Holding this view, only under very specific circumstances would I call anything “misandric”. I might say that feminists4 are anti-male sexists some of the time, but I wouldn’t say they hate men, or that even one of them hates men, unless I had very good reason to specifically believe it.

I’d go so far as to say that to verify a woman hated men, I’d have to ask her. If she denied that hatred, I’d have to take her at her word. Men deserve a similar courtesy and generosity where accusations of misogyny are concerned.

While we’re at it, since I don’t believe misogyny, as hatred of women, is widespread, I also dispute that misogyny is “a genuine, systemic, oppressive force.” I also don’t accept that feminism4 “wants to take the side of the alienated and the marginalized, and that includes alienated and marginalized men.” If it did, it would be a more universal humanistic ideology—which West disputes later.

It is nearly impossible to address problems facing women—especially problems in which men are even tangentially culpable—without comments sections devolving into cries of “misandry!” from men and replies of “misandry isn’t real” from women. Feminists are tired of this endless, fruitless turd-pong..

Turd pong indeed. Feminism4 is a bad ideology in part because it invites this game. It claims that it is right to have a specific movement that addresses women’s issues (and lays them at the feet of men or “patriarchy”), while denying that a movement in which males defended or pushed back against encroachments on their rights or esteem would have any validity. I happen to agree with them: masculinism is something I’d prefer not to see. But I’d prefer not to see it because masculinism would be sexist—just like feminism4 is.

Part One: Why Feminism Has “Fem” in the Name, or, Why Can’t We All Just Be Humanists?

I wish, more than anything, that I could just be a “humanist.” … Humanism is a gorgeous dream, and something to strive for. In fact, it is the exact thing that feminism is striving for right now (and has been working on for decades)! Yay, feminism!

If West is a humanist, fantastic! She’s probably not a feminist4. This is great to hear. She might be a feminist1 or a feminist2, or more likely a combination of both. And I’m glad to have been sent this article, because it’s the first I’ve seen from a feminist perspective that actually addresses the issue that I’ve been raising, which is that universal humanism is a more appropriate ideology from within which to advocate for women’s rights, or anyone’s rights. But West’s not in agreement with me there.

you can’t make problems disappear just by changing “feminism” to “humanism” and declaring the world healed. That won’t work.

When I say that humanism is a more appropriate ideology to address the problems that feminists face, I say this because: (1) suffering is a universal human phenomenon; (2) sexism affects men and women, even more so now that feminists4 have reversed anti-female sexism and adopted an anti-male sexist posture in their political discourse. The criticism of feminism4 here is that sexist or sex-specific ideologies (of which feminism4 is one) aren’t up to the task of eradicating sexism and inequality.

Of course you can’t make problems disappear by changing words. But have you ever heard the saying “two wrongs don’t make a right”? Using sexism to fight sexism merely perpetuates sexism. In most nonphysical conflicts, someone (preferably all parties) has to stand up, be better, and transcend the conflict. Men and women have to do this.

Fleetches, Flootches, and Feminism4

Imagine you’re reading a Dr. Seuss book about a bunch of beasts living on an island. There are two kinds of beasts: Fleetches and Flootches … To argue that all problems are just “beast problems” is to discredit the idea of inequality altogether. It is, in fact, insulting.

I like this Fleetch/Flootch story. It’s a good way of abstracting the conflict. However…

Imagine that for thousands of years it was a struggle for both Fleetches and Flootches to survive. Fleetches tended to get killed in wars, which they were forced to participate in by their chiefs and lords, and by an ideology that denied them worth if they weren’t prepared lay their lives on the line; they also wore themselves out or got killed in dangerous outdoor jobs. The Fleetches did a lot of this to protect the Flootches, who they fed and provided with shelter. Flootches were spared the obligation to participate in combat, and got to do a lot of their work indoors, which kept them safer than the Flootches. A lot of this was the case because the Flootches had to look after the children they and the Fleetches shared. But Flootches had to do a lot of domestic labor, because basic necessities like water and food were time-consuming to get, transport, store and prepare, and they tended to die a lot in childbirth because neither Fleetches nor Flootches had invented medicine.

All this time, one group did have it better than others: the aristocracy (and later an emergent merchant class), which was composed of both Fleetches and Flootches. The Fleetches of this group did rule, but the Flootches of the group enjoyed relative power and comfort as well, greater than any Fleetch or Flootch that did not belong to the aristocracy.

Flootches and Fleetches together came up with a bunch of ideologies that we might group together under the heading Beastism, which inspired struggles against the disenfranchisement and hardship that non-privileged Fleetches and Flootches alike suffered. It helped root out some of the worst offenses against Beasts, especially slavery, where aristocratic and merchant Fleetches and Flootches claimed to own other Fleetches and Flootches, mainly on the basis that Fleetches and Flootches of particular colors weren’t really Beasts at all and weren’t entitled to the same moral consideration that all Beasts are: in effect, that their suffering counted for nothing.

By applying Beastism and working it into their systems of government over hundreds of years, the mass of Fleetches and Flootches ended up suffering a lot less systematic deprivation. The rise of the merchant class over the aristocracy brought in a new system of values that ended up privileging technological development, and raised living standards for all Beasts so much that almost every one of them lived better than the aristocrat Fleetches and Flootches of years past. At least, this is how it was in the rich countries, which by coincidence (or was it coincidence?) tended to be the ones that had most thoroughly worked Beastism into their society.

The Fleetch rulers, though, did neglect to apply Beastism rigorously to Flootches. This was a manifest wrong. Flootches (and some Fleetches with them, but mostly Flootches) developed an ideology called Flootchism, and succeeded over time in getting their just entitlement to fair treatment under the law—to equal rights to life, liberty, and property. Then the Flootchists worked on getting Fleetches to recognize that a Flootch’s commitment to domestic labor and child-rearing should be a choice, not an obligation, and that Flootches’ choice to do other things, including just taking care of their own individual interests, was okay.

By now, technology had improved to the point that many Flootches in the places where Flootchism was most popular didn’t have to worry about dying in childbirth, and could spend much less time in domestic labor. Life wasn’t so hard any more! Flootches now had a lot of choices: they could go into formerly Fleetch-only jobs, or they could choose to be protected and supported by Fleetches while they looked after the kids, as they had been, mainly, for a long time previously.

True, Flootches didn’t always do that well in the workplace. Part of it is just because succeeding is hard. There’s a lot of competition. And if you haven’t had much practice or role models ahead of you, it might be harder than if you did. Flootchists started complaining that Flootches earned less money, but they often didn’t notice that part of the reason was that Flootches tended to choose the most desirable jobs. Flootch-dominated professions were mostly always safe and indoors. Fleetch dominated professions were often outdoors, and often dangerous. Employers in these professions sometimes had to pay more because Beasts generally didn’t want to do them so much. Employers in Flootch-dominated professions could often pay less because they had so many Beasts wanting to do the jobs.

Where Flootches had more choice now, Fleetches didn’t, really. They were still often obliged to go and die in war, facing threats of fines and imprisonment if they didn’t in some places, and generally expected to do the kind of work (often dangerous work, remember) that would allow them to support a Flootch and some children if it was necessary, or if a Flootch they liked desired it.

But that didn’t really matter. Things were so much better for almost all Beasts that Beasts generally ended up getting a bit tired of Beastism, especially the most radical kinds that said you had to overthrow the entire Beast society. But some Beasts with a deep commitment to radical Beastism decided that if you split beasts into groups which each worked towards their own interests, rather than the interests of Beasts as a whole, you could get some of them to keep fighting the radical Beastist fight, especially if you could tell those Beasts a story that said they weren’t getting their fair share of the new prosperity.

In this split Beastism, some Flootchists started arguing that it was fair, in promoting the interests of Flootches, to ask for legal privileges and protections that Fleetches didn’t have. They asked for Flootch quotas in professions and in the legislature, but didn’t propose quotas for Fleetches. Some wanted goods that Flootches used but Fleetches didn’t to be exempt from tax. Some wanted Flootch-only spaces, even though they’d said in the past that Fleetch-only spaces, or spaces only for Fleetches and Flootches of a particular color, were wrong. And the list went on.

In short, these particular Floochists said it was okay for Flootches to ask that Fleetches be stripped of some of their rights to life, liberty, and property. They said this was okay because Fleetches in the past had been rulers. In short, they said that encroaching on Fleetch rights was okay because it was revenge. One thing they often forgot about was that all this time, only a very small proportion of Fleetches, probably 1% or less, had really held the power that the Flootches said they all did.

Some Fleetches used this new Flootchism as a reason to say that Flootches hated Fleetches. They were wrong: it was just that some of the Flootchists had a bunch of bad arguments that seemed to be aimed at Fleetches. But the new Flootchism had increased antagonism between some Fleetches and some Flootches. A Flootchism that was really about Flootches only (even if it said that Fleetches could and should be Flootchists), that denied Fleetch suffering, and said that it wasn’t interested in hearing about any Fleetch problems until all Flootch problems were taken care of, reduced the common ground on which Fleetches and Flootches could cooperate, and it reduced their ability to understand and empathize with each other on the basis that they both suffered.

Flootchism—at least, some Flootchism—had turned into an ideology that increased conflict and turned Fleetches off the cause of “equality.” It obscured the fact that all beasts were effectively in the same boat—a life in which they would struggle and suffer—and that the greatest inequality in the places where Flootchism was most popular was still between the aristocrats (who were now mostly merchants) and the rest of the Beasts.

Neither Fleetches nor Flootches were likely to make much headway towards their equality if they were caught up fighting each other. And that’s why some Fleetches and Flootches started saying that the old Beastism was better than the new Flootchism.

When women say things like “misandry isn’t real,” we mean it the same way you might say, “Freddy Krueger isn’t real.” …

I’m not claiming misandry here (see above). Some people are, I guess. Not me. Let me stop here and say that misogyny, as a systematic force or widespread feeling, is also not real … just like Freddy Kruger. Misogynists are real: mainstream misogyny isn’t.

Sexism, in both directions, is real. The problem with the words “misogyny” and “misandry” is that if they’re used to talk about hate, they’re just too strong for us to credibly be able to say that what they talk about is widespread. Misogyny and misandry are things exhibited by people with serious personal problems. Those people probably need professional help more than they need a political ideology.

Part Two: Why Claiming that Sexism Isn’t Real Is a Sexist Thing to Say

First the title. I wouldn’t claim that sexism isn’t real. I’m claiming that feminism4 is sexist. Feminism4 is evidence that sexism is real. I’m not claiming that it’s the only sexist ideology. Just that it’s one of them.

We live in a world of measurable, glaring inequalities. Look at politicians, CEOs … these fields are dominated by men. (And, in many cases, white men.)

What if we say that part of the reason for this is just that women haven’t been in the game that long? When a family commits to upward class mobility, it usually takes a few generations of education, networking, and savings for the shift upward to happen. Having removed the barriers to female advancement by ensuring that women have full and equal legal entitlements to life, liberty, and property, as well as by instituting anti-discrimination legislation in many places, earlier kinds of feminism have established the ground for this kind of material inequality to be gradually remedied. But you can’t force the issue. If having complete equality of outcomes now involves impinging on the rights of others, I’m sorry, but you just can’t have it. Those rights are super-important, and they’re for everyone. If you say they can ever be suspended, you are playing a very dangerous game.

Adults (and well-raised children) realize that you can’t have everything you want right this very minute, especially if it means you have to punch someone else in the face to get it.

It’s fine (though discouraging) if you legitimately believe that [there is no social structure favoring men], but you need to own up to the fact that that is a self-serving and bigoted point of view.

This is a classic feminist4 argument: if you disagree with feminsm4, you are a sexist and/or a bigot. And it’s not much of an argument. It’s really more of an insult. Some people—men and women alike–are against sexism, racism, homophobia and transphobia, but still think feminism4 has lost the plot, and that it has various cases to answer. Those people, if they are civil and informed, deserve a conversation. If your conversations with people tend to go like this:

A: I think feminism4 is a bad ideology and here’s why…

B: Well, you’re a bigot, you straight, white man, you!

you don’t have much of an ideology. Especially if A turns out to be female, homosexual, colored, trans, or any combination of them. Sometimes they do.

Part Three: Why People Being Shitty to You Is Not the Same as You Being Systematically Disenfranchised

There might be a lot of women in your life who are mean to you…

The women in my life are lovely to me, and I love them. I’ve actually seen some of them get upset with themselves for wanting what they want, because feminism3 and 4 say they should be different. I don’t like ideologies that go around telling people that what they are and what they like is not okay.

I’m not seeing much misandry around me, I’ve got to say. And I don’t think I’m systematically disenfranchised. But I still think feminism4 is a bad ideology.

There are some really shitty things about being a man. … The difference is, though, that the radfem community on Tumblr does not currently hold the reins of power in every country on earth (even in nations with female heads of state, the political and economic power structures are still dominated by men).

I’m glad the radical feminist community doesn’t hold the reins of power. I think it promotes a sexist ideology. There are people in power who hold sexist views about women, too. I don’t think that’s okay either.

If you present fairness as the goal—that some day everything will be “fair” for everyone—you’re slipping into an unrealistic fantasy land.

Okay, so we are saying that we aren’t for fairness anymore? I know West and I are likely disagree on this, but to me, a fair system is one where the rules are universally applicable and universally applied, where no group gets a leg up, and no group gets beaten down. I think by and large we have this already, but it’s under threat from an overblown system of government in which parties attempt to buy votes by pork-barreling (handing privileges, tax credits, and cash payments to various constituencies). Insofar as feminism4 attempts to construct a constituency that rewards this pork-barrelling, it is harmful to the cause of fairness.

Feminism isn’t about striving for individual fairness … If a particular woman is underqualified for a particular job, fine. That isn’t sexism. But she shouldn’t have to be systematically set up, from birth, to be underqualified for all jobs (except for jobs that reinforce traditional femininity, obv).

And she isn’t.

Part Four: A List of “Men’s Rights” Issues That Feminism Is Already Working On

I’m going to address this entire section at once. This section says that every problem it talks about, whether it affects men or women, is the result of patriarchy. I find this at once reductive and insufficient.

I’m not going to dispute, right now, that patriarchy existed in the past. I know there are those who do, such as Warren Farrell, author of The Myth of Male Power. Farrell argues that sexism was always a two-way street (he calls this bisexism), and that there have always been patriarchal and matriarchal domains within societies.

I dispute that patriarchy exists now, in the rich world. If it were really a matter of men deliberately and systematically lording it over women, we wouldn’t have any female CEOs or heads of state. If men wanted to and were capable of oppressing women to the degree that we could lay the blame for all our sex- and gender-related problems at the feet of something as simple as patriarchy, men would have used legislation and force to forbid women from assuming these positions, or even from getting an education or showing their faces in public. As a matter of fact, this is done in some parts of the world, and in many of these situations religion is used as a cover for this abuse of human rights. This is deplorable. Thankfully, it’s not the situation that we face.

If I were asked to identify which form of hierarchy is most pervasive in our society, which causes people the most suffering and unhappiness, it is the hierarchy of wealth. We might call this plutocracy. In this plutocracy, men and women with money can buy the ability to dominate other humans and have them do their bidding. It’s a relatively free exchange, but in the midst of it, the non-wealthy (who don’t even have to be what we’d call “poor”) submit themselves to coercion, danger, and psychological abuse. The difficulty about this is that being rich isn’t in itself a bad thing, or necessarily the result of bad behavior.

Since we’re using our computers here, allow me an Apple fanboy moment while I ask, “would you say that it was clearly wrong that our economic system allowed Steve Jobs to become one of the richest people on the planet by spending essentially his entire adult life shepherding an industry that has massively enriched human life, knowledge, and productivity, to the point that he died early in part because he was working too hard to tend adequately to his health? Of the entire turnover of the company he helped establish, he would have taken perhaps a fraction of a percent for himself, but that turned out to be a very large amount of money. Is that necessarily wrong?”

Although widespread growth in income inequality is an issue, especially, at present, in the United States, it is for other reasons than that the rich necessarily oppress others in gaining and maintaining their wealth. Sometimes wealth is the almost accidental result of doing something that many others find helpful and valuable. It behoves the rich and powerful, though, to see that those who work for them are fairly compensated, are not mistreated or abused, feel a sense of agency and satisfaction in their work, are not physically endangered … and I could go on.

Addressing plutocracy is further complicated if we believe that some of the measures we could take, like expropriation, transgress a commitment to rights that we may believe apply to everyone.

The benefits (and the moral pitfalls) of plutocracy are open to men and women alike. Warren Farrell writes that “the U.S. Census Bureau finds that women who are heads of households have a net worth that is 141 percent of the net worth men who are heads of households,” and that “among the wealthiest 1.6 percent of the U.S. population (those with assets of $500,000 or more), women’s net worth is more than men’s” (*The Myth of Male Power, 32–33).

High net worth women, like high net worth men, are able to buy the services and obedience of the poorest men and women in their society, and throughout the world. Marissa Mayer, current CEO of Yahoo, stands to make USD 50 million in her position; she has used her power (or perhaps her wealth and power is conditional on her willingness to make this proposal) to end her company’s practice of allowing employees to work at home. This will likely diminish the autonomy and job satisfaction of thousands.

This is not patriarchy: this is plutocracy.

What’s more, I won’t even venture to say that plutocracy is the cause of every problem we might have in our lives. The world’s more complicated than that.

We care about your problems a lot. Could you try caring about ours?

It’s possible to say that feminism4 is not a helpful (even maybe a sexist) ideology or that its worldview is incorrect without that being motivated by resentment against women, or a lack of care for women’s problems. There are women who aren’t feminists, don’t like feminism, or don’t like what feminism seems to have become (feminism4). Would we suggest that they resent women or don’t care about their problems?

Part Five: I’m Sorry That You Are in Pain, But Please Stop Taking It Out on Women

It feels good to open up to perspectives that are foreign to you, accept your complicity in this shitty system … So stop trying to convince us that we hate you and I promise we’ll start liking you a whole lot more.

I have to admit, when we get to this last bit, that I’m just not on board with the idea that “we” (opponents of feminism4?) are complicit “in this shitty system,” or that the system is even all that shitty. I actually think that we (men and women alike) are in more danger from ideological forces that seek to undermine a commitment to universal rights, the rule of law, and the freedom of each compatible with the freedom of all, than from “this shitty system.” “This shitty system,” as West calls it, is built on that universality and those rights, and on their rigorous application. If they’re not being rigorously applied, I’m all for going and fixing that up. This is not a problem for women or feminists alone. Maybe West and I would agree on that.

You don’t have to have had a shitty life to be against feminism4, and you don’t have to blame a shitty life, or anything, on women, to be against it. You might be against it because:

  • you think it’s a politics of resentment
  • you think it’s sexist
  • you think it’s collectivist, and you prefer individualism
  • you think it’s disempowering
  • you think its factual claims are false or overly selective
  • you think earlier feminist movements or modes of discourse were better

This list could go on, and on, and on. For any ideology, there are numerous reasons you could be against it. Some of these come down to irresolvable conflicts of fundamental values. Just because someone disagrees with you, does not mean that they hate you, or that they are a bigot.

Let’s go back to the title to finish up: “If I Admit That Hating Men is a Thing, Will You Stop Turning it Into a Self-fulfilling Prophecy?” I take it as implied from this, and from West’s other comments, that male accusations of feminist misandry are “causing” her (or tempting her) and other feminists to hate those men who make the accusations.

I’d like to put it to everyone that hate is optional, and undesirable. That someone says something you disagree with doesn’t mean you have to hate them. Those of us who think of ourselves as against sexism, or for justice, or generally as good people, would, I think, generally agree that hating others is something to be avoided, even if it’s only for the rather hollow reason of maintaining the moral high ground.

I think we should continue to agree on that. Hate is not okay.

(Image: no mo hate!, CC 2009 by Julia Lamphear).

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