Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Dizzy Dames, Screwballs in Skirts

FdB:

Stoker pointed out that all this has the effect of forcing women into a box– Frost, and now Kilpatrick, are being told that they are bad feminists or, ludicrously, actually misogynists for failing to fall into immediate line with Kendzior. The message of this Twitter mob is that feminism means women are not free to form their own opinions, not about the right language to discuss rape and rape threats, not about the public nature of public tweets, not about how to honestly criticize others in a productive way. Feminism, to this Twitter mob, means that all women fall in line or are ostracized.

...This argument resulted in the typical phenomenon of men telling other men to “shut up and listen” because Kendzior is a woman and is giving her opinion. Why do the women who disagree with Kendzior not receive the same benefit, I wonder? Why are the many men attacking them not themselves compelled to shut up and listen? Because this has nothing to do with feminism, and it has everything to do with teams. It has everything to do with the Great Twitter Outrage Game, which is waged for publicity, for social positioning, for digital strokes. That none of those things contributes one iota to a more just, less sexist, less violent world does not occur to the people involved.

...What this whole incident has revealed is that this is a cross-ideological phenomenon: whether Marxist or conservative or anything in-between, if you are a woman whose opinions do not jibe with those of the self-appointed owners of feminism, you have no right to expect to be shielded from sexism. Feminism no longer applies to you. If you think differently, they’ll sick the pathetic male “allies” like Christopher Carbone to mansplain at you for awhile.

One of the things I deeply respect about Freddie is the fact that he doesn't shy away from stating things that, while true and painfully obvious, are considered to be politically disadvantageous for his "team". Conservatives, both men and women, have been saying this for a long time, just like they've been pointing out that supposedly enlightened, tolerant progressives have no problem calling a black man a "lawn jockey" and "house nigger" for refusing to accept that white progressives know what's best for him. Unfortunately, the absence of progressives with the courage to break ranks and value honesty over expedience means that such complaints can be easily dismissed as irrational conservative bugbears. I would think that such studied, selective dishonesty would be politically detrimental in the long run, but I guess that's why I'm not a sophisticated observer.

I chuckled a bit while reading this, because this is all old hat to anyone who kept up with online atheism in recent years. To rehash the story again for anyone who isn't familiar: a few years ago, one faction of online New Atheists decided that they needed to incorporate elements of typical New Left-style identity politics into their mission statement, especially radical feminism. Long story short, this led to a schism in the community, with the feminist atheists centered mostly around Skepchick and the Freethought Blogs network, and the assorted outcasts and malcontents loosely associated with the free speech zone ironically dubbed the Slymepit. (A longer, detailed history of all this can be found here.)

I had read PZ Myers' blog Pharyngula for several years, and even while paying only casual attention to all this increasing drama surrounding the one true definition of atheism, I couldn't help but notice his repeated mentions of this terrible, awful place called the Slymepit. He ranted about it incessantly, but never provided links to it, as if doing so would be like exposing his readers to deadly poison. So (like many people, as it turned out), I finally got curious enough one day to wonder what the hell this horrible place was really all about and went searching for it. Amusingly, all his free advertising gave their membership quite a boost in those early days, thus demonstrating that Peezus (one of their many amusing names for him) was just as stupid and psychologically naïve as all those religious fundamentalists in my teenage years who ranted and thundered about the evils of heavy metal records without ever twigging to the fact that making something sound exciting and forbidden was a sure way to lead people into temptation.

One of the first things I noticed was the large number of women who were members and regular participants there. Indeed, the forum was started by a woman. Many of them had clear and lucid reasons for not wanting to associate themselves with those who presumed to speak on their behalf. Nonetheless, as Freddie seems to have discovered, merely being in possession of ladyparts doesn't mean you have the right to go filling your pretty little head with just any old big ideas, especially not when there's a man around to do the heavy intellectual lifting for you, and it was no exception here. Even someone like Harriet Hall had to suffer the indignity of defending her feminist credentials against a group of clowns whose idea of activism begins and ends with raging on Twitter like spoiled adolescents. (Magically, it somehow wasn't considered "mansplaining" when Peezus, with all the zeal of those newly-converted from a sinful past, condescendingly informed Hall that she was doing feminism wrong. Almost like it has nothing to do with feminism and everything to do with tribes!) Meet the new boss, same as the old boss — certain men appointed themselves the gatekeepers of feminist discourse while telling actual women to sit down, shut up and fuck off when they tried to speak for themselves.

There's nothing wrong with disagreement, of course. Men and women are perfectly entitled to argue with each other over politics, activism, academic theories, or anything else. The problem comes from disingenuously using political beliefs interchangeably with gender (or race). If you're a woman (or a PoC), these are the issues that should concern you. Here's what social scientists have decided you should think about them, and here's your appropriate course of action. No, no, you don't understand — it has already been objectively, empirically decided, based on all the latest data. If you persist in arguing against us, you are either too ignorant to know your own mind, or you're cravenly trying to curry favor with the reactionary forces we're fighting against by being one of their tokens.

If you honestly believe that all women, not just the politically progressive ones, are oppressed by a patriarchal society, then yes, you also have to listen to the ones who refuse to identify as feminists, or the ones who hold politically conservative beliefs, and take their viewpoints seriously. If you believe that atheism is the necessary logical partner to feminism, then you have to make your case to the religious women who disagree and take their objections seriously. If you can't persuade them to come around to your way of thinking, it could be that your skills as a communicator are deficient, which is your problem. And if you find yourself denying that a woman could possibly be a fully rational agent unless she agrees with you politically, well, maybe you should consider whether you're really doing feminism any favors by your presence. I mean, Rush Limbaugh likewise only has use for the women who tell him what he wants to hear.