Only The Sangfroid

Mark is of fair average intelligence, who is neither perverse, nor morbid or suspicious of mind, nor avid for scandal. He does live in an ivory tower.

These are his draft thoughts…

Quickpost: In which I mansplain feminism

The Guardian produced an interesting article on ‘non-left feminism‘. Four ‘non-left’ women discussed feminism (in broad terms) and explained the extent to which they did or didn’t identify with the label.

Personally, the very concept of a ‘non-left feminism’ confuses me.  If the idea of feminism is to challenge the gendered construction of social norms (even revealing the way ‘neutral’ or ‘default rational’ social norms are in fact gendered), then we exclude ‘non-left’ people from the label by definition.  It is inherently radical.

On Monday night’s Q&A, the panel discussed whether or not they were feminists but never — not even remotely — discussed what they meant by ‘feminism’.  They used words as if we all apprehended their meaning — equality being the principle one.  For the libertarian, ‘equality’ means something particularly conservative (it’s the only point of overlap that I concede with libertarians): ‘Everybody suffers external authority to the same extent.’  The conservative (of my stripe) then rejects equality as an ideal, while the libertarian champions it.

For the vast majority of feminist thinkers and theorists, this concept of ‘equality’ is unjust and inequitable, but you’d never have guessed it from the conversations currently taking place in the public domain.  Instead, feminism is about (and is only about) to what extent women can compete in male spaces.

… and then you have the sea of guys (it’s almost always guys) who want to piggyback their pet causes on the feminist bandwagon.  Feminism needs to be about the rights of homosexual males, they say, because homosexual males have become an ‘Other’.  Feminism needs to be about the rights of non-human animals, they say, because non-human animals have become an ‘Other’.  Feminism needs to be about the rights of non-fauna life, they say, because non-fauna life has become an ‘Other’.  Feminism needs to be about every other fringe group under the heavens, they say, because feminism is either intersectional or it’s bullshit.

What we’d really find useful is a debate among feminists who can bridge the gap between the general public and feminism qua ‘the difficult and sophisticated body of intellectual work that has characterised the last two centuries of feminist thought’.

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One response to “Quickpost: In which I mansplain feminism”

  1. Hmmmm, you usually inject so much of yourself into your writing but when you write about this topic, it’s particularly repugnant and inappropriate. Who cares what /you’re/ philosophically confused by? How could you even understand what it is to be a woman, a feminist and right-wing…? You can’t. What’s more, your understanding (and the understanding of any other men) is of little to no consequence to us.

    For the most part, I hate men (not as individuals, as a group throughout history…as individuals I hate everyone equally) – women are (and have been) the most marginalised and mistreated group in society. And the pervasive overt and covert forms of sexism and gender norms in society are sickening to me…and I can’t even explain it to most people cos they just know it as “the way it is”. I don’t blame them for it; rather it just shows the total and radical shift in thinking that needs to take place.

    For what it’s worth, I identify as a feminist and right-wing. You seem to suggest that being right-wing means that you have a respect for the status quo and don’t want to rock the boat…that all works if you understand what each right-wing female sees as the current status quo and the ideal status quo. I don’t believe in equality, I believe in equity. Equality actually (in the cruellest way) undermines marginalised groups (which you cavalierly acknowledge in your piece).

    I tried to explain this to someone once who was discussing a particular group of individuals in the workplace. I talked about intelligence (an easily graspable topic – easier than gender anyway). When undertaking norming samples for IQ tests (after taken beyond Europe), the tests were given to diverse groups – age, gender, race etc. They came to a conclusion that certain ethnicities were not as intelligent as others and that Caucasians (those in Western countries anyway) had the highest IQs. Yes yes this /must/ be true cos the figures say it. But this overlooks some fundamental flaws. Outside of the obvious question around IQ really being indicative of intelligence, there is a bigger issue at work. The /test itself/ was geared towards particular ethnic groups succeeding because of the way they were raised, the values/skills that were learnt during their upbringing, and the notions of intelligence that were indoctrinated in society. You give an IQ test to someone who has never completed a puzzle in their life (for example) and I think you’ll agree, it’s hardly a level playing field. If you grew up in a society of warriors, you’d probably be forgiven for not correctly identifying the next number in the sequence…like we wouldn’t expect the reverse with skills valued in other societies.

    This ethnocentric way of conceptualising intelligence is the same kind of blindness at work in the gender space. Very hidden but very powerful. We can’t move past it because it’s the very filter through which we see and experience the world.

    But, on equality, we’re not equal so why do we pretend that we are? In the same way that I wouldn’t take up professional weightlifting, I don’t see what’s so taboo about suggesting that men are better at some things, just as women are better at others. Forcing us (increasingly) to suppress any differences so we can “make it” in the patriarchy is whack and why should we want to anyway?

    I was discussing this with my sister on the weekend as she had re-watched Pretty Woman for the first time since being a kid and said she didn’t notice how horrible it was as a kid, that she assumed it was normal, and was horrified that such views were so pervasive that she could ever think it was a reasonable movie.

    Even I’m guilty of it sometimes when I see some of my friends getting married and having kids and I wonder why they’re wasting their time (we were definitely raised to value education and success rather than personal relationships or being a mum so that’s my bias).
    A man doing the washing or a girl playing with a Tonka truck is hardly change. It does seem that the “keep society the same and assimilate the different groups” model is the one we’re sticking with so I say we just work towards becoming a homogenous blob of people with minimal differences separating us. There seems to be a shame in accepting the roles that women are more suited for and we certainly won’t get any satisfaction with the current status quo.

    Hmmm, this is me on my eugenics super race again…I am being a little facetious but while we think it’s unusual for certain things, we’re disadvantaged.

    Anyway, I haven’t read that article in question…so I don’t know what was said by those women (I assume none of them said they hate everyone, lol)…maybe they explained better! But that’s my 10 cents.

    Sorry to be gruff, but men crying out for attention in this space is pitiful.

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