The fact that I was a little nervous about writing this goes a great deal towards answering the question posed in the title of this blog.
It’s not just me, when I discussed with others the idea of writing a piece critical of contemporary feminism, a few people expressed trepidation. “Be careful,” they said, “you might provoke a vicious response.”
It was then that I realised that I had to write it because hearing people say that pretty much confirmed all my suspicions thus far: that today’s feminism is miles adrift of its intellectual moorings.
The bullying of Dr Matt Taylor in the #shirtstorm incident has solidified this critique in my mind. I am now absolutely clear that I cannot identify with this poisonous new breed of radical feminism which flourishes online.
There are a multiplicity of reasons for this, but the most pertinent ones for me are the fact that it has become scarily ideological and authoritarian, it is far too mired in highly divisive identity politics and it has become a polarising force, only further driving men and women apart.
I believe it it is particularly prevalent online because the Internet is still largely a consequence-free zone where one is free to indulge in all the darkest parts of the human psyche. Bitterness, jealousy, resentment and malice are all nurtured by the discordant politics of radical feminism and are then able to roam freely on blogs and social media.
But I think I have been discontented with radical feminism for some time, beginning with my University days where I first observed just how obsessed with identity politics it is. Academia is where this virulent form of feminism originates and where it marginalises and dominates moderate strands of feminist theory.
More traditional feminists I knew at the time, who took the feminism classes, told me how uncomfortable they felt expressing their opinions in seminars that were dominated by extreme viewpoints, and which characterised more liberal or conservative perspectives as “racist” or “oppressive”, and how self-conscious they became about their skin colour, class and sexual orientation, as a result of the excessive focus on these factors in the academic discourse – and equally conscious of these in other people.
Rather than encourage the free flow of ideas amongst a varied group of students, radical feminism seemed only to make them acutely aware of their differences in identity, whilst also not allowing for any divergent opinions. Everyone was disunited under one all-poweful Idea.
Divide and conquer, the preferred tactic of despots everywhere.
Since then I have seen this authoritarian tendency play out in other spheres of life as well. Especially in the digital realm. On social media, I have witnessed numerous discussions where bossy feminists inform other people that they are “by default, a feminist, if they believe in equality between the sexes.”
The illogic of this argument barely needs demonstrating. Are you by default a Christian if you believe murder or dishonesty is wrong, as per the ten commandments; or, by default a Muslim if you choose to abstain from alcohol?
Feminism is not the sole method by which one may arrive at the conclusion that one sex should not be privileged over the other. Just like you don’t need to be Christian to abhor violence or deceit.
And though it seeks to forcibly convert everyone to its ideology, radical feminism, at its divisive best, strictly controls who can and cannot contribute to the discussion on women’s issues.
Brendan O’Neill writing in The Spectator describes how a recent debate on abortion at Oxford University, between him and fellow political commentator Tim Stanley, was shut down by campus feminists on the basis that:
“A mob of furious feministic Oxford students, all robotically uttering the same stuff about feeling offended, set up a Facebook page littered with expletives and demands for the debate to be called off. They said it was outrageous that two human beings ‘who do not have uteruses’ should get to hold forth on abortion — identity politics at its most basely biological — and claimed the debate would threaten the ‘mental safety’ of Oxford students. [sic]”
It is here that radical feminism is at its most destructive: setting men and women against each other.
Rather than men and women fighting side by side, as we have since time immemorial, we are invited to regard each other as adversaries.
As a reaction to this aggressive misandry, many men have developed a tendency to be suspicious and resentful of the female sex. There is a backlash online against feminism amongst men who seem to have lost all respect for women. It is troubling to behold.
But this is what ideologues do, they end up creating the monsters of their paranoid imaginations.
When Enlightenment thinkers like Mary Wollstonecraft began discussing women’s education and arguing for greater female participation in public life, she could not possibly have foreseen how divorced from reason and decorum the debate would become.
It is absolutely vital that we return public discourse to this more noble plane.
Because no one who is serious about the free exchange of ideas can be comfortable in this environment, where someone is cruelly persecuted for his unusual taste in fashion. That is an intellectual tradition wholly debased.
If you’d like to discuss this subject with me, please do contact me on Twitter @TheUrbanF0x or email me at: email@example.com
Also Read: Is Discourse Dead?