Thursday, July 07, 2016

I don't relate to feminism

Thanks to the tablet I write this on's penchant for refreshing every time you go back to a tab in browser or switch between applications I was given the opportunity to rethink the title of this post, originally 'why I don't relate to feminism' a hard case to plead and had me feel the slight sense of foreboding that what I was going to write would be irresponsible. But pruned of the why it suddenly became a 'of course I don't relate to feminism, I'm a white cisgendered hetero normative male who was a former prefect at a private school in a non-diverse regional city, one of the most privileged members of the most privileged class, I don't really relate to being oppressed period.

But I do have a morbid fascination with feminism, and often serious feminist articles about serious issues posted by serious feminist friends amount to clickbait to me. I go read them to experience a small exhilarating horror at how much I (potentially) will dislike the content. (Like addictive behavior it isn't the 'having' but the 'getting'.

And to be sure I'll attempt to disclaim at this point. This post is a complaint, and while I'll no doubt through sheer laziness do a poor job of 'being specific' I am determined to follow rule number two of complaining and doggedly 'own my point of view' and point firmly that I'm talking about myself and myself only as an audience member, not on behalf of all men or 'real men' or any shit category I may belong to. My complaints are a statement of personal preference that I doubt can be expanded to people who share my myers-briggs INTP designation as much as anyone that shares my Libra star sign. Though if my complaints constitute arguments that wind up getting appropriated and repeated by loser MRAs to justify any 'male rights' etc I'll take responsibility for putting them out there but I'll never not think 'male rights' aren't up there as the most worthless things to devote energy to, speaking to the cost benefit analysis of the 'struggle'.

Which in turn, is disclaimer number 2, I devote little to no energy arguing against male rights activists (aforementioned MRAs) because I find them 'beneath contempt' in my behavioral practice though I think of them more as sad, sometimes tragic. I'm generally not in their line of fire so don't have any defensive pressure to engage either. I'll devote energy to complaining about feminist practices though because I want them to win, and step to. I'm in the audience because I want the team to succeed, though like a fan in the basketball stands for all my ideas/complaints I am not qualified to coach.

And this complaint is more or less already undone, I feel in my bones that at some point I read a quote by some civil rights leader the gist of which was 'you can't let the oppressor define the rules of acceptible resistance, that's crazy' I feel like Malcolm X is most likely to have said something to that effect, alas I can't find the actual quote and starting to wonder if I imagined it. But I feel the argument/sentiment has to be respected, oppressors need to recognise that they are only going to deem acceptable ways of resistance they don't feel threatened by and the oppressed need to recognise that oppressors are always going to try this tactic, and so here I go, read on if your morbid curiosity urges you to:

In a simplified binary world my preference is to practitioners and not academics. I've been instilled with a disrespect of academia at an early age, believing without needing a reason, that PhD's were quite useless. Now that I've grown, I have rationales to back my orientation, but my orientation hasn't changed. I've been walked through abridged versions of the history of women's rights movement once, possibly twice but the detail's haven't stuck. I'm left with the impression though, that feminism has a long standing seat in the couch of academia. 'Prominent' feminists are often academics, writing theses an impression reinforced when I read the Wikipedia article on rape culture in an attempt to disambiguafy what that actually is.

I know I'm not the first nor the last to notice that 'feminism' struggles with being an undefined term. I don't identify as feminist though if you define feminism as 'not shitting on women' ie not wanting to intentionally harm women and the simple act of committing not to doing so, then the shoe fits me. If your definition of feminism demands more, like a willingness to make personal sacrifices to stand up for the rights of women, I feel I've been tested with that glass slipper a few times in my life and I am honestly, feminists ugly step sister.

Furthermore, the most common definition I hear of the undefined term is a belief in equality between men and women. (Sometimes 'the sexes' and almost never 'genders') this definition featured on the light hearted ABC series 'Judith Lucy is all woman' and if that's the definition, I'm honestly not a feminist either, since I don't believe in equality so much as equal opportunity. (And equal opportunity may require affirmative action, which I'm all for, but don't personally believe that equality necessarily follows equal opportunity).

So I feel the least misleading and  therefore most honest personal identifier I can adopt is 'not-a-feminist' and thus far it has been my experience that it costs me nothing to do so. Like all my experiences with Johari window exercises. Symmetrically speaking though, I observe that it costs men nothing to identify as feminist too, and as such I have little respect for those that do, I have met one that I intuitively felt would actually pay the price of holding that identity at the expense of their own privelege and I respected him. Later the friend that introduced me to him revealed to me he was trans, which leads me to assume he lead his formative years without male privelege possibly explaining my intuitively extended credibility. Credibility I do not extend myself, based on experience.

I sense I've digressed but the digression has some relevance, it being how complicated undefined terms can be in creating an engaging conversation or even engaging an audience. For example, I've been told third hand that there are people that define all heterosexual sex as rape, something about 'women are oppressed by men' being the definition, Stephen Frye's unfortunate appearance on the Rubin Report (strategically a mansplaining disaster/minefield of a show no matter the intrinsic merit of any content) reported that there exist definitions of rape that include uttering the word itself, though I've never seen this definition exercised in internet land. But I have come across 'all porn is rape' firsthand and conversely there is Dick Dawkins tweet about a spectrum of rape and that there must be acceptable rape on that spectrum some where.

Dawkins probably identifies as a feminist himself, and feminism is to me sufficiently undefined that I believe he could believe it, while simultaneously fitting other definitions of misogyny, though probably not his own.

Part of my morbid curiosity with reading feminist articles like they are clickbait designed for me, comes from the carcrash/trainwreck that is the semantic civil war going on waged over these undefined terms resulting in purity tests and feminist critiques of feminist critiques.

But mostly what I'd complain about is the 'academic tone' most of the writing has. By academic tone, what I'm referring to is the degree of certainty, the 'here's all the answers, I have them and you need to listen' subtext I feel when reading these articles, often driven by sighting studies, reports and prominent academics. Which is not to say that it is the citations and practice of which I object to, its the presentation of the writers subjective reality as objective reality. Almost all perspectives are through a prism, and perspective taking is really hard, the most common hubris I find is when an author confuses projecting for empathy.

For example, the sexism of wolf whistling, has been explained to me as mens assumption that they control public spaces, hence they also assume the role of appraiser when they feel entitled to 'compliment' a woman on her appearance.

It's true, it blue my mind, and practice of projecting that women think about controlling communal spaces. I've been vaguely aware of this battle for control since I was in highschool and trying to predict the deferral rules as to who gets out of the way when students pass eachother walking home on the footpath (facial hair can trump size). It was news to me that women aren't attuned to this contest and don't play.

In an attempt to clarify what I object to tonally speaking though, is that when it was explained to me that 'men think they control public spaces' it was explained in exactly those words, which are wrong. Assuming control of some public space is for the most part no more an exercise in conscious thought than trying to get your shower's temperature just right. In fact I'm pretty sure the conscious brain isn't fast enough to handle the task, possibly why the kids formally diagnosed with aspergers get bullied so readily, lacking the social intuitons to navigate this contest.

Thus telling someone what they are thinking (deliberate oppression) when they witness their own thoughts as 'that wall looks good to lean against' to me just invites men to throw up a wall, because feminist descriptions of oppression almost never describe the lived experience of oppressing in so far as those kinds I can relate to. Admittedly the task of figuring out what thoughts drive behavior is to me impossible, but rarely do I see the concession, let alone explicit acknowledgement that the thoughts described are or are possibly not conscious ones.

Leaving a tone that I experience as descriptions of thought phenomena I know not to exist. This experience serves to explain to me why I come across educated thoughtful young men that feel inclined to share with me refutations of phenomena like mansplaining or manspreading.

Here selected with confirmation bias is a specific example of an article that possesses the academic tone I love to hate. Chosen simply because it was the first I found, and for no other reason. Though I feel I've read many articles in this exact tone, and I'm sure there are more, I would also not assert that this represents feminist writing definitively or generally, nor is the form exclusive to feminists, just that this is the domain I tend to collide with this written behavior most often.

The article 'has all the answers' I'm willing to accept that the history of male oppression of women has resulted in a felt need by feminist writers to try and present ironclad cases backed by research and citations so as to block the male part of the audience from poo-pooing what's presented much as all debaters try to preempt rebuttals of their opposition.

I discovered though, that what academics rigorously set about determining they know through years of primary, secondary research and literature reviews tends to produce poor descriptions of reality in the soft sciences.

Which made comedian Bill Burr a discovery, watch his Conan appearances on Caitlin Jenner or stand up bits about Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tiger Woods, or Rhianna and Chris Brown and you see a tone that I feel is more engaging and entertaining. The opposite of the academic tone.

Bill Burr suspects he is wrong, demonstrates humility regularly and quite articulately describes his struggles to hear the feminist message. I'm not quite sure how to describe his tactics, just state my own preference for listening to a dumb guy trying to figure out the answers while suspecting he is wrong than to a smart guy who is confident he has all the answers and here's what I need to know.

Hayek observed in 'the fatal conceit' that intelligent people tend to overvalue intelligence. A suscinct explanation of why I find all progressives annoying, but I suspect it can translate to academics overvaluing academia and subsequently/mathematically undervaluing practice. Yogi Berra said 'in theory, theory works in practice. In practice it doesn't.'

The rationale I believe that I do not conversely overvalue practice and undervalue theory is that I go to the martial artists for practitioner bedrock, the practices where if your theories are wrong you die and don't get to theorize.

Yes, to move from describing my complaint and owning my point of view to stating MY preferred solution, it would be that somebody write with me in mind as an audience member, somebody who likes ambiguity rather than answers and doesn't respect academia. I would be engaged if the discussions appeared to me as stepping to me rather than watching someone drown in their own hubris. Basically I want my feminism written in this tone. Aka written like a winner.

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