I have often identified myself as a radical feminist. But these days, it is necessary for me to modify that somewhat: I am a radical classical feminist. In short, I believe in feminism as explained by Liz Phair:
Be yourself. If you can get away with it, that is the ultimate feminist act.
Classical feminism is the campaign for equality between men and women, even as the classical civil rights movement was the struggle for equality amongst races in the eyes of the law. To me, this represents a sane and logical development in democracy: the right to self-determination should extend to both genders.
What passes as feminism nowadays, however, is a far cry from any of this. When I hear of “feminism” now, I hear of things like a circle of bloggers taking offense that Penny Arcade went “too far” in their joke about the inherent amorality of games: many games with “collection quests” require you to do a task X times, and then abandon it. The example involved was the freeing of men kept prisoner and used as forced labor. Penny Arcade’s joke was that, in a quest to free five such men, the sixth is callously ignored by the player character, and left to be raped by his cruel jailers.
To be sure, Penny Arcade is very often not what we would call tasteful. However, does this actually have anything to do with feminism? Note carefully how there weren’t even any women in that comic: it was about a male jailer raping a male captive. If anything, it was crude prison humour. It certainly was not a call to rape women, and it certainly did not glorify rape. Yet the simple inclusion of the concept of rape – not even male on female rape, but male on male rape – was enough to set off alarms and cause “feminist” bloggers to raise a fuss.
This has happened because modern feminist activists have passed far beyond the original call of feminism, and into factionalism. No longer content to police abuses of women, they now regard certain concepts in the public purview – such as rape – as their “territory,” and punish outsiders for entering it. In effect, they have become a gang, demanding respect for their “turf.” So sure are they of the inherent rightness of their cause that they have not hesitated in the slightest to apply their standards to other countries and cultures: witness Equality Now’s blind insistence that Japan shelve all its rape games, for promoting a “rape culture.”
Equality Now operated under the assumption that people who see rapes are more likely to commit rapes. It’s an old argument, most notoriously put forth by Jack Thompson in his argument that violent video games cause an increase in violence. But the Japanese games, while questionable, were a reaction to real-life incidents of molestation, not the other way around. Further, scientific studies show that access to hardcore pornography and depictions of simulated rape decrease the incidence of sexual assault in a population, rather than increasing it. In short, whether or not we find pornography abhorrent, the responsible thing to do is to make it available so as to minimize the number of actual rapes on actual women. Taking this porn away will, statistically speaking, increase the incidence of rape. Thus, Equality Now’s work will likely harm the very women they claimed to be protecting.
The entire concept of “rape culture” leading to rapes is not borne out by scientific studies. If anything, it is the opposite of the truth. This makes everything derived from it a clear case of legislating from emotion rather than heeding the actual facts. In the case of Equality Now, it is also a pretty clear case of cultural imperialism.
I wish I could call this an isolated example of how modern feminists ignore the truth because it doesn’t suit their agenda, but there are plenty of others. When Sarah Palin was selected as the Republican Vice-Presidential nominee, I definitely understood the liberal backlash against her politics, and against her ignorance of basic science. What I could never understand, as a feminist, was the rush to condemn her personally, for having her career: she was a college-educated woman who managed to climb the ladder of politics while raising a family, with a husband that frequently took time off to stand in for her. Wasn’t this a shining vision of success by the old feminist standards?
“Her greatest hypocrisy is in her pretense that she is a woman.” – Wendy Doniger
Hold on a minute – what? Like it or not, she is biologically a woman. There can be no doubt about that – she gave birth multiple times! And while her politics are, again, abhorrent to liberals, she at least embodies part of what feminism has been demanding for fifty years.
“To any critics who say a woman can’t think and work and carry a baby at the same time, I’d just like to escort that Neanderthal back to the cave.” – Sarah Palin
“Hey, wasn’t that our line?” screamed Ellen Goodman, standing in for the voices of thousands. And in that reaction we see clearly how feminism has been replaced by sheer factionalism. Rather than accepting the Republican nomination of a woman as a candidate to high office as a measure of progress, “feminists” lined up to protest how this came not directly from their hands, but from the hands of the enemy. Katherine Marsh fumed at the fact that Palin would not be backing subsidies and tax breaks for working mothers.
Isn’t it all backwards?
When did feminism change from “leave me alone to do my own thing” to “you must all obey my standards”?