Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin

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Why Is Feminism Broken?

Why do people calling themselves "feminists" all seem to be so binarily divided into one or the other of two opposite belief systems, with every "feminist" community on LiveJournal or almost anywhere being overwhelmingly dominated by one or the other and almost noplace at all where anybody meets in the middle and has productive discussions with the other side?

The two belief systems can be roughly described as "pro-tolerance" versus "pro-critique." The "pro-tolerance" side, which controls the vast majority of discourse all throughout LiveJournal and the Internet, believes, roughly speaking (with some exaggeration), that:
  • It is wrong to criticize anyone else's sexual tastes or other feelings of any kind or to suggest in even the most timid fashion that they might want to try to change their tastes, even if their tastes are for violent rape fantasies and these tastes mean that they tend to be attracted to people who remind them of violent rapists, and who then actually turn out to be violent rapists, which then upsets them because, you know, being violently raped does tend to upset people no matter if they have been having fantasies about it incessantly or not). It is not possible for criticism to be motivated by concern for another person's happiness and well-being. Criticism is always motivated by hatred.

  • It is impossible for anybody to change their sexual tastes anyway. All sexual tastes are completely inborn and whoever you were attracted to when you were twelve, you will still be feeling attracted to exactly the same kinds of people - personalities, bodies, and all - when you are seventy-five. (And let's all conveniently forget the fact that most of us were exclusively or predominantly attracted to twelve-year-olds when we were twelve.)

  • It is also impossible to change any other feelings of any kind. If a woman feels miserable about not weighing 65 pounds or having size HHH breasts, advising her to get anti-anorexia and self-image counseling is pointless and will accomplish nothing; instead, she should be given immediate liposuction and breast implants.

  • Obtaining consent to do something automatically makes the action in question absolutely healthy and beyond the slightest reproach. There is absolutely nothing whatsoever unhealthy about a person chewing off all their own limbs and eating them. Not only should a person be legally allowed to do this, but anyone who tries to talk them out of it or suggests that they should get counseling to try to learn to stop finding such a thing pleasurable is obviously narrow-minded and prejudiced. The same goes for a person who chews off all their lover's limbs and eats them instead, as long as the lover signed a consent form before their writing hand was chewed off.

  • Consent is a simple yes or no question. If a person said yes, they consented. The circumstances in which they said yes are irrelevant. If the person was paid to say yes, if the person was starving to death and had no other means of obtaining food than that payment, if the person had been raised all their life to believe that they belonged to a class of people that was inherently inferior to the class of people to which the person chewing off their limbs belonged, every bit as inferior as an ant is inferior to a human, all of this is irrelevant. In fact, anyone who suggests that the consent of, say, a five-year-old to having their limbs chewed off by an adult should not be considered every bit as fully free and meaningful and valid a consent as the consent of a rich white man with high self-esteem who has been treated extremely well all his life, is insulting the intelligence of five-year-olds.

  • If a person did not give any kind of consent at all, not even coerced consent, so the person was very clearly raped, and if pictures were taken of that act of rape, then that person has every right to demand that the rapist be thrown in jail, but does not have the right to stop the pictures from being published all over the world without their consent. That would be censorship. Pictures can't rape anybody.
Obviously the above is an exaggeration; I'm trying to portray the archetypal extremes here, and real human beings usually do not adhere 100% to the archetypal extremes. (In particular, it is very common to make an exception saying that the consent of children is not a valid form of consent while still maintaining that no adult, no matter how similar their individual circumstances and views of themself may be to a child's, can ever possibly be even the slightest bit less able to give fully as free and meaningful and valid a consent as every other adult.) But there are a very large number of people for whom the majority of their beliefs tend considerably in the directions of most of the above.

The opposite archetypal extreme within feminism, which I am calling "pro-critique," has declined in popularity since the 1970s and is now clearly in the minority, but does still exist and also dominates the discourse in certain of the LiveJournal "feminist" communities. It promotes the idea that, roughly speaking (with some exaggeration):
  • Everyone can and should learn to be at least predominantly homosexual, because the two genders are accorded different statuses in society and this makes sexual relationships between them inherently unequal and exploitative. (This inequality can possibly be counterbalanced if it's a relationship between a poor black man from a third-world country and a rich white woman from a first-world country, but otherwise not, and anyway I don't hear the possibility of counterbalancing inequalities like this get mentioned very often.)

  • It is inherently exploitative for white men to have interracial relationships.

  • It is inherently exploitative to have sexual relationships with people more than, say, 10% of your age older or younger than you (so if you're twenty you're only allowed to have relationships with people within two years of your age, and if you're 100 you're only allowed to have relationships with people within ten years of your age). A 60-year-old who dates a 45-year-old should be convicted of statutory rape.

  • Bestiality is inherently always rape, since animals have lower status and cannot communicate their consent clearly. (Never mind the fact that most mammals do communicate an awful lot of emotions to humans quite successfully and that many species would have no trouble killing or severely injuring any human who attempted to do anything to them they didn't like. Also never mind the fact that dogs sometimes hump humans' legs, thereby exhibiting obvious consent to the humping since they initiated it themselves.)

  • BDSM is domestic violence and sexual abuse and should be punishable by the same laws.

  • Consent never justifies anything, although lack of consent certainly makes anything unacceptable. To be considered healthy or acceptable, an act must be consensual, egalitarian, painless, and inflict no injuries.

  • Transsexuals, like anorexics and women who want size HHH breasts, should be cured of their body-hatred via counseling. The amount of time and effort it takes for people to overcome their body hatred via counseling is never ever more painful than plastic surgery. Or at least not enough more painful to make up for the loss of the satisfaction of having overcome one's dysphoria the politically correct way, by addressing the actual feelings themselves instead of the body that is hated.

  • Piercing and any other form of body modification that involves pain is self-injury and the people who do it should receive counseling accordingly.

  • Anyone who was paid to perform a sexual act was inherently exploited, no matter whether they are a millionaire and would have done it for free just as willingly.

  • Anyone who buys pictures of anyone performing a sexual act for money, no matter whether they are a millionaire and would have done it for free just as willingly, is guilty of exploiting the people in the pictures. For this reason, all professional pornography must be banned.
Again this is an exaggeration, and most people in the "pro-critique" group are actually slightly to the center of the archetypal extreme I outlined, just as most people in the "pro-tolerance" group are slightly to the center of their archetypal extreme. (And probably everyone on both sides will get mad at me for having caricatured their side, and will mistakenly imagine my portrayal of the other side to not be every bit as much of a caricature.) But there don't seem to be many people at all who are halfway between the two, or even one-third in one direction and two-thirds in the other direction. Everybody seems to have a fairly strong leaning, considerably more in one direction than the other, and productive discourse between the two groups simply does not happen. If a "feminist" from one group enters a "feminist" community dominated by the other group, they will be shouted down until they learn to shut up. The "pro-tolerance" crowd considers the "pro-critique" crowd to be a bizarre minority of hateful bigots who've taken feminism to such an extreme as to become a parody of it, and the "pro-critique" crowd considers the "pro-tolerance" crowd to be not feminists at all but just standard mainstream patriarchy as usual, individuals out for themselves and whatever makes them personally feel good in the shortest amount of time, with no regard for the broader political implications or effects on society as a whole.

I get really upset by the attitude of "No one should ever criticize anybody's feelings or tastes! Criticism is inherently hateful and uncaring! Nobody has any control over their feelings or tastes!" because I do think it's very necessary to critique feelings and tastes. However, critiquing is only really useful if it involves spirited multi-sided debate and argument among and different points of view all offering their criticisms to try to help others find greater happiness. Instead, the "critiquing" that actually happens all too often tends to be absolutely single-sided throwing of long-ago-unanimously-decided opinions in other people's faces more to assert one's own superiority than to actually offer ideas as a concerned friend. The opinions expressed in the critiques also tend to be the most extreme ones possible, because anyone less extreme tends to find it too unpleasant to hang around in the communities where it's obvious that if they spoke their mind they would be considered sick, violent, a tool of the patriarchy or a rapist, just because they did something like dated a member of the opposite sex or someone more than a few years different in age from them.

I don't know what to do about this because I really don't want to ask the extremists of either point of view to shut up. I value extremism and I'm not neatly in the middle all safe and moderate myself - rather, I'm a haphazard mix of some extremist parts and some moderate other parts. I'm pretty extreme about opposing censorship of pornography, but also pretty extreme about thinking everyone should be just as attracted to the same gender as to the opposite one. I do not believe that all bestiality is always rape, and I have a problem with assuming that just because one member of a relationship is white, male, and 60 years old and the other is black, female, and 20 years old, there's absolutely no possible way they could ever have an healthy, fulfilling, and egalitarian relationship (though I would certainly acknowledge the odds are against it). On the other hand, I cannot stand when women try to tell me that the fact that it really turns them on to watch violent rape porn videos makes it healthy for them to be turned on by this.

So I want the extremists of both ends to go right on speaking their minds, because on some issues I'm one of them myself. But I also wish there were a lot more moderates in evidence, a lot more blending and people in the middle and discourse somewhere between the extremes than I've seen. I wish there were a community anywhere on LiveJournal that called itself feminist and didn't appear to be owned overwhelmingly by one group or the other. I just wish that the two sides would, you know, actually talk to each other once in a while. Without either side trying to kill the other.

Actually I suppose they did, really, because this entry was provoked by having seen an unusually nonviolent LiveJournal confrontation between the two sides - specifically, in this case, a masochist feminist and an anti-BDSM feminist, who actually kind of got along and seemed to care about each other despite continuing to disagree. I just wish I saw people who disagree seem to really care about each other more often. And really I need to work on that myself, because my strong impulse when disagreeing with anybody about anything is to want to just avoid being in their presence at all.
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