Feminism in Three Parts: Part 2–The Idealism

*Disclaimer: These are my personal views not a philosophical argument or theory. This part is mostly snark.*

Let’s just get this out the way right now. Am I a feminist? You’re damn fucking right I’m a feminist.

Source: mtv.com

Probably the only thing Beyonce and I have in common. Source: mtv.com

I absolutely without a doubt in my mind believe that within our particular social-historical-political-economic context that persons should not be denied social, legal, political, and economic rights because they happen to have two x chromosomes (or an extra y, or an extra x and a y, etc.) instead of an x and a y (and all the other factors that determine biological sex).

But why?

Sure there are biological differences between male-bodied people and female-bodied people and intersex-bodied people. But this is a spectrum, and none of these differences give one a “natural” advantage over another even in, say, a survival situation. We somehow have been convinced that the narrative “brute strength = better survival = designed to protect = better leader = superior person” (and that pregnancy is somehow a weakness), when survival actually depends entirely on what you are up against.

The advantages men have socially speaking are also just narratives that have been arbitrarily determined. We could live in a world where we value the stereotypical feminine traits more than we value the stereotypical masculine ones. We could revere kind, generous people instead of aggressive, greedy people.[1] But, well, we don’t. And my point in Part 1 is that we can’t flip a switch and make it so.

So why be a feminist?

I think a lot of us operate with some sense of fairness. I don’t know why we have this idea that things should be fair. We’re socialized to believe in fairness in a society that claims to operate its laws under equal protection but in practice does exactly the opposite. We actually only seem to want fairness when something seems unfair to us. (Ah, now it makes more sense.)

Our wanting fairness that favors us might come from the painful emotional reaction we have when we see someone else with something we want, or because we don’t like being the one who is left out or, worse, inferior in some way. All of this has to be why there are men who don’t like the idea of feminism, right? The world isn’t unfair to straight, educated, Caucasian men (unless they’re trans, poor, or differently-abled in some way). Why would they want anything to change?

Do I believe in fairness? Eh, it’s a nice idea but it’s just not operational on an institutional scale.

Can you dole out the same number of cookies to both of your kids? Sure. Can you make sure every job is filled based on some objectively determined form of merit? Not a chance in hell. We can’t even make the Academy Awards even appear to be remotely fair.[2]

So why am I a feminist?

Because social inequalities are totally arbitrary and could be otherwise. Because acknowledging the arbitrariness of human life bothers me, but it is the one thing I can count on. Because the best way to accept arbitrariness is to accept entropy, and because the most chaotic way to go about human existence is with the fewest number of rules, hierarchies, and paternalistic protocols. Because there is no meaning, no fairness, and the universe doesn’t give a shit.

Because the alternative is to tacitly accept my subjugation instead of recognizing that even though it’s totally arbitrary, it also sucks to not be one of the rich, white men in control. (My literary hero is Mustapha Mond. Believe you me, if I could be him I would drop everything else in a hot second.)

Because I’m not incapable of human empathy, which, generally, I assume that people who get prickly around the principles of feminism are.[3]

The real question is why not be a feminist?

You see, I’m not so damaged that I need to lash out at other people en masse and exert some kind of ill-founded superiority over them in order to make myself feel good. I get it. I do. I’ve read my Nietzsche. I understand the wounded animal reaction people have when they feel threatened. I understand that giving more people (women/minorities) the things you (men) have is a threat to your ill-founded superiority.

I also understand (and this is where the empathy comes in) what it’s like to actually be victimized and afraid and to have your sense of power and autonomy taken away from you. For me, that feels worse than being a Nietzschean lamb.[4]

Misogyny is an institution that operates beneath the surface, but there are people who actively perpetuate it on the surface, too. And bully for them, but it affects me and billions of other persons like me in a way that I don’t like. And there is no reason for me to suffer it.

Lisa Simpson: Feminist Credit: Fox

Lisa Simpson: Feminist Credit: Fox

To see women systematically be told that what they like is silly and unimportant. To see women be harassed, assaulted, and abused for expressing too much sexuality or not enough. To see women be silenced simply because their words and ideas came out of a female body. To see women make less money for doing exactly what a man does. To see women be told what they can and cannot do with their health because of what type of body they have.

This is when the very arbitrariness that I try to embrace goes bad.

I don’t think fairness is possible. I don’t think democracy is possible. I think nearly everything I encounter in a daily basis is somehow tainted by extremely wealthy individuals’ narcissistic (and possibly sociopathic) needs to accumulate more wealth for no reason. I think America is too big to make anyone happy (except those sociopathic narcissists who control all the money, but even they don’t seem all that happy).

I think everything is meaningless. I have had my idealism totally sucked out of me by the contingency of human existence.

And, yet, I’m still a feminist.

[1] Not that greed is a masculine trait. That one seems to transcend sex and gender.

[2] I will never be over the fact that Michael Fassbender wasn’t even nominated for Shame. Ever.

[3] I.e., assholes. See note 4.

[4] I also operate on the principle that it’s better to not be an asshole. Some people (assholes) totally disagree with this. That’s fine. Most assholes seem absolutely okay with being assholes.

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