Culture

Feminists Struggle To Combat Anti-Feminist Arguments About Oppression On Vice Panel

By Jaimee Marshall
·  11 min read
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A few weeks ago, VICE posted a debate on feminism to their YouTube channel. If you're familiar with this debate series, this is only one of many that they have published over the years on various topics. The panels are always composed of two sides of an issue, and the participants discuss their differing perspectives, which are sometimes fruitful, and other times less so.

This was one such case where the panel imploded into irrelevant discussions about all sorts of issues that had nothing to do with feminism. The panel consisted of nine participants with various identities, races, handicaps, political leanings, and views on feminism. During this 45-minute discussion, they dove into topics like abortion, #MeToo, and trans rights, but the conversation quickly turned hostile.

Meet the Panel

There were two prominent public figures that I immediately recognized, both of whom are conservative anti-feminists – YouTubers Sydney Watson and Pearl Davis. These two stirred up the most controversy among the other panelists but weren't the only conservatives on the panel. They did, however, seem to be the most vocal anti-feminists. Another conservative, Layla Grey, was also on the anti-feminist side, but since the 3-hour conversation was edited down to 45 minutes, we didn't hear as much from her.

Another conservative and one libertarian appeared to identify with or sympathize with feminism, as well as the other four left-wing panelists. Right out of the gate, the host announced that they have tried their best to bring together a diverse group of women for this discussion. Indeed, the panelists came from varying backgrounds; some were trans, one woman was disabled, and another was the child of Afghan refugees. 

As Holly Lawford Smith pointed out in her Quillette piece, however, it does seem transparent that VICE chose the only two vocal anti-feminist voices on the panel to be white women with no other intersecting oppression points that the other women had to speak about. Whether this was intentional or not, it did skew the conversation and predictably led to accusations of privilege informing their opinions. Ideally, this conversation would have been about ideas rather than identities, but that's too unrealistic to hope for in this modern era of political discourse.

Intersectionality Muddies the Waters with Irrelevant Details 

Intersectionality is the idea that all forms of oppression intersect. We cannot talk about feminism, intersectionalists would say, without also talking about racism, homophobia, transphobia, classism, disabilities, etc. Intersectionality creates hierarchies of privilege – the fewer victimhood points you score by belonging to various minority classes, the more privilege you have. This means you need to spend more time elevating the voices of people who are more oppressed than yourself and spend less time taking up space. 

In the context of feminism, many new-wave feminists argue that your feminism should be "intersectional," meaning that even if you face obstacles as a woman, another woman who has other overlapping oppression points in the form of race, disability, gender identity, etc. is likely to face discrimination in uniquely distinct ways from you. Intersectionalists often argue that only one type of voice has been amplified historically in feminist spaces: middle-class white women who are typically cisgender and straight. That's undeniably true historically, especially in the pre-civil rights era. However, the feminist women on this VICE panel believe this is still the case today, even in the face of increasing racial and gender-based quotes in everything from education to the workplace. This ideology is rampant among feminists today, with many female panelists getting sidetracked from discussing women's rights and barriers to discussing other irrelevant issues. 

When the feminists were asked for examples of barriers that women face as a result of being women in the West today, they came up blank.

Many accusations were thrown around during this discussion without any supporting evidence. When the anti-feminists would ask for examples of barriers that women face as a result of being women in the West today, the feminists came up blank or deferred to other victimologies like race or disability. Many non-white panelists insisted that feminist spaces exclude women of color but failed to list any examples of this, which makes it unclear exactly how they're being excluded. This led to the discussion devolving into complaints about each woman's individual life experiences, which were entirely anecdotal and had nothing to do with feminism. "As a black woman, I experience colorism; as a disabled woman, I experience ableism; as a trans woman, I experience transphobia." Okay, but can you list a single example of how you are held back as a woman? 

A Lot of Talking, Very Little Argument

Feminist Mindle Lind, on the panel, described feminism as the acknowledgment that women face barriers and friction to what they need and want based on the fact that they're women. However, she says what it ignores and what privilege is "is that being a woman and being a black woman and being a black woman who has a disability impacts you further." Conservative YouTuber Pearl Davis pushed back on this, saying she thinks life is easier for women and they get many benefits men don't. When Davis asked the panel what specific barriers women face today as a result of being a woman, the panel obfuscated the real question in a few ways. 

They undermined, deflected, and invoked other characteristics that score victimhood points. First, they undermined the legitimacy of Pearl Davis' question by claiming that she comes from a place of privilege for being white and aligning with acceptable beauty standards. They shifted the goal post by saying that they include disability or race in their feminism, whatever that means. This results in circular reasoning, where a panelist says we need feminism because women face barriers to equal rights. Someone asks what those barriers are, and they respond with something unrelated to being a woman. When this is exposed, they say, well, my feminism is indistinguishable from these other issues. This is like saying, "Short people are oppressed in this country.” “Oh really, how so?” “Well, I'm blonde." 

Panelist Omaris Zamora responded to this question by asking, "As a woman or a woman of color?" Davis clarifies, "As a woman," even though she had already clarified she wasn't speaking on race. Zamora responds, "Well, no, I can't answer as a woman because I'm not just a woman." At one point, Watson becomes visibly frustrated and rants about how all of them have gotten incredibly off-topic, discussing the multitude of other things that factor into their life experiences instead of making legitimate arguments, and this is why intersectionality loses a lot of people.

On the Issues

On the feminist side, the only legitimate argument I heard came out of conservative Antonia Okafor Cover, who pointed out that women face biological disadvantages to men because of their physical size. Since women have less lean muscle mass and are generally much smaller than men, women are disproportionately at risk of violence and sexual assault. This, she argues, is precisely why we have policies in place to protect women and why it's important for women to have the right to protect themselves by being armed. 

Since many of the panelists kept bringing up equity as a feminist issue, Davis asked them to clarify what they meant by this. Instead of equality of opportunity, many panelists believed they were entitled to equality of outcomes. Equality, they say, has failed to produce any significant differences in breaking down barriers for women entering certain workforces, like being CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, but of course, they were less concerned about proportionate representation in sanitation and bricklaying jobs. Again, Davis asked what barriers they were talking about, and Eli Erlick condescendingly answered, "Those barriers you don't believe in." How are you supposed to debate an issue when your opponents don't even bother to formulate arguments and instead assert their anecdotal experiences as gospel?

Even though the wage gap has been completely debunked, it’s still a mainstream issue in modern feminist circles.

The wage gap was also brought up – the idea that women are paid less because of gender-based discrimination. It almost feels redundant to point out that this is a completely debunked idea, but it's still a mainstream issue in modern feminist circles. Most feminists genuinely believe that women are paid less for the same jobs, even though countless studies have shown that the statistics cited on the wage gap do not account for differences in educational background, experience, number of hours worked, and differences in occupation. Even though one of the panelists claimed that studies have shown that women get paid less than men even when you adjust for the same job, this is still an extreme oversimplification. Women get pregnant and give birth, while men don't. Women are still the primary caretakers of infants, and this obviously has a huge effect on the maximum output they can produce after having a child. She may need to reduce her hours or require more flexibility. If anything, the wage gap is not discrimination against women, but one of the harsh sacrifices women make to become mothers. Men, of course, make plenty of sacrifices as well and are rarely rewarded paternity leave in the US.

Hostility Prevented This from Being a Worthwhile Conversation

When discussing #MeToo and abortion, the opinions were pretty predictable on both sides, but I want to dive into the conversation on trans rights. Davis brought up valid points concerning allowing biological males onto women's sports teams. Admittedly, this is a personal issue since she's a semi-pro athlete in two different sports. I'll grant that both sides of the issue presented valid points. Davis argued that biological males have a range of physical advantages over women, including height differences, body mass, bone density, and so on, which make it easier to outcompete biological women. Erlinger did bring up a valid point when she cited the fact that Michael Phelps has a genetic advantage that causes his body to produce more lactic acid, yet no one contests his world records.

However, they could not have a levelheaded debate on this issue without getting personal. Davis wasn't just bringing up a valid concern that affects her life but was expressing "trans misogyny," according to Erlinger. Erlinger went on to fearmonger about how the very real phenomenon of biological women having titles taken away from them by biological men is just a slippery slope. First, they're expressing their "concern" over women's sports because that's a socially acceptable way to begin to remove trans people from areas of society. It will only escalate from there, she claims, and then it moves to firing trans teachers and banning trans books. The irony, of course, is that the only people getting fired and whose books are being canceled are women who speak out against the mob of trans ideology. By trans ideology, I really do mean the advancement of trans issues at the expense of women's spaces and the cancellation of people raising reasonable concerns.

Watson, when she expresses her frustration at the dismissiveness of the panel when conservative women feel that their spaces are being invaded by men and are only shouted down, mocked, and ridiculed, was faced with exactly the kind of reaction that proves her point. This moment was screen captured and shared all over Twitter, causing a lot of viral pushback. "We're told that our opinions don't count because they're not the right kind of opinions, and we're constantly shouted over and talked down to regardless of what we look like because there's one group in society that basically takes precedence," Watson said. In response, one of the feminist panelists decided to laugh at her like a female Joker and belittled her for being a "white woman from Australia" (because white women from Australia can't possibly face adversity). She went on to accuse her of being pissed that voices that have been silenced forever finally can be heard. This is the level of maturity you can expect from modern feminists – they shout over you, laugh at you, accuse you of being privileged (while being a passing white woman who lives in the United States and is appearing on a VICE panel) all while refusing to present any facts that support their arguments.

Closing Thoughts

The reason feminists weren't able to name any barriers women face in the West today is that there aren't any. There are inherent biological differences between men and women, which give us different advantages and disadvantages in certain areas of life. Men are the ones who are being left behind when it comes to enrolling and graduating from high school and college. They're committing suicide at soaring rates, almost all of our prisons are filled with men, they do the most physically demanding and "gross" jobs no one else wants to do, they're more likely to be a victim of physical violence, and they can't control if a woman wants to terminate their baby. There are no policies in place that oppress women in the United States; we simply make different choices than men because our interests and nature are different. There are fewer women in STEM fields because fewer women want to study or work in STEM. Gender-based differences are even more pronounced in countries that are the most egalitarian.

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