Ever notice how the goalposts of feminism keep moving? How we keep having to redefine the terms? What was considered "stunning and brave" one day is taboo and bigoted the next.
For an ideology that's supposedly "for everyone," it can be a little hard to keep up, especially when the terms of acceptability change faster and more frequently than Dr. Fauci's thoughts on masks.
Every five minutes it seems that the Overton Window shifts further and further left, leaving many more feminists behind. Is this symptomatic of progress or something more sinister?
The Feminist Movement No Longer Centers around Women’s Issues
In June 2021, a man who identified as a female entered the women’s locker room at Wi Spa in LA. The male showed his genitals to the women and minors present in the women’s locker room. When the women complained that they felt uncomfortable and unsafe, they were met with accusations of transphobia and intolerance. However, the spa maintained that the trans woman must be allowed in the women’s locker room under California’s anti-discrimination law.
The incident led to protests outside the spa, some of which became violent when protestors on either sides of the issue clashed. The mainstream media declared the incident was fueled by anti-trans hate and rampant bigotry. Yet, even when it was later revealed that the biological male, who was partially erect in front of women and minors, is currently facing several sex-offender charges, the media insisted that backlash was rooted in “transphobic hate.”
Is this kind of feminism truly for everyone?
This incident and the resulting media narrative reflect not only the exclusionary nature of feminism – in which women who want safe spaces just for women are deemed radical bigots – but also the gaslighting attempts embedded within modern feminism. Where the safety of women and girls was once a priority for feminism, it's now but a necessary tradeoff in favor of the feelings of transgender individuals whose rights supersede those of women and girls. The problem is not merely that a man exposed his genitals to women and minors, but that when women complained about their safety they were met with name-calling and accusations of bigotry by the same people who claim to be feminists.
Is this kind of feminism truly for everyone? Does it seek to protect women and girls? Or do the feelings of transgender individuals displace the safety of women and minors? Trans individuals may have the right to be trans. But do they have a right to expose themselves to women and girls? These are questions the modern feminism movement doesn’t seem to be able to answer. Or at least, not honestly.
The Exclusionary Nature of Mainstream Feminism
J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, was once considered a media darling for her progressive politics and much-lauded feminism. Then she did something unforgivable. In 2019, she spoke up in favor of a female sex researcher who was unceremoniously sacked for saying that biological sex is real. She claimed that she supported and would defend the rights and humanity of trans women but that there was a difference between trans women and biological women. She has since been completely castigated and called a TERF (a Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist) for insisting that biological sex is real and that women need safe spaces separate from biological males. Her comments were considered akin to violence against trans women.
Likewise, much fawned over writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author of We Should All Be Feminists, came under fire under similar circumstances. She committed the grave sin of tweeting "Trans Women are Trans Women." Readers considered it a push back against the woke aphorism "trans women are women." Adichie also made the claim that "It’s not about how we wear our hair, it’s about the way the world treats us.” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says she finds it difficult to equate the experience of trans women with that of women.
This was, of course, unforgivable, as it cut against the idea that gender and sex are merely social constructs and that gender identity is defined by your feelings rather than biological reality. Even though that dogma was considered radical until about the last few years.
Adichie later posted a short essay on her website that went viral, outlining the perils of groupthink and cancel culture. Ironically this caused even more backlash from progressives.
Our last example is probably someone you would not expect. Margaret Atwood, the feminist author of such well-known titles as The Handmaid's Tale and Alias Grace, got backlash for supporting due process for Steven Galloway, a professor in British Columbia facing sexual assault allegations. In response, she penned a piece titled "Am I Bad Feminist?” The answer from the woke crowd was a resounding yes. Yes, she was a bad feminist for supposedly "enabling rape." And no she was not a "bad feminist" in the Roxanne Gay sense. Atwood was unceremoniously tossed from the inner circle of fashionable feminists for this transgression.
Feminists aren’t looking for nuanced discussion or to have honest dialogue.
What these stories tell us is that feminists aren’t looking for nuanced discussion or to have honest dialogue. Any divergence in viewpoint is not only unacceptable but dangerous. Dissent must be first problematized and then squashed. But women aren’t the only ones who have had to pay the price for being so-called “bad feminists.”
In 2017, Google engineer James Damore was fired for daring to claim that disparities in outcomes between men and women can in many ways be attributed to real, biological differences and the choices that result from these differences.
His stance has been echoed by others, including in 2005 when then-Harvard President Larry Summers committed the egregious sin of claiming that different choices and sex differences played a role in different career outcomes for women. He received broad criticism and later resigned from the post.
These examples are but cautionary tales. Their stories exploit the true, vicious nature of modern feminism and how it uses exclusionary tactics to manufacture compliance.
Feminism Isn't for Everyone
Feminism has always left people out. Early variations of the movement excluded black women. Later variations excluded poor women. While the historical exclusion of women from the broader movement is widely criticized, today's movement is no better. Modern feminism operates by ostracizing, attacking, and condemning women who do not abide by the ever-shifting ideological framework and seeks to paint them as enemies of progress.
Feminism was once for the brave – those who weren't afraid to speak the truth even if it made them unpopular. Women like Susan B Anthony and Alice Paul were arrested and/or jailed for their work in the suffrage movement. Malala Yousafzai stood up to the Taliban and endured persecution to fight for educational opportunities for women.
Today, mainstream feminism is for the elect, the submissive, the ones who take instructions well, the ones who parrot the right phrases, the ones who don't ask too many questions, the ones who want to be liked above all else.
Modern-day feminism has turned women (and men) into sniveling creatures begging to be liked, pleading for a seat at the popular girl's lunch table. We have turned into a culture of weaklings, castrating ourselves in front of a mob who has declared themselves judge, jury, and executioner.
The goal is to bully people into silence and compliance while never having to offer nuanced debate.
In many ways, modern feminism, like other woke ideologies, has become unforgiving and cruel, demanding public apologies and gleefully destroying the lives of people who step out of line. Modern feminism has become the very thing it should have destroyed. This is not progress.
Mainstream feminism uses the fear of "cancel culture" to keep members in check, lest we end up like J.K. Rowling and Chimamanda Adiche, personas non grata. Their stories are but cautionary tales. Toe the line or else.
To use Professor Glenn Loury’s terminology, it's a bluff and a bludgeon. The invocation of "sexism" and "internalized misogamy" are used as fear-mongering tactics to scare the public out of dissent. The goal is to bully people into silence and compliance while never having to offer nuanced debate or answer complex questions about income disparities, divorce courts that privilege women, the ways in which the trans movement is at odds with women’s rights, or the problems with sexual liberation.
Is this the feminism we want to support? A rigid, joyless ideology that seeks to destroy the women who don't parrot the newest slogan and then have the gall to gaslight us with silly tautologies like "Support all women." I can't help but think that the silent part at the end of that slogan is "Support all women, or else."
I urge women to do two things: define and defend their values.
Define: Clearly define what it is that you stand for and why. Don't allow a pundit, influencer, or celebrity to offer you a pre-set list of values.
Defend: Uphold those values by any means necessary. Hold the line. Do not allow your values to become subject to ever-shifting trends and talking points. Join organizations, clubs, and communities that uphold and reflect your values.
Likewise, let's not allow mainstream feminism to define the terms. Twitter bullies do not get to decide what is "actually" supporting women. We need to draw hard lines; otherwise, we become powerless against the rising tides and the vicious currents of fads.
Fear of ostracization can't and shouldn't be a driving force for activism. Data, evidence, logic, reason, and values must remain at the forefront of our critical thinking strategies. Conversations regarding the many issues facing women need to allow space for disagreement and discussion. Without disagreement, we can’t refine our strategies, our viewpoints, or our objectives. And we must be willing to engage with and acknowledge trade-offs, even those that might hurt our feelings or contradict what we’d like to be true.
If you see the goalposts moving, know that you don’t have to move with them.
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