A lot of shortsighted feminists out there are probably pretty drunk on their ability to blather and bully others into capitulation right now. After all, they won a couple of high profile (if rather petty) skirmishes this past week, using harassment and faux outrage to wring apologies from people who had absolutely nothing to apologize for. In the process, they even managed to make an accomplished scientist cry with remorse during what should have been one of the proudest, most celebratory times in his life, vicariously drinking in that most coveted of feminist elixirs – male tears.
The kerfuffles I’m referring to are what has come to be known on social media as both #shirtgate and #shirtstorm (inspired by the utterly hateful and powerfully oppressive garment pictured directly above) and the uproar resulting from TIME magazine’s bold inclusion of the word “feminist” in this year’s poll of terms that should potentially be banned. In both conflicts, feminists were able to efficiently badger those parties who dared to wear or write something offensive to their sensibilities into admitting having made grave errors which doubtlessly caused irreparable harm to innocents far and wide. On the surface, it would seem feminists have much to congratulate themselves for. They may not comprise anything near a majority anywhere in the West, but they’re apparently able to get in your ear enough to make it sound like they do if you’re a scientist or a magazine editor.
In the long run, however, the events of the past week do not bode well for this “equality movement” in the slightest, partly because of the outsized influence the public is witnessing feminists exert over the rest of us. The more commonplace it becomes for anyone who sins against feminist dogma to have to immediately fall on their swords, the harder it gets to buy the theory that America is a patriarchy. Simply put, a patriarchy would ignore feminist demands, not cave to them practically every single time out. Feminism’s dependancy on an idea which grows more noticeably inaccurate by the moment is just one of many dark clouds on the movement’s horizon. The way feminists conducted themselves in their handling of both #shirtgate and the campaign against TIME magazine could come back to bite them in a number of specific ways which I intend to elaborate on here.
Let’s deal with the silliest stuff first, and talk about that shirt. Dr. Matt Taylor, known by those he works with for wearing bright, unconventional attire, decided to wear a shirt made for him by his friend Elly Prizeman the day he successfully landed a probe on a comet. The shirt was a birthday present, and features comic book-esque renderings of women who feminists are referring to as “scantily clad”, though that term applies more to some of the figures depicted than others. Dr. Taylor manuevered the Philae into the correct position despite the probe having sustained damage to a thruster, but that was basically just an afterthought, as the media disregarded his accomplishment and focused almost entirely on how he was dressed. As Glenn Harland Reynolds noted in a recent column for USA Today, it’s a smidge hypocritical for feminists to be mentioning Dr. Taylor’s clothes at all.
“feminists have been telling us for years that women can wear whatever they want, and for men to comment in any way is sexism. But that’s obviously a double standard, since they evidently feel no compunction whatsoever in criticizing what men wear. News flash: Geeks don’t dress like Don Draper.”
But, hey, when have minor details like hypocrisy or fairness ever stood between feminists and their sense of outrage, right? If not acting exactly like the sexists they’re perpetually condemning means missing a chance to demonize a cis man for enjoying somewhat risque drawings of women, well…compromises must be made. Who cares if some of the women on Dr. Taylor’s shirt are dressed more conservatively than how many feminists dress when embarking on their ever-so-effective and consciousness-raising “slutwalks?” We’re dealing with the objectification of cartoon women who are clearly intended to be analogues for every female colleague Dr. Taylor crosses paths with! What reasonable human being could help identifying and empathizing with figures on a shirt so completely that whatever happens to the drawings might as well be happening to them? What difference does it make if the shirt was made by a woman? She should have forwarded her shirt design to the Royal Feminist High Council for approval before going through with it. Surely, they would have gently informed her that her shirt is just crackling with misogyny. At least, that’s how Alice Bell makes it sound in her #shirtgate response piece for The Guardian, which features the sub-headline:
“ESA can land their robot on a comet. But they still can’t see misogyny under their noses.”
For the record, while the definition of “misogyny” is simply “a hatred of women” on Merriam-Webster.com, the Wikipedia page for the word does state that it can be expressed through the objectification of women. However, if “objectification of women” in this case merely means “indicating via clothing choice a likely enjoyment of looking at women’s bodies,” it’s a pretty big leap of logic to assume the reason this man likes looking at women’s bodies is because he despises them. Objectification of women minus any hate isn’t “misogyny”, it’s just sexualization, and in this case, it wasn’t even the man wearing the shirt who determined how sexualized the images should be. Is it Alice Bell’s contention that merely putting the shirt on transformed Dr. Taylor into a woman-hater? Is she suggesting that people typically hate whatever gender they sexualize? Either one would be an interesting theory to hear her expound on, but it seems to me that maybe she doesn’t understand something really basic about human nature: people often sexualize someone cos they kinda like them. Unless we’re just talking about drawings on a shirt, of course. Drawings either come pre-sexualized by the artist, or else most people don’t necessarily find them all that sexy. That feminists all over the internet and on television this past week have demonstrated an inability to understand such no-brainer concepts is another sign of a rough future ahead for feminism. The movement seems to be doing some real damage to many within its ranks by so often treating “sex” and “assault” as though they’re the exact same thing.
There was a regular shirtstorm of other complaints leveled against Dr. Taylor’s attire, containing varying degrees of absurdity. The most common allegations were that Taylor’s shirt was inappropriate for the venue and that any women who saw it would be so offended or traumatized by it that they’d flee their current careers in scientific fields or decide never to enter those fields in the first place. The now infamous shirt is certainly not what most people would wear to a scientific endeavor sure to receive a lot of press, and perhaps it wasn’t in the best taste, but so what? Dr. Taylor doesn’t seem to like dressing the way most people do. Should he be guilted for that? Does it make him a bigot? Besides, maybe he just wore that shirt to thank his friend for her gift and advertise her work to the public.
The women on the shirt may be dressed “unscientifically”, but nothing misogynistic is happening to them. They aren’t being beaten, raped, harassed or made subordinate to men. In fact, they seem to all be shown in positions of arguable strength or power. One is aiming a gun confidently and looks a little bit like Black Widow from the Avengers. For that matter, all of the women on the shirt look like they could be superheroine-inspired. While some feminists may not appreciate how superheroines often dress, superhero comics have still produced many of the strongest, most powerful, most self-assured female characters ever created. More women are reading comic books and watching superhero movies than ever before, and nerdy, sci-fi pop culture is something enjoyed by many people of both genders who enter the sciences. We can’t assume that every woman will be familiar enough with comic book art to be reminded of superheroines by Dr. Taylor’s shirt, but we can’t assume most women see weakness or oppression in the garment, either. Even many women who don’t read comic books can probably tell that the style of the shirt’s artwork is somewhat tongue-in-cheek. Still, it clearly bothers a certain segment of very vocal women (or, in some cases, feminists have convinced them they should be bothered) so I’ll admit the shirt has potential to offend. Almost everything has the potential to offend someone, though, and we all generally still have the right to dress however we want. The pertinent question here is how many women is this shirt likely to offend enough that they’re chased away from the sciences completely? I can’t prove it, but I have a feeling the answer is “not even one.” Most adults don’t hinge their plans for their futures on the idea that no one in their chosen field will ever dress in a way they disapprove of.
Feminism is often seen as a wing of liberalism. If feminists continue to police things as petty as shirts with comic booky depictions of women on them, they’ll be handing conservatives ammunition to use against liberalism as a whole, and the broader liberal movement will grow impatient with feminism. We’re already seeing the beginnings of this. Shirtgate inspired Jon Gabriel to write an op-ed for the conservative Ricochet.com entitled When Did the Left Turn into Rick Santorum?
As a liberal myself, I hate admitting even a sliver of a possibility that the left could have anything in common with Mr. Santorum. To my regret, I can’t deny that the comparison is becoming apt (largely due to the efforts of feminists.) There are obvious similarities between Mr. Santorum constantly fighting to ensure that people only have certain kinds of sex, certain kinds of marriages and certain kinds of families and feminists fighting to ensure that people only wear certain kinds of clothes, only have access to certain sources of information and only develop or play certain kinds of video games.
The main reason I’ve considered myself a liberal for as long as I can remember is because I loathe bigotry and rigidly enforced, arbitrary “moral standards” which oppress freedom of choice. I’m well aware that not all conservatives hold bigoted views, but I’ve always believed that oppression is the ultimate result of social conservatism. Apologies to any of my conservative friends who read this, but I still believe that, which is why I’ve grown to consider it a widespread misconception that feminism has been lumped together with liberalism.
Like most liberals are conditioned to do, I used to take it as a given that “feminism” was just a synonym for “women’s rights” and should therefore be supported. After all, I want women to be able to vote, pursue any careers they choose and have equal access to everything society has to offer. I also see a clear need for abortion to remain a civil right. Feminists kept insisting those things were the meat and potatoes of what their movement stood for, and I supposed I must be a feminist, cos I stand for those things, too. Then I watched with gobsmacked amazement and increasing disillusionment as feminists used the same kind of fear-mongering tactics against men that conservatives have often employed in their efforts to oppress minorities. I listened to feminists complain about how American women can’t do anything, then fumble their answer everytime someone asked them to name even one thing modern women are barred from doing in America, and I realized feminism is as stuck in the past as conservatism has ever been. Upon doing some research, I discovered that feminism and conservatism even have a history of homophobia in common (which I’ve written about in other posts.)
I rejected feminism as the anti-thesis of true liberalism quite a while ago and have been speaking out about its backwards thinking and bigoted tendencies ever since. Stories like mine are increasingly common among liberals. Most of us are not Rick Santorum, Anita Sarkeesian, Alice Bell or any of their spiritual cousins. Most of us truly are trying to expand equality and make people more free, no matter how much some may disagree with us. Which means that most people on the left are going to end up every bit as fed up with the bigotry of the feminist “moral majority” as I am in fairly short order. Especially because feminism is only becoming more unhinged as time goes on. Feminists have spent so much time hypocritically bashing the conservatives whom they have most in common with that when liberals disavow feminism, it will find no safe harbor in the conservative camp, either.
Let’s move on to TIME’s poll, which I’m not going to give feminists quite as much grief about. I completely understand exactly why it’s freaking them out so badly that such a prominent magazine suggested banning the word “feminist.” When Beyonce recently writhed around at the VMAs with that word in giant letters as a backdrop, ridiculous human being Jessica Valenti wrote that “the zeitgeist is indisputably feminist.” Many of her fellow feminists who also see pop singers and other celebrities as the guiding stars of their movement eagerly believed Valenti’s sage wisdom. A respected and relatively evenhanded news source like TIME including “feminist” in a list of annoying words that have lost all meaning or relevance to most people, and so soon after Beyonce’s ascendence to feminist spokeswoman, must sting like a slap in the face. Especially because part of TIME’s reasoning for including the word was “when did it (feminism) become a thing every celebrity has to state their position on…?”, which could be seen as a strong rebuke of 3rd wave feminism’s creepy monitoring of and obsession with Beyonce, Taylor Swift, and almost every other breakthrough or up-and-coming female entertainer. TIME’s poll made it abruptly more difficult for feminists to deny that their movement has alienated at least as many people as it’s attracted. Then “feminist” pulled into a clear lead over every other term in the poll (which included things like “bae”, “bossy”, “turnt” and “I can’t even…”) and it seemed probable that feminism had ticked off way more people than it had drawn support from. Suddenly, the zeitgeist was looking indisputably anti-feminist.
The poll afforded feminists a golden opportunity to heed a clear wake up call and engage in real soul searching about feminism’s numerous missteps, both recently and throughout its past. So how did feminists react? By claiming “feminist” was beating out the rest of the words in the poll entirely due to the efforts of “4chan trolls” and launching petitions aimed at forcing an apology from TIME magazine. They got their apology, in the form of a note from editor Nancy Gibbs which now graces the top of the poll on TIME’s website, and an apparent disabling of user ability to vote for the term “feminist.” When I tried to vote for the word, I found you could no longer do that. By the way, I’ve never had any involvement with 4chan and am not even entirely sure what it is. I am, however, reasonably sure that even people who do know what 4chan is are still permitted to vote in magazine polls.
Regardless of my personal feelings about their movement, feminists have every right to criticize whoever and whatever they want. I wouldn’t have thought too much about it if they had stuck to writing sternly worded letters to the editor in response to TIME’s poll, which i’m sure the magazine will be publishing many of. Starting petitions to coerce someone into apologizing anytime a publication takes a stance feminists don’t like is an overreach, though, and forcing TIME to block people from being able to vote for “feminist” once the poll had already been released is a real dick move that absolutely reeks of desperation. Feminists had the exact same ability to vote in the poll as everyone else did. If their movement was really the wave of the future they act like it is, why couldn’t they just turn out in large enough numbers to ensure “feminist” didn’t win the vote? Instead of encouraging their own supporters to vote en masse for one or any of the other terms, feminists did everything in their power to keep other people from indicating their agreement that the word is useless, counterproductive, and/or supremacist. If feminists are aware that TIME magazine is not a branch of the US government with legal authority to ban words, and that this was all just a non-binding attempt to measure public opinion, you wouldn’t know it by their hysterical overreactions. Or perhaps public opinion is what they’re so scared of.
They were able to generate a lot of backlash against TIME magazine, but feminists also generated a tidal wave of backlash against themselves in the process. The American public can seem pretty thick headed at times, but feminism’s continual efforts to assume control of or shut down any national conversation that contradicts their dogma are now impossible not to notice. Feminism isn’t interested in engaging in any kind of “marketplace of ideas”, because the movement has no confidence in its own positions or ability to win a majority of decent, sane people over. If they were truly fighting for equality, feminists would enjoy majority support all over the West, instead of comprising less than a quarter of the population. But feminism is a supremacist movement whose core tenets are closer to fundamentalism than to logic. This movement is grabbing for absolute power and control, and any feminist who claims not to be aware of that at this point is someone I would suspect of being willfully oblivious. Now that they’ve gotten a taste of the power they desire so deeply, feminists have grown impatient with anyone who refuses to hand them more of it, and overtly hostile towards any person or entity that challenges the power they’ve already acquired. They’re getting meaner. More aggressive. More willing to publicly stifle the rights of others in their attempts to intimidate them into falling in line. In essence, they’re inadvertently sacrificing the war to win a few battles, and leaving precious little doubt in the minds of the general public that feminists do consider this a war, and that most of us are not nearly extreme or bigoted enough to avoid being counted among their enemies.
Look out, everybody. The feminists are coming to force you to apologize for thinking you were free. Let’s see how that works out for feminism over the long term.