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March 07, 2017

"Why I Am Not a Feminist," By Jessica Crispin

She hits a couple of themes here I'm passionate about, which I just alluded to in the last post:

Self-definition is easiest, and most vicious, by resort to what one is not, rather than what one is. Saying what one is not is much easier than saying what one is.

That's not the vicious part, though: The vicious part comes in defining what one is not as the Despicable and the Deplorable. By this process, movements allegedly against "racism" become racist themselves, defining, most obviously, "whiteness" as a problem in need of eradication, and much less about blackness as an attribute in need of further exploration and/or celebration.

Building up is hard, knocking down is easy, and given human beings' enjoyment of cruelty, a lot more fun too.

As an aside, I'd also say self-definition is a bit silly in and of itself and a project undertaken chiefly by the young searching for an identity, rather than the older and wiser who 1, feel they have an identity already, and 2, also know that people are pretty complicated (even the dumb, boring ones) and elude any kind of simple definition.

You really can't impose a shorthand identity definition on something you know well. You can stereotype things you know poorly this way, but not really yourself. The more you know something, the less you can give it a shorthand definition.

I can shorthand Dallas only because I've never been there: Kinda liberal, sprawling, lots of tittybars, a bit without character. Sort of a stripmall upscaled to city-size.

Anyone actually from Dallas would instantly dispute that -- correctly -- and note all the contradictions and differences in neighborhoods and fair number of conservatives in Dallas, as well as its actual character and quirks and history and charms.

You can only stereotype by shorthand definition that which you know poorly. And hopefully, even when you're young and don't quite know yourself (and no one ever truly does), you still know yourself too well to slap a dumb stereotype on yourself.

Now that I've inserted my Male Voice into this post where it should be -- ahead of the Female Voice, which I oppress through my masculine privilege and blog writing privilege-- I'll quote this Inferior Female talking about her new book "Why I Am Not a Feminist," which is 150 pages, kinda short, but also kinda sounds like just the right length.

The easiest way to feel empowered is to claim identification with some sort of group (gender, nationality, religion, etc.). It is the laudable characteristics of that group that you identify as your own characteristics, which are based on the way a gender, a nation, or a religion prefers to think about itself.

The easiest way for a group to build its sense of identity is through the rejection or the demeaning of that group’s "opposite." In order for atheists to present themselves as rational and intelligent, they have to present the religious as superstitious and foolish. This is certainly easier and more effective than consistently being rational and intelligent. In order for America to think of itself as strong and important, it has to think of Europe as being weak and worthless. And in order for women to think of themselves as compassionate, they have to think of men as violent.

Part of this is simple projection. All the aspects of yourself that you are ashamed of or fear that you possess (weakness, anger, irrationality) can be easily forgotten if you assign those traits to someone you are not. If you strongly identify as one thing, your opposite can be not only a scapegoat, but a shit storehouse. Anything you’d like to distance yourself from can simply be stored in the identity of your opposite. "This group over here is _______ [enter whatever disgusting thing you can't bear to see inside of yourself]. I belong to the group that is the opposite of this, and so therefore I possess the opposite qualities."

This is meant to convince both yourself and your audience of your value. When someone has a gap in their sense of self, or in their sense of the value of themselves, that gap can be filled with the sense of the group with which they identify. Nationalism tends to strengthen during times of struggle. Individuals fall on hard times, they find themselves suffering from unemployment or poverty or displacement, which causes self-doubt. People erase that self-doubt, or at least cover it up, by suddenly proclaiming participation in a larger project, the project of a nation. Their nation is great, their nation has a tremendous history, and so they are allowed to participate in that greatness, to possess it, to play a part in that tremendous history.

Nationalism, in and of itself, is not bad. Identifying with a larger group is not, in and of itself, bad. Particularly when a group has been degraded and dismissed....


It is always easier to find your sense of value by demeaning another's value. It is easier to define yourself as "not that," than to do an actual accounting of your own qualities.

Which is why the casual hatred of men as a gender is so disturbing. It is the same thing men have done to women for centuries. In order not to feel weak, they projected weakness onto us. In order not to feel emotional, they projected their emotions onto us. Now when women want not to feel foolish, they project foolishness onto men. When they want not to feel destructive, they project their destructiveness onto men.

Through this act of projection, we are not only refusing to see the full humanity of men, we are refusing to see the full humanity of ourselves. We are not fully human if we only accept our good bits. There is not much variety if we only use the light colors of the spectrum.

And so, according to a brief perusal of women writer’s comments online over the past few days, men are: overly confident, predatory, helpless, psychopaths, terrified of women, fascists, the reason why the world is in this mess, literally so stupid, and the problem here.

Of course what these women really mean is that they themselves are not overly confident, not predatory, not helpless, and on down the line. It's just easier to say that men are these things, than that you are not these things. People would rightly become suspicious if you suddenly started going on about how amazing you were. They’d start looking for proof you weren’t. But by attributing these negative behaviors and traits to your “opposite” group, it’s an easy, criticism-proof way of saying, "I would never behave like this, I would never be like this."

And look, it's funny, and it probably even feels like a public service, deflating the male ego. They think too much of themselves, obviously, or they wouldn’t think they and they alone could run the world for so long. This is just bringing men's view of themselves into better alignment with who they actually are. And yet it seems to me if we really were better than them, we wouldn’t simply pick up all of their bad habits. We could find some value in ourselves without demeaning the value of men.

By the way, it's also been a long-held fact (not belief, fact) of mine that Europeans tend to express their nationalism not through positive, affirmative claims of their nation's strengths and accomplishments; they have been taught that such pride of nation is inherently base and dangerous.

Yet, they are still, like all other people, narcissistic and prideful.

So they express their nationalism in a nasty, passive-aggressive and cowardly way: Through anti-Americanism.

See, when you deride America as being vulgar, uneducated, warlike, common, uncultured, etc., what are you really saying?

If a Frenchman says that about America, what must he be saying, by inescapable implication, about his own country? That France is tasteful, educated, peaceful, elite, and cultured.

Why not just say that then? Where has this idea come from that expressing a bit of pride in one's own country is somehow silly, uncultured, and base, whereas expressing the same pride through the passive-aggressive, cowardly, and insulting means of denigrating a competitor and merely unavoidably implying all the attributes of one's own country by resort to listing the flaws of another is somehow "elevated"?

Seems the exact opposite to me -- even if you think flag-waving patriots are a bit silly, it's both silly and cowardly, and vicious, to express that same flag-waving jingoism by resort to pathological stereotyping and insult of The Other By Which We Define Ourselves.

Although I found the Luke Cage series boring and plodding,* I really did like the celebration of Harlem's history and its none-too-subtle propaganda on behalf of a Black Renaissance. The show never really insulted me as a white guy. Talking up black pride didn't do a damn thing to reduce my own pride. I even got on board with those parts.

See, a celebration of black people's specialness doesn't offend me or insult me as a white guy. Just as a Frenchman's pride in France bothers me not at all as an American.

In fact, let me take that a step further: I've talked to nationalistic (or country-proud) Germans, Indians, French, Brazilians, and Brits, and, get this, their pride of country did not put me off at all, or cause any friction between us. I understood them. I got why they were proud of their countries and had no problem with that, as I am (or, at least, I was) proud of my country too. There may be a little jingoistic jockeying -- a bit of one-upsmanship -- but we were all kind of on the same page.

Now they were of course all wrong -- their countries might be special, but America is (or was) just a little bit more special -- but their pride of place was something I felt too, so on that level, we shared a kinship.

On the other hand, there are the narcissists who begin their sentences with "You Americans are all..." They're expressing the same narcissism/smug pride that the out-and-proud nationalists and patriots do -- they're just expressing it in the most negative, insulting, ratfucking way possible.

I've got no problem at all with women talking up the value of women, or blacks talking up the achievements of blacks.

I do, on the other hand, have a problem with being casually denigrated and spited for my race or sex.

You know, the way the alleged anti-racists and anti-sexists claim they're totally opposed to.

* It was also too obviously propagandistic, even though I approved of the propaganda. The show was a long message about presenting an apsirational ideal of black masculinity, celebrating not just physical power (as many rap songs might) but also the sort of martial-honor ethics and inherent morality necessary to restrain the use of force for good purposes.

To make Luke Cage a sort of idealized image of black masculinity, they kind of made him boring. Like a black Superman -- a big black boy scout instead of the big blue boy scout. It really wasn't what I was hoping for from this "Sweet Christmas!" bellowing pimped-out Shaft ripoff character.

Like Superman, Luke Cage was Lawful Good, but everyone knows that Lawful Good usually shades right into Lawful Boring.

I didn't mind that propaganda as such -- nice propaganda! Agree with it! Hope it permeates into the culture! -- but propaganda, even of a kind you agree with, gets boring to sit through.

Unless you're a Social Justice Warrior. In that case, the propaganda you approve of is the only thing worth remarking about in a film, TV show, book, or other work of art.

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posted by Ace at 04:01 PM

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