Thursday, July 24, 2014

Third Wave Problems

Still dealing with the health issues detailed in my last post. I promise I will get to reviewing Skin Game, and then move on to Gotham Central eventually. But a friend posted something on her wall that really set me off. Read this first:

You good? Okay. Cue rant:

Third Wave feminism was always doomed to have an image problem. Some of the Second Wavers were extremely radical (and they really needed to be to win what battles they did). But now detractors just remember the radicalness and chalk up the progress to... well, nothing actually, because they have not seen things progress first hand. To them, feminists were just a bunch of uppity bitches. The thrust of the piece is that if people just explained the truth to these people everything would get better. It's actually one of my problems with the way Women's Studies are taught: awareness is the tonic to every problem. Education is sufficient activism.

But a five minute conversation won't fix this problem (or MRAs). And honestly, neither will a university breadth-requirement. I suspect that many of these anti-feminist women feel threatened at some level. They assume fighting for equal pay and professional opportunities comes with the implicit expectations that all women everywhere become something more than a stay-at-home mom, or completely sloughing off your femininity, or burning bras, or refusing to shave, or learning how to open jars yourself (god forbid). It really doesn't though. To them, giving somebody an option that you have no interest in and does not affect their own choices or lifestyle in the slightest translates to harm. It's the same kind of logic that spurs conservatives to imply that allowing gay marriage somehow degrades heterosexual marriage.

And that's the second part of the problem. Third Wave feminism expanded it's scope to embrace every non-normative gender and sex that has been disenfranchised by the status quo (patriarchal and otherwise). And lots of people aren't cool with that, including some people who would have happily been quite radical Second Wave feminists. "We're about women! Why should we bother fighting for the queers or trannies?!" The Third Wavers did it because it was the right goddamn thing to do. If you are serious about fighting 'the patriarchy,' you have to call them out on all of their crimes; not just the ones that affect you specifically.

Unfortunately, that stance also makes things easier for conservatives to lure in people who purport to have "traditional values." The definition of feminist shifts from being "pro-women" to being "against every form of normativity and masculinity." Again, that's not what this is about. Admittedly, the agenda is more 'aggressive' than mere tolerance: we not only want people to stop actively persecuting women, lesbians, gays and trans people, we want them to enjoy the same rights you do as well. But we aren't going to force you to open your own jars.

That inclusive approach though also gave us the birth of Men's Rights Activists who, from my experience, typically range from boys who assume that there must be some misandrist conspiracy which accounts for why all those girls they liked never put out for them, to conservative pseudo-intellectual fuckwits who are frustrated that they can't play the victim card. And this opens the door for the whackjobs who believe that being considered 'dragon-kin' or whatever-the-hell ought to be a constitutional right. Social Justice Warriors are real, and they are also a problem, because they make everybody fighting for actual civil rights issues seem absurd by association.

These are world views that inherently impede and damage progress and equality. You can explain things to people who are confused and want to know more, but mere awareness will not course-correct assholes at cross-purposes. Those people, you have to fight. You can't shame them, or make them feel bad because they don't care what happens to you. They are hoping you're going to magically die off.

Not sure what the solution is, honestly. Neither conservative institutions, nor the "people of traditional values" they puppeteer give a shit about academics. Conservative business interests have the government effectively deadlocked with lobbying. So what channel of discourse is left? You never want to become the monsters they make you out to be, but I think it may be time for a Fourth Wave that's not afraid to kick some teeth in.

Figuratively speaking, of course.


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