Feminism Becomes Gender Theory and Hope Comes to Planet Earth

An attractive young women, smiling, holding a knife
Valeria Boltneva on Pexels, cropped by the author in GIMP

Has feminism’s quest for equality become a quest for vengeance? Enlightenment liberal feminism began “in accordance with modernist ideals of secular, liberal democracy, individual agency within a framework of universal human rights, and an Enlightenment focus on reason and science,” writes Pluckrose and Lindsay in their Cynical Theories. Among those members of the Enlightenment liberal world, likely all of them think women should have the same rights as men. That women are still not at parity with men in corporate boardrooms, or politics, as examples, remains clear from the numbers. In 1920 there were 0 women in both the U.S. House and Senate, in 1970 there were 1 and 16, today there are 122 females in the House of now 435 members and 24 in the Senate of a fixed 100. If society were perfectly equal in politics, including desires to engage in it, then by gender ratio, we would expect 219 males and 216 females in the House. However, there are some opportunities that will never be equal: men will never have the opportunity to give birth, women will never have an opportunity for prostate cancer. Biology matters.

To think humans are unaffected by the very biology we carry about is more than a little odd, but it’s a concept the academic left promotes for political reasons noted below. A concept as odd as to think that human rights would not apply to all humans. The Taliban’s recent ruling that girls may not be educated past grade 6 shows that medieval regimes still exist in the 21st century. However, the Taliban aren’t adherents to Enlightenment liberalism, but then, neither are the Western world’s radical leftists in our university humanities.

In the Western world, liberal feminism “made tremendous progress toward the legal, professional, and social equality of the sexes… Before the postmodern turn… feminist theories saw power as an intentional, top-down strategy by powerful men in patriarchal and capitalist societies, but [with liberal feminism’s success] it became increasingly untenable to view Western society as genuinely patriarchal or to see most men as actively colluding against the success of women.” Enter privilege. Privilege became vogue — rising in the ranks of superfluous overuse, like “community” and “diversity” — thanks to Wellesley Centers for Women professor Peggy McIntosh, in her 1989 essay, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” Instead of low-, middle-, and upper-class distinctions, privilege allows the creation of many more dimensions of victimization. Using privilege and the relative absence of discrimination of whites, males, heterosexuals, and able-bodied people an attempt was made to “flip the script by strategically redefining the absence of discrimination and disenfranchisement as unjust.”

Hmm… Advocates for discrimination.

Didn’t we used to call such people bigots? Today we can call them inspiration for the radical right.

At about this same time, U.C. Santa Cruz sociologist, Candace West, and U.C. Santa Barbara’s, Don H. Zimmerman wrote, “Doing gender means creating differences between girls and boys and women and men, differences that are not natural, essential, or biological. Once the differences have been constructed, they are used to reinforce the ‘essentialness’ of gender.” Recall, as University of Michigan gender theorist Gayle Rubin said, if gender is biologically based, it’s harder to politicize. For postmodernists of the academic New Left, biology became just another social construct people invent — the way animals, fish, and insects don’t — for the purposes of dominance. With privilege and “doing gender,” a change in feminism was taking place in the late 1980s.

While previous forms of feminism treated women as “a class and sought to create positive change for that class,” by the 2000s, class was passé. It was then City University New York gender studies professor, Judith Lorber, summarized a new direction for feminism: 1) ​Affirm that gender is an opinion, not a matter of biology; 2) ​Claim gender and sexuality are social inventions; 3) Assert these are inventions of the powerful to oppress those categorized by sex and gender; 4) ​Focus on “victim standpoint theory” conferring a victim’s special access to truth while defining that identity as “situated” by emotional experience to make hurt feelings the coin of the realm and grounds for authority, not fact-based evidence.

By around 2010, early liberal feminism and later radical feminist theorists like UCLA’s Sandra Harding had been replaced by postmodernist “intersectional feminism.” Intersectionality was borrowed from Critical Race Theory as the notion that multiple victims can intersect in one identity, e.g., black, female, lesbian, allowing for different types of discrimination. Intersectionalism allowed for an unending creation of victim-junctures, “new accusations to make,” and new problems that postmodernists painted as “intractably complicated.” Like Intelligent Design, such problems couldn’t be solved, only revealed by theorists. Many scholars traded their feminist pedigree for the more nebulous gender studies. With liberal feminism’s success, intersectional feminism abandoned it to board a gravy train running from “their failing theoretical models into something more diffuse and less falsifiable.” A kind of certainty was creeping into the relativism of postmodern scholarship, eventually crafted into a full blown, unassailable dogma.

Social psychologists Leon Festinger, Henry Riecken, and Stanley Schachter wrote about this kind of thinking in their 1956 book, When Prophecy Fails. They infiltrated a doomsday cult who believed the Western world would be destroyed by a great flood before dawn on December 21, 1954 in order to study the believer’s response when it didn’t happen. The cult was led by Dorothy Martin who practiced “automatic writing” — also called psychography or self-delusion — a “psychic ability” producing words unconsciously. With postmodernism unavailable in ’54, Martin plugged into the planet Clarion instead. Coining the words cognitive dissonance, Festinger et. al. found that when the end didn’t come, true believers resolved this contradiction by claiming the event had occurred, but in some unfalsifiable way. In this case, God spared us thanks to Martin’s faith. Likewise, Trump’s election loss was followed by assertions of assertions of election theft, and as sexism receded, the academic left discovered it everywhere in ways that can’t be falsified — opinions of slight, insult or assault as anything the claimant says they are. According to Linda Ledray’s Recovering From Rape, “undress you looks” and “catcalls” are forms of rape.

“As intersectionality developed and became dominant in both mainstream political activism and scholarship, it became increasingly common to hear that ‘straight, white, cisgendered men’ were the problem.” Which conveniently ignores the findings of economists like Anne Case and Angus Deaton in their Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism: the evisceration of America’s pathologized males, over 100,000 per year dead to drug overdoses. Not every white male resides on a corporate board. But for the New Left — as with the New Right — reality is an obstacle to winning political arguments.

Meet Northeastern University’s director of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Professor Suzanna Danuta Walters. In her Washington Post op-ed she asks, Why can’t we hate men? Per Walters, “…it seems logical to hate men. I can’t lie, I’ve always had a soft spot for the radical feminist smackdown, for naming the problem in no uncertain terms… here in the land of legislatively legitimated toxic masculinity, is it really so illogical to hate men?… But we’re not supposed to hate them because… #NotAllMen. I love Michelle Obama as much as the next woman, but when they have gone low for all of human history, maybe it’s time for us to go all Thelma and Louise and Foxy Brown on their collective butts… [Recall, this is a university professor.] So men, if you really are #WithUs and would like us to not hate you for all the millennia of woe you have produced and benefited from, start with this: Lean out so we can actually just stand up without being beaten down. Pledge to vote for feminist women only. Don’t run for office. Don’t be in charge of anything. Step away from the power. We got this. And please know that your crocodile tears won’t be wiped away by us anymore. We have every right to hate you. You have done us wrong. #BecausePatriarchy. It is long past time to play hard for Team Feminism. And win.” According to her website, Walters “contributes regularly to more public venues and has written for The Nation, The Chronicle of Higher Education, the LA Times, and the Baltimore Sun, among others.”

While I’ve not been alive for millennia, if I and other men could only genuflect low enough — never again to make reasoned choices about who I vote for, never to participate in democracy in the face of tyranny like Walter’s or Trump’s, and never to be in charge of anything. Including my participation in wildlife restoration seeking to save those threatened with extinction, and my position on a University Honors Board in which 70% of students are female as males disappear from universities across America. Kudos for Walters. (Imagine a boy in her class. As Christina Hoff Summers documents in The War Against Boys, no wonder boys avoid university.) Though I wonder if there are other men taking charge in positive ways, or would they rather swear loyalty to Walters and the new creed, the way Trump’s sycophants swear to him — bootlickers inspired by the likes of Walters. The rage-doctrine and simplistic absolutism are equivalent between these two and they think they’re different. Which begs the question: Has New Left feminism been inverted from a quest for equality to a quest for vengeance, the way our New Right inverted conservatism into fascism?

Instead of understanding and cooperation, Walters and her new postmodernist feminism — like all the postmodern subdisciplines we’ve pondered these last six posts — inspires contempt. Polarization is not a byproduct of this kind of thinking, says Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, Johnathan Rauch, “polarization is the product [as] cravings for shared outrage against a common adversary.”

There is, however, one potentially very positive outcome from all this malice. Planet Earth doesn’t need more humans. If Walter’s brand has its way, men and women will stay miles apart.

References:

Paragraph 1: Pluckrose and Lindsay, p. 148

Paragraph 2: “made tremendous…” Ibid., pp. 145, 146. “flip the script…” Ibid., p. 153

Paragraph 6: Candace West and Don H. Zimmerman, “Doing Gender,” Gender and Society 1, no. 2 (1987), p. 137

Paragraph 7: “a class…” Pluckrose and Lindsay, p. 138. Paraphrased from Judith Lorber, “Shifting Paradigms and Challenging Categories,” Social Problems 53, no. 4 (2006): p. 448

Paragraph 8: “new accusations…” Pluckrose and Lindsay, p. 139. “intractably…” Ibid., p. 145. “their failing…” Ibid., p. 145

Paragraph 10: “As intersectionality…” Ibid., p. 154

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Physicist / artist / author writes about science & religion, art & culture, philosophy & politics with an edge. On Medium, Goodreads and TheFatherTrilogy.com

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Brett Alan Williams

Physicist / artist / author writes about science & religion, art & culture, philosophy & politics with an edge. On Medium, Goodreads and TheFatherTrilogy.com