Category Archives: Radical feminism

Considering competition as a form of woman-hating.

In a previous entry, I discussed the connections in what I called the Axis of Woman-Hating: natalism (women as a means to the end of procreation), anti-feminism (women are sex objects) and genderism (nature made women inferior).

Obviously there are some connections missing there, and I was only getting at the major ones. Capitalism would be another good example. The difference is that there is nothing that leads us logically from the private ownership of the means of production to woman-hating, but historically there is a strong connection between forms of capitalism (including fascism and State communism) and forms of woman-hating, usually connected to procreation and the family.

Sexism aids the capitalist system. The family provides a base for the reproduction and bringing up of future workers and the servicing and care of current (and unemployed) workers and retired workers.

This work which, in the home, is usually carried out unpaid by women (who may also work outside the home) saves capitalism millions of pounds, increasing the profits of a few.

The capitalist system could exist perfectly well without woman-hating, but it depends on it in various ways. Racism is a good analogy: slavery was economically beneficial to the elites of pre-industrial societies, therefore it was allowed to remain, while industrialization made slavery undesirable to the elites and therefore became illegal. Nowadays racism manifests itself economically in the exploitation of immigrants for cheap labor and the use of poc as an expendable working class.

As the quote points out, capitalism needs to exploit women’s free labor in order to maintain a strict separation between work and family and, in a wider view, to maintain the population of the worker base.

So the connection to the other forms of woman-hating is pretty obvious. In all these ideologies, women are seen not as full persons but as means to an end: the end of mindless procreation, the end of sustaining the factitious family structure, the end of the widespread exploitation of women by men and the intellectual justification of that exploitation.

One of the core ideas of capitalism is competition. The idea sounds good in the abstract, if you don’t really think about the social context, but in practice competition leads to lower creativity and higher conformity, lower efficiency, lower motivation (especially when coupled with monetary rewards), and is least conducive to learning in schools. These results have been confirmed by so many studies that they are some of the most solid conclusions of the social sciences (see No Contest by Alfie Kohn for a review of these studies).

Already we run into a problem, because the kind of conformity that competing individuals follow has for the most part been established by men. Women stick out in male-dominated professions and are trapped in a lose-lose situation: either assimilate and be judged as a bitch and a ball-buster, or resist and be passed for promotions and recognition.

The old “having it all” bromide really means: that a woman should first and foremost fulfill her gendered function as an unpaid homemaker (and therefore to be unproductive according to capitalist standards), and second pursue a career and be a productive worker who is able to compete in the job market. Not only are women expected to shoulder a double burden, but they’re supposed to relish doing so in order to be a “modern” woman. In fact neither ideology has anything “modern” about it.

Competition leads to winners and losers, which leads to Social Darwinism, the application of a misreading of “survival of the fittest” to human societies. Basically, as applied to today’s societies, that means “you deserve what you get for being a success or a failure, and you shouldn’t be helped because that would mean rewarding failures.”

In capitalist theory, there is an ideal state of affairs (call it free market or voluntaryism or unfettered capitalism or what have you) where a person receives only exactly as much as they can contract for, and no more. Inconvenient things like social programs and safety nets, workers’ rights and unions, accessible education and health care, free access to air and water, and all the other pesky things neo-liberalists are constantly trying to eradicate, are a deviation from this ideal state.

So for instance, women make 82% of what men make on average in developed countries (the United States average is currently 81%, making gender income disparity one rare area where the United States is not dead last). Women were banned from entire industries (and still are, in some places). This is the “ideal” state of affairs and any attempt to correct it would be a “distortion.”

In practice, this belief serves the status quo. Men’s privilege over women is part of the backgrounds facts of capitalism, therefore it becomes part of the “ideal” state of affairs. “Survival of the fittest” is inherently unfair when some people are trained from childhood to be fitter than others.

So I think the issue with capitalism is not that it is woman-hating as such, but that it treat human beings as tools of production (human resources). It should not be too surprising that a system which objectifies all human beings is also unconcerned about objectifying women.

There is an ever-present danger that, because a given ideology is not explicitly woman-hating and preaches some form of equality (like equality of opportunities), we accept it as a “lesser evil.” But anything that keeps people from thinking about the way society is run is equally poisonous in the long run.

Nowhere do we see this more than in the pretense that feminism stands for “gender equality,” even though such equality is a logical impossibility because we live in a Patriarchy. Getting equal wages for men and women, or giving men and women the same opportunities or education, are laudable goals but they are not the objective of feminism, neither can they ensure “gender equality.”

Blood worship is pretty creepy.

Blood worship seems to persist even though we’re far from the mass sacrifices of “pre-Columbian” societies or the Igbo (although in both cases their European conquerors killed many more people than sacrifices would have). Granted, we are not yet over human sacrifice, but at least we hide it.

Blood consumption has been part of accusations against perceived enemies. Vampires are one obvious example. There is also blood libel: for centuries Jews were accused of kidnapping gentile children to bake with their blood or kill them to release their blood.

The origin of these accusations, in turn, lies in the belief that Jesus’ blood has special powers. Jesus’ blood “covers” our sins and cleans our conscience. Jesus enjoined his disciples to drink his blood. His blood is part of the ritual of transubstantiation. Catholics are especially interested in Jesus’ heart and blood, to nauseating levels.

The book of Revelation tells us that angels kill so many humans that the resulting blood covers a distance of more than 300 km (something like the distance between New York and Washington). Now imagine all that blood clotting and… yeah.

For a religion that’s supposed to be concerned with the immaterial and the supernatural, the afterlife, the spiritual matters, it seems rather strange for it to be so concerned with something as mundane as blood. Is it merely a prolongation of the Jewish concept of blood sacrifice, or are both the manifestation of some plague monster lying in the collective unconscious?

I have no qualifications in mythology or psychoanalysis, so I will refrain from making such analysis, although perhaps it’s worth noting that the concept of “blood memory” has been associated with the collective unconscious before.

The blood worship of Christianity is creepy, but many other beliefs about blood are creepy. Look how natalists harp on perpetuating the bloodline. Based on this belief, they insist in having children of their own instead of adopting one of the millions of desperate children in the world.

Do they literally believe in the importance of the blood itself? No, I obviously don’t think so, otherwise blood transfusions would be much more opposed than they are today. The bloodline is a metaphor for the extension of the self into one’s children, grandchildren, and so on. The parent is, in the sense of extension, the “consumer” of the blood, the life-force of the child: the life (and death, in those cases where a child dies) of the child glorifies the parent. That’s much creepier than any blood consumption.

From the consumption/extension end, we go to the complete opposite when we look at menstruation, which for millennia has been used as a reason to subjugate women. The Bible tells us that a menstruating woman is “unclean”:

Leviticus 15:19-24
And if a woman have an issue, and her issue in her flesh be blood, she shall be put apart seven days: and whosoever toucheth her shall be unclean until the even. And every thing that she lieth upon in her separation shall be unclean: every thing also that she sitteth upon shall be unclean. And whosoever toucheth her bed shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even. And whosoever toucheth any thing that she sat upon shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even. And if it be on her bed, or on any thing whereon she sitteth, when he toucheth it, he shall be unclean until the even. And if any man lie with her at all, and her flowers be upon him, he shall be unclean seven days; and all the bed whereon he lieth shall be unclean.

Leviticus 15:28-30
But if she be cleansed of her issue, then she shall number to herself seven days, and after that she shall be clean. And on the eighth day she shall take unto her two turtles, or two young pigeons, and bring them unto the priest, to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And the priest shall offer the one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering; and the priest shall make an atonement for her before the LORD for the issue of her uncleanness.

So when women issue blood, it’s considered a sign of their unclean nature. But when Jesus does it, it’s a fucking sacrament. Go figure.

The concept of “agency” is inherently reactionary.

I have written an entry about the three categories of explanation of human behavior, which I called anti-causalism (human behavior is caused by “free will”), adaptationism (human behavior is genetic) and social constructionism (human behavior is motivated by social constructs). I make no secret that I find the last kind of explanation to be the most rational.

It may seem pointless to bring this up on an entry about “agency,” and yet I think it is very much relevant to the topic. For one thing, it tells us that an issue which seems as abstract as human action is actually very much an ideological issue, with ethical, political and religious implications. Therefore, any term used to explain decision-making is an ideological term, and must be analyzed as such.

The term “agency” is assumed to be a technical, neutral term; questioning its validity or neutrality is seen as laughable and non-credible. But what does it really mean to say that someone has agency?

Human agency is the capacity for human beings to make choices and to impose those choices on the world.

As I’ve discussed before, there is no such thing as “choice,” that is to say, selecting from different alternatives: because our minds are determined by the laws of nature, like any other entity that is part of nature, there can only be one alternative “selected.” We do not have the capacity to make “choices” or to “impose” them. The belief in “choice” is clearly anti-causal, and therefore betrays allegiance to anti-causalism.

The ability of people to change the institutions in which they live.

While an interesting definition, it tells us nothing about why individuals act. I do intend to discuss this issue later.

Agency- self-determination, volition, or free will; it is the power of individuals to act independently of the determining constraints of social structure.

In general, agency is contrasted with structure, agency being that part of human action which is not the result of the influence of social structures. But social constructionism is precisely the belief that our actions are the result of the influence of social structures; therefore by definition agency assumes the falsity of social constructionism.

It is impossible for any human being who lives in society to act “independently of the determining constraints of social structure.” Consider some of the social structures and social constructs which most preoccupy us: the family structure, religion, government, Patriarchy, the education system, the legal system, capitalism and class, race, gender, nationality, language, money. Can we honestly say that there is any human being living in a modern Western society whose actions are not affected by all of these things?

So I don’t believe there is such a thing as agency, because there is no such thing as “choice,” “free will” or some magical ability to change social structures; but besides that, my main point here is that the term “agency” is a Trojan horse smuggling anti-causalism into a discussion or debate, and no one’s the wiser because, like “choice,” which is part of everyday language, “agency” is part of everyday sociological language and few people think anything of it.

From a constructionist standpoint, the use of the word “agency” is nothing more than a roundabout way of blaming the victims. They do this by denying that the victims are actually victims, stating instead that they gain power (what kind of power? economic? social? relational?) from their own “choices.” Here is a typical academic example of such gymnastics (and again, just so you don’t think I’m cherry-picking the stupidest example, this is the very first result I got on a search for “prostitution agency sociology”):

Bell (1994) analyses the narratives of Pateman and MacKinnon and concludes that these writings and perspectives which became dominant in the 1980s, actually reproduce ‘the prostitute body’. Bell argues that this line of thinking which locates the prostitute as a powerless victim within a masculine discourse actually silences the voices of women, refuses to acknowledge women’s agency and results in the reproduction of ‘the prostitute body’. Equally, as Maher (2000: 1) notes, taking the position that woman who sell sex are only victims, powerless and not in control of their circumstances leaves women ‘devoid of choice, responsibility, or accountability’.

Consider carefully what is being said here. Stating that a prostitute is a victim of a structure of gendered exploitation “silences the voices of women.” Never mind that the anti-prostitution movement is made of women and bases its premises on the voices of ex-prostitutes as well as sociological studies of prostitutes.

Now consider the proposition that saying prostitutes are victims means they are “devoid of choice, responsibility or accountability.” Doesn’t that sound like people who say rape victims should be held accountable for what they did to provoke the crime? Obviously stating that a raped woman was “only a victim” leaves her “devoid of responsibility or accountability” because that’s precisely what it means to be a victim; victims by definition are not “responsible or accountable.”

The whole paragraph is completely vacuous, but counts on the reader’s (conscious or unconscious) bias against prostitutes to remind them that prostitutes are inherently wrong and responsible for their own degradation, all the while telling us that it’s the anti-prostitution advocates who are silencing prostitutes. This is a classic case of projection.

But the main “argument” (there is no real argument here) used against the anti-prostitution position is that it denies “agency” and “choice.” Because “agency” and “choice” are considered self-evident, anyone who argues for social constructionism can be denied on this basis. Not only that, but the mere use of those words is considered a valid argument in and of itself: anyone who denies “agency” must automatically be wrong, period. To them, it is such an absurd conclusion (or, most likely, they merely pretend that it is so absurd) that we must therefore deny the premises.

The end point of this complete reversal of victimhood lies in the term “sex work,” which seeks to normalize prostitution as “just another job” that we “choose” to perform. There lies a double fraud: first, it is predicated on the premise that capitalist work contracts are a “choice,” which in itself is a laughable conceit, and second, it is predicated on prostitution being a “job.” If our sole criterion for a “job” is work in exchange for money, then many slaves have slavery as a “job” and so do many prisoners have a “job” as prisoners, because both receive some money in exchange for their forced labor. But this is obviously nonsense.

Social constructionism states that the actions an individual takes are the result of how social structures mold the psyche and motivations of the individual. These social structures influence the individual through a wide variety of social constructs, which become part of how we explain facts.

The integration of gender explains why, for instance, we can understand when workers are exploited but “know” that prostitutes are personally responsible for being trafficked, beaten, filmed, addicted to drugs, raped and murdered; in the exact same way, integrating class means we “know” why poor people are lazy and undeserving, and integrating race means we “know” that black people are stupid and violent.

I have already discussed another major problem with “choice” as an argument: at best it can only mean that you believe you are in control of a situation. In that sense, the argument is now coherent but becomes trivial:

“Taking the position that woman who sell sex are only victims, powerless and not in control of their circumstances leaves women devoid of the belief that they are in control of their own life situation.”

Of course convincing people that they do not actually have power means they will lose the belief, or more accurately the delusion, that they have power. But this is true of any such delusion. People can also lose the delusion that their vote gives them power, or the delusion that religious belief gives them power. There is nothing strange about prostitution in that sense.

“Agency” is generally brought up in situations where it is inherently delusional; sociologists don’t waste time telling us about the agency of CEOs or presidents because that would be pointless. There is no point in talking about those people believing they have power, because they actually do have power; the whole victim/”choice” dance makes no sense in those cases. “Agency” is reactionary because it is always used to explain away the victims of whatever hierarchy (like gender) one wishes to support.

I said I would come back to the point about “agency” being “the ability of people to change the institutions in which they live.” Behind this definition lies the theory that we cannot be victims of social structures if we have the power (again, really a delusion that we have the power) to change them. If that’s true, then anything done to inferior by their superiors is, in a twisted way, the inferiors’ fault.

As perhaps a more extreme example of this argument, it was argued during the Gulf War (including by George Bush) that it was the Iraqi people’s responsibility to overthrow Saddam Hussein. Presumably the Iraqi people are at fault for getting bombed and killed by the American Army for not overthrowing Hussein (never mind that the Americans didn’t, either).

So again we’re talking about a purely reactionary strategy which aims to justify oppression through the delusion of power, but this time applied to entire groups of people. Because no individual has the power to “change the institutions in which they live,” this kind of “agency” applied to any individual must lead to the same conclusion: the victim is actually “responsible and accountable” for eir own oppression.

I do want to point out that this “ability to change” sort of definition is somewhat similar to how we define “free will,” a term which (contrasted with determinism) presumes that the human mind can somehow suspend causal laws. I can’t think of a greater “ability to change” than the ability to change the fabric of reality itself. In practice, “agency” is merely a non-religious, watered down version of “free will” which still permits people to blame victims while not relying on outdated pseudo-scientific beliefs.

The concept of “agency” is not just reactionary for the reasons I’ve mentioned, but it is also a powerful thought-stopper. It cuts short any examination of why things happen in society, and most importantly for a supposed decision-making process, any examination of why people do what they do.

Saying someone does X because of “her agency” or because “she chose it” doesn’t tell us anything more than saying “God did it” in answer to some natural event. Any worthwhile explanation has to be causal or it will inevitably serve as a thought-stopping mechanism, whether it’s believed honestly or not.

In the end, this sort of thought-stopping about human action reduces everything to atomistic individualism: as I noted in that entry, it reduces all analysis to the individual, sets up gender roles (in the case of prostitution) as the standard of evaluation, and classifies anti-prostitution efforts (and anti-oppression ideologies generally) as undesirable based on individualist beliefs (“you can’t tell other people what to do,” “you’re making people feel bad by telling them they’re being oppressed,” “you are responsible for everything that happens to you,” and so on endlessly).

Even though “agency” proponents usually claim to be left-leaning and even radical, they end up, through atomistic individualism, propping up the principles of the capitalism they are reacting to, and in most cases unwittingly supporting its structures. They poison the very well they’re gathering water from.

Sex is not a fundamental human need. Prostitution is not a fundamental human need.

Early this year, Amnesty International UK (which seems like somewhat of a oxymoron) had one of their policy documents leaked. As it turns out, Amnesty International is considering making the legalization of prostitution part of their platform. This is of course a woman-hating position and isn’t based on anything resembling reality, especially given the gravity of human trafficking, rape and murder in prostitution.

But the most outrageous statement from the document, which elicited some response from the public, was the following:

As noted within Amnesty International’s policy on sex work, the organization is opposed to criminalization of all activities related to the purchase and sale of sex. Sexual desire and activity are a fundamental human need. To criminalize those who are unable or unwilling to fulfill that need through more traditionally recognized means and thus purchase sex, may amount to a violation of the right to privacy and undermine the rights to free expression and health.

One has to wonder a few things about this paragraph:

1. Are “all activities” related to prostitution to be decriminalized, such as human trafficking, pimping, rape and murder?

2. Is the right to privacy and the right to free expression of a john more important than the basic human rights of prostitutes and trafficked women?

3. Since when is prostitution not a “traditionally recognized means” of “fulfilling” sexual desire?

4. If sex was a fundamental human need, then wouldn’t women be obligated to provide it for men?

5. How is paying for sex an issue of privacy, expression or health? Whose privacy is invaded? Whose expression is curtailed? Whose health is risked?

These questions are all individually important and worthy of discussion (if only because they expose how utterly ridiculous the pro-prostitution position is). But to me the most egregious lie is the proposition that “sexual desire and activity are a fundamental human need.”

I have noticed that some men want to make women believe this horseshit. They seem not to rely on women having any sort of understanding of human biology or on any man calling them out on it. But I am calling them out on it.

Sexual desire and activity are not fundamental human needs. No man has ever died or been physically harmed from lack of sexual desire or activity. Not having sexual desire or activity is not in itself a health issue.

The high importance put on sexual desire and activity by society gives people, especially teenagers, the impression that they must have sex. This does create a need, but this is a constructed and highly unhealthy need. It is not “fundamental” in any sense.

When we think about “fundamental human needs,” we think about biological imperatives such as eating nutritious food, sleeping long enough, breathing clean air, having protective shelter. All these things imply social contact and support, so that’s part of it too. But “having sex” is not part of that list because it’s not a biological imperative; we like it because orgasms feel good, but hey, that’s why we masturbate, too.

You know what else feels really good? Taking cocaine. It triggers pleasurable parts of our brain, like orgasms. And I have nothing against people who use cocaine, any more than I object to people who have (consensual, egalitarian) sex. But I don’t think it’s a fundamental human need either.

You know what else is not a fundamental human need either? Prostitution.

This whole argument is really just a more well-written version of the old bromide that we need prostitutes to keep men happy and keep them from raping “respectable women.” When they’re talking about “traditionally recognized means,” they really mean “respectable women.” Prostitutes are inherently “not respectable.” That’s why their rights are irrelevant. All that’s relevant is the rights of the john.

Pro-prostitution rhetoric is woman-hating rhetoric, because any ideology which supports the exploitation and objectification of women is woman-hating rhetoric. Insofar as it states that prostitutes (who are human beings) must be means to some end (such as prostitutes existing to relieve men’s needs), it goes against the fundamental ethical principle that no human being may be treated as a means to an end, and therefore it must be rejected outright.

No stance on prostitution (no matter what side it comes from, and no matter who it comes from) should be taken seriously if it contradicts the fact that sex is not a fundamental human need. No ethical stance on any issue (no matter what important person said it or whether their stance is harmonious with your worldview) should be taken seriously if it contradicts the fundamental ethical principle of not treating human beings as means to an end.

Don’t treat human beings as means to an end.
Not: “Don’t treat human beings as means to an end unless it fulfills a fundamental human need.”
Not: “Don’t treat human beings as means to an end unless the end is good (as decided by you).”
Not: “Don’t treat human beings as means to an end unless they voluntarily chose to be treated that way, then it’s okay.”
Not: “Don’t treat human beings as means to an end unless (it is commonly believed that) they’re inferior to you.”

Oh, the subjectivism of it all…


From Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.

Subjectivism is a topic I used to talk a great deal about when I was writing about Christianity. Fundamentalist Christians typically claim to have an absolute moral system, an absolute authority, to have all the answers written black on white in the Bible, and so on. But the more you argue with them, the more their arguments plunge into relativism and subjectivism.

I don’t like using the words “objectivism” and “subjectivism” because they are used in many conflicting ways, so I want to clarify exactly what I mean by “subjectivism”: what I mean is any belief which attempts to justify a fact of reality by appealing to personal experience, like feelings or the imagination. If it ceases to exist once you stop experiencing it, it’s subjective (or as Philip K. Dick once said, reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away).

Or in simpler terms, your reasoning is subjective if you’re trying to argue that what’s in your head somehow changes the nature of reality. You may have a strong belief that you can fly with the power of thought, but you can’t actually do it. No belief should be held without some kind of evidence.

So for instance, when you ask Christians how they justify their beliefs, eventually you reach the bedrock of “I just feel like God is operating in my life” or “I have faith in the Bible as the Word of God.” There is no intellectual foundation of Christianity, only feelings and imagination. People don’t become Christians because of a scientific discovery or a logical argument.

Logical Christian arguments are marshaled in the defense of faith, not out of any search for truth. We can see this because the logical arguments used are extremely general and cannot possibly demonstrate what they are supposed to prove (e.g. the argument from design only proves that a designer exists; whatever that designer is cannot be deduced from the argument). Facts (and non-facts) are deployed in the service of feeling.

The same thing happens when you examine Biblical morality. When you start questioning rules from the Bible, you inevitably get the answer that those rules only applied to those people at that time. It takes very little effort to turn a supposed Christian absolutist into a Christian relativist: all you have to do is start asking hard questions.

Liberal feminism is also subjectivist. The main difference is that, while religion is only subjectivist when you question it, they’re subjectivist from the get-go. There is no veneer of reality there at all.

Meghan Murphy wrote an article about the most common rebuttals presented by proponents of burlesque, but her list applies equally well to any other feminist issue (prostitution, pornography, rape, BDSM, gender identity):

1) You haven’t done enough “research”
2) You don’t understand
3) Anything I do that makes ME feel good is feminist!
4) But there are women in the audience! Women erase sexism!
5) Boylesque ["men do it too"]
6) Different body types in burlesque = feminism
7) If you don’t like burlesque then don’t go to burlesque shows
8) You are turning me into an object by talking about the objectification of women
9) I’m not being objectified because I choose to objectify myself
10) You have to be on the inside to understand/form a valid critique
11) You’re a prude and you hate boobs

So there are two categories of arguments here, ones that are just plain subjectivism (3, 4, 5, 8, 9), ones that claim that the critic is just not good enough (1, 2, 7, 10, 11), and arguments that are just factually wrong (6).

I would classify the second category of arguments as being subjective in nature also; whether a critic doesn’t “get it” from your perspective, doesn’t like something, or is a prude, does not objectively make them wrong. In essence, the argument is that the evidence that the critic is wrong about burlesque is that the critic doesn’t like burlesque, but there is no connection between not liking something and being wrong about it. I don’t like murder but that doesn’t mean I must therefore be wrong in believing that murder is wrong.

If you come back to the subjective arguments, you see their nature very easily. Take for example rebuttal 3, “anything I do that makes ME feel good is feminist.” If you don’t debate feminist issues at all, this may seem like a straw man, but the fact is that if you go on Meghan Murphy’s blog and look at the comments, or any other feminist blog that talks about feminist issues, you will find that argument used regularly.

So you get people who complain that they like doing whatever and you can’t tell them what to do. But feminism doesn’t tell people what to do. The point of feminism is to make a systemic analysis of existing institutions and understand how they sustain the Patriarchy, not to tell individual women what they should or shouldn’t wear, what they should or shouldn’t do, and so on.

But my point here is that an argument like “anything I do that makes ME feel good is feminist” is subjective because it states that a person’s feelings determine reality. What is or is not feminist is a fact of reality, and therefore has nothing to do with anyone’s feelings.

Rebuttal 9 is another good example. The concept of “choice” is used constantly to justify the exploitation of women. At a superficial level, it’s a case of blaming the victim: they “chose” to be exploited or oppressed, so it’s their own damn fault. This liberal position must be absolutely rejected.

The other problem is that this concept of “choice” adds absolutely nothing to the argument; at best it can only mean that you believe you are in control of a situation. So even in that best case scenario all that’s being said is “I’m not being objectified because I believe I am in control of my own objectification.” So what? Again, you are free to believe you are capable of doing anything, but without any actual evidence, we’re not having a discussion about facts.

The other problem is that it’s not in fact true that we are in control of our own objectification, simply because we have a limited control over what other people think. Yes, obviously we can change how we present ourselves and that will change other people’s opinion of us, but that’s not gonna stop objectification within a given institution.

Take burlesque, for example. You can say it’s “ironically sexist” or “an affirmation of different bodies” or “art” or whatever, but what men see when they go there is a woman taking off her clothes. The objective you pursue when you take off your clothes does not change the objectification. So maybe you enjoy it, or you’re helping other women come to terms with their bodies, and that’s fine, but the objectification does not go away because these other things are also happening.

Oppression does not depend on you accepting it as oppression; in fact, the rulers are much better off if you refuse to accept that you’re being oppressed, or if you completely misidentify who’s oppressing you. They love it if they can get you to fight, well, pretty much anyone but them.

To me the most puzzling thing is that not only is the subjectivism front and center, but they seem even proud of it. In any other area of thought we’d consider this bizarre and irrational, but this doesn’t seem to even enter their minds. I can’t say why that is. I don’t think liberal feminism is particular irrational compared to, say, Creationism or Neo-Nazism or whatever. And yet I would guess that few Creationists or Neo-Nazis would brag about how subjectivist they are; people generally believe that their beliefs are generally factual (whether they are correct or not is another matter).

The concept of “empowerment” puts us through the same mental gymnastics. People do not use the word “empowered” to designate that a person has gained, you know, actual power: they use it to mean that a person believes that they have more power. Evidence for having been “empowered” does not consist of looking at actual power but rather of looking at how the person feels.

This leads to laughable statements like “stripping for men is empowering” or “beauty is empowering.” It may feel good for a woman to strip or be beautiful, but it does not in itself confer any power. Only looking at actual power relations can tell you whether an act is empowering.

Or an even simpler test: do men in positions of power do it? I know this is not a novel idea, but it works. Do the Koch Brothers strip? Does George Soros strip? Do they put on makeup every day? If not, what connection can there be between these things and power?

If anything, beauty is disempowering. This entry from Meghan Murphy discusses how the beauty mandate is used to attack both the women following it and feminism:

Beauty is not power. As evidenced by patriarchy. Pretty ladies continue to be exposed to sexism on a daily basis despite their “freedom” to “showcase their beauty.” In other words, if beauty were power then women would have real power in this world and would no longer be marginalized based on the fact that they happen to have been born female.

The myth that “beauty is power” is actually super destructive because it tricks young women into thinking that if men want them, they will be empowered, which is, alas, not true. Because the kind of “power” that comes from having men lust after you is fleeting and holds no real weight in the grand scheme of things. It might make you feel good momentarily, until you realize that men don’t respect you because they like your boobs, nor will your fuckability bring things like political power and freedom from male violence. As long as women are seen as (and see themselves as) pretty, sexy objects, they will continue to to be viewed and treated, primarily, as sex-holes for men (i.e. not full human beings but the kind of beings who were invented for men to use and abuse and play with and then discard when they get bored).

Also, friendly reminder that real “power” doesn’t run out when you turn forty. Men don’t suddenly become invisible and irrelevant when they reach middle age and that’s because they haven’t bought into or been fed the ridiculous myth that their power lies in their ability to be youthful and have a perky butt. Society treats older women as invisible and younger women as objects. That’s not power.

Red flag terms.

It is a well known fact that words are far more than ways to point to concepts, that words can be symbols which stand for a whole perspective or even worldview.

[T]he terminology we use is heavily ideologically laden, always. Pick your term: if it’s a term that has any significance whatsoever- like, not “and” or “or”- it typically has two meanings, a dictionary meaning and a meaning that’s used for ideological warfare.
Noam Chomsky, Understanding Power

This is true in any area of life. In general, the use of words typically gives us a good indication of a person’s allegiance. The framing and reframing of words and concepts are the main weapons used in ideological warfare, and so it should not be surprising that people on different sides deploy words in different ways.

The textbook example of this is the “pro-life” (instead of “anti-abortion”) and “pro-choice” (instead of “pro-abortion”) reframings. In general, people who use the reframing terms are proponents of what they stand for; opponents of the position have no reason to agree to the reframing. I would never call anyone “pro-life” because I believe that term is a lie (anti-abortion is a much better descriptor); “pro-choice” is at least more accurate, and in that case I’d rather attack the concept of “choice” itself than argue semantics (although perhaps “pro-imposition” would be better).

So here is my list of red flag terms, mostly on feminist issues, which immediately make me suspicious of anyone using them. Note that I am not arguing that people using these terms are always wrong; I sometimes use these terms to explain why they are imbecilic. “Red flag” means alert, warning, not exclusion.

Agency, choice

These are red flag terms, not just because they refer to things that don’t actually exist, but because they are routinely used to nay-say systemic analysis and support an individualistic view on feminist issues.

Basically, the argument underlying these words is that women have “agency” and “choose” to be oppressed, therefore “proving” (only to an idiot who believes that reality magically changes depending on what we call it) that they are not actually being oppressed. A related term is “consent”: while consent is a useful ethical term, it can also be used to argue that women “consent” to be oppressed.

Cis, cissexist, cis-privilege

Here is my entry on this subject. But furthermore: the concept of “cis” is an organized attack against feminism because it pushes forward the idea that people who identify as women are privileged by virtue of having been born women. One of the basic principles of feminism is that the gender hierarchy places men at the top and women at the bottom, and that therefore women cannot be privileged because of their gender. So any use of the term “cis” is fundamentally anti-feminist.

This term has gained widespread support amongst liberals, which makes it easier to weed out non-radfem sources.

TERF

This is a slur term against radical feminists, which means: Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists. The term is meant to imply that there are good (non-trans-exclusionary) radical feminists and bad (trans-exclusionary) radical feminists; a thinly-veiled attempt at divide-and-conquer.

Radical feminists are not “trans-exclusionary” and do not seek to exclude transgender people from analysis or consideration. Trangender people are not the issue, but rather the genderism (and therefore anti-woman ideology) generated by trans activists to bolster their unscientific worldview.

The term “TERF” is most commonly used against people who support women-only spaces. Since historically we know that women-only spaces are essential for women’s liberation and safety, this means anyone who truly honestly support women’s liberation and safety will be called a “TERF,” ironically turning it into a badge of honor.

Kink-shaming

This term is used to nay-say systemic analysis of BDSM. The basic principle is that criticizing BDSM as a practice is really a personal critique of everyone who practices BDSM by “choice.” Any critique of BDSM must therefore be an attempt to shame individuals for their “kinks” (a term which sounds much more innocuous than “bondage” and “domination,” and therefore hides the reality).

In reality, a critique of BDSM for being hierarchical is no more a form of “shaming” than a critique of prostitution is meant to “shame” trafficked women. The goal of systemic analysis is to evaluate institutions and processes, not individuals. So the term “shaming” is simply propaganda.

Slut-shaming

No woman deserves to be called a “slut,” even in a sympathetic way. People who use the term “slut-shaming” to defend young girls and women who dress in “unapproved” ways are calling these young girls and women sluts for the way they dress. They are no better than the accusers! Do not support such people, and call them on their behavior. No one deserves to be called a “slut” based on what they wear, even if the name-calling is supposedly done to support them.

Vanilla sex

This term is used by BDSM proponents as a slur against people who do not practice BDSM, especially people who criticize BDSM. It is not only a slur but a concept which promotes hierarchical thinking about sex:

The s/m concept of “vanilla” sex is sex devoid of passion. They are saying that there can be no passion without unequal power.
Audre Lorde

Sex-positive

I’ve already addressed this particular point: sex-positive, like other terms I’ve already listed, aims to break down any attempt at making a systemic critique of sex.

Innate gender, gender identity

This term is used to nay-say gender atheism. There is no scientific or logical proof of any such thing as “innate gender.” I accept that people feel that they have one, but that’s no more evidence for an innate gender than personal experience is evidence for race or religion.

There is nothing inherently wrong about the concept of gender identity, but it is most often equated with innate gender or to the effects of innate gender. Any analysis of gender identity, gender self-identification, identification of others, must start with socially constructed categories as its basis. Any biological argument for gender identity is essentialist.

Sex work

This term is used to try to normalize the trafficking, abuse, rape and murder of women in prostitution and to pretend that it’s just another form of work. It’s used by liberals who are trying to reframe the radfem position against prostitution as singling out prostitutes for punishment when they are just “workers” doing their job. It hides the fact that prostitution is not, and cannot, be just another form of work because it is predicated upon the exploitation of women’s bodies.

Girls

The use of the term “girls” to talk about adult women is infantilization and aims at trivializing women’s speech and women’s beliefs by portraying those women as children.

Men’s rights, Men’s rights advocates

This term seems trivial: after all, men are humans and all humans have rights. But the term is a code-word for men who believe that women are the true rulers of Western societies and benefit from privileges acquired at the expense of men. These men (and a few handmaidens) are no more connected to reality than Creationists or Scientologists.

I have debunked MRA “evidence” in two entries (1, 2). This has infuriated some MRA groups because their ideology is mind-bogglingly stupid. Fortunately, they don’t meet any radfem-allied men and thus have no idea what to do with me (a fact about which I am eternally grateful).

Alpha male

MRAs believe that the “alpha male” and “beta male” structure of dominance in wolves also exists in human beings. Unfortunately for them, the whole concept of “alpha male” was a scientific fabrication; so are the MRAs’ bizarre theories about how humans operate, but at least the former has been corrected.

Intersectionality

This is not a bad term in itself. Intersectionality tells us that a person’s identity is composed of many different hierarchies, and that you may be superior in one and inferior in another. In order to understand the story at the individual’s level, you have to look at how all these statuses intersect. Being a white woman is different from being a black woman, being a handicapped fat person is different than being a non-handicapped fat person, and so on.

The problem comes when intersectionality becomes one’s most important, or only, tool of analysis. Because intersectionality inherently focuses on individual conditions, using it exclusively becomes nay-saying of any systemic analysis. For example, feminism assumes that there is such a thing as female socialization and female experience, but intersectionality may lead someone to claim that there is no such thing and that every single woman is a different case, thus making feminism impossible.

As Aphrodite Kocięda argues in this article for Feminist Current, intersectionality is not a good model of oppression because it fails to include the sources of oppression and portrays hierarchies as fixed and immutable. If you want any sort of accurate model of how oppression works, you have to understand fundamentally that oppression is constantly created and recreated by social institutions, and how this is done.

Essentialism (or “biological determinism”)

I’ve decided to add this word, not because it is inherently bad, but because it seems people don’t know what it means any more and are using it as a weapon against radical feminism without regard for meaning.

Essentialism actually conveys the idea that every thing has an essence, which has attributes on which the identity of the thing depends. In sociology, it conveys the belief that gender, race, ethnicity, and so on, are fixed constructs which reflect biological realities, and are part of the “essence” that makes a human being. It is therefore the opposite of constructionism (the general radicalist position) that these things are social constructs and are not part of the “essence” of any human being.

Anyone who uses the word “essentialism” to support any form of genderism or attack radical feminism is therefore either lying or an idiot, and in either case cannot be trusted. Radical feminists are against gender and do not believe that gender reflects any biological reality; it is genderists, both traditional and trans, who are essentialists.

It seems that they try to associate “essentialism” with “believing that sexual organs matter in identifying someone.” But that’s not essentialism, that’s biology 101; radfems do not believe that the nature of a person’s sexual organs prove anything other than someone’s sex. What makes women have interests in common is not sexual organs but socialization, exploitation, objectification and an inferior status, all of which are a result of social institutions and ideological traditions, not biology.

Gender atheism is the next misunderstood idea…

Radical rejections of established ideologies are always misunderstood and misinterpreted to some extent. Atheism, as a radical rejection of religion, is still a misunderstood idea, although its status is being somewhat mitigated by a rather strongly held party line and increasingly visible popularization.

Anarchism, on the other hand, has been going in the reverse direction. From its heyday in the 1890s, its defeat in the Russian Revolution, and its concrete if brief expressions during the 20th century, it has been vilified at an ever-increasing pace until present time. Nowadays the public understanding of anarchism is pretty much worse than non-existent.

With the Internet resurgence of radical feminism and anti-genderism arises the reframing of “gender atheism.” As I’ve argued before, it is one that I support as well. It may not be elegant, but it drags down genderism from its untouchable status to the status of being as irrational as religion, and points out that gender atheism is as reasonable and rational as, well, atheism.

Unfortunately, gender atheism piggybacks on atheism but inherits the misunderstandings of atheism as well. I believe that as gender atheism becomes more well known, it will go through the same phase of misunderstanding, with little relief in sight. Already the genderists are declaring agender and gender atheism as kinds of gender, in the same way that atheism has been declared a competing (and therefore inadequate) religion to Christianity.

The other misrepresentations of atheism are also more and more frequently popping up in discussions about gender. We’re seeing arguments about how the individual’s feelings (e.g. “gender identity”) are more important than facts. We’re seeing arguments that anti-genderists are depraved (e.g. anti-Christian) or bigots (e.g. “transphobic”) who don’t respect other people’s beliefs. We’re seeing the pseudo-scientific arguments (evolutionary psychology, innate gender) and the attempts to legislate their beliefs.

God is bullshit, and so is gender. But genderism and religion are both totalizing belief systems: they are supposed to encompass all possibilities and human thought is supposed to exist entirely within their framework. These belief systems are especially dangerous because they are harder to escape; their totalizing nature reduces doubt to some aspect of themselves. Traditionally, to reject one’s gender roles has meant to reject God’s laws, so both have been intricately connected.

All religions have liberal and fundamentalist branches. Genderism has its fundamentalist branch (traditional genderism) which exploits people’s sense of duty and tradition, and its liberal branch (trans genderism) which exploits people’s desire to tolerate and be compassionate. In that particular way, it works like any other religion.

Atheism is a lack of belief in God. Gender atheism is similarly a lack of belief in gender. Atheists see God as a social construct used to manipulate and exploit people; gender atheists likewise see gender as a social construct used to manipulate and exploit people. Gender atheists are angry at the damage that genderism inflicts on human societies and are interested in freeing children from the indoctrination of gender, which is based on fantasy instead of reality.

There is no gender atheist organization (to my knowledge) and such an organization is unlikely to arise in the near future. So there are obvious limits to the comparison. But the basic principle is that both are a form of liberation- liberation from indoctrinated dogma, liberation from pointless obligations, and ultimately freedom to think beyond what’s proscribed.

Unfortunately I don’t think there is much of a future in gender atheism. In the area of gender, we are more or less living in the equivalent of the Reformation, and, if the historical analogy holds true, we’ve got a long ways to go before gender atheism is even on the radar. But insofar as there is some developing consciousness about it, I think it will go through the same misrepresentations than atheism has gone through. So that’s something to look forward to.

Compartmentalization: how we entrap our own minds.

Atheists talk a great deal about compartmentalization from the standpoint of looking at religion and its absurdities. We look at a religious person and how they can, in one breath, profess belief in the most horrible, irrational moral precepts on the basis of the Bible, and in the next, proclaim their respect for other people. We observe that they seem to insulate their religious beliefs from disproof by putting them in a box and, by doing so, keeping them scrupulously separate from their other, more rational beliefs. So we call that “compartmentalization.”

Stephen Jay Gould’s framing of the relationship between science and religion as “non-overlapping magisteria” represents an attempt at intellectually justifying compartmentalization. Such attempts must necessarily fail in practice, because science and religion are necessarily overlapping: if science does not address origins and the nature of things, then it cannot operate on measurable material facts, and if religion does not address measurable material facts, then it is myth, not religion.

But there’s a lot more to compartmentalization than just putting some irrational beliefs in a box. Not only does it do that, but it also becomes an impervious springboard by which one’s non-material or non-rational beliefs can be applied to material, rational reality without fear of refutation.

It is not just that the Christian fundamentalist believes that women, homosexuals and black people are inherently inferior, and that ey puts these beliefs in a box. It is also that ey uses these beliefs to talk about the real world and to attack real people in real ways. Christianity is a political issue, a social issue, an intellectual issue, an ethical issue, because Christian fundamentalists use their bigotry as an argument and as a motivation in the world, against the world (“the world” is evil, God’s laws are good).

The same thing applies to beliefs about matters of fact. Creationists have one set of epistemic standards that apply to the question of the development of life on this planet, and another set of epistemic standards that apply to everything else, and never the twain shall meet. But they then take those Creationist standards and use them to attack education, evolutionary science, materialist answers about human nature, and so on.

The fact that these beliefs are in the box means that they are elevated to a special status amongst that person’s beliefs: beliefs which inform our actions but which are considered to be immune from refutation. So they necessarily become of prime importance.

Obviously, compartmentalization does not only apply to religion, but I have never heard of this sort of analysis done on anything other than religion. In Compartmentalizing women means you’re a sociopath, blogger Elkballet delves into the issue of compartmentalization and how it applies to porn use.

Her analysis can be applied to any area where irrational beliefs are protected from refutation. In all cases, our million dollar question is: given that our starting position is one of not wanting to harm others and of respecting fairness, how does a person grow up to become a soldier, a rapist, a fundamentalist Christian, or in this case a regular porn user?

Because if the user didn’t compartmentalize it away from rational thought, hide it in a special place in his brain where critical thinking couldn’t touch it, there’s no way he could justify his enjoyment of something clearly painful, degrading, and humiliating. He couldn’t justify enjoying something where this is a high likelihood that at least sometimes the woman is really being raped, is a trafficked woman. So because it feels good, it gets put away someplace where those thoughts can’t apply to it. It would not be possible to enjoy porn as it exists today were it not for the “ability” to place it behind special logic-proof walls.

Elkballet deduces from her examination of the psychology of compartmentalization that this process is the natural result of our enjoyment clashing with one’s natural morals.

But how does this apply to religion or statism? In those cases, we’re not talking about enjoyment but conditioning; the case of pornography merely adds a step before the conditioning. People are hooked on pornography and then receive its messages, while people generally start by receiving religious dogma (whether they come to enjoy it later is another issue). No one is forced to watch pornography by their parents or by society (although the sexist message itself is present everywhere and can hardly be avoided).

So in those cases it is the dogma that clashes with our natural morals. Every case has a different form of rationalization, different default responses, different thought-stoppers, but they all have them.

* In the case of Christian believers, we have “God is good itself and the source of all good,” “God knows better than we do,” “God works in mysterious ways,” “Christian morality is absolute and necessary anyway.”

* In the case of statists, we have “they’re just bad apples,” “the law maintains order in society,” “if you’re not evil you have nothing to fear,” and as a corollary, “if you have something to fear, you must be evil.”

* In the case of natalism, we have “well, life is not fair,” “new people can experience all that’s wonderful in this world,” and “I have the right to have children.”

* In the case of feminism, we have individualism and liberalism acting as general rationalizations (“it’s her fault for putting herself at risk,” “we’re all equal now so everything that happens to you is your own fault”), and evopsych and other forms of gender essentialism act as thought-stoppers (“men can’t help what they do, so there’s no point in arguing about it,” “that’s the way women should be”).

Elkballet also discusses how compartmentalization piggybacks on existing hierarchies in order to dissociate between “good” and “bad” people or situations.

Compartmentalization.. causes the user to feel entitled to label women as human or not, real people or things to fuck, etc… Only a person in a position of entitlement could experience this type of god complex, deciding who is and isn’t human, who does and doesn’t deserve abuse based on whether she turns him on… This means some people actually begin to feel some woman (all of whom are thinking, breathing, feeling, human beings) deserve to be raped, deserve to be beaten, tortured, murdered, etc… Because this user has learned to compartmentalize. When something revolting happens to a woman, she can be compartmentalized away as a “disgusting pig” or a deserving “slut” because porn has taught him that some women deserve this treatment. Some women are born for this, to be fucked brutally, to be raped.

In parallel with this, the porn user also feels that he is one of the “good” guys, that he is sublimating his (inescapable and biological, according to the rhetoric) desire to hurt women through something “unreal” (because otherwise he would be painting himself as someone who derives enjoyment from someone else’s suffering), and that it’s okay because everyone’s doing it or everyone should be doing it.

All compartmentalization partakes of these same processes. Again let me review:

* Christian believers divide people in saved and unsaved; the unsaved (unlike actual humans) deserve eternal torment, and they deserve to be persecuted in life. The unsaved are not worthy of being treated like human beings because they can’t be moral anyway.

* Statists divide people in criminals and non-criminals, citizens and foreigners, “legal” humans and “illegal” humans, productive and unproductive people (in a capitalist context), and so on. Criminals deserve punishment by virtue of not obeying the law, foreigners deserve to die because they aren’t protected by the law, “illegal” humans deserve to be separated from their families, unproductive people deserve to be poor. Generally the rationalization here is that people who don’t obey the law are innately evil (and usually that most or all people are evil and deserve to be punished) and that morality can only be maintained by government fiat.

* Most natalists hold to categories of “lives that are worth starting” and “lives that are not worth starting” (although some extremists do believe that all lives, no matter how diseased or handicapped, are worth starting), and use this to “prove” that most acts of procreation are justified. This is not hierarchical in nature, but the hierarchy between parents and children is used to justify the “right to reproduce” and props up other natalist arguments (“I don’t care what the consequences are to my child because I decide what’s good for them”).

* Anti-feminists obviously support the gender hierarchy, and they support their belief in the gender hierarchy through various forms of essentialism, that women deserve to be inferior because of some biological or psychological defect. The flipside of that is the fact that women deserve to be raped, mutilated and killed because men’s equally unwavering attributes (“men can’t control themselves,” “men are biologically made to rape”).

She also talks about this concept of “good porn.” Porn users regularly trot out the bizarre concept of “feminist porn” (which has been sighted about as often as Bigfoot, another mythical creature) as some kind of proof that pornography is not woman-hating. They argue that if only all porn was replaced by “feminist porn,” pornography would be all right.

But feminists know that this is nonsense. Pornography is inherently objectifying and violent whether it’s “feminist” or not. An evil system is not improved by giving it even more credibility while addressing no issue whatsoever. Putting women in charge of pornography and changing the actresses so that some of them are fat or black doesn’t address anything that’s wrong about pornography, but calling it “feminist” does give it credibility it does not deserve.

Likewise, radicals in all other areas are very well aware that gradualism or moderation is ultimately futile. Trying to encourage a government to moderate its military spending has never actually lowered military spending. Telling Christians to moderate their beliefs does not get them to do so. Telling people to make less children rarely has a positive effect.

What does work is changing the incentives of society itself. Religion becomes more moderate because it is dragged along by social consensus. Governments only channel more resources towards welfare programs, and stop attacking the rights of the poor, when people stand up for their rights and take to the streets. As for not having children, people having a livelihood that doesn’t depend on using children as virtual slave workers thanks to industrialization seems to be helping quite a bit, and so does working against domestic violence.

Another example of moderation, as regards to neo-liberalism this time, is the belief in “responsible consumption”; the theory being that by moderating our consumption, by consuming the right things, and by recycling our consumed products, we can help the environment and stop exploiting people in the third world. But we know that would change absolutely nothing. Most of the pollution is generated by industries, not by landfills. Moderating consumption will not slow down the economic growth in China and India, which will dwarf any slowing down of consumption in the Western world.

The gender hierarchy provides porn users with the tools to objectify and categorize women, because the belief in the inferiority of women comes with its own rationalizations and categories (such as “sluts,” “bitches,” “dykes,” etc). These categories are filled with beliefs which further the aim of the porn user (“sluts can’t be raped,” “unlike most women they really love doing this,” “sluts deserve to be roughed up”). Compartmentalization leads to objectification leads to a culture of violence and depravity.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 172 other followers