[This will be poorly referenced/linked, even by my standards. Just need to start getting some links off the to-do list]
“Welcome to the Age of Ambivalent Feminism” appeared in TheWeek last week. It is an oblique attempt to deal with and neutralize #womenagainstfeminism and the general (and inevitable) backlash that extremist feminism has had coming its way for quite some time.
Some choice quotes:
We have found ourselves in a moment when self-identifying feminists feel safe to air their doubts and contradictions, confusion and frustrations about how they fit into the movement.
False. #womenagainstfeminism is not composed of “self-identifying feminists.” One of the most common threads in the discussion has been that equal rights apply equally to everyone; one can no more be a “feminist” for equal rights than one can be a “blackist” or a “whiteist.” This might be the most cogent and coherent rejection of progressive Cultural Marxism in recent memory. Accordingly, they aren’t looking for “how they fit into the movement.” They’ve rejected it. This hasn’t stopped extremist feminism’s need to speak for all women as a monolith from continuing to claim they represent the heretics.
And a heretic’s treatment these “doubters” have received. Rather than dialogue, most interactions from feminists aimed at their critics are:
- Accusations of being ungrateful
- Accusations of being illiterate, uneducated, tricked, confused, or brainwashed
- Accusations of being complicit with “the enemy” (which, alone, speaks volumes about the intentions of the speakers)
- General vitriol
This isn’t a movement in the middle of reflection and disagreement; it’s an abandonment by non-believers and a “good-riddance” from those remaining behind.
The beauty of this ambivalent feminism is that it’s in no way a disavowal of the struggle for equality. Unlike the stirrings of backlash we’ve seen lately — and really, what better proof that a movement is growing strong than a backlash? — ambivalent feminism isn’t a sign of resistance so much as reflection of what happens when real women try to live political and social ideals.
False again. The backlash in question, however, is not against external enemies who have finally been bothered to do something about a rising threat; it is an exodus and rejection of the movement’s own would-be foot soldiers. A movement that claims to speak for all women cannot be said to be getting stronger when it is its losing market share…of women. There is no such thing as an ambivalent extremist; either you’re with us, or against us (as evidenced by the heretic’s treatment mentioned above.) That impossible “political and social ideals” didn’t work out isn’t leading to ambivalence, it is leading to abandonment.
As the structural hindrances to female achievement continue to break down, more and more of the feminist battles we fight will be in our own minds, where things are bound to get messy. I see the fact that women like Gay and Lewis have the confidence to do this in public as a feminist victory and an invitation for all of us to move beyond the “are-we-or-aren’t-we-feminist” question and start thinking hard about what it means for us to be women today. Ambivalence is to be expected. -Elissa Strauss
Haven’t they heard, they won the war? What do they keep on fighting for? -Billy Joel, Leningrad
This is a thread that comes up often in my criticism of modern “isms.” As reasonable goals are met, the moderates drop out of the movement. Those who carry on, under the mantle of legitimacy earned previously, are the extremists fighting on to the bitter end. Identities become so bound up with a struggle that eventually the struggle is all that is left. This isn’t healthy for individuals, nor does it help the cause the struggle is supposedly advancing.