Saturday, May 21, 2011

Pathological Feminism

Before I go on yet another tirade about my distaste for feminism, allow me to make something clear; I respect and appreciate women and think they should be treated fairly as autonomous individuals. It is unfortunate that the word "feminism" has become such a package deal of conflicting and unrelated concepts that one cannot criticize feminist ideology without being accused of being a sexist.

One of the primary scientific and philosophic errors of feminism is the rejection of differences between the sexes. Many feminists claim that, other than the obvious physical differences, any and all differences between men and women are the result of culture. The implication, of course, is that any inequalities that are observed must be caused by poor values regarding the sexes that persist throughout the culture.

You can usually see this referred to as "the patriarchy" or some similar phrase. The implication is that sexist values persist, and that is why you don't see very many women engineers, CEOs, etc. If only men would stop aggressively keeping women out of powerful positions, they could thrive and flourish just like men rather than be 2nd class citizens.

The fundamental premise, however, is wrong. There are myriad differences between men and women psychologically as well as in the physiology of the brain. Study after study have shown differences in how men and women handle different types of thinking, how they observe the world (particularly, attention to color), and what they find important. To claim that there are no differences "under the hood", so to speak, is to deny the available empirical evidence.

The situation becomes even more confusing when cultures take the natural differences between men and women and create caricatures and norms out of them. "Men are less likely to express sadness openly," becomes "Men never cry and don't ever let anyone see you do it." "Women are often happiest when caring for a family," becomes "Women have no business doing anything but popping out babies." And so on.

The issues feminists bring up are often real issues in need of being addressed, but their approach is so skewed that the solutions often end up being harmful. In particular, the belief that all sex differences are cultural leads to a type of social engineering in which women should be courted into certain professions and lifestyles. If there are far more men than women employed as computer programmers, it must be (from the feminist view) that we are doing something to make girls not like computer programming.

Blame is then put on men, as a group, for harming women. Sometimes, in an attempt to avoid such obvious sexism, the blame is put on some vague "patriarchy" rather than men directly, but the implication is basically the same. There's a reason the word being used is patriarchy rather than matriarchy; patriarchy means rule by men. Men are the ones in control and harming people.

Next, the environment that girls grow up in is analyzed through the feminist lens. Everything is interpreted as being evidence that girls are being molded, through a sort of patriarchal cultural Skinner box, into being caricatures of women rather than real individuals. For example, why do people buy Legos for their boys but dolls for their girls? Why do advertising companies try to sell dolls to girls? Sexism is clearly at work.

Let's back up a bit here. The implication, in this specific instance, is that advertisers decide what their customers should want, and then force it down their throat. A cursory study of the marketing department of any major business would reveal that this has cause and effect completely reversed. Marketing departments work tirelessly to produce and sell products that consumers want. In other words, they sell dolls to girls because girls buy dolls, not vice versa. If they could really sell twice as many dolls by targeting boys too, do you really think they wouldn't?

That's just one example. The point is that the feminist perspective tends to remove basic common sense explanations for things in order to justify patriarchal oppression. More often than not, the solution becomes some kind of social engineering experiment. If you believe that women are molded into weak oppressed victims by their environment, then properly tweaking that environment can produce feminist ├╝bermensch.

What drives this sort of pathological thinking? I used to believe that it was simply well-intentioned people with bad information and perspectives. Sometimes, that is still the case. When you get to the more extreme cases, though, I think you'll find a persistent psychology of victimhood.

One unfortunate fact is that the inferior physical strength of women does make it easier for men to physically abuse women than vice versa. Tragically, many girls are abused physically and sexually by their fathers. Even in less extreme cases, they might be yelled at or otherwise intimidated by their fathers or other men in their life.

Any victim of abuse will, if they don't completely internalize the abuse, end up feeling like a victim. This is a healthy response that is a necessary step towards coming to terms with the abuse. The problem occurs when people are stuck in this step and then project that abuse externally onto others.

For example, say a girl is sexually abused by her step dad during her childhood. At first, she internalizes it. She feels immense shame and has a deeply held emotional belief that she deserved her abuse. The most tragic cases are girls that never leave this stage and live their whole lives in this defeated, miserable state.

Sometimes, however, the girl will have developed enough self-respect to recognize that she was, in fact, abused and did not deserve to be hurt. However, she does not have the necessary emotional support to deal with this fact in a healthy manner. In order to protect herself from the feelings of being powerless and hurt by her victimizer, she internalizes that she is a victim. It becomes, deep down, how she views her relationship with the world at large. This is the seed of feminism, at least in the modern sense of the term.

Essentially, "My dad abused me," becomes "Men in general are abusive and women are constantly being abused by them." This projection of personal abuse onto the outside world (which is, by no means, exclusive to women or feminists) is a means of coping with difficult and painful emotions that result from abuse.

One thing I think I can say with confidence is that, the more extreme the feminist, the more extreme the abuse. Since this projection is essentially an escape to avoid a painful coming-to-terms with abuse, more extreme projection is driven by more extreme fear, and more extreme fear is driven by more extreme emotional pain, which is itself driven by more extreme abuse.

One tragic consequence of all of this is that boys are now being abused by feminism. Feminism justifies a sort of original sin in men, and boys are taught this from a very young age.

Imagine a 9 year old boy with a single mom. He is playing with some toys while his mom is on the phone. He hears her say "...and he didn't even call me the next day! Seriously, all men are scum!"

An adult might dismiss this as misandry and move on. But this is a child, and the person demonizing men is his mother. He likely doesn't have enough of a sense of our culture to interpret statements like that in the way you and I would. Continued exposure to this sort of stimuli (from parents, teachers, etc.) will cause the boy to internalize his status as an abuser whose very masculinity translates to hurting others.

A boy that grows up in this way is going to readily accept the claims of feminists. They play right into his own sense of guilt for being a man. This, I think, is why some men find feminism appealing, or at least feel the need to pay lip service to it. It is a sort of atonement for what they perceive as a fundamental guilt or original sin.

To wrap this up, let me just say this; the best thing we can do is accept that men and women are different, and that individuals are different, and to allow people to flourish in whatever way they can. Imposing roles onto children is harmful, whether the role being imposed is some sexist caricature, some feminist ├╝bermensch role, or the role of being a victim/victimizer. Better to let people be what they want to be and not worry about whether or not we have enough female engineers and male nurses.

1 comment:

jontv said...

I think the things you're complaining about do happen, and that's unfortunate, but I don't think it's as common as you seem to suggest. Also, I don't associate everything you're concerned about to feminism per say. Often times, the kind of casual male-bashing you speak of comes not from a feminist perspective, but rather from women who buy into traditional gender stereotypes and find men lacking by that token.

As I said in my comment on Andrew's FB cartoon post, it would be a mistake to expect everything to be exactly equal. There are differences, both biological and especially social/cultural, between men and women. However, discrimination clearly still exists and I think society should try to minimize it as much as reasonable possible. If the differences between men and women are significant, there is no need for society to reinforce them. They will just play out as the will. I would agree with you that we shouldn't see sexism as the root of all inequality, but neither should we attribute it all to inherent differences between the sexes.