If someone was to stop me in the street and ask me if I’m a feminist, I’d probably run away. Admiral Akbar comes to me like an ephemeral spirit guide, warning me: “it’s a trap!” It’s a sad state of affairs when not just men, but many women, do not feel comfortable to identify with a movement that preaches equality for all. It may be partly due to the fact that identity politics, while arguably more interesting than typical discussions of foreign and economic policy, is still politics and therefore, along with religion, a no-go topic for casual conversation. Nowadays, it seems that feminism triggers fight or flight responses and writing about it, honestly makes me slightly anxious. Just see the criticism fellow TheKnowledge writer Jake Bolton received on his latest feminism-inspired work!
Admittedly, the few years I lived out in the “real world”, between college and university education, developed my interest in social issues. Prior to that, I’d only studied maths, physics and more maths with a bit of computing- because I was, admittedly, a nerd that just wanted to play videogames and eventually create them. Feminism is only something I became interested in after studying it academically and until then, it just seemed like any other social movement- something you get interested and involved with when it affects you. Today, as a social scientist, it’s not just a social movement, but a school of thought in itself.
Nevertheless, I avoid the topic in public discussion, like any other field of politics or philosophy, as, I suppose arrogantly, I think most people don’t really understand it so conversations about it frustrate me. I’m not sure if the Americo-centric media, “social” media or feminists themselves (especially radfems) are to blame for making gender issues into a discursive battleground more than a field of open and rational debate. The Marxist-idealist in me sees it as a distraction from the movement towards total human emancipation and the Baudrillardian in me sees it as a pointless field of complaints (see social media, especially Tumblr).
Fortunately, being at university gives me access to a wealth of real knowledge that doesn’t come from the online echo chambers of the uneducated social justice warriors and patriarchy preachers- and with that comes a responsibility to counter their so-far-leftist-end-up-rightist arguments. Contemporary feminism is about deconstructing exclusionary social norms that damage all of society, that force millions of us to hide our authentic selves in daily life. These ideals alienate us from ourselves, causing depersonalisation and derealisation disorders, and alienate us from each other causing us to feel isolated, depressed or even to lash out in anti-social ways.
If you stopped me in the streets and asked me if I’m a feminist, I’d probably run away… not because I’m not, but because I don’t know what the general public opinion of it is anymore- and that’s quite worrying.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally written for TheKnowledge. Also, to be clear, when I speak unkindly in this article about “social justice warriors” and “patriarchy preachers”, I am not trying to silence voices. I am only referring the types of people that preach naive versions with an agenda that is only advantageous for their own group. I am not denying that patriarchy exists but I think that many people preaching about it have an overly simple naive understanding of it that when disseminated waters down the actual meaning of the word. Additionally, social justice warriors refers to the types that talk about “first world problems” (another term I don’t like) and I think there are good people being wrongly bunched in with these as “SJW”s.