Why No One Takes Feminism Seriously

I’ve got two posts on the backburner. One is great, a guide to taking a sexy selfie. The other is going to be a monster. It’s about shame, and I outlined it on paper (gasp) so it looked like I was taking notes during my company’s last all-hands meeting.

In the meantime, some thoughts on a Twitter fight that started Monday afternoon and just petered out Wednesday morning. As Twitter fights are prone to do, it goes off in many directions with many people and me being included in multiple canoes. So it’s going to be hard for you to catch up, but here’s the opening shot.

I guess I could sum up the fight as being between sex-negative and sex-positive feminisims. But really it’s more than that. The fight, I think, summed up why more normal people aren’t on board with feminism.

Here it is:

Marxism + Mysticism + Misandry

Marxism

I’m certainly not the first person to point out how entwined feminism is with Marxism. It’s irritating to me when people pretend like ideological overlaps are imagined because they’re inconvenient. Ron Paul hung out with David Duke. It happened. Neoreaction and Dark Enlightenment ideology is strongly associated with White Nationalism. They are. Feminism is strongly associated with Marxism. It just is.

Now, it doesn’t have to be. There is nothing inherently racist about Neoreaction and there’s nothing inherently Marxist about feminism. But the feminism that will flourish, will be, if not devoid of Marxism, less strongly influenced by it.

For one, this is because among normal people Marxism is about as popular as feminism.

But also because Marxist feminist economics just doesn’t fit in with reality as normal people experience it. For example, during this fight on Twitter sex-negative feminists kept telling me that, essentially, having to get a job was rape.

Now, I actually do understand the argument they’re trying to make. Yes, in a capitalist system (by which I mean a mixed economy) the existence of government regulation leads to rent seeking. This plus racism and sexism leads to a distribution of capital which is simply not defensible, whether morally or economically. It’s not fair, and it doesn’t lead to wealth creation. This system locks disadvantaged people out of access to certain careers. Someone who does not have access to capital is not as free, under capitalism, as someone who does have access to capital. So, when people choose jobs in capitalism, they are choosing between a list of options which has been narrowed by capitalism itself and death by starvation. This is as much a choice as choosing whether to suck cock, get ass fucked, or shot is.

But the truth is that we’re all raped by scarcity. Scarcity is the gun that forces low-opportunity men and women to suck cock or starve.

Capitalism sucks. A mixed economy sucks. Rent seeking sucks. Unfortunately, more economic freedom is a better way to fight scarcity than less economic freedom. Let’s say it were possible to reclaim access to capital back from the people who control it now. It’s not, but let’s say it is.

Innovation is directly correlated to the opportunity to gain and lose access to capital. If no one has to suck cock to survive, no one will come up with a way to get more food out of the same amount of land.

People who aren’t Marxist feminists dismiss the idea that sex workers don’t choose sex work because they get that even a shitty set of choices in a shitty economic system is a shitty set of choices. There is a difference, an important difference, between a guy with a gun telling you to suck cock or die immediately and choosing between scrubbing toilets and sucking cock.

Are they right that this set of choices should be bigger? Yes. But normal people get the insanity of the idea that taking capital with the violence of government and redistributing it based on central authority will lead to a broadening of choices and not a narrowing.

People like choices, and want more of them. People don’t condescend to poor people by pretending that a choice that’s distasteful isn’t a choice. People like innovation. They like stuff and opportunities and leisure time and intuitively understand (to a point) that rewarding people for making more stuff out of the same amount of stuff will lead to more stuff and opportunities and leisure time and that there isn’t a way to only steal from the people who have stuff and aren’t making anything with it without also stealing from the people who have stuff and are making our lives longer, healthier, and more fun with it.

People intuitively understand that there is a big difference between being poor and having to get a job to eat and like actual slavery. Marxism tries to erase that line in order to gin up righteous indignation in people who’ve never actually experienced poverty. And so normal people reject it.

Mysticism

It would be great if Marxist feminists just admitted that they actually think all labor that’s not chosen with the help of a doctoral thesis advisor is like actual literal slavery.

But nooooo. Some of them insist that some labor is like actual literal slavery and other labor isn’t (which is which is unclear) but that any labor that involves sex is not just literal slavery but actually rape as well.

Headdesk.

If I work I have a job. If I have a job I work. If I do labor I’m working. If I’m forced to do the work it’s not not a job, it’s slavery. Why would sex change whether it’s a job or slavery? And why would cash change whether it’s sex or rape?

At one point in the Twitter fight, Mehgan Murphy asked me whether I “believed in patriarchy.”

Why does this matter? Because “patriarchy” is the reason women can’t consent to sex for cash. It’s the reason sex work can’t be work, it has to be slavery.

Patriarchy, for sex-negative feminists, works like God for Christians. You can’t see it. You can’t prove it. Because it’s not a thing. Rather, it’s a theory. God created the heavens and the earth. God is the reason everything happens. People don’t have total free will. God influences their choices. Except under patriarchy, men have free will and only women are enslaved. Patriarchy is the invisible force that keeps women from being able to make free choices.

Now, I believe that both God and patriarchy exist. But I think of patriarchy in a less God-like way.

I do not take patriarchy as fact and use it to decide what else is true. I use it as a word to describe the connection between other things that I think are true. From my feminism page:

Patriarchy describes the way ideas around gender, specifically performance and expectations, inhibit economic, educational, and personal growth.

As cultures and societies de-emphasize gender as a basis for decision making by, for example, allowing women to get educated, make financial decisions, control their fertility, and own property, positive results like better educated, healthier children result.

Patriarchy describes ongoing wage discrimination, the motherhood penalty, likability gap, socialization to deference, under-representation in positions of power and influence, lesser average net worth, and so on.

It also explains how male oppression, such as higher instances of suicide, gender discrimination in child custody cases, and overrepresentation in dangerous jobs and results from patriarchy, specifically from gendered expectations. By fighting patriarchy, feminists are helping men and women. and workplace-related deaths as stemming from an essential view of gender which leads to gendered expectations, which result from patriarchy.

(go to the page for citations)

Patriarchy is real and powerful. Or, rather, things like the likability gap are real and powerful and patriarchy is one way to describe them. But patriarchy is not the reason women can’t consent to sex for cash because in fact women can consent to sex for cash. I’ve seen them do it.

The difference between superstition and empiricism is important. Superstition takes something that can’t be empirically demonstrated to exist and uses it to justify claims such that they cannot be empirically evaluated. Superstition: Sex before marriage is sinful because God doesn’t like it.

God: something that can’t be empirically demonstrated to exist
Sex before marriage is sinful: a claim that cannot be empirically evaluated

Superstition: Sex for cash is rape because it happens in a patriarchy.

A patriarchy: something that can’t be empirically demonstrated to exist
Sex for cash is rape: a claim that cannot be empirically evaluated based on the justification

Rejecting empiricism in favor of the mysticism of patriarchy leads to belief in claims that are actually demonstrably most likely to be false. In the course of the Twitter fight a sex-negative feminist claimed that violent porn led men to rape women. There have been many studies on the impact of the proliferation of violent pornography on rates of actual violence and there is an inverse correlation. That is to say that as violent porn has gotten more voluminous and more available, violence against women has decreased.

“Patriarchy as God” horribly insults women, and most women reject out of hand the idea that they can’t make their own choices and instead act as automatons, fucking with dead eyes and no will as soon as a man whips out some cash. It runs directly counter to the lived experience of women who have had sex and made money and it dismisses completely the lived experiences of women who’ve done them both at the same time.

Now, if we just look at what can be empirically demonstrated we can see that sex-negative feminists are right that patriarchy does influence women’s behavior. We can sum up this effect as “incentives matter.” The likability gap, for instance, incentivizes women to act “feminine” in work situations. The societal expectation that a woman is responsible for what happens at home incentivizes women to leave work early to clean the house before guests come over for dinner. These effects are real and important and of course they impact the way women and men have sex.

But it is blunt and stupid to say that because outside forces (which can be measured) impact behavior (in ways that can be measured) that a force which can’t be measured means that when it comes to having sex for money women have no free will.

Telling women who think they’re working that their work that involves sex is actually rape obviously condescends to women. But it also belittles rape. If my job is rape and I like my job then rape must not be a big deal. This is where people get the idea that sex workers and porn stars can’t be raped. Sex-negative feminists reinforce this view. When all paid sex is rape then there is no consent so they can’t be raped while working. They’re just working.

Misandry

In the course of the Twitter fight I was accused of being an MRA, being an anti-feminist, not being a feminist, and holding my viewpoints because I want to cater to the male gaze. Why? Because I pointed out how sexism hurts men in my definition of patriarchy. Feminism, I was told, is concerned with women. If I care about the well-being of men, I’m an MRA.

I’m not an MRA. Because I think it’s redundant. Feminism is the movement against sexism. That necessarily encompasses men’s issues as well as women’s issues. I used to think MRAs were betraying their misogyny by defining feminism in such a way as to claim they needed their own movement, which was, in my opinion, only anti-feminism with a slightly better name.

But no. Here’s a feminist telling me that not only is there no room in feminism for concern for the ways in which sexism hurts men, but there is no room for feminists who might care themselves about the ways in which sexism hurts men. MRAs started their own movement in part because feminists told them to get out of ours!

Does that make me an MRA? Well still no. The MRAs and misandrist feminists are both hella wrong. Feminism is about ending sexism. Misandry and misogyny are both anti-feminism. But it does make me empathize with them more.

No one takes feminism seriously because most people aren’t misandrists and are pretty turned off by people who so openly loathe half the population.

By a long shot, my most trafficked blog post of the past at least 6 months has been You Guys I’m Starting to Like “Factual Feminist” Christina Hoff Sommers.

I’m not giving up on feminism, because sexism still exists and it still sucks.

But I’m starting to see that the need for sex-positive, individualist feminism is greater than I imagined. Marxist Economics + Superstition + Misandry are my foes as well, and that I, from inside the movement, am in the best position to help purge them from mainstream feminist thought.

5 Comments

  1. I agree with the radfems that structural oppression and power inequalities make a lot of apparent “consent” problematic, but how TF do the SWERFs think their carceral/”end demand” approach will reduce the power differential by actually reducing the bargaining power of sex workers and making them more vulnerable to cops and to the worst johns?

  2. I strongly disagree with your assessment of “Marxist feminism” (as you define it at least; most of the positions tagged as specifically “Marxist” were held by feminists of all sorts up until the 1980s), but I won’t go into that. Rather, I’m curious as to why you, as a libertarian, hold the notion that free markets would contribute to the liberation of women from patriarchy more so than a Marxist approach.

    Would you be able to explain?

  3. Steersman

    An interesting post – and part of a fairly impressive oeuvre on the general topic of feminism. But one thing I particularly like is the comparison, most saliently in your previous post (“Why No One Takes Feminism Seriously”), between “God for Christians” and “the Patriarchy!!11!!” for “sex-negative feminists”:

    Patriarchy, for sex-negative feminists, works like God for Christians. You can’t see it. You can’t prove it. Because it’s not a thing. Rather, it’s a theory. God created the heavens and the earth. God is the reason everything happens. …. Patriarchy is the invisible force that keeps women from being able to make free choices.

    However, more broadly, I think that beliefs in both God – at least the Abrahamic versions – and the Patriarchy are cases of reification (1), of the “sin” and logical fallacy of “treating an abstraction as if it were a real thing”. Some religious apologists have argued, with maybe some justification, that “god” is a summary or a list of “our ultimate concerns” and is maybe thereby of some utility, a handy label or short form. And likewise, patriarchy has, as you’ve more or less argued, some utility in pointing to or summarizing some manifestly real and quite problematic behaviour patterns, sets of values, and “brute facts” about biology. However, as in the case with god, for some feminists – not sure that it is just the “sex-negative” sect – to insist that it is a real thing that can somehow be put in the docket and be made to answer for its “sins” looks seriously like barking up the wrong tree. If there is any utility in the concept, it surely doesn’t reside in suggesting – as implied by the term itself – that one entire sex (male) is more culpable than the other. Which tends to be rather too common and which, understandably, tends to get people’s backs up.

    And which, arguably, might reasonably be construed as some egregious sexism in itself. Which brings us to the question of just what sexism is in the first place, a rather crucial concept as I think many have a problematically unclear idea of what it entails and what its implications are. While I note that you’ve referenced the term frequently, I couldn’t find any place where you’ve provided an explicit definition, and I note that the hot link to the term in your “Definition of Feminism” post gives a “page can’t be found” error. But, as a point of reference, one set of definitions are these (2):

    sex•ism (s?k?s?z??m)
    n.
    1. Discrimination based on gender, especially discrimination against women.
    2. The belief that one gender is superior to the other, especially that men are superior to women.

    As to the first definition, while I will readily agree that there is apparently no shortage of prejudice against women, one might argue that that definition is sexist in itself by implying that men don’t also wind up frequently with the short end of the stick. But the second one is a little more problematic as many seem to think that any suggestion that some of one gender are “superior” to some of the other constitutes egregious sexism and should therefore be anathematized, and those voicing the opinion or view should be thrashed severely about the ears by the long arm of the law.

    But that perspective rather obstinately, and dogmatically, ignores the fact that it is manifestly true that some of either sex are clearly “superior” to some of the other, a point which is best illustrated by a somewhat stylized view (3) of the statistics for the IQ scores of men and women, although they are based on apparently real data (4). But the first graph shows – notwithstanding the views of those who insist “Sorry, girls! But the smartest people in the world are all men” (5) but who seem unclear on the statistics or who have an axe to grind – that, to a first approximation, 50% of the women are smarter than 50% of the men: “lies, damned lies, and statistics”. And even “the smartest people” is highly suspect as the term itself is vague to begin with, and as the graph shows that while there might be more “smart people” – IQs greater than 113 – who are men than women (21% of males versus 14% of females), it is still the case that that 14% of the female population is still smarter (higher IQs) than 79% of the male population. Really think that many are unclear on the underlying statistical concepts and on how to interpret the graphs – not surprisingly as they can be rather counter-intuitive at the best of times – which tends to cause no end of unnecessary grief and animosity.

    However, related to that, there’s one further point that should be emphasized as it too contributes to that grief and animosity. And that is that although those differences in the tails of the distributions are more or less quite real, there could be many different reasons for the disparities, not all of which are due to innate or genetic differences in intelligence, particularly insurmountable ones. But somewhat more importantly, those slight differences can, as a result of influencing social behaviours and values over long periods of time, produce significantly large disparities within society which can be decidedly problematic. Rather like the way we use swings: a small push at the same point in each cycle can be amplified or accumulate, a manifestation of resonance, such that the difference between minimum and maximum can be substantial.

    —–
    1) “_https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reification_(fallacy)”;
    2) “_http://www.thefreedictionary.com/sexism”;
    3) “_http://i63.tinypic.com/2432ted.jpg”;
    4) “_https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-how-and-why-sex-differences/201101/how-can-there-still-be-sex-difference-even-when-there-is”;
    5) “_http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/10/02/sorry-girls-but-the-smartest-people-in-the-world-are-all-men/”;

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