The Women – Feminist catfights and the myth of a diverse movement

Posted: February 24, 2014 in Feminism, misandry, Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

If you follow feminist discourse online, in the western liberal hemosphere, you won’t have failed to notice there’s been some trouble at t’ mill  lately.

A recent piece in US publication The Nation commented on Feminism’s Toxic Twitter Wars, suggesting that infighting and conflict in feminism is a contemporary phenomenon, linked in some way to social media.

There followed articles by UK feminists Helen LewisJulie BurchillJane Clare Jones and others, all variations on a theme, identifying feminism’s problems as being caused by or worsened by ‘identity politics’, ‘call out culture’, certain forms of  ‘intersectionality’ etc.

Burchill was her usual screechy, belligerent self, only matched in tone by @redlightvoices whose  diatribe entitled ‘I hate you all, media vultures‘ has caused Laurie Penny to drink gin and feel sad or something.

As you can see I’m not quoting from these articles or commenting specifically on the content of the fall out.  Because theatrical conflict amongst feminists has been going on for decades. There have always been different schools of feminism, including Liberal, Marxist and Radical varieties. Feminists have always disagreed on issues such as sex work, domestic labour, heterosexuality (some feminists are against it, you know) etc. Social media provides a bigger, more visible stage for the performance of diversity within feminism. But, how diverse is it, really?

As I’ve written before, e.g. in my post Against Feminisms, feminists have much more in common than they do separating them. Speak to even the most intersectional of intersectional feminists for five minutes, and you’ll realise that they are united with their radfem and ‘white media’ sisters by misandry, a dogmatic belief that non-feminists are ‘misogynists’, a refusal to engage in research and writings that challenge their views, the ‘identity politcs’ of women v men, etc etc. Sometimes I wonder if the infighting and ‘divisions’ in feminism might be elaborate ‘ploys’ to present the movement as complex and diverse, when really its very simple, and united in its politics.

Even the great feminist philosopher Judith Butler, whose work has probably been one of the influences on my flight from feminism  –  what is gender anyway? why do we rely on binaries of ‘male’ v ‘female’, ‘man’ v ‘woman’? how is identity performed and contested? – falls back on the identity politics of womanhood. In a talk I attended last year, Butler grappled with some of the questions I’ve listed above, only to return to rhetoric about women across the globe lacking educational opportunities, political representation and economic power  ( to rapturous applause from her student fangirls).  So men are the problem after all? It’s the patriarchy, stupid.

Don’t get me wrong, watching a bunch of feminist women tear each other’s hair out on the internet is entertaining. But that’s all it is.  The real ‘debate’ to be had in gender politics in my view,  is over the value and purpose of feminism, any feminism, in the 21st century world.  And the fact that some of us are having that debate, and coming to uncomfortable conclusions, is probably what is upsetting those nice ladies from the most.

  1. redpesto says:

    Sometimes I wonder if the infighting and ‘divisions’ in feminism might be elaborate ‘ploys’ to present the movement as complex and diverse, when really its very simple, and united in its politics.

    No movement is that clever: the divisions are real, and the positions are often irreconcilable (see prohibitionist v decriminalisation positions re. sex work). You might get the odd claim that any such divisions are either made up by ‘the patriarchy’ or ‘proof’ of how diverse feminism is, but both of those arguments are somewhere between bluff and BS. I learnt that much from the reading about the 1980s ‘sex wars’: the irony is that lots of people seemed to have learnt nothing and forgotten nothing from that time.

    Likewise anyone who starts claiming that the conflicts are a distraction from the ‘real issues’ is either naively hoping for some kind of ‘Kumbaya’ moment of reconciliation, thinks their issues are the ‘real’ ones, or thinks that another adversarial ding-dong is a really good idea. Either that, or they haven’t been paying attention to the last 40 years.

    • yes I know they’re real divisions I was being facetious. but I don’t think they are that deep in terms of feminism. feminism has deepseated beliefs that go beyond those differences about ‘policy’.
      which is why sex work, trans, woc, media and other feminists all unite in hating people like me! also, some of the ‘conflict’ in feminism involves very ‘co-dependent’ relationships. I see a lot of trans women feminists spending a lot of the time complaining about, fighting or trying to make friends with transphobic feminists when i think they’d be much better off ignoring them and making friends elsewhere. but they want the feminist label and feminist acceptance/attention. same goes with some pro-sex work feminists going on about the ‘antis’ all the time.

      • innegative says:

        Don’t be so hasty in giving this stuff the quality of ‘reality’. I suspect that what we are seeing in these internet phenomena is a sort of soap-opera in 3 dimensions, where ‘politics’ is the meaning-giver for the various star characters.

        Often, I think they are simply too stupid to realise this is what they are doing and that they do actually think they are authentic political agents. If you start to pay closer attention though, I’m not so sure. Like, when you look at the star characters, you are never too far from some kind of ad regarding their ‘writings’; like Helen Lewis used to work for the Daily Mail and now works for NS? Like that whole furore around Mehdi Hassan and his begging to work for the Mail. They talk the talk, yet their political affinities run about as deep as a stream of piss running down the side of a wall.

        It’s a new entertainment structure – I’m more and more convinced of this – and I can’t tell from this distance if its accidental or deliberate. In either case though, I’m fairly sure its not real.

  2. […] The Women – Feminist catfights and the myth of a diverse movement […]

  3. moseszd says:

    There is one thing that’s been consistently-unifying from the early days of feminism — it’s for white, middle and upper class women — and the rest of womanhood can go to hell. Now, of course, they deny this. But you look at the history of the movement and you look at what’s happening today, especially what’s happening with the non-white feminists, and you can clearly see the class-ism and racism undertones through-out the movement.

  4. Henry says:

    Yes I don’t trust Judith Butler – but don’t really agree with her either on gender. To me, she’s something of a confidence trickster – daring people to admit we’ve not the slightest idea what she’s on about.

    I joined in the fight in the comments under the “toxic twitter wars” piece. It went on and on and on. Difficult to give a precis, heh

    Agree with redpesto – the divisions are very real. The movement ricochets between solidarity and incoherence. So many of these feminists who get jobs in the media are posturing twits anyway.

    When they can think of nothing else to write, they mistake their position for an excuse to complain as one would to a friend – to get moral support whether or not they’re in the right. They consequently write an over-the-top piece, and then you see the fun and games in the comments: a few of their clique will applaud mightily, then a note of blunt disagreement will turn the whole atmosphere very spiky, passive-aggressive, and paranoid.

    • What is really ominous (I say “ominous” because of the divisive nature of most radfem views) is the way that the elite power holders in the West gravitate all too easilly to the more extreme radfem positions eg Obama & Biden parroting thoroughly debunked myths as facts such as “rape culture, 1 in 4 women are raped”, wage gap myth and promoting one sided DV policies based on feminist lies and shenanigans with statistics.

  5. A very astute piece on feminism. I certainly think there is reason to take account of the sexes wherever we encroach on the macro or social scale because that is where trends take shape. The problem is weeding out those who fail to see humanity in both sexes and currently most of the “feminisms” seem to be a good hiding place for those. Personally I think the word “feminism” is tainted beyond redemption and indeed perhaps it always was given the seperatist bias inherent in the term.

  6. Andrew says:

    Huh… it’s almost like feminists can’t stop bitching about every little thing….

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