Stratification of the feminist movement

Photo by Tyler Meuter

I am quite relieved that my previous editorial on feminism got a lot of flak. Here is part two, or “They wouldn’t let me write a 2000-word editorial.”

I lied. I said that editorial was intended to convert true misogynists. Time to be honest: that will never happen due to 1200 words in a school newspaper. So what was the point of inciting all of those angries?

There is a group of people who I would say do not hate women but still enable the misogynistic behavior of others. I did not directly call them out but they knew I was subtly talking to them. By laying bare the misogyny and goading the “#Mangina”-like comments, I exposed how straight-up terrible those people are. Not the types you would want to be enabling.

I used to be an enabler. It was born out of survival, being surrounded by the same toxic people from grades 8–12. Girls were more of a theoretical concept than human at my all-male high school, so you can imagine that attitudes were less than feminist. Even though it was a Catholic high school that emphasized Jesus’ mom and service to others, the behavior of young men surrounded by other young men is just plain unhealthy. I never considered that my privileged, 90-percent-white, 100-percent-male surroundings could be terrible people. That is, until misogyny was pointed out to me by some article of yore. It made me feel awful, and then I felt like I could make a difference.

Some people need to be called out or embarrassed to change long-standing behavior. After my editorial, several people in my boat told me that it was the kind of thing they wish they had read earlier in their lives. That was my target audience, people like us who had not yet been exposed to the reasonable side of women’s issues. Those people who possess non-zero empathy but grew up surrounded by trained assholes. That is why I wrote it, that is why it was on the front page of our Welcome Back issue, and that is why I demanded we start posting editorials to our Facebook page. That is also why Boston’s National Organization of Women chapter made me their #ManCrushMonday.

Engagement numbers are nice, but casting a wide net is crucial to reach your desired audience. Fishers of men, and all.

There was no strawman argument in my editorial. All of the quotes I used were more or less verbatim from conversations with an enabler friend. I brought him over by making him feel awful and by spitting mad rhino facts before making him feel like he could make a difference, same as the rest of us.

The ‘Nique page comments were mostly attacking me, juxtaposing “rational” and “MRA,” arguing against facts and telling me not to use dictionary definitions. (My racism editorial’s comments told me to only use dictionary definitions, so which is it?) I am not going to focus too much there; it speaks for itself. What I hoped would happen — and what did happen — was that I would also get negative comments coming from actual feminists. That may seem contrary and unproductive, as if my goal were to make as many people mad as possible. Fortunately, haters are your most loyal fans.

Those who frequent my editorials may have noticed that the feminism one was rather long. Here’s the rub: there were two editorials in one. The one you noticed supported feminism; the subtler one highlighted how poorly many feminists communicate outside their cliques. Add that to the list of my two-for-one editorials.

Some of the comments said my editorial “hurt the feminist movement more than it help[ed] it” and was a “rambling, expletive-laden screed,” “absolutely idiotic premise” and an “article” rather than an editorial. Something to point out is that these are the exact same comments that certain feminists receive regarding their own writing, and it’s not a coincidence.

I am not intending to single any commenters out. Rather, I am addressing those cliquey feminists who do more harm than good. The exclusionary attitude of “I’m correct; you’re wrong; you’re a bad person” does not work for actual misogynists. More importantly, it excludes those people who do not explicitly identify as “feminists” even though they are actually feminists. I think it’s possible to hit the enablers, misogynists and “not”-feminists without being as aggressive as I portrayed, which sadly is what I typically see from other feminists.

Some commenters stated they are not feminists because of “the definition of feminism” and that “extremists took over the feminist movement.” The comments suggest that the very existence of the clique stratifies feminism in the same way that modern politics have been bifurcated across the party line. This is an issue that my comments sections exemplify (thanks for unknowingly helping me).

Cliquey feminism makes people not want to be feminists, even if they already are. The clique does amazing work for women, but poor communication overshadows their efforts. I stand by non-feminists being terrible people, with the caveat that a bunch of you are feminists whether you like it or not. Avoid being Mean Girls feminists, and do not let them ruin the movement for everyone else.

Just as how misogynists don’t represent reasonable people, extremists do not represent the feminist movement.