I fell down a rabbit hole today. By reading this: An Incomplete Guide to Feminist infighting. Bemused, I chased links and read manifestos and counter-manifestos for a couple of hours until the sources just began to repeat themselves. But in some respects my confusion was just beginning.
As I was falling through all these diatribes like Alice wondering how deep the rabbit hole goes, one of the thoughts uppermost in my mind was Poe’s Law: “Without a blatant display of humor, it is impossible to create a parody of extremism or fundamentalism that someone won’t mistake for the real thing.”
There was no humor down this rabbit hole. I found myself in the land beyond parody. On this evidence, I suspect it would be nigh-impossible to write a literate spoof of modern feminism that even many of its disputants wouldn’t blithely mistake for a real ideological position. And I found myself thinking of the Sokal Hoax.
Somebody, I thought, really ought to go all hermeneutics-of-quantum-gravity on these women just to see what happens. And then it hit me: maybe someone already has! It is impossible to tell how many of these women are ironists being “performative” (one of their favorite words) because all of them sound so precisely like an anti-feminist’s cruelest parody of the movement.
I mean, are they even women, really? On the Internet nobody knows you’re a dog. Could these feminist twitter wars be an elaborate fiction accidentally generated by beer-swilling men in wife-beater T-shirts, each a master of the art of satire but utterly convinced by circumstances that everyone else in the flamewars is a sincere paragon of feminist outrage with immaculate activist credentials?
Fucked if I know. Sure, there are external checks one would apply – some of the disputants report having jobs at identifiable institutions. My point is that I can’t tell how anybody could falsify the wife-beater hypothesis going strictly on the rhetoric. That’s how deep the rabbit hole goes.
Actually, in a way it would it would be nice to think the wife-beater hypothesis is true and real feminists are off doing something healthier and more useful. Alas, I doubt this is the case; I suspect what we see here is what we get. So, under that depressing premise, what does it look like down the rabbit hole?
The most conspicuous thing is that these women ooze “privilege” from every pore. All of them, not just the white upper-middle-class academics but the putatively “oppressed” blacks and transsexuals and what have you. It’s the privilege of living in a society so wealthy and so indulgent that they can go years – even decades – without facing a reality check.
And yet, these women think they are oppressed, by patriarchy and neoliberalism, heteronormativity, cisnormativity, and there’s a continuous arms race to come up with new oppression modalities du jour and how many intersectional categories each player can claim.
While these children of privilege are filling out their victimological bingo cards…elsewhere, women are treated like chattels. Raped under color of law. Genitally mutilated. But none of this enters the charmed circle of modern American feminism. So much safer to rage at the Amerikkan phallocracy that provides them with cushy jobs writing about their outrage for audiences almost as insulated from reality as they are. Not to mention all those obliging men who will grow their food, fix their plumbing, mow their lawns, and know their place.
There were pictures. Such pictures! They all look alike, from the cutesy white chicks with hipster glasses to the black WOCs with dreadlocks. It took me a while to figure out why, but I got it eventually. It was like browsing some Renaissance painter’s gallery of fin-de-race noblemen. Such arrogance, such entitlement, all those faces suffused with a a bland and unimpeachable conviction of their own superiority and righteousness. No wonder they fight each other like cats in a sack!
I cannot do justice to the sheer, pluripotent absurdity revealed by these twitter wars; it would take the powers of a Jonathan Swift to do that. I think I may have some light to shed on how it got so hilariously you can’t-make-this-stuff-up awful, though.
Years ago, I wrote about kafkatrapping, and uttered this warning: “At the extreme, such causes frequently become epistemically closed, with a jargon and discourse so tightly wrapped around the logical fallacies in the kafkatraps that their doctrine is largely unintelligible to outsiders.”
I think that is almost exactly what has happened here. While I had certain varieties of feminism in mind when I wrote that, it now appears that I grossly underestimated the degree to which closure had taken hold or would do so. While I wasn’t looking, they went from incestuous to plain ridiculous.
And to return to an older theme – I think this sort of bitter involution is what eventually and inevitably happens when you marinate in left-wing duckspeak for long enough. (Clue: if you find yourself using the word “neoliberal” as non-ironically as these women do, you’re there. For utter lack of meaning outside of a dense thicket of self-referential cod-Marxist presuppositions disconnected from reality, this one has few rivals.)
Accordingly, George Orwell would have no trouble at all identifying the language of the feminist twitter wars as a form of Newspeak, designed not to convey thought but suppress it. Indeed, part of the content of the wars is that some of these women dimly sort of get this – see the whole argument over “callout culture”. But none of them can wake up enough to see that the problem is not just individual behaviors. Because to do that they’d have to face how irretrievably rotten and oppressive their entire discourse has become, and their worldview would collapse.
Ah well. This too shall pass. The university system and establishment journalism are both in the process of collapsing under their own weight. With them will go most of the ecological niches that support these precious, precious creatures in their luxury. Massive reality check a’coming. No doubt the twitter wars will continue, but in historical terms they won’t last long.