Scott Alexander has a post out on Western feminism, specifically about how it seems to be centered around hating and shaming socially disaffected white males. The inspiration was a previous post by Scott Aaronson wrote an article about how, as a clueless young nerd, he internalized so much toxic shame about being attracted to women that he actually sought chemical castration so he wouldn’t hurt women.
Feminists promptly decided that this meant that he was just a misogynist who believed that women were just there to provide him with sex.
And Scott Alexander went to town on them about this. Please read it, it is a thing of beauty. In short, feminists speak a lot about “slut shaming”, that women are made to feel ashamed of their sexual desires. Yet they invest a massive amount of time an effort into “creep shaming”, making men feel so ashamed of their sexuality to the point that some of them actually consider self-mutilating to escape from the shame.
The past is over. I do not hold, and have never held, any ill will toward the women who rejected me. Some of them continue to be my close friends. Some of them I’ve talked to about this Scott Aaronson thing, and even they agree with me on it. Nor did Aaronson mention any ill will to anyone who rejected him. Talking about how nerds should let go of our past resentment to our crushes is a giant red herring.
What this entire discussion is about is our very present resentment toward the (some) feminists who continue to perpetuate the stereotypes that hurt us then, continue to attack us now whenever we talk about the experience or ask them to stop, and continue to come up with rationalizations for why they don’t have to stop. This isn’t about little Caitlin who wouldn’t return my eye contact in seventh grade, this is about Amanda Marcotte, Jezebel, Gawker, and an entire system that gets its jollies by mocking us and trying to twist the knife.
This. A thousand times this. Full disclosure: prior to massive amounts of deprogramming I was the shame ridden one considering mutilation. It is not past I like to revisit.
The best, the absolute very best you can expect from feminists in responses to this is “I’m sorry that that happened to you, but you need to get over it, and, anyway, others have it worse”.
Imagine this flipped around. Anyone here remember Richard Dawkins’ infamous “Dear Muslima…” comment? Dawkins suggested that a clumsy offer of coffee was nothing compared with what women under Islam have to suffer, and the offer was no cause for all this whining and people needed to get over it. Result: an outrage storm for a year, one that still breaks out from time to time, and Dawkins was thrown under the bus by bloggers like PZ Myers, who owe their fame largely to Dawkins’ patronage.
As will surprise absolutely no one, Myers has written the following post, arguing that it’s a pity that Aaronson suffered but he needs to get over it and get on.. Some of his commentators try to say, at least, that this is a “Dear Muslima…”, and get flayed in the comments. Of course, there’s a big difference. Dawkins “Dear Muslima…” was saying “You need to get over a cack-handed offer of coffee”. Myers is saying “you need to get over a lifetime of toxic shaming that still goes on, and is so potent it can drive people to consider self-mutilation or even suicide.”
Now Alexander seems an incredibly decent person. He actually is what American “liberals” like to claim they are. So perhaps he can answer this: Alexander says that (Western) feminism has a serious problem of bullying in it. What I want to know is: is there anything other than the serious problem of bullying in Western feminism?
Let’s dispense with the whole “Feminism just means you believe in equality between the sexes” thing. That’s about as convincing as “Communism just means you want a worker’s paradise” or “The White Man’s Burden just means you think that the nations lucky enough to develop first have a moral obligation to the rest”. It doesn’t convince anyone who hasn’t already drunk the kool-aid.
In the piece, Alexander notes that nerds are the ones who least fit the profiles of rapist, abusers, sexists or similar. Yet even a cursory experience with Western feminism finds that the group that is most attacked and vilified by feminists are nerds. If I think of the main cases of feminist outrage that have been in the news, here are the ones that spring to mind. Gamergate. The umpteenth complain that Dawkins is part of sexist culture in the skeptisphere. The shaming and humiliation of the man who landed a spacecraft on an asteroid. The expulsion of MIT mathematics professor Walter Lewin. The hounding of president-elect of the US college of surgeons.
Anyone notice any common denominator?
Again, this isn’t to say that there aren’t sexist cultures out there. For example, one could talk about ‘frat’ culture in America. Or the problem of rape in the US armed forces. Or, of course, the Godfather of all rape and misogynist cultures, Islam.
Funny, I don’t seem to any wave of outrage about any of these that even begins to equal Gamergate or “Dear Muslima…”
The only thing I can remember about frat culture is a completely fabricated rape story, and when I wrote about the manosphere, the most common source of bitterness was watching women leap into bed with men who were the opposite of every feminist tenet they preached. Aaronson noted the same thing:
The same girls who I was terrified would pepper-spray me and call the police if I looked in their direction, often responded to the crudest advances of the most Neanderthal of men by accepting those advances. Yet it was I, the nerd, and not the Neanderthals, who needed to check his privilege and examine his hidden entitlement!
The issue of sexual assault in the army was covered in a heart freezing documentary The Invisible War has sunk without a trace. And as regards Islam, since Scott Alexander cites Laurie Penny, let me note that the first hits that google returned for “Laurie Penny Islam” are her calling David Starkley racist for speaking about the rape and exploitation of children, and that complaints about sex segregation in UK universities are just ‘Islamophobia‘. This is even before I’ve mentioned the way that American feminists defend Bill Clinton en masse.
Check again Alexander’s list of what nerds get called, routinely, by feminists, and look:
I live in a world where feminists throwing weaponized shame at nerds is an obvious and inescapable part of daily life. Whether we’re “mouth-breathers”, “pimpled”, “scrawny”, “blubbery”, “sperglord”, “neckbeard”, “virgins”, “living in our parents’ basements”, “man-children” or whatever the insult du jour is, it’s always, always, ALWAYS a self-identified feminist saying it. Sometimes they say it obliquely, referring to a subgroup like “bronies” or “atheists” or “fedoras” while making sure everyone else in nerddom knows it’s about them too.
Reality check: can you imagine any Western feminist – any Western feminist at all – not throwing a gigantic outrage tantrum about anyone using any similar language about Muslims, even after Rotherham?
There’s no way to have this both ways. Either we can be Prussian about this, say that people need to learn to suffer without complaining, and I can dismiss western feminists as weaklings and whiners, or we can say that all suffering is worthy of care and consideration, and I can call western feminists on their silence, as hypocrites as well as weaklings and whiners.
At the very least this suggests a demented list of priorities. If your aim is the equality and emancipation of women, shouldn’t the worst problems be targeted first? If you want women to be treated with respect, why spend all your time attacking those who are least offensive? Does this make any sense whatsoever?
But what if something else is going on here?
I wrote that the complaints from US leftists about “white people” are really complains about “working class people”. Complains about “white people” are a way to show that you aren’t like any of those people. Not Quite Our Class Dear.
Western feminism is completely understandable and predictable if you assume that it is first and foremost a system of bullying. Then the list of priorities makes complete sense. If your interest is to wield power over others, then whom do you chose to go after? Obviously the most vulnerable.
‘Bad boys’ get a pass by feminists because they’re good lays, but nerds – well, what use are they really? Are western feminists really so different from the ‘in’ crowd in high school? Are they really so different from the cheerleader who gets the footballer she’s fucking to beat up nerds?
(I don’t want to make any connection with the fact that certain ‘skepchicks’ like to pose in the buff in their pictures, but I guess I just did)
‘How does one man assert his power over another, Winston?’
Winston thought. ‘By making him suffer,’ he said.
‘Exactly. By making him suffer. Obedience is not enough. Unless he is suffering, how can you be sure that he is obeying your will and not his own? Power is in inflicting pain and humiliation. Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.
The people who read this are going to say that I’m saying that western feminists are the equivalent of Orwell’s Thought Police. Of course I’m saying nothing of the kind. But this passage has always stuck with me, as it explains the nature of power and dominance so well.
If it helps – and I know it won’t – the first time I used it I was giving advice to a girl on getting out of an abusive relationship.
Look again at what O’Brien defines as the essence of power. Pain and humiliation, and tearing other people’s minds apart so you can put them together as you wish. Now read Aaronson about how he was so ashamed of his own sexuality that he wanted to be castrated rather than live with it. Tell me there’s not a ghost of a resemblance.
Now, again, western feminists are not the thought police. They do not have torture chambers, telescreens, spies and snitches, or summary executions. What feminists have is shame. Shame is one of the most powerful emotions there is. It is the foundation of human society. It is so strong that it can drive people to fight and die, or kill themselves. Its effect, especially on the shy and the outcast and the unsure, is enormous.
Here’s Aaronson again:
From my perspective, [feminist nerd bullying] serves only to shift blame from the Neanderthals and ass-grabbers onto some of society’s least privileged males, the ones who were themselves victims of bullying and derision, and who acquired enough toxic shame that way for appealing to their shame to be an effective way to manipulate their behavior.
Compare and contrast the shame that homosexuals were typically made to feel about being who they were. Interestingly, Alexander quotes a lesbian friend of his who notes that instead of being made to feel ashamed of wanting women while being a woman, she is made to feel ashamed of wanting women, period.
Now, if western feminism is just plain bullying, then we should also expect cowardice. All bullies are cowards, and are quick to prostrate themselves before the bigger thug. Street punks instinctively avoid heavy hitters and mobsters.
The problem with feminists relying on shame as their weapon is that you cannot shame those who are shameless (frat boys, PUAs) or those who are enthralled to a far stronger shaming code (the military way, Islam). Make no mistake about it: when it comes to using shame as a bludgeon, feminists are pikers – the gangbangers and petty hoodlums of shame. Conversely, Islam is the Cosa Nostra of shame, an empire built on shame that has endured over a millennium.
Suddenly the abject, crawling cowardice western feminists show before Islam makes sense, no?
There’s a common theme in what you might call “nerd mythology”. All the books and films about the outcast kid. Harry Potter is the most recent example. It’s when the big menace arrives, and the bullies suddenly get theirs. So I confess a certain glee at feminists’ prostration before Allah. All of a sudden their big words and big attitudes aren’t of any use. It’s a certain comfort: all those who mobbed Matt Taylor, and Lazar Greenfield, and countless others who are too insignificant for us to ever know their names. All of those will get theirs. When the real patriarchy rears its head, they will get theirs, well and good.
Now you might say “But surely not all feminists! There are real issues of the oppression of women. Don’t we need people to tackle those?”
Indeed, and I respect many people in this greatly. Only – feminists don’t seem to. When I think of the great figures I admire, they seem to be loathed by western feminists. Erin Pizzey founded the first shelter for battered women in the UK and received death threats for later saying that men were also victims of domestic abuse. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is either vilified or ignored by western feminists, and I could say the same thing for Nonie Darwish, Sabatina James or Wafa Sultan. Oriana Fallaci and Suzanne Zeller-Hirzel were both feminists of a courage that is hard to credit, beginning with openly fighting Mussolini and Hitler, respectively, and ending in struggle with Islam. I have yet to find a feminist who has a good thing to say about Fallaci, or one who even knows who Zeller-Hirzel was.
And there’s another thing: when feminism is set up like this, when it becomes clear that the ferocity of its attacks are proportional to the inoffensiveness of its targets, when the worst offenders get a free pass and even defense, and those trying hard to do the right thing are beaten up with their own virtue – then eventually your prior becomes that any major fuss kicked up by feminists is bogus until proven otherwise. That certainly doesn’t do the cause of women’s emancipation any favours.
This is why I always say that I am 100% in favour of women’s emancipation, perhaps the most important struggle of our time. It is only that I don’t see what feminism has to do with that.