This is likely to be the only political post I will make, but it’s an important one because it means something has changed in me. Something big. And it wouldn’t be me if there were not also Age of Ultron spoilers in this post.
I like philosophy. Alot. Like I would marry it if I weren’t already married.
Philosophy is a pure thing to me. It’s colored by opinion for sure, and it’s prompted by religious and political reactions for sure. It’s also limited by someone’s ego. But it’s still somebody sitting down and thinking on paper.
Philosophy and Living versus Philosophy and Thinking
Theory theory theory. Theory will almost always be perfect and application will almost always be less than perfect. I, like almost everyone else on the planet, want there to be a way to bridge the gap between perfect thought and imperfect action. So I called myself a Feminist. I made sure before I did to read Beauvoir, Cixous, Kristeva, Butler, Sedgwick, Halberstam, Foucault, and Derrida. I read some Elaine Showalter and Toril Moi too. I read a lot. I wrote a lot too, and in writing about what I read, I learned how to synthesize the information. One would think applying the theories to literature is about the only way theory and application work together, but it isn’t. I tried applying Cixous’ l’ecriture feminine to an American woman’s novel and it failed miserably. Nonetheless, I decided that I knew enough about feminism to come out and speak it publicly, and boy was I disappointed with how that turned out.
This is what I see in the American Feminist Movement right now:
We hate boys. We hate men. Men are bad. Women who aren’t white can fend for themselves all encompassed in their fight against racism. Women who are lesbians can fight their own battles. Women who were assigned male at birth don’t count. If you don’t hate men, you don’t deserve to be a woman. Equal pay. Health care autonomy. We hate men. We can say whatever we want to because men are bad. We do not acknowledge that men and masculinity have been stereotyped just as detrimentally. We do not acknowledge that men are required to meet the same kinds of unrealistic social and cultural standards that we are fighting to free women from. We can be outraged over Susan Storm’s fully dressed pose in movie posters for The Fantastic Four, but we’re going to celebrate Channing Tatum’s half naked pose in movie posters for Magic Mike.
OK. Well, that’s not feminism. That’s hate. And it’s ignorant. There, I said it. In this country, if you want to call yourself a Feminist, you have to qualify first for membership in the Feminist Club. You certainly cannot, in most feminist circles, be male and call yourself a feminist. If you are a man, and you support the principles of feminism (equal rights for both men and women politically and legally), then you are held to a different standard of behavior and thought. You must call yourself something else, and if you cross the imaginary line, you’re fired.
The breaking point for me might seem silly, but I’m over it. I went and saw Avengers 2: Age of Ultron Tuesday because I’ve been counting down the days for Big Daddy to be off work so we could go watch it. It was a beautiful movie, and I loved it, and I don’t care what anyone says about it. From the very first minute when there’s a shot of everyone lined up flying in slow motion into battle, it was like I was eight all over again, the good parts of being eight. Of course, I’ve been reading all the stuff … and how everyone is really pissed about no Black Widow stuff and the Black Widow and the Scarlet Witch got played and blah blah blah. The Marvel Universe has some tremendous women in it. Joss Whedon does a consistently good job of making women central, autonomous, and strong. Those are periods. If you don’t believe me: watch Buffy. Sarah Michelle Gellar isn’t the only one either. Check out Amy Acker too. Or Morena Baccarin. Or Summer Glau. Or Gina Torres. I mean, I could keep going. Ming Na Wen. Adrianne Palicki. Elizabeth Henstridge. Really. I could keep going.
Nat Romanov and Bruce Banner fall in love. Holy shit, who saw that coming? Not American feminists. That’s for sure. So what if Natasha fell in love with Bruce? Bruce is a good guy. He’s the Hulk, but he’s a good guy. It doesn’t make her a “love interest,” and it doesn’t diminish her contribution to the team. In fact, it seems like a natural by-product of both her contribution and Banner’s to the team. It also keeps her from being Hawkeye’s “work wife” which was diminishing. Why is love such a dirty word? Marriage too? You cannot truly love someone or be loved by someone without there being some submission by both parties. Sure, I’d like very much to have all the benefits of Big Daddy without any of the hassle of being considerate of his needs, or without the overwhelming burden of sharing…. And that’s when it hit me. I mean how selfish do you have to actually be to be a feminist in this country? We’ve become like these female cavemen, where linguistics fail every time, and it boils down to Hulkspeak “Submit. Bad.” So add that to the list of qualifiers for American feminists: You can’t have a healthy balanced romantic relationship. You cannot fall in love.
As an “F” word, here are the fights I see (in this order): In this country, health care autonomy and equal pay. That’s a period there. Things like manspreading are cultural issues. If some man is manspreading on the train or in the airport or at Burger King, speak up. So what if he calls you a “bitch.” We need to get over ourselves as much as they do. There are far worse issues we should address from a feminist perspective in other countries. Girls are being married to old men, girls and boys are being sold like cattle for an underground sex industry, and girls are being mutilated – those are real battles that need to be waged. Whether or not a man can call himself a feminist or is taking up too much space are not real battles. While we’re on the subject of imaginary and real battles that should or should not be waged, let’s talk about clean drinking water, or #blacklivesmatter, or marriage inequality, or the minimum wage, or food costs.
Let’s talk also about how feminism has become just as much an exclusive club as the Good Old Boy Network. Let’s talk about how the current iteration of feminism seeks to supplant the patriarchy with a matriarchy. Here again we see the demise of something pure and noble in the muddied, befuddled, human application. Joss Whedon said it this week in a way that screams to me. In this article, http://www.themarysue.com/joss-whedon-why-he-left-twitter/, Whedon said “there’s no way to find any coherence when everything has to be parsed and decried”. He also refers to the litmus test for feminism. So, why does it also feel like my feminine outrage has turned on itself?
Because evolution. While I was reading all that stuff about feminism and deciding whether that’s what I was or not, I learned some things that took a little bit longer to process. You can be a part of a women’s movement and still care about men. You can want to see women achieve equality and still be considerate of men. In fact, compassion is one of the paths to transcendental knowledge described by Schopenhauer. Philosophy is just a means to an end; not an end in itself. I needed to want to self-identify as a feminist because it was part of a larger process. The larger process is living, living with people. Sadly, some people get stuck in parts of the process and never see the big picture. Now that this part of my process has reached its natural end, I must let it go and move on. The thing with Black Widow and Bruce Banner was a thing of beauty, and a lot of respectable feminists are pissed about it. A love between friends with established trust and compassion where each one does what he or she has to do to protect the other one does not contradict or oppose the principles of feminism. Quicksilver is sacrificed to enhance the Scarlet Witch’s role. (Don’t even get me started on the Beth vs. Darryl TWD junk.) The thing is THIS is fiction. It’s art. It’s not that drivel they flood through the television commonly referred to as “reality tv” which is as unrealistic as hell. It’s supposed to slightly resemble life in order to suspend our disbelief about SUPERSPEED. Fortunately for us, Whedon left out all the hokey awkward moments it usually takes to get to that point. You know, the times when you both wanted the same thing but everyone was too scared to say anything and so months went by in agony. Those times when you weren’t sure if she was joking or not, and you were afraid to say something because you might look like a wimp, before you realized that it wasn’t like that at all and you were dumb for ever thinking it was. You know, all that is implied in the movie.
Living life according to a philosophy is good, if you stop learning at that point. It’s also easy to get stuck in there and stop learning on accident. I’ve done it. I found Feminism, and I said “This is for me” and then being a feminist started making me irritable, restless, and discontent. But I stayed there for a while anyway, thinking this is the cost of being a feminist, all this outrage and anger and hate. But it’s yucky really.
And nothing should cost that. Outrage, anger, and hatred should never be an acceptable price to pay for anything. Sometimes outrage is the only language an oppressor understands. But it is a specialized language appropriate for specific situations. It’s a specific register, like an academic register or legal jargon. It’s not appropriate for effective communication everywhere, all the time. What’s happened in American feminism is that the language of outrage has lost its meaning and is now a shrill nonsense shrieking. These same feminists who get outraged over fiction, say stupid things like burning buildings is not the “proper” way to riot. As if there is such a thing as a proper riot. Do they stop for tea and scones at those? American feminism has lost its way in the mainstream. It has become the philosophy of revenge. What I realized is that the victimization stopped a long time ago coming from men, and now feminists are repeatedly and continuously victimizing themselves and each other with their outrage. It has delegitimized an appropriate and necessary language for revolt.
Outrage is necessary in overthrowing oppression, and when we start attacking something as meaningless to our existence and peaceful cohabitation as superhero movies based on some bastardized application of a philosophy that seeks to make men and women equals socially, economically, and politically, then we have taken away whatever power there is in a language of outrage making it ineffective for everyone. (Superheroes are crucial to the meaningfulness of my existence. They are an important part of my culture, and without the various mediations of those mythologies, my life would not be as colorful and enjoyable. I say “meaningless” above to compare their artistic value to the value of learning how to mediate rage so that living with other people compassionately is possible. It’s obviously infinitely more important to our existence that we learn to stop beating the shit out of each other.) And this is the death knell for my feminism. I have no doubts that what will emerge will incorporate what I see as the best of the principles of feminism – equal pay, health care autonomy, an end to human trafficking, relief for men from their stereotypes, marriage equality, racial equality – I am still willing to fight and revolt in outrage – use my language of outrage to participate in overthrowing oppression. I can’t live in that sensitive space where outrage and anger and hate are acceptable prices to pay, and I don’t need to qualify my philosophy for living with a label. Neither do you.