So I have let people talk me into installing Skype. On the positive side, I now know how I will look at age 100. On the negative side is everything else.

I don’t think I will enjoy this thing. Normally, I take walks when I talk on the phone, which is fun and it gives me exercise. With Skype, I will have to sit while talking (like I don’t do enough of that already) for the purpose of letting people see me look completely disfigured. Yay.

Something tells me I will be uninstalling it soon.

And now I need to go spend some time in front of a mirror to reassure myself that I don’t look like a creature from a different galaxy. You need to have a much greater psychological resilience than mine to use this thing on a regular basis.

Kicked Out of Feminism

The recent hullabaloo that people with nothing better to do in their lives are creating about Hugo Schhwyzer has populated my blogroll with endless posts discussing who should or shouldn’t be “kicked out of feminism.” Here is a prime example of such post:

Is there any other social movement whose members regularly and publicly kick people and all of their ideas out for not being perfectly acceptable to all people all the time? And what about the voices of non-white men that are regularly kicked out of feminism. For instance, how does it help or hurt feminism to cite Mary Daly’s transbigotry, for instance, as a reason to reject her criticisms of the Catholic Church’s misogyny?

In spite of this blogger’s suggestion that Mary Daly was a non-white man and her extremely confusing writing style, she is echoing what seems to be a wide-spread sentiment. Namely, that feminism is some kind of a club where people come together to blab endlessly about whose privilege-itch is the itchiest and who can use more passive voice constructions per each short paragraph of writing. And you can be kicked out of this club if other members find you lacking in how abjectly apologetic you are about your numerous privileges.

This attitude, of course, is completely ridiculous. Feminism is a philosophy that has existed for centuries. It cannot be appropriated by a bunch of self-righteous folks who have appointed themselves the guardians of its ideals on some website or other. One’s feminist worldview belongs to that person and to nobody else, no matter how much some community-worshipers want to transform a philosophy into a clique that grants and denies access at the will of its most vocal screechers.

This is precisely why I flee from any group that start envisioning itself in terms of a community. A collective identity always needs both an external and an internal Other against which those who want to belong can measure themselves. A community cannot exist without conducting such public spectacles of bashing and then banishing transgressors. It cannot exist without scapegoats. There cannot be any “us” unless there are those who are obviously and visibly “not-us.” And there cannot be a greater pleasure for a community than to find “a traitor in our midst” and reaffirm its own identity by persecuting this invented traitor for as long as possible.

Jill at Feministe says that:

There have been calls in the comments here and elsewhere for Feministe to preemptively ban Hugo, and for me to email my internet feminist friends and form a united front against Schwyzer to take him down, and to make sure that he never teaches or writes about feminism again.

This is, of course, a classic definition of bullying. The ideologically pure need to make a public spectacle of their purity because, otherwise, the tenuous fiction of their identity will fall apart. A collective identity is always a myth, an artificial construct with very little basis in reality. In order to convince themselves that their identity actually has some meaning, members of such an artificially created community (be it a nation, a gender, or a sports fan club) constantly need to stage the boringly repetitive spectacle of their identity.

This entire debacle has nothing to do with feminism, of course. I’ve been studying the mechanisms of identity-formation for many years and I can tell you that all collective identities work this way. All of these folks who are now writing passionate diatribes about whether Hugo Schwyzer needs to be “kicked out of feminism” or whether his privilege is too privileged for him to be included into their community have no interest whatsoever in feminism. They just want to belong. And in order to experience the sweet feeling of belonging, they need to protect the borders of their group form being crossed by foreign elements.

A Political Dilemma

In this country, there is no political force that believes both in individual freedom and individual responsibility.

One party wants to police the choices you make in your personal life, while the other one wants to police your bank account and the way you do your work.

One wants to control what you do in bed, while another one wants to control what you do outside of it.

One condescends to you by dictating to you how you should conduct your personal life, the other one condescends to you by telling you how you should do everything else.

One wants to “protect” you from your personal choices because you are supposed to be too stupid to live with their consequences. The other one wants to do the same for your actions in the public sphere.

Both sides see us as victims and try to convince us of our victimhood so that we would embrace them as our saviors.

Psychological health entails a capacity to act independently and successfully in the private and in the public sphere, at home and at work. (“Loving and working without fear and expectation of fear.”) To offer full support to either party we have in the US, you have to relinquish control over one of these spheres to the all-powerful entity that will dictate your options to you.

I listen to reasonable, intelligent Conservatives, and what they are saying makes a lot of sense to me in many ways. But then they start on their “right religion / wrong religion, good sexual orientation / bad sexual orientation, good family structure / bad family structure, I-know-best-what-you-should-do-with-your-body” thing, and I lose all interest immediately.

So I go back to Liberals, and what they are saying makes a lot of sense. But then they start on their “we are all conditioned to be victims so check your privilege you overentitled elitist snob who thinks that we have some degree of control over our lives”, and I just wilt.

I don’t know about you, but I cannot decide whether “If you are unemployed, it’s always 100% your fault” is more offensive than “If you are miserable it’s always 100% somebody else’s fault.” I don’t know whether “If he’s got no insurance, then let him die” is more wrong than “She only managed to become so successful because of her white, hetero, male, Anglo privilege. Oh, she is a lesbian Latina? Then, surely she must have some other privileges by the bucketful.”

One of these political philosophies vilifies failure and worships success. The other one vilifies success and “privileges” failure. But what if you experience both on a regular basis? That is, what if you are human? What if you want to own both of your failures and your successes without being ashamed of them? Then who do you vote for? (And if somebody says Ron Paul, I will have to ridicule them in a very harsh way. Just a fair warning.)