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.

34 thoughts on “Kicked Out of Feminism”

  1. Friedrich Nietzsche
    Love of One’s Neighbour
    You crowd around your neighbour, and have fine words for it. But I say to you: your neighbour love is your bad love of yourselves. You flee to your neighbour from yourselves, and would like to make a virtue of that: but I see through your “unselfishness”. The you is older than the – I ; the you has been consecrated, but not yet the – I : so man presses near to his neighbour. Do I advise you to neighbour love? Rather do I advise you to neighbour flight and to love of the most distant! Higher than love of your neighbour is love of the furthest and future man; higher still than love of men, is love of causes and phantoms. The phantom that runs on before you, my brother, is fairer than you; why do you not give to it your flesh and your bones? But you are afraid and run to your neighbour. You cannot endure to be alone with yourselves, and do not love yourselves sufficiently: so you seek to mislead your neighbour into love, and would like to gild yourselves with his mistake. Would that you could not endure to be alone with any kind of neighbour or their neighbours; then would you have to create your friend and his overflowing heart out of yourselves. You call in a witness when you want to speak well of yourselves; and when you have misled him to think well of you, you also think well of yourselves. Not only does he lie, who speaks contrary to his knowledge, but more so, he who speaks contrary to his ignorance. And thus speak you of yourselves in your conversation, and deceive your neighbour with yourselves. Thus says the fool: “Association with men ruins the character, especially when one has none”. The one goes to his neighbour because he seeks himself, and the other because he would like to lose himself. Your bad love to yourselves makes solitude a prison to you. The furthest man pays for your love your neighbour; and when there are but five of you together, a sixth must always die. I love not your festivals either: too many actors found I there, and even the spectators often behaved like actors. Not the neighbour do I teach you, but the friend. Let the friend be the festival of the earth to you, and a foretaste of the Superman. I teach you the friend and his overflowing heart. But one must know how to be a sponge, if one would be loved by overflowing hearts. I teach you the friend in whom the world stands complete, a capsule of the good – the creating friend, who has always a complete world to bestow. And as the world unrolled itself for him, so rolls it together again for him, as the growth of good through evil, as the growth of purpose out of chance. Let the future and the furthest be the motive of your today; in your friend shall you love the Superman as your motive. My brothers, I advise you not to neighbour love – I advise you to love of the most distant! Thus spoke Zarathustra.

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    1. “You cannot endure to be alone with yourselves, and do not love yourselves sufficiently: so you seek to mislead your neighbour into love, and would like to gild yourselves with his mistake”

      – Exactly. Of course, the terror of being alone is a mark of an immature personality that never developed into an adult.

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      1. Well it’s difficult for people to be alone, because of holes in their self esteem. I’m sure I used to have at least something of this mentality, when I had very different views of the universe and used to have strange ideas about metaphysical truth and abstract thought. These days, any and all of my successes have come about from being alone, so all my pleasure centres are overcharged with a feeling of gratification that stems from making independent decisions. I can’t even remember how it used to be, which is very strange.

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    1. Thank you for the link!

      the following part is especially telling: “However, there’s nothing stopping the public from being better educated about the difficulties and challenges involved with being a parent raising autistic children. ”

      Because with autism it is ALWAYS, always, always about the parents. We will hear ad nauseam about their “difficulties and challenges” because they are oh, so victimized by having autistic children.

      And yes, his son IS a perfectly normal kid, no matter how much the Daddy wants to pathologize him.

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  2. Isn’t the notion of “they just want to belong” a bit reductive? It’s clear as day that a lot of the commenters have experienced abuse.The most straightforward explanation is that they want to bring down Hugo cause they’re mightily pissed at what he did.

    Additionally, there seems to be quite a lot of intense and personal disagreements, and explicit declarations from at least some commenters who denounced Hugo that they don’t identify with Feministe or mainstream feminism, for a group of people supposedly so invested in *one* group identity. It seems to me that there are at least a couple of consciously identified sub-groups, which is what accounts for a lot of the tension and misunderstanding.

    Setting that aside for the moment.

    The constant need for an external ‘Other’ is obvious. But why the constant need for an internal Other? What about the role of leaders in collective identity?

    Most group identities I can think of have intense hero-worship of the leaders, founders, or most prominent members, and they are almost always immune from criticism. The feminist ‘community’ seems to go to the opposite extreme. Jill’s probably right that the periodic spectacle of the ‘take-down’ deprives and scares away a lot of potentially smart but “overly sensitive” people (was Ron Paul reading Feministe?). Yet it continues for essentially ideological reasons.

    My hypothesis is that the content of social justice ideology is so fiercely, *personally* anti-hierarchical (even more so than traditional left-wing politics) that its nature dictates this kind of behavior. There’s a contradiction between the emotion, rhetoric, and logic (which also helps determine what kind of people are attracted to this) versus the reality (which is hierarchical just like everything else in life).

    So the former is constantly at war with the latter, but is never able to change it. At best it makes a perceptible difference over time, but only very slowly and at great emotional cost. At worst, it wears down the only voices within ‘feminism’ able to speak to the mainstream outside of the relatively insular group of people actually involved in the movement.

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  3. I though Jill’s post on Feministe was a nice compromise. Of course, it wasn’t good enough for the purists; the comments were an absolute trainwreck. (I’m having deja vu. Haven’t I said this before?) I rolled my eyes so much I was starting to get dizzy, but I just couldn’t look away.

    I’m so over this shitstorm.

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  4. 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.
    Damn they aren’t playing are they.

    Funny it took finding out that he nearly killed a woman to draw up this sentiment. Back when he was condescending to men, disregarding male victims of sexual assault, projecting his own bad behaviors onto men as a collective (and from what I understand there’s quite a bit of racism in his material as well)? Those things weren’t even noteworthy. But now all of a sudden they want to take a stand?

    Please.

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    1. Danny, I see a *huge* difference between having some sexist ideas against any gender (nobody is perfect) and trying to *kill a human* being (a man OR a woman). Don’t you see it?

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      1. “Danny, I see a *huge* difference between having some sexist ideas against any gender (nobody is perfect) and trying to *kill a human* being (a man OR a woman). Don’t you see it?”

        – Nobody tried to kill any human beings. One person write a post about that a long time ago. If he hadn’t written it or even if he didn’t exist at all, we would still be seeing the exact same spate of bullying but aimed at somebody else.

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      2. Yeah I see the difference. And I also see that all the outrage with Hugo is not about his attempted murder/suicide. A lot of outrage is also about how a man would dare try to take a leadership role in feminism.

        If it was all about that murder/suicide attempt where’s all that other stuff coming from? Its like people have been holding those issues for day that it would be okay to bring them out.

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  5. The parallel you are seeking is to religions. Feminism, in my opinion, started as revealed wisdom, and remains so. As long as feminism claims the competence to determine right and wrong in absence of evidence, we will continue to see it function like the religion that it is, excommunicating members for blasphemy.

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  6. Would it help to anybody if you posted this explanation as a guest post on Feministe? I don’t agree with everything you write, but this post f.e. is revealing (to me). May be some Feministe visitors would learn something too by stopping to analyze their/others’ behavior.

    I am sure you aren’t afraid of being “kicked out of feminism”. 🙂 The only possible disadvantage I see is attracting a few trolls to your site, but you could always ban them.

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  7. Man, I am so over the Hugo thing. Quote, don’t quote, link, don’t link, just stop trying to control what other people do or should do around it.

    Which is sort of what I took from the post quoted – I thought they were questioning the utility of the whole circle jerk of accusations and policing of ideological purity.

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  8. One quibble: Feminism hasn’t been around for two centuries. First there was suffragism-quite different, in the late 1800s-1920s, then feminism in the ’60s, at least in the US. There were a few other movements (birth control, which went wrong in the ’30s and righted itself in the ’60s.) Feminism in the UK was quite different, mainly because Britain had a shortage of men after World War 1 and World War 2, so the government had to give women more of a stake in society.
    Also, Nietzche is pretty much wrong on everything, ever, so please leave him to the ravages of pretentious adolescents.

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    1. I date Western feminism from the publication of Benito Jeronimo Feijoo’s Defense of Women (1726) and Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792). I consider them to be foundational feminist texts that are still relevant today. There is a solid record of feminist struggles and achievements throughout the XIXth century.

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    2. First there was suffragism-quite different, in the late 1800s-1920s, then feminism in the ’60s, at least in the US.

      Feminism as a word was coined in 1895, and the pursuit for equality started then and there.Choosing to fight for the right to vote first was merely a strategic decision, but the principles were no less feminist.

      So called “feminist congresses” were held all over the world between 1880 and 1930.

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  9. In the 17th century there was no organized movement. I have no doubt that the texts you cited are in fact important evolutions, but they were published in isolation, and so remained exercises in thought rather then guidelines for a political movement.
    And it’s interesting to note that Wollstonecraft’s daughter, like many modern day daughters of well-known feminists, preferred to follow a more traditional route. (And Frankenstein can, depending on your interpretation, be read either as a tale of a parent abandoning a child, of anxiety over childbirth, or as a vaguely incestous Gothic thriller. Then again, my take on things can be really warped at times.)

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    1. Mary Shelley wrote one of the most famous works of literature of all times. How traditional is that?? And who is read more today, Mary or Percy? Only total literature geeks and grad students even know who he is.

      Of course, a political movement arises gradually but the point is that among the Enlightened thinkers of the XVIIIth century the ideology of women’s liberation was shared and well-spread.

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  10. First of all, Shelley did the whole marriage at a young age and kid thing. Pretty traditional, yes? And writing by women wasn’t completely unheard of back then. I grant you that Percy is nearly unknown now, but back in the 1800s, she was unknown and he was the big shot.

    I get that the idea of women’s liberation wasn’t unknown -even Locke and Mills got in on it. But, again, there were no organized movements until 1840. Ideas without action are merely intellectual masturbation.

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  11. I haven’t been able to get my email since Wednesday. I think the Internet is hiccuping after Wikipedia shut down.

    I’ll get back to you on that. I haven’t had enough caffeine to tackle that thought.

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  12. Lol, but even though apples can taste different they pretty much all have the same nourishing properties. For some sour, bitter feminists that is just not the case. 🙂

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