I’d never considered myself a sexist, until the church of mainstream opinion decided that I was. My actions were condemned by ruthless authoritarian activists – the modern thought police – who wear their politics like a thorny crown atop their Twitter bios: “feminist.”
It’s a rather curious tale of what happens when identity politics get mixed up with local [politics]. Where a white, working class, British male can be tried by the judge of sneering opportunism and sentenced to crucifixion by local newspaper.
In the battle for equality, debate is being stifled by the feminist movement’s need for outrage. This is also true of other movements looking to empower the oppressed. Mainstream opinion has become toxic in its need to shame marginal voices. With such a strong focus on which group one belongs to, there has been an increasing polarisation of identities.
There is no such thing as a real woman
In attempting to debate alternative conceptions of feminism, I found myself shamed. I don’t want to live swaddled in intellectual cotton wool. Such insular debate does a disservice to individual diversity that isn’t defined only by gender and race, but also by lifestyles, cultures and values. Names are just something we throw at each other while the real obstacles to equality persist. Liberals’ quest for skin and gender equality conceal the effects of real power that continue to divide the world.
If my generation of so-called activists could get over their obsession with challenging how identities are represented online and concentrate on reforming society itself – then maybe, just maybe – those representations would cease to exist. But that’s too tall an order, because it takes actual thought and, God forbid, actual action. So instead the social justice warriors will continue buying t-shirts with “feminist” emblazoned across the front, made by women enslaved by the globalized garment industry.
To quote one of the more radical feminists, like Julie Bindel: “There is no such thing as a real woman” and “gender is a harmful and a total social construct that serves to reinforce patriarchy.” Others, like Judith Butler, have argued that calling oneself a feminist assumes a level of inferiority compared to men. If gender – as a social construct – becomes more ambiguous, what would the subject of feminism as a political force be?
It should be capital. Save your outrage for an economic system that exploits race, gender, sex and sexuality at the expense of true equality. A challenge therefore is needed, not only to the power structures that exist to maintain heterosexuality as a pre-ordained identity trait, but also with a unified response that would include all minority identities exploited under an unjust economic system.
I’m a feminist because I deplore the structural inequality capitalism causes, not because I’m offended by every image of a thinly veiled vagina I come across on the internet
It’s here where online activism and identity politics have become merely a distraction, corroding real progress towards social justice. In attempting to police the boundaries of mainstream debate in the media, activists are violently sabotaging genuine opportunities to advance with a digital populism that is infecting liberal political narratives with hate. Corrupting admirable causes for equality into movements that are dividing and discrediting individuals on the basis of insular identities.
Capitalism is based on a class society, as is patriarchy. Both rely on inequality to secure ever greater profits, prestige and (white) male privilege. Privilege to which the feminist movement is so opposed. Capitalism requires the exploitation of the working class, and through that, the oppression of women, LGBT workers and workers of colour, by the one per cent and the productive forces that they own.
Karl Marx wrote in 1868: “Social progress may be measured precisely by the social position of [women].” In the UK alone, women still earn on average 20% less than men. So despite the rather crude title this article is not meant to discredit feminism, merely highlight where the real obstacle to injustice lies. If you’re going to be bold enough to commit to a political identity online, don’t maintain it with such a narrow, tyrannical grip on public discourse.
Remember, I’m a white, British, working-class and male. I’m also a Scouser and a feminist. Apart from the latter, my identity assumes a level of privilege better than most, but it makes no difference in the face of worsening social mobility across the board. I’m a feminist because I deplore the structural inequality capitalism causes, not because I’m offended by every image of a thinly veiled vagina I come across on the internet.
Meanwhile, capitalism continues its insatiable exploitation of people and the environment, while impoverishing the majority of the planet’s population, regardless of gender – and the oppressed argue amongst ourselves.