On Isms

A while ago I was reading an article on one of those internet “news” (read: click-bait) sites. As an aside, I think it’s regrettable, but not unexpected that formerly decent sites resort to those kinds of articles. A recent XKCD comic put this phenomenon in a cute and humorous light. But I’m not writing about click baiting (not this time anyway).

I honestly don’t even remember what the article was arguing specifically, but it was focused on some aspect of feminism. See, I said it was click bait. I wish I had the title, because I’m sure it was a real winner. Anyway, I read the article, not particularly moved by anything it said. Echoes of echoes, you know? It wasn’t until I started going through the comment discussion that things became really interesting. I know being a discussion on the internet it naturally encourages all the worst behavior in people. That being said, as an internet veteran, I can filter and tune that stuff pretty well at this point.

The article and comments/discussion did make me think a bit about feminism in general. Fundamentally speaking, feminism is a good thing. I’m not a scholar of it, and I’ve never studied it, but the basic argument of equality is something I think we can all agree on pretty easily. I personally tend to bail once things take a more political turn, but I think that bit, and others, are really derivatives of the main idea, which again, is good.

I have two main problems with most of the feminism arguments I see, and honestly, these are things that likely apply to many “isms”, so I’m definitely not singling out feminism. First, isms seem to have a tendency to push people around. On their own, they obviously can’t do this, but people who subscribe to isms (some more strongly than others) like to push others into their beliefs. For example, someone who subscribes to feminism might look down upon someone else for not adhering to some aspect of feminism. This drives me crazy for two reasons, but it’s annoying primarily because any ism, right or wrong, good or bad, popular or weird, is not absolute. No one has to adhere to it, and if they don’t, that says exactly NOTHING about them as a person. We’re all entitled to believe what we believe and act accordingly as long as doing so doesn’t negatively impact anyone else. There’s a teeny tiny asterisk with that which I’ll come back to in the end.

My second, and primary issue with feminism (again, this applies to many other isms as well) is it’s divisive nature. I don’t think it’s intrinsically divisive, but that’s how it typically appears to me. Like I said, with feminism, the basic argument of equality is something we can all agree on pretty easily. No one should be dinged a point solely because of gender, race, religion, etc, etc. No reasonable person will disagree with that assertion. So then why–in the case of feminism–do we focus solely on the various difficulties sometimes faced with the female gender? Do people of any gender not face those same difficulties from time to time? I think they absolutely do. And don’t tell me one gender/race/etc faces difficulties more than others. Saying that trivializes the problems faced by the minority group. People are tribal in nature, I know. People like to belong to a group. But when you do that based on a cause, you’re only hurting yourselves. Your goal should be to include as many people as possible. Show them that the cause affects them too, because in most cases, it does. When you do that, and the vast majority of people are united in cause, it’s not really a cause anymore. It’s a culture. In the US, ask yourself why we don’t do the whole slavery thing anymore? Because of laws? Well, kinda. But assume there were no laws against it for a moment, and your neighbor somehow acquired a number of slave workers for their property. Laws or not, people in the community are just not going to stand for that. At all. Slavery isn’t part of our culture anymore. Why? Because we’ve all united behind that. Feminism should be called equalism or something. Anyone, regardless of gender, can be subjected to problems of gender bias. The frequency of occurrence being greater in one gender over another is a non issue. Even if just one man ever experienced a problem related to gender bias, feminism needs to include him. He needs the support just as much as any woman in the same position. And this transitions perfectly into trans-gendered people, or anyone who identifies gender differently. I know people in those categories have their own isms and causes, but wouldn’t it be better to bring them into the larger group too? We’re all asking for the same things.

I don’t want this to seem like a knock on feminism. It’s not. It just happens to be the one ism where I see these issues most frequently. I get frustrated when I see groups or people doing more dividing than uniting. Nobody wants their experiences to be trivialized. Everyone wants, and deserves, support of a larger group. The larger that group, the more we all win, and the more we see our differences as the trivial things they tend to be.


*the asterisk:

Everyone needs to understand that their words and actions, while primarily speaking for themselves, also speak for the various groups of which they are a member. An example would be that if I, as a bicyclist, decide to ride around, breaking various traffic laws, being reckless, annoying drivers, etc, that’s going to reflect poorly on ALL bicyclists. If I cut off a driver, and she says, “BAH! damn bicyclists!”, now all other bicyclists with whom she comes in contact will suffer her negative attitude because of my careless actions. If I were to go out with lots of women and treat them like crap, is it not unreasonable that many of them would say something like “Grrr…all men are such assholes!”. Now good men who encounter those women are are an immediate disadvantage through no fault of their own. So remember, with things you do, you’re effectively speaking (in a small or large way) for all groups/categories to which you may belong. Make it a positive thing.