Are We Focusing on Trivial Bullshit?

I’ve noticed a lot of bickering on a lot of topics to do with feminism. Elevatorgate, violence in video games, Emma Watson’s UN speech and a tasteless t-shirt just to name a few. This culminated recently with Hirsi Ali’s backlash.


I see an increasingly hard line and divisive attitude on the rise – not just in feminism, but in just about every topic – religion, climate change, vaccines, refugees… Maybe it’s complete coincidence, but it seems to be increasing along with nationalism and other forms of political stratification. It also seems to be related to the increasing view that offence is a perfectly valid reason to censor, invalidate and otherwise limit another’s behavior.
I do think that constructive feedback and criticism is good and warranted. What I am talking about here is the kind of my-way-or-the-highway attacks that include ridicule, blocking and passive-aggressive straw man posts that appear directly after a post/event without ever referring directly to it (I particularly dislike this last kind because other people not deeply in the scene pick up on the straw man and share it without even knowing the full context).
You can guarantee that any time I mention anything to do with feminism, it will elicit responses arguing against a position I don’t hold and didn’t state. This is only slightly irritating for me as a male nobody on the scene. Imagine that kind of attack on famous, outspoken feminists (especially male feminists). We’re all fighting for essentially the same thing. Why are we wailing on each other over minor differences?


I know that some of these people are involved in trying to change culture and policy. I can say for sure that a policy of attacking anyone who does not agree completely with a specific point of view is not a good method of positively influencing people. It leads to more segregation and groupthink – yes, the same kind of us-and-them thinking that extremist groups have.
In my opinion, none of us are perfect and sure as anything no culture or society is perfect (whatever “perfect” means). Yes, it makes total sense to campaign to eliminate things like rape culture. It makes no sense to campaign to eliminate slut shaming. It makes sense to campaign against anything that you are against – even if it’s cartoon women on a t-shirt.

By that I mean society can and should be developed so that it is not only not encouraged, but that bystanders will generally act to defend or support potential victims as well as call out perpetrators. It’s possible and it’s realistic. In most of the world, it’s already happened with slavery. Further societal changes can be achieved for a more egalitarian society. However, that shouldn’t be confused with getting everyone to think exactly the same way that you do. Once you go that way, you’re aiming for totalitarianism and thoughtcrime.

The Church Historically Traced

I don’t want that. I don’t want to belong to a particular sect of feminism. In fact, although I use the word, I don’t even like it. I prefer to call myself egalitarian. It’s broader than feminism, but in this aspect it simply means that I think people should not be discriminated against purely because of their gender. Rather than fragmenting and becoming sectarian like the Church has done, I would prefer to have a united movement. A movement that contains and accepts individual differences and encourages discourse about those differences, but without the blatant infighting.

United we stand, divided we fall.

The fight for equality is far from over. Attacking allies just because they don’t agree 100% with you will only weaken your cause as well as the one you’re attacking.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Natanji says:

    I disagree with this, because I believe you paint an altogether wrong picture of internal criticism. Who are you to decide what is “trivial bullshit” and what isn’t? Different folks have different needs and priorities. White feminists often forget to take into account PoC, and talk over their heads instead of listening to them and their struggles. Take Emma Watson, since you used her image to underline this post: she recently drew a really bad comparison between the struggle of women in third world countries and the struggle of women to get into boardrooms, two problems which are extremely different and not in fact comparable at all. The struggle of PoC is a lot, lot different (and harder!) than that of a white woman trying to get into one of the few board room positions.

    So what happened? People complained and called her out for it. And that’s that. There is in fact no group think that says you can’t still like Emma Watson, there is also nobody saying that you either agree with this or you’re a bad feminist. Everybody has their own ideas on what feminism means, and the whole idea that some people are not thinking for themselves is incredibly paternalistic in itself.

    When there is a huge outrage that you don’t understand, for instance about that NASA shirt, it’s easy to dismiss it as “group think”. Perhaps the person not understanding the reality of the situation is YOU instead – because a lot of people, *independently* from each other, arrive at the same opinion that something like this isn’t acceptable, and each individual complains about it, generating a huge wave of outrage altogether. That’s just what happens in a connected world.

    I see no issue with this. People aren’t engaging in vile censorship or anything. People are merely disagreeing with people in power, and the power of the internet makes these voices heard for the first time in history. Now privileged people will find this strange and think that everyone must be engaging in group think or be in some sort of cult, although all that happened is that power dynamics have changed in the favour of the individual.

    People will have different opinions. And people will criticise those in power if said people seem to talk shit. I see this constant feeling of being corrected and criticised by others as something incredibly positive: only with this are you able to truly learn and better yourself. It’s a daily challenge, but without people disagreeing with you, you are actually much more likely to be engaging in group think than otherwise.

    Also, I recommend Laurie Penny’s excellent book “Unspeakable Things” if you want to understand modern, contemporary queer feminism. It might give you a wholly new perspective on things.


    1. polyhydra says:

      Thanks for the book recommendation.
      I completely agree that continual challenge is required. No-one should think that they are immune to criticism. I am certainly not.

      You are also completely correct in asserting that I have no right to define what is trivial bullshit for everyone. I have every right to decide for myself and to express that opinion.
      You are correct that I absolutely do not understand the magnitude of problem of the t-shirt. I analyzed it this way:
      If all the women on his t-shirt were robots (Japanese anime style), what do I think would have happened?
      If all the women on his t-shirt were He-man or Fist of the North Star characters (disproportionately muscular men with little on but loin cloths), what would have happened?
      In that last example, do I think that men are degraded, objectified or sexualized?
      Yeah… kind of, but well within artistic license. Without artistic license as would only have really boring entertainment that showed everyday life of average people.
      Next: Is this person a representative or figurehead of feminism?
      I can’t even remember his name. He would never have been a name if it hadn’t been for that one appearance with that one t-shirt on. Without reference, could most people who complained about his t-shirt remember his name?
      The key point: How important was it?
      Yes, I understand the t-shirt was tasteless and representative of a general subconscious sexualization of women. That much I get.
      Do I want to fight that t-shirt or education equality, workplace exclusion, pay inequality, cat calling or rape culture? It’s so far down on my list of priorities that I would have ignored it until the bigger issues were largely tackled.
      I only mention it because of how much fuss is being made about it. In my opinion a disproportionately large fuss.
      I’d much rather spend my time and effort on issues like battling the pro-life movement, allowing transgender people to use the bathroom of their identity (or even more promote gender-neutral bathrooms) and opening up pay in the workplace to make unequal pay transparent.
      That’s why I think the t-shirt issue is trivial. We all have only limited time and resources (that’s also my limit to being poly – not how much I can love), so I do think it is important to spend more time and energy on the bigger issues rather than the small.

      Finally: Hate and criticism are not the same thing. I could for instance critique Kim Kardashian on many things, but I stop short of slut shaming her, as several prominent feminists have done.
      Criticism is extremely important.
      How it is expressed is just as important, else criticism is shut down rather than encouraged.

      I also leave PoC out of discussions on feminism because one is an issue of gender equality, the other an issue of racial equality – the biggest reason I prefer to self-identify as an egalitarian rather than a feminist.


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