I’m currently too busy making my Wikileaks Stories game to write a detailed post about my problems with feminism as an academic, political and philosophical movement. This is a very complicated topic to write about, primarily because people of all sorts are apt to translate “I am opposed to feminism” to “I am opposed to women’s rights” or “I hate women” or “Finally someone who agrees with my bigoted macho bullshit.” I believe, as strongly as I believe in anything in the world, that people of all genders and sexualities are equal in every way possible; I also believe that our society does not reflect that, and that steps must be taken to ensure that it does.
Identity politics, however, are nothing but counter-productive. In many cases, they are sexist themselves; from assertions that we need more female politicians “because they are more sensitive/sensible/intuitive” and similar essentialist bullshit to linguistic monstrosities like “mansplain,” identity politics serve only to reinforce artifical categorizations and to perpetuate the myth that society is cleanly divided according to one principle, i.e. Men versus Women (or Men versus Women and Gay Men).
(So rarely does it occur to anyone that gender-based stereotyping is perpetuated by both genders and oppresses both genders. Try being a boy who doesn’t like cars or football or the military.)
Identity politics, though often arising from a genuine desire to point out and correct injustice, end up destroying critical thought. Opinions and arguments are dismissed simply due to arbitrary characteristics of the person holding them, with no consideration of the facts. The Polanski case was a prime example; anyone who disagreed with Polanski’s treatment was painted as a rape apologist, even though that was not even remotely what the disagreement was about. No-one said that Polanski had not committed a crime; but the fact that the legal treatment of Polanski had turned into a crime itself – something that the victim herself agreed with! – was apparently not relevant. All that mattered was that Polanski was a man, and he must pay for the Crimes Of All Men, even if it went against the wishes of his victim, against the law, against every basic principle of justice. It was all about cultural revenge.
And now we have the Julian Assange case, which is even more absurd. A case that was dropped within one day by Sweden’s chief prosecutor and reinstated only with the intervention of a right-wing politician, and with perfect timing at that. A case in which the current prosecutor still has not charged Assange with anything, and in which the authorities are claiming Assange should be extradited without any evidence needing to be presented. Assange who, by the way, stayed in Sweden for several weeks after the accusations first popped up, agreed to cooperate, and only left Sweden after asking for official permission to do so.
No-one is denying that rape is a serious crime or that most rape victims never get legal justice. But we’re still talking about legal justice, right? Expressing outrage at the legal situation Assange is faced with is not rape denialism, it is a belief in the basics of legal justice and fairness. Let’s not even consider the conspiracy elements, the CIA connections, all that stuff. Even on the most elemental legal basis, the entire case is a joke. It’s a joke not because someone claims to have been raped, but because in this specific case all evidence points to the contrary, and there is no evidence that would back up a charge of rape. Nothing. Nada. Zip.
Specificity matters. You can’t treat any case as generic – this is not “Women accusing Man of Rape,” but a specific situation with specific details, and it’s on the basis of those that the law must proceed.
But some people would prefer that an example be made of Julian Assange, whether he is guilty or not, because that will supposedly somehow help women worldwide. And anyone who disagrees, anyone who sees the political machinations behind the accusations, anyone who even simply disagrees with the legal basis of what’s happening, is a rape apologists. Campaigns have been started against people like Michael Moore and Keith Olbermann because they have not jumped on the lynching bandwagon. Suddenly they are no longer true progressives and must be harrassed in the most childish ways possible; anyone who disagrees with the new Deciders is a filthy woman-hating rapist. Reason goes out the window. Equality before the law no longer matters; all that matters is the new tribalism, us-versus-them with a new paintjob.
And yeah, a man is writing this. So what? If you truly believe “man” signifies something more than anatomy, then you are as bigoted a fool as those who believe that “woman” is a category people can easily be grouped into. My grandparents on one side were Germans; they weren’t Nazis, but my grandfather fought for the wrong side in World War 2. But on the other side, my grandparents were Greek resistance fighters. My Greek grandfather was tortured. My Greek grandmother is Pontian, from the Black Sea, and her family was driven out of their home like so many others during an act of genocide. With my thick eyebrows, my beard, my long hair, I regularly get sneered at here in Germany. I’ve experienced a lot of racism, both here and in Greece. I got bullied for years for liking the wrong things (books instead of cars, movies instead of football), crying too easily, not wanting to do what everyone expected of me (cut my hair short and go play soldier). I’m not gay, but I’m not homophobic. I am an agnostic, but I’m married.
Categorize me, please. Sum me up in your convenient little categories. Am I am Privileged White Male Chauvinist? Do I hate women, like All Those Of My Kind?
Or maybe we’re all just people, citizens of supposedly democratic states, and maybe we should be treated on the basis of facts and evidence. Innocent until proven guilty, whether male of female, straight or gay or transexual, white or brown or red or yellow or green or black or rainbow-coloured; and equal before the law.
Edited to add: I should have distinguished more clearly between the two things I was talking about: my problems with the theory of feminism as a whole (a topic for another time), and the fanatic feminists who are attacking Assange. There are good and sensible and progressive people out there who identify as feminists who have spoken lucidly and clearly, and I don’t want to lump them in with the crazies. I still disagree with their overall approach, but that is a different issue and should be treated as such.