The Personal, as Contrasted to the Political
“They prided themselves on belonging to a movement, as distinguished from a party, and a movement could not be bound by a program.” – Hannah Arendt
Last week, we looked at how the concept of domination has become a justification for encroaching despotism. It should not come as a shock to attentive readers that virtually every keyword in the feminist lexicon is used in a similar way. Whether the term being discussed is misogyny or rape or patriarchy, the tendency is to broaden its meaning to cover as wide a semantic area as possible, smuggling the maximum possible ideological contraband within an overcoat of righteousness. The real-world effect of all this is to restrict male autonomy through the criminalization of men’s actions. The limitless possibilities for semantic bleaching correspond to extensive prison sentences and crippling fines. The intention is to criminalize the norm. Every move that a man makes should send a shiver down his spine, should force him to look over his shoulder, with a panic-stricken expression, wondering, “what new law have I just broken?” Men are to live in a perpetual state of surveillance and presumed guilt – a panoptical existence in which they are repeatedly chastized for doing wrong. That is, according to an invasive, alien moral standard that they are invited to obey, not understand, and certainly not to question or refute.
But when the criminalized behavior falls within the domain of actions in which both men and women engage, the argument requires a corollary that it is different, and worse, when men do it. For instance, certain nasty individuals of both sexes engage in sexual harassment, but we must understand that when men do it to women, it is chalk, and when women do it to men, it is cheese. The two, we are assured, are incomparable, regardless of how a victimized man might see things – after all, even in his victimhood, he is blinkered by his privilege.
The whole fairy tale is aptly summed up in the feminist mantra, the personal is political. As was discussed last week, the proper context in which this claim should be viewed is the recent history of the Western world. Particular focus should be given to a current within our shared political culture, which has given rise to despotic government and threatens to do so again. How else are we to interpret a statement that all things within the domain of the individual are in fact the business of government? If we do not own or control those things which are personal to us, there cannot be anything to speak of that we do own or control, up to and including our lives.
But it would be a mistake to view the mantra simply as a statement of belief, i.e. that its speaker merely believes the personal to be political. All manner of people have all manner of kooky theories, and a group of people communicating their belief that all aspects of our lives are managed by the state would be about as troubling as tin foil conspiracy theorists or the Flat Earth Society. When a feminist says that the personal is political, however, she is not simply stating a belief; she is making a call to action. There are implications hidden within the phrase.
Last week’s discussion involved a section on ideologies, and the progressivist assumptions at the roots of Western political culture. To recap, ideologies assume a difference between how society is and how it ought to be, predicated upon a specific moral view of the world. What this means, as far as feminist analysis is concerned, is that if the personal is not currently political, then it should be made that way. Practically all feminist innovation consists of making those things which are personal into political matters. The logical end-point is to be found where there are no strictly personal actions, no personal utterances, intentions, thoughts or beliefs; all of these, expressed publicly or privately, would be strictly political. Every decision, down to the minutiae details of everyday life, becomes a political matter for which individuals are held to account, not as individual transgressors, but as members of an oppressive class which must answer for its sins.
‘The political’ is another one of those essentially contested concepts – in other words, it is one of those concepts most open to abuse. It is an elusive idea, which can be grasped but never precisely pinned down – and attempts to do so are rather like trying to grab all the air in an inflatable mattress. One of the things we can say about ‘the political,’ is that it has not always been identified with ‘the ideological’ – which seems sensible enough, since ‘the ideological’ is a product of modernity, a relative newcomer as far as politics is concerned.
Once upon a time, ‘the political’ was a term which referred to Kings, Queens, courtiers and nobles, their struggles and their successions; but certainly not to doctrine. That change came about gradually, with the steady fall of religious fervor that marks modernity.
I am aware that I skate close to etymological fallacy, so let me clarify what I am arguing. I am not complaining that there is a proper meaning of terms such as ‘the political’ which has fallen out of fashion. I have previously acknowledged that language is forever in flux. As a corollary, I do recognize that objectively correct definitions are something of a rarity. My purpose, in highlighting linguistic change, is a correlative highlighting of social change! The one rarely undergoes a paradigm shift without bringing the other along. There is immense power in language, to not only reflect but to define the experiential world. If we want to understand how things came to be the way that they are, we should cast a searing torch beam over historic changes in vocabulary – it is here that we will find the notional germ cells that gave rise to the feminist disease.
Such as in the case of ‘the political’. Today, everything controversial is reflexively considered a political matter. Whether we are discussing a person’s unusual lifestyle, or a new work of art that pushes boundaries, or a website that advances an innovative worldview, we feel quite certain that what we are discussing is a political statement. The controversial, then is political; or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the unusual is political. Non-conformists of all stripes are prompted to attach some political purpose to their actions or beliefs. The effect of this very public challenge is to lock individuals into a system of pervasive control; stepping out of line makes one into a target.
And this is precisely what feminism requires – for men to stand in line, and to target those who do not. It’s a lot easier to pursue the project for increasing the power of women when you can effectively gag those who stand to lose the most from its success.
The flip side to all this is women’s exponentially increasing and ‘compensatory’ license. It is men alone whose private lives are to be locked into the system of public control; women, in contrast, are to enjoy the spoils of victory in a new era of female sexual anarchism. Perhaps the only consolation we can realistically take is that despotisms are great generators of spiritual enlightenment among the oppressed. It was the persecution of early Christians that drove pious men and women to live alone in the desert, in imitation of Jesus Christ – it was only in the fifth century that these monastics were co-opted into the Church, having sought a purely ascetic existence as an alternative to the material world that had driven them out. Similarly, the oppressive regimes of the Hellenistic period led many in the Greek city-states to embrace mystical philosophies which advocated turning away from the world. Given that we are well on our way towards feminist despotism, it is not surprising that a parallel development is fledgling, in the form of the Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW) movement. MGTOW have rejected the Gynocentric demand that men must define themselves according to their sexual prowess. Accordingly unburdened, many MGTOW have taken up introspective deliberation on the nature of man and masculinity – discussions which are androcentric and therefore not accountable to feminist orthodoxy. At its core, the MGTOW movement turns away from the world – from marriage, children, self-sacrificing employment, even relationships with women altogether – seeking solace from hostile agents as did the ascetics and mystics of the ancient world.
Although I endorse the MGTOW lifestyle, I am conscious that it is not enough – for fulfillment or for survival. Feminism is simply not in the business of leaving men alone. It is a progressivist ideology, which means it just keeps on growing, with no internal checks on its own activities; it has no brakes! All attempted self-criticism yields to further radicalization. Unable to perceive the world from outside of the feminist bubble, its disciples think and act in an anti-contextual, abstract fashion. The only checks on the activities of such ideologies must come from the outside – i.e., from the rest of society. If feminism will not slow down and stop of its own accord, then external agents must build a brick wall in its path. This is a moral requirement – the alternative is to allow it free reign, in which case we will inevitably end up with despotism. Thus far, feminism has proved remarkably socio-dynamic, and has faced very little political resistance – meaning that the velocity of persecution is set to increase.
I should like to clarify. The word ‘feminism’ can refer to more than one thing. Most obviously, feminism the movement is the not precisely the same thing as feminism the ideology; rather, the former is driven by the dictates of the latter. Feminism the ideology is a victim ideology, which means that it exists in defense of a certain class of people which has been designated as the victims. The dual objectives goals of a victim ideology are, as I have remarked previously:
(2) To forge its own ‘victim identity,’ separate from and unaccountable to the ‘enemy’ group.
If objective (1) is ever achieved, then the ideology simply ceases to be, which means that the movement also ceases to be. The movement, however, is not an inorganic entity which mechanistically fulfills the needs of the ideology. It is made up of people who have become dependent upon it, psychologically and financially. The end of inequality, however it was originally measured, would spell disaster for Women’s Studies graduates everywhere. For instance, the inability of feminist organizations to admit that rape rates are falling and that false allegations are reaching epidemic levels is down to the losses that would be sustained by ideologues sitting in (usually empty) rape crisis centers. The ideology cannot be permitted to die – there is far too much riding on it, namely, the movement, and whatever goodies its principal actors have managed to get their paws on. As with many people, the threat of redundancy is enough to bring out a hard-line conservatism, which insists, in this case, on the existence of brand new oppressions still to be overcome. There is an awful lot of money riding on the continued perception that women are disadvantaged. Feminism is not merely a movement any more, but an industry – aptly referred to by some as the sexual grievance industry.
Should this industry crash, it would leave a hole in the purses of career feminists nearly as large as the hole it would leave between their ears. The alternative to continued state support for the overcoming of new oppressions is almost unthinkable. It would not only mean an end to men subsidizing their own persecution – it would also threaten to leave a psychic vacuum in the minds of professional feminists. Whatever would they do, should they be deprived of their blood money?
The feminists do, of course, have a backup plan. I refer you to objective (2). The reason why victim ideologies tend to die hard when equality or even supremacy of the ‘victim’ group is achieved is this: they shift their aims towards the inherent separateness of the ‘victim’ and ‘enemy’ groups, and refuse accountability to the rest of the world. Indeed, any attempt by a person external to the designated ‘victim’ group, to hold the members of said group accountable for their transgressions, is tarnished as the effort to roll back objective (1) – and the person who dared to raise the complaint will be called any number of amazing names.
A victim ideology is necessarily tripartite in its understanding of time. The past is identified with Oppression, the present with Struggle, and the future with Liberation. This tripartite historiography is a constant. If any one of the three states – Oppression, Struggle or Liberation – is removed, then we no longer have a victim ideology. It falls apart, owing to its inconsistency. There must have been past Oppression, as this justifies the present Struggle, which also must be the case for the present, as a matter of tautology -; what else would we be talking about? Struggle must be towards something, and this is Liberation, promised in the future. Below is a diagram of sorts, presented from the feminist perspective:
It is a childish caricature, fitting for a childish worldview. Note what is required for the tripartite Oppression, Struggle, Liberation to make sense – the actor who did the oppressing, who must be struggled against, and from whom the designated victims shall be liberated. This is, of course, men.
The above picture is presented from the feminist perspective, in which time moves horizontally, from left to right. In the real world, time’s arrow is broken. We are frozen permanently in the present phase, and from there, time moves vertically and downwards:
There is simply too much riding on feminism (i.e. the sexual grievance industry) to allow the actual liberation of women to be acknowledged. If it were to be admitted that women are not only liberated, but the recipients of a number of advantages over men, then the movement and the ideology, and thus the industry that is feminism, would become moot. Women’s current role, which is perhaps more appropriately described as Privileged, is not even conceivable on feminist time. Liberation must always remain a future goal, and can never be permitted as a present achievement. Feminism is self-sustaining this way – by forever propelling itself into new Struggles. The tripartite understanding of timeis independent of context; it is fundamentally abstract and anti-contextual. The tripartite is assumed before the truth about the world at any given moment is ascertained, and the facts of the world must then be hammered out into a feminist-friendly shape.
It is of little consequence that all the great Struggles have been won. Feminists can just create new ones. And since men are (as the case must always be) the oppressors to be struggled against, it is quite justifiable to take away whatever power they still possess.
Until they possess none.