Where Are the Crazy Feminists? Confessions of a Recovering Misogynist

“I’m all for equality for women and everything, but Jesus, those feminists are crazy.”

My suspicion is that I am not the only person who has frequently heard (or voiced) statements similar to this one. I see it everywhere on the internet and hear it from classmates, people on maintenance crews I’ve worked on, and people from the camps I’ve worked at. I hear it from women and men, those who proudly identify themselves as “liberal” and the people they call “conservative,” the very educated and the less educated. It seems to be a nearly universal sentiment (excusing the crazy people of course). What is meant by “crazy” is also fairly universally understood: Both academic and everyday feminists (besides maybe a handful, who aren’t even really feminists) are overly emotional and irrational (the two go together), have no sense of humor, reduce all matters back to the repression of women, hate men, and are given to tasteless demonstrations. In general, they are a drag to those of us trying to have a good time in the post-feminist world. These descriptions are usually then accompanied by a few horror stories: of the feminist professor, the feminist essay, or the feminist student group. As a result, feminism has, at least where my eyes and ears travel, attracted quite a negative stigma.

And here is where the confession comes in. I once gave voice to such opinions. To the extent of, along with more than half of the class, not raising my hand when a professor asked which of us identified as feminists. Even when he defined feminism as striving for equality and nothing more I had to fight a certain reluctance in order to raise my hand.

However, I was fortunate. Then and now I was and am fortunate to be good friends with a number of strong feminists. They fit with none of the pejoratives above. After a while, it dawned on me that it maybe didn’t make sense to label feminists as crazy when the only ones I knew made intelligent arguments, laughed at my good jokes and tolerated my bad ones, and were generally fun to be around. This naturally coincided with me exploring feminism more thoroughly, first on the internet and then in more academic circles. In these explorations I found (and am still finding) more of the same, namely, excellent arguments that forced me first to acknowledge that we are not living in a world that has no need of feminism and then to realize that we live very far away indeed from a world in no need of feminism.

This leads to the title of my post. Where are the crazy feminists? Besides being completely crazy myself, there are, as I see it, two possibilities. The first is that I live in a sheltered bubble of that minority voice of “good” feminism. I suppose this is possible. I have heard the countless horror stories. I would not be terribly surprised if there was one crazy feminist, and there probably is some less good feminist philosophy/theology. But this should not make an entire discipline illegitimate. What field doesn’t have stuff that is “less good?” The bubble theory is simply a bit hard to swallow. (And, I want to point out, much of my “exploring” has been on the internet – and if there’s anything that calls forth craziness it’s the internet.)

The other, much more likely, possibility is that this refusal to recognize the legitimacy and importance of feminism is a part of a system that with or without design functions to crush women. While I have yet to encounter a crazy feminist, I have on many occasion seen otherwise intelligent men and women (mostly men) turn into shockingly superior and closed-minded idiots when dealing with anything feminist. If this is correct, the question becomes: Why are so many of us unable to recognize intelligence and reason when confronted with a feminist/feminism? One answer could be that our society fears strong women. This is undoubtedly true, and is probably part of the answer. But I think there is something more going on.

A few months ago, in a review of the Hunger Games, the Last Psychiatrist rightly noted that the systemic marginalization of women is on autopilot. What this means is that if we are going to make any headway whatsoever we not only have a lot of work to do, but that the work cut out for us is, to put it bluntly, not at all glamorous. Gone (at least in the western world) are the days of explicit patriarchy and fighting for suffrage. Instead, there is a lot of slow, frustrating work that will meet with dismissal from every corner. Given this, just as it makes life a lot easier to deny the reality of climate change, it sure does sound a lot more appealing to close our eyes and repeat to ourselves that we live in a world that has no need for feminism.

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7 comments on “Where Are the Crazy Feminists? Confessions of a Recovering Misogynist

  1. I find it interesting that you were in a class were people were asked to identify as ‘feminist’. The exact thing happened to me a theology class. How many other instances are people asked to ‘declare’? I had another experience in a conservative setting where people were asked to declare their position on non-hetero relationships. I don’t know the details of your scenario but I can’t help but think these are other unconscious elements of keeping such ‘crazy’ things in check.

    • Gerald Ens says:

      It happened a number of years ago in a Canadian history class; we were talking about first wave Feminism and the suffrage movement. Those kinds of situations are very much relevant and I also suspect that there are other unconscious elements at work, but I was focusing in particular on my experience of people dismissing feminism (often to the point of mockery) in a wide variety of contexts.

  2. Gerald,

    As someone who identifies as feminist, I have recently come under attack by ‘counter-feminist’ friends of mine who argue that the basic philosophical premises of feminism are wrong, namely that suffrage was a protracted oppression of women (first wave) and that gender oppression theory/patriarchy is the main problem (second wave). Since both of these premises are false, feminism in the West is now an outmoded concept, and irrational oppresses men (especially uneducated, straight, middle-class Caucasian males. Have you encountered this, and if so, how do you counter them not only hermeneutically, but factually?

    • Gerald Ens says:

      Hi Rob,
      I have encountered some similar views; namely the claim that “men are oppressed too, and feminism is an intensifying of that oppression.” I find that these claims often go together with the idea that white middle class men (and women) are just as oppressed as “minority” groups. It was partly my frustration with these views that caused me to write this post.
      I’m not sure how good I am at countering those sorts of views. I usually try to draw a distinction between individual prejudice and systemic (often unconscious – which is, in part, what I meant by patriarchy being on auto-pilot) prejudice. So, sure, you may have encountered a few aboriginals or women who do not like white people or men (fair enough, I say), but that is an entirely different sort of thing from systemic oppression. As far as facts go, I usually start with the high incidents of rape, sexual violence, and general abuse against women. I then usually move on to how girls are taught to be submissive and insecure from a young age. I’m far from an expert when it come to these sorts of stats. I came across this article a while back and it gave me a good place to start.

    • Mark Porter says:

      I think this is because feminism can often be seen as one sided in it’s attentions and often features highly inflammatory and divisive rhetoric. This leads many men to oppose it out of simple reactions and not because they have read any feminist theory. Much in the same way, many Feminists that I know personally seem to be drawn into the “fight” as it were simply due to tension and a general sense of “us vs them”. In theory feminism is about gender equality however I cannot help but get cold feet when I see pictures all over feminist sites instructing women to “feast on the bodies of men that do this to our daughters”. Instead of asking: “how to counter men who disagree on silly premises.” Perhaps try to work through the tensions rather than escalating an already silly war.

  3. Gerald Ens says:

    Mark,
    I did not see your comment until now. Sorry to keep you waiting. I’m not really sure what to say other than that a quick look at any comments section on a (non moderated) article on gender issues demonstrates pretty clearly that to blame male idiocy on feminists is just ridiculous. And that the fight against the ongoing, subtle, and also explicit marginalization of women is not a silly war…like at all.

    I’m not really inclined to exhaustively demonstrate this. If you are interested in further demonstration, Bill Patrick (take it from a man!) does a good telling us that feminists do not need to be nicer. http://www.xyonline.net/content/%E2%80%9Cfeminists-just-need-be-%E2%80%98nicer%E2%80%99%E2%80%9D-oh-yeah-i-call-%E2%80%9Cbullshit%E2%80%9D

  4. sam says:

    My search for individuality has been been an eye opener. I live in a third world country and beyond belief rape, criminal behaviour of abuse be it emotional or physical is part of every day events. It the search for humanity and respect that is provided in the very constitution of my country that questions why women and children suffer the need for basic necessities. Is the lust for power endangering the most vulnerable, exclusively our children because as an adult we have a freedom of choice but as adults we let ourselves be treated lesser. I conclude that as a person with the right to self dignity, its all about setting self standards and not about how others especially person’s of the opposite gender treat us. The keys are to empowering Yourself, respecting your human right to dignity and that of the young ones in your care is ultimately your own. But what the lawmakers can do is register the rights of children far higher than their basic needs, after all we not born with prejudice.

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