The white radical’s burden

It’s rather fascinating to see the social radicals fight amongst themselves. Hilarious, even. Especially when it turns into a high school gossip match.

That is one takeaway from the “backlash” that spouted from Michelle Goldberg’s recent New Yorker piece, “What Is A Woman?”  While I haven’t read the piece in full, there are definitely some moments of introspection here and there mixed with some intellectual sloppiness (but then, social radical thinking was always filled with that).  It’s not a great piece, but it’s definitely readable, all things considered.  It’s one of those rare moments where the “radical” feminists actually take a look at themselves and say, “The fuck are we doing?”  It comes at a time when the radfems (such a dumb name) are really at odds with what social media has done to them: Creating nihilistic pursuits of ideological purity through groupthink combined with incentivized “sharing.”  But more on that in a moment.

More interesting in all this is not Goldberg’s piece, but responses from various “radical” transgender sources. Autostraddle, a “intelligent, hilarious & provocative voice and a progressively feminist online community” that is neither smart, funny, nor challenging or stimulating (but then I don’t watch television and film), dropped a turd of an article whose title basically states its own weakness:

“The New Yorker’s Skewed History of Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminism Ignores Actual Trans Women”

Putting aside the fact that headline is incredibly long and ostentatious, it shows that the writer (some nerd who probably failed journalism class named Mari Brighe) is too busy focusing on their own personalized agenda to notice that they sound incredibly stupid when they say these things.  I mean, if it’s about these so-called TERFs – which, by the way, even my friends in the Down’s community called a retarded acronym – why would they discuss trans people in any great length?

Brighe tries to make a case about how awful Goldberg is:

Let’s start with the numbers. In the piece, Goldberg mentions the names of 14 radical feminist activists (frequently providing physical descriptions), and provides quotes from nine of them — including two from books penned by radfems. In contrast, she mentions and quotes a total of four trans women (zero from books), and two of them are quoted to supporting the radical feminist position.

Forgive me if I stopped after the first sentence. You’re forgiven if you’ve done the same: Slights disguised as statistics do not an analysis make. Utter nonsense. Maybe nausea, but that could just be because I haven’t eaten yet today.

But more to point, it’s kind of laughable how this screed continues to go on and on about the supposed evils that Goldberg has committed, from defining trans women in a “offensively reductionist” manner to calling her examples of de-transitioning “bad science.”  Brighe even had the tenacity to defend violent rhetoric being directed towards women, all because of past political transgressions that occurred likely before this person was even born somehow justified it.  You could swear she was being a misogynist without even knowing it.

It’s hard to know whether Brighe’s agenda is to humiliate Goldberg in the Stuartian manner of putting her through a pillory so that transgendered “radicals” and “enlightened” feminists (mostly those who are covering their own ass) can shame her, or bring her out into the open so this person can take a swing.  There is no attempt at understanding, only attempts to assert control and gain fame among one’s peers, or at least some sense of self-satisfaction. More likely the former, since social media seems to only inspire a bullying sentiment, no matter the political stripe. In the end, that’s what “social radicalism” has become:  A high school environment with a kindergarten schoolyard mentality. Every minority is a clique aspiring to some false sense of temporary dominance over the others, picking fights over how words are used and general semantics.  The overriding delusions of all this being, of course, “You are not my ally” and “I am more oppressed than you.” It is unfettered ideological nihilism at its finest.

You could say that this is an extreme train of thought. But I dare say otherwise. And what’s more ridiculous is how oppressed their hands seem in writing anything that is coherent.

What’s more audacious about all this are that the “leading” actors, from Brighe to Parker Marie Molloy to the Bruenig couple, is that they tend to not actually be in any way connected to the movements they so claim to defend, other than as “allies.” In this situation, all of them are white and possess some degree of affluence either in history or experience. Outside of some cop-out of being “genderqueer,” there’s barely any connection to the people they represent at all.

In many ways, these “activists” do little more than act patronizing towards their movements, all in the name of…what, exactly?  They are not helping others.  Their actions come across as utterly paternalistic and self-indulgent simultaneously.  That the transgendered movement hasn’t entirely called them out for being patronizing is hard to fathom.  One barely even sees anything remotely philosophical or analytical in their thinking, just emotions wrapped in numbers.  There is no consideration of the consequences of their actions, even when there is a good chance for something to go wrong.  In essence, they turn their efforts in social justice into a religious theology, one centered on oppression.

Of course, the problem with the theology of oppression — especially when spread among white social radicals — is that, like themselves, minorities have many of the same inherent flaws that they do. Prejudices, biases, hatred. All of that is equally there in good measure, and are unlikely to be completely mitigated. What this theology does is simply add a layer of justification that only separates people more.

Some would claim this is the left in a nutshell. It would be no further from the truth than a Gazan is from ever shaking an Israeli’s hand. While it is true that the left has had more than its share of exclusionary action (see the Trotskyists, who sadly become neoconservatives), and the American left aligned itself with the social radicals after 1968, you could call the latter point its greatest mistake: There has always been a rampant, neo-tribal narcissism that is inherent amongst the radical feminists and queer theorists, among certain other social radical groupings. They were never interested in paying their end of the bargain in helping out labor, because that would require making peace with people who aren’t radical enough or would likely have the audacity to disagree with them.

Any genuine efforts to uplift the economic lot of everyone have always been quashed by them on this one simple principle: Why are you accommodating our enemies? And to be clear, it’s not the rich folks they’re talking about, but instead some “oppressor” that is somewhat irrelevant at the end of the day. It’s little wonder that these people would sell out to capitalism faster than starting a grease fire. Consider the euphoric response that transgendered activists had over Facebook allowing them to write in their own gender, instead of a tempered appreciation that came with knowing that the social media giant is simply exploiting their situation for more ad money. It’s somewhat libertarian when you think about it, though not necessarily principled in that manner.

In essence, all of this shows a Kipling-esque desire to bring up the “oppressed” not as an imperialist design to normalize peoples, but instead a principle to make people like them feel “special.” Such narcissism will end up failing badly when the trans community turns against them, as they have begun to in the San Francisco Bay Area, and further fragment society through self-segregation.  Who knows what they’ll do then. Front the disabled? I hope not.

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3 comments

  1. > What’s more audacious about all this are that the “leading” actors, from Brighe to Parker Marie Molloy to the Bruenig couple, is that they tend to not actually be in any way connected to the movements they so claim to defend, other than as “allies.” In this situation, all of them are white and possess some degree of affluence either in history or experience. Outside of some cop-out of being “genderqueer,” there’s barely any connection to the people they represent at all.

    What are you talking about? This whole story is about the problems with a branch of feminism that does not believe in the rights of transgender women, and both Mari and Parker are trans women. Affluence and race are not the relevant factors in whether they represent the “movement” or the “people” here, because the movement in question is transgender rights. And the idea that people are being “patronizing” when they speak out in favor of their own rights is preposterous.

    One would think you could at least make a basic effort to read and comprehend what you’re writing about before you comment on it.

    > Any genuine efforts to uplift the economic lot of everyone

    …are limited as solutions because by trying to address everyone at once, they necessarily don’t address specific problems faced by specific disadvantaged groups. To pick an obvious example, even if you create a bunch of amazing new jobs, it doesn’t address the structural problems disabled people often face in the job market.

    The left-wing belief that members of these various disadvantaged groups are in the best position to recognize and lead the way in trying to resolve the specific problems those groups face is the cornerstone of the modern social justice movement, and exists as a direct reaction to an earlier one-size-fits-all view of feminism from the vantage point of privileged white women — precisely the outmoded form of feminism that Ms. Goldberg is celebrating. So your talk of social justice being led by unrepresentative elites gets it almost completely backwards.

    Obviously, I can’t stop you from thinking social justice is a waste of time, or from being indifferent or even hostile toward the rights of trans people and other disadvantaged groups. But if you’re going to criticize them, I think it would be a lot more productive if you took the time to at least try to understand what you’re criticizing.

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    1. >it doesn’t address the structural problems disabled people often face in the job market.
      Prove that these exist, please. I am not even trying to be a jerk, I am pretty curious. Use the same intellectual rigor that is demanded in any other discourse and prove that these “structural problems” exist.

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      1. > Health limitations are an important potential obstacle to reemployment. Among the long-term unemployed, 6.5 percent have a work-limiting disability, compared with 1.8 percent of the employed. Discouraged workers have an even higher disability rate of 7.5 percent, whereas the newly unemployed have a somewhat lower rate of 5.0 percent. The long-term unemployed and discouraged workers with work limitations may ultimately turn to the Disability Insurance program or the Supplemental Security Income program for support. Once adults enter those program, they are unlikely to work again (Liu and Stapleton 2011).

        http://www.urban.org/uploadedpdf/412885-who-are-the-long-term-unemployed.pdf

        I’m having trouble finding studies on the specific structural employment issues faced by the disabled, but I picked it as an example because I felt like it lends itself to an intuitive understanding: access to transportation to and from work can be more difficult (plus additional potential complications to things like access to child care that able workers may not face), fewer jobs available that they are capable of performing, limitations of smaller, older workplaces grandfathered into lack of ADA compliant accessibility, covert job discrimination if able candidates exist for a job.

        You aren’t really supposing that it’s precisely as easy for disabled people to find jobs as able folks are you? My point isn’t that disabled people can’t find jobs ever, because that’s obviously false. My point is that there are inherent additional difficulties that they face when seeking jobs that will lead them to always lag the rest of the job market.

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