Monday, 21 April 2014

Building Bigots

I don't know how to put this politely. All I know how to do is put it simply: internet social justice is hurting itself.

You've seen the pictures of me. You've heard me talk about my privilege. So why listen to someone as astonishingly privileged as I am talk about oppression? (Hey, if you'll listen to the privileged white media about social justice, as many people do...)

Now, I could tell you about the oppressions I personally face in daily life. I could tell you about microaggressions, and the things that are bigger than microaggressions. I could tell you about discrimination and hate crimes. I could tell you several million things that would make you burn with righteous outrage and start writing strongly-worded blog posts on tumblr (but doing more than that to challenge structures of oppression would probably be unlikely). But you probably wouldn't believe me; not because I would lie to you, but because I'm still just white cis scum.

So I won't tell you about my personal oppressions. Instead, I will tell you about observations I have made, because these are more concrete things.

I used to lurk on TiA, a subreddit dedicated to finding and mocking the worst of the righteous keyboard warriors of justice. Contrary to what non-redditors would assume, it's fairly diverse - at least, it used to be - and not just made up of white cis dudes. You also used to get a lot of fairly liberal and pro-social justice people posting there, though it seems to be taking a dangerously conservative bent. (I personally quit lurking there after they defended lots and lots of instances of misogyny.)

What I noticed is that TiA didn't start out with that conservative bent; it started out fairly liberal, with most people aware of inequality and injustice in the world. Some were activists. Some even held by privilege theory, which I certainly had never heard about until 3 years ago despite the seeds of privilege theory having been around since W. E. B. Du Bois (arguably; I'm not a scholar of privilege theory, so it's really not my field). In short, it was by no means a wretched hive of scum, villainy and neckbeards, and was probably a pretty fertile ground to get people to organise and actually do something about injustice.

So what changed? How do we go from people who participated in the Egyptian revolution to "it's okay, the girl in the paedophilia joke is actually 19"?

To be honest, a lot of stuff happened - and because of the way that screaming keyboard warriors present themselves as knights of justice and equality, it's easy to start becoming more conservative when critiquing them. But a big factor, and an upsetting one at that, was the way in which allies are treated.

In recent years, allies have been getting some pretty bad press for what is essentially being privileged and fucking up. Privileged people are scum, allies are scum and basically useless, and if an ally disagrees with you that violence is the answer they can go fuck a shark's mouth and die.

Now, I've had some pretty bad "allies" in my time, the kind of little shits who pride themselves on being so progressive and right-minded but silence you when you don't agree with them and perpetuate harmful, outdated stereotypes. These people come from every side of the political divide, and one thing unites them all: they are absolutely terrible at supporting oppressed people. In fact, they are detrimental to the struggle against oppression.

You know what I do with people like that? Cut them out of my life and keep them at bargepole length away from me. There's a reason I had the quotation marks around "allies", and it's because people like that aren't allies at all - they are enemies. While I am not the most inherently trustful person (I am very guarded and cynical, unless I really like you), I do try to assume that not every privileged person who takes the time to educate themselves about oppression is going to stab me in the back at some point for shits and giggles, and I certainly don't give many people the honour of being called my ally. It is a title I reserve only for people whom I truly love and trust. And it's also why I can't hate on privileged people as a group. I can recognise that some groups as a whole oppress others, because privilege theory seems to make sense and fit current observations reasonably well. But hating all privileged people because of their class doesn't sit well with me, not when I've known some who have gone out of their way to help me.

At this point some people are either going to write me off as internally oppressing myself, a slave to the white supremacist, economically violent, heteropatriarchal imperialist complex (yes, I did just throw some shiny buzzwords together), or as the incarnation of evil, because I'm not giving oppressed people the right to vent. Or something.

The funny thing is, I've no problem with venting - I've vented a lot about privileged people in my time - and I recognise that allies won't always understand. They can't. They don't face the same oppressions. So I don't expect them to understand completely; I turn to members of my own group for that. I just expect them to be there for me and to try their best.

I will now give you an example of what some people consider to be venting, but what I consider to be shitty behaviour. I will take a hypothetical conversation between me and my boyfriend as an example, because he's a straight male and I'm a queer female. Oppression incoming!

Me: You know, you suck because you're straight and male.
Boyfriend: Um...okay...this is a change.
Me: You don't understand my struggles, so you should just sit down and shut up when I talk about them instead of straightsplaining.
Boyfriend: Don't I do that anyway? And what the fuck is straightsplaining?
Me: It's not my job to educate you, shitlord. Stop oppressing me by breathing in my face.
Boyfriend: That's not oppression! And I've been there for you all the other times!
Me: Oh, so you want a fucking cookie for basic human decency? Fucking straight male allies. All you care about is yourselves. You're a fucking worthless piece of shit and I hate you.
Boyfriend: Oh. Um...thanks for letting me down when I just wanted someone to believe in me.
Me: See, you're making this discussion all about you. Typical males. I can't wait until we kill all of you.
Boyfriend: ...What the fuck?!
Me: Well, you straight males are all rapists anyway and we don't even need you to reproduce.
Boyfriend: I don't have to put up with behaviour like this. We're over. And don't ever fucking talk to me or come near me again.
Me: Fuck you for weaponising your privilege. A real ally would have shut up while I vented. Go kill yourself, you piece of shit oppressor!

Fortunately, this discussion has never actually happened, because denigrating an intimate partner, telling them that they're worthless and will never be good enough, and inciting them to suicide is emotional abuse. But this seems to be considered acceptable behaviour in certain quarters, and I think it turns a lot of people off. Most people will not support someone who tells them over and over again that they're horrible, worthless people and that the world would be better if they didn't exist, because the kind of people who do that are bullies and abusers. This is not weaponising privilege; this is the idea that acting like an abusive shit makes people want to avoid you regardless of how privileged or oppressed you are.

Anyway, now that that little detour about ally hate is over, I can get back to my original thesis. I'm not going to spend much time on how such abusive behaviour alienates potential allies, because the widespread attitude is that if privileged people are alienated by oppressed people being angry, it's their own damn fault. This is reasonable when the anger in question is not abusive. When "oppressed people being angry" is "I've never, ever interacted with you but you should go kill yourself because you, personally, are a waste of space", then I would disagree with that, but everyone knows I'm a collaborator.

What I am going to spend time on is how abusive ally hate doesn't just stop people from wanting to support the good fight against oppression (which, by the way, is a dick move), it makes people want to oppose that fight in favour of institutionalised bigotry. This is exactly what I have seen on TiA and to a lesser extent in other places: chance upon the very worst instances of people being abusive for great justice, don't see many counterexamples, grow to think that social justice is about being abusive, and from there it's a couple of teeny tiny baby steps to hanging out with white nationalists. No, really. Not that anyone would actually, you know, critically reflect on that or anything.

I do not lay all of the blame at the feet of people who confuse fighting against oppression with emotional abuse - I am of the opinion that if you hang out with white nationalists and don't reject them as soon as you figure out they're awful you're maybe not the most ethical of people - but the end result is that in trying to fight oppression by acting like a dick, if you end up creating more oppression by making more people hang out with fascists and white nationalists, you should probably rethink your methods.

Now, people who aren't immensely privileged will know this, but some others still haven't got the memo: fascists and white nationalists are really, really nasty people. When they're out of power, they're absolutely hilarious, but the last time they were in power round about the time of the Second World War, they killed my family. Because they see me as subhuman, the current lot think that this is a good thing and would do it all over again. And they're fucking terrifying.

If you're turning people to the cause of bigoted, genocidal pieces of shit, you're not fighting oppression - even if you have the best of intentions. You are perpetuating it. And because that bigotry has history and institutionalised oppression on its side, it becomes that much more likely to utterly crush you and create a worse world. So for fuck's sake, lay off the anger and the abuse and lay on weakening the beast of oppression to create a better world for all of us.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Misery Loves Monotony

I don't know if anyone else feels the same way, but personally I find depression boring as shit.

Right, now that I've probably got people all riled up and telling me to be more sensitive about mental health issues instead of being a judgemental twat, let me explain. I don't find depression as a mental health issue boring, because I don't find mental health issues boring. This is mainly because I'm sick and tired of having them swept under the proverbial carpet, but let me move swiftly on...I don't find people talking about depression boring as shit either. Again, I don't like having those issues swept under the carpet - and I've found it useful to be able to share experiences with others and not feel guilty or ashamed.

No, what I find boring about depression is the utter monotony of it all. You wouldn't think it, but being miserable is actually very repetitive...Wanting to die gets old. Being vulnerable and shaking and crying gets old. Hurting and frustrating the people around you gets old. Feeling empty and in pain gets old. Slowly losing the ability to take care of yourself gets old. Getting triggered to holy fuckery to the point where even talking about self-defence or reading the news makes terrible thoughts surface...That gets old. Being sick and tired and miserable, day after day, with little or no respite...You get to know it so thoroughly it repels you. Don't get me wrong, it still fucking hurts, but it's in no way novel. It's just the same slog, day after day, the slog that brings you to your knees and breaks you down to the point where you want to die.

Maybe that suffering touches you, in which case I might just be getting something across properly (and if I am, I wholeheartedly apologise for having discussed something so painful). If you have to live through that, it still keeps touching you every minute of every day - actually, being touched is the wrong phrase. It's more like having a giant, painful wound that refuses to heal. Got that?

Now imagine this same wound also being incredibly boring, because your experiences with it repeat themselves over and over again. It's much more difficult to get across to people who haven't lived through something like this - it's not something you really think of as happening - but it's true. For me at least, depression really is that monotonous.

So I suppose that's the first strike against the people who think that suffering is some kind of enlightening, ennobling, purifying experience; there's nothing enlightened, noble or pure about raw, gaping pain. Just get that into your skull right now. It doesn't make people better. It is each person's unique, special hell, a hell they go through for no high and lofty reason - just circumstance, ignorance and cruelty.

I should really go on to the second strike now, and it's this: people seem to think that misery and creativity are somehow linked. I have read many explanations as to why this should be, which are usually along the lines of overthinking making you miserable.

I can see why people might think that they're linked; there is a maddening correlation that is just shy of the threshold for statistical significance. Perhaps they are. But I find mental illness more of a hindrance than a help when it comes to being creative; sure, it helps me understand things in a different way, and sure, all of my experiences during the bad times are fuel for creativity in the good times.

But in the bad times themselves, I'm not creative. I'm stuck in unbearable pain and I feel like the air is being crushed out of my lungs. I just want to curl up and die; doing something creative is pretty much the last thing on my mind. And I don't think that there'll ever be a good time again, only that things will get worse and worse. This is what depression does to you: it makes you think that there is no hope left, and that even if there were you'd be too weak to grasp at it. I have to have my friend tell me to do some art for me to be creative, because it's just about the last thing I'd do.

So sure, they may be linked, maybe - but while people are suffering, they're probably not going to be creative. Not in the worst depths of their suffering, anyway; they need to be given support to get better, and that won't take away the creativity, it'll make it come back and flourished.

Otherwise, they're stuck in a hell that's not just painful, but boringly so.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Why I Sold Out and Got a Kindle

Books on my Kindle
So this is the best I can come up with after an absence of over a month?! Not quite - there is better still to come - but for now I am blogging in my spare time, in between studying, exams and trying to make sure that I actually get to university come September. So pardon me if my posts aren't always deep and thought-provoking; it's not like they ever are, anyway.

Those of you who know me will know that I absolutely adore books. Right now I have hundreds huddled against each other on my shelves and curled up on my floor for lack of space. If I'm engrossed in a book or a magazine, you're probably not going to get a peep out of me till I'm done - if I even acknowledge your existence. (I'm really rude to people when I'm reading, because I blank out everything that isn't a rectangle with writing on it. Sorry!) I love their shape, their feel, their smell, their covers. And when ebook readers first took off a couple of years ago, I wasn't too impressed with them. Why do I need a grey rectangle that hurts my eyes, won't even let me own the books I read, doesn't really let me highlight stuff and is basically just a useless, overpriced brick if the battery goes flat? (This is one advantage of real books: they don't have batteries, so they can survive for thousands of years, at least in part, if correctly preserved.) Hell, I even unofficially pledged to read the printed word.

And now, a couple of years later, I'm going back on my pledge like the turncoat I am. As you can see, integrity is one of my best qualities.

But every turncoat has their reasons for leaving the side of the good and the true, and mine aren't simply for the pleasure of doing it. Evil for its own sake is pretty exhausting, you know.

Firstly, ebook technology is actually fairly decent now; e-ink means that I don't get assaulted by bright light every time I try to read in the dark while still being able to actually, you know, see my page owing to a lovely low backlight on my Kindle. I left mine on for six weeks once and its battery was still 50% full before I recharged it. I finally worked out how to put highlights in my ebooks. And mine has roughly enough space for 1,000 books - about the size of my collection.

Secondly, I don't really buy ebooks unless they're freebies; I already have a book-shaped brick to store them on, so why pay more for the license to read a digital copy? Instead, I use the wonderful Project Gutenberg to download public-domain texts that I already have, or desperately want to read. For anything else, this is the internet. You can probably figure out what I'm talking about. If you haven't, spend more time online.

But neither of these things really explain why I would set aside my long-standing revulsion for ebook readers. If I don't have to shift my thousand-book collection, I've got no reason to get one over just buying more books.

And here is the crucial thing: I'm going to university in a couple of months' time, or at least I hope to should I actually pass my exams. I will need to take several things with me there - more than I can fit even in my biggest suitcase. And I know that because I love books so much, I'll probably end up trying to cram my entire collection into the car and leave absolutely no space for anything else. This is where an electronic brick becomes quite important and reasonable: it can store my entire collection and leave me room to pack more vaguely sensible things, such as clothes and cutlery.

No, it'll never be as good as holding a real book in my hands. But until I can shift every last book that I own, it will suffice.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Immobility

So this all started with an absolutely terrible event. I've lost my mind like I haven't done in a long time, so this post isn't going to be at all coherent. Have fun deciphering my mental scrabblings, guys.

Long story short, everyone's alive. Everyone now wants to move on - except me.

But why? you might ask. Moving on is desirable, the end goal after trauma. Not moving on is for weaklings, attention seekers and other such - to put it impolitely - absolute fuckheads that no sane human being wants to associate with.

The trouble with me is that I think too much. It's certainly better than doing the opposite, but I don't think in straight and clear lines or elegant curves: I think in circles, tangles, swerving in sharply as I spin towards the centre of the proverbial downwards spiral. It's not good for me. Sometimes I think a lobotomy would help. It's especially odd, as in depression most activity of just about anything in the body is reduced - that's why it's called depression (being pressed down upon) and not just chronic sadness.

And I've been thinking a lot - and feeling a lot too, more than I'm comfortable feeling. I feel suicidal. Scared of what I might do to myself. Heartbroken. Bereft of any kind of emotional stability. Mistrustful - I picked up that something was wrong, but wasn't told anything and had to find out for myself. It all happened with very little warning, too, so the upshot is that this could happen again, with just as little warning to go on and with no idea what's happened. It's this last emotion that stops me from moving on more than anything; as long as I believe that it could just as well happen tomorrow, I'll have even more difficulty winding myself down from a pretty shitty (though still alive) state.

What's worse, I don't know what moving on even is. I know the difference between past, present and future, and that you cannot change the past (well, not without a way to get back to that particular region of space-time from the present, or the future light cone). It thus follows that moaning and griping about it is futile, as nothing will actually happen. I also believe that the future can be changed for the better.

But when people tell me to move on, they don't seem to have any idea what they actually mean by those two simple words. I know this, because I've observed what lots of different people think of as "moving on" and the characteristics change from situation to situation. Not even almighty Google can come up with a satisfactory answer. This is pretty worrying, because it suggests that a concept many people hold dear is ill-defined and thus not very useful.

What I have noticed is that some people use "moving on" to mean "cutting off", trying to put an event behind them that they don't want to think about. Show me someone who hasn't done that and I'll show you a newborn baby; most of us have been too ashamed or afraid of various things at various points to bring them out into the light. Instead, we push them to the back of our memories, squeeze them into almost-nothingness and do our bitter best to keep them there. It almost always fucks up, but that doesn't stop any of us from trying it. I've done it; in fact, I've done it so many times I lost count long ago. I wouldn't consider it a wild guess to say you're probably in a similar situation, and I wouldn't look down on you for any of it at all. Quite apart from anything else, I'd be a flaming hypocrite.

I've been told over and over again, and I've learned from my own harsh experience, that cutting something off or trying to forget it only ever backfires. It's a deeply ingrained reaction and it's hard as hell to struggle against, but if I keep doing the same things that never worked for me, I'm not suddenly going to wake up one day and find that suddenly it actually does something useful.

So how come if you repackage the same basic sentiment in happy, positive-thinking fuzzies and give it a different name it's now suddenly common wisdom?

So no, I don't want to move on. Not for a while, anyway. And I want to do it my way, because life landed me with the double whammy of being singular and stubborn. I don't want to grab some canned, stale words of fake inspiration and desperately try to mould myself to them.

At the moment, I'm in what I guess you could call some kind of a grief state, which is strange because I haven't actually lost anything apart from my sanity. I'm not looking after myself properly, I'm shutting out most other people, nothing feels real or stable, and I'm acting like an angry sack of shit because I can't cope with these feelings. What I most want right now is for everything to be okay, but wanting to be dead is a close and dangerously attractive second because I learn nothing.

I need time, most of all, which is in short supply because I'm going back to school and a punishing workload, time for what's happened to sink in and soften. Then I need discipline, more discipline than I've had; I need to look after myself. Particularly with regard to sleeping I'm rubbish because I've been having panic and anxiety attacks, which have this amazing ability to feed on themselves and get worse - so I fear sleep. I generally don't sleep well anyway because I'm too busy thinking about things. After that I need reflection. I need to pick this apart systematically instead of pushing it away altogether or going over the same bits repeatedly; I find that visualising things in all their great and painful detail helps me. Only then will I, as people put it, be able to "move on".

But till then, I'm going to be a sick and ashamed mess. And thus until then, I'm going to keep myself to myself. I may still post occasionally, but it'll be quite cold.

Lastly, I found a link in my quest for the definition of "moving on". It has some concepts that I don't like - move on or everyone will hate your guts - but a lot that I found far more useful than the normal drivel because it actually gives specifics and ideas of what to do to move forward instead of being stuck in the past. It's here, and I hope it helps someone.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Problematic Choices

Shit like this is why I won't go back to being a feminist any time soon.

Some feminists are complaining about how we can't criticise any concepts or institutions, like marriage or wearing make-up, because some women enjoy these things. Quelle horreur! Whatever can we do, if we can't criticise other women's choices? Explode righteously?

Their justification for criticising the choices of other women? Because they're not made in a vacuum: they're made in a repressive, kyriarchal society that has a vested interest in making women complacent and content in their own oppression.

I'm going to concede something right now: choices are definitely, definitely, definitely not made in a vacuum. They are made chained to kyriarchal standards, drowning in them even. But every single person, no matter their privilege, is bound by these chains - so no-one can claim to be uniquely liberated. And this is one main reason I don't believe you should be criticising the personal, informed and consensual choices women make: because you are not the exception. You are every bit as steeped in the kyriarchy as they are. You're just more aware of it.

Another main reason I don't like criticising women for making choices you personally find problematic is because it assumes that you, in your infinite wisdom, know so much better than them. Guess who also does that? The kyriarchy. The kyriarchy also criticises women for saying and doing certain things on the grounds that "we know better than them and they're making such problematic choices". Either way, frankly, you're assuming that those silly little women need your intellectual largesse to make proper decisions, because silly little women can't be trusted to make the right decisions (read: your preferred decisions) for themselves.

I believe I still remember enough basic feminism to call that by its proper name: a facet of misogyny. Misogynists don't believe women are capable of making informed decisions, and think that a big, strong man needs to make the decisions for them. This is not so different from assuming that a woman's "proper choice" needs your feminist approval - because either way, you don't believe that other women are capable of seriously thinking through a choice that you might disagree with.

Now, correct me if I'm wrong here, but being a silly little girl I had this terribly misguided notion that feminism was all about the liberation of women. Telling me that certain things that don't harm anyone else are problematic and that I shouldn't do them when you know literally nothing about my life history is not liberation, it's you trying to mould me into an image of yourself. When you're trying to bring about liberation (a phrase I much prefer to calling someone a liberator - I don't need a conquering hero, I need liberation from the ground up), one of the things you have to accept is that you're flinging the door open to people disagreeing with you. Liberation invites plurality. If you want homogeneity all that much, become an authoritarian.

This feeds into something I want to say: blanket condemnation of personal choices that don't hurt anyone else ignores the differences between women.

Some people are not going to like this very much, because I have an individualist streak. While I can recognise systemic problems (institutionalised racism, sexism, ableism, etc.), there are about 3.5 billion women alive right now. 3.5 billion is a big number, so big that I have trouble visualising that many people - and I want to be a physicist, so working with big numbers should be my day job.

When you're dealing with such a huge number of people, there's going to be some individualism involved, simply because there's no way you're going to have such a huge monolithic block of women. Actually, you can't even treat them all as a monolithic block because each woman will be facing intersecting oppressions and relatively few of them will have your precise experience. This makes it pretty difficult to decide on a universally applicable set of problematic-but-not-harmful actions and behaviours (should you be into doing that rather than just, you know, live and let live...). I'll give a trivial example and a more serious one.

My trivial example of the day is makeup. Lots of feminists find makeup problematic because it encourages the kyriarchal idea that you can't actually be a worthwhile human being unless you're conventionally pretty and pleasing to men, and of course your natural face can't ever be pretty or pleasing so you need to buy stuff and support capitalism.

And you know what? I find makeup pretty problematic too. In fact, I detest wearing it to the point where I only put light makeup on for special occasions, and even then I feel very self-conscious and uncomfortable; I feel as though I'm something I'm not. I might be insecure about my looks, but I want to work on that in ways that don't involve changing my physical appearance with chemicals or surgical equipment.

So far, so good - but I haven't contextualised my opinions and reactions. This leaves them floating around in an uncomfortable vacuum and so I can't really say that my reactions should be the right ones in every situation. If I contextualise them, here's what comes out: I'm a relatively wealthy, white, conventionally attractive (according to white, heterosexual cis men - they find me attractive, I don't), cisgender, physically able-bodied woman who acts in traditionally feminine ways. I wear my hair almost down to my waist and don't go around crossdressing. I come from an educated family where both my parents went to university and placed a higher value on learning than appearance. They also encouraged me to be an academic high-achiever more than they encouraged me to be traditionally feminine. This explains why I spend much more time thinking about physics than I do thinking about makeup, which leads to me being inexperienced and uncomfortable with makeup and thus not liking it.

Now let's say we have this hypothetical woman who grows up in a very conservative, misogynistic home - yes, even more so than normal. She is told that if she wears makeup or short skirts she is a dirty, worthless slut. When she manages to move out, one of the ways in which she asserts her bodily autonomy is by wearing short skirts and striking makeup. It reminds her that she can do these things and still be worthwhile.

Knowing this woman's story, I would not challenge her on her use of makeup in a purely patriarchal context. I would not shame her for it in this purely patriarchal context, because that matters and in this particular context, makeup is her way of trying to liberate herself from a background of shaming. In fact, I would look down on anyone who did try and shame her for it because then they would be missing said context. It would probably be worth her while trying to

Now, time for the serious example - marriage! In a lot of places, marriage is problematic because it's between one man and one woman, and only that kind of relationship gets legal protection. That's hardly fair on anyone else, and I'm speaking as a bisexual here; if I were in a relationship with a woman I would be far more marginalised and less protected by society. I can recognise that much. Marriage is also problematic owing to how (particularly in Europe) it was a loveless political alliance or a property agreement, not a union of love. Those are just two of the major ones: I'm fairly sure someone's written a book on why marriage is just such an awful thing.

To be honest, I don't like marriage. And I don't like marriage for a completely irrational reason - in my family, it has a history of going badly wrong and ending up with the woman being a stay-at-home mother, which is the last thing I want to be doing because I'm not happy playing domestic goddess to a male chauvinist.

But again, the old demon of context crops up. I am white, educated, have the resources to live independently, and come from a family that will let me live on my own or cohabit. If I refuse to marry, fewer people will claim that it was because I was unmarriageable than they would do if I were a woman of colour. I will not need to marry to escape an unhappy family life, as my grandmother did at my age. And I will very probably be capable of supporting myself without the financial and social protection that marriage can afford - a veneer of respectability if you marry at the "right" time (for white, educated, middle-class people, generally in your mid-to-late twenties or thirties).

So when some feminists complain about not being able to criticise problematic things that other women do, I don't feel particularly sympathetic - nor do I see oppressed women trying to help out their sisters. Mostly, I see very privileged and well-intentioned women who think they're doing a good thing, but seem to have forgotten that choices are made in the context of a kyriarchy that affects different women in different ways, and seem to think of themselves as some super enlightened exception to this whole kyriarchal mess.

All throughout this post I've tried very hard to emphasise that it's only choices that don't harm anyone else that I'm concerned about - things like shaving one's legs. Of course anything that harms others, such as being bigoted, should be criticised and shamed. Nor do I think that critically reflecting on your actions is a bad thing - if anything, it should be encouraged. I certainly try to reflect on my actions all the time. Yes, even though there's at least 1 person on the planet who thinks they're all wrong.

The problem is, there's a pretty big difference between saying "hey, in some contexts this choice might actually support the kyriarchy and let's examine this more deeply" and "your choice isn't real, you brainwashed kyriarchal stooge". One critiques the choice itself and analyses it in context; the other one attacks and invalidates a person. I've been a witness to certain feminists attacking another woman for being a housewife. Again, being a housewife isn't something I'd personally choose - the role doesn't suit me. This person had chosen to be a housewife because severe ADHD and anxiety made it difficult for her to work. Context matters, and if you ignore that context you end up doing shitty things like attacking a neurodivergent person with disabilities for not doing what you want them to do. That is not cool, and is far worse of a thing to do than becoming a housewife, because other people get hurt and abused in that process.

I don't want to pin all of the blame on proscriptive feminisms because, again, context is very important and I think I also have internalised patriarchal bullshit somewhere in the back of my mind that I still need to find and root out, but still. If you somehow end up shaming women for who they are and you're a feminist, you've fucked up somewhere really really badly and you need to acknowledge that. I mean, I do - my whole life is basically an endless stream of fuckups with some good stuff holding it all together.

I really wish I lived in a world where I didn't have to write this post because no-one thought that shaming anyone else was acceptable. Unfortunately, I have this thing called a conscience which is strongly socially libertarian in that I support individual liberty as long as no-one gets hurt, and I don't want to pipe down and be a good little woman. I also really wish I could turn off the part of my brain that's drawing parallels between very proscriptive feminists (there aren't many) and misogynists, because it's creepy and upsetting. Just don't assume that women are too stupid to think for themselves so they must need your super-enlightenment. That is literally all you have to stop doing and it's really not that hard. Neither am I saying that things like marriage or putting on makeup are necessarily uber-feminist choices - just that while it's probably not the most feminist thing in the world, it's also not ludicrously antifeminist. Finally, please don't go jumping on this post and saying that it attacks all feminists: I have tried to make it clear that this is not something endemic within feminism. It's a group of people that is probably very small but whose opinions I happen to find pretty toxic and trying. A lot of other feminists are actually very cool and smart people I like to listen to.