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Reactionaries

In the nineteen-fifties, a science fiction author replied to criticism of science fiction by saying that it:

is indeed ninety-percent crud, but that also – Eureka! – ninety-percent of everything is crud.

I agree. Similarly, there are sometimes things being said and done in the name of intersectional feminism and in the social justice community that are counter-productive, contradictory, or otherwise not completely thought-through. (Sometimes by me.)

I still think that this philosophy has a bigger kernel of truth than its enemies: anti-PC, gamergaters, anti-SJW, anti-woke… an old movement with many names that’s founded on misrepresentations and second-hand accounts.

I’ve said before that the right wing don’t even see the problems (“whaddayamean racist? You had Obama, didn’t you?”), while we on the left has great analyses of how messed up everything is but we don’t always know the best way to make it better.

I was reading through an “anti-woke” web page the other day, and it struck me: this guy isn’t parroting talking points. From his perspective, he came up with all this. His critique and commentary on the intersectional left wasn’t planted in his head, he’s just telling it like it is. But it’s clear where he’s getting his news since the movement he’s skewering is a distorted straw doll where it’s claimed that women hate men, that feminists don’t care about men’s problems, that privilege is a capital offense, that there’s an unwalkable tightrope between appropriation and imperialism, that voting rights are patronizing, that women want handouts and an unfair advantage on life’s otherwise competely fair playing field.

Creating this straw doll was the reactionaries’ most successful propaganda ploy of all time. People see this straw doll and of course they react. (Not to give them too much credit for evolving this play—it’s just human nature to depict opposition uncharitably and distortedly. We don’t like to examine each other honestly and directly, instead hoping for a dark mirror, sunglasses, a veil to simplify the lines in the sand.)

Dispelling the straw

I could try to set a few things right: feminists don’t take glee in men dying violently in wars, by suicide, or in bar brawls. It’s one of many problem feminism wants to solve. Our worldview (I get that the name “patriarchy” wasn’t the most productive word choice. Some now say “kyriarchy”, as suggested by Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, and I kind of like that) is that men, too, are trapped by the bullshit of the past and can benefit from the changes we want.

Feminism to me is ultimately the radical notion that women are people, as I once saw it put on a pithy shower curtain. (I’ll go look it up—oh, Marie Shear said it!) But the reactionaries, in their straw doll worldview, claim it’s an unnecessary battle because women’s issues are either historical and fixed now, or isolated incidents by bad eggs, or good actually because they deserve it. It’s so easy to overlook women’s issues because they have been ingrained into the everyday fabric of society.

The voting rights issue, while kinda hard to understand from a Swedish perspective where photo IDs are commonplace and voting is accessible weeks in advance without resorting to unmanned dropboxes, becomes clearer and vital when remembering what kindled it: the GOP has deliberately targeted areas (by demographic) and made it harder to vote there. In those areas, there are fewer locations, fewer days, longer lines, harder to get ID, hoops on registration etc. It is a documented fact going back more than a decade that voter suppression is a deliberate GOP strategy. They ran some numbers and found out that the lower the turnout, the better they do, and this effect is intended to be stronger if the suppression measures are targeted towards groups that lean (even partially) towards voting democrat.

The endless straw

Ultimately I’m not sure how much good I can do trying to dispel these myths. People tend to get very set in their ways, and the right wing has a lot to gain from creating wedge issues and stoking the flames of the culture war. “Vote for our rich gets richer, climate-wrecking policies! Oh, you’re wondering what’s in it for you who are not rich? We’ll protect you from the Mexicans, the Muslims, the trans, the gays, abortion, the goths, the women, the ivory tower, New Math, D&D, CRT.” It’s never ending because “the party of small government” will always come up with new things to hate. “Those disgusting elitist Dvorak typists will have to obey our new QWERTY legislation.”

The “hockey team” mindset

This one sometimes applies to my own side too and it makes me sad every time I see it. It’s common to see the world as two “hockey teams” and that all means are justified if it is against “them”. I’m not onboard with that. Good stops being good the moment it tries to kill bad. I’m not fighting for a side or a team, I’ll fight for what’s really true and right. I know there is love. ♥