If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you may have noticed that I’m a fan of analogies. I’m not always very good at them but as an illustrative tool, I find them useful and fun. I’m going to use one now.
Imagine you have someone who’s been a Libertarian for most of their life. One day, this person happens upon some people talking about Socialism in an online discussion forum. At first, the Libertarian doesn’t like the Socialists. He doesn’t understand them. This is a completely new idea that he’s never been exposed to before and is contrary to pretty much everything he’s ever been taught. ‘These Socialists must be mad!’ he thinks. But something compels the Libertarian to keep looking and, over time, he starts to see that the Socialists are making sense about a lot of things.
The Libertarian befriends some of the Socialists and starts to read some socialist theory. He likes a lot of it. He begins to notice an unfair distribution of wealth. He begins to understand how capitalism doesn’t encourage economic growth because it funnels all the world’s wealth to the top of the pyramid where it’s hoarded by a small handful of people and never put back into the economy. He thinks this is unfair and also very wrong.
The Libertarian doesn’t agree with all the socialist theory, however. He thinks it’s a bit extreme to take the position that all property is theft because he owns a nice house that he worked hard to pay for and he likes that a lot. He thinks it’s ok to critique the practice of owning property and acknowledges that owning property is oppressive but he thinks that under the right circumstances, it can be ok and we should never criticize the actual people who own property because that is wrong.
The Libertarian spends more time in Socialist discussion groups asking questions and trying to justify his simultaneously held beliefs that owning property is both oppressive and acceptable under the right circumstances. This naturally creates divisions within the Socialist community because the Socialists are continually having to restate their position and this is draining their time and energy.
So what the Libertarian does, is combine some of the parts of Socialism he likes and some of the parts of Libertarianism that he likes so that he can have a political philosophy he feels completely comfortable with. The only thing now is that the Libertarian is still calling his politics Socialism.
Very quickly after doing this, the Libertarian decides that the Socialists aren’t doing a very good job of Socializing. The Libertarian has big ideas. He wants to bring Socialism to the masses. Except it’s not really Socialism he’s pushing; it’s a watered-down, diluted version of Socialism with strands of Libertarianism in there.
The Libertarian sets up his own Socialist organization and calls it Socialism UK. He teams up with self-identified non-Socialists from countries outwith the UK, despite there being no lack of genuine UK Socialists, to discuss Socialist politics and begin to organize events under the banner of Socialism.
The situation here is pretty shitty for the Socialists. Not only do they have actual Socialist work to be doing, they have to expend further energy correcting the distorted version of Socialism that the Libertarian, along with his non-Socialist colleagues, are putting out there.
This is happens within all leftist political circles. Radical Feminism is not exempt.
Radical Feminism upholds that heterosexuality is a political tool used to exploit women’s reproductive labour and keep them subservient to men. If a Radical Feminist tells you, “Maybe some women are heterosexual,” she doesn’t understand Radical Feminism.
It’s perfectly legitimate within the realms of political discourse to police one’s terms. I’m pretty sure the Socialists in my analogy would be pissed off at Mr Libertarian, be adamant that he’s not a Socialist, and insist that only those who agreed with the core principles of Socialism identify themselves as Socialists. No one would give the Socialists a hard time for upholding their standards. When radical feminists try to police our terms, we are accused of trashing. This is probably because Socialists tend to be men and Radical Feminists are always women and women can’t open their mouths at all without someone telling them they’re not being nice enough.
Radical Feminist praxis does not involve discussing individual womens’ sex lives in public on the internet. It doesn’t involve representing Political Lesbianism as “lesbophobic” and being the gatekeeper of who is and isn’t a lesbian. It doesn’t really involve cava and nibbles and limited seating in a cramped bookstore in London. It’s not endlessly discussing ‘gender critical vs. gender identity‘ with men and referring to them as ‘she’.
Radical Feminism isn’t palatable. It’s not designed to make you feel comfortable. The truth is not comfortable.