Monday, May 26, 2014

Is Misogyny An Ideology?

It's a weird disagreement, but I think this is pretty good, though it gets less good in the last several paragraphs:

Laurie Penny: "Let's Call The Isla Vista Killings What They Were: Misogynist Extremism"

I don't see a whole lot of reason to think of sexism in general nor misogyny in particular as being all that different than racism. So, if racism is sometimes an ideology, misogyny can be an ideology.

So it seems that it can be...but is it?

I'm inclined to think that misogyny is largely misunderstood by feminists. If we take paradigm examples of misogyny, it's not really hatred of women, it's a lack of respect for women. But that's a bigger topic for a different time. (Hatred can be in the mix, of course...but you can be a misogynist without, strictly speaking, hating people because they are female.)

The Isla Vista mass murderer, however, was motivated by hate. Hate that resulted from being a miserable failure at life...but hate nevertheless.

I think feminism also goes wrong also by trying to construe the more common instances of misogyny as motivated by something like a coherent ideology. I don't have much recent experience with misogyny. It's not a part of the world I now inhabit. However, what I've seen in my own life has been more of the nature of guys being dicks than it has been of the nature of an ideology. Guys I've known who were misogynists were almost always dicks anyway, in other respects, and willing to pick on other people who were weaker and different than them whatever their sex. Their misogyny was not a theory, implicit or explicit, it was not a political stance, it was straight-up, straightforward dickishness.

The extreme left, however, likes to construe almost everything ideologically. The personal is political, blah blah blah...

However...  There do seem to be pockets of misogyny that do resemble ideologies. E.g. in certain sectors of the Men's Rights Movement--MRAs, as they're known. Not all of them. Not all of it. But some.

Simple dickishness, when organized and theorized--as seems to happen to all sorts of dickishness on the internet--can start to resemble a so-called "ideology." (The term 'ideology' is annoyingly misused...but I suppose that use has taken over, and I'll have to get used to it...)

Also: we shouldn't expect bright, clear lines here. Such distinctions are vague ones. We should expect degrees of resemblance and so forth.

So, my own current hunch is that misogyny is mostly not an ideological or political thing, but it's been concentrated into one in certain sectors of the web.

Was the Isla Vista murderer an "ideological" misogynist?

You'll have to figure that out for yourself. I couldn't stomach more than a few minutes of his pathetic video.

He seemed to me to be a pathetic loser who had tried to generalize his resentments. Consequently, he may have had a pathetic little weltanschauung that qualifies as ideological. He seems to have taken to the web to seek other like-minded losers...but he seems to have been rebuked by other web denizens at least a fair bit of the time. But we'll know more in the coming weeks.

Causes are often complex, and we are often in the habit of pointing to one causal factor as "the" cause. In the case at hand, the guy was a pathetic ass. He also seems to have had mental problems. These seem like the most salient causes...but that doesn't mean that something like "ideological" misogyny wasn't also at work.

To the extend that I can understand the largely inchoate internet disagreement about this, I think that it's about the role of something like theoretical or ideological misogyny as a motive or causal factor.

Feminists typically err in this vicinity by treating misogyny as more political/theoretical/ideological than it really is, by trying to suggest that Western culture is more misogynistic than it really is, and by suggesting that more men are misogynistic than really are. However, and despite these things, it may still be worth thinking of misogyny as significantly ideology-like.

I don't have an answer to the most salient questions, but I really do wish we could get clear on what thesis is under discussion. Unfortunately, even blogs have turned out to be too thoughtful for us, and this dispute seems to exist largely on Twitter. Since Twitter is almost inherently stupid (whereas blogs are just contingently so), I expect discussions of this issue to be dumb and vitriolic even by internet standards.

The Penny link, above, however, really is pretty good I think, and worth a look.


The first sentence of his "manifesto" is:

"Humanity...All my suffering on this world has been at the hands of humanity. Particularly women."

So it's worth nothing that, if we count his misogyny as "ideological," we might have to count his misanthropy as ideological as well. there such a thing as political misanthropy? This might constitute some kind of reductio...



Blogger The Mystic said...

I can't help but think, at the sight of "manifestos" like this, that we're looking at intellectually and morally bankrupt individuals careening out of control. They aren't evil actors who want nothing other than destruction, nor are they driven by some seductive-yet-malevolent ideology. Rather, they are consumed by a depravity whose actors are dead inside. The abject agony and suffering from which they can find no escape has removed all capacity for rational thought. After fermenting in misery for long enough, their "thoughts" become entirely predetermined by their suffering, akin to purely reflexive biological behavior, like a body twitching when electrified.

This guy was obviously in extreme agony for a substantial part of his existence, and he even more obviously had no clue why that was or how to resolve the problem. Regardless of the other factors involved, it is clear that he lacked the introspection necessary to understand his own flaws, frequently assuming his own superiority in his critiques of others, lamenting the blindness of the women of the world who couldn't see it. He had no understanding of the value of life or any conception of respect for it. He latches onto bizarre hopes for salvation with demented frenzy, coming to believe that he was "meant" to win the lottery. He becomes an ardent believer of "the law of attraction" in the form made popular by "self-help" books (The Secret, by Rhonda Byrne) of outright immoral quality. He spends an entire month meditating on this subject in his room prior to failing in his bid to win the lottery.

In short, the kid suffered more than he could bear given his paltry intellectual tools. He latched onto bullshit propagated by our society (that shitty self-help book was part of Oprah's TV show, spawned a film, and grossed the author over $300 million in sales) in last-ditch efforts to save himself, and he eventually went insane in the process. Frankly, I don't know how it doesn't happen more frequently.

His writings should be pretty valuable to us, really, for they represent a real danger in a society such as ours; a desperate, pathetic descent into nonsense.

I worry that what we are seeing is evidence that not everyone is strong enough to withstand modern society. We expect that our youth will need a formal education in order to gain an adequate understanding of mathematics, science, history, and a range of other basic subjects, but we insist that they ought to be able to live good lives and comprehend the requisite philosophical issues without any formal education. We would expect to see a larger portion of our society fail professionally if formal mathematical education were not provided to them, but it doesn't seem to surprise us that we can inject people into a world whose complexity increases dramatically with each generation without any formal education in philosophy whatsoever.

I don't think it's the entire solution to a problem that likely can't be solved in its entirety, and I'm not even addressing any possible physiological conditions which might have predisposed him to irrationality, but I can't help but think that if these aimless brains are given something of substance to ponder, perhaps we can deter them from this sort of death spiral.

11:55 AM  

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