Can we constructively criticize Feminism?

It took me a few weeks before i decided to first post about overt feminism. I stood for everything in the post, but found myself apprehensive – a rare emotion for me and blogging. I asked myself, do you really want to do this? You know what’s gonna happen right? YOU DON’T NEED TO DO THIS. I published it anyway. For my second post, the apprehension remained. Unpopular an opinion as it is, i published it too.

Still, a vague sense of discomfort remained. I was dissatisfied, because those posts did little to bring across a point i really wanted to make – which i could not fully articulate until today. Instead, they were fertile ground set up for a misrepresentation of what i felt. My bad. Time for clarification.

1. I support feminism. No, you know what: I am a feminist.

Women should be given equal rights and opportunities in all domains – academic, social, political, in the workplace. Women should not be subjected to discrimination, violence, or any other disadvantages due to their gender. Gender equality, above all, needs to be established.

As of today, we are far from reaching the feminist ideal. In third-world countries and urban cities alike, women face both implicit and explicit violence. Little girls are deprived of education, women are burnt along with their husbands, forced into marriage, prostitution. Even amidst skyscrapers and iPhones, women are silenced, ridiculed, blamed for rape; hell, high-ranking females face subtle discrimination in their workplace, but find themselves unable to explicate their plight.

I recognize that, and I believe in the need for feminism.

In fact, it is because I believe in feminism, that manifestations of it that threaten its progress anger me.

2. Not all feminist outrage is bad. But not all is good either.

Feminist outrage is what will fuel social progress, inching us towards gender equality. Outrage is necessary both to reduce female discrimination and to bring down toxic forms of patriarchy.

While I have full faith in feminist outrage, for it to be reasonable outrage, two aspects need to be examined: content, and extent.

Content: Is the source of our outrage actually a feminist issue? This is in itself contentious, one may find it offensive while the other can’t see it. Furthermore, as a friend (cr: @wolneb) accurately pointed out, even if it’s not an overt one - it should not be dismissed from discussion.

There are many cases, however, that warrant no attention from gender-issue critics, but nonetheless spawned several articles claiming feminist stake. Such as Zuckerberg’s innocuous reply to wearing the same shirt daily.

Perhaps, then, the content relevance should be evaluated with the possible gender-sensitive consequences of an event. Admittedly, Matt Taylor’s shirt may affect society’s perception of women’s place in the scientific field – no matter how mild.

But then comes the question of extent: was the amount of feminist outrage appropriate for the issue at hand? We should cap outrage at the minimum level necessary to redress the issue and correct societal perceptions on gender. Simply because we are civilized, social beings – no one really like unnecessary aggression (well, okay, some do).

3. I recognize that feminism faces unfair criticism

Unfortunately, it does. Despite increasing support from the media, feminist ideas and movements are deemed by some to be unnecessary and overtly aggressive. Some of these are even women.

While I do not support such criticisms, some may have taken root because of an increasingly pervasive media phenomenon. Which, incidentally, is my main concern:

Feminist invulnerability to constructive criticism, supported by the media.

Let’s not hide it, feminism is gaining ground as popular thought, strongly protected by social media. And that is great! The potential is endless: we can raise awareness of implicit discrimination, share statistics, hold discussions, persuade, effect social change.

But. Much of this potential has been crowded out, because social media expends its protective and amplifying resources to issues that should instead be generating balanced discussions.

A great example would be the Times poll. Brief summary: “Feminist” was included under the 2015 Words to Ban poll, led to overwhelming backlash, Times apologized and took it down. In their apology, however, they noted that:

“While we meant to invite debate about some ways the word was used this year, that nuance was lost [...]“

I won’t go into whether Times was right or wrong, but the public reaction was telling – instead of introspection about why feminist has garnered such a reputation, the immediate action taken was to aggressively shoot down the criticism.

Feminism, like any other movement, should not be free from reasonable criticism.

Even if Times should have removed the word from the list, steps should be taken to understand why it was there in the first place. Why was feminism considered overused, misused by some? As long as social media upkeeps indiscriminate protection of feminism from both unfair and fair criticism, constructive debate is curtailed, and true feminism progress in media might find itself reaching a plateau – a huge pity considering its vast potential.

Why am I so concerned about feminism being overly sheltered from criticism on social media? 

Feminism should be protected by media. It is the first step in the progress towards gender equality. However, over a certain point, its invulnerability becomes problematic:

a) Most importantly, it is portraying a skewed image of feminism, explaining #womenagainstfeminism. It is frightful, yes, that there are women against the promotion of their own rights (Seriously. What.)

This is easily resolved, however, when we realize that some of their definition of “feminism” is not really feminism at all, but instances of unwarranted attacks on irrelevant issues endorsed on social media.

b) Such as man-hating

Misandry is not feminism, feminism is not misandry. So why are they conflated?

When social media overly protects feminism against critical opinions, instances of hate speech against men are overlooked, allowing them to be subsumed under the broad voice of feminism online. Netizens fear that by pointing out misandry, they would be accused of being anti-feminists. I have read arguments along the line of: “Why is it not okay to discriminate men, when women have been discriminated for so long?”

Again, this is not the opinion of majority of feminists. Most feminists, online or offline, would recognize this as an invalid argument. My point is, in the crush of popular feminist voice online – protected and sustained by the media and online public – these arguments often go unchecked, as a result skewing the image of true feminism.

c) Suppressing unpopular opinion for fear of backlash

After awhile, auto-regulation occurs. People stop pointing out any inconsistencies, disguised misandry or false feminism, in fear of being labelled as anti-feminists.

I personally experienced this. There was a constant need to qualify, to explain what i actually meant. Even then, there is fear: I fear being thought of as an anti-feminist.

But it is precisely because i am a feminist that i’m writing this, disregarding the fear.

Because feminism online can be so much more, and so much better. By lowering the protective gates to a reasonable amount, allowing constructive criticism (but shutting down unfair, offensive ones), feminism would benefit by gaining more supporters and ultimately effect more concrete progress in gender equality.

Brief outlet

You know there is something wrong when you’re afraid to voice out on social media for fear of getting backlash from the very movement that claims to protect you.

I’m talking about indiscriminate feminism.

Feminism is currently in a horrible state. In practice, sexism remains rampant; on media, it is dominated by a brand of extreme feminism that bullies and coerces reasonable disagreements into silence.

The horror is in the perpetuating effects both have on each other. As long as gender discrimination exists (and it does, in workplaces, in schools, in whole societies), feminists will not be appeased. But as long as indiscriminate feminism remains in the media spotlight, feminist movements that do make significant changes find themselves in a lockdown because of the association with their more unreasonable counterpart.

The problem lies in extreme feminism. It’s inability to target or remedy actual problems, distracting the public from more pertinent issues, and most of all portraying feminism distastefully, diverting possible supporters of feminism away as a result.

True, the line between feminism and radical f is difficult to draw. But there are obvious cases. Take Matt Taylor’s shirt as an example. To begin with, it wasn’t meant to be, nor was it even, sexist. It was just a bloody shirt with a cute print gifted to him by a friend. Do we really have to make the man cry? Does it make you feel great that he is breaking gender stereotypes of emotional fragility? Do you draw pleasure from demonizing and unleashing the internet on a poor guy who was just enjoying some credit for his scientific accomplishments?

My heart went out to him.

Radical feminism is so often hypocritical and unnecessarily offensive. There are better ways to correct someone’s unintentional mistake, which you happen to find personally offensive, that does not involve aggression. There is very little difference between patriarchy and physical/psychological assaults towards women, and the bullying that some self-claimed feminists do online.

The media is great for many things, but when it comes to feminism, it has massively fucked every centimeter of shit up. There was progress, and so, so much potential for gender equality. But along the way a deviant branch of feminism swept opportunities of constructive debates off the table. You are either in complete agreement with their often contradictory “feminist” creeds, or your opinion is wrong.

It is frightening because it creates an illusion of feminist success, when in fact it is a non-functional feminism that has no impact on social practices (besides men being more cautious of making sexist comments, but out of fear of criticism than real respect for women). Sexism remains entrenched, probably even aggravated by online policing. And here when i say sexism, i mean both discrimination against women and men.

If i had more time and less of a migraine, i would write a longer piece. In the mean time, please let me know where to get a Gunner Girl shirt. I will wear it around and if anyone tells me not to wear a “sexist” shirt, I’ll tell them to stop controlling what women should or should not wear and unleash angry radical feminist hashtags on them.

THIS is what we should be concerned about, not shirt prints:

https://www.change.org/p/deputy-prime-minister-teo-chee-hean-minister-for-home-affairs-keep-julien-blanc-and-real-social-dynamics-rsd-rsdnation-out-of-singapore

Another great example of extreme f shutting down anybody who isn’t in complete agreement with them:

http://apgnation.com/archives/2014/09/09/6977/truth-gaming-interview-fine-young-capitalists

first half of november

the days are cold but i am safe;
warmth is falling asleep to your familiar noise

our car rides are silent but here you are;
we stop to watch strangers fish one sunday evening

the same life i held in my arms
in a dream long ago now in
you; i feel it stir beneath my palms and your dress

light is both a window open
and a text blinking, hopeful on our cellphone screens

assorted thoughts

what is it about minions that people find so adorable? personally i think of them with only contempt. sub-human and stupid with all the failings of greed, selfishness, aggression. also they’re noisy and their laughter is creepy.

i might have just described a baby, except we’re genetically predisposed to adore infants for evolutionary purposes… so unless we’re adult bananas, your love for minions cannot be justified. idc.

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currently reading: Paulo Coelho’s The Devil & Ms Prym. the moral premise is either too convoluted for me to comprehend, or it’s fraught with loopholes. either way, it’s still pretty good.

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speaking of convoluted, it’s time for my quantum reality final essay! my mind non-figuratively overheats whenever i delve into journal articles. chose to write on lockwood’s many-minds – relatively obscure but not elusively so. philosophical implications and mathematical proofs conspire to deep-fry my neurons.

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my dreams they are much too exciting.

perhaps to compensate for my lack of irl. they come packaged as a coherent action movie plot, and i experience everything – the emotions, the physical turbulence – in full.

once i had a dream of being on several roller coasters. one of them was a ride down a water slide. the sensation was as real as a ride could get, but without the unpleasant fear. it was basically pure thrill without safety concerns.

how does cognitive processes generate such realistic experiences? actually i have a lot of relevant theoretical explanations for this, why am i surprised?

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Peace

These days i am mostly peaceful.

Feel like i really haven’t been fair to this space. How did i find it in me to post every day, or every couple of days?

How is it that secondary school / JC life was so much more (externally) stimulating than university, where everything should be happening, haha.

And how is it that i like it this way?

Getting old, i guess.

Either that, or the storm has migrated inwards. Everyday i learn new things, think new thoughts. It’s very exciting in its own right.

Birthdays

The past month has been filled with 21st celebrations. Told myself that no matter how busy school life was, I can’t miss any of my friend’s parties. No regrets at all, although right now I’m pretty much swamped for recess week.

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Started it off with Lucas’ Great Gatsy-esque banquet. No brakes on this one: it was the full works, lobsters and wedding cake, candles and suits. Trust Lucas to pull off something this grand. Very glad to have been part of such an amazing (also intimidatingly dramatic) event though.

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It’s fascinating how different my friends are. The way their parties are held can be polar opposites, yet very impressive in their own way. Just yesterday was Amanda’s 21st auction party. It was themed old school, with a typewriter for a guest sign-in, and all sorts of old school snacks (fancy gems!!!, haw flakes, jello shots).

All her guests bid for items she has accumulated, with all the proceeds going to charity. What an Amanda move! I outbid Justin for a um puzzle/headscratcher/ball!

Amanda’s cake was also made of mini bomsi kuehs. Adorable and strange. Kinda like her.

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Took a mid-week break for an ice skating adventure with my group dynamics project mates! ☺ Everyone was very patient with me, who can’t..exactly…skate very well. Lol.

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Not forgetting Vanessa’s sea themed pretty party!!! Wish so much I could have gone earlier, missed most of the games. But nonetheless weaseled a few photos with the birthday girl, who was radiant and beautiful as always. Love her and miss all the times we spent in St Nicks together so much.

It was so good meeting all the St Nicks girls again, no matter how short the meet was.

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Also very very glad I made it to Bryan’s 21st!!! A very last minute decision with Cleo and Lucas but definitely worth it. If not just to play with Baileys and Champagne, Bk’s incredibly adorable dogs.

These are people I’ve known since 15 and holy crap now they’re all adult-y and driving around doing great things. I’m so proud of y’all.

Not even you

a couple of days ago, i was told this by my boyfriend:

“yeah well, I’ll never let anybody get in the way of me, my dignity and my principles
not even you.”

he did something i didn’t approve of. i wasn’t directly involved, and wasn’t in the right position to judge or interfere (and beyond voicing my disapproval, i didn’t). besides, i knew him well enough to understand why he had to do it.

despite that, what he said did sting for a moment. no one wants to know that they’re second to anyone or anything.

it wasn’t very long before i decided this was the answer I’d respect the most, and also reminds me why I’m in a relationship with him. I like him precisely because he has such strong principles, and because these were principles I agree with and admire.

If I love someone who would cave in to what I demand of him (in terms of core values), I’m not loving him but the idea of him in relation to myself: once he compromises his self who is he but an extension of my whims?

I’m a huge believer of sacrifice in relationships, but if there’s one thing you don’t relinquish it’s your fundamental principles. So although I was opposed to J’s specific action, the implicit motivation rather impressed me.

It reminded me that beyond being part of a couple, he is an individual – and one I respect in all respects. I like that he loves me wholeheartedly, and considers my needs and opinions – but has the courage to know when he has to stand his ground.

I asked myself if I’d do the same: whether I’d pass on the advice of a loved one for my dignity and principles. Being mortally afraid of confrontation, I might not be able to – although I very much want to believe I would (!!!)

Taking apart my immediate and cognizant mediated reactions, I’d say we’re all part of the massive struggle between our desire to maintain social relations and to be individuals. While J’s individualism on some level did hurt me, i cannot deny him his right to it on the mere basis of preening our relationship. Also, i feel safe enough with a few knocks of conflicts between us.

Or perhaps i can put it this way: my love for him as an individual increased enough through this event to offset any negativity stemming from his disregard for my opinion.

PS for continuity’s sake: J has since apologised to me – I think more for his brusqueness than his belief.

Notes

I still keep a schedule in physical form. 

Standard school-issue journals throughout my convent school days might have a role in shaping this habit in my formative years. In JC when diaries weren’t given out, i became a loyal fan of Muji weekly planners.

Sometimes i do wonder why i’ve not exported my days over to electronic planners. It is indisputably more convenient: there are too many times event changes upset me not so much for the schedule disruption than the ugly cancel marks it’s gonna make on my planner. Haha. It’s more accessible, more compact, more flexible.

But i’ve stuck with my physical planner. I’ve always thought it was habit, but it really doesn’t explain my stubborn refusal to switch platforms. Then it struck me: i have an implicit fear that one day digital data will collapse upon itself from its sheer immensity.

I’m not sure how irrational this fear is, but as a child of the computer age – having been there for the birth and frightening acceleration of e-advancement – i am inherently wary of its sustainability.

I straddle the ridge between hardcopy world of mountain, sun, and organic daisy fields, that drops into a dark, mystical, swirly void of digital data. I’m too young to stay independent of such technology in my daily life, but too old to be free of all skepticism.

Sometimes i’d stop and think about all that data i have in my Mac. The dozens of files, the hundreds of documents and images, millions and millions of words. I am overwhelmed just by the sheer amount of information contained in my laptop. I am often petrified imagining the total informational weight of the internet.

I guess my question is how. How is it possible that humanity exploded into this hyper-intelligent species capable of condensing so much into so little? I am equal parts impressed and suspicious. There is no way my fear that all my digital notes, blog entries, and photos may one day drain into oblivion from a single binary coding glitch.

Maybe a century from now someone might read this and laugh at the awe and unwarranted anxiety experienced by a person tentatively rooting into the infant years of computer technology. Or maybe no one will read this because somewhere down the road a plug is pulled and all we’ve coded online tumbles into a digital sink hole.

Suspension

When i’m on a vacation, especially as a child, i find myself in a very particular mood-state. This is where language fails me with its clunky inability to condense nuanced specificity… i’ll label this overarching mood as “suspension”.  What i feel is a blend of quiet, surreal thrill, a disjunct from everyday life that is at once uncomfortable yet pleasant – thrown into the mix is a good dose of homesickness. It is potently contradictory and overall, can be quite disturbing if i weren’t distracted by vacation activities.

I’m very prone to homesickness — i feel like this should be qualified as a possible basis of my weird emotion tumult to what should be every kid’s favorite time of the year. I get immensely homesick everywhere and anytime possible: sleepovers, holidays, camps… in fact i even get homesick at home. And by homesick, i don’t merely mean missing the physical space of my house. By homesick, i mean a terrible toxic cauldron of unfamiliarity and displacement gurgling inside, telling me i’m not where i should be, that this place has no place for me, that i should be somewhere else except i don’t know where that is.

For some inexplicable reason, i’ve been hurled into a quicksand of suspension since a few days ago. I’ve gotten that before: in Sec 3, for a period of time i felt vividly like i did back in primary school. It’s difficult to describe because “Qing in Primary School” is not a qualitative emotion, but that was exactly how i felt. Sometimes i enjoyed it, because i felt (superficially) carefree – other times, specifically when i’m reminded of how i’m not in primary school, it was just immensely oppressive.

Basically, what i feel now is “Qing on a vacation when she was 11″.

Which is problematic because i am not. I’m not 11, I’m not who i was back then, i could never go on a vacation in the same terms and context as i used to. It’s the mood-state of suspension with a stab of nostalgia and the pervasive knowledge of loss: that my childhood, that period of my life, cannot be replicated. It’s like a ghost of an emotion haunting me, if that even makes sense. If ghost is too trite a term, i should maybe call it a poltergeist: it mocks whoever i am not and don’t have now.

It’s pretty bad, except subtly so. Which is worse. My immediate emotions derived from the suspension mood-state juxtaposes with my secondary, underlying one – derived from understanding of my current self and context. How do i justify the underlying discomfort to my immediate feelings of dream-like suspension?

I want it to go away. I guess it is better to live in the present, whether it’s relatively more or less pleasant than the past.

Factoid Generator

I may actually have outgrown this blog: something i prayed would never happen.

Its no longer the perfect medium for my musings, because i’m stricter with the form they take. Or rather, i’m more conscious of an imaginary audience who would be strict with the content of my thoughts. Hopefully this is just a phase, and i’d eventually develop either a) intellectual rigor to produce substantiated posts or b) shamelessness whereupon i’d just dump my insights in raw and be ok with criticism.

In the meantime, desperate for an outlet, i’ve taken to physical diary-writing. This is something i’ve not done for a long, long time (since i started this blog in 2006 actually!) So i guess this is kinda a reversion than anything else. Behold my freakishly neat text, at least until the end of the page:

 

 

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I may also have been unwittingly subjecting my friends in real life with more of my sporadic factoid outbursts, which may or (more frequently) may not be of interest to them. J pointed out that i have this tendency to introduce completely random facts to people, which are not conducive for further conservation, and thus makes things awkward. This discussion took place after a Mug’s dinner, where yes i do take liberties with, and often do as i please without considering social norms (because none of the Mugs adhere to this).

J, in one of his cutting wit moments, mumbled “autistic” when i whined on about how i just enjoyed sharing interesting factoids with friends. OFFENSIVE and never letting him forget this (!!!) It’s true though, in retrospect. That i have been using sentences very enthusiastically of the structure: “DID YOU KNOW THAT (insert psychological findings / weakly explained philo-physics / anything on my Feedly)” So maybe i have been a little excessive with that…

I’m sorry if any of you were subject to my outbursts. I guess it’s cause i’d rather have friends i know than unseen strangers on the internet judge me.

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On the other hand, my discussion with J took a weirder turn. His point was that people might not want to know or think about whatever shred of information i’ve dished out – because the topic isn’t of their interest. I insisted that people are, and that i’m always curious to know about issues i’m unfamiliar with. He attempted several times to initiate a topic that might bore me but failed. At last he landed on how binary works on computers 101010001011: he knew so intricately about the mechanisms, and i on the other hand was so fueled by fascination, that he spent quite awhile explaining its entire operation. And ended up being very impressed by his strangely detailed understanding of binary.