For readers of this post who have not yet regarded any of my previous entries, a primary theme of my non-fiction writing is equality of opportunity. Shorthand: People should count as individuals who cooperate as part of a social contract, one that allows everyone an equal chance at a successful outcome without forcing equal outcomes on everyone. Those who work hard and exhibit decency towards others should reap rewards, while those who are lazy and discourteous should lag behind. What is inappropriate is providing advantages or imposing disadvantages on people for characteristics beyond their control: sex, gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, and so forth.
Much of my writing comes from a feminist perspective, a term that I do not find, in its true sense, to be profane or toxic. The fact of the matter is that by mere accident of being born a female (and I distinctly mean female here, rather than woman) a person faces certain disadvantages. Growing up I greatly admired women and many of my role models are as well, so I became increasingly fixated on these inequities as I matured.
That results in considerable bias in my writing. When I write about gender equality, my focus is actually on the disadvantages facing those who are not heterosexual cis males. Naturally, the heterosexual cis male population, to which I myself belong, sometimes take exception to those positions.
This is a challenge the feminist and LGBTQ rights movements often face – those who stand in the way of those rights view equality as a sort of zero-sum game in which any gains by the other group must come at their expense. Part of that is a failure on the part of writers such as myself and scholars who act more as social litigators than scientists. For example, when I write, my interest is not in describing the nuances of sexual politics in a scientific way – I hear the troubled experiences of members of those communities and observe them myself, then I advocate for change against those problems.
Advocating for change against a set of problems – specifically, arguing that one group suffers a disadvantage; therefore implying the other group has an advantage or privilege – should not be mistaken for the rigorous scientific process.
My last entry attempted to address some of this by highlighting that all sides have concerns that we need to address, and we often struggle because advocates on each side see the implied aggression of the other and debate those points, where in reality what we need are those sides to come together with the scientific assessment of the situation to address all sides.
For example, I know my writing about feminism, with concepts such as “patriarchy” and “toxic masculinity”, incurs the wrath of men (and some women) who view feminism (especially the modern wave) as going too far. Men do face problems unique to them, and some feminist efforts have become, either by accident or design, a double-edged sword posing hazards to men.
When men advocate this position back to feminists, such as me, the reflex is to withdraw to the internal advocacy, rephrase the position as it relates to one’s own perspective, and then volley it back.
Unemployed working class men tend to struggle more than women in the same group. As a feminist, I might argue, “That’s not because of feminism – that’s because of the patriarchy. It’s because we socialise men to be a certain way – the provider, the breadwinner, and when that fails, society, not feminists, punish them unfairly. It’s the same bullshit set of gender expectations that creates gender wage gaps in other segments of the economy”.
Back and forth the two sides go, both with valid points and both sometimes overstepping their bounds because, again, the point is advocating a particular position. We live in a social courtroom rife with attorneys and witnesses, but no adjudicator. The trial has no real format and no definite endpoint, though most in the courtroom decided upon a verdict long ago.
This approach has been especially vitriolic in the United States. Gun rights versus gun control. BlackLivesMatter versus BlueLivesMatter. Conservative versus Liberal. Republican versus Democrat. White versus, well, pretty much everyone.
My question today is more for European friends as I have already seen more than I need to of American discourse lately. I have a skewed perspective of European life. Apart from Brexit, the United Kingdom and Ireland seem decidedly more peaceful. Much of Scandinavia appears to be a hallmark of democracy and freedom. I am also quite sure that plenty of Brits, Scots, Welsh, Irish, Swedes, Danes, and Norwegians would be quick to correct me on that. But living in a world of digital echo chambers, the only way short of protracted visits to attempt to understand life abroad is to open up the discussion to those individuals.
Let me hear from you – tell me about life and the state of discourse in your country. Do you feel that things are mostly civil with a path towards agreement, or do things feel more dichotomous than ever?