Saturday, May 31, 2014

Primal Music, Elliot Rodger, and the Hijacking of Women's Advocacy

This whole Elliot Rodger thing has me all shook up. And I'm really surprised at the total lack of nuanced analysis. It's all second amendment crap, hand-wringing around male brutality, and the inadequacies of our legal and mental health systems. There is little talk of male obsolescence or any of the other nasty, unforeseen consequences of a hijacked feminism. Women have made great strides on a lot of fronts, and deservedly so, but my concern is that such gains come at a price that disenfranchised men are beginning to tally up. I am not here to argue for the accuracy of their accounting, only to point out that I think it's happening.

My concern is that Mr. Rodger represents the tip of the iceberg. I sense a simmering resentment toward women, globally, that could get a whole lot uglier.

God protect us.

Let's go back a generation or two to see how this all got started. And, so you know that I'm not making this up, I got a lot of this information from a wonderful 2005 paper written by Hester Eisenstein, Dangerous Liaison? Feminism and Corporate Globalization.

White women in the 50s were bored. They wanted more opportunity in the forms of employment, education, and political participation. These were boom times, after all, and women wanted a piece of the action without having to work through any middlemen. In this case, the obstructive middleman was her family.

Women got together on this and there were grounds for dissatisfaction. Enough noise was made in the name of creating equal opportunities for men and women, particularly in the workplace, that people started paying attention. Although initially grating, as any break with accepted norms will be, it didn't take too long for corporate America to get behind this new feminism in a big way. A larger labor pool meant lower wages and more profits. A woman with money in her pocket did not have to consult her husband on purchases. This in turn increased demand for goods and services. Globalization, with its lopsided trade agreements, exported these ideas to the developing world. Industry was thrilled to have such a cheap and willing supply of third-world women who were equally thrilled to give up the rice paddies for a seat behind a sewing machine. The circle was complete when, with all of those suburban white women advancing in their corporate careers, cheap female labor could be imported from developing countries to take care of the house. The shackles of domesticity had been plated with silver and passed a little further down the economic chain.

Proponents of neoliberalism took full advantage of the increasing desire among women for economic independence. Welfare programs initiated as part of the New Deal were dismantled. Women and children were expected to work rather than receive government handouts that were initially calculated on the basis of familial support. Except there was no more family to support. The divorce rate soared along with the growth of single-parent homes.

The New Imperialists also came to love a strong feminist. Advocates of American imperialism see the world as divided in two: those that are open to American economic practices, and those that are not. In parts of the world where the family unit remains strong, accusations of outmoded patriarchal repression are linked convincingly with sensational media accounts of brutal misogyny to paint the picture of a people that need to be taught a little something about freedom and the marketplace. Islamic finance, with its various charitable devices and 2% flat tax for all but the poorest individuals and its populist condemnation of usury is anathema to the interest-based financial instruments of American banks. But, with all of their women covering their hair, are such things even worth considering?

Militant capitalism and its rapacious endorsement of profits at the expense of people requires that society be fragmented, broken down into its smallest possible paying unit: the individual. Feminism, for all of its initial promise and intent in rectifying the injustices perpetuated against women, has been totally and completely hijacked in order to further American corporate and ideological interests. This is possible because freedom and independence are the common rallying points for all camps.

What does this have to do with a depressed and totally unstable kid rampaging through a college town with the intent to destroy women?

Selling freedom and independence without qualification sets us all up for some pretty wild expectations. I should be having more sex than I am. I should be having more fun than I am. I should not be forced to respect anything or anybody that stands in the way of my happiness.

Sexual agency, economic opportunity, and the right to do as one pleases without consideration for established societal norms are all objectives of the women's movement that have been amplified and exploited by vested political and corporate interests. And this is accomplished in part by celebrating unrestrained freedom and independence as the only alternatives to oppression and subjugation. These are entirely false dichotomies. And if we buy into them we will come to hate the things that we believe keep us down, whether despots, husbands, or sorority girls.

What happened to cooperation? Compromise? Interdependence? Are these not also alternatives to oppression and subjugation? Is our self-determination really an all-or-nothing enterprise?

Primal music can't happen without a willingness to work together. Whether we are drumming or singing, the music doesn't happen unless we're listening to one another. But it's not necessarily an egalitarian exercise. There must be someone to lead the song. In it's purest manifestation, this is an experienced reality, not an articulated rule. It happens quite naturally, but the participation of all is necessary or the song is compromised.

As we remember the fallen students of Isla Vista and the Dalit girls of Uttar Pradesh and the oppressed and abused peoples all over the world, let us not forget that we are all connected in huge and mysterious ways. Good intentions must always be balanced with a healthy dose of circumspection and when things go bad somewhere, there's no doubt that we had some small part to play.

We are responsible for the world.

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