Feminism is Not a Movement: intersectionality, observer bias, and the nature of feminism

spiderjerusalemFeminism is a particular type of scientific philosophy. It informs many peoples’ decision-making processes, and is often mischaractarized as a “movement.” Such infantile construction suggests that it is something of a stand-alone complex, like Anonymous or neo-nazism. (This seems incredibly condescending, which you can only really pull off if you are also funny.)

A most egregious recent example of this solipsistic understanding of the word feminism can be found in the 5896-word opinionated screed “The Feminist Housewife” by Lisa Miller, which was published earlier this month on the front page of the New Yorker magazine.

Feminism is rooted in our modern understanding of the observer effect. Specifically, it is a branch of the social sciences dedicated to eliminating the Observer Expectancy Effect from sociology, psychology, ethnology and the other disciplines comprising the nebulous and ever developing science of history.

Root feminism rejects religious dogma and gender existentialism as both being equally meaningless to the dialog of enlightened individuals. It goes further than basic science, in this regard. It rejects the notion that a soft-science professional can operate in an existential vacuum while sharing the same community as the population being studied. Feminism is about science driected by observation and interaction with the test pool, instead of y hierarchical hypothesis and sequential elimination of the straw-man supposiitions. Feminsim creates dialogs organically , following the narrative vectors of men and women themselves, instead of any hegemonic orthodoxy. It is easily the most anarchistic of the scientific disciplines.

Men’s rights activists would likely argue that the ideas for feminist science came from men; published contemporary and antecedent works by famous male physicists which point towards the eventual codification of feminist research by female academics include the works of Bell, Heisenberg and Gödel. They say it takes a smart man to write down something very simple, and certainly the English vernacular is littered with the tombstones of dead white men, each on e announcing a particularly confounding & illuminating nature of one phenomena or another. Instead of using precise language which actually describes the concepts implicit in our science  we instead use the hallowed halls of our dictionary to pay immortal homage to some ultimately fungible brief moment of divine inspiration in a dead individual’s life. The language of rape culture is indeed creepy and recalcitrant. Narcissism is woven into its very capitalist fabric.

This same narcissism pollutes modern feminism, much as it infects the preponderance of our cultural landscape. Young girls raised on Disney Princess ideals believe their parents when informed that they can be anything they want, including the final word on the definition of Feminism, which of course they can’t. One could no more easily aspire to be the final word on physics.

(I like some of the ideas here, but mostly it just seems self-indulgent… words for the sake of words. Let’s flesh out some of the ideas, or go through and pick out some more quotes/ideas to critique from the original article.)

Nonetheless, The Feminist Housewife” was published, and seems to be sounding a clarion call that observer-bias is just, like, you know, an opinion. Fair enough. We are each a distinct sensory apparatus for the divine, and who am I to claim that physical reality applies equally to all. I have no idea what is going on in Lisa Miller’s mind, even if I might have some rudimentary knowledge of the neuro-physiology involved in her being able to experiences it. All I have is her published work, which is I am sorry to report is horrible.

(This seems like it should be funny, but I don’t get it.)

Let’s begin with bad data. This is a problem all scientists have to deal with. The piece in question reads:

“The number of stay-at-home mothers [SAHMs] rose incrementally between 2010 and 2011, for the first time since the downturn of 2008. While staying home with children remains largely a privilege of the affluent (the greatest number of America’s SAHMs live in families with incomes of $100,000 a year or more), some of the biggest increases have been among younger mothers, ages 25 to 35, and those whose family incomes range from $75,000 to $100,000 a year.”

Actual research (which scientists do) suggests that statistic (that most SAHM have a household income of greater than $75K) is dead wrong. According to the data, the less money a household with children in it makes, the more likely it is that the mother is not employed, and SAHMs are by and far non-white women of low income.

Factual inaccuracies aside, the piece paints a revealing picture of the privileged lifestyles enjoyed by the modern upper-echelon of motherhood. The pervasive attitude is one of a divine birthright, placing rich yet subservient (to whom?) cis-womanhood as the foundation of the desirable modern hearth.

This fawning self-praise and glorification of all things hyper-feminine is like a tacit rejection of the capacity for rational thought and constructive interpersonal discourse. As women become the masters of the various different jargon dividing the classic disciplines of the scientific establishment, there can be a tendency to  lose sight of the revolution that feminism puts on the table, that of a body of knowledge which is self-compiling, removed from any observational contamination by the science itself (let’s talk more about the sciencey stuff). This is the definition of a noble goal, and to reject it is to reject the enlightenment & everything since.

The problems with this piece go beyond bad data. There is either chicanery or idiocy at play here. The piece later uses a handily-anonymous quote from a presumably imaginary stereotypical homosexual to further its inanity. “‘We look at straight people,’ a gay friend said to me recently as we were comparing anecdotes about husbands, ‘and we think marriage must be so much easier for them.'”  Wow. It’s totally believable that your nameless gay friends are as unable to speak succinctly about the peculiarities of gender essentially as you are. Are you hiding the speaker’s identity because they are gay? That seems a little homophobic.

(Don’t really get the point of this paragraph.)

The piece continues in much this vein, using supposition, anecdote and blatant falsification to argue that the mental gymnastics involved in seeing the world outside the confines of one’s own conditioned perceptions are not worth the effort. Not when one can simply leave being bossed-around at work to your husband, and spend the days bossing your kids around instead (as one quoted mother brags of doing.)

“And yet. I am not immune to the notion that I have powers and responsibilities as a mother that my husband does not have. I prepare our daughter’s lunch box every morning with ritualistic care, as if sending her off to school with a bologna sandwich made by me can work as an amulet against all the pain of my irregular, inevitable absences.”



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