Ideology—particularly an ideology based on the empowerment of any individual—should not need a gatekeeper. Modern feminism’s doctrine requires women to cede some of their personal autonomy and march in intellectual lockstep on certain ideas and positions if they want to receive the support of movement leaders. So long as feminism propagates this kind of subjugation, it betrays it's foundational mandate.
Individualism, Not Collectivism
I have experienced misogyny, but I am not a feminist. Witnessing first-hand the indolent, specious fumbling that passes for an analytical process in those who pre-judge the abilities of women and stick stubbornly to their derogatory views, ignoring the contradictory evidence of their own eyes, taught me an important lesson: character is what defines a person. And character is a creature of individual being. What is in a person’s heart and mind has nothing to do with some endemic value ascribed to gender or skin color or some other distinguishing facet ultimately superficial and irrelevant to who a person is fundamentally.
Judgments, if they are to be useful, need to be rooted in substance, which means character should be the determining factor in one’s assessment of a person.
This is why I am an individualist, not a feminist. Feminism is a collective ideology, its more recent iterations particularly so. Under collectivist epistemologies value is distorted: an individual’s worth is a product of their contribution to the ends of the broader group. Sovereignty is all but eradicated—for this hierarchy between the group and its constituent members requires conformity—and individual worth is diminished. Fostering individual autonomy is counterproductive to the purposes of the group’s desired end, which is accomplished when the constituent members of the group all serve their diverse functions. The individual becomes a cog in a wheel; individual worth comes through identifying characteristics—gender in this case—that qualify one for membership in the group. This is not empowerment, it is a particularly perverse form of slavery, made all the worse because it is packaged as empowerment.
Orthodoxy and the No True Scotsman Fallacy
When confronted with evidence that defies its rigid and degrading ideas about women’s natural limitations, misogyny uses a variation of the “no true Scotsman” fallacy. Philosopher Antony Flew is credited with coining the term for this logical fallacy, which is detailed in his book How to Think Straight:
Imagine some aggressively nationalistic Scotsman settled down one Sunday morning with his customary copy of that shock-horror tabloid The News of the World. He reads the story under the headline, “Sidcup Sex Maniac Strikes Again.” Our reader is, as he confidently expected, agreeably shocked: “No Scot would do such a thing!” Yet the very next Sunday he finds in that same source a report of the even more scandalous ongoings of Mr. Angus MacSporran in Aberdeen. This clearly constitutes a perfect counterexample, one which definitively falsifies the universal proposition originally put forward…Allowing this is indeed such a counterexample, he ought to withdraw, retreating perhaps to a rather weaker claim about most or some Scotsmen. But even an imaginary Scot is, like the rest of us, human; and none of us always does what we ought to do. So instead he amends his statement to “No true Scotsman would do such a thing!” (2010, p. 49)
The no true Scotsman fallacy uses semantics to reduce a subject down to a set of unequivocally positive and negative qualities. The black-and-white virtue dichotomy that emerges is not based on any substantive outgrowth of a person’s character but is imposed externally by a person’s stereotyped and often arbitrary views of identifying characteristics such as race, gender or nationality. Foisting rigid moral constructs upon individuals strips from them the ability to define their own being. It truncates agency and allows it to be controlled and manipulated.
The no true Scotsman fallacy is operational in misogynists’ judgments of women: when a woman does something that confirms a sexist stereotype, that stereotype is validated. Any further analytical examination is rendered unnecessary. But when women rise above gender stereotypes, their ability is attributed to some external agent, usually a man, who is credited with instructing or inspiring them to some thought or action misogynists deem beyond them. Incorrect conclusions are not examined: the evidence is simply reinterpreted to neatly fit into preconceived conclusions.
But the Scotsman fallacy is also operational in modern feminism. Feminism has always been married to political activism, but whereas the suffragettes had simple and universal principles—the idea that all women ought to be afforded the same opportunities open to all men in society—modern feminists use philosophy more discriminately. The philosophical foundation upon which modern feminist initiatives rest is more myopic, used as a catch-all justification to affirm the righteousness of their supporters and denigrate the motives of those who happen to disagree. Take the Women’s March, which, if not the zenith of the modern feminist movement, is certainly its most visible organ.
Though the group rather presumptuously claims its agenda is a “tangible declaration of how we will protect and defend our rights, safety, health and communities” (Bernstein, 2017), thus assuming the authority to commands the voices of all women and use this presumed assent as a mandate in its political goals, it has in the past excluded certain feminist groups that sought to become its allies. In 2017, the Women’s March removed pro-life feminist group New Wave Feminists from a list of over 400 sponsors (Bernstein, 2017). Despite the broad-brush inclusivity of the Women’s March’s rhetoric, its policy agenda demands “open access to safe, legal, affordable abortion and birth control for all people, regardless of income, location or education” (The Women’s March 2019 Women’s Agenda, 2019). There is no such thing, leaders of the Women’s March claimed, as a “pro-life feminist.”
Whether or not one can be a pro-life feminist is irrelevant—and not only because this is a question of individual epistemology and not philosophical orthodoxy—because of the Women’s March absolute statement that it supports all women. This ought to mean leaders of the Women’s March wash their hands of any ability to use language to control what beliefs are representative of the movement. But rather than negate this statement and winnow its position in a way that reveals the platitudinous nature of their inclusive philosophical foundation to be specious bunk, leaders of the Women’s March have chosen to selectively redefine the term in a way that benefits their cause. Here the no true Scotsman fallacy is plainly at work: no true feminist would be pro-life.
By implication, there are such things as false feminists. The danger here is that it establishes ideological gatekeepers: toe the feminist orthodoxy and reap the rewards gifted by the benevolent network of sister support; but fall foul of the prescribed way of thinking and risk being branded a blood traitor.
This is something I’ve experienced first-hand. While in college, I took a creative writing course with a female professor who, at the time, gushed about my artistic abilities. But despite knowing something of who I was, despite knowing something of my abilities and ways of thinking, I nevertheless ceased to be a person of value the moment my thinking ran up against hers. I served as the opinion editor of my college’s newspaper. One week, I published a column by a regular conservative writer who decided to respectfully disagree with a feminist speech Emma Watson made at a United Nations conference. I had a strict editorial policy: critique the substance of arguments, do not cast character aspersions against people. The writer met this standard, so I published his article gladly.
But this did not stop a wave of vitriol and outrage from pouring into my email inbox. One of these came from my incensed creative writing professor, who assumed my prior connection with her gave her pull. She announced she was sending some responses by students my way and assumed I would publish them. I replied that I wouldn’t as I regularly published a column from a male feminist writer (who had already indicated his desire to respond in the next issue) and considered the matter closed. I also informed her of my strict editorial policy: I would not publish any argument that made its case by denigrating a person. As she’d already made some nasty insinuations about my anti-feminist writer, I had reason to suspect she was not going to abide by this standard.
For this, I was excoriated. She responded with a nasty screed of an email in which she accused me, among other things, of trampling on the sacrifices of my feminist forebears and not squandering the hard-rights I was, she insinuated, a traitor to my gender.
It’s not just that my lived experiences were dismissed, worse than that, they didn’t matter. Nor did what she knew of my character. I stood against her ideas and therefore deserved to be condemned.
And herein lies the real problem with any ideology that promotes an orthodoxy, particularly one bound up in collectivism: there is no room for pluralism. Dissent is not tolerated because of the good of the group—able, thanks to the pooled resources and abilities of its constituent members, to achieve much larger ends than could any person laboring alone—outweighs the goods of its individual members. Women who deviate from the orthodoxy undercut the group and therefore not only need to be cast out but marginalized. The moral dichotomy that necessarily arises from such a system reads evil into any opposition. It must, therefore, be assumed, that anyone not actively supporting the group is working to undermine it. This justifies, morally, the silencing of dissenting viewpoints.
Modern feminism requires gatekeepers. And it requires gatekeepers who actively work to truncate individual conscience. This is somewhat paradoxical, given how the Women’s March brag about their intersectionality, which it terms “a way to describe the experiences of identity that cross lines of gender, such as race, class, ability and sexual orientation, and come together to impact one’s experiences of moving through the world” (The Women’s March 2019 Women’s Agenda, 2019). But intersectionality is like a jigsaw puzzle: every piece has to be put in its proper place in order to serve its proper function and in service to the greater whole.
But we are talking here not about puzzle pieces but about human life. The very presumption that one’s identity means one has a proper role in society truncates free expression and the right to conscience. Pieces of identity that are deeply meaningful to individual expression become cheap tropes because they are useful as a means to further an end: to a world that properly balances the voices of different races, sexes, etc.
And this assumes value is to be found in any of the substantives that differentiate individuals from one another—talents, ways of thinking, interests, etc.—but in the physical features that visually distinguish individuals from one another—race, gender, nationality, etc. And this is deeply damaging to the individual’s ability to live life on the terms he or she dictates for himself. In fact, it is to deny individuals the ability to dictate the terms on which he or she wishes to live life.
Bernstein, L. (2017). “More pro-life groups removed as official partners of the Women’s March.” WJLA. Retrieved from: https://wjla.com/news/local/more-pro-life-groups-removed-as-partners-of-the-womens-march.
Flew, A. (2010). How to think straight: an introduction to critical reasoning. Prometheus Books. Retrieved from: https://books.google.com/books?id=946E5icMHJcC&dq=thinking
“The Women’s March 2019 women’s agenda.” (2019). Scribd. Retrieved from: https://www.scribd.com/document/397727839/The-Women-s-March-2019-Women-s-Agenda#from_embed
Felicity Sharpe Rebutting “Why I'm Not A Feminist”
Felicity Sharpe (Communism)
Katherine Revello (Classical Liberalism)
I would like to first to agree with Katherine that modern feminism is quite different to the feminism of the 1905-1950’s and even longer in some countries. But it’s interesting that a lot of Second Wave feminists are actually more pro-individual than the current type who have lost the true meaning of feminism. I also agree that modern feminism goes against its original mandate, but again, this is subjective, one could say that conditions for women now, and conditions when women were fighting for the vote, are very different. So the type of feminism needs to change too, but what “mandate’ are you taking about? Is this not subjective, and totally up to the individual?
In the article it states that feminists offer “contradictory evidence of their own eyes” but then states “this is why I’m an individualist, not a feminist”. This is the “No True Scotsman Fallacy” that Katherin's claims is feminism today. Women like Christina Hoff Sommers are individualists AND feminists so you can’t claim you can’t care about the individual (as many of the fighters for things like birth control or rights to work in the 1960’s-1970’s fought for the right for individual women to own their own bodies and to be able to buy land/property without a collective approval from family or a man) while being feminist. It was feminism afterall that fought for the right of women to sign their own work contracts and get their own education, how is this against the individual?
Ms. Revello then talks about experiences with feminists on a collage campus and the ensuing outrage when the writer published an article against Emma Watson. The funny thing about this is that she says she's a classical liberal, and normally a classical liberal understands freedom of speech. No one stopped them from publishing the article, but it seems that they expect everyone to agree with the article the fact of the article being published. Also, completely disparaging a movement because someone was acting irrationally and sending harassing emails is a bit of a stretch (also applicable is the logical fallacy of appeal of emotions).
Katherine speaks about the "No True Scotsman" fallacy for a page and yet only talks in this way. How is individualism anti-feminism? How is judging a whole movement due to the actions of some individualistic? I agree, as I’ve stated, that feminism has changed in vast ways, and as a Second Waver I totally get the hate for the often anti-woman and anti-speech modern feminism, but the writer does not answer the question of exactly why feminism is anti-individual. There has even been anarchist and free market feminists like Emma Goldman, but I believe the writer is wrong to suggest that one can’t be an individualist and feminist simultaneously.
Being a women is a part of a person's identity and to act on that identity is very much a classically liberal application.
Kristi Winters Rebutting "Why I'm Not a Feminist"
Kristi Winters (Liberalism)
Katherine Revello (Centrism)
It’s difficult to rebut an essay based on personal explanation, regardless of topic. However, all persuasive writing must have cogent points that are presented in an ordered and logical manner, leading the reader down a path - as it were - to the view the author persuades us to hold. In contrast, "Why I'm Not a Feminist" is a mix of personal experiences, side issues, and a focus on a two-year old women’s activist group as the stand in for all of feminist activism. The author makes a bold anti-feminist assertion up front, but then seems to forget to substantiate the opening thesis for the rest of the article.
“Modern feminism’s doctrines require women to cede some of their personal autonomy and march in intellectual lockstep on certain ideas and positions if they want to receive the support of movement leaders.” Ms. Revello then describes her own negative personal experience; expresses further personal opinions; and claims, rather bizarrely, that misogyny is a form of the "No True Scotsman Fallacy", before again returning to their own negative personal experiences. To quote Christopher Hitchens, “That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.” If her intent was to support their opening anti-feminist premise, then this piece is a failure. The assertions that follow the opening paragraph are not supported by evidence, thus no persuasive anti-feminist arguments are made.
The author fails to provide examples of so-called “modern feminist doctrines” or a source, which is important given feminism can refer to inter alia: anarchist, black feminism, difference, individualist, liberal, postmodern, radical, socialist or Marxist feminism. Where is the evidence that feminism requires ‘women’ (all women or just feminist women, and why not men?) to cede (how?), their personal autonomy (left unexplained) and march in intellectual lockstep (with whom?) if they are to receive support (in what form?) of movement leaders (unnamed beyond The Women’s March)?
The Women’s March is cited as the zenith of modern feminism. Why? Why focus on a nascent group instead of decades-old activist groups, e.g. The National Organisation for Women or Feminist Majority? Was Women’s March media coverage readily available in right-wing outlets and easier than comparative research on feminist organisations globally? It’s notable that the most egregious example of this supposed feminist control was that once in 2017 some anti-choice feminist groups were removed from a list of Women’s March sponsorship. Hardly lives up to the hype promised in the opening paragraph, does it?
If the goal of the Ms. Revello was to convince us to dislike feminists, they should have spent less time on off-topic logical fallacies/ tangents about collectivism vs individualism, and more on substantiating the points made in their opening premise. Overall, the piece lacks thematic coherence, a clear and guiding premise, thoughtful construction of a cogent argument that lasts the length of the article and supporting evidence to back its claims. In short,it amounts to little more than an unsubstantiated screed that leaves the reader with no takeaway point, purpose or sense of edification