Individualism as a Remedy for Feminism
The dichotomy put forth by feminists can hardly be considered intellectually rigorous or value-free. There is little need to state the obvious; male disadvantages and injustices as well as female privileges and aggressions do also exist. Feminism is an ideologically biased, emotionally fuelled, preconceived narrative, and must come to face the reality of ever-mounting opposing evidence.
In rhetoric, feminists often claim to “speak on behalf of” women and the marginalised (which is quite presumptuous in itself). Yet their sympathy only extends to what falls neatly into their narrative, and injustices that fall outside of their margins are blatantly ignored. Any reminder that, for example, males can also be victims of violence or discrimination, will usually be met with a dismissive and often offended tone, as the feminist begins to lecture on how much more oppressed the non-male population is.
Such behaviour is not only unbecoming and inconsiderate, but it also breeds a worrisome culture of victimisation (far from instilling empowerment), where discourse often devolves into status seeking (as opposed to substantive argumentation), resulting in a “more oppressed than thou” pecking order where the proclaimed “least privileged” enjoy the consolation prize of having the highest valued social currency of the group.
We’ve seen this often enough in other “progressive” settings. Anyone who may think of this as exaggerating need only examine the derailment of the Occupy movement. In the beginning, Occupy started as a group with understandable grievances against a concerning trend of political corruption. Later, however, it devolved (not solely for this reason, of course) into a movement more preoccupied with identity politics and giving precedence to those considered “the most marginalised” at the expense of everyone else who were seen as relatively “more privileged”.
Those who are genuinely concerned with injustices committed against humanity would be better off shedding divisive labels like feminism, and opt for a more concise and less polarising term to identify their views. When I stopped calling myself a feminist I did not stop believing in women’s rights. I am merely dissociating myself from the extremists who draw the most attention and drown out reasonable voices. Through the inclusive, non-presuming lens of individualism, advocates of dignity for all human beings need not resort to treating men hostilely as criminals until proven innocent nor gloss over the institutional advantages given to women. We also need not remain constrained to question begging narratives regardless of opposing evidence. Contrary to the holistic and unrefined social analysis of feminism, methodological individualism allows us to demystify men and women in a nonjudgmental manner in order to realise that legitimate concerns are to be had on both sides and that neither side is inherently at fault.
Perhaps most importantly, we need not objectify both men and women by confining them into the archetypes of “oppressor and oppressed” or “aggressor and victim.” This is simply because we’ve all been born into unique circumstances and enjoy certain unearned advantages over others. If nothing else, we are all equal in our individuality.
Acknowledging this is the first step toward not only recognising our own privileges (yes, even if you consider yourself the “most marginalised,”) but finding common ground with others who we may have considered to be “unfairly advantaged” in ways we found envious or contemptuous. Reality is indeed more complex than most of us would like to believe. Admitting that the “us versus them” mentality does no one any good, and can only hold society back as a whole, is a crucial step toward striving for not only intellectual honesty and credibility, but also a sense of personal contentment, as well as peace with those around us whom we were used to constantly comparing ourselves to and envying their perceived privileges.
The basic acknowledgement that men and women are different right down to the biological level should be noncontroversial and evident to us all at this point. Yet the logical implications of this is where feminists take issue and feel obligated into taking dogmatic stances, which can be inconsistent with modern science (especially evolutionary biology, cognitive science, economics, and cultural anthropology), as well as risk sounding hypocritical (supporting discriminatory quotas and coercive regulations in the name of “equality” and “fairness”).
Given the continually piling scientific evidence, there does not seem to be much (if any) empirical grounds to simply assume that all outcomes in social and economic life ought to somehow result in either equality, or the fulfilment of arbitrary, ideological quotas. If feminists truly want to empower women, they must start by supporting freedom of choice for employers to hire the best applicants they see fit for the position. Any compulsory public policies, no matter how well intentioned, will only result in an increase in resentment (and thus added conflict) toward that preferred group and the suspicion that they may not be qualified for the job based solely off of their own merit, even if that wasn’t true (or the quotas would not have been necessary to begin with).
What we must advocate, then, is an increase in overall individual freedom so that the truly qualified of all genders, races, etc. may flourish and thus everyone as a whole may benefit from having the most qualified people serve the needs of society. Making excuses and demanding entitlements signals to the world that you are not fit for positions which require exceptional resilience and thick skin in the face of potential uncertainty and adversity.
This is particularly true for roles considered to be positions of leadership, such as the CEO of a corporation. Feminists do women a disservice when they demand that more women ought to be given leadership positions. As any established leader will tell you, neither credibility nor respect is ever simply handed to you (and for good reason). Instead, one must earn a high reputation amongst their peers by outperforming their contemporaries and proving their superior skill, knowledge, resolution, and so on.
There are certain jobs which do in fact fit one gender better over another. That is not to say that only this particular gender is fit for the job, but simply an acknowledgement that they tend to be better suited, mentally or physically, for the tasks required. Thus, when these differences manifest themselves into reality, we must not make baseless assumptions which jump immediately to the conclusion of sexism just because the reality of an academic field or an industry does not conform to an idealised bias for “equality” (or a specific quota) and may even naturally trend toward the “overrepresentation” (in the descriptive, non-normative sense) of a particular gender.
For example, it should not be a mystery as to why men throughout the majority of human history have made better soldiers. It is not merely due to their physical strengths, but the common sense realization that, in early human societies where survival was at a premium, humans could ill afford to send their women off to potentially die knowing they were crucial to reproducing the next generation of protectors, workers, and future mothers.
Men, on the other hand, have been historically considered to be disposable (at least relatively speaking). If one man dies, the rate of new births need not change too much since one man can reproduce with more than one woman if need be. But if one woman dies, it could be a potentially devastating blow to a small society’s survival or, at the very least, a substantial setback. Thus, women were in fact the higher valued gender throughout human history, for it was their supply which determined the difference between social advancement, subsistence, or possible endangerment.
When it comes to more modern occupations, we must embrace the general principle of personal liberty and freedom of choice over “equality at all costs.” After all, why pressure young girls into becoming engineers or CEOs if they would like to do something else? These are not objectively superior jobs which they ought to strive for and often come with a level of stress and responsibility that most people in general do not prefer.
The types of work feminists usually try to push on young girls are often male dominated, but more notably, they tend to be jobs that society usually considers venerable, coming with high social status and above average pay and benefits. There are many male dominated lines of work that we rarely (if ever) see feminists encouraging girls to join when they enter the workforce. Some examples of these jobs include garbage collection, construction, mining, ditch digging, sewer maintenance, perhaps by now you get the point. Is it unfair to question the sincerity of feminist equality given these many inconsistencies?
Some feminists concede that quota based equality is impractical or unrealistic and that they merely support equality of opportunity instead. They may pay lip service to supporting equal opportunity in theory as well as women’s choice in general, yet when women’s choices do not conform to their own egalitarian constructs, and equal opportunity does not appear to be enough, they conclude that the choice was not only invalid, but that it must have been based off of false “patriarchal” pretences or some other unfalsifiable exercise in value projection, and not their own values.
This is not only condescending, but it further objectifies women and assumes they’re not individuals capable of making their own choices (as well as being responsible for the outcome) independently of feminists who have the presumed authority to “speak on their behalf.” It also shows a streak of elitism and assumes feminists know what is objectively in the best interest of an individual just because they happen to be female. Can any reasonable adult truly claim to know what’s in the best interest of any young person whom they don’t even personally know?
It should not be assumed that there are too few women in S.T.E.M. fields, politics, the financial sector, etc. and that they ought to be nudged into these areas if many would prefer to choose careers in liberal arts, teaching, homemaking, or some other “traditionally female” career. They should not be pressured into jobs they may not be best mentally or physically suited for (or even like) simply because feminists want to spite “the Patriarchy” and make a grand statement that women can achieve the same accomplishments as men.
Women are not chess pieces to be used to give credence to political agendas. Nor should men be used by scare tacticians as scapegoats and boogeymen for any and every social ill that exists in the world today. If a girl has no interest in careers traditionally “underrepresented” by women, then it should not be assumed that she simply hasn’t been “pushed hard enough in the right direction.” Nor should she be shamed for choosing a less prestigious career path and not “aspiring” to the expectations that feminists have set for her.
If this essay accomplishes anything, hopefully it opens some minds and helps show that this insecurity and polarisation need not exist. Far from being conflicting classes pitted against each other, men and women are natural compliments to one another. Feminism indulges in ideological narratives, emotional thinking, and invents social conflict when individuals try to argue with common sense and scientific knowledge. We should embrace individualism, and discard the harmful sophistry of a lost cause.