Thursday, January 26, 2017

The continued relevance of feminism and other protest movements

The alt-right will insist there is no longer any need for feminism. In so doing, they will lampoon the perspective of some crazy YouTubers or radical ideologues, ignoring the majority of ordinary, everyday women who understand (and experience the fact) that systemic or cultural sexism still exists - even in the West. And even if its occurrence has been vastly reduced over the past four decades.

Other ordinary, everyday people will understand and experience the fact that racism, xenophobia, homophobia and religious persecution are also still woven into the fabric of all societies - including Western ones.

To assume that all those who recognise the continued existence of some level of systemic or cultural discrimination in society are "radicals" who have some "agenda" flies in the face of fact. Clear, incontrovertible fact (not "alternative fact").

Consider feminism. If it is no longer an issue in Western society, then why have such a large number of female surgeons in Australia recently reported that they were being sexually harassed in the workplace or having their careers destroyed due to blatant, systemic gender-based discrimination?

And in terms of history, do we really think that in such a short time (a few decades), full equality would be established between the sexes - given our (recent) shameful past? Consider the short video below:

Yes, I'm a "humanist". But since I have seen discrimination against women in the workplace first-hand (in reasonably recent times) I'll also be a "feminist" until such time as I feel systemic or cultural discrimination against women has been more or less eliminated from our society. Humanism does not obviate or invalidate feminism: the latter is a focused perspective of the former, addressing one particular aspect of social inequality.

In the same vein, humanism doesn't make the statement "black lives matter" irrelevant because "all lives matter".

Yes "all lives matter". But that hardly addresses the concerns of those whose lives don't seem to matter - especially when statistics make it clear that there is a societal ambivalence towards black incarceration rates and deaths in places like the US and Australia (an ambivalence that would certainly not be tolerated if that figure represented whites).

So I will continue to protest the fact that black lives also matter until there is a change in the attitude of the prevailing majority; until we start to recognise that this is a problem we must solve together - not one we must "accept as inevitable/unavoidable" or for which we apportion blame to the victims.

I will also protest discrimination against the LGBTI community until such time as this community has the same rights as any other subset of society.

And I will protest the rights of refugees - especially those fleeing wars we helped start and prolong.

And so on.

In other words, I can be a "humanist" and also be an advocate for each group of people that suffers systemic and cultural discrimination - and in each guise have a different label ("feminist", "anti-racist", "LGBTI ally", "refugee advocate" etc.). I can and will support any group when it is subject to discrimination or other unfairness.

And I don't care if you pejoratively call me a "social justice warrior". I've never called myself that, but if you insist, I'll happily wear the label as a badge of honour.

But I don't appreciate you simplistically lumping me with some radical ideologues or crazy YouTubers, looting/rioting protesters or objectionable misandrists/reverse racists etc. There are radicals everywhere: this doesn't change levels of inequality/unfairness in our societies - nor the need to address these levels of inequality/unfairness. The "left" and "right" both have extremes. This has nothing to do with the fact that certain groups continue to face systemic or cultural discrimination.

We have a way to go - even in the West - to achieve equality. Maybe we need "warriors" to make it happen - even if that means that some of these will overstate or radicalise their case.

The fact that you are personally doing "just fine" is irrelevant to me. The fact that in your industry you never see sexism/racism/bigotry is of no particular interest to me. The fact that some YouTuber has concocted some outrageously radical ideology that you want to correct is also neither here nor there. These sorts of "internet battles" between relatively privileged people hardly reflect reality.

Furthermore, the fact that you have your focus on some other disadvantaged group (which you consider more deserving of your attention) does not diminish my concerns in relation to any particular type of discrimination that catches my attention.

So as a writer I will use my "pen" to make my voice heard.

I won't be silent while people like Piers Morgan utter nonsense about "male emasculation" due to women marching - comments that have all the logic of the "war on Christmas" propaganda (one of Piers' master's - Rupert Murdoch's - favourite obsessions in the US over the last eight years). Especially when Piers Morgan is not some random YouTuber but a high profile "journalist" who is using his considerable exposure to help the current US administration set back women's hard-fought reproductive rights.

Given the current political climate, the relevance of movements to protect those who are unfairly discriminated against has never been higher.
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