You ever go to pick out a birthday card and then you're reading it and thinking, "ommigod, this one is exactly right" and then you get to the end and it says, "Jesus loves you" or something that just ruins the whole thing? That has nothing to do with the article I've just read, but it almost did so there.
I am first going to start off with noting that Ophelia Benson is in my estimation a tone troll of the worst order. The worst order because she's popular, and that provides a non-linearity with respect to what she says versus the impact it creates. If she were just a comment section tone troll, she'd be harmless enough. But she's not so she is. Second, I want to note that she's not a categorical idiot. She is at times a careful thinker in a substantive way as opposed to merely being crafty in word selection.
Being a tone troll like she is, she is concerned with presentation. Even to the exclusion of thought and substance. I sometimes appreciate the way she's able to so often write so much and convey so little actual information of any substance at all. Political writing would be suited to her talent in that regard. But she does raise interesting questions if only consistently by accident. So, there we are.
She writes that in her estimation this whole Twatson Nontroversy has been absolutely riddled with a meme (which I infer she accepts predates the current nontroversy) that feminism is bad and awful because feminists purport to speak for all women. This statement is breathtakingly moronic. First, there isn't a person I've read who is arguing that feminism is by definition bad or awful, let alone delineated the extent to which it is either or both. "So awful" establishes a finite, yet unspecified, measure of awfulness possessed by something, feminism in this case. But she does inadvertently bring up a topic that's worth some attention.
She notes that "all political and moral views" do as much as that. All of them, no exceptions permitted, make the explicit claim that something is better than something else not just for me, but for all people. But then she adds the caveat that it's in regards to the all people in whatever group is being addressed. This omits a feature that she clearly deems either non-existent or insignificant (or she simply hasn't given it quite enough thought yet), which is to say that most "groups" into which one may be placed are self-selected, and are in perpetuity revisable at any moment. In other words, being a republican is a self-given label. It isn't a contract that binds one for life, and one may opt out of being a republican at any moment, for any or no reason. So, in this regard, all political movements are completely irrelevant as this feature distinguishes inclusion as a republican as fundamentally different than inclusion as a woman.
Yes, I suppose women can opt out of being women through surgical means, but that still makes it distinguishable in a way that excludes its being analogous to self-selecting into a political camp; leaving there doesn't require of one years long preparation, consultation with mental health, and surgical professionals to see if one is even a viable candidate to leave the group. Further, no one is able to decline to let you leave a political movement whereas medical and surgical specialists are freely able to decline letting you leave your gender. To conflate one of these as being on par with the other is simply a category error. And it's sufficiently gross enough to completely ruin the analogy.
Then there's the moral view analogy. One is also free to exempt one's self from any moral ideology, and we do this all the time. The Taliban thinks it's immoral for women to not be covered head to toe. We in the west as almost by definition reject that this is a moral precept, and thus exempt ourselves from its mandate.
In neither of these cases do we say the reason these are bad and awful is because, say, the Taliban purport to speak for all humans. No, we say they're bad and awful because they oppress disfavored groups. It would the same reason we'd give if they said, for example, that the ideology only holds true for Muslims. Or people living in California. Or just six people whom they declare by name. It would be just as bad and awful independent of how many people they claim the right oppress is theirs. The bad and awful part is the claim they are entitled in some way to determine that any other human is their property, even if they only claimed the right to own 6 people.
Ophelia concedes that in some regards feminism does claim to speak for all women. Presumably this applies to the extent that all forms of feminism claim the right to not be subject to ownership by men, not to be considered as less valuable as humans, not to be less valuable than men are valuable. Beyond that, no two sets of feminist varieties have much in common. The reason I used the "not less" line of reasoning instead of "are equal" is because the "are equal" bit doesn't apply to all forms of feminism. Not even all forms of feminism engender the idea that all women everywhere are free agents and should get to dictate the course of their own lives.
At any rate, the salient feature here is that women cannot in any practical way opt of being women. And there are groups of feminists who exclude from full standing as a woman those women who don't adopt their particular brand of feminism. This is the idea of being a gender traitor - one is really of the opposing gender. Their genitalia are just happenstance inconveniences, a plot of nature to throw in a trojan horse man in the guise of a woman. Her vagina isn't really a vagina; it's an invaginated penis, which doesn't, alas, qualify that woman as being a full woman. This dismissal from the gender is done for the great offense of heresy against doctrine.
That is what makes the recent ordeal bad and awful, not that it purports to represent all women. But that it does so against the wishes of the people its advocates purport they are represent: it will represent and define you, and you have no choice in the matter.
This is its repugnance; it's an ideology whose remit includes forcing others to forgo their own ideas on account of their having vaginas. Failing to adopt the Truth gets one relegated to being sub-woman. So, there's a group to which one belongs, which one can't on one's own leave, but has a group within it who will exclude you as being a full member for failing to obey. Now, of course labeling someone the much loved title of gender traitor doesn't actually exclude one from continuing to be a full woman, but that's only because the the Right and True feminists have no way to physically make that a reality.
If I join up as a democrat, there's no democrat, or set thereof, who can remove from me the label of democrat. There is also no democrat, or set thereof, who can deny me the right exempt myself from being a member of the group.
Being a woman isn't like that and to compare one with another is fallacious. And quite a bit disingenuous, if not just outright fucking retarded.
She mentions of feminism, "It’s always been demanding – it’s always urged women to be more than they currently are, which is guaranteed to be annoying and irksome."
No, Ophelia. Some instances of it urge this. Other varieties urge women to be less than they are because it demands they forgo their own freedoms to lead their lives in a way that best suits their wants and needs by adopting a philosophy these women find repugnant to their morality. This is not an argument to improve one's self; rather the contrary in fact.
Her claim is that we find certain forms of feminism bad because they attempt to speak for all women. This is explicitly not the case. They are repugnant not because they attempt to speak for all women, but because they attempt to silence all women who reject someone who is not simply speaking for them in that "descriptive" kind of way, but because the speaking for bit is meant to represent the thoughts that all women have - against the consent of many women. Hell, there are certain forms of feminism we find positively outstanding in all regards, and they purport to represent all women as being free agents who can decide for themselves what best serves their own interests, wants and needs. Indeed, it's a kind of feminism which purports to speak for all women, minus those who would like not to be spoken for. Oddly enough, the feminists who are representing all women in that "let all women decide for themselves what they want to be and how they want to be it" tend to be the ones who don't attempt to exclude from womanhood those women who, on the merits of the claim I've just made, decide not to be aligned with that branch of feminism. Fucking irony there - you can't get out of it on purpose . . . by definition . . . because the definition is such that "hey - do what you want and bear your own consequences. We're fucking fine with that all day long". So, these feminists would gladly excuse from the movement all who don't want to be in it.
But to choose not to be in it perversely makes you part of it! And I don't think it's evil one fucking jot, or bad or awful. Indeed, it's what I'd call mature. And sophisticated. And equality.
[Jesus loves you, and your doggystyle too]