Friday, August 09, 2013

In a Thread Regarding Perception of Feminism and Feminists

There was a post on the /r/feminisms subreddit linking to an article by Noah Berlatsky featured on Slate.com about the role of men/males in feminist issues, and that specifically feminism is something which benefits both sexes(there is also a brief aside regarding a pews metaphor which I liked as well).  The commentary, itself, is alright(albeit rather short) and does make some points which I'll try to address at another time, though my interest for this post is in responding to a comment on the reddit submission page.  To see the rest of the comments on the submission, click on the first link in this paragraph.  My thoughts are in a thread of the following:

User flamesflight commented, "I think feminism has done a poor job conveying that patriarchy is harmful to men and children as well."

Hamiltonica replied, "I think the media representation of feminism has done a poor job of that."

flamesflight responded, "It is not the "media's" responsibility to clearly communicate our message. It is up to us to utilize the media available to do so."

To which outwrangle stated, "Well when the media systematically silences feminist voices and shuts us out of the public discourse... yeah, I'd say the media is responsible somewhat."

My response is pasted below with a minor edit, 'It's' changed to 'This is' in the latter portion.

"I'd say it's part of the heterogeneous makeup of why this misconception is held. There are certainly outlets which have a vested interest in misrepresenting what feminist issues are, what a feminist is, what their values are, etc. Let's say that Talk Radio generally as well as Fox News might fit this bill. However, there are also others who either are trying to do the 'just the facts' job or those who are even advocates for feminist issues. Let's say that's NPR and MSNBC for the sake of an idealized argument (I recognize both outlets certainly have history and current hosts who might bely this broad stroke).

The feminists who are seen/heard on hostile outlets like Talk Radio and Fox News are generally fewer and further between, as its not their audience's perspective and in fact many are predisposed to being anti-feminist so the more effectively a feminist can be caricatured as some sort of proto-matriarchal amazonian beast creature, the better. On NPR and MSNBC those who will be seen and heard are going to be the spokespeople or leaders of the prominent and powerful organizations which are dedicated to the cause. Generally speaking the leaders of these institutions are going to be in these positions because of some kind of perceived ability on the part of those people that make up the organization. While that might be a haphazard way of putting it, I'll try to rephrase and say the people that are the leaders of advocacy groups are those liked most by people self-identifying and participating in these groups, and therefore the leaders are going to be best suited to speaking to like-minded individuals, elsewise they're not going to be in a positions of authority on the topic.

Why this matters in my opinion (and this extends beyond feminist issues and is more directly an issue having to do with hyperpluralizaion in society, more visibility due to modern media, as well as our diminishing ability to communicate meaningfully when more and more of our lives is involved in pursuits which don't involve interaction with other people or is long distance and anonymized) is that say I'm an honestly confused person wanting to be better educated on feminism and those people who support it. Also there is no internet to look the stuff up on(since it's a relatively recent advent and many consumers of news media of any ideology don't bother to do the digging, themselves). There's either these people over here telling me feminists are anti-male nazis and their examples are the shrill freakouts allowed on the air, there's this other group that says they're legitimate and the people they bring on don't really speak to me or to others not on-board with the cause already, and there's this other group that says feminism is more critically needed than ever before and the feminists they highlight seem to take the opinion that anyone not supporting feminist causes has got to be a consciously complicit member of the patriarchal society and the the cause.

This is an environment where public discourse is present, and feminists are in fact being recognized but it's so fragmented there's not a true 'public' discourse so much as catered private discourses that inflame their respective audiences to distrust even engaging with 'the others' which is in my opinion part of the engagement in discourse in the first place."

I attempt to bring the topic around to an issue which I've been working on as part of the group of posts Intellectuals, Elitists and Public Discourse, which is the 'purpose' of public discourse.  This is not to demean women's issues; rather, I think no matter how important or mundane the topic of discussion being engaged in, we who are invested in seeing our perspective be taken onboard by others both apathetic and critical of our opinions owe it to the seriousness of the topic, the time we spend considering these things and to the intelligence and humanity of those we're attempting to convince to consider the manner in which we discuss these things to mitigate unfair and inaccurate portrayals of those views as well as to 'speak to' uncertain or antagonistic factions such that there is a real grasp of what the actual positions and true principles we hold are.

As always, I solicit for the perspectives of any who read this and consider it worthwhile to respond.