Feminism: Converting in times of dissolution

A contribution by Michail Savvakis from 26 October 2011.

It is common to think that in order to change something in society, one has to be persuaded. But this is a somewhat dreamy idea that assumes that people act primarily out of cognition and reason. However, one should say goodbye to this idea, because it too easily puts one in argumentative dependence on those who arbitrarily refuse to declare themselves convinced. Even if they are, in terms of content.

Collective motivation for action, after all, is not based on convictions at all. No one, for example, walks the streets of western cities thinking that male and female “constructs” are walking around them. Everyone (including the genderist!) unambiguously recognises men and women around them, identifies each shoe as male or female and acts with all the consistency of this perception. Only his political identity formation once took place with those contents that correspond to the prevailing doctrines of the zeitgeist, and so he thinks he has to speak of the construct man and the construct woman in order to be what he believes he wants to be: an “emancipatory” fellow traveller.

What would dissuade him from speaking of the construct man and the construct woman would not be newly acquired knowledge in the factual informal sense, but a new recognition of his own situation, a reassessment of his positioning combined with a new self-definition. But this implies the decision to touch one’s own identity, and only experiences with initiation potential can bring about such a thing. Such experiences, transformations of the kind “from Saul to Paul”, are rare and mostly adventurous if not painful, even shocking.

Several weeks ago, a remarkable first-hand article illustrated how difficult even the step up to a first self-reflection is. It was an article by a Scandinavian journalist in the SÜDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG, which demonstrated in an unprecedented way how difficult it is to reach the conscience of a politically forgiven person – even by the clearest signals from his mental environment – when they touch his political identity. “Leo Lagercrantz was editor-in-chief of an opinionated Swedish online newspaper,” we read, who was “first driven to despair, then to quit his job” by the comments of his critical readers.

Now Lagercrantz describes the statements of his indexed tormentors thus: “Their texts are aggressive, but always well-worded and never threatening.” He does accuse them of “hate speech” but then hastens to clarify that he means texts “that most people in our society think are hate speech.” Perhaps we should replace “most people in our society” with “mainstream” to give further clarity to the journalist’s statement.

For regarding his first experiences as an online editor, Lagercrantz even confesses, “The most exciting texts were written in the comments sections.” He also attests to his critics’ conviction, a quality that was “often no worse than that of an established journalist”, and truthfulness when he describes one of his challengers with the words: “He did not… ask me… to leave. No, much worse: he started discussing with me… where the lines were between criticism of integration and racism, anti-Semitism and criticism of Israel, misogyny and gender studies.” Lagercrantz finally admits: “I couldn’t put up much more in my defence,” and he admits defeat with the bitter certainty of having been “defeated.”

Now, unlike his opponents, the journalist describes his former colleagues as doctrinaire and power-conscious guardians of opinion who purposefully made their effective comment sections available only to those who were supposed to be in charge, and who daily rejected with satisfaction “a few dozen submitted texts” in order to deny publication to disagreeable opinions. Let us read just the following part from the description of these journalistic opinion rulers:

“An editor… was a real gatekeeper, one who decreed who got access to the great public and who belonged to the great crowd of rejects who had to keep their views to themselves.
I know editors, in the feuilletons and the political editorial offices, who did not need to answer letters or mails from readers who did not even show them the respect of rejecting them, and who did not pick up the phone. And the editor dealt with the accepted texts as he saw fit, shortening them, changing the sequence of sentences and paragraphs as it suited him and without asking the author for consent.”

But Lagercrantz is not only nostalgic for this imposing past, which he bids farewell to – referring to the advent of the internet – with the sigh: “Then the curtain fell”. Not only does he still advocate the censorship power of his megalomaniac opinion guardian colleagues of yore. No, he also slanders the imaginative dissenters on the later Internet platforms with gloomy psychologisations (“sad and lonely”) and by reducing them to “trolls”. A conceivably wrong designation, because on the internet this refers to participants who want to disrupt or alienate discussion processes – the opposite of what the creative commentators of the biased scribbler intended, according to his own account.

What Lagercrantz is demonstrating is a rededication or reversion of moral consciousness. He documents an injustice, namely the censorship of (in part superior) thought, and declares himself with impressive self-evidence to be a supporter of this injustice! More precisely, here a general moral good gives way to a special ideological interest: freedom of opinion in favour of a concrete opinion, or morality itself in favour of sentiment.

Such mutation proceeds with a shift in which identity no longer pulsates around the self-sufficient but “sad and lonely” imagined I, but has moved its abode into the pre-warmed we-tent of the mainstream, from where only a crisis or adversity could drive it away, but not ten horses of reason, decency or insight. To try to assert the force of facts or reasonable arguments here is out of touch with reality.

In the haze of their collective we rallied around an ideology, these mainstream sleepers are capable (as in Amnesty International) of ranting about women’s rights while holding aloft a banner that reads “human rights are indivisible”. Or, like ex-presenter Wickert, launch themselves as anti-sexists while beating the drums through the media with “Help a girl” for their suspect girls-only charities.

“Against a stupidity that is in vogue at the moment, there is no cleverness,” Theodor Fontane once put it. What is meant is the moral somnambulism of a devotion to one’s convictions, which, incidentally, not only the followers of a certain conviction fall prey to, but to which the followers of every movement that has solidified into a collective run the risk of falling prey. A constant, then, whose tricks few can see through.

Now try to wake up these lazy people with arguments! It would be much more promising to wait until they fall out of bed, i.e. out of the once given framework in which, when they went to sleep, they thought they could still limit their concerns. When they had not yet recognised the formlessness and immoderateness of their own claim, which today has to reject ever more openly general bases of legitimacy in order to continue to assert itself.

Some time ago, some people were surprised when a blogger from the camp of neo-feminists calling themselves “girls” attacked the rule of law with its presumption of innocence as “snot invented by white men” and sought to take revenge on the patriarchy by sticking out a richly faecally contaminated tongue at it. That such behaviour is not a failure of feminism but of the patriarchal rule of law goes without saying.

And as far as the inward decay of the form is concerned, i.e. with regard to one’s own former premises, one has the most marvellous view in the direction of those young and almost without exception slim and well-built or well-prepared exhibitionists who celebrate their public unveiling and make a specious effort to unite it with principles of prudish feminism. So their strip is to be understood as a protest against prostitution or against the fact that a Canadian policeman at some small event admonished women to “not dress like sluts so as not to become victims” of sexual violence.

If one of us were to lose his wallet and with it a disproportionate amount of money, a friend might say to him, “It’s your own fault – you should never carry that much money around.” We would probably express insight – for example by admitting, “You’re absolutely right, I was careless.” We would certainly not be upset that someone had assigned us some kind of guilt, because we would have understood that this friend had not declared us guilty in a moral or even legal sense, but in a purely causal one: Had we not lavished our purse more lavishly than necessary, our loss would have been a lesser one.

But what would we be if we were to harbour persistent indignation against its author on account of the critical remark, repeatedly reproached him for accusing the wrong side, and, in order to remind him of his alleged error of judgement, repeatedly showed him the abundance of our purse and insisted on our right to want to carry as much money as it suited us, without therefore having to bear partial guilt for its possible theft? What would we be if we celebrated such outbursts again and again with relish because we wanted to exploit the one-time admonition of a friend to justify such staged fits of alleged indignation and rebellion? Wouldn’t we be hysterics incapable of criticism, unworthy of being taken seriously?

That’s how stupid the “sluts” are now doing it in their marches. They are secretly and unconsciously “protesting” against the feminist paternalism that has denied them the option of flirting with their “erotic capital”. They represent the decay of a feminist form that once drove them to smear advertising pictures of lightly dressed women on cinemas.

Not that feminism could break down on such discrepancy alone. After all, it was never its own consistency that held it together. But just as it did not come alone, but was part of a world-revolutionary concept, so it will not disappear alone, but with all the bizarre unanimity of common origin, it will tumble from a stage whose boards will soon begin to fly around their ears. You watch it without trying to convince anyone. One only exchanges an occasional glance with those who just do not need convincing to recognise and face their presence. It is a process of consolidation in times of dissolution, not an effort of persuasion.

Feminismus: Das Bekehren in Zeiten der Auflösung, Der Maskulist from 26 October 2011