Feminism

Confessions of a Recovering Tumblr Feminist

When I was in middle-school, I discovered feminism. Always a voracious reader, I devoured every book on it that I could find — eagerly eating the words of feminists like Germaine Greer, Betty Friedan, and Naomi Wolf. When I was done with books, I turned my attention to the interwebs, where communities of social justice warriors congregate.

Little did I know it, as a young teen, I tumbled headfirst into the rabbit hole of the social justice feminist orthodoxy — the perverse wonderland where up is down and everything is actually a manifestation of the patriarchy.

Now, as a student at a women’s college, surrounded by this ideology, I’ve realized the naivety of my early eagerness. For me, feminism was an enticing religion. Raised in a home devoid of faith, I eagerly accepted its philosophy as my ticket to salvation.

As I steeped myself in this type of feminism: the type that emanates from online Tumblr echo chambers and the ideological enclaves of Women’s studies departments, it taught me a number of ideas and values I was eager to apply to my own life.

For example, feminist ideology taught me that any opinions that were conservative, or just didn’t align with the party line were violence.  It also taught me that the best way to fight opposition is to try to silence it. Don’t like what someone says? Protest them. Shut their event down.

In retrospect, the fact that I openly embraced an ideology that claimed that holding a conservative viewpoint is the same as life-threatening violence, isn’t just absurd, it’s embarrassing. How was I so deluded?

The advent of conservative speakers being de-platformed or harassed by screaming social justice warriors is a logical consequence of an ideology that equates conservative opinions with physical violence.

This was seen most recently, when Milo Yiannopoulos’s speech at DePaul University came to an end when two social justice warriors ran onto the stage and hijacked the mic in protest of Milo’s views.

Where I lived growing up, people have been shot just minutes away from me, sometimes on my very same street. I’ve woken up to the sound of gun-shots, and two people I went to high-school with have already been killed. Just last week, there were 9 shootings in 24 hours in Cleveland, with more that happened a few days later.

Violence, real violence, is an omnipresent threat in the city where I’m from.

When I went around preaching to my friends that homophobic or sexist language was an act of violence, someone should have called me a fool, slapped me upside the head, and told me to climb back out of the social justice rabbit hole before I made it my grave.

Social justice theory also taught me about microaggressions. Rarely did I go a day without interpreting what someone said as such, as a personal affront to myself or one of the 7 marginalized identities that feminist social-justice Tumblr gifted me.

Social justice theory also taught me that anyone who said anything I didn’t agree with was sexist or homophobic. For example, if someone brought up the fact that some research suggests lesbians and gay men have a disproportionately higher rate of engaging in domestic violence, the feminist rebuttal would essentially be to accuse the other person of being a homophobe instead of engaging in dialogue.

Feminist theory also taught me that the best way to fight oppression was to call people out. Unfortunately, what feminism doesn’t tell you is that running around making accusations of sexism towards everyone you disagree with isn’t productive. Nonetheless, calling people out became sort-of a competitive sport for me.

In retrospect, I wonder if maybe I was a little bit too extreme of a social justice feminist; not all feminists go around calling people racists or sexists, right?

Not all of them. But many do; many of my peers volley accusations of racism and sexism daily. When I look at their politics and the way they advance it now, I think of my younger self. I think about the time I called my friend a racist because she was culturally appropriating Native American for using a dreamcatcher as a room-decoration. Or the time I called one of my friends a “sexist” when he defended catcalling because it’s “a part of inner-city culture.”

Of course, not all feminism preaches the ideas I’ve described. Dissident feminists such as Camille Paglia, Cathy Young and Christina Hoff Sommers carry the torch for a different kind of feminism. One that has its roots in classical liberalism and the promotion of agency, not victimhood. Unfortunately, this is not the type of feminism that appeals to most women.

My blissful union with feminism ended in the same way that any long-term relationship does: with hurt feelings, a little embarrassment, and a pang of remorse over what could have been. I still resist the urge to accuse people who own dream-catchers of cultural appropriation, and calling any man a sexist if he says something I don’t like. But I’m learning, forever haunted by my sojourn down the rabbit hole.

 

Toni Airaksinen is a rising Junior at Barnard College, a women’s college in New York City. She tweets @Toni_Airaksinen.

Photo by Anton Bielousov – Own work: Slutwalk (Toronto, ON).

44 Comments

  1. kurtzs says

    Well done, Toni. Many two or three times your age are still stuck in that rabbit hole. My niece is 27, getting her PhD awarded in Canada in ten days, and has to deal with the extensive power of feminism and ‘leftism’ that pervade academia today as she seeks her next job. She has been teaching and a research assistant for around 6 years.

  2. Peter says

    I recently suffered through an MA program where every other word in the classroom was about the “violence” of patently non-violent things. But this is a key tactic of the Left (and, in particular, those in academia): change language and re-define commonly understood terms to push a particular agenda. Whereas the vast majority of us understand what “violence” is, to the academic Left it has come to mean “anything any Leftist might ever possibly perceive to be icky, uncomfortable, and/or undesirable.” Actual violence -physical harm or threats of physical harm- are simply never included in this definition.

    • Will says

      I agree, although it’s not just the left, both sides do this, just on different topics. Consider “Enhanced Interrogation” (which everyone else calls “torture”) or “Unlawful Enemy Combatants” (which used to be called “prisoners of war”), both repackaged because the commonly used term described something about which regulations existed, while the NEW term, they could claim there were no restrictions around.

      Torture is illegal, but this is “enhanced interrogation” and there are no laws against that. Prisoners of War have certain rights, but these are “unlawful enemy combatants”, and we have no laws regarding those, so we can do what we like.

      So I do not dispute at all that SJWs use this tactic. But we should recognize that it is an intellectually bankrupt tactic used by weaker members of all ideologies, not just the left (nor just the right).

      • Per Jansen says

        I feel this is not entirely accurate. There is a difference, a big one imho, between inventing new words or definitions to hide the monstrosity of certain actions, and using common words to redefine actions of others to demonise them.

        The same thing goes with rape. Rape and sexual assault, basically means the same thing to most people today. Whereas, rape, was perceived as forceful coitus back in the day, some people even use it to describe someone staring at them today… It’s … well. Take of it what you will.

        Violence is now the new fave word, I guess.

        • Will says

          It may be slight variation, but it’s the same intellectual dishonesty.

          I hate it on both sides. I hate it when anyone does something intellectually dishonest, and I hate it when someone finishes doing something intellectually dishonest and then turns around and calls out their opponent being intellectually dishonest because they did it in a slightly different way.

          We are never, as a society, going to get anywhere as long as we insist on holding others accountable for things we ourselves would bristle at being expected to live up to, whether it’s this, or whether it’s expecting those on the other side take responsibility for their extremists while taking umbrage if anyone suggests we have anything in common with ours, or whether it’s feminists demonizing MRAs and MRAs demonizing feminists when in truth both sides are really only talking about the extremists of the other side, and the more thoughtful, rational members of both sides have more in common than either is willing to admit.

          Personally, I don’t count myself as either, but I’m equally drawn to both. I feel that there is some merit to the rational feminist argument, there’s also some merit to the rational MRA argument… and both have been so badly corrupted by their extremists that it’s difficult for me to claim membership in either group.

      • @Will ,
        I agree with you about “enhanced interrogation” — even if I think that in some “ticking bomb” cases you can’t wait for better nature or a sense of guilt to overcome your prisoner and make him talk .

        But I strongly disagree about “unlawful enemy combatants” be equal to “prisoners of war”.
        War by definition has rules , one of which is that the combatant must wear an easily identifiable uniform, specifically so that he stands out of the civilian population.

        The opposite exists in many places in the middle east, where groups like Hamas , ISIS and the insurgents in Iraq — specifically do not wear anything resembling a uniform, to better blend into the population — thus effectively using the population as human shields (which is a warcrime in it’s own right) .

        Thus , the combination of not identifying themselves as enemy combatants and the use of human shields , this strip’s away their privilege of being “prisoners of war” (because they don’t abide by the rules of engagement) , and thus a different category was needed to define them.
        Enter “unlawful enemy combatants” .

        This may not mean much to you, but it’s a much needed distinction needed in the field, where you want to protect and serve everyone, yet some pull guns at you out of the blue…, while being dressed like everyone else in the street.

        • Will says

          In the field, yes. But many of the people we were holding were not in the field, were not actually even the people we thought they were. They were captured in war, which makes them prisoners of war, and this idea that we could skip all of the Geneva Convention rules of treatment of prisoners of war by simply calling them something else was ridiculous. More so that we got away with it.

          And by the way, when we condemn Isis for their tactics, we should be aware that by that same logic, our founding fathers, in whom we imbue nearly godlike reverence, were little more than terrorists.

          The rules of war at the time were such that people could actually go to a battlefield and WATCH a battle and be more or less safe from harm. The armies lined up on opposite sides of a field and shot at each other until one side gave up or was all dead. That’s oversimplified, but the fact is that our founding fathers used guerilla warfare tactics at a time when everything was supposed to follow certain rules, and if we hadn’t won, history books would remember them as savages who didn’t follow even the basic rules of civilized warfare, not heroes…

          But we’re getting WAY far afield from Toni’s points…

          • kid3t3rnity says

            I’m sorry, but you’re doing a very poor job of making yourself not sound like an SJW. Did you really think that you could hijack this thread? Kid, the founding fathers may have used tactics that would be unlike what the common terrorist use today, but they did it at a time where it was fair game. The British back then we’re genuinely oppressive of the colonies, and it was because of desperation that they resorted to such. If you’re a white American, your guilt complex and self-loathing won’t do you any favors. The world isn’t all sunshine, hugs and rainbows. That’s the problem with people like you; you can’t handle reality.

      • “Enhanced Interrogation” is just a buzz wordy way of saying Interrogation. Its not redefining anything, as interrogation does not depend on the methods used. They pushed at (went past) the boundaries of what is considered illegal torture, but it was always interrogation and always would be interrogation. They just simply never classified it as torture, as making someone uncomfortable is not necessarily torture until/unless a judge rules that it is/was.

        • Similarly, we never go to war any longer, so it is a legal impossibility to detain Prisoners of War. That is not redefining anything, that is how it was defined hundreds of years ago.

  3. I feel like part of what our culture has been experiencing the past few years is, teenagers, who are naturally melodramatic and spoiled, seized control of the cultural narrative. They are the ones who control social media which has been driving the cultural narrative.
    All issues of gender came to be seen through their naive tumblr based filter. Feminism had gotten radically more sophisticated and nuanced, perhaps culminating in Hannah Rosins ‘the end of men’ in 2010. At that point, feminism should have dramatically looked inwards and changed pace, change direction. But instead, the opposite happened and its been like a victory dance on the men’s faces, spitting on the graves of the spiking rates of male suicide.
    But in a way, I think it is a good thing. By getting so over the top and mean, it has inspired a huge backlash that is causing the whole framework to collapse. This has also led to the mens movement sky rocketing and now gaining a tiny foothold in the mainstream narrative. Issues the mens movement puts forward, like the gender parity of domestic violence is now starting to become more well known.
    For the first time in western history men are now starting to organize around our gender, talk about our issues more. Hopefully this will lead to a complete reworking of gender, so now it will be a conversation, back and forth between men and women, rather than the one sided lecture it’s been for 25+ yrs now.

    • Ardy says

      Christopher: I agree with most that you write but do 2 wrongs make a right?

      I suspect that staying honest and above the battle ground of language and made up emotional responses to appeal to a mentally defunct majority, who are little more than emotional cripples takes us nowhere smart.

      I would rather see men ignoring the feminist cause and become men, not take on a male option of the feminist movement.

      The concept of being a man is what has been lost and thus the young men and not so young either are wandering around lost in a world that neither values them nor understands their sexuality and natural drives.

      As an example, I am building a house and watching a fair number of house shows. I noticed that many women cannot understand the design until it is finished, which shows a total lack of imagination, something men are very good at. Yet these issues are never mentioned, it’s always men can’t multitask, men don’t do housework, old men are in charge and are stopping women from breaking the glass ceiling, blah, blah, blah. There are a thousand cliches like this and most of them have been around so long they have rotted on the vine…..

      • I agree two wrongs don’t make a right, but I don’t think men supporting each other is a wrong. There used to be a wide variety of male centered organizations, from Masonic lodges to rotary clubs to fraternities. Now fraternities are demonized and a move made to shit them down. Boy Scouts must allow girls, Mason’s are outdated and absurd and..,I don’t even really know what the rotary club does. I don’t think men need to obsess over our problems or demonize women, like an inverse of what feminism does. but we do need a male centered approach to coping with the cards that have been dealt to us. Feminism is both mainstream and institutional. Taught in virtually every college/university and taken as a given by the mainstream media. There are countless feminist lobbies which have an enormous impact on public policy, governess and the education system. We ignore it at our peril. We must engage with them in ways that are polite and respectful. Otherwise we will continue to be railroaded. I don’t like the idea of needing male based beuracricies, but this is the world we live in. If people are not championing your cause, no one else will. We have 7 federal programs for women’s health, yet zero for men. Their is a growing crisis in men’s health and education, these need to be dealt with somehow. Men need love, support, a system of encouragement, a way to look out for each other, take care of our specific needs. Support men who have been victimized by individuals or the system, because no one else is gonna do it.

  4. In fact, having lived in a house with 5 tumblr feminists, I came away from it a changed man. I went from seeing feminism as mostly good, if kinda nutty and overboard in some ways. To viewing it almost more like a disease, mental illness that does profound harm to the harmony that can exist between men and women. I even made my own men’s issues blog, something that 5 yrs ago I couldn’t have even dreamed would be something I would do
    Themonastery.WordPress.com
    So in a way, we have tumblr feminism to thank for the rise of mras. In fact, it was seeing them violently shut down and protest a men’s meeting online that peaked my interest. What do these people have to say I wondered?. Then I watched some videos of Janet Fiamengo, (who feminists tried to shut down by pulling the fire alarm, playing favelas and shouting ‘I fucking hate you’ into the faces of those trying to hear. Actually listening to what they have to say, I realized it was absolutely nothing like the gender equivalent of the kkk as it had been made out to be, and was actually something quite calm and lovely, a positive force that could do both men and women a lot of good. Essentially accepting the feminist charge that men should talk more about our emotions. I truly believe a rise in the mens movment can help bring us together, heal the rifts and tensions caused by feminism, allow us to communicate back and forth, rather than have our thoughts/feelings/experiences dictated to us by a super powerful organization that doesn’t have our best interests at heart.

    • Christopher allman says

      Just to clarify, it wasn’t bc me and my housemates didn’t get along, we did. It was realizing what feminism causes women to believe about men, how we think, how we act, what our experiences are. Things that were just patently false, untrue.
      Like, one time when this really nice guy we knew didn’t rape our drunk friend , someone said with a sense of approving surprise ‘he isn’t a douche’. The assumption being that most men would automatically start raping a girl as soon as she was passed out drunk…even with her friends nearby. That is but one of dozens of instances.
      Another example: a friend of ours mentioned having been sexually assaulted by a gay male friend. Our female friend began SCREAMING at him, saying that because he was a straight man he had to stand down, close his mouth and just listen. So being male meant he wasn’t allowed to talk about his feelings or experiences if it didn’t reflect the feminist narrative of men=bad/abusive.

      • Christopher allman says

        Just one more thing to clarify (sry so wordy!) it wasn’t necessarily living w young feminists that changed me so much as, reading lots of feminist literature and then seeing how these ideas got translated into people’s lives, in a way that was up close and personal. Bc these were/are very good people. Smart, talented, wanting to do well. But having been taught this destructive ideology which creates resentment and biases towards men (plus lots of factually untrue statements about how men think/feel/behave) it leads to people fighting against men as a desire to do good. Their virtues and strengths get seized upon and channeled in a way that leads to willfully acting poorly to fellow humans, based exclusively on gender. Granted, they are young and grow out of it. But raising young women to think these deragotry things towards half the planet surely cannot be good.

    • Ardy says

      Christopher, I disagree with this one. Men should NOT talk more about their emotions, they should talk less. If you want to stand up and be a man, controlling your ego (driven by the emotions) should be taught in school.

      Men should be capable of standing still and calmly observing the world around them, not bursting into emotional tears about what their mother said to them 20 years ago. Leave that world to women, they understand it far better than any of the ‘most in touch’ with their feminine side men, on the planet.

      • Nick Argall says

        Ardy, I agree that men should not be bursting into tears about what their mother said to them 20 years ago. I also agree that women tend to be better at handling their feelings than men. If it were possible for any woman to handle my feelings for me, I’d gladly leave it to her. Until one or both of us is a telepath, that’s not a viable option.

        The way to avoid bursting into tears is to learn to talk about it. The fact that you equated ‘talking about feelings’ with ‘bursting into tears’ indicates the expectation of incompetence that men need to overcome.

        Men have been taught to clench up in silence about undesirable feelings – either to clench the jaw and the throat, or the fist and the arm. If we can relax about having a conversation, then relaxed conversation might just become an option.

      • I mean, I agree to a certain extent. I believe in the value of rationality and stoicism, however, as a wise person once said ‘women can’t here what men aren’t saying’ and men have done a very poor job of explaining how we feel. Part of the reason feminism has stepped into fill the void. Portraying all our desires as a need to dominate and control. I think k one can express and describe feelings, while still being rational, not being overly emotional. If we could only express what being male is actually like, in a way feminists could listen to, they would understand us more, know what we are actually like, and explain it to us on our behalf,

  5. Lisa says

    In 1987 was at New School as an undergrad, very crazy lefty school, and in a feminist theory class I raised objections to a text we used which equated all mothers as philosophers (literally, if you’re a mother you should be regarded as equivalent to someone who has a Ph.D.) Also ridiculous idealization of women. I said in my experience none of this is true and was told by a classmate to be quiet, since my experience was “not relevant.” This despite being female. That was it for me. Switched schools and switched majors. Can understand why this kind of feminism is so seductive, because it’s a roomful of women telling each other they’re right and they’re perfect. Ego. This idiocy has been around a long time, only recently popularized.

  6. twominuteplank says

    Ah, there is hope! Thank you for writing this.

  7. I’m very glad you had what amounts to an epiphany. As someone else mentioned, to augment your journey of discovery, you should have a look at the Men’s Rights Movement. It has little to do with the virtually unbridled smearing conducted by many feminists. It is growing exponentially and now includes many female allies and friends.

    I encourage you to watch a film coming out in October, “The Red Pill” by documentary filmmaker Cassie Jaye. She began believing all the stereotypes and was actually uneasy about interviewing one of those “hateful MRAs.” The film documents her transformation as she actually talked to some MRAs about their experiences. Of course, when it became apparent that she wasn’t making a feminist film but was instead going “right down the middle,” she lost all her Ms. Foundation funding. She financed her film through a Kickstarter campaign and is now editing all the footage into a 90 minute presentation.

    You might be interested in the film’s trailer, available on YouTube by searching “Cassie Jaye.”

  8. “Feminist theory also taught me that the best way to fight oppression was to call people out. ”

    As a GamerGate supporter I can tell you that this is the exact reason feminists ran their head against a wall when they started attacking Gamers. Because we are used to being called out, and have developed immunity against it.

    Call me a sexist? So what. Jack Thompson called us potential school shooters, and before that we got accused of satanism because of Doom and D&D. And since you shouldn’t dish it out if you can’t take it, feminists gave us a licence to use their own tactics against them.

    It’s a good thing you left the battlefield. Because Gamers can grind and there is no way we will let them ruin our hobby.

  9. Matt says

    The song I’m listening to at the moment feels (to me) like an allegory of your voyage and the rapaciousness of modern feminism:

    Oh, what came of the things we once believed?
    Oh, all lost to the depths of a deep blue sea
    Oh, all lost and, oh, all lost, to the depths of a hungry sea
    Oh, all lost to the depths of a hungry sea
    All that’s left, all that’s left is the echo of a roaring sea
    Long gone, long gone to the trace of a memory
    What came of the things I once believed?
    All that’s left, all that’s left is the trace of a memory

    Foals – A Knife in the Ocean

  10. Having spent time on the same campus as you, visiting my s/o and talking with many of her very social-justice oriented friends, the level of hypocrisy that exists in dealing with Millennial SJW’s astounds me.

    Being repeatedly told that I have no idea what I’m talking about, when I’m citing DoJ, FBI and CDC statistics that indicate many issues aren’t specific to 1 gender, but rather impacting both genders heavily… it gets frustrating, because it indicates a willful ignorance of harm being done and left unrecognized, to fester and be repeated.

    There’s nothing so disturbing as hearing someone say they want victims to get help, then denying that many of them even exist.

  11. Ann L says

    Keep up the good work. Looking forward to the day when generalizations such as, “Unfortunately, this is not the type of feminism that appeals to most women” don’t slip so unnoticed into your thoughts.

  12. Greg says

    Only want to say one thing; the variant of feminism that doesn’t posit that women are powerless in society appeals to MOST women, and to most people in general (at least in the West). It’s just that at this point, the notion that men and women are equal and should be regarded as such doesn’t require a label (beyond ‘common goddamned sense’).

  13. rabbit says

    The sweet adrenaline rush of believing you are the victim of intolerable injustice can be addictive. It’s good to see that some have kicked the habit.

  14. Good people ought to be armed as they will, with wits and guns and the truth. God Bless US Bitter Clingers. God Bless my student-debt free Doctor of Pharmacy daughter, with a post-graduate education in reality.

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  16. “7 marginalized identities that feminist social-justice Tumblr gifted me”

    Wow! Should I bow? You sound like you were pretty high up in the progressive stack. Or am I woefully ignorant of the levels of intersectionality available? Mea culpa

    Glad that you made it out with your sanity intact. It’s much more interesting dealing with reality, much more productive too.

    Stay strong. We all make mistakes, the main thing is to learn from them. You’re going the extra step to try and save others. That makes you a good human being in many eyes, that’s a great thing to be.

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  18. Bill F. says

    Very good, Toni. It’s important to constantly test the ideas around you against reality. Especially when those ideas are held by nearly everyone. Read, think, learn and make up your own mind.

    I wonder what will become of this type of feminist. How can they contribute anything to the world when their beliefs are not reality-based. They are encouraged to be hyper-sensitive, looking for hurtful words in everything said around them. Who would want to work alongside such a person?

    Shame on university leaders who pander to this way of thinking.

  19. Yes, “lesbians and gay men have a disproportionately higher rate of engaging in domestic violence.” They also have a disproportionately higher rate of mental illness, substance abuse, and sexually transmitted diseases. Their youth have a disproportionately higher rate of all that as well as homelessness, school bullying, and suicide rate. So, am I to understand that your thesis is that gays are bad people or, as conservative religions have long taught, just downright evil?

    “The figures show that LGBT people are 2.4 times more likely to suffer a violent hate crime attack than Jews (8.3 divided by 3.5). In the same way, gays are 2.6 times more likely to be attacked than blacks; 4.4 times more likely than Muslims; 13.8 times more likely than Latinos; and 41.5 times more likely than whites, according to the FBI figures. The basic pattern holds by years as well as across the years. The bottom line: LGBT people are far more likely than any other minority group in the United States to be victimized by violent hate crime.” So that’s one more thing that “lesbians and gay men have a disproportionately higher rate of.” Am I also to understand that the information provided in this paragraph has no bearing on the one above? And if so, does being “a recovering tumblr feminist” also require you to be obtuse?

    • No. You are to understand that IPV is not a phenomenon where a heterosexual man is almost always the aggressor, and a heterosexual woman the victim, and where any other combination is an exception.

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  21. vpatryshev says

    Interesting. The same applies to racism. Mostly.

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  25. Niki says

    Thanks for sharing your revelation. It’s heartening to see a young woman write about her awakening.

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  27. Taylan Ulrich Bayırlı/Kammer says

    I can only recommend getting into second wave / radical feminism. “Radical” makes you think extreme, militant, ridiculous, etc.; that’s not what it means here. Think of it like in the phrase “a radically different approach.”

    http://radfem.org/

    It’s the strand of feminism that affected massive social and legal change throughout the second wave, enacting for instance basic sex discrimination laws. Nowadays radical feminism is very well represented on Feminist Current:

    http://feministcurrent.com/

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