The Cognitive Gibberish of “Isms”
I probably shouldn’t bother and just get back to my own work, but each morning I tend to hunt around the alternative news sites. Today, I waded into the battle between Sinead and Miley, hoping to find something amusing instead of just debilitating, oppressive cognitive dissonance. The problem, as usual, stems from ideologies. Once the dreaded three characters “ism” come out then it’s all opinion dressed up as fact and theory from there on in. It’s a battle of opinions on what the “ism” truly is, and what it allegedly represents, and the list of characters and caricatures who don’t define the ism properly because the writer defines the ism better, and the purity of the ism is what they really have in mind, blah blah, fucking blah to the nth.
You guessed it. Today it’s “feminism.”
To call out a concept so highly charged, so packed with emotionalism as is feminism you have to be off your meds these days. Well, I am sober, if that counts. I don’t have any problem with equality. That’s not the question here.
Feminism is a pseudo-philosophy that transmogrifies every time a new writer types it out. Its meaning is undefinable, and therefore each “sister” takes a turn bitching out a list of others and standing up for somebody. In this case the writer is Ruth Fowler, the victim is Miley Cyrus and the evildoer is Sinead O’Connor:
What singer Sinead O’Connor said, after she was obligated to respond to one of Miley Cyrus’ recent remarks citing her own work, was:
“It is in fact the case that you will obscure your talent by allowing yourself to be pimped, whether its [sic] the music business or yourself doing the pimping.”
Sinead expresses an informed opinion about distracting the public with sex and diminishing the impact of Miley’s own music. Sounds like a reasonable idea. The blitz of noise surrounding Miley Cyrus recently had nothing to do with her actual music.
“Nothing but harm will come in the long run, from allowing yourself to be exploited, and it is absolutely NOT in ANY way an empowerment of yourself or any other young women, for you to send across the message that you are to be valued (even by you) more for your sexual appeal than your obvious talent.”
Not necessarily true in America, as the “harm” tends to pile up in bank accounts. Talent is probably optional. It is Sinead’s heartfelt opinion here that emphasizing sexual attraction over ability is a negative, and she may be completely correct on that front. This is a larger conversation between men and women, and so how men respond to women who behave like that is quite relevant. Like it or not impressionable young women will take cues from successful music stars and mimic them. It isn’t all that irrational to comment on the implications.
“None of the men ogling you give a shit about you either, do not be fooled. Many’s the woman mistook lust for love. If they want you sexually that doesn’t mean they give a fuck about you.”
That’s Sinead’s view. She does not use the “f” word once, nor does she hide behind a tangled web of obfuscation. The “feminism” card is supplied by Ruth Fowler, who uses it fourteen times in her response to Sinead O’Connor.
Fowler’s opinion of Sinead lacks fairness, at the least:
“…Sinead who, quite frankly, comes across as patriarchal, paternalistic, ragingly conservative and a bit of a cunt.”
Really? Examining the implications of simulated sex on stage equals all those things? Patriarchal? Come on, you’ll have to provide better support than that for these accusations.
“I’m sure Amanda is just acting out of concern for Sinead’s mental health problems and severe decline after a once brilliant career…”
Sinead must be nuts to boot!
I really must be nuts too if I eventually press “Post” on this. Fowler opened her vicious attack with an extended rant against open letters, that those who employ them should probably be sent to the camps. I’m getting pretty darned terrified by now, but let’s look at what the hell version of “feminism” we can all disagree on … right after this line from Fowler, “…you probably deserve a kick up the vagina…”
“The problem is that Sinead’s attitude is simply regressive. There is no room in feminism for the judgment of other women based upon their attitudes towards sex and how they relate to sex sartorially, and with their bodies.”
The framing of this statement, “in feminism,” is what pops out. These are the rules “in feminism” we are to accept. Sounds a lot like, “shut up,” to me, only couched in an ideological shield, so that it doesn’t seem like “shut up,” when someone has disagreed about how images should really be put out there in the culture. Sinead may get her “in feminism” card revoked, and a swift kick in the clit.
But this is all a bit over the top given Fowler’s own assessment of the Miley affair:
“I don’t like Miley’s ignorant and offensive appropriation of black culture and find her twerking rather pitiful and banal.”
I see. It’s the “black culture” thing that matters most? If we were to comment on black dancers pimping themselves out in rap videos, would we be allowed to do that? Just why are there so many rules to abide by concerning sex and how we discuss it?
Fowler, insisting that her own perspectives safely fall within “feminism” can label Miley Cyrus as “pitiful and banal.” Sinead O’Connor on the other hand becomes a patriarchal “cunt” in need of a vaginal assault if she does likewise. Granted, Sinead’s opinion is probably more relevant and poignant, more on topic and potentially an awaking moment for Miley Cyrus (who is a fan of O’Connor).
It seems in this battle over twerking it’s 1 / nil in favor of Sinead.
“Shaming and trolling women for their choices, assuming those choices are dictated by men, is not only vicious, it perpetuates the divisions within feminism which lead young women to feel alienated from its ideals.”
Fowler just called Miley “pathetic and banal” in a previous paragraph. There is certainly a cognitive dissonance at work here. Her focus is that the victim in all this, the one suffering is “feminism,” not the young women who just don’t get it. The divisions have weakened the ism, splintered it, fractured it and it suffers as a result. This fictional collection of competing ideas loosely assembled into a set of rules has suffered, because not everyone agrees on what these rules should be. If anything is “pathetic and banal” in this situation, this is surely it.
All isms suffer this fundamental weakness. From communism to capitalism, a million monkeys bang out a million volumes telling us what the pure ism should look like and how their competitors have failed in their understandings of the one true ism. Feminism is no different, another greenhouse gas. To contort real people and their varied experiences into your ism of choice you must, by necessity, rail against the apostates and infidels.
I wouldn’t disparage Ruth Fowler for her opinions, but her grandiose assumptions are a bit much. When the ism reigns supreme over the human beings, we have a problem. Clinging to isms is what divides us, all of us, into little armed camps ready to kick one another in the pubes. The ideological conditioning itself is the problem. All ideologies have fundamental weaknesses, and using an ideology as your authority on real world events distorts the discussion, derails the train of reason. This applies to pretty much all ideological blinkers. To see things in terms of the dogma one must avoid the uncomfortable refutations.
“This new era of feminism is heading into shaky ground though, if it allows Sinead O’Connor to posit herself as a role model for female empowerment…”
Pass the Kool Aid. Jesus. So there’s this thing, “feminism,” and it has some authority on what it allows women to say? So, in essence, the rule book (on Fowler’s laptop, almost completed) has authority here. For Sinead to just type out her opinion and call it that is a code violation of sorts.
“…thus making herself the gatekeeper of who is or isn’t a suitable candidate to be a feminist.”
Pot, kettle, blacker than black: score Sinead 2 / Fowler zip. Plus Sinead didn’t use the word “feminist” in her entire response. She didn’t pretend to have an ideology worked out, just her own experiences in the music industry for decades. Sinead didn’t say anything about “suitable candidate(s),” but did offer a warning about sexual exploitation.
It’s possible that Fowler doesn’t accept the concept of sexual exploitation, and this is simply an area of disagreement. As long as there is personal choice involved, anything goes. That seems to be the point of contention here. Fowler then brings the issue around the bend, in an unusual phrasing:
“…women out there, in the big wide world, are being raped, beaten, attacked, humiliated and exploited. These are women who were not born with Miley’s silver spoon in their mouth.”
How is that a valid response to what Sinead said? It is the regular women who take cues from these sexualized pop stars that are of concern to O’Connor:
“Yes, I’m suggesting you don’t care for yourself. That has to change. You ought be protected as a precious young lady by anyone in your employ and anyone around you, including you. This is a dangerous world. We don’t encourage our daughters to walk around naked in it because it makes them prey for animals and less than animals … I’ve been in the business long enough to know that men are making more money than you are from you getting naked. Its [sic] really not at all cool. And its [sic] sending dangerous signals to other young women.”
The two seem to be somewhere near the same page, so then why the hostility? This is a dialogue between women, but also between men and women. Communications theory takes all the unstated, indirect cues into consideration. We communicate through body language, dress and style long before we open our mouths. To take account of this communication, to better understand it and to use it can only be a positive development. When girls communicate slutty images, when they deliberately dress like prostitutes, what is communicated to the men who see them?
Fowler ends her rant:
“These are women who are not wasting their lives judging other women, but probably waiting for a chance to escape, hoping that their feminist “sisters” might pay them a bit of attention, show them some solidarity, instead of squabbling over Miley Cyrus and her tongue.”
The isms throw all rational trains of thought into the bog. For starters Ruth Fowler herself is “squabbling” at length about the Miley incident (score 3/0). But this attacking style of hers just has to accuse O’Connor of “wasting” her life “judging other women,” something Fowler does here as well (already scored). But the weirdest thing is this line about the “feminist sisters” who don’t pay regular women enough “solidarity?” What is this supposed to even mean, and in what way is that a valid retort to Sinead O’Connor’s letter?