No. 21: Feminism as Ideological Industry
May 1, 2014
I was thinking today, about contemporary Feminism as an ideological industry, an industry like the aviation industry or the automotive industry. One of the really common responses I hear to criticism of the Feminism and Social Justice phenomena is that SJWs are harmless, that they exist only on the internet, that it’s all insignificant in the larger scheme of things. Why then worry so much, why expend so much time and effort opposing it? I’m sure we’ve all heard things like that before.
It’s hard to really point to the individual SJW on twitter and make the case that this person represents something dangerous or foreboding happening within our society, but I don’t think I’m alone in sensing something else is going on, something bigger and more significant and possibly more dangerous. Social Justice is the new rock and roll, and people who are too quick to dismiss it as a fad sound a bit like people who dismissed beat music as a fad in 1965, a little out of touch with the full extent of what’s going on. The 1960s counterculture was, like Social Justice today, a popular pseudo-political cultural movement, it was driven by youth consumption, and comprised, for the most part, of misguided, drugged up, stupid kids. No one can deny though that it dramatically changed our society, sometimes for the worse, many of the contemporary problems in academic culture that myself and others here sometimes criticize, for example, represent the long term consequences of a bunch of rowdy kids acting out. And those kids all grew up, got married, had families, raised kids, got jobs, voted for president etc etc. The aging remnants of the counterculture can be seen throughout our society, and beliefs held in youth led to actions in adulthood that shaped the world we now live in.
There’s been a lot of attention in recent years paid to corporate influence of our political system, and the way that businesses exploit that influence to collect public resources, subsidies, contracts, bailouts, favorable regulations, taxbreaks, you name it. Feminism bears an uncanny resemblance to other traditional industries in this way, but because it doesn’t make anything, or invent anything, or produce tangible product or offer any service, its easy to miss it at first glance that Feminism is, really, a massively subsidized ideological industry worth untold millions of dollars a year, one that doesn’t produce cars or clothing or food, but ideas, attitudes, and beliefs. The individual SJW on tumblr is the consumer, nothing more.
This is where people get it backwards. The global food industry is often criticized. Companies like Monsanto, for the use of GMOs and its unethical practices as profiteer of hunger. Or Coca-Cola for exploiting water resources in India. Or McDonalds for causing the obesity epidemic. The pharmaceutical industry is, likewise, criticized. There’s a lot of concern in /r/MensRights over the over-medication of ADD in boys for example.
These industries are recognized as influential, unscrupulous and dangerous, Feminism isn’t, because in the former case, the individual obese person who eats too much fast food, or the over-medicated young boy who shoots up a school, are seen as a consequence, while in the case of Feminism, the individual SJW is seen as cause. The global food industry has a profound and oftentimes negative impact on public health, what happens in discussions about Feminsim is similar to pointing out the negative influence of the food industry to someone and them dismissing the existence of that overall negative effect because its impossible that a bunch of fat people inside a Burger King could be wielding the sort of influence or power necessary to cause so much damage to society.
Like traditional industries, Feminism, as ideological industry, is not a single institution, but an interest shared and promoted by many different entities and individuals. Pressure groups, research institutes, think tanks, media outlets, bureaucratic agencies, university departments, and politicians form a network, and combine their influence to lobby the government and get what they want, money, power, legal protection or enshrinement etc.
Why do people work to get to the top of the Feminism industry? A lot of us have been following Suey Park’s embarrassing sort of meltdown and public humiliation over the last week, why is she fighting so hard to stay in control of the situation? To maintain her position of influence within Feminism and Social Justice? Because she’s delusional, or unhinged or out of touch with reality or what’s really important? That may be a convenient enough explanation to satisfy some, but economically speaking I see her, and people like her, as rational actors, that people fight and struggle to be on top of the Feminism industry suggests not that they’re irrational loons with out of whack priorities in life, but that being on top of the Feminism industry is worth a significant amount, not necessarily in financial terms, but in terms of some beneficial power or influence gained.
The automotive industry can lobby the government, influence it to offer a tax credit or incentive to consumers of their product, and generate demand using public money through such subsidies for the thing they’re trying to sell and profit from. Feminism is self-perpetuating in much the same way, most public universities for example have a gender studies department or degree. Why? This is an intellectually non-credible field, full of pseudo-science and heavily geared towards ideological indoctrination of students and the furtherance of its own particular political agenda. We pay for faculties, for the salaries of the professors, for their conferences, for their journals, and we subsidize the tuition of its students, so that they can be trained to become Feminists. It’s like the government using public money to open up a MacDonalds in every hospital in the country and give everyone who eats there a substantial discount.
I didn’t mean to write as much as I did, I was trying to figure out how much the Feminism industry was worth, just as a thought experiment, the Feminist blogosphere for example, a rough estimate suggests that a site like Jezebel must rake in several million dollars in advertising revenue a year, and there are so many other sites, like xojane and Feministing. How much is spent on gender studies annually? How many students in the United States are currently enrolled in gender studies programs and at what total cost? It’s obviously hard to define what exactly is and is not part of the Feminism industry. Tumblr was worth 1.1 billion dollars, and maybe not all of that is from the Feminist community there, but a significant amount of activity on Tumblr is Social Justice driven, without that activity I can’t imagine it being worth quite so much. Like I said, I was just approaching the question as a thought experiment, is Feminism a billion dollar industry? It’s something to think about at least.