Saturday, January 12, 2019

When Girls Gain Power

Feminists have always been fascinated by power. In some cases they seek men who have it. In other cases they want to have it for themselves. Being recycled Nietzscheans--  though they probably do not know it—they dream of the day when they can impose their will on the male of the species. They believe that men have oppressed women. Therefore, the solution is for women to oppress men.

We must note, in the interest of fairness, that feminists have been singing from this hymnal for decades now. They have made a verbal fetish of locutions that denote women as strong and empowered. The result: the media have been flooded with stories depicting women as weak, vulnerable and harassed. Apparently, all the talk about strong empowered women has not made women strong or empowered. The feminist reaction to the wave of sexual harassment has been to pretend to be strong and empowered by filling the airways with agonized cries of impotent rage. Nothing quite as powerful as impotent rage.

One must note, in the interest of fairness, that the godparents of the wave of sexual harassment are Bill and Hillary Clinton, the harasser-in-chief and his enabler-in-chief. Those who have declared culture war against men are happy to do so in the name of Hillary Clinton. And they blame it all on Donald Trump. Perhaps if they seek more responsibility in society they should first master the art of thinking clearly and cogently.

If that is their goal, they should not take any lessons from New York Times columnist Jill Filipovic. By the terms of her muddled column, having more women in power will magically transform the meaning of the concept of power… making it, one supposes, kinder and gentler.

She wants to divest power of its connotations of manliness and infuse it with softer feminine qualities. As for whether there might be a reason why power is associated with the sex that is invariably constitutionally stronger, Filipovic has nothing to say. Clear thinking is not her stock in trade. As for the larger question: whether the exercise of authority and the acceptance of responsibility can be reduced to power, or to the will to power, as Nietzsche put it, Filipovic has nothing to say. She has found her philosophical hobbyhorse and will ride it into the sunset.

And yet, lurking over the philosophy of the will to power is the simple constatation: namely, that if power is associated with potency, it makes precious little sense to discuss female sexual potency. Male sexual potency, for example, has some basis in reality; female sexual potency does not. Moreover, if that is not enough, Nietzsche’s concept falls apart when we ask whether any man can will himself to sexual potency. We should have known, from reading Augustine, that biological realities make it impossible. Thus, Filipovic and other pseudo-thinkers are marching to the tune of a beaten-up drum. And one that is seriously out of tune.

Filipovic opens with this:

But the women of the 116th Congress are redefining what it means to be powerful and reshaping some of the most dearly held American fables in the process.

One does not know which fable she is discussing. She is introducing a straw-man—or must we say straw person—and seems to believe, absurdly, that only in American society do men exercise most of the power. This is too idiotic to note it, but, in the interest of fairness, we will mention it anyway.

She continues, ginning up the absurdity:

According to this script, power is meritocratic; those who earn it do so individually through their own hard work. Power has a particular look and a particular sound: tall and deep-voiced. Power is all-encompassing: a partner and children are the backdrop for a life centered on the pursuit of greatness; family indicates that the powerful person is grounded enough to be trusted, but the family is fundamentally a body that benefits from the powerful person, not a body that benefits him and fundamentally enables his success.

This tells us that Filipovic is obsessed with power. It tells us that she cannot distinguish power from authority and responsibility. And it also tells us that no one really earns their position in society. 

Meritocracy suggests that authority and responsibility are distributed according to earned achievement. Of course, Filipovic does not believe that power is ever earned, and does not believe that the male voice and the male body commands more respect. She thinks that it’s a vast right wing conspiracy. And that it has nothing to do with hard work. Good-bye work ethic.

And, of course, Filipovic does not consider the possibility that women might not want to rise up the rungs of corporate status hierarchies, that they might have better things to do with their time. She does not mention that competition is vicious in the worlds of corporations and governance… and that anyone who engages in the struggle should be prepared to put in a lot of extra time and effort.

The promise of meritocracy is fairness. Naturally, Filipovic misses the point and decides that it’s all about equality. It was never about equality. It has always been about offering opportunities. Success depends in some part on hard work, but it does not necessarily reflect hard work. It also depends on attitude, aptitude and talent. To state the obvious, if you have no athletic talent you can work as hard as you want and as long as you want. You will never become a star athlete.

Meritocracy offers incentive. It is the antidote to dynastic politics and hereditary aristocracy. It is also the antidote to a world where members of elite groups gain and hold power in order to advance their own interests:

Within this story of meritocracy is the promise that anyone can achieve political power and success if they are good enough and if they work hard enough; that elected offices have for so long so wholly rested in male hands suggests simply that men have long been more worthy of them.

As a result, and by necessity, barrier breakers have largely followed this same script, from the practical to the descriptive to the aesthetic. When women and people of color did gain political power, their ascension was often used to prop up the existing meritocratic narrative: They had achieved, and so anyone can. The subtext: Perhaps the dearth of women and people of color in office meant they hadn’t worked hard enough for it.

Then, Filipovic notes that men only exercise power for their own self-aggrandizement. This tells us that she understands nothing about men or about the exercise of authority. And she certainly does not to see women gaining political power by competing in elections. You see, competition is a guy thing. It is beneath the dignity of the distaff gender.

Fillipovic sees women as kinder and gentler, as more cooperative and congenial… thus as reconstructing the meaning of power. No more competition. Welcome to the world where high self-esteem and feminist cabals, which used to be called covens, rule:

But as more women have entered the political realm, they have created more space for authenticity over self-aggrandizement. This is especially true as politicians come from a wider diversity of communities and backgrounds, each with different norms around authority.

Today’s rising female politicians tell a very different story than “I worked hard, and so I got here by myself.” One by one, they credit those who inspired their success, supported their ascent and cleared the trail so they could walk further still.

By her lights, men do not care about doing good. Only women care about doing good. Men only care about themselves. Women, being the softer and more caring sex, want the world to be run more like a church, to be dedicated to the task of charity. Why Filipovic thinks this is an original thought is beyond me.

In her words:

From these women, the message is clear: Their strength comes from collaborative, generational efforts to move toward the good. The promise of America is not the possibility of individuals going at it alone and achieving in a high-profile way as a result, and the purpose of politics is not personal empowerment. The gift of power requires the responsibility of appreciating who came before you and how you might do your part to push forward. Powerful men have always considered their individual legacies. These powerful women seem more interested in their role in improving an evolving and complex ecosystem.

Just in case you thought that Filipovic could not go any lower, she trots out, as exemplary of the newly empowered women, two notable anti-Semites, Rashida Tlaib, great supporter of the Palestinian cause, great hater of Israel and of Jews in general. Of course, Filipovic does not mention Tlaib’s anti-Semitism. Nor does she mention the simple fact that Tlaib gained notoriety for defying male norms and calling the president a motherfucker:

Rashida Tlaib, a new representative from Michigan and one of two Muslim women now serving in Congress, showed up to her swearing-in in a thobe, a traditional Palestinian robe, asserting that her story is not one of American Horatio Alger achievement but of a particular, and particularly marginalized, place in the world.

And, let’s not forget another notable anti-Semite, Ilhan Omar, who Filipovic compares to suffragettes.

Ilhan Omar, the other Muslim woman now in Congress, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York wore suffragist white on the day of the swearing-in because, Ms. Omar tweeted, it “was a small way we could honor those that paved the way for us.”

You recall Omar’s infamous tweet: “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.”

If that’s what girl power looks like, I think we could use less of it. If Filipovic does not understand the pestilence that these bigots are bringing into Congress and into the Democratic party, she should shut up and stop pretending to think.


trigger warning said...

Leave it to a womyn to discuss a swearing-in ceremony in terms of the clothing the individuals were wearing.

Sam L. said...

"If that is their goal, they should not take any lessons from New York Times columnist Jill Filipovic." I would say, take no lessons from the NYT, no matter who wrote them.

"Fillipovic sees women as kinder and gentler, as more cooperative and congenial… thus as reconstructing the meaning of power. No more competition. Welcome to the world where high self-esteem and feminist cabals, which used to be called covens, rule:" Never met Nancy Pelosi, I'm guessing.

"Of course, Filipovic does not mention Tlaib’s anti-Semitism. Nor does she mention the simple fact that Tlaib gained notoriety for defying male norms and calling the president a motherfucker:" The NYT would NEVER allow that to happen.

Klure G. Mann said...

Women will never gain power over men. Genesis 3:16 "Then he said to the woman, 'I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy, and in pain you will give birth. And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you.'”

Ares Olympus said...

A will to power? I admit it is sometimes hard to think of what exists besides power, even if they say love is something different.

I recall feminist Starhawk defined 3 types of power - power-over, power-within, and power-with. Power-over is about fear and estrangement, where competition is needed in zero sum games where there has to be winners and losers in every interaction. Power-within is about self-mastery so you don't always need power-over others to get your needs met. And power-with is about cooperation and influence among your peers, having a voice to speak, and the ability to find agreements that get everyone's needs met.

Political power surely contains some of all three. And power probably always creates a lot of projection, so you see and blame in others what you yourself are doing.

Stuart talks about the will to power in shaming, which represents a power-over attempt, and if you can see that, you can find ways to not play reactively, and use your higher skills to redirect your own participation away from that.

Anonymous said...

AOC: When does nonstop
criticism of me by the Daily Caller
rise to the level of “harassment”?

Let us not forget the powerful "Taco Barbie's" approach.

trigger warning said...

Fourth type is Intellectual Power: e.g., making sense of the world with Dr Seuss and Starhawk the Magic Witcchan.

I think I'll talk about that for my next Ghostmasters Table Topic.