In chapter three of A Room of One’s Own, 20th century self-educated literary critic Virginia Woolf makes a compelling humanist argument; one, which is not smudged with the many “isms”, seeking bias, that seem to have found residency on the web. Woolf analyzes gender inequality in Elizabethan English society by speculating the existence of the woman who could have been William Shakespeare’s sister.
Before reading this hypothesis, I was expecting Woolf to state that Judith, Shakespeare’s hypothetical sister, could not have been great because she was a woman and, alternatively, that Shakespeare was great only because he was a man. However, Woolf is much smarter than that. She advances a very sensitive argument, despite its extremities, in a proper egalitarian way. Taking the mechanism of society’s design into consideration, she ensures that both participants in her experiment have equal capabilities and unequal chances of success. She then goes on to show how one was aided and the other impeded by this same machinery: society. In so doing, she brilliantly illustrates gender inequality.
Despite her wild imagination and obvious bias (as a woman herself), Woolf does not just make sense but also tells the truth, all in the hope of correcting. She does not yell that all men are evil, that women deserve more, or whatever they tweet and blog about these days when it comes to feminism.
The very important base is that women have been systematically sidelined, undermined, underdeveloped and written off for way too long. It is our human obligation to allow all humans equal opportunities for development and fundamentally, survival.
This will not be achieved through half thought through, pity-filled moans and wild cries for more marginalization and suppression. Rather, as shown in other human struggles [insert any paradigm shifting historical battle], intelligent verbal and non-verbal dialogue are essential paths for achieving goals. Woolf is not a paragon of feminism; however, her methods are key to understanding pseudo-intellectual feminism – a good example of bad behavior when it comes to feminism.
Enter the pseudo-intellectual feminist.
The pseudo-intellectual feminist does not disregard or betray the struggle for equal rights or proper respect for women or minorities. The pseudo-intellectual is Ananse the spider, with the pot of wisdom on its belly as it tries to climb the palm tree. Yet, the pseudo-intellectual feminist tends to harbor a misdirected drive which leads to doing more harm than good.
In the myriad of supposed activist identities, it is necessary to point out the defining features of a pseudo-intellectual feminist, as identifying them is essential to eradicating the malady of misdirected drive. I try to avoid the irony of simple sentences in dissecting a complex problem, so without being oxymoronic: the pseudo-intellectual feminist is a man or a woman who empathizes with the plight of minorities, yet whose actions undermine the cause they seek to realize.
Satire will be the most effective tool in unraveling the pseudo-intellectual feminist because, to an extent, each of us is evil and deserves to be mocked. Like the pseudo-intellectual feminist, we all want our own sadistic urges and desires to be fulfilled by rationalizing them and consequently imposing them on others. We are all just seeking bias, even if it means bending and beating the ideological construct of feminism in any and every direction so that its roots are lost in the cold, dark dawn.
For the pseudo-intellectual feminist, feminism is no longer a just fight for equality and respect, but a relentless battle for superiority. Unfortunately, there are no true winners in war, just many innocent victims.
Woolf reminds us that you do not need to be spiteful to be heard and you do not need to be angry to be seen as right. Rather you need to be logical, pragmatic and strategic to be understood and effective. It could be argued that Woolf did not achieve much, yet she brought the skeletons out the closet, not for trick-or-treating but to put them away for good.
All prejudice aside, the role of the pseudo-intellectual feminist could be indispensable to gender equality, precisely because s(he) is wise enough to highlight the cracks in our gender issues and initiate dialogue.
Having established who and what the malignant phenomenon of pseudo-intellectual feminism is, we now have to decide carefully what becomes of it. After all, it is a key part of our social balance. We need maverick activists that will crush their hands to pick the coins falling through the couch. In addition, we need smart activists who are not blinded by experience and stay true to the core values of gender equality we all tirelessly seek to advance. Consequently, the pseudo-intellectual feminist needs to undergo a renaissance, borrow a page from Virginia Woolf’s book and reexamine the unnecessary internet guerrilla warfare s(he) seems to be embarking on. While it might be trendy to speak on “sensitive” issues – and the pseudo-intellectual feminist should be allowed to speak his/her mind freely – s(he) must also be respectful of contrary views. The pseudo-intellectual feminist is not the “custodian of our moral fabric”. S(he) needs to be reminded of the fact that every human voice does not belong to just one person. The voices of people in strategic positions influence the other unspoken voices and this should be respected and kept in mind when “analyzing issues” and making statements, especially where web-based discourse is concerned.
A feminist is someone who agitates not only to agitate but rather because they believe in equal rights for people of all genders, and not for their own selfish gain. A split approach towards the fight for gender equality undermines the cause entirely.
Do not seek bias simply because you have the sympathy of the internet.
Written by Hakeem Adam .
Circumspecte offers insights and perspectives on business, development, lifestyle, culture, careers and human interest issues related to Africa and Africans.