Feminism, social justice, and state power

I heard Rebecca Traister make an interesting point on Sam Harris’s podcast. It was about the way men who’ve criticized, downplayed, or tried to inject levelheadedness into the conversation about sexual harassment/violence/discrimination (i.e. the MeToo thing) have been characterized as victims of mobs, as having been guillotined, lynched, etc. when in fact mostly what they’ve experienced amounts to having had angry words directed at them on Twitter. She mentioned that even among the actual men who’ve had accusations leveled at them, only two (prominent ones) have gone to jail, a few lost their jobs but quickly gained other ones, some had their reputations damaged a bit, and that’s about it.

Traister related this to coverage of protests such as those in the wake of Freddie Gray’s death, where protesters who threw rocks or broke windows were called instigators of violence; Traister points out they actually have very little power and were protesting in response to violence wielded by the much more powerful system of law enforcement.

I think protesting in the streets and writing call-outs on Twitter are not worthwhile activities, and people who engage in stuff like this tend to lose my sympathy. But, I also think Traister has a point: the power dynamics conveyed in narratives are seldom accurate. Now, I happen to think power dynamics are a lot more nuanced than simply who has the most guns or the most money, but it is hard to deny that control of guns and money mean an awful lot.

With that in mind, it’s hard to understand how feminists and social justice people justify their (typical) support for big government. Feminists want laws that ensure a bigger piece of the pie for women; social justice people want the same for racial minorities, people who aren’t heterosexual, who don’t present as their biological sex, and a growing set of other groups. At the end of the day what delivers these things — the machinery at the other end of the levers they want to pull on — especially if you’re against capitalism, is a state monopoly on violence.

There’s a legitimate conversation to be had, I suppose, about whether historically powerful groups have tended to use their power in benevolent ways vs. in ways that are purely selfish, although I think the pattern is most people within those groups try to use it in the former ways and a few bad apples manage to use it in the latter ways, and on net those powerful groups have created a tide that has lifted all boats. But with feminists and social justice people, inasmuch as they are politically on the Left, I’m having trouble seeing how their cause is anything other than a selfish and ultimately malicious and divisive power grab.

I want to see things realistically rather than through the distorting lens of cynicism, so if someone can provide a valid counterargument I’d appreciate it.


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