As anyone who’s ever glanced at this blog before – and who’s ever done more than glance at it? – I have a proud record of being last with the news. Always fashionably late to the punchline, that’s me.So it gives me great pleasure to extend that run by informing you, precisely several months after most of the rest of the internet, that the “Everyday Feminism” website is now offering an online course for white anti-racism activists who don’t feel they can work effectively without confronting their “toxic whiteness”.
Incidentally, I would love to claim at this point that I am hip enough to read “Vice” everyday, and discovered this nugget there, but that would be a lie. The truth is, I was stupid enough to visit “Everyday Feminism”, and they promptly advertised their course to me, so if they don’t like my take on it, they’ve only got themselves to blame. Anyway, if you follow the links through you will soon discover the two key points about this course:-
- It costs $97, and;
- It’s basically about telling white people what racists and all-round bad guys they are, and getting them to accept this “truth”.
Who spends that much money on a process that’s guaranteed to make them feel worse about themselves as people? The word “masochism” is mentioned a lot in the (many) blogs that got to this before me. I think that’s actually unfair to masochists. If you pay a person of your preferred gender to tie you up and flog you, you do it because you get off on it. The connection between pain and enjoyment is clear, if too circuitous for most people. No-one – not a single person – is going to enjoy sitting in a lukewarm bath of white guilt with a bunch of social justice warriors while being lectured on their failings by the most annoying people on Earth.
A lot of other bloggers have gone a bit deeper, and drawn the comparison between the attitude of the social justice industry to whiteness, maleness and heterosexuality to the attitude of Christianity to Original Sin. Of course, you can never quite purge the stain, but if you confess enough, say a sufficient number of “Hail Marys” and generally carry out enough of the right things (like handing over cash for our online course!), you might eventually be granted grace, although by a bunch of internet feminists, not by God.
I’ve made the comparison between religious belief and belief in identity politics myself in other posts. Basically, once people stop believing in God (or gods), that doesn’t end the need for belief, nor even the need for something like a church or religious structure. It’s no coincidence that once religion started going on the defensive, from about the late 18th century on, all these alternative, secular religions start appearing. You get Robespierre and the French revolutionaries, and their “Festival of the Supreme Being.” Then in the 19th century, you get positivism, socialism, communism and all the other “-isms.”
Feminism is just a further development of that, and like a lot of its predecessors, it has a tendency, when the chips are down, to start getting very authoritarian and prescriptive about what people can and cannot do and say, and, as here, to try and train or even force them to do and say the right things. That is also something Christianity, at its worst, has very much done, and the root cause is really the same. Christianity has a tendency to keep forgetting that you can’t earn God’s grace. It’s not a reward for your good deeds, however good they are, and forcing people into righteousness is pointless. The secular religions don’t have a God in the first place and they can’t promise redemption through his grace, so all they can offer is “boot-strap your way to being whatever our version of a good person is – if you can’t, we’ll bully you into doing it.”
The paradoxical result is modern feminists who basically behave exactly like mediaeval Popes at the lowest ebb of Catholicism – they sell indulgences. Don’t worry if you can’t stop being the white person you are! Pay for our course and you can clear your conscience for that! Of course, when the Papacy did that, Martin Luther and others came along to restate the importance of faith over works. No-one can or will do that for feminism, or for that matter any of the secular belief systems. Without the supernatural, all you have are flawed human beings on the endless, most likely hopeless path of self-improvement.
You’re probably a pretty awful person, with all kinds of flaws (like reading my endless blog posts). So am I (like writing them). Chances are, neither you nor I will ever get past a lot of those flaws. There are only two honest responses to realising this – stop defining them as flaws or sins, in yourself or others, and get on with life, or head to the nearest church (or synagogue, mosque, whatever). Just don’t, whatever you do, think that you can buy a better self by paying for online courses. Or if you must, at least stop sneering at Scientologists for doing the same.