Saturday, September 20, 2014

What Is Clean-Armpit Feminism?

"You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar." - Male proverb

Clean-Armpit Feminism is what we get when we ask: what is the ideal state of female resistance under male supremacy from the perspective of men who, upon noticing that women have the capacity to substantially resist, are seeking to negotiate the best outcome for themselves? The quintessential Clean-Armpit Feminism is that which men refer to when we stress that "not all feminists are those bra-burning, armpit-hairy radicals from the 60s". Clean-Armpit Feminism does not exist in reality -- it is an ideal that men seek to lead women into, and the ideal is as varied as pandemic male violence in general. But as with male violence, I believe one can find common shared values among disparate Clean-Armpit Feminisms, including: the view of prostitution and pornography as neutral or positive phenomena, the view of femininity and heterosexuality as innately positive, the denial of gender socialization as a global phenomenon, the oppression of men, various ideas about "the purpose of feminism", the existence of women who are "too militant" in their reaction to male supremacy or otherwise unacceptably at some extreme, and, naturally, the right of men to exist in women's activism and theory.

Excerpt from a Clean-Armpit Feminism sermon
It is important to stress that Clean-Armpit Feminism, like femininity, is a theoretical existence, and doesn't actually have anything to do with women's resistance, given that it exists entirely in the minds of individual men. No woman could perfectly satisfy the expectations of this male "feminism", as it would usually require e.g. advocating for indefensible positions and completely rejecting basic human rights. And as the name implies, Clean-Armpit Feminism usually also includes the need to strive toward achieving femininity; any deviation from the ideal feminine body and mannerisms would be suspect of being a "rabid militant" feminist statement.

Men coerce women into conforming to a Clean-Armpit Feminism through dozens of discrete tactics (it's hard to know when to publish this post, because it will probably never be comprehensive). A lawyer could probably recognize more of these than I could, and word them better, but I will try to list the most obvious and common ones:

1. Threatening isolation - This sort of emotional manipulation attempts to impose on the woman's mind the scenario in which her fellow women will isolate her if she continues to deviate from the male's Clean-Armpit Feminism. If a woman is too "militant", other women won't join her cause, so she better tone it down. Obviously, it's a fact that if one woman can come to a conclusion about the needs of resistance, it is possible that other women can come to the same conclusion -- attempting to convince a woman otherwise is to engage in what could be categorized as gas-lighting. Is what she experienced really so extreme that it warrants the sorts of things she's doing? Is it really worth it?

2. Threatening conservatism - The specter of conservatism of is an extremely powerful tool of men who seek to impose their will on self-identified feminists, at least in the United States and Canada. Conservatism is the general category that, for many women, encapsulates systems of violence such as Christian purity culture, in which men are enabled to rape and terrorize women in their own family. To advocate views out of a "conservative" ideology is to be wrong by the very physics of human dignity. Naturally then, men with Clean-Armpit Feminisms to promote attempt to characterize every unsavory position that a woman takes as a "conservative" one. If women express concern over the safety of their prostituted fellow women, they are "prudes" who are no better than the "Puritans" who seek to "attack" prostitution and on the grounds that it is unholy/inappropriate and "attack sex workers" for their crimes. If women question if male viewing of heterosexual hardcore pornography from very young ages affects their view of women in a way that is not necessarily positive or neutral, they are no better than the Republicans who seek to deny the raped woman an abortion -- just as this woman's ability to choose must be a legal right, women must "respect" the "freedom" of the prostituted woman, they must "honor" the "choice" of the woman in pornography. To refuse to do so is to channel conservatism without even realizing it; such is the only explanation. Men heavily impose this strawman of disgusting and deliberate power to distract from the very real violence, coercion, and male socialization in the pornography and prostitution industries.

3. Threatening inhumanity - Many men's Clean-Armpit Feminisms include the notion that men are "oppressed too" (if they are willing to work with the notion that women are oppressed) or "suffer" comparatively to women (if they don't want to bother manipulating around silly words like "oppression" -- see "Threatening isolation"). This axiom is often meant as a stepping stone to other notions, such as how men "should be included in feminism" or "need feminism". If women do not acknowledge that men are "hurt by patriarchy" or are oppressed too, there is the risk of seeming indifferent to the many individual men who experience violence in ways that can be reasoned to be part of the system they are resisting; men who "are raped" in prison, for example, or men who "are told" they can't cry. This is emotional coercion, as evidenced by the complete obfuscation of who is responsible for all of this violence -- that is, other men. Other men rape men in prison, other men tell men to bottle their emotions. But this is usually not a very Clean-Armpit Feminist thing to notice.

4. Threatening male isolation - Men will often stress the need for conformity to their Clean-Armpit Feminism with the implicit notion that women's resistance must be appealing to men. If a woman says the wrong things, or says the right things in the wrong way, it will just turn men off (that is, turn them off to "our movement"). Men will impose fantasies such as masses of our less enlightened male peers "joining the movement" and all slowly educating ourselves into not being rapists or pro-rape. To deviate from any part of the Clean-Armpit Feminism is to repel these men, and attracting men is necessary. Which leads us to:

5. Threatening violence - When part of a man's Clean-Armpit Feminism is questioned (and at some point it always happens), it is common that he will expose the conditional nature of his supposed solidarity and accuse the offending woman/women of lacking gratitude that he is "on women's side" to begin with. The implication is that if he can not impose his Clean-Armpit Feminism, and if women do not allow more men to do the same, the only place for him and the rest of the men to go is back into the explicitly woman-hating hoard. The implication is that to do anything that may repel men from "our movement" is to create abusers and rapists. The woman is ultimately to blame for insufficiently marketing her feminism.

6. Fallacy of gradualism - This is the simple fallacy that oppressed people in the past are always less intelligent and effective than those who are alive and active today -- that they have only improved on those who came before them in a gradual process of refinement. Despite being wrong, this rule is, to quote Marina S, part of the "progressive paradigm: that the world naturally tends towards more equal and just conditions on a liberal progression towards ultimate equality." Men will pejoratively associate deviations from their Clean-Armpit Feminism with "second-wave feminists" or other women who are no longer popular, but were more popular in the past. Because women's activism today is newer, anything resembling the older, obviously ineffective theory and practice can be automatically rejected. You are a dinosaur -- get with the times! There is also often an implicit threat of racism -- second-wave feminists were recorded as being mostly white women, and so to be channeling the "second-wavers" is to be associated with whiteness, despite how the Clean-Armpit Feminism violation in question never has anything to do with race. If it was popular with white women, how could it have any credibility?

7. Threatening misogyny - Usually appearing in concert with tactics like threatening conservatism, men charge women with hatred of their fellow women when they criticize things in which women take part and that the men wish to defend, prominent examples being the pornography and prostitution industries and BDSM communities. These charges are never honest; the mindset involved in their bringing is transparently that of taking advantage of a convenience. This convenience, specifically, is the power within charges of misogyny in settings of women's resistance, or in male liberal lefty circles. In the male "progressive" "movement", nobody wants to "be" any of the scary words; there are only a tiny amount of strikes (one? three?) between "being misogynist" and "being a misogynist". Male "progressivism" refuses to imagine events and ideas as anti-woman; there are only individuals, who can be roughly categorized as the misogynists, the non-misogynists (i.e. whichever man is the decider), and the being-misogynist-right-now-and-better-stop. On the other hand, a declaration that an idea or action is woman-hating exposes the opportunity to question why it is woman-hating. "She promotes anti-woman ideas" is less impressive and scary than "she is anti-woman". In a manner that reminds one of the Israeli government propaganda's perversion of the word "anti-Semitism," male charges of misogyny often take forms such as "anti-sex-worker". If a man coined the term "sex worker", it was likely so he could stick "anti-" in front of it.

8. Threatening fascism - In many male lefty circles, "fascist" is a pejorative for the people to which those men are supposedly being reactionary. Therefore, if you're really a Comrade, to resemble the Fascists at all is to go against what your community stands for. Many men, noticing this, will threaten non-conforming women with the charge of being "fascist" instead of (or in addition to) threatening with conservatism. Fascism, of course, is associated with people like Adolf Hitler. Do you want to be publicly accused of being Hitler-like? Didn't think so, now stop talking about porn.

9. Threatening improper heterosexuality - Men will often respond to women who criticize any aspect of male sexual practices and institutions with accusations or innuendo of failure to achieve heterosexual success. These attacks range from the transparent charges of "needing to get laid," through more academically passable pejoratives like "sexless," all the way to the sly innuendo within references to "those separatist lesbian feminists". Women are coerced physically and emotionally to perform and conform to heterosexuality every day starting well before puberty; a man who finds that a woman is deviating from his Clean-Armpit Feminism can put his hands on these deeply rooted mechanisms of control and steer her toward him.

These tactics all work via common logical fallacies, but it is not so much the fallacies that are notable as it is the way each tactic takes advantage of a social context of fear: the fear of being a bad person, the fear of being irrelevant, the fear of not belonging, the fear of not surviving. These fears are justifiable and universal loopholes in the resolve of an honest human being, that men will take advantage of in response to feeling any degree of threat. In the male geometry of Clean-Armpit Feminism, these fears secure the faces of the polyhedron in which women's thoughts and acts must be confined. So what is the anti-fear? Is it love?

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