Pew... Okay. I have talked about this kind of stuff before in various places, but it's a topic that keeps getting brought up over and over in gaming circles and I don't know if I ever really sat down and made a blog about the subject. Partly because I suspect 90% of people really really do not care, or if they do, are completely sick of hearing about it or talking about it. The other 10%? Well probably 90% of them have already made up their minds no matter what I say. So likely only 1% of people will actually care about and pay attention to anything I have to say about the subject. But I feel like blabbing about it anyway so here we go.
First of all, lets ask an important question:
What exactly is feminism anyway?
Feminism is, as far as I am concerned, a number of movements which concerns it's self with a subset of the larger subject of Identity Politics and is in particular focused on the liberation and promotion of the "female" identity. It is not, as some people would insist, simply the promotion of gender equality. For many if not most feminists solving the problem of gender inequality is, has been, and always will be, the primary goal of feminism, true. But feminism is not a goal, it is a rhetorical method. The method can be and has been used for different ends, even up to and including the promotion of the domination of the "female" identity over the "male" identity. This however is again a goal and not one a vast majority of feminists share.
Therefor, one thing that is incredibly important to realize is the goals and ideals of particular groups of people who use feminist rhetoric are not necessarily the same. Making blanket statements about all feminists or anyone who uses similar ideas and methods is incredibly misguided. If you have a particular objection to a particular recurring argument or a foundational criticism of feminist theory, then those kind of debates and criticism are far more valuable then just blatantly attacking a goal that someone may not share. On the flipside, if someone is using feminist rhetoric to argue for a goal or position that you disagree with, then arguing directly to oppose that goal or position is far more valuable then attacking the theory behind the rhetorical devices they use to push for it.
In short, feminism is a tool. If you oppose the tool's usefulness, debate the tool. If you oppose the people's use of the tool, debate the individuals who use it.
I have my own objection to feminist theory and to the whole field of identity politics, but on the other hand I also share the same goal as most of the people who are into it do: The ever murky idea of "equality". I just don't think identity politics as it exists is the best way to go about accomplishing that goal.
So, what, exactly, is the problem we should be trying to solve?
They say life isn't fair. Maybe that is true, but I don't think of it that way. Life is very fair. People are born in the same way as basically everyone else, and everyone's life has the same kind of random factor to it. Are you born as a particular race or gender? Roll a dice. Are you born with some genetic disease? Roll a dice. Are you born in a particular area of the world? Roll a dice. No it's not truly random, but from a personal perspective it might as well be. Everyone starts out pretty much the same, as a helpless baby. Everyone has pretty much the same odds of being born in any particular position starting out as any other.
No, it's society that's unfair. It's society that judges you for your birth, not life. Life just doesn't care. It drops you in the middle of things at some random point and leaves you to sort it out. Society wants to sort you, to put you in a nice box. Sure society protects people, but only for it's own interest. Unlike life, it cares about you, but only in how best to use you. The uncaring wilds may chew you up and spit you out but they won't judge you. Except if you count in retrospect by how many babies you managed to pop out and genes you manage to spread, but that's coincidence not intent. To life society is just complex tricks to increase the amount of wiggling things that can be wiggling together at any one time. To society, life is just a source of things to put into different boxes and judge according to what boxes things were put in.
So people are put into boxes like "male" and "female", and much more then just biological traits are put in these boxes. Ideas, behaviors, rules, everything is divided up into these boxes. There are boxes for gender, boxes for race, and boxes for other things. Some boxes are put inside other boxes to make a neat tree so everything gets cleaned up and organized. People are expected to take what box they are put in and use it to model their entire life around it. If they can't be put in a box or refuse to be put in one they are just thrown into the "other" box and distrusted and scorned. Once a group of people in the other box with some arbitrary number of traits the same emerges they can be given their own box. And so the cycle continues.
People of one box can find it easy to hate and scorn people from another box. People who identify as a box with fight furiously to defend and promote their box over other people's box. And boxes who gain some sort of "power" will try and dominate other boxes. Some boxes will be put other others. It has happened time and time again, and will continue to happen. Life doesn't care as long as that means more wiggly things everywhere. Society delights in it's happy little boxes without caring about the contents of the boxes at all. So what fights for us? Well we do of course. Nothing else will.
So what then is the solution to this problem?
I can tell you for sure what is not the solution. Playing society's little games with boxes. And that's exactly what identity politics is. If you insist to define yourself as "male" or "female" or "gay" or "straight" or "black" or "white" all you are doing is putting yourself in another little box. It doesn't matter how much you fight for the cause of your box, because your still fighting for the broken system that causes you to be oppressed in the first place. The only way to free humanity from this system therefor is to systematically tear down the system of boxes that people are placed into.
And yeah, that's really really hard to do. But maybe not impossible. Maybe as technology advances and humanity can change their bodies more and more in ways that they see fit, the need for these types of classifications will vanish. If people can change their gender whenever they want or even be in between, what need is there for gender identity? When people can change their skin or appearance what need will their be for racial identity? When people finally develop a post scarcity economic system what need will their be for class identity? But until that day comes, and maybe it never will, it will be hard to simply refuse to put ourselves in little boxes. Buit I think it's still something we should look to as an ideal if nothing else.