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Friday, September 11, 2015

Repairing Cars! (Social Justice Metaphor)

The Contrarian really likes cars these days. He won't even go to bed without clutching a car in his hand. He squeals and screams "Kas! Kas!" every time one passes. He cries when I change his diaper unless I make the "Prrrrow!" noises of a pneumatic torque wrench.  His favorite movie? Cars. A close second? Cars 2.  (Which is a travesty.)   

So I think a lot about cars these days.  Here is a social justice metaphor about cars. (There were two, but the first one got long. I'll do the second one as a brunch post next week.)

Let's pretend you tell me that you don't like repairing cars....

You then proceed to tell me how difficult diagnostics on cars are, and the lengthy process you have to go through with every single vehicle to determine what is wrong with it. You list out dozens of problems that all have the same "symptoms" in a car, and tell me that often you can't even tell what system the issue is in. You discuss air flows and valves and seem pretty sure that the electrical system is primarily to start the car and run the lights and radio. You don't seem to be aware of computer chips or a computer's role in the car. Everything you are describing is analog and mechanical.

Pretty soon, I start to get the idea that you don't have the first clue about modern day car repair.  Like maybe you have an idea about what repairing cars was thirty years ago or more, but you don't even seem to have acknowledged OBD diagnostic systems (which have been standard in every car since the mid 90s and ubiquitous before that) to say nothing of the fact that computers are assisting every system in modern cars from brakes to fuel injection. 

Wait, the car actually knows what's wrong with it?
What foul sorcery is this????
And if you're only forty or so, and I'm pretty sure you weren't repairing cars before you could reach their pedals, it becomes pretty clear that you have absolutely no actual idea what you are talking about. Your knowledge of cars and car repair is based on something second hand that someone told you or you read. Or maybe you repaired a few really old cars once and you think that's what it's all about now.

It's not that I don't think you've ever repaired a car or know how they work. It's just painfully clear that you don't have the context for an actually informed opinion of what modern car repair is really about.

This is why when people invoke Dworkin or Greer in their critiques of feminism, my eyebrow insta-Spock-arches. If the only feminism they seem aware of is a bicycle/fish radicalized expression from the seventies, I start to wonder what their interaction with actual feminism has been. If they don't seem to know that NOW has led the social and political charge to have women added to the draft, or to include men's rape under the legal definition of rape. If someone invokes third wave trans exclusion or sex-work antagonism without being aware of what a "TERF" or a "SWERF" even is and why mainstream feminism tends to edge away from these positions. If they have no operant knowledge of what the term "white feminism" means or why it's seen as problematic or what intersectionality is and what problems with earlier forms of feminism it seeks to redress or how feminism has been front and center in challenging the way gender roles harm men too....

Suddenly I have a very different picture of what they actually know. I get the idea that they don't have the first clue about modern day feminism. Like maybe they have a vague idea of what it was like thirty years ago, but they don't seem to have acknowledged three decades or more of social progress and development or the different struggles that modern feminism has tried to tackle.

[For a metaphor within a metaphor, this would be like insisting video games are still at the Atari 2600 level of sophistication.]'

Video games are boring. All those squares for graphics aren't making me want to play them at all.
They aren't doing themselves any favors by making every game two player.
What? You think I haven't played a more recent game. HOW DARE YOU!

And if these people were BORN in the 70's, I doubt highly that they were engaging feminist thought in the second grade. Basically, it becomes pretty clear that they have absolutely no actual idea what they are talking about. Their knowledge of feminism is based on something second hand (probably from another opponent of feminism who doesn't really understand it either) they heard or read. Maybe they've read a few anachronistic excerpts and they think that's what it's still all about.

It's not that I don't think they've ever encountered feminist thought. It's just painfully clear that they don't have the context for an actually informed opinion of what modern feminism is really about.

And that ignorance of modernity makes an opinion hard to take seriously as informed or valuable....cars or feminism. 


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Whoops. Have to fix it when I get home. Thanks, and nice catch.

  2. You've got me curious to learn more about contemporary feminism. Sure, NOW isn't basing their playbook on Dworkin's work. Are her ideas really as long gone, as the Atari 2600? I have an Atari 2600 emulator, so I hope that the anti-male-sexuality elements of her teachings are MORE gone; with a tip of the hat to the rest of her work, such as observing and resisting institutional violence against women.

    I've been told - to my face, and we're more or less in the same generation - how wonderful the world would be if men were wiped out. Only once, and with no direct threat to my actual safety, and that stands in contrast to the barrage of threats, both categorical and personal, which anti-feminist men make today against any woman who dares to say anything in public. That said, it did make an impression. Maybe it was the equivalent of an Edsel, still on the road?

    1. I like Everyday Feminism as a place to talk about modern feminist thought. Here's a quick post about intersectionality: http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/01/why-our-feminism-must-be-intersectional/

      And I do not think that the world would be a better place if men would be wiped out. I also don't think women are inherently nicer, less violent, or sweeter. Nor do I believe them to be more backstabbing, "bitchier" or mean. There might be more pressure for women to be more passive and men to be more active (among other things) but neither manifests as either gender being better.

      Does anyone else find google spellcheck to sort of be behind the times? It doesn't recognize intersectionality, intersectional or a lot of other modern philosophy concepts but it thinks "twerk" is a word.

  3. Everyday Feminism looks familiar; I suspect I've followed links to articles there, in the last year or two.

    I happened across this on Reddit, after reading about "Famous Operas Made Shorter by Feminism", and rather liked it. I hope it's a widely-shared approach.