Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Suzanne Moore: the thrill of anger

Yesterday I reported on a controversial newspaper column by English feminist Julie Burchill. Julie Burchill attacked transsexuals but went down in flames (the Guardian/Observer even went to the lengths of deleting her column).

But what originally sparked the whole feminist vs transsexual argument? It was a column by another feminist, Suzanne Moore. And this column is also of some interest. It's a piece in praise of female anger. And the bit that upset the transsexuals was this:
We are angry with ourselves for not being happier, not being loved properly and not having the ideal body shape – that of a Brazilian transsexual.
What interests me isn't the reference to transsexuals, it's the complaint of not being happy or loved properly. It's not something that feminists can seek redress for from the state. It's not something that translates easily into a political crusade. It's something that could only be fixed by feminists changing things about themselves and how they relate to others.

But Suzanne Moore isn't going to change. She is going to continue to promote female anger:
Why are we not telling our inbred overlords that we are not as nice as we look? Partly because we are afraid of our own anger. It’s not a pretty sight. Seeing red and letting go is, for many women, a dangerous activity. We are only ever a few HRT pills away from being a monstrous regiment. Women’s rage is also never seen as what we say it is actually about. It is inchoate, unreadable and uncontrollable. It is, of course, also totally thrilling.
She recognises that feminism has disrupted family life, admits that this isn't "easy", but also sees it positively as a challenge to capitalism:
While some kinds of feminism meld well with the logic of late capitalism, others challenge it. The stark facts are as follows. Wherever women become educated, they have fewer children and when they become financially independent, the model of monogamous marriage breaks down. Freedom is neither easy or easily defined.

She's right that women's financial independence is one factor in making family life more unstable (divorce levels rise with each rise in a wife's income relative to her husband's and it's more difficult for women to find professional peers to marry the more that women dominate the professions). Her response is that freedom "isn't easy". But where does that leave those women who are angry at "not being loved properly"?

Then she writes this:
I see my daughters’ generation written off as pretty much everything I took for granted is being systematically stripped away from them. Jobs, housing, free education. The expectation that these young women would have the same choice or more even than their mothers is being shattered. They have less. This is why so many of us are seeing red.
Talk about batting for team woman. What if she had a son? (She has three daughters by three different fathers.) Would she really not care about her son's interests? Would she continue to present all men as being born-to-rule Old Etonians as she does in her column?

But it's not so much men in general that Suzanne Moore sees as the enemy. Specifically it is white men. She complains, for instance, that "The ideas of quotas is still abhorrent to those born to rule: white men." This is interesting as there are now so few white males going to university in the UK that there is talk of introducing quotas to get more rather than less white men on campus.

It's the same old shtick. An irresponsible albeit privileged white feminist wants to portray white men as a powerful clique attacking the poor and marginalised in society.

It's such a long distance away from the kind of relations between men and women that you would need to uphold a civilisation. That's why it's pointless for Suzanne Moore to complain that her daughters' generation has fewer choices than her own. How could it possibly be otherwise? If you trash the family, if you trash the men of your own nation, then how can you possibly expect the swing of society to be onward and upward?

One final thought: part of her shtick is to shift blame for what is happening in society. The truth is that we live in a feminist society and have been for decades. So if things are getting worse then feminists ought to be a bit self-critical. Suzanne Moore shields herself from this thought, though, by pretending that we are living in "late capitalist" society or a society run by a powerful and malevolent clique of white men.

Someone ought to introduce Suzanne Moore to Hanna Rosin. Hanna Rosin is a feminist who takes a completely different line, namely that we have reached a point at which we can talk about "the end of men". Women are the dominant sex in a postindustrial society, asserts Hanna Rosin. The problem is to find something for men to usefully do. Far from society being ruled by a malevolent clique of enemy white men, men have been made redundant by modern society and are more to be pitied.

I don't buy either of these narratives, but I find it curious that Suzanne Moore should be sticking with the "white men born to rule enemies" mantra whilst Hanna Rosin believes we are goners and losers.


  1. I think feminism was born in the upper-middle class in the Western world and then supported by a group of elite men.

    Liberalism is bad, bad, bad for anything below upper-class though and for society as a whole.

    Most men who are not elite in Anglo-Puritan Protestant countries (e.g. USA, UK, Australia), are made redundant by feminism and there is family breakdown.

    The whole idea that feminism battles capitalism is a laugh. Feminism loves capitalism. It loved communism as well. It loves either complete autonomy or conformity towards equality.

  2. And no there are no different kinds of feminism. The philosophy is the same. It just expresses itself differently in different settings.

  3. I agree with Elizabeth (above), but would modify one of her comments. I would say that capitalism loved feminism first, and then feminists loved capitalism because it loved them. What I mean is this. Capitalism simply exploits opportunities to make a profit. A bunch of women ideologically driven to have careers, and then a bunch of women with lots of money--these were opportunities capitalism couldn't pass up. Women are model workers, and model consumers. And then, of course, capitalism can be very, very nice to model workers and consumers.

    Moore puts her finger on the beating heart of feminism, but doesn't understand that that is what it is. Anger; delirious, joyous anger; anger without an object; anger for its own sake. In other words, female anger. We could give feminists everything they asked for twice over, and they would still be angry, because with them the anger is never about what the anger is ostensibly about.

  4. The all encompassing fail safe straw man argument of feminism: evil white men. If they're not careful they may just get their wish: the rise en masse of a class of ruthless white men who feel that that is their only card to play. Of course I don't mean the hysterical evil that these shrill women have in mind. More along the lines of cold, manipulative and cunning thto e the nth degree. The irony of self fulfilling prophecy.

  5. @ JMSmith,

    "Moore puts her finger on the beating heart of feminism, but doesn't understand that that is what it is. Anger; delirious, joyous anger; anger without an object; anger for its own sake. In other words, female anger."

    That's brilliant. Anger is as intoxicating and addictive as a narcotic. It is a powerful stimulant. It makes one feel alive - especially if one is depressive or low arousal by nature.

    You are right that angry feminists cannot be satisfied, because they are endlessly creative in inventing new sources of outrage to feed their anger addiction.

  6. This lady is precisely the reason why we should rule. Her infantilism must be suppressed and the non-white world should be protected from her foolishness.

  7. JMSmith,

    From what I've observed, the young ones (say 15 to 35) feed off their own anger, but later on they mellow a bit, but by this time they're enjoying the perks of a relatively cushy career and the "maintain the rage" mantra is more directed at maintaining the place of women like themselves in the pecking order (i.e. "we're still oppressed, despite our relatively privileged circumstances, and therefore society should remain oriented to our further advancement").

  8. This scientist may be of interest to you...
    Helena Cronin seems to be acknowledging sex differences and considers it ridiculous to aim for equal representation of sexes in various aspects of life.