Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Functional Feminism

The most important components of a feminism are those corresponding to evolution of the problems of women and those corresponding to their solution. In this article, I suggest a more effective approach towards dissemination of functional aspects of feminist thought. When I say "a feminism", I refer to a specialization of the interpretations of the universal concept that subsumes all rational feminisms worth the name. I am not suggesting that the realization of "functionality" is the same across feminisms adopting distinct social science paradigms, but that this article is not about conflicts between paradigms per se.

If we choose to understand "feminism" as a plural term that can be specialized to various kinds of hate-free feminism by adjectives, then also the statement holds with minor modification.

As with any theory in social sciences, each type of feminism reinterprets perceived information over its own fundamental abstraction. Theoretical aspects of discourse may consequently appear dense to people not paying enough attention to the abstractions. Matters are further compounded by misogynist defenders of the "discriminatory order structure/ patriarchy/  intersectionality" resorting to myth making about the particular kind of feminism. I use "kind" as opposed to "type" for a reason.

All this may have the effect of putting off people unfamiliar with the field to varying extents. For example, some people may feel more comfortable with participating in "<some-name> women's group" as opposed to "<some-name> feminist group" - but that is the beginning of misinformed antagonism.

The implicit goal of any reasonable kind of feminism should be to get the message across to the general public to the point that there is no discrimination against women in letter and spirit and so one of the main questions is "How do we get the message across to the public at large?"

When we say that religions serve the discriminatory order structure against women, then we are not explicitly mapping all of the dynamics. If we say that across piles of pages, then a handful of feminists might understand that. If we try to make the point by examples that avoid terminology, then we are bound to miss a host of other use cases.

Geek feminism as practiced in the Geek_Feminism_Wikia is applied feminism for a very specific class of women in STEM fields. They do not focus on theoretical foundations and omit many aspects of dynamics in STEM fields because of the imprecise and vague nature of their defining clause "something to do with women in STEM fields". I am very aware of shortcomings of the approach (for STEM and non STEM people) - women in STEM fields may become aware of their rights and methods of handling issues, but hardly anything else is really part of the agenda. By this I mean that there is no focus on ontology based methods and consequently
its operational rules have negative consequences. Quality memes may not originate from their discourse.

The effectiveness of methods used by some atheists and rationalist groups in various social networking and community sites stand in stark contrast. Not only do they try and reach out to broader audiences, but do so in a far more effective manner. Their strategies try and take care of argument structures associated with memes - that can be taken to be ideas that tend to be replicated by people and thereby function as units of cultural evolution (as in Dawkin's approach).

The basic idea about memes is that they evolve in a way analogous to biological evolution. Their ability to survive, mutate (due to various reasons) and recombine to form new ideas or memes stand out in the process. They form part of mutually supporting complexes of memes called 'meme complexes'. Obviously if one is going to argue by memes or wants to target particular memes, then one needs to take care of these memetic features in the social context. Mathematical abstraction of memetic processes find application in fields like soft computing too.

Targeting lack of reason of people believing in religion is harder because often (if not always) religious people may stop reasoning altogether and may not be open to information/reason challenging their religious memes. The problem gets complicated if the person belongs to the plutocracy and is using religion for personal gains at the cost of others.

If a person is not particularly religious but has spent most of their life in conservative discriminatory environment and is not used to questioning the status quo, then they are liable to use decadent memes and myths as part of their reasoning process. Arguments starting from egalitarian generalities may fail to make sufficient impact on such people. I am inclined to believe that memes created by atheist groups as in this site,  would have greater impact on this class of people and less of an impact on the former class.

Creationists often advance stupid arguments against evolution and one particular meme to tackle such arguments carried the argument right up to "possible scientific methods of disproving evolution". Admittedly not all of the memes at the site are of good quality and it is important to take care of the application part. Feminists do make use of memes, but in a far more ineffective manner. Theories require readers to be substantially knowledgeable and debates are not really for the uninitiated.

I have already outlined a part of my functional feminism strategy in the above.


Innumerable negative memes including "myths" against women, feminity, body parts, and gender expression are used by the discriminatory order structure/patriarchy/intersectionality ... for brainwashing the population and it is necessary to demolish them in an effective way. Some community effort is necessary for this and no community should be exempt.

Some examples of articles that provide insight into the structure of myth evolution (at whatever stage of the process) and memesis:

1. These three articles concern myths about lesbians at some point of time. The comments say a lot about their evolution.

A.18 Keen Insights 

B. 16 Hard Core Facts

C.  Vintage Lies

2. This positive article provides insights into lived experience ... but by itself it cannot be expected to be efficient at myth busting.

3. This article is about Piers Morgan's misogyny  -- How would you convey the message of this article to a less mature audience?

4. Socio-economic class, religion, caste, race, politics and related culture matter a lot in any feminist discourse. The very kind of feminism may have an implicit "preferred subclass of women" as their potential candidates for emancipation. Thus a substantial part of the feminist movement in the west is just "middle/upper class white feminism" - some feminists actually identify themselves by such terminology.

5. Discrimination and violence against trans people, in the US for example, varies a lot across the divides mentioned and this has been well documented. One aspect that has not been well studied in the context is the relation between attitudes involved in discrimination against one subclass and those against another subclass. Transphobes tend to draw upon one class of discrimination to discriminate against other classes. The nature of "evil memes and complexes" used in the process is of high complexity. Admittedly exposure to quality education of the target population is related to the level of effort that we need to put into memes.

In the Indian context, discrimination and violence against socio-economically ostracized LGBTIQ and indigenous gender variant people in poverty is common. Sections of the latter category tend to indulge in crimes and extortion based on "cultural roles imposed on them by the patriarchy" - so much so that middle and upper class LGBTIQ activists may not feel particularly comfortable in handling their human rights. Some details, in a controversial perspective, can be found in Anirudda Dutta'2012. Interestingly, they miss  aspects of the behavior of conservative sections of the population who use their wild beliefs 
about indigenous gender diverse people to abuse people belonging to any of the LGBTIQ categories.  Given the abysmal quality and level of education of a substantial fragment of the officially literate people in the country, the problem of meme development is therefore all the more complex and its scope should necessarily be delimited for any reasonable level of efficiency in the hope of a reasonable memesis.

Apart from its educational value, the memetic approach is important for constructing models for possible formal computational analysis of instances of memesis. Yes, I can do it and the models are part of an  example that I am developing for a distinct research context.


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