Penetrating Insights
Friday Ephemeraren’t

An Intellectual Being Rides Again

Melissa Fabello, the managing editor of Everyday Feminism, the one who told her readers that feminism is a Joy-Bringing Total Explanation For Everything In The World, is once again unhappy

When you’re a human being of any combination of marginalised identities making your way through the world, a funny thing happens: People want to fight with you a lot. And I don’t necessarily mean physical fights… but rather, the seemingly innocuous form of fighting known as “debating.”

Yes, Ms Fabello, our graduate, educator and publishing powerhouse, is also “a combination of marginalised identities” - all sadly unspecified - and is continually assailed by the life-threatening outrage that is People Who Disagree With Her. Specifically, people who don’t regard Ms Fabello’s “lived experience,” i.e., her pantomime of victimhood, as the rhetorical full stop, the decisive hand of cards, that she wishes it to be. Put another way, if Ms Fabello says she’s oppressed, then you mustn’t talk back or offer facts to the contrary. Because claims of “lived experience,” however theatrical, embellished or self-flattering they may be, are The Last Word, a triumphant “End Of,” to which no reply is welcome, or decent, or permitted.

If you’ve ever been a marginalised person on the internet, you may recognise this phenomenon as “The Facebook Comment Thread Effect” – and it’s the reason why so many people choose to bow out of these arguments entirely: not because they can’t defend themselves, but because they shouldn’t have to.

Note the conflation of defending a stated position - a not unreasonable expectation, even today, even on Facebook - with defending oneself, and the implication of an assault on one’s very being, or at least one’s ego, which is apparently unfair. This, remember, is a woman paid to edit feminist polemic in order to make it more convincing.

But these absurd arguments happen because there’s always at least one person who just can’t admit that they have no fucking idea what they’re talking about.

I’ll just leave that one there, I think.

It’s most frequently the people with the most privilege in any given situation who want to engage in “debate” with me and others. And that’s not because I expect more of, say, straight, white, cis men – because I most certainly do not.  

See, that wholesale embrace of “social justice” really does swell the heart and sharpen the mind, making it nimble, attuned to nuance. Not at all stiffened by presumption and the casual dismissal of entire notional categories of humankind.  

To the contrary, I expect this desperate attempt at domination because that’s how oppression works on an individual level.

Ah, so let’s be clear. When straight, white, cis men disagree with feminists and those who imagine themselves “marginalised,” and therefore pious, this is an evil act, a “desperate attempt at domination.” 

People with the most power and privilege believe their mediocre opinions to be of actual intellectual consequence, and then attempt to force their misconceptions onto everyone else to the benefit of (who else?) their damn selves… I have never known another group of people to be so unskilled, overall, at legitimate debating.

At risk of sounding unkind, the word projection springs to mind. And those straight, white, cis men currently working on roads and rigs and scaffolding in less than pleasant conditions, while providing for their families, will be thrilled to hear of all the “power and privilege,” the patriarchal heft, that they have at their disposal. And likewise, of how their opinions are “mediocre,” and thus invalid, apparently by default. At this point, Ms Fabello deploys lots of rhetorical chaff - pointing out, for instance, that engaging CAPS LOCK isn’t in itself a devastating argument. And then chastising those who ironically use the term “social justice warrior” – which, she explains, is an “invalidating behaviour,” one that can get “really oppressive really quickly.”

This goes on for some time, many paragraphs. The gist, however, isn’t hard to fathom. Those straight, white, cis men – those “people of privilege” – the ones who don’t immediately accept improbable protestations of victimhood before bowing in humbled silence - are just knuckleheads and bigots, devoid of sensitivity and higher reasoning. Unlike Ms Fabello, who tells us she wants “actual debate” with “intelligent thoughts,” and who happily retweets demands that all men “stop talking,” under a banner boasting that she “never wants to hear a word any heterosexual white man has to say.”

Of course Ms Fabello’s struggles with logic and consistency have entertained us many times. As when she proclaimed, based on nothing, that the world is “divided into the oppressed and the oppressors,” with herself in the former category, due to the infinite woe of being a middle-class female in twenty-first century America. One whose status as a “gender minority” – because that’s what women are, apparently, despite their numerousness – means that any factual correction or testing of her claims – especially when “unsolicited” and from a “straight, cis man” – “simply pale in comparison to living in a marginalised body that experiences the trauma of oppression.

None of which, it has to be said, is particularly suggestive of intellectual honesty and a yearning for frank and open debate. It does, however, draw attention to the essential conceit of Ms Fabello’s “intersectional” claptrap. Which is to say, that declaring oneself marginalised (repeatedly, multiply so, in ways not terribly clear) and therefore deserving of special favours - such that one’s feelings and vanity should be the decisive factor, the last word in any exchange – sounds an awful lot like the kind of “privilege” she so zealously denounces.