According to Russian historian Boris Sokolov, writing for Grani.ru (an independent website that has been blocked in Russia since March by orders of the prosecutor’s office for allegedly promoting “extremism”), the other day Russia’s TV-1–the country’s main channel–marked the anniversary of World War I with a documentary titled “Alternative Version: The First Shot of World War I.”
Its thesis: Archduke Ferdinand’s real assassin was not Gavrilo Princip but a British sniper, a Freemason acting on behest of the international masonic conspiracy which had set out to start a world war in order to gain world domination. Later on, the same masonic conspiracy engineered the Russian Revolution so that Russia would not emerge as one of the war’s victors.
Who knew that the old adage about lunatics running the asylum could come true quite so literally?
Just to make it clear: I’m not a part of Women Against Feminism. I’m on the fence about whether the term “feminism” can be reclaimed, but that’s a question for another time. (In case you missed it: here’s my Time.com article on the subject.)
But some of the responses to WAF just make me roll my eyes.
Here’s an example:
First of all: a recurring theme on the Women Against Feminism site is that feminism fought important battles in the past, but those battles have been won and feminism has morphed into something counterproductive. Whether that view is right or wrong, to say that today’s fourth wave (or whichever wave it is) feminists are entitled to women’s allegiance because of the rights previous generation of feminists have won for women is, as my friend Brian Carnell has observed on Twitter, a bit like saying that blacks must be forever loyal to the Republican Party because it was instrumental in ending slavery.
Secondly: while it is certainly true that women pre-feminism generally faced far greater obstacles than men of the same class when it came to intellectual pursuits, the idea that women (at least in the West) were barred from expressing opinions and denied all voice is preposterous. Christine de Pizan wrote books, including ones that defended women against misogynist caricatures, all the way back in the 14th-15th Centuries. There were plenty of other women writers, including popular pamphleteers, whose work long predates anything like an organized feminist movement. In fact, if women had been denied the right to have and publish their opinions, how could (first-wave) feminism even have happened? Mary Wollstonecraft and Olympe de Gouges, two women who can probably be justly called feminist pioneers, both published their work at the end of the 18th Century. (Both, it should be noted, had written and published extensively on other subjects before turning to advocacy of women’s rights.) Feminists certainly did not make it possible for them to get published and reach large audiences.
It is true, however, that women authors–particularly ones who wrote on feminist topics–were often singled out for ridicule and disparagement. They could be mocked as ignorant and stupid, or derided as mere conduits for men’s ideas (because, after all, women couldn’t possibly have the brains to come up with intelligent arguments!), or slandered as immodest and unchaste…
… which is exactly what some feminists are now doing to Women Against Feminism.