This long blog post involves questioning how my own work (e.g., fearanalysis) can contribute as a 'corrective' to the Gender and Sex Wars going on around the planet, particularly in the Western (post)modern world, and especially since the 19th century arising of the Women's Movement through to the waves of feminisms. I will rely heavily in this blog on my daughter's contribution to this topic, as she (Vanessa D. Fisher) has become a bit of an expert on Gender and Sex Wars. Also, note, "solution" is used very loosely here, because these wars are not easy to solve and not by one solution.
The challenge for me is important in that I ought to be able to say something significant to help assess the Gender and Sex Wars, because they are "wars" indeed if you actually take time to study them and what they are producing, some good and some not so good, results. They are arguably, and seemingly, essential conversations and debates, because humanity is working through a "crisis" in the gender and sex identifications, and roles, and the entire societies involved are going through this transitional difficult time because Traditional understandings (i.e., premodernist) and Modern understandings (i.e., modernist) are clashing severely and have for well over a hundred years but now since postmodern times (e.g., post-WWII, 1945 onward to present) we are facing Postmodern understandings and complexities around gender and sex, and the wars between these perspectives are severe. [Note: I include this war under the Culture Wars title used by many thinkers]. With wars there is going to be a lot of fears--and, the exacerbation point of the Fear Problem itself that has not been resolved, or not even been well enough acknowledged at the root of the wars, and here I'll focus on Sex and Gender Wars (conflicts).
I focus on this hot conflict today for several reasons, not the least of which is because of my daughter's involvement in them for over 10 years now as a public intellectual and activist in her own right, with her own youtube channel (see "Vanessa D. Fisher"). At age 33, my daughter has turned out, with my pride of course, to be an important voice in that debate about Gender and Sex going on. She is in the middle of conflict sorting out her own ways to make sense of it and add a compassionate response and potential guideposts to its resolution and healing, as well as directions for policy. She is also a critical thinker and writer, has taken several feminist courses since high school and through her undergraduate degree in Liberal Arts. At present, she is nearing the place of applying for law school. In fact, today, she told me she is going to visit Yale Law School to see it from the inside. This is a big step for a girl who was raised mostly in poverty borderline working class home, even though her mom and I were professional school teachers for a few years in her infant years. Later, after the divorce, she was raised by her mom, with her sister, and they lived on welfare until she left at age 16 and came and lived with Barbara an I and started a "new life." That little bio background may help you understand some of where Vanessa comes from, because she is going to be important in this blogpost. I will use her example of how to talk about feminism and women's issues in the Gender and Sex Wars debates of the day. She offers me an ongoing look, from a young person's view of this debate and her youthful wisdom is always something I learn from, even if I am also critical of her positions at times, or mostly I have extensions I would offer to her positions. Understand, also in biographical context, she was raised from 16 on, until she left home at 19 or so, by me and her step-mom (Barbara Bickel) as declared feminists ourselves. Vanessa learned from us, and she also "parted" to develop her own views, which I appreciate.
Brief Overview of My Work on Gender and Sex: Sexuality & Fearuality
First, before I share with you my interpretation of the substantial components of Vanessa's latest video channel presentation on "Were Women Historically Oppressed?"(Apr. 21, 2017), it may be useful for you to read some of my prior work on this topic of gender and sex, and activism and social movements. I am not an obvious "activist" to most who know me now. I have been more a traditional activist in the way long gone years in my late-teens and 20s especially. So, I am going to list in the end note here what blogposts I have published previously on the FM ning that are background and relevant to this topic today . Those pieces are samples of my work and interest on this topic, if you want more, let me know and/or look on the internet. Bottomline, I approach gender and sex as the domain of "sexuality" in the largest sense of that term as an important dimension of being a living organism/system. Sexuality, for me, is equivalent in many ways, analogous to, "fearuality"--and, thus, the two of them together come down to my interest to see how "fear" plays an important role in sexuality and fearuality and how they interrelate in total human evolution and development. Of course, culture and politics and history all come in as well to shape sexuality just as they shape fearuality and the combination of the two dimensions of human experience.
Vanessa D. Fisher's Views
Now, to the substance of this blogpost, and Vanessa's contribution to this. Note, I have not had her edit anything I am writing here. We have had several conversations however, after her last video ("Were Women Historically Oppressed?") and before that we have always had good critical conversations on this topic. That said, she is much more a content expert, a young person's expert, than I am (at age 65). I have always told myself, and later to her face, "I am staying away from entering this topic." I continue to take that position, and do not wish to be an expert on gender and sex and the conflicts. However, I keep getting drawn into it, thanks to Barbara and Vanessa. So, on that, let me start my interpretation of what I think is so crucially important in Vanessa's response the question that she says is the most common one she gets asked by many people in her public exchanges (mostly on the Internet but also live). She gets asked by activists who are fighting on either side of the debates, the wars, to come out and take a stronger stand and not just "fence sit" in the middle. I can tell you that pisses Vanessa off because she feels she is taking a strong stand, but it just doesn't nicely fit the activists' stands on either/or sides of the war. I know Vanessa's personality since she was born, she is not one to be quiet with her opinion, nor her intelligence, nor her fiestiness. She is also not one who totally like to conform just because of its advantages, but this also has been a struggle for her growing up and even now, as it is for most people. We all are going to face the fear of non-conformity and the option to rather just conform and "not rock the boat" in our social and work worlds. Also, being a Libra, some astrologers tell me that makes her a "mediator" by inherent nature. I see that is her strength, and at times, in some situations, it is not likely her strength.
Her lastest video is one of a long series of many videos and blogs and interview podcasts she does. I highly recommend you check her out on the Internet and her social media work. She does all of this for free. She has been passionate and driven to help the world solve this problem, and other things. She knows my work on Fear and Fearlessness, somewhat, and knows where I stand and why I am doing my own interpretation which is somewhat different than hers. That said, I agree with so much, especially in her latest video where she says she refuses to answer the "purity test" question the binary activists throw at her: "Were Women Historically Oppressed?" Also, note, she often is referring to the gender and sex problems and wars as heated right now because of the strong and growing opposition of "Feminists" vs. "Men's Rights Activists" (MRA's) and others involved who may not fit those two sides, but fact is, those two opposing sides get all the media attention and hype. Vanessa has not wanted to play that binary game, although, she admits to being sensitive and empathetic to both sides, both have partial truths to share but both have their own "shadows to deal with" is a phrase I particularly like because I call that "shadow" (as do others) the pathological, neurotic, and wounded side--that is, the Fear-side of their perceptions, thoughts, actions and stances, politically and psychologically, etc.
So, I would focus on the fearanalysis of Gender and Sex Wars, and I can tell you, no one really likes that I do that, not even Vanessa, though she wouldn't likely say that to me overtly, but it is just not her "flavor" of ice cream she likes to focus on in approach. That's not what I want to go into in this blogpost but it is worth mentioning.
Vanessa both accepts the concern behind the question ("purity test" as she called it in the video): "Were Women Historically Oppressed?" (now is a good time to watch her video)--and, she rejects the question. Her main reason for hating to answer this question, is it forces the discussion and her positioning into a binary that is imposed in the structuration, assumptions, and bias already in the question. She says she doesn't want to play into the "tribalism" of that forcing an answer in a way that then allows the activists asking the question to quickly label Vanessa's answer (or anyone's answer) as pro-feminist or pro-MRA (i.e., pro-men). And I agree with the forced and narrow binary of the question and the way labeling is made superficially and rigidly and it is like there is no room, flex or curiosity after that. The "victim-mentality" as Vanessa calls it in this debate (on both sides) has to do with feeling they can be then "safe" with Vanessa as an ally for their cause or not. The really disturbing part of activism ideology (binary forcing) is that it divides and conquers as its main strategy. I find that oppressive itself. Vanessa likewise, and no doubt others of you would too. The gender and sex wars is complicated, so is the question about oppression. Vanessa goes into that problematics in the video. I want to come back to Vanessa labeling this "tribalism" behind the agendas of these two camps in the war (which could be any kind of war). The tribalism is a way of organizing the world and discourse and rhetoric that looks for "right" and "wrong" "guilty and not-guilty" behind everything going on, especially in how people take a stand on some issue or problem. This divisive (philosophical dualism) is itself fear-based and oppressive when it is pressed with the pressure of the "purity test" --as you see is also the case when in many different issues of the day, "blood lines" are used to tell who is on who's side of a genocidal war or any other cultural/tribal label (could be race, ethnicity) etc., or color as in racism, etc. involving genetics. This is the old wars we know of, they are very destructive. Not that all things about tribal cultural life and consciousness and politics are "bad"--no, that is not what Vanessa or I am saying. We are merely saying, that in a 21st century context, in a postmodern world of complex problems and conflicts with globalization, with gender and sex identities evolving and roles of people changing ---such simple "purity tests" are made for another time and era, not now.
The "purity test" is a way to tell (as the activists may wish) if a person is a "denier" or not. From the generic feminist view (especially, radical side) the test is to tell how much one has sympathy for the female cause of vicitimization and of the 'holocaust' and atrocities against girls and women from the beginning of time--all, perpetuated by the Other (i.e., the boys and men of patriarchy)... the other side in the debate would also see if one is a "denier" just going in the other direction, as the MRA's often do in their radical forms of ideology and binary tribalism. Again, you can watch Vanessa's video, one or two times and I think she really gets this out and suggests better ways to go. To make this blogpost not too long, I call all this problematic "fearism-t" or a type of terrorization to conform that fits the agenda of any ideology. That's the problem of all ideologisms. They are fear-based, guilt-based, shame-based in entire structuration and always have been. Today, in the 21st century, and especially from the perspective of Fearlessness, these are not going to be useful. I also would argue they carry a retro-regressive rather than a true progressive agenda. But that's a long blogpost for another time.
Vanessa, is a good "integralist" thinker, a post-postmodern thinker, and she smells that ideological retro-regression and its violence based on fear--which is, as she says, based on wounds and shadows on both sides--where all the activists really want with you in their asking the question is to "objectify" you as "for or against" them, and that prevents the most important relationship and working through dialogically and otherwise the healing and communications needed in war zones. Again, that's a long blogpost for another time. Vanessa is offering in her work a non-fear-based intervention to the wars. I heartily support this, and of course, I would want to bring in a critical integral fear management systems (fearanalysis) to it all. I'll give a quickie summary. Tribalism as I mentioned above, when applied to a postmodern world, e.g., North American society overall, is going to be disasterous, and much of the old pre-modern tribalism and hurts still persist, including the war between Church and State, that W. Enlightenment tried to separate out using FMS-5 as the method, which was attempting to overcome FMS-4 and FMS-2 ... and, their limitations to deal with a more complex modern world. Then there is FMS-6 (postmodernism) attempting new strategies to overcome the "fear of the Other" (i.e., diversity problem)--and, feminists and MRA's for example, also use this FMS-6 as their main approach to dealing with fear and diversity and yet, when it comes into the gender and sex wars, and victimization and identity politics (too often) there is a hidden underbelly of pre-modern FMS-2 (tribalism) and FMS-4 (empirism) underneath trying to use "fear" against people by intimidating them to conform to the status quo (or to conform to the "gang" mentality and means of ideologies)...
Okay, that's a bit of my interpretation to wet your appetites, perhaps. The "Solution" promised, is really in Vanessa's response to the "purity test"--and, Vanessa is very wise I think on many levels in the way she handles the difficulty. I would take some different routes to handling it. I would start with a really good education for everyone on oppression history, philosophy, theory and praxis. That, most people, including Vanessa, just do not get in contemporary society and education. I would add, a good fear management/education is also needed, and also lacking. I would add, the integral perspective (theory) is also key, and Vanessa is most educated in that, as I introduced her to it in her late teens. Ultimately, the solution is to use "FMS-7" (what is called 2nd-tier in Spiral Dynamics Integral Theory). That is, "Fearlessness" theory to guide the "wars" to a less violent resolution.
1. See "My View on Social Movements" (Sept. 23, 2015), "New Social-Practical Philosophy for the World Soul" (Jan. 19, 2016), "Sex and Gender Wars: From Many Perspectives" (Feb. 12, 2016), "Women/Feminists: The Struggle Against Fear" (Dec. 18, 2016), and "Fearism and Feminism" (Jan. 9, 2017).