About a year ago, erstwhile game "journalist" Leigh Alexander was launching her new site, Offworld, and tweeted that she was looking for new contributors.
The site was pitched as a haven of discussion free from domineering white male patriarchal influences, a place where feminists and groups that have been "otherized" could tell each other how strong they are and reassure each other that, at some nebulous point in the future, they'd rip the gaming industry from the cold, dead, Cheeto-and-Red-Bull-stained hands of the misogynistic man-children who had made games a hostile hobby for women.
Credit to the troll who asked if, in light of that, white guys could still contribute to Offworld. Alexander took the bait.
"[If] white cis men want to contribute to offworld, i'd accept your volunteer art, music, games, labor so resources could be allocated elsewhere," Alexander tweeted in response.
In other words: We pay our writers, unless they're straight white guys. Because white guys are evil or something. (The phrase "white cis men" simply means straight white men, but with a negative connotation -- it's a way for the extreme left and internet feminists to turn the identity of the "privileged" into a pejorative.)
Aside from almost certainly violating labor laws, Alexander unintentionally revealed what internet feminism, or so-called academic feminism, has become. It's like a club for people who have chips on their shoulders and see everything in black and white apocalyptic terms, as if we're headed for some climactic battle of the sexes instead of living as members of the same race with the same emotions, worries, hopes and ambitions.
It's about reducing people's value and worldviews to their genitals, reducing the value of what they have to say and contribute to society by their perceived "privilege."
Feminism used to be about demanding equal pay for equal work. It used to be about welcoming more girls into programs for math and science, encouraging them to consider careers that have been typically dominated by men, recognizing that they have just as much to offer as their male counterparts in society and the workplace.
Now it's about tweeting and retweeting outrage, inventing entirely new classes of boogeymen who populate the "matrix of oppression," limiting civil discourse and shouting down people who have the "incorrect" opinion. It's about establishing "safe spaces" on college campuses, peppering texts with "trigger warnings," and warning against the "micro-aggressions" of saying things like "America is a pretty good country."
You see, saying that could offend someone, and offending someone could traumatize them, and no one should go through life encountering discomfort. That's why, when conservative speakers are invited to some of the country's most hallowed academic institutions, they're shouted down and harassed. It's why we see footage of college kids screaming at faculty members and assaulting local reporters who cover their protests. It's why college deans take it upon themselves to issue guides ahead of Halloween, "educating" students on which costumes are socially acceptable, and which ones are offensive or amount to "cultural appropriation."
The effect, feminist Christina Hoff Sommers argues, is actually harming women. This new brand of feminism, which infantilizes women and attempts to insulate them from anything that might contradict academic feminism's carefully-constructed worldview, doesn't do women any favors when they graduate into the real world.
Sommers says she calls it "fainting-couch feminism, a la the delicate Victorian ladies who retreated to an elegant chaise when overcome with emotion."
"As an equality feminist from the 1970s, I am dismayed by this new craze," Sommers told Psychology Today's Clay Routledge. "Women are not children. We are not fragile little birds who can’t cope with jokes, works of art, or controversial speakers. Trigger warnings and safe spaces are an infantilizing setback for feminism -- and for women."
It's gotten to the point that President Barack Obama felt he had to weigh in earlier this year, while delivering a commencement speech at Howard University.
"Don't try to shut folks out, don't try to shut them down, no matter how much you might disagree with them," Obama told the graduates. "There's been a trend around the country of trying to get colleges to disinvite speakers with a different point of view, or to disrupt a politician's rally. Don't do that, no matter how ridiculous and offensive you might find the things that come out of their mouths."
That wasn't the first time Obama felt compelled to address the issue -- in late 2015 he decried the idea "that you when you become students at colleges, you have to be coddled and protected from different points of view," according to The Washington Post.
When the president, the leader of the free world, feels he needs to say something, it's clear we have a problem. Yet at college campuses across the country, in pockets of the social internet, in conferences and even certain professional fields, people aren't even allowed to express that opinion. The narrative is that women are oppressed by a cruel, patriarchal society, and anyone who politely disagrees will be shouted down and removed from the "safe space."
"Young women at our elite colleges are among the safest, most privileged and most empowered of any group on the planet," Sommers told Psychology Today. "Yet, from the moment they get to campus -- and now, even earlier -- an endless stream of propaganda tells them otherwise. They are offered safe spaces and healing circles to help them cope with the ravages of a phantom patriarchy. Even the most independent and spirited young women can become humorless, self-absorbed, and fearful."
The real tragedy is that young women swept up in academic feminism often don't realize the disservice it's doing to them. After college they'll move on to the real world, which doesn't play by the rules of colleges that coddle students. The academic feminism movement, the outrage-by-tweet culture, won't last much longer anyway -- you cannot demonize fully half of the human population without expecting some pushback. People are already getting tired of the charade.
As for Sommers, she says she hopes so-called academic feminists embrace self-awareness, pointing to activists like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who has "urged the privileged women of the West to support women who are struggling with genuine oppression." While American feminists are wallowing in victimhood because they're sometimes exposed to opinions they dislike, women in other countries are victims of genital mutilation; they're beaten for leaving the house without a male relative, or killed for bringing "dishonor" to their families by refusing to accept arranged marriages.
"The serious work for feminism in the 21st century is across the globe," Sommers said. "Instead of retreating into 'safe spaces' and focusing on their own imagined oppression, today’s feminists should be reaching out to women's groups in the developing world."