It makes a virtue of our bystanding

Victoria Smith points out how dull, banal, simple, obvious the whole issue of female subordination is. Where’s the fun in that? No room for clever layers of irony or jargon-riddled homilies.

“Men keep threatening to kill — and in fact killing — women and girls” is just not very interesting or complex. On the contrary, it all sounds terribly basic. Aren’t there more fascinating debates to be had about language and symbols and whether in fact — hear me out on this, it’s counter-intuitive hence super-clever — female people are in fact complicit or even to blame for their own deaths, what with them weaponising their pain by performing being murdered within the cisheteronormative capitalist economy? Makes you think, doesn’t it? Whereas a plain, boring feminism that says “no, I don’t think you threatening to kill me with a machete offers us all a unique opportunity to explore why I am in fact The Man” doesn’t make you think at all. It sounds so painfully obvious it’s hard not to suspect there’s something you must have missed.

The machete reference, in case you’ve forgotten, is to one of Akwaeke Emezi’s tweets in her tantrum at Chimimanda Adichie.

This unfortunate boring obviousness of women’s subordinate status is an entry point for “You’re both giving me a headache,” which Victoria calls “opportunistic both sides-ism.”

It tells us we are too clever, too humble, too conscious of nuance, to fall for anything so simplistic as a straightforward victim-perpetrator narrative. On the contrary, it makes a virtue of our bystanding. Those women who are begging you to intervene? They lack your heightened sensitivity, your intellectual discernement, your ability to see shades of grey in a fist to the face.

The practical, rational desire not to intervene, because it is risky and upsetting, because it aligns one with the messy, disruptive victim, creates a need to see complexity where there is none. If you can position yourself as morally and intellectually superior to those basic types who still “take sides” (how childish!), then you have not only saved yourself the work of serious political engagement, but you can kid yourself that your conscience is clear. And — added bonus — it’s because you’re cleverer and kinder than everyone else!

And you have the best accessories, too.

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