Racism is about human rights and feminism isn’t

Racism is seen as a violation of minorities. Allegedly, it has defined perpetrators and victims. Two categories. That people are rigidly divided into categories is taken as given, and fighting racism is supposed to be about limiting and maybe one day reversing one category’s depredations on the other. It’s not supposed to be about universal rights but about protecting black people and other minorities from whites.

That’s wrong. It’s an unhelpful and misleading conception of racial conflict. Seeing it as a category conflict serves the wrong agendas. In fact, the crime of racism is about denying rights that are universal. That white people are the perpetrators and blacks usually the victims is of no bearing on the nature of the injustice. The correct formulation of racism is that people form groups based on arbitrary identifying traits, the groups fight, and it happens that certain groups become habitually victimized. The correct course of action is to frown upon loyalty to arbitrary groups and instead embrace all people as moral beings. The response to racism is to be universal.

Feminism is supposed to be a violation of universal human rights. Respectable formulations of feminism are not gendered. In law, rape is about people forcing sex upon other people. It could be two men, and from that viewpoint the crime could only be defined in terms of fuzzy universal rights. Emancipation of women is uncool. Equal opportunity is polite. Equality is supposed to mean the same access to some abstract rights that no-one is going to get too worked up about.

That’s also wrong. It is a massive appropriation and dilution of the movement. Feminism is not about universal good behaviour. It’s brutally gendered. Violence is being perpetrated by men upon women, because of the different reproductive biology that defines the categories “men” and “women”. Men wish to claim control and extract reproductive benefits from women while dumping reproductive costs on them, or rather evading their share. Everything about feminism is about redressing this gendered crime. Visions of the solution are not symmetric, and to say that they are is complicit. Credible feminism isn’t about defining universal abstract rights. It’s about rebalancing the benefits and costs of reproduction to be more just, specifically between men and women.

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