Louise Mensch’s “reality based feminism”: whose reality?

Oh dear. Louise Mensch has been at it again with the Tory feminism. This time, she’s upset about people telling her to check her privilege, displaying a profound lack of understanding of intersectional feminism and the notion of what privilege is and cissexism, all of which she has somehow managed to conflate together because she understands it so little. Also, I think she’s watched The Life of Brian recently. Anyway, for the most part it is the same tedious anti-intersectional twaddle which tends to come from high-profile people who have had their fingers burned by being challenged on some dingleberries they’ve been spouting and lack the basic level of self-reflection to learn from the experience.

However, Louise Mensch has a solution to the problem! She calls for a reality-based feminism, which is basically this:

American feminism gets organised. It sees where power lies, and it mobilises to achieve it. It gets its candidates elected. Feminism here is about running for office, founding a company, becoming COO of Facebook or Yahoo. It is power feminism that realises that actual empowerment for women means getting more money, since money and liberty often equate, and being able to legislate or influence. Hillary Clinton shifted from First Lady to Senator. Before that she was a powerful lawyer.

And by the way, reality-based feminism – where you achieve, try to earn lots of money, run for office, campaign for measurable goals like defeating Sen. Todd Akin – is not a province of Conservative feminism alone. When I think of a true feminist of the left that I admire I think of Stella Creasy MP and her campaign against payday loans. She’s doing something. She ran for office. She got involved in the Labour party. She matters immensely. She will change things.

This is apparently what feminism should be fighting for according to Louise Mensch. The tiny number of high-paid positions which are near-impossible to attain due to material and social circumstances. Forget fighting for not having to live in fucking fear every day, forget fighting to be recognised as a human being, forget fighting for survival. In Louise Mensch’s reality, feminism is about getting a well-paid job, and fighting only battles on the lowest difficulty setting with an easy win guaranteed.

And I suppose it’s good for her that this is the only thing that she needs. Good for her that most of her problem is that people say she’s privileged on the internet, because if that’s her problem, then she really is staggeringly privileged. This privilege has bestowed upon her a staggering lack of empathy and imagination, a lack of any ability to see how impossible her vision is for the vast amount of women.

Louise Mensch thinks that everything she did was entirely her own doing, a shocking degree of egocentrism which most people grow out of by the age of three. There is absolutely no consideration that perhaps she lucked out at the life lottery in order to get where she is. She believes it to be possible to anyone, concluding with a somewhat frightening peek at her ideal future.

The picture at the top is of me at school aged 14. Big glasses, nerdy, feminist, ambitious, idolising Thatcher, and determined to be famous, to be an author, and to be rich. I was at private school my parents couldn’t really afford because I bust my ass and won a 100% academic scholarship. I always believed in myself and I had and have no intention of checking my privilege for anyone. I earned it. I hope the next generation of young women feel the same.

Imagine this future, where women squabble like a flock of pigeons, pecking at the scraps patriarchy chooses to throw us. A future utterly devoid of any solidarity, just women kicking down our sisters, piling their limp forms into a ladder to get that executive position. Imagine a future where we no longer dream of better and hope for better, hope for a change to a society which is inherently oppressive, crying out for an end to capitalism and kyriarchy. We would compete to be the chosen ones and turn a blind eye to continuing violence and horrors, never looking back just ruthlessly making sure that it is never us who are victims. Better someone else. It would be Mad Max in shoulder pads.

And if we won, we would mistakenly believe that somehow we earned it all, which is far better than the truth: we got lucky. If we lost, we would be blamed for our misfortune, our inability to play the game correctly.

It would be quaint, Louise Mensch’s belief that there is a pure meritocracy and that circumstances do not affect it, were it not just the stick that is used to beat us again and again and again.

The current state of affairs has benefited Louise Mensch, and so she does not want to rock the boat and enact any sort of change to the system. This is why she wants to maintain her reality, stubbornly attempting to swat away anyone who reminds her that it a hefty heap of luck supplemented her hard work to get her where she is today. She decries those who are not rooted in her reality.

And yet, by insistent focus on how things cannot change, all she betrays is that she is stagnant, and set in her ways. She is disgusted by dreamers, those of us who see that the system is broken and should not survive, those of us who hope for better. We flow like a small mountain stream, clearer and brighter, while Mensch and her ilk are a set of foetid puddles, unmoving and separate. Will we one day roar into a river, we dreamers? I like to hope so, because I have something Louise Mensch does not: hope and a vision that things can be different.


31 responses to “Louise Mensch’s “reality based feminism”: whose reality?

  • Boostick

    Louise Mensch there people, who grew up in an age where people could take advantage of further and higher education, almost regardless of income.

    Louise Mensch, privately educated, but from an era before state education budgets were gutted, when. state school kids stood a chance.

    Louise Mensch, growing up in a country with a functioning NHS.

    Louise Mensch who, had she been disabled, could have received financial assistance to help her reach her goals.

    Louise Mensch, superfeminist, believer that any girl or woman can become like her vision of a “reality-based” feminist, as long as they’re not working class, socioeconomically deprived, LGBT, a WOC, Muslim, disabled or chronically ill, a product of the “care” system, a young mother, from North of Watford Gap, etc. No Tory punchbags allowed. No “scroungers”, no “lazy” kids who drop out of school because they can’t afford to eat, let alone buy textbooks are weak-willed and unambitious.

    All hail the rich, white, privately educated, neurotypical, able-bodied, cis, straight, Christian, übermenschen Super Feminists!

    If Louise can do it, then anyone can! What a fucking inspiration that woman is!

  • Mook

    #The tiny number of high-paid positions which are near-impossible to attain due to material and social circumstances#

    Good point…or it would be were intersectionalism and ‘privilege checking’ to allow class as a category worthy of consideration. All I’ve seen indicates that class never gets a look in. Mind you that’s hardly surprising given the backgrounds of most of those with a substantial platform who advocate this stuff. I suppose if class were taken into consideration, the majority of the commentariat could presumably be instantly silenced with a single mention of their public school, their Oxbridge background or their ‘hideously bourgeois’ upbringing.

    Any thoughts?

    • stavvers

      Yeah, I think you’ve not looked hard enough. Strikes me that you probably learned about the whole thing from watching columnists whine about it. Go away and read bell hooks and the Combahee River Collective to start you off. Class is a huge thing.

      Yes, intersectional feminism has its liberals, and their analysis is shitty. But intersectionality basically the only feminism which can in any way meaningfully include class.

      • Mook

        Cheers for reply. I’ll look at bell hooks although I don’t recall her ever specifically mentioning class…and from what I’ve seen I assumed class played no part eg. I’ve never seen a WWC male call, say, a middle-class woman commentator on her privilege…although I have seen latter claiming to speak for the working class in absence of any relevant life experience.
        Serious question: can a WWC ever be justified in doing above?

        • Billy X

          bell hooks: Class Matters http://www.feminish.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Where-We-Stand-Class-Matters.pdf Now how much of this turns up in “modern” intersectional thought and Twitter shitstorms is debatable. I’ve not even read it myself; I will be doing. But whatever else, bell hooks has definitely addressed class.🙂

          • Mook

            Indeed she does. My mistake. So why is class so notable by its absence from literally every discussion of privilege and intersectionality that I’ve come across? I have never seen anybody called out for failing to check their class privilege…they’ll concede their whiteness, cisness, maleness, ableness-if that’s a thing…but never class. I’m perfectly willing to be corrected over this but I’ve never seen it.

            The closest I’ve come is to see working class commenters told that mentioning somebody’s background, education etc is irrelevant, motivated by jealously, ‘boring’ etc. in fact, I’ve seen a shitload of this sort of thing. Never, not once, have I seen anyone respond with “yeah thanks, that’s me told, I’ll keep an eye on my class privilege in future”.

            Why is this? Especially-given your link-as hooks was quite clear in asserting class was relevant to privilege. You see, I can’t help but conclude that the reason it’s ignored is the background of so many professional commenters and activists. They could hardly consistently justify both their platform and their commitment to intersectionality…and if you buy the “yeah there’s a problem but at least we’re trying to remedy the situation”, then they’d have to accept that one clear solution would be for them to step down to allow working class commenters a voice…and I can’t see that happening too soon.

            • stavvers

              Well yeah. This is precisely why the commentariat are so down on intersectionality and why they’re so threatened by privilege, and dude, you really need to do more reading on intersectionality because these conversations are being had A LOT.

            • Mook

              You might be right. I’ll also give you the benefit and allow that ‘dude’ is not necessarily gendered. Had you assumed I was a man?
              But my point stands. I’m sure you’re right about why the commentariat are sniffy about intersectionality, but I was referring to those who claim to be intersectional and indeed make all the right noises, do the magnanimous thing when called out, yet concede jack shit when their class is cited…in fact they go on the offensive and claim victimisation based on jealousy and inverse snobbery.
              This goes on a lot.

            • stavvers

              Yep, well looks like you’re reading and following the wrong people then. Read my weekly round-ups to start you off, go off and read hooks, and widen your horizons.

              Now, I think that’s enough of a threadjack for today!

            • stavvers

              (incidentally, you might note the example Mensch gives of Big Mean Intersectionals is about class)

            • Billy X

              [Mod note: A sad trombone plays. It turns out poor Billy didn’t read the comment policy. Does anyone ever read the comment policy? Billy didn’t]

            • Jo (@jonanamary)

              I’ve been called out – justifiably – for class-based fails. So there you go.

            • Mook

              #I’ve been called out – justifiably – for class-based fails. So there you go.#

              ..and as it goes, I ‘ve called people out; point is, did you accept the call, and if it was justified, did you accept it with grace? If so, fair play to you and much kudos…because you’re a rarity-admittedly in my limited but statistically plausible-ish experience.

  • cabrogal

    Even without the invasion of the lizard-women (mammals don’t do self-made, especially social ones) Mensch’s vision of equal opportunism feminism would still be a hoot.

    Apparently you can increase your power by increasing your money. So if everyone just makes lots of money, we’ll all be empowered!

    I hope she tours around here sometime soon.
    Maybe she could do a double act with Dame Edna Everage.

  • Agrado

    “Louise Mensch thinks that everything she did was entirely her own doing, a shocking degree of egocentrism which most people grow out of by the age of three.” … I don’t think “most people” grow out of this notion, I think it underpins the thinking of pretty much all right-wing people. It’s what makes it okay in their opinion to shit all over underprivileged people, because it’s those people’s own fault that they’re underprivileged, so they deserve what they get.

  • N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ

    “American feminism gets organised. It sees where power lies, and it mobilises to achieve it.”

    As I read Mensch’s article, I was reminded of a book written by Ian Robertson, titled “The Winner Effect: How power affects the brain.” In it he wrote:

    “Power changes the brain triggering increased testosterone in both men and women. Testosterone and one of its by-products called 3-androstanediol, are addictive, largely because they increase dopamine in a part of the brain’s reward system called the nucleus accumbens. Cocaine has its effects through this system also, and by hijacking our brain’s reward system, it can give short-term extreme pleasure but leads to long-term addiction, with all that that entails.

    Unfettered power has almost identical effects.

    But too much power – and hence too much dopamine – can disrupt normal cognition and emotion, leading to gross errors of judgment and imperviousness to risk, not to mention huge egocentricity and lack of empathy for others.”

    From what I’m gathering, her message to young women is to become reward focused power junkies and reinforce the hierarchy.

  • Submarine (@sinkdeep)

    I have a word to describe the deviant and poor of understanding of feminism by “nerds with glasses” that idolize Thatcher, admire powerful, rich lawyers and are not willing to check their privilege for anyone: FAILMINISM.

  • Heather

    Great blog🙂 The only bad things about it (and ‘bad’ is pushing it) is that posting Mensch’s comments hurt my brain😦 (but hey, it was necessary) and I didn’t know what kyriarchy was (but I’ve since google defined it, so yay). So not really anything bad about this blog at all – I just learnt a new word! :p xx

  • Boldly Go

    I’m sorry. Mensch was talking but all I heard was, “BOOTSTRAPS LADIES, JUST BUY BOOTS, PUT THEM ON AND PULL THEM UP, EASY ISN’T IT?”

  • Andrea Harris

    I find it hilarious that Mensch thinks America is some sort of feminist paradise because some rich white ladies here have it made.

    • stavvers

      And also that intersectional feminism doesn’t exist there at all.

      • Andrea Harris

        Yeah, none of that icky intersectional stuff, it’s all white ladies making money and getting power and er don’t look at those WOC behind the curtain it’s just the maids…

  • Mook

    #Yep, well looks like you’re reading and following the wrong people then. Read my weekly round-ups to start you off, go off and read hooks, and widen your horizons.
    Now, I think that’s enough of a threadjack for today!#

    Well thanks for engaging and i had no intention of threadjacking,although signing off with “read my weekly round ups” was a bit disappointing. As for mench using an example about class, I’m not surprised. Whether you accept it, or not, it’s where the biggest fault line lies…and it’ll remain until someone either comes up with a convincing reason why class is excluded (tricky…if not impossible) or it’s accepted as a major, if not the major, source of privilege…which wouldn’t sit too easily with some people, especially some who (presently) advocate intersectionality.

    • gichidan (@gichidan)

      Can you define class? beyond going to Oxbridge?

      I don’t personally view it as a privilege over my own education, but then you’d have to ask me what it was. Then you’d have to ask me If I felt at a disadvantage because of it.

      I reckon a lot of people without Mensch’s Educational privilege will hold the same views as her.

  • Thea C

    I was also a nerdy 14 year old with glasses (without the Thatcher fetish!). But I had only the haziest idea that private education existed and certainly no idea that scholarships did. And that difference is really nothing to do with luck or privilege?

  • superfurryandy

    Mensch pointing out that she could only have become what she is (and I think that’s yet to be decided) by ‘achieving’ a scholarship to private school is such a glaring example of where privilege needs checking that I’m amazed she didn’t pass out for a few hours after writing that sentence. Us state educated lumps clearly haven’t a chance.

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