“Everything is Ideology”
- Slavoj Zizek, Slovenian Political Philosopher and Cultural Critic
And I cannot agree more.
After all, what is a man but a collection of ideas embodied in a biological body?
When someone says that he is free from any sort of ideological bounds, he is either delusional or lying. To be a human is to have a set of ideals that propels one through the course of life. Our code of conducts don’t spring out of the blue. Like most of our animal neighbors, we too are learning species. Despite our genetic markups which define our instincts and biological traits, our social constructs are completely influenced by the data that we feed into our minds regularly. Our brain takes in the data, computes them, analyzes them, contextualizes them with a frame of reference and provides us with an injunction- to adopt it or to abandon it? or maybe embrace some parts of it?
Ideologies are just a bunch of concepts, or a set of social constructs to be more precise. Animals who don’t live in solitary have to abide by some code of conducts so as not to delve into chaos with it’s fellow species. Being animals, one of the genetic attribute is to fight each other over the right to mate, access to resources and asserting territorial dominance. The more social an animal species become, the more they need to come out of primitivity in order to keep their social structures stable. Lion prides, Ant colony, Wolf Packs, Chimp Societies etc. all show certain social behavioral patterns through which they glue their societies. Such ideological patterns help them cooperate in groups with stunning efficiency. After all, cooperation is the key to conquer. Humans are nothing but advanced monkeys. So, if anything, such ideological social constructs should be even more pronounced in human societies.
The documentary series Animals Like Us (embedded above^) cements this argument. The documentary series created by wildlife filmmaker Guillaume Poyet highlights the fact that we are not as unique as we deem ourselves to be. We are just an extension to what already exists in the animal kingdom. This particular episode shows the viewers how animals structure their political hierarchy and how eerily that resembles with our diverse dominant political systems. To quote the narrator,
Well Before Humans developed the political ideologies of Hitler, Gandhi or Kennedy, animals developed an array of strategy to make their communities work and impose their will on others.
From Formica ant making federalist Supercolonies, to colonizing Polyergus ants raiding Formica ant colonies and turning them into slaves, to misogynistic Baboon tyrants, to hyperliberal bonobo societies, to nepotistic/opportunist chimps lobbying and forming syndicates to stage coup to replace their clan leaders, to democratic Red Deers, the filmmakers dive deep into the political frameworks of the animal kingdom. There is another interesting fact into this episode. A comment on the episode shows people’s conspicuous ideological bias even while watching innocent animal videos. There are in total 11 episodes of this series, all of which tries to draw parallel between animal and humans in terms of emotions, culture, language, trade, business, etc. But none of them contain such an exemplary feedback from its viewers which fits perfectly to the essence of this article.
What’s evident through this is that people put on their ideological lenses before their eyes before proceeding on to perceive anything. The force of the ideology (which is feminism in this case) is so strong that it drives the commentator to aggressively react to the video, and dismissing it on the go. While the video is certainly not about feminism but rather animal behavior, the commentator decides to stop watching it since it conflicts with the ideology that she holds dear to her. It’s not to argue that feminism is bad or anything. But what gets vivid from this is the nature of adherence to ideology. Again, it is not to say that feminism is a bad ideology or something. I myself associate with the feminist cause. But that was never the core substance of the film, in fact it was just one sentence spanning for some seconds in the 50 minutes long film. To criticize this particular sentence, you certainly don’t need to boycott the whole body of work. But that’s what happens when ideology gets the good of you. Now, its not imply that we ourselves/the tolerating bunch are any different. Maybe we can neutrally analyze this situation because we do not have such strict emotional adherence to feminism. But what if we saw the narrator glorify pedophilia in a sentence? What if instead “a male’s paradise”, he told “a child enthusiast’s paradise”? Would we not react the same aggressive way? Many might say being a male isn’t a crime but a pedophilia is, so both should not be held under the same standards of judgement. True. But what’s more true is the fact that, in both cases, the substance of the film doesn’t change. So judging the film by a split of second strips away its central motive, which is to educate people about a portion of animal behavior.
(Although I tend to side with the narrator here, since projecting human moral standards and ethical values to animals is not a wise thing to do. The narrator simply narrated the incidents in reference to animal kingdom, not in reference to human societies. So blaming him for misogyny would be inadvertently blaming nature for misogyny.)
Now that’s one instance of strict ideological adherence. You can see examples such strict adherence everywhere. From Communists, to Religious fanatics to Animal rights activists, to New age atheists, to Gender right activists etc. Every ideological spectrum will have its fair share of fundies. Their adherence is so impassioned that it blinds them from seeing any nuances.
What you won’t see on the other hand is the instance of a person without any ideological attachment, unless he lives in the jungle, all by himself. If a person thinks workers should enjoy particular rights, he supports the worker’s rights cause. If he doesn’t approve of that, he would support the stakeholder’s cause. If a person thinks women should enjoy equal rights as men, he already believes in the feminist cause. If he doesn’t believe that, then he lines up with the traditional gender role cause. There are many people who thinks they don’t have any political ideologies. It couldn’t be any more wrong. A person cannot live outside of the realms of politics. Everything is politics, including your clothes” — a popular saying goes. Those who brag on not having opinions on any political affairs, inadvertently submits to the status quo. It may look like he is ignorant and unaware, but he is unaware because he doesn’t feel the necessity to ponder upon the status quo system that he is a part of. He is subconsciously playing along with the status quo as his preferred political system. If someone thinks that sth is wrong with the current political system that he is a part of he must have an opinion in his mind on how he wants to see things. Human rights/Dehumanization, Feminism/Anti-feminism, Communism/Capitalism, Nationalism/Globalism we all tend to align ourselves with a particular ideological direction. Sometimes our ideological association may be parts of this aisle and parts of that. For example, someone may oppose mass immigration, while advocating for free global market. Such amalgam of sentiments stemming from opposing ideological angles are usually the dominant ones. But nonetheless, you can’t find anyone with zero ideological attachments. Those keeping silent/indifferent are basically submitters to the status quo.
So, ideologically speaking, a man can be categorized as such,
- Strict Adherents
- Strict Opposers
- Partial Adherents/Partial Opposers.
- Indifferent/Unconscious Perpetuators
Take any ideology or socio-economic concept out of the random, and you will are sure to fall under one of this four categories.
Ideologies are integral portion of societies. We are evolutionary driven to associate ourselves with a variant of socio-ideologies. Because, as the authors of the animals like us documentary say, we want to see our visions and wills to be manifested in the society that we live in. We all want things to go our way. From the religious fanatics to the liberal communists all want to live in a world with their visions manifested in all the corners of the society.
Template ideologies are for people who want to associate themselves with ideological movements but do not have much time at their disposal to understand their nuances. Therefore, they rely on others feeding it to them in small, shallow, digestable chunks which they will promulgate through their platforms. Most people are template ideologists, including myself. It’s not possible to get an overall nuanced view of all the ideologies that we tend to adhere to, in such a busy scheduled life. Our lifespan is limited, and we’ve got work to do in order to feed ourselves. Hence to make the best utilization of time, we try to surf around the surface and adopt what’s convenient and easily comprehensible to build up our identities and personalities. We want to fall under groups, get a sense of belonging and be a part of the big waves, not like aimless, lonely isolated ripples.
These things are kind of like Wordpress templates. Providing people with numerous templates to build their websites upon and sparing them off the burden from having to code, Wordpress saves their time and energy. Like most of the Wordpress websites looking the same and consisting of similar features and limited functionalities , most template ideologies look and work the same way too. But just like Wordpress, template ideologies have large user and propagation base.
Template humanism for example, is to quote one or two quotes from Rumi, Mandela, Gandhi, Lenon, Dalai lama or other similar people. Or share theatrical humanitarian works by humanitarian agencies/charity donors/rich philanthropists/rich celebrities. To be a template feminist is to spew out highly overused clichés about women empowerment and share one or two feminist quotes from glittery blogs, women CEOs or popular celebrities. To be a template atheist is to quote Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, Stephen fry, Carl Sagan etc. despite not caring to read any of their works. To be a template religious one needs to share one or two religious quotes out of context that fits his narrative and throw it to the world to see. He doesn’t necessarily need to understand religious nuances in order to express his belief and identity to others. He just needs to make other’s aware of his personalities through shallow materials. To be a template communist, one needs to put up a Che Guevara tee shirt despite not caring to know Che’s life’s trajectory, his influences, his visions, his wars. A template libertarian on the other hand will just utter the word “Freedom” like a broken record, and occasionally quote one or two Ayn rand quotes. Template art enthusiast is to know one and one artist only, who ironically would be Vincent Van Gogh and to reduce more, just one of his painting, Starry Night.
Now are template ideologies bad? I wouldn’t say so. Template ideologies work as great memes. I mean not the edgy memes on social media, but memes as a cultural unit. Memes are ideas that are spread socially, like genes which are spread biologically. Like genes, more reproduction increases the chances of survival. The more a genetic host reproduces, the more chances of that genome to flourish and dominate. Of course, keeping into account that, the offsprings need to be strong and immune. Memes work as no different. It’s the strongest and the most reproductive of the memes that stick till the end of the day. Ideologies are after all conceptual cultural units too.
It wouldn’t have been possible to bring people under the umbrella of war without spreading nationalistic, tribalistic ideologies. The idea of nationalism has been around for generations, since the birth of State from Ancient Greek Periods. States formed under nationalistic banners and nationalism was vital to wage wars towards other tribes/empires and expand the already existing territory. The usefulness of this ideology was so successful that it continues till this day. Every country puts nationalism on it’s forefront to glue its nation together and to bring them under a common cause. With the recent deterrence from war, and global free trade, Globalization started gaining more popularity than nationalism. Although at the same time, populist politicians are trying to bring people’s nationalist sentiments by scouring out globalism’s flaws to secure their vote bank, but that’s another topic for another day.
So it should be celebrated right?
Umm… Yes and No.
Yes because it helps the ideology to proliferate. There are no alternatives for an ideology to manifest without an abundance of template hosts who will voluntarily reproduce them. Although there is one alternative which is forcing the ideology onto others, but that’s unsustainable. Nothing is more efficient than an ocean of template hosts spreading an idea like a plague.
The problem on the other hand is to fall victim to the unwanted consequences of such ideologies that hide in plain sight and comes as a package with the rest. While most template ideologies are just petty swanks from the individual’s perspective, the trouble arises when it turns political, i.e. influencing policy making and implementations. For example, template nationalism may work to glue a nation together and drive them to strive amidst turbulent times. It on the other hand, can also can give rise to xenophobia, racism, migration crisis etc.
Template atheism, similarly, have been observed to harbor racist, xenophobic, ethnocentric undertones within its tenets. Though many might argue atheism do not have anything to do with any particular tenets which is true, but you don’t need biblical books to create template tenets for atheism. By template tenets, we mean new atheist clichés promulgated throughout pop culture.
In this video Olly reflects on what he learnt from the new atheists and how he grew over those since through growing up and learning more socio-political and academic nuances he started to get wider visions about the things the new atheists talked about. I too once was a template atheist when I first started out, quoting Harris, Dawkins here and there indiscriminately. But I rarely delved into the deep, just scratched the surface to scour for bits of wisdom to satisfy my confirmation bias. It hit me when I was gifted with a Sam Harris Book “The End of Faith” by a close senior of mine from my university, Tahnia apu . I had high hopes of the book since it came from a person that I completely looked forward to during my transitional phase. But reading the book, I started to realize, maybe Harris’s critics were not entirely wrong. The first few pages were riddled with demonization. Though yes, religion isn’t a race, but when billions of people are demonized in such a shallow, thoughtless , stereotypical way, it gives way to fundies from the other ends with an extra edge. It can justify wars, invasions, and total obliteration of relatively peaceful communities. Indian fanatic Hindus for example, use new atheist’s demonizing rhetorics to justify pouncing on Muslim communities and turning their lives into hell. Noam Chomsky says when the nuances are irresponsibly ignored and emotions are rallied, it shrouds out the bigger picture and takes people nowhere except towards more fights and chaos.
Seeing this one may feel the need to repudiate the new atheism movement completely. But as easy as it is to criticize the movement for it’s flaws, its not so easy as to completely disregard it. Chomsky or Zizek or Olly might not comprehend the magnitude of the wave it created throughout other parts of the world, since their view too in a way Eurocentric. In Islamic countries the new atheists had a huge impact in deradicalization of the youth. I can attest to it, since I was an output of that project along with most of my atheist friends and acquaintances. Our religious blindfolds got completely decimated by the new atheism wave. But just like Olly I too started to grow up from my shallow, template form and started to explore the nuances even more. I tried to look for more detailed deconstructions of such complex issues keeping raging reactionary sentiments aside. Under Olly’s YouTube video Idriz Saferi echoes just the sentiments as me but in a more articulate manner.
Hi Olly, I decided to comment on your video regarding some of the things you mentioned, as I happen to disagree, quite strongly with your position. I am a PhD student in Biophysical Chemistry and I really shouldn’t be wasting my time, but this is a topic that I find very interesting and that is personal to me. I used to be an islamic fundamentalist from a third-world muslim-majority country and, at least for me, Dawkins’ approach worked. He made me feel very stupid, not because he said insulting things, but because those insults were supported by clear arguments and evidence. I truly hated him as a religious person, so far as to pray for his death, but I could not refute his arguments. It is because of him that I decided to read on the theory of evolution and it is because of him that I am now an atheist. I will be forever thankful to him for his insults. Now, that was a personal account and you’d probably be right to say that his approach worked for me because I happen to be a scientifically minded person and that it fails to work for the vast majority of people. That’s probably right, but you are not considering the indirect influence he is having/has had: mobilizing people who already happen to not believe in god, or are just empathetic to the idea of it. It is not a coincidence that so many of todays atheists regard him as a primary influence. While his aggressive approach is unlikely to convert religious people, it is stimulating other atheist to fight against religious bullshit. Regarding Dawkins’ arguments against god’s existence. You criticized his book The God Delusion and mentioned that you have grown out of it. Well, of course you have. You are a philosopher and he is not. Of course by now you should have a deeper understanding of philosophical issues than Dawkins. Why would you expect to still learn from that book, and why would you think that the book was written with you as a target audience? It’s a scientist attempt at explaining the arguments against god’s existence. I am pretty sure that for all of his arguments in the God Delusion, you have multiple counter-arguments from theologians, and then you have counter-counter-arguments from non-believers and philosophers and so it goes. The God Delusion is not a book to be read by philosophers so they can learn “fresh & new” arguments against god. Nothing Dawkins says in it is novel. The book is meant to reach people who have no idea of any argument for or against god, it is meant to be read by people like I used to be: people who believe in a crazy god without knowing any arguments against it. And in light of recent developments in the world, I think that we need books like that more than ever. You also cite Eagletons book as superior, and I certainly would hope so. What would that say about Eagleton, if that wasn’t the case? That would be just like him writing a book on evolution and it being better than anything Dawkins has written on the subject. But how many people did Eagleton’s book reach? And what level of understanding of philosophy did you have to had to understand it completely? I hope you get my point: to write a book on god from an academic point of view, you would have to restrict yourself to only one particular argument and then explain how that argument was understood by just one or a few philosophers. Clearly that wasn’t Dawkins goal. He didn’t want to add fuel to a fire (i.e. debate) that has been going on between philosophers for thousands of years. Then you went on to talk about their politics and their positions on various social issues. This was very disappointing to hear. Why should any of this matter? Dawkins, as far as I know, has not written books promoting sexism or racism or whatever (e.g. Dawkins said this or that about being an MP, etc), and even if he had, that still wouldn’t invalidate his position on religion. This part of your talk made me think that for you to respect someone’s position on an issue and defend it, you have to agree with them on everything. I can’t help noticing the similarity in this line of thinking with the Atheism+ people. But anyway, I am just mentioning that this is how you gave the impression of thinking, I am not saying that you do. As an example, Hitchens was of course an asshole and everyone knows that, even atheists, and his position on Iraq was of course wrong, but why should I not defend him in places where he was right? Because he left his trotskyan phase? I have actually a friend who opposes Hitchens on everything because of his political shift. You also mentioned Sam Harris as a worst case. Again, I strongly disagree. I have never seen someone who understands islamic fundamentalism the way he does. When I read his work, I get the feeling that he knows me and is just describing the way I used to be. I follow his work very closely and I can see the injustice he is getting by leftist ideologues, and getting his work misinterpreted and being labeled with whatever you can think of, to silence him. But anyway, I will conclude my comment by mentioning two more things. (1) I I am happy to hear that you will give away their books; this way they can get to the audience they were written for. They do not belong on the bookshelf of a professional philosopher, same as Dawkins books on evolution do not belong in the bookshelf of an evolutionary biologist. And (2), I am writing this extremely tired at 5:30 am. I am not even proof reading what I wrote but I know that my text is not coherent and I am sure it is quite accusatory and rude, but please believe me that that is not my intention. I hope you’ll take it as what I meant it to be: a critique of your position. I unfortunately lack the time, effort and even sophistication in articulating my thoughts clearly in the English language to edit the text so that is does not sound rude. Finally, since this is my first comment, I would like to tell you that I enjoy your videos immensely and I hope you continue posting more. They always make me think. I also hope you will do videos on the philosophy of science sometime in the future. Cheers, bIs
This would resonate with most of the people in Asian, African and other conservative countries where conservatism/fanaticism is state sanctioned and little to no counterbalance are allowed to exist. For example in Bangladesh all kinds of contents that might hurt religious sentiments are banned under the ICT Act. Hence fundamentalist books can become best sellers while critics of them get jailtime. In such scenario academic books would never fare off well, wont ever reach people’s ears. To reach out to the wider mass and seed in the deradicalizing triggers rooted deep into their brainwashed minds, dawkins, hitchens, harris have better opportunity than for example, Eagelton or John Gray or other academics. Template ideologues, though shallow, have higher chances of spreading out and sowing their ideas into the mainstream. But so as not to fall into the rabbit hole of harmful far right stereotypical ideologies, one needs to start to develop to the critical phase, and grow out of the naïve template phases.
Template Science is another problem. By template science, I mean pop science clichés. Pop Science are great way to transmit scientific ideas across the lay population. Pop Science writers, infographic creators, youtubers, bloggers all are excellent communicators, no doubt. But to transmit bits of scientific wisdom to the non professional lay people requires science to be broken down into digestible pieces. Throughout this process a lot of nuances get shrouded away. Pop Science is emotional, entertaining, awe generating. So it has to be coated with emotional appeal to cater to a large number of people. The simplification process of the complex scientific ideas hence slowly go on to be oversimplified. Oversimplification of scientific data leads to distortions, or outright misinformation. To do actual “Science” is to lack emotional approach in the scientific procedure, be highly data driven, fact based, experimental and bring out reproducible results. Pop Science just needs a fancy headline, measure the emotional appeal of the topic, summarize the whole topic through that emotional lens and produce an infotainment. Also it needs to use overused clichés as it’s opening title, best if written in bold/italicized manner, like “ Scientists found out that”, “Researches conclude”, “A team of scientist found out that”, “Science says” etc. The problem with this is that, people being the gullible species that they are, take the infotainment as authoritative information through the charm these magical phrases. But in many of the cases, the oversimplification gets a lot of the “science” wrong.
While “A new study shows that your cat might actually wanna kill you”, can seem comical and not to be troubled about, that’s where we would get things wrong too. Things as usual turns troubling when it becomes widespread and start to influence political scenario. For example MMR vaccine and autism. A 1998 research paper by a UK doctor suggesting a possible link of MMR vaccine to autism was picked up by UK’s dailies in a frenzy. Despite expert virologists and microbiological scientists (who are more authorized in this issue than a doctor) debunking the paranoia, and giving widespread support to vaccines, the dailies did not retract the negative media coverage partly to the fact that they wanted to decimate the image of government, who were in support of vaccination programs. Their intent to taint negative image of the government distorted science to public reality. And as a consequence, the vaccine debate traces to this day still, along with other scientific topics that has been politicized. For example, climate change, sex and gender, GMOs, Renewable Energy, Covid-19 pandemic etc. In Bangladesh fake and pop science run without a leash in national dailies and online tabloids. People drown into an ocean of misinformation owing to the fact that Bangladesh doesn’t have quality pop science portals, neither quality journalism. So anyone can get away with reporting anything. The Ganashasthya Kendra testing kits for example, which were proven to be highly prone to produce erroneous results, were promulgated in the eyes of Bangladeshi people as legitimate science by the news agencies’ cheap emotional campaigns, just as in the case of MMR vaccines and the UK newspapers. GMOs are another such example which lost its nuances into the public eye due to pop science and politicization. The list only goes on and on and on…
But then again my aim is not to disregard the importance of pop/template science, but rather to highlight the problem that might come along if we are not careful enough. While Joe Rogan retweeting futurism from their blog ,“Scientists say we are made of start stuff”, feel like a cliché that has been so overused to the point that it seems pretentious and comical at this point and shouldn’t be much of a concern too, we equally should be aware of the bigger drawbacks that might come along with putting pop science to such exalted heights. The politicization of renewable energy is another example. Campaigns pushing for renewable energy to replace fossil fuel fail to address the fact that its nearly impossible to replace fossil fuel with the existing renewable technology. Also they hide out other forms through which renewables may pose harms. Like winds posing threats to bird population, solar farms taking mass land footprints, river dams requiring massive land footprint, and hampering native ecosystem as well, or offshore windfarms, tidal farms hampering fish life etc. Yeah i agree that the magnitude of these problems do not remotely equate to the damage by fossil burnings. But then again you have to take into account the fact that renewables do not produce one percentile of the energy that can be produced by non renewables. The only replaceable alternative to fossil fuels are nuclear energy who have high energy yield and fewer environmental concerns. But for renewable company lobbying and politicization of nuclear, a viable option got hindered in most of the country. Greta, the template activist for example opposes nuclear energy despite being a climate activist. This doesn’t make sense remotely. Template demands wont ever be able to meet up with the energy demand, not even within the one percentile, so how is that helping!
As for template humanism, things get even worse. Humanism is completely a political issue. Who gets to have complete human rights and who doesn’t has been an unresolvable issue since long. If victims get their desired justice, perpetrators might not get theirs. If govt mercenaries get justice, rebels/terrorists might not get theirs. If you oppose archaic/medieval cultures you might get branded as a colonizer. If they are not opposed, you would get branded cultural relativist/postmodernist. Take for example, the Syrian dilemma. Whose right to support and whose to not? what started out as a product of Arab spring, slowly delved into Syria vs ISIS. The westerners and the Sunni world supported the human rights for rebel soldiers. The Shia world, and Russians on the other hand supported the Assad loyalists. Most of the media sensations concerning Assad’s brutality were basically the manipulations of white helmets or the rebel factions who themselves are also responsible for carrying out massive human rights abuses in Syria. ISIS for example, aren’t much known to respect human rights either when conquering targeted territories. Consider this famous case of a Syrian boy who had been the profile picture of all the Muslim and western world for years, especially of those who were against the Assad Regime.
It went viral throughout all social media as a symbol of the massive human right abuse of the Assad Regime. All the template humanists took this picture for granted and set it up as their temporary/permanent profile picture.
But little did they know this was meticulously fabricated by Syrian White helmets and the kid’s dad is actually an Assad loyalist. When interviewed later on, the dad says he is grateful to Assad for setting up his locality free from the occupation of rebel factions. Apparently the father left his previous home in another Syrian state which got occupied by rebel factions, to western Aleppo to settle down under Assad’s control. When the tensions escalated between govt. force and insurgents as insurgents took over Al-Qaterji neighborhood in Aleppo , a Russian air strike on the rebel held land got Omar and his family injured. All were looking for shelter and soon afterwards rescue teams appeared to take them to the hospitals. He got severely pissed off at insurgents for exploiting his child’s image amidst this turbulent times for their political aims. In fact, the photojournalist who took the photo of the child in the ambulance, was Mahmoud Raslan, a loyalist of the Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zinki group , an active insurgent opposition group of Syria. The group who rallied the propaganda of Omar Danqeesh as a symbol human rights abuse beheaded a 12 year old child for allegedly being a soldier for Assad’s regime.
I am not asserting the fact that Assad is a saint. Of course, there is no smoke without fire. But his oppositions aren’t saints either. So when people support one group thinking they are championing or advocating for human rights, I feel pity at their delusion. Wars are not pretty. Collateral damages happen on both sides, and neutral civilians always needs to pay the price. To learn if life under opposition factions like ISIS is any better, check the VICE documentary below which takes the viewers into the heart of ISIS controlled territories, documented by ISIS themselves.
Now between two opposing groups with such extreme war measures and manipulative political strategies, who should template humanists support to show their humanism and moral high grounds? Not that much of them give a nuanced thought about this, of course, it wouldn’t be template humanism otherwise. So the thing they do is rally on with the herd mentality. The mob is always right!
In our country recently, template humanism advocated to drive poor people into the homes, most of the people in support for strict unlimited lockdowns were privileged upper class or upper middle class youths who had never had to taste poverty in their entire life and most probably never have to in the future. What they failed to realize is that if such a thing was to happen, millions would have to starved to death or fall down in the lowest pit of poverty. In such case the challenge for governments are to take balanced approaches so as to not drive poor people to verge of extreme poverty and also parallelly ensuring public safety to the extent that’s possible. This was a WHO official David Nabarro’s statement two days back. But such a thought is nuanced and doesn’t fall under a sensational template. A middle ground is never a utopian chase. So how can it be adopted by the wishy washy masses?
Usually countries with Eurocentric viewpoints doesn’t much concentrate to understand third world dynamics. Poverty is a driving factor in these countries, so the equation in Bangladesh or India, or Nepal or Pakistan wouldn’t necessarily be the same as that in US, Germany, Canada etc. first world countries. Most template humanists are exposed to Eurocentric narratives which make them blind towards the complexities of third world societies.
To keep on talking about such template ideologies would be to proceeding towards writing a book. I think these above examples are quite enough to provide the gist that I am trying to convey. So let’s end the topic focusing one particular template ideology that inspired me to the write up the whole thing.
Feminism has many different definitions depending on who you ask. But in general, it refers to women fighting to achieve equal status as men in their society. Its a fight for achieving equal socio-economic freedom, equal opportunities and equal civil rights as their male counterparts in their respective societies. Throughout mankind’s defining history most of the time the society was patriarchal. Although there were matriarchal liberal societies, the mentions of which we can find in Fredrich Engel’s book, patriarchy shaped human societies more than matriarchy ever did. With the concept of property inheritance, the transfer and concentration of social power gradually shifted to males, and it’s that point of history where Engels says the history of female oppression started to begin.
To amend the damage done, slowly lighting up from the 18th century, to gaining pace at 19th century, to escalating even further in the twentieth century, the history of women’s emancipation begun. They started to fight for equality, a thing that they have been stripped off for thousands of years. While massive development followed in establishing equal rights for women, the fight is to anywhere but an end. There are things yet left to be fixed, from first wave feminism to second wave, to third wave, now we’ve reached the fourth wave and yet still many things remain left to be discussed and to be fixed. But the fruits of all these waves are mostly enjoyed by first world women. Feminism hasn’t so remarkably hit the third world countries as it did to the first world. The struggles of women in such poor countries are still a substance of fascination to many western white women born and bred under privilege that their predecessors have earned for them. While they buy empowering “ Girl Power, Proud Slut” tee shirt, some third world worker woman under the poorest pay and poorest working condition possible for as much as 73$ wage per month.
In conservative underdeveloped countries, while women empowerment are subtly injected by governments to improve their image into the world and ameliorate their human rights index, the population are equally resistant to such development measures. Most people still hold the conservative viewpoint that women are property and should be subject to a man’s will. To fight these prejudices the battles remain to be a never ending struggle. State does little to educate people on this issue out of the fear of a conservative retaliation. Hence the young generations either adopt the status quo conservative viewpoints or on the contrary espouse feminist ideas springing from the west, since they are mostly exposed to western media outlets. Therefore struggle for emancipation hence comes from within the youths through west-centric forms. Whereas the govt. has to tread very carefully to keep the conservative sentiments in check and thereby missing out on many vital aspects of feminism, the gullible, progressive youth on the other hand espouses feminism as rendered by western pop media outlets. The problem with taking in the full package of either end is to bring in additional troubles which come in as a camouflage with the rest.
Now it’s not to exalt local conservative cultures over feminist narratives of the west. I am not trying to put up a cultural relativist/postmodernist argument here since I believe morality shouldn’t be subject to geographical locations only. What I am trying to do, on the other hand, is explore the nuances of the ideology that we are importing through a careful revision of the whole thing.
Pop feminism can be seen through many forms. Feminism was intended to liberate women from all the shackles of life, but now as the progress marched forward corporations appropriated the movement to their own benefit. Corporations are mindless entities with a sole target to increase profit. Hence, it should not be a big of a wonder when we see big corporations championing feminist narratives and woman emancipations all over the world. The reason being that, it increases company image to the public eye. And also if such cultural shockwave can be passed on and established it will grant companies with tons of skilled and obedient workers. If companies did care so much, then there should not have been the constant debate of gender wage gap across the world. Companies aren’t just much interested in uplifting women from oppression than they are at marketing their pro feminist image for their own cause. Because of course, removing gender wage gap barrier wont serve them as much as a positive marketing and a supply of cheap female labor would do. So it should come of no surprise as to what these companies actually try to advocate for.
The disparity between Men and Women lies in society in terms of the freedom that they can exercise. Historically girls were stripped out of that freedom, and males enjoyed the sole right to exercise them. Therefore when girls started emancipating themselves holding the men as benchmarks. Its like, “Men do this thing, why cant we? GIRLPOWER!”. It was a battle for reducing the gap between two sexes, where males held higher socio-economic positions and freedom but females didn’t. Once Simone De Beauvoir was told by Sartre that she used to amaze him by her intellectual charm. He deemed her intellect to be as equal to as that of a male’s. The sentiment behind this echoes vivid patriarchy. There is a standard, which is inherently male, and that women can only try to reach it. Whereas trying to bridge the gap serve as an initial purpose which is to mobilize the fight for equality, the activism should try to ascend further up to see a wider picture of the whole hustle. Most pop feminist brandings do not come from books or essays or hourlong nuanced discussions, but rather from chunks of entertainment pieces and from MNC advertisements. MNCs are mindless and do not of course support feminism because it’s the right thing to do, but would support anything that might add to their stock value. Hence they provide the consumers with a shallow version of feminism. These superficial templates gets memed like crazy by template activists since they have wishful appeals, digestable charms and in the meanwhile putting little to no stress at the brain. Such shallow version of feminism, while worthwhile to spread the idea to the larger mass, ends up distorting the original idea of feminism, which was initially to set the women free.
Lmao! Hilarious, isn’t it.
Corporations have long trapped men into corporate wagecuckery. But that was not under the pretense of men’s right movement or meninism or sth like that. It was under the pretense of “success”. To be successful is to be a CEO, or an Alibaba entrepreneur or a NASA astronaut etc. Its easy to delude men with the story of success, which they are most insecure about. For women the corporations just add in some more extra woke points with the already existing ones. And that is feminism. Integrating woke points to sell shoes, bags, softwares etc. are just modern trends of marketing. With the changing social viewpoints companies adjust themselves to make sure they earn the maximum social and economic capital. For example, Bethesda, the gaming company. In some parts of the world they are pro LGBT, in some parts they are not so much.
So when corporations tell women that feminism means becoming Google CEO, or NASA astronaut, or President of New Zealand, they blur out the bigger picture. Yes of course, a girl should be free to chase the Google CEO dream, the same way she should be free to just live her life anyway she wants. If a girl thinks of spending her life rescuing injured animals, and spending her life with them would fill her life’s purpose, would she be considered a “good feminist”? If a girl feels like taking entrepreneurial risks with friends and not choosing stability over entrepreneurial dreams and be broke most of the time, would she be considered a “good feminist”? Of course, if she wins her dream she might be featured in vogue of forbes as a woman’s right champion but what if she fails? Is a girl choosing to pursue a postdoctorate more feminist than a girl who is just an accountant or runs a day care? But populist notion is that the more successful a girl becomes, that is the more she bridges the gap with a male, the more feminist she is. Such notion doesn’t take into account the question of freedom. Like how free a person actually is, comparing to the males. A male might choose to earn a PhD, or take financial risks for entrepreneurial dreams, or just get a regular job and play video games all day long, or engage into politics, or be a broke conservationist, or be a drug dealer (jk, no need to freak out) without having to face any gender based prejudices. In their decision makings, the males are mostly free from gender issues. For females on the other hand they have to win things like man, be wagecucks like a man, be successful corporate slaves like a man. Hence even though feminism have been around for long, the changemakers among women are relatively few. As Adam Atler put into his book, to be original is to think out of the box. Prodigies do not think out of the box, hence they do not become changemakers. Prodigies are not risktakers. They are not in truer sense free. Whereas, on the other hand, broke college kids, college dropouts go on creating Starbucks, oracle etc. JK Rowling herself was a single mother on welfare before becoming hit with Harry Potter. Was the broke Rowling more feminist than the successful Rowling? Has feminism index increased for her?
But sadly most women are fed with wishful glittery versions of feminism as promulgated by the celebrity media, by the multinational corporations and by pop magazines. This might bridge some gap but from a wider perspect, the shackles are still there. The men don’t have a benchmark to pursue, the women still are holding to that, i.e. keeping men as benchmarks and trying to level up with them. If you go to LinkedIn or other such social media, there are tons of examples of pop feminism running amok for you to see.
Template feminism doesn’t just delude women into corporate wagecuckery. But just like other template activism, it too gets entangled with politics sooner or later. And when matters start to get politicized, all hell’s break loose.
To give an example on how template feminism hurts women’s cause lets look no further than the recent debates around rape in our country.
Rape, Sexual Violence and Legal troubles
Rape has been growing up a pressing issue in our country. With the number of rape incidents rising drastically, the concerns are getting much more pronounced. The rape incident counts in 2018 were 732 while in 2019 the incident count was 1413 according to Ain O Salish Kendra. Its hard to tell if rape statistics actually increased or if rape reportings increased, because of the sheer nature of the crime. The human rights agencies presume that the numbers should be much much higher, but the culture of reporting in a conservative country like Bangladesh is yet to take root. So if rape on average is increasing or if more are coming out is yet to be known. Rising numbers of rape pose a dilemma. It can be either deciphered as a good sign considering stigma and fear regarding rape reporting is slowly being removed or it can be considered a bad sign considering the alarming number of rapes that still exists in society. But if you watch the news, observe the populist sentiments, pop personalities and pop-activism, you will immediately get the notion that Bangladesh is slowly turning into a rape haven. But this is just emotional rallying. If the numbers of rape reports were too low, like that of Mozambique with 0.2 , Or Egypt with 0.1, or Yemen with or 0.8, per 100,000 people, would that have been better? To put things into context, Mozambique has a serious rape crisis, where rape against school children are pretty common and open. In Yemen, Houthi rebels and militiamen use rape as a tool of war. In Egypt rape witnesses go to be arrested by law agencies for violating “morality” let alone the victim hoping for any justice. Hence Rape statistics actually give out equivocal, inconclusive message. It might mean that either police are not taking cases of rape victims or that women themselves aren’t reporting cases to the authority out of intimidation, frustration or harassments. The reality of the issue is just too hard to figure out.
Pop feminism is fueled by emotions. It’s not tough to understand why they would freak out at such statistics and view this as an imminent rapist takeover of the whole nation. But this sentiment slowly starts to get politicized and the template feminist inadvertently get used as political pawns. To spread panic and frenzy among the people is an extremely effective and political tool to mobilize the overthrow of a government. Therefore such moments are meticulously utilized by oppositions to further their own cause. On the other hand, as a retaliation, government underplays the problem and tries to cover it up by throwing in obnoxious comments or going on the path of denial regarding the crisis. Thus a legitimate issue becomes a political feud between two parties, and in the meanwhile, the central essence of the issue gets washed away.
Rape evokes such mass outrage for some reasons. One reason being that rape victims live on with the trauma for life and live to tell the tale. The another reason is patriarchy. In patriarchal societies, like that in Bangladesh, women are considered to be the property of the men. A woman belongs to her father, or her brother or her husband. She is not just an individual person. When a girl is raped the outrages come worded like this, especially if coming from men — “She could be someone’s daughter, or sister or husband. How could these beasts do such a gruesome thing”. See how subconsciously the ownership over the female is pronounced and the patriarchal mind expresses itself out?
Such sentiment is of course not endemic to Bangladesh. In every patriarchal country, women are considered to be nothing more than properties. And rape in itself is considered to be an attack on the husband, or the father or the brother of the victim. Many countries, including Bangladesh consider stranger rape to be rape only. Bangladesh do not have any law regarding marital rape. Neither does Egypt, Sri Lanka, China, Afghanistan or other patriarchal countries. In fact such laws forming out of patriarchal notions of rape fails to address rapes of males too. Rapes of young boys are also an epidemic in most countries. In the confinement of mosques, churches thousands of such cases occur without getting noticed or brought under the law. There was a book called “Bishfora” which investigated into the child rape in madrasas. But the book was immediately banned by high court after an appeal for hurting religious sentiments.
The patriarchal outrage is not a sensible outrage either. It too, like template feminism, is driven by mindless emotion. But the rage is even stronger here, because of course males tend to be more aggressive and would seek out aggressive vengeance as a retaliation to their property damage. Therefore most emotionally driven patriarchs shout out the demands for public crossfires, or shariah laws like beheading, stoning or chopping off the genitals etc. Girls too, start to mimic them and echo such extreme reactions to empathize more with the cause and not be misunderstood to be girly, easygoing and impractical.
In February 2019, a case emerged where a vigilante under the pseudonym “Hercules” went on a rampage against rapists, murdering them and leaving a signature note of his on the murder spot along with the deceased. It was largely applauded by template activists because finally rapists were getting their due punishment, which govt. had failed to provide them. But soon it turned out that it was just Govt’s law enforcing agencies carrying out political attacks on targeted political people. The rapists were found to be not guilty of rape afterwards by medical examination. The govt. agencies successfully utilized pop sentiments to their own advantage.
Search for 'Hercules' leads to govt vehicle
Law enforcement agencies haven&rsquo;t been able to identify &lsquo;Hercules&rsquo;&mdash;a so-called…
Such is the drawback of pop activism. It leads to unintended consequences which manifest through the gullibility of pop activists and their shallow vision.
With the rape cases rising drastically, and template activism exploding in similar proportion through social media, people started to mass campaign against rape. Many girls started to change their profile picture black. This drew criticism from edgy internet critics that black profile pictures do not contribute to the cause at all and that the girls were just dumb, emotionally driven and impractical. Funny thing is our “practical” edgelords are pro death penalty or pro-stoning too, which are even less practical, and to be precise, detrimental. While it’s true that a black profile picture will not be able to change anything, a non black picture wont be able to change anything either. But the thing which a black profile picture can do is spreading a “meme”, or a shockwave. It’s like twitter hashtags, which are just a word with a tag, but in a broader sense, it’s a collective mode of expression to send out a message. If Black profile picture is useless so is putting profile picture frames, like “go nuclear”, “save climate”, “BLM”, “stand against corruption” or putting up a temporary black ribbon as profile picture when some prominent individual dies, or putting up LGBT filters in pride month. All these are intended to create public awareness, and express mass solidarity, not to magically solve the issues.
Now the reactions weren’t just confined within the realms of Facebook only. The revolts started to escalate so high that people started to hit on the streets, block roads in demands for exemplary punishments for the perpetrators. The problem with this of course is that the base was too weak. Maximum protestors did not know what they were fighting for. The protest is branded “protest against rape”. Are they protesting against individual rapists? Like they care about guys marching with placards asking them to stop. You can protest against fee increase, tax increase, bill increase to an authority who might listen to your appeal. But would rapists submit to your appeal? “Protest against rape” would imply catering to an authority who is consciously raping women on day to day basis, and that the protestors want it to be stopped. Many activists might say its a protest against government govt and that protest against rape would imply government is indirectly assisting rapists to get free. In that sense, it kinda makes sense. Hence, what’s followed is a conspicuous display of contempt towards the government for going easy on the rapists and harboring a culture of impunity. So from rapists the focus shifted towards the criticism of government. Fair enough, the movement now is going somewhere, it might actually have a shot at pushing the government to revisit its stance on rape. But the problem is what they are accusing the government of, and what they are putting on their demand list. Most of these demands were unrealistic. For example, government should introduce capital punishment to deter rape incidents.
This is of course the milder offline version with the hardline capital punishments like crossfire, public lynching, castration, beheading being among the popular ones thriving in online spheres. With the increasing pressure from template activism, the government bowed down to populist demands and revisited the law. Just yesterday, on Monday 12th, Bangladeshi Cabinet passed the law of death penalty in accordance with the popular public demand.
Bangladesh to Allow Death Penalty for Rape Convictions
This year, and also in response to large scale demonstrations, the country's highest court ordered the government to…
This marks as a major win for the activists. But for the rape victims? Not so much. Death penalties, no matter how brutal in form (beheadings, hangings, stonings) never helped to curb out sexual violence. It always backflips and worsens out the situation. Rape is the most underreported crime in the world. Mostly due to the fact that, rapes rarely occur through the hands of a stranger. Around 80% of the rapes are committed by perpetrators that the rapists personally know. They can be family members, acquaintances, friends, boyfriends etc. If the punishment for rape equates to death penalty victims often feel reluctant to report the crime since it would end up with a death penalty for the perpetrators the victims know. The family of the victim also blocks reporting to save their relative from the death grip. It doesn’t end in just that, in courts, death sentences are considered to be very sensitive issues, hence judges have to very cautiously tread to prove someone worthy of a death sentence, and that an innocent might have not been framed. If one is condemned to death sentence it moves from lower court to supreme court to high court, with additional optional of reappeal creating unnecessary delays and eventually getting them pardoned. The pardoning also happens due to an absence of victims from the court. The lengthy court process makes the victims reluctant to pursue the case further. They sometimes falls prey to intimidation or persuasion for out of court settlement, eventually pushing them to drop the case. Police also don’t want to take such cases, considering the extreme toll of such cases and instead urge them to opt for out of court settlements. This happens especially in gang rape incidents where multiple people risk the fate of a death sentence. Bangladesh, in fact, had death sentence for rape, as legislated in 1995 and enacted under the BNP government. But then after the Shukur Ali case, where a minor was condemned to death penalty, BLAST along with other organizations challenged the legality of the death penalty. The case was disputed and death penalty was finally rescinded after five years of being enacted.
Why crossfire will not solve our rape problem
The recent rape incident of a second year Dhaka University student has reignited widespread public frustration on the…
Another issue with the death penalty is that, it doesn’t leave the perpetrator with an incentive to leave his victim alive after rape. When a rapist would view rape and rape after murder equivalently, since both would end up handing him the death sentence, there will be little convenience left to him to leave his victim alive. Instead he would just kill, try to conceal the body and abscond himself. In case of milder sexual assaults, the victims risk being murdered too. Therefore while its definitely a victory for template feminist activists, it certainly might not mean the same for rape victims.
What solution should be provided then? What is justice? That is something which is upto the court to dispute and settle, through rigorous case studies, thorough analysis and evidence driven debates . That they have been influenced to give in to populist demands is alarming. It shows the government’s unwillingness to care about victim justice rather than trying to comply with populist demands. Complying with such sentiments will lessen down the conviction rate even further, if we are to pay heed to legal experts and their analyses.
Less than 1% ever gets punished for rape
In the Dhaka courts, over the last 14 years, the disposal rate of rape cases stands at about 46%, while the conviction…
The reason rape gets so little conviction is because the absence of witnesses in court, lack of evidence, out of court settlements and intimidation from the perpetrator’s family and aides which only gets worse through the court’s procedural delays. The justice system is so archaic that its not only rape but all kinds of crimes face such fate be it homicide, large scale corruption, drug smuggling, human trafficking etc. Adding to the fact that Bangladeshi legal system still runs on archaic models with archaic system losses through its each step, the condition even further worsens due to a shortage of judges and tribunal courts. Millions of cases are yet to be examined with only a handful of judges at disposal. Settling them fast therefore proves to be a mammoth’s task. Unless the broken justice system is fixed and modernized, the lag will keep on being continued. And of course justice delayed is justice not served. Although there is a special tribunal, Nari o Shishu Nirjaton daman tribunal which specifically deals with these cases. But then again in this intricate ecosystem, an abundant of factors lie intertwined. A fast track court might increase the risk of falsely convicting someone, or quickly acquitting someone for the lack of evidence. Whereas, false accusations to settle legal disputes, perpetuation of equivocal colonial law which clearly do not define rape, intimidation by perpetrator’s family, social stigmatization, out of court settlement in the form of family salish, dysfunctional conservative patriarchal police force, lack of adequate number of judges to handle such huge number of cases aid to the backlogs of such cases.
The above screenshots were taken from BLAST’s conference report on Rape Law Reform in Bangladesh. The conference report highlights all the major issues regarding the legal hurdles of such cases.
The protesters, ignited by the wrath of rape incidents, while could design their movements well so to keep it apolitical and push the government to focus on tangible issues, instead sidetracked, pushed for radical impractical demands, and turned themselves into political pawns for the opposing parties without them even noticing. Most are unaware of the Bangladeshi legal structures and where the reforms might actually be needed. The biggest hurdle to justice is societal rather than technical. Conservatism, Patriarchy, Stigmatizing sexuality, political power exercise, Out of court settlement practices etc. These issues need social reform which need public awareness. Protesters instead were more busy with being pissed off at the government than addressing primary societal factors which mostly contributes to the problem.
Its not to say that the protestors did nothing to address to the social factors. They did, but that too in a shallow thoughtless way. Slowly the problem started to delve into a cultural war. On one side there were hyperliberal western narratives, on the other side there were patriarchal religious mindsets. Both fighting each other to decide on what causes rape, what should be the punishment. Both agree that rape is bad, but their analysis differs. Lets deconstruct both party’s analysis one by one.
The patriarch religious say its because of lack of decency, free intermingling of both sexes, pornography, and western media exposure that rape culture is getting sowed into society. Some of them go on blaming clothing choices of women partially for rape. One of the influential Bangladeshi Superstar, Ananta Jalil for example, sent out a video messages blaming victims for their clothing practices which he claims contributed to increasing rape incidents. Some of my classmates in fact fall in line with Mr. Jalil, despite having studied at one of the topmost engineering institution of Bangladesh. And their claims could not be any further away from reality. There are no data to support their claims. But not they care much except for trying to bring society back to conservatism.
There are no conclusive scientific studies which show non aggressive pornography correlated with escalated sexual violence. Instead there are studies which show there zero or in fact negative correlation between soft core, non aggressive pornography.
Pornography and sexual aggression: Associations of violent and nonviolent depictions with rape and…
The current research on the relationship between pornography and sexual violence has produced mixed findings. Some…
Rape is a product of aggression. It’s an exertion of power by the strong to the weak. If we are to accept the fact that nonviolent sensual pornographies incite rapes then Gaming should cause terrorism too. Or watching money heist or Ocean’s 13 should cause bank robberies. Or watching Breaking Bad should cause people to open up meth labs in their houses. Of course I am not arguing for violent pornographic materials since they have been proven to have positive correlation towards sexual aggression. One reason gamers do not turn terrorists is because they do not have the platform to practice their aggression or robbers because of not having proper gears and courage. But porn consumers have the option to engage with a female where they have the option to exercise their aggression, so violent porn should be kept out of the question. Softcore erotica pornographies wont necessarily send out message of aggression to the consumer that they would try to mimic, which evidently would make sexual aggression increase. In fact UK banned violent pornographies of any sort based on such assumptions.
When people say indecent clothings incite rape, they too are quite off base with such extreme remark. Although this sentiment is mostly promulgated by religious conservatives but for the rest it’s toxic masculinity that contributes to such mentality. It’s true that the appearance of a female might be stimulating to a male. But then again, stimulants vary from man to man. Some can get turned on by a mere glimpse at a woman, let she be she covered up in the blackest of burqas or not. People fantasize and fetishizes girls in burqas too, that’s nothing new. Even Burqas can’t save women from men fantasizing them. Hell, they even go as far as writing songs on women dressed in burqas, “Burqa pora meye pagol koreche” for example. Whereas, on the other hand, many males may not even get turned on even though while visiting nude beaches. You can search for nude beaches online and check how many guys are turned on in those places, which should be apparent by their state of erection. you will find very few. But getting turned on doesn’t mean getting aggressive. Aggression stems from power and entitlement. Rape is a product of aggression. So getting turned on isn’t a good explanation towards rape either. Although these may give biological overviews of the instincts, it doesn’t justify such actions. As Randy Thornhill says, to consider sth natural, and therefore justified is to commit a naturalistic fallacy. We are not saying that pouncing upon someone because biology told him so is okay. It is definitely not okay. Aggression is natural, but that doesn’t legitimize homicide. Jealousy is natural, but that doesn’t legitimize burning someone’s house down. Greed is natural, but that doesn’t validate corruption, Kleptomania might be natural for someone, but petty theft cannot be justified either. Similarly in a free society, one’s problem should not be other’s burden. A girl has the right to exercise all freedom she wants just like men do. If men have a problem with themselves, it should be taken care of by themselves too. Women should not have to pay the cost for men’s troubles. Like similarly, a black man shouldn’t hide himself from the streets because some old white racist guy who instinctively thinks that blacks are criminals. If someone’s instinct turns someone on merely at the sight of a burqa or a bikini, its upto the guy to learn to control himself and behave, not upto the girl to adjust her lifestyle in accordance with the troubled guy’s need.
The common tactic of the conservative religious or the borderline patriarchs is to promulgate a biological basis for rape. The goal is to commit naturalistic fallacy in order to bend women according to their will. Most template feminists, upon gullibility and good faith, start to fall down the conservative rabbit hole. But that’s just the antithesis of feminism. In the course of advocating for shallow feminism, many end up lining up with the traditional approach in sexual violence which is through surrendering their socio-economic and sexual freedom, because of course that’s how “Nature” intended. On one hand you have basic conservative viewpoints, and on the other hand you have femvertisers narrowing women down into objects or corporate slaves. To be shallow in ideological approaches is to give room to be easily trapped between one of these two extremes.
One of my friend confessed to me about having hardcore sexual fantasies and justified the fantasies using evolutionary biology. Thornhill and Palmer investigates this issue deeply and theorizes two possibilities. One that rape might be adaptive or might be a byproduct of other adaptations. The adaptation strategy tells us that rape evolved as strategical tools for lesser males to pass on their genes. Those who could reproduce more were rewarded in the evolutionary chain, be that through force or through consent. But the authors do acknowledge the fact that societal conditions evolved to put tolls on such chaotic behavior which might have worked as a counterbalance. Rapes occurred when the benefits outweighed the risks. Hence, in war zones we see an overabundance of rapes and in stable societies we see very few compared to that. The reason is that war zones lack accountability. So the benefits always outweighed the risks. But social and legal constraints in a civil society always worked in reverse. The risks associated with such acts worked as deterrents.
Thornhill and Palmer criticized social theories of rape by feminist authors like Brownmiller, Kate Millett, Germain Greer and others. Their main criticism was that the feminist theorists completely ignored the biological basis for rape, which is unfair to a neutral scientific approach to unveiling the cause of a problem, and mostly are emotionally driven. To put matters into context, The dominant theory of rape comes from Brownmiller and other similar feminist authors who view rape as not as a sexual tool but a political weapon of the patriarchy. Brownmiller’s views have given new perspective to rape’s roots. It says rape is a conscious psychological drive of the perpetrators to assert power and dominance over the weaker sex to keep them under intimidation. She uses wars as her examples, and rapes by political or community leaders or anyone with a concentration of power. Brownmiller rejects the theory that rape is about sex assuming that rapes do not occur in animal species.
Both Brownmiller and Thornhill have their fair share of criticisms. To start with Thornhill, many critics say that Thornhill’s argument fall apart for cases where the victims are male, transgenders, underage or old. Also that, evolution might not have given an edge to rapists since parental investment would have been deterred by such acts. Considering physical and mental injury to the victim, and the offspring’s fatherless/callous father state, the reduced parental investments should have reduced the chances of survival. But personally, I think, the criticisms don’t hold much ground. Particularly because I think the monogamous parental state is fairly a new trait among humans. And since human societies stayed in groups, the chances of survival for rape offsprings should not necessarily have required dedicated biological father figures in order to survive. Also that, when raids and conquests of tribes happened, the offsprings would have inevitably fallen under the responsibility of the invading clans. Also such criticism fail to take into account the byproduct of other adaptation theory. Like Aggression. Aggression did not evolve as a sexual strategy but as a territorial, political, and survival (against hunters) strategy. Brownmiller’s biggest criticism is her discrediting biology as a factor. She says rape has no sexual motive, despite all sexual violence having sexual acts common in them. She says animals are not known to rape their own kind, which is false too. Chimps, dolphins, mallard ducks, rats and bundle of other species show such behaviors and they are quite well documented.
Holding the biological basis with some degree of credibility, many courts adopt chemical castrations as a strategy to curb out repeated sexual offenses by sexual offenders. Depo Provera is an FDA approved drug which has been in use for long in some American states for chemical castration purpose. It reduces blood’s testosterone level to milder standards and aims to stabilize uncontrollable sexual desires of the male perpetrators. It worked in many cases to reduce repeat offenses. But human rights agencies claim using this is unfair and inhumane since, it comes along with numerous side effects to the subject’s health. Also the fact that it needs to be continued for life, but are administered by the state for as long as they are on parole. Hence after the parole ends it jumps back again. They also claim that it strips someone of their sexual agency and freedom, which has been debunked since it just lowers down the level of aggression. The This fact proves the adaptive strategy of Thornhill and Palmer, that rape might have been a byproduct of aggressive adaptive features.
The topic of rape and sexual violence is extremely complicated. The definition for example and the subjectivity only creates more conflicts among narratives. Conservatives tend to brush off marital rape, male on male rape, transgender as trivial. Whereas on the opposite side of the spectrum, reactionary feminists may claim that a bad date is in fact a rape too. For example, when Aziz Ansari was accused of sexual assault by his date with whom he believed that he had consensual sex, but later on got got himself entangled with a metoo case.
The case of Aziz Ansari popped up in a girl’s forum where a girl Abby Neirman posted her metoo story about Aziz Ansari. It was at the time when metoo movement was in vogue. To become a part of a huge ideological wave by faking stories is nothing new. Lets check the case of Mindy from Princeton, who faked her story to get a sense of belonging in the “Take Back the Night Movement”.
The ambiguity around rape befuddles feminist as well. Germaine Greer for example, is known for her controversies surrounding rape. She says, rape is so generalized and uniformly penalized that many rape ends up being trivialized and therefore not reported. she argues for laws to be formulated keeping the wider recipients of assault victims in head, and that not everyone goes through equal trauma, which therefore requires flexible penalties in order to provide rooms for all victims to come forward and seek justice. Most of the criticisms hurled toward Greer are that she trivializes rape and her callousness to provide data to bolster her arguments. But nonetheless, her points do raise some important questions. How to define consent, how to penalize non-stranger rape, and if implementing extreme measures for all helps in any way.
Any measures, whatever you may think of, might follow up with unintended blowbacks. So jumping on the thoughtless populist bandwagon might not help, and if escalated might end up hurting the cause. The book Sexual Violence: Opposing Viewpoints is a must read in this case. The book takes in points put forward by experts from all sides of the spectrums and combines them for the readers to be able to get a wider view of the whole situation. It might end up without providing the reader a conclusive statement, but would certainly show the reader the complexity of the whole situation.
The book contains many thing apart from the death penalty issue. Mostly because, regarding rape, death penalty issue have been settled down and rescinded away from court procedures way long ago for being counterproductive and in violation with human rights . Other than that the book addresses other points regarding cause, justice, prevalence surrounding rape perfectly well.
There is also a popular notion that only Bangladesh has lowest conviction rates. But no. In fact Germaine Greer wrote her book On Rape to address UK’s remarkably low conviction rates, which is around 4.9%. She argues that understanding rape in its truest sense, keeping emotions aside, and formulating laws accordingly may help addressing the situation. As per RAINN, in the USA, out of 1000 cases, 5 leads to conviction. Bangladesh has 3% conviction rates as per reported by Women and Children Repression Prevention tribunal from five districts.
So to brand Dhaka as Rape Capital or to brand Bangladesh as A rapist nation isn’t going to much help the victims other than it will benefit political parties to further their political goals. The protesters should instead formulate their arguments better, ask for modernization and reformation of legal procedures, demand for police’s accountability, and to remove political impunities. Govt’s vigilante wings mostly enjoy unfettered in return of loyalty to the government. When such impunity is established, according to rape theory, the benefit will outweigh the risk, and rapes/sexual assaults as a power assertion will keep on being continued. But its highly unlikely that govt would strip them off their power since these vigilante teams ensure their shrines. And this is a problem not only for rape, but for other crimes too. Vigilante wings are notorious for massive human right violations in public colleges, universities, localities etc. They are known for extortions, intimidations, lynchings, violence along with other such heinous crimes. What fuels them is the impunity they enjoy from the local politicians and the police. Without addressing this unfettered and unchecked power, it would be impossible to reduce the amount of rape in any way. The only one that will get punished would be the ones that get viral in social media. Others will get covered under the blanket.
And most importantly, its not possible for us to study and research about the billions of available social theories and ideologies. Its okay, useful and perfectly fine to remain in the realm of template activism at some points in life. But when things escalate and go political, we’ve got to be aware so that our heightened, shallow emotions may not end up making the movement running in circles or hurt the initial cause eventually. We should always stay alert to hidden slippery slopes laying around while making big decisions. To share once or twice “ Science says we are made of starstuff” is harmless but spreading “Science says there is no gay gene” turns into political drama/cultural clash, ends up in human rights abuses. Now I am not saying that citizens should shut themselves up and don’t congregate under a cause. They obviously should have a right to that. But before instigating such high impact shockwaves, we should try to understand the nuances pf the issue first and form sensible arguments, while keeping the emotions aside. It will save everyone’s time and help in focusing on tangible/realistic aspects of the issue, instead of beating about the bush, or advocating for counterproductive strategies like speedy trials, death penalties for rape.
Also, only channeling the anger towards the government will take people nowhere. Because the root problem lies in the agelong normalized rape culture within the society. Female sexuality being tabooed and frowned upon, victim blaming, slut shaming, judging women for their economic and sexual freedom and treating them as properties of the males, perpetuation of religious, obedient tradwife stereotypes etc. Society must put an end to viewing women’s affairs from a male’s perspective. To repeat John Berger, a woman’s worth is judged by how the male gaze views her. To practice real feminism, this shackle has to be broken at first, that is, to be actually free and without any constraints of such arbitrary moral expectations put forth by religion or the patriarchal society. So I guess, the protest slogans would have been more fruitful if they were directed to the conservative societal practices, rather than the already struggling befuddled authoritarian government. At least through template activism, and mass memeing, we might try to engineer and change society’s perspectives towards traditional gender roles and bring in desired reforms. This might at least have some shot at making things better. Asking govt to step down, or to cut their vigilante teams off power, or to invest billions of dollars for justice and police reform is likely not going to happen until Bangladesh enters into the high economy zone. So fighting this fight might turn out to be futile, and in no way come to of any help towards the victims. It might escalate political tensions, but if that’s the intent of the protestors, then yes this movement is a success. But seeing my friends and the gullible mob, I would like to believe that they were propelled by an impassioned concern for making the lives of the womenfolk better. I therefore believe that the protestors should focus on tangible tactical protests aimed at reformation of society, rather engaging in fruitless endeavor which results in political tensions, and ends up with counterproductive outcomes.
But it is not to say that I do not say that I do not support mass political protests, which I do. Every democratic nation should have the absolute right to stage political protests and send out political waves through the masses. But then again, we’ve got to set our grounds first. Are we in for a political protest? Or to achieve some certain goals which are supposed to make a victim’s life better. Both are justified, but we just have to choose which path we are gonna tread on. The political one? Or the victim rights activism one? Because of course, both would require different sets of strategies to come up with some substantial outputs. Fighting with the strategy set of one path while believing to be fighting for the other would not be only delusional but might also bring about unintended outcomes.
We should always stay alert in such sensitive situations and take calculative approaches, because of course, as the great philosopher George Floyd said, “The truth is always somewhere in the middle…”
For further readings: