A Young Progressive Agrees: Against the Tribalism and Politicization of Our Age

December 21, 2018

A fascinating alternative perspective from the left, from an Alison Willmore, at Buzz Feed:

Why I’ve Had Trouble Buying Hollywood’s Version of Girl Power

I get the desire to take comfort in cheerful stories of women’s triumph, from Ocean’s 8 to On the Basis of Sex. But in 2018, I haven’t found them very comforting.

Girl Power

Excerpts:

I started to think I might have a problem when I found myself fuming about the Ruth Bader Ginsburg action figure that was sent to me in the mail.

It was a 6-inch-tall novelty from a company that also makes a Pope Francis, a Bernie Sanders, and a Hillary Clinton, as well as baby aviator sunglasses and a line of glitter makeup called Unicorn Snot. The action figure wasn’t doing me, or anyone else, any harm — in fact, the PR rep pitching it assured me that some fraction of the proceeds from its massively successful Kickstarter would be donated to a worthy cause. But the branding made me twitch: “Wire-rimmed glasses to see through patriarchal bullsh*t,” the manufacturer’s diagram touted, as well as “heeled loafers to stand tall against oppressors.” This marketing copy dressed up in feminist buzzwords suggested that the mere purchase of this plastic collectible was an activist achievement, progressivism in one easy installment of $19.99.

What really got to me was the thought . . . that it was the mere idea of Ocean’s 8 that counted, not the actual end result, and that a hasty sketch sufficed . . . .

[The main character in the TV show Support the Girls] can’t protect them from themselves, though, and sometimes they’re their own worst enemies. And she is so very tired, and it’s consuming her life, but what is she going to do, give up? “I can take f[___]ing up all day, but I can’t take not trying,” she tells the man she’s not going to be married to for much longer. It’s one of the most relatable lines of the year, and it may not offer easy uplift, but I’d listen to her say it a million times over any of the cheeriest girl-power rallying cries.

Women aren’t a monolith, and we shouldn’t have to be called on via slogans to constantly prove our viability as a paying audience. We shouldn’t feel any niggling sense of obligation to be grateful for any representation we can get, even when it’s mediocre or reductive or just something that isn’t your cup of tea — but I do feel it, and I resent it even as I’m not able to entirely let it go.

As much as anything else, I think the piece reads as an extended lament of the rising tribalism of our age—that more and more, for people on both sides, art doesn’t matter, truth doesn’t matter, what matters is having the correct or approved opinions, or simply signaling identity with the correct tribe—and that more and more, politics take over everything, these tribal identities take over everything, leaving no room for other facets of our lives or identities to be free or authentic in their (our) own right—which is ironic, because authenticity and being ourselves were sort of what the whole tribal pursuit was supposed to be about in the first place.

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