At sp!ked, Ella Whelan talks about Canadian reporter Lauren Southern’s public dissent from one of the main talking points of the feminist movement:
Southern had previously sparked debate by posting a picture online of her holding up a sign that explained why she didn’t ‘need feminism’ – a response to a popular feminist selfie campaign. Following this up a year later with a video entitled ‘Why I am not a feminist’, she called out feminism as a ‘faux form of equality under a gender-biased word’. In Southern’s report on the Vancouver SlutWalk, she explained that she had attended the rally to ‘challenge the fearmongering feminist narrative about men, women and violence’. It is this ‘rape culture’ narrative, she tells me, which is really trivialising rape. ‘Women are going to equate things that aren’t rape with rape because they interpret guys whistling at them as rape culture’, she says. ‘The misuse of the word [rape] is very dangerous because it allows for false accusations.’
Southern sees feminists’ obsession with ‘rape culture’ as a languishing in female weakness. ‘I’ve always thought that the main feminist issue was empowering women, in real terms; telling women to go out there, get the job, do what you want, not run around screaming “trigger warning” and crying.’ Her assessment of contemporary feminism is astute. Following her visit to the rally in Vancouver, Southern received a barrage of messages from self-proclaimed radical feminists who told her ‘they were vomiting all night because they were so triggered’ by what she had done. That’s right, these women felt physically sick just because someone disagreed with them.
This bizarre prizing of weakness on the part of contemporary feminists is, Southern explains, down to their refusal to engage in debate on a regular basis. ‘It’s not hard what they do. They go on to a street where everyone agrees with them, wearing their underwear, and get to show off for a day… They don’t surround themselves with people who disagree with them.’ This refusal to engage in debate was evident at the protest itself, with Southern having to climb up on to a plinth to avoid her sign being covered up by angry protesters.
So where does this desire to portray weakness as a strength come from? Southern puts it down to an institutionalised victim culture in Western universities: ‘Academia is obsessed with feminism. You’ve got a protective narrative which screams “rape culture” at the slightest thing and students just eat it up. Whether that’s because they want good grades or not, this stuff doesn’t get challenged.’ As a result, she says, sexism becomes a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’. ‘If you’re told that you’re a victim as you grow up, you’re going to have a confirmation bias when you’re not hired for a job but a man is. You’ll hear sexism in your head’, she says.