The “Ist” Trap

by Sarah A. Hoyt

Special to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise

So I actually meant to do this post, when we had the big “but why aren’t women exactly like men, only better” kerfuffle here (well, the latest one.)

There is a trap to feminism. Or really any ism. But Feminism was the one that set this off.

You see, I considered myself a feminist way back when, when women didn’t have the same rights under the law in Portugal. This made a certain amount of sense, since having the same rights under the law is kind of important. In another way, it was also totally unrealistic and naive, because you know if a society really is “racist, sexist” or whatever other “ist” changing the laws is really just the beginning of this. The rest of the work must be done under “winning hearts and minds” which, btw does not mean yelling at people, punching guys for opening the door for me, or you know, looking for ‘systemic sexism’ under the rug.

That’s something else completely different, and I’m not going to weigh in on whether Portugal is still sexist or not. My kids think it is, for a variety of little things that shock them beyond belief, but I simply don’t know the culture now well enough to know if it is sexist.

Back when I was growing up, it was. Amazingly so, to the point that teachers could make jokes in front of the class about how unlikely it was for a woman to be better than the men at whatever, from writing to algebra.

Note that it didn’t break me. Mostly I gritted my teeth and set off to show them. And mostly succeeded.

This is not to say there wasn’t sexism, or that society should be set up so that only those of a rebellious disposition can make it. That would be silly. It is, however, to say that well… some countries and probably some places in other countries (including here) really are sexist. But that if you’re equal under the law, you really can’t fight the remaining sexism with more laws. You must do it with much more difficult cultural work, and making yourself a cross between a lunatic and a big hairy screamer is not going to do it.

But that brings us to what’s wrong with all the “isms”. Well, a short, short list.

  1. They usually seek governmental solutions to cultural problems.

  2. They don’t understand that once the law is fixed, it’s time to put the movement away.

  3. They are a wee bit crazy about the goals.

What do I mean by number 3? Well, you see, it’s really easy to get misled about what “x discriminated against minority can do if unleashed” if the minority is really discriminated against.

Say you’re a writer whose politics are to the right of Lenin and there is no indie. And suppose I start an ist movement “the Rightist Writer” movement, to demand equality for writers to the right of Lenin, and demand we be given parity in number of publications.

Looking at the writers to the right of Lenin who got published under the long dark night of leftism, whether it be past ones like Robert A. Heinlein (Who yes, started as a socialist, but he got better) or Jerry Pournelle, or current ones like John Ringo and Larry Correia, you could be forgiven for looking at their work and thinking: Wow, Writers on the Right are the awesomest. If we stop being discriminated against, they will sweep the field and produce masterpieces and all of them be multi-millionaires.”

Fortunately we have indie, and can go to the person who reads and downloads a ton of science fiction on the rightish side of the sphere: me.

So what’s the average of books returned after reading five pages? Why, the same as for writers of any other political stripe. Because writers to the right of Lenin are in fact just human beings. Thinking they’re all awesome is a part of a syndrome caused by discrimination against them. You see, only the best made it to publication, while on the left the system was way more open, so all sorts of people from pretty horrible to amazing made it in. A demand equal numbers of writers on the right be published would just mean that most of them would not be awesome and/or bestsellers.

Which then would convinced our “activists” that either the houses were purposely plotting against us by selecting less than stellar books, or of course the entire system was so corrupt that most of our delicate snowflake authors weren’t putting out their best work. Then I could write treatises about systemic racism, get lots of TV appearances, and clench my fist for the cameras looking grave and sorrowful and– what?

That sounds silly? well, of course. But it is what we’ve seen with feminism, with “anti-racism”, with every minority promoting association in the history of the US.

Because of exactly that process. When society discriminates against a category of people, particularly if it is in a highly visible field like art, writing, or law, education, those who make it through are the most driven, the most knowledgeable, the most capable people. They are so capable in fact, that they make it despite all attempts to stop them.

So the activists and all those who want to eliminate injustice look at those who make it and think “This is what all of x is like” and “this is why we must eliminate barriers.”

BUT once the barriers are eliminated, it turns out that most people are just…. people. And those who make it into the field/profession/whatever formerly closed off perform as average people. Or frankly below, if, as in the case of women in STEM there’s an entire educational industry pushing them into where they wouldn’t naturally go.

The activists then look at this and can’t admit “Well, we cleared the problem, so now it’s up to them.” So they come up with “Systemic ism” which is discrimination so sneaky no one sees it, but must be there because the “uplifted victim” is not performing like the rare individuals of the past did.

And then clown world sets in like the University of Colorado at one point saying that now that 75% of the graduates in chemistry are women, they are almost equal. Seriously?

The truth is that once you’re equal under the law it’s time to step back and let women, people of color, gay people, whatever just be themselves, and succeed or fail on their own merits.

Sure, there might still be prejudice against them in the culture, but again, the way to fix the culture is not to keep screaming about it, but to let it work itself out, now it can.

At some point screaming only sets things up for a massive backlash.

For me, for any future granddaughters: let women be women and succeed or fail on their own merit. The more you cast them in the victim mold and look for governmental solutions for their “plight” the more you set up a future that looks like the past, where women aren’t allowed to do much of anything without a male’s permission.

Because after a while people go “Wait, we perverted all our laws to give you an advantage, and you’re still yelling at me.”

And then things get ugly fast.

We’re heading into an ugly enough time, soon enough. No reason to stack the deck against us.

Let people be people. Let them climb down from that cross and stop being ritual victims.

Until you do, you are in fact an enemy of the only equality that counts: equality of opportunity.


Reprinted from The “Ist” Trap for July 27, 2022

Happy with this piece? Annoyed? Disagree? Speak your peace.
Note: All letters to this address will be considered for
publication unless they say explicitly Not For Publication

Was that worth reading?
Then why not:

payment type