LOL Interwebz: This Might Make Me Unpopular, but I’m Taking a Stand with Feminist Frank
What I love about memes, and advice animals in particular, is how democratic they are. You don’t need anything to make one except a stock photo and some basic image editing software, and you don’t need anything to distribute one except a basic Internet connection. And then, once they’re out there, they only take a moment to read. Pretty much anyone can use them to disseminate an idea without needing to seek permission from the media powers that be.
That’s no guarantee the ideas will be good, mind you, but the democratic nature of the Internet itself ensures that the ones that rise to prominence are at least interesting. And the fact that there are no gatekeepers to speak of ensures a diversity of viewpoints that you won’t be seeing on TV. Hence we are treated to both College Liberal and College Republican, which skewer the intellectual poverty of American political discourse from two much-needed angles. (This should be a reminder that, while we might have political preferences, no human philosophy is fully consistent — either with itself or with the Gospel.)
It also allows us to skewer the various stereotypes and unhealthy thought patterns foisted on us by culture-makers. Hence memes like Successful Black Man (which goes after the “gangsta” stereotype that hip hop never seems to tire of) and Dating Site Murderer (which stresses that people shouldn’t be judged by their appearance). They’re a safe space in which we can simultaneously express our disapproval of prejudice and our own fear of being prejudged.
To that particular list you can add Feminist Frank, the latest politically minded advice meme. A stock photograph of someone who looks very much like the “douchebag” stereotype (excuse the language, but is there another word for that sort of person?), Frank expresses “empowering” thoughts, often in a two-line “rug-pull” format (“Hey bro, check that… male privilege at the door — this is a safe space”).
And now here’s the uncomfortable part where I admit that I kind of like Feminist Frank.
I realize that those of us at the theologically conservative end of the Church are supposed to be suspicious of every new idea, including feminism, but while there can be value in a cautious approach, we ought to take the time to examine each idea we encounter and sort out the good from the bad. In the case of feminism, especially when it is being used to dismantle “douchebag” tendencies, those of us who follow Christ have much in common with the mindset. Certainly we, like Jesus in Matthew 5:28, are opposed to the objectification of women that Frank skewers; similarly, we ought to be opposed to the silencing of those who are traditionally unempowered culturally.
As evangelicals, we like to place an emphasis on individual, personal sins — and rightly so, I think — but we often lack the perspective and vocabulary to talk honestly about the cumulative effect of sins which are widespread and culturally sanctioned. Is it really in doubt, after all, that when sins pile up and are never spoken against they will coalesce into a system which is itself sinful, and in which certain people are systematically stripped of the dignity that being made in the image of God affords them?
Proverbs 29:2 observes, “When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan.” The Biblical prophets, for their part, spent most of their time calling out Israel for cultural evils rather than individual sins, and God Himself promises to punish “the children for the sins of the fathers.” That we’re all discrete individuals responsible only for our personal actions is, in some ways, a relatively new idea.
There’s another meme that’s been traveling around the Internet lately, the deceptively simple three-word phrase “Not all men.” It’s frequently put into the mouth of someone “butting into” a picture, such as the Kool-Aid Man breaking through a wall or It‘s Pennywise the Clown sticking his head through a sewer drain. It’s apparently become a catchphrase because women who complain about abuse or mistreatment by men are (apparently?) frequently interrupted by one or more particularly defensive men telling them “Not all men are like that” — a phrase that, while certainly true, is also so obvious as to be asinine. That we are not deliberately contributing to the evil in the world is hardly an accomplishment; perhaps we should ask ourselves what we can do to lessen it.
In the epistle of James, we read “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” Is this an admonition to join the feminist cause? Not necessarily. But at the very least, it ought to push us to consider whether we should.
“I realize that those of us at the theologically conservative end of the Church are supposed to be suspicious of every new idea. . .”
Good job. It takes a stunning amount of talent to not only stumble past the message of conservatism but to blame the church for it as well.
American Conservatism is a dedication to personal freedom. It’s the modern identity of classical liberalism, which Frédéric Bastiat so nicely summed up as: “Each of us has a natural right, from God, to defend his person, his liberty, and his property.”
That is all American Conservatism is. That’s it. Nothing more. This is not a “suspicion of every new idea” but a “suspicion of every idea that could limit the freedom of one or more groups.”
I’m not a conservative. Going by your post, neither are you. But for God’s sake, man, represent what they actually believe.
Don’t build a strawman just to make yourself feel better.
Don’t pretend you’re superior.
Don’t, for Paul’s sake, pretend that you have every answer.
I’m not sure what to say except to suggest that you re-read the sentence you’re critiquing. If you do, you’ll see that I modified the word “conservative” (“disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc.,” as per the dictionary) with the word “theologically.” So I’m not talking about conservative politics, of which I’m admittedly not a huge fan, I’m talking about conservative doctrine, of which I *am* a huge fan.
In other words, I’m being at least a tad self-deprecating there. It’s the opposite of pretending I’m superior.
So, chillax, bro. Peace.
Whether or not we as Christian accept or reject the claims of feminism is first determined by understanding what claims feminism makes, then turning to the Scriptures to investigate the matter. Or, perhaps before that, determining what feminism is- there are a broad variety of interpretations. It’s not uncommon for Christian writers to claim they are feminists because of what the Bible says, but that does not somehow necessitate that you label yourself a feminist- it simply means you are a Christian who reads.
So what is feminism? How are its claims different than Christ’s? Than Paul’s? Why should we conform to the shape and take the name of a secular ideology when our own already forces this with a greater authority? These questions should be asked of any label (e.g., liberal, conservative), and feminism is no different. I believe we’ve yet to pierce the veil of tropes and investigate the substance here.
I agree with you, Chris. And honestly I have very little use for the word “feminism,” since no one seems able to agree on what it actually means. And no, I didn’t go into much depth here, but this is my weekly “Luke-Explores-Internet-Memes-and-Then-Riffs-on-Them-a-Bit” column, not my master’s thesis.
What gets me is when people use “feminism” as a catch-all term. When I was Mr. Republican in college and leading into grad school, I learned a hard lesson that terms are always loaded and the meanings are not tied JUST to the present understanding. There are, at least, three different historical waves of feminism that could be looked at before the term can be tossed out wholesale. I am a feminist. I have no problem admitting that. Now the most recent wave of meaning behind that term, I may take issues with in part, but I still have no problem claiming that as a value marker for myself.
Great post. Glad you took a stand for Feminist Frank!
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