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The problem with modern movements

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Movements by the people to support important values are a long held American tradition, beginning with our nation’s fight for independence. Martin Luther King Jr. championed a modern movement based on peaceful protest. So much has changed since then. While the basic values are still a subject of many of today’s movements, their character has changed dramatically and has often become counterproductive and of questionable character. They even seem to express anger and vengeance against anyone unlike them or disagreeing with them- values directly opposing the foundations they profess.

What is a feminist? Is it somebody who believes in equal rights between the genders or is it a woman marching the streets topless protesting the objectification of women? What does a member of Black Lives Matter look like? Is it somebody who believes in the equality for blacks and whites? Or is it somebody who marches down the street shouting for dead cops? The answer to both of these questions is both and neither.

Modern movements are very vague in their construction, and this creates a problem for both the movements themselves and anybody from the outside looking in. It’s a problem for the movements because it decreases their practical effectiveness in their mission and damages their public image.

A lack of definable leadership and specific goals means that the movement doesn’t actually know what it’s doing. What specifically is it attempting to accomplish? How are they going to do it? Who is going to organize all of this? If we look back on the organizations of the past, we can see that specificity was the key to their success. When the American Woman Suffrage Association came together in 1869 it was with one specific goal: get women the right to vote. It was the same when the Southern Christian Leadership Conference came together in 1957 to act as leaders for black civil rights; they wanted certain laws changed to grant them equal rights and they meticulously planned out how to get them. This is something I haven’t seen from either the feminist or Black Lives Matter (BLM) movements. Feminism has become a vague set of ideologies and unspecific ideas which I have never heard clarified or more thoroughly explained. And despite BLM claiming to be a proper organization rather than a movement, it lacks coherent leadership structure.

This lack of structure in leadership walks hand in hand with lack of structure in policy. Both of these groups claim that their main goal is to advance what they see as oppressed groups in society: women and blacks. The issue is that neither group seems sure what courses of action should be taken to accomplish these goals besides street protests venting their general frustration and indignity over what they feel is wrong. What neither group seems to have learned from their spiritual ancestors is that in order to change a society you must first change the laws that govern it. This, once again, was a tactic employed by earlier movements. After women received the vote, the opinion of women as societal equals began to gain more traction. Once blacks received the right to the same public areas as whites, the right to vote, etc. public opinion of blacks as equals also began rising.

If you want a feminist movement and think that women are being paid less than men, then find companies or businesses you believe are doing this and take legal action in a measured and thought-out manner. This way, the inclinations of employers to pay women less will drastically decrease with the pressure of legal ramifications. If you think blacks are still marginalized and are targeted by police, then find specific instances of injustice or laws that allow/encourage the injustice and protest the officer responsible and the law respectively.

This sounds sensible, and there are likely many people attempting to use these methods; however, this is not what the outsider sees. The average person who doesn’t consider themselves to be part of either group doesn’t see the measured intellectuals fighting for equal rights. Instead, they see the extremists, the Anita Sarkeesians and Al Sharptons of the world, as the face of these causes. This is not because the media frames them as such (though that certainly doesn’t help), but because from our perspective, the extremists are winning and nobody is attempting to stop them. Pornography is being produced by women in massive quantities under the feminist idea that making pornography and presenting themselves as objects for male pleasure is empowering for women. Female characters in our pop culture are noticeably bland and uninteresting because of the feminist pressure to make female characters “stronger” without specifically stating what that means. Riot control officers doing their jobs are called racists and oppressors by the press when they try to contain out of control protestors. I’m afraid of simply stating I didn’t like Black Panther because anybody has done that has been deemed a racist. This is taking one racial problem and replacing it with a different racial problem, which solves nothing. If these rioters and extremists are truly outsiders to the causes, then why have no prominent figures in these movements step forth to oppose them? Why is there no official organization to condemn them to the public?

The hard truth is that these unchecked problems of unruly behavior and lack of specificity by those who appear to represent movements spring from a problem too deeply ingrained in our culture to be quickly reversed: pluralism. The idea has taken root in our culture that one thing can also be another thing even if that other thing is directly contradictory. We are told we can do whatever we want, and nobody is allowed to say otherwise. We’re taught that there is no such thing as truth or objective reality or right and wrong. Because of this cultural zeitgeist, we have become adverse to contradiction and anyone who says that A is not B. It seems nothing can change that. If we are contradicted, we push past it, not giving it the slightest amount of consideration to another viewpoint. Unfortunately this is true of many opposing groups in our country and causes deep division that seems to have no remedy.

This problem cannot be fixed in a generation, it may take several generations to undo. What we can do; however, is lay the groundwork for that reconciliation. We can define what it means to be a feminist or a civil rights activist or any other major cause. We can start holding extremists accountable and confronting them before the public who might be struggling to understand the cause. The success or failure of movements depends on this kind of action. If we are diligent in this clarification and maintain a firmly placed, clearly defined ideology, it might be enough to begin a shift in the hearts and minds of our population that could return us to a culture of respect and discourse. In the same way that specifying the motivations will help the causes, specifying the causes could help the culture at large. If we truly want our country to heal, we can’t do it blindly. We’ll just end up with a mess otherwise.



5 Responses to “The problem with modern movements”

  1. Edie Richardson on September 16th, 2018 4:43 am

    This is a very thoughtful, practical, and insightful article. I hope it gets picked up by other media as the wisdom in it definitely needs to be shared and taken to heart by individuals.

  2. Arthur Buchanan on September 16th, 2018 10:01 am

    Excellent article and hopeful to read the perspective of a young person. We became active in the Tea Party movement when we grew frustrated with out of control government spending and the lack of promised transparency. We gathered in peaceful protest and went to DC Marches to be sure both Houses of Congress could see and hear our concerns. The movement helped elect politicians who reflected our values. A few weeks ago we saw an opinion piece trying to equate the disruptions we were seeing over the Senate Hearings from radical leftists with the Tea Party movement. It was disheartening as there is no comparison. Thank you for so eloquently articulating the differences.

  3. Carol Christenson on September 16th, 2018 3:54 pm

    Well said Connor! I like the way you support the need to consider the need for change along with addressing barriers to that change.

  4. Jonas on September 18th, 2018 9:07 pm

    Interesting to see little to no actual engagement with BLM activists and their own words, much less with people who have been thinking about and trying to explain what’s occurring. Interesting precisely because if you actually engaged with BLM seriously you’d find there are actual policy concerns and suggestions as well as actual community work being done to advance these ideas, even in GR.

    But, since you haven’t, we get a white man’s hot take on feminism and black people which amounts to a reactionary screed with little to no substance other than a complaint that feminists and black people are just too upset but not in the way white men/people seem to like. But please, continue.

    Oh, and have a peek at this if you have time–contains actual policy suggestions:

  5. John Waldrop on September 18th, 2018 9:27 pm

    This article saved my marriage.

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