feminism · opinion piece

Michael Moore and the Purity of Women



I guess I’m just really cynical of this mentality that promotes the idea of women as a collective being pure, wonderful creatures of grace who can do no wrong. It strikes me as something very, very backwards – an old-fashioned view of femininity and how women are delicate, sensitive bastions of purity that must be protected, or who are kind and nurturing by their inherent nature that they cannot possibly be as terrible as men.

Here’s the thing. Women did play an important role in inventing the atomic bomb, and no single person can ‘initiate’ a Holocaust. The Holocaust happened because of a series of cultural and social antisemitic attitudes that pre-existed within the German society, and I assure everyone here that German women played very active roles in Nazi Germany. (See here, and here for examples.)

The reason women ‘usually don’t’ commit the same crimes as men do, on a systematic level, is because they haven’t had the chance to. Michael Moore’s belief that women are somehow more delicate and inherently nurturing and kinder than men are is an antiquated notion of what it means to be a woman. This is a terribly Victorian attitude – the belief that women are so delicate and pure that they are incapable of the same things as men.

I don’t believe that. I think that the only reason women haven’t had more of an active role in world leadership (both Western and non-Western) is because they’ve simply not had the opportunities. But those opportunities are happening. We’re getting there. The UK has had Margaret Thatcher; Israel has had Golda Meir. The USA could be getting Hillary Clinton. Women are senators, politicians, foreign ambassadors, heads of states, lawyers, scientists, doctors, mathematicians, astronauts, soldiers, intelligence officers, award-winning authors, teachers, leaders. Women played active roles in the World Wars, in the Holocaust, in other genocides in world history. They can be both as inspiring and as evil as men, and it’s imperative that we don’t mistake praising women for breaking the glass ceiling for putting them on pedestals of false puritanical standards.

Feminism isn’t and shouldn’t be about lifting women up onto this unreachable pedestal. For me, feminism has always been the idea that we are equal to men in every single way. That means acknowledging the ugly side, too. That means acknowledging that women can be incredible, inspiring people, like Queen Elizabeth II, or that women can be some of the most disgusting specimens of humanity, like Irma Grese who was a Senior Supervisor at Auschwitz, the 2nd highest ranking female in camp who relished her job.

In this mad rush to assure everyone that being a feminist doesn’t mean stripping women of their femininity (‘it’s okay to like pink and be gentle and sweet!’), we’ve convinced ourselves of something just as damaging as the old view that women were unsuited to work outside of the kitchen, in my opinion. We’ve convinced ourselves that women are pure and need to be protected from everything, or that we’re inherently kinder by virtue of our DNA that we can’t be worse than men have historically been.

One of the reasons I was drawn so strongly to Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl was because it introduced a new idea in psychological crime-thrillers – that women can be just as horrible, just as manipulative, just as evil, just as depraved as men can be.

I remember there was a huge debate when the book and the film came out about whether it was feminist or anti-feminist. For me, it was 100% feminist. I’d never seen a character like Amy Dunne before, in novels or in cinema. She is, to me, one of the most terrifying villains of all time. She is malevolent, she is petty, she is proud, arrogant, hateful, manipulative, and so very, very clever. I don’t care that it’s not a ‘positive’ portrayal of a woman in literature – I just love the fact that she is powerful. She is unapologetic about the destruction she causes. I’m not saying I condone it – far from. I’m saying that she represents the idea that women aren’t just the innocent special-snowflake Bella Swans or the woman-scorned seen so often in media. Women are complex, and women do not have to be victims of society just because we are told we are. (People should read Claire Fox’s I Find That Offensive. It’s very good and it may readjust your perspective on certain issues.)

Women are not magical creatures who will make the world a better place simply for being charge more often because we’re fighting toxic patriarchal values. The world at large needs to accept that women are not delicate little flowers who need to be protected. I’m not advocating for all women to stand up and act like men, nor am I suggesting that women who commit terrible crimes are to be adulated. The radical notion I’m suggesting is that some women are incredibly kind and nurturing; some women are firm and intense; some women are cold and hard; some women are outright monsters. What we are at the end of the day is human, and we come in every single shape and form. We cannot be bundled up into a neat little package taken straight out of the Victorian Era for people like Generation Snowflake feminists and Michael Moore to slap a ‘modernised’ bow on top. Once we were too delicate to leave the house; now we’re so delicate in positions of power that we won’t start any wars because wars are a thing of men and toxic patriarchy.

Maybe. Or maybe, we’ve just never been given the same chances and opportunities as men to express our inherent humanity. Even for the World Wars, which were based on the decisions of men, women were there behind the scenes, influencing men, providing opinions, being active participants of society and contributing, often with fervent patriotism. Maybe not everything is toxic patriarchal values; maybe, just maybe, women are human.

In short, shut the fuck up Michael Moore.


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