A feminist reading of Milo Yiannopoulos

I got an invite to meet Milo Yiannopoulos recently. Well, to attend what looked like a small gathering in which he’d be in attendance. I would have gone but I’ll be out of town.

When I mock blatant shitlording and famewhoring I mock myself. I roll my eyes at my friends posting selfies with him as he makes his way across the States. But I’d totally do it. At the end of the day I can generally be counted on to prefer rolling eyes to none. All that foreplay to say that while I’ve wanted to ignore old Milo for a while now, maybe I should dip into his work. Maybe I’ll come to an appreciation for him like I did for his recent co-panelist Christina Hoff Sommers, who is, like me, a market-friendly dissident feminist.

Things I like:

Unapologetic capitalist. In his Twitter bio: “BUY MY SHIT: @swagbymilo” I’m into it.

His haters. In the five seconds I was looking at his timeline he retweeted “ ur daddy-issue is not funny, and misleading/distracting” OMG fucking calm down.

He’s legit funny. He tweets, along with a photo of himself in some newspaper: “Stunning and brave.” Which is both just funny on its own and a relevant South Park reference.

He’s good looking.

Things I’m not so big on:

Milo at a recent talk with Christina Hoff Sommers at the University of Minnesota:

“There seems to be an undercurrent in the modern progressive movement of men who are so desperate to get laid that they say literally anything,” he explained. “Some of those things can involve demonising their own skin colour, sexuality, and gender simply in order to get plaudits from some of the most awful women on campus.”

In my experience, the word “modern” before an umbrella term that includes many diverse factions is a bad sign. It indicates that’s what’s coming next is going to too broad to be really accurate or helpful. It doesn’t really make sense to say “modern progressive movement” when you could be more specific. Like, what faction of progressivism are you talking about? Black Lives Matter? Left-wing populism? Pro-labor? Trans-exclusionary radical feminism? They’re not the same. Some of them don’t even like each other.

Saying “modern” (instead saying something specific enough that there’s a chance in hell you could somewhat accurately generalize about it) indicates at best a lack of familiarity with that term and its factions. It indicates you’re critiquing something you don’t understand.

Then he gets specific. “It seems this particular progressive male feminism seems to have popped up only within the last couple of years, and you’ll see it sometimes on the pages of Vox and Buzzfeed and Gawker and Mic and terrible places like that, and it seems mainly a result of a failure in journalism,” he continued.

Okay, so is it a failure of journalism. But the people he points out are male feminists. I guess you could argue that male feminism is an undercurrent in the modern progressive movement. But not really because male feminism is controversial within feminism and feminism is associated with progressivism but much of progressivism is not feminist and much of feminism is not progressive.

So he’s generalizing in a lazy way. And that’s before you even get into the nuts and bolts of the claim, which is that male feminist journalists are criticizing men because they want to get laid by feminist women.

That’s likely true. I’m sure there are many male feminist journalists who criticize men because they want to get laid by feminist women. Feminist women are hot shit (hairflip). Besides, what activity do men do where you can’t find a good chunk, if not most of them, doing it for the purpose of getting laid?

Let’s try the claim with something else. “There seems to be an undercurrent in modern music of men who are so desperate to get laid that they play literally anything.” YEP. But that doesn’t really say anything about music or the people who play it, now does it?

Again, it’s lazy. It’s ad hom. It’s arguing in bad faith. Saying “male feminists are only criticizing patriarchy because they want to get laid” is just dumb. It doesn’t add anything. It doesn’t edify anyone. It doesn’t make any useful points. It doesn’t illuminate. It just gives his audience of anti-feminists a moment of getting to feel superior. They think their beliefs are genuine, because everyone thinks that. But they get to feel like the other guys don’t even believe what they’re saying. Which is, first, extremely unlikely to be true en masse. Most male feminists probably think patriarchy is real and are actually upset about it. And is, second, totally useless to the questions that matter, such as whether these male feminist journalists might, whether they’re motivated by truth seeking or pussy, have a point.

There is what commentary is, and what it can be. Commentary is usually Milo Yiannopoulos. Sure, he’s more interesting and bombastic and funny and attractive than most commentators. But he’s making a career telling people who already think that feminism is bad that they’re right, and not only are feminists wrong, but everyone who *he thinks* is likely to agree with feminists (such as the entire modern progressive movement) is not only also wrong, but they are all also bad people who don’t even believe what they’re saying. Saying shit like that is not only totally useless to truth-seeking, but it works against it. If you don’t like feminism and you also think all progressives are bad people who don’t believe what they say, that belief stunts you intellectually. It makes you more likely to dismiss out of hand any new idea if it comes from someone you think is “progressive.” It makes you dislike people based on their beliefs because you don’t just think they’re wrong, you think they’re dishonest. It separates people from new, better ideas and separates people from each other.

Commentary can be more than us-vs-them. Commentary can be truth-seeking. It can put good ideas against bad ones, instead of painting people as good guys and bad guys. It can assume that the people who disagree with you do so honestly. And if some of them don’t, it can ignore those people while still taking the ideas seriously. Because if you only listen to people who agree with you you don’t grow.

Which, I’ll give Milo credit for sometimes challenging the people who agree with him on feminism. If nothing else, he’s openly gay and promiscuous.

Still, my biggest issue with Milo isn’t that he hates feminism. Fuck, there is a lot I hate about feminism. It’s more a general issue I have with people who make a career critiquing entire movements from outside of them. The commentary tends to be overgeneral, lazy, and tribal. It tends to, in important ways, work against truth seeking and intellectual growth.

But, shit. I’m a fame whore til the day I die so the next time he’s in town I’ll still selfie that shit up.

 

3 Comments

  1. Acantha

    Um… I watched the lecture, the ‘undercurrent’ quote you refer to was explicitly an answer to a question posed to Milo about male feminists.

  2. Gaby EndingStory (@Gabyendingstory)

    Least interesting thing about Milo is the promiscuous thing-which gay man isn’t? Though not sure he still does it tbh-he’s all talk.

    Anyway, I prefer his articles-they go deeper then his twitter which I think he needs to generally generalize.

  3. Astronaut Mike Dexter

    “Male feminists are only doing it for the p***y” is a trope so lacking in insight that Kevin Smith used it 15 years ago. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0261392/
    And I say that as somebody who finds Milo generally entertaining! Or at least not as ‘toxic’ as his critics would claim.

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