Katie interviewed Lindsay a few hours ago. They discussed blogging, politics, feminism, and philosophy. Despite Katie’s continual insecurity, she did a really good job; the worst part was a giggle in the intro she tacked on later. She asked her about a bone of contention among her, me, and Gordo about living your principles. About this Lindsay said,
That’s kind of a difficult question… I mean, to me, living the movement is very important to me. And I’m not really interested in sort of judging feminism as kind of a contest. Feminism can be something that people just accept as a value system. I mean, you could be a feminist the way you could be, you know, a socialist. And not have it be a political process for you. It’s just an ideology. And I would describe people like that who just believe in feminist ideals as being feminist.
But then for a certain subset of the population that wants to be activist and work the program, that’s a whole other set of standards and responsibilities.
The analogy to established ideologies, like liberalism and socialism, is a lot stronger than the religious analogy that some radical feminists make (“you’re like a Christmas-and-Easter Christian”). But there’s one point where the analogy could be extended, and another where it’s too weak.
Although feminism extends back to the middle of the 19th century, modern feminism is a construct of the 1960s. Liberalism is a construct of the 1770s, 1780s, 1840s, 1860s, 1930s, 1960s, and 1990s. Socialism is an old-left ideology that at least in its live form stresses conventional political activism and social action rather than leading by example.
The new-left forms of socialism do emphasize personal purity, often above political activism, which they tend to see as dirty and ineffective. The anti-globalization movement is as puritan about consumerism as radical feminism is about sexuality. Both movements are fringe offshoots of liberal mainstreams, but whereas Stiglitz and Sen are just liberals, liberal feminists are primarily feminists. The name alone causes people to associate the political movement with its fringe.
On the other hand, the analogy could be extended to political activists. Traditional ideologies are quiet even on their leaders’ personal habits. I know of no liberal who has a problem supporting the Open Society Institute because of Soros’s currency speculation. You cope with the leaders you have; given that politics is inherently dirty, don’t be surprised that you won’t find purity.