To the Editor:
In my limited exposure to the American culture, I have perceived one widely popular notion: Succinctly put by Morpheus, “if you are not one of us, you are one of them.” Possibly useful in “The Matrix,” but it appears to me to be highly unsuitable for social debates, especially considering how subtly divisive such a philosophy is. It isn’t good enough to tolerate opposing views, though they may be politically correct. It is necessary to be open to the possibility that the opposing view has its merits. A debate is futile if both parties are firmly bent on holding on to their perspectives, irrespective of how it progresses. But that lecture is better given by TED speakers.
I am here in an attempt to defend the man (and woman) in between who is either uninformed, unsure, utterly lost, hesitant, reluctant, label-shy, or simply indifferent. Janine Balekdjian raised an interesting point about feminism (“Feminist Hum,” March 27). Who is and isn’t feminist? Let me use a simpler label: leftist. Simpler because there seem to be far more leftists than feminists. How would one define a leftist? The blog “Information is Beautiful” has a fairly exhaustive definition. How many leftists agree on each of the characteristics that the visualization touches upon? About how many of them disagree with the rightists?
Neither are the characteristics that make up many definitions mutually exclusive, nor are their lists clear. These labels have a broader spectrum than we usually think. We ourselves often have opinions about them that change with place, time, experiences, etc. That makes these definitions and people’s associations with them complicated, sometimes futile.
The question that would be easier and perhaps more useful to discuss isn’t what people know about a label, or whether they are willing to associate with it. Ignore the label once, and give us a chance to selectively agree or disagree about the underlying issues. As frustrating as it is to a feminist activist, there is more clarity about what general equality means and doesn’t mean than what feminism means and doesn’t.
Graduate student in computer science
School of Engineering and Applied Science