Rules of Feminism 3: Experience vs Hypotheticals

Oct 27, 2013 | Opinions

Okay, I loves me some science. I love statistics, and data, and collation, and – look, I’m a colossal nerd. My ideas of fun are alien to the rest of the world.

But even in social settings, I can never forget the scientific method, and that’s where evidence is more important than supposition.

Experiences trump academics and hypotheticals.

This means that the actual lived experiences of the oppressed are more important and meaningful than abstract theory. This means that theory and hypothesis and analysis are great and all, but the one thing – the ONLY thing – that really matters a damn is whether it makes a practical difference in people’s lives.

Here’s an example: I read an article during the week where a feminist argued that using the line ‘I have a boyfriend’ in order to ward off unwanted male attention is counter-productive, because it’s effectively using the patriarchal notion that the only thing that will drive off a guy is if a woman is already ‘owned’ or claimed by another. She was right, of course, it is all that and more. But here’s the thing: the actual lived experience of women trumps this. And the lived experience of women, as discussed on Twitter, is that guys who are creeping on them are far more likely to get lost if they hear ‘I have a boyfriend’ as opposed to some elaborate feminist argument. For many women, survival and safety is more important than taking a stand on feminist language.

Theory is important, but experience is far more so. Experience overrides theory when the two are in conflict.

So take a look back at the second rule, of not listening too much to the people who cannot experience a type of oppression. See the connection there? It’s because the people who experience oppression have direct access to the evidence. The privileged? Not so much.