It has become a bit of a trope that feminists are insufferable fanatics, in the sense once described by Churchill as those who can’t change their mind and won’t change the subject. This can be irritating, of course, but it is possible to imagine a kind of loveable fanatic, one whose eccentricities and obsessions are politely tolerated, in the way that Sheldon from Big Bang Theory is tolerated. Or the way Mrs. Winnifred Banks from Mary Poppins is tolerated.
But Feminism is not like other eccentricities and obsessions. It is not like stamp-collecting or model trains, or even politics generally, because it cuts to the heart of social and personal relationships.
I was reminded of this earlier this week when a family member told me of a debate coach she had had back in college. This debate coach was highly intelligent (she held a Ph.D. in political science) and was reasonably friendly. But she happened to be a strong and ardent feminist. The family member — female — was out at a tournament, and was planning with another female teammate in another team’s hotel room for an upcoming round. The other team was male, and their coach didn’t like the idea of girls from another team in their room, even if it was only for preparatory purposes. He asked the girls to leave, and so they did.
My family member had forgotten her phone in the room, however. It had fallen out of her pocket and into the couch, or something like that. Being unwelcome back in the room, but needing her phone, she informed her coach. The feminist coach’s advice was to play the gender card: “if they don’t give it back, tell the tournament administrators that they’re keeping it because you’re a woman.”