10/1 Flashback: Shenanigans

10/1 Flashback: Shenanigans October 1, 2022

From October 1, 2014, “If you’re fighting to preserve the status quo, you cannot accuse those who seek to change it of ‘accommodating to the prevailing culture’

I call shenanigans. Self-refuting nonsense doesn’t cease to be self-refuting nonsense just because it gets repeated in a thousand pulpits, blogs, and op-ed columns.

And defending the status quo of the prevailing culture by accusing those trying to change it of “cultural accommodation” is self-refuting nonsense. That argument is as illogical as it is popular. Here’s a recent variation on the theme, from former Bush administration speechwriter Michael Gerson (Washington Post link):

The reaction of evangelicals to these trends can (and does) vary widely. They can accommodate to the prevailing culture, as many evangelicals have already done on issues such as contraception, divorce and the role of women (without talking much about it). Or they can try to fight for their political and cultural place at the table, as other interest groups do.

That makes no sense. Particularly when it’s coupled with the accompanying narrative/assertion that says same-sex marriage advocates are dangerous revolutionaries who are recklessly bent on changing a fundamental cultural institution that has endured — sacred and unchanging for millennia — since it was established by God himself in the Garden of Eden.

Annie Kenney and Christabel Pankhurst encourage others to “accommodate to the prevailing culture.”

Those two things cannot both be true. These people cannot both be radical revolutionaries threatening to overthrow the culture and also squishy conformists so desperate to be affirmed by that culture that they will redefine themselves to accommodate it. To accuse marriage equality advocates of both of these things at the same time is simply a contradiction.

But — as Gerson’s reference to “contraception, divorce and [other mechanisms for controlling] the role of women” makes clear — this self-refuting nonsense isn’t just being directed at advocates of LGBT equality. Anyone who is even slightly amenable to feminism will, likewise, be accused of “accommodating to the prevailing culture.”

That’s not just logically contradictory, it also contradicts the objective facts of the matter, falsely asserting that “the prevailing culture,” as a whole, is overwhelmingly feminist.

Again, shenanigans. I call them.

Feminism is a reaction against the prevailing culture. It is a critique that exposes the prevailing culture as patriarchal, enshrining male privilege and male supremacy. This male privilege is pervasive throughout the culture — in art, popular culture, media, religion, law, economics, politics and civil society. “Accommodating to the prevailing culture” would mean accepting that male privilege uncritically. It would mean defending it against any change and anything that might expand or challenge the prevailing culture’s circumscribed definition of the “role of women.” Cultural accommodation means defending patriarchy and male privilege.

“Accommodating to the prevailing culture” means, in other words, being anti-feminist.

So too with our prevailing culture of white privilege and white supremacy. With colonialism and corporate oligarchy and white Christian hegemony and with the pretense that fossil fuels are the best/only way to supply energy. Those are all entrenched, pervasive aspects of the “prevailing culture” — the very culture that conservatives like Gerson are, by definition, fighting to preserve, protect, and prevent from being questioned or changed.

That is, after all, what “conservative” means — it means conserving the culture. Conservatism is a political and theological ideology based on ensuring that the prevailing culture continues to prevail. It is cultural accommodation writ large.

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