People are often confused about what postmodernism is and what it has to do with feminism. Very simplistically, it was an academic shift pioneered by Jean-Francois Lyotard and Jean Baudrillard which denied that reliable knowledge could ever be attained and claimed that meaning and reality themselves had broken down. It rejected large, overarching explanations (meta-narratives) which included religion but also science, and replaced them with subjective, relative accounts (mini-narratives) of the experiences of an individual or sub-cultural group. These ideas gained great currency in the humanities and social sciences and so became both an artistic movement and a social “theory.” They rejected the values of universal liberalism, the methods of science and the use of reason and critical thinking as the way to determine truth and form ethics. Individuals could now have not only their own moral truths but their own epistemological ones. The expression “It’s true for me” encapsulates the ethos of postmodernism. To claim to know anything to be objectively true (no matter how well-evidenced) is to assert a meta-narrative and to “disrespect” the contrary views of others which is oppressive (even if those views are clearly nonsense.) The word “scientism” was created for the view that evidence and testing are the best way to establish truths.And thus we find ourselves in a weird world wherein Moslem face-veiling is a diversity to be embraced and airline pass-riders required to dress professionally are oppressed, and hoop earrings are no longer preppy fashion. And, as the author suggests, the mini-narratives serve as ways to divide the grievance communities among themselves.
At its height, postmodernism as an artistic movement produced non-chronological, plotless literature and presented urinals as art. In social theory, postmodernists “deconstructed” everything considered true and presented all as meaningless. However, having done this, there was nowhere else to go and nothing more to say. In the realm of social justice, nothing can be accomplished unless we accept that certain people in a certain place experience certain disadvantages. For this, a system of reality needs to exist, and so new theories of gender and race and sexuality began to emerge comprised of mini-narratives. These categories were held to be culturally constructed and constructed hierarchically to the detriment of women, people of color and LGBTs. Identity was paramount.
The intersectional feminists were not even internally consistent. In addition to the cultural relativity, the rules change day by day as new sins against social justice are invented. We opposed the radical feminists for their extreme antipathy towards men but at least they shared a bond of sisterhood with each other. The intersectional feminists not only exhibit great prejudice against men but also turn on each other at the slightest imagined infraction of the rules. Having not the slightest regard for reason or evidence, they vilify and harass those imagined to have transgressed.Somewhere the pickup artists are chuckling.
By all means read and understand the essay in full.