Drop-kicking the hornets’ nest

Offering a divergent view on the Brock Turner case leads to censure from the left

The author organizes a weekly citizen-led homeless outreach effort called Chico Friends on the Street.

I’m not welcome in a newly forming chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. Why? Exhibit A: a letter I sent to a local newspaper (in 2016) concerning the Brock Turner sexual assault case. I took the position (as I still do) that, based on my understanding of the facts, Turner’s six-month sentence, along with registering as a sex offender for life, was not a light punishment. Many feminists called for a long prison term, claiming Turner was afforded special treatment, due to “white male privilege.”

What I gathered from the socialist group is that one cannot be a socialist without being a feminist and one cannot be a feminist while supporting Aaron Persky, the recently recalled judge in the Turner case. But, there’s more: to support Persky is to be a “rape apologist”—though my letter indicated nothing of the sort.

In describing these events on my Facebook page, I kicked a hornets’ nest of local feminists. Every dimension of feminism was brought forth; none shed much light on why Turner deserved a long prison term. But, what was clear is that taking a position at odds with generally accepted feminist dogma is cause for consignment to the Ninth Circle of hell. Nonconforming positions are not debated, as much as held up as evidence of a thought crime.

I have a complex mix of beliefs on the subject of gender (i.e., I support entirely government-funded reproductive freedom, but I also believe that full-time mothering—especially with very young children—ought to be culturally and economically well-supported). It’s not OK to have a mix of beliefs or any beliefs that do not conform with conclusions drawn by feminist ideologues. To dissent is to blaspheme. Heresy is met with revulsion, censure and “unfriending.”

I very rarely agree with the right-wing on any subject. But, on the subject of gender, there is sometimes more sanity on the right than the left. My experience with Bernie-inspired young socialists is a reminder that absolutism isn’t always a right-wing scourge. Leftists sometimes slide into paranoia and rigidity—with history providing many notable examples.