Feminism and Objective Irony

Vox reminds us that yes, even ironic sexism is “terrible.” It is, shall we say, ironic that a political movement so indebted to post-structuralist thought and the art of deconstruction doesn’t seem to appreciate irony very much. I’m sure that in light of the SJWs bashing the Academy for the segment they did with Sofia Vergara, Jean Baudrillard is either rolling around in his grave or laughing himself back to death.

Baudrillard suggested that an objective irony overlooks reality. Objects and language have ultimately more control of our actions and the way we think than we would like to believe. The crises we face in a postmodern world that are beyond our control are, in a certain sense, ironic. I have a tendency to dismiss postmodernism as incoherent drivel, but I can’t help but appreciate this particular contribution to Continental philosophy in general. Sure, it’s on the same intellectual level as nonsense like “critical theory,” a field of study that has done the most damage to academia insofar as bankrupting it intellectually. But even I have to admit, deconstruction can be fun in the same sense that astrology and tarot cards are fun.

If we accept Baudrillard’s objective irony*, in a sense feminism’s war on irony becomes a war on reality itself. Wars on reality are endless sources of amusement for yours truly, and I should hope they’re amusing to all 4 regular readers of this blog.

Consider the segment of the Emmys featuring the lovely Sofia Vergara standing awkwardly atop a rotating pedestal. As she does so, Bruce Rosenblum gives a speech on how much progress television has made in terms of “its greater diversity of storytelling,” and other such progressive advancements. The segment is ironic since putting Vergara on a pedestal contradicts the speech on the advancements TV has made as a medium of entertainment. 

As you can see in the Vox piece linked above, feminists were not amused. No, as Lindy West has eloquently pointed out before, no forms of racism or sexism are acceptable even if they are in an ironic context. But the entire postmodern condition in which we exist is an essentially ironic context. So what is a feminist to do? The only thing feminists know how to do, moan about the misogynistic condition in which women exist, ironic or otherwise. Questions of social justice shouldn’t be complicated. Misogyny is whatever feminists consider offensive or “icky”, so whatever registers on a feminist’s “ick factor” is unacceptably misogynistic, ironic subtlety be damned.

The ultimate irony, of course, is that irony is omnipresent. Life is full of subtlety that we cannot avoid, whether feminists like it or not. They can try to make a world in which all consent is “enthusiastic” and where there is “no reason” to hit a woman, but such a project is doomed to fail. In the postmodern tradition, where irony is the rule of law, irony will always sneak by under feminists’ noses. And irony is what makes what feminist consider disgusting socially acceptable.

*If I recall correctly, Baudrillard’s postmodern critics didn’t. To suggest the existence of an omnipresent irony beyond our own control is a kind of grand narrative. Postmodernism opposes grand narratives.

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4 Responses to Feminism and Objective Irony

  1. Sister Sarah says:

    Asked (if I recall correctly by an interviewer, and not rhetorically by himself) what we might DO about the awfulness and inauthenticity in the world, Baudrillard responded that the main thing was to accelerate the process of universities rotting.

    I share your affection for him.

  2. Pingback: Feminism and Objective Irony | Reaction Times

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  4. Baudrillard makes the case for an ‘objective irony’ arising from the symbolic nature of objects themselves; a reversibility belonging to the secret binary core of the socially constructed system of values/symbols which must always function against itself by virtue of it’s differential structure. The total codification of the world leads to a volatility/reversibility inherent in the code itself, and “the more that [socio-symbolic] systems advance towards their own perfection, the more they deconstruct themselves.” Irony, according to Baudrillard, is the only spiritual form in the modern world, and ‘objective irony’ irrupts as a counterpart to the insistent ‘reality principle’ of modern society, to it’s reification, and to the loss of illusion.

    He also warns that the ‘subtle layers’ of irony which ‘protect us from the radiation of stupidity’ are being destroyed faster than the ozone layer.

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