Feminism-Induced Dysphoria

Feminism is often correlated with various forms of gender discomfort in women. I suspect this may be due to feminism in some sense causing dysphoria in some cases, but this sort of theory needs to be careful to distinguish feminism-induced dysphoria from Capitalist Patriarchal Gender Dysphoria; it seems plausible that the dysphoria could instead appear because women who do worse with womanhood are more attracted to feminism, or because feminism makes the ways that gender hurts them more clear and crisp. Thus, we need to think about how the kinds of dysphoria that could truly be blamed on feminism look like.

Let’s consider beauty standards. Women with poor body image seem possibly slightly less satisfied with being women (though the effect seems small) than women with a good body image. Since feminism advocates for women who aren’t conventionally attractive, such women may join feminism and contribute to an association between feminism and dysphoria. In addition, feminism might point out the relevance of gender in their body image issues, further contributing to gender problems. This seems to fall more into the CPGD category than the feminism-induced dysphoria category, because the underlying problem isn’t caused by feminism.

To think about true feminism-induced dysphoria, consider some attractive woman who as a result has an excellent body image. Under normal circumstances, she would do better than the baseline due to discrimination in favor of attractive people. Much of her attractiveness might come from deliberately putting in effort via makeup, and this effort would necessarily be in competition with other women, but under normal circumstances this competition would only be acknowledged to a limited degree.

If she then joins a feminist group, one thing she might learn about are beauty standards and how ‘society’ pits women against each other by making them compete on attractiveness. Far worse than learning about this is the fact that it will become common knowledge in her peer group that this is happening, and that she is benefiting from discrimination in favor of attractive people. This could conceivably lower her status or lead to social pressure to compete less strongly, which she would obviously be uncomfortable with. This might show up as a weak effect on assessment of gender satisfaction, as she now likely benefits less from being female than before. The effect likely wouldn’t be big, but this is to be expected since we only find a weak connection between feminism and gender dissatisfaction.

Obviously, you could argue that this discomfort is justified because intrasexual competition hurts women, but I don’t think zero-sum status games are going to disappear any time soon, so causing pain by criticizing them too much is probably harmful (or at least, not helpful).

Attractiveness is not the only domain where feminism-induced dysphoria could apply. In general, whenever it is pointed out that some behavior commonly associated with women has implications (such as submitting to domination, competing unfairly, being dependent or similar) that differ from the image that people would like to project, the contradiction might lead to discomfort and psychological problems. Since a lot of our behavior probably isn’t as angelic as we would like to believe, there will be plenty of places for feminism to dig in and criticize.

Like in the case with beauty standards, there will probably often be situations where this is very similar to CPGD, but I think it can be distinguished as a fundamentally different model. Under CPGD, the dysphoria comes from the person in question being actively harmed by the status games and events, while under feminism-induced dysphoria, common knowledge of feminist analysis makes participation in the status games and behaviors reflect badly (at least to some degree) on the person who is participating.

I could imagine that it’s difficult to actually test whether feminism-induced gender dysphoria is real, and I’m more proposing this as a potential model than a proven theory. However, I thought that laying down these concrete ideas might be useful for future reference.

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