On VICE and Feminism

Several weeks ago, VICE World News released a panel debate looking at the role of feminism in our modern society. I was invited to their main office, where I filmed with eight other women whom VICE intended to be split primarily along liberal and conservative identities.

The final version on YouTube runs almost three-quarters of an hour, although filming was much longer and began early morning and ran well into the afternoon. So while the video captures several tense moments and conversations, it also leaves out a reasonable amount of recording. Some of that is interruptions by VICE staff for quality control or casual cross-talk. Still, some were responses or questions that didn’t make it to the final cut (My entire take on the consistent life ethic was cut, for instance, but it was always going to be an incomplete discussion without the perspective of a trans man as it was).

Opinions on the panel so far broadly vary, although many voices feel it reads like a rebuke of modern feminism. The debate, however, never needed to be heated to earn criticism. Even something as innocuous as two trans women in attendance was always going to anger some people, for example. In that same vein, however, many self-identified feminists embrace the trans community as part of the conversation and would feel the discussion incomplete if there were none.

All our social institutions and ideologies are experiencing a similar type of struggle—feminism particularly so. As was evident in the debate, grappling with intersectionality and the premise that our personal sense of identity exists outside of any single vacuum doesn’t make for an easy conversation. Still, because it’s difficult and pushes the boundaries of accepted wisdom, it also means that it’s a conversation that needs to happen.

There has additionally been some criticism about the debate’s ideological diversity, and I wish the public interpretation of the panel weren’t that it’s majority feminist versus a small number of anti-feminists (or even conservatives confront four liberals based on how we approached reproductive health). For example, one panelist was passionate about firearm ownership and reminded me of activists in the liberty movement. Another would’ve likely identified with the gender-critical label and was knowledgeable in typologies off-screen. One of the anti-feminists even muscled air-time for me to speak when I wouldn’t allow myself to cut in.

Several panelists have remarked that VICE should release a full, unedited version, and I agree, if not just because some of the cut conversations might show this depth more clearly. That people are more nuanced than can be compressed into a single 43-minute session shouldn’t be an unreasonable thought.

Overall, it was a worthwhile experience, and I hope anyone who watches can find a reason to feel the same. I was a big fan of the 2019 panel (Particularly Kat Murti and how she articulated her views), so participating was exciting. I rewatched it over the pandemic and saw several comments remarking how great it would’ve been if VICE revisited its feminism debate. This is probably different from what they had in mind, but it’s where the movement is and needs to move forward from.