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May 31, 2006

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RJ

1) "perhaps a troll, perhaps not"
Well, at least a demi-Troll. I think it would have been a lot more honest for the Questioner to just come out and say, "I think this is offensive male-bashing that exposes feminism's double-standards and limits the possiblility of wider appeal. Do you?" Engaging delicate and emotional issues from an initial position of dishonesty is suspect at best.

2) That being said, they are questions that a lot of people probably ask all the time. #3, I predict, is going to provoke the same type of angry responses that I saw when you posted on your "White Boy Teaching Outfit."

I firmly believe that you cannot simply reverse a situation based on a power inequality and see if it looks fair. That's why Dick Gregory is different from Andrew Dice Clay and Hothead Paisan is different from American Psycho. Just analyzing the specific words spoken and weighing them against an objective standard of "offensiveness" doesn't work (for starters, because offensiveness isn't objective). If we're going to engage in meaniful discussion about things like this, we have to look at the context, the power relationships, the history, and the purpose of the remark, among other factors. Otherwise, we're stuck at a mechanical/mathematical level of analysis, which leaves us with wisdom like "it's just as illegal for a rich man to sleep under a bridge as a poor man."

The Gonzman

Hogwash - that's an apples and oranges comparison and you know it. What is being said, no matter how much lipstick is put on that pig, is "It's wrong to demean and abuse people - unless of course they're only men."

RJ

"that's an apples and oranges comparison"

I'm not clear--which comparison do you mean?

The Happy Feminist

No, I don't agree that all male feminists are frauds or narcissists or predators. But an authentic pro-feminist man doesn't demand to be treated as "innocent until proven guilty." Given the state of sexual relations in this country, pro-feminist men ought to be willing to be considered "guilty until proven innocent."

There is a lot of food for thought in this comment. You may be right that an authentic pro-feminist mand shouldn't demand to be treated as innocent until proven guilty. However, I do tend to presume the men in my life innocent until proven otherwise, and I think that's generally a wise course of action. That is, if a man claims to be a feminist, I will accept his claim at face value just as I would a similar claim by a woman. Nor do I assume sexism on the part of every man I meet. However, I like to think that I can spot sexism or inauthenticity in a self-proclaimed feminist once it manifests itself.

Sara

On this:

Can feminism realistically expect to widen its appeal if outsiders see double-standards?

I wonder how he thinks that other widely-accepted double-standards that benefit men ever got so popular? Unfairness isn't the heart of the problem people have with changing the status quo, since the status quo is unfair as it is.

Another Jeff

Hugo: you're never going to appease these people, and your blog has suffered lately for trying.

Hugo

Remember, Jeff, I'm trying to stay in dialog across ideological lines. That may be fruitless and quixotic and counter-productive, but I've got a missionary heart.

Another Jeff

Maybe, but I think you're fooling yourself by calling it a dialogue. You make interesting things from a male feminist Christian perspective that's relatively rare, and then:

(1) A few people make sincere and often insightful comments about the post.
(2) The MRAs open fire with the same points they make on every post (rape/domestic violence statistics, how feminists run the world and keep the man down, how you really just hate men, etc.), and the comments never get back on track.
(3) The same old "cold flamewar" starts up until the post falls off the comments list.
(4) Some other feminist blog picks up on your post and a worthwhile discussion finally takes place.

It's just frustrating, is all.

elizabeth

"I can rail against the "unfairness" of judging me by the poor behavior of other men, but in this culture, that's fruitless.

I thought that the best comment of the piece. It took me a long time to understand myself the difference between how I viewed myself as "not a racist" because I didn't actively say bad things or do bad things and was fairly defensive about why so many blacks seemed angry. Experience taught me that though I may not "do bad things" I did and still do trade heavily on white privilage, on the benefits and assumptions make about me because of the colour of my skin, and that, yes, I am part of the problem.

In the same way, there is a certain level of cultural awareness that is needed to realize that not raping somoene doesn't make a guy a feminist. Being aware of the dozens of ways male oriented interactions and viewpoints dominate individual life is a start.

Hugo

I've banned a number of anti-feminists recently, and warned repeatedly against thread drift. Short of adopting Ampersand's "feminist-friendly" comments only policy, I don't know what more I can do.

Uzzah

Another Jeff,

I think the MRA hoard has toned down the rhetoric somewhat. If you have read the threads over the last 4 months, you'd see that, with the exception of a few "hit and run" posts, the dialog has indeed been productive with little of the rape/domestic violence statistics you seem to loath..

The thread drift thing has been troublesome though. Just when the dialog gets interesting, it get's cut off with crys of thread drift.

Rex

"I can rail against the "unfairness" of judging me by the poor behavior of other white men, but in this culture, that's fruitless. As whites, we do have to accept the fact that collectively, we have given good reason why it is that we ought not to be trusted. We can bemoan the injustice of paying for the sins of others, or we can shoulder the burden that our fathers have created for us (and that perhaps, in our own lives, we have helped to create). What that means practically is that I am committed to meeting suspicion with patience, openness, and accountability. I'm no longer hurt when folks don't trust me just because I'm a caucasian -- I accept now that they have every reason not to."

I'm not really good at rewording, but you can see how this isn't the best of stances to take. You only need to look at countries where the default stance is "guilty until proven innocent" and see how backwards they are. And I doubt most men would meet scorn and disdain as peacefully and thoughtfully as you and many others would.

Arwen

I understand the frustration behind Janice's post: after all, I have had a number of experiences in which I was expected by a 'feminist' man to have sex with him merely because he was a feminist. Since I grew up living part time in communes, I also know of a lot of 'socially progressive' men who thought feminism was a great way to sow as many oats as they wanted without reprecussions ('cuz baby, I support your right to an abortion and we don't own each other, man, that's the unenlightened way to be. Translation? You must have an abortion if you get pregnant and don't be surprised if I screw around.), and yet in those days it did always seem to be the women changing the tofu water and caring for the kiddies while the men discussed where the lost cities of Atlantis were, probably. Sigh.

Although it's intensely unfortunate that such people have given a bad name to male feminists, I think that *any* sort of black and white thinking is a serious problem for any social movement.

Aside from the very vocal MRAs here, I know a fewsupportive, egalitarian men who have gotten their feelings tromped in feminist conversations with women they are trying to understand. I think that with gender - unlike with race - we tend to forget that society's models are often at some level of dissonance to the emotional models in individuals. It is entirely possible for someone of one race to have grown up with very little exposure to another race excepting on society's terms; but it is very rare for a person to have grown up with absolutely no emotional contact with the other gender.

So what does that mean?

It means that for a segment of the male population women are going to have a fair amount of emotional power. And guilty 'til proven innocent is going to *hurt*, which often leads to anger. That hurt may backlash, or it may simply lose allies. I'm not suggesting coddling or caretaking as a solution; but I am suggesting that feminism is uniquely confronted by people's emotional baggage, which is why there's such a passionate reaction to it one way or the other.

Anyway, having a pro-feminist man such as yourself, Hugo, leading these discussions and helping younger men is the way to go; someone who will challenge the "feminist" Don Juans who are schtupping on a progressive angle; but also someone who has the personal understanding of what it is to be male. Mentoring. It will help. Men who call themselves feminist but don't act like they believe women are equals are not feminist men: there's a plain ole tautology there. Admitting those guys are dickheads is one thing; extending that out across the plain of "all" feminist men is a different take that cuts the legs out from under truly egalitarian dudes.

Just my take.

Sara

Well put, Arwen.

Uzzah

Men who call themselves feminist but don't act like they believe women are equals are not feminist men

What about men that don't call themselves feminist, yet accept the women in their lives as equal? Shouldn't feminism try to embrace them? At the very least not alienate them?

Arwen

Uzzah: I was addressing Janice's embedded tautology in my statement, which says nothing about the price of grapes in Uzbeckistan. *g*.

Insofar as any "ism" can embrace anybody (because there are individual feminists and individual interpretations and no Platonic feminism adorned with a "Pair of Arms for Hugging"), I would say that the vast majority of feminisms do embrace men who accept women as equal. After all, feminism is described as the radical idea that women are people, too.

I imagine the problem for you, based on your previous comments, is in how we remark on society's balance of equality.

Arwen

"We" meaning you and I, not MRAs or Feminists. Since I've seen very different variations in the MRA camps as well as the feminist camps.

The Gonzman

The analogy about men and bridges; since it is not inherently immoral to sleep under a bridge. It is, however, inherently immoral to treat someone with lesser respect because of what they are, as opposed to what they do.

jeffliveshere

"No, I don't agree that all male feminists are frauds or narcissists or predators."--Hugo

Just a small point, but Janice doesn't say that she thinks that all male feminists are frauds or narcissists; not that you are explicitly saying she did, but I think it ought to be made extraordinarily clear.

As far as the MRAs and what Another Jeff have said, I don't think it hurts things one iota to, say, respond to Questioner, troll or not. I think your answers to Questioner's leading questions (you really can't get more heavy-handed than those questions, I think...it's like they're written by a 6th grade history teacher in order to get kids to respond in a particular way) are still insightful, thoughtful, and mostly right-on. Also, I think it's important that such questions get answered, even if, to some people, the answers seem/ought to be obvious.

I, for one, appreciate that you take some time to respond to such things.

RJ

I wrote something similar to the "innocent until proven guilty" thing a while ago about date rape, and I think that because the stakes are higher there, it's a little clearer. A woman has a right to make judgements that affect her safety--in this case "innocent until proven guilty" doesn't work. By the time he's proven himself guilty, it's too late.

And the self-defense angle, I think, makes it a little clearer to me why I don't have much of a problem with Rex's rewording. If you were a pro-integration Southern White in 1958, I don't think you'd get much sympathy if you complained "Why don't those Negros automatically trust me at first sight? How dare they not give me the benefit of the doubt?" Things are obviously better today, but it's still basically a self-defense question. That's why I say you can't simply reverse a situation based on a power inequality and see if it looks fair. If one party is more likely to to suffer, and likely to suffer more damage than the other, than I think they're morally allowed to take a self-defense position. And one of the basic rules of self-defense is that everyone is a potential threat until proven otherwise.

Fortunately, it's not hard to prove yourself otherwise. You take women seriously, make good, intelligent feminist points, and treat the forum with the respect it deserves. That usually does it.

stanton

After a long absence, I feel the urge to jump in. There is a lot of weirdness going on here, IMHO.

First of all, "innocent until proven guilty" is a legal standard adopted for the purpose of protecting accused persons. It was certainly not intended to preclude using ones personal best judgment with people and situations. Ones personal experiences will color that judgment, and correctly so. These attempts to apply the principle in interpersonal relations are pretty silly.

I actually find Janice's characterizations pretty much right on, and I have no problem with how she expresses them. There are exceptions, she allows, and I believe Hugo to be one. Notice that she confines her description to those examples that she has personally encountered. And it seems that the vast majority of her commenters have found the same to be true. Sounds to me like 90% or more fit the pattern, based on this sample. Of course, the sample may merely represent those male feminists who inhabit the blogosphere. (I will add that I find women who feel compelled to loudly declare their feminism to everyone in every situation to be every bit as tiresome as the feminist men Janice describes.)

Elizabeth said, "there is a certain level of cultural awareness that is needed to realize that not raping somoene doesn't make a guy a feminist". That apparently means that I am culturally aware, thank you, since I am very clear that my having never raped anyone does not make me a feminist. I belieave all MRAs could say the same, so I must agree with you that we, as a group, are far more culturally aware than the feminist men out there.

There are some urgent arguments made above in defense of double standards, which some feminists apparently feel they must have at their disposal to use against males when needed. I understand why they would argue so, since their behavior and attitudes cannot bear scrutiny under the standard of actual egalitarianism. It makes me a bit nostalgic for the 70s when angry radical feminists screamed about "the old double standard" with righteous fury. This complaint is used very carefully these days, I note. Beware of becoming what you hate. We have met the enemy and...

Hugo, you refer to feminism as "the radical notion that women are human beings". This is a common expression of feminists, and I have to ask if you have ever heard ANYONE other than feminists declare the notion of women as human beings to be "radical"? I beleieve feminists are the only ones who think this way, and that cannot be a healthy attitude. Perhaps it's just an attempt to be clever. Or maybe it's to declare the extent of female victimhood by telling others what feminists have decided THEY (the others) believe. Surely any case there is to be made against males does not require such projections. In any event, feminists seem to be so pleased with the expression, I doubt it will fade away any time soon.

Arwen

I have to ask if you have ever heard ANYONE other than feminists declare the notion of women as human beings to be "radical"?
Aristotle, St. Augustine, and all the philosophies based there-on. Although I sympathize with you, stanton, that you don't come from those sorts of folks and so it seems utterly foreign, I must assure you it's still out there enough to have been a pretty serious issue at times in my life.
OTOH, I have also had lots and lots of men who *do* see me as a human being first and who don't assume ridiculous things about me until they ask. This is where the personal experience part gets sticky: there are lots of people who will judge a person by the content of their character and not their gender or the colour of their skin, and they tend to hang out together.

Karl

personal assumptions is something everyone - not just women - suffer. Although feminists would have you believe it is an issue unique to women, that is far from true. Actually, most of feminism is based on falsehoods & misinformation and of course, hypocrisy.
Claiming men (or feminized men) should consider themself 'guilty until proven innocent' is precisely the problem that feminism has inflicted upon every man on the planet. I seem to recall feminists complaining about men stereotyping - then they go and jump in by stereotyping men. DUH. If we're to take it at some have suggested, the it is a good ideal, then we need to apply it to women too. Why should I shack with a woman who 'might' take me for a ride through the family courts that everyone knows will screw me over 10x, ensuring my pension is rattled, my income is pinched, my home is lost, etc. After all, by the time she's proven to be 'guilty' - it's too late, yes?
Why should i go to a store where i 'might' get robbed? Why should I do anything?

Little Lion

"That's why I say you can't simply reverse a situation based on a power inequality and see if it looks fair. If one party is more likely to to suffer, and likely to suffer more damage than the other, than I think they're morally allowed to take a self-defense position."

"I firmly believe that you cannot simply reverse a situation based on a power inequality and see if it looks fair. That's why Dick Gregory is different from Andrew Dice Clay and Hothead Paisan is different from American Psycho. Just analyzing the specific words spoken and weighing them against an objective standard of "offensiveness" doesn't work (for starters, because offensiveness isn't objective). If we're going to engage in meaniful discussion about things like this, we have to look at the context, the power relationships, the history, and the purpose of the remark, among other factors. Otherwise, we're stuck at a mechanical/mathematical level of analysis, which leaves us with wisdom like "it's just as illegal for a rich man to sleep under a bridge as a poor man." "

I agree that a simple substitution argument is not sufficient. But we must go further, and say constructively what is sufficient (I hope that this seeming digression will not be counted as thread drift). A question arises whether it is morally justified to violate moral rules that ought to be applied impartially to all persons. Persons who maintain that men must accept that moral rules be broken with respect to them on account of some power imbalance must be prepared to provide an argument why the violation of moral rules is justified; that argument must be be accepted by all equally-informed, impartial rational persons. A violation of moral rules (do not kill, do not disable, do not cause pain, do not deprive of freedom, do not deprive of pleasure, etc) for which there is a justification accepted by all equally-informed, impartial rational persons are said to be strongly justified; if there is significant disagreement among impartial rational persons, then such violations are said to be weakly justified. Strongly justified violations of moral rules tend to be non-controversial, such as amputating a limb to save a life. This violates the moral rule "do not disable" but follows the moral ideal to increase consciousness (more or less the opposite of "do not kill").
Weakly justified violations of moral rules are more controversial; an example of this is civil disobedience.

Philosopher Bernard Gert, who has given a descriptive account of common morality (see Common Morality: Deciding What to Do), has given an explicit two-step procedure for deciding whether a given violation of moral rules is justified. I won't go into this here. I will say a few things about this theory and end with a question relating this to the topic of the post.
There are moral ideals, which no one is morally obligated to follow; and moral rules, which everyone is obligated to follow. Moreover, moral rules can be violated, provided the violation can be justified.

If Hugo is saying that men should be prepared to accept that, on account of perceived power imbalances, they should not expect others to follow moral ideals on their behalf, that's one one thing. Such positions tend to become politicized; they end up being transferred to the legal and political arena for resolution. If on the other hand, Hugo is asserting that men should expect moral rules to be violated where they are concerned, on account of historical power imbalances, then we need to know which moral rules are being violated, and the morally relevant facts about each violation. There should be an argument in favor of such violations that all moral agents would be willing to accept. It's not clear to me in these discussions whether violations of moral rules in the case of men is being advocated, or whether not following moral ideals if this benefits men in some way is being advocated.

bmmg39

"Hugo: you're never going to appease these people, and your blog has suffered lately for trying."

Another Jeff, I sincerely hope you're referring to the Janices of the world -- those who consistently bite the hands of those who are trying to help them (like Hugo).

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