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October 13, 2005

Comments

Hugo

"Interestingly, I actually hear more women use the term "feminazi" than I do men, and from my point of view this is quite encouraging."

To which I would respond, Mr. Bad, that "internalized oppression" or self-loathing is often found in groups that suffer discrimination. The fact that women are willing to make stunningly misogynistic statements is only evidence of how pervasive the problem of sexism really is. Not every anti-feminist woman is self-hating, of course -- I would never suggest that. But seeking to ally oneself with the dominant group at the expense of one's fellow marginalized is, of course, a very old and sad strategy.

Rayven

I think another reason I don't call myself feminist is that then I can avoid conversations like this one between Hugo and Mr. Bad: "women are oppressed worse!" "no, men are oppressed worse!" etc. I agree with Jendi that breaking free of oppressive gender roles is a people's issue, not a women's issue; and that gender roles hurt both men and women. These fights about who is hurt worse, in my mind, just divert attention from the real issues and make people hate each other more. Worse, by dividing ourselves into feminists and MRAs, we're taking people who should be natural allies -- yes, I just said feminists and MRAs should be natural allies :) -- and creating constant friction between each other. This friction and misunderstanding is often a direct result of the labeling, due to the labeling pressures I was talking about earlier.

Kristie Vosper

oooo this is such a good post. I haven't read all the comments. I don't wave the "I'm a feminist flag" often because I usually recieve a response of terror from friends male and female. I think Feminism is in some circles like the "F" word of my parent's culture. I often respond, "yeah well, I'm grateful because I like to vote and have my own bank account".

I'm ashamed of many of my peers and the way they throw egg in the face of so many of the women who faught an ugly battle for the liberties I enjoy. However, I still feel like calling Best Buy Customer service is better done by a man...because I will get the royal brush off. So...we've still got work to do.

Rayven

Keri, I think you are a far more patient person than I am. :) I do think it's important for someone to be the voice of moderation in a feminist group, and glad there are people like you who are. I just get too frustrated to be able to pull that off well, in which case I do nobody any good. Thanks for sharing your perspective though -- it is nice to see the rich variety of experience people bring to this issue.

Mr. Bad

Hugo wrote: "To which I would respond, Mr. Bad, that "internalized oppression" or self-loathing is often found in groups that suffer discrimination."

Hugo, I disagree that this is "self-loathing" because I reject the notion that those women identify with feminists (exactly the opposite!), thus there's no "self" to loathe. However, you continue to state that women suffer discrimination to a significant degree, and I reject your thesis for the many reasons I've offered (and others that I've been asked not to offer). From where I sit, I see it as a healthy reaction of disdain and contempt by young women who correctly see feminists as wasting their time about non-issues when they could be doing much more important work while in college.

But I'd still be interested in you providing some clear examples of the "pervasive sexism" that only seems to affect women. I and others have provided copious evidence that sexism affects men as much - if not more - than women, so one would think that there would far more MRAs than feminists if your thesis was correct. I just don't see any compelling evidence that it is.

Mr. Bad

Rayven, I agree with you (sit down folks): MRAs and feminists should be allies, and I would be an ally in an instant if feminists would embrace their original goals of true equality. However, they abandoned those goals long ago and now fight to enhance discrimination against men (i.e., affirmative action), laws essentially targeting only men (e.g., domestic violence, Title IX), seek to destroy male-only places (i.e., Augusta National Country Club) while at the same time maintain women-only spaces, discriminate against men re. funding (e.g., VAWA, scholarships) and healthcare (e.g., women's health programs), etc., etc., etc.

Allies don't treat each other that way, so that's what MRAs and feminists cannot be allies, at least at the present.

evil_fizz

To get back to the original topic at hand (not that I wouldn't be curious to know how a program that requires equal funding for men and women's athletic programs is discriminatory), I think that there's a high degree of complacency among young women. No one is telling them they can't go to medical school, vote, what have you. When issues are not immediately in front of you, it's easy to forget that they exist.

Also, I think that some of the most vocal people who claim to speak for feminism are radical to the point of turning people off. I, personally, have a very hard time using a label that gets me lumped in with Andrea Dworkin and Catherine MacKinnon. Lesbian separatism: also not my thing.

Personally, I tend to use the term classical feminist: equal pay for equal work, right to decide whether or work or stay at home, the right not have my ass grabbed at work, things like that.

Mr. Bad

evil fizz, I agree with the goals of what you call "classic feminism," but you have the right to equal pay for equal work, and you get it too; when you don't, you can either do it yourself or chose to have the govt. sue on your behalf (e.g., the EEOC). You have the right to decide whether to work or stay at home. You have the right to not have your ass grabbed at work. So what's the problem? What you don't have is a guarantee to equal outcomes independent of personal choices, effort, etc., nor should you.

As for Title IX, people forget that (as I recall) it calls for equal resources for not only athletic facilities, but all facilities. I would appreciate input from attorneys on this one (myth!). Thus, what I have a problem with is the enforcement aspect of it, i.e., that only when women are disadvantaged is it invoked. (There are also problems with the proportionality test, but I think Hugo's already dealt with this so I'll not drift) E.g., there are many colleges and unis with women's resource centers and very few with equal resources for men. Women's health vs. men's health - same thing. Heck, there are whole hospitals for women-only - can anyone name a 'male-only' hospital? I can't. The list goes on, and this is my problem with Title IX.

evil_fizz

Legalese first: Title IX is the popular name for 20 USC 1681, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex by recipients of federal education funding.

Some relevant bits of Title IX (courtesy of Westlaw, or I would link it):
No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance

It gives quite the list of exceptions (too long to excerpt here) but it includes military and merchant marine colleges, colleges that have only ever admitted one sex, religious colleges, and similar.

As far as the enforcement of Title IX goes, I think it has only been enforced when women bring suit because that tends to be the direction of the discrimination. (I'm sure we could go round and round on this point, so let's just leave it be for now.)

Regarding women's health clinics, I don't think that would qualify as a "education program or activity" but the other lawyers can jump in on this point. (I'm still just a law student.) I'm sure there has to be a forum where we could discuss this without hijacking Hugo's thread. Suggestions?

Thomas

This man threw gasoline on a woman and lit her on fire because she didn't want to be married to him anymore:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/10/12/AR2005101202104.html

If my son, when he reaches my age, doesn't know any women who have been raped, or stalked, or beaten by their significant others, then we can start to have a conversation about whether feminism has achieved its goals.

La Lubu

Hugo, one of the reasons some younger women reject the term "feminist" is because they perceive it to have too much baggage attached to it---the racist, classist, heterocentric baggage. I've heard plenty of younger women who preferred the term "womanist". Feminism is multifacted and decentralized; there isn't one way to be a feminist---but in the mass media, only one 'face' is shown, that of the middle-class, older, degreed professional, whose children are raised and whose politics are pretty centrist. Small wonder that young women feel alienated from what has become the image of feminism!

The young women I know who are comfortable with the term feminist don't fit the mass-media image of feminism, but then, they're not getting their perception of feminism from the mass media. They were either raised by feminist parents, and/or they seek out (and/or create) alternative media. That people still believe feminists organized bra-burnings ought to speak to the distorted image of feminism.

The Happy Feminist

Mr. Bad, feminism is not just about having statutes in place to ensure equality for women in America. Feminism is also about:

1) Preserving the liberties we have won. ("The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.")

2) Changing sexist attitudes that prevent judges and juries from ENFORCING women's hard won rights, sexist attitudes that cause women's rights to be violated in the first place (as in Thomas's example), and sexist attitudes that prevent women from availing themselves of the opportunities available to them.

3) Finally, don't forget it's a big world out there. Women are still virtually chattel in some countries, subject to torture and degradation based solely upon their sex. Feminism also concerns itself with the plight of women beyond our borders.

Mr. Bad

Thomas wrote: "This man threw gasoline on a woman and lit her on fire because she didn't want to be married to him anymore:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/10/12/AR2005101202104.html

If my son, when he reaches my age, doesn't know any women who have been raped, or stalked, or beaten by their significant others, then we can start to have a conversation about whether feminism has achieved its goals."

The call is anecdote - 15 yard penalty, the MRAs have the ball and first down.

Thomas, we could go anecdote to anecdote all day. For example, in Huston, Texas, Clara Harris ran over her husband multiple times in fron his daughter (by a previous marriage) because she didn't want to be married to him anymore and still got custody of the girl, even though she's in prison. Or how about in the context of genocide in the modern world, the vast, overwhelming majority of people who are singled out and slaughtered simply based on their sex are men. Bosnia/Herzegovnia? Rwanda? Men. Come back to me when you can compare rape to murder and not only keep a straight face, but expect me to.

Get a gripe Big Fella.

Mr. Bad

The Happy Feminist wrote: "Feminism is also about:

1) Preserving the liberties we have won. ("The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.")

By "liberties" you must mean the special privileges for women that feminists have foisted on the Western world? The fact is, equal rights for women were attained decades ago, and everyone - including MRAs - are Ok with that. What we MRAs object to is the 'mission creep' whereby feminists equate women's inconveniences with legitimate injustice as suffered by, e.g., our African American brothers. There's a good reason why some the most strident anti-feminists are brothers - they're not dumb and realize how feminists have exploited minorities for women's privilege, especially middle- and upper-middle class white women.

"2) Changing sexist attitudes that prevent judges and juries from ENFORCING women's hard won rights, sexist attitudes that cause women's rights to be violated in the first place (as in Thomas's example), and sexist attitudes that prevent women from availing themselves of the opportunities available to them."

Oh spare me. You can't possibly expect any sane person to believe that women are discriminated against by our judicial system, can you?

"3) Finally, don't forget it's a big world out there. Women are still virtually chattel in some countries, subject to torture and degradation based solely upon their sex. Feminism also concerns itself with the plight of women beyond our borders."

First, I can't really take the time to care about some theoretical women in some unnamed Third World country when men in my country - The U.S. - are actively discriminated against. Tell you what: Once we fix the U.S. then I'll try to bring myself to care about women in Third World nations. But only after we address the majority of victims of the most brutal human rights violations and atrocities, i.e., you guessed it: men.

Torture, denigration, etc.? I hate to burst your bubble, but men are far more likely to be victims of much more savage and brutal torture - let alone "denigration" - than women ever are. For example, how many women were beheaded in Iraq by the monsters who took hostages and posted the videos of those savage murders on the web? Yeah, I thought so. So once again, once we seriously addresss and do something about the brutal torture and murder of men, then I might have a little time to worry about how women are treated.

Lauren

Evil Fizz:

I maintain that the most infamous, unpopular rhetoric was necessary to make average people think of themselves and the world in a new way. It's a classic model of moving far from center to shift the norm. Thanks in part to radical rhetoric we have the rights we do today.

Jendi

It's a shame that this thread has degenerated into the usual battle of the anecdotes about whether women are oppressed, because Hugo raised an important question: why do a significant number of intelligent, ambitious young women feel ambivalent about the term "feminist"? I recommend Elizabeth Fox-Genovese's book "Feminism is Not the Story of My Life", where she asked various women this exact question. Many of them felt the way I do, namely that "feminism" had become identified with a specific political program and/or anti-family sexual libertinism that actually disadvantaged women. Perhaps "feminist" is a political label that is becoming passe, and we need a new, less gendered term to describe the broader concerns about equality and social roles that Hugo writes about. The victim-consciousness and anti-male attitudes that repel these women are a real part of the feminist movement's past and present, even if not the only part. In your original post, Hugo, you gave me the impression that you thought these negative aspects of feminism were just a myth that young women had been tricked into believing. But it's just wishful thinking to say that the militant feminists you don't personally agree with, like Mary Daly or Andrea Dworkin, don't speak for "true" feminism. They are part of the baggage that women have to contend with when we consider calling ourselves feminists.

Hugo

Jendi, of course the extremes are part of the baggage. But all movements need their right, their left, and their center. To refuse to be part of the movement because folks on the fringes make you uncomfortable is, I think, a bit childish.

Most Republicans don't share the views of, say, Pat Robertson -- but they understand he represents one wing of their party. Most Democrats have soured on the antics of Jesse Jackson, a once-great man who has become little more than a caricature, tainted by huge scandal. But we accept that he too is part of our party. Guilt by association is something that, frankly, has been used effectively against all minority groups.

I would argue that the media has focused on the extremes of the feminist movement in order to deny legitimacy to the center.

evil_fizz

While I'd agree that opting out of a group because you don't like the fringe is a bit childish, I think most people feel the need to distance themselves in some way from the frings. I find that in some circles, the word Christian has become decidedly pejorative. It's used to connote a whole bunch of unthinking lemmings who take text that's several thousand years old and try to apply it literally. While I'd prefer to think of the word Christian to mean kind, tolerant, etc., it's more often used to mean wingnut with warped views on sex. For this reason, when people ask me about my faith, I describe myself as Episcopalian, not Christian, even though this would technically be accurate.

I would be willing to bet that there are a lot of women who think of feminism in the same way. They support feminist goals and objectives but feel that the label doesn't apply. (Of course, there is always the Ayn Rand subset, who clearly missed the line in Atlas Shrugged where she says that the ultimate look of femininity is being chained.)

As far as the media focusing on the extremes, well, it's much easier to look an Andrea Dworkin as some kind of nut than it is to make considered judgments about the issues centrist feminists are making. Trying to make the fringes look ridiculous seems to be an intellectually lazy way to try and criticize a whole movement.

Amba

Mr. Bad said: 'Or how about in the context of genocide in the modern world, the vast, overwhelming majority of people who are singled out and slaughtered simply based on their sex are men. Bosnia/Herzegovnia? Rwanda? Men. Come back to me when you can compare rape to murder and not only keep a straight face, but expect me to.'

What are you talking about? What you're saying is completely nonsensical: the victims of genocide aren't singled out because they're men, they're singled out because they're members of a particular ethnic group. I've got Christian Jennings' account of the Rwandan genocide in front of me as I type this, and there's no hint over the course of its 350 pages that women fared any better than men. I'm not going to indulge in the vulgar quantification of suffering that MRAs are so fond of, but the reason that human rights activists focus on rape in the context of genocide isn't to posit that rape and murder are equally heinous acts: it's to emphasise that rape is itself an aspect of the genocidal project: colonizing the wombs of the enemy is a way of humiliating them and eradicating their identity.

Amba

Mr. Bad: 'First, I can't really take the time to care about some theoretical women in some unnamed Third World country when men in my country - The U.S. - are actively discriminated against.'

The suffering that women undergo worldwide is hardly 'theoretical.' All over the world, women are far more likely to be undernourished and undereducated than their men, and they frequently face forms of violence that are exlusive to their sex, such as honour killings.

'Tell you what: Once we fix the U.S. then I'll try to bring myself to care about women in Third World nations.'

If you can't bring yourself to care about people in third-world countries, why do you insist that feminists show interest in MRA concerns? I said I wasn't going to participate in the Suffering Olympics in my previous post, but I have to say this: you MRAs are some of the most materially comfortable people living on the planet today. No matter how aggrieved you feel, your concerns are small potatoes in the grand scheme of things, so tone down the hyperbole, and don't be surprised that some people don't think that some guy who thinks his child support payments are too high merits the same attention as the victims of genocide.

'Torture, denigration, etc.? I hate to burst your bubble, but men are far more likely to be victims of much more savage and brutal torture - let alone "denigration" - than women ever are.'

Look, I could point you to Amnesty International reports that refute this, but you're so invested in seeing the world as one huge playground skirmish between boys and girls that there'd be no point. If you really think that totalitarian governments and genocidal maniacs are gentler with women than with men then you're out to lunch. By the way, you are aware that at least one woman was captured and murdered by Iraqi insurgents, right? Does the name Margaret Hassan ring a bell?

Hugo, I'm sorry that I took the thread off-topic, but Mr. Bad's comments were so outrageous that I had to address them.

Thomas

Mr. Bad, since the plural of anecdote is not data, here is data: In 2002, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 388 men and over 1200 women were killed in incidents of intimate violence. That's about 3:1.

Mr. Bad

Amba said: "The suffering that women undergo worldwide is hardly 'theoretical.' All over the world, women are far more likely to be undernourished and undereducated than their men, and they frequently face forms of violence that are exlusive to their sex, such as honour killings." Well Amba, the reason that women are more likely than men to be undereducated and undernourished in areas of the world where this occurs is that in those same areas men and boys are more likely to be hauled out and either conscripted to fight in local armies or militias against their will, or be summarily executed. You can't be undernourished or/and undereducated when you're dead. As for "education," don't forget that in places like Afghanistan forcing boys to go to religious schools where they were indoctrinated in to Islamic extremism in order to train them to fight in the Taliban army or become suicide/homicide bombers is considered "education of boys." In such situations, I personally think that the girls have it better because they get to stay home. As far as MRAs and privilege goes, this is laughable coming from a female feminist (I'm assuming that you're a woman - apologies if I'm incorrect). Women in the West are the most pampered, spoiled and privileged people in human history, and feminists (who tend to be middle- and upper middle-class white women) are the upper tail of that cohort, so your remark only serves to demonstrate that. But Amnesty International? Oh please, you don't seriously believe that I would accept info from that NGO to be reliable, unbiased and therefore legitimate, do you? They're a political group, plain and simple. They do some good work, but that doesn't mean they're not partisan. Try again.

Hugo, what I've read in this thread so far has given me more insight into why feminism is rapidly falling out of favor. First, the current feminist movement is not based in reality; rather, it most closely resembles and New Age religion, whereby the basic premises are not only unsupported by reality, but to even question them is to commit an act of heresy. For example, take the thesis you offered in your lead-in that there still exists "rampant and enduring sex-discrimination" in our society. This simply is not the case, at least for women, so ordinary, intelligent, clear-thinking men and women who hear such stuff and then look around at the reality of our world quickly come to the conclusion that such statements are ridiculous. The feminist movement does itself no favors by sticking to old, outmoded rhetoric and dogma. Also, as you stated re. your women's studies courses (which IMO most people equate with the educational and political wing of feminism), you present - among other things - this absurd thesis as unquestionable fact. Further, you support people's impressions that women's studies departments and courses are mostly about man-hating and political indoctrination when you state at least some of your goals are along the lines of: "Yes, I want the young men and women with whom I work to get angry. Yes, I want them to look honestly at the ways in which our society still discriminates against and exploits women." You want them to get angry about something that the good evidence and day-to-day experience shows doesn't exist? Good grief - no wonder people are running as fast as they can away from feminism. You folks sound as ideologically strident as the Taliban. Further, IMO this one of the main reasons why women's studies departments are seen as not a legitimate academic discipline and why they are likely to be some of the first casualities of budget cuts (IMO justifiably so). It seems that rather than provide a rigorous, objective examination of basic truths and testing hypotheses associated with those truths, WS depts. and courses are simply engaged in indoctrination of students to a narrow, quasi-religious political philosophy, all without any attempt to examine the basic premises of that philosophy (e.g., the alleged "widespread discrimination and exploitation of women" in our society). This approach is not only non-academic, it is antithetical to the mission of the academy, i.e., the pursuit of truth and knowledge.

And that, Hugo, is IMO where the woman in the Apple store was coming from. What I don't understand is how you didn't 'get it.'

The Happy Feminist

I think I may have been a primary contributor to this latest bit of thread drift. Mea culpa.

Mr. Bad

Thomas said: "Mr. Bad, since the plural of anecdote is not data, here is data: In 2002, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 388 men and over 1200 women were killed in incidents of intimate violence. That's about 3:1."

Thomas, that's only a small subset of overall homicide. You have the data, so please provide us the ratio of men to women for all homicide. I look forward to seeing this number soon. As for your number of intimate partner homicide, those numbers don't include misclassified homicides (e.g., poisoning misclassified as "heart attack," self-defense misclassified as "homicide," etc.), homicides by proxy (i.e., boyfriends, contract killers, etc.), etc. Thus, I'm not certain that I can accept the 3:1 ratio as accurate. I'll grant you that probably more women are killed in domestic disputes, but men are bigger and stronger than women, so that would be expected. Adult human males are arguably the most dangerous animal on the planet, so if people start fights with men who are bigger and stronger that they are, they are bound to get hurt or even killed. It's not unlike me going up to a Grizzly bear and punching it in the nose. That's the harsh reality of nature.

Jeff

Mr. Bad, what *would* constitute evidence of continuing discrimination for you? It really feels like you have a double standard when it comes to this - any evidence of social bias against women gets dismissed with one of the following:

* It's true, but the statistics are exaggerated.
* It happened in the past, but it doesn't any more.
* It happened in other countries; I'm only concerned with this one.
* It's due to biology, so we can't/shouldn't do anything about it.
* It happens to men as well (who cares about prevalence?).
* It may be true, but men face other biases, and two wrongs make a right.
* We've made laws against it; no such laws protect men.
* Society doesn't condone it (because feminists protest); it does condone the poor treatment of men (MRAs protesting don't count).
* It's not true.

On the other hand, any evidence of social bias against men is readily embraced without being subjected to any such critique.

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