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June 15, 2006



Well, in your defense, Hugo, your "voice" is much different than what I tend to encounter on other feminist blogs. Most of the larger, more-trafficed feminist blogs are heavy on snark, sarcasm, ad hominem, etc. It's pretty grating, by and large. My first experiences with the feminist portion of the blogosphere was not terribly productive. I'll not name names here, but I followed a link from a politically oriented blog to a major feminist one and was instantly put off by the strident tone, repeated use of ad hominem epithets, refusal to actually argue the issue at hand, etc. This wasn't in the comments, mind you (you're the only feminist blog I regularly comment on, though I've commented at Pandagon and Dr. B's sites on occasion), but on the main page, in the entries.

At the time I was fairly ignorant of feminism overall. My experiences had been limited to reading Catherine MacKinnon and selections of other feminist theorists in a philosophy course in my undergrad years, as well as dealing with (being berated by) some Second Wave feminist members of the faculty. I wasn't too impressed so far and my view at the time of feminists were that they were generally humorless, shrill, angry harpies who were largely misandrists. Reading feminist blogs seemed to confirm this view.

I eventually found your blog and was really refreshed by the tone set not only by you but the commenters as well, which are generally pretty tame even if in disagreement with each other. While I still don't consider myself to be a feminist, my views on a variety of gender-related issues have changed, sometimes dramatically, due largely to what I've read here.

If you feel you are being sanctimonious, then by all means change. Please, though, refrain from adopting the sort of bitterness I see at other sites. You might just lose out on the chance to reach out to more people like myself, who could stand a bit of enlightenment but are too put off by the nastiness of other feminist blogs to ever actually learn anything. You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar and you can reach the heart better with a velvet glove than a mailed fist, which was what I took the point of the your entire post about "Pete". It's hard to get people to accept your point of vew when you are berating them.


I'm not sure you're actually implying this, but just in case, you're not suggesting that my complaint has anything to do with your personality or presentation, right? Steve's issue is not mine. Niceness has nothing whatsoever to do with it. It's a philosophical conflict, not a personality judgment. While anti-feminists love to use you to play off your perceived "niceness" against the supposed stridency and aggression of other (that is, female) feminists, that's not your fault as long as you notice and see what's wrong with it, which I think you do.

Like I said on the feministe thread: it's what you say, not how you say it.


Indeed, sophonisba -- this is a post about tone and style, not about personality at all.



I don't think I could have said it better than Glitch. Please don't become another shrill angry (pro) feminist blogger. I can't for the life of me see what others get out of reading the angry and pedantic prose I read on a lot of blogs these days (and not just feminist blogs).

Seems like a lot of people these days think that more people will listen to them if they write like angry children. As if righteous anger is somehow empowering. It is not. And it is not particularly "humorous" as some have mentioned.

If you have to resort to the angry rhetoric to make your point, maybe its a point that doesn't hold much water. You seem to be able to make a pretty case for your ideas without it.


Sorry, I must be communicating very badly, or else we mean different things by the same words. I consider tone, style, and personality to all be part of the same general area: form, not content. What I perceive as your treatment of feminism as an issue of faith is about philosophy and worldview: not about tone or style, which I view as expressions of personality. Tone, style, and personality, while important, are not ultimately as important as the meaning expressed through those filters, and it is the meaning I take from your posts I was taking issue with, not your manner of expressing that meaning. In the "Pete" argument, it wasn't that you were pacific, gentle, and non-confrontational in introducing your ideas: it was the particular ideas you chose to introduce and to leave out, not how aggressive or forceful you were.

I guess I could be misunderstanding you, if you're saying "style" where I would say "philosophy?" I'm honestly not sure.


"my view at the time of feminists were that they were generally humorless, shrill, angry harpies who were largely misandrists. Reading feminist blogs seemed to confirm this view."

This says a lot more about you than about feminists.

Medium Dave

If your critics on the left sound exasperated, Hugo, it's probably because of consistent misinterpretation of their complaints, such as you've done in this post. Sophonisba was commening on content, not style, yet this post is about "tone." How did that happen?

Rad Geek


While this is a perfectly interesting reply to Steve, I can't see how anything you've said here engages with the points that sophonisba raised. I don't see anywhere in her comments where she criticizes a lack of overt anger or sarcasm in your writing; she objected to what she saw as the presentation of feminism as a form of faith (when actually it's a political program that ought to be obvious by the light of natural reason), and to the presentation of it as uncomfortable, difficult, cold, suffocating, etc. I don't see how that has anything to do with your tone, or your style, or whether your self-expressions happen to be genuine or prideful in any given case.


Wow, the only other person I've ever seen use the word 'irenic' is Loic Wacquant. I also learnt the work 'homiletic' from the same article. I guess that could also apply to your writing sometimes.


One thing to remember, Hugo: Pride hates pride. Please don't take those comments too seriously! :-)

A lot of people don't like how I write, either, so I completely understand where you're coming from on this. And as your know, I started a typepad in part because of your inspiration. My writing style can get kind of self-celebratory at times, too, which I something I try to watch. I admire you for staying true to yourself and your writing style! That's the essence of a genuine person!

Creeping Jenny

Your tone doesn't bother me in the least. I love Amanda's mordancy, Twisty Faster cracks me up all the time, and I often can't resist the low-hanging sarcastic jibe myself, but that doesn't mean snark is the only legitimate style out there. Besides, your way of writing has its advantages: it seems to be a lot less chafing to people who disagree with you. (Not that Amanda and Twisty particularly care who they piss off, I suppose.)


Sophonisba, thanks for clarifying. This post was better addressed to Steve and to some others than to you; my bad!

Mermade and Jenny, thanks.

Rad Geek, I didn't get a doctorate in medieval history (and read Duns Scotus in the bloody original) for nuttin'. When I say my feminism and my faith are linked, that is not a way of suggesting that reason cannot also lead one to authentic feminism -- any more than I would suggest that faith and reason are incompatible. My mind, my heart, and my soul are not at cross-purposes in my spiritual journey, or in my feminism. For me, conversion to either feminism or Christianity operates on many levels: the spiritual, yes, the emotional, yes, but also the intellectual.


"If you have to resort to the angry rhetoric to make your point, maybe its a point that doesn't hold much water. You seem to be able to make a pretty case for your ideas without it."

Uzzah (and Glitch, you should listen, too),
I think you've made a classic mistake, here. You assume that the angry prose you may read on other feminist sites is a rhetorical tool. (Nice rhetorical choice yourself, classifying angry women as shrill, strident, etc. That's not at all angry or ad hominem, no sir.) I see it as expressions of actual anger. You remember that feeling you said you had of being insulted? Of having people assume that you, as a male, are or should be a certain way? Multiply that by about 1000, and then tell me how angry you are. Even here, in a wealthy, "first world" country women are treated rather shabbily much of the time.

The story I keep telling to illustrate what you're experiencing is as follows:
When I was an undergrad, I took a course deliberately designed so that the issues we covered would be discussed from male perspectives during the first half of the semester, and female perspectives during the second half. For the first half of the semester, everyone listened, learned, and engaged in the conversation. Within two weeks of the change-over, where the only thing that had changed was the angle of view and the names on the assigned books and articles, half of the men were saying they were being abused by all of this "feminist crap." Except they weren't being abused, and the authors weren't all that radically feminist. They classified *anything* that put the focus on women's experiences as abusive to men, even while assuming that the same issue from male writers was "normal," EVEN WHEN it was abusive to women. By week three, many of the men had stopped attending class, because they didn't have to "put up with" a class based on women's perspectives. (The class, by the way, had 'women in ...' in the title.)So, for about half the time we were meant to be discussing women's perspectives, we really ended up discussing men's objections to women's perspectives. The class continued to center on men, until the women in it started asking hard questions the men couldn't answer. (What about this book invites a discussion of your feelings about X? Where in this article do we see a discussion of male needs from women?)

What I said to them then I'll say to you now. If I left the room, or called names, or threw a giant hissy fit and refused to listen every time MY perspective wasn't privileged in the discourse, I'd still be in third grade. The same was true of every woman in that room.

Are some women angry? Sure. I know I am. Do some women refuse to re-discuss basic concepts of feminism every time a confused or antagonistic person shows up and demands explanations? Yep. But, see, as women and as feminists, we've been dealing with your issues and viewpoints for more than half the class already, and it's time to move on.

The Countess

Hugo, the opposite of sensitivity and gentleness isn't "sarcasm, irony, or even outright anger." Sarcasm and irony (maybe anger too, but I'm not sure) are hard to read in writing for most people anyway. I wrote a blog post awhile ago about how people couldn't ascertain when someone was being ironic and sarcastic in e-mail. People who were being purposefully sarcastic or ironic also found that their tone didn't always translate. A study was done about this, and it was very interesting. I can't speak for the other bloggers who had criticized you for your post about the young man who was wondering whether he should put off being pro-feminist in favor of being a "player", but I saw red flags when you didn't seem to confront him much on his idea of treating women poorly now so that he could be a "player", which to me means that he wants to get laid. He sounds like he's afraid that going the pro-feminist male route means that he won't get dates and that he won't get laid. That's not good. I think it would have been better if you were more direct with him. Maybe you were in person, but it didn't come across in your post.

It wasn't so much your tone but your content that had made some people question you. I had wondered about that myself, but I didn't comment on it. Anger, sarcasm, etc., really have nothing to do with what the feminists who have criticized you are talking about.

You do have a different approach to feminism with your Christian background. That influences what you write. Sometimes it's confusing (not that much for me). For instance, in one post you talked about how as a feminist man it's okay to feel lust and fantasize about it, since lust is a normal human emotion, yet when you put on your Christian hat, you talked about squelching those lustful thoughts in three seconds or less, or something like that. If I've misunderstood you, I apologize in advance. Sometimes you seem to contradict yourself. That post was one example.


As if righteous anger is somehow empowering. It is not.

Right. Because sexism is nothing to get upset over, poor dears. Christ.

Rad Geek


I don't think that sophonisba was claiming that there's a conflict between faith and reason in general, or accused you of denying that people can come to feminism through the exercise of natural reason. But she can explain and defend her own argument better than I can. I was just trying to mention it by way of explaining why I didn't understand your claim that this post replied to her point.

Uzzah: If you have to resort to the angry rhetoric to make your point, maybe its a point that doesn't hold much water.

Oh please.

I am aware, that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation. No! no! Tell a man whose house is on fire, to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hand of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; -- but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest -- I will not equivocate -- I will not excuse -- I will not retreat a single inch -- AND I WILL BE HEARD. The apathy of the people is enough to make every statue leap from its pedestal, and to hasten the resurrection of the dead.

It is pretended, that I am retarding the cause of emancipation by the coarseness of my invective, and the precipitancy of my measures. The charge is not true. On this question my influence, -- humble as it is, -- is felt at this moment to a considerable extent, and shall be felt in coming years -- not perniciously, but beneficially -- not as a curse, but as a blessing; and posterity will bear testimony that I was right. I desire to thank God, that he enables me to disregard "the fear of man which bringeth a snare," and to speak his truth in its simplicity and power.

--William Lloyd Garrison, "To the Public," from The Liberator No. 1, 1831.


I don't think that sophonisba was claiming that there's a conflict between faith and reason in general

Nope, that's right. What I claim is that being a feminist requires nothing in the way of faith, and that having faith is not a helpful tool for an aspiring feminist qua feminist.

Again, it may be useful to have faith in people's capacity to learn and improve, but it does not require faith to be convinced that women's equality matters. It doesn't matter how strong that faith is: if it's faith, not reason and observation, that tells you women are people, you're not a feminist.

And Hugo, since you're (not unreasonably) concerned with tactics and appearances, I'd point you to the many, many, many times anti-feminist commenters in your own blog have tried to wave away feminist principles as "articles of faith." If they were talking about religious beliefs, this wouldn't work as a sneer and a smear; since they're talking about feminism, it does. I imagine you can see why.


I think form and content are almost one and the same here. The content itself dictates your tone.

Hugo, you are constantly talking about very sensitive issues and I think you are afraid to offend, hence your tone.

If you were talking about WWF all the time, your tone would be different.

If anything, I think you are TOO aware of your audience - you are afraid to offend. You need to be braver - it's true. You will lose some people, but you will gain a lot more (I absolutely know this will happen).

Say what you want to say in less words. Don't apologise for your thoughts.


While we're at it, I think you use too many exclamation points. :-) I really mean it, though-- it conveys a lack of seriousness, and it's a shortcut to a cheerful and emphatic tone so that your words don't have to do the work. Why are you so cheerful, anyway? Sometimes I feel like it minimizes the issues, of you're prioritizing your image of yourself as Mr. Happy Christian over choosing the appropriate tone. Not every post has to end on a hopeful tone. I think if you look at all your structures, you'll see they're the same: sad problem, elaboration, happy!ending!. A little structural variety would be nice.


For goodness sake, just be yourself! This is supposed to be your space, devoted to your thoughts/feelings/ideas/etc. Like other media, if someone is displeased with your voice and content, they can choose not to read. While I don't always agree with you, your voice keeps drawing me back to: empathize with, nod in agreement, scoff at, laugh at, think with, be amazed at the crap, and very recently, cry with.

Keep on allowing the rest of us a rare glimpse into a life totally alien and strange. Quite frankly, I don't think I would ever be friends with you (too earnest, no bite), but your site is a thought-provoking space for a cynical/feminist/small-c conservative/Canadian woman.

PS-my condolences on the death of your pet.


Thanks, AMG; "Too Earnest, No Bite" may be one of the titles I consider if I ever decide to call this blog by anything other than my own name! Thanks for your condolences.


"Why are you so cheerful, anyway? Sometimes I feel like it minimizes the issues, of you're prioritizing your image of yourself as Mr. Happy Christian over choosing the appropriate tone."

Well, he's not having a very happy week, if that makes you feel any better, jeez.

prefer not to say

By anyone's measure, Hugo, you are having a really rotten couple of weeks in your off-line life, so maybe this isn't even the best time to try to hack through to the core of these issues. I hope that doesn't sound patronizing to say -- it's not really my place to say. I do hope you are taking time to mourn Matilde (certainly 8 days isn't enough) and to be gentle with yourself about your father's illness.

With that said, I'll make a brief comment that you can maybe think about some other time. I am the christian who sophonisba hypothesized might not feel comfortable with your conflation of the conversion process to christianity and the conversion process to feminism. Because the difference is this -- the conversion process to Christianity is made through the grace of God. The convert certainly relies on reason and experience in the struggle to stay faithful to Christian tenets, but she wouldn't be able to make a full commitment to belief without God reaching out from the other side to pull her in. Christians believe that Christ makes belief possible.

There simply isn't a parallel in the world of abstract political thought. Conversion to anything -- libertarianism, feminism, veganism -- comes about through a mixture of reason and experience. Period. That's what distinguishes philosophies from religions. I guess that's what unsettled me about your "one day at a time" response to Pete. Not the gradualism of it -- but the idea that somehow there was an appeal to a vague power or something that was going to come in and intervene. You likened him to Augustine saying "give me continence, Lord, just not yet." But the analogy falters because Augustine was engaged in a conversion process that was ultimately in conversation with God. Pete's hesitations about feminism aren't going to be fixed by divine grace.

I can understand how for you, Christianity and feminism might be intertwined. Certainly, if one were attentive to the gospel, one would be overwhelmingly struck by how egalitarian and radical the message is. So that it would SEEM like a real commitment to Christ would necessarily entail a real commitment to the radical equality of all people. Certainly, that is a belief that deeply informs my feminism. But it HASN'T been a belief that has deeply shaped christian culture, despite occasional glimmers and rumors of enlightenment here and there. So clearly feminism is possible without Christianity, and Christianity has certainly proven to be viable without feminism. If Christian feminists are going to talk with non-christian feminists those seem like pretty basic truths to acknowledge.

So I guess sometimes over the course of reading your blog what I am put off by is not your earnestness (I am a big fan of earnestness) but rather occasional moves where -- to me -- it seems like you are kind of waving your hands and saying "feminism is right! And if you just have the faith to follow me, you'll find out!" I suspect those moments stem from genuine enthusiasm, as well as a personal history in which such appeals to faith in a Christian context were genuinely healing for you, not from any of the motives Steve unfairly assigned to you. But perhaps what Steve's post might alert you to is how that stance appears to folks who don't have the same experience of religion you do.

Sorry so longwinded. Interesting stuff to think about.


I read this post with interest anyway (because my initial experience with Feminism was not unlike Glitch's), but the comments that follow have been utterly fascinating. What a study of people and attitudes! (Sorry for the exclamation point, z, ha! Oh, I did it again. Oops. :-P)

While I read Pandagon, Feministe, and a few other feminist blogs daily, I find that I don't often comment, and when I do, I censor myself more than I care to admit. My skin is thicker than it ever was when I was younger, but I still don't enjoy being mocked. Here, I get a sense that disagreement is something to work with and to work through, and that there's an underlying assumption that we all have good intentions. In that sort of environment, it's easier to risk saying something stupid by accident, and knowing that you can clarify your meaning later, no harm.

Would you have more traffic if you became yet another angry and sarcastic feminist? Perhaps. Would it serve your blog's goals and allow you to remain authentically you (warts and all)? I doubt it, but only you can answer that one.

Keep at it. Just please keep your willingness to admit when you're wrong and to grow when you learn something new about yourself.

By the way, rememeber that you share much more of yourself than many other bloggers in your writing. Instead of just mentioning events and mocking them as an outside, unrelated observer, you discuss them as they relate to your own life. This inevitably makes you more vulnerable to attack. It's tough, but I don't think it's a bad thing.


Here's the thing I don't get about the "Feminists are humorless" sw.

I think Pandagon and Twisty are HILARIOUS. It's shows like "The Man Show" and "Mind of Mencia" that I think aren't funny: I think they are immature and assine (not to mention, I don't find sexism and racism all that amusing).

So when people say that they're humorless, that's a red flag to me saying "They don't fall into my worldview. Sense of humor depends strongly on point of view.

Getting back to the post at hand, I don't think Hugo's funny. But I don't read this blog for him to be funny, I read this blog because I like the discussion between people (even if some of the commenters' blogs make me feel like dousing myself in bleach). Hugo's blog serves and ENTIRELY different function for me than other feminist blogs. Pandagon, I Blame the Patriarchy, Feministe: to me, those blogs are about anger, and a place where I can go and be angry and snarky and sarcastic: they are not for people curious about feminism, they are places for people who already are feminist, and therefore don't feel the need to take someone by the hand and apologize for being feminist.

Hugo's blog is about dialogue, and because early feminists (or non-feminists) are hear, most of the discussion is about the tenants of the philosophy, instead of accepting the premise and discussing the issues themselves.

The tone's fine, Hugo.

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