Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Time to Set Down the Tools

There's been some brouhaha recently on my second home, reddit, with respect to the recent creation of a "kinder, gentler" men's rights subreddit (r/masculism) whose stated intention was to build bridges of understanding and find common ground between MRAs and moderate feminists. Team up for equality! Yay!

A few feminists (mostly regular trolls of r/mensrights, but a few well-meaning ones) have already stormed off in a huff, citing the "rabid MRA spittle" of anger that "already permeates" the subreddit, after only being open for business a week or two, and others have retreated to r/egalitarian or r/equality after being forced to hear their beloved feminism maligned.

Some MRAs, on the other hand, accuse some posters and the head moderator of bias, intellectual dishonesty, intentional skullduggery, sock-puppetry, and an agenda of distract/divide/appropriate and thus conquer the MRM.

There have been complaints by MRAs regarding the name of the subreddit, indicating a degree of worry that an "ism" is, sorta by definition, based on ideological and advocacy concerns that don't necessarily conform to equality of rights between men and women. "Will masculism become like feminism, which has arguably become a movement with nothing much left that needs doing, but which doesn't know how to stop advancing women's interests for fun and profit?" Unlike feminism, the MRM's stated goals are right there in its name--and many members look forward to a day when they can declare "mission accomplished" and cease their work. (Personally, considering the state of things now and the natural, cultural and legal obstacles in the way, I'm neither holding my breath nor dreaming of drinking pina coladas on some beach anytime soon.)

I myself did not have high hopes for r/masculism, though it was difficult for me to articulate exactly why. Given that my SO was called on board to help moderate the forum, has had long discussions with its creator, and that he seemed cautiously optimistic about finding some common ground, I was really bothered by my misgivings, especially since it was very difficult for me to determine their exact source. He is...well, much more forgiving of wrongheadedness in others than I am, and has characterized me as antagonistic at times. And while this is certainly true--I can antagonize like whoa and like damn when someone is being obtuse or intellectually dishonest--I don't agree that allowing bullshit to stand is in any way correct or helpful.

My intuition was that I would not be able to participate on the subreddit in any meaningful way without having to don the mantle of "bullshit-caller" constantly, and after perusing some of the posts and participating in the comments, this intuition seems to have been accurate.

But it wasn't until I briefly discussed it with my SO yesterday morning, that I finally pinpointed the source of my doubts. When I mentioned that r/masculism was losing credibility with MRAs, he told me, "Seems to me that what MRAs want from feminists is an apology, and what feminists want is to not have to admit that feminism has fucked up or that they're wrong."

And while I think there is a grain of truth in what he said, I don't believe it's a true or complete picture of the situation. I don't think MRAs want an apology. I don't think they're that petty. What they do want is for feminists to acknowledge their fallibility, that they got it fundamentally wrong right from the start, and that they are continuing to get it wrong.

A quick look at some of the links and comments posted on r/masculism reveals that this is not something feminists seem prepared to do. Many links go to seemingly supportive articles on feminist blogs--blogs with other articles that are altogether different, such as this one, purporting to be supportive of helping male victims of domestic violence, which states:

I wish they had done a fourth ad showing a boy child as a future victim. Men are a minority of victims of intimate violence, but “minority” doesn’t mean “nonexistent.” There are male victims of intimate violence who require assistance, and there seems to be virtually no outreach to abused men. (The Family Place provides assistance to both female and male victims of violence.)
But the best evidence we have indicates that most intimate violence — and in particular, the most severe and harmful cases — are typically cases of men abusing women. Given that context, it’s ridiculous that Glenn objects to the depiction of women suffering from male abusers. It’s notable that Glenn didn’t work to have a new ad added to the campaign, reaching out to male victims of abuse; that’s a goal I could support. Instead, he campaigned to have these adsremoved. Whatever his intent, what Glenn’s demands called for wasn’t inclusion of male victims, but the erasure of female victims and male perpetrators.

...and which decry the efforts of the MRM as "anti-feminist", the tone being that "anti-feminist" is synonymous with being anti-woman, or with tearing down battered women's shelters, or with being against equal rights.

What MRAs want from feminists is an acknowledgement of empirically proven reality, and the above quote falls WAY short of that. What MRAs want from feminists is full concession that feminist interpretations of DV, rape and patriarchy itself are, and always have been, completely wrongheaded.

Yet when I mentioned to one commenter in r/masculism:
The entire feminist line of thought wrt rape being about power rather than sex is analogous to their views on domestic violence as evidenced in VAWA. The entire thing is constructed on the premise that both rape and domestic violence are patriarchal crimes--society-wide patriarchal oppression of women enacted on a microscale.
Both DV and rape (feminist interpretations thereof, I mean) have been held up as supporting evidence for the more general feminist Patriarchy Theory that formed the basis of feminist discourse on gender and power structures, privilege/disadvantage, gendered oppression, etc, and even helped to develop what many call "intellectual tools" for examining those issues (otherwise known as the feminist lens).
If there is mainstream acceptance that rape is NOT primarily about patriarchal power structures or views of women, and DV is NOT patriarchal oppression and violence on a microscale, it serves to discredit the entirety of feminist thought on gender, and on the nature of the tools we must use to examine it.
Feminist academics have a vested interest in dismissing all evidence that their supporting evidence is inaccurate or flawed, which makes their efforts to dismiss, discredit, disregard, manipulate and ignore the mountains of evidence wrt DV being essentially ungendered, very understandable (though no less malfeasant).
When you look at child abuse PSAs, the abuser is almost inevitably male, despite the empirically proven fact that mothers abuse and kill their children at a much higher rate than fathers do. While male child abusers do indeed exist, this mainstreaming of only one side of the problem poisons social perceptions of maleness and leaves women completely unaccountable for their (larger) share of the problem.
This is what we're talking about.
...what I get in response, over and over, is the same tired reasoning that it is "useful to examine" the different gendered motivations men and women have to hit each other, and how cultural views of women inform them--such as a woman who hits may feel like she's standing up for herself, or may not actually be trying to strike fear into a partner. Just more of the same--that men must be hitting for reasons consistent with the patriarchal terrorist paradigm, and that who knows (or cares) why women hit, so long as we can make excuses for them?

The CTS studies on domestic violence point to ungendered motivations for hitting. The only aspect of domestic violence that seems to be gendered to any degree is in the reporting differences between men and women--men are less likely to report being victimized (for a variety of reasons), men are more likely to understate both their own and their partners' perpetration (possibly indicating shame wrt both, or a desire to protect a female partner from consequences), and women are more likely to overstate both their own victimization (heh) and their own perpetration (wowza).

If domestic violence is gendered at all, it is in that as a culture, we teach boys and men that it is always wrong to hit girls and women, and we do not teach girls and women the inverse--in fact, we teach them that hitting boys and men is hunky dory, even funny, and an avenue to empowerment for which they will face no consequences, not even getting hit back. And we teach them that it is never okay for anyone to hit them, ever, for any reason, and if someone does hit them they are being victimized and deserve protection.

Is it any wonder then that woman will happily overstate their own perpetration? With the culture telling them men are fair game for a beating, and the law letting them off the hook for any bad behavior so long as they cry "victim", is it any wonder that they will overstate their victim status?

But no. The feminist paradigm of domestic violence as inherently gendered in its perpetration (wrt both rates and motivations) is entrenched in the hearts and minds of feminists. Men hit women because they view women as "less than". Men hit women more often than the inverse. If women do hit men as often, then men are less harmed by it.

Sigh.

How do you deal with someone like that? How do you find common ground? How do you attempt to do this and reconcile it with any sort of personal integrity or ethical dedication to truth? How do you attempt to find common ground with someone who refuses to set down the faulty tools they've been taught to use when examining what society, and gender's place in it, looks like?

Here's a snippet of conversation I recently had with a feminist man on reddit. His sally:
So what about 'women's lib'? not even 60 years later and I'm supposed to believe that everything[sic] that not only did they already achieve equality but they were the ones actually causing the oppression the entire time?
You have a long history of claiming that, and I can't imagine how you convinced yourself that. Trading protection from work, war, hunger, etc for being a sex object? Seems like a fairly one sided deal, no? Women get all these things and only have to give up one. That would be pretty oppressive if it was women who were forcing men to protect them. Is that what you think is happening? Women are wielding sex as a weapon to get what they want?
Is that because sex is a powerful weapon, or because it's the only agency that traditionally woman has?
My reply:
Both.
I've never said that women caused the oppression. Only that they benefited from it and encouraged and enforced it, because the nature of the world up until recently would have rendered the alternative far more oppressive to them.
His response:
Wait, so you actually agree with me that women's power in a 'traditional society' is derived sexually?
my head just exploded.
My riposte:
Women certainly had other forms of agency available to them. Those forms of agency, however, had significant downsides and obstacles.
Listen, monogamy was a model of human interaction that springs from the cave, and could be rendered down to a very simple and powerful exchange:
A man got a shot at fathering children. In return for that shot, he provided resources and protection to his woman and children.
The majority of human behavior--especially, but not exclusively, wrt male/female interactions--can be inevitably reduced to a few primary motivators--individual survival, the ability to successfully pass on one's genes (generation and survival of offspring), and tribalism (bonds of family, community, etc).
For women, sex wasn't the only avenue to agency. It was just the one with the best cost/benefit ratio for most.

And that was pretty much the end of the conversation. He had nothing more to say. In light of our subsequent conversations, he's not convinced, but there was no logical argument with which he could refute my own.

There is no room in his feminist worldview for him--even as a man--to examine the issue from the other side of the gender fence, or through a different lens but that of feminism. For him, a woman was a sex object, and this was the worst thing ever (even if it was her best option at the time and improved her quality of life--not because of men or society, but because she could not realistically bring up children without being dependent on a man's resources).

There was no thought in his mind for where exactly this arrangement left a man, wrt sexual and reproductive agency. How this transaction objectified HIM. While it is sad that 400 years ago a woman's primary value was her ability to provide a man with children, it is equally sad to me that a man's primary value to a woman (and to the perpetuation of society) was his ability to provide a woman (and her children) with resources.

Warren Farrell called it "success objectification", and it is every bit as terrible and restricting and dehumanizing as sexual objectification, and just as much still with us today. If a woman had to sell access to her body in return for a living, then a man had to sell a living for access to a woman's body, didn't he? If either party wanted to procreate, this was the best deal available to each of them, even if it objectively sucked.

And all feminism's talk of historical male agency...well, yeah, I'm willing to concede that on the surface, men had more options--a million different forms of wage slavery (in a coal mine or a foundery or a factory or a forge or a barrister's office or a barracks) to choose from if they wanted a ticket in the genetic lottery. But if they wanted a ticket, they had to pay for it with cash on the table.

It isn't agency if you have to do it. It's only a choice between one form of slavery or another, a choice to either make horseshoes or plough a field all day, instead of writing poetry like you really wanted to, because writing poetry might keep your own belly full, but wouldn't bring you a "marrying wage".

My adversary on the internet is wearing very special glasses, and those glasses only allow him to see certain things from very specific angles. Those things all have to do with how women have always had things awful compared to men. Those glasses make him believe that it was obviously much worse to derive power with respect to the opposite gender through sexuality than through being seen as a walking ATM. He doesn't even see the men who sacrificed their health and their lives, the hours upon hours upon hours of labor when they'd rather have been doing something else, in order to spare their women the need to make those sacrifices themselves.

Those glasses make him believe that even though women initiate violence more than men do in relationships, that women are still more often the victims of violence in relationships because their reasons for hitting are different than men's. They make him believe that poster campaigns like this one and this one are better than nothing, instead of worse than nothing because they are lying to us about the nature of the problem, about the nature of society--both pre and post-feminism--and about the nature of men.

And while many would insist that any help--even wrongheaded help--is better than none, that if a feminist believes men are "the minority" of victims of severe DV still deserve support then we should bring that feminist on board...it just leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

Because that is not alliance--it's conditional assistance, and it is conditional upon them being allowed to go on believing the same lies as before, and spreading them, and feeding the problem even as they're supposedly trying to solve it. And someone who cannot or will not see truth, who is lying even when he believes he's telling the truth, isn't someone you can trust as far as you can throw him.

15 comments:

  1. Thank you, excellent post! I'm Qanan on Reddit btw.

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  2. Hey there! Glad you liked it. I have to say, I've been very conflicted about the whole r/masculism thing. My bf is kind of a "peacemaker", and he was hopeful that this would be the one that brought moderate feminists on board.

    But man, you state a simple fact, plain as day, and they scramble to put some spin on it--if it isn't a "women have it worse" spin, it's a "women are MORE oppressed than men (even if they're benefitting) spin, or at the very least, an "it's not her fault, it's different when a woman hits" spin.

    The lens they use is both myopic and warped. They won't see straight until they put it down.

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    1. I love the fact that you're the warrior and your man is the conciliator. Brave shieldmaiden! (Look it up, it's actually a cool title.)

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  3. Nice article. I just found your site and have enjoyed all the articles I have read so far, but I wanted to post to this one to get a clarification...

    The first quote you provide ("I wish they had done a fourth ad showing a boy child as a future victim..."), the links above it don't work (at least for me), so I am unable to double check, but it appears very much like a quote from manboobs' David Futrelle in response to me. I don't know why, but I would find that highly amusing given I spanked him in that argument, like what you have experienced, he stopped debating after I set forth an argument he couldn't refute.

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  4. Hi Kratch,

    I think they're having trouble with their server? Not sure it was Futrelle, but a distinct possibility. There are multiple contributors on that site (amptoons.com, forget what the actual name is), and I wish the link was working. I went back to where I'd got the original links, and even those don't work, so it's clearly their problem. :P

    I'm not as happy with this last article as I've been of some of my others. It's...a bit rambly. But I'm working on a new one that looks at "the tools" a little more closely. Hope to have it up in the next day or two.

    Thanks for stopping by. :)

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  5. I think the mistake is that there is no common ground on which to stand. Rightly or wrongly, both parties see the other as being in the position of power. This causes both sides to expect the other to make concessions, because you must find equal ground before any common ground can be established.

    I think perhaps that the MRM would do better to aim at establishing common ground with women and not feminists as I believe the later is a lost cause for as long as "Patriarchy" is dogma.

    G-O

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  6. "Those things all have to do with how women have always had things awful compared to men."

    Here's a clue to their mindset that might help. It's the meta-dynamic behind what's being argued.

    People like him simply cannot see women's agency. To him women are _things that are acted upon_. The converse is that this man can only see men's agency. To him men can never be acted upon.

    Once you understand this; once you can comprehend how this distorts a person's worldview, you will slip through the eye of the needle, so to speak.

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    1. You touch on something I think is important here, rantgrrl: time and time and time and time and time and time and time and time again, the blinkered old-school "feminist" notion always, always, always works on an assumption that women have always been powerless. And when you point out that this unquestioned belief is, in and of itself, a form of male chauvinism, it tends to cause at least a few people to blink and shake their heads. Some still refuse to see it, but I find it penetrates with others.

      Yes, some will then tell you the sad tale of how their mother or grandmother lived a horrible life... to which you can then respond with tales not just of powerful women you knew from earlier generations, but also, the horrible life men of earlier eras had.

      In such things, I also remind myself (and others) frequently of this: in most online discussions, the vast majority of readers are not commenters. They read, passively, while rarely or never commenting at all. Which means that you do not have to "win" every argument by convincing whoever you're arguing with. That person you're arguing with may never be convinced, but you may well break through to others who are reading who rarely or never say anything.

      So even where GirlWritesWhat may never have convinced her feminist-male-chauvinist 60-year-old dude of her point, there were likely people who were reading whose skull she did penetrate. Which is why I'd encourage her to stay in forums like that, I really would. It's like, "OK, I'm not convincing him. But for him, there are at least 10 other people reading not saying a word." This isn't private email correspondence. Other people are reading this. I try always to remember that. (And hi to all you lurkers out there, glad to know you're there!)

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  7. Can't believe i missed this post lol.

    Thank you for the support!

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  8. That belief that men are priveleged can be taken up by a lot of men to assuage their own inadequacies, to convince themselves that they are more powerful than they really are.

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  9. Great site, well done, and I'm delighted to find how closely your writings match my thoughts - if much better expressed!

    However, I don't find it 'sad' or 'inhuman' that, for most of humankind's past, women depended on men and men depended on women. For me, that is a feature of the world we live in. If it seems inhuman or sad then I suspect the real problem is that we've separated our conception of how life is (or might be) from the fundamental realities of nature.

    I believe MRAs should try to avoid joining feminists in such fantasy.

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  10. Hi, RebelMen. :)

    I think what saddens me is that this was (and still is) the primary dynamic. When you look at women's choices in partners, even very successful women want a man who is as successful as, or more successful than, they are.

    With my relationship right now--it's definitely reciprocal, mutually beneficial, and we depend on each other, but the "sex for resources" model is not the primary consideration. He's an engineer who's working in a bakery while seeking a job appropriate to his education. Myself, I don't particularly care, for my sake, if he ever does find that "good money, high status" position. We provide other things to each other, giving and receiving (not taking, really), and his smile and his arms around me, his company and the intimacy we share, are reward enough for me when I do something nice for him.

    That's the bargain I want. Not an exchange of access to my vagina in return for money. I don't depend on him in any material way, but I do depend on him for my happiness and my sense of being part of a team, and having someone at my side who's working with me, rather than for me.

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  11. Hi GWW, been checking out your site & assorted youtubery, all great stuff. So good to have you out there.

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  12. I can't speak to MRA's wanting an apology from feminists, but I believe that they certainly SHOULD demand an apology from society as a whole for believing and supporting feminist crap all these years.

    You said it yourself; men used to get recognition for all they did for society and now they are just insulted. How can that be changed? ONLY by a public denunciation of the system that is most seen as causing that insult. It's not good enough for feminism to simply lose influence gradually. It's too late for that. Feminism must be denounced in what amounts to a societal apology towards men.

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  13. GWW,
    what MOST men I know want is that women who commit criminal acts are treated as "equal before the law" to men meaning VERY SPECIFICALLY that a woman found guilty of a crime is given the SAME remedy instruction as a man would be.

    This is a VERY REASONABLE position to take.

    On the other hand the position of women, nearly ALL western women, is that women should be allowed to commit crimes with impunity and men should just put up with it.

    This is a very UNREASONABLE position to take. It has been the position of women since the start of the take over of "feminism" in name by the communists starting with the communist manifesto.

    Feminism, which is communism, is nothing more than stealing from those who have and giving to those too lazy to work via the guvment. And it was introduced as part of the worlds depopulation program. Of course, depopulation affects "women and children" more than men because "women and children" are about 80% of most populations anyway.

    So yes. Feminists got is very, very wrong right from the start. And nothing but creating the ability for any man who has been the victim of a crime by a woman to put her on trial and gain remedy for that crime will be acceptable to me and to a lot of men I know.

    Women said they wanted "equality". Well? Surely that means "equal before the law", right?

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Commenting policy:

All comments are welcome here. I refuse to censor points of view that differ from my own.

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- if you care to respond to anything that I have said, please do not simply link to or quote some statistic. Do not simply regurgitate things you have been told are true. Think about what I am saying. Respond with an argument. Offer something from your personal observations, and explain to me how you feel your statistic is connected to your experience.

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Have at you!