Feminist Witch Hunts

Posted: May 23, 2012 in Blogging, Book Reviews, Feminism, Freedom of Speech
Tags: ,

In my last post I talked about the impact that [redacted] and [redacted]  has had on me, especially in relation to me finally abandoning feminism as a dogma. I wrote the post after seeing a recent review of Male Impersonators. The author could not publish her piece without making some snide remarks about me and my newfound ‘anti-feminism’ that I had explained in [redacted].

Interestingly someone else, a man, also read my review but had a very different reaction. He found my story of the influence of feminism on my life, and my eventual rejection of it, moving. He mentioned me in this post here:


He also mentioned another non-feminist blogger Girlwriteswhat. He described some of the abuse she has suffered online lately, due to her stance that goes against the feminist grain. He pointed out the irony of feminists punishing women for thinking for themselves and being independent!

Then today I read a piece by Ally Fogg in the New Statesman, pointing out to feminist journalists who have misrepresented a book about men, that it is not necessarily anti-feminist to acknowledge men are discriminated against as well as women.


I thought it was interesting that Ally, who is generally sympathetic to contemporary ‘third wave’ feminism, was well-received by feminists such as Suzanne Moore, even though he had criticised them directly in his article. Whereas women writers such as me and Girlwriteswhat have been subject to what actually amounts to a  witch hunt  by our ‘sisters.’

The reasons for this discrepancy in reactions are complex. One is, I think, that Ally Fogg has won his feminist stripes, for generally being supportive of the movement. On Guardian cif website he has on more than one occasion come into the comments in defence of a poor hapless feminist journalist against the criticism she is getting below the line from mainly men readers.

Whereas Girlwriteswhat and I have specifically identified feminism as the problem when it comes to gender wars. Or at least one major problem amongst a few. And we have identified the misandry inherent in feminist dogma, that is supposedly the ‘acceptable prejudice’.

Ally Fogg kept the feminists on side by saying Men’s Rights Activists display more misogyny than feminists display misandry. But he does not back up his claim with evidence. In the light of the forthcoming #radfem2012 conference which is not only misandry-fuelled but also transphobic, the work of Mark Simpson that points out how misandry goes unchecked in our culture, and the way ‘pro-men’ women such as me and Girlwriteswhat are treated by feminism,  I think Ally is wrong.


h/t redpesto

  1. […] Quiet Riot Girl responds with more on the often ruthless attacks on women who dare to […]

  2. Hey QRG

    Lots here. First of all I don’t think either of us should have a problem with disagreeing with each other about some stuff. There are very few people around whom I don’t disagree with about something or other.

    I’d disagree that my article today was ‘well received’ by those I criticise. Suzanne Moore just said “yeah but…” and a half-arsed effort at defending herself, and the others (so far) have completely ignored me. Interesting to me that I have read very little attempt on the part of feminists on the NS or Twitter to defend their role in this stuff, they’ve just stuck their head in the sand and ignored it, which to be honest is the response I expected.

    I’ve never denied that in many respects I’m pro-feminist. I’m certainly not anti-feminist. I appreciate that sets us apart. In simple, general terms, I’m against social injustice of all sorts and where someone identifies such injustice and attempts to challenge it, I’ll applaud them, whether or not the victims are male or female, and whether or not the campaigners are feminist.

    I see feminism not as a monolithic campaign, but as an umbrella term for various causes and opinions, some of which I agree with and care deeply about, some of which I think are a bit silly or misguided, and some of which I think are downright wrong and harmful. That’s why I have no problem with writing complimentary stuff about, say, Slutwalk one day, and tearing a strip off Object the next. It’s also why I’m prepared to argue aggressively against Julie Bindel 9 times out of 10, but on the rare occasions I think she gets something right I’ll say so.

    I’m not into picking sides or playing teams. Just calling the issues and the arguments as I see them. That’s also why I’ll sometimes side with an author against the consensus, and sometimes side with the consensus against the author. I’m long past caring about whether feminists (or MRAs) consider me onside or not. Some of them do, some of them are convinced I’m a raving misogynist. I’m happy to take complaints or compliments from anyone providing they are engaging with the arguments not attempting to psychoanalyse my motivations, which really pisses me off.

    The fact that I’m not an ideological anti-feminist (unlike say you or GWW) means it is hardly surprising that feminists are more likely to give me a fair hearing isn’t it? There’s nothing especially surprising or sinister about that.

    And as you know, I’ve regularly been heavily critical of feminists who do things like witch-hunting Girl Writes What (or for that matter conspiring in your own ‘outing’) and also been heavily critical of MRAs and associates who have conducted their own witch-hunts and hate campaigns against the likes of Cath Elliott or Rebecca Watson.

    • Suzanne Moore as good as offered to write a foreword for a book by you on this stuff. That is an endorsement!

    • Dean Esmay says:

      Hi Ally. I found the article you wrote that QRG here linked wonderfully refreshing as well. I think QRG and GWW (both of whom I admire greatly) at times go a bit far in the “anti-feminist” rhetoric, only inasmuch as there are *just so many* women (and men) out there who genuinely, truly, with their heart-of-hearts, totally and completely believe feminism is about equality, and so when they hear someone say nasty things about feminists, they tune out completely. I’ve even seen it in action.

      Still and all, I will never forget my first experience when engaging feminists when I started talking about areas where men get the short of end of the stick in public policy or everyday affairs, myself thinking “well yes, feminism is about equality so I’m a feminist too!” only to be lashed out at, ostracized, and ridiculed. Or the first time I made a remark that I thought was funny but was construed to be sexist, so I apologized, only to have that apology not only not-accepted, but was further lashed out at and verbally abused with all sorts of horrible things said about me and read into my character and motives that left me utterly dizzy.

      It would seem to me that part of the problem is that no one can ever tell you precisely what “feminism” is, and as such, a lot of arguments go into tailchasing exercises where we either argue about what is or isn’t feminism, or, worse, one party uses one definition while another party uses another, and, worst of all, either or both parties will change what they mean by the word right in mid-argument without even noticing that they’ve done so.

      Perhaps by angrily denouncing feminism, people like Quiet Riot Girl and Girl Writes What are doing a useful service by putting certain types of feminists on the defensive in areas where they should be defensive. On the other hand, I myself usually find it more constructive to speak in terms of specific issues instead of being hung up one way or the other on a term.

      I like to think I share your attitude: I don’t care about what group I’m in. I care about injustice when I see it.

      • shreen says:

        I’m with you on focusing on issues instead of movements. I think that stems from a sense of urgency about my activism. A lot of it is about survival (e.g. harsh human rights abuses linked to sexism & homophobia) or race-related and working class issues. I don’t think it’s an urgency that academic feminists share.

        Funnily enough I remember commenting on this very blog a few months ago. I was one of these:

        “…there are *just so many* women (and men) out there who genuinely, truly, with their heart-of-hearts, totally and completely believe feminism is about equality…”

        I came here willing to listen to an opposing view, mainly out of curiousity but also because I welcome being proved wrong. It’s something I think many feminists don’t do well, their indignation over something spurred on by group-think.

        But I became a non-believer recently. It was Tayna Gold’s fault, really. Her stupid article about the recession in the Guardian had me fuming. I wrote a rushed, resentful rant about it. It was all over the place because I was trying to vent years of frustration in under 800 words, whilst still trying to maintain that feminism has some merit to it:


        The final nail in the coffin was this:

        http://www.thefword.org.uk/blog/2012/05/the_indefinable (I’m IronFly on there)

        It had me fuming for days. Why did I let it make me so angry? I decided to stop calling myself a feminist, and the anger lifted. Finding this beautiful article helped to articulate some of my thoughts around the same time:


        I stop short of telling other women that they’re buying into some sort of religion only because I know so many of those “heart-of-heart” good feminists who operate outside of group dynamics. They’re not influenced by this cult mentality and can apply logical and critical thought with no problem.

        It’s really hard to straddle this fine line of denouncing the negative aspects to the movement without scaring off the “good” ones, but for me that is the only way forward. I don’t want to pick a side. As fucking cheesy as it sounds we need to put these pathetic differences aside and really concentrate on practical solutions for a lot of the problems we whinge about, otherwise it’s just a boring intellectual point scoring game.

        But it is difficult to be diplomatic. Some idiot on thefword blog I linked to above told me that I had no self-respect because I had chosen to drop the feminist label. To her credit, one of the blog editors did call this bitchiness out but I think it speaks volumes that she was a minority voice, especially when clearly feminists CAN be noisey when they want to be (re: transphobia, for example).

        Mob mentality isn’t good for anyone, as Alyssa (from link above) says:

        “This is not a land grab in which the victor claims the moral high-ground. No one group needs to hold the title of “protector of all that is good.” The need to take credit for the behavior others – whether in a congratulatory or a coercive manner – is precisely the thing that starts wars. It is why many of the world’s religions, which have many of the same values, fight with each other. It is why our political parties war with each other for victory rather than serving the needs of the people – which are damned close to universal. They all want the biggest tent, with the most people who they can call their own. My way or the highway.”

        • Great comment Shreen and inspiring. also familiar to me. when women reject feminism or even criticise it they often immediately get labelled ‘sinners’ and ostracised. It’s quite ridiculous.

          • Dean Esmay says:

            Remember, any word they use on you doesn’t matter, because language itself is phallocentric anyway.

            I don’t think I’m ever going to get over this. “Language is in itself phallocentric and, as a result, a tool of patriarchy.”

            Dude. How. Can. You. Beat. That? http://www.thefword.org.uk/blog/2012/05/the_indefinable

            I had to screenshot that for posterity.

          • shreen says:

            It is ridiculous. I know that nasty people exist but get a little confused when someone pretends that they’re all in it for the greater social good, yet can’t even respect a highly personal decision to drop a label (which according to many people is difficult to define anyway…).

            What really pisses me off is that some have turned it into an argument of “Hey! You can’t tell me to be polite! I’ve every right to be angry and rude! You can’t dismiss me just because I’m being aggressive! That’s just playing into the sexist trope of expecting women to be ladylike all the time!”

            …erm, your victim mentality is showing.

            Aggression just gets people’s back up, it’s not a great way to have a debate, whether you’re male or female. And I’m sure I speak for a lot of people when I say I do not have limitless time and energy to spend online having arguments. Aggression is a big sign that a conversation isn’t going anywhere.

        • Dean Esmay says:

          Shreen: There’s so much there you say that’s thoughtful, but I had to stop first and note the palmfaced reaction I had to this link you gave:


          I read the whole thing, and most of the comments. But the whole essay itself seems to, in the end, boil down to this one sentence right smack in the middle of it, which I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at. In discussing the need to allow the word “feminism” to transcend definitions, it is stated, unironically:

          “Language is in itself phallocentric and, as a result, a tool of patriarchy.”

          Oh. My. God. Notwithstanding the considerable evidence that we have that historically most humans learned language primarily from their mothers, and all the evidence that on average women are better at language skills than men, just look at what that statement adds up to: “words mean whatever I want them to mean, whenever I want, and anyone who says different is a penis-person.”

          Wow. I mean, just wow dude. (Oh no, I just called a woman “dude,” I must be a phallocentric tool of the patriarchy too!)

          I can well see how someone with a sharp mind and a facility for logic would look at that and, at minimum, back away very slowly, making no sudden movements, and murmer, “at least one of us is crazy and I’m pretty sure it’s not me.”

          Anyway: I don’t dispute your right to cease calling yourself a feminist. The ideal of feminism–the one that says women have every right to self-determination–is such that it should include your right not to call yourself one.

          But I’ll also continue to wince a little when I see overharsh criticism of feminism, in defense of all those decent men and women who call (or called) themselves feminists who aren’t hateful or crazy, and in respect for the good things that people calling themselves feminists have accomplished,

          • shreen says:

            Hey Dean. Yeah I recognise that feeling of wincing a little at excessive criticisms of the movement. I felt a bit like that when I came across people like QRG and GWW, because although I was happy to take on-board criticisms of specific problems, I didn’t like the idea that they were also dismissing all the lovely good things feminism has achieved at the same time.

            But why do we make this connection in the first place? To criticise where the movement has gone doesn’t automatically mean disrespecting feminists past, or reasonable feminists (I’m not sure if QRG or GWW do this as I’ve seen very little of their work).

            I normally have to preface my recent apostasy with various disclaimers, one of which is that by choosing to work unlabeled I am not making an gesture of disrespect towards the men and women who have fought for my rights under the banner of feminism. No way. I do recognise the complexity and fragmentation of the movement – some work is problematic, some more thoughtful – and in fact it is that very fragmentation that bugs me, because I’ve seen how divided activism efforts are less successful than unified ones. But I have met many incredible activists who call themselves feminists and I would hate to give the impression I’m snubbing them. Clumsy generalisations aside, if I’ve given that impression it is a mistake on my part.

            “Tool of the patriarchy” – I hate that phrase. It’s so needlessly patronising.

            I read another comment from you (Dean) somewhere here about your female relatives being dismissive of the idea of being oppressed and I identified with it so much. The idea of generalised oppression vs. cases of injustice is an interesting one, and I think sometimes activists conflate the two, further snowballing the victim mentality in groups. Of course there are exceptions, but they’re rare in my experience.

          • Henry says:

            Dean this is one of the best comments here 🙂

            I bang on a bit about logic and empirical thought. But it is absolutely true to say that feminism exists in this ideas world where people basically think they can believe what they want to think – hence the sentence which you analysed exactly correctly as boiling down to:

            “words mean whatever I want them to mean, whenever I want, and anyone who says different is a penis-person.”

            Strangely I was talking to my girlfriend about my arguments with feminism earlier that day and she warned me that sooner or later I’d run into feminists saying that the logic and science I trust are tools that the patriarchy uses to control women.

            I knew she was right, but was knocked out when I then found this post and was able to show her the sentence about “phallocentric language” half an hour later

            It’s a classic sentence – well worth remembering

          • Dean Esmay says:

            Shreen: And there in the end is a big part of where I criticize feminism: the automatic acceptance of women-as-oppressed throughout all history everywhere is at its roots misogynistic; it implies not that women here and there have had terrible lives or treatment, but that overall they were never anything more than pitiful slaves, contributing their whole lives to their own eager enslavement. It’s a misogynistic belief at root.

            That women’s power has usually been less visible in the public sphere has never made it nonexistent, and now that we live in a rapidly changing world where there’s bound to be confusion. I like to think that a lot of this confusion will end with younger generations, women in particular, looking at this and saying “this doesn’t make any sense, and what is it you’re saying about my grandmother and great-grandmother anyway?” And, just as important I think, “What are you saying about my grandfather, my father, my brothers, and my sons?”

        • Henry says:

          Hi Shreen, interesting. I’m of the opinion that feminism – among other similar thought systems IS providing something of a replacement for organised religion in the UK.

          There are several ‘articles of faith’:

          a) women and men are exactly similar in most ways
          b) gender differences are mostly due to social conditioning
          c) women and men – released from this social conditioning, will want to do the same jobs etc.

          ..to name just a few. There are many, many more of these. When I question any of them, I raise a lot of hackles. And I’m sorry to spoil everybody’s fun, but there is no good evidence for ANY of them. You are just supposed to accept them – on pain of excommunication, as perhaps QRG has found.

          In fact if you look at different species, the majority (I think) have separate roles for men and women. We have different hormones, which are known to motivate people differently. There are also

          This doesn’t mean I think women ought to live there lives one way or another. Absolutely not. But it does mean that if we stopped shouting and thought rationally for 5 minutes, much of the intellectual basis of feminism evaporates. And the pressures to conform to these unfounded ideas does resemble religious communities

          (annoyed with myself for getting to this article so late)

          • Jonathan says:

            Re your ‘articles of faith’:

            a) women and men are exactly similar in most ways
            b) gender differences are mostly due to social conditioning
            c) women and men, released from this social conditioning, will want to do the same jobs etc

            I think these are formulated incorrectly. The point isn’t that everyone (incl. women and men) is exactly similar, but that human difference cannot be defined discretely according to binary sex.

            Therefore I’d phrase the articles like this:

            a) women and men are show a human propensity to gender diversity
            b) human gender differences are restricted by social gender restrictions
            c) women and men, released from these social gender restrictions, will be able to do whatever they want

          • Jonathan says:

            damn; “restricted by … restrictions” wasn’t very well formulated either was it 😳

          • shreen says:

            I go on and on about the use of logic and rational, down to earth thinking when it comes to social issues, so I understand what you’re saying. I’ve had arguments with women over c). I left the Women’s Engineering Society (a UK professional society) over it – I refused to continue being part of a group that was literally striving for 50/50 representation. When I challenged them at a conference, the impression I got was that they (or their gender “expert”) couldn’t understand why what they were aiming for wasn’t rational nor realistic.

            You’d think intelligent people would know better than to think that complete removal of social conditioning would result in 50/50 representation, and especially appointed STEM gender expert.

            Of the people who understand critical thought regarding gender issues (as opposed to set-in-stone religious dogma), they’re often more open, more welcoming of dissenting viewpoints in general, more rational and down-to-earth, and have plenty of men in their lives so have a good balance of perspectives to drawn upon.

            Of course I’m not saying I’m always 100% right myself, sometimes I get things wrong too. But as I’ve said in another comment here, my activism has a strong sense of urgency. The difference between truth and bullshit is sometimes life or death, so my focus is not really this sort of self-help, identity politics, solidarity building stuff and so I don’t feel offended by dissenting views – in fact, dissent sometimes brings the truth you don’t want to hear. I make effort to ensure my ego doesn’t get in the way of difficult issues and painful truths, because ultimately, I’m not in this for myself. I get involved in activism because I want to solve problems. Truth and accuracy is therefore critical, not an afterthought.

            There is something to be said for Google here: one of the most successful companies around and a very interesting work ethos re: dissenting viewpoints and how that process can make our work more robust (I can’t find the article I read this in, sorry, probably Wired UK). And then there’s the idea of being wrong more often:


            It would be nice if this existed more, then the particular failings of certain feminist camps could be challenged without such a ridiculous backlash or worse, the silent treatment.


            “I like to think that a lot of this confusion will end with younger generations, women in particular, looking at this and saying “this doesn’t make any sense, and what is it you’re saying about my grandmother and great-grandmother anyway?”

            Hell yes! 🙂

          • shreen says:

            Oh man please tell me that stupidly long comment I made in response to Henry went through? I’m melting and it’ll take me a week to remember what I said.

          • Henry says:

            Jonathan: I certainly didn’t formulate those points carefully, or at all fully, but they probably vary depending on who is speaking, anyway. I do think my point c) is accurate, though

            Amongst other things you’ve correctly refined it to be talking about humans rather than the whole animal kingdom. This is interesting, as claiming that humans are uniquely special wrt gender differences is tenuous in itself (I don’t know where this is fleshed out in feminist literature)

            All species I can think of, especially primates, display big differences between the sexes in roles and behaviour. To claim that we quite different seems to place another burden of proof on the feminist position. Or at least it raises doubts, to my mind.

            I thought the jury was still out on the relative weights of nature vs nurture in psychology. Some reasons for this include the brushes with politics (one of which we’re talking about), and also the difficulty of constructing good experiments to measure such things. Psychologists sometimes seem to struggle with creating good experiments that do more than add vague statistical support to a possible theory. And whoever told us about ‘lies, damned lies and statistics’ was right

            Shreen: what you say about dissenting viewpoints is true in so many ways – not least the number of great achievements that come from groups of individuals who aren’t getting on at all. My personal feeling is that the debate about gender equality has been sidetracked by other political concerns.

        • wtfwtf13 says:


      • Thanks Dean, brilliant comment.

        Regarding what feminism is and isn’t, I’m reading Nina Power’s One Dimensional Woman this week which I think is gloriously brilliant in all sorts of ways (even when she’s wrong she’s interestingly wrong).

        She points out that when feminist ideals and dogma can be summoned like a genie to justify everything from rampant consumerism to the Palin candidacy to imperialist wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, then it’s become pretty much useless as a meaningful term.

        • redpesto says:

          Ally Fogg:

          [Nina Power] points out that when feminist ideals and dogma can be summoned like a genie to justify everything from rampant consumerism to the Palin candidacy to imperialist wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, then it’s become pretty much useless as a meaningful term.

          And the best part of it is, you can claim that the same activity – let’s say, serving in the military, dressing ‘like a slut’, or even baking cupcakes – is both femnist and anti-feminist at the same time! Only a misogynist would argue with that!

          PS: Sorry, Ally, but I’ve seen this happen too many times to let it pass (see also Nina Power’s linkage between vegetarianism and feminism). Left-wingers can usually distinguish between a social democrat, a socialist and a ‘tankie’: it isn’t clear whether some feminists are able to do the equivalent even now.

          • Interesting review of One Dimensional Woman by HarpyMarx here:


          • Hi redpesto. The cupcake ‘debate’ is actually a perfect illustration of Nina Power’s argument. In fact she makes the precise same point with regard to “dressing like a slut.”

            Her article on vegetarianism and feminism was hilarious. She was pretty blatantly trolling (or at least being deliberately provocative) and admitted as much in the comments beneath. Incidentally, her comments on that thread are hilarious, and a good illustration of why I really rate her.


            That review just makes me agree with NP all the more. I don’t think NP is patronising, although she is an academic and doesn’t shy away from difficult concepts. She is, though, very disparaging of superficial, ideology-lite feminism. Eg:

            “Power really doesn’t have a high opinion of feminism rather she disparages from the sidelines on those air-headed women “want shoes and chocolate and handbags and babies and curling tongs washed down with a large glass of wine”…”

            Exactly. She doesn’t have a high opinion of feminism, particularly not of the Jessica Valenti / Jezebel / Vagenda ‘consumer feminism’ ilk. A large part of the book is devoted to tearing it to shreds. Maybe she touched a nerve with HarpyMarx.

            “And the reason being we have been lied and duped by “advertising, magazines and media’. Power concludes that for feminism to be truly transformative “it needs to shake of it imperialist and consumerist sheen”.

            That’s just wrong, the reviewer obviously wasn’t paying attention, because at one point NP clearly explains that she believes prevailing ideology is constructed from material world and economics rather than the propaganda model.

          • Dean Esmay says:

            “Language is in itself phallocentric and, as a result, a tool of patriarchy.” –Lucy Fenner

            Is it cruel that I think this is the most deliciously wonderful sentence ever written on the internet?

        • Dean Esmay says:

          “She points out that when feminist ideals and dogma can be summoned like a genie to justify everything from rampant consumerism to the Palin candidacy to imperialist wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, then it’s become pretty much useless as a meaningful term.”

          At minimum it points to one of my new favorite internet memes, known as “Poe’s Law.” Google it, it’s worth 60 seconds of your time.

          • Jonathan says:

            I just Googled Poe’s Law and laughed out loud. Very much in the “it’s funny because it’s true” category.

  3. Well I think when it comes to gender and power, it is possible to have a coherent position with regards to feminism. it is a political dogma and you can have an opinion on it!

    and as far as I am concerned slutwalks and object are the same thing with practically identical messages – men are nasty potential rapists and women are innocent victims.

    • Yeah, I know, we’ve been here before and we disagree. That’s cool.

      • well yes and no. I don’t think I’d bother writing if I didn’t think my words could persuade someone. Isn’t it the same for you?

        I will keep trying to convince you you’re wrong! I bet you do with me too.

        • Well maybe, a little, but by and large I assume someone as intelligent and well-informed as you is going to be pretty stubborn in her beliefs.

          Debating stuff with someone like you is as much aboutt challenging and clarifying my own beliefs as challenging yours, and that is no less (maybe more) important.

          • Dean Esmay says:

            “Debating stuff with someone like you is as much aboutt challenging and clarifying my own beliefs as challenging yours, and that is no less (maybe more) important.”

            Need a “like” button for that. 😉

  4. redpesto says:

    Okay, I’m feeling a bit ‘Daddy or Chips?’ in this argument, but frankly the comments below Fogg’s NS piece are a prime example of the pissing contest that makes me want to lock a whole bunch of feminists and MRA-types in a basement and throw away the key. The latter make it all too easy for the former to ignore any criticism of feminism: mine, QRG’s, Ally’s, Benatar’s, anybody’s. That’s pretty much the standard operating procedure for what Moore did in her Guardian piece last week (see also the equally dismissive ‘Vagenda’ piece in the NS).

    As for Fogg’s article, I liked it, and at least he lets the reader get a sense of what the book is about (the ‘Harry’s Hoops’ thing about having to endlessly clarify what you’re not saying about feminism may be, on one level, a result of feminists dishing out a kicking to conveniently straw anti-feminist men instead of engaging with more pertinent criticism). Me, I don’t have the same level of patience for Bindel’s writing these days as he does. Fogg gets a kicking because he’s male and therefore an adversary. QRG gets a kicking because she’s an apostate – and if feminism does act like a religion at times, being an apostate is far, far worse.

    That said, one sentence of Fogg’s that sums things up is this: ‘There is often resistance from some feminists to the suggestion that male-specific gender issues even exist.’ And the sad thing is that it keeps happening, to the extent that one thinks it’s almost necessary for (some) feminists to do that rather than it being down to some correctible blind spot or a mistake (the fact that radical feminists are still trying to exclude trans women from feminist events is equally revealing of radical feminism as an ideology). Maybe that’s why most of the ‘feminist Twitterati’ have ignored the article: they still can’t credit that the issues exist, that feminism may not have all the answers (and it fact might even be asking the wrong questions), and that men may be far more clued-up than they give them credit for. It’s just easier to rely on an adversarial deathmatch where one side thinks it has all the weapons and the other side none they’re allowed to use.

    • typhonblue says:

      “That said, one sentence of Fogg’s that sums things up is this: ‘There is often resistance from some feminists to the suggestion that male-specific gender issues even exist.’ ”

      Have you considered that the anger of the MRM is going to proportionate to the resistance they encounter towards recognizing male-specific gender issues?

      • Dean Esmay says:

        Typhon: I suspect you’re spot on there. Although there is undoubtedly a segment of the men’s rights movement that has a shrieking hatred of women due to bad relationships with their mothers, abuse by women, etc. I doubt they’re any more a percentage than feminists who became feminists purely because of “daddy issues” and whatnot.

        Beyond that small percentage, there’s no doubting that some anger comes from the “I have no voice but I must scream”: silenced, marginalized, patronized, treated with contempt, ignored, ostracized, at some point it’s hard not to lash out in rage at a world that doesn’t care.

        I’d be happier with some MRMs if they’d recognize that the language they use sometimes does more harm than good though.

      • shreen says:

        I’ve had men tell me they prefer to side with less-than rational MRAs (even though they can sense the anger expressed by them isn’t productive) because they’ve never encountered a feminist who was willing to listen to the male perspective.

        Of course these men’s experiences are limited as are everyone’s, and I myself have met one or two who make a point of explicitly thinking and writing about the male experience alongside the female one.

        But, err….one or two?! That’s awful. Usually the response to male commenters (who aren’t trolling) is “yeah yeah, we accept that point, you can talk about men’s issues but please do so in your own space”. I think listening to both gender’s voices in the same space makes our arguments, discussions, debates, analysis and solutions more robust. After all, we’re all living on the same rock.

        I know women will tend towards focusing on women’s rights and welfare, and men on men’s, but I find that approach short-sighted because gender problems share the same roots. Plus it frames everything as a battle rather than a cooperative task. We kinda have to go against our natural tendancies to only view movements through our own experiences and be as rational as possible.

        Was reading this yesterday and it touches on this topic a little:

        • Dean Esmay says:

          Shreen: This is something I have told GirlWritesWhat, and I’ll tell it to you, Quiet Riot Girl, TyphonBlue, and any other female who will listen: the following statement is problematic and it is devastating until it is realized:

          I know women will tend towards focusing on women’s rights and welfare, and men on men’s, but…

          Stop. No. Here’s how it works, and I believe this is important because it is not based solely on culture:

          Women will tend towards focusing on women’s rights and welfare, AND SO WILL MEN. Full stop.

          If you believe there is any truth in evolutionary psychology (and I tend to think there’s a lot), the reasons for this are manifold, but what it boils down to is that the “women and children first” mentality is not entirely culture, it’s innate to the species and for it to go any other way requires a concentrated effort of rationality (and/or conscious channeling of emotion).

          Biology and culture are not destiny but if you do not see this as the starting base you are unlikely to change anything.

          Men are not supposed to look after their own interests first. They’re supposed to look after women’s interests first. When men fail, they view themselves as failures. When they complain of unfairness, they are viewed as whiners and losers. Furthermore, males lack much of any instinctive own-group preference for other males, except in certain specific environments (like sports teams, where they also instinctively view other males as teams of rivals). They overwhelmingly instinctively look to female interests first, even in contexts where that doesn’t even make any damned sense.

          If we view this as damn near universal, then it means something very important, something I’ve repeatedly told GWW and now I’ll tell you and any other woman who will listen:

          Men literally cannot win this battle without you. Every single one of you females who cares about this carries more weight, has more punching power, than any ten men no matter how thoughtful, careful, rational, brave, or empathetic that man is.

          Every single one of you is a Mike Tyson, and the best most thoughtful and passionate man in the world on this issue is a 98 pound 12 year old boy whose voice still has not changed by comparison.

          If the men’s rights movement is going to get any headway. It is going to be women who are more important than anyone. Women’s natural instincts and/or empathy and compassion toward their fathers, grandfathers, uncles, brothers, and sons is going to have to be kicked into gear on these issues. If not, the cause is lost before it’s out the gate. It is only the rare male–usually one who’s pretty much lost everything and is like a wounded bull in the arena, already bleeding out his last–who will even begin to fight. It is only the rare man who will come to the defense of his fellow men when women are on the other side, even when by every rational standard it’s clear who actually needs the help.

          It is no longer fashionable to say so but if you look at the history of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s in the United States, without the staunch support of overwhelming numbers of white Americans, that movement would have failed. (America’s famed NAACP was founded and funded mostly by white people, a little bit of hidden history there but easily verified).

          You Shreen all by yourself have more influence on this than any ten of me.

          Plus frankly your very presence will tend to calm men down on this issue and make them act less like wounded animals.

          Women like you are so important it’s almost impossible to overestimate.

          • shreen says:

            I understand what you’re saying. The logic behind the statement of women focus on women’s issues and men on men’s issues, was the assumption that most people prefer to concentrate on things they’re familiar with and have experienced first hand (or near enough). I’ve never really questioned that assumption. I think there is some truth in what you say, even if we can’t really apply that psychology universally, it’s there, and it does happen enough to make my statement inaccurate.

            In any case I’m with you on female allies being critical to men’s rights. I feel a little lost as to how exactly to support men’s rights though. Feminist spaces clearly aren’t open to discussing these issues, so any advice is most definitely welcome.

          • Dean Esmay says:

            Shreen: Sometimes I go off and write too much when I get emotional. I do not believe your statement to be inaccurate. I believe the statement is problematic, not incorrect per se.

            It’s terribly unfair to expect anyone to always be in the forefront. But women who are willing to take a leadership role should be strongly encouraged because they’re desperately needed. And to those who are not comfortable in that sort of role, they can still act in a facilitating role: to just be willing to quietly speak and say “I think we need to hear and respect this perspective.”

            It’s probably also wise to talk less “against feminism” and instead be “for men as well as women.”

            I think work can also be done to hold women more accountable, and to note that it’s sexist toward women to refuse to do so. For example, on the female circumcision issue: who performs most of those female circumcisions? Usually a midwife or some female family member. At some point they have to be called to task for that, not shamed for it necessarily but someone needs to state to just plain NOTICE who’s performing most of these operations and to say “we need to tell these women to stop doing this.”

            Or in the horrid matter of honor killings of women, which I know you’ve written about: in an amazing book written in the late 1990s, “When She Was Bad: Violent Women and the Myth of Innocence,” Patricia Pearson noted a rather startling study of honor killings in Palestine: the majority of them were done AT THE BEHEST OF women; in other words, most of the time when a man committed an honor killing of a woman, he was told by mother, his wife, his sister(s) and/or his aunt(s) that he should do it. The study was only in Palestine, but I find it difficult to believe that it’s unique to that region. This does not make male perpetrators innocent, but it adds a layer of complexity to the honor killing issue. Someone needs to be willing to talk about women’s role in that phenomenon. And I think only a woman’s voice can do that.

            In the Western/developed world, where the issues are more subtle, just having a woman willing to say, quietly or otherwise, “I think we need to hear the men’s perspective, and to respectfully consider it” can make a world of difference. I think women can also subtly (or not-so-subtly) discourage men’s chivalric impulses in areas where that isn’t a positive thing; men’s rights advocates often face contempt and dismissal from their fellow men, and I think a woman can do more than a man in telling men who are contemptuous of their brothers that they should stop doing this. More women to just say “it’s sexist towards me as a woman to suggest that women are always right.”

            I don’t want to overstate your obligations. You have no obligation here at all. But I think you should know your voice on this is more powerful than mine in many ways just because you are a woman. And I think you can do a lot by being willing to hold women accountable (isn’t that what feminism *should* be anyway?), to discourage feminist men from being dismissive of their brothers, and to be willing to say, quietly or otherwise, “I want to hear this perspective and I think we should listen to it and not dismiss it.”

            And I think, just recognize it: just being female and willing to do this makes you powerful. Ten words from you are worth a thousand from me on these issues. Does that make sense?

          • typhonblue says:

            shreen, you could start here:


            That’s for women interested in men’s rights.

            There’s also the men’s rights reddit proper, but be warned. It’s a cross-roads, which means that there is literally every type of person interested in men’s rights represented.


          • paul says:

            Hi Dean, you mention “evolutionary psychology” and I just wanted to mention a good book on the subject worth reckoning with–Roger Lancaster’s The Trouble with Nature. My own feeling, in line with that approach, is that we really need to to be moving away from reified Gender now, quite decisively. in our twenty-first century, I honestly cannot view it as anything other than a prison for all.

            Also, I kinda see things the other way round. I think men could be exceptionally powerful in all of this, if more of us stepped up to the plate. One example: someone I met once who had been in a sort of inner circle in Hollywood told me that if the American public knew just how many of their beloved Hollywood (male) heartthrobs were actively bisexual it would cause some kind of cultural revolution–or at least collective national breakdown…

          • Dean Esmay says:

            TyphonBlue: My only quibble with you (and it’s a quibble) is that Reddit, whatever its benefits, is sort of a closed community. That is, if you don’t already know what Reddit is or aren’t inclined to want to be part of Reddit, then people don’t see your voice. I think blogs are usually a better place (and I’m glad you have one of those by the way).

  5. redpesto says:

    Dean Esmay: and, worst of all, either or both parties will change what they mean by the word right in mid-argument without even noticing that they’ve done so.

    [Grumpy] Sounds like every gender thread on the Guardian I can think of…and that’s just ‘above the line’[/Grumpy]

  6. I agree in principle that just hating on feminism is not always the best thing to do. But, I don’t think ANY feminists have an adequate or even remotely compassionate approach to gender issues which affect men as well as/instead of women.

    all the shit for example about the recession hitting women harder that feminists have been spouting – er. who do women live with, who often helps support women and children to some degree? Men? OH yes.

  7. @allyfogg – re: Cath Elliott. I did not condone the abuse she got online BUT and it is a big BUT the hatred she expresses towards men on a daily basis is vile and she was bound to get some push back. e.g. she cheered when Sebastian Horsley died. why? Because he was a client of sex workers.


  8. redpesto says:

    @QRG: From the HarpyMarx review of One Dimensional Woman:

    This type of narrative being put forward reminds of the 1980s radical feminism which emphasised the need for feminism to engage in certain ways, there was this creeping finger wagging morality that condemned women,

    Exactly., right down to the obsession with porn and other women’s sexual choices. Some fuckers never learn. (And Harpymarx is going to have a struggle getting her socialist feminism heard above the din vanguardist radical feminists keep making.)

    • yep. I don’t think even many ‘socialist feminists’ or ‘Marxist feminists’ really care about class and economic inequality as much as you’d expect. It’s just another feminist label. Like you said earlier they cant/don’t really distinguish between different strands of feminism. Suzanne Moore is an example – she veers from radfem/Marxist feminism/liberal feminist rhetoric all the time.

      • Well I just deeply disagree with HarpyMarx that there’s anything reminiscent of 80s radfems in Nina Power. She’s broadly an anarcho-communist-feminist, And I also disagree with the suggestion that NP wags a finger over behaviour and morality. She doesn’t. She wags a finger at those who claim cheap neoliberal consumerism to be a feminist act, that’s different. She studiously avoids moralising over any behaviour.

        And interestingly in the light of the above, I’d say if anything it is not that she doesn’t care much about class and economic inequality, it’s more like she doesn’t care much about feminism! Seriously, there is very little in the book that doesn’t also apply to men. It’s basically a book about the human condition in the age of neoliberal capitalism and consumerism, written from the (albeit female/feminist) POV of a disciple of Alain Badiou. Maybe the best line in the book is “the personal is no longer political. It is entirely economic.”

        All I’d say is don’t trust a feminist review, because it is as much as anything an attack on feminism, as currently understood. I’d expect most feminists would have hated it.

        Don’t take my word for it either. I’d recommend a read just for the intellectual exercise, whether or not you’re convinced by her arguments.

    • More detail below, but must point out that NP is not anti-porn. She’s heavily critical of the MacKinnon / Dworkin line, and writes brilliantly (v funny) about vintage porn. Simplistically, she seems to think modern mainstream / internet porn is just banal and boring and formulaic. She’d like to see more porn that reflects the laughter and silliness and human diversity of sex. Pretty much agree with her on that.

  9. Ladypants says:

    QRG — I think it’s pretty intellectually dishonest to talk about “the irony of feminists punishing women for thinking for themselves and being independent!” when that’s not at all what you’re being “punished” (uh, criticized) for. The criticisms against the statement that feminism is based on the hatred of men have nothing to do with you being “independent” or “thinking for yourself”. It’s that it’s just extraordinarily and offensively an incorrect and inflammatory statement. It’s just not honest to make a statement saying feminists are a hate group, and then deflect any criticism of it by saying that you’re just being “independent” and therefore feminists who criticize you must hate independent women. It’s quite remeniscent of the idea that any criticism of a stupid or incorrect statement means that the criticizer must hate free speech.

    • Dean Esmay says:

      I don’t think saying “feminism is based on misandry” and “feminism is a hate group” are the same thing. And while some might call that hairsplitting, I really don’t think it is. First off, because as many feminists are quick to point out, there is no one group you can look at and say “there are the feminists.”

      And, while I don’t think all feminists are misandrists, I do think there is an undercurrent of misandry in a lot of feminism, and it’s something I’ve lived and experienced many times in my life. I don’t think my lived experiences deserve to be dismissed any more than yours do. I think that there is an unquestioned presumption in so much feminism is this:

      Women have been put under the boot of male oppression for tens of thousands of years, in society after society, for endless centuries, men always on top, women always on bottom, case closed.

      And this view, though it frequently goes unquestioned, is inherently misandric I think. But–and here is where I would challenge QRG and GWW–I think it’s MISOGYNIST TOO. It ignores the enormous power, privileges, and rights that women have always had, and the crushing duties and responsibilities that men usually had to go along with their supposed (often highly limited) authority. It also looks at society through a lens of the gender of who’s most visibly on top, without bothering to look at who’s at the bottom too.

      I often think of my grandmother, a powerful self-possessed woman, and very liberal in most things. She thought feminists were right about a lot of things–and just plain crazy on a lot of others. I think of her mother, my great-grandmother, born in the late 1800s; also a powerful self-possessed woman, who had no interest in or patience with feminism either; some of it she thought perfectly sensible and some of it bloody crazy.

      Neither of them felt “oppressed” as women. My great-grandmother, in particular, probably would have lit into you like crazy for so much as suggesting she was oppressed. And she damn well was no traditionalist or conservative, she had been divorced and had a string of romances with men and (I’m pretty sure) a lifelong lesbian relationship as well. Women as an oppressed class of people is not something I think she ever, ever related to, nor do I think any amount of “consciousness raising’ would have changed her mind: this woman knew who she was, and she expected certain things out of men and out of women, and any man (or boy) who didn’t know his proper place was sure to feel the lash of her tongue (or possibly her hand). EVERYBODY in the family, male and female alike, was a little afraid of her.

      I think we should stop insisting that the women of history were merely pitiful victims. That view does no kindness to the women of history, nor to the men of history. Injustice? That’s a different question; there was always a lot of that to go around.

      • Ladypants says:

        Hair splitting or not, Dean, the point was that she is not being criticized because she is expressing independent thought. She is being criticized because, not only is the idea that feminists hate men most decidedly not orginal or independent or “against the grain”, but it’s also incorrect and insulting.

  10. […] I’m taking part in a fascinating discussion of this with Shreen Ayob, Ally Fogg, and Quiet Riot Girl (the academic with a PhD in women’s studies who’s been ostracized for her criticisms of feminism). Since I probably won’t be writing much here today, you might want to join us over there. […]

  11. Ha… just been scouting around and found this v.funny piece about the Nina Power / Jessica Valenti spat. Go see. http://orderofthegash.wordpress.com/2010/01/24/drunkblogging-fudge-off-jessica-valenti/

    • redpesto says:

      @AllyFogg: I had that sense of ‘RAARRRGHHHH! I created Feministe! Behold my internet statporn!’ from Valenti’s response as well, I don’t have a horse in that particular race. (I don’t think it’s so much ‘consumer feminism’ as an over-reliance on pop culture rather than politics/economics…Buffy rather than Buffett, as it were)

      As for Nina Power – Dean Esmay’s comment about Poe’s Law applies (the trope of the hardcore vegan/radical/separatist/political lesbian feminist has its context in Carole J Adams’ view that ‘Pork is violence against women,’ so playing around with it it is bound to be missed by CiF readers who already have to put up with writers like Bindel and Bidisha. Maybe I’ll give her work another look, but the link in HarpyMarx’s review to Lynne Segal’s comment piece ‘Feminism did not fail’ says a lot about the shortcomings of contemporary feminist analysis, not least the apparent inability to learn from its own history in its haste to argue that ‘women are now more oppressed than ever.’

      • Dean Esmay says:

        “Language is in itself phallocentric and, as a result, a tool of patriarchy.” –Lucy Fenner

        Help me I can’t stop myself, it’s too good for words. Quote of the year mate, quote of the year. Poe’s Law indeed!

        • redpesto says:

          But she’s using the same phallocentric language to say that language is a phallocentric and tool of the patriarchy! Help! Where is the unique language of women that would enable them to escape patriarchal oppression? (Clue: it’s not French…or indeed any other language that actually exists.)

          • Dean Esmay says:

            In a (somewhat) more serious vein, there does exist a (written) language that was solely the province of women for centuries in China–called Nushu script. I am also positive I learnt some years ago about an African tribe which also had a verbal language that women taught exclusively to their daughters and boys were not allowed to learn it. Why do I suspect, however, that rare things like this, as interesting as they are, do not consist of nothing “sexism-free” ideas of love and compassion and liberation?

  12. redpesto says:

    @AllyFogg: to pick up on your comment above (The cupcake ‘debate’ is actually a perfect illustration of Nina Power’s argument. In fact she makes the precise same point with regard to “dressing like a slut.” ). The issue isn’t that ‘consumer feminism’ is less important than either ‘structural analysis’ (i.e. thinking about ‘grown-up’ stuff) or ‘real feminism’ (i.e. protesting about ‘grown-up’ stuff). It’s that it is the opinion of the feminist that makes an activity feminist/anti-feminist/whatever, for that particular feminist, not the activity itself. To go all post-structuralist about it, it’s the reader that creates the meaning, not the author, and the text/sign/activity is open to many different readings.

    However, rather than acknowledge this, it’s either ignored in the hope no-one notices or that ‘sisterhood’; can gloss over the contradiction, or it’s as though some feminists believe in the literal power and meaning of the word – as long as it’s their understanding of what that meaning and power is – so ‘heretics’ must be burned at the stake or ostracised.

  13. paul says:

    Sorry, that should be “collective nervous breakdown” …

    • … which is the term Mark Simpson used to describe America’s reaction to the ‘metrosexual revolution’. Yes men are reluctant to give up the status of being ‘a man’. But women cling onto being ‘women’ too. However the revolution is taking place gender is blurring and dissolving. we are just finding it hard to deal with.

  14. shreen says:

    Dean – I get that. That’s sort of my approach currently, but being a lone voice means I get ignored or ridiculed or accused of trolling (I guess this is the reaction to men with similar opinions too!).

    typhonblue – thanks for those links, will have a look.

    paul – spill the beans!

  15. paul says:

    Hi shreen–no beans to spill alas! But perhaps Hollywood has always been that way, a place where wealth, privacy, and the daily creation of fantasy seem especially conducive to unconventional pleasure-seeking. The thing is, the vast majority of Americans still don’t know what all those heartthrobs of the *50s* were getting up to! Dean, Clift, Brando, Hudson, Mineo, Grant, Gielgud, Redgrave, Burton, Olivier… All apparently bi to varying degrees. All this guy was saying was that this is still part of the nature of the place, of that world.

    I can see why individual comings-out would be nervous-making for a Hollywood actor, so the only solution is … they need to all come out at once! Make a joint statement, just like they might all sign a political petition of some kind. That would be about as awesome as a press conference could get!

  16. […] One needs only look at the militant feminists which have dominated the web recently, practically destroying and ripping apart all they disagree with with a sort of uninhibited hate for all “misogynists”.  Online witch hunts among this group have become normal. […]

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