No More Sex War: The Failures Of Feminism by Neil Lyndon ( @neillyndon )

Posted: April 7, 2015 in Elly Tams, Feminism, Identity, misandry
Tags: , ,

Feminism-these-days

Neil Lyndon is a brave man. Some might say he’s ‘foolish’; others might think he’s ‘wrong’. But whatever your views, it would be difficult to deny his courage. For over twenty years he’s been publicly questioning, challenging, and countering feminist dogma at some personal cost, and with very little support. No matter how much we are told the media is ‘sexist’ and dominated by ‘boys clubs’ or ‘laddism’, it is very difficult to find a single mainstream journalist who directly and consistently criticises ‘the sisterhood’. As an often lone voice in the wilderness, Lyndon is to be admired. In 2014 he self-published a collection of his writings since 1990: Sexual Impolitics: Heresies On Sex, Gender and Feminism. This kindle book is said to contain ‘the full unexpurgated, uncensored text’ of his 1992 publication: No More Sex War: The Failures Of Feminism. I can well imagine the extent to which editors in the early 90s might have altered and sanitised Lyndon’s original work in order to make it ‘safe’ for general consumption. But, having bought a hardback copy of No More Sex War in a second hand bookshop a couple of years ago, I thought I’d read it how it was first unleashed on the unsuspecting, unsympathetic world back in 1992.

My first observation is about how readable and clearly expressed the book is. As someone who has more recently attempted to write critically about feminism and to point out its flaws and failings, I know it is not easy to sum up exactly what it is that’s wrong with such an influential and seemingly ‘common sense’ way of looking at the world. I also know from my own experiences, that the ‘feminist critic’ has to be capable, rigorous and eloquent, because any weakness in argument will be pounced on and used to dismiss and belittle their positions. So it is a major strength of No More Sex War that it is accessible, always backed up by evidence and examples, and maintains clarity and reason throughout. If feminists and feminist allies have still ignored, dismissed or treated Lyndon’s book with contempt (which I believe they have) this is through no fault of the author. It is most likely that they just didn’t want to hear the valid and important points he makes.

fishbicycle

Lyndon begins by setting out his stall, and explaining why he cannot subscribe to a dogma which claims women and only women suffer disadvantage and discrimination in our society (the book mainly refers to western capitalist society). He cites examples some of you will be familiar with, such as the fact men do not have equal custody rights over their children as women, men have no say in whether or not a woman they’ve conceived with has an abortion, and men have little or, as was the case at the time the book was written, no paternity leave when their children are born. Therefore, Lyndon argues:

‘If any disadvantages apply to all men, if any individual man is denied a right by reason of his gender which is afforded to every individual woman, then it must follow that ours is not a society which is exclusively devised to advance and protect advantages for men over women. It is not a patriarchy’ (Lyndon 1992:9).

This simple statement, that seems so obvious and true, could put an end to the tiresome ‘oppression olympics’ currently being played out across the globe (including or predominantly online). If anyone would take heed, that is. For there’s a sadness that runs through No More Sex War, for me as a reader, and for the author, which stems from the fact that no amount of reasoned argument and critical thinking can quell the tide of feminism’s ‘righteous’ anger, prejudice and sometimes bile. It couldn’t in 1992 and it can’t now.  But that doesn’t make this treatise any less valuable. One of the strengths of the work is how fearlessly Lyndon looks feminism directly in the eye, asks it questions and analyses feminist viewpoints, in prominent feminists’ own words. Critics of the dogma constantly get accused of misunderstanding or misinterpreting feminist beliefs and stances. But Lyndon does no such thing. Rather he painstakingly, patiently dissects feminist texts, from serious tomes such as Greer’s The Female Eunuch and Firestones’ The Dialectic of Sex to throwaway remarks and interview responses in the mainstream media. It makes for grim reading at times. Some choice examples of ‘casual misandry’ Lyndon cites include:

Anna Raeburn, agony aunt: ‘I regard men as a pleasant pastime but no more dependable than the British weather’
Germaine Greer, author: ‘It always amazes me that women don’t understand how much men hate them’
Jane Mcloughlin, author: ‘We’ll wear you [men] like alligator handbags’.
Lapel badge: ‘the more men I meet the more I like my dog’

And of course, I hardly need to tell many of you that a reason No More Sex War is still relevant in the 21st century social media age, is that social media campaigns such as ‘Everydaysexism’ dedicated to noting and exposing sexist remarks and actions, never includes examples of sexism against men.

feministNeil Lyndon writes from the point of view, not of a ‘retro’, ‘chauvinist’ ‘neanderthal’ man who dislikes feminism because it challenges his power and dominance over women. Rather he tells a moving and interesting story of being a young, left/liberal hopeful man in the 1970s, ready for and keen on ‘liberation’ of men and women. But twenty years on when he wrote the book, he concluded disappointedly that he and the ‘radicals’ of his post-war ‘baby boomer’ generation had not quite delivered the new world they were hoping to create. In places I think he can be a bit heavy handed in his damning critique of the politics he encountered in the 70s and 80s,  as it was influenced by Marx and Freud in particular. But it is fascinating for me, a small child of Marxist/Freudian/Feminist parents in the 70s, to hear one person’s perspective on that period. In particular Lyndon astutely examines key socio-economic changes of the post-war era. He shows that feminists not only often take credit for developments they had no role in bringing about (such as women entering the workforce and the invention of the contraceptive pill) but that in many cases feminism reacted against social change and harked back to previous times when men and women had more ‘traditional’ roles. Because if there’s no Great Dark Patriarch anymore then there’s no target for most of feminism’s wrath.

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I’m posting this review later than promised, and meant it to coincide with a review of the same book (or rather the new Kindle edition) by Sarah Brown at Harry’s Place. In it she writes:

‘As I began to read No More Sex War, I was reminded of the arguments used by some counter-jihadists. Their implacable hostility to Islam arises (in part) because they only accept the most austere interpretations as truly Islamic. The book opens with an assurance that he fully supports the advances women have made over the last hundred years or so, but goes on to describe feminism as a form of ‘totalitarian intolerance’ comparable to Nazism or Stalinism. This suggests a ‘no true feminist’ fallacy is at work here – liberal feminists aren’t really on his radar.’

I don’t think this is true. I think Lyndon was open to a ‘liberal feminism’, when he was a young, politicised man in the 1970s. For me No More Sex War reads as a disappointed realisation that feminism is not what he and many others hoped it was and would be. Maybe I see it that way because I share his disappointment. In any case, he anticipates Sarah’s criticism in the original text:

‘feminism, they would probably say, has developed so far and has taken so many different but connected forms that it cannot be discussed as if it was a single body of belief and attitude which can be reduced to three cardinal propositions’.

And I share Lyndon’s response to that common refrain amongst liberal feminists, who don’t want to be associated with the actions and words of their more ‘radical’ and ‘extremist’ sisters. He writes:

‘Despite the evasions of the contemporary sisters, there must be a connecting characteristic between all the various forms and styles of feminism, otherwise they would not be grouped together under that umbrella term and the word ‘feminism’ could have no meaning.’

He goes on to identify that connecting characteristic  as ‘ the belief that women share interests which are distinct from men’s’,  that ‘those interests can best be advanced by women acting collectively’ and that ‘women’s particular interests are and always have been at odds with the interests of men’.

If, like Lyndon, and, better late than never, like me, you think that men and women’s interests (and the interests of people who eschew the binary altogether) are not at odds, then I fail to see how feminism has anything to offer you. No More Sex War is not exactly an optimistic book, but twenty years after it was first published, thanks in no small part to pioneers such as Lyndon, I think we can allow ourselves a little bit of hope.

Comments
  1. Andrew says:

    It seems to me somewhat perverse to argue at length, using reason and intellect, against Feminism. To me it seems like apples and oranges. Feminism is not a rigorously intellectual creed even at its best. At worst, it is a loose collection of tenets held by faith. But you cannot fight irrational beliefs with facts or with intellect. Anyone who reads Jessica Valenti on the case of the alleged rape victim “Jackie” can see that.

    • Elly Tams says:

      I know. but we can’t ‘stoop to their level’ either so it’s a difficult one. I do think the reasoned argument may resonate with one or two ‘doubters’ on the sidelines as well.

    • Henry says:

      Well this is a very pertinent point.

      Those who disagree with feminism often try to argue cogently* with the claims (eg: the stated belief in “equality” vs the actual behaviour and beliefs of feminists) and find themselves “swordfighting the fart” as Karen Straughan puts it – arguing against an opponent who has no respect for logic or evidence … or anything except getting their way, however it happens.

      I do think we need to keep pointing out feminism’s endless self-contradictions – basically to show the dishonesty of the whole enterprise. People *eventually* find the contradictions hard to ignore – though it can take some time.

      To me this comes up when arguing with an individual feminist. There is a stage in the conversation where you put to them that eg: the pay-gap is mainly down to many choices MADE BY WOMEN.

      Eventually they’ll concede each individual point – but so grudgingly, and they make such an effort to forget it as soon as possible that they’re clearly making a concerted effort NOT to see the point.

      It’s at this stage that the personal has become the political – they’ve bent their lives slightly to serve a narrow, dubious political doctrine. Given how clearly dishonest politics is, one wonders how anyone can be such a fool as to make the personal political (to turn your life into a lie). But people do it again and again.

  2. Henry says:

    I do think the very scary and paranoia-inducing story of what happened to Neil Lyndon after he wrote this should be made known to everyone – though it could scare people from criticising feminism.

    Basically many, many people quietly worked together to try to completely dismantle his life – they’d have been quite happy to see him dead, I think.

    • Elly Tams says:

      Hi Henry!
      Yes I am a bit wary of focussing on the personal impact on people who put their head above the parapet to critique feminist dogma (me included) for the reason you say. But also whilst feminist women love to play the victim, they can throw it back in people’s faces who claim any personal suffering due to their expression of their non-feminist politics. as Lyndon suggested in his book, ‘the personal is political’ but only when it suits certain agendas/groups!

  3. Ginkgo says:

    “I don’t think this is true. I think Lyndon was open to a ‘liberal feminism’”

    Lyndon was open to liberal feminism. Feminists weren’t. That’s the problem. 3WF’s entire conceptual toolbox and gaggle of talking points is anti-liberal – the privilege narrative, the rigid enforcement of male gender norms, the whole lot.

  4. rawbradford says:

    Thanks for the review. Pretty much on the money.

  5. David Byron says:

    It’s odd I never read that book even though I was writing around the same time on the same topic to the same conclusion more or less, specifically that the concept of “sex war” was central to feminism. The concept of men and women as timeless opponents in a war. in fact i titled my introduction page on my website criticising feminism “Sex War”

    https://web.archive.org/web/20020327221658/http://members.tripod.com/feministhate/index.htm

    So I was wondering if the author mentioned what prompted that phrase in his title? For me it was the way that the Seneca Falls conference of 1848, the birthplace of American feminism, characterized the relationship between men and women as a war of wonderful women vs evil men, but more in general that as a hate movement feminism saw the war metaphor as the defining relationship between men and women.

    • Ginkgo says:

      “It’s odd I never read that book even though I was writing around the same time on the same topic to the same conclusion more or less, specifically that the concept of “sex war” was central to feminism. ”

      Mother Jones saw through this at the time:
      “Indeed, Mother Jones even argued that suffragists were naïve women who unwittingly acted as duplicitous agents of class warfare; she wrote in 1925 (after national suffrage had been achieved) that “the plutocrats have organized their women. They keep them busy with suffrage and prohibition and charity.”
      https://www.nwhm.org/education-resources/biography/biographies/mary-harris-mother-jones/

      “For me it was the way that the Seneca Falls conference of 1848, the birthplace of American feminism, characterized the relationship between men and women as a war of wonderful women vs evil men, ”

      Utterly Victorian, utterly Romantic. And lookee here; it’s no coincidence that 2WF flowered in the 70s, when in all areas of the culture you see Modernism being rejected and a idolization of anything medieval or pre-industrial, in exactly the same way that Romanticism was a rejection of the Enlightenment.

      And look at feminist argumentation – all Romance and no Enlightenment. Logic and reason are patriarchal oppression and spontaneity and subjectivity are what count.

  6. Jeff says:

    Re. the benefits of rational criticism of feminism, one fact often missed is that many people see and know that something is deeply wrong with feminism (only someone completely blinded by feminist propaganda could miss that), but haven’t observed well enough to crystallise that notion in their minds, or haven’t noted the facts that underlie that perception. It is such people who stand to benefit the most from rational and fact based criticism of feminism as it gives them the mental armour to resist propoganda and social pressure. It even gives them the resources to pass on their insights to others.

    • Henry says:

      Yes. Seeing an example (a young woman, a really amazing person) criticising feminism was what gave me the spur to start expressing this nagging feeling that had been bothering me – that feminism was one big confidence trick, that had made me doubt my own perceptions.

      And whenever I’m writing about these things online, I’m trying to find the most punchy, concise words & sentences: the fact that feminists are like any politician misusing fine words like “equality” to gain support, the cultish obstinacy of feminists – ignoring reason because they’re devoting themselves to the “cause” that has emotional power for them. Anyway you get the jist, lol: ammo for people fighting this quasi-religious nonsense

  7. […] No More Sex War: The Failures Of Feminism by Neil Lyndon ( @neillyndon ) […]

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