Thursday, March 8, 2012

Note to Anti-Feminists: Our Ideas and Words Mean Things

"It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle." -Sun Tzu, The Art of War

So, I know very little about photography.

That being said, it would be strange if I wrote blogpost after blogpost talking about how much photography sucks and how stupid photographers are, right? People would be like, "Wait a sec, what qualifies this lady to be able to say what is and isn't good photography?"

Feminism, though, is different.

Perhaps because it is coded "feminine" and therefore inferior in the US and in need of a good mansplainin', lots of people who know next to nothing about feminism love to talk about how stupid "the feminists" and feminism are. Oh yes, despite their ignorance, they have very cocksure, strong opinions about the superiority of their own knowledge about gender, feminism, and gender studies.

Indeed, in my critique of one anti-feminist guy's uninspired, sexist take on Valentine's Day, I observed:

"The biggest failing of so many anti-feminists isn't that they're assholes, which many of them indeed are, but that they so utterly fail at understanding feminism or what it is they're even objecting so strenuously to."

And, well, that very failing prevents such people from being able to even competently participate in debates and conversation about that which they so loathe.

I have a lot of admiration for those of you who waded into our pal Playful Walrus' (PW) Valentine's Day post to rebut his points. Unfortunately, ya'll got to experience first-hand how it seems to be his "thing" to write cover-his-ass, soundbite "gotcha" retorts, rather than serious engagements to people's critiques.

Which, you know, fine. But, to me, that writing style is a big cue that readers shouldn't expect much in the critical thinking department from the writer.

I strongly believe that people write the way they think, and that writing is a reflection of not only our thoughts, but our thinking processes. So, if dude writes in soundbites, it suggests to me that he may be thinking in soundbites as well. It suggests that the writer might possess an overly-simple view of the world, where nuance fails to exist and all arguments can easily be rebutted and talked out in 4-words or less.

Thusly does PW "respond" to his "hair-legged feminista" [sic?] critics. (Creative fella, isn't he? What next, is he going to call us "bra-burnt harpies" [sic]?).

He first notes, in a post entitled "Men and Women Are Different":

"Yes, men and women are different. 'Duh!' most people say, but you, too, can learn to be offended by such a statement if you read and listen to certain sources enough.

In his world of probably reading like one feminist blog every now and then, feminists and "certain sources" do practically nothing but get offended whenever people assert that "men and women are different." We don't read or write books about gender, we don't read and write blogs devoted almost entirely to gender studies, we don't rebut arguments about gender. Nope. Our big problem is that we just don't think hard enough about gender before getting all offended about stuff.

Clearly, PW is mixing up our approach to feminism with his.

See, my argument, if PW ever bothered to actually read it, ask about it, or try to understand it beyond bumper sticker-level-thinking is that, here let me put this in bold, men and women are not "opposites" and that, while some biological differences between male and female humans exist, these differences are often grossly exaggerated in a myriad of ways. Indeed, men and women are far more alike than they are different.

But watch how PW proves his contention that "men and women are different":

"Just about any sentient being, including two-year-old human beings, knows that men and women, girls and boys, are different."

Wow, BLAMMO! The entirety of feminism = totally destructed!

Here, PW does the bizarre logical feat I like to call argumentum ad toddlerum, a counter-productive strategy of literally comparing one's own argument to an argument a toddler would make. It's as though he personally hasn't given much thought or study into gender beyond what the average two-year-old has done, therefore he mistakenly thinks that anyone who disagrees with him about gender is dumber than a two-year-old.

We, unlike him, are apparently saying nonsensical things about gender that just don't exist in reality. Which brings me to another observation I made in my original post:

"You know, in my experience interacting with conservatives, many of them have a certain worldview regarding How The World Is that they insist is some sort of 'universally generalizable' truth for all people for all of history....

Any actual women, men, and relationships in the real world who deviate from this worldview- gay men, lesbians, trans* people, heterosexuals in egalitarian relationships, gender non-conformists- are dismissed as strange anomalies from reality, too few in number to count. Inauthentic. If one points out the existence of these 'deviations' from the conservative worldview, one is frequently accused of making these experiences up as part of a Marxist-Feminist plot against 'reality.' As though our very existences are not a part of reality."

PW demonstrates this principal well, cismansplaining:

"Human beings are male or female. People who can't handle reality angrily refer to this as 'gender binary'."


See, words mean things (keep that in mind).

And, notice how he can't even accurately articulate what these mysterious, un-named people mean when they "angrily" refer to the "gender binary." He probably doesn't even know why many people make a distinction between sex (biology) and gender (behavior). Which, you know, that's fine not to know. Ask questions. Get informed. But for him to outright dismiss and mock an idea he obviously knows nothing about while feeling all fracken intellectually superior about it? Gawd, that drives me up the wall about anti-feminists.

They think they've won some sort of major rhetorical battle when they knock down their own ignorant straw-depictions of feminist arguments. They don't even know that they don't know the arguments of their opponents.

It's as though he has seen some people use the phrase "gender binary," never bothered to inquire what was meant by it, and therefore outright dismisses it because it's too far beyond his toddler-esque "if it's a complicated idea that doesn't immediately jive with what I think is obvious, it must be wrong" view of reality. It's the Rush Limbaugh School of "Demolishing Feminism" that's interested more in "entertainment" (ie- attacking "others") than serious, critical thought.

He continues. Within his post where he insists that it's his ideological opponents who can't handle reality, he goes on, trying to eradicate complexity from reality (content note: transbigotry):

"[The Feminists] point to three groups of people: men who think they are women; women who think they are men; and people born with deformed or mixed up organs. The first two groups of people could have mental illnesses or physical problems. People in the third group definitely have physical problems. All three groups combined amount to a tiny percentage of the overall human population and do not negate that fact that for all practical purposes, human beings are male or female, any more than the fact that some people are missing a leg or two negates the fact that human beings are bipedal mammals."

Note the ignorant, inaccurate way he describes people with intersex conditions. They don't have Klinefelter syndrome, congenital adrenal hyperplasia, androgen insensitivity syndrome, or any one of another conditions that can affect a person's chromosomes, genitals, sex organs, and/or hormones. They have, according to Notable Expert On Gender Playful Walrus, "deformed or mixed up organs." (It's always all about the "organs" to these people, isn't it? Gawd. And they say we're the pervs.)

And, according to him, such people are mere strange anomalies from reality, too few in number to count. For "all practical purposes" intersex people don't actually exist because, like he says, "human beings are male or female." Those other people who don't neatly and obviously fit into one of those categories are just .... mumble mumble *quickly change the subject*

Note too the logically half-assed way he tries to dismiss and erase trans* people because they don't fit into his toddler worldview. Trans* people "could" have "mental illnesses or physical problems." So *something something* what. No, really. What? Okay, moving on. Whatever. No citation or further explanation necessary. *Wipes hands, satisfied with self for "taking care of" that issue too*

Like many people who don't write well, PW then predictably accuses his critics of having "problems with reading comprehension or a deliberate mischaracterization." That's always a fun, self-centered take on what's happening. As though, oh yes, it's not so much that his critics are concerned with sexism and his ignorant attacks on people, we just apparently don't read well and/or are out to "misrepresent" his precious arguments. Sure.

So, accordingly, he condescendingly lists some "relevant facts" for all of us illiterates. Like:

"1) words mean things"

Callback, BOOM! Indeed they do, my walrus friend. (Who, consequently, I don't find all that playful, actually).

He continues:

2) "most" does not mean 'all'
3) 'chances are' does not mean 'all always'
4) 'men tend to' does not mean 'all men always'
5) that men and women are different does not mean all men are the same in every way and all women are the same in every way'"

I simply love how these disclaimers are supposed to somehow redeem PW's Valentine's Day post. Like, we're going to be all, "Oh, well, he wasn't talking about ALL men and women, he was just making asinine, uninspired stereotypes about MOST men and women."

Sure. Like, dude can't just concede that it's kind of presumptuous to speak for and represent "most" men in the whole entire world? Really? Nothin' wrong with that? You sure? Okay.

And, since words mean things, let's remember this gem from his original piece:

"Men tend to be practical when it comes to money. You expect him to blow money on overpriced chocolates, flowers, jewelry, gifts, dinners in crowded restaurants, hotel rooms, etc."

Here, he is talking about a trait that men supposedly "tend" to display. He then uses "you" to addresses his audience of presumable women by telling us what we expect. No qualifications. No "most" women. No "women tend to." Just, "you." That right there? Is treating women like a monolithic hive-mind being, all of whom expect expensive shit from men.

But, you know, gawd forbid dude just concede that that's not okay, respectful, or accurate. He has to blame his poor writing/reasoning process on his audience, all of whom are apparently too stupid to ascertain what he meant but didn't say.

He then ends with a strange question:

Given how [my critics] reacted from my honest, candid opinion based on my observations and experiences, would a man in their lives be encouraged or discouraged to tell them if they disagreed with their opinions?

Nevermind his generalizations, stereotypes, sexism, snottiness, aggression, and ignorance, can all the hysterical women just take a minute to think about how non-specific hypothetical men in their lives might feel about women disagreeing with them?

Sexism against men and women is sad, you see, but what's even more sad is when men feel badly when people have the temerity to disagree with them. Because men are basically... intellectual toddlers.

Once again, we see that it's anti-feminists who tend to take the most dim view of men. I, on the other hand, strongly believe that many, perhaps even most, men can handle criticism from women in their lives without framing it as the woman having some sort of hysterical over-reaction and without acting like a pissy toddler about it.

Indeed, I would never attribute one specific man's, or walrus's, failing in that regard to men as a class.

That's just how I roll.

And while I am on a roll here, I also want to draw attention to "Daughter of Eve's" pearl-clutching comment. This person really seems to have it in her head that I'm a big bad meanie who's nothing but "insulting." Welp, newsflash Eve, ignorant, sexist statements deserve to be called out and treated with contempt, no matter where they come from.

Even though I've been perfectly willing to engage with her personally in a civil manner, this isn't the first time she's done some cowardly smack-talking about me, rather than to me, within the safe haven of a bigot forum. But... note how she says nothing about PW's aggressive and constant snarks regarding women, feminists, and leftists in general.

That coddling of conservative male aggression is what's irritating about many (many, see what I did thar?) conservative anti-feminist women. They demand that feminist women respect THEM and THEIR CHOICES in life, especially about being stay-at-home mothers, and that we call out misogynistic attacks on conservative women (which we do). But when some of "their" men are complete and utter body-shaming, misogynistic assholes to liberal, progressive, and feminist women, they cower silently in the margins and pat their boys on the backs, encouraging and condoning the sexism and anti-feminism in order to prop up their own status as Real Women. Because they are, of course, special snowflakes who know their place, unlike the rest of us uppity broads.

Just an observation.

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