6 things that happen when you write about feminism

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1. You will be accused of hating men

At first this will sound ridiculous. Then you’ll feel irritated. Then you might feel riled and want to say: “YES I HATE MEN AND THEY MUST ALL BECOME SOYLENT GREEN.”

But the truth is, I don’t hate men. I just think I am awesome – too awesome for my life to be decided along the lines of what someone else thinks is appropriate to my gender. Too awesome to go around cringing over the fact that I am woman-shaped and have woman interests and woman-y inside-bits.

The people who accuse feminism of hating men have a very fragile, narrow idea of being a man – they’re something like a fluorescent tube. They are worried that any change will shatter them. Feel sorry for them, but not too sorry: like the rest of us, they will probably be OK.

2. You will get long, self-justifying communications from people who in all honesty sound like they’re the problem

Before I started writing on feminist subjects – which means reproductive rights, equal parenting and safety from violence in my case, which means absurdly that all those things are seen as the province of one particular cause rather than, y’know, human rights – really sexist people were like a rare species of angry mammal. Wild pigs, maybe. I’d seen a few of them dashing through the trees with foam on their tusks, but they’d never actually run full at me.

That changes when you write about feminism. Then, the pigs in the forest start charging towards you, grunting things like “women are naturally incapable of creativity” or “how do you expect men not to rape if women wear short skirts”. (I’m not making those up, by the way.) On a really good day, you’ll get lengthy emails from a man telling you how unfair it is that he’s not allowed to see his kids after his ex provoked him once – just once! – into assaulting her.

The important thing about this is that the number of pigs in the wood hasn’t changed, it’s just that they know you’re there and they’re coming for you. So don’t make the mistake of thinking there’s been a massive explosion in the pig population. Just study them, learn about them, and work out how to spear them.

3. You will want to say: “Wait! I’m not that kind of feminist!”

Later, you will realise that people who say they don’t like feminism (rather than, say, people who debate the usefulness of certain ideals to the wider feminist cause) aren’t the kind of people you actually want making an exception for you. They’re probably not destined to be your top pal.

4. You will be asked whether you’re a single parent or a lesbian or childless or fat, as if these things were accusations

And when they’re wrong, you will have to resist triumphantly shouting something like: “No! Ha! I am a straight, married mother of average BMI! In your STUPID PRESUMPTUOUS FACE!” Because to do that would, of course, be to endorse the hatstand morality that says being a single parent or a lesbian or childless or fat is a shameful condition that invalidates anything you have to say – and it would leave you at a distinct disadvantage if they ever fluked into being correct.

Yet there is some purpose in your impulse to deny: when people say these things, they’re saying that nothing you ever do can be uninflected by the physical. They’re saying that you are the deviation from the reliable, masculine norm and your words proceed from your ovaries. You would understandably like to disabuse them of that notion.

And you may do so – gently, and without accepting that there’s any justice in their hatreds.

5. You will hear: “Not everything is a feminist issue, you know”

Some people think sexism should get a pass for the greater good. Their version of the greater good is shitting on half the world, which doing some maths tells me is not actually the greater good at all. Ignore them.

6. You will be told: “Enough with the isms and ists”

Personally, I don’t feel like it is enough. I don’t think it’s good enough for my daughter and her peers to grow up in a world where some chump can go on TV and joke about his “instincts” telling him to grope a woman’s breasts, and then use the image of her giving someone (implicitly him) a hand job to embarrass her. I am not cool with that.

Before we had the language of “ists” and “isms” we had “no property rights” and “legal marital rape”. We’re a tiny way out of a history of seeing women as things not people, and I want the next generation to grow up knowing that they do not have to put up with this rudeness.

Because that’s why I write about feminism: in the hope that some time, eventually, no one will have to.

Photo via kReEsTaL

33 thoughts on “6 things that happen when you write about feminism

  1. I completely agree with everything you wrote. As I have been making my way as an active feminist in the blogging world and in my everyday life, I have been hearing these remarks more often than I ever would have expected.

  2. There was a long time in my life when these kinds of arguments were invisible… no-one seemed to know or care. All the girls were interested in tans, drinks, celebrity, etc. It’s quite a relief to read articles like yours now. Gives me some hope, at least.

  3. As a longtime straight privileged white male feminist, who is not a “faggot” or “pussywhipped” or any of the other misogynist or gay- bashing terms applied to feminist men( some of whom are gay!), your piece is right on. Thank you.

  4. Truly enjoyed this! =D Funny!

    And I absolutely loved the photo used before the article begins! Where is the photo from? Seems like it might have an interesting story by itself.

  5. I found the photo on Flickr – I think it’s from a collection of C19th circus images. There’s a link to the Flickr user at the end, so having a rummage through their photostream might reveal more.

  6. and thus any reasonable reservations that one might express about the feminist cause, which I distinguish from the myriad of causes women may want to engage, is dismissed.

    This could have been summed up in one sentence. Anyone not convinced of the need for feminism – shut up.

    Well I oppose feminism, which for me as black man is nothing more than the female branch of white supremacy, which is often used to legitimize white supremacy’s acts of aggression. To hell with feminism. When WS goes feminism will buried along with it.

  7. Thanks A Man, but if I could have summarised it like that, I wouldn’t have written all the other words. I don’t think white feminists always get it right in approaching issues of racial and cultural inequality, and I think everyone who addresses interlocking forms of oppression well does so by listening very carefully to the voices of those oppressed. But since feminism as a principle means nothing more threatening than the radical idea that women are people, calling it a form of white supremacism seems a tad leftfield.

  8. A Man Said — There are so many black male and female feminists I could introduce you to if you were interested. They write about and speak about the intersection of civil and feminist rights and how both movements seek equality and justice for all. You can read their words and about them in Voice Male magazine, you can witness them involved in organizations like Men Can Stop Rape and A Call to Men. Your anger has so much more in common with the righteous anger women feel (white, black and Latina) that you should ally yourself with them instead of cutting yourself off from them. Feminism is about inclusion, not exclusion.

  9. Hi Sarah. As I outlined in ‘Feminism: the ugly truth’ (2012) and in my two earlier books about feminism, for 30+ years the only form of feminism of any political or economic consequence in most of the developed world – gender / militant feminism – has been a female supremacy movement based firmly upon, and driven by, midandry. It seeks to destroy most of the pillars of civilised societies – most notably the family, but many others too – and is successfully doing so. I challenge feminists who believe otherwise to provide feedback on our public consultation document (earlier comment refers). Thank you.

    Mike Buchanan

    JUSTICE FOR MEN & BOYS
    (and the women who love them)

    http://j4mb.wordpress.com

  10. Thanks again Mike! You have already mentioned the consultation, and I’ve already answered you, but I suppose you wanted to make sure everyone knew about your book. I value your introduction of the word “misandry” as an example of item 1 above, and the rest of your comment as a horrible warning to others of what happens when you see gender relationships as a zero-sum game.

  11. Sarah, the distinction we need to understand is that between equity feminism and gender feminism. The former is arguably not driven by misandry, but has negligible influence (at the political and economic levels, at least) in developed countries today. The latter IS driven by misandry, it’s a female supremacist movement, and it’s a very powerful force across much of the developed world, including the UK, US, Canada, Scandinavia, and more besides.

    Gender feminism is a parasite which is growing so large and hungry that it will eventually, and inevitably, kill its host (civilised society). Fortunately its host is starting to wake up to this stark reality – at last – and the operation to remove the parasite has started. I recommend ‘A Voice for Men’ http://avoiceformen.com and http://fightingfeminism.wordpress.com for details of how the operation is progressing.

    There’s a historical inevitability that the operation will be successful, because society cannot trample on the human rights of half its citizens – men and boys – indefinitely. The alternative is a society which might be regarded as utopian by the TINY minority of women who are gender feminists – and their male collaborators – but as dystopian by everyone else.

    If anyone’s unclear about the important differences between equity feminism and gender feminism, I can recommend Christina Hoff Sommers’s ‘Why Stole Feminism? How Women Betrayed Women’, which was first published almost 20 years ago.

    Have a nice day.

  12. Having read your policy document, I’m aware that you support the following things: affirmative action for men in the very few areas where women excel them and withdrawal of affirmative action wherever men excel women, while your idea of “supporting the family” involves compulsory paternity tests that could have been specifically designed to cause paranoia. Your use of statistics is roundly suspect and your intellectual underpinnings wildly naive.

  13. Thanks Sarah. I do hope you can provide detailed feedback on the document. It would genuinely be appreciated, and may help shape our 2015 election manifesto.

    The areas where women ‘excel’ are invariably the result of affirmative action (in one of its countless forms, both overt and covert). What – other than counter affirmative action – could reverse them, to reflect relative merit (competence, focus, work ethic) of individual men and women?

    ‘Your use of statistics is roundly suspect’ – can you let me know which statistics you’re thinking of here? If any of our statistics or assertions prove flawed, then we’ll happily amend them, which is more than I’ve ever known prominent feminists do, after being caught making misleading statements on TV, radio, or in articles. Two of our recent challenges to prominent feminists remain unanswered – links below – Caroline Criado-Perez and Kat Banyard:

    http://j4mb.wordpress.com/2013/06/10/our-public-challenge-to-caroline-criado-perez/

    Perhaps you could persuade them to respond to the challenges? Maybe they could exhibit some integrity, and admit the statements were incorrect / misleading? That would make a refreshing change from feminists relentlessly presenting a highly flawed narrative.

    Thank you.

  14. I think perhaps they are quite rightly concerned about lending their authority to an organisation that propagates false, harmful and divisive information. If you’d like me to proof read, fact check and sense check the document, I could do so for a freelance fee. Having already followed up a few of your figures, I think you’ll be disappointed in the results.

  15. Thanks Sarah, we’d certainly be willing to pay a reasonable ‘freelance fee’ for a solid feminist analysis of our document. What fee were you thinking of?

    You say, ‘Having already followed up a few of your figures, I think you’ll be disappointed in the results.’ To give me a flavour of the quality of analysis we might expect from your work, could you please publish these findings for me (and other site visitors) to see? Then I’ll be able to make a decision about paying a fee for a full document analysis. Thanks.

  16. I don’t work for free. If you want to see an example of my work, see my analysis of the CSJ report for the Guardian, my work on the CQC or my debate with Gail Dines. It’s all been published. Otherwise, you’ll find out what clangers you’ve dropped if any of my clients ever have reason to pay me to write about you.

  17. Sarah, you say you’ve followed up a few of my figures, so haven’t you already ‘worked for free’? But you won’t take a little further time to share the results of your analysis on a ‘few figures’ – with myself and other interested parties here – without payment?

    I hope one of your clients pays you to write about me (or more importantly http://j4mb.org.uk) one day. Four months after we first published our consultation document online, no feminist has pointed to even one ‘clanger’ in it. Indeed, no feminist anywhere in the world has provided ANY detailed feedback to the document. I was hoping you might be the exception. Never mind. The search continues…

    Along with other men’s human rights activists, I ‘work for free’ because we have no other option. We can’t rely on income from feminist-friendly organisations such as the Guardian and CQC. Talking of which, the CQC’s not exactly an advertisement for more ‘women at the top’, is it?

    http://j4mb.wordpress.com/2013/06/20/women-at-the-top/

  18. There’s a name for the fallacy you indulge there: you believe women are unsuited to high office, so when individual women in high office are found to have behaved badly, you take that as representative of all women. It’s called confirmation bias and it’s a sign of rather weak analytical skills. If you want to make a serious offer for me to work on your report, please do so via the contact page. I don’t negotiate freelance work in blog comments and won’t accept any more comments from you on the subject.

  19. Thank goodness, no more comments from him. I have been on far too many blogs and listservs where men’s rights trolls bully and intimidate, demonstrating the beliefs, attitudes and behaviors they deny, minimize, and blame women for. It’s such nonsense that they ask for themselves something they already have and precisely what they deny women. The misogyny is transparent.

  20. Sarah, I really enjoyed reading this. I love the tone of your words! Thanks so much for posting.

    For reasons I’ll skip over for now (though you can read about them on my blog if you wish) I recently started researching the likelihood of people who grew up in violent homes going on to commit domestic abuse. Unfortunately, my research led me onto the Man’s Rights site A Voice For Men and I ended up ridiculed and flamed for exercising my right to reply.

    As you can probably tell, I am quaking in my boots and crying into my cup of tea….I don’t think! I’ll continue to conduct my research, but using less biased sources.

    Hope you’ve had a great weekend…I’ll be keeping an eye on your future post :)

  21. Before this post I had non idea that the Justice for Men & Boys party even existed. Having just read their manifesto I am absolutely stunned. Supposedly generations women bringing new people into the world and guiding them into adulthood is not worthy of government funding, but they don’t seem to want them in the workplace either. My favourite quote – “most single mothers choose to be single”. Well, if all their parters supported your party this might be true.

  22. Many feminists really are pretty crap though. There are idiots of all political persuasions and there’s no reason feminists would be any different.

  23. Excellent piece – The internet, like the rest of the world, remains a hostile place for women, especially those who seek respect and equality. Thanks Mike for reminding us just how crucial feminism continues to be.

    To Mike, Feminism has nothing whatsoever to do with misandry, it’s about affording everyone an equal opportunity to be themselves, whoever that might be. As a man, feminism has enriched my life, improving both my personal relationships as well as professional life – Don’t miss out.

  24. Hear hear. I’m doing a show about mothers and being a mother at the Edinburgh fringe at the moment and experiencing a brazen casual ageism. Leafleters for ‘young’ shows do not thrust their leaflets at me and think that their shocking and edgy comedy is not for me. Young people will not come to see our show as its not sexy or something. There are shows with girls in bikinis (very 1970s car advert) and about women being disempowered by S&M for the titillation literally of men. Women can do what they want and what they choose but I wonder why they have chosen ‘new’ writing that disempowers them and objectifies them.
    And feminists are funny. There’s Katie Goodman, Bridget Christie, Viv Groskop. Brilliant, funny women all here st edfringe. Bring on the girls.
    And I can speak for myself too, as a feminist, mother of two that I don’t hate men. In my work I’m talking about women in a show about mothers. I’ll do a show about fathers too if the boys want it but I’m a woman and want to celebrate all the mothers out there.
    Mother F Gilded Balloon Edinburgh if anyone is interested.

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