Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Arguments I Will No Longer Have

This post was inspired by the shit  the amazing @sianushka has been seeing on her blog this week. She is an inspiration, and I don't know how she copes with some of the drivel on her comment threads, but she does, and she has my utmost admiration and respect for it.

I'm bored of arguing with anti-feminists. I'm bored of seeing the same shit in comments that I see all day, every day, everywhere. There are certain arguments that are as predictable as the rising of the sun, the passage of time, or Nadine Dorries being an evil stain on humanity, and I'm so utterly, utterly bored of them that I find myself not wanting to write, because I know I'll encounter them. So I have decided to write a list of the most common ones, and why I will not be having them any more, so I can just point people to it and say "Look, sunshine, here's why you're being an unproductive, derailing wanker".

1. "Prove it"

Some things are so commonly written about and cited that not every feminist blogger feels the need to link to them all the time. They are common knowledge. Women are paid 22.6% less than men. Only 6.5% of reported rapes will result in a conviction of the attacker. So if you come blustering in, demanding proof of something that's widely available on Google (where do you think I get my stats from? Some magical database only feminists can access?), you will be given a citation, and I expect it to be left there. Don't tell me that my argument is completely ruined by not including a link that you could have found yourself by typing three words into a search engine.

2. "Stop being so angry, sweary and rude"

In a word, no. In slightly more words, don't dare tell me how I can speak about the awful things I see every day. Like it or not, I am angry. I have to be. I don't see how anyone could not be hideously angry all the time by all the injustice in the world. It's not up to me to put something in terms that are palatable for you. As this brilliant post points out:

The tone argument – essentially “I’m more right because you weren’t nice about my being wrong” – is absurd and a means of derailing in the first place. However, when men use it against women it is especially pernicious. Women are expected, socially, to not get angry. They are expected to remain calm and emotionally available at all times. Thus, when men use the tone argument on women they are essentially relying on patriarchal gender constructs to help them win an argument and to undermine that woman’s message. They are using their privilege to their advantage to silence women, and there will never ever be anything feminist about that.

3. "You're using ad hominem arguments, so I'm not going to listen to you!"

I swear to fuck, if I never see the words 'ad hominem' on the internet again, I will know I have died and gone to heaven. This surely is the most over-used, and mis-used accusation in all of cyberspace. Let me explain. An ad hominem argument is a logical fallacy whereby an irrelevant personal characteristic of the ad hominee is used by the ad hominer to disregard their entire argument. For example, "You can't talk about economics, because you don't even have a job" is an example of an ad hominem attack. "You're a mansplaining wanker with the social graces of a particularly unpleasant strain of norovirus, and here's why you're wrong..." is not. It is an insult. You may feel that this insult is unduly rude, at which point I would refer you to argument 2. Oh, and "You use ad hominem attacks, so I won't listen to you talk about feminist issues" is an ad hominem attack.

4. "What about men?"

Ah, the fabled "whatabouttehmenz?" argument. Surely you know how it goes by now, but here's some examples:

  1. Feminist writes about problem of female rape victims being disbelieved unless they are blonde nuns who have never even seen alcohol and were wearing a suit of armour at the time of the attack and have a signed confession from the rapist saying "Yes, I did it". A comment appears saying "but men get raped too!". Yes - and this is obviously disgusting, but if they are brave enough to come forward, they're not asked what they were wearing like it ever made a difference. That's the problem we're discussing. HINT: We know all rape is bad. You don't have to explain it to us.
  2. Feminst discusses problems of Intimate Partner Violence from a gender neutral perspective. A comment appears saying "Well men suffer IPV too, and they don't have refuges so you're all evil". This type is particularly interesting, as what they are really saying is "I am aware of a problem, yet I personally refuse to do anything about it, and instead I expect you to drop whatever you're doing and FIX IT IMMEDIATELY".
This one has always baffled me. If these people are so concerned about men's issues, why not fight for them themselves, instead of telling me I have to spend 50% of my time and energy doing it for them, otherwise I'm a misandrist? These are the people who would rather close down women's shelters than fight for men's shelters. 

5. "Well X isn't a feminist and she doesn't notice the things that piss you off"

No, I doubt she does. Probably because she's preconditioned by a patriarchal society to see things like street harrassment and rape culture as an expected inconvenience in her day to day life, and something she doesn't vocally complain about. If you asked her to think about the times she'd been treated badly because of her gender, chances are she'd come up with a few examples. Try it. You'll be surprised by how much women will put up with until they start to really think about things. Here's a story for you - I used to read a lot of women's magazines at work. Heat, Company, Cosmopolitan to name but a few. One day, I stopped, purely because I realised they were boring and full of adverts to sell me clothes I would never buy in a million years. Do you know what? The disordered eating and self-loathing of my own body that had plagued me since I was 11 stopped almost immediately. I genuinely hadn't even noticed that these magazines were designed to make me hate my own body in order to sell me things until I stopped and looked.

6. "She's a woman, you should support her"

Newsflash: I don't choose who I like based on the fact that we share the same reproductive organs! Radical, I know, but hear me out - just because a woman is a woman does not mean she is a feminist. If all she is doing opposes everything I stand for, I will not support her. Much like I wouldn't not support someone purely because he is male. It's completely idiotic. "HEY LADIES. I know Michelle Bachmann wants you to be submissive to your husbands, take away your right to bodily autonomy, demonise you if you end up as a single mother and doesn't even believe in homosexuality, you should totes support her, because she has a vagina! That makes her a feminist!". Just... NO.

7. "You're censoring free speech!"

Last time I checked, free speech was still a thing, and one feminist blogger calling someone out for being a misogynist didn't stop them speaking. Here's the deal - I will defend to the death your right to free speech, but I will also defend my right to call you out on being a bigoted dickhead. If you're stopping me doing that because of your (or X's) 'free speech', guess who's denying who free speech?

8. "Here's a link to the Daily Mail that shows you why you're wrong!" 

Oh, just fuck off.

N.B. I am aware that I have approached this post from a cis-normative point of view, and I'm sorry. This is because these arguments are usually approached this way. I have also seen these arguments used on trans* activist blogs, and feel they may be read similarly from both approaches. I haven't forgotten.


  1. WELL SAID FOR THE MOST PART. but the swearing can make you look like a totally baked punkanistafeminazi

  2. Excellent post - the ad hominem thing fucks me right off too.

  3. Thank you for a brilliant post and for the lovely kind words, for commenting on that nightmare thread and for being an amazing feminist and writer! You are brilliant.

  4. I second the comment on ad hominems. And it's not even an ad hominem to say someone's a fucking idiot for not knowing the difference…

  5. Erm, I've kind 'f stolen/copied/imitated this. I did have something very similar in the pipeline myself, though, honest!

  6. I know this post is meant to be a collection of arguments for derailers so I figured I should put this in here.

    According to ASHE survey (http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/search/index.html?pageSize=50&newquery=ashe+results)the pay gap for full-time workers was 10.2% in 2010 down from 12.2% in 2009 by median earnings with men working 40.4hrs/week women 37.4hrs/week. Other government studies using the mean rather than the median show something in the region of 15% overall but it is still dropping each year.

    F/T both mean and median male salaries are higher (15.5%/10.2%).

    P/T mean male salary is higher (11.7%) but median is lower (-4%).

    This indicates that the male values (especially part time) are being skewed massively by some high earners.

  7. OK I don't even know how I ended up here, but I've just had a pretty depressing hour looking at downright frightening misogynist discussions/sites (research for upcoming blog posts) and BLAM, perfect. I've only landed on a page that says EXACTLY what I wanted to say to all of them with more frank eloquence than I could have pulled off myself. I salute you, Good Lady.