Friday, 30 September 2011

I Don't Know Why I Do This To Myself

Dear reader, I have a confession to make. I'm bored of feminism.

Now, before you all rush to the window to check for four suspiciously thin dudes on ponies cantering across the skyline, let me assure you that I am not bored of the notion of equality among all, but rather having the same bloody arguments time and time again. The reason we can never get anything done is because we spend our entire lives trapped in the same cycle of Arguing With Morons. It's not one of Dante's circles of hell, but it sometimes feels like it. 

You know how it works:

Feminist: "Actually, it would be quite nice if we didn't live in a rape culture." 
Feminist: "Here's a really good article on Rape Culture 101Misandry is a word invented to argue with feministsI'm not hysterical, stop gaslighting me. By the way, I am fucking heeyylarious and yeah, sex is awesome."
MOTI: "Oh, look at you, with your EVIDENCE. It's just part of the feminist conspiracy to eradicate men. You just want to be sat on your arse eating bonbons while men toil away and you deny them sex." 
Feminist: "I think you're thinking of what we call 'Imaginary Feminism'." 
Feminist: *sighs* *realises rape culture will remain in place another day* *wanders away from the internet to make tea and read the SCUM manifesto*

So, yeah. If I could actually add up the time I have spent trying to engage with people who have decided that I'm a man-hating hag for suggesting that it might be nice if women were offered the same opportunities as men, I would probably try and drown myself in a vat of cookie-dough ice cream. And the thing is, it's not just stopping the progress of the feminist movement, but actually harming it. When an editor of a usually-reputable newspaper announces a new policy of  massaging statistics on rape to shut up MRA trolls, well, that's BAD.

It's stopping me saying what I want to as well - a couple of weeks ago I was asked by a website that I really like to write a piece about gender representation on Mock The Week, and I had to turn it down because I knew exactly what the comments would look like before I'd even written a single word. Thankfully, it's been covered by women braver than I herehere and here.

I don't know what these people want. I swear, baby fucking Jesus himself could toddle down from heaven, inhabit the body of Gibbs from NCIS (the most authoritative person in the history of humankind) and present them with gold-plated evidence written by the University of SCIENCE and still they would come out with the same boring, tired, privilege-denying arguments. And I am tired of it.

Last week, I suggested to someone on Twitter that his idea that any man who didn't picket the women's-only fringe event at the Labour conference was a "gender traitor" made him a bit of a cock. I tried to explain that if women were adequately represented in the main conference, then it wouldn't be necessary to have a fringe event for them. Apparently this made me a 'fascist Jim Crow-style seperatist who hates equality and men'. When I tried to question him about this, he got all huffy and blocked me, claiming I was "swamping him" with my "abhorrent views". Our full exchange may be viewed here.

So, does anyone have any ideas about how to deal with people like this or am I just to stick with my usual recipe of cigarettes, facepalming and punching a pillow as I pretend it's the face of the patriarchy?

(For anyone who doesn't often delve into the murky world of Being A Feminist On The Internet, while looking for the link on gaslighting, I found what can only be described as The Stupidest Waste Of Pixels I Have Ever Seen - the comments seem to nicely sum up what we're fighting against.)


  1. The problem is that you are trying to engage with people who aren't interested in having a debate or discussion. They have chosen their point of view and it is not based on facts and logic so it can't be countered with facts and logic.

    "... truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it." - Max Planck

    Planck was talking about scientific theories, but I think this holds true across a wide range of subjects where people have entrenched views.

    I think that when you are arguing with someone who is not interested in engaging in a logical discussion (especially on the internet) what you are really doing is highlighting the lack of argument to other people who are watching/reading and hopefully at least some of those people will think "I don't want to be like that guy, he's a dick" and then re-evaluating their views.

    I know that doesn't make the arguments any less boring, but at least they may not be as fruitless as they seem.

  2. That's a really interesting way of looking at it, and one that I hadn't thought of before. Thank you! I feel a bit less pointless now :)

  3. I was going to say something similar to Spudman. Just think of the other people reading when you engage with the baddies.

    That and listen to this a lot. It was one of my favourite songs in the olden days and it's about arguing with racists and that:

  4. Your point doesn't just apply to feminism, but also to discussions on climate change, racism, immigration, economic reform and the 'Left' more generally.

    You ask what they want, I suspect that they want to shut down discussion on certain topics. The status quo serves some people very well, and aware that discussion may lead to change they try to prevent this.

    They do this by shouting down anyone who even raises the subjects.

    Anyone discussing gender issues is condemned as a mad man hating feminist, anyone who doesn't attack immigration, or believes in the University education for all is an 'out of touch middle class liberal elitist who hates ordinary working class people (this argument is also increasingly being used against anyone who questions religious privilege);'

    anyone who accepts the evidence on climate change is part of an evil conspiracy to put up taxes.

    In all cases the point is not to win an argument but to frame the point (however nonsensical) in the most aggressive, nasty and condescending way possible in order to intimidate people with opposing views into silence.

    In short it uses the tactic of the bully to shut down an argument that they fear they will lose.

  5. I agree completely with Spudman's comment, and I can attest to it from both perspectives.

    When I was in high school, I was one of the only public atheists in a deeply religious school. There was loads of the same dead-end arguments and knee-jerk vitriol that you're getting, and half the time I didn't know why I bothered.
    But sometimes I would get someone come up to me and say that they enjoyed hearing my side of things, that it had made them think. Most of the time they gained some sort of respect for my position. Sometimes, they even agreed with me. That was all the reason I needed.

    You've helped me in the same way, Nat. Before reading your blog/Twitter, I would've said I was on the side of women but I didn't really understand the issues. My support was hypothetical more than anything else.
    These days I'm learning to gain a real empathy and support for feminist issues, and I've seen how inconsiderate and ridiculous positions I otherwise might have held actually are. You've helped change the way I think, and I'd like to believe I'm a better person for it.

    Keep up the good fight. The results might not be staring you in the face, but trust me, they're there.

  6. @nanonarcissus Wow! Thank you - it does feel good to see people say that. I really appreciate it :)

  7. I am bored of feminism too. And I am bored of arguing about rape culture.

    But from a different perspective. And yes, I have read Rape Culture 101 by McEwan. I criticise it here:

  8. Elly, if you're trying to derail this into "Let's all talk about QRG and why she doesn't think rape culture is a thing", I'm not biting. If you want to know why, I suggest you re-read the comment thread on the piece.

  9. Just want to echo Spudman's comment. I've actually seen people comment saying that they've learnt a lot through lurking. (And the various equal-rights topics seem to have the best success rate.)

    Generally, the people you're arguing against—no matter what the subject—won't be moved; they've made a public statement and won't back down, if only through not wanting to seem weak-willed or indecisive. There's always more lurkers than participants, though, and they're thinking, not shouting.

  10. What Daz says should give bloggers some hope. It is often impossible to convince opposing contributors of anything over the internet, but the silent majority are often reading both arguments and come to their own conclusions about their quality - as long as you are aiming to convince them with reasonable arguments, Crankzilla's rants cease to register.

  11. I am arguing against the content of your post Nat. That's not 'derailing' and it's not self-centred. It's called disagreeing.

  12. For example:
    'I swear, baby fucking Jesus himself could toddle down from heaven, inhabit the body of Gibbs from NCIS (the most authoritative person in the history of humankind) and present them with gold-plated evidence written by the University of SCIENCE and still they would come out with the same boring, tired, privilege-denying arguments. And I am tired of it.'

    But that's not going to happen because discussions of gender equality are not down to 'science' there are a range of differing opinions. One reason people get fed up with feminist arguments is they are presented as 'fact' when they are not.

  13. "All people should enjoy equal rights and protections under law" is a quantifiable statement. Therefore, it is science.

    Hard to quantify ≠ impossible to quantify.

  14. You are seriously telling me Daz that gender politics is science?

    Anyway I would argue with you about how 'quantifiable' the statement you use is. For a start it has the word 'should' in it which is not quantifiable as it does not relate to something that actually exists, merely a desire.

  15. Apologies for my bad phrasing. Strike "should" and insert "can".

    Sociology is a science. At present it's a soft, not a hard, science, I'll grant you, but a science none the less.

    Let's take a gross example of a statement that was once commonly made:

    "Women, because their brains work differently, cannot be trusted to run a big business."

    We can test this two ways:

    We can allow women to run big businesses and see how they fair. Check! Done that, and it turns out the statement is false.

    We can take various scans of the brain and look for those differences. Check! Done that, and it turns out there aren't any meaningful differences.

    Hypothesis, experiment and evidence-derived conclusion. Science.

    That's my last on this, as Nat'll be telling me off for arguing again :-)

  16. God forbid that people should argue about the science of feminism!

    This is the most funny thing I have heard (about feminism) in a while.

    Sociology may be a 'social science' but within sociology there is not a consensus about gender issues. And if you include psychology and neuroscience, some academics still believe there are differences between 'male' and 'female' brains and are continuing to do the research.

  17. This comment has been removed by the author.

  18. Okay, this is my last on this, and not just because Nat doesn't like arguments or because I don't want to spend the next several hours arguing, but because that statement is frankly, silly.

    You're contradicting yourself. First you say it's not a science, and now you say it's a complicated science with major lacks in consensus.

    I'd be very much surprised if there aren't some differences between the brains of people of various genders and sexualities. I'd also be very surprised if those differences added up to any major difference in intelligence, athleticism, or any other commonly-recognised gross difference. The very fact that such differences are proving hard to find and define is actually a good indicator that they're relatively minor.

  19. Elly:

    "'I swear, baby fucking Jesus himself could toddle down..." (emphasis added)

    We clear?

  20. I know that you don't think Jesus could toddle down with his science book. But you were implying that feminist assertions *are* facts - the kind that *can* be proven scientifically. Or else you would not have used that analogy.

  21. Nat

    If he does, that burning smell will be me…

  22. Daz - I call sociology a 'social science' because everyone else does. I don't see it as a science myself and I have worked in the field. I don't think it is useless as a result. I find a lot of science useless.

    My point was feminist assertions are *debatable*.

  23. Elly, my point is that 99% of people who do try to debate with feminist assertions do so in a fucking stupid way. That was the point of the post. How do you engage with people when you might as well be pounding your forehead into the nearest bit of concrete to hand? (see the discussion I link to for evidence of this).

    Now, before you climb up on the highest horse you can possibly get on and get all out of breath, please rest assured that I AM NOT TALKING ABOUT YOU. Although you have what I would call your 'moments', I'm talking about MRAs who have decided that there is AN EEBIL FEMINAZI CONSPIRACY TO DO AWAY WITH ANYTHING WITH A COCK* (i.e. a position with less evidence than the observable phenomena that makes up some feminist discussion points).

    So, I'm going to go ahead and hang up my big flashing neon "THIS COMMENT THREAD HAS BEEN DERAILED" sign and request that if you are so desperate to discuss whether assertions feminists make can ever be proven by hard science, you do it somewhere else.

    (*MRAs are really bad with Trans*/IS/GQ issues. Something to do with all that privilege they're denying, probably.)

  24. OK Nat! Got the message loud and clear thanks.

    I know that MRAs and Feminists don't quite see eye to eye. But I would find it hard to decide which was worse/more stupid in their argument content and style.

    Maybe they should all... oh, we've been there...

  25. I'm appointing you our official go-between. If you can find one that doesn't mind me gagging him so he can't say anything obnoxious and doesn't mind being slapped about a bit, I'm up for it.

  26. that's fine Nat. I have been saying lately that feminism is 'Miss Whiplash' so you will fit my image of you all anyway.