Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Alleged feminist "male-bashing" is not the same as the actual bashing of women by men

In this post, I will try to make one thing clear: if we add up all the verbal "male-bashing" things feminists are alleged to have said, it would amount to less than the vapor of one drop of water if compared to the deep oceans of contempt and physical bashing men have demonstrated on the minds and flesh of women over the ages.

I have been witnessing, for years, men making the most absurd claims about what one feminist or Womanist said, that is apparently equal to what men do to women. Lately, I've noticed that such absurdities are proclaimed by reactive, histerical antimisandrists, who, if they actually do read what feminists write, they then overreact to and grossly misinterpret certain styles and phrases found in a few comments by those women, usually written to other women, by the way, not "hurled" directly at men. To the extent that such men make truth claims about "women bashing men", these ridiculous men must be called out.

Over the years, Women's Liberationists, of various ethnicities, sometimes dare to speak in angry tones and in cynical styles about the men who hurt women and, more especially, against the male supremacist systems men control. The harmful effect on men as an oppressor class is not even measurable, in part because the harm is not real. Women such as Andrea Dworkin have spoken about male supremacists without first asking His Honor for permission to speak, without toning down her rage, without soft-selling the atrocities men do. Far more than men realise, she has done this with superb sarcastic humor. Given that antifeminists have no sense of humor, these men have chronically and woefully misunderstood this and many other forms of pro-woman speech by women. Some men actually think that the women who speak in such "rude" ways about men actually do harm men, as a group, and that these women also do further harm--beyond speaking, that is, to men individually and as a gendered group. This line of reasoning is absurd.

To whatever extent any feminist, Womanist, or any other woman has spoken out angrily or sarcastically to one man or many, that activity doesn't in any way compare, in degree, quality, or consequence, to what men say and do to women.

In reality, men speak hateful things about women, and mean them, and do them, to actual women. In reality, for example, men bash women with words and fists.

I have seen men, online, collecting statements written by women which appear to be "proof" that women are just as (or more!) hateful of men as men are of women. This is just a part of what constitutes the giant pile of liberal and conservative white men's bullshit.

I recommend reading this commentary very carefully. It is but one example such men wave around excitedly exclaiming "here's proof that feminists hate men" and then open a desk drawer, take out an inked stamp, and slap the moniker "male-bashing" on the document before it is filed away along with all the other seemingly poisonous speech acts.

For "speech-as-bashing" to be a form of significant harm, for it to manifest as one form of gendered or raced oppression, it has to do both of the following:

1. Hurt someone or a group, demonstrably.
2. It must be one action that is part of larger systems of actions and customs, institutionalised, enacted systematically, over time, by one group identifiably socially dominant over another group such that the latter group is socially and politically subordinated by the former.

Hurtful or mean-spirited verbal and physical aggression among peers, such as among white men, among women of color, among men of color, or among white women, is, as feminist Flo Kennedy coined, a form of "horizontal hostility".

This, this, and this is debasing, politically degrading harm to women (and, in some cases, also to men of color) by white men in words that dovetail with the realities of woman-bashing (beating), the rape of women by men, the economic exploitation of women by men, the sexual enslaving of women and girls by men, as well as the genocidal destruction of women whose cultures are under attack by Western white civilisation.

This is not significant harm.

Many men confuse virulent systemic debasement of women--using physical force and hateful speech--with this sort of post by one woman about one man. Note what she didn't say to him. Note the self-restraint in her behavior. She did not harm this man in any way. She does address, to the reader, not to that male caller, that what he was doing was making her feel very irritated, in part because of how many times men have approached her in such an arrogant, self-important, bossy, and obnoxious manner. (This is important: her anger is built on social experiences with men. Men's anger at women is taught to them by white male supremacist advertising, pornography, cultural practices, and social value systems.)

Here's a refresher for what points have been made so far. Misogynists consider these two vastly dissimilar experiences somehow equal to one another:

--a member of an oppressed class stating negative opinions, feelings, or critical analysis about someone from her oppressor class, because that person has behaved oppressively and in full accordance with the privileges and entitlements afforded members of the oppressor group.

--a member of an oppressor class stating negative opinions, feelings, or critical analysis about a whole group of people based on a few pieces of writing, never acted out beyond being spoken aloud or distributed, against social custom and religious code, such as at a rally or in a photocopied document.

Anyone who confuses those two phenomena is deeply out of touch with reality, and what constitutes oppressive harm.

For a list of the kinds of harm women systematically endure from men, see here. (Note there is no comparable list of what women unrelentingly and endemically do to men, privately and publicly, as a matter of custom or as a form of social control which, as a consequence, results in women achieving social dominance over the men of their own ethnicity or economic class.)

I hope that the point has been made: feminists' or Womanists' angry or disdainful verbal expressions, not to men, but among one another, such as on blogs or in books, is not the social equivalent to men calling women all manner of misogynist-racist terms, often while also violating and assaulting them physically. An Introduction

Here's some information about an online community who call themselves "antimisandrists" (people who are opposed to the hatred of men).

The age range of its members is charted here. The entire list of members is listed here (there are seventeen pages of member names with a bit of additional information about each one).

As one reads through the site's many pages, one can see that one of several sore spots for "antimisandrists" is their claim that the degree to which women do harm in the world is not sufficiently reported. They have no facts to back up such claims, however.

From where I stand, I see harm women do to other human beings: white women do harm to women of color; wealthy women do harm to poor women; too many women hurt themselves; white women hurt other white women; women of color hurt women of color; some women hurt children in relationships, but statistically--and in real life, men harm children more often and more severely, including by raping their daughters and other girls; and women are fully capable of being hurtful to men in relationships in many ways, because, as many of the comments at that link express, men are human too.

No post at A Radical Profeminist indicates that men are not human beings or are destructive human beings (collectively) in any innate ways. Unlike many men, for example, I do not agree that rapist men are rapists inevitably or naturally. Every feminist I have ever known has argued against the theories of Randy Thornhill and Craig Palmer--that men are inevitably going to be rapists. Men disagree with the feminist position that men are human beings, capable of being very humane. Men keep insisting, in various ways, or behaving as if "I had no other choice". Why aren't you going after those men who malign you, antimisandrists? I hear and have heard men, often, call one another many demeaning names, gender specific ones, that allude to the fact we know what we men do, to women, to children, and to one another because we have to prove we are "real men" or to regain status lost in other arenas, such as economically or racially.

I am opposed, for example, to men calling men who are abusers terms like "monsters". Men are human, even if we have behaved or behave horrendously and atrociously to other humans. Ted Bundy was a human being. So was Adolph Hitler. To think they weren't is to not understand the depth and breadth of what being human can mean, in practice.

I disagree with comment 8 of 10, at the site linked to above, linked again here. That comments reads: "Ofcourse men get Hurt. They don't show it though, they should though".

I understand that commenter to be saying men don't express our hurt (but ought to) in non-aggressive, non-violent statements such as by saying "I'm hurt" or "When you did that, it hurt me very much." I hear her wishing men did just that. JUST and ONLY that.

What men (not ALL men) DO instead, is smash women in the face, throw them across the room, break their bones, stab them, punch them in their pregnant bellies, murder them, rent women as prostitutes and abuse and kill them, denigrate, humiliate and degrade them, and, all the while, blame "women" for one bad relationship with a woman. What men do instead is join groups like "" devoted to promoting ridiculously false ideas about feminism and feminists, all the while pretending Western white male supremacy, domination, and cultural-economic imperialism isn't a real force aggressively and callously destroying women of all ethnicities, men of color, many children, and the Earth and its other creatures.

The Western white male-dominated world I've lived in my whole life does systematic sexualised violence (read: harm and hurt) to all groups of women and to men of color--because they are women and men of color. Women, nowhere, do systematic, sexualised, violent harm to men of their same ethnicity or race or economic class. And no group of women harms white men, systemically, structurally, and endemically.

I hope that the predominantly pale male human beings over at will move themselves more into reality, so that they might better attend to their own wounds humanely, without inflicting injuries on women and the Women's Movement that has been working for a long time for women's (and men's) human liberation from white male supremacy.

More on The Myth of Man-Hating

What have you been smoking? Seriously, this is the lamest blog entry I have ever >read. I am so tired of this "all men are rapists" schtick. Don't take out your pent-up >sexual frustrations on the rest of us, loner. -- MadShangi, a.k.a. Patrick Doran.

This post exists, in part, as a response to the above comment I got from "MadShangi" who spends some of his time and energy over at the camp. His other name is Patrick Doran. He has a MySpace page, and this is part of what appears on that page currently (12 November 2008):

Hey all! I haven't updated my stupid MySpace in awhile, so that's what I'm doing! Nothing really new and exciting. I have no life. I live in Calgary, AB and I have a job. Yep. Nothing new.

I'm just deleting my blog entries, but I decided to post this one on the front page, because it made me laugh.

Dreams and Anxieties Current mood: aggravated

I just had one of those dreams this afternoon. I've just arrived at a house after a long, and traumatic journey. I don't know why it was long traumatic, because as soon as I get to the house, I forget all about it, except that it was long and traumatic. I must be some sort of adventurer. I am soon reunited by a real-life ex-girlfriend of mine, which in fact, in real life, I would rather not be reunited with. Anyway, we decide, that since I was on such a long journey, and I haven't showered in a few days, that we should shower together. The dream turned out to be one of those dreams, where you would peel off layers and layers of clothing that never seem to end, while your fat ex-girlfriend is waiting for you in the shower. Nice, huh? And just when I'm completely naked ready to hop in the shower, the same article of clothing I swear I just took off is back on me. Pretty soon, I realize that this is all a dream, and in every single one of my dreams, every time I'm on some sort of quest, whether it is saving a princess, or trying to get undressed, I'm going to be hindered and interrupted by a variety of obstacles and characters. As soon as I get into the shower, sure enough, all these characters started appearing in the bathroom, to cause me grief. There was the nosy little kid, and after I chased him away, more nosy little kids started showing up. So I punched one of them. Then, his father comes bitching about me punching his kid, so I punch him, too. I yell and scream for everyone to just "fuck off" and let me shower and peace, until eventually, my ex gets sick of my yelling and screaming, and she too leaves along with everyone else. And then, I'm alone. So I just lie on my back in the shower, completley naked. Oh, I also got my check from Manpower today. I'm never going to go back to those fuckers ever again. Not only were they late with my check, they tried to give me a number of bullshit excuses. And to top that off, it isn't a very big check to begin with. The rent is almost due, whatever am I going to do? (That rhymed)

Among Madshangi's MySpace friends is Eminem. (Please click on that musician's name for more about him and his values.)

What is apparent, except to "antimisandrists" and other assorted racist-misogynists, is Patrick's inability to understand that my latest posts have not been making the point that all men are rapists. I hope it is clear to some that my posts are an effort to make the point that misogyny, as a institutional, social, interpersonal reality is real, enacted against real women's minds and bodies, systematically. "Antimisandry", on the other hand, is not socially/culturally/politically real, not even (as David Gilmore alludes, below) in the life and writings of the late Andrea Dworkin.

"Antimisandry" is, in fact, an antifeminist myth, created, maintained, and bolstered by misogynist-racist white men who have nothing better to do than to compulsively play their "woe is me" cards and blame white women and women of color for their woes. To Patrick and the other men who comprise and contribute to, please take Patrick's advice, without projecting it onto feminists and profeminists specifically, and women and men generally: "Don't take out your pent-up sexual frustrations on the rest of us". That is good advice, Patrick. Thank you for that. I hope you find pay-work soon and have a productive life not wasted taking out your pent-up sexual frustrations, as evidenced clearly in your dream, on the rest of us. Peace to you, and may your heart heal from any wounds it has endured to date. And may you not inflict any wounds on any woman's heart, body, mind, or soul.

The following book review was found here. "Oh, Andrea Dworkin" is a book review written by Jenny Dinski about the book
Misogyny: The Male Malady by David Gilmore (2001)

[by Jenny Dinski:] It’s a male thing, misogyny. No matter where you look, then or now, here, there and everywhere, up ethnographic hill, down historical dale, men disparage women. In his trawl of anthropological data, historical records, literature and letters, art and music, David Gilmore finds that men have always and everywhere expressed fear, disgust and hatred of women. From the peaceful and gentle !Kung San Bushmen to the urbane and civilised Montaigne, from folk legend to Freudian complex, from Medusa to the Blue Angel, men blame women for their discomforts and disappointments. Yet while Gilmore’s round-up suggests to him that anti-female feeling is universal among men, he believes its obverse is so rare that no term for it trips comfortably off the tongue. He half-heartedly suggests ‘misandry’ or ‘viriphobia’ as names that might be applied to the female version of misogyny, but since the only practitioner he can come up with is Andrea Dworkin, it’s hardly worth the coinage. In the 1950s and 1960s there used to be a term for it, though lately it has fallen into disuse. In those days it cropped up regularly in conversations that went roughly like this:

Man: Do you want to come to bed with me?
Woman: No.
Man: What are you, a man-hater?
Woman (making her getaway): It’s less general than that.

In those pre-feminist days, everyone knew what man-haters were: they were lesbians (or lesbians were man-haters), ugly (and therefore lesbians), or they were women who wanted equal pay or work parity (and probably lesbians), but mostly they were women who didn’t want to sleep with you. However, Gilmore is right; man-haters were identified as such by men – I can’t remember any woman calling herself one – and the designation was just another aspect of a deep institutional dislike and fear of women that does seem to have been expressed by many men in all times and all places.

Gilmore is an American anthropologist whose ethnographic work has been on the culture of machismo and shame in contemporary Spain and whose previous books have been on the cultural meanings of masculinity. Maleness is his bag. He claims, rather startlingly, that misogyny is a neglected topic, and sets out to remedy the rarity of ‘comparative and synoptic studies of continuities within cultural variation’. Though I would have thought that the prevalence of male prejudice against women has been extensively noted, Gilmore nonetheless compiles instances from standard ethnographic, historical, biographical and literary sources to demonstrate the global nature of misogyny. He produces a digest of universal male disgust. While he acknowledges that its expression can be varied, Gilmore is in search of an explanation for its ubiquity. After all, women do not have the same visceral loathing of maleness – excluding, he parenthesises, ‘the modern-day feminists like the redoubtable Dworkin’ (what a useful woman she is). What exists among ‘many more sensible women’ is a dislike of obnoxious and abusive men and ‘specifically “masculine” qualities like machismo, bravado, or the puerile braggadocio that sometimes appears in the locker room’. Women (apart from Ms Dworkin, of whom I am growing fonder by the minute) are, it seems, more reasonable, more adult and less obsessive because they are less psychologically damaged than men who, we are going to be brought round to believing, are suffering from what amounts to a ‘gendered-psychosis’. So we don’t have to worry about women, except – you’ve guessed it – Dworkin and those ‘radical feminists’ and ‘social constructionists’ who take the ‘reductionistic and sexist view’ that male endocrinology is destiny.

Instead, we can concentrate our thoughts and concerns on the real victims of the malady of misogyny: the psychogenically challenged male who needs all the understanding we can give him. Apparently men’s psyches are ‘troubled’, they are in ‘masculine turmoil’ as a result of universal experiences in ‘the male developmental cycle’. Lord, how easily the image of the oppressed is appropriated. If women think they’ve had a hard time as a result of being loathed and bullied by men, it’s nothing compared to the hardship suffered by men that has resulted in their feeling the loathing. If you are beginning to get an uncomfortable sense of milky mothers and moist mermaids looming on the horizon you are right, because men’s fear of helplessness, suffocation and submergence, in the inescapably female and deliquescent form of uterus, breast and vagina, is judged to be at the root of it all. Women drip with danger for men, who, as we know, first can’t live without us and then can’t live with us. You can love your mother for a while, but then she betrays you with your father and you have to marry other men’s sisters: enemies, outsiders, who as like as not are plotting against you with their sexuality and secretions while trying to abort your sons on whom the patriliny depends. Of course, it’s not women’s fault that it’s all their fault – Gilmore has all the rhetoric of a modern man and throws his hands up sadly at the unfortunate social and biological arrangements that make it this way – but men suffer from having been given birth to by women from whom they have to separate in order to become men; they suffer from having to desire people of the same gender as their mother (my, this is very awkward, Jocasta), and they suffer because they cannot perform the miracle of reproducing the species directly from their own bodies. Men suffer. No, they do. It’s awful.

Gilmore’s evidence for the commonalities of misogyny is based initially on anthropological research, and there is a difficulty here. His pick and mix approach takes some classic not to say hoary old ethnographies at their face value – a bit of a problem, since almost every generation of anthropologists has condemned previous researchers for faulty studies, imperialistic or colonialist arrogance, or plain doctoring of the material. The idea of the participant observer has little credibility in academic circles, and the standing of much ethnographic research is these days roughly on a par with reality TV. Some of the studies Gilmore quotes were done in the 1950s, when fieldwork attitudes were very different, and he quotes the not highly reliable J.G. Frazer and Margaret Mead alongside other, less discredited anthropologists. There are several references to the Yanomamo, a Venezuelan tribe who have become, thanks to Napoleon Chagnon’s decades of research, a byword for violence and misogyny. These men, Gilmore says, ‘are notorious wife-beaters, infamous for their brutality’. But Chagnon’s work has come under scrutiny recently and doubts have been raised about the validity of his findings in Patrick Tierney’s Darkness in El Dorado. A report on the argument in the New York Times suggests that anthropology has become the academic equivalent of The Jerry Springer Show. In any case, objectivity and ideological agendas aside, anthropologists are notoriously the butt of hoaxes and practical jokes or are kindly given what they seem to want by those in the simpler societies being studied who are not quite as simple as they seem.

All Gilmore’s anthropological borrowings from studies made in Amazonia, the New Guinea Highlands, Africa and India attest to male terror of female physicality. Men huddle together, cowering in fear of women’s secretions, which are unclean, polluting and contagious, and likely to cause disease, decay, even death if not strictly controlled. Gilmore’s florid attempt to describe the phenomenon betrays a certain relish at having to say the unsayable:

Misogynistic fear centres on the flesh that makes woman man’s opposite and renders her unknowable to him. Misogynists tremble before the bodily labyrinth: veins, intestines, sexual organs. With her lunar cycles and genital effluvia, woman destroys the idealist’s illusions of a pristine universe. But physical repugnance is only part of the picture. For many misogynists revulsion grows into an indictment not of feminine flesh but of her spirit, her intellect, her character and will.

It is, of course, a love/hate thing. Along with the abuse and fear of women, men, in these ethnographies, are forever cross-dressing, standing in streams cutting the underside of their penises in mock menstruation, and howling in agony while their women are in labour. And it’s because they can’t help wanting women so much that men hate them. Men, not being animals, have constantly to restrain themselves, especially since the human female gave up oestrus. Men want women, but they’ve got better things to do than think about sex all the time. ‘This inner struggle is probably sharper, more physiologically driven, in the male than in the female because of the peremptory power of the testosterone-driven male libido. The result is not only unremitting tension, frustration, and the inevitable aggression against the object of desire, but also moral self-doubt and, in the case of puritans, self-hatred.’ (And women? Well, ‘women suffer in their own way from sexual conflicts, but the result is not anti-male hysteria.’) In Melanesia and parts of Brazil, women are not permitted ever to be physically higher than men, for fear of deadly dripping, but, as Gilmore points out, the sexual fantasy of women astride men is nearly universal. The ambivalence between sexual fantasy and social phobia is key: desire equals danger, an imagined loss of control of the libido threatens the social order, an irresistible physical need undermines an independent spirit. These fears operated just as effectively for the ancient Greeks, the early Christians, the medieval intelligentsia or the Elizabethans as they do for contemporary tribal societies. Gilmore gives us the well-aired rants against women from Hesiod and Homer, St Paul, Bernard of Cluny, Shakespeare and Swift to prove that his case goes beyond the merely anthropological. We hear, once again, Lear railing against ‘the sulphurous pit’, Milton moaning about ‘this fair defect of Nature’, Swift sniffing about ‘all her stink’ and Yeats complaining that ‘Love has pitched his mansion in the place of excrement’ – though I’m not clear why this last should be interpreted as a distaste exclusively for women. Gilmore makes his point by leaving no misogynistic cliché unturned. Splitting spirit and flesh, will and desire, intellect and imagination is a game as old as Methuselah, and the division of humanity into two genders is as handy a way of representing it as any. But these views of misogyny all presuppose that women, who do not seem to have this same ambivalent reaction to men, either do not suffer from compelling sexual desire or have no interest in sustaining the civil rather than the sensual life. Women, at least in Gilmore’s book, are curiously passive creatures who take whatever is dished out to them – or did until the unsensible likes of Andrea Dworkin came along.

Men, however, suffer not just from distress at the strength of their own passions but from an endemic dread of regressing into infantile vulnerability. The danger of the sexual woman is that she is the same creature whose body bore and nurtured the male child, who having dragged himself away from her apron strings must now re-encounter her. His fear of being engulfed or consumed is a terror of returning to helpless dependence, a fear, when it comes right down to it, of oblivion and death. We are just a hop and a skip here from Freud’s Oedipus, and only a triple jump from Klein’s object relations theory. Either way, psychoanalytic theory indicates to Gilmore that men need to wrench themselves from the power of maternally and sexually nourishing women in order to run the world. Moreover, men are very, very cross with women because, running the world as they do, men have so arranged it that they are in fact dependent on women for their physical and domestic comfort. What could be more irritating than, fearing dependence above all, finding that in order to have time to lead the properly male life, dependent is exactly what they are? The simple solution to all this, which is that men give up the project of running the world and settle down to childcare and making supper, is not an option apparently, because maleness is a near impossible dream, and a man’s got to dream what a man’s got to dream.

Gilmore suggests that the enterprise of maleness is so difficult that it must be protected against encroaching underlying femaleness. Maleness is a developmental afterthought, he points out. We all begin in utero as female and only some foetuses develop into males. By analogy, social maleness is a cultivation that needs protecting from rampantly natural femaleness. Maleness can be seen, says Gilmore, as ‘a fragile pose, an insecure façade, something made up, frangible, that men create beyond nature’. Here men, valiant but feeble, are fending off entropy itself. Standing against extinction in the form of their own innate inner femaleness. Whatever way you look at it, men are poor but brave old things.

In search of his own unifying theory, Gilmore gives credence to many of the obvious and available psychoanalytic and sociobiological explanations for women-hatred. He is less inclined, however, to trust feminist and Marxist views on misogyny, which tend to place the blame more squarely on men’s desire for political control and domination. Too crude, too reductionist, he says. Though as a straightforward solution to the coincidental problem of the universality of misogyny and of male hegemony, I’d say they are hard to beat. To my shame, I have to admit to a growing inclination to agree with John Major’s once dismaying view that we should understand less and condemn more – as least in the face of Gilmore’s gathering of pop-psychoanalytic excuses for the sorry state of gender relations the world over.

In the end the patchwork of woman-hating instances of which most of the book consists brings Gilmore round to his conclusion, which hardly seems to merit the painful reading we have been required to do: ‘many theories are needed to explain this malady in all its diversity and richness. Misogyny is complex and has many, often unrelated causes.’ He is not hopeful of a final cure, but thinks the problem might be mitigated by desegregation in schools, the sharing of bathrooms, paternal childcare and consciousness-raising for men in the form of ‘ambivalence toleration’ or ‘conflictedness training’. He considers his proposals for the amelioration of misogyny to be ‘wishful thinking’ but since men ‘are and always will be divided in their feelings about sex and about women . . . only self-knowledge and tolerance can help men appreciate the degree of their conflict.’ What is going to help women put up with these sorry sharers of the planet, he doesn’t say. He continues: ‘Only self-knowledge can free men from fear of women, and self-knowledge in this case means the acceptance of the divided self within and an imperfect universe without.’ The imperfect universe being one that has women in it, I presume. Finally, ‘only through an acceptance of wholeness can men appreciate the loveliness, gentleness and beauty of women.’ Oh, Andrea Dworkin, where are you when we really need you?

From the LRB letters page: [ 4 October 2001 ] John Coggrave, Barbara Blœdé [ 18 October 2001 ] Jim Valentine.

Jenny Diski is writing a book about St Helena. A novel, Apology for the Woman Writing, is coming out in November. And here is the rest of it.