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Sexism, feminism: asking you all your opinion

 
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Old 27-Jan-2010, 08:57 PM (20:57)     1        36210
Gurdur
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Question Sexism, feminism: asking you all your opinion

Right at this time I am thinking my way through my own attitudes. I would be very grateful if you all here could be as critical and as contributory as possible on this subject, since I want to sharpen up my thinking, and to broaden it a bit. Plus eventually I will be writing a couple of blog posts that will be very critical of some of the writings of Ophelia Benson, a noted atheist blogger, and I want to check every part of the logic behind my own attitudes first.

Before I go on, in case you haven't already guessed, I'm somewhat old-fashioned but old-fashioned in ways that might surprise you. Additionally, I've had some experience in factory-floor trade-unionism, and in political party campaigning, and as a result I tend to see everything in terms of politics, including atheism --- that is, I see things in terms of negotiations, power and bargaining. So to me feminism is again a similar group bargaining process that seeks to redress gross imbalances -- or that is to me what it should be.

There have been a fair few things recently around the net, but also in what I see in cultural developments, to spark this wanting of mine to get vocal about a couple of things.

There is this interesting op-ed piece in the Guardian, written by Kira Cochrane in interviewing Natasha Walter, which I request your opinions on too. I'll say more myself on it below.

Then there are two truly awful op-ed pieces by Julie Bindel; the first, Why I Hate Men (2006), and then the second, I've Changed My Mind About Men (2009). I'm not sure if I should include these two pieces; you are always going to get people -- male or female -- who love to hate, and who love to be very self-righteous about being haters; but Julie Bindel does touch on a couple of issues which really need to be addressed. Just because she comes over like some equivalent of the BNP does not mean she is always wrong, so I will do my best to deal with a couple of issues she raised.

Then there are a few blog posts by Ophelia Benson. There is one where astonishingly I agree with her. She criticised the fact that the upcoming atheist international convention in Melbourne, Australia, this year has too few women speakers in comparison to the number of male speakers. A male atheist blogger ripped into her quite nastily, basically advocating what was claimed to be gender-blind meritocracy, and Ophelia kinda just wimped out in reply to him, because without Ophelia being able to vocalise it, the male blogger had attacked her on a point where she herself has promoted alleged meritocracy; one of Benson's main schticks, albeit in her case often implicit rather than explicit, is that atheists are more clever and more rational than the general population and especially more so than the opposition. Since much of Benson's own case for atheism is built on implicit claims of alleged greater rationality/cleverness, then she was caught on the hind foot when someone else claimed alleged meritocracy rather than some kind of quota system for women speakers should rule for the atheist conference.

But despite Ophelia's incoherence when under counter-attack by that male blogger, Ophelia was right and he was wrong. Fortunately, I do not share the view that just because I am an atheist, which I am, therefore in general I am more rational, brave and clever than those who aren't atheists; I am an atheist because I think atheism is right, not because I think I am cleverer than everyone else. I can still be very dumb on other subjects, and just dumb in general, despite being an atheist. But I will write much more on that later.

Then there was a comment of hers on another site where I as usual disagreed utterly with Ophelia. She got into a small but lengthy flame-war on the Comments part of the Richard Dawkins net; and what she got flamey about was the use of female-derived sexual epithets as terms of abuse (she doesn't seem to mind too much the male-derived ones like "prick" or "pillock"). Now partly I agree with her; I actually personally think the word "cunt" should not be used as a general term of abuse since it is implicitly demeaning to all women, but Ophelia is one of those people who are so overall awful that one feels like taking a contrary position to her just because. But that's an immature reaction of mine, so I won't belabour it; but Ophelia did go right off the tracks when she claimed, "men don't get to argue about how insulting 'cunt' is. It's not up to them".

On the contrary to what Ophelia Benson thinks, men do get to decide, just like women, on what is offensive to anyone. That does not mean the majority is always correct, or that the majority rules or should rule; it is a simple recognition of that all adults form a society, and especially in a democracy eventually all final decisions are by the majority, though one always has the responsibility of tending one's own conscience and going against the majority if needs be. One also has the responsibility to work to persuade the majority.

But what one cannot do with any moral truth or honesty is to claim, like Ophelia did, that somehow some group who are only a group by an accident of birth have special rights to decide something or other. That's a wholly invalid position when you get to basics.

And I rather suspect that my own dislike of the usage of "cunt" (because it is IMvHO implicitly demeaning to women) would be seen as sexist itself by some people, simply because I am male and I decided that all for myself without simply following orders from some female theoretician. Not that it worries me; I often open doors for women just because they are women, and I lack the ideological exactitude to flagellate myself much for my sin on that. I may be a sexist, but I am not a malicious one or even a major one, and malice to me is far more a central issue of importance, rather than anything else.

Ophelia Benson always has had troubles being consistant. She claims that:

Quote:
I don't know - I thought most people learned this at about age 6. You don't call people vicious names, because it's wrong. It's morally suspect. You don't call people fat, or ugly, or smelly; you don't call them racial epithets; you don't call them faggots or dykes; you don't call them untouchables; you don't call them bitches or cunts.

In some circles it's apparently hip to flout all that. I dislike those circles. If RDF is one of those sites, then I'll have to take my wit and wisdom elsewhere. It's a matter of taste, if you like.
And then she goes off in a blog post of hers and calls Lieberman a "sack of shit". Well now, there doesn't seem to me to be much consistancy to her stance, and it would help her crusade if she could get more consistant. Don't look at me, I've been known to use the odd epithet or two, I just try to keep it in bounds; using epithets per se is not necessarily wrong, just when one overdoes it or does it dishonestly or malciously.

Which gets us back to Julie Bindel a bit; let's look at one of Bindel's claims:

Quote:
... The men who regularly get very offended on this blog, protesting that they have never hurt a fly, probably do not do an awful lot to stop other men harming women. Where are men's voices of protest in this war against women? When can we expect your support in reducing numbers of females killed and raped by men? I will not be holding my breath, but in the meantime, I will say loud and proud, yes, today I hate men ...
Now, here Bindel is spouting bullshit. If it was not for men, violence against women would go unpunished and uncorrected. Hello, Bindel, the majority of police are men. They arrest male abusers of women. Helllo Bindel, laws outlawing rape, outlawing rape in marriage, and outlawing physical abuse of women, would never have been passed were it not for the men who supported those laws, and those laws would never have been enforced were it not for the men who enforce them.

Yes, I know most violence is male against female, not the other way round. But also, most counter-violence, most enforcement of law against violence against women, is also male.

And it is folly to pretend that all sexism, or all violence against women, is male, or the result of some alleged patriarchy. Women can easily be very nasty to other women, and often are. The majority of wife-burnings in India, where a wife is burnt to death in an alleged household accident (apparently 6,787 in 2005), carried out in order so the husband can marry again and get a second dowry, are actually carried out by other women, typically the mother of the husband.

Look, I am not trying to say, "Oooo, look at what this bastard femnazi says!" For every woman who says something stupid and nasty about men, you will find two or three men saying stupid and nasty things about women. The reason why I have quoted Bindel and Benson here is because they raise important issues, even if IMHO they happen to be dead wrong, and I would like to examine all my own thinking on these issues.

Anyway, I still haven't even managed to get onto a couple of other points I would really like to get onto, but this post is horribly long already, so I will leave it at that for the moment, and ask you to all now criticise my thoughts here. I will put my other points into later posts in this thread.

Flame away!

Last edited by Gurdur; 29-Jan-2010 at 01:58 PM (13:58).
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Old 27-Jan-2010, 10:36 PM (22:36)     2        36216
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"men don't get to argue about how insulting 'cunt' is. It's not up to them".
Why on earth not? I certainly don't want to have to be in charge of what all the men think, I have enough to do, thank you. Possibly, I am shirking my social responsibilities, but I am busy wasting time on the internet, and I would prefer they all think and argue for themselves. And also take out the trash without being told to.

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When can we expect your support in reducing numbers of females killed and raped by men? I will not be holding my breath, but in the meantime, I will say loud and proud, yes, today I hate men ...
This is an excellent example of someone who badly needs a large martini and a couple of valium.

By the way, when my mother was mugged (at gunpoint!) in NYC back in the 80's, two male bystanders risked their safety to intervene.

Last edited by PSeeley; 27-Jan-2010 at 10:42 PM (22:42).
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Old 27-Jan-2010, 10:50 PM (22:50)     3        36217
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The roots of violence are in the mind, sex organs are incidental as is what we call them. Perpetrators of doemstic violence are predators who obtain gratification from preying upon individuals they perceive as weak and helpless. Picture a Venn diagram for males, females and predators, how's it shaded?
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Old 27-Jan-2010, 11:06 PM (23:06)     4        36220
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What really pissed me off was that *people kept referring to it as some argument for the right to wear lipstick. That just was not what the book was about. I wanted people to talk about, 'Well, why are women poorer than men? Why don't we earn as much?' It really *infuriated me that people weren't *prepared to engage with that debate."
I'm still boggled at the idea of having a "right" to wear lipstick unless one is still only eleven years old. And if wanting a decent wage makes me an angry feminist, so be it. Hand over the cash, baby, and no one gets hurt.
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Old 27-Jan-2010, 11:10 PM (23:10)     5        36221
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PSeeley View Post
Quote:
"men don't get to argue about how insulting 'cunt' is. It's not up to them".
Why on earth not? I certainly don't want to have to be in charge of what all the men think, I have enough to do, thank you. Possibly, I am shirking my social responsibilities, but I am busy wasting time on the internet, and I would prefer they all think and argue for themselves. And also take out the trash without being told to.
Don't you know we're all supposed to look to the Drow for correcting social inequalities, PSeely? *grins*

SRSLY though, I don't see anything flameworthy, Gurdur. I'll wait and watch for your next posts.... I consider myself a feminist, but I consider it in terms of getting equality in respect to ability rather than across the board "everyone's the same". Everyone's not. This will probably require some explanation down the road, but I'm not planning on doing it now.
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Old 27-Jan-2010, 11:24 PM (23:24)     6        36225
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Originally Posted by alicat View Post
... Perpetrators of doemstic violence are predators who obtain gratification from preying upon individuals they perceive as weak and helpless.
This is true though not for all domestic violence. But many thanks for raising this point, since I want to do a different OP on how to put off predators, i.e. how not to act like prey. I'm gonna have to wait till tomorrow and some more energy to do that though.

Quote:
Picture a Venn diagram for males, females and predators, how's it shaded?
Depends on the enviroment, I would guess. Then we need to talk ways in which violence is shown, because there are marked gender differences in how violence -- verbal, threatened, or physical -- is expressed.

I am not sure one can make many statements about the actual level of overall violence -- physical violence, to pick an easy one -- between genders. After all, culture, economy and times play a large role, as does sheer randomness, perhaps.

There are places which are worse than others, obviously, and it's male-against-female violence which most often is the worst problem, though not always; but there are also myths about everything too. This is going to be a very long thread, and I ask everyone's participation.
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Old 27-Jan-2010, 11:28 PM (23:28)     7        36226
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Originally Posted by PSeeley View Post
... Hand over the cash, baby, and no one gets hurt.
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Old 27-Jan-2010, 11:39 PM (23:39)     8        36227
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It's all an infinite loop. The proof that women are not being abused, exploited, mistreated would be happy, healthy, balanced mother's sons everywhere.
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Old 28-Jan-2010, 02:42 AM (02:42)     9        36235
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Well, we can measure physical abuse, more or less, but I have to say this... I've known some men who were good at playing mind games, but for a lot of women I know they're practically second nature. Women, IMHO, are just as abusive as men... They're simply abusive in ways that can't be physically measured more often than not.

Since we've drifted in that area.
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Old 28-Jan-2010, 03:54 AM (03:54)     10        36240
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I'm misandric, so you see my POV regardless.
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Old 28-Jan-2010, 03:49 PM (15:49)     11        36245
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Yes, there is an infinite loop, but there are ways the geography and topology of the loop can be altered.

We do make a difference. I know that it is a constant problem on boards to feel that one is not achieving anything, to feel burnt out and discouraged. But each one of us can make a difference to the world. It requires time, effort, stamina, and self-examination, but it's definitely possible.

Getting back to the subject of feminism: a lot of people think it's no longer necessary, because so much has been won for women already. But this is a big mistake; not only are womens' rights not present everywhere, but only some places, but also, there is a constant threat of regression.

For examples of regression, see the abortion culture war in the USA; and it has in many ways become a hot war -- doctors get murdered (and to further answer Julie Bindel, it's most often by a huge majority male doctors providing abortion services who get murdered, so at this point, yeah, I am going to say Julie Bindel can kiss my thin male arse on this point) and so on. The culture war on access to contraception is not all that far behind in terms of intensity of conflict.

It's just the same with wages and workers' rights -- a lot of people like to thuink trade unions are no longer necessary, and that workers' rights have been won forever. Well, it really doesn't work like that, does it? Ask those working for a pittance.
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Old 28-Jan-2010, 04:05 PM (16:05)     12        36246
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Then there is the oft-repeated catchphrase of "patriarchy". I want to suggest here it is a major mistake to confuse patriarchy with sexism overall, and an extremely bad mistake to think that sexism equals patriarchy, and I'll also suggest that patriarchy is by and large no longer in power in much of western Europe.

Where I do see patriarchy in power, sometimes it is only still in power because women support it. For example, in the USA, the office of President (POTUS) has become so invested by the voting public with an incredible load of expectations that it is a very difficult office to fulfill satisfatorily, and given the long-term political breakdown in Congress, much of the POTUS office is rather handicapped. The POTUS is now expected by the voting public to be and behave like a kind of ceremonial king for 4 or 8 years, and there is a very strong patriarchal flavour to the modern POTUS office -- but because women among others seem to want it that way. Women form a very large part of the electorate, sometimes actually the majority of the electorate, and election after election show women usually voting more conservatively than men, and preferring male candidates to female candidates.

Despite the usual allegations of patriarchy in operation as a power mechanism in society, males really don't bond all that well much, and the era of the Old Boys' clubs in politics is effectively a thing of the distant past for the most part in national politics in the USA or Britain. The good ol' boys' networks may still rule in much of USA states' politics or on a more local level in Britain, but nationally, they don't. So one question that really has to be answered is why women often prefer to vote for male candidates rather than female candidates? The most usual answer you get to this question is some variant of the "false consciousness" view, that at bottom women have been browbeaten, blackmailed or bullied into only supporting male candidates, but I don't think I buy that view for a lot of things anymore.
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Old 28-Jan-2010, 04:30 PM (16:30)     13        36247
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PSeeley View Post
... This is an excellent example of someone who badly needs a large martini and a couple of valium.
You said this about Julie Bindel, but IMvHO it actually would not work for her. It is IMHO that she really simply loves to self-righteously hate, and an awful lot of people do. Valium won't do nothing for that.

I see this as being an ever-present problem with the atheist movement. There is simply far too large a component of what I think of as the barfly bitcher mentality, the endless complaining that also manages to be thoroughly ineffectual for anything meaningful. It is a real problem for atheists.

And the empty, ineffectual barfly bitching is actually now often explicity championed. For example, there is the ongoing rumble of the culture war inside the atheist movement between the extremists and those whom the extremists term the "accomodationists". Jerry Coyne, a male who makes Ophelia Benson look almost gaily positive let alone forceful, is just one such person who in effect champions useless but self-righteous whining; he actually held a competition on his blog site to come up with new abusive terms for those he and his little fans call accomodationists, and the results praised by Coyne of his little twattish poll game were terms like betraytheist and so on. Strangely enough, I never saw Ophelia Benson say one tiny word in condemnation of such puerile antics (which is why I really don't think much of her alleged anti-epithet stance), but then that would most likely be because Coyne and Benson both hate the so-called accomodationists, atheists like Sheril Kirshenbaum, Chris Mooney, Dylan Evans, Michael Ruse and so on.

Getting back to the valium, it's long being my thought that actually something along those lines might be needed for Benson, though I tend to think haloperidol + ativan. She is just so drearily and narcisstically ranty all the tiresome time; compare her blog with the blog of Sheril Kirshenbaum and Chris Mooney -- I know which bloody blog appears to me better from all that. Coyne is simply poisonously bitchy; I won't bother linking to his own blog. After all, Benson does raise important issues, while Coyne does nothing of the sort.

Which brings up another question. Is it wrong of me to use "bitchy" as a word? It is after all derived from gender-specific derogatory history; and I've already said I don't use the word "cunt" because of its history and implications; so obviously I am making some kind of distinction here (and it is indeed that I am making a distinction, not that I am simply being contradictory). But I would like all of you to give your own opinions on all that first, before I say much on that one.
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Old 28-Jan-2010, 04:51 PM (16:51)     14        36249
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And I've made another thread on a bit of this too.
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Old 28-Jan-2010, 09:17 PM (21:17)     15        36252
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I love the word "bitch", personally. In regards to myself, I've been called a bitch so often that I've turned it into label of pride. I'm forceful and assertive. I speak my mind without reservations, but without going out of my way to offend people (usually). If those things make me a bitch, then by all means, I'm a bitch and I'll say it loud and proud. A man who did those things might be considered rude when he said all the things everyone needed to hear and didn't want to acknowledge, but no one would run around calling him a bitch for it. Not to his face, anyways. I wouldn't call him a bitch even behind his back, though...

As far as everyone else goes, I tend to use the term bitch to apply to anyone other than myself who's being petty and making people's lives miserable for no good reason, regardless of sex. Because they're bitchy.

So, go for it, Gurdur. Get those bitches!

And, as of this sentence, I've said "bitch" ten times in this post.
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