Category Archives: Undead sexist cliches

Undead Sexual Cliches: Harassment is an arbitrary term and accusers are anonymous

Covering two cliches about sexual harassment today. First, the complaint that, according to antifeminist Suzanne Venker, “harassment is a vague term because it’s so subjective.” This is an argument I’ve seen a lot: almost anything can be classed as harassment if a woman takes offense. It’s impossible for a man to know when he’s harassing a woman. Business owner Paula Fargo in writing about how harmful #metoo supposedly is complains cases “run the gamut from hurt feelings all the way to ‘hostile work environments'” — if there’s no physical assault we’re just dealing with a woman’s “perception you are being sexually harassed” It’s just a matter of opinion. Daphne Merkin complains about a “disturbing lack of clarity” in “sexual harassment.”

This is similar to a standard argument against prosecuting date rape: the boundary for consent is so vague and arbitrary, guys can’t tell they’re doing anything wrong. Just because a woman thinks the guy crossed a line does that make it so? But the legal boundaries aren’t that vague. Federal guidelines say harassment can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, verbal and physical harassment “of a sexual nature” or offensive remarks about women in general. It does not include teasing, offhand comments or isolated incidents unless they become so frequent or severe it creates a “hostile or offensive work environment” or affects the victim’s career (e.g., firing them).

That’s not vague. It is partly subjective — is a given sexual advance welcome or unwelcome? — but that seems reasonable. It doesn’t mean, as Warren Farrell and others have claimed that harassment is anything a woman says it is. I’m confident that “he’s reading Mickey Spillane, a sexist author — that’s harassment!” wouldn’t fly, not that I’ve ever heard anything even remotely comparable. Admittedly some questions — is teasing is bad enough to create a hostile work environment? — could be vague and/or subjective, but that’s true of a lot of legal matters.

Were party A’s words so inflammatory they justified a physical response? Was a doctor’s error an understandable mistake or so bad as to constitute negligence?  Whether a police shooting or a stand your ground case is justified can depend on whether the shooter felt genuinely endangered or not. Was the killer acting in cold blood (first degree murder) or did they lose control and act in a rage (second degree)? So far as I know, the only place antifeminists object to subjectivity is when it comes to harassment.

Closely related are the arguments that “An equal amount of fury is directed toward actions as morally — and legally — distinct from each other as rape, harassment, rudeness, boorishness and incivility” as Lee Siegel claims. Or editor Rick MacArthur’s argument that #metoo “has had an unfortunate tendency to lump together everybody from Harvey Weinstein to the guy who looked at you funny at the lunchroom at the office cantina or who maybe sent you a suggestive message.” See, it’s so vague, any man can get into trouble!

The trouble with this argument is that nobody’s getting fired for looking at someone funny over lunch or sending a suggestive message. They are being talked about, as in the Shitty Media Men list, but that’s not the same thing. Saying (as someone in the list did) that someone sent you a creepy direct message is not getting people fired. It’s doing what women have long done, warn others in private (the list wasn’t originally meant to go public) about guys you should stay away from (“No, you don’t want a coaching session alone with Harry. Trust me.”). It may be just silly and unfair …but then again, maybe not (the link has some discussion of this). Violence predictor Gavin DeBecker has discussed that people can often pick up on Danger even if they can’t pin down why. I don’t think “looked at me funny” would be a good standard for firing anyone, but as a warning between colleagues? It might be.


Filed under Undead sexist cliches, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book

Undead Sexist Cliche: Women are so happy when men dominate them

Much like the long tradition of pretending slaves loooved them some shackles and white dominance (and the same for Jim Crow), there’s a tradition of insisting that women really, really want men to be the boss of them.

Psychologist Leonard Sax, for example, claimed back in 2008 that all feminism’s denial of innate gender differences has accomplished is to create “a horde of girls who adore the traditional male and female roles and relationships in the ‘Twilight’ saga.” Women enjoy Twilight, ergo they must crave a strong, dominant man to control them like Edward controls Bella. Feminism has failed, women are happier under men’s thumbs. Molly Hemingway of The Federalist similarly claimed (though I don’t have a handy link) that the popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey proves women want to let men be the boss — maybe they should try for that instead of aspiring to the prestige of an executive position (said by the online magazine’s editor in chief — though given the level of bullshit they churn out, Hemingway has successfully avoided acquiring any prestige).

After Republican Paul Ryan briefly sported a beard, Nicole Russell at The Federalist (again) gushed how he “exuded manliness” and women need and crave manly men to support the emotional roller-coaster of the female mind. Guys who won’t take charge of their women are as cruel to them as men who discriminate against women!

A number of the evangelicals quoted in Jesus and John Wayne say the same thing. Male supremacist Edwin Louise Cole, for example, argued back in the 1980s that women were begging for men to lead them; when men dominated, women would want them more. Evangelical Gordon Dalbey argued that women were “crying out” for men to become all male and dominant so that women could regain their submissive, “authentic femininity.” John Piper, one of the misogynist complementarians, claims man’s nature is to protect women and “women, at their deepest and most honest selves, give profound assent to this noble impulse.”

This is one of those lipstick-on-a-pig rationalizations. At some level, they may have just enough awareness of their own bullshit that they need to reassure themselves they’re making women happy. Or they’re simply using this as a cover for how misogynistic they are — no, women want to live in a Handmaid’s Tale dystopia! It fits with the claim they’ve been making since Phyliss Schlafly was the vanguard of antifeminism, that the reason women aren’t happy to stay home is because feminists brainwashed them with their dark Jedi mind tricks.

Schlafly’s niece Suzanne Venker, for example, claims women have been “indoctrinated by feminists” who “robbed you of what you naturally want: to be a wife, a mother, homebound.” Of course, as a professional pundit, Venker isn’t homebound and clearly doesn’t want to be, but that’s a typical “do as I say, not as I do” attitude for professional female antifeminists. And it fits with the idea that women year for someone to boss them around; it should be men, but instead it’s those evil feminists.

This ignores that many women of the 1950s happily left those supposedly ideal marriages when easy divorce became an option, or renegotiated the terms (getting jobs outside the home, say). They weren’t brainwashed by Sith feminism; they knew what they were doing. Like other undead sexist cliches, claims women yearn for male dominance are a pile of codswallop.


Filed under Politics, Undead sexist cliches

The fruit of a poisonous tree

According to the book of Matthew, “a good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.” So judging by the last chapter of JESUS AND JOHN WAYNE: How White Evangelicals Corrupted A Faith and Fractured a Nation by Kristin Kobes Du Mez, the fruit of right-wing Christian complementarianism shows the doctrine is ultimately vile.

Du Mez shows that gender was a major problem for 20th century evangelical Christians. All this church talk about being nice, being good, being compassionate, not solving problems with violence — it’s so damn unmanly! This was not a unique problem — mainstream America worried about a decline in masculinity too — but it’s one American evangelical churches have been grappling with for a long time.

The solution was to hold up John Wayne as a role model for the kind of manly men American Christians should be, and to emphasize female submission  — God made men to be the boss, women should submit, stay home and pop out Christian babies. In a kind of bizarro-intersectionality this became wrapped up with other things conservative evangelicals cared about, such as fighting communism and keeping black American down. Strong families would help us hold the line against Communism. Keeping women in gilded cages was held up in glowing contrast to Communism which gave lip service to women’s equality. Because evangelicals had developed their own media ecosystem and sales channels, books and radio programs spread these ideas through their community. Some, such as Marabel Morgan’s The Total Woman, broke through into the mainstream.

As Beth Allison Barr has written, this led to evangelicals disregarding or ignoring all the parts of the Bible that made this inconvenient, like the references to Junia (female apostle) and Phoebe (deacon) as they don’t fit the right-wing view  that women having authority over men, or teaching to them is against the Bible. As feminism became a mainstream stance, the right-wing response was to cling more fiercely to their views, insisting absolute female subordination was a Biblical stance. They also began insisting that Jesus was not in any way, shape or form a nice, gentle man — he was a total badass! He didn’t want his followers turning the the cheek, he wanted them to bust heads and take names!

I will pause here and note that in my own Christian view Jesus does say (“I come not to bring peace but the sword”) and do things (cleaning the money-changers from the temple) that are not meek and mild. But he says and does a great many things that are antithetical to the macho badass interpretation, from compassion for outcasts, sinners and the sick to emphasizing the importance of love, forgiveness and charity. Trying to fit them into a cohesive worldview is difficult  — ignoring the parts you don’t like isn’t even trying (admittedly that’s a long Christian tradition too).

So in the 21st century we end up with right-wing evangelicals loudly and gloriously enthused by waging endless war in the Middle East without any of the moral qualms past Christian generations have had about war and ethics. In most cases (some were combat veterans) they were classic chickenhawks, rooting for other men to do the fighting (women, of course had no business in the military in their eyes). And rooting for Trump as precisely the kind of macho thug they wanted to be, as well as the practical advantages of rooting for someone who’d deliver on policies they liked.

In the last chapter, Du Mez looks at the level of sexual harassment, rape and assault in complementarian churches, and this is the really poisonous fruit. Astonishingly, a number of people who preach absolute male domination and absolute female submission (including in sex — some of them are very big on wives’ obligation to have lots of sex with their husbands, even if the women don’t feel like it)) turn out to be men who exploit male domination and female submission. And many who don’t abuse or assault women themselves back other clergy or members of their own church who do. They talk a good game about how men must protect women, but when a man fails in his duty the first response is not to stop him but to make sure women stay obedient.

Which as Fred Clark says, raises the question of Matthew: if the fruit is toxic, can we trust the tree? I’m not a complementarian, but if I was, would it be possible for me to separate the teachings of Douglas Wilson or John Piper from their misogyny? Or would absorbing their writing mingle them both? And what does it say to survivors if we hold up sexual predators as wise men of god who should be listened to?

The fruit is bad. I think the tree is too.

#SFWApro. Cover by Jared Oriel, all rights to image remain with current holder.


Filed under Politics, Undead sexist cliches, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book

What conservatives can’t imagine

Throwing his weight into the critical race theory freakout, Pat Robertson said CRT is bad because it claims that “the people of color have to rise up and overtake their oppressors and then – having gotten the ‘whip handle,’ if I can use that term – then to instruct their white neighbors how to behave. Now that’s critical race theory.” It isn’t, but it does show why equality freaks Republicans out.

The standard take is that when you’ve tasted superiority, equality feels like oppression.  Suppose Harry’s stay-at-home wife Lorraine gets a job, one she really likes. She’s always had dinner on the table when Harry gets home; now Harry has to cook something himself or eat leftovers. Lorraine’s always done all the cleaning; now Harry either helps or he sits in a mess. It’s fair that both partners divide the work, but to Harry something’s been taken away. And it’s not like he deserved it, is it? Where does Lorraine get off changing the terms of their marriage?

There’s a lot of truth to that, but not the whole truth. Robertson expresses a large chunk of the rest — that if white people don’t stay in charge, they’ll face worse than equality. Black Americans will seize the “whip handle” and start giving orders to white people. OMG, they’ll treat white America the way we’ve treated black America for so long!

Admittedly believing that Robertson believes anything he’s saying is possibly foolish. Still, I’ve seen similar things online. Like a 67 year old white woman who’s convinced if not for The Former Guy becoming president, blacks would have launched a race war. Obama’s presidency scared her with the possibility of race war more than anything since “the Rosa Parks years.” An article I read about 15 years ago (no links, alas), says that many white Americans are convinced we can’t exist without hierarchy: either white people are at the top or black people are. They’re out to seize the whip handle.

For some conservatives, it’s inconceivable that black Americans want equality rather than dominance. That they don’t think anyone should wield the whip handle. It’s the same logic by which so many sexists are convinced feminists want to rule, not simply receive equality. That would imply They are better than Us — that can’t be true! As someone put it online earlier this year, the right-wing Golden Rule is “Assume others will treat you the way you want to treat them.” They value dominance; they’d love to bring back Jim Crow and 1950s style sexism. So obviously the other side must want a version of the same thing.

This logic explains why conservatives are forever freaking out that The Left is going to take over, crush all dissent, rig election and oppress them (we’re refusing to date Trumpers, that proves we want to destroy them!). Sure, some of it’s bullshit to whip up the Republican base, but it’s exactly what they’re doing: laying the groundwork to throw out elections they don’t win. Legalizing physical attacks on protesters.  Many of them want America to be a white nation so it’s no surprise they fear immigrants are going to replace them. I’m sure Newt Gingrich, quoted at the link, doesn’t believe that — he’s always been a lying shit — but lots of people who listen to him do.

At times I can almost laugh at their capacity for projection. But the consequences of the Anti-American Party’s fears are ugly, and they’re only getting uglier.

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Filed under Politics, Undead sexist cliches

Undead Sexual Harassment: No means yes

As I mentioned in my review of The Myth of Male Power, Warren Farrell claims that when women say “no,” there’s a good chance they mean yes. If she’s French-kissing while telling you she doesn’t want sex, maybe she really wants you to ignore her no and keep going. If a woman tells you to stop sexually harassing her, she’s testing you to see if you’ll fight to win love (evolution has hardwired her to want a fighter!). If she mentions liking Fifty Shades of Grey, which is all about a woman being dominated, that’s code for wanting the guy to dominate her. After all, Gone With the Wind has a big marital rape scene, and generations of women think it’s sexy that Rhett Butler didn’t want for informed consent.

Farrell’s not alone in claiming “no means yes.” Limbaugh, for instance, once told listeners “no means yes if you know how to spot it. Seduction used to be an art, now of course it’s ‘brutish’ and ‘predatory.’” Lots of dating-advice books express the same view: guys are hunters so they’ll be more excited if the woman plays hard to get. Women should say no to encourage pursuit; if a guy doesn’t pursue, he’s a wimp. The same applies to sex: guys won’t buy the cow if they get the milk free.

The long and the short of it is that we live in a culture which encourages guys to disregard a woman’s no and shames a woman if she says yes too soon (“If a lady says no, she means maybe. If she says maybe, she means yes. if she says yes, she’s no lady.” according to one old phrase). This does not lead to good sexual communication. One survey of college women found 39 percent had said no at least once to sex when they meant yes. This does not validate Farrell/Limbaugh, though. It still adds up to a majority of nos that actually mean no; a guy who assume he knows “how to spot it” can easily get it wrong, especially if he relies in these guys’ advice (I’ve French kissed women who did not want sex; I’m not alone). Despite Farrell’s claims about 50 Shades and Gone With the Wind, you are not what you read. Enjoying a book about a man who won’t take no for an answer does not mean you want that in real life.

And a lot of people really do have trouble spotting it. In one 1985 case, a foster parent threatened to return his fourteen-year-old charge to the detention home unless she slept with him. She refused, but eventually submitted. The appeals court in Commonwealth v. Mlinarich thought they could spot that her no meant yes: he hadn’t used force, so clearly he’d seduced her, not raped her. Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen described director Roman Polanski’s rape of a thirteen-year old by saying “he seduced [her] with all the power and authority of a 44-year-old movie director who could make her famous.” That’s a bizarre interpretation of Polanski giving a tween drugs and alcohol, then penetrating her even after she said no to sex.

“Seduction” is doing a lot of work here. I think of seduction as murmuring sweet nothings in my date’s ear as we sip wine by candlelight (yes, I’m old). Contrary to Limbaugh, I’ve never heard that sort of thing described as brutish; I suspect he was thinking of something more aggressive. He’s never thought consent mattered, complaining that liberals favor calling in the rape police when there’s no consent. Guess what? If there’s no consent, it is indeed rape.

It’s true if a guy holds back when the woman’s “no” isn’t sincere, he’s passing up a chance to get laid. But that’s preferable to becoming a rapist. At least, it is for a decent human being; many rapists aren’t. They’re not trying to spot the woman’s secret desires; they don’t care about them. That doesn’t mean this talk of seduction and no means yes isn’t harmful; just look at the judges in Mlinarich, or Farrell’s argument that even a sexual harassment lawsuit shouldn’t discourage a man from pursuing his coworker (she wants you to fight for her, remember?).

In other contexts, we know “no means yes” is bullshit. If a panhandler asks me for five bucks and I say no, nobody assumes I mean yes. If they pursue me and keep asking, maybe I eventually give them money; that doesn’t mean my no wasn’t sincere. In business or sales negotiations, No is often a bargaining strategy; it’s still wrong to force someone to buy a product (“I know you want to close this deal so give me the money.”) and we know it.

When the context is sex, that logic disappears. In 2003, for instance, pundit Gregg Easterbrook said that because no often means yes, saying no to a man doesn’t make it rape. Only saying flat out that “if you don’t stop, it’s rape,” is good enough. But if no means yes, why can’t “this is rape!” mean yes? In one 2014 Swedish case, the victim shrieked no until her voice was hoarse. The judge dismissed the case on the grounds the attacker thought she liked it rough. Would screaming “this is rape!” have changed anything or would the judge have decided that was more of her kink?

Even if the attacker genuinely thought the woman was playing hard to get, having sex after she says no is still rape. Just like a drunk driver who didn’t realize they were over the legal limit, rape is a crime regardless of the attacker’s intentions.

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Total depravity in the United States

Not what it sounds like. Slacktivist, some years ago, explained that in Calvinist thought, total depravity means everything is corrupted by original sin. This is different from utter depravity, the belief that we are rotten all the way through. We’re not; there’s good in us everywhere along with our dark side. But the dark side is there, much as some people want to deny it.

For example, Traverse City in Michigan. The Washington Post reports kids in school toss around the n-word as an insult and recently held a mock online slave auction. Nevertheless, many of the white adults are adamant there’s no racism in their town.

Since 2015, nooses have shown up at multiple construction projects throughout the U.S.

There’s now a shadow industry devoted to spreading disinformation online.

“We are not the only democracy to have had a corrupt, would-be authoritarian in high office. But we have had a hard time holding that person minimally accountable, much less keeping him out of contention for future office”

QAnon convinced the father of a Parkland shooting survivor that Parkland was a false flag.

“I promised myself to never love a job again. Not in the way I loved Google.” — a software engineer who filed a harassment complaint and discovered Google didn’t return her love like she thought.

Nashville pastor Greg Locke claims the Trump Virus is a hoax and bears false witness against his neighbor.

“I believe had they done so or had they accomplished that, they would have trampled us to death,” — one officer’s testimony about the Jan. 6 anti-American mob. But the new talking point on the right is, the terrorists couldn’t have succeeded in overturning the election, so no big, right?

Toyota has a vested interest in supporting supporters of the Jan. 6 attempted coup — their bottom line.

Even back in the 1950, there were some Republicans who thought the Democratic plan to provide polio vaccine for free was socialism.

Colleges’ core revenue increased from $280 billion to $511 billion between 2009 and 2019, according to LGM. By a strange coincidence, college presidents and administrators have seen a big increase in pay while faculty get next to nothing.

Taking wolves of the endangered species list wasn’t the worst thing Donald Trump did. But given the irrational hatred many rural folk harbor for wolves (check out the book Wolf Wars for details), the opportunity to butcher them is proving irresistible.

During the Clinton impeachment trial, I read and believed articles that said Ken Starr’s pursuit of Clinton was partly because he was an old-fashioned moralist, shocked at Clinton’s adultery. His record says otherwise.

Right-wing pundit Michael Medved wants us to know that even though many of the Founding Fathers owned slaves, they were totally opposed to slavery.

Mario Batali, super-star chef and restaurateur, built a company rife with sexual harassment.

If the FBI did in fact entrap the defendants in the Governor Whitmer kidnapping case, that would be extremely unjust. At this point I have no opinion on who’s in the right.

Journalist David Neiwert has argued that Rush Limbaugh pumped far-right rhetoric into the mainstream by toning down the worst parts (e.g., far-right attacks on the government rather than the “Zionist-occupied” government). It’s still a popular right-wing tactic online.

The United States treats rebels and revolutionaries differently depending whether they challenge or support the existing social hierarchies.

I am not at all shocked that the Arizona “audit” of the votes was not only full of shit, it was full of sexual harassment.

I am not at all shocked that right-wingers are declaring Simone Biles is weak, but I am disgusted.

Even when the government makes aid available it’s damn hard to get it, except for rich people.

The prison system has allowed Larry Nassar to spend thousands of dollars on himself while he sends a pittance to his victims.

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Filed under economics, Politics, Undead sexist cliches

Lack of empathy, lack of logic: Warren Farrell’s “The Myth of Male Power”

The cover of Warren Farrell’s The Myth of Male Power (uncredited art, as far as I could see) sums up his belief men are powerless in the face of a “genetic celebrity,” AKA an attractive woman. He’s wrong about that, as he is about much else.

The book isn’t all bad. As I said last week, unlike many critiques of feminism Farrell doesn’t assume old gender roles are the goal, or that they’re fixed and unchanging. He doesn’t think men are made for violence, and he believes they can be good caregivers and stay-at-home dads. He realizes shattering gender stereotypes is good for both sexes. And that prison rape is not a funny thing or a form of justice.

All of which makes me appreciate why it’s so tempting to just hate your enemies as monsters: it’s much simpler. It’s like seeing Mona Charen, who’s big on the buyer’s remorse rape-apologist bullshit, condemning Republicans for supporting Donald Trump and Roy Moore. It’s unsettling to realize someone I despise isn’t all bad.

That said, this book gives me plenty to despise. Farrell starts from illogical premises and then builds badly (not to mention including bad statistics and untrue statements). For example, he claims men are genetically hardwired to be women’s protectors, and women to crave protectors for mates). This is a paleofantasy, an assumption that as society is this way, it must be in our genes. Like most such assumptions, there’s no science to back it up. As philosopher Daniel Dennett once said, our ancestors often chose to live in caves but we don’t have a cave-dwelling gene.

Nevertheless, Farrell explains all kinds of things based on his assumption. Boys bully each other to test their fitness as protectors. Polygamy exists to protect women from winding up monogamously married to a poor man. Workplace gender discrimination protects married women by ensuring their husbands have fewer competitors at work. Men die in war to protect women. In Farrell’s eyes, society doesn’t oppress women, it cherishes them.

Farrell also believes our biological imperative is for man to aggressively pursue women while women keep saying no; eventually the man overwhelms her resistance and she surrenders happily, knowing she has a strong mate who’ll fight for her. In other words, no means yes. Farrell doesn’t literally say every no means yes but he comes close. He claims, for example, that sexual harassment suits mean “yes” — the woman doesn’t want him to give up pursuing her, she’s still just testing him. Besides, if women look attractive at work, obviously they’re open to hooking up (and marrying and quitting, so the boss is totally justified in firing good-looking women).

This leads into another flaw, Farrell’s complete lack of empathy for women. In writing about dating and relationships, he thinks both men and women should be willing to ask the other out, pay for dinner if they ask, etc., which is reasonable enough. But he focuses almost entirely on the male side, the pain and discomfort of being rejected by a genetic celebrity. He ignores that most women aren’t sexy, any more than men, and that the mating dance is just as agonizing for women, if not more so. As Laurie Penny says, “I was taught to fear being a whore or a loser if I answered, never mind asked myself. Sex isn’t an achievement for a young girl. It’s something we’re supposed to embody so other people can consume us, and if we fail at that, what are we even for?” Farrell seems to think the problem is women enjoying their power and making men come to them, not that society — and a fair number of men — often treat them like shit for not doing womanhood right.

And that leads into his utterly loathsome views of rape and harassment. For Farrell it’s men who suffer: men have to take the initiative in sex and relationships but if they’re not a good lover or they “initiate at the wrong time,” suddenly it’s rape! They have to ask the woman out but if she’s a coworker and she isn’t interested, bam, he’s a harasser (asking a colleague out once, assuming you’re not in authority over her, is not usually enough to cause harassment). Feminists have “taught” women to sue for date rape but nobody’s taught men to sue if women say yes, then change their mind which is just as traumatic (no, it isn’t).

Stranger rape, that’s bad, but date rapists are just dudes who “initiated badly” or weren’t good lovers. And yet as soon as they make their innocent mistake, blammo, a woman can ruin them. She feels buyer’s remorse, or she just lies — Farrell’s convinced there are huge numbers of false rape charges out there. The FBI doesn’t think so, but federal statistics are unreliable: as far as the FBI knows, we could have no false charges, or we could have 100 percent (the FBI can state as a fact we do not have 100 percent fake rape charges).



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Filed under Politics, Undead sexist cliches, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book

Undead Sexist Cliche: Let’s kill women to compensate for the male war dead!

As I said last week, I really hated buying Warren Farrell’s The Myth of Male Power because it put money in his pocket, but it has proven a wise decision. While he’s got one or two good things to say — unlike a lot of people I cover in Undead Sexist Cliches, he doesn’t believe men are innately violent or that we can’t be nurturing — his efforts to both-sides feminism (men and women are both oppressed! Women hurt men as badly as men hurt women!) are a mess of bullshit.

I’ll get into that when I’ve finished the whole book, but today I want to focus on one particular point. In discussing how men and only men have to register for the draft, Farrell asks how we’d feel if the president suddenly announced “Since 1.2 million American men have been killed in war, as part of my new program for equality, we will draft only women until 1.2 million American women have been killed in war.”

No, he’s not making a serious proposal, he’s just using this to dramatize how men, in his view, are oppressed and feminists don’t care. He complains, for example, that feminists offered women greater freedom without calling for greater responsibilities — notice how NOW didn’t call for 18-year-old girls to be drafted like men? Feminists think women are oppressed but it’s only men who die in wars or fighting to create empires.

Even given that Farrell’s not serious, his proposal creeps me out. It’s the equivalent of BLM saying they’ll stop protesting when they see one white cop shot for every innocent black person killed by a cop. Even if BLM were just doing it to dramatize injustice, it would feel very wrong. So does Farrell.

That aside, his fixation on the draft is a good example of how tottyheaded his thinking is. I’m in complete agreement that both men and women (and the nonbinary) should register as long as selective service exists. However registration hasn’t turned into a draft in the past forty years, not even when our military was straining to cope with the Iraq and Afghanistan occupations. Farrellis correct that the government could order all registered men report for induction, but it doesn’t seem likely. Nor does his link between a men-only draft and prison rape make a lick of sense.

He complains that Margaret Thatcher was exempt from the UK draft but didn’t get judged for it the way Bill Clinton and Dan Quayle did. It’s hard to see Thatcher not being eligible is equivalent to consciously avoiding the draft; if Clinton had been pilloried just for not enlisting, the argument would make more sense (Obama didn’t serve and didn’t get much crap about it). Then again, W avoided the draft and was largely held up as a fighter pilot war hero manly man while decorated veteran John Kerry was branded a weasel who faked his own injuries. Farrell couldn’t have known that in 1993 when his book came out, but he could have acknowledged it in the updated introduction.

Farrell’s point isn’t just the draft/registration, it’s the general principle that fighting and dying in a war shouldn’t be a measure of manhood. No argument here (though from reading a lot of military history, I think there’s a lot more to war and being a soldier). But Farrell twists the argument to the breaking point to fit his theme, that society oppresses men to protect women. Men die in wars so that women can be safe. Men die in colonial wars so that their country’s economy will grow and families can afford to raise children. Men — not women!

Farrell had no way of knowing that women in 2021 would be able to join the military and serve in combat roles (something some women have done throughout history). Even in 1993, though, his argument is bullshit (as We Hunted the Mammoth has pointed out discussing male body counts). Our military casualties in Vietnam were overwhelmingly (not entirely) male but thousands of Vietnamese women died along with their men. Women died in the Rape of Nanking. They died in the London Blitz. They died in empire building: the warriors in America’s Indian Wars may have been male but Native American women died in the millions along with their men.

And how is this feminism’s fault? The American males-only draft was the work of a government dominated by men (and no, the primary motive was not to protect America’s women). The same government excluded women from serving in combat — it wasn’t until the Spanish-American War that women had any role in the U.S. military. Feminists didn’t push for women to be drafted; they did, however support the Equal Rights Amendment which would have mandated a gender-neutral draft (antifeminist women hated the idea). Feminists  have a long history of opposing the draft for men and supporting the rights of women to serve in combat roles (though some feminists saw this as caving into the military-industrial complex or worried about military service putting women under the control of men).

Betty Friedan saw the potential for what Farrell claims feminists neglected, the chance to redefine masculinity: if both genders are fighters, violence no longer defines manhood. TYG’s comment when I mentioned Farrell’s idea was that she’d be delighted with a women-only draft. A generation or two where women got heavily trained in how to fight and use weapons and men didn’t? Works for her.

I suspect both these thoughts are among the reasons right-wingers hate women in the military, like Ted Cruz freaking out that women soldiers can’t win against Russia’s manly essence. The last thing he wants in the world is women who are tougher and stronger than he’ll ever be.

Like I said, I’ll be back with more on the book in a later post.

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Undead Sexist Cliches: I’m using logic, therefore feminists are wrong

Some years back, I remember one right-winger arguing that liberals who refuse to accept evolutionary psychology’s proof about gender differences are as anti-science as creationists. Science says women have evolved to stay home with babies; you may not like this, but you can’t argue with it and pretend to believe in science.

As I say at the link, believing in science doesn’t obligate me to believe in every scientific theory, or even every evolutionary theory: Lamarck, Lysenko  and countless others believed their theories were sound science, but they were wrong. Nevertheless, lots of sexists and racists take this tack: it’s not that they’re bigoted, it’s just that the evidence — science, statistics — is so damn conclusive. They hate saying it, but it’s true, men (or white people) are just superior.

Some of them, I’m sure, don’t believe their own words, they just figure it’s a trap for us: you libs value logic? You think science is the guide to truth? Well, then here’s some damn science and logic in your face! You’ve been owned (See this Sartre quote).

Some people find the lure of believing logic is on their side irresistible. This excellent article, for example, points out that guys who’ve been “redpilled” — their eyes have been opened to all the ways women oppress men in the modern world — are convinced their positions are irrefutably logical. The author, Aisling McCrea, makes the same point about some atheists: they see logic not as a system of thought you can use to find truth but a kind of instant cosmic awareness: I’m using logic, I must be right!

Not that I’m arguing against logic: it’s a good tool and often a valuable one. In some circumstances, a gut reaction or a wild-ass guess may be better. As Gavid deBecker says in The Gift of Fear, if you get a gut-reaction that you shouldn’t trust this nice person offering to carry your groceries and that you, are, in fact, creeped out, there’s probably a good reason. Play it safe and trust your gut.

As McCrea details, though, screaming that you’re using logic doesn’t mean that you are, in fact, logical (the same is true of people who insist something is Just Common Sense. Sometimes it isn’t). It doesn’t mean the person you’re arguing with isn’t also being logical. Two people can reach different logical reasons for multiple reasons. For example, if you start from the premise that women don’t like sex or that date rape is just buyers’ remorse, you’re going to reach different conclusions than someone who knows both those statements are untrue. If you “know” all women want kids, ditto.

Or as Cathy O’Neil says, if someone looked at the post-college life of graduates back in 1960, it might seem obvious that men put their degrees to good use, women just stay home with the kids — maybe there’s no point in letting women attend school, right? If they don’t see the problem lies in discrimination against working women rather than women’s desires, they’ll reach the wrong conclusion.

We may be completely unaware of our own bias. Cordelia Fine says our performance on gender-linked skill tests can vary depending whether the skill is presented as male or female. And most of us (myself included) are inclined to believe science that supports our side over studies that don’t

We may be choose to cling to “logic” and “facts” even when we don’t have them because we want to believe, as Fred Clark discusses about one old urban legend.

I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t use logic or that we sit around unsure about everything we believe. But the more extreme our conclusions — anything that says violence is the only option or that other people shouldn’t have rights — the more careful about acting on “logic” we should be. As the writer G.K. Chesteron says, life is a trap for logicians: it looks more logical than it really is.


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Bill Cosby, confessed rapist, is now a free man.

One of the infuriating things I learned working on Undead Sexist Cliches is how prosecutors frequently write off rape cases as not worth their trouble. Republican politician and former prosecutor Ken Buck telling a rape victim the jury would dismiss her charge as “buyer’s remorse” (after she presented him with the guy admitting to rape on tape). The Texas prosecutor who said going to trial was useless because the jury would never convict a first-time rapist. Alex Acosta giving Jeffrey Epstein a sweetheart deal rather than taking on his high-powered legal team. The Guardian has more.

So it’s not surprising that Bruce Castor, Bill Cosby’s original prosecutor from 2005, decided the jury wouldn’t convict so why make the effort? Instead he promised Cosby there’d be no prosecution, ever, so when one of Cosby’s victims sued him, he couldn’t hide behind the Fifth Amendment. The later prosecution that jailed Cosby used his civil-suit deposition against him. The Supreme Court ruled that violated Cosby’s rights (expanded explanation here).

That last link covers some of the key questions, as does Lawyers, Guns and Money: was there actually a no-prosecution agreement? Does Castor simply announcing to the media that he’s not going to prosecute constitute an agreement never to prosecute, or is it simply a standard press announcement he’s not filing? Was the dissenting Supreme Court judge right to argue this amounts to giving Castor the power to pardon Cosby by blocking prosecutions?

Apparently even if there was no formal agreement, Cosby and his attorneys thought so, which was enough for the court. And probably rights on the merits, though as LGM points out, lots of lower-profile, non-wealthy defendants without a-list legal talent get screwed over by prosecutors without similar support. One law for rich and poor alike …

It’s understandable assault survivors are pissed off. I am too, but I’m not caught in the dilemma of wondering if I was a fool to come forward or whether I ought to come forward. They do. And they’ve just been shown how frustrating it is, though I’m sure they knew it already.

In other women-related links:

Is it even legal for Britney Spears’ legal conservator (her dad) to force her to stay on birth control? And would anything equivalent have happened to a self-destructive male star?

Antifeminist Caitlin Flanagan once claimed it was pointless to have fathers do more household work because they can’t do it well enough to satisfy their wives. Allison Daminger says they can, they just don’t want to.

Susan Sarandon on guys who hated Thelma and Louise.

It’s not just the US: Pakistan’s prime minister blames rape on women wearing too little.

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