Category Archives: Radical feminism

Male entitlement as a cause of mass violence.

Yes, this was a real ad.

I’ve previously discussed the male sense of entitlement to sex. Because of the tireless work of anti-MRA advocates, we’re becoming more and more aware of the importance of entitlement to sex in male mass violence, and this deserves to be discussed widely.

Unfortunately, two facts are going against this urgent need: the mass media has muddled the discussion by refusing to discuss entitlement as a cause of male mass violence, and anti-feminists are confusing the issue by denying the very existence of male entitlement, even though it’s confirmed by their very arguments.

The most blatant example is that of Elliot Rodger. Rodger was a frustrated young man who made a video where he said he wanted to “slaughter every single spoiled, stuck-up, blonde slut” because they wouldn’t have sex with him, and wrote a 140 page manifesto detailing how “women are like a plague” and should be put in concentration camps. Despite all this, the media has refused to utter the obvious statement that male entitlement to sex had something to do with Rodger’s mass shooting.

I think this tells us that male entitlement is so ignored that we think this sort of massive rage against women is abnormal and can’t possibly be a reflection of social misogyny. Instead, we fall back to the old ableist standby that they must be “crazy,” which is just a stigmatization of mental illness. Most serial killers are in possession of their mental faculties and are not “crazy” (one trait most serial killers share, however, is being men).

This seems to be not just a reflection of male entitlement, but of privilege in general, because a similar thing happens when race is concerned: white killers are treated with kids’ gloves, while black victims (let alone black killers) are treated like absolute scum, regardless of who they are. No matter what, the issue of the killers’ racism must never be examined.

But the fact is that socialization as a man does lead to rage against women. Men are raised to believe that sexual prowess is an essential part of masculinity, and that those who don’t have sex are defective. Men are raised to believe that you’re a loser if you don’t have a girlfriend. Men are raised to believe that women exist to receive men’s attention and fulfill men’s needs.

They learn it from their fathers. They learn it from a media that glorifies it, from sports heroes who commit felonies and get big contracts, from a culture saturated in images of heroic and redemptive violence. They learn it from each other.

In talking to more than 400 young men for my book, “Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men,” I heard over and over again what they learn about violence. They learn that if they are crossed, they have the manly obligation to fight back. They learn that they are entitled to feel like a real man, and that they have the right to annihilate anyone who challenges that sense of entitlement.

This sense of entitlement is part of the package deal of American manhood — the culture that doesn’t start the fight, as Margaret Mead pointed out in her analysis of American military history, but retaliates far out of proportion to the initial grievance. They learn that “aggrieved entitlement” is a legitimate justification for violent explosion.

It is therefore not especially surprising that someone like Elliot Rodger, son of a successful movie director and part of a privileged entertainment family, who no doubt was sent to the best schools, felt frustrated by his inability to gain the favors of women. Like most MRAs, he was probably a mediocre man who had little to offer to women, and he knew it. So he lashed out against the women who refused to provide the attention he naturally believed they owed him.

Again, there is nothing “crazy” or bizarre about events of male mass violence in light of the male entitlement to sex in our societies.

Studies have found that men get anywhere from 10% to 25% of full erection (on average) from seeing non-sexual violence (Earls and Proulx 1987, Barbaree et al. 1979). While rapists show a higher level of arousal, any man can experience it. So men get some sexual charge from the idea of violence against women. This is not an issue of conscious decision (arousal rarely is), but rather an issue of indoctrination.

Entitlement is the belief that one is owed something simply by virtue of one’s social role. The typical example is that of bad customers who thinks they’re entitled to a refund or to tell employees what to do simply because they’re customers. Privilege magnifies that tendency many times over, and male privilege is no exception.

There is a toxic dynamic between male entitlement and masculinity: male entitlement is the carrot, the incentive for men to invest themselves more and more into the gender system, and masculinity is the stick, because it provides the threat of “not being a real man” (i.e. of being a woman, which of course is the worse thing a man can possibly be, because it represents the negation of one’s gender, which is seen as a primary part of our identity).

Two of the most conspicuous forms of male entitlement are PIV and pornography. They are conspicuous in that these two topics, when even lightly broached, attract the most attention from men who rally to defend them and attack anyone who dares to question the entitlement.

The defense of pornography by pornsick males reflects the entitlement mentality under which they operate. A man watching a pornographic video has no idea whether the video was made by a prostitute without their consent. He has no idea whether the video is a recording of a rape (whether of any woman or of a porn actress who doesn’t want to perform a sexual act). In many cases, he has no idea whether the video features a minor. Defending the use of anything under such conditions requires a very big sense of entitlement to that thing. It also requires a great deal of selfishness.

A pornsick dude is like a drug addict: he will try to justify his use at all costs because he’s stuck. In many cases, he can’t get an orgasm without it. In some cases, he can’t get an orgasm without escalating the violence of the pornography he’s watching. Not only does entitlement exist, but it may also, in some cases, be a cover for desperation (he “must” have pornography because he “can’t live” without it).

Male entitlement is a cause of mass violence, and pornography is no different. From studies, we now know that pornography use, no matter how light or severe, makes men more prone to rape, child rape, incest, and sexual harassment. It also makes men more likely to support rape and violence against women perpetrated by other men, and to accept a wide range of rape myths.

It’s a vicious circle. The more entitled a man is, the more likely he will be to support things like pornography, and the more pornsick he becomes, the more likely he is to double down on the entitlement. And the net losers are women.

Empowerment, and the perverting thereof…

As part of the “post-modernist” ideology of “third wave feminism,” I’ve seen people on the Internet use empowerment as an excuse to support anything from makeup and high heels to female genital mutilation (to be fair, I’ve only seen the latter once, but I have also read testimonies from willing victims of FGM who said the same). This should give one pause.

Empowerment, in my opinion, should be reserved to things that actually, you know, give people more power: schooling, money, status, fame, access to legitimate violence, influence on executive or legislative power, access to the media, and so on. Those are all things that actually give people more possibilities and more leeway to go against other people’s wishes.

As a radical, I oppose such forms of power because they are, again, about getting others to do what you want and to conform more closely to your values instead of theirs. These forms of power can only bring freedom to the individual at the expense of other individuals, and cannot lower harm or bring more good to society as a whole.

In radical terms, what we want to perpetuate is not power but what is called counter-power, processes which prevent the natural accumulation of power. Every form of power has a general tendency towards accumulation, and has a form of counter-power which prevents it from doing so. Empowerment, from a radical standpoint, should have something to do with resistance. I like this statement from bell hooks:

One of the most significant forms of power held by the weak is “the refusal to accept the definition of oneself that is put forward by the powerful”. Janeway call this the “ordered use of the power to disbelieve”.

I find this quote extremely interesting because criticism of imposed labels is precisely the one thing that “empowerment” junkies do not consider empowering. In fact, criticism of the labels they peddle seems to be the one thing they feel perfectly free to speak up against and threaten.

The cardinal rule they use is: anything that makes you feel empowered is, by definition, empowering. But the corollary to this rule is: anyone who claims to be a victim of what empowers you and dares to criticize it must be stopped at all costs. Because otherwise all we have, from their standpoint, is one subjective opinion against another: maintaining the credibility of their ideology therefore demands the suppression of all criticism.

I would say, first of all, that respecting people’s subjectivity only when they agree with you is no respect at all. But I would also say that empowerment, if it means anything, must include the ability to be intellectually independent and criticize the ways in which people evaluate themselves and each other. A person who cannot do so, and is a slave to all the social constructs that people use to define them, will never be able to live their own life.

So why aren’t they encouraging the people who empower themselves by standing up for themselves? Because they don’t want you to think for yourself. They want you to accept their subjectivity uncritically.

I was born male, socialized as a man, and I could never be a woman. I think anyone who was socialized as a man and claims to be a woman is delusional and being manipulated for the sake of a woman-hating agenda. Certainly it makes me feel empowered to be able to point that out and understand how it all works. But according to them, I’m an evil monster for wanting to empower myself: I should just go along with the program and accept that their delusions are true for them.

Likewise, many women who were in prostitution feel devastated by their experiences (no wonder, as prostituted women experience PTSD at a higher rate than soldiers who served in combat zones). When they speak up, they feel empowered by being able to clearly state their experiences and how the current pro-prostitution discourse hurts them and those they love. And the “empowerment” wonks do their best to silence their voices, because they must oppose anyone who disagrees: while they constantly harp on the exploitation of prostituted women being a “choice” that should be respected, they most certainly do not respect the “choice” of ex-prostituted women to speak up against what was done to them.

Finally, many women are truly empowered by women-only spaces, but they are hated by “empowerment” junkies because they believe that men who are “empowered” by calling themselves women should be accepted in those spaces without question. The actual lives and well-being of actual women do not matter: women should concentrate on the lives and well-being of people who are not women but feel “empowered” by pretending they are.

“Empowerment” (in quotes, to distinguish it from real empowerment) is an inherently subjectivist concept. I’ve already pointed out that liberal feminism in general is half subjectivism and half blaming their opponents for imaginary inadequacies.

“Empowerment” is part of the whole liberal mentality. They believe that the liberation of women comes from feeling “empowered” by such things as makeup, high heels, shaving one’s body hair, stripping, pornography, prostitution, BDSM, objectification in general, “gender identity,” hundreds of different made-up genders and sexual orientations, and so on. They believe that anyone who disagrees with their “empowerment” is ignorant, uninformed, a bigot, a conservative, a hairy lesbian, denying women’s “agency,” denying women’s rights, “cis,” “TERF,” “SWERF,” scum, and so on.

‘Empowerment’ is thus a central tenet of raunch culture, and has become a common buzzword in marketing activities and products such as pole dancing (see Donaghue, et al, 2011), as well as in some women’s positive accounts of their experiences with them (e.g. Holland & Atwood, 2009; Regeher, 2012; Whitehead & Kurz, 2009). This conceptualisation of empowerment is based on a view of female power as being the ability to incite desire in men, and hence wield sexual power over them (see Hakim, 2010). Subjective feelings of empowerment are also constructed as stemming from the self-confidence that (apparently) ensues from being found desirable under the male gaze.

Laura Thompson, Desiring to be desired: A discursive analysis of women’s responses to the ‘raunch culture’ debates.

What all the examples of “empowerment” I’ve listed previously, and I think most examples of “empowerment,” have in common is that they portray the world in a fairy tale fashion, completely omitting inconvenient facts like exploitation, oppression and victims. Everything is all hunky-dory as long as you wear the rose-tinted glasses. No one’s ever a victim if you wear the rose-tinted glasses. And it’s all about you, you, you.

This brings me to the other weird belief, that feminism victimizes women by virtue of calling them victims: that, in essence, using the label “victim” is what turns people into victims, because being a victim is a purely subjective state.

This seems to be a form of positive thinking, or even a Life Lie, the bizarre concept that by concocting an imaginary, positive storyline for your life, you will magically make your life better. It seems they believe that by weaving a story of “empowerment” (a Power Lie?) where you are not the victim, you magically become something other than a victim. But a prerequisite to such delusion is to ignore facts.

[T]he meaning of ‘victim’ has changed from being someone who has been abused or exploited by someone else, to a character trait that implies personal weakness. The intention is to make being a victim something to be ashamed of, and to imply that a person cannot be both a subject and a victim at the same time. This means that no one wants to admit to being a victim, and saying that someone has been victimised by someone else is akin to insulting them…

[S]ome sex-positive feminists have taken this logic to its natural conclusion, declaring that even prostituted children should not be considered victims, but rather active subjects. This is a completely false dichotomy – of course people (including children) in desperate circumstances are often resilient and intelligent. This shouldn’t excuse the abuse and exploitation they suffer at the hands of perpetrators, nor mitigate the urgent need to change the structures of oppression that facilitate their abuse.

Is calling a prostituted child a victim a statement of fact? Yes. Is refusing to call a prostituted child a victim empowering? No. What you label the child does not change the social conditions which created eir hardship. Does calling a prostituted child “empowered” help eir liberation? No.

The quote also highlights the confusion between stating that someone has been victimized and believing that they are powerless. “Empowerment” junkies seem to believe that they are the same thing, but they clearly are not. Saying someone was victimized refers to what happened to them, not to who they are.

It is vital for us to be able to clearly identify acts of victimization in order to understand how oppression works and how to argue and fight against it. To claim that doing so “turns people into victims” shuts down critical faculties. It is oppressors, not people trying to identify the oppression, who “turn people into victims.” We are the ones who want to change that.

Stating that you are “empowered” but being utterly unable to identify the institutions, hierarchies and ideologies which exploit and oppress you is not liberation or power. But that subjectivist mentality ultimately feeds exploitation and oppression: letting woman-hating happen without a word, without even acknowledging that it exists, sends a clear signal that woman-hatred is acceptable in our societies.

People who silence victims’ voices to preserve “empowerment” are guilty of aiding and abetting woman-hatred. Such people cannot hold any pretense of feminism. There can be no feminism if every principle of the Patriarchy is explained away as a “choice.”

And we see that, taken to its logical extent, “empowerment” feminism leads to anti-feminism. Take for example this quote from an MRA that I’ve commented on before:

You are so detached from your power as a human being. I am subordinate to no, one nor will I ever be controlled… Women are not oppressed by men.

Or this image:

You might say, well, these are silly extremists who hardly reflect the opinion of a great number of people. But how does one draw the line? If we are obligated to accept delusional thinking as regards to pornography, prostitution, BDSM, transgender dogma, and high heels and makeup, then on what criterion should we stop there and not buy anti-feminist ideology wholesale? Or is any sort of logical consistency too much to ask for at this point?

The false dilemma of anti-feminists.

Elevatorgate was an infamous incident in the atheist community where Rebecca Watson was accosted by a man in an elevator at four o’clock in the morning. They were both attending an atheist conference. The backlash inflicted on her for daring to speak up about it was legendary and, if anything, proved that men are assholes no matter the community and that their sense of entitlement will manifest itself even in such ridiculous circumstances.

I am not particularly interested in talking about that backlash, because so much has been written about it that there’s nothing I could say that hasn’t already been said a thousand times. But there is one part of it that I find particularly interesting.

Richard Dawkins’ “Dear Muslima” response to Elevatorgate was despicable. But I think it exposes something interesting about the anti-feminists. Here is the text of his response:

Dear Muslima,
Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and…yawn…don’t tell me yet again, I know you aren’t allowed to drive a car, and you can’t leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you’ll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with. Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself Skep”chick”, and do you know what happened to her? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee. I am not exaggerating. He really did. He invited her back to his room for coffee. Of course she said no, and of course he didn’t lay a finger on her, but even so…And you, Muslima, think you have misogyny to complain about! For goodness sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin.

Despite his ongoing sexism, he has at least apologized for this diatribe after being suitably chastised. He recognizes now that treating every situation like an Oppression Olympics is a crummy thing to do. Fair enough…

I write this entry not to blame Dawkins (who is still an asshole either way), but to point out the false dilemma contained in this line of reasoning, because it is one used by many anti-feminists. Here is another example from tumblr, the favourite refuge of bigots everywhere:

The woman on the left had acid thrown on her with no consequences for her husband that did it, while girls can’t wear that shirt in school which problem should be solved first?

This makes obvious one problem, which is this notion that we have to pick between Western issues and non-Western issues, one or the other. Anti-feminists even try to argue that we must pick between Western issues, that, say, rape must take precedence over pornography. But social issues are not like a queue at the grocery store: they don’t need to be lined up and addressed one at a time. Nothing stops us from talking about, and agitating about, more than one issue at a time.

But the problem I wanted to talk about is that this reasoning is really a double bind: they demand that feminists choose between arguing that Elevatorgate is as bad as female genital mutilation or speak over the Arab and African feminists who are fighting the issue in their homelands.

Of course we don’t think about that because of the inherently racist and colonialist attitude that Westerners know what’s best for the world and that non-Western positions are not relevant to the conversation.

A real feminist response, I think, would be to state that there’s no reason for Western feminists to speak over their non-Western counterparts, that Western feminists should be concerned with the issues facing Western women today, and that male entitlement (as exemplified by the backlash after Elevatorgate) is a cause of these issues. While it is true that women’s rights are, on the whole, more advanced in the West than most other places, that’s no reason to stop advocating for women’s rights.

You know how 1st world feminists get told that they don’t need feminism? They’re told that they should be glad they’re not “really oppressed” like the women in 3rd world countries. That things could always be worse.

You know what my mother tells me? She says I don’t need feminism because I should be glad I’m born in an urban city of Pakistan. She says, at least I wasn’t born in a rural area where girls are married off to men twice their age. That things could always be worse.

And our house maid, Shabana, who was married to her uncle at 15 and, at 18, has 2 children, she doesn’t even know what feminism is. She was told by her father that she should be glad her husband doesn’t beat her and hasn’t thrown tehzaab (acid) at her. That things could always be worse.

Am I the only one seeing a very disturbing pattern here?

Now, I do want to specify some things here, because I can imagine people reading this thinking that I’m supporting cultural relativism. This is absolutely not the case. I think female genital mutilation is a horrible crime, as should everyone. Cultural relativism is a bankrupt ideology which essentially reduces morality to whoever has the power to define what culture includes and does not include. You will note that the unwilling victims of cultural practices, mostly women, are somehow never included in this notion of “culture”: neither are the local feminists who fight against these practices. “Culture” is generally meant to only include what the elite believes is legitimate.

It also does not mean that Western feminists should not talk about these practices when they are performed in Western countries. Western feminists are well within their rights to act in self-defense against woman-hating practices performed locally, even if they originate in a non-Western culture.

For example, many people believe that Westerners have no right to take a stand against FGM performed in the West, women wearing hijab or burqa in Western countries, or other forms of woman-hatred because they originated from non-Western cultures. But for a Western feminist to fight against such practices performed in Western countries is self-defense against misogyny. To claim that misogynistic actions performed against some women do not affect the status of other women in that same society simply because they come from different cultures is silly and probably racist.

FETAs accusing radfems of essentialism: the ultimate trans projection.

I’ve already shown how FETAs rely massively on projections to defend their transgender ideology. There is, however, one projection that stands above all others for its sheer irrationality: the accusation that radical feminists are essentialists.

Essentialism as applied to human beings refers to the belief that there are fixed attributes of individuals (such as gender, race or ethnicity) which are the “essence” of an individual and dictate behavior (e.g. gender roles, racial stereotypes). This is contrasted with constructionism, the belief that these attributes are social constructs and are not the “essence” of an individual.

FETAs believe that gender is innate and biological sex is a social construct. To be more exact, this is the conclusion they have to uphold in order to maintain their rationalization. They have to believe that there is such a thing as an “innate gender” which dictates how a person thinks and acts in order to make sense of the proposition that a person’s gender is whatever they believe.

And if there is “innate gender” then biology must be swept under the rug. This is why FETAs are also science denialists: they must deny the facts of biology at all costs, and they do so by calling people who uphold those facts of biology “essentialists.” As we’ll see, they use this attack blindly, without actually understanding what essentialism is.

FETAs are essentialists because they believe that an “innate gender” dictates how a person acts, i.e. whether they conform to the man gender stereotype or the woman gender stereotype. That’s why their accusation is a projection: they seek to accuse their opponents of what they’re doing.

Radfems are against essentialism: the radfem position about gender is that gender is a prison, and that neither gender nor sex should imply anything about people’s behavior. Essentialism is a form of authoritarianism, and FETAs are authoritarian supporters (for more on FETA essentialism and radfem anti-essentialism, see this great entry by Women of the Patriarchy).

Cathy Brennan expresses the radfem opposition to sex essentialism in this quote:

What are the behaviors and roles considered appropriate for one’s sex?

If you are a Feminist (even a Liberal Feminist or a Fun Feminist), the answer to this should be “There are no behaviors and roles considered appropriate for my sex because Females can be and do anything.”

So FETAs have to wrangle essentialism from an explicitly and adamantly anti-essentialist position. What kind of mental contortions are necessary for such a pseudo-intellectual magic trick?

This entry from Transadvocate is a good starting point for analysis because it purports to be a very sophisticated attack against radfems on essentialism. Advocates of irrational worldviews trip themselves up when they start talking too much, and this is no exception.

The entry starts with a constructionist quote from Monique Wittig, who was a radical lesbian (precisely the kind of women that FETAs hate with a passion that borders on insanity), discussing how sexual difference leads to the domination of women, and how that domination is portrayed as natural. But the author, Cristan Williams, seems to have confused this radical understanding of sex (as the difference on which oppression of women is based) with the belief that sexing people itself is oppression.

If you strip the pedantic language, this confusion is the same rationalization that many FETAs use to equate radfems with conservatives: conservatives believe in sexual difference, radfems believe in sexual difference, therefore radfems and conservatives have the same agenda.

What they don’t want to discuss is that conservatives believe in sexual difference as the valid (natural) basis for gender (as the Wittig quote illustrates), while radfems acknowledge that sexual difference is the source of the (constructed) oppression of women. Conservatives (and FETAs) hate women and want to keep them enslaved to gender roles, while radfems want to free all women from gender.

You see this equation of radfems with conservatives, with prudes, with moralizers (or even rapists), all over the place. What they want you to believe is simple: anyone who fights for women is just as bad as the people who hate women, anyone who tries to defend women’s freedom is just as bad as the people who want to exploit women. Above all else, they desperately want you to not confront anything and just accept FETA and liberal subjectivist claims as absolute (as bizarre as that sounds).

Williams then directly equates the truth that sex is used to justify gender oppression as natural with the FETA belief that sex does not exist, quoting one Sandy Stone:

What I am saying is that one of the ways that people justify oppressing people of any alternative gender or sexuality is by saying that the social norm is natural. That is, it originates in the authority of Nature itself. In other words, it comes from god, an authority to which to appeal. All of this is, in fact, a complete fabrication, a construction. There is no ‘natural‘ sex, because ‘sex’ itself as a medical or cultural category is nothing more the momentary outcome of battles over who owns the meanings of the category.

Sex is a basic biological concept, and it is natural. Now, as I’ve discussed before, sex is a human concept and, like all human concepts, it is subject to reframing. The issue therefore is not “is sex a transcendent term?” because there’s no such thing. The issue is “does sex actually exist?” and the answer to that is yes. To deny this is just plain science denialism, and believing sex does not exist is no more rational than believing in Creationism or free energy.

While much of the rest of the feminist world is confronting both the causes and effects of oppression, TERFs spend a significant amount of time and energy in preserving, supporting and appealing to a binary sexed body system constitutionally incapable of working with concepts like cis, trans, gender queer, agender, intersex as it relates to reality of human bodies because such views of humanity are supplanted by the asserted preeminence of an ad naturam binary sexed essence.

Radfems are very much concerned with sex, because understanding sex is the basis for analyzing the gender binary. People are assigned gender roles on the basis of their biological differences. The terms “cis” and “trans” cannot lead to any understanding of the gender binary, because they assume a non-existing “gender identity” which is natural and unquestionable. This “gender identity” forms the basis of FETA woman-hatred.

As for the bizarre belief that radfems cannot understand terms like “agender” or “intersex,” I have no idea where that comes from. This is probably an attempt to portray radfems as old hat, passé, a dying breed, and ignorant of anything FETAs consider to be on the “cutting edge” of gender theory.

Phenotype is the physical manifestation of a person. When we hear an anti-trans troll assert that because what is taken to be an acceptably long phallus was discovered at birth, a male sex was established and therefore cannot be changed, they are appealing to a fallaciously constructed concept of phenotype permanence. If a baby is born with a phallus – the phallus being the “essence” of a man – the person is said to have been born a man.

Now Williams degenerates into simple lying. Radfems do not state that a person was “born a man,” let alone on the basis of a penis. No one is “born a man” or “born a woman” (despite the FETA belief in “innate gender”). The labels “man” and “woman” are assigned at birth on the basis of sexual difference, but these terms have no realities apart from the social context. A baby cannot be a man or a woman because it is not yet located within the social context. A person becomes a man or a woman because they are socialized as a man or socialized as a woman.

The phallus is not the “essence of a man.” A man does not act “like a man” because he has a phallus. A man acts “like a man” because he was socialized as a man. The penis is only relevant because it is one of the signs of the male sex, which is then used to assign gender.

The trouble for FETAs is that they must deny the existence of socialization at all costs, because it directly contradicts their religious belief in “innate gender.” They will either deny that socialization happens or deny that it happened to them.

What radfems do say about phenotype is that penises are male. Again, this is a biological fact and denying it is science denialism. FETAs believe that if they imitate the penis with their own flesh, they can become men. But having a penis, or a simulated penis, does not make one a man.

Now, there’s a lot of whining and poisoning the well in these sections. For example, the section “Critiquing the trans essence argument” is mostly one long attempt to portray radfem arguments as silly (calling it a “caricature,” fallacious, hypocrisy, cruel, and so on), but Williams doesn’t explain why it is silly. There is very little attempt at a “critique” here.

The meat of the critique, instead, seems to be in the section “Trans: the non-essenced experience”:

There is no gendered essence haunting the brains of trans women, forcing us to like pink, and gender identity doesn’t just mean social identity.

So here Williams seems to be specifically addressing the issue of FETAs being essentialists. Let’s see what she has to say in response:

When trans people talk about “gender identity” we can be talking about:

A: One’s subjective experience of one’s own sexed attributes;

B: One’s culturally influenced sex identification within the context of a social grouping; or,

C: Both A and B

TERFs like to pretend that “gender identity” only ever means the penultimate Category B because the former and latter deviates from the trans-experience-as-Dualism argument – an anathema for TERFs.

This is one point on which I agree with Williams: the concept that they designate as “gender identity” is purely subjective and culturally constructed, and has no biological reality. But for FETAs to use gender as a replacement for sex, gender has to be innate and immutable.

If that was the extent of “gender identity” for FETAs, then there would be no debate at all, because it makes no claim about reality. It is because FETAs make claims about reality that there is a debate. FETAs claim that sex does not exist, FETAs claims that a person who was socialized man can actually be a woman (and vice-versa), FETAs claim that penises and vaginas are not sexed organs. These are false claims about reality that are important in undermining feminist thought, and they all rely on “innate gender identity” as their support.

Williams then mentions socialization, which is rather surprising in a FETA article since, as I mentioned before, it’s the elephant in the room insofar as their worldview is concerned. But she’s only bringing it up to score a point:

For the TERF, socialization can act as the essential sexed essence stand-in that confers male or female binary status upon the body and as such, it is perfectly acceptable to appeal to it.

But this is a lack of understanding of what essentialism is. An essentialist is someone who believes that there’s something innate in the individual, something in their nature, that dictates their behavior, and socialization is not innate. Therefore it cannot be a “sexed essence stand-in.” All it means is that being socialized into any social construct (such as religion, race or gender) molds people’s behavior. This is an obvious fact. Williams doesn’t even try to address this (rightly, since trying to refute it would just be ridiculous), which is why I say she only brought it up to score a point.

Simply expressed, the role of sex in the genderist mind is to validate and naturalize gender, i.e. behavioral expectations or prescriptions. This is not how radfems talk about socialization: they do not claim that being socialized as a man validates and naturalizes men’s aggression against women, quite the contrary. They are very keenly aware that gender, like any other form of socialization, can be unlearned, something which cannot happen in the essentialist schemas of the genderist and the FETA.

For socialization in a person to be a stand-in for essence, it would have to be, in a meaningful way, part of who the person is. But “being a man” or “being a woman” is not a meaningful identification for many people (including most radfems), not because they are “trans” or “genderqueer” (nonsense concepts in themselves), but because they acknowledge that they were socialized into gender and that it’s not part of who they are.

One last point. Keep in mind that she argued that gender identity is not innate in this very same section when you read this:

Maybe at some point in the future it will become an undisputed scientific fact that trans people experience our bodies in the way that we do as a result of some neurological structure that is triggered due to some genetic/epigenetic causality, but, regardless, the point is that for many trans folk throughout the world, transition is about addressing the way we experience our bodies.

But this directly contradicts her earlier claim. If she believes it is possible for gender identity to be innate, then it cannot be a subjective or cultural construct. She glosses over this with a “regardless,” not realizing the enormity of what she’s just said. That seems to be the one constant of this article: lots of glossing over or gliding over major points of contention, and obsessing over little details meant to portray radfem arguments negatively.

It was hard for me to get through Williams’ article because it is permeated with crass ignorance and arrogance, a pathetic combination. These are the extremities to which a person trapped in an irrational ideology have to resort in order to look credible.

“We’re just holding up a mirror to society.”

This is obviously a reflection of the differences in body armor between men and women on actual battlefields. It’s just a mirror of society, right?

There is a certain view that tries to defend gratuitous violence or bigotry in journalism and the arts by arguing that the artist or journalist is “holding up a mirror to society.”

I accept that the word “gratuitous” depends on the meaning(s) you get from an art work or news piece, so this is a somewhat personal standard. But I think there’s plenty of areas where we can reasonably agree.

I think this expression can mean two things. It can mean an honest examination of how society is working. That’s fine and I accept that. But most of the time, I think it’s used as a justification for reproducing something wrong in society without analyzing it in any way.

What’s wrong with that? It is the same problem as for any other reproduction of abuse and violence: all such reproductions are problematic not only because they perpetuate abuse and violence, but because they normalize them as well, and ultimately provide reinforcement and/or justification for the belief in the validity of abuse and violence against women. This is what pornography does, this is what BDSM does, and this is what uncritical media depictions do.

The expression “holding up a mirror” conveys the narrative that the media merely reflects its ambient society in a diaphanous way, that society influences what the media shows but that the media does not influence society.

This is not only incorrect, but mendacious at best. As I’ve commented before, the media, as primary source of people’s knowledge about the world, is a profound influence on people’s beliefs and attitudes, and it mostly does so in support of existing hierarchies. Besides that, it’s simply insipid to try to cast broadcast corporations as poor victims. Television shows are expensive and these corporations act very carefully in spending their precious air time and money.

People want to deny the responsibility of the media because they want to protect free speech. I’d rather destroy free speech for megacorporations than let them manipulate us through television shows, movies and video games. Corporations have no rights, only individuals do.

Talking about video games, Anita Sarkeesian’s work proves not that video games are replete with misogyny, which we already knew, but that conservatives and liberals are united in their belief that free speech and being able to objectify women are more important than telling the truth about misogyny. Granted, their attitudes are somewhat different, in that conservatives are angry about it (“that stupid bitch deserves to die, etc”) and liberals are more contemptuous (“her videos are full of mistakes, her analysis is very primitive, etc”, but the basic principle is the same.

The tropes that Sarkeesian talks about, like “manic pixie dream girl,” “women in refrigerators,” “the evil demon seductress,” “the mystical pregnancy,” “straw feminists,” “damsel in distress,” “the smurfette principle,” and so on, are tropes which exist in all media, not just video games. Many of them are more or less universal archetypes which can only be understood because of already-existing prejudice.

Another example is Beyonce’s handmaiden status, which was pointed out by bell hooks and was the subject of much controversy in liberal circles who lambasted bell hooks for her analysis. Again we see the same pattern: any criticism of media products, no matter how obvious, is met with opposition from the mainstream because free speech is untouchable.

My point is not that we should gloss over or ignore violence and bigotry, or that every piece of art should be a Saturday morning cartoon special. That’s just infantile. And so is the Christian “analysis” of movies and books typified by Christian Spotlight on Entertainment and ChildCare Action Project (which seems to be gone, unfortunately), judging everything with a literal single-mindedness that is the hallmark of simpletons.

I rag about narratives because they’re used to exploit our imaginary and get us to agree with political positions. But narratives are also a part of being human. Honest narratives, which try to get at the truth of a situation, are part of how we deal with moral and existential issues, connect with other people, expand our horizons, and perhaps most importantly provide us with a shared cultural language of metaphors and analogies to talk about complex issues.

And that’s what I want. Artists who seek the truth of what they portray. Not people who lean heavily on hackneyed tropes and the support for authority to tell a story. Yes, by all means, let’s keep talking about misogyny, racism, rape, verbal and physical abuse, and all the things we despise, because we need to keep talking about them. But do so in an honest and sincere way, not in a way that reinforces existing stereotypes, gender roles or false beliefs.

We don’t need more women in refrigerators. We also don’t need more “strong women.” We just need, well, women. We don’t need a mirror. We need people who are willing to actively engage issues and acknowledge their own role. We need equals.

Parents policing each other.

I’ve posted this story before, but I think it deserves more examination. Not from the angle of gender, but from the angle of childism: if you look at it from that angle, there’s some interesting things going on here.

Most salient is the fact that the childist enforcement was done by parents to other parents, and the children were not involved at all. That is to say, the hostile parents did not blame the child for wanting to wear the dress, they blamed the parents of the child for letting him wear the dress.

This point makes sense if you remember that, in the childist perspective, children’s values are irrelevant; in that context, it would make no more sense to blame a child for wanting to wear a dress (and breaking gender rules by doing so) than it would to blame one tree for shading another. The parents, being responsible for raising their children “right,” are responsible for keeping the child in line within its gender role.

Obviously parents put pressure on their children to conform, but the desire to do this comes not only from the parents’ own gender indoctrination, but also from the desire to have “well-behaved children” and the fear of being seen as “bad parents.” What you have to keep in mind (given my antinatalist position, I assume my readers are probably not parents) is that parenting is a highly social activity. Parents pretty much have to cooperate with other parents, and in doing so they judge, and are judged by, the other parents.

Parents also perceive the behavior of other parents out in the world and judge them for letting their children “run amok.” So they don’t want their own children to “run amok.” In short, parents evaluate how well they are doing by judging how well other parents are doing, and they do so by looking at how “well-behaved” the children are.

Note how masculinity factors into it: the father was blamed for being emasculated because he didn’t “put his foot down” in this situation and enforced gender roles on his “son.” As the father, he is expected to stand up for his “son” and raise him right, just as mothers are expected to keep her “daughters” in line and are the primary enforcers of gynocidal measures. In folk psychology, people talk about how “boys” need “father figures”: I think this is part of the same belief.

Furthermore, I find it interesting that the whole “men are irresponsible” principle completely goes to the wayside where gender enforcement is concerned. Then the father is supposed to be responsible.

Now you might say that all of this does not apply to the parents in this story since, after all, they let their “son” wear a dress. I don’t know anything else about the parents in question, so I can’t really judge their behavior. I’m talking about general principles, not this specific case. It may very well be that these parents are part of the group of parents who futilely try to raise their children without gender roles (although the fact that they identify it as “son” seems to contradict that).

For most parents, raising a child is all about them, and in having children they are fulfilling their needs, not those of the child. They enforce gender not for the child’s sake but for their sake: because they don’t want to lose face, because they want a “normal” child, because they want their progeny to reproduce in turn.

The mainstream childist attitude is that either the parents or the media are the primary influence on their children. Here is an example:

There are a number of problems with this, the most prominent being that it’s a false dichotomy. Parents and the corporate world (including the mass media) are always both involved in a child’s upbringing, if a child is to exist in society at all. But the role of such arguments is to justify and reinforce the parental claim of property: without it, we might as well just let anyone raise our children, so the story goes. But this is mindless nonsense, especially given how bad parents usually are at child-raising.

Gender indoctrination accompanies a whole host of thought control guidelines used against children. I’ve previously named three:

* The child must appear “normal.”
* The child must be ready to compete against their peers, either as students or as workers.
* The child must be “intelligent” and competent.

The difference, I think, is that the above guidelines serve a verifiable purpose (so the child can be “successful”) and therefore can be shown to be wrong-headed. Gender indoctrination, on the other hand, has no further aim beyond enforcing gender: as long as a person follows the dictates of his or her gender, the indoctrination “worked.” But since gender indoctrination is perpetuated not only by the parents but by the child’s whole environment, one can hardly say that parenting was the cause of this “success.”

Pornsickness and how it’s reproduced.

Many studies on pornography have concluded that even light pornography usage leads to a number of deleterious personality changes, such as agreeing with rape myths, supporting rapists, having less respect for women’s boundaries, and child sexual abuse. The cause-and-effect relation between pornography usage and these changes is well understood: images affect behavior, especially when they are linked to a powerful conditioning tool (in this case, orgasm).

Abusers and rapists of all kinds not only cultivate violent and misogynistic personalities from pornography, but pornography changes the way they abuse women. Younger women and prostituted women report that men want to perform sexual acts on them which imitate acts popularized by pornography. This abuse becomes itself pornography and feeds the cycle of abuse.

These are the main symptoms of pornsickness from a psychological standpoint. There are also a number of intellectual symptoms, which affect even the most well-intentioned pornography users:

* They believe that pornography is representative of authentic sexuality, and that pornography teaches us how to express authentic sexuality. Even so-called “sex experts” propagate this delusion. Pornography is a manufactured product, engineered for profit by people who have no scruples exploiting the abuse and rape of women. Their purpose is to make money from pretending to reproduce sexuality, but they have no incentive to actually do so.

* They believe that anyone who is against pornography must therefore be against all sexuality. But as the comparison has been made time and time again, that makes about as much sense as thinking that anyone who opposes McDonalds’ business practices must be against food. This is a great analogy because the relation between fast food and food is very similar to that between pornography and sexuality: like McDonalds food, pornography is a manufactured, formulaic, flavorless, unhealthy simulacrum of the real thing, and its manufacture and sale is bad for society as a whole (albeit for different reasons).

* Because pornography portrays abuse and violence as healthy sexuality, users incorporate violence against women in their notions of what an acceptable relationship is about. Since consent is rarely ever portrayed or respected in pornography, it’s also easy for them to accept the notion that non-consent is sexy and that consent is unnecessary for sex (as the rape culture and BDSM testify). A process of desensitization, which we know happens when people are repeatedly exposed to depicted violence, happens whereby users need more and more violent pornography in order to “get off.”

* They become desensitized not just to increasingly violent sexual acts, but also to the hate speech that is endemic to pornographic narratives (such as they are) and pornographic descriptions, which consists not only of extreme misogyny but also racism and classism.

Ground zero for for all indoctrination, for all conditioning, for all exploitation, is always childhood. Due to the rise of the Internet, children first become victims of pornography at an average age of 11 years old. What they first see has also changed: no longer the Playboys or old videos hidden by their fathers, but what used to be called “hardcore pornography,” and is now just pornography.

Some of them will become porn addicts and some won’t. Some boys raised up on pornography will grow up to be rapists and some won’t. But they grow up thinking this is what sex is like (and will try to implement it on their sexual partners). They grow up with pornsickness. And they will support pornography with the determination that anyone would defend something they’ve grown up with and have come to associate with their maturation.

In recent years, Sue had treated growing numbers of teenage girls with internal injuries caused by frequent anal sex; not, as Sue found out, because she wanted to, or because she enjoyed it – on the contrary – but because a boy expected her to. “I’ll spare you the gruesome details,” said Sue, “but these girls are very young and slight and their bodies are simply not designed for that.”

Her patients were deeply ashamed at presenting with such injuries. They had lied to their mums about it and felt they couldn’t confide in anyone else, which only added to their distress. When Sue questioned them further, they said they were humiliated by the experience, but they had simply not felt they could say no. Anal sex was standard among teenagers now, even though the girls knew that it hurt.

Despite the continued mainstreaming of “official” feminism, the pro-pornstitution rhetoric is increasingly self-perpetuating because its materials stand ready to indoctrinate generation after generation. Support for pornstitution results from this indoctrination, not as a result of “agency.” To argue the latter is as silly as claiming that religious beliefs are the result of “agency” and that the correlation between one’s religion and that of one’s parents is a complete coincidence.

It is well understood by feminists that censoring pornography will not resolve the issue of woman-hatred. The fact that pornsickness is rooted in childhood indoctrination provides us with both the cause and the solution.

I’m not interested in a world where men really want to watch porn but resist because they’ve been shamed; I’m interested in a world where men are raised from birth with such an unshakable understanding of women as living human beings that they are incapable of being aroused by their exploitation.
Huff Yup

Despite what the pro-pornstitution advocates repeat over and over like a broken record, free speech is not the issue. Misogyny is the issue. The real abuse of real women is the issue. Genderism is the issue. And how widespread pornography turns boys into men is very much part of all these issues.

The layers of rationalization for prejudice.

In this entry, I gave a series of stages which, I’ve now realized, represent the layers of rationalizations that support prejudice. These layers are not the same for each prejudice, though. In the case of gender, I presented the following five layers:

1. Gender is innate.
2. Gender is so ingrained in the fabric of society that it cannot be eliminated.
3. Gender can be abolished, but the results would be catastrophic.
4. Gender can be abolished, but it would destroy individuality.
5. Abolishing gender is bigoted because it would go against people’s self-identification.

I think you could make the case that replacing gender with race would yield a pretty accurate account of racism, except for point 5 (or at least, we haven’t gone to the insanity of self-identifying as other races yet). But in this case there are notions of ethnicity and culture complicating the picture, and this mono-concept list can’t convey that.

In general, we can say that there are levels of justifications that exist in all prejudices: first the biological level, then the social level, then the individual level; bigots will argue first that their prejudice is a biological fact (an innate property of the individual), then that it is necessary for society to function, then that it exists for the individuals’ benefit. Before the intellectual impact of the Renaissance, religious dogma would have been the first step (“God made women to serve men,” “God created the black race as a curse”).

[M]ost people are susceptible to the argument that if a difference between men and women has a biological basis, it is inevitable (‘you can’t argue with nature’), desirable (‘what’s natural is good’), and the world should be organized around it.

Deborah Cameron, The Myth of Mars and Venus

These levels are not separate and individualized: they form a self-reinforcing network of justifications.

Take the example of genderism again. As a form of linear logic, the belief that women are inherently passive, emotional and caring leads to the belief that society is best organized along gender lines with men being the leaders and women being nurturers. This belief, in turn, leads to the belief that women are better off when they follow instead of lead, when they have lower-paying nurturing jobs, when they busy themselves with children. It also leads to the secondary benefits of women subordinating themselves (e.g. they don’t have to succeed, they are supported by a husband, they are admired for their beauty, and so on and so nauseatingly forth).

But the logic also flows in the reverse fashion. When a man observes a woman who follows her gender role, runs a “successful” family (the large family being of course the end point of genderism, the black hole where all individuality is absorbed), and seems to live a happy life, he therefore concludes that society is better off when men and women follow these gender roles, and that there must be something innate in men and women to make them happy in these roles.

Racism follows the same linear logic. The belief that black people are inherently deficient in intellect and inherently violent leads to the belief in physical and intellectual ghettoisation (and its moneyed cousin, gentrification), which leads to the belief that it is right for black people to be underemployed and underpaid, overrepresented in prisons, brutalized by police, executed, and so on, that this inequality is the result of individual (innate) flaws and not of systemic capitalist oppression.

Likewise, any instance of a black person being brutalized by police serves as “evidence” (because of the belief in obedience) that black people deserve to be treated as second-class citizens, and this must be because they have some innate moral deficiency.

I have previously highlighted three main lines of rationalization for childism:

1. Children are not physically developed, therefore they are not mentally developed and are incapable of moral reasoning, decision-making, figuring out what’s true and what’s not, and so on.

2. Children are dependent on adults for their survival, therefore children are inferior, therefore children must be controlled for their own good.

3. Children are inherently gullible and believe anything their parents say, because evolution made them that way.

Each of these rationalizations can easily be translated into layers of rationalization:

Biological necessity: Children are not mentally developed/ Children are dependent on adults for their survival/ Children are inherently gullible.

Social necessity: We must have a system whereby children are under the control of some (arbitrary) adults.

Individual necessity: Children will thereby be taught how to become moral agents/ Children will develop “correctly”/ Children will be taught the “correct” beliefs (whatever these are supposed to be).

Because there have been no widespread criticism of these claims, we are still at a stage similar to that time when everyone accepted the claim that women were made by God to serve men, or when the belief that black people had inferior craniums and were best served by slavery was accepted in slave countries. Although there are movements against schooling, and there are laws against physical violence committed by parents, childism has not yet been put into question.

If emancipation can be defined, dixit George Fredrickson in Racism: A Short History, as “the process of elevating the civil and political status of an entire ethnic or racial group from legal inferiority to equal citizenship,” then emancipation takes a whole new meaning in childism (even though children are not an ethnic or racial group, they are a discriminated group), not simply to be reserved for individual children: children as a dispossessed class need to be emancipated, given equal citizenship, but this will not be possible until they are first given equal humanity.

The natural sort of attack to make on these rationalizations is to argue that the so-called biological necessity is quackery, based on the flimsiest pretense of science. Certainly this was a fruitful line of attack against pseudo-sciences like anthropometry, IQ racism, sociobiology, and against our current enemies, evolutionary psychology and innate (brain) gender.

However, the layer model points to the fact that there are many possible vectors of attack, not just one. We know this is true because people have testified that knowing gay people have changed their opinions about homosexuality. I don’t know what influence this really had on gay rights, but it doesn’t seem negligeable. Seeing the evidence that women, POC or gay people can be better than the dominant classes can be as salient as the rejection of biological necessity.

The problem for childism is that children are virtually never encountered in a context without control. We almost always see children when they are either under the direct control of their parents (or guardians) or teachers. Prejudice against children and women shares one crucial property: the victims generally live with their oppressors, although there are many more single women or lesbian couples than there are emancipated children.

This is especially problematic because individuals from oppressed groups need independent safe spaces in order to first become aware of their status as a class, and then to develop theories and solutions about their oppression. Without this process, oppression remains normalized and there can be no systemic understanding of its nature.


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