Jezebel: Could We Please Stop Confusing Humanism with “Humanism”

This image is by Tatsuya Ishida at Sinfest

I have a love/ hate relationship with Jezebel. Sometimes they are just spot-on. Sometimes they are a bit confused. But, mostly, they seem to forget what that word feminism means and they participate in the same women-blaming culture they claim to be critiquing [see: anything they’ve published about Kim Kardashian]. Lindy West’s piece “If I Admit that ‘Hating Men’ is a Thing, Will You Stop Turning It Into a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy?“is one of those pieces that I really, really want to like but West resorts to some lazy stereotypes about RadFems which generally annoy me. There is nothing more dire than a supposedly feminist organisation completely misunderstanding the political theory of radical feminism and babbling on about how the RadFem community of tumblr hate men. Yeah, some do. Let’s take 10 minutes to think about why this is and not resort to lazy stereotypes. And, erm, I may have missed a news item but I can’t remember a single moment when a RadFem raped, tortured, abused or murdered a man. 

West also gets confused about the actual definition of “humanism“. Now, I get that some of the MRAs out there insist on babbling about humanism in order to discredit feminism but do we really have to lower ourselves to their standards? Humanism has an actual definition which is historically and culturally situated within the Western understanding of the Renaissance, Scientific Revolution and the rejection of religious “truths”. Granted these are all problematic theories in and of themselves but the MRA co-option of a term they don’t understand doesn’t require the rest of us to join in. The word MRAs [and other categories of anti-feminists] are looking for is equalist: the definition of which is “don’t change anything because otherwise menz will have to acknowledge their misogyny and other generalised nincompoopery”. Alright, possibly this definition works for humanism as well since I’ve not seen a definition of humanism which discusses sex/gender analysis but, really, it’s not helpful to conflate the two just because MRAs are too dim to use Wikipedia. 

I guess what annoyed me is that most of the article is seriously brilliant. It just got let down by two lazy cliches. These are my favourite quotes from the piece: 

Though it is a seductive scapegoat (I understand why it attracts you), none of these terrible, painful problems in your life were caused by the spectre of “misandry.” You can rest easy about that, I promise! In fact, the most powerful proponent of misandry in modern internet discourse is you — specifically, your dogged insistence that misandry is a genuine, systemic, oppressive force on par with misogyny. This is specious, it hurts women, and it is hurting you. Most feminists don’t hate men, as a group (we hate the system that disproportionately favors men at the expense of women), but — congratulations! — we are starting to hate you. You, the person. Your obsession with misandry has turned misandry into a self-fulfilling prophecy. (I mean, sort of. Hating individual men is not the same as hating all men. But more on that in a minute.) Are you happy now? Is this what you wanted? Feminism is, in essence, a social justice movement—it wants to take the side of the alienated and the marginalized, and that includes alienated and marginalized men. Please stop turning us against you. 

It is nearly impossible to address problems facing women—especially problems in which men are even tangentially culpable—without comments sections devolving into cries of “misandry!” from men and replies of “misandry isn’t real” from women. Feminists are tired of this endless, fruitless turd-pong: hollow “conversation” built on willful miscommunication, bouncing back and forth, back and forth, until both sides throw up their hands and bolt. Maybe you are tired of this too. We seem to be having some very deep misunderstandings on this point, so let’s unpack it. I promise not to yell.

Feminism isn’t about striving for individual fairness, on a life-by-life basis—it’s about fighting against a systematic removal of opportunity that infringes on women’s basic freedoms. If a woman and a man have equal potential in a field, they should have an equal opportunity to achieve success in that field. It’s not that we want the least qualified women to be handed everything just because they’re women. It’s that we want all women to have the same opportunities as all men to fulfill (or fail to fulfill, on their own inherent merits) their potential. If a particular woman is underqualified for a particular job, fine. That isn’t sexism. But she shouldn’t have to be systematically set up, from birth, to be underqualified for all jobs (except for jobs that reinforce traditional femininity, obv).

Feminists do not want you to lose custody of your children. The assumption that women are naturally better caregivers is part of patriarchy. 

Feminists do not like commercials in which bumbling dads mess up the laundry and competent wives have to bustle in and fix it. The assumption that women are naturally better housekeepers is part of patriarchy. 

Feminists do not want you to have to make alimony payments. Alimony is set up to combat the fact that women have been historically expected to prioritize domestic duties over professional goals, thus minimizing their earning potential if their “traditional” marriages end. The assumption that wives should make babies instead of money is part of patriarchy. 

Feminists do not want anyone to get raped in prison. Permissiveness and jokes about prison rape are part of rape culture, which is part of patriarchy. 

Feminists do not want anyone to be falsely accused of rape. False rape accusations discredit rape victims, which reinforces rape culture, which is part of patriarchy. 

Feminists do not want you to be lonely and we do not hate “nice guys.” The idea that certain people are inherently more valuable than other people because of superficial physical attributes is part of patriarchy.
Feminists do not want you to have to pay for dinner. We want the opportunity to achieve financial success on par with men in any field we choose (and are qualified for), and the fact that we currently don’t is part of patriarchy.  

The idea that men should coddle and provide for women, and/or purchase their affections in romantic contexts, is condescending and damaging and part of patriarchy. 

Feminists do not want you to be maimed or killed in industrial accidents, or toil in coal mines while we do cushy secretarial work and various yarn-themed activities. The fact that women have long been shut out of dangerous industrial jobs (by men, by the way) is part of patriarchy. 

Feminists do not want you to commit suicide. Any pressures and expectations that lower the quality of life of any gender are part of patriarchy. The fact that depression is characterized as an effeminate weakness, making men less likely to seek treatment, is part of patriarchy. 

Feminists do not want you to be viewed with suspicion when you take your child to the park (men frequently insist that this is a serious issue, so I will take them at their word). The assumption that men are insatiable sexual animals, combined with the idea that it’s unnatural for men to care for children, is part of patriarchy. 

Feminists do not want you to be drafted and then die in a war while we stay home and iron stuff. The idea that women are too weak to fight or too delicate to function in a military setting is part of patriarchy. 

Feminists do not want women to escape prosecution on legitimate domestic violence charges, nor do we want men to be ridiculed for being raped or abused. The idea that women are naturally gentle and compliant and that victimhood is inherently feminine is part of patriarchy. 

Feminists hate patriarchy. We do not hate you. 

If you really care about those issues as passionately as you say you do, you should be thanking feminists, because feminism is a social movement actively dedicated to dismantling every single one of them. The fact that you blame feminists—your allies—for problems against which they have been struggling for decades suggests that supporting men isn’t nearly as important to you as resenting women. We care about your problems a lot. Could you try caring about ours?

9 thoughts on “Jezebel: Could We Please Stop Confusing Humanism with “Humanism””

  1. I find Jezebel flippant, I suppose. And I like flippancy – I do a lot of it myself – but they seem to apply it rather more liberally, and without thought, than I would like.

  2. Jezebel is part of the mainstream media. It wants to appeal to women, so it hires women writers – some of whom have genuinely feminist opinions. But most of those opinions are of the liberal feminist variety, watered down enough to be acceptable to the liberal sexist men most of the women in their target demographic are married to, and of course they hate radical feminists, because our existence is an unpleasant reminder that there’s a feminism out there that doesn’t compromise, doesn’t cater to men and can’t be weakened by relentless exposure to beauty ‘n’ fashion advertising.

    Just like every other mainstream media outlet, Jezebel exists to sell your attention to advertisers. They aren’t too careful about getting their facts right because they don’t really care about the facts – they care about getting you to look at what they’re selling, which is usually unhealthy products that women have to be culturally coerced into buying. They’ll get it it just right enough to keep you reading, but shy away from any dangerous truths that might threaten their profit margins.

    1. My Ipad clearly ate my response to this. Lindy West is one of the only Jezebel writers that I like. She’s usually dependable and rarely resorts to lazy cliches. That’s why this piece annoyed me so much. She went for the cheap joke instead of staying with the feminist theory.

  3. Thanks for this post. I too want to bang my head against a wall when someone describes themselves as a humanist, with clearly no understanding of what that is. Anything but call themselves a feminist.

  4. Could you possible credit the artist from the comic fragment you’ve used? Tatsua Ishida from Not only is his comic awesome and deserves all credit, but it’s just the right thing to do. It’s copyrighted material which someone worked hard for, the least thing you could do is give credits. Especially for such a big fighter for the feminist cause like Tatsua.

    1. Awesome, much appreciated I’m sure! Go check his comic out, it’s really, really good and raises many interesting thoughts about the patriarcy and feminism.

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