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?

Hilary Boyd’s Thursdays in the Park

This is one of those books that I really wanted to enjoy. It is the story of a woman’s reawakening after an unhappy marriage to an unpleasant man. Unfortunately, the entire book is the minimisation of male violence both in the marriage of the main character, Jeanie, and that of her daughter. Like Paula McLean, who wrote The Paris Wife,  Hilary Boyd seems to have little understanding of the level of coercion and control that is common. Boyd also gives both husbands an ‘excuse’ for their abusive behaviour: one is the victim of child sexual violence and the other suffers from extreme jealousy. Obviously, neither man is responsible for their own behaviour to the point that Jeanie labels herself a bitch for wanting out of her unhappy marriage.

I would really like to read a “romance” novel, since Jeanie had to find a new man rather than be happy by herself, that actually understood the dynamics of domestic violence. Just one. 

“Mean Girls”, Online Feminism and Misogynistic Language

I have been debating writing this ever since I saw Sadie Smith’s piece “There’s no Point in Online Feminism if it’s an exclusive Mean Girls club” in the New Statesman. I didn’t like Smith’s piece because I think she went for cheap tabloid journalism. I find the use of “Mean Girls” a tired cliche which ignores the very real problem of male violence online. It ignores the death threats, the rape threats and the general threats of public outing that men make when they disagree with women online. Make no mistake, male violence is the real problem online. 

That said, Smith also has a point. There is a problem on twitter, as well as Facebook, where women are attacking other women using the same misogynistic language as MRAs but claim they are justified in doing so because they are “feminists”. It’s the same silencing patriarchal bullshit that MRAs use but, apparently, we’re supposed to pretend it doesn’t happen because feminists can’t ever be mean or bullies.

Well, I think that’s bullshit. In fact, the worst bullying I’ve experienced in my life, and I’ve experienced a lot, has come from women who self-define as radical feminists. They are in no way, shape or form representative of radical feminists. Personally, I think they need to revisit radical feminist theory and remind themselves that sisterhood does NOT involve trashing the academic work of another woman because you are jealous. I still feel guilty about not stepping up more and supporting my friend. I know she would say that I did but I don’t think I did enough to defend her.

Until now, I have not posted publicly about such incidents because I think it comes under the heading of “airing one’s dirty laundry in public.” As a consequence, I have found myself removed from Feminist FB groups and unfriended by other women. It hurts a lot. This is why I’m so incredibly strict about not calling other women abusive names or using misogynistic language when I disagree with them. I don’t always succeed in this but I do try and, hopefully, I’ve apologised every time I’ve failed at this.

I don’t like it when women resort to name-calling and misogynistic, disablist language to make a point. It’s childish.

And, yes, I get that this sounds remarkably like tone policing. But, you know what, we could do with some sodding tone policing. A little bit of kindness wouldn’t go amiss once in a while. Frankly, twitter could do with a whole lot of tone policing. 

I’ve actually been in two minds as to whether or not to write this because I’ve been afraid of the backlash. I’ve been afraid of the insults. I’ve been afraid of the abuse for expressing my opinions.

Frankly, I’m angry now. I’m angry at being silenced by women who claim to be feminists. I’m angry at women telling other women what to think and what to say. 

I’m also saddened by the number of women I know who have left Twitter because they find these mobs triggering. I’m saddened that women who self-define as feminists don’t recognise just how triggering other women find misogynistic language. 

I’m bored of feminists suggesting we ignore someone’s clearly abusive behaviour because they are women. That we shouldn’t ever call someone on abusive behaviour in case they were hurt themselves. Well, what about the people they are attacking? Maybe they are vulnerable too. Why is it we have to ignore the attacker because we can’t possibly hurt their feelings without any consideration whatsoever for the person being attacked.

As I said this morning on Twitter, I will be automatically blocking anyone who refers to another woman as “fucking scum”. Calling someone “fucking scum” isn’t a feminist act. It’s a silencing tactic. It’s exactly the kind of abusive language men use and any feminist who doesn’t recognise that needs to rethink their feminism. 

I never tell other women whether or not they can self-define as feminist as I think its inherently unkind. But, calling other women “fucking scum” is simply not feminism. It’s certainly not a feminism I want to be part of.

We do need to call one another out when we are saying something offensive or have clearly not seen our privilege but there are ways of doing this without resorting to the same old misogynistic language and silencing other women. 

And, calling another woman “fucking scum” is the wrong way to do feminism.

So, can we all stop attacking one another and go back to focusing on the real problem online: male violence.

Bit of a Clarification: I wrote this earlier in response to witnessing a queer feminist calling a RadFem blogger “fucking scum” on twitter. With the exception of the incident I personally experienced, I have never seen RadFems attack other women with such misogynistic language and in my case they did not use misogynistic language. It was, nonetheless, bullying behaviour. I do not want this piece to be seen as an attack on RadFems, nor will I name the two bloggers involved in the incident this morning (although I am sure many people know of the incident). My point is a general one: this type of language is harmful and damaging. 

We can not liberate women whilst using the very same language that oppresses us. 

Barbara Kingsolver’s Pigs in Heaven

I love Barbara Kingsolver’s books. I know I’m late to the party on this having only discovered her books two years ago but she is an amazing writer. The Poisonwood Bible is one of the best books I have ever read. Pigs in Heaven covers the same terrain as The Poisonwood Bible: motherhood, sisterhood, female friendships, family and surviving.

Pigs in Heaven is the story of Taylor and her adopted daughter Turtle who is Cherokee. The central plot is who Turtle really belongs too: the woman who illegally adopted her but who nurtured her through the trauma of her extensive physical and sexual abuse or the Cherokee nation into whom she was born. Kingsolver asks complicated questions about family and sisterhood and, whilst the ending is too pat, it is, fundamentally, a testament to how we should be raising our children: not as possessions but as members of extended communities built on love and tradition.

These are my two favourite quotes: 

Alice realises something important about her daughter at this moment: that she’s genuinely a mother. She has changed in this way that motherhood changes you, so that you forget you every had time for small things like despising the color pink. 


Sympathizing over the behavior of men is the baking soda of women’s friendships, it seems, the thing that makes them bubble and rise.  

For obvious reasons. 

#DickheadDetox : Micheal Fassbender

Michael Fassbender is yet another male celebrity with a (possible) history of domestic violence which is rarely mentioned. At least, TMZ reported that his ex-girlfriend took out a restraining order on him in 2010 alleging a serious assault which involved breaking her nose with a chair. There were several other violent episodes listed in the restraining order. The petitioner withdrew in April 2010 and this is all the evidence I have as to whether or not Fassbender committed domestic violence. The balance of probabilities is that he did. 

Withdrawal of allegations is common in cases of domestic violence. This is what makes keeping the #dickheaddetox accurate difficult. So few men are actually convicted of domestic violence that I do think it’s important to keep a list of those who are accused of domestic violence. Statistically speaking, its probably true. 

(Thank you to @pinkillusions for bringing the Michael Fassbender case to our attention)

The Daddy Rat : Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender, The Real Science Behind Sex Differences

It’s a standing joke in the Mumsnet Feminism/ Women’s Rights section that we should all be receiving royalties for Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender: The Real Science Behind Sex Differences. I must recommend it at least once a week on threads about gendering children or men being too stupid to see dirt so they, consequently, stink at housework. This, of course, is the same men who are so “visual” that they need to look at porn in order to get off. How, precisely, one can be simultaneously visual and non-visual is beyond me but that’s the argument always put forward by those who believe in innate gender differences.

I’m a neuroskeptic. I don’t believe in innate gender differences. I certainly don’t think we can “scientifically observe” gender differences when our culture is so seeped in woman-hating that anything constructed as “female” is immediately wrong. I have no tolerance for people who claim that boys are physical and girls are emotional. Or, that boys are better at math and spatial awareness than girls because their brains are hardwired that way. All the neuroscience I see insisting on innate gender [and never sex which is what they actually mean] differences has been about supporting the status quo of women’s subordination. 

Cordelia Fine deconstructs all the major “research” on innate gender differences and demonstrates what unrelenting twaddle it is. She is equally snarky, funny and downright angry at the misuse and falsification of “scientific evidence” to support fallacious constructions of gender [which fail to acknowledge the historical and cultural situations in which they were created]. I can not recommend this book enough for anyone who thinks that its totally normal for boys to be violent and girls to be nurturing. This is by far one of my most favourite feminist texts, despite not being advertised as such.

This is my favourite quote from the book: The Daddy Rat

Male rats don’t experience the hormonal changes that trigger maternal behaviour in female rats. They never normally participate in infant care. Yet put a baby rat in a cage with a male adult and after a few days he will be caring for the baby almost as if he were its mother.  He’ll pick it up, nestle it close to him as a nursing female would, keep the baby rat clear and comforted and even build a comfy nest for it. The parenting circuits are there in the male brain, even in a species in which paternal care doesn’t normally exist. If a male rat, without even the aid of a William Sears baby-care manual, can be inspired to parent then I would suggest that the prospects for human fathers are pretty good. (88)

It makes me snigger every time I read it.

Some interesting Discussions on Mumsnet: 

#DickheadDetox : Bill Roache: Just Another Creepy Old White Dude

Another day. Another old white dude blaming children for being sexually abused by predators.

This time it is soap actor Bill Roache who bores everyone senseless on Coronation Street. But, Roache went one step further than the usual victim-blaming bullshit. According to Roache, we should be totally forgiving of people who commit “sex crimes” because “victims of paedophiles bring abuse upon themselves because of what they have done in previous lives.” Also, “groupies” are predators taking advantage of those poor ickle pop stars on the fringes of society.

And, yes, you read that right.

Considering his cast mate Micheal Le Vell has just been arrested for child rape, I think Corrie has a bit of a problem on its hands; a problem it needs to start addressing properly.

Bill Roache is a nasty, vicious, victim-blaming, rape apologising dickhead. 

Apparently, Bar Rafaeli is JUST Leonardo DiCaprio’s Ex-Girlfriend

At least, according to the Independent, Bar Rafaeli’s is only important insofar as she used to have sex with Leonardo DiCaprio. The fact that she is a multi-millionaire, world-famous model is completely irrelevant. Rafaeli’s only value is that she used to have sex with Leonardo DiCaprio. 

The actual point of the article is that the Israeli foreign ministry would like to use Rafaeli in a new PR campaign to promote Israel internationally. The Israeli Defence Force are unhappy with the choice of Rafaeli because of her failure to complete the, usually mandatory, national service. Rafaeli was excused from this service because of her status as a model. Now, regardless of what one thinks of mandatory national service in the military, modelling, Israel, or the exclusion of celebrities from the basic tenets of citizenship required of others, one really has to wonder as to why Rafaeli’s sex life is somehow relevant to these questions. Rafaeli’s personal beliefs on mandatory service, which, thankfully, the Independent does mention, are relevant considering Rafaeli is not a fan but the exact identity of who she used to have sex with is hardly newsworthy.

Is it too much to ask that the Independent not identify women according to their sexual relationships with men? 

The Steubenville Rapists Have Been Found Guilty But This Isn’t Real Justice

17 year old Trent Mays and 16 year old Ma’lik Richmond have been found guilty of rape

I did not think I would ever type that sentence. 

I have always thought the two  football players would be found not-guilty.

After all, no one else has been arrested for this crime whose cover-up involved a number of powerful adults within the community.

The teenagers who stood by and watched whilst a young woman was brutally raped, dragged from party to party and publicly shamed have not been held accountable.

The teenage boy, Mark Cole, who filmed the assault was given immunity in exchange for his testimony.

Head football coach Reno Saccoccia was complicit in the cover-up. He is also guilty of perpetrating and perpetuating rape culture.

The volunteer football coach Nate Hubbart was, at the very least, complicit in the cover-up; as well as guilty of perpetuating and perpetrating rape culture.

The ONLY reason this case even came to public attention is because of the tireless campaigns of blogger Alexandria Goddard and, eventually, Anonymous. 

These two football players have been found guilty but this isn’t justice.

The rape they committed has been viewed across the world. 

Those images will forever be available. Their victim will never get her privacy back.

Her community turned against her to support two boys whose only “positive traits” are the ability to toss a football.

The mass media, finally shamed into covering the story, went on a rape apologism spree to defend the two poor ickle boys who’ve ruined their lives by raping someone.

The bystanders will never be held criminally accountable.

The adults in the community of Steubenville, who conspired to cover up this case by refusing to investigate or prosecute, will never be held accountable. 

Regardless of their convictions as juveniles, justice has not been served.

Instead, another young woman has been raped, publicly shamed and blamed for her rape and the media, led by CNN, are now whining about the lives of two rapists being destroyed.

There is no justice in rape culture. Not for rape victims.

Jewly Hight’s Right By Her Roots: Americana Women and Their Songs

The problem with this book is that it is just one book. It should be nine separate books: the eight singer-songwriters that Hight adores so much:
And, Jewly Hight herself; because Hight might claim to be writing the stories of these eight women singers-songwriters and their examination of “their geographical, cultural, familial, and religious roots in their music” but Hight’s actually written herself into the text. I want to know more about the 8 female artists and Hight.  A longer book would have allowed the inclusion of more of the lyrics by these talented women but also more of Hight herself. Right by Her Roots is a love affair with these talented women singer-songwriters and it’s love-affair that just isn’t long enough.

It’s all fascinating but at 200 pages, there simply isn’t enough space to really examine these issues and fully explore the back catalogues of the music of these women. I want to know more about all 8 women but equally I want to know about Hight. I want to know about how Hight traces her roots and I want more of Hight’s personal responses to these women.

I definitely recommend this book but with fingers crossed that Hight writes more in-depth books about these women (and herself).