Blog By Barry

January 21, 2009

Cathy Young responds to me regarding feminist hatred of men

Filed under: Christina Hoff Sommers — Ampersand @ 10:57 pm

I was thrown off my horse by strep throat, but I am planning to continue my series responding to Christina Hoff Sommers.

First, however: Over at The Y Files, columnist Cathy Young responds to part two of my series.

Cathy begins, I think, by misunderstanding what I meant when I said “If man-hating is so pervasive in contemporary feminism, why don’t men in feminism encounter it more?” Cathy responds:

Barry says he hasn’t seen any male-hating attitudes from feminists except for a few people on the Ms. boards way, way back. I’m guessing the late Andrea Dworkin, famous for such aperçus as, “Under patriarchy, every woman’s son is her potential betrayer and also the inevitable rapist or exploiter of another woman,” or “Male sexuality, drunk on its intrinsic contempt for all life, but especially for women’s lives…”, does not qualify?

But — like David Cohen, who I quoted — I was talking about the feminists I’ve directly interacted with. (Was this really so unclear in context, Cathy?) Alas, I never met Andrea Dworkin.

To be sure, there are some stunning anti-male quotes from Dworkin and a few others — quotes I’ve often seen recycled by critics of feminism. (Some of these quotes are out of context or fabricated, but some are real.) Are they representative of day-to-day feminism, of most feminists, or of current feminism? Not in my experience.

But this brings up something I’ve wondered about for quite a while. When I read MRAs, as well as “conservative feminists” like Christina Hoff Sommers, a narrative history of feminism tends to emerge, which goes something like this: Once upon a time there were the suffragettes, who were libertarian or conservative and they were Good. Then came the second wave feminists in the 60s and 70s, who fought for equal pay and the like, and they were Good. But in the 1980s came the Evil “gender feminists” or “victim feminists,” who turned feminism into man-hating victimology, and feminism has been Bad ever since.

But curiously enough, when reading Sommers and others, it quickly becomes apparent that most of their examples are from 60s and 70s feminism. And so Sommers makes a big deal of the word “ovulars,” a term from the 1960s that no one but Sommers herself uses nowadays. Dworkin, Young’s example, peaked in influence and prominence in the 70s, became a hugely controversial figure within feminism in the 80s, and pretty much faded from prominence after that. Most of the feminists I see quoted as proof of how awful and man-hating feminists are (Robin Morgan, Germaine Greer , Marilyn French, etc) came into prominence in the 60s and 70s.

60s and 70s feminism was, frankly, a lot wilder, and a lot more unrestrained. This has its good side (I’m a fan of some of Firestone’s wilder digressions), but also a negative side, in the unrestrained anti-male sexism of some feminist leaders. But it’s interesting that the peak of anti-male sexism in feminism — which I’d say was when Valerie Solanas shot Andy Warhol — happened before many of today’s feminists had even been born. Yet according to the conservative feminist narrative, feminism now is much worse than feminism then.

It’s a new century, but conservative feminists and MRAs are still nattering on about what Robin Morgan said in the 70s, or about the super bowl Sunday controversy from over a quarter century ago. Let me ask you this, Cathy: take stock of what feminists have been doing and saying this century. Do you really think that Andrea Dworkin saying “Male sexuality, drunk on its intrinsic contempt for all life” is typical of current-day feminism?

* * *

Cathy also defends the relevance of The Vagina Monologues, which, I’ll remind readers, was the one and only example Sommers gave in her lecture to support her argument that feminist believe that “men are beasts.” I don’t find anything Cathy comes up with persuasive. Yes, The Vagina Monlogues are very popular, but it’s still fiction, and it’s still just one example. No honest person can claim with a straight face that a single work of fiction proves anything about feminism in general.

Analyzing pop culture is valuable; but to discuss a general trend in pop culture, one must analyze multiple works, and show that a pattern actually exists. Otherwise, all you have is cherry-picking — Sommers’ stock in trade.

So what is feminist pop culture? It’s Vagina Monologues, sure (and nothing wrong with that; not the greatest work of literature, but it’s funny and sexy and it’s raised tons of money for good causes); but it’s also Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the songs of Ani Defranco and the comedy of Wanda Sykes and a dozen other things. I think looking at all these things would produce a more complex, but more honest, picture of feminism than Sommers’.

When I suggested Sommers should be able to provide a couple of quotes from current, prominent feminists saying “men are beasts,” Cathy says I set the bar too high. Maybe, although I’d accept quotes that amount to the same thing (such as the Dworkin quotes Cathy recycled). But if I raise the bar too high, Cathy digs a trench and drops the bar in.

Here’s where I’d set the bar: Current feminists, please. Multiple quotes from this century. Quotes from actually published, known feminists, not students quoted in some student paper or something said in the comments section of a blog. And if you’re going to claim that these quotes represent current feminism, then the quotes should be from a representative variety of current feminism: not only white feminists, and not only radical feminists, and not only academic feminists. (Or, if the only quotes you can find are from a particular sub-group of feminists, say so, rather than falsely claiming that this represents all of current feminism.)

Is that a high bar? I’d say it’s a reasonable bar, given the extreme and far-reaching claims made by Sommers. If Sommers can’t provide reasonable evidence for her claims, then it’s up to her to moderate her claims, not up to me to lower the bar.

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2 Comments »

  1. the endless excuse making for feminist man-hatred and misandry is astonishing. These quotes, and plenty of others more, are indicative of a larger trend of man bashing hate speech that continues to linger today in Women’s studies courses. Men are defined as the enemy and the injustices and inequalities and male-specific oppressions inflicted on men is ignored and denied. Men are losing their rights, and their lives, by the day in the West from relentless feminist propaganda and policy influence. It has been the goal of lesbian feminists to turn away women from men and instigate heterophobia and male sexuality. False rape is denied and feminists refuse to do something about it, while the minority of real rapes are blown all out of proportion. All accused men are deemed automatically guilty (Duke, Hofstra) and no innocent man’s reputation shall be salvaged according to feminists. Women should lie about rape and domestic violence with impunity and innocent men shall continue to take the fall.

    it is a great irony in our time that it is MEN who have no legal rights when interacting with women. And the sheer denial of this blatant fact is what makes it all the more sickening.

    Comment by Diogenes — February 5, 2010 @ 12:43 am

  2. I think that narrative is a bit confusing, but here’s a way of making sense of it. What is actually being said is there was a cause for feminism before that gave it useful good things to do; even though there was an angry man-hating element from the beginning – how could there not be? You have a group saying women are oppressed by men – how could such a group not attract more than it’s fair share of man-haters? If a group set itself up to address what they saw as the problem of immigration (which frequently happens in almost every country in the world) would you not imagine that group would have more than it’s fair share of racists and xenophobes? Even if there was a genuine immigration problem. And as the immigration problem becomes diminished, how many people in the group become racist as a result? Will it be less or more? Obviously more because those who aren’t actually racist will have lost interest because immigrants aren’t really that big a deal, right?

    The same with feminism, at the beginning the majority were doing what mattered to them – which actually mattered – the vote, closed opportunities in the workplace, genuine misogyny (I looked at some Tommy Cooper jokes the other day. I like Tommy Cooper, but some shocked me with their casual misogyny. They are every bit as offensive to women as the greetings cards that upset me today are to men. The feminists of the seventies genuinely had stuff to complain about). As the problems that actually mattered got solved the angry man-hating element became more powerful because they were the only ones still finding things to complain about – moderate feminists were just busy enjoying being equal, only the radicals could still find stuff to be angry about. Plus they were the ones who went into women’s studies research, because feminism was their hobby; not something they could give up : so they manufactured issues by genderizing things that don’t need to be gendered, by exaggerating problems and generally trying to prey on women’s fears. “Why don’t other women see all men are evil like I do?! Look at these statistics, read this article, see what this man said because he’s a man and that’s how men think!” But some of the damaging things they did happened way back when other feminists were doing useful things. The death threats to Erin Pizzey were in the Seventies – the damage that did to our understanding of domestic violence, and forming effective policies to dealing with domestic violence is incalculable; because the feminist narrative stuck. It’s now forty years later and it’s still a revelation to people when we find that some victims of domestic violence are male. It was feminists who silenced that, because to pretend that “men abuse their wives to assert their domination” fitted in with their theory of Patriarchy and the “personal being political” but it simply didn’t reflect the complex nature of the reality.

    Comment by markpostgate — June 7, 2014 @ 5:54 am


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