Tuesday, 15 January 2013

On Julie Burchill and the Observer

It's been a while since I had any great affection for the Guardian and its sister paper, the Observer - the constant drip-drip of misandry from their columnists has alienated me from just about everything they do bar their football coverage, whose sarcastic humour I enjoy. But Julie Burchill's piece for the Observer last Sunday shocked me.

I won't link to it, because the Observer has taken it down, but it's been posted elsewhere on the internet, and if you really want to read it, googling "bed-wetters in bad wigs" or "dicks in chicks' clothing" should find it. In brief, Burchill's co-cliquist Suzanne Moore wrote something in an article that some trans activists didn't like, and told her so on Twitter. I don't know whether calling the ideal body shape women feel pressured into aspiring to that of a "Brazilian transsexual" is transphobic or not. I do know Moore's response to the criticism - "!) People can just fuck off really. Cut their dicks off and be more feminist than me. Good for them." - probably is.

Then Burchill weighed in, with a rant full of anti-trans slurs - "trannies", "shemales" and "shims" being used repeatedly - ending on a not-very-veiled threat. It's a bit like sticking up for a friend who you think has been unfairly accused of being anti-semitic by going on a Mel Gibson-style rant about Jewish conspiracies liberally spiced with references to hooked noses, money-lending and gas chambers.

It didn't shock me that Julie Burchill would write something like that. Julie Burchill has never been anything other than a ham-fisted shit-stirrer, and why the allegedly "quality" papers keep giving her house-room is a mystery to me.

It didn't shock me that a Guardian-group feminist would write such a thing. For all they talk of gender as a social construct that can be challenged, columns from the likes of Julie Bindel and Suzanne Moore have often taken on the job of what Brooke Magnanti aptly called "polic[ing] the borders of womanhood", treating it like some kind of holy state that no-one who's ever had the taint of a Y chromosome or a penis can possibly approach.

But it did shock me that the Guardian group would publish it. For all my frustration about their misandry, men, although our basic human dignity might be denigrated unfairly and our legitimate complaints dismissed, are really not a vulnerable minority the way trans people are, and I honestly still had a higher opinion of them than picking on a vulnerable minority in such unequivocally prejudiced language. And it shocked me that journalists on the Independent and the Telegraph would stick up for her - it seems, largely on the basis that she's a mate.

I have no special insight into the trans experience. I can't claim to know any trans people well. But I was brought up to try not to be prejudiced. I was told it's wrong to think less of someone because they're black, or gay, or Catholic, and I was able to extrapolate that to a general principle - don't think of less of someone because of something they can't help. The modern left, with its competing identity-politics sects, seems to have come to a different conclusion, at least if its most prominent publications are anything to go by. It looks for loopholes. So I'm not allowed to think less of someone because they're black, or gay, or Catholic - what groups haven't I been specifically forbidden to be prejudiced against? And so they pick on trans people, because nobody's specifically told them not to.

That an editor on a left-wing paper read this and thought it publishable, especially post-Leveson, boggles the mind. The press clearly still have a lot of lessons to learn.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Rape culture

Feminists are right – there is a rape culture. They are immersed in it. It defines all interaction between the sexes in terms of rape. It normalises rape, and trivialises it. It uses rape, like Brownmiller says, to consciously keep women in a state of fear. That culture is, of course, feminism itself. As in most cases where feminist ideology doesn’t match reality, it’s only projection. Feminists see rape everywhere, in everything, because to someone with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Tons of pure-gold comments

It's true, I'm terribly susceptible to flattery. The gloriously-named Stoner With a Boner has picked up and re-posted one of my comments on Genderratic, to which AlekNovy has added a comment that "this Patrick Brown has tons of pure-gold comments". This blog is terribly inactive, but I do leave comments on gender issues on other sites - it seems my thoughts come out easier in discussion than when I sit down and try and write them from scratch. So I'm populating this blog with posts based on comments I've made elsewhere.

A post on gynocentrism on Genderratic made me think about the taking of offence, and how it works for some people and not for others. It reminded me of a thought I had a number of years ago, that trying to make a woman who had hurt me feel guilty about it was like trying to get my own back on a master swordsman by challenging him to a swordfight. Guilt is a weapon she has trained to master all her life, and I haven’t.

There has never been a social taboo that demands women watch their mouths around men in case they offend them. There is a very long-standing one that demands men watch their mouths around women, and women, and feminists, exploit it. It’s their weapon, they know how to wield it, and if it’s turned against them they simply shrug it off – doesn’t apply to me.

We will not beat them by using their weapons. We need to develop our own. I think the only thing that will work is a critical mass of men who know feminists are full of shit and will not accept being talked about like that anymore.

I’d prefer to undermine the logic behind feminism buzzwords like "patriarchy" rather than demand people stop saying them because they’re offensive.

Patriarchy, for example. Every society is supposedly a patriarchy, no exceptions, and the defining characteristics of patriarchy are male power and the subjugation of women. But there is a wide variation in how supposedly patriarchal cultures treat men and women. The patriarchal British empire was horrified by the patriarchal Indian practice of Suttee and put and end to it by hanging men. The patriarchal ancient Greeks idealised and displayed the male body in their art, the patriarchal modern west idealises and displays the female body in its art, and the patriarchal Muslim world hides the body, particularly the female body, and its art is abstract and geometric. In patriarchal Saudi Arabia, a woman can only engage the wider world through a male relative. The patriarchal UN, when organising disaster relief, will only distribute food aid to a man through a female relative. There seems to be a correlation between how restrictive a society is of female freedom, and how cheap it holds male life. "Patriarchy" is simply not sufficient to explain all these different outcomes.

"Objectification" is another feminist buzzword I, er, object to, on a variety of levels. It is the accusation that sexual desire for a person is somehow a hostile, dehumanising insult to that person. It assumes that the body is not part of the self, it’s a thing the self is unwillingly associated with. It assumes that sex is something that elevated minds are above. It’s just another guise of Augustinian original sin, designed to control us by making us feel guilty about something that is a powerful and mostly benign part of our nature, twisted slightly to apply only to men, and therefore one of many examples of feminists using old-fashioned "patriarchal" attitudes and gender roles to their advantage when it suits them.

"Privilege" is another one. As used by feminists and other identity-politics ideologues, it decides whether or not you have a valid point of view based on which demographic group you are perceived to belong to, and as such, is a naked justification for anti-out-group prejudice.

We should reject all these feminist buzzwords, but we should be very clear why we reject them. Simply taking offence won’t work.

I’m an atheist, and while I believe that original sin and the idea that all non-believers will burn in hell for all eternity are bullshit (and would be wildly unjust if true). But it’s never occurred to me to take offence when I meet someone who believes it, because it only really affects them.

The point is, though, is that offence isn't really in the eye of the beholder, it's in the eye of the community. When cartoonist Kate Beaton took offence at a male fan saying he wanted to have her babies, or when her at the atheist convention took offence at being chatted up in a lift, half the internet took offence with them. When soccer commentators Andy Gray and Richard Keys made a sexist crack about the first female assistant referee at a professional match, saying she couldn't possibly do her job because women don't understand the offside rule, they got sacked. When MRAs took offence at the hosts of The Talk laughing hysterically at a man who was irreparably sexually mutilated by his wife, a few people said "yeah, that's terrible” but nobody really gave a shit. Before taking offence has any effect whatsoever, society will have to start giving a shit about how we feel.

Until then, we have to argue. Which is good. I hope we do get to the point where society will be offended by prejudice against men, but on the other hand I hope we never get to the point where we can take spurious offence at trivia as a manipulative debating tactic.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Women's violence doesn't hurt

Another comment I'm recycling from Genderratic:
My earliest gender politics memory was a local incident in Northern Ireland in 1991. Susan Christie, a private in the UDR, a locally-recruited regiment of the British army, had an affair with Duncan McAllister, an army captain. She sharpened a butcher’s knife and took it with her when she invited McAllister’s wife Penny out to walk their dogs, and, in a secluded spot, stabbed her to death, then spun some story about how they’d both been attacked by a man. She was convicted, but only of manslaughter, on the grounds that her jealousy amounted to diminished responsibility (I remember the judge saying something about women being controlled by their emotions in his summing up), and sentenced to only five years in prison (her sentence was later increased to nine years, but she got out in five anyway). I remember watching the news with my mum. She said it shouldn’t be her going to jail, it should be him.
I’m pleased to say I spoke up. I was only eleven, but I pointed out that although he might have done wrong by cheating on his wife, she’d done exactly the same thing, that adultery wasn’t against the law, and that only one of them had killed anybody. She had nothing to say to that, but I was shocked, and still am, how the legal system, and ordinary women like my mum, were so keen to absolve a woman from blame, to blame a man for a woman’s crime, and how little thought they gave to the woman who was murdered.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Men do, women judge

Over at GendErratic (an excellent feminist-sceptic blog), blogger Typhonblue has been ploughing a distinct furrow - that mainstream feminist thought is misogynist because, in defining women as passive victims of  "The Patriarchy", it denies their agency: i.e. their capacity to act and effect change. It's persuasive, but I think it's missing something - what women get out of this arrangement. On one of her threads I left the following comment:

Something that occurred to me relating to Typhon’s “agency” thesis. Wasn’t sure where to put it, but here seems as good a place as any.

I think there’s another to wrinkle to this. It’s not just that men act and women don’t, or men act and women are acted upon – there’s also the cultural belief that men act and women judge. It’s part of the mating dance, and a huge part of mating-dance-reinforcing fiction, that men must prove themselves before women will judge them worthy by bestowing their favour. It’s even there in action moves – the female lead “rewards” the male lead with her favour after he’s been sufficiently heroic (feminists notice this and describe the female characters as “prizes” being given to the male characters as a reward, but that denies the agency of the female characters awarding themselves as prizes based on their approval).

We can see it in the infamous “white feather” campaign in WWI – and how many “oppressed” people throughout history have had the power to shame their oppressors into throwing themselves into hell with just implied disapproval?

I see it in my day job working for a housing authority, in the disdain and horror of unemployed women at having workmen in the house to do repairs, walking dirt into their nice clean carpets with their nasty dirty work boots, and generally getting work all over the place.

Women are rewarded, or reward themselves, for their abdication of agency with the belief that they are above acting. Men, collectively, accept women’s authority to judge their actions, without asking if the women judging have walked a mile in their moccasins. That’s why feminist propaganda that paints our identity and sexuality as inherently abusive and selfish has been assimilated into mainstream thought with so little opposition. It’s also why men often react to feminist scolding by, instead of opposing them or telling them to shut up, trying to get them to see our point of view – and also why feminists call that “man-splaining”.

We want women’s approval, because we believe that will validate us as men, and we are distraught when we receive their disapproval instead. Feminists, as bullies do, respond to our approval-seeking behaviour by teasing but ultimately witholding approval to manipulate us into doing what they want (see, for example, Tom Matlack). That’s also why they’re so mean to “nice guys”, because “nice guys” are basically approval-seekers.

I see some encouraging signs that some men are waking up to this – the latest round of feminists attempts to define a “real man”, or a “good man”, are meeting with some resistance from men who, rightly, say that defining men is for men to do, and women can butt out.

Since I wrote that, my attention has been drawn to an article at Scientific American, by Jennifer Ouellette, about the supposed "chilly climate" for women in science. At one point she says:

If a woman calls you out on your behavior, instead of getting angry and defensive, just say, “Wow, I never thought of it like that. I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable. It wasn’t intentional.” Cop to the behavior, and we can all move on.

It reminds me of a storm in a teacup in November 2010, when cartoonist Kate Beaton complained on Twitter about a fan who had said he wanted to have her babies, saying it was a "shitty, disrespectful ‘compliment’" as well as "uncomfortable, sexist and unfair". Some people, rightly to my mind, argued that she was taking it the wrong way, to which Scott McCloud, author of Understanding Comics among other books, said:

It may be true that men and women have traditionally adopted different styles of communication and there are some men who might have reacted differently if roles had been reversed, but now that you know it’s offensive to say such things, it’s kind of ridiculous to argue the point.

Two people, one female, one male, demonstrating the assumption that women have the right and the authority to judge men's actions, and that men have no choice but to accept that judgement. It's an astonishingly sexist attitude, one of the many unexamined sexist double standards favouring women, and when held by a woman, such as Ms Ouellette, incredibly entitled. Imagine being able to say "I object to that. I don't need to justify my objection, you just need to shut up", and have society agree and back you up.

Feminists deny women's agency, and women accept that and play up to it, because it gives them covert power. It's a power they've had since "Patriarchal" times, that allows them to dictate to men and to society, and to escape responsibility for their actions, all the while insisting they are powerless.

I mentioned the White Feather Campaign in my comment on GendErratic. In case you're not aware of that, during the First World War, the government mobilised women to hand white feathers to any man not in uniform who appeared of fighting age, to shame them into signing up. It led to teenagers lying about their age to enlist, and to honourably discharged wounded soldiers reenlisting. Emmeline Pankhurst's Suffragettes were enthusiastic supporters of this campaign. Even before women had the vote, they had power.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Domestic violence against men on TV

Here's a couple of interesting examples from British TV cop shows - one a comedy, one a drama.

The first is a 1996 episode of The Thin Blue Line, Ben Elton and Rowan Atkinson's sitcom. Inspector Fowler discovers that CID have planted evidence on a suspect, and collaborates with the defence barrister, the Mayoress, to throw the case. His girlfriend, Sergeant Dawkins, hears a recording of their discussions and gets the impression that Fowler is cheating on her with the Mayoress. So far, so farce. Then Fowler arrives home. Dawkins asks him to remove his cycling helmet, and picks up a rolling pin. Laughter. End credits.

The second is from a 2007 episode of The Bill. A young man is hospitalised with head injuries. After investigating race and gang-related angles, the cops discover he was attacked by his girlfriend, who has a history of violence against intimate partners, and who hit him on the back of the head with a brick when he turned his back on her in an argument. She justifies her behaviour on the grounds that her authoritarian father and brother always ignored her. He refuses to press charges against her, swears he's nothing like her father and brother, and promises he'll listen to her.

I shudder to think what we would have made of either of these if the gender of the abuser and the abused were switched. If it was implied a man hit his girlfriend because he got the impression, wrongly, that she was cheating on him - and that was the punchline of a joke? If a man hit his girlfriend because she wouldn't listen to him, and the matter was resolved with her promising to listen to him in future?

Now here's a couple of stories from real life.

A former co-worker of mine once came into work with a cut on the top of his bald head. Everybody thought this was rather amusing. Eventually another co-worker wheedled it out of him that his wife had hit him on the head with a cast iron frying pan. He told everybody, and everybody thought this was hilarious. I bit my tongue. A few years later, after he'd retired, the incident came up again, and everybody laughed. This time, I spoke up. A frying pan was a very heavy weapon - would we find it funny if he'd hit her with it? That brought people up short. One female co-worker recalled how she'd once hit her husband with a frying pan. He'd been stuck in traffic and was desperate for a pee, and had rushed past her rather than explain why he was late home from work. She didn't really connect, so no real harm was done, but she was horrified at what she'd nearly done, and taken it as a sign she needed to control her temper.

A friend of mine had a string of medium-term girlfriends in his twenties. He told me they'd all asked him early on the relationship if a man should ever hit a woman, and he'd said no, not under any circumstances - and they'd all hit him. Nothing serious, just slaps, "playful" punches on the arm, but regular and systematic, and designed to get points across. Until one girlfriend asked him, and he said maybe, if she hit him first - and she never did.