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.

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