Atheist Imprisoned for ‘Insanity’

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While atheists have plenty of issues all around the world, at least we don’t have to deal with this sort of problem any more.

In Nigeria, Mubarak Bala has been beaten, threatened, drugged and confined to a mental institution simply for being an atheist.

He lives in Kano in Nigeria‘s predominantly Muslim north. The state adopted sharia law in 2000 and has a strict Islamic police force called the Hisbah.

You can read a full run down of the issues at the following links:

While Change.org is essentially a meaningless online petition site, you can sign HERE.

You can email the Nigerian Ministry of Justice directly HERE.

International pressure and human rights pressure CAN make a difference here. Nigeria is an up-and-coming economic and social power in Africa and wants to be seen as a modern state. Mubarak’s situation runs counter to those wishes and so they should be vulnerable to pressure from groups like Amnesty. As a member of the Commonwealth they may also be susceptible to pressure from the British government. You can email the UK Foreign Office HERE.

 

The Trouble With Vegans

dinocard4Vegans and vegetarians will tell you all kinds of nonsense to try and convince you that their way is not only the best way, but the only way. The arguments can take many forms from ethical and environmental to health and even some rather esoteric spiritual ones – which we obviously scorn on this blog.

I was given a link to a supposed 101 Reasons to Go Vegetarian and, frankly, a lot of them are a whole load of crap. So here comes the skepticism.

Before the skepticism though, it’s worth noting a few things that are true. Raising meat does take a lot of resources and we do eat too much of it. Animals are often raised in horrible conditions. These things – and others – all happen for reasons though. Some of them good, some of them pragmatic, some of them purely commercial.

So, on with the reasons…

01. Every year in the UK we feed our livestock enough food to feed 250,000,000 people while in the world 30,000,000 people die of starvation.
Animals eat things we don’t – like grass. It’s simplistic and idiotic to think that somehow simply because we stopped raising animals (which would lead to them all being killed off anyway) that food distribution issues would change. The reason that people are starving is a combination of cost and distribution – not meat. We make enough food for everyone already – more than enough.

02. 20 vegetarians can live off the land required by one meat eater.
If you can call it living, but seriously, that depends on the land. We can use land for raising livestock that we can’t use for raising crops. This is especially true of sheep and goats. The sea, also, isn’t too great for raising plant crops. There’s also the fact that plants are seasonal while animal flesh can be harvested at any time of year as is needed. This is also forgetting crop rotation and leaving the land fallow from time to time.

03. Every 3 seconds a child dies of starvation somewhere in the world
See 1.

04. If Americans reduced their meat consumption by 10% it would free 12,000,000 tons of grain—enough to feed 60,000,000 people (the population of Great Britain).
05. If all Americans became vegetarian, it would free enough grain to feed 600,000,000 people (the population of India).
See 1.

06. Intensification in animal farming has displaced 1,000,000′s of people from their traditional lands—eg. indigenous people in south & central america, native americans in north america & crofters in Great Britain — this is continuing today.
This is an argument against inhumane business practices and large scale agricultural corporation, not against raising meet. Indigenous people raised animals themselves.

07. People displaced from their lands into cities succumb to dietary deficiency, diseases, parasites & opportunistic diseases
This has nothing to do with vegetarianism, but displacement of populations and lack of efficiency in food distribution.

08. In third world countries 1 in 10 babies die before their first birthday.
This has nothing to do with vegetarianism. Interestingly though, malnutrition and developmental disorders in very young children have been lessened by as little as a spoonful of meat every day.

09. The UK imports £46,000,000 worth of grain from third world countries to feed our livestock.
See 1.

10. Due to overgrazing 850,000,000 people live on land threatened by desertification & over 230,000,000 already live on land so severely desertified that they are unable to sustain their existence & face imminent starvation.
Overfarming land will do the same thing. Properly managed, the presence of animals will fertilise soil. Sometimes in crop rotation animals are allowed to graze when the field is not being otherwise used for just this reason.

11. 1,000,000,000 people in the west gorging on meat & dairy leave 1,000,000,000 to waste away & 3,500,000,000 teeter on the brink.
See 1.

12. If they continue to clear American forests to raise cattle at the present rate, in 50 years there will be none left.
Mismanagement isn’t an argument for vegetarianism.

13. 1 acre yields 165 lbs of beef or 20,000 lbs of potatoes.
It’s just not that simple. See earlier comments about crop rotation, spoilage etc. Also farming plant crops takes more in the way of pesticides, fertiliser and agricultural equipment than people think. It’s not as clean as people like to think. You also get nutrients from meat you can’t get from veg – and vice versa.

14. 8/10 of cultivated land in the UK is used to grow food for animals (14,732,000 hectares).
Still not an argument for vegetarianism.

15. It takes 16lbs of high protein soya to produce 1 lb of beef.
This is not an argument for vegetarianism.

16. Since 1945 in the UK we have lost 95% of flower meadows, 50% of ancient woodlands, 40% of heathlands, 50% of wet lands & 224,000 km of hedgerows all due to animal farming.
Not just animal farming. Much of our landscape since medieval deforestation has been shaped by animal grazing. Ironically, that includes heath and meadows. Animal fields used to be bounded by hedgerows as well, that’s nothing to do with animal farming.

17. Pressure on land due to meat farming leads to soil erosion 6billion tons/year in the USA.
See previous comments about underestimating the impact of plant farming.

18. If everyone went vegetarian up to 90% of land used for animal farming could be taken out of production & used to replant woodlands, leisure activities etc.
Again, animals can be raised on land unsuitable for farming. We’d be creating more pressure for crops and it’s extremely unlikely that this land would be allowed to revert to wilderness in any case. Much more likely it would be used for housing and development especially as its currently in private hands.

19. 25% of Central america’s forests have been destroyed for cattle grazing since 1960.
Argument against mismanagement and greed is not an argument for vegetarianism.

20. Between 1966-1983 38% of the Amazon rain forest was destroyed for cattle grazing.
Argument against mismanagement and greed is not an argument for vegetarianism.

21. 90% of cattle ranches established on cleared forest land go bankrupt in less than 8 years as the land becomes barren due to nutrient loss & overgrazing.
Argument against mismanagement and greed is not an argument for vegetarianism.

22. Overgrazing by cattle is destroying the land & increasing desertification, nearly 430 million acres in the USA alone has suffered a 25-50% reduction in yield since first grazed.
Argument against mismanagement and greed is not an argument for vegetarianism.

23. An inch of topsoil takes 200-1000 years to develop—yet in the USA they have lost around 1/3 of their prime topsoil in 200 years (around 7 inches) due to animal farming.
And other forms of farming, cash crops etc. Argument against mismanagement and greed is not an argument for vegetarianism.

24. Land will be lost due to rises in sea level due to global warming due to animal farming.
Attaching global warming to animal farming is… interesting. Agriculture does contribute, but industrialisation is the big problem. Ironically, a hotter, drier future will better suit raising animals than crops. Petrochemicals and derivatives used to raise crops contribute a huge amount to global warming. We can do without them, but organic farming is 1/3rd less efficient.

25. The destruction of the rainforest by cattle farmers is destroying the lungs of the planet & reducing the worlds capacity to replenish our oxygen supply.
Argument against mismanagement and greed is not an argument for vegetarianism.

26. The 1,300,000,000 cattle in the world emit 60,000,000 tons of methane per year (methane is a greenhouse gas & leads to global warming).
Argument against mismanagement and greed is not an argument for vegetarianism.

27. Burning of forests, grasslands & agricultural waste associated with animal farming releases 50-100,000,000 tons of methane per year.
Argument against mismanagement and greed is not an argument for vegetarianism.

28. Combining these figures, 25% of methane emissions are due to animal farming (not including the billions of sheep, pigs & poultry so the real figure is much higher).
Argument against mismanagement and greed is not an argument for vegetarianism.

29. Fertilizer used to grow crops to feed to animals releases nitrous oxide — thought to account for 6% of the greenhouse effect.
And the same with food crops. Which you would propose to increase.

30. Fertilizer, weedkiller & pesticides sprayed on crops enter the atmosphere creating a noxious carcinogenic cocktail.
This is an argument against vegetable crops.

31. CFCs are released into the air from refrigeration units used to store decomposing flesh (meat), milk & butter—CFCs are destroy the ozone layer.
CFCs have been eliminated in some countries and are scheduled to be phased out virtually completely by 2020. We took action on CFCs far more effectively than we did on global warming.

32. Ammonia from animal urine also pollutes the atmosphere.
Ammonia’s also a great fertiliser. Good luck feeding the world without fertiliser.

33. CO2 is released by burning oil & petrol in lorries, ships, abattoirs, dairies, factories etc. associated with meat & dairy production.
And with vegetable farming.

34. Emissions from large chemical plants which produce fertilizer, weedkiller & other agricultural chemicals are also poisoning our air.
And these are used in vegetable farming.

35. 25 gallons of water to produce 1lb of wheat & 2500 gallons to produce 1lb of meat.
In neither case is it ‘used’, but rather cycled. Argument against mismanagement and greed is not an argument for vegetarianism.

36. UK farm animals produce 200,000,000 tonnes of slurry (liquid excrement) every year, the majority of which ends up in our rivers.
Argument against mismanagement and greed is not an argument for vegetarianism. Slurry is a great potential energy source and source of fertiliser. Which you need for growing crops.

37. Bloody waste water from abattoirs ends up in our rivers.
Argument against mismanagement and greed is not an argument for vegetarianism.

38. In the USA every second humans produce 12,000 lbs of effluent while farmed animals produce 250,000 lbs.
See fertiliser and fuel above.

39. Nitrates & pesticides used on crops grown to feed livestock end up in our rivers.
And the same thing happens when they’re used on crops to feed humans.

40. Meat & dairy farming uses 70 litres of water per day per animal in the UK or 159,250,000,000 litres per year in total.
Cycles water, doesn’t use it.

41. The water used to produce 10 lbs of steak is equivalent to the average consumption of water for an entire household for an entire year.
Cycled.

42. Depletion of groundwater reserves to grow crops for animals & to supply abattoirs will lead to greater water shortages.
Water is also needed for food crops.

43. Aquifers (stores of underground water) in the San Joaquin valley in the USA are being drained at the rate of 500,000,000,000 gallons/year to produce meat.
Food crops still need water too.

44. 18% of all agricultural land in the world is irrigated & as global warming increases (partly due to animal farming) it will cost $200,000,000 to keep these systems going.
And animals can be raised on non-arable land.

45. The water used to produce a 1000 lb beef steer is enough to float a Destroyer battleship.
Cycled.

46. The liquid waste from the various parts of the meat & dairy industry flow into the rivers & from there into the seas polluting them & encouraging huge algal blooms to grow .
Argument against mismanagement and greed is not an argument for vegetarianism. Algae is a potential food and fuel source.

47. To produce 1 calorie of energy from meat takes 60 calories of petrol, whereas growing grains & legumes to directly feed people produces 20 calories for each calorie of fuel used ( thats 1200 times more efficient).
As covered earlier, producing and shipping crops is not as efficient as you think.

48. Meat & dairy farming uses billions of gallons of oil to run tractors, fuel ships & lorries (to move animal feed & animals), pump billions of gallons of water to irrigate fields & run slaughterhouses, power refrigeration units to prevent the corpses from decomposing & to power sewage plants to clean up some of the pollution produced.
So do food crops.

49. Cattle convert only 6% of their energy intake (mainly grains & soya) into flesh, the remaining 94% is wasted as heat, movement (which is why they keep many animals in very close confinement), hair, bones, faeces etc.
These bald statistics are not an argument one way or the other and fail to take in the whole argument.

50. 1lb of beef takes 1 gallon of petrol to produce.
Stop taking your cattle drag racing.

51. A family of four eating beef for a year uses enough petrol to run a car for 6 months (obviously depending on how far you drive!).
So many of these are rephrasings of the same argument I think the writer must have been short of the 101.

52. If the full ecological cost of meat was passed onto the consumer the price would be quadrupled (at least).
This would be true of most foods.

53. The EC spends o100,000,000′s to subsidise animal production resulting in lakes of unwanted milk & mountains of unwanted meat & butter. This money could be better spent encouraging organic fruit, vegetable & grain production.
Then we’d have mountains of those instead, which we already do anyway. Subsidies and overproduction are a different problem. Argument against mismanagement and greed is not an argument for vegetarianism.

54. In the USA in 1979 145,000,000 tons of crops were fed to cattle resulting in only 21million tons of animal bodies the cost of the wasted crops was $20,000,000,000.
Wasted? What were the cattle worth?

55. Between 1950 & 1985 grain production in Europe & the USA increased massively but 2/3 was fed to animals.
And nobody in those countries is starving. Redistribution is a separate issue.

56. 70% of all grain is fed to animals.
And 99.9% of grass (excluding wheatgrass) is fed to animals rather than humans. So what?

57. Eating vast quantities of animal flesh, eggs, milk & butter is a luxury that most of the planet can not afford.
Economically speaking this would be an argument for increasing supply to meat demand. It also fails to note that many poor families will raise pigs on waste or chickens that can scratch around on non-arable land for important protein and micronutrients.

58. Fishing with drift (and other modern) nets weakens & destroys ecosystems by indiscriminately killing billions of sea creatures & disrupting the sea bed.
Argument against mismanagement and greed is not an argument for vegetarianism.

59. Fishermen’s nets kill 10 times as many other animals as the fish they are hoping to catch.
Argument against mismanagement and greed is not an argument for vegetarianism.

60. Fish caught in nets die an agonising slow death of suffocation.
It’s unclear how fish – and other ‘lower’ organisms experience pain. Conversely, drowning or suffocation is meant to be one of the more pleasant ways to go in  humans.

61. Each year 15,000,000,000 land animals are slaughtered for food & an unknown but much larger number of sea creatures (including 1000′s of dolphins caught accidentally)
Argument against mismanagement and greed is not an argument for vegetarianism.

62. Chickens are crammed into battery cages with upto 3 other birds, they are unable to even spread their wings & many can not even stand up
Argument against mismanagement and greed is not an argument for vegetarianism. It is unfortunate and horrible but efficiency and cost are controlled by factory farming conditions.

63. Unwanted male chicks (because they can’t lay eggs) are gassed or pulped while their sisters go to the battery sheds
See above.

64. Chicks are debeaked without anaesthetic to prevent them injuring each other in the unnaturally confined conditions they are kept in—this is equivalent to having your fingernails pulled out without anaesthetic
See above.

65. Modern farming methods using growth hormones & artificial lighting mean that many chickens out grow their bones, resulting in fractured & broken legs
See above.

66. Sows are kept tethered in stalls 1.3 x 1 metre on concrete or slatted floors—they can not even turn around
See above.

67. Poultry raised for meat are kept in windowless broiler sheds, with around 20-30,000 in each shed, they live in an area of 10-20 cm square—fighting due to overcrowding is common & like battery hens they commonly suffer from supperating bed sores
These are all the same argument.

68. Broilersheds are artificially lit 23 hours a day to produce rapid growth
This too.

69. Animals travel between farms & to slaughter in overcrowded transporters with no food or water—resulting in stress, injuries & deaths—legal requirements are widely ignored
Argument against mismanagement and greed is not an argument for vegetarianism.

70. 95% of poultry suffer injuries before being killed & 30% suffer broken bones.
Many of these stats seem to come from dubious sources, even so, these are the demands of a burgeoning ~8billion world population.

71. Problems with stunning practices mean that many animals have their throats slit while still conscious (around 6% of cattle or 200,000 per year) & are then dipped in tanks of scalding water (to loosen feathers, bristles etc.) again while fully conscious.
Argument against mismanagement and greed is not an argument for vegetarianism.

72. 4000 animals die spurting their blood out every minute in a British slaughterhouse.
This is not an argument.

73. Calf leather comes from animals killed at just 2 weeks old.
So, it’s not wasted. Good.

74. Cows were fed on the ground up remains of other cows & sheep—the result is thought to be BSE (mad cow disease) in the USA cattle are fed partly on recycled plastic pellets.
Argument against mismanagement and greed is not an argument for vegetarianism.

75. Cows only give milk for 10 months after they have a calf—so they are routinely artificially inseminated (ie. mechanically raped) to keep them pregnant & milking—their calves are taken away (usually at 12 hours old) for meat or export to veal crates.
‘Mechanically raped’ shoots any credibility this list might have had in the head. Veal is an issue, but one with a few practical solutions (pink veal etc).

76. Cows would naturally live upto 20 years but are slaughtered after 5-7 years when their milk production begins to fall.
End milk farming and they’d ALL be killed. Its economics and its nasty but… 8 billion.

77. In the UK animals are killed by first being stunned with electricity or a captive bolt gun (ie. a bolt is fired into their heads) before having their throats slit & being plunged into boiling water—all this happens on a production line with the animals being hung upside down from a moving conveyor belt—this is factory farming.
And it’s more humane than halal and other forms of similar slaughtering. Again, this isn’t really an argument for vegetarianism, it’s a description.

78. “Animals are those unfortunate slaves & victims of the most brutal part of mankind”—John Stewart Mill (philosopher).
Slaves? Hyperbole. As a utilitarian Mill would almost certainly accept the need to raise animals for food but wish to limit the suffering.

79. Veal calves are confined in stalls in the dark, unable to move & are fed on pigs blood, chocolate & dried milk (we are drinking the rich fresh milk of their mothers).
Argument against mismanagement and greed is not an argument for vegetarianism.

80. Cows naturally produce 5 litres of milk per day for their calves—under the intensified systems of modern farming they produce 25-40 litres per day — resulting in swollen & inflamed udders—at this rate they are soon worn out.
Argument against mismanagement and greed is not an argument for vegetarianism.

81. Large areas of land are under monoculture to grow crops to feed to animals—these areas are wildlife deserts supporting fewer & fewer species.
Food crops are also grown in monocultures.

82. Vegetarians have a 20% lower rate of mortality from all causes (ie. they live longer & don’t get sick as often).
Comparing vegetarians to the general public is not a valid comparison. Anyone who takes a particular interest in their diet – as most don’t – will be healthier than the average. An omnivorous diet is the most natural and healthiest for humans with everything in moderation. Veganism in particular is actively dangerous for pre-adolescents and can cause developmental problems – especially in the nervous system. The kinds of supplements used to compensate for lacks in vegan diets require a chemical industry with a lot of wastage and pollution. They’re also much less efficient at delivering nutrients than meat.

83. Meat is full of traces of antibiotics, hormones, toxins produced by stress & pesticide residues that become concentrated from all the crops they have eaten.
Argument against mismanagement and greed is not an argument for vegetarianism.

84. Fish contain heavy metals & other pollutants -many of which originated on farms.
Argument against mismanagement and greed is not an argument for vegetarianism.

85. The world health organisation recommends a diet low in saturated fat, sugar, salt & with plenty of fibre—exactly what you get on a vegan/vegetarian diet.
They don’t recommend cutting out meat.

86. Farmed animals contain upto 50% saturated fat in their bodies.
Not all saturated fat is bad and we need some.

87. Vegetarians have 24% reduced risk of getting heart disease & Vegans a 57% reduction (heart disease is the biggest killer in the UK accounting for 50% of deaths).
See previous comment about bad comparisons.

88. Obesity is rare in vegetarians, obesity is related to many diseases.
See previous comment about bad comparisons.

89. Vegans & vegetarians have lower blood pressure & cholesterol levels—high levels are associated with heart disease, strokes & kidney failure.
See previous comment about bad comparisons.

90. Vegetarians have a 50% reduced risk of dying of diabetes.
See previous comment about bad comparisons.

91. Vegetarians have a 40% reduced level of cancer than the general population thought to be because they have a higher intake of vitamins A,C & E.
See previous comment about bad comparisons. It is irresponsible to suggest that vitamins are a magical cancer cure.

92. Vegetarians have a reduced risk of developing gall & kidney stones.
See previous comment about bad comparisons.

93. 80% of food poisoning is due to infected meat (faeces, bacteria etc.) after all meat is decomposing flesh—most of the rest is due to salmonella in eggs.
You can also get food poisoning from vegetables. Not just flesh. ‘Decomposing flesh’ is a sensationalist way to talk about meat. Regardless, we’re evolved to eat it.

94. Osteoporosis due to calcium loss from bones is mainly due to the sulphur content in meat & casein protein in milk that cause calcium to be lost in the urine—the countries with the highest meat & dairy consumption are those with the highest levels of brittle bones.
See previous comment about bad comparisons. Milk does not drain calcium from your bones and it’s one of the most efficient ways to ingest milk. This is dangerous disinfo.

95. 50% of people do not have the enzyme to digest milk properly & milk allergy is related to asthma & eczema.
Those of us who do, evolved it as a survival strategy. Allergies of all kinds are related to asthma and eczema. Mould spores used to trigger mine.

96. Meat eaters have double the rate of Alzheimers disease as Vegans & Vegetarians—some people also think that Parkinsons disease is also linked to meat eating.
Due to BSE, which is an argument against mismanagement and greed, not an argument for vegetarianism.

97. Egg yolk is a dense concentration of saturated fat & the white is high in albumin protein associated with leaching calcium into your urine. Butter is 80% saturated fat, cream is 40% saturated fat & cheese is 25-40% saturated fat.
You need some and some forms are not as unhealthy as we were lead to believe. Eggs are a great source of protein and chickens can be raised on very little.

98. Meat eaters are two and a half times more likely to get bowel cancer than Vegetarians.
See previous comment about bad comparisons.

99. The cling film used to wrap meat in supermarkets & butchers contains chemicals linked to falling sperm counts in men.
Which is why they’ve been phased out. A larger source appears to be the contraceptive pill in women – amongst others.

100. Chinese people (living mainly on a vegetarian diet) consume 20% more calories than Americans but Americans are 20% fatter.
See previous comment about bad comparisons.

101. Of 2,100,000 deaths in the USA in 1987, 1,500,000 were related to diet (ie. meat & dairy).
See previous comment about bad comparisons. ‘Diet’ is not equal to ‘meat and dairy’.

Some of the propaganda here is obvious, where the mask slips. We do need to reduce meat intake and increase vegetable intake. We do need to farm more responsibly and control pollution, but we also need to feed the entire world and if you think you can do that by going vegetarian, you’re very much mistaken. To be completely healthy humans – omnivores with sharp teeth, mid length intestines and a need for fats, protein and micronutrients – we need to eat some meat. Just less.

Through Men’s Eyes (Link and mirror)

I was on Al Jazeera’s The Stream to talk about Elliot Rodger and the #YesAllWomen hashtag.

The first video is the AJ one, watch that if you can. If it’s blocked in your country I mirrored the video in the second link, though I’m not sure how long it will stay up.

I didn’t get to cover everything I prepared, so I may add to this blog later.

Things I didn’t get to cover in the panel:

The Rodger Shootings

Lest we forget, besides Katherine Cooper and Veronika Weiss, Rodger also killed James Hong, George Chen, David Wang and Christopher Michaels-Martinez. He also killed himself, his final victim.

His ‘manifesto’ was not political, it was an autobiography as a rambling justification for his hatred. It was a narcissistic hate-bubble.

Calling what he did ‘terrorism‘ is utterly irresponsible and unforgivably inaccurate. His agenda was personal revenge. Not political change. Calling it terrorism legitimises it, fixating upon his genuine, mentally ill misogyny and calling it something broader is also irresponsible. People like to blame things, but it’s not that easy.

Rodger was not a men’s rights activist, he was not a MGTOW (Men Going Their Own Way) nor was he even a Pick Up Artist. He was a member of an anti-Pick Up Artist group. The manner in which people have conflated all these things and then tried to associate them with Rodger is unethical opportunism.

The bad reporting appears to have directly contributed to actual terrorist threats of violence and disruption being made against AVFMs conference.

Blaming Rodger’s actions on Men’s Issues is like blaming Valerie Solinas’ or Aileen Wuornos’ actions on feminism – which I feel would be dishonest. Unlike these two I have not seen anyone seriously raise Rodger’s actions as laudable and I doubt his manifesto will become a standard ‘masculinist’ text in the way SCUM has.

Violence

Men are the majority victims of violence. Men are far more likely to be attacked, randomly, in the street than women are – yet are less afraid. Men are 40% of the victims of domestic violence (according to Parity). Men are the majority victims of rape – if you include prison rape and ‘made to penetrate’. Men get equal abuse to women online and the peak target of online abuse and cyberbullying is the 19 year old male – according to Know the Net and Ditch the Label.

Genuine Men’s Issues

The Men’s Movement raises genuine issues, amongst them criticism of the dominant feminist narrative in media and academia and the problems it creates. Outside of that, other genuine men’s issues include, but are not limited to:

  • Education
  • Work safety.
  • Medical funding.
  • The justice system.
  • University courts.
  • Alimony.
  • Child custody bias.
  • Censorship.
  • Military service & the draft.
  • Mental health issues.
  • Suicide.

My fellow panellists on Al Jazeera included Jackson Katz, Ravi Chandra, and Eduardo Garcia, they’re all worth checking out too.

I hope I’ve shown that a more reasonable approach can be more effective and that my desire for conversation and dialogue will be reciprocated by reasonable people on the other side of the divide.

A Voice for Me?

contrarian-investingI just posted this to the forum of A Voice for Men. I’ve been participating there for about a month or so to try and get a hook on and monitor the other side of the ongoing gender debate. With recent events it’s just become too toxic and the final straw was me setting off a feminist journalist who I regard as one of the good ones with the potential of coming to mutual understanding.

People are always going to doubt my sincerity and read anything I do – in games, blogging or otherwise – in the worst possible light, but it’s not going to do me any favours to be associated with that site and I don’t want to be associated with it any more, especially if it makes discussion and respect impossible.

I need to find a space that suits me and a place where these kinds of things can be discussed more civilly with fewer preconceptions. I don’t know what form that’ll take yet, maybe a separate blog for men’s issues where I can invite people to participate in and to engage in discussion with and on in a different style. Suggestions are welcome.

At the moment no matter how sincere I am in my attempts to understand where people are coming from, it just leads to hatred and nastiness and there’s little or no reciprocity. This has necessitated me blocking a whole lot of people and creating a list of them so I can keep abreast of the latest dramas.

I’m not about to apologise for who I am, because who I am is not as I am painted by some. I am passionately interested in human rights as a whole, men’s issues in particular and other issues like creeping private censorship etc. Other than continuing to be sincere in my criticisms, arguments and attempts to understand, and to argue and fight in a more low-key and tone-controlled way, I don’t know how else to proceed.

Post follows:

***

When I came here I was clear that I didn’t regard myself as an MHRA, but just as an egalitarian humanist who took an interest in men’s issues.

While AVFM remains a good source of information and a clearing house of good data and well reasoned arguments – on the surface – many of the articles and much of the polemicism is aggravating and deliberately insulting and confrontational. I’m given to understand this is Mr Elam’s intent, as a means of garnering publicity through controversy but while this can sometimes work I feel that – in the current environment especially – it is counterproductive.

So counterproductive, in fact, that when I raised the current issue with the conference threats a feminist journalist I regard as one of the better ones didn’t feel able to condemn it, due to the harassment and rhetoric they’d received via this site. While I don’t think that remotely compares with threats of violence it does underline the problem.

I regard reason and stoicism as being cornerstone male traits and they have even been described that way – negatively – in feminist works. In my opinion it’s necessary to at least try to hold the moral high ground, to be consistent and to not engage in the kind of vicious behaviour and insult slinging men often endure from the radical feminist fringe.

As such I think I need to withdraw even my limited support and participation here – such as it is – and to find my own way to proceed without the negative associations and the toxicity that comes with aspects of this forum, the style many articles are presented in and association with PuA and MGTOW communities. While I think you’re wrong to continue as you are, I respect your right to do so. I just need to find a more measured approach that works for me.

I’m not sure what that’ll be yet.

My conversation (names etc redacted) is attached below.

@Femini Any comment on these conference threats? [REDACTED]

@OurHero I’m not surprised that a site as violent and prejudiced as AVFM has received threats of violence in return, no.

@Femini Could you point me at some of the violence at AVFM? I’ll disassociate myself more if it’s true. Would you condemn this at least?

@OurHero how about the Occidental College rape bombing?
@OurHero I’ll condemn it when Men’s Rights activists come out to condemn centuries of gendered violence and months of specific harassment.

@Femini ‘Dear Muslima…’

@OurHero and I feel like your asking me to condemn this says a lot about your priorities.
@OurHero this is just one of the disgusting things they’ve written about me- [REDACTED]
@OurHero here’s another [REDACTED] complete with professional threats, ‘fuck you you lying cunt’, etc.
@OurHero I have no idea who’s threatening AVFM. I wouldn’t pursue that course of action myself. But I don’t blame people for being angry.

@Femini I am biased. I have bad past experience with the fallout from moral panics and see it again, in this.
@Femini I’ll double check in a bit (in the middle of gardening) but I didn’t see any threats of violence there yet. In the comments?
@Femini Thanks for taking the time to give the refs anyway, I’ll check them out thoroughly in a bit.

@OurHero right. So it’s all fine because they’re not threatening to come to my house and hurt me. Got it.
@OurHero my patience with this is not infinite.

@Femini Being nasty is nasty, and I wish they wouldn’t, but it’s not violence or bomb threats. When you said violence I thought, violence.

@OurHero you seem to think what AVFM say about me is excusable. If so, we have nothing more to say to each other.
@OurHero right. Your position is clear. Given that you’ve also attacked friends of mine in your post about my [REDACTED], and deliberately
@OurHero >disbelieved harassment received by me, [REDACTED] and [REDACTED], I give up. I’m not going to engage with you for a while- it’s not good
@OurHero for my mental health.

@Femini And vice versa, though I was making an effort to start over. The criticisms were not intended to be attacks.
@Femini Understand the mental health thing though. Be well and get better soon. x

@OurHero ‘we were making progress’ could you be any more patronising? You have taught me nothing apart from how stubborn
@OurHero the self-pity of some corners of the MRA community can be. Don’t @ me or subtweet me again please.

@Femini I can’t leave that unanswered. ‘We’ as in both of us, as in I thought we were burying the hatchet and understanding a bit more.
@Femini I disagree with their polemical style, but that’s not unique to them and it’s not violence. Again, be well. Try again soon I hope.

Phat Pipes: Critique of Cybersexism by @PennyRed

41xcA9y7fVL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU02_Introduction

Myself and Laurie Penny share a fairly conterminous experience of the internet, but a very different viewpoint. Here I try to address the main thrusts of the book and to give my alternative experiences.

This is For Everyone

My life with the internet starts a little earlier than Laurie Penny’s. I started up visiting BBS boards and playing Avalon over dial-up with a modem about the size of five, stacked, iPads. Via those early BBS systems it was sometimes possible to get email and to access ‘the internet’ though we never really understood what that meant until the real thing became available to everyone.

This was back when phone calls cost a lot more money, there was no broadband and using the modem would tie up the line. It was a far cry from the Neuromancer fantasies that beckoned the early pioneers (I was a NetGoth) but in the MUD virtual realities and the thrill of text-talking to strangers (this was even before mobile texting took off) there were flickerings of what was to come.

I’d used to escape into books, films and role-playing games. Those were my VR and the internet came in as an extension of that. Adopting different ‘fictionsuits’, avatars and handles came easily to us in a way that the current generation of ‘let it all hang out’ social media junkies can’t really understand. The avatar/alias culture only really still thrives amongst us oldies, roleplaying, trans and troll communities. The loss of the old guard in the Google NymWars pretty much put paid to that old culture and represents the victory of FaceBookism where your offline and online identities become the same.

Like Laurie, we swallowed the idea that the internet was a freeing medium. An opportunity to mix and meet and share information. To form communities that weren’t linked by petty geography and for a while it was glorious. You would get to know people via their mind and their writing, not the superficial realities of ‘meatspace’ and it didn’t matter. It was a consequence free, free-mingling ‘wild west’ utopia with a natural gatekeeper in the form of the technological capability needed to get online.

‘No girls on the internet’ was almost true back in the day and thus the origin of many internet proverbs, besides that one. ‘Tits or GTFO’ for example was a demand for proof. Why was this? Nerd culture – early adopters – was, and remains, stubbornly male. Tech culture even more so. Computers weren’t as ubiquitous as they are now and consoles didn’t hook up to the internet. Schools weren’t linked up either and so by a process of simple demographics access was limited to the relatively well off, technically minded and nerdy.

For many, men, women and all points in between this was rather freeing. You couldn’t genuinely know what or who anyone was and that meant people were largely treated the same, based on the ‘content of their character’ rather than the ‘configuration of their meat sack’. Not that this meant people weren’t still arseholes, but it gave cover to early adopters, especially women, that some benefited from.

I have the same, or more, degree of experience of the internet as Ms Penny has, yet my conclusions – despite coming from the same root – are very different.

ngYfSh2_No Girls on the Internet

Ms Penny suggests that the idea that the internet was for everyone was somehow untrue. That it was really for boys. This statement is both true and untrue. The internet was – and is – for everyone but by the nature of its genesis and the groups that were interested in it it became a male dominated space by simple virtue of emergence. The majority of users were men and so the spaces that developed – usenet, email lists and so forth – were ‘male’ spaces.

This was not a deliberate or exclusionary measure by any means and in the early days the few women you did encounter were generally given kudos for getting online. They’d proved their worth and their chops simply by the fact that they had managed to get online and access a community. As internet access broadened this began to change, both in terms of people able to prove yourself and in the need to even do so in the first place.

Where Laurie presumes – given her background – that this is down to misogyny or hatred of women, or a desire to exclude them, I have a different hypothesis which we’ll call This is What Equality Looks Like, TWELL for sake of typing ease.

One of Germaine Greer’s best known phrases is: “Women have very little idea of how much men hate them.”

Which is catchy, but a little uncharitable, especially if you’ve ever had the misfortune to overhear women on a night out complaining about their husbands and boyfriends with equal, if not more, viciousness than men do about their wives and girlfriends.

However, I think Germaine’s commentary is germane to TWELL, with a subtle twist.

“Women have very little idea of how horrible men are to each other.”

The presence of a woman in a social context tends to lead men to be considerate, toned down and to consider her feelings and upset. Language is often softened, opinions remain unexpressed and people make more of an effort to be pleasant – until they know where the boundaries are.

Why? Well, we can argue about natural proclivites and culture, but upsetting people in person is generally frowned upon and men and women are solicitous of each other more (generally speaking) in a meatspace environment.

Online the context is different, consequence free and gender truly doesn’t matter. Men – and women – no longer moderate their behaviour in the same way that they do in person. This doesn’t seem to have been much of a shock for men (again we can have arguments about culture, upbringing and nature here) but it does seem to have been a shock for women.

Stripped of the usual societal cushioning women are often afforded, the female of the species seems to have recoiled in horror from the kind of nasty – if not always serious – behaviour that men and boys have been putting up with since the first days of kindergarten.

TWELL is not intended as a flip response, but to underline that the difference here is in reaction, not content.

I think my first social online experiences were with Usenet and email lists, but like Laurie I migrated to Livejournal and some other abortive social networks in the following years. I primarily used Livejournal for RPG material and blogging about the LARP group I was a part of. It was a vital communication tool back then for both purposes and much more connected and hooked up than having your own website was. This was also my first real introduction to ‘internet drama’ and this was a direct consequence of more ‘normal’ people using it. This was the first clue that the defences were down and the barbarians were at the gate.

It wasn’t the ‘internet people’ that were the problem. It was the normal people.

If I describe Livejournal as being the prototype for the excesses of Social Justice Tumblr, many of you reading will shudder in horror and know what I mean. Let’s just say that in former insular, echo chamber cliques it began the radicalisation of internet activism that would reach its – hopeful – peak of awfulness this year with Suey Park and #CancelColbert, with it’s spectacular, po-faced, failure to understand satire.

Here, again, is where my experience begins to diverge from that of Ms Penny. She describes an online world of routine misogyny and hatred as being exclusionary, while I – for my sins – experienced no less amount of hate, challenge, vitriol and bile, just not what one might characterise as ‘misogyny’.

I am not convinced misogyny is even the right word. Misogyny is an irrational hatred of women and disagreeing with, arguing with or trolling women doesn’t seem – to me – to fit the bill. We both seem to have been subjected to hatred, and I’ve seen much of the disgraceful and horrible abuse Ms Penny gets, but I see little difference in the scale or nastiness of that hatred between us. Just our reactions. So it goes for all these pseudo-controveries throughout the last ten years or so of the internet. What is striking to me as an internet hate veteran, every time, is the difference in reaction.

Tits_or_gtfoPictures or it Didn’t Happen

The selfie culture isn’t something I really understand and I get the sense that despite more experimentation than me in this arena, Laurie and I share a degree of incomprehension about the total lack of privacy embraced by Generation Y. I occasionally participate in things like #NoPantsFriday and have succumbed to using my actual image as an avatar but to do either, to have ‘pictures of me on the internet’ still feels rather uncomfortable and somewhat silly.

This is old fashioned of me, I know.

At the same time I don’t think anyone should be shamed by photos, or indeed old posts and blogs that people like to drag out. People mature and change, their views alter or become more nuanced, they do silly things. Whether it’s Laurie’s boobs, my cock or some lightweight covered in vomit on his eighteenth birthday with a knob drawn on his forehead we should be able to laugh it off as indiscretion, accept that everyone does it and move on.

The trouble is, we don’t live in a world that has adapted to this yet. The people in power are forty and over. The generation below that, including people like me and Laurie are still somewhat uncomfortable with letting it all hang out, even with libertine political views and even the Millenials aren’t all sold on the idea of living a scandal free public life. One need only look at the difference between Belle Knox’s resilience and Alyssa Funke’s suicide to see that even the younger adult generation is struggling to adapt to the Mutual Surveillence Society we find ourselves in.

While I’m sure there’s some truth to what Laurie says about the minority of men online who harass women doing so out of hatred, I don’t think it is as true as is stated. Time and again I see reports of harassment of women online and go looking into it only to find many more bad-taste jokes and incidences of trolling than I do genuine abuse.

A case in point being Caroline Criado-Perez whose high profile campaign to replace Darwin with Jane Austen on British bank notes gave her a position of public awareness which, inevitably, drew the trolls. She received a lot of – apparent – hatred, a lot of trolling and, also, a great deal of genuine criticism and advice. To which she reacted – universally – poorly.

It’s important here to both define what a troll is and to introduce a new concept in trolling which has only recently emerged.

As originally used on Usenet, and perhaps etymologically connected to ‘trawl’ was to make the kind of comment or post that many, many people would react to and post on. One that would provoke arguments and chaos. You could almost ‘score points’ by how many replies it got or how many extra threads it spawned. The more controversial or ridiculous the statement, the ‘better’ it usually was as a troll. Hardy perennials of the art were posting religious nonsense in an atheist forum, Satanist nonsense in a religious forum, or mentioning abortion anywhere.

To an extent much has remained the same. Trolling is still about scoring a reaction. It is now a little more nasty though. It is about upsetting people, provoking a ‘rage quit’, or creating an enormous fuss – the bigger the better. This is why the advice on trolls has always been ‘don’t feed the troll’ and why it remains the best advice. Reporting, complaining, let alone writing huge media articles on the topic is the very opposite of this advice and will only excite the troll.

In an unguarded moment I compared this to ‘grinding your rapist’ and while the analogy is crude, its force serves to convey the point. By paying attention to the troll, by getting upset, you are giving them exactly what they want. So why would anyone even dream of doing it?

In the case of Criado-Perez we need to consider a new concept. That of the synergistic or symbiotic troll. Why would someone give a troll what they want in terms of media exposure, public melt-downs and notoriety? Perhaps because doing so also gives the victim something they want. If your ideology is centred around the idea that the world is male oriented and horrible to women then playing up to trolling, taking it seriously and presenting it as a genuine problem and an example of cultural misogyny both reinforces your belief and helps contribute to a moral panic in which ‘something must be done’.

I don’t know if Criado-Perez and others are doing it deliberately, but the consequences stemming from it certainly seem to be deliberate and, strangely for feminist concerns, seem to run concurrent to conservative politics and legislation.

The vast majority of abuse online seems, to me, to be insincere trolling. Though there are exceptions using this to claim an overall culture of misogyny and woman hating – when it happens to everyone regardless of gender – seems disingenuous at best. Studies presented by Ditch the Label and Know the Net have both suggested that men receive equal abuse to that of women online, perhaps more, and that 19 year old men are the peak target of online abuse and bullying.

We need to grasp that trolling is an internet problem, not a gendered problem and that it’s a hard one to tackle while preserving a free internet.

Where myself and Laurie perhaps agree is in that the culture of shame and sin needs to change. There should be no more Alyssa Funke’s and while part of that must come in attempts to change the broader culture it is still worth reminding people to be cautious and teaching them internet survival skills and that there’s support available if they do get ‘outed’. Lest we get swept up too much in thinking this is a uniquely female problem though, we should remember that boys have been similarly shamed, particularly those of alternative sexuality and that under stress it is men who are far more likely to complete a suicide attempt. Girls are also pressuring boys for pictures, the stereotype that it is only boys or the sad reality of the unsolicited cock pic should not get in the way of us remembering that all are vulnerable.

Laurie loses me again when she gets into discussion about women being used to surveillance of their behaviour. Certainly, as man and boy I feel and felt the pressure of being watched for behaviour very keenly. Where it is more, but not exclusively, authoritarian when imposed on girls it does still exist for boys where it is more, but not exclusively, mutual.

Girls might be mean, but boys are cruel and one’s adolescence is one long attempt to fit in, to never give a hint that you’re not a regular heterosexual, rough and tumble, football loving lad. Boys also succumb to the system, constrained and held, especially in education where many end up drugged so that they’re compliant and less boisterous. There’s also huge pressure to demonstrate one’s sexuality by losing ones virginity. Something which I think we’ve all been reminded recently can cause a psychotic break and a lack of feeling of self worth.

As such it is, again, disingenuous I think, to compare our increasing surveillance society with feminist interpretations of social pressure and culture. Men have felt it in a similar but different way. Outrage at CCTV, NSA surveillance etc comes from a concern over privacy, rather than public reaction, and political ramifications. If surveillance were more of a concern for women, one wouldn’t expect to see higher approval of CCTV and other surveillence measures by women than men.

Business surveillance, presenting the right image and ‘behaving oneself’ outside of work is not a uniquely feminine issue either. This also happens with men and it’s also completely unfair. An unguarded comment over a beer down the pub would not, in the past, have been picked up and formed grounds for dismissal. The internet is both instant – like a conversation – and eternal – like a book. As a result every little indiscretion is available in eternity, even if intended to be private and so we’re forced to endure any number of pointless or insincere apologies and to see people get fired as PR stunts to appease the howling mob.

aldpost1It’s for Your Own Good

In talking about online sex I think we must return back to the beginning of Ms Penny’s book and the idea that we can be anyone or anything online. Sex drives technology and always has but this is especially true of the internet. The moment there were chatrooms and email people were trading erotic stories and engaging in cybersex. ‘Tits or GTFO’ and ‘There’s no girls on the internet’ were, in part, calls to prove one’s gender status as a prelude to cybersex. So strong is the male prohibition against homosexuality that even in an entirely fantasised encounter it is desirable that ones partner at least be of the opposite sex. Meanwhile, other people WERE playing opposite gender roles, genderbending and even pretending to be things other than human.

All sex takes place, ultimately, in the mind.

To see Laurie’s view on pornography, which I hope is still in flux, is somewhat depressing. Someone who is intimately familiar with artists, comic book creators and writers of fiction would – I would have hoped – have had a better understanding of the divide between reality and fantasy. While she, at least, is not blaming pornography for misogyny, she is blaming misogyny for pornography. It is true that a great deal of pornography is rough, violent or ‘degrading’ but given that some 40% of women admit to enjoying rape fantasies (note – fantasies, not actual rape) is it really any surprise? It’s also notable that female use of pornography is slowly approaching parity with that of men and that best-selling book 50 Shades of Grey is an enormously problematic bundle of abuse masquerading as BDSM that has set that entire community’s teeth on edge. It has sold primarily to women.

One can blame this on internalised misogyny or some such I am sure, but again this seems to be disingenuous and kink-shaming, as well as ignoring that divide between reality and fantasy. What turns one on, one might not necessarily want in real life. Increasingly, also, one must recognise that pornography is consensual and a great deal is being produced by amateurs as piracy renders conventional production non-viable.

We do have a problem when it comes to pornography and censorship. As Laurie rightly points out, concern over pornography has been co-opted by governments seeking to control the internet as a whole (mingled with ‘blasphemy’ concerns in some other countries and political concerns in others). This is where we find strange bedfellows like mainstream feminism in bed with the UK’s coalition government and in favour of criminalisation of ‘extreme’ porn and the imposition of a compulsory filter.

Like trolling, this isn’t an especially soluble problem. If we want a free internet with all the benefits it brings, we have to maintain anonymity and relatively unconstrained content.

Sex and romance and everything else can, indeed, be online. I met my wife online as have many other people I know. We know, from leaked logs intended to embarrass people that a hell of a lot of human beings are typing obscenities to each other, writing explicit love letters and masturbating wildly to each other’s pictures. Sex is ultimately in the mind and so is love. It’s possible to fall for someone a world away, whom you have never met and as borders tighten that’s going to lead to a lot more tragedy.

odd_skirt_viralA Woman’s Opinion is the Short Skirt of the Internet

Yes, Ms Penny and many other opinionated people on the internet get hate messages, such as she has related in her book and online. Yes, many of these are graphic, sexual and/or violent. You know who else gets hate, threats and horrible messages online?

Everyone.

This is something I have a great deal of experience of and while my experience, like Larie’s, is anecdotal I’ll refer you to the reference I made earlier that men suffer equal or greater abuse and cyberbullying.

Personally I have been threatened with beheading, that my wife would be raped, I have petitions organised to try and prevent me being able to work – I have been cost work. I have been called every kind of bigot under the sun without justification.

There’s some differences though. I haven’t taken it as seriously. I have not presented it as a problem for my entire gender. The people attacking me have included trolls, but also ‘true believers’ who weren’t hiding behind anonymity. People who consider themselves to be ‘social justice’ activists and aren’t at all ashamed of what they say and do. It’s also true that far less of these threats have been sexual, though many of them have been violent.

The concern with the abuse of women online and the great seriousness with which it is taken is erasing the online harassment and bullying of men. Men are also erasing it by not taking it as seriously as women do (though this may be a healthier approach, all things considered). Men are also erasing their own negative experiences by brushing them off or not talking about them, ceding the public debate to concern over the abuse of women in the public sphere, which has only allowed this toxic and incorrect concept of a misogynistic online reality to emerge when it is truly a universal problem.

Anyone expressing an opinion on anything in the online sphere can expect to get abuse for it.

Where there is a difference is in the nature of the abuse.

As a woman Laurie is more likely to get abuse of a sexual nature while I am more likely to get violent abuse or to have my sexuality questioned.

Why is this?

I humbly submit that the reason women get targeted with this kind of abuse, especially women, is because it is a fairly reliable bet that they will be upset by it or rise to it, while threats of violence or aspersions about my sex partner preference are more likely to get a rise out of me, because I’m male.

Trolls will go after whatever they think will get you going. Those who troll religious forums will ‘blaspheme’ or try to outrage their morals, trolls who troll computer forums might get into PC Vs Apple, trolls who target homosexuals will use homosexual slurs. Your status as a woman is only important in that it highlights some obvious ways to cause upset.

Trolls rarely, if ever, mean what they say.

Terminology Ms Penny uses starts to lose me at this point. Misogyny is being used in a way other than I understand the term (pathological hatred of women), ‘gender violence online’ strikes me as an oxymoron, since violence can’t be done to you online. Structural sexism is over with equality laws, leaving only individuals and their increasingly outdated views.

She characterises these things as a ‘backlash against misogyny’ yet many of the complaints seem as petty as those found on sexismbusters while others seem valid but outside the framing of a misogynistic society. This backlash via things like Everyday Sexism or – more recently – the #YesAllWomen tag do not appear as a backlash, but rather a lashing out at all men, an outpouring of misandry against crimes that are unrecognisable and for which the overwhelming majority of men are not responsible.

#YesAllWomen is differentiated from trolling by sincerity. The sheer hatred found on #YesAllWomen (and #KillAllMan) hits home precisely because it is sincere as much as it seems invalid, stemming from a victim mentality and a paranoia of men which simply does not seem justified. It seems like a whole generation of women is growing up unjustifiably terrified of, and hateful towards, all men.

I had to stop following the tag as it began to trigger my depression, but I doubt things have improved in the interim.

Penny goes on here to talk about Anita Sarkeesian, a common mistake of late which I had hoped Laurie would not fall into. Sarkeesian has been exposed as a fraud with links to shifty practices like pyramid schemes and handwriting analysis, she has failed to produce the material she said she would and seems to have essentially soaked up the money and called it a day.

Sarkeesian attacked gaming, as has so often been done, by trying to bleed fantasy and reality together. Studies in the 80s on RPG players demonstrated that gamers have no problem differentiating between the two and there’s little reason to think things are any different when it comes to computer games. Nor has Sarkeesian’s treatment been any different to any that of other shallow, narcissitic critics of gaming. Jack Thompson was widely ridiculed for his attempts to link games with violent acts and, like Sarkeesian, had games made about him where he could be mutilated and otherwise disposed of.

The difference then? Sarkeesian’s a woman who has been subjected to exactly the same treatment as a man. TWELL.

Perez is covered next, but I believe I’ve addressed that instance above, a case of symbiotic trolling.

Ms Penny rightly bemoans governmental censorship but fails to grasp the implications of private censorship and social censure. For the internet to be free we need to accept that people are going to say and do things, hold opinions, have fantasies that we personally do not like. If you cede the moral high ground and accept censorship and the erosion of anonymity you not only remove the trolls but you also remove the capacity for political dissidents to communicate safely, for protests to organise, for people in violent relationships to seek help and so it goes on.

At the time of writing more and more worrying instances of private censorship are coming to light. Blacklisting of erotica on Amazon – vital to self-published authors, Paypal and other online money transfer groups holding or confiscating money belonging to perfectly legal adult performers. Credit card processors doing the same. The internet, increasingly, is at the mercy of a very few choke points, especially if what you’re doing involves money and people are too quick to tightly define censorship as a governmental activity in order to excuse this.

The concerns of feminist groups over ‘cybersexism’ and pornography are empowering and making politically acceptable the kind of broad brush censorship that Laurie herself bemoans.

There is no hypocrisy here. Trolling and abuse can’t make you stay offline, the choice is yours. Censorship and restriction via private and governmental action, however, can. When protests alter EULAs or policies they harm everyone. When you censor a nipple, you block pictures of breast feeding.

On the internet we have an option we do not have in real life. We can erase abusers from our existence by using ‘block’ or ‘ignore’. Again, don’t feed the trolls is the best advice. The abusive messages you get? Well, TWELL.

Laurie repeats Ally Fogg’s analogy of a woman on a soap box in a public square being shouted down by 5,000 angry people yelling abuse, but this analogy doesn’t only break down under close examination, as all analogies do, but right at the start.

Online your soapbox speech cannot be interrupted or drowned out. Everyone can hear you. The abuse can be ignored. They can’t force you, shove you, drown you out, you can ignore them but they retain their right to object and their ability to do so. In real life you can end up with stifling activities to ‘no platform’ people, but on the internet – even with DDOS attacks – this never sticks for long. You can’t end a recorded talk by pulling a fire alarm or chanting, you can’t turn the water cannons on a forum, you can’t tear-gas a chatroom.

Freedom of speech absolutely does include the right to criticise, call out and oppose others. You can’t silence anyone and the abuse is ultimately petty, pointless and harmless if you block and ignore it – especially in the case of trolls. Comparing the online situation to almost any real life situation is invalid from the get go.

Anyone can speak online. EVEN straight white males, though you’d be forgiven for thinking they were the exception sometimes.

Dts_news_bill_gates_wikipediaAnd the Geek Shall Inherit the Earth

This section of the book is, perhaps, the most important and the one where some understanding from, rather than towards, the online feminist is required. Laurie believes geeks are sexy, and I agree wholeheartedly and without reservation.

The nerdy boyfriend mentioned in this section could easily be me (without the jedi robe, but with the comics and the glow in the dark dice) and while I’d put it differently ‘Some people are just butthurt that girls get to come into our special club’ is a valid and meaningful observation.

The universal, rooted, geek experience of my and Laurie’s misspent youth no longer really exists for the current generation, where everyone plays computer games, where there are cosplay shows on TV and where the ‘tribe’ is large enough to look out for itself. Geeks today genuinely do have it easy and I’m envious of them and I hope they never have to go through the same hellish childhood experiences me and Ms Penny seem to have shared.

There were no nerd girls at my rural school and the small number of geeks that there were, were universally looked down on. There were a couple of goth/metal girls with a bit of crossover with the nerd squad, but they held themselves apart, even from us. There were nerdy girls elsewhere of course, there always have been, but they’ve been fewer and further between. Nerd culture used to be utterly dominated by men – completely unintentionally – and it still is, even though there’s been a seismic shift since then.

‘Geek misogyny’ is a term I am extremely hostile to. Geek culture is extremely vulnerable to political interference precisely because it is so accepting and so willing to please and accomodate anyone who wants to join in, up to a point. The problems with female ‘intrusion’ into geek spaces is twofold.

  1. Girl-related ‘PTSD’.
  2. Geek loyalty/fandom.

The older generations of geeks suffered immensely at the hands of dominant school/college/uni cultures. Especially – being predominantly male – at the hands of women. Endless rejections, total lack of romantic success, being outcast. Rightly or wrongly they associate that pain with women as a whole and want to be sure they’re safe and aren’t going to be ridiculed and treated like shit again. Hence the hazing.

Is this OK or rational? No. It is, however, understandable and deserving of empathy.

An analogy in the feminist sphere might be the argument over whether transwomen should be allowed access to feminist spaces and what sort of gate-keeping might be required.

When it comes to geek loyalty, geeks are fiercely loyal to their passions, whatever they might be. In previous years accommodating geek girls was less of a ‘problem’ because they seemed to be into what was on offer, passionate about the same things. Now barely a day goes by without some controversy related to a nerdy TV show, game, comic or similar and people wanting to change everything.

To a nerd this can be hugely confusing. Why would you even get into a hobby if you hate everything about it and want to change it all?

There’s also the fact that nerd culture has been under constant attack by fear-mongers and moral panics since forever. From Seduction of the Innocent to Bothered About Dungeons and Dragons to the Heavy Metal trials and Jack Thompson, there’s a context to the attacks on hobbies, a history. In this narrative the attacks from the Anita Sarkeesians of this world are just the latest in a long line of hateful attacks on hobbies and to be resisted with the same scorn and strength as before.

This whole argument would be completely avoidable if those who want to see something different and changed set about doing it themselves rather than trying to force people to alter what they love. That’s where the resistance comes in.

Understanding that many of these places have been ‘male safe spaces’ is important to understanding why the intrusion is unwelcome in many quarters. Just as women need their spaces men need theirs, but men will be condemned for creating those spaces while women will be celebrated. It’s a contradiction predicated upon the idea that somehow only men can be exclusionary and only male presence can be unwelcome. This is why mens clubs are being forced to open their doors to women while women are permitted to close men out of their gyms and other places, to ‘protect’ them.

Why are there less women working in information technology despite massive efforts to get women into STEM fields? That’s a puzzler given the investment in promotion and the fact that women are, generally, doing better in education than men and have been for some time. Ms Penny seems keen to pin the blame upon sexism but some of the problems she states are economic and practical, relating to the control factors that have virtually eliminated the pay gap myth of late. The demands of the job are the demands of the job and if that is less suitable for a woman who wants a child and/or wants to be the primary caregiver to that child then this isn’t sexism so much as biology and choices. Again, the best way to prove them wrong is to do it yourself, just as it is with comics etc and women like Cindy Gallop or Nica Noelle show how that might turn into success. ‘More things!’ more than ‘Change things!’

Paradoxically, greater gender equality might well be the reason less women are going in for these fields. Norway is one of the most gender equal countries on Earth yet as its equality has increased, so ‘gendered’ work has become more gendered, not less. It seems that when ‘women’s work’ is as valued as men’s women choose those lines of work even more.

I am glad Laurie seems to accept and understand the ‘origin story’ of the pained male geek and shows some empathy, but we need more, not less, of that and to stop talking past each other. ‘Fake geek girls’ need to understand why they are placed under suspicion and geek men need to understand why that suspicion is hurtful – and they will if it’s explained sensitively and related to their own experience, rather than as a way to further judge and bully them.

Ms Penny quotes David Wong on Crackd talking about how so much of what men do is for the sake of women, or impressing women. In particular:

“You’re all we think about and that gives you power over us. And we resent you for it.”

He’s speaking generally, on a societal level and he’s not wrong. At all. This breaks down at the individual level but female hypergamy is a great deal of what drives status and power seeking in men. It’s the biology stupid.

Criticising the tolerance that geek circles have for people of many different stripes has long struck me as… silly. Geek circles were places that were open to anyone regardless of race, gender, politics, creed etc and tolerated and accepted people with behavioural and socialisation issues. In gaming circles I’ve seen tabletop RPGs help people on the autism spectrum come out of their shell and that acceptance and patience was a definite virtue there.

Accepting people with opposing or ‘nasty’ views also serves a valuable purpose, it exposes them (and you) to alternative points of view and in a world plagued by polemical ‘news’ and the fracturing of people into insular echo-chamber social groups that normalise extreme points of view, this mixing is even more important.

A call to ‘clean house’ is potentially very dangerous in that it will both further isolate people with dangerous points of view and remove their exposure to contrary arguments.

The shaming going on at conventions via ‘free bars of soap’, the infamous Magic Tournament buttcrack shots and more recently Posthuman Studios banning ‘MRAs’ from being fans of their games is not a good development.

Dismissing neuroscience, genetic, behavioural and psychological differences between the sexes (as overall demographics) out of hand seems, to me, to be on dangerous ground. The politicisation of the field means we may be unable to find out the true scale of gender differences until some point in the far future but that doesn’t mean that they do not exist. Indeed humans would be virtually unique if our sexes were truly that identical. That’s not to say that one gender is superior to the other, but rather that our behavioural cues and adaptations might well be as variant as our upper body strength or body fat distribution.

Science should never be discarded on political grounds. It’s as unsafe as climate change denial or creationism. If evolutionary psychology and sexual dimorphism is to be debunked, let it be with good science, not with bad ideology.

Watch_Dogs_box_artThe New Cyborgs

Ms Penny sketches out a conversation she had with some Pirate Party members in Iceland about feminism and gender politics. It sounds like a good discussion, though with a slightly ‘matronising’ aspect (What they ‘think’ patriarchy means etc) but the meat of it comes when one of the men there questions the validity of claimed experience of gendered violence.

The discussion – as described – has many of the same pitfalls and problems that I’ve had in trying to get to grips with the feminist paradigmal lens. While I accept that I don’t necessarily have all the information and am constantly seeking that information (geek impulse to ‘fix things’) it seems virtually impossible and there’s almost no reciprocal effort from the other ‘side’. The parochial and insular language used by feminism doesn’t help things, nor does the presumption of ignorance that one is constantly labelled with. It seems inconceivable to many that one might examine the information and come to a different conclusion.

Many of the concepts and ideas in feminism – and more broadly in social justice – have the air of dogma. Patriarchy seems patently absurd to claim in the west in anything approaching its broadly understood definitions. ‘Misogyny’ seems to have a very different meaning in feminist circles. ‘Privilege’ is no use whatsoever in the discussion of anything and another abuse of terminology and so it goes on through ‘rape culture’ and all the rest.

The existence of cybervigilantism that Ms Penny underlines here, the likes of Anonymous etc, sharply underlines the points that I have made earlier about the insincerity of trolls. You can bet that those who hunt down animal abusers, child pornographers or those that have bullied the likes of Amanda Todd into suicide also contain amongst their number trolls and the kinds of people that spam Goatse into people’s Twitter timelines. Is that a contradiction? No. They know that one is sincere and the other not and they’re outraged by genuine arseholes, just as they always have been.

Conclusion

While a good summary of ‘where we are now’ the work betrays Ms Penny’s presuppositions about society and the world, or rather feminism’s presuppositions. The interpretation is, therefore, slanted and really only half the story. Well, perhaps 65% of the story as there’s some empathy and understanding here and there of the male experience of cyberspace.

So what’s the answer to the genuine and universal problems underlying all this? I’m not sure, but I have a few ideas.

  • Feminism needs to butt out: Trolling is not a gendered issue, abuse is not a gendered issue, it is just that the male suffering is comparitively invisible. Coming into spaces and trying to destroy or overturn them will only be read as abuse and authoritarianism itself and resisted. The unique history of the internet and the nerdosphere needs to be understood – along with TWELL.
  • Equitable Whining: Either women need to ‘man up’ or men need to ‘girl down’. Taking the problems less seriously seems to be a viable coping/survivial strategy but, as things stand, men’s issues are not known or understood and when they are raised are treated like a laughing stock.
  • Empathy: As a result of the above strands, both ‘sides’ need to make an effort to listen to each other. EG: When women engage in #YesAllWoman they need to listen as to why men reject and object and understand it, not just reject it, especially not as ‘not all men’.
  • Internet Skills: We need to teach people to cope with the internet, from selfies to permanence of commentary to identifying and ignoring trolls and abuse.
  • Cultural Change: Some of us are living in the 21st century and some in the 19th. Shaming culture and holding people accountable for flip comments needs to end. Society needs to be more forgiving and to come to understand the dangers of mutual surveillance.

 

Patriarchy & The Second Sex

Second_Sex-20100831At prompting from a feminist pundit of my acquaintance, who I actually like most of the time, I sat down to read The Second Sex. I was told it would support their protestations of ‘patriarchy’, an idea I don’t subscribe to – at least in the modern west – a fact which flabbergasted them. Which isn’t to say patriarchy doesn’t exist or hasn’t existed, one need only look to the Middle East to see it is very much still kicking, just that we’re in a post-patriarchal society here and that it was never that simple or one-sided anyway.

The Second Sex, by Simone de Beavoir is considered a foundational Second Wave feminist tome. The Second Wave of feminism marks the beginning of the transition between the equity feminism of the first wave (concerned entirely with legal equality such as suffrage) and into gender equality – moving beyond the societal and legal sphere into other areas.

It’s the move from equal rights for women to rights for women – a subtle but important distinction.

I read it, a lengthy analysis and commentary follows.

TL;DR: It did nothing to demonstrate the existence of a modern, western patriarchy to me and is of interest only as an historical document, though the 1950s writing means a lot of the science is just plain wrong and it’s almost as hard to read as Shakespeare until you can mentally shift gears. It’s essentially a polemic, a very long and partisan anecdote.

Facts & Myths

The Second Sex operates through an existing, feminist lens. It wears its presuppositions on its sleeve and never really challenges them. They are simply taken as true. This biases the whole piece and without a male perspective on the same issues it exists in unchallenged isolation. Many of these concepts and ideas I do not think would stand up, were a man asked his opinion on them.

By way of example, Beauvoir confidently asserts that a man ‘never thinks of himself as a man’ and that related to this is the use of the masculine pronoun as the default, indicating normalcy and the othering of the female. Ask any man and, unless he’s being economical with the truth, he will tell you that he is often preoccupied with his masculinity.

Masculinity is as much of a performance as femininity, it must be asserted, protected and expressed in order to retain respect of ones peers and to advertise your sexuality. Stepping outside those norms is punishable – unless you have a firm foundation or inalienable maleness – by withdrawal of female interest and scathing male contempt.

As to the masculine pronoun, I don’t know the history when it comes to French, but I can speak to English. ‘Man’ used to mean human and sex was differentiated by prefix. ‘Wer’ for man, ‘Wyf’ for woman. So you would have ‘Werman’ and ‘Wyfman’. Over time the male pronoun withered away and we were left with the etymologically gender neutral ‘man’ while women retained a privileged position of having an identifier. We can only know the subject is a man through individual description or context, he can know the subject is female immediately.

Beauvoir makes some unflattering comparisons with racism and, later in the book, her views on lesbians and racial matters seem similarly problematic to modern eyes. This presents us with something of a problem. If we accept that her views on race and sex (‘Arab troglodytes’ and ‘masculine women’) are the product of her time and context, then we must do the same for her historical references to gender roles. In all three cases, race, sexuality and gender, we’ve moved on and so her work is only really of interest in an historical context.

Beauvoir also attaches the gender struggles to the left/right divide, associating feminist progress with the left and traditional, anti-woman views with the right. Needless to say I reject this, at least as relates to NuFem. My objections to modern feminism stem from a left-anarchist viewpoint, not the right wing. Equally a lot of NuFem seems authoritarian, censorious and concerned with creating and supporting new hierarchical and privileged powers, goals which are the antithesis of both socialism and liberalism.

Needless to say socialist egalitarianism did play a huge roll in securing equal rights but somewhere along the line something changed. It is true to say that many of those against feminism are also on the right and coming at it from a right wing perspective but the commonality between their objections and mine is in the region of personal autonomy and freedom, it’s just they’re libertarian rather than anarchistic.

It is also, I think, a valid criticism of feminism to associate it with the state (which can be left or right). A great deal is made of these right wing anti-feminists of the fact that the state props women up, disproportionately to the manner in which it does men. Men contribute more, women take more. This isn’t entirely a valid criticism since, being child bearers, women have greater recourse to public funds, public medicine etc but with women as a privileged class supported by and having their needs enforced by the state there is some truth in it.

We must not, however, be any less mistrustful of feminists’ arguments: very often their attempt to polemicize robs them of all value. If the “question of women” is so trivial, it is because masculine arrogance turned it into a “quarrel”; when people quarrel, they no longer reason well. What people have endlessly sought to prove is that woman is superior, inferior, or equal to man: created after Adam, she is obviously a secondary being, some say; on the contrary, say others, Adam was only a rough draft, and God perfected the human being when he created Eve; her brain is smaller, but relatively bigger; Christ was made man, but perhaps out of humility. Every argument has its opposite, and both are often misleading. To see clearly, one needs to get out of these ruts; these vague notions of superiority, inferiority, and equality that have distorted all discussions must be discarded in order to start anew.

A somewhat ironic quote given the content of the book, but a notion that I think has a great deal of value to it. This is no longer a discussion. Feminism has become a – pardon the expression – shrill dogma to be screamed at people, not a topic for discussion or questioning. That a book such as this, one long polemic itself, calls out the issue is amusing, but also a warning.

Nothing must be assumed. Everything must be questioned, supported and examined.

Nullius in verba.

Another example of Beauvoir’s presupposition is in apparently thinking that the issue of biological and behavioural differences between the sexes is settled, though she seems to contradict herself elsewhere. A great deal of time is spent speaking, pointlessly, about very different species and their myriad of gender expressions and reproductive strategies – none of which are really relevant to humans.

If we want to examine animals to understand humans – and there are issues in trying to examine ourselves, despite the best efforts of Desmond Morris – we would need to look to the other apes. From chimpanzees in particular, our closest genetic cousins, we can perhaps see some of the behaviours and roles that shaped our own far prehistory.

There are differences between the sexes, genetically (and hence biologically) which are also likely to manifest in behavioural differences as well as physical differences. We’re a pretty dimorphic species, especially when it comes to sexual characteristics but we also note differences in the brain. In raw terms women have more white matter and men more grey matter, but we see much more autism spectrum in boys too as opposed to girls (1.8% vs 0.2%) and much more borderline personality disorder in girls than boys (80% vs 20% of diagnosed cases).

The differences in physical capacity are obvious and undeniable, but people will try to deny them by pointing out that ability is distributed on a bell curve. This is true, but it is not only at the extremes that we see the difference. The average man is stronger than the average woman. The average woman has greater endurance than the average man.

When it comes to capabilities that aren’t raw and physical things get muddier. IQ experiments and others for interpersonal skills and so forth are too controversial for many to pursue, though it seems likely that our capacities in intelligence at least are equal, but different. Neuroplasticity is the latest way to try and discredit biological truths when it comes to the brain and nervous system, but it cannot account for the changes since birth.

Behavioural differences are even harder to prove and even more controversial with few even daring to try.

While it is true that bad science has been twisted to support gender stereotypes in the past, just as it has race, the best way to refute these issues is with more, better and well evidenced science. The hostility to concepts such as evolutionary psychology are not based on good scientific objections, but on there being a desire for science not to find innate behavioural differences. That’s just as bad as abusing science trying to prove that there are.

Ideology should never be allowed to interfere with science, and yet we’ve recently seen ‘feminist biology’ emerge rooted in ideological objections to how biology has been presumed to study in the past. If you want historical lessons on how bad an idea this is, check out Lysenkoism.

There are certain biological truths implicit in our genders. Beauvoir both recognises and rejects this throughout the work, which makes it more than a little confusing as to what her stance actually is.

It is a currently inescapable truth that women carry babies. This has certain knock on social and physical effects which Beauvoir covers adequately and which I don’t feel need re-stating. The part she misses is that female vulnerability and status as child-bearers goes hand in hand with male disposability. A man is expected to sacrifice himself to protect women and there are sound evolutionary reasons as to why this would be so. From a certain perspective that also puts women in the privileged position of being the ones who are sacrificed for and while the ‘savannah ape’ we like to imagine might have done that by providing a cave bear with lunch, in other times the sacrifice has been made in terms of labour, resources and even legal punishment.

There are big sections on Freudian psychology and on Historical Materialism, both of which are largely out of favour and considered wrong or at least outdated, so there’s not a lot of meat here for the modern reader unless – again – they’re interested in the history of feminism and the socio-economic and political context in which it existed in the 1940s and 1950s.

An economic examination, supply, demand and labour, may still be useful however and it is certainly a favourite amongst the libertarian objectors I know. Men have the demand for sex and children, women have the supply. Historically men have traded labour not exactly in exchange for these things, but to prove his worth and his capacity to care for the woman. In Marxist terms you could consider men then – at least historically – to be the proletariat and women to be a sort of ‘gender bourgeoisie’ living off the labour of others. This is, of course, simplistic and the division of labour was and is not exactly down gender lines but we can see vestiges of this in the expectations of gifts, paying for dinner etc and the way in which the home-making partner (still predominantly women) controls the joint finances.

Historically, as Beauvoir admits, male dominance was down to raw physicality. Males were the better hunters, the better fighters and eventually the better manual workers and farmers, simply because of greater muscle strength and size. Systems emergent from that favoured men in certain ways and women in others. Rather than a patriarchy per se you might describe such emergent organisation as paternalistic. Back then this might have held some water but in the modern technological age such excuses do not stand up to scrutiny as raw power is no longer related to societal or economic power. This paternalism, incidentally, is often the excuse offered within Sharia Islam for its treatment of women – protecting and treasuring them.

“Later, more value was attached to children. But in any case, to give birth and to breast-feed are not activities but natural functions; they do not involve a project, which is why the woman finds no motive there to claim a higher meaning for her existence; she passively submits to her biological destiny.”

I do not know that this remains true in a post-industrial and post-pill world. The great liberators of women have been advances in medicine, industrialisation and contraception. Birth is no longer as dangerous, work is available (almost) despite physicality and reproduction is now under our control. As such it is a choice, not a destiny and to give birth and care for a child are, now, chosen activities.

“Little by little, man mediated his experience, and in his representations, as in his practical existence, the male principle triumphed. Spirit prevailed over Life, transcendence over immanence, technology over magic, and reason over superstition.” – It is these victories that have enabled female emancipation.

This theme occurred earlier in the work as well, the association of these qualities with ‘maleness’. I’m not sure I agree with the first two, in my experience women are more spiritual, on average, in both meanings presented here. Technology over magic and reason over superstition I have had described to me as ‘bad’ and even ‘phallocentric’ by a certain type of feminist and yet I find that confusing. Reason and technology are available to anyone and how can understanding reality and applying that understanding be bad? If these are male qualities yet they have enabled female emancipation, then where precisely is the problem?

Why is man being described as an oppressor in these instances if his actions and victories have liberated women? Oppressor/protector depends on your paradigmal lens and – funnily enough – reason is the only way to try and see without that distortion. It is the same with supposed male privilege which, from a different point of view, can be seen not as privilege but as duty, imposition, or connected with those things.

“It is natural for them to give woman a subordinate situation; one might imagine, however, that they would consider her with the same benevolence as children and animals. But no. Afraid of woman, legislators organize her oppression.”

When this was the case, no argument. However, in this day and age legislation has defined us equally and given women more rights, privileges and concerns than men in many arenas. Are we, then, to consider men as an oppressed class? If we admit that oppression must be enacted through governmental force than how can women – any longer – be oppressed?

Women did used to be paid lower wages and it’s interesting to compare this, and the reaction, to modern concerns about immigration – especially coming on the back of UKIP doing well in the local elections. When women entered the workforce in larger numbers, they already had access to money – their husband’s – so the wages were not so important to them. They were willing, for a long time, to work for less than the going rate. This had a depressing effect on wages for men as well and, to their mind, threatened their jobs. Exactly the same complaints we see today about migrant workers, fear dressed up as racism just as fear was once dressed up as sexism.

Beauvoir often makes assertions about mens’ motivations and thoughts in a way that doesn’t seem, to me, to be justified and rather seems like speculation or dubious psychoanalysis. She ascribes huge meaning to silly things like boys being able to pee standing up, for example, a supposed empowerment that men have that made me laugh out loud but which was treated with great seriousness.

Another example is in thinking that in showing off his wife or girlfriend, revelling in and being validated by her affection, he is making a dominance display. She thinks a man ‘claims’ or ‘wins’ or ‘takes’ a woman rather than persuading, convincing and wooing and doesn’t recognise that it is her choice of him that gives him validation.

“Clearly man wants woman’s enslavement when fantasizing himself as a benefactor, liberator, or redeemer; if Sleeping Beauty is to be awakened, she must be sleeping; to have a captive princess, there must be ogres and dragons. And the greater man’s taste for difficult undertakings, the greater his pleasure in granting woman independence. Conquering is more fascinating than rescuing or giving. The average Western male’s ideal is a woman who freely submits to his domination, who does not accept his ideas without some discussion, but who yields to his reasoning, who intelligently resists but yields in the end.”

Why not yearn to be a hero? If you are liberating, helping or redeeming you are acting as an aid and supporter, trying to prove your worth. It’s not about the woman’s helplessness but her power as the gatekeeper to affection and self worth. The hero proves himself through his deeds in a manner more semantically rich, but no less demonstrative or deep than stags locking horns in front of a doe.

She says it herself, a man might want someone who submits – freely. Who accepts his arguments – because they’re sound. These, also, are about proving himself worthy.

I’ve never had much time for literary analysis, but the book contains a lot of it. It’s subjective analysis and I don’t especially want to spend time on it. I see it as being almost as pointless as the in depth analysis of pop culture today. The curtains were fucking blue.

Lived Experience

Oh, how I hate that phrase, along with ‘the personal is political’. I much prefer ‘the plural of anecdote is not data’ which, while considered rude, is really all you need to say when someone presents a story about their subjective personal experience as inalienable fact.

This renders much of this second half of the book irrelevant, as it is entirely subjective and personal though, again, it may be of some historical interest.

“Women of today are overthrowing the myth of femininity; they are beginning to affirm their independence concretely; but their success in living their human condition completely does not come easily. As they are brought up by women, in the heart of a feminine world, their normal destiny is marriage, which still subordinates them to man from a practical point of view; virile prestige is far from being eradicated: it still stands on solid economic and social bases.”

If the bases are solid then this is not prejudice or sexism but an emergent quality of social and economic interaction. Femininity, femaleness, does not seem to me to be a myth any more or less than maleness is. Our definitions and gender-suits (see fiction suit concept from Grant Morrison) may be too tight and too restrictive but I don’t think we can entirely eliminate innate, widespread qualities from our analysis.

Lest we forget, marriage is also the destiny of man.

Beauvoir also talks about the different experiences of childhood with girls being coddled for longer and boys being forced at a younger age to learn self reliance and stoicism. She presents this as an argument for patriarchy while I would hold it as an argument against. If this harms boys, as seems to be the argument, then it can hardly be patriarchal. Furthermore there are positives to having complimentary gender roles and a little stoicism can be a good thing, just as more developed empathy.

Menstruation is presented as traumatic, and doubtless it is, but boys suffer their own humiliations that stem from bodily changes from voices squeaking mid sentence to penis growth, mystery erections, wet dreams and learning to control and ignore a powerful sex drive. Puberty is not easy for either gender in any way.

“True, puberty transforms the girl’s body. It is more fragile than before; female organs are vulnerable, their functioning delicate; strange and uncomfortable, breasts are a burden; they remind her of their presence during strenuous exercise, they quiver, they ache. From here on, woman’s muscle force, endurance, and suppleness are inferior to man’s. Hormonal imbalances create nervous and vasomotor instability. Menstrual periods are painful: headaches, stiffness, and abdominal cramps make normal activities painful and even impossible; added to these discomforts are psychic problems; nervous and irritable, the woman frequently undergoes a state of semi-alienation each month; central control of the nervous and sympathetic systems is no longer assured; circulation problems and some autointoxications turn the body into a screen between the woman and the world, a burning fog that weighs on her, stifling her and separating her: experienced through this suffering and passive flesh, the entire universe is a burden too heavy to bear. Oppressed and submerged, she becomes a stranger to herself because she is a stranger to the rest of the world. Syntheses disintegrate, instants are no longer connected, others are recognized but only abstractly; and if reasoning and logic do remain intact, as in melancholic delirium, they are subordinated to passions that surge out of organic disorder.”

This is a boggling thing to read in a feminist book since these are the kinds of justifications misogynists give as to why women are ‘inferior’. Male hormones are no picnic either and they are unrelenting in their assault, constantly requiring control and will. This whole passage seems counterproductive if the aim is for equality and it presents the experience in a way that denigrates and belittles women in far stronger terms than I would ever care to do.

“The woman is penetrated and impregnated through the vagina; it becomes an erotic center uniquely through the intervention of the male, and this always constitutes a kind of rape.”

I wonder, perhaps, if this is the genesis of the ‘all sex is rape’ meme. It seems obvious, to me, that in context this is a metaphor – one reused later in the book – but some seem to have taken it to heart. In context the word ‘rape’ here seems to mean in the sense of plunder and despoil, trying to describe the first act of sex as traumatic rather than as literal rape. Somewhat ironic given the use of this meaning in computer games and online discourse, meeting with stern feminist disapproval.

“Nothing forbids the male to act the master, to take inferior creatures: ancillary loves have always been tolerated, whereas the bourgeois woman who gives herself to a chauffeur or a gardener is socially degraded.”

I don’t know that this is true any more, at least not to the extent in that time. If anything it feels more that condemnation of straying men has increased and women’s ability to play the field has increased. NuFem is a force I see as archly conservative and censorious and anti (male) sex. A great deal of slut-shaming seems to come from some quarters of NuFem especially with relation to pornography and sex work (though I recognise that this is not universal). Even men who don’t cheat, men who use pornography for example, are subject to shaming which becomes more ridiculous as adult content becomes ever more ubiquitous and common a field of experience.

“Man commits a grave error when he attempts to impose his own rhythm on his partner and when he is determined to give her an orgasm: often he only manages to destroy the form of pleasure she was experiencing in her own way.”

That men care about their partner’s pleasure is surely a victory for feminism? The pressure on men to perform is now immense. If he can’t make his partner multiple orgasm he has failed as a lover and I am not entirely sure the women I know would agree that striving to make them cum is a bad thing.

“Marriage has always been presented in radically different ways for men and for women. The two sexes are necessary for each other, but this necessity has never fostered reciprocity; women have never constituted a caste establishing exchanges and contracts on an equal footing with men. Man is a socially autonomous and complete individual; he is regarded above all as a producer, and his existence is justified by the work he provides for the group; we have already seen the reasons why the reproductive and domestic role to which woman is confined has not guaranteed her an equal dignity.”

There is a failure here to see that this role is also an imposition upon the man and demanding a sacrifice from him. His productive capacity traditionally went to looking after his wife and family. His worth was only what he could provide. Her worth was more intrinsic, a woman valued simply by being a woman and she would live on the sweat of his brow. House work was, of course, work but compared to – say – coal mining or fishing, not the deadliest of occupations. None of this remains true and men and woman are no longer equal partners going into these marriages.

Women no longer need men. At least not directly.

Maybe that’s part of the problem. Men still need women, or at least want them.

Conclusion

While an interesting – if difficult – read, this book has not served to convince me of the existence of a modern, western patriarchy. Some of the points made in the book were surprising but it is really only of historical interest. It makes no real case for itself, no real argument, rather it is a series of anecdotes cobbled together into a polemic.

Much of it is outdated, it lacks ‘peer review’ from a male standpoint, it makes a lot of bald assumptions and rests on too many presuppositions. Despite all these flaws it is somehow regarded as a very important piece on feminist philosophy and the advent of second wave feminism. That such a foundational document is nothing more than anecdote, speculation and cod psychology I find deeply concerning.

Sorry, it didn’t have the desired effect.

The Dude Has Nowhere to Abide

quisunivForgive the title, I’m not even a fan of The Big Lebowski but the wife loves it and so I was forced to watch it last night.

Also forgive the content, because I’m going to break with tradition and talk about my ‘feels’ and my ‘lived experience’ rather than using facts, data, studies, logic, reason and evidence as I normally would. You’re welcome to disagree, but this post isn’t about arguing.

I have been trying, for some time now, to get a handle on the ‘social justice’ movements and, in particular NuFem (as I have taken to calling modern, internet and NGO feminism as a whole).

Obviously I’ve been coming at it from a position of skepticism, empiricism and all the rest, as I usually do (along with sarcasm and humour). Here’s what I’ve encountered:

  • Nobody is willing to explain or defend their point of view on these subjects. They will tell you to educate yourself and still presume you’re ignorant even after you have – if you still disagree.
  • The debate is too hostile to engage in, in any meaningful way. This is not only because of the sheer intensity of trolling on all sides, but also because any disagreement is characterised as hatred.
  • The entire analysis is dominated by a female point of view and feminist perspective – to the detriment of men’s issues and problems.

I’m an egalitarian, a humanist, anti-racist, anti-homophobia, anti-transphobia (despite being a biological realist) and yet because I am skeptical of and lampoon many of the extreme ‘social justice’ points of view (and place free expression above offense) I have somehow accrued a bizarre reputation as some sort of misogynistic, rape apologist, homophobic… well, you get the idea. Frankly you might as well point in my direction and scream ‘blasphemer’, it would get the same effect.

It would be very easy, in the face of what I see as sexist, bigoted hatred, to genuinely become a misogynist. #KillAllMen and #YesAllWomen, in the wake of Isla Vista, are just the latest incarnations of socially acceptable misandry, fearmongering and moral panic to come along. There’s a dominant narrative of patriarchy and male dominance, complicity and guilt that – at least within the west – simply doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Yet we’re not allowed to discuss, debunk or critique these ideas without being subjected to a degree of public scourging that would make Tomas de Torquemada blanch at the gills.

So what’s someone like me to do? As an egalitarian I want to participate in increasing fairness in the world but NuFem doesn’t appear to be concerned with fairness so much as promoting women and denigrating men. For each reasonable and more egalitarian feminist online there seem to be a dozen ranting, misandrist bigots. Were the genders reversed they would have no social currency, but as things stand that’s not the case.

Are there any truly egalitarian movements out there? What about those that are willing to at least acknowledge men’s issues?

If you go looking, two of the biggest men’s issues sites out there are:

Inglourious-BasterdsMany of the people publicly associated with A Voice For Men I’ve had positive experiences with. Studio Brule has done a great job documenting the attempts to host men and boys events (especially in Canada) and the vitriolic and hateful response these have gotten from NuFem. Karen Straughan does good work, Typhon Blue makes excellent videos highlighting men’s topics. The whole ‘Honey Badger Radio’ crew in general are good at what they do.

More recently, rather than observe A Voice for Men at a distance I decided to join the forum and, while making clear I wasn’t joining the movement, to offer my views on a few things, observe and feel the place out.

Overall the experience was not pleasant. While I think AVFM serves a good purpose the forum showed me that there’s a definite right wing/libertarian bias, that it can be a haven for arch-traditionalist ‘get back to the kitchen’ types and that some trolls are using it as a haven. In other words, it’s not for me and it’s not what I was looking for.

I was greeted with paranoia and thinly veiled hatred when I joined. Accused of being a feminist plant or spy and other ugliness. The mirror image of the NuFem I’m also rejecting. It is, important, though to state that I saw nothing indicating that they are a hate group. Any talk of violence is ruthlessly bumped off the site and while there’s a lot of frustration it’s a) understandable and b) no worse (usually a lot less so) than what you’ll see in NuFem circles on Twitter or Tumblr.

Part of their problem is a deliberate policy by Elam of courting controversy in order to garner publicity. This is in many ways aping the tactics of NuFem in whipping up public outcry about things, but much more negative and – in my humble opinion – a tactic that has outlived its usefulness.

So then, what about The Good Men Project?

The Good Men Project is primarily a site of male feminists. If AVFM is the ‘Inglourious Basterds’ of the gender wars, then The Good Men Project is the Vidkun Quisling. While there’s some good articles the site represents total capitulation to feminist claims and accusations towards men, without enough energy, determination or commitment to really challenge them. It’s simply too timid.

So what’s a chap to do? NuFem is too committed to hating and blaming men to reform and has enormous political sway. Dissent is treated as blasphemy and ‘it’s not my job to educate you’ is a mantra. Empty concepts like ‘patriarchy’ and ‘privilege’ replace robust debate or the demand for evidence and nobody listens.

The MHRM while laudable and useful as a resource is simply too toxic, due in no small part to a deliberate policy of courting controversy, while the male feminist section of the manosphere fails to really stand up for men.

Censorship is running rampant, the public conversation is toxic, the situation for men and boys is getting worse and worse and there’s nowhere for someone like me to offer their critique or say their piece without being either monstered or associating with arseholes. Even when views are expressed independently they end up being associated with the worst dregs, reframed and mischaracterised.

The reason this shit gets to me in a way trolling doesn’t is twofold:

  1. The accusations are 180 degrees of who I am.
  2. The people hurling them genuinely believe them. It’s not just to get a rise.

the-dudeI don’t know how to solve it. I want to be part of a solution but I don’t want to constantly be battered with irresponsible accusations and I don’t want to have to weather the vitriolic hatred of men evidenced in the recent hashtag wars. Ignoring it and leaving it alone doesn’t feel like an option, but it’s what my friends seem to want me to do – for the sake of my sanity.

There’s nowhere for me or the men like me who should be allies to anyone genuinely seeking equality. The ones being hurt and alienated by having to constantly point out that – indeed – it’s not all men. The ones who can’t even say ‘I’m not so sure about that…’ without being called a misogynist, a word that’s losing its currency through overuse.

I feel lost, frustrated, misunderstood, threatened and ‘oppressed’ and there’s no cure for it or even any way to address it without getting more of the same.

I’ve been brought up by the inestimable Laurie Penny on the misandry in the #YesAllWomen. I’m willing to put a lot of #YesAllWomen down to miscommunication, but I don’t think a lot of women understand why the reaction is so defensive and that regarding it as derailing just deepens the insult. This miscommunication goes in both directions but I want to try and explain the reason what’s said is being received as misandry, whatever the intention.

It’s…

Probably not your intention, but when you talk about ‘male violence’ it is received in the way ‘welfare queen’ would be. You are implicitly accusing all men of violence and of violence being a defining male quality.

It’s…

Probably not your intention, but when you talk about the need for ‘pink knuckledusters’ and pepper spray you are making the implicit presumption that you will inevitably be attacked at some point and that violence is the correct and useful reponse. This reads similarly to the justifications for concealed carry and ‘home defence’ and even ‘stand your ground’ where we saw the tragically deadly end result of whipping up fear and justifying violence. I doubt many of you are pro gun, I’m certainly not, but the language is markedly similar.

It’s…

Probably not your intention, but when you talk about ‘patriarchy’ you’re implying that society is run by and for the benefit of men. This simply isn’t true. Men suffer at every level of society and lack many of the insulating structures that are in place for women. To think that the relative prevalence of men in positions of power is indicative of male benefit in society as a whole is insulting, presumptive and dismissive of male experience. ‘Patiarchy hurts men too’ is a self-refuting statement. Patriarchies do exist of course, but not in the modern west.

It’s…

Probably not your intention, but when you talk about violence against women or domestic violence in terms of women only, you are erasing a huge amount of male suffering. Up to half of domestic violence victims are male. Men are victims of random street violence one-and-a-half to two times as often as women. Bringing this up is not derailing, it is trying to raise awareness that this is a relationship problem and something that we all face and need to fight together.

It’s…

Probably not your intention, but when you complain about online abuse and represent it as a women’s issue you’re erasing the suffering of men who suffer as much, if not more, online abuse which seems to contribute to disproportionate instanes of male suicide. Bringing this up is not derailing, it is trying to raise awareness that this is an internet problem and something that we all face and need to fight together.

It’s…

Probably not your intention, but when you present genital mutiliation as a uniquely female issue you are erasing the needless violation of bodily autonomy that one third of all men in the world face. Bringing this up is not derailing, it is trying to raise awareness that this is a human problem and something that we all face and need to fight together.

Perpetuating the perception of women as victims (objects) and men as oppressors (actors) erases harm to men and by women. It buys into an existing and invalid narrative that harms everyone.

This needs to become a genuine, honest dialogue without dogma, without any pre-existing assumptions, without taking any concept for granted on either side, but that’s not going to happen. What might be possible would be a plain-English sort of ‘Charles Simonyi Chair in the Public Understanding of Science’ for feminism, using plain English rather than parochial, impenetrable language that only serves to alienate.

The two-minutes hate of ‘hashtag activism’ is only alienating huge numbers of people and while that’s a ‘tone argument’, tone is important – IF your goal is to actually win anyone over.