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.

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7 responses to “The Dude Has Nowhere to Abide

  1. I know what you mean. I just speak my truth and try to be kind. I tend to come at it from a spiritual/psychological perspective and just say how I feel. I think that some of it is misdirected anger, happy people tend not to be cruel and also online interaction tends to lack inflection and nuance. I accept that, regardless of how intensely I give my gift, it will never be accepted by everyone. I still speak though, and if the sacred spaces available do not suit, build your own. I’d enjoy the participation.

  2. For what it’s worth, I find your writing incredibly sane, calm and honest. It is precisely for those reasons that I want to read what you write. My politics are very different to yours, but I agree with you completely on the double standards and other nonsense that the average man has to put up with. (And indeed, the average woman too…)

    I read the posts you refer to on AVFM and I couldn’t quite fathom where the hostility toward you came from; it felt to me like it was the People’s Front of Judea versus the Popular Front. Probably it’s culture clash, given that the US is generally more right wing.

    I would hate for you to stop writing.

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