Tuesday, May 27, 2014

What's Up With #YesAllWomen?

Well, here's an uninformative link

You didn't think that internet activism could get any sillier, did you?

And then along came Twitter...

Turns out blog posts were too long, thoughtful and carefully-researched...so we imposed a 140-character limit on lower-middlebrow discussions of current events.

But that was all so tedious...

So now we just go with the hashtags. Those are the real argument.

The Isla Vista shooter was a psycho. This we know, and no one denies it nor would think of denying it.

So it's weird to carp on the pettiness of this #YesAllWomen thing. But that's what I'm going to do.

It's apparently supposed to be in some way linked to the "Not All Men" nonsense. That is, web feminism's recent attempt to insist that we are ever entitled to point out, for example, that not all men are misogynists, not all men are rapists, etc., in response to false, derogatory universal generalizations about males.

It's bad enough that false generalizations about men are so popular on the hard web left. But this attempt to deflect all efforts to correct the false generalizations by just shrieking "NOT ALL MEN HA HA HA!" is truly nauseating.

One disgusting aspect of all this is the apparent attempt to leverage the Isla Vista mass murders in defense of the Not 'Not All Men' sophistry.

Jesus, that's just breathtakingly terrible...but, of course, liberals simply don't have the guts to call feminism on such things.

Anyway, you'll note that one person speaking in the Time video claims, roughly, the hashtag means: "O.k., not all men are misogynists..." Gee, thanks! "...but "...yes, all women have been victims of it."

O.k., personally, I don't know anyone who has denied that all women have been victims of misogyny of some kind or other. I mean, I'm a dude, and I've been the target of anti-male sexism before. And there's no doubt that women get a lot, lot more of this sort of thing than we do. So that conjunct is uncontroversial.

But...(a) I don't think that the message of that hashtag (Christ, look how far public discussion has fallen...) really does involve an admission of error with respect to the Not "Not All Men" fallacy, and (b) even if it does, note that no explicit admission of error has been made; instead, the fallacy is promoted, and then only tacitly rejected...

However, it's really a lot, lot worse than that.

What's really going on here seems to be:
This hashtag nonsense doesn't carry any determinate message at all. The suggested link promoting the Not 'Not All Men' fallacy is fairly clear. However, the message of the hashtag can be explicitly spun in exactly the opposite direction when it's rhetorically expedient.

That is to say:
The message is really more like:  You don't get to say 'not all men...'; Also: Yes all women!
But when it's expedient, they can say it is more like:  Ok, not all men; but all women

Indeterminacy and unclarity are the allies of unreason.

So much of the public discussion is such nonsense.

This is just a small bit of the nonsense. But it's an annoying bit.

I don't even know why I bother bitching about this stuff. It's a hopeless mass of crazy.

So far as I can tell, web feminism is just making it all worse by alienating people like me. There are sensible things that can be said about this stuff. But tweetifying the whole damn thing radically decreases the sanity and reasonableness of the discussion.

The thing is, what needs to be said here can be summarized easily and clearly:

All women suffer because some men are psychos and assholes. 

And that's a problem for all humanity.

The discussion of the problem gets complicated because some feminists are psychos and assholes (of a much lower order). They are very, very angry that they have to be limited to saying that only some men are psychos and assholes. And so a new layer of complication is added. One bit of the discussion--a bit that ought to be simple--gets unnecessarily complicated. And then we end up arguing about something that we don't need to argue about instead of talking about the real problem that we do need to be talking about.

But not talking about it is worse, because then the loony vanguard of feminism leads the rank-and-file down crazy lane yet again, and the one movement that is supposed to be on the front lines against the real, original problem alienates the sane people and becomes, itself, a kind of ally to misogynists by alienating sane people and driving them away from the movement.


Anonymous rotgut said...

Per Twitter, you (and me) are part of the problem:

justjules ‏@sandvig_julie 7m
If your first instinct is to argue with #YesAllWomen and not empathize, you're part of the problem.

There's a lot of this out there. We must not question or argue with any of this--that is to be part of the problem.

On the one hand I guess I get that this is just a way for some women to talk about their experiences. That's not a bad thing. But it clearly doesn't stop there and to the extent there is some kind of argument being put forward, it is, as you point out, hopelessly confused.

Another thing I see a lot of with this hashtag is people saying that women are taught how to avoid being raped instead of men being taught not to rape. WTF? I mean, I guess I don't remember a specific time where my parents sat me down and said "don't rape women," but I'm pretty sure I and everyone I know were raised in such a way that we clearly understood that rape is wrong. One could point this out, but NOT ALL MEN, HA, HA, HA.

8:37 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

I absolutely agree, 'gut.

Especially about that last part. This is a webfeminist meme/trope, and I just don't get it.

I was never specifically taught *don't rape*; it was in no way necessary. It would have been like teaching me *don't kidnap children and torture them to death,* or *don't commit arson.* None of those things were anywhere near the realm of possibility. None of them needed to be said nor taught. If you're raised to be an even vaguely good person, you don't have to be taught such things.

Which is not to say that there might not be more for some guys to learn... Though I'm skeptical. That is: if someone is a rapist, I'm skeptical that they can be reformed by education.

Some date rape might be avoidable by this approach--that is, there might be some guys who are both date-rapists and genuinely reformable...it's at least worth a try.

But there really is something odd about that general admonition "teach your sons not to rape." It's hard not to wonder whether there is a suggestion there that all men need such teaching...

And then there's the other half of it... Recently, at least, there was a fad among web feminists to the effect that *any* attempt to inform women about how to avoid rape was wrong. It was alleged to be both (a) impossible and (b) invariably a matter of victim-blaming....

I don't think it's bullshit all the way down in this vicinity...but there's an awful lot more bullshit here than there needs to be.

9:14 AM  
Blogger Random Michelle K said...

Howdy! Long time no type! :)

Being a female, and knowing the details of more sexual assaults than I care to think about, I think there really DOES need to be a clarification for teen boys as to what constitutes rape.

Case 1: An item of considerable value is taken from a young teen girl. She's told she'll get the item back only if she blows the guy and all his friends. Unsurprisingly, this turned out poorly for the girl.

Case 2: Girl gets really really really drunk. She can't say no, so guy (or guys) take that as consent.

I know that if you saw such things happening, you'd step in and stop them. But, sadly, I don't think you necessarily constitute a majority. People talk a good talk, but I've found that when push comes to shove, they aren't often likely to speak up when the situation warrants.

And the thing is that these things happen all the damned time, and keep happening.

Thing is, some guys don't think of those incidents as rape. When they think rape, they still think guy with a knife, and they would, of course, never do something like THAT.

Yeah, there have been endless campaigns to point out that "No means no" -- there are signs all over my campus noting that if your proposed partner is drunk, they can't consent, etc etc etc.

Yet, these things still happen.

Which brings me in a long and winding way back to my point, which is that although twitter does a generally shitty job with dialog, it does a very good job with awareness.

Yeah, in most cases those who get involved with such things are preaching (or tweeting) to the choir, but, the way I look at it, if they could make even 0.001% of ignorant teen boys aware of what constitutes consent, and keep those boy from making a mistake, is a ridiculous twitter campaign actually hurting anything?

And as more of an anecdote than anything else, it IS really frustrating to hear the response, "but not ALL guys are like that..." Yes, we know that. But that doesn't make it any easier to walk down the street by yourself.

9:50 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Hey, MK, good to hear from you.

I hear you, and I'm 100% with you on the crucial points here.

I assume--though perhaps I shouldn't--that every person in the cultural conversation agrees that rape and sexual harassment are (a) indefensible and (b) way too common.

It's mind-boggling what evil, psycho motherfuckers seemingly ordinary people can be when given the right opportunity. Hearing stories like those threatens to send me into a violent rage. I can't say anything more without using language I shouldn't even use on the internet.

So that's a fixed point, and more important than any of the carping about web-feminism I'm on about here.

I've got no gripe with ordinary women and sane feminist who merely want to say: this shit is awful and must be minimized. I'm on their side and have always been.

But there's the loony branch of feminism that is going to the mat to defend its right to intimate that all men are guilty for the actions of the psychos. They really want to say "men are misogynists," and they want to pretend that there's something wrong with non-misogynist men saying "not all."

And "YesAllWomen" is a clear reference to their attempts to pretend that it's never ok to point out "not all men."

Why start this fight? One of the more effective lessons (IMO) of the sane feminism of my youth was: be careful with your quantifiers when talking about the sexes. If you feel like saying something about "women," you probably mean to say "some women"...and the same goes for men. Because what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

Sound advice, IMO--and very, very, very easy to follow.

The most vocal parts of feminism are already going to bad places in my opinion. And doing so largely because they are dedicated to the proposition that it's never ok to criticize them. And they rarely criticize themselves.

Why pick a fight with your allies? Especially when you are clearly wrong? I don't know.

This doesn't make me any less committed to the most important goal, that of minimizing rape and sexual harassment--though there is absolutely nothing I can do to advance that goal... But as a participant in the conversation, I'm pointing out that feminism has gone wrong here, and gone to a bad place.

So far as I can tell, this Yes All Women thing is an attempt to use the Isla Vista shooting to defend the indefensible campaign against any utterance of 'not all men.' That's inexcusable IMHO. It's using a tragedy as a rhetorical ploy to defend an indefensible, sexist position...a position which, oh, incidentally, seems tailor made to gratuitously alienate guys from feminism and distract everybody from the real issues.

Where am I wrong here?

I absolutely admit that I might be missing something.

5:59 AM  
Blogger Random Michelle K said...

This doesn't make me any less committed to the most important goal, that of minimizing rape and sexual harassment--though there is absolutely nothing I can do to advance that goal.

I disagree with this. Simply being a a man who goes out of his way to treat women with dignity and respect serves as a example to boys in your life--be their nephews or neighbors or random boys simply seeing your interactions.

So far as I can tell, this Yes All Women thing is an attempt to use the Isla Vista shooting to defend the indefensible campaign against any utterance of 'not all men.'

So, as a twitter user, I've seen a different aspect. I've seen men who are vocal feminists use the hashtag as another chance to educate.

Have you come across Jim Hines' blog? He's a SFF author who has been vocal about making cons safe places for women, and also pointing out the damage that portrayal of women does--without us even noticing. He did the charity fund raiser where he posed as various women on SFF covers, and then talked about how those positions are perceived, even unconsciously, and how these positions and portrayals color how women are viewed.

I think, at its heart, that is what the "yes all women" hashtag wanted to do. To educate and remind me who are ignorant (as in lacking knowledge) of what it is like to be a woman.

ACK. Must leave for work. :)

7:29 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

That's what you get for having a job...

Well, there aren't any young males in my life for me to influence. And since I teach at a university, I just never see any disrespectful actions. I really think I'm on the outside of this one.

I'll be you've got your finger on the pulse of this more than I do, so I'll defer to your judgment on the point of the hashtag... But it's a *little* hard for me to believe that #YesAllWomen is unrelated to #NotAllMen... The timing and parallel constructions are pretty striking...

I don't know of Jim Hines, but I'll look him up.

More guys being more understanding about what it's like to be female would be an unmitigated good... Despite my carping about the details, I can hardly think of one other thing that would have such a positive effect on the world...

8:18 AM  
Blogger Random Michelle K said...

I know, crazy idea this job, thing. :)

At work, so I'll be brief. THIS is the post for your introduction to Jim Hines:

I think he's pretty damned awesome.

12:31 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Now that is thought-provoking...


But thought-provoking...

1:31 PM  
Blogger Random Michelle K said...

But it's really a perfect example of the subtle ways that women are demeaned/looked down upon/treated differently. I know guys who do the walk a mile in her shoes thing, but I think this is even more interesting, since most people look at book covers without (for the most part) consciously seeing them.

3:40 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Yeah, I'm definitely thinking about this.

This is worth thinking about.

I find myself strangely hesitant to accede to this point...and not in that "I think I smell a rat" way...but in that...I find this uncomfortable way...

3:55 PM  
Blogger Random Michelle K said...

Does this mean we'll get a series of pictures of you recreating the covers of your favorite books?

Or not THAT kind of uncomfortable?

[Recreation of my favorite childhood books would be pretty boring: Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple, and Bilbo Baggins. (Well, perhaps the hairy toes wouldn't be boring...)]

But to be serious again, even if you don't have nephews or honorary nephews, you are still setting an example every time you are in a public place and deal with a waitress or check-out person or bus driver or secretary or... anyone really. Kids notice things, and chances are they're noticing you, even if you're not paying any attention to them. (How do I know this? Because most times when I see a kid looking at me, I make a silly face at them, and see how long I can get them to watch me as I go past, meanwhile their parents are usually completely oblivious, even as the kid is craning their neck to keep their eyes on me.)

So even if you aren't a mentor to a boy, you are still an example every time you go out in public.

But going back to twitter, I think the point of the yes all women hashtag was not to overwhelm, but to hopefully start a conversation with someone who hadn't considered the subject before. And as I was saying, if it made even a single teen boy reconsider how they look women, or one father sit down and talk with his son(s), then how could that not be a success?

6:03 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Hah...yeah, I'm gonna re-enact all the Buffy The Vampire Slayer DVD sleeves...stay tuned!

I still don't think I have any appreciable effect on people who are still in their formative years in this respect...but maybe... Which may be too bad. I think this is one of the things I get pretty much right. I've always treated males and females exactly the same.

Except, y'know, for that one notable asymmetry...

The YesAllWomen thing doesn't *overwhelm* me... I haven't seen anything there that surprises me in any way.

My only objection is that, again, I see it as an oblique rhetorical defense of the "NotAllMen" screed, which I think is deeply wrong.

I think that this stuff is very important, and I fret about it quite a lot. Though I disagree with Richard Rorty about almost everything, I think he's onto something when he says that a liberal is someone who thinks that humiliating someone is the worst thing you can do. And I think that humiliation is the effect--and often the goal--of sexual harassment. I think we should have a zero tolerance policy toward actual sexual harassment. (Though I think we can only have that if we also have a zero tolerance policy toward fake or exaggerated claims of sexual harassment...) Personally, I'm ok with punching people in the head for this sort of thing. And I think that guys should just start doing that more frequently.

Anyway, I'm virtually an extremist about this stuff...

And I actually agree with many feminists that part of the problem is something that can reasonably be described as "toxic masculinity"--believe me, if you're a guy, your experience with psycho males starts even sooner than women's experience of it starts. As a guy, from early on, you either learn to fight, or you accept your status as perpetual punching bag/victim. Or, at least, that was the choice I was forced to make.


There *is* an anti-male tendency of contemporary feminism that I simply can't get behind.

I'm not saying that we have to obsess about that part all the time--and maybe now is not the time to obsess about it.

But my inability to shake the feeling that there's a link between #YesAllWomen and #NotAllMen keeps me sore about it in the present case... Because that's the kind of petty mofo I am...

5:41 AM  
Blogger Random Michelle K said...


Petty MOFO.

Those are EXACTLY the words that come to mind when I think of you.

Except, you know, the opposite of that.


And I think there has ALWAYS been a radical anti-man segment to feminism. I remember that when I was in college, Feminist was a negative label--and insult that pretty much implied stinky militant who wanted to emasculate all men.

Then it became okay to be a feminist, and now it seems to be swinging back in the other direction.

As I think I said to you in another discussion, what's important is actions, not labels.

9:48 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Aw, thanks man.

And thanks for the patient reasonableness about all this.

5:05 AM  
Anonymous Jim Bales said...

I am afraid I am late to this comment thread, however, I would refer all to this post by a woman who teaches high school english.
The day I taught how not to Rape

An excerpt: The discussion in her classroom had turned to the Stuebenville, OH case.

I realized then that some of my kids were genuinely confused. “How can she be raped?” they asked, “She wasn’t awake to say no.” ... My students are still young enough, that mostly they just spout what they have learned, and they have learned that absent a no, the yes is implied. [emphasis added]

So, WS, I would respond to your statement:
But there really is something odd about that general admonition "teach your sons not to rape." It's hard not to wonder whether there is a suggestion there that all men need such teaching…
by saying there is nothing odd about the admonition. It exists because some men need such teaching, and we have no way to identify which ones need it and which ones don't. So, we teach them all.


3:46 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Yo, Jim

I'm not seeing anything in this post that could be refuting anything I wrote...

I'm all for making sure kids know what's what in this respect. And an abundance of caution is a good thing here.

But that's not inconsistent with anything I've written here.

In other posts I've noted that *I* didn't need to be taught these things, and expressed some surprise than anyone *does* need to be taught them--anyone who *can* be taught them, anyway...but don't believe I would say anything bad about honest attempts to make sure kids know about this stuff. Obviously there will be twilight cases between those who already know and those who are irredeemable rapists.

So, but all means, testify. She's doing God's work (as it were).

If I've given the impression that I'm against that, I certainly regret it!

4:02 PM  

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