In the past few days, I have been told that I am in need of a “lesson”, told to seek therapy, called a misogynst, and had it inferred that i support violence against women, all because a drunken 27 yr old Holy Cross grad made a clumsy and insensitive attempt to make his friends laugh. Or, rather, because I felt that the heat directed toward him was a bit over the top. I never called the act harmless, or good fun. I never uttered the phrase “boys will be boys”. In fact, I thought he should be called on the carpet by his superiors, and that his dressing down should be somewhat public. And I said so.
Let me be clear. I think that calls for him to be fired in addition to being publicly humiliated are misguided. Sure, he will still make a lot of money in his career, he is a brilliant wordsmith, and someone will utilize his talent, but that isn’t the point. Taking away a person’s livelihood over one stupid act strikes me as unnecessarily cruel. He will probably have to wear the label of misogynist for the rest of his life, and I object to that as well. I mentioned in some comments here that I might very well have done the same thing, if a perfect storm of fatigue, alcohol ingestion, and elation had taken place in my young life. The reality is, it could have happened in this part of my life. The idea that I would forever after be branded a misogynist as a result infuriates me. To all the PUMAS and PUMA apologists out there, don’t you get that? Go ahead and call me out if you think its insensitive. Call it stupid and demeaning. But try and hang the label of misogynist around my neck, and you’re in for a fight. My brother and my sisters and I know a little about domestic violence. We were victims of it for years. To me, the label of misogynist carries with it the implication that as such, you condone violence against women. Since I remember hiding, terrified, upon seeing my mother struck with a lamp, I have never raised a hand to my wife or children, and have been financially supportive to Women and Children’s shelters, so my only response to be called a misogynst is a hearty fuck you.
Then there are some political realities to consider. Its funny, because in an attempt to find articles to support my contention that overly strident feminist arguements do more harm than good, I decided to use the phrase rightly or wrongly attributed to Andrea Dworkin: “all sex is rape.” (paraphrased, further down I’ll offer up a quote by Cathy Young as to why) That attribution to Ms. Dworkin, which, after researching it, seems fair, offered the Right Wing an incredible opportunity to dimiss her and her entire body of work. How easy it was to frame that into a perfectly logical sounding argument that feminism, at its core, is about the hatred of men. It is folly to think that didn’t drive countless women away from feminism in general. (Not to mention supportive men)
Here are two more quotes attributed to Ms. Dworkin:
“Childbearing is glorified in part because women die from it. “
“Seduction is often difficult to distinguish from rape. In seduction, the rapist often bothers to buy a bottle of wine. “
Cathy Young, writing for Reason Online, said this about Dworkin:
Unfortunately, she took her battle with her private demons into the public square, and ended up doing far more damage to feminism than any right-wing cabal. (Ironically, some right-wingers eagerly embraced not only Dworkin’s antiporn zeal but her argument that sexual liberation has hurt women.) Men, too, have been casualties of a climate in which a Vassar College official could tell Time magazine that a false rape charge might be a beneficial consciousness-raising experience for male students.
A new twist in society’s perception came in 1975, when Susan Brownmiller published her book Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape. In it she attacked the concept that rape was a sex crime, arguing instead that it was a crime of violence and power over women. Throughout history, she wrote, rape has played a critical function. “It is nothing more or less than a conscious process of intimidation, by which all men keep all women in a state of fear.”
Out of this contention was born a set of arguments that have become politically correct wisdom on campus and in academic circles. This view holds that rape is a symbol of women’s vulnerability to male institutions and attitudes. “It’s sociopolitical,” insists Gina Rayfield, a New Jersey psychologist. “In our culture men hold the power, politically, economically. They’re socialized not to see women as equals.”
This line of reasoning has led some women, especially radicalized victims, to justify flinging around the term rape as a political weapon, referring to everything from violent sexual assaults to inappropriate innuendos. Ginny, a college senior who was really raped when she was 16, suggests that false accusations of rape can serve a useful purpose. “Penetration is not the only form of violation,” she explains. In her view, rape is a subjective term, one that women must use to draw attention to other, nonviolent, even nonsexual forms of oppression. “If a woman did falsely accuse a man of rape, she may have had reasons to,” Ginny says. “Maybe she wasn’t raped, but he clearly violated her in some way.”
Catherine Comins, assistant dean of student life at Vassar, also sees some value in this loose use of “rape.” She says angry victims of various forms of sexual intimidation cry rape to regain their sense of power. “To use the word carefully would be to be careful for the sake of the violator, and the survivors don’t care a hoot about him.” Comins argues that men who are unjustly accused can sometimes gain from the experience. “They have a lot of pain, but it is not a pain that I would necessarily have spared them. I think it ideally initiates a process of self-exploration. ‘How do I see women?’ ‘If I didn’t violate her, could I have?’ ‘Do I have the potential to do to her what they say I did?’ Those are good questions.”
Those who hope to raise society’s sensitivity to the problem of date rape would do well to concede that it is not precisely the same sort of crime as street rape, that there may be very murky issues of intent and degree involved. (emphasis mine)
In this comment thread, I implied that the Women’s Movement has not even convinced the majority of women that feminism is important to them, so how on Earth were they to attempt to “teach us men”?
Those two ideas quoted above, I believe, were not written for real world application, but, rather, for like minded female academics to nod in agreement with. Because no one else will, and, in politics, the idea is to frame an argument in a way that attracts rather than repels.
I also decided to see what that noted Patriarch Andrew Sullivan had to say about the whole affair, since he knows a thing or two about oppression. Zilch, except to bestow his Moore Award (for bitter, divisive, Left-Wing rhetoric) to Dee Dee Myers for her take on it.
And this about Dworkin, which i think lends support to at least part of my argument:
I’m not surprised that so many on the social right liked Andrea Dworkin. Like Dworkin, their essential impulse when they see human beings living freely is to try and control or stop them – for their own good. Like Dworkin, they are horrified by male sexuality, and see men as such as a problem to be tamed. Like Dowkin, they believe in the power of the state to censor and coerce sexual feedom. Like Dworkin, they view the enormous new freedom that women and gay people have acquired since the 1960s as a terrible development for human culture. Cathy Young has a great blog item exploring these connections here. Dworkin, of course, was somewhat too frank in her hatred of sexual freedom to achieve any real political power. But the theocons … well, they’re helping frame big government conservatism as we speak.”
I have several pages of quotes cut and pasted into a wordpad document that show, in my opinion, that you can be a Liberal, be supportive of Women’s Rights, be sensitive to dangerous characterizations, yet, still disagree with overly strident, yes, shrill(somebody please explain to me why some women want to take ownership of this adjective) statements about men, or about men’s intentions. Or, what value symbolism holds in a political discussion. Or the assertion that seduction is really rape. All I’m asking for is to be convinced, not labeled a Neandrethal for not agreeing with you.
This probably won’t make me anyone’s internet boyfriend…