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Counterfeminism

One of the things that really puzzles me is the number of women who are opposed to feminism. And not just reluctant, either. I’m talking hackles-raised, eyes-blazing hostility against the very people who are fighting to win them equal rights. It boggles my mind.

But, as the saying goes, a boggled mind is of no use to anyone, so I want to understand this counter-intuitive phenomenon. One of the possibilities that occurs to me is that there are actually two different forms of feminism, each pursuing radically different goals. Call them feminism and counterfeminism. The feminist is working to establish women as autonomous and respected individuals who are equal in status, opportunity, and financial compensation, as compared to their male counterparts. The feminist assumption is that the ideal condition for women is equality. But that’s not necessarily an assumption shared by all, not even by all women.

It’s possible that there’s a counterfeminist assumption that the ideal condition for women is one of dependency and entitlement—that in a perfect world, a woman would live by forming an attachment to a man, who would then provide her with food, clothes, a home, and some spending money in return for a bit of light housework and some sexual gratification now and then. Obviously, reality falls far short of that ideal, and not uncommonly results in women who are much more miserable than they would be if they were independent. But reality doesn’t need to live up to the ideal in order for some people to find the ideal desirable.

Conversely, it might also be the case that some people, including some women, fear the possible consequences of independence and autonomy. A woman who is effectively the property and chattel of a man has some degree of insulation from the world at large, precisely because her societal role is defined in terms of her relationship to the man. She’s not “fair game” for males on the prowl, nor is she real competition for jobs and business opportunities, because her needs are supplied by her lord and master. A woman’s home is a castle—maybe not strictly her castle, but either way it’s a fortified defense against the dangers of the world at large. Her world can be smaller, and therefore safer (or at least more familiar and predictable).

Again, this may have little or nothing to do with reality, but like I said, reality doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with it. It’s possible that some people, some counterfeminists, might assume that the ideal condition for women is this kind of proprietary ideal of dependency and entitlement, whether or not real life is actually like that. Such people might be hostile to feminism precisely because feminism’s goals are based on a different (and I would add, more realistic) assumption. In a way, both groups are feminists, pursuing what they see as the ideal state for women. They just have radically different visions of what that ideal would be.

So take this with a grain of salt. I have no idea how accurately this might describe real people and/or the real opponents of feminism. I’m just speculating on what might motivate people, and especially women, to be so violently opposed to equality and autonomy. I might be completely wrong. But on the other hand, if I’m right, I think that might explain a lot.

Comments

  1. ibbica says

    Well, this is an interesting idea.

    Where does the hostility come from, though? When does “I want to be treated this way” become “How dare you want to be treated any other way than the way I want you to be treated!?!”?

    I suppose I don’t understand why people don’t want others to be free to make their own decisions about how they want to live their lives. Or why so many people (of both sexes) seem to think that “feminism” is about removing freedoms and choices, rather than adding to them.

    Is it really that difficult to grasp the distinction between (for example) “women should not be expected to stay at home to care for their children” and “women should not stay at home to care for their children”?

    • Artor says

      I think it’s the same mindset that concludes, “If gays can get married, it will destroy my own marriage!!11!!!” or, “If my religion doesn’t dominate teh gov’t and schools, I’m being persecuted!!11!!!”

      • Steve R says

        Christians, by definition, believe in magic. In magic, words aren’t just used to describe reality, they are used to coerce reality. So a Christian has to believe that changing the legal definition of marriage really does change the status of *his* marriage. BTW, whenever I meet someone who spouts that “Biblical marriage” bunk, I ask “Oh, you man one man and as many women as he can take as prizes of war or purchase from their fathers?”

  2. Hunt says

    One huge factor is, of course, Christian traditionalism and fundamentalism, which hamstrings the possible world view open to women and basically dictates anti-feminism to a large extent. You are correct that anti-feminist women could be considered “feminist” in the sense that they really do believe their philosophy is what is best for women, but beyond that I think it’s not a very useful extension of the word. “Feminist” is the word for women who do believe that independence and equality are desirable social values. And here is another distinction. Anti-feminist women (and men, of course) don’t believe in equality. They support strict role separation between men and women across society. Much anti-feminism is based on a traditional and conservative interpretation of what constitutes the health of society and handing down tradition and, in some cases, cultural purity. It’s also entangled with ill-conceived or very shady ideas about race, population replacement and about a zillion other very questionable and borderline ugly ideas. This is basically a can of worms that a team of social scientists could spend their entire lives unraveling.

    • Hunt says

      Sorry, I noticed after submitting that you use “counterfeminism,” not anti-feminism, which is probably a useful distinction, so substitute that word for the other in my comment above.

  3. Maureen Brian says

    That was probably a useful exercise, Deacon Duncan, but I don’t believe we are there yet. May I suggest that you and the readers go through the OP substituting male for female and vice versa at every point. Is it still credible? I think not so it can’t be the answer unless you have some proof, unknown to me, that each gender is its own species.

    No, I am not getting at you. I am trying to say in a totally constructive way that feminism is not the key variable here. Feminism or non-feminism is the end result of social structures which vary from place to place – at the village level, even – and individual experience which to state the obvious varies from person to person.

    I bring now as evidence my late mother, born 1907. She had a place at Queen’s in Belfast to study physics all lined up when her father went bankrupt and she was sent out to work. She didn’t have an anti-feminist thought, ever. She supported herself and various other family members for all but 11 years of a long life and indeed stood for high office but long before that had discovered just how much political clout a widow on limited income could have being active in the church and the Women’s Institute. She also baked mind-bogglingly good cakes with which to ply the officially powerful while she bent their ears on subjects as diverse as the housing needs of the elderly and the potential of a local hunk of industrial archaeology as a major tourist site. Both with success by the way!

    There are 7.5 billion of us: it’s going to take more than two categories to explain us.

  4. B-Lar says

    Feminism is a good solution for both groups. If the insulated ladies choose to stay at home in the manner described, then they can do so. Counterfeminism is only good for those who shun autonomy.

    You might choose to submit and if you choose freely then harmony can occur, but if you had no choice then the submission would be abusive and non-conductive to a happy and harmonious life.

    • Hunt says

      But then the issue becomes how free are any of these kinds of decisions? It’s similar to the “freedom” that Amish youth have to choose their own path after being raised and indoctrinated for sixteen years in a cloistered environment. It’s an interesting ethical quandary. Does someone as an outsider have the right to dictate what is REALLY a better life for someone, or not?

  5. says

    Right Wing Women by Andrea Dworkin discusses this topic at length, its well worth a read if you can find a copy. More recently Female Chauvinist Pigs addresses the topic regarding liberal opposition to feminism from women. There is a lot to be gained on an individual level for women who support anti-feminism, and there is very little actual feminism out there for women to use as a comparison. It would seem foolish to not oppose feminism when there aren’t alternatives and there is much to be gained.

  6. alebuhn says

    I’d say you have a very one-sided view of women who reject that term. Sure there are arch-conservative women who fight against equal rights, but that is not where I see the issue because many women who are for equality also don’t like the word. The most parsimonious explanation seem to be a combination of the following:

    (1) In western society, much progress has been made and many young women are (apart from verbal harassment from what can be rationalized to be a few bad apples) probably unaware of any major discrimination going on until they attempt to begin a career. I have heard only anecdotal evidence, but for some the realization that male colleagues have an easier time rising up, being included in important decisions etc. is a late eye-opener.

    (2) Not being at the receiving end of very visible restriction such as not being able to vote or not being allowed to enter university any more, many especially young women may simply have become complacent and underestimate how bad it could end if they did not fight against those trying to turn back the wheel. Being a leftie, I have a similar interpretation of the present spinelessness of the labour movement.

    (3) The term feminism may have been successfully demonized by its opponents – I know quite a few women who are definitely feminists as per their political and relationship-related views but who would vehemently reject the label because their interpretation of the word is “man-hater”. Again, a parallel to other terms such as liberal suggests itself; although it is basically the adjective to the much-beloved term liberty, and although it is used by conservatives or libertarians nearly elsewhere outside of the USA, it has been successfully demonized in that country.

    • Bill Openthalt says

      In some organisations (like one I used to work for) the fact of being a woman (or any other minority) enhances career prospects especially at the management level. The selection rules actually state that if two candidates meet the requirements, the person belonging to the minority has to be appointed. By “meeting the requirements”, I mean the statutory requirements for the post (ie a certain degree, and a certain number of years of experience). The non-minority candidate can be far better “objectively” (more/better degrees, more experience, etc), but will not be selected.

      In many European countries, political parties are by law required to have as many women as men on the electoral lists, in alternating order. Some countries have passed laws forcing publicly traded companies to have as many female as male board members.

      • says

        @Bill Openthalt

        How many jobs have been completely closed to women, throughout history? How often have women been passed over for less qualified male applicants because of the “good old boy’s club” at the top? How much harder has it been for minorities, especially those growing up in low-income households, to get the education and experience their wealthier white counterparts have? How often have the representatives of in government, poorly reflected the gender, race, sexual orientation and other aspects of the constituents? For most of history, “white straight male” has been considered the default attributes of people in power.

        You may object to affirmative action but highlighting the few cases where statistically under-represented groups are given an opportunity to advance, without acknowledging why affirmative action exists, seems like willful ignorance.

      • Bill Openthalt says

        @Marnie

        How many jobs have been completely closed to women, throughout history?

        That’s difficult to answer, because the idea of job as that what defines you and gives financial independence and societal status, is pretty recent. For most of human history, people have been generalists, so men and women of all ages did whatever was required, and what nature had determined they could do (like having babies and breastfeeding – try that when you’re male). Subsistence farming, for example, is as much (if not more) women’s rather than men’s business. On the whole, men are more expendable that women, so they tended to do the risky stuff, like hunting.

        For that part of history where the concept “job as we use it” is relevant, we have seen an evolution from mostly male dominated to largely gender neutral. This evolution has been made possible by the decreasing birth rates, increased life expectancy, the shift to a service-based economy, and advances in medical knowledge and technology (e.g. effective sanitary napkins and the presence of toilets in offices).

        How often have women been passed over for less qualified male applicants because of the “good old boy’s club” at the top? How much harder has it been for minorities, especially those growing up in low-income households, to get the education and experience their wealthier white counterparts have?

        There has been, and still is, a lot of discrimination. Humans prefer to associate with people they perceive as kin, so in the absence of genetically connected functional groups, commonalities such as gender, class, the school one attended, skin colour, language or religion determine whom we feel more comfortable with (because shared values determine loyalty). Obviously, in large organisations with a lot of mobility and churn, it is better to select on qualifications. When people are spending their own money, they should be free to employ the person they prefer, whatever the criteria.

        How often have the representatives of in government, poorly reflected the gender, race, sexual orientation and other aspects of the constituents?

        Again, you’re talking about recent history, because the concept of representative government itself is pretty recent. In any case, the idea that attributes such as gender, sexual orientation, age or race are determining factors of representativity is flawed.

        For most of history, “white straight male” has been considered the default attributes of people in power.

        For most of recent history. The Chinese are not white, and they have been more relevant for human history than Europeans. The Egyptians of the pyramids were not white, the Ancient Greeks were not straight, etc.

        You may object to affirmative action but highlighting the few cases where statistically under-represented groups are given an opportunity to advance, without acknowledging why affirmative action exists, seems like willful ignorance.

        I did not say I was against these rules, I was giving elements that might explain why some individuals are counterfeminists.

        Anyway, it’s interesting you mention statistically under-represented groups in the same sentence as an opportunity to advance, because it highlights a common misconception. Groups are abstractions, and can neither advance, or be discriminated against. People advance and are discriminated against. The sufferings of individuals are not affected by the group they have been put in by an outside observer.

      • says

        Bill, you just spent a lot of time dismissing the reality and impact of discrimination. I don’t know if that’s your intention, but splitting semantic hairs about recent versus ancient history, and how the dominant race in China is not white, is a bunch of strawmen points that serve to make it sound like you don’t believe discrimination is anything we really need to worry about. The comment about men being disposable suggests you think that men have been treated as less valuable than women and starts edging into MRA territory.

        I am not sure if that’s your intention, but it doesn’t really support your claim that you are talking about theoretical counterfeminists. It sounds more like you are defending your own views.

  7. anne mariehovgaard says

    Where does the hostility come from, though? When does “I want to be treated this way” become “How dare you want to be treated any other way than the way I want you to be treated!?!”?

    I think this may in part have to do with the fact that a lot of these women are not so much saying “I want to be treated this way” but rather arguing that that kind of life is natural for women, it is how society should work and the (any) alternative is harmful for everyone… possibly because they realize deep down that saying “I want someone else to make all the difficult decisions, take the responsibility for my life and pay for everything I need, in return for housework and sex” doesn’t sound too good to most people. It’s either seriously kinky, or else just lazy and immature – either way it’s a bit embarrassing. So they pretend that it’s not about their personal wishes, it’s just the way it HAS to be… and if some other woman manages to be happy and productive with a different lifestyle, she’s undermining their argument.

  8. mildlymagnificent says

    There are two things at play usually, and they sometimes combine to reinforce each other.

    The first is the old caricature of the feminist as the man-hating, overall-wearing freak with the funny haircut with safety pin earrings.

    The second is the visceral fear that if a ‘conventional’ woman accepts any of the concepts that she associates with feminism, then she’ll be obliged to acknowledge that the. whole. of. her. life’s. work. has been wasted.

    This generally arises from an authoritarian-passive mindset that cannot understand that a fair average quality feminist thinks it’s absolutely OK for women to make. a. choice. to be a wife and mother with no work outside the home. They really don’t understand the idea of choice at all. Equally, they don’t understand that people who make different choices aren’t going to try and impose their personal choices on others.

    When some women put the feminist caricature together with a belief that the only ‘feminist’ choice is that a certain mindset and lifestyle will be imposed against a woman’s wishes, you can finish up with a truly poisonous brew.

  9. mikespeir says

    Security is both defensive and offensive. Some people feel more secure behind the strong walls of their fortresses. Others prefer to send out armies to intercept the enemy before it reaches the walls. The former entails dependence on the walls; the latter entails the independence to range out and fend off threats before they become immediately dangerous.

    In fact, we all do a little of both, and for the same reason there’s no such thing as a one-sided coin. There’s comfort behind those walls. But we suspect they won’t hold off determined foes forever, so it’s also nice to have the freedom to see to our own well-being. That’s why we prize liberty like we do.

    We see, then, that security involves a tension between restriction and freedom. How that tension is resolved–how the trade-off is transacted–varies a lot from person to person. In a perfectly secure world we wouldn’t need freedom. There is no such thing, of course. Still, a woman who feels consummately secure with a man (or is possessed of an idealistic fantasy that she could be) might very well prefer the shelter of his walls to even her own freedom. I don’t find that surprising at all.

  10. khms says

    Warning: speculation ahead.

    I think it all comes down to propaganda.

    Many people (maybe that corresponds to RWA personalities?) believe in an in-group propaganda version of what feminism is and does, and they are offended by tis straw version of feminism.

    Remember all these silly things people claim about what feminists want? That is what these people believe, and why they are so hostile.

    And of course, once the propaganda has succeeded painting feminists black, new evil goals can easily be appended.

    Oh, and since their world view is full of strict roles for people, they assume that the same is true for feminists, and in a feminist world, they will be expected to behave like those evil feminists want to.

    Evil feminists, evil atheists, evil westerners – it’s always the same recipe.

  11. hexidecima says

    It’s been my experience that women who are opposed to equal rights for themselves often perceive themselves in a position of power in the status quo. They don’t want to lose that. One of the most likely subject for this is the preacher’s wife. When I was a Christian I saw that more than once and it was a rather facepalming reaction when one watches the Simpsons and sees it exaggerated there.

    Giving up one’s equal rights can be tempting. Most dictatorships have one group that is more than happy to do what they are told. We see this everyday with theists, whos beliefs are based on claiming that some god is in charge, not them. They get a magic present at the end of their lives for believing this, or so they say.

  12. ThoughtfulOne says

    You’re exactly right.

    It’s not correct to say feminism is, simpliciter, about improving the lot of women relative to men, or even the lot of women in an absolute sense. It also makes demands on women. As it should, and must, unavoidably, because equal rights cannot exist without equal responsibilities.

    This makes some women uncomfortable, because while, on average, patriarchy makes men the privileged sex, there are some specific areas in which patriarchy gives an advantage to women. These women don’t want to give them up. As you say, they prefer dependency and entitlement to independence.

    My response to them: grow up. Dependency and entitlement is the position of a child.

  13. Kristee says

    I am concerned about your description of counter-feminism. Yes, there are probably some women who want this lifestyle, just like there are men who would enjoy having a woman who wanted that. I do believe this is somewhat rare, and your hostility towards these women is interesting indeed. It is a choice they make, likely due to low self-esteem. But, I do feel a woman can still be a housewife or stay at home mom, without fitting this rather rude description. You seem to be implying either a woman is working, contributing to society by having a job and asking for equality in the workforce, or she fits this “whore” standard you have described. Pimping herself out for security, money and insulation from the world. Good grief, there are housewives and stay at home moms who are the bedrock of American society you have completely left out! I am concerned that you have no respect, no regard, or not the faintest idea what THESE women are providing to the world. I know many women who don’t work, but volunteer, raise children, cook wholesome dinners, take care of bills, housework, pets….the list is long and I’m sure you don’t care anyway. (It doesn’t count, right? It’s not contributing to the world, right?) I think counter-feminism would be something akin to “hey, I enjoy being at home, raising children and managing the home front and don’t want, at this time in my life, to be in the workforce. I feel my role is here raising children into successful adults. Perhaps when my kids are older I will return to work.” I suspect THESE women would agree that feminine equality is also important. I personally happen to be a mom, married, and I work too, but periodically I have been able to stay home with the kids. I am an atheist, a free-thinker, and I prefer the men in my life to respect whatever role I choose. I will accept nothing less. Feel free to slap a name on it and debate amongst your male selves. While you’re at it…call your damn mother, thank her for raising you, and ask her if SHE is a feminist or a counter-feminist.

    • Deacon Duncan says

      Hi Kristee,

      I think you may have misunderstood me. I am not saying that all stay-at-home moms are whores. I myself have been a stay-at-home dad while my wife worked to bring in the money the family lived on. It was a role-swap that made the most sense at the time, due to the job market and our respective job skills. And she has been a stay-at-home mom. And now we both work, and pursue the careers that interest us.

      The thing is, when I was a stay-at-home dad, I did not bristle with hostility towards the suggestion that men deserve fair treatment in society, and when my wife was a stay-at-home mom, she did not attack and abuse those who would dare to suggest that women should likewise be treated fairly and protected against sexist prejudice and discrimination. Some women do attack feminists, and those are the ones I’m tentatively identifying as counterfeminists. If you have an insight that does a better job of explaining why some women support sexism and discrimination against women, by all means feel free to share it. I’d love to hear it.

  14. raymoscow says

    There are also those who are not religious and yet seem opposed to feminism, sometimes quite overtly.

    Perhaps some feel they have achieved power and automony on their own steam and feel little sympathy for those who complain about injustice. I’d call this the ‘libertarian delusion’. And these same women might find their personal power upheld by the status quo.

    My wife suggested that some others might feel put off by what they see as unreasonable extremes of ‘feminism’ (or at least some behaviours of some ‘feminists’ they don’t like) and reject the entire thing as a consequence, even though feminism in general would be in their own best interests.

    Mostly, though, I’m just boggled by any woman who rejects feminism.

    • ThoughtfulOne says

      Mostly, though, I’m just boggled by any woman who rejects feminism.

      They do exist. They are hardly exemplary women. But being a member of an unprivileged class does not automatically convey upon one a greater understanding of how class privilege works, nor does it automatically make one a morally superior and more sensitive being.

      For some women (religious or otherwise), feminism directly collides with their own self-interest. For instance, women are now held equally financially responsible with men for the children they bring into the world. Lifetime alimony is a thing of the past, except for disabled or much older women unable to rehabilitate into the paid workforce. (In fact today some alimony payors are women.)

      For some women, they are not able, or not willing, to empathize with other women (the libertarian delusion). (E.g. I’ve never been sexually harassed, other women who complain about are probably lying or exaggerating.)

      For some women, rejecting feminism is a way to try to get favorable treatment from men. (This has varied manifestations.)

      And, finally, some women are flat out sexist and misogynist. Yes, women can be these things. They can be “sexist” in the sense that their actions result in upholding, and not challenging, male privilege. They can be misogynist in that they do, in fact, hate other women, and possibly themselves as well.

      • Anonymouse says

        Very much agree that feminism holds women responsible for their own social and financial well-being. I’m one of two career women (both of us are GenXers) in a community of stay-at-home mothers (mostly all Baby Boomers). The Boomers were really the first generation as a whole that expected both women and men to support themselves, and most of these women have barely graduated high school (I don’t think a single one has gone to college). The passive-aggressive bitchiness from the stay-at-home mothers is unceasing and brutal; the snide little remarks make it plain how threatened they are by others’ competence, because should their spouse disappear from the scene, they would be utterly helpless to support themselves.

        To a one, these women are all virulently against feminism, I expect because a feminist woman would expect to hold up her half of the marriage financially, which means getting an education and working.

      • cashdoller says

        ” For instance, women are now held equally financially responsible with men for the children they bring into the world. ”

        That quote right there is a joke, right? Women aren’t held responsible for the children they bring into the world. The government regularly goes after men whether they are good fathers or not and criminalizes them and removes all of their rights. In my particular case, I’m raising a little girl by myself, have two other child support orders against me both of which are fraudulent because I was statatory raped for the first one (hell the kid is older than me now than I was then at 16) and the second one she had the child without my consent by stopping her birth control and hasn’t let me see my daughter in 2 years. They certainly won’t go after the mother of my oldest daughter who I’m raising. Hell they dropped the order many years ago and all arrears with it. She isn’t held accountable whatsoever. Me? I’m almost in jail and my daugher almost in foster care if I do. Keep in mind I’ve worked my entire life. Hell I’m even on the PTA board.

        And you tell me women and men are held equally responsible? Not so much. Not by a long shot.

  15. says

    You’ll never be able to narrow down why all individuals in group X will support group Y who actively opposes their best interest. There is no one reason why there are log cabin republicans, black mormons or women in support of patriarchy. Often, I think it’s a matter of weighing perceived pros and cons.

    For instance, when Ann Coulter says that women shouldn’t be allowed to vote because they tend to vote democrat, people give her lots and lots of money to write books and go on TV shows and say similarly idiotic things. As she becomes more wealthy, the sorts of limitations put on women by patriarchal thinking, are lessened for her. She can insulate herself away from exactly what she is supporting. She doesn’t have to be barefoot and pregnant at home serving her man because she has the money to maintain her freedom, buy birth control if she needs it and deal with any consequences to her behavior.

    For women in, say, the quiverful movement, who support the idea that the man is the head of the household and the woman’s role is to produce as many babies as possible, the community of like minded individuals who act as affordable or free childcare, an emotional support base, and a chance for socializing, may make being a mother–something many women genuinely want to be–far less challenging than if she were to do so independent of the group. Once entrenched in the group, the fear of losing that support base becomes very real. Having 10 children and no job skills and limited social programs to draw from, the risk of leaving the group is greater than the risk of inequality. It’s hard for people to accept they may have chosen wrong so they deal with the cognitive dissonance by doubling down on their views and being sure to pass those values on to their children as well.

    Then there are people who generally aren’t aware of the reality of inequality or have a skewed idea of what feminism actually means. Arguing against feminism on incomplete and false information is common and there are plenty of people who are happy to maintain those falsehoods. If you honestly believe that feminism means that women want to hurt men to raise themselves up and if you genuinely believe that you have never seen or experienced patriarchy, then it is not disingenuous to argue against what you believe are the ideas of feminism. What is problematic is when people refuse to back down even when evidence is provided to the contrary. For that, I can only say that it’s hard to admit one is wrong, especially on the internet.

  16. says

    Yes, the counter-feminists may believe that they genuinely have the best interests of women at heart.

    The problem is that their belief does not reflect reality.

    Depending on a man to provide support and security may be easier than going out in the world to earn one’s own living independently. It may lessen the risks a woman takes with her safety and her emotional stability.

    But, the thing is, men do die sometimes. They meet other women and divorce you to marry them. They up and disappear. They abuse the power that dependency grants to them. And, in those situations, the women who were depending on these men are deeply hurt–they have trouble surviving in the world. They expose themselves to risks with consequences that are far more harmful than the risks associated going to school, getting a job, and being independent.

    This is why feminism started in the first place.

    This is why, for me, skepticism and feminism are intrinsically related. Applying skepticism to the claims of the counter-feminists shows that their “ideal” is based on wishful thinking, not an accurate assessment of reality.

    • Hunt says

      I’ve tried, and failed, to explain exactly this point to counterfeminists many a time. Those most resilient against it are the hard core religious types, since of course, divorce is considered a spiritual failure. Saying that hubby may up and croak is marginally more effective, but usually not convincing.

  17. gwen says

    Growing up in a world where the list of what ‘girls’ COULDN’T do was much longer than what we could do, by the then current societal restrictions, I can’t understand why any woman could possibly be anti-feminist.

  18. TriffidPruner says

    Good analysis and needed. But you need to give more credit to the hierarchical world-view, the upper right quadrant of the Cultural Cognition matrix. There are people who simply have a strong attachment to hierarchy and fixed, settled systems of rules. People who have this mind-set have a strong negative emotional reaction to any threat to the system, entirely apart from any practical considerations.

    The woman who gets spitting-mad at feminism may not be reacting to a perceived threat to her own or her daughters’ sinecure, but just reacting to people attacking the system, the foundation, “the way things are suppose to be.”

  19. says

    I think that too much credit is being given to thinking, for both sides. And no, I am not implying anything about women. Men, too, on either side are acting without considerable thought. Feminists and counter feminists are arriving at their conclusion on what seems right and just, and then filling in facts to support their stand. This is what we all do on nearly every decision. But when we look at the evidence through the least biased methods available, we see the feminists are right. Equal treatment of sexes produces stabler societies with more happiness, less crime, less divorce, less child abuse… The list goes on and on. The counter feminists are just those people who refuse the evidence. Any sport fan can sympathize. You got stuck with the losing team, and all that’s left is one vain hope a ref’s call was worthy of a rematch, or the ump was so bad, the Supreme Court has ruled your team the true winner.

    Since they ended up on that side before they knew the facts, they’re stuck there, though. It will be very hard for them to admit their mistake, just as it would be for us had the evidence gone the other way. Or do you seriously think you would accept that beating your wife really was the best thing based on any amount of evidence? I wouldn’t. They have that same moral conviction. That’s just the way our brains work. They’re not stupid, just, well, unlucky.

  20. Jay says

    Your post is troubling because you sound exactly like an arm-chair anthropologist.

    You have an internet. You have google. You have many many primary sources to look at, and ask questions of.

    You can sit here with your friends and everyone can speculate on why these people are self-loathing, why they vote against their interests, how deluded they are, how corrupted they must be, how greedy or racist or teabaggery or Christian, OR

    You can treat them with respect, assume they are rational agents, and ask them, and explore their ideas and take them seriously.

    Who knows you might learn more about them, and more about your own belief systems.

    • Deacon Duncan says

      Hi Jay,

      Is that just a hypothetical possibility, or was there something specific you thought I might learn?

      • Jay says

        “Hi Jay,

        Is that just a hypothetical possibility, or was there something specific you thought I might learn?”

        I must not understand what you were saying in your original piece or in this response.

        I forget, did we chat a month or two back about reading works from Equity Feminists? And I gave you some links to Christina Hoff Sommers and suggest you read what she has to say directly rather than just interpret what gender feminists have to say about her?

        May I ask if you did that? And if so, did you compare your thoughts after reading her, to what you had written about equity feminism before reading any of the primary sources I gave you?

        I am distraught that all over the political spectrum, all over the net, all over America, all of us just assume that the people we disagree with are not rational, are brainwashed, are traitors, cannot possibly explain their reasoning.

        It’s very strange.

      • Tracey says

        So, Jay, do you ASSUME that a woman who refuses to get an education or learn any useful skills because she firmly believes that the only worth a woman has is being a doormat and sammich-maker is making a *rational* decision? The Republican party right now is bleating and shrieking about people who do that and how they’re moochers and shiftless and lazy. Do you agree or disagree? Why?

      • Jay says

        http://www.quora.com/Anthropology/What-is-an-armchair-anthropologist

        An armchair anthropologist usually refers to late 19th century and early 20th century scholars coming to conclusions without going through the usual anthropology motions–fieldwork or labwork. Individuals like James Frazer or E.B. Tylor are great examples. They would sift through artifacts from colonists, missionaries and then draw conclusions using, often, their imagination. Unfortunately, this helped lead early anthropology to make some inappropriate conclusions about race and racism. In a more modern context, “arm-chair” anthropology could really refer to anyone making anthropological assessments without doing the legwork.

        and

        Armchair Anthropology and E.B. Tylor Arm chair anthropology: Anthropologists worked with studies and information collected by others, like missionaries, explorers, and colonial officials. They did not actually travel and collect their own data. Instead they used the data collected by others to propose theories about other cultures. This type of anthropology was coined “armchair anthropology.” The theories were mainly focused on primitive society. An arm chair anthropologist in today’s terms would not be much of an anthropologist, they are simply someone who takes others observations and views and forms an opinion from that. They usually are basing their opinions on a biased observation of the culture. This is to say that a missionary will give a description of the people dramatically different than the observations taken from a colonialist.

        Free Thought Bloggers, Atheists, Feminists, Conservatives, Liberals should stop just knowing what your opponents are all about, and get up out of your armchairs, and talk to them. Who knows what might happen?

    • Hunt says

      What primary sources? To my knowledge (and no, five minutes of Googling is probably not going to improve it) nobody has ever examined this in any depth.

      I mean, to a certain extend there’s “really nothing to see here folks” since this is not really a surprise. Men and women have brains that work in fundamentally similar ways. The same genes that build a man’s brain build a woman’s brain, so to wonder at the female anti-feminist (or counterfeminist) is really just an exercise in incredulity. Somehow gender should operate as talisman against a certain political view. Well, we all know that doesn’t happen.

    • says

      Why do you think that treating people with respect is mutually exclusive with observing that they act in ways that reveal a certain degree of self-loathing, or vote against their own interests, or believe in irrational things?

      Before you convince me that I ought to treat people as rational agents, you’re going to have to convince me that we are rational agents. I mean, we are sometimes. But everyone has moments of irrationality interspersed throughout all of their waking moments. Some have more than others. Some fight against it, and some cultivate it. So why should I treat people as something they’re not?

      • Jay says

        What I wrote:

        You can treat them with respect, assume they are rational agents, and ask them, and explore their ideas and take them seriously.

        What you wrote:

        “Why do you think that treating people with respect is mutually exclusive with observing that they act in ways that reveal a certain degree of self-loathing, or vote against their own interests, or believe in irrational things?”

        I hope that helps.

      • says

        You’re funny. That made me chuckle aloud. No, it doesn’t help. Why would you think it helps? I asked a question about what you said, and you repeated yourself. Who on earth would assume that would help? I am not seeing why I should take YOU seriously.

        However. I shall expand further. Perhaps that will help you in your quest to enable those who read what you write to understand your meaning as clearly as possible–a goal I am sure is high on your list of priorities.

        What you wrote:

        You can treat them with respect,

        I don’t see how what has been said here is disrespectful. I observe that people’s motivations are not 100% conscious. I observe that people often act irrationally and contradict themselves. I observe that people act against their own interests. I speculate as to the specific situation that led to a specific instance of folks acting against their own self-interests.

        assume they are rational agents,

        It’s my opinion (based on investigation and observation) that that would be a wrong assumption, and would lead to many false conclusions.

        and ask them, and explore their ideas and take them seriously.

        I always take people seriously. Their ideas, not so much. In order to be called serious, an idea should make reference to reality. Ideas that are grounded fantasy and wishful thinking should not be respected.

      • says

        “You’re funny. That made me chuckle aloud.” I am glad I could do that. Every Internet discussion needs a sense of humor.

        Right now though, we are entering into this territory:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pvn-tBeLpCk

        What I wrote:

        You can treat them with respect, assume they are rational agents,

        1. and ask them,

        2. and explore their ideas and take them seriously.

        What you wrote:

        “Why do you think that treating people with respect is mutually exclusive with observing that they act in ways that reveal a certain degree of self-loathing, or vote against their own interests, or believe in irrational things?”

      • says

        I have a comment in moderation, but I assume it’s because there is a link in there, so I will try again.

        “You’re funny. That made me chuckle aloud.”

        I am glad I could do that. Every Internet discussion needs a sense of humor.

        Right now though, we are entering Reverend Jim Driving Test territory.

        With some more clarification, what I wrote:

        You can treat them with respect, assume they are rational agents,

        1. and ask them,

        2. and explore their ideas and take them seriously.

        What you wrote:

        “Why do you think that treating people with respect is mutually exclusive with observing that they act in ways that reveal a certain degree of self-loathing, or vote against their own interests, or believe in irrational things?”

        Once more, I hope this helps.

      • Deacon Duncan says

        No, you’ve just bumped into the “first comment must be moderated” spam trap. The system doesn’t believe it’s seen your email address before, so it held your comment until I could read it and verify that it’s not just spam.

  21. jenny6833a says

    Deacon Duncan says, “One of the possibilities that occurs to me is that there are actually two different forms of feminism, each pursuing radically different goals. Call them feminism and counterfeminism.”

    I think there are three forms: 1) the feminists who seek political, social, and economic equality, but not an iota more; 2) the so-called feminists who seek a special status in which all others must treat each of them just exactly as these ever-so-special women individually want to be treated; and 3) the counter-feminists as you describe them.

    Me, I’m of the first type, and vehemently oppose Type #2.

    Finally, as you and others have mentioned, I have no problem with those men and women who prefer to be economically dependent — so long as they can find a wage earner who will willingly support them.

  22. says

    The main example I see of anti-feminism (not the counterfeminism that you are speaking of, but fully anti) is from a friend of mine. She firmly believes that there is no inequality other than unequal pay. The rest of it is “just part of society that we have to deal with” and her view on feminists is that we aren’t trying to be treated as equals, but rather as superiors. She thinks feminists just want to be treated like queens instead of the regular people they are. But she is very certain that most of the problems feminists are fighting aren’t real or that there’s no way of changing the way people are and are going to be.

    • says

      I am sorry I couldn’t be more clear Sally, I am probably misunderstanding what you are saying.

      I think it might be helpful if you write down what I believe respectful treatment requires and then what you believe respectful treatment requires and then we can compare the two and see how they differ.

      • says

        I am sorry I couldn’t be more clear

        I have a hard time believing that you really are sorry about your lack of clarity, because all you have done is repeat yourself. Someone who is genuinely interested in facilitating clear communication between himself and the people he is talking to would explain himself, rather than repeating himself, in response to questions or disagreement.

  23. says

    “No, you’ve just bumped into the “first comment must be moderated” spam trap. The system doesn’t believe it’s seen your email address before, so it held your comment until I could read it and verify that it’s not just spam.”

    Okay, thank you for the explanation then.

    The problem lies with my usually writing comments here using my usual pseudonym, and then being over at PZs and forced to login with my disusual facebook throwaway pseudonym but then coming back here.

  24. Bill Openthalt says

    Jonathan Haidt has an illuminating take on the differences between liberals and conservatives when it comes to morality. He identifies six foundations of moral thinking:

    Care/harm
    Liberty/oppression
    Fairness/cheating
    Loyalty/betrayal
    Authority/subversion
    Sanctity/degradation

    Liberals (in the American sense) base their morality primarly on (in order of importance) Care/harm, Liberty/oppression and Fairness/cheating. The other foundations contribute far less to their moral sense. If they have to choose beteen liberty and loyalty to the group, they’ll take liberty (even if this damages the group).

    Conservatives on the other hand, base their moral views on all six of the foundations. For a conservative, values such as the family (part of what Haidt calls our “moral exoskeleton”) are as (if not more) important than individual freedom. To a degree, they are correct because humans are social animals, and “you don’t help the bees by destroying the hive”.

    This makes sense once one realises how exceptional our very large societies are, where closeness of thought replaces the very close genetical relationships of ant nests and beehives.

  25. smrnda says

    Here’s several reasons I thought up:

    Some women believe (probably because of religion) that men and women naturally have different roles, and that feminism is bad for men and so ‘for the poor menz’ women have to take a few steps back from equality since men just aren’t set up to handle a world where men and women are equal. The idea is that men can’t change their natures and women can’t both be compassionate and desire equality, and that women’s desire for equality is artificial and recent.

    Another one is that some women have been forced by guilt into a life of subservience, and can’t stand other women aren’t eating the same plate full of shit, so they either have to drag everyone else down, or at least openly condemn them to feel better about themselves. You see this in marriage where people in ‘traditional marriages’ have to disparage every aspect of the egalitarian marriage. It’s insecurity and a bit of jealousy.

  26. Eric O says

    Women who oppose feminism remind me of atheists who oppose atheist activism. I think it’s the same phenomenon at work: there’s so much hatred for feminists and atheist activists that this hatred rubs off on everyone – even people who would stand to benefit from such activism.

    There are other factors, I’m sure. There are the socially conservative women who genuinely believe that women ought to be subservient to men, but I don’t think that describes most anti-feminist women.

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