The Oppressed Sisters and their Approved Male Chorus »« Nazis and Stasi and bears, oh my

How to oppose the use of any kind of name-calling

Ok so what about Paula’s Google doc?

Sigh. Do I really care?

Oh well. Maybe a point or two.

First, since I gather this has touched a nerve in some quarters, I shall deal with the terms “feminazi” and “femistasi”. As a general principle, I oppose the use of any kind of name-calling.

Well don’t we all, provided we get to resort to it when we really want to.

For the record, I am categorically NOT suggesting that the people I have applied these terms to are, in fact, Nazis or Stasi members, or would ever have sympathized with either of them. There are many of us who are proud to be called Grammarnazis and who know perfectly well that no aspersions are being cast on our intentions towards either Jews or Poland. It might be considered distasteful that the suffix -nazi has come to be used simply to mean “extremist” or “obsessive”, but nevertheless, it has come to be so used, and The Sisterhood of the Oppressed cannot legitimately chalk it up as yet another example of their alleged victimization.

She says, carefully avoiding name-calling as a general principle. But notice that the suffix -stasi has not come to be used simply to mean “extremist” or “obsessive.” Notice that an epithet one can be proud to be called, like Grammarnazi, is not the same thing as an epithet applied out of hostility, like Femistasi. Remember that Paula included the fact that she had spent two years in East Germany to back up her claim that FTB shows “strains of totalitarian thought.” In short, what she said was not similar to saying someone is a grammarnazi. It was an accusation that a few feminists and Freethought blogs are like Nazis and the Stasi.

In the case of the -stasi suffix, it draws attentions to behaviours associated with the thought police, for whom anyone who dares to hold non-approved attitudes is automatically persona non grata and to be treated as an enemy of the people. I am referring, of course, to the unfailing response on certain blogs whenever someone has had the temerity to challenge the claims that have been made there.

Yes, but that’s just it. The comparison is over the top. (That’s an example of understatement, pupils. Make a note of it.) The thought police don’t stop with comments on blogs. The Stasi – as Paula knows far better than I do – didn’t stop with comments on blogs. (Blogs didn’t even exist then! Can you imagine it?)

Sure, comments on blogs can be annoying, or even worse than annoying. When they get very personal and very malicious and go on for months or even a year, they can be a lot worse than annoying. But they’re still not the Stasi! They’re still different from the Stasi in many salient ways. I get a lot more shit in blog comments than Paula does (and who knows, maybe I deserve every bit of it, for being so evil), but I still notice the advantages I get from not being a victim of the Stasi. They are many and various, and I enjoy them a lot. I think Paula should be more alert to this difference – alert enough not to try to defend the idea that comments on blogs are in any way like the Stasi.

Now Paula gets personal.

Good heavens, we have even seen Ophelia Benson describe DJ Grothe’s call for more balance in the discussions as “sticking a metaphorical target” on her!

No, we have not seen that. Bad work, Paula. Be fair. This is what I said:

A few people think I’ve been unfair to DJ Grothe. I don’t. I think it’s the other way around.

I’ll explain why, as succinctly as I explained it to DJ (and Carrie) the day after threat-day.

I think he stuck a metaphorical target on me. He didn’t do anything to take it off. He didn’t do anything to assure me that he still welcomed me to TAM. He triggered a shit-storm, and then let it get worse and worse and worse.

That’s it.

He stuck a metaphorical target on me (in my view) when he blamed the fall in women’s attendance at TAM on

irresponsible messaging coming from a small number of prominent and well-meaning women skeptics who, in trying to help correct real problems of sexism in skepticism, actually and rather clumsily themselves help create a climate where women — who otherwise wouldn’t — end up feeling unwelcome and unsafe.

You see where she went wrong? I quoted exactly the part I meant when I said DJ stuck a metaphorical target on me, and in that passage he doesn’t “call for more balance in the discussions”; he blames a small number of women skeptics who probably include me. There’s not a word about balance in that passage.

Really, Paula. Is that “skepticism”? Not in my book.

That’s the first item. (Yes that was all one item. Don’t be such an itemnazi.) Second item later.

Comments

  1. says

    The whole thing is full of headdesking.

    -nazi is merely a synonym for “extremist,” without all that historical baggage anymore. It must be true because she says so. And immediately afterward, women responding to attacks are “hysterical” overreacting jerks.

    Women don’t feel confident or safe speaking up in the company of men, but that can’t simply be because we have been trained not to. Because by identifying social causes for behavior, we’re not encouraging change; instead talking about social norms is “externalizing” problem instead of criticizing women as simply needing to grow a backbone. That’s what will get us (non-painfully slow) results. Apparently shaming women for being quiet publicly will give them that confidence they need to contribute.

    Silly timid women! Talk! Look, I’m talking! Hey, you mean feminists, shut up already!

    And then there’s the fact that historical Nazi associations (while totally not existing anymore), are actually just why the feminazi label is appropriate. You see, the German people were riled up by being told they were mistreated post-WWI. That’s just like what feminists are doing! Only in Germany, those people actually had something real and tangible to be upset about. Not like all these uppity women:

    So is the Sisterhood’s sense of victimhood also justified? No.

    Victimhood?

    Despite the endless wails of “It’s not fair” that have taken up so much space on the internet over the last year, it has not always been easy to pin down what, exactly, our Allegedly Oppressed Sisters are actually complaining about. Sure, catch-all phrases such as “misogyny” have been bandied about with relish, but the exact form this alleged misogyny is supposed to have taken is harder to identify.

    Plus there’s lots of straw-manning, and a general willful ignorance about the wearing effects of micro-aggressive behavior. “Privilege” is not just a useless term, but is the silliest thing she can imagine.

    We should all just use self-help book approaches to fixing social justice because problems we face in our lives are secretly all our fault. Because we don’t try hard enough.

    And the reason we’re being heaped with criticism and contempt? We’re living up to the silly weak woman stereotypes feminism got rid of, and we dare to call ourselves feminists.

    For years women were kept out of positions of influence because of the stereotypical image of them as hysterical, over-emotional, over-subjective, irrational, over-delicate, etc. And for years, real women have been working very hard to demonstrate the injustice of that stereotype. Frankly, when I see precisely those characteristics being paraded with pride by people who have the gall to call themselves feminists (and to dismiss those who disagree with them as misogynist), I am utterly disgusted.

  2. Tulgey Logger says

    The term “Feminazi” is not as simple as appending a suffix because some people are being excessively scrupulous or harsh: it is an anti-feminist slur; its usage is, far more often than not, applied to feminists simply for expressing feminist ideas; its function is to let sexists pretend that the erosion of privilege is an authoritarian, Other-victimizing act. Its connotations are sexist and it functions to enable sexism— and in that context I am not surprised to see Kirby pull the “you’re being so stereotypical” card.

    I am disgusted, though.

  3. says

    Paula Kirby:

    First, since I gather this has touched a nerve in some quarters

    Have Paula Kirby and Chris Mooney ever been seen in the same room?

  4. CT says

    Is philosophical pretzel ethics logic a thing? or should I just say that this document looks like word salad.

  5. smhll says

    I couldn’t read the whole Google doc. But for someone who never said “fuck off”, she sure packed in a lot of slams.

  6. Sunil D'Monte says

    Sad. This is very similar to Cristina Hoff Sommers territory – “equity” feminists good, “victim” feminists bad. I don’t see much awareness of social SYSTEMS in Paula Kirby’s article (even though she says she studied some sociology). Instead, it’s all about individuals, and positive thinking, or something. Also, isn’t this what they call “bargaining”? See http://elleonearth.blogspot.in/2009/10/bargaining-with-patriarchy_15.html. It’s described in the context of patriarchy, but I’m willing to bet it occurs in every single oppressive social system. I’ve caught myself doing it when I visit the US, with respect to race (I’m Indian).

  7. Sunil D'Monte says

    Sorry, I forgot to add: have a look at this old comment here, by someone admiringly enlisting Paula Kirby’s 2011 note – http://nirmukta.com/2011/08/24/privilege-blindness-and-the-just-world-theory/comment-page-1/#comment-13848. He uses her don’t-be-a-victim blather to claim that women who suffer street sexual harassment have a “victimisation complex”. Think about that for a second. That’s the kind of moral failure this kind of thinking engenders.

  8. Felix says

    @Munchhausanna

    Because he a member of the public?
    Because being allowed to post a comment is not the same as being allowed to share a platform?
    Because even prisoners are allowed phone calls?
    Because she was in a good mood?
    Because she doesn’t manually approve every comment?
    Because deleting that particular comment would be petty?
    Because it’s her blog?
    Because she knew it would annoy you?

  9. Lyanna says

    Sunil D’Monte: I think you hit the nail on the head.

    There’s a type of self-declared feminist that gets a kick out of calling other women weaklings for not being perpetually able or willing to fend off all sexual harassment with an aura of toughness and, if it really becomes necessary, a clever quip. This so-called feminist likes to complain about other women being “whiny” “victims” because they complain about being called cunts or having their breasts grabbed. (She, meanwhile, is neither whiny nor a victim for complaining about feminists and how they’re mean like the Nazis).

    This is not feminism. It’s not rationality. It’s childish magical thinking: if you’re good and tough, nothing bad can happen to you!

  10. sawells says

    @14: to me it seems a bit like people who’ve never had measles, and people who’ve had it and got better, campaigning against vaccination. Vaccination treats people like invalids! it assumes we’re all going to get sick! it’s saying we all have weak immune systems! toughen up! …

    And out in the real world, real people are really suffering and it’s not their fault; and no amount of I’m-fine and I-got-better and toughen-up will do them any good.

    It’s a massive failure of empathy, and a refusal to believe that if things are OK for you personally, it’s because you’re lucky, not because you’re better or smarter or tougher than those other whiners.

  11. A 'Nym Too says

    I’m with Justin on this one,

    C’MON ORAC. WHERE’S YOUR OUTRAGE NOW?

    Feminist blogger breathes. the word, and Orac does the huffy HULK!SMASH!

    Someone actually calls feminist bloggers Nazis and Stasi, and weirdly. Captain Cancer is MIA.

    Now either his Google alert on the word has expired, or he’s only interested in making a certain kind of uppity atheist woman blogger look bad.

    Something’s starting to smell really, really bad here. I’m sad. I really admired him.

  12. Lsuoma says

    At comment 13 above (for now, at least) Felix appears to respond at July 2, 2012 at 2:37 pm to a post by one Munchhausanna, but the supposed original is missing – has it been deleted?

  13. Dunc says

    I am referring, of course, to the unfailing response on certain blogs whenever someone has had the temerity to challenge the claims that have been made there.

    Oh noes! People disagree with me! In blog comments, no less! Truly, this is the greatest injustice the world has ever known!

  14. andreasschueler says

    Hi Ophelia,
    I agree that the label “femistasi” is completely over the top. However, for someone who has lived in east germany, the Stasi was primarily associated with surveillance and silencing of people who were suspicious of not being “ideologically pure” (the ideology in this case was obviously socialism).
    The silencing of dissenters was usually accomplished by harassment and destroying careers – political executions or torture were extremely rare.
    Paula refers to a specific case of someone being harassed for following (i.e. *reading*, not expressing agreement with) the AngrySkepchick channel on twitter (I don`t know if this is indeed true since she doesn`t name names). And someone who has lived in east germany would call such behaviour “Stasimethoden” (stasi-methods) because this is what the Stasi was most famous for – harassing people who were suspicious of not being ideologically pure (by listening to radio channels from west germany for example, even if they never expressed agreement with what they have heard on these channels).
    Again, I agree that the “femistasi” label is over the top and should not be used, I just wanted to point out what Paula most likely had in mind when she used it.
    Overall, I agree with some of her points (most emphatically not all of them) – I think she is right that, at the moment, people are too quickly labelled as “chill-girlz” / “gender-traitors” and subsequently vilified for views that they have never expressed. I don`t think that you are guilty of this behaviour – but many of PZ`s regular commenters are IMO.

  15. says

    I think that’s probably true, Andreas. I was talking about this with a friend yesterday. I think we (including me) do sometimes go tribal and do it too quickly. But that’s because of the constant trolling and name-calling and sneering – it’s because of tribalism from the other direction. I go tribal when people sound like the name-calling faction; if the name-calling faction didn’t exist we could have reasoned discussions about these issues.

    I’ve been on the Women’s Studies mailing list for several years and I know very well that there are a lot of different kinds of feminist and some of them are programatically anti-rational. I know that an awful lot of irrational bullshit has been absorbed into feminism, especially (ironically) the academic wing of it. I’ve had huge arguments over it on the list, and I’ve seen my friend Daphne Patai put on a special list there so that her contributions are held for approval instead of being posted immediately. There is ideological policing there all right.

    But when I get called Talibanesque or Nazi or Stasi or totalitarian and when the justification presented for that is a completely dishonest account of what I said – then reasoned disagreement becomes very very very difficult.

    That’s exactly why I arranged a separate discussion of sexist epithets last summer: so that it would be consciously bracketed off from all the name-calling and shit-stirring, and I would be able to keep my temper. And it worked.

    If Paula really thought her tweets were the way to have a reasoned discussion of what feminism should be or do, she has rocks in her head. But I don’t think she did think that; I think she was just shit-stirring. Why? I don’t know. I don’t know why the shit-stirrers keep doing that.

  16. andreasschueler says

    I was talking about this with a friend yesterday. I think we (including me) do sometimes go tribal and do it too quickly. But that’s because of the constant trolling and name-calling and sneering – it’s because of tribalism from the other direction.

    => I can totally understand that, and I admire you for staying so calm despite all the trolling and name-calling that you have to endure from these people. I can also understand why the pharyngula horde goes tribal over this issue, they see how their allies / friends get harassed and go into attack mode. But, IMO, there are right now too many commenters who are way too quick in labelling people as enemies and too vicious in attacking them. They didn`t start it and they are doing it for the right reasons, but it has become so extreme that it hurts the cause IMO.

    But when I get called Talibanesque or Nazi or Stasi or totalitarian and when the justification presented for that is a completely dishonest account of what I said – then reasoned disagreement becomes very very very difficult.

    => I agree, she cannot expect a reasonable discussion when she uses these labels. I think it would have been defensible to label the twitter event she mentioned as “stasi methods” (if it indeed happened as she described), but using the label “femistasi” (and especially “feminazi”) indiscriminately cannot be excused in any way.

  17. Robert B. says

    Frankly I don’t even like “grammar nazi.” I stopped using it years ago, when I realized I didn’t like comparisons between my knowledge of how commas work to killing millions of people. I prefer to call myself a “grammar ninja.”

    By the way, I think it’s supposed to be two words.

  18. andreasschueler says

    Frankly I don’t even like “grammar nazi.” I stopped using it years ago, when I realized I didn’t like comparisons between my knowledge of how commas work to killing millions of people.

    => How offensive this is seems to strongly depend on the culture you are living in. I am a native german and any kind of Nazi comparison or a Nazi joke is *by far* the most offensive thing that you could say in germany. Now I live in the UK and people here actually laugh about us germans still being so hypersensitive about this issue. I really like “grammar ninja”, I`m going to steal that one ;-)

  19. Paul W., OM says

    By the way, I think it’s supposed to be two words.

    One word, capitalized, for that German touch.

  20. A 'Nym Too says

    Andreas – mo generalisations please. I’m British, some of us might mock Germans for certain stereotypical reasons cul Nazi jokes are off limits for everyone I know.

    TV and radio shows get into serious trouble for it too.

    Most of us Inselaffen take a really dim view of it. EDL, BNP and idiots being ‘ironic’ may think it’s funny, but they’re a hateful minority.

    I don’t think Germans are too uptight about it. I love your country, I have a great deal of respect for how it’s handled, I say that as a descendant of camp survivors.

  21. Robert B. says

    *cough*

    Ironically, in the very comment where I bragged about knowing how commas worked, I omitted a comma after “Frankly.” I also jumbled my prepositions. It should have been either “comparisons between ____ and _______” or “comparing ______ to ______”

    I know I’m the kajillionth person to ask this, but why can’t you edit comments around here?

  22. fastlane says

    I am referring, of course, to the unfailing response on certain blogs whenever someone has had the temerity to challenge the claims that have been made there.

    There are also a lot of science sites that regularly and consistently pay the written beatdown on creationist publications. That doesn’t make the creationists right, nor does it make the science sites -stasi or -nazi anything.

    She got called on her shit, and now she’s trying to backpedal without actually acknowledging she was wrong and doing the grown up thing….apologizing.

  23. fastlane says

    There are also a lot of science sites that regularly and consistently *apply* the written beatdown on creationist publications.

    Can’t even blame that one on autocorrect.

  24. says

    And the reason we’re being heaped with criticism and contempt? We’re living up to the silly weak woman stereotypes feminism got rid of, and we dare to call ourselves feminists.

    For years women were kept out of positions of influence because of the stereotypical image of them as hysterical, over-emotional, over-subjective, irrational, over-delicate, etc. And for years, real women have been working very hard to demonstrate the injustice of that stereotype. Frankly, when I see precisely those characteristics being paraded with pride by people who have the gall to call themselves feminists (and to dismiss those who disagree with them as misogynist), I am utterly disgusted.

    Don’t forget, we’re also apparently not real women. Well, I guess she was right at least about me not being a woman :\

Trackbacks

  1. […] I’m sure you’ve seen all the sturm und drang over Freethought Blogs being a cesspool of bullying and thought-policing hive-mindery. Despite this, a few people outside the network have voiced their support of people inside the network, and are picking off the worst lines of argumentation that people are using to try claim that we’re dogmatic bullies who do not tolerate dissent. What catalyzed this show of support? Why no less than Paula Kirby calling us all Feminazis and Femistasi (Ophelia’s take on that nonsense). […]

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