There’s always the definition problem. We’re all against BadThings. That’s why they’re called Bad, isn’t it – because they’re Bad and we’re all against them. It’s just that we disagree on which things are Bad.
Caroline Criado-Perez looks at an example of this in the arguments over rape.
A couple of days ago on Twitter, the hashtag “MenAgainstRape” started to trend. Some people found this a positive and heartening response to a week where the hashtag “RapeApologist” also got some traction.
Because Aikin and Galloway and their cognates said the things they said.
Others, however, saw the hashtag as problematic. A typical response was that men being “against rape” should be considered the default position: the need for a hashtag was in itself disheartening. They also felt it demeaned the majority of men, who were, of course “against rape” – who wouldn’t be? It would be like coming out in favour of kicking puppies. Or murder. Of course as a society we are, by default, “against rape”.
A more significant problem with this hashtag was that, as was demonstrated by Akin’s desperate back-pedalling, even these new hate-figures are “against rape”; they just reserve the right to dictate, in defiance of law and science, what actually constitutes rape. Since Galloway denied that Assange’s actions fitted in with what “most people” understand by the term “rape”, he could also join the “MenAgainstRape” Twitter-fest – why not? He’s surely against rape too – whatever it is he considers that to be.
Quite so, and this is and always has been part of the problem. Until recently there was no such crime as marital rape, for instance.
We see the same thing with misogyny. Of course we’re all against misogyny; what serious atheist is not against misogyny? It’s insulting even to say it has to be spelled out. But the trouble with that is…we don’t all agree on what misogyny is, and it turns out that quite a few people define it so narrowly that it’s defined out of existence.
Naturally it’s possible to be wrong in the other direction – to label every cross word or disagreement or joke as misogynist. (The same is true, mutatis mutandis, for other categories – racial, national, professional, political, you name it.) So what to do? Keep arguing, I suppose, until the sands of time wash over us and new people are arguing about new things.