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Aug 20 2012

What we say when the temperature goes up

A little more about this one crux in Jean’s argument about two types of skeptics-about-feminism (or particular feminist claims), because I think it is one place a lot of wheels came off, so better understanding might help…at least with understanding.

To rehearse the claim again:

The respectable skeptic may be on board with all substantive feminist goals, but they lean very liberal on sexual issues and libertarian-ish on rules and codes. They may also have distinctive positions on purely empirical matters, like how often harassing incidents occur, and what the impact is of discussing them at blogs. Their views on what will advance the status of women may also be distinctive. It strikes me as inflammatory and distorted to accuse these people of misogyny, or even of being anti-feminists.  Even if some of these people dress their views in provocative clothing, underneath it all they do not have troubling attitudes toward women. 

One (I didn’t go into this in yesterday’s post) – a skeptic who leans very liberal (in the sense of free-to-X) on sexual issues and very libertarian on rules and codes can seem to be bordering on misogynist, or if not misogynist at least rudely indifferent to what other people want, which, when the other people in question are women, is hard to distinguish from sexism (if not misogyny).

I’ve had arguments about this. I had some with James Onen of Freethought Kampala, and (as I think I’ve mentioned) it was kind of a friendship-ender (which I considered unfortunate). He’s adamantly libertarian about when and where it’s ok to ask a woman for sex. I tried to suggest a sufficiently absurd example, but he was consistent – yes, he would simply go up to a woman at a supermarket and ask her to come home with him.

Ok here’s the thing about that: that describes life in places like that neighborhood in Brussels in Sofie Peeters’s short film. It describes my experience in Paris at age 17. It describes life in Cairo. It describes places where women (young desirable women) can’t go out in public without being pestered by men demanding sex. It’s hellish. Absolutely hellish. I pointed that out to James, and he was content with it.

That feels sexist to me. It feels like men saying “what I want is more important than what women might want.”

So that’s one part of the problem. There’s not a clean break. There’s not a place where you can think the skeptics are just talking about principles of liberty as opposed to their own inclination to be able to demand sex whenever they feel like it. It feels hostile and callous.

So that all by itself makes it very very hard to think of that kind of skeptic as an ally really but there’s just this disagreement on this one thing.

The other I did mention yesterday, but I’ll go into it a little more. It’s this business of the way the sexist jokes or taunts or allusions come out when tempers rise.

It’s this: if that’s what happens when tempers rise, then you have to think that means something. If I started using anti-Semitic epithets when I got angry at a Jewish friend, that would mean something. Men who suddenly lapse into what looks startlingly like very ordinary bar-room jeering at women when they get angry at perceived feminism…well they kind of give the game away. They kind of reveal that they are at least a little bit misogynist. So I can’t join Jean in her confidence that “underneath it all they do not have troubling attitudes toward women.” I’m not at all sure of that. I wish I were, I wish I could be, but I can’t and I’m not.

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  1. 1
    eric

    I tried to suggest a sufficiently absurd example, but he was consistent – yes, he would simply go up to a woman at a supermarket and ask her to come home with him…

    …That feels sexist to me. It feels like men saying “what I want is more important than what women might want.”

    Ophelia, are you arguing for making such propositions illegal, or for changing social norms so they are considered extroadinarily unacceptable? Like, for example: walking up to a stranger’s 4-year old on the street and cursing at them. I can get behind the latter. The former may be where you lose the more libertarian-minded.

  2. 2
    'Tis Himself

    I pointed that out to James, and he was content with it.

    Apparently his dislike of rules, of someone saying “guys, don’t do that”, is stronger than his acceptance of women as human. But then I’ve know for years that libertarianism in all its flavors is based on selfishness and disregard for others.

  3. 3
    Jason Dick

    Also, misogyny is about actions, not feelings. A person may feel that they are being perfectly fair and not at all bigoted. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be horribly sexist (or racist or homophobic or whatever other form of bigotry).

    If we excused people because they didn’t feel they were being discriminatory, we’d excuse nearly all discrimination that ever happens.

  4. 4
    GordonWillis

    there’s just this disagreement on this one thing

    The problem with this one thing is that it concerns the attitude of half the human race (keeping it simple here, you understand) towards the the other half. If we are all supposed to be liberated then we are liberated enough to walk down the street without being asked for sex by every other person, or by any other person. The trouble with some people is that they don’t see that a society in which all are free is not a free-for-all. We also need to be free of each other. And that means that freedom is in fact restricted. It has limits.

    So it’s an enormous one thing, because it says everything about how we view freedom and dignity. It’s a big divide. Or deep rift, if you will. No compromise on this one.

  5. 5
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    It’s this: if that’s what happens when tempers rise, then you have to think that means something. If I started using anti-Semitic epithets when I got angry at a Jewish friend, that would mean something. Men who suddenly lapse into what looks startlingly like very ordinary bar-room jeering at women when they get angry at perceived feminism…well they kind of give the game away. They kind of reveal that they are at least a little bit misogynist. So I can’t join Jean in her confidence that “underneath it all they do not have troubling attitudes toward women.” I’m not at all sure of that. I wish I were, I wish I could be, but I can’t and I’m not.

    This is an important point. It is like when a celebrity like Mel Gibson or Michael Richards gets angry/drunk and starts spewing racist stuff, and people try to make excuses for them. I say bullshit. If you say racist things because you’re angry, it means you’re racist enough to think that your hurt feelings matter more than the whole race you’re attacking. If you say racist things when you’re drunk, it means you’ve just had a tight lid on your true feelings until the alcohol loosened your inhibitions. Sexism is the same thing. If you think it is OK to act sexist when you’re really angry, it is because deep down you think women are at least a little bit inferior to you. If it “just slips out” it is because there’s something sexist hovering just beneath your usually polite exterior.

    Plus, how far can you trust someone whose actions say “I’m a feminist as long as I get a cookie for it, otherwise you bitches can get bent”?

    I decided awhile back to stop using sexist insults entirely, not just because of how it affects others… but because it said something about me that I didn’t particularly like about myself.

  6. 6
    Beauzeaux

    “Like, for example: walking up to a stranger’s 4-year old on the street and cursing at them. I can get behind the latter.”

    How about walking up to the same kid and asking her to come home with him? The parent is free to punch him out. Or shoot him since guns are profuse in Libertarian Land.

    and

    “places where women (young desirable women) can’t go out in public without being pestered by men demanding sex”

    It’s not just “young desirable” women because in Islamic & Orthodox Jewish communities old women still wear cover-up clothing of some sort. (Imagine, 80-years-old and still thought to inflame the desires of strange men on the street!)

    Though desirability is in the eye of the beholder, ALL young women are subject to street harassment. You do not have to be good-looking, just female.

  7. 7
    Silva

    OMG. Today while I was shopping, a very awkward man came up to me and asked, “Hi, are you seeing anyone?”

    I said, “I’m quite married, thanks for asking,” and kinda laughed. I would have laughed a lot harder if I’d read this first.

    Kampala, indeed… and Massachusetts.

  8. 8
    Stephanie Zvan

    That feels sexist to me. It feels like men saying “what I want is more important than what women might want.”

    It doesn’t just feel sexist. The proof comes when women start going after what they want.

    You want the freedom to hit on me at any time and any place? Fine.

    I want the freedom to call you a disgustingly selfish piece of shit? I want the freedom to determine whether I want to deal with you based on who you treat well and who you don’t? I want the freedom to use tools under my personal control to keep you from interfering in my projects? I want the freedom to gather with people who share my values rather than yours?

    That’s when I’m abusing my power. That’s when I’m “Talibanesque” or “femistazi” or “Orwellian”.

    That’s when the proof comes. This is sexist because it is applied differently to my freedoms and his freedoms. It is sexist because his behavior as a man is individual and free, no matter how many people he gangs up with, and my behavior as a woman is collective and political.

  9. 9
    Ophelia Benson

    Silva – ohmygod! Maybe he’s a friend of James’s.

    But seriously. Guys…don’t do that.

  10. 10
    Ophelia Benson

    Joe – good point – that’s exactly the kind of thing I meant, but I didn’t think of it. If the [whatever] epithets come out when you lose your temper or get drunk, then they’re in there.

    I’ve encountered people who think they invariably come out when people are drunk or angry. That is such bullshit.

  11. 11
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    It describes places where women (young desirable women) can’t go out in public without being pestered by men demanding sex. It’s hellish. Absolutely hellish. I pointed that out to James, and he was content with it.

    That feels sexist to me. It feels like men saying “what I want is more important than what women might want.”

    It’s frightening as hell.
    It happened to me once on a bus to an international conference. The guy and I chatted friendlily about German politics, because he had lived in Germany for some time and wanted to get up to date (that’s what I thought, at least). Then he went on to tell me that during his time in Germany he had learned one thing and that was that German men couldn’t fuck and what I really needed was some good Arab cock and he would be happy to provide it.
    That kind of behaviour might simply be a bit rude and uncomfortable in a world where men never decided to take by force what they couldn’t get by asking, but we’re not living in that world. In this world it’s frightening and downright threatening.
    Same with slurs and comments about violence: They make me shut up and get away from the person ASAP.

  12. 12
    Sally Strange

    Yeah… you want the freedom to maximize your dick-wetting opportunities?

    Well, I want the freedom to exist in a public space and not be treated as a dick receptacle.

    If you think the former freedom trumps the latter freedom, then you sexist, no matter what you say about yourself.

    Seriously, being in public spaces and feeling comfortable, rather than threatened while there, is a major component of equality. “The right of the people to peaceably assemble… shall not be infringed.” How are women going to be able to access that right if they fear going out on the street or joining large gatherings, because they’re reasonably certain that someone is going to treat them as a piece of meat rather than a fellow citizen?

    Fuck these libertarians. They are, as Galbraith observed, “engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”

  13. 13
    smhll

    I appreciate that you took the time to try to illuminate this point of view. I do find it frustrating to argue with someone who has really odd conclusions and won’t give premises. (I sometimes come up with a strawman that’s like a boogeyman when I can’t see any other explanation.)

    I wanted to make a minor quibble, re: the block quote below.

    There’s not a place where you can think the skeptics are just talking about principles of liberty as opposed to their own inclination to be able to demand sex whenever they feel like it. It feels hostile and callous.

    The libertarian-ish men you are describing would probably say they are not “demanding” sex, they are asking or inquiring (or soliciting).

  14. 14
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    I’ve encountered people who think they invariably come out when people are drunk or angry. That is such bullshit.

    I’m going to pull my drunk-driver analogy:
    People who think that drunk-driving is bad when sober usually don’t end up drunk-driving when they had a few beers.
    It’s people who think that it’s somewhat acceptable although illegal who end up drunk-driving.
    We have plenty of evidence that alcohol makes you lose your self-control, we have none that it turns you into somebody completely different than before

  15. 15
    GordonWillis

    The libertarian-ish men you are describing would probably say they are not “demanding” sex, they are asking or inquiring (or soliciting).

    Well, they do, don’t they? And it’s still out of order. How many times in a day does a woman have to be asked for sex before it becomes harassment? Five times? Twice? Once? Every day?

  16. 16
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    How many times in a day does a woman have to be asked for sex before it becomes harassment? Five times? Twice? Once? Every day?

    As often as it takes before she says “yes” [/sarcasm]

  17. 17
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    Well, they do, don’t they? And it’s still out of order. How many times in a day does a woman have to be asked for sex before it becomes harassment? Five times? Twice? Once? Every day?

    We calls that “sexual proselytizing” over on the Pharyngula Wiki. No clue how to post a link.

  18. 18
    GordonWillis

    So this “one thing” turns out to be a licence to harass women. One way or another women are still to be excluded from the category of independent human being, still to be regarded as the legitimate playthings of men. However they disguise it, these so-called skeptics are no more free-thinkers than the Ahmadinejad. And I am also annoyed by this new form of accommodationism that Kazez is trying out. I wish she’d stop doing it.

  19. 19
    GordonWillis

    “Proselytising” eh? I suppose it’s all a necessary part of a woman’s religious induction, then.

  20. 20
    Smhll

    @15

    I don’t have a link at my fingertips, but Amanda Marcotte has blogged very insightfully about sex in Western culture as a transaction with women playing the role of vending machine.

  21. 21
    Sally Strange

    @smhll

    That piece, “Buyers and Sellers,” is excellent, but the link to the old article is defunct now that Amanda moved Pandagon to RawStory. I hope she has someplace she’s archiving those articles, but I can’t find the link to it anymore.

  22. 22
    Sally Strange

    The libertarian-ish men you are describing would probably say they are not “demanding” sex, they are asking or inquiring (or soliciting).

    They are demanding that women be 100% available for “inquiring” or soliciting or whatever they want to call it. Either way, it means that women can’t use public spaces the same way men can–with the basic expectation that they are not going to be treated as ambulatory sex toys.

  23. 23
    GordonWillis

    “vending machine”: what we used to call a slot machine. Only the Out-of-Order notice should be pinned to the “customer”.

  24. 24
    Ophelia Benson

    In current news: Craig Murray named one of Assange’s accusers on Newsnight. He’s being roundly rebuked on Twitter, by Joan Smith and David Allen Green among others. “Rebuked” is too mild for what he’s being…

  25. 25
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    In current news: Craig Murray named one of Assange’s accusers on Newsnight.

    Well, i guess we know who has to actually worry about her safety now :(

  26. 26
    GordonWillis

    Not able to watch it. I’ll have to wait till it comes up on i-player.

  27. 27
    'Tis Himself

    I clicked on the link to Jean Kazez’s blog in the first sentence of the OP. Some of the comments are interesting. Our old buddy Bluharmony is claiming that Group 2 misogynists don’t exist.

  28. 28
    Smhll

    @22. Yeah, that’s a great point.

  29. 29
    callistacat

    I can never do my laundry in peace at my apartment complex, but at least the men who come up to talk to me actually attempt to strike up a conversation, they don’t just walk up to me and say come back to my place. If they did I would be incredibly creeped out, especially knowing they live in the same complex. Sorry if that offends people. One guy did ask me which apartment I lived in and that definitely creeped me out.

  30. 30
    Ysanne

    Getting asked and declining is “hellish”?
    Wow. Now that’s some pretty low standards for the unbearable eternal suffering symbolised by hell.
    Rude and inconsiderate, yes. Pesky and annoying, yes. Life has its annoyances.

    With this same argument, a typical walk through the inner city is hell for anyone, with all those street singers, Big Issue-sellers and “Got some change?”-people who feel entitled to initiate communication with strangers to ask for money, and thus treat passers-by as walking wallet-like objects. A few (very few) of them also get quite hostile when the answer is “no”.

    It’s not the occasional random stranger asking who is the actual problem, just like the typical rape isn’t some stranger grabbing someone in the park (or in the street in broad daylight).
    It’s the non-random person you know at least a little, who interacts with you without respecting your wishes/boundaries/autonomy, while expecting you to care for theirs.

  31. 31
    callistacat

    @Ysanne

    I think what’s so bad about getting asked and declining is you don’t know how they’re going to react to your declining. It can get scary.

  32. 32
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    Getting asked and declining is “hellish”?
    Wow. Now that’s some pretty low standards for the unbearable eternal suffering symbolised by hell.
    Rude and inconsiderate, yes. Pesky and annoying, yes. Life has its annoyances.

    Yeah, just divorce it from ALL CONTEXT, strip away the point and attack your interpretation of the remains.

    how very honest and not at all despicable!

  33. 33
    Ophelia Benson

    Ysanne – when it keeps happening, over and over, and the men doing it are often maddeningly persistent, follow for blocks, etc – yes, it is maddening. You feel completely hassled and interfered with and unable to just enjoy walking around, enjoying yourself. That was what I was there for. I was a tourist, it was my first time in Paris, and I wanted to just walk all over looking at everything the way I had in London (and before that, New York).

    That experience is why I’ve never been to Italy. I went back to Europe several times in my 20s but I couldn’t face what I was told I would get in Italy.

    Don’t go thinking it’s nice in any way. It’s not flirtatious or sexy or flattering. It’s hostile and contemptuous. It’s horrible.

  34. 34
    mildlymagnificent

    I’d like to be in the kitchen when a woman relative or friend of James Onen stomps inside in a fury raging about the never-ending succession of propositions she had to fend off while shopping.

    How would that supportive, calming, helpful conversation play out?

  35. 35
    Ophelia Benson

    You can’t ever relax. You don’t ever feel free of it.

    It’s coming back to me, now that I’m thinking about it. I remember desperately longing for a break from it.

  36. 36
    Ophelia Benson

    And oh god how I resented it. It was as if I were public property – like a pissoir. Why did they get to treat me like public property?! I could not figure it out. And why did no one ever tell them to knock it off? Grown men hassling a teenage girl – and it was just normal.

    Ugh.

  37. 37
    Josh Slocum

    And it still is “just normal.” And we still have people actively acting as if it’s women who have an unfair expectation of privacy and autonomy. That’s just the way it is, see, and you’re a baby if you think the world is gonna treat you like a princess.

    Who the hell are these people that cannot fathom that the-way-things-are needs to and can be changed?

  38. 38
    LeftSidePositive

    Amanda Marcotte’s piece is now here:

    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/07/20/pandagon-buyers_and_sellers/

  39. 39
    Godless Heathen

    We have plenty of evidence that alcohol makes you lose your self-control, we have none that it turns you into somebody completely different than before.

    Yes! It’s so annoying that people don’t get/conveniently ignore this.

    Either way, it means that women can’t use public spaces the same way men can–with the basic expectation that they are not going to be treated as ambulatory sex toys.

    I agree, except I’d change the part after “expectation that they” to “will be left alone.” Really, that’s what it comes down to. When I’m out in public (e.g. shopping, walking down the street) I almost always just want to be left alone and ignored.

  40. 40
    Godless Heathen

    @Ophelia-
    Have you been to France?

    When I was 17, my HS band took a trip to Italy and Southern France. We spent New Year’s Eve in Southern France at a banquet for high school groups that were traveling in Europe.

    We left after midnight, but not long after, and on the way back to the bus some French guys grabbed at all the girls in our group either groping us or kissing us on the cheek. It was fucking disgusting.

    The moms who were chaperoning were pissed (can’t remember how the dads reacted), but I distinctly remember the guys (aka my classmates/friends) joking about it and saying things like “I didn’t think you were pretty enough for someone to do that to you.”

  41. 41
    Sally Strange

    With this same argument, a typical walk through the inner city is hell for anyone, with all those street singers, Big Issue-sellers and “Got some change?”-people who feel entitled to initiate communication with strangers to ask for money, and thus treat passers-by as walking wallet-like objects. A few (very few) of them also get quite hostile when the answer is “no”.

    Yeah, then pile on top of that all the “hey baby,” and “come suck it,” and “what’s your problem, bitch!”, etc., etc.

    Naw, it ain’t no thing. And it certainly is uppity to dare to imagine a world where things are more reasonable and comfortable for everybody, right?

  42. 42
    Sally Strange

    It was as if I were public property

    Not as if. That is what the whole phenomenon is rooted in. It wasn’t so long ago that women were literally and legally property of their fathers and husbands. A woman without one of those, out in the public, was public property, harassable, rapeable, disposable. All of these things served to keep women in their place, which is in submission to their rightful owners.

  43. 43
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Yes, Ysanne, how radical to think that a world in which men get to walk around mostly undisturbed and get to make the decision with which woman they want to talk about sex and when, and in which women have to accept this and take it and are not able to walk around in peace and decide with whom they talk about sex might be sexist.

  44. 44
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    Ophelia, (a bit off topic)

    That experience is why I’ve never been to Italy. I went back to Europe several times in my 20s but I couldn’t face what I was told I would get in Italy.

    I’ve been, less than two weeks ago. With a friend, so that was two 25-year-old young women alone there.

    There were some cat calls, but not all that much. When I got back I was asked by another friend if Italian men really give a lot of compliments to strange women (yes, she has a different view on these things). I guess Italian men have learned something. At least that was my experience.

    I can be a bit oblivious sometimes, so maybe I just haven’t noticed things.

  45. 45
    ibbica

    Godless Heathen

    @Ophelia-
    Have you been to France?

    er…

    Ophelia Benson
    OP:

    It describes my experience in Paris at age 17.

    33:

    I was a tourist, it was my first time in Paris…

    Oh, nevermind. Even the French I know don’t think of “Paris” as “France” ;) (Sorry, Godless Heathen, that question just made me giggle!)

    You know, a few years ago I wasn’t understanding what was going on with all this harassment stuff that people were saying goes on all the time. I mean, there were plenty of those little things – some staring, people approaching me when I didn’t want to be approached, encroaching a bit too far into my personal space, that sort of thing. A little annoying sure, but nothing as bad as I was seeing described. My friends and I would poke fun at the stupid silly ‘boys’ with their stupid silly egos. And hey, I could always ask my hefty boyfriend to accompany me if I didn’t want to be annoyed by strangers. I kept quiet because, well, maybe I was just particularly lucky or ugly or something.

    And then I spent more time in the US.

    And then I moved to Europe.

    Turns out I’d spent my life so far living in and around major, multicultural cities of Canada.

    Bloody hell, that’s the best we’re doing? Where women are only ‘sometimes’ annoyed enough to ask for male accompaniment to avoid harassment?

    You can’t ever relax. You don’t ever feel free of it.

    It occured to me to try to imagine what would happen if women responded to those feelings, in the same way as those ‘backlashers’ respond to being told they’re behaving badly. Who would still be advocating patience, I wonder?

  46. 46
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    Oh, and the one really creepy fellow we encountered was a tourist and my own national. Yay.
    I’m almost entirely sure he was just a guy who got lonely (he was alone on the trip) and got a bit too enthusiastic when he encountered people in the same hostel speaking his language and he wasn’t even trying to hook up but be friendly, but the moment I started being really rude because his questions had become personal? That should have been hint to back the fuck off.

  47. 47
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    ibbica

    And hey, I could always ask my hefty boyfriend to accompany me if I didn’t want to be annoyed by strangers.

    Yes, if we don’t want to be treated as personal property, we just need a legitimate owner.
    I studied in Ireland in 2001. As it happens often, I “ended up” in a group of other foreign students, all of us young women doing tourist stuff. We were always bothered. 6 young women must be looking for a dick. The next year I visited a friend of mine who was doing his study abroad there now. Walking the same streets with two guys was a completely different experience.

  48. 48
    GordonWillis

    And hey, I could always ask my hefty boyfriend to accompany me if I didn’t want to be annoyed by strangers.

    Ah well, the Muslims have the right idea. Hey! what? No they don’t! If we cave in to group 1 and their supporters or take people like Ysanne seriously we’ll soon be hearing things like: if she doesn’t want to be asked, she should walk around with her partner/brother/son/ or cover up or stay indoors…

    This is what A+ is against, right? Absolutely, non-negotiable, not debatable, no accommodation, total intolerance. Fundamental axiom: women are people, sexism is oppression, accommodation is collaborationism.

  49. 49
    Bjarte Foshaug

    …a skeptic who leans very liberal (in the sense of free-to-X) on sexual issues and very libertarian on rules and codes can seem to be bordering on misogynist, or if not misogynist at least rudely indifferent to what other people want, which, when the other people in question are women, is hard to distinguish from sexism (if not misogyny). [...] It feels like men saying “what I want is more important than what women might want.” [...] There’s not a place where you can think the skeptics are just talking about principles of liberty as opposed to their own inclination to be able to demand sex whenever they feel like it. It feels hostile and callous.

    This!
    Also, I think it’s important to stress that we’re not just talking about legal rights (a common red herring in these debates). It’s certainly not illegal to be as boorish and insufferable as you like. I don’t think anyone is advocating sending people to jail for lacking normal human decency. All we are saying is that if your own “right” to behave that way is more important to you than respecting your fellow human beings, you’re a dick, and it’s just as much within our rights to shun you.

  50. 50
    James K

    ‘Tis Himself:

    But then I’ve know for years that libertarianism in all its flavors is based on selfishness and disregard for others.

    Bear in mind libertarianism is a political philosophy, not a moral one. It is about what governments should do, not what individuals should do. This libertarian has no problem with using non-governmental means (such as shaming or other social sanctions) to call out boorish behaviour like propositioning women you don’t even know.

    That’s not to say that they’re aren’t plenty of assholes who are libertarians, but I don’t think that’s more to do with the abundance of assholes than anything to do with libertarianism per se.

  51. 51
    Amy Clare

    This post kinda reminded me of those skeptics who think it’s A-OK to have a reasoned debate about whether women are equal to them. They’re just being skeptical, right?? It’s all about being loyal to reason. Nothing to do with misogyny. Not even a little bit.

    Sigh.

  52. 52
    Dave

    Clearly, more heterosexual men should have the experience I once had, of wandering naively into a part of Paris [there you go again] where some hundreds of gay men were sunning themselves, and not hesitating to pass comment on my existence and attributes. That was a long, long few hundred yards.

  53. 53
    Timon for Tea

    I agree with James, placing a very high value on liberty, which may include the liberty to sexually proposition women (or men) in supermarkets (or even toilets)does not mean you condone all such actions or believe that they should not be criticised or restricted in any way.

    It would really help if we were clear in this debate over whether we are calling for some sort of legislation or formal restriction on what is permitted or just urging better behaviour. I think Jean K’s group 1 generally support women’s complaints about inappropriate behaviour but differ with some people on how best to achieve better results, that’s all. And the group 1-ers are precisely those people who do not lapse into sexist insults when challenged (have Russell Blackford, Dawkins, Jeremy Stangroom resorted to sexist abuse despite all the abuse piled on them from some people? I don’t think so).

  54. 54
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    It would really help if we were clear in this debate over whether we are calling for some sort of legislation or formal restriction on what is permitted or just urging better behaviour.

    I’m sorry, did anyone here say anything that would imply sexually propositioning someone in a shop (for example) should be illegal?

    You are making that shit up and creating a false misunderstanding.

  55. 55
    Timon for Tea

    Beatrice, it is just that sort of confusion I am trying to eliminate, these debates have been vitiated by it, I think. When a libertarian argues that it should be permitted to proposition women sexually in almost all circumstances, she is not necessarily arguing that such behaviour should be tolerated, and so what may at first appear to be a gulf in opinion may turn out not to be. I think this is a real problem.

  56. 56
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    Have you read what Ophelia wrote about her argument with her libertarian friend?

    It’s not a real problem. You are making shit up.

  57. 57
    Timon for Tea

    I have read that, but it is nonetheless a real problem, to my mind. Many apparent differences are not nearly as entrenched as they first appear because of the confusion about what we might mean by liberty and at liberty. It is a problem in just about any discussion that involves libertarians or libertarianism.

  58. 58
    GordonWillis

    Speaking for myself, I’m talking about us, our principles, what we stand for, and who isn’t us and shouldn’t be. Obviously you can’t make propositioning people illegal, because otherwise all sorts of possible circumstances would be outlawed for no good reason. What I would advocate is campaigning to increase public awareness of the effects of exposure to opportunistic sexual propositioning on far too many women who are forced into a mental hell, and to encourage the general consensus that this sort of behaviour is not acceptable in a civilised society. Eventually I hope that no one will ever simply assume that an attractive person is an opportunity.
    .
    I worry about the idea that people can feel free to just ask, because (a) it encourages people to regard practically any stranger as fair game, (b) it encourages people to be on the lookout for sex when they might better put their minds to learning how to relate to people in a comradely or cooperative manner, (c) it takes no account of the situation of any stranger, which one cannot possibly know, like grieving, depressed, anxious, or whatever, not to mention simply wanting to be left alone.
    .
    Better to put one’s own urges aside than risk causing egregious offence.

  59. 59
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    I believe you are just derailing, Timon, but it there really existed such a problem then it’s a problem that libertarians should deal with. Because the problem appears to be that they are fucking stupid if they can’t comprehend that when people are saying that something isn’t ok and shouldn’t be tolerated, it’s not the same as saying that it should be illegal.

    But again, I still believe you are making it up as you go.

  60. 60
    Timon for Tea

    If there is a misunderstanding, then libertarians should try to clear it up, so I agree with you there. I think you have to agree though that sometimes when people say something should not be tolerated it is because they want it banned or otherwise controlled through the application of force or authority, and so it is not altogether stupid to wonder if this is p art of the meaning in another context. It is evident in these recent arguments that there has been some misunderstanding sometimes along these lines. Some people who have anti-harassment policies have been accused of tolerating harassment, for example, when this has not been their position.

  61. 61
    Timon for Tea

    Garbled: last sentence should be:

    “… some people who have opposed anti-harrasment policies …”

  62. 62
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    There is really no good reason to oppose anti-harassment policies, Timon.

  63. 63
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Timon
    Do you notice that this is the second thread where you’re asking people to clear up a problem that only exists in your head?

  64. 64
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    No, forget it. Don’t turn this into a discussion of anti-harassment policies.

    Another derail.

    Please don’t. Really. I’m *this* close to banging my head against the wall. I suspect it would make more sense than arguing with TImon. At least the wall won’t say “See, I agreed with you the whole time” in the end.

  65. 65
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    Third thread, I think.
    There was the one about rape before the last one about rape.

  66. 66
    Timon for Tea

    Gilliel, the problem exists even if you don’t recognise or understand it. And I am bang on topic here, so please don’t start with the personal abuse, it is nasty and boring (and getting predictable). If there are other subjects you would prefer to discuss, there are other threads to discuss them on.

    And Beatrice, if you make a comment and then argue, in exasperation that people shouldn’t make comments like that, you are just talking to yourself.

  67. 67
    screechy monkey

    Two thoughts about the Kazez article:

    1) Every libertarian I’ve ever spoken to is A-OK with rules and regulations, as long as they are instituted by private organizations and not the government. In fact, that’s usually their go-to response when they’re asked why bad thing X won’t be rampant if the government stops regulating X: “oh no, the market will take care of that. Organizations that agree not to do X will thrive, and the ones that won’t will be punished by the market.” So I’m a little suspicious of the claim that libertarians are so hostile to the implementation of harassment policies by private organizations like the JREF because FREEDOM!

    2) The troubling line in Kazez’s article that has (I think) gone undiscussed here: “Now, there are people who take a skeptical position on all these things. They think it’s OK to proposition women in elevators at 4 in the morning, etc. etc. etc.” It seems to me that whether or not it is “OK to proposition women in elevators at 4 in the morning” is a moral question, not a factual one, and I fail to see how skepticism enters into it in either way, let alone why the “it’s OK” position is being designated the “skeptical position.” But I do think it’s telling.

  68. 68
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    I was chastising myself for falling for your bait, yes.

  69. 69
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Timon

    Gilliel, the problem exists even if you don’t recognise or understand it.

    No, it doesn’t. It’s just a strawman that’s been handed around as much as your “written consent” yesterday.
    There haven’t been missunderstanding, there have been plain dishonest missrepresentations in order to discredit the feminist position on these issues.
    Like Rebecca Watson wants to ban sex.

  70. 70
    Timon for Tea

    Gilliel, it is quite possible that there have been both misunderstandings and misrepresentations, that is Jean K’s position I think and I agree with her. Dividing the two would be useful.

  71. 71
    eric

    Beatrice:

    Because the problem appears to be that they are fucking stupid if they can’t comprehend that when people are saying that something isn’t ok and shouldn’t be tolerated, it’s not the same as saying that it should be illegal.

    Timon’s issue was mentioned twice before him, by me @1 and by James K @50.

    I think part of our misunderstanding may result from Ophelia’s story of her libertarian friend. As James mentioned, ‘libertarian’ is a political doctrine (at least in the US; maybe this all results from a US/UK language difference). If someone tells me they had a disagreement with a libertarian over rights, I immediately think legal rights.

  72. 72
    Timon for Tea

    Eric, there may be an Atlantic divide here. Libertarianism as a political movement is much less established in the UK and there is a lot of confusion as to what it might mean. But my instincts are the same as yours, libertarians are concerned with limiting coercion, generally by the state (although I think a lot of libertarians are blinded somewhat by the issue of state power and pay too little attention to other coercive effects), and this does seem to be a likely misunderstanding between Ophelia and her friend. If the friend is a self identifying ‘libertarian’ I would assume he was talking about coerced(through force or threat of force) limits to sexual freedom, while Ophelia was likely not.

  73. 73
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Gilliel, it is quite possible that there have been both misunderstandings and misrepresentations, that is Jean K’s position I think and I agree with her. Dividing the two would be useful.

    Yeah, sure.
    I mean, after a hundred blogposts, explenations, actual harassment policies implemented and such, people claiming that we want to outlaw XYZ are still just having an honest misunderstanding.

    ++++

    Because the problem appears to be that they are fucking stupid if they can’t comprehend that when people are saying that something isn’t ok and shouldn’t be tolerated, it’s not the same as saying that it should be illegal.

    In fact, they could just ask “what do you mean by that, do you think that A should happen or B?”
    But instead the usual thing is to accuse us outright of wanting to make something illegal and then double down when called out.
    Sorry, people who at this point are still talking about “illegal” are either not paying attention or deliberately trolling. Neither group gets very charitable feelings from me.

  74. 74
    ibbica

    Ophelia said:

    yes, he would simply go up to a woman at a supermarket and ask her to come home with him.

    “Would” is very different from “should be legally permitted to”.

    He would do such a thing, “was content with it”, even after clarification, even after being asked to consider that such behaviour makes public spaces hellish for women.

    That’s not “talking about coerced(through force or threat of force) limits to sexual freedom”. That’s not “being misunderstood”, or “misunderstanding”. That’s “having troubling attitudes toward women” acting like an entitled misogynistic asshole.

    And misrepresenting as some sort of “legal” issue the assertion that people can’t expect to act like entitled misogynistic assholes, insist they not be told they’re “acting like entitled misogynistic assholes”, and have others accept them as reasonable people is not ‘misunderstanding’. It’s deliberate lying, and trolling, and yep, acting just like a misogynistic asshole.

  75. 75
    Godless Heathen

    @ibbica,

    oops. :-) I read the word London, but completely glossed over the word Paris…

    But yeah, Paris is totally not part of France. That’s what I meant. :-)

  76. 76
    eric

    Giliell @74;

    In fact, they could just ask “what do you mean by that, do you think that A should happen or B?”
    But instead the usual thing is to accuse us outright of wanting to make something illegal and then double down when called out.

    Asking is exactly what I did. In @1, no less.

    I get that its probably tiresome to explain to the newbies the stuff you regulars dealt with hundreds of posts ago. I get that a newbie post can look exactly like a troll. Nevertheless, the next time this comes up (in a new thread), I’d suggest you start with a simple “We’re talking social norms, not laws, see [link] for previous discussion,” rather than going immediately to ‘you’re either idiots or trolls.’ I, for one, am happy to know you’re talking social norms and agree that reducing/eliminating such treatment of women by making it more socially unacceptable is a good and worthy thing. Does that make me an idiot, or a troll?

  77. 77
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    I get that its probably tiresome to explain to the newbies the stuff you regulars dealt with hundreds of posts ago.

    See how you’re turning a simple statement by me into something completely different?
    Here’s what I said:

    I mean, after a hundred blogposts, explenations, actual harassment policies implemented….

    It’s not like we’re rehashing some minor quibble that occured on the pre-FTB Butterflies. We’re talking about the one thing that has dominated the whole skeptic community for months, for over a year ever since Rebecca Watson called for all men to be castrated called for men to consider the feelings and desires of women about being hit on.
    If there actually is any real newcomer to the discusion who cluelessly enters the whole thing and demands for everybody to stop what they’re doing and explain things for the umpeth time, they’re plain rude.
    Why should I show somebody courtesy who doesn’t show me the least courtesy and thinks that I solely exist to spoonfeed them information they could easily find if they spent just 3 minutes reading?

  78. 78
    Ophelia Benson

    My post and the ensuing discussion took off from what Jean K said:

    The respectable skeptic may be on board with all substantive feminist goals, but they lean very liberal on sexual issues and libertarian-ish on rules and codes.

    Rules and codes. Not the government, but also not just the wider outside world where all rules are tacit.

    My arguments with James Onen started with rules and codes, I think – at any rate they certainly started with the elevator – but they were basically moral and political. Not when it’s ok to call the cops but what is ok between people – total strangers – in general.

  79. 79
    eric

    If there actually is any real newcomer to the discusion who cluelessly enters the whole thing and demands for everybody to stop what they’re doing and explain things for the umpeth time, they’re plain rude.

    Why should I show somebody courtesy who doesn’t show me the least courtesy and thinks that I solely exist to spoonfeed them information they could easily find if they spent just 3 minutes reading?

    In @74 you said (paraphrasing) ‘why don’t you just ask instead of accusing us outright…’ But I did ask. If you’re now telling me that asking makes me plain rude, why did you suggest I do it?

  80. 80
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    eric
    I’m sorry, I should have made myself clearer. Lots of this conversation was about the history of this whole disaster. People claiming that in the beginning god created the heaven and the earth there were just misunderstandings and miscommunication. But that’s not what happened.
    Although I actually appreciate that you asked instead of ranting off, you could have searched this blog for the relevant discussion between Ophelia and James.

  81. 81
    James K

    My post and the ensuing discussion took off from what Jean K said:

    The respectable skeptic may be on board with all substantive feminist goals, but they lean very liberal on sexual issues and libertarian-ish on rules and codes.

    Rules and codes. Not the government, but also not just the wider outside world where all rules are tacit.

    My arguments with James Onen started with rules and codes, I think – at any rate they certainly started with the elevator – but they were basically moral and political. Not when it’s ok to call the cops but what is ok between people – total strangers – in general.

    That make sense to me Ophelia, there’s a whole lot more to how a society operates than merely what behaviours the government restricts.

    I think what causes some of us confusion sometimes is when people talk about shaming harassers or using other non-governmental means of controlling boorish behaviour, and then blame libertarians for preventing this from happening. Not that you did this Ophelia, but there are commenters who do this. This confuses me because libertarianism is utterly silent on the appropriateness of harassment codes or shaming people who harass women. I don’t doubt that there are libertarians who oppose such actions, but they’re not doing it because they’re libertarians (any more than I support such actions because I’m a libertarian), libertarianism has nothing to do with this one way or the other. Both sets of libertarians are drawing on other values to reach their positions.

  82. 82
    anon commenter

    I was going to say something nice but after reading the comments I somehow can’t anymore. The truth is that Jean is by defining these two groups violating one of the central tenants of feminism (intent does not matter). Thus calling her an anti-feminist as one commenter here did would be quite accurate. A few commenters here have been honest about that. Others like Sally Strange claim that they really can’t distinguish between the these two groups which I find in some cases particularly unbelievable.

  83. 83
    plutosdad

    This is the only area that is troubling for me. I fully appreciate women do not want to be constantly hit on (or not even hit on, but just having sexual innuendos constantly brought up). Growing up, I was conscious of this and tried to treat women equally and ensure they felt comfortable around me.

    But the issue is, each individual case of a person coming on to someone they are attracted to is (probably) not “bad” or “harassment”, but when you sum them all up, they are. Even if each individual incident is a different man doing it. I know that is not new, and it’s probably been written about ad nauseaum, and guys still don’t get it.

    I am just not sure what to do about it. For instance, I am uncomfortable with the language of “I have a right not to be hit on”, though I certainly believe “I should be able to go out and not deal with men constantly hitting on me” and that we, as men, should respect that and behave accordingly. I was really shocked after “Elevatorgate” that so many men do NOT believe this.

    Many people act like we have to choose between “my feelings are my problem” and “my feelings should be respected by others”, but I think both can be true at the same time.

    And the truth is, I think many men and libertarian-minded people are doing exactly that: making others deal with their own feelings instead of dealing with them themselves.

    How? like this: We men are afraid when women say “we have a right not to be bothered”, because we are afraid we would get punished for just innocently talking to someone (by the state or by society). But that, also, is just trying to make other people (women) deal with our own feelings, our feelings of fear that make us want to stop all progress. Men are saying “no you can’t feel safe, because then I’d feel less safe” and it is a horrible double standard that they say women want to impose their feelings and fears on others, when that’s exactly what the MRAs are doing.

  84. 84
    dan

    I once overheard (but did not see) an exchange between an Asian toilet attendant and a customer (who I presume was gay, from the nature of the exchange).

    The toilet attendant, whose gaydar was obviously finely tuned, muttered some homophobic remark about “queers”.

    And the target of the remark hit back immediately with a racist retort to the effect that the toilet attendant should “go back where you came from”. I paraphrase.

    Now, in a calmer moment perhaps the presumably gay person would give a more considered opinion on immigration policy. They might argue that their retort was not intended to be racist at all, or else was defensible because said unthinkingly in the heat of the moment, or that they were provoked and merely responding in kind.

    I would make some allowance for “the heat of the moment”, just like I can distinguish between murder and manslaughter. But it’s clear to me that in the wider fight against prejudice, both the attendant and the customer would have to be challenged.

    Just as someone who put forward “distinctive” views on gender relations may be recognisably different from an out and out misogynist (just as someone who favours some immigration controls might be distinguishable from an out and out racist by someone who opposes any immigration controls), it’s reasonable to respond by challenging those views.

    If someone I know not to be otherwise racist says something that could be considered racist, then I would challenge that by pointing out that it could be considered racist. The hope being that because they are intending to be anti-racist, an argument pointing out how they might be unintentially racist is likely to be an effective one. Well-intentioned people can be thoughtless or ill-informed, after all.

    The same consideration would apply to people who seem to be coming across as sexist. If you think that really they are coming at issues from an anti-sexist standpoint, then you can appeal to anti-sexism to persuade them to change their approach to an issue.

    But the problem is, you can’t always tell – especially on the Internet – whether someone is malicious or well-intentioned.

    The lesson for feminists is supposed to be that we shouldn’t assume malice. But if it is “inflammatory” to accuse people of misogyny, then it is also “inflammatory” to assume that apparently hostile comments will always be interpreted as nontheless well-intentioned.

    I remember once kicking off at my mother, because she said “I’m a racist”. It turned out she’d been on a course where everyone had been taught that their position as teachers of English as a second language was inescapably colonialist/imperialist and therefore racist in some sense.

    Now, you might say, “well, there you go, never think bad of your own mother.” But you might as well also say, “it’s not surprising that someone would get upset by their own mother confessing to being a racist.”

    I did have a really insightful comment to draw all these ramblings together, but I’ve forgotten it, so if you could just assume it was really insightful that would be great.

  85. 85
    Ophelia Benson

    Laughing like a drain. I think I’m going to end most things with that, Dan!

  1. 86
    Whose Liberty Are We Talking About? | Almost Diamonds

    [...] has been working her way around the issue for a couple of days now, and one of her posts helped to clarify this issue for me. In it, she mentioned one of these [...]

  2. 87
    The phenomenology of harassment | Butterflies and Wheels

    [...] in “libertarian” on sexual issues, which follows up on a comment she made here on the temperature post. The proof comes when women start going after what they [...]

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