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.