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Dec 25 2012

Some tropes

I drew up a list of some of the anti-feminist tropes I’ve been seeing lately. (They’re not overtly anti-feminist – they’re more “this is how feminism is supposed to be done” – but they’re so crude and wrong and clueless that in fact they are anti-feminist. They’re anti everything that has been recognizable as feminism for a couple of generations now. The “feminism” they think they’re for isn’t really feminism.)

  • Heroism is better than feminism. Don’t talk about systemic problems, don’t be a “victim,” don’t “whine,” don’t say there are obstacles, don’t resist harassment. Just suck it up and be tough and succeed anyway. Anything else is an insult to women, especially to women who did suck it up and succeed anyway.
  • The struggle is over. We won. Feminism has fixed all the things already. There are no barriers, no obstacles, no issues, nothing to overcome, nothing to get rid of.
  • Women and men are different, so feminism is stupid, because it acts as if they’re not. Women are weaker and stupider than men. They like different things. They think in different ways. They shop. They fuss with their hair. They gossip. They don’t like sports or computers or gaming or cartoons or computer science or engineering or philosophy or science or logic or atheism or speaking in public or activism.
  • The way things are now is exactly how they are supposed to be. The jobs and interests and lives people have are all exactly the ones they want to have under any conditions whatsoever. People’s choices are not the least bit shaped by the surrounding culture or expectations or stereotypes or bullying or harassment or sexism or misogyny. There is no reason to ask why there are so few women in philosophy or physics or computer science. The numbers and proportions are what they are because everyone made a free choice, and that’s all there is to it.
  • There is no reason to make an extra effort to recruit women to fields and activities where they are a minority, because any time women are a minority, it is because they want to be.
  • Harassment and sexism and overt, vocal misogyny make no difference to anything. They’re all just jokes, just part of life, just haters being haters, just a tiny corner of something, just a little irritation which adults ignore.
  • The real feminism, “equality” feminism, is about formal explicit written laws, and nothing else. The laws are now all perfectly fair and egalitarian, so feminism has no work left to do, so any residual feminism is obviously crazy. Critical reflection on culture and stereotypes is “radical” feminism and it’s totally crazy and wrong. Dislike of overt, vocal misogyny is radical and crazy and wrong. Real feminists get the joke and laugh along with it.

That’s the list.

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  1. 1
    transenigma32

    Good list.

    If I can, however, I’d like expand the scope: those aren’t just anti-feminist tropes, although they certainly serve a purpose being so. Those are anti-equality tropes in general; you can replace “feminism” with any movement for equality and the results are the same. All things being what they are, the first trope even reminded me of the gun debate in the United States that’s been waging recently, with that being the attitude of the anti-regulation side.

    I think that first trope is the root problem for all of the others, and if you dig deep enough, they all go back to that one. The Cult of the Hero is very wide spread in the United States in particular, but throughout the right in general, which is scary when you realize that, along with military and war fetishization (also wide spread in the United States) a hallmarks of a very strong fascist ideology (which, infamously, is a very macho ideology specifically because of the aforementioned traits). While I have no intention of calling those tropes fascist, they certainly do have an extreme authoritarian lean, which isn’t at all surprising given who uses them.

  2. 2
    some guy

    So does feminism extend beyond simply complaining about anti-feminists?

    Seems like the entire goal of the fem skeptics is just compiling lists of folks on twitter they don’t like.

  3. 3
    melody

    When one is under attack day in and day out by anti-feminists, you do tend to think about them a lot. It’s so mind-boggling and hurtful that you try to figure out the whos and whys.

  4. 4
    brianpansky

    @ some guy: yes it does extend to other endeavors.

  5. 5
    Ophelia Benson

    some guy (a first-time commenter, surprise surprise, whose email address is someguy@someguysomeguy, surprise surprise) – what a stupid question, and what a stupid assertion. No it doesn’t seem as if “the entire goal of the fem skeptics is just compiling lists of folks on twitter they don’t like.”

    I tell you what though, “fem” is certainly a tell.

  6. 6
    Ophelia Benson

    If you’ve actually got something to say, say it. If you just want to sneer, go away.

  7. 7
    leebrimmicombe-wood

    So does feminism extend beyond simply complaining about anti-feminists? Seems like the entire goal of the fem skeptics is just compiling lists of folks on twitter they don’t like.

    Yes. If you notice, the skeptic feminists talk about other things. Just go to a site like Skepchick and check out all the interesting stuff there! However, there’s no reason why they can’t do that AND complain about the h8ers that h8 them. It’s not like there’s any restriction on what they can do.

  8. 8
    Ophelia Benson

    Or a site like this one right here!

  9. 9
    leebrimmicombe-wood

    Or a site like this one right here!

    True dat.

  10. 10
    other guy

    My question has to do with what within the realm of feminism you hope to accomplish.

    Why not leave my comments as an example of a ‘h8er’ instead of simply deleting them?

  11. 11
    other guy

    It’s a tragic disconnect where what i’m saying undoubtedly hurtful and offensive while others can continue to generalize about an entire community.

    Maybe both genders can be offended.

  12. 12
    other guy

    “don’t resist harassment.”

    Let’s talk about that statement. Nobody has said it, but you attribute it to those that disagree with you.

    How are you not guilty of harassment yourself?

  13. 13
    postman

    Maybe because you are annoying and just trolling? Really what did you hope to accomplish? Do some self-examination. Your previous comment was hilarious btw.

  14. 14
    bastionofsass

    Dear Muslima…

  15. 15
    Ophelia Benson

    Why not leave your comments? Because I want good comments. Not stupid, empty, repetitive, stale sniping picked up from or originating from the pit gang.

    That’s why. Good comments; intelligent comments; substantive comments. It’s not such a high bar.

    Accusing me of trolling on my own fucking blog doesn’t cut it.

  16. 16
    bastionofsass

    “I don’t hate women so I don’t need to support feminists.”

    “I support feminism. That means others have to change their actions and attitudes. But I don’t need or want to change anything I say or do.”

  17. 17
    Ophelia Benson

    Those both make sense, but I haven’t actually seen them that I know of. I have seen the ones I listed.

    That’s not a criticism though. By all means add ones you’ve seen.

  18. 18
    postman

    I brought up trolling in regards to someguy. I hope I didn’t cause any confusion.

  19. 19
    Ophelia Benson

    Oh! Heh. I thought you were talking to me. I thought you’d come in with other guy. Sorry. :D

  20. 20
    postman

    It’s my fault really. I’m new to this commenting thing. I should have been more clear.

  21. 21
    Ophelia Benson

    what i’m saying undoubtedly hurtful and offensive while others can continue to generalize about an entire community.

    An entire community? What entire community? No community was named in the writing of this post! No individual was named either. I listed some tropes. It’s true that I can name people who have said one or more of the tropes, but I didn’t in fact name any in the post. No “community” has been maligned.

    Is there an anti-feminist tropes community? I didn’t know that – I thought their affiliations were looser than that.

    People damn well have said don’t resist harassment.

  22. 22
    Ophelia Benson

    No worries, postman. Have some cider!

  23. 23
    leebrimmicombe-wood

    My question has to do with what within the realm of feminism you hope to accomplish.

    Actually, that was not how you framed it. What you asked was whether skeptical feminists did anything other than complain about anti-feminists. Which they do. I’m sure Ophelia’s goals can be found through a thorough reading of this blog. Not that you can be arsed to do that, can you?

    Why not leave my comments as an example of a ‘h8er’ instead of simply deleting them?

    One answer might be so that they don’t encourage other lackwits to leave similar comments.

    It’s a tragic disconnect where what i’m saying undoubtedly hurtful and offensive while others can continue to generalize about an entire community.

    It’s not a generalisation. It’s a list of shit that people have actually said in some form or other. That is to say, a list of tropes. The clue is in the title.

    Maybe both genders can be offended.

    I’m sure they can. How is that germane to a list of shit that people have actually said?

  24. 24
    briane

    It strikes me reading your list that it’s libertarianism in action. Basically, screw you jack, I’m fine and have no reason to lose my priveledge.

    My comments aren’t always intelligent or thoughtful, so delete if necessary.

    Merry Xmas Ophelia and happy new year! Hope you have a great one.

  25. 25
    rrede

    SomeTroll: generalize about an entire community.

    The irony is rich with this one since the anti-feminist tropes are all falsely universal generalizations about “men” and “women” (who are not communities by any definition I know of the concept).

    Another anti-feminist trope that I think is connected to several of the ones in Ophelia’s list: post-feminism:

    http://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/2007/08/25/faq-what-is-post-feminism/

    AKA: “Since all those laws that now benefit women have been passed, and everything has changed, and all is good, women can choose whatever they want, and they just CHOOSE to [fill in the blank].

    And anything they choose (for example, pole dancing!) is all about the power of their choice.”

  26. 26
    Hamilton Jacobi

    Cider? Since when is there cider? Us old-timers had to come in and start bashing accommodationists without any cider, and let me tell you my throat was mighty dry. I think these newbies should just suck it up and be tough and swallow their tropes with nought but a piece of hardtack and a handful of boll weevils.

  27. 27
    artymorty

    Reading that list I hear the voices of Harriet Hall, of Michael Shermer, Abbie Smith, so many others…

    Different voices, wrong-headed in different ways. It’s interesting that when you line them up and compare them they seem to agree on so little, other than that The Feminists Are Bad. It’s all kind of like how the major religions are united against atheism, in spite of having little else in common.

    And, like the religious united against the atheists, they often outright contradict each other: Like, if harassment and misogyny make no difference, why the need for heroism in the face of it? Or, if everything is the way it’s supposed to be, why was there ever a struggle in the first place? And how can we be sure the struggle is over and feminism has won? If it’s strictly a matter of law, did it end way back with women’s suffrage? Or was it more recent? Ms. Magazine? Margaret Thatcher? Murphy Brown? When exactly did women’s equality finally triumph and how was the party? Was there cake?

    About the only thing the tropes’ employers have in common is an essential conservatism, in that they insist on keeping things the way they presently are, even if the excuses they grasp at are irreconcilably at odds with each other. Cognitive dissonance, reason’s oldest foe, is surely at work among them.

  28. 28
    Ophelia Benson

    Brian, yes, it mostly sounds like libertarianism to me too.

    Happy Xmas to you!

    artymorty – bingo! I was thinking of all three, plus someone else for the laws yes culture no trope.

  29. 29
    Ophelia Benson

    I should add…I think if things had been different I could have had an amicable discussion with Harriet Hall about all that. I think we could have agreed to differ. I do admire what she did.

    But, alas, things were not different.

  30. 30
    Ophelia Benson

    Have some cider, Hamilton! And some crystallized ginger. And some pralinized pecans.

  31. 31
    artymorty

    I shudder to think who the laws-yes/culture-no person was.

    I think Harriet Hall’s argument is the “most different” from the others, in that it seems to acknowledge that sexism still exists more than others do. But she’s still kinda sayin’, hush-up you feminists, which, blah.

    mmm pralinized pecans!

  32. 32
    Argle Bargle

    I think you missed one:

    ● Women in Bumfukistan have it worse than the pampered ladies in the First World, so stop whining and appreciate how much better you have it than the women in Bumfukistan.

  33. 33
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    “Some Guy,” is this you here, too, being “skeptical” that it’s a bad thing to fire a woman who’s worked for you for a decade because she’s “too sexy” and your xtian self is “tempted” to bone her?

  34. 34
    Tessa

    I really hate the third one the most. Especially when the theme is that both sides should be proud of their differences. Women should be proud that they are more supportive and nurturing and all that stuff. Stop trying to be like men and be women. Enforcing stereotypes through so called good intentions and pride just makes me angry.

    It is so completely not helpful and ignores that it’s impossible to tell where any actual difference ends and socialization begins. And it alienates people who don’t fit the proper girl and proper boy roles.

    Why not just let people be themselves and not tell them what they’ll be good or bad at doing before they even try?

    (not anything new, but I wanted to vent.)

  35. 35
    Hamilton Jacobi

    (grumble grumble bah humbug) Oh, all right, then. Hmm, good eats. Thanks ma’am.

    plus someone else for the laws yes culture no trope

    Someone else? O_o Surely all the hepcats are doing this dance!

  36. 36
    artymorty

    Tessa, I so agree!

    That was one of the best things about Ophelia’s most recent article in Free Inquiry (the one Shermer shat all over, which I can’t find online right now or else I’d link to it). She took on the trope that women should ‘own’ the stereotype:

    One way of dealing with this brick wall of frustration [with the lack of progress in dispelling gender stereotypes] is to give up on the dispelling and just flip the terms. Sure, that’s what women are like, but that’s a good thing. [...] Poor sad guys, off in their man caves and labs and offices fiddling with old unfeeling numbers and measurements and photographs from Mars. Lucky relational women with their feelings and gossip and Real Housewives of New Jersey. [...] feminists need to resist any rhetorical move to [...] claim that logic and reason and argument belong to men, and women should claim what’s left over.

    That should have been the topic that lit up the atheist blogosphere. Alas, Michael Shermer went and mucked everything up with his bullshit slymepit-inflaming jiu-jitsu.

    Well, for whatever it’s worth, Ophelia’s takedown of “difference feminism” from “ur-B&W” is still the #1 (non-Wikipedia) google result for the term, and it’s a lulu!

    http://www.butterfliesandwheels.org/2002/difference-feminism/

  37. 37
    WMDKitty -- Survivor

    LOL this reminded me — I got called a “radfem” (and “one of PZ’s bootlickers) for pointing out that “chill girls” (and, um, I used to be one, so, personal experience, here) aren’t helping feminism at all. And then got screamed at about how “Abbie is a totally good person because AIDS RESEARCH, you insignificant little worm!” (Like that somehow negates all the shit she’s pulled/instigated/supported?!)

    I’m guessing what happened was she sent her flying monkeys over to Hemant’s to “police” the comments.

    Here’s a link to the idiocy in all it’s glory — the rabid, frothing “slyme”-pitters claiming that harassment, bullying, sexist slurs, misogyny, and all-around bad behavior is really “mockery [and] wide ranging discussions”.

    *SMFH*

  38. 38
    WMDKitty -- Survivor

    Correction, I was called a “butt kisser”. My bad.

  39. 39
    Erin (formerly--formally?-- known as EEB)

    That first trope is so fucking offensive. (Well, they all are, but that one especially rubs me the wrong way, today.) For a lot time, I would only refer to myself as a “survivor” of sexual abuse and rape, and never, ever identified as a victim. And there is a lot of good stuff to come from that label, I did survive, I continue to survive, and that’s all good. But I think it does cause problems, both personally, internally, and also to the movement as a whole, to be so against acknowledging that one is a victim. I cannot count the number of times I have been told that I must never, ever think of myself as a victim, because that’s just self-pity, that’s letting the men who abused me win, and if I’m a victim, I will never heal or have control over my life. After I was raped, as a an adult, I was told by a few people (including my father) that it was partially my fault (or, rather, my responsibility) because I “acted like a victim” so I was easy prey. My father actually took me out one day to a park for an hour or so and made me watch every woman that walked by. He pointed out the ones that looked like victims, the ones that a rapist would go for, and pointed out women that walked assertively or whatever, and said they would never get raped. I shouldn’t have to explain how much that screwed me up.

    And I agree with transenigma32: these aren’t just anti-feminist tropes. I just got in an uncomfortable fight on facebook after posting a cute Christmas picture with two guys holding hands, and I had to deal with an old friend telling me how offended she was by the picture. In the ensuing fight (as I’m, like, seriously, you’re offended, but you see nothing offensive about telling someone you know is a lesbian that two guys holding hand in the most G-rated fashion ever is offensive?) she hit, in some way, almost every single one of those, but substitute GLBT people/movement for “feminism”. Ugh.

  40. 40
    Erin (formerly--formally?-- known as EEB)

    Oh, and I’d like to add one of my absolute favorites, something I’m seeing every freaking time a feminist discussion pops up:

    All feminists are responsible for every single thing any other woman ever, in history, said or wrote. If you want to be listened to, you must spend at least a paragraph talking about how much you love men (and, if you really want to avoid the shitstorm, how much you love sex. with men, hopefully. bonus points if it’s kinky or something those icky no fun sex-neg feminists might call “degrading”) and how everyone knows that Andrea Dworkin (and maybe Valerie Solanas) was crazy and evil boo hiss! Also, The Patriarchy Hurts Men, Too, and that is totally just as important (if not more important) than dealing with, you know, all that women junk. And if you don’t make sure to follow this guidline (and, often, even when you do), you can expect that most of the conversation in the comments will be addressing these points. (But it’s okay, even if you forget, because there will always be several women eager to jump in the comments and insist that all the above is true, not only for them, but for all real feminists.)

    Ummm…can you tell I’m a little bitter? And just for the record, I fucking adore Andrea Dworkin; her writing (I don’t think I’m being overly melodramatic here) saved my life when I was a teen, and I refuse to keep apologizing for that.

  41. 41
    Jafafa Hots

    It not only sounds like libertarianism, it also sounds a lot like unexamined privilege.

    Maybe the two are actually the same thing?

  42. 42
    Bjarte Foshaug

    And let’s not forget the old “asking for special treatment” trope. If we had to sum up all of feminism in a single sentence, one possible formulation might be “Stop giving women special treatment”, such as groping them, hitting on them, bringing up their level of attractiveness or “fuckability” in response to their ideas, their arguments, or their work, interrupting them, dismissing their appeals to logic as “emotional” etc. etc.

  43. 43
    Ophelia Benson

    Great crowd-sourcing here.

  44. 44
    Tom Foss

    So does atheism extend beyond simply complaining about theists?

    Seems like the entire goal of the new atheists is just compiling lists of folks on the Internet they don’t like.

    [Note: irony. ed]

  45. 45
    Nepenthe

    EEB

    Righteous rant. Although, for what it’s worth, even the disclaimers about Dworkin, and loving sex with men, and PHMT don’t stop the attacks. The most sex-pos-y of sex-pos blogs get the “ZOMG, how dare you suggest that having sex with someone who’s asleep or falling down drunk might be rape! That would make me a rapist!1! And I’m a Nice Guy! You harridans are radical feminists who drive all your manly-man allies away!” Which makes me wonder why anyone bothers with the disclaiming at all, but to each their own.

  46. 46
    Erin (formerly--formally?-- known as EEB)

    Yes, Tom Foss, you’re exactly right. The entire goal of the new atheists is compiling lists of folks we don’t like. Sort of like those Mean Girl “burn lists” from Jr. High. We really couldn’t give a damn about social justice or equality. You have figured it out, congratulations. Although, you only figured out the first part of our plan! After we get a good list going, then we send out the FTBbullies to torture the heretics! I know, I know, we’re supposed to be on a good, old fashioned witch hunt, but I’d liken us more to the Spanish Inquisition. After the burn list, we bring out the Pillows and the Comfy Chair. (*insert evil laugh*)

    Of course, we must now add you to The List, now. We’re just irrational and petty like that.

  47. 47
    Tom Foss

    EEB: I knew I should have said something more. I was just trying to put “Some Guy’s” words into a context that showed clearly (even to those skeptics/atheists blinded by frothing anti-feminist rage) how absurd & familiar it is.

    But I should have included a tag to indicate the point/sarcasm. Or commented earlier.

  48. 48
    Ophelia Benson

    I got it, but of course I see your name often. I’ll just add a little something now.

  49. 49
    Ophelia Benson

    Al Stefanelli thinks my post on tropes is reeeeally bad.

    http://alstefanelli.wordpress.com/2012/12/26/a-response-to-ophelia-bensons-big-list-of-anti-feminism-tropes/

  50. 50
    Cornelioid

    Ophelia, in spilling out a comment to Stefanelli’s post just now, i made some assumptions about your own, so if i’ve gotten anything wrong i’d appreciate your clarifications, too; this is still new territory to me.

  51. 51
    mildlymagnificent

    Cornelioid, I think you did pretty well.

    I’m still goggling over “… while rare in the United States and several other Westernized nations, misogyny does exist in many parts of the world, and in some cases results in horrific acts of violence toward women. … ”

    I thought Al was American. I thought every literate American had read the very public misogynistic idiocies spouted about women during America’s recent election. Or do we just sigh at another ‘Dear Muslima’ moment.

    Or maybe misogyny has new meaning – everything said and done to and about women is OK unless it results in hospitalisation.

  52. 52
    Nepenthe

    @mildlymagnificent

    It’s not misogyny unless hooded figures burn a phallus on someone’s lawn.

  53. 53
    Cornelioid

    @mildlymagnificent, actually, i think the infamous Muslima comments make for a good contextualization. So far as i know, no one in that debate, on either (or any) side, interpreted Dawkins’ farce as his honest impression of Watson’s case—that is, that he actually thought that Watson was suggesting that Muslim women’s problems pale in comparison to her own. Well, my reading of Benson is similar (though admittedly far less extreme), and what confuses me is that Stefanelli is taking it not only literally but pedantically.

    On “misogyny”, it seems to be one of those conversations that is more hindered than helped by consulting (non-Australian) dictionaries. Thanks for your feedback.

  54. 54
    Erin (formerly--formally?-- known as EEB)

    Oh, I’m sorry about that! I should have realized you were being sarcastic. Flew right over my head. ::blush:: (Guess this proves I’m a humorless feminist, huh?)

    And OMG re: Al Stefanelli. What the hell did I just read? WTF? I can’t even. It’s almost an accomplishment to get so much wrong in so few words. There should be an award or something.

    What the hell is up with all the “I’ve never heard anyone ever say this blah blah blah” stuff? First, it shows, clearly, that he hasn’t been paying much attention to what people have been saying, which is just annoying (and insulting) when he’s chosing to write and criticize someone who actually is informed about the topic. I bet I could find links to each and every trope that he says doesn’t exist in less than 10 minutes, but he’s old enough to do his own damn homework. Second–and this is what drives me absolutely up a wall with these guys–can you imagine how quick he would take down someone using this argument in a discussion about religion or creationism or something? That’s, like, one of the first things I learned when I started reading about logic and debate: you can’t rest on personal experience or arguments from ignorance, and just because you haven’t personally seen something doesn’t mean it never happens! This is such an obvious point that gets followed in ever other discussion, but somehow, when it comes to social justice, it gets thrown out the window. And I would say it’s even more important in social justice discussions to not argue that, “Well, I haven’t experienced X so X doesn’t exist!” especially when you are in a position of privilege and a minority group is trying to explain their experiences. Of course you haven’t seen it! It doesn’t affect you, and therefore is less likely to bother you, so it’s much easier to overlook! Or it just straight up would never happen to you, because your social group doesn’t experience such things! So you have to fucking listen when people tell you about something you otherwise wouldn’t see, and you should be grateful that they took the time to explain it. (This is why blogs like Crommunist or Natalie Reed are so invaluable to me…being a white cis American, there is an awful lot that I miss, and I’m really grateful to have people that are willing to correct my ignorance.) GAH! THIS IS NOT A DIFFICULT CONCEPT.

    Sorry. Rant over. I’m gonna count to twenty and take some deep breaths.

  55. 55
    Ophelia Benson

    Don’t apologize, EEB. Good rant.

    I wonder why Al called it my “big list” in his title. I didn’t say that. I just said list.

  56. 56
    artymorty

    That response of Al’s is truly baffling!

    As I was reading it I thought of the Dunning-Kruger effect and I lol’d.

    I think he just doesn’t understand you, Ophelia. As in, he literally doesn’t understand what you’re talking about in this post. And yet, he feels affronted and superior enough to criticize it. See? Dunning-Kruger.

    As for the comments over there, meh, it’s a lot of the same old posturing. I’m sure you know the trope (ha! trope! such a hard word); it goes something like this: “I want you to understand I’m all for women’s rights don’t get me wrong but I’m no radical I can’t stand those radicals and Ophelia is obviously a radical because I heard a lot of noise about her from a few people and I didn’t bother to check if those people are just raging misogynists with an axe to grind because what they were saying fits perfectly with my preconceived notions about radical feminists so therefore Ophelia is a radical but don’t get me wrong I’m all for women’s rights…”

    Yawn.

  57. 57
    Ophelia Benson

    Now that I’ve read it, that’s what I think too – it’s just blankly incomprehending. Like thinking the first sentence of each item in the list is the trope and the rest is my “definition” of the trope. Godalmighty. No, the whole thing is the trope.

  58. 58
    Erin (formerly--formally?-- known as EEB)

    Now that I’ve read it, that’s what I think too – it’s just blankly incomprehending

    Yeah, like I said in my comment over there, I hope he’s just being ignorant and not malicious (don’t know enough about his character to say which one) but his responses don’t make any sense. It’s not even that he’s set up a strawman, it’s that he’s arguing points that aren’t even close to anything you said. Like, his entire response to your “victim feminism” trope…I’ve read it three times, and I still don’t understand what he’s trying to say, or what he thinks you’re saying. It’s like you said, “The Spice Girls are the best girl group in history” and he decided to respond with an argument about why Family Guy is an awesome show. Like…okay, you’re making a fair point, but what the hell does that have to do with what Ophelia said?

    Again, I think it proves he doesn’t take you (or the wider feminist discussion) very seriously at all. At least not seriously enough to make sure he understood what you were saying, or to check that his assertions were accurate. And that’s obnoxious.

  59. 59
    Jacksonkochs

    Regarding “jokes,” I have heard that phenomenon referred to as “ironic sexism,” essentially the offender asserting that the sexism doesn’t “count” since the joke is so over the top that the person in question is making fun of himself. Perfect examples Ina lot of commercials; Captain Morgan, Axe, etc. it’s ridiculous, of course, because it still “counts,” whether you are joking or not. We feminists are terrible sports,aren’t we? We refuse to laugh along with all our non feminist sisters when people make jokes at our expense. I call it the “Good Sport Syndrome,” for the women who go along with all these silly things, so theywontlook like the unfun girlfriend, etc.

    Great post, Ms. Benson. I found you through the turmoil with Michael Shermer. The sad part is, I no longer can support Michael Shermer, but the good part is I found your blog. :)

  60. 60
    Erin (formerly--formally?-- known as EEB)

    The whole Michael Shermer thing is so depressing. “Why People Believe Weird Things” was one of the very first skeptic books I ever read, and led me to other skeptic blogs (which led to atheist books and blogs, which led to the realization that I didn’t believe any more). So, he really started the process of setting me free from religion. And considering that I was very close to signing up to be a missionary, had already recieved a local minister’s lisence from my denomination (and even seriously considered becomming a nun), “setting me free” isn’t too much of an exaggeration, and I got out just in time. I related to a lot of what he said, and he understood what it was like to go from a sincere, committed believer to a skeptic. There were those rumors a while back about his behavior at conventions. and I tried to rationalize continuing to support him (note: meaning reading his books/magazine, listening to his talks, etc., not supporting his behavior) by telling myself they were just rumors, nothing concrete, there wasn’t any evidence, yadda yadda (I know, total asshole behavior on my part). When he made the initial statement, I still tried to rationalize it (“oh, he just misspoke, I’m sure he doesn’t really believe that). Then I read his newest thing and…just…sigh. Really, Michael Shermer?

    I already had to concede that Richard Dawkins is kind of a dick. Which hurt, it really did: The God Delusion was the first explicitly atheist book I read, terrified in a little library cubicle, still trying to clutch to my faith, as he experlty destroyed every argument I had. I guess i sort of set up Richard Dawkins as an alternate prophet in my mind, letting him replace the theologians I had placed so much trust in and respected. Shermer, too. Maybe this is a good thing, though…aside from the benefit of showing the atheist movement that we are not immune to irrationality and sexism (and that sexism is not just a “religious thing” that we’re magically cured of when we stop attending church), it’s also helpful, for me at least, to realize that we don’t have prophets or infallible leaders in atheism. Nor do we have inerrant holy writings. You can appriciate something that someone writes in one area while realizing they are totally full of crap in another, and that doesn’t invalidate everything they’ve ever said or done.

    While we’re crowdsourcing though, that does bring me to a question. When someone behaves badly, says or writes something sexist or otherwise terrible, where do you draw the line between not supporting bad behavior but not expecting perfection from leaders or writers? I don’t want to, like, throw out all my Michael Shermer or Richard Dawkins books, for example, but neither do I want to support sexism. Maybe this is a naive or stupid question, but I’m still kind of new at this, and I’m trying to figure it out. Thanks.

  61. 61
    Hunt

    I don’t want to, like, throw out all my Michael Shermer or Richard Dawkins books, for example, but neither do I want to support sexism.

    Getting back to Myers’ maxim that “we are all fucking racists,” it’s almost axiomatic that we are all sexists to one degree or another, as well. Let’s just assume for the sake of argument that the negative assessments of Dawkins and Shermer are dead-on. Essentially what you demand is for them to be super-human.

    And before you say it, authorities and those in prominent positions rarely admit fundamental errors. Take, for instance, the Clinton/Lewinsky affair. Clinton couldn’t bring himself to admit the truth under questioning because to do so would be to fundamentally undermine his own status, and the reality is, he was right.

    To expect leaders to react the same as hoi polloi is counter to human nature, and perhaps this could be listed as another trope, but it has the weight of history behind it. Basically, it’s “I’m going to pretend he/she/they didn’t say that or do that because on the balance, I know that he/she/they are good for my community.”

    BTW, “dick” is no longer sanctioned by the Ministry of Truth. :)

  62. 62
    'dirigible

    “I’d like expand the scope”

    Yes this is another common anti-feminist trope.

  63. 63
    Argle Bargle

    EEB #60

    I remember when I found out my father was a racist. He was talking about a black coworker and said something along the lines of “he’s a good guy even if he is a nigger.” This was my father, the guy who told me that we should judge everyone on their own merits, making a racial slur. I was shocked that my father, a man I had thought was above all that, was a racist.

    All too often we discover that personal heroes have feet of clay. I wasn’t familiar with Shermer because I’ve never read his books, but I had read Dawkins, both his biology books and his atheism books. The “Dear Muslima” letter (something I found out about long after he’d written it) shocked me in the same way my father shocked me with his casual racism. Dawkins and my father were “good guys” except they weren’t good all the time.

    Hunt #61

    The Ministry of Truth has declared you’re an asshole for endorsing gendered insults. You got a problem with that, asshole?

  64. 64
    Hunt

    The Ministry of Truth has declared you’re an asshole for endorsing gendered insults. You got a problem with that, asshole?

    Why, do you want to meet on the schoolyard or something? Take a Valium, Rod.

  65. 65
    No Light

    Ugh, Al again.

    I’ve been avoiding the internet studiously for a couple of weeks. The Al/Reap bromance combined with the. Nechemya Weberman bullshit started a malaise that was tipped into fully-fledged meltdown after the pro-gun idiocy following Newtown.

    And it’s still going on. All of it. Trust issues? I haz them in spades. Battle fatigue? Yep. Feeling like I’m trying to kick custard up a hill? Definitely.

    Still, at least I’m in good company here, and can add a trope of my own:

    “There are real problems like racism, poverty, etc. that need solving while you rich, white, American, able-bodied cis women whine about your husbands making more money than you”

    Intersectionality is lost on the haters.

    EEB – I’m so sorry your father did that. It was an arsehole move, not to mention really fucking creepy. Welcome aboard!

  66. 66
    Ophelia Benson

    @ 59 – thanks, Jackson!

  67. 67
    Ophelia Benson

    Sorry to hear it, No Light.

  68. 68
    Nick Nakorn

    A great list; I’ve heard all of them at one time or another. I’m also reminded of a similar list concerning racism (very similar issues) on the ‘brown eyes – blue eyes site at http://janeelliott.com/statements.htm and http://janeelliott.com/clarification.htm but why has Al Stefanelli seemingly deliberately misunderstood your intentions here? http://alstefanelli.wordpress.com/2012/12/26/a-response-to-ophelia-bensons-big-list-of-anti-feminism-tropes/ and, sadly, a few people seem to agree with him…!?

  69. 69
    No Light

    Thanks Ophelia. I’ll live! It’s just that being trapped in this bed makes the internet my only entertainment, and when I can’t face the internet, that means it’s just me, my thoughts, and my poor long-suffering partner!

    At least I’m not being personally targeted like you and the others, that makes me sick. I hope your 2013 is better than 2012.

  70. 70
    WMDKitty -- Survivor

    @No Light (#65)

    *headbonks*

  71. 71
    Tessa

    A few of the comments on Al Stefanelli’s response are looking a lot like the items Ophelia lists here.

  72. 72
    Dave W

    Some of the commenters at Stefanelli’s place seem to want to be persecuted, given that they appear to be under the impression that this post alleges to be a list of things they, personally, have said. They clearly see themselves in what you’ve written, Ophelia. So much so that they’re complaining that they’re not like that at all.

  73. 73
    callistahellene

    I’m not anti-feminist, just anti-women like Ophelia who are the evil and wrong kind of feminists! The kind that notice sexism and comment on it.

    This pretty much sums up Michael Shermer and Al Stefani’s views on feminism:
    https://www.facebook.com/#!/photo.php?fbid=113631645388674&set=a.113627195389119.27059.113626428722529&type=1&theater

  74. 74
    Ophelia Benson

    It’s interesting…They – and Thunderfoot and reap paden and the rest of the crew – seem to think that’s going to work out for them. Maybe it will, but I have my doubts. The trouble is…the kind of women who are likely to be outspoken atheists – you know, “intellectually active” and all that – might turn out to be the kind of women who aren’t all that fond of outspoken misogyny.

    They think, or pretend to think, that we are driving away women who would otherwise be drawn to outspoken atheism. Maybe. Maybe we are. Then again maybe they are.

  75. 75
    Nick Nakorn

    I note that a few insulting remarks are still turning up on Al Stefanelli’s pages; it’s as if many commentators there are assuming Ophelia is endorsing rather than criticizing the tropes and/or that she is saying that they are being said by specific people on that site (they might be, though I haven’t spent much time on that site). But it’s clear from the outset of the Original post that they are tropes (generalized) and being observed/criticized. It saddens me that those who have got the wrong end of the stick don’t just say, ‘oh, I see, I’ve misunderstood’. But, even if I can understand how some people might have not read the introduction to the original article, I can not understand the insults – it it not the first rule of blogging and commenting – not to attack the person?

  1. 76
    A Response to Ophelia Benson’s ‘Big List of Anti-Feminism Tropes’ « Al Stefanelli

    [...] I try to keep this space open for more enlightening topics. However, the other day, Ophelia Benson wrote a blog post on 25 December that listed what she describes as ‘anti-feminist tropes‘ that she says [...]

  2. 77
    Lessons from #AtheismPlus | Reality Enthusiast

    […] and trolling has a purpose and an end game. [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, […]

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