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The Fishin’ Around Friday Open Thread

There have been several of our recurring themes around the news this week.

As a few of you were discussing in the last open thread, Rhiannon Brooker has been sentenced to 3 1/2 years for making false rape allegations against her ex-boyfriend. Most people’s attention was captured by the frankly outrageous comments from Women Against Rape (WAR) who campaign vociferously against any prosecutions for making false allegations of rape. It’s a bizarre position to hold, seems to serve no purpose other than making feminism look entirely unreasonable, and I really don’t understand why the Guardian, in particular, give them so much airspace on this issue.

One thing that struck me about the coverage of the case, though, was the focus on why she had done it, what her motivations might have been. Was she trying to create a cover story because she was  about to fail her Bar exams (as alleged by the prosecution) or was it an inexplicable act committed in the midst of an emotional breakdown and immense stress and pressure,  as her defense counsel maintained, or was there some other more mysterious explanation?

My point is that we very rarely ask these questions about other criminals. If someone commits an assault or a rape we don’t agonise over why (usually) he might have done it. I think our desperate search to find an explanatory framework comes down to our collective difficulty in conceptualising the fact  that sometimes women can do really bloody nasty things out of spite.

Which leads me on to the  next topic on my radar – the study by Elizabeth Bates and Nicola Graham-Kevan which was reported at the Forensic section conference of the British Psychological Society yesterday. I’m not entirely sure what is new in it, all of it seems reasonably familliar to me, but the interesting thing in the light of recent debates on this site is that they found evidence to suggest women are more prone to show aggression to their partners than to non-partners of their own sex, whereas men are less likely (than women) to be aggressive towards their partners but more likely to be aggressive to other people of their own gender.

So they are the main things I haven’t found time to write about this week.

What else have we missed?

Comments

  1. Steersman says

    Ally:

    It’s a bizarre position to hold, seems to serve no purpose other than making feminism look entirely unreasonable, and I really don’t understand why the Guardian, in particular, give them so much airspace on this issue.

    Indeed – maybe to make some facets of feminism “look entirely unreasonable”. Although that might be giving them more credit than is warranted.

    In any case, I find it rather remarkable that so few “feminists” are prepared to concede that some of those facets are, by most reasonable standards, well beyond the pale. Although there are exceptions – a case in point being “Jadehawk’s” “I’ve served radical feminism the divorce papers”; may her tribe increase. Even if one might think that those who precipitated that event – the “TERFs” – might have somewhat of a point when it comes to the definitions for male and female.

    … but the interesting thing in the light of recent debates on this site is that they found evidence to suggest women are more prone to show aggression to their partners than to non-partners of their own sex, whereas men are less likely (than women) to be aggressive towards their partners but more likely to be aggressive to other people of their own gender.

    Sexual dimorphism for the win! Something that might not sit too well with some of the more problematic “feminists”.

  2. carnation says

    “women are more prone to show aggression to their partners than to non-partners of their own sex, whereas men are less likely (than women) to be aggressive towards their partners but more likely to be aggressive to other people of their own gender.”

    That’s not really surprising – it’s basically what’s generally considered socially acceptable, or at least follows what’s the least unacceptable.

    “What else have we missed?”

    Well, Mike Buchanan took to to the stage in Detroit, along with some other characters, to discuss how best to help men & boys through the unusual medium of talking about how terrible feminism is. He regurgitated his “men pay 72% of taxes” trope. He’s consistent, that’s for sure.

  3. Kevin Kehres says

    very rarely ask these questions about other criminals

    Um…Eliot Rodger, anyone? I think the motivation behind his murder spree was of intense interest, here and everywhere else.

    And just about every other spree shooter. From the Columbine kids to the Fort Hood shooting spree, and on and on. They were racists, they were radical Muslims, they were mentally ill, they were disturbed, they were misogynists, they were gay bigots, they were, they were they were…

  4. Thil says

    “My point is that we very rarely ask these questions about other criminals. If someone commits an assault or a rape we don’t agonise over why (usually) he might have done it”

    I get your point Ally but I think that’s a bad example. We don’t agonise over why people rape each other because that motive is obvious. The motive behind a false rape allegation is far less obvious.

    “we very rarely ask these questions about other criminals”

    do you think it would be a bad thing if we did ask those sorts of questions more often about more crimes?

  5. Erik Johansson says

    My point is that we very rarely ask these questions about other criminals.

    To be fair, while yes, we rarely do put these questions to other criminals, but when we do, it’s almost always because something is out of the ordinary, or at least perceived to be, and we feel we really need an explanation. A recent example would be the Santa Barbara shooting, there’s no end to the “Why?” questions, because the event was highly unusual.

    I think that this very much comes into play when you look at how we, or at least the media, handle crimes committed by women. They are unusual events, so we need an explanation… but that’s also where:

    our desperate search to find an explanatory framework comes down to our collective difficulty in conceptualising the fact that sometimes women can do really bloody nasty things out of spite.

    do seem to kick in.

    I’d say it goes further than just finding an explanatory framework though. To me, it seems that people scramble to try to get back to the comfortable state of mind that we are used to – the one where women are victims (without agency), and the fastest route to it tend to be trying to find something or someone that can bear the blame and responsibility.

  6. drken says

    I know nothing about Women Against Rape, except for what I just learned, which is that they have a pretty cool acronym and don’t like it when the courts throw the book at those making false rape allegations, which I”m not sure the court even did. Is 3.5 years a lot? They do have a point that coming down extra hard on false rape allegations will make it more difficult for rape victims to come forward, especially with the chorus of voices yelling “she’s lying” at every accusation. But, even if that’s true, I didn’t see anything in the article that implied they want to see prosecutions of them stopped, effectively making it legal. So, what is the maximum/usual sentence for this in the UK and how does it compare to the penalties for rape? I want to know if I think WAR is over-reacting or not.

  7. Sans-sanity says

    @drke,
    Quoting Marduk from the previous thread: “Given she was convicted on twelve counts of an offence that carries a maximum penalty of life some might say three and half years was extremely light punishment.”

    Still, I do not think it is especially wise to be considering what might be the maximum or minimum sentence in weighing up whether she got off lightly or was treated harshly. In light of the actual and potential harm caused by her crime, 3.5 years seems entirely appropriate.

    As for the question “Was she trying to create a cover story because she was about to fail her Bar exams (as alleged by the prosecution) or was it an inexplicable act committed in the midst of an emotional breakdown and immense stress and pressure”
    I expect the answer is ultimately both; failing the Bar would be a source of extreme stress and pressure. I do not consider that much of a mitigation though, and it does not look like the judge did either.

  8. Erik Johansson says

    @drken They do have a point that coming down extra hard on false rape allegations will make it more difficult for rape victims to come forward, especially with the chorus of voices yelling “she’s lying” at every accusation.

    I don’t really see how? First of all the premise that they are “coming down extra hard” is dubious at best considering the damage to the victim she would’ve caused if she’d been believed, and second, Brooker admitted herself that she lied (although she later retracted), and her victim was able to present very strong alibis that also further proved that she was indeed lying.

    If Brooker had been a woman who simply failed to present strong enough evidence for a conviction of rape, I’d completely agree with WAR. That would make real rape victims think twice about coming forward and shouldn’t be allowed.. but that’s not the situation. Brooker is not a woman who merely failed to show any evidence for her accusations, Brooker is a woman who judging by the evidence quite clearly did lie in an attempt to cause her victim severe damage.

    You’re not going to get a much clearer case of a false accusation than this, and I think feminists like WAR are doing real rape victims a great disservice by implying that rape victims somehow wouldn’t be able to see that the consequences Brooker is facing for very clearly trying to cause someone else harm are entirely irrelevant to them and their situation.

    As for WAR wanting prosecution stopped, judge for yourself, this is from their own press release on the matter:
    “Rape victims are being turned on by the police and CPS, and the media sensationalises these prosecutions, undermining all women’s safety. This case should never have gone to court – it went against CPS guidelines. We are outraged that these cases are being given more police and CPS resources than violent crimes like rape. It is not in the public interest and was completely disproportionate. Time and again we see police resources diverted from rape and put into prosecuting women instead.
    At least my take is that yes, they want prosecution stopped.

  9. says

    Thil,

    We don’t agonise over why people rape each other because that motive is obvious.

    Not at all. There are people who think it is about power others who think it is because of sexual desire.

  10. Thil says

    “There are people who think it is about power others who think it is because of sexual desire”

    There are people who think an act that generally involves going out of your way to force an erect penis into something and ejaculate into it is a non sexual act?

  11. Thil says

    “There are people who think it is about power others who think it is because of sexual desire”

    There are people who think an act that generally involves going out of your way to force an erect penis into something and ejaculate into it, is a non sexual act?

  12. unity says

    My point is that we very rarely ask these questions about other criminals.

    Hmm, not sure about that and it does rather depend on who you mean by “we”.

    In terms of what goes in court, the barristers on both side of any case know perfectly well what the sentencing guideline for the case they’re dealing with are in the event of conviction and whether within those guideline motive has any bearing as either an aggravating or mitigating factor, so cross-examination of a defendant’s motives can be as much directed towards trying the influence what happens if and when a sentence is handed down as anything.

    What we don’t know about this particular case, and the vast majority of cases that we only get to read in the press, is which of the two sides set the balling rolling on the question of motive.

    Each side has to notify the other, in broad terms, of the case they intend to present before the court proceedings begin so it could be that it became evident at that stage that the prosecution would initiate that line of questioning as part of their case or it could have just as easily been the defence side which opened that particular door, particularly if the defence counsel, particular if they felt their client had only a very slim chance of being acquitted, in which case their best option would be to do as much as possible to minimise any sentence.

    This kind of thing goes on all the time in all manner of cases, it just that most of these cases are not particularly newsworthy so it doesn’t get reported much beyond a few lines in a local newspaper.

    In that sense, one of the key reasons this particular case is being discussed and attracting significant media is precise because such cases are rare and rather unusual, which is what makes them newsworthy.

  13. marduk says

    @Sans-sanity

    The point is that she wasn’t convicted of making a false allegation, she was convicted for perverting the course of justice. WAR is trying to pretend that this could happen to anyone, you make an allegation, the defendant is found not guilty, you are in trouble – that wouldn’t happen and it isn’t what happened here. There is no offence of making a false allegation.

    She lied to the police. Not just once or twice, but repeatedly over a long period of time. She lied under oath. She lied to everyone she came into contact with deliberately and calculatingly. She repeatedly fabricated evidence, this was why the court had to get her medical records because she’d repeatedly lied to doctors and nurses (something WAR can’t process for some reason). Unpicking this lying and fabrication is why this enquiry was expensive and time consuming.

    All in all it is what perverting the course of justice is about.

    The case as it stood actually had little to do with rape, there is no magic pot of money that could have been spent on rape prosecutions, that isn’t how it works. The legal system has to defend its integrity against people who lie and connive or might as well not bother prosecuting anyone for anything. This conviction wasn’t just for rape victims, it was for anyone who is the ever the victim of any offence against them and anyone who is ever made a defendant. This is why the sentence should have been more than a slap on the wrist.

    It was deeply in the public interest and it was entirely proportionate.

    If WAR want money to be saved on this case, the person to start with aren’t the victims of it (the defendant, you, me and everyone else), it is the person who lied in the first place. WAR need to stop victim blaming and start demanding that its the people who commit offences who should be blamed for them.

  14. Sans-sanity says

    @marduk, Are you sure you are talking to me? I cannot see anything in my post that I think would indicate that I disagree with anything you have said.

  15. Jacob Schmidt says

    I think our desperate search to find an explanatory framework comes down to our collective difficulty in conceptualising the fact that sometimes women can do really bloody nasty things out of spite.

    Ahahaha.

    Oh wait, you’re serious?

    AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHH.

    No, but seriously, “nasty and spiteful” is a common misogynistic stereotype.

  16. johngreg says

    Jacob, are you being exceptionally stupid today, or are you serious with your implication that saying that women, just like men, can do really bloody nasty things out of spite is misogynistic because saying something, anything, bad about women is teh evils?

    Are you really one of those puffed up and purified white knights that think women are faultless angels, or summat?

    The myriad Stefunny InZvanitys of the world await your white knighting with patent glee, fo sho, fo sho, dudebro.

  17. Gilgamecha42 says

    Jacob: We all have our misconceptions. I, for one, thought you were at least intelligent enough to realise what’s a “misogynistic stereotype” and what’s common knowledge.

    Saying that women can sometimes do “nasty and spiteful” things isn’t so fantastical as to be unbelievable, and if you think that it is then maybe you’re the one who’s sexist and not I? Note that Ally didn’t say “towards men” as a qualifier but as a general rule. You don’t think women can be “nasty and spiteful” sometimes? What about the woman who was jailed not too recently for accusing her husband/significant other of rape, seemingly out of spite, and it turned out to be false? What about the woman who assaulted a teenage boy, accusing him of taking pictures of women at the beach and then called the police, also seemingly out of spite, apparently filled to the brim with confidence that the teen would be taken into custody (if it weren’t for the fact he was filming the whole time)?

    What about the women who bag on other women on the internet, and in meatspace, daily?

    These are just incidents that happen in a vaccuum? Rare? Uncommon? Don’t be stupid.

  18. Jacob Schmidt says

    You’re both idiots.

    Is this gonna be a regular occurrence, johngreg? While this level of ridiculousness from you is expected, it has grown tiresome. Perhaps I’ve just been working too much.

  19. Steersman says

    Jacob Schmidt:

    You keep using that word – misogyny; I do not think it means what you think it means.
    http://ofmusingsandwonderings.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/you-keep-using-that-word1.jpg

    More specifically:

    mi•sog•y•ny (m-sj-n)
    n.
    Hatred of women.

    Like all women – simply for being a woman; not because someone says that some particular woman was acting like an ignorant twat. Or because someone says that one woman is being “nasty and spiteful”. If neither of those accusations are actually true then one could say that the person saying that is an ignorant dickhead, but they’re certainly not misogynistic.

  20. Jacob Schmidt says

    … not because someone says that some particular woman was acting like an ignorant twat. Or because someone says that one woman is being “nasty and spiteful”.

    Well, it’s a good thing I didn’t say (or imply, hint at, even think) that, eh Steers? The particular adjective y’all are complaining about qualified “stereotype.” A stereotype is not “someone.”

    I’ll yet you figure out the rest.

  21. Steersman says

    Jacob Schmidt @23:

    Well, it’s a good thing I didn’t say (or imply, hint at, even think) that, eh Steers? The particular adjective y’all are complaining about qualified “stereotype.” A stereotype is not “someone.”

    I’ll let you figure out the rest.

    Not sure that you can really say “misogynistic stereotype” – you can “say” it but it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Like “blue courage” – the noun and adjectives don’t really go together. And it’s hard to see how a stereotype can be doing any hating ….

  22. Jacob Schmidt says

    I’m pretty sure phrases such as “racist stereotype” or “misogynistic stereotype” are common enough that their meaning is well understood, even if it violates the minutia of certain definitions.

    (Though the -ic suffix seems to be more broad than you think.)

  23. Gilgamecha42 says

    Jacob – What, the claim that women can sometimes be nasty and spiteful constitutes a “stereotype” to you?

    And we’re the idiots?

    If Ally had said “generally” or “usually”, then maybe you would have a point, but he didn’t. So what are you on about? And you compare this to “racist stereotypes”, like “black” people do this and “white” people do this? Tell me, haven’t feminists been doing this exact same thing for a while now, specifically with “white”, heterosexual men? Is this a sexist, “misandric” stereotype? By the way, you seem to be missing a key point that a “racist” stereotype would still not preclude women, because women can still be “white” or “black.” Funny how that works, isn’t it?

    Maybe you do need to take a break, old boy. Thinking logically obviously takes up too much of your strength.

  24. says

    27, Gilgamecha

    Nope, the ponit of Schmidt presumably was that contrary to Allys assertion of women being seen as unlikely to be serious offenders is wrong as according to him there is a common misogynist stereotype that says that women are (presumably specially) spiteful. This is different from the view that some women can be spiteful, somethng I suspect to be a view that is shared by Schmidt.

    18, Schmdt
    For this rebuttal to work a common view would be needed that women are not only spiteful, but criminally spiteful, something which is unlikely given the empirical differences in treatment before the law

  25. says

    sheaf @28:

    For this rebuttal to work a common view would be needed that women are not only spiteful, but criminally spiteful, something which is unlikely given the empirical differences in treatment before the law

    Some feminist researchers looked at sentencing disparities between female and male sex offenders. Their starting hypothesis were that women were more harshly sentenced because sexual offenses perpetrated by is seen as more serious transgresssion for women than for men – as more transgressive of their gender role. Men are to a certain extent expected to transgress sexually while women aren’t. They called this the “Evil woman” theory or the “Reverse chivalry” theory (using to terms for the same thing at different places in the paper).

    Or in their words:

    The purpose of the current study, at its core, is to examine the validity of the evil
    woman hypothesis. In accordance with this theory, it is expected that women will
    receive more severe punishment for sex offenses because a sex offense reflects a
    severe departure from gender roles. In addition, an interaction is expected for specific
    sex offense category, as it is again assumed that the more severe affronts to social
    norms and gender roles will result in longer sentences.

    They were somewhat miffed when other studies didn’t lend any support to this “evil woman”-hypothsis (my emphasis):

    However, it can be argued that the most compelling case for the selective chivalry hypothesis or evil woman theory stems from the examination of more specific behaviors as they apply to traditional gender roles. Unfortunately, those studies that examine sentencing differences between male and female offenders have typically found little to no support for the theory (Farnsworth & Teske, 1995; Mustard, 2001; Rodriguez et al., 2006; Steffensmeier, Kramer, & Streifel, 1993).

    Their own results:

    Data for the current study do not support the theory of reverse chivalry. Women are
    not sentenced any more harshly than men, and in fact, it appears as if the criminal
    justice system actually treats women more leniently than men.

    Source: Randa Embry and Phillip M. Lyons, Jr. (2012). Sex-Based Sentencing : Sentencing Discrepancies Between Male and Female Sex Offenders. Feminist Criminology April 2012 vol. 7 no. 2 146-162

  26. says

    Tamen, thx I already read the study you cited. The reverse chvalry theory seems not only to lack empirical support, but flies in the face of any real world experience I have. I think the more lenient punishments of women can plausibly be explained the women are wonderful effect.

  27. Jacob Schmidt says

    I am amused to note that Pitchguest seems to be the source of the misinterpretation of post 18.

    For this rebuttal to work a common view would be needed that women are not only spiteful, but criminally spiteful, something which is unlikely given the empirical differences in treatment before the law

    “Criminally” was not used by Ally. If Ally would like to specify “criminally spiteful” I’d broadly agree, but note that there seems to be a contingent of people who believe that many or most rape claims are made in spite.

  28. says

    Schmidt, 31

    The criminal part comes from reading the Ally quote in context. He refers to “bloody nasty things” done out of spite while discussing an instance of inexplicable criminal behavior.

    The contigent that believes “most [as opposed to some] rape claims are made of spite” is rather narrow in my experience.

  29. WM says

    Tell you what, Ally, I just thought of a good essay title for a future Hetpat piece, namely,
    “How I learned to stop worrying and love the patriarchy.” :)
    ‘Cause you know I’ve been dwelling on this, and it would seem to me that you have actually
    in some ways become (though quite inadvertently, of course) an agent for
    some of patriarchy’s own sacredly held beliefs.

    O.k., so how does this work? Well, you know this idea you keep putting forward, that feminism
    is primarily defined by being bold, daring and progressive, well this is exactly the same
    bluddy message I keep on getting from many of the most powerful and red-in-tooth-and-claw
    capitalist institutions in the country. For example, someone in my household (won’t
    name and shame them) regularly takes the bankers’ papers of choice, The Sunday Times and
    The Telegraph. These publications keep on coming up with these large sections devoted to
    ‘women-only empowerment schemes’, with Twitter hashtags like #GirlsGetAhead and so on.
    Barclays bank has been the major sponsor of the Corston Commission on prison reform,
    and in recent decades Fawcett has been sponsored by similarly large high-street
    banks (i.e. completely no holds barred, free-market institutions). David Cameron himself
    goes onto Channel 4 News and declares himself a feminist; he endorses
    addressing domestic violence under the heading ‘Violence Against Women and Girls’,
    and he has clearly given his assent to the ‘women-only’ approach to prison reform. In
    the last PMQ’s before the re-opening of parliament, he told us what a major priority it was
    to increase the number of female engineering students by 50% (regardless, presumably, of
    whether they want to study the subject or not). So, basically, the message put out
    by him and his government is that feminism is part of a ‘modernisation’ agenda,
    which every right-thinking person ought to get behind, since it is after all,
    incredibly trendy and cool, and something which only poorly educated sexist and racist
    UKIP voters could ever criticise.

    Please see, also, the way the Barclays Bank celebrates female economic empowerment
    at the expense of men. in adverts such as this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtgwP5Dg4-4

    and this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pWO0n7ypPiY

    Phenomena such as these are things which your own theory of patriarchy, Ally,
    does not even start to offer an explanation for as far as I can see.

    So there you go. But y’ know, the strangest thing of all is that the more powerful
    and diverse the sources are which keep on telling me that feminism is this
    brave, anti-establishment project (i.e. you, Cameron, Radio 4, the Sunday Times,
    Barclays, etc.) the less inclined I am to believe it. Now how utterly weird is that!! :)

  30. WM says

    Oops, sorry, obviously ‘anti- establishment’ is slightly the wrong word in that last sentence,
     but you know what I mean, that there’s obviously an effort by Cameron et. el to paint feminism
    as trendy & progressive, etc. 

  31. Ally Fogg says

    Well, you know this idea you keep putting forward, that feminism is primarily defined by being bold, daring and progressive

    Um, no. I don’t. So I’ll stop you there.

    I’ve never put that idea forward and I honestly can’t think what I have said that you could have misinterpreted in such a way as to imagine I’ve either said or believe such a thing.

    What I believe, and what I have said in various ways, at various times, is that feminism is a very broad-ranging political and social movement that includes many wings or elements, many of which are almost entirely in conflict with each other.

    Feminism includes elements that I consider to be radical, bold and daring in progressive and constructive directions. It includes elements that I consider to be radical, bold and daring in quite corrosive and hateful directions. It includes wishy-washy, mainstream, timid, liberal elements, and downright conservative elements.

    Feminism is a movement but it is also an identity, it can be a set of values, it can be an ideology or an intellectual current. it can be all things to all women (and men), for both good and bad.

    Consequently, it can appear to pop up in the most unlikely places, including the kinds of places you suggest, like the business pages of the Sunday Times, or on the lips of David Cameron. David Cameron occasionally pays lip service to feminist ideals when it suits him, but he also pays lip service to the environmentalism while heading a government that is about to fill our geological water shelf with poisonous chemicals then set off explosions to release the last dregs of carbon buried beneath our soil. Strikes me as pretty similar to what he’s done for women.

    I don’t see any contradiction between any of that and what you call “my theory of patriarchy.”

    My theory of patriarchy is that we live in a complex society with countless competing interests and dynamics. We are being pulled and pushed in all sorts of directions at any given time. You know the Waltzers at the fair? Those wee cars that spin around in different directions, lurch left and right unpredictably, but underneath they are all being driven by one big engine? That engine underneath is capitalist hegemony, and ultimately everything that matters is serving that. Patriarchy is one of the cogs that makes everything work. Feminism is one of the forces that occasionally pulls us in a different direction.

    Anyway, you keep popping up here on these threads, Mr Malone, and making these long suppositions about what I say and believe, most of which are entirely incorrect, and then you attempt to put words in my mouth.

    It might be better if you just spelled out directly what it is that you believe yourself about feminism or whatever else, and we could talk about that instead. What is it you are trying to say here?

  32. Jacob Schmidt says

    He refers to “bloody nasty things” done out of spite while discussing an instance of inexplicable criminal behavior.

    I am generally reluctant to interpret a signal from a single example. In any case, “Bloody nasty things” are hardly limited to criminal behaviour, and criminal behaviour is hardly limited to “bloody nasty things.”

    That’s somewhat too much interpretation for my preferences.

  33. says

    In any case, “Bloody nasty things” are hardly limited to criminal behaviour, and criminal behaviour is hardly limited to “bloody nasty things.”

    Just as cuts are not limited to sword wounds and sword wounds are not limited to cuts. Nevertheless in the context of historic fencing, the meaning of “cut” will be narrower and often be a subset of sword wound. Similarly in a discussion of criminal behavior, “bloody nasty things” will refer to criminal behavior with a pretty high probability – especially in this case as Ally was discussing the criminal missbehavior of a particular women and the reactions of people to it, commenting in the above cited way.

    That’s somewhat too much interpretation for my preferences.

    I do not think this is much matter of interpretation but more a matter of what the most likely meaning is.

  34. WM says

    @35 Ally, could I just gently suggest that just ’cause you may have forgotten things which you 
    yourself have written doesn’t necessarily mean that you didn’t write them, or that they might not
     be in some way representative of your thoughts as a a commentator/writer. 

     Um, no. I don’t. So I’ll stop you there.

    I’ve never put that idea forward and I honestly can’t think what I have said that you could have misinterpreted in such a way as to imagine I’ve either said or believe such a thing.  

    Really? Like, really?! :) 

    I mean, if you look back at the following thread alone, you’ll find that you’ve made various
     statements about how you define feminism from a personal point of view, and they are a lot 
    more categorical than the far more nebulous & non-commital definition you’ve given here. 

     Just a few excerpts from there which I think prove my point fairly well (& I don’t think
     these can really be viewed as ‘quote-mining’, since in the whole context of thread,
     I think they are quite strongly representative of the ideas you’re putting forward:) 

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/hetpat/2013/11/08/this-weeks-witterings-at-large/

      
      “there is such a thing as true feminism, and by my definition
      (and I stress it is only my definition) true feminism is a movement for change
    for the welfare and emancipation of women.” 

    (Which for starters I think covers the ‘progressive’ part fairly well.  Such a movement 
    would surely consider itself progressive after all, even if others do not.)

    Then..

     “social conservatism, economic conservatism, the industry of sexualised portrayal of women etc etc etc, are all anti-feminist positions. They don’t need to bill themselves as such in order to serve that function.” 

    “Feminism is, at least in theory, a challenge to the established political and cultural structure of society. So any position that seeks to retain the established political and cultural structure of society in those respects is anti-feminist.” 

     “any position that seeks to retain the established political and cultural structure of society with respect to gender is anti-feminist.”  

       “Large corporations *are* conservatism”.  

      “My definition does make conservative feminism an oxymoron – a contradiction in terms.”  

     So, all in all, I think suggesting that you’ve portrayed feminism as progressive, bold and radical,  
    is fair enough, really.  All I’m saying is that I don’t think it corresponds to the reality of the situation
    –  plus it can be flippin’ annoying, since it’s also how it’s depicted by some of the most
     powerful people and institutions in the country on a regular basis as well. (Though 
    not in exactly the same terms as your own,  needless to say.)

  35. says

    WM, thanks, I was on the verge of making a complation myself, but you beat me to it. Let t be said that this list is not exhaustive and there are other examples.

  36. Ally Fogg says

    First thing WM is that even in that quote you’ve found I am quite clear that I am offering a very personal interpretation of what feminism means to me, while explicitly acknowledging that it means different things to different people.

    I do not dispute that there are some self-identifying feminists who are up to their neck in the mainstream capitalist establishment, including those who call themselves conservatives. That was the whole starting point of the discussion that you took my words from.

    So what are you saying now? That I’m wrong because some feminists are up to their neck in the conservative capitalist establishment?

    I’d be pretty sure that as a simple matter of headcount, here are vastly more feminists involved in the trades union movement, in the radical environmental movement, in the anarchist anti-globalisation movements etc etc etc.

    My analysis allows for feminists(and feminism) to be involved in both. Does yours?

  37. W.M. says

    Well y’know Ally, I’m quite happy to accept the definition of feminism offered by the President of the most high-profile feminist group in the UK, who says “I always define feminism in a very straightforward manner: that we want to promote women’s interests’. Well, I guess that seems pretty comprehensive and broad-ranging.
    So if a group acts in its own self-interest, is that more of a left-wing or a right-wing thing? I suppose it could be either, but it’s hard to say that it’s a left-wing thing exclusively.
    What I find a bit daft & silly, though, is this idea that feminism is incredibly courageous in taking on the establishment and ‘taking on the man,’ when they are so often actively aided by this supposedly patriarchal establishment in many of the things that they do.

    You asked what I think, and ultimately I think it blends into a wider picture of causes adopted by an elite metropolitan class who play cynical, manipulative power games with the rest of society for their own benefit. (Though I certainly wouldn’t include you in that category – I think you’re just a bit idealistic and naive, that’s all!) ;-)

  38. Ally Fogg says

    Well, I guess that seems pretty comprehensive and broad-ranging.
    So if a group acts in its own self-interest, is that more of a left-wing or a right-wing thing? I suppose it could be either, but it’s hard to say that it’s a left-wing thing exclusively.

    As you say, it could be either, depending how it is done.

    What I find a bit daft & silly, though, is this idea that feminism is incredibly courageous in taking on the establishment and ‘taking on the man,’ when they are so often actively aided by this supposedly patriarchal establishment in many of the things that they do.

    it is a bit daft and silly
    .
    It is a daft and silly straw man which you have yourself .built

    I think the feminists in parts of the US who volunteer to accompany vulnerable women to abortion clinics to run the gauntlet of murderous Christian fundamentalists screaming at them and threatening them are pretty courageous. I think the feminist grannies at the Peace Camp at Menwith Hill who have been arrested hundreds of times for trying to inrterrupt and expose the US military-industrial and surveillance complex are pretty courageous. I think the women over the decades who have gone on strike for equal pay and rights at work are pretty courageous.

    I think the CEOs and high-flying businesswomen who make up the shoulder-pad features in the Financial Times How To Spend It supplement are not really in the same ballpark.

    I repeat – feminism is an exceptionally wide-ranging and multi-faceted ideology, current, movement and identity. It can sometimes be courageous. It can sometimes be complicit..

  39. WM says

     It is a daft and silly straw man which you have yourself built 

    Ally, it’s not a straw man, it’s just what you’ve said!) :-)

     Now if you want to get behind a rather more sensible definition of feminism
    (as you’ve offered here in this thread) that’s fine, but I do reckon it’s 
    perhaps a bit naughty to just flat out deny stuff that you’ve come out with in the past. 

    And here also

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/hetpat/2014/01/11/im-only-writing-this-to-get-laid-or-am-i/

    if I can just direct you to post 272:- 


    A/ I assert (and yes, it is no more than an assertion) that feminism is a movement for social, political and cultural change. This is why I have said several times that I find the idea of conservative feminism (cf Louise Mensch) to be a contradiction in terms. I fully accept that others disagree with me on that, but when I talk about feminism, that is what I mean.

    B/ I also assert that the most powerful forces in society, media, culture etc are those which protect the existing order of power, wealth and economic dynamics. In other words, conservative forces. Within this I would include the great majority of mass media, popular culture, etc, all those things that are owned by Murdoch, Disney, Sony Corporation etc etc etc. If those corporations are promoting a socially conservative message,* then they must be promoting an anti-feminist message EVEN IF THEY ARE NOT MENTIONING GENDER because what they are promoting is fundamentally incompatible with feminist goals. 

    *I just put an asterix here because I think it’s only fair to point out that if such institutions are 
    in essence ‘conservative forces’ then it follows that these messages will be conservative 
    most of the time. 

    In the the thread I linked to earlier, you find exactly the same set of concepts
    laid out there as well. 

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/hetpat/2013/11/08/this-weeks-witterings-at-large/

    In post 35. you state quite plainly you believe that

     “Large corporations *are* conservatism.”   (No messing around with context here, that’s clearly
    the intended meaning). 

    While in 27. you’ve stated that: 

      “social conservatism, economic conservatism, the industry of sexualised portrayal of women etc etc etc, are all anti-feminist positions. They don’t need to bill themselves as such in order to serve that function”. 

    And finally post 109. states that   “my definition does make conservative feminism an oxymoron – a contradiction in terms.”  

    So in other words, your entire definition of feminism has been something which
     sets itself against patriarchy, 
    otherwise it’s  apparently not even really feminism at all, anyway (i.e., ‘conservative feminism’,
     which I believe has  in fact become one of the most dominant forms in this country
    in the media and politics over the past few decades.)

  40. Jacob Schmidt says

    So, all in all, I think suggesting that you’ve portrayed feminism as progressive, bold and radical,
    is fair enough, really.

    What the hell are you on about? Most examples given contain disclaimers clearly indicating that Ally is only talking about a subsection. In several cases, it’s Ally’s personal definition; in one case, the subsection is theoretical.

    Honestly, this isn’t difficult.

  41. WM says

    Well thanks Jacob but unless you can explain how and why you think these things make a difference
     I’ll remain unconvinced. 
    As I’ve said before, Ally’s a nice guy, and 95% of his journalism I’d agree with,
     but he does very occasionally come up with some incredibly silly suggestions and I think it’s only
    fair to tell him if these are not realistic or sustainable against the weight of facts and evidence.  

  42. Jacob Schmidt says

    I think you can figure out the difference between the whole and a part on your own.

  43. WM says

    @46. Yes, as I’m sure can you. But it’s no good coming up with a some vague refutation which
     goes along the lines of  ‘X relates to some undefined subsection that I will not name, 
    and because the term ‘theory’ has been invoked, this automatically debunks all you’re saying.

    (Not your exact words, obviously, but the style of argument you’re presenting). 

     What you’d need to do is come up with a cogent and coherent explanation as to why what
     I’ve said is wrong and to spell that out. Which (sorry) so far you’ve completely failed to do!

  44. Ally Fogg says

    W.M..(43)

    I’m not being deliberately awkward or belligerent when I say I honestly do not have a clue what point you think you are making.

    There is some kind of disconnect between us, where I think I’m explaining myself perfectly clearly, but I don’t believe I am either denying or contradicting anything I’ve said in the past. It seems to me everything I’ve said here, and everything you’ve quoted me saying elsewhere, is all perfectly coherent and consistent.

    However obviously I am not understanding you or else you are not understanding me. In either case, I declare myself entirely flummoxed.

    But let me try one more time.

    1. I believe that ideally feminism should be a movement or ideology which is to an extent radical and aimed at changing society, including the social systems we commonly call patriarchy.

    2. Many other people have different beliefs about what feminism should be. Often these are incompatible and contradictory. These include people who consider themselves feminists but have no wish to challenge the economic and social status quo. These may even be people who benefit personally from the status quo and/or.who are part of the very establishment which I (and many feminists) believe needs to be challenged and changed.

    3. Nobody (least of all a non-feminist man like me) has the authority to dictate definitively what feminism is and is not. We all, however, are entitled to an opinion about what it should be or what we would like it to be.

    Now, where’s your problem?

  45. WM says

    “I believe that ideally feminism should be a movement or ideology which is to an extent radical and aimed at changing society, including the social systems we commonly call patriarchy. “

    Ah well that’s fine, I’ve absolutely no problem with that, so long that the distinction
     is clearly preserved between concepts such as (my own words here of course), say,
     “I assert that X social movement is like such and such in nature” and then “this is what I’d want X 
    social movement to be like, ideally, in some sort of utopian parallel universe,
     though I do recognise the reality may be very different to that.”

    What I certainly don’t think should be allowed, however, is for certain professional feminists
     to paint themselves as bold and revolutionary, whilst enjoying the support of
     people like Barclays and Cameron. 

  46. Ally Fogg says

    What I certainly don’t think should be allowed, however, is for certain professional feminists
    to paint themselves as bold and revolutionary, whilst enjoying the support of people like Barclays and Cameron.

    Well whoever those people are, I suggest you track them down and have this conversation with them.

  47. Jacob Schmidt says

    But it’s no good coming up with a some vague refutation which
    goes along the lines of ‘X relates to some undefined subsection that I will not name,
    and because the term ‘theory’ has been invoked, this automatically debunks all you’re saying.‘
    (Not your exact words, obviously, but the style of argument you’re presenting).

    What you’d need to do is come up with a cogent and coherent explanation as to why what
    I’ve said is wrong and to spell that out. Which (sorry) so far you’ve completely failed to do!</blockquote?

    What's hilarious is that your refutation of my "refutation" is nothing more than assertion; it isn't an argument, cogent or otherwise.

  48. Steersman says

    Ally (#42):

    I repeat – feminism is an exceptionally wide-ranging and multi-faceted ideology, current, movement and identity. It can sometimes be courageous. It can sometimes be complicit..

    Quite agree, although I would throw in there the adjective “contradictory”. Which is why I think that “WM” might have a bit of a point in taking you to task, or trying to, for arguing, for example of several, that “conservative feminism (cf Louise Mensch) to be a contradiction in terms”. Seems to me that “feminism” is rather analogous to the “Christianity” described or characterized by the American newspaper columnist and author Philip Wylie:

    Those who belonged to churches belonged to so many different faiths at swords’ points with each other on matters of creed and technique that even the definition of Christianity crumples to absurdity. [Generation of Vipers]

    One might argue, analogously, that considering the “diversity” within “feminism” – quoted to emphasize those contradictory elements – that even its definition also “crumples to an absurdity”. The only reasonable response, I think, is to question what are the specific arguments being presented, and to not allow any previous “claims to fame” based on a generic term give those arguments more cachet than are justified by the facts at hand. Which all too many wish to do and which might reasonably be characterized as propaganda at best if not egregious demagoguery.

  49. Marduk says

    It does seem to have some special problems with contradiction.
    This is I think because its both a theory and a campaigning movement. Most things are not both.
    There is a particular trap of auto reductio ad absurdum as a result. You can see that in this weeks Graun as several columnists attempt to wrestle with the events in Magaluf. Someone has been a victim of something that is completely ok only wrong because erm, er, well if it was on film it would normalise, er, something thats ok but the victim, that is the empowered er, er, er.

    They’ve tied themselves completely in knots at this point, I’d say the plan from here will be to stop talking about it and never mention it again.

    Theory is about challenge and change, campaigning is about sticking to your guns. When you’re sticking to a theory you can’t change, its leads to this kind of mess imho.

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