A quick defence of nuance

(Note: Glosswitch has made her blog private, at least for now. No reason to believe it had anything to do with this, but for the meantime the Google cache of the blog this responds to is here)

Dear Glosswitch

I’m a bit puzzled by the misrepresentation here. I normally let these things wash over me, but about six people have now tweeted me demanding that I go read you, and it seems to make more sense to spell out my position..

I wholeheartedly agree with the first half of your post. However you then go on to say:

Today has seen plenty of men desperate to claim that misogyny has nothing to do with misogyny because hey, that’s way too simple, ladies!

You then go on on to quote me, and no one else, so I presume it is me you are talking about. But anyone who reads my post will see that right at the top, after taking a moment to remember the victims the first point I make is this:

[Mental illness] was never an adequate explanation. Mental illness alone very, very rarely drives people to kill. Hate, bitterness and rage, on the other hand, does so daily. Rodger may or may not have been ill, he may or may not had diagnostic label on his personality or neurological function, we do not know. What we do know, without question, is that he was spitting with misogyny.

Does that read like someone claiming that this was nothing to do with misogyny?

It might also have been slightly fairer to quote me at slightly greater length, because immediately after the paragraph quoted, I go on to say:

Rodger does not appear to have identified as an MRA, and a debate as to whether or not he should be so described will be a pedantic distraction. The ugly truth is that, across much of the manosphere, his rantings are not especially unusual. Somewhere on the internet right this very moment – whether on an Insel site or an MRA site or an MGTOW site or Twitter or Facebook or an atheist forum, it really doesn’t matter – an angry young man will be spitting out his hatred of bitches, whores and sluts.

In other words, the point about whether or not he is an MRA is not me trying to get them off the hook, but the exact opposite. Inaccurately calling Rodger an MRA simply allows actual MRAs to dissociate themselves from him, and lets them dodge their culpability in their shared misogyny. That was my whole bloody point there, and I don’t think I explained it too be clumsily to be understood.

The other point I was making, which may have been missed, is that while I wholeheartedly agree that misogyny and patriarchal entitlement were the driving forces here, there are millions of men with those traits who do not become mass murderers, and the temptation to write Rodger off as a simple and clear cut case of misogyny risks cutting off inquiry into other factors that may have been involved. I mentioned bullying, as one specific detail that seems to apply to every single school / spree shooter, but there may be others unique to Rodger.

In summary, I’ve found the arguments I’ve heard over the past 24 hours a little strange. Primarily, I have been criticised for asking for nuance. (One tweet directing me to this blog simply said “No need for nuance,”

I just can’t buy into that. There is always need for nuance. When Lee Rigby was murdered, I wrote a vaguely similar blog, which also called for nuance. Yes, Rigby was murdered by two Islamist terrorists, but does the story end there? No, it didn’t at the time and it still doesn’t today.

A lot of this reminds me of what John Major once said: “sometimes I think we need to understand a little less and condemn a little more.” I’ve never been able to buy into that. However much we condemn, we can always understand a little more.

I have no problem with people disagreeing with me on any point, telling me I am wrong. But very few people have been doing that over the past 24 hours. They haven’t been telling me I am wrong, they’ve just been saying “how dare you say that?”

I find that quite a depressing reaction in any circumstance.

A quick update on moderation policy

There’s something that I’ve had to take action on several occasions in recent weeks. It is something which I personally consider very serious and I thought I should spell it out.

I will not tolerate references to someone’s (supposed) mental health status as an ad hominem attack.

I’m particularly thinking of things like

  • References to people being on or off their meds.
  • Descriptions of people as ‘mad’ ‘nutters’ or ‘looneys’

In general, I’d ask you to think twice before using words like that at all, but in general I’m not that fussed when people describe ideas, concepts or arguments as ‘nuts’, ‘crazy’ etc, and I certainly don’t have a problem with phrases which clearly refer to ideological and political positions (eg wingnuts, whackadoodles or whatever)  – but a direct assertion of mental illness against other commenters is strictly off limits.

Why? Two reasons. The first is that there is a fair possibility that some of the people reading your comments at any given time do indeed have mental health problems and comments like those could quite reasonably make them feel excluded or alienated.

The second is that many of the people I know who have mental health issues – including some that have quite serious psychiatric diagnoses – are highly intelligent and/or educated  people with experiences, opinions and viewpoints that are vastly better thought-out and informed and vastly more intelligent than most so-called ‘sane’ people.

This type of comment is extremely stigmatising and harmful and will not be tolerated here.

You are welcome to discuss this issue below, but I’ll tell you now, this decision is final.

Please take this opportunity to let me know of any other issues you have with moderation here.

Thanks all for your co-operation.

 

I’m only writing this to get laid. Or am I?

Let me tell you about a stupid thing people often say to me. They’ve been saying it to me for years, and I have never written about it before, mostly because it is so full of stupid it feels almost unfair to pick it up and rattle it until all the stupid falls out – like squeezing a puppy until it poops itself or something.

It should be said, this particular little puppy is not just stupid. It is stupid, and insulting and deepy, deeply offensive, specifically to men. I know some people are suspicious of the word misandry but hey, it’s a thing, and the topic of our discussion today is absolutely rotten with loathing and contempt for the male gender.

So what is this rancid little snotbubble of idiocy? It’s the tedious cliche that says any man who says or writes something which could be perceived to be sympathetic to women or feminism must only be doing so in the hope of getting a shag.

Most of the time, the peddlers of this misandrist puppy-poop are men themselves, usually anti-feminist commentators and MRAs. Here’s a typical example from A Voice For Men
sexmotive3

However they are not the only culprits. Last week I found myself unexpectedly whelmed by a torrent of antipathy from the radical feminists of Twitter. It began with a group who simply don’t like me, don’t like my thinking, and don’t like my writing. That’s fair enough, the feeling is pretty much mutual. Along the way, I was treated to this little diagnosis of my motivations.

sexmotive1

So far, so yawn. However as the torrent turned into a tsunami, one of my detractors dug out an old tweet of mine,  referring to the vile and abusive trans-exclusionary radfem (TERF) cabal of Cathy Brennan and pals, in which I’d said that radfems like those are thankfully a dying breed. This opened up a whole new subplot, including this gem

sexmotive2

This is really world-class offensiveness. You would have to look long and far to find a message that manages to squeeze in so much transphobia, homophobia and misandry into 140 little characters.

So what is my issue with this cliche? Let’s start with the stupid.

I’m a 47 year-old father of two, who has been settled in a monogamish relationship for almost exactly 20 years now. If I want to get laid I catch up on the Hoovering and scrub the toilets, pack the kids off to their grandparents for the weekend, make my best curry (with extra ginger) make sure the cats are fed and the dog is walked and we’ve thrown enough coffee down our necks that we don’t fall asleep in front of Celebrity Knitting on Ice, which let’s be honest, we probably will. I don’t argue on the internet about feminism in order to have sex. I argue on the internet about feminism precisely because I’m not having sex, you doofuses.

At this point I was about to go into a predictable rant about how speaking or writing about feminism is an utterly abject approach to getting laid anyway. Buy a guitar or clean under your fingernails instead. Then I realised that, actually, it may not be true.

If you can find someone adequately alluring, who finds you adequately alluring in turn, and you discover a shared interest in the early writings of Shulamith Firestone, then for all I know the erotic sparks will be pinging by midnight. Go for it.  To the best of my knowledge, OK Cupid is not teeming with het-up and horny young guys and gals eager to debate Nussbaum’s theory of objectification, but if two such meteors crash on a shared stellar orbit, then good fucking luck to you both.

The much more important point is that to fall back on this lazy trope implies that the only motivation a man could have to say or do anything is to get sex. Could it be this guy has spent a long time thinking about the moral and political ramifications of various ideological positions and made a conscious (or emotional) decision to adopt certain positions as a matter of principle? Don’t be ridiculous, he’s a man, fnurr fnurr, he can only ever think with his dick, it’s what all men do, innit?

Fuck that shit, once and for all.

I don’t expect any of the radical feminists quoted above to be reading this blog, and even if they did I very much doubt they would care. The plain fact is that most of them actually do hold men in contempt and disdain, quite proudly so. They actually believe shit like this, so they are probably beyond hope.

I expect better of male readers, particularly those who fancy themselves as men’s activists or campaigners against misandry. Perhaps you believe you only think with your dick yourselves, and are holding the rest of us to your standards? Or more probably,  you just don’t have the wit or imagination to come up with rational arguments against the men you target, so fall back on hoary old misandrist cliches? Whatever your excuse, catch yourselves on. Next time it happens I’m pointing the offenders straight to this blog. You’re part of the problem.

Louise Mensch and the grotesque spectacle of white privilege

I have been trying to keep quiet on the ongoing schisms within feminism, and in particular the flare-ups between mainstream or ‘white’ feminism and those broadly grouped under the intersectional banner on social media. I’ve actually written and abandoned a couple of posts, realising they were going to help nobody and risked further hurting some who are already hurting.

Tonight a line was crossed and I can bite my tongue no longer.

On New Year’s Eve, Reni Eddo-Lodge and Caroline Criado-Perez appeared on BBC Women’s Hour as part of a review of the year. Along the way there was an exchange about intersectionality, transcribed here. Reni blogged her account of the experience. Caroline offered an apology. I declined to comment.

In the messy aftermath of the programme, Professor Liz Kelly, whom we might call a doyenne of British radical feminism, tweeted the most ill-advised hashtag I’ve ever seen in support of CCP – #reclaimintersectionalityin2014. I declined to comment.

Tonight, just as I sensed the passions and fury beginning to wane on both sides, Louise Mensch decided to march in with her hobnailed Christian Louboutin stilettos. In an astonishing series of tweets, the former Tory MP firstly accused Reni of bullying:

Reni was wrong and Caroline was wrong to give into her bullying. I wouldn’t have. #feminism

She then went on to describe Reni’s arguments as “rubbish” and “disgraceful” and accused her of trying to ‘silence’ other women.
I make it a personal policy these days to try not to march into debates between feminists, as it generally doesn’t help either side and it certainly doesn’t win me any friends. But this is not about feminism. This is about an embarrassingly privileged white person with wealth, fame, influence and platform on her side, stomping all over a young black person for having the temerity to offer ideas above her station.

The first point to make is that of all the people I know on the broad media left, Reni Eddo-Lodge is about the least prone to bullying and silencing others you could imagine. It is simply not her style. She does not smear others or troll opponents, she does not pick personal fights or call on people to check their privilege. Her blogs and tweets, though politically radical, are measured, studious and impeccably temperate. For what it is worth (and it is not especially relevant) they each contain more wisdom, insight and intelligence than Mensch could summon in a lifetime. I can only conclude that Mensch believes that simply by calling attention to racial dynamics within feminism, Reni is bullying and silencing… who? Well, racists, I guess. The alternative explanation is less flattering but perhaps more credible – that Mensch cannot be bothered distinguishing between one ‘intersectional’ woman and the next, and she was mixing up Reni Eddo-Lodge with some other woman. Do they all look the same to Louise?

We should bear in mind that Mensch has form on this. A few months ago, there was a polite exchange between Laurie Penny and Ava Vidal on Twitter. Laurie had advised ignoring a racist troll, Ava suggested that it wasn’t a white person’s place to decide how we should respond to racism. Laurie agreed, apologised and retracted. All would have been fine until Mensch decided this was some craven submission and wrote an article attacking intersectional feminism that was so ill-informed, ill-advised and ignorant it made your cortex bleed.

Many people are unsure how white privilege looks and is played out in modern society. This is it. This insistence that the racial dynamics structuring our society are the natural order of things and must be beyond challenge. This belief that any black person who does challenge existing systems is a disgraceful bully – however polite, educated and articulate she may be – and must be stamped on at the first opportunity. This is a grotesque spectacle of white privilege raised to an artform.

This week I’ve seen others within feminism ask why intersectional feminists and women of colour must be so mean, so intemperate, so rude. When we see how some in the white establishment treats those who are impeccably polite and mannered, I’m astonished they remain so restrained.

Dear Paul Elam…

Oh hi Paul, how nice of you to take an interest in my writing.

First, credit where due. This line was a zinger:

“Fogg said what MHRAs have been saying since before he could spell DV”.

That’s a great line. it’s spectacularly inaccurate, for what it’s worth, but why let the truth get in the way of a good joke, eh?

But talking about “jokes”, let’s glide over your ad homs, your spurious readings of my motives, and indeed some legitimate differences of opinion about the issues, and look at the bit that seems to have rattled your cage – my reference to your response to that obscene Jezebel piece and thread. You quote yourself saying:

Now, am I serious about this? No.

You carefully omit your next few words.

“Now, am I serious about this? No. Not because it’s wrong. It’s not wrong.”

Yes Paul, it is. It is very wrong in all sorts of ways. First of all, you were not discussing the right to reasonable and immediate self-defence, which nobody seriously challenges. You were revelling in a fantasy of retaliatory violence, peppered with shamelessly misogynistic language and imagery, which is not the same thing at all, as I think a reasonably functioning five year-old could explain.

I’d like to make it the objective for the remainder of this month, and all the Octobers that follow, for men who are being attacked and physically abused by women – to beat the living shit out of them. I don’t mean subdue them, or deliver an open handed pop on the face to get them to settle down. I mean literally to grab them by the hair and smack their face against the wall till the smugness of beating on someone because you know they won’t fight back drains from their nose with a few million red corpuscles.

And then make them clean up the mess.

More significantly, you seem to have this strange idea that it is morally acceptable and politically constructive to spout the most vile, hateful, arguably even criminal shit for paragraph after paragraph, whether it is instructions to beat shit out of women, or fabricated claims that women enjoy being raped, providing you conclude with some variation on “ha ha, only joking. SATIRE SEE?”

I’m not going to insult your intelligence by spelling out to you all the reasons why that type of behaviour is wrong and indeed dangerous. I’m sure you’ve heard it all before. But what astonishes me is that you appear to believe you can pull shit like this and then still expect be taken seriously as a commentator, even a force for social change? You gleefully and knowingly squirt misogyny and hate from every orifice and then get all affronted when people conclude you might in fact be a misogynist, or describe your site as a hate group. What the fuck do you expect?

You suggest your article was “a red herring”. it was more than that. It was a whole basket of rotting, stinking fish carcasses, and three years old or not, it remains a technicolor illustration of everything that is wrong with the men’s rights movement today. It is you. You are the problem. Not so much that you personally have attained a degree of prominence and influence, though that is worrying enough, it is more that the broader movement is prepared to indulge you, laugh along, defend you from criticism say things like “oh that’s just Paul being Paul, he doesn’t really mean it.” The fuck you don’t. The men’s rights movement is swimming in so much misogyny that it has become oblivious to it, like a fish is oblivious to water. You may recognise that metaphor from somewhere. You cannot judge a movement by the rantings of one individual. You can judge a movement by how it reacts to that individual.

The rest of the MRM needs to recognise and address the fact that you, and a fair few others of your ilk, regularly drop huge, steaming turds which pollute and poison the whole pool. I honestly hope they can recognise it, because until that happens those of us who genuinely care about the welfare and wellbeing of men and boys and try to do something about it will continue to work under the putrid pong wafting from the pool next door.

The ultimate, indeed the only victims of that are vulnerable men and boys.