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Skeptical Hypocrisy

As I read more of the commentary at Pharyngula on the gendered bunny situation, I am starting to realize what is going on there. It appears that you have a large number of d00ds who claim to be “skeptics” who are making all sorts of claims about sexism, misogyny, and women’s oppression–and even claim to be feminists–who don’t know jack diddly fucke about even the most basic aspects of feminist theory.

For example, here’s one d00d who’s all buttehurtte because the women aren’t falling all over themselves in gratitude for his supposed feminism:

The reason I even bothered to respond again was to make a larger point. I am a feminist. It does not matter if the people on this board believe it, because it happens to be true. I’m on your side. No, I’m not a woman. No, I will never know what it’s like to be a woman. But, sometimes, people inside a group can learn things from the observations and opinions of someone outside the group. Sometimes, when a group has been oppressed for so long and suffered so much discrimination they see enemies where there are none.

That he thinks any of this has to do with searching for “enemies” indcates very clearly that his claims to be a feminist are empty. Achieve a basic understanding of feminist theory, and he will discover that feminism has nothing to do with dividing the world into individuals who are sexist–and thus “enemies” to be attacked because they are the cause of women’s oppression–and individuals who are non-sexist–and thus “friends” who are immune from criticism because nothing they do causes women’s oppression.

That’s my point. Agree with it, don’t. It’s up to you. But if you judge me differently for my opinion because I’m a man and a feminist instead of a woman and a feminist, then perhaps you should examine your own gender bias, just as I try to examine my own.

Yeah, itte’s those damn bitchez who are the real sexists! RESPECT MAH FEMINIZMS!@!!11!!!

The dissonance between Pharynguloid assertions to “revere women”, to be “on women’s side”, to be “feminists”, etc, and the reality of their overwhelming ignorance of the basics of feminist theory is remarkable. You’d think skeptics would want to learn what feminism is before they go spouting off about it. If supposed skeptic d00ds like this really gave a fucken shitte about feminism–and didn’t just want to use it as a platform for ignorant mansplaining–they’d go do their fucken homework first.

Comments

  1. says

    I suspect a lot of these folks are really just religious nuts under a different name. They want to belong to a club that allows them to put other people down, not to have to actually think critically about things.

  2. says

    I just loved this post!

    I’m a little bit tired of people trying to play the role of victims seeking for personal revenge against a group of “non-feminists”.

    I know there are men who are anti-sexist, but there are also many men who try to take over the so called “feminist speech” to discredit women.

    I’m sick of this.

    I think both men and women should stop acting like kids and start acting like cientists. Study the matter before talk passionately about something you don’t know!!!

  3. Mulva says

    It was pretty clear to me that d00d was trying to defuse the Us vs. Them mentality, which is pretty common at Pharyngula after all. The connection to “feminist theory” seems rather beside the point.

  4. says

    I usually put it as “I like to consider myself a feminist” or something along those lines, rather than simply assert it outright, since a) I recognize some people don’t consider that a man can truly be a feminist, and while I don’t think that’s a particularly useful definition or a particularly helpful attitude, I totally understand where it is coming from and if somebody sees it that way I’m more or less willing to concede what they are getting at; and b) a man can really only approach women’s issues with the utmost humility. FWIW.

  5. says

    The feminization of religion in the Christian west is a very old trope–but let’s be clear that women in the vast majority of religious traditions worldwide are not shepherds, they’re members of the flock. Religious leadership worldwide remains either an exclusively male thing or merely an overwhelmingly male phenomenon.

    So in this light, gendering the religious bunny female seems more about perpetuating misogynist stereotypes rather than skepticism.

  6. Graystone says

    Good grief, hypocrisy upon hypocrisy here.

    If you were really concerned about rational approaches — that is, not simply labeling enemies and friends — then you wouldn’t have called the guy “d00d”. That’s a pejorative on feminist blogs, and it’s used to label enemies.

    Whatever “feminist theory” is, online feminism is indeed characterized by enemies and friends, and it looks like your “d00d” was addressing that online culture.

  7. says

    Religious leadership worldwide remains either an exclusively male thing or merely an overwhelmingly male phenomenon.

    @Historiann that is true, but, percentage wise, very few men actually achieve any standing in their church, most are part of the flock just as women are. Personally, I reject the idea that putting women on some sort of pedestal where they are never perceived as doing wrong is good. I see it as almost as bad as constantly portraying them as inferior in some way. I think the end result of this pedestal mentality is BS like Womanspace http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v477/n7366/full/477626a.html where even the complements are backhanded. We see this play out in TV shows and commercials all the time. The wife is always this long suffering, mom to her kids AND her bumbling husband and everyone just shrugs their shoulders when the man does something stupid…again [insert laugh track].

    Overall, I do want to see more of female skeptics, scientists, and atheists and if bunny-cartoonist comes out with a series, I would hope that the female bunnies wouldn’t be relegated to mindless drone status at all times. That would definitely be worth addressing. But I agree with PZ that 1 cartoon isn’t a sufficient sample size to bring down the hammer and since I feel that equality means just that: that both men and women can be irrational, I don’t feel that every women ever portrayed in any skeptical cartoon ever has to exhibit skeptical perfection.

  8. SallyStrange, Spawn of Cthulhu says

    Rational people can agree to disagree about whether it’s warranted to see sexism in a cartoon with a pair of gendered bunnies.

    Irrational people will react to someone seeing sexism in a cartoon with a pair of gendered bunnies and start screaming about how feminists are a bunch of hysterical killjoys and they should really shut the fuck up about sexism because it’s just a stupid cartoon and there are more important things to be talking about.

  9. SallyStrange, Spawn of Cthulhu says

    If you were really concerned about rational approaches — that is, not simply labeling enemies and friends — then you wouldn’t have called the guy “d00d”.

    Tone is everything! You can’t have allies unless you never call an asshole an asshole!

  10. says

    Marnie: “Personally, I reject the idea that putting women on some sort of pedestal where they are never perceived as doing wrong is good.

    (Syntax??)

    Please show me where my comment does anything but point to the domination of religious leadership by men. That was my only point. I did not say anything that would tend to “[put]. . .women on some sort of pedestal.”

    I’ve noticed that in popular (vs. scholarly) discourse, feminism is reduced to the notion that women are morally superior to men. Please note that this has not been mainstream feminist thought since at least the 1890s. Marnie, you might want to update at least 120 years.

  11. says

    @Historiann

    (Syntax??)

    Please show me where my comment does anything but point to the domination of religious leadership by men.

    I believe I addressed that point by indicating that the vast majority of religious people, regardless of gender, are not religious leaders. If we say that it’s off limits to portray a woman as a believer, then I don’t believe we are achieving equality, we are simple overcompensating and, on to my other points above that ends up being just as demeaning to women in the end.

    We have no context for this unattributed cartoon on the net. It may have been created by a screaming MRA who despises all women or it could have been created by someone illustrating how he/she interprets an actual interaction that he/she witnessed. This may have been intended for a wide audience or as an in joke between some friends.

    I mean, heck, we could all get up in arms that everyone is sure of the gender identity of either bunny and presumed that a rational bunny in pants has to be a man. I almost never wear skirts, but I’m still pretty solidly a woman, atheist and skeptic.

    But I digress, my point really is that there is no indication that this example is sexist and it’s a lot of chasing our tails to worry ourselves over it. There are real examples of obvious and not so obvious misogyny out there that are far more deserving of our attention.

  12. wigwam says

    Ah, you bunch o’ fuckin’ lesbofems. Grow uppe an’ realize where the reale fightz are…!…!

  13. says

    @wigwam is that comment addressed to me? I definitely consider myself a feminist and I most certainly get bent out of shape over misogyny. I was team rebecca in elevator gate, I wrote to the dean over this situation http://thewelltimedperiod.blogspot.com/2011/10/nursing-student-ben-cochran.html and I have major issues with Nature publishing the Womanspace story that I linked to above. You can see my comment there. There are some real and serious battles to fight in feminism and I’ve argued with enough MRAs over all of the above to know that we have a long way to go. But without some context to the bunny graphic, I’m just not really sure what we are battling here. We have no idea who even created this graphic so there’s no one to even confirm that it’s a boy and girl bunny and whether there was any particular reason their genders matter. There are no other cartoons that we know of by the original artists to determine if this is a consistent pattern, part of a random pattern or completely anomalous. I don’t know what calling it sexist even resolves. Are we telling people that they cannot portray female believers? What is the point?

    If you have an actual argument about my point of view, I’m happy to consider it. I may consider myself a feminist and I may be a woman, but I can still be incorrect and I’d be happy to reconsider if I’m missing something, but from what I’ve seen so far, we have no one to lynch and no evidence that these bunnies are emblematic of someone’s latent misogyny, so I don’t really see what the point is.

  14. Saurs says

    Actually, Marnie, we do have plenty of first-hand knowledge as to the context in which the cartoon was thought and drawn up, so your comment is mostly for naught. The author cum artist specifically addressed this topic — “girl” bunny chosen deliberately as the unthinking, brainwashed, possibly dangerous conformist because that’s just how ladies are — the same month he debuted it. You can follow this discussion by referring to the comment thread under PhysioProffe’s first post on the subject. Homework, do yours.

  15. Sauron says

    You are willfully fucking ignorant. Way to go, dude.

    Yes, yes, skeptifem, thank you for emphasizing this point. The words directly following what you quoted are: “online feminism is indeed characterized by enemies and friends”.

    Thank you, skeptifem, for stepping in to create an illustrative example.

  16. says

    Marnie, I think you’ll find that the issue isn’t really the drawing. Yes, it’s sad to see that tired old trope of {pink, skirt, dumb} paired with {blue, trousers, smart}, because it detracts a bit from the message. It’s the same boring old trivial sexism that we see every day.

    But don’t you dare say that out loud, or the menz division will be swooping in and calling you a feminazi. And that’s the actual issue.

  17. says

    So, every evangelical Christian I’ve called “willfully ignorant” was really my enemy? Nah, I don’t buy it, Sauron. That’s just not how I think about them; having been an evangelical Christian years ago, I think of them as people I can reach out to in a common language, and potentially liberate. But willfully ignorant, also, as I was.

  18. says

    It is far more productive to divide the online world into occasional dumbasses and frequent dumbasses rather than friends and enemies, mansplainin’ dood.

  19. SallyStrange, Spawn of Cthulhu says

    The words directly following what you quoted are: “online feminism is indeed characterized by enemies and friends”.

    Those words are bullshit. Which is exactly what Skeptifem was demonstrating.

  20. ChasCPeterson says

    “girl” bunny chosen deliberately as the unthinking, brainwashed, possibly dangerous conformist because that’s just how ladies are

    lol
    That’s the most uncharitable spin possible, to the point of intentional disingenuousness.
    The cartoonist’s problem was which bunny to have stand in for ‘religious people’ in the allegory. Not (necessarily) unthinking, brainwashed, possibly dangerous(?!), or conformist.
    Religious.
    The fact of the matter is that women tend to be more religious–in belief and practice–than men. This is empirical and robust (accordong to my understanding) across cultures.
    The cartoonist made a rational choice based on data.
    Many people seem to think the cartoonist should have made an ideological choice instead.
    *shrug*
    Take yer pick, but at least adhere to the facts of the case.

  21. SallyStrange, Spawn of Cthulhu says

    I happen to think the cartoonist made a defensible choice, based on facts. I also see how that choice reinforced, rather than challenged, sexist stereotypes.

    But again, I must reiterate: the truly irrational response to all of this is to feel hostility and anger towards the person who noted that the cartoon reinforced some sexist stereotypes, and urge that person to STFU instead of just disagreeing.

  22. SallyStrange, Spawn of Cthulhu says

    The cartoonist made a rational choice based on data.
    Many people seem to think the cartoonist should have made an ideological choice instead.

    The choice to gender the bunnies was an ideological choice to begin with.

  23. john says

    This idea that you can’t criticize or even talk about feminism without studying feminist theory, reminds me of the argument that people like Dawkins cannot ridicule religion, because they don’t understand or have studied Theology.

  24. says

    Oh, I dunno, John, it seems pretty silly to ridicule things that aren’t true because you’re too ignorant to find out what’s actually going on no matter what the context. Otherwise it’s just dogma in a different format… it must be true because my gut tells me it is so, therefore I believe.

    I will also say that Dawkins has shown pretty conclusively that he is pretty ignorant on feminism. Personally I wouldn’t have picked him as an example in any sort of argument in which women’s rights are involved.

  25. john says

    Nicoleandmaggie,

    Well perhaps Dawkins shouldn’t be taken seriously in his criticisms of religion. He is an ignoramus concerning feminism and theology.

  26. says

    Presumably someone needs at least some knowledge of what one is talking about. One doesn’t need a PhD in the subject, but one could spend a little time figuring out the basics before making claims. I don’t think anyone is arguing that everybody needs to get degrees in feminist studies to discuss feminism. Just you know, they need to get clues about at least the basics.

  27. physioprof says

    This idea that you can’t criticize or even talk about feminism without studying feminist theory, reminds me of the argument that people like Dawkins cannot ridicule religion, because they don’t understand or have studied Theology.

    That is because you are either woefully clueless or a disingenuous sacke of shitte. The correct analogy is between discussing feminism without understanding that its defining focus is on systemic misogyny and oppression and not on the “sexism” of individuals, and discussing religion without understanding that its defining focus is on the existence of supernatural entities with power over the natural world and not on whether jesus is the son of god.

  28. daenyx says

    @Nicoleandmaggie #1 -

    I suspect a lot of these folks are really just religious nuts under a different name. They want to belong to a club that allows them to put other people down, not to have to actually think critically about things.

    Some, perhaps, but probably not as many as you’d think. I know many otherwise-decent men who just can’t get over the idea of how their privilege disqualifies them from getting to define what is misogynistic. They’re not trolling, and they hold that they ARE thinking critically, and the privilege argument is something that combats critical thinking. And I have been around and around and around that fucked-up merry-go-round with one of them who is otherwise very dear to me, and it fucking sucks. They just fundamentally do not get the concept of privilege, and they’ve found people on the internet who will tell them that challenging privilege is just a silencing tactic, so they’re now immune to discourse about it.

  29. says

    Yes, yes, skeptifem, thank you for emphasizing this point. The words directly following what you quoted are: “online feminism is indeed characterized by enemies and friends”.

    Thank you, skeptifem, for stepping in to create an illustrative example.

    So someone proclaimed their willful ignorance, I pointed that out, but I was deeming them an enemy by doing so? If I wanted to call him my enemy, I would have done so. I don’t have difficulty being direct, so there is no need to assume things (that weren’t even implied, really).

    You left out the part where you pose a better alternative to my reaction to a willfully ignorant poster; I guess I should have ignored someone proclaiming their proud ignorance of the pertinent subject matter? Or is it just that you think I should have been nicer about pointing out that a poster is unwilling to read up on women’s studies before forming an opinion and sharing it in a thread about women’s studies? Or do you think that criticizing a person’s behavior is equal to demonizing them? What kind of bullshit is this- according to you I can’t criticize deplorable behavior when I see it because of the way I will be perceived afterwards, rather than based on the merit of my observations. Why should I give two shits about what you think, after you’ve displayed such intellectual sloth?

  30. says

    This idea that you can’t criticize or even talk about feminism without studying feminist theory, reminds me of the argument that people like Dawkins cannot ridicule religion, because they don’t understand or have studied Theology.

    I know its like almost as ridiculous as the idea that dawkin’s won’t debate someone about evolution unless they have studied biology!! Or the way skeptics dismiss creationists without biology education when they try to talk about evolution! OH SHIT! See what I did there? These are all arguments from authority. It all depends on the merit of the authority in question, but that isn’t a conversation that can be realistically had with people without a working knowledge of feminist theory. You can’t discuss the worthiness of the material if you have never fucking read it.

  31. Grace says

    How would guys feel if their human rights were treated like some kind of special interest lobby (and that’s when people are being kind)? There is no danger of that happening because men are the default human always, everywhere.

    So when women try to challenge this, we are seen as outrageously shril and strident, promoting an ‘unscientific ideology’ according to many atheist/skeptical men I’ve encountered. It’s rarely seen as about basic human rights, we are just some weirdo special interest group.

    It’s heartwarming how contempt/hatred for women unites men, from religious fanatics to atheists, liberals to conservatives, and everything in between.

  32. says

    DAOTI? Haven’t seen this one before, the only thing Im coming up with is ‘Dumb Ass on the Internet.’ Is this right or can someone fill me in if not. KTB

  33. says

    @Grace– No, not all men. Just men with tiny penises or other reasons that they’re trying to compensate for feeling inferior by putting a group down.

    The patriarchy is all around and infects everyone, male and female, but the hatred for and proclaimed contempt of women part is composed solely of losers.

  34. julian says

    Well perhaps Dawkins shouldn’t be taken seriously in his criticisms of religion. He is an ignoramus concerning feminism and theology.

    Perhaps Karen Armstrong should be taken seriously in her criticisms of atheism and Richard Dawkins in particular despite knowing little, if anything, about atheists or why so many of us are atheists?

    We should have some knowledge (real knowledge. Not just the gibberish you picked up at inmalafide) if we’re going to criticize something. And when your criticisms amount to nonsensical strawmen or it’s well known you are far from an expert in this field, why should you be taken seriously?

    That, I think, is a much better question to ask. Why should I take Richard Dawkins seriously when it comes to feminism when he clearly knows nothing about it?

  35. twooffour says

    Hi, I’m an atheist dood (a skeptic in theory, but not nearly rigorous enough in practice – this should improve with time), and I’d like to file my offishul complaint about this sexist misrepresentation that my gender is just a bunch of stupid mor(m)ons (get it, the pun!), and women actually can be smart atheists.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQQr9EnJuS4

    Women have no right to complain or join in – you’ve got the privilege of having grown up with C.S.Lewis’ Magician’s Nephew, in which the girl is smart and the boy is dumbz, you don’t know what it’s like to read through that sh** and constantly screaming at the book “dude, no, wtf, we aren’t all such douchebags! it should be the other way round”.

    I don’t care if you don’t oppress men, I’m more like against the systemic tropes and prejudices that exist against my gender in popular culture and society, rather than the other way round.

    Someone here said that men wouldn’t like seeing their equal rights reduced to a spiteful special interest lobby, but isn’t that what’s already happening to at least some degree, considering that men pointing to cases of misandry in society and pop culture can be often seen as some kind of closet misogyny denialists (not referring to anyone on this board or blog, just a vibe I’ve caught in general)?

    I don’t really know that, though. I don’t think weighing out the prejudices makes much sense as they seem to concentrate on different areas of life, anyway.

    On a serious note again, I definitely think I’d be offended if a woman invited me for a coffee in an elevator, like I was just some kind of tool and she had the right to “ask” to avail herself.
    I’m a fucking person, who does she think she is? Also a person??

    If I say no and she’s then like “okay, fine…” or “hey, it’s cool”, hey, you know what, way to show your amazing magnificent generosity! Like there was any need to spell out that it’s “cool” for me to use my god damn right to say no to a creepy woman in an elevator who wants coffee from me!

    Why did she ask me for a cofee…

    Really, women, don’t do *that*… this is really a shining example of the unspoken misandry permeating our society.

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