Another one cries out for attention

A woman I don’t know, called Lucy Wainwright*, just tweeted me a link to a blog post she wrote. Nothing else, no greeting or explanation, just the link. That always looks kind of Mabusy, from a stranger, or else more than kind of spammy. But anyway she sent it, so she must want me to draw attention it. Ok.

It’s titled Failing at Feminism: a how-to guide.

Right, can we get something straight here, do we think?

No one who insists that a woman should be protected from unpleasant messages, from invitations to coffee, or from criticism because she is a woman is any kind of feminist.

So, are we insisting that a woman should be protected from unpleasant messages, from invitations to coffee, or from criticism?

One at a time.

Protected from? No. That’s not the claim, and never has been.

From unpleasant messages? It depends what you mean by “unpleasant messages.” If you mean “I disagree with you and here’s why” then no, of course not. But then you can’t mean that, because that’s covered by the third item. So what do you mean? Messages like “you’re a fucking cunt” and “you’re too ugly to rape” and “you’re an old hag” and “you’re a whore” and “fuck you you ugly bitch”?

It makes a difference which you mean.

From invitations to coffee? That’s not a fair way of putting it. That’s the opposite of a fair way of putting it. From invitations to coffee, tout court, of course not. From “invitations to coffee” in a guy’s hotel room issued in an elevator at 4 a.m. in the absence of prior flirtation?

It makes a difference which you mean.

From criticism? Of course not.

So to sum up, the issue isn’t “protected from.” It’s that people shouldn’t do certain things to other people. The issue isn’t that people shouldn’t do those things to women because they are women, the issue is that people do do those things to women because they are women, and they shouldn’t. See the difference? Not “stop calling me a fucking cunt, because I’m a woman,” but “stop calling women fucking cunts.”

If you put your opinions out there in a public forum, those opinions are subject to dissent and mockery – ownership of a vagina doesn’t change that.

From dissent? Obviously. No kidding. No one is saying otherwise.

From mockery? You mean like photoshopping? Captions like “I hate you with my vagina”? Pictures of obese women vomiting?

That’s another matter. No: it is not the case that if you put your opinions out there in a public forum, you should just expect and put up with photoshopping and the rest of it.

More shockingly, I contend that even people who own [hushed whisper] penises are allowed to disagree with you. No, really. I know that sounds radical.

How quickly she loses track of what’s under discussion. It’s not disagreement that’s under discussion. It’s cunting and bitching; it’s non-stop monitoring; it’s photoshopping and captioning and otherwise jeering.

Rebecca Watson has appeared in Slate this week to bitch some more about how hard it is to be her – an educated, white, middle-class American woman whose rights are protected under law.

I’ll stop there. That’s enough. This Lucy Wainwright is unpleasant and callous and sloppy in her reasoning. She wanted me to draw attention to her post and I obliged, but that will do.

*I know her claim to fame is being retweeted by Dawkins, in case you were going to remind me.


  1. Beatrice, anti-imperialist anti-racist Islamophobiaphobic leftist says


    A bunch of exaggerations of the points she means to disparage and minimization of things that she’s excusing. She could at least be a bit less obvious about it.

  2. says

    The post came to my attention as it was feted in the slymepit as a wonderful piece of writing that will hit the FtB’ers where it hurts. My reaction was much like Beatrice’s, meh, not really that different to ElevatorGate, ‘franc’ or the others.

    I really found elevatorGates comment on her post to be hilarious. She is ‘brave’ and ‘putting herself in the crosshairs’ by writing the post… I wonder how much bravery it took to tweet the link of the post to Ophelia? 😀 Or rather how much self-promotion as having an FtB’er say your post is rubbish is the highest level of kudos over there. What will the FTBullies think of next – actually critiquing a post by one of the righteous damned. Must be worth a few malicious tweets and photoshopping as sweet, sweet revenge.

  3. Martha says

    Is this poor young woman a victim of No Child Left Behind?

    I console myself that about half the women in my graduate school class were anti-feminist when they started a PhD program in the sciences. None of them were by the third year. There will always be a few Ann Coulters in the world, but there are more Lilly Ledbetters.

  4. says

    Oh, I know, I’d seen it being hawked around on Twitter. “ElevatorGATE” is drunk on the “bravery” idea – he calls himself a “brave hero.” Like, all the time. Seriously – an anonymous blog used to smear a woman in every way possible; that’s a “brave hero.” Beyond parody.

  5. Sili says

    Given the rapid growth of strawmen in the US population, someone really should started working on awarding them right and votes.

  6. Beatrice, anti-imperialist anti-racist Islamophobiaphobic leftist says

    It think you’re behind the times, Sili. Those strawwomen already seem to have it a lot better than an average woman in US.

  7. katkinkate says

    I can’t get over the obsession this issue has brought out and the amount of energy wasted on this. Surely these people have other things to do with their lives.

  8. stewart says

    I think I’m finally getting it. The real message is “being a woman does not entitle you to protection from the extra hostility you get for being a woman.”


  9. stewart says

    Deeply honoured, I’m sure. It’s actually so obvious and they seem to be working so hard to conceal it. A bunch of people whose overt message is “Get over it!” while their obsessive actions indicate that non-acceptance of their free-for-all-in-only-one-direction attitude is something they can’t get over at all. Sure, on our side there are some pretty offended and disgusted reactions to unceasing rape-wishes (do they all have to be direct threats in order to be beyond the pale?) and attempts at photoshop and other humour that are as dismally unfunny as they are tasteless. Somehow all of this is justified by “Guys, don’t do that.”

    The whole world is chock-full of “Girls don’t do that or we’ll stone you to death, shoot you, throw acid at you, etc., etc,” but a simple “Guys, don’t do that” seems to be so much more serious. And none of them seem able to acknowledge otherwise for fear the entire, er, “monument” might come crashing down.

  10. julian says

    More shockingly, I contend that even people who own [hushed whisper] penises are allowed to disagree with you. No, really.

    No disagreement here. But said named penis holder should refrain from misogynistic speech and sexist insults. Calling Rebecca Watson out for poor reasoning/thinking is one thing. Demeaning her for speaking out, for have done a risque photo shoot for having been sexual elsewhere is not appropriate or something SNPH has a claim to

  11. EllenBeth Wachs says

    Yes, elevatorgate is outraged at me and claims I “slandered” him and has demanded I issue a retraction on my video of Rebecca.

    I suggested he sue me if he thinks I have defamed him. I will even accept service of process 🙂 He is SO brave. Come out, come out wherever you are and show your face in a court of law, HERO!

  12. says

    EllenBeth – ha – and you’re a lawyer and I really doubt that he is. How is it even possible to “slander” a pseudonym? How is it possible to “slander” one ElevatorGATE esquire?


  13. xmaseveeve says

    Ophelia, absolutely excellent!

    Lucy Wainwright sent me some horrible tweets. The one which hurt was when she called me ‘a moron’. I only spoke the truth as I saw it. I was stupidly upset, because I’d been nice to her. I’d told her that I was young once, and that she would change her mind as she gets older. But I was ‘a moron’. It is upsetting, and I can’t even imagine how Ophelia feels.

    I’m an old hag too.

  14. Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts says

    being a woman does not entitle you to protection from the extra hostility you get for being a woman.

    Yes, that was wonderful.

  15. Stacy says

    Unlike Naomi and Kevin and Kristina and the like, Lucy Wainwright actually seems to have a brain, though this particular post doesn’t show it to good advantage.

    Lucy, as Ophelia demonstrates, you’ve presented a strawwoman of Rebecca’s original point. And whether or not you think “guys, don’t do that,” was an appropriate response to the elevator incident, you haven’t addressed the ridiculous, outsized, histrionic response she received. And continues to receive.

    Don’t gloss over the trolling and abuse women bloggers get which is in addition to the same thing male bloggers get from creationists and the like. It’s all too easy to dismiss that sort of thing; yes, there are worse problems in the world, but it is one more burden women everywhere must deal with when they speak up, and out.

    If you put your opinions out there in a public forum, those opinions are subject to dissent and mockery – ownership of a vagina doesn’t change that.

    Sure. But ownership of a vagina shouldn’t determine or inform it, either. When mockery attacks its subject for being old or is-she-or-isn’t-she-too-ugly-to-rape, when the mocker resorts to epithets like “cunt” and “bitch,” when the women bloggers are singled out for attack–that’s sexism. And anybody who can’t see that is probably employing selective attention.

  16. C'nor says

    “How is it even possible to “slander” a pseudonym?”

    (Italicized and bolded portion by Ophelia Benson)

    While I have no comment on the specific case in question, as I’ve not been following this, and thus haven’t seen what’s going on there, other than in snippets as things get talked about on here, I’d say that, theoretically, it is possible to slander a pseudonym.

    For instance, I use this name, in various forms, in many places on the internet; as such, it has developed a reputation in those communities I frequent, at least for those who are in the same sections of them that I am.

    Should someone say things about this identity that are untrue, and be believed, then, assuming said things were negative, it would harm that reputation.

    Of course, if my reputation were already poor, it might be a moot point, and I may be confusing the legal definition of slander with something else, but I think that the main point of what I’m saying is fairly clear.

  17. C'nor says

    Ah, thank you. In that case I can see how it would be rather difficult to slander someone in this context, yes.

    And of course it does. It would change the meaning to “someone who keeps the lower openings of digestive tracts*” if the hyphen wasn’t included, wouldn’t it?**

    *I’m sorry, but I absolutely refuse to Google the proper plural to use in this case, so you’re going to have to settle for me being referential.

    **Also, yes, I’m not really being serious, just in case anyone was actually wondering.

  18. anthrosciguy says

    Re “invitations to coffee” and context, do these folks not understand that sometimes an otherwise innocuous, or even flattering, statement like “nice business you got here” can reasonably be seen as a potential threat?

  19. stewart says

    I don’t think the threat aspect is the whole or real point here (not that I’m belittling it or saying it couldn’t be the case, but it wasn’t what Rebecca emphasised either). It’s more a mindset in which guys (and women they consider non-whiney) do, can and ought to be able to say anything they like without consequences, but a mild admonition like “Guys, don’t do that,” is an example of someone stepping out of line who really ought to know her place.

  20. NoxiousNan says

    Ophelia, you’re a bigger woman than I. I would not link or even read a blog post that was delivered to me so rudely. I didn’t read Wainright’s piece for that reason. I find it particularly ironic that these people so often accuse women speaking up for themselves as just looking for attention when the hawk their work in such a manner.

    @EllenBeth #15, You know, up until today I’d not heard anything about the actual individual man behind elevatorgate (I loath that I must use that non-word), and now I’ve seen a couple things. I previously envisioned him as a slightly socially awkward guy that was a little off his game that night. Now that he seems to be speaking up, I’m finding my opinion of him fast changing for the worse.

  21. NoxiousNan says

    thnks for clearing up elevatorGATE for me. I’ll resume my earlier, mostly benign visual of the elevator guy (and avoid the elevatorGATE blog).


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