Everyone can stop telling me to read this article now. I’ve read Social Justice Bullies: The Authoritarianism of Millennial Social Justice, and it is atrocious, a collection of familiar MRA tropes dressed up with pseudo-liberal platitudes.
Oh, I am so supportive of feminists…just not feminists who use the horrible tactic of speaking out. It’s a common strategy of declaring that one fully supports the oppressed, as long as the oppressed don’t cause any trouble.
It’s a sentiment I saw opposed quite nicely this morning.
The same guys who call women cunts and litter their speech with racist slurs will say *noting that they're white guys* is racist and sexist
— Bailey (@the_author_) April 20, 2015
The same guys who call women cunts and litter their speech with racist slurs will say *noting that they’re white guys* is racist and sexist
So what are the problems with this article? Let’s begin with the title, a masterpiece of hypocrisy. He invents a new term — millennial social justice advocate — to substitute for the pejorative “Social Justice Warrior” (oh, he’s so charitable!) but also announces that it is completely equivalent to SJW, and better yet, let’s just go ahead and call them Social Justic Bullies. Good work avoiding pejorative labeling, guy!
And herein lies the problem — in attempting to solve pressing and important social issues, millennial social justice advocates are violently sabotaging genuine opportunities for progress by infecting a liberal political narrative with, ironically, hate.
Many will understand this term I used — millennial social justice advocates — as a synonym to the pejorative “social justice warriors.” It’s a term driven to weakness through overuse, but it illustrates a key issue here: that, sword drawn and bloodthirsty, millennial social justice advocates have taken to verbal, emotional — and sometimes physical — violence.
There’s the tone. If you read the whole thing, one of his common claims is that social justice warriors ignore evidence and are all about feelings — total nonsense, by the way — but nowhere in his whine does he describe them carrying out physical violence. It’s basically all about how SJW’s call white men mean names, therefore it’s fair to accuse them of having
sword drawn and being
bloodthirsty and full of
hate. It’s all of a piece with the title: pretending to a faux equability while ever so politely accusing everyone who fights for social justice with the charge of … accusing people of things.
In all of his essay, the author fails to get into any specifics, with one exception: the purported UVA rape case that was reported in Rolling Stone. In this, he echoes a standard talking point among rape apologists: it’s black and white. Either the rape is confirmed with so much evidence that it will lead to an automatic conviction in a court of law, or it didn’t happen, and the victim has no recourse but to shut up entirely. Gray areas where one has been harmed, there is no doubt that harm has been done, but there is insufficient material evidence to justify locking someone up for 20 years (and rightfully so; standards of evidence are important before significant penalties should be applied), are nonexistent to this guy.
In “No matter what Jackie said, we should generally believe rape claims,” author Zerlina Maxwell suggests that we should generally write the equivalent of a blank check to someone who comes forward with a rape accusation. This is not justice and it certainly is not social justice either. It is an illiberal perversion of the justice system. Sir William Blackstone is famous for what is known as the Blackstone formulation: “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.” This axiom is a foundation of modern justice systems worldwide. It as a formulation that assumes innocence; to condemn on the basis of a certain accusation because of the identity or oppressed status of the accuser is a dangerous road to go down. It erodes the most essential tenet of liberalism: due process.
Does he really believe that the courtroom is the universal standard for justice? It is not. The law and justice are often two different things. It is possible to have a situation where innocence has been disproven, but where the case is not strong enough to warrant asking the state to step in and levy serious penalties. No one is arguing for vigilanteism, but many of us are saying that you don’t get to demand silence and acquiescence to oppression because it didn’t go to trial.
And no, Maxwell is not demanding a blank check. The phrase is “Trust but verify.” If someone says they were raped, the appropriate response is not to hyperskeptically announce your doubt. Instead, trust that they are speaking the truth, because a) this is not an unusual claim, and b) there are very few circumstances which reward a woman for saying that. Trust first. Ask what you can do to help. Later, ask what you can do to resolve the situation and bring it to a just conclusion. Trusting someone’s rape claim does not mean in any way that you immediately organize a mob of vigilantes to go string up the accused. It doesn’t mean that they are automatically found guilty in a court of law.
The UVA rape case is an interesting choice, because of what outspoken feminists have said about it. Amanda Marcotte is one of the horrible boogeywomen of feminism (she is mentioned once in the article) — she definitely thinks you should trust the claims of rape victims. But here’s here assessment of the UVA story:
As I noted in my piece at TPM about this, there wasn’t much in the report that surprised me. The various reporting and investigation that was released prior to this paints, I think, a fairly solid picture of what likely happened, which is that Jackie was telling a tall tale and even seems to have invented the guy who she claimed was the ringleader in a gang rape. (He seems to have been a composite character, constructed out of pictures of one guy and biographical details from a couple more.) Her friends suggested to the Washington Post that this was a habit of hers, as they suspected her of making up a date with an imaginary friend in order to try to get the interest of a guy who rejected her. Whether or not she made the rape up whole cloth or embroidered/fictionalized a real event remains unknown, though either way, what she did was very wrong.
That’s a fairly common opinion among the feminists I know. Rolling Stone screwed up big time. There are also standards of evidence for journalism (which are not the same as for a court case…funny, that, that different situations accommodate different levels of verification), and Rolling Stone failed to meet them.
But facts won’t stop the author of the atrocious essay. Instead, let’s just claim that facts are irrelevant to the other side, and pretend they are following ideological dogma.
To the social justice advocate of our time, conclusions are not contingent on facts; rather, facts are contingent on conclusions. In a global example of confirmation bias, the truth is malleable. The malleable truth is molded around the theoretical viewpoints of social justice. In order to uphold the sanctity of this viewpoint, adherents ostracize dissension. It’s nothing new — it’s a tactic as old as religion itself. Instead of holy texts, though, the millennial social justice advocate bows at the altar of the currently-in-vogue ideological Trinity: Marxism, Feminism, and Post-Colonialism.
Jebus. Again, this guy is going to try and have it both ways: he’s going to claim he’s fully supportive of the goals of good causes like feminism, while simultaneously calling feminism an ideological cult. He constantly whipsaws the reader, mouthing a few platitudes about how he supports equality for women while appeasing his feminism-hating readers by calling feminism itself a false religion. It’s dishonest rhetoric.
But look at what he’s complaining about. Post-colonialism? Does he not think this is a serious concern in the modern world? Feminism? Is he or isn’t he? Is it a holy text or a reasonable cause?
As for “Marxism”…what a fucking dog-whistle. I’m sunk deep into the university environment, and have been for decades. I haven’t met any real Marxists. They don’t exist in any significant numbers. There are plenty of us who think Marx had some real insights and brought up genuine problems relevant to the modern world, even if we don’t buy the whole package. “Marxism” is used as a knee-jerk buzzword by people who don’t understand it, except that generations of Americans have been told that it is eeeevil. It’s only right-wing ideologues who throw around the accusation of
cultural Marxism, and I roll my eyes and ignore any who do.
And to simply assign everyone in the struggle for social justice to the pigeonhole of “marxism” — again, like the title, he’s trying to have it both ways, accusing people of abusing labels while labeling everyone falsely.
Why can’t I simply rebut this with a trip to the dictionary? Because this is laughed at by social justice types. The image of a white person walking to the dictionary to define racism is literally a trope at this point because the millennial social justice advocate finds it so entertaining that a dictionary, constructed by those in power for those who speak the language of power, can possibly give an accurate definition of a word.
Do you see where I’m going with this? It is now possible to absolve yourself of guilt by working enough academic nuance into a word to fundamentally change it — in your favor.
Yes, it’s a trope. A hilarious and accurate trope. There’s the privileged white person denying the relevance of serious academic scholarship, by people who have been studying a subject for years, with vast resources at their fingertips backing them up, in favor of some guy who who knows next to nothing about it but who has read a short sentence minimally defining a term. Yet it happens all the time. It’s like all those creationists who yammer at me about evolution, quoting the dictionary definition of the term: “the gradual development of something, especially from a simple to a more complex form”, and then insisting that this completely overrides everything the damned scientists have said.
In fact, the creationists could use that very same last sentence. It fits perfectly. They claim we keep changing the definition on them, too.
The same is said of sexism and men — that one cannot be sexist against men because we live in a patriarchal society (I thought I’d link to Tumblr since this social justice plays out on the every day stage of social media just as much as it does in article headlines). And yet, when it is brought up that men face legitimate social, political, and economic issues, they are told that feminism has the solution for them as well.
Orwell calls this “doublethink.”
No, he didn’t. Hey, let’s go to your favorite source, the dictionary!
Doublethink: the acceptance of or mental capacity to accept contrary opinions or beliefs at the same time, especially as a result of political indoctrination.
There is nothing contrary about recognizing that sexism in society has consequences for both men and women. Men have some terrible stresses placed on them by social expectations of male behavior: men perpetrate more violence, but are also the victims of that violence; men commit suicide far more frequently than women; men are constantly handed greater public responsibility for the economic upkeep of their family; men are discriminated against in divorces, because women are seen as guardians of the home. Feminism breaks down those expectations based on gender and demands that we treat everyone as individuals. That’s a good deal for men, too.
Go ahead and read that link he provides. Nothing in it is doublethink, there is no disparaging of the unique problems men face, it’s just explaining that unrealistic gender demands on anyone, that disregards their own preferences, is harmful. It does not deny that
men face legitimate social, political, and economic issues. You have to read it with some seriously bitter biases to infer that it does.
It also doesn’t claim that feminism is a panacea. I also think there are distinct problems that men face that have to be confronted by men; I also think it would be silly for men to sit back and wait for feminism to solve everything for everyone all at once. Feminism is going to focus largely on women’s concerns, and you can’t fault them for that. And it would be nice if there were a legitimate men’s rights movement that actually dealt with serious concerns, rather than the current crop of disgruntled asshats who are peeved that women don’t give them sex at their will.
But we men need to fuss over statistics instead.
Let’s return to the Rolling Stone/UVa Rape example. There is an oft-cited statistic that “one in five women will experience sexual assault on campus in America.” This shocks the conscience, as it should, and is used to fuel the hysteria of rape culture on campuses nationwide. Unfortunately for social justice advocates—and fortunately for college-aged women everywhere—this statistic is criminally misleading. As Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post writes, this one in five statistic results from “a single survey, based on the experiences of students at two universities. As the researchers acknowledged, these results clearly can be generalized to those two large four-year universities, but not necessarily elsewhere.” But why should advocates for victims of sexual assault include that? 1-in-5 is a great way to fear-monger. In a report released by the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics entitled “Rape and Sexual Assault Among College-Aged Females, 1995–2013,” Lynn Langton, Ph.D. and Sofi Sinozich report that “the rate of rape and sexual assault was 1.2 times higher for non-students (7.6 per 1,000) than for students (6.1 per 1,000).” Using deliberately misleading statistics in a Machiavellian campaign — wherein the eradication of sexual assault on college campuses requires the misinterpretation of data and the removal of due process — does more to “derail” genitive conversations of sexual assault on campus than having productive, legally responsible conversations ever will.
Oh, boy, watch him play games with statistics!
First of all, the results of that survey have been replicated with a broader sample by the CDC, including the general public. These are the facts.
Nearly 1 in 5 women (18.3%) and 1 in 71 men (1.4%) in the United States have been raped at some time in their lives, including completed forced penetration, attempted forced penetration, or alcohol/drug facilitated completed penetration.
Secondly, arguing that the frequency of rape is higher among non-students doesn’t make a case for
misleading statistics, if they’re reporting the lower rate.
Thirdly, if you actually read that Langton and Sinozich report, you find that the difference is accounted for by differences in the rates of reporting (college students are also less likely to report rape) and distinctions between sexual assault and rape with penetration.
But this is a typical MRA game. One source reports one in five women experience sexual assault, another reports one in seven…therefore, they all be lyin’. Again with the hyperskepticism: even if it were one in a hundred (it’s not), these are real human beings experiencing something terrible, and complaining because the frequency of that experience is not quite high enough to motivate you to feel any empathy is something only a terrible human being would do.
But wait, he’s not done gaming the stats.
Take also, for instance, the wage gap statistic recited everywhere between a sociology class and the President’s speeches: That women make 70-something cents on a dollar to a man. The truth is that this is, again, a misleading statistic that tries to apply nationally aggregated data to the level of the individual. TIME writes that “the 23-cent gender pay gap is simply the difference between the average earnings of all men and women working full-time. It does not account for differences in occupations, positions, education, job tenure or hours worked per week. When such relevant factors are considered, the wage gap narrows to the point of vanishing.” This is corroborated by a seemingly endless amount of sources like the Wall Street Journal and Abigail Hall who quips that “you wouldn’t compare the incomes of elementary school teachers with Bachelor’s degrees to those of individuals with PhDs in physics and complain that there is a ‘teacher-physicist wage gap.’” Note that there are five sources in this paragraph alone.
Yeah, and I could cite ten sources claiming that the earth is less than ten thousand years old without breaking a sweat. None of those sources are particularly good: Time? The Huffington Post? The Wall Street Journal? Good grief.
Finding fudge factors to disappear the difference is irrelevant. The fact is that the average woman makes significantly less money than the average man, and the reason isn’t that she’s dumber or less qualified or less muscular. It’s because of structural biases in our culture.
Don’t compare physicist Ph.D.s with elementary school teachers with a Bachelors; compare technicians with school teachers with equivalent degrees. Compare engineers and sociologists. What you will find almost uniformly across the board is that professions with a preponderance of women are less valued than professions with a majority of men. And that makes no sense. Why do we pay a woman who has a Master’s degree in sociology far less than a man who has an engineering degree, when both have invested the same amount in their education and are working just as hard in an important job?
It really is a self-perpetuating stereotype, too. There are fewer women in physics than in biology, and I have been told in all seriousness that that means that biology is “easier” than physics, and that physics must be a more serious discipline. It’s the same with teaching: there is this common attitude that elementary school teaching is women’s work, because it involves nurturing children. Never mind that teaching is very hard work, and that those school teachers have a greater role to play in shaping the next generation of our culture than any academic physicist — screw ’em, they’re only doing it because they couldn’t cut it at any other job. So I do complain that there is a physicist-teacher wage gap: the teachers deserve more.
I’m going to end this by returning to the beginning, where our brave aggrieved author issued the standard MRA disclaimer.
For example: this is not an article, but an article written by a straight, white, middle-class (etc.) male (and for this reason will be discounted by many on account of how my privilege blinds me — more on this later).
Would you like me to loan you a crowbar to pry out those nails, so you can climb down off that cross?
I am a straight, white, middle-class (etc.) male. I do not have any objection at all to your identity. I don’t dismiss it because you and I share many of the same attributes here; it would be self-defeating if I were to do so.
I disagree with you because your essay is a two-faced, devious, dishonest regurgitation of standard MRA talking points. It is illiberal and anti-feminist, while you scrabble to take the higher ground by insisting that you really are a liberal feminist, which supposedly gives you the moral status to hate feminism and liberalism.
And goddamn, guy, but it sticks in my craw when someone starts out by trying to short-circuit criticism by claiming that you’re only going to be dismissed because you’re a straight white middle-class man. I’m crucifying you because you’re a straight white middle-class dumbass.