‘[Darwin] emphasized that, though in almost all species the female was the choice-maker, in human societies the privilege of choice making had passed to the male, with deleterious effects.’ Gillian Beer, Introduction to the Origin of Species, 1859, Oxford University Press, 1988, (regarding Darwin’s, The Descent of Man, 1872)
As a man – and an educated man from a middle-class background; thrice-privileged – I can take freedom of choice, in speech as elsewhere, largely for granted, which is a very different proposition from saying I ought to be able to, or believing that the content of said speech is intrinsically valuable. One problematic aspect of privilege is that the privileged position renders it scarcely-visible; the distorting effect on one’s worldview tricky to apprehend. Admitting this perspective, it’s at least understandable that a challenge to one’s privilege might be mis-construed as an infringement of rights. I’m being magnanimous, here: plenty men intuit only too well the social head start that the accidental inheritance of a ‘y’ chromosome provides them with and miss no opportunity to revel in it, generally at the expense of those less-privileged than they.
Put another way; men are prone to a) talking bollocks, and b) lashing out like wounded animals when their ‘bollocks’ is subject to scrutiny. So it’s no wonder feminists come in for a lot of flak; scrutiny of men’s ‘bollocks’ being somewhat of a specialty of theirs. I came across a fine example of this a couple days ago via Madeline Rachael‘s fine wp blog The Feminist Agenda (below)
Swanson and Buehners‘ dismissal of feminists as ‘whores’ – and in a
discussion diatribe defending ‘the family’ and ‘society’ – is as typical as it is telling. Christian conservatives of their stripe would have one believe that they love ‘good’ women and that their beef is with only certain types of ‘bad’ woman. I’m minded of a press statement issued by West Yorkshire detective Jim Hobson during the investigation into ‘Yorkshire Ripper‘ Peter Sutcliffe here in the UK during the early ’80s which (British feminist) Joan Smith quoted in her essay ‘There’s only one Yorkshire Ripper‘ (Misogynies, Faber and Faber, 1989):
‘He (The Ripper – at that point yet to be apprehended) has made it clear that he hates prostitutes. Many people do. We, as a police force, will continue to arrest prostitutes. But the Ripper is now killing innocent girls. That indicates your (sic) mental state and that you (sic) are in urgent need of medical attention…’
The implications of this statement are clear and frightening – only violence against ‘good’ women is remarkable, never mind legitimately criminal; prostitutes fall outside outside of the ‘good’ category; are thus legitimate targets for men’s and society’s disapprobation, and that the distinction between the legitimacy of arresting and murdering women is a mere matter of degrees. To emphasize differing degrees of misogyny, however, or to give credence to the notion that some women are deserving of it, would be to miss the point that criminalizing ‘bad’ women and murdering ‘good’ ones both attack women as a class.
Three decades on, Swanson and Buehner, whilst they’re clearly not advocating violence against women per-se, are nonetheless arguing their ‘case’ (further magnanimity) against feminism from the same mindset; namely that there are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ women and that feminists fall squarely into the latter camp, along with ‘whores’. The glaring contradiction is that both the women who confront their assigned status in the gender hierarchy (feminists) and those who submit perfectly to it (‘whores’)** are subject to the same negative judgement: ergo, in their eyes all women are ‘bad’, whatever they might say to the contrary.
This is significant when one considers the conflict between Radical Feminism and the Liberal Left/Trans* lobby which, though decades-old, exploded so dramatically into public consciousness via the publication of ‘Transphobic’ articles by Suzanne Moore and Julie Burchill and the subsequent Twitter storm. Notions of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ women loom large in the vocabulary of Trans* activists. As in Dt Hobson‘s assessment of Sutcliffe‘s murder victims (above) the wrong kind of woman is, in their opinion deserving of ‘extreme predjudice’ and the wrong kind of woman – the ‘bad’ woman – is any woman who questions the bipolar gender model on which their ‘identity’ depends. Scrutiny of their ‘bollocks’ is not encouraged, to say the least; presumably because it bears more than a passing resemblance to that spouted by Swanson and Buehner: sexist, anti-feminist and rigid in its adherence to gender bi-polarity. Accusations of ‘Trans-misogyny’ (an unhelpful term to my mind) are rendered risible by prolific resort to the common-or-garden variety by Trans* activists and their supporters.
So whilst bollocks of their kind continues to proliferate both on and under the radar of the MSM: on blogs run by Men’s Rights Activists; on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr and in the comments sections of all manner of online publications; feminists, who discern profound ideological issues and serious health and safety concerns for ALL women, are being subjected to inquisition , hounded , jailed, ridiculed, and silenced by those who fear the prospect of a life shorn of privileged position. Some women themselves argue against the need for feminisn, including this Huffington post writer, who is somewhat hoist by her own petard by her declaration that ‘feminism is misunderstood … by many of those calling themselves feminists’, and her sexist dismissal of the anticipated feminist backlash to her article.
For the Trans* activist who has spent the majority of their life occupying a position of privilege, discerning the difference between loss of said privilege and a genuine infringement on human rights might conceivably be difficult; but let’s not make the mistake of being magnanimous again and again in the face of evidence to the contrary. That anti-woman propaganda such as the Generations Radio feature and the Huffington Post piece are allowed to stand whilst the likes of Burchill and Gallusmag are censured tells us something. That these and other women – feminist or not, wives or the prostituted, straight or queer, butch or femme, workers or home-makers, black or white, young or old, trans* or ‘cis’ – so frequently take the brunt of societal problems that are manifestly not of their making tells us much the same thing: somebody needs to check their privilege, and they’ll be carrying a ‘y’ chromosome, I betcha!
**Couple points to note: a) I didn’t want to get sidelined into any kind of ‘blame game’ at that point, sufficed to say that the choice to be a feminist or a ‘whore’ are clearly not equal and opposite – specifically that the latter can be considered as ‘free’ a choice as the former – nor mutually exclusive. Andrea Dworkin is a case in point whose radical politics were deeply-informed by her personal experience of prostitution. b) The original use of the word whore was Buehner’s, and having quoted him thus I ran with it for the duration of the piece, mainly a creative decision since it made for a more memorable title. It implies no disrespect towards prostituted women on my part, hence the quotes ‘—‘.