Yesterday over on Malflic, Alice King — who does not identify as a feminist — posted A Females Perspective on Extreme Feminists. In it, she offers criticisms of feminism, and more specifically, “the feminist movement.” She addresses feminism as if it’s a singular, unified, coherent monolith with agreed upon goals, approaches, and beliefs, most of which are extreme, anti-male, and completely counter to what most feminists endorse. She also discusses the need for gender bias in certain professions and her concerns over men’s rights and false rape allegations.
I appreciate that Alice invites discussion, despite her allusion to past negative experiences discussing such matters: “It amazes me that those with differing views can not or will not debate it. It always just goes to name calling and how could I not stand up for women’s right.”
I accept the challenge. :) I disagree with Alice on almost all of her points, I can debate it, and I will…. all without name calling.
In an effort to respond thoughtfully and fully, I’m going to respond her statements and arguments by topic.
(To the 3.5 readers who haven’t already tuned out, who are interested in this stuff, what’s after the jump is better than what comes before it. I organized the topics roughly in order of importance (to me), but I also wanted to include a jump link to spare those readers who are annoyed when I post anything that isn’t fucking and failure.)
What is the “current form” of “the feminist movement” and what are its “current goals”? Your post opposes stances and goals that most feminists don’t actually endorse. It’s troubling when those opposed to feminism use the most extreme statements as a sort of all encompassing straw man stand-in for “feminism” in order to argue against it. While it’s probably easier to argue against a movement with a unified agenda, feminism is not that movement.
In reality, there is no singular, united feminist movement, nor one feminist agenda, nor one feminist goal. There are different strands and strains of feminism with different ideologies, beliefs, approaches, and goals. As with most broad, largely incohesive political/ideological umbrellas, some voices are louder than others. That’s a big part of the “feminist infighting” happening in media lately — we don’t all have the same views or goals, and unfortunately, the ones spouting more “extreme” views are those who shout the loudest (and of course, the loudest and most extreme views garner more attention than moderate ones).
Most feminists do not believe, nor do they endorse, the idea that men and women are the same. They endorse equality, as in equal opportunity, equal treatment, and equal rights. Pigeon-holing implies the application of unfair or prescriptive roles, restrictions, and limitations, and that is something most feminisms oppose.
No, making men “less than” women isn’t the goal of feminism (certainly not the feminists I know or read), nor is making women “more than” men a goal of feminism. The goal is equality — a level playing field.
As for men fearing “legal actions if they actually behave like men,” what does that mean, exactly, to “behave like men”? Men are people and people behave in wildly different ways — some good ways, some bad ways, and some legally actionable ways. Good, bad, and criminal behaviors aren’t gendered.
Part of the trouble is the perceived naturalness and universality of gendered behaviors in general. Being enculturated to believe that men are (or should be) this way or that way hurts everyone — men, women, and those outside and between the gender binary.
Even if there was one, singular, united feminist agenda, unwanted door opening would be pretty low on the list of things to fight against (if it was there at all). I can’t speak for all feminists, or any feminists but myself, but I don’t give a flying fuck about who does or does not open a door for me. I think opening and holding doors is polite — I’ve never stopped anyone from doing it, I’ve never been offended by it, and I do it for others all the time.
As for the more serious issues on various feminist agendas, I can speak to issues I am (and most feminists are) interested in. I am interested in workplace equality, not being dismissed or generally treated as “less than” my male colleagues. I’m interested in being and feeling safe, in ending street harassment, public catcalls, unwanted commentary about my appearance, and threatening behavior; and I’m also interested in not being insulted or called names when I respond politely or when I don’t respond at all. I’m interested in my safety and bodily autonomy, in not being touched without my consent, in not being physically or sexually assaulted, and not being raped.
None of that has anything to do with making men feel inferior. My want for comfort, safety, and equality isn’t about diminishing men nor does it actually diminish men.
In some specific situations, I agree. If there is a justified requirement for a position — meaning that only individuals who meet that requirement can effectively perform their job duties — anyone who doesn’t meet that requirement shouldn’t be in that position.
Since you mentioned law enforcement positions, I’m going to use that in setting up a hypothetical, but reasonable, context. (The specifics are made up and over simplified, but the point is still valid.)
Let’s say scientific studies have determined the average criminal suspect is 150 pounds. Based on that information, law enforcement agencies have agreed that minimum requirements for officer positions should include the ability to lift a 150 lbs (the average weight of a criminal suspect) off the ground for ten seconds (because in my pretend hypothetical world, that’s what it takes to get a suspect under control).
If an individual can’t do that, if they can’t lift 150 lbs off the ground for ten seconds, then the individual doesn’t meet minimum requirements and they shouldn’t be in the position.
But such standards aren’t always determined by science, nor universally agreed upon, nor absolute and consistently enforced. Cursorily (and in reality), I skimmed some articles about gender-based standards in law enforcement, and a few acknowledged the same problem, a problem which suggests physical standards are not scientific, agreed upon, absolute, or consistently enforced, and that opens the door to unfair gender bias (or perhaps more accurately, unfair physical/performance bias).
Minimum physical requirements for admission to and completion of many police academies are assessed at the time of potential hiring, but never assessed or enforced after officers graduate from the academy. As the years go by, officers get “out of shape” — meaning they can no longer meet the requirements under which they were hired — but they are never reassessed and never made to meet those requirements again. Even though they can’t meet a requirement that was a condition of their hiring, a requirement to be a law enforcement officer, they are not removed from their positions. They can still be police officers even though they don’t meet requirements.
So, back to the hypothetical. So a young woman starting her career who cannot lift 150 lbs cannot be a law enforcement officer, but a 40 year old man who cannot lift the 150 pounds can be a law enforcement officer.
If law enforcement officers are required to lift 150 pounds because lifting 150 lbs is a vital component of being an effective officer, any person who cannot lift 150 pounds shouldn’t be a police officer. Right? But they are.
(Allow me to anticipate a response…)
Yes, but the 40 year old male officer who can’t lift 150 pounds has the experience and skills that make him a valuable member of his profession… even though he can’t lift 150 lbs. He should still be an officer because his other assets outweigh an unmet requirement.
Agreed. If a 40 year old male who can’t lift 150 lbs has skills that make him valuable and employable, might a young woman who also can’t lift 150 lbs also have skills or learn skills and also be valuable to law enforcement? Of course.
So what about that requirement? Since some officers who can’t lift 150 lbs can be officers, then obviously, it’s not an actual requirement to perform the duties of the job. If it’s not a requirement to have the job, why is it a requirement to get the job?
If it’s not important to perform the perform the duties of the job, but it’s still a requirement, and if it excludes people who can’t meet it, and if the people who are excluded are disproportionately female, then the requirement unfairly discriminates against those who can’t reach it.
On Teaching Men Not To Rape and Women’s Accountability
You’re right, of course — no one is teaching classes on “how to rape girls” — but that’s a bit reductive.
We do live in a culture where we teach everyone that men’s violence against and harassment of women is natural, acceptable, and excusable because it’s just ‘men behaving like men.’ We live in a culture where wearing a short skirt is an invitation or justification for sexual harassment or sexual assault because ‘she’s asking for it’ or ‘she must really want it.’ We live in a culture where people believe that a woman who is sexually active with multiple partners, she is ‘a slut,’ and therefore she either must be accepting of everyone’s sexual advances/violence/harassment or she deserves it. The teaching isn’t explicit — it’s enculturation — and it happens every time people shrug off or excuse groping on the train, sexual comments on the street, or sexual assault at parties as ‘men behaving like men.’
We teach (or at least, we don’t correct) those ideas — that boys will be boys, that men can’t control themselves, that it’s women’s fault for causing men to have urges, etc. We endorse the idea that it’s not really rape if she was drunk/slutty/stupid/irresponsible because “she was asking for it.” That doesn’t explicitly teach men to rape per se, but it does teach men (and women) that rape is something people must protect themselves from rather than something that people shouldn’t do.
You paint a picture of a hypothetical woman who is alone, drunk, and dressed like a slut — that is clear. What is unclear is whether she gave consent, is unsure about giving consent, or lying about giving consent (which is it?) Despite the obscurity of her consent, you seem to suggest the hypothetical woman makes a false rape allegation because she regrets her actions. Did her actions include giving consent? Because consent is all that matters.
Her being alone, drunk, and dressed provocatively have NOTHING to do with whether or not she said yes, and NOTHING to do with whether or not she was raped. Those other details — either individually or together — do not equal consent. Being out alone is not consent for sexual intercourse. Being ‘dressed like a slut’ is not consent for sexual intercourse. Being drunk is not consent for sexual intercourse.
An affirmative, enthusiastic “yes” is consent for sexual intercourse.
If she said yes, and then claimed rape against the person with whom she had consensual intercourse, she should face criminal charges and be punished for her crime.
If she didn’t say “yes,” she was raped. If she was raped, the person who raped her is responsible. She is not responsible for being raped, even if she was alone, drunk, and dressed provocatively. Rape is not a consequence of her actions. Being raped is suffering the consequence of her rapist’s actions.
For the record, a woman being drunk doesn’t change the situation. If she is drunk, but not so drunk that she can’t give enthusiastic consent, if she says “yes,” it’s not rape.
(Allow me to anticipate a response…)
But how does anyone know when drunk is too drunk?
Can she give enthusiastic consent? If she can, she’s not too drunk.
If you (the universal you) aren’t sure whether a potential partner is too drunk to consent, don’t have sex with that person. If you’re concerned your potential partner is so drunk they might later regret their actions, or your actions, don’t have sex with that person. If you’re concerned your potential partner isn’t sure about wanting to have sex, don’t have sex with that person.
Excuse the language here, but no one is forcing you (anyone) to have sex with a drunk person. You aren’t obligated to have sex with that person, or any person, whether she is drunk, sober, or somewhere in between. So, if there’s any doubt, don’t have sex with that person. Then, the issue of impairment and consent isn’t a grey area any more — it’s black and white. If there’s a doubt, don’t have sex with that impaired, unsure, or unenthusiastic person.
While it’s an admittedly crude comparison, lots of other people make similar decisions in situations where the other person may be too drunk to consent to something, or in situations where the other person may later regret their decisions. Lots of tattoo and piercing artists seem to handle it just fine. To the best of my knowledge, in most states, it isn’t illegal to tattoo or pierce a person who is drunk — a drunk person can come in, request a tattoo or piercing, and the provider can do it. It’s legal.
But most don’t. They use good judgment — if they think the client is too drunk, or might regret the decision, they don’t do it. They don’t want clients to wake up with tattoos or piercings they regret, nor do they want to open themselves up to potential (or attempted) legal action. I’m sure they want to do the work and collect the money, but for the reasons above, they don’t. Lots of people and professions abide by similar guidelines.
I understand that in your hypothetical, your concern is false rape allegations. Certainly, false rape allegations is a serious issue and people who make false rape accusations should be brought on charges, found guilty, and punished accordingly. Neither rape nor false rape allegations should be acceptable, but since rape is far more prevalent than false rape allegations, one is a much bigger cultural problem than the other.