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9.05.2015

Letter to Barry

Hey Barry. Very sorry, it took me like a week to find the time to write and edit a response. It's way too long for a blogger comment, so I'm using an old blog I haven't even looked at for five years (I knew it would come in handy for something!) since I thought it would probably get lost in the original thread. Thanks for responding. I really do appreciate it when people bother to discuss these issues rather than just dismissing them offhandedly, and I know it takes time, so, again, your efforts are appreciated. Apologies in advance for the length of my reply, I certainly don’t mean to rag on you, but I think your post merits a decent response. I'm mostly discussing and explaining this to myself, so when I say "you" below, I'm generally not ascribing any claim to you personally, but to the counterpoint of the argument I'm trying to make, so I'm not trying to put any words in your mouth or set up any straw men.

Certainly there are two issues here, namely feminism and women. While very closely related, they’re obviously not the same. My post was about the 15 Impossible Things to Believe Before Breakfast, which is more about modern feminism in general than women’s nature in particular. This was not an attempt to be selective, but simply to use Dave’s own distillation of his position to address what I thought were your criticisms.

I should note that the following is just my interpretation of Dave’s writing. This is just what I think, and doesn't represent Dave in any way, shape or form whatsoever. I’m sure he would disagree with some (or a lot) of it, but it’s the way I interpret what he’s saying. Let me repeat, this does not represent Dave in any way, shape or form whatsoever. At all. Not even a little bit. This is strictly my thoughts on the matter. I think he made an effort to understand the nature of women, in general, and the following is how I think he came to some of his conclusions and why I don’t think they are misogynistic. This is me, not Dave.

Certainly definitions are very important and this argument is going to come down, in part, to the definition of misogyny. If you want to say that anyone who does not trust women is a misogynist, then by that definition Sim would be a misogynist. Okay, end of conversation. That doesn’t really address his points, though. But, come on, let’s be honest here, people aren’t going around saying Dave’s an asshole because…gasp!…he doesn’t trust women! They didn’t draw him as a Nazi because they think he doesn’t trust women. They think he hates women. But as he once stated, he follows the maxim of his lawyer, “Trust no one.” So he doesn’t trust women and he doesn’t trust men. So Dave Sim hates men and women because he doesn’t trust them? That seems like a bit of a stretch to me.

What, then, do I think qualifies as misogyny? Well, I’m going to stick to the notion of hate. I mean, it wouldn’t make any sense to say of someone, “He’s a misogynist, but he doesn’t hate women.” or “He hates women, but he’s not a misogynist.” The terms are as close to interchangeable as they can be. As such, I don’t think his statements about women demonstrate “an intense, passionate dislike”. I just don’t think hatred even enters into it.

I'm not saying misogyny doesn't exist. Obviously people who commit any kind of abuse towards women, commit any kind of assault, or generally show through their words or deeds that they believe women are worthless or not deserving of the same common courtesy, decency, and respect as all human beings are the easy examples of misogyny. This isn’t what Sim is talking about.

I would also say rural Pakistan—which I believe can be accurately described as having a rape culture—or any countries where they practice female genital mutilation can be accurately described as practicing misogyny. I mean, if sentencing women to be raped and slicing off parts of their genitals isn’t a sign of misogyny, I don’t know what is. These are outrageous, barbaric practices. But obviously, this isn’t what Sim is talking about either.

So let’s take the quotes in turn. I’m pretty sure they are seen as among the most controversial things Dave has ever said, and are only properly understood in context, with which (I’m assuming), pretty much everyone here is familiar.

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“There is little in the way of intellectual value to be derived from revisiting—either mentally or ‘in person’—the simple fact (once discovered) that women are emotion-based beings and that (consequently) any female-center or female-originated political movement—more precisely ‘political’ movement—will lack sound intellectual footing.”

This isn't merely a slam on feminism; it's a slam on the intellectual capacities of women in general. That's misogynistic.

I would start by agreeing with Sam Harris when he says: “if you think there are no differences, in the aggregate, between people who have Y chromosomes and people who don’t; if you think testosterone has no psychological effects on human minds in general; if you think we can’t say anything about the differences between two bell curves that describe whole populations of men and women, whether these differences come from biology or from culture, we’re not going to get very far in this conversation.” I’m not saying Harris would agree with Sim, I’m saying that if the position is simply that there are no differences between the genders other than sexual organs and physical strength, and that intellectually, emotionally and psychologically, men and women are basically the same and if you disagree or apply any "negative" qualities to women, then you’re a misogynist….again, okay, conversation over, but I don’t think it’s that simple.

Dave’s claims here are that a) women are “emotion-based” and that as a result, b) feminism—whose foundation, theories and practices are essentially established by women—would pretty much have to lack a sound intellectual footing, because its theories would be based on emotions, not reasoning…so the claim goes.

As to the first, what does it mean to say that women are “emotion-based”? I think it means that women are motivated by, and base their decisions and actions upon, their feelings. These are, obviously, generalizations as per the Sam Harris quote above. That is, all Margaret Thatchers and Marie Curies aside (since most women (and most men) aren’t going to be Prime Minister or win the Nobel Prize in physics), what can we say about “most” women in general? What can we say about “most” men in general? How can we make any claim about what “they” are like, as a general rule?

Well, how do we know anything about any definable group and their likes, wants or interests? Well, you can ask them. Anecdotal evidence is fine to a degree, but obviously limited. You can only talk to so many people, and your sample size is always going to be relatively small. Our scope needs to be broader. So, what are men interested in? What are republicans interested in? What are Sikhs interested in? What are Muslims interested in? What are African-Americans interested in? What are gay people interested in? What are women interested in…in general, as a whole, on aggregate?

Well, for one, it seems useful to examine the culture of any given group. Books, magazines, movies, TV shows and academic studies about a given group should tell us something. The culture that caters to a group and that they consume by choice seems to, by definition, tell you something about their interests. I believe Dave when he says he committed to “voluminous reading of everything from nurse novels to voodoo pop…to Women's Studies” because that should tell him something about what women are interested in and what they like and, therefore, what they are like. I mean if we can’t say anything about women based on the books, magazines and other media that are produced (by and large) by women, for women, about women, along with the academic texts produced by (and for and about) same, then we can’t saying anything on the topic at all. But I think that popular culture does, to a degree, tell you something about a group and represents a reasonably broad sample, since it would involve millions and millions of readers and viewers choosing to consume these words and images.

In other words, if you were take a look at, say, a list of best-selling men’s magazines from Amazon, I don’t think you can—reasonably—claim that this list says nothing about men and their interests. We can’t know anything about men, in general, from looking at this list? That doesn’t really make any sense to me.

Here’s a list of best-selling women’s magazines on Amazon. The claim that the most popular men's magazines don't say anything relevant about men and their interests, and that, similarly, the list of women’s magazines says nothing about women and their interests is simply not credible to me. These are going concerns, the most popular magazines in America with circulations in the millions that must appeal to the interests of their respective markets or go out of business. A significant portion of their budget is spent on finding out exactly what their readership wants, and then giving it to them.

Now if you want to claim that this means nothing (I’m not saying you do), I would have to disagree. It means something. At the very least, it means that this is what women are interested in. Now I submit to you that the type of magazine, like this one, which advertises on its cover both losing 18 pounds in 14 days AND “Old-fashioned Strawberry Cake” is a magazine which appeals to people based on their emotions, not reason.  (I certainly hope you don't think I'm choosing some exception to the rule, please let me know if you think I am doing so, I can provide many other examples.) Feel free to say something about body images and how women are forced to be pretty for men because of the patriarchy, I'm not adverse to such arguments. But, having said that, you obviously cannot lose 18 pounds in 14 days in the first place, and you certainly can’t do it with a strawberry cake in your fridge. They are, clearly, logically, mutually exclusive. I am not making any value judgement. I am not saying appealing to emotions is bad or good. I am not saying this “proves” that women are emotion-based beings. I’m just saying that to look at a cross-section of these magazines would tell you that they are appealing to people based on their emotions, not reason.

What about television shows? Do soap operas tell you nothing about the people who watch them? Does Oprah Winfrey’s show tell you anything about the people who watch it? If not, why not? If so, what does it tell you? Soap operas have been in decline for some time and largely replaced by “Reality Television” shows (which are, of course, as scripted as any soap opera). Well, I don’t think you can seriously claim that people who watch soap operas and reality television are doing so for intellectual reasons. I think the people who watch them are primarily looking for their emotions to be manipulated by the characters and the stories. This is, I think, pretty self-evidently different than watching documentaries about World War II or shows about the technical details of the new Koenigsegg. They appeal to different people for different reasons. I am not saying one is good and one is bad. I am not saying men do not watch "Reality Television". I am not saying men do not watch movies and TV shows that appeal to their emotions. I am not saying women don’t watch WWII documentaries. I am saying one of them appeals primarily to your emotions and they are the shows that, as a rule, are produced for and cater to women more than men. We are talking in general, as a whole, on aggregate and as a whole, these television shows such as Oprah Winfrey and soap operas and the like are produced for, and primarily consumed by, women.

(Okay, slight diversion. I’ll get to books read primarily by women in a bit, please bear with me, I’m just taking the quotes in turn.)

Now in the same quote, on the general point of feminism lacking a sound intellectual footing, Dave makes the claim that if this group of people makes their decisions based on emotions (and I’m not saying I’ve “proved” that), their belief system/philosophy will necessarily lack a sound intellectual footing. As an example of this, take a look at D. A. Pennebaker’s Town Bloody Hall.

I think Mailer is generally making fairly sensible arguments (in his usual provocative and antagonistic way) and the rest of them are engaging almost exclusively in ad hominem and special pleading. If Trilling, Friedan, Greer et al. do represent second-wave feminism, then I think that not only does feminism lack a sound intellectual footing, it lacks practically any intellectual footing at all. Again, it’s almost exclusively ad hominem, special-pleading and feminist double-speak.

One small example out of many: when Mailer says to Betty Friedan, “Be accurate, Betty.”, Friedan retorts that, “Norman, I will define accuracy for myself.” What does that even mean? Either you are accurate, or you are not, or you don’t know if you are accurate. Either your claim about a given subject is correct, or it is not correct, or it is unknown if you are correct. Whatever the case, it’s not open to individual definition. To suggest that Friedan can define “for herself” what is and what is not accurate makes absolutely no sense whatsoever and is simply one example (out of many) where doublespeak substitutes for a sound intellectual footing. Again, my claim is that these arguments are emotional, not intellectual.

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On to books.

"All I got out of that research, I already knew: a) women want to be raped by rich, muscular, handsome doctors b) women are completely self-absorbed and, thus, see themselves in everything around them and c) feminism is no different from communism in that all of its literature is founded upon convoluted syntax, bafflegab and academic jargon..."

Points A) and B) in this passage are talking about women, not feminism. And they are deeply misogynistic.

On the first point, I take it you’re familiar with “romance” novels? Rape fantasies feature very heavily in that genre. So much so, in fact, that the former editor of the Canadian publishing industry’s trade magazine (Quill and Quire) told me that in the publishing world, romance novels are informally known as “rape fiction.” In fact, with very little effort I found a list of a hundred books that feature “Romances with forced seduction or rape by the hero.” Note that they are all rather highly rated by thousands, sometimes tens of thousands, of reviewers. Here’s another list: “This is a list of famous must-read bodice ripper romance novels. These books contain bodice-ripper themes such as forced seduction, rape, and abuse. In some of these books, it is the "hero" of the story who committs (sic) these acts toward the heroine.”

There are many, many, many more examples. According to The New Yorker, by 2012, romance novels were a 1.5-billion-dollar-a-year business that made up nearly 17 per cent(!) of fiction sales. You cannot pretend women are not interested in this material. Now fantasy is not reality, but one fantasizes about what one wishes one had or what one wishes were true. Once again, we’re extrapolating from what is popular to make a claim about the people who read those books, in general, as a whole, on aggregate.

(There is academic research on the topic as well. According to one 2009 study, “The nature of women's rape fantasies: an analysis of prevalence, frequency, and contents.”: “This study evaluated the rape fantasies of female undergraduates (N = 355) using a fantasy checklist that reflected the legal definition of rape and a sexual fantasy log that included systematic prompts and self-ratings. Results indicated that 62% of women have had a rape fantasy, which is somewhat higher than previous estimates.”)

Presented with this information regarding the popularity of novels which feature rape and abuse by the protagonist, you can still—obviously—disagree with Sim’s conclusion as quoted above and simply state that “Dave Sim hates women.” Okay, but at this point, I think the onus would be on you to explain why these books are not relevant to Dave’s point.

Now taken as a whole, if someone did spend time examining the popular culture that is largely consumed by women (including magazines, television shows, novels) and conducted their own series of "field interviews" to a view of better understanding women, and also examined various academic texts, and came to the conclusion that women are “emotion-based”, is your only response still, “You hate women.”? Do you think his conclusions can really be dismissed that easily? I am not asking you to agree with his conclusions or methodology, I am just asking if your response is still just, "You are a misogynist."?

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”As an example, I firmly believe that feminism is a misguided attempt to raise women above their place, which I firmly believe is secondary to that of men.”

Prejudice against women, a form of misogyny.

This is obviously a fairly major conclusion of Sim’s. Does believing that men are superior to women necessarily mean that you hate women? First off, I don’t think this counts as prejudice, i.e. “preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience.” Dave is giving you the reasons he believes what he believes, and the experiences that led him to his conclusions, so I don’t think it can be said that it’s not based on reason or experience. You can point out any faults in his reasoning or erroneous conclusions, but I don't think you can say there isn’t any ratiocination going on.

Frankly, I think this would have been a fairly standard opinion up until about fifty or so years ago, and as such, it doesn’t make sense to me to suggest that until fifty years ago, all men simply, “hated women” unless you want to make the claim that all men did hate women, they just didn’t know it.

Now, conversely, if I make the claim that women are superior to men, does that mean that I hate men? If so, there sure is a lot of misandry out there! I do have to note that the ways in which women are superior to men is harped on by many, many self-described feminists on a regular basis and I see their work in major publications all over the world:

Why Women Are the Superior Gender

10 Things Research Proves Women Are Better At Than Men

14 Things Women Do Better Than Men

Here’s 4 Ways Women Are Better Bosses Than Men

Women are better a remembering than men

Women Have Better Verbal Skills than Men

Women are Better Drivers Than Men

I mean, I could go on, but what would be the point? These and similar claims are made all the time, and nobody bats an eyelid (can you imagine the opprobrium if the genders were reversed?). By your definition, they are misandrists and that would suggest that the hatred of men is widely prevalent in our society, or at least widely published in our society. I don’t know very many people making that claim. If you want to state that these are written by people who hate men, then I would understand your position that you think Sim hates women. But, even so, just because you believe one gender is superior to another does not mean you “hate” that other gender. You can certainly disagree with the argument but I think you’d have to say why rather than just reduce it to a charge of misogyny (or misandry, as the case may be).

— — — — —

"To me, taking it as a given that reason cannot prevail in any argument with emotion, there must come a point – with women and children – where verbal discipline has to be asserted, and if verbal discipline proves insufficient, that physical discipline be introduced.”

Here, Sim says that he thinks men should physically beat women (but "leave no mark which endures longer than, say, an hour or two") if they can't "prevail" in an argument. He also conflates women with children. Both these views are misogynistic.

I think you completely and totally mischaracterize Sim by saying he advocates that one should “physically beat women.” Men don’t beat women. Only cowards beat women. You learn that before Kindergarten. Obviously, Sim believes in corporal punishment—in this case, spanking—when it comes to women (and children). If you find the idea of spanking a woman offensive on the face of it, I understand, but does advocating such a position de facto make you a misogynist? Whether you or I believe in corporal punishment is irrelevant. What is relevant is whether this view is necessarily motivated by or indicates a “hatred of women.”  The real science of the actual effects of spanking is relevant, but I don’t believe it constitutes a hatred of women, or children. I think it’s a belief regarding the efficacy of corporal punishment. Dave takes the traditional view that was in effect for thousands of years. You may consider it outdated and maybe "we're beyond that," fine, but to reduce it to “he hates women” is just too simple a response for me. If someone spanks a child, does that mean he hates children? I also don’t think he is conflating women and children any more than the phrase “women and children first” conflates the two. (I'm going to leave Sean Connery out of this, but by your definition, since he's not talking about spanking, you will have to state that he hates women.)

—————

Finally, I'm not saying that Sim is "a Nazi in a concentration camp," or is "scum."  I realize that you were making a reference to a caricature of Sim published by the Comics Journal years ago. However, I didn't draw that cover; I am not on the staff of TCJ; in short, I am not answerable for what TCJ says, any more than Dave is answerable for what other anti-feminists have said or done.

I understand, and I certainly wasn’t trying to place any blame or responsibility whatsoever for the picture on you. The point I was trying to make regarding the The Comics Journal's Nazi picture was related to the petition. If, after ten-odd years of engaging people on a topic, some of whom decide to draw you as a Nazi in charge of a concentration/extermination camp and otherwise make it clear that they think you are insane scum, then after that ten years of dialogue it does not seem unreasonable, to me, for Sim to limit his interactions to people who do not believe he his comparable to a Nazi. I don’t remember the outrage against The Comics Journal when they did that. Since silence implies consent, I think we can reasonably infer that not very many people did have a problem with it. Again, why not limit your interaction with people who depict you as a Nazi, or have no problem with you being depicted as a Nazi, after you have already engaged them in dialogue for ten years? It simply does not seem unreasonable to me.

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I think a big part of the problem is that these days, the definition of misogyny has been abused and applied to too many situations. To that point I bring up Tim Hunt and Matt Taylor again. If their words and actions are considered misogynistic, and the outrage at their "misogyny" is such that they lose their jobs or have to make tearful apologies, then I think we’re all in very deep trouble.

As a whole, I think I’ve tried to be as fair to both Dave and his critics as is reasonable. I’m not saying any criticism of Dave or his methods or his conclusions is automatically invalid. I'm not saying I agree with anything Sim has said. My agreement is, of course, completely and totally irrelevant. I’ve tried to leave enough room on both sides for a reasonable amount of disagreement, but I have also tried to be accurate and represent his arguments to the best of my understanding. In the end, my claim is still that even if you disagree with him, to dismiss what Dave is saying as just misogyny is simply not being fair and reasonable about Dave’s claims. In the end, I think that you can disagree with Dave without coming to the conclusion that this is all just based on the simple fact that he hates women.

Okay, I tried to avoid the novel-length rebuttal and failed. Again, thanks for your time Barry. We almost certainly disagree on these topics, but I think discussing them is worthwhile.

2 comments:

Harry Worth said...

NO FEMINISM IN NATURE!

Do male cats have spike on their penis?
When mating, the male cat would bite the female cat at the scruff at the neck. Uninformed people would believe that the pain caused by the male cat’s teeth is what makes the female cat scream and paw at the male cat. Female cats scream not because of the male’s bite. What causes female cats to scream is the withdrawal of the tom cat’s penis. Male cats have spikes on their penis. Female cats scream bloody murder because of the pain caused by the spikes that rake the female cat’s vaginal walls. The withdrawal of the cat’s spiked or barbed penis will trigger ovulation.

A male cat’s reproductive tract consists of the scrotum, the two testicles, prostate glands, two bulbourethral glands, the vas deferens and the penis. Kids would often ask parents if cats have penis because the penis of cats are not easily visible. A sheath of skin called prepuce completely covers the cat’s penis. The penis can protrude from the sheath when the cat licks and grooms. The tip of a cat’s penis is called glans. This glans has a band of about 120 to 150 horny projections.

The spikes on the cat’s penis play an important role in feline reproduction. Female cats are induced ovulators. This means that cats would not ovulate unless mated or unless manually stimulated. When cats mate, the male cat holds the female immobile by biting the scruff of the neck. This is one way of inducing the female cat to ovulate. The withdrawal of the penis will cause the spikes to rake against the vaginal walls. This causes the female cat to scream. The scraping of the vaginal walls also induces the female cat to ovulate.

Harry Worth said...

I'M COMING BACK AS A TOM CAT & I'M GONNA MAKE ALL THEM FEMINIST FELINES SCREAM THEIR HEADS OFF!

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