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Rebutting the Straw Men/Owning up when "it's a fair cop, guv.

(260 Posts)
LurcioAgain Sun 14-Jun-15 14:26:17

BertrandRussell has started an interesting thread in Chat asking women who consciously reject the label "feminist" why they do so. One thing that strikes me is a lot of the reasons being given are in fact "straw men", and that maybe a rebutting the straw men thread would be nice.

Aim of the game (of course I can't control the direction the conversation takes, but I hope people will be on board with this) - keep the conversation couched in reasonably accessible terms, keep the posts short enough not to be overwhelming (so probably only one straw man per post!)

LurcioAgain Sun 14-Jun-15 14:36:16

I'll go first:

All PIV is rape

First off, Dworkin never said that (her view is much more complex). Second, most of the heterosexual feminists I've ever talked to, including ones who self-identify as radical feminists, say that on a personal basis they like PIV.

Okay, so quick primer as to why, despite the fact that it's extremely enjoyable (at least I think so), PIV has its problems.

1) It leads to pregnancy. Pregnancy only happens to women, and may be much wanted or very much unwanted, but takes a toll on your body physically, and birth carries risks up to and including death! These risks can be mostly avoided by using contraception and being lucky enough to live in a western country with good medical care. But some women can't access contraception, and some women find hormonal contraceptives don't agree with them. So there may be legitimate reasons why, even though it's great, an individual woman may want to get their sexual jollies another way - but we live in a society which places PIV at the centre of heterosexual sex - so it's very difficult for a woman to say no to it if she wants to without coming across as some sort of weirdo.

2) PIV is an activity where its morality or otherwise depends entirely on both people wanting to do it! If both want to it can be fabulous. If one party (statistically usually the woman) doesn't it's rape. (NB note for the pedants: under UK law only men can commit rape, but I'm including a woman having sex with an unwilling man under this heading for the purposes of this argument - rare, but it does happen). And because of the possibility of rape, there's a strong element of the "eroticisation of rape" in our culture, both by those who stand to benefit from this (rapists) and those who might be on the receiving end, as a kind of psychological defence mechanism.

There are more points that could be made, but in a nutshell: PIV, bloody brilliant if both want to do it, but carries certain implications for women which it doesn't for men, and this makes it a feminist issue.

(Possibly failed the "keep posts succinct" rule I set grin)

BriarRainbowshimmer Sun 14-Jun-15 14:50:05

Good initiative, OP.
I was surprised how many on that thread thought that feminists believed that.

I want to add that it has also been discussed that it's seen as "standard sex" even though most women orgasm from direct clitorical stimulation only, and as OP said it puts women at risk of pregnancy. Also, something women are expected to do even if we aren't feeling like it always. So PIV is fine but should not be assumed to be the standard.

almondcakes Sun 14-Jun-15 14:58:28

I think it is a bit dodgy to ask people to express their views on one thread, on the basis that people will not argue against them, and then create a whole other thread to argue against them.

Most of the points on that thread are not strawmen. Those things do happen in feminism; lots of feminists do hold the attitudes being complained about.

But there are straw men there. The most offensive straw man (to me) is both racist and sexist. The idea that women don't do manual work. I'll argue against that:

1. Huge numbers of women all over the world do manual work. Some of the worst manual work is only done by women - sewage removal in various parts of India for example. Women do most of the world's work and the Western style of living depends on workers elsewhere.

2. Denying who does the work leaves communities vulnerable to starvation and the world vulnerable to environmental disaster because women are not given the power to make decisions about their own work, as people erase the fact they are even the ones doing it.

3. Most men in the UK do not have manual jobs. They sit at desks. Looking after children and cleaning is manual work in comparison.

4. People see work as more or less manual based on who does it. This leads to lower pay for women. Birmingham example where they were found to have underpaid women. The public perceived cleaners as less manual than refuse collectors, yet council cleaners clear houses where tenants have died, where there is excrement, drugs paraphenelia with an infection risk and so on.

LurcioAgain Sun 14-Jun-15 15:03:07

Good point, Almonds - maybe a thread about a thread is slightly bad form. But on the other hand, since Bertrand expressly set up that thread as a kind of "safe space" where people could say why they didn't self-identify as feminists, we can't take up the points on the thread. And also I see this partly as an exercise in learning how to up my game - learn by listening to people and try to develop ways of saying stuff in a form which won't alienate people.

And yes, "women don't do manual work" is a great example.

thatstoast Sun 14-Jun-15 15:05:51

I haven't read that particular thread so not 100% sure if this has come up.

Feminists hate men

Softer version would include "I'm an equalist because I want to improve things for both men and women". The implication being that feminists don't care about men.

I don't hate men. I have an irrational dislike of Christian Slater but otherwise I have no problem with men as individuals. I want to improve the lives of men and women. One of the ways we could improve things is by having equality between the sexes. That's feminism, isnt it?

ezinma Sun 14-Jun-15 15:53:40

A close relation of 'Feminists hate men':

Feminists are fat hairy lesbians

1 Many are not.
2 I am. So what?
3 Feminism is a political project, not an identity. Reading Delusions of gender won't make you fat or gay, or prevent you from shaving, any more than reading Das Kapital would make you grow a bushy beard and speak with a German accent.
4 It's just a threat, isn't it? If you ask for equality, you can't expect to benefit from any of the enormous opportunities for patronage that men can confer under patriarchy. Like, um, the male gaze...

PuffinsAreFictitious Sun 14-Jun-15 16:41:32

There's no need for feminism anymore, women have equality already

1. What utter bollocks.

Just that really.

Yops Sun 14-Jun-15 17:02:55

Here is one that I don't know the answer to - men can't be feminists. Is that a straw man?

BriarRainbowshimmer Sun 14-Jun-15 17:15:04

Some women think it's more suitable for men who support women's rights to call themselves pro-feminist or allies, than feminists.

Yops Sun 14-Jun-15 17:19:05

Yeah, that's what I thought. I saw a few people on the other thread say that they had a problem with this.

GirlSailor Sun 14-Jun-15 17:19:50

Feminists don't value traditionally female tasks

Things like childrearing, cooking, caring jobs. As if feminists are solely concerned with women in high office or on boards. I think this mainly occurs because a conversation about one thing is interrupted and derailed. So if a group of women want to talk about the obstacles they faced getting top academic positions someone will always say 'what if the woman wants to stay at home and raise children?' And if the answer is that isn't being discussed now, this is a specific conversation about 1 thing that means 'we don't care about those women - being a sahp isn't a feminist choice'

I would imagine a more feminist society would value the tasks traditionally done by women, and they would be undertaken by both men and women. These jobs would also be paid more and not seen as menial. Just as we'd see more women in traditionally male fields. Clothes and toys would be just clothes and toys - not for a specific sex and people would do what they were drawn to, not what they were pushed into.

YonicScrewdriver Sun 14-Jun-15 17:26:24

Double standards

I agree that a male poster, particularly a new male poster, often gets a bit less slack cut than a new female poster in eg relationship threads.

I disagree that the majority of that different treatment comes from feMNists; I think it's an MN wide phenomenon. I also think that many many female OPs unconsciously minimise in their first few posts and regular MNers often adjust for this with follow up questions.

BriarRainbowshimmer Sun 14-Jun-15 17:30:31

Feminists believe that there is no difference between men and women

Feminists, at least radical feminists, understand that men and women are biologically different. Some things are obvious, like anatomy, genitals, ability to produce sperm or give birth to children.
In other cases, society plays a role in making existing differences larger - like physical strenght - girls are not encouraged to get strong the way boys are, girls being encouraged to go on diets.
In other cases it's debatable if a natural, non cultural difference exist at all. For example, if men are naturally better at technical things, and if women are just naturally better at multitasking.
Feminists also believe that women are opressed because of our sex, our ability to bear children.

Feel free to correct me/add something.

Yops Sun 14-Jun-15 17:52:14

Feminists, at least radical feminists, understand that men and women are biologically different.

Would these differences explain why men have a greater tendency to violence?

LurcioAgain Sun 14-Jun-15 17:58:57

Feminists are anti-marriage

I'd say feminists are conflicted about marriage. Under current UK law it affords invaluable financial protection to women who, say, choose to be a SAHM, then find themselves divorced or widowed. But historically and in many other cultures marriage can be far from a good thing. It was as recently as 1991 that case law finally established that rape within marriage was a crime. In my mother's younger days all sorts of things like opening bank accounts required your husband's countersignature. Historically it's about ownership. There are still parts of the world where forced marriage is the norm. With all that baggage, it's not surprising that some feminists have mixed feelings about marriage.

almondcakes Sun 14-Jun-15 18:01:00

Lots of feminists don't value traditionally female jobs, or femininity, or motherhood. I've seen that many, many times, and not as a derailment.

Another one mentioned - feminism doesn't value single mothers or older women. These are also true - most people on here supported paid paternity leave despite its advantage to couples at the expense of single mothers. Feminism being mostly about younger women - absolutely the case across most online feminist sites.

LurcioAgain Sun 14-Jun-15 18:04:50

I'm treated equally at work, and paid equally

Well, yes, but not everyone is. And how sure about that are you? Until recently I'd have said "I'm lucky enough to work somewhere where this isn't an issue (but I'm still a feminist because I'm aware it isn't so for everyone). But then my workplace - management and union in cooperation - did a pay audit. There is about a 10% pay gap. Now in our case, it's cock-up rather than conspiracy (a legacy of long pay scales which tend to disadvantage women who have more career breaks). But it's still there. My equal pay claim went in via the union last week. (And it has to be said management are fully behind this - they're hoping that the threat of legal action will give them leverage with the people who hold the purse strings to free up a bit of extra money to set things right. And it will help out some men too - because although the majority of people affected are women, there are men affected too. It should give us a fairer system for everyone).

I'd certainly say to any woman in an organisation with a contractual ban on discussing your salary with your colleagues (such clauses are common in the City, I believe): Are you sure? Are you really, really sure?

BriarRainbowshimmer Sun 14-Jun-15 18:06:38

almond which makes me think of the idea that...

All women who call themselves feminists share the same opinions


LurcioAgain Sun 14-Jun-15 18:08:41

Re. paid paternity leave. I'm a single mother, Almond, and an older one - but I'm playing the long game here. If paid paternity leave gets men taking a big role in childcare, the knock-on effects (in terms of flexible working becoming normalised, it not being automatically seen as the woman's job to take time off for sick children, etc.) will ultimately benefit me.

But I agree - women's activities are systematically devalued by society as a whole, and some feminists (particularly younger, liberal feminists who haven't got children) are guilty of this.

soapboxqueen Sun 14-Jun-15 18:10:40

Sorry. Genuine question. How does paid paternity leave disadvantage single parents?

GirlSailor Sun 14-Jun-15 18:14:58

almond I don't think all feminists want motherhood for themselves and society pushes them into it. The reaction to that is that they don't value it/push against it in the same way that a non-academic kid in a very academic-focused family might say that's rubbish and not as meaningful as working with your hands.

An equal society would not have this issue. I realise that not all feminists are interested in improving the lives of mothers, but generally it seems like feminists are asked to care about all women's issues and I think there are too many for any one person to effectively work on all of them.

BriarRainbowshimmer Sun 14-Jun-15 18:15:36

I think most feminists agree that men's greater tendency to violence is in large part a product of socialization.

Some say it's only because of how boys are raised, others say it's more than that.
It's hard to know how much is nature vs nurture, and there is no agreement on this AFAIK.

bigbuttons Sun 14-Jun-15 18:32:38

it's threads like this that put me off this whole thing.
Come on the other thread and talk about it instead and then we can have a proper discussion.

YonicScrewdriver Sun 14-Jun-15 18:35:33

Big, the reason this thread has been started separately is because the OP of the other thread asked for that to be just statements!

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