I was gratified to see my co-blogger on ‘Darain Man’, Hugh Ristik, refer in his last post to the “Odious Comparison“, one of a several phrases I’ve coined to describe some of the objectionable aspects of feminism. Just as feminism has its own vocabulary, including such terms of art as “Patriarchy” and “Rape Culture”, so we Feminist Critics need a vocabulary of our own. Ideally each concept should be described by a memorable word or two word phrase. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far. Some of these terms I have been using for a while; others, so far, have existed only in my head; still others I’ve coined even as I drafted this post.
Gendersphere: The entire field of philosophy, discourse, and activism that attends to gender, including, but not limited to feminism, antifeminism, Men’s Rights Activism, and Feminist Criticism.
Feminism: A self-defining segment of the Gendersphere. A feminist is a person who is recognised as a feminist by other feminists.
Pro-feminism: Men who are unwilling to call themselves feminists (or who are not recognised as such by some feminists) because they are male, even though their views are indistinguishable from feminism.
Contrafeminism: That part of the gendersphere that is broadly in disagreement with or opposition to feminism.
Antifeminism: Extreme contrafeminism. An essentially oppositionist stance.
Men’s Rights Activism: A movement devoted to improving the position of men in society. While this is basically a positive stance, the movement is infested with antifeminism.
Feminist Criticism: My term for my own philosophical position, and for the similar views of other people. The phrase is deliberately ambiguous: A feminist critic could be a critic of feminism or a feminist who criticises. I want to carve out a position within gendersphere independent of of the other -isms, overlapping with both feminism and MRA, and critical of both. Arguably the phrase “feminist criticism” is obnoxiously gendered (see below), because feminist critics are also critics of antifeminism, however given the hegemonic position of feminism within the gendersphere I think it is justified. The word “criticism” should be taken in its constructive sense, there are many aspects of feminism that feminist critics will agree with. Feminist Critics accept the tools of feminism (gender analysis, etc.,) and apply them to feminism itself.
Typical: I use this word as a term of art, meaning behaviour, etc., which (a) is common among feminists (or some other group), (b) is unlikely to be challenged by other feminists, (c) if someone with otherwise good feminist credentials does challenge it, they are likely to have their status as feminists challenged by other feminists, and (d) those without feminist credentials who challenge it are likely to be regarded as antifeminists/MRAs (or the equivalent opposition group). Typical behaviours within a group are likely to be perceived by outsiders as representative of it.
The ‘Bird in your Garden’ Test: A test for typicality. If all you need do to see a particular kind of bird is look out the window, that’s an indication that those birds are typical of where you live. If you have to travel 200 miles to visit a nature reserve to see them, then they’re not typical. Similarly if you can easily find an example of a particular argument or behaviour passing unchallenged among the usual suspects within the blogosphere, then that’s an indication that it is typical. If you can’t, then it probably isn’t.
Obnoxious Gendering: Refers to the typical feminist practice of equating maleness and masculinity with bad, and femaleness (though not femininity) with good. At its most obnoxious, it refers to the practice of never letting men forget just how lousy they are: “It’s male violence, committed by men, who are male. Just in case you didn’t get that, it’s men who are doing this, etc., etc., ad nauseum“. Obnoxious Gendering has a more subtle aspect in the use of gendered terms like “feminism” and “patriarchy” to refer to things which (in the view of the feminist) are good and bad respectively.
Self-flagellation Obnoxious Gendering applied to oneself. Typical behaviour of pro-feminist men. (Thanks to Hugh for the phrase.)
The Avuncular Arm: A typical pro-feminist response to male victimisation. An avuncular arm slides around the survivor’s shoulder, and he is invited to “consider how we oppress women”. A collective form of self-flagellation, this is victim-blaming at its worst because it casts the survivor into the role of perp. It is one of the reasons why feminism is toxic to many male survivors.
The Odious Comparison: Typical feminist practice of unjustifiably or inappropriately comparing male oppression, suffering, etc., unfavourably with female suffering. If a feminist or pro-feminist wishes to discuss male oppression etc., within feminism, then it is de rigueur to genuflect to the Odious Comparison.
Selective Focus: Typical feminist practice of looking only at those oppressions which (according to the feminist) affect women worse, in order to justify the Odious Comparison. For example, in a discussion about violence, only sexual and domestic violence will be considered. (Note that I do not object to a focus upon these issues. It is the exclusive and frequently innappropriate focus which is problematic.)
Rape Trivialisation: Typical feminist practice of defining rape so broadly that it encompasses the trivial, in some cases even sexual activity considered fully consensual by the person purportedly raped. (Note that this is not to be confused the the antifeminist objection to Koss’s rape study, that many of the raped women did not define their experience as “rape”, but whose experiences were nevertheless rape according to a non-trivialised definition.)
Rape Privilege: The practice of elevating rape and other sexual assaults “the worst”. A particular instance of the Odious Comparison. (This is a typical mainstream discourse. Feminists typically selectively focus on rape, but they do not typically privilege it in this way, in my experience.)
Denial, Dismissal, Minimisation, and ignoring of male oppression, suffering, etc.: I really need a catchy phrase to describe this quadrumvirate of discourses. (The ‘four discourses’?) Note that this is not limited to feminism, but is characteristic of the mainstream. Hence it is an example of feminism embracing and extending a previously existing gendered discourse.
Subordination: The typical feminist practice of presenting men’s oppression and suffering as subordinate to women’s. A fifth discourse related to the previous four.
The Three Techniques, also Displacement, Incidentalisation, and Exclusion: Mainstream rhetorical techniques used to minimise male victimisation, described by Dr. Jones in his paper “Effacing the Male“.
Lachrymosity: The tendency within both feminism and mainstream media to use tearjerkingly emotive language to describe female suffering and comparatively perfunctory language to describe male suffering. Arguably a fourth technique on a par with the three described by Dr. Jones.
Instanciation Not to be confused with “incidentalisation, which would be a better word for it, which is already taken. By “instanciation” I mean to portray instances of male victimisation as incidents rather than as systems of oppression.
Hidden Victimisation also The Other Side of the Mountain, and, in extreme cases, Holocaust Denial: How male victims and male oppression are rendered invisible by these techniques and discourses.
Comments and criticisms welcome, in particular, better terms for some of these phenomena would be greatly appreciated. Clearly many of the terms fall short of the “memorable one or two-word phrase” criterion. Is there anything I should add? Any good “Bird in your Garden” examples of each type of typical behaviour?
Crossposted between Creative Destruction and Darain Man.