Creative Destruction

February 17, 2007

The Essential Conservatism of Feminist Discourse: The Whitewashing of Male Victimisation

Filed under: Feminist Issues,Human Rights,Iraq,War — Daran @ 3:57 am

Over on Alas, Kate L. makes an Odious Comparison . (My italics):

I don’t really know about other feminists, but I for one will be the first one to tell you that sexism – both personal and institutional – hurts men as well as women. Now, that being said, I’m afraid that I do agree with amp that the degree of harm is different and that in general most women are probably harmed more than most men, but there is substantial harms to both due to rigid gender role expectations.

How can you draw any conclusion about who is harmed more if you don’t fairly evaluate the harms to both?

The extended discussion between me and Amp, which lead to his revised definition of feminism, began with this post, and this comment by him to Robert’s reply. Amp describes in considerable detail the cataract of disaster that has poured onto the heads of Iraqi women since the invasion. I queried Amp’s statement from his comment that “there’s strong evidence that for girls and women in particular (but not exclusively), things have gotten much worse since we invaded”, (my italics), asking him: “please provide some evidence that it’s not overwhelmingly men in particular who are being targetted for violence?”

Amp’s reply was quite intemperate. He later retracted some of the snarkiness, but stood by his his main point, which was that it wasn’t his burden to prove his claims, but mine to disprove them:

Daran, provide me with some evidence that non-combatant men have been killed more than non-combatant women…

In any case, I don’t doubt for a second that men’s lives in most of Iraq have been made much worse by the US invasion, and that there is an endless supply of violence – perhaps even a majority of violence, by some measures – directed at men, especially if one doesn’t see any moral distinction between shooting an armed combatant to death and shooting an unarmed civilian to death.

In any case, it wouldn’t alter my basic opinion at all. Even if men were the majority of victims in Iraq, I’d still think that there are clearly some forms of violence, abuse and loss of liberty that have been directed more at women then at men, and I’d still be writing about those problems.

Well I took on that burden. It took me several months to find some actual figures, but here they are: 5.4% of civilian fatalities of the on-going violence are women. I estimate about 2% are children, almost certainly mostly teenage boys. The figures for the wounded are similar: 6.4% are women and 2.3% are children.

I don’t think Amp would stand now by what he said then, except for the last quoted paragraph. The question is, how did he ever come to believe that women in Iraq suffered more violent victimisation than men? The answer, of course, is the complete whitewashing of the extent of male victimisation in both mainstream and feminist media, coupled with the feminist gender-norm – the Odious Comparison – that makes such declarations de rigueur in feminist circles without any analysis of the harms suffered by men. Before I found those UN reports containing actual figures, I had to ferret around in reports and news articles for any clues that might have survived the whitewashing. This story for example, discusses these killings at length without any direct reference to the sex of the victims. It’s like reading a description of the Nazi Holocaust which avoids mentioning the word ‘Jew’. But it does contain a clue about two thirds of the way through:

Even the UN Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) humanitarian news agency reported on April 26 that “More than 90 women become widows each day due to continuing violence countrywide, according to government officials and non-governmental organizations devoted to women’s issues.”

Another extremely telling point in the IRIN report is that “Although few reliable statistics are available on the total number of widows in Iraq, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs says that there are at least 300,000 in Baghdad alone, with another eight million throughout the country.” The report said that at least 15 police officers’ wives are widowed every day, and that local NGOs in Iraq said the situation had become much worse since the 2003 US-led invasion of the country, which has brought horrific violence on a level not seen before

Woah there! Eight million widows!? (The figure would include widows from the Hussein era, and so is not necessarily inconsistent with extimates of post invasion deaths in the tens or hundreds of thousands. I am nevertheless sceptical about this figure.) 90 widows per day? Notice that these indirect victims of the violence are gendered. It is only through the centring of the female victims, that the sex of the direct victims becomes visible, and then only by inference. When male victims are discussed directly, they’re desexed, and thus rendered invisible as men. See this post for another example of the desexing of male victims.

Compare with this femininst treatment: “Iraqi Women’s Bodies Are Battlefields for War Vendettas” it says in the headline. Contrast the emotive description of the woman’s murder with the perfuctory language of her brother’s. “They pierced her body with bullets.” vs. “He was also shot and killed.” In case you’d forgotten the headline, the same formulation is used about midway though the article: “women’s bodies [are] the battlefields on which vendettas and threats are played out.”

This is a conservative treatment. It adheres to the mainstream gender-norms exemplfied in the first article, in that the overwhelming levels of male victimisation are rendered invisible, in effect, denied. It is only through being subordinated to a woman’s death, that a male victim is visible at all. A progressive treatment would challenge these gender-norms.

Media whitewashing of harms to men isn’t restricted to Iraq, and it isn’t restricted to war. It applies across the board of feminist discourse which “looks at female oppression through a microscope, and male oppression through a telescope. Backwards. Pointing at the ground. With the lens covers still on. And both eyes closed.

So again, how can you tell who’s harmed the most, if all your sources of information whitewash the harms to men?

(Crossposted with Feminist Critics.)

19 Comments »

  1. So why is this a bad thing?

    Comment by butch3r — February 17, 2007 @ 4:02 am | Reply

  2. It minimizes the suffering of men. Which is to say, it condones and even encourages male suffering.

    …and suffering is a bad thing.

    Comment by Jams — February 17, 2007 @ 8:02 pm | Reply

  3. I think that it is also important to point out that it is men who are killing other men, and women are being killed by other men. The common denominator is that men are causing all of the violence in the first place whereas women are bystanders to the whole conflict.

    Comment by Jamila Akil — February 18, 2007 @ 11:45 am | Reply

  4. …whereas women are bystanders to the whole conflict.

    Well, sometimes. But there are female insurgents, and female soldiers, and female policymakers. Men aren’t causing all the violence.

    Comment by Robert — February 18, 2007 @ 12:38 pm | Reply

  5. 1) As far as I know, the large majority of both women and men are not causing the violence.

    2) Nonetheless, it’s also true that of the violent minority, the large majority are male. And of the tiny minority of people who are significant decision-makers — who command governments, armies, militias, etc — the majority are male.

    * * *

    The “odious comparison,” as Daran calls it, is usually brought up by feminists because feminists fear that violence against women will be ignored or brushed aside. And there is a real history of the mainstream media ignoring most violence against women in warfare. In the past, all violence in warfare, except in specific and narrow circumstances (i.e., “those scumbags are killing women and babies” pro-war propoganda), was assumed to be happening to men.

    For instance, that the MSM is now acknowleging the use of rape in war — at least, except when it’s done by US soldiers — is an extremely recent change in how media covers war, and one that would not have happened without decades of feminist writings and analysis. But it’s still something that’s generally acknowleged only in “special” articles, rather than being part of the everyday coverage of war’s harms (it’s almost impossible to find a network news report on the subject, for instance). If feminists let up, it’s very likely that rape will almost cease to be reported on at all in the mainstream media.

    I’ve been convinced by Daran that the media coverage of the current Iraq war, and the discussion of Iraq by some feminists, is flawed because it doesn’t acknowlege the enormous gendered violence against men. However, I don’t think this is happening because feminists are all man-haters, as Daran implies; the history and context are more complex than that. Nor do I think that it’s illegitimate to talk about violence against women; not every article has to be about men. What’s needed isn’t attacks on articles that talk about harms to Iraqi women, but questioning why the mainstream media isn’t routinely acknowleging the gendered violence against Iraqi men.

    Comment by Ampersand — February 18, 2007 @ 4:15 pm | Reply

  6. Addedum: Another important context, in the current set of wars, is that feminists are usually aware of conservative and pro-war claims that feminists are hypocrites for not being pro-war, since obviously invading Afghanistan and Iraq is so good for women’s rights. Certainly, many of my own “my god, look what we’ve done to the women of Iraq and Afghanistan!” posts have been motivated to a great extent by a desire to respond to these right-wing claims.

    Not that caring about what happens to women is ever something that should need apology or explanation. (Ditto for caring about what happens to men.)

    [Edited to clarify phrasing, to try and avoid a possible misreading. –Amp]

    Comment by Ampersand — February 18, 2007 @ 4:40 pm | Reply

  7. thanks amp for your exceptionally lucid response to this.

    Comment by curiousgyrl — February 19, 2007 @ 9:42 am | Reply

  8. Ampersand:

    1) As far as I know, the large majority of both women and men are not causing the violence.

    That’s my understanding of the situation too.

    2) Nonetheless, it’s also true that of the violent minority, the large majority are male. And of the tiny minority of people who are significant decision-makers — who command governments, armies, militias, etc — the majority are male.

    Which means that Fatima the dishwasher is oppressed in a way that Abdul the janitor will never understand.

    Did it ever occur to you wonder why so many civilian men are killed? It’s partly because the militias target men, but there’s another reason. As it says here: “[the low number of female deaths] reflects the fact that women in Iraq have led very private lives since the war, mostly due to the lack of public security”. This was, in fact, what you blogged about, rightly observing that this represented a severe curtailment of women’s freedom. But did it ever occur to you to wonder why, if it’s even more dangerous for men, they don’t lead even more private lives?

    The answer is because they can’t. They’re the ones who have to leave the relative safety of the home, and brave the death squads to earn the family bread. And they pay a heavy price for that “freedom”. So let’s add number 3.

    3) The ones taking a bullet so that the women can be protected are largely men.

    The “odious comparison,” as Daran calls it, is usually brought up by feminists because feminists fear that violence against women will be ignored or brushed aside.

    And that’s an excuse for them to ignore and brush aside violence against men?

    And there is a real history of the mainstream media ignoring most violence against women in warfare. In the past, all violence in warfare, except in specific and narrow circumstances (i.e., “those scumbags are killing women and babies” pro-war propoganda), was assumed to be happening to men.

    In fact it is violence against civilians which has historically been largely ignored. War is depicted as being about hero vs. villain, and cannon-fodder vs. cannon-fodder. The hero wins, the villain gets what he deserves, and nobody gives a damn about the cannon-fodder. The effect is to sanitise and enable war, while desensitising us to what happens to cannon-fodder men. And who has paid the price for that? Men, mostly.

    For instance, that the MSM is now acknowleging the use of rape in war — at least, except when it’s done by US soldiers — is an extremely recent change in how media covers war, and one that would not have happened without decades of feminist writings and analysis. But it’s still something that’s generally acknowleged only in “special” articles, rather than being part of the everyday coverage of war’s harms (it’s almost impossible to find a network news report on the subject, for instance). If feminists let up, it’s very likely that rape will almost cease to be reported on at all in the mainstream media.

    The war-rape of men is not acknowledged in the mainstream media. Feminists actively campaign against its acknowledgement by construing it as ‘violence against women’.

    I’ve been convinced by Daran that the media coverage of the current Iraq war, and the discussion of Iraq by some feminists, is flawed because it doesn’t acknowlege the enormous gendered violence against men. However, I don’t think this is happening because feminists are all man-haters, as Daran implies; the history and context are more complex than that.

    I’ve not said or implied that feminists are all man-haters. However, much feminist discourse is recognisably hate-speech, and feminists generally tolerate and defend it.

    Nor do I think that it’s illegitimate to talk about violence against women; not every article has to be about men.

    I have never suggested that it is illegitimate to talk about the violent victimisation of women. However, “violence against women” is a problematic discourse, which is prejudicial against men in a trio of ways. When used to refer to those categories of violence which predominantly victimise women, it renders male victims invisible at a conceptual level. When used to refer to generic violence, in cases where the victims are female, it serves to privilege them at the expense of male victims. But as the mainstream “women and children” discourse shows, they’re already privileged as victims of violence. Finally when coupled with the “male violence” discourse, it is nothing less than a blood-libel against those men who are literally dying to protect the women.

    I have not suggested that every article needs to be about men. Nor does every article need to be about women, which, to a first approximation, every feminist article is.

    What’s needed isn’t attacks on articles that talk about harms to Iraqi women, but questioning why the mainstream media isn’t routinely acknowleging the gendered violence against Iraqi men.

    Articles which engage in blood-libel and holocaust-denial need to be attacked.

    I’ll take no lectures from anyone about the need to question why the mainstream media isn’t routinely acknowledging the gendered violence against men.

    Addedum: Another important context, in the current set of wars, is that feminists are usually aware of conservative and pro-war claims that feminists are hypocrites for not being pro-war, since obviously invading Afghanistan and Iraq is so good for women’s rights. Certainly, many of my own “my god, look what we’ve done to the women of Iraq and Afghanistan!” posts have been motivated to a great extent by a desire to respond to these right-wing claims.

    That criticism against feminism – and the defence against it – is predicated on feminism being only concerned about what happens to women.

    Not that caring about what happens to women is ever something that should need apology or explanation.

    That is not the criticism.

    (Ditto for caring about what happens to men.)

    I could name some feminists who think it does.

    Edited for wording.

    Comment by Daran — February 19, 2007 @ 11:30 am | Reply

  9. Which means that Fatima the dishwasher is oppressed in a way that Abdul the janitor will never understand.

    Sheesh, what a strawman. No, I didn’t say that, nor did I imply that.

    Did it ever occur to you wonder why so many civilian men are killed? It’s partly because the militias target men, but there’s another reason. As it says here: “[the low number of female deaths] reflects the fact that women in Iraq have led very private lives since the war, mostly due to the lack of public security”. This was, in fact, what you blogged about, rightly observing that this represented a severe curtailment of women’s freedom. But did it ever occur to you to wonder why, if it’s even more dangerous for men, they don’t lead even more private lives?

    In some cases, it has. From a post a couple of days ago on Inside Iraq:

    We were asked to send the next of kin to whom the remains of my nephew, killed on Monday in a horrific explosion downtown, can be handed over. The young men of the family, as was customary, rose to go.

    “NO!” cried his mother. “Isn’t my son enough?? Must we lose more of our youth?? You know there are unknowns who wait at the Morgue to either kill or kidnap the men who dare reach its doors. I will go.”

    So we went, his mum, his other aunt and I.

    I was praying all the way there.

    I never thought a day would come when it was the women of the family, who would be safer on the roads. All the men are potential terrorists it seems, and are therefore to be cut down on sight. This is the logic of today, is it not?

    The reason men are so often the ones to go out is partly because of conventional sex-roles, which are harmful to men and women both. (In this particular case, the harms to men are particularly enormous). But it’s also partly because there is a perception that women are the ones who were less safe on the road, and as the above-quoted passage shows, that perception is perhaps beginning to change.

    And that’s an excuse for them to ignore and brush aside violence against men?

    No, of course not. Nor do I believe anything I’ve said here can be fairly described as “ignoring and brushing aside violence against men.”

    I’ve not said or implied that feminists are all man-haters. However, some feminist discourse is recognisably hate-speech, and feminists are generally tolerant of it.

    We pick our battles, just like you do. (There’s plenty of hateful speech among your anti-feminist allies which you tolerate, assuming “tolerate” in this context means “don’t bother responding to”). I decided long ago, after possibly hundreds of exchanges, that further arguing about misandry with Luckynkl and her fellow-travelers was pointless. It has no chance of changing their minds, and it brings further attention to a discourse that is (to put it mildly) extremely marginal.

    I have never suggested that it is illegitimate to talk about the violent victimisation of women. However, “violence against women” is a problematic discourse, which is prejudicial against men in a trio of ways. When used to refer to those categories of violence which predominantly victimise women, it renders male victims invisible at a conceptual level. When used to refer to generic violence, in cases where the victims are female, it serves to privilege them at the expense of male victims. But as the mainstream “women and children” discourse shows, they’re already privileged as victims of violence. Finally when coupled with the “male violence” discourse, it is nothing less than a blood-libel against those men who are literally dying to protect the women.

    I have not suggested that every article needs to be about men. Nor does every article need to be about women, which, to a first approximation, every feminist article is.

    Oh, give me a break, Daran. Criticizing feminists for talking about women is your most frequent discourse. Claiming that’s not what you do would be like me claiming I’ve got nothing against weight-loss diets.

    You’re like someone who attacks articles about civil rights over and over and over again for failing to discuss white victims of racist violence, but who when called on it claims “I’m not saying that every article has to be about whites.” You don’t literally say it, but if that’s not what your view is, why are you acting exactly as if it were your view? Wouldn’t someone who genuinely didn’t think all articles need to be about men not constantly be attacking articles about women?

    When used to refer to those categories of violence which predominantly victimise women, it renders male victims invisible at a conceptual level.

    The solution to this is more writing about male victims in those categories; not constantly mau-mauing feminists who write about (say) female rape victims. It’s not a coincidence that the overwhelming majority of rape victims are female (except in male-only contexts), and the overwhelming majority of rapists are male. It’s not possible to meaningfully discuss the causes of rape without discussing how it’s a gendered crime.

    That doesn’t mean it’s illegitimate to want to write about male rape or female rapists. It does mean it’s counterproductive and regressive — conservative, you might say — to attack writings that focus on typical rapes with a “how dare you make male victims and female rapists invisible!” critique.

    When used to refer to generic violence, in cases where the victims are female, it serves to privilege them at the expense of male victims. But as the mainstream “women and children” discourse shows, they’re already privileged as victims of violence.

    I do agree that in some cases, the feminist tendency to focus on female victims is wrong (i.e., “a bridge collapsed today, killing 20 people, 8 of them women!”). But this is an extremely rare thing for feminists to do. You notice it more than most people, I suspect, because you have a prosecutor’s mentality when reading feminists; so for you one instance of a feminist making this error seems more significant than 100 that do not.

    As for “women and children,” I agree that sort of discourse is bad for men. But it’s also bad for women. I discussed the phrase in this blog post.

    Finally when coupled with the “male violence” discourse, it is nothing less than a blood-libel against those men who are literally dying to protect the women. […] Articles which engage in blood-libel and holocaust-denial need to be attacked.

    In comment #5, I wrote about the indisputable fact that — although most men aren’t violent — most people who perpetuate deadly violence are male. Are you seriously suggesting that this is morally equivalent to people who lie about Jews by claiming we ceremonially drink the blood of gentile children? That’s beyond ridiculous.

    Also beyond ridiculous is your implication that writing about violence against women is the equivalent of claiming that the Nazis didn’t murder millions of people in concentration camps.

    Nor does every article need to be about women, which, to a first approximation, every feminist article is.

    There are hundreds, probably thousands, of feminist articles about men. However, the vast majority of feminist articles focus on women, and there’s nothing wrong with that. If the entire cultural discourse was all about women, that might be a problem; but in the real world, that’s far from being the case.

    I’ll take no lectures from anyone about the need to question why the mainstream media isn’t routinely acknowledging the gendered violence against men.

    Judging by your actions, criticizing the mainstream media is primarily interesting to you as an opportunity for feminist-bashing. (You’ve written many posts bashing feminists without criticizing the mainstream media, but none I know of criticizing the mainstream media without bashing feminists; that strongly implies that for you bashing feminists is the main game, and critiquing mainstream media depictions of men only a sideline.)

    I could name some feminists who think it does.

    Then name them, including links to them demanding apologies or explanations for caring about what happens to men. I’m sure the feminists you name will be mainstream, widely-published feminists who are fair representatives of the present-day feminist movement as a whole. Right?

    Comment by Ampersand — February 19, 2007 @ 12:57 pm | Reply

  10. I believe Daran’s point is more of an accusation of selective perception. Which is to say: Focusing on the women killed in Iraq, and defining the war on those terms, isn’t inherently dishonest or problematic.

    But OTOH failing to mention the context involved–that the women you are writing about represent a tiny fraction of the people involved who are being killed–can be misleading.

    So when you say

    You’re like someone who attacks articles about civil rights over and over and over again for failing to discuss white victims of racist violence, but who when called on it claims “I’m not saying that every article has to be about whites.” You don’t literally say it, but if that’s not what your view is, why are you acting exactly as if it were your view? Wouldn’t someone who genuinely didn’t think all articles need to be about men not constantly be attacking articles about women?

    that’s not really fair.

    This is accurate and honest:
    “This article will explore the racism suffered by whites. Though this represents only 2% of the racist acts committed in the United States, it nonetheless gives valuable information…”

    this is accurate and nonetheless dishonest because of omission:
    “This article will explore racism suffered by whites. Many whites have suffered racist acts…”

    Comment by Sailorman — February 19, 2007 @ 2:55 pm | Reply

  11. Hello, Amp.

    Ampersand said:

    The “odious comparison,” as Daran calls it, is usually brought up by feminists because feminists fear that violence against women will be ignored or brushed aside.

    Daran replied:

    And that’s an excuse for them to ignore and brush aside violence against men?

    Ampersand said:

    No, of course not. Nor do I believe anything I’ve said here can be fairly described as “ignoring and brushing aside violence against men.”

    I don’t think Daran is accusing you of that (at least not in that quote). As you know, Daran views what he calls the “odious comparison” to be fallacious and unfair to male suffering (though you might not find it odious). If he is correct, then the comparison cannot be defended on the grounds that feminists fear that women’s issues will be brushed aside otherwise. This defense would mean that in order to gain attention for violence against women, violence against men is being brushed aside; that would be a zero-sum game. I think that is where Daran’s response is coming from.

    Ampersand said:

    You don’t literally say it, but if that’s not what your view is, why are you acting exactly as if it were your view? Wouldn’t someone who genuinely didn’t think all articles need to be about men not constantly be attacking articles about women?

    Let’s say that 1% of the articles are on men. MRA #1 wants 10% of the articles to be on men, MRA #2 wants 50% to be on men, MRA #3 wants 90%. Yet while the actual number is 1%, each of these three hypothetical MRAs would be saying the same thing: “the victimization of men needs more attention!!” So actually, Daran’s attack on the current emphasis on women doesn’t mean that he thinks all, or even most attention should go to men.

    Also, as Sailorman says, focusing on violence against women without even mentioning violence against men, when men are the vast majority of the victims, can be seen as lying by omission. Since feminism has a stranglehold on public discourse about gender, lay people may think “If men were being victimized and murdered in large numbers, feminism would be telling us about it, because feminism is the authority on all things gender; feminism hasn’t told us about mass victimization of men, so that means it isn’t happening.” This perception is fallacious and perhaps not feminism’s fault. Yet it is feminism’s responsibility to fix it, due to the authority they are granted in discourse over gender.

    Also beyond ridiculous is your implication that writing about violence against women is the equivalent of claiming that the Nazis didn’t murder millions of people in concentration camps.

    This is a straw man: Daran isn’t claiming that writing about violence against women is akin to holocaust denial. He is saying that dismissing or ignoring violence against men is the problem. If indeed mass violence against men is being dismissed or ignored by various people (possibly including, but not limited to, feminists), then it’s not unreasonable for him to liken this to holocaust denial.

    If you disagree with Daran and I that feminists tend to ignore or dismiss the victimization of men, then you might provide examples of some major feminists who acknowledge examples of these things, like mass murders of male noncombatants in war time, or the selective use of men for forced labor (vague or victim-blaming framings like “Patriarchy Hurts Men Too” don’t cut it). Although you yourself make this acknowledgement in some areas, you aren’t a typical feminist. There are feminists who acknowledge systematic victimization of men, like Caroline New, but she agrees with Daran and I that feminism in general has a blind eye to the mistreatment of men.

    There are hundreds, probably thousands, of feminist articles about men. However, the vast majority of feminist articles focus on women, and there’s nothing wrong with that. If the entire cultural discourse was all about women, that might be a problem; but in the real world, that’s far from being the case.

    I believe that when Daran says “articles about men,” he means “articles about the victimization of men,” because victimization and violence is the context we are talking about. Of course feminists have thousands of articles about men… men as oppressors of women, or about men as victims on the basis of sexual orientation, race, and sometimes socioeconomic status (though virtually never of the basis of gender). As far as cultural discourse about victimization goes, it does tend to be about women, at least if analyses like this and this are in any way representative. You say if the current cultural discourse, and feminist discourse, was all about women, this would be a problem (though we can agree that this is not the case). However, there are good reasons to believe that current cultural discourse about victimization, especially feminist discourse, is overwhelmingly about women; I hope you will agree that this is a problem.

    Judging by your actions, criticizing the mainstream media is primarily interesting to you as an opportunity for feminist-bashing. (You’ve written many posts bashing feminists without criticizing the mainstream media, but none I know of criticizing the mainstream media without bashing feminists; that strongly implies that for you bashing feminists is the main game, and critiquing mainstream media depictions of men only a sideline.)

    Your use of “feminist-bashing” implies that such criticism of feminists is unfair; this seems to be begging the question. If (a) male victimization is rendered invisible in the media, and (b) this is partially the fault of feminism, or at least the responsibility of feminists to help remedy while feminists are not doing so, then (c) criticism of feminism is legitimate, and cannot be dismissed as “feminist-bashing.” In short, it makes no sense to attack Daran’s conclusions without first addressing his premises (a and b, though he might put them differently than me), and it seems like the premises are what are under debate here.

    Comment by HughRistik — February 20, 2007 @ 3:37 am | Reply

  12. Sailorman and Hugh both disagree with my criticism of Daran’s comments based on the idea that Daran only considers it unacceptable to discuss victimization of women without also mentioning men in cases in which the victims are overwhelmingly male. Sailorman writes:

    This is accurate and honest:
    “This article will explore the racism suffered by whites. Though this represents only 2% of the racist acts committed in the United States, it nonetheless gives valuable information…”

    this is accurate and nonetheless dishonest because of omission:
    “This article will explore racism suffered by whites. Many whites have suffered racist acts…”

    And Hugh concurs:

    Also, as Sailorman says, focusing on violence against women without even mentioning violence against men, when men are the vast majority of the victims, can be seen as lying by omission.

    But — contrary to Sailorman’s interpretation — Daran also condemns feminists who talk about male violence against women even in cases when the overwhelming majority of aggressors are male, and the overwhelming majority of victims female. Here are some quotes from Daran’s recent post “Rape During the Balkan Conflict,” for example:

    However the simple picture of men raping women isn’t the whole story. There were a small number of female perpetrators, and not just in minor or incidental roles….

    The report also includes many, many cases of men being sexually abused and tortured by male and, in a small number of cases, by female perpetrators….

    Several reports describe a camp in a shoe factory in Karakaj. There a female guard, a member of Arkan’s troops, ordered men to have sexual intercourse with her. (Good thing she didn’t try to rape them). When they refused, she shot them. *628 One report called the factory the «Glinica» factory, and stated that 48 girls and women were raped there….

    Finally the report also notes that sometimes men acted to protect women… These details disappear when you look at mainstream and feminist derivative sources which whitewash anything which doesn’t fit into the ‘men are perps, women are victims’ mould.

    Daran acknowledges that female perpetrators and male victims of rape in the Balkans are “a small number of cases”; nonetheless, to dare to talk about rape without talking about male victims and female rapists is derided as feminist “whitewashing.”

    So — to recast Sailorman’s example — Daran is more like someone who says that anyone who discusses racism while failing to discuss the 2% of incidents that are anti-white, is whitewashing harms to whites.

    If Daran’s only point were that it’s wrong of feminists (or anyone else) to say that women are the primary victims of our invasion of Iraq and its aftereffects, I’d agree with that. Both Daran’s writings, and the research I’ve done into the various attempts to access the appalling scope of Iraqi deaths, has convinced me of that.

    But that’s not Daran’s only point. As his discussion of “rape in the Balkans” makes clear, he objects to not discussing male victims and female perpetrators even in cases where most rapists are male and most rape victims female.

    Edited to add: By the way, I do want to acknowledge that — even thought the post’s title said it was about “rape” — Daran also included the substantial number of male victims who were not raped, per se, but were tortured and/or sexually abused by other men. These are, as I understand Daran’s argument, the hidden and whitewashed male victims.

    Frankly, I’m not convinced they are hidden victims; perhaps it was different in the UK, but I don’t believe that most Americans who follow international news were unaware that men in the Balkans were being tortured, maimed, murdered and otherwise horribly abused. In fact, this was an aspect of the conflict that seemed to get a lot of coverage, although not from a gender-conscious point of view. The most you can say is that Americans were unaware that the already horrible abuse and huge numbers of victims included sexually abused men. I have absolutely no objection to Daran or anyone else writing about that aspect of the Balkans conflict; on the contrary, I think it’s very important and valuable that people do write about male victims of sexual abuse. However, unless I’m badly misunderstanding the situation, it would be inaccurate to claim that most of those men were “raped,” according to the fairly narrow definition of the term that many anti-feminists and MRAs have been insisting on for decades when discussing rape of women.

    (Of course, when feminists include victims of crimes other than rape in a discussion of rape, we are castigated for trying to expand the definition of rape unjustly, or of being dishonest by blurring the distinction between rape and other crimes.)

    Comment by Ampersand — February 20, 2007 @ 8:12 am | Reply

  13. Hi, Hugh.🙂

    As you know, Daran views what he calls the “odious comparison” to be fallacious and unfair to male suffering (though you might not find it odious). If he is correct, then the comparison cannot be defended on the grounds that feminists fear that women’s issues will be brushed aside otherwise. This defense would mean that in order to gain attention for violence against women, violence against men is being brushed aside; that would be a zero-sum game.

    Daran has more than once argued that the Odious Comparison becomes a Virtuous Comparison when he makes it (as he does frequently), because he sees himself as responding to a context in which harms to men are being brushed aside or whitewashed. Have you told him that his use of “the comparison cannot be defended on [those] grounds? Or is this a case of one rule for anti-feminists, and a different (and of course harsher) rule for feminists?

    Maybe you have told him that, in which case I’d give you points for being consistent – but I’d still say that your argument is mistaken. Saying that groups A and B are both substantially harmed by oppression, but A suffers more, cannot honestly be described as a “zero-sum game” in which the speaker is denying harms to group A in order to talk about harms to group B.

    I don’t see anything wrong with the comparison, in and of itself. However, the way Daran selectively condemns the comparison — according to Daran, saying that women suffer more is odious, but saying men suffer more is fine — is hypocritical.

    Since feminism has a stranglehold on public discourse about gender….

    I’m sorry, but this premise is so ridiculous, and so removed from reality, that I can’t possibly address any argument following from it.

    Are you unaware that Foxnews and MSNBC and the IWF and the Christian Right and the marriage movement and CWA and many, many other well-funded organizations with views on gender quite opposed to feminism exist, and participate in the public discourse?

    Did you not notice any of the wrestling over gender in the Bush/Kerry election? Do you think that feminists were the ones implying that Kerry wasn’t masculine enough to be president?

    More later…

    Comment by Ampersand — February 20, 2007 @ 8:58 am | Reply

  14. I believe that when Daran says “articles about men,” he means “articles about the victimization of men,” because victimization and violence is the context we are talking about.

    “Articles about men” is Amp’s phrase, not mine. My claim was that “to a first approximation every feminist article is [about women]”. The existance of thousands of feminist articles exclusively about men, even as victims, would not contradict that ‘first approximation’ against the backdrop of millions of articles about women.

    Even when feminists talk about the victimisation of men, they still manage to avoid talking about the victimisation of men. Take this article about prison rape for example:

    First of all, we only hear about male survivors of sexual assault within the context of prison (we all know the “don’t drop the soap” joke). This is a convenient way for us to distant ourselves from the reality that men are raped outside of prison cells, in our communities, by fathers, community leaders, brothers, cousins, friends, lovers.

    Notice how quickly the second sentence passes over the male victims of rape outside of prison cells in order to focus on on the male perpetrators.

    Here’s where the author sums up:

    As long as power is held by one so fiercely over another, whether by men over women, or by institutions like prison over their inmates, the dynamic will be recreated in the most intimate of ways – against our bodies.

    The only visibly gendered victims here are women. Male prison-rape victims are desexed, and men raped outside of prison have vanished completely. The “distancing” from male victims is palpable.

    Comment by Daran — February 20, 2007 @ 12:44 pm | Reply

  15. Ampersand (quoting me):

    Which means that Fatima the dishwasher is oppressed in a way that Abdul the janitor will never understand.

    Sheesh, what a strawman. No, I didn’t say that, nor did I imply that.

    OK. Let me have another go. Which means that Abdul the janitor has opportunities to serve in government that Fatima doesnt?

    That when the kidnappers are drilling holes in his kneecaps, he can take comfort from the fact that they have penises just like him?

    No?

    So what is your point? Spell it out. Don’t leave me guessing as to what the significance of this fact is. Because to me it looks like you’re just trying to point the finger and say “men are bad”.

    Did it ever occur to you wonder why so many civilian men are killed? It’s partly because the militias target men, but there’s another reason. As it says here: “[the low number of female deaths] reflects the fact that women in Iraq have led very private lives since the war, mostly due to the lack of public security”. This was, in fact, what you blogged about, rightly observing that this represented a severe curtailment of women’s freedom. But did it ever occur to you to wonder why, if it’s even more dangerous for men, they don’t lead even more private lives?

    In some cases, it has.

    For some reason I don’t take much comfort from this.

    The reason men are so often the ones to go out is partly because of conventional sex-roles, which are harmful to men and women both.

    I agree.

    (In this particular case, the harms to men are particularly enormous).

    Which is a reversal of what you said before: “there’s strong evidence that for girls and women in particular (but not exclusively), things have gotten much worse since we invaded”. My italics.

    Don’t get me wrong; I’m not faulting you for flip-flopping, or anything silly like that. Changing ones mind in response to new information is laudible. But the question remains unanswered: How is it that you, who was generally well-informed (by Western standards) about conditions in Iraq came to the few that the situation there was worse for women than men without considering how bad they were for men? What basis for comparison did you have?

    And how is it, that feminism reaches this conclusion about every aspect of society it considers, while paying similarly scant attention to the situation with men?

    But it’s also partly because there is a perception that women are the ones who were less safe on the road,

    I’m in no doubt that this how they were perceived. The UN is still claiming in it’s bimonthly reports that “women remain particularly vulnerable”, while the overwhelming majority of male deaths in their own statistics sits like an elephant in their living room.

    and as the above-quoted passage shows, that perception is perhaps beginning to change.

    That’s hard to tell, from a single anecdote. But let’s say that you’re right, and men start staying at home or are kept in, and women have to go out, and as a result, start being killed and injured in greater numbers. Do you think feminists will proclaim their greater freedom?

    And that’s an excuse for them to ignore and brush aside violence against men?

    No, of course not. Nor do I believe anything I’ve said here can be fairly described as “ignoring and brushing aside violence against men.”

    I do. The writings – the post and the comment – which I referred to had precisely one parenthetical comment each which by implication referenced men. The “(but not exclusively)” remark I quoted above, and “It’s becoming clear that, for that majority (and for many of the male minority, as well) bad as life under Saddam was, life under the American occupation is much worse.” Both of these serve to acknowledge the harms to men, but at the same time to minimise and subordinate them to women’s. Men as men are not otherwise visible at all as victims in your posts.

    And that’s just what the mainstream media does.

    You weren’t challenging this gender-norm at all, you were adhering to it. That’s what I mean by “conservative”.

    I’ve not said or implied that feminists are all man-haters. However, some feminist discourse is recognisably hate-speech, and feminists are generally tolerant of it.

    We pick our battles, just like you do. (There’s plenty of hateful speech among your anti-feminist allies which you tolerate, assuming “tolerate” in this context means “don’t bother responding to”).

    Tolerate in this context means ‘accept as members of your movement’. I don’t see other feminists saying that these people aren’t feminists. Rather, it is the those who challenge their bigotry whose feminism is challenged.

    I’m not sure what you mean by my “anti-feminist allies”. If you’re referring to someone specific who comments on my blog, then no, he’s not an ally, and I’m acutely aware of my failure so far to deal with him adequately, though I intend to change that. If you’re making a general claim about antifeminism, then I don’t think it’s fair to tar me with the same brush, because I don’t associate myself with it, don’t identify with it, and don’t broadly defend it, as you do feminism.

    I decided long ago, after possibly hundreds of exchanges, that further arguing about misandry with Luckynkl and her fellow-travelers was pointless. It has no chance of changing their minds, and it brings further attention to a discourse that is (to put it mildly) extremely marginal.

    I don’t know how broadly you would cast the net of her “fellow-travelers”, but I would consider Women’s Space/The Margins an example of feminist misandry (and sometimes misogyny) which is hardly marginal. I’ve never seen it outside the top 100 WordPress blogs. Currently they’re number 71.

    By the way, how do you react to someone who manages to engage in blood-libel (“men make war…”, which slanders the overwhelming majority who don’t) and holocaust-denial (“…and women are the victims” – implies that men aren’t) in a single sentence? If you’re UNIFEM, you give her a prize.

    Oh, give me a break, Daran. Criticizing feminists for talking about women is your most frequent discourse. Claiming that’s not what you do would be like me claiming I’ve got nothing against weight-loss diets.

    Yeah right, Amp, and Rosa Parks criticised the bus companies for transporting white people. Give me a break.

    You’re like someone who attacks articles about civil rights over and over and over again for failing to discuss white victims of racist violence, but who when called on it claims “I’m not saying that every article has to be about whites.” You don’t literally say it, but if that’s not what your view is, why are you acting exactly as if it were your view? Wouldn’t someone who genuinely didn’t think all articles need to be about men not constantly be attacking articles about women?

    If you’re not a supporter of holocaust-denial, blood-libel and hate-speech against men in general, why are you acting exactly as if it was your view?

    When used to refer to those categories of violence which predominantly victimise women, it renders male victims invisible at a conceptual level.

    The solution to this is more writing about male victims in those categories; not constantly mau-mauing feminists who write about (say) female rape victims.

    No the solution is to challenge it. Feminists didn’t get where they are by just writing positive things about women. They actively challenged the negative stereotypes and gender-norms.

    It’s not a coincidence that the overwhelming majority of rape victims are female (except in male-only contexts), and the overwhelming majority of rapists are male.

    I don’t agree that either majority is overwhelming. I think there are a lot of good reasons to believe that the CDC study grossly undercounts male rape. I agree that it is likely to undercount female rape too.

    Oh, and prisons aren’t “male-only” contexts; the majority of incidents of staff sexual misconduct towards prisoners are by women.

    It’s not possible to meaningfully discuss the causes of rape without discussing how it’s a gendered crime.

    I agree that we should recognise and discuss the gendered nature of rape, but that doesn’t mean that we should ignore or deny male victims, or act as though all men are to blame.

    That doesn’t mean it’s illegitimate to want to write about male rape or female rapists. It does mean it’s counterproductive and regressive — conservative, you might say — to attack writings that focus on typical rapes with a “how dare you make male victims and female rapists invisible!” critique.

    If you classify rape generally as “violence against women” then you are marginalising raped men. The critique is valid. Nor is it regressive to criticise it, unless you’re saying that there was a time when male rape victims didn’t get marginalised, and I want to take us back to that era.

    When used to refer to generic violence, in cases where the victims are female, it serves to privilege them at the expense of male victims. But as the mainstream “women and children” discourse shows, they’re already privileged as victims of violence.

    I do agree that in some cases, the feminist tendency to focus on female victims is wrong (i.e., “a bridge collapsed today, killing 20 people, 8 of them women!”). But this is an extremely rare thing for feminists to do.

    I didn’t say that feminists did this. Feminists are more likely to say “A bridge collapsed today, killing 8 women”, or “Men’s bridges collapse, and it’s women who get killed”.

    You notice it more than most people, I suspect, because you have a prosecutor’s mentality when reading feminists; so for you one instance of a feminist making this error seems more significant than 100 that do not.

    Show me the feminists who aren’t saying these things. Show me the feminists who don’t claim that men walking across bridges are privileged. Show me the feminists who criticise other feminists for making these errors, and I’ll show you a marginal feminist – one who isn’t generally accepted as a feminist by other feminists.

    As for “women and children,” I agree that sort of discourse is bad for men. But it’s also bad for women. I discussed the phrase in this blog post.

    I remember you citing that post before. I don’t agree with its analysis. Firstly, it’s not an “equal-opportunity peril”, I think we’ve established that. Secondly the MSM is just as likely to say “killing women and children” ignoring the men entirely. The default civilian is not a man. It is a womenandchildren. Men are combatants by default. Non-combatantcy is a female privilege. Victim-visibility is a female privilege.

    Incidently, if you defend the feminist “violence against women” discourse, which renders male victims invisible, but object to the MSM “violence against civilians, including women” discourse, which marginalises men, but leaves them visible by inference, then I can only conclude that your objection is that male victims are left visible.

    Finally when coupled with the “male violence” discourse, it is nothing less than a blood-libel against those men who are literally dying to protect the women. […] Articles which engage in blood-libel and holocaust-denial need to be attacked.

    In comment #5, I wrote about the indisputable fact that — although most men aren’t violent — most people who perpetuate deadly violence are male. Are you seriously suggesting that this is morally equivalent to people who lie about Jews by claiming we ceremonially drink the blood of gentile children? That’s beyond ridiculous.

    As an initial matter, your use of the word “we” is quite striking. It’s noticably not how you speak about men.

    Can I make a suggestion? As an experiment, try saying “we” when referring to men, for, say, a month, just to see how it makes you feel.

    To return to the substantive point: I did not say that you committed blood libel. But contrast what you said: “most men aren’t violent” with “men make war and women are the victims”.

    The Blood Libel against the Jews was a false accusation made against them collectively intended to foment fear and hatred. The accusation that men collectively are waging a war against women is just such a libel.

    Also beyond ridiculous is your implication that writing about violence against women is the equivalent of claiming that the Nazis didn’t murder millions of people in concentration camps.

    Are you being deliberately obtuse? I’m saying that claiming that women are “the” victims of war, which implies that men aren’t, amounts to the denial of millions of male deaths.

    I’ll take no lectures from anyone about the need to question why the mainstream media isn’t routinely acknowledging the gendered violence against men.

    Judging by your actions, criticizing the mainstream media is primarily interesting to you as an opportunity for feminist-bashing. (You’ve written many posts bashing feminists without criticizing the mainstream media, but none I know of criticizing the mainstream media without bashing feminists; that strongly implies that for you bashing feminists is the main game, and critiquing mainstream media depictions of men only a sideline.)

    If MSM claimed to be an equality movement which opposed sexism against both men and women, then every example of feminist sexism, unchallenged by MSM, would also be an occasion to criticise the latter. But they don’t make this claim.

    I could name some feminists who think it does.

    Then name them, including links to them demanding apologies or explanations for caring about what happens to men.

    Oh, Ginmar, and I already gave you the link. She’s not literally demanding an apology, but she’s clearly denouncing Laura as an “MRA” for doing exactly that. The thread at issue has other feminists arguing that male rape victims should not get sympathy.

    I’m sure the feminists you name will be mainstream, widely-published feminists who are fair representatives of the present-day feminist movement as a whole. Right?

    Seem to be. I don’t see their status as feminists being challenged by other feminists.

    Comment by Daran — February 21, 2007 @ 2:20 pm | Reply

  16. In the northeastern city where I live, Feminism does have a stranglehold on public discourse. I have difficulty finding someone in this city at the college and the workplace who is not a feminist, or knows about real men’s issues. However, I think the real stranglehold on public discourse is dominated by people who favor women over men, regardless of being liberal or conservative. The neo-conservatives favor women over men by sending men to war to die, by enforcing the often anti-male death penalty/”law and order” ideals, which punish men a lot more than women. Some on the right pretend to be more friendly to men as a gender, but aren’t much better than the feminists.It seems like many people on both on the left and right have nothing but fear, smear, and hysteria to offer. On the neo-con right, the hysteria is about “terrorists”, “islamofascists” and “criminals”. I can’t find many male-positive views nationwide except on the internet. I have met many more homeless/low income/beaten up men than women who fit those categories. I can get shouted down when I bring up “men’s issues”, and “violence aginst men” in any social setting. When I debate against feminists about “Unfair economic privilege”, I point out that only 1 percent (or less) of men have the political power/money/privilege which they so rail against.at least 99 percent of men do not. Who are you going to side with as an example, I say, the hundreds of homeless guys you saw, or the couple of bank presidents/ceo’s you saw on park avenue? Sounds like a no-brainer to me. I have more examples later.

    Comment by Mike — March 2, 2007 @ 12:06 pm | Reply

  17. Roy F. Baumeister, Professor of Psychology & Head of Social Psychology at Florida State, agrees that western (and other) societies regard men as expendable, but argues that this dynamic is part of the high risk/high return role that society prescribes to men but not women.

    Summary: Maybe it sucks to have social roles prescribed on the basis of immutable characteristics, but from a social perspective it has traditionally proved optimal for people with wombs to take the safe, middle-of-the-road path and people with penises to take the feast or famine path.

    Comment by nobody.really — August 21, 2007 @ 7:48 pm | Reply

  18. I’d just want to share this paper “Recognizing Gender-Based Violence against Civilian Men and Boys in Conflict Situations” http://sdi.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/37/1/83 unfortunately subscription is required to view the whole document. Also, Eric Klinenberg’s “Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago” where more men died than women.

    Men and women are impacted differently by disasters (natural hazards, wars etc) not only because they are different biologically but also because they have different social roles. It is not fair to highlight the suffering of one (sex) at the expense of the other. Why can’t we look at both’s experiences, look at their vulnerabilities and look at how they are able to bounce back (survivors not victims) from these crises, for me that’s more interesting and worthwhile rather than pushing for the ‘isms’ that people believe in.

    Comment by krishnna — April 18, 2008 @ 1:10 pm | Reply

  19. And in the spirit of fairness, why not look at the researches done by Profs. Neumayer and Plumper, “The Gendered Nature of Natural Disasters: The Impact of Catastrophic Events on the Gender Gap in Life Expectancy, 1981-2002” and “The Unequal Burden of War: The Effect of Armed Conflict on the Gender Gap in Life Expectancy”.

    Comment by krishnna — April 18, 2008 @ 1:38 pm | Reply


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