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FAQ: what do you mean by “Not my Nigel”? (feminist abbreviations/jargon)

[2013-01-10 Update: some broken links fixed to point to revised URLs - thanks to the reader who reported!]

Like any other field of debate and controversy, a lot of issues and positions in feminism end up being discussed so often that they are abbreviated for convenience into acronyms, initialisms and shorthand phrases that make up a jargon.

  • “Not my Nigel” is shorthand for a common defensive reaction of many women to feminist observations and explanations of widespread sexist activity and sexist motivations, which is that while certainly some other men are oppressively sexist, their particular partners/sons/fathers/brothers couldn’t possibly be part of the problem.
    • i.e. “Not my Nigel! He’d never do anything like that”

    or more invidiously

    • “well sure, my Nigel says/does that but he doesn’t mean any harm by it”.

    (The feminist response is that truly one has no idea what sexist activities one’s Nigel engages in when performing manliness to impress other men (you think all those gropers and harassers tell their wives/mothers/sisters what they do?) and that not meaning any harm because “boys will be boys” is exactly the root of the problem.)

Below are a few common abbreviations/jargon terms. There’s a more formal academic list of terms at Feminist Lexicon, and you may find some of the differences/distinctions between their entries and this list instructive (for more on differences/distinctions see the Feminisms FAQ).

Glossary

| A-G | H-N | O-P | Q-Z |


A-G

  • empowerful: disparaging description of the methods used by sexist marketing to appropriate “empowerment” in order to persuade women into yet more sexual displays for male titillation [Twisty's post coining the term] [back to top]
  • first-/second-/third-wave – different periods of feminist activism with different priorities. An Anglo-Americocentric description of feminist history, although largely generalisable.
      • First wave feminism : the advocacy of basic legal (de jure) equality: suffragists, property inheritance and contractual agency rights. Historically a movement for wives of the propertied classes, but a broader movement today in those countries where women are still denied de jure equality.
      • Second wave feminism : working for the implementation/enforcement of de jure equalities but also concerned with de facto (unofficial) inequalities: finding the political in the personal and fighting for changes in long-standing sexist prejudices and traditions – socioeconomic equality not just legal equality, and for more than just the propertied classes.
      • Third wave feminism: a challenge to essentialist views of femininity (as biologically reductive) and feminisms (as homogenously directed) combined with an emphasis on the intersectionality of oppressions.

    [back to top]

  • godbag: religious authoritarian, theocrat (not used to describe tolerant believers who respect the rights of others to make their own choices) [back to top]

H-N

  • “I’m not a feminist, but” – a common utterance by those who notice and are disturbed by instances of sexism, and totally agree that something should be done to combat such sexism, if only they could argue against such sexism without perhaps being mistaken for one of those humourless, hairylegged, manhating feminists. (i.e. folks who have been intimidated by the strawfeminists(see below)). Often women who disdain feminism while describing the benefits of feminist-earned rights to work, child care, education, vote etc as “basic rights”. [back to top]
  • MRA: male rights activist – a term which once referred more generally to Men’s Movements but which has come to refer mostly to the most stridently anti-feminist groups now. (here’s an extreme masculinist example) [back to top]
  • “Nice Guys™”: The “™” marks the difference between men who are genuinely nice people and men with entitlement issues who wail “but I’m a nice guy!”. There are two types, which often overlap in one individual:
      1. a guy who believes that the simple act of being decent means that the universe owes him a girlfriend.[defn from Mickle][more from Jeff Fecke at Shakesville]
      2. men who are looking to date a woman with the appearance of a supermodel, and yet they continually whine about how “women don’t like nice guys – they only want good-looking assholes”

        [more at the NiceGuy archive at Heartless Bitches International]

    [back to top]


O-P

  • patriarchy: one of the most misunderstood critical-theory concepts ever, often wilfully misunderstood. Patriarchy is an ancient and ongoing social system based on traditions of elitism (a hierarchy of inferiorities), privilege and the subjugation of women via strict gender expectations which constrain individualist expressions. Some societies are more patriarchal than others, but patriarchal social traditions are universal in human societies. [more in the Patriarchy FAQ] [back to top]
  • “the personal is political”: a radical 1960′s concept that there is a politics of sex/gender based on power relationships in families, and that describing family power imbalances as “personal” was simply dismissive and condescending. First cited in an essay by Carol Hahnisch in 1970 defending consciousness-raising from charges that it was merely “therapy”: Hanisch states:

    “One of the first things we discover in these groups is that personal problems are political problems. There are no personal solutions at this time.”

    (the term has since been adopted by other protest movements). [back to top]

  • PHMT: Patriarchy Hurts Men Too. Men are also constrained from full individualist expression by strict gender expectations. (Corollary: FBMT – Feminism benefits men too – thanks Helen) [back to top]
  • pornulated/-acious: extremely sexualised women’s fashions, usually uncomfortable and impractical as well as emphasising the vulnerable flesh of female secondary sexual characteristics. [back to top]
  • PUA: Pick Up Artist. Sexual predator as serial scorekeeping seducer. [link from theriomorph] The goal of PUA as a sport is to defeat the minds so inconveniently attached to ladybits rather than treat women as people who could enjoy sexual fun together with egalitarian men. A growing movement designed to persuade both men and women that this reduction of gender relations to a hunt for sex is a reasonable and sane model for human interaction. [back to top]
  • privilege: advantages that some groups have over other groups in the social hierarchy. Privilege is not taken by the individual, it is given by society. Some privileges are situational and temporary (parent over child, employer over employee) and serve a pragmatic social purpose but other privileges are societal and traditional and serve to perpetuate elitism. Some elitist privileges are de jure (e.g. South African racial apartheid, rules against the ordination of women as priests) but most are de facto (informal discrimination against “others” in the workplace, education, financial transactions (e.g. exclusionary “mates’ rates”) and social recognition/reward). [more in the Male Privilege FAQ] [back to top]

Q-Z

  • radfem: radical feminist [back to top]
  • rape culture: a constellation of behaviours and attitudes embedded into patriarchal society. These attitudes, socialised from birth and often wielded unconsciously, enable and encourage the subordination of women by maintaining a environment that is pervasively hostile and threatening to women. The behaviours include a spectrum of acts which function to keep women in an object role and perpetuate their fear. They include (but are not limited to) certain aspects of “chivalry”, victim-blaming, leering, intimidation, sexual harrassment and coercion, domestic violence, assault and rape. (defn from lauredhel) [more: Biting Beaver] [back to top]
  • sex-pos: strictly, a term used in the debate about the balance between harms and freedoms for women in the commercialisation of female sexuality – sex-positive feminist, as opposed to anti-pornography feminist (unfortunately “sex-pos” is used more loosely by people unaware of the history of the sex-industry debate).  Both sex-positive and anti-pornography are overly-simplistic terms, as they imply that their opponents are respectively sex-negative or pro-pronography/prostitution (pro-censorship is another one thrown around), when generally everybody involved on all sides is holding more nuanced positions. [back to top]
  • strawfeminist: a false construction, created to scare people away from the juicy crops of equality, equity and the end of female subjugation. Derived from the classic fallacy in formal logic known as the “strawman fallacy” : a strawfeminist is a strawman argument applied against feminists. (See our “spot the strawfeminist” category) [back to top]
  • Waves of feminism: See above [link] [back to top]

The list could go on and on, and that’s where you, dear readers, come in. Please add more abbreviations/jargon in the comments of terms you’ve had to explain most often, or requests for explanations of abbreviations/jargonisms that have been puzzling you. (Update: thanks for all the suggestions so far!)

About tigtog

writer, singer, webwrangler, blogger, comedy tragic | about.me/vivsmythe

23 comments on “FAQ: what do you mean by “Not my Nigel”? (feminist abbreviations/jargon)

  1. Comments from the original blog [link]

  2. [...] times. He’s never given any indication of being anything other than a nice guy. No, make that Nice Guy™. He just walked up to her with no warning and bearhugged her. And then didn’t let [...]

  3. [...] 2007 privilege , clarifying-concepts , objectification , masculinity , FWW , sexism From the FF101 Jargon File: “Nice Guys™” – There are two types, which often overlap in one individual: 1.a guy who [...]

  4. So, let me get this straight.
    third wave feminism = women are just like men, except with different genitalia;
    nice guys = sarcastic put down of decent and/or well meaning men;
    not my nigel = sarcastic putdown of women who love decent and/or well-meaning men;
    patriarchy = a universal trait of all societies, in contrast to the feminist utopia that has never been achieved;
    PHMT = men who hide their emotions must be really suffering;
    pornulacious = dressing to appear attractive to men is wrong;
    PUA = sexually frustrated unattractive guys who want to get laid are not just pathetic losers, they’re evil;
    rape culture = an abberation in most Western societies (hence the widespread illegality of rape);
    sex-pos = the existence of this term is effectively an admission that many feminists are anti-sex;
    strawfeminist = none of our critics have anything worthwhile to say.

    thanks.
    Very informative.

    • Just felt like posting on this one, although I suspect I may just be feeding a troll :l

      “third wave feminism = women are just like men, except with different genitalia;”

      There’s a difference between saying “due to their genes, most men aren’t inclined to being nurses” and saying “real men aren’t nurses”. The former is an objective statement that may or may not be true, the latter is an expression of an essentialist view of gender.

  5. You get 10 out of 10 for reading in bad faith and strawfeminist construction, Dee Dee.

  6. [...] my own interests, to speak my mind, to be myself. He never, ever behaves like a Maxim Man or a Nice Guy (TM) [...]

  7. tigtog, I don’t believe the “Not My Nigel” definition is entirely correct. It’s less a denial of sexism generally than a denial that the speaker’s boyfriend/partner/husband could possibly be sexist; yes, there are plenty of men who are like that, but not MY man. More broadly, it’s the placement of an imaginary sexist-proof bubble around one’s personal life.

    It originated with UK feminists, hence “Not My Nigel” rather than “Not My Andy” or “Not My Bubba”.

  8. Mythago, that’s certainly what I meant to convey. I’ll have a look at clarifying my phrasing if that’s not the meaning you received.

  9. OK, added a couple of clauses. Thanks for the eagle eye, Mythago.

  10. Mm. I think it can work either way. I don’t have a cite to hand, but I have seen it used as a sort of unthinking denial of _systematic_ sexism: “Well, the blokes I know don’t do that, so it’s just your individual situation, not Patriarchy operating here.”

  11. Over on the IBTP forums, the term “Giant Baby” has appeared to name heterosexual adult men who insist that their female significant others care for them in ways that a mother might (e.g., girlfriends do boyfriends’ laundry, clean the house, pick up after them, etc., because the boyfriends “don’t know how” and/or are employing “strategic incompetence” to get out of doing work). Think this might be worth adding to the list? It’s not in widespread use quite yet, so maybe not. But I thought I’d throw it out there.

    I’m also liking “sex-neutralism,” another coinage by Twisty.

  12. [...] defines Nice Guy ™ here at the FF101 Jargon File: “Nice Guys™”: The “™” marks the difference between men who are [...]

  13. [...] its main function is to exploit the suffering of survivors for network profit in the name of empowerfulling [...]

  14. [...] feminist terminology, there’s an expression that goes, “Not my Nigel“. This term refers to the attitudes of women who don’t believe that sexism or misogyny [...]

  15. This is so true. I remember when my uncle was prosecuted for molesting his daughter. My uncle’s mother immediately came to his defense (even though he had confessed to it) and told my cousin that she made a “mistake” but turning him in.

  16. I think that if “Not My Nigel” had originated in the US, it might have been expressed with Ellen Goodman’s phrase, “Not Really Like That”. He *acts* rude and thoughtless, you see, but really he’s very sensitive. You just heard him say that taking care of the kids was my job, but really he’s just wonderful with them. Yes, he seems overbearing and crude and chauvinistic and even verbally abusive, but he’s *not really like that* …

    • What a great phrase, although I think they are related rather than identical. “Not Really Like That” seems to be more of a defence to something that cannot be denied because everybody just saw it happen. “Not My Nigel” is a denial to a report from someone else: either that One’s Own Nigel did something toxically sexist as is claimed or that Ones’ Own Nigel could possibly be as toxic as some other Nigel that one is hearing about.

      I suspect that they intersect though: in some cases “Not My Nigel” can be flavoured by “Not Really Like That” when the woman (wife, mother, sister) and Nigel are both invested in the madonna/whore complex, where he treats her like a goddess because she is a suitable adornment to his masculinity but other women are treated with contempt/cruelty (by both the man and woman). He’s “not really like that”, he just gets provoked by those other women not performing to specifications, and they deserve it because if she can do it then so could they so it’s all their own fault really, isn’t it? He would never have done it if she hadn’t been flirting/bitchy/dressed like that.

      “Not My Nigel” is also complicated by the fact that most Nigels are fairly consistent: if they are an ordinary decent guy at home, then they are unlikely to be a toxic sexist outside it (casual/unexamined sexism is another animal). Some toxic abusing Nigels who do the madonna/whore thing rely on that assumption with their own families: they never express their inner contempt of women at home, only outside it, so their wives/sisters/mothers really do believe that “they’re not like that”and are tigers in their defence against any accusations.

      It’s not a simple phenomenon.

  17. Hi, I’m guy. I’ve always had issues with being called a feminist or men calling themselves feminists. Much like I wouldn’t a white person who believes in the equality of black people, a black person, I just can’t wrap my head around the idea of calling men feminists.

    Don’t get me wrong, I believe in the practice of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes, but calling men feminists always seems odd to me.

  18. It occurred to me today that you hear “I can’t be a bigot, some of my best friends are black/Asian/gay,” but you never (at least I never) hear “I can’t be sexist, my mother/sister/partner/daughter is a woman.” And then I thought, well, either way, “not my Nigel” is to a certain degree the same sort of thing from the other side, “my son/brother/partner/father can’t be sexist, I’m a woman.”

  19. [...] have hobbies that are unobtrusive and interruptable.  Part of the pushback was classic ”not my Nigel!”, of course.  Some of it was women who extrapolate from their own personal experience [...]

  20. This post just makes me so grateful for all the wonderful men in my life who truly respect women as equals.

    Just kidding.

    Hershele – I’ve frequently heard “He can’t be sexist. He has a wife/daughters.”

  21. And nom has a point. I’ve known some pretty solid male feminist allies who aren’t comfortable calling themselves feminists. It’s kind of like if I, white woman, called myself a womanist or a chicana. There’s an air of appropriation about it.

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