Ask a question

Here’s a thread for readers/lurkers to ask a question about some issue that just really confuses them. If you’re just not “getting” why some event, action or statement is riling feminists, and/or why is it that something which seems trivial to you seems to be a feminist big deal, ask here and I’ll do my best to give a short explanation and then direct you to detailed readings on that subject.

I sometimes might take a while to see comments and then respond. I invite other feminists lurking to respond to questions when I’m not around. Just everybody please keep in mind that this blog is a flamewar-free zone, and trust me to moderate any obnoxious/offensive comments strictly.

Also, if you are a pro-feminist lurker who wants a simple and clear explanation of an issue for someone who keeps on asking you about it, run it up the flagpole here and see if we can brainstorm a good response. It might even become an FAQ!

UPDATE: due to the arrival of disruptive commentors, I’m sad to be required to point out that asking a question without demonstrating that you’ve at least attempted to find (and read) an appropriate FAQ will not fill others here with goodwill towards such questioners. This site offers a smorgasboard, not spoonfeeding.

About tigtog

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

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215 comments on “Ask a question

  1. Okay, as a (hopefully) feminism-friendly male, I’ll open up discussion with this:

    What am I do do?

    I don’t mean any of the obvious things; I mean this: I am aware that, qua white, qua male, qua &c., I receive unearned privilege in our society. I wish to behave with justice, and (more importantly) to provide what impetus I can toward pushing our culture towards a more just set of orientations.

    But, as white, male, &c.’s go, I’m not especially rich or powerful. (Certainly not poverty-stricken, but.) If I simply refuse to accept any of the advantages my w.m.&c. status gives me, other w.m.&c.’s will simply sop it up, providing no advantage to those excluded from w.m.&c. privilege. That seems senseless, even counterproductive in that it concentrates privilege even more in the hands of those who don’t see the problem. Yet, to accept those advantages is in effect to be “part of the problem.”

    The obvious idea, of accepting the advantages and using them to assist others without w.m.&c. privilege, is attractive, but flawed in that I am (as I said) not a particularly powerful/rich w.m.&c. I am not in a position to influence the distribution of jobs, wealth, &c.

    The one thing I know of that I can do and have done is to distribute copies of a text: the text that changed my own life significantly, Alice (“James Tiptree, Jr.”) Sheldon’s science fiction novella “The Women Men Don’t See.” And I try to see to it that my own language, actions, blogging, etc., are at least not making the situation worse.

    But I’m open to (desperate for) suggestions for something more … effective? Constructive? Somewhere in that meaning space, anyway.

    Let the party begin…

  2. Good question. Firstly (not that I think this was what you’re asking) there’s no one thing that a feminist or feminist ally can do “for feminism” and tick it off as well, that’s feminism done then.

    Secondly, as far as privilege goes, I think the premise you offer above is somewhat flawed. Even if you go countercultural entirely, giving up on capitalist consumerism and the status quo and/or revolutionary hierarchies enitrely as far as you can, you will still have white male privilege in terms of the way that other people react to you and to your actions. You cannot give it up, you were born with it and you will die with it.

    But having white male privilege does not make you a bad person. White male privilege is a problem when it is consciously abused obviously, and all but the most assholish acknowledge that. But the insidious aspect of privilege generally that many well-meaning people dont understand, and particularly white and male privilege, is what you just don’t see because it’s not directed at you. And this is what you can change and start to see if you pay attention and listen.

    In other words, if you are White, 99% of the time Racism doesn’t affect you. Therefore, you may not see nor understand Racism when it happens.

    If you are a Man, 99% of the time Sexism doesn’t affect you. Therefore, you may not grok Sexist behavior when it occurs nor will you always see Sexism when it is plain to others.

    This goes for any -ist or -ism or -phobia you can think of. This goes for you, even if you’re a minority, when it concerns people who are not like you.

    What does not affect you personally often will not impact on your consciousness unless you’ve trained yourself to see and understand.

    Therefore, the next time you feel yourself declaring something “not racist” or “not sexist” or “not offensive”, think about whether you feel that way because you’re not the one on the receiving end of racist, sexist, or offensive behavior/words/actions/images.

    That’s the entire entry from Angry Black Woman in Things You Need To Understand #7, quoted in full because I couldn’t see where to cut a single phrase. (Her entire Things You Need To Understand category is well worth reading.)

    Having no particularly powerful position in the white male hierarchy does not mean you are without privilege, even if your influence outside yourself is limited. You can choose to spread your privilege around on a micro-level by owning it inclusively when interacting with those who do not share it: listen when your habits mean that you normally wouldn’t, think about whether that “loudmouth” woman or non-white co-worker really does use up more than their fair share of the airwaves or whether your perception is being filtered through the privilege of belonging to the class who gets to talk, etc etc. Lurk on blogs written by people who don’t share your white male privilege, learn what pisses them off, and then DON’T DO IT. (That’s the easy part, really. The harder part: don’t let other people around you do it without you calling them on it.

    Obviously there are ways to call people out that are non-aggressive yet state your stance assertively and calmly. Nonetheless, taking this stance is guaranteed to lose you friends and some easy camaraderie in the workplace and perhaps amongst your own friends and family. But that’s what needs to be done.

    P.S. I think giving out the SF novella is a great idea, and is a genuinely positive act.

    • I really appreciated this response, and since I cannot figure out how to post a question rather than ‘reply’, I hope others feel compelled to respond to this as well.
      My question is around the topic of educating oneself. I have been learning a lot about feminism, and the structures of our society built on essentialist assumptions about gender. When you start to understand the bigger picture, and all the forces structurally working against you (and so many other minorities), how does one not become bitter? I mean really, I feel so frustrated all the time, everywhere I look and in every little action I see actions indicating inequality presented as ‘natural’ and ‘the way it is’. I’m frustrated by most things people say, and I feel i’m absorbing the title (please forgive the awful stereotype) of ‘angry feminist’…I want to keep learning but I dont want to be angry all the time. Any advice?

  3. “The one thing I know of that I can do and have done is to distribute copies of a text: the text that changed my own life significantly, Alice (”James Tiptree, Jr.”) Sheldon’s science fiction novella “The Women Men Don’t See.” And I try to see to it that my own language, actions, blogging, etc., are at least not making the situation worse.”

    Before I finished reading your entire comment, this is sort of what I was going to suggest. It’s great that you are actively trying to provide ways for others to gain the same consciousness of privilege that you have developed. In addition, (and maybe you already do this) you can write about these issues on your own blog and link to the writing of others about sexism, racism, homophobia, etc. to help their ideas gain more exposure. The less their voices are marginalized, the better. Also, don’t be afraid to call out sexism, racism, and privilege when you see it. When you notice injustice, call attention to it and expose it for what it is rather than being silent. One way to use your privilege is to know that when you speak out about something, it is likely that someone will notice and it has a good chance of making an impression. I think just the fact that you are willing to listen to others who are usually marginalized, and the mere act of letting them know that you are there and that you are listening and that you understand is extremely important. That kind of support lets people know that they have allies and it fuels their desire to speak out. I hope that others have suggestions here as well, because I struggle with the same issues when it comes to my white privilege.

  4. Tracey makes an excellent point. From Sturgeon Lawyer’s post it appears that he is already largely working on noticing his privilege and examining it in his daily interactions.

    The one advantage every white male has, despite any other socioeconomic inequities, is that when he expresses an opinion on a matter of prejudice/oppression his opinion is generally given more weight than the opinion of those experiencing the prejudice/oppression. So use that advantage to make the anti-oppression stance known and heard.

  5. Tigtog:

    Having no particularly powerful position in the white male hierarchy does not mean you are without privilege, even if your influence outside yourself is limited…

    Indeed, knowing that was what prompted the question in the first place. I know that I have a certain privileged position vis-a-vis the current setup of the (Western, American) social hierarchy; the “no particularly powerful” remark was not to indicate a lack of privilege so much as an awareness of what limitations I possess. I know perfectly well that I’m not going to go out tomorrow and “smash patriarchy.”

    That said, this:

    You can choose to spread your privilege around on a micro-level by owning it inclusively when interacting with those who do not share it: listen when your habits mean that you normally wouldn’t, think about whether that “loudmouth” woman or non-white co-worker really does use up more than their fair share of the airwaves or whether your perception is being filtered through the privilege of belonging to the class who gets to talk, etc etc. Lurk on blogs written by people who don’t share your white male privilege, learn what pisses them off, and then DON’T DO IT.

    is exactly the kind of specific, practical advice I’m looking for. I’m aware that I do have a bad habit of talking over other people, especially women; being aware of it is a step, but not a journey.

    I’m interested by your choice of verb, “lurk.” I take this to mean that I should be there as a listener, to learn, not to show how much I know. But to me “lurk” implies not commenting, even to ask for expansion and clarification when I do not understand. Is that what you have in mind?


    In addition, (and maybe you already do this) you can write about these issues on your own blog and link to the writing of others about sexism, racism, homophobia, etc. to help their ideas gain more exposure.

    I do that, to some extent; I have a wide range of interests and concerns and all of them take their turn.

    To both:

    Yes, I need to be much more active about calling-out others whose behavior explicitly or implicitly embodies ism. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out exactly how to do that, especially when it’s my boss (NOT my current boss, I’m glad to say) doing it. I had a boss once who systematically removed non-whites, and especially African-Americans, from the payroll — it was so blatant that “even” I noticed it. I was afraid to speak out because I was new there myself. In retrospect, this was a huge mistake.

  6. Hola! I’d just like to give a shout-out to you, tigog for all your work on this blog. It’s fabulous, and a lot of people I know have found some really useful answers here. Thanks so much!!!

    That being said, have questions too, three to be exact:

    1. As a self-professed feminist in a very fundamentalist and racist geographical area (coughbiblebeltcoughcough) and having come out of a very fundamentalist community myself, I am naturally met with a lot of flack when speaking out about oppressive uses of privilege and plain ol’ discrimination. It’s to be expected, but I’m often accused of trying to impose my “belief system” on others and taking on a “holier than thou” mentality, especially when talking about intersections of power around race and sexuality. Now, I spend a lot of time contemplating how I can communicate in a way that doesn’t scream DOGMA!, but it doesn’t seem to matter how I phrase ideas or present myself. So, it’s still met as DOGMA! The only thing that does seem to work is sharing personal experiences, but, frankly, I’m not strong enough a lot of the time to share deeply personal experiences with oppressive power. Do you have ideas for how to deal with and/or argue against this perception without making myself kibble for opportunistic evangelists????

    2. BDSM. I understand most of why feminists get into a tizzy over the power dynamics, and I agree wholeheartedly. The problem is that I’m into it and haven’t a clue what to do. I feel like a total hypocrite publicly advocating for feminism and equality when I get off on dom/sub fantasies privately. I’m not involved with the scene and never have been because I don’t want to perpetuate degradation and humiliation of all things feminine (me and others, regardless of gender), but I’m torn. (No jokes please. I’m being totally serious.)

    [snip some TMI for FF101 details – have emailed you privately – tigtog]

    So, after all that background (whew!), my question is this: How does someone like myself make peace with her kinks in a way that doesn’t contribute to systemic, cultural degradation of women, doesn’t get her into trouble with misogynist ass-holes (even the internalized misogynistic ass-hole!) and doesn’t preclude the possibility of orgasm entirely?

    3. I understand these questions aren’t really theory questions, but they’re significant hindrances to me actively using my privilege as a white, passable queer woman for my sisters’ benefit. Hell, the last thing feminism needs is another bald-faced hypocrite. So, if you can’t answer my questions (or just don’t want to for whatever reason), do you know of any place/forum/blog/person that can I go to get some good, solid opinions/perspectives from a feminist perspective??

  7. I’m interested by your choice of verb, “lurk.” I take this to mean that I should be there as a listener, to learn, not to show how much I know. But to me “lurk” implies not commenting, even to ask for expansion and clarification when I do not understand. Is that what you have in mind?

    Yes, for the first week or two. Yes Yes Yes. The internet would be a much better place for discussion generally if everybody did this more often when moving into new discussion arenas.

    After you’ve been lurking for a while and got the flavour of the interactions of the place, and perhaps had your earlier questions answered/clarified in the process, then venture into commenting.

    As for calling out others on privileged behaviour, it’s a struggle that needs to be made, but it isn’t easy and I can understand anyone being afraid of the reaction, especially if it’s an employer as in your example. Do what we can to get others to rethink rigid attitudes, that’s all. And listen to the less privileged when they complain, without uttering the “Yes, but not ME” that wants to jump to your lips. If they’re talking TO YOU, then chances are they’re not talking ABOUT YOU specifically.

    So be a mensch and let others kvetch, on and offline.

  8. Thanks for the praise, derSkorpion. You don’t pick easy questions though, go you? I emailed you privately largely because WordPress was playing up for a few hours, but also because some of your post was explicit enough to trigger overzealous netnanny filters, and I do want FF101 open to a broad readership. So I’ve snipped that part, and hope you don’t mind.

    1. The ex-fundamentalist dealing with the community and re-evangelists etc: I don’t have especially good advice here personally, but I know that Heart at Womensspace is an ex-fundamentalist and now a radical feminist and her commenting community deals with some of those issues. Heart is queer-friendly but strongly anti-p0rn and anti-sex industry and you are less likely to get answers that are BDSM-friendly. Still, a good place to lurk and follow links back to commentors homepages to see if they are on your wavelength.

    2. BDSM kinks: Patriarchy as a whole fetishes domination and submission some would say, so it’s not surprising that for some of us that gets tied into our sexual kinks. We all have patriarchal kinks of some kind I’m sure, even if they’re not sexual, and that doesn’t have to mean we’re feminist hypocrites as long as we don’t try and justify those kinks as somehow feminist choices in and of themselves. A choice is not a feminist choice just because a feminist makes it, but neither does a non-feminist choice take away a woman’s Feminist Card.

    I think you might find a sex-positive BDSM-sympathetic forum either at or through Belledame’s blog Fetch Me My Axe.

    3. Forums for good advice for you: I’ve put the two that first came to mind above. I’m sure other FF101 readers know of others as well. Please chime in, all.

  9. And listen to the less privileged when they complain, without uttering the “Yes, but not ME” that wants to jump to your lips. If they’re talking TO YOU, then chances are they’re not talking ABOUT YOU specifically.

    Thanks again — this last is particularly helpful. One of the things I often have to remind myself: what people say (and not just those of less ‘privilege’) is about them, not about me. This is a particular twist on that that will make it a lot easier to listen when my knee jerks and I want to dismiss what someone says as bashing of whites/men/etc.

  10. der Skorpion- I’d recommend http://bitchyjones.wordpress.com/
    She’s dom and a sadist, and she writes about her sexuality but also what’s wrong with the BDSM world from a feminist perspective. And she’s very funny.

  11. this has probably already been said, but in my opinion it’s the most important way a man can show he’s an ally —

    have our backs.

    i’ll never forget the time a bunch of my guy roommates were all out at a bachelor party. i knew a strip joint was in the works sometime that night, and i was mildly annoyed at the guys for actually choosing to do something like that. well i’m sitting back at our pad, and around 11:30 or midnight, my friend D, who was at the party, gets home. Because they were leaving for the strip joint, and he’s not down with that shit. he just told them it wasn’t cool, and came home.

    i also really appreciate my roommate R (i’ve pretty much always lived with guys), who can actually talk about housework without becoming a stark raving loon. he’s up on all the latest “women as unpaid household labor” issues, and he’s totally cool about it.

    this is what it means to be a male feminist/ally.

  12. crap, i totally though sturgeon’s lawyer was the only question thus far. oh, well. the above is for him (and for anyone, really).

  13. No worries, opponax. People will follow the trail, I’m sure.

  14. oh, and a question.

    what’s a good way to explain to a nonfeminist why strip clubs suck? i’ve come upon a lot of people in my life who are totally down with them, and see nothing wrong or unfeminist about it at all. i’m not necessarily out to evangelize, i just want to get my point across articulately, preferably without overusing hotbutton words like “objectifies” “degrades” etc. even though the bottom line is that i don’t like strip clubs because they objectify and degrade women. i just don’t want to get the inevitable “oh, you feminists with your objectifying and degrading and empowering again…” what’s a good way to put it in plainer language?

    i’ve already tried the “it hurts women” angle — man, convincing a non-feminist that sex workers aren’t all kinky co-eds who are in it for the totally hawt fun of it is like convincing a 12 year old boy that pro-wrestling is fake.

  15. H’mmm. Strip clubs. Opens another question in my mind:

    I’ve never been to one, though (as a male animal) I see the appeal. Then there’s places like Chippendale’s … the point of mentioning which is not, “Oh, men get objectified too,” or “sauce for the goose,” or anything like that.

    There’s a huge difference between most strip clubs (which, I gather, are sleazy places where the women are exploited, etc.) and the rare place like Chippendale’s and, I perhaps optimistically assume, its inverse-equivalent.

    Are such places bad? Why or why not?

    Or, to put it differently, where does one draw the line between “pornography” (which most people agree is “bad”) and “erotica” (which I think most reasonable people approve of)?

  16. Sturgeon’s Lawyer–

    I’m a lurker on this and many other blogs, but kinda feel compelled to come out of the woodwork to answer your first question. I’m not a global authority by any means, but as a woman just out of college in a very (very very) male dominated field, I have these suggestions.

    1. Do not catcall, stare, or make appearance- related comments. I know my legs look nice in this skirt; wearing it’s the price I pay for trying to look ‘professional’, and I don’t really care about your opinion.
    2. Do not interrupt! So much of what I say gets talked over by my male counterparts, and then the same ideas get accepted as genius when one of the guys suggests them. From listening to my friends, this is a nearly universal experience.
    3. Do not make sexually degrading jokes. Ever. Even when you think nobody but the guys can hear. If somebody else does, point out that it’s degrading. Don’t laugh.
    4. Recognize that ‘shrill’ and ‘bitchy’ are often used as silencing code-words for women who speak up in a way that would be completely normal for a man. Don’t dismiss women who speak up– sometimes we have to be LOUD in order to overcome problem #2. And sometimes we’re not loud, but because we’re talking while female, we get perceived that way.

    Sorry if this is out of place– again, it’s just one woman’s top few suggestions. This is a good question to ask, though, and I hope you keep asking.

  17. I’m in the middle of a discussion about stripping on another blog I write for.

    I tend to go for “dehumanising” rather than “degrading”, because people don’t tend to shut off quite so quickly. But yes, the kinky student or bored housewife trope for strippers is really strong, because men who go to strip clubs really don’t like to hear that the women mostly have to be drugged up high as a kite in order to get through a shift, because that’s the only way they can keep on smiling at johns they disdain. The “kinky girls just earning extra money” fantasy helps them overlook the vacant eyes, I guess.

    I don’t have figures to hand, but someone must on the levels of addiction in strip/sex workers, and how much of that “good money” the workers actually get to keep once they’ve paid “management” fees and fed their drug habits.

    The problem is that it’s always the outliers, the very few sex workers who are indeed kinky students/housewives who don’t have drug habits, who write books about how much fun and financial benefit it all was for them.

    I wish the Dworkin/McKinnon bill that would have allowed workers at all levels of the sex industry to sue for harm done due to unsafe working conditions had gone through. How many p0rn production companies, strip clubs and escort agencies would manage to get through a year without a lawsuit do you think, if they kept operating as they do now?

  18. Yes … you’ll note that I didn’t go to the “kinky housewife/student” trope. I know better than that anyway.

    The discussion on strip clubs is good, but leaves the question unanswered, which is the line-drawing thing, the place where “erotica” ends and “pornography” begins. Is there a line? And, if so, is it different for men and for women? Does the term “erotica” even have any meaning to men?

    Wow, I can’t believe I typed that, it sounds so … “esentialist” … but I’ll leave it stand.

  19. I personally draw the porn/erotica line at “does the woman look like she’s faking it or like she’s really enjoying the sex?” i.e. erotica is a fantasy about fully consensual, joyful sex.

    As soon as the slut-punishing comes into it, that is porn. Most mainstream porn, from what I read, has moved into more and more extreme slut-punishing scenarios over the last decades, fetishing male domination and female pain as part of the sexual act.

    This doesn’t cover consensual BDSM (which has its own controversial issues for feminists), but it’s fairly clear that if there aren’t any safewords negotiated as part of the domination situation, then it’s not BDSM erotica.

    Others’ mileage may of course vary.

  20. Heres a question that has just occurred to me but I am sure there must already be a body of thought on:

    I am back at uni as a mature age student and have had some major problems dealing with tutors and classmates.

    Here is the latest exchange from my philosophy class:

    Tutor: ‘Girls lie about and make up sexual assault stories for various gains- eg. I know of a secondary school student who made up a story about her teacher to get revenge for a bad mark.’

    Me:’Actually statistics show that sexual abuse does happen, some form of sexual assault or harassment happens to one third of girls before they reach 18 and the majority of perpertrators are men.’

    Tutor:’So you’re saying all men are bad? They’re not! All the ones I know are really lovely.’

    Me: ‘No that is not what I said. What I said was that it does happen, it happens alot and to try and discredit me by saying that I am saying “all men are bad” is denialism.’

    Tutor: ‘Its not true that all men are bad, they are as much victims of patriarchy as women.’

    Me: ‘Again, I did not say that all men are bad. I stated that the majority of sexual offenses are committed by men- this includes offenses against men and male children. It is also hard for male victims of abuse to get justice against male perpetrators”.

    I was the only one saying that sexual abuse does happen- and that children rarely lie about it- the rest of the class agreed with the tutor that girls make it up. Several other students even came up with additional stories to back up the tutor’s story about false allegations.

    My question is how can I tackle this kind of denialism? How have other women tackled it? Is there anything written about it?

    I found a good description of denialism: http://scienceblogs.com/denialism/about.php
    But the author has not applied it to the abuse of girls and women.

    Another aspect of the problem is that this tutor was female as were all bar one of the students. The tutor was definatly saying ‘Not My Nigel’ but that was the least of it.

    I felt violated- I wonder why it’s ok for my tutor to deny the massive, systemic rape and abuse of girls. If she were denying the existence of massive systemic abuses against any other definable group I wonder how long she would last on the academic staff.

  21. Phascogale, that’s an infinitely depressing story. I can see that sort of denialism as a kind of magical thinking about violence against women, that if they pretend it’s not there it can never happen to them, but a tutor in an academy should have learnt to be more rigorous and scholarly.

    Abyss2Hope blogs against sexual violence, and hosts regular carnivals of other bloggers’ writings about it. I’d start at the post for this year’s Blog Against Sexual Violence Day and move on from there.

  22. Also, from our FAQ: -What’s wrong with suggesting that women take precautions to prevent being raped? here’s a post by ifritah, adapted from a sociology paper she did in the early noughties: Facts and Figures – patterns have not changed significantly.

  23. Tigtog, thankyou. Infinitely depressing is a great phrase.
    Thanks for the links- its so good to read the womens writing.
    It makes me think that maybe I need to find some safe spaces for transforming my anger into action.
    I just reread ‘Are Women Human’ by Catherine Mackinnon. I heard her talking about it on the radio months and months ago and was so excited!
    I need feminist women in my life!
    In that tutorial, it felt like I was either crazy or the only sane person on earth.
    MacKinnon writes:

    ‘(If women were human) Would we be raped in genocide to terrorize and destroy our ethnic communities and raped again in that undeclared war that goes on every day in every country in the world in what is called peacetime?’

    Thanks for being another woman that pushes me towards believing I am the lonely sane one rather than the crazy one.

  24. It is my understanding that (and correct me if I am wrong) feminist ideology states that the crime of rape is a crime of hate and not a crime of sexual gratification. However, this does not seem to fit, as one of the things that almost all female rape victims have in common is their helplessness – and that rapists will chose the easiest target.

    If it were indeed an outlet to express hatred for women, would not their targets of choice be those who are not vulnerable, and particularly those in positions of power?

  25. I’m not sure where you get your data that almost all female rape victims radiate helplessness. Or that rapists will choose the easiest target. Cite please? Also, are you aware that most rape is NOT stranger rape, but rape by an acquaintance/colleague/friend/lover/husband?

    It’s also fairly easy for someone unscrupulous to make someone incapable of resisting through either attacking unexpectedly or using chemical means. A person who is ordinarily not helpless at all can easily be incapacitated by an unscrupulous person who plans ahead.

    You also seem to assume that hatred could/should only be for strong women or women in power. I’m not sure that assumption is justified. What about contempt and hatred for women they perceive as weak and possibly burdensome, or hatred for women who have for some reason rejected them (or remind them of someone who rejected them)?

    Also, the hate-crime hypothesis is not to argue that rapists get no sexual gratification from the act of sexual assault, but that their gratification derives from the domination and intimidation of the victim more than from the actual genital contact (many rapists orgasm externally and use blunt instruments to effect penetration). Thus, rapists don’t rape because they want sexual genital contact, they rape because they receive sexual gratification from inflicting fear and pain.

    I don’t have the cite to hand, but I believe that the original data about rape as a hate crime rather than a sex crime came from psychological interviews with convicted rapists. The interviewing psychologists of that first study were not feminists, and their data has since been repeatedly supported by other studies of convicted rapists, some of those later studies may have been performed by feminists.

  26. “Also, are you aware that most rape is NOT stranger rape, but rape by an acquaintance/colleague/friend/lover/husband?”

    Well, if you’re asking me to cite sources, I’ll ask you to do the same 😉

    “You also seem to assume that hatred could/should only be for strong women or women in power. I’m not sure that assumption is justified.”

    Not only for women it power, but it would appear that they should be prime targets, or at least have similar instances of rape. I obviously don’t have statistics backing these claims up – it’s just deductive reasoning.

    Anecdotally, anytime a rapist is presented in the media, his victims are all young, poor, and relatively helpless. Anytime I have seen a woman deliver a speech on the horrors of being raped, she doesn’t radiate power, and she is typically near the bottom of the socio-economic scale. They are all lower class, YOUNG women. If it was truly a hate related crime, women from all socio-economic backgrounds and ages should be roughly equal as victims of these crimes.

    Another theory fits much better – the evolutionary theory. (The following are excerpts from an article)

    Thornhill and Thornhill (1987) introduce this theory by describing the sexual behaviour of scorpionflies, in which the male may gain sex from the female either by presenting a gift of food during courtship (in which case the female submits voluntarily) or without a nuptial offering, in which case force is necessary to restrain her. The forced copulation is not an abnormal kind of behaviour but is an alternative strategy for gaining sex used more often when there is a shortage of food in the environment to use for gifts.

    Socio-biologists propose that human rape appears not as an aberration but as an alternative gene-promotion strategy that is most likely to be adopted by the ‘losers’ in the competitive, harem-building struggle. If the means of access to legitimate, consenting sex is not available, then a male may be faced with the choice between force or genetic extinction. If he can succeed in impregnating one or two ‘stolen’ women before being castrated or lynched by the ‘owner’ males, then his genes (and thus behavioural tendencies) will have been passed on to the next generation of males.

    Of course, none of this ‘genetic logic’ is conscious, nor does it constitute moral justification for rape, but the evolutionary theory does provide a deeper understanding of the phenomenon. Most obviously it explains why rape is an almost exclusively male crime – there is a gross imbalance regarding the commodity value of sexual services for men and women respectively. Secondly, it is consistent with the characteristics of typical rapists – young, virile, high in sex drive, lacking in impulse control, low on the social ladder and likely to have a history of burglary. Thirdly, this theory predicts the characteristics of the typical victim – young, sexually attractive, fertile and vulnerable.

    The possibility that rapists are able successfully to evaluate fertility in potential victims is suggested by the finding that women who have been raped are unusually likely to get pregnant as a result (Parkes, 1976). It is also increasingly recognized that if a woman looks like she will put up considerable resistance, most rapists will move on to easier prey, rather in the same manner that a car thief steals cars that are easy to break into. This fact is predictable on the basis of evolutionary theory but rather hard to account for in terms of the ‘hatred’ theory.

    I believe the evolutionary theory provides a stronger case. What are your thoughts on the issue?

  27. Cites? Seeing as this study is cited in the only FAQ here which mentions the word rape, you’re asking for spoonfeeding. This will be the last time.

    Stranger rape and sexual assault is only one of several possible types of sexual violence. Here’s the reported percentages according to National Health and Social Life Survey:

    – Someone with whom the respondent was in love: 46%
    – Someone that the respondent knew well: 22%
    – Acquaintance: 19%
    – Spouse: 9%
    – Stranger: 4%

    (Rathus, Nevid and Fichner-Rathus, 565)

    Stranger rape is an aberration in the pattern of rape, and yet is overwhelmingly the form of rape that is reported in the media. No wonder your view is skewed.

    Your cited studies are over 20 years old. Seeing as they only discuss stranger rape they are disastrously skewed, and they have been long superseded.

    In future, unless you can show that you have bothered to read the relevant FAQ here your comments will not be posted.

  28. Well, you could have stated that your sources were in the FAQ.


    “Friend/Acquaintance – 38%”
    “Intimate – 28%”
    “Other Relative – 6%”
    “Stranger – 26%”
    “Unknown – 2%”

    It appears we have conflicting sources.

    [Moderator note: this segment of this post has been encrypted using ROT-13, as I judged it to contain potential PTSD-triggers for rape survivors. If you do wish to read it you may decipher it at ROT-13.com by cutting and pasting the encrypted text]

    Nf n trareny cbvag, “Vagvzngr” jbhyq or ynetryl znqr hc bs cnegaref jub “jrag gbb sne”, be “qvqa’g xabj gung ab zrnaf ab”, fb gb fcrnx – Frkhny nffnhyg qbrfa’g arprffnevyl vzcyl ivbyrapr, vg’f crargengvba jvgubhg pbafrag. Sevraq/Npdhnvagnapr, yvxrjvfr, jbhyq nyfb vapyhqr ynetr ahzoref bs aba-ivbyrag encr. Gung vf, aba pbafrafhny frk juvyr fur jnf cnffrq bhg, be qehax, be whfg abg fgbccvat jura ur jnf gbyq gbb.

    Obviously not ALL of them, but I imagine it would be a large percentage of the two largest chunks that are not at all crimes of hatred – but crimes of sexual gratification. Again, I am not denying that some rape is fueled by hatred, but I believe the evolutionary theory fits the bill much more.

    And you completely avoided the evolutionary theory, please address it.

  29. The conflicting sources can be due to differences in both datasets and sampling technique, but both still point out that stranger rape is in the minority. How impressive that a few hours ago you had no idea about such rape statistics yet when I post one cite you are able to find a conflicting cite within 20 minutes: your high school teachers must be most happy to have such a fast learner on their hands.

    On what basis do you assume intimates/friends/acquaintances committing sexual assault would be largely instances of “taking advantage” rather than violent assault? Even if they are “non-violent”, how do you exclude hatred expressed via the humiliation of taking control away from the victim rather than simple genital gratification?

    As to your evolutionary theory, do you have anything more to back it up than a few quotes from an article citing some studies in 1976? How does that theory cope with reports of women in Kosovo and other war zones abandoning/smothering babies born from rape rather than nurturing those children? Rapists certainly do not propagate their genes through offspring that die before reproducing due to vengeful infanticide from a resentful mother.

  30. “How impressive that a few hours ago you had no idea about such rape statistics yet when I post one cite you are able to find a conflicting cite within 20 minutes: your high school teachers must be most happy to have such a fast learner on their hands.”

    I used a Google search. “Rape Statistics”. “Rape Abuse and Incest National Network”, the link I posted, was the first result.

    “On what basis do you assume intimates/friends/acquaintances committing sexual assault would be largely instances of “taking advantage” rather than violent assault?”

    On the same basis you assume that the majority of them are violent. No statistics give us information either way, and the only reason we assume (or rather, you assume) that the majority are violent acts is because (at least, as far as I can tell) it fits the “hate” theory.

    [Moderator note: the rest of this post has been encrypted using ROT-13, as I judged it to contain potential PTSD-triggers for rape survivors. If you do wish to read it you may decipher it at ROT-13.com by cutting and pasting the encrypted text]

    “Rira vs gurl ner “aba-ivbyrag”, ubj qb lbh rkpyhqr ungerq rkcerffrq ivn gur uhzvyvngvba bs gnxvat pbageby njnl sebz gur ivpgvz engure guna fvzcyr travgny tengvsvpngvba?”

    Ner lbh gelvat gb gryy zr gung jura n qehax zna gnxrf nqinagntr bs n jbzna, ur fvgf gurer uhzvyvngvat ure? V svaq guvf qvssvphyg gb oryvrir.

    “Nf gb lbhe ribyhgvbanel gurbel, qb lbh unir nalguvat zber gb onpx vg hc guna n srj dhbgrf sebz na negvpyr pvgvat fbzr fghqvrf va 1976? Ubj qbrf gung gurbel pbcr jvgu ercbegf bs jbzra va Xbfbib naq bgure jne mbarf nonaqbavat/fzbgurevat onovrf obea sebz encr engure guna aheghevat gubfr puvyqera? Encvfgf pregnvayl qb abg cebcntngr gurve trarf guebhtu bssfcevat gung qvr orsber ercebqhpvat qhr gb iratrshy vasnagvpvqr sebz n erfragshy zbgure.”

    V jnf nfxvat lbh gb pbzzrag ba vg nf n gurbel, abg gelvat gb chfu gur gurbel ba gb lbh. V’z abg qbvat guvf sbe lbhe fnxr, V’z nfxvat sbe lbhe bcvavbaf ba gur znggre sbe zl fnxr – orpnhfr vs, va gur shgher, V cerfrag guvf nf na nygreangvir gurbel va n pynff qvfphffvba (sbe rknzcyr), naq gura fbzrobql cbvagf bhg fbzr xvaq bs tynevat ubyr va gur gurbel, V jbhyq ybbx pbzcyrgryl naq hggreyl fghcvq va sebag bs zl crref.

    Lbhe pbzzragf, ubjrire:

    Juvyr pregnvayl, fbzr zbguref ratntr va vasnagvpvqr gb cerirag gurve bssfcevat znghevat, fbzr zbguref qb abg, naq ba ribyhgvbanel grezf, jr’er gnyxvat nobhg zvyyvbaf bs lrnef. Encr vf abg n fbyryl uhzna bppheerapr rvgure – bgure navznyf unir orra xabja gb ratntr va aba-pbafrafhny frkhny npgf, naq vaqrrq, fbzr bgure navznyf unir ribyirq srngherf fcrpvsvpnyyl qrfvtarq gb pbhagrenpg vaibyhagnel certanapl.

    Onggrerq Jbzna Flaqebzr vf fbzrguvat lbh jvyy ab qbhog or snzvyvne jvgu. Gung, nybat jvgu Fgbpxubyz Flaqebzr, ner xabja nf “pncgher-obaqvat” jura qvfphffrq va ribyhgvbanel cflpubybtl.

    “Va 2001, ryrpgevpny ratvarre Xrvgu Urafba, va uvf Frk, Qehtf, naq Phygf, cerfragrq na ribyhgvbanel cflpubybtl rkcynangvba nf gb jul fhpu n genvg nf pncgher-obaqvat jbhyq unir ribyirq va eryngvbaf gb gur ercebqhpgvir fhpprff bs ribyivat crbcyr qhevat gur ynfg 3.5 zvyyvba lrnef va juvpu fbpvny cevzngrf yvirq va onaqf be gevorf.[10] Bar pbzzbanyvgl gung fgnaqf bhg sebz erpbeqf bs gur uvfgbevpny Abegu Nzrevpna gevorf, gur Fbhgu Nzrevpna gevorf fhpu nf gur Lnabznzb, naq fbzr Nsevpna gevorf vf gung orvat pncgherq jnf n eryngviryl pbzzba rirag.

    Tbvat onpx n srj trarengvbaf, nyzbfg rirelbar va fhpu gevorf unf ng yrnfg bar naprfgbe, glcvpnyyl n jbzna, jub jnf ivbyragyl pncgherq sebz nabgure gevor. Urapr, gur ulcbgurfvf unf orra chg sbejneq gung angheny fryrpgvba unf yrsg hf jvgu cflpubybtvpny erfcbafr gb gur pncgher cebprff nf frra jvgu Fgbpxubyz flaqebzr naq nf va gur Cnggl Urnefg xvqanccvat. Fhofrdhragyl, pncgher-obaqvat, be fbpvny erbevragngvba jura pncgherq sebz bar jneevat gevor gb nabgure, qrirybcrq nf na rffragvny fheiviny gbby. Gubfr jub erbevragrq bsgra fheivirq gb ercebqhpr.”

  31. Now that my headcold has cleared, I see that I have allowed you to lead me away from the crucial point about rape, which is that EVEN IF it is about sexual gratification rather than hatred, and EVEN IF it is a behaviour with some evolutionary advantages, neither sexual gratification nor evolutionary advantage would justify rape. Nobody is owed an orgasm by anybody else, no matter how much it would benefit *them* at the expense of the other person.

    The reasons for rape are certainly useful to debate from the standpoint of rape prevention strategies actually aimed at discouraging men from committing rape rather than curtailing women’s behaviours in an ineffectual attempt to protect themselves from rape, but virtually everything you have argued in your last comment amounts to rape apologism, and I’m not actually going to have it cluttering up my blog anymore. All of your comments which are rape apologism, and possibly PTSD-triggering for survivors, are about to be ROT-13ed. I apologise to any rape survivors for having let these past the keeper.

    Convicted rapists report that their reasons for rape largely fell under the rubric of “hate”: anger, power and sadism were the three key divisions. [Edited to add: the psychological theory of rape you are attempting to rebut also has never claimed sexual gratification is not a component of rape, merely that it is not the primary motive for rape.] Offer a reason why unconvicted rapists should be different WITHOUT going into graphic details and it will be engaged with.

    The same goes for your evolutionary arguments: you are arguing for a lot of behaviours which might have benefits at the level of individual selection without looking at the competing behaviours which have benefits at the level of group selection: group selection benefits is why we have laws against theft and murder despite the individual selection benefits these behaviours offer. Looking only at the level of individual selection is a mistake made in a lot of pop evopsych “arguments” – I suggest you read more about group selection and re-evaluate your sources.

  32. “Now that my headcold has cleared, I see that I have allowed you to lead me away from the crucial point about rape, which is that EVEN IF it is about sexual gratification rather than hatred, and EVEN IF it is a behaviour with some evolutionary advantages, neither sexual gratification nor evolutionary advantage would justify rape. Nobody is owed an orgasm by anybody else, no matter how much it would benefit *them* at the expense of the other person.”

    You misunderstood me – I was trying to make the argument that rape is, generally speaking, not a crime of hate, but a crime of sexual gratification. I was attempting to provide an alternate explanation as to it’s existence, and by no means am I trying to justify it. Personally, I find the crime absolutely sickening.

  33. OK then, let’s try discussing it without going into possibly PTSD-triggering details.

    Can you see that this is more of a both/and than an either/or situation? That rapists can get sexual gratification from rape but also be primarily motivated by anger, power and/or sadism? Have you looked up the proportions of anger vs power vs sadistic attacks and attempted to see how your “explanation” stacks up?

  34. I am by no means denying the existence of “hate rape”, but I just find it hard to believe that the majority of rape is hate related, and the alternate theory, the evolutionary one, fits the bill far better in my opinion. It has solid reasoning behind it. As someone who would no doubt be familiar with the hate theory, could you provide me with the details (or perhaps link me to some kind of study about it that you may have come across, but don’t go out of your way)?

    I’ll do some searching of my own later tonight, when I have some more free time.

  35. Here’s some excerpts: Characteristics of a Rapist (From Men Who Rape: The Psychology of the Offender. A. Nicholas Groth. Plenum press, New York. 1981.)

  36. My boyfriend just asked me “What do feminists thing about prostitution?” My answer was “Many many things.” I think it would help to have a page detailing the basic feminist arguments for and against legalizing prostitution.

  37. Cosign with Elizabeth, but I’d like to see one expanded to include all forms of sex work and the ideas of sexual agency.

    Also, a question – why is emo rock considered by some to be misogynist. The lyrics are about women, true – but women also sing about the men who have wronged them in relationships. Am I missing something?

  38. Since my past three posts attempting to use URL code have vanished, I’m just posting the whole URL right here:

    [link] (changed URL to a text hyperlink because it’s too long for the comments box – tigtog)

    It’s an essay about the whole misogynist music scene thing, Latoya.

  39. Pai –

    Gracias for that essay – I think I read of piece of it somewhere which is what sparked my interest in the emo/misogyny link. Glad to read the rest of the article.

    It makes sense. It seems like emo got stuck in the same thing that consumed hip-hop…one group made a killing exploring one small nuanced part of their collective parts and it was quickly stripped down and commodified and presented as the real and only truth – even though it was, at best, a shallow representation of the original.


  40. This comment has been moved to the Rape and Evolution thread.

  41. This comment has been moved to the Rape and Evolution thread.

  42. This comment has been moved to the Rape and Evolution thread.

  43. This comment has been moved to the Rape and Evolution thread.

  44. This comment has been moved to the Rape and Evolution thread.

  45. […] Comment on Rape and EvolutionPorted Comment on Rape and Evolutiontigtog on Ask a questionJason Dick on Ask a questiontigtog on Ask a questiondredgirl on Feminism Friday: Humour as […]

  46. OK, I seriously hope I’m asking this in the right place. I was recently in an online community and started a discussion about some sexist content and whether it was appropriate for the community. Beyond the question of whether or not the content was in fact sexist, the argument was risen that everything can be offensive to someone, therefore, when I say that I find something sexist and offensive it is no different and no more relevant than if someone said that my merely asking that question is offensive or bad grammar is offensive or cursing is offensive, etc. Anything can be offensive to someone, therefore everything should be allowed.

    And I realized that I hit a wall in my ability to respond. I did the best I could, but I know there’s actually an argument that I didn’t make, that I couldn’t pull out of my head.

    Why is offense at sexist (or racist, or homophobic…) content different from offense at people who use bad grammar?

    Thank you in advance for any wisdom you could share.

  47. Liz, I’m boggling at bit too much to respond adequately now, what an argument!

    My first approximation is that it’s to do with the different harms to different groups resulting from stereotypes etc contained in the offensive content, but I can’t quite articulate it.

    I’ll get back to you. Anyone else with a better response?

  48. Hello all,
    Would anyone have some good links or resources for feminist positions on the following issues:

    female academic superiority (as defined by graduation rates), child support/support enforcement issues, shared parenting, military parents, and parallels between feminism and libertarianism? We’ve been lurking for years, read a lot and posted a little and would like to read some more on the topics we listed, more about in practice and less in theory. Court cases or academic papers would be appreciated.

    for a more specific question: why is there so little advertising of the salariess of urban women compared to men nowadays? why so little delving into the issues within the african-american community of income and gender roles on mainstream feminist blogs?

    Thank you for your patience and your time. Best wishes in the new year.

  49. Quite a bit there, danica&dan.

    I’m curious though, just picking the first of your questions – why choose only a measure of alleged superiority without also looking at female academic inferiority (as defined by tenure rates)? Just for starters on the various measures of female academic inequity after graduation.

    As to “more about practice and less in theory”, this is a Feminism 101 Blog – our emphasis is unapologetically introductory theory. Doesn’t mean some readers won’t have something for you, but I’m not sure that I do for most of your very broad questions.

    Your “more specific” questions also seem to be weighted down by some undeclared assumptions/presumptions. “Nowadays”? Were differences in salaries ever widely advertised?

    Not being American, I have little perspective to offer on discussions of the African-American community at all, I’m afraid, although I find the various theories ascribing many distortions of African-American families to the high rate of incarceration of African-American men (when white offenders often don’t do time for similar offences) quite persuasive. If it’s true that such issues aren’t discussed much on mainstream feminist blogs, perhaps it’s because they view the incarceration of African-American men as a broader social justice issue rather than as a specifically feminist one.

  50. tigtog,
    Thanks for your response. Yes our questions were a bit diverse and very broad, this was because we have been able to find very little information on those topics, I apologize.

    As for the more specific question, perhaps the use of “nowadays” is wrong, I was referring to recent reports of young urban, college-educated women earning more than their male counterparts. It seems that would be a victory of sorts yet has received very little press relative to the overall gender gap.

    As far as the discrepancy in tenure rates, well at this time that makes sense no? I forget what book I read that contained this argument, I will try and find it, but basically the % of female CEO’s, tenured professors, University Presidents and so on is of course low right now. It should be but it should also be growing. Due to the injustices of the past, the number of women who were in a position to get on the right track for those jobs, compared to the number of men, was very low. It takes 30+ years to become a CEO or University President, 30+ years ago the majority of people who began on the right track for those types of jobs were men. As the number of women increased, the number of women filling those jobs on at the end of the line has increased and will continue to do so. It is great the errors of the past are being corrected but it does take time, specifically if you look at things such as postings and specific jobs. Thats why we didnt ask about tenure jobs for example. It seems to be more exciting to ask about women graduating at higher levels at almost every level of education and discussing what ramifications that will have in society no?

  51. To Liz Rizzo: Well, to me it’s pretty obvious that insulting someone’s bad grammar doesn’t have the same effect that a racial insult has; it doesn’t hurt people in the same way. While it can hurt, it doesn’t dismiss a whole group of oppressed people; it doesn’t dehumanize them. Its purpose isn’t making them look inferior for their gender or racial/sexual conditions (which are natural characteristics people can’t change, and aren’t controlled by a system of rules which sole end is -generally- to make language understandable). Heck, they are completely different.

    With the power dynamics going around in our society, I find kind of ridiculous that people can compare a ‘grammar offense’ to a potential insult to a minority.

  52. Actually, thinking about it, “Saying that I find something sexist and offensive it is no different and no more relevant than if someone said that my merely asking that question is offensive or bad grammar is offensive or cursing is offensive, etc. Anything can be offensive to someone, therefore everything should be allowed.” is an amazingly weak analogy.

    Change the “I find something sexist and offensive” for “I find rape sexist and offensive.” Everything should be allowed? You can’t do an analogy just because.

  53. I’m so sorry. I know there is a limit of comments per day, but I can’t edit those comments and I still baffled by that argument and its apparent lack of objection.

    I mean, didn’t you find that saying discrimination is no more relevant than an insult to bad grammar is tremendously privileged?

  54. Noir, it’s OK that you have added a couple of extra thoughts to your first comment. I’ll treat them as just one comment for the purposes of today.

    As to your last question, yes. Saying that racist discrimination is no more relevant than an insult to bad grammar is jaw-droppingly privileged.

  55. Yeah. The more I think about it, the madder I get.

    Everybody can have bad grammar and be insulted for it. Everybody can curse/be curse at (well, depending of the kind of curse). But sexism/racism? Just a group of unprivileged people are victim of them.

    The comparison it’s just ridiculous.

  56. A lot of my friends say we will have more equality when 50% of Congress is female. They list a number of other fields as well, such as mentioned earlier, why there arent more female tenured professors.

    My question is this: Why are we only looking at the high profile positions? Should there not be a push to make say 40% of all K-6 teachers male? Is this something we will see once the other goals have been achieved? Does that make equal gender representation in all fields secondary to attaining equality in the marquis fields? If the lack of men in fields such as elementary education and nursing can be attributed to the patriarchy, could not calling attention to that issue be a really good way to bridge the divide and bring more people into the feminist fold?

  57. There’s rather a large difference between professions where women have never been present in roughly equal numbers, and professions where the proportion of men has dropped in recent decades. Men haven’t been driven out of these professions by feminists, they have been discouraged from entering such professions by a drop in the status of those professions.

    When K-6 teaching was a respected and relatively highly remunerated profession, there were plenty of male teachers (although they tended to gravitate more to the 6 than to the K). Now that teachers are paid relatively less (in fact paid infamously poorly) and have very little community respect, men are much less willing to enter the profession. So, if we want more men to be K-6 teachers, we have to offer better pay and working conditions to all K-6 teachers.

    Nursing of course is a profession that used to be all-female, and now has more men. However, it shares many of the same disincentives to male participation as teaching does. However, in both education and nursing, there’s a very strong imbalance between the proportion of men in the profession as a whole, and the proportion of men in managerial positions. This is referred to as the “glass escalator” in those fields, where men move much more swiftly to senior positions than their female colleagues. Despite this glass escalator, men still don’t want to enter these professions in equal numbers to women.

  58. I’ve looked at the ‘purpose’ and ‘start here’ pages, and haven’t seen the answer to my question. I apologise if it has been answered and I’ve missed it.

    Is it the purpose of this blog to persuade or merely to explain feminist theory?

    Put it another way. If a hypothetical visitor of good will and rational mind, but otherwise a tabula rasa were to read the entire content of this site, is it your intention that they would leave believing in the truth of feminist theory, or merely understanding what feminists believe?

  59. The primary purpose is to explain, as in all 101-level instructive content.

    Still, it’s both/and, Daran. Not either/or. The purpose of the FAQs is to explain feminist theories. Non-FAQ posts are labelled as op-eds because they do tend to advocate rather than simply explain.

    Discussions of the posts often start out as clarifying matters of interpretation, but of course, everybody in the discussion is ultimately out to persuade others to share their views.

  60. NEW QUESTION (maybe):

    I’m not sure how to reduce this to a single sentence, or even what sort of question to make of this that would be appropriate for this website’s charter.

    I have seen some women advancing the view that for a man to use words such as “bitch” (or worse) about women is sexism, but for a women to use the same words to refer to themselves or other women (perjoratively or not) is not sexism. To me, such epithets are inherently sexist, and women using such words sounds like internalized sexism; at the very least, it sets a bad example. I advanced this view in a response on one blog, and was straight-out told I didn’t know what I was talking about.

    (There is a similar issue with African-Americans freely using the “n” word to refer to themselves and one another.)

    (As another data point: a former HR director at my company spoke of having to train young new hires of both sexes out of the habit of casually using the word “bitch” to refer to women.)

    I’m not sure where this fits into current (or past) feminist thinking. I have to say that I am personally not happy with any justification for anybody using such language. (Maybe centuries hence, when these words have lost all perjorative connotations.)

    Can anyone help me with (a) whether there is a FAQ to be found in this and (b) how to put this into some kind of logical order?

  61. AMM: the dynamics and effect of an oppressed person using a word about themselves are very, very different from the dynamics and effect of a privileged person using it about or against an oppressed person. The keyword here is “reclamation”.

    When a woman uses a pejorative word in a reclamatory way, she is taking back the power of that word. She is refusing to let someone else control the discourse, and she is taking back the subject position, and she is refusing to let someone else define her. A privileged person doesn’t ever get to decide what an opressed person should or shouldn’t find offensive.

    I’ve written a fair bit more on the subject here.

  62. Thank you for the link, lauredhel. While I’m not an expert, it seems to me to cover a number of points of view.

    Actually, I found the links in your article even more interesting, and some of the pages they link to. (One of my favorites was one of the LinuxChix posts next to one you linked to: Different standards (was: LinuxChix): msg#00209, as talks about the nuances of when something is offensive and when not.)

    I have to agree with tigtog’s response to your article, that it would be hard to compress this into an FAQ entry. Perhaps a description of the concept “reclamation,” plus a list or sampling of the differing points of view on the subject.

    I’m still not wild about seeing people throw these words around as freely as some people do, but your examples gave me more of an understanding of why some people might feel differently.

    One thing I haven’t seen discussed: how does one — anyone — tell when reclamation is going on and when it’s just internalized oppression. It seems to me that I see a lot of examples of the latter out there in Real Life(tm)

  63. Ported over from another thread:

    Janey, on February 25th, 2008 at 6:54 am Said:

    I have surfed in looking for help on a paper – about women with disabilities, their differing and common problems (versus able women).

    Interesting stuff here but I couldn’t find anything written from the perspective of disabled feminists.

    Thanks anyway.

    Janey, over at my other blog my co-blogger Lauredhel has written a few things about disabilities, particularly invisible disabilities. This post, where she links to a few other bloggers and their writing on invisible disabilities, may be a good place to start.

  64. Also check out the Gimp Parade, including the blogroll there. The disability blogosphere is pretty huge, and includes a lot of feminists.

  65. What is the deal with “panties”?

    also why does it raise hackles on the Australian feminist blogosphere but they seem to use it all the time on TV

  66. Generally, because “panties” is entirely gendered, so any slang phrases involving panties are also entirely gendered, thus they are used to reinforce negative stereotypes about femininity.

    Think about it:
    “don’t get your knickers in a knot”
    “don’t get your undies in a twist”
    “don’t get your panties in a bunch”

    The BritEng “knickers” and AusEng “undies” are both unisex terms, and don’t imply that getting upset in this way is a “girly” weakness (and thus extra unseemly for men). The AmEng “panties” phrase does. The unisex phrases tend to be used playfully because it’s being a bit naughty about undergarments, while the gendered phrase tends to be loaded with contempt.

    As to the Australian feminist blogosphere? Speaking for me, it’s about lamenting the Americanisation of Australian slang such that “panties” is becoming more widely used here than the “undies” I grew up with. Due to the fact that it’s all over the TV because most of our commercial TV in Australia comes from the USA.

  67. I agree about the influence of American TV – loo-tenant vs left-tenant and chan-se vs charn-se

  68. So “undies” and “panties” are becoming as strong in Australia as in America

    really depressing when you think about it

  69. Well, “undies” always was Australian, or at least since the 60s. I don’t have a problem with “undies” as a nickname for undergarments – it’s unisex and non-judgemental.

  70. I meant that i was acknowledging what you said about how now younger Australians use “undies” for boys/men and “panties” for girls/women like they do in America

  71. Ah, I see what you mean now. Yes, a term that once was unisex has become gendered.

    “Girl” was once a unisex term for a young person, by the way.

  72. Is there a place on this blog where i could discuss some people’s “fascination” with the s*xual actions and behaviour of Slavic women and said peoples’ tendency to bring up the “Russian wh*re” stereotype whenever they get a whiff of my name?

  73. Fetishisation of the exotic as a subset of objectifying behaviour is probably a bit beyond Feminism 101 level. Quite a few Asian -American feminists/womanists write about the phenomenon regularly.

  74. A long comment was left full of questions about feminism & porn. I’m not going to publish it due to (a) excessive length and (b) the obvious failure to input “porn” into the search function right there in the blog-header, which would have directed the person to Open Thread: Can There Be Feminist Porn?, in which at least half the questions were answered.

  75. affirmative action dead?
    America has always been dominated by strait white men, be it in government, the corporate world, the judiciary etc. Even if women had the skill and competencies they were always kept out of the white boy’s clubs.

    Affirmative action was created to rectify it. After all why should a highly skilled women loose out on a promotion or a job just because she is a women? Affirmative action was created to help these women gain entry to these usually hostile male dominated environments.

    Feminists have always strongly supported affirmative action. Even well-known feminist organizations like NOW are very much in favor of it.

    Yet probably because it was not implemented very successfully it has not achieved what it was suppose to achieve as well as a lot of people are loosing interest in it.

    America today is still very much dominated and defined by strait white men. Does this mean America really is not the land of equality for all? Surly women especially women of colour should be given an opportunity to use their talents. Is it right to only use the talents of white men and ignore the rest of the country?

    Instead of killing off affirmative action shouldn’t feminists be calling for the re-deployment of it? An affirmative action law properly implemented and controlled to ensure that all women are been given the opportunity to excel.

    I would also like to know if there are any web sites that are dedicated to ensuring the continuation of affirmative action?

  76. What is CIS? I couldn’t find it defined anywhere – including google.


  77. Bill, you’re the second person to ask and the second person to capitalise it as if it is an acronym. It’s not. Googling [cis gender] would have given you this Wikipedia article as the top hit. I’ve added that link to the trans* post.

  78. Recently, got into a discussion of dating & relationships. Basically, it had gotten to the subject of heterosexual women (usually feminists) that choose, for whatever reason, not to date or have sex with men, and instead remain single and currently celibate.

    I’m told that this behaviour is absolutely not an indicator of any sort of hatred of men.

    So, the conversation moves to the fact that I, (as a heterosexual man) do not date or have sex with women, and instead remain single and currently celibate.

    I’m immediately told that that fact is somehow incredibly misogynistic, it’s an “obvious” hatred of women, and told not to continue participating in the conversation.

    Then sent here.

    I can’t find anything even remotely related to this on this site. Can any sort of clarification be provided?

  79. Doc, without a link to the discussion in question, there’s rather a lot of context lacking.

    Still, I would clarify that women choosing to remain celibate is not necessarily a sign of hatred for men, although it may be true that some women who make that choice fear/distrust/hate men.

    I would presume that the same is true for celibate men – some who make that choice have no fear/distrust/hatred of women, and some do.

    Is it possible that something else you contributed made the others in that discussion decide that you have an obvious hatred of women?

  80. (Can’t link, registration-only site)

    Well, as far as what you say goes, even if a woman is celibate from fear, that’s not a hatred of men, yeah?

    I don’t believe I said anything that would make them believe that I somehow had an “obvious” hatred of women. I was told that by remaining celibate, and saying that relationships didn’t do anything beneficial for me, that I was expressing that I hate women, and therefore want to keep them away.

    That’s what made no sense to me. Power dynamic aside, it’s unfair to assume that someone who doesn’t date does so because they hate women.

  81. Hi~
    I found your site via a search engine. I’m a liberal arts student doing research on modern feminism for my English class. I won’t lie and hide the fact that I’m conservative white male, but I intend to adhere to strict intellectual honesty in my essay. Would you be interested in answering fourteen questions about your views, in survey form? You don’t have to give me your name, so I won’t even have the opportunity to misuse your words. Please let me know soon, since my project has a fast-approaching deadline. Thanks! ~Ricky

  82. Hello,

    I’m a man who has recently become aware of his surroundings and who is looking to affect some change in myself and those around me. (Thanks for this blog, it’s a great help!)

    My question regards pornography. There is no doubt in my mind that pornography is a tool for promoting violent sex acts and that it goes out of its way to put show women in compromising, victimizing roles.

    This is the way it is, but I have to wonder if it could be different? Could there be (or is there already?) ‘feminist porn’: sexual material that doesn’t emphasize an imbalance of sexual power, that isn’t strictly focused on the man’s pleasure and doesn’t aggrandize all the ‘manly’ and demeaning things that porn promotes?

  83. Is there such a thing as feminist pornography? I’m not sure. Is there a thread discussing this subject? Yes! https://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/2008/03/19/open-thread-can-there-be-feminist-porn/
    Happy reading o/

  84. Okay, I have a question. Recently a discussion came up on rape and the female orgasm. Can a female orgasm while being raped? This is not to say, at all, that she wanted to be raped, but to say that the stimulated of nerves caused an orgasm though it was against her will.

  85. Although I looked in the FAQ, I could not come with any topic dealing with my next question. To start with, let me tell everybody that I am a single dad taking care of two beautiful children, a boy and a girl, and because of that I have been trying to find strong role models for my daughter, and I have been a strong advocate of equal treatment for all genders in my country, which does not have a tradition of respecting gender equality.
    My children’s mom left six month ago, and she’s been acting as if she were the personification of feminism vindication. I am sure that I made several mistakes during our marriage, and I have learnt from them, but I also think that it takes two to Tango, so my question boils down to the following:
    Do women in this blog think that leaving your spouse and children to pursue a Career is a true reaffirmation of a feminist vocation (her actual words, not mine)?
    I do believe that equality means having the same rights, but at the same time, the same responsibilities, and leaving a family behind to move forward professionally is not commendable, regardless of gender. What do people in this blog think?

  86. It’s not as simple a question as all that, and I’m sure that there won’t be a single feminist viewpoint on this, either. My own view is that some people just do not have what it takes for daily hand-on parenting, both men and women. It just happens.

    Sometimes recognising that one is not going to be a good parent can be a mature act, moving to remove the disruption of one’s resentment from the family home in the hope that the children will thrive better without it, while ensuring that financial responsibilities for the children continue to be met. Sometimes it can be a purely selfish decision, being unwilling to do one’s share of the parenting work and leaving one’s partner and children in the lurch, quibbling over financial support.

    Both men and women leave their partners and children to pursue other living arrangements. Men leave their children in far larger numbers than women do. There are so many reasons for why people do this that one can’t make blanket judgements.

    Are your wife’s actions obviously feminist? Not necessarily. Might they be at least partly feminist? Quite possibly. Recognising, as a woman, that one simply is not able or willing to be a primary-carer mother can be a feminist act, because it goes against so much of what society tells us we should be. Also, acknowledging that the father is the better primary carer can also be a feminist act, because it shows that gender does not always determine this.

    Financial responsibility and emotional support for the children should always be a part of a marital separation, of course, regardless of gender. If that’s not happening, then that is definitely not feminist.

  87. I’m going to second my previous request to ask for a roundup on feminist arguments for and against legalizing prostitution.

    I also have another question. I was in an argument with an anti-choice man who said that if women didn’t want to be mothers, they should just not have procreative sex and stick to oral, anal, etc. He said he knows a lot of women can’t speak up at home in terms of what kind of sex to have – and then it’s their partner’s fault for raping them. But he insists that there is no “right” to have vaginal intercourse without the outcome of pregnancy and there are many women who could negotiate such kinds of sexual relationships. I said “Well I don’t think of babies as punishment.” But I don’t think that’s the best possible rebuttal.

  88. As an aging feminist (late fifties), I’ve often been amazed at the lack of simple historical knowledge about women’s rights on the part of younger women. I can’t imagine anybody not knowing who Martin Luther King was, or what some of the more horrible civil rights issues were in the sixties, but the equivalent goes on with women’s rights every day. We’ve actually made BACKWARDS progress in many ways over the last fifteen years, particularly in the way that women are treated by all forms of media. People lose jobs all the time for being politically incorrect about race, but sexism is coming back with a vengeance.

    Here’s my question: I’ve often wondered whether it would help for older women to tell their stories. I know that some stories inevitably get mentioned here to explain things in comments, but I’m thinking of something more formal. I’m new here, so if I’m off base, please let me know, but it’s my impression that this site is intended to help educate people that are pretty clueless about what feminism even IS and may even be antagonistic towards the concept.

    I’m talking about a different slant that would be less definitions and more of an oral history that younger women could relate to and read with shock and awe. It’s my theory that this is the critical missing piece that’s preventing possible supporters from “getting it”. I think that they truly just don’t know how bad things used to be such a very short time ago. I also don’t think that most women who didn’t live through it really believe that any of these hard-fought rights could actually disappear. Things like access to birth control, jobs, and the right to own property in their own names are taken completely for granted, even though there were ballot initiatives in many states this past November that would have outlawed virtually all forms of birth control except the condom and I’ve still got a quit-claim deed from my ex-husband on the title of my current house!

    I guess that I’m suggesting that somebody out here in cyberspace add a separate section to collect “herstory” (sorry, I couldn’t resist). I even wish that somebody would collect videos and photos that prove these points. For example, I think that most younger women simply WOULD NOT BELIEVE how Bobby Riggs spoke to Billie Jean King before their famous tennis match. It would seem ludicrous now to talk about the whole notion of women’s tennis as a non-starter, but that’s exactly what he did for weeks and it’s ON FILM! We see George Wallace doing his racist thing on tv all the time, but there’s no equivalent for us. Feminism didn’t just spring up out of nowhere to upset men and the religious right; it was in direct response to active injustices that had gone on for ages. When nobody even knows or remembers what we were reacting to, it makes US look like extremists when we’re not. Nobody talks like that about Rosa Parks or the anti-war movement, but we still get the same old criticisms because there’s almost no education about our history unless somebody takes a women’s studies class in college. Even our greatest successes are made unimportant as just “women’s stuff” and minimized in a way that we simply have to find a way to counteract. Blogs like this seem like the perfect way to collect stories from all over the world that couldn’t get told any other way. They could start out, “You’re not going to believe it, but…” instead of “Once upon a time…”.

  89. I second Gail’s suggestion. A post such as this would not need much preparation – just an intro asking women to provide some anecdotal memories. I think it would initiate a long and very stimulating commentary.

    I’ve got thousands of such memories … but one that sticks out for me is having to participate in a high school debate – as late as 1978! – with the title: ‘Are women the equals of men?’ What really horrifies when I look back on it is that, at the time, I thought it was a reasonable question.

  90. Would somebody please explain what exactly is meant with “the sex class”? I have a vague idea of what it means, that it’s to do with the hypersexualization of females and the valuing of their sex appeal over their achievements. Still, I don’t quite grasp the complexities of the term.

  91. So, I didn’t have anywhere else to ask this, so I came to this thread.

    Now, I can understand when something blatantly sexist is called so. What I’m curious about is where does the authority fall to arbitrarily decide that something is or is not sexist?

    What prompted this, was recently, I was in a discussion about why I’m divorced. I said there were two reasons, but the primary reason was that when I married, my ex-wife and I agreed that there would be no children. The marriage was conditional on this agreement. I don’t want kids, period.

    Later on, she suddenly changed her mind, and decided she wanted them, and began peppering every conversation with this talk.

    I told her she could have children with someone else if she wanted, and that I’d divorce her if she continued trying to convince me to have children. We did eventually divorce, obviously.

    I was told this was “sexist”, as I was “subverting her rights to reproductive choice”.

    I don’t see it as such, and I’m not really sure how that becomes sexist, nor how a person can just decide that something is sexist. Feminism is about right, and freedom, and choice, but you don’t have the right to decide something for someone else, anymore than they have the right to decide something for you. At least in my opinion.

    So, I’m not so much curious if my reasons for divorce are sexist, as I damn well know they aren’t, I’m more curious as to how the definition OF sexist can come about. Is it a guideline? A general consensus, always up to the individual?

    Sorry about the length, but I felt the need for the example to clarify what I was asking.

    • That’s certainly not sexist. The two of you were no longer compatible when it came to a major life issue, therefore you split up. It is not sexist for man to not want children, especially if you made it known to her that you never wanted children. It’s too bad for her, but you didn’t do anything wrong, let alone sexist.

  92. lala, i’ll search up a good 101 on “the sex class” ASAP.

    David, I don’t see you sticking to your guns about not wanting a family as a sexist act. That’s you being consistent when someone else wants to change the rules. Sucks for her that you weren’t willing to follow her on the changing rules, but not giving in to everything any woman wants is not what constitutes sexism.

    Whaqt constitutes sexism is anything that smacks of “all women do X” or “all men do Y” or even worse, “only men/women can do X/Y” outside the ambit of strict biological dimorphism.

    Of course, there will always be people who try to pin their personal disappointments on larger social forces. There will also always be those who try to pin institutional discriminations & oppressions on purely personal failures & disappointments. The mature analyst acknowledges that there is never one explanation that fits all cases.

  93. Thank you. You’ve answered my question quite satisfactorily.

  94. David, my ex-girlfriend said I wasn’t a good feminist because I objected wen she cheated on me. My charitable interpretation of the people who called you sexist is that they were put off by your actions, couldn’t quite put their fingers on why, and fell back on something that sounded about right.

    • David, my ex-girlfriend said I wasn’t a good feminist because I objected wen[sic] she cheated on me.

      Hershele, I guess your ex was conflating several issues (perhaps defensively) when she said that!

      Obviously, any objections to her actions on the grounds that it was wrong in principle for her to be sexually active with more than one person would be non-feminist. However, the important word here is “cheating”, which changes the point away from an issue of feminist principles to an issue of personal ethics. If you guys had made a monogamous commitment, then she betrayed your trust: nothing feminist about that, and nothing non-feminist about objecting to it. If the two of you had not actually made a commitment but you just made an assumption of monogamous fidelity, then maybe she had a point.

  95. I can identify with that. I was told I was being misogynist when I spoke of my experiences with being cheated on. I’ve been told that it’s not my right to control her sexuality, and if she wants to explore it, that it was wrong of me to expect fidelity.

    So I know where you’re coming from.

    Though, I do quite like the way you put your interpretation. I would be quite willing to believe that that is probably very accurate.

  96. I don’t think mysoginy really applies when one is talking about rules/conditions that were discussed and made explicit early on. If you desire not to have children was well-known before, and if your distaste at being cheated on was also known, then the fact that your wife tried to force you to change your mind — or cheated on you — sounds more like manipulation on her part, and your reaction was simply healthy self-respect, not sexism or mysoginy. These terms tend to be overused by some people — women or men — who want to achieve some power or control over others–which is not at all the reason why they were invented.

  97. Are you two sure you’re giving us the whole story? It sounds a little outlandish.

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