Wednesday, May 4, 2011

"Feminism."

It seems like there's a lot of criticism out there of "feminism" as a label. Often the criticism isn't of any of the actual beliefs of a particular feminist, but simply of the fact that they're identifying as a feminist. Frankly I think it's a bit silly to get too much into the label--would it help if I called myself an oogyboogykajoogyist and changed none of my beliefs?--but I wanted to take a moment to defend it from two of the most common criticisms.

Because I'm not an "equalist," a "humanist," a "supporter of equal rights for both genders, but don't label me," or a "I'm not a feminist, but." I'm a feminist.



1. The "fem" in feminism.
Some people seem weirdly offended that feminism would dare to refer to women, instead of being about men and women absolutely equally. Feminism is about gender and sexual equality, feminism certainly addresses masculinity, but yes, feminism is mostly about women and women's issues. Suck it up, deal, and go ask the gay rights people what they've done for straight people today, or something. (Actually, they got "sodomy" laws that also applied to straight people repealed, so there's that.)

Here are some statistics on why dealing with women's issues is still relevant:
-For full-time, year-round workers in the United States, the average woman earned 77 cents for every dollar the average man earned. [US census data.] (Yes, this is partly because women work in different careers than men. That's the problem.)

-1 out of every 6 American women will experience a rape or attempted rape in her lifetime. [National Institute of Justice & Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.] (And for that matter, 1 out of every 33 American men wil experience a rape or attempted rape in his lifetime. That's not a counterargument, it's a second problem that feminism is facing more directly than any other movement.)

-Men are 1.2 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than women... but 4.8 times more likely to be perpetrators. [US Department of Justice and FBI statistics.]

-Right now 17 out of 100 Senators are women. 72 out of 435 Representatives are women. 28 of the Fortune 1000 companies have women as CEOs. [CNN Money.]

-Women's cultural contributions are continually ghettoized, trivialized, minimized, and generally treated like "whatever, chick stuff," while our bodies are put on display as objects completely divorced from our personhood. Men's cultural contributions form the vast majority of the "mainstream." [I have a television.]

Understand, these aren't just complaints. These aren't things that I expect to slap on the table and say "so you better be nice to me" or "so I'm a saint just for living through this" or "so go fix this, people." But these are the reasons the "fem" in feminism is relevant and necessary. They're the reasons to keep doing the work of feminism in the big and small ways that I can, if it means donating to women's shelters and rape crisis centers, if it means supporting girls' education and career planning, if it means advocating for victims of violence at my workplace, if it means educating people about gender and sexuality. Declaring these things is not the end of feminism--it's the beginning.

And no, feminism isn't a movement for female superiority or rulership. That's a misreading of the name as facile as thinking that Libertarians are fetishists of the Statue of Liberty.



2. The association with fringe radical feminists.
Yes, some outrageous things have been said in the name of feminism in the last forty years. Andrea Dworkin said all sex is rape, doncha know! Well...

A) Andrea Dworkin actually never said that. In fact, a lot of "radical feminist goes too far" quotes are urban legends.

B) Some of these supposedly "radical" quotes kinda have a point. A recent criticism of one of my posts on feminism, for instance, linked to an article about Stanford University reducing its burden of proof in sexual assault cases. This was, I guess, supposed to prove that Feminism Has Just Gone Too Far, but my only reaction was "well... good." Stanford isn't a government agency and doesn't have the force of law, so this isn't a Constitutional issue, and this brings them in line with national guidelines and helps combat the ongoing huge fucking mess that is sexual assault on college campuses. If this is feminism gone too far, I'm all for it.

(The implicit harm, of course, is that this will further our Huge National Epidemic of False Rape Accusations. God I'm so fucking sick of that bullshit. You know what? I'm sick of playing along and going "yeah, false accusations are terrible, I really feel for any man caught in that evil female trap, blardy blah." You know what I really think? I think these dudes know damn well that false rape accusations are rare and almost always lead to acquittal, and they're not actually worried about being randomly accused. It's just a way to shame, discredit, silence, and punish women who've been sexually assaulted.)

C) So what. So there are things really said by certain feminists that I really don't agree with. That's a reason for me to criticize them, either as "that's not really feminist" or "yeah, I guess that's feminist, but it's just wrong." Besides, it's a big, relatively old movement with a lot of members and subsections and internal disagreements. It'd be weirder if we were in lockstep.

Think of it this way:
Do you believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ, and in the salvation of human souls through Christ?
Then you're a Christian.
But wait! Some people call themselves Christians and commit horrible acts of discrimination, selfishness, and even violence! People have been murdered by Christians!

Is your response:
i. "Well, those were some suck-ass Christians. I hope to be a better one, myself."
ii. "Oh shit! I better stop calling myself a Christian!"



I believe in the equal status, rights, and safety of all genders and sexualities, and for this reason, I am a feminist.

70 comments:

  1. While I personally identify as a feminist, I do understand why some people, however pro-gender equality they are and how much we agree on the issues, choose not to.

    Broadsnark has a great explanation as to why she doesn't use the term, that I really, really empathize with: http://www.broadsnark.com/feminism-or-the-highway/

    Now, to me, feminism is about respecting women's choices and rights, whether they choose to have a lot of really kinky sex, or be a sex worker, or wear a hijab, or whatever the hell it is that they want to do. But when a sex worker, a trans woman, or any other person who has been treated hostilely by someone who claims to speak for feminism, chooses not to identify as one because that's not what feminism means to THEM, then I absolutely cannot fault them for that, and I'm not going to argue with them over what THEY should identify THEMSELVES as.

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  2. Voltyball - I don't think feminism is the only legit anti-sexism label/movement out there. I'm just saying it's a legit one.

    Also to this: Most of the feminists I have known in my life are liberal feminists who do not question the power structure, but merely want more women at the top of it.

    I'd say that I do feel that way, more or less. It depends how you define "the power structure," but I don't think that capitalism, the family, or society in general has to be dismantled in order for women to be equal. And in fact I think those are impractical short-term goals and can distract from more immediate problems. So since my disagreement with Broadsnark is substantive rather than just a matter of labels, it's understandable that we'd identify differently.

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  3. I have read your blog for quite a while, first comment though...

    I think another important reason for keeping the term 'feminist' and the 'fem' part of it has to do with the historical and on-going erasure of women's ideas and women's voices. In the area I work in there is a joke:
    Q: "How do you know you've made it as a female philosopher?"
    A: "You find your ideas represented in a man's work without attribution."
    This, historically has been a problem in philosophy (and literature more generally as Anonymous was a woman suggests). I think that the idea that women are equal and many of the analyses of oppression provided by feminists are great advances and should be attributed to women. The 'fem' in feminist helps to do that.

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  4. Ah. Well, I agree with your first point, absolutely. This post just struck me because I HAVE seen quite often people who choose not to use the label being treated with hostility or being told things like "If you believe X, Y, and Z, YOU ARE A FEMINIST, I don't care how you label yourself.", or "If you don't identify as a feminist, you obviously haven't studied enough feminist literature." This kind of policing (and I'm not accusing you of this) is really pretty offensive and UNfeminist, in my opinion.

    Now, I agree with Broadsnark in substance though I still choose to use the label. Though when I'm not being lazy I'll use "anarcha-feminist" because that's just more precise. Meh, labels.

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  5. I just find it ironic that a group which obviously cares alot about choice of terminology, would describe itself with a label that so blatantly conflicts with its stated viewpoint.

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  6. Anonymous - It doesn't conflict. Women's rights are in fact pretty important to the stated viewpoint. Read point 1.

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  7. Hershele OstropolerMay 4, 2011 at 10:48 AM

    Here we go again. Right now men are at 7 and women are at 4 so feminists, by trying to move everyone to 10, are the real sexists because they want to advance women so much farther than men, and they want to take men down from +3 to +0.

    Obviously the only way to make that argument is to assume men are somehow entitled to be at +X, so if you're not talking to people who already believe that the way to go is to ignore the part about how men are at 7 and women are at 4 and focus on "sexist so-called 'feminists' are trying to advance women more than men!"

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  8. Anonymous troll is anonymous- news at 11!

    Anyway, you know what really narks me off? Literature. When women write, it's ghettoized to "chick lit". Anything a women writes is automatically assumed to be appealing only to other women and thus unimportant to literature as a whole.

    Men, on the other hand, write about "the human condition" and it's "applicable to us all". Yes, because being male is the human condition and being female is . . not.

    It doesn't matter that all that fantastic Great American Novel writing is generally about the same as the chick lit. Primarily because, as my mother said, there are at best 4 plots in existence and they've been done and overdone since the Enuma Elish (preBiblical) so why romance novels (almost entirely written by women) are trashy chick lit and novels including sex and love written by men are literature is beyond me.

    Oh, right, the patriarchy. Gotcha.

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  9. Also, there have been studies that control for career and they still find a wage gap, though the disparity obviously varies. It doesn't account for tracks within careers (for example, physician wasn't broken down into specialties), but it was still a nice answer to "well, women and men just pick different careers!" I'll have to look up the NYT infographic and link it here later.

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  10. Anon - That's true, but it's also true that women don't just "pick" careers on a whim. They pick careers that will fit with their work/life balance (i.e., a lot more women than men have to worry about fitting their work schedule in with childcare arrangements) and where they're not being shut out by factors like an all-male management force looking to promote someone who "fits in with the culture" or a bunch of tough guys saying "this job is dangerous and physical, it's men's work."

    In my own experience, working as an EMT meant constantly having to prove my strength to guys asking "you sure if you can handle this?", being the only woman in the bunkroom, being the only female first responder on most scenes, having management refuse to assign two women to an ambulance together ("safety concerns"), having a trainee refuse to be trained by a woman, and of course answering to a male dispatcher, shift manager, operations director, and CEO. And of course I was working hours that would be impossible if I ever had children. I don't want to make it sound like Gender Hell--I enjoyed that job, and most of the dudes I worked with were great--but to put all those experiences together and say "I guess women just don't decide to work in EMS" is pretty dopey.

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  11. The most interesting argument that the wage gap is very real even controlling for career choice and career track choice is the finding that after sex change operations, transmen's wages rise while transwomen's wages fall.

    http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/09/25/before-that-sex-change-think-about-your-next-paycheck/

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  12. Holly: Trust me, I'm well aware of those factors, being a cis-gendered vagina owner myself. I just get frustrated when people try to claim that the wage gap is solely due to different career choices (which then makes one wonder why typically female careers are so monetarily undervalued, but of course we know the answer to that), rather than career choice just being one contributor. So there's that.

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  13. "Stanford isn't a government agency and doesn't have the force of law, so this isn't a Constitutional issue, and this brings them in line with national guidelines and helps combat the ongoing huge fucking mess that is sexual assault on college campuses. If this is feminism gone too far, I'm all for it."

    Holly, preponderance of evidence means that if the investigating body thinks there is a 50.1% chance the man is guilty of sexual assault / rape, he will be convicted of it.

    (I say man, because women are rarely punished for sexual assaults within the context of a college campus. Even though college men are equally likely to experience forced sex / sexual coercion: page 10 and 12)

    http://pubpages.unh.edu/~mas2/ID45-PR45.pdf

    So, do you think 50.1% is a high enough certainty to punish men for rape / sexual assault? Obviously I think it is too low.

    As for the rarity of false rape accusations:

    “commencing in 1989 in cases of rape and rape-murder where there has already been either an arrest or an indictment, the FBI has conducted large numbers of DNA tests “to confirm or exclude the person. In 25 percent of the cases where they can get a result, they excluded the primary suspect”

    http://llr.lls.edu/volumes/v33-issue3/greer.pdf

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  14. Cel - This shit ain't numeric. If it is more likely than not a guy has committed sexual assault... then it is, um, more likely than not he did. That's not even a feminist statement. That's a tautology.

    I mean, yeah, my heart bleeds for those guys who were only 49.9% guilty of sexual assault, but to be honest, I think it's pretty easy to maintain a 0% rating.



    That 25% figure (found as it is in an article about "legal dominance feminism" and the horrific "malebashing" thereof, so it's biased as all fuck) is of people who were convicted under a "beyond reasonable doubt" standard. So changing Stanford's rules wouldn't help there.

    Anyway... what should we do? Stop prosecuting rape as a violent crime? Treat it as something that requires more proof than battery or robbery? That seems to be the implied (but never, ever voiced) aim of the "FALSE RAPE ACCUSATION EPIDEMIC" crowd.

    Although I continue to believe that the real aim is to bully and intimidate sexual assault victims from coming to trial in the first place, influence juries against them, and defame them in the press.

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  15. I think that this post adequately addresses why a lot of folks who are not familiar with feminism and movements, and have been told that it's just a bunch of man-hating bra burners, are hesitant to call themselves feminists

    However I don't think it addresses the fact that a lot of folks who perhaps once identified as feminists make a politically-conscious choice not to because feminism is not truly inclusive.

    For instance, you quoted:
    -For full-time, year-round workers in the United States, the average woman earned 77 cents for every dollar the average man earned. [US census data.] (Yes, this is partly because women work in different careers than men. That's the problem.)

    But are we automatically equating the "average woman" to white women? Black women make 65 cents to every white man's dollar, and Latina women make 56 cents to ever white man's dollar.

    And I'm sorry but I don't think that feminism is just for "women's issues." Queer, trans, and gender non-conforming folks have long played a major role in feminism and critical feminist theory and academia, yet they are often silenced or told that they can't be feminists because feminism can only focus on "women's rights."

    Let's take pro-choice advocacy for instance. Many notable feminists have stated that this is a women's issue, when if fact it's not only women who are able to give birth. Trans men and gender non-conforming folks with ovaries and and a uterus are also able to give birth. Not to mention that trans women/gender non-conforming folks experience physical/sexual violence at higher rates than cis women, yet some will still create feminist spaces solely for "women-born-women."

    And it's interesting that you referred to queer activists as "the gay rights people" as though they are a separate movement/group from feminists. I'm sure this was accidental, but the way you wrote it came off a bit divisive and exclusive.

    Some will not call themselves feminists because they have received incorrect information about feminism. However, some folks will not call themselves feminists because they have been told, both implicitly or explicitly, that there is no room for them in the movement.

    If feminism can not belong to all of us, then feminism has failed us all.

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  16. Zaneta Marie - That's the average woman in the United States. It's not just white women (or white men) in that statistic.

    I would decidedly class transphobia in feminism as a bug, not a feature. I think feminism should be primarily about women, but I don't think it should exclude or dismiss the concerns of men (cis or trans) or non-binary people.

    But I'll defend feminism being more about women, because I don't think feminism should be the be-all-end-all of activism for everyone. It's a movement that addresses some concerns more than others. So yeah, I think queer and trans activism are somewhat different things than feminism, although sometimes overlapping and hopefully not in opposition.

    I also, finally, don't dispute someone's decision to not call themselves a feminist. This post was really about disputing suggestions that no one should call themselves a feminist, or that "feminist" is an inherently tainted word.

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  17. Re: associated with awful feminists

    I used to proudly identify as feminist. And then I became a sex worker. Now I'm kind of conflicted about belonging to a group that doesn't seem to think I'm a person.

    I went cold turkey from almost every single feminist blog I read, and now I'm less conflicted. It's easier to call myself a feminist if I don't expose myself to awful feminists.

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  18. Anon - That's the sort of thing that makes me want to tear out my hair and change my nametag to "oogyboogykajoogyist," while changing none of my beliefs or activities.

    Because the attitude of a lot of feminists toward sex workers is screwed up. A lot of us seem to have trouble making the distinction between voluntary and involuntary sex work, and in making our objections too much about the sex and not enough about safety and freedom of choice. But I'd rather consider that something that can be changed about feminism, than a reason to give up on feminism.

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  19. @Zaneta Marie,

    I agree that feminism has had problems for a while acknowledging race and trans issues.

    I still call myself a feminist, because in my own personal experience, using the label doesn't preclude me from also having conversations about those issues with other feminists, criticising some feminist politics, or just plain caring about them on their own.

    If using "feminism" shut down those issues, I might reconsider using it. Especially if like the anon @ 3:10, it shut me out entirely.

    I think identification is not just about what the label means in the abstract, or what other people attribute to it, but how using it would affect your life.

    Also of course people are free to identify however.

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  20. Taken from NOW (http://www.now.org/issues/economic/factsheet.html#endref1)

    "In 2007, women's median annual paychecks reflected only 78 cents for every $1.00 earned by men. Specifically for women of color, the gap is even wider: In comparison to men's dollar, African American women earn only 69 cents and Latinas just 59 cents"

    And I agree that queer/trans activism are definitely different, but transphobia in feminist spaces is far more than just a bug.

    And I agree with most of your article because of the purpose with which is was written. But I just want to be careful about not coming off as dismissive to folks who do find new/legitimate words that are largely feminist but incorporate more inclusive advocacy efforts and ways of understanding issues (womanist, humanist, transfeminist, genderists)...

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  21. Because I'm not an "equalist," a "humanist," a "supporter of equal rights for both genders, but don't label me," or a "I'm not a feminist, but." I'm a feminist.

    Aren't you all those things (and, one assumes, a masculinist, and probably 35+ other terms if you sat down to make a list) AND a feminist? With some world-class overlap in the Venn Diagram?


    On a different note, the redesign went up as I was reading the comments, and when I refreshed the page I thought my screen had up and spit the bit...

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  22. Also a side note: I'm a hardcore feminist that works to influence the feminist spaces I'm in to be more progressive and inclusive...

    But I understand why some folks don't/can't do the same thing. It's tiring to constantly be an advocate for yourself, or issues that you hold near and dear to your heart, while being in spaces with folks we might have already assumed to be down for the cause.

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  23. I have definitely experienced classism in feminist circles to the point where I won't visit feministe.us anymore.

    However, that does not make me not call myself a feminist. Just because some feminists don't recognize that differences in socioeconomic status result in differences in privilege between groups of women doesn't mean feminism as a whole is A Bad Thing I shouldn't associate myself with.

    I have also never understood why sex workers/those involved in pornography get such short shrift from feminism and I think we should work to change that. I fail to see why I should be free to do what I wish with my body- except get paid to do it, and why people who choose to do that are suddenly unworthy of, well, being people.

    Then again, I've personally known some sex workers/pornography workers, so maybe I'm just in a better position to see sex workers as people than most are. (Though probably a lot of people know sex workers and just aren't aware of it.)I'm not defending people who treat sex workers poorly, I'm just saying that feminism has evolved through time and continues to evolve and we can help it evolve into a better thing than it is now.

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  24. Thank you, this very clearly expresses all the reasons I've been calling myself a feminist for years. The redesign is weird, but a good way.

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  25. Hershele OstropolerMay 4, 2011 at 5:07 PM

    I just get frustrated when people try to claim that the wage gap is solely due to different career choices (which then makes one wonder why typically female careers are so monetarily undervalued, but of course we know the answer to that), rather than career choice just being one contributor.

    No one here was saying the difference is solely due to different career choices (or, rather, "choices"). Besides which, both are fronts on which feminisms is fighting, both getting men and women in the same jobs and getting them paid the same once they're there.

    I have definitely experienced classism in feminist circles to the point where I won't visit feministe.us anymore.

    Huh. Feministe never struck me as nearly the worst of the lot in terms of class issues.

    I have also never understood why sex workers/those involved in pornography get such short shrift from feminism and I think we should work to change that. I fail to see why I should be free to do what I wish with my body- except get paid to do it, and why people who choose to do that are suddenly unworthy of, well, being people.

    Holly's right about this one, some feminists never got the memo about there being such a thing as voluntarily chosen sex work.

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  26. "Cel - This shit ain't numeric. If it is more likely than not a guy has committed sexual assault... then it is, um, more likely than not he did. That's not even a feminist statement. That's a tautology."

    Holly, what do you mean it is not numeric? Preponderance of evidence means that if the investigating body thinks there is at least a 50.1% chance that the man has committed sexual assault or rape, he will be found guilty for them. There is no ambiguity, that is explicitly what preponderance of evidence means.

    Now of course, you can't commit 49% of a sexual assault. Either he did or he didn't do it. But since we don't know for sure, we can only find them guilty or not guilty.

    So I ask you again, if after investigation, they are not sure whether he did it or not, but they estimate the chances that he did it is 50.1%, is it ok to convict?

    For the 25% figure, it cites FBI DNA tests. That's concrete, physical evidence that is not open to debate. DNA tests don't have a bias.

    And no, it was not of people that were already convicted under the beyond a reasonable doubt standard. Read it again:

    "commencing in 1989 in cases of rape and rape-murder where there has already been either an **arrest or an indictment**"

    As for what we should do, within the context of college campuses, I feel university administration should not be investigating rape: that's the police job. If the university insists upon doing so, the standard for conviction should be at least "clear and convincing evidence" which is 75% sure (if they are 75% sure they did it, then they are found guilty).

    Battery and robbery requires more than a 50% chance burden of proof in order to convict, so I'm not sure what you are talking about.

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  27. THANK YOU, CEL! I'm actually serious. Because you pointed out something I overlooked--that the 25% figure includes people who were acquitted. In which case this isn't necessarily the miscarriage of justice it appears.

    Also, it was 25% of cases with a DNA result, not 25% of cases.

    Wait... if they got a DNA result that excluded the subject, then that means that there was someone's DNA there. Which could have been from consensual sex, but it suggests that at least some of those 25% were raped but there was a case of mistaken identity--a problem, yeah, but definitely not the same thing as women just making up rape accusations.



    As for the 50.1% versus 75% thing--what percentage would you consider a case where a woman says "I clearly said no but didn't try to fight because I was scared," he says "it was consensual sex," and there's no physical evidence? That's a lot of cases and I'm curious what percentage you consider that.

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  28. Anonymous Troll (apparently)May 4, 2011 at 7:15 PM

    I'm not saying there's anything wrong with being a woman's rights advocate who just occasionally gets takes up the cause of some tangentially related interest group. Not at all, and feminist is a good label for that.

    My beef is with people who define it as something broader while still insisting on using that label. I get the impression this makes up a large portion of self-described feminists, but it's quite possible I'm wrong on that point. Sorry if I didn't make myself clear.

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  29. I was talking with a friend of mine yesterday, and we came across why I don't identify a a feminist.

    I think that for me, it's because it doesn't feel like I have any right to the label - I'm practically privilege walking (White male, finishing up my university degree in one of the richest countries around). It doesn't really feel right to label myself as a feminit, that term belongs to those that actually has to deal with all the trouble that our society heaps on women.

    The general reason so relatively few identify as feminists, probably has more to do with the fact that society at large is quite fond of advancing the myth of feminists as some bra-burning, man-hating fire breathing monster - and that myth gets people to shy away from the label, even if they agree with the opinions, the label feels scary.

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  30. Ulc - I got to admit, that doesn't really make sense to me. I'm not telling you how to identify, but that seems like a reason not to identify yourself as a woman (well, that and not being one, but you hopefully get my gist), rather than a feminist.

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  31. Great post! I really like the Christian analogy, because it gets at the same sort of idea that if you have a problem with one part of a worldview or even with one person who holds that worldview, the entire worldview is wrong.

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  32. @anon et. al.

    If you're worried the woman you're having sex with might bring a rape allegation (false or otherwise) against you - you're doing it wrong.

    Seriously, what woman would go through the hassle of getting grilled by police, showing up to court, filing paperwork, having to tell and probably get blamed/rejected by some of her friends and family, let alone put herself out there to be slandered by the media - when she respects you and enjoyed the sex.

    Seriously. Reality check. Sex FAIL.

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  33. Regarding the false rape accusation thing. I'm relatively sure that some people get convicted of rapes they didn't commit. Just like people get convicted of murders they didn't commit, or drug crimes they didn't commit, etc. False rape convictions aren't caused by "feminism", they're caused by a justice system tilted against defendants, regardless of crime.

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  34. Hershele OstropolerMay 4, 2011 at 9:55 PM

    Moreover, most innocent people accused of rape are acquitted, which is why when MRAs say "horrible women ruin innocent men's lives with false rape accusations for funsies and because they get points for taking men down," they never claim a significant number of these men are rotting in jail, only that the accusation itself ruins their lives.

    Anon troll: now I'm not sure what you're saying. But you definitely started out sounding exactly like the tiresome people who claim "feminism" gives lip service to equality while actually working towards degenrate female supremacy replacing natural wholesome male supremacy.

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  35. "Anyway, you know what really narks me off? Literature. When women write, it's ghettoized to "chick lit". Anything a women writes is automatically assumed to be appealing only to other women and thus unimportant to literature as a whole...

    ...romance novels (almost entirely written by women) are trashy chick lit and novels including sex and love written by men are literature...."

    When women write trashy, superficial, badly-realised fiction it's called chick-lit. Seriously, have you read any of that stuff?
    But, you know what? Men can write trashy books too, and they do, but it doesn't generally get labelled as literature. Well, not around here, it doesn't.

    As Louis Armstrong said about music, so with books - "there are two kinds, good and bad." I read the good kind.

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  36. "THANK YOU, CEL! I'm actually serious. Because you pointed out something I overlooked--that the 25% figure includes people who were acquitted. In which case this isn't necessarily the miscarriage of justice it appears."

    Yes, the 25% of people is only after an arrest or indictment, so for a lot of them it hadn't even gotten to the trial stage yet. I would say that being arrested or indicted for a crime you didn't commit is still a miscarriage of justice.

    "Also, it was 25% of cases with a DNA result, not 25% of cases."

    That's true, but that doesn't mean all the other cases were actual rapists. For a lot of cases, it would be consensual sex happened and then the guy got accused of rape afterwards.

    "Wait... if they got a DNA result that excluded the subject, then that means that there was someone's DNA there."

    Yes, but that doesn't necessarily mean there was a rape, or even sex at all. Here's this example where a man was cleared by DNA evidence after being imprisoned for 3 years. There was no sex, but there was a biting (done by someone else, not the guy who got falsely convicted).

    http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504083_162-5332343-504083.html

    I would agree that a large portion of those 25% are mistaken identity. But even if you say over half of those are mistaken identity, that still leaves 10% as false rape accusations, which is a non-trivial number.

    In cases where it's solely he said / she said and there is literally no other evidence (video, other witnesses, no physical evidence) I would put it at 50% certainty - both testimonies have equal weight.

    Unless the man has a proven history of rape, or the woman has a proven history of false rape accusations in which case then their testimonies would be suspect.

    What would you put it as?

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  37. Cel - I would say that being arrested or indicted for a crime you didn't commit is still a miscarriage of justice.
    Well, what is the justice system supposed to do? It's one thing to say people shouldn't be convicted of crimes they didn't do. It's another, much less logical thing to suggest that people shouldn't be investigated or tried for crimes they didn't do. I mean, how would we *know*?

    In cases where it's solely he said / she said and there is literally no other evidence (video, other witnesses, no physical evidence) I would put it at 50% certainty - both testimonies have equal weight.
    I would not, and here's why: motive. The man's motive for lying is clear: he raped her and he wants to get away with it. The woman's motive is not. She's risking public approbation, social ostracism, a "damaged-goods" label, being called a slut and/or liar by everyone from police to doctors to you, and criminal charges if she's caught making a false accusation. This is not a "get a man put in jail free" card, it's a huge sacrifice and risk. What could she have to gain by it?



    BUT OH GOD NONE OF THIS MATTERS. None of the logic and statistics and ethics here matter. What matters is whether you're on TEAM MAN or TEAM WOMAN, and that's why I find this argument so incredibly exhausting or annoying.

    You're on TEAM MAN, so there's literally nothing I can say.

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  38. I have never met a movement I agreed entirely with.

    Are there stupid feminists I wish would go away? Sure. There are also stupid people from my country I wish would go away. I've dealt with assholes in trans suicide support chatrooms, multi groups, and more.

    I think the ONLY group I've had only good contact with has been anarchists, and that's because so far, I've yet to meet a group of people more Serious Business about their language. (These are the people who, after we came out as multi, asked me whether it was ableist or multiphobic to use the word 'crazy.') And I'm sure I'll meet the asshole subset of them too.

    What I mean to say is: why the hell am I expected to agree with everything every feminist ever said? It's not an orthodoxy, people! I don't get excommunicated from the feminist church for eating fish!

    I'm a feminist because the philosophy works for me.

    --Rogan

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  39. Hershele OstropolerMay 5, 2011 at 12:07 AM

    Cel, one of the times this came up here before I found statistics that 8% of accusations are willfully false (as opposed to erroneous). Less than one in four; closer to one in thirteen.

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  40. Holly, of course all rape claims should be investigated. I just don't think a man should be arrested immediately - can't the investigation go on if he is not in a cell?

    As for the motive, I can tell you for a fact that there a lot of incentives to falsely accuse rape.

    1. Material incentive. For example, in some countries (i.e. England), women get large sums of money if they were raped.

    2. To avoid consequence. For example in US colleges, women are not punished for intoxication or underage drinking if they say they were raped.

    3. Revenge. Self-explanatory.

    I realize that those statements sound misogynist, yet they are unfortunately true nonetheless. I bring them up only to counter your false statement that women have no motive to lie about rape. If you like, I can provide many links to examples of my statements.

    And I do not pretend that most women will lie about rape, only a very small minority.

    As for your claim that women face large stigmas for reporting rape and thus would not make false claim, how can you explain the fact that there are some (again, a very small minority) of women who make false rape claims for the most trivial reasons?

    For instance, wanting to avoid paying taxi fare:

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/story/2009/05/15/edmonton-cab-driver-lawsuit.html

    Being late for work:

    http://www.thisistotalessex.co.uk/news/Undefined-Headline/article-2959648-detail/article.html

    These are only two examples, but I can provide many more. There are even serial false rape accusers.

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  41. Hmmm... I wonder if any has statistics on how often people are falsely accused of crimes in general vs. rape in particular. Then again, with rapes so underreported, even those numbers may be misleading when compared to rape statistics.

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  42. This. So relevant to me just now - I have to admit that I'm relatively new to feminism, and have been kind of surprised by the conversations with my friends. Very recently, I had a discussion with a friend who insisted on "equalist" instead of "feminist" and considered the latter term detrimental to gender equality.

    Since I've only lately started considering/describing myself as a feminist, I've been getting interesting reactions from my friends. Nothing really negative, fortunately, but... odd. Both men and women have treated me like I'm going to castrate the first man I see.

    I know it's a lot more complicated than this, but I've sort of formulated a handful of statements to help my friends get around the extremist stereotypes of feminism - I'm calling them the three rules of inclusion and exclusion, and please correct me on them if I'm out of line anywhere. It's just that I see this as the core of feminism that, no matter what other perspectives we have, we can agree on, kinda like the Christians-divinity of Christ analogy you used (which I kind of love. So handy.).

    You are a feminist if:
    You believe men and women are equals and peers.
    You believe that women have been oppressed and marginalized in the past, and that this was morally wrong.
    You believe that women continue to be oppressed and marginalized in various places and ways, and that this needs to be addressed.

    You are not a feminist if:
    You believe that men and women are not equals or peers.
    You believe that women have not been oppressed or marginalized in the past, or that incidents labelled as such are evidences of moral or natural rightness.
    You believe that women are not oppressed or marginalized today, or that incidents labelled as such are evidences of moral or natural rightness.

    I'm not sure if that's really useful to anyone else, but it's made some of my friends go, "Huh, really?"

    (By the way, lurker here. Um, I love you, Holly? Your style is fantastic and you're making me see quite a few things from a different perspective. Thanks for being awesome.)

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  43. I have to say, in response to Cel's points, that I'm a feminist because I look forward to the day in which some women can be terrible people without it meaning that we shouldn't prosecute rape.

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  44. "Well, what is the justice system supposed to do? It's one thing to say people shouldn't be convicted of crimes they didn't do. It's another, much less logical thing to suggest that people shouldn't be investigated or tried for crimes they didn't do."

    Again, my answer is that this is less about rape, and more about the justice system in general. Do some people get unjustly arrested for rape? Probably. But more people get unjustly arrested for contempt of cop, more often written as "disturbing the peace".

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  45. Cel - Holly, of course all rape claims should be investigated. I just don't think a man should be arrested immediately - can't the investigation go on if he is not in a cell?

    That would make it different from every other violent crime. Hell, that would make it different than some traffic violations. You make your bail or you stay in jail, because otherwise what's to keep you from being in Mexico by tomorrow morning?

    And yeah, women lie sometimes. Men lie sometimes. That's why we have a justice system. But it seems like you feel that women lie more, or are a special exception, or that the crime of rape is a special exception. And there seems to be a certain failure in your comments to even pay lip service to the fact that most (or, like, any) sexual assault allegations are true and even your "LEGAL DOMINANCE FEMINISM" paper backs that up.

    Hopefully you can understand why these opinions give me some creepy, creepy feelings about your motives here.



    Although you know what else does? Funny incident the last couple days. I was upset about an acquaintance who'd been inappropriately touching me and some of my female friends, and I called him out in public. He admitted to the behavior and promised to change.

    And yet random third parties took it upon themselves to accuse me of lying or overreacting. Very weird feeling.

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  46. I really love your blog! I've been lurking for a few weeks now and I wanted to share a video that I thought was relevant to the conversation.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSdZlPKHpUQ&feature=channel_video_title

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  47. I think part of the problem, Holly/Cel, might be the way our legal system and societal system handles indictment pre-trial, much less pre-conviction.

    I'm the kind of crazy guy who thinks that people who aren't a high flight threat shouldn't be made to pay high bail fees, and that no indictment should be made public until it's first gone in front of a judge.

    This would mean that motions of dismissal, summary judgment, or nolle prosequi would take effect before any public notice that someone was indicted, and reduce the stigma for false accusations of *all* crimes, from rape to murder to arson or jaywalking.

    The court system is supposed to be biased in favor of the defendant. It comes through in the Constitution, in the writings of the founders, and in constitutional law and the decisions of the Supreme Court.

    And this is relevant because there *is* a problem with stigma being attached to people even when they're acquitted or even when the case is thrown out of court, and that problem is what gives this bullshit narrative of ZOMG FALSE RAPE ACCUSATIONS traction.

    And it's a problem that goes beyond just the surface; it affects a woman just as much as it does a man. If anything, though, I'll admit it's not a feminist issue; it's a Civil Rights issue. But it still bothers me.

    Apologies for the tangent. :)

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  48. Aaron - You're right, but I still have a big problem when that principle is selectively applied to rape, and applied with a big undertone of "well, you know, bitches," rather than as a general principle of "innocent until proven guilty."

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  49. Hershele OstropolerMay 5, 2011 at 1:26 PM

    As for the motive, I can tell you for a fact that there a lot of incentives to falsely accuse rape.

    First of all, everything you're saying is really, really stupid. Secondly, however reasonable you might think it is to falsely accuse men of rape, however fun, however painless, not a lot of women have done so (which itself casts doubt on how reasonable and fun and painless it is).

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  50. Hurray! We are in agreement. This is clearly because we are part of the Feminist Hivemind, and not because our respective positions are reasonable and sane, and therefore essentially equivalent with regards to criminal justice. :)

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  51. Conceptually, I'd compare the false accusation thing to insurance fraud (bear with me here). People submit false claims once in awhile. We could debate for pages why someone might do that, especially since they usually get found out eventually. That's not the point.

    The point is: should every person who files a claim be made to feel like they might be just trying to game the system? Hell no. Of course not.

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  52. In regards to the idea that accusing someone of rape is in any way easy: want to know what happened when I accused my father of years of repeated sexual assaults against me? (By which I mean simply telling everyone what happened. There was a police report, but I didn't press charges.) My step-mom started telling everyone I was delusional and/or making it up out of spite and/or hypnotized into believing it happened. I was no longer allowed to see my step-sisters, one of whom was my best friend. My brother told all his friends that I made it up. He demanded that I take it back, let it go, or work it out with my dad. He acted like I was being horrible and unreasonable and just trying to ruin my dad's life. My whole life was turned upside down and I lost half my family.

    This was a true accusation. This was not an uncommon reaction. I didn't stand to gain anything by it except relief from the secrecy and silence that surrounded the abuse. I stood to lose a lot (which is why I waited 6 years after the worst abuse was over to even consider speaking out). And I was lucky. My friends stuck by me, as did my mother. But anyone who liked my abuser at all immediately assumed I must be the one lying.

    Again, this is not an unusual reaction. Very few people will risk these consequences just because they don't like someone. What are you telling survivors when you accuse so many of making it up?

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  53. Holly, there IS a difference between rape and other violent crimes. That's why, for example, we have anonymity for sexual assault / rape victims - something I'm sure you support. You can't have it both ways and say rape is different when it suits you, but not when it doesn't.

    The relevant difference here(among others) between rape and other violent crimes is that if I accused someone else of assault, but there was no evidence other than my word, they would not be arrested and jailed. For your point about flight risk, I would agree that if there is reason to believe the person is a flight risk, that could be justification for locking them up.

    However, I don't agree that any man should be locked up based on nothing other than a woman saying he raped her.

    As for lying, I know that men and women have equal capabilities for lying. The thing is, men don't lie about rape, but only because they can't - it's pointless as they would get nowhere. I am sure that if they could, they would - men have equal capabilities for evil as women.

    As for rape being a special exception, we've already established that it is, and for good reason.

    I know that the vast majority of rape accusations are true (if you were wondering, my personal belief is that 90% are true).


    And I don't think that women should be treated as liars, by the society / public or by the police / legal system. I strongly believe that all rape claims should be investigated to the best of the police ability.

    But I think there could be a balance between "she said he raped her, let's lock him up right away because he's a violent criminal" and "she said he raped her, let's not even look into it because she's a filthy liar."

    I also have a problem with the feminist narrative that seems to hold the opposite position - that women would never lie about rape (demonstrably untrue), that they would never lie about rape for trivial reasons (also demonstrably untrue) and that false rape claims are not damaging (ditto).

    "First of all, everything you're saying is really, really stupid."

    I agree. I agree that it's incredibly stupid that women will lie about rape to avoid paying taxi fares. Yet, I can provide you multiple news stories of that exact case happening.

    Moreover, you can't really argue against the statement that there are incentives to falsely accuse rape when in England for example, rape victims get ten thousand pounds from the government. If that's not incentive, what is?

    Eve, that's a very sad story, however your personal circumstances do not necessarily apply to everyone.

    I ask again, if there is such a stigma to making rape accusations and it is an incredible ordeal, why are there cases of women making false rape claims over the most trivial reasons, and even serial false rape accusers?

    The most obvious answer is that there is not always a stigma.

    Again, I don't mean to imply that women are "making it up." I only say this to prove that the statement "women have no reason to make false rape claims" is demonstrably false.

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  54. Cel - The relevant difference here(among others) between rape and other violent crimes is that if I accused someone else of assault, but there was no evidence other than my word, they would not be arrested and jailed.
    Speaking as someone who's been at a whole lot of crime scenes (former EMT): Bull. Shit. I've seen lots of people, male and female, put in the back of a cruiser on someone else's word. They may not have been convicted, but they sure as hell got arrested.

    However, I don't agree that any man should be locked up based on nothing other than a woman saying he raped her.
    This is very often the only evidence rape leaves. Are you saying that if he doesn't leave any marks it's a freebie?

    I ask again, if there is such a stigma to making rape accusations and it is an incredible ordeal, why are there cases of women making false rape claims over the most trivial reasons, and even serial false rape accusers?
    Because some people are stupid and evil, and that includes women. This is the reason that we have due process of law. But:

    A) I'm really, really disturbed when this concern is selectively applied to cases of women accusing men of rape. (And it very, very often is. You just don't see multi-page rants on The Epidemic Of False Theft Accusations on the Internet these days.) It stinks seven ways to Sunday of ulterior motive.

    B) This is no reason to abandon due process and grant accused rapists special considerations for privacy and, um, not even being accused in the first place? that are not granted to other alleged felons.

    C) This shit constantly gets ground in the faces of people who really, unambiguously, with evidence better than the mere word of a woman, have been raped. In fact that's part of the reason for rape shield laws. Take some responsibility for the fact that (thanks to people like you) this is a much bigger problem than for victims of other types of violent crime.

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  55. I had my purse snatched last year. The police came & got my statement & had me identify him out of a photo lineup. The next day they found him on the street & arrested him, & he was sentenced to 4.5 years. This despite the fact that there was no evidence besides my word -- they didn't even try to find any. Theft is a hard crime to prove, after all. The cops didn't search every inch of my house for the "stolen" item, & even if they did, I might have thrown it away or mailed it to a friend! And yet, convictions get made.

    Of course, in my case the guy had prior convictions. A lot more rapists would have prior convictions if authorities took the crime seriously. Districts let rape kits linger in storage instead of testing them, when to do so would result in many more arrests (http://thefemspot.com/2009/12/20/untested-rape-kits-in-america/). Cases where the evidence is much more than just "her word" still don't get prosecuted, or the guy gets let off because the jury didn't think he did anything that bad.

    Of course, in my case, the guy ultimately confessed to the purse-snatching. A lot more rapists would confess if they knew law enforcement was taking the crime seriously, and wouldn't just give up on it as a pointless "he said/she said" debate as soon as they hit one dead end. Criminals confess because they know the cops won't stop at "did you do it? no? okay." It's unfortunate that this isn't always true of acquaintance rape.

    Taking rape more seriously would result in more convictions, EVEN IF the hypothetical "it's just her word" rapists went free. This point is often ignored. Rape apologists love to bring up the "it's just her word against his" thing. They know feminists are big liberals & can be counted on to feeeeeeeel just awful about innocent people going to jail. So we get bogged down in discussions on how to help a hypothetical innocent dude. It's a distraction.

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  56. I stopped calling myself a Christian.

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  57. Hershele OstropolerMay 6, 2011 at 9:44 AM

    The relevant difference here(among others) between rape and other violent crimes is that if I accused someone else of assault, but there was no evidence other than my word, they would not be arrested and jailed.

    No? I wonder if your sherriff is subject to electoral recall. If the law isn't being enforced, you may want to look into that.

    "First of all, everything you're saying is really, really stupid."

    I agree. I agree that it's incredibly stupid that women will lie about rape to avoid paying taxi fares. Yet, I can provide you multiple news stories of that exact case happening.


    I know, right? Why is rape even a crime? Let women pay cab fare like everyone else! They want equality, we're gonna give it to 'em good and hard!

    Ahem. It has been explained why the things you say are really, really stupid, and I'm not especially inclined to repeat it again.

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  58. A lot of things that Cel is saying simply aren't true of how the justice system works.

    There are a lot of factors that go into when, in the course of an investigation, someone is arrested. I write about crime as part of my job, and I know a lot of cases where the man remained free for weeks or even months while an investigation went on. A quick arrest usually has more to do with how violent someone is perceived to be and how much of a flight risk they are perceived to be, not how guilty they seem.

    Rape victims who are not children are not given anonymity under the law. Rather, it is a convention of newspapers and other media outlets not to name rape victims because of the stigma that still attaches to being a victim of that particular crime.

    Victims AND perpetrators who are children (in all sorts of crimes, not just rape) are generally shielded under the law.

    I also know of many cases where police believed a rape likely took place but did not arrest the suspect because they did not think they had enough evidence.

    The idea that rape operates in some realm that is completely unlike any other crime is just silly.

    One point to Aaron - indictments do go before a judge. You need a judge to find probable cause to arrest someone. The downside to not making indictments public is that you could be arrested ... and no one would know or be able to find out. As much as I would hate to be in the newspaper for something I didn't do, I find the idea of secret arrest scarier.

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  59. Mr. Monster--Sure, some "chick lit" is tripe. You can say that of any type of book.

    However, Barbara Kingsolver gets dismissed as "chick lit," and she is fan-fucking-tastic, fo shizz. Her books are about women and families and romance, and they are amazingly beautifully written, funny, emotionally fraught, smart, well-researched, informative, and epic. And her readers are mostly female and she doesn't get mentioned much in talk of great contemporary writers, unlike folk like Cormac McCarthy and Charles Frazier and Thomas Pynchon.

    The fact that "chick lit" itself is a derogatory term is telling--it's written by and for women, about topics women are generally interested in? It must suck!

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  60. @Seraph: I'm not sure Kingsolver is the best example: she's received a National Humanities Medal and The Poisonwood Bible was on the shortlist for the Pulitzer, according to Wikipedia.

    But a lot of literature is dismissed by snobs. It's certainly been a gendered issue in the past. I'm not sure it's a gendered issue now; genre fiction in general tends to be marginalized. Similar rhetoric is used about both romance and science fiction, only with the genders reversed.

    There is a certain amount of the "xkcd problem", I'd agree, as the term "chick lit" reveals. There is a certain segment that thanks that if a man reads "inferior" (in the snob's mind) literature it's because he's a geek, while if a woman reads "inferior" literature it's because she's a woman.

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  61. >>However, I don't agree that any man should be locked up based on nothing other than a woman saying he raped her.
    >This is very often the only evidence rape leaves. Are you saying that if he doesn't leave any marks it's a freebie?

    I dunno about this. I think it would be unfair and a violation of due process to simply accept a woman's word at face value, but I also agree that it's often the only evidence that's left after a rape.

    What kinds of solutions do you have?

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  62. Hershele OstropolerMay 7, 2011 at 4:21 PM

    I think it would be unfair and a violation of due process to simply accept a woman's word at face value

    And if she's black her testimony only counts 3/5 as much?

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  63. Pardon my ignorance of commenting tags.

    >And if she's black her testimony only counts 3/5 as much?

    A victim's testimony alone isn't, and shouldn't be, enough to convict a person of an aggravated felony. It wouldn't be sufficient for *any* other crime.

    As was discussed, though, rape is not like any other crime, because most other crimes leave evidence. So while I think the way rape is prosecuted in America is not ideal ATM, I don't believe simply believing an alleged victim's accusations - and ignoring an alleged perpetrator's denial - should be sufficient for a rape conviction.

    That's why I was asking for solutions instead and not sarcasm, Hershele.

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  64. Hershele OstropolerMay 7, 2011 at 6:15 PM

    A victim's testimony alone isn't, and shouldn't be, enough to convict a person of an aggravated felony. It wouldn't be sufficient for *any* other crime.

    As was discussed, though, rape is not like any other crime, because most other crimes leave evidence.


    Maybe you should try forgoing sarcasm. Or did you mean to argue against your own point?

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  65. I did, actually. Both of those statements are facts, but they are also contradictory.

    That's why I'm asking for solutions. A victim's testimony shouldn't be enough, but how can we reconcile that with lack of criminal evidence in rape cases?

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  66. Fnord--good point, she's just the first one that comes to mind. Though critical acclaim doesn't protect one from being seen by the reading public as "girl stuff." The geek/girl problem is a good example, I'll remember that one.

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  67. I actually agree with you on this, but I personally couldn't call myself a feminist. "Egalitarian" or "Supportive of equal rights" seems to get the closest.

    Though, that's probably just me. I'm bisexual, but I don't normally say "gay rights", because "equal rights" or "marriage equality" (in a specific debate) does the job just fine. If what you want is equality, say it. When pressed for specifics, let the specifics be known. It's not about the crazy people who happen to share your label, it's about being able to hold your own views without one. Not to say that 'feminist' is inappropriate in context, but I prefer to look forward to a day when the genders will be so close to equal that the scale really could tip in either direction. On that day, it will be nice to have a more neutrally-stanced name.

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  68. Hershele OstropolerMay 8, 2011 at 11:05 PM

    The organization Freedom To Marry uses "marriage equaity," I think to underscore that the struggle is (they assert) everyone's.

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  69. /I'm the kind of crazy guy who thinks that people who aren't a high flight threat shouldn't be made to pay high bail fees, and that no indictment should be made public until it's first gone in front of a judge./

    I'll go one better than that - I believe that unless someone is on the run and/or considered an immediate danger to the public, there should be no information given to anyone outside the investigation and police/court system until there is a verdict.

    But generally speaking, false rape accusations are not any more of a problem than false anything accusations and it's generally a sign of a rape apologist/MRA when someone acts like they are. Secondly, of course there are problems with the system. Feminists don't control the system - (mostly male) politicians, lawyers, cops and judges do.

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  70. Hershele OstropolerMay 9, 2011 at 9:19 AM

    3:01 5/8 Anon: It's not zero-sum. Advocacy for the rights of women is perfectly compatible with advocating for the rights of me, for all the latter isn't as big a problem. Freeing women from societal constraints doesn't require tightening the constraints on men.

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