Thursday, April 14, 2011

Imaginary Feminism 101.

I was reading the blog Manboobz, which is fascinating in a sort of constantly infuriating way, and has, er, "lively" debate in most of the comments sections, and realized that there was a fundamental disconnect there between the Men's Rights types (MRA, Men's Rights Activists) and the feminists. The feminists were arguing in favor of feminism, but the Men's Rights fellas were arguing against Imaginary Feminism, or IF. And they were right to do so! This is a truly toxic movement! Let's explore IF in detail.

Imaginary Feminism is monolithic.
This is very important. Anything said by anyone calling themselves a feminist can be assumed to be true of anyone else calling themselves a feminist. Some random thing Andrea Dworkin said in 1973 is tattooed on all IF's chests backward so they can read it in the mirror. All IFs simultaneously subscribe to the beliefs of Valerie Solanas, Catharine McKinnon, Betty Dodson, Phyllis Schlafly, Twisty Faster, and that person who wrote those weird articles about Firefly. Or, I mean, all the beliefs you know about. Don't feel over-pressured to actually learn anything about these people.

If an IF tells you she does not hold a particular belief, there are two possibilities, and only two:
1. She's lying. She's got the SCUM Manifesto printed on her ceiling so it's the first thing she sees when she wakes up, and you know it.
2. She's not really a feminist at all! And she didn't know it, poor thing! She's been suckered! Pat her on the head for being "one of the good ones" and welcome her into the MRA fold.

Imaginary Feminism is playing a zero-sum game against men.
"Women's rights" are entirely obtained by reducing men's rights. For example, when women got the vote, men saw the value of their votes decrease by half! There's no justice in this world. And they want to push it further. The ultimate goal of IF is for women to have all of the rights and men to have none of the rights, and the only way to oppose them is to advocate the opposite. "Feminism helps men too" is a meaningless statement, because the very definition of feminism is opposition to men.

This can be applied to just about every issue, although you will have to sorta squint at times. For example, when IFs ask for reproductive rights, that's their way of evilly killing men's babies... or evilly bearing men's babies and then having the gall to want child support. Or when IFs ask to be protected from sexual harassment and assault, that's their way of setting up men for false accusations!

You may be noticing at this point that everything IFs do is really about men. This is correct. For example, when IFs set up women's shelters, they're doing that specifically to exclude men--the whole "sheltering women" thing is kind of a side effect. When IFs advocate for more representation of women in media and government, this really means less men. The actual impacts of these things on women are secondary.

IF has no real grievances.
Women got the vote in 1920, and since then, IF has been totally irrelevant. The truth is that our current society is totally ruled by women. For example, IFs claim that women earn less than men, but the truth is that men do all their work to support women--every woman has a supporting man and spends her spare time on the couch eating bon-bons. [What even is a bon-bon? Is it a chocolate thing? I've seriously never had one.] Or IFs claim that women are kept out of high-status professions, when really women just don't like being powerful or successful and don't choose those paths.

Worst of all, IFs claim that women are subject to harassment, intimidation, and violence, when a cursory glance at crime statistics will show you that men are also victims of violence. This makes violence against women okay, because as long as violence is something that happens to everyone, it's kind of a non-issue and we should all just suck it up. Plus, the fact that women sometimes abuse men proves that women are evil anyway.

Imaginary Feminism is virulently opposed to sex.
IFs hate porn because it's sexy. IFs hate sex work because it involves sex. IFs hate pick-up Game because it gets men laid. IFs hate women being sexy because, you know, sexy. IFs are sticklers about consensual sex because asking for consent is never sexy, and because they know that if men have to ask for consent they won't get laid. IFs favor a world of gray coveralls where women are never troubled by men's baser needs.

There are three possible explanations for this, which aren't contradictory in the slightest:
1. IFs are uggos who can't get laid, so they want to ruin the fun for everybody else.
2. IFs are actually very traditional ladies who want people to only have sex after making a major chocolate-and-diamonds commitment, and they're pissed that men are getting away with having casual sex.
3. IFs, like all women, have no sex drives of their own. But unlike other women, they don't understand that they're supposed to sell their sex to men for money or ego boosts or to award a particularly deserving man.

Imaginary Feminism is recklessly sexual.
Forget everything I just said. IF is all about letting sluts be sluts. IF believes that women should walk down the streets with their boobies out, fuck tons of men and run away without any consequences. IF just wants to enable hypergamy, which is women's desire to fuck successful, confident, and attractive men, which is horrible of women. So maybe it's most correct to say that IFs want to deprive nice decent guys of the sex they deserve, but bed-hop relentlessly between aggressive hyper-masculine Alpha Males. That's the real meaning of "sexual empowerment"--chasing their biological urge toward hypergamy.

IFs also want to tease men with their bodies, put themselves in compromising positions with men, and then get out of having sex. This doesn't accomplish any basic female goals, it's just funny.

IFs love to shame men into silence.
Any time an IF calls you a "sexist," "misogynist," "chauvinist," or anything along those lines, she is merely trying to shame you into silence, and you shouldn't fall for that old trick. In fact, the shaming language just got you out of listening to anything else in her argument! Anything an IF says is invalid in toto if she failed you to address you as "Gentle Scholar."

Particularly note the old IF trick of acting "angry." She does this to shut you up and intimidate you. Women never actually experience anger. Feel free to test this by needling and insulting her repeatedly, and watch how her facade of reasonable answers to your questions quickly crumbles as she gives in to acting "angry," an IF's last and basest resort.

Remember: if anything, ever, makes you feel bad about yourself and your actions, it's because people are evilly trying to make you feel bad! Don't fall for it.

Any time a man does something good or a woman does something bad, this disproves Imaginary Feminism.
Well, duh. The entire thesis of IF is "women are better than men... just better," so this is a direct contradiction.

IFs are just old-fashioned proper ladies at heart.
You know what an IF really wants? She wants a man to commit to her and take care of her, kill mastodons for her and give her lots of babies. She's just going about it all wrong.


  1. Funny timing, this. Look who showed up in my comments section this morning. I mean, it caught me pretty off-guard, because VFTP isn't normally the kind of place where MRA stuff usually crops up.

    I am mildly creeped out by the fact that I almost used the the word "mansplaining" in LabRat's comments section last week, and then almost used the phrase "but what about the menz?" in my own today...

  2. What, you don't have Steinem's every word tattooed backwards on your forehead? Weirdo.

    Also, every time a woman votes, a man loses an erection.

  3. I'm sorry, I got stuck on the bit where Phyllis Schlafly is within spitting distance of feminism? Even IF?

    That would explain a lot.

  4. Anon - It was sort of a joke about not knowing the difference between any of these ladynames who talk about ladybusiness.

  5. You've never had a bonbon? They're awesome. It's candy dipped in chocolate.

    But since I'm a dude I probably shouldn't be telling you that, because that's one more bonbon I have to claw up from the rugged earth as part of my endless toil to gain sex from the insatiable chocolate-lusting Overwoman.

  6. Everything about this (and the comments) is PRICELESS.

  7. Anon 10:32:

    Oh, I knew it was a joke. I just... Phyllis Sclafly, feminist... sorry, processing error, reboot and divide by cucumber!

  8. "...that's one more bonbon I have to claw up from the rugged earth as part of my endless toil to gain sex from the insatiable chocolate-lusting Overwoman."

    I LOL'ed. Hard. :D

  9. IFs also want to tease men with their bodies, put themselves in compromising positions with men, and then get out of having sex. This doesn't accomplish any basic female goals, it's just funny.


  10. These arguments always make me wonder if I live in some sorta parallel universe where the world operates under very different rules.

    And Christ, I have discovered that it is remarkably easy to tease men with my body. I can be in a crewcut, wearing my wedding ring, dressed in men's clothes and combat boots, and old men would STILL harass me on the street. Jesus Christ, dudes, how many more nonverbal signals of "not for you" can I possibly give?

    It got to the point that I was tempted to bellow, "I AM A MAAAAAN!" at them, but then I was afraid I'd get bashed.

    I guess I was just trying to ensnare them with my child-making, bonbon-craving uterus.


  11. This is just such a great post. So great!

  12. IFs are all lesbians*, too. ALL of them.

    *I'd specify "man-hating," but I think we all know those two things just go together, amirite ladies?

  13. Molly - We used to be lesbians. Now we're more into Alpha Males (we're biologically drawn to be sluts with them) and rich men (we can exploit them ruthlessly). It's a strange swing in stereotypes.

    But either way, yeah, man-hating, of course. Man-hating is eternal.

  14. *sigh*

    I really wish we would just get beyond women's rights, men's rights, minority rights, and thunderdome and just focus on peoples rights.

  15. I don't think there's a difference, Keith. I'm all for "people's rights" in theory, but in reality that involves addressing current inequalities.

  16. No I know, it not you, its them.

  17. Even on the face of it, the idea of "men's rights," in the literal sense, isn't all wrong. There are ways that men get treated like crap in our society--they're held to ridiculously harsh standards of masculinity, and they don't always get a fair shake out of the justice system. But these are things to take up with the public, the legislature, and the judiciary, not GRRR FEMINISTS or (it tends to come down to this frighteningly quickly) GRRR WOMEN.

  18. Hey Holly, long-time-first-time!

    A friend just linked me to this: as a lets-laugh-at-the-crazies activity, and after subjecting myself to it, I came here hoping to solicit your inimitable take on that screed, and lo and behold, the newest post is germane to the subject, which counts as an amusing coincidence in my book.

  19. Holy crap, that Firefly blog. "I have never personally known of a healthy relationship between a white man and a woman of colour." And then this gem in the comments: "Like you've personally known of a healthy relationship between a man and a woman?" "heh, true."


    Also: imaginary feminists can still be lesbians when a) they're desperate uggos and b) when they're hot and need an excuse to get out of having sex with men for the lulz.

  20. Imaginary Feminism is taking away hetero men’s chances of having sex. If I’m a hetero man who has learned to regard women as something else than actual people, feminism has taken away these Imaginary Entirely-Different-From-Me-Somethings I searched for and replaced them with people: this is Imaginary Feminism’s evil plan to thwart my sex life. Because everyone knows that sex between people is impossible.

    Bonbons: Here in Germany we say Bonbon for sweets like this
    Austrians call them Zuckerl: little sugar. Our neighbours in France use the word bonbon – goodgood :) – for all sorts of sweets, from fruit flavoured candy and caramels to nougat and chocolate pralinĂ©s.

  21. Odd coincidence, this. I was going to show you a Catholic priest going "Hurr durr, women should be separate but equal!" from the Washington Post's On Faith panel, and what's your newest post? IF's.

    Here's the link (sexism, now with SUPER ADDED BONUS homophobic jokes! Because lesbians don't want to get married or they wouldn't be lesbians, and that totally means women can't be priests.)

  22. Wow, homophobia aside (and really, when should I ever say that?), tons of school plays cross-cast.

    Also, two jerks in the comments talking about how their version of IF is "the adoption of masculine traits by women." Fuck even is a masculine trait, seriously? Seems like if a woman is capable of doing a thing, then it's a thing women do, you know? Saying "woman are less aggressive" is sexist; saying "women are less aggressive, so this aggressive woman here is DOING WOMAN-ING WRONG" is just illogical.

  23. Masculine traits? They must be referring to our deep voices and manly chest hair.

    ...okay, yeah, WTF?

  24. You may be noticing at this point that everything IFs do is really about men. This is correct.

    This is really the root of it from my perspective. Patriarchal men just can't STAND things not being all about men. Which is why they keep showing up on feminist blogs and shouting BUT BUT BUT WHAT ABOUT THE MEN?!

    It also reminds me of how privilege-denying white people get so affronted by the existence of the NAACP and BET.

  25. Although a funny takedown... would be a mistake to pretend that the intersection of stereotypical IF traits and women is a null set. No woman may have (or be capable of having) all the traits on the list, but lots of women have one or two.

    There really ARE women out there who are (or think they are) trying to play a zero sum game against men, and pointing out that this is silly, pointless, and not really feminist does not help. (And to the extent labeling this as the trait of "imaginary" feminists makes it seem like these people don't exist, I'd say that's arguably unhelpful. They really DO exist, and should be scorned as and when they're encountered.)

    Come to that, plenty of people call themselves feminists, and hold contradictory beliefs. You can't hang out on a college campus for long without hearing someone at least CLAIM to think that women are identical to men, AND better. (Of course, Holly's point is that the men's rights people are fighting against the whole package, that the package doesn't exist, and that it's not a contradiction if different people espouse different contradictory things. Quite correct, as far as it goes, but...let's still remember that people are capable of contradicting themselves, even so.)

  26. Nice classic mansplain, Cody. Or at least that's how it reads to someone who has no idea who you are.

    Great post, Holly. And the grey coveralls one should be pasted on billboards everywhere.

  27. Cody - Feminism not being monolithic and women really not being monolithic, and "women are all perfect" not being a tenet of feminism, your statement doesn't blow me away in the slightest.

    I, uh, do believe women are identical to men. (Not "all the same" identical, but "pretty much the same range of variation" identitical.)

    But I don't think the IF statements are representative of most feminists, or are valid arguments to bring against them.

  28. Holly: Ouch! I clearly misspoke, as I really wasn't trying to disagree. (Since I hold essentially the same views on feminism you'd be odd if I WAS disagreeing.)

    What I was trying to say is that SOME criticisms that critics of feminism make are correct. This does not (indeed, can't) discredit feminism! But the critics of feminism are no more monolithic than feminists are, no?

  29. I remember reading _allecto_'s livejournal Firefly screeds. I knew they were an example of Dworkinism (my term for IF, since it's unfortunately not completely imaginary), but didn't realize at the time that they were iconic and widely recognized as so.

    You know, reading those screeds was when it really clicked in my head that Dworkinism is about hating women just as much as hating men. _allecto_ earnestly believed that women are weak-willed and uninsightful to the point of drooling idiocy, though she didn't phrase her arguments that way. She used the vocabulary (of girl-power) to disguise the content (of women-are-stupid-and-I-don't-respect-them). Kind of like how "freedom" is used in American politics.

    Just goes to show, you can only take hate for something so far before it starts poisoning your attitude towards other things. It's an empirical fact that men and women coexist on the same planet, so there's an upper limit on how much you can hate one without starting to hate the other for the crime of continuing to exist alongside it.

  30. In defense of Cody, it's not just that there are "some women" out there with some of the characteristcs of this list; it's that there are some groups of feminists out there with some of the characteristics of this list, and who proceed to pontificate on who is a true feminist, who does or does not count, whether men can be feminists or "only allies" (Echidne of the Snakes jumps to mind), etc. etc. etc.

    It is of course wrong to overgeneralize feminists and judge them by the worst among them. Just as it is wrong to overgeneralize critics of academic/radical feminism and judge them by the worst among them.

    Nobody -- not even (most of) the MRAs and similar movements -- denies that equal rights, duties, opportunities and responsibilites for all is the way to go. The big problem is always ascertaining what exactly equal rights means (equal legal rights, as defined by law? or equal stereotypes in the culture? or something else yet?), and how we know when we have them. This may seem easy and simple, but it really isn't.

    I've had alteractions with both antifems (MRAs adn the like) and 'men can't be feminists!' radfems, and I've come out thinking how similar the two groups are. The spectrum of politics in gender issues is not really a straight line, but a circle: the extremes do meet.

    I don't criticize "feminism", because, without a qualifier, and with so many groups and so many people with so many different ideas -- cf. Sarah Palin -- claiming it, a broad criticism is bound to be wrong (I notice this also means that this word, like other social activism words -- e.g., socialism -- is acquiring more and more meanings...). I criticize specific people who said specific things -- which to my mind is always a better approach, no matter what you're debating.

    So: there are groups, who claim the word "feminism" for them, and who deserve criticism. Just as there are other groups, who also claim the word "feminism", and who are quite OK and deserving of support. Likewise, some of the MRAs are right about some of the criticism they make, applied to some groups of feminists. It's always a case-by-case thing in the end; and where both MRAs and radfems err is when they declare all their enemies to be the same. (Which is, by the way, one of the points you make.)

  31. Or, to put it briefly: the criticism you make of radMRA's attitudes is quite correct:

    "If an IF tells you she does not hold a particular belief, there are two possibilities, and only two:
    1. She's lying. She's got the SCUM Manifesto printed on her ceiling so it's the first thing she sees when she wakes up, and you know it.
    2. She's not really a feminist at all! And she didn't know it, poor thing! She's been suckered! Pat her on the head for being "one of the good ones" and welcome her into the MRA fold."

    But it's also true for feminists who think MRAs all have "the same ideas" and who see no distinction between radicals and non-radicals in this group. Something like:

    "If an MRA tells you he does not hold a particular belief, there are two possibilities, and only two:
    1. He's lying. He's got the whole anti-IF manifesto printed on his ceiling so it's the first thing he sees when he wakes up, and you know it.
    2. He's not really an MRA at all! And he didn't know it, poor thing! He's been suckered! Pat him on the head for being "one of the good ones" and welcome him into the feminist fold."

    People are... individuals! :-)

  32. I note, in passing, that Helen above uses the word "mansplain", which is after all just gender-biased (it associates a certain fallacious way of thinking -- one that usually comes with at least some arrogance -- with one gender; as if women or feminists didn't "mansplain" things all the time, too...). She uses it as if it meant Cody's argument had to be wrong. Interesting rhetorical device.

  33. Jake: indeed. I agree entirely with your comments. Likewise, I think the most extreme MRA types also secretly hate men. The misandry they see everywhere in our culture is also ultimately present in their hearts.

    As I said above, gender politics (and politics in general, I think) isn't a straight line, but a circle: the opposites meet. Crazy people on both sides of the spectrum are so similar, they could be twins.

  34. Re: Asehpe

    The concept of mansplaining is all about societal gender roles--not inherent behaviour. Men (white men, anyway--men of color get different lessons) become mansplainers by growing up in a society that teaches them that their words are Always Important and Always Worth Hearing, and that they don't need to listen before they speak.

    Plenty of men mostly escape this training and go on to be perfectly good communicators. But plenty become truly epic mansplainers, because they're given every signal that this is correct behaviour.

    Women who are condescending and patronizing are being condescending and patronizing; they aren't mansplaining because the context of their condescension is very different.

    Recognizing that gender differences exist in our society--our society which strictly enforces, sometimes violently, its idea of "correct" gender roles--is not gender bias; it's observation. No one is saying men are condescending in the womb; we're saying that there is a pattern of condescending behaviour by men that reflects a societal lesson told to men that their words are Always Worth Hearing (and that women need their explanations to get things through our silly little brains).

  35. In the grand scheme of things, a whole lot is explained by the notion that MRAs and IFs are each other's ex-partners. Including the whole "I don't know what universe you live in, but the people there act really weird" part.

  36. So you're saying that not all feminists fight to harm men, right?

    What about the feminists that did these things?

    What about the feminists that did this?

    What about the feminists that fought for this?

    You say not all feminists are like that. But enough of them are.

  37. I would just like to take a moment to say... "A rapist's View of the World, Joss Whedon and firefly"? WTF is wrong with the world?

  38. Cel - Feminism isn't a political party, where I can become dissatisfied with the actions of the leadership and leave in protest. It's a political belief, and nothing you posted has convinced me to stop believing in the fundamental equality and humanity of all genders and sexualities.

    Also, the Stanford one doesn't exactly strike me as a travesty. Oh no, the poor men who only have a preponderance of evidence that they raped someone! (The poor people, I should say, because it's not exclusively targeted at men.) There are some men's rights causes that I can actually get behind, but "we wouldn't have this GIANT EPIDEMIC OF FALSE RAPE PROSECUTIONS if we just stopped prosecuting anyone for rape!" sure as hell isn't one of them.

  39. I also occasionally read Manbooz and then sometimes read what he links to and then my head explodes. Prior to the head explosion though, I was reading something written on on MRA blog about how women love to shop and how entire malls are built so women can buy things.

    In the comment section, there were some doodz complaining about how they couldn't stand women who shopped all the time and then, two comments later, were bitching about women looking "dowdy."

    It is my understanding then that MRAs are able to apparate into a store, directly in front of the article of clothing they want to purchase in the size they require and at a price they can afford. Perhaps if they taught this power to the rest of us, I wouldn't spend an hour trying on jeans to find one goddamn pair that fits.

  40. Bon bons were a chewy and delicious sweet I last had fifteen years ago. They looked like these ones:

  41. From now on, I will refer to all trolls as Gentle Scholar, in homage to you. <3

  42. I'm sure this is a stupid question, but: are the "weird articles about 'Firefly'" accurate depictions/summaries of the episodes in question? Because if they are, then yeah, that's a kind of chauvinistic show. Although probably not moreso than most other TV shows. I don't know; that's why i'm asking.

  43. Bonbon means "candy" en francais.