America’s Next Bill Clinton!

Feminism and violence MUST go hand-in-hand

Although I understand that from the many perspectives and schools of thoughts for feminism, violence is often never the answer, I still assert that feminism and violence can indeed go hand-in-hand and we can use violence in a positive way to affect feminism.

This, of course, isn’t a very political ideal. It’s more of a social ideal, one in which we must fight fire with fire and hate with hate. 

Consider this: sometimes, the political simply doesn’t work. Sometimes, teaching a person does nothing for that person, and we waste our time. But imagine how a person would react differently if, seeing that person acting in sexist or misogynistic ways, we confront them with verbal violence. If need be, we can also confront them with physical violence – that is, breaking a beer bottle over a guy’s head if he gets grabby, touchy or misogynistic at a party or any other social scenes. 

Too often, we’ve played by the rules as feminists. For us, even in the third wave, peace and love have played a more important role in our activism than anything else. Imagine what would happen if we spoke out against misogyny? The guy who’s touching you too much at the bar? What if you made a scene? Would he continue doing it, or would he actually stop due to embarrassment? What if we all stood up and spoke out against this sort of thing? What if we became the violent ones?  

Sexism is based on the power of control. To fight it, we must seize the power and take back the control. As for now, we know women don’t often feel safe walking the street at night. What if sexists and misogynists all the sudden became the prey rather than the predator? What if rather than being victims, women (and feminists of both genders) start being more violent? We then fight fear with fear. The misogynists and sexists who walk down the street have to be afraid and look over their shoulders for the big, bad feminists.  It’s a Robin Hood kind of attitude, and one that creates a sort of poetic justice. But it works, doesn’t it? Did Lorraina Bobbit’s husband commit anymore acts of abuse? Absolutely not.

Sometimes, talking to a person isn’t the answer. In a society that’s based on power and violence, the only way we can solve the problems sometimes is to give someone a swift kick in the ass. This all gives a whole meaning to the compliment I’d like to give my feminist allies, “You are a kick-ass feminist.”Thoughts?

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I don’t have a problem putting my hands on a guy if he’s put his hands on me without an invitation. A friend and I were walking home from a bar in Boston one night when a group of guys walked up behind us and one dude slapped my friend’s ass. She spun around and slapped him in the face. It was awesome. I’m sure he felt it was an overreaction (since men aren’t used to being touched without invitation), but I thought it was appropriate. I’m sure things could have escalated, but we were in a heavily populated and well-lit area. Luckily the dude didn’t take it any further. I would not advise violence in ALL situations, but I do think women should “call” men out on misbehavior like that, whether it’s with words or hands.

Comment by SarahMC

Patriarchy IS violence, and violence IS patriarchy. Therefore, feminism (anti-patriarchy) and violence must NOT go hand in hand. I don’t think anyone should use physical violence to further any agenda, especially the agenda of gender equality. I’m especially weirded out to read this coming from a man who claims to be profeminist. Advocating violence, even against men in the name of women’s safety, is exactly the same as advocating patriarchy. The fight in feminism is for gender equality, not for women’s dominance or intimidation of men. Have you read Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man by Susan Faludi? Her main point in the book, published in 1999 or so, is that men who are working toward equality and checking their privileges cannot “fight” patriarchy in the same ways that women can. The tools that female feminists use to challenge patriarchy are exactly the tools that oppress men. Women can — and do — speak about “fighting” the patriarchy, the oppressor, and often violent metaphors are used (but actual physical violence other than self-defense is generally frowned upon by most feminist communities). But men have been fed this physical violence = real power line their whole lives, and this is exactly the problem that men have with patriarchy. Masculinity is not equal to physical prowess or violence — disavow that notion instead of using that dehumanizing cliche to fight other men. Expect and assume that other men can be educated about their misogyny with words instead of fists — you’re certainly capable of learning about your privileges without being physically attacked every time you fuck up.

I do see where you’re coming from, and I have had fantasies of violence against the misogynists in my life and in the world (Hard Candy is an example of this fantasy), but I think your being male problematizes your claim too much. I wouldn’t want you out there in bars breaking bottles over some asshole’s head in the name of feminism. And I especially don’t want you doing that as a man to another man and then claiming feminism as your reasoning — that smacks of chivalry, and it makes me feel like you’re saying that feminism and female feminists aren’t doing it “right” or doing “enough” to overthrow the patriarchy, which is just a tad condescending. I don’t want to be the “big bad feminist.” I don’t want to fight violence with violence. I don’t want to fight fear with fear. I want to be HUMAN and live my life as I choose.

Comment by L

L, I absolutely see where you’re going with this, and I certainly appreciate it. I understand that my advocating violence is a tendency that is male-based, and from the perspective of a privilege male for whom violence has never been a threat. Thus the reason I see violence as something positive, rather then negative or oppressing.

But allow me to counter. Here’s what I think.

It isn’t the use of violence that’s bad. It’s the misuse of violence, and what violence is meant for that is bad. If violence is used for a misogynistic or patriarchal purpose, with the intent of upholding gender roles to oppress a certain group of people, and women in this case, then it’s bad. But if violence is used as a method of freeing, or of seizing the power from, to create a more equal world, then I think it’s perfectly acceptable.

I see it as sort of how love was viewed by the second wave. Many women and feminists rejected love and relationships in the second wave because it hurt too much to be loved, where the love is shown in misogynistic and patriarchal ways. So, they stayed away from it. But in our third wave, feminists have advocated that we should embrace love and “eroticize equality” rather than rejecting it.

There, we see an example of how we can turn something that is misogynistic into something that is equal and desired.

The fact is that the patriarchs and misogynist should not own violence. We should be able to have it, too, and turn it into our own agency, for the purpose of feminism rather than oppressing.

But then again, I do understand that I see this from a privileged male viewpoint. Hence, the reason, though, that we ought to dialogue more, because even inside of feminism, male privilege can exist.


Comment by profeministmale

I don’t see, still, how violence can be anything except oppressive, regardless of who has the violent “power.” When you hurt a man, you’re hurting that man; you are preventing him from living his life in the way that he sees fit, which is oppressive. (This scenario changes when the man is actively oppressing someone else with violence, but my point is that violence is oppressive.) Yes, you may have what you think is a good reason for breaking a bottle over some dude’s head (will he get that reason? or will he just be pissy at both the woman he was mistreating and you?), but men who commit violence against women also have what they think are good reasons for committing that violence.

Can you give me an example of “properly used” violence as opposed to “misused” violence? The bar scenario with the breaking beer bottles might be an example of a righteous way of using violence, but that doesn’t mean it’s effective in achieving the goals intended.

Don’t you see how “seizing power” from patriarchy through violence just swings the pendulum away from equality? Equality, again, is the ultimate goal of feminism, not a matriarchy or a gynocracy. I don’t agree that violence is the best way to promote gender equality. Abolishing violence is among the best ways to promote equality among all different groups of people.

Comment by L

I have to agree with L, that violence is oppression. Violence has been used against women as a form of oppression, so I’m not sure I think it’s right to tell a female victim of rape or DV that she should fight back with violence. To me, feminism isn’t about females gaining power over men, but about educating men (and women) to understand the roots of our oppression and the roots of their privilege.

Not to say that I disagree with using self defense:
“The guy who’s touching you too much at the bar? What if you made a scene? Would he continue doing it, or would he actually stop due to embarrassment?”
I think most women would make a scene, but maybe that’s just the crowd I hang with. I never let unwelcome advances go unremarked, but I don’t always use violence. Sometimes a slap across the face is necessary, but usually a loud “Do you mind not fondling my ass?” will embarrass the guy enough to get him to stop, all while maintaining my confidence in owning my own body.

Comment by Mary

Dude, I just imagined a superhero going around with a beer bottle donking drunken men over the head in the name of feminism.
Anyways, I believe you can resort to violence for the sake of self-preservation or self defense. I’ve seen some very strong women slap people if anyone tried to mess with them physically, and I see this as very basic instinct of self-preservation. If it hadn’t been bred out of me though I think I would have fought back like I did when I was a little girl. I have no way of telling now because such situations make my limbs turn to jelly. I have observed through experience that the physical act of molesting a woman in itself does not cause as much pleasure for the offender as the hurt, shame, anger that it evokes in the victim. These people are cowards and sometimes you cannot reach them with words.
I remember reading some Germaine Greer, something about being unimpressed by a man’s physical strength and it all being psychological? Does anyone remember? Anyways, I think that’s a part of it but I don’t think it’s that simple. Boys were actually afraid of my ass-kicking friend because she had slapped a guy who misbehaved with her at a party. The classic moment that I witnessed didn’t gel well with everyone because she stood her ground, before/during/after the incident. The boys didn’t handle it, she did, and after that they were very wary of her. If a guy came to her rescue, all would have felt right with everyone, or perhaps if she had expressed some regret over the incident.
Solving an argument with physical violence is stupid. The problem with physical violence is can be endless, cyclical. We all know that. But you should be allowed to have the self-worth to retaliate if someone messes with you…and then run away as fast as you can. If you don’t react, you’re giving ground for more of that sort of behaviour, and if you can live with that then it’s a personal choice.

Comment by vintagefan

“The problem with physical violence is can be endless, cyclical.” –vintagefan

Totally. Violence wouldn’t actually address the problem of patriarchal oppression. Only words and understanding can do that. Violence is about one party winning, which is not the point of feminism, in my opinion.

I also see the potential for “blame the victim” mentality, here. I can just imagine a DV victim being accused of not defending her/himself, or a rape victim of not fighting back with violence. Some people are just not capable, either for psychological or physical reasons, of being violent.

I think I see what you’re saying, PFM, which is that the only way to get through to some of these idiots is with your fists, and you’re most likely correct. I doubt we’ll ever enlighten these people, though, so I’d rather focus on the fence-sitters to come to the feminist side.

Comment by Mary

Violence isn’t, in my opinion, about one party winning. As it can be used to discourage equality and freedom, it can also use to quell oppression and misogyny. In this case, it’s not about women dominating over men, if we so choose to use violence, but rather feminism (an equal, fair and wholesome way of living) overpowering what is hateful and misogynistic.

If the method of operation belonging to a certain agency (in this case, the patriarchy) is hate and violence, which is most often is, we must fight it with the same. It makes sense to me, that if we want to win, we have to fight fire with fire.

Sure, violence can oppress – but tell me this, who are we oppressing by using violence against misogyny and patriarchy? For me, it is oppressing and repressing the very ideas and lifestyle that we’re against.

For my brand of feminism, which might be very different from yours, as we are all socially constructed differently, violence in the day-to-day complexities of life, can serve as a valuable assets.

I could write something that connects the personal and political, and how as we are faced with legislative violence, we also must respond in kind, in forms of propaganda, but I’ll save it for another day.

Thanks for a wonderful discussion. 🙂

Comment by profeministmale

And Vintagefan, I just read your post again and laughed really hard at the idea of a Superhero Woman running around bars donking guys on their heads with beer bottles.

In fact, a friend has just created a feminist comic and the character (a woman) has a pro-feminist male sidekick. The sidekick is well-meaning, but is always doing things that aren’t always entirely feministic. So, I’ll suggest that one of the things he does, which the woman hero does not approve of, is goes to bars with beer bottles and beats guys over the head with them. 🙂

Comment by profeministmale

Ugh, you sound like such a fucking idiot. What don’t you get about violence = oppression? Feminism seeks to end oppression. Violence begets oppression. What is so difficult about this?

And yeah, you do come off with some serious male privilege here, even after, let’s count ’em, 5 separate comments pointing it out to you. Now it’s your turn to listen to the people you’re trying to “help”. QUIT TALKING AND LISTEN FOR A FUCKING CHANGE. That would do a lot to make you seem less privileged in this exchange. Wanna be a male feminist ally? LISTEN TO WHAT WOMEN SAY TO YOU. You are wrong about this. Read it again: YOU ARE WRONG ABOUT THIS. Think harder about what you’re saying here.

This is NOT just a “discussion” topic — this is about women’s lives and men’s oppression of women THROUGH VIOLENCE. God, I just don’t even know what to say to you to make you understand just how WRONG you are in this post.

Comment by L

Has anyone read Man’s Search for Meaning (1946) by Viktor Frankl? He was a psychiatrist and a holocaust victim and wrote a book about his experience in a Nazi concentration camp, how the inmates that survived the oppressive regime managed to do so mainly through the strength of their spirit. “The book also concludes that there are only two races of men, decent men and indecent. No society is free of either of them, and thus there were “decent” Nazi guards and “indecent” prisoners, most notably the capo who would betray their fellow prisoners for personal gain. The final chapter concerns the mindset of the prisoners after liberation. While marching through the fields around their former prisons, the prisoners become aware that they are unable to comprehend pleasure.” (source)—Moreover some of them felt that any wrongdoing on their part was justified because of what had been done to them. In this case violence was fought with violence to overthrow an oppressive regime and there seemed no alternative at the time, but to use violence to end violence is a temporary measure, since we’ve seen what it breeds.
Every day violent behaviour I believe, is mainly due to social conditioning, and many feel they’re entitled to it or are not man enough if they don’t prove themselves through violence or some right of passage ritual, or learn it from what they see around them. To work against that you have to begin early to instill the belief that mental and physical strength is admirable but violence is despicable. Like non-violence in martial arts— resist, but don’t be an aggressor. I’m still big on resistance and not giving ground, too many treasures have been lost that way. In war and training, I think, you’re compelled to bring out this aggression to perform as a soldier, and one way is to build and bring out the hate within yourself. I feel sorry for the soldiers that are inherently good but have to call upon that creature. PFM, I think your heart is in the right place, but be careful what you use or say to justify violence. You sound more impatient than aggressive, and the equality thing is going to take a while so be prepared to stretch your patience even thinner. Plus, we need to think of more creative alternatives, because we’re ruining a lot of people’s fun (good), but we’re not reaching them(bad).

Comment by vintagefan

@L: Chill. Being assertive and standing up for one’s rights–such as the right to walk down the street on a Saturday night without being f’in felt up–is one essential part to inducing change.

@PFM: I dig that you’re trying to be assertive and standing up for women’s rights, but I don’t know about how I feel about getting into bar fights to that effect. It’s meant to be a good thing, and the intention is good, but something’s getting lost along the way.

I took an alternative class in late May that involved us going by bus to some relevant cities in the northeastern US. One of the guest speakers, I want to say Joan E. Biren, said that lesbian and/or feminist activists today are having trouble getting stuff accomplished because too few people get angry anymore. We’re afraid of maybe stepping on a few toes and comparatively little progress is made; however, I believe this was also the speaker involved in the brief-yet-intense separatist movement and I felt that her actions crossed a bit of a line into being counterproductive. I’m a feminist man, and I’ll always be welcomed with open arms into the Campus Women’s Center where I go to college because I support the cause, but I’d get a kick in the ass at the entrance of the women-ONLY mini-colonies that got set up in the ’70s, and the thought of that possibility was definitely a “wait, what? really?” moment.

So, yeah. PFM, your fervor is good but I’ve always thought that there are more productive ways to channel it. That is, until we reach the league of a guy so objectifying that he thinks nothing of groping/whatever and is barely fazed by the most intense of chew-outs. A fair number of people like that won’t change until they see a reason to, such as “acting like that just got my ass kicked in front of half my friends, and if I keep it up it’ll happen again.” Or, “I’ll be sure to have more people on my side there next time.” I’m hoping for the former, myself.

Comment by ZuRG

L – but here’s the thing: you’ve yet to explain why violence and oppression, which are certainly products. of patriarchy and misogyny, have to go in hand. The way I see it, they are independent and only go hand-in-hand because it’s a social construct, and that we’ve (society) has made it into that. If we can change violence into something positive, which I still think that we can, then why not?

For me, it is about women’s lives. That’s why I am suggesting we fight violence with violence. Anything less and it won’t do any good, in my opinion. If the misogynists understand that there are violent consequences to their violent actions, then they would think twice about committing an act of violence as a way to oppress.

As for listening, I AM listening and exchanging ideas; hence the reason for this forum. If I didn’t value your opinion, I’d just put on my feminist outfit and go to the bars and start kicking some ass, which admittedly, I’ve done in the past.

I am sorry that I seem to have gotten you upset over it. It was never the intent.

Comment by profeministmale

Vintagepoint – point taken, and I understand. Sometimes, violence is a quick and easy way to solve the problems I see facing feminism everyday, and you say so much of them on the streets and at bars and all, you know? Even as a pro-feminist male, I’ve caught myself doing things that aren’t entirely feministic, and I beat my own head for it.

I guess the thing is this: it seems that in the third wave, feminism is very different than that of the first or second. Women, to me, have earned the power TO, now it’s time to earn the power OVER – not so much over men, but over the patriarchal.

At that, another difference that we see in the third wave (I discussed this at length with many second- and third-wave feminists at the recent NOW conference) is that we approach feminism very different. Because people seem to be more stoic now than ever before about feminism, we need to make it into something that is sexy and hip – and sometimes, because society values violence so much more over peace and cooperation, we need to use violence as a vehicle for our success.

I guess it goes back to Gloria Steinem’s philosophy of “eroticizing equality,” and how we need to make equality a desirable thing. I took it to mean differently, though. 🙂

For me, I think the ends still justify the means.

Comment by profeministmale

Dude, ZurG, I hope it’s the former, too – because there’s a very primal part of me that still thinks beating the shit out of someone for a good cause is something that is positive if done for positive reasons.

There is a guy at my coffee shop whom, a few weeks ago, I kicked in the chest after having heard complaints about his creepiness toward women and observing his actions. I confronted him, he gave me an attitude and I kicked him. He flew off the porch and hasn’t been creepy since. So, it works.

Interesting point you brought up though about the “women’s colonies.” I don’t know if you’ve read/heard of Mary Daly, who as an advocate for separatism, and was fired from her job at the university where she was WMST professor for making the class women only.

I am actually torn on this issue, and I’d like to get your opinion on it, because on one hand, I can see male privilege as still existing in the classroom and so it’s a good idea to exclude such privilege to have “a room of one’s own.” But on the other hand, you don’t fight patriarchy by withdrawing from it and creating a society of your own, but rather, taking it head on, which wasn’t what was happening with Daly.

Comment by profeministmale

L – if women use violence against the men who are oppressing them, they are NOT oppressing those men. They are fighting back.
Men are not oppressed when they are called on their shit or given a taste of their own medicine.

Comment by SarahMC

Talk about you can take the man out of the army but you can’t take the army out of the man. “Let’s just settle this with a kick to the chest, shall we?” p-f-male, I’m not sure if it was your intention to be light-hearted but you made me chuckle. Anyway, your posts are nothing if not thought-provoking. I can’t get a handle on you, I just feel like I have no idea where you’re coming from, but it seems like your heart is in the right place.

Sounds like you are frustrated with the rate of change in the patriarchy, aren’t we all? I think it is a male experience to think the way to speed things up is to take control and dominate the situation, to enforce your way. And look, I think there are more than a few feminists who fantasize about this possibility with you, but it’s not realistic. A violent feminist uprising wouldn’t be tolerated, plus it would undermine our credibility with opposing oppression.

In the situations you mention on the individual level, ie. the woman in the bar – I think women don’t usually engage in confrontation or retaliation for demeaning, misogynistic behaviour because apart from anything else it may be very dangerous for them. Misogynistic behaviour is aggressive and it would be taking a big risk to respond with aggression yourself. Women live their entire lives with the threat of violence from men, it’s difficult to overcome that threat and respond assertively. Though ain’t it a beautiful thing when it does happen.

In response to your other thread about separatism – I’m not a separatist, you probably guessed but I think separatists are an integral part to any philosophical movement. They provide a challenge to the status quo, philosophical movements need that challenge to be inspired and to think imaginatively about change.

Comment by bluemilk

“but I’d get a kick in the ass at the entrance of the women-ONLY mini-colonies that got set up in the ’70s, and the thought of that possibility was definitely a “wait, what? really?” moment.”

ZuRG,PFM, I think you’ll find this post by George Monbiot interesting. It’s been on my blogroll articles list for a while now and no ones clicked on it yet. I think people might find it interesting though.

Comment by vintagefan

Did Lorraina Bobbit’s husband commit anymore acts of abuse? Absolutely not.

Yes he did. So your whole argument kind of falls over right there.

And that’s before I even start on the ludicrousness of replicating the oppressors behaviour and thinking that somehow makes you different because you’re – y’know –righteous about it.

Comment by rachel

Funny that you only focus on the Bobbit argument, whereas we should be talking about power and intent.

It’s really funny, because I see feminism (and liberalism) as actually being able to think outside the box – and not just black and white. But for some reason, when it comes to violence, those who disagree with me seem to make this black and white issue, rather than something that’s relative.

Comment by profeministmale

So let me get this straight.

First of all you fail to acknowledge you were wrong.

And then you tell me what I *should* be focusing on in your post despite the fact that my comment *was* about the content of your post.

And now you (mis)characterise my reply as black and white thinking.

So welcoming! So open to dialogue! Seems like silencing and strawman arguments are also tools you want to borrow from the oppressors.

So run that by me again – you’re different how exactly?

Comment by rachel

It’s a bad idea to use either of them to make any points, unless you want to talk about how many hours the police spent searching for the lost member and compare it to acceptable forms of female mutilation.
Ew for both.

Comment by vintagefan

Personally, I don’t think violence, even used as a means of overthrowing oppressors is justified, let alone effective. For starters, I think the comments made of violence being a tool of oppression are entirely justified. Overthrowing the oppressors with violence simply makes them the oppressed. While there’s a certain eye for an eye feel of justice to that, simply switching the places of oppressed and oppressor around does not end oppression and I feel that should be goal.

That said, self defense is (also in my opinion and maybe only in my opinion) not violence. A victim is never to blame to being unable to act in self defense, but if they are able, doing so is not unethical in any way (as long as the response is within reason and in direct response to the threat. Vengenance, while it can again seem like justice seems to me to really be case of switching the roles of oppressor and opressed. There’s still some justification to this under self-defense though.)

I don’t think this post covers every detail or situation, but without writing a whole essay on it. . . so I’ll stop.

Comment by Priam160

Firstly, I don’t have to admit I am wrong because this is a discussion of idea. Last time I checked, any exchange of ideas is open to discussion, rather than having someone being right or wrong.

If you feel mischaracterized, I can’t help it. Sorry. I just feel the “either-or” argument to be quite dry and very Republican-like.

If the shoe fits, wear it. I wasn’t actually talking about you, but the arguments against using violence for feminism in the first place. I do apologize, though, if the regulars to this post feel like this is an attack on them. It is not. It is a means to find a quicker and more effective way to go about feminism.

Comment by profeministmale

@ ZuRG: Don’t fucking tell me to “chill.” Silencing much? If you don’t like what I have to say, tell me that, but don’t expect me to be quiet or calm just because you think I’m “overreacting.”

Marc, I have in fact made it clear how violence is oppressive. You must be having difficulties reading. What you haven’t made clear is how you define “violence” and how you define “self-defense.” I think there’s a major difference between the two — the first is aggressive, the second is, well, defensive, among other differences — but you’re speaking as if the two are the same. I have no problem with women standing up to and defending themselves against men who mistreat them. I have a problem with people being violent toward each other. You see?

Comment by L

I think you’re missing one very important thing here – a little “verbal violence” on our parts can very quickly and easily translate to being raped and murdered. That’s not the reality of life for men, which is probably why it’s difficult to fully grasp, but it’s the reality for women. We don’t “make a scene” because society doesn’t really care and oftentimes won’t help us if that strategy backfires. Your intention is good here, I know, but there’s a disconnect between the self defense theory and reality.

Comment by theunrelentingrevolutionaryoptimist

And Marc, I thought you said in the last post I called you out on that this was a blog of “learning.” (I’m sure you remember, or must I link you?) Part of learning is, of course, listening and also using what you understand to change what you believe and what you say. If you were wrong, your place in a learning blog is to admit it. Swallow your ego.

Comment by L

L, on learning – totally understood. But part of learning is also discussing and we’re merely doing that here. It’s not as though I am set in my ways and going out to bars looking for misogynists to beat the shit out of every night – although I admit that’s a fine and enticing idea.

Let me ask you this, L: are you against violence because it hurts people in physical (and emotional ways) and is, according to you, oppressive regardless of who’s doing it, or are you against the use of violence for feminism, because women (due to their biology and how the body is built) are more likely to get physically hurt than men and the backlash would always be negative for women?

Comment by profeministmale

Blue – and you’re right – from my perspective, I AM in favor of violence because it’s always worked out positively for me, even as a pro-feminist male who’s never been abusive. It’s a quick way to solve a situation, and it leaves no stones unturned. Thus the reason I favor it.

But I can certainly now see from the other perspective and how it can be harmful.

As for your Army comment – I half-heartedly resented that. :0) I’d like to think the Army is sort of the past.

Comment by profeministmale

I just read a post here
Some very brave NYC girls fighting against street harassment through a documentary and verbal prtoest. This sort of imagery needs to become more popular, the same way the tacky flavaflav crap I saw last night is. It might have some effect if these people can see how they’re behaving.

Comment by vintagefan

ZuRG: You should be aware that telling a woman to “chill” has some very patronizing connotations to it which seem to suggest she is acting “irrationally”. At tactic employed perfectly by many a misogynist because they know fully that the natural response to such a comment is to get angry at being patronized thus fulfilling the prophecy. So cut it out, it’s not necessary and it makes for not a very woman friendly environment. Unless we want in a short time to find ourselves in the position of wondering “where did all the women go?”

Secondly I agree with L that the whole violence at the bar thing smacks of Chivalry. I personally don’t think it’s useful as a political strategy. On a personal level I think you have to way it up in the situation and act only on the request of a woman. The times I’ve seen it happe,n I know the guys attacking are doing it more out of a macho desire to validate themselves than any feminist principals. It comes more from a place of “you scratched my car” than “women deserve respect.”

Having “feminist men” vs. “misogynist men” just creates another extortion racket of male privilege that does nothing to bring power to women. Having women able to defend themselves does. This is where I differ with L. I think equipping women with the tools and knowledge of physical resistance is one part (which is often focused on by men including myself) of feminist struggle. Having a man randomly decide it’s kicking time doesn’t really help. Having violence no longer monopolised by men and instead utilized by women where they find it necessary, it will be useful.

I’m sadden to see just how pervasive fundamentalist pacifism is in resistance movements in the US. The argument that all violence is the same, I think is highly flawed. First of all, most people make the exception for self defense which proves that violence is not all the same.

Secondly the idea that feminist would become as bad as the patriarchy if the were to resist with force would mean that the indigenous Americans who resisted colonization with force were as bad as the colonial imperialists, the occupied Europeans who resisted Nazi Germany with force are as bad as the Nazi’s, the slaves that fought the slave traders were as bad as the slave owners. The idea that violence is patriarchy would mean that a indigenous women who violently resisted the white male armies invading her lands was perpetuating patriarchy. I can’t see how that works.

Yes, physical resistance will not go unchallenged this is true. But no effective means of resistance will ever go unchallenged or tolerated. The point is not to be unchallenged, the point, as far as I can see, is to work out how to meet those challenges and succeed utilizing the tactics that will work.

I imagine employing physical resistance will see credibility lost largely in the 1st world. In the 3rd world, I get the impression, that the notion that an effective political praxis could completely exclude armed resistance would be quite an odd notion. I imagine many in the 3rd world might actually give 1st world feminist much credit for sticking their neck out when many other 1st world movements remained safely in the comfort zone of acceptable activism.

Got lots more to say but that’ll do for now.

Comment by 4ged

This site is really disappointing. I’ve been involved in the pro-feminist movement for over twenty years. And one of the things I’ve seen repeated is men thinking they know more about feminism than women. You’re guilty of that. One of the cardinal rules of pro-feminism is “Listen to Women.” That means at some point, you should stop talking and start reconsidering. Feminists obviously disagree with you. I would suggest you stop debating them, and start critically reassessing your position. It’s the pro-feminist thing to do.

Comment by Comrade Phil

I’m sorry, I didn’t read all the comments, so I’m probably going to be redundant, but:

No, it doesn’t work.

1. I would rather make society run on something besides violence than use violence because that’s all that works. Plus I don’t think that’s all that works, leading us to
2. Yeah, some guys violently rape women. Other guys, and women, just make sexist jokes. It’s not violent. They’re not violent people. If we go violent, we lose credibility and those people write us off as feminazis and not only do not become feminists, but may become anti-feminists. Don’t we already have a bad enough reputation?
3. Forcing someone to do something doesn’t really help, not in the long-term anyway. If someone is about to rape me, please force them to stop. But if someone believes that I’m inferior because of my sex, hitting them will not get anywhere near that belief, which exists in their mind. A lot of what we’re dealing with happens because of people’s sexist beliefs, and to change those beliefs, we have to change minds, not bodies.
4. Violence makes people hate you even more and legitimizes their counter-violence. Waging a violent war against misogynists may seem fun to you, but it would make me even more afraid of getting harassed out of revenge.

Not to mention that I think it’s morally wrong for reasons that are similar to the reasons why I’m a feminist.

The real question I have for you is why are you so jaded on the prospect of changing people’s minds? Is that what makes you keep advocating violence? My mind changed. It does happen. If you had whacked me for believing in some anti-feminist stuff before (probably not what you had in mind, but women can be misogynists too…not that I was exactly, but anyway), that would not have done ANYTHING for the feminist cause. I would have been dead-set against becoming one of those awful feminists and I would have assumed that feminists had bad ulterior motives because they’re motivated not by human rights but by hate. Call me crazy, but I’m against hate.

Here’s what I propose: try to change minds, respectfully. There are some people who won’t budge, of course. Force those people – through the law, not vigilante justice – to at least refrain from hurting women, discriminating against women in the workplace, that kind of thing. This is second-best, because they still won’t respect women and their personal lives will show it. But it’s better than nothing and it’s important. But first-best is changing minds so that you don’t have to police people and you can get feminist laws passed because people are in favor of them and I can spend one f—ing night with friends without hearing any sexist jokes.

Comment by judgesnineteen

I’m not attempting to “silence” anyone. When a discussion degrades into, and I quote, “Ugh, you sound like such a fucking idiot”, how productive is the exchange going to be? It was intended to be read by everyone who’d posted, all sides have been getting a bit on edge, maybe it’s time for all of us to just step back and take a deep breath. It’s text on a screen.

@4ged: I wasn’t telling a woman to do anything as a result of her being a woman. All I’ve got to go by is “L”, which tells me… nothing. What I do see, however, is a person of arbitrary gender(1) calling people “fucking idiots” and I believe that, no matter the gender, a line has been crossed. I do agree that it’s necessary to establish “safe spaces” so everyone can learn while respecting everyone else as much as possible. I am of the humble opinion that we should be civil while trying to get stuff accomplished. Let’s not forget, at the end of the day, we’re all rooting for the same cause.

(1) I say “arbitrary” because in this situation, my response is going to be the same no matter what gender the recipient is. I’m full aware that a man addressing a woman (apparently?) in such a way could indeed be rooted in the power dynamics associated with patriarchy, but this is not always the case.

Comment by ZuRG

Phil, firstly I never claimed nor did I ever say I knew more about feminism than women. My position, as always, has been that because of my male privilege, I see things from a different perspective, and lack the “women’s ways of knowing” perspective that’s sorely needed in feminism. Don’t come late into the discussion and tell me what I am doing right or wrong, without first knowing where I am coming from.

Secondly, there is no beauracracy in this. This is simply a place to exchange ideas. If I were working for NOW, it’d be totally different. But here, we’re exchanging ideas, so don’t come in here with the goodie-two-shoe attitude of “listen to women.” While I am an ally and support feminism, I am also entitled to exchange and discuss ideas without having to feel as though I am stepping on someone’s toes.

Thirdly, feminists don’t obviously disagree with me. There are feminists who support my ideas on this, so as an ally (and I assume a liberal), you know better than to make such generalized statements without first checking the facts. Isn’t taht one of the cardinal rules of feminism, too?

Fourthly: What do you have to contribute to the actual topic of conversation, rather than telling me I disappoint you? Point is I am not here to make you happy – I am here to make the world a better place, and if somehow that disappoints you, considering my perspectives, then you can take your feminism elsewhere.

Comment by profeministmale

ZuRG, when you say “@L: Chill,” you are directing it at me specifically. Who else is going to take that as being directed at them, even if they read it? Don’t try to backpedal by saying you meant it for everyone. Yes, I was mean and I shouldn’t have been mean; however, I wasn’t talking to you, and you weren’t even involved in what was happening. For you to come in without prior knowledge and tell me to “chill” directly is a little fucking condescending. (And for Marc to let it slide without comment is … well, bullshit.) I am of the opinion that Marc allowed this place to reach “uncivility” by not listening to anyone who commented — I was reacting to the frustration that he wasn’t understanding me and not even trying to understand me. Besides, this is what I think of civility.

Marc, what I think Phil was getting at was that there are multiple feminists on this thread who disagree with you, which means that it’s time for you to “critically reassess” your perspective on this feminist issue. Just because you don’t “say” or “claim” that you know more about feminism doesn’t mean you’re not acting that way. As for your “entitlement” to freely exchange ideas on your blog, fine. It’s your blog. But what you’re doing flies in the face of feminism and it is stepping on toes, whether you want to feel that or not: you are not listening to women who are feminists; you are not giving women the benefit of the doubt; you are not willing to think outside of the claims you’ve laid out here about feminism and violence even after multiple reminders about how violence is inherently patriarchal. You are not being an ally, as Phil says. It’s not a “goodie-two-shoes” stance to take to say “listen to women” when you claim to be pro-feminist. It’s a pro-feminist stance.

In any case, I’m done with this blog. See ya ’round.

Comment by L

Well, I think L pretty much took care of points 1,2, and 3 except I would add that the “I didn’t say…” argument is usually a cop-out. And I apologize for putting you on the defensive. What I’m going to write later has the potential to do that. I want you to know that it is completely hypothetical, and I have no intention at all of even attempting it.

Would it be OK to start the violence with you? I and others don’t think that some of your stances are all that feminist. Do you think it would be appropriate for us to harm you in some way to get you to change your views? Would it even work?

Comment by Comrade Phil

@L: You’re right in that I was imprecise in my post. The mannerisms one has while writing (and living) are continually evolving: It’d be a lie to say I’m not always trying to fix up some aspect of myself to have the net result of being a better person, and especially at applying myself to others with any set of lenses equally. It’s a work in progress, I was socialized in the wrong direction for twenty years. Not easy to fix.

Comment by ZuRG

I want to make it clear that I am not on Marc’s side. I think his claims to being feminist are pretty tenuous especially since he claims to wants “to be the next Bill Clinton”. I’m not sure if that’s meant ironically, but if it’s not, it ain’t a good sign.

Being a male pro-feminist I have had people use “listen to the women” as a way to silence legitimate arguments. The last time was when I objected to a softcore pornographic picture being used to advertise the local activist centre. Basically the group had no radical analysis of the pornography industry, so while my argument was pretty stock standard radical feminism, I was silenced by the argument of “listen to the women”, as though women have some sought of hive mind and all have the same thoughts. Even numerical superiority isn’t a good sign of accurate perception; most women wouldn’t describe themselves as feminist, and even less radical feminist. So it can be a misused to say the position that has the most women supporting it is correct.

In this instance however I think it’s largely being used appropriately in that people aren’t saying echo the women, they are saying LISTEN to the women. For instance the allegation of chivalry that has been brought up has not been listened to. When you got correct (that Lorraina Bobbit’s husband did commit more acts of abuse) you did not politely acknowledge, but snidely remarked that it didn’t matter. Your claim that you “don’t have to admit (when you have been) wrong” is also a sign of privilege and a decision that will lead to poor discussions and eventually you being deserted. I assume that if people were convinced by your ideas that you would expect them to have the integrity to admit that you had been able to teach them something, so why not return the sentiments.

I am not anti-armed resistance and I see problems with your argument and general attitude. You have done very little to flesh out your argument in a coherent manner or address in a respectful way any of the criticisms that have been leveled at your proposal.

Comment by 4ged

This is paper tiger / reactionary stuff. It is not well thought out. I am all about women taking power back, and I am about using force, if necessary.

But breaking a beer bottle over a guy’s head if he gets grabby is going to escalate the violence. And guess who is going to come out dead in that one. (Hint: Not the male)

Comment by monika

Yeah, 4ged. There’s a reason why women is plural. It’s because all women don’t think alike. For that reason, too, “listen to Women” doesn’t mean “think what one woman tells you to think.” I do think it’s counter-productive for pro-feminist men to get stuck in one brand of feminist thought. That disempowers women who don’t belong to that school.

Comment by Comrade Phil

I’d like to thanf monika for bringing the discussion into the real world. Men getting violent to rescue women is nothing new. It’s sometimes referred to as being the white knight. There’s a long history of this, which is how we know it doesn’t work very well. A bottle to the head may end up with a bottle coming right back at you, either from the target, or from one of his buddies. It’s also occurred that the target has gone out to his car, and come back with a gun. Violence escalates, and when bullets, fists and bottles start flying, innocent people get hurt. Sometimes those innocents have included the very women that the WK was trying to rescue in the first place. There are other reasons for not doing this. In almost every training for anti-rape or anti-domestic-violence work that I’ve been in, this issue comes up. The people who work day in, day out, to help women always have said that it’s a bad idea. And Marc, I would seriously encourage you not to take my word for it. Call a local battered women’s agency and ask them.

Comment by Comrade Phil

And comments like this…

“there’s a very primal part of me that still thinks beating the shit out of someone for a good cause is something that is positive if done for positive reasons.”

Seem to allude to some sought of essentialist male condition rather than socialization. I don’t get off on beating people up cause I’ve been conditioned that way, I’m channeling my ancestors.

Comment by 4ged

I’ve only skimmed this discussion, admittedly, but I don’t understand how using the same tactics as misogynists can lead to anything good. Firstly, that’s not something one wants to be associated with; secondly, denying the right to violence to one party while employing it oneself is hypocrisy and discrimination (I was under the impression that this is what feminism is fighting); thirdly, if one understands the effects of this behavior from experiencing it firsthand, then reacting in the same manner is almost always going to have an element of vindictiveness. Violence /is/ cyclic.

I think that everyone has a right to self-defense, but reacting violently against every misogynist is plainly illegal. Gandhi certainly managed change without resorting to violence.

Comment by Ellie D.

This is a fascinating discussion with many valuable points of view. For everyone, I recommend Jack Holland’s brilliant book, MISOGYNY: THE WORLD’S OLDEST PREJUDICE. Holland presents a sweeping survey of the history of man’s contempt for woman and an insightful analysis of the prejudice’s complex origins and manifestations in society, religion, professions, and politics.

Holland reminds readers of Aristotelian ideas that became the foundation of much misogynistic thought: that women were incomplete men (fetal failures) and that a man’s sperm contained everything necessary to create a new human being except the environment for growth provided by the female receptacle, the womb. In ancient times, men lived in blissful harmony, close to the gods or God, until the curious Pandoras and Eves entered the world—or entered mythology—and brought men down to earth, with lust and pain, birth and death.

In my own recently published historical novel, WOMEN OF MAGDALENE, set in a “ladies’ lunatic asylum”, I focus on the misogyny rampant in the 19th century medical establishment and the sexism and racism present in the post-Civil War South. From the research I’ve done and from reading Holland’s book, I come away convinced that justice and equality for women does not lie in women behaving like men but in human beings behaving humanely toward one another.

Rosemary Poole-Carter

Comment by Rosemary Poole-Carter

[…] critique, reading with the grain and giving the benefit of the doubt where I can. But considering this post of his and his continued interest in violence and seeking power … I will likely find it […]

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