Thursday, October 27, 2005

I don't like feminazis.

I don't like feminazis. By which I mean two things. First, I don't like many of the opinions held by those people who are frequently called "feminazis". But, second, I also don't like the term "feminazi". The word "Nazi" is hyperbole. It's a "nya, nya, you suck and we're the gang who don't like you" sort of word, it provokes more than it criticizes and consequently says more about the user than those it is directed at. Given that I have great sympathy for the view of many of the people who use the term, its use saddens me for its cost in credibility. Even the more extreme feminists are not Nazis. Although they do say some pretty unpleasant things from time to time, they are not the same league as the National Socialist Party of WWII Germany. If one is attempting to have a reasoned debate, "feminazi" is the sort of word more likely to put backs up and polarize discussion than to achieve actual progress.

I am reminded of a wonderful scene from The West Wing where Toby is assigned to talk to a crowd of protestors in an auditorium. I don't remember what they were supposedly protesting, which is telling. They have no organization, they have no agenda, they're just a loud mob. Toby finds someone with a megaphone and makes the point that he's got plenty of time, and if they can't get their act together, he'll just sit back and read the sports pages. The owner of the megaphone manages to quieten the crowd long enough for Toby to get to the podium, declare that he's there to listen to what they have to say and be silenced by a wave of heckling. He promptly sits back down and reads the sports pages. (The simultaneous interplay between Toby and his mildly macho policewoman minder is a nice piece of writing and acting too, bewailing the impression that people don't know how to protest any more.)

In my previous post, I wrote about Trish Wilson, a self-professed "progressive feminist" blogger who repeatedly belittles men's and fathers' rights activists as a bunch of macho fools. By saying this, she provokes people with valid grievances and helps to turn them into exactly what she's calling them.

True feminists should be pro men's and fathers' rights. True feminists seek equality of opportunity, not the default superiority of either gender over the other in any given theatre. By touting the opinions that she does, refusing to acknowledge that men's and fathers' rights advocates have valid positions and failing to engage them in productive debate, Ms. Wilson betrays herself not to be a feminist at all.

Is she a feminazi? Many would call her that. I'd prefer not to fall to her level and call her as she is. On many of the issues that she and others hold forth, they know they have the advantage and they know they're in the wrong. They also know that by making you angry, they reveal and promote your powerlessness, and can claim that it is deserved. In the face of implacable presentation of facts, on the other hand, they often fall into shrill defenses of morally suspect positions, which is exactly what is needed to expose them for what they are. They are reminiscent, in fact, of the male chauvinists of days gone by who opposed the admirable aims of true feminism. In reasoned debate, such people ended up looking like the bigoted fools that they were.

Yes, there is a place for protest, yes, loud, obnoxious complaints get needed attention, but there is also a place for discussion with a view to convincing the right people of the right path, even if they start off opposing it. Take the moral high ground, speak to the balcony, that's where the power lies: in getting the attention of reasonable minds. Don't let heckling from the stalls provoke you into wasting your energy on petty argument over transparently irrational positions. Even if they have unreasonable opinions, all thoughtful people want to be good guys, reactionaries don't care.

Let's use the language of their more honest predecessors, let's call them what they are: female chauvinists. Some are even female-supremacists. Believe me, I make no apology for them, but they aren't Nazis.

Simulposted on HateMalePost.

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