Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Feminist as crazy old man

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  • TracyMac,

    @Scott A, let's not make rape analogies unless you actually know what you're talking about. (As for Bindel giving you that "soiled" feeling after reading her, I know where you're coming from).

    Speaking of "crazy old men" feminists, and Bindel's influences (particularly in the area of transphobia), Mary Daly died a few days ago. While she made some interesting observations about religion and patriarchy (and yes, some of the language puns were amusing/food for thought), her mangling of history and language in the service of her arguments, and her problems with race and transsexuals (and refusal to publicly acknowledge her mistakes) meant that she was not one of my "reference feminists". However, she was hugely influential and gave rise to a whole swathe of goddess-focussed religious practices (not to say all goddess-worshippers are Daly devotees btw), and a particular strain of lesbian separatism/cultural feminism (i.e. all women are better than all men, lol).

    As Sculpin says: I feel lucky to have had her work to react against. For all her flaws — and there’s a vast taxonomy of them, as I recall — she was brave as hell, and her work scratched open a small, new opposing bravery in me. Ave atque vale, old Lunatic.

    Canberra, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 701 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    I don't know that I am with you on any of this, really. There were feminists like this in the early 80's in NZ. I was friends with some of them. Her views, I seem to recall, were widely held by a number of my acquaintances. It may seem shocking to younger feminists but there were alot of wimmin, and I use that term nonironically, who were so burned out by men in general, and the patriarchy specifically, who just threw up their hands in despair and reviled all things male. Being a lesbian was a political statement for some women. As I remember it, Unifems was a place where eschewing sex with men was a means of releasing us from under the thumb of patriarchy. I understood that viewpoint. I still do, really. Either way, I don't find her views offensive, just very familiar, and somewhat necessary in a world where people seem to be believe that there are no gender wars left to fight. That we are all equal. Yeah, right.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3136 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones,

    I think power is a useful dimension to consider when you look at either feminist or masculinist separatism. We're talking about the power to not include people, by reason of gender, in one's intimate and social circle. With respect to feminist separatists, those circles are a handful of fringe cliques in which men may not be welcome (eg the Women's Space at university). For the old-school patriarchal types, their non-inclusion of women extended in living memory to higher education, political office, the right to vote in many countries, many professions and trades, religious office, health services and a handful of high-status cliques, some of which today admit access to networks of significant decisionmaking.

    I haven't read and I'm not defending Bindel's views, but she has a right to hold them, however mad she is. No doubt people who publish them get plenty of readers in excited outrage in response (as does Garth George). George plays or has recently played a role in what gets published in NZ's biggest newspaper, and opines on the rights of people he has never met to access medical services in relation to their reproductive health). As far as I can tell, Bindel's main power is to annoy.

    I don't think we have a right not to be annoyed. And I thought getting annoyed by people expressing their sexual politics was something one mainly did in conservative circles.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 976 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart,

    Either way, I don't find her views offensive, just very familiar, and somewhat necessary in a world where people seem to be believe that there are no gender wars left to fight. That we are all equal. Yeah, right.

    Yeah, but there's a difference between fighting sexism and making Fox News's talking points for them, you know? Treating men as the evil overlord Borg is just as wrong as assuming all women love pink and secretly want babies.

    Moreover, declaring that sexuality is and must be a political choice is just nuts. Saying "I am choosing to give up men because of X" is fine, but she doesn't get to dictate if and why the rest of the world chooses to have sex with the gender(s) of people they have sex with, or lambast them for not doing it for the right reasons, because it's not her business why or if they do so.

    And, quite frankly, if you don't find her utterly disgusting attitude to transsexuals offensive, I don't know what you would. The dehumanisation in her description is chilling and horrific.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Fuck it, she rapes me.

    Oh, come on now.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    And, quite frankly, if you don't find her utterly disgusting attitude to transsexuals offensive, I don't know what you would. The dehumanisation in her description is chilling and horrific.

    This. We're talking about a person who has chosen to exercise her power against a group of people lower down on the privilege ladder than herself. That's prejudice, and it's cowardice, and it's pretty much the end of the story. In what other context would it be okay for The Guardian to publish content in which a person is referred to as 'it', simply because they belong to a particular group?

    There's an underlying broader issue here, I think, with 'comment' sections in on-line newspapers. I do wonder how clear the divide between those columns and actual news stories are, particularly if you come in through a link and not the front page. Tanya Gold, for instance, simply makes things up and presents them as fact - the rate of prostitution in NZ has doubled, or maybe quadroupled! How many people are likely to be walking around believing that because they 'read it in the Guardian'?

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah,

    TracyMac mentioned Mary Daly upthread. Sady at Tiger Beatdown has an excellent obituary: Acts of Contrition: Feminism, Privilege, and the Legacy of Mary Daly.

    ETA: A post from Queen Emily at Hoyden about Town about feminism and transphobia: The legacies of trans-exclusive feminism (aka why are you angry?).

    New Lynn • Since Nov 2006 • 1447 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    Lucy, I don't know her work intimately. And I'm not saying I find all of her views nonoffensive. Her opinions on transgendered people are not mine, nor are her views on those people widely held by feminists of my acquaintance, no matter how radical (the feminists) they may be. I'm simply speaking of her views on men and gender disparity - a disparity that some women of her time tackled by refusing to engage with men. It's not offensive to me because I was around it for a long time, and so it's not rhetoric that is unfamiliar to me.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3136 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    Treating men as the evil overlord Borg is just as wrong as assuming all women love pink and secretly want babies.

    Is Patrick Stewart involved? Because that might be kind of hot.

    I often wonder if there's a policy in place to hire women columnists who are either crazy-in-the-coconut extremists or completely vapid morons. Then it makes discounting women's opinions that much easier. I know that most Arguments About Feminism on the Internet end up with some dude trotting out an extremist viewpoint and saying 'this means feminism is wrong about everything and I never have to take any notice of it again!' Sigh. Or perhaps most opinion columnists, regardless of gender, are idiots. My mental jury is still out on this.

    Theoretical note: I assume the weirdo extreme line of reasoning behind the gross transsexual bigotry goes something like this: if *all* gender is socially constructed rather than biologically determined, transsexual people are therefore full of crap and cannot possibly be trapped in the wrong body, because there is no such thing. They're just messing with us by reconstructing their own gender for some sort of nefarious purpose. Which... yeah, crackers. And horrible.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • Margaret,

    Isn't the 'Trannies nicked my paper on the tube' a spoof piece? Or have I missed another Guardian article where she describes someone as 'it'?

    Although this line from the Guardian is pretty awful regardless: 'Think about a world inhabited just by transsexuals. It would look like the set of Grease. '

    Wellington • Since Sep 2007 • 15 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I don't think we have a right not to be annoyed. And I thought getting annoyed by people expressing their sexual politics was something one mainly did in conservative circles.

    I was hoping there'd be some robust defence of Bindel. I'm interested in hearing a case for her. But surely you'd have to agree that Bindel doesn't simply express her own sexual politics, she dumps on everyone else's. And she's so terribly pleased with herself in doing so. She contrives to be neither funny or clever.

    The shame of it is, as I noted, is that The Guardian has such a fine tradition of feminist writing (not least in the years that New Zealander Louise Chunn ran the Women's Section) and now its writing of ideas seems to be represented by ninnies like Bindel and Gold.

    I can't help but compile mental lists of women who post to PAS who have more to say and far better ways of saying it than Bindel.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22843 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    I know that most Arguments About Feminism on the Internet end up with some dude trotting out an extremist viewpoint and saying 'this means feminism is wrong about everything and I never have to take any notice of it again!' Sigh.

    Arguing about feminism is inherently more difficult for men.

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4442 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Isn't the 'Trannies nicked my paper on the tube' a spoof piece? Or have I missed another Guardian article where she describes someone as 'it'?

    Yes, I was hoping everyone would realise that was a spoof -- but the other columns I linked to aren't that far off the satire.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22843 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    Bring back Broadsheet. There was some fine - and local - feminist writing there for two decades.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3222 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    Arguing about feminism is inherently more difficult for men.

    Yes and no. There's an obvious difference between arguing in informed good faith about some theory or point, and coming into a discussion and being either all 'Andrea Dworkin, so therefore you suck!' or 'what about teh menz?' It's pretty easy to tell who's coming from a good place and who isn't.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    Yes and no.

    As a major benefactor of feminism, I couldn't agree more. I might restate to say, its inherently more difficult for the undereducated to argue.

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4442 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I'm simply speaking of her views on men and gender disparity - a disparity that some women of her time tackled by refusing to engage with men. It's not offensive to me because I was around it for a long time, and so it's not rhetoric that is unfamiliar to me.

    Yeah, I know, and I understand the reasons that radical feminists sought to separate themselves in important ways from men. I know women who were, to a greater or lesser degree, immersed in those ideas.

    But Bindel is like the 70s teenage punk rocker who's still wearing safety pins. And she does seem to regard her bigotry as part and parcel of her feminism, which is sad.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22843 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Yes and no. There's an obvious difference between arguing in informed good faith about some theory or point, and coming into a discussion and being either all 'Andrea Dworkin, so therefore you suck!' or 'what about teh menz?' It's pretty easy to tell who's coming from a good place and who isn't.

    I hope Pt Chev is a good place :-)

    But Steven's right: it can be tricky for men to write and speak about feminism and gender. I was hesitant about publishing the above until you told me I should. Even now I'm fretting about whether my blathering about the Guardian feminist tradition comes across as concern trolling.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22843 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    I think the word I was looking for was benifitary. dam that edit button, doesn't last long enough.

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4442 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    Isn't the 'Trannies nicked my paper on the tube' a spoof piece? Or have I missed another Guardian article where she describes someone as 'it'?

    Gods, okay, my total bad. I didn't realise that and looking back I really should have. I'll go off and make the appropriate sacrifices to regain my ability to parse for sarcasm.

    Deborah's links are very good, though, I'm pretty sure I have that much right.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Gods, okay, my total bad. I didn't realise that and looking back I really should have. I'll go off and make the appropriate sacrifices to regain my ability to parse for sarcasm.

    I think we still have some summer places in the irony refresher courses.

    Deborah's links are very good, though, I'm pretty sure I have that much right.

    They're great. I figured there was good thinking and writing on this topic that I didn't know about. Or more precisely that, duh, feminists have thought about this stuff, you know.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22843 posts Report Reply

  • pollywog,

    I was hoping there'd be some robust defence of Bindel. I'm interested in hearing a case for her.

    she calls it as she sees it

    she has as much right to express her opinion as vociferously as the overt gays and trannies in expressing their right to sexual freedom. her opinion is as valid as those who think otherwise. restecp teh differencez:)

    I assume the weirdo extreme line of reasoning behind the gross transsexual bigotry goes something like this: if *all* gender is socially constructed rather than biologically determined, transsexual people are therefore full of crap and cannot possibly be trapped in the wrong body, because there is no such thing. They're just messing with us by reconstructing their own gender for some sort of nefarious purpose. Which... yeah, crackers. And horrible.

    if evoultion is decided by survival of the fittest then i gotta say trannies wouldn't generally be fit. they cant breed for one thing and that one thing counts for everything in survial of the species. then theres the resources and time to re hormonise and reconstruct the genitalia which may have been better re prioritised towards, i dunno starving kids in africa maybe ?

    lets not confuse our wants and desires with our compulsions and needs which are biologically determined.

    i suppose that means i'm in the extremely bigoted, weird and horribly crackers troop while the pro trannie brigade are all enlightened and highly evolved individuals totally liberated from the social political construct ?

    somewhere else • Since Dec 2009 • 152 posts Report Reply

  • Alien Lizard (anag),

    Can we make Garth George an
    honorary political lesbian?

    I was thinking he might be more aptly a
    Dike Ottoman (if that's not too oxymoronic)
    (Ladies - and gentlemen - put yer feet up,
    contrast and compare the turkey empiricist!)
    ... let's face it no man is an island
    and after all is said and done,
    Lesbos did it Greek (with style)...

    The Arrrgh Complex • Since Jan 2010 • 158 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    the pro trannie brigade

    Please tell me there are cool uniforms.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    lets not confuse our wants and desires with our compulsions and needs which are biologically determined.

    How about we perhaps practice a little humanity? Dude, you're brown: you might want to remind yourself what some people used to say about the evolutionary fitness of brown folks. It's a rotten way to think about people.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22843 posts Report Reply

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