Intellectual Dishonesty, Logical Fallacies, and Writing against Feminism

Edit–12:47 I’ve been having a conversation with this person. Even if we never agree, let me be clear before you start reading this piece–I don’t know this person. I am responding to this piece of writing, and I do so in a passionate way, because I feel passionately about the topic and I feel that the piece I am responding to is poorly written. But I make no claims about the writer.

So we’ve garnered a response. And he said something, in his response (well several somethings) that I cannot let stand without addressing. In defense of derailing the conversation(the logic is astounding, here), he gives this example:

 People opposing Female genital mutilation are supporting harmful bigoted sexism.  This isn’t because Female genital mutilation isn’t a problem, it is.  But it’s not the whole problem, only half the problem.  If we are to actually address the problem we need to be talking about INFANT genital mutilation.

What the actual FUCK? Excuse me? So no one should talk about those 3 million girls who experiences FGM annually? Let’s be clear: razors, knives, sharp stones, and broken glass–obviously without proper sanitation–are the instruments used to perform most of these surgeries. FGM does not generally happen to infants and has profound complications and risks , which is a large part of the stupidity of this argument. There are several types, but even the most “mild” of the types remove the clitoral hood and  generally the clitoris itself, or at the very least, some burning and scarring of the labia and vulva. In some instances, the girl is left with nothing but a slight opening to relieve herself through and to allow menstrual blood to pass (this means removal of clitoris, inner and outer labia, and then leg-binding for 2-6 weeks to create the new opening). There’s a fundamental misunderstanding here of the operation, who experiences it, and how it varies worldwide. And its horror. To say that we shouldn’t talk about this is fucking stupid.

Phew, glad that’s off my chest.

Now for this atrocity of logic:

In the 1800′s does anyone think the Abolitionists where voicing main stream views?  If they where to talk about freeing the slaves, they had to disrupt some other conversation to do so.  Does any one think that conversations shouldn’t have been derailed and we shouldn’t have broken the status quo of slavery?  Slavery and the apologetics to support it where sickening.  Discussions about how to be a better slave owner or justifications for continuing slavery needed to be derailed.  I WILL NOT “agree to disagree” with someone claiming “niggers are sub human and must be controlled through slavery”

First (and I’m trying hard not to be a real jerk and point out every wrong thing here, down to the misspellings and grammar issues): No, no one had to disrupt an ongoing conversation to talk about abolition. By the 1800′s, abolition had been an ongoing, transnational conversation for some time. The newly established United States of America was not unaware of this conversation–they were right in the midst of it. Tensions rose every time a new state was admitted, as it would threaten the balance of slave/non-slave states; this was important for political clout–if one set of states gained a hand over the other, laws could be passed that would affect slave-holders or non-slave-holders even if they all voted against such changes.

And at the middle of the 19th century, these tensions rose. Acts pushed through like the Fugitive Slave Law angered entire portions of the country. Kansas became a literal battleground during its settlement between slave and non-slave holders. It was atrocious. And not unprecedented. Further, if we’re talking about the subjugation of the black race in American when we’re talking about slavery (which is where that seems to be going), it did not end there. It still hasn’t ended. It took 100-ish years for the Civil Rights Movement in America to help the races reach anything like equality, and it took systematic dismantling of years of oppression to do that. It’s still happening.

Second, I defy the mean-spirited, absolutely ridiculous parallel that is attempted here. No one is talking about “controlling” those who are “subhuman.” And to use the idea that you personal won’t agree to disagree with someone who says that nastiness as a transition into your ideas about feminism is to attempt that parallel. It doesn’t work.

And now for this one, which is the meat of the argument against feminism.

Gender is not nor has it ever been The Oppression of Women.  Gender roles are interconnected interdependent divisions of labor that place responsibilities and obligations on BOTH men and women and grants the rights necessary to fulfill these responsibilities and obligation.  Sexism Against Women can’t happen, not doesn’t happen, but CAN’T.  Gender roles are interconnected and interdependent.  Sexism does happen, but it can’t happen to ONLY women.  It happens to both men and women in equal measure because the roles are interconnected and interdependent. We need to address sexism, not sexism against women.

Except that gender and sex aren’t the same thing. This happens again and again with the writer, who has evidently decided that gender and sex are synonymous and uses them interchangeably. They are not interchangeable.  Gender is the way we socially construct what is appropriate for the sexes and the way we perform those roles. Sex is the biological and physical characteristics of male and female. They are fundamentally different concepts.

Sexism against women can and does happen. It’s patently dishonest to say that it does not. And saying that does not mean that no man ever experiences sexism. That’s an illogical conclusion. Over and over, this piece of writing enforces binaries that do not exist. The writing of that piece is based on an either/or fallacy and circular reasoning. The logic doesn’t work, doesn’t hold up. It is ill-informed at best, intellectually dishonest at worst.

Last, I’d like to address the idea that feminism cannot and has not done anything for men. That, again, is an outlandish idea. Men are no longer expected to be the sole breadwinners because of feminism. They can work in what society, as soon as women started working, termed “female” jobs–nursing, secretary, teaching, etc. Feminism prompted Sandra Day O’Connor, in her first Supreme Court ruling, to insist on men being allowed to enroll in Mississippi University for Women as a mark of equality and inclusion. Feminism has allowed for conversations about male rape and abuse, which had been traditionally seen as nonexistent or as too shameful to acknowledge–those things only happened to the weaker sex, to women. Feminism created the Family Leave Act, so now there can be paternal rather than just maternal leave. Feminism has ensured that if you are promoted at work, it’s because you deserve it and not because you have a penis.

Feminism is not what you say it is.

54 comments

  1. Hey Diana, Thanks for stepping up and TRYING to set the guy straight! I can’t believe there are even people out there who still think it’s OK to mutilate little (and not so little) girls that way. I don’t care about so-called cultural differences when it results in lifetime pain and suffering. It’s wrong and it should be stopped.
    I hope your arguments had some influence, if not on the original writer, maybe to some of his other readers.
    Keep fighting the good fight!

    Like

    1. I look at it right at the beginning. He says female genital mutilation is only half the problem. Apparently feminists think that male genital mutilation is funny. After all, there must be some reason why this author doesn’t realize that someone is saying both male and female mutilation are problems

      Here in the US, we properly outlaw cutting up little girls. But we still cut up little boys. I find it rather ironic that she is claiming her opponent is illogical when she is setting up a strawman — “So no one should talk about those 3 million girls who experiences FGM annually?” It’s not at all what he said. He just said that we should talk about those little boys, which nobody seems to care about. And you, too, are busy bashing away at the straw.

      Like

      1. Actually, that’s not what the author said at all. In calling it “infant genital mutilation,” he screws up. Here’s why.
        1. FGM is almost never done to infants.
        2. FGM occurs in different parts of the world that male circumcision
        3. FGM is surgically different from MC.
        4. FGM is a fundamentally different problem than male circumcision.

        The point of this is that, if we talk about everyone, we’re talking about no one. You can’t be specific enough to address the issues with FGM and male circumcision at the same time because they are not the same problems. They don’t occur at the same rate, the same age, in the same regions, or for the same reasons, ergo they must be addressed differently. At no point did anyone say “we must not talk about male circumcision.” That is very different from saying “no, we address these issues separately.”

        That argument is not a straw man—the straw man is the original writers’ insistence that two different problems be treated as one and derailing a conversation.

        Like

        1. It is definitely true that they don’t occur at the same rate. Males are mutilated in far greater numbers than females are. And, here in the West, all the mutilation is done to males because females (and only females) are protected by law. Incidentally, I no more accept the euphemism “circumcision” when applied to males than you do when applied to females.

          If you were addressing a misconception (that the mutilation is normally done in infancy to both males and females) that would be acceptable. I, too, was under the impression that the female mutilation was done in infancy. Since it is not done in this country at all, it would be hard for me to check. But that isn’t what you did. Genital mutilation is genital mutilation and it is best talked about as a single issue

          Like

          1. Again,this is not a single issue. Your very limited knowledge of the problem because it doesn’t occur that often in your part of the world (and it does happen in the West, though at a smaller rate) suggests that we cannot address these issues together. They are different. A less than 5 minute glance at Wikipedia explains all the information to which ignorance is pleaded here. You cannot address two issues together without one of them receiving less attention than it should. A huge example is right there in what you’re saying—you want us to address them simultaneously, but you don’t even know the surgical differences, including when it is performed. You cannot work effectively for the elimination of something without knowing what it is first.

            (As for euphemisms, call it what you want. I think we should address male circumcision and how/why it is at this point so culturally ingrained, and I think we should educate our populaces in a bigger way about it, but I don’t think we can do that while we discuss FGM without the two getting confused.)

            Like

  2. So everything I would have said has already been said, but still wanted to leave a note that you are a stronger woman than I. So I really appreciate someone with the patience to have a real conversation engaging because it might not change anything, but it does show a different perspective.

    One other point is with the whole Infant Genital Mutilation is that the purpose of male circumcision and FGM are two different things that had not been acknowledged by the author. One is generally considered to have medical be fits without ruining quality of life. The other seems to be about control and dominance. These two purposes lead to very different conversations which cannot be argued as the same thing.

    Like

    1. Yes, I think that’s a very good point about FGM. It’s fundamentally different than circumcision. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t be having conversations, knowing what we know now, about circumcision. But they’re different conversations because they’re different issues. There’s a fundamental, underlying misconception in the poster’s thoughts–that we can erase differences by talking about everyone in tandem. If we’d started from a place of equality, sure. But we’re not starting from equality; we’re trying to get there.

      I had to respond to the post, and the comments, because at the very least, anyone who comes across that needs to see an alternative viewpoint. I’ve no illusions that I changed his mind, but I did at least get him thinking during our conversation. That’s enough, sometimes, to call it a win and move on. lol

      Like

  3. Diana, Your patience is remarkable. And your calm coupled with your words is actually quite bad ass! I was literally fist pumping in the air when I read this (and when I read the thread). I am still shocked that anyone would compare circumcision to FGM. The reasons behind the two procedures are radically different and the effects of FGM are often catastrophic and life altering. I know I shouldn’t even address such nonsense but my head might explode if I don’t! Anyways, hats off to both you and Gene’O. I’m sorry you had to deal with such nonsense after what I felt was such a positive and interesting day of discussion.

    Like

    1. Yes, she is very good at that calm dissection of offensive arguments. I haven’t quite mastered it yet.

      This situation actually did more harm than good, I think. No reasonable person who wanders onto that thread and is interested enough to scan the comments will buy that stuff now.

      Think about where we started a week ago – with an idea and a topic. This discussion has generated at least seven original posts over the weekend, we’re discussing the actual issues instead of the label here now, and at least two more bloggers have indicated to me that they’re planning to write about this in the near future. And we have that original thread to pull ideas from to go along with the threads I started with.

      I’m calling this a success, and other people made it so. All I did was send a few tweets, tell a story, ask some questions, and moderate a thread. It’s already very happy-making, and I don’t think it’s finished.

      Like

    2. Thank you, Gretchen.

      At this point, I’ve given up that line of communication. It no longer seems productive, but my goal was always less about convincing this particular person and more about getting an alternate viewpoint out there for anyone who comes across that stuff to see. In that sense, I still think that this was a productive move for the conversation, even if it was frustrating.

      Like

    3. Having seen some pictures of FGM I too am shocked that it is compared to male circumcision or even referred to as circumcision. It’s more like castration. Or worse. And I say this as a man who has been circumcised and who has, most unfortunately, had had to have both testicles removed.

      Like

      1. I think you’re right that it’s more akin to castration. One of the problems I have with collapsing those differences between FGM and male circumcision is that you cannot fix specific problems by broadening back out to the generality. It doesn’t erase the differences; it only makes it more difficult to address underlying issues.

        Like

    1. Jolene, this is an excellent point. We cannot get at overall equality without addressing issues faced by those groups who aren’t equal.

      Like

  4. Mom is at a loss…I read this…could not tell is the author of what I found so offensive wrote that are if he was throwing in something that someone else wrote. Either way it was just sad that anyone would throw that into a discussion of such a different and timely topic, where abolition has nothing to do with it. Or am I like him and throwing in something that is not related to the topic? I really read these things the two of you write even when I do not comment.

    Like

    1. He wasn’t quoting anyone, so most of it must have been just what you saw him saying. The quotes in my response are from the piece he wrote. Abolitionism was something I quoted him on because I felt it was a misused analogy based on misunderstanding the historical period.

      I’m glad you read them, even if you don’t comment often.

      Like

    2. I also read all of Gene’O & Diana’s entries and seldom comment. At this point, I am more of a silent partner than collaborator. I always enjoy their work. This particular author has me so stunned I must comment. I am proud that both Gene’O & Diana use patience, intelligence and humor to disarm this person. Initially, I was so angry regarding his comparisons but now I agree, it is just sad.

      Like

  5. I didn’t finish to read everything in the original thread, but read the follow ups regarding the troll’s comments. Your response and analysis are well done and make a lot of sense in clarifying certain things that the person seems misinformed about (trying to be optimistic here too, which isn’t always my natural tendency).

    THANK YOU (sorry caps, but i mean it) twice, thrice, how many times you want, for what you said about FGM. I was fuming just reading the troll’s words about this.

    I find it sad that feminism has such a bad connotation now. I consider myself a feminist, even when I know that it might be misinterpreted by some (many?). The reason is that I believe it is still sorely needed even in Western societies. There are some extremism parts, and any anti-men aspect of it that I don’t understand and don’t condone. Feminism is about obtaining gender equality and making mentalities admit as a whole that women aren’t lesser in any way, it’s not about bashing men.

    I also know that many “labels” one can choose to use for themselves can be misinterpreted, so being able to explain what this label means to us, why we choose it and why we believe it’s important, is part of the process of finding one’s own path. I think that while labels can be limiting, if you can relate to your own degree to different ones, it allows you to be either out of the box or partially (or sometimes fully) in the boxes you choose. Most of what I considered myself was misunderstood and/or heavily criticized as I grew up and even now, in my country, so that is part of the reason why I choose to still be a feminist, including by keeping the right to say what I agree and disagree in the vast span of behaviors and believes it can entail.

    Better late than ever, but I said my small piece about this Feminism discussion, at last! :)

    Like

    1. I’m glad you could join our conversation, and thanks for chiming in. :)

      And yes, I was very angry with the way FGM was treated in this post. There is a vast difference between it and male circumcision, which is what I assume the author refers to when he talks about male genital mutilation. They cannot be treated in the same way, and that was one of the reasons I decided, ultimately, to write this post.

      And your points about labels are interesting. I’ve thought of myself as many things over the years–and probably even mislabeled myself a time or two because of my own misunderstandings of terms. Feminist might be one of the most misunderstood labels that exists.

      Like

    2. Yes, thank you very much for sharing your thoughts here. That post also made me angry. I’m glad I didn’t read the whole thing when he first posted it. If I had, I might have gotten on that comment thread and said things that I would regret forever.

      Like

  6. I want to join this conversation and also add my feminist husband’s opinions as well, but I can’t type what he’d say about this guy’s opinions without breaking my own rule of limiting extreme profanity in my public posts. Sharing his dissenting opinion on the topic of the conversation is one thing. Outright hijacking a conversation to suit himself is another thing. At the very least it was quite rude and very disrespectful. I have not read anything on his blog and will not do so. Me arguing against the points he tried to make would be pointless. I am convinced his aim was to push buttons and make us lose focus. Banning him and dismissing him is the right thing to do, imo. I do believe it was necessary to address some of his ranting points and you’ve done that very well. :-)

    Like

    1. I don’t think he was doing that on purpose. I was wondering about it at one point, but I don’t think that today. I read that discussion on the original thread as a genuine attempt to have a conversation.

      I totally agree with you about the opinions themselves. I find them nausea-inducing. I’m with you on the pointlessness of arguing; I think the differences are too far apart, and our ideas about what counts as acceptable debating tactics are too different.

      I am glad Diana wrote this post, though. Because the issues she’s discussing are serious, and they deserve to be talked about.

      Like

    2. ha! I put more profanity into this post than I have in really anything I’ve posted. I used to have an awful potty mouth, and still can, but both the Little Jedi and my experience with how others perceive lots of coarse language in Internet posts have cooled that off somewhat.

      I wrote this, honestly, not as an argument with the original poster, but because I thought anyone who stumbled into this conversation needed to see a response to his article that addressed some of the more problematic parts of his argument.

      I think he was really trying to have a conversation, and I think that what he actually wants is some way that we can ideologically make women’s and men’s rights have equal footing and discuss them in the same ways. But we cannot until equality exists in more than name, as we cannot rectify the smaller ills by looking only at the largest picture. I disagree with his fundamental assertions that in Western society equality has been fully reached, and I think that’s where we’re at an irreconcilable difference.

      Like

  7. Great response, Diana. I’ve found that unfortunately this particular type of reader is beyond the reach of reason. While we strive to engage in order to better understand the issue at hand, to rectify some of our preconceptions and move forward, that particular group has one agenda and stick to it with a rigidity that is near immutable.
    However, in responding to those challenges you address a broader audience, one that is open to reconsidering its position, so while my initial reaction would have been to agree with Gene’O (silent treatment), i am glad you made the decision to answer instead. It made for an interesting read, certainly.

    Like

    1. Yeah. I agree that this was a good move. I also think, given the way it was playing out yesterday, the silent treatment was the right decision for me. I’m fortunate to have another blogger who can see my trash and moderation queue, and who is also capable of producing a rhetorical analysis of this quality.

      I do think all these issues need to be discussed, and I am glad to have them out here for discussion. Just didn’t think it was the best move for me, given that I’d already banned the author and devoted a harsh post to doing so by the time the post was published.

      Like

      1. I completely understood and this would’ve been my reaction as well. We should stand by the decisions we make. On the other hand, Diana’s response did help elucidate some additional points relevant to the overall discussion – not only in terms of her analysis of this particular attack, but also regarding the broader implications of such attitudes.

        Like

      2. Gene’O, I think you’re right that it would’ve been too much for you to respond after all that occurred yesterday. I’m glad that I wrote this, though. I feel lighter with it off my chest. Sam told me that my eye was twitching while I was writing it. lol

        Like

        1. lol. All I can see is Clint Eastwood in that movie where his eye twitches before he goes off on someone. Can’t remember which one that was.

          Like

          1. Hey, you’re talking about my hero Clint Eastwood. His eye twitches before he goes off on someone, in every one of his movies. I feel that way quite often. Diana, by all means , channel the Unforgiven, when dealing with major jackassery.

            Like

    2. Thank you. And yes, this was mostly written for a bigger audience than just this one reader/commentator. If that were all, I would address it solely on his blog; but I feel these ideas need to be addressed in a larger context, as they’re unfortunately not as uncommon as I’d wish.

      Like

  8. I’m just not commenting over there. I think you handled it, and anything I say will just be fuel for a fire. I will add something here, though.

    You could have also pointed out he’s broadening the definition of “derailing” in a way that’s either ignorant or dishonest. The analogy he’s drawing between the trolling tactic and a social movement disrupting the public discourse doesn’t really work. We’re talking about a comment thread here, not a town hall meeting. The proper derailing analogy for this context would be to say it’s like walking up to a group of people who are discussing the best way to make soup, and insisting that they all listen to you talk about why all soup sucks.

    And thank you for pointing out that I offered him the opportunity to just leave that thread with no consequences. The not stopping when I asked him nicely to stop is the main reason I banned him.

    Like

    1. He is, in fact, comparing two very different things when he talks about derailing a forum thread and talks about disrupting society. And no, I don’t think that really works. I was going to point that out, but I wanted to focus more on the flaws related to why we don’t need feminism, and this post was getting lengthy at any rate.

      I’m glad you decided to chime in.

      Like

      1. Yeah. It always comes down to length. One more thing, then done for the night. The frame he uses in that FGM quote, “supporting harmful bigoted sexism,” is one of the most Orwellian pieces of rhetoric I have encountered lately. It, literally (and I mean that literally) uses the words bigotry and sexism to make an argument that would only perpetuate bigotry and sexism if people swallowed it. Astounding.

        Like

          1. Off topic. See my Facebook status update. I have to work and can’t check in until I am done with a lot of meetings.

            It’s all there for people to find and use if they want.

            Like

  9. Well done.

    I saw that when it was posted via the pingbacks I deleted, of course. Banned means banned and pings are a way of commenting. I didn’t actually do the close reading. He lost me in the first paragraph, so I just dismissed it and decided to give it the silent treatment.

    But you’re right about this. That stuff demands a response. You do a good job pointing out areas where that argument rests on claims about reality that are not true, and of unpacking the sex/gender distinction.

    Now I’m going to actually read it, as ugly as it is.

    Like

    1. I edited this to add a note that this is a rhetorical analysis, essentially. It’s strongly worded, and it needs to be so to address this piece of writing. But I feel (and there’s probably going to be a post about this) that I need to make clear that my claims are about the ideas and the writing, not the person–that’s a difficult distinction to make in the digital world, I am finding.

      But these ideas have got to be talked about, and sometimes that comes out strongly from both sides of the issue. I couldn’t let some of this pass without responding to what I feel are mischaracterizations and faulty logic.

      I want my opinion out there on these issues. They’re important.

      Like

      1. Ah I see. Since you’re having an ongoing conversation, I think that little bit of clarity was a good idea. After reading the whole conversation over there, and reading the post, carefully, this was the right thing to do, I think.

        I understand there are going to be strong disagreements about this issue. But I think, as a blogger, that when you see something like that original discussion going on, and you want to work for the other side of the issue, the proper thing to do is write your own post and have your own discussion. Not barge in on a bunch of people who are obviously trying to work.

        If he’d just stopped when I asked, and then gone and written a post and linked to it. I’d have allowed the ping through, then read and responded to the post with a link.

        Like

        1. Yes, I agree. That was definitely trolling, and after it continued with you having graciously opened the floor for a multi-blog discussion or him to comment on other threads on the blog, it was time to send him out of your space.

          Like

Talk to Me

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s