“If You Can’t Bring Yourself to Fight…”

Of the many members of the organized atheist movement that I have been privileged to read and hear speak, Dave Silverman is absolutely one of my favorites. The closest I’ve ever come to interacting with the guy was a conversation with a friend of mine who happened to be his niece that was passing messages between us over G+ a couple of Thanksgivings ago (she was in the room with him, I was at my parents’), but even then he seemed congenial and kind. Having just gotten into movement atheism, this simple interaction through a third party made me feel welcome.

I bring this up because Silverman has a wonderful series of tweets in which he specifically goes after the anti-feminist trolls in the atheist movement, especially following Ron Lindsay’s embarrassing opening speech at Women in Secularism where he proceeded to tell women how they should talk to men, then welcomed Justin Vacula (who has personally harassed some of the women there), then spent days making hyperbolic defensive posts where he compares being called out in pretty moderate fashion to being targeted by North Korean thought police. All in all, it has been a rough time for Lindsay, and the anti-feminists have been crowing, including the Vacula who keeps claiming that he supports women, just doesn’t want to “silence” people who don’t.

Ophelia Benson has several of the tweets screencaped, but I really want to focus on one of them.

@justinvacula can’t get into this now. One final word. If you can’t bring yourself to fight shit, you will be seen as approving it.

Yes. That. That thing he just said, right there. It sums up so many of my opinions.

The thing is, this doesn’t just apply to MRAs and their ilk. This applies to anti-gay protesters, this applies to religious wingnuts, this applies to advocates of corrective rape and the people imprisoning 50,000 children in the Congo on suspicion of being witches (there are no witches trying to cast black magic on you, assholes! If even one of those kids had magic, they would have fucked you up for imprisoning them by now! But they don’t, because black magic doesn’t fucking exist, you child abusing, superstitious fucksticks!).

And it’s not just Silverman, either. Dave Muscato, also of AA, made a statement on behalf of the organization specifically on their dedication to women’s rights and the rights of other minorities.

Although American Atheists’ mission is fighting discrimination against atheists, advocating for atheist civil rights, and addressing issues of First Amendment public policy, we care very much about feminism & social justice in the atheist activism movement and how these issues relate to and involve individuals involved in our collective efforts.

Meanwhile, the Vacula has done another interview with the creeps over at A Voice for Men (where he is a contributor). As per usual, he claims that he’s just trying to be fair to everybody, that all perspectives are valid, etc. The problem, of course, is that right now the rape apologists over at AVfM don’t really have a valid perspective, they have a skewed one that I have already gone into great detail about. And theirs is the dominate cultural perspective at the moment, at least functionally, so maintaining a neutral stance simply supports even the things that they say that the Vacula claims to oppose.

Neutrality and moderation have their place, but there are times when an opinion is so onerous and so entrenched that attempting to not choose sides de facto supports the oppressors. We cannot be silent about the horrors that happen around us. We cannot grant legitimacy to the illegitimate with inaction. Injustice requires action, it demands we be active, and anything short of that means functionally standing with it.

Men’s Rights

A little while ago I had a post about when I recognized a tangible example of what it means to be Schrodinger’s Rapist and in the comments I got a couple of sincere remarks about the idea of a men’s right movement. It’s very rare that I get commentary on that subject that does not immediately turn to some of the privileged bullshit that normally accompanies such things, so it was actually pretty exciting.

So I thought about it, and I thought, and I did some research. I will admit that the MRM does have some excellent points in regards to issues that disproportionately harm men. The problem, of course, is that they reflexively ascribe these issues to feminism. And also, many of the issues they have is nothing but ridiculous privilege and the desperate grasping to hold on to it.

I decided to look at the “Facts” page on A Voice for Men. No, I won’t give them the link juice. If you want to see the page it’s under the “Activism” tab. Let’s take a look at some of the facts that they feel need to be addressed. I’ll break them into several categories since many deal with basically the same problem.

Useless Privilege

These are the most common things you will find in the current, organized MRM. These are only problems in the sense that it prevents men from doing whatever they want, whenever they want, consequence free. These are quotes from the page, and my commentary will be either in blue or on the bottom of the section.

– In contrast, women get every veteran’s benefit a man does, yet comprise less than 3% of combat deaths or casualties and a woman makes the cover of Time magazine (person of the year/2003 standing in front of two men.

Oh, no! Somebody call the photo stager and complain that they put a woman standing in front of men on a magazine. I wasn’t, until I saw this, aware how hard it is on men that photo set ups are not prioritized by percentage of combat deaths.

– A woman is the party filing for divorce in about 66% of divorce cases.

And…? I fail to see how this is a problem that needs a movement to address it. What, precisely, do the people at AVfM want to do? Go back to where women weren’t allowed to file for divorce? Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if they did. They then go on to discuss statistics (without citation) of negative consequences of growing up in a “fatherless home,” but even if those statistics were reliable, I’m not sure what MRAs want to do about that. Force couples to stay married?

30% of those named as fathers who test for paternity find they are not the biological father.

Source: http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=48871xo

I kept the source on this because I wanted to point out that they are using the World Net Daily for a citation. Was Alex Jones not answering his phone? That being said, so what? Less than a third of women who think somebody is the father of their child is wrong. Since they’re so eager to use conspiracy theorists as authorities, perhaps the complaint is that this forces men to give up some of their precious bodily fluids? If the hardest thing you have to deal with is having to give some blood to find out that you’re not responsible for an unwanted pregnancy, I’ll trade you lives.

– There are over 700 Women’s Studies programs on colleges and universities throughout the United States teaching thousands or tens of thousands of classes from the gender feminist perspective, but not one program or class, teaching men’s studies from the masculist perspective.

You mean other than every other fucking program in existence? OK, that’s hyperbole, but the reason why Women’s Studies programs were started is because the vast majority of study is about and aimed at men. We read histories written by men from the male perspective. The vast majority of literature we study is written by and about men. This falls under the “Why is there no White History Month?” umbrella.

– The CDC reports that in cases of non-reciprocal intimate partner violence (one directional) that women are more than twice as likely to be the aggressor. The report cites that women comprise 70% of perpetrators, men 29%.

This is here because there is no citation. There is probably no citation because the study that they’re referring to is from 1998 (possibly 1986). It’s difficult to tell because the only places where I can find any reference to the actual study is on other MRA websites and they keep getting the details of where they found this wrong. None link to a study at the CDC website, though I have found several pages they’ve linked to that are entirely unrelated to partner violence. It’s like they wanted a link to look like they have evidence to back up their claims, yet count on nobody clicking on them.

– This bibliography examines 286 scholarly investigations: 221 empirical studies and 65 reviews and/or analyses, which demonstrate that women are as physically aggressive, or more aggressive, than men in their relationships with their spouses or male partners.  The aggregate sample size in the reviewed studies exceeds 371,600.

This is a particular MRA shibboleth, the Martin Fiebert Annotated Bibliography that shows almost three hundred studies that claim to say that women are as aggressive as men. It does not quote any of these studies, just gives analysis, and several of the studies have nothing to do with domestic violence. Several have tiny sample sizes, several don’t study the incidences of female aggression in domestic violence and instead talk about how to deal with it psychologically, and several even have in the summary that the perception of female aggression in these cases is distorted by, to quote one of them, “prevailing patriarchal conception of intimate partner violence.”

Also, that’s a very specific sounding number, 286. Almost make it sound like that’s a lot. That’s what’s called Misleading Vividness. If only there weren’t 563,000 papers that said otherwise, at least that I could find through a Google Scholar search in less than a second. Bad science all around, therefore useless.

– Boys are facing a significantly harder time in early education than girls

Source: http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/08/boys/factsheets/ed/index.shtml

Yet girls, from primary education through college still benefit from many more special programs designed to help them gain “equality” with males.

Strangely, if you follow the link, you’ll see that while this is true, none of the reasons listed has anything to do with the boys being male. This is what’s called Affirming the Consequent and MRAs are very fond of it. Basically, because men and boys suffer disproportionately in certain areas, it’s because they’re men and boys, and all other possible factors are ignored.

– While men make more money than women on average, women control and spend vastly more money than men.

Yes, because in a patriarchal society, men are the breadwinners and women run the house. This can be fixed by getting more women into the workplace if they want to be there and getting rid of the idea that stay at home husbands are necessarily an awful thing.

Overall comments: These are just some of the examples given. They are usually either misrepresentations of actual facts or they are whining about how unfair it is that women are recognized in such a way that it’s not clear that men are the ones in charge. This does not need a men’s rights movement, it needs a good dose of “Grow the Fuck Up.”

More Likely Racism

There are several things on this list that are attributed to “misandry”, but are much more likely the result of racism. These problems don’t exist because the people suffering them are men, they exist because the people suffering them are men of color. They are, largely, legitimate concerns, but they are also best solved by doing things other than harassing feminists. Almost all of these are the Ignoring a Common Cause fallacy.

There is blatant anti-male discrimination in the criminal justice system and the sentencing disparity between men and women exceeds that between whites and any other minority.

The problem is that men are either white or some other minority. They are not distinct categories, they overlap. Moreover, there is a sentencing disparity because men are more likely than women to commit violent crimes, which carry longer sentences.

– The 2006 United States’ rate of incarceration of 751 inmates per 100,000 population is the highest reported rate in the world, well ahead of the Russian rate of 628 per 100,000.

93% of the prison population is male with over 60% having no High School education.   America has now passed Russia as the country that has the largest percentage of its population incarcerated, yet we still claim to be the freest country on earth.

The number of persons on probation and parole has been growing dramatically along with institutional populations. There are now 7.2 million Americans incarcerated or on probation or parole, an increase of more than 290 percent since 1980.

This isn’t racism, per se, but it is a result of a prison industrial complex that makes people a lot of money through private prisons when there are inmates, and less money when there aren’t, making incarceration more profitable and therefore more desirable. You can also blame the failed War on Drugs that puts people in jail for minor infractions. This is all a problem, none of it has anything to do with the fact that the vast majority of the prison population is male. They are completely unrelated.

– We hear a lot about the historical oppression of women’s voting rights, but few if any women who were born in the 20th century were every without the right to vote in their lifetime, upon reaching legal voting age.  On the other hand, around 2400 hundred California men (42% of CA men killed in Vietnam) gave their life for their country without being allowed by their country to vote.  The exact number is 2,381.  Four of the twelve Iwo Jimo flag raisers died for their country without their country ever allowing them the right to vote.

Yes, because they were minorities. They weren’t denied the right to vote because they were men. And guess what, women of color couldn’t vote then, either! There are several women of color who were prevented from registering to vote. When minorities were being prevented from voting, do they really think that women of color were just let through because they were women?

Misandry is often expressed through racism.

From Scottsboro An American Tragedy.

“The protection of white womanhood, it might be the pivot around all Southern culture. Of the 5,000 people who were lynched from 1880 to 1940, most were black men accused of raping or sexually assaulting white women.” – Robin Kelly, Historian

Bwahahahahah! This is hilarious. Notice, again, we have a system where black men are killed for being black, and VAfM assumes it’s because they’re men. Yes, it’s true that black men were lynched to protect white female virtue, but that’s because white men saw that “virtue” as their property and didn’t see black women, primarily, as a threat. This wasn’t men suffering to protect women, it was one set of men killing another set of men to protect something they felt they owned.

Overall comments: This is a blatant attempt to pad out their concerns by linking themselves with a legitimate problem: racism. It’s assumed that because men are the ones suffering so much, it’s because they are men, when often it’s because of their race. You can tell because of the disproportionate way this affects men of color. If it were strictly about their biological sex, the numbers would be more even.

The Result of Patriarchy

By far, the things that irritate me most about MRAs is that many of their most poignant concerns that really do need addressing are the result of the system they are trying to keep in place. For cases like the ones below, there already is a movement attempting to address them. It’s called “feminism.”

– 99.999% of American combat deaths and casualties (historically)

Historically, women have not been allowed to join the American military for the vast majority of its existence, and it’s only been a little over a month since the decision was made to allow them to serve in combat roles. Even then, the DoD has until 2016 to file for exemptions for certain roles. This was because women are traditionally assumed to not be capable of fighting and were designed, instead, to be protected. That’s patriarchy. Same goes for all the other stats on women not getting hurt as often as men.

Men are 93% of industrial deaths and accident (NIOSH)

Women have only been comparatively recently allowed into these positions. It’s a male dominated field because women are taught that they shouldn’t work in industrial jobs.

– There are estimated to be over 300,000 male rapes per year in American prisons and jails.

And this is a problem, but I fail to see how it’s one that a men’s rights movement can address since it’s men raping men. The act of male rape has been used for centuries as a way of degrading men because being penetrated is associated with…wait for it…being a woman. Prison rape is a gigantic problem as men looking to establish dominance over other men sexually assault them, but it’s not a case where men’s rights are being violated in some systematic fashion because of their maleness. There is an argument to be made that the fact that it’s largely unreported and nothing is done when it is has some merit, but that can be traced directly to gender roles and how men, afraid of being thought of as unmasculine, don’t report incidents of rape against them. Again, patriarchy.

Women receive custody in about 84% of child custody cases.

Yes, because of ingrained gender roles. Women in patriarchal societies take care of children, and judges tend to assume that women will be better caregivers as a result. This is yet another thing that feminism addresses by trying to get rid of the absurd notion that women were somehow made to be caregivers exclusively.

Capital Punishment Targets Men Almost Exclusively

Again, because women are assumed to be less dangerous and less capable individually then men. We should get rid of capital punishment all together, but so long as men have to fit into narrowly defined gender roles, they will be assumed to be more capable of committing capital offenses and more likely to be dangerous. Eliminating gender expectations goes a long way to fixing that.

Men pay the majority of social security taxes and are outlived by six years by women, but the government makes no fair adjustment to how those funds are distributed.

Social security taxes are taken out of paychecks. The reason why men pay more of them is because they are more likely to have a job and make more money at that job. We can fix that by encouraging women to be a part of the workforce, ensuring equal pay for equal work, and reducing the acceptance of sexual harassment and gender discrimination in the workplace.

Overall summary: The elimination of pre-defined gender roles (something MRAs oppose) will go a long way to correcting the imbalances that they see and are legitimate. Also, making the workplace a place where women can thrive without worrying about not being taken seriously, not getting paid the same as male counterparts, or experiencing sexual harassment/gender discrimination would mean they contribute more to the taxes MRAs seem to think are going to subsidize them at men’s expense.

To quote Miriam, who wrote her post before I wrote this one but not before I thought of it, “Men, however, can use the ‘toolbox’ of feminism–examining power differentials, paying attention to intersectionality, critiquing pop culture, etc.–to advocate for their own causes.”

The MRM has some legitimate concerns, but they will ultimately fail to have any sort of major impact on them because they are more concerned with trolling feminists than actually addressing the systematic problems that result in what they’re concerned about. That, and those legitimate problems are buried beneath pointless garbage like how unfair it is that sometimes they have to take paternity tests.

Men’s rights doesn’t need a movement. There are movements already addressing places where their rights are being violated, and they’re doing it without, to quote the AVfM mission statement, “[Promoting] the legal and nonviolent antagonism of all agents of misandry, from members of academe, to holders of public office, to law enforcement and other state functionaries, to popular bloggers and to corporate agents who promote misandry for profit.”

They’re doing it by examining the issues before them and coming to a conclusion that reflects the reality currently observable. They aren’t conjuring problems out of thin air and framing the preservation of privilege as a civil rights battle, nor attributing every single problem to their boogyman of choice. Any potential men’s rights movement that didn’t do that would quickly find themselves involved in other, established groups fairly quickly, I think.

That Flash of Fear, or How I Became Schrodinger’s Rapist

CN: Rape, rape culture

I was reading my gReader feed today and came across this re-post from a friend of mine.

Men, are you worried for your own safety because misandry?

You need to accept that misandry happens in the real world and take some precautions.

Take a self defense class, they’re only a couple hundred dollars a month.

Don’t go out after dark unless you have a woman to chaperone you. Misandrists are less likely to attack if they see you are with another woman.

Don’t wear anything too douchey. If you’re wearing a fedora or a sexist t-shirt, etc. you’re pretty much asking to get attacked. Misandrists can’t control themselves when they see a man in a fedora, their instincts kick in and before they know it they have a dead male corpse in their hands. Just be a good boy and don’t tempt them, okay?

Don’t ever invite a woman into your home. Misandrists will interpret this as you consenting to physical violence.

Drinking increases your risk of being attacked by a misandrist. They target drunk men because their inhibitions are lowered.

Never leave your drink unattended. Misandrists are notorious for poisoning men at parties and bars.

If a misandrist does attack you, be quiet and just let her finish or you might anger her further and you are liable to get murdered instead of just mutilated. But also, be sure to put up a good fight because a lot of men say they don’t want to be attacked by misandrists but deep down, they really like it.

And remember, accusing a woman of abusive misandry is worse than being abused by a misandrist. So before you make accusations, make sure it wasn’t all just a silly misunderstanding.

The joke, obviously, is that there is no such thing as “misandry,” and these are all actual, real things that are told to women in order to “prevent rape.” I use “joke” here loosely as it’s actually rather frightening that all of these ridiculous and contradictory rules are put in place basically as an excuse to blame women for their own rapes, but obviously it’s meant to make a point humorously. As Witchy Weaver (all nicknames subject to change based on the desires of the nicknamee) pointed out after the re-blog, this is a daily reality for women, and the wording of this post is based on a serious warning to women from a few years ago.

Which brings me to a few days ago and for the first time I realized that I was, at least briefly, Schrodinger’s Rapist.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, the idea is that in a culture that minimizes the occurrence of rape, that engages in a constant, low level misogyny, that blames victims and makes their sexual history, clothing, etc., the focus of any rape accusation, and that makes it nearly impossible to actually get a rapist convicted, women are put in a position where they must, by necessity, assume any unknown (and often known) man that they encounter may be a rapist. In most cases, they aren’t, but if women aren’t prepared for the possibility and do get raped, odds are heavily in favor that they will have to jump through all sorts of unnecessary hoops to not only prove that they were raped, but also that they didn’t somehow deserve to be due to wearing a short skirt, having had a drink, not being escorted by trusted men, or any of the other ridiculous excuses we make. In other words, because of rape culture, all men must be suspect.

In my case, I was out at Old Town with a friend. It was early evening and we were in a shop there, wandering around, me reading blogs while she looked through strings of beads that she could use for embroidery that I am informed were an incredible price. Bead work is not my craft, so when I wasn’t reading, I was people watching, and that’s when I noticed a woman wandering around alone. I also noticed that her fly was down and thought somebody should tell her.

At first I said nothing, but eventually I leaned close and quietly informed her about her pants. I didn’t think I was too close, but it seems I was since she jumped back. This was not me startling her, I had said excuse me from further away and made sure she acknowledged me before approaching, but I saw the fear in her eyes. She was afraid of me, an avowed feminist who writes about rape culture and discovered a few days before in a BDSM scene that I can’t top a serious masochist, even in an entirely consensual scene, because the sound of crying that I caused makes me cringe and want to comfort the person. I may be verbally confrontational, but I’m not a violent person and have never even considered rape for a moment.

And you know what? She has no way of knowing that, so none of it matters. To her I was only the weird guy who probably hadn’t shaved recently enough that was coming very near her to discuss her pants.

I took a step back, apologized, and moved on.

I’ve been in this game long enough to have been familiar with the concept, and I have no doubt that there have been several times in the past when some woman has thought that I may be a potential rapist and prepared herself just in case, but never have I seen it so very starkly.

Keep in mind, this is not a “poor me, some woman though I was a threat when I totes wasn’t” post, but rather a reflection on how serious this problem is and, hopefully, an example of how to handle it. I backed off because I don’t take personally a woman’s reaction to a culture that does not want to protect her, that holds her immediately suspect and treats her sexuality as common property.

We can also look at the other side of that, though. On the execrable A Voice for Men, we see an example of the whiny, privileged, self-entitled bullshit response that stories like this often provoke. No, I won’t link to that rotting cesspool, but you can Google the quotes if you really would like to see the full context.

First thing’s first, the perpetuation of the “making themselves victims” myth. Emphasis theirs.

I’ll say it again so I’m absolutely clear: it is abuse of women. How so? Because it helps reinforce and ingrain an enculturated fear of men. In other words, even though all available evidence shows that men are as likely if not more likely to be the victims of violent assault, including sexual assault, and despite the mountain of data on women’s violence against men and boys, this essay sends a relentless message that women should live in fear.

I didn’t remove any links to supporting studies or documentation. Dean Esmay, the MRA who wrote this, simply neglected to provide any support for his assertion that “all available evidence shows that men are as likely to be the victims of…sexual assault.” Most likely he didn’t provide citations because the claim is absolute bullshit, unless somehow “one in four” has started equaling 3% (MRA math!)

But more to the point, this little excerpt demonstrates pretty thoroughly the rape culture narrative that the problem is never rape, it’s talking about rape. You see, if you are raped, it’s important to get over it as quickly as possible, lest you “make yourself a victim”. If you are ever on guard against rape, you’re victimizing yourself and telling the world that men can’t be trusted. Of course, if you are raped, you should have been more prepared. This is the world that MRAs like Esmay live in, and it’s one where women can’t win.

Esmay then goes on to post a transcript of a video done by the fairly useless John the Other. John, in his infinite wisdom, spends several minutes whining about how unfair it is that he’s suspect when he and most men have never raped anybody.

Here, you have exceeded your rights. Obviously, as a merely possible man, my potential is open, my self undefined. But it is mine to chose, not yours. Who or what I am, when realized, when observed, when I transit from probability to reality, that is mine. I will decide, you will not. I may, when I’ve done so, tell you who and what I am. However, I also might not, that is my choice as well.

Do not presume to trespass on my identity.

It is my own.

Boo fucking hoo, John. The man is so upset because women are “defining” him, even in their own minds, and that’s so very not fair. And, as we know, rapists are generally very clear about their identities, though often the way they share that little factoid makes its disclosure too late. As we also know, women don’t have the right to their own thoughts. John the Other will tell them wimmez what they should think about him. Not being a woman, I suppose I’m free to define him as an asshole.

What the self-styled martyrs at AVfM want you to believe is that there is a matter of principle involved here, that the very act of holding strange men suspect is an unspeakable offense that somehow takes away their agency. Again, this is absolute bullshit.

I was very briefly Schrodinger’s Rapist earlier this week. I knew my intentions, but the woman I spoke to did not, and while I have never done nor ever will do such a thing, I accept that we live in a culture where it’s not worth taking that risk. As a decent human being, I backed off to make another human being more comfortable because it was literally the very least I could do. This random woman wasn’t “making herself a victim,” she was avoiding being made a victim in the best way she could, which means eternal vigilance. Until such time as we live in a world and a culture that holds men and women of equal value and takes rape seriously, I am going to have to live with the fact that I will be considered a potential rapist until such time as I am not. It’s a world worth fighting for, and one that will never be won so long as speaking up is considered a perpetuation of victimhood.

UPDATE: The Sewing Goddess brought up a good point: in this case, I probably should have asked my female friend to inform the woman in the store about her fly. Will have to remember that for next time.