Now, to recap-- and I don't think that this is at all a controversial version of events, but let me know if you disagree:
-I wrote a post about some issues with feminist blogs regarding feminist men
-I wrote a pretty mean comment on a very mean post at Tiger Beatdown, including a link to the above
-Sady Doyle of Tiger Beatdown wrote this post, which entails
- Telling me to just shut up
- Telling me to shut the fuck up
- Telling everyone about how impressed with herself she is. Now you might take that as interpretation, but that's text, not subtext; that whole "I'm Sady Fucking Doyle" bit, that's all explicit.
- She talks a lot about my junk
- She talks a lot about how I am not worthy of sleeping with, and how I must not get much sex, and how I am interested in boners
-Apparently Megan Carpentier emailed Sady to give her the "true story" on me, which seems mostly to involve my full name and email address. This is odd, as my full name and email address are no secret. She only need to click my commenter handle. (There's even a little picture of me!)
-I emailed over there to ask if she wants to talk a couple times. No response.
-I wrote a post explaining some of my feelings.
OK, so if any of that is untrue, let me know, and we'll discuss.
I have gotten a lot of emails, and a lot of comments. Many are what you might call critical, but don't even begin to meet the standards of actual criticism; it's literally "little peepee" or "just shut up." I mean no joke, that's the emails, just like the comments on that blog. Some of the emails are more constructive. Many have been completely supportive and telling me how much better I look in all of this.
I have to say this, to the commenters and emailers who are bothering to make an argument and are quite critical: I cannot take your arguments very seriously when you don't put them at all in a context with the post that Sady wrote about me. It is very, very difficult to care about complaints that I was mean-spirited when those complaints don't have any awareness at all about a several-hundred word screed about me, my sexual desirability, and the fact that I should just shut up. You want to tell me that I've been unfair, okay. But, I'm sorry, for me to take you seriously, I do need a little bit of consistency. That is, it's true, a precondition for having a conversation with me.
Many seem to be saying, quite explicitly, that I am wrong to expect consistency at all. Many have argued that Sady's angry, cruel joking is a different way of expression, and that my acting like it is less legitimate is sexist. Yet there is no extension of an equal right to be emotional myself. I have apologized, and am here apologizing again, for being mean in the original comment. But then that comment was in response to a flagrantly mean post. It was a mistake. I don't understand, though, why Sady is entitled to act that way but I am not. Or take my initial reactions to the post that is all about me. Yes, they were a bit intemperate. Is that really not understandable? And am I really not permitted to be emotional in the same way that people are insisting Sady is entitled to be, when I had just read hundreds of words about how lame and undesirable I am? Some commenters seem genuinely to be saying that there are literally no standards of consistent argument that a feminist women has to be held to, that Sady can argue in any way whatsoever, but I am required to argue according to the standards of reasonable argument.
It's very frustrating, meanwhile, to see so many commenters insisting that I am saying things when I explicitly and loudly denied those things. "You're saying that you have equal understanding, as a man, of what it means to be a woman!" No! Actually, I explicitly said that wasn't the case. "You're saying you want to dictate to women what feminism is!" No! I was asking about the complicated issue of the insight of men in feminist discourse. I am interested because it is such a vexing question. Or so I thought; I now have an inbox and commbox full of people saying that, in fact, men have absolutely no right to participate in feminist discourse at all. Well, thanks for educating me.
Prior to this whole imbroglio, I would have considered it offensive even to be asked if feminists were capable of rational discourse. Yet here I am told, by people insisting that they and only they are empowered to say who is or isn't a feminist, that feminist women are in fact inherently emotional, and shouldn't be held to the standards of rationality. Prior to all this, I would have considered it offensive even to be asked whether feminist women should be held to the same standards of intellectual discourse as others. But now I have been told that, on the contrary, it is sexist to suppose that feminist women should be held to similar intellectual standards at all. I am told that I must operate under entirely different argumentative standards from feminist women. This utter denial of the basic principles of intellectual equality is then called feminism.
It is very important to me, and always has been, that I be subject to social correction. Here, I am telling you, I literally don't know how to begin to learn whatever lessons I am meant to learn because I can't even divine the elementary rules of the conversation. In the comments, Evan Harper reacts to some arguments from people which seem to be arguments of the standard, rational kind. He asks some pretty elementary questions. In response, he and I are told that asking for a rational exchange of ideas is some sort of hoary old sexist trick. Says Anonymous,
Evan, you can miss me with your tailor-made-for-the-Internet "Can't you just be rational!" line of argument. The sense of intellectual superiority is dauntingly arrogant. Assuming you are the lone arbiter and judge on "rationality" is ridiculous, especially when it comes to social issues, which rarely follow some nonsensical philosophical conception of rationality.This is not an argument. Where is the response to Evan's point? Where is the response to the fact that I am asking not to be strawmanned or to have my views misrepresented? How can I begin to be corrected or educated if I can't participate in any way other than being yelled at?
Like I said, people seem to be insisting on Sady's right to engage in the way she has while demanding that I don't follow suit. Suppose I take it, though, that the right way is for me to react with similar, emotional means. If I agree that this is just another kind of discourse and that it is no worse than what I refer to as rational discussion-- what then? Should I follow suit and reply to her in exactly the way I have been talked to? Suppose I told Sady to shut the fuck up; suppose I told her she was a nobody; suppose I told her that her blog sucked and she should delete it; suppose I attacked her, again and again, on the level of sexual desire. Would the people who are here attacking me for pursuing "some nonsensical philosophical conception of rationality" suddenly applaud me for that?
No. No, and well they shouldn't, because you shouldn't treat people that way. Not women, not men, not feminist or otherwise. I am responsible for my conduct and I won't be goaded into acting in a way that diminishes me. This attitude has gotten me called pretentious and self-righteous, but I will take that. If those are the wages of refusing to attack someone in that way, I'll take it.
My questions persist. I think most feminist women do believe that men have a responsibility to be feminists. I know I think principled people should be feminists because of the elementary principles of equality, social justice, and democracy. I also continue to think that a male feminism that matters is one that actually takes a stand on things, that has some stake in the issues and that is willing to do the messy work of deciding how to advance the feminist cause. Some people doubled down on the "you just claim to be a feminist to get girls" shtick. That seems to me to be the opposite of the case. Right? The easy thing for me to do would be to have never asked these questions at all. The easy thing for me to do would be to be yet another member of the Amen-ing chorus that most of these blogs seems to have, the endless array of people lining up to say nothing more challenging and nothing more useful than "right on." Well, I don't think that's very useful for anyone. That doesn't seem to me to be the way forward for a valuable feminist ally.
The fact remains: feminism needs allies. It is an unfriendly Internet out there, if you care to look. I think of my being called "public asshole number one" for feminism by a particularly creative emailer, and what it makes me think of is Roissy's blog. You could poke around there, for awhile, and perhaps be disabused of the notion that I am somehow a particularly big problem for feminism. Or go to your average sports blog and check the comments if there is a picture of a woman who isn't considered conventionally attractive. There is a lot of work still to be done, and episodes like this will not make it easier.
PS When someone is making a joke about your genitals in the same sentence that they are referring to you as a troll, it's kind of a sublime moment.
Update: I have been informed, via email, that people defending me have also had their comments edited on Tiger Beatdown. This apparently is more than just changing comments to epithets but actually changes their content for the purpose of argument. I don't have any way to know if that's true, it's just what I'm being told; but then, perhaps that's why you shouldn't edit people's comments.
Update II: Sady replies, in the comments: