Is writing articles about feminism a complete waste of time? Certainly for me it isn’t (I might not influence anyone, but I do find that WordPress controls my Ebay addiction). But for people in general – and proper writers in particular – what does writing a feminist piece achieve? It might earn you money, but will it change the minds of the people whose minds you really want to change?
Today I read two articles – one by Deborah Orr on No More Page Three, and another by Dina Rickman on Everyday Sexism – both of which I thought were great. I wouldn’t expect everyone to agree with them, but in many of the online comments it was clear that some of those commenting hadn’t even bothered to read the pieces. For them it was simply a matter of honing in on the subject matter and trotting out a pat anti-feminist retort (even if it completely misrepresented the writer’s position). And I couldn’t help thinking “what a total waste of time – for everyone involved”. And then I wondered whether these people wrote their comments – at once so offensive yet so familiar – from scratch. Because that’s perhaps the biggest waste of time there is. All the retorts are the same. How much more efficient would sexists be if they could streamline their article-commenting technique?
With this in mind, I’ve written a copy-and-paste guide to anti-feminist retorts, with extra tips on what to mention and what to avoid. No need to thank me – after all, that’s not what comment boxes are for.
On money and power (women losing out): The biological imperative waffle
Basic argument: Women might have a far smaller share of the world’s wealth and power, but that’s all down to them having babies and sod all to do with discrimination.
Useful terminology: hardwired, maternal instincts, part-time, lack of ambition, hormones
What not to mention: parental leave laws, sexual harassment, networking, anyone having ever made a business or political decision based on personal prejudice (this has NEVER EVER happened)
On money and power (women gaining ground): The dreaded pendulum metaphor
Basic argument: Women might have a far smaller share of the world’s wealth and power, but it’s not as small as it used to be – and that’s because “the pendulum” has swung too far in women’s favour
Useful terminology: emasculation, ball-breakers, high heels, Sex And The City, middle-class women, working-class males (esp. if you’re not one)
What not to mention: The fact that there is no such “pendulum”
On sexual objectification: The “choice” distraction technique
Basic argument: The women in porn films / lap dancing / posing on page three aren’t forced to do any of it
Useful terminology: choice, empowerment, the beauty of the female form, ugly feminists, jealousy, men being “the exploited ones”
What not to mention: The fact that women in porn films / lap dancing / posing on page three are sometimes forced to do it. Plus the fact that they’re not the only women in the world affected by this crap. Oh, and also the fact that the best wank stimulus ever remains the imagination.
On sexist language and imagery: The censorship lie
Basic argument: Feminists just want to censor everything that doesn’t fit with their agenda
Useful terminology: free speech, feminazi, shut the fuck up feminist bitch
What not to mention: Alas, the very fact that I’m telling you what not to mention just proves how right you are about censorship. Yeah, really.
On rape: The iPad/mobile phone/unlocked house metaphor
Basic argument: If you wave an expensive item around in a crime-ridden area, you’d bear some responsibility if it got stolen. It’s EXACTLY the same with women’s bodies and rape.
Useful terminology: risk, responsibility, reasonable, evil people, “rape is an abhorrent crime but…”, “no one’s blaming the victim but…”
What not to mention: the relationship between a woman and her body being somewhat different to that between a person and a completely separate material possession
On relationships: The old woman with cats cautionary tale
Basic argument: If you criticise anything about the way in which men and women relate to each other, you will end up a lonely old woman with lots of cats
Useful terminology: embittered, barren, Whiskas, litter trays
What not to mention: cats are totally ace, especially long-haired torties
On things you don’t actually understand: The smug-but-irrelevant quotation
Basic argument: “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less,” said Humpty Dumpty to Alice.
Useful terminology: “that’s you, that is” (NB you can ring the changes by comparing feminists to chess-playing pigeons – the comparison here was originally with creationists, but it works for anyone, ever)
What not to mention: The fact that you have no idea what anyone else is talking about
On everything to do with women, ever: The random statement of priorities
Basic argument: There are more important things in the world than those which directly disadvantage half the human race and indirectly disadvantage the other half
Useful terminology: war, famine, pestilence, death, that sort of thing (there’s no need to bring in the four horsemen of the Apocalypse directly, but you can keep that on standby)
What not to mention: Anything that actually matters
Having pondered it further, I don’t think writing articles with a feminist bent is a complete waste of time. They do help to change people’s minds – for instance, Orr’s article articulated feelings I’ve had about Page Three but haven’t been able to put into words. Pieces such as hers give people confidence in their convictions, even if they don’t always bring about total turnarounds in others.
Anyhow, if you’re thinking of commenting on this, here are my suggestions:
Useful terminology: smug, irrelevant, “don’t tell me what to write (except now I can’t write that because you’ve told me to)”
What not to mention: Whiskas and litter trays – it only encourages me