Proof by ostention

So, Kerry Howley (of Reason) and Megan McArdle (of The Atlantic) have a discussion about libertarianism and feminism, criticizing the reflexive anti-feminism that goes on in many circles, the deeper affinities between radical libertarianism and radical feminism, which, when you just think about it in the most basic terms, ought to be quite obvious. A book like The Second Sex is nothing if not placing itself in opposition to something like a group identity. It’s a book about individualism…. (The two often agree, although Howley seems generally more sympathetic to both the feminist tradition and contemporary feminism, and McArdle more inclined to paint it as broadly statist.) It’s an interesting dialogue, well worth taking the time to listen to; watch the whole thing. McArdle and Howley cover a lot of ground, and get into some really interesting arguments about the intellectual intersections between the two traditions.

Then a link was posted to Hit and Run.

Here are the first four comments that this post received.

Brian Sorgatz | August 4, 2008, 3:13pm

Since you’re sporting enough to call yourselves lipstick libertarians, I’ll have to blog about your discussion in some detail at Reflections on Playboy soon.

It’s politically complicated for a guy to mention, but you two are reinforcing the positive stereotypes about brainy brunettes. I don’t know if it’s good, bad, or neutral for feminism, but it’s fascinating.

Warty | August 4, 2008, 3:16pm

In my imagination, you two are planning a rainbow party. I’m not about to watch the video and spoil that image.

Your Mother | August 4, 2008, 3:24pm

You girls would be so pretty if you just did something about your hair and makeup.

Fratboy libertarian | August 4, 2008, 3:27pm

Kiss! Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!

Further down the thread:

shrike | August 4, 2008, 4:21pm

Any chick who classifies themself as a libertarian, atheist, or Tom Waits fan automatically gets extra Hotness points - but not quite as many points as “bisexual” garners.

And:

ktc2 | August 4, 2008, 4:42pm

Kerry is hotter. She wins. No need to watch the video unless they get naked and wrestle in some jello.

And:

MikeT | August 4, 2008, 3:41pm

If one is really a libertarian, then how can one subscribe to an ideology that has to be redefined in such a tortured manner to be individualistic as feminism? The very idea of feminism is a collective identity political system. Not that I am surprised, since many libertarians are so enamored of left-wing politics.

Of course, Howley (in particular) gave several arguments for seeing feminism as a mainly individualistic movement, and echt-feminist texts — The Second Sex, for instance — as basically individualistic in spirit. But why bother engaging with those arguments, one way or another, when you can just run off at the mouth about it? Why even act like there’s an argument at all, when two women having an intellectual conversation about feminism obviously serves no function at all other than an opportunity for blowjob jokes and lesbian jokes and hamhanded attempts at flirting with complete strangers?

Take a look at these two threads of conversation — the original dialogue, and the thread in reply to the link. Of these two, which kind of libertarian movement would you rather be a part of?

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  1. nicole

    Yeah. Of course, Hit and Run comment threads are pretty childish all the time, so this was hardly a surprise when I saw it the other day. But it was a bit strange—was this the effect of watching a video? Because when Kerry Howley posts she doesn’t typically get this kind of response, and last week she had a great post about selling her eggs that, when I read it at least, had a good comment thread going.

    MikeT seems like maybe a libertarian-hater to begin with, complaining about how they are “enamored of left-wing politics,” so I’m not really surprised at his moronic comment. Yeah, the very idea that each individual should be treated equally regardless of gender is all a big collective identity political system. Right.

  2. "Natasha"

    Why is it ok for libertarians to come together on the basis of shared political convictions but not ok for women to come together when faced with collectivist hostility towards their gender-sex?

    That’s my question.

    Sure, if we lived in an individualist world, then I’d probably discount its importance, but that isn’t the case.

  3. Jeremy

    Of these two, which kind of libertarian movement would you rather be a part of?

    Can I be part of the former while still having a sense of humor and not taking myself or the politics of gender so seriously? My problem with the comments in the thread is just that they’re not very funny. That said, I’ve laughed at jokes that have made broad characterizations about particular groups of people - a lot of humor is like that. It doesn’t have to be interpreted as nasty.

    The only thing worse than the latter would be the introduction of stifling political correctness. That’s not the aspect of the left we should be bringing into libertarianism, IMHO. A joke is a joke is a joke; what bothers me is the suspicion that it’s more than that for their part. I think we need to be very careful how we proceed on this so that we actually move libertarianism in a feminist direction and don’t just become judgmental about yet another dynamic of society.

  4. Bob Kaercher

    Jeremy, at the risk of seeming serious here, why shouldn’t issues of gender politics be taken seriously?

    As far as I’m concerned, I don’t much give a damn about offending the sensibilities of stupid frat boys. Their particular social dynamic could do with a little judgement.

  5. Rad Geek

    Jeremy,

    When you try to have an intellectual discussion about the finer points of libertarianism on your blog, how often do you have a crowd of commenters come by to run off at the mouth and make little funnies about your dick, or about your dress and appearance, or to publicly fantasize about your sexual proclivities? With no mention whatsoever of anything that you had to say in your post? And this constituting easily the majority of the comments on your discussion?

    Ever tried to give a serious public speech at a movement rally where someone interrupted to shout at you to Take it off!? Had a contentious conversation on the Internet result in your head photoshopped onto hardcore pornography as a little funny?

    You may not realize how disruptive this can be, or how insulting, if it has not happened to you much. But this is something that happens all the time to young women who try to speak about intellectual topics in mostly-male spaces, and it’s especially consistent for young women who try to say something about feminism in particular. I have no idea, and don’t much care, what the personal motivations behind this style of response may be for the individual posters on this thread, or on any of scores of other threads in reply to Kerry Howley’s posts (as one commenter says, Seems that any thread featuring Kerry’s picture/byline/hint that she may have been in the area while it was being posted results in this sort of thread), or on posts by any number of other women throughout the Internet. But I do know what function it serves, and I prefer movements where people are capable of discussing things intelligently to movements in which a group of self-intoxicated blowhards are constantly evading discussion, in favor of trying to one-up each other in how obnoxious, crude, and irrelevant they can be.

    My concern actually has very little to do with the content of the jokes, except insofar as they completely fail to be funny. My concern is with the consistent pattern in the people targeted to be the butt of the joke.

  6. Jeremy

    When you try to have an intellectual discussion about the finer points of libertarianism on your blog, how often do you have a crowd of commenters come by to run off at the mouth and make little funnies about your dick, or about your dress and appearance, or to publicly fantasize about your sexual proclivities?

    Good point. I didn’t mean to downplay the sexism on the Reason post. Clearly, it’s there, and it’s ugly.

    What’s the best way to combat this, though? It seems like libertarians (and conservatives) are likely to embrace the sexism when we shake our finger at them. And that does nothing to move things forward towards understanding.

    Also, in all fairness, the comments did not happen on the same page as the conversation; they happened on a post linking to it. I wouldn’t feel as compelled to be fair to somebody when talking about them on my own turf. And, hey, I’ve made comments about the attractiveness of female intellectuals before (in defense of Naomi Klein on LL2, to be precise).

    The big problem here, IMHO, is not the jokes, but the fact that we know it’s not just a joke to those people in all likelihood. But that bothers me because it’s a very typical tenet of political correctness: “we” know the sense in which they meant their comment and can pass judgment on it. I dunno, I guess I’m wary of going too far down the path of scolding people on issues where, in SOME cases, I think their attitude reflects a reflexive disdain for conformity and not necessarily a position one way or another.

    Also, I oppose the PC approach of purposely thinning one’s skin to make a political point at every turn.

    None of what I said above may be direct responses to the point YOU are making, but they are concerns I have.

    My concern is with the consistent pattern in the people targeted to be the butt of the joke.

    Hmm… it seems to me that women are just as likely to do to men, in my experience. Tell me Obama hasn’t had these kind of comments from females. Which doesn’t make it right - I’m just saying let’s not blow things out of proportion.

    Why do I always have to play the reactionary on this blog? :)

  7. Mike Gogulski

    Jeremy, I see what you’re saying here, but I’m with Charles 100%. I’m all for disdaining conformity, but one needn’t be an insulting jackass in order to do it, nor throw this kind of crudity into a serious discussion. And one needn’t accept the tiniest smidgen of PC lunacy in order find the truth in that.

  8. LadyVetinari

    But that bothers me because it’s a very typical tenet of political correctness: “we” know the sense in which they meant their comment and can pass judgment on it.

    There are no “tenets” of political correctness—it’s not a religion with the rules laid out somewhere. All “political correctness” really means is “somebody getting offended by something that doesn’t offend me personally.”

    And in any case, we DO know what they meant, and by “we” I mean any native English-speaker. We know which comments are insulting and which aren’t, which comments can truly be part of a good-natured joke made by an individual with manners and social skills and which can’t, in the same way we know that chewing with your mouth open is rude and unpleasant. This isn’t particularly complicated or tyrannical. If it’s a kind of conformity, well, so what? Not all conformity is bad. A reflexive rejection of anything that can be spun as “conformist” is just as sheep-like as a reflexive embrace of whatever the crowd is doing.

  9. Elinor

    It’s interesting, isn’t it, that no matter how common sexual harassment is, it’s always “anti-conformist”, and showing basic respect for people (for example, by NOT making totally unsolicited sexual comments) is “politically correct”.

    I suppose that getting pissed off just reinforces the stereotype about hot-tempered redheads…but it’s FEMINISTS who don’t respect individuality. WTF. It took me a really long time to even open my mind to libertarian arguments, and let me tell you, this crap didn’t help.

  10. Elinor

    I should add, I don’t give a flying fuck why someone would say he won’t watch my political video because he prefers to imagine me planning a rainbow party. It’s an insulting thing to say, period, end of story, and I have no time for the kind of “libertarians” who think being contrary is an end in itself.

  11. Soviet Onion

    Lady Vetinari,

    I would have responded to Jeremy with this effect myself, but you said everything I would have wanted to, with far more eloquence than I could have.

    Jeremy,

    I don’t think you really understand the silencing effect this kind of treatment has on someone. It trivializes the thoughts and arguments of the person who receives it, which is worse than attacking her, because at least then she’s still a person with intellect and opinions that deserve a real response.

    It’s no coincidence that jokey sentiments dismissing the seriousness of women’s opinions coexist in the same cultural environment in which, not to long ago, respectable people seriously doubted that women even had intellect.

    It’s also no coincidence that these sentiments against women with opinions are identical to the ones used against children with opinions.

  12. Jeremy

    There are no “tenets” of political correctness—it’s not a religion with the rules laid out somewhere. All “political correctness” really means is “somebody getting offended by something that doesn’t offend me personally.”

    I disagree with that completely, this situation being the perfect example. There’s a difference between finding an opinion distasteful or offensive and universalizing that emotional reaction into a rule everybody must follow. My theory is that this is a side-effect of the institutional nature of our society, where conservative organizations try to incorporate changes in natural fluid and dynamic social norms in a mechanistic, rule-oriented manner so as to preserve the institution’s integrity.

    We know which comments are insulting and which aren’t, which comments can truly be part of a good-natured joke made by an individual with manners and social skills and which can’t, in the same way we know that chewing with your mouth open is rude and unpleasant.

    I find the certainty with which you speak utterly bone-chilling, but it’s a problem I have with the entire universalist approach to morality, not just you. I’ll never understand why we think that we can operate in this arena of moral condemnation with reckless abandon. I don’t think it’s essential to leftism, nor is it really useful to the larger agenda.

    I’m totally with you all on understanding the human dynamics surrounding all this, and working for the understanding that brings fairness along with it. But I see it as an exploration, a discovery… not me preaching the truth from on high. That’s why asked whether there was a better way we could be effecting this agenda, as “right” as we may think ourselves.

  13. Jeremy

    Their particular social dynamic could do with a little judgement.

    What exactly do you think that’s going to accomplish? That’s what I don’t get. Outrage and jeremiads are cheap and polarizing.

  14. LadyVetinari

    There’s a difference between finding an opinion distasteful or offensive and universalizing that emotional reaction into a rule everybody must follow.

    True enough, but when a person complains about “political correctness,” it’s 9/10 times because they don’t like having to consider why something they don’t find offensive is offensive to someone else.

    As Elinor pointed out, sexual harassment is extremely common—to the point where acceptance of sexual harassment has been universalized into a rule that everybody must follow, and criticism of sexual harassment is nonconformist.

    As for universalistic morality, I disagree with you, but my comment wasn’t even about morality. It was about social norms and rudeness and insults, and it’s hardly “bone-chilling” to say that all functioning adults know those norms. It’s a basic fact about how humans interact in a society—we all know how to recognize an insult when we hear one.

    Besides, your objection was originally that we don’t know what the frat-boy commenters “really” meant. As Elinor pointed out, who cares what they meant? It’s insulting no matter what was going on in their heads.

  15. LadyVetinari

    What exactly do you think that’s going to accomplish?

    It might change a mind or two—if not the minds of the frat-boys, then perhaps those of people willing to excuse them.

    That’s what I don’t get. Outrage and jeremiads are cheap and polarizing.

    On the contrary, they’re often highly persuasive. J’Accuse was an outraged jeremiad, as was A Vindication of the Rights of Woman and Martin Luther King’s letter to a white moderate.

  16. Rad Geek

    Elinor (emphasis added):

    I suppose that getting pissed off just reinforces the stereotype about hot-tempered redheads…but it’s FEMINISTS who don’t respect individuality. WTF. It took me a really long time to even open my mind to libertarian arguments, and let me tell you, this crap didn’t help.

    Yes, exactly, and thank you for saying it. This kind of crap goes on precisely because a particular swarm of boys (at Hit and Run and in many other male-dominated libertarian spaces) couldn’t possibly give less of a damn about women like Kerry Howley or Megan McArdle as rational, thinking, interesting individual people; they are, after all, only women, not individuals, and therefore, apparently, just there for crude jokes and public fantasizing and little funnies based, not on any of their characteristics, or God forbid, anything they individually said in the discussion, but only on their common status as women. I was originally going to add a specific comment in this post about how libertarian men wring their hands and wonder why there are so few women in the movement… but the truth is that the kind of dickhead who engages in this kind of behavior doesn’t wring his hands or wonder. He just doesn’t care. Those who do wring their hands and wonder that, however, might do well to pay attention to the kind of reaction that women do get when they try to participate.

    LadyVetinari,

    Thank you.

    Jeremy:

    That’s what I don’t get. Outrage and jeremiads are cheap and polarizing.

    LadyVetinari:

    On the contrary, they’re often highly persuasive. J’Accuse was an outraged jeremiad, as was A Vindication of the Rights of Woman and Martin Luther King’s letter to a white moderate.

    I agree completely. As you hint to Jeremy in your first response, I think that part of what’s important to understand is a question of just who jeremiads and outrage are intended to be persuasive to. Certainly my primary goal in this post was not to convince Brian Sorgatz, Warty, et al. of the need to recognize their own chauvinism and mend their ways. Of course, it would be nice if they did that, but I’m hardly counting on my ability to convince them to do so, by a post like this or by any other means. Rather, I am trying to use their example, along with some outrage, in an attempt to convince other people, some men and some women, of a couple of other points. And, frankly, in a deliberate attempt to do just what Jeremy suggests that this kind of thing does — that is, to polarize.

    When an oppressive practice is sustained not only by the choices of the minority of men who actually practice it, but also by the tacit approval or by the silent acquiescence of those who do not practice it, what is needed is some healthy polarizing. When a movement has institutionalized indifference to that sort of obnoxious behavior, the movement needs to be either reformed, or, if it cannot be reformed as it is, split.

    That’s why a polarizing, brilliant, and completely effective jeremiad like “Goodbye to All That” needed to be made, and why it worked. Not because Robin Morgan was trying to convince the Weathermen or Paul Krassner of anything in particular, but rather to convince some other people of something different, having to do with their own relationship to Weather, Krassner, and the rest of that particular crew.

  17. Jeremy

    Certainly my primary goal in this post was not to convince Brian Sorgatz, Warty, et al. of the need to recognize their own chauvinism and mend their ways. Of course, it would be nice if they did that, but I’m hardly counting on my ability to convince them to do so, by a post like this or by any other means. Rather, I am trying to use their example, along with some outrage, in an attempt to convince other people, some men and some women, of a couple of other points. And, frankly, in a deliberate attempt to do just what Jeremy suggests that this kind of thing does — that is, to polarize.

    Sure, that makes sense. And God knows I’ve done that kind of thing before on other issues. Maybe the problem here is that I just am not motivated by gender politics, so this kind of outrage doesn’t validate my moral sensibility like it “should”. I dunno.

  18. LadyVetinari

    Not being motivated by gender politics is fair, but dismissing them is another thing entirely. It’s something libertarian men have to be careful about if they take their self-proclaimed principles at all seriously.

    RadGeek/Charles (which do you prefer?):

    When an oppressive practice is sustained not only by the choices of the minority of men who actually practice it, but also by the tacit approval or by the silent acquiescence of those who do not practice it, what is needed is some healthy polarizing.

    Yes! Exactly. And Goodbye to All That is such a great example of deliberately polarizing and effective writing. Looking back on it from the perspective of someone who wasn’t alive at the time, I see huge differences between Morgan’s feminism and mine, but I am nevertheless very glad she wrote that piece and many others.

  19. Discussed at www.theagitator.com

    The Agitator » Blog Archive » Morning Links:

    […] agree with this. Libertarian men (well, at least those outside of D.C.) complain that there aren’t any […]

  20. ktc2

    NEWSFLASH:

  21. ktc2

    Internet full of sacrastic people! Film at 11!

  22. MikeT

    MikeT seems like maybe a libertarian-hater to begin with, complaining about how they are “enamored of left-wing politics,” so I’m not really surprised at his moronic comment. Yeah, the very idea that each individual should be treated equally regardless of gender is all a big collective identity political system. Right.

    Deeply insightful, nicole. Take a single comment and turn it into a sweeping statement about my political views. For your next trick, are you going to do a full psychological diagnosis on me, as was done to Barry Goldwater from the comfort of your chair so far away from me?

    It’s not in the least difficult to disprove your claim that feminism is about equality, as feminists tend to oppose equality on the following subjects:

    1) The draft. 2) Alimony payments for men who make a lot less than their wives. 3) The ability of a man to have say over whether or not he pays child support for a child that the mother chooses to keep rather than put up for adoption or abort. Here she has freedom not only over her body, but over his wallet. 4) Equal prison sentences for women who commit heinous crimes. For example, no amount of abuse would ever allow a man to get away with shooting his wife in the back with a shotgun, and letting her bleed to death in bed a la the Winkler case.

    Those major topics came right off the top of my head. Is that enough, or should I really dig deeper into other subjects which the average feminists couldn’t care less whether or not men and women really have much equality on?

    Granted, if you can’t see how a movement that draws its very name, let alone politics, from something as broad as gender, is inherently disinclined toward pluralism and individualism as opposed to collectivism, this is all a waste of time.

  23. convertedlefty

    Here is a comment from the link to this post at The Agitator:

    Those guys aren’t acting that way because they’re libertarian. They’re acting that way because they’re guys. Guys are guys. They’re not any more or less moronic because they’re libertarian.

    Setting aside the fact that the writer was humble enough to admit that some men who identify themselves as libertarian are morons, is there any way someone could explain to me how “they’re acting that way because they’re guys” is a statement consistent with a movement inherently inclined toward pluralism and individualism?

  24. Bob Kaercher

    “Deeply insightful, nicole. Take a single comment and turn it into a sweeping statement about my political views…It’s not in the least difficult to disprove your claim that feminism is about equality, as feminists tend to oppose equality on the following subjects…”

    I’d say you’re pretty adept at package dealing your own self, Mike.

    “Granted, if you can’t see how a movement that draws its very name, let alone politics, from something as broad as gender, is inherently disinclined toward pluralism and individualism as opposed to collectivism, this is all a waste of time.”

    Indeed, considering those assumptions, such a discussion with you probably would be a waste of time.

  25. Athena

    For a number of years, now, I’ve been aggressively advocating the libertarian perspective in public forums both on and outside of the internet. Although I’m young, relatively attractive and have that whole “libertarian/atheist/female” trifecta going for me, “Will you marry me?” is the most vulgar response I’ve ever gotten.

    In my opinion, the responses detailed in the OP speak to the general distain many libertarians and men in general have for the current state of the feminist movement. The nature of the response is that “reflective anti-feminism” manifested; derision provoked by the subject matter rather than those discussing it. It doesn’t make their dismissive behavior more appropriate, mature or productive, but identifying the true target is a necessary element of this discussion.

    The response, masquerading as classic sexism, appears to me to be a defense mechanism exhibited by men who likely feel attacked by feminism. While I certainly don’t condone their reaction, I can’t necessarily blame them for being defensive. After all, even from this female’s perspective, feminism appears to have been swallowed by its own darkside - disparaging men and berating women whose choices do not fall within their skewed ideology.

    In my fairly intimate experience with self-proclaimed feminists, I have found many of them to consider degrading a man in an attempt to “level the playing field” just as suitable a solution to disparity as encouraging women attain higher levels of success. Stereotypical feminists will even turn on their own. Apparently, a women is only exercising choice when she is choosing between careers or degrees. If one chooses to be a stay at home mother, then she is an ingrate and a traitor to her gender.

    As MikeT’s reply suggests, this is what many of us outside of feminist circles tend to think of when the movement is referenced. Until feminism rids itself of this stimga, those who associate themselves with it will continue to fall victim to the immature responses of those feeling threatened by it.

    The only recourse is to recognize the crude responses for what they are and refuse to be discouraged by them. If anything, these men’s comments should be motivation to continue to discuss the merits of feminism in public venues.

  26. Elinor

    I find the certainty with which you speak utterly bone-chilling, but it’s a problem I have with the entire universalist approach to morality, not just you.

    Well, I will allow that there might, in some context, be circumstances in which it would not be insulting for a man to tell me that he doesn’t want to listen to what I have to say because he’d prefer to imagine me and my friends sucking his dick (forgive the crudeness, but that’s what a rainbow party is), but I don’t live in that context and neither does any woman I know. And as for gender politics not being a priority for you, and outrage being “cheap and polarizing,” what do you think sexual harassment is if not cheap and polarizing? Why shouldn’t I openly take offense at openly offensive behaviour? Why is the onus on me to be reasonable and not alienate people who are going out of their way to alienate me?

    I’m sorry to pick on you, but this is just such a common tactic, this double standard. Every time a man or a white person chastises a woman or a racialized person for being “angry” or “impatient” or “alienating” people, this is what’s at work, this double standard.

    As for MikeT, dude, whatever. Your whines are so tired and you don’t mention WHICH feminists take the positions you say that we do (and if you can muster more than anecdotal evidence that poor men are paying alimony to rich women, I’ll eat my proverbial hat). How long has it been since the U.S. even had a draft?

  27. Anonymous

    The world of MikeT (from a glance at his linked webpage):

    “It is entirely true that we do not own ourselves, but it is also true that we have stewardship of our lives and property. While God may possess a property right in our bodies and souls, this does not negate our ability to guide and determine what happens to our bodies, though we shall be held to account for our stewardship of these resources.”

  28. Elinor

    Athena, just like Jeremy, you’re putting the onus on women to prove we don’t deserve sexual harassment.

    Fairly intimate experience with self-proclaimed feminists where? How are McArdle and Howley responsible for what every other “self-proclaimed feminists” does? You say you aren’t excusing the behaviour of these men, but you are shifting the blame — “well, if feminists weren’t so mean, men wouldn’t sexually harass women.” This is crap. Again, why do I have to be so concerned about these men’s feelings when they go out of their way to offend mine? If MikeT is to be believed, feminists are getting along very well without them.

    How about how libertarians can appeal to feminists? Or are libertarians just more worthy of being catered to? Right now, I think a lot of feminists see libertarianism as a movement devoted to taking away all the government crutches without doing anything about the people breaking legs (to borrow a metaphor from, I think, Kevin Carson). They see it as a movement on behalf of the rich, the bosses, the powerful and the selfish.

    I recall an exchange with a self-described libertarian about a casino that had mandated that all its female bartenders wear makeup. The bosses had specified which products were to be worn and how, but female employees were expected to pay for their own cosmetics and make themselves up (quite elaborately) on their own time. The libertarian man I dealt with could not understand how this was a problem, because hey, employees should be grateful for a job, any job, and if the boss wants to pay women less for doing the same work, or mandate that they work without compensation some of the time, or demand sexual favours, well, that’s his choice; his money, his rules. Does it surprise you that this didn’t appeal to me as a woman or as a feminist?

    And yet somehow, I managed to refrain from making comments about his penis. Funny that.

  29. scineram

    your comments

    Hehe, the self-described libertarian was right, of course.^^

  30. convertedlefty

    The response, masquerading as classic sexism, appears to me to be a defense mechanism exhibited by men who likely feel attacked by feminism.

    Are the comments Charles copied here an example of this kind of defensive response? If yes, then since those comments were direct replies to the video of the Howley/McArdle conversation, it seems to me that it\’s not the folks angered by those comments who need to get a grip. Apparently, it doesn\’t take much provocation (or none at all, in this case) to get the nastiness spewing.

    If anything, these men’s comments should be motivation to continue to discuss the merits of feminism in public venues.

    Well, that\’s what Howley and McArdle were doing and look what they got for it. I see a downward spiral here.

  31. Athena

    “Athena, just like Jeremy, you’re putting the onus on women to prove we don’t deserve sexual harassment.”

    The onus is on them (and everyone) to see it for what it actually is. In Jeremy’s opinion, that is innocent but poor humor. In my opinion, it’s defensive behavior provoked by the topic. Either way, the posters were not making these comments in a calculated attempt to devalue the women themselves (in my opinion). I don’t believe that perceived sexism is any less damaging than legitimate sexism, which is why it’s important to endeavor to perceive things accurately.

    My comment was generally in response to this: “I have no idea, and don’t much care, what the personal motivations behind this style of response may be for the individual posters on this thread, or on any of scores of other threads in “reply” to Kerry Howley’s posts…” How accurate is a label when someone refuses to examine the whole picture? Intent MATTERS. How her thoughts are received on other topics matters. Without considering these aspects, the “sexism” label lacks substance. If we do consider these aspects, the “sexism” label seems downright unfounded.

    If I may attempt to illustrate my point with an anecdote - Once upon a time, I was a regular commenter on a popular political message board. Even though I was part of a small libertarian minority, the people there would consider my perspective respectfully and thoughtfully on all topics except for one: Ron Paul. When I discussed Ron Paul, the comments would be, “Where’s your tin foil hat?” or “Have you made your conference call with the KKK today?”

    The “humor”, just like that found in the comments pertaining to Howley and McArdle, were both inaccurate and unamusing. Should I assume that they’re attacking my libertarianism and perhaps question its merit? Of course not. These people, who under any other circumstance were perfectly respectful, were clearly threatened by the subject matter. At the time, Paul had recently set a funraising record that was highly publicized. He had Democrats AND Republicans a bit nervous.

    I do a lot of lurking over at Reason, and have witnessed the response to a few of Howley’s articles. Never have I seen this response. If the comments were provoked by her gender (sexism), you’d see similar comments in response to her other articles.

    convertedlefty - I’m not telling anyone to get a grip. Be angry. Be PISSED. I’m just asking that people be upset for the right reason. What these people did deserves condemnation. But this isn’t an example of sexual harassment, this is something we see all the time. They attacked the person rather than the premise. These are the same people who asked me where my foil hat was when I spoke of Ron Paul. They’re the same people that’ll say, “Move to China if you hate America so much,” when you’re critical of the administration. You speak of “what they got”? They got cheap, lazy, intellectually insulting responses like ALL of us have gotten at one point or another. Why should this example be regarded any differently just because it focused on gender and sexuality rather than location or political-orientation?

  32. Elinor

    Athena, your analogy doesn’t work. People said nasty things about your opinions; they didn’t change the subject entirely. If the commenters to McArdle and Howley’s video had said “You’re a feminist, are you; castrated any men lately?” then I’d see your point, but that’s not what they said. They said “you’re hot, suck my dick.” Very different.

    Either way, the posters were not making these comments in a calculated attempt to devalue the women themselves (in my opinion).

    Why does it have to be calculated? Perhaps the little trolls didn’t sit down thinking “how can I make this woman feel like shit” — but why is that so important? If I punched you in the face because, knowing nothing about you, I assumed you liked being punched in the face, would it not hurt? Would I be right to do it?

    How accurate is a label when someone refuses to examine the whole picture? Intent MATTERS. How her thoughts are received on other topics matters. Without considering these aspects, the “sexism” label lacks substance. If we do consider these aspects, the “sexism” label seems downright unfounded.

    So if these people are not sexist all the time, or if Kerry Howley is not subjected to sexism all the time, then there isn’t any sexism at all? How does that work exactly?

  33. Bob Kaercher

    Athena: When, in response to a discussion between two women, a bunch of guys post jokes about those women hosting blowjob parties, their appearance, etc., it is not necesary to “endeavor to perceive things accurately” before denouncing such comments, if that means we are obligated to get inside the heads of the commenters to see how much their minds have allegedly been screwed up by feminists, which is a.) impossible, and b.) totally irrelevant to the two young ladies in question. I don’t see how, exactly, any treatment those commenters may or may not have received by other self-described feminists warrants subjecting McArdle and Howley to that kind of vulgarity. I certainly don’t understand specifically what in their discussion leads you to believe that the blowjob jokes were somehow “provoked.” Or is it just the word “feminism”? Does that word cast some sort of mysterious spell that causes some men to involuntarily make stupid, insulting, sexist comments?

    Bottom line: Those comments were rude, insulting, crude, disrespectful, ignorant, crass, completely inappropriate and totally uncalled for. If you want to dither with cyber-psychoanalysis—which would be pretty difficult to do with people you don’t even know or have never met—go right ahead, but the rest of us are perfectly prepared to call out something for what it is.

    And I am frankly astonished by the extent to which others are willing to go to either excuse, or, as in your case, come up with reasons for such insults. There’s a very good reason why most of those idiots would not dare put their real or full names by their words, and it’s because they know damn well that they’re wrong.

    The big news flash, apparently, is that none of us has any right to post insulting, pornographic jokes about anybody else, and anyone who does should not be too surprised to have their BS called out.

  34. convertedlefty

    Athena,

    The “get a grip” comment was not meant to be directed at you — it was an oblique reference to comments at the Agitator and here (ktc2) that we’re being hysterical and should just laugh this thing off. I guess I was too subtle — I apologize. My point was that if your analysis is correct, then having them tell us to “get a sense of humor” and not be so touchy (this is from the comments at the Agitator) is a bit of the pot calling the kettle black (and that’s being generous — your analysis actually makes them seem much worse: reflexively meting out collective punishment on any female that uses the word “feminist” in a sentence seems worse than merely being deficient in the sense of humor department).

    Without considering these aspects, the “sexism” label lacks substance. If we do consider these aspects, the “sexism” label seems downright unfounded.

    I tend to disagree with this. It doesn’t seem to me to be controversial at all that the term “sexist” describes the content of those comments regardless of the speaker or the speaker’s motivation. What we can argue is if it is right to call the speaker a sexist. For that, analyzing the speaker’s motivation would then be relevant, but I’m with Charles and Bob — I don’t see how having that argument makes any difference.

    They got cheap, lazy, intellectually insulting responses like ALL of us have gotten at one point or another. Why should this example be regarded any differently just because it focused on gender and sexuality rather than location or political-orientation?

    I agree that generalizing is a valid, useful, and powerful tool for making sense of the world. But I don’t see why this isn’t also true of specifying. People do both all the time. Why is it wrong to use the term “sexist” to further describe a particular sub-type of cheap, lazy, and intellectually insulting speech and then in a particular forum, discuss matters only relating to that sub-type? When you come back at people who tell you that you hate America, does the content of your response stay at the general level, or does it make reference to the specifics, the inherent jingoism and statism?

  35. Athena

    Forgive me for having to cherry-pick everyone’s very valid and eloquent responses…But there’s just one of me.

    “Athena, your analogy doesn’t work. People said nasty things about your opinions; they didn’t change the subject entirely.”

    They most certainly did, unless I am a racist conspiracy theorist (which I am not). They made flippant, derogatory comments in an attempt to get pats on the back from their buddies, just like the comments witnessed in the OP. The KKK and foil hats had no more to do with Ron Paul’s presidential campaign than rainbow parties and bisexuality have to do with feminism. It’s an absolutely valid analogy. The behavior is exactly the same; the only thing that differs is the topic.

    “What we can argue is if it is right to call the speaker a sexist. For that, analyzing the speaker’s motivation would then be relevant, but I’m with Charles and Bob — I don’t see how having that argument makes any difference.”

    I will concede the point made regarding the comments being “sexist”. Yes, the comments are sexist in the general sense that they are sexually-oriented and derogatory; the “sub-type” analogy put it in clearer terms for me. However, the speakers WERE called sexist. RedGeek made the assertion; classifying the ensuing argument as inconsequential is unfairly dismissive in and of itself. People shouldn’t get to make unchallenged assertions (even on their own site =P) - I was simply pointing out the fact that there was another possibility (one that I consider to be probable).

    “This kind of crap goes on precisely because a particular swarm of boys (at Hit and Run and in many other male-dominated libertarian spaces) couldn’t possibly give less of a damn about women like Kerry Howley or Megan McArdle as rational, thinking, interesting individual people; they are, after all, only women, not individuals, and therefore, apparently, just there for crude jokes and public fantasizing and little funnies based, not on any of their characteristics, or God forbid, anything they individually said in the discussion, but only on their common status as women. I was originally going to add a specific comment in this post about how libertarian men wring their hands and wonder why there are so few women in the movement… but the truth is that the kind of dickhead who engages in this kind of behavior doesn’t wring his hands or wonder. He just doesn’t care. Those who do wring their hands and wonder that, however, might do well to pay attention to the kind of reaction that women do get when they try to participate.”

    If people want to know why women aren’t specifically attracted to libertarianism in large droves, the answer has nothing to do with perceived sexism. Generally speaking, it’s because libertarianism isn’t tied to religious dogma like republicans are, and it doesn’t triumph women’s issues like the democrats do. I’d be surprised if a lot of hands had been wrung about that.

    Sexist comments are, by NO means, a libertarian-specific occurance, and I suppose I was kind of disappointed to see it painted as such. Ideally, this blog would have used the Hit-and-Run link to address the dismissive comments directed toward ALL women in politics (although, in my experience, dismissiveness is spread pretty evenly on the internet, no matter what the topic). But, instead, it became some libertarian slam-fest. I’ll admit, I came in a little defensive and, for that, I apologize.

  36. Elinor

    They most certainly did, unless I am a racist conspiracy theorist (which I am not). They made flippant, derogatory comments in an attempt to get pats on the back from their buddies, just like the comments witnessed in the OP.

    They made flippant, derogatory comments about your opinions and beliefs. KKK membership is a political affiliation; wearing a tinfoil hat is, again, evidence of a belief. They did not change the subject to your looks, your body, your imagined sexual preferences. The equivalent would be calling every feminist woman a castrating bitch feminazi, not changing the subject to her body and what you’d like to do to it.

    If people want to know why women aren’t specifically attracted to libertarianism in large droves, the answer has nothing to do with perceived sexism. Generally speaking, it’s because libertarianism isn’t tied to religious dogma like republicans are, and it doesn’t triumph women’s issues like the democrats do.

    You really don’t give women a lot of credit; either we vote the way the preacher tells us to or we vote on “women’s issues,” however you define that (I wouldn’t presume to guess). As for the Democrats “triumphing” (sic) women’s issues, I haven’t the faintest idea what you mean by that.

    I’d be surprised if a lot of hands had been wrung about that.

    So you don’t believe that libertarianism contains much that would appeal to most women, and this doesn’t suggest to you that there might be something wrong with libertarianism as currently conceived; it’s got to be something wrong with women (women who aren’t you, that is). You’re not alone in this belief, certainly.

    Sexist comments are, by NO means, a libertarian-specific occurance, and I suppose I was kind of disappointed to see it painted as such.

    Well, this is a libertarian blog. Charles/RadGeek identifies as a libertarian and therefore perhaps feels qualified to call other libertarians on their sexist behaviour. I didn’t see anyone suggest that sexism was specific to libertarianism. I certainly don’t believe that.

  37. convertedlefty

    If people want to know why women aren’t specifically attracted to libertarianism in large droves, the answer has nothing to do with perceived sexism. Generally speaking, it’s because libertarianism isn’t tied to religious dogma like republicans are, and it doesn’t triumph women’s issues like the democrats do.

    Well … speaking for myself only (this is anecdotal, so take it with a grain of salt), this doesn’t explain why it took me, a woman, so long to take libertarianism seriously. I’ve basically gone through life uncommitted to political parties and political action in general, and indifferent (but not necessarily hostile) to anything calling itself “feminism”. Back in the (pre-internet) day, my contact with libertarians had left me with the feeling that, hey, they talk a good game but have a hard time sticking to their guns — think “Vulgar Libertarianism” before it had a name. The quote from the comments section at the Agitator that I posted earlier is a good example. I’ll call it “collective exoneration” of guys for bad behavior because they’re guys. It’s not quite the same as that libertarian no-no “collective punishment”, but a close cousin. I’m still surprised at the ease with which some self-described libertarians can dispense with their ideals.

    Sexist comments are, by NO means, a libertarian-specific occurance, and I suppose I was kind of disappointed to see it painted as such.

    I also didn’t see this here. I believe the point that Charles is making is that sexism and libertarianism are incompatible with one another, hence the special condemnation that sexism gets at this blog when it’s found in a libertarian forum.

— 2009 —

— 2010 —

  1. Brian Sorgatz

    Rad Geek wrote:

    Certainly my primary goal in this post was not to convince Brian Sorgatz, ““Warty,”” et al. of the need to recognize their own chauvinism and mend their ways. Of course, it would be nice if they did that, but I’m hardly counting on my ability to convince them to do so, by a post like this or by any other means.

    For what it’s worth, [I have blogged on my guilty conscience] (http://blog.reflectionsonplayboy.com/2009/10/just-in-case-i-ever-reincarnate-as.html) about sexualizing the women of Reason. Although I have grounds to suspect that Kerry Howley hates it, she has never spoken her mind on it in public to the best of my knowledge. The silence is deafening. I can’t speak for the other hound dogs at Hit & Run, but I would feel compelled to take her seriously if she ever addressed the issue directly.

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