Four, er...two! For You, Mr. X!
Welcome back to my week-long series on “You Might be a Feminazi If…”, a response to a Mr. X liberal blogger (keeping his name and linkage out of this because I refuse to give him more clicks) and his list. Part 1 is here.
Some of you may be wondering, “Dianna, why are you bothering to respond? He didn’t mean someone like you.” And that’s what his response is as well – if you’re not a feminazi, then you know it and the list doesn't apply to you. My response is short, but important: any attack on my fellow feminists is an attack on me. There’s this lovely term that developed in the women’s movement called “sisterhood” – even if your fellow feminist is being a jackass and extreme (believe me, there are feminists who make me go, “girl, you nuts”), you are still called to support them as women. You can disagree with them on the basis of argument - for example, I strongly disagree with the radical feminist assertion that all heterosexual intercourse is rape and the only way to be a good feminist is to be a lesbian. But I disagree on the basis of argument; I do not just call that feminist a feminazi, accuse her of being a moron and move on.
And that is my main beef with Mr. X’s list: rather than engage individual feminists on an intelligent level, he stoops to insults and demeaning terms like “feminazi.” And that deserves intelligent, well-thought-out refutation because, well, it's a discussion worth having, is it not?
Now onto Numbers 3 and 4!
…you’re incapable of understanding that doing something sexist doesn’t automatically make that person a misogynist.
Now, I have to say, he does have a point here, to an extent. It is important in discussions to make sure that the language we use actually depicts what we mean. There is a reason my Saturday feature is “Absurd Sexism of the Week” not “Absurd Misogyny of the Week.”
Misogyny, for those who don’t know, refers to a hatred of women. You hate women on the basis of their gender alone. A preacher is misogynist when telling his congregation “It’ll be a cold day in hell before I get my theology from a woman.” My best friend can make a sexist remark, but that doesn't make him a sexist. I have to admit, Mr. X is generally correct here, in that there is a major difference between saying that someone is behaving in a way which is demeaning toward women, and saying that person hates women.
Generally correct, until you look at the actual ways the words are used: "Misogynist" is only ever an adjective. Sexist, on the other hand, is both adjective and noun. You can BE misogynist, but you are not A misogynist. In contrast, you can "be" a sexist in both meanings of the word "be" - you are behaving in a sexist manner and you exist with "sexist "as part of your label. If anything, misogyny's the square and sexism's the rectangle: misogyny is the smaller category here. They are two parts of the same general stream of thought in that if you are sexist, there is a good chance your behavior is misogynist; if you're misogynist, you're definitely sexist as well. Misogyny is, indeed, a more severe accusation, but let's not cloud the use of words when accusing another of doing the same!
The disagreement comes in with the beginning of his assertion: “you’re incapable of understanding.” This is a fancy way of saying “you’re dumb.” Now, now, Mr. X. That’s not nice at all. Mere ignorance of the difference in meaning does not mean that one is incapable of understanding. Give us some credit – have you bothered to explain to people who may not have had your level of education the linguistic difference? Or do you just scoff if your ivory tower when less-educated and/or new feminists use sexism and misogyny as synonyms? I think, Mr. X, if you seriously cared about the use of language, you would not deem feminists “incapable of understanding” and write them off. If you do that, and then accuse of them not improving...well, that's just leaves you to blame, doesn't it?
In addition, your wording, Mr. X, makes it seem like sexism is an excusable offense – a misdemeanor compared with a felony, perhaps. But, both sexism and misogyny are capital offenses. The implied sentiment here is: “You’re wasting your time responding to sexism when your heat and anger should be saved for the larger problem of misogyny.” Feminists who do not use the words as synonyms also recognize that sexism can reveal misogyny: if a friend of mine is making sexist jokes on a regular basis, he does not have to outright say “I hate women” to lose my trust. It seems, Mr. X, that is you who does not care to acknowledge the link between the two and would rather rag on the uneducated portions of our bunch. You go, Glen Coco!
…you constantly accuse men and women who disagree with you of being misogynists.
I feel like Inigo Montoya: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
“Constantly” would require feminists to respond the same way to every single argument. And that’s just not the case. I know no one who could be so consistent in an argumentation as to continually find new and creative ways to say the same exact thing.
Instead, if you notice that feminists are saying “that’s sexist” (because in productive discussion, we attack the argument and not the person…), it’s because there is a lot of sexism in the world. And here, I think, Mr. X, you are contributing to fuzziness of language. The only times I have heard misogynist used as an invective is when a person has said something that indicates it is not a moment of sexism but a continued philosophy of dislike toward women. Mark Driscoll, for example, has said several things that indicate to me that he tends toward misogyny. John Piper is much the same way. Several Congressmen likewise. And yes, even women can be misogynist! If it looks like we’re relying on the sexism and misogyny tropes, it’s likely because there are a lot of misogynist and sexist people in the world, not because we are seeing what’s not there. And if a feminist points out that something is sexist, maybe it's a good idea to listen to her argument about why instead of writing it off, hm?