Strange Things Are Afoot at the Circular Argument

Part 1 - Part 2 We are nearly at the halfway point in examining Mr. X's list of "You Might be a Feminazi If..." Today, we get into a confusing mess of arguments about what qualifies as sexism or misogyny, and an involved discussion of rape statistics. Also, language warning on this post. In giving examples of insults toward men, there are a few words that some of my readers may find offensive. You have been warned.



Number 5.

…you mistakenly believe that “misogyny,” which is a hatred of all women simply because they’re women, somehow applies to a man who just hates you for your sexist behavior.


This one is a bit of a hot mess and needs some breaking down. First, he is finally providing the definition for misogyny, which is good. But I already covered that misogyny is a severe category of sexism yesterday, so I’m not going to harp on that again. And it’s not the “misogyny” of the statement that mystifies me – it’s the idea that women are 1. Behaving in a sexist manner, 2. That this sexism is the real reason some men hate women, 3. That this hatred of women is a. somehow justified because of the man’s perceived slight of sexism, and b. unjustified because women accuse men who hate women of misogyny are actually wrong about it being misogyny.


Wait. What?


My friend Alan would likely refer to this point as the error of employing General Eye Zation in one’s debate arsenal. This point makes a number of unfounded assumptions about both men and women. I must presume that Mr. X is thinking specifically of his own interactions with women because I cannot imagine he knows the mind of every man who has been labeled misogynist nor even have a wide enough sample of these interactions from an objective basis to make this sort of conclusion. He also assumes that feminists who call men misogynist do so without provocation or in an extraordinarily mistaken mindset.


I don’t know about you, but if a man consistently declares that “all women are bitches” or that “feminism is so that ugly women can be accepted into society” or that we should “calm [our] tits and quit whining,” I’m not going to be very inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. I’m not going to be inclined to think “oh, he’s just reacting to the sexist behavior of a few women.”


And that leads to the major part of this statement that confuses me. What, exactly, IS sexist behavior of a woman toward a man? Here’s a newsflash: pointing out that you’re being sexist isn’t sexist. Pointing out that you do not have the same experience as a woman isn’t sexist. Pointing out that a man doesn’t need to conform to proscribed societal gender roles isn’t sexist.


Sexism, in the dictionary definition sense, is “discrimination on the basis of sex, esp the oppression of women by men” (Collins English Dictionary). According to the American Heritage New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, it’s “The belief that one sex (usually the male) is naturally superior to the other and should dominate most important areas of political, economic, and social life.”


The lack of solid examples really hinders Mr. X here. I assume that he is referring to typical things that Men’s Rights Advocates propound, like alimony, divorce courts favoring women, women’s studies in college without a mirroring men’s studies*, and the draft. HOWEVER, his phrasing indicates that he is referring not to systemic sexism perpetuated by the culture (of which alimony, divorce courts and the draft are a part), but rather individual acts of sexism perpetuated by individual women. Mr. X seems to be saying here: “You call out individual men as misogynist when, really, they just don’t like you for being sexist.”


At which point, I’m having a lot of trouble wracking my brain for examples of ways in which a woman can be sexist against a man which are not also evidence of what a feminist fights against. For example, maybe it’s sexist for a woman to expect a man to be the breadwinner of the family. This is a typical gender role that a mainline feminist wouldn’t espouse. So that doesn’t work. Maybe it’s sexist for a woman to make fun of a man for being weak, but, that, too, is an example of typical gender roles that feminists fight. Maybe it’s simply name-calling, but that doesn’t work either. Think of the typical insults you can call a man that would really hurt in society (you may want to quit reading here if you don’t like swear words): pussy, cunt, gay, sissy, weak, “throws like a girl,” etc. All of these insults are calling out men for being feminine. Notice, for instance, that "cunt" is possibly the worst thing you could call anyone, but “dick” is usually acceptable. It is the worst thing in the world for a man to be considered feminine and to be identified with female anatomy (most of the insults are slang terms for a vagina). Who is that sexist against, again?


This confusing mess of a point doesn’t work on a systemic or individual level. If a man hates an individual feminist for an abuse that is systemic in society, then he has a problem sorting out the individual from the larger issue, which is, indeed, a large part of misogyny. If a man hates an individual woman for individual acts of sexism, that woman is, most likely, asking the male to conform to traditional gender norms and is being anti-feminist in the process. Either way, this point is a mess.


*Note: I’ve touched on why this is bull in other posts, but in case you need a refresher, you can head back to this post and this post. We don’t particularly NEED men’s studies because everything already is men’s studies.


Number 6.

…you refuse to acknowledge that false rape allegations do, sometimes, occur, and accuse anyone of pointing out that false rape allegations sometimes occur of being a “rape apologist” or proponent of “rape culture.”


This one’s an interesting one because it actually forces us to get into the nitty-gritty of statistics. There is a lot of debate about how many reported rapes are actually found to be false, though consistently reliable studies put that number between 3 and 8%. The largest sexual assault/false allegation study was performed in England and found, initially, that 8% of rapes reported in the 2005-2006 study were found to be “false.” This number was revised when the official standards for what counts as a rape allegation were examined closely, and it was found that in many case the police officer involved had violated official procedure in determining the allegation as false when there was in fact grounds to believe the victim. A similar study done a couple of years before in the Victoria police district in Australia found that of 812 cases reported between 2000 and 2003, only 2.1% of those were false allegations.


In addition, the area of false allegations is rather hairy because there is not a lot published on the issues, and those studies that indicate a high incidence of false allegations are from an extremely small sample. The study that most proponents of the “false rape allegation epidemic” narrative is a 1994 study by Eugene Kainn, which had a sample size of 109 in a small urban town and found 45 of those to be false. The problem with that comes with extracting a general principle from an extremely small study. The study in Britain, for example, examined well over 2,000 cases. The study in Australia was 800. Dr. Kainn, also, did not examine how police officers followed official procedure in investigating rape cases and simply took police officer’s reports at their word, something the later British study proved to be a very bad idea – the police department Kainn examined threatened polygraph of the victims in nearly every case, an operating procedure that does not encourage victims to feel comfortable about coming forward.


The classification of false rape allegations is also sometimes confused with the FBI numbers for “unfounded” allegations. “Unfounded” does not, necessarily, mean false. Unfounded merely refers to not having enough evidence to prosecute, or may even be classified as such if the victim did not fight back (and therefore it somehow wasn’t rape), if the perpetrator didn’t use a weapon (it’s not rape then, either), or if the victim and her attacker had a prior sexual relationship (wives raped by your husbands? Out of luck).


The incidence of false allegations in other major crimes, according to the FBI, is 2%. According to the studies at our disposal, the amount of false allegations concerning rape cases is directly in line with those statistics, if not a negligible amount higher.


This doesn’t even take into account the estimation that only about 40% of sexual assaults are actually reported, and of that 40%, there is only a 1 in 2 chance of an arrest being made. And from that, there is a 58% chance of conviction, and a 69% chance that the rapist will spend time in jail.


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We have a fascinating court system concerning rape – because of the American system of “innocent until proven guilty,” a man accused of rape has a number of defenses on his side and his chance of actually going to jail when he is suspected of rape is rather low. This is not to say that, if you are a high-profile person accused of rape that your reputation is not at risk. But, before you make such allegations, I suggest you examine again the public reaction to such recent high-profile rape cases –Roethlisberger, DSK, Julian Assange, Kobe Bryant, Roman Polanski and so on. DSK, for example, has been an interesting case in point: many, many people have leapt to his defense, and, France, a popular theory has been that the entire thing is a conspiracy to sully his name, despite the fact that he had a well-known reputation as a womanizer and had been accused of rape previously. Roman Polanski, even, had sex with a 13-year-old girl and has not been able to return to America because of an outstanding warrant, and he is still in great standing in the film community and is still winning Oscars (not that the Oscar for the Pianist wasn’t deserved, but it seems that his great art has white-washed the statutory rape charge, to the point that when he was arrested in Switzerland a couple of years ago, a number of Hollywood A-listers pooled funds to help him out).


In conclusion, the statistics simply do not support an “epidemic” of false rape allegations, and to say that feminists willingly ignore them is to misconstrue the argument. Feminists acknowledge that rape allegations are very, very serious, and women should not toy with them. Feminists also acknowledge, however, that the statistical studies available do not support the idea that false rape allegations are at high enough proportions to be worrying. We tend to be much more concerned with the fact that 60% of actual rapes don’t get reported at all than with the idea that possibly, possibly a man is falsely accused.


In order to make your argument that 1. False rape allegations are an epidemic, and 2. Men are being wrongly convicted based on these false allegations, you have to provide me with more evidence than a mere assertion that this is the case. We still live in a society where the burden of proof is on the victim and the incidence of actual convictions (compared to numbers of sexual assaults that occur) is extremely low – less than 10%.


The burden of proof is on you, sir. And look, I debunked your entire assertion without ever once resorting to the scary words of “rape apologist” or “rape culture.” Would you look at that.