Wednesday, 13 April 2016

On the Ryerson MIAS law suit, and the RSU

I was reading a post on an online magazine called "COED" about the law suit that's been filed by Ryerson University's latest attempt at an official Men's Issues Awareness Society. I left a comment there, but I thought it would be prudent to reproduce it here, as memories these days can be woefully short. Here it is in full, with some relevant links at the bottom:

This is actually the second such group to be denied official status by RSU in the last 4 years. The previous men's issues society was founded by two women and a man, and was denied status after months of waiting on their application (usual turnover is a couple weeks), during which RSU amended their charter, behind closed doors and without any open debate, in order to pre-emptively exclude them.

The charter was amended to ban any men's group that did not "center women's voices" in the equality debate. They used this change, made after the previous MIAS applied for official status, to deny them status.

In other words, they changed the rules, mid-game, without any public debate, specifically so they could exclude the first MIAS.

This is particularly ironic considering the first MIAS was founded and led by two women and a man--putting the voices of women, both women of color, not only at the center, but in the leadership, of the MIAS.

Of course, these women were not the "right kind of women" (that is, they weren't self-declared, fervent, "patriarchy-smashing" feminists). Enter the backroom shenanigans of the RSU, which effectively put the kibosh on the entire thing.

Their objections have nothing to do with misogyny, safety, women, or even women's voices.

It has to do with feminism maintaining hegemony over any and all "official" and "officially sanctioned" discussions of gender issues. If you aren't looking at the problems of men through a feminist lens, even if you're a woman of color, then you end up pushed to the margins.

I would suggest the author of this piece look into the efforts of Anjana Rao, Argir Argirov and Sarah Santhosh to form a MIAS at Ryerson in 2013, and the concerted (and effective) efforts of the RSU, through arguably malfeasant methods, to deny them official club status.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Not guilty, and other thoughts...

So today, Jian Ghomeshi was found not guilty by a judge in an Ontario court on several counts of sexual assault and one count of choking.

The charges stemmed from three complainants who claim he slapped, punched and/or choked them during sexual encounters going back more than 10 years.

I'm not going to rehash all the nitty gritty details of the case here. For that, I will recommend watching Diana Davison's videos on the Ghomeshi trial, where she lays it all out for everyone to see. The problems with the case, the problems with the complainants, the problems with media coverage, the problems with the Crown's apparent new policy to #ListenandBelieve rather than thoroughly vet complaints of sexual assault.

I was watching live coverage by Global News Toronto this morning of the verdict, where they had a legal expert discussing the case and the live tweets emerging from the courtroom as the judge read his decision. Unlike in the Gregory Alan Elliott case, the judge in this case made everyone wait until his entire decision was read before declaring his verdict of not guilty on all counts. Because of this, there was plenty of ACTUAL discussion of the legal issues at hand, rather than bloviating on how the verdict might impact survivors of sexual assault.

The crux of the matter before the judge, in the absence of Ghomeshi presenting any affirmative defence (that is, Ghomeshi's counsel at no point said, "here's what REALLY happened", or even "here's what MIGHT have really happened") was the credibility of the complainants. This was not a prosecution based on "he said she said". He, being Ghomeshi, and his counsel, said nothing at all about what happened. It was constructed entirely on the basis of "she said"...

And what "she said" on the stand and to police and the Crown involved a lot of lying under oath. Like, a LOT of lying under oath.

The complainants were exposed as perjurers by defence counsel, and it was demonstrated that two of them were involved in months of collusion before and after their complaints to police were filed.

In a case where he offered no defence of himself, these complainants still managed to sabotage their own cases through their repeated and extensive lying outright, lying by omission and improper collusion with each other.

These women were hoist with their own petards. He offered no affirmative defence, no alternate account of events that conflicted with theirs, no evidence in his defence. All he had to do was let them destroy their own credibility as witnesses. And they could not have done a better job if they'd tried.

I have no idea whether Ghomeshi is actually guilty of what they claim he did. I DO know that the verdict was entirely proper. Any other verdict in light of the evidence would be a miscarriage of justice. As the judge said in his decision, every criminal case MUST begin with the presumption of innocence, and it must end with either certainty of what is true and what is not beyond a reasonable doubt, or a not guilty verdict. How can a judge decide that any witness is telling the truth about anything when they are shown to have repeatedly lied under oath? About relevant details?

The appropriate feminist hashtag for this trial should not be #IBelieveSurvivors, but #IBelieveLiars.

One thing the legal expert for Global News Toronto said on their livestream of the verdict was that victim advocates, while they will undoubtedly be upset about this verdict, should learn a lesson from this. They need to learn what actually goes on in a courtroom, and how the criminal law actually works. And they absolutely do need to do that.

If they spent more time figuring out how the law works and why it works the way it does, and less time bitching about how difficult that makes things for victims, maybe more victims would win their cases.

If the three complainants in this case had disclosed their interactions with Ghomeshi after the assaults, rather than lying about them, their credibility--what the entire case hinged on, in the opinion of the judge--might not have been demolished so exquisitely and systematically on the stand.

As I tweeted earlier today, something I rarely do: I don't know if Ghomeshi is guilty or not. I DO know that the complainants were all perjurers.

I am not willing to send someone to prison on the basis of the testimony of three individuals who are willing to repeatedly and persistently lie under oath. I'm sorry, but I'm just not.

So if there's one lesson a victim advocate could learn from this case, it's probably this: tell your victim that lying to police, prosecutors and the court about details relevant to her case is the most dumbfuck and counterproductive thing she could possibly do.

It is not the job of the court to decide what might have happened, or even what probably happened. It is the job of the court, based on values expressed in the Magna Carta that exist to curtail the ability of the state to become an agent of oppression, to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of the crime.

Stop telling victims that they should not be expected to prove their cases. Stop bitching that the rules, which have already been reformed beyond recognition, are still unfair and should be changed even more. Just learn what they are, and learn to live with them. Give victims sound legal advice, rather than a feminism-inspired pity party.

I will repeat. The presumption of innocence and due process of law exist not to allow rapists to get away with it. They don't even exist to keep any given innocent person out of prison. They exist primarily to prevent the state from becoming an agent of oppression. They exist to curtail the power of governments to persecute their citizens--all their citizens.

This necessarily means that some rapists will get away with it, just like some car thieves will, and some murderers will, and some child abusers will. But it also means that we are smart enough to hold our governments to a higher standard of fairness and justice than we do our rapists, car thieves, murderers and child abusers, because our governments have greater power and wherewithal to do harm to us than any one criminal does.

Stop fucking bitching and just do your jobs. Stop "reforming the system" and reform instead how you do your jobs. You'd probably find you win more cases.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Transcript | Feminism: Decline of the family and erosion of freedom

I was asked to speak at the Essentials of Freedom Conference hosted by the Economic Association of Alberta yesterday. EAA is a right wing libertarian group who asked me to speak in 2014 on the topic of political correctness. Footage of that brief speech can be found here.

Footage of this event will be uploaded eventually, at which point I'll post a link, but I wanted to post the transcript here for posterity. 

A lot of you who are familiar with this topic might think that feminism’s war against the nuclear family began in the 1960s with the second wave. Prominent writers, activists and thought leaders of that era certainly seemed to have quite the bone to pick with men, the nuclear family and the institution of marriage. 

Robin Morgan, Catherine McKinnon, Linda Gordon, Sheila Cronin, Andrea Dworkin, and others all viciously attacked marriage above and beyond any other foundational institution of society.

From Dworkin: “Marriage as an institution developed from rape as a practice.”

Gordon: “The nuclear family must be destroyed… Whatever its ultimate meaning, the break-up of families now is an objectively revolutionary process.”

Cronin: “Since marriage constitutes slavery for women, it is clear that the women’s movement must concentrate on attacking this institution. Freedom for women cannot be won without the abolition of marriage.”

Saner and more sedate feminists of the second wave objected to this kind of rhetoric. When equity feminist Christina Hoff Sommers told her husband what hardliners were saying about marriage and slavery, he reportedly asked her, “Which one of us is the master and which one of us is the slave again?”

But the feminist evolution of family life and marriage began long before the second wave. It was born in the discontent and resentments of radical suffragettes and militant feminists over a hundred years before. These women, some of whom you might be familiar with, also had many, many bones to pick with marriage as an institution, and family as a social construct.

1848 was a very interesting year for western civilization. It was notably the year the Communist Manifesto was published, but it was also in 1848 that another manifesto was published. This manifesto, known as the Declaration of Sentiments, was the end product of an historic conference on women’s rights held in Seneca Falls, New York. 

These two documents share some striking similarities. While the communist manifesto described society in terms of the class oppression by the elites of the working classes and called for revolution, the declaration of sentiments described society in terms of the class oppression by men of women. And it, too, called for revolution.

And a revolution followed.

According to the declaration of sentiments, 

“The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpation on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her.”

The document goes on to describe some of these injuries and usurpations. For the purposes of my talk, I will concentrate on those that relate to marriage and family:

He has made her, if married, in the eye of the law, civilly dead.
He has taken from her all right in property, even to the wages she earns.

He has so framed the laws of divorce, as to what shall be the proper causes of divorce, in case of separation, to whom the guardianship of the children shall be given; as to be wholly regardless of the happiness of the women [please keep that word--"happiness"--in mind as we continue]—the law, in all cases, going upon a false supposition of the supremacy of a man [and keep in mind the word "supremacy", as well], and giving all power into his hands.

If I had an hour or three, I could explain to you all how these grievances are based on half-truths at best, false premises at worst. But in the limited time I have here, I will hopefully be able to convey to you the nature of the juggernaut that was unleashed at Seneca Falls with the publishing of this document, and how it has corrupted the relationship between men and women in western societies. 

I’m going to talk about two of the solutions feminism applied to these grievances, and how those solutions have undermined the institution of marriage and family.

At the time of the publishing of the Declaration of Sentiments, the body of laws governing men’s and women’s status within marriage was called coverture. The focus of these laws was to provide a realistic balance of rights and responsibilities between husbands and wives. Given the era we’re talking about, this necessitated a different set of rights and responsibilities between husband and wife, with the bulk of both the authority and obligations for the family resting on the husband. 

To put it plainly, coverture held a man 100% accountable for all the material necessities of himself, his wife and any children born into the marriage. Failure to do so to a reasonable standard meant social death for a man, and, sometimes, criminal prosecution under abandonment laws. As such, he held authority over jointly held property and the incomes of all family members. 

The flipside of this is that women bore no accountability for any of the material necessities of themselves, their husbands or their children. And, as such, they were granted subordinate rights as to the administration of income and property. 

Not NO rights, mind you. Different ones. And they were also granted legal protections and entitlements within the body of the laws—things like dower rights, which required a man to obtain his wife’s permission before selling a house he owned, due to her life interest in the property. A man was, essentially, barred from selling his house out from under his wife and putting her in the street. 

While single women could hold property and earn income, and enter into contracts, in their own names, once they married, they came under the umbrella of coverture laws.

Beginning in the 1860s, that began to change across the western world. Through legislation and legal precedent lobbied for by feminists, women’s legal right to property within marriage gradually took on the aspect of, “What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is ours.”

This led to a number of legal complications. A married woman could, legally, enter into a contract like a loan, but it was her husband who was ultimately responsible for paying it back. She was assigned taxes on her income and property, but it was her husband who was ultimately responsible for paying them. And of course, he was forced by law to do so AFTER paying for all of her material necessities, and his, and the children’s, out of his own income. 

At the same time, he had lost any right or claim to administer her income and property, or to even demand she provide him documentation of it. He became entirely reliant on her voluntary goodwill and sense of personal responsibility to not abuse this imbalance of power. 

And, if you were so inclined, you could find some interesting stories from around 1910 of men jailed for tax evasion when their wealthy wives refused to pay their taxes, or to provide their husbands the necessary documentation to do so. 

When coverture laws were in effect, there were laws protecting women from a husband’s potential abuse of his greater authority. 

When feminists began dismantling that body of laws, they put nothing in place to protect men from a wife’s abuse of her new legal authority.

And abuse it, some women did, particularly in the case of legal separation. So long as neither party to the marriage could prove just cause for dissolving it, divorce was out of the question. But there were women who, for whatever reason, legally separated from their husbands, set up a separate residence at his expense, and were entitled to monthly alimony. Even if they were capable of supporting themselves, and even if they earned more money than their husbands. And if, after 5 or 10 years of legal separation, such a woman decided she wanted to move back in with her husband and he refused to take her back into his home? Yes, he could be charged with a crime—abandonment.

Alimony reform societies began to crop up in the US in the early 1900s through the 1920s, many of them led by enthusiastic and principled spokeswomen and promoted by female lawyers, judges and magistrates, to address the plight of the thousands of men mired in the limbo of legal separation and indefinite alimony, with no hope of remarrying or ever having legitimate children.

I can’t imagine this state of affairs did much to make marriage an attractive prospect for a man. I think such an arrangement might, to a man who had an understanding of the law, look like financial servitude. You know, like slavery. 

It would not be until after the failure in the 1960s of the Equal Rights Amendment in the US before case law began to catch up with this extraordinary situation regarding a married woman’s right to hold property as if she were single, while being entitled to the full financial support of her husband. 

How was this change brought about? Did feminists suddenly realize such a situation was unfair to husbands? Nope. They were vexed by the fact that, when applying for a loan, a woman was required by most lenders to provide the cosignature of the man who would be held ultimately responsible for repayment of the debt if she defaulted. 

They deemed this state of affairs to be “arbitrary sexism against women.” Only after this practice  by lenders had been made illegal did case law finally begin to catch up to the new reality, and women finally became legally responsible for debts they’d unilaterally entered into, and equally responsible for joint debts within marriage. 

But perhaps what had the greatest impact on the status of families in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was something called the Tender Years Doctrine.

This legal innovation, which has its origins in feminist advocacy in the UK in 1839, and was further expanded in 1873, changed the presumption of custody of a couple’s children following divorce from default father custody to default mother custody. 

Keep in mind, this set of legal standards and policies did not rest on the fitness, or lack thereof, of any particular parent, or the best interests of any particular child, but on the assumption that sole mother custody was in the best interest of all children.

Keep in mind as well, this new legal standard did not affect the financial responsibilities of either parent toward the children. The father still bore sole financial responsibility to maintain the household of his minor children, of which his ex wife was now the head. This necessarily meant that no matter who was at fault for the divorce, and no matter what the incomes of either party, it fell to the man to provide material support to his children, their household and their legal custodian and guardian.

In other words, back under the misogyny of coverture laws, men got the kids, and they also got the bill, and feminists deemed that to be “male supremacy”.

Under feminism? Women got the kids, and… well, men still got the bill. And not just the bill for the kids, but for his ex-wife who was now entitled to his support as the legal custodian and guardian of his children. A man was now responsible for supporting a family of which he was no longer a member, and within which he had no paternal rights. 

From the UK, the doctrine spread across the western world, because it served "women’s happiness."

Once it was in place, despite the extreme difficulty involved in obtaining a divorce at the time, the divorce rate, which had been consistently low for centuries, rose 15 fold in just 50 years.

These reforms essentially turned family break-up into a profitable enterprise for many women, removing the costs to women of separation and divorce, and tilting the balance of rights and obligations within marriage, and post-divorce, fully in women’s favor.

It was so profitable, in fact, that in the US in the 1910s and 20s, there were scam artists whose con was to marry a man, legally separate from him and collect alimony, move to another jurisdiction and take on an alias, marry another man, then legally separate from HIM… and, well, there were some women who were married to, and simultaneously collecting alimony from, 4 or 5 different men before they were caught and prosecuted—usually not for financial fraud, but for polygamy. 

Which I suppose was good news for the first poor guy she targeted, as he at least now had grounds for divorce and could now remarry.

Yep. Stuff you’ll never hear about in a gender studies class…

Yet despite all of this, by the 1960s, feminists seemed less enamored of marriage than ever. Betty Friedan famously called the institution a “comfortable concentration camp” in her 1963 breakout bestseller, “The Feminine Mystique.” The book was an interesting new take on the oppression of women, in that its thesis seemed to be that married middle class women were oppressed by boredom more than anything else. Modern conveniences had made the life of a middle class housewife so easy, she now had plenty of time to ruminate on how awful everything was. 

Less generous in her description of marriage was author and scholar Marylin French, who said:

"All patriarchists exalt the home and family as sacred, demanding it remain inviolate from prying eyes. Men want privacy for their violations of women... All women learn in childhood that women as a sex are men's prey."

The 1960s saw a massive spike in divorce rates in the US as a concerted campaign of slander against men, and “patriarchal” institutions such as marriage and family, began with political leaflets, small press magazines and books and protest rallies, from there, seeping into news media and popular culture. 

Hating men was the new black. All the cool kids were doing it. 

Following so closely on this spike in divorce that the lines on a graph are nearly indistinguishable from each other, was what would become a 30 year rise in the rates of crime. 

Why? Well, however a given woman might feel about divorcing her husband, it’s almost never very good news for the kids. 

Growing up without a father in the home is correlated with 2 to 10 times higher rates of being suspended or expelled from school, dropping out at all levels of education, not going to college at all, committing crimes, suffering depression, anxiety and behavioral disorders, becoming victims of violence and abuse, becoming teenage parents, having children outside of long term relationships, and committing suicide. They also have a much higher likelihood of getting involved in gangs, abusing alcohol and drugs, and being incarcerated as juveniles and adults. 

Statistically, the situation in which a child is most likely to suffer physical abuse or targeted neglect is in the sole physical custody of a single parent mother. 

Statistically, the situation in which children are safest and most likely to do well in life is in an intact family that includes their biological father. 

And for all of feminism’s rhetoric about domestic violence against women and the oppression of the marital institution? An intact family is the safest place for a woman, too. 

And yet every single reform to marital and family law over the last 150 years, most of it at the behest of the feminist lobby, has been to facilitate divorce and family break-up, and to physically separate men from their own children if the mother sees fit. 

More than this, feminism has helped to normalize the unilateral decision by many women to create families without the consent, cooperation or involvement of fathers. Under feminism’s watch, the word family has morphed into the phrase “women and their children”. In defiance of every credible piece of social science and social psychology research, fathers are now considered unnecessary to children, a superfluous luxury at best, a potential abuser at worst. 

And what does this mean for freedom? 

First off, it means more kids, particularly boys, being shunted into the school to prison pipeline. It means shifting the dependence of mothers from dependence on a marriage partner to dependence on state social programs and subsidies. It means men being jailed for the crime of being laid off and unable to comply with child support orders. It means the government taking money from men, shaving off their nickel or dime or quarter, and handing what’s left to women and children. It means massive government bureaucracies and legal structures that are ever more interested in micromanaging relationships between men and women, and between parents and their children.

It means the erosion of due process protections whenever an allegation is made of a man harming a woman, particularly if she is his intimate partner. 

It means protection orders that can be obtained within minutes at the drop of a hat without any evidence, or even any CLAIM, by a woman that her husband is violent—just the suggestion that she’s worried he might become violent.

It means ever bigger and hungrier government systems to deal with it all. It means higher taxes, more people in prison, and the government getting to decide how often a man will see his children, under what conditions, and how much he will have to pay for the privilege. 

Just a month ago, I received a phone call out of the blue from a complete stranger, the distraught brother of a man in Northern Alberta who’d been jailed on several charges.

His wife, a drug addict, had left the family home, abandoning him and their two children for almost a year. He made do for that year as a single father while dealing with occasional court appearances regarding custody of the children, appearances brought by his estranged wife, but for which she mostly didn’t bother to show up. 

One night, a couple of months ago, she showed up at his door asking to stay the night and suggesting they reconcile. He allowed her to sleep on the couch. In the middle of the night, she removed the kids from the home and took them to a domestic violence shelter less than two blocks away. The staff there helped her to apply for an emergency order of protection, which she was granted, and to file a police report alleging he’d physically abused her.  

The next day he was picked up by police on the domestic violence complaint, and was jailed for violation of a protection order he, until that point, had no idea existed. How was he in violation? His home was less than 500 meters from the domestic violence shelter his wife had absconded to. 

He'd had no idea there was a protection order, and no idea where she had gone with his children, but he was in violation, so off to jail he went.

False allegations of domestic violence and child abuse have become known to family court judges and family lawyers as “part of the gamesmanship of divorce”. Such allegations can be brought by both men and women, but because of feminist influence on policy, it is overwhelmingly women who bring them, and overwhelmingly women who are ultimately successful at winning the jackpot through their abuse of process. 

There are typically no penalties assigned for lying about abuse in a family court, and accusers are rarely prosecuted after making false criminal allegations of abuse to bolster their case in a divorce or custody dispute.

We have weaponized a system of laws and policies regarding family violence and protection of women that, while well-intentioned, violate our constitutional protections. 

More broadly in terms of feminism’s war on the family and its impact on wider society, I want to tell you about a small, poor ostensibly matriarchal culture called the Mosuo that exists in China, near its border with Tibet. They have no land worth stealing, produce little more than what they need to survive, most don’t have electricity or running water, and all of their technology has been borrowed from other cultures. They’ve become little more than a tourist attraction, tourism now forming the bulk of their tiny economy.

They have a very different form of marriage from us, and their neighbors, sometimes called “visiting” or “walking” marriage. What this amounts to is that a man might visit the room of his spouse after dark and must return to the communal quarters of his own family’s home before dawn. The children belong to the mother and are raised by her and her brothers, sisters and cousins. The father might provide the child with small gifts, but is not expected to invest anything in its care or upbringing--in fact, he's discouraged from doing so.

At the same time, the social organization of the mosuo was historically feudal, and historically the elites practiced a more traditional form of marriage. 

Anthropologists have speculated that the “visiting marriage” system had been imposed on the serf class by the elites in order to weaken their social fabric and eliminate any possible threat to the power of the elites to subjugate them. 

If that doesn’t scare you, I don’t know what will. 

We have seen an unprecedented cultural shift since feminism from the expectation of self-sufficiency to one where the state’s got everything taken care of. 

From our expectation of both men and women to make responsible reproductive choices that will facilitate positive outcomes for kids, to one where family courts willingly handicap kids in the name of the best interests of the child. 

Where one of the data points officials in the US use to determine how many prisons need to be built is the reading scores of 8 year old boys. 

And all the while, government gets bigger and more powerful and feminists lobby for ever more draconian measures to protect women and children from the very people who are the least likely to harm them—their husbands and fathers—and the very people who are most likely to shield them from poverty, harm and adversity.

The nuclear family is the foundation of every successful civilization, and what makes our families different from the families of our closest primate relatives—gorillas, bonobos, chimpanzees—and, indeed, from EVERY other species of mammal on the planet, is the expectation of voluntary investment, physical, financial, emotional and psychological, of every father in the children they help create.

You know. Marriage.

Feminists called that the enslavement of women, and were determined to destroy it. And we are now beginning to reap what they’ve sown. Millennial men are the first generation of young men in the US who will be, on average, less educated than their fathers. Young black men in the US have a 75% chance of being raised without a dad in the home, and a 33% likelihood of spending time behind bars.

Our social fabric is disintegrating from the bottom up, leaving all of us vulnerable. And whether this is merely the law of unintended consequences at work, or a tin-foil hat conspiracy by people with power and influence, the result will be the same. 

A bigger, more powerful, more intrusive government and an erosion of all our individual freedoms. 

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

In a world that values delusion over logic, one nerdy girl searches for... who the fuck knows?

It has been suggested to me by a couple of our patrons that I should remove this blog post or issue a retraction and an apology. 

While I sympathize with their feelings, I will endeavor to clarify here why this blog post isn’t going anywhere, and why I will not be issuing either a retraction or an apology.

Firstly, why I will not delete this post:

My personal approach to my online activity is that the memory hole does not exist. If I say something publicly, that statement will remain public. When I have made an error of fact that can be demonstrated to my satisfaction, my practice has always been to amend the post accordingly, making a note at the head and/or within the body of the post, highlighting and correcting the error rather than concealing it through stealth edits that hide my mistakes. 

This is how I do things, and how I have done them since I began speaking online, because I own my words, even if/when they are mistaken or false, and even if they are ill-advised or do not reflect well on me. 

Deleting an error is not owning it—highlighting the error and correcting it is. Deleting a post that you regret having made is not owning it—it’s washing your hands of it, and its consequences.

Secondly, why I will not issue a retraction:

To the best of my knowledge, nothing I have said in this post is factually incorrect. If it is brought to my attention that I have made an error of fact, I will amend it as per my normal practice.

Thirdly, why I will not apologize:

Every word of the post below was my genuine sentiment at the time, and still is. 

I will not abide accusations of me taking a private or internal conflict between HBB and a former associate and unfairly making it public. I reserve the right to publicly address false and potentially actionable allegations that have themselves been made in public. I did not take this “internal conflict” into the public sphere. The conflict was made public, and I answered it in public.

I will not accept accusations of unjustly “punching down” simply because the individual engaging in slander against my associates has a smaller platform than I do. I reserve the right to speak what I believe to be the truth, no matter who is on the receiving end, big or little, powerful or small-time, enemy or ally. 

I will not acknowledge any suggestion that the immorality of a false allegation is tied not to its falseness but to how privileged or disprivileged the accuser is. I will not entertain the notion that because someone is in a difficult situation or is less influential than I am, that I am not within my right to hit back when they unjustly attack me or those I care about who I believe are being unjustly maligned. Especially when they consider a past lack of response to be a license to escalate their attacks.

Finally, a word about my relationship with HBB:

HBB is not my employer. While we collaborate as associates and typically make decisions regarding HBB as a team, the blog post below was not a product of consensus, other than the agreement that some public statement had to be made by someone addressing the allegations that had been made against HBB. 

It was the consensus of most of the team members, before and after this conflict was made public, to try to make a clean break with a handshake, well-wishes and support for her future endeavors whatever they might be. 

However, the public nature of the false allegations, and their continuing escalation, eliminated that as an option. One of us had to address it, publicly and in kind. Being who I am, I volunteered on the condition that I was going to say whatever the fuck I chose.

No other member of the team saw this post before it was published. It was my decision to write it as I did, mean language and all, and to publish it here on my personal blog, where the other team members would have no editorial control over what I said. It does not reflect the sentiments of every team member, which is why it is published here. It is not an official statement from HBB—it’s my personal opinion. 

It remains my opinion, full stop. Unless it comes to my attention that I have expressed an error of fact, I do not, and will not, regret a single word of it, regardless of what any of the other team members, including Alison, might come to think or feel.

However, given the fact that this blog post was written in anger, and its tone reflects that, I will do everyone a favor and place it below the cut. 

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Transcript of my Talk at Simon Fraser University

Toxic Masculinity and Toxic Femininity:

“Were you drunk when you seemed so hopeful before? Have you gone to sleep and woken up green and pale in fear of this idea? From now on this is what I’ll think of your love. Are you afraid to act the way you desire? Will you take the crown you want so badly, or will you live as a coward, always saying “I can’t” after you say “I want to”? You’re like the poor cat in the old story.”
“Please, stop! I dare to do only what is proper for a man to do. He who dares to do more is not a man at all.”
“If you weren’t a man, then what kind of animal were you when you first told me you wanted to do this? When you dared to do it, that’s when you were a man. […] I have suckled a baby, and I know how sweet it is to love the baby at my breast. But even as the baby was smiling up at me, I would have plucked my nipple out of its mouth and smashed its brains out against a wall if I had sworn to do that the same way you have sworn to do this.”

Thanks to everyone for coming, thank you to the SFU advocacy for men and boys society for arranging this event, and thank you Theryn for recommending the topic for this presentation.

I’m not sure whether I’ve ever been handed a more thorny topic to explore and discuss, but I’m going to do my best to keep it clean, level-headed and rational.

I know Theryn had sauce for gooses and ganders in mind when she suggested this topic to me, and I can’t really blame her. Toxic Masculinity is such a commonly discussed (and abused) discussion topic, it barely rates a raised eyebrow when it comes up in conversation. 

On the other hand, Toxic Femininity is a taboo subject. It’s been so taboo for so long, I could probably convince some ordinary people that it’s a brand new idea that has never before been conceived of, let alone discussed and explored. 

Most of the people who talk about Toxic Femininity are called misogynists. Most of those who discuss toxic masculinity call themselves feminists. 

So. How would your average feminist define toxic masculinity? I’m almost positive that, despite how feminist rhetoric comes across, no feminist would define it as the notion that all masculine traits are harmful to men or others. 

They would instead define it as a complex of harmful ideals, expectations and behaviors intrinsic to masculinity and supported by culture, that are encapsulated in the phrase “patriarchy hurts men too”. To quote the website “geek feminism”, which was the first google hit when I searched “toxic masculinity 101”: A set of socially constructed attitudes that describe the masculine gender role as violent, unemotional, sexually aggressive, and so forth.

Now, geek feminism is an interesting website in the number and degree of its contradictions. Let’s look at some of their examples of these socially constructed attitudes:

First on the list: The pervasive idea of male-female interactions as competition, not cooperation.

Now I don’t know about you (and no, I’m not a traditionalist), but the basis of traditional gender roles has always been one of complementarianism, not competition. Division of labor and roles was considered as essential in marriage as it is on a football team, because that’s what traditional family was: a team. The majority of both men and women in traditional societies, in our past and today in other parts of the world, tend to share this outlook. Husbands and wives are encouraged to embrace different, but equally important, roles precisely so that male-female interactions are cooperative rather than competitive. 

Love, honor and obey vs love honor and cherish. And oh, how the feminists of yesteryear railed against that one difference. The admonition that women obey their husbands was considered demeaning, subjugating and oppressive. But let’s look at the other side of the equation, through Ephesians 5:25: 

“Husbands, love your wives, as The Messiah also loves his church and gave himself up for her sake.” In other words, he should be prepared to die for her, to sacrifice himself for her benefit.

For centuries, these complementary roles of men and women were taken as a given. 

Then, in 1848, a group of angry, mostly privileged, mostly upper middle class white women descended on the town of Seneca Falls in New York and produced a list of grievances essentially declaring war between men and women. In it they described the history of humanity to be one of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman. In response to this growing trend, female anti-suffragettes writing to the Illinois legislature in 1909 had this to say: 

“It is our fathers, brothers, husbands, and sons who represent us at the ballot-box.
Our fathers and our brothers love us; our husbands are our choice and one with us; our sons
are what we make them. We are content that they represent us in the corn-field; on the
battle-field, and at the ballot-box, and we them in the school room, at the fireside, and at the

Of course, such an attitude of cooperation rather than competition requires a woman’s respect and affection for, and her trust in, the men in her life, an ethic of care and reciprocity by men toward women, and a spirit of mutual human destiny, whereby it is understood that any harm to a woman will be felt as a harm to the men in her life, and any harm to a man will likewise be suffered by the women in his life. In 1909, no less than in 1848, this was the attitude of the overwhelming majority of both women and men. 

And what did that view boil down to? The sexes are not in competition. The sexes are meant to cooperate, each with each, in their own way. The Declaration of Sentiments, out of Seneca Falls, was the opening salvo in what has become 165 years of gender warfare. 

Yet somehow, in 2015, feminists are claiming that a competitive view of gender relations is a traditional, patriarchal norm?


Next on the list of “geek feminism’s” examples of toxic masculinity: The pervasive idea that men cannot truly understand women, and vice versa--and following, that no true companionship can be had between different sexes.

I have one word for you: “mansplaining.” Or how about this: “you have no idea what it’s like to be a woman. Check your male privilege.” I hear this kind of thing from feminists all the time. 

I also hear lots of talk about women’s common lived experience, sisterhood, and women’s ways of knowing… from feminists. I hear lots of talk about women being able to bring something different to the table regarding politics or corporate boards or questions of ethics and policy, as if men cannot be trusted to understand where women are coming from in terms of being capable of representing their interests. Can you guess from whom?

Moving on: The idea that a Real Man cannot be a victim of abuse, or that talking about it is shameful.

I could take this time to cite dozens, perhaps hundreds, of examples of feminist scholars who have for decades minimized or concealed altogether the prevalence of male victims of intimate partner violence. I could take this time to explain how noted feminist sexual violence expert Mary Koss excluded male victims of female sexual coercion by definition during her tenure as consultant with the CDC. I could show you screen shots of thousands of comments I’ve read by feminists (and others) insisting that female on male abuse is infinitesimally rare, and if it isn’t, well, it’s “just different” because it’s not as bad, or not as potentially lethal, or not as systemic, or not as institutionalized or not as supported by patriarchy, or just “because reasons”. I could tell you how Erin Pizzey was forced to flee her home and her country by a concerted decade-long harassment campaign by feminists, all for daring to say that women are sometimes violent too, and men are sometimes victims, and how the mere idea of that inflamed militant feminists to the point of bomb and death threats. I could detail the travails of Murray Straus and his brave colleagues who were the first to publish research demonstrating gender symmetry in intimate partner violence, and name what group it was that put them through the gamut of abuse, shunning, blacklisting, threats, false accusations and career sabotage, but I don’t think you need me to.

It seems to me that within feminism’s paradigm, men, cannot be considered real victims of abuse, or at least cannot be victims deserving equal consideration and concern, and that talking about it is not just shameful in feminist circles, but punishable. And if you challenge their attitudes in any real way, well, you’re probably going to get called a whiny, crybaby loser who lives in his mother’s basement and can’t get laid. That is: not a real man.

Men are just like that: the expectation that Real Men are keenly interested in sex, want to have sex, and are ready to have sex most if not all times

And here, I am just going to quote feminist Mary Koss’s justification for excluding forced envelopment from the category of rape in the CDC’s research:

“Although men may sometimes sexually penetrate women when ambivalent about their own desires…” 

Ambivalent about their own desires? Sounds a lot like she’s saying, “well, they wanted it, they just didn’t realize they wanted it, but they pretty much wanted it…”

“Though not reinforced much in fictional media, in real life it is widely expected that a man would abandon his pregnant girlfriend, and is incapable and/or unwilling to take responsibility.”

This is an interesting one, given that the primary function of traditional marriage has always been to accurately identify the fathers of children, and hold those fathers responsible, financially and practically, for the support and wellbeing of those children and their mothers. 

Shotgun weddings. He’ll do his duty by her. 

Then there’s the fact that our entire legal and bureaucratic structure around men and family is poised to assign and enforce paternal responsibility. Even on men who did not consent to become fathers—and, appallingly, even on men who did not consent to the sex that made them into fathers, such as one 14 year old boy in the US who was raped by a 35 year old woman (a crime for which she served two years in prison) and then forced to her pay child support out of his paper route.

The hard and statistically supported truth is that non-custodial mothers, though less numerous overall, are more likely than non-custodial fathers to be in arrears on child support, are more likely to refuse to pay it altogether, and are at the same time much less likely to be jailed for failing to pay. 

And the judges and legislators responsible for all of it? Mostly men, progressive or conservative, enforcing traditionally masculine responsibilities on other men. I don’t know if you all remember Obama’s father’s day address a few years ago, where he chastised black fathers for being deadbeats? I’m only surprised he wasn’t wearing his “this is what a feminist looks like” t-shirt while doing it.

The masculinity men expect from each other, and have for millennia, is one that rigidly reinforces paternal responsibility. 

If it is assumed that men will try to cheese out on that responsibility, it is certainly not allowed. Not by society, not by other men, and certainly not within patriarchal traditions. In fact, Legal Paternal Surrender—the right of a man to refuse the obligations of parenthood if he didn’t consent to be a father—is one of the most heatedly opposed policy changes suggested by men’s advocates. It’s opposed by the vast majority of both traditional conservatives and progressive feminists.

Meanwhile, there are hundreds of thousands of fathers across the west who are financially supporting their children while simultaneously being denied reasonable access to them by their mothers with the tacit support of lackadaisical, apathetic family courts.

And what does the largest feminist organization in the US, the national organization for women, have to say about father’s rights groups? 

That they are an abuser’s lobby, campaigning for more effective paternal custody and access rights not out of love for their children, or a sense of responsibility to provide them with nurturance and and support, but out of a desire to abuse and harass their estranged female partners, or to get out of paying child support. 

Sounds like toxic masculinity to me.

Meanwhile, a 2008 study out of Indiana University reported:

“Contrary to stereotypes about sexual performance and masculinity, men interviewed in a large international study reported that being seen as honorable, self-reliant and respected was more important to their idea of masculinity than being seen as attractive, sexually active or successful with women.

“Regardless of age or nationality, the men more frequently ranked good health, harmonious family life and good relationships with their wife or partner as more important to their quality of life than material, self-fulfilling or purely sexual concerns.”

I seem to be seeing a pattern here.

But you know, I want to go a layer or three deeper than feminists tend to in my discussion of toxic gender norms, because clearly, as I outlined above, these ladies haven’t really thought it all through. 

After all, if they oppose toxic masculinity because “patriarchy hurts men too”, and want to change and challenge the attitudes that lead to it, they probably wouldn’t be among the worst offenders when it comes to enforcing, endorsing and normalizing them, would they? I mean think about it. Even Fox News will admit that fathers get a shit deal in family court, and too often lose meaningful relationships with their children for no good reason. It’s only feminists who claim that men fighting for their right to remain fathers to their children are probably violent abusers, or are only attempting to avoid their proper (financial) paternal responsibility by faking a greater interest in a day to day caring role.

So, down we go, into the mess of things. Going a little deeper, the causes become simpler, even as the outcomes become more diverse. 

What feminists claim are expectations that real men should be violent, unemotional and sexually aggressive, we will look at in other terms. 

Men are expected to be competent actors. Violence is a form of action. Sexual aggression (or, on the less extreme section of the spectrum, sexual proceptivity) is a form of action. And emotional mastery, despite what feminists will tell you about women’s greater emotional intelligence, is a form of competence.

I would suggest to everyone here when you go home tonight, to do a search on Youtube. A good search term would be “everyday heroes” or “real life heroes”. There are several compilations out there, all of people doing things, big or small, risky or just thoughtful, to help out people they don’t even know. In one scene I recall, a elderly woman is standing in a blizzard waiting to cross a busy street in Eastern Europe. A man stops his car in the middle of the road to block traffic, turns on his flashers, gets out and helps her to the other side. In another scene, a man waiting for the subway passes out and falls onto the tracks. Dozens of women on the platform start frantically trying to flag down the train, but it’s a man who jumps down onto the tracks. And it’s another man who helps to pull the unconscious fellow and the other guy back up before the train comes. In another scene, a motorcyclist is pinned under a burning car. Mostly male bystanders rush in and push the vehicle off of him and pull him to safety. In another, a truck is stalled on some railway tracks, and a man pushes the vehicle to safety, only narrowly avoiding being hit by the train himself. 

It’s quite amazing, really, when you think about it. 

And one thing you will notice while watching these videos. Almost without exception, time after time after time after time, it is men doing these things. 

Every one of those men took action, and they were able to do so because they had mastery over their emotions. They set aside, intentionally or otherwise, their panic, their doubt, their fear, their anxiety, their own desires or needs, and in many cases their safety, and they acted in the service of a greater good. 

That is the essence of masculine identity in all cultures, through all times. The ability to master one’s own fears and doubts and take action, whether it’s to track down an outlaw, murder a rival, avenge a loved one, run into a burning building or leap into a river in flood to save a stranger, stand fast on a battlefield, take responsibility for a female partner’s wellbeing. 

Or even transform his own rape into a notch on his belt.

I’m going to use the example of an 11 year old boy who was recently raped by his then 20 year old babysitter. The perpetrator had been sexually involved with the boy’s father, and knew the boy’s age. Somehow, she managed to convince the judge that she believed this boy was 15.

And somehow, somehow, the father’s testimony that his son was “sex mad” and saw the incident as a notch on his belt was given more weight than the boy’s testimony that he did not enjoy the experience because he knew it was wrong. 

The woman was given a suspended sentence. Yes, no jail time. She has to register as a sex offender, but only for 7 years, and her probationary supervision and restrictions will only last for two years. 

Her defence attorney had this to say: she was vulnerable and had a hard upbringing, spending two years in hospital with leukaemia between the ages of five and seven. The judge added that she was very immature, reducing the age difference in terms of relative levels of emotional development. 

So the conclusions in this case are as follows:

  • the boy essentially wanted it, and was not harmed by it (even though by his own testimony he did not enjoy it and believed it was wrong)
  • the woman was at the mercy of her own emotions which she could not be expected to control, because the circumstances of her life had been difficult
  • the boy managed to convince her that he was not 11 but 15, despite the fact that she knew he was 11, and so he brought it on himself
  • men commenting on this case are much more likely than women to say “I only wish I was that kid” or “lucky bastard” or any number of other sentiments that erase the fact that he was a victim of something he did not choose or want

There are very few cases where the difference between the assumptions and expectations of masculinity and femininity are more clear than this one.

Masculine identity centers almost entirely around perceptions of agency (one's own perceptions, and the perceptions of others). 

Feminine identity, on the other hand, is much more capable of assuming "object" status (and please let me be clear. I’m not using the word “object” in the sense of dehumanization. There's a very good paper that essentially discredits the idea that objectification necessarily = dehumanization, and I can provide the links if anyone wants them after we’re done). 

For the purpose of this talk, I am going by these basic definitions:

Agents make things happen. Objects have things happen to them.

A great deal of our cultural discourse around men and women (including a huge amount of feminist discourse) is about the things men DO to women and the things women SUFFER at the hands of men, reinforcing men's status as agents and women's status as objects.

Admitting that you have been victimized, that something has happened to you that you did not want, choose or cause in any way whatsoever, is much easier for women than it is for men, and much easier for others to accept and acknowledge regarding women than men, because it does not conflict with the cultural or inner perception of what is Woman. 

A woman can be a victim and still be perceived as a woman. A man cannot be a victim and remain a man in the eyes of others and often even himself. 

This is particularly true regarding the ways men are vulnerable *because they are men*. I can’t even convey to you the number of times I’ve managed to convince a man that yes, males are the majority of victims of violence, and that yes, no matter the gender of the perpetrator, violence is more likely to be perpetrated on a male than a female, and that yes, this pattern begins before age 1, when parents start hitting their sons 2 to 3 times as often as they hit their daughters…. only to have that man stick to his guns and insist that violence is a bigger problem for women, and that society doesn’t take it seriously enough. That the VAWA and the thousands of beds in shelters and the mandatory arrest policies and all the rest of don’t go far enough to deal with the problem of violence against women. And they will often say this moments after they have conceded that violence is a larger, more ubiquitous problem for men, and even when they have accepted that women are as likely to be violent with men as men are to be violent with women. 

If toxic masculinity is exemplified by the assumption that men cannot be Real Men if they are victims, then toxic femininity is the assumption that women are uniquely victims, and that their identity as women is partially defined by their victimhood. Their victimhood at the hands of men, at the hands of patriarchy, at the hands of the beauty industry, at the hands of rape culture, male privilege, toxic masculinity and institutionalized sexism. It is the assumption that the multitudes of studies demonstrating that they are often not unique victims—that men are equally likely to be victims of sexual and physical violence, sexist assumptions, negative stereotypes and rigid gender expectations imposed on them by all of society, including progressives and feminists—that these studies are wrong or false or “problematic”. 

I can’t begin to tell you the number of times I have actually convinced a black man that “driving while black” is actually “driving while black and male”, and that it would probably never happen to his mother or sister, only to have him insist less than a minute later that his maleness is not a factor in his experiences of being targeted by police, and that he’s never felt discriminated against for being a man, and that black women still have it worse.

Anything to not be seen as a victim, or a potential victim, because you are MALE, because THAT, my friends, means that you are not an agent, and therefore not a real man. It is women who are acted upon. It is women who are objects who do not act, but rather endure the acts of others. If WOMEN are the victim class, then a man who admits to being a victim cannot remain a man. 

And when it comes to interactions with the opposite sex, this tendency is even greater, because of that pesky notion that women don't actually do things, but instead have things done to them, while men are the ultimate cause of things happening.

What could undermine a man's sense of agency, which is so central to his cultural identity, more effectively than being raped by an "object"? Much better to treat that rape like a notch on your belt, and pretend to revel in the high fives.

You can see this in relation to physical violence too. A man hits a woman? There's no excuse that can ever justify it. There is nothing she could possibly have DONE to deserve it. A woman hits a man? "I wonder what he DID to deserve that? I bet he was cheating on her... Maybe he was getting fresh with her..." All of these actions we will attribute to him in our own thoughts, kind of automatically, that will transform her action into a *re*action to some initial action on his part. Our instant assumption is that her violence was provoked, or self-defensive, or even due to some other thing outside of her control, like PMS or a mental disorder or whatever, because we will resist seeing her as an agent in whom a desire to act can can be originated and then taken. 

And our assumption regarding the victimized man is that he chose or caused what happened in some way (or at the very least, he could taken some action and stopped it from happening). He remains the agent in the scenario.

So let’s go back and see what we can discern of toxic femininity in some of Geek Feminism’s list of toxically masculine norms, shall we?

First up: The pervasive idea of male-female interactions as competition, not cooperation.

What has feminism been but the demand by a minority of women to do away with male-female cooperation and redefine men and women as opposing teams? Redefine marriage as an institution designed to exploit women for men’s benefit? Redefine the sexes as if they were nations at war. The first inklings of this mindset can be found in the Declaration of Sentiments, and they linger even now in feminism’s constant lament about wage gaps and the lack of female representation in STEM or on corporate boards. 

This assumption is not a patriarchal norm. It’s a feminist one. It’s not toxic masculinity, it’s toxic femininity.

Or this one: “Though not reinforced much in fictional media, in real life it is widely expected that a man would abandon his pregnant girlfriend, and is incapable and/or unwilling to take responsibility.”

Traditional masculinity has been constructed largely to hold men responsible for the children they help create. In fact, it was part of what could be considered to be a tradition of masculine honor, socially constructed and institutionally reinforced by males themselves. If there are any feminists in the audience, I would like to ask you: do you agree with legally enforced child support? Do you think men should be held legally financially responsible for children they didn’t agree to create because they gave their consent to the obligations of parenthood when they had sex? 

More than this: what about women? “If she didn’t want kids, she should have kept her legs together.” Is that acceptable or appropriate to say? Then why is it acceptable or appropriate for people, including many, many feminists I’ve talked to, to say, “he made his choice when they had sex.”?

For women, largely due to feminist advocacy, sex and reproduction have been decoupled. While there is such a thing as an accidental pregnancy, there is no such thing as an accidental birth, nor accidental motherhood, since even after birth women have a de jure and de facto right to walk away from that obligation. Motherhood is not the result of an accident, and it’s certainly not something men do to women through the massive patriarchal power of their ejaculations—not in this day and age. It’s the result of a series of unilateral decisions on the part of any given woman. No woman in the west is forced to consent to becoming a mother just because she had sex.

Yet feminism has only further codified the patriarchal norm that men should be held responsible for the children they help create, despite the fact that nowadays women hold unilateral power of decision over whether or not they themselves will become a parent.

When I talk about Legal Paternal Surrender, the impression I get from feminists is that a man’s single decision and action—to ejaculate—is to them as powerful, if not more powerful, than a woman’s entire gamut of autonomous reproductive decisions.

He “got” her pregnant. And the baby? Well, the baby just “happened”. 

Again, we force men into the role of active agent who can affect those around them, and women into the role of passive object at the mercy of outside forces. And if an abortion is more difficult or costly to obtain than a haircut? Well, she’s the victim of that, too, isn’t she?

We assign him agency even when he doesn’t have it, and hold him responsible, yet for all her power, she is still the victim.

So. Here we kind of come full circle. If much of “toxic masculinity” is based on the assumption that men are agents, much of “toxic femininity” is based on the assumption that women are objects who are acted upon, and therefore unique victims.

And this is where things get sticky, because as Warren Farrell once said, “men’s greatest weakness is their facade of strength, and women’s greatest strength is their facade of weakness.”

So why? Why would this be? Why do we see men and women in these ways? Why do men avoid being perceived as victims (at least in terms of being victims AS MEN), while women increasingly seem to revel in an identity steeped in how they are acted upon?

Well, in my opinion, it’s for the same reason societies have always gone out of their way to preserve women and children, often at the cost of men’s lives. 

A feminist recently posed the question in the comments section of another feminist’s video: why are women cold all the time? Why does the air conditioning make me shiver while my husband feels just fine? 

The answer is, because for the most intense period of human evolution—the pleistocene, or ice age—a period where a half dozen other bipedal hominid species went extinct, women shared their immediate environment, including its hazards and comforts, with their much more vulnerable children. Women can survive the cold as readily as any man, but they are more sensitive to it because their children could not. Being sensitive to the cold meant that women were alerted to the risk of it to their children, who were more vulnerable to it. That increased the chances of survival for their children.

On the flip side, men were expected to venture far afield in all types of weather to bring in food. For men during that period, being insensitive to the cold increased the chances of survival for their children. 

This is just how men and women evolved. We evolved in tandem. We evolved in roles that reflected a division of labor. 

And that brings us back around to Lady Macbeth.

The bit of Shakespeare I quoted in the beginning is an archetypical literary example of toxic femininity. A woman, hungry for power and status above her own, goads her husband to murder the king. She goads him by undermining his masculinity. She goads him through shame. She goads him by revoking his man card. And at the end, she goads him by telling him she’s more of a man than he is, more honorable in her promises, and more willing to sacrifice something dear to her to preserve that honor.

Shakespeare knew men and women at least this well, though I have often wondered if his view of lady Macbeth was a little rosy. Later in the play, driven mad by guilt over her role in the murder of King Duncan, she commits suicide. I have always wondered if a fan-fiction alternate ending might have been more realistic—one where she feels no guilt, and where, standing in a field of dead, her own husband among them she attaches herself to the nearest powerful man and regales him with stories of how Macbeth was a cruel and vicious husband with no love in his heart. 

Why would I think Lady Macbeth would do this? Because she can, yo.

Friday, 11 December 2015

Script of my response to SFU's GSWSSU's open letter...

On December 8, 2015, Simon Fraser University's Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies Student Union wrote an open letter to SFU's Advocacy for Men and Boys Society in regard to my November 8 lecture on Toxic Masculinity and Toxic Femininity.

The full text of the letter can be found here.

I posted a video response to their letter, which can be found here. Some individuals have asked if I could post a transcript. I'll post here the script I used when filming, which will likely differ slightly from the video version

To the SFU Advocacy for Men and Boys Club,
We the Communication Graduate Caucus and the Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies Student Union write this open letter to express our concern with your November 8 2015 event, “Toxic Masculinity & TOXIC FEMININITY” co-sponsored by the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) and the Canadian Foundation for Equality (CAFE). We are not alone in our concerns. Both the Teaching Support Staff Union (TSSU) and the Simon Fraser Public Interest Research Group (SFPIRG) are troubled by this event and by what seems to be the rise of anti-feminist and anti-woman activism on campus. SFPIRG will be releasing their own open letter soon.
We believe that your student fee-funded club is not organizing in good faith and that you are using men’s issues as a way to attack feminism. 

For decades, men’s advocates attempted to organize in ways that did not oppose feminism’s stated principles nor its underlying methodologies. Many of these advocates described themselves as feminists and were active within the broader feminist movement. Not only were their efforts ineffective in raising awareness for the problems faced by men and boys, their most vocal opponents were the very feminists who had been their allies. 

During the 1970s and 80s, the men’s movement split into two main factions: the mythopoetic men’s movement which remained firmly allied with feminism, and one comprised of non-feminists and anti-feminists that has become the modern men’s rights movement.

Which of these movements has been more successful in bringing public attention to the problems faced by men and boys? 

More than this, men’s rights activists did not start this ideological war. Since 1979, researchers like Murray Straus and philanthropists like Erin Pizzey have been systematically silenced, marginalized and intimidated by feminists for the sin of unearthing and disclosing facts that run counter to feminism’s “patriarchy” narrative. 

People conducting solid social science research into family violence have been attempting to address the existence of male victims and female perpetrators for almost 40 years, and it has been feminists blocking them at every turn. 

That these individuals and many others have set themselves in opposition to feminism is not “using men’s issues to attack feminism”, but rather a necessary component to the addressing of men’s issues. Governments across the west are using a feminist model of family violence that men’s advocates believe is wrong-headed and inadequate. This model is the primary barrier for male victims seeking victim services or justice in the criminal system. There is no way to remove these barriers without removing the feminist model from our laws and policies, and there is no way to remove the feminist model without saying, “feminists got it wrong.”

That is not “attacking feminism” for the sake of attacking feminism. It is simply reality. 

You seem to be framing feminism and efforts to address sexism as being in necessary opposition to the interests of boys and men – we see this as a false polarity. 

Feminism no longer gets to enjoy a monopoly on describing what sexism is, or mandating how to address it. Where feminism stands in opposition to the interests of boys and men, men’s rights activists will necessarily stand in opposition to feminism. 

If and when feminism ceases to be a barrier to addressing men’s issues, many men’s rights activists will gratefully cease to oppose it. When governments cease using the feminist model of family violence, or when feminists adjust their model to comply with reality rather than their ideology, men’s rights activists will no longer have a reason to stand in opposition to feminism on that issue. 

Until that day, men’s rights activists will necessarily oppose the feminist model and the theoretical framework it was based on. 

You claim that your club and your events are not anti-feminist, even as you invite anti-feminist speakers […]

Groups which are not specifically feminist or anti-feminist may be interested in hearing both feminist and anti-feminist speakers. 

It is called a free marketplace of ideas. It is called not existing in an echo chamber. It is called diversity of discourse.  

[…] and brand your posters with a biohazard graphic surrounding a sign historically used in Western culture to symbolize womanhood. That is an extremely offensive, hostile, and aggressive move coming from a group that claims not to hate women and seek only to help men and boys. 

A poster that uses a symbol for “toxic” and a symbol for “femininity” to advertise a talk that would explore the idea of “toxic femininity” is somehow inappropriate or hateful of women? Would the GSWSSU be raising the same complaint if the talk had been about toxic masculinity and had used similar symbolism on its posters? Would you be crying misandry and hostility? Would you take offence? It was feminism that first put the word “toxic” side by side with a gender. To now complain about visual symbolism that accurately reflects feminism’s own choice of words (toxic), simply because men’s rights activists served up some sauce for the goose, is sexist and reactionary.

We ask, how does that help raise awareness of men’s issues or help them in any way?

How do feminist discussions of toxic masculinity help raise awareness of women’s issues or help them in any way? Toxic masculinity has been a fixture in feminist discourse for decades, yet somehow the mere broaching of the concept of a toxic femininity is off limits to men’s advocates? 

This is nothing but special pleading, sexism and a knee-jerk defence of feminism’s ideological turf. Will feminism now claim that there are no socially reinforced attitudes and behaviors attached to femininity that are harmful to women, men or society? Will feminism now claim that toxic behaviors ascribed to femininity do not have the capacity to harm men or boys? 

Again, feminism has enjoyed a monopoly on these types of discussions for too long, and has become little more than an echo chamber where robust debate and the vigorous challenging of their ideas is framed as misogyny. This hegemony feminism holds over the discourse should be regularly contested and scrutinized for that reason alone. 

Whether my talk helped raise awareness of men’s issues is a question that should be asked of the people in the audience. 

You claim that your use of this is justified because feminists discuss toxic masculinity, but the idea of toxic masculinity has nothing to do with declaring men or masculinity to be inherently toxic. Rather it is a critique of dominant discourses of masculinity, and the belief that these forms of masculinity harm people of all genders, men and boys included. 

And here I discover that you didn’t watch my talk, or if you did, you were not being an “active listener”. At no time did I claim feminism declares men or masculinity to be inherently toxic. In fact, I specifically stated at the outset that feminists would not define toxic masculinity in that way. 

I used a definition of toxic masculinity from a feminist website that was the first google hit using the search term “toxic masculinity 101”. 

My own talk was a critique of dominant cultural discourses of femininity, with an emphasis on how these forms of femininity harm people of all genders, women and girls included. 

Further, when feminists talk about toxic masculinity, we ask what we can do collectively to remedy its effects. 

Again, someone was not “actively listening”, given what was discussed in the Q&A section. 

We do not invite speakers like Karen Straughan who promote ideas that men are irrational subjects who commit violence against women because they cannot find consenting sexual partners. But you do.

Given that you linked to a comment thread with almost 600 comments, rather than to whatever comment it where you claim I said this, I simply have no answer to that. If the GSWSSU wants me to address a statement they believe I have made, it might behoove them to link to that statement. 

You claim that men are oppressed by feminism. 

Who claims this? Is this part of the mission statement of SFUAMB? If so, I can take no responsibility for it. However, there is only one instance of any variant of the word “oppress” in the entirety of my speech at SFU, and it was in reference to feminist beliefs regarding women’s oppression.

You seem skeptical of the validity behind social issues such as men’s violence against women and the gendered wage gap, presenting flimsy evidence in an attempt to discredit us and deny our incredibly well-documented lived experiences. 

The most credible social science research demonstrates that no matter the gender of the perpetrator, violence is more likely to be targeted at men and boys than women or girls, starting before the age of 1. 

Male violence against women is a thing. It exists. What does not exist is a culture or a system of institutions that condones and normalizes it. We have legislation and policy enacted specifically to address male violence against women because 1 in 3 women will be raped or assaulted in their lifetimes. For the 1 in 1 men who will be, we have nothing special. 

The wage gap is a thing. It exists. What does not exist is a 23 percent wage gap where women are paid less than men for the exact same work. Even the American Association of University Women was compelled to admit as much in their most recent research on the topic. I’ll convey to them the “flimsiness” of their evidence if you like. 

These claims are ridiculous and insulting. 

So what? 

But we will acknowledge some of the valid points you make. You cite elevated suicide rates, workplace injuries/fatalities, and child custody decisions as examples of issues men face. Many feminists acknowledge that men deal with these issues and actively work on them. 

Citation needed. Please, show me one feminist organization who has successfully backed a shared custody bill. I can show you many who successfully quashed one, despite overwhelming bipartisan public support for it.

That is why some of us specifically focus on challenging hegemonic models of masculinity that sanction men for expressing emotions. 

Is this where you call MRAs whiny piss-babies? Maybe take a swig from your male tears coffee mug?

Oh, wait. Now I get it. If we just convince Joe Schmoe that it’s okay to cry, the judge will totally give him reasonable custody of his kids. We don’t need changes to the laws or policies—what we need is for men to change themselves and thereby society’s conceptualization of masculinity before they’re allowed to maybe have equal parental rights. 

This is why many feminists support socialist governments that fund mental health. It is why many feminists support unionisation and occupational safety efforts to end worker exploitation. 

Why yes, I’m sure you’re willing to allow men to benefit as a side effect of your advocacy for women. But somehow, the ratio of deaths and maimings on the job has remained constant for decades, and men’s suicide rates have actually increased in many western countries, not only as a proportion of suicides, but as a proportion of population. 

It is also why so many feminists seek to end women’s economic dependence on men by challenging the wage gap and the patriarchal assumption that women are “naturally” suited for childcare. 

But not by supporting alimony reform legislation, or shared custody bills, nor by opposing flawed models of family violence that assume men are always the primary aggressors and therefore less likely to be fit to parent. 

Instead, you feminists do it by calling father’s rights groups not a movement for justice but an abuser’s lobby, whose primary goal is to help men abuse children and ex-partners and to get out of paying child support. 

And yes, you feminists challenge the wage gap. #giveyourmoneytowomen How about the “man tax” that feminists have suggested? Or giving bonuses based on vaginas that one university in Australia is doing? Government programs to help women make ends meet? 

Where do you think all that money is coming from, ladies? It’s primarily coming from men. If women are getting bonuses and men are not, those men are subsidizing those bonuses. Men pay over 75% of the taxes into the system. Every government program to help mitigate the wage gap depends on men’s money. 

So your answer to the problem of women being economically dependent on a man is to make women economically dependent on all men. Brava!

Those of us working on these issues believe that our work benefits everybody, and yet you still cling to the belief that our work advantages women while disadvantaging men.

Florida’s chapter of the National Organization for Women convinced the governor of that state to veto alimony reform legislation that enjoyed 80% support from the public and had passed both houses with overwhelming bipartisan support. Why? Because it would disadvantage women. Thereby harvesting gallons of male tears to fill feminists’ coffee mugs. 

How did that benefit everybody? 

If you are serious about improving life for men and boys, you might want to learn from those branches of feminism working from a broad commitment to ending all forms of oppression instead of attacking an imaginary monolithic version. 

Or I could learn from the stymied efforts of the mythopoetic men’s movement, who accomplished little more than organizing group therapy sessions in the woods. And I’m not disparaging the value of that to some men—being able to unload all your trauma and baggage in a safe place among people who understand your pain is valuable and useful. But I’d rather concern myself with preventing that trauma and baggage in the first place. 

When I first became interested in the men’s rights movement, the attitude of most feminists toward it was blanket ridicule. They laughed. They mocked. They belittled and insulted MRAs. A bunch of losers who can’t get laid. Over a very brief period, that attitude changed. Soon, instead of mockery, we were subjected to accusations of misogyny, violence, terrorism and the like. Now we weren’t a bunch of losers, we were dangerous reactionaries who need to be stopped.

And now we have some bizarre hybrid of these strategies, combined with something new: “feminism is working on these issues. You shouldn’t hate feminism. You shouldn’t oppose feminism. Feminism fights for men’s issues, too. Feminism is the light and the way and the solution to all of men’s problems.”

We have Emma Watson trotting out men’s issues at the UN and extending her formal invitation to men to sit at the equality table because feminism cares about them, too, only to pull a bait and switch and direct people to a website where men pledge to work to end sexism and violence against women and girls. 

But feminism sure cares about men’s issues. Suicide’s the leading killer of men under 40 in the UK? Well, the solution to that is for men to pledge to end sexism against women! Natch!

Feminism at its best is firmly grounded in a commitment to things like anti-racism, decolonization, disability justice, justice for all gender identities, and so much more, and when we work from this model, we are an immensely strong and effective movement. We recommend doing the following to strengthen your activism and broaden your work:

All I’m hearing here is “feminism has a habit of co-opting other people’s issues so they can continue to seem relevant.”

Need I remind you that the president of SFUAMB is a transgender woman? And that I’m a gender-queer, bisexual woman? And that some of the men’s rights movement’s most admired individuals are women? People of color? Transpeople? Disabled people? 

These people are attracted to our movement not because we are exclusionary, but because we have a solid mandate. We get that discrimination against men often disproportionately affects poor men, men of color, gay men and transpeople. We get it. But we’re not interested in co-opting issues of race or class or sexuality or gender identity and dragging them under the rubric of our movement. If the gender gap in the criminal justice system is 6 times larger than the race gap, then our efforts to close that gap will benefit men of color just as much, or more, than white men. 

Consciousness-raising: The personal is political. This means that the issues that people face are not simply individual and privatized but collective and social. 

Erin Pizzey has a different definition, one she acquired while participating in the early women’s liberation movement: You take your own personal damage and project it onto all of society. If my dad was a shit, it means all men are shit.

Consciousness-raising occurs when people gather and discuss common experiences to build a group identity, and we can see that you are doing this. 

Scientologists say this kind of thing as well. So do the agents of ISIS in Canada who recruit and radicalize young people. 

I am not in this to build a group identity. I’m in this to hopefully inform people of what’s going on. Group identities are inherently tribalistic, and I want no part of that. 

But consciousness-raising is more than just that. It also involves engaging with new information and the perspectives of people who are different from ourselves. 

Really. From everything you’ve said here, I can’t imagine the authors of this letter listened to any of the “new” information presented in my talk, or effectively engaged with my perspective. Everything in this letter is designed to protect the hegemony of a group called feminism. 

It involves naming the many systems of injustice that are working together to shape our society, and acknowledging how members of our own group or community are advantaged/disadvantaged along the lines of race/ethnicity, nationality, class, sexuality, disability, and more. Consciousness-raising asks people from privileged groups to acknowledge how they benefit from, and even perpetuate, certain forms of oppression themselves. 

So you will now concede that feminism is privileged in terms of its voice within the gender discourse? It will now ask itself how it benefits from this hegemony? It will ask itself how it might be perpetuating certain forms of oppression?

Yeah, didn’t think so. 

Does your group actually consider the evidence that sexism works to harm girls and women, and at the same time creates a narrow and rigid understanding of what a ‘real man’ is, thereby doing harm to boys and men? 

Did you even listen to my talk?

Do you talk about the ways that some men oppress other men, and how they can try to unlearn or challenge these patterns and behaviours?

Did you even listen to my talk?

Structural analysis: Intersectional feminism has come a long way from forms of feminism that simply identify patriarchy as the sole cause of women’s oppression. Due to the efforts of women who are facing multiple forms of oppression—and indeed people of all genders who are multiply marginalized—that narrow understanding of sexism is being challenged. 

So what you’re saying is you took a bowl of male privilege and female oppression, added some croutons, dried cranberries, mandarin slices and grilled chicken, and voila! Suddenly it’s not salad anymore! It’s something that’s not salad, even though it’s pretty much salad.

Globally, many feminist movements examine how racism, colonialism, imperialism, economic exploitation, heterosexism, ableism, and other forms of injustice affect women and indeed all of society, at both the local and transnational level. 

Uh huh. You know, I notice how you were very quick to provide a link when describing what a rape apologist I am—a link that requires the reader to pick through 600 comments, but still, a link. Yet you provide no links to back up your claims here.

We must name the systems that harm us and discuss how they harm us in order to help each other heal – but feminism doesn’t stop there. 

No, it doesn’t. It doesn’t ever stop.

Sometimes those who dislike feminism frame our work as playing the victim, but quite the contrary – around the world, feminist movements are working to empower people to take action in ways that actually address the root causes of oppression. 

Citation needed. Evidence needed. Proof of what are and are not the root causes of oppression needed. 

Your group seems interested in the rates of violence men face during times of war and incarceration. This is an incredibly important issue, and yet we see little evidence that you are interested in confronting militarization or the prison-industrial complex. 

Well, considering you didn’t listen to my speech before commenting on it, I’m not confident that you looked very hard for evidence of that. 

Nor do we see signs that you are working to identify how racism, colonialism, and poverty lead to men of colour, Indigenous men, and poor men’s overrepresentation and victimization in these institutions. 

You mean how there are 3 to 4 times as many missing or murdered aboriginal men than women in Canada? You mean how Adam Jones’ article regarding the establishment’s erasure of these men at the National Post was posted on the men’s rights subreddit, and how his work on gender and genocidal violence is cited all over the place by MRAs? 

Where are the feminists standing up and telling the Canadian government that missing and murdered aboriginal men should be included in a public inquiry? 

Given how necessary it is to address root causes of injustice in order to achieve meaningful levels of social change, we ask, which structures you are working to dismantle?


We are under no pretence that feminist movements are immune from critique. 

Could have fooled me.

Those of us who identify as feminist regularly find ourselves in conflict as we wrestle with systems of injustice that cut through our communities and organizations. And of course, there are many versions of feminism. 

Ah, yes. So many versions of feminism, it’s like swordfighting a fart. No matter what feminists do, other feminists can come in and say, “well, no true feminist” or “that’s not what feminism means to me” or “a real feminist would never”.

We all have our knowledge gaps and social movements often contain divisions, but we are all committed to ending sexist oppression by placing women’s diverse lives and experiences at the centre of our inquiry, analysis, and activism. 

Yes, we know. We know you put only women’s diverse experiences at the center of your inquiry. Well, and not all women’s. Anti-feminist and non-feminist women can go fly a kite. And if we keep making waves, you can just cry “internalized misogyny” and continue to ignore us.

If you want to work alongside feminist efforts to build a more just world, while focusing on boys and men, we support that. 

I wouldn’t touch feminism with a ten foot pole soaked in disinfectant. 

But if your activism continues to spread lies and misinformation about women and feminism, agitates angry men online without giving them a way to address destructive systems and heal, and attempts to restore an historically unjust imbalance of power, then we do not think that you are working in the interests of men and boys. 

Examples, please. 

See, here’s the thing. 90% of my emails are from men. And strangely enough, they’re mostly from men who tell me things like, “you’re the reason I didn’t commit suicide.” Or even more interesting, “I was starting to hate women, but then I found your videos.”

Now you tell me. If you received more than a dozen such emails every week, would you have reason to believe you were working in the interests of men and boys?

You accuse me of inciting male hatred and anger toward women, but the majority of men who contact me tell me that it is my work that calmed all that shit down. That gave them reason to hope. That made them realize that maybe there was someone out there who understands what they’re feeling. 

And you think I’m dangerous. 

And please, let me be clear. I am dangerous. Not because I “agitate angry men”. These men are already angry and agitated. I’m dangerous because I’ve given these men moral permission to not like feminism. To not like how it has consistently maligned men from its inception, all the way back to the Declaration of Sentiments. To not like how it casts them as the villains of history. To not like how it treats them as second class citizens by ignoring their pain and excusing the women who’ve hurt them. To not like how feminism can engage in hashtag campaigns like #killallmen and #giveyourmoneytowomen, all while drinking from “male tears” coffee mugs, and then in the very next breath tell these exact same men they’re man-babies and misogynists for complaining that these campaigns upset them, while simultaneously telling them that suppressing their emotions is toxic masculinity. 

I am dangerous. Not to women, or to society, but to you, feminism. 

Right now your “activism” not only reads as thinly-veiled misogyny, 

Thinly veiled? Now that’s a change of pace. Usually MRAs get accused by feminists of blatant, in your face misogyny. 

but, we believe, it also harms men and boys by failing to address the social, cultural, political, and economic issues that affect them. In short, you are doing a disservice to the people you claim to want to help.

Yes, you care so much about men and boys. We get it. Men and boys are more likely to be raised with feminist values than at any point in history, and yet their suicide rates are soaring. But I’m doing a disservice to all those men who contact me to tell me I changed their minds about suicide. Have you ladies EVER considered that you might be wrong? That what you’ve been doing might be having negative effects on men, or women, or children? Or is your moral high ground so unassailable that you can’t even conceive of the possibility?

We hope that this open letter sends a clear message to SFU AMB as well as members of the broader university community. 

Your message is loud and clear. Feminism is to be the one and only voice on gender issues. Heterodoxy will not be tolerated.

The rise of what has been framed as “men’s rights” activism on university campuses is sadly in line with other conservative reactionary groups

That’s a very interesting statement when considering SFUAMB is led by a transwoman, no? When the speaker you’re criticizing is a bisexual divorced mother of three. When some of the most popular voices in the movement are women. When our movement is comprised of men and women of all ethnicities, nationalities, races, religions, sexualities and gender identities. When the majority of MRAs are pro-choice and pro-marriage equality. Isn't it interesting that you would say that? 

(e.g. White supremacist student groups, Gamergate) 

Uh huh.

that often use the language of liberty and free speech to both discredit the experiences and voices of marginalized groups and commit co-ordinated campaigns of terror against them when members of those groups speak out. 

How do we do that? Free speech necessitates that the voices of marginalized groups be heard. This is a very bizarre statement coming from an ideology that has had a stranglehold on the gender discourse on university campuses for decades, particularly when it targets a fledgling group with marginal institutional support. 

Coordinated campaigns of terror? Last I checked, it was Gamergate that had received threats credible enough for police to evacuate buildings and search them for explosives. Last I checked, it was not feminists ejected from conventions for not toeing the ideological line—it was a diverse group of men and women who didn’t agree with feminism who were ejected, and then had the police called on them while they were picnicking in the park two days later. 

Have you ever had four cops with two police vans show up to one of your events because of reports that you’re violent and dangerous? How would that measure on the “campaign of terror” scale? You do know that police have guns, right?

Until SFU AMB can demonstrate that they are interested in doing anything more than blaming feminists for problems that are in fact rooted in patriarchy, racism, colonialism, heterosexism, capitalism, ableism, and other forms of oppression and exploitation, we encourage other members of SFU to join us and speak out against them. 

And that’s your right. Please, continue to oppose us. We’ll make the best use of the resulting press that we can, to highlight the issues of men and boys, and to illustrate how totalitarian and abusive feminism has become.

In a campus climate where women are always already dealing with intolerable levels of institutionalized sexism in the form of discrimination, harassment, and violence, 

Citation needed. 

SFU AMB’s insistence that we should allow this “activism” to go unchallenged in the name of liberty and equity is perhaps the most intolerable of all.

Oh please. Please challenge us. Please keep giving us a reason to challenge you.