I don’t often write about Alison Tieman – the eccentric FeMRA videoblogger known better as Typhon Blue – in large part because, well, have you ever watched one of her videos? Her arguments and assertions bear so little relation to what the rest of us know as reality it’s as if she lives in some weird inverted world of her own making.
It’s rather difficult to address the arguments of someone when virtually everything she says is wrong – logically, historically, morally – in some fundamental way.
But I’m going to have a go at her latest video anyway, because, well, it’s only 4 minutes long, which will make unpacking its fractal wrongness a little less of a daunting task. Also, there’s a kitty in it.
In the video, Tieman, in the guise of “Professor Hamster,” makes the startling claim that Women’s Suffrage was “Feminism’s first act of female supremacy.”
How, you might wonder, does equality at the ballot box count as “female supremacy?”
Well, according to Tieman – one of A Voice for Men’s self-proclaimed Honey Badgers – it’s because women (at least in the US) don’t have to register for the draft.
This is an old argument of hers, based on the strange belief that voting rights for men in the United States are contingent on them signing up for selective service, something that’s not, you know, true. She seems to be confusing the United States with the fictional universe of Starship Troopers, in which “Service Guarantees Citizenship.”
In any case, because suffragettes didn’t demand to be drafted when they demanded the vote their demand, Tieman concludes that they weren’t seeking equality but supremacy.
Never mind that at the time the notion of women being drafted would have struck the general public as absurd.
Never mind that when draft registration was being considered for reinstatement in 1981, the National Organization for Women sued to have registration expanded to women as well, because not requiring women to register would relegate them “to second-class citizenship by exclusion from a fundamental obligation of citizenship,” as the New York Times summarized their position.
Ultimately, over NOW’s objections, the Supreme Court ruled that registration could be restricted to men only. The all-male Supreme Court; the court didn’t get its first female Justice, Sandra Day O’Connor, until later that year.
For all of the hullabaloo, the requirement that men register for the draft is an essentially meaningless “obligation.” The draft is a dead issue in the US, about as likely to be revived as Jarts.
Tieman goes on to note that “female suffrage enabled women to vote for wars that only men had to fight in.” In fact, as anyone who’s paid any attention to real world politics knows well, women are consistently less likely than men to support war.
Tieman’s arguments about women’s suffrage are just bizarre. It’s when she starts talking about the civil rights movement that she moves beyond bizarre to offensive.
Throughout the video, she contrasts what she sees as the good and humble civil rights movement with the “privileged” and “entitled” suffragettes; it’s a strange and backwards argument, at odds with historical reality, and one that insults not only the suffragettes but our greatest civil rights heroes as well. “During the civil rights movement,” she proclaims,
black moderates believed that black people needed to EARN their civil rights. Extremists at the time believed that blacks people should receive their rights by virtue of being human beings. …
Minorities felt they had to earn their rights and often had to make enormous sacrifices in war prior to even having their requests for rights considered reasonable. Women felt they were simply owed. …
Minorities approached suffrage from the usual mentality of people who are actually oppressed: We have to earn everything, including citizenship rights. Whereas women approached the issue of suffrage from a mentality of privilege and entitlement: We are owed our rights.
Where even to start with this jumble of wrongness?
Let’s start with her most basic misapprehension, that human rights are something that have to be earned. In fact, the basic premise of human rights is that we have certain rights because we are human beings. This isn’t entitlement or extremism; it is the fundamental basis of democracy.
You would think that someone who calls herself a Men’s Human Rights Activist would have a better understanding of the rudiments of human rights.
In the Declaration of Independence, you may recall, Thomas Jefferson famously proclaimed “that all men are … endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” He didn’t say they had to earn these rights; he said that they were born with them.
Granted, it took quite some time before this sentiment applied not only to white men but also to women and African-Americans, but this had nothing to do with anyone “earning” rights; it had to do with the fact that some human beings were seen as more human than others.
When Martin Luther King made his case for civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s, he harked back explicitly to Jefferson’s words in the Declaration of Independence. In his most famous speech, delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington in 1963, he declared
In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. …
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
This was not the first time he had made this argument. In a 1957 speech also delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, he declared that
The denial of this sacred right [to vote] is a tragic betrayal of the highest mandates of our democratic traditions and its is democracy turned upside down.
So long as I do not firmly and irrevocably possess the right to vote I do not possess myself. I cannot make up my mind — it is made up for me. I cannot live as a democratic citizen, observing the laws I have helped to enact — I can only submit to the edict of others.
It’s our humanity, not a signature on a selective service registration form, that entitles all of us to the right to vote.
If the Men’s Rights Movement wants to campaign to end selective service registration, go for it. Just don’t pretend that this has anything to do with the right to vote. Or that demanding basic human rights is a sign of “entitlement,” much less “female supremacy.”
Also, maybe lose the stupid hat?
Below, a song that kept popping into my head as I tried to make sense of Tieman’s most peculiar views. Well, the chorus anyway; the rest of the lyrics don’t really fit.