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A quick factchecking of yet another list of “misandrist” quotes reveals the same old MRA sloppiness and dishonesty

He's making a list, but not checking it once.
He’s making a list, but not checking it once.

The MRAs have a new list! A list of evil, man-hating quotations, that is. This list, put together by A Voice for Male Students, has a rather pretentious title: “The language of misandry in academia: a collection of quotes by faculty members, students, and administrators.”

And it comes with a rather high-minded introduction by list-collator Jonathan Taylor, declaring that

misandry in academia is not merely a collection of infrequent and disassociated anomalies arising from individuals uninfluenced by supportive or acquiescent peer groups. On the contrary, it is culturally pervasive in academia in a way that cannot be reasonably characterized as incidental or coincidental.

Indeed, Taylor hopes that his list will be

a useful resource for those new to men’s issues in academia. It should also be useful to advocates as a “go-to” resource for identifying and referring others the kind of hostile learning environment that has become pervasive in certain academic circles.

Given all this, you might expect his list of quotes to be a little more carefully vetted than the typical cut-and-pasted lists of Terrible Feminist Quotes that are passed around on the internet by antifeminists. You may recall that when I and a few others fact-checked one of these lists a while back we discovered that many of the quotes were either taken out of context in a misleading way, or made up, or taken from fictional works. Or were from people no one had ever heard of an who might not have been feminists at all.

Even a quick glance at Taylor’s list reveals that it has a lot in common with these lists: alongside a number of quotations from well-known radical feminists like Catharine MacKinnon and Mary Daly, he includes quotes from little-known academics and an assortment of random student activists, one of them identified only as “Ginny.” How typical are any of these views in academia? Taylor makes no attempt to find out.

The list doesn’t confine itself to feminists, quoting from one “traditionalist women’s college group” and even from Margaret Thatcher.

And many of the quotes are scanty — simple one liners — which leads me to wonder if there is anything in the context that makes these sometimes shocking quotations a bit less shocking.

Still others aren’t actually “misandrist” at all.

I don’t have the time or the energy to fact-check all of these quotes — nor do I have access to the academic journals many of them came from.

But several of them grabbed my attention, and I was able to track down the original quotes in context — only to discover that Taylor’s abridged quotes completely distort their original meanings.

Let’s start with this truncated quote from Marilyn French:

“As long as some men use physical force to subjugate females, all men need not. The knowledge that some men do suffices to threaten all women. He can beat or kill the woman he claims to love; he can rape women…he can sexually molest his daughters… THE VAST MAJORITY OF MEN IN THE WORLD DO ONE OR MORE OF THE ABOVE.”

– Dr. Marilyn French, The War Against Women, p. 182, her emphasis.

This seems shocking: Is French really suggesting that the vast majority of men either beat, rape, or kill women and/or molest their own daughters?

Actually, no. Those little ellipses in the quote are a clue that there’s more to the story here. When you look at what French actually wrote, you can see that her claims are not actually shocking at all. Here’s the original quote, which you can find for yourself by looking up the book on Amazon and going to page 182 of the preview available on the site.

As long as some men use physical force to subjugate females, all men need not.  The knowledge that some men do suffices to threaten all women.  Beyond that, it is not necessary to beat up a woman to beat her down.  A man can simply refuse to hire women in well-paid jobs, extract as much or more work from women than men but pay them less, or treat women disrespectfully at work or at home.  He can fail to support a child he has engendered, demand the woman he lives with wait on him like a servant.  He can beat or kill the woman he claims to love, he can rape women, whether mate, acquaintance, or stranger; he can rape or sexually molest his daughters, nieces, stepchildren, or the children of a woman he claims to love.  The vast majority of men in the world do one or more of the above

As you can see, French’s argument is completely different from what the truncated quote would suggest. But quoting a feminist suggesting that the majority of men might “treat women disrespectfully” isn’t very exciting, is it? Let’s pretend she said something hair-raising instead!

It’s clear that Taylor didn’t get the quote from French’s book directly; when I searched for the quote online, I found the exact same truncated version, with the same ellipses and the same CAPITAL LETTERS on an assortment of right-wing and antifeminist sites, in one case attributed to the wrong book by French. Clearly he got the quote from one of these sites — Conservapedia, perhaps? — and didn’t bother to spend five minutes trying to fact-check it as I did. It’s also pretty clear that whoever edited the original quote down did so in a deliberate attempt to misrepresent what French said.

The next bit of fact-checking was a bit more straightforward, because this time Taylor provided a clickable link to the source on Google Books. Here’s the quote:

“Politically, I call it rape whenever a woman has sex and feels violated.”

– Dr. Catharine MacKinnon, Feminism Unmodified, p. 82.

Curious about the context, I clicked on the link and saw that she was defining rape in this way as a sort of thought experiment rather than as a legal category:

mackinnon

While this is not quite as dramatic a misrepresentation as the chopped-up French quote, the context here changes the meaning of the quote quite dramatically.

One more quote in the list caught my eye:

Consent as ideology cannot be distinguished from habitual acquiescence, assent, silent dissent, submission, or even enforced submission. Unless refusal or consent or withdrawal of consent are real possibilities, we can no longer speak of ‘consent’ in any genuine sense.

– Dr. Carol Pateman, “Women and Consent,” Political Theory, vol. 8, p. 149.

I’m not going to bother to fact-check this one, because, well, this argument is completely reasonable: if a person cannot say “no,” or cannot withdraw consent, then we really aren’t talking about genuine consent at all, are we?

Taylor claims to be fighting “misandry” in the academy. It looks to me — in these examples, at least — like he’s fighting against straw feminists and a meaningful notion of consent.

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calburn88
8 years ago

Reblogged this on Discombobulate.

LBT
LBT
8 years ago

RE: Freemage

Our best hope is actually pushing social-justice agendas, because those cause the kinds of societal shifts that produce the introspection that results in a decision to leave the faith entirely.

O_o Why would I want there to be more atheists?

pecunium
8 years ago

See, I want to push social justice because it’s just.

emilygoddess
emilygoddess
8 years ago

Our best hope is actually pushing social-justice agendas, because those cause the kinds of societal shifts that produce the introspection that results in a decision to leave the faith entirely.

Plenty of people are both religious and SJ-oriented. Hell, I became a UU so I could be part of more organized activism.

In short, the Asshat Atheist brigade aren’t just shitty human beings, they’re even shitty at being atheists.

Apparently I’m shitty at being an atheist, since I just can’t summon any fucks to give about other people believing in the supernatural. Thanks for reminding me why I’ve never felt comfortable in movement atheism.

@Pecunium I’ve seen “spreadhead” a few times. I don’t think everyone uses it, but I see it enough that I wonder what it’s about.

freemage
8 years ago

LBT: “Our” there was not meant to mean my fellow posters here, but rather, my fellow atheists and I. I certainly don’t expect folks who are not atheists to care about this.

Pecunium: Well, yes, same here. But my point was that the Asshat Atheists aren’t even succeeding at enlightened self-interest, let alone altruistic conduct.

emily: I acknowledged that there are plenty of SJ-active churches. My point was that the conservative churches are often the source of direct opposition on SJ issues. So, expanding pro-SJ attitudes means more people leaving those specific churches–which, in some cases, means more atheists.

As for not caring about other people’s beliefs or lack thereof… I’m not saying you should. “Atheism” isn’t a social-justice issue, obviously. I would argue that secularism–ie, the old “Church/State separation” bit–is an SJ issue, but I argued that even when I was a believer myself.

I personally believe that some supernatural beliefs have very specific harmful consequences on the social justice level; but I’m perfectly willing to not fret about someone’s beliefs that don’t fall into that category.

LBT
LBT
8 years ago

RE: Freemage

“Our” there was not meant to mean my fellow posters here, but rather, my fellow atheists and I. I certainly don’t expect folks who are not atheists to care about this.

I AM an atheist. I repeat, why should I want more atheists?

LBT
LBT
8 years ago

I say this because actually the most trolling I’ve gotten have been from other atheists. You seem to have a higher faith in their non-assholery about trans and mental health issues than I do.

Athywren
Athywren
8 years ago

I’ve got to parrot LBT here. I am an atheist, yet I have no real desire to see more of us.
You hear a lot of stories of how isolating it is to be an atheist in religious communities… I never felt that around religious people – I live in a fairly secular part of the world. I have, however, felt it in atheist communities. Mention that you believe that women are people, and half of the supposedly intellectually superior people around you will act as if you just told them you believe in dowsing and accuse you of being irrational and brainwashed, while firing fallacies off like they’ll explode if they hang on to them. Almost all of the other half just shut up, and you’re left with about three people trying to reason with a group who quickly turn to demonising Rebecca Watson and refusing to discuss the actual issues.

I’m far more interested in cultivating decency in those around me than atheism.

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

Me three. I’ve always been an atheist, way back to arguing about it with the minister during the brief period where my parents attempted to send me to Sunday School in kindergarten. While my circle of friends has always been heavy on other atheists and agnostic people I’m not seeing any reason why I should worry about the existence of religious people who aren’t using their faith as an excuse to work against social justice issues, or try to make less of them and more people like me.

As an example of why, take Mr C’s favorite aunt. She’s a queer, feminist, socially liberal, pot smoking classic northern California hippie. She’s also Catholic. Would somehow making her less Catholic make her a nicer person or a better ally in terms of all the stuff I care about (and that most other people here do too)? I’m just not seeing it. She’s fine as she is, and in some ways I think her religion actually reinforces her social justice focus.

TL;DR – If someone is a good person and a good ally their spiritual beliefs or lack thereof are none of my business.

Λυνα
Λυνα
8 years ago

The idea that people promote ideas based entirely on their religion is wrong anyway; the ideals people form is based more on the values they were raised with, the social circles they exist in, and established ideas in the person (i.e. someone who is against homosexual behavior because they were raised with the understanding that is wrong and dwell in a social circle that disapproves of it will cull the bible looking for quotes on why it’s wrong.) I also think it’s bizarre how some atheists hold a dogmatic belief in a pseudo-scientific version of evolutionary psychology that’s more akin to social Darwinism, and will tell people who don’t share their exact worldview that they aren’t being rational.

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

In my experience it seems more like religious people often adapt their religion to fit their personal value system by disregarding the bits that don’t work for them. Mr C’s auntie being a perfect example.

Λυνα
Λυνα
8 years ago

Yeah, that’s what I was trying to get across. It’s not really the person’s religion that defines the person’s belief, but the belief that defines the religion.

LBT
LBT
8 years ago

Here’s my thing about atheism: all that unites atheists is a LACK of belief in something. That’s a hugely variegated group of people! You’ve got Buddhists, and Jews, and people who worship gods as metaphorical thoughtforms and people who want nothing to do with deities but worship more minor supernatural entities. You’ve got UUs and skeptics and rationalists, and you have people like me who believe in gods for other people but want them nowhere near me.

Last I heard, the ONLY thing atheists have in common is a lack of belief in a god or supreme being. Skepticism, rationalism, or common human decency aren’t part of the package. Depending on that definition, I may not even count as an atheist!

Therefore, it’s absurd for me to want more atheists. It’d be like wanting more non-Republicans. Like, sure, in theory, sure, pushing social justice things would cause fewer people to accept some crap Republicans push. But there are plenty of horrible people who AREN’T Republicans, and the assholes will just join create some other party. (See Dixiecrats.) Or, more likely, the Republican party will change to take note of those social changes.

A lot of religions have been around WAY longer than the Republican party. They would not still be alive if they didn’t adjust to social change. I see it way more likely churches will grow less douchey, rather than more people will become atheists.

kittehserf
8 years ago

LBT: “Our” there was not meant to mean my fellow posters here, but rather, my fellow atheists and I. I certainly don’t expect folks who are not atheists to care about this.

I don’t think anyone thought you meant posters here, Freemage. It was perfectly clear you didn’t. Nevertheless, count me as n’thing the “nuh uh” comments.

You’ve acknowledged that SJ isn’t connected with being an atheist; that it’s not precluded by being a theist (or, presumably, any other variety of not-atheist). So what is it at base that makes you want to convert people – which is what it is – to atheism? Is it objection to the idea of someone having other beliefs at all, or other interpretations of life experiences?

One thing this eagerness (generally) on the part of people so eager to convert others ignores is what it’s doing to those people. The assumption that THIS IS TRUTH is a load of baloney, whichever way it’s coming, but more than that, it’s fucking corrosive to assume in general that your belief system is going to make someone happier and more fulfilled or freer than the one they have. If their beliefs aren’t hurting other people, then fucking well leave people alone. Undermining someone that way is all sorts of wrong.

Anecdata: I’ve had one run-in with a Spiritualist who was a capital-C Church type and didn’t like me not toeing her line. I’ve had no crap from people I knew who were born-agains and undoubtedly believed I was going to Hell. I have had crap from sundry Asshole Atheists who’ve sneered that I’m delusional and should see a psychologist.

Curiously enough the actual psychologists I’ve talked to – and not hidden my life with Louis from, because it is the central, the most important part of my inner life – have been nothing but supportive.

So fuck “needing to convert” people. It comes down to “I don’t like your beliefs” too often.

kittehserf
8 years ago

Well, that was an impressive blockquote fail first thing in the day!

kittehserf
8 years ago

Apologies, but I’m posting that again, hopefully without html fail, because I want it more readable. This “conversion” nonsense is really annoying me.

LBT: “Our” there was not meant to mean my fellow posters here, but rather, my fellow atheists and I. I certainly don’t expect folks who are not atheists to care about this.

I don’t think anyone thought you meant posters here, Freemage. It was perfectly clear you didn’t. Nevertheless, count me as n’thing the “nuh uh” comments.

You’ve acknowledged that SJ isn’t connected with being an atheist; that it’s not precluded by being a theist (or, presumably, any other variety of not-atheist). So what is it at base that makes you want to convert people – which is what it is – to atheism? Is it objection to the idea of someone having other beliefs at all, or other interpretations of life experiences?

One thing this eagerness (generally) on the part of people so eager to convert others ignores is what it’s doing to those people. The assumption that THIS IS TRUTH is a load of baloney, whichever way it’s coming, but more than that, it’s fucking corrosive to assume in general that your belief system is going to make someone happier and more fulfilled or freer than the one they have. If their beliefs aren’t hurting other people, then fucking well leave people alone. Undermining someone that way is all sorts of wrong.

Anecdata: I’ve had one run-in with a Spiritualist who was a capital-C Church type and didn’t like me not toeing her line. I’ve had no crap from people I knew who were born-agains and undoubtedly believed I was going to Hell. I have had crap from sundry Asshole Atheists who’ve sneered that I’m delusional and should see a psychologist.

Curiously enough the actual psychologists I’ve talked to – and not hidden my life with Louis from, because it is the central, the most important part of my inner life – have been nothing but supportive.

So fuck “needing to convert” people. It comes down to “I don’t like your beliefs” too often.

LBT
LBT
8 years ago

RE: Kittehs

I’ve had a lot of people try and convert me, or pray for me to “be healed.” (In my cynical way, I often consider saying, “You want to help me? Got a dollar?”) I find it very tiring and usually sic my husband on them. (Nobody can fight off evangelists like a Southern Baptist.) And I’ve actually known a lot of people from traumatic fundy backgrounds.

It does happen, and more often from the religious than the atheists, just because of sheer numbers. But assholery, in my experience, has little correlation to level of religiousness.

kittehserf
8 years ago

LBT – gods, yes, the odds of having someone go all religious on you would be much higher where you are; Australia’s very different culturally, at least in the cities. (We really need to legislate agin all those USian Mormons being allowed into the country, I swear!) And yes, assholishness doesn’t correlate with religion OR its lack.

Love the idea of Mac frightening off evangelists. 🙂

Personal rant about evangelical atheism coming: no need to read for most people commenting, ‘cos it’s not aimed at you.

Thing that gets me with this is, we don’t have people going around trying to convert others TO religion on this site, or talking about how necessary it is. I haven’t spent time reading Christian, let alone fundamentalist, or any other sort of religious sites, so I haven’t read scads of their conversion rubbish.

BUT I’ve seen plenty of the “we must convert to atheism” shit on other sites, and while nobody here now is an Asshole Atheist, freemage’s reference to this has riled me.

Because – and freemage, I hope you’ll read and think about this – this sort of stuff is an attack I take personally, because it says, in essence, that my life should be rearranged to suit someone else’s non-belief.

It says my marriage doesn’t exist.

It says all the contact I’ve had with those who’ve passed over isn’t real.

It says something as simple as the cuddle I had this morning, the feel of an arm around my shoulder, and a discussion of beard stubble, didn’t happen.

And what does it suggest instead?

Fucking NOTHING. Literally nothing.

I’ve been there. I was atheist, or an agnostic so close it didn’t matter.

Y’know something? It wasn’t reading atheist stuff that got me away from the idea of a Biblical God, or the horrors of that idea, the either-or black and white thinking. It was breaking away from the concept of an anthropomorphic deity at all, and it was what I’d call a Spritualist book, and Louis himself, who did that.

That did wonders for my mental health, for my happiness and fulfilment. It’s even had benefits materially, because writing about it made me friends and has taken me to the US to meet them, twice.

I have my own doubts and questions to deal with. I call it jerkbrain and the materialistic default in this country, and the ridiculous “it’s too good to be true” notion that seems to worm its way into everything. I’ve thought and thought about what’s real and since there’s no proof either way, and the evidence I’ve experienced is for me to interpret, nobody else, then I’ll go with my own REASONED conclusion, thankyouverymuch.

When people talk blithely about how important it is for other people to be atheists, maybe they should just stop and think about what the fuck they’re actually suggesting, and pull their heads in.

/steaming

(Apologies if this turned into That Conversation, but given we’re not hiding the whole business of the Great Divorce, which seems to have been a large factor in That Conversation, I really wanted to get this out without hedging.)

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