Let me take a moment to ignore my regular readers and speak directly to the Men’s Rights Activists who might be reading this blog. I suspect there are a few.
What I would like to talk to you about it ironic humor. Because, here’s the thing, sometimes people say things they don’t actually believe in order to make a little fun at the way other people see them.
When a feminist writer posts a picture of herself wearing a shirt that says “I bathe in male tears,” noting that the picture is directed at the haters who leave nasty comments on everything she writes, she is not actually announcing that she, literally or metaphorically, bathes in male tears. Nor is she saying anything about the vast, overwhelming majority of men. She is saying “fuck you, I’m on vacation” to a small subset of men. That is, those who leave nasty comments on everything she writes. You know, like she explicitly stated she was doing.
I point out what seems to me patently obvious because so many men in the so-called Men’s Rights movement continue to pretend that somehow Jessica Valenti has launched a war against all the good and honest men of the world by wearing a t-shirt that she knew might annoy a teensy tiny fraction of the douchiest of men. And when people point out that she was making an ironic joke, these dudes react as though they’ve never heard of ironic humor.
This isn’t the first time MRAs seem to have had trouble getting ironic humor. In 2012, A Voice for Men launched a campaign of defamation against a college student inspired in large part by a joke she made on Twitter declaring that her political position was “kill all men hail satan.” AVFM’s Paul Elam presented this as proof that the young woman “hate[s] men [and] want[s] them dead or silenced or marginalized or ignored.” Not as the joke it obviously was.
But the thing is, MRAs do know what ironic humor is. Because they indulge in it themselves, all the time.
Over on AVFM, for example, the regulars jokingly refer to themselves as “kitten eaters,” presumably in an attempt to mock what they think people like me think of them.
Now, as you all presumably have figured out, I happen to be a giant fan of cats young and old, regardless of their beliefs. But I don’t for a second think that the assholes at A Voice for Men, despite being some of the worst human beings I’ve ever encountered, actually eat kittens.
I recognize that they are making a joke, albeit a poor one. Because, here’s the thing: I live in the real world, and I can distinguish between things meant seriously and things meant as a joke.
And I think most of those who continue to rail against Valenti and her eeeeevil t-shirt can tell the difference, too. They just choose not to, because they’re not looking for a reason to attack Valenti. They’re looking for an excuse.
Now, is it possible that things meant as ironic jokes can sometimes contain a kernel of truth? Well, yes, but there is no evidence that this is the case with Valenti. There’s no evidence at all that she hates men. None. Zero. Sure, she admits to being less than fond of a few men who are assholes, but that’s because they’re assholes, not because they’re men.
Indeed, in one recent column, she wrote this:
I have the most amazing men in my life. My father, who bought me chemistry sets and robots for every tea set or doll. My husband, an incredible feminist who is an equal partner in parenting and the home. My male friends, who believe that gender justice is important and worth fighting for. I don’t have a hard time finding these amazing men because – shockingly – most men are pretty cool guys.
In another recent column, she stood up for male victim of sexual blackmail online, reminding her readers that “it’s still revenge porn when the victim is a man and the picture is of his penis.”
I know, you can just SMELL THE HATRED there.
But there are some people, I will admit, who don’t do quite so well with their attempts at ironic humor. Ironically, the first people who come to mind are amongst those who profess to be the most shocked, shocked by Valenti’s t-shirt. I speak, of course, of the Misogyny Bunch over at A Voice for Men.
That picture at the top of this post? I didn’t photoshop it. Nor did I come up with that little nickname. They did. Indeed, on their online store, AVFM sells not only pillows but t-shirts, mugs, tote bags and even playing cards emblazoned with the catchphrase. No, really:
Yes, that’s right, the guys (and gals) who are railing against Valenti’s allegedly misandrous t-shirt sell not only t-shirts but also playing cards declaring themselves misogynists.
This shouldn’t be that much of a surprise, given that the head of this little bunch, Paul Elam, posted on YouTube for years as The Happy Misogynist; he posts under his own name now, but TheHappyMisogynist is still part of the URL.
Oh, but it’s an ironic joke! They’re not really misogynists!
Well, except that they kinda are. Well, more than kinda. Unlike in the case of Valenti, there is ample evidence of real, honest-to-goodness hatred coming from this bunch. Ironically, the shirts they intend as ironic jokes aren’t ironic at all.
Proof? Look at my archives. (Well, skip those posts at the top about commemorative plates and coins.) Look at this collection of quotes from Elam – or maybe just the story he published, or the posts he’s written, offering justifications for men to beat their partners. Go to A Voice for Men and type in your favorite anti-woman slur and see just how many articles have featured those slurs, almost always in highly unironic ways. Oh, ok, I’ll do it for you: Bitch, Slut, Slattern, Whore, C*nt. My favorite one in that last group starts off memorably:
Women are facing a very real and grave problem in our culture: They are obnoxious c*nts.
Needless to say, there is no asterisk in the original.
While Valenti describes “most men” as “pretty cool guys,” Elam once suggested that
feminism, consumer products, psychology, media, advertising, politics and social custom [have] all merged into one Great Big Bitch Machine … [T]he modern female psyche is nothing more than a product of that machine … .
Place a bunch of daffodils at a dumpster near you, perhaps one in which one of you, or one of your kind, has tossed an unwanted baby, leaving it there to slowly die alone in a pile of trash.
Perhaps you could lay a single rose at the base of a bridge that has been used by a mother to throw her baby into an icy river. Perhaps you can lay it there with hands that have beaten or shaken a baby to death.
You get the idea.
There’s nothing ironic, or even particularly happy, about this man’s “happy misogyny.”
Irony, you’re doing it wrong.