SethBlogs does not believe in trial by faith even when applied to a preacher of the religion in question.
GHOMESHI’S FEMINISM SERIES:
II: YOU’RE EITHER WITH US OR YOU “DON’T GET IT” (you are here)
In the first episode of GHOMESHI’S FEMINISM I argued that Jian Ghomeshi has been tried and convicted in the media by the same uncritical uniformity of feminist thought that Mr. Ghomeshi, himself, so often exemplified when he flavoured CBC’s airwaves. I argued that, even though the persona of the former host would have supported the feminist assumption of guilt that he has now received from his former colleagues, he nevertheless deserves a right to a fair and legal hearing of the facts before he is thrown off the ship.
As evidence of the Canadian mainstream media’s indestructible desire to prove itself to be pro-women, and anti-Ghomeshi, consider a recent panel discussion on The Current, in which Anna Marie Temonti interviewed a balanced collective of feminists. The topic up for consensus was a question of whether the Ghomeshi scandal would be a breakthrough “watershed moment” for female victims, or would too many chauvinists still “not getting it” block the enlightenment?
Below is my resulting letter to The Current asking for a smidge of balance in their presentation of such discussions:
[Note: I have since re-listened to the broadcast and provided in square brackets below some specific quotes and points in the timeline of The Current discussion to verify my claims.]
Subject: Re Feminist discussion on Thursday: A friendly request from a listener who “doesn’t get it”
Dear Anna Maria Tremonti:
I was frustrated as I listened to your interview with three feminists on Thursday [November 6th] in regard to whether the Jian Ghomeshi scandal would be a breakthrough moment for women (and sexual assault victims in general).
Your three guests seemed to agree that the problem for [Western] women, in particular, was still towering over us, and that men need to get in the conversation and start to better understand the plight of women. I heard you respond with the phrase, “Some people still don’t get it,” and ask a question to the effect of, “Why would a man not want to protect women from violence?”
[Tremonti’s actual question at 15:11 was:
“But Joe you make the point that you realize that you know a lot more women than you realized who are up against this. We’re talking about, for men, we’re talking about women who are their partners, their mothers, their daughters, their sisters, why the disconnect? They would never want this to happen to their sister, but they look the other way if it’s happens to their neighbour?”
This is not just straw man argument: it’s a straw, psychopathic man argument.]
You may be surprised that I am a caring person who nevertheless found the discussion to be philosophically painful to listen to, not because I don’t like and worry about women, but because your guests seemed to be unwilling to contemplate the potential that good people might disagree with them. With respect, I propose that, when you say that anyone who questions a feminist argument “still doesn’t get it,” you’re dismissing those of us who may have thought carefully and compassionately about these topics and sincerely come to disagree with feminist theory.
There are critics of feminist orthodoxy (including “the factual feminist,” Christina Hoff Sommers) who have persuasively argued that much of feminist data regarding the prevalence of sexual assault (in the west) has been unscientifically inflated to support feminist ideology. [See Sommers’ Sexual Assault in America: Do we know the true numbers.]
Before you stop reading, I am not suggesting that, because feminist numbers are problematic, we shouldn’t care deeply about female victims (and feel outrage toward their offenders), nor that we should stop trying to combat whatever number of sexual offenders there are. Instead, my contention is that the Western media is afraid to question feminist data, and that the consequence is unfortunate: feminists have little reason to be scientific and honest in their work. It’s simple human nature: in the absence of serious criticism, few of us will be as rigorous in our arguments as we would be if we knew our research would be genuinely challenged.
The result is a feminist advocacy movement which has painted a tilted landscape of Western culture in which women suffer much more than men. And yet, there are rumours that men are in trouble, too: as Sommers argues, men are more likely to kill themselves, be the victim of violence in general, be injured at work, and more. [See 3:55-4:20 of Sommers’ Emma Watson and the Future of Feminism or 1:50-3:00 of Sommers’ Facts the media didn’t tell you.]
When your guests spoke about sexual violence, you noted that there are male victims of sexual violence, too, which was compassionate and open-minded of you. Nevertheless, the focus in the media seems most frequently to be on the type of violence directed more towards women. The disparity in female as opposed to male victims of sexual violence is then taken as proof that we live in a misogynistic society. However, if programs such as yours were to look as frequently, and with the same reasoning, at the type of violence more likely to hit men (such as random violence on the street), you might start to wonder whether we in fact live in a misandrist arena.
(Notice that, when women are victims of violence, national and local media often convene expert and/or survivor discussions to consider the problem of violence against women, but when men are the wounded parties, I have yet to hear mainstream media gather similar thought leaders and/or victims to talk about the particular dangers that men tend to encounter.)
While feminism, by its dictionary definition, may be simply about fighting for equal rights, in practice it is weighed down by a lot of philosophical dogma regarding how to achieve them. Thus, contrary to the claims of “You’re with us or against us” feminists, it is possible to agree with the ends proposed by feminists, but not the means they suggest for acquiring them. However, once again, it seems that mainstream media in Canada is terrified of questioning any branch of feminist leadership.
If you’re skeptical that feminist perspectives aren’t challenged in the media, consider, for example, how you responded to your guest when she told you that dealing with the justice system was a worse experience than being sexually assaulted. [The quote of this claim was played at 1:02-1:17, and then discussed per below at 11:15-15:00 and 16:37-17:03.]
To illustrate this shocking claim, she talked of feeling re-victimized when the parole officer of her former assailant told her that the offender, her ex-boyfriend, would like to apologize to her. She suggested that this was evidence that the parole officer was on the assailant’s “team” and not hers. But, instead of asking your guest why exactly that was evidence of such bias, you seemed to accept that her conclusion was self-evident. Another of your guests then pointed out that he imagined a lot of the listeners to the show wouldn’t understand why the parole officer’s behaviour was so inappropriate.
Please count me among the confused. There is a branch of social work called “restorative justice,” which seeks to help victims and rehabilitate assailants by connecting them in safe communication.
Is it not possible that there are people working in the field who care deeply about the victims and think that restorative justice is an effective means of helping those who have suffered (while simultaneously giving assailants a better understanding of the consequences of their violence on real people)?
(Moreover, what would have happened if the parole officer hadn’t told the victim of the apology offer? If your guest had found out about such protective behaviour later, I wonder if her feminist side would have argued that that too was demonstrating his patriarchal bias.)
Regardless, if your guest has an argument for why restorative justice is too hard on victims, I would be interested to hear her case, but I am surprised that you did you not ask her for details of why she was offended by the parole officer’s behaviour. Did you really think the basis for your guest’s controversial claim was so obvious that it needn’t be explained? Or is it possible that you didn’t ask because you were afraid that people might think that you “didn’t get it”?
(I ask that question not in an accusatory way, but instead to suggest the possibility that feminist ideology scares even the most strong-minded journalists into censoring their natural curiosity for fear that it might poke the dogma.)
Seth McDonough (www.sethblogs.com)
P.S. If you’re even a smidge compelled by my argument, please consider contacting Erin Pizzey, who I understand started one of the first-ever women’s shelters, but generally disagrees with feminist theory in regard to therapy, and so would likely give you an interesting (and respectful) counter balance.
Thus far, to my everlasting surprise (sarcasm alert!), The Current has not replied to my email. However, on November 12th, they put on a show presenting male voices regarding violence against women.
Men who have been falsely accused, you ask? No, good one. It was, of course, a panel discussion (identified on CBC’s website under the prescriptive headline “Men need to get involved in the fight against sexism and misogyny in Canada”) regarding a white ribbon campaign that calls for men to stop hurting women.
I have no objection to advocating for the better treatment of others (I hate violence as much as the next pacifist), but I am weary of the omnipresent suggestions that (A) all men are culpable for the crimes of terrible men, and (B) we should rank our concern for victims of violence based on their gender.
I can understand that we may feel more protective of those who generally have fewer physical attributes with which to defend themselves, but when a man is murdered should it really matter to us that, in theory, he had a better chance of fighting back? Indeed, should we be even less bothered if it turns out he was a martial arts expert? I’m not saying that the vulnerability of certain people (or even groups of people) shouldn’t play into our discussions of violence in our society, but it would be refreshing if a mainstream broadcaster (especially a public broadcaster meant to represent all of us) would occasionally consider the possibility that being male doesn’t make one immune to danger, serious injury, and the psychological stress and trauma of each.
GHOMESHI’S FEMINISM SERIES:
II: YOU’RE EITHER WITH US OR YOU “DON’T GET IT” (you were just here)