What Anti-Feminists & Reza Aslan Have in Common

I didn’t take terribly kindly to the characterization that those of us fighting against our use as props in Dear Muslimah arguments engaged in such arguments via #AnApostatesExperience. Dawkins wasn’t the only person whose arguments were mentioned in the original post, however. Anita Sarkeesian was directly quoted (unlike any ex-Muslims).

There was no ex-Muslim hashtag response to her tweet because her detractors’ arguments are what most resemble those of Reza Aslan, not hers.

Say what you will about Anita Sarkeesian, but she hasn’t made a career out of mischaracterizing a community by ignoring what people within it have to say about their own beliefs and motivations. If anything, reactions to her work are shining a harsh and much-needed light on the sexism and misogyny that persists in Western society.

People who think that the need for feminism is over and misogyny has been defeated have a lot more explaining to do thanks to the backlash against Sarkeesian and countless other women. It is a lot harder to pretend that the hatred of women doesn’t exist when a woman who talks about the hatred of women is faced with, well, a relentless flood of hatred towards women. Reza Aslan, on the other hand, does what Sarkeesian’s detractors and other anti-feminists do: He blames anything and everything but the reasons cited by the people perpetuating violence and oppression say is the reason for their actions.

Man murders people and says it’s because conventionally-attractive women give everyone but him the sex that he thinks they owe him? Nope, not a misogynist acting based on misogyny. It must have been mental illness (even if that theory was disproved and doesn’t explain things anyway).

People blow themselves up after stating that it’s because they believe it’s the theologically best thing to do? Nope, not religiously-motivated. They must have been sad because they were uneducated and poor (even if they weren’t and there’s no such link).

This isn’t to say that we ought to disregard the myriad factors that influence people’s behavior in favor of only the justifications that they give. The world is a complex place with complex people who form complex communities that interact in various, complex ways. Disregarding the stated reasons for someone’s behavior, especially in the case of explicitly-shared motivations for actions intended to bring attention to those very beliefs, is disingenuous.

It is not unfair to say that ideology has at least some influence on action. It is wrong to ignore what people have to say about themselves when we assess their actions.

“It’s not misogyny or sexism, it’s [insert every and any other factor here]” is to anti-feminists as “It’s not Islam, it’s [insert every and any other factor here]” is to Reza Aslan.

{advertisement}
What Anti-Feminists & Reza Aslan Have in Common
{advertisement}
The Orbit is still fighting a SLAPP suit! Help defend freedom of speech, click here to find out more and donate!

28 thoughts on “What Anti-Feminists & Reza Aslan Have in Common

  1. 1

    “It’s not misogyny or sexism, it’s [insert every and any other factor here]” is to anti-feminists as “It’s not Islam, it’s [insert every and any other factor here]” is to Reza Aslan.

    I find myself on opposites sides of the argument in each case. With misogyny, so many people are quick to dismiss it, so I have to emphasize it. With Islam, so many people blame it without thought for any other factor, and I find myself hedging my statements.

  2. 2

    “It is not unfair to say that ideology has at least some influence on action. It is wrong to ignore what people have to say about themselves when we assess their actions.”

    And we wait in vain for deniers like Aslan and Armstrong to address this point.

  3. 3

    As a feminist I think we have a duty to call out some of the terribly hateful things that feminists say and do to men.
    Feminists phoned in a bomb threat this year to get a MRA conference cancelled. Now I’m not a fan of MRAs but I think we feminists should be ashamed by our silence on the issue. I heard no feminists condemn this.
    Where are the voices against hateful feminists like Witchwind and twisty faster? Our silence against their campaign to eliminate billions of men is deafening. Any time feminists like this are brought up they are excused as not representative of feminists and are crazy rather than just taking some of the more hateful feminist rhetoric to a natural conclusion.
    Then there is the hateful slander against people like Richard Dawkins. He’s an old male cis-gendered white guy. Pure bigotry.
    Old is ageist and if you are stupid to think being old is so much fun and such a privileged situation just wait until you get there. What’s wrong with being a cis-gendered male ? Are people that throw that label around like a slur aware how they are being sexist? Or white? If you want to broadbrush and categorize people by their race, regardless of which one you are a racist.
    It is time that we feminists clean up the filth in our own back yard. The biggest enemies to feminism aren’t anti-feminists and MRAs. They are the phony hate mongers in our own midst.

    1. 3.1

      The problem isn’t that Dawkins an old cisgender white male person. The problem is that he’s an old cisgender white male person who keeps speaking up on issues that have to do with people who aren’t cis/white/male. It’s not sexist or a slur to say that there’s a problem where privileged people keep acting and speaking like they are authorities on matters they know little to nothing about.

    2. 3.2

      There isn’t a shred of evidence that bomb threats or death threats were made to the venue that was hosting that so-called “men’s rights” conference, but nice try.

      And I literally LOL’d at this one:
      “Where are the voices against hateful feminists like Witchwind and twisty faster? Our silence against their campaign to eliminate billions of men is deafening.”

      Yeah, you almost had me fooled with your “As a feminist” bit.

    3. 3.4

      Well, I kind of can’t exactly protest things that neither I nor anybody else seems to have heard about.

      I don’t think Dawkins is a fair comparison – he’s quite well known. You’re asking me to spend hours a day scraping around for ‘feminists behaving badly’ so I can denounce them based on vague third-hand reports I found.

    4. 3.5

      Where are the voices against hateful feminists like Witchwind and twisty faster?

      The obscurity of voices speaking out against obscure ‘feminists’ (in quotes becasue obvious reasons) is matched to the obscurity of those ‘feminists’. However, like Witchwind’s blog, for example, critiques are just a Google search away*. For what it’s worth, I found (with about three minutes work) a Pharyngula post and a couple of Feministe posts decrying her extremism, and those blogs have some moderate reach. But you don’t see people devoting huge amounts of time to countering her for the same reason you don’t see prominent people devoting huge amounts of time to countering random, particular White supremacist blogs instead of decrying racism generally – it’s much more efficient to counter the bad ideas generally than to try to contend with every single extremist directly.

      As you do/would know if you are/were involved in feminist (or any social justice) communities, we spend lots of time arguing with each other about theory and practice. Challenging ideas and having ours challenged (and thus having to defend them from critique, which necessitates understanding our own ideas and their implications to be able to do so well) is one way we can make our ideas better.

      *The search results are all instances of “witchwind” that are not on her blog – there are neutral mentions, support, and opposition scattered throughout, as well as plenty of unrelated uses; she’s just such a marginal character that there aren’t that many pages discussing her AT ALL outside of her own blog.

  4. 4

    I wasn’t specifically addressing your criticisms of Dawkins, but the many unfair remarks that have been made about him.
    He has been called a “white supremacist”! Have you never read unfair criticisms of Dawkins? I can assure you there are a quite a few out there.
    How about I turn your statement around and say you have no business on commenting on white males because you aren’t one and therefore are not an authority that knows little to nothing about it.
    If I were to opine that white women in western societies have it generally better off than brown skinned women in Muslim societies wouldn’t that be true? Why should my opinion or Dawkins on that be silenced?

    1. 4.1

      I wasn’t specifically addressing my criticisms of him, either. I was addressing your straw-personing of people’s arguments about him.

      How about I turn your statement around and say you have no business on commenting on white males because you aren’t one and therefore are not an authority that knows little to nothing about it.

      Let’s look at my actual statement, shall we? “privileged people keep acting and speaking like they are authorities on matters they know little to nothing about.”

      Matters. So I wouldn’t presume to speak on matters like masculinity, but I can sure as heck speak about my experiences with masculine people.

      If I were to opine that white women in western societies have it generally better off than brown skinned women in Muslim societies wouldn’t that be true? Why should my opinion or Dawkins on that be silenced?

      Your statement is so overgeneralized and imprecise that it isn’t worth silencing. No one is suggesting anyone be silenced, anyway. It’s not like me or anyone else has the power to silence you or Dawkins in the first place. We do criticize him, as is our right. Or do you want to silence us? Hmmm.

  5. 5

    Dawkins was called a white supremacist, straight up, no strawmanning. Are you trying to minimize Sikivu Hutchinson’s outrageous slander of him? Denying it happened?
    You seem to be able to say why (I assume you were talking about Elliot Rodger) killed people. It had nothing to do with his documented mental disorder, it was just misogyny? He hated men too, and killed more men then women. Why not consider it misanthropy and not just misogyny?
    Do you ever talk about white male privilege, because you know there are a lot of white males that are anything but privileged and the white male privilege meme is awfully common and is a rather imprecise generalization.
    Pretty tough to talk about social issues without resorting to some sort of generalization though. At least when I asked the question you have decided to avoid I framed it as a general question.
    malo: Yes I am a feminist, and I think some of the extremists need to be challenged, as they are hurting the movement in general. I have also been an advocate for environmental causes and have witnessed how a bunch of loony extremists have done massive damage to the movement. Just watching enemies of responsible environmental policies using the violent nutcases that claim to be environmentalists as a political weapon successfully has been frustrating as hell.

    1. 5.1

      Please quote Dr. Hutchinson. I’m sure her argument didn’t solely consist of calling Dawkins a white supremacist, but if you can show me I’m wrong, I’ll happily agree.

      You seem to be able to say why (I assume you were talking about Elliot Rodger) killed people.

      Nope. Didn’t do that. I can quote what people say about why they kill people — which is what I did.

      It had nothing to do with his documented mental disorder, it was just misogyny?

      Except he didn’t have a documented mental disorder. I don’t put the links into my posts for my health, they’re for you to follow and maybe learn a thing or two. Here it is again, for your clicking convenience: http://thedailybanter.com/2014/05/report-mass-murderer-elliot-rodger-never-diagnosed-autism/

      And I didn’t say that misogyny was the only factor. What did I say? Here I go again, quoting the post that you’re allegedly responding to: “This isn’t to say that we ought to disregard the myriad factors that influence people’s behavior in favor of only the justifications that they give. The world is a complex place with complex people who form complex communities that interact in various, complex ways. Disregarding the stated reasons for someone’s behavior, especially in the case of explicitly-shared motivations for actions intended to bring attention to those very beliefs, is disingenuous.”

      So more than one factor.

      He hated men too, and killed more men then women. Why not consider it misanthropy and not just misogyny?

      Obviously it was misanthropy, since women are people, too. I specifically said “misogyny” because his manifesto mentioned hating women and wanting to kill men because they had all the sex he felt he deserved but didn’t get with hot women.

  6. 6

    I’m seriously concerned about the issue of people using violence in the name of Islam to smear all Muslims, in exactly the same way that I can’t stand atheists who attack random Christians for the actions of extremist fundamentalists. I’m all about looking at nuance and deeper issues and making sure we get the right picture of a situation before trying to figure out how to correct it.

    But on the other hand, it is right and proper to say that Christianity is at least a major contributing factor in abortion clinic bombings and abortion doctor assassinations and even American wars against Middle Eastern countries. And it is right and proper to say that Islam is at least a contributing factor in some bombings and murders. In certain cases you can’t blame it all on religion… for instance I’d say that the Oklahoma City bombing was related to Christian extremism but not directly a religious terrorist attack, and something similar about 9-11. That doesn’t mean it is remotely acceptable to erase the religious aspect of a crime to avoid offending people.

  7. 7

    Heina, to deal with the Elliot Rodger thing, I have an understanding of terminology about mental health from my life experience where I live. My (btw feminist) life partner of more than 30 years is a retired mental health professional and I have first hand experience of mental illness through my family.
    I use the term mental disorder as a non-clinical description of someone that displays bizarre, unhealthy behavior.
    If I were to say they were mentally ill, I would refer to an apparent organic mental illness such as Schizophrenia, bipolar, clinical depression.
    Behavior disorder is a diagnosed, presumably learned phenomena such as sociopathy, psychopathy.
    Rodger’s behavior was obviously disordered. Correct?
    He didn’t have a formal diagnosis of a recognized mental illness, nevertheless he had obvious unhealthy behavior.
    It was interesting that he plotted to kill his little brother but not his mother or his sexually active sister. That is not consistent with entirely misogynistic viewpoint, but a generally misanthropic viewpoint in my opinion. He had been seen by therapists for half of his life. A formal diagnosis is kind of unnecessary I would think given the circumstances.

  8. 8

    Discussions about crimes committed by members of one group are often done as if people were characters from children’s books where there is a hero and a villain and everything is black, white, clear and monocausal.
    Let me correct this: discussions are done that way if the subject is a member of a minority group. As Jacob Schmidt pointed out above, people are quick to reduce whatever actions a muslim takes to “Islam”.
    If that’s so easy, why is it that about 90% of those who leave Germany to join the IS don’t even have the lowest German school leaving cert you can obtain after 9 years but all the muslims I meet in college seem very much not inclined to pick up a gun and travel to Syria to kill people?
    And again, when committed by a member of the dominant group and that usually means straight white guys, suddenly the discussion becomes so very fucking nuanced and they are such complicated individuals that things like misogyny cannot have anything to do with it. This is why whenever a straight white guy murders his ex and/or children we talk about a fucking family drama in which we are supposed to feel sympathy for a desperate man who was driven to do this, who loved his wife and children so much that he could not bear the thought to live without them.

  9. 9

    Well I’d make the distinction that “It’s not about misogyny” is a statement that rejects a very prevalent and ubiquitous bias, while “it’s not about Islam” is less accurate, because different strains of Islam, different cultures interacting with Islam will have different effects. So for some issues “It’s about Wahabi Islam in particular” or “It’s about how Islam reinforces patriarchy”.

  10. 10

    Jacob, #1

    I find myself on opposites sides of the argument in each case. With misogyny, so many people are quick to dismiss it, so I have to emphasize it. With Islam, so many people blame it without thought for any other factor, and I find myself hedging my statements.

    Hi, I recognize you from PZ’s blog. I’m just starting to post on other FtB blogs; it’s good to see familiar names here.

    I understand what you’re saying and I want to clear up something that I feel leads to criticism of Islam feeling like a dangerous minefield to people who are not Muslims or ex-Muslims. From your viewpoint, I agree. I just want to shed light on this topic because it’s a topic that is close to me (and that also really frustrates me at times).

    Actually, first since you used the term Islam and not Muslims, I want to start with those two terms as they relate to criticism. When we see things in the U.S. like a school board having a page on abortion torn out of a biology book, or people from Hobby Lobby saying they don’t want to follow the law because they’re Christian, or a judge ruling against same-sex marriage, do we criticize those Christians or do we criticize Christianity for it? For instance, we say things like “fucking privileged people… they’re safe and sound in their Christian community with all their rights so they’re happy to trample all over other people’s”. Isn’t that a perfectly fair thing to say? What good is it to criticize Christianity itself in these cases? Christianity means nothing unless it’s practiced by people, and even then when it’s practiced a certain way. By itself, it’s like a bad recipe sitting in the kitchen drawer. When someone picks it up and starts cooking, that’s when it starts to matter. And we blame the person for cooking it, not the bad recipe itself. So my point is that practically, a criticism of Christianity is a criticism of the Christians practicing it. And criticism of Islam is a criticism of the Muslims practicing it.

    For the purposes of this post, let’s divide the group Muslims into two groups. The first is the Muslim population living in places like the U.S., Canada, Australia and Europe. This group is not considered an oppressive group*; in fact, it’s a group that faces some degree of being punched down at itself. The second is the Muslim population in Muslim nations. Their they make up an overwhelming majority and enjoy a level of privilege and position that is akin to what rich, white straight Christian men had in the U.S. a few decades ago. They use their privilege to stomp on almost every other group with impunity. They not only have an overwhelmingly popular opinion on their side, but often also explicit, long-standing legal protection.

    I think that whenever criticism of Islam and Muslims comes up, non-ex-Muslims tend to think of the first group, the one they’re immediately familiar with. Once they’ve done that, they rightly view such criticism with the suspicion that it may be bigotry masquerading as legitimate criticism. Now, there is one aspect of this hesitation that I understand. If a Chinese person came up to me and started discussing how some Chinese ethnic group is really sexist and homophobic, I would feel very uncomfortable joining in (unless I had lived in China long enough to know it myself). Even if this person was known to me and was a reputable activist in China, I would still not join in using the same level of criticism and same tone that he/she may be using. But I’d believe them and listen to them. Just like I’d believe a woman when she describes to me the slights, insults and offenses she faces on a day to day basis from men.

    I wonder if this is a contributing reason to why ex-Muslims’ opinions aren’t considered with much seriousness in discussions about Islam. Because when we talk about Muslims and the problem with the Muslim world, we’re talking about a 200-foot giant punching down on everyone around him, and that image of Muslims is just not comfortable to deal with for a lot of non-ex-Muslims. This leads to things like the unfortunate fiasco on Bill Maher’s show, where Ben Affleck saw two white millionaire dudes in suits vilifying a generic oppressed Muslim. (Affleck passionately said you can’t say that about 1.5 billion people, but he had no qualms in portraying those 1.5 billion people as innocent). By the way, I think both Affleck and Maher/Harris said wrong things there. I wish they had someone from EXMNA on there instead of Harris to talk about the problems with Islam. Why is Sam Harris the go-to guy for criticism of Islam and not Ali Rizvi or the many EXMNA members? This is precisely like Dawkins behaving like he can decide on how sexism should be perceived in society, not the women experiencing it.

    * It actually is quite an oppressive group, but that’s a different topic. People don’t perceive it as such because it makes up a small part of the population and its worst victims tend to be people in its own group (women, LGBTQ, apostates) who are then unable to speak out about it freely, thus unintentionally hiding the abuses further. Perhaps the reason it’s not considered an oppressive group is because when people think “bad Muslims” they think suicide bombing and attacks on embassies. The majority of Muslims in non-Muslim countries (and also in Muslim countries) are decent, peaceful people in that regard. The problem with Muslims isn’t that they blow up embassies. The problem is they hold and defend some very, very bad ideas. It is this perpetuation and sanctifying of these bad ideas that later on leads to things like safe havens for terrorists cropping up in their midst. But the far worst problems are suppression of ideas, misogyny, homo- and transphobia, and hostility to other religions and apostasy. These things are absolutely ruining Muslim societies.

  11. 11

    How odd that “abear” is claiming to be a feminist. They never did before. They always seemed quite anti-feminist before. (No links handy, but I’ve seen them around FTB.)

    Even now, as abear writes, they write more like an anti-feminist troll trying to imitate feminists that they understand rather poorly than they write like an actual feminist.

    But hey, maybe I’m completely wrong. Maybe I’m thinking of some other commenter.

  12. 12

    Nope, that’s them.

    Abear literally “tut-tutted” me at one because I using the word “fucking.” Like, they actually typed out the words, “Tut-tut”.

    Here they are trying to pretend like the anti-Watson Slymepit brigade had some sort of point.

    They like to maintain plausible deniability, but abear is definitely not a SJW or feminist and is likely just trolling. Not that that should necessarily change anyone’s responses to them; just information that you may or may not find useful.

  13. 13

    Hai Sally! I am so a feminist and a true feminist. My long time S.O. is also a feminist.
    I also believe in social justice, though you are correct that I don’t self identify as an SJW for the reason that a lot of kooky post modernist types have gone a quite a distance to discredit the term.
    Just because I am not particularly a fan of Rebecca Watson hardly disqualifies me as a believer in social justice or feminism.
    To set the record straight, I also am not an MRA or a libertarian. I am a Liberal in a liberal part of a liberal country.
    Although I (we) don’t recall tut-tutting you, it’s possible that occurred. Hopefully you weren’t badly traumatized by it.:-)

  14. 14

    Yeah, I don’t believe you, though, abear.

    I suppose it’s possible that you sincerely believe that you’re a feminist and yet go around defending misogynist harassers. It has happened. It just seems unlikely.

    And of course your constant racefails are perfectly compatible with mainstream feminism. .

    Whatever label you choose for yourself, the TL;DR is that you suck.

    1. 14.1

      Sally; That’s not fair or honest. I don’t defend misogynist harassers. What are you talking about? Give a quote about something I said and then we can discuss whether it matches your lurid description.
      Racefail? What are you talking about ? Is that an allegation I’m racist? Again, if you’re going to make an unpleasant smear at me, which btw I vehemently deny shouldn’t you at least have the decency of supplying some evidence to back up that smear?
      I don’t dislike you even though I disagree with you sometimes, but I find your hateful smears of me to be unfair.

  15. 15

    You’re actually a slightly moderate conservative, judging from a brief tour of your commenting history I took earlier today. As such, it would be acceptable for you to call yourself a liberal. But “feminist”? Eh, not so much.

    1. 15.1

      Maybe I can change your mind. My belief in feminism, which is a subset of my belief in humanism is that women are full human beings. Our societies need to continue to grant full rights and responsibilities to women. They are not property they are co-equal partners.
      Got a problem with that?

  16. 17

    Well I gave you a basic definition of what I believe feminism to be. Over my lifetime my understanding is formed because of my observations of women in my life-my grandmother, my mother, my S.O., and others. Over the years I have become informed of the challenges women have faced and continue to face by the intelligent, reasonable women around me.
    I don’t get it from some pseudo-social scientist internet huckster peddling neo-puritan hogwash like Anita Sarkeesian or Amanda Marcotte.
    In real life this “dude” doesn’t get a lot of women informing me that I’m not a feminist although a few snowflakes on the internet have made that slur, I expect because they don’t really know me and what I think and they tend to throw around stuff like that as knee jerk reactions.
    Women have defined “true feminism” for me and I gave a brief description of it. Do tell Giliell,where have they got it wrong?

  17. 18

    You know, the fact that you choose hurling abuse at women you disagree with (without providing any evidence) while at the same time claiming that “you are not actually a feminist” is a slur might give people the impression that no, you’re really not a feminist. Appeals to “my girlfriend agrees with me” doesn’t help your credentials either.

    1. 18.1

      According to Giliell, because I think Sarkeesian and Marcotte are phonies that damage the feminist movement you equate that with “not being a feminist”?
      I’m not going to turn Heina’s comment section into a book but I’ll give you some reasons why I don’t have respect for Amanda Marcotte. Have you ever seen the book she wrote that had those terrible racist illustrations in it? Do you want someone that can blatantly display racism to be a spokesperson for feminism? Remember when she continued to call the Duke University students rapists even after it was proven they weren’t? False rape accusations harm the cause of real rape victims and people that make them and intentionally promote them that call themselves feminists taint the name of real feminists.
      Are you a racist that thinks it’s okay to make false accusations of crimes Giliell? Is that what you think feminism is?
      Do you disagree that women are fully human beings that are not the property of men and deserve to have full rights and responsibilities?
      My life partner of many decades isn’t a “girl” friend and is hardly the only woman that agrees with my views on feminism. If you ever get declared pope of feminism (shudder) than I’ll stop calling myself a feminist.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *