Clementine Ford is writer for the Australian online magazine Dailylife.com.au, who, on May 1, 2012, published a scorching indictment of the populist doctrine of feminism. In fact, her article addressing that ideology was so grievously misleading that by now, a week later, feminists around the world almost certainly have the Aussie columnist at the top of their list of enemies.
Ford’s opening premise is that feminists and women are the same thing, based on the assumed claim that opposition or criticism of that ideology is, by definition, hatred of women (misogyny being the name for hatred of human beings based on their sexual identity as women or girls). Obviously, feminism is more than just an up-with-girls club, indeed, feminists are known to frequently remind critics that in spite of the ideology’s name, it is actually a humanist movement. In fact, after more than 60 years of feminism’s pre-eminence in our cultural zeitgeist, men victimized by unjust cultural demands on them benefit from feminism as well. Indeed, men whose female-governed sexual identity requires them to act as disposable protectors and providers or men who are raped but denied any resource because the definition of rape excludes men or men targeted by the majority of criminal violence, well, feminism helps these men too. Or it will, soon. Any day now.
Obviously Ford’s implication that feminism and women are interchangeable synonyms is no more insulting to real feminists than her facile implication that criticism or disagreement with the ideology has no possible source except hatred towards women and lies. This trope, if feminists were actually foolish enough to swallow it, would suggest that they are too intellectually weak to address an argument or a criticism. What does Clementine Ford think you are, moronic children who cannot think or speak for themselves? Apparently so, as her rhetoric suggests that counter arguments from anyone outside the Feminist reserve are all simply lies built on hatred and thus feminists need not even consider them, or address criticism with anything except accusations of hatred. “You just hate women, so I’m not listening! La la la la la la!”.
How weak and intellectually vacant feminists must be in Ford’s mind to need such rhetorical mummery. The pretence that feminism itself is the only true point of view and that therefore oppositional argument must be both hateful and false is offered by Ford as a magic shield to protect those whom the Australian writer regards as infants so feeble minded that they need not think for themselves or address a differing opinion. Surely no other criticism of feminist ideology could be as demeaning as this.
Ford then cements her characterization of feminists as mental weaklings by portraying her version of what non-feminists might offer as criticism. Whoops, not “not-feminists”, since that implies differing points of view can have legitimacy, ha! Rather, Clementine Ford provides a series of caricatures of arguments, protecting her fragile readers from the real hatred of these tropes if encountered in the wild. Just remember children, all differing opinion is false and built on misogyny, but Clementine will be your filter and your shield. I’m paraphrasing Ford’s wording, which is actually as follows:
“If you’re not trained in the spotting of smug, self-satisfied misogynists, you might not know the general thrust of their shtick. Luckily for you, I’ve become somewhat of an expert in the field since they all started following me on Twitter. So to help novices and outsiders, I’ve taken the following five popular misogynist arguments and parsed them into some kind of legible (if not logical) format for your benefit”
Straw-man number one.
If you want to see real oppression, go to the Middle East.
This might be an argument made by critics of feminism somewhere, sometime, but if so, it’s surely not common. As an actual critic of feminist ideology (as opposed to Clementine Ford’s imaginary woman-hating critics) I’ve written critically about feminist doctrine for years without encountering the argument at the top of Ford’s list as a criticism of feminism. In fact, while some hawkish and nationalistic politicians sometimes refer to the poor status of women in Islamic nations, a strong argument exists asserting that the Western perception of women as oppressed in Islam is a distorted and deeply mistaken point of view, based on ignorance.
Straw-man number two.
How can women expect us to respect them when they won’t respect themselves?
Ford is talking about the standard come-here-go-away game of sexualized feminine attire and attention seeking behavior, coupled with the socially normal climate of automatic male rejection. In spite of claims to the contrary, sexualized feminine attire is worn to attract positive male sexual attention. This attention isn’t expected or in most cases allowed to be expressed, at least not without men jumping through the usual hoops of female approval through demonstrations of utility, wealth or other female-benefiting traits. However, Ford manages to recycle the absurd claim that expressed opinion to attention-demanding feminine attire denotes assumptions of male ownership of women. The reality being that women in semi-undress, alcohol-lubricated or otherwise sexually charged environments routinely shove themselves into men’s faces and personal space; and social convention holds women doing this exempt and untouchable except to the exact degree individual women want. Men who modeled identical behavior towards women would be arrested and subject to immediate retribution from socially conformist males.
Ford’s characterization, along with its absurd claim of assumed male ownership, also refers back to caricatures of foreign perceptions. “When Sheik Taj Aldin Alhilali compared scantily clad women to uncovered meat, we were rightly outraged.”
The senior Muslim cleric comment’s during a sermon in 2006 were delivered in Arabic, but translated to English as:
“If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street, or in the garden or in the park, or in the backyard without a cover, and the animals come and eat it, whose fault is it, the animals or the uncovered meat?”
Of course the reading projected onto this statement, that women are the owned commodity of men (like uncovered meat at a picnic), is claimed by Ford, who obviously imagines feminists as self-victimizing tyrants, demanding the pseudo-privilege of permanent victim identity. Ford, in her quotation of the Muslim cleric, manages to omit the comparison of men to animals drawn to uncovered meat. The animals in this analogy don’t own the meat; they are simply drawn by appetite and instinct to eat it, unencumbered by the intellect or socialization which we assume men have, in spite of them being so obviously inferior.
In fact, a 2008 Islamic advertisement for the benefits of traditional Hijabi attire used a photograph of a lollypop with and without its paper wrapper to symbolize women in concealing versus revealing attire.
In much the same way as the cleric, this metaphor is obvious in its message. Women are people of value, and men are dirty animals or in the case of the lollypop image, flies. This isn’t a question of ownership, but of the relative humanity and value of sexual demographics. Ford’s inverted mischaracterization trades on the assumption that feminists are so passively uninformed and mentally vacant that the characterization of men as animals and women as something to be protected from those animals will be lost on her audience. Ford does stumble briefly onto the truth in a commentary which skirts within a hair of self satire when she says: “The fact that we criticize other cultures for it doesn’t make us champions of women – it makes us both sexist AND racist.”
Straw-man number three.
Stop criticizing domestic servitude! Some women are proud to look after their families.
Admittedly, Clementine Ford almost stumped me with this one.
According to Ford: “Some women are proud to look after their families”. Well, maybe they are, but that isn’t really the point. Women who stay at home in the context of a marriage are there because they choose to be. Of course any mention of choice puts this entire discussion, along with me, in the “to-be-discredited” trash-bin of misogyny, the hatred of women. Yes, according to Ford, mentioning the fact that women, like other citizens in Western nations are people who make choices about their own lives – that makes my opinion void and me a hater of women. Therefore, if you’re a feminist, don’t even keep reading, just tell yourself all this discussion is merely a thin veil disguising a deep hatred of women and you won’t have to trouble your pretty little head to consider any single word of it.
Stated flatly: women control their own reproduction. They have the legal rights as well as the medical technology through dozens of birth control techniques to do so. If a woman has a child, it is by her own choice. Men, by contrast, have access to condoms; a pretty-good technology to prevent pregnancy but not foolproof. However, men generally have no legal rights over reproduction, whatever a woman decides, a man must abide by, and in the event of a pregnancy, he must pay. The idea that a woman in a marriage is somehow there at the behest or under the enforced will of a man is flatly absurd. In fact, in marriage as well as in reproduction, women are in charge. Marriage is a three way business relationship between a woman, a man, and a government. The woman can exit that relationship whenever she wants, while forcing the man to remain locked in, paying her. The state acts as her enforcer, taking a percentage of the payments. To pretend otherwise, that women are somehow oppressed by such an arrangement, into which they enter and exit freely without coercion, is to indulge in absurd fantasy.
However, after claiming that anyone pointing out female choice is obviously a misogynist, Ford admits the truth of that claim herself. “The thing is, women can choose those things if they want to.” Goes on to call herself tedious and then imputes motive and argument to feminism’s critics, by saying “But the fact is, these people aren’t advocating for or defending a range of choices.” Of course they’re not, if they were, then Clementine’s readers might be motivated to consider some arguments from outside feminism’s big-top and that would be just too much for those poor little darlings. Clementine Ford will tell you what the bad people are saying, so there’s no need to look elsewhere.
But how does Ford know that no such arguments are being made?
“Because if they were, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.”
This translates loosely to: “trust me”.
Straw-man number four.
“It’s a science thing.”
“Look, men and women are built differently. It’s biological. Men are more visual, women are more emotional. That’s why more men are in executive roles. It’s about merit. If women were better, they wouldn’t be so crap. I didn’t make the rules.”
Like all effective lies, this one is salted with the truth. Men and women are indeed built differently. This is why fitness standards are being lowered all over the world in fire-fighting, police, and military entry requirements to accommodate female applicants. However, the reason for the much-evangelized wage gap isn’t capability or male-favoring sexism, it’s choices made by women.
While it has been historically true that men, on average, earned more during their lifetimes that women earned, on average, during their lifetimes, this has been repeatedly and fraudulently interpreted to indicate a culture of male-female job parity and pay disparity. This interpretation has been repeatedly and exhaustively debunked. The lifetime earning difference reflects differing choices made by women and men, in which (on average), preference for more flexible, safer, and less demanding careers translate to lower lifetime earnings.
In addition, in spite of the real statistical lower earnings of women, they still manage to control the spending of 80% of disposable income worldwide. But Clementine Ford omits this, because to her, feminists are simple, innocent creatures to be sheltered from complex reality and spoon fed a simple narrative of their ongoing victimhood. The assumption by Ford of her audience’s childish stupidity is breathtaking in its condescension and insult.
Straw-man number five.
Men are oppressed too, therefore women aren’t! Or something.
“If feminists really cared about equality, they’d be addressing all the inequality that faces men. Like, why do feminists only care about breast cancer and not prostate cancer? Why aren’t feminists advocating for single dads? Why won’t women sleep with me when I’m a really nice guy and I’ve made a particular effort to be nice to them, particularly? Until feminism can answer that, I’m afraid I don’t really see it as being legitimate.”
Ford skirts just close enough to the truth here to dismiss it, but gives herself away with an absurd reference to a “nice-guys” apocryphal inability to get laid.
Ford also paints feminists as a culturally dominant movement of quite breathtaking cruelty and inhumanity by suggesting that feminist driven fundraising for female-specific cancers deliberately displaces and excludes male-specific cancer fundraising. This would be a shocking indictment of a so-called humanist movement if it were true. If, for example – in a male dominated professional sport, organized medical fundraising events omitted male-specific cancers and committed the all male athletes in a professional sporting league to breast cancer – that would be monstrously cruel. It would almost require a view of those male athletes as not even human beings worth consideration for male-specific cancer fund-raising.
Ford also suggests that feminists are cavalier and indifferent to the pain of fathers stripped from their families by a monetized family court system, then garnished of income while held legally away from their own children. The Australian writer portrays feminism as a movement indifferent to the fact that men’s suicide rate, already 4 times higher than women’s, jumps to 10 times higher after divorce. Clementine Ford’s portrayal is of feminists so openly contemptuous of human suffering that her article used a graphic of a laughing cartoon face in answer to a hypothetical argument for the concerns of males in a feminist society.
Should feminism, the movement claiming that women’s recognition as human beings is a radical notion give any concern for men’s on the job death rate (93%)? Should feminists care that in a patriarchy, women outlive men by 5-7 years? Should feminists be concerned about increasing displacement of men in a feminized higher education system?
According to Clementine Ford: “Ha-ha! Ha-ha! Ha-ha! No.”
So, according to Clementine Ford: her feminist readers are callous, indifferent to suffering not their own, small minded, feeble of intellect, and should be sheltered from any real argument outside their own ideology. A set of flimsy straw-man arguments are supplied by her in place of possible encounters by actual feminists with any real oppositional argument. Obviously, Ford’s characterization of feminist ideology and its proponents cannot possibly be true, because if it were, after 60 years of pre-eminence the world would recognize feminism as a doctrine of self-absorbed female supremacy, fabricated victimhood and totalitarian, narrow-visioned female self interest. The advocates and proponents of such an ideology would be widely recognized as vile, cruel and selfish children.
As an opponent of this ideology, I know that the Australian writer must be mistaken, because feminism is now and always has been a movement seeking “equality” and which posits that women being people was once a radical notion.