Tag Archives: feminism

Geoffrey Wale: Satirical correctness

Satire in a culture of political correctness is a delicate issue. Just what is and is not satirical? What if satire causes offense? In addressing these questions it is worth recalling that satire as a form of humour is, of course, part of the human condition. Satire goes a very long way back in human history.

The Roman playwright, Titus Maccius Plautus, known as Plautus, grew very rich writing and producing plays that lampooned Roman society, notably Patrician high society. The plots of his comedies typically revolve around a Patrician Roman family with a doddering old patriarch, his nagging wife, rebellious son and the clever slave who continually gets the better of him. The testament to Plautus and his brand of satire is summed up nicely in his epitaph which reads:

Since Plautus is dead, Comedy mourns,
Deserted is the stage; then Laughter, Jest and Wit,
And Melody’s countless numbers all together wept.

However offended Patrician Romans may have been by Plautine comedy, several Plautine comedies survived the are still read and produced in the present. In fact, Stephen Sondheim’s musical “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” is based on Plautine comedy. Our ancestors appreciated satire, recognizing it for what it is: laughter, jest and wit.

In July, 2013, Men’s Rights Edmonton–a men’s rights activist group–generated controversy when they produced posters with the caption “Don’t Be That Girl” as a parody of the “Don’t be That Guy” advertising campaign. The “Don’t be That Guy” campaign addresses the issues of women’s alcohol consumption and how the men dating them obtain their consent to sex. The “Don’t be That Girl” posters lampoon the message that it is men who are solely responsible in such situations, whereas women who drink are not accountable for their actions. Lise Gotell, chair of the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Alberta reacted angrily, stating: “These posters, I think, are quite troubling … What’s been done to transform an anti-sexual-assault campaign into a rape-apologist campaign is just deeply offensive.”

The “Don’t be That Girl” posters are controversial, but as Judy Rebick (Canada’s wealthiest Marxist-feminist) asserted, “Canada has a long history of satire–sometimes very biting satire.” Those who condemn the “Don’t be That Girl” posters would do well to remember this, see it for what it is, satire, and take it in stride.

The Hustings

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Geoffrey Wale: Men going their own way

Jackson wrote last week, in response to my piece on Men’s rights activists (MRAs), arguing that “men’s rights advocacy is not so much a response to feminism but an appropriation of feminism.” There is one strand in the broader movement for men’s rights that one can argue is simply an “appropriation of feminism.” Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW) defines itself as “a statement of self-ownership, where the modern man preserves and protects his own sovereignty above all else. It is the manifestation of one word: “No”. Ejecting silly preconceptions and cultural definitions of what a “man” is.” Key to this movement is the belief that men should reject marriage or cohabitation to a woman. While the man who adheres to the precepts of MGTOW vows to remain a bachelor, he does not rule out forming a relationship with a woman where they become and remain friends and lovers.

Interestingly, this disdainful view of marriage is no different than that held by second wave feminists. “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle,” the quotation attributed to Gloria Steinem, was actually coined by Irina Dunn, Australian writer, social activist and filmmaker, in 1970. Dunn, like Steinem, is a second wave feminist. Marlene Dixon, second wave feminist and professor of sociology at the University of Chicago and McGill University wrote:

The institution of marriage is the chief vehicle for the perpetuation of the oppression of women; it is through the role of wife that the subjugation of women is maintained. In a very real way the role of wife has been the genesis of women’s rebellion throughout history.

Marriage, the process by which two people (historically a man and woman) who love each other make their relationship public, official, and permanent, is one of the most highly valued conventions basic to society. Even Gloria Steinem, famous for the quotation, a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle, chose to marry at 66 years of age. She married David Bale, father of Christian Bale, on September 3, 2000. They were married until his death in 2003. Just as second wave feminism failed to abolish marriage, MGTOW is destined also to fail. “Omnia vincit amor” (love conquers all) continues to apply in the present just as in antiquity, when Virgil wrote these words, to harmonious relations between men and women.

The Hustings

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Jackson Doughart: The problem with men’s rights advocacy

Geoffrey wrote yesterday about the men’s rights advocacy movement, which seeks to offset the misandric overtones of feminism’s contemporary wave. Given that I agree about these problems, my initial impression is to support any such counter-action. But there is nevertheless a fundamental problem, in my view, with the men’s rights mantra.

Namely, men’s rights advocacy is not so much a response to feminism but an appropriation of feminism—its posture as well as its modus operandi—to advance the interest of a population identified through its sex in opposition to the other. Accordingly, it adopts all of the disagreeable characteristics of feminist activism, including the rhetoric of victimhood and the claim of disadvantage at the hand of entrenched prejudice. And so men’s rights advocacy does not really challenge feminism but remake feminism for its own purposes.

I think this bears analogy to philo-Semitism, which in at least some of its manifestations becomes a minor-key variant of anti-Semitism. Saying that Jews are great because they’re good with money and are efficient at political action and lobbying isn’t exactly Judophobic, but it seems to assume or assimilate the very stereotypes that are the province of anti-Semitism. And so too does men’s rights activism internalize the misperceptions of its feminist adversary: i.e. a disposition that at once denies the natural distinctions between the sexes, thereby calling for gender-blindness and equality where it is impossible, while also touting sex as a primary source of political division when it is not so.

This is not to say that the men’s rights people don’t have a point. I know both Janice Fiamengo and Barbara Kay, who earnestly involve themselves in the movement and whose view of “gender politics” I share, with they—being women—having the bona fides to challenge in print feminism’s innate misandry. The way in which family-law courts discriminate systemically against men is an important subject, and if a liberation-style movement serves to push back against the status quo, it should be credited.

But that doesn’t jettison the trouble with liberationism in the first place, which in my view marries the worst forms of identity politics with the worst forms of political thought and ideology. (Quite often, too, it attends the most overwrought and self-aggrandizing of prose.) “As a male”—to use the calling card of identity-politic pronouncements—I don’t find myself in the least represented by these people. What is needed is a better review, deconstruction, and attack on feminism, not a mere re-appropriation of its methods for a good cause.

The Hustings

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Jackson Doughart: Stand up for MacKay

I’ve never really liked Peter MacKay, to be honest, but I feel quite bad for him in the latest phony scandal from Ottawa. MacKay was so audacious as to send a feel-good message to recipients of the Conservatives’ e-mail list for Mother’s and Father’s Days. True to script, the right-wing “chauvinist” (that’s Chrystia Freeland’s word) praised women for their role in raising children and husbands for their role as providers.

I personally received the Father’s Day e-mail, though I can’t find or recall the Mother’s Day one, and remember thinking at the time that this was exactly the kind of thing that some CBC hack would milk out of proportion to show how “out-of-touch” the Conservatives are in our post-modern genderfied age.

And so, equally true to script, the National runs a leading story about how MacKay has “done it again”, using it as an opportunity for more mutual stroking of Canada’s bien-pensant class. Laughably, they said that the e-mail was “leaked”, even though anyone can join the subscribers list of thousands of people.

I’d only like to express my disappointment with the political right’s tepid response here. Margaret Wente starts her analysis well, calling this an instance of manufactured outrage, but ends by essentially bashing MacKay for failing to realize that “there are certain things you can’t say in public, even if (sometimes especially if) they’re true.” She went on: “Anything to do with gender differences, for example. If he isn’t smart enough to know this, then you’ve got to ask whether he’s smart enough to be a cabinet minister.”

There should be a bit more shame in this sheepish acquiescence to political correctness, which needs to be confronted as often and as sharply as possible. As Wente herself points out, the very figure of Ms Freeland, who took to the floor of Parliament to denounce MacKay, herself juggles a career as a public intellectual and now politician with mothering three young children. But that seems to provide her with no perspective on how other women are unable to do both at once, or who do not want to do so, and how a perceptive public figure may well recognize and even celebrate this.

So our smiting and wrath on this occasion should logically be directed at the CBC for its attack not only on MacKay but on conservatism as well. If only the constituency of most reasonable and in-touch people were a bit more institutionally robust, perhaps Ms Freeland could be floundering from her own ill-conceived comments.

The Hustings

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