Rebecca Solnit Needs Men to Factsplain Things For Her
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Rebecca Solnit Explains Nothing
Rebecca Solnit, famous for harrumphing that “men” explain things to her, sometimes forgets that in the real world, “people” need to explain things to her because she cannot seem to grasp information. Solnit needs a good dose of mansplaining.
Solnit bemoans the silencing of women, their voices are not heard, or dismissed as facile, pointless, self-defeating, or — the ultimate sin — dismissed because they are openly afforded space — 2/3rds of a Guardian opinion page — and opt to “Solnit;” a new verb whose meaning should become clear below. When you are afforded space in the Guardian to weave a confection of oppression without bothering to dive into the messy world of evidence, or to engage in real rights issues unpopular with the authoritarian left.
So, let us begin. Women who have been raped aren’t to believed? First off they are, second they are afforded extra rights that victims of other violent crimes aren’t afforded. A woman penetrated with a penis is sheilded from adversarial due process to a degree unimagined to a person penetrated with a knife. Third, so far our legal system still affords the presumption of innocence, so testimony ought to be doubted until and unless evidence is produced. Ask an Irishman to recount Diplock due process. Solnit asserts the existence of this “rape culture” neofeminist trope again in spite of the apparent fact that there is no evidence to support her assertion that there is some systemic culture of rape. Indeed, the US DoJ’s 2014 review found that the college rape epidemic actually amounts to 0.61% of women, lower than the general population, at 0.75%. This sits in contradistinction to the ever-popular zombie statistic of 1 in 4 or 1 in 5. To quote someone quoting someone doing actual research “…people tend to take any information as confirmation of their mental models.(2)”
Or, presumably to celebrate International Women’s Day, Women’s Rights News offered a “new” study (from 2014, oddly) trumpeting that “1 in 3 men would rape a woman if they could get away with it (1)” based on a sample of “eighty-six male college students (who) received extra credit for their participation” asked indirect, unknown questions that were interpreted by the researchers using unknown coding, with no way to know if they were simply saying whatever they thought might antagonise the gender studies departmentalists and presented to us uncritically as a scientific study published in a “journal” without even the semblance of peer review. These advocacy researchers found that eleven 19 year-olds thought about “engaging in a variety of sexual behaviours ‘if nobody would ever know and there wouldn’t be any consequences’ for the participants.” Such damning evidence of a systemic patriarchy was then written up as “1 in 3 men” would rape, and then uncritically used as a premise for bemoaning the disease of rape culture. Some of us are tired of such propaganda based on atrocious research. The ins and outs of the study are almost irrelevant, as the women reading this article opted then to comment from a position of uncritical acceptance that this is just normal. Here we sample some Vox Femini:
“In other words- 1 in 3 men can’t be trusted… But, “#NOTALLMEN….” It is Russian Roulette with 1 bullet and 3 chambers…”
So, men are weapons, probably loaded; all men. Some of the ‘good men’ may simply not go off. This time.
“Who raised these low lifes? Did daddy encourage this?’or just ne er bothered to instill respect for others and standards of honorable behavior? Fid schools stop the ball entirely
Do your mothers claim you?”
“Not every man catcalled, molested, raped or abused a woman. But every woman at least once in her lifetime was catcalled, molested, abused or raped. Just think about that and the study will have no surprises for you.”
“I want to know where the parents of these MEN are and why these MEN think it’s OK to think that way?”
Men, again. Men, men, men.
As noted of the readership of Womens’ Rights News, I might be guilty of selection bias. Or ‘intellectual bias,’ as not every commentator can be criticised for not understanding statistics, not understanding framing, not being able to access the pay-walled (~$60/article), or, if they can, to understand the nuances of sociological methodology — question design and framing — but as this ‘paper’ doesn’t bother to provide these, this point is moot. But most non-statisticians understand that Timotei commercials advertising the benefits of their snake-oil garnering rave reviews from 47 out of 56 reviews does not a sound sociological review made, yet quoted above are example comments demonstrating that this advocacy research nonsense is not only accepted as a piece of empirical evidence, but, apparently, so obvious as to not even elicit the mildest of surprises.
If these attitudes represent their actual views, we can imagine how shocked we would be if it was some failure of women that was presented so, and uncritically believed as true. Sexist stereotyping, reducing half the species to a mere category; dangerous othering; many and varied would be the complaints. And rightly so. Yet that a popular Womens’ Rights advocacy site uncritically reports that a third of men are potential rapists (eliding the actual paper’s qualification noted about viz. “engaging in a variety of sexual behaviours ‘if nobody would ever know and there wouldn’t be any consequences’ for the participants”) ought to shock; terrify us men. Yet this is normalised for the readership. Pointing out the methodological problems earned me the delightful rebuke of “rape apologist.” (Op. Cit. 1, comments on WRN FB page, https://www.facebook.com/WOMENSRIGH...#)
Turning to why Bex needs “men” — of those with brains to ‘splain things is clear from her internationally reaching Guardian column. That this rape culture is just a fact, and is wholly a male problem, is clear from Solnit’s 5th paragraph, and that’s the only portion of her essay I’ll comment on. She asserts that any victim of rape, apparently, is a “she” — always, presumably, and that the rapist violates “his” victim’s bodily rights, presumably eliding for justifiable reasons more concrete statistics on intimate violence. “The CDC’s 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, released again in 2013 with new analysis, reports in its first-ever study focusing on victimization by sexual orientation that the lifetime prevalence of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner was 43.8 percent for lesbians, 61.1 percent for bisexual women, and 35 percent for heterosexual women, while it was 26 percent for gay men, 37.3 percent for bisexual men, and 29 percent for heterosexual men.”(3) Perhaps it is mansplaining to Solnit, but it would seem that if there is a culture of violence, there is, praise the Lord, some equality in our species’ dark souls. Of course, in some jurisdictions “rape” is a sexist legal concept, being a sexual assault and penetration carried out by a penis: it is logically impossible for a man to be raped, even if he is drugged and sodomised.
Until 2012, the FBI’s definition of rape made female to male rape impossible. “The Centres for Disease Control invented a category of sexual violence called ‘being made to penetrate.’ This definition includes victims who were forced to penetrate someone else with their own body parts, either by physical force or coercion, or when the victim was drunk or high or otherwise unable to consent. When those cases were taken into account, the rates of non-consensual sexual contact basically equalized, with 1.270 million women and 1.267 million men claiming to be victims of sexual violence…A recent analysis of BJS data, for example, turned up that 46 percent of male victims reported a female perpetrator.(4)” Israeli feminists bitterly opposed an attempt by the Knesset to broaden the definition of rape to actually grant legal equality to men because “according to attorney Ruth Eldar of the Noga Center of the Ono Academic College, men will take advantage of the legislation to defend themselves against rape charges by accusing the women of raping them.(5)” Again, statistics and so on, but perhaps Solnit is capable of understanding there might be nuance, and legitimate reasons why, in 2017, some of us aren’t so much trying to silence “women” — this is usually implied as a synonym for “feminist,” unfairly for and to most women, as noted below— as getting tired of the constant drip of obfuscation and hostility.
The documentary “The Red Pill” has just been released, and allows us to follow a feminist documentarian as she starts out to debunk the laughing-stock of rights campaigns, the Mens’ Rights movement — female genital cutting is a moral outrage; male genital cutting doesn’t matter, etc. — only to find herself confronted with arguments (6). It will hopefully gain a wider audience than would normally bother to drill into the claims repeated like tenets of faith.
My ‘male’ believe in my by co-speciesists’ rationality was quickly disabused as, sure enough, one commentator on Solnit’s piece already blithely asserted that it “is full of banalities that any reasonable person would agree with. But I’m sure that the comments will prove that un-reason is still strong.” Perhaps so far I have been exercising unreason, and I just need Solnit to explain things to me. Doubtless the trendy, philosophically meaningless, sociologically dismissed, but ideologically weaponised nostrum that oppressed groups cannot be sexist/racist/ableist/hetero-homophobic/cisist/n-ist because n-ism = prvilige + power nuclear deterrent can be used to irradiate any unsafe space (ie. free debate) is on their side is a hope for some. But libertarians are everywhere pointing out that ‘too bad, so sad, never mind’ — in the world of ideas, all are fair game.
She concludes just this one paragraph of apparent banal truisms by noting that pro-life campaigners seek to “silence the self-determination of women,” neatly effacing the existence of pro-life feminists who “care about all women equally, including unborn ones” and manages to forget that the moral questions around abortion are for some people — not me — about more than the woman, but revolve around the moral status of the foetus. Again, opposition is not silencing, and having a plurality of perspectives is not oppression, but actually a thing called ‘diversity’ — albeit of ideas. A murderer silences forever, but that women murder women and men and other (presumably) is apparently irrelevant; that men are much more likely to be murdered in total is, of course, totally irreverent, and likely to be blamed on the inherent violence of masculinity — here blaming the victim for being a specific sex is acceptable.
So that is a comment or two on one paragraph of an excerpt from Solnit’s latest masterpiece. With the number of highly activist and wealthy womens’ advocacy organisations, and the apparent ease with which grandiose academic feminist ‘theories’ such as patriarchy, systemic oppression, internalised misogyny, toxic masculinity, and many more can be asserted without any serious evidence — indeed, in spite of huge amounts of counterarguments, both theoretical and empirical, that are often unknown, ignored, derided, or dismissed with high condescension. Perhaps a more subtle exploration of what views are being silenced, who is actually privileged and who are being discriminated against in law, in healthcare spending, and in terms of free column inches to expound doctrine might be a productive use of #InternationalWomensDay (7). Perhaps daddy can take daughter to work for the day at the prostate cancer research lab and explain why, our males’ highest sex-linked killer cancer per-capita is a lesser issue for the patriarchy such that “breast cancer receives the most funding per new case, $2,596, but prostate cancer the leasts funding per new case at just $1,318 (8).” And on the way home explain why MoVember — a moustache growing prostate charity drive — was deemed sexist by feminists (9), who felt such a fire of egality they had to co-opt it into that so meaningful of feminist issues — NoShaveNovember.
After all, the powerful ideas radiating through this current moment in Western culture may not be entirely those of “powerful men” — and asserting that voicelessness and powerlessness in contemporary debate, especially on the campuses were the presumed drivers of society’s next generation will emerge seems a little loose with the facts, especially for an ‘historian.’ Interpreting why “36% of British adults define themselves as feminist, yet 76% support gender equality” might suggest that a certain amount of narrative fatigue is creeping in amongst those of us who agree wholeheartedly with the basic humanist universality of rights, freedoms, abilities, and opportunities, but don’t see the same grand narratives of male perfidy lurking behind every corner. It becomes tedious when feminist economist Claudia Goldin’s detailed work pointing out the fallacies in the vaunted ‘gender pay gap’ we hear about every week or so isn’t systemic sexist discrimination but is actually quite complicated — you can listen to her discussing it if you wish (11). Other mainstream zombies were discussed by Christina Hoff Summers — the ‘factual feminist’ — in 2014, again without any apparent alteration of the narrative (12)
We have heard many stories, perhaps a little less narrative, and a little more engagement with the complexities wouldn’t hurt the debate; we were offered to come along to the discussion by Emma Watson, and what a strange one it is turning out to be. There are many serious human rights issues in the world, and it serves no-one to ignore the very real triumphs made by our societies in the past 150 years by such ridiculous hyperbole and apparent chauvinism as Solnit repeated demonstrates.
Yet in just one paragraph, Solnit needs urgently to check both factual reality and to “check her privilege.” (sic)
Happily, Bekka, statistically few “woman know what I’m talking about. It’s the presumption that makes it hard, at times, for any woman in any field; that crushes young women into silence by indicating, the way street harassment does, that this is not their world.” It is their world. It is our world. It isn’t Feminism’s world. Remember, contra the ‘feminist ways of knowing’ crowd, “36% of British adults define themselves as feminist, yet 76% support gender equality” because “people consider ‘feminist’ to be a negative (35%) rather than positive (29%) term. Why is this? When asked what they thought described feminists, encouragingly the top answers were positive:
Feminists think women and men should have political, economic and social equality — 48% Feminists think women should not be objectified — 33%
However, many also believed being a feminist comes with negative connotations:
Feminists are anti-men — 26%
Feminists are aggressive — 17%
Feminists want women to be better than men — 16%
Other perceptions of feminists included:
Feminists do not think women should be housewives — 26% Feminists are against all pornography — 7% Feminists don’t think women should wear revealing clothes — 7% Feminists are butch — 4% Feminists don’t think women should wear make-up — 4% Feminists are lesbians — 4% Feminists think women should never shave their body hair — 3% Feminists are not attractive — 2%”
Such perceptions could partly explain why many are reluctant to define themselves as a feminist despite believing in gender equality. Indeed, of those who defined themselves as a feminist, 31% said that they worry about identifying as one. Reasons for such worries included:
“I don’t want to be perceived as man hating” “It can be associated as being a little extreme” “It carries a hard, aggressive association”
Welcome to being the problem, you sexist polemicist. Has this man explained these things clearly enough to you? This man would like you to revisit your Guardian article and explain your sexism in paragraph 5 for the rest of us, lest we conclude you are simply making money for “taking up the white [wo]man’s burden.”
None of this is remotely addressed in Men Explain Things to Me; presumably for good reasons. A male oncologist explaining breast cancer might just have to explain things to you.
References (Selected — Sadly Hundreds More Exist)
2. Quote, Solnit, Men Explain Things to Me, 87; Federalist, http://thefederalist.com/2014/12/11/new-doj-data-on-sexual-assaults-college-students-are-actually-less-likely-to-be-victimized/ ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtO8wUJRNIY&t=3s ; Johnson and Taylor (2017) The Campus Rape Frenzy
9. Movember Is a Misguided Cancer Awareness Campaign: Celebrating masculinity does not actually protect men. http://www.slate.com/articles/doubl...
10. Sommers, Who Stole Feminism; Van Creveld, The Privileged Sex; Benatar, Second Sexism
11. Freakanomics Radio, http://freakonomics.com/podcast/the-true-story-of-the-gender-pay-gap-a-new-freakonomics-radio-podcast/ ; Claudia Goldin (1992) Understanding the Gender Gap
12. Time, http://time.com/3222543/wage-pay-gap-myth-feminism/ ; Sommers/Factual Feminist, https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLytTJqkSQqtr7BqC1Jf4nv3g2yDfu7Xmd
13. SpeakerPedia, https://speakerpedia.com/search?q=s...
14. Amber Frost, http://newpol.org/content/men-expla...
16. OnePoll, http://www.onepoll.com/36-of-britis...