Michael Eriksson's Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘misogyny

Bad-faith assumptions in debate / allegations of e.g. sexism

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Accusations of e.g. sexism are often entirely unwarranted and accusations (in general) from the PC crowd are often exaggerated in a highly distortive manner, often involving undue speculation about motives or the assumption of a hidden agenda, e.g. in the form “criticizes immigration policy” => “must be a racist”.

In the border-areas of these two problems there are some interesting special cases that I have seen repeatedly over the years,* often involving clear non-sequiturs and/or bad faith. The latter in two variations: Firstly, in that the attacker can be acting in bad faith, e.g. maliciously distorting for rhetorical purposes. Secondly, in that the attacker assumes that the attacked spoke in bad faith, making the attack a case of incompetence. (I also point to Hanlon’s Razor and the standard recommendation for Wikipedia editors to assume good faith for further thought.) While I will not necessarily point explicitly to these complications below, they are almost always present to some degree, and I ask the reader to actively consider them when reading the reminder of the text.

*Because I have learned my lesson and try to stay away from Feminist debates, they have been much rarer to me lately than in the past. For this reason, I have few specific examples and links. Similar topics have occurred implicitly in a few older texts, however. I point e.g. to [1] and to my conflicts with and concerns about German blogger Antje Schrupp, discussed in e.g. [2] and [3]. An old debunking of a “male privilege checklist” is likely to contain some examples and/or some material overlapping with the below items.

A few (likely incomplete) examples:

  1. Interpreting criticism of Feminism as misogyny or as having an anti-woman agenda.

    Even if Feminism was a true equality movement (it is not, outside its own propaganda), criticism of it must be allowed. Jumping to (or, possibly, pretending to jump to) conclusions beyond the criticism it self is almost always unwarranted. Equating anti-Feminism with e.g. misogyny is comparable to equating anti-Communism with hatred of the working class.

  2. Interpreting opposition to equality of outcome as misogyny.

    Apart from the renewed non-sequitur, equality of outcome is not equality at all—true equality is equality of opportunity.

  3. Interpreting the belief in physical differences, be they speculative or well-documented by science, as misogyny.

    We must try to see the world as it actually is—not the way we want it to be. This includes being open to possibilities that do not match a preconceived opinion or an ideological agenda, and to respect that others might have a deviating opinion for a non-misogynistic (non-racist, non-whatnot) reason. (It does not include agreeing with that reason, but I would welcome it if e.g. Feminists were to take the trouble to actually research matters with an open mind, instead of blindly believing claims by other believers and the pseudo-scientific field of gender studies—they would find reason to modify a great number of opinions.)

    As an aside, a common sub-problem is that members of the PC crowd fail to consider individual variation, or that their opponents understand individual variation, resulting in absurd conclusions like the opponent who says that the average X of group A is better than that of group B being taken to imply that every single member of group A has a better X than every single member of group B. This including implicit variations, e.g. that the existence of one single member of group B of who excels in X is taken as counter-proof. (Where “X” can refer to a wide range of measures, abilities, whatnot, e.g. IQ or the ability to play chess. Height and the ability to long jump are good examples of similar measures that do not usually* receive this misinterpretation, and that implicitly show why the misinterpretation is idiotic.)

    *Exceptions can exist. Apparently, e.g., the opinion that Serena Williams would not be competitive with even fairly low-ranking male tennis players has been condemned as sexist—without bothering to actually investigate the factual correctness or faultiness of the claim. This shows an element of wishful thinking that is common in PC circles—I want the truth to be this-or-that; ergo, the truth is this-or-that.

  4. Interpreting criticism of an individual woman as criticism of women in general. For example, the claim “Hillary Clinton would be a useless President” has been extrapolated to “Hillary Clinton would be a useless President because she is a woman” (implying “any female President would be useless”)—where the speaker is far more likely to have his eyes set on her weird opinions, disputable morals, relative lack of qualifications, … More extreme extrapolations like* “women are useless in politics” or even “women are useless” are not unheard of.

    *I do not recall whether I have seen such in the case of Hillary Clinton, but similar extrapolations have definitely occurred. I use examples on the same base for consistency.

    This item (and the following) is outright baffling, and one that makes me believe that these interpretations are often either deliberately dishonest (to allow e.g. an ad-hominem attack) or based on the (horribly misguided) blanket assumption that a significant portion of the male population is deliberately trying to oppress women.

  5. Interpreting factual and valid criticism of an individual woman as being motivated by misogyny, a wish to put women in general down, or similar. As a special case, (typically incorrectly) assuming that a man who had displayed a similar behavior would not have been criticized in a similar manner.

    (See preceding item.)

  6. Interpreting any and all mention of women’s looks, irrespective of reason, as misogyny (cf. excursion). Slightly off-topic, we also have the related problem of taking any and all depiction of women that could be seen as sexualized as misogyny, objectification, or whatnot. In rare extremes, even the depiction of too good-looking women is deemed unacceptable, e.g. through “setting unrealistic standards” (cf. another excursion).

    See below for a more specific example.

    This item is not just a non-sequitur, but also often paradoxical in that implies that praising a woman for some aspect of her being would diminish her. If an accomplished women is also good looking, what is wrong with enjoying her looks—especially, when she is obviously deliberately trying to look good? If anything, the implied assumption that men would not be able to appreciate a woman for her brains or her accomplishments is the true sexism… For that matter, I suspect that more women appreciate men for the “wrong” reasons than vice versa.*

    *This is speculative, obviously, but no more so than corresponding claims by e.g. Feminists. More generally, I have the personal impression that men might e.g. like a beautiful actress because they enjoy looking at her, but leave it at that, while women are more likely to jump to a broader admiration of handsome actors, assuming that they are handsome and X, Y, Z even when the evidence is scant or outright contradictory.

  7. Interpreting any negative treatment, any treatment construable as negative, or even the lack of preferential treatment, as misogyny.

    For instance, just a few days ago, sexism accusations were raised when Australian TV failed to interrupt the broadcast of an on-going men’s game in favor of a women’s game about to start ([4]). True, one of the women, Ashleigh Barty, was both Australian and the women’s world number one—but also true: both men were Australian; their match was hard fought, while Barty’s was expected to be (and, indeed, was) a formality; their match was already far progressed, while the women’s were about to start; the men’s match was likely to end before the women’s, had the women’s match been hard fought, implying that the most interesting part of the women’s match could still have been shown; and viewer interest* appears to have favored the men’s match. Even those who would see the case for the women’s match as stronger would be hard-pressed to make a convincing argument for sexism as the motivation—not e.g. someone simply coming to another conclusion based on objective criteria.

    *Of course, some Feminists appear to reason that this disparity in interest is it self a sign of sexism, in need of intervention…

    I have found it a useful exercise to just reverse the roles in a situation and see how the interpretation changes. Assume that the sexes above were reversed and that the broadcast had been changed—would this have been OK or had loud accusations of sexism still followed? My money is on the latter, because in situations like these it is rarely a matter of what is fair on objective grounds—it is a matter of what is to the advantage or disadvantage of women. Generally, this exercise is excellent in revealing the enormous hypocrisy that applies pro women, e.g. behaviors that are tolerated when they would be inacceptable from a man, claims that would or not would not be OK with the roles reversed, etc.

Notably, such interpretations are typically made in a blanket manner, in an obvious assumption of “bad faith”, and without considering whether there might, e.g., be a valid reason for a given criticism. Consider e.g. the poster “Gabriella2” on the Track and Field News forums, which I have occasionally visited: I have noticed him* going off on absurd “bad faith” tangents on a number of occasions. Finally, in what was the trigger for writing this text, he seems to have gone too far and actually received a ban.** The originating*** incident is “bambam1729”, a physician, making an aside remark that he is concerned about Konstanze Klosterhalfen, a very thin female runner, being anorexic. This sets Gabriella2 of again, with claims likes “And then attention is turned to Klosterhalfen. Women are either too muscular, or too thin…Jesus give me strength!”.****

*According to mentions in the linked-to thread, despite the name, the poster appears to be male. While I am myself skeptical, both because of the type of the repeated accusations and because of style of writing, I will use pronouns based on this claim. Certainly, there are plenty of men who are similarly stupid.

**Note that this thread originated as posts in another, likely for a Diamond League event, and appears to have been split-off after the fact. Further note that some of Gabriella2’s posts might have been deleted by the moderators, as is often the case when a ban occurs.

***There was some prior discussion not included here that might have set the mood or agitated people in advance. Parts might be present in another split-off thread (but I have not tried to track what of the original discussion eventually went where).

****I note that phrases like “give me strength”, “here we go again”, “not this shit again”, and similar, are quite common with this type of debater—but that it is usually the rest of the world that needs strength to put up with them and their ever-recurring crap.

Well-reasoned posts by others have no effect, including:

(By bambam1729)

I brought up Klosterhalfen, and if you think that’s inappropriate you have never treated a 20-25 yo woman with stress fractures in their hip, or operated on hip fractures, and seen all the problems that are caused by the female athletic triad. As I said, it was my doctor coming out. I don’t give a shit what she looks like from an appearance point of view, I do care what anorexia does to a female body. The loss of bone strength from it at her age is not recoverable.

With “female athletic triad”, a term not previously familiar to me, he likely refers to something discussed in [5].

(By DrJay, presumably also a physician)

[…]

And I share bambam’s concern about anorexia, and had the exact same thoughts about Klosterhalfen. And take note that posters on this board have not been pointing at the many, many other female (or male) middle or long distance runners about their slender or skinny builds, i.e. Klosterhalfen is an exception and looks like stress fractures and more waiting to happen. Has nothing to do with some sort of “ideal” body, but everything to do with a sometimes fatal mental illness.

(By DrJay, replying to Gabriella2’s accusations of hypocrisy in treatment of male and female athletes)

Most (all?) world class male shot putters are overweight, carrying a lot of extra body fat. Most world class distance runners, male and female, are skinny, underweight by many standards, and I don’t recall seeing concern or criticism for that here before. The difference is that Klosterhalfen, anthropomorphically, is an (extreme) outlier among outliers. She is, as bambam said, cachectic.

Maybe you should start a thread discussing the health risks incurred by the body habitus of male shot putters. I doubt any of us would argue that they are not at increased risk for cardiovascular disease later in life.

As for bambam1729, he finally had enough of Gabriella2 and his nonsense:

OK, Gabriella, that’s it. Call me at [number*] and we’ll discuss this like adults.

As for the message board, that’s it for me. Its been a fun 10 years or so. Don’t care to deal with people who tell me my medical license should be taken away, or I don’t know anything about medical journals, when the people telling me that don’t know shit about medicine.

I’ll await your call.

*The original post does contain the real number, but I prefer to remove it on a “just in case” basis.

Excursion on attention to women and misogyny:
This is possibly the largest non-sequitur of all.

For instance, why should attraction to a woman be something negative?!?! Why would it diminish an accomplished woman if people who appreciate her accomplishment also take note of her looks? If people who do not care for her field* appreciate her for another reason than her accomplishment? This especially when it comes to women who obviously strive to look good.

*A particular common variation is someone who does not care for women’s sports, but who still can appreciate a good looking female athlete. Another is someone with only a casual or an “Olympics only” interest in sports in general, who takes note. (Based on age and physical training, athletes are, obviously, more likely to be admired for their looks than e.g. physicists.)

Why would it be wrong to (as above) raise concerns about a woman potentially being too thin for her own good? Similarly, too fat for her own good? Etc.

When it comes to negative opinions about optics, I can see a partial point along the lines of “if you cannot say anything positive; do not say anything”*; however, while a violation of this principle might be rude or insensitive, there is nothing misogynous about it.

*But I would limit the validity of this principle to specific circumstances, to the degree that I support it all, e.g. when speaking directly to the potentially insulted party and having no specific reason to say anything hurtful. (A specific reason could be e.g. a sub-standard piece of work that needs replacement.)

Talk of “objectification” is particularly absurd: Either it is nonsense or such an everyday matter that it cannot be considered bad, because, by the same standard, admiring a singer for his voice would be worthy of condemnation—as would seeing a baker as a source of bread, without bothering to build a personal relationship.

Excursion on “setting unrealistic standards”:
This is something that has long puzzled me—why should the average woman be depressed because she cannot match a “professional beauty”? Someone who has not only had great luck with genetics, but also has had that more time to spend on her looks, access to better advice and helpers, is wearing professional make-up, and has been photographed (or even re-touched) professionally? (And if she is, why should she not feel the same way when e.g. hearing of a Nobel Laureate?) Would this not rather point to a problem with e.g. the self-perspective in the individual woman than to a problem with modern media? A more rational attitude is to take things for what they are, understand that not everyone can be good at everything* and that looks are not all that matters, use the professional beauties as inspirations or a means to find ways to improve one self (should this be wanted), etc.

*In contrast, if someone dedicates years of work to excellence in a particular area and then falls short of the original hopes, then I would have larger sympathies.

By all means, I too was fairly insecure when I was a teenager, but (a) I grew out of it, (b) I never saw e.g. Schwarzenegger* movies as a problem that put me down, (c) by and large, media influence was a positive, because it contributed** to moving me to improve myself (and even at that, I trailed most of my male class mates by years). If anything, seeing that I was (then) considerably below average in athleticism, my class mates were a greater source of insecurity—and should we then go down the road of “Harrison Bergeron” to protect the feelings of teenage boys and girls***?

*To boot, as an adult, I consider him too bulky for my own preferences.

**To what degree depends on how inclusive “media” is taken and the exact intent. Movies certainly were a part; fashion magazines were not. Certainly, the brain-washy aspect often implied in Feminist rhetoric was not present—but an aspect of seeing e.g. how the same actor could come across extremely differently in different roles, or in the same role in different seasons of a TV series, was.

***Absent fashion magazines and whatnot, they will still have comparisons in their vicinity—taller girls, girls with bigger breasts, girls with better faces, girls who are slimmer, girls with more muscle, girls with more expensive clothes, …

From another point of view, should we deny others the right to look at depictions of beautiful women or muscular men? Should we ban magazines from using images that people want to see, even at the risk of damaging their profits? Should we force advertisers* to use images that are hurtful to product sales?

*Note that I am generally negative towards modern day advertising, and would be open to some legal restrictions, including on the amount of advertising, the use of animations, and profiling. Beautiful women are one of the very few positive aspects about advertising, however. I also note that some attempts to use “real” people have been less than appetizing, and are better avoided out of concern for the viewers. For instance, during my visits to Sweden, I was repeatedly exposed to an advert of an old crone lying in a bath tub—WTF! I did my best to look in other directions and do not even know what the advert was for…

Written by michaeleriksson

July 5, 2019 at 8:01 am