Monday, April 4, 2011

A chronology of misogyny

Man Boobz is a relatively new blog by David Futrelle that exists to expose and mock online misogyny, most of which comes from the Men’s Rights Activists (aka MRAs), a group of bitter white guys whose shtick is that men are being oppressed by having their privileges taken away by feminism. As might be expected of a movement populated largely by divorced wife-beaters, the MRAs spend an awful lot of time trying to pretend that their misogyny is justified by the existence of a vast sea of feminist misandry. To that end, the MRAs like to compile lists of anti-male quotes by well-known feminists.

Well, to be honest, the MRAs don’t compile the lists themselves, they copypaste quote lists compiled by other MRAs. Or, to be completely accurate, they copypaste slightly different versions of the same quote list.

Back on February 15, Futrelle decided to go through the quote list and fact-check it to see whether the quotes listed in it were, as advertised, “actual quotes from a variety of mainstream feminists,” demonstrating “obvious and blatant hatred of men,” or whether it was a steaming pile of bullshit. Needless to say, the list turned out to be bullshit; so much so that Futrelle gave up after running down about a dozen quotes. He then challenged his readers to try to make their way through the entire list, and his challenge was accepted by a blogger called triplanetary.

Reading the results of the fact-check, I was struck by how old all of the quotes were. Most of them were at least 20 years old, and one dated back to 1969. I became curious to learn how recent the most recent quote was, since that would give a good idea of just how old this list actually is. Because some of the sourcing on the list was so pitiful, it wasn’t always possible to determine the age of every quote, but I’ve done my best. What follows is a numbered list, not of the quotes themselves, but of the sources as cited by the list, rearranged in chronological order. Where necessary, I’ve added commentary noting the date of the quote, if I could determine it.

40. Linda Gordon, “Functions of the Family,” WOMEN: A Journal of Liberation, Fall, 1969

34. Roxanne Dunbar in Female Liberation
Triplanetary notes that the full title is “Female Liberation as the Basis for Social Revolution,” published in Robin Morgan’s 1970 anthology Sisterhood is Powerful.

36. Robin Morgan, from Sisterhood Is Powerful (ed), 1970, p. 537

2. From Robin Morgan, “Theory and Practice: Pornography and Rape” in “Going too Far,” 1974.

17. Susan Brownmiller, Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape, p. 5
First published in 1975.

14. Andrea Dworkin, Liberty, p.58
Per Futrelle, the quote actually seems to be from Dworkin’s Our Blood, first published in 1976.

38. Andrea Dworkin
Per triplanetary, from Our Blood, 1976.

28. Marilyn French in People, February 20, 1983
As Futrelle notes, actually a line of dialogue from the novel The Women’s Room, first published in 1977. And the issue of People was from 1979, not 1983.

39. Lenore Walker, after visiting one of the early shelters for battered women, as cited in The Battered Woman, p.195

41. Naomi Goldenberg, Changing of the Gods: Feminism and the End of Traditional Religions (Quoted at beginning of From Father God to Mother Earth)
First published in March 1980.

37. Andrea Dworkin
Triplanetary notes that the quote is from Pornography: Men Possessing Women, first published in 1981.

7 & 8. from A Feminist Dictionary, ed. Kramarae and Treichler, Pandora Press, 1985
Triplanetary notes that the quote list simply cites “A Feminist Dictionary” to make it sound scarier. Quote #7 is from Betsy Warrior, a separatist feminism advocate and author of several books from the 1970s on battered wives. Quote #8 is actually from Alan Alda’s “What Every Woman Should Know about Men” from the October 1975 issue of Ms.

22. Andrea Dworkin, Letters from a War Zone, p. 265
As triplanetary notes, this is actually from “Against the Male Flood”, first published in 1985.

20. Andrea Dworkin, Letters from a War Zone, p. 21
First published in 1988.

16. Andrea Dworkin, Letters from a War Zone, p. 22

18. Andrea Dworkin, Letters from a War Zone, p. 114

29. Andrea Dworkin, Letters from a War Zone, p. 142

25. Andrea Dworkin, Letters from a War Zone, p. 145

24. Andrea Dworkin, Letters from a War Zone, p. 214

27. Jodie Foster in The New York Times Magazine, January 6, 1991, p. 19

21. Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth, p. 55
May 1991.

13. Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth, p. 138
May 1991.

23. Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth, p. 168
May 1991.

30. Catherine Comins, Vassar College Assistant Dean of Student Life in Time, June 3, 1991, p. 52

15. Catherine MacKinnon, quoted in Christina Hoff Sommers, “Hard-Line Feminists Guilty of Ms.-Representation,” Wall Street Journal, November 7, 1991.

19. Germaine Greer, at a Hilton Hotel literary lunch, promoting her book The Change– Women, Aging and the Menopause;. From a newsreport dated 14/11/91

11. Former Congresswoman Barbara Jordan
Futrelle has sourced the quote to the February 1992 issue of Texas Monthly.

9. Gloria Steinem in Revolution from Within: A Book of Self-Esteem, pp. 259-61.
First published in 1992.

32. Barbara Ehrenreich in Time Magazine
First published on July 18, 1994.

1. Catherine MacKinnon in Professing Feminism: Cautionary Tales from the Strange World of Women's Studies, p. 129.
As Futrelle notes, this quote is actually a misattribution. And misspells MacKinnon’s first name. Professing Feminism was published in September 1994. The misattribution comes from a Cal Thomas column, date unknown.

31. Historian Gerda Lerner in Who Stole Feminism: How Women Have Betrayed Women, p. 55
First published in May 1995.

26. Andrea Dworkin in the Philadelphia Inquirer, May 21, 1995
Per triplanetary, may not be a genuine quote.

35. Barbara Findlen, “Is Marriage the Answer? Ms Magazine, May – June, 1995
Unverified. (This issue of Ms. was also cited in a 1998 chain email about toxic tampons. Coincidence? Who can say?)

42. Elizabeth Stanton, One Woman, One Vote, Wheeler, p. 58
A diary entry from 1890. Yeah, that’s right, 1890. The work cited, Marjorie Spruill Wheeler’s One Woman, One Vote: Rediscovering the Woman Suffrage Movement was published in August 1995.

43. Signed: Liberated Women, Boronia. (Herald-Sun, Melbourne, Australia – 9 February 1996)
Supposedly a letter to the editor. Unverified.

6. Hillary Clinton, First Ladies’ Conference on Domestic Violence in San Salvador, El Salvador on Nov. 17, 1998

4. Andrea Dworkin
Per Futrelle, not an actual Dworkin quote. It comes from P: A Novel by Andrew Lewis Conn, published in 2003.

5. Hodee Edwards, ‘Rape defines Sex’
No date given. Per Futrelle, Hodee Edwards is so obscure that it is impossible to verify whether the quote is real or not. MacKinnon’s Feminism, Marxism, Method, and the State cites an Edwards article called “Housework and Exploitation: A Marxist Analysis” published in July 1971. There is no evidence of an article by Edwards called “Rape Defines Sex”.

UPDATE 8/3/12: Ms. Edwards' granddaughter emailed me to confirm that the quote is entirely spurious, and that Edwards never wrote/said it.  She writes: "This is according to my aunt, who was very distressed to learn that this quote has somehow been linked to my grandmother's name on the Internet. My aunt could not determine how this came to be, and, unfortunately, my grandmother is no longer with us, so she also cannot provide any insight either. (It's true that my grandmother was very much a feminist, but according to my aunt, was not anti-sex.)"  Unfortunately, the dirtbags who compile and promote these lists have no regard for either the truth or the feelings of other people, and now that the bogus quote has been linked to Edwards by countless internet douchebags (and, regrettably, by David Futrelle, triplanetary, and myself in our collective debunking), her family has to suffer for it.

3. Sheila Jeffrys
No date given, and triplanetary can’t find a source for it. It could well date back to Jeffrys’ 1979 pamphlet Love Your Enemy?

10. Kathleen C. Faller, professor of social work at the University of Michigan
No date given. Faller has published nine books and some 80 research and clinical articles, so it’s impossible to say when or where the quote comes from.

12. Melbourne City Councilwoman Pat Poole
No date given. This one is really peculiar, because in the quote Poole does not denounce men in general, but rather Martin Luther King, Jr. in particular. It sounds like the MRAs have accidentally demonized a fellow wingnut just because she’s a woman. Poole was first elected to the Melbourne, Florida city council in 1986, and served on it for 18 years, so it’s impossible to say when the quote dates from.

33. Gordon Fitch
No date given. Nobody has ever heard of this guy, so no way of telling whether the quote is genuine.

So, for those of you playing along at home, here is the final tally:

1969: 1
1970: 2, both from Sisterhood Is Powerful
1974: 1
1975: 1
1976: 2, from Dworkin’s Our Blood
1977: 1, fictional character in novel
1980: 2
1981: 1, from Dworkin’s Pornography: Men Possessing Women
1985: 3, 1 from Dworkin’s "Against the Male Flood"
1988: 6, from Dworkin’s Letters from a War Zone
1991: 7, 3 from The Beauty Myth
1992: 2
1994: 2
1995: 4, 1 is a dubious Dworkin quote, 1 is the 1890 quote by Stanton, 1 is unverified
1996: 1, unverified letter to the editor
1998: 1
2003: 1, fictional character in novel
No date given: 5

So, out of 43 quotes, the only one that’s less than 10 years old is a misattribution from a right-wing novel.

A whopping 7 of the quotes are from 1991, consisting of 3 from Wolf’s The Beauty Myth and 4 culled from various periodicals. Together with a fifth quote from the February 1992 issue of Texas Monthly, this suggests to me that the quote list was first compiled by some angry proto-MRA in early 1992, and that the quotes from the periodicals formed the original core. The compiler then added a bunch of quotes from Wolf and Dworkin (and one from Gloria Steinem), lightly seasoned it with quotes from a handful of radical second-wave feminists from the ‘70s, and launched the result into the ether as a chain email, which was forwarded hither and yon for the next few years. Then, in 1996, a slightly-more-enterprising-than-usual misogynist took the chain email and added more quotes, (mostly dubious, unverifiable, undated ones). Since then, other misogynists have added the 1998 Hillary Clinton quote (because every antifeminist quote list needs at least one) and the faux-Dworkin quote from the 2003 novel.

And with the rise of the blogosphere, this list has now become a favorite among the barely-computer-literate MRAs, who simply copypaste it into their (and other peoples’) blogs.


triplanetary said...

Very interesting observations. It's certainly believable that the list was first compiled ~1992 - a lot of lists and purely text-based chunks of, to use the word loosely, literature were bounced about the Internet back then, for obvious reasons. (In fact, as a tangential but amusing bit of trivia, the first photo ever hosted on the public web was uploaded in 1992. No, it was not porn.)

triplanetary said...

The age of many of these quotes is a serious problem for the misogynists who propagate it, despite what they might claim. Feminism as a movement isn't beneath (or above?) self-critique. It's not unlike creationist criticisms of Darwin, which miss the point that modern biology has advanced quite a bit since his day. Feminism advances, too, and what was once a movement that focused almost all of its energy on women (for good reason, mind you) now focuses a great deal of its energy on the gender binary itself, along with QUILTBAG issues. Modern feminism seeks to move beyond gender in a way that MRAs sometimes claim to also be pursuing, but they really aren't.

katz said...

Nice analysis. In the very early 90s, it could have even been one of the photocopied chain letters so popular in the 80s, but yes, text-based lists like this really got around in early email before there were any online resources for fact-checking.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

Just wait a minute, now, JP! You mean to say that these guys are quote-mining and making stuff up? UNPOSSIBLE!!! Next thing you'll be telling me is that creationsists are quote-mining and making stuff up.

Johnny Pez said...

Thanks, tri & katz. It's good to have the plausibility of my wild-ass guess confirmed by people who aren't me.

Yeah, B^4, I'm as shocked as you are. Who could have imagined such a thing?

And I'll be updating my post if anybody out there is able to verify or dismiss some of the leftover quotes.

David Futrelle said...

Thanks for doing this! Very useful; I'll put a link to it in my post.