Are Some Radical Feminists Responsible For September 11th?
Glad we got that out of the way.
There's been an awful lot of scorn heaped on Kathy over at Shakespeare's Sister over this post, which takes aim at Dan Riehl's recent blog posting "Are Some Radical Feminists Child Abusers?" Kathy posits that the quotes Riehl bases his argument around-- supposedly written by the blogger Biting Beaver-- were, in fact, written by someone impersonating Biting Beaver. Riehl responded by saying that such an accusation was absurd and irresponsible. All sorts of other people got involved. At this writing, the "debate" seems to have degenerated into several individuals with remarkably similar writing styles crowing that Kathy hasn't provided proof to back up her allegations, even though he/they keep demanding more convincing proof, so-- typically-- feminists and liberals are immoral monsters; oh, and Biting Beaver-- a rape victim-- "probably gets off on fantasizing about rape" and "will take it in the pussy"-- willingly, one assumes-- but then blame the man for doing such a horrible thing to her.
Really charming stuff. The best and the brightest are out in droves tonight.
To be honest, the quotes attributed to Biting Beaver bothered me quite a bit-- I think whoever wrote these things is probably someone I would never want to meet. I'm not going to weigh in on whether or not Biting Beaver said them herself-- I think the evidence suggests that she did, but the people who actually know her in a way I don't say she didn't. Regardless, I can agree with those who have a problem with a woman using shame as a tool to manipulate her son when she discovers he's been looking at pornography. And I can agree that making a teenage boy feel guilty for having a penis-- and calling him a potential rapist on an Internet message board (even a message board that can only be accessed by the members of the board community)-- is terrible. And mothers probably shouldn't muse aloud, "I should have had the abortion."
All bad stuff. None of it, however, qualifies as child abuse.
Here's what I posted in the Comments section over at Shakespeare's Sister, before the troll(s) took over the conversation:
"Even if we allow that Biting Beaver might have written what she's alleged to have written, the answer to the question posed in the title of this... well, let's call it an essay... is a resounding 'no.' Or, at least, it remains unproven. 'Are Some Radical Feminists Child Abusers?' I don't know, Dan-- you tell me. So far, all you've offered up to support such an allegation is that one woman (allegedly) took away her son's computer privileges when she caught him using the computer to look at pornography, then wrote some unpleasant things about him. Is this a good thing? No. Is it child abuse? Absolutely not. This is going to shock you, Dan, but a lot of parents don't want their kids looking at pornography-- not just the 'radical feminists.' This kid, I'm sure, is not the first kid to lose his Internet access because his mom found evidence that he'd been looking at adult websites.
"Also-- and this is the English professor in me, I'm sure-- there's a problem with your use of the word 'some' in your title. You're arguing that 'some' (more than one) feminists abuse kids, then go to provide evidence of one (exactly one) woman whose alleged behavior probably wouldn't be called child abuse by any reasonable person.
"Understand, that's not to say that I think women should tell their sons that they are potential rapists. And I don't think pornography should be conflated with sexual violence. But neither of those things qualifies as child abuse. If, in fact, your concern is in protecting abused children, I think you'd do well to go after homophobes who breed or crazy, discipline-obsessed gun nuts or other people who truly represent a danger to kids. Feminists aren't really your enemy in this battle."
Naturally, this prompted people to point out to me that I'm a terrible person, that I'm making excuses for a monster. So, naturally, I pointed out that I'm simply saying that the phenomenon Riehl describes is not, technically speaking, child abuse-- nor is it arson, shoplifting, or regicide. Which prompted some trolls to allow that, yeah, it's not really abuse, but... Which prompted me to say "I win." I thought the conversation would end soon after that, but it's still going strong.
Here's the thing-- if Biting Beaver actually wrote this, then yeah-- I think she's a bad mother. Not an abusive mother, just a bad mother. But it's not because she's a feminist-- it's because she's got an unhealthy, negative attitude towards sex in general and her son's sexuality in particular. Children shouldn't be raised to feel ashamed of their own desires, and I do not believe that the patriarchy is what causes men to want to look at sexually explicit images (although I do think the patriarchy is responsible for making it so easy for men to find those image they wish to gaze at)-- he's hard-wired biologically to respond to visual stimuli.
Obviously, as anyone who reads this blog with any frequency knows, I'm really sex-positive. All jokes about signing a virginity pledge aside, I think sex is awesome. I think sex with women who identify as feminists is particularly awesome, because it's been my experience that feminist women are usually very comfortable with their bodies and their desires in a way that women who lack confidence are not. I'm the guy who writes about how awesome drinking with a naked gay crowd can be. Sexuality? I'm down with it.
But, while forcing a child to feel guilty over his or her own libido may be a terrible thing, it's not child abuse. If it was, do you know how many churches we'd have to close? Do you know how many children would be in the state's custody? I mean, under this definition of abuse, weren't we all abused at some point in our lives? Maybe not by our parents, but by our clergy, or our teachers, or even our peers? Shit, aren't laws designed to prevent minors from accessing pornography "abusive" under this understanding of the word?
Frankly, I don't think you can stretch the definition of abuse that thin.
And, not to beat a dead horse, but I don't really buy Riehl's claim that he's just interested in protecting the kids here. His blog has other anti-feminist postings (including a rather twisted misreading of an Amanda Marcotte post designed to give the impression that she's had some type of incestuous contact with her own father), and I think it's pretty clear that he doesn't have much respect for the feminist movement (or women in general). He's misued the words "abuse" and "some" in order to create a horrifying image in the mind of his reader-- the shrill, man-hating bitch who verbally castrates even her own young sons, so warped is her mind from exposure to Simone DeBeauvoir, Virginia Woolf, Valerie Solanas, Thelma (not Louise), and Lucy Van Pelt-- in order to discredit a movement that, at its core, is all about compassion and empowerment.
Edit: And now, the trolls have sunk to a new low-- posting rape jokes and short narratives about how awesome rape and/or rough sex can be on a blog frequented by many women who have been the victims of sexual assault. Bra-fucking-vo, morons. You've just made it quite clear that none of you are really concerned about the safety and emotional well-being of children or anyone else. You just want to get under the skin of those bitches who dare to express opinions. It's not that you love children-- it's that you hate women. Gotcha. Loud and clear.