Two of my favourite women writers were published in ABC Religion and Ethics on the same day this week.
Dr Helen Pringle (long time collaborator and contributor to Big Porn Inc) and talented emerging young writer Laura McNally, who I’ve published here a number of times before. Both are contributors to the new Connor Court title Freedom Fallacy: The limits of liberal feminism’ edited by Miranda Kiraly and Meagan Tyler. I had the pleasure of attending the Melbourne launch earlier this week and will run some extracts soon.
Disempowered Men? Tanveer Ahmed and the ‘Feminist Lynch Mob’
Dr Helen Pringle
…In Australia, this month, a man claimed that he too had been lynched. On 14 March, The Spectator even supplied a picture of the lynching to accompany the first-person account of the victim. The Spectator cover cartoon shows a man of colour swinging from a branch, complete with “the bulging eyes and the twisted mouth” of the “strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees” lamented by Billie Holiday. The lynched man is surrounded by foul-mouthed women, with burning torches and a pitchfork. Like the inscription on the back of a lynching postcard, The Spectator cartoon comes with a caption, so that we might not mistake its meaning: “Lynch mob-ette: Feminists did me in, says Tanveer Ahmed.”
Inside The Spectator, Tanveer Ahmed provides an account of his own lynching…Ahmed presents his account of his execution under the sub-heading, “Despite being a pin-up boy for the White Ribbon movement, I made the mistake of attempting to explain male violence.”
Ahmed was an Ambassador for the White Ribbon campaign against violence to women when he published an article in The Australian on 9 February entitled, “Men forgotten in violence debate.” The title almost makes it unnecessary to read further to grasp the striking new “argument” being made: that men are “disempowered,” with the perpetrators being the same “mob-ette” of radical feminist harpies circling the poplar tree.
Unfortunately, Ahmed’s argument in The Australian was by no stretch original – not only was it a tired reiteration of cliches, but those cliches were not even his own cliches, having been lifted in part from the writings of other “disempowered men…
In his Spectator attempt at an apologia, “Lynched by the feminist mob,” Ahmed mixes his metaphors with abandon in order to explain his plight:
“I have been considerably disempowered after writing about male disempowerment. Wading into the treacherous, virulent, oestrogen laden waters of modern feminism I have learnt that the gender wars are seen by many as a zero sum game, much like poker or derivatives trading.”
As he waded, Ahmed says, he was “treated to an orgy of abuse, threats and complete mis-representation.” Nurses at his hospital took him aside to ask him how he was doing, articles and letters were published on the net in support of him, unnamed (because trembling presumably) academics approached him on the sly to share how difficult it is to speak openly about “this issue” and Dr Ahmed was invited to speak at a Toronto conference “all expenses paid.” …
The Spectator editorial (“Lynch mob-ette”) commiserated with Ahmed’s fate at the hands of “an angry, vocal, left-wing group of ‘celebrities’ within the bosom [sic] of the local [feminist] movement.” According to the Spectator editorial writer, Ahmed had been “lynched on social media, to the point of threatening his career” by such “oddities.” Ahmed himself writes that he was so cowed by “the totalitarian character of the entire episode” that he packed his white ribbon away and “resumed writing prescriptions for psychoactive drugs” at his psychiatric practice. Hard times indeed.
This rhetorical escalation by Ahmed and the Spectator on his behalf goes beyond absurdity into the realm of the grotesque. Words like “totalitarian” lose all meaning when applied to criticism made of a rather dull kind of “argument” about modern masculinity (a predicament that certainly deserves a complex and thoughtful analysis). The completely inappropriate use of such words reaches beyond this one little corner of right-wing looniness, however, as the increasing use across the political spectrum of terms like “crucifixion” in response to criticism illustrates.
However, there is a particularly egregious wrong-ness in the use of the word “lynching” as a response to criticism. This wrong-ness comes from the freight that the word carries because of its entanglement in a history of sustained racial terror…
For Ahmed and The Spectator now to present his predicament as a lynching, both in words and in a captioned picture, is shameful. In Ahmed’s case, there is no “blood on the leaves,” there is no “smell of burning flesh,” no torture, no execution, no terror. There is only the hum of the Airbus taking off for Toronto, with a successful doctor onboard, “all expenses paid.”
But words still have meaning, to which they can be recalled. The history of lynching places on us an ethical injunction to precision in our use of the word. And no man was lynched yesterday. Read full article
Gender Neutrality or Enforcement? ‘Safe Schools’ isn’t as Progressive as it Seems
…Those who subscribe to queer theory would argue that this simply represents progress. From this perspective, gender is inherently fluid and exists in multiple permutations. Queer theory has now gone mainstream, ushered in from the fringes of the academic world to the core of the childhood education system.
For example, Safe Schools utilises definitions like this: “sex is your physical aspects (i.e. your wibbly wobbly bits) and gender is how you feel in your mind in terms of masculine and feminine.” Quite apart from the incorrect description of genitals – one that is advised against by health professionals – the idea that gender is a feeling is highly questionable. In fact, the idea of feminine or masculine thinking has long been disputed in the research.
Other topics to which children will be inducted through Safe Schools materials include the use of plastic surgery and hormone treatments to change gendered appearance, as well as how girls should bind their breasts if they aren’t comfortable about them. Not only does this promote dangerous practices, but it also has the potential to normalise body dissatisfaction within an already vulnerable demographic – all in the guise of “progress.”
Far from being progressive, such campaigns seem somewhat counter-productive. If gender neutrality really is progress, why the focus on classifying gender? How can such programs neutralise gender and yet simultaneously name, categorise and even medicalise it?
Gender itself is a sociological category, a concept designed to examine broad trends between the sexes. Yet it is now erroneously applied to children who are expected to understand and embody a theory usually only the purview of researchers. Suddenly we must scrutinise, analyse and even pathologise natural child behaviour as “gendered.”
While this focus on gender appears to be celebrating diversity, it may actually be doing the opposite.
Many people are indeed diverse and non-conforming, and ending discrimination around difference is worthwhile. But there is no consensus in the research on whether putting children into gender categories is helpful or simply premature and possibly disruptive. Theories about gender are dubious at best. As the Safe Schools program demonstrates, many theories still fall back on the archetypes of “feminine” and “masculine” traits, which have long been discarded in the research.
… Accordingly, 51 gender categories are now prescribed for children to choose from. Facebook has followed suit, offering these 51 gender options to users.
Indoctrinating children into these new “gender” categories is not going to resolve stereotypes. In fact, this may merely create a more exhaustive range of gender classifications within which the stereotypes continue to exist. This is not gender neutrality, but gender enforcement.
This may create more confusion, more anxiety and more pressure for children over an issue that is not their burden to bear. Stereotypes need to be done away with and diversity needs to be accepted. If we truly want to be progressive and neutral about gender, perhaps we would be better off just letting children be children. Read full article
‘WE INSIST WHITE RIBBON AUSTRALIA TAKE A REAL STAND AGAINST MALE-VIOLENCE-AGAINST-WOMEN’, Real for Women campaigns