I'm a feminist.
I believe that women should have equal rights as men under the law. I believe that women should have full and legal right to do what they want with their bodies, their lives, their fertility, and their lady bits. I believe that I live in a world that is hostile to the concept of female consent, a world where sex and pregnancy and transvaginal ultrasounds are forced on women no matter how many times they say "no". I believe that no woman can truly be free until these issues are addressed for all women, regardless of age, race, or financial status.
You may have noticed that I said nothing in all that about Hating Men.
As much as it's fun to pretend that feminists hate men, most of us don't. I certainly don't. I don't think that all men are rapists. I don't think that all men want to rape. I don't think that the only thing preventing all men from becoming rapists is an over-arching fear of social justice. If ever I write that zombie apocalypse novel in my head, I can tell you right now that it won't have the entire planet descending into Planet of the Rapes just as soon as the police are overrun by the walking dead. I have greater faith in men than that: I believe that all men have the capability to do good, and that most men choose to do good. (This is an identical stance to the one I hold for women.) I certainly do not believe that all men are driven by the unreasoning power of their unthinking penises to rape every moist hole they encounter.
But darned if there aren't a few men who think that.
In news that is astonishingly old but which I am only now using my hoarded supply of teaspoons to address, Scott Adams of Dilbert fame has decided to write this article:
If a lion and a zebra show up at the same watering hole, and the lion kills the zebra, whose fault is that? Maybe you say the lion is at fault for doing the killing. Maybe you say the zebra should have chosen a safer watering hole. But in the end, you probably conclude that both animals acted according to their natures, so no one is to blame. However, if this is your local zoo, you might have some questions about who put the lions with the zebras in the same habitat.
Now consider human males. No doubt you have noticed an alarming trend in the news. Powerful men have been behaving badly, e.g. tweeting, raping, cheating, and being offensive to just about everyone in the entire world. [...]
But in general, society is organized as a virtual prison for men’s natural desires. I don’t have a solution in mind. It’s a zero sum game. If men get everything they want, women lose, and vice versa. And there’s no real middle ground because that would look like tweeting a picture of your junk with your underpants still on. Some things just don’t have a compromise solution.
Now before I dive into the fun ballz pit that is this argument of fail, let's back up a little bit.
I'm a software engineer. (I'm also a woman, which makes me frequently the only woman in any given room where I work. And it also means that I am the lowest-paid and last-to-be-promoted person in my work group, despite having been in my group longer than almost anyone else. Which is something that I can't remember being addressed in Dilbert in recent years, but it's not my place to tell people which battles they should fight.) And, as a software engineer, I have a soft spot in my heart for Dilbert. I enjoy the snark, I enjoy the absurdity, and I feel an increasing compassion and empathy for Wally as I mark the passage of time at my current position.
But I also value logic and reason, which is something that a good many software engineers seem to believe is their divine birthright and yet display an astonishing lack of familiarity with it. And the blog post quoted above is a perfect example of that.
Lions eat zebras, just like men rape women! It's analogies like these that make me want to dig out a retro English police outfit, complete with inflatable novelty billy club, and style myself the Analogy Police. I'm not going to start singing "The Circle of Life" over here, but these two things are not even remotely the same. Lions eat zebras because if the lions don't eat something, they will die in a matter of days. I am pretty darn sure that never before has a man died from not being allowed to rape someone. Beyond that there comes a point where the phrase "apples and oranges" ceases to be adequate. How about "rape is a social phenomena that varies widely across cultures depending on the hostility of that culture towards the concept of female choice whereas lions as a species tend to have level consumption rates based on a shared biological need, furthermore men are not mindless robots with zero control over their ravening penises."
Powerful men tweet, rape, cheat, and offend! Has there ever been a more drastic example of false equivalence? One of these things is not like the other. A man who tweets a picture of his genitals is guilty of bad taste (and possibly sexual harassment, or possibly not, depending on the intended recipient). A man who cheats on his spouse is guilty of violating a personal trust. A man who rapes another human being is a man who forces himself on other people regardless of their lack of consent. Apparently Scott Adams sees all these behaviors as belonging on the same continuum: the Continuum of Penises. Some penises want to be tweeted, some penises forsake their spouses to go nest in other partners, some penises fling themselves wildly into other people heedless of their lack of consent. The poor man on the other end of the penis is helpless to stop the tweeting, cheating, and raping, but ultimately all these behaviors differ not by quality but by scale: weak penis urges lead a man to cheat, strong penis urges force him to rape. It's a Grand Unified Penis Theory.
It's also absolute bunk; an assertion that relies on facts not in evidence. Many sexually frustrated and unfulfilled men live their lives without committing rape; many sexually sated and privileged men commit rape regardless of the availability of willing consensual partners. We hold these men responsible not because we're a society of zebras and zebra-sympathizers, but rather because we are a society of people who generally believe that bodily autonomy should be respected, and that a man has just as much "right" to stick his penis in a non-consenting person has he has to stick his fist through their eye -- which is to say, no right to do so at all.
Scott Adams' view -- that all men are essentially rapists -- is a misandric view, a view that hates men on a fundamental level. It's a view that is frequently attributed to feminists like me. But most feminists emphatically do not hold this view, partly because we prefer logic to bad analogies, partly because we have greater faith in human beings, but most essentially because this misandric view? Is essentially misogynistic.
See, here's the thing. The Scott Adamses of the world, the men who believe that men just have these strong urges and simply can't help themselves and only just barely manage to make it through the day without raping anyone, they don't really believe this is a problem. Oh, Scott Adams may write blithely of magical castration pills that make men lose interest in sex, but he doesn't really plan or want or intend to take such things. If Scott Adams really believed that castration was the only thing keeping him from accidentally losing control and raping someone, he could do that now. I'm betting -- just a bet, mind you -- that he hasn't.
"Men can't help themselves" has always been used to place the burden of rape squarely on the shoulders of women. This isn't some new theory that Scott Adams came up with, some revolutionary new combination of crappy logic, pseudo-science, and evolutionary psychology. "Men can't help themselves" is why women are told to dress a certain way, act a certain way, live a certain way, avoid certain places, and ultimately live their lives constantly playing a defensive game of Penis Denial against every man on earth because the moment, that one second, that you let your guard down will be the moment that the rampaging penises get you.
And it will be your fault.
It doesn't matter how many times the Scott Adams says "Obviously we shouldn't blame the victims. I think we all agree on that point." He doesn't mean it. He can't mean it. When you hold the belief that men can't keep themselves from raping, when you believe that rape is something they literally have no choice but to perpetuate, then you are fundamentally blaming victims. If you treat everything in a rape situation as constant and unalterable except the victim's behavior, then you are putting the sole onus on them to avoid rape, and the sole blame on them if they fail to not be raped. And that is the very definition of victim-blaming.
This kind of misandry, the belief that men are all rapists deep down inside, isn't a part of feminism. It's not an allied viewpoint supporting the cause. It's old-fashioned misogyny wrapped up in a wink and a nudge. It's status quo being presented to us as something palatable, a platitude that is meaningless to the speaker as anything other than an absolution from his own bad behavior. It's not new, it's not logical, it's not liberated. It's older than dirt, and it's a foundation for centuries of victim-blaming.
I leave you with this, also by Scott Adams:
"Free will is an illusion. Humans are nothing but moist robots. Just relax and let it happen."
You want to know why we still need feminism? We still need feminism because there are people who can read and write the above without seeing it as utterly, completely, essentially, foundationally hostile to female choice.
Note: A number of thread comments below have contained gender eliminationist and gender essentialist statements. Trigger warnings and ROT13 has been applied.