INTERVIEW ARCHIVES: Does feminism discriminate against men? An interview with James P. Sterba

“Does feminism discriminate against men?” A silly question, to be sure, but one asked, albeit with false and intentionally manipulative sincerity, by Men’s Rights Activists and their ilk.

Under most circumstances, we wouldn’t waste our time humouring these types, just as we don’t waste our time on white folks who believe that somehow, they are capable of experiencing racism (except, of course, to point and laugh). But with recent events such as the one hosted by the University of Toronto, which featured speaker, Warren Farrell, a man who makes his living manipulating studies and research findings in order to misconstrue statistics regarding false rape accusations and who argues that if such a thing as date rape exists, then so does something he calls “date fraud”: “If a man ignoring a woman’s verbal ‘no’ is committing date rape, then a woman who says `no’ with her verbal language but ‘yes’ with her body language is committing date fraud,” it can be useful to look at the actual arguments being made.

James P. Sterba saw holes in the arguments being made against feminism by folks like Christina Hoff Sommers (a woman who self-identifies as a ‘conservative feminist’) and Farrell and began looking into some of the supposed shocking! hidden! truths! they were touting as proof that feminists were manipulating the impacts of patriarchy in their favour (because wheeee!) and that, in fact, men were the real victims.

Sterba and Farrell co-published a book back in 2008 called “Does feminism discriminate against men? A Debate” which asks questions like: “Is the criminal justice system sexist?” and “Do men have the power?” which allows readers to see the arguments clearly and provides statistics to back up ideology and arguments.

I interviewed Sterba last year about the book and about some of the arguments being made by Men’s Rights Activists. The interview first aired on Vancouver Co-op Radio on January 16, 2012. Listen here:

(Apologies, there are some audio quality issues throughout the interview.)

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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  • MLM

    Great Interview, Meghan. James P. Sterba comes across as a very thoughtful and intelligent person, with an evident respect for meaningful investigation of the facts (who contrasts all the more with a debate opponent like Farrell, who just cherrypicks and distorts his facts in order to pretzel them to fit his arguments).

    Sterba’s point about men taking up space was interesting (and one I hadn’t really thought much about before hearing it mentioned in this interview, which is also kind of interesting!).

    Farrell’s nonsense about “date fraud” made me think of this study in response to the idea of “miscommunication/accidental rape”.

    It’s called ‘‘If a Girl Doesn’t Say ‘no’. . .’’: Young Men, Rape and Claims of ‘Insufficient Knowledge’ and is by Rachael O’Byrne, Susan Hansen and Mark Rapley
    of the School of Psychology at Murdoch University, Western Australia ( published in “Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology”, 2008)

    In “Discussions and Conclusions” at the end of the article the authors state:-

    “In data reported briefly here, and more extensively elsewhere (see O’Byrne et al., 2006), we have shown that, as Kitzinger and Frith (1999) suggested, young men also can and do display a sophisticated understanding of subtle verbal and non-verbal means of communicating sexual refusal. However, despite the comprehensive ability that young men demonstrably have to ‘hear’ sexual refusals, which overwhelming include refusals that do not contain the word ‘no’, when the morally troublesome issue of accountability for rape arises, a rather different picture emerges…

    We suggest that the discrepancy between these young men’s showing of knowledge and their telling of ignorance lies in the need for them, as men, to accomplish the local management of (masculine) accountability for rape.11 While explicit or implicit claims of insufficient knowledge may reveal unequivocally that speakers just do not know, a number of EM/CA studies (e.g. Beach & Metzger, 1997; Lynch & Bogen, 1996) have shown that such claims may often be strategically deployed to achieve specific rhetorical ends”.

  • Jennifer “Renee” Bernard

    I love the point about mainstream history exalting men and not women. I really enjoyed this interview and hearing a “male feminist”. It is really refreshing to hear a male who actually gets it!