Emma Watson’s speech isn’t the problem; the problem is liberal feminism

Emma Watson’s speech at the UN has made headlines worldwide. It wasn’t a bad speech. Like all women, Watson is doing the best she can with the information she has available to her.

Several feminists have already addressed some of the problematic aspects of her speech. Like many, I am critical of the strategies employed by transnational organizations like the UN. I am also critical of liberal feminism.

But as a woman who is most concerned with women’s liberation, I acknowledge that Emma Watson has created more awareness in ten minutes than I could in my lifetime.

So you know what is more problematic, male-centric, and piecemeal than Emma Watson’s speech?

Liberal feminist analysis. Let me give just a few examples:

1) The liberal feminist movement argues sexist objectification and violent pornography can be feminist, but that Emma Watson’s speech was barely sufficient.

2) Liberal feminism frames sexual violence in porn as an empowered choice for women.

3) Liberal feminism responds “Not All Porn” (#NAP) in the same way sexists respond “not all men” when we talk about male violence and misogyny. Feminists ought to be aware that criticism is aimed at cultures, classes, and industries — not individual people.

4) While we are in the midst of a child porn and pedophilia epidemic, liberal feminism argues we should sell sexy lingerie to seven year old girls because children need “sexual choices.”

5) Liberal feminism applies criticism to every industry except the sex trade despite the fact that the sex industry hinges upon classism, sexism, racism and a global trade which commodifies violence against girls and women.

6) Liberal feminism prioritises first-world women’s accounts of feeling empowered, shunning women who don’t have the language, resources, Twitter/Tumblr accounts to articulate the extent of their oppression.

7) While liberal feminism claims to be “intersectional” it concomitantly evades structural analysis and conceals multiple oppressions with a rhetoric of agency. This is an issue that Kimberlé Crenshaw has spoken on recently. As if feeling agentic is going to keep the most vulnerable women alive.

8) Liberal feminism claims to want to end sexist stereotypes, but freely labels women “thin-lipped,” prudish, and anti-sex if they dare say any of the things that I have just written here.

9) Liberal feminism has been so concerned about “including men” and being “pro-sex” that they have repeatedly published “feminist” works on behalf of male sex predators and attempted killers.

Liberal feminism is not only male-centric in rhetoric, but it positions male entitlement as feminist.

Yet now liberal feminists are upset because Emma called upon men in her speech. Pot calling the kettle…?

I say: At least Emma isn’t advocating for sex predators. At least Emma isn’t advocating for pedophiles. At least Emma isn’t advocating for men who produce violent pornography. At least Emma isn’t advocating for human traffickers. At least Emma is advocating for women.

Yes, Emma is another white woman adding her voice to a movement that continues to prioritize the perspectives of white people. But does that mean professional white feminists are going to renounce their careers? I wouldn’t expect so. But I would expect that they might consider whether their political analysis serves to amplify or obscure the reality of women already marginalized by the current white-male-centric world order.

Perhaps Emma’s critics can also question whether liberal feminism is really working to challenge male hegemony continuing to serve up diatribes about “finding agency” in oppressive circumstances. They might question whether this liberal, postmodern, anti-structural, acontextual approach to feminism even means anything for women outside of first-world capital cities… Marketing something as “intersectional” doesn’t make it so.

It would seem that we can either fight to end patriarchy and the institutions that prop up its existence, or we can work to make patriarchy more acceptable and equitable by selling it as “choice.” One of these options sounds like feminism and the other sounds like corporate strategy.

If the sex trade were a choice that supposedly liberates women, wouldn’t we all be liberated by now? What with pornography making up over a third of the whole Internet, and with the global sex industry estimated at being worth over $7000 billion (nearly ten years ago by the EU). So why is male sexual violence, sexual coercion, sexual assault, global trafficking in childen, self-harm, objectification and eating disorders as well as suicide rates all on the rise for girls and women in a whole variety of countries?

As it turns out nobody is liberated by these industries and participation is rarely a “free choice.” In fact research shows quite the opposite with very few South East Asian women ever personally seeking out the industry. To defend an industry that hinges upon impoverished girls and women’s lack of choice, and instead frame it as being primarily about “women’s choices” shows that liberal feminism is reserved for women with class privilege.

Yes, some women can choose. Some women have the social mobility required to move in and out of different fields of work and that is great. Of course no woman should be stigmatised for her choices, whatever they may be. But feminist analysis is not just about women who have options. Feminism that only reflects women with choice serves to further silence women who have few or none.

As bell hooks has said:

[Feminism] has never emerged from the women who are most victimized by sexist oppression; women who are daily beaten down, mentally, physically, and spiritually — women who are powerless to change their condition in life. They are a silent majority.

Girls are increasingly surrounded by sex trade influences, with much of the visual culture saturated with pornography. Male entitlement is a dangerous, global epidemic. Thai reports show 40 per cent of the sex industry is made up of underage girls. Male sexual entitlement is colonizing the third world faster than transnational corporations ever could. This local-global industrializing of sexual exploitation is constraining the rights and choices of girls globally. Working to legitimize this exploitation only solidifies the lack of choice for these girls and women.

How can liberal feminists bolster these industries and simultaneously claim to fight for choice? Whose choice? Male sex tourists perhaps? From my experience living throughout South East Asia, a deep sense of collectivist culture, filial piety where children are strongly obligated to support their aging parents, combined with poverty, all make the idea of individual choice and empowerment laughable. Poor women living in South East Asia don’t simply log on to seek.com and peruse potential career “choices.” Life is not as simply as victims vs. agents.

An all too common story across Asia is parents who cannot afford to feed their children. They may find themselves forced to send their daughters or sons to the city with the promise of “school and work” — this is increasingly impacting strained rural populations. Are these girls going to be helped by “feeling agency” while they are exploited? Perhaps they could benefit from state sanctioned and local development programs, rather than sex predator tourists?

Australian writers have told me that girls in Asia have to “choose” between the garment industry and the sex industry, otherwise beg. Why is this first-world “choice” narrative homogenizing feminist discourse? It is an entirely reductionist, ethnocentric and distorted idea of women’s reality overseas. What ever happened to intersectionality?

Liberal feminist rhetoric is dominated by first-world accounts of “I think this is empowering so it is.” This apolitical approach evades the statistics and realities of millions of girls and women whose stories we will likely never read about in a feminist bestseller. Feminism has come to mean whatever wealthy consumers want it to mean — “feeling good,” rather than actual change or justice. We seem to forget that the world is not full of women who are privileged enough to try out oppressive systems like pole-dancing for “fun.” We’ve ended up in a situation where Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus call their actions feminist — while that’s ludicrous, I can see exactly how they came to that conclusion.

I understand that liberal feminism does seek to change sexist norms and attitudes, but it does so by supporting the industries that ensure sexist behaviour is normative, institutionalized, and profitable. Not only does this garner political legitimacy for sexist industries, but it bolsters male consumers who can argue their sex tourism and excessive porn use is acceptable or even “feminist.” Empirical evidence shows that first-world male consumers of pornography have higher sexist and rape-accepting attitudes — attitudes that they can more easily enact in locations with fewer law enforcement resources.

I am struck by recent liberal feminist texts criticizing “neoliberal feminism” (which isn’t actually a thing) while the crux of liberal feminism could not be more closely aligned with neoliberal exploitation of women.

So is #heforshe going to actually achieve anything with men? At an individual level, I hope so — we certainly need it. What I do know is that, for my friends living in poverty, having men hear about this will likely do more for them than talking about feminist agency or feminist porn.

I understand entirely why Watson’s speech was somewhat piecemeal, problematic and feminist-lite… But that is because she is working with liberal feminist theory, and it’s the best she (or anyone) could do with that body of work.

Watson is simply advocating for girls and women the only way she knows. So all I have to say to her is: “Thank you. You did what you could, we have a lot of work to do and we welcome you.”


Laura McNally is a psychologist, consultant, author and PhD candidate. Her current work draws upon critical theory to examine the limitations of corporate social responsibility and liberal feminism. She blogs at lauramcnally.com.

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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  • I was relieved that Watson did not explicitly express support for the sex industry, but she never condemned it either. She does not use any liberal feminist rhetoric (e.g. “slut-shaming”, “sex worker”, “gender identity”, etc.) Her language seems most similar to the language of those I termed “moderate feminists” on a previous comment (included in this category are Anita Sarkeesian and Ariel Levy among others) so that is what I am going to temporarily classify her as. I could be wrong of course, if she comes out in support of the sex industry in the future, I will re-label her as a liberal.

    Her “feminism is everyone” approach could lead her down that path. I do not believe that feminism should exclude people needlessly on the basis of ethnicity, nationality, personal choices or sexual orientation. I even think men can get involved in feminism if they reject masculinity (both ideologically and in their behaviour) although I would never advocate altering the feminist message to appeal more to men. Feminism is a political movement. Political movements have viewpoints and aims (specific aims, not just general statements like “liberate women”). If you do not agree with a movement’s viewpoints and aims you cannot be, or rather you aren’t, a member of that movement.

    The notion that “feminism is for everybody” leads to the feminist ideology being changed to appease the status quo. Change is fine if it is justified by evidence and rational argument, but not if it is done for the sake of increasing a movement’s popularity. Feminism is not for everybody, it is for those who dare to challenge the status quo by adopting the (radical) feminist ideology and promoting it any way they can. Movements have a right to set boundaries.

    • What would it mean for a male to “reject masculinity both ideologically and in their behavior”?

      Does radical feminism reduce all sexual difference to stereotype?

      • Meghan Murphy

        Masculinity IS the “stereotype.”

        • That was rather dismissive.

          I surmise that as used here the definition of “masculinity” comprises only attitudes, and behavior that express and support patriarchy, male entitlement, and male privilege.

          I imagine this assertion masculinity itself is a problem is one thing that leads to rejection of feminism as man-hating.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Masculinity is about a defined set of characteristics attributed to males — strong, rational, powerful, unemotional, violent, protective, etc.

      • Scott

        To me rejecting masculinity is about standing up and speaking out to intimidation, demeaning jokes, physical and emotional abuse, pimping and pornography. Basically all the things that fit into the traditional male sex role need to be challenged by men to other men. They need to know that this behavior of oppression is not acceptable and will not be tolerated. The goal of Radical Feminism is not to “turn the tables” but to ensure that all people are treated as Humans equally without regard to any individual choices.

        • I suppose that what Independent Radical meant was that men who want to identify as feminist have to reject that certain ideas and behaviors that are associated with male identity in our culture are acceptable, much less to be encouraged. For instance, we should reject any “boys will be boys” argument – whether regarding street harassment, demeaning jokes, or any kind of abuse, and criticize any male’s patronizing behavior and especially patriarchal values.

          Isn’t patriarchy the problem, rather than masculinity?

          • Meghan Murphy

            Well patriarchy invented and has a vested interest in maintaining “masculinity” and “femininity” otherwise there would be little justification for the oppression of women.

          • Don’t speculate on what I meant, people rarely get it right. They often seem to assume that my positions are more moderate than they actually are, because it seems like the “nice” thing to do, but in reality, I am a political radical and want to be recognised as one (hence the name.)

            I define masculinity as the set of characteristics which people born with penises and testicles are encouraged, from a young age, to adhere to. These characteristics include aggression, dominance, violence, selfishness and a lack of emotions (other than anger.) I do not think we should limit ourselves to only criticising behaviours which directly harm women (such as street harressment and physical abuse.) We need to understand that there are other seemingly harmless behaviours that encourage that sort of thing, such as running around with a toy gun as a child and pretending to shoot people.

            Of course not every child who does this is going to end up committing actual violence, but I think it contributes to the creation of an aggressive personality and people with aggressive personality’s do all sorts of nasty things that fall short of the legal definition of abuse (including behaviours you listed.)

            So when I say “reject masculinity” what I want men to do is avoid developing an aggressive, dominating, selfish, emotionally callous, sex-crazed character. Of course I want them to avoid behaviours that harm women, but I also want them to recognise that their behavioural choices (the films they watch, the videogames they play, the toys they played with as a kid) could be influencing their character and to try to stay away from behaviours that encourage them to develop the characteristics that our society praises as “masculine”.

            I think most of the traits considered masculine are negative traits (I listed some of them above.) Some aren’t. Meghan listed rationality as a masculine trait above. I think rationality is generally a positive trait, but when it is paired with negative traits, such as aggression or selfishness, it can be used for destructive purposes.

            I think it is necessary to regroup the characteristics currently considered “masculine” into the categories “morally good” and “morally bad”. Then we can encourage all children (regardless of what genitalia they have) to develop the good characteristics and avoid developing the bad ones. There is really no need for the categories “masculine” and “feminine” to exist in the first place. They are an invention of society.

          • C.K. Egbert

            Excellent post, IR. I’d also add that you cannot divorce yourself from your initial socialization. Men are socialized into verbal dominance, and there are plenty of perhaps otherwise non-gender conforming men who engage in dominant verbal strategies, for example (more willing to interpret, they are listened to more, etc.–“Men Explain Things to Me”). Most of the dominating behaviors are not going to be conscious, and one can be dominating by how one speaks as much as what one says.

            Also, I agree rationality is a good thing, but rationality has also been historically opposed to emotion (including emotions such as empathy, compassion, righteous anger, etc.). So “rationality” can be considered a male trait in that sense, even if a good sense of rationality is not.

        • nucr

          Scott, are you really just going to come into this radical feminist space and try to tell a bunch of radical feminists what the “real” goal of “Radical Feminism” is? really?

          How about you sit back and watch silently for a while. Or forever. Women don’t need men (I presume you are one– I could be wrong, but I have a hunch) to come in and tell us how to do feminism better.


    • She may not be in a position to criticize the sex industry, given she works in the film industry. It would involve risking her career.

      At least she’s willing to call herself feminist.

    • Great comment! Thanks for reading.. Did anyone notice the line in the speech about ‘gender is a spectrum’ ?…….. Again, i dont blame her for thinking that either.

      • Meh

        Yes, I did. I cringed a little when I heard it. But then I thought, “This is how I started off too”. I think it’s great that she’s interested in feminism (and in calling herself a feminist).

        BTW – great article!

        • There are indeed restrictions on what women are and are not allowed to say which come from institutions such as the media, the universities and the UN. Women who oppose the sex industry and the understanding that gender is a natural aspect of humanity also face strong opposition and stigma from those around them.

          However, since none of us can read Watson’s mind (I presume), we are forced to engage with what she is saying. I am glad that she is bringing attention to feminist issues without openly calling on women to participate in the sex industry or carry out extreme beauty practices (e.g. breast implants). The more people there are speaking about such issues in a way that is not outright opposed to genuine feminism, the better. She sounds sincere in her aims, but what she says does not strike me as being particularly new or challenging to the status quo.

        • What’s wrong with the idea of gender as a spectrum? Clearly the binary model doesn’t work even on the level of physiology, and the fit worsens as we consider identity.

          • C.K. Egbert

            Gender is not a personal identity; it is a political sex-caste (either oppressors or the oppressed). People can and do internalize their sex-caste as their “identity” but that is not what gender fundamentally is. Conceptualizing gender as a personal identity obscures the reality of structural sexual subordination.

            Both masculinity and femininity are products of sexual subordination, and we want to get rid of both. Without sexual subordination, masculinity and femininity would have no content because the purpose of gender is to differentiate, socialize, and enforce the sexual subordination of females/women (just as in a non-racist world “white” and “Black” would not exist as social categories).

          • Meh

            What do you think?

          • nucr

            scott, seriously, this is 101 stuff and everyone here but you knows what masculinity is, and why thinking of gender as a “spectrum” is problematic for radical feminists. if you are a man, please educate yourself elsewhere and just observe our conversations here.

      • Dana

        Gender IS a spectrum. It’s sex that isn’t. If we’d stop confusing the two, that’d be swell. Masculine is a gender, male is not, for instance.

  • anne cameron

    I am a white woman, with high school education, living in a small semi-isolated community on the West coast of Vancouver Island, far from any city of appreciable size. I am also an old woman, seventy-six years on my last birthday. My experience with the women’s movement has been that we are deeply impacted and almost split along class lines, and I feel that until we really deal with class, we’re going to spin our wheels. I’m sorry if the tender feelings of some academic women are bruised when I say they have no idea at all what life is like for a single mom trying to keep a roof over her kids’ heads and put nourishing food on the table. I don’t really care what kind of job that woman has, but in all probability it won’t be a highly paid “career” choice. And when all that bafflegab and bullshit language starts to be tossed around, well, I’m sorry, I feel my neck starting to get very red.
    Then add in race. Oh, sorry, does that startle or offend some nice lady? Are we not to discuss that ugly reality? Do you really think if all those missing and murdered Aboriginal women had been white university graduates the RCMP would be sitting around with their thumbs up their bums? No. Those slaughtered sisters are ignored because of race, because of class, because the boys are still smirking and ignoring the reality of women. I have granddaughters and they are First Nations and that makes them targets in this country. And no blether about polysyllabic bafflegab is going to describe or investigate their reality.
    I personally try very hard to just ignore the bullshit coming from those uppercrust types. They don’t even know that they are pandering to the power structure. They go through life claiming to be feminist, but in a “and see, I’m a nice person who doesn’t threaten you in any way aren’t I sweet.”, sort of way. They aren’t even a threat to the women’s movement. They are irrelevant and I sometimes wonder why we spend so much time trying to analyze them, trying to refute their nonsense. Sometimes I think we spend that time trying to figure them out simply because they piss us off so completely but we feel it would be un-sisterly to tell them to fuck off and go home.

    • Laura mcnally

      I love your comment.
      I wish I could agree with the part about them being irrelevant, but what I have seen is that this perspective is now in politics, in media and increasingly institutionalized. Eg amnesty international is being lobbied by ‘sex work groups’ to take a pro sex industry stance, they nearly won and the battle is ongoing. The sex industry lobby recently took over a trafficking event in Sydney to talk about ‘choice’. That’s just a few examples from recent weeks.
      So yeah, how I wish they were just irrelevant.

    • Eva Bowering

      Awesome!! 🙂

    • nucr

      I don’t understand, what do academic women and their “tender feelings” have to do with Emma Watson, who is not an academic at all, but just a popular actress?

      Also, as someone who has done stints around and in academia, I can tell you that being an academic woman in the humanities (which any academic who writes about feminist issues is) isn’t necessarily a guarantee that you are rich or “uppercrust” or can even put food on the table.

      Many graduate students got in the humanities are on food stamps, in fact. That includes their children, then. (There was an article about this is the Chronicle of Higher Education a while back). And not all came from rich or middle class families.
      Also once you get a job, if you can, you are still not necessarily going to be rich. Just knee-jerk rejecting women who work very hard to not only get to grad school and academic careers, but who worked hard over the last 40 years to bring feminist ideas into a HUGE variety of disciplines and institutions of higher education is not the answer. Their ideas are certainly up for critical debate, but what does it help anyone to declare them irrelevant before even knowing what they are?

      … oh wait, I realized just now that (I think) what you were trying to say is that academic feminism or academic feminists are correlated with liberal feminism. It’s an interesting thought, but is there any evidence that female feminist academics are more politically liberal than other female feminists.

    • river

      Bulls eye Anne. And so great to hear your voice still clear and strong. We septuagenarians need to keep speaking up whenever and wherever this monster shows itself. For the daughters. <3

  • Feminism is about half of humanity which means, as an unavoidable logical consequence, it has to include the other half of humanity. If half is equal, then the other half has to be equal too. So there’s a place for including men in the process. it’s actually essential for the ultimate success of all of us seeing each other as human beings.

    There’s also a very important place for those who cast a squiddy eye on the process and make sure it doesn’t drift off into pandering to the powerful.

    We don’t all have to attack the same part of the problem. It’s actually better if we don’t. Parallel processing accomplishes tasks faster. So IR’s approach is good and important, and so is Emma Watson’s. And, for that matter, Meghan Murphy’s and Laura McNally’s.

    The interesting thing is that the panderers feel it’s cool to market themselves as feminists. They’re not, and it’s odious they lie like that, but it’s still interesting that we’ve crossed some invisible line. Thirty years ago, all the cool hypocrites were protesting how UNfeminist they were.

    • bella_cose

      I just worry that because the media (all forms of mainstream media) is so powerful in shaping reality for so many people, and liberal feminists are loved by the mainstream media outlets, that liberal feminists are given a huge platform. The rest of us who actually want change through all facets of society, are labeled “radicals” (as if that’s a bad thing), and our analyses and criticisms are denigrated and dismissed.

      I’ve always been a feminist. Even as a child, I knew something was wrong between men and women, and it took years for me to figure out where my discomfort stemmed from, and I continue to refine my beliefs about men, women, humans, and the universe in general. I expect this will continue for the rest of my life. I hope that Emma Watson is on a similar journey, and she has the courage to analyze everything no matter how uncomfortable, and her feminist consciousness continues to expand.

  • John

    My sister read this and the comments and was pretty offended of all the hate for so called “liberal feminists” or as she calls them regular or moderate feminists. You probably should try not to burn bridges with the 99% of self-proclaimed feminists.

    • marv

      It is male liberalism that provided the ideological framework for liberal feminism to develop. Rad-feminism is feminism unmodified by male teachings. Hence male authority is the root of the divisions among feminists – the origin of the antagonism. You should probably join the movement to burn down patriarchal structures instead of blaming the victims for the rancor.

      • Laura mcnally

        You’re right about liberalism, but how is liberal feminism a movement to ”burn down patriarchal structures” when its theory is dependent upon them…

        • marv

          I was implying the movement to be rad-fem, not lib-fem. Sorry for being unclear.

    • Missfit

      Well liberal feminism sucks, so what can we say? It is incoherent, shallow and counter-productive (I don’t say Emma Watson is one, I would call her a moderate feminist as Independent Radical said). The bridge is there, they can cross it if they want.

    • EEU

      Liberal “feminists” are MRAs. They are putting women under the bus all the time. They don’t give a shit about women’s rights. It’s all about pleasing men and their penises.

      • Meghan Murphy

        Some liberal feminists are, yes, women who just want to ‘make the best of a bad situation’ and throw other women under the bus in the process. Others are just new to feminism and/or have not yet been introduced to radical feminism. I don’t think it’s necessary or accurate to compare them all to MRAs… Many of them mean well.

        • EEU

          Oh I agree.

          Some have good intentions. However, liberal feminism looks a lot like the MRM. They advocate for men’s “right” to women’s bodies and men’s “right” to degrade and dehumanize women. They’re also supporters of queer theory, which also very much looks like the MRM. I’ve met “feminists” who love to talk about how men are sooo oppressed, but those seem to be a minority. No, libfems are not exactly like mras but sometimes they’re very much alike.

          I used to be a libfem too for a short while. It’s not women’s fault. I blame the male-stream media and the constant silencing and misrepresentation of radical feminists.

        • Eva Bowering

          EEU – You may as well be saying all feminists are social justice warriors. If you think all liberal feminists are MRA’s we may as well just generalize.. which if I am not mistaken is exactly what feminism fights against.

      • Care to support those accusations? That is, to talk about anyone who supposedly identifies as a liberal feminist but shows themselves to be an MRA and to be “all about pleasing men and their penises”? Perhaps provide some links and critique of their stuff? I’d like to know who to be wary of as I peruse publications and blogs and what to look for that betrays them.

        • Meghan Murphy

          Read Salon.

        • EEU

          The male-stream media gives voice mostly to liberal feminists. This site seems to be one of the very few places where critical thinking is allowed. It’s an excellent resource.

          Stay away from places like Jezebel and FreeThoughtBlogs. If you want proof that ‘feminists’ who also identify as or support MRAs exist, go to the everydayfeminism forum.

    • nucr

      guess what, John, no one cares what you (a man) think about radical feminism. You should probably try to keep 99% of your opinions on feminism to yourself.

      • My disinterest in John is not down to the fact he’s a dude. It’s because he consistently has come across as a spoiled, puffed up youngster. Also because he has not yet learned the most basic manners and refuses to shut up, listen and learn but rather takes up huge amounts of space demonstrating how ignorant and arrogant he is.

        • nucr

          Agreed. But these are also the typical behaviors of men who are encountering feminism for the first time.

          • “these are also the typical behaviors of men who are encountering feminism for the first time”

            Of course they are, but it’s the behaviour, not his sex alone that we are objecting to. If we tell twits like John that we don’t care what men say only because they are men, then it feeds their persecution complex.

            Asinine behaviour like his does tend to correlate with being a guy, but it’s not pure causation. There are a number of men participating in the discussions on this blog who offer very intelligent and thoughtful contributions. I just want to be clear that John’s dithering is not being dismissed (by me, anyway) because he has a dick. It’s because he’s acting like one.

          • nucr

            OK, Lizor, you can reject him for his behavior and not his sex alone and I will reject him for his behavior AND his sex. For I really truly do not think that random men’s opinions on radical feminism matter.

    • Andrew

      What does your sister have to do with anything? Are we supposed to think that gives credibility to your comment? If she is so angry then why didn’t she post?

    • Dana

      We’re not the ones burning the bridges, and we didn’t ask you to mansplain.

  • Andrew

    I’m not trying to tell anybody what they should believe or who they should associate with, but I think the feminist movement would be better off if people sent out more olive branches than hate speeches.

    This is a political movement, and that means that you need critical mass and compromises must be on the table.

    I went through a period where I was very interested in socialism. I came to it through economics and am still very anti-capitalist. However I gave up on it. I joined a socialist club at my college. I found out there was another socialist club as well. Both of them were fighting over me and insulting each other.

    I said, “if your goal is to get the oppressed working people of the world on your side, but you can’t even reconcile with a group of like-minded people who share your core (and unpopular) beliefs, in the same university, then how in the hell are you going to ever convince the rest of the world.”

    Maybe instead of spending an entire article bashing liberal feminists, you should say, “hey, we don’t agree with some of her views, but at least the issue was put before the world stage. Here are a few things we might have said different.”

    If Emma Watson read this article, do you think she would have any interest in reaching out to this community to see what else they have to say? I doubt it.

    • marv

      “This is a political movement, and that means that you need critical mass and compromises must be on the table.”

      Would you have made the same argument to those who wanted to abolish slavery and apartheid – the reformers should be listened too? Harm alleviation not system elimination, is the slave owner and white supremacist position. You want a tamed patriarchy too? Human rights seem to be compromisable to you particularly when it comes to women. Please reflect before you comment to avoid insulting others and embarrassing yourself.

      • Andrew

        The situation today with the oppression of women is far worse than what happened with slavery in America. The rest of the world, and especially the civilized world was against slavery (America was the last bastion on a large and systemic level of a world power). The same cannot be said today about the oppression of women. We are far from a critical mass.

        Europe had been pressuring America to end slavery. Abraham Lincoln, who is made out to be a great American hero, said that if he could end the war by freeing all the slaves he would do it, and if he could end the war by freeing none of the slaves he would do it. The emancipation proclamation was a compromise (which only freed slaves in the south) that pushed Europe to stop buying southern cotton, and eventually leading to the logistical defeat of the south.

        White women were treated worse than black male slaves during the civil war. One example comes from Susan Jacoby’s excellent book: Freethinkers. I don’t remember the name and place details, but somewhere in Europe the was a meeting about the abolition movement. A white woman had brought a runaway black male slave with her, but she was not allowed to speak because she was a woman. Did she turn her nose up because of her own oppression? No, she chose to make a stand for the particular issue at hand because it also mattered to her.

        In fact, women had less rights than black men historically, but you would never know that if you had an American public education like I did. They taught us a lot about slavery and black history (which it deserves), but almost nothing about women’s history or oppression. I never knew growing up that women couldn’t vote until 1920. I didn’t know that the woman who wrote the famous statue of liberty speech wasn’t allowed to attend its unveiling because she was a woman until I actually visited the monument. (I teared up and probably would have cried had I not been in public).

        I’m not suggesting that you, or anybody else should compromise your ideology. What I am suggesting is that progress is not a binary thing. The entire radical feminist agenda (for lack of a better phrase) is not going to suddenly gain critical mass and be implemented worldwide as-is. Progress will have to come piece by piece, and choosing allies that align with one issue but not others will help to get us there.

        Radical paradigm shifts are often met with extreme backlash and end up being reversed. Slow incremental change that roots itself into the moving zeitgeist is how history is made. Spikes do occur, but only because they have been building up behind the scenes. It takes generational shifts in thinking to make real progress. The end of women’s oppression is never going to happen in our lifetime, so we have to ask ourselves what we can do today to start moving the needle.

        If the idea is to get everybody to agree with your ideology, then that will never happen. If the idea is to get a plurality to agree with your ideology on specific issues and different moments in time, and affecting small changes, then that is infinitely more possible.

    • “Maybe instead of spending an entire article bashing liberal feminists, you should say, “hey, we don’t agree with some of her views, but at least the issue was put before the world stage. Here are a few things we might have said different.””

      Andrew, this article happens to be a critique of the liberal feminism. You are posting here telling the author what she should have written about and even dictating the words she ought to use. Can you see a bit of a problem with that?

      I am going to make a couple of suggestions back to you, OK?

      1) Seeing as you apparently pride yourself on your literacy, here’s an essay for you:


      2) If you can’t find the feminist critique you want coming from actual feminists, I suggest you write the essay you feel should be produced, put your name on it, and post it on your own blog. Then you, too, can enjoy suggestions from anonymous commenters as to what you should actually have written about and which words you should have used to do so.

      • Andrew

        I try to suggest that the tone of the article was combative and alienating so you accuse me of mansplaning (btw I’m not new to the idea or the original story that created it). You might want to refresh yourself on what an ad hominem attack is though.

        Yes, this article is an attack on liberal feminism. What a great idea: a drum beating that only serves to preach to the choir and make everyone feel good without actually doing anything.

        If liberal feminists are so terrible as is claimed, then you should be prepared for a long ride as a tiny minority. They are about as close to real allies as your going to get right now. I’m a pragmatist. You go to war with the army you have, not the army you want.

        Feel free to keep alienating everyone that doesn’t agree with you already and see how well it works out.

        A person doesn’t need a vagina between their legs to understand politics. Take a page from Bill Clinton’s book, whose nonpartisan global initiative is actually making the world a better place while congress is stalled in America among endless infighting and campaigning.

        • Andrew, the behaviour described in the article, which has come to be labeled “mansplaining” is exactly what you are doing. By the numbers. My reply to you is not an ad hominem attack. Apparently you’ll pitch whatever high-handed mislabel you can to avoid engaging honestly with the discussion.

          You hide you alpha male BS behind feigned concern for a successful feminist movement presuming that the intelligent, thoughtful woman who wrote this article and the commenters here who, I apparently need to remind you, have actually lived as women in patriarchy, will recalibrate our thinking and our political strategies based on what you clearly believe to be your superior insight. Parading the information you have gleaned from reading history books does nothing to veil the fact that your understanding of the discussion here is lacking.

          The upshot of your response it that the article is doing feminism wrong. You use inflammatory language, describing the pieces as an “attack” and as “beating the drum”, yet you fail to engage with a single aspect of the critique of liberal feminism.

          Do you honestly think that no one here knows that naming collective denial is bound to result in reactionary responses that employ any number of predicable behaviours from paternalistic lecturing to a host of red herrings and derails to violent threats?

          If you want non-threatening persuasion, stick with Salon and Jezebel. If you honestly think that liberal feminism is going to do anything to reduce the extreme sexual violence and the deeply embedded socioeconomic inequality that women are subject to, then provide an argument for that. Engage with what was actually written instead of writing sweeping mischaracterizations of what the article says and where it sits in the wider context of feminist discourse. And Please, PLEASE be brief and concise.

          If you can’t be stay concise and on point, I strongly suggest (again) that you go to your own blog and post your own analysis of the sexual hierarchy and your own proposed strategies for dismantling it.
          I’m sure some of us will be happy to read it and offer our feedback and comments.

          • Andrew

            No, the upshot of my argument is that you are doing politics wrong. I wouldn’t presume to tell you that you are doing feminism wrong (which is part of the reason I have passed on talking about specific issues I don’t have personal and emotional experience with)

            Us vs Them politics simply do not work. They only succced in energizing a tiny base while alienating the moderates. If you do manage to make progress that way it’s usually rolled back in a wave of backslashes.

            starting my own blog would only give corvid and marv someplace new to troll me.

          • “No, the upshot of my argument is that you are doing politics wrong. I wouldn’t presume to tell you that you are doing feminism wrong … Us vs Them politics simply do not work … [et cetera] … backslashes.”

            Ohhhhhhh… I see! Here I was thinking that women’s human rights (and the lack of them) were political. Silly silly me! Thanks you SO MUCH for explaining it all!

          • … and surely with your superior expertise at effecting social change you would not deprive the world of your insights due to fear of a mere couple of critics?

            Oh wait… I’ll bet that’s part of the strategy for reform that gets real results, hunh? Damn! – I just have so much to learn from men like you!

          • Andrew

            Oh, and by the way, in order for it to be mansplaning I would have to treat you different based on the fact that you are a woman. I would offer the exact same advice to anyone, male or female, and engaging in us vs them politics.

            If you want to call me an equal opportunity asshole that’s fine, but mansplaning I was not.

          • nuc

            not so, andrew. In order for it to be mansplaining it merely has to be that you are presuming that the women around you, who are clearly more well-versed and knowledgeable on the topic, are in need of what you view as your penetrating insights. What you fail to consider– because you are a man, because you presum that the women around you are less insightful & knowledgeable than you are– is that the women you think you are dropping knowledge bombs on are laughing at you because you are at 101 and we are writing our dissertations. We have years, decades, and personal experiences and investment on you. YOU are the one in need of OUR insights. That you fail to see that and think we need your insights is mansplaining through and through.

          • marv

            Splendid Lizor. I am still reeling from the reference to Bill Clinton’s benevolence. I can’t envision the number of women who likely sucked the cock of the former most powerful man in the world besides Monica Lewinsky or how many other acts of sexual abuse he committed.

        • Laura Mcnally

          I can’t be bothered reading all your comments, sorry, but I get the gist of what you’re saying – there has been considered critique of liberal feminism from inside and outside the feminist movement for decades. This article is about situating Emma’s speech within that critique. This article is not some new ad hom attack, its simply summarizing some of the issues with liberal feminist praxis that have long been known. Will that alienate libfems? Not the ones who are actually here for women’s rights.
          In every discipline ive ever studied there are sustained critiques, those critiques serve to strengthen theory and bolster development, they don’t make people ‘leave’. So 1/ I don’t know why feminism should be different, 2/ feminism is not a movement to make people feel happy and I’m not about to take the idea to make it one.

  • Art

    I know liberal feminists, liberal feminists are my friends and none of the ones I know think most porn you describe is okay!
    Your thesis shows a lack of knowledge of not just ‘liberal’ feminists but feminism in the U.S. at all…

  • DefenderofThemyscira

    Why is a male Marxist or male anarchist or male socialist or male whatever allowed to be as a radical as he wants and allowed to offend people and lauded as some great revolutionary cigarette smoking hero, but the radical feminist woman who is speaking honestly from her experience and other women’s experiences is regarded as crazy and extremist and delusional and is seen as ‘wanting to exterminate all men’? It’s so annoying and stupid and distressing that the very women who built this movement(Dworkin, Jeffreys, Davis, even Firestone) are being derided and silenced and their thinking dismissed.