Assholes Hurt, But They Don’t Matter

Or, why we should ignore people who tell women to get back in the kitchen un-ironically.

Some of you might already be familiar with an article by blogger Matt Forney titled, very tellingly, “The Case Against Female Self-Esteem”. This is how he opens his article:

I’m just gonna come out and say it: I love insecure women.

He goes on a rambling, senseless spiel after that about the same tired, overplayed misogynistic bullshit: “Insecurity is the natural state of woman”, he says. “If every girl was fired from her job tomorrow, elementary schools would have to shut down for a couple days, but otherwise life would go on as usual. If every man lost his job tomorrow, the country would collapse.” The ending of his article is equally insulting:

Girls don’t want the six-figure cubicle job, the shiny Brooklyn 2BR, the master’s degree, the sexual liberation, none of it. They want to be collectively led back to the kitchen, told to make a nice big tuna sandwich with extra mayo and lettuce, then swatted on the ass as we walk out the door.

Obviously, this is complete bullshit. Every fact published both by modern science and by simple empirical thinking proves this. As more and more researchers study the way gender roles have been shaped through the years, they have concluded that gender–and the roles and traits that we impose on men and women–are completely made up. For example, “pink is for girls” is a relatively new idea. In fact, it used to be the exact opposite–pink used to be considered a manly color. Although many anti-feminist bloggers may try to claim over and over that female submission is the natural state of all living things, the spotted hyena proves otherwise. (Lynn’s mental hygiene tip: Don’t use absolutes in arguments like this. Absolutes are almost never true and can be dismantled with just one counterexample.) Crying, some say, is a sign of femininity–but in ancient cultures, crying was celebrated as a sign of strength and passion in men. PMS actually doesn’t have much to do with mood alteration. Even domesticity–and, by merit of logic, the “women belong in the kitchen” line–are products more of families settling down due to wealth or stability than of biology. Before American life finally began to calm down after World War II, women were breadwinners as often as men were. In peasant and working class families, women and children were all crucial parts of the family income. In some parts of the world, they still are.

So we’ve established that every line of Forney’s argument is broken and based on hateful, baseless rhetoric. So why are we so angry?

The answer to that is quite simple, actually. If someone started telling you that you were fundamentally inferior, that your place was in the kitchen, and that your wants and needs were not at all what you thought but rather what their interpretation of them were, you’d be pretty pissed off. If someone started spewing shit like “Girls often do nothing to deserve their self esteem” and people enthusiastically agreed with him, I’d be angry and just a little bit scared. Many people were, and understandably so. But it’s a waste of energy–both the anger and the fear.

Check out the link I attached above. As you can see, Forney has put a great deal of time and energy into compiling angry comments, statistics on traffic to his page, and choice tweets to paint his opposition as unhinged, PMS-ing Feminazis. Let’s just be real here, guys. Forney could easily get the last laugh. Not us. He’s a blatant troll. He and people like him need to be disregarded, for several reasons.

1. They publish what they publish because it gives them pageviews. Exposure only strengthens their resolve to post.

I don’t doubt that everyone who got angry at Forney’s article knows this. People aren’t stupid. It’s hard to bite your tongue in these scenarios, exceedingly hard, but Forney and his ilk publish shit like this because they KNOW what will happen: People will get angry, share the link and say “LOOK AT THIS ASSHOLE”, and, of course, comment. All of it gives him more traffic. I do pity the souls of bloggers who live only for pageviews, Matt Forney included. But they think their attention gives them power. Look at Forney’s post. It’s titled “How I Became the Most Hated Man On the Internet”. However arbitrary the label is, it does come with a bit of power.

But here’s the thing. Hate is not the opposite of love; indifference is. If every hateful, inflammatory post of his received a maximum of zero traffic simply because we acknowledged that his views are completely irrelevant to everything, period, his shouting would turn into white noise. Because what he posts is nothing new; it’s just a tired rehash of the same half-truths and ad hominem. Why treat it like anything different?

2. No matter how well-reasoned and thorough your counter-argument is, the offender will almost certainly ignore it.

There’s a psychological aspect to this phenomenon, called the Dunning Kruger Effect. The crux of the Dunning Kruger Effect is (and I might be butchering this a little) is that incompetence in one sector also hinders the ability of someone to evaluate anyone’s competence in that sector, including their own. To apply this to debate would use the analogy:

Imagine you’re playing chess with a pigeon. It doesn’t know the rules, shits all over the board, knocks over the pieces, then acts like it’s won.

It doesn’t matter how good you are at chess. You could be Gary Fucking Kasparov and the pigeon will still think it’s won. Similarly, Forney and his ilk are undoubtedly poster children of the Dunning Kruger Effect. They don’t recognize how broken their arguments are because they just can’t recognize a good one, period. And so they continue to labor under the illusion that they are right.

For example, at one point Forney claims that

Girls don’t want the six-figure cubicle job, the shiny Brooklyn 2BR, the master’s degree, the sexual liberation, none of it.

And yet, the women’s liberation movement of the ’60s was started by girls. Many women still voice their disapproval of the glass ceiling, and girls graduate from college in greater proportions than guys each year. Even in fucking South Africa, the movement for sexual liberation grows ever stronger. Everything about his argument is wrong, and yet he holds it up as gospel. He even responds to this rebuttal of his claims like this:

I did get a “sane” (i.e. non-violent) response in the form of a four-part series from elderly transsexual Stephanie Zwan, who finger-fucked every line of my article in typical autistic feminist fashion.

Two words: Dunning Kruger.

Even if they are not suffering from Dunning Kruger, blatant, sexist assholes who hold such extreme views are probably not in a place where they are willing to compromise with anyone on them–particularly women. For whatever reason, in their mind, they are correct–and you are just a blip on the radar. An error in the calculations. A psycho. Either that or they’re just laboring for page views. Whatever the case may be, arguing with these kind of people is pointless because they are the immovable–they cannot move forward; they can only slide backward. Extremists cannot be reasoned with. And that’s just what they are–extremists. That’s one more reason why they don’t matter.

3. Extremists may have loud voices, but their voices carry little weight when compared to the whole of the population.

In his own words:

So to all my detractors, I say molon labe. I’m here to stay and there’s nothing you can do to shut me up.

And he’s right. No matter how many people revile his ideology, no matter how many people hate him, he will keep posting. In fact, the more people react to him, the more he will post. Sure, he’s got people who agree with him. So fucking what? There are exponentially more people that disagree.

And this is the crux: Matt Forney, and people like him, are not as threatening as you think. People who are sexist and love it, people who actively embrace their misogyny, are increasingly rare these days. Who here has heard of the Brosie the Riveter story? I bet you have. It’s an amazing, uplifting, funny story about a CEO who got called on his sexist bullshit–and made it right. Certainly, we should take away from this story that hypersexualization is wrong and overused and trite. But the real point of that story is that most people are not actively and happily sexist. It’s called “the patriarchy” because it’s a male-dominated worldview that permeates the way we live our lives–it’s something that we’ve been taught literally since birth to accept as gospel. Boys bring home the money, girls cook, boys roughhouse; girls look pretty. All of it is internalized and accepted, and it’s why even now, it’s so hard to distinguish what’s right from what’s not.

My point is, most guys don’t even know they’re being sexist. That’s why they sometimes respond negatively to someone calling them out–they didn’t even realize they were doing something wrong. It takes a lot of social awareness to break into the lens of seeing things through a more feminist view–anyone who’s ever lived it, knows this. As girls, as women, as feminists, as people, we shouldn’t worry about the fringe minority of hateful people who spew shit like “Women don’t want sexual liberation”. That’s exactly what they are: a fringe minority. It’s unlikely that they’ll ever be able to push their agenda in America. Exhibit A: Wendy Davis. Even in a male-dominated, conservative-ruled legislature in motherfucking Texas, Wendy can stand up for women’s rights and make the world take notice because we’re not that backwards anymore. We can do this shit.

If Rosie could do it, we can too.

Just look at this photoset from Who Needs Feminism’s Facebook page. LOOK AT HOW MANY GUYS SUBMITTED PHOTOS.

This image belongs to WNF Oxford, not me.

Ditto here. Not mine.

You can see them all here. We have a lot of guys on our side. Even if they don’t call themselves feminists, most of them reject the idea that women are fundamentally inferior. Most of them support gender equality–which already puts the foot in the door. What I’m not saying is, “Look at all these sheep we can indoctrinate!” What I’m saying is, a vast majority of people already realize that something is wrong, but they just don’t know what the problem is or how to fix it. Together, we can figure it out.

No matter what people might say, guys aren’t all misogynists. The modern guy, I think, is more willing now than ever to embrace new ideas and make the world better. The reasonable people of this world exist in far, far greater numbers than the hateful, unreasonable ones. It’s just that the latter talks way more.

So what should we focus our energy on? We should focus on bettering ourselves. We should focus on us–the rest of humanity. Reasonable girls, reasonable guys, reasonable people. They’re just waiting to be educated, to be uplifted, to be shown what it really means to be a feminist. We should focus on gems like Rookie Mag. We should focus on explaining to the world what sexism is, what forms it can take, how we can change our sexist behaviors today. Matt Forney and the others? They don’t matter and we should not care about them. They are white noise. They are blips on the radar. They are hateful reactionaries from a bygone era struggling to grasp the mic when already, the new generation has already taken it. They are afraid and they are not our concern.

The time is ours now. It’s our choice: Focus on the fringe minority and get caught up in flame wars, or ignore them like the scum they are and start walking forward.

In layman’s terms, fuck the haters. 

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