Last week in this space I reviewed the recently published, Sons of Feminism: Men have their say, an anthology of essays and narratives by men from all walks of life and provenance, describing the various ways in which feminism had negatively impacted their lives. As promised, this week I am reviewing Daughters of Feminism: Women supporting men’s equality, its companion volume, edited by gender analyst David Shackleton.
Full disclosure: I wrote a chapter for this volume, “In Praise of Fathers,” but it would be misleading to suggest that I am a “daughter” of feminism like the other entries. For I am the oldest of the contributors, so I came of age before feminism – or at least the more toxic version of it – became a dominant influence in our culture.
I was therefore more or less inoculated against its worst traits, because my critical faculties in this realm had not been compromised by the indoctrination women younger than me were subjected to in higher education from the late 1960s onward (I completed my Masters degree in 1966 and by then had been married for two years).
But enough about me.
This collection of women’s essays and narratives will have a powerful effect on any reader who comes to it with an open mind. Many of the writers herein – happy pro-male warrior Karen Straughan, Australian psychologist and sex therapist Bettina Arndt, video-blogging champion of the falsely accused Diana Davison, academic contrarian and author of the popular Fiamengo File series, Janice Fiamengo – are now old hands at beating against the feminist current. They know both sides of every argument, but their opponents, like other ideologues, cannot conceive of another “side” and as a result, often lose debates that are judged on evidence and reason.
A more recent desistor from feminism, whose “conversion” aroused strong controversy, is Cassie Jaye, whose film, The Red Pill, chronicled her investigation of the men’s rights movement. She assumed she would find evidence to denounce it; instead she found evidence to renounce her assumptions.
“Meeting my Enemy,” Jaye’s narrative, opens the book. In it, Jaye admits that up until she made the documentary, she had never really listened to men’s claims for sympathy. But as a documentarian, she forced herself to listen carefully, and noted her responses.
For example, one interviewee said to her, “Just walk outside and look around. Everything you see was built by a man.” Jaye’s first reaction was anger, but then, adjusting her attitude to neutrality, “as a documentarian should,” she realized that what he had said was factually true, and that if a feminist had said, “Everyone you see was birthed by a woman,” she would have been fine with that.
Jaye realized too that when a man said, “Where is justice for the man who was falsely accused of rape,” she would not have heard the word “falsely” unless she consciously listened without prejudice.
During the filming of The Red Pill, Jaye read Warren Farrell’s seminal book in male consciousness-raising, The Myth of Male Power. She was taken aback by Farrell’s reference to the Civil War Conscription Act as “allowing, in essence, for an all-male slave trade.” The number of men killed in the Civil War – 623,000 – was eleven times as many men killed in the Vietnam War. Farrell asked readers to imagine society’s reaction to 620,000 females in body bags.
This previously unconsidered male reality was Jaye’s “woke” moment. Finally, she was able to see the many injustices that men suffer with unblinkered eyes. In the film Jaye admits she is no longer a feminist. This perceived betrayal resulted in Jaye being subjected to a “calculated smear campaign.” In the end she asks, “How could I be part of a movement that isn’t willing to listen, that doesn’t want me to listen, and doesn’t want others to listen?”
This excellent question reverberates through every chapter in the book, as the various authors wrestle with their own preconceived ideas and the lived experience that “woke” them to the fact that both sexes have legitimate reasons for grievance, and so, historically speaking, the oppressed-oppressor binary just doesn’t work.
Feminism dominates our institutions and the public discourse. In her chapter, “From Sex-starved Husbands to Men’s Rights,” Bettina Arndt tells us that “[o]ne reason feminists are winning all the battles is that the powerful men in our society are reluctant to associate themselves with men they see as losers.” That rings true to me. I have found that when I write about fathers who have been shafted in the family law system, men who are happy in their marriages have little sympathy for them. They do indeed perceive such men as “losers’ and are quite confident this could never happen to them.
Kriss Clément’s contribution, “The Pilot, the Massacre and Spiderman,” is insightful and thought-provoking. She reminds us that the 1989 massacre of 14 women at Montreal’s engineering school, the Polytechnique, produced collateral damage that went completely unnoticed because it was male damage. Many commentators denounced the men at the school who remained passive. Why, they asked, had they not risen up to overcome Marc Lepine and save the women, as their male honour demanded. But if the women attending the school were men’s equals, it would be fair to ask why none of the women rose up either, though of course nobody did.
The disapprobation aimed at these men was an unrelenting feeling of guilt among them. One young male survivor, Sarto Blais, killed himself eight months later because of the criticism and a complete lack of support for the trauma he had suffered on that day. Many people remember the names of the women who were killed. Who today recognizes the name of Sarto Blais?
In “It’s a Woman’s World,” Andrea Mrozek, a practicing Christian, opposes feminism for its “rejection of family life.” She notes that feminism’s influence is disproportionate to its following, for it is a belief system adhered to by a relatively small elite, which only exists “with funding envelopes from government, and yet without a shared cause or mission.”
Maria Al-Masani, a woman of colour from Yemen, who helped ban child marriage in her country, supported first wave feminism, but finds second and third wave feminism “dysfunctional.” Feminism, she says in “Feminism Lied to Me,” is “simply Marxism for women, a dictatorship of female proletariat over male bourgeoisie.”
She is particularly contemptuous of what has been called fainting-couch feminism – an assumption that women are so weak and childlike they cannot protect themselves from any male aggression, however benignly intended without state intervention. Al-Masani writes: “I survived war, bombing, evicting six armed men from my home when I was unarmed…growing up in Yemen, all without trauma, because I grew up in a culture that valued strength and valour, not victimhood…”
Suzanne McCarley, a co-creator of the anti-feminist Facebook group, Women Fighting Feminism, is a dynamic writer, and her chapter, “Women were Never Oppressed,” one of the most forceful of the book. McCarley is a vigorous defendant of gender equality, but disdainful of the double standards supported by feminists. McCarley’s views were reinforced by research into the case of Joseph Harms, an egregious Canadian story of false rape allegation and its terrible human consequences (the details are heartbreaking).
This experience helped make McCarley a fierce critic of a legal system that continually permits miscarriages of justice on the unsupported word of women with an axe to grind. McCarley ascribes these injustices to an ideology that posits all men as the enemy of all women, and whose true mission is to denounce men rather than create a more equitable society.
She writes: “No feminism was ever needed. Every society has always needed human rights, but no society has ever needed the distinction that inevitably comes from dividing the sexes and portraying them as enemies.”
In “Feminism is not about Equality,” Diana Davison (whom I hold in awe for her tireless investigative sleuthing and prodigious, self-taught legal expertise), reveals herself to have been in her former life inside the film industry, untouched by the gender wars, a kind of “Rip Van Winkle waking from a long sleep and finding that the world had transformed into an irrational playground in which facts were a form of oppression.” Davison concludes, “No one should support an ideology because of fear, and feminism uses threats of denunciation, personal retaliation and social death to silence all opponents. I refused to be silenced by men in the past and I won’t be silenced by women.”
Janice Fiamengo’s thoughtful chapter, “A Licence to Hate,” ends the book. Fiamengo, who edited Sons of Feminism, explains why feminism is so attractive to young women. It is, she writes, “a comforting identity, a source of power, and a sense of purpose. The pleasure of that, the exhilarating rush of purifying anger, should never be underestimated. In a society where almost all of one’s physical needs are taken care of, the electrifying urgency of believing oneself to be in a fight for survival is deeply satisfying.” Perhaps most importantly, feminism confers on its adherents “a profound conviction of blamelessness.”
From blamelessness, “a licence to hate” emerges. For “to empathize with men would weaken one in the fight for justice, wasting the emotional resources owed to the true victims.” Hating with impunity, Fiamengo believes, is one of humankind’s deep needs.
We are not permitted to hate “the Other,” but we are allowed – encouraged – to hate white men, whose hard work and sacrifices sustain our society. Corroborating Fiamengo’s assessment, editor David Shackleton summarizes the state of affairs very neatly in his introduction, when he states, “From the beginning, feminism has been characterized by compassion without accountability for women and accountability without compassion for men.”
Sons of Feminism and Daughters of Feminism are unique in gender literature. From feminists we often hear that the value of “lived experience” must be evaluated with the same respect as objective evidence. Well, these are all lived experiences. That the men and women who lived them have come to radically different conclusions from those feminists have decreed they should cannot logically be held against them.
These voices deserve to be heard. If academic integrity were the guiding principle behind Gender Studies, these books would be included as assigned reading for students in every such department in North America. But when ideology is the basis of a “discipline,” academic integrity is generally that pseudo-discipline’s first victim. Students in Gender Studies will never be asked to read these books. All the more incentive for people outside the academy to read them and discover what feminists don’t want them to know.