]]]]]]]]]      COUNTERING FEMINIST VERBAL TACTICS     [[[[[[[[[[[ 
               Countering Feminist Verbal Tactics
                      By Nicholas Davidson
(Appendix to Nicholas Davidson, The Failure of Feminism (Buffalo,
         New York: Prometheus Books, 1988), pp. 343-348)

              [Kindly uploaded by Freeman 10602PANC]

   Feminist activists don't fight  fair.  They are not interested
in intellectual speculations  or in acquiring  new knowledge, for
the  feminist   perspective  has   already  answered   all  their
questions.  Legitimate discussion of  gender issues can only take
place between members of the  in-group, who share a common belief
structure.   This  eliminates  most  women  from  the discussion:
non-feminist women are  seen either as  potential adherents to be
manipulated  into a  correct understanding  or  as enemies  to be
outmaneuvered.  It also excludes all men.  Men's role in feminist
discourse  is   limited  to  the   role  of  not-quite-legitimate
spectators and, above all, of targets.  The structure of feminist
belief makes  it extremely difficult  for feminists  to admit the
possible legitimacy  of points  of view  which do  not arise from
their own ideology.  Like other  convinced believers in search of
proselytes,  they  engage in  argument  only for  the  purpose of
winning people over.
   To this end, they have made  a sustained effort to develop and
disseminate  rhetorical   shock  tactics   designed  to  confuse,
overpower, and  humiliate their adversaries.   These tactics were
popularized  through   essays  like  ``Verbal   Karate''  in  the
influential Sisterhood Is Powerful (1970).  The mentality of this
effort is  nowhere better expressed  than in the  title of Gloria
Steinem's Outrageous  Acts and Everyday  Rebellions (1982), which
is laden with more such advice.
   Shocking people into awareness is supposed to be fun, creating
an enormous sense of superiority  over the unreflective masses of
``males'' and ``transitional women.''  Steinem advises that
   I now often end lectures with an organizer's deal.  If each
   person in the  room promises that  in the twenty-four hours
   beginning the very next day she  or he will do at least one
   outrageous thing  in the  cause of  simple justice,  then I
   promise I will, too.
   Feminists should  be aware  that such  ``outrageous acts'' can
cut  both  ways.  It  might  be amusing  to  imagine ``outrageous
acts'' directed against feminist orthodoxy: writing in protest to
the  campus newspaper  when  it calls  the  university ``fascist,
racist,  and sexist'';  sending a  copy  of The  Inevitability of
Patriarchy [1973] to a feminist acquaintance; enjoying sex in the
missionary position.  The revolutionary  act for today's woman is
not to demand pay equity  on the job.  It is  to go out on a date
and leave her wallet home.
   It takes little  courage to run with  the prevailing wind.  In
an  era  in  which  feminism has  been  adopted  as  the official
philosophy of  Radcliffe, Barnard,  and Smith,  and the  New York
Times promotes  the unlovely epithet  ``Ms.,'' outrageousness and
rebellion clearly lie  on the anti-feminist side  in the world of
Acamedia [sic], although less so in the American heartland.

``Chauvinism'' and ``Sexism''

   The feminist buzzwords which substitute a predigested ideology
for independent thought have had far  too long a run.  It is time
they were  tossed out of  polite society.  The  most important of
these buzzwords are ``chauvinism'' and ``sexism.''
   Chauvinism originally  meant exaggerated  patriotism.  Chauvin
was a Napoleonic officer whose  jingoism and xenophobia gave rise
to the expression  which bears his name.   By extension, a ``male
chauvinist'' is  someone who  believes that  men are  superior to
women -- and since society in  its ``present form'' is thought of
as ``patriarchy,''  it follows that  any man so  retrograde as to
oppose any aspect  of the feminist program  is a male supremacist
and  a misogynist.   The  feminist perspective,  the  belief that
men's oppression of women is  the source of the world's problems,
made ``chauvinist,'' an abbreviated  form of ``male chauvinist,''
the standard  put-down to  be hurled  at men  who dared disagree,
however timorously, with any aspect of feminist dogma.  In short,
``[male] chauvinist''  is an insult  -- and should  be treated as
   Contemporary feminism, though,  represents an authentic female
chauvinism.  Since  men are responsible  for all the  evil of the
world, women are  responsible for all  the good.  The Pythagorean
principle that associates men with  good and light and women with
evil  and darkness  is stood  on its  head; men  are seen  as the
villains,  women as  the  redeemers of  humanity.   Yet feminists
continue to accuse any male  opponent of ``chauvinism'' -- little
suspecting that the word applies far better to themselves.
   The most popular feminist buzzword  of all is ``sexism.''  The
expression ``sexism'' was  coined in the  sixties to suggest that
distinctions based  on sex  are as  pernicious as  those based on
race.  ``Sexism'' is said to be a system which oppresses women in
order to preserve  the hegemony of men  -- what feminists believe
is  the essential  principle of  human  society and  history.  In
other   words,  ``sexist''   is  a   pejorative  way   of  saying
``gendered.''   Since it  is men  who are  held to  be oppressing
women, sexism also  equals male chauvinism.   Women are therefore
rarely accused of  being ``sexist,'' for  who would accuse blacks
of being racist?   But men are  almost invariably ``sexists'': it
is  indeed  the rare  male  who  has escaped  a  conditioning  so
crippling to the decent side of his character.  ``Sexism'' is the
leading weapon in the feminist rhetorical arsenal for belittling,
besmirching, and befuddling  their ``enemies'' -- ``traditional''
society and men.
   It is time to recognize this word for what it is: a rhetorical
tactic, not a reality.  What began in the sixties as an agreeably
outrageous  neologism  has  been   reified  to  the  point  where
feminists  now  believe  there  actually   is  such  a  thing  as
``sexism.''  To  use this  word as  if it  referred to  a factual
reality indicates that the user  believes our society is built on
the basis of male  oppression of women and  must be overturned in
its essential institutions and replaced with a better order.  The
casual usage  of ``sexism'' should  therefore be  avoided, for it
tends to co-opt the user  into a point of view  that he or she in
all  likelihood  does   not  espouse,  or   in  many  cases  even
understand.   In  reality,  a good  society  does  and  must make
distinctions on the  basis of sex.   The expression ``unisexism''
consequently has considerable  shock value at  the moment against
   Whenever a feminist uses the expression ``sexism,'' she should
be challenged, and pressed: As she struggles to justify this term
she has  long taken  for granted,  the feminist  perspective will
out, in all its poisonous negativity.  One should always remember
in a public discussion  with a feminist that  she is the one with
something to hide: namely, the true nature of feminist ideology.

The Tactic of Outrage

   Holier-than-thou approaches  have been  the daily  currency of
believing  feminists.  One  should  of course  refuse  to conduct
arguments in such  debased coin whenever possible.   But if it is
necessary to do so,  take the high ground.   The most common such
feminist approach is  the tactic of outrage,  used with regard to
day care, pornography, etc., etc.   You've got to have your facts
straight  and be  quick  on your  feet  to c~aa\fhe two-tiered
assault  inherent  in  thk technique,  which  seeks  first,  to
overcome  facts  with  emotion,  and  second,  to  discredit  the
non-feminist  individual attacked  by making  him appear  to lack
moral  compassion,  thoughtfulness,  and  so  on.   Ideally,  the
assault actually discredits him in his own eyes so that, confused
and  stuttering, he  is reduced  to the  apologetic vulnerability
required in the New Male.
   I  say ``him''  advisedly in  this  discussion: the  tactic of
outrage  works poorly  against  women because  as  Carol Gilligan
explains,  they tend  to be  ``morally  pragmatic'' in  the first
place.  Men's  tendency to  abstraction and  generalization makes
them  vulnerable to  this  technique, which  turns  that tendency
against them  by making it  seem pompous  and ``insensitive.''  A
good antidote is therefore  to claim compassion yourself (because
it  is  too  complicated  to  explain  the  virtues  of  abstract
reasoning  in  the  context  of  a  heated  argument  over,  say,
federally funded day care centers): the anti-feminist position is
the really compassionate one -- to  say nothing of being the fair
one, the just one, the practical one, the cost-efficient one, and
so forth.   The fact  that all  these things  probably really are
true of the anti-feminist position won't hurt your case at all.
   Another way to combat the tactic  of outrage is to undercut it
by refusing to speak to the arguments presented (which are just a
smoke-screen  anyway  for forcing  us  all to  accept  a neutered
society).  For men, this  requires that they discard out-of-place
chivalry which inhibits them from using their full aggressiveness
and intelligence  against feminists.   (It may  help to  think of
oneself as a  defender of the majority  of women.)  For instance,
an  acquaintance  of  mine  was  recently  attacked  in  a public
gathering  for referring  to  prepubescent females  as ``girls.''
Since they can be beaten and  raped, he was informed, all females
are ``women.''  Unfazed, he shot back ``Do you spell that with an
`e'  or an  `i'?''  (Some  radical  feminists spell  ``women'' as
``wimmin,'' to avoid the hated syllable ``men.'')

Compliments to Avoid

   There is a set of  expressions which feminist use to encourage
men  to conform  to their  notions  of nonsexist  conduct.  These
should be  avoided and resisted  just like  the pejoratives.  The
pejoratives  are the  stick,  the compliments  the  carrot.  Both
represent attempts to divorce you from your authentic perceptions
by people who don't know any better.
   Words like  ``sensitive,'' ``caring,''  ``warm,'' ``feeling,''
and ``related'' all represent perfectly valid qualities for a man
to  possess,  but  in the  feminist  lexicon  they  have acquired
special meanings.  From girlhood on, many women periodically wish
human  males were  more  of these  things.   Here's the  rub: the
feminist usage  blends this  ubiquitous and  ungratifiable female
wish with  the implication  that the  recipient of  these seeming
compliments either lacks or doesn't  care for the reverse virtues
of  toughness, independence,  and so  forth, and  consequently is
less able to  stand up for  himself than he  should be.  Many men
wonder  why they  feel threatened  by such  apparent compliments.
You   should   feel  threatened:   these   ``compliments''  carry
implications that the psychological  distance with which each man
must surround himself for his  basic well being (passim Gilligan,
for instance) is unnecessary.  Like  a stranger standing close to
you  on an  empty  bus, they  represent  a violation  of personal
space.   Preserve  your  right  to  be  distant,  skeptical,  and
unemotional: these are qualities too, if not carried to excess.

``Sex Objects''

   One hardy perennial is  the claim that ``men  see women as sex
objects.''  Of course they do.  What sort of woman would not want
men to see  her as a  sex object?  When  feminists attack routine
aspects of the  human condition which they  find offensive, it is
often effective  to point  out that your  views are  those of the
majority.  As,  says the  feminist, but  the problem  is that men
just see women as sex objects.  This is a curious proposition, as
science  has  yet  to  uncover  a  single  case  of  this bizarre

Arguing in Front of a Group

   You have one enormous advantage if you are arguing in front of
often generate sympathy, interest,  and covert admiration for the
underdog.   Even more  important,  your arguments  will  have the
virtue  of   novelty.   May   people,  including   most  of  your
adversaries,  will literally  never have  heard them  before, and
even  if  they have,  the  impact  of hearing  a  fellow student,
employee,   family   member,   colleague,   or   other   personal
acquaintance make  points they  had only  heard in  passing on TV
will make them sit up and  take notice.  Of course, all the above
points continue  to apply  even if you  are talking  on TV.  Good

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