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Yet another deceptive feminist marketing attempt?

I'm seeing the same pattern repeatedly presented in recent debate; two expansions on the NAFALT (Not All Feminists Are Like That) argument. One, I'm labeling NAFALT so FINTB (Feminism Is Not That Bad) and the other, an old one; I Am Not A Feminist but NAFALT often followed by some variation of "so MRAs should stop criticizing the feminist movement."

IANAF but NAFALT is normally easy to cut off by addressing the disparity in its logic: Regardless of whether all feminists are advocates for legislation and policy which mandates human rights violations against men, those feminists who have influence and power are. Active feminists whose advocacy is having real-world effects are like that.    
The causes of several men's issues are rooted in the activism of those feminists. Attempts to address those issues will necessarily include discussion of their causes and resistance to the feminist advocacy which led to those factors. This makes criticism of feminist anti-male rhetoric and response to feminist activism an inevitable part of the discussion of men's issues. This assertion, combined with evidence of said activism, usually ends the "quit criticizing" debate. However, recent IANAF but NAFALT debaters have taken the road of the NAFALT so FINTB debater.

NAFALT so FINTB is a slightly greasier group. The argument sounds nice, but is based on faulty logic. The existence of some decency within an oppressive group does not erase or excuse its oppressive nature, actions, or effects. Neither does the choice of some who claim decency to associate their claims with the group's name, no matter how badly they want to clean up its public image. Because the logic NAFALT so FINTB is faulty and so easily debunked, but the debaters asserting it are emotionally invested in wearing or defending the "feminist" label and associating that label with the Disney version they've made up for themselves, debate following it takes a wandering path through old and new territory, ending at a point of dissatisfaction for the FINTB debater, who then either abandons the conversation, or takes an unearned tone of snide and arrogant superiority.

The main method I've seen employed among this type of debater is topic hopping. The debater states an assertion. The assertion is countered with an argument. The debater supports the assertion with additional opinion, unsupported rhetoric, an appeal to emotion, or some other logical fallacy. Evidence is presented for the counterargument. The debater ignores this and states a new assertion. Pattern established.   

Another is shaming. FINTB debaters equate feminism with being female and call criticism of feminism sexist. When that is countered, they equate it with women's rights, and call countering feminist advocacy an attack on them. That argument depends on begging the difference - the acceptance that each item on the feminist agenda represents a right, the advocacy for which is supported by all women, rather than just a concession feminists want made for the segment among women who want it. Countering the argument depends upon countering that assumption. The response to that is usually label-tossing (misogynist, rape-apologist, anti-woman, anti-choice, creep) and other sexism shaming. This could be taken through to a discussion on whether the feminist movement has the right to claim proprietary ownership of the desires, goals, philosophy, and ethics of all women... but FINTB debaters don't seem to be sophisticated enough to get past "If You Disagree With Feminism You Hate Women."  

The initial presentation starts with NAFALT, so FINTB. When presented with discussion explaining why NAFALT is not a valid argument (backed up as needed,) the debater goes on to the Waves argument, which essentially boils down to "because it's currently popular to treat the history of feminism as having included 3 separate, date-specific waves... NAFALT so FINTB."

This is countered by evidence that each wave of feminism was, in fact, Like That in various ways, and that the most recent one has demonstrated its Like That nature... recently. The debater's response is often to change the debate stance at this point from NAFALT to I Am Not Like That, with "I only identify with/believe in/support 'nice' feminism, so FINTB." IANLT so FINTB may continue through various points and counter-points on whether claiming association with a group makes one part of that group, whether the nature of a group is defined by what it does or what it claims to do, and whether the nature of a group is defined by its interaction with society, its history, and its rhetoric, or by the assertions of those who wish to see it in a positive light.

In debates where I've been engaged by one of these FINTB debaters, this is generally accompanied by either denial that I stated parts of previous statements I made, denial that outspoken and movement-shaping feminist leaders are leaders of the moment, denial that the movement's real-world actions and advocacy are what the movement is about, (both of which fall into That Is Not My Feminism... so FINTB) and the application of vague but authoritative sounding labels like "controversial" and "disputed" to presented evidence, without the presentation of counter-evidence or any other reason why those labels apply.
I call this "the emphatic 'Nuh-uh!' counter.

Imagine that counter used in defense of an inappropriate action.
Debater: Hey, you just punched me in the face!
Me: That assertion is controversial.
Debater: No it's not! My nose is bleeding!
Me: The bleeding of your nose is a subject of widespread dispute.
Debater: I think it's broken...
Me: Scholars have noted that self-assessment can be a wholly subjective experience.
Debater: I can see the part of the septum sticking out of the left side.
Me: Eyewitness accounts are considered unreliable.
       You Can't Prove Anything, so Face Punching Is Not That Bad.

I'm sure you get the picture (which can't be confirmed, because photographic evidence can be easily faked using graphic arts software.) The nature of such a debate style is less human rights activist and more seedy slick salesman.

This may be offered alongside appeals to emotion using feminist rhetoric on the historical roles of women, often including exaggerations, along with a contradictory combination of statements of gratitude toward feminism for fixing those problems, and assertions that those problems are not fixed: Women Once Had It Rough, so FINTB, Feminism Did Something I Like, so FINTB, and I need feminism because the problems I'm claiming that its advocacy has solved still exist.

Calling the FINTB debater out on the irrational nature of such arguments results in accusations of stubbornness and misogyny, further unfounded denials, and begging the difference by offering feminist rhetoric as if it is established fact. In some cases, the debater has straw-manned inaccurate paraphrasing of my previous statements for the purpose of shaping the argument into something easier to counter. Other debaters have descended into angry private messages, personal attacks, and childish demands for concession. None so far seem to be able to offer any measurable evidence to back up their previous assertions, and this is the point at which these conversations generally end.  
Ordinarily I'd think I had simply run into a few fringe kooks, dismiss the behavior, and move on... but the number of discussions which have fallen into this pattern, combined with the sudden, widespread opposition within men's rights discussion forums and social media to any criticism of feminism, indicates that the method may be based on a set of talking points, or on the opinions expressed in recent feminist writing. It almost seems organized. The similarity of various debaters' approaches doesn't necessarily indicate this as the next step in the feminist response to men's rights activism, but the existence of this pattern definitely makes the technique something to watch for and be ready to address.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Absolutely brilliant. I love it.

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