Being ‘Over It’-And the Lack of Charity

February 19, 2013

Last week I wrote what I thought was a fairly straightforward piece titled "Over It." It was an introduction to a poem, and then a poem. It was short, in three parts, and about an anti-rape poem by Eve Ensler, and her One Billion Rising campaign to encourage women to dance as a way to end rape.

In the first part I explicitly stated that I agreed with Ensler's goals ("I support her goals of reducing rape and other forms of violence against women"), but that I had reservations about Ensler's use of statistics, and whether or not encouraging people to dance would actually do any good. In the second part I wrote a poem, using the same title, the same structure, and some of the same lines-echoing, expanding on, and supporting many of Ensler's sentiments. The poem was clearly supporting and agreeing with Ensler on many topics, and I added other topics which I felt had been largely left out in the discussion (such as the issue of male rape, and the epidemic of sexual assault in Native American communities).

I disagreed with Ensler in some places, for example her characterization of "a good rape," which I found offensive, and her focus on the media and culture as a source of rape (instead of rapists). In the third section I added two notes dealing with rape statistics, including from two-time Pulitzer nominee Steven Pinker's new book, which (for those who bothered to look up the reference) explicitly addresses the problem of rape underreporting that some people brought up. If people think Pinker's data about the 80% drop in rapes over the past 30 years is wrong, they should contact him directly.

I did not say or suggest that people should not participate in the One Billion Rising events, or that they were stupid for doing so; in fact I wrote "If people want to do the dance, that's great." I just said that I, personally, see no value in it and will not be participating. (I have a general skepticism about the effectiveness of countless "awareness raising" campaigns-is anyone really unaware of rape, or bullying, or child abuse, or drunk driving, or the dangers of obesity, or any other common social problem?)

So why the anger and venom? Why would anyone get enraged and morally indignant because I think women dancing is a waste of time and not actually helping decrease the incidence of physical and sexual assault?

The piece was completely feminist, pro-women, anti-rape, and pro-activism. Even the parts that questioned Ensler's statistics explained why those misleading statistics actually harm women. The argument was not for an end to anti-rape activism, instead it was quite the opposite: it was for effective anti-rape activism, informed by valid statistics.

The phrase "I'm over rape" does not say or suggest that either I or Eve Ensler (who originated the phrase) is tired of hearing about rape, or that anyone should be quiet about it or not speak out. I used (and repeated) Ensler's phrase exactly as she meant it: I am "over rape" in exactly the same way that Ensler is "over rape": It is time for it to end, and as I wrote, "I am over rape. I join mothers, sisters, fathers, brothers, and lovers in condemning rape and all manner of violence against women. All rape is bad. It is never deserved, nor asked for, nor good; it is always bad and wrong. Always."

The words and intent were repeated, crystal clear, and written without a trace of irony or sarcasm but instead a heartfelt passion that "Women deserve better; they deserve real answers and real help-not faux activism, ineffective e-petitions, or dancing flash mobs."

Is it possible to somehow interpret this as supporting rape in some way? I didn't think so, yet over the past week I have been criticized and vilified, painted as a misogynist, "rape apologist" and even "anti-feminist" by a few people who either didn't read my piece, or didn't understand it.

Addressing Criticisms

I have mostly avoided looking at the comments because very few of them actually address the content of what I wrote. PZ Myers, somewhat predictably, jumped at the chance to dress me down for my perceived sexism in a blog titled, "You Don't Get to Be ‘Over' Rape" -an obvious dig at the poems by Ensler and myself.

Myers admits that I'm technically correct that Ensler's statistics are not exactly right, but claims I'm being "hyperskeptical," and states that "One billion women have been victims of ‘homicide, intimate partner abuse, psychological abuse, dating violence, same-sex violence, elder abuse, sexual assault, date rape, acquaintance rape, marital rape, stranger rape and economic abuse,' confirmed by statistics that Radford cites. One billion women. Radford's hyperskepticism is so fierce that he objects to Ensler using 3 general words - raped, beaten, violated - instead of 26 more specific words, but is willing to overlook the horrific truth that she is correct and one billion women will suffer for their sex in their lifetime."

Except that I didn't; Myers misread it. I actually didn't write the "one billion" figure that Myers misquotes me as saying; that was Ensler's number. What I actually wrote (check it yourself) was that "one-third of women [have been victims of] homicide, intimate partner abuse, psychological abuse, dating violence, same-sex violence, elder abuse, sexual assault, date rape, acquaintance rape, marital rape, stranger rape and economic abuse." (One in three women is not the same as one billion if you do the math, though perhaps that's just my hyperskepticism.)

Furthermore Myers apparently didn't read the list very carefully, or he might have noticed that many of these "specific words" (as the phrase he uses) aren't really comparable to being "raped, beaten, or violated." We can start with homicide, which is clearly not the same as (and in fact is much worse than) being "raped, beaten, or violated." Psychological abuse, which can include anything from controlling behavior to verbal insults to bullying and suicide threats, is not necessarily the same as being "raped, beaten, or violated." Same-sex violence could certainly be included as potentially akin to being "raped, beaten, or violated," though Ensler focuses on male-perpetrated, opposite-sex rape. Elder abuse, also, may include anything from theft of personal property to insults, physical abuse, and abandonment (and is not gender-specific); these, also, are not necessarily the same thing as being "raped, beaten, or violated." Then there's economic abuse, which can include anything from preventing a person from taking a certain job to running up unauthorized bills on another's credit card to unlawful eviction to bank fraud; these, too, are not quite the same as being "raped, beaten, or violated." (Nor, for that matter, are all these examples of "women suffer[ing] for their sex.")

But Myers knows that.

He knows that not all the dozen or so specific categories included under the umbrella term "violence against women" (as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the DOJ) are the same as being "raped, beaten, or violated." It is Myers, not me, who wants to split hairs; I explicitly stated that "all these are serious, legitimate problems" even if they are not equivalent to rape. No matter how you slice it, Ensler's statistic is flawed, and does not say what she says it does. If the number is really one in four, or one in five that doesn't imply that rape is not a real problem, as I stated in the original piece. But addressing social problems requires good data--and this point has nothing to do with feminism or rape; I discuss this problem of exaggerated statistics being used in "stranger danger" and child abductions at length in my Media Mythmakers book. Instead of acknowledging that flawed numbers shouldn't be used to support important causes, Myers chose to suggest that questioning the statistic is somehow an effort to minimize rape. It only takes a few seconds of thought or a few minutes of web searches to see that I'm correct about the varied, non-beating, non-rape (yet often no less serious) types of abuses under "violence against women."

Oh, it also takes one other thing that Myers and his ilk lack: it's called charity.


It means giving someone the benefit of the doubt, trying to see things from another point of view instead of searching for ways to misunderstand, misinterpret, and mischaracterize another's position.

Steve Novella recently commented on this in the context of recent, similar attacks on Harriet Hall regarding gender and sexism: "I think we all should remember the principle of charity, something which is often missing in these internal fights. When considering another's argument it helps to give it the most charitable interpretation, to argue against the best possible argument on the "other side." This is the antidote to the straw man fallacy. If you are not charitable then it is likely that you will waste time arguing against a position that was never articulated. Find common ground and be charitable... My problem with so many of the exchanges that are fueling internal strife is that they are maximally uncharitable to the target of their criticism. This is very counterproductive."

Indeed, I brought up that very issue last year-ironically in the context of Novella's Skeptics Guide to the Universe co-host Rebecca Watson's vitriolic and largely misguided criticism of a piece I wrote:

It's often the case that outrage and insults substitute for truth and accuracy; it's easier to call someone stupid than it is to engage them respectfully. It's easier to have knee-jerk, facepalming reactions than it is to thoughtfully see if there's some misunderstanding on someone's part-or, god forbid, even some common ground. For my part, I take my cues from Ray Hyman, one of my heroes and one of the founders of both CSCIOP and the modern skeptical movement.
If you haven't read Ray's piece "Proper Criticism," you should; it's what guides editorial policy in Skeptical Inquirer. It's a short piece explaining how best to deal with people and claims you disagree with. I'll quote a few short sections: "Many well-intentioned critics have jumped into the fray without carefully thinking through the various implications of their statements. They have sometimes displayed more emotion than logic, made sweeping charges beyond what they can reasonably support, failed to adequately document their assertions, and, in general, failed to do the homework necessary to make their challenges credible. The principle of charity implies that, whenever there is doubt or ambiguity about a claim, we should try to resolve the ambiguity in favor of the claimant until we acquire strong reasons for not doing so. In this respect, we should...convey the opponent's position in a fair, objective, and non-emotional manner. We should avoid using loaded and prejudicial words in our criticisms."

I'm a big boy. I'm used to hate mail and nasty, anonymous comments and criticisms, both founded and unfounded. It's part of the job, both as a writer and as a skeptic. But the sad part is that I strongly suspect that I am often on the same side of an issue and share the same goals as many of my most vitriolic critics. But they don't notice because they're shouting at me.

I will close with a few wise comments from Harriet Hall:

• Please read what I say, not what you choose to imagine I meant to say.
• Please don't try to argue about statements I never made.
• Please try to understand that "I like to do it my way" does not equate to "I'm accusing you of being wrong for doing it your way."
• I don't think I deserve your contempt and hostility.


#1 Travis (Guest) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 at 7:27am

“But the sad part is that I strongly suspect that I am often on the same side of an issue and share the same goals as many of my most vitriolic critics. But they don’t notice because they’re shouting at me.”

This is really the saddest part of this whole thing. It’s like some ego trip for them or something. Rather than give rational, respectful criticism to help you, they come out, guns blazing. Throwing out all kinds of logical fallacies against you personally.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with criticism, but there is no need for it to be so hate filled as I’ve seen in the comments from your previous posts.

#2 noelplum99 on Wednesday February 20, 2013 at 7:53am

I read your original article Ben and had a few issues with it, I must admit. Most notably agreeing with the commenters who saw your ‘all men are rapists’ line as decrying a strawman.

However, I totally agreed with you on the stats. There were some very strange responses you recieved that went something along the lines that as most of the categories listed involved violence/sexual violence somehow that gives us an idea of the breakdown of this billion+ crimes. If life were only that simple I could simply claim I had more money than you by opening a greater number of bank accounts! As it stands, some of the categories are so vague (such as elder abuse and economic abuse, as you mention here) that, for all I know, they could represent 1% or 80% of the total.
It doesn’t render the statistic misleading as much as meaningless and I know no more having been told it than I did before (which is that we need to work to reduce all these forms of abuse).

I thought, overall, your original piece was that of someone who cares about the issue of violence against women but just that you want to cut through the bullshit. When a case is strong it simply needs to be sold as is.

#3 Laurence (Guest) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 at 9:03am

Most of the criticism that I read about your piece was in regards to the terrible poem that you wrote.  It’s the normal kind of thing that you hear from people who are anti-feminism.  If you had written the piece without the poem, I doubt you would have gotten the backlash that you got.  I think your poem lacked a lot of charity to feminists in general.  You might want to think about that before you write a poem and tack it onto a fairly reasonable blog post.  Charity goes both ways.  It’s hard to expect people to give you the benefit of the doubt when you are not giving it to them.

#4 anarchival (Guest) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 at 9:22am

Of course there is still a need for greater awareness of sexual assault. OF COURSE. It’s frankly astonishing to me that a person could follow the news and not recognize that most people on this planet and a significant number of people in this country do not appreciate the causes or the costs or the potential cures for rape. The ridiculous volume at which actual rape apologia occurs suggests we still have a long way to go on awareness. The fact defense attorneys can still use such arguments to absolve their clients suggests we still have a long way to go on awareness. Has rape disappeared completely yet? Have we reached a comfortable number of these attacks in our society? No? Well, then, if you really believe Pinker’s assertions about the decline of rape, then you must also support awareness campaigns, because they are part of the cure. Merely acknowledging the great personal cost of sexual assault and giving its victims sympathy might seem a small, meaningless gesture…except to the millions of women, men, and children who have been victimized a second time by being denied those very things by their society. Women are killed for the shame of being raped every day. Ensler sought to counter the sacrifice of women as scapegoats with another type of public ritual. If you do not think that is a powerful thing then I wonder if you have ever struggled to overcome taboo or prejudice imposed on you by the powerful.

It sounds as though, like many other people, you have reached the point of awareness and wish to move beyond it to action. I applaud your activism and enlightenment, and furthermore I appreciate that you offered a couple examples of things to do and injected some statistical accuracy into the discussion. I just think your dismissal of awareness campaigns is premature. Not everyone has your information or compassion…yet. The awareness campaign might seem unnecessary and foolhardy to you, but for others it might make all the difference in the world. Putting a damper on such efforts isn’t very helpful, either.

#5 Benjamin Radford on Wednesday February 20, 2013 at 9:33am

Laurence- Actually, much of that “terrible poem” was borrowed from, agreed with, and expanded on, the poem by feminist Eve Ensler, so I’m not sure why, taken as a whole, it would be seen as “anti-feminist.” If you don’t like my, or her, poetry, that’s fine. Secondly, it was a poem, not an academic treatise, and the idea of attacking a poem (which is inherently an expression of personal opinion) as “wrong” or lacking charity is kind of bizarre on the face of it; “charity” as commonly used refers to charity toward specific individuals and their arguments (within a discussion or debate), not to poetic statements about abstract ideas, or groups of people “in general.”

#6 fodigg (Guest) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 at 9:44am

My problems with the previous piece:

- seemed to spend more time on listing everything wrong with what one particular activist was doing rather than support the thesis by showing how bad statistics hurt good causes. You seem to take that as a given where I was expecting elaboration.
- seemed very similar in tone to the “feminism isn’t perfect so it is inherently flawed” rants around the internet. (Yes, despite your strong words against violence that is directed at women.)

I figured this had more to do with mirroring the style of the post you yourself found problematic. Especially as someone who never read that post, it just seemed like you were being “concern trollish” about feminism by mentioning support of general causes and then zeroing in on flaws of one particular activist as if they applied broadly to the whole movement (a movement you yourself have stated as fractured, so again, it seemed odd). I can’t count all the times I’ve seem “men are victims too” used as a means of broadly dismissing feminist concerns, so the similarity to your legitimate “men are victims as well and it’s all bad” statements unfortunately echo that. I’m not surprised at all that people read a sneering, dismissive, or insincere aspect to your strong condemnations of rape because of this.

Your statements against rape in all its forms were good. Your recognition of under-protected groups (eg, inmates, native Americans) was good. Your point about misuse of statistics seemed like a good one even though you spent more time pointing out statistical errors than explaining it. I think it’s a discussion worth having if culture has a statistically recognizable influence on rape (I think it does, else anti-violence and pro-violence propaganda would have no effect) and if symbolic protest has any real impact on improving things in a tangible way.

But all those topics kind of got jumbled in your piece and the tone (a nebulous critique I admit but an unavoidable concern) didn’t help. It seemed disjointed and wasn’t as clear as you may think it was .

#7 Stephanie Zvan on Wednesday February 20, 2013 at 11:37am

We can start with homicide, which is clearly not the same as (and in fact is much worse than) being “raped, beaten, or violated.”

After this sentence, I admit that I had rather a lot of difficulty with your demand for charity.

#8 Luther10 (Guest) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 at 11:43am

Stephanie Zvan what exactly is wrong with saying homicide is cleary not the same as yada yada?

#9 Stephanie Zvan on Wednesday February 20, 2013 at 11:48am

Homicide is as big a violation as you can be subject to. Saying that it shouldn’t be counted because it’s worse is not a charitable reading.

#10 Luther10 (Guest) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 at 11:55am

Is murder rates higher for women? Are they more likley to be killed than men? I’m sure the motivation might vary slightly for the each gender but shouldnt crimes like rape be more applicable to the discussion?

#11 Stephanie Zvan on Wednesday February 20, 2013 at 12:13pm

Perhaps you should go to the data for that.

#12 doubtthat (Guest) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 at 12:44pm

Are you seriously that lacking in self-reflection? 

There are two general sets of objections to your post:

1) Your argument about misuse of statistics was actual a trivial semantic argument about what should be contained in the term “violated.”

2) Your poem contained insultingly vapid straw-representations of feminism without reference to any actual person making such claims.

As to #1, you say more dumb things about that in this comically defensive post.  “Violated,” under just about every reading most adults not engaged in obsessively trying to rationalize poor arguments, contains homicide, insults, psychological and physical abuse, and nearly everything else you mentioned.  So again, this isn’t an argument about statistics, it’s an argument about what it means to be “violated” (by the way, talk to anyone who has had their house broken into.  What word do they use to describe the feeling?).

As for #2, it AMAZES me that you seriously don’t understand why people would object to the following statements:

“I am over the male bashing often inherent in feminist writings and slogans; “All men are rapists” is neither true nor fair nor helpful.”

Where did that happen?  For you to be “over it,” implies that you’ve actually dealt with to the point of annoyance.  I would love for you to produce such a slogan. 

“I am over the wanton slinging of labels like “misogynist” and “sexist” and “sister hater” and “gender traitor” and “rape apologist” to people who dare criticize feminists.”

Classy how you managed to phrase that without any evidence or context.  Why would feminists object to such a framing?  Certainly it defies imagination.

There were more such vague, evidence-lacking assertions, which is what people objected to.  You’re characterizing “feminists” as irrational hate-mongers hurling unjustified insults at poor, well-meaning men like yourself.  Surely, SURELY, you can imagine why those generalized claims would merit responses.  I refuse to believe that you’re that obtuse.

I’m reading what you say.  You’re saying stupid things.

#13 Michaeld (Guest) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 at 12:45pm

Umm a little back of the envelope calculation 1 in 3 is infact about 1 billion….Given there are:
~7 billion people on earth
~ 1/2 are women.
~ 1/3 have faced the various forms of abuse listed

Thus ~ 7/(2*3)=7/6= 1.16
rounding that’s ~ 1 billion.

It’s not exact but few figures are. For example the earth isn’t really flat, spherical or even an oblate sphereoid but you can talk about it in these ways as short hand and in certain conversational limits. Frankly assumeing you accept that 1/3 of women in the world will face the various abuses listed its not very charitable to say 1 billion is wrong.

#14 Astrokid on Wednesday February 20, 2013 at 12:54pm

We can start with homicide, which is clearly not the same as (and in fact is much worse than) being “raped, beaten, or violated.”

You need to get with the feminist program, Ben. Death in violence (which happens lot more to men) is not as grave as “violence against women”.

The experience that you have gone through is in many ways comparable to what happens with domestic violence. Women have always been the primary victims of war. Women lose their husbands, their fathers, their sons in combat. Women often have to flee from the only homes they have ever known. Women are often the refugees from conflict and sometimes, more frequently in today’s warfare, victims. Women are often left with the responsibility, alone, of raising the children.

She has softened her tone over the years. From “ALWAYS” to “NOWADAYS” (even though huge numbers of men keep coming home in body bags).
Our Interview with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton October 25, 2011

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think it’s way past time that we redefine what we mean by war, because there are no front lines in the wars in today’s world. There are often not even organized military units, unfortunately. There are states, there are networks, there are terrorist groups, there are militias. And the fact is that in today’s wars around the world, the primary victims are women and children. It didn’t used to be that way when there was a more organized military campaign. But today, we see women being victimized in great numbers all over, in every conflict

Wimmin is the religion of the world.
Stop oppressing me

#15 Benjamin Radford on Wednesday February 20, 2013 at 12:56pm

Stephanie, where does Ensler say that her statistic includes women who are killed? It doesn’t. No one is saying murder “shouldn’t be counted,” just that murder is not the same crime as being raped, beaten, or violated. If Ensler had stated that she was including murder in her statistic, there wouldn’t be that issue. But she did not. We can see that you’re desperate to make Ensler’s statistic seem correct, but it isn’t, and no amount of semantics is going to make it accurate. Even PZ Myers admits this. It’s not a big deal, and it doesn’t invalidate her cause or goal; it just means her numbers are misleading. Which is all I said.

#16 doubtthat (Guest) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 at 12:58pm

Astrokid, that’s an awesome point, because as we all know, feminists are among the world’s leading advocates for more warfare, drug-related murders, gang participation, and land disputes.  Clearly by pointing out that women are suffering, they must mean that ever negative action suffered by a man is justified.  This is it folks, the true reasoning power of the skeptic.  It’s awesome to behold.

I think the same thing about those fucking AIDS activists.  Haven’t they heard of cancer.  Those assholes clearly are pro-cancer because they’re talking about AIDS.

#17 Amphigorey (Guest) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 at 1:00pm

“One in three women is not the same as one billion if you do the math,”

Okay, Ben. Show your work. Michaeld just did the math, above, and got one billion. What does your math look like?

#18 doubtthat (Guest) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 at 1:02pm

Again, Mr. Radford, your entire argument hinges on whether or not “homicide” is a sub-category of “violated.”  Your argument becomes totally irrelevant if either:

1) It turns out being killed is a form of being violated, or
2) The phrase is updated to say, “raped, beaten, murdered, or violated.”

It seems guffaw-worthy to generate such a massive amount of words over such a trivial point.  But, of course, you need to label this a “misuse statistics,” which it really isn’t.  Perhaps a “less than optimal phrase to summarize a set of statistics.”

#19 Benjamin Radford on Wednesday February 20, 2013 at 1:10pm

doubtthat: “your entire argument hinges on whether or not “homicide” is a sub-category of “violated.”

Actually the homicide category is only one of several that I listed that don’t necessarily fit Ensler’s criterion or description; others include elder abuse, economic abuse, and psychological abuse. Thus clearly the homicide definition cannot be “my entire argument.” Not sure how you could have missed that, unless you didn’t actually read the piece.

#20 Gra_factor on Wednesday February 20, 2013 at 1:11pm

I’m not the brightest light in the sky, but it was pretty obvious to me what your first blog post on this subject meant. It doesn’t really need all this clarification and defending… or at least it wouldn’t if you were dealing with people who were reasonable and were discussing these things in good faith.

#21 doubtthat (Guest) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 at 1:14pm

Haha, you honestly don’t consider any of those things to be “violations?”

I mentioned those before, by the way, I don’t know how you could have missed that, unless you didn’t read post #12.

This is a very, very silly argument.  Elder abuse is not a violation?  On what planet is any sort of abuse not a violation?

And that’s before dealing with:

1) How frequently these exceptions (that aren’t exceptions) occur in relation to the 1/3 number.  What is the result of removing your outliers?

2) Do you know the extent to which these categories are mutually exclusive?  How many folks who suffered from elder abuse were also raped or beaten?  How many instances of elder abuse were, in fact, beatings?

For such a statistical wizard as yourself, one would imagine you have these answers at your fingertips.

#22 noelplum99 on Wednesday February 20, 2013 at 1:26pm

I love the broad understanding of a violation. Not least because we can dispense with this 1 in 3 bullshit as I can scarcely imagine anyone over the age of thirty could not stump up something which would class as a violation.

I had thought that the thrust of the one in a billion referred to crimes these women had suffered likely because of their gender, rather than the claim “people suffer, lets dance a bit for the female ones” which is what I take from your cif its a violation and you are female it’s in’ approach.

#23 A Hermit on Wednesday February 20, 2013 at 1:32pm

It’s pretty hard to commit homicide without in some way assaulting or violating your victim, isn’t it?

I’m willing to be charitable and accept that your intentions have been misunderstood Mr. Radford, but whatever your intentions it should tell you something about how well you communicated your thoughts when the feminists are upset by what you wrote and the fanboys from the misogynistic “Voice for Men” are cheering you on…

#24 Astrokid on Wednesday February 20, 2013 at 1:35pm

@16 doubtthat:

...because as we all know, feminists are among the world’s leading advocates for more warfare, drug-related murders, gang participation, and land disputes. Clearly by pointing out that women are suffering, they must mean that ever negative action suffered by a man is justified.

But thats not what Hillary did, did she? She refused to look at men’s suffering.. and said that women are the primary victims. Its the refusal to see the whole story thats at the base of feminist narcissism.

The stock feminist disassociation from any agency in war etc is to claim that men who participate in war are warmongering themselves..  nicely discounting the fact that the draft has been forceful throughout history.. just as we are forced to adhere to the laws of the country today. And that women have bargained for provision and protection from men throughout history, in exchange for their sexual and reproductive surplus. Dont forget the White Feather Campaign and the English suffragettes role in it.

From September 1914, Mrs Pankhurst advocated “War Service for All” – conscription for men and compulsory war work for women. At this time, the Government did not want conscription (They had more volunteers than they could train) and male writers wrote about “The insult of conscription” because it implied that British men would not fight unless forced to.

Mrs Pankhurst was adamant, though:
“The least that men can do is that every man of fighting age should prepare himself to redeem his word to women, and to make ready to do his best, to save the mothers, the wives and daughters of Great Britain from outrage too horrible even to think of.”

Pankhurst - The White Feather Betrayal of History

#25 Astrokid on Wednesday February 20, 2013 at 1:52pm

@23 AHermit: wassup bro? Who wants to look up comment #97 by the brilliant James Onen here?

97. James Onen
1:43 am
My observation is that the Men’s Right Movement is doing to feminism today what New Atheism was doing to religion in the 2000s – i.e. debunking it, openly and boldly. There is much discussion among them about the ideology of feminism through a skeptical examination of feminism’s (outrageous) claims, a reality based analysis of human nature as applied to interaction between the genders, etc. I find it to be a refreshing community of men AND WOMEN who don’t give a damn what people call them, but recognize that there is a deliberate and concerted effort to demonize men, and infantilize (rather than empower) women, by feminism.

Feminists, in response have reacted to MRAs in precisely the same manner as the people at FTB have. They have selectively quoted from comments sections of MRA blogs and forums in order to portray the men’s right movement has inherently misogynistic. Several men’s rights sites were reported to the Southern Poverty Law Center who promptly declared them ‘hate’ groups. One is immediately reminded of efforts to have National Geographic take Abby’s blog down based on the same kind of misrepresentation, and allegations of rampant misogyny in the comment threads. Needless to say, the efforts to silence them in this way have failed (just like they have failed with respect to ERV), and more and more people are taking an interest in what they are talking about:

I do not consider myself a men’s rights “activist” per se because I’m not one that tends to believe in the efficacy of political activism as a way of achieving real and sustainable social change. But I do agree completely with their assessments of the various claims of feminism, and I think the concerns they raise are valid.

MRAs are doing to feminism what “skeptics” should be doing – i.e. placing under critical scrutiny, and exposing the inherent flaws within the ideology.

#26 A Hermit on Wednesday February 20, 2013 at 2:13pm

Yes Astrokid…we’ve all seen the weak straw feminists your misogynist friends like to knock down, and we’ve seen the phony “statistics” they like to throw around. Neither bear much resemblance to reality…

The MRA’s remind me of Holocaust deniers or anti-vaxers; they claim to be “debunking” something but what they are doing is creating their own false narrative.

And one doesn’t have to “selectively quote from the comments” to find misogyny at AVfM; one only has to read the openly stated opinions of the founder, like the ones regarding “conniving bitches” who “beg to be raped”.

Now run along back to the clubhouse

#27 doubtthat (Guest) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 at 2:15pm


The vapidity is stunning.  Consider why Clinton is making that point.  Has there ever been a time in human history that we didn’t understand that warriors or soldiers didn’t die in battle?  Is there any confusion about military casualties?

The point Clinton is making is that the full scope of the human toll caused by warfare needs to be considered.  It’s relatively easy, for example, to figure out how many Americans died in Vietnam.  Almost all of which were men.

Yet millions upon millions of Vietnamese citizens died, and in areas of warfare, the rape and abuse of children and women escalates.  In a world where we glibly lie our way into wars, the lack of consideration for the full scope of the damage caused is persistent and stunning.  Clinton is pointing out that war means much more than harm caused to enemy combatants.  Observe what’s going on in the Congo, for example.

#28 doubtthat (Guest) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 at 2:18pm

And, by the way, find me a feminist group that is advocating for the commencement of more wars and that drafts be exclusive to males.  You’re upset about something that feminists are also upset about, but you’re all tied up in an inchoate rage because they’re talking about other things.

I bet if you start an organization or charity aimed at obtaining peaceful resolutions to various conflicts so men don’t have to fight in wars you will encounter exactly zero pushback from feminists and will likely find them to be your strongest allies.

#29 doubtthat (Guest) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 at 2:22pm

#22 noelplum99

No, the statistics aren’t in doubt.  One billion women suffer from a series of crimes and abuses.  No one has criticized the study, itself.

The only question at has is whether “beaten, raped, and violated,” is an accurate way to describe the longer, more specific list.

It’s fine, though trivial in a “correct your grammar” sense, to point out that perhaps the summary should be changed to be more accurate, but it is absolutely not an abuse or misuse of statistics, which was the launching off point for Radford’s misguided sanctimony.

#30 Earl (Guest) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 at 2:26pm

Lol @ Ben for expecting reasonable scrutiny of your work. No they will find anything, whether it be a footnote at the end of your post, and they will misrepresent it, and they will use that to label you the worst humanity can offer.

Charity is not an option when you aren’t part of the un group.

#31 earl (Guest) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 at 2:27pm



#32 KlavdiaV (Guest) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 at 3:25pm

The poem was full of tired cliches and strawmen, which always strongly suggests someone acting in bad faith. People who trot out “all men are rapists” (a line from a 40 year old novel said by a fictional character in a particular circumstance, cherry picked and kept alive all that time in our cultural discourse solely because it sounds inflammatory and can be wheeled out for a quick, fact free smear against feminists and for no other reason) as a feminist slogan are not acting in good faith, whatever their disingenuous protestations otherwise.

#33 Amphigorey (Guest) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 at 3:44pm

You know, Ben, if you have to beg your readers to be charitable, you might also consider that a) you weren’t very clear in your original piece and b) you didn’t actually say what you thought you said.

I, and plenty of other people, read a good deal of feminist-bashing in your original piece. You haven’t acknowledged any of that, even after people have repeatedly pointed them out to you. If you didn’t mean it, then you should clarify yourself. Otherwise, I’m left to conclude that you really do believe in the straw feminists in the closet.

#34 CommanderTuvok (Guest) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 at 6:21pm

When somebody uses the term “hyperskepticism”, it is the same as when a Creationist says “God did it”. It is also the “criticism” that the likes of PZ use when they are seriously butthurt that someone is “off message”, but actually has the facts and evidence backing them. Unlucky, PZ.

Anyway, if you look at Svan’s comment #7, you will see she is using the the old “inflate the numbers” trick to highlight her own personal agenda. Fact is, rape is serious enough without the likes of Svan attempting to compare it to murder. You know what it reminds me of - death tolls in wars! There will always be people who inflate the figure (usually to a nice round number), or count other deaths in their total, to embolden their argument. It is completely unnecessary.

#35 Benjamin Radford on Wednesday February 20, 2013 at 6:23pm

How clever of me to have written a feminist-bashing polemic using a feminist poem as a template, and hidden inside a clearly pro-feminist blog.

#36 CommanderYuvok (Guest) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 at 6:25pm


Asking for people to be charitable might be a forlorn one if anyone from Pharyngula or Skepchick is dropping by.

Anyway, you are confusing criticism of certain aspects of feminism with “feminist-bashing”. Feminists and feminism are not above criticism, so do please check your privilege.

#37 Eshto (Guest) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 at 6:34pm

“So why the anger and venom?”

Because it isn’t really about rape, or feminism, or any meaningful issue Ben. A few drama bloggers (with no expertise in social science related to any of these issues) don’t like you, they told their readers not to like you, and now nothing you say or do will ever be worthy of respect in their eyes. It’s a personal grudge and “feminism” is just the veneer they cover it with to make it enticing to their fan base.

#38 CommanderTuvok (Guest) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 at 6:36pm

#32 KlavdiaV,

It is true to say that the “all men are rapists” line is inaccurate. I think you’ll find it is “all men are POTENTIAL rapists”.

Ask the people at FTB - they’ll confirm it!

#39 Justin Vacula (Guest) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 at 6:43pm

Ben, I truly admire your tenacity and courage to continue engaging with your dishonest detractors who—no matter what you say—will do their best to vilify you and convince their audiences that you are a terrible person. You should soon find out, if you have not already, that these people are not interested in critical discourse, but rather seek to make others look bad and perpetuate their ideological dogmas no matter what statistics suggest.

#40 bgoudie (Guest) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 at 6:43pm

It’s appears that much of the vitriol over Ben’s post, and the one by Dr Hall, grows out of the fact that some people seem to have idea that any questioning must be read as negation of the entire feminist argument.

The subject is more complex than that. Feminism is a laudable idea, that does not preclude it sometimes being used as a less than optimal way.

#41 DriveBy (Guest) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 at 6:46pm

@Ben Radford
Thank you so much for writing this wonderful series of articles.  Your expertise in debunking little green men has served you admirably in your well-written and superbly defended critique of Ensler’s poem.  Not since the great Richard Dawkins first penned “Dear Muslima” have I felt so passionately about an organization.  Clearly CFI like RDF is leading the way in standing up to feminists, “feminists,” so-called feminists and gender-feminists.  Men like you are the true feminists. Those silly women dancing and posting those idiotic trigger warnings on posts that might upset rape victims remain legitimate targets for skeptics like yourself.  Stay strong.

#42 Amphigorey (Guest) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 at 7:18pm

lol @CommanderTuvok, who thinks that “check your privilege” is some nonsensical phrase that means “checkmate! I win.”

Do tell me, Tuvok: which privilege, exactly, am I supposed to check?

Ben Radford:
“How clever of me to have written a feminist-bashing polemic using a feminist poem as a template”

Dude. Did you read what you wrote? You claimed that feminists make a regular habit of saying “all men are rapists.” I’m still waiting for you to defend this. You can’t claim to be pro-feminism and say things like that with a straight face.

#43 CommanderTuvok (Guest) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 at 7:36pm


Your privilege is your notion that feminism can’t be criticised without it being “feminist bashing”. This is simply an excuse to put feminism beyond criticism, in the same way religious people aim to put religion above criticism.

Your privilege has blinded you to think that aspects of feminism can’t be criticised. Is it that privilege that you need to keep in check, mate.

#44 Amphigorey (Guest) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 at 7:55pm

Ahahahaha. You just illustrated that you have no idea what privilege means. Good job! Go reread “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” and come back when you have a clue.

#45 Muklowd (Guest) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 at 8:07pm


I suspect he hasn’t defended it because he didn’t say it.

You said - You claimed that feminists make a regular habit of saying “all men are rapists.”

But what he said was - I am over the male bashing often inherent in feminist writings and slogans; “All men are rapists” is neither true nor fair nor helpful.

Those are not the same thing at all.

#46 Renee Hendricks on Wednesday February 20, 2013 at 8:21pm

For what it’s worth, I understood and agreed with your original piece. I sincerely hope those who do not agree will, at the very least, read and respond with a bit of charity.

#47 Randy (Guest) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 at 9:24pm

Regarding “a good X” where X is bad:

Unless you are willing to accept that all X are uniform, and all people who experience X are also uniform, which are both highly unlikely, then some X will necessarily be better than others for some people.  In the universe of X, this makes them the good ones (per person).  If I’m raped, I certainly want it to be a good rape (Go ahead, sound-byte me…) rather than one that leaves me dying for days from internal damage, for example.  This is plain common sense, and can only be denied for cheap political reasons.

Although she described a situation with different factors, from what I can tell via online snippets, Ensler appeared to be relating a similar evaluation in her earlier work, where the actual woman interviewed about this experience as a girl didn’t believe that it was a rape in the first place (“if it was a rape”) and dealt with others placing this characterization on something she regarded as positive (“turned my sorry-ass coochi snorcher into a kind of heaven”).  If blame is to be assigned, some surely goes back to this original source, rather than all to the messenger…

#48 Michael Kingsford Gray (Guest) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 at 10:58pm

#13 Michaeld:

~ 1/2 are women.

Not true at all, unless your definition of “women” strangely includes female infants.
2/10. Must try harder at arithmetic.

#49 Amphigorey (Guest) on Thursday February 21, 2013 at 12:17am

You realize that infants get abused, too?

Radford still hasn’t shown his work, nor has he explained which feminists, exactly, say that “all men are rapists.” If he’s “over” them saying it, then he has to have seen them say it, somewhere. That he can’t produce any such thing is telling.

#50 Astrokid on Thursday February 21, 2013 at 12:18am

One of the fun things in skepticism is learning to spot fallacies. Who wants to join in the learning process?
Spot the fallacies in the comments of a recent CFI blog post

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