‘Over It’ Follow-Up: Why Would Anyone Criticize an Anti-Rape Poem?

February 18, 2013

In November 2011, award-winning playwright and feminist activist Eve Ensler wrote a poem about rape called "Over It" (the first line is "I am over rape"). A few days ago I wrote a poem based on "Over It," using the same title, the same structure, and some of the same lines-echoing, expanding on, and supporting many of Ensler's sentiments. In response, PZ Myers wrote a blog titled, "You don't get to be ‘over' rape," telling me (and, by extension, Eve Ensler) that "you don't get to be 'over' rape." I may disagree with Ensler's statistics and methods (while agreeing with her goals), but I would never question her motivations, nor tell Ensler that she doesn't "get to be 'over rape'." I am "over rape" in exactly the same way Ensler is "over rape."

Why PZ Myers (or anyone else) would presume to criticize an anti-rape poem (of all things) by a prominent feminist is beyond me, but at least one of us is terribly, terribly confused.


#101 Steersman on Tuesday February 19, 2013 at 12:15am

Amphigorey said (#98):

Lastly, though, I would really like to see Ben Radford acknowledge that his line about being “over” feminists who say that “All men are rapists” was an incredibly stupid thing to say. No feminist says that. That one line is why you’re getting so much pushback from people. Really, Ben, you should know better.

Riiight. And no true Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge. Perchance you have a membership list for “Feminists International” so you can corroborate that claim?

But as counter evidence, how about, as I mentioned earlier, the case of the American “philosopher of feminist and postcolonial theory”, Sandra Harding, who referred “to Newton’s Principia Mathematica as a ‘rape manual’ in her 1986 book ‘The Science Question in Feminism’”?

And what about Greg Laden, apparently some dyed-in-the-wool feminist with his post asserting that “It’s bad enough that all men are rapists”?

How about a “militant radical feminist” character in a book – The Women’s Room; “the most popular feminist book of its time” – by Marilyn French who said “All men are rapists, and that’s all they are.”? While that is, of course, only a book, presumably the author felt it represenative of at least some fraction of the feminist movement – particularly as the book wasn’t advertised as a “bodice-ripper”.

How about this quote from a supposedly leading light in the feminist movement:

“[Rape] is nothing more or less than a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear”—Susan Brownmiller (Against Our Will p. 6)

Maybe that isn’t saying explicitly that all men are rapists but it asserts that all men are complicit in keeping all “women in a state of fear” about being raped.

And, to round out the hit-parade, here is some woman, apparently, on The Feminist Fatale site who explicitly states “All Men Are Rapists” and then follows that up with:

Let me tell you sisters, all men are disgusting animals, PIGS!  Every time a man sees a woman, he undresses her in his mind, and that is the first offense. It’s the precursor to rape; he is premeditating rape.

And there’s probably another couple of thousand Google hits on the topic if you have any taste for the truth of the matter.

No true feminists? Or the tip of some “virulent feminism”? Poisoning the well, indeed ….

#102 Amphigorey (Guest) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 at 12:48am

Ahh, quote-mining and context-stripping. Classic. You realize, of course, that “The Women’s Room” is a novel, not a manifesto, and the quote is from a character. I suppose you could argue that every author believes everything they put in a character’s mouth, but unless you’re talking about Robert Heinlein, I don’t think you’ll get very far.

Anyway, you aren’t Ben Radford. I would like Radford to say where he has heard real feminists (not fictional characters) say that all men are rapists.

I’ll wait.

#103 Steersman on Tuesday February 19, 2013 at 1:24am

Amphigorey said (#102):

Ahh, quote-mining and context-stripping. Classic. You realize, of course, that “The Women’s Room” is a novel, not a manifesto, and the quote is from a character.

I guess your reading comprehension is as weak as your intellectual honesty as I explicitly acknowledged that it was a book of fiction.

And as far as the honesty goes, you think maybe that he’s the only one who’s noticed that many feminists have that attitude or something very close to it? As you would have noticied if you’d actually had the integrity to read all of what I provided.

And what the hell does it matter where the evidence comes from? At least if one doesn’t have one’s head in the sand or someplace else where the sun don’t shine.

#104 Acathode (Guest) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 at 3:05am

Amphigorey said (#102):
“Ahh, quote-mining and context-stripping.”

How ironic, I had a discussion with a Christian appologetic yesterday, he said the very same thing when I quoted the Bible to him!

#105 Oliver (Guest) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 at 3:12am

Amphigorey so you are saying the erroneous theories of “patriarchy” (as a male conspiracy or system of governance specifically designed to keep women down & privilege men) & “rape culture” are mainstream feminist theories & not exclusive to the radical feminist fringe.

You are making a fine case for mainstream feminism to be rejected as an out of touch cult; although I believe there are plenty of equity feminists who disagree with you.

You say that people like me never mention what our disagreements with feminism are because we are afraid it will reveal our sexism. Surely the disagreement is obviously gleaned by looking at the content of that which we are responding to!

Every single time any of us challenge feminist thought our disagreement should be plain for all to see.

If we are responding to someone who is claiming the West suffers from “rape culture” then it is obviously the assertion that “rape culture” exists that we are disagreeing with.

If we are responding to someone who says seeking casual sex from a woman you don’t know is an act of “objectification” therefore wrong; then we are obviously taking issue with the idea that it is wrong to find strangers sexy & pursue casual sex.

No one is hiding our points of disagreement & you are being dishonest by claiming that we are.

I personally disagree with almost all of feminist theory in it’s Marxist/far left form, I disagree with the simplistic & blanket assertion that the world is divided into oppressed & oppressor. I disagree with almost all identity politics.

I disagree with the ideas that the West suffers from rape culture, that violence & rape is at epidemic proportions, is acceptable and a one way phenomenon; coming exclusively from male perpetrators directed at female victims.

I strongly oppose anti porn, anti sex work and almost all efforts to police the words we use.

I disagree with the way that sexual harassment legislation is so vague & expansive that a women can bring a case based on nothing more than her subjective feelings. Whereby if a good looking charming man is being persistent that can be acceptable but if a clumsy unattractive man exhibits exactly the same persistent behavior he is a “creep” and can be hauled up in front of a tribunal.

This is not to say that genuine sexual harassment doesn’t exist but that it needs to be better defined & expressing attraction, being persistent or making a woman feel “uncomfortable” should not be enough to bring a case.

I disagree with the idea that middle class Western women -most of whom have been to university and work in the professions- are oppressed victims in need of protection, help, quotas & positive discrimination.

Where I agree with Western feminists is that we need to close the pay gap, that (small p) patriarchy exists -but not as a conspiracy to keep women down & privilege men- but as a naturally occurring phenomena.

I also strongly agree that rape and domestic violence are abhorrent and need to be opposed whenever they rear their ugly head.

I have never once supported the oppression of anyone or expressed a belief that women are not people and I resent the idiotic smear tactic of pretending that is my view when I have plainly said no such thing.

I believe in equality for all regardless of race, gender or sexuality.

If that is what you call “sexist” and being frightened of the notion that “women are people” I suggest you take a course in logic 101.

#106 Steersman on Tuesday February 19, 2013 at 4:35am

Stephanie Zvan said (#81):

In fact, one is using a straw-man argument if one is attributing positions to one’s opponents that those opponents don’t actually hold. In this case, you would have to demonstrate that the positions of those philosophers (whom I’ve never heard of) were common to the feminist activists Ben is claiming to be “over”.

Apart from my impression that that is a rather disingenuous argument there, Stephanie, as well as manifesting some “hyper-skepticism”, I figure that since PZ was the one who first made the claim that Ben’s criticisms were of “straw feminists” then he should be the one obliged to provide the evidence and proof for that claim: put-up or shut-up, PZ.

However, to give you both a leg-up in endeavoring to do the former, I also figure he was decidedly vague or categorical – as is his wont [“four legs good; two legs bad”; all those who criticize feminism have the name Marc Lépine] – in characterizing Ben’s argument as beating up “a whole bunch of straw feminists”. By which token one might reasonably argue that all or most of Ben’s criticisms of feminism is what PZ had in mind by that characterization. In which case one has some justification in offering that statement of Ben’s – i.e., thin-skinned “feminists” who … confuse legitimate questions and criticism of their facts or claims with misogyny and sexism – as an example of a supposed “straw feminist</a>”, i.e., a supposedly invalid characterization of a feminist.

Which leads me to question your equally disingenuous interpretation and use of “strawman” and “straw man argument” which Wikipedia informs me is “based on misrepresentation of an opponent’s position”. And, if I’m not mistaken, Ben didn’t say anything in his first post to suggest that the “opponent” he had in mind was PZ or his perception of feminism, but instead all of his comments were directed at the collection of behaviours exhibited by all those who apparently self-identify as feminists of one sort or another – all, at a minimum, that comes within the purview of the 17 different feminist ideologies described by Wikipedia. In which case it is hardly a “misrepresentation” of the position of that collection of feminist behaviours in general – the position of Ben’s opponents – to point to some actually real, tangible, and problematic behaviour patterns within that collection – and in spite of PZ’s definition of feminism, at least unless you’re prepared to argue that he should be the final arbiter of what constitutes “feminism”.

And while Ben didn’t provide any explicit examples, it is also rather disingenuous of you to suggest that those conclusions or hypotheses of his – for example, that “thin-skinned feminists” misconstrue criticism as misogyny – had no basis in fact given the many accusations of misogyny that we’ve all seen in these conversations. In addition, because of that deficiency I thought to at least provide some explicit examples of some credible criticisms of some feminist thought. And while you didn’t respond to them by asserting that they were tantamount to “misogyny and sexism”, you sure weren’t prepared to address them much less attempt to refute them – which at least provides some justification for the charge of “thin-skinned”. However, since you and many other feminists are unwilling to consider anything but the most pointed of facts, as a further example let me quote something that Ophelia Benson tweeted not long ago (screen-shot available on request):

Connecting the word “feminism” with the word “virulent” … is misogyny.

Now, the previously quoted review of Professing Feminism: Education and Indoctrination in Women’s Studies only talked of the “virulent anti-science, anti-intellectual sentiment” of some supposed feminists, but I have to ask you: since it is obviously connecting the word “virulent” with the word “feminism”, is that a case of misogyny or not? If it is then you and Ophelia are just confirming Ben’s argument that some feminists miscontrue criticism as misogyny. And if you don’t think it is then as well as you thinking that Ophelia is wrong, you are also confirming the validity of that criticism, and refuting Myers’ apparent contention that feminism, in its entirety, is beyond reproach, i.e., that not all criticisms of feminism are based on “straw feminists”.

#107 Stephanie Zvan on Tuesday February 19, 2013 at 5:02am

J.D. and Oliver, try looking up “math” in the comment thread I pointed you to. I certainly wasn’t saying that PZ was using any such argument.

Steersman, that’s a lot of words to use without checking your premises. Why would PZ = the feminist activists Ben is “over”? He came into the conversation after Ben wrote his poem. Additionally, suggesting he won’t brook any criticism of feminists is patently false when he linked some approvingly in his “You don’t get to be over rape” post.

Additionally, why, yes, I did notice that you shifted the burden of proof to PZ proving a negative after your “proof” was pointed out to be irrelevant.

#108 Oliver (Guest) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 at 5:15am

You are correct PZ does allow criticism of feminism but only with a purview that the critic “learns” quickly and accepts the error of their ways. Anyone who persists in their disagreement with feminism can expect to be blocked, banned, denounced and demonised as a troll, misogynist or harasser by PZ.

Melody Hensley has an almost identical visceral reaction to criticism.

Ben’s critique is highly accurate.

#109 Stephanie Zvan on Tuesday February 19, 2013 at 5:17am

Oliver, that too is contradicted by the post Ben is talking about here. By the way, have you seen the guy who says there shouldn’t be an equal number of women speakers because math yet? How’s the hat?

#110 Oliver (Guest) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 at 5:26am

I’m not going to trawl comments. Internet trolls do not a case make.

If they did I would agree with Rebecca Watson that there was an epidemic of sexism, misogyny and rape threats but internet comments by anonymous trolls does not constitute evidence.

If you can produce a singe real world example of a person saying women should not be speakers at skeptic conventions or are fuck toys for privileged white men I will eat my hat.

No such people exist so my hat is safe

#111 John C. Welch (Guest) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 at 6:51am


Ahh, quote-mining and context-stripping. Classic. You realize, of course, that “The Women’s Room” is a novel, not a manifesto, and the quote is from a character. I suppose you could argue that every author believes everything they put in a character’s mouth, but unless you’re talking about Robert Heinlein, I don’t think you’ll get very far.

Anyway, you aren’t Ben Radford. I would like Radford to say where he has heard real feminists (not fictional characters) say that all men are rapists.

Interesting. You first say that “No feminist says that” in reference to the “all men are rapists” line. When Steersman provides you with multiple references, you dismiss *all* of his references based on flimsy, and mostly incorrect statements about *one*, then you further dismiss them because he is “not Ben Radford”. I fail to see how the source of the proof matters. Is the theory of relativity only valid when stated by Einstein?

Interesting reaction to proof you have. Focus on one that *might* be wrong so as to dismiss all the others, (guilt by association anyone?) and then further dismiss all of it because of the source. (I wonder if that qualifies as some kind of odd Ad Hominem. Because the source is not Ben Radford, all your proof is invalid.)

I bet you think of yourself as a skeptic, don’t you.

#112 Oliver (Guest) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 at 7:07am

This is where I think the disconnect lies in this dispute. The vast majority of us view real world oppression, discrimination and inequality as a problem so there really shouldn’t be any divide. We are essentially in agreement when it comes to serious cases of harassment, violence and societal/governmental oppression.

Where we differ is that radical feminists view internet comments from trolls(which by their very nature are designed to offend rather than actually represent any serious view point or groundswell of opinion), gendered slurs, sexual attraction without personality appreciation and any number of other subjective offenses and unfalsifiable theories (patriarchy/rape culture) as the issue.

There is a simple way to deal with this rift and that is subject those claims which are disputed to the evidence and let them stand or fall on their merit.

As for the subjective offence of pornography, gendered slurs or “objectification” EG:sexual attraction -from a man to a woman- without personality appreciation?

I’m afraid those complaints will just have to be shelved as what is offensive to you might be funny or sexually arousing to others and we can’t force society to conform to the taboos of the most sensitive among us. 

It is all far to subjective for us to come to any agreement on and we need to find some kind of consensus.

Intent is very difficult to ascertain (especially on the internet) and what is and what is not offensive hinges partly on intent, partly on parochial customs and partly personal subjective feelings.

I find being sexually dominated, even degraded by a stranger a complete turn on. Others can only find sexual fulfillment through a loving close relationship based on trust.

Who am I to say they have got it wrong and who are they to say I have got it wrong.

I am not offended by the usage of swear words which refer to male or female genitalia and I quite like using them but I censor myself when I’m around people who might be offended -whether it’s my mum or a radical feminist I’m debating online- I try to refrain from using the “c word”

The “c word” in England can be used as a term of endearment whereas in North America it is almost always an insult. The “c word” would offend most radical feminists but if I called a friend the “c word” they might giggle. If I called them a prick their hackles might go up and I might cause an argument.

Other people who have a principled view of free speech as an absolute human right see it as a duty to use speech which offends whenever someone tries to censor them. This does not make them bad people, potty mouthed maybe but misogynists and bigots unlikely.

My point is most of the stuff Western feminists are so angry about has nothing to do with the real world oppression which we all deplore (the kind of thing many Western feminists call people racist for criticising in Africa or the Middle East) and everything to do with a subjective and highly sensitive view of what is and is not offensive.

Western feminists are going to have to quit seeking the eradication of offence and sheild their theories from free inquiry if they want to be taken seriously. Agreement with the gender equality issue is almost universal and that universality could be used for great good if only feminists could stop browbeating the world over subjective taboos and unfalsifiable theories.

#113 Paul the Morning Heretic on Tuesday February 19, 2013 at 7:25am

Hi, everybody. I’m closing down comments now on this post and its predecessor, due to the primarily personal nature of the disputes being aired here. If folks would like to continue to debate this post or anything else, I invite you to, as it were, take it outside.

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