Combating Femi-Naysayers

On August 7th, 2015, posted in: Culture, Featured, FemSoc, News by

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Feminist naysayersThis week FemSoc introduced the Suggestion Box, to be filled with questions, suggestions and comments from students to be discussed in the following meeting. And along with the box, a new list of strategies became known to better equip these women to handle potential confrontation while developing views that could be considered controversial. Considering feminism advocates equality and fairness, it is difficult to imagine that there are people who are against the movement. However, although often resulting from misrepresentation or lack of understanding, feminists are often met with large amounts of contempt for their beliefs. Thus various means of combating these particular obstacles were discussed.

An important step to take is to check one’s own perspective. Feminists do not have a special claim to the moral high ground, and thus need to be careful to not use language that is condescending or rude when people disagree. It is also important to avoid creation of dichotomy which does not allow for shades of grey between various facts and labels. Dichotomisation is unfair, and creates an “us and them”, which is not helpful to anyone. It is important to note that there are “shades of grey” between feminism and misogyny or sexism. Shrill arguments with insulting attitudes need to be avoided at all costs. Enhancing bitterness and involving personal emotion is never a good way to present an argument. In addition, one needs a thorough understanding of personal standpoint in order to articulate a viewpoint as logically and objectively as possible. It is very worthwhile to note that not all feminists agree. Particular perspectives are products of particular upbringings and experiences. Thus different “brands” of feminism contradict one another, as is customary with most belief systems and movements. For this reason, a “dictionary definition” of feminism is a logical fallacy, appealing to a source of higher authority to define feminism as opposed to acknowledging that each individual embraces and expresses this system of beliefs in different ways. With all these elements to consider, it is not surprising that critical feminism is the best way to go.

Unfortunately, it is possible to take all of these steps and still be faced with naysayers who will argue anyway – and not always pleasantly or maturely. FemSoc decided to separate them into three categories in order to discuss the best way in which to handle their various arguments. There is the “deliberate provocateur” that chooses to disagree aggressively for no real reason apart from the joy of the dispute. There is rarely a logical argument, but rather a preference for straw man arguments and taking an opposing belief at its weakest point and pulling apart. There is also a tendency to use ad hominem arguments, which attack a person’s character instead of argument. They also frequently participate in what has become known as “trolling” – sitting on the Internet waiting to argue irrationally with someone. The best way to handle these arguments is to move away. Logic and rationality of argument will be wasted in these situations where anger and tantrum-throwing is clearly the objective of the dispute. The second category involves the “accuser and rejecter”, that argues from a very particular narrow perspective of themselves and the way the world works. Without the same malice and enjoyment of confrontation as the “deliberate provocateur”, this person’s argument generally contains the same lack of logic, and would rather accuse the opposing belief of flaws and problems and reject the entire idea than rationally consider expanding perspective. These arguments are best combated calmly, with gentle persistence and a firm basis of factual evidence. The last category is the “thinker”, who actually has a basis for their argument but whose views simply differ from your own. These arguments should be approached in the same way: calmly and rationally with obtained objectivity. And don’t be afraid to listen! You might just learn something new.

For each of these specific situations, it should be noted that it is not important to win all arguments. It is important to have the argument itself.  Each individual should work on personal skills to better difficult situations, and have the humility to open their minds and change their perspectives when necessary. Hopefully these will be efficient steps toward conflict resolution and meaningful, eye-opening discussions between our learners.