Monday, June 12, 2023

Second Wave Feminism and Casual Male-Extermination - Janice Fiamengo

Many feminists approve the idea of killing men. 

One of the most striking features of modern feminism is its advocacy of anti-male violence. When this feature is noted, feminist ideologues typically respond that such advocacy is marginal, put forward by women with no real status within feminism, and not at all representative of the equality movement that we should all support. However, even a cursory investigation of feminist leaders’ words reveals that, far from being exceptional, advocacy of violent hatred is in the mainstream of the movement.  

Mona Eltahawy
The case of Mona Eltahawy, popular Egyptian-American feminist author, who in 2019 published The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls, provides a vivid, relatively recent example. Mona Eltahawy is a violent woman who gushes about the thrill of assaulting a man at a Montreal nightclub and repeatedly promotes vigilante killings of men by women. No less than Gloria Steinem endorsed the book, declaring that “Reading this book will free you, and acting on it will free us all.”

In the book, Eltahawy exults that, “After I beat the fuck out of the man who groped me in a club in Montreal, I went home on a high. It was glorious.” She says that she described her attack on Twitter with the hashtag #IBeatMyAssaulter,” which was soon shared thousands of times. 

Though Eltahawy repeatedly claims in the book that a patriarchal society punishes women far more harshly than it does men for acts of violence (a claim that is demonstrably untrue, as Law Professor Sonja Starr’s research has conclusively shown), she never does explain why, if that is the case, she was never prosecuted or even interviewed by police for the disproportionate violence she boasted about committing.  

Eltahawy enthusiastically outlines a program of anti-male jihad at length: “Imagine if we fuck-this-shit snapped, en masse, and systematically killed men, for no reason at all other than for being men. Imagine this culling starting in one country with five men a week. Then each week, this imaginary scenario would add more countries and kill more men in each of them. Fifty a week, then one hundred men, then five hundred.” Hardly able to contain her glee, she contends that such killing would be a viable way to convince the so-called worldwide patriarchy to take seriously women’s demands.

It is a sick fantasy rather than a pragmatic political program, as Eltahawy’s emphasis on male fear and death make clear: “How would men feel when they saw so many of their fellow men murdered simply for being, like them, men?” she asks with relish. What Eltahawy is describing is already closer to reality for men than for women, as throughout the world, men make up more than 80% of global homicide victims. For Eltahawy, however, that’s not enough. 
Mary Anne Franks 

She quotes University of Miami Law Professor Mary Anne Franks that “Society would be better off as a whole if more women were willing to engage in justified violence against men […]. To that end, women’s justified violence against men should be encouraged, protected, and publicized” (p. 141). 

Not surprisingly, a precise definition of “justified” violence is never forthcoming in a book that rails hysterically against the patriarchy. One begins to suspect that “justified” violence is pretty much anything a woman might think it should be. But what about the vast majority of innocent men who have no power, have never committed violence against women, and cannot by any stretch of the imagination be seen to deserve to be murdered? They may have to die too, Eltahawy admits. Quoting the Professor of Law again, she notes that “An increase in women’s violence and aggression must be tolerated even if such violence violates traditional proportionality principles in individual instances. However regrettable it may be that in individual cases some women will overreact and perhaps even consciously exploit increased tolerance of their use of violence, creating fear and uncertainty about the possibility of women’s retaliatory force serves the overall goal of redistributing violence” (p. 144). 

In other words, however “regrettable” it may be that some women, maybe even quite a few, will kill innocent men simply because they can, that would still serve the overall goal of empowering women. It’s not clear what Eltahawy would have women do if they found themselves on the receiving end of defensive or even retaliatory violence by men—or indeed by women outraged at the attack on their fathers, husbands, lovers, brothers, and sons. If feminist women are going to be allowed to kill men with impunity, why shouldn’t non-feminist women be allowed to kill feminists with impunity? Eltahawy’s desire to see men hurt and killed is obviously far more important to her than any actual improvement in women’s status or security. 

Unfortunately, this unholy obsession with male death has a well-established history in feminist thought that feminism as a whole has singularly failed to condemn.

Though it extends all the way back to the beginnings of feminism—as for example in Frances Swiney’s female supremacist tracts at the end of the nineteenth century (which I discussed in an earlier video)—it has some prominent recent precursors, specifically one of the major American feminist foremothers, author Valerie Solanas. 

Solanas styled herself an exterminator of men. Her SCUM Manifesto, published in 1967, declared her conviction that all men, not just abusive ones, were sub-human: “To be male is to be deficient” (35). 

Anticipating many feminist claims that would follow, she said that “The male is eaten up with [...] frustration at not being female” (64) and “eaten up with hate—not rational hate that is directed at those who abuse or insult you—but irrational, indiscriminate hate ... hatred, at bottom, of his own worthless self” (64). In other words, women are right to hate men; and men who hate women really hate men. 

Solanas asserted that “Just as humans have a prior right to existence over dogs by virtue of being more highly evolved and having a superior consciousness, so women have a prior right to existence over men” and that “The elimination of any male is, therefore, a righteous and good act, […] highly beneficial to women as well as an act of mercy” (67). The book was endorsed by The Guardian newspaper as “articulate, angry and funny.” 

Andy Warhol
In the year following the writing of her manifesto, in June of 1968, Solanas enacted her righteousness and mercy by attempting to kill artist Andy Warhol, shooting him three times with a .32 caliber Beretta handgun, reportedly because she believed he was planning to steal the contents of a play she had been pestering him to produce at his avant-garde studio and gathering place, The Factory, in New York City. She also shot art critic Mario Amaya, though he was not seriously wounded, and attempted to shoot Warhol’s manager Fred Hughes. 

Warhol suffered near-fatal injury from the shooting. Two bullets pierced his stomach, liver, spleen, esophagus, and both lungs. He was briefly declared dead, had to undergo various surgeries, and had to wear a surgical corset for the rest of his life to hold his organs in place. He became terrified of hospitals and eccentric people, and preoccupied with thoughts of death. 

It's possible to downplay Solanas’s murder attempts on the ground that she was mentally ill. Solanas was diagnosed as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, pleaded guilty to “reckless assault”, and received a sentence of 3 years, with one year time served. But the reaction to the murder attempts by Solanas’s many allegedly sane feminist acolytes is a different story. On the whole, feminist leaders have been undisturbed by the obvious parallels between Solanas’s textual justification of the murder of men and her actual shootings of men.  

The then-president of the National Organization of Women’s New York chapter championed Solanas at the time of her crimes as a symbol of women’s justified rage and enlisted a prominent attorney to handle her defense. One of Andy Warhol’s film stars wrote a memoir (Famous for 15 Minutes: My Years with Andy Warhol) in which she praised Solanas as a visionary, saying “For in the beginning, beyond her overheated rhetoric, she had a truly revolutionary vision of a better world run by and for the benefit of women.” 
Avital Ronell

The SCUM Manifesto has been taught in women’s studies courses and reprinted by a boutique press in 2004 with a lengthy, bombastic introduction by postmodernist professor Avital Ronell, who praised the book’s prescience, stating of Solanas that “Maybe she was put here to speak the unspeakable or, less dramatically, to sound the wake-up call […] to encourage the dialectics of female empowerment” (24).

In 2014, Breanna Fahs published an admiring biography that cast Solanas as both abused innocent and resistance warrior.  Fahs records an exchange between Solanas and a friend Jeremiah Newton, who asked her if her manifesto was to be taken literally. “I don’t want to kill all men,” she had allegedly replied “I think males should be neutered or castrated so they can’t mess up any more lives.”   
In 2020, a celebratory article calling Solanas “an important LBGTQ figure,” was published in The New York Times as part of a series called Overlooked, about “remarkable” people whose deaths had not been reported in The Times. The article noted her “daring arguments in SCUM Manifesto, her case for a world without men” and seemed to regret that the attack on Warhol had come to “define her life.”     

It’s impossible to imagine the online manifesto of Elliot Rodger, who killed six people in Isla Vista, being read in university classrooms and published with a glowing introduction by a super-star academic.

But Solanas is no one-off. A number of feminist academics have put forward their own recommendations for male annihilation, perhaps the most significant being Gender Studies Professor Sally Miller Gearhart, widely beloved lesbian feminist  who spent much of her writing life imagining all-women communities, and eventually founding such a community in Northern California in the Redwood forest area. Unlike Solanas, Gearhart was never diagnosed with a mental illness or committed to an institution for violence, but her utopian faith in the moral superiority of women is equally alarming, perhaps more so given how calmly she proposed her eugenics program and how little condemnation it elicited. Outside of a few marginalized MRAs, most people don’t seem to know much about it. 
Sally Miller Gearhart

Published in a 1982 book called Reweaving the Web of Life: Feminism and Nonviolence, Gearhart’s essay is entitled “The Future—If There Is One—Is Female.” In it, Gearhart declares that the female must be acknowledged “as primary, as the source of all life” (272), superior to the male and able to exist without the male (272). 

As the superior sex, women should, Gearhart alleged, have absolute power over all aspects of reproduction, including over whether babies will be carried to term and what sex the babies will be. “Restore to each woman the inalienable right to say what shall become of any fertilized egg and to control absolutely the number of children she wishes to emerge from her body” (276-77). Gearhart admitted that this would mean an actual disempowerment of men, but that was a simple necessity not to be dwelt upon with any regret. “Make non-existent any man’s say so in the process of human reproduction.” 

Because men were vicious, especially in groups, according to Gearhart, the future would have to be one in which male numbers would be strictly regulated: “The ratio of men to women must be radically reduced so that men approximate only ten percent of the total population.” This would be done not through violence, Gearhart assured her readers, but gradually, through women’s reproductive choices and through new reproductive technologies such as ovular merging, a reproductive process that produces only girls. Gearhart also considered that male reduction could be achieved through infanticide, but confessed to finding that “distasteful” (282).

She had thought about an even further reduction, but decided against it. “Some have asked, given the overwhelming association of men with violence, why the reduction to ten percent only” (p. 281). In other words, why not a total elimination? Gearhart confessed that she had seriously considered this question but determined that there were a few good men; that some women enjoyed sexual intercourse as a means of reproduction, and that her thesis might possibly be wrong, in which case men would have been eliminated for nothing. 

In her last two paragraphs, Gearhart expressed some awareness, if only through denial, of the illogicality and immorality of what she was advocating—but denied there was anything violent or victimizing in her proposal, or even that it was a case of women “imposing their morality or their values upon men” (p. 283). Not at all. “We are talking of something that once existed [i.e. female power] and that has been deliberately and with full malice held down and controlled by means so violent that no nonaggressive entity could hope to resist” (p. 283). Women’s power was “life affirming,” she said, even as she fantasized about eliminating most men from the earth. The “real violence,” she said, lay in the “minute-by-minute, day-by-day suppression of the very force that gives us all life. A female future means the challenge to and the obliteration of that violence” (p. 284). In other words, opposing conceptual violence with actual extermination was the route to peace.

Gearhart ended with a call to men to aid women in bringing about this future. There must be “a movement of men who not only cease to hold down women but who earnestly lend their tremendous male power to the hastening of the female future. We can count on it: it will be for us all the most crucial, the most profound act that women and men have ever undertaken together” (p. 284). 

Indeed, it would be a profound act for men to collaborate with women to decrease the male population to 10% of humanity, and perhaps there are some numbers of women—and men too—who agree with Gearhart that it would usher in peace and plenty. 
Mary Daly

Certainly theology and women’s studies professor Mary Daly, of Boston College, gave the idea her endorsement when, asked about Gearhart’s proposal in an interview for What is Enlightenment magazine, she responded “I think it’s not a bad idea at all. If life is to survive on this planet, there must be a decontamination of the Earth. I think this will be accompanied by an evolutionary process that will result in a drastic reduction of the population of males.” She concluded, perhaps with a wry chuckle, that “People are afraid to say that kind of stuff anymore.” 

We can be thankful, I suppose, that some feminist leaders were not afraid to say what they believed, and we can note the general agreement with Professors Gearhart and Daly in the lack of denunciation of their ideas. Upon Gearhart’s death, she was eulogized in highly positive terms with nary a mention of her eugenics proposal.

Perhaps it is possible to find, somewhere on the internet, a lone voice or two advocating the random killing of women, or the near-elimination of the female sex. I doubt it.

However, it is surely impossible to imagine a group of thought leaders in our society not only tolerating but in many cases actively promoting and praising the idea of femicide—for the good of the earth. 

Only the proposed killing of men is tolerated and praised. When confronted with the evidence, feminist advocates are disbelieving, defensive, and dismissive—ultimately annoyed, even outraged, to have the extremist tenets of their professed ideology read back to them. But their belief in their own righteousness is unshaken. 21st century feminism remains the most popular hate cult in the world.   

                                        Janice Fiamengo

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