A high profile feminist campaigner has launched a foul-mouthed attack on insideMAN magazine. If you don’t want to read an article full of swearing, please stop reading now!
“Would you please tell whoever wrote this utter shit to go fuck themselves?”
If you don’t know who Kate Smurthwaite is, in 2013 she was chosen by the BBC as one of its list of “100 Women” from around the world who “campaign for their causes and strive for a better world”, alongside the former New Zealand Prime Minister, Helen Clark; the winner of 11 paralympian gold medals, Tanni Grey-Thompson and the barrister and philanthropist, Cherie Blair.
As a comedian and political commentator, she makes regular appearances on TV and radio (including Question Time) and has links with a broad range of organisations such as the NUT (National Union of Teachers); Abortion Rights UK and the London Feminist Network.
Smurthwaite was emailing us in response to a press release we sent to journalists and commentators, promoting some of the articles from our #100Voices4Men an Boys series.
Four reasons feminism is alienating men and boys
In particular, we highlighted an article by Duncan Fisher, a former commissioner at the Equal Opportunities Commission who ran a small focus group with teenage boys and then wrote about the experience here: “Four reasons feminism is alienating teenage boys”. He said:
“We will never end sexism and gender inequality without the help of boys and men – this has always been the case and will always be. Wagging the finger at all young men and saying “repent!” is an incredibly ineffective recruitment strategy and alienates the men and boys equality work most needs”.
Fisher is not a lone voice expressing such concerns about the current hostility found in the feminist discourse on gender issues. On the day before International Men’s Day, the feminist campaigner and journalist, Julie Bindel, wrote an article in The Guardian saying that “feminism is in danger of becoming toxic”.
Abusive feminists deny women decent male allies
The previous week, Jake Wallis Simons at Telegraph Men, made a similar point in his comment piece "the internet hates men and no-one's a winner":
“Misogynist trolling by horrid little men is a huge concern, but the answer is not to alienate the rest of us…In the current climate of febrile abusiveness…the more the anti-men trend gains traction, the more women will be deprived of decent male allies.”
Fisher’s thoughtful article listing four key reasons why feminism is alienating young men did not impress Smurthwaite.
Feminism wants you to fuck off
Here's Kate Smurthwaite's email to insideMAN in full:
“Would you please tell whoever wrote this utter shit to go fuck themselves?
“It is not the job of women to make men feel welcome in feminism. Men shouldn't be in favour of female equality because women were nice to them and/or made them feel at ease and comfortable and not too threatened.
“Feminism is about women's rights. RIGHTS. Rights are things we should just get. Not have to fight for, not have to "play nice" for, not have to decide carefully on how best to ask for. We should just get them cos they're rights.
“And feminism is the same thing as gender equality. Those who say it is not are lying assholes trying to divide and destroy the movement.
“Please let them know they are misogynist dickwads and that feminism doesn't want their help. Feminism wants them to fuck off and leave us the fuck alone.”
Free speech doesn't mean telling people to fuck off
As Fisher wrote in his article for insideMAN: “Social media spreads outrageous views far faster than reasoned arguments and the social media these boys see every day is awash with fundamentalist views that brook no contradiction. The answer: keep a low profile. If you are targeted on-line, everyone can see. The same goes for large numbers of thoughtful teenage girls who would get fired at just as quickly.”
Smurthwaite is an advocate of a certain kind of “free speech”. In 2012 she told the One Law for All London Rally for Free Expression:
“If there is one thing more frightening to fundamentalists than someone with a well-formed opinion, it is someone with a well-formed opinion and a vagina.”
Freedom of speech is not simply about rights, it’s also about culture, psychology and behaviour. One of the reasons we launched the #100Voices4Men is that men and boys (and non-feminists generally) don’t experience a culture of free speech when it comes to gender issues.
Conversations about men and masculinity are being oppressed
One of our writers described what he sees as a “pervasive drive to limit the discussion of men and masculinity to a single, poisonous, narrative: men don’t have problems, they cause them.” We took the considered step of allowing him to post under a pen name, because he was psychologically afraid of what might happen at his public sector workplace if colleagues read the article.
Of course he has the right to say what he wants---anyone has the right to put up a blog or post their views on social media, as long as they’re not libeling people, threatening people or inciting hatred.
But having a right to free speech, but being scared to speak up because your viewpoint is culturally unacceptable to certain controlling interests, who are prepared to behave in a hostile and abusive way towards you if you speak out---is not free speech in action.
Being heard is a two-way process
A culture of free speech requires free listening---that’s listening free from judgment, anger, hatred, blame and an oppressive desire to close down anyone who thinks differently to you to “go an fuck themselves”. Listening without judgment doesn't mean agreeing with everything other people say, it means setting aside your own prejudices and judgments for long enough to actually hear what other people have to say.
As I wrote in the article that launched the #100Voices4Men series on 1st October:
“Being heard is a two-way process, it involves speaking and listening—and for too long men and boys have either not spoken up about their experiences of being male, or have not been listened to when they do speak out.
“Our #100Voices4Men and Boys project is a small but significant step towards giving men and boys in the UK a bigger voice in conversations about gender. We can’t promise to agree with everything you say, but we do promise we’ll listen.”
As promised, I’ve listened to what Kate Smurthwaite, one of the BBC’s 100 Women of 2013, had to say to us here at insideMAN magazine and have come to the conclusion that she is right about one thing, there is nothing more frightening to a fundamentalist than someone with a well-formed opinion.
The world needs fewer fundamentalists and more men and women with well formed opinions who are prepared to support free speech with free listening---and it's hard to listen to anyone or anything when you're telling them they are a "misogynist dickwad" who should go and "fuck themselves".
Article by Glen Poole author of the book Equality For Men
- Four reasons feminism is alienating teenage boys
- Five reasons feminism should deal with abusive women
- The only politically correct thing you can say about men
- Misogyny is man's worse friend
- Men should learn more from feminism and dismantle the patriarchy
- Seven things blokes can do to make the world a better place
- When I talk about men's issues my wife says I sound like a "c*@%!"
- Why men and boys need a voice