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Feminists slurping at the public trough

By Wendy McElroy
web posted July 21, 2003

The feminist report "School Success by Gender: A Catalyst for the Masculinist Discourse," sponsored by Canadian taxpayers, recommends the monitoring of masculinist Web sites for possible prosecution under hate speech laws.

An appended list of "hate mongering" sites includes American ones such as Promise Keepers. One of the report's authors, Pierrette Bouchard, has publicly responded to the backlash against her recommendations: She blames the critics who took her seriously.

Bouchard provides a valuable window into the tactics used by PC feminists to sidestep criticism:

Sleight of hand. In the French-Canadian periodical Sisyphe, Bouchard states the crux of her defense: Namely, the list of masculinist sites is unimportant, "an appendix, for purely descriptive and informational purposes."

But the appendix follows the report's "Recommendations" in which the authors advocate expanding Canada's hate speech laws to explicitly "protect" women. Moreover, the report pointedly discusses the relevance of these laws in the section "The Typology of Masculinist Groups." Given that Canadian law allows the imprisonment of "hate criminals" based solely on their words, this recommendation is a direct threat against the sites listed. If this is not the intention, then a retraction and an apology should be immediately issued.

Strenuously denying the obvious. Bouchard claims journalists have mistaken a report on "the media treatment of school achievement gaps between boys and girls" to be a "denunciation of some masculinist groups that use the Internet as a hate-mongering tool aimed at feminists."

The alleged misinterpretation derives not only from the report's content but also from its title: "School Success by Gender: A Catalyst for the Masculinist Discourse," which announces the link between "the media treatment" and masculinism. Even the interview meant to dispel this "misinterpretation" states that the report "unmasks an ideology that 'claims gender groups [women] are symmetrically advantaged.'"

Assigning guilt through association. Bouchard explains how sites came to be listed in the appendix, "None of the groups state on their Web pages that they do not wish to be associated or confused with any specific group of the same type."

Translation: If you are a father's rights site and you do not post a blacklist of objectionable "same type" sites, then you are deemed to be associated with them, including those with which you may be unfamiliar. I know of no site that posts a blacklist of same type sites -- including Status of Women Canada, which sponsored the report. This is worse than guilt by association. It is guilt by non-disassociation.

Ad hominem accusations. The narrative leading into Bouchard's interview opines, "One can only wonder whether media pundits and the Official Opposition have read the work they are lambasting." Having the honor of being the only lambasting journalist mentioned by name, I should assure Sisyphe and Ms. Bouchard that I had the dubious pleasure of reading every word of the report.

Creating hysteria. Bouchard's definition of hate mongering is so broad as to include any site that uses phrases like "ideological feminists" or "feminihilists." The report reprints one site's image of a swastika altered to incorporate the "F" of feminism. Underneath are the words: "We are all tired of feminazism. So stop it, okay?" The report concludes that the message "is a barely veiled threat by the authors of the site."

This interpretation is puzzling until you read the fast-following sections entitled "Prohibited Acts Under Section 264 of the Criminal Code of Canada" and "Legislation Related to Hate Propaganda." Only by misinterpreting a clumsy insult as a threat can the offending site fall under criminal law.

The use of obscuring jargon. Bouchard explains that the report required "a number of socio-historical and political factors ... to converge." Those factors included, "the publication of gendered data that from now on provided a basis for comparison using indicators" and "the intergenerational mobilization in modest and middle-income families to promote their girls ..."

The report manages to describe masculinists in clear terms, however, as "groups [that] are largely composed of white, heterosexual, middle-class men who have not been successful in coping with the challenge to masculinity posed by feminism." Lamenting Internet freedom of speech, the report states: "This accessible and virtually universal medium gives them [masculinists] the opportunity to say and post almost anything. It is no accident that this medium is being used by those on the extreme right, pedophiles and pornographers." Thus, we return to guilt by the loosest of associations.

Using double-thinking double-speak. Bouchard states: "Our recommendations include no blame for journalists. However, in the report we do criticize certain processes, such as distorsions [sic] and generalizations ..." The non-critical criticism is offered to encourage journalists and readers to "accurately focus on the issue." The report itself seems concerned that naive journalists are being "fed information" by masculinists. Thus, another recommendation is to establish a centralized government source of information, presumably to feed journalists the "accurate focus."

As a piece of research, the report is a farce. As a glimpse into the mindset of PC feminists, it is fascinating. And, with the Canadian House of Commons debating whether "a project that is a poorly disguised attack on men and the family unit" should have received $75,000, no wonder Bouchard is miffed. Feminism's days of slurping at the public trough may be ending.

Wendy McElroy is the editor of ifeminists.com and a research fellow for The Independent Institute in Oakland, Calif. She is the author and editor of many books and articles, including the new book, Liberty for Women: Freedom and Feminism in the 21st Century (Ivan R. Dee/Independent Institute, 2002). She lives with her husband in Canada.

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