Feminists: answering sexism with sexism? So not cool.

So Jill has a post up defending Ann Coulter because Maxim decided that the best way to “zing” her for her anti-Semitism would be to call her, in so many words, an ugly tranny. First off, good on Jill and the other posters who are calling that crap out as not cool.

But, for those of you who think it’s “fair game” to use those misogynist and transphobic insults on Coulter because she spouts sexism and misogyny? Shame on you. The “she started it” line didn’t work in kindergarten and most certainly doesn’t work within feminism.

sophonisba points out exactly why it’s wrong to use bigotry against a person, no matter who it is:

Really. I will spell it out, then. You can’t use misogynist premises (women shouldn’t have human faces, human throats, or human hands–all those things are for boys only) against an individual women without using it on all women. Answering sexism with sexism? Well, see, that’s bad, because sexism is bad. Not bad unless we use it on someone we hate. Just, you know, bad. In itself.

Think, if you will, of what it would mean if someone responded to Coulter’s “perfected Jews” spiel with remarks about she has a pretty Jewy-looking nose herself.

I also threw my own clarification into the mix:

The point is that we, as feminists working to end oppression, have an obligation to ourselves and other women to speak out against sexism no matter who that sexism is directed against. I definitely do think that it’s worth pointing out, as you did, that the attack on Coulter is a logical product of the kind of world she’s working to create, but that does not mean that we, in turn, should endorse that result, even if that endorsement is simply silence on the matter. Sexism is sexism, even if the person who is being hurt by said sexism has endorsed it. And I think that one thing that we, as feminists, can agree on is that sexism is wrong and should be combated.

As feminists fighting for the end of oppression, we don’t have the luxury to avert our eyes because the target of sexism is someone morally repugnant to us. We don’t have the luxury to pick and choose who is “worth” defending and who isn’t. If we are truly committed to ending oppression, then it is our responsibility to fight bigotry wherever it rears its ugly head. Even if it means standing up, in a limited capacity, for someone who is actively working against us. Because saying “what they did to her was wrong, sexist, and should not be tolerated” is different than saying “what she does is right”.

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3 Responses to Feminists: answering sexism with sexism? So not cool.

  1. Exactly. The point of social justice is not “justice for people we like.” One person’s moral failing does not legitimize an immoral attack from us – for example, men of color who act sexist do not deserve a racist reaction from feminists. Responding to Coulter’s own sexism with sexism (and transphobia) just continues the fight on her morally bankrupt terms. Furthermore, this legitimizes sexism as a viable weapon, which is exactly what we don’t want to do.

    It feels like a similar dynamic to women who want protection from rape and victim-blaming of rape victims – but then fall into the trap of buying the excuses of, “Well, if she hadn’t been so drunk …” or “She shouldn’t have flirted so much with that guy …” It’s exerting minimum behavior requirements on who deserves justice. It allows for the sexist mindset that enables rape to continue, even if it’s only used on a certain group of women.

    If someone acts stupidly – and I hesitate to label the behavior of any rape victim “stupid” because it’s so easy to judge from outside – then we can call them stupid. Endorsing rape myths is endorsing rape myths (is endorsing rape myths …). Similarly, endorsing negative views of trans or not-feminine-enough people still perpetuates sexism and transphobia, even if it’s against someone we don’t like.

  2. Kat says:

    Excellent post (and comment from Sigel Phoenix). It is not out of some quixotic liberal altruism that we should ‘defend’ vile human beings like Ann Coulter from misogynistic and transphobic attacks; it is because such attacks not only illustrate the contemptible attitudes lurking behind the enlightened veneer of many so-called liberals, but also wreak massive collatoral damage. Mocking peripheral, innocuous attributes like people’s looks, gender, race etc both lets them off the hook for their ~truly~ negative qualities

  3. Kat says:

    (like, oh, Coulter’s chilling lack of empathy and disregard for human rights), as well as insulting everyone else who is not traditionally attractive/is a masculine looking woman/is a trans woman etc. It’s like using a mallet to squash a mosquito and crushing a bystander’s hand in the process.

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