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38 comments

For context on why she talks about this so often, Phyllis Chesler was raped by a prominent UN official and a number of radical feminists (including Dworkin) encouraged her to stay silent about it... one, because the official was Black and she is white and they didn't want to appear to be "racist", and two, because the UN was inviting radical feminists to speak and produce a work on the global oppression of women and they thought Chesler making her rape public would tank the project.

Chesler also spent time in Afghanistan as a young woman when she was married to an Afghan man who took her to his home country, where her passport was forcibly surrendered, and was held captive in her husbands' family's home. She has also had extensive experience being asked to stay quiet about her experiences in Afghanistan and the abuse of women she witnessed there for "progressive" reasons-- often by other feminists.

I have read a lot of her work about this topic and while I think she gets some things wrong-- for example, she is not typically right about how men engage with each other, or what is useful to learn from their behavior if anything, and she also is sometimes motivated to criticize female-female behavior (and read it as unnecessary "tearing down") on the basis of other women rightfully criticizing her tendency to self-promotion-- I think generally she is right about the dark side of women's behavior and how women collaborate in holding each other back

I don't get it. Why is there an assumption that women don't understand that other women are human and are capable of mistreating each other, and why is that used as justification to segue into stuff that needs a citation, eg:

Perhaps here is where women can learn some rules of engagement from men about how to fight fairly and then, win or lose, move on, befriend our opponents, or at least quit holding a grudge. Men find this easier since they comfortably occupy a psychological middle distance from each other.

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It should be possible to acknowledge that women sometimes treat each other badly without falling back on sexist stereotypes or odd generalisations. I'm not surprised this work has been criticised by feminists; the criticism sounds deserved.

[–] JoanOfBark 30 points Edited

This article is honestly so disappointing for 4W Pub and seeing people here support it is worse. It's literally just "boys just fight it out. Girls are the real villains" for people pretending to be progressive. In fact, two commenters below are saying exactly that.

This is just falling back on sexist stereotypes. Anyone who has been around men and boys know they can hold a grudge like no one's business. They are MORE than capable of psychological torture. It's shit like this that makes me worried that conservatives are infiltrating the radfem movement to promote their bullshit agendas.

[+] [Deleted] 20 points

Anyone who has been around men and boys know they can hold a grudge like no one's business.

YES.

I would find it a better article if the author had framed it as 'this is how I used to think and how I changed my mind' rather than attributing her perspective to all women, and if she'd left out the parts that romanticised men (and I do think those are romanticisations, I'd guess derived from the way men describe themselves in media rather than the way men actually behave). I think there's a lot of cultural baggage still to work through there.

Men literally murder each other over bullshit, but sure we should learn from them...

I wondered what the original quote was that she'd paraphrased as:

How dare I write about women being violent when men are so much more violent?

and whether it was actually a counter to her implication that fights with men were better.

[+] [Deleted] 11 points

Phyllis Chesler has a lot of emotional baggage re: backstabbing women. This influences her works greatly.

[–] BlackCirce 🔮🐖🐖🐖 14 points

There’s two (or three) ideas here. One idea is that men and women can be made equal in immorality by counting women bullying and sabotaging other women nonviolently as violence. That’s a mainstream view, I think most feminists are familiar with it and disagree with it. That’s where much of the anger comes from, we are being betrayed by another feminist with patriarchal slander.

The other idea is that women have dysfunctional interpersonal dynamics that have to be examined and changed for us to have good relationships with each other and be more politically effective. I agree with that and don’t object to it. We don’t organize well and we have a documented tendency to cannibalize. We need to overcome this before it’s too late. I wish we could discuss that more. There’s no reason to bring “just as bad as men” into it, mostly because, of all the things we have to rebut as feminists, that one is the easiest. The only way to make women “just as bad” is to have one definition of bad for men, and a much lower bar for women.

The third idea is the factual story about Dr. Chesler’s book, people’s reactions to it, including negative feminist reactions, but also positive reactions from women who felt finally understood. I don’t have any objection to that either.

Good summary.

We don’t organize well and we have a documented tendency to cannibalize. We need to overcome this before it’s too late. I wish we could discuss that more.

Agreed.

Women are human and capable of all human emotions and acts, helpful or destructive. I think the problem most feminists have with this piece is that it plays into the stereotype of women hating each other, and does nothing helpful, while giving men a pass. Every woman, who has ever socialized with other women or girls in her life, is aware that girls and women can be mean to each other. Maybe denying it won't make it disappear, but going on about how much we can learn from men, the much more violent and unreasonable sex, isn't going to make aggression disappear either.

Also, I can honestly say that throughout school, I was picked on much more by boys than by girls. I don't think I am unique in this. I think boys are given more of a pass.

Only the author and men have the unrealistic expectation that women shouldn't be whole human beings.

[–] demonista 5 points Edited

The women agreeing that mens, boys' conflicts are having an argument, shouting, even a punch out, then being awesome bro buddies (again) a few minutes later are obviously either very unfamiliar with male homophobic, racist, ableist, & classist bullying/abuse, or are pretending it doesn't exist or is extremely rare. That shit can & often does go on for months, even fucking years eg there are boys bullied by (usually older) boys for years, for whom faggot &/or another slur becomes a second name throughout their childhood and/or teens. Misogynist and homophobic bullying are the most common types, and both of most are inflicted by males (and sometimes they overtly combine eg when males get called misogynist names). The clear majority of physical, verbal, sexual, etc bullying/abuse overall is by males, not girls & women. even of girls/women taken alone, it's mostly by males. To say nothing of the frequent lethal male violence towards other males.

This is such a good article. Women forgive men for just about anything but don’t forgive other women for even the smallest failure or imperfection.

Women often have higher and different expectations for other women than we do for men. We tend not to forgive women when they fail us. We suffer such betrayals and do not want to experience such pain ever again.

Paradoxically, but understandably in terms of economic and social survival, women are more willing to forgive male failure, imperfection, violence, and betrayal—but never such behavior in another woman.

I was just writing to a friend this morning that opening your mind often involved throwing your whole weight against stubborn, rusty hinges.

Great article. I especially appreciated the use of female archetypes and the 9 steps.

Little girls are “silenced,” not by little boys, but by other little girls whose power of shunning and social ostracism terrified them.

Truth.

I used to say "boys can beat the shit out of each other and still be friends while girls will psychologically torture one another until someone gets an eating disorder (or any self-harm disorder)."

That is a lie fed to us by males. They torture and damage and screw over each other just as badly and often in worser ways than women do.