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July 2, 2014 6:21 PM   Subscribe


 
Troll of the decade.
posted by duffell at 6:26 PM on July 2 [28 favorites]


BUT WHAT ABOUT THE MEN?
posted by dis_integration at 6:32 PM on July 2 [9 favorites]


I am probably one of ten people in metafilter comfortable openly stating thier sympathies with the MRA cause and who is distressed when people here conflate PUAs, MRAs, and Red Pillers. But really...it is perfectly alright to have a piece of art, whether it be TV show, book, or music that is not devoted to showing an ethnographically diverse group.

Specialization and focus is just fine.

The Wire would not be stronger with more seasons focusing on the white poor and working class.

Tales of The City didn't need more straight people.

OITNB could have less men in it and be perfectly fine.

As I said in chat, I would be fine watching a show that only has black militant lesbians over 35 as long as it was good. The world is huge. There are billions of us. Art does not need to be everything to everyone. The best never is.
posted by bswinburn at 6:32 PM on July 2 [60 favorites]


What about non-prisoners! I demand a show about people who aren't in jail!

But really, I think his major gripe is misplaced--OITNB does not seek to convince us that Litchfield is what all prison everywhere is like. The nature of the show, like the nature of prison, means we rarely venture outside these particular walls. If anything the first episode of Season 2 contrasted Litchfield with the huge scary unknown expanse of the entire system, parts of which the show made clear were filled with men.
posted by sallybrown at 6:33 PM on July 2 [8 favorites]


The one male prisoner we meet, then, is violent and abusive, with a sexual kink that is presented as laughable and repulsive.

I'm not sure that the author of this piece noticed the repeated theme in the series of prisoners protecting themselves with an exaggerated persona, especially when interacting with new people. It's almost as if 3 minutes of interaction isn't enough to break through to the no doubt nuanced person underneath. Hell, you can't even do that in polite conversation!
posted by lumensimus at 6:34 PM on July 2 [6 favorites]


To paraphrase John Hodgman, "For all matters pertaining to men, see the entire rest of our culture."
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 6:38 PM on July 2 [110 favorites]


Oh Jesus Christ. Yes, I agree that it would absolutely be worth bringing more attention to the plight of men in prison but this show is doing a lot of good and providing strong and relatable representations of all sorts of women. Not every show can accomplish everything and changing the focus of this to men both wouldn't make sense and would take away one of the too-few women-focused shows we have. Seriously, yeah, more stuff about marginalized and imprisoned populations would be great, especially thoughtful and sympathetic representations, but seriously, this is dumb.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 6:43 PM on July 2 [3 favorites]


What? You're saying all men can't improvise clever songs about nuns on the banjolele? Nonsense. Every man I've ever met has been able to.
posted by Sara C. at 6:45 PM on July 2 [6 favorites]


Though there are a couple of exceptions (like cancer-victim Rosa, a former bank-robbing adrenaline junkie, or sociopathic new villain Vee (Lorraine Toussaint)) for the most part the characters land behind bars because of a tragic lack of love. Taystee (Danielle Brooks) is a foster-child who craves a mother; Suzanne (Uzo Aduba) is a black adoptee of a white family hungry for affection and acceptance; Morello (Yael Stone) is a stalker fixated on romantic love; even Sister Ingalls (Beth Fowler), the nun, has a story framed around her failure to connect with Jesus in her heart. The backstories don't really focus on systemic injustices. Instead, they show how individual weaknesses lead the women to prison. A woman in OITNB goes to the bad when her impulse for love is thwarted.

This is a bizarre characterization of the show. Like, "makes me question whether the author actually watched it or read a bunch of recaps" bizarre. Is he seriously suggesting that Taystee's backstory, in which an intelligent, spirited black teenager ages out of foster care system and turns to dealing drugs because she has nowhere else to go, is not about systematic injustice? Yes, it's also about her relationship with Vee, but come on.
posted by kagredon at 6:46 PM on July 2 [17 favorites]


The thing that kills me is that this is based on a woman's experience in prison. Men can share their experiences without women being involved, but women cannot share their experiences without including men.
posted by Ruki at 6:46 PM on July 2 [46 favorites]


We've already had at least two popular shows set in men's prisons, Oz and Prison Break.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:47 PM on July 2 [12 favorites]


Oh for fucks sake.
posted by Proofs and Refutations at 6:48 PM on July 2 [16 favorites]


This is especially stupid because it's a known problem that women face a higher incarceration rate for minor crimes precisely because there are fewer really violent female criminals and so the empty prisons cry out for "customers." Piper might have done probation for her youthful indiscretion if she had been male. So yeah, fuck you Other Penis Owner, this really is a story about women in particular.
posted by localroger at 6:49 PM on July 2 [6 favorites]


ALSO, a show set in a men's prison would be hugely different. I wrote a paper a long time ago about the differences between men's and women's prisons, including interviewing prison employees and reading a number of articles. The ways men and women interact in these situations are deeply, profoundly different. At the time 1 in 19 women who went into prison were pregnant (I don't know the statistics now), which is just one of the many things altering the dynamic. Women treat each other differently in prison than men do. They often create surrogate family units (something we see in Orange is the New Black). This is not the case in men's prisons where there is significantly more fear and violence. It's been a long time since I wrote the paper or did the research (over ten years) so I don't remember most of the details but men's and women's prisons are very different places. You couldn't do justice to the issues with men's prisons just by re-creating this show with male characters.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 6:52 PM on July 2 [21 favorites]


I was wondering when misreadings of this column would move from my FB feed to Metafilter... Look, it is probably true that he could have led with a stronger first paragraph. But he makes really, really clear that he is *NOT* saying that OItNB should have more men because there's not enough men on TV (he says that in the third paragraph!). The thesis is:
Orange is the New Black is under no obligation to accurately represent prison demographics, and just because they're a minority in prison doesn't mean that women's stories there aren't important. The problem is that the ways in which OITNB focuses on women rather than men seem to be linked to stereotypically gendered ideas about who can be a victim and who can't.
While the show has great, nuanced portrayals of women in the prison, it depicts male prisoners, and particularly men of color, as a threatening, barely human mass. Which is exactly the attitude that produces the appalling prison system we have today, which acts as a warehouse to store the black men that white society (including the white society that loves OItNB) is terrified of.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 6:54 PM on July 2 [6 favorites]


Yeah, I'll give a damn about ONE show that is almost purely about women when we've had a few thousand years of ALL media be7ng centered on women with a few token men mainly for scenery or as a plot device or a reward.
posted by sotonohito at 6:56 PM on July 2


...it depicts male prisoners, and particularly men of color, as a threatening, barely human mass.

It barely depicts male prisoners at all!
posted by lumensimus at 6:56 PM on July 2 [4 favorites]


There has been exactly one male prisoner depicted on the show. And the problem is that he's overly sexualized?

Welcome to what it's like to be a woman watching all media every single day of your entire life.
posted by Sara C. at 6:57 PM on July 2 [83 favorites]


There has been one male prisoner with lines. He was threatening, but turned out to be not so bad, just craving some sort of connection to another human, EXACTLY like the women at Litchfield. I mean, Big Boo masturbated with a screwdriver. How is used-panty masturbating so far off in a different category?
posted by lesli212 at 6:58 PM on July 2 [5 favorites]


So we're seriously dismissing the entire two-season series because of one character in one episode? That seems like an interesting choice. Does he hold other shows to the same standard, or is that some special higher bar that only applies to the one TV show that revolves around women?
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:01 PM on July 2 [9 favorites]


Also, this was based on a memoir, and maybe if there are distortions those are the distortions the real life Piper experienced during her year in jail?
posted by localroger at 7:03 PM on July 2


A friend clued me in that there already currently is another OZ-style women's prison show out there. I won't be watching that one. I'm sure it doesn't treat male characters sympathetically either, because it doesn't have to.

But this article? I can't even. The Atlantic is always so desperate for eyeballs it's sad.
posted by Catblack at 7:09 PM on July 2


While the show has great, nuanced portrayals of women in the prison, it depicts male prisoners, and particularly men of color, as a threatening, barely human mass.

I understand the point he's making but I have a hard time accepting that it's not a realistic portrayal, until someone who's actually interacted with male prisoners as a female prisoner says otherwise. Is it hard to believe that men who have been forcibly cooped up with other men would be leering and a little scary, especially when getting leered at and threatened is something that women experience a lot even outside prison?
posted by bleep at 7:11 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


There are a lot of valid points about gendered stereotypes about victimization in this essay.

The only problem I see is that it keeps pivoting around complaints about Orange is the New Black's lack of male representation, which is silly because it's a show about women. That's about as silly as getting mad that SuperBad, a film specifically about boys, doesn't pass the Bechdel test. (Getting mad that there aren't enough girl coming of age films is different, very valid.)

Media that is specifically about boyhood or girlhood or manhood or womanhood is media that doesn't have as great of an obligation to be inclusive.

This would've been a lot better if it was a compare and contrast piece about OITNB and Oz, and explored the level of empathy that Oz's writers tried to solicit for it's characters vs. the level of empathy Kohan tries to solicit from viewers.

And yes, despite the fact that patriarchy is a thing, and despite the fact that it negatively effects women far more often than it negatively effects men, there are certain exceptions to this, and the prison system is one of them.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 7:12 PM on July 2 [3 favorites]


This would've been a lot better if it was a compare and contrast piece about OITNB and Oz, and explored the level of empathy that Oz's writers tried to solicit for it's characters vs. the level of empathy Kohan tries to solicit from viewers.
Well, but I mean, why? Why are the people who make OITNB obligated to make the same kind of show as Oz? Why can't they make their own show, on their own terms, without somehow having to compare it to an earlier show about men?

(And you know, the main character on Prison Break committed a crime so he could intentionally be caught and convicted, so he could break his falsely-convicted brother out of death row. You want sympathetic main characters who are men? You want men who were motivated by love, to a goofy degree?)
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:19 PM on July 2 [4 favorites]


I've never seen the show but what an actual fuck? MEN ARE LITERALLY THE CENTREPIECE OF EVERYTHING ELSE IN THE UNIVERSE.

Jesus H Christ in a handcart.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:26 PM on July 2 [19 favorites]


I'll step out after this because I don't want to threadsit my own post, but I do want to reply to ThatFuzzyBastard.

Yes, the author admits that most media revolves around men. But there are reasons why women are generally side-eyeing this article. First, the male prisoner in general is viewed from a female perspective. Given the situation, it's entirely reasonable to see him as a "threatening, barely human mass."

Second, and this is what I found most interesting about the article, it's a female-oriented show and the male prisoner is a token. This turns the tables on most media, where there is a heavily stereotyped female character. Sometimes the female token is hyper-sexualized, or hyper-repressed, or hyper-feminine, or hyper-masculinized (one of the guys.) But the female token is generally an exaggeration. Ignoring my first point above, let's say that the male prisoner is just an exaggeration. I think it's a good thing for men to experience what it's like to be the token character, because that's how the majority of female characters are represented, and it does not feel good.

From the article - The few male prisoners who are shown on OITNB are presented in almost aggressively stereotypical ways. So are women, in the rest of the universe.
posted by Ruki at 7:32 PM on July 2 [16 favorites]


localroger: "This is especially stupid because it's a known problem that women face a higher incarceration rate for minor crimes precisely because there are fewer really violent female criminals and so the empty prisons cry out for "customers.""

Is this some kind of technical jargon statement? I ask because, not only are men in the US incarcerated at ten times the rate of women, women are also 50% more likely to serve their time in the community on parole or probation than men.
posted by Mitheral at 7:47 PM on July 2 [4 favorites]


Well, but I mean, why?

Not as an indictment of OITNB. Not as a demand upon it. But as a case study in gender expectations and stereotypes as they relate to crime, victimization, and the levels of agency or lack thereof that we as a society assign to criminals based on their gender.

That's the flaw here. OINTB isn't about men, so criticizing it as part of an exploration of these gender issues is nonsensical. It does, however, make sense to look into OITNB as an indicator of how we're expected to think about women and crime and prison.

Looking at it as part of exploring a broader swath of media about gender and prison makes sense to me. Criticizing it for not being a self contained exploration of the issue, however, is silly to me.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 7:48 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


Jesus, is this guy fucking kidding me? Civilized-sounding MRA rants are still MRA rants.
posted by triggerfinger at 7:54 PM on July 2 [11 favorites]


Sara C.: "Welcome to what it's like to be a woman watching all media every single day of your entire life."

You know, I don't think his argument has merit. But I've never understood this style of counterargument. If you think something is bad, then you think it's bad, right? How does "That's actually not bad, because it happens to other people a whole lot" work?

Mitheral: "Is this some kind of technical jargon statement? I ask because, not only are men in the US incarcerated at ten times the rate of women, women are also 50% more likely to serve their time in the community on parole or probation than men."

It's not technical jargon. Let's go with super-made-up numbers for simplicity's sake. Imagine you have a group of 1,000 men, and a group of 1,000 women. Now imagine that 500 of those guys murder people. And imagine that 30 of those women murder people. Now imagine that, of the remaining folks, 500 of those guys litter. And imagine that 500 of those women litter. Ok, now let's posit two jails, one for men, one for women. Then men's jail holds, say, 500 people. The women's jail holds 50 people.

So, let's see what happens. First off, all the murderers go to jail. Then the remaining slots are filled with litterers. You now have a men's jail with 500 murderers, and a women's jail with 30 murderers and 20 litterers. That means the male incarceration rate is 10 times as high as the female incarceration rate. Hence "men in the US incarcerated at ten times the rate of women". But it also means that there are zero men in jail for littering, while there are 20 women in jail for littering. Hence "women face a higher incarceration rate for minor crimes".
posted by Bugbread at 8:04 PM on July 2 [5 favorites]


I have often wished i were a a sociologist just so I could try to give a talk on Confronting Gender Discrimination in Incarceration at a conference. The point of it is that inequality isn't necessarily a bad thing if it reflects reality.
A women's prison is by definition a nearly exclusively female world, so it makes sense that a story about it would focus on women.
posted by Octaviuz at 8:11 PM on July 2


Jesus christ, what a dumb article. Noah Berlatsky wrote this. Noah Berlatsky wrote the dumbest, whiniest article of the day.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:13 PM on July 2 [9 favorites]


this is bad
posted by likeatoaster at 8:14 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]


Jesus, is this guy fucking kidding me? Civilized-sounding MRA rants are still MRA rants.

Yes. Clearly anyone who points out that there may be one context in which men get a raw deal must be an MRA. Everybody knows that sexism is absolute and that there are no situations in which patriarchy creates a disadvantage for men, nor is it possible for someone to think that there is one situation where patriarchy is cruel to men while simultaneously understanding that the overwhelming tilt of societal bias is still against women. Nor is it possible that in some cases the "archy" in "patriarchy" is more potent than the "patri", leading powerful men to lock up and abuse and exploit disadvantaged men in droves.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 8:36 PM on July 2 [4 favorites]


There's a solid response here: Orange is the New Black: A Show About WOMEN
posted by Greg Nog at 8:39 PM on July 2 [7 favorites]


Hahaha you guys

I just wrote an article on how food is bad

And how snow is hot

And how dinosaurs are all alive, and we are all dead

And how it is a problem that Orange Is The New Black doesn't feature enough men

These are all worthwhile uses of time and language
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:45 PM on July 2 [9 favorites]


Yes. Clearly anyone who points out that there may be one context in which men get a raw deal must be an MRA.

An article pointing out that the prison system is bad for men would not necessarily be an MRA rant. An article saying a show about women in prison is anti-feminist for not including more male characters is almost guaranteed to be one. Framing matters.
posted by jaguar at 8:46 PM on July 2 [12 favorites]


Bugbread:

Read this. And this. And this. And this.

All of the above are articles or studies showing bias towards harsher sentences for men.

And again, I reiterate: patriarchy and societal sexism is real. It is strongly tilted towards disadvantaging women. There just happens to be this one situation in which patriarchal chivalry and patriarchal notions of men having greater agency end up creating a rather awful situation for men.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 8:46 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


Doesn't OITNB have more (and more diverse, complex, and sympathetic) male characters than say American Horror Story: Coven? There was a serial killer, another serial killer, and a frankenstein monster.

I've only seen maybe half of the first season of OITNB, but the several males presented--Larry, Healey, Caputo, O'Neill, Bennett ... Pornstache--all seem to represent a fairly diverse (if white) group of characters.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:48 PM on July 2


Framing matters.

I think you're mostly right about this. Maybe I'm giving the author too much benefit of the doubt, presuming that the pet issue he wanted to write about was men in prison, and that he misguidedly tried to use Orange is the New Black as a news peg and a jumping off point. It ends up creating MRA bait, whether or not the author wanted to join the MRA bandwagon. I don't know the author's work, but even if he's never done anything like this before, his editor should've stopped him and forced him to reframe it.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 8:50 PM on July 2


It does, however, make sense to look into OITNB as an indicator of how we're expected to think about women and crime and prison.

I actually think this is the best thing about the inclusion of a straight up villain in Season 2. Finally, a character who, by everything we've seen, is a bad person, who is in prison because she deserves it. It's almost unjust that the prison environment is a place that she's able to thrive.
posted by Sara C. at 8:51 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]


MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch: "Read this. And this."

The last article was about the UK, and I think we're discussing just the US prison system. But the second link, the PDF file, that's really interesting. I believe I stand corrected.
posted by Bugbread at 8:59 PM on July 2 [3 favorites]


I don't know the author's work, but even if he's never done anything like this before, his editor should've stopped him and forced him to reframe it.

I didn't recognize the author's name, but his list of articles at the Atlantic turns up a few that I've posted on Facebook because they were such good descriptions of how patriarchy hurts men, without being dismissive of women's greater hurt. Can Men Really Be Feminists? is pretty strong in that regard.

So, no, there's no reason he needed to frame this issue as he did, and I would bet good money that the majority of the people in this thread complaining about the article also believe the US prison system is screwed up for both women and men. That's not what's driving the criticism.
posted by jaguar at 9:07 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]


Wow, this is a seriously dumb article. Other than clickbait attention, what was the Atlantic thinking? Seriously, this is undergrad level dumb, the kind of thing the one immature kid in every class who is trying to be provocative might say.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:09 PM on July 2 [3 favorites]


Jesus, is this guy fucking kidding me? Civilized-sounding MRA rants are still MRA rants.

It boggles my mind how many people are willing to make elementary school mistake of dismissing an argument on the the basis of its provenance rather than addressing what is actually being said. It's especially funny in this particular instance because Berlatsky identifies as a feminist!

If you spend any amount of time around the "gender" debate, you really can't help but recognize that, in a lot of cases, MRAs and feminists use identical logic and language to disparage each other. "Feminists hate men!" "MRAs are misogynists!" "We're fighting for equality for everybody!"

And in the next breath they wonder aloud why people are hesitant to associate with their movement.
posted by Maugrim at 9:18 PM on July 2 [4 favorites]


The Changing Racial Dynamics of Women’s Incarceration (pdf), February 2013, from The Sentencing Project:
Women have long represented a modest share of the overall prison population. In 1980, about 13,000 women were incarcerated in federal and state prisons combined representing 4% of the total prison population. Since that time, the rate of growth of women in prison has exceeded the rate of increase for men, rising 646% from 1980 to 2010, compared to a 419% increase for men. As a result, in 2010 there were 112,000 women in state and federal prison and 205,000 women overall in prison or jail; women now constitute 7% of the prison population.

As was the case with men, a substantial portion of the overall increase in women in prison was produced by “get tough” initiatives focused on harsher sentencing policies and lengthening time served in prison. Women were particularly affected by the policies of the “war on drugs.” Since women have always represented a small share of persons committing violent crimes, their numbers in prison would not have grown as dramatically had it not been for changes in drug enforcement policies and practices. As law enforcement increased targeting of drug law violators and as sentences for drug offenses became more severe, drug offenders came to represent a rapidly growing share of the incarcerated population, with the proportion of women in prison for drug crimes exceeding that of men. In 1986, 12% of women in state prison were serving time for a drug offense compared to 8% of men. Over time, these proportions increased, and as of 2009, 25.7% of women in prison were serving time for drug offenses, as were 17.2% of men.

In addition, the advent of mandatory sentencing policies for many drug offenses at times imposed a particularly harsh burden on women offenders, with one aspect of this sometimes described as the “girlfriend” problem. That is, since the only means of avoiding a mandatory penalty is generally to cooperate with the prosecution by providing information on higher-ups in the drug trade, women who have a partner who is a drug seller may be aiding that seller, but have relatively little information to trade in exchange for a more lenient sentence. In contrast, the “boyfriend” drug seller is likely to be in a better position to offer information, and so may receive less prison time for his offense than does the less culpable woman.
posted by jaguar at 9:21 PM on July 2 [6 favorites]


Nobody is calling it an MRA rant because of its provenance, Maugrim. We're calling it an MRA rant because of its substance.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:22 PM on July 2 [9 favorites]


So you're saying both sides in the "gender" debate are equally bad, huh?
posted by chrchr at 9:22 PM on July 2


dismissing an argument on the the basis of its provenance

What are you talking about?
posted by Greg Nog at 9:24 PM on July 2 [8 favorites]


Nobody is calling it an MRA rant because of its provenance, Maugrim. We're calling it an MRA rant because of its substance.

Why call it an MRA rant at all? Just point out why it's a dumb article.

And, again, Berlatsky identifies as a feminist. So, by definition, it's not an MRA rant. Unless the bar for MRA is "expressing an opinion that is in any way pro-men."

Which, as I mentioned above, is a basic error in logic.

What are you talking about?

Calling something an MRA rant is dismissing it the argument because it comes from an MRA.

So you're saying both sides in the "gender" debate are equally bad, huh?

No, I'm not. I'm saying a lot of people on either side make similarly poor arguments.
posted by Maugrim at 9:27 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


Jesus christ, what a dumb article. Noah Berlatsky wrote this. Noah Berlatsky wrote the dumbest, whiniest article of the day.

Yeah, that's sort of surprising; for a long time I dismissed/derided Berlatsky because of his bullshit Wanting To Be The Comics Journal In The Worst Way writing on comics, but a few years ago was astonished to find he was bright, engaging, and sensitive when writing on things other than comics. This is an unfortunate return to form.

Wotta maroon.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:30 PM on July 2 [3 favorites]


I'm going to enjoy the tremendous level of privilege I have, primarily by not clicking on the article or ever thinking about it again.

I wonder if this is one of the few privileges men and women share?
posted by poe at 9:31 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


Unless the bar for MRA is "expressing an opinion that is in any way pro-men."

It's generally "Pointing out a problem that men have due to the patriarchy, and blaming feminists for it." Which this article does, no matter how the author identifies. He screwed up here.
posted by jaguar at 9:33 PM on July 2 [60 favorites]


"Pointing out a problem that men have due to the patriarchy, and blaming feminists for it."

This is a fantastic one-line definition of MR and I am going to steal it.
posted by kagredon at 9:39 PM on July 2 [19 favorites]


This is a fantastic one-line definition of MR and I am going to steal it.

Thank you, and feel free!
posted by jaguar at 9:43 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


That article is the stupid thing I have ever read, and the world is dumber for it existing.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:44 PM on July 2


D'oh! Stupidest. Mea culpa. Rage-induced typing is bad for accuracy and proofreading.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:51 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]


Maugrim : " Why call it an MRA rant at all? Just point out why it's a dumb article."

Because it's important to point out that this is not an individual thing and this is not one person being misguided or illogical; this is actually a set of shared and faulty beliefs.

It's kind of like how when Rebecca Solnit published her essay Men Explain Things to Me, many women had a *click!* moment. Omigod. This is a thing. This isn't something particular to me, this isn't happening because of any failure in me, this is an actual societal thing that happens.

These discussions are worth having.
posted by Lexica at 9:58 PM on July 2 [13 favorites]


I personally hate how the people in that show are wearing orange shit all the time.

what is the deal with that
posted by Reversible Diamond-Encrusted Ermine Codpiece at 9:58 PM on July 2 [7 favorites]


As people have said, framing matters. And if this guy's the feminist he says he is, he should know this. Using any group of people who have historically always been at a disadvantage to me to frame the hardships I myself face is a bad tactic in any other scenario so I'm not really sure why it's fine to do with women's issues. He could have very easily framed this article in a way that both discusses OITNB and men's issues in a productive way instead of the compare and contrast way he did.

He seems to have some awareness around the issue, saying:

Of course, Orange is the New Black is under no obligation to accurately represent prison demographics, and just because they're a minority in prison doesn't mean that women's stories there aren't important.

But then he follows up with:

The problem is that the ways in which OITNB focuses on women rather than men seem to be linked to stereotypically gendered ideas about who can be a victim and who can't.


And then he describes the males prisoners, who have pretty much no screen time. The male prison workers are given more in-depth treatment, are fairly complex and (I think) are developed similarly to the women characters, in a way that's fair.

But really, OITNB is under no obligation to accurately represent anything. This is a show primarily focused on women and as such, any small thing that's considered remotely unfair to men is jumped on and decried as an insult to men. Which is a same old, same old derailing tactic by some men feeling threatened by the idea of women having something of their own without first having acknowledged, catered to, soothed, accommodated or reassured them that we haven't forgotten about them and we still think they're important. Even though the lack of this sentiment doesn't mean it's not true. Which is basically been how women's issues have been treated pretty much forever.

It is okay for things to sometimes not be All About Men. Really.
posted by triggerfinger at 10:00 PM on July 2 [9 favorites]


"This is a bizarre characterization of the show. Like, "makes me question whether the author actually watched it or read a bunch of recaps" bizarre. Is he seriously suggesting that Taystee's backstory, in which an intelligent, spirited black teenager ages out of foster care system and turns to dealing drugs because she has nowhere else to go, is not about systematic injustice? Yes, it's also about her relationship with Vee, but come on."

Yeah, that was when my eyes rolled like Walter on Sunday. The structural and systemic injustices of the prison system underpin nearly every minute on screen. There's some goofy-ass shit on OITNB, but the whole article reads like someone physically incapable of not having things grounded in his experience, to the extent that he's barking at feminist fantods.

This was all over my facebook, and I'm a little disappointed to see it here since it just seems like parochial, myopic recreational indignation at best, and a volatile provocation ineptly lobbed at worst.
posted by klangklangston at 10:11 PM on July 2 [4 favorites]


Sara C.: "Welcome to what it's like to be a woman watching all media every single day of your entire life."

You know, I don't think his argument has merit. But I've never understood this style of counterargument. If you think something is bad, then you think it's bad, right? How does "That's actually not bad, because it happens to other people a whole lot" work?


I think pointing out that someone is complaining about a pebble of injustice they noticed atop Privilege Mountain is a pretty fair point, and it's what most arguments of the sort found in the article sound like, honestly.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 10:22 PM on July 2 [20 favorites]


It's generally "Pointing out a problem that men have due to the patriarchy, and blaming feminists for it."

This is really well put.
posted by Dip Flash at 10:28 PM on July 2


It's generally "Pointing out a problem that men have due to the patriarchy, and blaming feminists for it." Which this article does, no matter how the author identifies. He screwed up here.

The word feminist appears once in the article ("This seems like a feminist move, on the surface"), in the context of marginalized people being presented sympathetically. There is no way that what Berlatsky wrote here can be construed as "blaming" feminism. He was simply critical of the show. If anything, he is suggesting that the show is *not feminist* because it doesn't support equality for all. That bears repeating. One of his points is that if the show doesn't fairly represent everybody, it's not feminist. That is the opposite of blaming feminism.

Someone up above has suggested that an editor should have asked for a re-write because "It ends up creating MRA bait." The Atlantic's business decisions aside, are we really at the point where we're asking for rewrites because an author holds a view that an undesirable group might agree with?

It's a dumb article. But it's substance is not MRA. And, even if it were, when is that ever a valid argument? The majority of people here have pointed out OITNB is not responsible for representing everyone fairly, which is a sound point. Why drag the term MRA into this at all?

I've been here a while, I know what Metafilter's general feelings regarding feminism and MRAs are. That doesn't absolve people from the responsibility for making coherent arguments. Especially when they're the type of arguments that disparage a whole group of people and actively polarize the debate.
posted by Maugrim at 10:28 PM on July 2 [5 favorites]


There is no way that what Berlatsky wrote here can be construed as "blaming" feminism.
But despite its path-breaking representation of minority women, the show remains trapped by gender preconceptions that aren't path-breaking at all. OITNB is so eager to sympathize with broken-hearted women and their individual sadnesses that it has no time to consider the institutional machinery of injustice that, in this case, has little directly to do with either individuals or women. It's hard to see how such a distorted view of incarceration helps prisoners of any gender.
He is explicitly saying that real feminism would focus its attention on the plight of male prisoners, and the show not doing so makes it un-feminist. He is twisting the definition of feminism in the exact same way that misogynist MRAs do, claiming that caring about or prioritizing women's stories is unjust.
posted by jaguar at 10:37 PM on July 2 [18 favorites]


I dunno. He's wrong, and MRA folks are wrong, and the way they are wrong overlaps in certain areas, but that quote doesn't seem to be one of them. MRAs say "Feminists do A. That's bad!", and he seems to be saying "Feminists do A. This show doesn't do A. That's bad!"

I think he's wrong, regardless, but that quote, at least, makes him wrong in a different way than MRAs are usually wrong.
posted by Bugbread at 10:39 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]


One of his points is that if the show doesn't fairly represent everybody, it's not feminist. That is the opposite of blaming feminism.

This is a pretty common tactic for undermining feminism though - swoop in and declare that it doesn't count/isn't actually feminism unless what about the men?

Edit: on preview, what jaguar said
posted by obliterati at 10:40 PM on July 2 [8 favorites]


I'm sympathetic to his argument, but I think he does himself a disservice by focusing on men. My problem with OITNB is that it's based on the story of a highly-unrepresentative prisoner whose special circumstances allow the viewer to avoid dealing with the facts of the US penal system.

The prisoners in OITNB are receiving decent treatment in a reasonably-pleasant institution. That's largely because they're in the Federal system, which holds about eight percent of US prisoners. Federal prisons are notoriously less crowded and better-funded than State prisons, which means the conditions in OITN can be somewhat realistic, and still not outrage the audience.

The other way in which the show tends to calm concerns about US incarceration is that the prisoners are both (mostly) sane and have generally-justifiable reasons for being incarcerated. This is where I think the author's point is warranted: women have a vastly lower incarceration rate, about one-fifteenth that of men. Part of that is likely due to a differential rate of criminal activity, but I simply don't believe the difference is that high. It is almost certain that the unreasonable (i.e., the false, the unjustified, and the disproportionate) incarceration rate of men is much higher than that of women.

These facts mean that the show depicts a tiny minority of a tiny minority of prisoners: the ones whose incarceration and treatment is least likely to outrage the audience. But the audience ought be outraged; the USA's incarceration rate is vastly higher than any comparable country, about four times higher than the OECD average. It has nearly a quarter of the world's prison population, even excluding people subject to supervised parole. So the problem, for me, isn't that the show is about women; it's that the show is a relatively-lighthearted drama about something outrageous, and its choice of subject is carefully selected to avoid the elephant in the room.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:54 PM on July 2 [4 favorites]


But, like, OK. Every narrative TV show has to select some specific group of people to be its main characters. Which means that every cast of every TV show is going to be, on some level, not representative of the vast majority of humans.

LOST deals with survivors of a plane crash. You're more likely to be struck by lightning than be in a plane crash to begin with, let alone survive it, let alone survive it in a dramatic "stuck on a deserted island" scenario a la the setup for LOST.

Golden Girls deals with female retirees. Just think of the number of women who don't survive until retirement age, let alone the number of elderly women who can actually afford to "retire" at all, let alone to Florida.

Grey's Anatomy deals with surgeons. Surgeons are a tiny minority of all doctors in the US.

It's even fairly traditional as a trope/convention of television shows that the subjects of a show tend to be somehow unique or exceptional. Sometimes it's because their situation is particularly good (prep school students, surgeons, Silicon Valley software developers), and other times it's because their situation is particularly bad (members of the mafia, plane crash survivors, meth cookers). OITNB is interesting because its cast embodies both tropes: the characters are remarkably privileged via being in a minimum security federal facility, but also remarkably bad off because, you know, they're prisoners, and often for reasons that the audience sympathizes with.

Either way, the vast majority of all TV shows deal with highly specific settings wherein the characters' situations tend to be unusual for one reason or another. That's not really a valid criticism of OITNB.
posted by Sara C. at 11:09 PM on July 2 [10 favorites]


He is twisting the definition of feminism in the exact same way that misogynist MRAs do, claiming that caring about or prioritizing women's stories is unjust.

Hm, "misogynist MRAs." Are you allowing for the possibility that some MRAs aren't misogynists? ;) For what it's worth, I think your reading is pretty uncharitable insofar as the man identifies as a feminist.

More to the point, are you disputing that feminism is a movement that champions equality for all? Because, in my experience, that has become a very common refrain in these debates and is specifically used to justify why men should support feminism (the political movement) and not form a new movement to champion their cause.

I have no problem with either approach, but it's disingenuous to claim that feminism supports equality for all (so a men's rights movement is unnecessary) but then insist that women's issues should be prioritized.

On a related note, I'm all for addressing more resources to bigger problems, but dismissing another group's issues out of hand because they have more privilege in the aggregate is problematic.

I think pointing out that someone is complaining about a pebble of injustice they noticed atop Privilege Mountain is a pretty fair point

This is the sentiment I'm referring to. If that's the tack you're going take aren't you vulnerable to someone pointing out that if you're writing this on a computer with access to the internet, you are more than likely at the top of the privilege list and there are literally billions of people who we ought to concern ourselves with before you? (Yes, it's reductive but still.)
posted by Maugrim at 11:21 PM on July 2 [5 favorites]


I'm also fascinated by the idea that, if it's a show about women, suddenly there is a political responsibility to represent the right sorts of stories. Whereas nobody was whining about Breaking Bad romanticizing the drug war by focusing on an incredibly exceptional drug dealer.

And that's an almost identical case: use a white middle class outsider to speak to your white middle class audience, despite the fact that the world you're depicting as a rule almost never involves white middle class people. But that is the Best Show Of All Time, and OITNB is politically counterproductive.
posted by Sara C. at 11:22 PM on July 2 [26 favorites]


I think he's wrong, regardless, but that quote, at least, makes him wrong in a different way than MRAs are

The author is basically saying - yeah women have these issues, but what about the men? And goes into details re incarceration rates for men and whatnot.

Men's rights activists grew out of the same sentiment - women talking about women's issues and men jumping in to say - but what about the men and custody cases and culture of hypermasculinity and incarceration rates etc., men have rights too! MRAs evolved into something much uglier but regardless of conclusions reached, this author is starting from the exact same place that MRAs are. Which is the flawed presumption that discussing women's issues somehow takes something away from men. As if it's a zero sum game.
posted by triggerfinger at 11:23 PM on July 2 [9 favorites]


I'm also fascinated by the idea that, if it's a show about women, suddenly there is a political responsibility to represent the right sorts of stories.

The US prison system is so egregious that, yes, I think people have a duty to avoid white-washing it. If that means criticising a show that has women characters, so be it.

Incidentally, the inmates in OITNB are women incarcerated within a mostly-male penal system, who have been deprived of their liberty because they made bad decisions. I don't think this depiction really advances the cause of feminism.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:43 PM on July 2


I have no problem with either approach, but it's disingenuous to claim that feminism supports equality for all (so a men's rights movement is unnecessary) but then insist that women's issues should be prioritized.

Ah, yes. "If feminism is about equality, then why is it that I, a man, am being asked to give some part of the unequal share of power that I have to women."

Claiming that caring about or prioritizing women's stories is unjust is an anti-equality stance, because this is a society where women's stories are already told far less frequently than men's.
posted by kagredon at 11:55 PM on July 2 [16 favorites]


Incidentally, the inmates in OITNB are women incarcerated within a mostly-male penal system, who have been deprived of their liberty because they made bad decisions. I don't think this depiction really advances the cause of feminism.

Yes, a show about women -- including a trans woman and numerous women of color -- trying to assert themselves, both in an environment where they are institutionally deprived of agency far in excess of their sentences and in the outside world, isn't doing anything to advance the cause of feminism.

Nothing at all.
posted by lumensimus at 11:58 PM on July 2 [11 favorites]


Kathleen Geier, who is now blogging for The Baffler, had a much better critique of the political failings of OITNB. I'm torn here; in one respect it's a bit unfair to expect the first of a breed (or unique) instance to be perfect, in the other I don't want to offer it the soft bigotry of lowered expectations, to borrow a phrase.
posted by dhartung at 12:06 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


Men's rights activists grew out of the same sentiment - women talking about women's issues and men jumping in to say - but what about the men and custody cases and culture of hypermasculinity and incarceration rates etc., men have rights too!

I don't have any knowledge of the movement's roots, but do you believe the MRA movement exists only to antagonize feminism? Because I don't think that the idea that people face different problems contingent on their gender/sex is that radical of an idea.

MRAs evolved into something much uglier but regardless of conclusions reached, this author is starting from the exact same place that MRAs are. Which is the flawed presumption that discussing women's issues somehow takes something away from men. As if it's a zero sum game.

I think you're off on the wrong foot. The context here is an author whose body of work, when he discusses sex/gender at all, features articles from a largely feminist perspective. He has taken one article out of many to make a very mild critique about a tv show, a critique he considers to be feminist, about the way men are represented in the show. One critique in "favour" of men doesn't take anything away from women. It's not as if Berlatsky has suggested the show be cancelled or anything.

In context, isn't his argument the exact opposite of a "what about the men" argument? It's not even a derail; he started the conversation.

Ah, yes. "If feminism is about equality, then why is it that I, a man, am being asked to give some part of the unequal share of power that I have to women."

Whoa there. I'm debating in good faith. If you can find anything I've actually written that insinuates that I believe that, feel free to draw my attention to it. Failing that, kindly address the substance of what I'm saying rather than painting me with a political brush to satisfy your conceits. Here's what I wrote.

More to the point, are you disputing that feminism is a movement that champions equality for all? Because, in my experience, that has become a very common refrain in these debates and is specifically used to justify why men should support feminism (the political movement) and not form a new movement to champion their cause.

I have no problem with either approach, but it's disingenuous to claim that feminism supports equality for all (so a men's rights movement is unnecessary) but then insist that women's issues should be prioritized.

posted by Maugrim at 12:19 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


Can we not take the bait? Seriously, can we not?

This article's framing is ridiculous and divisive. I'm also sure it will be linked all over and generate very much ad revenue. Trolling is good business.

Yeah, the prison industrial complex in the US imprisons more men than women. More black men than other groups of men as well. Just the same, women do go to prison too. Sometimes even middle-class college-educated white women go to prison.

Setting this up as men vs. women is absurd. Talk about the show. Talk about it watering down everything. Talk about how prison sucks. Talk about female inmates. Talk about male inmates--whatever you want, but this isn't men vs. women. It should be us vs. prison or at least us vs. television.

There's a lot to talk about around this subject. Whether or not this particular show about women is harming everyone by not being about men isn't even worth discussing.
posted by yonega at 12:22 AM on July 3 [5 favorites]


>In context, isn't his argument the exact opposite of a "what about the men" argument?

This is just amazing.
posted by anti social order at 12:36 AM on July 3 [11 favorites]


What a dumb bunch of words. This reminds me of articles about "Knocked Up" that argued that Judd Apatow was very conservative because the woman didn't get an abortion after she got pregnant from a one night stand. Well, no, she didn't get an abortion in the movie because otherwise the movie wouldn't be about two people having a child together under unexpected circumstances. Sheesh.
posted by sfkiddo at 12:47 AM on July 3


"This is the sentiment I'm referring to. If that's the tack you're going take aren't you vulnerable to someone pointing out that if you're writing this on a computer with access to the internet, you are more than likely at the top of the privilege list and there are literally billions of people who we ought to concern ourselves with before you? (Yes, it's reductive but still.)"

Nope. That's called a tu quoque attack, and the difference is that portrayals of gender roles is fundamental to his argument, so criticisms or dismissals of his argument on those grounds are arguing that he's making a mistake of misplaced emphasis. The First World Computer argument is irrelevant to the underlying contentions that he's making, and is thus irrelevant as a counterargument.

"He has taken one article out of many to make a very mild critique about a tv show, a critique he considers to be feminist, about the way men are represented in the show. One critique in "favour" of men doesn't take anything away from women. It's not as if Berlatsky has suggested the show be cancelled or anything."

That's not a coherent argument. That he's an ally generally doesn't mean that he's not fucking up here, and what his argument takes away is the focus on women qua women of OITNB.

"In context, isn't his argument the exact opposite of a "what about the men" argument? It's not even a derail; he started the conversation."

… no, it's still pretty explicitly a "what about the men?" argument, including the implication of why that's bad. (An argument to pay more attention to men's roles in a given situation can literally say, "What about the men" without being a "what about the men" argument, which implies a distract, diminish and deny framework for undermining feminist contentions without addressing them directly.) It's a moment of ego and privilege-driven blindness for Berlatsky.
posted by klangklangston at 12:47 AM on July 3 [8 favorites]


Nope. That's called a tu quoque attack, and the difference is that portrayals of gender roles is fundamental to his argument, so criticisms or dismissals of his argument on those grounds are arguing that he's making a mistake of misplaced emphasis. The First World Computer argument is irrelevant to the underlying contentions that he's making, and is thus irrelevant as a counterargument.

It's relevant in a case where we're ranking "bads" in the order they should be addressed rather than simply arguing if someone is in the right or not. If the argument is, because a is worse than b, a merits all the attention, how is pointing out that c should supersede both not a valid rebuttal? Or, at least, food for thought?

I'm assuming a zero sum game which I don't think is reflective of reality but I feel that's the context the person I was responding to was using.

That's not a coherent argument. That he's an ally generally doesn't mean that he's not fucking up here, and what his argument takes away is the focus on women qua women of OITNB.

Which is why I never suggested that his being an ally excuses his writing? I've said several times I think that the article is poor. The thread throughout my posts has been that it's silly to dismiss the author's arguments because he's a MRA (he's not) as opposed to focusing on what he's actually written. I've been consistent throughout and if you find somewhere I'm not, please draw my attention to it.

So far I've seen posters addressing me make false claims about what the author wrote and impute things to me that I didn't say. Which is fine, internets and all, but it's not doing much to dissuade me that a good number of people are more interested in being on the "right" side than they are in making sense. Which, again, was my original point.

Please point out how that's incoherent.

… no, it's still pretty explicitly a "what about the men?" argument, including the implication of why that's bad. (An argument to pay more attention to men's roles in a given situation can literally say, "What about the men" without being a "what about the men" argument, which implies a distract, diminish and deny framework for undermining feminist contentions without addressing them directly.)

If the an author's body of work is largely feminist and they, in a one-off, raise an issue that impacts men, it's a "what about the men" situation? Let's say bell hooks had written this, would she be making a "what about the men" argument?
posted by Maugrim at 1:18 AM on July 3 [2 favorites]


The thread throughout my posts has been that it's silly to dismiss the author's arguments because he's a MRA

Which is a silly point to make, since zero people in this thread have made that claim. People have called the article an 'MRA ran't, true. But that is not the same thing as calling the author a MRA, in the same way that pointing out that someone's statement sounds racist does not mean that you are claiming that speaker is racist. They are addressing the argument, not the man.

Since this has been pointed out to you several times above, it would not be unreasonable for one to think that you are being willfully obtuse.

Let's say bell hooks had written this, would she be making a "what about the men" argument?


I don't know who that is, but it's not relevant. Yes, of course it would. Because that is the content of the argument.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 1:32 AM on July 3 [5 favorites]


Whoa there. I'm debating in good faith. If you can find anything I've actually written that insinuates that I believe that, feel free to draw my attention to it. Failing that, kindly address the substance of what I'm saying rather than painting me with a political brush to satisfy your conceits. Here's what I wrote.

If you'd read the rest of what I wrote, you would've seen my answer to it, but I guess I just wasn't nice enough.
posted by kagredon at 1:58 AM on July 3 [2 favorites]


"It's relevant in a case where we're ranking "bads" in the order they should be addressed rather than simply arguing if someone is in the right or not. If the argument is, because a is worse than b, a merits all the attention, how is pointing out that c should supersede both not a valid rebuttal? Or, at least, food for thought?"

We're not simply ranking bads in the order they should be addressed. So, still irrelevant.

"I'm assuming a zero sum game which I don't think is reflective of reality but I feel that's the context the person I was responding to was using."

That assumption is pretty flawed.

"Which is why I never suggested that his being an ally excuses his writing? I've said several times I think that the article is poor. The thread throughout my posts has been that it's silly to dismiss the author's arguments because he's a MRA (he's not) as opposed to focusing on what he's actually written. I've been consistent throughout and if you find somewhere I'm not, please draw my attention to it."

A critique "he considers to be feminist" does not mean it is feminist, ergo point on "ally." You followed that with a conclusion that his argument didn't take away anything; I pointed out that this is incoherent reasoning and that to placate his argument would be to take something crucial away from OITNB, which is a focus on women as women. (Likewise, arguing generally from a feminist viewpoint doesn't preclude writing from an MRA viewpoint. You're conflating identity with stance.)

So far I've seen posters addressing me make false claims about what the author wrote and impute things to me that I didn't say. Which is fine, internets and all, but it's not doing much to dissuade me that a good number of people are more interested in being on the "right" side than they are in making sense. Which, again, was my original point.

That's not a very good point. The answer to it is, "So what?" It detracts nothing from their points, and only imputes an ad hominem dismissal of their arguments based on putative motivation.

"If the an author's body of work is largely feminist and they, in a one-off, raise an issue that impacts men, it's a "what about the men" situation? Let's say bell hooks had written this, would she be making a "what about the men" argument?

"Which is why I never suggested that his being an ally excuses his writing?"

This is incoherent if the implication isn't that you're suggesting being an ally excuses writing. And since I defined my term above ("which implies a distract, diminish and deny framework for undermining feminist contentions without addressing them directly") to highlight the harm out of the form, which I do feel is moderately evidenced within the essay (something the author seems aware of but unable to resist), your rhetorical questions are missing the point.
posted by klangklangston at 2:10 AM on July 3 [3 favorites]


And, again, Berlatsky identifies as a feminist. So, by definition, it's not an MRA rant. Unless the bar for MRA is "expressing an opinion that is in any way pro-men."

You seem to have slightly misunderstood some aspect of identity politics here. If you identify as gay, then you're gay. If you identify as trans, then you're trans. If you identify as a man, you're a man. If you identify as a good, fun person, that does not necessarily make you a good, fun person. If you identify as a feminist, that does not necessarily mean you aren't misogynist, or unaware of the sea of privilege in which you may be swimming, perpetuating injustice as you do so.

You can't just 'identify as a feminist' and then get a pass on your gender politics.
posted by Dysk at 2:38 AM on July 3 [20 favorites]


(And people are calling it an 'MRA rant' not because they believe the author to be a self-identified MRA, but because the rant itself is. It's a description of the content, not of the context.)
posted by Dysk at 2:40 AM on July 3 [4 favorites]


Let's say bell hooks had written this, would she be making a "what about the men" argument?

bell hooks has not written this. Nor, I think, would bell hooks write this.

However, as soon as bell hooks does complain about the stereotypical portrayal of some of the male characters in Orange is the New Black, please hook me up with that. I would be interested by her position.

(I would also be interested in reading her Supernatural recaps, and her Fringe fanfic.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:15 AM on July 3 [13 favorites]


I don't have any knowledge of the movement's roots, but do you believe the MRA movement exists only to antagonize feminism? Because I don't think that the idea that people face different problems contingent on their gender/sex is that radical of an idea.

Here's a good examination of the movement's antagonism towards women and feminists and gender equality, while being ineffective or even counterproductive as a force for said equality. Long story short, MRAs make a lot of complaints about their pet issues but have done nothing significant to address them, and therefore spend most of their intellectual and political capital demonizing feminists, who in contrast actually have made great strides in creating protections for both women and men.
posted by zombieflanders at 3:15 AM on July 3 [10 favorites]




I can only think of three shows about womens' prisons - Bad Girls, Prisoner: Cell Block H, and OITNB. At least one of those had a huge male audience because of lesbian characters filmed for the male gaze.

I don't remember Porridge throwing in some Ronnie Barker/Richard Beckensale yaoi in the hope that more women would watch.
posted by mippy at 4:49 AM on July 3 [2 favorites]


He's got a comment in the comments on the article (dude, stop digging):
One criticism of something like Glory is that a film about the oppression of black people chooses to focus on a white character. That's not to say everything about Glory is bad (I like Glory), but it's a legitimate question to ask why the main victims of the oppression the film is ostensibly about are not center stage.

I think you can say something similar here. The main victims of incarceration are minority men first, not women. Why then is this show — the most critically central popular art dealing with our massive imprisonment problem at the moment— focused on folks who aren't the main victims? What is it about these people that makes them the lens through which we want to view this particular issue?
He seems to have completely missed his own point. OITNB has no obligation to be about men, but he seems to want men to be (more?) central in a show that is not about them or their experience.
posted by rtha at 5:53 AM on July 3 [9 favorites]


The thread throughout my posts has been that it's silly to dismiss the author's arguments because he's a MRA (he's not)

This is straight-up not something anyone was doing; you're making this up.

No one is dismissing the author's arguments because he is a known MRA. I doubt anyone here had heard of Noah Berlatsky before this thread. People are using the word "MRA" because it matches the kind of whiny entitled argument he's putting forward in his article, not because of the author's elsewhere-demonstrated political beliefs, which no one in the thread really knows or cares to know.

You keep implying people are doing ad hominems on Noah Berlatsky, but they're just reacting to the content of his bad, bad article. They're using "MRA" to describe him as he comes across in the article itself, not reacting to his self-proclaimed identity.
posted by Greg Nog at 5:54 AM on July 3 [13 favorites]


#notallinmates
posted by Foosnark at 6:22 AM on July 3 [4 favorites]


If anything, he is suggesting that the show is *not feminist* because it doesn't support equality for all.

This is a MRA thing too--saying 'oh I'm not a feminist or a MRA, I support EQUALITY and I treat ALL genders equally' is a common thing you hear in MRA forums.'
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 6:48 AM on July 3 [5 favorites]


"Ah, but in contrast to this show full of women, this man is the real feminist, because" - the setup to a really good joke
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:13 AM on July 3 [5 favorites]


Maugrim, is this really the hill you want to die on?

Please consider one salient fact: almost all of mass media is written by, produced by, and/or acted by men in an overwhelming majority. (Side note, I find it interesting that almost all of the best techies and cooks I have worked with and for have been women.) When women are involved onscreen, almost every single time they are written for the male gaze, and/or as props for the male characters, not as strong and independent characters in their own right. See also: Bechdel Test.

The problem here is that the writer is starting with a totally broken premise: that something focused on women also has to include men. I've never seen OITNB but it's impossible to avoid hearing about it, and from what I've heard there are plenty of things to critique about the show, its unrealistic portrayal of actual prison conditions in the USA, etc.

But complaining that it doesn't include enough men, and/or does so unrealistically? That is not a reasonable critique, because it is literally the only show I can think of that focuses specifically on women. Every other show around right now is male-centric, written by and for men.

When a preponderance of mass media is focused on women, and uses men only as props for the women to save/fuck, or where men are merely used to be the victims of horrifying crimes, then and only then, might his criticism be valid.

Or, in other words, what every woman in this thread has been trying to tell you. In broadly essentialist terms, his complaint is very roughly akin to complaining that The Cosby Show didn't have enough white people in it. Does that explain better where everyone is coming from?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:02 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


I find the male characters on the show really stereotypical and unidimensional. They're all obsessed with women, and all of them are sleazy. Ugh, how dare a show that is so sensitive to the minds of women create such ugly portrayals of men? Why can't this show portray white men like me more accurately? Oh....

I am pretty sure it's a deliberate choice to make the men so vapid, and I appreciated the opportunity to process what that feels like. Even to the extent that I can come here and read that apparently they are not, in fact, stereotypes, but rather accurate portraits. Sucks to have media stereotype a class of people to which you belong, but great that at least one show is helping white men understand that.
posted by one_bean at 8:24 AM on July 3 [4 favorites]


I was trying to think why it is that everyone wants Orange is the New Black to be A Show About the Thing I, Personally, Am Most Concerned About. Every thread on the show here on Metafilter has been full of this kind of stuff (not the asinine, "why isn't it about the mens" thing but take your pick of other worthy possibilities). I guess one thing it does suggest is that anything remotely like a realistic prison experience is something woefully underrepresented in our popular fiction worlds. Almost 1% of adult Americans are incarcerated. There are more prisoners in the US than there are high-school teachers, or lawyers, or doctors--and yet we have endless fictional (film, TV, novels etc.) representations of the lives of teachers, lawyers, doctors on TV. So there's nothing like the same pressure for any one example of the genre to be all things to all people.
posted by yoink at 8:37 AM on July 3 [4 favorites]


This is a bad article. OITNB is a show based on a woman's experience in a women's prison. Putting more men in the story just to fill up the cast would hardly be beneficial for men or women. Turning the focus on male prisoners could not be done in a realistic way without changing the entire premise of the show, and focusing more on male administrators at the women's prison would lessen the impact of the perspectives of the incarcerated women the show is intended to represent.

This is a MRA thing too--saying 'oh I'm not a feminist or a MRA, I support EQUALITY and I treat ALL genders equally' is a common thing you hear in MRA forums.'

This, though, I don't understand. I think equality for all is an admirable goal. What exactly makes that sentiment worthy of ridicule?

Honestly, this contention, 'Oh, that sounds like something an MRA would say!' seems like a popular derailing tactic, too. It's like a dog whistle signifying someone spoiling for a fight and looking for things to disagree about, coming up with a nonsensical reason why a laudable goal is actually a Bad Thing.
posted by misha at 8:39 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


This, though, I don't understand. I think equality for all is an admirable goal. What exactly makes that sentiment worthy of ridicule?

Because in MRA spaces it's often following or preceding a statement that shows they're not really about equality at all, or just some nonsense sexism.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:41 AM on July 3


Oz was a pretty grim indictment of the US prison system. Although I don't think even it went nearly far enough. The problem being, naturally, that because it's fiction many people wouldn't believe it's actually that bad.

This, though, I don't understand. I think equality for all is an admirable goal. What exactly makes that sentiment worthy of ridicule?

Equality for all is an admirable goal. Unfortunately, MRA don't really want equality for all, they want to go back to the 1950's. They cover themselves with that figleaf so they can keep perpetuating their vile, toxic, misogynist bullshit.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:41 AM on July 3


For that matter, there are in fact a number of male characters on OITNB, such as counselor Sam Healey (Michael Harney) who gets a typical guy-plot about struggling against disillusionment and prejudice to be a good man.

Okay, Healey is struggling against disillusionment with his job. But how is he struggling against prejudice? "Typical guy-plot" -- what is the writer even talking about?

Healey's romanticized patriarchal expectations about women are what stands in between him and his attempts at being a "good man."

Though there are a couple of exceptions (like cancer-victim Rosa, a former bank-robbing adrenaline junkie, or sociopathic new villain Vee (Lorraine Toussaint)) for the most part the characters land behind bars because of a tragic lack of love. Taystee (Danielle Brooks) is a foster-child who craves a mother; Suzanne (Uzo Aduba) is a black adoptee of a white family hungry for affection and acceptance; Morello (Yael Stone) is a stalker fixated on romantic love; even Sister Ingalls (Beth Fowler), the nun, has a story framed around her failure to connect with Jesus in her heart. The backstories don't really focus on systemic injustices. Instead, they show how individual weaknesses lead the women to prison. A woman in OITNB goes to the bad when her impulse for love is thwarted.

All you have to do to accept this thesis is disregard the clear exceptions cited, disregard the rest of the clear exceptions which are not cited (including Piper, FFS!), and ignore the fact that we don't really know exactly what crimes landed a lot the characters in prison. Then, if you spin or stretch or squint at a few of the stories, they totally fit his "thwarted love" theory!

His theory is pretty sexist.
posted by desuetude at 8:50 AM on July 3 [4 favorites]


This, though, I don't understand. I think equality for all is an admirable goal. What exactly makes that sentiment worthy of ridicule?

Well, one thing to ridicule is the "I'm not a feminist or an MRA" that precedes the "I treat everyone equally" rigamarole. Treating the former group, a movement working to liberate people from patriarchy, the same as the latter, a reactionary group that embraces patriarchy, reveals ignorance of the two groups' real natures and pulls the rug out from under the claim that follows. If a person really believed in equality, they wouldn't disclaim feminism.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:56 AM on July 3 [7 favorites]


This, though, I don't understand. I think equality for all is an admirable goal. What exactly makes that sentiment worthy of ridicule?

It's that it's the gender-politics version of 'some of my best friends are black.'
posted by shakespeherian at 9:25 AM on July 3 [8 favorites]


This, though, I don't understand. I think equality for all is an admirable goal. What exactly makes that sentiment worthy of ridicule?

Because there are two ways to construe "equality". Forgive me this admittedly simple metaphor:

Picture the patriarchy as a sloped table with two long legs on one side and two short legs on the other. Men stand on the higher side and women are on the lower side.

When a feminist wants equality, it means they want the women's side raised so that the table can be level and everyone can be equal.

When Mens' Rights Advocates want equality, they mean that if the women's side is raised up then the men's side should be raised an "equal" amount. It sounds like equality, but just maintains the status quo of the sloped table.
posted by turaho at 10:05 AM on July 3 [11 favorites]


I know I've linked to this here before, but I continue to think of Kieron Gillen's comments about introducing a bisexual character into an already queer-heavy comic book (Young Avengers):
That’s basically the implied part of what I was saying. That people who are under-represented in media have to learn to empathise with characters who are significantly different than themselves if they’re to follow pop culture at all. Conversely, people who are over-represented in media don’t, and can respond really badly when asked to do so, without realising that’s what everyone else has to do every time they turn on the TV.
I would argue that the entire point of Orange is the New Black is that it throws you deep into empathy for a wide variety of women who, even if you are female, are very different from you, cut from a population that is so often othered and dehumanized (prisoners). Whining about not having a decent character who is demographically identical to yourself to root for indicates you aren't even trying to engage with the show on the level that it is so obviously challenging you to. Doing so in an environment where you are, demographically, represented positively in almost all other media is understandably upsetting to those who don't have that.
posted by almostmanda at 10:11 AM on July 3 [3 favorites]


When Mens' Rights Advocates want equality, they mean that if the women's side is raised up then the men's side should be raised an "equal" amount. It sounds like equality, but just maintains the quo of the sloped table.

Huh. I think I get it; the sentiment is not taken to be sincere when used by MRA types because they are choosing to define equality in a less than honest way to begin with. Okay, that makes sense.

If an author's body of work is largely feminist and they, in a one-off, raise an issue that impacts men, it's a "what about the men" situation? Let's say bell hooks had written this, would she be making a "what about the men" argument?

I think context matters here, though, just as much as his body of work. He's critiquing a show about a woman's prison for not accurately depicting the penal system as a whole. Which, yeah, not really shocking given the premise, is it?

I don't know much about bell hooks. But if a critic said GRRM, while accurately depicting battlefield conditions in Game of Thrones in some cases, had totally neglected to address the significance of drone warfare, I'd be equally skeptical, because it just would not make sense within the framework of the story being told.

This op-ed, then, just comes across as general grumpiness. I gather Berlatsky has other opinions that you feel are more on the mark. This is maybe not his best work. Can you recommend any of his other critiques?
posted by misha at 10:59 AM on July 3


"Huh. I think I get it; the sentiment is not taken to be sincere when used by MRA types because they are choosing to define equality in a less than honest way to begin with. Okay, that makes sense. "

Yeah, it's tied to formalist conceptions of equality all over — the "treat everyone equally" mantra sounds good until you realize that being purely process based in evaluating equality ends up perpetuating the same problems that recognizing context can help us solve. But it's that framing that leads to a lot of entitlement and resentment from privileged people, because they only recognize that they're being treated differently and not that there's a broader, non-individualized reason for that. (They're also frequently the same folks who will dismiss things with, "Life isn't fair," which can be a bit hypocritical.)

Interestingly, from a damp squib that Corb posted in another thread, there's a Quranic concept that addresses this: ihsan, which is defined as "restoring the balance by making up a loss or deficiency."
posted by klangklangston at 11:31 AM on July 3


This image of "Equality vs. Justice" was going around for a while, and I think it's a helpful visualization of the "sloped table" metaphor (which is also great!).
posted by jaguar at 11:36 AM on July 3 [3 favorites]


Here's what this feels like to me.

Imagine a man and a woman across a table laden with foods. There's a nice roast chicken. He takes and eats the chicken. There's a plate of mashed potatoes. He takes and eats the mashed potatoes. There's a bowl of salad. He takes and eats the salad. There's a broiled salmon. He takes the salmon, cuts off one end, and puts it on the woman's plate -- "this is my gift to you. You're welcome." He eats the rest. There's a basket of bread. The woman takes the basket and lets him have one piece of bread. The man goes, "hey, that's not fair! You should have divided the bread evenly between us! You're not really interested in equality, you want to get extra! If you were really committed to fairness and doing things the right way, you would have split this with me 50/50. You've just lost me as an ally!"

There's a reason for the expression "turnabout is fair play." Sometimes turnabout is fair play.

I would support OITNB even if it had been concocted by a radical feminist bent on the clearly-envisioned goal of excluding men from the cast.
posted by prefpara at 3:11 PM on July 3 [6 favorites]


Equality for all is a very admirable goal. There are circumstances in which men are disadvantaged because of their gender. Unfortunately for everyone, MRAs have thoroughly poisoned the well on these matters. If they were as concerned as they claim to be about men's issues, they would go out there and do something about it. Volunteer for prison programs, sign up to be a Big Brother, whatever. But they don't do any of this, because they would rather attack feminism and feminists as being the cause of all their problems. Which very much shows that they don't want to fight injustice; what they want to do is keep women down. They've just found a good cloak of plausible deniability to wear. They can say "I don't hate women, I hate injustice!" Except their actions say otherwise. This is also what modern day racism looks like and what one of our (imo) best writers on race matters, Ta-Nehisi Coates, calls "Elegant Racism":

The elegant racist knows how to injure non-white people while never summoning the specter of white guilt. Elegant racism requires plausible deniability, as when Reagan just happened to stumble into the Neshoba County fair and mention state's rights.

Elegant racism is invisible, supple, and enduring. It disguises itself in the national vocabulary, avoids epithets and didacticism. Grace is the singular marker of elegant racism. One should never underestimate the touch needed to, say, injure the voting rights of black people without ever saying their names. Elegant racism lives at the border of white shame. Elegant racism was the poll tax. Elegant racism is voter-ID laws.


That is an excellent essay and I love how he illustrates how bigotry works in society today. Racism and sexism haven't disappeared, they've just kind of shape-shifted so they don't look the same anymore and so people don't recognize them. Though there are still sexists who will say (without any irony), that women shouldn't get an education, women aren't as smart, they belong barefoot in the kitchen, etc., it's generally thought in today's society that these ideas are unacceptable and that saying these things are sexist.

So what sexists say now is that they believe in equal rights and would never dream of saying of those things that society has come to recognize as sexist. But then they say - why should women's rights get all the attention? What about the men? I don't hate women, I love them! I'm a feminist! But men have problems too! Bad problems! Women should recognize that when they talk about the problems they face and always make it clear that men and women both have equal problems. In fact, women who don't do that are probably being pretty sexist themselves and actually, it's pretty much the opposite of feminism to not talk about men's problems too because feminism is all about equality right? So those women are probably not real feminists and we probably shouldn't take them seriously. Because equality! Those of us who believe men's rights should get equal treatment along with women's rights are the ones everyone should be listening to because then we men can continue to direct, dominate and ultimately control the conversation as we've been doing for centuries.

And so on, and so forth...

No reasonable person take MRAs seriously because they're so toxic and hateful. I don't think the author of this article is an MRA. But it's almost a little worse when he does it because he says he's a feminist and he could lend legitimacy to conflating the real issues that men face with women's issues. And when we start down that road, the ultimate effect is that we start delegitimizing and silencing women. And at that point it doesn't matter if the guy says he's a feminist because people can say whatever they want and you know, people say lots of shit. What matters is not the intent or the label, but the effect. And when guys like this - who people might take more seriously because he says he's a feminist and he doesn't say any of the known sexist words that society recognizes- write a nicer version of the exact same stuff that MRAs are saying, the effect is the same. Controlling and silencing women.

This is civilized sexism and is what modern sexism looks like. We don't hate women, we hate abortion and birth control because we love human life; rape is an awful thing - women I'd hate for it to happen to you, please ensure you dress modestly; women are smart and capable and can make it on their own - that is why we should cut WIC and SNAP; women are job creators too and job creators are vulnerable to lawsuits, which is why we must repeal the Equal Pay Enforcement Act - it just hurts women and entrepreneurship! And so on.

When you see people who genuinely care about men's issues talking or writing about it, they never group it in with women's issues, because real issues that men face are worthy and important enough to stand on their own. Ta-Nehisi Coates has written some excellent essays on the particularly ugly problems that young black men face in our society. There has been a lot written about the prison industrial complex in our country. We've had tons of threads on these things on Mefi and the women here who I know to be feminists (as well as men who self-identify as feminists) always treat these subjects with the importance and thoughtfulness they deserve. I have never seen any of these people suggest that a topic shouldn't or couldn't be properly discussed until we have also considered the sexism that women also face every day alongside whatever is being discussed.

For people who are genuinely interested in the distinctions between the MRA movement and people who truly care about issues men face as well as how feminism fits into all of this, Lindy West has written a lot about it here and here.
posted by triggerfinger at 3:56 PM on July 3 [25 favorites]


Flagged as damn fantastic, triggerfinger.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:07 PM on July 3 [2 favorites]


There are circumstances in which men are disadvantaged because of their gender. Unfortunately for everyone, MRAs have thoroughly poisoned the well on these matters

No, that's you doing it. When you denounce arguments made by non-MRAs as "something an MRA would say," it's you poisoning the well, not them. Is someone hears an argument for Universal Basic Income and says "A Communist would say that," it's not the fault of the Communists that you're trying to dismiss rather than listen.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 6:43 PM on July 3 [2 favorites]


When you denounce arguments made by non-MRAs as "something an MRA would say," it's you poisoning the well, not them.

Actually, it's both. The MRAs make themselves real-life straw men, and certain radical feminists occasionally over-react to non-MRA men talking about real problems men face, and in doing so, call up MRAs as straw men in debates. Still, it wouldn't happen if MRAs hadn't spent years making themselves into convenient straw men.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 6:50 PM on July 3 [1 favorite]


Someone saying something that an MRA would say, whether or not the speaker is an MRA, is still saying something an MRA would say. That doesn't mean that the speaker is an MRA, just that he is saying something an MRA would say. If he is not an MRA, then perhaps he may need to go back and clarify or rephrase or contextualize what he is saying, if he does not want to be saying something that an MRA would say.

This seems like basic reading comprehension to me. If you said something in French, and I said, "You're speaking French," I'm not saying you are French, nor am I trying to dismiss you. I'm pointing out that the language you're using is in a particular idiom that may not be the best one for the argument you're trying to make.
posted by jaguar at 6:59 PM on July 3 [4 favorites]


Just talking to my fiancee and thought of a contributory annoyance with this: It's a "sign my petition" style essay, where because his cause (the plight of prisoners in the predominantly male system) is so important that it trumps all other concerns. It's something that we're rightly annoyed at when a poster brings to MeFi (not saying that it's this post, to be clear) and fits a pattern of the default assumption being that men's problems are more important. So, it's a dumb, boorish behavior that is overlapping with a sexist trope.
posted by klangklangston at 7:29 PM on July 3 [2 favorites]


and certain radical feminists occasionally over-react to non-MRA men talking about real problems men face

I am not a radical feminist. I am a feminist inasmuch as that means--thank you upthread for the analogy--leveling the table.

MRA fuckheads make me want to puke and puke and puke and puke and then apologize to every single woman I see for what they say and do.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:17 PM on July 3


The problem isn't that people (MRAs and non-MRAs) bring up issues facing men. The problem is that MRAs exclusively bring it up in forums or spaces or around topics that are focused on women. They do this to disrupt and ruin women's spaces. There are no issues that men face that need to use the concept of women's rights as a springboard to inform or advance their cause. If these guys brought these things up separately, like - hey, our culture of hypermaculinity really harms men in particular. How can we change this? I think they'd get a much better response than when they say - hey, our culture of hypermasculinity really harms men in particular, but as usual all anyone can talk about is a women's prison show and women's prisons aren't even that bad, this is clearly just another example of reverse discrimination.

That's not to say that men can't ever bring up these issues in places where women's issues are being discussed. I think they can if they frame it correctly. This article did not do that.
posted by triggerfinger at 11:43 PM on July 3 [7 favorites]


certain radical feminists occasionally over-react

Maybe you knew this already, but in case you didn't and in case other people don't:

pedantic editor hat/

Radical feminism is a particular kind of feminism, and not in the sense that it's the most "out there" feminism, espoused by a few wild-leg-haired crazy wimmin. It's called radical because its adherents/advocates believe that patriarchy is the major (problematic!) systemic by which our culture is organized.

/pedantic editor hat

I'm pretty sure that Marxist feminists, liberal feminists, and other kinds of feminists also um, "over-"react to misogynist bullshit whether it's coming from a card-carrying MRA or someone who is unknowingly a member of that club.
posted by rtha at 7:44 AM on July 4 [10 favorites]


If these guys brought these things up separately, like - hey, our culture of hypermaculinity really harms men in particular. How can we change this? I think they'd get a much better response than when they say

So it's okay as long as they blame a culture of hypermasculinity, and only in the right places. Well that does indeed rule this piece out, since it doesn't blame a culture of hypermasculinity at all. It argues that the show, aimed primarily at middle-class women, is endorsing middle-class women's (and men's) view of black men as a mass of terrifying, faceless brutes, best locked away. But since that isn't a critique of hypermasculinity, it can get written off as MRA and tossed away.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:42 AM on July 4


That was literally an example if how someone could phrase something in a better way. The topic can be whatever you want. The point is it doesn't draw in women's issues. I should have made that clearer.
posted by triggerfinger at 1:01 PM on July 4


Noah Berlatsky has followed up - and indeed doubled down - on the whole megillah with an interview with Adam Jones, whose writings inspired the first column.

The money quote is probably:
What about the much-maligned white male? We should certainly recognize that it's been too easy for that group to be targeted for contempt and defamation—indeed, that there is no other identifiable ethnic and gender group that can be targeted in this way without arousing protest and outrage.
But much of the rest is almost as good.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:15 AM on July 16 [2 favorites]


Wow, that interview is quite something:

I do believe it's legitimate for men collectively—including men in "privileged" societies—to protest the way they are frequently demonized en bloc as violent and predatory power-mongers, and the way their interests and needs are often frozen out of the discussion of "gender issues."

That claim of being "demonized" and "frozen out" is interesting; one could almost think it a deliberate misreading of feminism so as to not engage with the actual concepts.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:33 AM on July 16 [1 favorite]


I found Berlatsky's piece quite thought-provoking. Once Jones expanded on his overall perspective, I found many of his viewpoints relatable and commonsensical. This in particular, regarding feminism and the reaction of, as well as the portrayal of, men as it relates to feminist concerns, spoke to me:

My feeling is we can't expect our own concerns and causes to receive an empathetic hearing if we don't show empathy as well for women and feminism and recognize the justice of many of their criticisms and complaints. We can likewise reasonably demand that people resist the easy temptation to heap scorn and abuse on white men as a whole, or the "men's movement," based on the actions and convictions of a relatively small and unrepresentative sector of them.

Also this:

I have an ambivalent relationship with men's-rights activists, but I suppose I have one with feminists as well. In both cases, I reject the kind of casual and offhandedly negative generalizations that are often made about the other gender. I dislike the sense I often get that these men and women are generalizing from their personal experiences and resentments. I ask advocates on both sides to really interrogate their assumptions and prejudices, and to bend over backward to be as generous and empathetic as possible—whether toward feminist movements that represent one of the greatest emancipatory currents of the last few centuries, or toward men who are currently trying to articulate their own gender concerns and rights-based grievances.
posted by misha at 8:29 AM on July 16


Which is, of course, bullshit generalizations of his own. Feminism as a movement has a long history of actively working towards equality, with well-documented results of same. The men's rights movement has neither.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:33 AM on July 16 [7 favorites]


In all of my readings, feminist theory often takes great pains not to make casual and offhandedly negative generalizations about men, in no small part because anti-feminists tend to shriek and jump all over such things. As it is, the men's rights movement has just gone ahead and made up a bunch of bullshit that they pretend feminism says about men, and unfortunately it seems a lot of 'moderate' folks who are like 'I disagree with a lot of mainstream feminism because I believe in actual equality!' have just heard these lies from MRAs and assumed that there must be some there there. (There isn't.)
posted by shakespeherian at 8:40 AM on July 16 [8 favorites]


From a journalistic perspective, it's notable that Berlatsky is looking to discuss his specific argument that Orange is the New Black treats black men unfairly by not highlighting their disproportionate incarceration levels, while Jones is very much interested in the way white men are the one minority it's OK to criticize.

Berlatsky has to explicitly bring his angle up by asking whether it wouldn't make sense to attribute the high levels of incarceration of black men to racism, rather than sexism, and gets totally shut down, so has to come at it again with:
Wouldn't it make more sense to say that certain minority masculinities are demonized, rather than saying that masculinity is hated in itself?
Sometimes an interviewee just will not go through the gate you've opened for them.
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:48 AM on July 16 [2 favorites]


Again: It's not a generalization to point out that the current men's rights movements is almost entirely based on an angry reaction to feminism, or that it's not limited to "a relatively small and unrepresentative sector of them." The link I posted above shows exactly how MRAs and their ilk have done nothing of note but attack feminists and women in general, sometimes to the point of excusing away violence (sexual or otherwise). Much has been written about how this has been to the detriment of actually helping men who have been marginalized (by factors other than feminism), but Berlatsky and Jones don't seem to care. Indeed, they seem eager to play the stupid "both sides do it equally" game so popular in political and social trend journalism, to the point where they'll just make trends up or ignore actual ones to appear "neutral."
posted by zombieflanders at 8:49 AM on July 16 [4 favorites]


I have an ambivalent relationship with men's-rights activists,

What is to be ambivalent about? Is there some secret section of that movement where feminism and the women and men who believe in it are not lied about, demonized, and blamed?
posted by rtha at 9:01 AM on July 16 [4 favorites]


I think that's the argument that Jones is making - and I think it explains why he seems to identify both as an (ambivalent) member of the Men's Rights Activist movement and as an (ambivalent) feminist - he sees a centre ground which is concerned both about the problems facing women and the problems facing men.

The problem with this being that actually the set of people who care about issues like the industrial incarceration of black men in the United States and the crisis of masculinity tend _also_ to be more or less aligned with the feminist movement and other social justice movements.

And I think Berlatsky does try to pull it back to talking about race, in response to Jones setting out his area of concern as the vilification of white men, but Jones declines to engage with the idea that race might be anything other than a subordinate factor in misandry. Hence the claim that anti-Semitic Nazi propaganda only demonized Jewish men, which is one of those situations where it is actually easier to be right, and say that Nazi propaganda overwhelmingly focused on demonizing Jewish men.

I'm not unsympathetic to the interviewer, there - it's tricky when you find that your interviewee not only doesn't want to focus on the thing you want him/her to speak to, but literally can't - often because of an NDA or a legal settlement, but in this case because it's contrary to their entire project to acknowledge that such a conversation is a valid use of time.

(Like, cf Will Shetterley, for example, arguing that discussions of race are not valuable, because the valuable conversation to have is about class.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:17 AM on July 16


To clarify:

I feel that "interrogating your own assumptions and prejudices", and being as generous and empathetic to everyone as possible are tenets I absolutely support.

I think we can easily make the case that groups like "a voice for men" are actually hate groups rather than activist groups, so arguing that there are two equal sides to this debate is not intellectually honest, sure. Those groups certainly do not question their hurtful and hateful assumptions about women, nor do they practice empathy themselves, especially toward outspoken feminist women.

But I think we can all agree that they should, right?

And I also feel that some--by no means all!--very passionate and sincerely determined-to-change-the-world-for-the-better young people lose sight of the forest for the trees, becoming so entrenched in their respective (fundamentally academic) schools of thought regarding gender relations that they start viewing the entire world through a, for lack of a better term, Lens of Sexism. Their passion subsumes their empathy, which leads to a a lack of critical perspective regarding their own observations and a tendency to view anyone not speaking precisely their language as feminazis, misogynsts, neckbeards, dudebros, what have you. Which is diametrically opposed to the desired result, of course.

Hence this:
I reject the kind of casual and offhandedly negative generalizations that are often made about the other gender. I dislike the sense I often get that these men and women are generalizing from their personal experiences and resentments

Absolutely resonated with me.
posted by misha at 1:39 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


On one hand are groups you acknowledge are "actually hate groups". Although you didn't say this, it's been shown that they actively work against things like women's shelters and anti-domestic-violence laws. On the other hand are over-zealous young people who are… what, saying mean things about MRAs? I don't remember seeing anyone putting forth evidence that social-justice types are working against legal protections for men or anything like that.

These groups are not equivalent. They're hardly even similar. Yeah, you can tar them both with the "over-zealous about own views" brush, but other than that, no.
posted by Lexica at 2:46 PM on July 16 [7 favorites]


That's...not even remotely what I wrote.

I didn't draw an equivalency between those groups. Why are you mischaracterizes what I wrote, Lexica?
posted by misha at 5:49 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


Honestly, Misha, I don't get what you were trying to do there. I think you might think you are being clearer than you are.

You mentioned two sets of people - members of hate groups and overenthusiastic young people who see things through a lens of sexism. It's not clear whether you mean in the second case only liberals - it seems a logical inference, but the presence of "feminazis" suggests it may also mean people who feel some sympathy for MRA ideology but are not part of hate groups.

You ask whether we don't agree that the members of MRA hate groups should question their assumptions about women, and practice empathy towards outspoken women.

The reasonable inference is that you're arguing that we should hold the second group to the same standard that we would like to see in the first group - questioning their assumptions and practising empathy.

So... yeah. I don't know if you want to call that an equivalency, or a parellelism, or some kind of rhetorical zeugma, but that seems to be what's happening.

Which I think falls away from the common sense test pretty quickly, because I think what I generally want of a hate group is that it not be a hate group. The questioning assumptions and feeling empathy stuff is gravy, but the big thing is not be a hate group. Not advocate for violence against women. Not encourage shootings. Not harass rape survivors. Stuff like that.

And there really isn't anything comparable that I'd want the second group to do, because they are by definition not a hate group.

So... yeah.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:08 PM on July 16 [2 favorites]


It's not clear whether you mean in the second case only liberals - it seems a logical inference,

Where in the world are you getting ANY of that from? No,that is NOT a logical inference at all. I never even mentioned liberals, I am a liberal myself...ARRRGGGHHH.

Okay, how about I just outline my thought process for you? I must not be communicating properly, if my words are causing this much confusion. So I will just lay my thinking out in a nice, orderly fashion, showing my work where possible.

Portions of the Berlatsky/Jones Interview Which
Misha Felt Had Merit
(with supporting arguments)

I. My feeling is we can't expect our own concerns and causes to receive an empathetic hearing if we don't show empathy as well for women and feminism and recognize the justice of many of their criticisms and complaints. We can likewise reasonably demand that people resist the easy temptation to heap scorn and abuse on white men as a whole, or the "men's movement," based on the actions and convictions of a relatively small and unrepresentative sector of them.

A. Why this section specifically?
1. "I feel that "interrogating your own assumptions and prejudices", and being as generous and empathetic to everyone as possible are tenets I absolutely support."

B. Do you mean by that we should give sexism a pass and/or put groups like 'a voice for men', which claim to be men's rights activism, on an equal footing with the feminist movement?!
1. No. "I think we can easily make the case that groups like "a voice for men" are actually hate groups rather than activist groups, so arguing that there are two equal sides to this debate is not intellectually honest, sure."
2. One of the reasons those groups ARE bad is "Those groups certainly do not question their hurtful and hateful assumptions about women, nor do they practice empathy themselves, especially toward outspoken feminist women."
3. It is pretty clear, then, why a lack of empathy and not questioning one's belief as a bad idea. "I think we can all agree that they should [practice empathy and critically evaluate their own beliefs], right?"

II. I have an ambivalent relationship with men's-rights activists, but I suppose I have one with feminists as well. In both cases, I reject the kind of casual and offhandedly negative generalizations that are often made about the other gender. I dislike the sense I often get that these men and women are generalizing from their personal experiences and resentments. I ask advocates on both sides to really interrogate their assumptions and prejudices, and to bend over backward to be as generous and empathetic as possible—whether toward feminist movements that represent one of the greatest emancipatory currents of the last few centuries, or toward men who are currently trying to articulate their own gender concerns and rights-based grievances.

A. Why this section specifically?
1. I can relate to the part where Jones says I reject the kind of casual and offhandedly negative generalizations that are often made about the other gender. I dislike the sense I often get that these men and women are generalizing from their personal experiences and resentments.

B. Okay, aren't you you equating men's rights activists with feminists NOW?
1. No.
a. I commented again to clarify that the part which "absolutely resonates with me" is specifically Section II.A.1. in this outline.

C. Are you hating on liberals?
1. No.
a. Seriously, WTF?

D. What the hell DO you mean, then?
1. "And I also feel that some--by no means all!--very passionate and sincerely determined-to-change-the-world-for-the-better young people lose sight of the forest for the trees, becoming so entrenched in their respective (fundamentally academic) schools of thought regarding gender relations that they start viewing the entire world through a, for lack of a better term, Lens of Sexism."
a. What it says on the tin.
2. "Their passion subsumes their empathy, which leads to a a lack of critical perspective regarding their own observations and a tendency to view anyone not speaking precisely their language as feminazis, misogynsts, neckbeards, dudebros, what have you."
a. SEE Section I.A.1 about empathy, interrogating your own views critically, and a prime example of why not doing this is a Bad Thing.
3. "Which is diametrically opposed to the desired result, of course." Harmful stereotyping, lack of empathy, and a failure to examine your own views critically leads to Bad Things. Like hate groups. Again, refer to Section I.A.1 in this outline for Reasons.
posted by misha at 9:22 PM on July 16


Where in the world are you getting ANY of that from? No,that is NOT a logical inference at all. I never even mentioned liberals, I am a liberal myself...ARRRGGGHHH.

Well:
And I also feel that some--by no means all!--very passionate and sincerely determined-to-change-the-world-for-the-better young people lose sight of the forest for the trees, becoming so entrenched in their respective (fundamentally academic) schools of thought regarding gender relations that they start viewing the entire world through a, for lack of a better term, Lens of Sexism. Their passion subsumes their empathy, which leads to a a lack of critical perspective regarding their own observations and a tendency to view anyone not speaking precisely their language as feminazis, misogynsts, neckbeards, dudebros, what have you.
This largely seems to fit into your ongoing antagonism against various expressions of feminism (which you tend to group under the pejorative soubriquet "Portlandia Liberalism"). Except for the part where you throw in "feminazis" - which suggests, somewhat confusingly, that you think the same set of circumstances - a desire to change the world for the better, an academic environment, creates both the wrong kinds of feminists, and also anti-feminists.

This clarification I think is further confusing, because:

Harmful stereotyping, lack of empathy, and a failure to examine your own views critically leads to Bad Things. Like hate groups.

Is presented as a logical sequence when it's actually a series of jumps. Your model of how people are radicalised (through a lack of empathy) seems a bit internal, and second I don't think we have a lot of examples of feminist hate groups to match up against the MRAs. The best we can do, I think, is probably the Trans-Exclusive Radical Feminists, but there are very few of those.

For that formulation to work, I think there would have to be lots of feminists forming groups equivalent to A Voice for Men, and I don't think there are.

So... I think if your two parts are totally discrete:

a) MRAs are hate groups, and are thus outside the field of acceptable discourse
b) Academic feminists and anti-feminists both need to show more empathy.

Then that's one thing. But the bridge:

But I think we can all agree that they should, right?

Kind of makes a mess of the whole thing, by relating the lack of empathy you associate with academic feminists and anti-feminists with some sort of pupation leading ultimately to hate groups.

So, yeah. There's an unsustainable leap between your 1.B.3 and your 2.D.3, basically. It's not the only issue, but it's the big one.
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:04 PM on July 16 [2 favorites]


(More broadly, I think that's leading from an issue with Jones' argument - it specifically and unequivocally draws an equivalence between MRAs and feminists, but it doesn't seem to have a clear definition of what it means by "Men's Rights Activists".

Jones seems to see Men's Rights Activism as a broad church, with extremes used to justify the vilification of white men. To which I think I would respond that I don't think it actually is a very broad church; I think the productive work on issues facing men is being done elsewhere. And I think further that - and this is a purely personal response - Jones' focus on the tribulations of white men weakens his argument - or more precisely demonstrates its limitations.

So the paragraph:
My feeling is we can't expect our own concerns and causes to receive an empathetic hearing if we don't show empathy as well for women and feminism and recognize the justice of many of their criticisms and complaints. We can likewise reasonably demand that people resist the easy temptation to heap scorn and abuse on white men as a whole, or the "men's movement," based on the actions and convictions of a relatively small and unrepresentative sector of them.
Is on one level a fairly anodyne call for mutual empathy, but it's also a mix both of "what about the (white) men" and "not all (white) men". The two parts don't balance. Men are being told to show empathy. Women are being told not to "heap scorn and abuse" on white men.

Whereas in your restatement all groups are being instructed to show mutual empathy, and to unheap scorn, which is a little different...)
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:23 PM on July 16 [3 favorites]


"Once Jones expanded on his overall perspective, I found many of his viewpoints relatable and commonsensical."

Yeah, though even Jones seems to caution against basing arguments on relatability and common sense. (cf. "I dislike the sense I often get that these men and women are generalizing from their personal experiences and resentments.")

Jones makes dubious assertions throughout the interview, implying more than he can actually demonstrate, e.g. "It's long been recognized that gender can be trumped by, for example, social class."

Which is true as a statement; class can trump gender in some situations. However, that doesn't mean that class trumps gender in all, most or even many situations. Rich women still get sexually harassed. And by framing it this way, it also ignores that through what can pretty literally be described as an active conspiracy (e.g. separate want ads for women) to restrict the economic mobility of women that has only really ebbed in its most overt displays. That class thing? It tends to amplify existing sexism toward women, not ameliorate it as Jones implies.

The other big misleading part of the interview is that many of the injustices he cites can already be explained without including "misandry," and the way he glibly laundy-lists complex items, e.g. male versus female incarceration rates, makes other ambiguous things that he says less deserving of charitable inference.
posted by klangklangston at 11:57 PM on July 16 [3 favorites]


I was trying to go the extra mile and assume good faith and that the fault was mine for not communicating clearly, but you're obviously just looking to start an argument with me here., running_order_squabble_fest.

Doesn't matter what I actually write; you just feel free to change my words to suit your own prejudice anyway!

While I quantify and qualify, you go right ahead and deliberately change my "some, by no means all!" into all.

When I do not specify any particular group or gender, you settle on feminists (and before that liberals!), apparently just so that you can dishonestly characterize my comments here in this thread as part of an "ongoing antagonism against various expressions of feminism".

You even bring up the phrase Portlandia Liberalism for no other reason than to accuse me of having a tendency to bring up Portlandia Liberalism!

I guess I could get angry. You seem so determined to rile me up.

But honestly? This is just so absurd it's become hilarious to me now.

(Thanks, klangklangston, for engaging in the actual discussion with me in good faith!)
posted by misha at 12:46 AM on July 17


While I quantify and qualify, you go right ahead and deliberately change my "some, by no means all!" into all.

I have no idea what that means, or what it is failing to quote. I was trying to make sense of:

And I also feel that some--by no means all!--very passionate and sincerely determined-to-change-the-world-for-the-better young people lose sight of the forest for the trees, becoming so entrenched in their respective (fundamentally academic) schools of thought regarding gender relations that they start viewing the entire world through a, for lack of a better term, Lens of Sexism. Their passion subsumes their empathy, which leads to a a lack of critical perspective regarding their own observations and a tendency to view anyone not speaking precisely their language as feminazis, misogynsts, neckbeards, dudebros, what have you.

I mean, it would save some time if you could just explain who that was actually a dog whistle for, rather than get angry about my gloss (academic feminists and anti-feminists), but it seems like that's not a route you're choosing, and honestly I can't really fault that decision from your perspective.
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:58 AM on July 17


Misha, I don't don't think rosf is engaging in bad faith and I am a little dismayed that it seems like you jump to the bad-faith conclusion a lot when people are disagreeing with you or failing to understand your meaning.
posted by shakespeherian at 4:33 AM on July 17 [4 favorites]


[Yes, this is straying quite far into metadiscussion territory I feel. Frankly I see no compelling reason to believe anyone's arguing in bad faith here: to lift a phrase from Wikipedia's dusty back rooms, I'd politely suggest not just assuming good faith but assuming the assumption of good faith. If that doesn't seem to be working out for whatever reason, folks are as always welcome to let us know via the contact form. I want to stress that we take every message seriously. Until such time however, please keep it civil? Thank you!]
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 4:51 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]


Okay, heading to contact form.
posted by misha at 11:45 AM on July 17


This paragraph probably best encapsulates how I feel about modern gender politics in the USA.

"I have an ambivalent relationship with men's-rights activists, but I suppose I have one with feminists as well. In both cases, I reject the kind of casual and offhandedly negative generalizations that are often made about the other gender. I dislike the sense I often get that these men and women are generalizing from their personal experiences and resentments. I ask advocates on both sides to really interrogate their assumptions and prejudices, and to bend over backward to be as generous and empathetic as possible—whether toward feminist movements that represent one of the greatest emancipatory currents of the last few centuries, or toward men who are currently trying to articulate their own gender concerns and rights-based grievances."

Thanks for that link.
posted by bswinburn at 12:44 PM on July 17 [1 favorite]


I mean, sure, you can believe it...but it's not true. Feminism as a movement doesn't do what he's saying, outside of an extremely tiny minority, while the men's rights movement is pretty much built on it, and certainly thrives on it (again, outside of an extremely tiny minority). That's a quantifiable, tangible statement of fact. Surely you don't actually believe that the mainline feminist organizations, the driving forces in attempting to affect change in legal and cultural approaches at all levels of society, are hate groups? Or that the leadership of those organizations are using the distaff counterparts of "whore," "bitch," and the like at all (let alone on a regular basis like AVFM and others), or advocating that men be stripped of their rights, or denying the existence of rape culture, or saying that Channing Tatum's abs are proof of men's inherent sluttiness and lack of worth in society?
posted by zombieflanders at 1:11 PM on July 17 [2 favorites]


In most feminist spaces of which I have been a part, I have found a ton of exploration of men's experiences in the world and how the patriarchy has really screwed most men over. I have also found an awareness that women should not be leading any sort of activist movement on that front (in the same way that it would be inappropriate for men to lead a women's movement), but I have seen (and participated in) a ton of support for organizations and individuals that do focus on liberating men from gender-based oppression -- as long as that liberation includes women, too. There is almost always an awareness that women's freedom includes men's.

MRA groups tend to bash feminism and women and advocate for a return to more traditional gender roles as a means of giving back power to men and taking power back from women. I have never seen any awareness that men's freedom includes women's.

Most feminists absolutely support liberation for everyone. Most MRAs fervently do not.
posted by jaguar at 3:47 PM on July 17 [3 favorites]


Okay, jaguar and zombieflanders, but maybe you could address the substance of the actual quote instead of talking about hate groups and the like?

For instance, "I reject the kind of casual and offhandedly negative generalizations that are often made about the other gender". You don't think those are okay, do you?
posted by misha at 11:04 PM on July 17


The quote legitimizes hate groups by equating them with feminist groups. You can't decontextualize the quote like that. Because often, privileged groups dismiss valid (and careful, thought-out) criticism as "casual and offhandedly negative generalizations," and there's a huge asymmetry in the effects of stereotyping in-power and disempowered groups of people.

If you want to strip it down to "People shouldn't say mean things about each other," well, then, ok, I'll sign on to that, but that's just sweeping enormous power differentials and historical realities under the rug, and I don't think it's helpful in any meaningful way when talking about gender.
posted by jaguar at 7:24 AM on July 18 [4 favorites]


It's not like he compared a feminist tumblr site run by college students to a more staid group like the National Organization for Women. Or, heck, even Concerned Women for America, if you want to get even more politically oppositional about it. He compared one group (men's rights activists) that very specifically wants to restrict rights for women to other groups (all feminist groups? only the shrieky ones? I dunno, he's not very clear about that) that very specifically don't. It's apples and....not even another fruit. Salmon. He's comparing apples and salmon. That is the substance of the quote.
posted by rtha at 7:31 AM on July 18 [4 favorites]


"I reject the kind of casual and offhandedly negative generalizations that are often made about the other gender"

I reject casual and offhandedly negative generalizations made about any gender. The quote in its context, however, suggests that such generalizations are made so 'often' enough by feminists that they deserve to be called out simultaneously with such generalizations which are made by MRAs-- and, as addressed by several people above, these generalizations are foundational to the MRA movement and incidental-- even contrary-- to the feminist movement. It introduces an equivalence, a 'both sides could stand some improvement!' notion that belies the facts. Like imagine you come around a corner and see a dude shrieking at his wife, telling her she's not a good wife, she's ugly, she needs to stay home and take care of the kids and not speak back, she's such a typical useless woman, and she says, quietly, 'I hate you,' and then you were like 'Okay, whoa guys, you both need to reign in it!'
posted by shakespeherian at 7:34 AM on July 18 [4 favorites]


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