Factchecking a list of "Hateful Quotes From Feminists"
Posted by David Futrelle
|Making a list, checking it twice.|
Periodically, in the comments here, someone will post a dubious list of “evil feminist quotes” they have found on some Men’s Rights or antifeminist website. These lists are always faintly ridiculous, filled with decades-old quotes from a handful of radical feminists (most notably, Andrea Dworkin), most of whom have been soundly criticized by other feminists and whose ideas have been rejected by the majority of feminists today. The lists also tend to be very sloppily put together. When I’ve gone to check the accuracy of these lists, I’ve invariably run into problems — one quote may have come from a character in a novel, another may be a quote that doesn’t reflect the author’s own point of view, and so on.
Recently, one of the antifeminists who regularly comments here (Cold) posted a link to one such list, helpfully titled “Hateful Quotes From Feminists.” It’s fairly typical of these sorts of lists: many of the quotes are decades old, there are ten quotes from a single radical feminist — yes, Andrea Dworkin — and the list is sloppily put together.
I decided to give this list a fairly thorough fact-checking. And the results were, well, more or less what I expected, which is to say that the list was a sloppy mixture of truth, half-truth and outright falsehood.
The story, in brief: Some of the quotes I checked were indeed accurate — or mostly accurate. But several quotes were simply imaginary, or uttered by fictional characters; one was a complete misrepresentation of what the author was saying; two were paraphrased, which is to say, words put in the mouths of feminist authors by feminist critics; some were from obscure or anonymous sources, and in a few cases it wasn’t clear if those quoted were feminists at all; several were improperly sourced. There were a number of quotes that didn’t specify where they were from, and which turned out to be impossible to check. And then there were a couple of quotes which were not actually hateful at all.
I didn’t check everything in the list, but –if you have the patience for it — let’s go through what I did check, as a sort of case study in the shoddiness of much antifeminist propaganda.
Let’s start off with the very first quote:
“In a patriarchal society all heterosexual intercourse is rape because women, as a group, are not strong enough to give meaningful consent.” Catherine MacKinnon in Professing Feminism: Cautionary Tales from the Strange World of Women’s Studies, p. 129.
We’re off to a bad start here. This is not a quote from MacKinnon. The words were in fact written by Daphne Patai and Noretta Koertge, the actual authors of “Professing Feminism,” a polemical book critical of feminism. They purport to summarize the views of MacKinnon and Dworkin, though, as Snopes points out in its debunking of the false quote, both M and D have specifically stated that they don’t believe intercourse is rape. Apparently the quote was attributed to MacKinnon in a column by right-wing columnist Cal Thomas, which is evidently how it entered the land of antifeminist mythology. Somewhere along the line, Catharine had her name changed to Catherine.
Then there’s this alleged quote from Andrea Dworkin:
“Heterosexual intercourse is the pure, formalized expression of contempt for women’s bodies.”
According to Wikiquote, this quote is quite literally fictional:
The first appearance of this quote is from P: A Novel (2003) by Andrew Lewis Conn as a quote from the fictional feminist “Corinne Dwarfkin”. The original reads “In capsule form, my thesis is that heterosexual intercourse is the pure, distilled expression of men’s contempt for women.” In the slightly altered form given above, the quote is attributed in several books to Andrea Dworkin. Neil Boyd, in Big Sister (2004) attributes the quote to Letters from a War Zone, however, this quote, nor any one with similar phrasing, appears in that work.
Indeed, our listmaker seem to have a lot of trouble quoting Dworkin correctly. A bunch of the quotes are taken from her book Letters From a War Zone, which I happen to own. The first quote I checked was this one:
“The newest variations on this distressingly ancient theme center on hormones and DNA: men are biologically aggressive; their fetal brains were awash in androgen; their DNA, in order to perpetuate itself, hurls them into murder and rape.” Andrea Dworkin, Letters from a War Zone, p. 114.
It’s a weird quote, which sounds a lot like it’s coming from the the middle of a complicated argument. That’s because it is. And when you read what precedes it, it becomes clear that it’s NOT a statement of Dworkin’s own beliefs. She was in fact summarizing (in her own words) the beliefs of “male supremacist” sociobiologists like Edward O. Wilson. It may or may not be a fair summary of their views, but that’s not the point: it’s NOT what she thought. Later in the paragraph, in fact, she compared these views to Hitler’s.
The other quotes from the book are more or less accurate. Words are missing, moved from one sentence to another, verb tenses are changed; they’re very sloppy transcriptions, but at least they aren’t complete and utter misrepresentations of what Dworkin wrote.
There’s also quote from Andrea Dworkin that’s listed as being from “Liberty, p. 58.” Dworkin never wrote a book called Liberty. But I found the quote in what seems to be a scholarly work; it’s evidently from Dworkin’s book Our Blood.
Finally, there are a few other alleged quotes from Dworkin; they don’t have sources listed for them. I found the quotes elsewhere online — but only on dubious “quote pages” and other iterations of “evil feminist” lists. They sound Dworkin-ish, but given the listmaker’s track record I have no faith that they are actually real, correctly transcribed Dworkin.
It’s bizarre. How hard is it to find hair-raising quotes from Andrea Dworkin? Dworkin was so radical that most feminists disagree with her, sometimes violently. You could practically pick a sentence at random from almost any of her books and chances are good it would offend somebody — including me. A number of her writings are available online. How lazy and sloppy do you have to be to fuck up your Dworkin quotes like this?
Let’s now turn to Marilyn French’s famously fictional quote:
“All men are rapists and that’s all they are.” Marilyn French in People, February 20, 1983
Oh, the quote is real — she wrote it — but it is not a statement of French’s beliefs. Nor did it originate in People magazine. It is a line of dialogue from her book The Woman’s Room. Wikipedia, take it away:
Following the rape of Val’s daughter Chris, Val states (over Mira’s protests), “Whatever they may be in public life, whatever their relationships with men, in their relationships with women, all men are rapists, and that’s all they are. They rape us with their eyes, their laws, and their codes” (p. 433). Critics have sometimes quoted Val’s dialogue as evidence of French’s misandry without noting that the passage is only spoken by one of many characters in the novel.
Now, it’s true that this sentence was quoted in People magazine — in the issue of Feb 20 1979, not Feb 20, 1983 as claimed. It’s not clear from the rather sloppy People article that this is a line from the book, but it is.
In the article, French notes that the book is partly based on her experience — drawing on the emotions she herself felt after her own daughter was raped.
“Sometimes I felt so violent about it and how the courts treated her,” French admits, “that there seemed no recourse but to go out, buy a gun and shoot the kid who did it, and the lawyers too. I couldn’t help my own child.” Plenty of that rage made its way into The Women’s Room. “I’m less angry now. Being too deep in anger corrodes your interior.”
So, again, it is very clear that the “all men are rapists” quote is meant to reflect a character awash in rage and pain; it is not an ideological statement of misandry.
The “Hateful Quotes” list also contains a bunch of quotes from people I’ve never heard of; they’re obviously not major feminist figures, and may not even be feminists. Gordon Fitch? Never heard of the guy, and can’t find anything about him online.
Hodee Edwards? Never heard of her either, and I can only find a handful of mentions of her online, but she’s mentioned in the footnotes of a Catharine MacKinnon book, and it looks as though she is, or at least was, a feminist with Marxist leanings. But there is no way to even find out what the source of the quote is — a book, an essay, a quotation in a news story? — much less actually find the source and confirm that the quote is real.
EDITED TO ADD: I’ve been contacted by Hodee Edwards’ granddaughter, who tells me that her grandmother never said or wrote the quote attributed to her; while Edwards was indeed a Marxist and a feminist, she was not anti-sex. (The faux quote in question claims that all sex is rape.) Edwards has recently passed away, and her family members have been, the granddaughter tells me, “very distressed to learn that this quote has somehow been linked to my grandmother’s name on the Internet.”
Then there’s Pat Poole:
Melbourne City Councilwoman Pat Poole announced her opposition to renaming a street for Martin Luther King: “I wonder if he really accomplished things, or if he just stirred people up and caused a lot of riots.”
Who the hell is Pat Poole? I looked her up, and yes, she was a city councilwoman in Melbourne, Florida, but I was unable to find out much beyond that. Is the quote accurate? I don’t know. There’s no source given, and I can’t find the original quote online. Is she actually a feminist, or is the author of the list simply assuming she is one because she’s a woman?
And then of course there is the anonymous “Liberated Woman” whose quote ends the list. She definitely sounds like a feminist. We just don’t know for sure if she or the quote are real.
Moving on, I can’t help but notice that a number of the allegedly hateful quotes are in fact not hateful at all. Take, for example, Barbara Ehrenreich’s quote about the family, which is in fact part of a sharply written essay on “family values.” You can find it here.
Here’s another distinctly non-hateful quote:
“Women take their roles of caretakers very seriously and when they hear of someone who’s taken advantage of a child, they react more strongly than men do.” – Kathleen C. Faller, professor of social work at the University of Michigan
Faller, if she did indeed say this, may or may not be correct, but it’s hard to see how this is “hateful.” Women on average spend much more time caring for children than men do and it may well be that, on average, they react more strongly than men. I couldn’t find the quote in question — again, this is because the listmaker didn’t actually provide the source — but her faculty web page is here.
Then there’s this “hateful” quote on religion:
“God is going to change. We women… will change the world so much that He won’t fit anymore.” Naomi Goldenberg, Changing of the Gods: Feminism and the End of Traditional Religions.
The quote is real; Goldenberg is indeed a feminist theologian. But here’s a little newsflash: There are lots of people in the world, feminist and non-feminist, who do not believe in traditional notions of God. Or in God at all. Nietzsche famously said “God is Dead,” Richard Dawkins says God is “a delusion,” and about 80 zillion internet athiests (many of them not feminists in the slightest) regularly compare belief in God to belief in unicorns, fairies, and Santa Claus.
The quote from Catherine Comins — a favorite “evil feminist quote” amongst MRAs — has its origins in a Time magazine article, but it is not actually a quote from her; it is someone else’s summary of what she told Time in the article in question. Nor do we know the full context in which she spoke.
I don’t have the time or patience to fact-check the rest of the list. If anyone out there happens to have time and/or patience, or happens to own any of the books that are cited as sources, feel free to fact check it yourself and post your findings. (EDITED TO ADD: triplanetary has risen to the challenge, and has factchecked the rest of the list, as well as offering some excellent commentary on the alleged “hatefulness” of many of the quotes. You can find the post here.)
The numerous errors in this list — some minor, some huge — say something not only about the creator of this list but about all those who’ve distributed this list without, clearly, bothering to check anything in it . (Or, in the case of Cold, to contine to distribute a list he’s pretty sure is less than reliable.) Is this the result of laziness, or dishonesty? A bit of both, I imagine.
But I think this list is also a symptom of the tendency of many in the Men’s Rights movement to inflate the evils of their opponents. So many MRAs are so determined to prove that their supposed oppression is worse than that of women, and so determined to blame it all on feminism, that they need to make their opponents larger than life and twice as nasty. Given that the feminism they fight is largely a paranoid fantasy, bearing very little resemblance to feminism as it actually exists in the world today, it’s hardly shocking that a number of the quotes on this little list are fictional — and that none of the MRAs posting this list here and there on the internet seem to have even noticed (or, if they have noticed, to care, or at least to care enough to stop distributing the list). When you’re fighting phantoms in your own mind, the truth doesn’t really matter, does it?
Given how poorly this list held up to my fack-checking attempts, from now on I will consider this list and others like it spam, and delete any comments that link to them.
If any of you antifeminists still feel the desire to post “evil feminist quotes” in the comments here, you may do so, but only if you (or the list that you link to) provides clickable links to the original sources of the quotes in question. If you can’t provide a link to the source, I’ll delete it.
When I quote from MRAs and MGTOW-ites and other misogynists on this blog, I provide links to the sources. What’s so hard about that?
EDIT: Fixed links, and a few verb tenses.
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