Over the years, several people have asked me why I debate with feminists. According to those people, feminists will never consider my positions no matter how balanced, so I should not bother with them. Many people hold that view. Mensactivism has a post arguing a similar position. In it, Matt wrote:
Occasionally MANN admins receive an email from someone saying they said something on a feminist web site that got them banned immediately, or flamed and put on moderation, and gee, why did that happen? The thing they said is usually simply a questioning of a presumption or an ask for more evidence, usually not something inherently offensive. But to feminists, any questioning of their ideas, presumptions, or evidence is. I was sent a link to this video for my own “amusement” but have decided to post it. It’s a collage of what it looks like to actually try to have a debate or public encounter with feminists about men’s rights issues. It’s NSFW since there are a lot of curse words hurled around.
Debating/reasoning/arguing with feminists is an utterly futile cause. In my experience, the only feminist who stops being a feminist is one who realizes him/herself in a moment of epiphany just what has been going on here. So IMO, it’s better to spend time and energy educating others than talking to a wall with no ears (and one that hurls obscenities back at you, to boot). But if you want to argue with them because you think it’s constructive in some way for the movement or there’s a chance you may be able to persuade one to see reason, then by all means; you got more optimism than me!
I see Matt’s point. For the most part, ideologues of any type will not budge from their position no matter how much evidence one puts in front of them. Think of the hardcore conservatives who continue to refute climate change. Think of the Christian right who deny evolution. Think of the progressives who argue that an unborn child is somehow less human than its mother.
Those type of people cannot be convinced even if one beat them with the evidence. This also applies to many feminists. People like Jessica Valenti, Hugo Schwyzer, Amanda Marcotte, Michael Flood, and Michael Kimmel dismissed clear evidence disproving their positions. They are so adamant and narrow-minded in their worldview that one could imagine that if they witnessed some of the acts they might deny they occured.
However, my reason for debating feminists is not to convince them of my position. I never assume that anything I say to feminists in general is convincing, and I always assume that the more ardent the feminist, the less likely that person will believe anything I say. My reason for debating them is two-fold.
First, to demonstrate the flaws in their arguments. Most feminists are not used to defending their arguments against substantive questions. They can rally against “feminist hate men” arguments, but when asked to explain the misandry in their doctrine and community they quibble. By challenging them to explain what they think and why they think it, I can allow them to point out the flaws in their own arguments.
Second, to demonstrate just how feminists think. Much of the counter argument against claims that feminists hate men is that, feminist argue, they do not actually think like that. However, when asked to explain what they do think, one often finds that many feminists who claim they are not biased support and endorse very biased views. There are scores of examples of feminists contradicting their claimed positions on various issues.
I think the best way to show someone’s bias is by having that person reveal it themselves. That is why I debate with feminists. Many feminist ideas are so wrapped in fancy language that it can appear the ideas make sense when they do not. By having feminists actually explain what they mean by “rape culture” or “male privilege” I can show how biased those ideas are and, more importantly, how biased and closed-minded one must be to accept them.
I also think it is important for those who support men’s issues and to engage with feminists in a civil manner because it shows that feminists do not “own” the gender discussion. They are not the purveyors of these issues. They do not know everything about these issues. In most instances, it was not until men’s rights activists and male victim advocates began complaining about these issues that feminists even knew they existed. By debating with feminists, you show people where feminists’ focus really is.
This is why you debate feminists. Not to put them in their place, but to show flaws in their arguments and show that are not as informed or as unbiased as they claim.