A Dose of Stupid v106

It happens every day. In fact, it is pretty hard to avoid it. There are some things that can only be understood with a slap on the forehead. Things so mind-boggling that one wonders how humans managed to evolve thumbs while being this mentally inept. Case in point:

Why Reverse Oppression Simply Cannot Exist (No Matter What Merriam-Webster Says)

From the title alone I got the feeling the stupid is strong with this one, and Melissa A. Fabello proved my feelings right.

Fabello starts with an anecdote:

It’s a common argument that those of us – all of us – who work in social justice movements face: the straw man of reverse oppression. Even within the in-crowd of people who are quote-unquote “socially conscious,” this argument pops up now and again.

It is a good thing Fabello knows what a logical fallacy is because she engages in scores of them. For example:

“Yes, black women are beautiful — but I think what you mean is that all women are beautiful,” they say.

“But isn’t telling men to ‘sit down and shut up’ also sexist?” they ponder.

“But in the dictionary,” they start.

And we – seasoned veterans in the war against anti-oppression – know that the battle has already been lost.

It’s hard to convince someone that they’ve misunderstood a concept when their very (albeit misguided) understanding of the world depends on the existence of the falsehood in question.

However, it’s true that reverse oppression – like “reverse racism,” “female privilege,” and (so help me God) “cisphobia” – cannot possibly exist. Because the very nature of oppression won’t allow it to!

That is a nice example of denying the antecedent. Fabello, like most feminists, defines oppression in a way that wholly excludes certain people from being considered oppressed, and then uses this as proof that said people cannot be oppressed.

She cites Urban Dictionary when she claims people have “internalized oppressive ideas and values,” which is odd considering that she immediately argues:

The Dictionary
Put it down. Close that web browser. And for those of you who I know are going to post dictionary definitions in the comment section before even reading the article, you— I don’t have anything to say to you. Just stop.

Merriam-Webster is not your friend today.

The dictionary, to begin with, is a really trite resource to use when arguing complex topics.

I am curious: if dictionaries are so useless and untrustworthy, why did Fabello cite Urban Dictionary? Are people to understand that Fabello considers Urban Dictionary, yet Merriam-Webster is not? Is it not possible she favors the Urban Dictionary definition because it is written by users, meaning that feminists like herself can add a definition and upvote it to popularity, making it the topmost definition?

Likewise, given that many feminists cite Merriam-Webster’s definition of “feminism” whenever people criticize the ideology, does this mean that said definition is now inaccurate? Is Fabello arguing that feminism is not “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes?”

Fabelllo tries to explain her position:

You can show me the definition of “plant” if you want to, but that sure as hell doesn’t make you a botanist. Similarly, your dictionary definition of “racism,” for example, doesn’t make you a scholar in sociology.

That is called a straw man. Who argued that knowing the definition of a word made one an expert in a given field of study?

And I’m not saying that everyone in the social justice movement is a scholar – although, obviously, some of us are – but those of us who have done the hard work to unpack privilege and unlearn socialization are getting our information from the greats – not the dictionary.

That is an appeal to authority, a fairly terrible one at that. Fabello lists several social justice figures she apparently considers experts on various social issues, however, each one of them is a biased source. As the above link explains:

The authority is an expert, but is not disinterested. That is, the expert is biased towards one side of the issue, and his opinion is thereby untrustworthy.

For example, suppose that a medical scientist testifies that ambient cigarette smoke does not pose a hazard to the health of non-smokers exposed to it. Suppose, further, that it turns out that the scientist is an employee of a cigarette company. Clearly, the scientist has a powerful bias in favor of the position that he is taking which calls into question his objectivity.

Similarly, each one of the people Fabello cites is invested in the social justice community, giving them a powerful bias in favor of the position that they present. Their objectivity is now in question, and while it is possible their insights are accurate, it is also possible their insights stem primarily or solely from their biases.

Fabello continues:

You want an easy, shallow definition of “racism” to endorse your unsupported viewpoint? Go to the dictionary. But if you want to apply a Critical Race Theory lens to a conversation around power and oppression, then go to the seminal works of the people above – or at least some secondary sources!

In other words, go to a biased source. That is not going to lead to the “depth” Fabello croons about. It leads only to compartmentalized group think.

She then engages is an impressive, Chinatown-esque display of double think:

The dictionary is a great tool.

Hell, I use the dictionary all the time because I’m always confusing “insure” and “ensure,” and I always want to use fancy words without actually knowing if they make sense in context.

And that’s what the dictionary is there for – to give you a quick and dirty definition to work with.

But the dictionary has no depth.

The dictionary is younger me when I’d be asked to speak on issues that I only understood marginally, but wanted so desperately to have an opinion on: fumbling about, trying to make sense, but only having a paragraph – if that! – of information to go off of.

It just doesn’t cut it.

Just to be clear: the dictionary is “a really trite resource to use when arguing complex topics,” but “a great tool” to clear any confusion about the meaning of words like “insure” and “ensure,” yet it “has no depth.”

I am sure there is a good reason for this warped illogic:

Furthermore, I want to tell you a secret about the dictionary: It is, in and of itself, an oppressive force. All resources that deal with “the rules” of language are.

Please take a moment to guess what makes the dictionary “an oppressive force.” Do not cheat and look ahead. Genuinely strain your brain to determine what force could be so powerful as to ruin the English dictionary. Got it?

Although the oldest dictionaries date back to Mesopotamia (who’s surprised? Show me something that doesn’t date back to Mesopotamia), the first English dictionary was created in 1604 by a dude named Robert Cawdrey – a white guy. […] Every milestone of the creation of the English dictionary was achieved by (yup) a white guy – in pursuit of a “standard of our language…in the superior sense,” which sounds like loaded language to me.

Yes, it is always best to take a quote completely out of context to try to make it look racist. The actual quote is:

I ciiunot [sic] help thinking it a sort of disgrace to our nation, that hitherto we have had no such standard of our language ; our dictionaries at present being more properly what our neighbours the Dutch and the Germans call theirs, word-books, than dictionaries, in the superior sense of that title. All words, good and bad, are there jumbled indiscriminately together, insomuch that the injudicious reader may speak, and write as inelegantly, improperly, and vulgarly as he pleases, by and with the authority of one or other of our word-books.

This refers specifically to how English is being used and the lack of a general text that explains what words mean, their history, and their usage. It is about controlling language, not racism.

And I know that because this is a piece on the non-existence of reverse oppression, there are people out there moaning along the lines of “What’s so wrong with white men?”

So I’ll let the amazingly brilliant Audre Lorde explain why using a resource created by an oppressive force to detangle the concept of oppression makes zero sense: “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”

Again Fabello appeals to authority, in this case a radical black feminist with an extreme bias against white feminists, apparently so intense that she lied about not receiving a response from Mary Daly after writing her a rather harsh and critical letter.

Now that we better understand what oppression isn’t, let’s talk about what oppression is, then

I am sure this type of segue works well in person with speaker talking too fast for anyone to catch the absence of substance. In writing, however, this thing looks foolish and amateur.

We do not have a better understanding of what oppression is not. We have zero understanding of it aside from the vague notion that there is no such thing as “reverse oppression.”

However, I do not want to impede Fabello’s descent into utter stupidity, so we shall move on:

See, the problem with the dictionary definition of “sexism,” for example, is that it posits that sexism is “prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination…on the basis of sex” or “unfair treatment of people because of their sex.”

That is a problem because?

Now, the cool thing is that the dictionary is starting to get hip to the notion that generally, sexism occurs against women (and I say “generally” not to infer that it is possible to be sexist against men, but rather that sexism also affects trans and gender non-conforming people) – and definitions are starting to reflect that.

Ironically, that argument is sexist against men.

But what the dictionary – and a lot of people who are making this argument – misses is that sexism isn’t just prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination (although all of those things are definitely bad).

Sexism is a form of oppression.

No one missed that. Indeed, Fabello never presents a single example of anyone suggesting that sexism is not or can never be a form of oppression. The argument appears to be that it can apply to men as well.

Fabello attempts to explain why the latter cannot be true, yet succeeds only in showing the many leaps in logic she needs to make to reach that conclusion:

However, only oppressed people experience all of that and institutionalized violence and systematic erasure.

That is a non sequitur. Nothing Fabello presented above supports the notion that only oppressed people experience “institutionalize violence and systematic erasure.” Indeed, Lorde’s essay suggests the opposite: that the privileged can experience privilege and oppression simultaneously in different aspects of their lives.

See, and that’s why it’s not possible to be sexist against men.

Because you can stereotype men. And you can be prejudiced against men. And you can also discriminate against men. And none of that is okay! But oppression – because it is institutionalized and systematic – is another level entirely.

“But” is a term of negation typically used to suggest that the clause that preceded it is untrue in part or in full. So technically Fabello stated that it is okay to stereotype, be prejudiced against, and discriminate against men. However, one would already know Fabello supported those positions since she engaged in such stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination against men in her article.

She tries to support her claim with four points. The first:

1. It Is Pervasive

It is woven throughout social institutions, as well as embedded within individual consciousness. […] This is about a cultural value that is systematic in that it exists within the very fabric of our society and is practiced (albeit often subconsciously) in the very institutions we’ve been taught to trust – you know, like the exclusive, white-cis male-written dictionary.

You mean like assuming that men and boys are disposable, replaceable, less redeemable, violent, untrustworthy, unclean, lacking compassion, and uncivil?

2. It Is Restrictive

That is, structural limits significantly shape a person’s life chances and sense of possibility in ways beyond the individual’s control.

You mean things like limiting men’s career, parenting, and education options? Or perhaps things like preventing single men from adopting children, barring men from sitting next to unaccompanied children on planes, banning men from sitting with their knees apart on public transportation, or banning men from urinating standing up?

3. It Is Hierarchical

That is, oppression positions one group as “better” than another.

Dominant or privileged groups benefit, often in unconscious ways, from the disempowerment of subordinated or targeted groups.

You mean like people, who shall go unnamed, arguing that they have more compassion, concern, intelligent, ethics, empathy, and usefulness to society?

4. The Dominant Group Has the Power to Define Reality

That is, they determine the status quo: what is “normal,” “real,” or “correct.”

You mean like someone getting to define who can and cannot be oppressed?

It turns out Fabello is correct. Men cannot be victims of “reverse oppression.” Rather, according to Fabello’s own logic, men are victims of regular, All-American oppression.

When people in power are stereotyped or discriminated against – awful as that is – it isn’t the result of subjugation, regardless of what the dictionary tells you. Those negative attitudes toward privileged people aren’t pervasive, restrictive, or hierarchal.

Except Merriam-Webster’s definition never states that. It defines “stereotype” as, “to believe unfairly that all people or things with a particular characteristic are the same.” It defines “discrimination” as, “the practice of unfairly treating a person or group of people differently from other people or groups of people.”

The word “subjugate” does not appear in either definition. I know I stated I did not want to prevent Fabello’s descent into stupidity, however, I must state that this is why it is so important to read before refuting.

That is, they aren’t losing out on anything just because someone’s words, actions, or beliefs were hurtful – or even harmful.

That is called begging the question. Fabello offers no explanation for how she, or any “social justice warrior,” knows what said dominant group suffers.

Oppression cannot exist without a force of power behind it. And this is exactly why the idea that a dominant group being subjugated is so laughable – because what force is driving it?

Again, Lorde’s essay demonstrates it is possible for a dominant group to experience an advantage in one area and a disadvantage in another.

It is rather sad when the non-feminist knows feminist theory better than feminists, and has not read the particular essay in question in twenty years.

We have to talk about the ways in which people conceptualize their experiences. But when we attempt to do this by drawing false equivalences between experiences, we’re failing at understanding nuance, and that isn’t really helping anyone – not even the straw man.

Which Fabello beautifully demonstrated with her monstrous straw man of an article. Such Grade-A stupidity deserves a reward.

So my dear Melissa A. Fabello, you are so concerned about oppression and …

You know what might help?

A dictionary.

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15 thoughts on “A Dose of Stupid v106

  1. Sexism is biological not oppressive

    Women are meant to be weaker then men, if all women were strong amazon warriors theyd make terrible mothers, unable to bond or ease the fears of a fragile infant

    It takes vulnerability & a submissive nature to develop the traits necessary to bond with a fragile infant, something only women are biologically designed to do

    It’s biologically correct to be sexist against women

    Theres no such thing as sexism against women

    There is only hate, to try & state women are hated more then men, only increases the hate against men, it does in no way satiate the hate against women

  2. “Now, the cool thing is that the dictionary is starting to get hip to the notion that generally, sexism occurs against women (and I say “generally” not to infer that it is possible to be sexist against men, but rather that sexism also affects trans and gender non-conforming people) – and definitions are starting to reflect that.”

    She should consult the dictionary on the difference between “infer” and “imply.”

  3. This argument is really Orwellian. Essentially, they re-define a word and then complain that everyone is using it wrong (and they can’t understand why people are using it wrong after they have explained the definition for the umpteenth time).
    -Jut

  4. So feminists and liberal* identity crusaders are employing logical fallacies and twisting words to fit their agenda? What am I going to hear next, that the pope is Catholic?

    *(By liberal I mean ideologically supportive of capitalism and the status quo, because as we all know, these kinds of people really love the status quo. It gets them book royalties and speakers fees, after all!)

  5. rmaxgenactivepua:

    Sexism is biological not oppressive

    Women are meant to be weaker then men, if all women were strong amazon warriors theyd make terrible mothers, unable to bond or ease the fears of a fragile infant

    This makes no logical sense. While biases can be innate as a result of evolution (consider the way humans fear scaly and large hairy animals), it is absurd to argue that something as vague as sexism is biological. It makes no sense for men to dislike the very people they need to mate with in order to perpetuate the species.

    As for the notion that if women were strong they would make terrible mothers, this implies that fathers are incapable of bonding with or easing the fears of their children. That does a disservice to the numerous fathers who their children run to for comfort.

    There is only hate, to try & state women are hated more then men, only increases the hate against men, it does in no way satiate the hate against women

    Again, this makes no logical sense, and I have no idea what you are even trying to around.

  6. Since when does someone have to be in chains for it to count as discriminatory?

    Peterman, the irony is that if one actually applied Fabello’s logic, white women in general could not claim oppression because very few of them experience anything remotely similar to subjugation.

  7. Nice one, TS.

    It always blows my mind when I see arguments of the form “yes, it’s prejudiced, but it can’t be *oppression* against men as it’s not institutionalised and systemic, don’t you see.”

    (going to swear a fair bit now, apologies in advance)

    What in the blue-ball-bollocking-fuck would she call the actual *LEGAL* inequalities facing men, like the gendered selective service requirements, or the UK’s gendered laws on sex crimes and marital coercion? Or the harm that something like MGM does – something heavily grounded in tradition in two long-standing institutions (medical and religious)? How in the actual hell is that NOT systematic? How is it NOT institutionalised?

    I don’t think I’d mind the style of argument being made by these people if it were actually consistently applied – that it was genuinely about seeking to end all oppression of all groups, irrespective of what privilege they may or may not have. But it’s this mean-spirited, incogent and selective denial of applying these concepts to groups that they by definition still apply to – and that’s even after someone like Fabello has thrown the dictionary under the bus to try and bolster her own prejudiced views. The incompetence of it all just adds further insult to injury.

  8. I am so glad you wrote this article. I read Fabello’s article yesterday and just did a facepalm. I wanted to write a response but just didn’t have the time. Thanks

  9. The incompetence of it all just adds further insult to injury.

    Oirishm, it is not incompetence; it is hypocrisy. I doubt that many of the people stating this nonsense genuinely believe it. I think most of them realize that what they say about the “oppressor” groups is as biased and hateful as any of the things the claim the “oppressors” do to them. That puts people like Fabello in the terrible situation of being the very thing they hate: bigots. In order to avoid that, they redefine words, ideas, and theories in ways that disallow those items from ever applying to them. When that logically does not parse, they twist the logic to try to make it work.

    Of course, the more nonsensical the argument, the harder it is to justify it, hence Fabello’s long-winded “explanation” of why the dictionary is wrong.

  10. TS, I disagree. I don’t think it is hypocrisy. I think it is delusion (and I don’t mean that is an insulting way, even though it is kind of insulting).

    Feminists often talk about the “a-ha moment.” That is the moment when all this gobbledy-gook that they are reading about or hearing suddenly makes sense. The way I typically explain it is that the Patriarchy is not real, but it is an interpretation of reality. It becomes the way in which they start to see and interpret the world around them. And, when you have found a way to make sense of the world, it is hard to let go of that. And, when it is a new and different idea that you have never encountered before, it is like a child with a new toy; you want to play with it in all kinds of ways (use it to look at books, computer games, commercials, and dictionaries).

    And, again, that is not to insult them. Most of us do things like that. Religious people are a good example. Their interaction and understanding of the things around them are viewed through a very particular lens.

    The same could probably be said about MRAs, though I think for a lot of them (and anti-feminists generally), they try to use the tools and techniques of feminism against feminism to show that feminism is really not what it purports to be. So, I think MRAs are a little more aware that they are dealing with an interpretation of the world around them, and not necessarily describing reality.

    -Jut

  11. This is based entirely on the prejudice + power definition, and it’s utter nonsense. The entire philosophy behind it all is neo-Marxism. The idea that this woefully stupid philosophy is fit to cancel out the solid and logical definitions in the dictionary is madness. Oppression comes in the form of racist/sexist oppression, but that is not the bona fide definition of racism or sexism, and it never will be.

    Having said that, I’m not too fond of MRAs claiming to be oppressed either. Sure, as you pointed out Toysoldier, there are negative and questionable attitudes towards men (ditto women) but in a democratic society that’s not the same as oppression. I’d rather dispense with reverse sexism and reverse racism and just call it what it is (sexism/racism), and call people out on it.

  12. James:

    This is based entirely on the prejudice + power definition, and it’s utter nonsense. The entire philosophy behind it all is neo-Marxism. The idea that this woefully stupid philosophy is fit to cancel out the solid and logical definitions in the dictionary is madness.

    It has to cancel out the other definitions or it would be obvious that the arguments neo-Marxists do not make sense. What I find interesting is how difficult it is for those ideologues to explain their views concisely. They tend to go on long rants to get to the conclusion, which tells me they realize what they are saying is nonsense and they have no idea what they are actually saying. They simply repeat what someone told them into it rote.

    Having said that, I’m not too fond of MRAs claiming to be oppressed either.

    I have little issue with the claim of oppression of men except when it is does as a retort to the claim of oppression of women. It does not need to be a tit-for-tat argument. Both groups can face oppression in different ways.

  13. These bogus feminist politics aren’t neo-Marxist of any kind of Marxist at all. They are a bastardization of Marxist theory that attempt to take Marx’s analysis of the antagonism between social classes (proletariat and bourgeoisie), and awkwardly apply it to the interactions between men and women.

    This is wrong for all sorts of reasons that I won’t get into here. Unfortunately, a lot of the socialist movement has swallowed this specious analysis uncritically, which I think is a big embarrassment.

  14. It seems to me that the only folks who actually stick the term “reverse” in front of racism/sexism/whatever are the ones who are trying to deny it can be anything othert than “oppressor group” > “oppressed group”. They’re so biased they can’t even refer to it with the same term.

    In reality, of course, both men and women are victims and perpetuators of sexism, against both men and women.

    You want an easy, shallow definition of “racism” to endorse your unsupported viewpoint? Go to the dictionary. But if you want to apply a Critical Race Theory lens to a conversation around power and oppression, then go to the seminal works of the people above – or at least some secondary sources!

    Ironically, the Dictionary (aka conversational) definitions of racism and sexism are less biased than the SJ ones, which are deliberately narrower and biased in favor of, gasp, social justice. I’m betting our girl never actually admits that the dictionary definition is the most commonly used one.

    So I’ll let the amazingly brilliant Audre Lorde explain why using a resource created by an oppressive force to detangle the concept of oppression makes zero sense: “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”

    You’ll note that she’s basically slagging off all malefems at this point.

    Sexism is a form of oppression.

    No it’s not. It’s gender based bias. Otherwise “benevolent sexism” wouldn’t be a thing. Oh, wait, in this context, that would be the same as “female privilege”, which doesn’t exist, does it?

    the first English dictionary was created in 1604 by a dude named Robert Cawdrey – a white guy. […] Every milestone of the creation of the English dictionary was achieved by (yup) a white guy – in pursuit of a “standard of our language…in the superior sense,” which sounds like loaded language to me.

    Genetic fallacy, ad hominem, and a really transparent use of both. “The first English dictionary was created before anyone on Earth was alive by a racist white dude, therefore every dictionary is racist (and also sexist somehow)”.

    Because you can stereotype men. And you can be prejudiced against men. And you can also discriminate against men. And none of that is okay! But oppression – because it is institutionalized and systematic – is another level entirely.

    But systemic sexism against men clearly exists. Look at the gendered way the First World treats rape and abuse. The US act for controlling federal funding for Domestic Violence is called the “Violence Against Women Act”, even though it technically funds male shelters too.

    Oppression cannot exist without a force of power behind it. And this is exactly why the idea that a dominant group being subjugated is so laughable – because what force is driving it?

    Well, it’s not like there’s some sort of powerful political movement made up largely of women that has effected great amounts of social and institutional change.

    Seriously, it is amazing how SJWs like this suddenly forget what feminism does when it’s inconvenient for their argument.

    What I find interesting is how difficult it is for those ideologues to explain their views concisely. They tend to go on long rants to get to the conclusion, which tells me they realize what they are saying is nonsense and they have no idea what they are actually saying. They simply repeat what someone told them into it rote.

    I’ve seen people point out that 9/11 Truthers tend to be extremely reluctant to say what their strongest evidence is. Because once that’s shot down, they have to admit their case is substantially weakened. They prefer to be able to just jump to a new “anomaly” and circle back around to the debunked point later.

    Similarly, folks like our writer here don’t like to be concise, because then they can be rebutted easily. They could move the goalposts afterwards, but that makes them look bad. Better to just try to Gish Gallop their foes by inflating their rather threadbare points. It also increases the chance that other people with similar beliefs will find something they like, their confirmation bias will kick in, and they’ll ignore the problematic parts.

    @JutGlory:

    Feminists often talk about the “a-ha moment.” That is the moment when all this gobbledy-gook that they are reading about or hearing suddenly makes sense.

    It helps if the nonsense is flexible (IE inconsistent) enough to be “one size fits all”.

    As a Christian, I can’t help but note the “Road to Damascus moment” similarities, though while that’s about realizing one’s personal responsibility, mainstream feminist ideology is basically about blaming the Patriarchy.

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