The Irish Times Women’s Podcast today aired a show entitled #coponcomrades: Men and Feminism. For some reason none of the initiators or signiatories of the #coponcomrades letter were invited to speak. Instead three male writers for the Irish Times were on the panel, Frankie Gaffney, Mark Paul and Patrick Freye, only one of whom describes themselves as a feminist.
As someone who signed the #coponcomrades letter I listened with interest to the podcast. In some respects it was very illuminating. Like I was unaware when I signed #coponcomrades that I should’ve indicated my economic status when signing, which by the way is working class. (I can provide all the poverty porn details for anyone who needs it if required).
Listening to the podcast I discovered that I had apparently been duped by some bourgeois academic women who lured stupid old working class wimminz like me into signing the letter. Apparently my voice and those of the many, many other working class women who signed was purely “tokenistic”. Thank god I listened or I never would’ve known that no matter what I do or say or put my name to — my opinions can easily be dismissed as tokenism, by virtue of my working class status. But then, how could I have know this before, without an academic woman to tell me what to do or a Not-Feminist (but in no way mansplaining) man to explain it to me?
So, please bare with stupid working class me while I talk you through the podcast.
It started on a dodgy note, with host Kathy Sheridan saying that the podcast was to be about “The challenges for men that want to stand with women and the views that men hold that they don’t think they can express without being shouted down.”
I wonder what kind of views men might have that they might feel afraid to express without being “shouted down”? And who are these shouty women that are silencing the voices of men who HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY ABOUT FEMINISM?
So, let’s delve in (this is HEAVILY abridged),
Gaffney: “The Irony is that the people who use “mansplain” are the most patronising people I’ve ever encountered.”
I have to put my hand up here folks, as I’m one of those patronising women who uses the term “mansplain” when I’m trying to express my dislike of men who assume I’m an idiot. Luckily I have men like Gaffney to tell me that my use of the word is wrong.
Gaffney continues: “This is not America. There is something perverse in the narrative… Girls from Dalkey lecturing me about my privilege…This is not normal. This is not right…We can’t just import American ideas wholesale into Ireland and expect them to work.”
I assume it was intersectionality that Gaffney was taking issue with here, a systematic way of looking at the intersecting oppressions that any individual may have. (The expression was coined by American Kimberle Crenshaw and aims to make feminism more inclusive). These are the kind of ideas I personally would like to see more of in Ireland. (Here’s hoping those hated women from Dalkey were intersectional feminists!)
Gaffney: Speaking about #coponcomrades, “The most striking thing in the reaction since, when I talk about using straight white male using that as an insult, middle class Irish girls, fellas as well, talking about white cisgendered male, why are you excluding…if you’re talking about misogyny why are you bringing race in and throwing these things in together when class is one of the biggest predictors of life outcome in this country?…It was like apartheid going in in the demographics in Trinity….(conversation moves on)… the gender balance was 60–70% female.”
*EDITED to add that I have been told (by Gaffney) since I initially posted this that the apartheid comment was in relation to class, not gender (Gaffney said,”the class ratio in Trinity TSM maybe 2%”)*
Apartheid – yeah… I’m just gonna leave that one for all you smarter and middle class people to dissect.
But Gaffney wasn’t the only enlightening male voice on the panel, Mark Paul had a lot to say about feminism too,
Paul: “You can get too wrapped up in putting people in boxes. I’m more interested in what people do than what they are…. Trudeau bought in a cabinet was completely gender balanced and that is obviously a very laudible thing to do… has it performed any better than any of the governments that went before, I dunno….”
Kathy Sheridan tried to interject here but Paul spoke over her,
“…Tredeau’s pretty clever embrace of feminism”
Freyne: “Varakar doesn’t care about class or gender. He is entirely economic focused.”
Paul: “The Taoiseach isn’t a superman.”
Apparently only a superman cares about class and gender. I didn’t know that it requires super powers to care about class or gender, but I guess that makes sense, him being a man and me being, well just a silly and gullible woman.
Gaffney:“People have attributed views to men that I don’t hold. Like I believe in gender quotas”
Paul :“I’m against anything that puts a restriction on someone’s vote.”
Gaffney :“Parliament should reflect demographically.”
Paul (speaking over Gaffney): “But mostly it should reflect the votes of the people.”
Gaffney: “I’ve been getting smeared, coponcomrades connected me with alt right language, and I didn’t…. on the one hand you have a prohibition on offensive speech… on the other hand an opening up and normalisation of anti male, anti white, anti straight rhetoric. Identity politics is very bad when it stigmatises and attacks based on a demographic.”
Sheridan: “About the #coponcomrades, the response to the letter felt like a silencing to us — these people represent a lot of threads in society, have you any reservations at all about that piece now?”
Paul: “I defy you to look at the reaction to Frankie’s piece and say that the reaction he received was not a personal attack on him.”
Gaffney: “I don’t mention any person’s name in my piece…People object to any objection going in the opposite direction…The article wasn’t about feminism it was about a certain style of identity politics and some terminology used by feminism.”
Freyne: “…I think you’re punching down in this instance…”
Gaffney: “ Listen, academics using their departmental accounts to tweet about me, I’m not punching down, upper middle class women having a go at me giving out about me and using departmental accounts.”
Sheridan: “ The people who signed this letter aren’t all middle class Frankie.”
Gaffney: “The people who drafted the letter and the people that organised the campaign are. 500 people didn’t write the letter. It was initiated by one small group and they tokenistically they got working class women on board… I have empathy for everybody that’s the difference between me and those that single out and generalise.”
Freyne (to Gaffney): “No body is stopping you talking.”
Paul (speaking about #coponcomrades signators): “There is a complete and utter intellectual insecurity in people who can’t tolerate another person’s opinions. Feminism to me that exemplifies the worst of it is like a big tent right, and everybody is inside the tent and in order to get into the tent you have to bend your knees to the rules of the tent but they’re absolutely useless at talking to anybody outside the tent. Why such a backlash against Frankie’s article? Why such a ferocious response to his article?”
Say wha? But if everybody is inside the tent Paul who is left to try and get in the tent? (Also, I hope I’m in the #FeminismTent)
Sheridan reads from the #coponcomrades letter, then says: “You’re putting all these people into one little basket, like your accusing them of doing to you.”
Gaffney: “What I meant by that was it was initiated by a group of middle class people.”
This is how I found out that some of my friends have been lying to me about their working class backgrounds! (But then I am just a silly working class woman.)
Sheridan again reads from the letter: “They feel betrayed by what you wrote Frankie.”
Gaffney: “That’s not my problem. That’s their own projection.”
Freyne (speaking about Gaffney’s article): “There’s a much better way to engage with these things…”
Gaffeny: “You’re tone policing.”
Freyne (laughing): “I don’t have a problem with tone policing.”
Gaffney: “I’m glad you say that. I have a problem with the hypocrisy involved of the people who would decry tone policing when it goes one direction or who would decry gender generalisation… I see these words abused more than they’re used toxic masculinity , fragile masculinity, mansplaining, all of this kind of stuff…”
Men bonding over not having a problem with tone policing…#sweet
Paul (on toxic masculinity): “When you portray it as the only form of masculinity that is out there….”
Freyne: “Nobody is portraying it as the only form of masculinity, I’ve never seen anyone describe it as the only form of masculinity, maybe you have but it’s not common. People are taking descriptions of structures as a personal attack and it’s not-”
Gaffney: “People are taking descriptions of language as a personal attack.”
Freyne: “It’s one thing for you to come out and point out that there are levels of lack of privilege in your life that aren’t being addressed by these people…”
Paul: “Feminism is no longer the underdog when it comes to public debate. We are here in the Irish Times Womens’s podcast, there are more feminists in the….Feminism is not the underdog. For anyone to say that feminism is the oppressed viewpoint.. there are more feminists per square foot in this building than in any other building in Dublin… It’s not an oppressed viewpoint. ..Any movement with power is deserving of criticism. of scorn, analysis. Why when anyone criticises or analyses it are they piled on?”
Gaffney: “What I was talking about in the article was when feminism talks about me, I’m entitled, when someone talks about my demographic, I’m gonna talk about it. It’s a movement that objects to gender generalising and gender stereotyping and invents new forms of it and pushing the boundaries of discourse by making terms like straight white male a part of it…”
Paul: “Straight white male is very often deployed as an insult.”
Sheridan: “I don’t think it’s used as an insult, it’s used as a label for someone who already has intrinsic power.”
Paul: “Ah, come on.”
Gaffney: “It’s a derogatory phrase.”
Freyne: “They are genuine signifiers of power in western society, with class.”
Gaffney: “I don’t believe for a second that single white men are the most oppressed in society…(discussion moves on to the alt right, Trump and how feminism has been accused of playing a part in his rise to power)…The rise of the alt right have been fuelled by that kind of style of identity politics rather than trying to liberate their own group.”
Paul: “Feminism as a movement should try talking to men.”
So THAT’s what we’ve been doing wrong! We weren’t talking to the right people about the structural and societal inequalities women have been facing for thousands of years! Silly us! We should’ve been talking to MEN! Duh! Like, why didn’t we think of that? I mean I said, “Please don’t rape me” To the guy who raped me but I guess I must’ve been saying it wrong, cause it obviously wasn’t the way he was culturally conditioned to feel entitled to use my body. I said “Please stop abusing me” to the man I was in a relationship with who abused me but now I know it wasn’t becuase he grew up in a society that doesn’t even bother to collect statistics on domestic abuse victims, such is the disregard for women’s lives. It was just me, silly feminist, always talking to the wrong people. Thank God we have Mark Paul to tell us that all we need to do to achieve gender equality is TALK TO MEN. #HighFiveMark
(Still Mark espousing about feminism): “Feminism in not very good at talking to people who don’t bend the knee to it’s ideas. Feminism doesn’t engage with the world very well, it’s not a great communicator, it’s intellectually incestuous I think… I don’t identify as a feminist.”
*insert a bajillion laughing emoticons*
Freyne: “I think it’s threatening to people the idea that they don’t own all their success. People take these analyses as personal attack.”
Gaffney: “I don’t do that though. I don’t expect Richard Boyd Barrett or Paul Murphy to bend down to me and apologise for being born middle class… I hate this check your privilege stuff. People should identify oppression and fight oppression… Making young men, young people, think about their skin colour rather than their economic position in society is a dangerous game to play — that has contributed to the…(Gaffney was talked over at this point).
Sheridan: Reads from the #coponcomrades letter. “Have you had any rape threats Frankie since your piece?”
Gaffney: “I’ve had threats of violence. But not rape threats no…I believe in solidarity and shared humanity.”
Sheridan: “And they’re accusing you of the exact opposite…I’m talking about gender based violence, where women can’t walk home alone at night.”
Sheridan: “My little brother is much more at risk of violence.”
Freyne: “You have to acknowledge that there are different problems, related to identity.”
Gaffney: “I know women have needed and still need to organise away from men for their rights. Equality, is the word I believe in, I want to fight together.”
Freyne: “We have to look at all the different problems in society. Working class women have very different issues to working class men.”
Paul: “The backlash against Frankie wasn’t because he wasn’t listening to anybody else it was because people were trying to silence what he was saying.”
Gaffney (speaking about the response to his article): “…This constant demand that I should listen to the women. The amount of left wing people and the amount of feminists that agreed with me, I could’ve got 500 people to sign something no problem…(conversation moves on)…If I’d been a woman saying these things I wouldn’t have got half the attacks I did. .. I don’t put out tweets like typical bourgeois wankers. The working class women I know see me as representing the working class just as well as they could. They don’t see me as representing a working class man.”
I only speak for myself but I see Gaffney as representing working class men, he does not speak for me. There were over 100 women from all walks of life and classes who worked on the many, many drafts that created the #coponcomrades letter and hundreds more who felt so strongly about the contents that they signed it. Many of these women were frightened about signing it and I’m aware of a couple of women who agreed with the message but felt afraid to sign. I don’t doubt that some working class women see Gaffney as speaking for them, but he does not speak for all of us.
Sheridan: “Should men be listening to women more?”
Gaffney: “Men talk a lot more than women and certainly women should be heard.”
Wouldn’t that be great?