Feminist Power Tactics
By Rod Van Mechelen
1992 Bellevue, Wash. - Pop-feminists use a number of rhetorical weapons to silence men. Among them are these five: (1) Posing as a Victim: "That's a very aggressive thing to say." (2) The broken record: "I resent that! I resent that! I resent that!" (3) Vilification: "The reason you're a very dangerous man ... ," or "That's a very dangerous idea because ..." (4) The Appeal to Violence. And, (5), Invalidation of Pain.
- Posing as a Victim: At my brother's wedding, one of the guests, a woman from our old neighborhood, came up after the ceremony and commented that I had said some "pretty aggressive things" in a sexual harassment article. This is similar to vilification because it gave her victim power by posing me as an aggressor. The best response I know for this is to one-up the victim -- be more of a victim than she is. "What's aggressive about defending yourself from attackers?" Or, "What's aggressive about the truth?"
- The Broken Record: On a local talk show, a female guest was very successful in using this ploy to silence Roy Schenk, author of The Other Side of the Coin. Every time he tried to talk about women's sexual power, she interrupted, saying, "I resent that!" over and over until he gave up. This tool works best when employed from the position of a victim.
- Vilification: One common pop-feminist line is, "The reason that's a dangerous idea ...," or "The reason you're a dangerous man is because ...." This is a very effective way to shut a man down. One way to handle it is to reveal it for exactly what it is -- an attack. "Why are you attacking me for telling the truth?" Another is to ask, "What's dangerous about truth?" She might respond to the former with "What makes you think I'm attacking you?" or some variation thereof. At that point you have an opening to highlight how pop-feminists use words like "dangerous" and "aggressive" to reinforce negative male stereotypes and shame men into silence.
- The Appeal to Violence: When all else fails, pop-feminists threaten violence. We can't fight women with violence. Pop-feminists use violence and get away with it by justifying it with their victim status. But men can't get away with that because they have stereotyped us as violent aggressors, and because, except in self-defense, the use of violence is inappropriate. So the best response is to walk away, write the incident up, and disseminate your story to men's newsletters, newspapers, and the news syndicates. (A list of the news syndicates can be found in the 2013 Writer's Market, a reference book carried by many libraries and bookstores.)
- Invalidation of Pain: In Women and Love, Shere Hite sarcastically suggests that, if men are silent, it may be because "they are trapped in their own silence (and their own pain), unable to talk or communicate about feelings, since this is such forbidden behavior for men." (St. Martin's Press mass market edition, 1989, Shere Hite, p 44) Yet, when men do admit their pain, women in general, and pop-feminists in particular, will often denigrate you for it. Of all the pop-feminist power tactics, it is one of the most hurtful and mean. It attacks where most of us are the most vulnerable. I do not recommend it for anybody, and mention it here only so you will be able to recognize and handle it when it's used against you. One of the most effective responses to this tactic is to ask, "Why are you trying to hurt me?" It exposes the action for precisely what it is without resorting to retorts, denials, or reprisals.
Why Use Power Tactics?
A friend of mine fears the men's movement will become a clone of the pop-feminist movement, and we'll start bashing and oppressing women. I share that concern. We can do better than that. We don't need to stoop to their level. But if we use the same power tactics they do, isn't that exactly what we're doing, stooping to their level? Not if we use them only for defense.
Pop-feminists use power tactics to shut men up. They're not interested in a dialogue, they don't want to hear what men have to say. What they do want is power over men, and they use the power of the media to get the attention that allows them to govern our actions. Our best defense against this is to disseminate the facts, and to use their own tactics defensively.
Most men have already demonstrated they're ready and willing to treat women as equals. Furthermore, men have a tradition of protecting women that prevents most from oppressing them. So, where pop-feminists use power tactics for offense, men can use them for defense. Where they try to discourage two-way communication, men can use those same tactics to encourage two-way communication by only blocking their anti-male attacks.
Rod Van Mechelen
Rod Van Mechelen is the author of What Everyone Should Know about Feminist Issues: The Male-Positive Perspective (the page now includes several articles by other authors), and the publisher of The Backlash! @ Backlash.com. He is a member of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe and served for 9-1/2 years on the Cowlitz Indian Tribal Council.