The Truth about Sex, Lies & Feminism
By Rod Van Mechelen
It has always been my policy and practice to tell the truth and indulge no sexism. Feminists, of course, disagree, but their sexism is well documented here, so no reason to elaborate about that. But here's what happens when a "men's rights advocate" lies about me.
An unpleasant discovery
2004 Olympia, Wash. - Recently, I discovered that Peter Zohrab, the right wing Liberal author of Sex, Lies & Feminism, is spreading lies about me. I don't know how far he has gone with this, how many people he has told, on how many sites and in how many articles he has published his tales about me, but it was a great disappointment, though in retrospect it should have come as no surprise.
This all began in May 1999 when he sent me the manuscript to his book, Sex, Lies & Feminism. At that time, on advice from a good friend and associate who foresaw a future for electronic publishing, I was attempting to break into that business. Peter sent me his manuscript, I read it, and, although there were several flaws with it, I saw that it had potential and agreed to take it on. We worked out an arrangement, and I set to work.
Having worked hard to establish a reputation for honesty and fairness, I did not want to publish a book that failed to live up to my standards, and, as something of an expert on modern feminist writing, rhetoric and sexism, I could see several flaws in Peter's book, factual errors, unwarranted biases, not to mention a stuffy style better suited to government memoranda than popular prose. So I immediately set out to correct the errors, clean up the style and flesh out his assertions with examples and citations to back them up.
Unfortunately, Peter acted like he was an already established best-selling author working with a major publishing house. He fought me over the facts, even when I presented him with clear proof his assertions were absolutely false, and he made the kind of demands celebrity authors make on their big budget publishers. Not what you might expect from a fellow advocate working with you in the trenches to create a market for books in a genre that, at that time, no publisher would touch.
From bad to worse
As bad as it was near the beginning, things got much worse when he finally realized precisely what we had agreed to do. Although I had made it very clear at the outset that I had no money to jet him around the world doing tours, that I had no budget for an advertising blitz, or commercials of any kind beyond the Internet, and that, indeed, I was working a "day job" as it was, he was very upset when it finally sank in.
His upset was only compounded by the major rewrites and revisions I put his book through, working with him, doing much of the writing myself, to make his book into something much better than the feminist trash that finds such an easy market of eager publishers and true believing readers.
Finally, after I invested well in excess of 1,000 hours of work on his book, we reached a point where we agreed it was done, though neither of us were satisfied with the result. From his view, I had taken out too much of what he considered to be "conservative" bias, from my view, there were still errors of fact, or, since he now knew they were wrong, lies in the book, and while he considered himself a "conservative," I felt there was too much of what I later came to call a "right wing Liberal" bias in it. On the plus side, most of the errors, now lies, from the original text were gone or corrected, most of the bias had been toned down, and it was a much easier read.
With this compromise in hand, I contracted with the (by 2004) semi-defunct e-publisher, FatBrain, to distribute Peter's book electronically through their (by 2004) totally defunct outlet, MightyWords. Many authors were publishing through MightyWords at the time, and had Peter wanted to attempt to market his first edition on his own, he could have gone through them, but with the benefit of my hundreds upon hundreds of hours of work in the project, I handled it. And, as the deal MightyWords offered to "co-publishers" was better than the deal they offered authors, financially it made no difference to authors. So, in that respect, it should have been a wash.
FatBrain becomes Fat Chance
What none of us knew, at the time, was that FatBrain was in negotiations to be acquired by Barnes and Noble, and as a consequence not only were things inside of MightyWords very disorganized, with the result that they weren't reporting and paying all royalties due on the sales of co-published books (we made several test purchases, which they neither reported nor paid us for), but once the deal was done with Barnes and Noble, they cancelled all the co-publishing contracts.
Peter acted like this was all my fault, and because he felt that I should somehow produce the resources of a major publishing house to put his book into stores around the world, in my opinion he became unreasonable, so finally I terminated our arrangement, though I gave him permission to market the book "we produced" as long as he included my name as editor. I also gave him permission to use material I wrote as long as he attributed it to me, all without any expectation on my part of any compensation from him.
That was on December 25, 2000. Now, three years later, I discover how he has responded to this, by smearing my name:
The Editor/Publisher, Rod Van Mechelen, said that the distributor was under-reporting sales. Mr. Van Mechelen was also too busy or unwilling to answer the Author's questions, so the Author cancelled the publishing contract, under the terms of the contract. - Peter Zohrab, New Zealand Equality Education Foundation
This is patently false. I have all the e-mails from our entire collaboration (and in 2012 I still do) to prove I kept him apprised of everything that was happening, that I provided him with regular reports, and that I terminated our relationship.
What the future will bring
When I discovered this, on February 4, 2004, I immediately e-mailed Peter at the address provided on the web site above with the following: "Peter, you can tell the truth about this, or I will. I have all our e-mails." He has not responded. Upon doing a little research, I discovered that Everyman: A Men's Journal, a Canadian publication which I have promoted for many years and which, most recently, I helped by giving them permission to reprint one of the covers from my old Backlash! 'zine, had published a glowing review of Peter's book.
Given that they have promoted Peter's book, and that I prefer to work through cooperative rather than confrontational means, I e-mailed David Shackleton, editor and publisher of Everyman, to ask him simply to contact Peter "and urge him to tell the truth, starting with removing from everyplace he has published it" the lie he's spreading about me. David declined, saying it was against his policy to get involved, and he further chastised me for contacting him about it. Not what I expected from someone whom I have helped, particularly since I was asking so little, just, as I told him, "gentle influence" to "encourage Peter to do the right thing." But there it is.
With respect to Peter, I have found other sites where he has published lies and insults about me, and that is unfortunate. For my own part, to protect my reputation I will publish a very in-depth review of his book, which will include all of my e-mails to Peter as well as descriptive summaries of his e-mails, along with excerpts, so everybody will know the truth about this, and about Sex, Lies & Feminism.
2012 Olympia, Wash. - I never did follow that up with the review and email exchanges. Shortly after I wrote this article, I became deeply involved in the Republican Party, which led to my attendance of the 2004 Republican National Convention a few months later. And by then, I forgot about it. And now, it's simply not worth the effort.
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.