Samples from The Vast and the Spurious: 25 Problems for Feminism
The Vast and the Spurious is a book about the gender war between men and women. Feminism has set the agenda but it faces a backlash. Some dismiss this as misogyny, but that is a mistake. Feminism can no longer assume it owns the high moral ground. Unless it answers its critics it will never gain mass support, and the gender wars will rage ’til doomsday.
Reader Comments on the book:
“This is no angry polemic, but a light-hearted, fair and factual introduction to feminism’s various hypocrisies and contradictions.”
Karen Straughan, aka ‘Girl Writes What.’
“Whether for the uninitiated, the curious, or the indoctrinated, this book offers a witty rebuttal to modern feminist claims and exaggerations. Grounded in common sense and empathy, it makes the rational case, too rarely heard, for harmony between the sexes and respect for men’s contributions.”
Janice Fiamengo, editor of Sons of Feminism: Men Have Their Say.
I’m going to present a few short extracts from the book. Let’s start with the opening of chapter 1.
This book discusses twenty-five problems with feminism. One of the main problems is you’re not allowed to criticise it in the first place. As I’m going to do so at some length, this will make me a target for attack. In that case, I’ll start by explaining my position and why this book has been written.
Some people think any critic of feminism must be a right wing thug who wants to send women back to the 1950s. But I believe women should have the same rights as men and be free to pursue any goal. Why shouldn’t they? Still, supporting the fair reforms of the 1970s doesn’t mean you have to endorse the cultish fanaticism that goes on today.
Of course, a movement as big as feminism doesn’t exist without reason. On some topics feminists are right, on others they are wrong. The aim of this book, The Vast and the Spurious, is to try to understand which ones. Where they are right, their efforts may lead to a better world. But where they are wrong, their mistakes will lead to a worse world – for everyone. #Feminism hurts women too.
I am male. For some, that disqualifies me from having an opinion on this subject. But as the modern agenda consists of hectoring men about their enormous power and privilege, it’s clear feminism is not just about women’s issues. They will accuse me of ‘man-splaining’ feminism, but as feminists have been woman-splaining for years how patriarchy ruined their lives, it’s only fair to return fire. Still, in deference to those who’ve gone before, let’s start with the ceremonial rites. As a man writing on this topic, I’d like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of Gender Studies: feminists.
Apparently they own the land. They get very angry if a man trespasses on that land by having a voice, or even a thought, about gender issues. This anger may be cloaked in the pretence that they don’t care what men think. They will sometime declare, with passionate indifference, just how much they don’t care. Indeed, when it comes to feminist books, it seems to be a genre convention for authors to assert that they ‘don’t give a fuck’ what men think of their field. Clementine Ford says this in chapter eight of her book. Jessa Crispin says it in chapter seven of hers. Probably a hundred other women have said it in theirs.
This is really a wonderful liberation for a fellow like me, for when I began writing this book, an inner voice would often be nagging away about whether feminists would approve. It’s a great relief to learn that they don’t care what any man thinks.
Still, having entered the field of feminist writing, it’s only polite to observe the genre conventions with the ritual words: I don’t give a fuck what men think about feminism. There. Was that OK?
Now the formalities are over, let’s get on with the book…
Chapters 2-4 discuss the key concept of ‘male privilege.’ From chapter 2:
The basic premise of feminism today is the idea of ‘male privilege’ – meaning a series of advantages for men and injustices for women. The idea is that women are deeply disadvantaged compared to men. There is profound bias against them and obstacles placed in their way. A key point is that the privilege is unearned. It’s a series of benefits men enjoy simply by being men.
Male privilege falls into two broad categories, as I see it. The first to do with opportunities, wealth, and power; the second with social norms and behaviour.
A recent public debate asked ‘is male privilege bullshit?’ Some feminists remarked that male privilege is such a certain and established fact it’s not even open to debate. Yet presumably some people do think it’s bullshit. Well, whether the theory of male privilege is a truth, an exaggeration, or an illusion, it surely needs more discussion before we accept it as a scientific fact.
One problem with the idea of male-privilege-as-fact is that the group who hates it the most – feminists – also owe their existence to it. What happens if male privilege comes to an end? Does that also mean the end of feminism?
It’s an odd dynamic. A group has a strong opposition to something but also a vested interest in believing in it, as it is their raison d’être and the motor that drives them forward. Though they may hate it, feminists have stronger motivation to believe in male privilege than to disbelieve it. This can lead to a questionable relationship with the evidence. Still, let’s take a detailed look at this topic …
Chapter 3 remarks on the strange idea that all men, past and present, are part of some kind of group identity.
Some Christians believe that because of original sin by Adam and Eve, all human beings live in a permanent state of guilt and have to repent.
Some feminists believe that because of historical crimes of men against women, all today’s men live in a permanent state of guilt and have to repent. Not only that, they have to pay reparations – for the sins they never committed.
It may be true that in past eras social systems favoured men, and there were many specific crimes by men against women. But despite what people may think, there is no connection whatever between men alive today and those alive in past eras. In the same way, there is no connection at all between women alive today and those in the past.
We are not a gestalt.
Some people want to join a lot of different individuals, dispersed in time and space, into a vast collective and treat it like a single entity. Any member of that group is then supposed to feel guilt for sins committed by other members, and make reparations.
The idea that women were historically maligned and should now have equal opportunity may be fair. The idea that they should get preferential treatment is not. To some degree, ‘reverse discrimination’ is opportunism masquerading as justice. It’s an attempt to leverage historical suffering for present day gain. In other words, some women today seek reparations for suffering they did not experience, and to punish men for crimes they did not commit.
Again, there is not some gestalt entity known as ‘men’ any more than there’s a gestalt entity known as ‘women.’
We should certainly learn from the past and not repeat its mistakes. But some want to impose a guilt narrative onto the entire male gender, who must make amends by giving females preferential treatment in everything. These are the reparations today’s men are supposed to make – for the crimes they never committed!
Today’s women should have the same rights and opportunities as men. They should be given jobs if they have the best credentials – but not just due to the historical suffering of other people to whom they have no connection except having the same type of genitals. It sounds a bit too much like a quest for – what’s that phrase again? – ah yes, unearned privilege.
Chapter 5 speculates that male-female relations have rarely been worse than they are today.
Hate. You’ve gotta love it. It sure makes for some thrilling contests on the sports field. On the field of gender relations, it fuels some vigorous fights as well. Except it isn’t a sports field so much as a battlefield, with real dead bodies on each side. Blood, orphans, flowers on coffins…
My guess is that there’s rarely been more hatred between men and women than there is now. Sure, there was plenty of anger from women during 1970s second-wave feminism, but today there is actual hate. Not just from women towards men, but from men towards women. There was no MGTOW movement in the seventies. That is, ‘Men Going Their Own Way,’ boycotting marriage and women altogether.
Feminists will tell you this is because men are bitter at losing their former positions of power over women. They’re angry that their ‘slaves’ have risen up. This is a weak explanation we must go beyond.
The line between anger and hate can be a little blurry. For example, the feminist Clementine Ford is often accused of hating men, a charge she rejects. A man who knows her work might say, ‘if Clementine doesn’t hate men, I’d sure hate to meet a woman who does.’ Still, with some effort, I’m prepared to believe her. Maybe she’s just an idealist who thinks people should behave better than they so often do.
Ford’s newspaper columns offer an ongoing saga about ‘the evil that men do.’ They’re part of her campaign for a better world. But you’d think from her writing it’s only men who do evil. Hasn’t she ever watched Deadly Women on the crime channel?
In discussing the evil that men do, let us – just for a moment – revert to the sexist language of yesteryear in using the term to include both genders. ‘Man,’ in that retro sense, is capable of some foul and despicable deeds.
For a window into the evil of which both sexes are capable, read Divorce Confidential by G. Nissenbaum. He’s a lawyer specialising in divorce among the super rich. The book shows the moral depths either sex can reach in pursuit of their own selfish wants and the wish to hurt others. To go a bit further down the socioeconomic scale, just watch a few episodes of Judge Judy. It’s the same sort of malice, only more petty.
There’s a famous quote that says feminism is based on the radical idea that women are people. And unfortunately, ‘people’ all have the same capacity for inflicting misery upon one another, regardless of their gender. In light of that, let me speculate on why relations between men and women have never been worse…
Chapters 6-8 discuss the battle between feminists and men’s right activists, and respond to a critique from one of Australia’s best known feminists.
The previous chapter was written long before I read Boys Will Be Boys, the new book by Clementine Ford. Chapters 6-8 of that book are a blistering attack on her enemies, including men’s rights activists (MRAs). Ford is one of Australia’s best known modern feminists, with over 100,000 Twitter followers. But as she doesn’t seem to understand MRAs, chapters 6-8 of my book will try to remedy the false picture of them she gives to her readers.
Doing this means stepping outside the gender war to look at the bigger picture of the ‘culture war’ which has raged in the West for a while now. This is the battle between the left and right, ‘progressives’ and conservatives, over the values and direction of Western nations. I’ll preface my comments by saying I supported the left side of politics most of my life, until realising what it has become.
People on the right tend to think leftists are mistaken but well meaning. Those on the left think rightists are mistaken and evil. Leftists tend to be Utopians who can’t understand why anyone would oppose them. Reasonable MRAs would concede that Clementine Ford acts from good intentions, but it’s doubtful she’d return the favour.
Ford attacks MRAs in general, and two enemies in particular: Milo Yiannopoulos and Paul Elam. While I certainly don’t agree with everything those two say, the point is that you don’t have to. The demand for moral purity is a weakness of the left, and barely a week goes by without them hounding someone into oblivion for some social media gaffe, or decades-old faux pas. For those on the right, you might not like all of what someone says or does, but still think their views can have value.
Milo Yiannopoulos is a loose cannon who rails against the various holy crusades of the left, including feminism and political correctness. He’s part jester, part activist. Ford can’t fathom that Milo really does believe his trolling is ‘God’s work.’ She thinks he’s a force for chaotic evil and nihilism. Anyone who’s read Milo’s book would know that’s not true. He has a cruel side to his character, which does him no favours, but it’s silly to dismiss him as a nihilist. On the other hand, it is nice to see Clementine attacking a non-heterosexual man for a change.
So, let’s take a look at the war between feminists and MRAs and see if there can ever be any common ground between them…
Chapters 9-12 examine the idea of the ‘gender pay gap.’ It begins with an anecdote.
One day late in 2017, I walked into a cafe with a female friend. On the table was a newspaper with a headline about TV host, Lisa Wilkinson. She’d just quit her job over being paid less than her male colleague, Karl Stefanovic. Lisa was said to be on about $1.2 million a year while Karl was on two million. She protested by signing with another network who agreed to pay her the same as Karl.
My friend, who is a feminist, pointed to the headline with a look of approval. I got the sense I was meant to be thrilled, that perhaps I should jump up with a cry of solidarity and proclaim, ‘Hoorah! The patriarchy is no longer oppressing Lisa Wilkinson!’
Instead, I sat down and ordered a coffee, wondering why I should care about someone on a wage thirty or forty times my own being given a pay rise. Still, maybe I wasn’t seeing the bigger picture. Sensing my lack of joy, my friend asked, ‘Don’t you want your wife to earn the same as the men in her company?’ ‘She already does,’ I replied. ‘It was legislated years ago.’
In other words my friend, an intelligent woman, had been so assailed by propaganda about the ‘gender pay gap’ that she believed my wife is paid less than her male colleagues, despite the Equal Pay Act having been passed in 1963. In most ordinary jobs, it is illegal not to pay men and women the same wage for the same work.
Naturally, this doesn’t apply to all professions. Anyone in the entertainment field, for instance, is going to negotiate whatever wage they can get. The footballer, Ronaldo, just signed with Juventus for fifty million Euros a year. It’s just possible there’s a small wage gap between him and his team-mates.
There’s no such thing as an Equal Pay Act in the entertainment world. In 2015, the actress Jennifer Lawrence was peeved to find out she earned less than her male co-stars for the film American Hustle. She still made fifty million dollars from the Hunger Games series that year, and was aware enough to know it wasn’t a third world problem. Otherwise you might say that anyone – male or female – who is on fifty million and complains about money should be instantly struck by lightning.
Back in the world of mortals like Lisa Wilkinson and me, let’s imagine I was in a different cafe – that one in Melbourne which charges men a 17% surcharge to reflect the gender pay gap. And what is this famous pay gap anyway? Well, if you take all the men and women who are working full time and compare their income, women are paid, on average, 17% less than men. As a protest, this Melbourne cafe has taken a stand on the issue by charging their male customers 17% more. So, if I ordered a coffee which is normally $4.00, I’d be charged $4.68.
Now suppose Lisa Wilkinson was sitting at the next table. She’d only pay $4.00 for her coffee because she’s a victim of the gender pay gap. It’s a bit odd when you consider Lisa owns a home in one of the more expensive parts of Sydney, while I’m paying a fair chunk of my salary in rent. Yet this cafe would charge me $4.68 for my coffee and Lisa $4.00 for hers.
I might go up to the justice-minded cafe staff and say, ‘I’ve heard about your income-based prices. If you adjust for our incomes, I’m the one who should pay $4.00 for my cappuccino. Lisa should be charged at least $200 for hers, and if Jen Lawrence or Ronaldo come in, they’ll be paying about $10, 000 for theirs.
What this imaginary scene shows is the silliness of identity politics; the absurdity of placing Lisa Wilkinson in a class with all women and myself in a class with all men, and using the single factor of our gender as a basis for policy.
So, on to the topic of the ‘gender pay gap’ – or the GPG for short…
If there is ever to be an end to the gender war, there must be some compromise – and an attempt to see the other side’s point of view. My book tries to be fair to both sides. For example, Chapter 13 is sympathetic to feminists. It starts like this:
Feminism was right about some things. Imagine being a woman before 1960. You were assumed to be less able and intelligent. You were given less education, shut out from positions of power, and largely confined to the domestic sphere. You were thought to be secondary to a man and dependent on one. You were expected to behave in certain ways and not others.
Most men would not like to be born into those conditions where the possibility of what they could do and be was so restricted. A key reason for feminism was to overthrow the limits on potential for those who happen to be born female. For the record, I support the right of any individuals to try to do or be whatever they want.
Chapter 14 is also sympathetic. It’s called ‘Dickheads Anonymous.’
My first memory of stupid male behaviour towards girls was as a teenager seeing 1. boys’ desire for girls to have sex with them, and 2. boys’ disapproval of girls who had sex with them. It seemed silly even at the time. This chapter will look at various types of annoying male behaviour which feminists are entitled to dislike and oppose.
Chapters 15-17 return to the topic of ‘male privilege,’ making a detailed analysis of a list of male privilege on a feminist website. Here’s one of them:
One of the strangest items on the male privilege list is the claim that girls get higher grades if they’re attractive. This is apparently a terrible handicap because it tells girls that they are valued for their looks, not their minds. It also means that girls’ grades depend on their appearance.
Almost all men would agree that their grades don’t depend on appearance, but on performance. As this is exactly how it should be, it makes no sense to call it a privilege. You’d hope girls are treated exactly the same. If you take this odd item at face value, surely it can only be female privilege if girls get higher grades for attractiveness. But somehow an unfair advantage has been turned into yet more injustice for women.
Suppose there is a girl who gets high grades and is also attractive. If so, one of the following is true:
- She got those grades fairly because she deserved them for the work, and would be rightly annoyed if anyone said otherwise.
- She got the grades unfairly and doesn’t know.
- She got the grades unfairly, knows, but doesn’t care.
- She got the grades unfairly, both knows and cares, and demands a lower grade from the teacher.
The only one to experience injustice would be the first girl for the implication she wasn’t worth the high grade. The second girl would be ignorant, the third immoral, and the fourth moral. Still, let’s say you took one hundred attractive girls with high grades, there would be plenty in the first three groups and almost none in the fourth.
Whatever else it is, it’s hard to see how this bizarre item is actually a form of male privilege.
Ch 18, ‘A Dream of Fecunda,’ takes a satirical look at the idea of a women only country. Here’s an extract:
How long have we had feminism? It seems like eternity but it’s only about fifty years since it really fired up. In those fifty years, there have been thousands of books, talks, and courses on the subject, but we’re still no closer to gender Utopia. I reckon it’s time to seize the moment and quit while we’re behind. We must rise as one people and many genders and say Enough! After all this talk, after all this trash, it’s time to give Fecunda a go.
And what is Fecunda? It is a magical land; a country never darkened by evil or sin. It is a holy realm without pay gaps, privilege, or rape culture. Fecunda is a land populated only by women.
Sounds pretty good, huh? But is Fecunda a real place, or one known only in legend? Well, if it ain’t real, it ought to be. Women have suffered too long at the hands of men. As one feminist said, it’s only down to their ‘immense compassion or immense foolishness’ that they continue to co-exist with men at all. Yet we can’t expect women’s love to be boundless. It’s time for the Dear John letter; time to go our separate ways. Women deserve a homeland. They deserve Fecunda.
The idea of Fecunda came to me in a dream. It was right after I saw Black Panther, that documentary about the awesome country of Wakanda in Africa. Wakanda is a really cool place with advanced technology they developed on their own, far from Western civilisation. Yet as we know, Wakanda is an ethnostate, only for Africans. Because of that, Wakanda has never had the problem of racism. It stands to reason there’s no racism in an ethnostate. In the same way, an all-female Fecunda will solve the problem of sexism. That means no more domestic violence, no more man-splaining or man-spreading. In fact, no more problems at all.
Sure, there’s the matter of reproduction, for without children, how can Fecunda endure? Should they take a few men as breeding slaves in a sort of reverse Handmaid’s Tale? Better not. No hint of toxic masculinity should ever taint the holy land of Fecunda. I guess the Fecundan scientists can figure out some kind of cloning system. But that is mere detail. The immediate need is to get Fecunda up and running. Men have held women back for too long. Women have earned the right to live under matriarchy, with all-female companies, universities, and families. Let them lead the way and show us how civilisation can be done.
Now, Fecunda is not for all women. It’s for those who have made it clear they’ve had enough of men. In other words, feminists.
It’s for Boston academic, Suzanna Danuta Walters, who wrote a famous article called ‘Why Can’t We Hate Men?’ Some people say feminism’s a hate movement. According to Walters, it has every right to be. Fecunda is also for Laurie Penny, who’s fed up with women doing all the work in relationships. It’s for Roxane Gay who says that in the age of Me Too, it’s time for men to confess their part in creating rape culture. It’s for all the authors ripping off Margaret Atwood and putting out their own versions of The Handmaid’s Tale. Really, it’s for everyone who thinks patriarchy has them in its vice-like, invisible grip. Men are the problem? Fecunda is the solution.
It’s time to give Fecunda a go. Just think of all the problems getting rid of men would instantly solve. Like I said – no gender pay gap, no rape culture, no male privilege. Fecunda would have 100% female CEOs, a complete lack of sexism, and the Me Too movement would be about as necessary as those bicycles that fish don’t ride.
If you want to do the thing properly, you could even wind the clock back to Year Zero. It’s a grave injustice that women in history were denied the chance to make all the great inventions and discoveries. A Stone Age Fecunda would give girls the chance to shine. Let the female Newtons and Darwins emerge as they will.
Or perhaps that is a bridge too far. Fecunda may be a social Utopia, but if it is to compete with other nations, let it have access to the knowledge male privilege has produced. Let Fecunda begin on an equal footing with everyone else. Then, it may shine as the model of what human potential can achieve once patriarchy is vanquished once and for all.
In theory, Fecunda should be exactly what feminists want. Let them keep all the advantages of modern life, but remove the one blight on their lives: men and the patriarchy. They could build their own society from the ground up. What could possibly go wrong? Well, maybe a couple of things.
The first problem would be finding women to do all the hard, nasty, or dangerous jobs normally done by men. The garbage collection, building, manual labour, and so on. There’d be no more men to do all that stuff. There’d also be no more men at the top running, inventing, or achieving things from which all others benefit. Still, there’s no reason women can’t step up and start doing all this. That’s what they want, isn’t it?
The second problem would be mental. Being human and living a happy life is difficult. All this time feminists have told themselves their problems are caused by men and the patriarchy. After living in that whole Excuse Culture, what are they going to do when the Great Excuse is removed?
Having played the blame game so long, they’ll find it extremely hard to change – which is one reason they’ll never leave. But imagine if they did. In Fecunda, there’d be no more blaming men for everything and thanking them for nothing. No more the eternal cop out. No more thinking ‘I could be anything but for the cursed patriarchy!’
When your whole mindset is one of grievance, this mode of thinking isn’t easy to give up. If a whole country was formed with people who think like this, it would be only a matter of time before a new scapegoat was found. Some new form of privilege or systemic unfairness would soon be discovered.
You can see this in the recent backlash against white feminists from women of colour. It is almost a matter of schadenfraude to see white feminists being chastised over their privilege, power, and even – Heaven forbid – the pay gap between black and white women. Still, we’d better not have any of that mean old schadenfraude stuff around here. It might lead to fantasies about what happens when people who do nothing but complain are forced to live with each other.
Chapter 18 then takes a more serious look at the controversial topic of ‘rape culture,’ in light of some recent tragedies. Chapter 19 concludes the book by asking where we go from here, and speaks of ‘The Surprising Liberation’ that is possible if we can put the gender war behind us.
That concludes the samples. They should be enough to give some idea of the book which, of course, goes into much greater detail on all of these topics.
The Vast and the Spurious is available on Amazon and Book Depository, among other sites.