Men Attacking “Privileged Women” is Still Misogyny

Patricia Arquette

I don’t ever watch the Oscars – and, honestly, I have no idea who Patricia Arquette is – so the furor over her backstage comments Sunday night is all coming to me second-hand. As usual, I think Meghan Murphy has a perfect analysis:

I read her comment, instead, to say that it was time for all of us to fight for women. We, as women, are always supposed to put everyone else first, and called selfish when we don’t. Women’s issues have been thrown under the bus in every other progressive movement to date — raped and abused by the men whose movements we joined, relegated to doing menial administrative tasks and to the role housewife and mother, rather than leader. While liberals everywhere will fight for gay marriage, they still refuse to fight back against the sex industry, and men who will fight class and race wars continue to insist on objectifying women despite their otherwise liberatory politics.

There are certainly more exciting, more powerful messages I would have preferred to hear about women’s liberation, but her message is true. The wage gap is real and it impacts the real lives of women and their children, and speaks to the global status of women. And if your contribution to feminism is waiting for women to misspeak so you can paint them as the enemy and order them to “shut up” (as countless people did on Twitter today), your message is far more problematic than anything Arquette said.

I saw this reaction manifest itself most openly among some of my supposed male leftist comrades who were quick to spread articles, blogs, jokes, and derisive statements about Arquette’s supposed racism. One man called her demand for wage equality “Robin Morgan kkkrap” while another unironically identified himself as a “internationalist proletariat feminist” opposed to Arquette’s “gender aristocracy” and “faux-feminism.” I’ve been in casual contact with these men for over a year now, and I have yet to see a single mention of the rape, abuse, humiliation, dismissal, exploitation, and marginalization women on the Left are subjected to by their supposed comrades. Because, you know, misogyny and violence run rampant in our movements, but that can wait until after I post this meme about how Patricia Arquette is a spoiled little princess. Onward, towards liberation!

This same deluge of condescension and vitriol came after Emma Watson’s UN speech wasn’t “trans-inclusive” and when Rashida Jones spoke up about our pornographic culture. In each case, men were just kinda dicks to women in the name of “intersectionality,” an ideology that holds appeal to men largely because it allows us to sanction our misogyny under the banner of “calling out privilege.” When a man professes an allegiance with feminism, the traditional methods of belittling and dismissing women that previously nurtured us become difficult to sustain. For a lot of men, the solution isn’t to abandon woman-hate entirely but simply to adopt politics that allow that same old misogyny to be expressed against approved targets: The privileged woman, the white women, the anti-feminist woman, and of course the designated receptacle for male abuse that is the TERF. It’s an easy thing for men to slip into – I myself have done so in inexcusable ways – but that doesn’t make it any less an expression of misogyny.

This isn’t to say that white women can’t be racist or that we never have cause to call it out; as individuals who exist inside the structure of whiteness, we’re all racists, and every white person has the responsibility to counter white supremacy. And of course any criticisms by women of color ought to be heard immediately, without question. The problem comes when a popular culture that is desperate to justify shitting on women hijacks that criticism to repackage the most obvious misogynistic tropes – the spoiled white girl, the shallow princess – as political commentary, and when men decide that marginalized women’s thoughtful objections are a good reason to completely abandon the restraint of an ally and throw down a campaign of belittlement and dismissal indistinguishable from any other anti-feminist screed. As a good friend of mine said, how great it would be if Leftist men examined themselves the way they want to examine women!

John Legend’s appearance with Common, the only other part of the Oscars I saw, threw this into stark relief for me. During his acceptance speech, Legend said, “We know that right now the struggle for freedom and justice is real. There are more black men under correctional control today than were under slavery in 1850.” This is a very important statement and I’m very excited to see it expressed in such a public forum (I’d encourage every white person reading to check out The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, which was a life-changing book for me). But even this Oscar-winner’s statement ignores the fact that black women are murdered by pigs too, and face similarly genocidal conditions of incarceration. And yet not a single man I know who identifies as an anti-racist activist posted a single condemnation of his arguably misogynistic oversight! Shocker!

This isn’t to be taken as a criticism of John Legend, who was courageous to draw attention to our genocidal prison-industrial complex, or as a defense of Patricia Arquette’s undeniably poorly-worded and inappropriate statements. But it speaks to the heart of this culture that a man was called courageous for a discussion of racism that specifically excluded women, while a woman received a extensive criticism for a discussion of misogyny that failed to specifically include people of color. Maybe both should be criticized, or maybe neither. But whatever direction the contradiction is resolved, the fact remains that a massive double standard exists that sees male ignorance as understandable, even excusable, while a woman’s imperfection is immediate grounds for dismissal and abuse. And as long as men on the Left pat ourselves on the back for “calling out” women in ways that, you knowjust happen to mirror the way men shame and harass women in every other public sphere, that dynamic will never change.


  1. Well said!

  2. I’ve always said that men have no business “calling out” women under a banner of feminism. I hate “call out” culture precisely because it always targets women. Women who say things that are inappropriate. When are these same people going to call out all of the abuse-watching, rape-glorifying, pedophiliac males out there? I have a long list of them that either go greatly ignored or even commended. I’ve refrained from ever participating in any vitriol against a woman – even the most openly racist ones – until I see this change, until I see us question and “call out” men to the same extent.

  3. “And of course any criticisms by women of color ought to be heard immediately, without question.”

    Yes, they ought to be, but they’re not really being heard.

    The voices of women of colour are mostly not being heard above all the fracas that white men and women are making as they pile on top of Patricia Arquette. The voices of women of colour are being drowned out by white people clamouring for the anti-racist spotlight. Do these white commentators truly care, or are they being self-serving?

    What the white leftists are doing looks like a lot like sport. It looks like they are using WOC as a weapon to beat up on and silence a white women — not directly because she is white, of course, but because she is famous and privileged enough to get control, for a few minutes, of a speaking platform that reached millions. And because she used that platform FOR a feminist cause. Seems to me that, for white critics, THAT is the central, hidden issue: speaking as, and on behalf, of women.

    How is it anti-racist to use WOC women and Patricia in this way? Is this activism? I question the sincerity of their pro-woman, anti-racist sentiments, when they tell a woman to shut up, and when they frame white womanhood in misogynist terms — “spoiled little princess,” really? — and let this characterization stand in opposition to non-white womanhood. This can only give credence to racialized stereotypes about women rather than challenge them.

  4. Excellent post. This new way of telling women to shut up about their problems has to be named and shamed till it stops.

    I’m not sure, though, that Levine got a pass for his actual exclusion of women because he’s male. I suspect a woman wouldn’t have gotten too beat up either. It’s always okay to exclude women. They don’t count. Saying they do — enough so that people who aren’t women should also be helping them — that was Arquette’s main sin.

  5. Thomas Eisenecker says:

    Is it just me or does “privileged woman” sounds like she derives her privilege from being a woman? I mean a “privileged white person” or “privileged rich person” is one thing but “privileged woman” is something I’d expect from an MRA.

  6. “But even this Oscar-winner’s statement ignores the fact that black women are murdered by pigs too, and face similarly genocidal conditions of incarceration. And yet not a single man I know who identifies as an anti-racist activist posted a single condemnation of his arguably misogynistic oversight! Shocker!”

    Men make up 93.3% of the prison population and 95% of those shot by police. If you can’t recognize why men are the victim class we focus on it’s because you’re a selfish asshole. I can look back at generations of severely gender biased advocacy on sexual assault and domestic violence which distort attitudes among people to this day while we have studies showing men making 50% of Domestic Violence victims and 25-50% of sexual violence victims. I don’t think people who stood by while that happened and cheer it on are in any position to lecture people on ethically approaching gender equality.

    MRA’s have their place because we need pluralism in the gender discussion. Letting entitled brats lead the charge isn’t going to get us very far. In fact it seems to be taking us backwards.

    • “we have studies showing men making 50% of Domestic Violence victims”

      No. That one study was a joke. No one — male or female — who is serious about ending domestic violence ever uses it.

      If anyone is interested in why this one shoddy study is constantly quoted by MRAs, here is Alyce LaViollete, expert in domestic violence and research, explaining why:

      It’s a long video, sorry. But, if I recall, the relevant information is discussed within the first 15 minutes or so. If you want to hear a brilliant speaker on domestic violence, bookmark this video and watch the whole thing when you have time. It’s worth it!

      • She begins her discussion of the uses and misuses of DV research at 10:30, and begins to discuss the “gender equivalent” research at 13:00, where she gets into the 50-50 bullshit …

        Also, I apologize for misspelling her name — it’s Alyce LaViolette.

    • stuckonplanetmisogyny says:

      Heterosexual cis men cause over ninety five percent of rape and other violent crimes. MRAs should use their platform to prevent sociopathic behavior amongst their beloved brethren. It’s not testosterone; transgender men don’t commit violence at these rates. Nor is it having a p!nis and testosterone: gay and bisexual men don’t either. Also, transgender women who identify as lesbians don’t wreak havoc either even before gender affirmation surgery, so “attraction to women plus having a p$nis” isn’t the recipe for destruction either. Men’s rights groups should focus on the biggest problem facing the average (cis, het) man today, which is their propensity for violence. Unfortunately, this will never happen, partially because violence (sexual and otherwise) is what most cis het men believe makes them “manly” and therefore valid. Also, women are conditioned from childhood to find this completely acceptable (“little susie, he hits you because he LIKES you!”). Disgusting.

  7. stuckonplanetmisogyny says:

    Exactly. No one ever demands intersectionality from men. White feminists are correctly called on their racism, but I have never heard an anti racist man of color EVER called out for misogyny. None of them give a shit about Black women being killed by cops. “Black lives matter” is shorthand for “Black men’s lives matter”. Most couldn’t even name one of the many Black women who have been cold bloodedly murdered by cops!

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