Sex, Lies &
Feminism by Peter Zohrab
This book is the result of over ten years of
experience, reading, thinking, and political action. When I first
decided to become a Men's Rights Activist, I did not know that there
were, or had ever been, any others in the world. Even when I discovered
that there were some in other countries, I did not know that there were,
or had ever been, any others in my home country, New Zealand. It has
been a largely lonely struggle.
But it was clear that logic was on our side. The only thing that
held Men's Rights back was the official state ideology of most western
countries that women are oppressed and that men run the world -- and
that men, consequently, should not be permitted to talk about their
rights. This totalitarianism is what created the need for the term "Feminazi".
In more recent years, Men and Fathers have been networking nationally
and internationally, and I am grateful for the support of past and present
members of the New Zealand Men for Equal Rights Association (formerly
known as the New Zealand Men's Rights Association), and of my colleagues
in other countries. I would like to mention Richard Doyle, Brian O'Higgins,
Kingsley Morse, and Max Aston, in particular.
WHAT IS FEMINISM ?
Rendall (The Origins of Modern Feminism: Women in Britain, France
and the United States, 1780-1860, London:Macmillan, 1985) states that
the word "Feminism" was first used in English in 1894. It
was derived from the French word "feminisme", which was apparently
invented by the French Utopian Socialist, Charles Fourier.
I would like to attempt a definition of Feminism which covers all
the "Feminisms" mentioned in this book – and perhaps
even some that are not. Feminists seem to have some difficulty in defining
Feminism – mostly because Feminists have conquered western societies
so thoroughly that there are few non-Feminists left for Feminists to
contrast themselves with.
Groups usually define themselves in relation to non-members, and as
this particular group can find few articulate non-members, it ends up
with a fuzzy self-image. I hope to be of assistance in this regard,
as this book focuses on the thesis that the victims-of-oppression model
fits the situation of men at least as well as it fits the situation
of women, and that men's oppressors are the Feminists (male and female)
– plus some overly chivalrous non-Feminist males. In my view,
this book argues that thesis successfully, but it is up to you to judge
if I have been successful.
Another problem for anyone who wants to define "Feminism"
is that, as each generation of Feminists wins its battles and retires,
the next generation comes along with a completely new set of worries,
complaints and demands. For much of the nineteenth century, Feminists
were concerned with obtaining the right to vote, and property rights.
Since the end of World War Two, the focus has been first on employment
issues and abortion, and later on crimes where women are typically the
complainants and men are the alleged perpetrators – e.g.., rape,
domestic violence and ch1ld sexual abuse. These different generations
tend to define themselves in terms of their own current policy goals.
This confuses any attempt at getting an overview of this entire political
"A central problem within feminist discourse has been our inability
to either arrive at a consensus of opinion about what feminism is
or accept definition(s) that could serve as points of unification.
Without agreed upon definition(s), we lack a sound foundation on which
to construct theory or engage in overall meaningful praxis."
(Bell Hooks, Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center, Boston: South
End Press, 1989, p. 17)
This uncertainty about the essence of Feminism is one of the hallmarks
of Postmodern Feminism. Previously, Feminists did not find it quite
so hard to define Feminism. The textbook on Feminism by the Bristol
Women's Studies Group (1979), for example, despite declaring itself
unable to give a neat definition of the academic discipline of Women's
Studies itself, gives the following definition of its subject-matter,
Feminism. I consider this an excellent definition, and my own definition
is very similar.
“By feminism we mean both an awareness of women's position
in society as one of disadvantage or inequality compared with that
of men, and also a desire to remove those disadvantages.” (Bristol
Women's Studies Group, Half the Sky: An Introduction to Women's Studies,1979,
A non-Feminist might feel that that definition demonstrated a fairly
rational turn of mind – one that left the door open for lucid
discussion about whether it was actually true to say women's position
in society was one of disadvantage or inequality. The desire to remove
those disadvantages and inequalities would presumably disappear if it
was agreed, after a period of dialogue between Feminists and non-Feminists,
that they did not, in fact, exist. But contrast this with the mentality
implicit in the following:
“If feminism is broadly defined as the quest for a sexually
just society, many people share at least some of its goals, though
they disavow the label.” (Meehan, British Feminism from the
1960s to the 1980s, in Smith (ed.) 1990, p. 189)
The problem with this definition is that it simply takes for granted,
rather than overtly states, what the previous definition claimed, i.e.,
that women's position in society is one of disadvantage vis-a-vis men.
A Feminist is one who (as the very word suggests) is primarily, if not
exclusively, interested in pushing the female point of view and women's
agendas. To simply assume this is the same as suggesting sexual justice
betrays a one-sided frame of mind which would find constructive dialogue
with non-Feminists virtually impossible.
A good definition of a Feminist appeared in a leaflet advertising
the Public Sessions of the 1993 National Conference of the New Zealand
Women's Electoral Lobby (WEL), in Wellington, New Zealand:
" WEL defines a feminist as someone who believes that women
are socially and economically disadvantaged because of their gender
and acts on that belief."
Here is another interesting view of Feminism:
“Feminism is not, in my view, a set of a priori answers, nor
a commitment to a particular ideology. It is rather a willingness
to follow questions wherever they lead us. Feminism insists upon a
commitment to listening with open ears to women's experience in order
to reformulate our actions and thought. It is thus more a method for
creative inquiry than a set of predetermined points. Feminism is a
commitment to women's well-being, to pursuing justice instead of patriarchy,
but the substance of women's well-being is not necessarily known in
advance.” (Pellauer: Moral Callousness and Moral Sensitivity:
Violence against Women, in Andolsen et al. 1987, p. 34)
This statement embodies a misconception as to the nature of ideology.
No ideology, and no religion, is able to anticipate every single issue
that might arise, and therefore issues are interpreted in the light
of prevailing circumstances by the believers in that particular religion
or ideology. So other ideologies are just as open-ended as Feminism
is – tending to determine what questions are asked by its adherents,
rather than providing all of the answers ready-made. That is why there
are so many versions of Marxism, and why there can be theoretical debate
about the proper Marxist approach to many issues.
I am sure Feminism has always, by and large, followed questions wherever
they happened to lead – but the point is that Feminist ideology
determines what questions get asked in the first place. This book points
out the inherent bias in the types of questions Feminists always ask,
and it suggests other questions we could and should ask, as well.
Feminists, as Pellauer points out, listen to women's experience with
open ears. By the same token, they do not listen to men's experience
with open ears. That is one clear indication of the bias that is inherent
in Feminist ideology.
“The reason feminism uncovered this reality, its methodological
secret, is that feminism is built on believing women's accounts of
sexual use and abuse by men.” (Catharine A. MacKinnon, Feminism
Unmodified, p. 5)
The unstated corollary to this, of course, is that they do not believe
men. This one-eyed approach can also lead Feminists (and entire western
legal systems) up unscientific paths, as we will see in connection with
Lenore Walker's book, The Battered Woman, in my chapter on domestic
As Pellauer points out, Feminism is a commitment to women's well-being
– but (by implication) not a commitment to men's well-being. If
there is ever a conflict between men's well-being and women's, there
is no doubt at all which side Feminists are on.
As we will see in the chapter on circumcision, western Feminists focus
on female genital mutilation in Third-World countries – but when
asked about male genital mutilation in their own countries, dismiss
it as a men's issue. One might think there is nothing wrong in having
a bias. However, Feminists usually claim their goal is sexual equality,
and the Feminazis (totalitarian Feminists) actively try to prevent Men's
Rights positions from being propagated on an equal basis with Feminist
ideas. Therefore this bias is a very serious issue.
My own approach to the problem is to define Feminism as the application
of the victims of oppression model to the situation of women in society.
Thus a Feminist is one who believes this model (in any given society)
fits the situation of women more appropriately than it does the situation
of men. This does not imply that all Feminists believe the "oppressors"
of women are men – some Feminists believe the real oppressor is
Society itself, and that men, too, are oppressed by the rigidity of
the roles that Society forces them to adopt.
That would suffice as a definition, in my opinion. However, one could
add that Feminists are almost bound to be gendercentric and unable to
see any ways in which men are discriminated against or oppressed. Some
Feminists ardently concur that men are oppressed by male gender roles
(1) this is a men's problem and not their concern, and
(2) as women are "liberated," men will be liberated too.
However, the kinds of problems I will discuss in this book are not
problems caused by gender-roles – except to the extent that it
is now the gender role of a women in western societies to oppress men
by ignoring their needs and concentrating on women's supposed "rights."
So Feminism is really a state of mind, which means it is unlikely to
die out because of a lack of issues to campaign on. If the issues didn't
exist, they would have to be invented (as French writer Voltaire said
In stating this, I strongly disagree with Simone Weil, who said, "Oppression
proceeds exclusively from objective conditions." (Simone Weil,
Oppression and Liberty). This is a somewhat naïve point of view
– though understandable, coming as it does from an apologist for
anti-establishment activism. What I am saying is that the presence or
absence of "oppression" is of course determined by fallible
human beings. Sometimes they will look to find oppression where the
objective conditions might not seem to third-parties to involve oppression
Conversely, situations of actual oppression can be, and are, overlooked
by people who have an ideology that blinds them to a particular form
of oppression. The present book – in part – is an attempt
to tear the blinders off the eyes of people who are ideologically oblivious
to even the possibility that men could be oppressed.
29 February 2016