“Misogofeminists” and the white men who profit from silencing critiques

Note — Many requests have come around, one my way,  to have this re-posted.  I think DV readers will be enlightened.

BY Flavia Dzodan

My name is Flavia Dzodan, I am a writer, public speaker, media maker, ideas instigator, content creator and facilitator living in Amsterdam. This blog is about the spaces and intersections between politics, culture, race and gender matters with some humor and pop culture thrown in the mix. I also blog at Tiger Beatdow

Yesterday social media was ablaze with a post making the rounds in feminist/ woman centered spaces. The post in question was about the neologism “misogofeminists”. No idea what that means? No problem, New Statesman Deputy Editor Helen Lewis explains it succinctly:

Brilliant coinage by : misogofeminists. Women (and allies) whose primary form of feminist activism is trashing other women.

Of course, if you think about it for half a second, there is no point in even attempting to analyse intersections of gender, race and class if you’re not prepared to include an examination of your own misogyny

To be clear on who is truly oppressed, she quotes from this McKinnon article:

Unlike other women, the white woman who is not poor or working class or lesbian or Jewish or disabled or old or young does not share her oppression with any man. That does not make her condition any more definitive of the meaning of “women” than the condition of any other woman is. But trivializing her oppression, because it is not even potentially racist or class-biased or heterosexist or anti-Semitic, does define the meaning of being “anti-woman” with a special clarity. How the white woman is imagined and constructed and treated becomes a particularly sensitive indicator of the degree to which women, as such, are despised.

Lewis, promoting this analysis is not merely “someone sharing a link among friends”, though. Not even 48 hours have passed since I Storified this genesis of “Flavia is a bully” because I initiated a conversation centered on experiences of Women of Color and hair.

Here we have a Deputy Editor of a mainstream publication equating critiques from Women of Color to bullying, harassment and now codifying all this behavior under a new umbrella term: misogofeminism. Or, to put it in layman terms, when uppity Women of Color and other marginalized minorities complain that mainstream publications contribute to their marginalization. However, this “stirring the pot” of feminism in social media spaces is not neutral. It is not merely “passing time” or “sharing information”. Lewis is a paid employee of New Statesman, working for her employer’s visibility on social media; she is not just “a woman with an opinion”. When she promotes posts like the above, she is also raising the online currency of her own bloggers (since Glosswitch is a contributor as well). And these tactics work. They have finally put New Statesman out of a consistent cycle of financial loss. As reported here in The Independent in April 2013, Ian Burrell: By embracing feminism, the New Statesman beat its old rival. From the article:

Last Thursday, at Conway Hall in London, it hosted an event called “The Future of Feminism”, at which the magazine’s “crack squad of feminist bloggers” – many of them in their twenties – held forth before a sell-out audience.[…]

Lewis has been integral to growing website traffic to a record 1.4 million unique users last month.

Jason Cowley, the New Statesman’s editor, has observed these developments with some satisfaction.[…]

Today, the New Statesman website comfortably beats that of The Spectator, against which its success has long been measured.[…]

The editor says the magazine, with its compact staff of 15, will come into profit this year, which should please its benefactor, Mike Danson, who bought out former owner and Labour MP Geoffrey Robinson in 2009.

One could argue that Lewis is just doing her job. She is, after all, paid to work social media outrage and generate page clicks. However, I do take issue with the well being of Women of Color, trans women, queer folks, etc, becoming fodder of tabloid tactics for profit. Ms. Lewis job should not come at the expense of our silencing and further marginalization, especially, when said profits are to further fund a multimillionaire white man, Mike Danson, the owner of New Statesman.

In 2009, Mr. Danson, whose net worth is valued at £310 Million, acquired New Statesman.

Prior to Mike Danson’s acquisition of New Statesman, when the publication was not profitable, they published features such as this one, None deadlier than the Mail, a blistering indictment of Daily Mail tactics of coercion and silencing of oppressed groups. From the article (emphasis mine):

A specialist writer with many years at the paper told me: “You become so inculcated with all of the doctrine that you know instantly what you are supposed to write. You forget the extent to which you are blinkered. It is hard to put your finger on it. You probably do get chemically changed by the experience.” One former news reporter said: “On 60-70 per cent of stories, you are not aware of it; but, on touchstone issues, you knew that the headline had been written before the story came in and your job was to make the facts fit.”

The Mail’s quest to reflect the moral and political values of its lower-middle-class readers frequently goes beyond mere reporting, taking on the shape of a punitive campaign against anybody who says or does anything that challenges those values.

Lady Brittan, wife of the former Conservative home secretary Leon Brittan, found herself a target when, in August 2002, as chair of the National Lottery’s Community Fund, she approved a grant for the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns. The Mail, high on its anti-immigration horse, denounced her as “queen of the loony lotto grants” and “a quango queen”; her husband as a “fat cat”; her colleagues on the Lottery board as “sanctimonious politically correct twits”, “unelected quangocrats” and “politically correct do-gooders”; their decision as “offensive beyond belief “, “a disgrace”, “bizarre”, “outrageous” and “scandalous”.

Four times in ten days, the paper encouraged its readers to “vent their justified anger” by writing to Lady Brittan; and each time, it published her address at the Community Fund’s office. She then received a torrent of what she described as “hate mail”.

I insist on this paragraph:

The Mail’s quest to reflect the moral and political values of its lower-middle-class readers frequently goes beyond mere reporting, taking on the shape of a punitive campaign against anybody who says or does anything that challenges those values.

Do these tactics sound familiar already? They should because at the time of this New Statesman article, Helen Lewis was a subeditor of The Daily Mail. There isn’t that much information available of her exact role in the tabloid but, this press release posted at Press Gazette (yet another media industry publication owned by Mike Danson) places her working at The Daily Mail at least as far as August 2007.  And this feature at The World Editors Forum interviews her in her role of Daily Mail subeditor in July 2008.  Back then, New Statesman named these tactics “punitive campaign against anybody who challenges those values”. Any similarities with charges of “misogofeminism”, “bullying” and/ or “harassment” are not a coincidence.

When Danson took over, this supposedly left leaning publication not only started using outrage tabloid tactics but also refused to recognise the National Union of Journalists, the trade union to which almost of all its journalists belonged.

In this return to profits at the expense of feminism there is another link worth considering: Jason Cowley, editor of New Statesman. While Lewis role is to generate outrage and attention on behalf of the publication, it is Cowley who is in charge.

This is the same man who, in 2007, wrote a detailed article at The Guardian expressing his disappointment at “the dirty masses” (not a metaphor). In “This popcorn and burger society is making me sick”, Cowley wrote:

There are always sullen teenagers hanging around, and when they are not sledging you, you are forced to wade through the trash they carelessly scatter: the cans, the bottles, the burger cartons.

It is little better inside, where you are assaulted by the hard sell of the concession stands, with their popcorn and oversized confectionary bars. Why must everything be so big, overlit and gaudy? Why must the intention always be to rip you off?

Our high streets bring little relief, with their drab uniformity. At night, especially at weekends, inane drunks invariably overrun our town centres.

And then this gem, right at the end of the article:

I have long felt that Margaret Thatcher was misunderstood when she spoke of the supremacy of the individual and the family over the abstraction of society. Thatcher was a stern Victorian moralist, formed by the virtues of Christian nonconformism and the financial probity she learned from her father. She believed in setting us free from government interference. She wanted us to take more responsibility for our destinies.

What she didn’t think hard enough about were the broader social consequences of her reforms, of how too much freedom may be not what we need at all.

She did not believe in the state; she believed in the family, believed that it would restrain our more atavistic and anti-social desires, and show us how properly to behave, in private and public. No doubt she is appalled by how coarse and hedonistic we have become. No, she must say, as she switches on the television or reads the paper, this isn’t right; this isn’t what I had in mind at all when I dreamed the bourgeois dream of the great, good place.

Ah there you have it. A Daily Mail tactician and a Thatcherite sitting in a tree, admonishing misogofeminists, fending off “dirty masses” and “bullies”. What could possibly go wrong?

Trudy at Gradient Lair and Blackamazon have written about the conflation of white women with white men to marginalize women of color. They have both traced the historical roots and patterns that this association has followed throughout centuries. It seems that now, we are to believe that a feminism that reproduces this exact same patterns of marginalization is in our best interest. Any protestations are met with further discipline and silencing. The “dirty masses” should not have a say in how they are represented, after all. We are just to nod silently while white millionaires and the white feminists who assist them make money from our oppression. Media cruelty at our expense is obviously a profitable enterprise.

Paul K. Haeder lived one-year in Seattle working for "the" SEIU (Service Employees International Union), the largest private sector union in the USA (in their pro-Obama PR materials), to organize adjuncts in Bezos-Boeing-Gates land, after having worked as a communications, language, composition, writing instructor of the freeway flyer variety in El Paso for the University of Texas, the El Paso Community College, language institutes, Park College, the US Army, La Tuna Federal Correctional Institute, Packard Electric in Juarez, New Mexico State University, and several cities in Mexico. In Washington State, he taught at Gonzaga University, Spokane Community College, Spokane Falls Community College. He's job hunting -- at that golden age of 56 (and counting down) ... just what the progressive-left-of-center non-profits in the Vancouver-Portland “area” want (NOT). He can be reached at: paul@dissidentvoice.org. Read other articles by Paul, or visit Paul's website.