Melinda Tankard Reist doesn’t speak for me

It appears MTR (also the acronym for the right-wing Melbourne Talk Radio, which is funny, in a way) is the Feminist of the Moment for the mainstream media. And a large part of her appeal, it seems to me, is that feminism, as she defines it, is a conservative, bourgeois feminism, threatening to specified corporate interests – she’s done good work with Collective Shout and her opposition to the pornification of little girls in general – but generally unthreatening to entrenched patriarchal systems.

This was illustrated by this nauseating letter from Neville Wright in last Sunday’s AGE – “All power to Melinda Tankard Reist. I have long wondered when the feminists would wake up…” (scroll down to “Feminism Reevaluated”). Gag.

She has just issued a legal threat to another blogger, No Place for Sheep, for speculating on this interview by Rachel Hills, and asking why MTR’s religious affiliations weren’t given prominence. For those unfamiliar with Tankard Reist, she’s a “pro-life feminist”, that is, anti-abortion.

I don’t really care what Tankard Reist’s religious affiliations are. What matters to me is that she was employed as a bioethics advisor to the ultraconservative, anti-choice senator Brian Harradine for twelve years. Twelve years. That’s not just a brief stint in a job to pay the rent. That’s a longstanding association with the Australian equivalent of, say, Pat Buchanan. Brian Harradine used his position in the Senate to further a “traditionalist” and antifeminist agenda, such as banning RU-486 and the imposition of Australia’s version of the Global Gag Rule.

With the still-widespread notion of feminism as a monolithic hivemind, with a spokeswoman (used to be Germaine Greer, remember – anything she uttered was assumed to be written in some Feminist bible somewhere), I’m afraid MTR will become (has already become) the next “spokeswoman” in the popular imagination.

Feminism is a broad movement and has some eccentric offshoots. MTR, despite her sometimes valuable role in speaking up for little girls, is one of them. Anyone who identifies as feminist should be able to do so, but it doesn’t automatically validate every part of their ideology as feminist. Melinda Tankard Reist doesn’t speak for me.

Crossposted at the Cast Iron Balcony

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Helen has been writing at the Cast Iron Balcony since 2003. She has been a proud contributor to the Australian Group blogs Road to Surfdom, Larvatus Prodeo and Progressive Dinner Party. She's a blogger, she's a grinner, she's a mother, she's a sinner. She plays her music in the sun.

This author has written 35 posts for Hoyden About Town. Read more about Helen »

84 responses to “Melinda Tankard Reist doesn’t speak for me”

  1. Rebecca

    Or me. The more I learn about MTR the further I want to distance myself from her brand of feminism.

  2. bri

    Her religious affiliation rings alarm bells for me as I used to be heavily involved with a Baptist church (about 15 years ago I escaped). They have some scary, scary ideas and practices.

    But even before I knew she went to a Baptist church I had come to realise she doesn’t speak for me either. And her threats against No Place for Sheep are pathetic and disgusting.

  3. Megpie71

    Count me as a further person she doesn’t speak for. I will quite cheerfully admit that my fondest dream is a world where no woman needs to have an abortion – because in my Ideal World, birth control would be freely available; teenagers would receive comprehensive sexual education which would include things like “how to reliably avoid getting pregnant”, “sexual practices which feel good and don’t involve a risk of pregnancy or disease”, and “enthusiastic consent as moral and legal obligation”; the social support systems would be set up to enable a single parent to be able to combine childrearing with working for a living; and the notion that a woman’s body is her own to control as she sees fit would be regarded as a baseline piece of common sense, rather than as a radical feminist concept.

    Furthermore, in my Ideal World, should Ms Tankard-Reist wish to live her life by a set of precepts laid down to deal with the social, moral and political identity issues of a group of semi-nomadic herdspeople back in the Babylonian era, then that would be her business and her business alone. She would have as much right to insist on me following her moral precepts as I have to insist on her following mine – none at all.

    (And this may just be my radical separatist streak speaking up, but I tend to feel that a type of feminism which is publicly praised by conservative men isn’t likely to be one which the majority of non-conservative, non-male identified persons in the world really need to be following).

  4. Anita Spitzee

    She doesn’t speak for me either – [The rest of this sentence has been moderated - Mention other feminists besides MTR, that's fine, but if you don't like them or their ideology, please make a logical case as to why. Thanks! H]

  5. Medivh

    I really hate the way that, in order to communicate an idea “effectively” in this day and age, it has to be reduced to a soundbite. That to be heard, a group must have a spokesperson champion. It’s even worse when the group doesn’t get to pick the spokesperson.

    MTR’s opinions repell me. The fact that she espouses some opinions that are better than public average on the topic of feminism just makes me think of hunting through a garbage tip for potentially useful items. You find something worthwhile occasionally, but on the whole you’re sorting through muck.

  6. Melissa

    Ok, it is important to have a choice as to whether or not to proceed with a pregnancy. I am not anti abortion at all. But the left wing liberal feminists (and I consider myself very left wing politically, lets get that straight) don’t speak for me and they don’t speak for a whole range of women who don’t fit in with their agenda.
    Abortion is an important option for a women not wanting to have a child. Yet how many women have abortions these days because it is expected of them? Men don’t want children by and large, they certaintly don’t want to pay child support and they don’t want to support their partners financially who wish to go ahead with a pregnancy. So many women overwhelmingly feel pressure to have abortions because it is inconvenient to their male partners. Abortion often serves the interests of men who don’t want to use condoms and who don’t want to deal with the reality of having impregnanted their partners. I have seen this first hand and it is tragic.
    Secondly left wing liberal feminists don’t speak for me because they seem to think there is something wrong with me staying home with my children. I am educated, intelligent, empowered and assertive but I like to be the mother that I want to be. I like to stay at home with my children however this option has now earned the label ‘opting out’. No longer is it ok to choose how I live, apparently I must follow some feminist rules. I have considered myself a feminist for 27 years, I am politically left wing but I am so tired of not having a voice and I am tired of feminists not representing me. Melinda Tankard Reist is not necessarily everyone’s cup of tea and I am not a Christian however some of what she says needs to be said and feminists have abandoned issues like pornography that directly affect women, feminists stay away from the issue of raunch culture which some women claim is empowering to women but ultimately serves the sexual interests of men and influences young girls to become sexualised at an early age. So tired of feminists not represented my interests AND howling down those who do represent my interests.

  7. tigtog

    I’m not surprised that you find that certain other feminists don’t necessarily speak for you, Melissa. How could any one type of feminist speak for all feminists, or indeed all women? It’s an unrealistic expectation, and it’s one built up by the media, that the broad movement should have spokeswomen/leaders whom the rest of us follow, rather than simply people speaking out as and when issues arise and there’s a handy platform, while the rest of us keep on thinking our own thoughts and speaking our own minds without perhaps such a megaphone.

    It’s difficult to respond to some of your particular examples though, because you’re speaking in generalities, as if indeed “left wing liberal feminists” are some sort of hivemind speaking with one voice, when in my own experience nothing could be further from the truth. Perhaps if you could link to specific incidents then we could analyse where there’s overreach occurring (as Helen’s post does with certain opinions expressed by MTR), but otherwise it starts to look like yet another skirmish with strawfeminism.

  8. Mindy

    Melinda Tankard Reist does not speak for me. Germain Greer does not speak for me. Sometimes even me of a couple of years back does not speak for the me now, and this will probably be true in the future as well. Feminism is not a hivemind nor a monolith.

  9. Sheryl

    It’s an unrealistic expectation, and it’s one built up by the media, that the broad movement should have spokeswomen/leaders whom the rest of us follow …

    Excellent point, tigtog, and applicable to any “broad movement”.

    While MTR’s religious worldview no doubt informs her political opinions and actions (as do the worldviews of each us, in their diverse ways) I have never heard her claim to speak on behalf of other Christians. I think she is well aware that the Christian community (like any community) is not a hivemind, and this may be why she doesn’t shout her religious views from the rooftop in the manner of, say, Fred Nile.

    It sounds, sometimes, as if criticism of MTR is based primarily on the fact that she’s a Christian … there seems to be (as seen in some of the posts above, and the links to other blogs) an attitude of “I’m not a Christian, she is, so what she says is at best irrelevant and ignorable, at worst repellant garbage”. This is, I think, Melissa’s point, above.

    MTR is a woman with particular views about pornography, abortion, the sexualisation of young girls. She also, apparently, attends a Baptist church. So what? I share some of her views on these issues, not all. I have no idea how close our views of Christianity might be. Point being, no community is homogenous. By all means point out that MTR’s views are not held by all in the feminist community, but also be careful not to lump all Baptists (or all Christians) into the same hivemind, with one spokesperson.

    That’s not helpful for an ongoing conversation about feminist concerns.

  10. Linda Radfem

    Speaking of straw feminism, the ideology of feminism is not about “speaking for” each other. Similarly, this new habit of repeating mantras like “X feminist does not speak for me” can in no way pass for feminist discourse.

    Helen, I think your post is unfair. Her pro-life views do not sit well with me either. However, I have no fear that those views will gain any traction within the feminist movement as they are absolutely unfeminist, so I’m willing to let them go given her strong commitment to core issues like sexual violence against women and children, and p0rnstitution. Challenging those things absolutely does threaten entrenched patriarchal systems, which by the way, is an odd criticism considering the ways in which Hoyden supports patriarchal systems.

    Women who have the courage to speak out against sexual violence and the role that raunch culture plays in it, deserve our support. Because all men, liberal men, conservative men and MRAs will object to her speaking out on those issues. Perhaps MTR has not made the connection between sexual violence and compulsory pregnancy, but developing feminist consciousness is a learning process, and we are all at different stages.

    Mindy, have you read all of Greer’s works?

  11. Melissa C

    Another Melissa – a stay at home, home educating mama of three – who is adding her support to Melissa – and Sheryl’s -comments above. Melissa, come visit me at my blog and we’ll talk :)

    I believe in an inclusive feminism where women can disagree on some issues and yet still express respect for those who, like Melinda, hold the line on something as important to many women as the sexualisation of girls and the porn industry.

    The nub of it for me is that I can disagree with MTR on abortion and yet still appreciate the work she does in other areas that are important to women. Comparing the situation here to that in the US, where reproductive rights are truly under almost constant threat, I find hyperbolic.

  12. Catherine

    Wow. So, let me get this straight. Feminism is a broad movement, but if you are a different type of feminist, you are a straw feminist, and need to do more reading.
    Right. Got it.

  13. Medivh

    Sheryl: I can’t help but think that your pseudo-quote was directed at me, having juxtaposed “repell(ant)” and “garbage” so closely just after I had. But even if that was not your intent, I have something to say about the opinion you expressed in said text. I am not Christian, it’s true, but as long as she keeps her faiths to herself (and she does), this is not repellant. The repellant part of MTR’s garbage is in her bigotries. Her transphobias for one. Her “conservative” class warring crap is another. And the whole idea of forced pregnancies just reeks of garbage.

    Moving on: is it just me, or has HaT been linked by MTR somewhere as “oh no, people are being mean to me on the Internet. Go show them what for”? Maybe there are a few people who seem to not have the patience to read with an MTR google alert?

  14. tigtog

    I believe in an inclusive feminism where women can disagree on some issues and yet still express respect for those who, like Melinda, hold the line on something as important to many women as the sexualisation of girls and the porn industry.

    The nub of it for me is that I can disagree with MTR on abortion and yet still appreciate the work she does in other areas that are important to women. Comparing the situation here to that in the US, where reproductive rights are truly under almost constant threat, I find hyperbolic.

    The work she has done in other areas such as standing up against raunch culture and the sexualisation of young girls, has repeatedly been recognised for its worth, in this post and other writings. A single sentence framing Brian Harradine’s political positions to be roughly equivalent of those of Pat Buchanan is not comparing the situation here to that in the US in any hyperbolic way, it is simply siting Harradine on the political landscape for our overseas readers, who generally outnumber those who are homegrown.

    I don’t feel that I have to ‘express respect’ without reservation for someone who stayed employed by Brian bloody Harradine for 12 whole years. That’s a whole minefield of huge reservations for me, and will always remain so.

  15. Sandy

    “I am educated, intelligent, empowered and assertive but I like to be the mother that I want to be. I like to stay at home with my children however this option has now earned the label ‘opting out’. No longer is it ok to choose how I live, apparently I must follow some feminist rules. ”

    Wow. I’ve never heard any feminist say this.

    @Megpie71 – Gold!

    MTR is just caught up in religious brainwashing. I think her intentions are good. She would rather live in a world where no woman feels compelled to terminate a pregnancy. Who wouldn’t rather live in a world where children are genuinely valued and not seen as a mistake or a burden whether they are born to a married hetero couple or a 16 year old kid? In the meantime however, she would be better off keeping her pro-life opinions to herself. So, no she doesn’t speak for me either.

  16. Lauredhel

    Sandy: Anti-mother and anti-SAHM sentiments, overt and covert, have definitely been a thread of some modern and not-so-modern white Anglo feminisms. It’s not a universal sentiment, and arguably not a dominant one, but it’s certainly there, and has been intensely toxic and alienating at some times and in some spaces.

    It’s certainly not a dominant view in this particular neck of the woods, however, where we tend to be pretty pro-mother and pro-mothering (for those who choose it, of course). We may even have at least one Hoyden author who is currently mothering and not in paid work outside the home. Hrm.

  17. Mary

    I will quite cheerfully admit that my fondest dream is a world where no woman needs to have an abortion

    Apologies for the derail, but this lower-abortion world can’t be nil abortion because you didn’t include a wish that pregnancy would be risk-free.

    Abortions are chosen both for psycho-social and for physical health reasons, including some (in both psycho-social and physical categories!) that only develop or become apparent once pregnancy is in progress. I think it is important to acknowledge the full range of situations in which a pregnant person might seek an abortion when talking about a lower or nil abortion vision. It is simply a fact that one may discover during rather than before pregnancy that one cannot, within one’s personal risk tolerance boundaries or one’s body’s capacities, carry it to a survivable delivery.

  18. Sheryl

    Medivh: my pseudo-quote was not particularly aimed at you, rather at the general sentiment expressed in this post and those it linked to, and the comments on them.

    Helen: I did read your post, and those it linked to (and a few others) including the comments. You might not care what MTR’s religious affiliations are, but it seems that more than a few people do and they use them as a basis for dismissing her opinions on feminist issues. In fact, Sandy, in her comment above, makes precisely that connection by saying that MTR is caught up in “religious brainwashing” and that “she would be better off keeping her pro-life opinions to herself”.

    Catherine: Well put. It’s way too easy to reject someone’s opinion by telling them they are not sufficiently well read to form one. Insulting, even.

    Sandy: Why should MTR keep her pro-life opinions to herself? Because they differ from yours? Because they aren’t “real feminism”? Or because she’s a Christian? No rhetorical questions here – I really do want to know why you think she has no right to publicly express an opinion. It seems this a one way street, where MTR cannot express an opinion, but others are perfectly free both to condemn her worldview (and in derogatory ways – as Megpie71 did above) and to advocate their own.

    As I said, this is not helpful.

  19. tigtog

    Since this negative summation from Catherine is being quoted approvingly, I want to clarify one part she’s got badly wrong (bolded text):

    Wow. So, let me get this straight. Feminism is a broad movement, but if you are a different type of feminist, you are a straw feminist, and need to do more reading.
    Right. Got it.

    Nobody’s calling anyone who is “different type of feminist” a “strawfeminist” – “strawfeminist” is a term that evolved from the classic rhetorical jargon term “strawman” which is a logical fallacy in argumentation (presenting the opposing argument in stereotypes – building a strawman so that it can be easily/showily knocked down) – the strawfeminists in this case are all those unnamed “left wing liberal feminists” who allegedly all share an agenda which Melissa characterises as denying her choices to be a SAHM etc. Such a hivemind of “left wing liberal feminists” enforcing such a narrowly defined feminism is a fiction built of straw.

    This isn’t to say that there aren’t some individuals who criticise SAHMs and other women who comply with traditional gendered labour divisions harshly on feminist philosophical grounds. But they’re not universal voices of “left wing liberal feminists” and even if they were, criticism of one’s choices is not the same as actively denying one the right to make such choices, unlike the legislative bills denying women a series of choices over their own bodies which Brian Harradine actually pushed through the Howard-dominated parliament without any public objection from his then bioethics advisor Melinda Tankard Reist.

  20. Sandy

    Sheryl, I simply can’t give credibility to a point of view based on religious dogma. Sorry to those that may be god, jesus, krishna, allah, or other, other god like being believers. I believe that any anti-termination beliefs come from patriarchy as a control mechanism. Sure those beliefs might have some credit were the world underpopulated with people, but it is not. Pro-life movements are a way for patriarchy to control women’s choices and not just reproductive choices. Once a woman gives birth to her child her choices in relationships, work and study etc become extremely limited in this world for the forseeable future. Feminism is about choices. If MTR claims to be a feminist then she must see the world as it actually is and not the utopia she wishes it to be. I am pro-choice and I am pro-choice because I myself became pregnant whilst still in school. So yes, she should keep her religious opinions to herself because [overly personalised argument deleted] and yes she should keep her pro-life opinions to herself because we don’t live in a utopia where the whole community cares for a child born to a rape victim or a 16 year old student. Does that make any sort of sense to you?

  21. Melissa

    Firstly ‘feminism is not a ‘hivemind’ (?) or a monolith’.

    Actually feminism is…or should be..a movement. A movement should have debate but it should generally represent those who are part of it and who give it momentum. I did used to feel part of the feminist movement. When I hear Germaine Greer speak I feel that way once again. However @Sandy, when I read Linda Hirshman I feel trivialised and excluded
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/16/AR2006061601766.html

    The use of language by Linda Hirshman such as ‘mommy wars’ is belittling and excluding.

    The use of language in this discussion does the same thing. Strawfeminism??? A feminist without substance? I’m sorry??

    And more mainstrain in the age recently:
    http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/the-working-mother-myth-20111103-1mxts.html

    There are many more examples of feminist writers and speakers denigrating the choices that women make for their lives particularly around issues of motherhood.

    So when I say that it is increasingly the case that mainstream feminists don’t speak for me I am expressing my sense of exclusion from what used to be a movement but now I am not so sure. But Oh sorry this can’t pass for feminist discourse.

    Well then.. the language I face now from feminists themselves is that I am a strawfeminist, opting out, poorly read, SAHM engaging in a mommy war. The use of language to denigrate differing points of view from within is no different from sexist language used by men to shut women up. It is very powerful and destructive.

    And back to MTR, I join her collective shout and her activism on porn and raunch culture wholeheartedly and I will express my views on abortion to her without fear but also without name-calling and without the use of language that belittles and trivialises.

    Melissa C thank you, will look for your blog.

  22. Sheryl

    Helen, you are right … MTR is allowed to express an opinion. And does.

    What I find disappointing in the debate is the way more than a few people say she shouldn’t. And that this seems to be on the basis of her different worldview, and frequently done with belittling language.

  23. Mindy

    @Linda Radfem – no I haven’t read all of Greer, I should have been clearer – I don’t agree with her view of trans people and she does not speak for me on that topic.

  24. skepticlawyer

    Some people seem to be forgetting who sent the letter of demand coupled with a threat to bring suit in this matter. It wasn’t anyone at the Hoydens, or on other feminist or feminist-leaning blogs. It was Melinda Tankard Reist.

    Three points (brought across from our place):

    1. While there are almost as many varieties of feminist as there are makes of motorcycle, support for reproductive rights is pretty much a deal-breaker. Now this position can be nuanced and finessed and dressed up or down in all sorts of ways, but is inconsistent with 12 years as a SpAd for Brian Harradine. Cast Iron Helen’s post makes this point perfectly clear.

    2. Melinda Tankard Reist may well feel that she’s been up front about her religious beliefs. Jennifer Wilson feels that she hasn’t. The materiality of that claim is a matter for debate, not a letter of demand. It also engages directly with (1) above.

    3. People are right to be suspicious of the uses to which religion is put in public debate. If they aren’t, then you finish up with the current GOP race, which is farcical. Libertarian friends of my acquaintance are wondering ‘what happened to the party of Reagan’ and looking at the likes of Santorum, Gingrich, Perry et al in despair. Only one candidate (Huntsman) accepts biological evolution. Even Ron Paul is a creationist (ameliorated only to a degree by his libertarian belief that he can’t force that view on others). In response, I have been forced to point out that it was Reagan who invited the religious right into the GOP’s big tent, and we all know what happens when you invite vampires inside…

  25. tigtog

    Melissa #23

    Well then.. the language I face now from feminists themselves is that I am a strawfeminist…

    As I said already in #22, nobody is calling any other actual named person a strawfeminist – it is some arguments/representations of unnamed “left wing liberal feminists” which are being called “strawfeminists”, because there aren’t any links to actual incidents, just claims that somebody said something authoritative, supposedly.

    Cite or it didn’t happen. Linda Hirshman is not the feminist pope, and she didn’t coin the term “Mommy Wars”. The Age article you do link to doesn’t denigrate stay-at-home mothers at all – it merely points out all the risks they’re taking by opting out of paid employment. (and how else would you succinctly describe choosing to leave the paid workforce other than “opting out”? why do those two words enrage you so?)

    If you continue to say that people here called you a ‘straw-feminist’ rather than calling the stereotypes you described ‘straw-feminists’, then it will be obvious to all that you simply aren’t interested in truth here.

  26. tigtog

    In response to quite a few iterations by various people regarding “Feminism is about choices” I find that popular mantra rather simplistic.

    Feminism is certainly supportive of women having the right to make choices for themselves as individuals who matter just as much as any male individual does. It doesn’t mean that every choice any woman makes is therefore a feminist act. At the most everyday level, for instance, choosing what to eat for breakfast tends to not have much to do with feminism. At another less common level, choosing to buy rubies rather than emeralds for an evening jewellery ensemble doesn’t have much to do with feminism either.

    I fight for women having the right to choose to order their lives as they best see fit. However, supporting rights to choice doesn’t mean that I can’t also engage in criticisms of the priorities or compromises made evident by the choices someone makes. Choices are often problematic, because choices have consequences beyond just the personal decision-making point. Examining choices for those consequences, and further ramifications, does not deny anyone’s agency of choice. It merely reiterates that the personal is also the political, and thus fair game for critique.

  27. Melissa

    Tigtog I am not enraged, such emotive language!

    I am simply expressing a point of view. Linda Hirshman absolutely denigrates the choice to stay at home. She states a set of rules and ridicules women who choose not to adhere to them.

    Opting out of what? Choosing to stay at home with kids is not opting out of anything!! It is an active choice to engage in something. Again …language. Haven’t feminsts been fighting the use of language that undermines

    The Age article does denigrate the choice to stay at home because it treats women like passive fools who can’t think through the options available to them and deal with the possibilities as they arise. I stay at home but I can get a job in 5 minutes if I have to because I have planned my life, I have skills that are valuable and in demand and keep up with things.

    Strawfeminist is a belittling term.

    Men have used and continue to use language to keep women from speaking out. The language used by some prominent feminists attempts to do the same thing to women who make certain life choices. The ‘no place for sheep’ blog went too far when it called MTR deceptive and duplicitous and brushed aside issues of pornography and sexualisation of children and focuses on MTRs Christianity and extrapolates a whole lot of things that MTR has never said.

    So much more could be achieved if feminists found areas of agreement and acted on them. The divisions within feminism serve the patriarchy in that they weaken and undermine any potential for momentum and forward movement. We are a weak opposition because we attack each other. MTR has views that I disagree with but I am so relieved to hear a strong voice on some the issues she focuses on as I have stated. This is the truth as I see it tigtog.

  28. tigtog

    And still you act as if actual people have been called strawfeminists! It has been repeatedly pointed out to you no actual person has been called a strawfeminist.

    I fully accept that strawfeminist is a term meant to belittle a stereotypical misrepresentation of what actual feminists are saying. I will continue to label such stereotypical misrepresentations as straw-feminists, and if you insist on claiming that this is somehow meant to belittle actual people rather than fallacious arguments then I can’t stop you, but I won’t take you very seriously either.

  29. Melissa

    Actually tig tog, in the last post I didn’t say that strawfeminist applied to a person, I just said it was a belittling term.

  30. tigtog

    P.S. I do actually agree with you that some of Jennifer Wilson’s assumptions regarding MTR’s personal Christian beliefs based on her denominational affiliation seem extreme and rather stretched.

    I do however agree also with the original question Wilson was asking – how did it happen that an interview purporting to outline how MTR came to the activism she currently pursues fail to cover the issue of her religious background and current religious views at all? It’s quite obvious that MTR’s religious beliefs are important to her, she is on the record as saying so on previous occasions, so why was it apparently off-limits for this interview?

  31. tigtog

    Actually tig tog [sic], in the last post I didn’t say that strawfeminist applied to a person, I just said it was a belittling term.

    Since you were discussing words that ridicule women, if you didn’t mean to include ‘strawfeminist’ as one of the words that ridicule women, then why did you even list it?

    I read the Age article as discussing the lack of honesty with the public rhetoric surrounding the working mother/stay at home mother divide. Your interpretation that this was actually feminists treating ‘women like passive fools who can’t think through the options available to them” is not what I got out of it at all – it’s arguing that the conservative politicians who fail to even acknowledge that these career/financial penalties and risks exist as they cry crocodile tears through their motherhood statements are the ones who are treating women as fools.

  32. Melissa

    Gee tigtog you seem enraged, did I say something I shouldn’t have? I must apologise.

  33. tigtog

    Have you read our comments policy regarding the unacceptability of overtly vexatious statements and making sure that you don’t treat the bloggers as if they are ignorant?

    Your continued equivocation is noted , it is not appreciated, and casts you as someone not arguing in good faith. I’m not enabling your derail of this thread any further.

  34. paul walter

    Am relieved to see its getting an airing, from a feminist perspective.
    From a male pov, its largely covered in the exchange between Sheryl and Helen, mid thread. If her religion is irrelevant, why is MTR going to such pains to cover this contextual information up. In fact why does she shun debate on her ideas, when it may involve critical evaluation as a consequence?
    Is she concerned about fertility issues on the grounds of concern for others or out of respect to some ancient piece of mysoginy in the OT? Why should we not know she has been connected with the likes of Harradine and Devine ( Abbott, Fierravanti-Wells?), when these may represent a tangible connection with T party type politics, which is arguably an attempt by the financiers of the T Party, like members of the John Birch Society, to obscure the Wall St Heist and impose a more repressive society that denies is subjects real information and the power to act, on real issues.
    Although Hoyden aspires mainly to ensure a forum for woman’s views on issues and the take of various feminist positions on a given issue, I’d say the threat of a broad right wing repressive agenda of which p-rn censorship is just a lever for other forms; as part of a wider and perhaps criminal agenda, is as seen by men like myself as as dangerous a precedent, as to the women here (and not because I like porn, either-I don’t actually, that much).
    As I said above, if these people are so sure of themselves, why are they so reluctant to make overt their projects before critical audiences or readerships? If they cause legislation for their program over and above the heads of an uninformed public, is it democratic?
    If I’m to be committed to something that substantially changes my life, I’d like at least the decency of an explanation, first ( and right of refusal, where applicable ).

  35. YetAnotherMatt

    Melissa # 32

    Actually tig tog, in the last post I didn’t say that strawfeminist applied to a person, I just said it was a belittling term.

    Belittling of what or whom?

    Melissa #24

    language I face now from feminists themselves is that I am a strawfeminist,

    For you to claim that posting is not saying, your argument

    I just said it was a belittling term.

    is inconsistent.

    There is one question that needs to be answered before I consider whether your arguments are logically consistent, and it is this :
    Do you consider yourself a person?

  36. blue milk

    I can’t believe, out of all places, Hoyden About Town is where feminism is being accused of being anti-mothers, when so many of us here are feminist mothers? And we give so much coverage to motherhood issues around here?

    Also, been a long time since Hirshman was topical in feminism, a lot has happened since that old thing, come back and see what’s going on, you might find you like feminism all over again.

  37. Sheryl

    People with religious belief, such as MTR, are going to have a difficult time making everyone happy in this debate. If they are open about their religious belief and how that informs their contribution to the public forum they may be regarded with suspicion (skepticlawyer #27, par.3) or cast as brainwashed and told to keep their opinions to themselves (sandy #17). If they are more private about their religious belief they might be regarded as lacking credibility (sandy #23) or are taken to task for not explaining the basis of their opinions (paul walter #37).

    In the face of this confused set of expectations I think I can see why someone might be cautious about discussing their faith with a journalist.

    Anyway, I’m not convinced that religious belief is the only influence on MTR’s opinions. A couple of years ago she spoke at a conference of Christian women, leading a discussion about the sexualisation of young girls. Several friends – independently – told me that MTR did not specifically ground her argument in the text of the Bible, and that it was clear that feminist thinking had helped her clarify her thoughts and present a convincing case for action from all women on this issue.

    To reject MTR’s opinions on the grounds that she is a Christian is a disappointing trend that I think exists in some of the comments above, and in the posts to which this one is linked. Such a reaction is unhelpful because it ignores the other influences that have shaped her thinking, and, dare I say it, begins to look like bigotry.

    Also … Thank you, Sandy, for answering my question about why you think MTR should keep her pro-life opinions to herself. I think I can see how your experience would lead you to disagree with MTR on the abortion issue. You say, though, that you can’t hold as credible any view based on “religious dogma”. This sounds as if you are rejecting MTR’s pro-life views because she’s a Christian … have I understood you correctly?

  38. Melissa

    Apologies to everyone.

    I normally enjoy a good debate but I should have stayed out of this one. I sincerely retract all of my statements. I must have been having a bad day.

  39. Sandy

    @Sheryl. No it’s more like I reject Christians or in fact anybody who identifies with any religion because to do so is absurd and embarrassing and not based on any real or proven science. This is not meant as an insult to you or anybody else as a Christian, although it no doubt comes across as such. I love MTR’s anti-porn stance and find Paul Walter’s ^^ view that such a stance is repressive as creepy mansplaining.

  40. tigtog

    @Sheryl, I don’t remember anyone claiming that Christianity was the only influence on MTR’s opinions, merely that from previous evidence it appears to be an important influence, and thus an important omission from the interview in question. It’s also not just that she has religious belief, it’s the associated prejudices she displays which raise the issue of her beliefs to closer examination.

    When secularists calling out toxic expressions of religiosity get the “bigoted against faith” response it reminds me of when feminists calling out toxic expressions of masculinity get the “man-hating feminazi” response. If it’s not about you (i.e. you’re not the one doing/saying toxic stuff) then it’s not about you, and the tangential fact that the person being called out shares some other aspects of your identity is not actually the most important thing going on here.

    MTR’s activism which lobbies for legislation which would directly deny women reproductive freedom of choice over their own bodies is the toxic expression here. It’s toxic in a variety of ways, and one of those ways is the weight of Christian teachings regarding women’s religious duty to reject self-sovereignty regarding fertility. That many other aspects of Christian community for women can be experienced as supportive and affirming is a wonderful thing, but those particular teachings remain toxic tools of sexist oppression.

  41. Linda Radfem

    It’s the mansplaining I can’t believe, including from the author.

    It needs to be pointed out that it is men who control, exploit and enslave us for the purposes of reproduction. It is not the fault of individual misguided women.

    Mindy, thanks. She has done a fair bit of the heavy lifting as far as developing feminist thought, over the decades. I didn’t think this thread was about trans. Or is it?

    Paul, informing us about whether or not you “like” p0rn (as opposed to actual critical analysis) contributes nothing to this discussion. It’s also offensive.

  42. Chally

    I reject Christians or in fact anybody who identifies with any religion because to do so is absurd and embarrassing [...] This is not meant as an insult to you or anybody else as a Christian

    I am very far from being a Christian, Sandy, and I fail to see how that’s not insulting. I think it’s best to stick to critique of actual ideas as they play out oppressively in the moment; “religion is stoopid!!1!” is unkind and unproductive.

  43. Melissa C

    I thought about this conversation a lot last night. I suppose for me, it’s more of a pragmatic issue – I am less interested in how ‘pure’ MTR is as a feminist and more in how cogently and successfully she manages to present to the media issues important to some feminists ( and especially those trying to mother as feminists ). She does a good job of speaking out about a number of issues important to me as a mother of girls. On those topics she does indeed speak for me.

    If a more – theoretically correct feminist – would do the same job of bringing to the fore issues of concern to those who mother in a capitalist system, I would be more than happy to acknowledge that she spoke for me as well.

    I don’t privilege reproductive rights over some of the issues MTR raises in the media and that’s something I’ll give further thought to.

    I would have to agree there has been some belittling language used here, beginning with the term ‘borgeois feminism’. Any one care to define ? Sounds awfully like “the feminism of married women with kids” but I am absolutely prepared to be corrected on that one. I hope I am!

    I am saddened at the rigidity of the argument here – not on behalf of MTR, with whom I have no personal connection at all – but just because it doesn’t make for a good discussion where learning can happen.

    Dismissing someone who comments as ‘overly vexatious’ simply because she continues to state an opinion disagreed with by others is – well – disappointing. And no, I’m not the same Melissa :)

  44. tigtog

    Co-signing with Chally here, Sandy. I’m an out and proud atheist, but rejecting religious dogma doesn’t mean I reflexively reject the people who feel differently. I believe that they are mistaken, and that in many cases their enthusiasm and compassion is being exploited for political purposes by cynical hierarchs, but I don’t believe that accepting a faith tradition makes them fools.

  45. Melissa C

    Ditto.

    I did forget to say that I definitely don’t support MTR’s legal action.

  46. tigtog

    I would have to agree there has been some belittling language used here, beginning with the term ‘borgeois feminism’. Any one care to define ? Sounds awfully like “the feminism of married women with kids” but I am absolutely prepared to be corrected on that one. I hope I am!

    “Bourgeois” is a pretty well known word with a consistent definition in which marital/parental status is irrelevant, what is relevant is socioeconomic status. “Mainstream” feminism is well known for being primarily concerned with issues affecting middle-class, educated women (who tend to be mostly white) and having a long and inglorious history of marginalising issues primarily affecting working class women and women of colour.

    It would be rather a pleasant change if newcomers to this blog didn’t assume that the people they’re talking to couldn’t possibly also be other married women with kids. Not all of us maybe, but a significant number are.

    Dismissing someone who comments as ‘overly vexatious’ simply because she continues to state an opinion disagreed with by others is – well – disappointing. And no, I’m not the same Melissa :)

    Her different opinion was not what was vexatious about her comments. And the word I used was “overtly”, not “overly”.

  47. Sheryl

    It’s also not just that she has religious belief, it’s the associated prejudices she displays which raise the issue of her beliefs to closer examination … MTR’s activism which lobbies for legislation which would directly deny women reproductive freedom of choice over their own bodies is the toxic expression here. It’s toxic in a variety of ways, and one of those ways is the weight of Christian teachings regarding women’s religious duty to reject self-sovereignty regarding fertility.

    tigtog, I think you are making a few assumptions here. One, that Christian teaching about women and their fertility is uniform enough to be worthy of the term “weight”. Two, that Christian teaching about women and fertility does in fact call them to reject self-sovereignty. And three, that MTR has been taught that women are to reject self-sovereignty over their fertility.

    Christian teaching about contraception is not uniform. There is a wide spectrum of opinion and teaching in the Christian community about contraception, and even some differences of opinion about abortion. John Piper, for example, is influential in evangelical Christian communities around the world, and clearly does not teach women to reject fertility control. Are you perhaps conflating “Roman Catholic” with “Christian”?

    None of us knows for sure, unless we have attended church with her, what MTR has been taught about fertility control. I suspect, it being an Australian Baptist church, that access to contraception is not discouraged, quite probably encouraged as a means of responsible family planning. I suspect, also, that her pro-life views are built on the Bible’s teaching about the sanctity of life, rather than any notion of women’s duty to reject self-sovereignty over their fertility (which, btw, I don’t find in the Bible – please show me where?). I’m basing this on what I know of other Baptist churches in Australia, and I may of course be wrong about what is taught in MTR’s Christian community. It may even be that she has come to her own conclusions about what the Bible teaches on this issue!

    I think it’s probably time that MTR did talk about her religious background, if only to deal with the situation we seem to have where assumptions are being made (by all of us!) about what she believes and how that may or may not affect her public opinion and lobbying activities. Though I don’t know that it will do anything to open dialogue with people who “reject Christians or in fact anybody who identifies with any religion because to do so is absurd and embarrassing and not based on any real or proven science.” (Thank you Sandy for that clarification, and yes, it does comes across as an insult, but I will assume it’s aimed at MTR and not specifically at me.)

    tigtog, thank you for the reminder that “it’s not about me”. Of course it’s not. This subject is, however, one on which I feel sufficiently well informed to be able to engage with the conversation (on others I just lurk and learn!). Please don’t insult my attempt to understand, and debate fairly, the views put up here with a suggestion that I’m taking this personally. Because that’s pretty much guaranteed to make me start taking it personally.

  48. Melissa C

    I just find the tone of the discussion so alienating. Focusing on typos is petty. Some of us make typos because we are juggling our typing with active childcare.

    What I’m hearing underneath the discussion is that the issues Melinda does a good job on are perhaps the “bourgeois” issues ? And can therefore be discounted ?

    I’m white, educated and not middle class. Two out of three ? Maybe I am bourgeois too :)

    I see a post where several issues have been conflated; whether Melinda is a feminist if she is actively anti abortion, whether she is justified in refusing to speak in particulars about her religious background and whether she speaks for feminists.

    The first two issues are seperate to me from the third. She speaks for me at times. Would I be happier if a pro-choice feminist was making similar points about the mothering of girls in the media ? You bet. If there is, direct me to her; as you’ve pointed out, I’m kinda ignorant on these things.

    I’ve read your comments policy and of course, you are entitled to treat comments however you wish on your own blog.

    I have a 14 year old daughter very interested in feminist issues and I would like to think that blogs such as yours could balance your right to run your blog as you see fit with being welcoming even of newbies, and a place I could send my daughter to explore her budding feminism.

    This isn’t that place, even though my daughter is even less bourgeois than I, being neither middle class nor white.

    You have given me lots of food for thought and I’m appreciative of that.

  49. tigtog

    First @Sheryl – you seem to be making assumptions about my assumptions! Why not just ask for clarification instead? Addressing your assumptions (and the new terms you’ve brought in that I never used) point by point would move us even further off the actual topic, and get awfully long, so I won’t do that.

    However, I will point out that I don’t need to know exactly what MTR has been taught by whom from what school of thought to know that she was comfortable to remain part of Brian Harradine’s team for 12 years, and he left absolutely no doubt where he stood against abortion and that his objections were scripturally based. When he threw indigenous rights under the bus in return for a promise from Howard to support anti-choice legislation, MTR didn’t leave his team, did she? It’s an educated inference, not just a wild assumption, that since she has skilfully used the contacts she made in that position to further her speaking career within extremely theologically conservative circles who are also vociferously anti-abortion under any circumstances, that she has more than a little sympathy for their views.

    Please don’t insult my attempt to understand, and debate fairly, the views put up here with a suggestion that I’m taking this personally. Because that’s pretty much guaranteed to make me start taking it personally.

    It wasn’t meant as an insult, merely an observation of a parallel pattern that is seen all too often in social justice blogging. Perhaps if you stop framing any criticism of a particularly domineering form of Christianity as expressions of bigotry against all Christians then we might get a bit further. Sandy has confessed to being that bigoted, most of the rest of us are working from more nuanced positions.

  50. tigtog

    @Melissa C:

    Focusing on typos is petty.

    Focussing on obvious typos would be petty. Noting a typo from one actual word to another actual word that changes the meaning of the phrase is necessary clarification. You may not be aware of how often incorrect paraphrases are used to bludgeon others online, but it’s a fairly common phenomenon, especially on feminist blogs. Thus I like to clarify incorrect paraphrases immediately.

    What I’m hearing underneath the discussion is that the issues Melinda does a good job on are perhaps the “bourgeois” issues ? And can therefore be discounted ?

    Not so much that they can be totally discounted, but that they are why she is the go-to for the MSM: because those issues are largely un-threatening to the political status-quo of their increasingly conservative audience/circulation.

    Maybe I am bourgeois too :)

    Most Australians are, frankly. It was already in play prior to the 90s, but the John Howard years in power did the best they could to push all of us Aussies to aspire to the bourgeoisie. Remember all that rhetoric about “aspirational voters?” A lot of that stuck.

    There is also of course the venerable observation that Australia is essentially middle class anyway compared to countries with a longer history of worker exploitation (we’ve never had a peasant class, for example (nor an aristocratic upper class)). But we do largely have a society of mortgagee-owners rather than a society of renters, so we have a blue/pink-collar middle-class, a white-collar middle-class, and a trust-funded middle-class. Of course that’s simplistic (and overlooks the underclass and the history of indigenous labour exploitation entirely) but it’s not entirely off the mark.

    I see a post where several issues have been conflated; whether Melinda is a feminist if she is actively anti abortion, whether she is justified in refusing to speak in particulars about her religious background and whether she speaks for feminists.

    The first two issues are seperate to me from the third. She speaks for me at times.

    1. I have no problem with feminists being personally anti-abortion for themselves and expressing that opinion openly. It’s a matter of personal choice, after all. When it crosses the line of working for legislation to prevent women from making their own choice, I call that behaviour anti-feminist. That doesn’t mean I’m revoking her feminist card – I’m not the feminist pope, so I couldn’t even if I wanted to, and maybe one can be a little bit anti-feminist in areas while still being mostly feminist otherwise: but I will definitely view her other activism more sceptically as a result.
    2. Obviously, nobody has the right to force her to speak about her religious beliefs. It’s a fair question to ask however, and while she doesn’t answer it people will come up with their own answers.
    3. For some of us this is about a deeper objection in principle to the idea that any feminist can be presumed to speak for TEH FEMINIST HIVEMIND. My agreement with #CelebrityFeministA on issue P certainly does not guarantee that I agree with her on issue Q, nor that I’m necessarily on her side in the latest blow-up with #CelebrityFeministB. As a matter of principle, nobody speaks for me but me, even when I agree with them.

  51. tigtog

    P.S. to Melissa C, can I suggest that you encourage your daughter to spend a lot of time lurking in online forums generally before deciding to begin contributing to the debates?

    That’s Net Newbie 101, and a lot of angst can be avoided by thoroughly lurking to get a grip on the different norms of different forums and where one’s own comfort zone overlaps with each forum’s discussion styles.

    As for HaT: newbies are not unwelcome here, but they’re not especially coddled either, because I don’t think that does people many favours in the long run. This blog is a safe space in terms of refusing to publish certain content we deem unacceptable for our readers and ourselves, but we do not deem robust debate itself unacceptable. If one’s argument does not withstand scrutiny, should we pretend that it does just because one is new?

    We do deem marginalising slurs to be unacceptable content. You may have noticed that a comment up-thread was redacted to remove some unacceptably personalised/judgemental language, and that a further comment from the same person which was also rather bigoted was called out directly by two moderators as not speaking for us.

    There has to be a balance between encouraging substantive dissent/debate and not allowing vexatious distractions to derail a discussion. We aim to tread that line conscientiously, but we’re also well aware that we can never please everybody.

  52. Mindy

    On the internet, you can’t hear my children screaming at each other in the background…

  53. Sandy

    Chally. To clarify I don’t see religion as so much ‘stoopid’ but rather dangerous, inconsistent and oppressive so I stand by my ‘unkind’ remarks provided as a response to a direct question as to my opinion from a fellow poster.

  54. Kirsty Whitman

    Hi, another newbie/lurker. I saw a lecture by Dr. Judy Lattas about this very topic, albiet focussing more on the US and right-wing feminisms. It was very thought-provoking, and this disscussion on feminisms is a really crucial one to have.

    I find right-leaning feminisms somewhat problematic, in regards to reproductive rights and wider neo-liberal ideology in general. And MTR working with Brian Harradine (for twelve years – sheesh) is of some concern to me…

  55. Chally

    Sandy, if you see religion as inherently all those things, you’re particularly running right over the amazing social justice work many people do in the names of their religions (consistently, towards safety, and against oppression!), which is a piece of essentialism and bigotry I really can’t stomach.

    I think religion is definitely worth talking about in cases like these, and I also think it’s worth talking about why places like the feminist blogosphere and other feminist communities are often so hostile to any kind of religious expression, to the detriment of both secular and religious social justice advocacy. (Not to encourage a derail in this thread!) I can’t bear to think of all the religious feminists who are doubtless utterly alienated by ewwww religion sentiment.

  56. Linda Radfem

    “Sandy, if you see religion as inherently all those things, you’re particularly running right over the amazing social justice work many people do in the names of their religions (consistently, towards safety, and against oppression!), which is a piece of essentialism and bigotry I really can’t stomach.”

    Many of those people do that work in the name of social justice rather than religion, though, even if they are doing it through a religious institution. Still, I don’t think drawing attention to the good work people do through religious organisations is a fair argument for religion. To balance it out we need to remember all the abuse and oppression that has been imposed in the name of religion-based charity as well. The history is well-documented, as is the ways in which *all* social/welfare/charity work contributes to forces of social control and target mostly those who are already marginalised and oppressed. This is a constant problem for critical social/welfare workers because they can potentially wield a lot of institutional power. People working in religious organisations are not above this, not at all.

    Religion does play an oppressive role in patriarchy and women should be allowed to criticise that anywhere, but definitely in a pro-feminist space. Besides, mainstream religion can withstand it easily. It’s not some small weak little thing after all.

  57. Sandy

    What’s ewwww religion sentiment?

  58. Chally

    Linda, it’s patently obvious that I’m not saying that religion, mainstream or otherwise, should be free from critique, I’m saying that blanket hostility is unkind and unproductive from a social justice standpoint, not to mention involves a lack of nuance that does a real disservice to actual human beings. Also, I didn’t mention religious institutions or charities.

    Sandy: sentiment that it’s inherently gross, stupid, dangerous, icky, something that can never be a positive force, and so forth, things we’ve already gone over.

    Also, that was a smackdown, not an encouragement to get off topic.

  59. Sandy

    Chally. I wasn’t being facetious. I thought it must be some sort acronym. Very rude you are. [unacceptable language redacted]

    Now I recall why I stopped coming here a few years ago. It’s not what I’d call a welcoming safe house.

  60. Chally

    I didn’t say you were, I was answering your question, and pushing back against bigotry in my capacity as a moderator isn’t rude. My goodness, this is painfully polite compared to what is going on in my head in the face of the sentiment you’ve expressed here. I do indeed know where to shove my smackdown, right in the faces of people who reject other human beings based on their personal religious beliefs by default. You’re most welcome to flounce and let us get back on topic, because this is never going to be a welcoming safe house for the idea that other people should be out and out rejected on the basis that they have spiritual lives.

    I’m sorry, Helen, would you like me to stop responding to this rubbish? It has rather taken over your thread.

  61. Helen

    Any further comments which are stoushy rather than making new points may be made to disappear, but it appears this conversation has pretty much run its course anyway.

  62. Linda Radfem

    Chally, oh I agree, it is unkind in that context. I must have misunderstood your reference to people doing social justice work in the name of religion. I assumed you meant organisations such as Anglicare or Catholicare, so my apologies.

    Sandy, good news, there are alternative feminist blogs out there.

  63. Linda Radfem

    “but it appears this conversation has pretty much run its course anyway.”

    Really? It’s your busiest thread.

  64. Linda Radfem

    Thankyou Helen. Perhaps not approving comments until after the moment has passed is effecting the flow of dialogue.

    I wanted to say something about the point raised upthread regarding white middle class bias within feminist movements. But if that’s going to be too off-topic I will take it to my place.

  65. tigtog

    Helen said: “what I meant was that the discussion had simmered down and there hadn’t been any stoushiness for a while”

    Linda Radfem said: “Perhaps not approving comments until after the moment has passed is effecting the flow of dialogue.”

    Fancy that. Active moderation of stoushbait results in less stoushiness on the thread. Whodathunkit?

    P.S. My patience with your sniping has finally run out. PLONKED.

  66. tigtog

    Note for newcomers: Linda Radfem has a long and tendentious history with this blog. No doubt she will give chapter and verse of her side of the story over at her own blog, which is not a safe/welcoming space for women who plan to continue loving men or for women who believe that trans women have the right to be recognised as our sisters or for quite a few other women either.

    i suspect that this thread has now been thoroughly derailed, but if people want to discuss what we were discussing earlier then I do invite them to return to the original topic.

  67. Mindy

    If I may continue the derail? Commenters and friends of HaT – please don’t feel that you need to defend us on Linda’s blog if she does choose to say anything about HaT. As TT says there is a long history between HaT and Linda and getting yourself into a flamewar is not necessary on our behalf. Also, I recommend reading Linda’s commenting guidelines before commenting, which of course you would do anyway.

    That said, I often find her posts challenging and thought provoking, although as noted above it is not a safe space for trans people, and don’t try to defend men on there.

    /end teaching commenters how to suck eggs. ;|

  68. paul walter

    Some of the folk need to read the Eva Cox article in New Matilda.
    It’s all very Groundhog, why must we keep waking up in 1972, especially a simulacra 1972, where all hope of progress has been already been amputated.

  69. su

    Some women don’t need to be told who to read and when and how and which feminists are VERBOTEN forevermore. Thank you for continuing to provide a really fertile space for discussion Hoydens and commenters. I know it is a bit meta but I read a really good description of online feminism today – the Balkanization of online feminism. It’s sometimes excoriating but I still relish the opportunity to cross and recross the borders, it is always rewarding for me and I honour the enormous effort you all expend maintaining these spaces. I am deeply grateful.

  70. Jennifer Wilson

    @tigtog.33
    I want to suggest that my arguments about MTR’s beliefs aren’t that stretched. The doctrine of the virgin birth is a basic Christian tenet, and not just Baptist. Christianity is based on the belief of the virgin birth of the boy god, without this belief the religion would not exist as the whole basis of it is that god was made man, via a virgin. Without this doctrine there is no Jesus god,there is just a human being.

    Maybe what is stretched here is the belief, and not my commentary on it!

    The other thing I want to say is that I have never dismissed MTR’s opinions because she’s a Christian. What I have done is asked that her opinions be placed IN THE CONTEXT of her belief system, so that women can see where she is coming from and decide for ourselves if we think her beliefs influence her moral views.

    There are some matters on which I am in partial agreement with MTR.

    The threat of a defamation action is intended to silence the defendant. It inspires fear that one will be financially ruined, a reasonable fear given the costs of defending such an action. The plaintiff relies on this fear being so great that the defendant just backs down and capitulates to demands. It is bullying. Most defamation threats don’t get much further because the defendant is afraid, backs down, and is silenced.

    It takes a lot of money to bring a defamation action, so it’s a tool for the rich to silence the less moneyed.

  71. tigtog

    Jennifer, although I think your take on the theology surrounding the virgin birth is highly arguable (although certainly a logically valid interpretation), that wasn’t especially what I was referring to as “stretched”.

    Just because someone is a churchgoer we cannot necessarily infer that they share that church’s institutional hierarchical beliefs – some folks just go to the closest church/temple/mosque to pray in their own way in a space dedicated to asking big questions about one’s interactions with the world. Some folks go to temple/mosque/church in order to keep social ties with their community. Some women, especially, go to mosque/church/temple to enjoy a few guilt-free socially-approved hours away from the demands of the home!

    Certainly, there are also some folks who travel a long way from home each week to a house of worship that presses all their ideological buttons just right for them, and where they are maybe silently urging the preachers to drop the soft messages more often. I don’t know where on the spectrum of regular worshippers MTR sits, and I don’t think speculation adds anything.

    What I do know is that she was content to be on Harradine’s staff for 12 years while he waged legislative war against women’s bodily self-sovereignty based on conservative Christian beliefs about reproduction on which he was very open. Of course I presume that there is probably some correlation between MTR’s religious background and her willingness to work for a man with that religious legislative agenda, but the fact of her employment record here is far more important to me than exactly how it came about.

  72. tigtog

    P.S. I do of course agree that instigating a defamation action against you is a heavy-handed silencing tactic. I also like your latest post regarding your views on religion, views which might surprise some people I think.

  73. Jennifer Wilson

    @.77tigtog
    The thing about theology is it’s always highly arguable because it’s always speculative! There are a hundred or more different interpretations of the virgin birth doctrine. Nobody’s got any evidence for any of them. Nobody can tell me I’m right or wrong in my understanding of this particular example of parthenogenesis.

    I agree with you on the Harradine thing and I’m also interested in MTR’s anti abortion position. I’d like to know her evidenced-based reasons for taking this position: she’s written I think two books about it. As a woman who is pro choice, I want to know the agenda of any woman who seeks to influence policy about abortion in this country. I need her to offer evidence as to why she considers abortion to be “bad” for women and to inevitably result in serious mental health issues. I need to know she isn’t putting god’s interests before the interests of women.

    There are very many Christians who hold very many views, and that’s not any of my business. It only becomes my business if public policy is influenced by religious views, as it already is, most disgracefully,with all churches being exempted from anti discrimination legislation on the employment of gays and lesbians. They are allowed to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation: something which all other employers can be prosecuted for.

    I’m glad you like that post. Thank you.

  74. paul walter

    Am releived to see those involved in/with this site and Wilson engaging constructively with each other here. Its a place where the mindsets and intellects are likely often convergent, for the benefit of readers, commencing with the mutual regard for didacticism and foregrounding of rational forms of debate and content within, as well as likely conclusions, than at a tabloid location.. both parties are undertaken of a serious interrogation of social issues against the banalites, obfuscations and disinformation of dumbed down mass media and tabloid press.

  75. tigtog

    Over on Pharyngula (a site which is more antagonistic to religion than some readers might find comfortable) a commentor on a thread about a speech by Alain deBotton made a point I’ll paraphrase (eta: and expand): that many people defend religion because of the powerful emotional health benefits of belonging to communities with shared traditions/values/goals, but then they conflate these benefits with religion itself, as if religions somehow created the general human urge to build communities for mutual support. There’s an argument to be made that religions are merely parasitic upon a neurogenically driven need which humans tend to have for a certain amount of regular gregarious fellowship, and don’t deserve any special credit for filling a pre-existing niche, especially when they spent centuries manoeuvring for monopoly over that niche in order to hold political power.

    This is why, although I can see the point of occasional atheist meetups to enjoy the company of those of like minds discussing topical issues, I’m un-persuaded by those who try and build up alternative community structures based on competing with traditional religious structures for organising communities. I’d rather build up an alternative community of like minded friends who really just don’t spend that much time thinking about our unbelief at all, except for the purpose of combating legislative overreach which is based on a religiously intolerant agenda.

  76. paul walter

    Had a quick look and scan, above comment, 80, seems sufficient and necessary, stand alone. Probably I’m more an agnostic than athiest, maybe it qualifies me for associate membership?

    And gee, wasnt it well written- I sense Charlotte Bronte beaming down from somewhere beyond the aether.

  77. tigtog

    That’s a bit flowery on your side, Paul, but thanks anyway.

    I was going to post a link here to an Ann Summers piece, but bluemilk already did it over at her blog(published just as I was about to click the ‘New Post’ button), and she links to a couple of other pertinent articles as well.

    The only thing I would quibble about is the titles of both Summers and bluemilk’s items, and it’s partly to do with the necessary brevity of headlines leaving little room for nuance. I don’t think that it’s true that all women who describe themselves as “pro-life” are necessarily anti-feminist (and Summers fleshed this out in her article). Abhorring abortion personally is not in itself anti-feminist. However, as soon as the shift is made to agitating to prevent others freely accessing an abortion when they want one, then it becomes a matter of legally denying free choice to other women, and that’s when it becomes anti-feminist.

    Disapproval and criticism of other women’s choices is not necessarily anti-feminist either. But as soon as one wants a law made to decrease the array of options that other women might freely choose? Then one can’t describe that activism as feminist.

  78. blue milk

    Thanks for the shout out for my post, I would have cross-posted it here but I didn’t want to bring up such a similar thread when this one is going so strong.

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