On The Definition of Misogyny, And The Related And Uninteresting Question, Is Dave Sim Misogynistic?

A Man Wearing A Grey Shirt

A Man Wearing A Grey Shirt

So Sandeep Atwal and I have been disagreeing on the definition of misogyny.

Sandeep says that misogyny means “hatred of women,” full stop. I agree misogyny means “hatred of women,” but it additionally means (to quote the OED) “Dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women.”

Well, technically we’ve been arguing over if the brilliant cartoonist Dave Sim is a misogynist – Sandeep, who is Sim’s friend, says that Sim is not; I say that Sim is.1 But it all boils down to how one defines “misogyny.” As Sandeep wrote in his reply to me:

Certainly definitions are very important and this argument is going to come down, in part, to the definition of misogyny. If you want to say that anyone who does not trust women is a misogynist, then by that definition Sim would be a misogynist. Okay, end of conversation.

Of course, distrusting a particular woman based on experience with her, or distrusting everyone without singling women out, isn’t misogyny. But someone who singles out women and says women as a group are untrustworthy, is displaying “ingrained prejudice” against women, a.k.a. misogyny.

(Also, it’s misleading for you to boil my side of the argument down to the word “distrust,” as if you’ve been arguing that misogyny only means “hate” while I’ve been arguing it only means “distrust.” That’s not the argument we’ve been having.)

So what does misogyny mean?

As I pointed out earlier in our discussion, the word “misogyny” was first used in English in the play “Swetnam the Woman-Hater,” published in 1820 but performed as early as 1818. (They spelled it “misogynos.”) Later uses of the word derived from this play. The play, a satirical farce, was written as a response to Joseph Swetnam’s hugely popular 1815 pamphlet The arraignment of lewd, idle, froward, and unconstant women. At the play’s climax, a women’s court finds the Swetnam stand-in character guilty of “Woman-slander, and defamation.”

So according to the word’s coiners, misogyny is not a narrow concept referring only to hatred, but a broader concept referring to to slander and defamation of women (and as I read it, sexism against women in general).

Of course, possibly the meaning of the word has evolved since 1818. But most current dictionary definitions seem to agree that “misogyny” refers to more than just blind hatred. (Dictionary definitions aren’t everything, but a definition from a well-done descriptive dictionary does indicate how researchers have found English speakers are actually using a word).

Sandeep writes:

Certainly definitions are very important and this argument is going to come down, in part, to the definition of misogyny. If you want to say that anyone who does not trust women is a misogynist, then by that definition Sim would be a misogynist. Okay, end of conversation. That doesn’t really address his points, though. But, come on, let’s be honest here, people aren’t going around saying Dave’s an asshole because…gasp!…he doesn’t trust women!

I hate “come on, let’s be honest.” In argument, what it means is “I’m going to say something I believe to be true, without presenting any evidence, and by framing it as ‘let us be honest’ I’m suggesting that if you don’t accept my unsupported statement as truth you’re not being honest.”

(Also, see my prior note about the misleading way you’re using the word “distrust,” as if I’ve been arguing that misogyny means “distrust” and nothing else.)

Why can’t people think that someone who exhibits prejudice against women2 such as distrusting women in particular – is an “asshole”? That seems to me to be an ordinary and commonplace usage of “asshole.”3

They didn’t draw him as a Nazi because they think he doesn’t trust women. They think he hates women.

For my blog readers who don’t know, Sandeep is alluding to a February 1994 Comics Journal cover, which featurd a caricature of Sim as the guard at a Nazi concentration camp, to accompany a story about Sim’s misogyny.4 I agree it was a stupid and over-the-top cover – and what we’d now call clickbait – but citing this example doesn’t help your argument, Sandeep. I’m not arguing that no one thinks Dave Sim hates women – obviously, many people think that.5

But that’s not the question. The question is, can I legitimately sign a petition saying Dave Sim isn’t a misogynist? To sign that petition, I’d have to believe Dave has never exhibited a pattern of “dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women.” And no, I can’t believe that, because I’ve read Dave’s writing.

But if Dave wants to start a new petition saying “Dave Sim is not a Nazi,” I’ll gladly sign that one.6

But as he once stated, he follows the maxim of his lawyer, “Trust no one.” So he doesn’t trust women and he doesn’t trust men. So Dave Sim hates men and women because he doesn’t trust them? That seems like a bit of a stretch to me.

If you were arguing against someone who said that “distrust” and “hate” mean the same thing, this would be a meaningful argument. But you are not, and it is not.

What, then, do I think qualifies as misogyny? Well, I’m going to stick to the notion of hate. I mean, it wouldn’t make any sense to say of someone, “He’s a misogynist, but he doesn’t hate women.” or “He hates women, but he’s not a misogynist.” The terms are as close to interchangeable as they can be. As such, I don’t think his statements about women demonstrate “an intense, passionate dislike”. I just don’t think hatred even enters into it.

It would make perfect sense to say of someone “he’s a misogynist, not because he personally loathes every woman he meets, but because he’s displayed dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women.” This is a common way that people use the word “misogynist”; it’s the way that I’ve been using it, and I’m pretty sure it’s the way Neil Gaiman has been using it.7

A dictionary like the OED is descriptive. They don’t say what words ought to mean; they say how current English speakers and writers actually use the words. So although a dictionary definition isn’t absolute – if someone uses a word differently than how the dictionary says, that doesn’t make them necessarily wrong – a good dictionary is a researched, expert guide to how typical English speakers are using words.

So if you’re saying “Come on, let’s be honest! No one really uses ‘misogyny’ to mean ‘dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women,'” and the OED says that is how people use the word, and if in addition I tell you that I’m a person and that’s how I use the word–

Then you’re simply wrong.

It’s as if you said “no one wears grey shirts.” If I can point to a highly-regarded fashion guide that says wearing grey shirts is commonplace – and if, furthermore, I can point out that I myself am wearing a grey shirt – then that settles the matter. There are, in fact, people who wear grey shirts. That you, yourself, do not realize that some people sometimes wear grey shirts does not in any way change the fact that some people sometimes wear grey shirts.

In an email to me (which Sandeep kindly gave me permission to quote), Sandeep wrote:

However, I think you’d have to explain why, if the OED definition of misandry is “The hatred of males; hatred of men as a sex.” (I’m using OED.com) then why can’t we just use “hatred of females; hatred of women as a sex.” for misogyny? Doesn’t seem unreasonable. The etymology of both words is fairly simple, so I don’t see any reason why they shouldn’t be interchangeable in that sense.

The definitions of words in a dictionary aren’t about what the word ought to mean based on etymology, or based on what related words mean. That would be a “prescriptive” approach, which is not the approach actual lexicographers take. A dictionary is “descriptive” – it is based on actual usage, not on etymology, and not on what “seems reasonable.”8

Or, why not use Merriam-Webster, since that just defines it simply as “a hatred of women”? Does it have to be the OED? Does it have to be the OED’s precise definition as currently stated?

It doesn’t have to be the OED. When I first got into this discussion, the first definition I quoted was “hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women, or prejudice against women,”9 from the Random House dictionary, via dictionary.reference.com. I’m also fine with definitions like “The adjective misogynistic is good for describing a dislike or hatred of women, or a deep-rooted bias against women in particular” from vocabulary.com.

And, also, I’m fine with Merriam-Webster’s definition, “hatred of women.” That is how some people use the word, so M-W isn’t wrong. As far as I’m concerned, one way people use “misogynistic” is to mean “hatred of women.”

But it’s not the only way people use the word.

Lots of people use the word the way the OED, and Random House, and vocabulary.com, and many other sources, describe. And you haven’t given any reasonable arguments as to why I should use the M-W definition to the exclusion of all others.

I’m not the one of us trying to limit the discussion to a single, narrow definition of the word. You are.

* * *

I do apologize for taking so long to respond, after telling you (in email) that I would respond. Honestly, after saying that, I reread your long post, and decided that – despite you being admirably polite and amicable – it was probably a waste of time to attempt to discuss this with you any further. Because you wrote this:

I’m mostly discussing and explaining this to myself, so when I say “you” below, I’m generally not ascribing any claim to you personally, but to the counterpoint of the argument I’m trying to make, so I’m not trying to put any words in your mouth or set up any straw men.

Actually, Sandeep, responding to the counterpoint of the argument you want to make, rather than responding to the claims I’ve actually made, is exactly a strawman argument.

So when you write, “it doesn’t make sense to me to suggest that until fifty years ago, all men simply, ‘hated women,” that’s a strawman. I’m not making that claim; as far as I know, no one is making that claim. I’ve explicitly said I’m not using “misogynistic” to mean only “hatred of women.”

And you’ve chosen to ignore what I’ve said and respond to an argument I’ve never made. And you do this over and over and over, throughout your essay.

It takes me a lot of time and effort to make arguments like this one. If the person I’m talking to isn’t even going to bother responding to what I myself have written, preferring to respond to claims I’ve never made, then how is responding a good use of my time?


You made a lot of other arguments, but most of them are completely lacking in substance. For example:

Here’s a list of best-selling women’s magazines on Amazon. The claim that the most popular men’s magazines don’t say anything relevant about men and their interests, and that, similarly, the list of women’s magazines says nothing about women and their interests is simply not credible to me. These are going concerns, the most popular magazines in America with circulations in the millions that must appeal to the interests of their respective markets or go out of business. A significant portion of their budget is spent on finding out exactly what their readership wants, and then giving it to them.

You used Woman’s Day, a best-selling magazine, as an example. Woman’s Day has a total circulation of over three million, most of whom are women. Three million sounds big – until you consider that there are approximately 125 million women above age 16 in the USA alone.10

To be sure, a random, representative survey of American women could say a lot about 125 million women based on far fewer than 3 million data points. But the readers of a particular magazine are neither random nor representative; they’re a self-selected and wildly unrepresentative sample. The only group you can draw conclusions from, by looking at the readers of Woman’s Day – is the readers of Woman’s Day.

You can’t say anything about men-in-general by looking at men’s magazines. You can’t say anything about women-in-general by looking at women’s magazines. You’re like someone looking at a class of 100 children, noticing that two of them are wearing glasses, and spinning off a bunch of wild conclusions about how children in general wear glasses.

Another example: Having a rape fantasy, is not the same as wanting to be raped in real life.

* * *

I don’t really consider “is Dave Sim a misogynist” to be an interesting argument, because the only reasonable answer is, yes, obviously he is.

You might as well ask if Picasso was an artist; sure, “art” is a subjective term, lots of people hate Picasso’s work, blah blah blah, but in the end, the answer is “yes, he’s obviously an artist according to how nearly every single person in our society uses the word, and anyone arguing otherwise is doing rhetorical backflips and arguing an unjustifiable position.”

For example, I wrote this, quoting Dave:

To me, taking it as a given that reason cannot prevail in any argument with emotion, there must come a point – with women and children – where verbal discipline has to be asserted, and if verbal discipline proves insufficient, that physical discipline be introduced.”

Here, Sim says that he thinks men should physically beat women (but “leave no mark which endures longer than, say, an hour or two”) if they can’t “prevail” in an argument. He also conflates women with children. Both these views are misogynistic.

You responded:

I think you completely and totally mischaracterize Sim by saying he advocates that one should “physically beat women.” Men don’t beat women. Only cowards beat women. You learn that before Kindergarten.

Spanking someone so hard that a mark endures for “an hour or two” is beating, unless you’re going to use some tendentious definition of “beating” that I don’t care to argue about. More importantly, unless the hitting is consensual, it’s despicable and wrong, and I don’t care what term you prefer for it.11

Obviously, Sim believes in corporal punishment—in this case, spanking—when it comes to women (and children). If you find the idea of spanking a woman offensive on the face of it, I understand, but does advocating such a position de facto make you a misogynist?

Yes it does. First of all, equating women with children is misogynistic; such an equation is “ingrained prejudice against women.” Women are rational creatures, who can be argued with rationally, and without resorting to violence, as much as any person can be. Dave’s position is a denial that women are rational creatures, and as such, misogynistic.

Secondly – and this is so obvious that I can’t believe I’m saying it – advocating hitting women is misogynistic. That you can’t see that completely destroys your credibility on the subject of misogyny; nothing you say on this subject could possibly be taken seriously by any reasonable person, ever.12 You might as well ask if advocating hitting Jews is de facto antisemitic.13 Of course it is, and arguing with someone who can’t see that is like arguing with someone who says water isn’t wet. (And this, by the way, is the other reason I decided responding to you would not be a good use of time.)

(It’s also terribly wrong to hit children – including spanking – but arguing that is beyond the scope of this post.)

I also don’t think he is conflating women and children any more than the phrase “women and children first” conflates the two.

The phrase “women and children first” does conflate women, not in every possible way, but certainly in grouping women and children together in a category of “people who should be rescued first.”

Likewise, Dave’s argument conflates women and children, in that he groups women and children together in the category of “people who are incapable of rational argument.”

  1. Normally, I try to avoid saying that someone “is” a misogynist, preferring instead to criticize particular statements or arguments, rather than a person. But this all originally came up in the context of signing – or not signing – Sim’s “Dave Sim is not a misogynist” petition, so putting it that way was “baked in” to the discussion from the start. []
  2. And in Dave’s case, an extraordinary level of prejudice against women []
  3. Note that I myself am not calling Dave an “asshole.” But it’s not unrealistic to think people would say that. []
  4. I searched for an image of the cover to link to, but couldn’t find one online, which implies that this cover image from 22 years ago is not actually a significant part of how people think about Dave Sim nowadays. []
  5. Honestly, I think so, too, for many common definitions of “hatred” – for instance, Miriam-Webster defines “hatred” as “prejudiced hostility or animosity” – but the exact definition of “hated” is a bit off topic. I’m actually not very interested in the question of “is Dave Sim a misogynist,” because this is an question that matters to almost nobody in the world other than Sim himself. But the question of what “misogynistic” means comes up often enough so that it’s probably useful to set some arguments down. []
  6. Just as I’ll gladly sign a petition saying that Dave has many good traits, that Dave has been personally kind, helpful and encouraging to both female and male cartoonists – including me, that Dave has many positive things to contribute to the comics community if he wishes to, that I think it would be appropriate for Dave to go out in public, and that Dave is one of the most brilliant cartoonists ever. But I won’t sign one saying that Dave’s not a misogynist. []
  7. I mention Neil Gaiman because this discussion was set off by Gaiman tweeting that although he supports Dave Sim’s patreon, he will not sign the “Dave Sim is not a misogynist” petition. []
  8. Incidentally, I bet that 20 years from now, the OED has broadened the definition of “misandry.” Because I’ve seen lots of people use “misandry” to mean something broader than just “hatred” of men, and presumably the OED dictionary researchers are likely to make the same observation. Unless, of course, the people I’ve been observing using the word “misandry” are very unrepresentative of how users of the word “misandry” are actually using the word. []
  9. Note that it says “or,” not “and.” []
  10. See table 2 of this pdf document from the US Census. []
  11. I also disagree with many implications of “only cowards beat women,” but this response is already too long, and unpacking all the misogynistic and misandrist implications of those four words would be a tangent. []
  12. I know enough about how these arguments go so I suspect someday, someone – perhaps Dave Sim – will quote this sentence to make some broad point about how feminists don’t think anyone can ever disagree with them and remain worth listening to. Obviously, that is not what I’m saying. []
  13. I’m ignoring technically-correct-but-obviously-besides-the-point counterexamples, like “what if a boxing league forbids Jews, and I argue that Jews should be allowed to join the league?” Obviously, there are weird specific circumstances that might be exceptions; also obviously, no good-faith rebuttal of what I’m arguing here could hinge on such an example. []
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35 Responses to On The Definition of Misogyny, And The Related And Uninteresting Question, Is Dave Sim Misogynistic?

  1. 1
    veronica d says:

    Good grief. If Dave Sim isn’t a misogynist, then who is?

  2. 2
    Pesho says:

    So, anyone who mistrust men is a misandrist? I.e. you agree that everyone who writes things like “men are untrustworthy” can be labeled as a bigot, and rightfully ignored? Well, I’m surprised that we agree on this.

    And of course, it goes without saying that I think that yes, Dave Sim is a misogynistic asshole and can safely be ignored. I have no idea why you would have trouble with that phrase.

  3. 3
    Copyleft says:

    Pesho makes a good point. Anyone who uses the Schrodinger’s Rapist argument is therefore a misandrist, by definition.

  4. 4
    Grace Annam says:


    Anyone who uses the Schrodinger’s Rapist argument is therefore a misandrist, by definition.

    It is two different things to say, on the one hand, “Men as a class are untrustworthy” or “Men can’t be trusted”, and on the other hand, “Strange men whom I don’t know may or may not be dangerous to me, and if I want to put the time and energy into finding out, I get to exercise some caution in doing so.”


    (Also, my inner pedant would like to point out that “Shrodinger’s Rapist” is a misnomer, the equivalent to which would be “Shrodinger’s Dead Cat”. Phaedra Starling should have written “Shrodinger’s Stranger”.)

  5. 5
    veronica d says:

    I prefer to say “Schrödinger’s douchebag,” cuz there are so many ways that strange men can be deeply unpleasant, but that are not rape.

  6. 6
    Ampersand says:

    Copyleft: What Grace said.


    So, anyone who mistrust men is a misandrist?

    But to answer Pesho:

    1) As I said in the post, I don’t like the form “_______ is a misogynist,” and only used it in this post because Sim’s own petition has already framed the discussion that way. So I wouldn’t say that. But I would say that mistrusting all men, regardless of circumstance, is a misandristic belief.

    2) I can imagine circumstances in which it’s understandable or sympathetic to have a distrust of all men – i.e., someone dealing with pstd and trauma caused by being assaulted by men. But even in that case, I’d still say that prejudging all men is misandristic, even though the person’s reasons for misandry are sympathetic and understandable. (Similarly, I can imagine circumstances in which pstd and trauma leads someone to distrusting all women, and I’d say that would still be misogynistic, but that the person’s reasons would be understandable or sympathetic.)


    I.e. you agree that everyone who writes things like “men are untrustworthy” can be labeled as a bigot, and rightfully ignored?

    I didn’t say, anywhere in my post, that anyone who is misogynistic in any way is a bigot and should be rightfully ignored. Either you’re giving my post an incredibly sloppy reading, or you’re being disingenuous.

    I did say that someone who can’t see that advocating that women should be hit is misogynistic, has no “credibility on the subject of misogyny.” But to jump from that to what you wrote is a big and unjustified jump. The parallel would be someone arguing that men as a class are irrational and can’t be reasoned with so it’s okay to hit them, and then a second person saying “well, is that necessarily misandrist?” That second person, in my mind, has lost all credibility on the subject of misandry.

    (Edited to cross out a bit of needless snark.)

  7. 7
    Copyleft says:

    I prefer to say “Schrödinger’s douchebag,” cuz there are so many ways that strange men can be deeply unpleasant, but that are not rape.

    As can strange women, of course… which renders the term useless.

  8. 8
    Wissig says:

    I couldn’t understand the tremendous work that went into the argument here that misogyny means … well, whatever it exactly means. That amount of work would be justified in a contract dispute when the interpretation of a single word means that you either get $10 million or have to pay $10 million depending on what the word actually means.

    Maybe people who are misogynists are just bad people, no further thought required, and if you can shoehorn someone into that label, it eliminates a lot of work.

    But I guess now I understand the overall situation, kind of:

    It is bad to call women untrustworthy because not all women are untrustworthy and you are unfairly labeling them.

    It is not bad to call men untrustworthy, however, because they ARE untrustworthy.

  9. 9
    Ampersand says:

    Wissig, where did I say it’s not bad to call men untrustworthy?

    Where did ANYONE here say that?

    You really seem to be just making things up.

  10. 10
    Wissig says:

    “Wissig, where did I say it’s not bad to call men untrustworthy?”


    OK–I thought that you and Grace were coming up to the borderline, but upon rereading the statements, neither of you were.

    So I guess: Nevermind.

    You can cross that part out if you want.

  11. 11
    Ampersand says:

    I prefer to say “Schrödinger’s douchebag,” cuz there are so many ways that strange men can be deeply unpleasant, but that are not rape.

    Yes, this. (Is this formulation original to you?) I know so many women who, when they talk about it, their most immediate fear when a strange man approaches them or catcalls them isn’t that he’s going to rape her; it’s that he’s going to follow her being creepy or yell “hey, come on! Don’t ignore me, you stuck up bitch!” or something like that. Which, for many people (male or female), is a frightening circumstance, and even someone who isn’t frightened would rightly find it unpleasant.

    As can strange women, of course… which renders the term useless.

    Except that a lot of women have experienced a pattern of male strangers approaching them in an hostile and intrusive way.

    If a woman catcalled me on the street, and then followed me muttering unpleasant things in a hostile manner, that would be really shocking and unusual. It’s not part of my daily life. The reverse really is part of the daily life of many women, however.

  12. 12
    veronica d says:

    @Ampersand — So far as I know, I coined “Schrödinger’s douchebag,” although I’d be surprised if I was the first to do so.

    Your point is exactly correct. In the mainstream dating narrative, men pursue, while women are pursued, and that asymmetry shapes almost every aspect of this conversation. People who try to assert some equivalence between how-men-treat-women and how-women-treat-men seem to miss this obvious and colossal point.

    To me it feels like they want to play the “gotcha game,” rather than seek insight. But whatevs.

  13. 13
    Ampersand says:

    It’s typical, by the way, that a post about misogyny was immediately co-opted by some folks here so that they could make the subject misandry.

    It’s a legitimate question to ask, in some circumstances – but it’s also a way of changing the subject. And I don’t want this thread to be solely about misandry. So I’d ask that people take any further “but what about misandry” comments to the open thread, please.

    [Wissig and I cross-posted. I’ve moved Wissig’s most recent comment to the open thread.]

  14. 14
    Damian T. Lloyd says:

    A good response to Sandeep, I think, whose arguments of late are basically, “I know Dave Sim and you don’t.”

    There are three recurring strains of defence offered by Simcophants against accusations that Dave is a misogynist: 1) He’s been personally nice to some women; 2) He’s not a misogynist, just an anti-feminist; and 3) Misogyny means hatred of women, and he doesn’t hate them. The first is irrelevant, the second is demonstrably untrue, and the third you’ve dealt with admirably here.

    Also, claims that it’s the work, not the creator or his thoughts, that matter are diminished by the fact that Dave explicitly included both in the work itself.

  15. 15
    Myca says:

    One of the things I was struck by in the conversation is how, despite Sim saying essentially, “I think men should hit women when they disagree with them, because women, like children, are irrational creatures,” Sandeep Atwal’s initial response was “I think you completely and totally mischaracterize Sim by saying he advocates that one should “physically beat women.”” And furthermore that Sim, despite having advocated explicitly for hitting women when you cannot prevail in an argument with them is not a misogynist.

    What it reminds me of more than anything is the set of quotes Ta-Nehisi Coates dug up a while back of people saying “I believe this explicitly racist thing, however I am not a racist.” the one that really got me was the Louisiana judge, refusing to marry the interracial couple, who said “I’m not a racist. I just don’t believe in mixing the races that way.”

    “I’m not a misogynist, I just think women are inherently irrational and need a good smack from time to time to keep ’em in line.”


  16. 16
    Garnet says:

    So, is the case against Sim entirely based on stuff he wrote? I don’t know how much weight to accord that, against the fact that, women in his field have, basically unanimously as far as I can tell, described him as friendly, helpful and supportive. Then again, the last time I read about all of this was years ago.

  17. 17
    Ms. Sunlight says:

    Blah blah not all men blah. It’s inevitable.

    I used to work in a welfare rights charity; we had projects for clients for mental health difficulties. I can tell you from first hand experience that there are both men and women that find men frightening and difficult to trust, often because of trauma, and there are both men and women that find women frightening and difficult to trust, often because of trauma. We specifically had men and women workers available on all projects for that very reason, especially since welfare rights advice often involves lots of private face-to-face time and requires a certain amount of openness.

    These people are not what we are usually talking about when we talk about misandry or misogyny, and to bring them up in this context is not helpful.

  18. 18
    Myca says:

    women in his field have, basically unanimously as far as I can tell, described him as friendly, helpful and supportive.

    It is (FAR!) better to advocate violence against women and be friendly, helpful and supportive in person than it is to advocate violence against women and be violent in person, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that both are misogynist acts.


  19. 19
    Nuño says:

    Regarding trauma, why do the origins of that distrust matter?

  20. 20
    Tamme says:

    The fact that Sim is personally friendly to women just shows he’s a misogynist who doesn’t have the courage of his convictions. Although I suppose we should be grateful that he doesn’t.

    As an aside, this Sandeep guys seems like a real arsehole, and I think you’d be much better off not indulging him.

  21. 21
    Ampersand says:

    Which reminds me, Sandeep may be posting a response in comments here, so I’d appreciate it if people refrained from making any personal attacks on Sandeep here at “Alas.” (Attacking his arguments is another matter.)

  22. 22
    Christopher says:

    Definitional arguments drive me up a wall. There can’t be a meaningful discussion until all parties agree about what words actually mean.

    So when there’s a clash, you have to start asking what makes one definition more useful than the other in the context of the particular conversation you’re having. A word like “significant” would carry a different meaning in a discussion of statistics than it would in any other context.

    And I can’t stand arguments about whether so and so is a misogynist, or a racist, or an asshole, because suddenly that means we can’t discuss the appropriateness of any specific actions they’ve taken.

    “Bob is a total asshole! He stole $200,000 from me!”

    “Um, I’m sorry, Bob can’t be an asshole, he risked his life to save a child from a burning building.”

    And now we’re stuck trying to compare incomparable things, or with trying to read Bob’s mind to find out which of those actions more accurately represent his character.

    And since we can’t read minds, that task is impossible and discussion grinds to a halt.

    Better to focus on specific actions:

    “Whatever the internal makings of his soul may be, Bob ruined me financially when he stole that money, and I deserve recompense and we need to make sure Bob doesn’t do that to anybody else.”

    I’m missing a lot of context here, but I don’t see the point of this argument.

    Ampersand believes that some of Dave Sim’s writings display a nastiness towards women that is not excusable or justified. (I haven’t read him enough to have an informed opinion, but those excerpts seem gross.)

    That basic fact can’t be changed just by changing the name we call that particular nastiness, and whatever else Dave Sim may have done, he also wrote those nasty things.

    I just don’t see the point of arguing definitions or trying to read the tea leaves of somebody’s overall character.

  23. 23
    Christopher says:

    This Atwal guy rubs me the wrong way.

    This is, I think, pretty self-evidently different than watching documentaries about World War II or shows about the technical details of the new Koenigsegg.

    I mean, yeah, obviously as somebody who is about to purchase a million dollar supercar you want to know the facts before you-

    What’s that? You can’t afford a Koenigsegg and you almost certainly never will?

    Oh, well, as a mid-level worker at a German automaker I can see how you’d want to keep abreast of-

    Oh, you don’t work in the auto industry at all?

    Well, okay, I guess the Koenigsegg is kind of gravy, but the other car reviews on Top Gear are sure to affect your purchasing-

    Oh? You live in the US and most of the cars they review won’t make it over here?

    I’m sorry, what was the logical underpinning of this, again?

    You know what else women’s magazines have? Recipes. And not recipes for diamond pound cake with platinum sauce, actual practical recipes that they expect their readers to use in their everyday lives.

    This is how misogyny is built. “We know men are more rational because they like things like expensive cars.”

    “We know expensive cars are a rational hobby because men like them, and men are rational.”

    This particular example of the logical fallacy called circular reasoning has often been pointed out by those emotional feminists, by the way.

  24. 24
    Tamme says:

    If Sandeep has a problem being called an arsehole, he should stop defending and apologising for misogynists

  25. 25
    Ampersand says:

    I have no idea if Sandeep has a problem being called an arsehole or not. But that’s not the point.

    The point is, I need a certain kind of environment in order for myself to be able to participate regularly over a long haul. There are things I deal with well, and things I don’t deal with well. Some of which is for reasons having to do with my life story, which I’m not prepared to share here, not because I don’t trust the folks here on “Alas,” but because I just two weeks ago had anti-feminists searching through “Alas” archives trying to find personal info they could use against me, and that’s left me feeling shy about sharing personal stuff online, at least for a while.

    I’m not going to go to someone else’s blog, or to an open forum like Tumblr, and start demanding that the people there not call each other arseholes, because I realize that my needs aren’t the same as other people’s needs. There’s a legitimate need for forums where people feel free to express contempt fully and directly, even to someone’s (virtual) face.

    But this is a blog run primarily by me. So it’s necessary for me to try and make the conversations here, ones I’m okay participating in.

    I hope that makes sense!

  26. 26
    Tamme says:

    It just feels unfair that Sandeep is allowed to disrespect me in an incredibly profound way, but my relatively trivial disrespect for him gets me disciplined. Sandeep’s saying that it’s OK to advocate beating me for my gender. Me calling him an arsehole is much, much less disrespectful.

  27. 27
    closetpuritan says:

    It just feels unfair that Sandeep is allowed to disrespect me in an incredibly profound way, but my relatively trivial disrespect for him gets me disciplined.

    It’s not fair, but a blog is not a public utility, and people doing the unpaid labor of moderating blog comments have a right to prioritize their own mental health.

  28. 28
    Joe in Australia says:

    I am dizzied and confused by the idea that anyone could think Dave Sim wasn’t a misogynist. It would be like arguing “Sure, Sim draws things for a living, and gets them published, and has received a great deal of critical praise and commercial success, but does that make him an artist? Surely not.” I’m surprised (and more than a little impressed) that you had the patience to address something so nonsensical.

  29. 29
    Ampersand says:


    What Closet Puritan said.

    In addition, I don’t think Sandeep is actually saying that it’s okay to advocate hitting women. Rather – if I understand his argument correctly – he’s ignoring whether or not it’s okay, and instead arguing that when done for reasons of discipline, it is not necessarily motivated by “hatred of women,” and therefore not misogyny.

    This is Sandeep’s general strategy throughout his essay; he defines misogyny incredibly narrowly (basically, anything short of murderous rage or violence or Saudi-level oppression of women, is not considered misogyny), and then since the things Dave Sim say fall (barely, in some cases) short of that extreme level, Sandeep says that Sim’s statements aren’t misogynistic.

    But – if I’ve understood Sandeep correctly – in Sandeep’s mind, that’s not the same as saying Sim’s argument is okay.

    If Sandeep does come here and argue that there’s nothing wrong with what Sim argued about hitting women, then I’d consider either telling him not to make that argument here, or asking him to leave the blog. Because you’re right, saying that is not acceptable on “Alas.”

  30. 30
    veronica d says:

    I agree with Joe in Australia. The idea that Sim is not a misogynist doesn’t pass the laugh-out-loud test. The man has defined his brand around his loathing for women. Yeesh.

    Regarding Christopher’s point: I’m going to pull out some functional linguistics here and suggest that the way we use words goes beyond their bare meaning. So yeah, calling someone a “misogynist” is shaping the conversation in a certain way. But the term denotes actual people. Sim is certainly among them. Furthermore, we might find it useful to deploy the label, if our goal is to name something terrible.

    If someone wants to debate the application of the term, that gives us an opportunity to shrug and move on. Not everyone is worth talking to.

  31. 31
    Christopher says:

    veronica d

    I agree.

    Part of what I was saying, although I didn’t express it that well, is that I don’t see the point of such an incredibly narrow definition of the word “misogyny”; In my opinion the main reason people want to define words like “misogyny” or “racism” so narrowly is just to feel justified in saying “So and so isn’t a misogynist”

    If we define the terms narrowly enough we can avoid arguing the underlying issue, but I don’t think that’s a useful thing to do.

  32. 32
    wysinwyg says:


    Pesho makes a good point. Anyone who uses the Schrodinger’s Rapist argument is therefore a misandrist, by definition.

    The point of the Schrodinger’s rapist douchebag argument isn’t to actually argue that men are untrustworthy. The point is to try to help men appreciate male privilege by trying to show that walking down the street or taking public transit involves challenges for women that are not experienced by men. If I take the subway late at night, I don’t really have to worry about the only other person on the train harassing me and following me home, but women do.

    Making that argument doesn’t make a woman a misandrist any more than it would be misogynist to assert: “Men experience the world differently from women, in some cases facing challenges (e.g. unsafe working conditions) that women usually do not face.”

  33. 33
    veronica d says:

    It’s complicated. I mean, the whole Schrodinger’s Whatever was really meant as an empathy generator, but empathy seems hard to come by.

    But there is just this thing, this weird sense of menace, and it’s simply not symmetrical between men and women. And sure, we don’t want to say that always-men-always-bad any more than we want to say always-women-always-good. That isn’t the point.

    After all, I’ve been sexually assaulted by a woman, and I’ve been treated wonderfully by men.

    But still! You guys don’t get it. Masculinity is not value-neutral, nor is it some mirror image of femininity. For one thing, men are violent in ways that women are not. They idolize “manpain” and rage.

    For example, try to imagine a gender-reversed Breaking Bad.

    I mean, it’s a show, not real life. But shows reflect our culture. They play on how we see things. Our presumptions shape what scenarios we’ll accept.

    It’s a matter of frequency. Men are expected to pursue, which is kinda stupidly unbalanced and leads to a shitty dating game, but still! I didn’t make this shit sandwich, I just have to live with it.

    Shows aren’t real life, but the reflect our culture. Look at Fatal Attraction. That’s how male writers portray a bold woman. But it’s fake. It is the presumptions of men.

    If a man decides to pursue me, I don’t know what will happen. I probably won’t be interested — I seldom am. So what happens? How should I let him down? How much attention should I pay him, since so many men won’t take the hint? So I should be blunt? And then what? Do you know how random men behave to women who are blunt? Do you know how blunt women get treated by the broad public?

    And I was just riding the fucking subway to work, reading a math book, and joe-rando-fuck decides that it’s my turn to be his target. It doesn’t matter how I feel.

    I promise you, this shit is scary. It commonplace. It last happened to me three nights ago, literally on a shadowy street. When is the last time “fatal attraction girl” came after you?

    It’s a tricky dance, and you men don’t have to do it. You have other problems, but not these problems.

    Women sometimes pursue men. I’ve seen it happen, but it’s different. First off, it’s less common. Furthermore, it’s weird, so women who do it are already going against the cultural grain. There is such a thin line between “strong woman” and “ball-busting bitch” — most women won’t take the chance.

    But still, men love to make movies about obsession-girl and her knife collection. But in real life, “obsessive knife collector” is usually a man. It’s not that she’s “impossible.” No doubt she exists somewhere. But she’s rare. Rando-macho-ragey-mc-beltbuckle is not rare. That fucker, or his equal, is as common as dirt.

    Yeah it sucks. Sorry.

  34. 34
    Mike L says:

    @Veronica D

    I mean this in the politest way possible, but I think you need to examine your position on this issue through a lens that accepts that you have no accurate idea of what men actually deal with on a regular basis (through no fault of your own–you just do not experience it), and that makes it overly easy for you to dismiss or trivilialize male experience, which, in turn, leads to your conclusion that “the situation” is lopsided.

    I don’t really have time right now to go through all the various ways that men have to learn to deal with rejecting women; or the awful ways women react (I literally cannot count the number of times I’ve been called a homophobic slur because I declined to buy a drink for a woman I’ve never met before–I can assure you that it approached once a week when I was an undergrad).

    I want to be clear: I’m not saying “men have it worse,” and I’m not implying that the situation is somehow equal (I’m also limited by my experience, and I accept that I just do not know); but I do think your position–particularly with its reliance on a Hollywood representation of gender relations that is now 3 decades out of date (and why you went for Fatal Attraction instead of something like Thelma and Louise, I’m also not clear on)–results in you too easily and readily discounting the male pushback that you are receiving.

  35. 35
    veronica d says:

    I have a fair amount of knowledge of what men experience. Some of us have, shall we say, complex life histories.