Activism 101: Jargon and Gate Keeping

Just trashed a comment reading:

You don’t think ascribing a masculine gender to a system of oppression (“patriarchy”) contributes to antipathy towards men? Seriously? Start using “kyriarchy” and persuade your friends to do the same, and MAYBE you can achieve a form of feminism that is not overtly hateful. You haven’t yet.

Be serious…if anything makes women hate men, it’s the fact that human being don’t need a reason to hate someone with a different life experience than theirs, or someone who has different motivations which may run counter to their own. Women hate men because women are people, and people don’t need an excuse to hate.

in response to the If anything makes women hate men… post.

Here’s a rundown of why I trashed it.

1. It’s an order, and a hostile one at that.

2. It’s a “Feminism: You’re Doing It Wrong” rant

3. Note the random inclusion of Brand! New! JARGON!!!

4. It’s a “But what about ten menzzzzzzzzzz” jab (particularly ironic as a response to a post that’s specifically about women’s experiences with patriarchy…)

5. It’s a straw feminist argument as well, positing that OF COURSE feminists hate men, because they all still believe in PATRIARCHY, which totally ignores that WTF, the term “kyriarchy”‘s emergent from feminist conversations about religion, so duh, it’s a concept that feminists are thinking and writing about.

Just a point: My preference is to use “interlocking systems of oppression” (still jargon-ny but grok-able) or “matrix of oppression,” or any of the pretty fabulous words coined by anti-oppression scholars, activists, and writers who I admire. But, we’ve already talked about “kyriarchy” before — most particularly here — and its fucked up citational history, and its negation of pre-existing concepts developed by women of color scholars and activists. So, what I’d like to focus on in this post is the use of jargon to “discipline” (and here I’m making a clever pun in reference to discipline as in punish and discipline as in institutionalize into an academic project) the unpaid labor of a collective of women bloggers writing from a variety of intersectional identities.

I don’t especially want to debate the utility of kyriarchy as a term. I think it’s pretty fail, but honestly I’m more astonished at the gall of a commentator claiming anti-oppression credentials to demand the re-introduction of jargon… then again, considering the kerfluffle over Jessica Yee’s anthology a few months ago, I probably shouldn’t be.


  1. says

    I think it’s pretty clear this person is a flat-out anti-feminist who believes him/herself to be egalitarian in a superior way:

    MAYBE you can achieve a form of feminism that is not overtly hateful.

    As if to imply all forms of feminism so far have been overtly hateful. Typically, if a feminist is going to tell another feminist “Your feminism is hateful”, s/he will use more specific terms to identify the different sub-groups among feminists – for example, “third wave”, “second wave”, “radfem.”

    This person has embraced the concept that human beings are often hateful, but utterly failed to recognize any political dynamics involved in how the hate flows. A non-oppressed person hating on an oppressed group for being different is coming from a completely different place psychologically and socially than an oppressed person hating on an oppressor. And all this commenter is concerned about is “antipathy toward men”, which is at best tangentially related to the post, in that I identify a lot of patriarchal myths which are designed to excuse bad male behavior but also happen to be quite misandrist (i.e., “men can’t help but cheat” – that’s a hateful insult to every man who honors whatever commitments and promises he makes to romantic partners).

    No, what this commenter wants to prove is that feminism is the source of all misandry. They don’t go about it by engaging with my points – they jump on a strawman argument about the term “patriarchy” which – according to the dictionary and Wikipedia – precisely identified the specific social forces I was talking about.

    I too don’t want to debate the validity of either term in this thread, because I don’t think that’s what the commenter wanted either. They just wanted to silence and condemn, and went way out on a limb to find an excuse for it.

  2. Nuri says

    What an asshole. As if the term patriarchy had been coined by feminists!
    “a patriarchy by any other name would be as sexist” (sorry, William!)

  3. Brand Robins says

    I can’t get past the irony of using the voice of the lord and master to tell people to use a word that describes a field of study about how being a lord and master is jacked and needs to stop.

    But then, that’s what’s happened to the word. It had so much potential, once upon a time.

  4. Casey says

    This is semi-OT, but I encountered a jerky-mcjerk who was co-opting equality language/fancy-pants jargon for his argument that women are athletically inferior to men so we shouldn’t give a hoot about women in sports (he was also talking down a woman of color athlete to do so; this was in the link I sent to Maria a few days ago but for all I know the thread got deleted…damn message board). He’s also one of those people who fancies himself an egalitarian by insisting no inequalities exist and if life is sexist/racist/etc., then it just IS and that’s the painful truth. (he also did a bizarre 180 and insisted “HAY, YOU GOT ME ALL WRONG! I’M TOTES NOT SEXIST! ESPECIALLY NOT AGAINST WOMEN IN SPORTS ‘CUZ I’VE GOT A WIFE AND A DAUGHTER AND I’M A FAN OF WOMEN’S CONTACT FOOTBALL, BUT GEE GOLLY GOSH NOBODY WILL EVER CARE ABOUT SUCH THINGS, ISN’T THAT A SHAME?”)

  5. Patrick McGraw says

    I think “kyriarchy” is a very useful term, but I absolutely agree with you that it is jargon and not necessary. Insisting that anyone use it is just ass-hattery.

    Thank you for using the comment as the subject for a post as well as keeping it out of the original comment thread. Putting up such specimens for discussion can be very useful for seeing what kind of BS is being spouted, and discuss what’s wrong with it, without allowing the asshats to derail the original thread.

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