May 20, 2004

Really, We Could Use the Wood

I'm afraid this post is essentially an executive summary of a blogfeud. If you're not into that sort of thing . . . [nods at blogroll on left].

Once upon a time in blogland, Jeff Goldstein gave a thumbs-up to an article by Cathy Young in Reason--a review of the book Insult to Injury: Rethinking Our Responses to Intimate Abuse, by Linda G. Mills.

Then Jim Peacock of Snooze Button Dreams posted a rebuttal.

Then all hell broke loose.

Well, not really. Jim and Jeff remained civil to each other throughout the discussion--but you know how when you were a teenager and your parents went out of town, you'd tell just a couple of friends to stop by Friday night for a kegger? And then, the next thing you knew, the police were banging on your door and announcing you had two minutes to get those 500+ people out of the house before they started busting all of you for minors-in-possession?

It was kind of like that.

A'fore long, up come one Mrs. du Toit to Jim's comment section, to offer her take on the matter, which I think can be fairly summed up as "if you stay, you pay." End the abuse by getting out of the relationship, or don't--but don't leave it to the cops to rescue you. I'll grant her remarks points for being relative to the subject under discussion: Should we reevaluate the effectiveness of mandatory arrest laws in incidences of what the government's now taken to calling "intimate partner violence?"

(Incidentally, if I have mischaracterized Mrs. du Toit's position on the matter, I will welcome a correction from her. Any mischaracterization on my part is inadvertent. And as is always sound practice on the internet, readers are invited to read the whole thing for themselves.)

Would that some other commenters had stayed with that topic, instead of heading off into the gnarled woods of the California Penal Code. Tree thinkers. It's always the bloody tree thinkers.

And then along came Helen, who made this remark:

And Dean? Yeah, I don't read you, and I really don't feel the need to, either. You've been there on the man's side? Well, I've been there on the woman's side. And you and Mrs. Du Toit (again, let me state thus: I find it revolting to be referred to by my spouse's name. I have my own name, thank you) should understand this: if you haven't walked the woman's side, then you just don't understand.
[Emphasis mine.] Well, the way I see it, you address people the way they prefer to be addressed. That is called politeness. That is called courtesy. Mrs. du Toit prefers to be addressed using her husband's name. That is her choice to make, and that is how she should be addressed by those who respect her decision and practice basic manners.

And Helen finds it revolting. That, also, is all right. That is her choice to make, and that is how she should not be addressed by those who respect her decision and practice basic manners.

Unfortunately, that is not how Mrs. du Toit sees Helen's decision. Mrs. du Toit sees it as evidence that Helen is a . . . wait for it . . . FEMINAZI!

But Mrs. du Toit did not say this to Helen directly. She merely made an example of her weeks after the fact on her own blog, in her introduction to this essay:

In a comment thread regarding domestic violence I was taken to task for referring to myself as "Mrs du Toit" by (what I would refer to as) a Femi-Nazi. She made some comment that she had a name and was proud to use it, and she'd never refer to herself the way I do.
Note the subtle inversion; now Helen's remarks are stated to be about Mrs. du Toit, instead of an expression of distaste for the practice of using one's husband's name. Again:
I find it revolting to be referred to by my spouse's name. I have my own name, thank you
Yes, it was written in response to Mrs. du Toit. Yes, it expresses dislike of a practice which Mrs. du Toit finds wholly agreeable. But I am not seeing where Mrs. du Toit was "taken to task."

And that's the lovely thing about not challenging your adversaries directly: You simply wait a week or two, then say what you thought they said, and say it in such a way as to paint yourself the victim. Voila! Victory by default!

Oh, and by no means should you link the original discussion. Heavens, no. We don't want people reading and judging for themselves, now, do we?

So if you've read this far--well, if you've read this far, you really ought to talk to your boss about maybe giving you more work to do.

But you may be wondering what my point is. My point is that conservatives cannot effectively argue in favor of personal responsibility, personal accountability, if they themselves refuse to take any. If, for example, they respond to being called on the carpet for their errors with such fabulous Micah Wrightesque lameosity as this:

So, the choice of attack on the Bogey Men series [the series of essays of which the first part is linked above--ed.] is my use of the term Femi-Nazi in my composite opening, in the preface. People cannot "get past" that or they are "offended" by name calling, describing it "another form of abuse" thus infering that I am practicing abuse (shoot the messenger).

Bite me.

Femi-Nazi is especially meaningful in that context. It denotes a bastardization of Feminism, in which women (most especially women), generally in packs or swarms, will attack another woman because she hasn't conformed to the approved standardólots of rolled eyes and looking down the nose.

[Emphasis mine.] "It denotes a bastardization of Feminism"--except that no, it doesn't; not as Mrs. du Toit has used it. Mrs. du Toit has called a specific individual a feminazi, and she has not had even the figurative cojones to do so directly.

Why's that "directly" part so important? Well, let's ask Mrs. du Toit herself. Here she is in response to a (rather sleazy) attack on her husband in the SBD comment thread:

You could always e-mail your rebuttals to Kim's essay to him, rather than arguing behind his wife's skirts, if you wanted to discuss his essay, but I take it from your snarky comment here that you're not interested in discussing the writing--you seem interested only in character assasination.
Ding ding ding!

You could always have told Helen you thought she was a feminazi directly, Mrs. du Toit.

You could always have responded to Jim's post about your failure to do so directly, Mrs. du Toit.

Instead, we get this lengthy help-me-up-onna-this-cross,-O-Jesus,-and-forgive them,-Father,-for-they-know-not-what-they-do-style rationalization:

Kim and I knew it would happen. We knew the attacks would eventually come, but I had thought carefully about what I was including the series, my pure intentions for writing it, and was ready for it. The ad hominem attacks begin. Enter the Brown Skirts.

. . .

I would ask my friends, despite any desires they may have to "stand up" or protect me, please do not play. I knew it would happen. I do not want to empower the battle by fueling it (which is why there are NO LINKS in this post to what anyone else has posted elsewhere in the 'sphere. In some cases, as I did in the Bogey Men series, I drew a composite person to demonstrate a common complaint).

Note the quick slip-in of a Way Out there at the end: Mrs. du Toit was not referring to Helen, the Individual, but rather to "a composite person." You may be more familiar with composite persons under another moniker commonly given them.

Helen's no "feminazi," Mrs. du Toit. And really, you shouldn't be surprised people are disgusted with you for calling her one. If personal accountability is as central to your philosophy as you claim, start acting like it.

Or, y'know, "bite me."

UPDATE: And while I'm on a tear about personal accountability, let me take some: "Joann," in the comment section to Jim's post, was a sock puppet. Puppetmaster: Me.

It was childish, irrelevant to the discussion, and rude. For that, Mrs. du Toit, I apologize.

(As for why I never e-mailed Kim a rebuttal to his essay, that's simple: It's been done better by others.)

Posted by Ilyka at May 20, 2004 09:47 PM in hell is other people

Well-done, Ilyka. A great read, and a concise explanation to an otherwise knotty discussion.

Posted by: Lachlan at May 22, 2004 12:31 AM

Ha! As sock puppetry goes, that was a pretty good one.

The du Toits are probably the biggest cowards on the Internet. Between their refusal to engage people on their own terms, their regular reliance on ad hom, her pathetic leaping in whenever poor Kim is attacked by those mean people on the Web, and his constant reliance on "thousands of anonymous people support me," it's tragically comic.

Posted by: Phil at May 22, 2004 12:58 AM

Wow. Lachlan's right - great summary and to the point.

Posted by: Simon at May 22, 2004 11:38 AM

Phil, I thought I was the only one who noticed the "thousands of anonymous people agree with me" angle.

They're not the only ones who use it. In fact, I've seen that used as a standard by many conservabloggers.

Wow, Ilyka, you are on a tear this week.

Posted by: Meryl Yourish at May 23, 2004 04:21 AM

it's unwise to stand up in a crossfire, but ...

i rarely read the du Toits, but when i do, they capture my attention and force me to think. sometimes it's because i agree, sometimes because i don't.

i am glad to see that itís not just me.

Posted by: rammer at May 23, 2004 06:35 PM

I'm nominating you to analyze every single blog war that happens on the internet. You are always concise and fair to both sides. Bravo!

Posted by: Lauren at June 11, 2004 04:29 PM