After reading the offensive and ill-conceived article, “Extreme feminists must be tamed,” written by Binley Yang in the Campus Times, I was honestly extremely confused as to whether or not the article was a true display of human ignorance or just an unfortunately subtle satire of modern-day sexism. Regardless, I think it’s important that opposing opinions are made available so people don’t internalize the degrading dribble that I trudged through.
Yang’s primary argument was that the way that we acquire money for charitable causes in inconsequential; what matters is the benefits of receiving this money. My response is that, in this case, the money was acquired in a demeaning and coercive manner. First of all, to reduce a woman to her breasts, and let a stranger’s ability to touch them be the sole factor in whether or not he contributes money to breast cancer research, is pretty horrific. If the men had all this money that they were willing to donate, it seems inhumane to hinge its donation on how many women will let themselves be objectified. The right thing to do would be to donate the money unconditionally. But the creators of the video did not choose to do that.
Second of all, the method of gaining that money was extremely coercive. While no one can claim that these women were forced to let the men motorboat them, it is important to make the distinction here between choice and meaningful choice. While these women could in theory opt out, they were on the street being filmed and essentially asked if they support breast cancer eradication. If they said no, they could be assured to be viewed as heartless and prude for refusing such a “fun” interaction, and their perception of social consequences would leave them no perceived choice about whether or not they would participate. These women should not be put in a position where they are forced to justify whether or not their body can be used as a means to an end if they choose not to participate; they should have unquestioned agency over their own bodies.
Yang also claims that the way the money was achieved was not offensive, merely “humorous.” However, he likely makes this claim because he is either willfully ignorant of, or just incredibly sheltered to, the sexism that permeates society. Suppose a group of white men went around on the street with face paint and claimed to individuals that for every blackface they paint, they will give 20 dollars to a fund that promotes racial equality. While of course there are plenty of obvious differences between this hypothetical and the situation at hand, the message is clear: If the supposedly good outcome requires the intended group to be hurt in the process, the outcome itself is not worth it and, ultimately, is not quite as meaningful as it is purported to be.
Unfortunately, much of the rest of Yang’s argumentation relies on personal attacks on feminists, particularly the claim that these feminist’s emotions prevented them clearly evaluating the situation at hand. In particular, this relies on the claim that these feminists were jealous of those featured in the video and requested its removal out of spite. This is a claim long abused by men and even women in particular to marginalize women’s clearly reasoned views into irrational cries in order to decrease their credibility and ignore the actual problem at hand. In fact, Yang spends very little time in his article addressing whether or not the public and coerced motorboating of women is demeaning and quickly writes it off as a humorous act by his third paragraph, spending the rest of the article discussing women’s irrationality when it comes to understanding whether or not they are offended by how people treat them. Clearly, Yang believes himself, a man, to be the true arbiter of whether or not women are oppressed, which is completely ridiculous in itself considering he has never been nor will he ever be a woman and therefore will never be able to understand how this kind of sexism truly affects women in their everyday lives.
Ultimately, the issues of this article do not just lie in the relentless personal attacks on women’s supposed irrationality or its skirting of the actual issues at hand. The problem is when he deems this type of feminism – the type that merely asks that offensive actions not be taken in order to raise money – radical feminism, creates two harmful consequences in themselves. In fact, he incoherently compares the response to this video to the picketing of funerals by the Westboro Baptist Church. The first harm comes from how he deems a peaceful and clearly articulated stance as “extremist,” and claims that there is really no need for a response at all. This implication of a post-sexist society, even in a world where sexual violence and wage discrepancies impact women’s everyday lives, means that those who buy into his arguments will be more likely to dismiss further demeaning of women as radical and unjustified responses and therefore not speak out against it.
The second consequence of this is that it deters both men and women from associating themselves with feminism. As Yang himself admits, the goal of feminism is to achieve equality between men and women; however, when he actively stigmatizes feminism as a whole, he deters people from associating themselves with the cause and taking action when they see real injustice. Even if the actions taken by these feminists were truly unjust, referring the respondents as “petulant feminists” who are “arrogant” and “naïve” means that individuals will withdraw themselves from the cause in order to prevent being associated with such odious viewpoints as, say, equality.
As a woman at this university, I was honestly appalled to read this article. Maybe it truly was a big joke and I have just become the unfortunate butt of it by responding so harshly, but I think even clever satire should be indicated as such so that students don’t internalize the harmful assertions in Yang’s article. In order to ensure that women have at least chance at being treated equally, we need to refrain from name-calling and useless assertions. There was probably an intelligent way for Yang to phrase his arguments, but instead he resorted to ad-hominem attacks that harm feminists’ ability to be perceived as rational actors with a worthwhile cause.
Nina Datlof is a member of
the class of  2014.

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