MRAs: Pretty Much What You’ve Always Thought

Trigger warning: MRA nonsense, physical abuse

Edited with clarifications because apparently my writing is not conveying what I want it to here.

Seriously. Seriously.

I cannot stop laughing.

Look, I know that MRAs are terrible people who do terrible things and have made many women’s lives utter miseries. But have you read this Buzzfeed article on Paul Elam that Angel H. quoted and linked for us the most recent open thread? (Thank you, Angel H. You are the best!)

He is obviously a terrible person, comparing child support payments to Jim Crow, to say nothing of treatment of his daughter, a braver and kinder person than he’ll ever be. But look at this:

Men’s rights activists often cite the first time they realized it’s a woman’s world. They call these “red pill” moments, after the scene in The Matrix when the main character is faced with the decision to swallow a red pill and recognize the true nature of the world or take a blue pill and continue living a lie. For Elam, that revelation came at age 13, when his mother tried to force him to take his diarrhea medicine.

Elam’s brothers held him down on the kitchen floor while his mother screamed and hit him with a wooden spoon until a concerned neighbor knocked on the door. “I felt like I was engaged in the battle of my life,” Elam said. “I was a rebel from that moment on … I’m still that 13-year-old kid on the floor that won’t take the medicine.”

When Elam was 17, his mother grabbed a photo of his high school crush out of his hands without asking him first. When Elam took it back from her, his father belted him. Elam’s analysis of the incident was that his father’s life was solely about serving his mother — “and nothing else.”

[New paragraph: This is the evidence Elam adduces to show, the moment he realizes that women run the world. His mother had power over him when he was a kid–so did his father and his elder brothers, but never mind that–and uses it to abuse him in one example and, well, just be kind of rude in the second example, and this–this–is the proof that men–grown men, mind you, grown men with agency, who apparently hit their kids of their own free will (Elam goes on to spank his grandson for opening a fridge door, and his mother isn’t around to blame for that one)–are being shafted in this society of ours.]

Lo, truly, the oppressed peoples of the world are throwing their arms open to welcome their beleaguered brother–police murder of black people, sexual violence, institutionalized transphobia, gay-bashing–all pale in comparison to what men suffer when they can’t get over their mommy issues. Truly Elam is under the bootheel of the female oppressor if anybody is. [Edited to add: This is what the MRA view of the world comes down to: it’s good old-fashioned mommy-blaming. Father did wrong? Elder brothers did wrong? It’s Mom’s fault. You can add it to the list of things mothers have been blamed for over the past 150 years, everything from schizophrenia to “inability to deal with color blindness” (I am not kidding). It’s not even new or innovative misogyny. It’s just mommy-blaming.]

I realize that child abuse is no laughing matter, though I have to say that what Elam suffers here is significantly less than what I went through. But…dude, really? Your mother, your brothers, and your father physically abuse you, but somehow it’s all your mom’s fault even though most of your abusers were older males? Um, OK, Elam. You…keep telling yourself that.

Elam, my misguided flower, that’s not a gender dynamic. That’s a parent-child dynamic. You want to do something about that? Advocate for children’s rights. (But seriously? I went through worse for worse reasons and…I’m finding it hard to see you as a poster-child for abuse survivors. Both my parents went through far worse and neither one is a misogynist asshole.)

What do you think he imagines adolescence is like for girls? [Added: Does he think we don’t get hit?] That we don’t have to take medicine when we’re sick and our teenage crushes are treated with respect and delicacy? Lo, his mother grabbed a photo from him without asking first! How can he bear up under the strain? My mother made fun of how the boy I had a crush on looked and my father laughed with her! My scars, let me show you them.

“I followed in many ways in my father’s footsteps,” Elam said. “If I was attracted to a girl … it was my job to please her, and to be and do anything to please her….”

OK, dude? Again, that’s not oppression. Wanting to please the person who turns you on? That’s just…being human. What do you think your reaction to being into someone should be?

This confirms everything I’ve always thought about MRAs: they’re fainting flowers who can’t actually handle the exigencies of normal life, or in other words, wimps. Dude. Try navigating through life when you have an actual problem to handle and then get back to me.

And I can’t. stop. laughing at them.

I swear I have a long, thoughtful post coming up. I just…dude. Diarrhea medicine? Your mommy? Paging Dr. Freud, here, I think.

Edited a la Kitty’s point in comments. What I had wanted to convey was that child abuse was clearly no excuse for misogyny, but as I said in comments, clearly my own issues came into play instead. And then edited once more because if Fashionably Evil, a regular, thought it was the abuse itself that I was finding funny rather than the inept reasoning based on it, then the writing needed clearing up.


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100 comments for “MRAs: Pretty Much What You’ve Always Thought

  1. February 6, 2015 at 8:27 pm

    Dude I don’t even know how else to put this so I’m going to quote you child abuse is not a laughing matter. Ever. So what is wrong you, why are you laughing? D you seriously hate MRAs so much that scenes of one of them getting belted amuse you?

    I’m taking feministe off my RSS reader.

    • EG
      February 6, 2015 at 8:37 pm

      I’m laughing because these are the instances Elam cites to “prove” that women run the world, and they involve his dad belting him and his older brothers holding him down. The laughter is not at the abuse, but at the bizarro-world interpretation he has of it (and at the idea that his mother snatching a photo from him is somehow even a minor tremor on the Richter scale of abuse–that, I admit, is really, really funny).

      Did I really need to spell that out for you? Because…yep, that pretty much confirms other things I’ve always thought as well. I thought feminists were the ones who needed to lighten up? Run along, now.

      • EG
        February 6, 2015 at 8:49 pm

        And did I mention Elam went on to spank his grandson for opening a refrigerator door when he shouldn’t have? So I’m not really seeing anything to indicate that he thinks violence against children is the problem, here. That’s my reading of the situation, and you’re welcome.

        (I wonder whom he blames for the spanking? Did his mommy force him to do that through super-sekrit woman mind control?)

  2. EG
    February 6, 2015 at 9:07 pm

    I find myself returning to this notion that wanting to please the person you’re hot for is some kind of oppression. Returning, and laughing and laughing.

    Does Elam think that women don’t experience this? That gay men don’t? That, like, the normal human response to meeting someone who turns you on isn’t to think “How can I get this person to like me?”

    Is he right? Is this what I’ve been doing wrong all these years? I’ve been seeing super-hot (to me–I’ve been made aware my preferences are not universal) boys/men and thinking “Gosh, I’m going to meet them and try and please them with my wit and physical allure and talk about how much I like the stuff they do/make and see if they like me enough for me to get into their pants.” Should I be…negging them, I guess? Something else? Somebody quickly advise me before the next one gets away! (Well, given my rapidly changing shape, I’ve probably got a few months before I’ve got a chance with any next one, so you can take your time. Sadly, cute young men are not so into older pregnant women.)

  3. Kitty
    February 6, 2015 at 9:25 pm

    Paul Elam using this abuse to justify his beliefs that women rule the world –> laughable

    The abuse Paul Elam suffered as a child not being “bad enough” for your standards –> not laughable

    “Paul Elam: Stop blaming all women for your problems” –> Appropriate sentiment which cannot be repeated enough.

    “Paul Elam: Man up, you poor wilting flower” –> Completely inappropriate.

    • EG
      February 6, 2015 at 9:35 pm

      The abuse Paul Elam suffered as a child not being “bad enough” for your standards –> not laughable

      Fair enough. Good point. Those’re my own issues, no doubt.

      “Paul Elam: Man up, you poor wilting flower” –> Completely inappropriate.

      If I had said anything as gendered as “man up,” you’d have a point here, too, but I didn’t, so you don’t. I expect a certain level of mature ability to deal with shit from everybody, and acting as if your mom humiliating you about your crush is some kind of trauma is wilting flower bullshit.

    • EG
      February 6, 2015 at 10:16 pm

      Post edited to take into account your first point, with note at bottom making that clear.

  4. FashionablyEvil
    February 6, 2015 at 10:24 pm

    Man, this post made me cringe. You can try to draw the distinction between “laughing at child abuse” and “laughing at the conclusion someone draws from having been abused as a child,” but I don’t think it’s really there.

    • EG
      February 6, 2015 at 10:27 pm

      Really? Elam is abused by his mother, elder brothers, and father. This is the evidence he uses to argue that women run the world–and you don’t find that laughable? Compared to, say, actual logic and systems of oppression, including the one he found himself in? Each to zir own, then.

      • EG
        February 6, 2015 at 10:34 pm

        Like, seriously, the logic here is “my mother, along with other older male people, had power over me when I was a kid; that means women have power over men!” I honestly cannot not laugh at that. I mean…OK, my mother had power over me too…does that mean that left-handed people have power over right-handed people? That’s the level of absurdity we’re talking about here.

    • EG
      February 6, 2015 at 10:59 pm

      Edited for clarification in response to your comment.

      I don’t even get what “laughing at child abuse” would…be. What’s funny about hitting a kid? The humor is in the incongruity between what Elam describes and what he says it means. There’s no incongruity in just hitting a kid. That’s just…hitting.

  5. gratuitous_violet
    February 7, 2015 at 12:14 am

    EG, thank you for making the edits and being upfront about them. As another with a history of abuse, CSA in particular, I felt what you meant very clearly, but it still made me cringe.

    Thanks to everyone else who pointed it out, also.

    • EG
      February 7, 2015 at 12:57 am

      No problem. I’m glad the edits worked to clarify things in your eyes. I had taken too much as read without needing to be said, and said one or two things better left unsaid. Your comment leaves me hopeful that the edits make it work better.

    • EG
      February 7, 2015 at 1:08 am

      I mean, I know I’m not going to hit it out of the park every time, but if a post is consistently getting across the wrong thing, or getting across the wrong thing to someone whose judgment I trust, like Fashionably Evil, then there’s nothing for it but to fix the writing, because it’s not doing its job.

      If it’s still not doing its job tomorrow, I’ll either work on it again or retract it…

  6. Mandolin
    February 7, 2015 at 4:41 am

    I think I’d have understood what you meant without the edits, but the edits *really* help make this clearer, because I did cringe too.

    One of the major emotional abusers of my childhood was a woman (a teacher). Women can definitely be abusive and awful. But her awfulness did not negate the awfulness of some of the men in my life.

    Nor does the awesomeness of my dad negate the awesomeness of my mom.

    Sometimes, I think about writing posts simply in reaction to things MRAs say feminists never do. I oppose routine infant penile circumcision, for instance, and wrote a long post about that once. (One of the antifeminists who, at that point, dogged our blog, accused me of being insincere. A couple others pointed out that there was no reason to think that, which I appreciated.)

    Recently, it’s been bugging me that MRAs say feminists think all women are awesome and all men are suckpants. So I’ve been considering doing a series of posts which are like “five women who are suckpants” and “five men who are awesome.” On the one hand, it feels like, there are already plenty of posts out there in the mainstream which cater to that dynamic, and there’s no need to duplicate the cultural constant. On the other hand, the research might be interesting, and when MRAs kvetch, I could just point.

    • Mandolin
      February 7, 2015 at 4:45 am

      (Plus, I actually think “no, women can really, really suck” can be a good point to have out there, as there is a variety of pedestally sexist thought which assumes women are always sort of good in a banal way. The “angel of the home” thing.

      And celebrating awesomeness, in men or women, is always worth it for its own sake.)

    • EG
      February 7, 2015 at 5:12 am

      Thanks for the thumbs-up on the edits.

      Yes to the existence of abusive women–ask me about my grandmother one of these days–particularly when it comes to child abuse, as women are the ones more likely to be looking after children. But the idea that the mother-child relationship maps onto the power dynamics between women and men is so bizarre to me! It’s literally an “I’m not you’re mother!” moment.

      I always think that anti-feminists who imagine feminists think all women are super awesome and all men are evil scum are kind of tipping their hand–it’s like they are incapable of complexity so they think we are, too.

    • EG
      February 7, 2015 at 5:52 am

      Leaving mockery of Elam aside for a moment, I think one of the most telling moments about he has [not] handled the abuse he experienced is when he says he’s still that kid on the floor. It bespeaks such a lack of self-awareness, because…he’s not. One of the most important things I ever had to take on board in dealing with several of my own traumas is no, whatever it may feel like to me, I’m not still that kid being shaken violently; I’m not still that teenager trying to please an older man who’s taking advantage of me sexually. And that (re)acting as if I were not only did me no favors and did not reflect an accurate understanding of the world around me, not only was completely unnecessary, but also was going to hurt people, including myself. (That’s not true for all trauma, of course, such as the death of a loved one: I am still that woman in mourning, and to a certain extent always will be.)

      I remember the first time I realized I didn’t have to put up with being scared my father was going to hit me–I was in my 20s, had the feeling of fear when he was yelling at me, and literally thought “This is bullshit. I’m a woman grown. I don’t have to put up with this any more. I’m walking away.” (There was a lot of crying involved later, of course.)

      Elam isn’t still that kid on the floor being beaten by his mother and the fact that he’s still reacting as if he were is, in my opinion, a tremendous indictment of his world-view and actions, to say nothing of how his treatment of his ex-wife and daughter.

      • tinfoil hattie
        February 10, 2015 at 10:16 am

        Jeezus. So Elam should be as self-aware as you are, an no longer traumatized by his own abuse, because … you have “recovered”? So, you are the arbiter of when he should be “over” his PTSD?

        It’s my opinion that you might find it helpful to do more soul-searching before you try to write an article about how “funny” it is that someone who suffered severe abuse as a child now hates women.

      • EG
        February 10, 2015 at 10:21 am

        I’m sorry, where are you seeing any evidence that he suffers from PTSD? I see evidence that he’s weaponized any abuse he may have suffered to justify misogyny, but that really isn’t the same thing.

      • EG
        February 10, 2015 at 10:37 am

        I probably wouldn’t make as similar post in the future because it’s made so many people here unhappy, by the way, but as far as my soul goes, it, such as it always has been, is in fine shape. Thanks for your concern.

  7. AMM
    February 7, 2015 at 8:37 am

    In principle, I should feel sorry for him. He obviously got pretty severely abused as a child.

    But I can’t. Because instead of directing his anger at the people who actually abused him, he focuses on people who are even lower on the pecking order than him. It reminds me of how, in the South (USA), poor white people chose to focus their resentment and hate on black people instead of the white power structure that was oppressing them both. Basically, passing the shit down the social ladder and adding some of your own.

    It’s also kind of personal for me. I grew up surrounded by boys with the same attitude as Paul Elam, and I notice that they’re just as willing to abuse male people who don’t perform masculinity up to their standards as they are to abuse women.

    He’s chosen to use being abused as an excuse to abuse, and as such has blown off any claim to my sympathy.

    • EG
      February 7, 2015 at 8:55 am

      Here’s the thing: I can feel sorry for the kid he was without feeling sorry for the man he is. As you say, the man he is has chosen to process his abuse by abusing. So fuck him.

    • Asia
      February 7, 2015 at 3:25 pm

      I can feel disgust about his current actions and words and still have empathy for him because he’s an abuse victim.

      His age doesn’t make him less of a victim. He experienced trauma that has had lifelong consequences. Society likes victims when their hurt little kids. And ignores the consequences of said children growing up. Not everyone heals to the same extent.

      And yea it’s wrong that he’s a MRA. He should start to work on his shit. But I’m more disturbed that you guys don’t get that he’s a victim

      • EG
        February 7, 2015 at 3:33 pm

        Meh, I disagree. In my opinion, an adult is responsible for dealing with the shit in their life in a way that causes minimal harm to other people. (An example of what happens when an adult doesn’t was my initial minimization of the abuse–that had to do with my issues that I have not dealt with as thoroughly as I would like, and it ended up hurting and upsetting people.) When an adult has had plenty of time to do this and hasn’t, but instead has used that shit, that abuse, as a self-righteous justification for hurting others, I lose sympathy.

        Everybody’s life has got static, as one of my favorite fictional sociopaths once said. But what do you do with it? And Elam is, as I said, no longer a helpless 13-year-old held down on a floor. So I no longer give him the sympathy that kid gets. Having experienced abuse in the past, in my opinion, does not entitle a person to a claim on my sympathy forever after.

      • Asia
        February 7, 2015 at 5:11 pm

        I agree that an Adult has a responsibility to deal with the shit in their lives in a way that minimizes the harm to other people. And this guy’s hasn’t done that. He has failed at not hurting other people.

        And he’s still a victim. Victims can horrible things including abuseing others. It’s not an either or situation.

        I didn’t say you had too give had to give him sympathy. But it wrong to deny or mock the fact that he’s a victim. And your edits do explain that your attempting to mock the MRA behaviors and stance.

      • ginmar
        February 7, 2015 at 5:19 pm

        Yeah, he’s only a victim if he’s telling the truth. He has no right—-after all the lies he’s told—-to expect to be believed. I cannot recall reading anything by him that was honest or truthful.

        Furthermore, he used to describe his family life entirely differently. I said this elsewhere, but he’s a huge guy— and he uses it quite deliberately. Also, he has NEVER told the truth about any woman, ever.

        I don’t believe him for a minute.

      • PrettyAmiable
        February 7, 2015 at 6:36 pm

        I’m with Asia, I think. I’ll describe why with this personal example:

        My father was exceedingly damaged as a child while growing up in Poland. His father was a political activist who was imprisoned, his mother had abandoned him and was a Polish Jew who had lived through the Holocaust. He demonstrated against Communist authorities and was thrown into prison, where SOME shit went down (he won’t talk about it), and was eventually kicked out of Poland. My daddy was a victim of the government for sure, and I’d bet that my great aunt, who raised him, was heavy-handed in her mannerisms.

        My dad was a dickbag, authoritarian, alcoholic who hit my mom and his children and emotionally abused the shit out of us. He was absolutely a victim while simultaneously being an abuser. He’s also racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic. I’ve heard him try to justify his abuse and bigotry by virtue of his past (I’m not sure, but I’m willing to bet that he also has PTSD, like me), and while I know it’s not a justification — or a “red pill moment” — he’s never lost his victimization by becoming an abuser. And I dislike the idea that he might, because I feel like it’s a slippery slope – you can only be hurt or victimized if you’re a “good” person.

        I’m inclined to believe him about his victimization. I’ve seen the cycle perpetuate itself firsthand, and I’m not hurt in any way by believing those stories, even if they’re lies. There’s no cognitive dissonance here: his victimhood has no bearing on the fact that he’s an asshole as an adult. He’s a big boy with access to the same facts that we all are lucky to have – if he’s choosing to be a dick, he’s still a dick.

      • PrettyAmiable
        February 7, 2015 at 6:38 pm

        Oops – point of clarification – my last paragraph is about Elam, not my father.

      • EG
        February 7, 2015 at 7:06 pm

        In my opinion, “victim” is a relational term. It describes a relationship, not an innate quality. Elam was a victim; he is no longer. That doesn’t make past victimization go away; it doesn’t mean he never was a victim. But the idea that once you’re a victim that’s an unchanging status that inheres forever more seems bizarre to me.

        My father was a victim of physical abuse growing up. He is no longer, because nobody is beating him. He may have trauma from having been a victim that he has to find a way to cope with, but dealing with the fall-out does not mean that he’s still a victim. Quite frankly, by the logic of once a victim, always a victim, everybody is a victim. And if everybody is a victim, I have to ask, so what? Why is it a status worth noting?

        There’s no cognitive dissonance here: his victimhood has no bearing on the fact that he’s an asshole as an adult.

        If that’s the case, why is it relevant at all? Why is Asia upset that I won’t agree that he is currently a victim? Why does it matter whether or not I agree?

        Nobody is victimizing Paul Elam. He may have to deal with the fall-out of having been victimized as a child as do many people, and he is dealing with it spectacularly poorly. That’s not part of victimhood. That’s just life.

      • Asia
        February 7, 2015 at 7:08 pm

        Yea, Pretty Amiable is stating what I’m trying to get at. The cycle does repeats itself.

        A person can both a victim and abuser. This central fact underlies the cycle of abuse.

        My response to everyone who isn’t sure if he telling the truth. His MRA behavior, writings and the loss of custody due to abuse. Suggests to me that a history of child abuse makes perfect sense.

      • EG
        February 7, 2015 at 7:16 pm

        That’s begging the question, Asia. You’re saying that having been abused is what causes him to abuse, and that you can tell because he abuses people, so he must have been abused. That’s completely circular logic.

        But there’s an excluded middle: plenty of people are abused as children without going on to abuse their own kids, and plenty of abusers suffered no more abuse than anybody else in their childhoods.

        Being an abusive MRA doesn’t mean that Elam was abused, just like having been abused didn’t predestine him to be an abusive MRA.

      • EG
        February 7, 2015 at 7:24 pm

        Further, the intergenerational cycle of violence theory has been critiqued on the basis of methodological weakness in the studies that find the strongest correlation between having been abused and abusing. And the studies that have stricter methodological control provide “only mixed support.” So while it’s a popular theory, it’s far from the kind of hypothesis one can use to support a back-formation.

        And it doesn’t work on basic logic principles either.

        If one has been abused, then one is more likely to become an abuser.

        This statement’s truth value tells you nothing about the converse: If one has become an abuser, the one has been abused.

        The converse of a true statement can be true or false. One does not lead to the other.

      • Asia
        February 8, 2015 at 3:37 am

        I admit I’m using the word victim to mean a history of child abuse. And really you and Donna used the word status. To me victimhood is just the fact that he has child abuse trauma.

        “That’s begging the question, Asia. You’re saying that having been abused is what causes him to abuse, and that you can tell because he abuses people, so he must have been abused. That’s completely circular logic.”

        No, that’s not what I’m saying. I did not and am not stating cause. I’m saying he was abused because he alleged abuse and there isn’t evidence to prove he’s lying.

        I brought up the cycle of abuse to combat the idea that people can’t be both victims and abusers. The fact people are studying the cycle of abuse demonstrates that it’s not uncommon for abusers to have histories of abuse.

        And even you admit there is mixed support. Because of that Mixed support I’m inclined to believe him. And doesn’t feminism call for believing the victim unless there’s proof of lying.

        As for why it’s important, you wrote a article about a man’s alleged child abuse history and the way it connects to his behavior. To me you denying the child abuse and repeatedly stating his descriptions aren’t bad enough is awful close to minimizing child abuse.

      • ginmar
        February 8, 2015 at 5:03 am

        You. Are. Assuming. That. He.is. Telling. The. Truth. And to do so, you have to ignore his consistent history of both lying about women, and projection. On top of which, you are ignoring the guy’s size. You just accept what he says. Why? He’s never told the truth about women, ever, and he always twists things around till his victims are the bad guys.

        THAT is classic abuser tactics, right there. They ALWAYS do that. And to blame his abuse of women on women with only his word for it and based on just one incident is insulting to his victims—-and makes them responsible for his behavior, whether you acknowledge it or not.

        He’s an abuser. That much is certain. He hates women. A lot of misogynists hate women just because they can, because they’re trained to do so by this poisonously sexist culture. There is NO precipitating event. They hate women, period. You’re basically justifying his hatred of women by believing this one thing in a sea of lies. He doesn’t deserve to be believed.

      • EG
        February 8, 2015 at 8:41 am

        To me victimhood is just the fact that he has child abuse trauma.

        Then again, so what? Why does it matter? By that definition, who isn’t a victim? And yet most people don’t go on to be massive abusers and assholes.

        I don’t know what your objection to the word “status” is, but if you prefer to substitute “condition” or “identity,” go right ahead.

        And doesn’t feminism call for believing the victim unless there’s proof of lying.

        Feminism calls for believing women, because women’s stories have been traditionally, thoroughly, and institutionally destroyed. I see no part of feminism that calls for believing 300-pound abusive men, particularly those with a demonstrated history of lying about women. Feminism does not require me to be a sucker or a fool

        I wrote an article about how MRAs justify their misogynist world-view via mother-blaming and the flimsiness of that world-view. The relevant issue, as far as I’m concerned, is not whether Elam was abused, but how he approaches the world.

      • EG
        February 8, 2015 at 8:45 am

        And again, the idea that once someone is a victim of somebody, anybody, for anything, they’re a victim forevermore? That’s bizarre. If you’re no longer being victimized, you’re no longer a victim. You were a victim. What is your objection to the past tense?

      • EG
        February 8, 2015 at 9:00 am

        Basically, you may say otherwise, Asia, but it comes off as if you’re concerned that I could give two shits about Elam’s alleged childhood abuse, and don’t find it relevant to any judgment of him today.

      • Asia
        February 8, 2015 at 12:20 pm

        Ginmar this entire conversation is predicated on his abuse. Half of the commenters were disgusted that EG would speak so callously about abuse. Btw I agreed with them. However, If EG didn’t/doesn’t believe he was abused. Then, I no longer have a problem with the post. But why didn’t you start with the likelihood of him being abused.

        I mean the only people who know if he’s telling the truth are his family. You are very certain that he’s not. I’ve read what you’re writing and well I’m not that certain.

        “You’re basically justifying his hatred of women by believing this one thing in a sea of lies. He doesn’t deserve to be believed.”

        No, I’m not justifying anything. I take issue with this idea that the abuse of bad people somehow means less just because they’re bad people. Because said idea is minimizing child abuse.

        And yes if he wasn’t abused its a moot point.

        “Basically, you may say otherwise, Asia, but it comes off as if you’re concerned that I could give two shits about Elam’s alleged childhood abuse, and don’t find it relevant to any judgment of him today.”

        I don’t see my words as saying that EG. I’m concerned about minimizing child abuse.

        Your words are literally laughter about the child abuse. Amusement is a long way from not giving two shits/indifference.

        If you didn’t find it relevant? Why laugh and write about it.

        “The relevant issue, as far as I’m concerned, is not whether Elam was abused, but how he approaches the world.”

        I agree but again you didn’t write that in your original post. Your edits do somewhat focus the conversation on his approach.

        You may say otherwise but you really do come off as if your minimizing child abuse.

        I didn’t bring it up earlier because I respect that it’s easy to minimize it in cases of known abusers. And from your writings and past conversations I respect that it wasn’t your intention.

      • ginmar
        February 8, 2015 at 2:38 pm

        The conversation shouldn’t be predicated on the belief that he’s a victim. He’s never told the truth about a woman, period, and I find this insulting to actual victims that this abuser of women gets this sympathy…and these excuses.

        I see everyone’s defending not thinking about this is ignoring the simple fact that abusers love to call themselves the true victim of abuse and cast the victim as the abuser. Every man who’s ever battered a woman has tried this. Elam’s just another one of them.

      • EG
        February 8, 2015 at 1:16 pm

        Yeah, see, you want it both ways. You want to say that I come off as laughing at his having been abused, but dismiss it when I–and others–say that you come off as justifying his abusing others. Either reader reception matters or it doesn’t. If it matters regarding what I write, it matters regarding what you write.

        As to facts: As others have said has been made clear by the edits, I am laughing at the idea that any of his stories, true or not, are “evidence” for men being an oppressed class. Because even if they are word-for-word true, that’s not evidence. And for a bunch of people who pride themselves on rationality and logic, that’s pathetic.

        I do find what he describes to be fairly minimal when it comes to abuse, particularly when one realizes how big he was at 17, and again, I don’t think you can have it both ways. You don’t get to say “He was abused, this explains much of his behavior” and then say “But you’re not allowed to hold that abuse up to question, or say that plenty of people have endured much worse without descending to his behavior.” If his having been abused is relevant, then an assessment of that abuse is also relevant. And if my assessment is “take a number, dude, you sound like 85% of the population to me,” then the cycle of abuse theory is a problem, because among the methodological problems, you have to define what abuse is in a way that isn’t so capacious that it takes in everybody.

        Again, what is your objection to the past tense? I have not been arguing that he was never abused, though I have expressed suspicion about his stories (for the record, my suspicion is that we’re not getting the full story, not that he’s making things up out of whole cloth, just because if I were making things up in order to support a matriarchal world-view, they’d be a lot more…convincing about the mother’s role than “my dad hit me and it was Mom’s fault”). I have objected to calling him a victim in the present tense. How is he currently a victim? Who is victimizing him? How is he unable to defend himself? What is he currently having to endure that’s so abusive?

        He has fall-out from childhood ills? Well, welcome to life. That’s not being a current victim. It’s just being alive and past childhood.

      • Asia
        February 8, 2015 at 2:41 pm

        I don’t want it both ways. Reader perception matters. I am not justifying abuse but I do hear that you think I sound like I am. I think your things into my words that aren’t. But I will try to be clearer.

        “He was abused, this explains much of his behavior” and then say “But you’re not allowed to hold that abuse up to question, or say that plenty of people have endured much worse without descending to his behavior.”

        EG you’re allowed to say anything you want. And I did admit that people endure lots of abuse that don’t go to become abusers. Again, being abused isn’t a justification. And it’s equally fair to say that abusers often have histories of abuse. He’s justifying his actions based on the previous abuse. All I’m saying is that well that makes sense. It doesn’t mean I agree that his thinking rational. But I do acknowledge that it’s the type of thinking a abuse victim could use to become a abuser.

        If his having been abused is relevant, then an assessment of that abuse is also relevant. And if my assessment is “take a number, dude, you sound like 85% of the population to me,” then the cycle of abuse theory is a problem, because among the methodological problems, you have to define what abuse is in a way that isn’t so capacious that it takes in everybody.”

        it’s true that there needs to be better definitions for emotional abuse. However, the line between spanking and physical abuse generally kicks in around the time of physical objects being used. I don’t know what to say. 85% of the population weren’t beaten with objects during adolescence. I’m hearing that you don’t think he’s describing a belt. I still think he is. But leaving that aside being restrained while being beaten with a spoon. Isn’t abuse?

      • Asia
        February 8, 2015 at 2:54 pm

        Oh and past tense vs. Present tense. It’s that past tense seems to imply a denial of the current impact said trauma can have.

        Which I mean the current impact varies by person. Again, many people become healthy normal non abusive people. But it doesn’t sound like this guy (if he was abused) ever got treatment. I’d argue that he’s still impacted by the trauma. Since he’s talking about it.

        I mean this guy is really extreme. I would have suspected trauma/mental illness without him talking abuse.

      • EG
        February 8, 2015 at 3:08 pm

        People are affected for the long-term by plenty of experiences. That doesn’t mean those experiences aren’t temporary, or limited in time. I’m no longer an adolescent, thank God, but adolescence has still affected me for the long term.

        I have never heard the term “belt” used to mean “beaten with a belt.” In my house, “Watch your mouth or you’ll get belted” meant “shut up or I’ll hit you, probably across the mouth.”

        I don’t really distinguish between spanking and abuse, because I don’t think adults should hit children, period. It’s a crappy, abusive thing to do, in large part because children can’t hit back. As I have pointed out to you more than once, I never said that the two examples he gives weren’t abuse; I have said that they seem relatively mild to me on the scale of abuse.

        The idea that being a total scum asshole means that you must’ve been hurt in your youth is one that really has no support whatsoever. See my note above about the converse of a true proposition not necessarily being true.

      • Asia
        February 8, 2015 at 3:39 pm

        I dont think there is enough information to make that assessment. And I don’t know if it matters how mild it is. It still a fact of life. Therefore, making him a child abuse victim.

        The idea that being a total scum asshole means that you must’ve been hurt in your youth is one that really has no support whatsoever. See my note above about the converse of a true proposition not necessarily being true.

        I didn’t say must but likely. And I haven’t the training to argue with about true propositions. All, I know is that I’m currently taking classes on human development and family counseling. The idea that current abusive behavior combined with these persecution fantasies increases the likelihood of previous abuse is accepted fact unless it’s a delusion but it’s far more likely that he has a trauma history. People aren’t just bad.

      • tinfoil hattie
        February 10, 2015 at 10:17 am

        Meh, easy for you to say. How do you know what opportunities and resources this man has had to deal with his abuse? “I’m over it; he should be, too”?

        Yeah, it sucks that he’s an MRA.

      • ginmar
        February 10, 2015 at 11:24 am

        You’re assuming he’s telling the truth. It would be practically the ONLY time he has ever done so.

        We know what resources he had: those of his ex wives and girlfriends. But apparently it’s far easier to lie about how women scam men than admit his entire life is about the opposite.

      • EG
        February 10, 2015 at 10:25 am

        I fundamentally don’t give a shit what opportunities or resources he’s had. It’s an adult’s responsibility not to let their problems hurt others; if his misogyny is, as he claims, a result of abuse by one woman and several men (i.e. mother-blaming), he is responsible for not having handled it.

        It’s sweet, I suppose, that you’re touched by his plight and willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, but I am not.

        People aren’t just bad.

        Oh, I disagree thoroughly with this. Sometimes, people are just bad.

      • EG
        February 10, 2015 at 11:15 am

        I think that, by the way, is the actual root of our disagreement. My belief that sometimes people are just bad is why the degree of abuse is relevant; since plenty of people experience far worse abuse than Elam has referenced without becoming misogynist scum, it cannot be the fault of the abuse that he is misogynist scum, much as he would like to make that connection. Thus, there are other factors at work. And in my opinion, one big one is that he’s a terrible human being.

        That said, Asia, I think we’ve elucidated our disagreements quite clearly, and are unlikely to convince each other. So I’m willing to leave it if you are.

      • ginmar
        February 10, 2015 at 11:26 am

        Elam is the sort of guy that would find something to blame on women no matter what. Hangnail? His mom’s fault.

      • Donna L
        February 7, 2015 at 5:24 pm

        No, I don’t think he “is” a victim, even assuming (given his propensity for fabrication) that his mother really did beat him with a spoon when he was 13, and his father did hit him when he was 17, i.e., that he “was” a victim. To label him as such at present makes me uncomfortable, because it unavoidably implies that he is still deserving of sympathy, and, at least to some extent, that his putrid behavior is “not his fault.” Otherwise, what’s the point of ascribing that status to him?

        Look, nobody calls Roman Polanski a victim, even though — even apart from his pregnant wife being butchered — he was a childhood victim of suffering almost unimaginable to most of us, having survived the Krakow ghetto on his own as a child orphan both of whose parents were murdered before he was 10.

        Did those experiences shape him as a rapist and pedophile? “Is” he a victim?

        And much as I hate to be Godwinesque, if we discovered that Hitler’s parents beat him every day and twice on Sunday, would we have to label him a victim?

        There are many adult survivors of unspeakable horrors who don’t become monsters. Those who do don’t get my sympathy as “victims” when they inflict horrors on other people.

      • EG
        February 7, 2015 at 5:42 pm

        Exactly what Donna says here. If he is telling the truth, what he describes is milder than what has been suffered by almost everybody I’ve ever known, none of whom have turned into monstrous misogynists. Almost all of them channeled their energies into something worthwhile, just like he could have done.

        He was a victim. He’s not anymore. He’s a victimizer. His refusal to accept this is what fuels his fever-dream fantasy of a hostile matriarchy, and that’s why it’s so dangerous not to acknowledge it when one’s circumstances and abilities have changed. I’m not going to buy into his fantasy of continued victimhood and persecution.

        Similarly, if a woman is married to an abusive man who is Jewish, leaves him, and after 20 years decided the best use of her time and energy was to become a raging anti-Semite, join a white supremacist group, and advocate the worst of what those groups advocate, she would get no sympathy from me and she would no longer be a victim.

      • ginmar
        February 7, 2015 at 6:37 pm

        That’s a very good way of putting it. Men abuse women…And the women get blamed. Meanwhile, let one woman use the wrong tone with a guy just once and he’s entitled to hate all women forever.

      • Asia
        February 7, 2015 at 7:47 pm

        To Donna. The point of ascribing the status of victim to him is not give him sympathy or anyway excuse his actions. The point of ascribing victim status is to be truthful about who he is.

        I didn’t know that about Roman Polanski. Now, that I do I would state that perhaps the cycle of abuse happened. Again, said statement does not take away from the fact that he is an abuser.

        All victims deserve to be counted. The tendency for some victims to become abusers is part of the horror of abuse. I never said he was a survivor.

        To EG, comparing abuse by mild versus not mild isn’t productive. Yes, 99% of people on death row have abuse and or trauma in their history. Yes, 99% of people with abuse or trauma don’t end up on death row.

        I don’t think anyone truly knows why some people heal and others use their experiences to make fever dream fantasy used to hurt people.

        I haven’t read such a clear example of the cycle of abuse outside of textbooks. He abuses every woman he comes in contact with and has chosen to make his life glorifying abuse ing women. But guys this story does have a highlight. He lost custody. He’s not in a position to perpetuate the cycle to his own child.

      • EG
        February 7, 2015 at 7:59 pm

        You are only assuming that it’s a case of the cycle of abuse because you are assuming it’s abuse.

        And seriously? Polanski raped a thirteen-year-old girl because of the Nazis? Do you have any evidence indicating that there is a higher rate of becoming rapists among Holocaust survivors?

        People are not blank slates, innocent victims of their environments and experiences. Indeed there are plenty of theories and studies about why some people are resilient and others not.

        And I disagree about issues of degree. Issues of degree matter. Otherwise, how do you differentiate between “abuse” and “not abuse”? Feelings are not always, or even most of the time, an accurate guide to reality. This guy finds his mother grabbing a photo an act of abuse. His father “belted” him. What does that mean? Smacked him across the face? Cuffed him upside the head? Punched him in the nose, knocking him down? Of course degree matters.

      • Asia
        February 8, 2015 at 3:08 am

        “You are only assuming that it’s a case of the cycle of abuse because you are assuming it’s abuse.”

        Yea, I’m assuming his descriptions of abuse are correct. If he’s not then this conversation is a moot point.

        “And seriously? Polanski raped a thirteen-year-old girl because of the Nazis?” I did not say Polanski raped because of the Nazis. I said maybe the cycle of abuse happened there too. It’s not uncommon for child abuse victims to later become child abusers. Donna implied that he would have subject to child abuse. “Do you have any evidence indicating that there is a higher rate of becoming rapists among Holocaust survivors?” What? of course not. I was talking about the likely hood of him suffering child. It’s not about the specifics of the Holocaust.

        Again, no where did I say anything about a blank slate and said that abusers are responsible for their actions.

        Yea, degree matters but just because his descriptions weren’t severe enough for you doesn’t mean he wasn’t abused. He seems to blaming his mother for ordering the physical abuse and doleing out emotional abuse. Have you never heard the term “belt” before? His father took of his belt and beat him with it. No one has the right to belt a 17 year old. Or hold a 13 year-old down and beat him with a spoon.

      • EG
        February 8, 2015 at 8:34 am

        I know the word “belt,” because we used it a lot in my household, and it does not necessarily mean “to beat with a belt.” It often means “to hit.” It’s a very imprecise word. Look at the synonyms:

        VERB

        verb: belt · third person present: belts · past tense: belted · past participle: belted · present participle: belting

        2.beat or strike (someone), especially with a belt, as a punishment.

        synonyms: hit · strike · smack · slap · bang · beat · punch · thump · clout ·

        More

        •hit (something) hard:

        “he belted the ball to the left-field fence”

        Given Elam’s persecution issues, I’m inclined to think that if he had meant “beat me with a belt,” he would’ve said so much more clearly.

        “Mixed support” isn’t good enough for me. So no, I’m not being this crap about Elam being a victim of circumstances.

      • Donna L
        February 8, 2015 at 3:05 pm

        I did not say Polanski raped because of the Nazis. I said maybe the cycle of abuse happened there too. It’s not uncommon for child abuse victims to later become child abusers. Donna implied that he would have [been] subject to child abuse. “Do you have any evidence indicating that there is a higher rate of becoming rapists among Holocaust survivors?” What? of course not. I was talking about the likely hood of him suffering child [abuse]. It’s not about the specifics of the Holocaust.

        If you mean what I think you mean, I’m almost speechless. By “abuse” I didn’t mean for a moment to imply that Polanski’s parents or somebody else might have hit or otherwise physically abused him when he was a child. I meant that his childhood experiences in the Holocaust constituted, in and and of themselves, abuse and trauma far worse than most of us could even begin to imagine, regardless of whether his parents — or some Nazi — ever actually laid a finger on him. And that that still didn’t make him a “victim” in the present tense when he raped that child. (If you’re interested in the specifics of his experiences, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Polanski#World_War_II, with details including witnessing executions, seeing his father marched off to the trains, escaping from the ghetto, and German soldiers playing a game where they shot at him for target practice.)

        Even accepting the “cycle of abuse” theory, are you seriously suggesting that Polanski’s childhood experiences wouldn’t have made him a “victim” sufficient to trigger that cycle, but Elam’s alleged experiences did? That being spanked with a wooden spoon for not taking diarrhea medicine is somehow more of a lifelong trauma of abuse sufficient to forever confer “victim” status in the present tense than what Polanski and other child survivors of the Holocaust experienced? Don’t you see how silly that is?

      • ginmar
        February 8, 2015 at 3:20 pm

        It’s kind of funny how often men suffer the sort of trauma which enables them to make excuses for raping and otherwise abusing women and girls.

      • Donna L
        February 8, 2015 at 3:19 pm

        And I should add that of course I believe Polanski’s horrible childhood experiences shaped him, and shaped his extremely dark worldview as exhibited in his films. What I don’t believe is that they made him a “victim” (present tense) when he raped a 13-year old girl, or that his history should even ever be mentioned in any discussion of that rape. Because whatever the intention, calling a rapist a “victim” necessarily implies that the rapist’s status of “victim” explains (and even excuses) the rape, in whole or in part. And I don’t think that’s true, no matter how traumatic the past victimization may be.

      • Asia
        February 8, 2015 at 4:01 pm

        “are you seriously suggesting that Polanski’s childhood experiences wouldn’t have made him a “victim” sufficient to trigger that cycle, but Elam’s alleged experiences did?”

        No Donna I’m saying that it would have. His abuse would be/is enough to trigger the cycle of abuse.

        I feel like I’m being badly misunderstood. I was saying child abuse in general led to abuse. Of course, the Holocaust would count but it wouldn’t be fair to say or look for a high rate of abuse among holocaust survivors because there are a million other factors.

        “What I don’t believe is that they made him a “victim” (present tense) when he raped a 13-year old girl, or that his history should even ever be mentioned in any discussion of that rape.”

        When he raped a child is became a abuser. In discussions of that rape his own trauma shouldn’t be mentioned because the focus of the conversation is on the abuse.

        And he’s still a victim of the Holocaust. His being a abuser doesn’t make him less a victim of the Holocaust. It’s still fair to say he’s a victim of the Holocaust.

      • Donna L
        February 10, 2015 at 11:32 am

        I admit that it’s all just semantics at this point, but the way I look at it, Polanski was a victim of the Holocaust (because I don’t think that’s limited to those who were murdered), and is a survivor of the Holocaust.

      • EG
        February 10, 2015 at 12:00 pm

        Of course, the Holocaust would count but it wouldn’t be fair to say or look for a high rate of abuse among holocaust survivors because there are a million other factors.

        If that’s the case, then having been abused is hardly a determining factor.

  8. TomSims
    February 7, 2015 at 11:37 am

    Spot on EG. Nice post.

    • EG
      February 7, 2015 at 1:00 pm

      Thanks–took me some good feedback to get there, for sure.

  9. Aaliyah
    February 7, 2015 at 12:10 pm

    I read the whole thing. None of the claims about Elam’s behavior surprise me, because his politics match his actions. Despite going out of his way to yell at his dissenters, his actions seem to stay true to his words for the most part. He openly blames his wife for being raped and denies any accountability for putting her in a vulnerable situation with his rapist friend, and then he writes an article about how women are “literally begging” to be raped and another article about how radical it is for him to choose to not testify in favor of female rape complainants in a court of law. He’s pretty transparent.

    • Aaliyah
      February 7, 2015 at 12:48 pm

      That said, I can’t say that I see his history of substance addiction as a character flaw, which is how the BuzzFeed article frames it. If he has, at any point in his past, justified his abusive, bigoted, neglectful behavior by using his addictions as an excuse or in any way allowed his addictions to negatively affect other people’s lives, then he definitely deserves to be called out on that behavior. The article does point out some instances of that kind of behavior, as far as I can tell. But I don’t think that his history of addiction alone should have been pointed out as evidence of him being a bad person, which the article does by bringing up the addictions in ways that provide a negative impression of his character. Example:

      Growing up, Bonnie only knew two things about her biological father: his name, which was on her birth certificate, and her mother’s recollection of him as a deadbeat, drug-addicted loser.

      Deadbeat, obviously. But “drug-addicted loser”? That doesn’t sit well with me at all. It reeks of a high level of contempt for addicts.

      I’ve known survivors who once became addicts as a means of coping with trauma. They didn’t use their addiction(s) as an excuse to be shitty to others, and they certainly were nothing like Elam. And ultimately, they weren’t bad people for being addicts. Same goes for non-survivor addicts. Of course, many are capable of being shitty just like everyone else – including Paul Elam levels of shitty – but that has nothing to do with the fact that they’re addicts. Awful people exist across all classes and social groups. And anyone can be an MRA or MRA supporter, no matter who they are.

      Acknowledging that his history of addiction alone doesn’t make him a bad person does not invalidate all of the legitimate complaints about his awful behavior. And I have zero interest in trying to excuse his abusiveness and intolerance of others. I just think it’s important to point out that the author of the article went too far in some ways.

  10. ginmar
    February 7, 2015 at 12:43 pm

    Huh. Nowhere do I see anybody pointing out two crucial facts: Paul Elam lies. A lot. Most of his lies are about women. He has doxxed, harassed, and threatened multiple women, without bothering to find out if he had the right woman. He has abused and used women his whole life. He lies about women so that his abuse of them can be changed from abuse to vengeance.

    He is also a thief and an unscrupulous scam artist. One has only to note his appalling White Ribbon scam to see precisely how dishonorable he is.

    Number two: Paul Elam is a HUGE guy. He boasts that he is six eight and weighs three hundred pounds, (but he still wants to beat up hundred pound women because they totally deserve it and that’s his idea of equality.)

    I don’t buy his story at all.

    • EG
      February 7, 2015 at 1:02 pm

      I admit to suspicion myself, and I think that’s part of what influenced my original minimizing of his examples, but given the splash damage on others, I should I have resisted.

      I didn’t know he was that big. That does make him even nastier than he would be otherwise–and he’d be pretty nasty.

      • ginmar
        February 7, 2015 at 1:34 pm

        Trigger Warning: child death, really nasty language describing women, threats of sexualized violence against women

        Yeah, WHtM has a post up in his own words….and he’s never told the truth about a woman in his life, much less apologized for lies. He’s written a lot about how he’d love to beat the shit out of tiny women because that’s “equality” to Elam, apparently. He used to run a site called “Regist.Her”, which was supposedly about female….something or other, but basically it was women who offended him. He put Jessica Valenti’s picture up next to female murderers for what he called “bigotry against men.” Which means not offering blowjobs in place of handshakes or whatever.

        He’s also doxxed numerous women, exposing them to the wrath of his frothing little fans. In at least a couple of cases, he identified the wrong woman.

        Then there’s the fact that he openly advocates for violence against women with “Bash a Violent Bitch” month, which he now describes as satire. He told Jacqueline Friedman that the thought of fucking her “shit up” gave him an erection.

        He collectively blames all women for murdering children: “Place a bunch of daffodils at a dumpster near you, perhaps one in which one of you, or one of your kind, has tossed an unwanted baby, leaving it there to slowly die alone in a pile of trash.

        Perhaps you could lay a single rose at the base of a bridge that has been used by a mother to throw her baby into an icy river. Perhaps you can lay it there with hands that have beaten or shaken a baby to death.”

        other commenter: “You probably didn’t see that coming, did you? He goes on.”

        “Now perhaps some of you could place large, colorful arrangements at the abortion centers where women go to have children cut out and laid to rest in those colorful and attractive biohazard containers that are all the rage in the clinics. …

        Maybe you can lay virtual flowers at your computers to honor all the children that you and your sisters have pimped out to pedophiles, or perhaps the blossoms could be placed in your child’s room, which also doubles as your preferred place to abuse your own.”

        other commenter: “Oh, but you say you haven’t done any of these things, and that abortion isn’t actually the same as infanticide? No matter. Elam has an answer for that:”

        “This is not a request for some mothers, or a percentage of them, but all of you. In fact, you don’t even have to be a mother. If you have a vagina, the blood of all those children, who are abused far more at the hands of women than men, has stained your skin and caked around the cuticles of your fingers.

        If you are a mother, particularly one of the many abusers, or just one that has remained silent as your sisters have beaten, choked, stabbed, burned, drowned, abused, neglected, dumped, tortured and otherwise done the unspeakable to the most defenseless among us, then I hope to see those flowers in your murderous hands, paying homage to those that have been unfortunate enough to be placed in your path. …

        In Daffodils for Dumpsters the gash gets you in, and you don’t really have a choice.”

        Notice how he refers to women there.

      • EG
        February 7, 2015 at 1:41 pm

        I hope you don’t mind that I added a trigger warning to your comment quoting this misogynist asshole; I got a knot in my stomach reading it, so I thought others might want a heads-up. I’m not saying the comment isn’t an important one, just that I want to warn people before they read it.

        Anyway, man, talk about mother-hatred and mother-blaming and “all women are [my] mother.”

      • ginmar
        February 7, 2015 at 1:52 pm

        No problem. I seem to have inadvertently included someone else’s comment in Elam’s screed when I copied it. Do you have the ability to either edit that out or add quotation marks? It’s the brief paragraph about six from the bottom, beginning with “bet you didn’t see….”

        This is just a brief taste of what Elam has said over the years.

        I just want to point out that when people write articles about Gloria Steinem, strangely enough, they don’t have to go into the Witness Protection program.

      • EG
        February 7, 2015 at 1:59 pm

        Edited with quotation marks for clarity–I kind of figured out what was going on as I read it, but a quick addition of quotation marks couldn’t hurt.

        Damn. He is a hateful slime with a cesspool for a mind, isn’t he? I always thought my father had problems with rage management when he was younger, but compared to this dude, my dad’s a saint.

    • February 7, 2015 at 10:49 pm

      Number two: Paul Elam is a HUGE guy. He boasts that he is six eight and weighs three hundred pounds, (but he still wants to beat up hundred pound women because they totally deserve it and that’s his idea of equality.)

      I don’t buy his story at all.

      Based on his writings it appears Elam has contempt for everybody who is smaller than he is (i.e. 99.9% of humanity) and is indignant and resentful that he wasn’t lionised by all and sundry from puberty onwards due to his _obvious_ height-based superiority. It’s statistically likely that he was already a six-footer by the age of 13, making the picture of his older brothers (who while likely larger than average are nonetheless statistically unlikely to be so large as he is now (I’ve known several families of all over six-footers but most men between 6’2″ and 6’4″, only one son was taller than 6’6″)) holding him down to take medicine that will stop his loose bowel movements stinking up the house for everybody rather less horrifying, to me at least. I wonder how tall his mother was?

      Elam sounds like a man who never grew out of throwing tantrums whenever he felt imposed upon, whether others had a good reason for asking him to do something or not. Holding down a six-footer who is thrashing around in a tantrum, holding him down to stop him breaking things or hurting other family members, seems at the very least ambivalent regarding whether it meets the standards of abuse, even if he was still pubertal at the time. As ginmar says, given how much Elam has lied about over the years, I give his stories about his family some severe side-eye regarding who may have been terrorising whom.

      • Donna L
        February 8, 2015 at 4:02 pm

        I wonder how tall his mother was?

        I don’t know how tall his parents were, but half an hour’s research in the databases available to me indicates that as of October 1955 — two years before he was born — his father (then age 26) weighed 244 pounds; his mother (then age 23) weighed 150 pounds, and one of his older brothers (then age 4) already weighed 52 pounds. (Citations available on request.)

        I think it’s highly likely that 15 years later, when he was 13 and the incident with his mother allegedly happened, he already was bigger than she was.

      • Donna L
        February 8, 2015 at 4:07 pm

        His father, by the way, was in the U.S. Army for 20 years, from 1946-1966. For whatever relevance that may have.

      • ginmar
        February 8, 2015 at 4:20 pm

        In the past, he’s described his dad as being somehow intimidated by his mom. Who weighed a hundred pounds less than the men in her house, probably by the time the boys were in their middle teens.

      • Donna L
        February 8, 2015 at 4:32 pm

        I don’t think emotional abuse has anything much to do with the relative body sizes of the individuals involved, but I agree that if you’re discussing physical abuse, it’s a relevant consideration. Like all those men who pound on their wives who are maybe half their size or less, and then say “but she hit me first.”

      • tinfoil hattie
        February 10, 2015 at 10:21 am

        If he lies about everything else, maybe he lies about big 6’8″ and 300 lbs., too.

      • ginmar
        February 10, 2015 at 11:21 am

        Yeah, That’s getting to the point of straining to, what, exactly? He’s a predator, he’s never told the truth about women, and frankly he hasn’t earned any good will. But let’s dither instead of calling this particular garden implement a spade.

        He’s an abuser. Abusers ALWAYS try this shit.

      • Donna L
        February 10, 2015 at 11:34 am

        Nope, I’ve seen photos of him. He’s gigantic.

      • Kathryn
        February 11, 2015 at 11:03 am

        Glad you picked up on what I’m confused by. Your parents have to get you to take medicine. That’s caring for you. Plus insisting on having diarrhea instead, and presumably her being responsible for literally cleaning up his shit, and washing his shit filled clothing? Even at 13 that’s not good behaviour.

  11. ginmar
    February 7, 2015 at 1:42 pm

    Oh, and that’s just a tiny taste. Until recently, AVFM endorsed the exhortations of Thomas Ball, who urged men to bomb courthouses. Ball lost custody of his three-year-old daughter when she licked his hand and he claimed he slapped her—–hard enough to draw blood. When he lost custody, he wrote the above-mentioned screed, then set himself on fire in front of the courthouse.

    Elam is a deadbeat dad who falsely accused his wife of various things in order to avoid paying child support. Yet he rants about all women need to atone for abortion. He did everything he could to evade responsibility for his own kids….yet to hear MRAs talk, the exact opposite is the norm.

  12. ginmar
    February 7, 2015 at 7:32 pm

    I really hate this idea that every asshole that claims to have been victimized should be granted the title, especially after they have demonstrated that that they’re using it as an excuse. Because once they cross that line, and until they acknowledge that they made a choice, they cease to be victims. They cede the title to the people who refuse to perpetuate that crap.

    And let’s face it, it’s men who attack women who benefit from this mindset. And it’s women who suffer for it, too. It used to be so de rigueur to blame the mom that openly violent, abusive fathers were let off the hook. The steps people take to twist around so they can blame women while ignoring men is astonishing. In one study, kids acted out because their war veteran dads turned abusive after returning home. Who got blamed? The non-violent mothers. I’ve seen male veterans, by the way, use PTSD as an excuse to act out their fantasies….on women.

    Paul Elam stopped being a victim the moment he raised his hand to anyone.

    • ginmar
      February 7, 2015 at 7:35 pm

      And let’s face it; fathers never get blamed. Ever. How come Susan Smith is a household name but Charles Rothenberg isn’t? How come men who kill their children are “distraught” but Andrea Yates got initially convicted—- on the word of an expert who blatantly lied?

    • gratuitous_violet
      February 7, 2015 at 8:38 pm

      You know, I didn’t want to weigh in on the veracity of Paul Elam in general while EG was still clarifying her post, because I didn’t think a “ps I think he’s full of shit” was necessary or helpful to the other commenters hashing out their issues with the original post.

      But now that that’s all settled, I gotta say I agree with you 100%, ginmar, and I’m disinclined to believe every damn word he says.

      And if it’s true, I actually don’t care. You know who doesn’t get an abuse pass for having been abused? Anyone. Welcome to adulthood, Elam.

  13. AMM
    February 8, 2015 at 8:24 am

    At this point, I don’t care whether he wants to call himself “victim” or not. Whether he gets sympathy from the Feministe commentariat has all the effect of a butterfly’s fart on the world I live in.

    What I care about is that this guy is able to inflict a fair amount of harm. If I see a rabid raccoon on the sidewalk going after people, I’m not going to worry about whether it’s at fault for having gotten rabies, I’m going to call the police or animal control to have it killed. I might manage a “that sucks” on its behalf — after it’s dead and taken off to biohazard disposal.

    Either this guy had a choice about whether to make abusing people his religion — in which case I have every right to call him responsible for his evil and withhold from him my butterfly fart worth of sympathy, or else he’s some kind of bio-automaton whose choices are entirely determined by his childhood — in which case we have every right to treat him like a rabid raccoon.

    • EG
      February 8, 2015 at 8:43 am

      Either this guy had a choice about whether to make abusing people his religion — in which case I have every right to call him responsible for his evil and withhold from him my butterfly fart worth of sympathy, or else he’s some kind of bio-automaton whose choices are entirely determined by his childhood — in which case we have every right to treat him like a rabid raccoon.

      Thank you. Thoroughly agree. I’ll even say “poor raccoon” if that make someone happy. Poor Raccoon. Now put it down.

  14. February 8, 2015 at 2:27 pm

    Trigger/Content Warning: Description of child physical abuse

    Speaking as an abuse [b]survivor[/b] myself, some of the comments in these threads have been pushing some emotional buttons, so I thought it better that I not comment at all. But then EG said this

    And I disagree about issues of degree. Issues of degree matter. Otherwise, how do you differentiate between “abuse” and “not abuse”?

    In a sense, I agree with you. But that’s problematic because it allows for one person to describe another person’s reality for them, thus invalidating their own personal experiences.

    When I was a kid, I was abused physically and emotionally by both my parents. One such incident that stands out — I was nine or ten years old and on my way out to school and almost forgot to take one of my textbooks. My mom caught this, grabbed me by the head and shook me violently, then knocked me to the ground while shrieking “who the hell is going to remember your books for you!?”

    When I told people of this and similar incidents, I’d get responses like “well Niall, you are/were a difficult (read: physically disabled, ADD, ‘special needs’ etc) child and she is/was just very stressed and worried about you, so you need to understand that.”

    Also when I did some research on my own, I discovered that most “official or expert” definitions of physical abuse qualified it as only being abuse if it left, bruises, welts or other physical marks (which it never did in my case). And it’s because of this fucked up definition that it wasn’t until well into my adult years that I was able to recognize what I experienced for what it was.

    But I also consider myself as a survivor opposed to a victim, because I’m empowered with the knowledge that it was wrong, it wasn’t my fault and while it may have helped determine a part of who I am today, it doesn’t define me as a person. And I refuse to allow others to be the arbiter of what I can or can’t call experiences that are my own…and no one elses.

    • EG
      February 8, 2015 at 2:37 pm

      I agree that it’s problematic; I think it’s also problematic, though, to say that the words and experiences of a known liar and abuser are above question because he’s invoked some kind of verbal equivalent of sanctuary. And importantly, if you look at the excerpt, he doesn’t say he was abused. If this were an interview where he was talking about coming to terms with having been abused, I would shrug and think “Well, each to zir own, shit can hurt people.” But that’s not what he’s saying–he’s saying that these are examples that a) demonstrate that men are an oppressed class and therefore b) legitimate his activities on behalf of that class–he’s “still that kid.” And if that’s what he’s doing, then those examples, what they prove, and what they legitimate are up for comment.

      Again, if I said “my mother hit me several times when I was a kid, which shows that left-handed people oppress right-handed people,” there would be two problems here: one, the major one, of course, would be that it proves no such thing. But the other, particularly if people then showed up and started claiming that my terroristic activities toward left-handed people were an obvious example of the cycle of abuse, would be “Smacking a kid isn’t good, but it hardly sounds like EG was terribly abused, certainly not anywhere near as badly as people who aren’t left-handed-haters, so that cycle of abuse argument is nonsense here.”

      • February 8, 2015 at 2:51 pm

        Oh I totally agree with you there. In fact I wasn’t even thinking of Paul Elam when I made that comment. It was just the idea in general – people having their own narratives/experiences defined by others who are outside of it. I thought it particularly worth mentioning on a feminist/social justice blog, because it’s also precisely this sort of thinking which allows oppression to continue – ie people with male privilege saying “no that isn’t sexism, you just imagined it” or white people telling POC “no you were not being racially profiled by the police, you were just reading to much into that” or “well as some one who doesn’t belong do ‘X’ marginalized/oppressed group, I’m more objective and better able to see your experience more accurately than you are” etc.

        But you’re right, Paul Elam is hardly a good example to demonstrate this, given his credibility (or lack thereof) and reputation.

      • Donna L
        February 8, 2015 at 3:26 pm

        You’re mother’s left-handed, EG? I never knew that. Well, that explains everything. (Being left-handed myself.)

  15. February 8, 2015 at 3:10 pm

    Asia said:

    it’s true that there needs to be better definitions for emotional abuse. However, the line between spanking and physical abuse generally kicks in around the time of physical objects being used. I don’t know what to say. 85% of the population weren’t beaten with objects during adolescence.

    This demonstrates EXACTLY the kind of fucked up reasoning I was talking about in my previous posts.

    Seriously? You’re arguing that abuse can be determined on the basis of whether or not an object as opposed to one’s hands are used?!

    As far as a definition of emotional abuse, I don’t think it’s that difficult to define as people think it is. But I think understanding the difference between constructive and destructive criticism, as having and understanding one’s own feelings, actions and choices, and their relation to the actions and behaviour of other people…is a good place to start.

    • Asia
      February 8, 2015 at 4:20 pm

      In a perfect world, I would define all spanking as abusive. But that seems to be disrespectful to the many people that defend spanking and resent the implication their parents were abusive. The object rule is the one CPS uses in some states. And the research I’ve read on the matter used it to distinguish mild spankings from other types of violence.

      I think understanding the difference between constructive and destructive criticism, as having and understanding one’s own feelings, actions and choices, and their relation to the actions and behaviour of other people…is a good place to start.

      Yea, I agree. And your a lot more articulate about it than me. Again, I would be wary of the differences I speech patterns and the ability to prove any definition. It seems like the conversation would go around in circles.

      • February 8, 2015 at 5:09 pm

        In a perfect world, I would define all spanking as abusive. But that seems to be disrespectful to the many people that defend spanking and resent the implication their parents were abusive.

        I don’t understand this line of thinking. I mean, when defining spousal / domestic violence, the criteria is very simple and clear; that’s ANY act of violence – even as much as a single slap or strike. There are no qualifiers for these acts ( like the old “rule of thumb” from English common law.) Why should it be any different for determining abuse against children?

        I think the assessment for determining an act of abuse should be determined by the intent and purpose of said act, coupled with the effect of it. And spanking is most often done out of anger and frustration with desire to dominate and control child through fear and intimidation – establish authority, or in more colloquial terms – showing them who’s boss.

        As for “insulting” or “disrespecting” those who don’t share this view…well to be blunt, I don’t give a rat’s ass about offending people, if it’s what needs to be done to stop abuse of kids from occurring. To me it’s no different than recognizing that the crime of rape isn’t just the archetypal dirty man in a raincoat lurking in the bushes or underground parking lot, it’s also the husband, boyfriend, friend etc. who takes advantage of someone who’s intoxicated or unconscious, or refuses to listen to the word ‘No’ or ‘stop’. Minimizing or denying the extent of the problem, as narrow specific definitions of what constitutes abuse tend to do, will do nothing to confront and ultimately stop something that needs to be.

      • Asia
        February 8, 2015 at 5:25 pm

        I get where your coming from but there is a lot of controversy over whether or not spanking leads to negative outcomes. One reason for defining it strictly is to effectively ban more severe types of physical abuse. Also, too effectively study the impact of mild spankings because if you include things like slapping or the use of objects into the definition. People say well that’s too severe to count. Now it’s true that there is evidence to suggest that mild spankings are harmful due to it encouraging increased violence and the tendency to escalate into more severe types of physical abuse.

        I’m also unsure if the U.S. is going to be able to ban spanking any time soon. People really are attached to it for “out of control behavior”. I mean the parents really don’t think their harming the child.

        I mean even in this case I would expect Elam’s family to argue that it was necessary corporeal punishment.

      • ludlow22
        February 8, 2015 at 5:47 pm

        Arguing over whether something is or isn’t abuse is silly, because words mean different things to different people. In my head, abuse and spanking don’t correlate, and in Niall’s head they do, and it’s because I define abuse in a way that differs subtly from Niall. That doesn’t mean I support spanking; we’re also using ‘does one believe spanking is abuse’ as a stand-in for ‘does one believe spanking is morally acceptable,’ which is lazy and introduces errors.

        So let’s require ourselves to continue this discussion without using the word ‘abuse.’ Niall, if instead of ‘spanking is abuse’ you said (for example) ‘spanking involves the intentional infliction of pain onto a child, and I think that’s always morally unacceptable,’ and Asia, if you (for example) replied ‘I think the infliction of extremely minor amounts of pain for disciplinary purposes is morally acceptable, if not preferable,’ than we could all actually have a discussion of something meaningful- what should or shouldn’t be legal or ethical- rather than something literally impossible to prove: what the ‘correct’ meaning of the word abuse is, and what actions it covers.

        This just in: linguistic prescriptivism is silly!

      • Broseidon King Of The Brocean
        February 10, 2015 at 11:24 am

        Ludlow22, your whole comment is pretty rudely dismissive of this discussion.

        Arguing over whether something is or isn’t abuse is silly, because words mean different things to different people.

        Discussion of how we connect a word to it’s real world correlates are crucial for fostering communication and cooperation. The indeterminacy of a term is never a reason to remove it from the discourse.

        In my head, abuse and spanking don’t correlate, and in Niall’s head they do, and it’s because I define abuse in a way that differs subtly from Niall. That doesn’t mean I support spanking

        But the discussion they are having isn’t just about personal moral judgment. They’re also talking about state supported definitions of abuse and widespread conceptions of what is and isn’t child abuse in research and academic discourse.

        we’re also using ‘does one believe spanking is abuse’ as a stand-in for ‘does one believe spanking is morally acceptable,’ which is lazy and introduces errors.

        I don’t think this is true. This is an over-generalization of this discussion that removes specific considerations of what about abuse makes it fundamentally offensive to sensibilities of justice and therefore when it is an appropriate term to describe a situation.

        So let’s require ourselves to continue this discussion without using the word ‘abuse.’

        Let’s not, because this particular discussion is not centered around the concept of spanking, which can just as easily mean different things to different people. It’s centered around the concept of domestic child abuse.

        Niall, if instead of ‘spanking is abuse’ you said (for example) ‘spanking involves the intentional infliction of pain onto a child, and I think that’s always morally unacceptable,’ and Asia, if you (for example) replied ‘I think the infliction of extremely minor amounts of pain for disciplinary purposes is morally acceptable, if not preferable,’ than we could all actually have a discussion of something meaningful

        Rude.

        what should or shouldn’t be legal or ethical- rather than something literally impossible to prove: what the ‘correct’ meaning of the word abuse is, and what actions it covers.

        Who are we proving things to though?

        This just in: linguistic prescriptivism is silly!

        “So let’s require ourselves to continue this discussion without using the word ‘abuse.’”

        Yes it is.

  16. February 8, 2015 at 6:17 pm

    ludlow

    Niall, if instead of ‘spanking is abuse’ you said (for example) ‘spanking involves the intentional infliction of pain onto a child, and I think that’s always morally unacceptable,

    I see the point you’re making and I actually agree, the way you suggested I should have worded it makes a lot more sense.( I still don’t agree with your notion that words mean different things to different people, therefore any attempt to try and define them is pointless, but I’ll leave that for another day.)

    And I didn’t make this clear before, but for the record — I don’t necessarily believe that parents who spank their kids should be criminalized. I’m an anarchist and as such I believe the state is violent and coercive institution and not particularly useful agent for social change. I do, however, think hitting children should be made socially undesirable — and that once you define certain acts of violence as being “acceptable”, it becomes a “slippery slope” and sooner or later, a line is going to get crossed. Showing parents a better and more effective way of handling children is much better than punishing them.

    • Broseidon King Of The Brocean
      February 10, 2015 at 11:10 am

      I don’t agree with Ludlow22 here though. From my point of view you were comparing abuse as defined in one discourse – domestic partner violence, with abuse as defined in this one – domestic child abuse. In that case the word itself is important to discuss specifically because it apparently means different things in those contexts both legally and socially.

      Then you outlined why abuse is an important category beyond Ludlow22’s characterization of it as just a stand in for moral acceptability:

      I think the assessment for determining an act of abuse should be determined by the intent and purpose of said act, coupled with the effect of it. And spanking is most often done out of anger and frustration with desire to dominate and control child through fear and intimidation – establish authority, or in more colloquial terms – showing them who’s boss.

      I agree with this point. Abuse is experienced in large part through our understanding of other people’s intentions as well as the material effects of their actions. Abuse can be defined in law using very simple guidelines, but that just makes it more important to wrestle with the concept on a more complicated and pinpointed level in our social justice discourse. We cannot let the expediencies of state policy define our own discourses on the realities of domestic violence.

      Removing a word from a discussion because the meaning of words is socially determined is sillier than linguistic prescriptivism.

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