Frankie Gaffney: ‘I don’t believe straight white men are the most oppressed group’
The Women’s Podcast returns to the subject of men, feminism and identity politics with Patrick Freyne, Mark Paul and Frankie Gaffney
Cop on Comrades: ’We are tired of being accused of ‘bourgeois feminism’ and of betraying the struggle when we raise our voices’
Writer Frankie Gaffney has responded on The Women’s Podcast to the #coponcomrades controversy which saw women and feminist activists take issue with his criticism of “identity politics” in a recent article in The Irish Times.
“I don’t believe for a second that straight white men are the most oppressed group in society,” he said. What he is against is “a particular style of identity politics that attacks certain demographics”.
The phrase “straight white male” and its use as a perjorative was the main bone of contention between participants. “These are phrases that are easily abused: toxic masculinity, mansplaining, straight white male,” Gaffney said.
The episode had been intended as a general discussion about men and feminism in the wake of the visit by feminist Canadian President Justin Trudeau. With Taoiseach Leo Varadkar also declaring himself a feminist, three men were invited in to discuss the feminist credentials of both leaders and the challenges of the feminist debate for men.
The guests were Patrick Freyne, an Irish Times features journalist who identifies as feminist, Mark Paul an Irish Times business journalist who believes men can often feel alienated from the debate and Gaffney, whose recent article spawned the hashtag #coponcomrades.
As it turned out, the episode was dominated by the controversy with both host Kathy Sheridan and Freyne taking issue with many aspects of Gaffney’s arguments in his article last May.
“Why such a backlash against Frankie’s article? Why such a ferocious response to a different set of ideas?” asked Mark Paul.
“Toxic masculinity is a real thing, it’s dangerous for young men,” countered Freyne.
As part of the discussion Sheridan read out parts of a letter which criticised Gaffney’s article which had been posted widely on various sites by many women including Sinead Redmond on www.feministire.com. It was signed by hundreds of women from a wide variety of backgrounds, races, ethnicities, and sexual orientations addressing the controversy:
“Last week, a good number of the left-wing men we work and organise with seriously disappointed us. These men – our friends, our fellow trade unionists, activists, writers, organisers, and artists – shared and commented on a reductive and damaging article written by Frankie Gaffney, which was published in the Irish Times.
“Whether in political parties and organisations, education, trade unions, or grassroots and community-based movements, we are tired of being accused of ‘bourgeois feminism’ and of betraying the struggle when we raise our voices. No campaign in this country could survive without women, without us – our work and energy and knowledge and organising have been instrumental in all the progressive movements in this country. When we say we need to be recognised and respected within our movements, we need you to listen.”
“They feel betrayed by you Frankie,” Sheridan suggested.
“That’s not my problem,” he said.
The letter goes on to say that Gaffney’s article expressed the view that identity politics is good for nothing except dividing movements, using language and narratives that have been made popular by Men’s Rights Activist groups and the alt-right.
“According to such narratives, straight white men are the new most oppressed group. This ignores the struggles of women and others at the sharp end of misogyny, racism, anti-trans and anti-queer violence. It aims to silence those who will no longer tolerate the violence, abuse and marginalisation we have suffered for so long. These alt-right arguments have been used by people on the left to support the view that women, and feminists in particular, are to blame for the rise of the far right – for instance, for Trump’s election – and for neoliberal capitalism, which is seen as having damaged working class men in particular.”
“There are things in that letter I agree with,” said Gaffney.
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