One argumentative fallacy I remember from the Introduction to Logic class I took 10 years ago was called: “Ad hominem” which means “To the man.” It is a false, incorrect way of arguing that we use very commonly when we go after the person presenting an argument in an attempt to discredit them using irrelevant accusations. Here are some examples of ad hominem:
- A: Let’s go to Shtrumpf and have a salad bar.
- B: No, let’s not go to Shtrumpf; they are too expensive.
- A: You can never pick a good restaurant (or you are such a cheapo) (or you are a party pooper).
Here we see how A, instead of answering the argument of B, which is a valid argument, resorts to attack or belittle or ridicule or try to discredit B on false grounds. If A had said: you are a liar (or no, Shtrumpf is affordable), she would have had a point. Instead she commits the ad hominem fallacy by talking about person B rather than about his arguments.
At the time, ad hominem was meant to be a gender-neutral term like mankind, but it is interesting to observe how the fallacy actually becomes a strategy when addressed at women. This could probably be referred to as “ad feminem.” An example would be:
- Ah, you got into a car accident because you are a woman & women can’t drive well (as opposed to “you got into a car accident because you didn’t hit the brakes at the right moment”)
Ad feminem is a fascinating world of bad logic in itself, but I will focus on a specific type of sexist argumentation which I will call “ad feministem.” Yes, my friends, ad feministem is probably the most common form of sexist argumentation. This is the technique of discrediting women who believe in gender equality and won’t take any bullshit about it by making reference to their personal beliefs or politics or qualities (regardless if these qualities are true or false). For example:
- C: So what if Lebanese women can’t grant nationality to their kids; they shouldn’t be marrying foreigners anyway.
- D: It’s every person’s right to grant citizenship to their family, be they women or men. Why discriminate?
- C: What do you know? You’re always pissed off at everything.
- or C: Of course you’ll think that, you’re a woman so you’re biased.
Ad feministem gets worse when we’re talking about sexuality matters. Women are immediately made out to be whores and nymphos and lesbians and sluts. Here is an example:
- E: I think women should have the right to have sex on their own terms as long as they are educated about sexual health and birth control and feel confident to make their own decisions.
- F: But that will lead our society to disintegrate, women won’t get married anymore and they won’t stay loyal to their partners, it will all become chaotic.
- E: Actually, allowing women the same freedoms allowed to men and promoting a positive approach to sex and sexuality from both genders leads to a society that is more equal, more open, and more healthy.
- F: Actually, you’re a slut who likes sleeping around, so you want all women to behave like you.
- or F: You’re a lesbian who hates men and wants to delete them from society.
And the attacks can get pretty vicious (not that there is anything wrong with being a lesbian or a slut) and personal, against the selves and the bodies of women. That makes it really hard for any woman to keep on fighting. That’s probably why very few do. Every time we try to stand up for women’s rights, we get called angry, jealous, bitter hags. Every time we try to deconstruct gender, we get called ugly, sick, complicated man-haters. Sometimes we get called violent too because we raise our voices and refuse to be “polite” when “polite” is synonymous with shutting up. Often, people think we can’t take a joke. We can take plenty of jokes, when they’re funny, and laughs at the expense of women aren’t funny. When we try to wake up the little powerful voice inside a young woman, we are accused of sabotaging the entire society and ruining what is otherwise seen as a very successful social order. When we said Mohammad Iskandar’s song was not only sexist and demeaning towards women but actually promoted (promoted!) sexism as a cool thing, we were called ball-busting, uncivilized, rude, violent bitches. And when young men comfortable enough with their gender stood by us, they were called faggots. This is all not just isolated name-calling but a systematic argumentative technique that silences us, scares us, falsely discredits our arguments: ad feministem!
Friends, you call me feminist like it’s a bad thing. It’s not. I wear the political label with more joy than anything I have ever worn. But regardless of what you think of the word, whether by calling me a feminist you are praising or cursing me, sound logic dictates that you can’t use it as an argument to discredit or shut me up. You can’t use anything that I am (or you think I am) against me. Fight my ideas, my arguments, my logic instead. The next time I find you attacking me personally, I will consider myself winning.