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Not My Nigel Is Misogynistic and Divisive

January 30, 2008

Not My Nigel is a phrase, an expression sometimes used by a few self-identified feminists who apparently think being snarky adds a necessary panache to their dialogue. Anyone who has been the victim of snark or has taken the time to scrutinise the meaning of snark understands that it is most often used as a weapon to annihilate a specific target, to silence. Unlike satire, or even sarcasm, demeaning snark adds very little, if anything to the topic at hand.

To understand Not My Nigel, one must understand who are the participants in the conversation. What position does the speaker hold, whom is the speaker’s intended target, and who are the active and silent listeners. On the Internet, this tends to require great concentration; evidently by how many people demonstrate a failure to understand if person A is responding to person B as an individual or part of a whole, or part of a group, or part of a group that person B self-identifies with or part of a group that person A assigns to person B, or if person A is speaking from an individual point of view or as a representative of a self-identified group, etc. It sounds complicated but really it is not, especially if readers actively reject laziness. If there is money involved, I bet people could keep up with who is talking to whom, who is being referred to, who is implying and who is inferring. Alas, that is a fantasy, so, there must be that brave soul that will break it down for everyone to understand. I’m just about irritated enough today to take on the task, seeing how I don’t appreciate misogyny from men so I definitely don’t appreciate it from women, and I really don’t appreciate it from women who claim to be feminists. Who needs enemies, as the saying goes? Work on your internalised hatred without outside causalities, after all, the word is internalised. Nothing personal, but it is personal.

When women are communicating with each other in a conversation without men, the best thing either woman can do is not act like men. Okay that assertion sounds loaded, and it reeks of a gender stereotype, as if I am implying women should act like women, a role with arbitrary guidelines that are likely defined by men. Not at all. I’m simply saying that women should not act like misogynistic men (to include or conclude all men is left to the reader’s discretion); meaning women should not bully other women and should not attempt to create a superior/inferior hierarchy within a conversation and/or relationship. This is a method that dominating and abusive men who insert themselves into women’s conversations love to do. Therefore, it would seem to me that mimicking the standard abusive-male method would be unwelcome, at least in circles that claim dismantling the patriarchy is the goal.

Not my Nigel is badmouthing the woman who is trying to engage, not the man (a benefactor of oppression). Once again the man is free while a woman takes the beating. My is the operative word, therefore the target of this snark is the woman who has entered a conversation defending her Nigel. Very insulting, not to mention condescending. It is as if these feminists who are quick to call a woman a Not My Nigel were born enlightened, born omniscient, born able to swim in water without getting wet. Lastly, it implies that she functions outside of any form of complicity with the patriarchy. The female-blaming-feminist (it is internalised, I know, it is a hard habit for us women to break, but it is possible to break free) is setting herself up as the pure one, while asserting that the Nigel-having woman is impure and deserving of disdain and shaming. Apparently, it is too seductive for the female-blaming-feminist to resist the abuse. It is pay back time and being on the other end feels good. The female-blaming-feminist must squash that little male-defender. She must annihilate her; after all, she is only doing what she has learned from the masters. She feeds off the pleasure of that annihilation, that direct hit, that elimination instead of nurturing a potential ally. Oops, I used nurturing, that may be too scary of a concept to phantom since men have mandated that function to be designated solely to women and the female-blaming-feminist goal seems to be to remove oneself from all signifiers that may denote her as a woman, even when some traits are universally gendered, or favorable, or individually desired, regardless of what men mandate.

As enlightened, thus superior as the female-blaming-feminist sets herself up to be, one would think that she would trust another woman’s instincts. Or at the very least extend compassion to that woman, to understand that all women do what they have to do to survive. Should we beat up the prostitute or the john? It would be different if the prostitute bragged and said she did not care and it was her choice. To be honest, I think that prostitute would not often be found engaging in feminist dialogue and certainly would not be interested in dismantling an oppressive system. But we all know that a prostitute such as described is a minority among other forced into prostitution prostitutes. Forced meaning a number of reasons. Even so, I still don’t think the choice-prostitute should be shamed, perhaps ignored or not given a platform (she is free to make her own space however), but not shamed because she is still a woman and should be free to make the sense she needs to make out of a chaotic and oppressive system in order to manage it.

I suspect the reason the Not My Nigel woman is engaging in a particular feminist conversation is because subconsciously something is at work. Something led her to that conversation. Something somewhere deep inside her is trying to tell her something. I think the best thing that real (or should I say true) feminists (not the female-blaming and woman hating kind) can do is to trust that she will take what she reads and allow it to soak in, to observe, to have that ah-ha moment as she questions and observes the Nigel in her life in her own way. To attack her, to belittle her, to label her is doing nothing for coalition building, if anything it may cause her defenses to rise, thus causing a bigger blind spot and setting feminism back a few paces.

Also, I have a problem with the justification these female-blaming-feminists use in claiming that these Nigel-having women deserve their title. They claim that she has no right to defend her Nigel because she cannot possibly know what he does when he is not within ear or eye shot. Do you know what your mama is doing when she is not around, or what your lover is doing or saying when you are not around, or your asexual partner is doing when you are not around? Do you know what you would do in any given situation? Well, we don’t know what anyone does when he or she is not around. Of course judging by a pattern, men are more likely to behave like misogynistic jerks when around other men. However, there has to be some who do not, even if all he does is remain silent. Remaining silent is not revolutionary but it is a start. And then there are some men that I know personally who do whatever they can to fire other men who will not stop emailing sexist and misogynistic videos to other employees (both women and men). This man does not ask for cookies. With some people, it is not all about earning cookies. Some people actually have faith in humanity. Some people actually try to make life fair. For the ones who don’t have faith, I wonder why don’t they just buy an island, or kill themselves. Because if it is so bleak and it is believed that humans will never change, then what is the point of living?

  1. Heart permalink
    January 30, 2008 7:08 pm

    Great post, Kitty (again, you’re on a roll). I have never felt comfortable with the “Not my Nigel” thing, even though I have found it aggravating when women(anti-radfems especially) pipe up and defend the men in their lives. It’s a catch 22 and it seems abusive to me. Once you’ve invoked the “Not my Nigel” accusation, the woman has nowhere to go from there to redeem herself, other than to say, “Oh, I’m so sorry, you’re right, there is no such thing as my Nigel, I’m sorry for my horrible feminism.” If she tries to defend herself she’s toast.

    I love what you say about the gendering that goes on in discussions among feminists. One of the most effective ad hominem attacks a feminist woman can use against another feminist woman is to tell her in so many words — including academic, intelligent-sounding words — that she throws like a girl. She’s a wuss. A pussy. She’s not … a real he-man feminist, which is, of course, the goal!

    Right on time, my friend.

  2. Heart permalink
    January 30, 2008 7:11 pm

    It’s funny, I’ve kept feeling ashamed of that avatar photo of myself and need to change it, but then I have to go through all the blogger stuff and I never feel like going there. But one reason I have wanted to change it has to do with feminist mocking of the feminine head tilt, and in that photo, there I am, head tilt in full effect.

    You know, I do tilt my head, still, out of habit, for photos, although I try not to because I do know it signals deference.

    At the same time, why is it okay to mock women for what they have been bludgeoned into doing, i.e., deferring? Why is it okay for women to target women, as though there aren’t any men out there, benefitting from not only women’s deference, but women’s potshots at other women.

    I think I’ll leave the damn photo there. So I tilted my head. Are there other discussions we can have, as feminists, that might be more important than that one?

  3. A-mazing Amazon permalink
    January 31, 2008 12:27 am

    For the ones who don’t have faith, I wonder why don’t they just buy an island, or kill themselves. Because if it is so bleak and it is believed that humans will never change, then what is the point of living?

    totally. might as well cut to the chase, folks. it’s gonna happen one day, why not call off all this bullshit and leave this world behind?

    leave it for the rest of us who appreciate it.

    really really great post, kitty. 🙂

  4. April 16, 2013 12:31 pm

    Thanks for this post. really.

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