Okay, Stacy. Here You Go.

by Little Miss Attila on March 15, 2011

This is going to be very arcane–and interesting, I fear, to very few people. It’s an answer to Stacy’s loooooonggg entry last night.

“This will not be over quickly; nor will you enjoy it. And I am not your Queen.”

What I Said to Pete

Pete Da Tech Guy took a gander at my recent go-rounds with Little Miss Attila — as I’ve called it, “blogospheric badminton with ‘feminism’ for a shuttlecock” — and expressed his enjoyment of the discourse. So I left this comment at Pete’s post:

Glad you enjoyed the spectacle. Joy is one of my favorite people in the blogosphere, but as a self-described “recovering lefty,” she needs to complete the full 12-step program, which includes rejecting the rhetoric and ideology of the Left.

Ideology rejected. As for “rhetoric”? Well, most of this argument boils down to you kind of going “eek!” and dancing on a table every time you hear the word “feminist.” But are you sure you’re going far enough? Perhaps if we use other words also bandied about by the left–such as a, an, and the–they will similarly infect us with their spooky powers. I’d suggest that we eschew English entirely, and get by with hand signals from now on.

Conservative women trying to co-opt the “feminist” brand is counter-productive from a strategic standpoint.

No interest in the “truth standpoint” here, huh? Telling, Stacy.

Women who think of themselves as “feminists” are overwhelmingly liberal Democrats.

Citation, please?

Most women don’t like the “feminist” label . . .

Citation, please?

. . .and, therefore, the proper conservative strategy is to make liberals own that term and its pejorative radical connotations.

As they say on Wikipedia, “you” is not synonymous with “most people.”

Conservative rhetoric ought to be crafted to appeal to the mainstream (i.e., non-”feminist”) woman — for she constitutes the “swing” vote — rather than pandering to whatever sentimental attachment a relative handful of ex-lefties may have to that term.

Where is this woman? This is interesting, Stace, because among the rightwing chickbloggers there appears to be a very slight majority who are willing to accept the “feminist” label on a limited basis, provided that equity feminism is distinguished from the more radical (and often socialist) “gender feminism.”

Those who don’t find the label attractive exercise this preference using an astonishing technique known as “not using it.” This works along the same lines as “if you don’t want to have a gun in the house, express this by not getting one.”

Another word for this approach to such difficulties in life is “conservatism.” You might want to give it a try, Mr. McCain.

Among chickbloggers we have zero arguments about his. Zero. Those who believe in the existence of equity feminism write about it, or acknowledge it in some way. Those who do not, do not–they find other terms to express ideas that are often quite simliar.

The only person who appears to have a problem with this is Stacy McCain, who is on the table screaming “a mouse! A MOUSE!”

Calm down, Stace. It’ll be all right.

This is nothing new, nor is it specific to feminism or conservatism. Successful political movements very often require that intellectual activists bite their tongues about the movement’s public rhetoric — intended to sway the undecided — when that rhetoric conflicts with particularistic ideals that the intellectuals (as they typically do) cherish as totems.

Oh, I see: you’d like me to lie about this. No. Next!

In the pre-Internet age, such inevitable tensions were generally resolved behind the scenes. Nowadays, blog wars bring these tensions out into the open, at least for those who pay attention to such squabbles.

That goes a bit deeper into Political Theory than is my habit. The gap between the exoteric language of politics (arguments made to rally public support to one’s cause) and the esoteric rationale of politics (the logic of the movement as understood by insiders) is a subject of study that, among conservative intellectuals in recent times, has been most associated with the so-called Straussians. I’m an anti-Straussian.

There is no need for a full-blown discussion of the esoteric/exoteric distinction here, except so far as it bears on the public nature of intra-conservative dialogue on the blogosphere. What offended me very deeply in Little Miss Attila’s initial post — published before I’d commented on the Barbara Kay column — was that it constituted a direct attack upon my prestige within the movement.

By pre-emptively accusing me of “oversimplified fiddle-faddle,” what Attila was proclaiming was: Stacy is an idiot who can make no useful contribution to the discourse. Do not listen to him.

Well, I’ve apologized for that phrase multiple times, Stacy. But, hey–when you come up with something that isn’t oversimplified fi . . . that is to say, that doesn’t paint with such, well, broad strokes . . . will you send me an email?

(Readers will note that Attila worked the title of Donkey Cons into her attack, suggesting that the 2006 book I co-authored with Lynn Vincent was somehow part of Attila’s case against me. Nevertheless, to borrow an expression from Cicero, ”But I pass over this, and choose to let it remain in silence.”)

Actually, it was a pun. I thought I’d get style points for that. Go fig.

Stipulate that Attila and I disagree as to the meaning and utility of the term “feminism,” and also disagree quite profoundly about that movement and its ideological aims. Why, however, should she seek to destroy my influence with this attack aimed directly at my prestige as a politcal writer? (For certainly no one whose arguments may be pre-emptively dismissed as “oversimplied fiddle-faddle” could be deserving of influence or admiration.) What could inspire Attila’s desire to publicly humiliate me in this manner?

It wasn’t personal. But, hey–don’t you have an entire category on your blog devoted to the public humiliation of women and men who believe in some of the goals of equity feminism? Didn’t you make a rule about how ridiculing such people–male and female alike–was a good way to drum up traffic? Shall I simply create a category on my blog entitled “Stacy Smashing,” and expect not a peep from you?

Did you not write: “You can never go wrong in the blogosphere by having a laugh at the expense of feminists. All sane people hate feminism, and no one hates feminism more than smart, successful, independent women who’ve made it on their own without all that idiotic “Sisterhood Is Powerful” groupthink crap”?

“Groupthink crap.” There’s some irony for you.

What if I said that about Alabamans? Or Baptists? I think you’d have a sharp retort or two in response to that.

Have I done nothing helpful to the conservative cause? Or, if my work has previously been helpful, does Attila now judge that I have nothing further to contribute, so that I should be discarded and shunted aside?

Oh, judgement, thou art fled to brutish beasts, and men have lost their reason!

(McCain now descends the steps from the podium, exits stage right, emerges before the proscenium, carrying a stool. He lights a cigarette and sits down on the stool.)

OK, Attila only meant that “fiddle-faddle” remark as a joke among friends — a rather sharp-edged joke, but a joke nonetheless. God knows, I’ve offended people with my jokes before, so I shouldn’t be getting my nose out of joint because Attila ruffled my feathers. (And what lovely royal peacock feathers they are!)

Habitual joking, including my self-deprecating humor, has the unfortunately predictable effect of encouraging some people to treat me dismissively, as if I am incapable of serious thought. This is a problem of which I am profoundly aware, having lived with it since childhood.

Cry me a river, Stace.

Try being a five-foot chick with a baby face and large breasts. You wouldn’t last five minutes.

Yet you see that it is relevant to the esoteric/exoteric distinction which is the actual subject of this post.

Welcome to the esoteric logic, my friends.

More than 90 percent of the readers who saw this post didn’t bother to read down this far in the argument, and so excluded themselves from the ranks of insiders who actually know what’s going on.

Suppose a hypothetical: What if a guy who had been watching Republican insiders fuck things up for years decided to try to un-fuck the party? What if, until about January 2008, that guy had been forced to watch in silence, at close range, as this GOP fuck-up proceeded? What if he were intimately familiar with the architects of the Republican disaster and their modus operandi?

Now, carry this hypothetical further: Put yourself into the position of such a person. You understand that the people who have been fucking up the Republican Party are not stupid — they didn’t ascend to the heights of influence by being stupid — and will do everything within their means to preserve their power within the GOP. Among the things they will do is to fuck over anyone who gets in their way.

Contemplate that hypothetical for a moment.

Question: Is Stacy just joking around? Is he crazy? How can we possibly tell the difference between when he’s being serious and when he’s merely playing the clown?

Answer: You can’t. And neither can the Republican insiders who’ve been fucking things up all these years.

Actually, Stacy, I know–with increasing precision over the years. But there is still the matter of–sometimes I don’t agree with you.

It doesn’t matter whether you agree or disagree with me about feminism. And Attila’s public dismissal of my “oversimplified fiddle-faddle” may, in some sense, serve my own purposes.

The purpose of wounded innocence?

What is vitally important, however, is to consider whether my informed analysis of the GOP’s systemic problems has any value to the future prospects of the conservative cause. If you think I’m just another know-it-all blowhard on the Internet, fine: Dismiss me, ignore me, mock me – however it may suit your purposes. But before you do so, understand that you are, by that course of action, passing judgment on the entirety of my knowledge, experience and abilities, placing yourself in the position of arbiter of Who Matters and Who Doesn’t.

Again–what if someone simply disagrees with you? That doesn’t appear to be on the menu. Can I order off the menu? The stuff printed hereon isn’t on my diet.

Everyone must decide such things for themselves, e.g., I long ago decided that David Brooks was a dangerous menace to conservatism. But this is merely my opinion, and people who disagree are free to be completely wrong.

When I speak of those who place themselves in the position of arbiter, I refer to those arrogant elitists — that is to say, those who wish to rule as Platonic archons — who presume to substitute their judgment for the independent choices of others. You see this, inter alia, among those insider snobs who are constantly attacking Sarah Palin. Their implicit esoteric logic is: “Republican voters are so stupid they might actually be beguiled by this unworthy woman! We must never miss an opportunity to warn them of her unworthiness!”

How about those who presume to tell Governor Palin whether she may or may not apply the label “feminist” to herself?

Anyone can see the contradiction: If Palin is so self-evidently an idiot, shouldn’t the insiders be confident that her idiocy will be apparent to voters?

Ah, but that brings us to the Huckabee conundrum . . .

And if, as the insiders so obviously fear, the Republican Party’s organizing principle is to attract the votes of people so stupid they need to be told what to think . . . ??

Follow the argument a step further, and you approach the underlying systemic problem of the GOP: There must be something fundamentally wrong with the structure of a party whose insiders have such seething contempt for the voters who constitute the party’s electoral core.

“Houston, we have a problem,” you see.

The gap between the exoteric language of the Republican Party and the esoteric rationale of the party insiders has become so great that voters are instinctively repelled by the aroma of bovine excrement.

Perhaps they got the idea that “Successful political movements very often require that intellectual activists bite their tongues about the movement’s public rhetoric — intended to sway the undecided — when that rhetoric conflicts with particularistic ideals that the intellectuals (as they typically do) cherish as totems.”

In short, perhaps someone urged them to lie about what they think, or distort it in some way. Perhaps someone forbade them to use a particular word . . .

Stipulate that the same aroma is much worse in the Democratic Party. But Democratic Party insiders have a basic respect for their party’s constituents that is missing in the GOP.

Blue-collar gun owners? Surely you jest.

The so-called “brand damage” problem for Republicans is clearly a function of a party structure that elevates to the status of influential insiders people who are contemptuous of the party’s grassroots. And it is the votes of the party grassroots that are the ultimate source of the power wielded by the insiders.

This is not a superficial short-term problem. Rather, it is chronic and systemic.

What the success of the Tea Party movement demonstrates is that, with the assistance of sympathetic leadership cadres — including but not limited to organizations like Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks — the grassroots can resist and counteract the influence of the GOP insiders.

Now, having read this far, let the reader judge whether I am propagating “oversimplified fiddle-faddle.” And permit me to remind you of something I wrote nearly two years ago:

Just because you don’t know what I’m doing,
don’t jump to the conclusion that
I don’t know what I’m doing.

You’ve said that before. But your screed contains within it both an exhortation to “message discipline” and a suggestion that such discipline may lead to a schism between party leadership and the rank-and-file. So you might want to rethink that. As well as remaining so sensitive to criticism, while having an entire blog-category devoted to insulting those who agree with you on many issues. And your defending Mrs. Palin, while attacking those who have deflected assaults on her intellectual integrity by . . . by you.

I will be surprised if more than a dozen people actually read this far in my own poor entry. Astonished, actually.

I should test it out by putting some swear words here at the bottom, or a clue for some blogospheric scavenger hunt.

{ 8 trackbacks }

Coyote and Roadrunner : The Other McCain
March 16, 2011 at 6:37 am
An Epic Essay By Stacey McCain « That Mr. G Guy's Blog
March 16, 2011 at 7:07 am
‘Other’? I Mean, Really? ‘Other’? : The Other McCain
March 16, 2011 at 1:31 pm
This Is One Talk Show You Don’t Want To Miss! « htothedizzle
March 16, 2011 at 9:03 pm
You Can Call Me Karen, Or You Can Call Me LC, But Please Don’t Call Me Feminist | The Lonely Conservative
March 16, 2011 at 9:20 pm
The Row | POWIP
March 17, 2011 at 5:50 am
‘Stacy Threw Out Fake Statistics That Portray a Skewed Reality’ : The Other McCain
March 17, 2011 at 5:58 am
Remember: Saturday Morning, Attila on the Radio with Robert Stacy McCain
April 1, 2011 at 8:50 pm

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

ponce March 15, 2011 at 9:00 pm

“if you don’t want to have a gun in the house, express this by not getting one.”

2405 Americans have been shot dead since the Tuscon shooting.


Somehow those guns seem to be leaving the houses their “kept” in.


Beth Donovan March 16, 2011 at 6:55 am

Ponce. Newsweek is dead. They give an ‘estimate’ not supported by any factual data. They’re (please not the correct word use of they’re vs. their here) not separating suicides and accidents from drug cartel murders on the Southern Border.

I keep several guns at my house.

Just saying.


Cynthia Yockey, A Conservative Lesbian March 15, 2011 at 11:22 pm

Attila: right.
Stacy: wrong.
You’re in a hole, Stacy. Stop digging.


alwaysfiredup March 16, 2011 at 6:50 am

I had gotten the impression from Stacy’s last that the true goal of this whole feminist argument was to drive blog hits so that he could reveal his conservative genius to new readers in the finale. The whole “woe is me!” tone paired with Rule 4 seemed decidedly tongue-in-cheek. He may not forgive you for puncturing the genius balloon. 🙂


Mike March 16, 2011 at 7:05 am

It’s actually been very entertaining as well as educational, reading the exchange of ideas between Miss Attila and Mr. McCain. I’ve learned things I never imagined about the Feminist movement, both Gender and Equity varieties. All in all, both essays, and the conversation engendered by both are very good, healthy and helpful.


Huey March 16, 2011 at 7:33 am

I remember when “Liberal” pretty well defined my world view.

Very little of my world view has changed, but, as currently comprehended, “liberal” would pretty well define the opposite of my world view.

And that is Stacy’s point.

Many decades ago, I would have considered myself to be pro-feminist (or even “feminist” to the extent a male (!) can be considered such). But, over the decades, the term has become associated with views which would be unrecognizable as feminist by my self at that time. (So much that a person such as Sarah Palin, someone who epitomizes my comprehension of that term those long decades ago, is now viewed by high profile “feminists” as not even being a woman…much like many blacks today view blacks who do not hold to the party line as not even being black).

The term, “feminist,” now has, for many, a completely negative connotation. Like “liberal” the fight to ownership has been lost and any attempt to reclaim it is futile. Even counter-productive. (While I, in my heart, still consider myself “liberal,” I long ago stopped describing myself as such simply because doing so required too much explanation – and even once that explanation is laid out, find myself labeled as such when disagreements arise, i.e., “Well, you’re a liberal at heart, so….” No, since the substance of my beliefs now comfortably fall within the ambit of today’s comprehension of “conservative” (or libertarian) beliefs, it is more productive to simply change the label.


alwaysfiredup March 16, 2011 at 11:26 am

” Like “liberal” the fight to ownership has been lost and any attempt to reclaim it is futile. Even counter-productive. ”

They’ve won, we lost, can’t we just admit that? God forbid we fight back about anything, even so simple an idea as feminism=equality of women.


Huey March 16, 2011 at 12:34 pm

Of course you can fight back and attempt to reclaim the meaning of the term “feminist.”

Good luck with that.

No matter what you do, by fighting over the meaning of the term, rather than the substance of what the term encompasses, you rivet the attention of those not directly engaged in the fight on that term, most of whom will already have their own definition and understanding of that term, one which differs drastically from that which is presented to them.

Certainly, when a term is self-defined, then one can apply it to one’s self at will. Sarah Palin may call herself a “feminist” (as I call myself a “liberal” in my private moments), but her self-definition of the term applies only to her and those who accept her definition of the term. Others, bystanders to the debate, merely hear the term “feminist” and apply their own definition to it and either guffaw at her applying it to herself, agree with her, or say, “Oh, you’re one of THOSE “feminists.”

Fight on, though. Maybe you will succeed in reclaiming the term without distracting anyone from the substance of the debate.


datechguy March 16, 2011 at 8:43 am

Wow again,

Oh btw Ponce after all that you pick on the “Gun” quote? HA!


Mike A. March 16, 2011 at 8:45 am

Dear Ms Atilla-

You seem to be attached to the word “Feminism.” You seem to think it has a definition apart from what is actually practiced in the real world. Reminds me of people who, as libertarian conservative, like to call themselves “Liberals.” They only do it as a joke and would never actively identify as liberals but you seem to want to defend the use of “feminist,” ignoring the actual usage of the word.

The vast majority of feminists in the world are leftists. I know you won’t accept that without citation but I only have 50 years of experience to go on to tell me that you chasing after a fantasy if you think that conservative women revel in the term feminist. I live in Los Angeles and Brentwood has tons of feminists but almost no conservatives.

You seem to think that feminism is equivalent to equal opportunity. Let me make it clear: Feminism is the anthesis of equal opportunity and trying to rescue the term from its current usage is a fools errand. Nobody thinks women don’t deserve equal treatment but the purpose of feminism is not equality but superiority. If you want to fight the equality wars again, go for it. But don’t waste your time trying to change the language and usage of the term feminism. You have lost that battle, regardless of how many times you argue that it means something different to you.

Finally, let go of your feud with Stacy. He won. He has laid out the history and problems with the term and movement. So far, it seems that you have stomped your feet and demanded that we all agree to your language usage but have offered nothing to defend your position. We all agree that women are equal but fighting over the word feminism, as if it had any meaning other than what it is, is counterproductive. Spend your time coming up with a phrase that is not already taken and overloaded with more baggage than Paris Hilton leaving the Ritz.


alwaysfiredup March 16, 2011 at 11:15 am

“He won.”

I beg to differ, sir.

“We all agree that women are equal”

Sadly, Stacy McCain most aggressively does not believe women are equal. Ask him and he will tell you why.

“…have offered nothing to defend your position.”

You, sir, should have your eyes checked. If you have not read at least three posts on each site on this topic, then you are simply overlooking that which you decry for being absent.


ponce March 16, 2011 at 9:20 am

“Oh btw Ponce after all that you pick on the “Gun” quote? HA!”

Yeah, the “I’m the real feminist” squabble was old 40 years ago.

It’s dessicated now.


Cassandra March 16, 2011 at 9:39 am

Stacy: “Why, however, should she seek to destroy my influence with this attack aimed directly at my prestige as a politcal writer?”

Joy, up until this point I truly had no idea you had this much power :p

The truth is that no one can diminish Stacy’s prestige as a political writer except Stacy. You don’t have that power and neither do I. I’m not a regular reader of Stacy’s. To my mind, he stoops to the ad hominem far too often for a man of his talent and intelligence. I realize that substituting insults or snark for argument is an easy path to popular acclaim (and traffic) but I’m going to be tiresome enough to put forth the proposition that perhaps it shouldn’t be.

We make choices in how we present ourselves and our beliefs. I made a choice years ago when I gave in to my readers and left the pinup on my masthead after the 4th of July. I knew it would cause some people to dismiss my site out of hand. I *chose* to take that risk and accepted the consequences. To the extent that decision left me open to criticism, I and I alone must take responsibility.

Stacy frequently chooses what I’d call a “less elevated” tone and style of argument. That choice carries an attendant risk that some people will dismiss his more serious writing. That’s regrettable, because he is (as I mentioned earlier) an extremely talented writer and analyst. The thing is, the choices we make have consequences. We decide what audience our messages are pitched to.

The real irony here is that “oversimplified fiddle faddle” seems intended to describe Stacy’s arguments on feminism rather than the entire body of his political commentary. You’ve linked to him far too often for a reasonable reader to conclude that you were dismissing everything he’s ever written or denigrating him personally.

You disagree with his characterization of feminists. So, for that matter, do I (though I’ve never thought of myself as a feminist). To me, this is a discussion of that rather narrow topic rather than of Stacy’s reputation or writing on a whole host of topics that have nothing to do with women or feminism.

But what do I know? 🙂


ltw March 16, 2011 at 10:19 am

Great post. Favorite lines: “Those who believe in the existence of equity feminism write about it, or acknowledge it in some way. Those who do not, do not–they find other terms to express ideas that are often quite similar.”

The whole blog interchange that arose between you and RS McCain reminds me of Beethoven’s 6th Symphony in F major, Op 68 in an “oversimplified” kind of way….sans the last movement.


Dixie Normous March 16, 2011 at 1:58 pm

Yeah, your post consisted of attacking every argument he makes for the sake of doing so. Like plugging your ears and shouting la-la-la-la so you don’t have to listen to the things you don’t want to hear. Childish. Agree to disagree and let it go.


Patrick Glenn March 16, 2011 at 2:58 pm

Little Miss Attila: I’m catching only the tail end of this debate, so maybe you’ve covered this already. If so, sorry for being redundant, but . . .

I’ve halfway reconstructed (maybe) that RSM “started it” by challenging your (possibly frequent) use of the word feminism. Thus he’s appropriately been “on offense” and the burden of proof has been on him to explain why conservatives using this loaded word in normative ways might be counterproductive, in part by arguing that the main, core ideas associated with that terminology are corrosive and that the positive (non-radical) aspects cannot be effectively decoupled from the more negative (radical) aspects.

If RSM had not started it, however, the burden of proof really should be on you to explain why such usage contributes to, or does not detract from, the larger conservative/libertarian/classical liberal project that you claim to support (allowing that different thinkers/actors will have different perspectives on what that project entails, etc.). Sure, as you suggest above, some participants in that “project” could simply avoid using the word feminism, while others use it, as if it were a minor matter of personal rhetorical preference, but I suspect that you would place greater value on the importance of rhetoric in the political sphere. Obviously, you run a political blog. I’m sure you’ve already worked through why you believe it is beneficial and important for the right side of the spectrum to sort of recapture “feminism.”

In short, I would genuinely like to know what is your argument in favor of this usage, in addition to your critique of RSM’s argument against its usage.


Theunmccain March 16, 2011 at 3:41 pm

Everytime I read one of RSM’s hypersensitive defenses of his intellect, usually doused with a flood of resentments over past slights (real or imagined as they say), I wonder whether he and Jonah Goldberg are actually twins, separated at birth.


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