In her Aug 20th 2019 piece, Why should We Trust a Man Who Harassed a Women to Cover the Historically Female 2020 Race, Washington Post columnist Monica Hesse inquired whether political writer Mark Halperin’s multiple charges of sexual harassment made him too biased against women to write about the 2020 Presidential election fairly.
I would pose a different and more important question. Hesse is the first ever gender columnist for the Washington Post. Is she too biased about gender issues to be in that position? (Spoiler alert, my answer is yes). I am going look at the question by examining her critique of the 2014 International Men’s Conference in Detroit. I think it is a good way to do so, since the event is recorded, so anyone can view the conference. Plus, it is hours and hours of just men’s issue, not just her feminist takes on them. I would not be surprised if the piece helped her attain the gender writer position, making it more pertinent. Regardless, she is now one of the most influential people in the country on these issues.
There is an excellent piece about her article by Robert Franklin, one of the speakers at the conference. It is on the website of A Voice for Men, the group that hosted the meeting. It is titled Anatomy of a Hatchet Job. I am going to reference it in this article.
Hesse’s article is probably no better or worse than what other journalists who covered the conference wrote. Apparently, the Post believes the best person to cover a men’s issues conference is a female, ideological feminist. Regarding my critique of her piece, I have the luxury in discussing the meeting that Hesse didn’t have. I have no deadline, plus I can view the conference online. She though had the advantage of being present at the conference, which I was not.
To help locate things said by conference speakers, I am denoting the time the speaker said them. For instance, (1.30.30) means one hour, thirty minutes and thirty seconds into a presentation.
Hesse commented on the Detroit meeting more recently. That being, her Post column on January 13 2019, How Traditional Masculinity Hurts the Men Who Believe in It Most. In the 2019 article, she described the attendees of the 2014 conference as, “several dozen men-white men-mostly.” In her original 2014 piece, Men’s Right’s Activists Gathering to Discuss All the Ways Society Has Done Them Wrong, she said “about 200 participants had preordered tickets.” So, since 2014, the great majority of the male and all the female conference goers literally disappeared. On the website of the conference it was stated that there were “over 250 in total attendance” at the meeting.
In the 2019 article, she said the men at the 2014 gathering, believed the solution to their ills “had something to do with fixing women.” How would they be fixed, “women would stop taking their jobs”, when women “would stop categorizing sexual harassment as harassment.” She says these “able bodied straight white men”, “were convinced they were oppressed.”
As far as the presenters, neither workplace discrimination against men, nor sexual harassment received much mention by the presenters. Plus, phrasing things the way she did, badly distorted the tenure of the issues presented. In addition, in the 2014 article, Hesse cited neither as concerns of the attendees.
In her 2019 article, Hesse cited research linking an overreliance on traditional traits such as “stoicism” and believing they had to solve their problems on their own, as contributors to men’s woes. At these conferences, people discuss men’s issues, complain about unfairness and try to come up with ways to change men’s lives. I would contend that at the Detroit Men’s Conference, she was with a roomful of non-traditional men, all few dozens of them. She just believes she knows better than men she had just met, what their problems really are. I would argue instead that she was engaging in an appalling case of fem-splaining.
Hesse’s 2014 piece started out by implying that the people at the conference had irrational concerns about violent protests by feminists. I suggest the reader do an internet search, using for instance, Protests of the 2014 Detroit Men’s Conference. You will quickly find a number of articles about pre-conference protests, even though the conference was over five years ago. Some of the protest look pretty scary. How could she have missed this? In addition, feminist have a history of aggressive protests at such events (For an internet example, see Warren Farrell Toronto Conference.).
It is informative to compare Hesse with someone coming from a feminist orientation, who is willing to be open minded about the issues. In her award-winning documentary The Red Pill, then feminist, Cassie Jaye (cassiejaye.com) investigated looking into the Men’s Rights movement, which she then believed was a bastion of anti-female bigotry.
The conference was moved from the Double Tree Hotel. Hesse noted that A Voice for Men said “the Hotel was issued death threats by feminists.” She added that the “Hotel never confirmed or denied these reports.” Hesse did not explain why a Hotel would not vehemently deny such claims if they were false. Contrary to Hesse, in his article, Franklin’s noted that it was not A Voice for Men that said there were death threats. He observed, “In fact, it was the Hotel Management, on hotel stationery.” Despite the 2014 conference being a small part of her film, Jaye showed feminists displaying the words “WE DID IT”, to celebrate the moving of the conference. (The Red Pill 1.31.30).
Hesse noted an article where Paul Elam the head of A Voice for Men, declared the month of October to be “Bash A Violent B—Month.” She mentioned that Elam claimed he was being satirical. Jaye showed that was indeed true (1.50. The Red Pill”). Elam was responding to an article by “Jezebel” magazine, entitled, Have You Ever Beat Up a Boyfriend Cause uh, We Have. The Jezebel article noted a study finding 70% “of non-reciprocal (relationship) violence” was perpetuated by women against men. Members of Jezebel proudly proclaimed stories about their own one-way aggression. I would contend that what they were proud of was actually a hate crime. They targeted a specific group to assault, men.
The question has been asked, what would happen if the genders were reversed? We do know what happened when Elam responded satirically about actual violence. He received all sorts of scathing reactions and his organization was declared a hate group. Nothing happened to the culprits, Jezebel magazine.
In her 2014 article, Hesse mentioned that Dr. Warren Farrell used to be a “visible figure” in the National Organization for Women. This is a tremendous understatement. The biography for the Conference noted he had been a board member for the organization. If she took a couple minutes and went to Wikipedia, she would have learned more of what he did as a feminist. Farrell was the only man ever elected three times to NOW’s New York City Board of Directors. He wrote a popular feminist book, wrote feminist articles for the New York Times, appeared on a number of widely watched television shows, “was featured” in popular magazines and the international media. Oh yeah, he also was “visible” in NOW.
Farrell is one of the most influential men’s rights activists in the world. At the conference, he made his own presentation, ran a workshop, was revealing in his introduction of Paul Elam, spoke at the press conference before the event, as well as the activism panel at the end of it. The topic of Farrell’s presentation at the 2014 conference was the ten most important issues for men. What could tell you more about what the conference was about than such a presentation? Therefore, I will quote what Hesse told us Farrell said in its entirety, “I have always said that the men’s movement is in its embryonic stage. I’m no longer going to say that.”
In fact, Hesse wrote very little about the what the presenters said at the conference she was covering. According to Franklin, she had an explanation for this. Franklin said Hesse told him she the article was written for the “Lifestyle” section, and her job was to write about the “experience of being at the conference, not its content.” In addition, “she did not have unlimited space to write.”
It is very difficult to believe that the paucity of her comments about the speakers, is what the Post desired. In addition, her current gender column is in the same Lifestyle section. As far as the attendees, she could have mentioned (the filmed) questions to speakers after their presentations, and omitted short paragraphs with fascinating information about what happened between and after the conference. Such as, a piano player playing the Impossible Dream, or that attendees consumed hamburgers and beer.
I would argue, that at no time did she mention a speaker’s name coupled with something they said about a topic, that she was not disparaging of. Remarkably, she mentioned names of attendees with ideas she was not critical of than she did the entire group of speakers. As far as the conference goers, anti-women comments were not attached to a name and therefore are uncheckable.
Hesse noted that the conference goers don’t always “sound like white misogynist.” She did not mention that three of the presenters were black. She did mention that five speakers at the conference were female. Of them, she mentioned Dr. Tara Palmatier and Barbara Kay, of whom she identified as a conservative journalist. What of the three who went unmentioned? They were, Canadian Senator Anne Cools, the first black women Senator in North America and a pioneer in establishing domestic violence centers for women. Erin Pizzey, the founder of what was most likely, the first domestic women’s shelter in the world and Karen Straughan, whose introduction included the fact that she was a member of the LBGT community. One can only imagine the feminist outrage at a typical conference, if a woman as prominent as Ann Cools was ignored by a journalist, as Hesse did. Do I think Hesse intentionally ignored the three, to create a false impression of the speakers as anti-feminist backlashers? Based on the rest of her article, I do.
Hesse said that Kay criticized anti-rape ads, fathers portrayed as doofuses, and an ad honoring moms of athletes but not dads. The anti-rape ad described by Kay (0.7), was a baby shower, where the expecting mother was given a rape whistle as a gift. Kay noted that this was accompanied by false statistics about rape. Feminist’s were behind this ad, who would have thought?
An ad not mentioned by Hesse that most incensed Kay, was a large display on “allas Transit” buses. From a girl’s mouth, came the words, “when I grow up my husband will kill me.” Out of the boys, “when I grow up, I will beat my wife.” What made Kay the angriest, was that she called the bus company and found out she was the first journalist that contacted the company about the ad. Feminists were behind this ad, who would have thought?
As I noted, she consistently said negative things about speakers without attributing who the individual was. She mentioned a “military veteran.” That person was Terrance Popp. Hesse quoted him answering an audience question about a statistic, (0.33) saying, “that particular statistic is from my personal observations. I’m just speaking here as a dude.” In reality, he related that it was from my “personal observations”, then explained why he thought his information was true and then, “I’m just speaking here as a dude.” In Robert Franklin’s article, he noted that Popp’s data was based on facts. However, due to Army regulation he could only say it was his opinion.
Including the introduction, Popp’s speech was about forty-six minutes, and involved heart wrenching stories, such as an award-winning documentary that was about Popp’s own planed suicide. Yet the quote I mentioned, was all she said about Popp’s talk.
Hesse related that “one speaker postulated that women are responsible for all domestic violence” (see about .42), paraphrasing the person as saying women, “having all the power in relationships, they could simply choose not to marry violent men.” This is a spin on Stefan Molyneux’s presentation making it sound like he was justifying violence against women. Something that could have the Post sued for libel. Good choice not naming him. This was her only mention of a talk which including introduction, lasted about one hour and five minutes.
Hesse mentioned that presenters said that “women have always had special privileges… but didn’t mention, … women didn’t legally have the right to vote.” Of course, she did not give any names of who made such statements. The speaker she seems to describe, is Karen Straughan. However, Straughan spoke of both women’s privileges in context with the lack of women’s suffrage, through a lot of her speech. Perhaps it went past Hesse’s sexist ears because, Straughan linked the military draft of men, to voting rights. (0.26). This from Hesse, a person who stated the conference displayed an “echo chamber of nebulous statistics.”
Hesse noted that ending the Violence Against Women Act was discussed during the Activist Panel (1.47.30). She omitted the audience members reason for wanting to get rid of the bill. He said, the basis for the law, is “full of lies.” In fact, in her presentation, Tara Palmatier noted (0.6) that the bill is about special laws for women, giving them preferential treatment and special protections.
Lastly, she did get a long quote about college rape close to exactly right. In this case, she named the presenter, Barbara Kay. Why, Kay’s words were certainly the most controversial of the conference. Hesse quoted Kay saying “the vast majority of women… are actually expressing buyer’s remorse”, involving alcohol and “murky consent on both sides.” Hesse said that, Kay then waited a “beat” for the laughter to die down. Actually, it sounded to me, that one person laughed. Kay followed with a metaphor, saying charging rape is “there get out guilt free card”, which received a little louder response (.12.40).
Kay’s are the type of words that can be career ending. I believe Kay’s is overstating things. But the biggest problem with her remarks is she is taking the wrong side of the issue. Regarding charges of rape in college, Colorado Congressmen Jared Polis observed (Reason 9/10/2015), “people who have been accused, and under a reasonable likelihood standard maybe one or two did it, it seems better to get rid of all 10 people.” I checked to see if he got reelected to Congress again. He didn’t. He is now the Governor of Colorado. Where is the outrage? In contrast, Mississippi Congressman Robert Foster’s policy of not being alone with women, led to multiple charges of sexism during his unsuccessful bid for Governor in the same election year.
In a piece about Foster, For Robert Foster Defenders Men, are Victims and #Me Too is the Real Villain. Hesse noted that researchers find that false rape charges (Hesse incorrectly used the term “sexual assault”) range “from 2% to 10%”. Not true. Checking Wikipedia site (See Wikipedia false charges of rape) it does note those percentages. However, in the same article, the site shows a number of studies. In them, the percentage of false rape charge range from 1.5% false to 90%.
Due to this article already being long, I am not going discuss the prevalence of false rape charges. However, I think two things are true. One we don’t know how often they occur and they occur significantly more often than that of the great majority of other crimes. We need more studies and more ways to obtain evidence involving rape charges.
With billions of people in the world to choose from, why should Hesse be writing a gender column? How about calling hers a women’s issues (or feminist column). Then the Washington Post can add a men’s issues column. Unlikely to happen. The end of Robert Franklin’s article listed the Post’s ombudsmen’s email for people to make complaints about Hesse’s piece. The Post no longer has an Ombudsmen and Hesse now writes a gender column. Perhaps if people protest, this time she will end up being the papers Executive Editor.
In Robert Franklin’s article Anatomy of a Hatchet Job, he said he asked about Hesse “giving a pass to the Jezebel article that frankly applauded female violence against males.” She answered, “That could be a fair point,” but that she would “have to think about that.” I would contend it is more than a fair point and by leaving this information out she was in fact legally libeling Elam.
NCFM Mr. Manners, gender journalism and distortion reality