Why Courageous Jack Kilbride Is Not The Answer




The New Matilda published an article today titled “Why Courageous Clementine Ford Is Not The Answer”, presumably Jack Kilbride is The Answer? What is the question, anyway?

The article was… not good. I have no doubt his heart was in the right place, but I doubt whether the point of it was worth publishing. I think if Kilbride wants to call himself a feminist ally that there are plenty of us here who will help him, and welcome him, but that it is important for him to know how he can go about feminist action in the best way he can. This article is not the way Kilbride can engage best practice, and I feel the urge to explain why. It’s not saying anything new, in fact, many of my friends actually thought it was satire, that’s how tired we are of tone policing and ‘mansplaining’ articles. At first, I thought the article had no point, until I came to the daunting realisation that the point is very clear: women need to calm down, lest they set back the feminist movement.

Oy vey.

Kilbride starts off his ill-advised Let Me Tell You What You’re Doing Wrong rant without a shred of self-awareness (or historical knowledge, or feminist theory, or…) saying “There are many ways to skin a cat, and just as many ways to re-educate a misogynist”, followed up with, “I am a man and I am a feminist.” In just 30 words, Kilbride has promised us the Answers to The Pesky Patriarchy Problem.

Only problem is, his answer is to further reinforce patriarchal practises. Ugh, and I was so excited, too. It felt like his Feminist Laserbeam was focused and charged up and ready to go, but fired off in the wrong direction, to the disappointment of many NM readers. Perhaps even a firework that’s fallen over. Kilbride’s enthusiasm in trying to help is cool, we guess. But the problem is in doing it without any acknowledgement of the fact that his worldview completely shapes his entire comprehension of what is actually going on, in regards to being a woman online.

Kilbride posits that “The problem with writers like Clementine Ford is although their sentiment is justified, their vitriolic writing style means that people will always get offended.” Which by virtue, is suggesting that politeness and civility are the only ways to get things done. We know by looking throughout history that every revolution was started by someone using their manners and asking very politely, right?

The problem with writers like Kilbride is they don’t acknowledge how their worldview and background shapes their ability to think critically about an issue unless they actively try and fight against that programming. What have you done for us lately, Jack? For Kilbride to show he’s actively fighting against this would be for him to get half way through this article and really ask himself why it bothers him when women get mouthy. Is it because I worry they will get mouthy at me one day? Is it because I’m told to think women should be more submissive? Is it because I, as a man, feel the need to control this debate in tone and content? The lack of self-awareness in the article is supremely disappointing to the point of wondering how it got past (presumably) two people (author and editor) without anyone bothering to ask what the point of the article was, or whether he was the most suitable person to be writing it.

I have no doubt in my mind that Kilbride thinks he’s doing good works here. I have no doubt his heart is in the right place and he’s trying to help in the best way he knows how. The problem is he hasn’t had his epiphany yet about men’s place in feminist discourse. Maybe it’s coming now, in the wake of his piece? You do not tell women how to feminist, and that is exactly what this article is attempting to do.

The point it makes is to tell ladies to pipe down.

This point is no good.

It’s too similar to what the misogynists Kilbride claims to condemn are saying, and too similar to what feminists have been hearing for centuries. This is not new. The reaction Jack Kilbride is getting from feminists is such because this is shit we’ve heard before, and shit we’re sick of.

There is no safety in this State as long as these shrieking women are running about… old frumps… gawks… tabby cats… trash”A member of Victorian Parliament describing suffragists in 1906. 

Men have used (ridicule and) tone policing to obfuscate, detract, and override women in this country for a long, long time.

“Mr Staughton” was quoted in 1896 in “The Australian Women’s Sphere” as saying The class of women who are now howling about women’s suffrage would be at every little dirty corner, arguing and quarrelling and fighting. It is their nature”

To exclude women from the right to get angry (and anger is absolutely a proportionate response to being told someone is going to come after you and kill you) is to try and control them, and it’s as old as water. “The mission of feminism is to make these men change and starting fights with them is only making that mission harder,” Kilbride says. Starting fights? Perhaps a handy timeline of events would benefit: Say someone threatens a crime against a woman via twitter, and she reacts with a snarky tweet. Who started it again? Anger is a perfectly reasonable response, and if patriarchy doesn’t make you mad then you haven’t read enough yet.

What Kilbride has done in his quest to help us out, is fail to listen to us, engage with us with self-awareness, or learn from what women are doing or going through. He has forgotten to step outside of Jack and into the role of woman, to try and have a look at our worldview as best he can.

If Kilbride stood in our shoes before writing this he’d realise that he is in a position where opposition to his words may seem confronting today as he wakes to see the reaction to his article, but that he is in the privileged position where people are critiquing his ideas, not his genitals, sexual past, or appearance. How fucking luxurious.

Before Kilbride gets defensive about the feminist reaction to this piece, it would behoove him to realise how lucky he is that people are engaging with his ideas instead of threatening him with rape and murder. Precisely because no one is going to threaten Kilbride with rape, he can write this. He can suggest people “be nice” because he’s never been told by someone that they’re “too ugly to rape” for writing an innocent tweet about a videogame. It’s easy to tell people to calm down if you’ve never been on the receiving end of a tirade that would make the most zen of Buddhists want to clean a guy’s dial.

If you have not been through what Clementine Ford (and many other prominent feminists and women online) have been through, which is *years* of vitriolic abuse, and specific criminal threats, you have little right to tell them how to conduct themselves during it.

Kilbride wraps up his article with a vague seemingly-meaningful call to action. “If we want to actually change our world we need to stop trying to knock down the wall and instead, start helping people climb over.” The wall is patriarchy, right? Why wouldn’t we want to smash it down? Fuck the wall! Fuck the ways in which certain people would be chosen to be helped to climb over it over others, and presumably by dudes. May I (politely, of course) invite you to grab a sledge hammer and help us with the wall instead of telling Clem Ford how to react to things? It may be a better use of your allied energies. It may even be The Answer.

37 thoughts on “Why Courageous Jack Kilbride Is Not The Answer

  1. Thank you for such an articulate and well-reasoned response. I was a little confused by the social media storm around this article but you have very clearly explained why this article and what it says are not on, and I appreciate that.

    • That’s “men” to you, thanks Victoria. I get this because I learnt it from my mother in the 1950’s. My sister, her son and grandsons, my son and grandsons all get this because it’s built into our family values.
      Thanks, mum.

  2. Amen sister!
    I’m liking this line a lot: “if patriarchy doesn’t make you mad then you haven’t read enough yet.”
    Thanks for writing.

  3. This article is so well-written and such a perfect response the Kilbride article (and yes I read that too) that I actually cheered aloud and it’s very late at night here right now. So thank you, thank you, thank you. I could not be more impressed and in awe with just a soupcon of jealousy that I didn’t write it myself. Well done!

  4. “We must follow the MANDELAS of Feminism.” While Ford made some good points, I think she dropped the ball a few times: Ford says no revolution started in a polite way – but that’s Kilbride’s point. The Feminist revolution started decades ago, and while it still has a long way to go, we have passed the point where a full throttle approach is the best option to push the cause. The issue has evolved over decades and winning over the remaining hold-outs requires an approach that is not so polarising. (it WAS the right approach during the first century of the struggle but as with any great rights movement that progresses, tact needs to change or else the cause suddenly starts going BACKWARDS). Ford keeps saying there is “no point” to Kilbride’s article, but that is one of the points, a huge point trying to mull over the best way to progress with the cause… More and more women and men during the past decades have got onboard, but now this critical time in the movement is seeing more and more people getting off – we need to reverse that trend not intensify it. THIS IS NOT trying to tell a feminist how to be a feminist (As Ford says) but general advice on a rights movement, on the politics of social change, on people dealing with people…
    Ford does her fair share of twisting the words of the person giving the opposing argument.

    SECONDLY, how dare Ford presume Kilbride has not been in the shoes of the woman who gets slammed with rude comments about her genitals rather than arguments that address her ideas. Hello! While some men may have never experienced this – many have including me! We HAVE placed ourselves in women’s shoes and remember the times in our lives when others have made comments about our genitals when this has nothing to do with it. It happens to women much more, but can’t you see this also happens to some men? It’s happened to me many times. So I feel just like women do when Ford says ti me that I can’t know what this feels like. Is she doing this to help me understand what it feels like to be mansplained to? Ford, some horrible men treat other men as bad as they do women, also threatening other men with rape, calling them too ugly to rape etc. Time you realised that and stop denying it. I have people in my family who have been abused for years horrifically due to their skin colour, religion and sexual orientation – and I have also felt some of this vitriol. So why can I not use my insights from this to make a point in THIS debate? Because I still have a penis I can’t put myself in a victim woman’s shoes and STILL make a point against Ford??? That’s exactly the approach hurting Feminism.

    Look at the approach taken by NELSON MANDELA??? I follow the Mandelas of Feminism – peace

    • I disagree with you on many points you’ve raised, Michael. Most notably that I am Leena van Deventer, not Clementine Ford. That’s probably the biggest one.

    • Well said, Michael. You didn’t rant, as Leena (?) did, you didn’t feel it necessary to use the f word, and you didn’t use gobbledegook. And the sheer presumption of Ford, as you say. And such hostility and anger in the responses! Such militancy – ugly and angry, no wonder they have to reinvent themselves. (I can feel the hate mail coming my way already!) You are far more articulate, your response far better written. Leonard Cohen’s response (and I’m no fan) was accurate – the men in my family, like his, showed far more real respect for women, back in the 50s, than the young (and middle aged) men of today who profess to support feminism. I am grateful for the rare and occasional glimpses of respect shown to me by men who stand up and offer me (or a pregnant woman, or a disabled person) a seat on a bus, or help me in any way instead of ignoring me because ‘we are all equal’. Feminists have a lot to answer for. Politeness may be out of fashion now, but perhaps that’s because it suits the angry me-generation of today. They’ll all be old one day, if they’re lucky.

      • Thanks for your supportive reply Penelope. It’s a difficult issue to discuss sometimes and hard to generalise as the way people (men and women) treat each other around the world is almost as diverse as life itself

  5. I am so tired of being mansplained on this. Michael, thanks for reinforcing Leena’s point. Understandably, you do feel stupid. Frustratingly, not for the right reasons. The condescension of telling women how you understand what it is to be female and victimised for it because you’ve been victimised for other things, the sheer, towering arrogance of you. That’s like me saying I can empathise with being racially discriminated against. Whilst I can empathise, it is utterly condescending of me to preach instead of listen, assuming that a token amount of empathy puts me in a category that’s just exactly the same thing. I will never understand what it is to be discriminated against for my colour, not ever, not properly. And I would never presume to tell a black person that since I’ve had experiences of being victimised that I know what they know. Do you genuinely not understand this? I am honestly perplexed. In fact, it’s a gross lack of empathy that makes you think you can, even for a second. I’ll tell you something you don’t seem to know, Michael, I have looked into the whites of the eyes of misogyny and being nice won’t cut it. They know what they are supposed to think, they just choose not to. They know where the line is and they choose to ignore it. Being nice plays onto their hands. Because if we play by the rules they don’t have to. Are you genuinely suggesting that if we are just nice enough, men who threaten to rape women and kill them for airing a political view will suddenly change their minds? You, sir, are an idiot, if that is your belief. One thing will convince them…zero tolerance everywhere for their beliefs. Not “he’s a great guy but…”. Great guys don’t threaten women for their views. End of. If you want to understand more…by all means remember that you have two wars and one mouth. And no vagina.

  6. I wrote this on the new matilda article so I’ll just paste it here as well.

    I’d like to offer my own critique of Clementine Ford’s brand of 3rd wave feminism. It seems to have an illiberal strain which is problematic given the complexities we face in the modern world. Recently, Maryam Namazie has been sabotaged by this illiberal strain of feminism in the UK, whereupon her outspoken stance on Islamism has brought her under fire because she is viewed is an Islamophobe. Because she speaks out against radical Muslims, she is seen as someone who doesn’t quite understand intersectionality. Similarly, the writer of this opinion piece is viewed as a member of the Patriarchy and therefore disqualified from merely voicing his thoughts. This is problematic. As a PHD student I am writing my thesis on the divergence between liberal feminism and identity politics, which happened early in the 2nd wave feminist movement. Plainly put, its the difference between Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem. Rather than focus our binoculars on the many “sites” of oppression within the context of kyriarchy, we need to interrogate how we sabotage and “other” those who do not espouse views we agree with because they are not the same gender or race. In short, we need to reclaim “liberalism” and center it within the context of modern feminism. In the age of postmodern deconstructionism, it is difficult constructing an identity let alone reconstructing one. We need to understand that this is the paramount problem. It is one thing to diagree with an opinion piece. It is quite another to disagree because of the writer’s identity. This is the crux of the problem and one that 3rd wave feminism will ultimately have to confront, whether we like it or not.

    • I didn’t realize ‘naive’ was an identity. No one is calling Kilbride out because he’s a guy, end of story. People called out his article because it’s naive and ignorant, and because he suggests that the ‘goal’ of feminism is to appease misogynistic assholes so they’ll be less misogynistic, rather than to advocate for gender equality. He got bollocked because his article was naive pap, not because he is a man. The foundation of your argument is flawed from the get-go.

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