5 Logical Fallacies That Show Up in Every Anti-Feminist Argument

If there's anything worse than an offensive opinion, it's an illogical argument to back up that offensive opinion.
Publish date:
July 17, 2016
feminism, racism, logic, debates, MRA, asexuality, arguments, MRA logic, Oppression

One of the most important tools we have as feminists is the ability to debate and analyze a situation, be it a terrorist attack, sexist dress codes, rape culture, or any form of bigotry known to mankind. If, as a feminist, you have made it your mission to educate and inform these bigots, as well as those on the fence, then it's essential that your argument is as logical and factual as possible.

I'm not here to tone-police or say that every feminist needs to teach, because screw that! We shouldn't have to go out of our way, to become triggered by painful topics, to teach an "anti-SJW" who may not even be listening anyway. But if you do choose to make your voice heard, then it's vital that you are able to recognize the logical fallacies that anti's will throw at you now and again — and what kind of fallacies to avoid in your own arguments. Even if you don't consider yourself an activist or feminist, then these fallacies are still useful to know when learning the attitudes of those around you.

I know for a fact I've used most of the fallacies on this list, both in my pre-feminism days and even somewhat recently, but it's something I've been actively trying to avoid as time goes on. Don't worry if you recognize yourself in any of these fallacies because, at the end of the day, we're still all learning, and there's a clear difference between a misinformed argument, and someone deliberately using a fallacy as a way to gaslight and shut down the oppressed, as most bigoted anti-feminists do.

So how will you recognize a logical fallacy when you see one? Well, here are a few examples.

The False Equivalence

In simple terms, a false equivalence is when two or more concepts are compared unfairly simply because they share some sort of logical comparison. For example, white people and black people represent two types of race, men and women represent two types of gender, apples and oranges are both fruit. But do apples share the same DNA as oranges? Do women and men experience the same types of oppression? Do black people experience the same level of privilege as white people? Of course not; therefore they cannot be deemed comparable on equal terms.

The false equivalence is usually where "reverse" bigotry rears its ugly head. Because people are convinced that since two types of group experience the same event (i.e. being mocked or attacked for one's race), that it means that they inherit the same consequences.

Since I'll be discussing a lot of race issues in this article, I'll use circumcision as an example here. I can't speak for all feminists, but there is a huge portion of us that are against nonconsensual penile circumcision, so it's clear that it is something we want to fight against. However, we also recognize the fact that penile circumcision is in no way comparable to clitoral/vaginal genital mutilation. So when anti's insist on bringing up that a) we don't care about penile mutilation and b) that it is just as bad as VGM, my brain begins to hurt. Though it certainly has negative emotional and sexual affects, it is not impossible post-circumcision to have sex, unlike with VGM, of which there are four types.

In 80% of VGM cases, the entire labia minora is removed, and 15% of cases involve literally sewing up the vaginal opening. Which means no penetrative sex, an extreme decrease in pleasure (since the clitoris is usually removed completely), and extreme pain considering most cases do not involve anesthetic. You simply cannot compare losing part of an organ to losing all of another, and you cannot suggest that because we acknowledge the differences that we're not trying just as hard to sign petitions and share discourse against both practices.

Though trans, agender, intersex, and gender-fluid individuals can experience both types of circumcision, when removing the clitoris and the foreskin, gender isn't usually taken into account by the mutilators or critics. And this usually transfers to the MRA debate, because it's all about the "forgotten" cis-het issues. To them, only (cis) males lose their foreskins, which is a whole other type of fallacy in itself.

Let's deal with both oppressive issues, whatever the examples may be, but let's not pretend that they're of the same impact, or use it as an attack when trying to win the Oppression Olympics. This is just the tip of the false-equivalence iceberg, and usually they're not brought up in order to fix either problem, but simply to discredit a legitimate argument that just didn't bring up their preferred issue.


Geek Feminism defines derailment as "when discussion of one issue is diverted into discussion of another issue, often by the group who were being called out about their bad behaviour in the first place," which usually entails an anti-SJW, or a white-centric-feminist joining the discussion in order to downplay intersectional issues with their own personal, problematic, and/or irrelevant agenda.

A popular derailment is on the issue of male sexual assault and male eating disorders. Awareness of these issues are pretty dire, due to the hold toxic masculinity has on society. Yet MRAs, for example, fail to see this, and the blame often lies on feminism.

Feminism101 has a useful take on the idea of derailment, and the comments on the article prove the writers point exactly. Even when the message is supposed to be cutesy and positive, people just cannot help themselves.

The idea that you, as an individual, are not represented in an article, a social-media post, or a piece of art, is too much to bear for some people. I mean, it makes sense if you're constantly underrepresented, such as people of color on TV, trans characters/actors in film, women in metal music etc, but if you're already well-represented (i.e. white cis-het men) you aren't entitled to squeeze yourself in somewhere that serves as a safe space or awareness area for oppressed groups.

In the case of this asexual post, while it is a fact that asexual lives are constantly ignored in media, this fact only goes to show how much more ignored male asexuals of color are, considering how racist our society is in the first place. The original post in no way suggested that non-black asexuals were any less deserving of awareness, but this is the type of thing people love to read too deeply into. It reeks of entitlement, because heck, you wouldn't demand a birthday gift at someone else's birthday party would you? I would hope not, so don't demand representation in someone else's post.

The Straw Man

Similarly to the false-equivalence and derailment fallacies, the straw-man argument poses a rebuttal that actually has little to do with the debate at hand in the first place. It is the purposeful misrepresentation of an argument in order to not only steer off topic but also strike the original argument down. Basically, if you find yourself saying "But I didn't imply that we had to [...]" then chances are that someone hit you with a straw man.

The straw man is usually thrown into a discussion as a panic move by your debate partner, perhaps because they have run out of facts to back up the specific issue, but it's also quite an easy trap to fall into if two or more situations are vaguely and only slightly comparable, which can throw you into false-equivalence territory. A straw man is usually given mid-argument, but it can also be the base of an initial theory or attack. For example:

Though this post itself is not a straw-man, the starred section points out a popular straw-man used against asexual people on a regular basis; that their mere existence is just a way to shame others for having sex or experiencing hypersexuality. One has literally nothing to do with the other, yet acephobes still use it as an excuse to shame those on the asexual spectrum. The only perceivable way an asexual individual could shame those who have sex is if they outright said "You are shameful for having sex, unlike me."

Another part of the straw-man argument involves irrelevant sources that have nothing to do with the consequences they are arguing against, which brings us to...

Misleading Sources/Statistics

If there's one thing that a good and credible argument needs, then it's a good set of sources and relevant statistics to back it up. And I'm sure many of you, like myself, have seen their fair share of anti-SJW comments that are not well-sourced in the slightest. I don't claim that all anti-SJW comments are like this, nor do I give a specific percentage of how many of them are, but the examples are still everywhere. Where are the figures? The studies? The news stories that show the consequences of what they're arguing against? Where are the real facts that go past assumption and general irritation?

It's not just that people refuse to find sources, but that when they finally do, those sources are sometimes incredibly unreliable. The Daily Mail is often used as an MRA and anti-immigration source, and let me tell you as a British journalist, TDM is one of the most unreliable sources you could cite. The Sun, Mirror, and Daily Star are also commonly cited, so much so that it almost seems that anti's deliberately seek out trashy tabloids because — surprise, surprise — the statistics they want to see don't actually exist in reliable academic publications.

False rape statistics, the "gender bias" in Family Court, the "fact" that men have "zero reproductive rights," the list goes on. And although a couple of them are actually true — such as the problem with homelessness in U.S men — the world acts as if this is not something feminists are fighting for anyway.

Are they homeless because they are men? Or were they were kicked out of their house because they were gay? Not given work because they're not white? Is it because they were refused treatment for addiction? Where they born into poverty in the first place? Made financially broke with medical bills? We have to stop and consider why these men, a gender not globally oppressed, are actually homeless. This is where the more specific statistical evidence should come in.

But I digress, again. If you really care about social justice then it needs to be treated like a science, with hard numbers and real facts; our hypotheses and opinions need to come after we find the facts, not before. This is why anti-social justice movements are so ridiculous; they're literally founded on feeling offended and left out, and they try desperately to justify that offense one scandal-rag at a time. I'm not saying that every theory put forward by every feminist is credible, but there's no way around the statistics of oppression. We simply cannot warp the truth to fit our opinions, justice doesn't work that way.

The Opposite Game

Of all the problematic arguments that anti-fems spout, this is probably the most childish and bizarre, one that also usually includes every other logical fallacy on this list.

The Opposite Game, name coined by bitterbitchclubpresident on Tumblr, is a phenomenon where an anti-SJW will repeat an entire social justice quote word for word, but switch vital variables around to show how "wrong" and "hypocritical" the feminist is. Let's get a fresh example here.OK, maybe not the most academic of posts, but there's a clear difference between mocking the systematic murder of black people, and mocking the cooking skills of white people. Here you can see the false equivalence, and blatant use of racism masquerading as a "what if?" or a form of devil's advocate. Where are they getting the "for fun"? Why aren't they linking to a source for the second response? Why do they just "think" it? Because it's all nonsense maybe?

Also, "What if this were the other way around?" has a simple answer, "But it's not."

So why bother asking?

They literally copy the tone and wording of the original post like a child doing a high-pitched impersonation of their parents when they're being nagged. All it's missing is this facial expression and some blah blah bleeghh noises.

Sometimes it's done as a misguided form of inclusiveness when a certain privileged group feels left out, which, in turn, is a form of derailment. There's a reason why this is called the Opposite Game: because it feels like a game a bratty child would play on the school yard. We act like the pouting kid at someone else's birthday party, we stamp our feet and demand we deserve a gift, too, even though it's not our birthday. Or in the case of the horrendous murders that have been happening lately, it's not our funeral.

I would just like to add that many of the opinion-based sources here have come from Tumblr, not only because they are especially prevalent on the site, but also because I do not want to give anti-SJW websites traffic as a reward for their bigotry.