Knowland Doesn’t Know, Part One

Back in December last year, Eton College, one of the UK’s most prestigious public (ie fee-charging) schools, was in the news over the suspension and sacking of English teacher Will Knowland, over his video ‘The Patriarchy Paradox’.

Journalist Kate Maltby reported that she had seen the arguments and imagery used by Knowland on ‘Men’s Rights Activist’ (MRA) websites, and female commentators on the left and right variously described Knowland and his video as: ‘foolish’, ‘lacking in analysis’, ‘factually dubious’; ‘weird’, ‘twisted’, ‘near-unendurable’, ‘crude’; ‘gratingly confident and condescending’ ‘rambling’, and ‘the purest, filthiest stream of untreated misogyny I’ve heard since Donald Trump’.

Predictably, the right-wing press reported majority ‘silent support’ for Knowland, while the left-wing press reported majority ‘silent support’ for his sacking.

Some ‘Old Etonians’ threatened to withhold their donations to the school if Knowland was not reinstated, while others wrote an open letter to the Times in support of his sacking, describing the video as “intellectually feeble and misogynistic, not a critically balanced argument. It is riddled with fallacies, myths and gender mischaracterisations […] Mr Knowland’s unsubstantiated arguments do not amount to a brave exercise in free speech, they represent his failure as an educator.”

Amusingly, professor Steven Pinker withdrew his full support for Knowland, after actually watching the video, describing it as going “well beyond citing science and instead was a polemical and tendentious defence of masculine virtues.”

It is impossible to understate the warping effect the public-school system, and Eton in particular, has had, and is still having, on British political and public life (the situation in the US is similar). It is also impossible to understate the warping effect these schools have had on the boys who passed through them (see here, here, here, here, here, here, and here).

If you think this is all ‘historical’, a different Eton teacher was found guilty, in November last year, of sexually assaulting boys, and recently, there have been revelations about rape culture among pupils in numerous UK public schools (see here, here, and here).

Rachel Knowland, Knowland’s wife, started dating Knowland at 14, and had the first of five children with him at 19, during her second year at university (it is not clear, in her interview with the Daily Mail, whether or not she finished university).

Rachel Knowland claims that ‘woke’ people should be supporting Knowland, because she is black (Knowland is white), and because one of their children has autism.

If that seems arrogant and entitled, it is nothing compared to Knowland himself, who was reported in December to be seeking to secure a Personal Act of Parliament to reinstate him to his post – that’s right, in the final month of Brexit negotiations, and during the ongoing Covid crisis, Knowland wanted politicians to directly intervein to get him his job back.

With exquisitely bad timing, a day after the January Capitol Hill violence in the US, the Times reported Knowland’s own Trumpian claim that there had been a conspiracy to oust him, and that his disciplinary panel had been fixed.

In another interview in the Times in February, Knowland did a reverse ferret, and claimed that the video did not reflect his personal views.

Knowland also doubled-down on the conspiracy theories, claiming that rumours about the reason for his dismissal were not denied by Eton quickly enough, a claim Eton denies (the first time I heard of these particular rumours was in that interview, so the person spreading them to the wider world appears to be Knowland himself).

(The Times a few days later, managed to scrape yet another article out of the fact that Eton fulfilled its statutory obligations by reporting Knowland’s dismissal to the Teaching Regulation Agency.)

The claim that Knowland doesn’t even believe the arguments he made in the video rings entirely false, just from having watched the video; unless Knowland comes out and admits that the whole thing is a Borat style hoax, I am not going to believe that claim.

No one forfeits their job over ‘free speech’ in the abstract, only over ideas they are passionate about. The video is Knowland’s own personal polemic, if Knowland’s aim was merely to communicate a set of ‘alternative’ ideas on the subject, along the lines of ‘these are some controversial opinions some people have’ it would be an entirely different video.

The claim also does not make sense when Knowland is still saying, in the same interview, that he wanted to challenge the idea that masculinity is ‘toxic’ (but the version of masculinity he serves up in the video is still a ‘toxic’ one).

Knowland, like Laurence Fox, is a right-wing snowflake, a mediocre thinker (at best) who has been elevated to the limelight by a right-wing grievance culture that needs its ‘heroes’ and has such a dearth of applicants.

There is plenty of reasonable, pluralistic, middle ground between ‘woke’ and ‘anti woke’; careers have been made exposing the ‘grievance culture’ of the ‘woke’ left, this is a right-wing ‘grievance culture’, this is the right’s ‘alternative way of knowing’.

I am not an employment lawyer, whether this is a free speech issue, or an insubordination at work issue, is beyond the scope of this blog post, but ‘free speech’ does not give teachers the right to indoctrinate their students, otherwise teachers would be allowed to teach as fact flat earth theory, Holocaust denial, scientific racism, anti-vaccine conspiracy theories, anything they wanted.

The UK government has already said that schools should not be teaching the extremes of gender ideology (ie ‘born in the wrong body’ rhetoric), or anti-capitalist ideology, so why should male supremacist ideology be allowed either?

Knowland, in the video, sets himself up as the holder of special, esoteric truth. His Youtube channel is called ‘Knowland Knows’, not ‘Knowland Investigates’, or ‘Knowland Enquires’, but ‘Knowland Knows’. He isn’t blatant enough to use the Matrix ‘Red Pill’ meme in the video, but he may as well have, the implication of his rhetorical style is clear: he knows the truth, and anyone who disagrees with him is a complacent sheep who can’t think for themselves.

Knowland sets up a model of ‘benevolent patriarchy’, with men as women’s ‘protectors’; the only problem then is that he cannot articulate what men are actually ‘protecting’ us from (ie, other men). Men’s physical and sexual violence is handwaved away, ignored, or blamed on women. Knowland seems to believe that men are mostly protecting women from lions.

Knowland shows a real contempt for women throughout the video, not just dismissing the violence done to women by men, but dismissing all the achievements women have made for themselves, against the odds.

Knowland’s claims that women are protected by, and benefit from, patriarchy across time and across cultures, results in some wild cherry-picking, and even wilder omissions; women were, according to Knowland, better off than men, even under slavery in ancient Egypt, but there is no mention of present-day violence against women in the Middle East. Knowland claims that male violence is inevitable, but also that, somehow, this violence is hardly ever directed towards women and children, resulting in the bizarre premise that men are constantly on the cusp of violence but somehow there is little or no violence against women and children.

Much fuss has been made in Knowland’s defence of the fact that the video was to be shown as part of a ‘perspectives’ course for sixth formers (16-18-year-olds) at Eton, and would be followed by a debate. The problem here is that debates are not about finding the truth (that would be a dialogue/dialectic), they are about ‘winning’.

Debaters use all kinds of rhetorical tricks, including ‘Gish Galloping’ (bombarding their opponent with so many claims that it is impossible to reply to them all within the time given) in order to ‘win’. You can compare any debate in the House of Commons, with a parliamentary enquiry, which can take years, to see the difference between a debate and a genuine exercise in truth-seeking.

Would those students have been asked to systematically fact-check all the claims Knowland made and report back, or would they have been asked to decide which argument they liked the best and then defend it? Is the point of the ‘perspectives’ class to hone their critical thinking skills, or to hone their debating skills?

It took me many hours, on and off, to write these blog posts, plus time in between thinking about it; how much time would the Eton students have been expected to put in?

Conspiracy theories flatter the ego, they allow people to feel as if they are on the ‘inside’, as if they broke free from conventional thinking, as if they are intellectual ‘rebels’ – there is a link between narcissism and a belief in conspiracy theories.

The vast majority of boys at Eton will be white and/or upper class and/or from a rich family, they can now paint themselves as part of a persecuted minority, because Knowland wasn’t allowed to show them his crappy video.

An online petition claiming to be written by current pupils at Eton states: “Mr Knowland presented the ideas in his video with as much academic nuance and sensitivity as could ever be reasonably expected. He makes at least 41 academic citations. His video is arguably a model for how to convey a contentious argument impeccably.”

If that really was written by current Eton pupils, the £42,500 a year fees paid by their parents have been waisted! Teenagers, even the smartest or most well-educated ones, do not have enough life experience to know when they are being taken for a ride; any future ‘Old Etonians’ willing to admit that they supported Knowland deserve to be laughed out of whatever room they happen to be in at the time.

Supporting Knowland gives these incredibly privileged, sheltered boys the chance to feel like ‘rebels’ without taking any real risks, intellectual or otherwise; they can stick it to ‘the man’ (their head teacher) while still being completely conformist (conservative, right-wing, reactionary).

The number of academic citations in the video is irrelevant if they are all cherry-picked, their meaning distorted, or have more recently been superseded or debunked. The video is full of wild conjecture presented as absolute fact, presented in the most partisan way imaginable. Knowland is sermonising, not discussing or debating, his thumb is firmly on the scales throughout.

There are two broad strands of MRA ‘thought’, which I shall call ‘benevolent patriarchy’ and ‘victim masculinism’ (I will include the ‘incel’ – involuntary celibate – movement within the ‘victim’ strand), both overlap in their obsession with the near-mythical ‘alpha male’, and in their hatred and resentment of women (which is more overt on the ‘victim masculinist’ side). This ideology has real-world consequences, with 44 deaths related to incels recorded since 2014.

Patriarchy is a hierarchy, men over women and men over each other. It is also a gamble, and not all men can win at it. What all these men want, instead of meaningful change, is to receive all the rewards of traditional patriarchy, without any of the hard work or risk (‘benevolent patriarchs’ may talk about risks, but they rarely take any themselves).

Under most normal circumstances, men are cowards, they never pick a fair fight, they hunt in packs, they only pick on people who are smaller than they are, and the ‘no hitting girls’ rule has never been true in real life.

MRA’s cherry-pick, distort, and lie to ‘prove’ that men are oppressed as men. MRA’s rely on flawed methodology and misinterpretation to ‘prove’ that women commit more intimate partner violence against men than men commit against women; there is a whole tumblr blog dedicated to distorting academic resources, and another post circulating on tumblr where the author had to go back to 1908 to compile a list ‘proving’ women commit as much violence against men as men commit against women.

It is difficult to communicate just how bizarre Knowland’s video is, not just the arguments and the rhetoric, but Knowland’s presentation style as well. It is also difficult to believe, having watched the video, that Knowland is a charismatic or popular teacher, his presentation style veers between monotonous and on the verge of shouting; when he gets worked up, you can hear the bile in his voice, he is almost spitting and snarling at some points.

The video is so biased, so arrogant, so pompous, so badly conceived and shoddily executed, that it is an embarrassment. It has no educational value, except in pulling it apart to examine all the rhetorical techniques and sophistry it employs.

It is incoherent from the very beginning, when Knowland states that: “Patriarchy is a theory that says the differences between the sexes, and their social roles, are not the result of biology, instead, they are socially constructed and they have resulted in the pervasiveness of male domination in women’s lives.”

‘Patriarchy’ simply means ‘rule of the father’, and its existence is not theoretical. It is incoherent for Knowland to describe ‘patriarchy’ as ‘a theory’, when he spends the rest of the video defending patriarchy as beneficial for women, and says that patriarchy is ‘worldwide and history-wide’. Feminist theory identifies women’s oppression as rooted in patriarchal control, and questions whether sex-role stereotypes are biologically innate, or socially constructed. Knowland can’t even communicate his own ideas clearly.

At 01:20, Knowland claims that “greater gender equality in a society leads to greater gravitation towards traditional gender norms.”

The accompanying link in the notes on the Youtube page is broken, but Knowland appears to be referring to this study, which has been thoroughly critiqued by Caroline Criado Perez:

Researchers found that in countries with more women in parliament and the workforce, and more sex equality in levels of education, women score higher on all factors (neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness) of the most used personality measure, the ‘five factor model’. This, they speculate, means that ‘as gender equality increases both men and women gravitate towards their traditional gender roles’.

[…]

First up, the study authors’ assumption that native English speakers will interpret questions in the same way as those who speak English as a second language. When neuroscientist Sophie Scott was conducting a separate study on attitudes to laughter, she encountered serious difficulties translating a question about someone laughing ‘nastily’ from English into Chinese. ‘Some definitions of it might sound like it’s a more sexual connotation, which wasn’t what we meant at all,’ she said.

Another question that caused cross-cultural complications was agreeing/disagreeing with the statement, ‘I often laughed uncontrollably’. For English participants this just cohered with people who thought they did/didn’t laugh a lot. But for Chinese participants it stood out on its own.

It turned out that in China it’s not a good thing to laugh uncontrollably. ‘So what had seemed to us like, ‘well here’s yet another question asking whether or not people laugh a lot’, actually meant something different in that culture,’ Scott said.

When I asked Erik Mac Giolla, the lead author of the new, University of Gothenburg study, how they had accounted for cultural differences in the interpretation of personality traits, he replied, ‘We didn’t’.

Then there’s the major assumption that the number of female MPs in parliament has anything to do with the level of gender stereotyping that exists in a country. The study’s central contention is that it is somehow inexplicable that men and women might espouse more stereotypically gendered behaviours. But is it?

For a start, the study makes no accommodation of how gender stereotypes differ from country to country. But more than this, the central finding is in actual fact not that surprising at all.

When in 2014 the UN’s special rapporteur on sexual violence visited the UK, she said that there was ‘a more visible presence of sexist portrayals of women and girls’, and a ‘marketisation of women’s and girls’ bodies’ that was more ‘in-your-face’ than in other countries she’d visited. And yet our parliament is 33% female!

There have also been studies showing that the more women in an institution (for example, the US Democratic Party), the more aggressive the men in that institution become against women, rather suggesting that as women gain in formal power, informal gender stereotyping rises to put them back in their place.

But even if the test didn’t have these issues, it couldn’t show what it claims, namely that women being more neurotic, extroverted, open, agreeable and conscientious is somehow linked to a predisposition for ‘caretaking of offspring and the elderly’, or conversely that men scoring lower on all these traits is ‘associated with protecting family and building homesteads’. What has increased neuroticism to do with an innate desire to wipe bums? And how would being less extroverted or agreeable be helpful to men who want to go out to work to provide for the family?

I put it to you, dear reader, that it wouldn’t. In fact, I suspect that no matter what sex differences the study found, it would have claimed they proved gender stereotypes were innate. As Scott says, ‘you almost could not be more trite.’

The truth is, this study that has been widely reported as ‘proving’ gender stereotypes are merely objective reflections of innate sex differences, does nothing of the sort. It is riddled with unproven assumptions, and feminism, I’m afraid, gets to live another day. So perhaps, in order to prevent a ‘final discrediting’ of science reporting, journalists could stop being so credulous and start engaging critically with university press releases – rather than simply regurgitating them?

No one study definitively ‘proves’ anything, and no legitimate academic would claim otherwise.

There is a massive reproducibility crisis in science, particularly in psychological studies of the sort described above, first reported in 2015:

The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness. As one participant put it, “poor methods get results”. The Academy of Medical Sciences, Medical Research Council, and Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council have now put their reputational weight behind an investigation into these questionable research practices. The apparent endemicity of bad research behaviour is alarming. In their quest for telling a compelling story, scientists too often sculpt data to fit their preferred theory of the world. Or they retrofit hypotheses to fit their data. Journal editors deserve their fair share of criticism too. We aid and abet the worst behaviours. Our acquiescence to the impact factor fuels an unhealthy competition to win a place in a select few journals. Our love of “significance” pollutes the literature with many a statistical fairy-tale. We reject important confirmations. Journals are not the only miscreants. Universities are in a perpetual struggle for money and talent, endpoints that foster reductive metrics, such as high-impact publication. National assessment procedures, such as the Research Excellence Framework, incentivise bad practices. And individual scientists, including their most senior leaders, do little to alter a research culture that occasionally veers close to misconduct.

The crisis is still ongoing; this needs to be taken into account whenever psychological studies are used to support claims about fundamental human nature.

At 02:20 Knowland says “Much of what follows might bruise the feelings of some people, so here from the philosopher Steven Hicks, is a reminder of the elements of the traditional arguments for freedom of speech.”

Knowland screen cap 01

Knowland isn’t just setting out an argument for the right to free speech here; he is setting himself up as being on the side of reason and truth. The implication is, he has exercised reason and free thought, and he has come to the truth, and if you are clever and free thinking, like him, you will come to the same truth (and, therefore, anyone who disagrees with him is not clever, and not capable of reason and free thought).

If Knowland were merely aiming to present a set of ‘alternative opinions’ with this video, why pepper it with statements like this? Surely Eton’s sixth formers would already know what free speech/thought/enquiry was about, before watching this video? It can only be for rhetorical purposes, to set Knowland up as a ‘speaker of truth’, to actually discourage any questioning of his ‘authority’. If Knowland’s arguments stood on their own merit, he would not need to employ such tricks; the video is propaganda.

At 02:40 Knowland sets out his definition of patriarchy, from David Gilmore: Provide, Protect, Procreate.

Here we have the first problem, what are men protecting us from? The obvious answer is other men, but Knowland can’t admit that, and there is a distinct avoidance of talking about male violence against women and children throughout the video.

At 03:20 he brings up lion prides, saying “although lionesses do 90% of the providing, the males are responsible for protecting the pride, they only help kill the largest most dangerous prey that would otherwise cost the lives of too many lionesses.”

There is no source given for where this claim comes from. Lions are not protecting the lionesses from other species of animal, they are protecting them from other lions:

The whole scene looked like a “takeover,” a brief, devastating clash in which a coalition of males tries to seize control of a pride. Resident males may be mortally wounded in the fighting. If the invaders are victorious, they kill all the young cubs to bring the pride’s females into heat again. Females sometimes die fighting to defend their cubs.

Males killing babies, and their mothers trying to protect them, doesn’t exactly fit in with Knowland’s model of ‘benign patriarchy’.

Then there is a long section on warfare, where Knowland references the Norse god Thor protecting Asgard – Knowland is referencing mythology in order to avoid talking about what warfare is actually about.

The earliest warfare was over resources: land, cattle, grain, women, slaves (see Against the Grain, James C. Scott, Yale University Press, 2017), and warfare has never stopped being about capturing resources. Ideology was added with the crusades in the middle ages, but it was still, ultimately, about controlling territory and resources, and that has been the case from then until the present day. Women were only ‘protected’ the way land was ‘protected’, as property, a resource.

Knowland also claims that women have played very little part in warfare (04:00), and, later, that Amazons are a myth (07:30).

Male historians/classicists/archaeologists in the 19th and 20th centuries decided that female warriors ‘must’ be mythical, and dismissed any evidence to the contrary. Before modern forensic science the sex of a skeleton was determined by the grave goods, and any skeleton found with weapons was assumed to be male, and therefore no women’s remains were found buried with weapons.

Modern analysis and reanalysis has found plenty of evidence for the existence of Amazons (see, The Amazons, Adrienne Mayor, Princeton University Press, 2016; also: A Brief History of the Amazons, Lyn Webster Wilde, 2016; Amazons: The Real Warrior Women, John Man, 2018). DNA analysis of skeletal remains has also proven the existence of female Viking warriors.

Later in the video (27:45), Knowland states that there has never been a ‘true matriarchy’, which is correct, there has never been a society where women treat men as badly as men treat women under patriarchy, where men are chattel to be bought and sold. There are, however, matrilineal and matricentric societies (I wrote about one here).

During World War II women fought in the resistance in occupied countries, and women flew combat missions in the Russian Air Force and were snipers in the Russian army; later in the 20th century, women were also guerrilla fighters in Asia and Latin America.

At 04:35 Knowland offers a cherry-picked example of one individual man’s heroic behaviour during the Vietnam War, which is fine, as long as one concentrates on the individual ‘heroism’, in isolation, and doesn’t ask why he was there in the first place, fighting a proxy war with the Soviet Union, in a country that posed no direct threat to the USA. As well, don’t think about that famous photo, of the Vietnamese girl, Phan Thi Kim Phuc, running naked down the road after napalm was dropped on her village, and don’t think about the Mỹ Lai massacre either – it must have been lions doing all that.

Women are just as capable as men of extraordinary acts of bravery, or cruelty, in extremis. Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya was a WWII Russian resistance fighter, captured by the Nazis, who refused to give up any information under torture, and was executed. Lynndie England is a former US Army Reserve and convicted war criminal who participated in the torture of detainees at Abu Ghraib during the Iraq War (a war where female US soldiers carried knives on base, not to protect themselves from Iraqi’s, but to protect themselves from rape by male US soldiers).

At 05:00 Knowland sets up his first straw man argument, when he cites Judith Butler as if she represented all feminism.

There is no acknowledgement from Knowland that there are different waves and strands of feminism. First wave feminism (19th and early 20th century) won women political and economic rights, the second wave (1960’s onwards) won more legal rights, and broke the taboo of silence around physical and sexual violence against women and girls, and the third wave (1980’s onwards) is when feminism split into conflicting strands (liberal feminism and radical feminism, but there are others), most notably around the sex industry and, later, gender ideology.

Knowland calls Judith Butler a feminist theorist (he’s starting to get worked up already at this point, he almost spits out her name), and brings up ‘sex is a social construct’ arguments, with no acknowledgement that it is radical feminists who have been fighting such ideology, and its real-world consequences, for the past twenty years, at least.

He then has the nerve to quote scientist and feminist campaigner Emma Hilton’s refutation of gender ideology, without mentioning that she is a feminist herself! At 08:25, Knowland quotes Hilton again, using a ReSisters illustration, without bothering to mention that these are radical feminist sources he is using.

Knowland Screen cap 04

Butler is a post-modernist Gender Studies professor, and while her ideology has influenced liberal, third wave feminism, I would not call her any kind of feminist. Her writing has been debunked, multiple times, by radical and more mainstream feminists (see here, here, and here).

The running battle between liberal and radical feminism over gender ideology became unequivocally mainstream when JK Rowling published her ‘speaking out’ essay in June 2020.  I refuse to believe that Knowland had no awareness of this, he chose instead to offer a distorted, dishonest account of feminism that served his own ideological ends.

That’s not even the worst of it, at the end of the video (30:30) Knowland takes a quote, from Andrea Dworkin’s first published book Woman Hating (1974), which is not representative of her work as a whole, let alone radical feminism as a whole, and uses it to ‘prove’ that feminists are pro the sexual abuse of children (he even calls it ‘Andrea Dworkin’s vision’ in the notes on Youtube)!

Knowland states: “This was her vision: Men and women are fictions, caricatures, cultural constructs. Unambiguous heterosexual behaviour is the worst betrayal of our common humanity. The destruction of the incest taboo is essential to the development of co-operative human community, based on the free-flow of natural androgynous eroticism. The incest taboo can be destroyed only by destroying the nuclear family as the primary institution of culture; as people develop fluid, androgynous identity, they will also develop the forms of community appropriate to it. Children are fully capable of participating in community, and have every right to live out their own erotic impulses. The distinctions between children and adults, and the social institutions which enforce those distinctions, would disappear as androgynous community develops.”

Knowland has actually taken individual sentences from across chapter nine of Woman Hating to assemble the above paragraph; I am not arguing that Dworkin didn’t say any of these things, but Knowland’s emphasis makes it all about paedophilia, when Dworkin was trying to explicate (even though she got it wrong in lots of ways) something larger about the stifling nature of mainstream society and the nuclear family.

The ideas in Woman Hating about paedophilia were a prevailing attitude on the left in the 1970’s, that the problem was ‘sexual repression’ and without ‘sexual repression’ all sex would be good. Dworkin was not alone in this; as Knowland also mentions in the video Simone de Beauvoir signed a petition in the 1970s calling for paedophilia to be decriminalised in France, and one can find similar ideas in other early radical feminist texts like Shulamith Firestone’s The Dialectic of Sex (1970).

Radical feminism is not a monolith, a religion, or a hive mind, it is a political movement, the culmination of decades of scholarship and activism by thousands of women, and no one woman defines or controls it. Dworkin, Firestone, and de Beauvoir got it wrong on that aspect of sexuality, Mary Daily got it wrong on race, and Germain Greer got it wrong on female genital mutilation; that doesn’t mean we have to throw out the rest of their work or excommunicate them.

In the 1970’s this was not only an issue within feminism (if it was an issue within feminism at all), it was an issue infecting the whole of the left, with ‘PIE’ (the ‘Paedophile Information Exchange’) gaining an extraordinary hold on the left in the UK, and known paedophiles fostering boys in Germany.

And it is hardly an issue on the left only; in the US, today, it is conservative religious communities that are ‘tidying up’ the rape of girl children by marrying them off to their adult male abusers.

This child sex abuse was/is perpetrated by men, and mostly facilitated by other men; the other signatories of the French petition included: “intellectuals Michel Foucault, Roland Barthes, Jacques Derrida; a leading child psychologist, Françoise Dolto; and writers Philippe Sollers, Alain Robbe-Grillet and Louis Aragon.” To frame it as a ‘feminist thing’ is dishonest.

There was plenty of criticism of the ‘sexual revolution’ of the 1960’s and 70’s, and the misogyny of left-wing men, by radical feminists at the time, including Marge Piercy’s ‘Grand Coolie Damn’ (1969), and Robin Morgan’s ‘Goodbye to All That’ (1970); Dworkin, in Woman Hating, criticises the left-wing ‘sex newspaper’ Suck for its misogyny and sado-masochism.

There have also been later criticisms, including Sheila Jeffreys’ Anticlimax (2011), and by Dworkin again, for example, in Right Wing Women (1983), and her memoir Heartbreak (2002) in the chapter ‘My Last Leftist Meeting’.

Dworkin’s life’s work was chronicling and analysing male violence against women and girls, and her work is easily available online, so there is no excuse for not knowing what her work was actually about. Dworkin wrote about the violence done to women and girls by their fathers, their husbands, society, the state, and the sex industry.

Woman Hating also has chapters on the representation of women in pornography, and on foot binding and the witch hunts, it is not a book about how great paedophilia is (I am certain Knowland has not read the rest of Woman Hating; anyone who could read the section on foot binding, then go on to smugly declare that women have never been oppressed under patriarchy, would be not just a misogynist, but is a psychopath).

In Heartbreak Dworkin also wrote about wanting to kill the poet Allen Ginsberg because of his paedophilia. In Pornography: Men Possessing Women (1979), in the chapter ‘Force’ Dworkin criticised Alfred Kinsey for minimising the violence and force involved in men’s sexual offending against women and girls.

If Knowland did any research at all on Dworkin, he must have known that he was misrepresenting her. To pretend that the quote he assembled is all that Dworkin’s work, or feminism itself, adds up to, is preposterous. Whether Knowland actually read any of Dworkin’s work, or lifted the claim whole from an MRA source, he should be most ashamed of his shoddy excuse for ‘scholarship’ here.

Knowland uses radical feminist gender critical arguments against biological males competing in women’s sport, but ignores that the most important argument is one of safeguarding, including the risks to women and girls by allowing biological males who self-identify as women to access women’s protected single-sex spaces.

Knowland cherry-picks and obfuscates in order to give a distorted view of feminism; after a certain point, distortions turn into lies, Knowland is lying about feminism.

At 07:35 there is another section on male violence and warfare, claiming that men evolved for violence. It is difficult to work out what Knowland is actually trying to prove here, he claims that violence is innate, but also has examples later of boys being initiated/socialised into violence.

Knowland’s overarching thesis is that patriarchy ‘protects’ women and even benefits women more than men, and that male-on-male violence proves this, as if there can only be one kind of suffering at a time, as if suffering is a zero-sum game. But by claiming that patriarchy is ‘benevolent’ to women, he can’t actually explain what it is that men are protecting us from, hence all the stuff about lions.

The human brain is plastic, humans are complex social animals and most of our abilities are learnt, not ‘hardwired’ (see Beyond Evolutionary Psychology, George Ellis and Mark Solms, Cambridge University Press, 2017). This plasticity has allowed us to adapt to every environment on the planet, and allowed us to adapt to both the industrial and IT revolutions in just a few generations, too short a period of time for any genetic changes to occur.

The only fields in which men unequivocally out-perform women are physical and sexual violence, but levels of violence vary so much between different cultures and different times that it is impossible to say what level of violence is ‘normal’. If human beings were not capable of changing their behaviour, we would still be in the stone age.

If masculinity were innate, little boys wouldn’t need to be brutalised into it. If masculinity and femininity were ‘just the way things are’ they wouldn’t need to be policed and enforced so stringently.

Knowland claims that men can afford to “treat their lives more cheaply” (08:30), but few men in the modern western world actually hold their own lives to be ‘cheap’; no man thinks of himself as nothing more than a biological machine for fighting and reproducing. The men paying £42,500 a year to send their sons to Eton certainly don’t consider their own sons to be ‘cheap’ or ‘disposable’; other men’s sons, maybe – warfare is best understood as old powerful men sending young powerless men off to die for causes that do not directly benefit them (regardless of the patriotic propaganda of the time).

The idea of ‘women and children first’ is an historical myth, in reality men had double the survival rate of women during shipwrecks (and the crew had a better survival rate than the passengers). It’s a myth that may even have been spread as an argument against women’s suffrage.

At 09:10 there is more of Knowland’s odd fixation with lions, he claims that men are actually ‘protecting’ us from the “destructive forces of nature”, by which he seems to mean ‘the outside world’. This claim is condescendingly illustrated with a painting of a woman in a sedan chair:

This illustration actually reveals a lot; being forced to dress in restrictive clothing, being denied exercise and fresh air, these are oppressions; Knowland doesn’t seem to understand that being locked up in a gilded cage is still being locked up in a cage. He also misses that it was only upper-class ‘ladies’ who got to live in gilded cages.

From the earliest hunter-gatherer societies to the present day, globally, women have always worked, even when there is no paid work outside the home, domestic work is still work. Women ‘not working’ is a post-WWII, white, middle-class, American myth (and it was a life-style that drove women crazy). Before and during the industrial revolution, in the west, upper-class women ran their husband’s households, middle-class women helped run their husband’s businesses, and working-class women worked on farms and in factories and in rich people’s houses (see here for a summary of women’s labour in the Victorian era).

Agricultural work and domestic work, before modern technology, was physically arduous (Knowland acknowledges this tangentially elsewhere, but doesn’t join the dots); Neolithic and iron age women had stronger arms, from grinding grain, than modern day elite female rowers.

In Britain, before the social reforms of the Victorian era, women and children worked down mines. In the global south, women and children still work in mines, and in industries like brick making.

The transportation of water is ‘women’s work’, and in the global south, that can mean carrying 18kg of water on half hour journeys over uneven terrain. No men are carrying these women around in sedan chairs, or escorting them to protect them from ‘wild beasts’ on the way (see next paragraph).

Knowland then references Charlotte Perkin Gilman’s 1915 utopian fiction Herland, criticising it for “conveniently” omitting “wild beasts” from the story, as if no woman has ever picked up a rock, wielded a fire brand, shot an arrow, or fired a gun! Knowland conveniently omits that Herland is a utopia precisely because the women in it are free from male violence and control – but he can’t admit that because he can’t admit what it is that men are ‘protecting’ us from.

Knowland illustrates his point here with Peter Paul Rubens’ painting ‘Hercules’ fight with the Nemean lion’:

That’s right, Knowland uses a classical painting of a scene from Greek/Roman myth, involving a demi-god, as ‘proof’ that men protect women from lions, with their bare hands!

The reality of men wrestling lions is more banal; ignore the misleading headline of this article, the man didn’t actually fight the lion off with a sleeping bag, he held it at bay long enough for someone else to rescue him, by ramming the lion several times with a van – it was an old and emaciated lion at that.

In reality, when men hunted lions in antiquity, they did it in co-operative groups, with horses, dogs, shields, and very long spears.

Even traditional Maasai warriors hunt in co-operative groups, with spears and shields, with ‘solo’ hunting (also with shield and spear) being something that only happens opportunistically, to protect the warrior’s cattle.

At 09:30, Knowland really heads off the map, claiming: “A world without men would be awful for women. Mining, oil extraction, heavy and chemical industry, long distance transportation, most forms of construction, many kinds of agriculture such as forestry, and the herding of large domestic animals, would all but cease; so would deep sea fishing. Under such conditions over 90% of the world’s present-day population would die of starvation. The women that survived such a calamity would likely revert to a primitive life based on horticulture, dwelling in huts, and suffering from a permanent shortage of animal protein. Judging by historical and pre-historical precedent, their life expectancy would be reduced to less than forty years.”

Knowland’s claims here seem to come entirely from a self-published book called The Privileged Sex, by Martin van Creveld, a man whose area of expertise is military history, and which, from looking at the book on Amazon, is as full of cherry-picking and distortions as Knowland’s video.

(Another book Knowland cites, The Woman Racket: The new science explaining how the sexes relate, is by Steve Moxon, a former UK civil servant, now an ‘independent researcher’ (ie someone with no university affiliation) and professional MRA. This book is published by ‘Imprint Academic’, which does publish academic books, but does not appear to be attached to any university.)

The argument is ridiculous from the offset, how can 90% of the Earth’s present-day population die, if half of them (the men) have already disappeared? Why would we start living in huts, are all the buildings going to suddenly fall down without men around?

Average age of death in previous eras is distorted by high infant/child and maternal mortality rates, the human life span hasn’t actually changed all that much in the modern era. We are not going to unlearn germ theory, or any other aspect of modern medicine, if all the men suddenly disappeared. Girls age 10 to 14 have the highest risk of death from pregnancy/childbirth, without any men around, who is going to be impregnating ten-year-old girls? The loss of murderous male violence towards women and girls might even edge up the average age of death by some fraction of a percent.

Knowland lives in a world with no automation, where no woman ever rode a horse, or drove a tractor, or a heavy good’s vehicle; where women are so delicate and helpless, we couldn’t even farm chickens or rabbits or koi carp for protein; a world where no woman has ever earned a degree in the hard sciences, and no women has ever trained as a plumber. Knowland’s contempt for women is showing through here.

During World War I and World War II women took over men’s jobs on farms and in factories, women have always been capable of doing such work.

The Covid crises has shown us what work is ‘essential’ to a functioning society, and it is ‘women’s work’, the care of the young, the sick, the elderly, making sure everyone eats, keeping things clean. This is still considered women’s work, even when there are men doing it.

If all the men in the world were to suddenly disappear, women would get through the transitionary adaptation period, and then we would be just fine; there are plenty of sperm banks, and the technology for creating sperm and ova from somatic cells is already being researched. The loss of half the world’s population would also ease the environmental burden humans have on the planet. Things may be slower, afterwards, with the shift from a consumer society to a bigger percentage of the population doing practical work, but fewer factories pumping out pointless consumer crap would be no bad thing.

I am confident that, if all the men were to suddenly disappear, nearly all the world’s conflicts would simply cease to exist. There would probably be a few hot-spots, like Palestine/Israel, where resentment runs too deep, but without the male leaders and the male cannon fodder, who would be fighting, and what would they be fighting for?

I feel equally confident saying that, if all the world’s women were to suddenly disappear, men would wipe themselves out in twenty years through nihilistic violence, and fighting over the most rape-able boys.

At 10:10 Knowland talks about how enslaved men were given the most back-breaking labour in ancient Egypt, the Middle East, China, and Rome, but he misses the point that that was because they were slaves, not because they were men. Enslaved women were exploited for their reproductive as well as their physical labour, used to breed more slaves, and raped daily in brothels; is Knowland really trying to claim that men are oppressed as men under patriarchy because they can’t be used as broodmares?

The claim of male disposability doesn’t tie in with son preference, sex selective abortion, and female infanticide in many parts of the world. The UN reports that up to 140 million women are ‘missing’ due to sex-selective abortion, and unwanted girl infants under China’s ‘one child’ policy were left to die in orphanages. The UN also reports that “137 women across the world are killed by a member of their own family every day.”

Where was the patriarchal ‘protection’ for all those women and girls? These things happened and are still happening under patriarchy, Knowland can’t claim he is only talking about modern, Western, Judeo-Christian patriarchy, when he goes back to Ancient Egypt and Greece, and elsewhere to 16th century Europe, for his claims of female ‘protection’ and male ‘oppression’ under patriarchy.

At 10:40 Knowland says: “Men invented well over 90% of the inventions that have improved women’s life expectancy and quality of life.”

Knowland is demonstrating his lack of joined-up thinking here, he previously claimed that women (even enslaved women) had a cushy existence compared to men, now he is saying that it was all back-breaking labour for women until men came to the rescue in the 19th century with their labour-saving inventions!

Men hold over 80% of the world’s patents (the modern patent system only goes back to the 15th century). Married women in the 18th and 19th centuries were unable to own property in their own name and had no right to the products of their own labour (more on this later), they could not hold patents for their own inventions either.

All the disparity in patent ownership demonstrates is that, up until very recently, women were barred from education and employment in STEM fields and didn’t have the opportunities men had to invent things, or to get them patented when they did.

Women were first admitted to only a small number of universities in England in the 1870’s; women only gained full membership of the University of Oxford in 1920, and the University of Cambridge did not grant degrees to women until 1948 (scroll down to see a photo from 1897 of protesting Cambridge students hanging an effigy of a female student).

It is a patriarchal myth that men created society, while women followed passively behind. We know very little about how Palaeolithic humans lived, but since tool use is seen more in female primates than males, there is no reason to believe that women were not making and using stone tools in that era. As well as tool making, there is no reason to believe that women weren’t equally (or more) involved in the development of other technologies like pottery, weaving, curing hides, brewing, bread making, and early agricultural techniques; women played a significant role in the domestication of dogs.

Male archaeologists all assumed that Palaeolithic cave paintings ‘must’ have been done by men, until researchers actually bothered to measure the length of the fingers, and discovered that they were mostly created by women.

In many hunter-gatherer societies, women engage in hunting, and in many hunter-gatherer societies, women are able to meet their own and their children’s nutritional needs without men’s ‘big game’ hunting.

Women, despite being denied the same access to education and employment as men for most of recorded human history, still managed to contribute to science and technology. Hypatia was a scholar and a teacher of mathematics and philosophy in 4th century Alexandria; Ada Lovelace was the first computer programmer; Marie Curie was almost left out by the Nobel Prize committee, until Pierre, her husband and co-worker, intervened; and Watson and Crick literally stole Rosalind Franklin’s work for ‘their’ discovery of the structure of DNA. There is even evidence to suggest that Einstein’s work was actually done in collaboration with his first wife, Mileva.

At 10:50 Knowland sets up another straw-man argument:

“Some common objections to this protector idea are the witch hunts, the coverture laws, the vote, and rape.”

Knowland treats these four things as if they are the only proof of women’s oppression under patriarchy.

At 10:55 Knowland claims that the persecution of women as witches had nothing to do with men and therefore does not contradict his claim that patriarchy ‘protects’ women; his ‘proof’ is that most accusers were other women, and that “the fewer women involved in the trials the fairer the treatment witches were likely to receive.”

One has to laugh at the sloppiness here – witches aren’t real! Even in the context of a society that believes that witchcraft is real, someone accused of being a witch is only proven to be so at the end of the trial, so what is Knowland actually referring to here? I assume he means that if fewer women were ‘involved’ in a trial, a woman was less likely to be convicted of witchcraft, but what does ‘involved’ mean? Women certainly weren’t judges in that era, neither were they sheriffs or torturers or jurors or executioners, the statement is effectively meaningless.

Even if most of the accusations of witchcraft did come from other women, it was still within a system of male power; the only ‘power’ women had was to attack each other, and since all women were vulnerable to an accusation of witchcraft, the only way to protect themselves was to scapegoat other women.

Knowland states that: “Mary enacted the Scottish witchcraft laws and persecution reached its apex under Elizabeth, who reinstated all the penalties against witchcraft that Edward VI, sixteen years earlier, had repealed, acting on the advice of his all-male entourage.”

This is what is known as a factoid, a snippet of information which, while technically true, is meaningless without a wider context. (Let’s ignore the fact that, the way that sentence is worded, it implies that Mary I of Scotland was succeeded by Elizabeth I of England and Ireland.)

Knowland ignores the fact that the church, the courts, and every other political and economic institution of power in that era, was entirely male controlled (he doesn’t even mention the rest of Europe, or the Americas). His emphasis on ‘all-male entourage’ implies that Mary I of Scotland and Elizabeth I would have had female advisors of similar social status, which was not the case. The first Witchcraft Act was introduced during the reign of Henry VIII, which was more severe than the law introduced under Elizabeth I.

This information in isolation tells us nothing of the complex politics of the time, or what pressures Mary I of Scotland and Elizabeth I were under to enact said laws. English monarchs have not had absolute power since the Magna Carta of 1215, the idea that the persecution of women as witches happened in England because of Elizabeth I’s personal whim is nonsense; a female monarch does not stop a country being male dominated (Knowland tacitly acknowledges that with his claim earlier that there has never been a ‘true matriarchy’).

Knowland cites Christina Larner’s Witchcraft and Religion as his source on the witch hunts; only a little bit of internet hunting reveals that Knowland has cherry-picked the information he chose to include, in order to give a distorted picture. This review of Witchcraft and Religion says:

Thus in the first part, which centres on the witch hunt in Scotland, it is by rigid application to chronology, the historian’s tool if anything is, that she [Larner] demonstrates how much of the persecution was the personal doing of King James VI [the successor to both Mary I of Scotland and Elizabeth I].

The first major witch trials in Scotland were the North Berwick witch trials in 1590, which was during the reign of James VI, and James VI personally supervised the torture of women accused of being witches.

Did Knowland actually read Witchcraft and Religion, or did he lift his claims from an MRA website or book?

The witch hunts varied from place to place and across time, there were even some European countries (Iceland, Finland, Estonia, and Russia) where more men than women were accused of witchcraft. There has been much debate among historians and within feminism over how much of a role misogyny played (although it is undeniable that misogyny did play a role).

The complexity of this history is not the Gotcha! Knowland thinks it is, and it is hardly the only example of misogyny, discrimination, and violence against women that feminists have to draw on, from history or the present day.

There is rape, child rape, battery, femicide, ‘family annihilation’, forced marriage, child marriage, incest, ‘honour killings’, scold’s bridals, foot-binding, suttee, purdah, female genital mutilation, female infanticide, Magdalene Laundries and their variants, girls being denied an education, women being denied contraceptives and abortions, medical research using males as the human standard, women’s under-representation in politics, business, the arts and sciences, the feminisation of poverty, the undervaluing of traditional ‘women’s work’, the trafficking of women and girls in the global sex trade, and revenge porn.

In a way, Knowland shoots himself in the foot by concentrating on the witch hunts, if he had stuck to the global north in the 20th and 21st century, he would have had a much more persuasive argument to make about how women have it great under patriarchy.

At 11:25, we come to the ‘coverture’ laws, which Knowland claims ‘protected’ women rather than oppressed them.

“The coverture laws are claimed to show patriarchal oppression of women, because they prevented women from owning property, but the married couple was regarded as one legal entity. The husband assumed responsibility for his wife’s debts, including her pre-marital ones; he could even be imprisoned on her behalf while she was immune to prosecution.”

This is cherry-picking again, focusing on one narrow aspect of the law, and ignoring all the other implications of it, like a woman losing the right to her own property, and autonomy over her own body, when she married. Knowland talks as if men where queueing up to chivalrously offer to marry indebted women!

Sir William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Law of England are available to read online, and the section that Knowland only partially quotes is worth reading in full (emphasis mine):

By marriage, the husband and wife are one person in law: that is, the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage, or at least is incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband: under whose wing, protection, and cover, she performs everything; and is therefore called in our law-french a feme-covert [married woman]; is said to be covert-baron, or under the protection and influence of her husband, her baron, or lord; and her condition during her marriage is called her coverture.

There is another section of the text worth reading:

The husband also (by the old law) might give his wife moderate correction. For, as he is to answer for her misbehavior, the law thought it reasonable to entrust him with this power of restraining her, by domestic chastisement, in the same moderation that a man is allowed to correct his servants or children; for whom the master or parent is also liable in some cases to answer. But this power of correction was confined within reasonable bounds; and the husband was prohibited to use any violence to his wife, aliter quam ad virum, ex causa regiminis et castigationis uxoris suae, licite et rationabiliter pertinet [other than lawfully and reasonably pertains to the husband for the rule and correction of his wife]. The civil law gave the husband the same, or a larger, authority over his wife; allowing him, for some misdemeanors, flagellis et fustibus acriter verberare uxorem [To beat his wife severely with whips and sticks], for others, only modicam castigationem adhibere [with moderate punishment]. But, with us, in the politer reign of Charles the second, this power of correction began to be doubted: and a wife may now have security of the peace against her husband; or, in return, a husband against his wife. Yet the lower rank of people, who were always fond of the old common law, still claim and exert their ancient privilege: and the courts of law will still permit a husband to restrain a wife of her liberty, in case of any gross misbehavior.

This is an admission that before, and still during, the reign of Charles II, the law as practiced did allow a man to severely beat and whip his wife. As I said before, Knowland can’t claim he is only talking about patriarchy in England from the 18th century, when he goes back to the 16th century to talk about witch hunts.

Blackstone clearly believed that these laws constitute ‘protection’ (“These are the chief legal effects of marriage during the coverture; upon which we may observe, that even the disabilities, which the wife lies under, are for the most part intended for her protection and benefit. So great a favorite is the female sex of the laws of England.”), but they are really control, they reduce married women to chattel.

Those interpretations of the common law meant that married women lost control of their own property to their husbands when they married, could be divorced by their husbands, but could not initiate a divorce themselves, and had no right to custody of their children. A husband had ‘conjugal rights’ over his wife (ie he could legally rape her).

This situation was in place in England until the Custody of Infants Act 1839, the Matrimonial Causes Act 1857 and the Married Women’s Property Act 1870, all brought about through the efforts of the social reformer Caroline Norton.

Before then, the law meant that, far from ‘protecting’ their wives, powerful men could impoverish them, and deny them all contact with their children:

Until 1857, divorce was such a convoluted and expensive process that only very powerful men could manage it. Married women simply had no legal rights; even if they were separated from their husbands they did not have the right to make contracts, to sue, or even to keep their own earnings. Throughout the more than 20 years Caroline had been living separated from her husband: “I exist and I suffer, but the law denies my existence.” She ends her pamphlet on the subject, A Letter to the Queen, with a wit that makes you smile grimly even today. “My husband has a legal copyright of my works. Let him claim this!”

In the 18th and 19th centuries women could be committed to ‘lunatic asylums’ for not obeying their fathers or husbands, or for any ‘unfeminine’ behaviour.

In Saudi Arabia, the ban on women driving was only lifted in 2018, but women’s autonomy is still restricted, with adult women needing permission from a male ‘guardian’ to “apply for a passport, travel outside the country, study abroad on a government scholarship, get married, leave prison, or even exit a shelter for abuse victims.”

In Qatar, women are “dependent on men for permission to marry, travel, pursue higher education or make decisions about their own children […] They cannot be primary carers of their children, even if they are divorced or the children’s father has died. If the child has no male relative to act as guardian, the government takes on this role.” Women are also “asked for proof of marriage to access some sexual and reproductive healthcare, antenatal care, vaginal ultrasounds and smear tests.”

This year, the coach of the Iranian women’s Alpine skiing team was barred by her husband from travelling to Italy for the world championships, because in Iran, women need their husband’s permission to leave the country.

These restrictions on women’s autonomy under Islamic law are framed as ‘protection’ too. Knowland cannot plausibly claim that patriarchy ‘worldwide and history-wide’ ‘protects’ women, while completely ignoring the modern-day Middle East.

In Afghanistan, professional women are being systematically murdered by Isis, are these men and their ideas about women somehow outside of patriarchy?

If women have always had it so great, why did the first wave of feminism happen at all? Suffragettes were physically attacked by men at meetings and rallies, and tortured in prison, why go through all that if the status quo benefitted them? Later in the video (14:30) Knowland implies that feminists are crazy and paranoid for thinking that women are oppressed.

France granted unmarried women the right to open their own back account in 1881; married women were not granted the right to open a bank account without their husband’s permission in the US until the 1960’s, in the UK, not until 1975.

Why would women need ‘protecting’ from controlling their own legal and financial affairs? To argue that ‘men are bigger and stronger and more violent than women, therefore a woman needs her husband’s permission to open a bank account’ is obviously ridiculous. The real argument, the one hidden underneath the ‘protection’ rhetoric, is ‘women are intellectually and morally inferior to men, therefore they cannot be allowed to control their own lives’, or, more crudely, ‘women are inferior to men, therefore they cannot be allowed to control their own lives.’

How do men ‘prove’ this argument? By being bigger and stronger and more violent; ‘do as I say or I’ll hurt you’ has never been a convincing moral or intellectual argument, but it works on a practical level. No man believes ‘might equals right’ when he is on the losing end of that equation – no white man beaten up by a black man believes black men are superior; no ‘nerd’ beaten up by a ‘jock’ believes ‘jocks’ are superior – but all men believe it when it comes to oppressing women.

This is not my argument, it is Knowland’s, if he were honest enough to admit it.

At 11:50 Knowland says: “Regarding the vote, women have always had it [Knowland starts getting shouty here] at the local level, in both parish and manor, and only 4% of the male population had the vote in ancient Athens, which remained an historical high until mid 19th century England. Even as the year 1918 began it was still the case that well under 50% of adult men had a usable national vote. Unlike women, all these men shouldered some form of taxation without representation and they could also be conscripted to bear arms.”

This section illustrates Knowland’s shoddy thinking, making vague claims that can’t actually be true (“always”), false equivalences, and jumping around in time and space between wildly different cultures (is a ‘vote’ in ancient Athens qualitatively the same as in 19th century England? Does Knowland know the difference between a plebiscite and a representative democracy?). Knowland misses out the fact that no woman had the vote in ancient Athens, and the money married men were taxed on in 19th century England would have been partly earned through the labour of their wives, who had no right to the product of their own labour.

(If my arguments here are jumping around in time and space between wildly different cultures too, it is only because I am following the structure of Knowland’s argument in the video. Knowland is the one proposing a single ‘benevolent’ patriarchy, globally, from prehistoric times to the present day, and cherry-picking his examples while ignoring the vast bulk of violence against women.)

Women did have limited voting rights in Britain at the local level during the 19th century, and a patchwork of local participation from the 17th century (these positions were “quasi-public charitable work” seen as suitable for middle-class women), but ‘always’ is too strong an assertion.

Women in Saudi Arabia only gained the vote, and the right to stand as candidates, at the municipal level, in 2015. Woman in Oman gained the right to vote in 1994, in Qatar in 1999, Bahrain in 2001, and Kuwait in 2005.

What Knowland’s claims here imply, as with the coverture laws, is that Knowland believes women not having the same legal rights and responsibilities as men doesn’t matter, which only makes sense if you believe that women are lesser human beings than men.

(Continued in Part Two)

One response

  1. […] apropos my last post, there is a new biography of Caroline Norton out, The Case of the Married Woman Caroline Norton: A […]

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