Victory!!! See updates at the bottom.
A while back I wrote about fake allies—specifically, Charles Clymer, a cis white dude who used to run a popular Facebook page called “Equality for Women” but shut it down amidst accusations that, among other things, he was deleting comments from and banning women who questioned his views or the way he ran the page. And then there was his abusive verbal flaying of Stephanie Kay in a private conversation that went public a year or so ago and revealed the dude beneath the Perfect Feminist Ally act. It didn’t help that when called on that tirade, Clymer basically stood by his remarks and went on to admit—almost proudly—that his goal is to become a professional Feminist Leader. And he dug himself in deeper when, following the many accusations leveled at him directly and via the #StopClymer hashtag (by nearly every woman who had been a moderator at the EFW Facebook page, among others), he tweeted promising to address his “mistakes” with an apology and dropped off the Internet for several weeks. When he reappeared, he deleted the aforementioned tweet and went back to promoting the “Charles Clymer: Feminist Ally” brand.
As more people become aware of this behavior and lack of accountability, you would think his stock would plummet. And it has taken a hit: PolicyMic (now Mic) first deleted him from a listicle of male feminists and then further distanced themselves from him, explaining that he is a “freelancer” and promised to investigate. Activist Millennials recently removed him from their advisory council. But he apparently still serves on the Board of Poetic Change, “an organization dedicated to empowering the next generation of social justice leaders.” He has retained a large following on Twitter (which he grows by taking up more space than most women in any feminist hashtag he can appropriate and saying all the right things) and on his personal Facebook page. He gets speaking gigs at feminist rallies. The frakking BBC had him on to comment on Emma Watson’s UN speech, for heaven’s sake.
“We salute men who stand up for women’s rights, especially men like Charles who are so vocal about feminism,” stated NWPC President Linda Young. —NWPC press release
This news upset me in a way that surprised me a little. I mean, I get angry about stuff. But this has been…deeply upsetting, I guess is the best way to put it. When I first learned the truth about Clymer, I was pretty shaken up by everything I saw: the abusive and/or manipulative language he used when women challenged him, the creepy chats with his moderators, his use of EFW to hit on women, and the arrogant ambition to get paid to do the thing that most of us do purely out of passion and need, just to get through this misogynistic world. Just to survive it. I realized that this guy who said, “I think I do a pretty good job of standing with women, not in front of them,” was indeed standing directly in front of women and anyone who isn’t a cis white male. Now he’s getting AN AWARD from a NATIONAL WOMEN’S POLITICAL ORGANIZATION? I’m just…
I spent most of a day emailing and tweeting about it, my stomach in knots, heart pounding, hands shaking. Others had been tweeting about it for several days. None of us, to my knowledge, has received a response from NWPC.
NWPC gives Good Guy Awards to men who have proven, through their actions and words, to be strong advocates for women. Past recipients of the award include exceptional men such as Martin Abzug, President William Jefferson Clinton, and Julian Bond. —NWPC press release
My first question was, “Did they not Google his name?” It’s almost impossible to miss that he’s a controversial figure, at best. The second result is a petition to have him removed as a Huffington Post contributor. Due diligence is a thing, people.
My second question was, “Did they Google him and decide to ignore what they found?” I mean, that petition has under 200 signatures—that’s a mere 200 people who think this guy is an abusive fake ally who needs to NOT take up space in feminism at the expense of women and nonbinary people. And maybe it’s easy to write #StopClymer off as just a few angry people (of which I am one) at this point, but back in the spring I saw plenty of testimony (again, much of it from women who had been EFW mods) and other compelling evidence that Clymer is not nearly the ally he pretends to be. And it’s also not difficult to confirm that he has failed to address most of the accusations against him—to discover that, in fact, he tends to label criticism as “abuse” and “bullying” and even “hate speech” and bans or blocks those who challenge him in any way. These are not the actions of a “Good Guy.”
Look, I shuffled my feet for weeks before I finally wrote about this the first time, and even then I never participated in the #StopClymer hashtag. I really didn’t want to go all torches and pitchforks on his ass. But this straw broke the camel’s back, and I am done pussyfooting around. You do not get to dismiss, silence, manipulate, and abuse women; you don’t get to privilege yourself above women again and again with your words and actions; you don’t get to do these things in the name of feminism, utterly fail to hold yourself accountable or do any work to reach out and rebuild trust, and then get a “Good Guy” award for being a feminist ally. Not without a fight from me. Charles Clymer needs to get his house in order before he pretends to be anything other than part of the problem.
I have tweeted and emailed the NWPC via their website. I have sent separate messages to several board members and to my local chapter. I have emailed my U.S. Senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell because I assume they are NWCP members. I have tweeted several other congresswomen and will continue to email and tweet this week. I’m also reaching out to some friends and acquaintances who may have ideas as to how to get a response from the NWCP, which currently seems to have its fingers in its ears while it sings “La la la I can’t hear you.”
Feel free to join me (contact links below) in letting the NWPC know that to give this man an award like this is to ignore the women who spoke out for this story and the ones who have spoken out on #StopClymer to say that this man’s behavior toward them (us) has not been that of an ally but that of an opportunist, a manipulator, and an abuser. I’ll be tweeting at members of congress and the media and anyone else I think might listen. I’m not shutting up until I get a response.
Giving Clymer this award sends the message that a man can use his privilege to silence and berate women and still be a celebrated feminist: a “Good Guy.” And that’s just not ok with me.
- Linda Young, NWPC President: President@nwpc.org
- Paula Willmarth, NWPC Vice President, Communications: email@example.com
Via Twitter: NWPC_updates has ignored all contacts to date on this topic as far as I know, hence my inclusion of the following twitter accounts:
- Donna Lent, First VP/VP of Political Planning: https://twitter.com/donnarama
- Paula J. Willmarth, VP of Communications: https://twitter.com/bluehousewoman
- Donna DeBerry, VP of Board Development: https://twitter.com/Donna_DeBerry
- Lei Louis, Development: https://twitter.com/womenofwealthmz
- Shellie Hunt, Development: https://twitter.com/ShellieHunt
- Teray Stephens, Diversity and Outreach: https://twitter.com/teraystephens
- Jen Myronuk, Education and Training: https://twitter.com/jenmyronuk
- Sherill Mulhern, VP of Membership: https://twitter.com/Parity2day
Find and contact your local chapter.
Note: Images have been altered from their original state. All quotes are directly from Charles Clymer via this story.
This morning I received the following email from no one in particular at NWPC:
Thank you very much for reaching out to the National Women’s Political Caucus. We appreciate that you took the time to write a thought-out message to us regarding this issue, and we have therefore taken your feedback, as well as the feedback of others, into consideration. Please see our agenda update for the Exceptional Merit in Media Awards regarding the Good Guy Award: http://www.nwpc.org/emmasagendaupdate.
The link above goes to their announcement, which claims a “scheduling conflict” and a “record setting turn out for the EMMAs this year” which is dishonest at best, but allows them and Clymer to save face, so I’m not shocked. The key takeaway is that they claim that they listened and this is the result. We are meant to believe that they will not be giving the award to Clymer, and I’m calling this a WIN. But I’ll keep my eye on them, and I won’t be the only one.
I’m so grateful to all of you who helped with this. Your emails, tweets, and calls all chipped away at a wall of denial. We made them listen.
Update #1 (9/26/14): I am tweeting under #NoGoodGuy as well as #StopClymer. Join me.
Also, I received a reply from the NWPC Washington State chapter president. She has granted permission to post it here:
Update #2 (10/6/14):
Earlier this update was about the fact that the original press release announcing this award is returning a “page not found” error. Apparently they took the old one down and reposted it yesterday? I dunno.
I’ve removed a petition previously linked here due to some controversy over the creator and associated discomfort expressed by allies. Nothing is simple.
Update #3 (10/8/14):
Update #4 (10/10/14):
I have now been tweeting at @NWPC_updates for two weeks with no response to that or my several emails to general contact and board members. One caller reports in the comments below that NWPC hung up on her as she when she called to comment on the award. Clymer’s response (see above) has caused no small amount of outrage, especially given the fact that he referred to criticism as “insanity,” took zero responsibility, cherry-picked the criticism he wanted to respond to, blamed Suey Park for the whole thing, and called critics on the #StopClymer hashtag “hateful, small people.” Traffic on the hashtag has increased, and more and more people are tweeting at @NWPC_updates asking them why they are giving such a man their “Good Guy” award. Today, the creator of the #YesAllWomen hashtag tweeted an open letter to @NWPC_updates telling the story of Clymer’s bad behavior during the height of that hashtag’s popularity and asking them to reconsider this award.
More updates as they happen. Watch this space.
- So You Want to Be a Male Feminist? Maybe Don’t. (The Cut)
- When we call bad guys good (Feministing)
- The Missing Stairs of Feminism (Make Me a Sammich)
- Clyming the Walls of Feminism: A Critical Look at the Feminist Problem Part I (parentwin)
- Men and Feminism (The Belle Jar)
- Blaming and Disbelieving Victims: Charles Clymer’s Toxic Feminism (Evil Feminist from Space)
- More than the Message (Model View Culture)
- Notes on Charles Clymer (theblackunic0rn)
PSA: Abusive commenters will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)
Trigger warning for discussion of the various types of abuse perpetrated by those humans known as “trolls” incuding rape and death threats and suicide.
Back in July, during Netroots Nation 2014, Zerlina Maxwell spoke on a panel about online harassment. I wasn’t there, but someone tweeted a quote that stayed with me:
“Don’t call them trolls. They’re assholes.”
I think this is important. By calling these people “trolls,” we are basically letting them off the hook. It’s a lot like the “boys will be boys” mentality that helps to keep rape culture thriving, but it’s also different, because boys are expected to be human. By calling these people “trolls,” we relegate them to non-human status, and we make it clear that we don’t expect them to live up to the same behavioral standards as human beings.
So, who are these assholes? Well, the subset of the population we refer to as “trolls” is mostly (almost exclusively, in my personal experience) made up of men who—for reasons that range from angry entitlement to I-don’t-know-what—make it their business to perpetrate harassment and abuse on targets who are mostly not men.
As a woman online, I’ve dealt with and watched others deal with all of these things and more:
Men who insist that we engage them because they disagree with something we’ve said.
Men who keep tweeting at us or commenting when we’ve asked them to stop.
Men who keep tweeting at us after we’ve told them in no uncertain terms we’re done and have blocked them.
Men who create sock-puppet accounts pretending to be women and use them to harass us, gaslight us, threaten us.
Men who haunt hashtags they disagree with so they can harass people who are not men who speak out about issues that matter to them.
Men who haunt hashtags about gender violence, sexual assault, and other painful topics and target the people there telling their stories.
Men who band together to create armies of sock-puppet accounts to harass us and discredit the work we do.
Men who reply to our stories of rape to tell us that it wasn’t rape. (And who are very likely defending their own behavior.)
Men who play devil’s advocate on issues that disproportionately affect people who are not men.*
Men who chime into conversations about sexual & domestic violence to speculate on what the victim should have done differently.
Men who attack those of us dedicated to fighting for equality simply because we fight for equality.
Men who call us “feminazis” and “white knights” because we identify as feminists and talk about feminist issues.
Men who use racist and sexist and transphobic slurs to attack marginalized people, often for months on end, with no consequence.
Men who send us graphic photos of everything from sex acts to gaping wounds in order to punish us for talking back.
Men who tell us all we need is a good fucking to set us straight.
Men who tell us we should get raped.
Men who tell us they hope we kill ourselves.
Men who tell us how they hope we die.
And of course, all of this is in hopes that we will simply STFU, or better yet, cease to exist.
I think Zerlina’s right: we need to start calling them what they are. Assholes, yes. But also, men who choose to harass and abuse others online, sometimes to the point of driving their victims off the Internet, out of their homes, and even to suicide. So, when you talk about these men, consider using words that describe what they actually do and are, such as “harassers” and “abusive assholes.”
These men are human beings who treat others as less than human—who purposely cause pain and suffering and sometimes even death. It is time we stopped letting them off the hook.
Note: This post has been updated to include the suggested term “harassers” per my friend Mandaray.
*Post pub note: The idea that I would include “playing devil’s advocate” in a list like this seems to have confused some folks, so I want to be clear about what I mean, here: There are people who innocently wonder about the other side of an equation and there are dudes who use “I’m just playing devil’s advocate” as an excuse to argue with women and other marginalize people simply for the entertainment value of engaging us and wasting our time and energy (and even when there’s no ill intent, it’s often really unhelpful and can even be harmful, such as when “devil’s advocates” engage in victim-blaming). Yes, there are degrees of trolling, and this is the least of what anti-feminist trolls do, but feminists—especially those of us who engage in online activism—must, on a daily basis, deal with a barrage of people who are primarily cis white males telling us what feminism really is or isn’t, what misogyny really is or isn’t, what street harassment really is or isn’t, what rape really is or isn’t, and “devil’s advocate” is one of the flags they wave when they’re reminded that they are being part of the problem, as though it excuses them. I hope this clarifies my meaning. Also, if you’re pulling this one item out of the list and ignoring everything else, you may be missing at least part of the point.
Oh, and just for good measure:
Trolls Harassers and abusive assholes who comment here will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)
Trigger warning for discussion of rape and sexual assault.
I met A in the early 1990s at a science fiction convention. I’d seen him around and…damn. The man was fine. When we finally came together, sex was a forgone conclusion. We spent a wild weekend together, and I fell in love with him. And he broke my heart, and I basically moved on. Except that almost every time I saw A after that, we ended up having sex. A was…persuasive. But he didn’t have to try very hard—I had a thing for him for years.
In 2000 or so, I went out drinking in my neighborhood, went back to a guy’s apartment to smoke some pot, and woke up on his couch with his penis inside me. I only remembered feeling really woozy and telling him I needed to lie down on his couch. I don’t know if he drugged me or if I was just really drunk, but I never consented to sex. The next day I IM’d with A about it, and he made excuses for the guy. “Maybe he was just really drunk and didn’t know what he was doing,” he said, or something very like it.
Fast forward to the late aughts, and I’m in A’s town on business. He’s happily married, and I’m in what I believe at the time is the relationship I’ve waited my whole life for. A & I make plans to get together and have a drink at my hotel. There is—in my mind and probably in his—no question of sex. We are committed to our partners. It seriously never enters my thoughts.
I have several Martinis and somehow end up in his car on the freeway. A says something about a bar he wants to take me to, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to vomit, so he takes me back to my hotel.
Most of what came after is blurry. There is a good chance I stripped my clothes off the moment we got to my room, as I was drunk and with someone I trusted, and when I’m drunk and on my way to bed, my clothes end up all over the house. I remember getting into bed, under the covers, and I remember him lying on the bed saying things like, “What they don’t know won’t hurt them.” I remember laughing and saying, “No.” I remember that I had no intention of cheating on my boyfriend. I remember that I kissed A at one point and my boyfriend’s face popped into my head and I was like, “Whoa, no!” A continued trying to talk me into having sex with him and I continued to decline.
I remember that speaking was becoming really difficult. I remember A climbing on top of me, on top of the covers, as I tried to form words or even coherent thoughts. I remember that he masturbated on my chest and that I had absolutely no say in the matter. I remember that I got up and washed it off.
I remember that the next day when he picked me up to drive me to the airport, he asked me if I was angry with him. I could tell he felt like shit, but what exactly he felt like shit about, I still don’t know. I think I said something about being angry with myself (and I was—I blamed myself and told no one for years), but then I said something that made him defensive, because his next words were, “Come on, now, you were complicit…”
I was complicit in exactly one thing: I kissed him.
I know he felt “bad” about what he’d done—I just don’t think he knows that what he did was sexual assault. Because I kissed him. Because I took my clothes off. Because of our history. Even though I said no.
I understand that not everyone who commits sexual assault thinks of himself (or herself) as a sex offender. I understand that people make really bad decisions under the influence of alcohol that they might not make otherwise. But neither of these things changes the fact that sexual contact must be consensual or it is sexual assault. It doesn’t matter what someone does before the “no.” If you don’t hear an emphatic “yes,” or “do it,” or “fuck me,” etc., you are simply not cleared for take-off.
That was the end of my friendship with A. It took me a couple of years to remember that it was he who had made excuses for the man who raped me all those years ago. And then I realized that when a man makes excuses for another man’s bad behavior, there’s a good chance he’s defending his own. I was probably not the first woman to get drunk with A and end up being assaulted.
I just hope like hell that I’m the last.
Related on MMAS:
- A Brief History (the Bad Parts Version)
- I Didn’t Know It Was Sexual Assault
- #IStandWithDylan – My Story of Childhood Sexual Abuse
- 10 Things Rape is Not
PSA: Abusive commenters will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)