Blogs > Liberty and Power > More on Long and Johnson

Jan 14, 2005 9:03 am

More on Long and Johnson

I do not know what to make of the most recent posts by Long and Johnson. I won't know until I see what happens next.

Long explains,"The phrase ["lavender-menacing"] is explictly introduced in our paper to pick out the rhetorical strategy of"[dividing] the feminist world ... into the 'reasonable' (that is, unthreatening) feminists and the feminists who are 'hysterical' or 'man-hating' (so, presumably, not worthy of rational response)." This strategy we chose to call, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, the"Lavender Menace" approach. We also said explicitly that McElroy and Taylor show" considerably more understanding of, and sympathy with, classical feminist concerns than the anti-feminists who employ this strategy" -- in other words, we were not atempting to lump them in with anti-feminists or lesbian-baiters?"

Nevertheless, the essay goes on to repeatedly make such statements as,"In her more recent writings, McElroy seems to have grown more committed and more wide-reaching in her use of Lavender Menace politics." Similar statements are made of Joan Kennedy Taylor's work. The clear message is that Joan and I are homophobic and that a key to our work is to view it as an expression of homophobia as a reaction to the Lavender Menace. I have already pointed out this utterly false and the opposite of what is true. Both Joan and I have argued consistently over decades for the toleration of all adult sexual choices.

As Johnson states in his response to my HNN post, the origin of the term"Lavendar Menace" is"Betty Friedan's attack on...lesbianism within the movement." The term now has an established meaning within feminism as an aggressively homophobic reaction to lesbians or gays in general. To use it in a manner that differs from its established usage is like calling Joan and I"anti-semites" then adding"but we don't mean they are anti-Jewish."

If Long and Johnson do not consider the homophobia message to be accurate -- and I appreciate both of them saying it is not -- then the error can be corrected as they would any other inaccuracy in an essay. The references with regard to Joan and to me on this point can be changed, especially in the online version or an unpublished one. Or, better yet, you can substitute a term without an established meaning that does not run counter to what you are trying to express about Joan and me.

The"solution" of putting a footnote that"takes back" the homophobic accusations in the text is not a solution at all. For several reasons, including... First, the text is what will be quoted and excerpted, almost certainly without the footnotes. The reputations of Long and Johnson will continue to be put behind the argument to the world that Joan and I are homophobes. Second, many readers do not refer to the footnotes. Third, the situation is similar to a newspaper announcing a crime in front page headlines and, then, issuing a retraction at the bottom of page 12. Fourth, the stain of the established meaning will certainly wipe off anyway and dirty the reputations of Joan and me. Fifth, if the footnote's purpose is to contradict the text, why not just change the text?

For those outside feminism, this may seem to be a tempest in teapot. You should understand that the accusation of homophobia within feminism if believed can severely damage careers and literally ruin reputations. A parallel situation would be if the accusation of anti-semitism were hurled at a journalist writing on the Middle East.

As I said, I do not know how to react because I do not know what will happen next. If Long and Johnson apologize on this small, comparatively private/obscure forum yet continue to publish the same accusations about Joan and me to the wider world...then I don't consider it a closed matter.

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More Comments:

Roderick T. Long - 1/14/2005

See my latest post in the main section here.

Jeanine Ring - 1/14/2005

For once, Msr. Fulwiler,

I second your words and hope.

Jeanie Ring

M.D. Fulwiler - 1/14/2005

Please, please do your best to settle this matter nicely.