Lewis’ Law

“As I’ve just told @alicetiara, the comments on any article about feminism justify feminism. That is Lewis’s Law.”

A recent article entitled, “Donglegate: Why the Tech Community Hates Feminism” referenced Lewis’ Law, which is explained above.  What do people think?

Also, I really hope the article linked above is mistaken about the increased popularity of MRAs.

Also also, Lewis’ Law, if sound, definitely applies to the article linked above.

37 thoughts on “Lewis’ Law

  1. Have you seen what is happening on Anne Rice’s facebook page over the last 3 days? I believe that her troubles reflect Lewis’s law perfectly.

    She posted about FGM and the anti-circumcision advocates demanded that she include them.
    She said she does not know enough about it, and she wants to focus on one problem at a time. But they started flaming her. (I am not advocating anything other than her right to choose the topics she deals with on her wall-but they refuse to let her)

    Here read her words, since I can’t do it justice.

    Monday April 1, 2013
    Earlier, we posted on the ghastly cruel practice of Female Genital Mutilation of little girls around the world. Immediately the thread was hi-jacked by people insisting that male circumcision had to become the topic. In effect, the little …girl victims of FGM was shoved brutally to the back of the bus, and told their problem just wasn’t important enough to rate a thread of its own, and until male circumcision was addressed along with it, they would get no attention. I was stunned. I mean I have seldom been so disappointed and shocked by sexism on this page. Let me also note: male circumcision is almost never a topic brought here by anyone UNLESS some one tries to discuss Female Genital Mutilation; only then do the anti-male circumcision people appear to hog the limelight and shift the entire focus. This is truly stunning. Here is an article from wikipedia on FGM for those who are interested. Thanks to Rebecca Hulit for the link. I will continue to speak out against this barbaric practice. I do not think women are second class humans. They do not have to wait in line for men’s problems to be solved before we can discuss theirs. (And by the way, male circumcision and female genital mutilation are not the same!)

  2. Although I know nothing of Facebook or Ann Rice, tarabound’s comment #1 seems to deserve serious attention/consideration.

    In addition/on related matters, interested readers might want to check out: my recent post on Kakenya Ntaiya and the Kakenya Center for Excellence

    and Monkey’s earlier post (including the articles linked in comments #4 and #5 – those articles address if not support grounds for tarabound’s apparent concerns and sentiments) on Afar region, Ethiopia, abandoning female genital mutilation

  3. As a reader of several Feminist web sites, I think Lewis’ Law truly lives up the a law, if not of nature because of its regularity, at least of human nature (or certain human’s nature?). And I can think of few laws of human nature that are so consistently born out.

  4. The comments! OH MY GOSH! I always expect internet comment threads to be pretty bad, but this really went beyond my expectations.

  5. This is appalling. Male circumcision is a minor procedure that has as far as I can see (as a male) negligible impact on one’e life unless there is a “slip” to cut off the tip of the penis, which is then comparable to FGM. But in FGM the “slip” would be if only labia were removed–the whole point is to mutilate the sexual organs of usually very young women. There is no comparison at all except for the issue of bypassing the future autonomy of minors for (i) relatively minor cosmetic surgery in the case of males for purposes of cultural identity or supposed hygiene (not!) and (ii) the abject alteration of sexual experience/death through sepsis/psychological trauma of women throughout their lives by deprivation of sexual fulfillment/the ongoing psychological trauma of suppression as literally carved into their bodies for the purposes of male domination/etc. etc. as consequences of this patriarchal horror.

    All those male flamers should go to hell. If only there were such. Makes me appreciate Kant, and ashamed of my gender.

  6. Soraya Mire is a victim of female circumcision and a professional anti-FGM activist. F=She disagrees with Rice. Mire believes that both female and male circumcision are comparable:

  7. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a Somali refugee to Holland who served in the Dutch parliament. She is another anti-FGM activist who argues that male circumcision is just as as female circumcision, or even worse in some cases:

  8. I am not saying I agree or not. But that isn’t what I brought up. What I said was, Ms. Rice should have the full right to say what she wants to talk about, and people should respect her right to not discuss that at the moment.

    Why should she be forced to address something she doesnt’ want to?

    Why are people becoming abusive because she won’t do what they want?

    Isn’t that what feminsim is about, controlling our own opions, bodies and beliefs and not letting others impose their wills upon us?

  9. Anne is being disingenuous. What she is saying and what she means are two different things. Anne says she wants her page to be a safe place to talk about FGM. What she actually means is that she agrees with genital mutilation of males (and she is so far completely silent on the issue of forced surgery on intersex children).

    Genital mutilation of children can’t really be separated. *Every* culture that cuts girls also cuts boys. All genital cutting ultimately stems from the same source, which is why we see defenders of FGM using the legitimacy of male circumcision as a defense. This is also why we see feminist fighters of FGM battling male circumcision, too.

    Anne doesn’t really want a safe place for women’s issues. She wants a safe place to deny a form of abuse that ultimately threatens women and intersex people as much as males. Her shortsightedness ultimately threatens women, not helps.

  10. @Kelev:
    “All genital cutting ultimately stems from the same source”
    Can you explain what that source is, since it’s not obvious. Do you mean the source is a desire to control over people’s bodies?

    “Genital mutilation of children can’t really be separated” As far as I know, lots of cultures that partake in male circumcision don’t do anything to women’s genitals. Why doesn’t that count as evidence that genital cutting of children can be separated?

    As for forced surgery on intersex children, that is it’s own issue that deserves a lot of attention. But is there a specific reason why Anne Rice of all people should know about current policies regarding surgery on intersex children? As far as I know, almost no one is aware of that, even people deeply involved in the FGM debate. (Am I wrong though?)

  11. Stacey, to your first point, yes, that’s it in a nutshell. Control over bodies, and the diminishment / control of sexuality is ultimately where circumcision comes from. It’s no coincidence that the same arguments, and often even the same texts, that laud circumcision of women as a means to control sexuality and maintain the family are used to justify male circumcision.

    And true, not all cultures that circumcise boys also circumcise boys, but all cultures that circumcise girls circumcise boys. Thus circumcision of boys is the cultural default on an implicational hierarchy. Circumcision of boys is therefore necessary in all societies that circumcise girls. So in order to eradicate female circumcision, eradication of male circumcision is ultimately necessary.

    Circumcision of intersex children is a separate but related issue. It does stem form normative notions of female and male bodies that are bound up in uninformed gender stereotypes etc. Interestingly, forced cutting of girls is not at all rare in places like the US. There are many examples of it occurring in cases where girls’ clitorises are deemed “too long.” I’ve talked to a number of American women who were born in the 1950s, 60s, and even 70s who attest to such things happening to them. While these women are not intersex, the fact that their clitorises were deemed “too long” echoes the rationale we see being used for intersex surgery and again reminds us how the justification for one procedure is used for others. It’s not at all a stretch of the imagination to suggest that in a society, like the US, where male circumcision was almost universal for generations, operations on girls are all that more likely.

  12. Oops, in the 2nd paragraph there I meant to say, not all cultures that circumcise boys circumcise girls.

  13. Kelev,

    One would think that the effects on sexuality of male and female circumcision would be very, very different. Perhaps you could link to a study of some kind that shows the similarities of effects.

    I think you are too loose with “necessary”, in #11 above. I think are confusing “necessary conditions” as they relate to material conditionals and universal affirmative claims, with a modal idea of necessity. Certainly, if we eliminated all current male circumcision societies, we’d eliminate all females ones, given your claim. But this doesn’t show there is a conceptual connection between the two. And anyway, it doesn’t follow from p being a necessary condition for q, that eliminating p is a necessary condition for eliminating q. Eliminating p would be a sufficient condition for eliminating q.

  14. Male circumcision is no big thing. Some doctors even justify it on hygenic grounds.
    It’s never been shown to be especially traumatic or to diminish male capacity to experience sexual pleasure. It is practiced by the world’s most patriarchal cultures, the Jews and Islam, which far from abusing males, exalt their dominance.

    Female genital mutilation, on the other hand, is a method of mutilating (sorry to the repeat the word, but it’s the best one in the circumstances) female capacity for sexual pleasure and is done to keep women obedient and “in their place.”

  15. See, look. Passions take over and we have lost the point of the topic. This happens with every discussion. we are talking about hateful replies to threads, not the evils or merits of a specific topic.

  16. “All genital cutting ultimately stems from the same source”
    “Can you explain what that source is, since it’s not obvious. Do you mean the source is a desire to control over people’s bodies?”

    Yes, the source is definitively a desire for control. Let’s look at 1st Century writing by Philo of Alexandria, a Jewish philosopher. Philo wrote that circumcision represents the “excision of the superfluous pleasure”, and in the XII century Moses Maimonides (another Jewish philosopher – and physician) declared that “Circumcision simply counteracts excessive lust; for there is no doubt that circumcision weakens the power of sexual excitement, and sometimes lessens the natural enjoyment”. Both philosophers in fact supported circumcision, but they were aware that circumcision had sexual effects.

    In the XIX century, physicians attributed a myriad of diseases to the vice of masturbation, and “found” that Jews were “immune to masturbation” (M.J. Moses, 1871), thus starting the practice of circumcision in English speaking countries, which, at least for the next 90 years would be known that circumcision reduced sexual pleasure – but this was seen as a positive effect.

    It is enlightening to read this paragraph: “I suggest that all male children should be circumcised. This is “against nature”, but that is exactly the reason why it should be done. Nature intends that the adolescent male shall copulate as often and as promiscuously as possible, and to that end covers the sensitive glans so that it shall be ever ready to receive stimuli. Civilization, on the contrary, requires chastity, and the glans of the circumcised rapidly assumes a leathery texture less sensitive than skin. Thus the adolescent has his attention drawn to his penis much less often. I am convinced that masturbation is much less common in the circumcised. With these considerations in view it does not seem apt to argue that ‘God knows best how to make little boys.'” R.W. Cockshut. Circumcision. British Medical Journal, Vol.2 (1935): p.764.

    As things would have it, the 60s brought a sexual revolution, and a new paradigm was necessary if the practice of circumcision was to be maintained. It was then that Masters and Johnson, based on very improperly documented data, declared that there was no difference in sensitivity between the circumcised and uncircumcised penis.

    How is it that this fact that had been known for 19 centuries, was suddenly forgotten and erased in 1966?

    Of course by 1966 the prevalence of circumcision in the United States had grown (while the rates in England had already dropped since 1949), and those doctors were likely to have been circumcised at birth themselves, thus having no experience of intact sexuality.

    But as you can see, the source of religious circumcision and medical circumcision does imply the intention to control males’ bodies and diminish sexuality. Oh, Maimonides also wrote that “Our Sages (Beresh. Rabba, c. 80) say distinctly: It is hard for a woman, with whom an uncircumcised had sexual intercourse, to separate from him. This is, as I believe, the best reason for the commandment concerning circumcision.” How’s that?

  17. Tarabound, any objective look at the threads in question will show that there was plenty of hate on both sides. Indeed, it’s quite telling that Anne Rice has banned and deleted some of the most reasonable voices objecting to circumcision while allowing pro-circumcision trolls like “Olivia Bishop” to run rampant on the page, labeling people “fucktard” and “antisemitic retard” for disagreeing with her. Thus, any indictment against the tone of the page has to include some critique of Anne herself for contributing to that tone.

  18. I agree that FGM is horrific. But I also maintain that MC is damaging to sexuality for both genders, and that the issue is not of who has it worse, but of ensuring that all minors are protected from non-therapeutic genital surgery or genital cutting.

    People often repeat what Swallerstein just wrote two comments above, that FGM mutilates female sexuality and is done to keep women obedient and in their place. What this ignores is that the practice of FGM is promoted by circumcised females (much like male circumcision is usually promoted by circumcised males). Why would a person who has been mutilated promote the same mutilation? Let me answer that: cultural conditioning, brainwashing into believing that the injury was positive, and I see this occur both with FGM and MC.

    The American Academy of Pediatrics tried to establish a form of “ritual genital cutting of female minors” in the United States back in 2010 (of course this was federally prohibited and they ended up having to retract their statement). Part of their statement read: ” “mutilation” is an inflammatory term that tends to foreclose communication and that fails to respect the experience of the many women who have had their genitals altered and who do not perceive themselves as “mutilated.”” – Funny enough, the leading person behind this Policy Statement, Douglas Diekema, was also part of the 8 people Task Force on Circumcision that presented their new Policy Statement on Male Circumcision in August 27th of 2012.

  19. The thing is, FGM is not exclusively a feminist issue. FGM is part of a broader issue, which is genital mutilation of minors. Male minors, female minors, intersex minors are mutilated in different places of the world, some by doctors, some by priests, some by traditional practicioners. All of them endure some sexual consequences of the procedure, sometimes minor, but sometimes disabling and even deadly.

    The problem is that when Anne Rice spoke about FGM she spoke about “what’s done there”, ignoring “what is done here” (or that FGM had already been a medical issue in the United States for the matter). FGM like I said is not a feminist cause. Before that, is a children’s rights cause, and one that involves children of all genders. We will never eliminate one alone because MC is used to justify FGM and viceversa.

    You will never find intactivists who condone or promote FGM. But apparently you will find anti-FGM activists who promote and support MC.

  20. I am not debating that point at all. That is universal on comment threads, they always degenerate to vitriol from both sides. It is painful, which is why I try to avoid ever reading comments after articles, since they always leave me upset with both sides, event those I agree with.

  21. For example, in 2010 did you hear about doctor Dix Poppas, who was performing “nerve sparing clitoral reduction” on female minors with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (basically an enlarged clitoris, a condition that is borderline intersex). This case enraged feminists and intactivists alike. This is a case of genital mutilation under medical disguise occurring here. http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2010/06/this_doctor_does_what_to_6yearold_girls_clitorises.html

  22. ajkreider, I base my contention that eliminating male circumcision is necessary to eliminating female circumcision on the work of activists who deal with these issues on the ground, like those whose videos I posted above. While we can debate about the hypothetical, philosophical, theoretical implications of certain steps, people who deal with real-world implications argue that the practices are inextricably bound. In fact, one of the people on Anne’s page whose posts were deleted is a physician who works with immigrant communities someplace in the EU. She spoke about the difficulty and frustration she felt when trying to explain to parents why it was legal to circumcise their sons but not their daughters, and the charges of hypocrisy that many of these parents leveled at her. People working in the trenches certainly see these issues as connected, regardless of whether white, middle-class Americans like Anne Rice do.

  23. What Anne Rice did was ignorant and sexist. To bring up the issue of female genital cutting (aka circumcision/mutilation) and forbid any reasonable discussion of genital cutting of all children (boys and intesex children as well) shows:

    1: An ignorance (and perhaps willful disregard) of the scope and interrelatedness of the subject of genital mutilation of all children.

    2: A willingness to slam the door on any reasonable discussion of this and recognize that all children have the basic human right to bodily integrity.

    While its unfortunate for children generally that Ms Rice expressed herself as sexist and closed-minded on this issue of children’s rights, we should be glad that she made her views known publicly, she has shown us who she is and she’s helped (unwittingly and in a small way) to give the discussion more publicity.

  24. I don’t see how you can stop female genital cutting without stopping male circumcision. Even if you think there’s a difference, the people that cut girls don’t, and they almost always say “why should we stop cutting our girls if you still cut your boys”.

    If you’re outraged or baffled by the fact that people are against male circumcision, then that’s exactly how most people that cut girls feel when you try to tell them that female circumcision is wrong.

    To all those people horrified by the suggestion that some people compare male circumcision to female circumcision (aka FGM/FGC):
    Almost everyone that defends female genital cutting compares it with male circumcision, and almost everyone in Europe I’ve spoken about it with at least thinks there’s a comparison. Talk to people who defend and promote FGC, and try to convince them there’s a significant difference. (don’t call it “mutilation” or they usually go ballistic)

    US and UK doctors who were promoting female circumcision till the 1960’s routinely compared it to male circumcision eg
    Circumcision of the Female
    C.F. McDonald, M.D. – Milwaukee, Wisconsin
    GP, Vol. XVIII No. 3, p. 98-99, September, 1958
    (“If the male needs circumcision for cleanliness and hygiene, why not the female?”)

    More recently, the AAP’s Bioethics committee changed its policy on female cutting in 2010 saying “It might be more effective if federal and state laws enabled pediatricians to reach out to families by offering a ritual [clitoral] nick as a possible compromise to avoid greater harm.”
    They were forced to retract this about six weeks later:

    Dr Diekema, the chair of the committee said “We’re talking about something far less extensive than the removal of foreskin in a male”.

    The worst forms of female genital cutting are unquestionably worse than the usual form of western male circumcision, but the worst forms of male circumcision are also worse than the lesser forms of female cutting. Over 100 males died of circumcision in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa last year, and there were at least two penile amputations.

    Compare that with this:

    Why would the procedure in that link be illegal in most western countries, yet this is legal:

    Is there really much of a difference between trained surgeons removing the prepuce of a male or the prepuce of a female?

    It’s illegal to cut off a girl’s prepuce, or to make any incision on a girl’s genitals, even if no tissue is removed. Even a pinprick is banned. Why don’t boys get the same protection? Everyone should be able to decide for themselves whether or not they want parts of their genitals cut off. It’s *their* body. It’s not like it can’t wait – there are just two countries in the world where more than 50% of baby boys are circumcised: the USA (at 55%) and Israel. Other countries circumcise, but not babies – it’s generally anywhere from the age of seven to puberty or late adolescence.

  25. Sorry about that picture showing up. There doesn’t seem to be a way to edit my message or remove the Youtube preview though.

  26. No worries – I edited the comment so that the youtube preview wouldn’t show up. I wish we had better control over that in our comments.

  27. Lewis’ Law sounds like a convenient way to attempt to legitimize your cause. Every cause has dissenters, and people who downright make fun of it. By Lewis’ Law then all causes are justified, even those that feminism opposes. What a useless concept!

  28. @Sentient – You seem to be misinterpreting Lewis’ Law as meaning, “Comments disagreeing with feminism prove that we need feminism.”

    Lewis’ Law means, “The sheer amount of misogyny–things like threats of sexual violence, pure condescension, mansplaining (technical term), and assumptions of incompetence–found in the comments of articles on feminism are the very things we need feminism for to dismantle and stop normalizing them.'”

    But um, thank you for that useful comment, where you interpreted Lewis’ Law as something that would be patently silly?

  29. If any other kind of child abuse were being considered, would it be considered legitimate to insist on victims of only one sex being discussed? And if you say MGC is not child abuse, is there any other act that is abusive when it is done to females and not abusive when it is done to males? (Would the fact that a much more serious form of the abuse was done to only one sex make any difference?)

    If Anne Rice said “I want to discuss FGC in Somalia which is particularly evil because …” and “I don’t want to discuss MGC at all” most of us would have little quarrel with that. But like so many before her, she could not be silent about MGC. They have to say, “MGC is much less harmful” or even “MGC is harmless/beneficial” thereby standing on the heads of males in order to elevate females.

    Like so many before her, Anne Rice just wanted to rant about the worst of FGC, not suggest anything we could do about any of it. In point of fact, it is Intactivists who happened to take the lead in stamping out FGC in the USA. It was we who led the charge against the AAP’s 2010 proposal to allow a token ritual nick to girls “much less extensive than neonatal male genital cutting” (sic) and made them “retire” the policy within a month. So to condone “a much more extensive” form is a pure double standard.

  30. From what I read personally, there weren’t any abusive comments directed towards Anne at all, it was just people respectfully pointing out double standards with facts and evidence, videos of male circumcision (or torture, sorry but there it is) So I don’t think her facebook page was at all representative of Lewis’s law. However, as a British mother of two boys with foreskins, I was offended by a lot of the remarks by women on the page defending male circumcision as being ‘like having a hair cut’ – how could anyone leave such ill-informed comments unrefuted???

  31. Reblogged this on oogenhand and commented:
    Many Christians support Jewish circumcision because they fear they won’t be allowed to baptize their children in future. Preempt this move and ban infant baptism. Baptizing infants has the same “parental rights” reasoning as pharaonic “circumcision” (FGM, infibulation). In the nineties , it was the very same Christians who actually tried to prevent a ban on FGM in the USA. It is remarkable that it is always the same religions whose freedom those Christians protect. Within Christian circles, there are people who want to defer baptism into adulthood.

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