A Rebuttal to “The Case Against Female Self-Esteem” – An Essay

Pulled from Slate.com

My close friend Erica sent me the article “The Case Against Female Self-Esteem” after she found it a few years ago. While looking through essays I’ve written over the years, I found this one on my hard drive. And sure enough, Forney’s site still has the article up. So I’m posting an updated version of original essay. While I loathe sending any web traffic to this poor excuse for a human being, you can Google the title mentioned above so you can see the source of my anger.

The question of female self-esteem is not really this guy’s point; rather, the point he’s actually attempting to make is how female independence is wrong, especially if it’s independence from male subjugation. Which is utter nonsense of a degree that I didn’t think was possible in a human being but I stand corrected. Here’s my rebuttal to this odious collection of clap-trap.

A moment of divergence before getting into the meat of Forney’s misogynist rant, though. I want to explain my position on female independence. It’s an open secret among my friends that I participate in certain alternative lifestyles. These activities I’ve witnessed and participated in often involve women taking on a receptive, submissive role. The key difference between myself (and many of my friends in the aforementioned lifestyle) and Forney is that I and others like me place great emphasis on consent, empowerment, and self-regard. I don’t need someone to be subservient to feel powerful (which Forney’s comments clearly indicate is his need). Instead, I value women who possess their own minds, keep their own counsel, and choose to take on a submissive role because it suits their needs and desires. In return, I treat them as the other half of a balanced scale, no lesser or greater than myself.

Now to the douchebag who inspired this essay. Matt Forney’s short article “The Case Against Female Self-Esteem” extolls his notion that women should exist solely to be exploited by men. This exploitation would take the form of a benevolent (if one considers benevolence to be entirely one-sided) patriarchy. I wonder if Forney mistakes the heavily-patriarchal past as a utopian existence. As Forney puts it,

[t]he idea that women should have self-esteem or need it beyond a low baseline to ensure they don’t commit suicide or become psycho stalkers, is one of the most disastrous social engineering experiments of the modern era.

Matt Forney, “The Case Against Female Self-Esteem

Holy misogynist missive, Batman!

The lack of female empowerment is seen as a positive by Forney, a way for women to fulfill “their natural biological and social functions”. In other words, women only have worth as long as men like Forney provide it to them, otherwise women miss out on being homemakers and baby factories. For men like Forney, women are simply objects to use and eventually replace. His misguided notion that women derive their sense of worth “not from their feminine nature but from their college degrees” reveals a man who feels women are at their best when they remain uninformed and uneducated. Which just makes them easier to be preyed upon by people like Forney. Take a look at the image posted at the beginning of this article. Does that look a man who would be comfortable with anyone actually being smarter than him?

Forney even goes so far as to list reasons why women should be discouraged from having self-esteem. This list is a clear example of what kind of men American rape culture can produce. The list is geared from an entirely gender-specific (i.e. cis-white male) point of view, primarily the POV that since men are physically stronger, they are the dominant gender. I’ll dissect the list, starting with:

Most girls have done nothing to deserve self-esteem.

Here Forney claims that self-esteem is derived from accomplishment, some trade or skill or talent. I agree that a person’s self-worth can be bolstered (in some cases entirely dependent) from one’s work or talents. Forney’s approach is that women simply demand respect, not on merits achieved but simply existing. Here’s a newsflash for Forney: we all deserve at least a small amount of respect for existing, even mewling man-children like you.

A college education keeps getting brought up by Forney, particularly in this first reason. His stance is that a degree is meaningless versus knowledge and experience. What men like Forney fail to realize is that despite the bloated carcass that college has become, most companies won’t hire people for prime, money-making positions without those degrees. This holds for women AND men both. Without the foundational background from education, most high-paying jobs remain out of reach for people, regardless of their experience or knowledge-base.

Forney also goes on to denigrate positions some (not all as Forney implies) women pursue: government work, human resources jobs, and other “makework positions that exist to give them the illusion of independence”. There are two out of many examples I could give that contradict this point of view. First, the list of female CEOs in Fortune 500 companies. These aren’t makework jobs; these are make-work jobs, as in the jobs that help to create job opportunities for others. The other is from a historical perspective. Such names as Marie Curie, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Claudette Colvin are women who made massive contributions for the betterment of society. Forney makes a valid point that the majority of jobs going to men. The reason for this is that men like Forney are threatened by women who can do the job as well (even better) than they can. Fear drives men like Forney, fear of losing control. Men like Forney need control in order to feel potent. Women who want that same level of control turn these kinds of men into frightened children faster than they can say “Mommy?!”

Insecurity is integral to femininity.

Forney admits in this point that the women he “loved the most were the ones who were the most insecure, the most emotionally vulnerable”. In other words, Forney loved the women that were the most easily manipulated. This argument boils down to a twisted, devious form of the “White Knight” treatment: women aren’t physically or emotionally capable of defending themselves (thus they should “naturally” feel insecure) and they need a man for protection. Citing the ever-popular apocalypse idea, Forney argues that “all the Strong, Independent Women™ …would last about five minutes before they either found a man to cling onto or got raped and killed”.

Quite the charmer, isn’t he?

Here’s the problem: men like Forney haven’t learned that just because you’re physically stronger doesn’t make you better. I know plenty of tough guys who would turn into weeping babies if they went through pregnancy (not just the birth but the entire 9 months). Forney’s arguments are flawed because they’re based on certain logical fallacies: the argument from personal incredulity (Forney can’t imagine why women need to feel good about themselves); the popular argument (Forney believes that because many people think female self-esteem isn’t important it therefore means it isn’t important); and, the argument from tradition (because women have historically been subservient to men that is the role they should remain in).

It’s possible to be emotionally vulnerable and still be your own person. It’s possible (and I speak from personal experience) for a woman to be capable, confident, feminine, and emotionally available. Men like Forney are intimidated by such women because those women don’t fall for manipulative hucksters like Forney.

There is a valid argument to be made about relationships needing emotional vulnerability, however. What relationships don’t need is one-sided vulnerability. When one partner isn’t valued the same as the other partner, the relationship suffers. Forney and his ilk condemn women who treat men like fashion accessories or sexual conquests (as opposed to how men like Forney treat women in the exact same fashion). He even goes so far as to say that if he’s “not the center of a girl’s world, [he’s] not going to be in her world period”, which is certainly the mature, non-passive-aggressive way to handle things. While he’s at it, Forney should just take his toys and go home because girls are being mean to him for not bowing to his every whim.

While Forney flippantly dismisses his fear of confident women, the number two reason he listed for his argument is based entirely on fear. Men like him are afraid for the previously “sacred” (read “assumed”) position of paramount importance in the lives of heterosexual women that men once possessed. Times have changed. Period. Gender equality will be a great milestone for our species when cultural Neanderthals like Forney finally die off.

Women don’t want to have high self-esteem.

Forget for a moment that this man-child is attempting to speak for all women. Forney alludes to the idea that women secretly want male domination. While it is true that some women enjoy entering into a consensual dominant/submissive relationship with a male partner, one slice of the pie chart is not the whole pie chart. There are plenty of women in the world, prominent figures in politics, culture, entertainment, etc. who don’t want or need a man dominating their lives. Forney mistakes control for love and subjugation for cooperation. The women I know who want male dominance in their lives choose that path and only with the partner they choose to submit to. Consensual domination is not Forney’s goal, though. Instead men like Forney want to remove the “stain” of feminism from the culture and take away a woman’s fundamental right to choose their own path.

Forney claims that women “need us far more than [men] need them”. Were that the case, Forney wouldn’t need to write articles like this. The secret is this: sometimes men and women of the heterosexual persuasion need each other equally. Relationships are always a scaled endeavor, meaning the neediness of one party for the other will fluctuate from time to time. A healthy relationship involves both parties getting what they need and some of the things they want. Forney’s idea of a healthy relationship seems to be he gets all of his wants and needs met with little to no recognition of a woman’s needs or wants.

A shot is taken at rape culture and I feel the need to address this. To say that there is a rape culture in the United States is an arguable point. I fall in the category that says there is one. I’ve seen too many cases of sexual misconduct brushed aside, leaving women to deal with surviving one of the most traumatic life events that can happen by themselves. A film I’d suggest people watch to get a good grasp on how prevalent rape culture in America is is Kirby Dick’s The Invisible War (Amazon Affiliate Link). When blame for rape falls on the victim’s shoulders rather than the attacker’s, there’s something fundamentally wrong with that culture.

Men like Forney are delusional, pining for a system that needed to be destroyed. If these guys don’t like Strong, Independent Women, that’s their hang-up. Odds are those Strong, Independent Women would rather spend time with their toys than with someone like Forney. As a culture, we will only reach the point of firm equality when we condemn with the loudest possible voice the arguments made by people like Matt Forney and his ilk.

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