No True Feminist or Scotsman Is For That

Any person who calls herself or himself a feminist and says I speak for all women, or for all persons, is mistaken or a liar. Some who call themselves feminists do not go that far.  While they may be  in favor of some particular position, belief, cause or issue, they attempt to nullify anyone who is not in agreement with them by asserting that these other folks are “not  true feminists”.

This discussion focuses on the “not a true feminist” fallacy. This discussion does not deal with those women, and some men, who say they do and will speak for all women, for their own good, whether they like it or not.

“Feminist” is not a monolithic term with a single, settled definition that all who call themselves “feminist” accept. On many issues there are pro-this and anti-this feminists. For example, today there are those who declare themselves to be feminists who support legalized elective abortion and others who declare themselves to be feminists who oppose it. Depending on the vocabulary chosen and the person you ask for a definition, some feminists are:  anti-abortion, prochoice, prolife, anti-choice, prodeath, prochild, promother,  prowoman, antiwoman, proabortion, pro-autonomy, profamily, anti-motherhood, pro-baby,  prowoman,  profreedom, or anti-baby. The person kneeling in the photo above is a male prolife senior white heterosexual married Catholic feminist.

A cursory internet search will reveal these and many other “feminists”.  Anyone who is an adherent of any one particular kind of feminism who says that others who disagree with them  are “not true feminists,” makes a logical mistake.

Andrea Dworkin, Feminist

Andrea Dworkin, a particular kind of feminist (who died in 2005) was against pornography and against prostitution.  She agreed on many other  issues with many who call themselves feminist.

One can admit that she was, indeed a feminist. This would entail that feminism not only is not a single, clear  ism, much to the chagrin of some who believe that they and they alone profess the true feminist faith and the only feminist magisterium; but that “feminist” also includes persons expressing diametrically opposed and even contradictory views (e.g., differing from Dworkin, there are pro-porn and pro-sex work feminists).

Alternatively, one could assert that Andrea Dworkin is not a true feminist. This gambit is a last refuge of any grand definer whose generalization dogma is shown to be false by a real counterexample. In logic, this has come to be known as the ‘No True Scotsman” fallacy.

Anthony Flew

Anthony Flew (1923-2010  A.D.) is the British philosopher credited with naming this logical error the “No True Scotsman” fallacy. In Thinking About Thinking, (1975) Flew wrote:”

Imagine Hamish McDonald, a Scotsman, sitting down with his Glasgow Morning Herald and seeing an article about how the “Brighton Sex Maniac Strikes Again”. Hamish is shocked and declares that “No Scotsman would do such a thing.” The next day he sits down to read his Glasgow Morning Herald again; and, this time, finds an article about an Aberdeen [Scot] man whose brutal actions make the Brighton sex maniac seem almost gentlemanly. This fact shows that Hamish was wrong in his opinion, but is he going to admit this? Not likely. This time he says: “No true Scotsman would do such a thing.

Women’s March-Only “True Feminists” Need Apply

This is not simply a theoretical discussion. Not that long ago those who controlled the so-called “Women’s March on Washington” first allowed, but then prohibited, one feminist group from taking part. Originally a group called “New Wave Feminists” was publicized as a co-sponsor of the first Women’s March. After some nonprolife feminists expressed their outrage – New Wave Feminists are, among other things, prolife – the feminists in power over the March disinvited the New Wave Feminists. Some of these feminarchs stated that including the New Wave Feminists was “embarrassing and actually nauseating.”

ProLife Feminist Foremothers

Do an internet search of “not a real feminist,” and you will discover how time and again this archal feminist or that power feminist dismisses some other feminist’s beliefs or feminist principles with which they disagree, relying on the “No True Feminist” logical fallacy. One such dismissal stands out:  many of the foremothers of feminism were prolife. One attempt in the mode of “You gonna beleive me or you gonna believe your eyes?” to explain this away is that they were not really prolife, not really antiabortion. Another way is the “No True Feminist” gambit.  Included in the list of “not true feminist” foremothers are, among others:

Susan B. Anthony, 1820-1906  A.D.

Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, 1821-1910 A.D.

Pearl S. Buck, 1892-1973  A.D.

Dorothy Day, 1897-1980 A.D.

Graciela Olivarez, 1928-1987 A.D.

Alice Stokes Paul, 1885-1977  A.D.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, 1815-1902 A.D.

Some examples of feminist foremother beliefs dismissed, ignored, or explained away by some of today’s feminarchs follow.

Alice Stokes Paul, author of the Equal Rights Amenndent:

Abortion is the ultimate exploitation of women.

Graciela Olivarez:

Advocacy by women for legalized abortion on a national scale is so anti-women’s liberation that it flies in the face of what some of us are trying to accomplish through the women’s movement  . . I am not impressed or persuaded by those who express concern for the low income woman who may find herself carrying an unplanned pregnancy and for the future of the unplanned child … because the fact remains that in this affluent nation of ours, pregnant cattle and horses receive better health care than pregnant poor women. The poor cry out for justice and we respond with legalized abortion.

Dorothy Day:

We’re living in an age of genocide,” she asserted. “Not only war, and the extermination of the Jews, but the whole program of abortion.

Susan B. Anthony:

Guilty? Yes, no matter what the motive, love of ease, or a desire to save from suffering the unborn innocent, the woman is awfully guilty who commits the deed. It will burden her conscience in life, it will burden her soul in death; but oh! thrice guilty is he who, for selfish gratification… drove her to the desperation which impelled her to the crime.

{From an unsigned article in Anthony’s newspaper, the Revolution]. Much as I deplore the horrible crime of child-murder, earnestly as I desire its suppression, I cannot believe… that such a law would have the desired effect. It would only be mowing off the top of the noxious weed, while the root remains.

Pearl S. Buck :

[from her essay, Every Life Is a Gift,]:

Even in full knowledge I would have chosen life, and this for two reasons: First, I fear the power of choice over life or death at human hands, I see no human being whom I could ever trust with such power—not myself, not any other. Human wisdom, human integrity are not great enough. Since the fetus is a creature already alive and in the process of  development, to kill it is to choose death over life. At what point shall we allow this choice? For me the answer is – at no point, once life has begun. At no point, I repeat, either as life begins or as life ends, for we who are human beings cannot, for our own safety, be allowed to choose death, life being all we know. Beyond life lie only faith and surmise, but not knowledge. Where there is no knowledge except for life, decision for death is not safe for the human race.


One last example, a real example from this ongoing public discussion, will make clear the logical dead end of the “No True Feminist” fallacy.

Feminists advocate for all women.

Do you eat eggs or drink milk?


Well then, you are not a true feminist because you don’t stand for all women; you only stand for human women. I am a feminist, and I stand for all women, that’s why a true feminist does not eat eggs or drink cows’ milk.

Yes, this is a position now being taken by some who call themselves feminists. They decry the “rape” of cows, the taking of their newborn calves from them so that their mother’s milk can be sold, and the poultry industry’s practice of confining hens to tiny cages until they can no longer produce eggs, and the eventual “slaughter” of the used-up hens. Even more heinous, then they sell the body parts of the slaughtered hens.


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