David Thompson
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June 23, 2009

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SG

"In the late seventies politics in Britain became more extreme. As the state moved dramatically to the right, the left began to fragment."

It didn't move "dramatically to the right". It just moved away from the extreme statist left and a command economy.

Karen M

Funny how the ones who are still angry look like they enjoy being angry a bit too much. Like it's a game.

David

Karen,

“Like it’s a game.”

Well, it’s interesting that many of these figures speak as if nothing much had changed, despite the enormous mainstream assimilation that’s taken place in the past 30 years. As the final clip makes clear, they’re the ones who seem antiquated. But if you were to judge the UK by the compass of, say, Julie Bindel or Sheila Jeffreys, you might get the impression that we all still live in the early 1970s (or in some cases the 1950s). It makes me wonder whether the role of oppressed misfit has become a vital part of their personas. Maybe without the overstatement and resentment - and the role-play - they don’t know how to be.

Anna

Bindel: "Having no understanding at all of the fact that sexuality is a social construct..."

Is lesbianism a social construct too then? Can lesbians be "turned" if they just prayed a lot and tried really, really hard? I don't think she's thought that one through.

mlrosty

Great film. Thanks, David.

David

Anna,

“I don’t think she’s thought that one through.”

From what I’ve read, that isn’t her way. You’ll notice the claim about social construction isn’t framed as being open to debate. It’s pretty obvious that social influence can play *some* part in sexuality – in drunken experimentation or highly specific fetishes, for instance. But Bindel doesn’t ask, “To what extent is sexuality susceptible to social influence and personal whim?” She insists, quite adamantly, that sexuality just *is* a social construct. It isn’t even an argument. It’s an article of faith.

jeepers

Brilliant.

David Gillies

This is why the doctrinaire social constructivists get so hot under the collar about things like sociobiology and evolutionary psychology. It's not that a world in which our personae owed as much (or more) to genetic and evolutionary effects as to upbringing and conditioning would necessarily be a baleful place, just that it would completely remove these angry persons raisons d'etre. Ev Psych needs Gender Feminism like a fish needs a bicycle.

David


It is remarkable just how adamant some advocates of social construct theory are, not least in areas that are politically charged like the one above. It’s easy to spot ideological motivations, but so far as I’m aware there isn’t an evidential basis to justify such doctrinaire sentiment. And, as noted earlier,* the claims being presented are often inconsistent and highly selective. Though this doesn’t inhibit Bindel or Amanda Marcotte, who also insists that such-and-such *is* a social construct without pausing to explain why.

*http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2009/02/construct-unstuck.html

Again, it sounds an awful lot like faith.

carbon based lifeform

It's faith and a massive ego. Marcotte doesn't want to have kids so she says nobody "really" wants to have kids. People who do just think they do because they're oppressed by the patriarchy. If people aren't like her they must be oppressed/stupid. If they knew their own minds they'd all feel just like SHE does.

David Gillies

Amazing: Amanda Marcotte and I agree on something. I don't want her to have kids, either.

David

“If they knew their own minds they’d all feel just like SHE does.”

Which is a whole new level of needy. And those who disagree can be dismissed as either dupes of the patriarchy or agents of oppression.

Comnenus

What an odious woman that Bindal is, if I were even slightly inclined to dismiss her Guardian output so far this program convinced me otherwise. The revealing thing is her contempt for the GLC, regardless of what you might think of their and her actions that lady went into politics and was on the GLC just trying to help women without any great desire for ideology. The fact she has contempt for them not because they weren't helping women but because they weren't radical or revolutionary or ideology obsessed enough is revealing of the sort of woman she is.

hunter

This was just a secular cult of very disturbed, affluent people.

pam402

So straight women had to prove they were "politically serious" by not sleeping with men (even their husbands) because all men were the "enemy"? But they could sleep with other women. Sounds like a cult to me.

David

“Sounds like a cult to me.”

It’s worth noting that the antipathy toward men – all men – was encouraged by the quasi-Marxist framing. Note Sheila Jeffreys’ use of Marxist rhetoric, the contempt for the heterosexual family and all things “bourgeois,” and her eagerness to define men and women as competing generic “classes,” as if distinctions between particular men and between particular women were of no great significance. She’s very fond of slogans and bald assertion. Things like, “Male supremacy is centred on the act of sexual intercourse, justified by heterosexual practice.” Or, “Feminists who sleep with men are collaborating with the enemy.” Or, “All feminists can and should be lesbians. We define a political lesbian is a woman-identified woman who does not fuck men. It does not mean compulsory sexual activity with women.”

http://edstrong.blog-city.com/radical_feminism_women_are_fucked_by_men.htm

You won’t find much doubt or questioning in Jeffreys’ writing; it’s all very adamant, as if shouting made it true. It goes without saying that the obstinate idiocy of her views hasn’t prevented her finding employment at the University of Melbourne, teaching “political science.”

http://www.ssps.unimelb.edu.au/about/staff/profiles/jeffreys

Don't Tread On Me

Who'd have thought Julie Bindel and Ted Haggard would have so much in common?

James S

"It goes without saying that the obstinate idiocy of her views hasn't prevented her finding employment at the University of Melbourne, teaching "political science.""

But David, who else is going to employ a paranoid man-hating megalomaniac?

TDK

Seems an appropriate time to remind ourselves of the SCUM manifesto (Society for Cutting Up Men)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SCUM_Manifesto

Valerie Solanas subsequently denied this was serious. However this was after she had stabbed Andy Warhol.

I'm sure we can all get behind that.

Elsewhere Melanie Philips' "Ascent of Woman: A History of the Suffragette Movement" shows us that these controversies are not new.

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2242/is_1649_282/ai_104136719/

Even at the birth of the woman's movement there was a divide:

"'an attempt to revolutionise the entire social system by getting it to adopt the moral values of women'. At its heart lay the double standard that still pertains: 'the simultaneous argument that women are the equals of men and that women are men's moral superiors'."

David

James,

“…who else is going to employ a paranoid man-hating megalomaniac?”

The megalomania is an interesting point. Certainly, there’s an enormous vanity at work. In the last clip Jeffreys claims that “revolutionary feminism” and the radical left – these “visionary movements” - were defeated by government, “corporations” and the “forces of reaction.” It’s a flattering construal of events, in which she becomes a sort of tragic hero, cruelly suppressed. She lists a number of “very powerful forces” that allegedly thwarted her ambitions, no doubt for dastardly reasons. Oddly, the list doesn’t include the preferences of the public. She doesn’t entertain the possibility that maybe, just maybe, what she was selling wasn’t wanted.

James S

David, have you seen this?

"Meet Pop, a two-and-a-half-year-old Swedish child whose parents are refusing to say whether the apple of their eye is a boy or a girl. Pop's parents, both 24, made a decision when their baby was born to keep Pop's sex a secret. Aside from a select few – those who have changed the child's diaper – nobody knows Pop's gender; if anyone enquires, Pop's parents simply say they don't disclose this information. In an interview with newspaper Svenska Dagbladet in March, the parents were quoted saying their decision was rooted in the feminist philosophy that gender is a social construction...

Pop's wardrobe includes everything from dresses to trousers and Pop's hairstyle changes on a regular basis. And Pop usually decides how Pop is going to dress on a given morning. Although Pop knows that there are physical differences between a boy and a girl, Pop's parents never use personal pronouns when referring to the child – they just say Pop."

http://www.newenglishreview.org/blog_direct_link.cfm/blog_id/21587

David

It’s always good to see doctrinaire parents using their children to assert a dubious ideological claim. Somehow, I don’t think their “experiment” will play out quite as they hope, or be a great advantage to the child.

And I wonder what talents and qualifications are required to become a “gender equality consultant.”

Rob

Poor Pop, he/she is fucked already. Still, it's being done with the best of motives - selfish leftist individualism.

Rob

BTW, if this decision is "rooted in feminist philosophy" then my guess is that Pop is a boy.

KarenT

Well, there is a grain of truth in the "social construct" position. Otherwise, the "political feminist" movement would not have been followed by the self-serving "lesbian-while-in-college" movement. Many women are somewhat flexible in their ability to form sexual/emotional attachments. Of course, that does not justify feminists demanding that other women abandon their associations with men. Pure craziness.

Men are much more prone to develop fetishes and other signs of "programming", which might sometimes take the form of "social conditioning", like only being able to have sex in a room with flowered wallpaper because the first introduction to sex, by a prostitute, was in such a room.

The origins of sexual attraction seem to be quite complicated. But the Left is going to make sure that there are always grievance groups based on sexual attraction. I once heard a sympathetic interview on Pacifica Radio with a representative of the misunderstood Bondage and Discipline community. Even a representative of the National Man-Boy Love Association got a very brief (though dispassionate rather than sympathetic) interview once. .

David

“Otherwise, the ‘political feminist’ movement would not have been followed by the self-serving ‘lesbian-while-in-college’ movement.”

I’m sure cynics among us will wonder how often the “sexuality is a social construct” routine has been used to lure gullible students into the sack. “Your preference for men/women/attractive people is just a social construct, an artefact of the patriarchy. Throw off your chains and press yourself against me. Let us rebel together…”

“Many women are somewhat flexible in their ability to form sexual/emotional attachments… Men are much more prone to develop fetishes and other signs of ‘programming’…”

I did suspect there might be some asymmetry.

“...the misunderstood Bondage and Discipline community.”

The Misunderstanders of Bondage would make a pretty good band name.

David Gillies

P. J. O'Rourke (PBUH) lampooned the social-consciousness-as-aid-to-getting-laid idea when he has some guy telling the object of his affections, "water is a scarce and precious resource. So let's double-up in the shower." I knew a couple of guys at university who hung out with SWP types because if you didn't mind the armpit hair and dogged revolutionary sloganeering, the girls were a lot easier to get into bed.

As for the nitwitted parents of poor Pop, I suspect they are in for a rude awakening when they discover just how refractory character development in children is to parental influence. It is a commonplace that if you give a small boy a Barbie to play with, he will either point it at people and shout "bang!" or hit his sister with it. Dressing him up like Andy Pandy won't change that one whit.

Squander Two

> It is a commonplace that if you give a small boy a Barbie to play with, he will either point it at people and shout "bang!" or hit his sister with it.

I know from personal experience (of a toddling acquaintance whom I shall not specify in case his friends find this on the Web when he grows up) that this is not true. But what's interesting is that he proves the converse: that if you give a boy blue trousers and toy cars and things, that won't stop him wanting to play with Barbies and put on fairy princess dresses.

Kids want to be like the other kids they hang out with. Parents can have a pretty big influence on the first one -- and indeed they'd better, because after that it's the older siblings who are the big influence.

My mother was a 1970s extreme Marxist lefty feminist. Spent my childhood drumming it into me that I'd done something wrong by being born male, as if I'd done it to piss her off. We now have a difficult relationship, to say the least. She wasn't invited to my wedding and I didn't speak to her at all for years -- mainly for a different reason related to another bit of leftist ideology, but still. If motherhood is a female thing (and I reckon it probably is), feminism would serve women better if it stopped fucking up their ability to be mothers.

David Gillies

Well, Squander Two, that rather proves my point. All the gender-neutral silliness will be water off a duck's back. If Pop is wired to like tractors and explosions, he'll like tractors and explosions. If he's wired to like Empire-line brocade frocks and throw pillows, then... If he's wired to be any one of the marvellous cavalcade of human stereotypes, then that is what, to a high degree of certainty, he will turn out to be. Sure, the greatest environmental factor in determining the socialisation of a child is his peer group, but to leave it at that is, at best, to presuppose that the choice of one's peer group is a free variable, unconstrained by one's genes. Parents might say, "I don't want you hanging around with that awful Charlie fellow," but history is replete with tales of how ineffective such injunctions usually are. If Montagus could be dissuaded from falling in love with Capulets because they weren't speaking to each other after what their Marjorie said about our Doreen at Trisha and Neville's wedding, the canon of epic tragedy would be a lot slimmer.

It would be ridiculous and reductionist to say that our fate is wholly constrained by our genetic makeup - uniquely, among all lifeforms, to the extent one is a fully formed human being one's psyche overrules one's instinct - but the Leftist insistence on nurture as the sole arbiter and determinant of one's Weltanschauung is as quixotic as an adherence to the phlogiston theory of combustion or a belief in the Ptolemaic system.

Did I ever mention how much I love this blog?

David

People really don’t do that as often as they should.

phantom menace

Just finished watching the whole thing. I've never seen so many people in one film lacking self-knowledge. Thanks for posting it.

David

“I’ve never seen so many people in one film lacking self-knowledge.”

Despite the earnest posturing, many of the women involved seem morally frivolous. “Making the personal political” can often lead to narcissism and pathology. Threatening to brick a person’s house because they were deemed the wrong sex to write graffiti, for instance, isn’t a marker of mental health. And abandoning one’s children to live in a single sex commune isn’t the most convincing badge of virtue.

More recent developments in identity politics haven’t exactly improved on the self-awareness front. The trend still seems to be towards cartoonish tribalism and claims of “special knowledge” based on a person’s pigmentation and/or genitals. For an overview of prevailing “critical theories,” see this excellent dissection by Daphne Patai:

http://www.mindingthecampus.com/originals/2009/06/by_daphne_patai_one_of.html

Squander Two

Hi, David Gillies.

I wasn't trying to start a big argument, really I wasn't, but no, what I wrote doesn't prove your point, unless by "prove" you mean "contradict". It does, however, back up the new and markedly different point that you've now made instead. Some might even say that

> "It is a commonplace that if you give a small boy a Barbie to play with, he will either point it at people and shout "bang!" or hit his sister with it."

and

> "If he's wired to like Empire-line brocade frocks and throw pillows, then [he will]"

express almost opposite opinions.

As for

> "Sure, the greatest environmental factor in determining the socialisation of a child is his peer group, but to leave it at that is, at best, to presuppose that the choice of one's peer group is a free variable, unconstrained by one's genes."

Well, no. If we're talking about gender (and I think we are), then there is absolutely nothing genetic in an individual that determines the gender of their siblings. My toddling acquaintance behaves the way he does because he's copying his sister. That he has an older sister and no older brothers certainly is unconstrained by his genes.

Don't get me wrong: the point you're making is broadly correct. It's just completely wrong for the particular example being discussed.

sackcloth and ashes

The thing about Julie Bindell - and a lot of radical feminists - is that they look like blokes. So if their 'sisters' are genuine lesbians they're going to find them a turn-off, and if they aren't - well, they might as well sleep with the real thing.

David Gillies

Squander Two - it will be interesting to see what happens when the toddler is exposed to a wider and less heterodox peer group. And by 'commonplace' I didn't mean a universal truth, merely one strongly and generally true in a statistical sense. My point is that given the influence that genetic makeup has on the development of personality, attempting to use environmental factors to override it is almost always doomed to failure.

Squander Two

I believe it is strongly and generally true that small boys with older sisters and no brothers tend to behave like those sisters. Don't have actual statistics to hand, if there even are any for this, but it's certainly attained well-known-fact status among parents.

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