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July 01, 2009

Comments

Brian H

"…in the year 753 BC. It was during the reign of Romulus of Rome…"

Priceless.

peter horne

Moral idiots all. It takes an intellectual to believe such crap as Orwell understood perfectly.
Incidentally if you've not seen it before you might like this:
http://www.stumbleupon.com/s/#1CldMB/www.designswan.com/archives/the-story-of-nail-art.html/

Anna

"One taker of umbrage offers the following, entirely without irony..."

And entirely without sense. Don't the umbrage takers realize this is why I don't call myself a feminist? They've made the word a joke.

andy

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly some folk will resort to 'ad hominem' attack when their ideas are challenged.

andy

spotted a typo - apologies!

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly some folk will resort to 'ad hominem' attacks when their ideas are challenged.

David

“They’ve made the word a joke.”

Well, wild overstatement, bogus figures and ludicrous equivalences aren’t the best ways to get oneself taken seriously. The disrepute of large swathes of academic feminism is, it seems to me, largely self-inflicted. The activist premise and question-begging framing of many feminist courses may help explain the liberties that are quite often taken. They may also help explain the tribal hostility to dissent and correction, as illustrated by Sommers and, for instance, in Horowitz and Laksin’s One Party Classroom. (E.g. students being instructed to “refute” – rather than engage with or critique - the work of Daphne Patai, a feminist the course literature denounces as “ANTI-women’s studies.” P118.)

The false equivalence quoted above, in which the “vast majority” of American women are said to face “constrictions” on a par with stoning, shrouding and routine savagery, hardly fosters credibility. Indeed, the absurdity of the claim and its flattening of values could be taken as an affront to those women who do face very real barbarism, often sanctioned by the state and as a matter of routine. And comparisons of that kind are far from uncommon. For some, they’ve become a kind of rhetorical reflex and I’ve addressed them on this site more than once.

SG

Wow. The bitchy rambling is strong with this one:

"Sommers might also consider how incredibly ethnocentric to xenophobic to racist she might be sounding, depending (and here I’m giving her an undeserved benefit of the doubt that she isn’t really any of these things more than most affluent white people are)… Her sentiments sound appallingly like conservative rationales that the U.S. should bomb Iraq and Afghanistan and now Pakistan in order to save the women)."

She calls herself "Heart" btw.

tehag

Well... lie after lie by feminists has had utterly no effect of their standing, influence, or power. Not in my lifetime or the next. As with all effective lies, people learn only by suffering. Generations, who have lived oppressed by these lies, must pass until the effectiveness of the lies wane.

Trimegistus

You're missing the point. It DOESN'T MATTER if their facts are laughably wrong. It DOESN'T MATTER if their logic is loopier than Daffy Duck. Truth and coherence aren't important. The only thing that matters is POWER. Liberals have spent the past thirty years lying and conniving to gain power in academia, and preserving that power is the only thing that matters to them. They will tell any lie, use any vile insult or underhanded method to keep it.

Pointing out their mistakes is like criticizing the paint job on the Panzers when the Wehrmacht has occupied your country. It doesn't matter.

Anna

"She calls herself "Heart" btw."

LOL

Translation: She makes us look bad so she's got to be xenophobic and racist like most affluent white people are. She probably wants to bomb foreigners too. She's a bad person so we don't need to listen to her. We're still right! Yay for us!

David

“Heart” bemoans the alleged misrepresentation of women’s studies as “oil[ing] the patriarchal machine.” Presumably she feels the subject is unfairly regarded as unreliable, doctrinaire, prone to exaggeration, etc. Yet her very next paragraph (and her deliberate misquotation of Lawrence Summers) might lead one to precisely that conclusion.

maguro

I love that someone's been able to fix 753 BC as the exact date when abuse of women began! Apparently Cro-Magnon man was more enlightened than we thought.

richard Landes

great post. i posted on it here: The Reality-Challenged Community: Feminism and Moral Inversion.

Candice

I wonder if the incoherence of liberal and conservative (let's be honest) thought has something to do with the lack of serious battles of oppression being available to fight. Serious, overt discrimmination against women is hard to find in western society. Yet it is of course still around. The problem is that it is a million gossamer threads instead of a few mighty cords as it was in, say, the 70's.

The idealogical struggle must go on, even if the fight is over minutae such as the proportion of women in university math or physics departments. That might be why the calls are shrill. There just isn't anything obvious or simple to rail against. One must also be sure to avoid fighting against such barbarism as stonings, of course. That after all is part of the enshrined noble savages of which we must preserve.

David

Candice,

“The problem is that it is a million gossamer threads…”

I once had a discussion with a woman who remembered registering surprise on someone’s face when she announced an interest in physics while at school. This was offered as evidence that more must be done today. But assuming such surprise still persists to a significant degree, I’m not sure one can legislate against surprised expressions. An inordinate concern with details of this kind - or with “unconscious biases” and “invisible privileges” - leads to intrusiveness and enormous subjectivity. One can all too easily set off trying to police the unenforceable and chasing shadows. (“Was it subtle and systemic sexism I saw just then - or just rudeness, humour or simply a mistake?”)

This may be relevant. In the post linked below, Sommers casts an eye over efforts by feminist activists to make science more “gender-balanced” by making it less demanding and competitive: “The notion that women’s success in science depends on changing the rules of the game seems demeaning to women - but it gives the equity movement extraordinary scope, commensurate with the extraordinary power that federal science funding would put at its disposal.”

http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2008/03/science-softene.html

JuliaM

"..Barbara Barnett, a product of Duke’s infamous English department.."

If the English department is infamous, how are we to now regard the Health Policy Department?

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,529529,00.html?test=latestnews

pam402

Best "Heart" comment:

"You know, actually taking care of the people, the women, the kids and the animals is the LAST THING on white male heterosupremacists’ list… Women, children, animals, the earth– these are not on the list so far as people doling out the cash. And I just read this morning that even if all carbon emissions would end TODAY, the environment is too gravely harmed to recover."

This must be that "critical thinking" stuff.

David

“This must be that ‘critical thinking’ stuff.”

It’s a wonderful mix of regurgitated boilerplate and sparkles-and-ponies whimsy. An acquired taste, I know. It doesn’t bode well when a piece starts by announcing that the author “reluctantly skimmed” the material they’re criticising. Things don’t improve much when Sommers’ argument is reduced to a series of often inaccurate bullet-points, because “it’s all what she wrote in oh-so-many words deserves.” Though Bitch magazine thinks it worth highlighting as some serious rebuttal of Sommers’ article.

http://bitchmagazine.org/post/lies-and-the-lying-academic-feminists-who-tell-them-the-latest-from-christina-hoff-sommers

I’m sure there are claims to be tested in good faith, not least regarding exactly how prevalent such error and distortion is, how readily it’s corrected, and the degree to which political advocacy has blunted academic standards. But neither “Heart” nor the ladies at Bitch magazine manage to do that; nor do they seem terribly interested. What’s striking, though, are the un-sisterly responses and the heavy reliance on dismissal and ad hominem. These are hardly ideal tools of serious enquiry. Too often there’s a rush to tribalism and an urge to depict those who disagree as nefarious by default. (After highlighting instances of incoherence and distortion in feminist argument, I was accused of *favouring* the mistreatment of women. By daring to question the reality of some alleged forms of “oppression,” I became an “enabler” of oppression, and thus the enemy.) In my experience, it’s much rarer to find a willingness to look at the evidence and arguments and ask if there might actually *be* a serious corruption of standards.

As Sommers says,

“False depictions of the United States as an oppressive ‘patriarchy’ are a ludicrous distraction… My complaint with feminist research is not so much that the authors make mistakes; it is that the mistakes are impervious to reasoned criticism. They do not get corrected. The authors are passionately committed to the proposition that American women are oppressed and under siege. The scholars seize and hold on for dear life to any piece of data that appears to corroborate their dire worldview. At the same time, any critic who attempts to correct the false assumptions is dismissed as a backlasher and an anti-feminist crank.”

deathrow tull

I hope Amanda Marcotte's on top of this.

Rob

"Well, wild overstatement, bogus figures and ludicrous equivalences aren’t the best ways to get oneself taken seriously."

They are if your audience is a hyper-competitive, noisily ideological and insane one. In the non reality-based community, a reputation for common sense, evidence-based approaches and the application of Ockham's Razor will make you a hate figure almost overnight.

Rob

BTW, these nutters are in charge of educating our (your) children. In a generation or two this lunacy will be mainstream.

David

“I hope Amanda Marcotte’s on top of this.”

No sign as yet. She’s busy telling Guardian readers that more “support” (i.e. public money) is needed for “child-rearing co-ops.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/jul/01/women-children-fertility-treatment

Marcotte did once say of Sommers, “She just really hates feminism and has a symbolic hard-on for some righteous American male dominance.” No evidence was offered to support this claim. Instead, she wildly misrepresented Sommers’ actual argument – about the focus and priorities of much academic feminism in the US – and railed against “neocon war adventuring” before insinuating that Sommers and other critics of academic feminism are “trying to oppress women.” It’s worth noting that Marcotte didn’t quote Sommers’ own words at all; instead she paraphrased and distorted. Then the madness took her. Here’s a glimpse of what froths in the mind of Amanda Marcotte:

“…while I firmly believe a lot of neocon fuckwits here would love to have oppressed women in various Middle Eastern countries throw off the yoke of oppression, the only reason they want that is so that they can gloat about how they control their bitches better than the Muslims do.”

And note the approval of such sentiments among Marcotte’s sizeable readership.

http://pandagon.blogsome.com/2007/05/16/hoff-sommers-reveals-advanced-case-of-wingnutitis/

For more on the unwittingly hilarious Marcotte, see below:

http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2008/04/tales-of-woe.html

http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2008/04/borrowed-shame.html

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

Horace Dunn

That "Heart" is absolutely priceless. I mean...

"oil[ing] the patriarchal machine."

Do you suppose she was fingering herself when she wrote that?

And as for "white male heterosupremacists". That's a new word to me: heterosupremacists. It would make a good name for a backing group. Think:

"Big" Jeremy Clarkson and the Heterosupremacists.

Nice.

Tired of Everyone!

"Do you suppose she was fingering herself when she wrote that?"

I'm probably done with this blog. I thought it showed promise, but really, when you attempt the conservative critique of liberalism's most woolly-headed thinking, the downside is the type of people who are attracted to it.

billm99uk

I often think modern feminism has been a victim of its own success. I mean 90% of the original feminist ideas have largely been taken on board and implemented by western society and are now such a part of the fabric of society that we barely think of them as "feminist" any more. I mean, would it occur to anyone here if they were on an interview panel, not to give the job to the best candidate, even if should happen to be a woman? That would be just...odd.

Nowadays feminism's just left with the 10% rump of the original philosophy that was eccentric, loopy or just plain wrong. But then at least 10% of the original ideas of any ideology are like that. It's just that most philosophies haven't had feminism's success at getting their ideas implemented by western democracies.

The only surprise to me about modern feminism is its complete uselessness at combatting the genuine misogyny of a lot of the non-western world, where it doesn't come with a white face. The sisterhood sure seem to know their place in society - which is well behind black and asian men, apparently...

David

Tired of Everyone,

“…when you attempt the conservative critique of liberalism’s most woolly-headed thinking, the downside is the type of people who are attracted to it.”

Setting crudity aside, I’m curious as to why this post should be taken as a “conservative” critique. As shown above, labelling criticism as “conservative” is often used as a tribal defence, as a synonym for something nefarious and thus inadmissible. I’m not sure what’s inherently “conservative” about Sommers’ argument in this case, or my own comments. And for that matter, what’s “liberal” about the distortion and error being criticised?

wayne fontes

I'm probably done with this blog. I thought it showed promise, but really, when you attempt the conservative critique of liberalism's most woolly-headed thinking, the downside is the type of people who are attracted to it.

Is something stopping you from responding directly to the commenter? That lone comment doesn't strike me as a take my ball and go home moment.

You never really know what people sitting behind a key board, some times half a world away, are thinking I noticed this comment yesterday and didn't feel it was at all sincere.

Anna

"I'm probably done with this blog. I thought it showed promise, but really..."

Sounds like an excuse to me. Can't remember "Tired of Everyone!" ever joining a discussion here. Must be beneath him/her.

David

What’s odd is that Horace should be the one causing a ruckus. I never pictured him as the playground rough boy whose lewdness chased away gentle souls.

Anna

He's gone all mean and moody on us. I bet he's started smoking.

Horace Dunn

Anna and David

“I bet he’s started smoking”.

Actually, I’ve always smoked, but not usually in front of the grown-ups.

Seriously, though, David, I’d like to apologise for that comment. It was coarse, and I regret driving someone away from your blog, particularly since you always take great pains to keep things civilised. I don’t know what came over me. I can’t blame alcohol. Nor can I claim that I’d been led astray (“I’ve been hanging around with the boys at Biased BBC and they thought it was cool.”) It was, simply, an error of judgement. I need to remember to count to ten before I click Post. Or perhaps, as Jacques Chirac might advise, take more opportunities to shut up.

Anna

"I've been hanging around with the boys at Biased BBC and they thought it was cool."

LOL

David

Horace,

No problem.

Tired of Everyone!

Seriously, though, David, I’d like to apologise for that comment. It was coarse, and I regret driving someone away from your blog...

Too late! I've been languishing on my fainting couch for several days now, and I doubt I shall be rallying, anytime soon.

Basically, you've ruined my life.

David

Tired of Everyone,

Um, welcome back. Now about that “conservative” critique business…

James S

Sommers: "At the same time, any critic who attempts to correct the false assumptions is dismissed as a backlasher and an anti-feminist crank."

David, there's a post up at Tenured Radical that's full of the usual ad hominem and lots of bitching about Bush and the Iraq war. (So no stereotypes there.) She goes into this big Wizard of Oz routine then says "This is precisely what it feels like to get into an argument with conservative ideologues who are trying to suppress real debate in the name of (you guessed it) free and open intellectual exchange." The comments are full of the same –she's a "crank", a "bully", a "neocon"and a "hater".

Short version -Sommers is trying to SUPPRESS debate because she's CONSERVATIVE and EVIL!!!

David

James,

The thing is, there is a debate to be had - if people were prepared to drop the tu quoque and ad hominem and argue in good faith. Sommers doesn’t really show us how pervasive the error and distortion is, and we don’t know how widespread the resistance to correction is. It’s mostly anecdotal, though similar anecdotes are easy to find. When statistics are distorted so badly, and repeated so often, there’s definitely a problem, but is it the rule or just much too commonplace? That said, it’s interesting how Sommers’ point about intolerance of dissent is demonstrated by so many of the reactions to her raising the issue at all.

“Blogging While Feminist” offers the following: “Eyeroll. Yawn. More eyerolling. It would be nice if the Chronicle would stop soliciting anti-feminist diatribes from Sommers and Daphne Patai.” (I think this is known as the Just Shut Up Argument.) The author goes on to claim that Sommers’ and Patai’s “own works on feminism are littered with inaccuracies and anecdotally-based conclusions” though no examples are offered. Instead, there’s a weary plea for the Chronicle to “ask some actual feminist scholars to write about feminist scholarship.”

http://plainsfeminist.blogspot.com/2009/07/christina-hoff-yawn-sommers.html

Again, with no specifics at hand, it looks like Sommers and Patai are being denounced as inauthentic *because* they dissent. They don’t belong to The Church of Approved Ideas. And, by implication, their arguments and evidence can be dismissed as nefarious by default.

My own encounters with avowed feminists have often followed a pattern like the one linked below. Note the adamant, exasperated tone and the repeated failure to provide convincing evidence to justify the adamance. And note the imperviousness to key claims being refuted. It’s quite eerie.

http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2008/07/female-privileg/comments/page/2/#comments

James S

Threads like that are one of the reasons I like your blog.

"I'm not going to waste my time instructing you… it's just too obvious… Where would I even begin, if I wanted to make my case? …the truth is, you will actually believe just what I believe… Because really, all reasonable people believe that."

Priceless.

David

There is, I think, a tendency to beg the question, and then to act exasperated when evidence is asked for, as if it were somehow improper or a sign of malign intent. It’s worth noting the contrast between, say, Sommers, Daphne Patai and Camille Paglia – as feminists in the *classically* liberal sense – and many of the feminists who take umbrage with them – and who seem much more inclined to tribalism, groupthink and a kind of female chauvinism.

This 1994 interview with Sommers and Paglia may be of interest:

http://www.menweb.org/paglsomm.htm

Q

Criticizing feminism on the basis that you're not allowed to citicize feminism?

You're not allowed to do that.

Karen M

"They don't belong to The Church of Approved Ideas."

It's like the reaction to Sarah Palin:

"Even more mind-boggling are the attacks that don't even bother with false claims about policy or beliefs, but just go straight for free-floating misogynistic rage. Ridiculing her hair, clothes, makeup, voice, body, womb. "Sarah Palin is a cunt" — good one! Calling her a bimbo — good one! Calling her a fucking whore — good one! Fantasizing about her being gang-raped — good one! And all this from feminists. Forget the NAACP sponsoring a lynching; this is like the NAACP ripping off their masks to reveal that they've been replaced by white supremacist pod people."

http://www.reclusiveleftist.com/2009/07/04/feminists-and-the-mystery-of-sarah-palin/

David

Karen,

Whatever one makes of Palin’s politics or candidacy, the reaction from many avowed feminists was extraordinary in its viciousness and unreason. I noted it here a while ago, with self-declared feminists suddenly finding it okay to mock her disabled child with jokes about abortion, or to fantasise about seeing this woman gang raped. The veneer of sisterly solidarity suddenly cracked, then blew apart, and a real, very ugly, passion became apparent. (We should, if nothing else, thank Palin for that public service.)

I lost count of how many feminists denounced Palin as an “inauthentic” woman, or not a woman at all, which is much like the tactic noted earlier. For instance, the feminist academic Wendy Doniger wrote: “Her greatest hypocrisy is in her pretence that she is a woman” and the phrase “she isn’t even female really” became a favoured blog meme. Writing in Salon, Cintra Wilson said of Palin, “she ain’t no woman,” before describing her sneeringly as “fuckable” and “a hardcore pornographic centrefold.” It was bizarre. These women were suddenly happy to *narrow* the parameters of womanhood, oblivious to their own incoherence and class condescension. There’s an assumption among many that a “real” feminist – indeed, a “real” woman – must feel exactly as *they* do on any given issue, or be subject to the kind of venom that in any other context would be denounced as vile and misogynistic.

Camille Paglia noted the same phenomenon:

“As a dissident feminist, I have been arguing for 20 years that young American women aspiring to political power should be studying military history rather than women’s studies with their rote agenda of never-ending grievances… Feminism, which should be about equal rights and equal opportunity, should not be a closed club requiring an ideological litmus test for membership.”

http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2008/09/paglia-on-palin.html

And I do like the term “Designated Hate Receptacle.”

Karen M

"The veneer of sisterly solidarity suddenly cracked, then blew apart, and a real, very ugly, passion became apparent."

The rape "jokes" and abortion "jokes" showed real hatred. It wasn't just we don't like your politics it was we hate YOU. Feminists who think the rape jokes were funny must hate the millions of women who relate to Sarah Palin.

David Gillies

Reason is toxic to po-mo theory, whether it be gender feminism or deconstructionist textual theory or cultural marxism. Therefore it must be dethroned as the principal tool of epistemology. Reason cannot be unseated with reason but only with unreason. It is also worth noting how many of the vices ascribed to the 'Right' such as aggression and suppression of conflicting viewpoints are more commonly found on the left. The fury of the Left strikes me as the rage of Caliban seeing his face in a glass.

David

There are plenty of reasons to disagree with Palin or to not rate her as a candidate - a tendency to word salad or a lack of thoughtfulness, for instance - but there was something truly surreal about the cognitive dissonance on show. It was strange to see so many women hating Palin, or disputing her gender, for reasons they couldn’t quite admit to. Much the same thing happened during the recent “Miss California / gay marriage” saga, during which many feminists saw fit to abandon their own professed standards of decency and indulge in overtly sexist commentary. Again, whatever one’s view of gay marriage (or the thinking skills of Ms Prejean), the psychological juggling act was fascinating. This heated exchange between Laura Ingraham and the feminist Gloria Feldt captures some of the flavour of what was happening:

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,518850,00.html

Note how Feldt’s claim that “feminism is about equality and justice” is immediately preceded by an outright lie (regarding the host) and immediately followed by a sneery boob joke of exactly the kind Feldt says she finds objectionable. This behaviour is then denied, laughably, while the fixed grin falters momentarily. It’s curious how advocates of identity politics - who are generally the most vehement in their efforts to control language - often exempt themselves from similar restrictions as and when it suits. And, as Jeff at PW pointed out below, women who diverge from leftist orthodoxy suddenly become – to quote Feldt - “fair game.” Sisterhood ain’t what it used to be.

http://proteinwisdom.com/?p=14809

Karen M

David, thanks for the links. The Ingraham clip is brilliant.

"It was bizarre. These women were suddenly happy to *narrow* the parameters of womanhood, oblivious to their own incoherence and class condescension."

There was a lot of condescension in the attacks. I think you'll like this from Neoneocon:

"The nomination of Sarah Palin has acted as a sort of plaque discloser for the display of a fulminating rage which until now I had assumed was directed by these activists solely (and all too often inappropriately) towards the men they felt had oppressed, assaulted, and otherwise done them wrong… I submit that it's an example of what can happen to the ideologue who so closely identifies with a special interest group that any member of said group who steps outside the boundaries of the party line becomes not just the Other, but an apostate."

http://neoneocon.com/2008/09/11/palin-unhinges-feminists-on-the-left/

David

“…plaque discloser...”

Arf. Exactly. Given the kinds of personalities that are often strongly attracted to doctrinaire feminism, and often rise within it, the revelation wasn’t entirely surprising.

CD

I find the rage of the ultra-feminists toward the society that protects and coddles them amusing. One day, they will get their wish, and the "patriarcal" civilization that they live in will fall, and then, for a very brief moment, they will truly see reality, then lose their sight forever. Nature and natural law are cruel, harsh mistresses, and civilization, especially Western civilization, is the only bulwark against everyday horror...

mojo

Was that before or after he whacked out Remus?

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