Any honest person who undertakes an in-depth study of modern feminism, from its inception inside the 1960s New Left to its institutionalisation within Women’s Studies departments at universities, will understand that without the influence of radicals — militant haters of capitalism and Christianity, angry lesbians who view all males as a sort of malignant disease, deranged women who can’t distinguish between political grievances and their own mental illnesses — there probably never would have been a feminist movement at all…
Once we go beyond simplistic sloganeering about “equality” and “choice” to examine feminism as political philosophy — the theoretical understanding to which Ph.Ds devote their academic careers — we discover a worldview in which men and women are assumed to be implacable antagonists, where males are oppressors and women are their victims, and where heterosexuality is specifically condemned as the means by which this male-dominated system operates.
While cultural leadership has changed hands many times, that leadership has been real at given times, and much of what was achieved in the process has contributed enormously to our well-being and opportunities today. Cultural competition is not a zero-sum game. It is what advances the human race. Cultures are living, changing ways of doing all the things that have to be done in life. Every culture discards over time the things which no longer do the job or which don’t do the job as well as things borrowed from other cultures… Spanish as spoken in Spain includes words taken from Arabic, and Spanish as spoken in Argentina has Italian words taken from the large Italian immigrant population there. People eat Kentucky Fried Chicken in Singapore and stay in Hilton hotels in Cairo.
This is not what some of the advocates of “diversity” have in mind. They seem to want to preserve cultures in their purity, almost like butterflies preserved in amber. Decisions about change, if any, seem to be regarded as collective decisions, political decisions. But that is not how any cultures have arrived where they are… No culture has grown great in isolation -- but a number of cultures have made historic and even astonishing advances when their isolation was ended, usually by events beyond their control.
At which point readers may recall the Guardian’s Emer O’Toole, a “postcolonial theorist” and assistant professor of Irish Performance Studies, for whom all cultures past and present are equally vibrant and noble, except of course the culture in which she currently flourishes, on which opprobrium must be heaped ostentatiously and often. Ms O’Toole famously bemoaned the colonial propagation of Shakespeare, whose works she denounced as “full of classism, sexism, racism and defunct social mores.” And worse, “a powerful tool of empire, transported to foreign climes along with the doctrine of European cultural superiority.” The possibility that at any given time one set of values and insights might be preferable to another, even objectively better, bothers her quite a bit.
Quotas are intrinsically divisive and discriminatory (in the worst possible sense) because the number of categories into which humanity can be divided is infinite: only some categories, therefore, can be favoured, leaving others resentful and liable to seek political redress as their supposed salvation. Quotas therefore not only politicise life but embitter political life itself. They formalise favouritism, thus reinforcing the very problem they are meant to solve. They necessarily inflate the role of government, for someone has to enforce them. Before long, the demand for equality (of a kind) undermines freedom because private associations are no longer able to make the rules they wish, a necessary condition for a truly liberal society in which government is not overweening or preponderant. The imposition of quotas is founded on the belief that everyone is a bigot unless forced by administrative fiat to be otherwise.
On a similar theme, Thomas Sowell on “fairness” and cultivated idiocy:
The front page of a local newspaper in northern California featured the headline The Promise Denied, lamenting the under-representation of women in computer engineering. The continuation of this long article on an inside page had the headline Who is to Blame for This? In other words, the fact that reality does not match the preconceptions of the intelligentsia shows that there is something wrong with reality, for which somebody must be blamed. Apparently their preconceptions cannot be wrong.
One of my constituents once complained to the Beeb about a report on the repression of Mexico’s indigenous peoples, in which the government was labelled right-wing. The governing party, he pointed out, was a member of the Socialist International and, again, the give-away was in its name: Institutional Revolutionary Party. The BBC’s response was priceless. Yes, it accepted that the party was socialist, “but what our correspondent was trying to get across was that it is authoritarian.”
Professor Lakoff uses the term ‘progressive’ freely. Now there is a framing metaphor if ever there was one. What person of goodwill could possibly be against progress, that is to say betterment of the human condition? So if you are a person in favour of progress – in short, a progressive – only the malevolent could disagree with you.
However, there is a rather large question begged here, namely ‘What is progress?’ There is rarely gain without loss, and loss can easily exceed gain. Human action has unintended and unforeseen consequences, sometimes beneficial, often not. Progress in society is not the same as progress in internet speeds… It is possible for reasonable people to disagree… Yet Professor Lakoff seems to use the term ‘progressive’ as if those he calls progressives brought about progress ex officio, as it were, merely by virtue of their self-designation. This is a form of magical thinking.
I’m reminded of the modesty of Mr George Monbiot, a man who also deploys the word ‘progressive’ as if it were a talisman, and who dismisses his political opponents as dullards struggling with “low intelligence” and racial phobias.
These posters and drawing hardly seem to be the stuff of Voltairian pamphlets. They do not renew the liberal flames in me. What should inspire one, though, is the response to them. It is alarming that our national media feels that it cannot publish a drawing of a cartoon man for fear of violent reprisals. If people are scared to show innocuous cartoons, how might they react to a novel that may provoke controversy, or to academic research that might inspire outrage? …If, indeed, Rory Bremner is scared to joke, or Grayson Perry to make art, how many commentators, novelists and scholars have allowed their thoughts to be repressed?
In its opening video for the Olympic Games, NBC’s producers drained the thesaurus of flattering terms devoid of moral content: “The empire that ascended to affirm a colossal footprint; the revolution that birthed one of modern history’s pivotal experiments. But if politics has long shaped our sense of who they are, it’s passion that endures.” To parse this infomercial treacle is to miss the point, for the whole idea is to luge by the truth on the frictionless skids of euphemism.
As usual, feel free to share your own links and snippets in the comments.
Feminism is not an idea or a collection of ideas but a collection of appetites wriggling queasily together like a bag of snakes… A useful definition is this: “Feminism is the words ‘I Want!’ in the mouths of three or more women, provided they’re the right kind of women.” Feminism must therefore accommodate wildly incompatible propositions - e.g., (1) Women unquestionably belong alongside men in Marine units fighting pitched battles in Tora Bora, but (2) really should not be expected to be able to perform three chin-ups. Or: (1) Women at Columbia are empowered by pornography, but (2) women at Wellesley are victimised by a statue of a man sleepwalking in his Shenanigans. And then there is Fluke’s Law: (1) Women are responsible moral agents with full sexual and economic autonomy who (2) must be given an allowance, like children, when it comes to contraceptives.
Enrol in a college you can’t afford. Take really easy, fun courses [e.g., Politicizing Beyoncé, or The Sociology of Hip-Hop: The Theodicy of Jay-Z]. Don’t worry about marketable skills. Blame society for the consequences (unemployment) of your attitude problem. Then demand the government (or your parents) bail you out. We guarantee you all the misery you could ever want.
The extreme egoism of communist leaders is a trait displayed throughout the history of the movement since Marx’s ridiculous insistence that only his socialism was “scientific.” Yet such is Jesse Myerson’s egoism that he imagines himself superior even to Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin. At least they had the integrity to admit that the abolition of private property — the expropriation of the bourgeoisie — could only be accomplished by violent revolution, and that the victors of such a revolution would have to employ the methods of violent terror to establish their dictatorship.
Ponder the graph above. Sixty-nine per cent of Labour supporters would want a top rate tax of 50 per cent even if it brought in no money… This is a blog about the mind-set of people who see taxation, not as an unpleasant necessity, but as a way to punish others.
Should Benedict Cumberbatch say sorry for the slave owners in his family?
Not current family members, you understand. So far as I’m aware, Mr Cumberbatch doesn’t have some weird cousin with strangers chained up in the cellar. No, we have to project our agonising backwards in time, past parents and grandparents, and great-grandparents, and great-great-grandparents – past centuries of people who are themselves strangers:
A newly appointed city commissioner in New York, Stacey Cumberbatch, told the New York Times last week that she believed British actor Benedict Cumberbatch’s fifth great-grandfather owned her ancestors on an 18th-century sugar plantation in Barbados. They “are related,” the newspaper noted, “if not by blood, then by geography and the complicated history of the slave trade.”
Which is to say, actually, not related at all.
The Cumberbatch case involves two high-profile individuals and so has had media attention, but these questions concern us all.
I suspect opinions on that point may differ.
For as long as structural inequalities persist, we cannot overlook how far the tentacles of history might reach into the present. The real challenge is to recognise, and address, how much the privileges of the past continue to benefit some, and wrong others, today.
We “cannot overlook” these things, you see; we must “address” them and weigh our privilege. Some more than others, it seems. So says the woman who gets paid to invent esoteric problems and then fret at length in print. But those “tentacles of history,” through which our “collective responsibility” is supposedly transmitted – and with it, lots of lovely, lovely guilt - reach an awfully long way, across continents, cultures and all manner of events. From the theft of sheep and chickens, and subsequent hangings, to all kinds of nepotism, tribal slaughter, imperial invasions and counter-invasions, the extinction of fluffy creatures and high seas piracy. It therefore isn’t entirely clear why an accountant’s line should be drawn so confidently at any given point, as opposed to any other given point. If the objective here is to search out some vicarious moral contamination, surely we should be thorough? If the game is genealogical guilt, why stick to mere centuries? We’ve all of history to play with. And what if a single family line includes both slaves and owners, lords and labourers, inventors of vaccines and kickers of kittens? What kind of retrospective moral arithmetic will untangle those knots?
California is running out of things in the present to tax, and its future does not look terribly bright, so it has resorted to taxing the past. A combination of judicial shenanigans and legislative incompetence resulted in California’s reneging on tax incentives that had been offered to some businesses — and then demanding the retroactive payment of taxes for which businesses had never been legally liable. Small-business owners, some of whom had sold their businesses years ago, suddenly got demands for taxes running well into the six figures. And, California being California, it had the gall to charge those businesses interest on taxes they had never owed.
We found all of the students who participated in our survey to be very bright and articulate. If they did not know the answer to any of the questions we posed, it is because they were never taught it in public school.
[Jonathan Rauch] talks about the idea of an offendedness sweepstakes. That essentially, if you make the argument that “I’m offended” is the ultimate trump card on what people are allowed to say, you shouldn’t be surprised that the standard for being offended gets lower and lower and lower. It’s only human nature that if you have a trick that lets you win any argument, you’re going to play it.
Lukianoff provides some vivid examples of this manoeuvre. If you want to see the kinds of people to whom it appeals, see also this.
Banksy is a cartoonist and social commentator whose works appear on buildings, bridges, and other constructions rather than in newspapers or in The New Yorker. He has turned himself into a Scarlet Pimpernel figure, whose aversion to public appearances has proved the best possible publicity. His work is often witty and pointed, though his choice of targets for satire is purely conventional and precisely what one might expect of a privileged member of the intellectual middle classes. Only in his manner of proceeding is he truly original. In other respects, his work seems that of a clever adolescent — one who is now approaching middle age.