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Get your popcorn and strap in for a contentious ride.

Hey, gonna post my reply here as well in case reality is a problem over at Dear the People.

@D.T.P

Apparently ‘dear the people’ is adverse to reality and being exposed to opposing points of view, so here is my response to their assertions. May as well copy/paste the original to maintain context.

Dear the People,

Today I woke up to find myself a “beleaguered dude”.

My most recent post The War on Women, was responded to by fellow WordPress user The Arbourist. Their post Clueless Commentary I Find on WordPress is public and I would encourage you to go read it if you would like to understand my rebuttal in context. For those of you who endeavor to be mature and refrain from enduring profanity, I would caution that their content is most disagreeable in nature.

That having been said, I’d like to address the major points that I thought required a response. Firstly, I’d like to formally introduce myself to my audience. For those of you who are under the mistaken impression that I am a middle-aged white dude who can remember the good old “white hood days”, let me set the record straight. I am not only not a “dude”, I am a woman and a third-generation American from a family of mixed Hispanic heritage who also happens to be conservative. So for the Arbourist, I’d encourage you to not make false assumptions about the identity of the person you’re attacking just because their views happen to be more “traditional”.

My original post was for those who recognize that radical feminism can often be toxic towards men. If one believes in modern feminism, of course one will not understand nor acknowlegde the problem of reverse sexism.

Give me an example of where women in America are oppressed by a systemic patriarchy? The notion of a systemic patriarchy is an ideological constituent of modern feminism, not a demonstrable fact defended by the author by either argument or evidence. Of course, one can always find anecdotal examples of oppressed women in both America and elsewhere. Just look at Muslim communities in the US and abroad where woman are treated as property. This is, of course, a glaring example of true oppression that is almost never addressed by modern feminists.

Conspicuously, the author seems incapable of writing without profanity or insulting those with an opposing point of view, a sign that her position suffers for want of a rational argument, e.g.“Buckle in tight, because the [sic] nothing good can come when your argumentative building blocks are made of high-octane stupid.”

Without going off on a tangent, there are two points on the point of female bodily “autonomy” I’d like to address. If a man used his “bodily autonomy” to beat and/or rape a woman, would that be acceptable, since the body is his own? If the response is that his autonomy harms another, then why does this principle not apply to a child? No one has bodily autonomy. The entire point of civil laws is to restrain some from attempting to affirm “bodily autonomy” as a pretext for harming others. And second – a point that always seems to be missed – a child’s body is not YOUR body, a scientific fact not in dispute (i.e., unborn children have their own unique DNA and are biologically alive at the moment of conception, regardless of their stage of development, which are all established facts of science).

“[No,] you’ve demonstrated an astonishing allergy to even the most basic features of society and how it works.” This claim is made without any argument or evidence offered in its support, a habit the author repeatedly makes throughout her polemic. The author claims that I make statements based on “sheer ignorance and the power of your uniformed [sic] opinion”, while dismissing the evidence provided rather than responding to it with counter arguments and evidence. It’s one thing to be skeptical of conclusions drawn from research; it’s intellectually disingenuous and intentionally obtuse, however, to state that I did not cite evidence when readers can clearly see that I cited sources.

While men have held the majority of political and economic power for most of history, women have certainly held positions of power, especially within the last century, and yet women’s lot hasn’t necessarily improved. Take, for example, abortion. The 50+ million children, statistically mostly female, who have been murdered were not killed because of men. They were slaughtered because their mothers believed in the destructive ideology of “bodily autonomy”.

More importantly, on what grounds does the author issue moral judgements? She wants to claim that a patriarchy is wrong, abortion is good, and that an equal society is a good value. Why? Why should anyone care about the author’s personal values if they are not grounded in some objective authority. I ground my values in God, because I am a Christian, a Theist, and thus take my values from a creator who has laid down a law in the interest of His creation. If the author wants others to give her moral pronouncements any serious intellectual consideration, she’ll need to provide an objective ground by which one can assess her moral judgements (assuming she has any standard at all beyond her own subjective preferences).

The author added as one of the tags on the post “they do not necessarily want to understand”, a clear act of projection.

The author is fair in calling me out on the choice of my word “designed” when referring to competition over the best resources. That was poor wording. A better statement would be to say that as a species, it can be shown that many women tend to compete for the best resources, a trait that is not singular to females.

The Arbourist cites that radical feminists don’t believe in an abusive male, but then continually repeats that there is a patriarchy that needs taking down. The author continues to insist that the patriarchy exists and needs to be toppled, but fails to support her belief. What we’re treated to is a polemic on the doctrines of feminism, about which we’re already aware. The question is, why should we believe her ideology when she constantly fails to provide a cogent, substantive defense to any of her claims? We’re givan no reason to believe such a system of “patriarchy” exists. “[Because] male violence is endemic within the structure of society”. Again, a claim made without any shred of supporting facts. I’m a woman; I don’t “mould [sic] my life around reducing the threat of rape and male violence”.

For bonus points, historically speaking, our societies have been based around the principle of cooperation. Only when hierarchical structures have been introduced (see patriarchy) do we see competition become a virtue.”Historically speaking, societies have not been based on cooperation. For most of history, the way it worked was this: one group did what they wanted and forced their subjects to submit. In socialist, communist, monarchical, and totalitarian societies, one group with more power forced the little (and often purportedly “equal”) man to do as they liked. There was no voluntary cooperation involved. Even today we see these kinds of systems – look at Venezuela. The people and government hardly cooperate in that socialistic country. If societies were cooperative, this contradicts the notion that men oppressed women. Which way is it? Have men cooperated with women or not? This is a direct contradiction to the author’s entire ideology.

Everyone – men, women, and children – can exhibit competitiveness and ambition, regardless of a patriarchy. Most humans will naturally look to their own self-interest. These qualities are not the issue; the issue is when one seek one’s own self-interest in the absence of moral restraints.

“Oh, so if women would just shut up and let men do their thing, the problem of violent male behaviour would fix itself.” The author is attacking a straw man. My point is that radical feminism tends to shift the focus away from female violence and place the blame of all mental, emotional, and physical damage squarely on the shoulders of men.

“[,]the problems of society need to be identified, deconstructed, and replaced with ones that acknowledge the base humanity of all members of society.” If that’s the case, why does the author take issue with my article which discusses how radical feminism can harm women and that women can and do inflict harm on their fellow women? They’re committing an either/or fallacy. The argument is not that only women bully women, but that both genders are guilty.

“Being educated, or allowed to vote, or have a credit card/bank account in their name was once only in the domain of males. So one must look with a certain amount of skepticism to ‘all-guys’ clubs or organizations.” This is a non-sequitur. What does the past exclusion of women have anything to do with an all-guy or all-girl group being perfectly fine? My brother hardly finds Girl Scouts sexist. Why does this not go both ways?

“Feminists realize though that each woman must strike her own patriarchal bargain within society and do what she must to survive.” Will you die if you don’t strike a bargain with this purported patriarchy? I’m a female. I don’t find myself harmed by the so-called patriarchy. “The choice women face is how to deal with the fact that they are treated as the submissive class in society and their base humanity is always in question.” Really? When in American history did women ever face a question to their humanity? If women are viewed as so sub-human, why is it that crimes against females are considered much more horrifying than those committed against men? Yes, women are submissive – to the law. Men, women, children, adults, old, and young must submit to authority of one form or another.

“Feminists ask the question, why should there have to be a sacrifice in the first place?” To this, I have on response: sacrifice is a part of the human experience. ALL people sacrifice and none more so than men. In the case of the sinking ship, women and children are first to be saved. In the case of a military situation, men are put in danger first. In the case of a burning building, women and children are rescued first. Why? Because at the end of the day, the understanding is that someone has to make the sacrifices. And if feminists don’t want to make them, then who will? I’ll tell you: men.

In conclusion, the Arbourist’s article is less of a rational response to my article, which detailed how feminism can harm women, and instead more of a personal attack and a repetition of her ideology. Moreover, the author deals in projection. She made an assumption about my identity based on my beliefs, and then attempted to dismiss my arguments based on her false assumption, as if one’s sex or skin color has anything to do with the rational merits of their arguments.

—–

Hey, thanks for the response. Rebutting can be fun, let’s do it!

“I am not only not a “dude”, I am a woman and a third-generation American from a family of mixed Hispanic heritage who also happens to be conservative. So for the Arbourist, I’d encourage you to not make false assumptions about the identity of the person you’re attacking just because their views happen to be more “traditional”. “

Cool. In the post in question, you sound like every other generic male who has ‘important wisdom’ to share with those darn irrational females. Whether by stylistic choice or the sententious content, that is exactly how you came across.

“those who recognize that radical feminism can often be toxic towards men.”

Radical feminism threatens male privilege and status in our society. It (Radical Feminism) seeks to dismantle the patriarchal structures and norms of society the oppress women. So, if losing their ‘leg-up’ in society is toxic toward men, so be it.

“If one believes in modern feminism, of course one will not understand nor acknowlegde the problem of reverse sexism.”

See also the burgeoning problem of reverse-racism… No, it doesn’t work that way. People in the subordinate classes may indeed demonstrate discrimination, or discriminatory practices toward the dominant classes, but do not have the backing of society and its set of normative values to classify their discrimination as reverse-sexism, reverse-racism et al.

“Give me an example of where women in America are oppressed by a systemic patriarchy?”

In the Sciences -” […] brought to light the research from Yale that had scientists presented with application materials from a student applying for a lab manager position and who intended to go on to graduate school. Half the scientists were given the application with a male name attached, and half were given the exact same application with a female name attached. Results found that the “female” applicants were rated significantly lower than the “males” in competence, hireability, and whether the scientist would be willing to mentor the student.” Article:Scientific American. Citation.

From Birth, but specifically in this study kindergarten age – “[…] Bias against women and girls in contexts where brilliance is prized emerges early and is a likely obstacle to their success.” Article:Pressherald. Citation.

We can go on, if you’d like. The fact we live in a systemic patriarchy is evident, whether you choose to acknowledge facts and evidence is solely your decision. If you’re at all curious a good study to peruse can be found on the University of Chicago Legal forum: Patriarchy and Inequality: Toward a Substantive Feminism. It contains suggestions and valid criticisms of some of the branches of feminism.

“Conspicuously, the author seems incapable of writing without profanity or insulting those with an opposing point of view, a sign that her position suffers for want of a rational argument, “

Better to insult people to than ignore readily available facts.

“If a man used his “bodily autonomy” to beat and/or rape a woman, would that be acceptable, since the body is his own?”

Umm. Dude (dude-(ess)? The concept of bodily autonomy deals with the concept of actions and freedoms regarding the individuals. When you involve another autonomous human being, it is a question of rights.

“And second – a point that always seems to be missed – a child’s body is not YOUR body, a scientific fact not in dispute (i.e., unborn children have their own unique DNA and are biologically alive at the moment of conception, regardless of their stage of development, which are all established facts of science).”

Horsepucky.

Evince your claim. And anyways, the status of being alive or not is irrelevant. If you believe that females are autonomous human beings then indeed they have the right to decide what goes on in their bodies, including being pregnant or not.

If you are into the fetus-fetish, please by all means; but do not ascribe your patriarchal ‘morality’ on other women. Thanks.

“It’s one thing to be skeptical of conclusions drawn from research; it’s intellectually disingenuous and intentionally obtuse, however, to state that I did not cite evidence when readers can clearly see that I cited sources.”

Your cited research was from dubious sources and even with a charitable reading only weakly supported you assertion. Clearly, if your readers critically evaluate the source material they will come to the same conclusion – your sources are shit.

“While men have held the majority of political and economic power for most of history, women have certainly held positions of power,[…]”

You come so close to making a good point. Half marks for sure.

“Take, for example, abortion. The 50+ million children, statistically mostly female, who have been murdered were not killed because of men.”

Your buddy jesus has killed quadruple if not quintuple that number. As this is a corollary, let’s not get into your hatred of women’s rights here. But see this paper on the murderous aspect that makes jesus the #1 abortion king.

” I ground my values in God, because I am a Christian, a Theist, and thus take my values from a creator who has laid down a law in the interest of His creation.

Ahhahahaha. Erm.. pardon me. Your pronouncements have more weight than mine because of a magic book written by scared, ignorant shepherds? Riiiiiight.

Can we please keep the risible religious nonsense out of fact based discussions? The two do not mix.

“We’re givan no reason to believe such a system of “patriarchy” exists.”

Awesome. Just a start for you, from Robert Jensen: “Complex systems produce complicated results, and still there are identifiable patterns: Patriarchy is a system that delivers material benefits to men—unequally depending on men’s other attributes (such as race, class, sexual orientation, nationality, immigration status) and on men’s willingness to adapt to patriarchal values—but patriarchy constrains all women. The physical, psychological, and spiritual suffering endured by women varies widely, again depending on other attributes and sometimes just on the luck of the draw, but no woman escapes some level of that suffering. And at the core of that system is men’s control of women’s sexuality and reproduction […]” –

Another great source to learn about patriarchy is by bell hooks called Understanding Patriarchy: ” Patriarchy is a political-social system that insists that males are inherently dominating, superior to everything and everyone deemed weak, especially females, and endowed with the right to dominate and rule over the weak and to maintain that dominance through various forms of psychological terrorism and violence.”

Evidence for Patriarchy, provided.

“Again, a claim made without any shred of supporting facts. I’m a woman; I don’t “mould [sic] my life around reducing the threat of rape and male violence”.”

Hey good for you. You are in the slimmest of minorities because most women, world wide do.

“Historically speaking, societies have not been based on cooperation.”

Bullshit. You’re wrong.

“Many unique aspects of human sociality such as language, theory of mind and cultural norms have been proposed to provide the framework for human cooperative behaviour1,2,3,4, which stands alone in its scale and ubiquity between unrelated individuals5. Cooperation has been fundamental to the demographic success of our species – resource exchange, collective action and specialisation have increased our efficiency at surmounting a vast array of environmental pressures6,7.” – Nature: Competition for Cooperation: Variability, benefits and heritability of reations wealth in hunter-gatherers. Sci. Rep.6, 29120; doi:10.1038/srep29120 (2016).

Most of human history has been spent in a cooperative societal structure: – “Hunting and gathering was humanity’s first and most successful adaptation, occupying at least 90 percent of human history.”

“There was no voluntary cooperation involved. Even today we see these kinds of systems – look at Venezuela.”

Perhaps not using a country under US embargo and economic sanctions to illustrate ‘socialism evil’ would be good. It would seem that you are trying desperately to sound like you know things, but then don’t do the work to prove it.

Please illustrate how your arguments work by charitably choosing the best cases of socialism in action. In other words, please use Norway, Finland and Sweden to demonstrate your points as opposed to countries in which the US is actively trying to overthrow the government (economic sanctions, political meddling et cetera).

“The people and government hardly cooperate in that socialistic country. If societies were cooperative, this contradicts the notion that men oppressed women. Which way is it? Have men cooperated with women or not? This is a direct contradiction to the author’s entire ideology. “

People in Norway, Sweden, Finland, and even to a lesser extent Canada and the UK, all demonstrate a social democratic model of governance that foregrounds cooperation and the belief that society should work for the benefit of all the individuals with in it.

No contradictions present in my arguments. What is evident is your bias toward the current neo-liberal craze that dominates the US body politic. It’s a bad look, by the way.

“My point is that radical feminism tends to shift the focus away from female violence and place the blame of all mental, emotional, and physical damage squarely on the shoulders of men.”

Males account for the majority of violence in society. Fact. Please remove your head from your ass.

STATISTICAL SOURCES

1.Males are most often both the victims and the perpetrators in 90% of homicides.Source:U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics,Homicide Trends in the U.S.: Gender.http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/homicide/gender.htm

2.Over 85% of the people who commit murder are men, and the majority of women who commit murder usually do so as a defense against men who have been battering them for years. Ninety percent of the womenin jail for murder are incarcerated for killing male batterers.Source:Bass, A. (Feb 24, 1992).“Women far less likely to kill than men; no one sure why.”The Boston Globe: p. 27.

3.Women commit approximately 15% of all homicides.Source:Stark, E. (1990).Rethinking homicide: Violence, race, and the politics of gender. International Journal of Health and Services. 20 (1): 18.

4.More than 90 women were murdered every week in 1991; 9 out of 10 were murdered by men.Source: Violence Against Women: A Majority Staff Report. Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate,102nd Congress. October 1992, p. 2.

5.Ninety percent of people who commit violent physical assault are men. Males perpetrate 95% of all seriousdomestic violence.Source:U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics.Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics Online.http://www.albany.edu/sourcebook/

6.The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that 95% of reported assaults on spouses or ex-spouses are committed by men against women.Source:Douglas, H. (1991).Assessing violent couples. Families in Society, 72 (9): 525-535.

7.It is estimated that 1 in 4 men will use violence against his partner in his lifetime.Source:Paymar, M. (2000).Violent no more: Helping men end domestic abuse. Alameda, CA: Hunter House Publications.

8.Close to all – 99.8% – of the people in prison convicted of rape are men.Source:National Crime Statistics.

9.Some 81% of men who beat their wives watched their fathers beat their mothers or were abused themselves.Source:U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics.

10.Studies have found that men are responsible for 80% to 95% of child sexual abuse cases whether the childis male or female.Source:Thoringer, D.; Krivackska, J.; Laye-McDonough, M.; Jarrison, L.; Vincent, O.; & Hedlund, A. (1988).Prevention of child sexual abuse: An analysis of issues, educational programs and research findings.SchoolPsychology Review. 17(4): 614-636.

11.The majority of victims of men’s violence are other men (76% M, 24% F).Source:U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics.12.Out of 10,000 cases of road rage, over 95% of them were committed by men.Source:AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, “Aggressive Driving.”

The focus of Radical Feminism is to name the problem, and that problem is male violence and male socialization.

“Will you die if you don’t strike a bargain with this purported patriarchy? I’m a female. I don’t find myself harmed by the so-called patriarchy.”

Glad you don’t see it. Must be nice. However, for the rest of us, who have not internalized patriarchal norms, it is quite evident, and most definitely exists. You talk of skepticism, and rational inquiry yet you don’t put their basic strictures into practice. I have a positive claim – patriarchy exists and is fundamental to how society operates. Your argument is anecdotal – I don’t see it or experience it therefore it doesn’t exist… Well bully for you. Please cite the evidence that contradicts my claim.

“Really? When in American history did women ever face a question to their humanity?”

Till the 1970’s it was legal for a husband to rape his wife.

“In the United States, prior to the mid-1970s marital rape was exempted from ordinary rape laws. The exemption is also found in the 1962 Model Penal Code, which stated that “A male who has sexual intercourse with a female not his wife is guilty of rape if: (…)”.[5]” – Wikipedia.

Yeah. A little problematic don’t you think. And yes, I’m using the wikipedia, because basic grasp of the groundwork knowledge necessary in this argument seems to be beyond you.

“If women are viewed as so sub-human, why is it that crimes against females are considered much more horrifying than those committed against men?”

Irrelevant. Clutch your pearls on your own time. The fact of the matter is that rate of which males perpetuate violence against females and other males in society. It is the root of the problem, and what Radical Feminism aspires to change in society.

“In conclusion, the Arbourist’s article is less of a rational response to my article, which detailed how feminism can harm women, and instead more of a personal attack and a repetition of her ideology”

My article is a response to the intellectual skullduggery you displayed, and continue to display. You repeat patriarchal talking points, make baseless arguments, and don’t back up your points with evidence.

“Moreover, the author deals in projection.”

You missed the sentence, “deals in verifiable fact”. A slight oversight, but given the depth of argumentative rigour demonstrated, quite unsurprising.

 

   Sorry for the reproduction folks, but DtP isn’t really big on answering direct assertions.   So, DtP… evidence provided for patriarchy, and a second round of popular, scientific, and scholarly ones waiting in the wings.  Not gonna go further until this is addressed, because educating the demonstrably ignorant pro bono isn’t my cup of tea. :>  

 

Did you ever just boggle at a comment? This snippet is from the ‘Dear the People’ blog.  DtP and I are having a discussion of sorts about radical feminism and what it purportedly is, and is not.  The discussion is quite, erm… interesting as DtP doesn’t seem to realize that they live withing a patriarchal society and it has, whether they acknowledge it or not, shaped who they are and how they act within said society.

Read the quote, the statements in bold are mine.

Feminists realize though that each woman must strike her own patriarchal bargain within society and do what she must to survive.”

Will you die if you don’t strike a bargain with this purported patriarchy? I’m a female. I don’t find myself harmed by the so-called patriarchy.

“The choice women face is how to deal with the fact that they are treated as the submissive class in society and their base humanity is always in question

Really? When in American history did women ever face a question to their humanity? If women are viewed as so sub-human, why is it that crimes against females are considered much more horrifying than those committed against men? Yes, women are submissive – to the law. Men, women, children, adults, old, and young must submit to authority of one form or another.

*record skip…*

How does one even get to this place?  Asserting that patriarchy hasn’t harmed them personally and what is the big deal with it?  Where does one even start with that and what society did you grow up in? I want in.

Let’s be clear here, this is not to criticize DtP for the views she holds.  That is not our place, but rather, how can the case be made respectfully to illustrate how patriarchy affects us all, and there is little to be gained from not acknowledging its role in society.

I think that in many cases it is easier to choose not to see the systematic obstacles and biases that severely curtail the experiences and life trajectories of women in our society.  After all, who wants to plumb the depths of their subordinate status, witness their oppression, and realize that they are not regarded as fully human in society?  Certainly not happy rainbows and unicorns revelations, but is it worth the psychic energy necessary to sublimate these societal realities into a happy patina of ‘things are okay in society and I’m mostly not a part of class of people who are treated as less then human’?

Patty Ramsen wrote this on internalized misogyny:

“Women all over the world are dealing with internalized misogyny that puts them in opposition with other women and themselves. Some of them think less of women as a whole and place their faith in the opinions of men. Others have been raised to believe that men are superior and women are inferior. Women receive misogynistic messages from all fronts, so battling against it is constant. The fight never ends. You can excise your misogyny, but first, you have to admit that you have it so that you can pinpoint the toxic behaviors and belief systems that created it in the first place.”

And of course, Andrea Dworkin from Right Wing Women:

     “Right-wing women have surveyed the world: they find it a dangerous place. They see that work subjects them to more danger from more men; it increases the risk of sexual exploitation. They see that creativity and originality in their kind are ridiculed; they see women thrown out of the circle of male civilization for having ideas, plans, visions, ambitions. They see that traditional marriage means selling to one man, not hundreds: the better deal. They see that the streets are cold, and that the women on them are tired, sick, and bruised. They see that the money they can earn will not make them independent of men and that they will still have to play the sex games of their kind: at home and at work too. They see no way to make their bodies authentically their own and to survive in the world of men.

     They know too that the Left has nothing better to offer: leftist men also want wives and whores; leftist men value whores too much and wives too little. Right-wing women are not wrong. They fear that the Left, in stressing impersonal sex and promiscuity as values, will make them more vulnerable to male sexual aggression, and that they will be despised for not liking it. They are not wrong. Right-wing women see that within the system in which they live they cannot make their bodies their own, but they can agree to privatized male ownership: keep it one-on-one, as it were. They know that they are valued for their sex— their sex organs and their reproductive capacity—and so they try to up their value: through cooperation, manipulation, conformity; through displays of affection or attempts at friendship; through submission and obedience; and especially through the use of euphemism—“femininity, ” “total woman, ” “good, ” “maternal instinct, ” “motherly love. ”

    Their desperation is quiet; they hide their bruises of body and heart; they dress carefully and have good manners; they suffer, they love God, they follow the rules. They see that intelligence displayed in a woman is a flaw, that intelligence realized in a woman is a crime. They see the world they live in and they are not wrong. They use sex and babies to stay valuable because they need a home, food, clothing. They use the traditional intelligence of the female—animal, not human: they do what they have to to survive.”

Andrea Dworkin, Right Wing Women

   I couldn’t find who said the quote about women not wanting to accept the reality of their situation, only because in doing so would only reveal how deeply misogyny is rooted in society.   Feel free, kind readers to help me out. :)

 

Yelling at each other online is cool and what not (see the RPOJ) but past cartharisis for the writer, I’m thinking, not much is really accomplished.  Understanding the context and where people are coming from is an important skill to foster, and as Alexander Bevilacqua (from his essay on the Aeon Website) says, we should not entirely replace the adversarial aspects of our intellectual culture, but perhaps temper our expectations with a bit of empathy and appreciation for where the arguments are coming from.

“The call for empathy might seem theoretically naive. Yet we judge people’s intentions all the time in our daily lives; we can’t function socially without making inferences about others’ motivations. Historians merely apply this approach to people who are dead. They invoke intentions not from a desire to attack, nor because they seek reasons to restrain a text’s range of meanings. Their questions about intentions stem, instead, from respect for the people whose actions and thoughts they’re trying to understand.

Reading like a historian, then, involves not just a theory of interpretation, but also a moral stance. It is an attempt to treat others generously, and to extend that generosity even to those who can’t be hic et nunc – here and now.

For many historians (as well as others in what we might call the ‘empathetic’ humanities, such as art history and literary history), empathy is a life practice. Living with the people of the past changes one’s relationship to the present. At our best, we begin to offer empathy not just to those who are distant, but to those who surround us, aiming in our daily life for ‘understanding, not judging’.

To be sure, it’s challenging to impart these lessons to students in their teens or early 20s, to whom the problems of the present seem especially urgent and compelling. The injunction to read more generously is pretty unfashionable. It can even be perceived as conservative: isn’t the past what’s holding us back, and shouldn’t we reject it? Isn’t it more useful to learn how to deconstruct a text, and to be on the lookout for latent, pernicious meanings?

Certainly, reading isn’t a zero-sum game. One can and should cultivate multiple modes of interpretation. Yet the nostrum that the humanities teach ‘critical thinking and reading skills’ obscures the profound differences in how adversarial and empathetic disciplines engage with written works – and how they teach us to respond to other human beings. If the empathetic humanities can make us more compassionate and more charitable – if they can encourage us to ‘always remember context, and never disregard intent’ – they afford something uniquely useful today.”

There isn’t much to lose in trying a slightly different approach to arguing with other people, I think it is worth a shot.

  Jonathan Best takes a shot at framing some of the key issues in this debate.  From first hand experience, I have to agree with what Mr.Best has to say.  There is very little oxygen available to question, and even less to argue the trans-interpretation of sex and gender.

 

The philosopher Kathleen Stock has written extensively on these issues. Here’s her explanation of what is usually termed a ‘gender critical’ view:

Here is one position held by many radical feminists. It holds that what it is to be a woman is to have a certain biological and reproductive nature, involving female sex organs and a female reproductive system, and to be economically, socially, politically, and sexually oppressed on that basis. This view therefore concludes… that transwomen, though fully in possession of all basic human rights (obviously!), and also deserving of respectful treatment as if they are women in many social contexts, are not in fact women. Simply put: they don’t have the required biology, nor do they have the required history of oppression on the basis of that biology.

And, on the other hand, the transgender view:

In contrast, there are those metaphysical positions which argue that transwomen are women. These usually argue that women’s biologies and reproductive capacities are not essential to their nature as women. People with penises and testicles and no female reproductive characteristics can be women.

Gender critical views argue that biological sex is of primary importance. The opposing view, central to transgenderism, argues that biological sex is irrelevant. This question was at the heart of the QUN dispute: Michigan Womyn’s Festival took the view that biological sex was central, whereas the activists who protested QUN took the opposing view.

This question has taken on a fresh urgency with the planned reform of the 2004 Gender Recognition Act. This proposes writing into law the concept of ‘gender identity’ — one of the newer ideas in transgender ideology, and one which is strongly resisted by those holding gender critical views.

Stonewall defines gender identity as follows:

A person’s innate sense of their own gender, whether male, female or something else, which may or may not correspond to the sex assigned at birth.

But not everyone agrees that gender is innate. Many people — me included — prefer to see gender as a social construction, a hierarchy, which disadvantages women (and, in some ways, men too) and against which we should struggle. Rather than identify with it, we want to fight it.

You may or may not have an innate sense of your own gender. It isn’t for me — or anyone else — to tell you how you should feel or think on the subject. Likewise, those of us who wish to resist or deny the concept are deeply unhappy at the prospect of it being written into law.


When new ideas emerge in society there is usually discussion about them. It’s a sound general principle — the best way to evaluate new ideas is to explore them critically and freely. These issues of sex and gender are of importance to society as a whole. Women especially will want to debate all of this. Surely we can agree that women should have the right to discuss it?

But that is not how this is playing out.

Instead of open, respectful discussion, today’s trans activism too often seeks to prevent women from discussing the issues in trans ideology which directly affect their lives.

Exactly.  Preventing discussion and persecuting women for objecting to their linguistic and biological erasure from society isn’t a good policy to follow and thankfully, everyday, the opposition grows against this misogynistic strand of Transactivism.

The grand colours of the atheist movement seem washed out to me. The great debates, the vibrant speakers, the literature now all seem distant and far removed from the present.  One of the touchstones I fondly remember though, is the Intelligence squared debate, a spirited affair in which both sides did their best to persuade the audience of the validity of their respective positions. Here it is again, in case you missed it.

Wow.

The oration, the rhetoric, the impassioned defences. Fantastic stuff. But more importantly, I think the debate spoke to people. Certainly no one deconverts or converts on the basis of one debate, but the possibility of this being a beginning (either way) is there.

What I see and feel now is the utter lack of space to grapple with ideas and ideologies. Certainly here at DWR we have planted our stakes and, over the years, made it abundantly clear that religion is too sweet a poison that has no place in a civilized society.

Yet, taking a peek at the handy wordpress blog feed, one can develop a nasty case of carpal tunnel just scrolling through the assorted god bothering and religious ballyhoo that religious individuals vomit up, in a endless stream. It is faintly disheartening to see the lack of progress we as a civilization are making on moving toward dispelling the fairy tales of the past. It makes me think, to a certain extent, that we are wired for belief in compelling narratives rather than seeing the world as it is.

We used to have a regular contingent here at DWR of believers who earnestly (sometimes not so earnestly) would state the case for religion, it made for a lively time in the comments section. But now that’s mostly gone, at least in the case of religion. It is understandable, who wants to be told that their worldview is the bunk-y-est of bunk and be shown exactly why their arguments do not hold up.

I get that.  But preaching to the choir, so to speak, has its limits.  It gets boring after awhile.

Lately though, not just in the religious arena, but in politics and feminism as well the move toward the calcification and crystallization of viewpoints and ideology seems to be cutting people off from each other. The chance to have one’s arguments and ideas rub up against opposing views is a fraught with hyperbolic statements and condemnations. The idea that atheists eat babies comes to mind and other assorted religious misreadings of atheist positions.

But the climate now is different.  We’re all going full-tribal now and withdrawing from the sphere of public debate and the informative acrimony that goes along with contentious issues.

Instead of debate, interactions seem more like the lobbing for rhetorical grenades back and forth between groups and individuals, looking for the ‘ah-ha I win’ rhetorical riposte which does little, or close to nothing to move the issue in question forward.

Let’s be clear here, I am responsible for my fair share of rhetorical grenades – see the RPOJ tag here – but is that paradigm the only way forward?

Moving forward seems much more difficult now as so many issues in society now are extremely partisan in nature and don’t even fall into the category of ‘contentious’  because the sides are so firmly ensconced in their respective positions.  It seems like one of the by-products of the atomization of our consumerist society is the deadening of the public sphere and concomitantly the exposure to other points of view that, in terms of intellectual maturity and growth, are vital to the health of society.

Who wins when we cannot listen to each other and respectfully disagree?

 

Very similar to debating dudes who can’t get their brains around the notion that patriarchy exists.

religionscience

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