Posts tagged Catharine MacKinnon

Re: Fuck. Yes. is run by Roderick, not by me.

For what it’s worth, I certainly agree that our essay should not be the only thing cited in a discussion of libertarian feminism.

The “Libertarian Feminism” essay was not written in ignorance of ALF or the work that y’all have done. It would not be too much to say that if it weren’t for ALF I probably never would have become a libertarian — it was specifically a couple of essays by you, Sharon, and some others by Joan Kennedy Taylor, which really opened me up to the possibilities of radical individualism, and taught me my first and most important lessons on libertarian and market anarchist approaches to social justice. (It’s the libertarian part that I needed convincing on. As a man I am come to feminism with a certain distance that women don’t have — but I’m not exactly writing from the outside looking in, either. While I’ve seen my share of ivory towers, I am not a professional academic, and I actually came to libertarian thought by way of years of prior work within local feminist groups, GLBT groups, and anti-rape/anti-battery activism — work which started for some pretty heavy personal as well as political reasons — and which eventually lead to anarcha-feminist organizing efforts, which lead…..)

It is true that men writing critical assessments of women’s work, including (especially?) in the feminist movement, are necessarily in a tricky position, and we are prone to all kinds of dumb moves and bad faith. No doubt in that essay and elsewhere I’ve neglected a lot that oughtn’t have been neglected and said things that are off-kilter or mistaken. But I don’t think it’s fair to infer from a failure to talk about something in the essay that we are oblivious, or don’t think that it’s important; lots of things we wanted to talk about, we didn’t get the chance to. I don’t think we claimed that no 20th/21st century libertarian feminists ever drew a connection between patriarchy and statism, or that Wendy McElroy is the only voice of “libertarian feminism” out there. Certainly the discussion (in section 2) of a number of common libertarian errors about feminism wasn’t intended to suggest that there aren’t any libertarian feminists who have pointed out and corrected those errors. If what we wrote, or what we neglected to write, does suggest that, then that’s absolutely a mistake, and I’ll publicly retract it.

For whatever it’s worth, in the essay we do allude to ALF and discuss an article by Joan Kennedy Taylor which appeared in the ALF News — but unfortunately, the format of the paper being what it is, we spend much more time (including in that section) talking about the points on which we disagree rather than the points where we agree. Similarly, we hardly canvass the whole range (as if we could!) of non-libertarian radical feminist thought (we only deal at length with one major instance — Catharine MacKinnon’s discussion of formal consent under patriarchy — and briefly mention a handful of other figures); and we hardly talk about any concrete examples of antifeminist libertarians by name (Hans Hoppe is in there, I guess). All I can plead is that the essay was presented live and so subject to limitations of time and the audience’s attention, never intended to be a comprehensive overview of anything, only an elucidation of a few conceptual issues that we see as especially important in finding the most promising strands of thought and action — by doing some totally incomplete and regrettably selective engagements on a handful of points that might help bring those conceptual issues out as clearly as possible. It’s certainly not intended either to be the first or the last thing that anyone reads on the subject of libertarian feminism — if it’s of any use at all, it will only be as something read alongside a lot of other broader, deeper, and more comprehensive material (which absolutely includes a lot of the work by Sharon Presley and other women in ALF, and I’m sorry if anything we said or anything we left out ever suggested otherwise). If the essay has been taken as an attempt at a comprehensive statement rather than a brief attempt to engage in a much, much wider conversation, then I can only say that I’m sorry for that, and the bit about pointing back and onward to the foundational works in the feminist tradition is really seriously meant — and work like “Government is Women’s Enemy” is as foundational as anything else I could mention.

Re: A Spontaneous Order: Women and the Invisible Fist

Jerry: “Many of us would associate words like ‘conscious’ and ‘systematic’ and ‘socially’ as buttressing either an overt or covert conspiracy.

“Systematic” and “socially” only suggest a conspiracy if you believe that the only ways in which large-scale social coordination can come about is by a process of crafting and consciously following a common plan. But that just is to claim that there are no spontaneous orders. In which case your problem is with Hayek, not with Brownmiller or with me.

“Conscious” only suggests a conspiracy if the word “conscious” is being used to apply to participation in the form of social coordination in question. But Brownmiller doesn’t say that the “conscious process of intimidation” is something that all men participate in (if you think it is, re-read the sentence, paying particular attention to which clause “all men” is the subject of). In a “conscious process of intimidation,” presumably the person who would be either conscious or unconscious is the intimidator, which in this case means the rapist. We know from elsewhere in the book (especially the passages on the Myrmidon theory) that Brownmiller isn’t claiming that all men are rapists (after all, part of what she’s explicitly interested in analyzing is how the actions of men who rape affect the status of women vis-a-vis men who do not rape). So we don’t yet have any reason to believe that Brownmiller is claiming that anyone other than the rapist alone is consciously intending to intimidate women (maybe all women as such; maybe some group of women; maybe the one particular woman he has targeted for attack; Brownmiller doesn’t make it explicit which, and not much turns on it in this discussion). Which is true enough; if he weren’t intending to intimidate, he wouldn’t be a rapist.

So then what’s the function of that clause about “by which all men keep all women in a state of fear”, if not to say that all men are somehow consciously trying to intimidate women? Well, again, looking at the rest of the book, and especially the passages on the Myrmidon theory, one interpretation that suggests itself is that Brownmiller is making a statement in that clause about the political effects of rape — that all women are kept in a state of fear by all mean, as an effect of the conscious process of intimidation carried out by some but not all men—an effect which not all of the men in question, or perhaps even none of the men in question, may have consciously intended.

If Brownmiller doesn’t mean to use the word “conscious” to suggest conscious intent by all men to keep all women in a state of fear, but only to say that rapists consciously intend to intimidate women, then why include the word at all? Can’t it just be taken for granted? Well, no, it can’t be. I’d argue that Brownmiller includes the word “conscious” because it has to do with a distinct claim made in the book, which is not directly discussed in my original post — that rapists are motivated in part by the desire to intimidate and control women, not just by some uncontrollable lust or the lack of consensual sexual “outlets.”

Maybe you disagree with Brownmiller on that point; if so, fine, but that’s a different disagreement, which has to do with what a rapist’s conscious intent in committing rape is, rather than with Brownmiller’s effect of the social effects of rape.

Jerry: “I also like how all wars and social ills are laid out an men’s feet, apparently women had nothing to do with this.”

Who are you arguing with here? I can’t find anything in either the Brownmiller quote or the MacKinnon quote that you single out that would suggest anything of the sort, or anything at all about some kind of universal theory of who’s responsible for all wars and social ills.

Re: Anarchists for Ron Paul?

Here’s something Catharine MacKinnon said back in 1982, during a debate with Phyllis Schlafly over the Equal Rights Amendment: “I am for the ERA. I think it is progressive if not transformative. It is one of many small initiatives we can use. Whenever I hear the right attack it, I am more for it than I was before, because they think it will be so far-reaching.” I feel much the same when I see Caesarian running dogs like Eric Dondero slamming Ron Paul as a “leftwing Anarchist.” If only….

Jimi G, I can’t answer for Sheldon. But I’d be interested to know whether you think that the reasons not to support Paul’s candidacy are moral reasons or strategic ones. From a strategic standpoint, at least, there is at least one good reason to hope that Paul might be able to win in the Republican primary, which doesn’t have to do with any kind of delusion about “putting the right people in charge.” Specifically, if he somehow were to win the Republican primary, he would thereby prevent all the other Republican candidates from having a crack at the presidency. Putting “the right people” in charge is never going to fix a damned thing, but stopping even worse people from taking up the reigns does offer the chance for some breathing room and a lot more opportunities for progress by other means.