Posts tagged Feminism

Re: An Open Letter to Keith Preston


I don’t think the issue here is Keith’s “tone.” I think the issue is the substance of his position.

Calling for vocal gay liberationists, feminists, and anti-racists, to be run out of the movement, apparently in order to boost recruiting among those who are put off by that kind of thing, is not just a matter of tone. Do you see nothing wrong with the substance of the position? Do you think that there is a right way to call for such a quote-unquote purge of people who care about these things from the movement?

Similarly, I wonder what you think about the several paragraphs Keith spends attacking “the most extreme forms of pro-immigrationism,” by which he apparently means the plumb-line libertarian position against government border checkpoints, papers-please police state monitoring, and government prohibitions on hiring immigrant workers [?!]. When Keith claims that the anarchistic position is to enforce border checkpoints and police-state monitoring of national citizenship papers, the use of government immigration enforcement to exile from the country those that the American government declares “criminals [or] enemies of America” (?!) and suggests government prohibitions against employing undocumented immigrants, and apparently also government prohibitions against employing any immigrants at all during a strike (?!) — when, in short, he calls, over and over again for the expansion of the state and an increase in the power of government border police, in the name of nationalist politics, and attempts to justify this Stasi-statism by pointing to the majority opinion among those approved to vote in government elections by the United States government (?!) — what do you think of that? Do you really think of that as just a problem of “tone”? Or is a problem with the substance of his position?

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: Compost-powered hoverbikes

Shouldn’t that read “TEH strand.” Isn’t liberty the point of all commitments?

Some people might hold that view, but I don’t. (I don’t think Roderick does either, but he can speak for himself.)

The stuff on the varieties of thickness explains why I think that libertarians have at least some specifically libertarian reasons for committing to other projects such as radical feminism, anti-authoritarianism, anti-racism, wildcat unionism, internationalism, gay liberation, etc. So the commitments don’t just run alongside each other in parallel; part of your reason to be both a libertarian and a feminist is that the insights of (what I take to be) the most plausible versions of feminism play a substantial role in coming to what I take to be the best understanding of libertarian theory and practice. (And vice versa; there are specifically feminist reasons for feminists also to be libertarians, and specifically anarchists. I have a thick conception of feminism as well as a thick conception of libertarianism.)

However, to say that libertarians have some libertarian reasons for commitments to feminism is not to say that libertarian reasons are the only reasons for a commitment to feminism, or even the primary reasons. I think the primary reason for committing to feminism is that feminism is right, and not just on those things that can be cashed out as having some effect on questions as to the role of force in social relationships; and it’s worth pursuing on its own merits, and would be so even if it had no impact whatever on the advance of libertarian politics.

Re: Kulcheral Littorasy, part 11 (in binary)


It doesn’t really explain the paucity of black or other non-white authors, either. I hear there’s a lot of black people in America.

Robert Paul:

But Charles, we’re talking about the West going back 3,000 years, not just America in the last few centuries.

Yeah, but in fact such lists, while containing a smattering of titles that go back that far, and that get as far out as the outer boundaries of “the West” (which apparently, given the ideological slight-of-hand that goes into defining that peripatetic bit of real estate, get out towards Iraq, except not when there are Muslims there). But in reality they tend to be slanted very heavily towards the last 400 or 500 years of literature (Great Books of the Western World samples heavily from the Hellenes, tosses in a couple of Helenistic writers and a couple of Roman writers for good measure, and then traverses almost 1,000 years of history between Volume 16 and Volume 19 with only four authors covered — Augustine, Aquinas, Dante and Chaucer — so that the next 40 volumes, out of a total of 60, can be spent on covering the most recent 500 years.) Given the typically expansive coverage of modern authors, and given the typical tilt of such lists (when prepared by English-speakers) towards works in English, I think the argument that black American, or other non-white authors, simply got crowded out by all the historical and geographical expanse is correspondingly a lot weaker. If you have 40 very large volumes’ worth of space to devote to the last 500 years, and more than half of that specifically devoted to English-speaking authors, I would be very surprised if a selection based on quality or influence, did not make at least some room for some of the excellent black American authors who have written in that stretch of time and space (or Latin American authors, for that matter, or any number of other Westerners who seem to be typically missing from this kind of list).

In this case, the alleged problem is the left-wing statist criticism that the lists are “mostly” DWEM. … My problem with the criticism (not the list) is that, instead of focusing on the quality of specific works as you are suggesting, the focus is on some sort of equitable proportional representation by race and sex.

Well, maybe; that’s one way of looking at it. But I think a more charitable way of understanding the criticism (and one which happens to line up better with what radical literary critics have usually said, when I’ve encountered them) is not that they’re after some kind of statistical proportion between the authors on the list and the demographics of the general populace, but rather that they have many specific very good authors in mind, who typically don’t show up, and who the critic thinks are being excluded, in spite of the quality of their work, because the compilers of the list are blanking out large demographic groups. (Presumably that’s usually because of ignorance or indifference on the part of the critics, rather than conspiratorial bigotry; they don’t include works that they aren’t aware of or don’t care about. But what the compilers of such lists tend to make themselves aware of, and to care about, is not innocent of American racial or sexual or national politics. It may well be true that Zora Neale Hurston hasn’t had much effect on Mortimer J. Adler’s life; but the question is whether that’s because of her qualities as an author, or because of the kind of life he has led.)

On this reading of the complaint, the idea is not to force some kind of purely demographic proportion, but rather to criticize the ignorance or willing blindness which the disproportions are a symptom of.

Of course, I’m talking about serious literary critics here, not necessarily about (for example) school curriculum committees. I’m sure there are lots of those that threw Chinua Achebe onto the reading list solely in order to avoid complaints from black or white Leftist parents, without the administrators having bothered to give much a damn about how good his books are.

Re: Supreme Court Seems Poised to Okay Schools Strip-Searching 13-year-old for Ibuprofen; also, Stephen Breyer needs to stop rewatching that scene in “Porky’s”


The school has an interest in ensuring that drugs (whether OTC, prescription or illegal) are not distributed among the students outside of the control of the faculty and administration.

No it doesn’t.

No school in the United States spent a minute of its time worrying about anything of the sort until about 15 or 20 years ago, and there’s no real reason why they should, any more than they worry about whether or not students are distributing snack-packs or mechanical pencil refills outside of the control of the faculty and administration. Children can and do administer over-the-counter and prescription drugs to themselves in homes, libraries, stores, museums, parks, and just about every single other institution that they encounter in their daily lives, with the sole exception of schools. The current fixation of schools on trying to tend to every conceivable need that students might have and control every conceivable action that students might take, while on school grounds, is foolish and destructive.

It’s quite reasonable to presume that a kid might stash illicit drugs in their underwear if they don’t want to get caught holding them.

There needs to be some way of searching a kid to see if they’ve done that.

No, there absolutely does not.

If I were to grant, solely for the sake of argument, that schools ought to be concerning themselves with whether or not kids are carrying around Motrin outside of the control of the school nurse, then it would certainly not follow from that that the school has to be able to use strip searches in order to detect violations of the policies they set. Just because something is Against The Rules doesn’t mean that you’re entitled to do anything and everything in order to find out whether or not people are doing it.

Sometimes the only way to catch someone at breaking The Rules is to use procedures that would be too costly, that would interfere too much with other more important goals that the school is trying to accomplish, or that would unacceptably violate the student’s liberty, privacy, or dignity. If so, then what you have to do is just come to terms with the fact that you can’t always enforce all of your school policies all the times, and sometimes clever kids are going to manage to get away with something that the rules say they shouldn’t do — and, well, Christ, what else is new?

Re: Kulcheral Littorasy, Part 11 (in binary)

Robert Paul:

I’m sure you’re right; not many people would explicitly state a number like some AA quota. But if anyone complains that a collection is “mostly” DWEM (as if that is a crime in and of itself), then of course the only way to immunize yourself against that would be to make the collection at least 50% non-DWEM. The problem is the focus on race, sex, etc. over quality.

Could you help me out with a concrete example here? I mean, some specific work that you think oughtn’t be included on such lists, that does get included (or suggested for inclusion by Leftist canon critics) because of a focus on race, sex, etc. over quality? Or a work that ought, on the basis of quality, to be included, that isn’t included because of a focus on race, sex, etc. over quality? I hear this kind of complaint all the time, but the complaint is usually pretty thin on concrete demonstrations of the alleged problem.

Because if the answer is going to be something like Their Eyes Were Watching God or Nervous Conditions or Things Fall Apart, then my reply would be simply be that, y’know, those are actually some pretty good books.

Re: Shameless Self-Promotion Sunday

GT 2009-04-19: Men in Uniform #3, (possible trigger warning) in which an L.A. county sheriff’s deputy stalks, terrorizes, and forces unwanted sexual contact on a woman he singled out at a bar, flashing both his badge and his gun along the way, and, by way of consequences, gets to plead out to “disturbing the peace” and return to work after a two-week vacation. Malestream media treats the case as if it were an example of a problem with alcohol abuse on the force, rather than, you know, sexual predators being allowed to roam around the city with badges and guns.

<a href=”>GT 2009-04-17: Death by Homeland Security #3: The Disappeared, in which the United States government’s border Securitate leaves a man to die from a heart attack while in immigration lock-up, because they just couldn’t be bothered to get a mere immigrant medical attention, and then spends the next few years denying that the man ever even existed.

Re: Kulcherel Littorasy


I can’t see much evidence of any exploitation of women by men.

Of course you can’t. Sex-class is so deep as to be invisible.

If you want to find evidence of systemic male oppression of women, there’s a lot of detailed discussion of it in those feminist books that you haven’t read. I can make some suggestions for places to start, if you’d like.


If there really is a male conspiracy against females …

There is as far as I know no serious feminist theorist in the world who believes, or who has ever claimed, that there is any kind of conscious global conspiracy by men against women. Feminist theory, especially radical feminist theory, makes frequent use of concepts like “patriarchy” and “rape culture,” but that’s not the same thing as a deliberate plan to keep women down. You don’t need a conscious global conspiracy in order for there to be large social structures with intense systemic effects that tend to benefit men as a class and hurt women as a class. The second article that Roderick refers you to, Women and the Invisible Fist, specifically discusses this point at some length.

Hope this helps.

Re: Shameless Self-Promotion Sunday

GT 2009-02-21: how professional social workers colonized the maternity home movement, and what came after looks at a long passage from Ann Fessler’s book on women who surrendered children for adoption in the decades before Roe v. Wade. In particular, it has to do with what happened to the maternity home movement during the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, and how a movement that originally started, in the early 1900s, as a sympathetic refuge, a form of mutual aid between ordinary women, and a way for unwed mothers to find sources of relief and economic support, was gradually taken over and transformed into a means for professional social workers to sequester pregnant women, to aid and abet the social practice of secret-keeping and slut-shaming, and to separate young mothers from their children.

GT 2009-02-18: Public schooling #2: Criminal texting, in which a 14 year old girl in Wisconsin is detained by the police at her high school, interrogated, searched by a male police officer, arrested for “disorderly conduct,” then body-searched by a female police officer, all in order to find a cell phone that it turns out she was hiding in her pants. The charge is that she was sending text messages in class after the teacher told her to stop, and then hid her phone from the teacher when the teacher tried to confiscate it. This minor classroom management issue apparently was considered a police matter and a cause for arrest, for which the girl could in principle be fined up to $5,000.

Re: Keith Preston Hopefully Not Victorious


You’re being an asshole, and you really ought to stop.

Whether or not you think that Anonymous is in fact Aster, and whether or not you think that Anonymous or Aster has treated you unfairly, in this discussion or in other discussions, that’s absolutely no reason to respond with polemical distortions of her views, or with down-and-dirty attacks of your own. You ought to be embarassed at having made such thuggish appeals to tooth-for-a-tooth rhetorical retribution (“like I told you before, if you want to throw rocks at me, I’m going to hit back and hit hard”). If you think that you’ve been strawmanned or unfairly attacked or otherwise wronged in this conversation, I can’t see why you think it’s a good idea to reply by getting just as nasty as you wanna be yourself — as, for example, with your (really vile) attempts to exploit common prejudice against transgender people in order to score some kind of rhetorical point (as if there were anything wrong with being trans or otherwise challenging patriarchally-correct notions of gender identity; as if there were anything wrong with sex reassignment surgery; as if any of this had a damned thing to do with anything in the discussion about libertarian alliances and strategy).

If you have something worth saying about libertarian alliances and strategy (and, for the record, I think what you have to say combines some genuine insights — e.g. about the importance of populism, the importance of secessionist decentralism as way to work across traditional Culture War front lines, the classism that goes into certain Progressive attitudes about poor, rural, Southern, or otherwise marginalized white folks, etc. — with a lot that is really wrongheaded), then you can say it without resorting to this kind of garbage.

And I will hopefully have more to say about your essay later, both on some substantive points and some terminological points. (I think that you have misunderstood the meaning of the term “thick libertarianism”; “thick libertarianism” is not identical with left-libertarianism, and you’ll find thick conceptions of libertarianism not only among left-libertarians, but also among paleolibertarians, orthodox Objectivists, and, while we’re at it, your own expressed views about pluralism, and Anonymous’s expressed views, too; what we differ over is not thickness, but rather on the particular commitments that are to be bundled together with non-aggression.) But I’ll probably come around to a real response in a venue other than this already-lengthy comments thread.

Nick Manley: Am I going to throw acid in the face of a woman who chooses to stay at home and raise her children? No.

Other Nick: What about “ridiculing” or “socially ostracizing” her “patriarchal” husband?

Well, what about it?

If her husband really is acting in a domineering or patriarchal way, then why shouldn’t he be ridiculed or socially ostracized for it? He’s an asshole. Those of us who think that domineering behavior and patriarchal attitudes are ridiculous, foolish, or vicious have every right, and every reason, to withdraw our social support from, or to make fun of, people who engage in them.

Of course, I also think it would be silly to presume that you can just look at the fact that a woman chooses to spend her time on caring for children in her home and somehow automatically infer from that that it’s the result of domineering behavior or patriarchal attitudes on the part of her husband. People make all kinds of choices and there’s nothing in feminism which requires you to rag on heterosexually married women who are, for reasons of their own, working at childcare rather than in a capitalist workplace. Or on their husbands.

Other Nick: My main beef with the kind of thick libertarianism Johnson is advocating is that it seems not to respect the right of a person to voluntarily enter an inegalitarian/hierarchical lifestyle.

How so? You have the right to do whatever you please, an it coerce none. And I have the right to criticize your choices, if I think they are ill-considered, foolish, vicious, or otherwise harmful.

There may be cases where it is rude to do so; there may also be cases where it is morally wrong. (There is such a thing as a virtue of tolerance, and of minding your own business. If you think that libertarians have good reasons, qua libertarians, to cultivate those virtues, even in cases where intolerance or busybodying would have been expressed through nonviolent means like ostracism or ridicule, well, then what you’re advocating is in fact a form of thick libertarianism. A thin conception of libertarianism would have nothing to say about whether people should be tolerant or intolerant, as long as they’re non-aggressive.) But be that as it may, I can’t see that you’ve made any case for saying that it is never the right thing to do. If a husband is (nonviolently) being an asshole to his wife, and she (consensually) stays in the marriage, because she thinks his assholish behavior is basically O.K., or even that it’s the right way for him to treat her, then I certainly see no reason why I have some kind of obligation to continue associating with that asshole or providing social support to him or to hold off on calling him an asshole in conversation.

Other Nick: I’m all for battling ideas with ideas but I draw the line at using means such as “ridicule” and “social ostracism” to win the battle. . . . I don’t think it is, but that’s beside the point. The behaviors I described are a form of coercion in my opinion and therefore shouldn’t be justified even if it can be argued or proven that they serve libertarian ends.

Nick, are you seriously suggesting that ridicule and social ostracism are “a form of coercion”? If so, when you say “coercion” do you mean what libertarians normally mean by it (i.e., an invasion of the target’s liberty rights), or do you mean something else?

If you seriously mean to suggest that making fun of somebody in words or pictures, or withdrawing your social support from them (by refusing to trade with them, refusing to talk to them at parties, whatever) is unjustified because it’s somehow a violation of the target’s liberty rights, then I think this is absurd, and that it’s not recognizable as any form of libertarianism that I’m aware of, since it would require a claim to the effect that nonviolent speech or expression is invading the target’s liberty rights, or that people have a positive obligation to provide social support to people who they do not want to associate with. (And I’m supposed to be the p.c. fascist here?)

I hope that I’ve misunderstood your view. But if I have, then I do need some help in figuring out what it is. Do you think that ridicule or ostracism are not literally violations of the targets rights, but that they are objectionable on some other grounds? If so, what are those grounds, and why do they rule out any and all use of ridicule or social ostracism, just as such, as legitimate nonviolent means for libertarians to achieve their social or cultural goals?

Nick: Such an alliance would, for example, criticize mainstream feminism (or more precisely what Christina Hoff Sommers calls “gender feminism”), male chauvinism, racial supremacists, race hustlers, etc. In contrast, it would support equity feminism, men’s rights groups, “equal opportunity” anti-racism, etc.

May I suggest that if your understanding of the different factions within the feminist movement depends significantly on Christina Hoff Sommers’s worthless, more or less purely polemical distinction between “gender feminism” and “equity feminism,” then you probably need to do some more work learning about the history, theory, and practice of the feminist movement before you try to figure out whether to support or to criticize it. (For a discussion of some of what’s wrong with Sommers’s discussion of “gender” and “equity” feminism, see for example my comments about this alleged distinction over at feministe.)

Nick Manley: The French Revolution and 1968 were both complicated affairs. I don’t think there were no positive aspects to them though.

Well. I don’t think Keith was claiming that there were no positive aspects to them. I think he was claiming that the criteria that are being used to criticize his strategic views are not being consistently applied.