Liberal dudes (and that boobquake chick) just love celebrity biologist Richard Dawkins. Even some Internet feminists may be said not to vomit blood at the mention of his name. Because no greater proponent of atheism than yours truly ever camera-stalked a Rio Grand turkey in the Texas Hill Country, even the Spinster Library contains a couple of Dawkins’ popular, well-written books. They are enjoyable if one is charmed by that mellifluous English public school manner of expression, and if human penis-based arguments against godbagism typically convey buoyancy to your ocean-going vessel.
As an added precaution, the Great Council of the Dieri would also keep a stockpile of boys’ foreskins in constant readiness, because of their homeopathic power to produce rain.*
Despite his admirable enthusiasm for some of the richer morsels of history’s bounty, Dawkins is, as I have always maintained, no feminist. This is a disappointment but hardly surprising, since rare indeed is the intellectual Western motherfucker who is not enamored of the glorious myth that he and his ilk, in their educated and progressive magnanimity, have liberated their women.
It’s a disappointment, not just because it blows whenever a superstar brainiac turns out to be a knob about the global humanitarian crisis of patriarchal oppression, but also because of this: if otherwise rational, right-thinking, internationally worshiped dudes of Dawkins’ stature can remain deluded about the tyranny of male privilege, the chance in hell that feminist revolution might be said to stand is like unto that of a snowball. Particularly when women themselves, in the shape of self-described “equity feminists,” saunter through the town square declaring that patriarchal oppression in America does not exist. Even more particularly when the Dawkinses openly admire the self-described feminists’ declarations.
The specific Dawkins-approved, self-described feminist to whom I allude is, of course, the notorious Christina Hoff Sommers, professional turncoat and author of several “Dudes Rule!”-themed books, such as the hatespeechy Who Stole Feminism, and that modern MRA classic The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men.
Sommers thinks American feminists should put a sock in it and take it easy. Why? Because Americans have got patriarchy licked. Women are officially free. La di da da, free. She invents an enemy of American women’s freedom: “gender feminists,” mythical creatures who hate men but for some reason nevertheless maintain that men and women are “essentially the same.”
“Gender feminists” are probably more accurately described as “feminists who think Sommers is full of shit.”
So anyway, some commenter on the Richard Dawkins fanboy site suggested that Dawkins take a gander at one of Sommers’ antifeminist lectures. Here is the link to the lecture. Its gist is that “eccentric gender feminists” have staged a coup and taken over the women’s movement. Whereupon the eccentrics instituted a disinformation campaign, spreading foul lies about — I kid you not — ancient Roman emperors, while leaving a trail of bloodied, quivering equity feminists and the men they love in their wake. Sommers even takes a couple of shots at Eve Ensler for — get this — failing to sufficiently praise dudes in the Vagina Monologues.
This excerpt from Sommers’ lecture states her premise.
[I]n 1994 [...] I published a book entitled Who Stole Feminism? The book was strongly feminist, but it rejected the idea that American women were oppressed. For the most part, feminism had succeeded, I said. By the nineties, I argued, American women were among the freest and most liberated in the world. It was no longer reasonable to say that as a group women were far worse off than men. Yes, there were still inequities, but to speak of American society as a “patriarchy” or to refer to American women as second class citizens was frankly absurd.
Hey, Christina Hoff Sommers, what about that pesky 75 cents-on-the-dollar pay disparity, or the fact that only 15% of American political offices are held by women? Sommers, it turns out, isn’t even sure that these “factoids” are true (given the opposition’s proven propensity for lying about ancient Roman history), but even if they are, they can be easily explained by that handy psuedoscience mainstay, evolutionary psychology. You see, men and women are neither physically nor cognitively “the same,” therefore it is irrational to expect men and women to excel equally. Men are simply hardwired to win more political campaigns than women. Apparently men are also hardwired to make more money than women. So feminists should accept their biological destiny, “tone down the rhetoric against men,” and bask in our sexism-free utopia.
No advanced blamer requires a refutation of that ludicrous argument, so we’ll just press on to Sommers’ views on the “eccentric” idea that some menacing entity called “patriarchy” goes around victimizing women.
The dominant philosophy of today’s women’s movement is not equity feminism–but “victim feminism.” “Victim” feminists don’t want to hear about the ways in which women have succeeded. They want to focus on and often invent new ways and perspectives in which women can be regarded as oppressed and subordinated to men.
A few words on this women-as-victims stuff:
Largely because of the success of the funfeminist movement, which argues that women do too have agency, dammit! (as long as their choiciness stays perfectly aligned with male interests), to view women as victims has become passé and unpopular. Women aren’t victims anymore now that we can own property, vote, and have the right to pole-dance in our boyfriends’ apartments. Furthermore, the argument goes, if we traipse about the countryside exaggerating the sorry plight of women (when in fact the plight of women, though admittedly not quite as awesome as men’s, is at least not as sorry as it was), we’re just buying into that unattractive, unempowerfulized, hysterical “victim mentality.” We freely choose to wear 6-inch heels, and if we author this choice, we cannot therefore be victims of it. If we don’t think we are victims, we won’t be victims.
You know; only sick people take pills; therefore, if I don’t take pills, I won’t be sick.
What this argument fails to consider, regardless of a few funfeminists’ purported choice to choose choices, is that, hourly, billions of women worldwide suffer everything from discrimination to murder exclusively because of their sex. Women cannot choose the “I’m-not-a-victim” choice. Not even the funfeminists can choose it, not really, because when stuff like “you cannot rape me” or “my appearance is meaningless” or “the state cannot interfere with the contents of my own personal uterus” is not on the menu of choices, no real agency exists. But apparently, claiming that patriarchy victimizes women is just whiney.
So why in the world would scores of radical feminists, both Internetian (rhymes with “Venetian”) and regular, devote their public lives to exposing the violence perpetrated by the dominant culture if there were nothing to expose? What possible motivation could we have for supposedly “inventing new ways in which women can be regarded as oppressed”?
Sommers offers a helpful explanation: “There are a lot of homely women in women’s studies. Preaching these anti-male, anti-sex sermons is a way for them to compensate for various heartaches–they’re just mad at the beautiful girls.”**
Meanwhile, upon reading the Sommers speech, Dawkins was moved to comment: “Thank you for this. I have now read the lecture you recommend, and it is indeed excellent.”
The anointed one has spoken.
* Dawkins, Richard. Unweaving the Rainbow. Mariner Books, 2000. p.182.
** Sommers has denied ever making this remark.
Thanks, Stella Tex.