Mar 19 2011

Spinster aunt reads comment on Dawkins website, wrinkles lip

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.


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  1. wildas

    Katha Pollitt was already debunking cries of “victim feminism” in the ’90s. In Subject to Debate she wrote:

    “Perhaps they think they have merely come up with one of those brilliant obfuscatory phrases, like “victim feminism” and “welfare dependency,” the purpose of which is to plant the debate so firmly on false ground (i.e., that it’s insulting to assert that women are the targets of sexual violence and discrimination; that poverty is a psychological problem to be cured homeopathically with the “tough love” of even more poverty) that by the time the unwary opponent has straightened out the terms of the discussion the credits are rolling and the theme music is up.”

  2. Gayle

    All men want to think themselves superior to women. Smart, dumb, liberal, conservative, professors and janitors and the rest of them in between. He’ll even so called pro feminist men think they do THAT better than us.

    Then there are the “exceptional” women who want to think they too are superior! Fat chance, sisters! Try as you might, bash the rest of us as you will–you’ll never get invited into the club.

  3. Gayle

    Grrr. Sorry. This iPad has a mind of it’s own. Apparently hell is automatically converted to he’ll. If anyone knows how to deactivate auto changes, I’d be much obliged.

  4. EmilyBites

    As a Brit unaffected by Dawkins’ facetious English charm, I admire his uncompromising atheism – but he sure is ignorant for a smart guy. Sigh.

  5. Yardshark

    He cheats on his wife, too. A disappointment, indeed.

    I’ve been less than impressed by a goodly number of atheist menz, because they cannot mentally extend the logical consequences of freedom from authoritarianism to us. This means they are not true freethinkers.

    They hope we won’t notice that they benefit just as much from our oppression post-religion, even though it was pretty much religion that had kept it in place. Thus they are taking down the picket and replacing it with an invisible fence. What an improvement in the landscape, right?

  6. Kea

    I was never a Dawkins fan. I wouldn’t even call him an objective intellectual, with his weak, hypocritical fundamentalist atheist arguments, which sound not all that different to the manifestly patriarchal arguments of the devout. Yeah, those duds over there are just ordinary dudes. When they go on and on and on about the ignorant, unscientific masses, apparently they aren’t whining. No, they are being intellectual!

  7. Cthandhs

    Any “Feminist” who explains that other Feminists might disagree with her because they are overweight or physically unattractive isn’t one.

  8. EmilyBites

    Um, ‘fundamentalist atheist’ arguments ‘not all that different’ to the ‘manifestly patriarchal arguments of the devout’? What would those be?

    Also: Sommers = evil. Her getting airtime is maddening but no surprise, and her new book is unspeakable. Why, why does she do it?

  9. Anomic Entropy

    This is the stuff that makes me want to curl up in a ball and hide in my darkened room, dry heaving, because the ugliness and ubiquity of patriarchy is just too much to handle. This is also the stuff that reminds me I am obligated to leave that safe-ish darkened room and keep arguing against the party line in my Evo Psych class, and continue speaking up in my Women’s Studies classes – reminding non-Internetian blamers that they are not alone.

    This shouldn’t be necessary, but it is. IBTP

  10. Bushfire

    The book was strongly feminist, but it rejected the idea that American women were oppressed.

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Sommers, apparently, is also a comedian!

    Twisty, thanks for talking about the “victim mentality”. I hate hate hate when people claim that feminists wrongly see women as passive victims and therefore hate women. I only see a person as a victim when she is, in fact, victimized by something. And then yes, I call her a victim for the same reason I call an apple an apple. The other, related, irritating schtick is that feminists want women to be treated like children. I don’t know what the fuck that means or where it came from, but it is exactly the opposite of what I think.

    Not that I care where it came from. Bullshit smells the same regardless of who shat it.

  11. MPMR

    “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.”

    Some of us would now be considered “homely” because we no longer dye or chemically straighten our hair, because we don’t wear tight-fitting clothes, because we no longer wear high heels, coy smiles, hairspray, and lip-plumping gloss.

    An added benefit is we’re now less likely to be viewed by some dude as his own personal meatsock.

    Heartache? Sure, my heart aches for all the women beaten, raped or killed today for being women. For all the women beaten, raped, or killed today for not being women in quite the right WAY. But somehow I don’t think that’s the type of heartache she’s talking about.

  12. Nora

    People who say that feminists just want women to be victims are throughly unimpressive. No. Clearly all of the rape crisis centers we found, the anti-violence advocacy we do, and the campaigns for safe cosmetics we run mean that we do *not* want women to be victims. Asking us not to push past the status quo means that you *do*. Not to mention, pretending that modern-day oppression is a result of women’s fundamental characteristics inescapably leads you to the conclusion that women are *inherently* victims. Fucking nonsensical misogynists.

    Also, this post was the best. Thanks, Twisty!

  13. Sylvie

    Oft times methinks Dawkins is no atheist – he’s just rubbishing the competition. “It is indeed excellent” – what a twonk.

  14. Pinko Punko

    Halfway through, but I sense an analogy game:

    I published a book entitled Who Stole Feminism? The book was strongly feminist, but it rejected the idea that American women were oppressed.

    “I published a book entitled “Who Stole My Bacon?” The book was strongly vegetarian, but rejected the idea that bacon was contrary to Vegan principles.”

    “I published a book entitled “Proper Punctuation.” The book was strongly focused on proper punctuation, but rejected the view that ellipses are really meant to signify the elision of speech or text, and not just any random pause.”

    “I published a book entitled “Savage Death Island.” The book was strongly Savage Death Islandist, but rejected the idea that spinster aunts have any natural role in such an ecosystem.”

  15. Zoe

    “It is indeed excellent” LOL. I’m going to start using that phrase at every opportunity.

  16. Sarah

    “Also: Sommers = evil. Her getting airtime is maddening but no surprise, and her new book is unspeakable. Why, why does she do it?”

    Same reason as Malkin, Palin and Bachmann–money and attention. There’s a market for what they do, and they are filling it (all the more successfully because they are female and, in Malkin’s case, non-white).

    (Ahem, long time reader and new poster here. I was the one who made the LotR reference a few posts back.)

  17. Mortisha

    Scratch beneath the surface and a lot of these dudes that pride themselves on their intellectual superiority are aghast at the thought of a women a being their equal.
    Sure physically, emotionally able but intellectually ! Snort! I’m the master! git it, I‘m the master of reason & intellect! They really get tied up in the combative sport & lose their edge.
    Lazy thinking. If I’ve never experienced it, seen it, it can’t be a serious problem.
    Sigh, really they should stick to there area of expertise.

    I noticed this Sommers person used to lecture in Ethics, sigh.

  18. speedbudget

    EmilyBites: She does it because she thinks by doing so, she won’t be subject to the same arbitrary rules that the rest of us ladies are, and thus will be safe from such things as rape, violence, and general asshatery.

    She hasn’t figured out yet that it doesn’t matter what you do, as a woman, you will be shit upon.

  19. Treefinger

    I didn’t know Dawkins liked Sommers, what a bummer. I guess this is why radfems are presumed to be against science; we criticize people, even awesome brainy scientists, for sexist bullshit. But pretty much every public figure engages in sexist bullshit, so I guess these scientists see that we have a bone to pick with many people who happen to be into their science- sometimes for fallacies in their work, sometimes for unrelated nonsense- and assume this means we just hate scientists for some irrational reason.

  20. Treefinger

    Also, I look forward to the day I am face to face with one of these “hurp de durp homely feminists are just jealous” types in full drag and can tell them how much I truly hate being in it.

  21. Ashley

    Sommers’ work is funded by the Manhattan Institute. The Manhattan Institute is a right-wing think tank devoted to spreading neoconservativism. It supports feminism like Richard Dawkins supports the Pope.

  22. Citizen Jane

    What stuns me the most about people like Sommers is that they claim that all the rape and domestic violence that happens to women is just the result of natural inborn impulses, and has nothing to do with cultural influences or oppression. So essentially, people like Sommers believe that men are some kind of inherently evil beings and it is simply in their nature to rape and to beat their partners. Yet they have the gall to say that we are the ones who hate men.

  23. tinfoil hattie

    Plus, the way Richard Dawkins used to kiss all those women contestants on Family Feud was really repulsive.

    (ref. past thread)

  24. Mary Tracy9

    The closest thing to a “Feminist Coup” that I can think of is Rockefeller’s supposed admission to having hijacked the Women’s Movement to get twice as many workers for the same pay and therefore double their profits.

    About “Atheism” being somehow radical… It’s not, it’s “de rigour” in the (Rich) West. (War against Islam, etc…)

  25. Saurs

    Having endured a few of his television programs, I’m convinced that most of Dawkin’s antipathy towards religion is based not on Science!, but on a barely veiled contempt for women, particularly women of color, who usually feature heavily in the background of said programs as a kind of living mass prop — they’re seldom interviewed, of course. Sometimes Dawkins frames religious women as victims of their religion and of the men who organize, dictate, and enforce that religion, but more often than not they’re depicted as pitifully, dangerously pig-ignorant sheep, not so much worthy of pathos as of sneering disdain for growing up in the wrong country, the wrong culture, occupying the wrong body. Dawkins reminds me a lot of the white, English, middle-class, public-school educated men who, in this age of pro-capitalist counter-reactionary white male victimhood elevated to the status of Academic Field, base their entire “scholarly” careers — if they can be called scholarly — shitting all over (while almost childishly but deliberately and chillingly misinterpreting) post-colonialist and subaltern theory, trying desperately to make a legitimate case for the benevolence of the Empire and for the inferiority of everybody else who isn’t a white dude living in an ostensibly first-world country (cf Bernard Porter). Most of Dawkin’s arguments can be neatly summarized as Swarthy Peasants Who Don’t Speak English Are Stupid and I’m Going to Tell You Just How Stupid in Excruciating Detail. New Atheism (as a white male supremacist front, which it most certainly is) makes this old atheist very, very tired, indeed.

  26. Must Think of a Name

    I am BANGING ON THE TABLE as I read this. I will be using the line “choice to choose choices” and I can’t guarantee proper accreditation in my race to spew that forth. In the forum where I live, lurk and take on the dipsticks, this is spot on the money relevant, or was about a week ago. At the moment, it’s about how feminists should speak out about female child abusers (forget gender related violence, of course, and child abuse committed by men is boring and statistically irrelevant. It’s not about gender except when a woman does it. Mothers are bad, you man haters. Psychosis is part of the female condition. Feminists shouldn’t have children because they are not real women. Feminists know nothing because they haven’t had children.). [full stop in or out?]

    Can’t believe how stupid Dawkins is. That man just made a self-identified powerful enemy.

  27. Nora

    @Must Think of a Name: I totally blame the patriarchy for female child abusers. What else do you think keeps telling us that women are inherently victims and therefore 100% incapable of being abusers? And of course, I blame the patriarchy for structuring the “family unit” so that the only person kids are allowed to rely on is their mother. Which means that A. there’s no one around to intervene and B. the mother doesn’t have any help raising her kids and so she often finds herself having to care for them even when she is simply unable (this results in neglect and other abuse when she gets really desperate).

    Dawkins-related: I read The God Delusion when I was 11. I don’t remember being particularly impressed. (What got me was actually Bertrand Russell’s Tea Kettle, which Dawkins mentioned briefly, and which probably made his whole book redundant).

  28. Meghan Murphy

    Your description of “the funfeminist movement” is the best ever. And, as others have already said, but I will say also – thank you for addressing this f**cking bullshit idea that feminists WANT women to be victims. Yesyesofcourse. Makes sense. We pretend we want an end to oppression and rape and abuse BUTREALLY what we want is for all women to be victims. Also. Pretending that no woman could possibly be a victim of anything patriarchy-related, does not make it so. ICANTSEEYOUEVERYTHINGISFINEOK?

  29. Cyberwulf

    I’ve had no time for Dwakins since he declared that religion was the sole cause of war.

  30. naphini

    I read her talk. I don’t know about that quote you gave about “homely” feminists compensating for their lack of beauty (that does sound very condescending and stupid, but nothing that dumb appears anywhere in her lecture), and I haven’t read any of her books, so I don’t have an opinion about her in general, but you were very unfair to the lecture you criticized in your article.

    “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)…”

    She mentioned the Romulus “rule of thumb” myth first, but gave a good dose of other examples of widespread falsehoods propagated by feminists, and explicitly anticipated the objection that she had cherry-picked a few mistakes. She claims, at least, that these sorts of errors are the rule, not the exception. You may argue that point, but slyly misrepresenting what she said in order to make your point hardly speaks well of you.

    “…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.”

    Secondly, she explicitly says that she doesn’t deny the existence of discrimination against women in the United States. She doesn’t deny that those statistics are true (but does express a tentative skepticism based on the other falsehoods she mentioned–not just the one about Romulus). Nowhere does she say that men are hardwired to win more political campaigns than women or to make more money. She speculates that men prefer scientific and engineering fields more than women, and that women prefer nursing and teaching more than men do (in general, of course), which, if true, would of course affect the average wages of the two sexes. Nevertheless, she doesn’t claim that discrimination doesn’t exist and doesn’t contribute to the problems of women in America. You’ve settled on a caricature of her point for rhetorical effect.

    Lastly, as an aside, juxtaposing this quote, which frankly sounds like Ann Coulter, and does not appear anywhere in the lecture,

    “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.”

    with Dawkins comment approving of the lecture, made me think on the first reading that Dawkins was agreeing to THAT. That was a little dishonest. After actually reading what Dawkins read, I don’t feel that agreeing with it makes him anywhere near the douche-bag (pardon the expression) you’ve made him out to be.

    I was hoping to see a legitimate objection to her points when I read your post, but mostly all I got was a load of dishonest snark batting at straw-men. You haven’t done a service to yourself here. After reading you and her, I’m sorry to say you’ve made yourself look like just the sort of defensive, dogmatic, rational-argument averse feminist she criticizes. If that’s not true, maybe you should try to be more honest about the arguments you want to debunk in the future, to avoid that perception.

  31. Must Think of a Name

    Ah, but Nora – if you want to attribute any kind of societal factors to a woman’s situation, well then, to be fair, that’s detracting from their agency and you have to ascribe the same societal factors to men as they rape, pillage and do what they gotta do, as biology dictates.

    But the sistahs are making distinct progress now, and the protaganists are getting more and more nuts. There has been a concerted campaign over months by the most nutsest female funfem I have encountered (her favourite is the Riot Grrl branch of feminism. She’s about 60). If a comment I made that is in moderation goes through on Monday morning then KAPOW! I reckon they’ll be licked. (She never follows a line of thought. When you win a battle, she leaves off and starts a new and more ridiculous train at the top of the page. But she’s already done that a couple of times, it’s the end of the discussion and she is theoretically cornered).

    Nevertheless, I might quote you. Can’t guarantee accreditation.

  32. thebewilderness

    Sommers always seems to get the cart before the horse when she frames her arguments.
    It is actually the perp who selects and creates the victim.
    Not the other way around.

  33. TwissB

    @naphini – “She [Sommers]explicitly says that she doesn’t deny the existence of discrimination against women in the United States.”

    How gracious of Mrs. Sommers to acknowledge the obvious. But where does she explain who is doing that discrimination against women and for whose benefit are they doing it and why she thinks that women should not object to being discriminated against? Apparently, she accepts the sacred rule that women are not allowed to criticize The Management and just see how she prospers as a result. An appropriate title for her next feminism-bashing book: “I’m All Right Jill **Yours!”

    * As in Jack and Jill, of course.

  34. Asai

    What`s always irritated me about some atheists is how they are fanatically proud of their rational rejection of the divine, and simultaneously fail to apply rationalism to any other aspect of their ideology. They’re almost as hard to move on some issues as similarly fanatical religious people.

    There are plenty of perfectly reasonable atheists, but the ones argue it with science as their main source, and then proceed to be completely irrational in the face of all other social theories irritate me. Has he actually looked objectively at the world around him? Obviously not. His bloody language reads as if he’s defending a false hypothesis. It doesn’t say much for him as a scientist or a person.

  35. Must Think of a Name

    Naphini – I would have thought that somewhere amongst all those paragraphs you might have specified a couple of these widespread falsehoods propogated by feminists (the rule not the exception). If you have a feminist myth to debunk, then debunk it. If you want to stand up for Sommers, focus on a specific point that she makes and clarion call it. Give us something to work with here. Otherwise it’s just dissing on the Twist. And why would you be scuttling around these parts solely to do that?

  36. minervaK

    I don’t know who any of these people are, and it sounds from here like that’s a good thing.

  37. io

    @naphini– I’m not going to address everything you missed (will recommend IBTP archives), but I have to point out two glaring problems with your statements about gendered career “preferences”. The first is, why exactly are nurses paid less than engineers? Really why? (hint, it starts with a P.)

    Second, in India, among students with access to education, men and women graduate with about an equal (50-50) rate of engineering degrees. In the United States, not so much (I think it’s less than 30% women, don’t have the numbers immediately handy). It’s obvious this is explained entirely by cultural support for Indian women doing engineering in school versus cultural pressure against it in the US. It is not because American women are genetically predisposed to dislike engineering.

    Sommers is the one cherry-picking evidence and ignoring sound data.

    I could offer plenty of anecdotal evidence, too. As a woman in science, I’ve dealt with my fair share of, “why do research, you’re pretty enough to just get married” bullshit, etc. But the point is: no, men and women aren’t inherently “preferring” different careers that “just happen” to have different pay rates. The reasons are much deeper.

  38. nicolien

    “She speculates that men prefer scientific and engineering fields more than women, and that women prefer nursing and teaching more than men do (in general, of course), which, if true, would of course affect the average wages of the two sexes.”

    And that affects their wages why?
    Maybe BECAUSE these fields are now dominated by women, the wages in those fields are lower? Because if it’s done by women, obviously it can’t be worth much… remember the good ol’ days, when teaching was a men’s job? Being a teacher sure was the best paid and most valued job of the village back then.

  39. Kea

    Random fact 1: even in countries where STEM PhDs in science are now awarded roughly 50:50 to men and women, there are far, far fewer women at higher levels. In fact, typically, at each level, the percentage (out of the women at that level) of women that move upwards decreases. Now maybe you would really, really like to believe that ALL those women suddenly decided to have babies and leave science, and that this is the most natural state of affairs for someone who just spent 20 years totally dedicated to their career … um, no. Get your facts straight. And I’m being generous, because you weren’t really stating facts.

  40. Citizen Jane

    Historically, any time a well-paid job in a male-dominated field transitioned into a female-dominated field, can you guess what happened? Unsurprisingly, the pay for that field goes downhill, as does the prestige and power associated with that field. This has happened with teachers as nicolien pointed out. It has also happened with secretaries, librarians, and most recently with accountants.

    So even if having a penis does in fact emit magical waves to your brain that makes you want all the best jobs, and the past half century of scientific study showing that the brain is plastic was all one big conspiracy, it is still patently obvious that women are oppressed.

  41. Triste

    My unfeminist guilty pleasure is taking great pains to avoid learning anything about the views of my favorite intellectual figures on the whole feminism thing. I know, I know, it’s wrong to close your eyes to such things – but damnit, it hurts so bad when you find out that someone who said a bunch of reasonable things basically hates your guts in a subtle, plausible deniability kind of way.

    It’s nice that the feminist movement has such a wide array of well-spoken skeptics like yourself, but it’s a tragedy that discussions of atheism with dudes will probably lead to wince-inducing references to Dawkins.

    In conclusion: Eeeeeaaaarrrruuuuuuuuuuaaarrrggghhhh.

  42. tinfoil hattie

    “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 who are never judged on the basis of looks, because there is no patriarchy and you’re just whining about made-up shit.

    Fixed that for ya, Sommers.

  43. Sarah

    “…they’re just mad at the beautiful girls.”

    Let’s presume that all feminists are horribly disfigured, shall we? OK, presumed. Why then would we be mad at beautiful girls (or, more likely, taking into consideration that arguing about feminism is more the purview of grown-ups or at least adolescents, beautiful women)? Wouldn’t we, being the disfigured but still intelligent beings we supposedly are, more rationally direct our ire at a society that devalues our contributions based on how we look? A society which, in fact, devalues our contributions even if (and especially if) we meet its expectations of appearance? Because a woman who clearly spends a lot of time on her appearance is just as bad as one who spends none – if she is pretty, she is clearly incapable of critical thought.

    Maybe Sommers didn’t actually say that, but it’s still the argument underlying much anti-feminist rhetoric. Many of them don’t say it, but think it. And it’s bullshit. It’s a big reason why feminists who regularly perform feminism (for whatever reason) are never suspected to be feminists until they openly declare themselves as such – hoi polloi assume they can’t be feminists because they’re just so darn purdy.

    Like Treefinger, “I look forward to the day I am face to face with one of these “hurp de durp homely feminists are just jealous” types in full drag.” Except I’m face-to-face with them every day.

  44. meowbaby

    Does anybody have any idea what that stoopid pubic hair comment in Unweaving the Rainbow was all about? I was grooving on the “poetry” and “wonder” and Keats and shit, then, outta nowhere, Dawky-Dawk hit me with some wedding night pubic hair bullshit, like, “KA-KOW!!” Homeboy seriously could not have made it any clearer if he’d inserted a giant multicolored pop-up that said, “Go away, woman! We don’t want your kind here!”

    Seriously, I got street harassed in a book.

  45. speedbudget

    naphini, let’s presume for a moment that the patriarchy doesn’t exist as a system designed to “keep women in their place.” Why is it when a room full of men and women are asked the question “What things do you do to keep yourself from being raped or sexually assaulted,” the men in the room do exactly nothing, while the women in the room are able to rattle off lists of such things? If things were hunky-dory and feminism something we no longer needed, I think that the women in the room would be as perplexed as the men in answering that question. http://www.theroot.com/views/why-i-am-male-feminist?page=0,0

  46. K.A.

    Well of course Dawkins would agree with her! He is an ev-bio guy who thus dabbles in the cutting edge Ev-Psych sociological worldview! Sommers is supporting Dawkins more than the other way around.

    Furthermore, I absolutely hate self-righteous white atheist dudes who act like their woeful personal oppression as atheists is of the magnitude of, say, what women or blacks experience — as though it’s not something invisible to every single person encountered every day, as though it’s not something that can’t be actively hidden when useful (see: Obama).

    God I hate white dudes.

  47. K.A.

    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.

    Yes, it is based on sex. Always refreshing to see the fundamental truth of women’s oppression discussed rationally.

  48. Stella

    Thanks, once again (times one million) for writing this so that I didn’t have to. It would’ve taken me *years* to lay this out so clearly and uncompromisingly.

    As a longtime fan of Dawkins, and one who has often defending him here on this very Savage Death Island, I was rather gobsmacked and more than a little disappointed when I read his comment on that ignorant little work of patriarchy-appeasing bullshit.

  49. Stella

    “defended,” not “defending”

  50. Carpenter

    Dawkins has a big streak of being pretty out touch in a way that I associate strongly with British academia. A few years ago he made some statements in support of eugenics. Here is an excerpt:
    “I wonder whether, some 60 years after Hitler’s death, we might at least venture to ask what the moral difference is between breeding for musical ability and forcing a child to take music lessons.”
    There is obviously creepy scientific utopianism pervading his entire world view and the obvious point that forcing a child to do anything is never good never occurred to Dawkins.

  51. TotallyDorkin

    I understand and agree with what you’re saying on a systemic level. By and large, the oppression experience by atheist white men is not on par with women or people of color.

    But the small quibble I have is that there have been instances when white men have been killed or imprisoned for their atheism, and unless you’ve been to jail, their oppression was of a greater magnitude than what you’ve experienced as a woman.

  52. K.A.

    Whoa, missed the point! I don’t think you understand how privilege works, Dorkin. I am an atheist. Atheists are a marginalized group. I get it. My entire point was that it wasn’t the same magnitude, not that atheists ruled America with their heathen superpowers. It is not the same oppression as being not-male or not-white. Period.

    And, to clarify, men are not an oppressed class of people by virtue of the prison system, the military, or money grubbing bitches who neuter them by stealing child support money.

    Again, nowhere in my post did I say atheism was not a marginalized “identity.”

  53. tinfoil hattie

    … unless you’ve been to jail, their oppression was of a greater magnitude than what you’ve experienced as a woman.

    Not buying it. Nope. Besides, when did this turn into a “what about the poor white men?” blog?

  54. TwissB

    For the record, the following appears in Wikipedia’s surprisingly detailed critical discussion of the work of Christina Hoff Sommers:
    “In a 1994 interview with Esquire magazine, Sommers was quoted as saying, “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.”[19] Many times since 1994, Sommers has denied making such a statement: “I never said any such thing. Fifteen years ago, an Esquire magazine writer misquoted me, made it up or confused me with someone else. When Washington Post writer Meg Rosenfeld did a profile of me in 1994, she asked the writer about the quote. He said his notes had gone missing (Washington Post, 7/7/1994.) The fact is: they never existed. No matter how many letters I write correcting the fabrication, it seems never to go away.”[22”

    Oh, Christina, stop your whining!

  55. Jill

    I’m saying no to “unless you’ve been to jail, [dudes’] oppression was of a greater magnitude than what you’ve experienced as a woman.”

    Sorry. An individual white dude’s little hitch in the stony lonesome for unpopular views has nothing on an entire lifetime as a member of a class of billions of people who suffer discrimination, sexism, enpornulation, and control-by-intimidation daily. Women are already in a sort of jail, some less metaphorically than others.

  56. TwissB

    @wildas – That strongly stated rejection of bogus terms like “victim feminism” shows the side of Katha Politt’s thinking that I respect. She also has penetrating analyses of the anti-women politics of religion and single-sex schools. But when it comes to pornography and prostitution, she fears the ire of her liberal male colleagues and will attack viciously on sight any feminist critics of these institutional cornerstones of sexism, demanding in the name of the First Amendment and Freedom of Speech that these women shut up. And that makes her as acceptable to the women-haters on the left as Christina Hoff Sommers is to the women-haters on the right. Sexism is a pervasive social system that pays off for all men at the expense of all women.

  57. Jill

    Sexism is a pervasive social system that pays off for all men at the expense of all women.

    You go, girl!

  58. speedbudget

    Oh, no, Jill. Don’t start the jail wars of ’11! I remember getting lambasted strongly for asserting that the way women are told/forced to live their daily lives, constantly watching hemlines and alcohol intake and flirtatiousness and heel height and etc., was akin to jail. I couldn’t log into comments for a week for fear of being shit on again.

  59. Kea

    Let me stay in jail! Please! I won’t commit a crime to get there, but gee, I sure could do with knowing I’ll have enough food to eat next month, a little daily exercise, luxuries in my room etc.

  60. savagist

    post-hunter-gatherer societies (or where “society” develops) really made gender retarded and its commentary even more annoying.

    go teleological nonsense (reek of sarcasm) on where gender “should be” – as if its static or inherent: men, women, or whatever you want to become – polysexual or not.

    Dawkins was lame ages ago. the concept of the meme has no weight.

  61. AlienNumber

    On the MenWeb (have you ever come across a more redundant title for anything? anyway), this white dude interviews both Hoff Sommers and Paglia on the topic “Has Feminism Gone Too Far?”. If the answer was not obvious from the title and if you need some dark comedy, the whole charade can be found here: http://www.menweb.org/paglsomm.htm.
    Paglia, another self-proclaimed feminist but actually a leading anti-feminist, wants feminism to go back to a kind of “pro-men kind of feminism.” She’s also a lesbian apparently. I’m not making this up. Oh, and Sommers’ number 1 feminist idea is to “save young women from the feminists.” But, helpfully, she is against porn for children. Phew!

    (in unrelated news, I just knew TD was wrong. About everything, but especially about Twisty’s horse. Whatcha doing here, brother? There are so many MRA websites out there, where you can feel free to express pity for the poor white men in peace).

  62. Comrade Svilova

    On the pay gap: note that the 75 cents on the dollar figure is comparing similar positions and similar industries. They’re not comparing female nurses to male engineers, they’re comparing female nurses to male nurses and female engineers to male engineers. And some of the comparisons actually control for educational status, and other factors. This is literally a pervasive choice to pay women less, not a “women happen to choose low-paying careers, whattaryagonnado?”

    Also, a great Feminism 101 article about how feminists don’t actually look for things to angry about. Rather, we sometimes try to not notice all the rage-inducing things just so we can get through the day: http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2008/02/feminism-101-feminists-look-for-stuff.html

  63. cin17 (formerly iGuest)

    Gawd but I freakin’ hate that whole “ignore the man behind the curtain,” there is no patriarchy “debate” tactic. It’s like trying to “debate” with someone which side of the road Americans drive on. It’s one of the most outrageously deceitful “arguments” I’ve ever encountered. Excluding patriarchy’s existence from a debate involving feminism (and/or the state of gender oppression) is like excluding slavery’s existence from a debate involving the abolitionist movement. It’s just f’ing insane.

    On a previous thread, someone asked me something to the effect of “what’s the point?” This is the point. Pro-woman, feminist blogs are a modern day underground railroad. They are the wrench in the patriarchal narrative works, which is why feminist bloggers are constantly under siege. They are at the front lines. And their followers, commenters, and lurkers are the foot soldiers and the double agents. Pass it on.

  64. TotallyDorkin

    You’ll notice I didn’t mention only jail. And I wasn’t necessarily talking about a modern prison either. But this is besides the point.

    My point is that when you focus on the big picture exclusively, you lose the individual narratives that don’t match that big picture. Is the systemic oppression of women a problem of greater magnitude than the oppression of atheists? Of course!! But that does not mean that every white male atheist has it better than every woman.

  65. AlienNumber

    Dorkin, your point is stupid. Plus, this stupid addendum to your already megastupid point: “Is the systemic oppression of women a problem of greater magnitude than the oppression of atheists?” completely erases that women atheists do exist.

    (just between me and you: are you writing from the unique male perspective?)

  66. Shelby

    “Thank you for this. I have now read the lecture you recommend, and it is indeed excellent.”

    Sounds like a quote straight out of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

    How the fuckety fuck will we ever get anywhere without solidarity amongst a majority of women? Why do these well paid social commentators conclude that because American women enjoy more freedom than, say, their sisters in Afghanistan, that this is evidence that feminism has succeeded and we should just get over ourselves already and proclaim with glee that this is as good as it gets? Why do folks like naphini think it’s a foregone conclusion that engineering is a more noble pursuit than nursing or teaching or child care and rightly deserves better remuneration?

    I can only conclude that most people are fucknuckles. That rad fems are the exeption to the rule. That women in the future will (hopefully) look back and ask why were the women of the early 21st century such willing participants in the patriarchal brainwashing.

  67. Comrade Svilova

    Also, women atheists have been imprisoned and punished in horrific ways as well men atheists. Oppression olympics are a bleak sport indeed. And never seem to result in the (much desired?) medal.

  68. Owly

    I once said “Richard Dawkins is not the pope of atheists” during an argument.

    My opponent looked shocked.

  69. Bushfire

    I can only conclude that most people are fucknuckles

    That is the same conclusion I have come to. If someone isn’t a feminist, I don’t really give a fuck about anything they have to say. I raise my margherita glass to you, dear sister!

  70. TotallyDorkin

    I never said the two groups couldn’t intersect. That’s why i specified male atheists. I don’t see why my point is so “stupid”, when all I’m trying to do is point out how easily people’s personal narratives of oppression and privilege can be wiped out by broad generalizations. That doesn’t mean those generalizations are not useful, or true in many respects.

    I agree with Comrade Svilova that the oppression olympics are never constructive, and not something you can win.

  71. Zoe

    I want you all to check out this great site called “Microaggressions”: http://microaggressions.tumblr.com/

  72. Claire K.

    @AlienNumber, about TD: writing that we need to make sure all this talk about women’s oppression doesn’t overshadow the personal narratives of individual men is by definition writing from the male perspective, regardless of the gender of the writer. Also, just wondering: is Paglia the one who wrote that women’s genitals are naturally revolting in comparison to the glorious penis? Because I know I read something like that in a book by a self-proclaimed “lesbian feminist” anti-feminist at one point, and I can’t imagine there are that many “lesbian” woman-haters around.

  73. EmilyBites

    “But that does not mean that every white male atheist has it better than every woman.”

    Eh? Dorkin, the concept of patriarchy. You aren’t getting it. See TwissB’s Twisty-quoted summary of sexism.

  74. Vinaigrette Girl

    I live two doors away from his ex-wife and she’s well off without him. He is, though, certainly merely a biologist and no different from any other totally privileged public-school educated white man married to the daughter of a viscount.

    FWIW, in Oxford he was known as the Professor for the Public Misunderstanding of Religion, as well as the academy’s acknowledged Professor for the Public Understanding of Science. There is a great deal about life he doesn’t really understand; and feminism is much of it. IBTP for elevating the worship of patriarchally-interpreteted science; but I don’t blame scientific thinking, only the actual patriarchs. He’s not that different from the Christian Taliban, under the skin, and anyone who thinks differently Is Wrong. (see how I did that?)

  75. TotallyDorkin

    What about that homeless man i saw on the street on my way to work last week? He was digging through the garbage. Is his life better than your because of his male-privilege? His life is probably better than the homeless women, because of the systematic oppression of women that occurs all over the world. But that one man doesn’t benefit from our systems of power the way you do AlienNumber.

  76. Comrade Svilova

    Can we please drop the idea that an individual man’s oppression (which results from intersecting oppressions that also affect women) somehow gives magical Oppressed Atheist status to the incredibly privileged Richard Dawkins and the young, white, well-off, male undergrads who emulate him? Obviously atheists are less privileged than religious people (as long as it’s the “right” religion) but the original comment was a criticism of the claim that [white, male, middle-class, straight] atheists are somehow MORE marginalized than other groups.

    For example, see the stat often referenced on atheist sites that polls show that the American People would more willingly vote for a woman or a queer man than an atheist.

    A queer woman, is, unfortunately, not compared to an atheist in terms of presidential potential, so we can’t know which of THEM wins the Oppression Olympics.

    But we do know that Richard Dawkins is not exactly even in the Runner Up category.

  77. AlienNumber

    Dear Dude Dorkin,
    One is almost touched by the kindness you show when you descend your kind loving gaze upon that garbage-rummaging man (did you perchance give him a couple of dollars while you were busy feeling pity for him? Next time you should.)

    Since I’m a feminist (and a woman) and have limited time, resources and energy and all, I am more interested in and dedicated to homeless women (yes, so selfish of me!). 70% of all homeless people out there are women and children (fact 1). See, already women show themselves, yet again, as the oppressed sex class, even in the non-glamorous field of Homelessness. Many of these homeless women and children end up homeless because of domestic violence, you know, of the old-fashioned, men-perpetrated kind, and/or because of divorce (fact 2). Despite their dominance in sheer numbers, homeless women and children are invisible to a degree no male homeless dude is (fact 3).

    The poor men, and how they suffer and how much I really don’t care.
    What was your point again?

  78. Spring

    The atheist boys are why I now support moderate religion.

  79. ivyleaves

    naphini – “Lastly, as an aside, juxtaposing this quote, which frankly sounds like Ann Coulter, and does not appear anywhere in the lecture,

    “…homely women … just mad at the beautiful girls.”

    with Dawkins comment approving of the lecture, made me think on the first reading that Dawkins was agreeing to THAT. That was a little dishonest.”

    I see, Twisty is dishonest because you lack reading skills, and she should have anticipated it by changing her article accordingly.

    Seriously, why is this absurd scolding essay still in the comments?

  80. TotallyDorkin

    I agree with you completely Comrade Svilova.

    Aren’t you so wonderful AlienNumber! She who can look at people worse off than herself and feel and do nothing. I hope one day I am able to feel contempt for those people as well as you can!

  81. AlienNumber

    Yes, obviously, because helping homeless women is feeling and doing NOTHING, seeing how they are nothing.

    Was I right or was I right that you’re a dude. Man, my genderdar is even better than my gaydar, because it works through the internet! (Excuse me now while I pat myself on the back and stop engaging your stupid and biased male brain in conversation.)

  82. TotallyDorkin

    Remarkable how you can dismiss the opinions of another woman because she doesn’t agree with you. I never thought that, living in a patriarchal world, my “female” privilege would be revoked on a radical feminist blog. I’m sorry I’m not taking the suitably “feminine” position for you to be assured of the existence of my vagina.

  83. Comrade Svilova

    AN, I’m totally with you on the fact that among the homeless we see other oppressions still persisting, but maybe instead of doubting TD’s actual gender we can simply criticize hir arguments on their merits?

    Which isn’t hard, although somehow TD is in agreement with me while I was disagreeing with zir.

    For the record, I believe individual atheists may have a terrible time, but white, straight, cis male atheists tend as a class to get a much better deal than other groups. And it chaps the hide to see anti-atheism (in Western nations) treated as a similar or worse oppression than the perpetuation of the sex class (in Western nations).

  84. AlienNumber

    “‘Female’ privilege,” huh? Care to enlighten as to what in the world that is? I want me some. !

    You sound like a dude, you argue like a dude, your main interest is to show how dudes are oppressed, some of them more than women! (maybe even by the women?), but you claim to have a vagina.

    Well then. I must take your word for it.

  85. TotallyDorkin

    Comrade Svilova, I’m sorry if I phrased my words in a way that made it sound like I was making a point about the oppression against atheists as a class. Your last paragraph is pretty much exactly what I was trying to communicate.

  86. Comrade Svilova

    If that’s the case, TD, sorry I misunderstood you so radically. Glad we’re in agreement about the relative privilege of blamers as a class vs. Dawkins and his ilk.

  87. TotallyDorkin

    Dawkins is gross, and his presumptive “this is indeed” makes me want to slam a pie in his pretentious face.

  88. IrishUp

    Maude, spare us smarmy-kissy Richards who renounce predestination because genetic determinism ‘splains everything more betterer!

    Just reading the NAMES of Sommers (or Politt) ensures a brief struggle with the urge to grab tiny plungers and suck out my own eyeballs. So I’m sorry if I got this wrong but her argument is, were it not for VicFems, USian womenz would be happy because we’re TOTES EQUAL, and the ugly girl VicFems make up stuffs because they’re jealous.

    That is indeed most excellent. Seriously, that is some grade A whatthefuckery right there.

  89. Metal_teaport

    Speaking as an English woman, if someone said to me “Thank you for this. I have now read the lecture you recommend, and it is indeed excellent.” without anything else complementary about it, I’d assume they were trying to placate me and it didn’t really mean anything.

    I often think the major difference between men and women, is that men don’t tend to do things they don’t want to do, and don’t see why they should. This is often done through denying ability “I have a degree from the best university in the world, but using a washing machine, that is beyond me” or even just simply saying they don’t like it. I often wish I could get away with that.

    In a truly equal world, men would clean the toilet as often as women. It isn’t the worst form of oppression, it is in fact a trivial issue but I think it stands well an indicator of social standing.

  90. Owly

    Has anyone responded in an intelligent, actually feminist way on the original thread? I’d look for myself but I’m already feeling under the weather and reading most of the comments would probably only make it worse.

  91. Noshoes

    Has anyone called Dawkins out onto the carpet and asked him exactly what parts of that bullshit “essay” he found “excellent?” I’m not ready to toss him into the partriarchy-pile just yet; having read several books by the guy, I can’t ignore the fact that his outrage at the religious right and strident defense of science and evolutionary theory (ahem, fact), especially in this crazy country, is delightfully subversive. He encourages people to stand up against religious lunacy worldwide; misogynist thought and patriarchy are central components of said religious lunacy. Does this make him a feminist? Evidently not. But I think he could change his mind; throughout his books he repeatedly defines himself as a scientist who is willing to examine empirically-gathered evidence and come to new conclusions, especially ones that contradict his previous opinions about the “nature” of the world. I think most of the blamers here could provide such evidence!

  92. TotallyDorkin

    Yes! Let us all go educate Richard Dawkins in the esoteric ways of the feminist, and then he shall lead us to the tops of the corporations!


  93. utahgirl

    Since when was outrage at the religious right “subversive”? I mean, I’ll be the first to agree that the religious right is one of the worst things to ever happen in/to the US, but just as often as not the people I meet who espouse strong negative opinions regarding Christians or Christian fundamentalists use them to serve essentially the same rhetorical purpose as the “Hindoos” served to nineteenth century Europeans and Muslims served to twentieth century Americans. In my experience spending a lot of time and energy debunking Christian mythology is more often an indication of the classism of the speaker, rather than their feminism or general enlightenment. And when they bogey of the Christian right is used to deny or minimize patriarchal oppression experienced by non-Christian women, it is just plain bad.

  94. utahgirl

    Sorry, I guess that should be “as talking about the backward ritualism and oppression practiced by ‘Hindoos'” and “as going on about the twisted patriarchal practices of Muslims” for “Hindoo” and “Muslims”, respectively.

  95. Citizen Jane

    TotallyDorkin, most of your arguments can be summed up in the point “Intersectionality exists.” You seem to think this is news to us, and that revealing it to us will change our minds in some way. Since most commenters here passed Feminism 101 years (or even decades) ago, you are not enlightening us in any way.

    Miss Dorkin, let me level with you. The arguments you make clearly demonstrate that you do not understand the basics feminist theory. That’s fine for now, and it is something that you can remedy if you so choose. However, you seem to think that you are being subversive and exposing us to new ideas.

    In actuality, you are like someone who walks into a community of biologists and proclaims “If people evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?” When the biologists snort and roll their eyes, that person thinks it is because they have touched a nerve with their unique revolutionary insights. In fact, the biologists responded the way they did because they have spent years studying a subject, and yet someone who clearly knows nothing about it was arrogant enough to strut in and tell them they were all wrong.

    If you actually take some time to learn feminist theory, then I for one will be glad to have you back so that we can discuss and debate it. If you continue to argue with a group of people who spend a lot of time studying a subject you know nothing about, then there will only be frustration and anger for all parties involved.

    Gah, I’m trying to follow the piehole rule, but it’s hard to follow when no one else is following it. Poor excuse, so my apologies.

  96. TotallyDorkin

    Your judgment of my knowledge isn’t backed by any experience other than one small conversation you’ve read on the internet. Every day we make arguments that can be summed up in simple terms the way you do in your rhetoric. One could say that Twisty is just saying “feminism is right” in the post above, but simplifying it down in those terms would be intellectually dishonest.

    Me bringing in the idea of the possibility for the erasure of the individual in theoretical discussions of the systems of power present in our world is not just saying “intersectionality exists”. You’ll notice that the first thing I do in my first comment is agree with the poster I’m addressing. I wasn’t refuting her statement. I was trying to add my own thoughts to it.

  97. Jill

    ivyleaves: “Seriously, why is this absurd scolding essay still in the comments?”

    You should have seen the ones I did delete. This gal, for example, was very upset with my paraphrasing:

    Why did you not quote any of Sommers’s article? [of course I did quote it, 2 large paragraphs of it — J] Your analysis of it is rather inaccurate.

    For instance, you say that Sommers asserts that the Vagina Monologues is bad because it fails to “sufficiently praise dudes.”

    Her actual complaint:

    “There are no admirable males in the Monologues–-the
    play presents a rogues’ gallery of male brutes, sadists,
    child-molesters, genital mutilators, gang rapists and
    hateful little boys.”

    A more accurate description would be “Sommers asserts that the Vagina Monologues portrays men as villains.”


  98. Jill

    TotallyDorkin, it is considered impolite on this blog to introduce “what about the men?” as an argument on any topic. Tedious commenter feuds are also discouraged. Your point about the tragic plight of the hypothetical homeless man and his “individual erasure” has been made and noted. Please read the Guidelines for Commenters — they apply to all individuals — before posting here again.

    A slight tangent regarding the Dudes Can’t Post Here rule. Whether or not a commenter is an “actual” dude is impossible to establish, given the limitations of the medium. I’ve been thinking about the irrelevancy of real-life gender to the embrace of the ideals of Savage Death Island, and have concluded that the expression of dudely points of view, whether presented or espoused by “actual” dudes or not, is a more useful criterion than speculation about Y chromosomes for revocation of membership in the Blametariat. The difficulty I face as moderator is when a commenter gradually slips into dudeliness after two or three posts. Often several blamers will have posted responses while I am away from my desk, and surgically excising these exchanges to eliminate dangling non-sequiturs is painstaking and time-consuming and not really feasible for a busy spinster aunt on the go. So a certain amount of bleed-through is, regrettably, inevitable.

    Carry on.

  99. Yeny

    I remember reading an article which noted that Dawkins refused to change the pronouns in his books after feminists pointed out to him that using ‘he/him/his’ when referring to all humans is exclusionary. His argument was something along the lines of ‘that would take too much effort and anyway, my female friends said they don’t mind’. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure it was him- I’ll look it up and get back to you. (Sorry for the abundance of ‘I’s)

  100. Hedgepig

    Yeny, allow me:

    “I am distressed to find that some women friends (fortunately not many) treat the use of the impersonal masculine pronoun as if it showed intention to exclude them. If there were any excluding to be done (happily there isn’t) I think I would sooner exclude men, but when I once tentatively tried referring to my abstract reader as ’she’, a feminist denounced me for patronizing condescension: I ought to say ‘he-or-she’, and ‘his-or-her’. That is easy to do if you don’t care about language, but then if you don’t care about language you don’t deserve readers of either sex. Here, I have returned to the normal conventions of English pronouns. I may refer to the ‘reader’ as ‘he’, but I no more think of my readers as specifically male than a French speaker thinks of a table as female. As a matter of fact I believe I do, more often than not, think of my readers as female, but that is my personal affair and I’d hate to think that such considerations impinged on how I use my native language.”

    Richard Dawkins
    Preface to “The Blind Watchmaker”

    I reckon you’ve earnt yourself a “Bingo!” there, Dick!

  101. nails

    I read one of his books a couple of years back. He was a lot less of a jerk to women than most of the dudes I had ever known, and I read it after a break up with a truly terrible dude. It was a first step towards imagining better interactions with dudes. The things that seem underwhelming now were really important for my evolution as a feminist (like reading the beauty myth-it isn’t really that radical, but it really was at that point in my life). I don’t know how capable women are of diving into radical feminist literature right away- I am sure some did, but I had a lot of programming to get over before I could really seek out that kind of information. I guess privilege is why people like dawkins stop at a certain point instead of progressing more in their feminist views.

  102. Comrade Svilova

    Yes, Dawkins “argument” for why he uses “he” all the time is pretty freaking weak. Some feminist friend of his objected to “she”? Whoever she was, this is one feminist who disagrees with her. Oh that some mainstream book would actually use gender-neutral pronouns, or even a default “she” rather than the pretentious “I care about language” “he.”

  103. Yeny

    Thanks Hedgepig, I didn’t have time to look it up straight away, and you’ve saved me the trouble. And actually, it’s worse than I remember it being, since he thinks that recognising women’s full participation in humanity is an affront to literary style. How is it, then, that Jill manages it so beautifully! What a tosser.

  104. Daisy Deadhead

    Sommers is always babbling about Rome, and the way us mean feminists LIE about ancient Rome (a veritable bastion of matriarchal privilege, to hear Sommers tell it) … but last time I looked, the Church of Rome didn’t ordain women. A little detail, but one that has greatly annoyed me for, you know, almost 54 years now.

    I wish folksy Will Rogers/Mark Twain atheists would come back in fashion. Even my grandmother gave them a pass. They were like your eccentric, witty, smart-ass uncle, and everyone more or less accepted their atheism, since they were like family. By contrast, snotty British atheists do not successfully win over the rank and file, at least not in these parts.

  105. cin17

    re Dawkins quote (h/t Hedgepig)

    Someone needs to tell Dick it’s perfectly okay to use the pronoun “they.” Even Oxford agrees, describing Dawkins’ approach as “sexist” and “outdated.” One alternative they suggest:

    “Some people object to the use of plural pronouns in this type of situation on the grounds that it’s ungrammatical. In fact, the use of plural pronouns to refer back to a singular subject isn’t new: it represents a revival of a practice dating from the 16th century. It’s increasingly common in current English and is now widely accepted both in speech and in writing.” (www.oxforddictionaries.com)

    Stop making excuses and step into the 21st century, Dick.

  106. Friend of Snakes

    Hey, cin17, thanks for that Oxford quote. I’d never heard that the use of plural pronouns to refer to singular antecedents was so old-school. Here’s the direct link: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/page/heshethey/he-or-she-versus-they

  107. Comrade Svilova

    My brother the linguist advocates for “they” as the gender neutral pronoun all the time on that basis. Return to the roots and to tradition!

  108. Alex

    On the whole “victim feminism” bullshit, you know what? The anti-feminists are right in that feminism shouldn’t be about a “victim mentality”, so why don’t they get a clue and stop fucking victimizing us?

    Ugh, Christina Hoff-Somers, not quite up there with Paglia, but still a vile human being, according to whom, a dude penetrating a woman with his his finger without her consent isn’t rape, but just a “boy behav[ing] badly”. Among other gems that is.

    Dawkins, just…no.

  109. Kat

    Dawkins had changed his views on the subject of sexist pronouns. From the preface to the paperback edition of The God Delusion:

    “A more subtle reason for preaching to the choir is raising consciousness. When the feminists raised our consciousness about sexist pronouns, they would have been preaching to the choir where the more substantive issues of the rights of women and the evils of discrimination against them were concerned. But that decent, liberal choir still needed its consciousness raising with respect to everyday language. However right-on we may have been on the political issues of rights and discrimination, we nevertheless still unconsciously bought into linguistic conventions that made half the human race feel excluded.”

    Elsewhere he has written apologetically of the sexist pronouns in his earlier books.

    A bit ironic when you see that the comments Jill wrote about in the OP are on an post where Dawkins questions why anyone should get upset about the use of the word ‘female’ as a noun when referring to women. Looks like he should re-read his own words.

  110. Cory Albrecht

    [Dude breach! Fortunately, I have the Endorkulator. — Jill]

    @Gdorkyldork: Bdorkfordork you dorkssdorkrt thdorkt dorkll mdorkn wdorknt to thdorknk thdorkmsdorklvdorks bdorkttdorkr thdorkn womdorkn, dorknd thdorkrdorkfordork thdorkt dork (dork mdorkn) thdorknk thdorks wdorky, dork don’t supposdork you could do mdork thdork fdorkvour of dorkctudorklly mdorkdorktdorkng mdork to sdorkdork whdorkt kdorknd of pdorkrson dork dorkm ldorkkdork? Unldorkss, of coursdork, you thdorknk thdorkt sdorkmply bdorkdorkng bdorkgotdorkd dorkn rdorkturn dorknd dodorkng to mdorkn whdorkt hdorkstordorkcdorklly hdorks bdorkdorkn dondork to womdorkn dorks dorkccdorkptdorkbldork? Thdorknks for showdorkng thdorkt you’rdork sdorkdorkmdorkngly dorks ddorkspdorkcdorkbldork dorks thdork pdorkopldork whom you hdorktdork.

  111. Ayla

    Cory, before you assert (by posting here at all) that your (oh so uniquely white male) dudely opinion is needed, I don’t suppose you could do all of us here at IBTP the favor of fucking off?

    Oh, too late.

  112. Hedgepig

    I just laughed so hard at the Endorkulator I’ve given myself a headache.

  113. Old_Earth_Accretionist

    ummm… Hi! I’m a feminist, an atheist and I am a huge fan of Dawkins and his work as pertaining to evolutionary biology.

    I do actually exist, Jen Mcreight isn’t even close to being the only feminist who likes Dawkins…. and it always gets in my craw when people try to claim that women don’t exist in atheism, skepticism. We exist and have every right to exist there. I am sure you didn’t mean to dismiss us outright but sometimes in our passions it is easy to forget ourselves and fall into bad patterns of speech where we actually achieve the opposite of our aim (i.e accidently marginilizing a large portion of the group we are actually trying to promote).

    Thank you for your concern at Dawkins comment. But keep in mind that his area of expertise is biology and that as a 70 year old white man is it really that surprising that he might be a little bit ignorant about what is actually going on in feminism? I’m not saying it is good, at all… but in this story the “bad guy” I am seeing is Sommers whose “informative” tone probably sounds mostly reasonable to people who are not versed in feminism.

    That is why education and raising awareness is still important… because when people don’t have understanding it is very easy to sound reasonable and be totally wrong.

    So sorry for the dissenting voice but Dawkins is not some prophet of atheism with whom atheists must always agree or perish and the feminist women who admire his contribution to science (most particularly the concept of gene-level selection) and to scientific literature exist, we are reasonable, and we have just as much right to acknowledgement as the “liberal males” you disparage as being the only group that could ever like Dawkins… If you dislike us for that, so be it… but I would rather your dislike than your dismisal (It’s not always easy being a female scientist because people don’t like to acknowledge that you exist).

  114. Kate

    I’ve just read The Ancestors Tale by Richard Dawkins and it was a totally absorbing 637 pages. There is a whiff of male privilege, the human race is usually “he”. However there are some interesting insights into monogamy, polygamy and the other (rare) case where a woman can have two husbands, whats it called, polyandry. There were only 3 or 4 times in the whole book where I thought, hang on, a feminist reading of those facts would be different. Here’s an extract (p 215)from the Seal’s Tale:
    “Of those 849 societies [1967 data] 137 (about 16%) are monogamous, four (less than one per cent) are polyandrous and a massive 83 per cent (708) are polygynous (males can have more than one wife).” These are only facts. I would draw the conclusion that patriarchy exists, from these facts. He does not draw that conclusion, instead looking for evolutionary reasons for it to exist.

    Here’s another (p 216): “For those of us with a distaste for sexual inequality, it is a consoling hope that cultural polygyny, as distinct from brute-force polygyny, might be rather easy to get rid of”. I think Dawkins is trying to present factual information, he is annoying the Creationists far more than annoying us feminists. If anything he is observing and dissecting human behaviours as they were on a long (tens of thousands of years) time scale, I imagine that 20th century feminism is a drop in the sea compared to evolutionary time frames.

  115. Hedgepig

    Kate, what a revealing expression is “…those of us with a distaste for sexual inequality…”

    A distaste?? As if it’s a mildly unpleasant experience, like one’s tea being over-brewed. Or an aquired taste, like an unusual foodstuff; some might find it unappetising but others may legitimately enjoy it.

    As for Old_Earth_Accretionist’s observation that a 70 year old white man can’t be expected to be informed about feminism: if he’s 70, that means he’s been able to read for more than half a century, during which time I gather he’s been happily fucking/marrying/divorcing/interacting with women, so he has no excuse not to have read up about them. He’s like so many other liberal dudes of all ages: he can’t be bothered looking into a subject that bores him, but he’s happy to stick his dick in the subject and have them do his laundry.

  116. Skye

    I like Richard Dawkins so his support of Hoff-Sommers is more than a little depressing. Fellow atheist and evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker also supports Hoff-Sommers and is pretty hostile to feminism and supports Larry Summers’ claim that the lack of women in science is due to genetics and not discrimination.

    A while back there was a conference at the Center for Inquiry titled “Secular Society and its Enemies” that featured Richard Dawkins, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Ann Druyan and Victor Stenger. One of the last questions from a male audience member was “a Larry Summers question, what’s up with chicks in science?” Meaning why are there more men than women in science.

    Neil deGrasse Tyson answered it, saying (I’m quoting most of but not his entire response. If you’d like to see it go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KEeBPSvcNZQ.)

    “I’ve never been female, but I have been black my whole life so let me perhaps offer some insight from that perspective because there are many similar social issues related to access to equal opportunity that we find in the black community as well as the community of women in a white male dominated society…
    When I look throughout my life…I got to see how the world reacted to my ambitions. All I can say is the fact that i wanted to be a scientist and astrophysicistist was, hands down, the path of most resistance through the forces of society. Anytime I expressed this interest teachers would say ‘don’t you want to be an athelete?’…
    I wanted to become something outside of the paradigms of expectations of the people in power…Fortunately my depth of interest in the universe was so deep and so fueled and rich that every one of these curveballs that I was thrown and fences built in front of me and hills I had to climb, I just reached for more fuel and I kept going. Now here I am, one of the most visible scientists in the land and I want to look behind me and say ‘where are the others who might have been this?’ and they are not there. And I wonder what is the blood on the tracks that I happened to survive that others did not, simply because of the forces of society that prevented me at EVERY turn, at EVERY turn…”

    “So my life experience tells me that when you don’t find blacks in the sciences, when you don’t find women in the sciences, I know that these forces are real, and I had to survive them in order to get where I am today. So before we start talking about genetic differences, we got to come up with a system where there’s equal opportunities, then we can have that conversation.”


  117. Rididill

    ‘Obviously atheists are less privileged than religious people’

    Can we please stop this? Richard Dawkins is not American, and in Britain this is completely untrue. Atheism is basically the mainstream; religion is frequently a joke, overtly religious (especially Christian) people are often mocked. In fact, we frequently mock you guys for all your religious crazies and thank heaven we aren’t like that.

    Sure, on a global scale it’s subversive but where he’s coming from he has every reason to be as confident as though he’s preaching to the choir.

    Dawkins is an extremely privileged public schoolboy. I once tried to watch one of his documentaries and it infuriated me so much I had to stop and delete it from my computer. It just came across as ‘oh look aren’t we just so civilized and rational here in the British establishment guffaw guffaw guffaw’.

    Less with the US-centric assumptions please.

  118. Deb

    Currently back-reading, hence the late comment. The current GOP war on women has (or should have) put paid to any claims that women are no longer an oppressed class in the United States of America.

  119. Chris

    Christina Hoff Sommers has repeatedly said that that last quote you highlighted was completely made up and she never actually said it.

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