I read the recent postings by Satoshi Kanazawa and Regina Barreca on feminism with interest, as they highlight how sensitive and charged this topic is. In today's post, I wish to contribute to the debate by pointing out the pros and cons of feminism. In so doing, I hope to disambiguate the worthy form of feminism (as a movement fighting injustice) from its outlandish counterpart (as an academic discipline capable of apparently contributing to fields as varied as psychology, ecology, physics, biology, chemistry, and mathematics, as well as being a hotbed for misandry).
Women have faced countless brutal forms of institutionalized discrimination since time immemorial and in all sorts of cultural settings. This is an undeniable and morally reprehensible truth. Accordingly, feminism as a movement, in seeking to create equality for women in the social, political, economic, and occupational spheres (to name a few domains), is laudable. There is no moral reason that a woman should not be allowed to vote, should not have equal access to education and health care, should not make the same amount of money as a man performing the same job, etc. Feminism has been singularly responsible for redressing these deeply sexist social injustices. This is what I would call benevolent feminism and accordingly under this rubric I would proudly call myself a feminist, as I abhor all forms of injustice and intolerance. See a discussion of my personal history replete with virulent intolerance here.
Now let's turn to the outlandish, nonsensical, and harmful forms of feminism, which I shall coin hostile feminism. I shall restrict my discussion to four key issues.
(1) From the onset of the movement, many radical feminists rapidly converged on the erroneous idea that if women are to be treated equally in all walks of life, it is important to demonstrate that men and women are indistinguishable beings. Hence, all sex differences short of one's genitalia were attributed to socialization. An average three-year old knows this position to be laughable yet this is a central mantra in Women's Studies programs and related feminist literature. See Professing Feminism: Cautionary Tales from the Strange World of Women's Studies by Daphne Patai and Noretta Koertge for endless examples of irrational and blatantly falsifiable feminist positions.
Men and women should be equal under the law albeit they are distinguishable biological beings. Wishing away sex differences, and creating imaginary narratives about the power of socialization in shaping all sex differences, is idiotic. It does not take a sophisticated Darwinist to recognize that we are a sexually dimorphic and sexually reproducing species. By definition, this implies that men and women possess some innate biological-based differences.
(2) Some forms of feminism have been harmful in that they have built an ideological foundation that is anti-male. Apparently, mysogyny is reprehensible and evil but misandry is virtuous and laudable. I could probably list 1,000 quotes from leading feminist theorists that are extraordinarily offensive and deeply sexist. If the same feminist quotes were altered such that the word "man" was changed to "woman", the quotes in question would be construed as horrifyingly sexist. Yet when spoken by "liberatory feminists", they are perfectly permissible. I am sure that most readers are familiar with the words of Andrea Dworkin and Catherine MacKinnon to the effect that all men are rapists, and that heterosexual sex is nothing short of rape. I should add that according to many feminists, men who consume pornography are at the very least "rapists-in-training." I wonder how we might go about reproducing given that heterosexual mating is apparently "violently penetrative." I suppose that with the advances of artificial insemination, men are disposable (some feminists have incidentally argued for this position). Or perhaps men might learn to inseminate women via "no touch" tantric sex. Alternatively, we can explore the possibilities of human cloning as a means of extending our genes. Anything will do as long as we eradicate "penetrative heterosexual mating" from the repertoire of human sexuality.
(3) In the strange world of academic feminism, the knowledge bases of venerable scientific fields are suspect if not incomplete because men have been the major contributors in those fields. I am not talking about Film Studies and Literary Criticism wherein one might argue that interpretive texts and other cultural products might benefit in being analyzed from multiple ideological viewpoints. Unbeknownst to natural scientists, the hard sciences including physics, chemistry, and biology, apparently need to be infused with feminist theory. Really!? Now if this were not sufficiently hallucinatory, apparently mathematics (the purest of all fields) is incomplete and biased, as it lacks a feminist perspective. Having been trained in mathematics, I wondered what feminist mathematics might be. I had to read Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrels with Science coauthored by Paul R. Gross and Norman Levitt to get my answer. Apparently, arithmetic word problems are inherently sexist in their content, and hence can be "liberated" by a feminist lens. Wow! Take for example the following word problem: "Bob is a fireman who makes $40,000 a year. His boss, Fire Chief Larry has advised him that he will be receiving a 5% salary increase next year. What will his new yearly salary be?" Feminist mathematics would alter fireman to firewoman (or perhaps fireperson); it would change the name Bob to Barbara. It would also alter Larry to Linda. I am not making this stuff up. I am not being facetious. I am being literal. Oh no. It is time to reconsider all the knowledge that has been amassed in mathematics over the past four or so millennia, as the "sexist" mathematical axioms have been demolished. Sir Isaac Newton, it's time to update your calculus manual. You are sexist sir. As a Lebanese Jew, I wonder if I could develop a new branch of mathematics that speaks to my ethnic identity. "Ibrahim is an accountant who makes $40,000 a year. His boss Mordechai Rosenberg has advised him that his salary will increase by 5%..."
Not satisfied at having "liberated" mathematics from its “sexist” shackles, academic feminists have enlightened us about the sexist properties of DNA. Specifically, feminist biochemistry proposes that DNA is an instrument of male dominance as evidenced by its "master molecule" narrative (McElroy, 1996). Nice! I could provide you countless other examples of “scientific contributions” arising from feminist theorists however I am assuming that you get the general idea.
(4) The feminist movement has created confusion regarding the permissible dynamics between the sexes. Men and women no longer trust their Darwinian instincts; instead they seek to adhere to new "feminist" rules of intersexual conduct, as they are highly fearful of being accused of being "sexist pigs" or "tools of the patriarchy." See my earlier posts regarding benevolent sexism here and here, as it very much relates to this point. Am I allowed to compliment my female colleague about her beautiful dress or would this be harassment? Can she compliment me on how smart I look in my new suit or would she be objectifying me as man-meat? Hence, most individuals now thread very carefully in their daily dynamics as they are terrified at the prospect of making a "social faux pas" that is otherwise forbidden by the feminist ethos.
To recapitulate, let us applaud feminism for its contributions in making our societies more equitable and just, and less sexist (although more work remains). However, let's stamp out the nonsense that is promulgated by the great majority of feminist theorists.
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