Equal time, and criticism, for both sides …

So, over at Lousy Canuck Jason Thibeault has posted a link to a radio show that he thinks is aiming at strawfeminism. I decided to listen to it, because long experience has taught me that I really can’t trust anyone who simply says “This is stupid”, and I can report that Thibeault is completely wrong in this assessment: they’d have to actually be making arguments before you could claim they’re taking apart strawpersons.

They have two big “arguments”:

1) There are two types of feminists: attractive ones and not-so-attractive ones. The attractive ones use their attractiveness to their advantage and gets jobs and families and good lives, while the not-so-attractive ones get jobs in academics and government and are very angry about their lack of attractiveness.

2) Feminists and women are acting only in their own interests, and so don’t care any more about family or anyone else.

Now, on the first claim, this is actually provably untrue, because I personally know — dealing with academics a fair bit and feminists — that there are a number of quite attractive women who are feminists of the sort that they seem to deride as falling into the unattractive category in terms of behaviour, and an number of less attractive women who use their skills and marketing to get jobs in industry. I know that feminists here will be exasperated that I am opposing their argument by focusing on the attractiveness of the women, but my reply is that when their entire argument and distinction is based on judging the attractiveness of the women involved the easiest way to tear them apart is, in fact, to point out the factual error instead of trying to get into a debate over whether they should be judging on attractiveness or not, especially since logically if I did try that they could easily point out that we should do that in this case because it is the differentiating factor. Thus, I point out that it ain’t, and refute their point, instead of dancing around it in an attempt to shift the focus to a topic more, uh, correct.

Going further, they might have been able to draw a distinction between women who are willing to use their attractiveness and sexuality as a selling point in order to get ahead in life and women who find that to be sexist and objectifying and so detrimental to women as a whole. This would actually be a reasonable debate in feminism, although it’s clear that a number of women who might be associated with that attitude due to their results would deny actually doing that or thinking it acceptable, so it’s a bit shaky. But at least it would have been a point that isn’t just clearly factually wrong; the whole debate over women and sexuality seems to relate to attitudes kinda like this. So there’d be some intelligence in making a point like this. Guess what they didn’t do?

On the second claim, it’s probably true … but not limited to feminism. We are a far more individualistic society than we used to be and a far more selfish one, or at least it seems that way to me. I’m not even going to say that I’m immune, given that I can be fairly selfish far too much of the time. So that women are being encouraged to put their own interests first and reject the old-fashioned ideas of sacrifice and concern for others is a sign of the overall society, not of feminism, and so we shouldn’t expect feminism to be immune from that. Thus, here, they relate something that is at least arguably true … but miss that it’s a societal trait, not a feminist trait.

Thus I can quote one voice in Wizardry 8 in reference to this clip: “It is void of content.”

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6 Responses to “Equal time, and criticism, for both sides …”

  1. Crude Says:

    Thus, here, they relate something that is at least arguably true … but miss that it’s a societal trait, not a feminist trait.

    Does this really work as a response on this point? It seems a bit odd to argue that the social movement with group goals and aims are promoting individualism. I have to listen to the show itself, but the supposed ‘selfishness’ of feminism seems to apply at least as much on the group level (favoring women, period) as on the individual level.

    • verbosestoic Says:

      In the show, they are basically talking about the idea of women being independent from their husbands and families, and explicitly talking about them not caring for those others but only for themselves. It is at least arguable that feminism promotes individual women seeking out their own interest without regard for that of others — feminists would reply that that is only to counter the presumption that women should care only for the interests of others and not their own — which then means that it promotes that sort of “selfish” thinking. Unfortunately, they seem to be ascribing that as a trait of feminism itself, not of the individualist society that feminism is in.

      • Crude Says:

        Unfortunately, they seem to be ascribing that as a trait of feminism itself, not of the individualist society that feminism is in.

        Sure, but doesn’t that get into a grey area? I mean, what you say would make more sense if society were such that there was an individualistic attitude across the board, such that all the groups parallel to or in competition with feminism tended towards the selfish. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.

        I mean, I suppose you could say, ‘Yes, feminism is selfish, but so are these other groups, and there’s a larger trend in society towards selfishness.’ But doesn’t seem to do much to blunt that particular criticism.

      • verbosestoic Says:

        Well, my view is that with only a few exceptions, most of the parallel groups DO tend towards the selfish, and we have an overall trend in individualistic societies towards the exact sort of selfishness they are calling out feminism for. They basically say that history will judge feminism for making women not care about their children, and that’s what I’m calling out: feminism’s attitude seems to be more a reflection of our societal views than the main cause of them.

      • Crude Says:

        Alright, fair enough view I suppose.

        Then what do you think is the cause?

      • verbosestoic Says:

        We’ve become too individualistic a society … possibly as a reaction to Communist societies during the Cold War which in theory went to a communitarian extreme (although in practice it didn’t work out as well as they had hoped). Thus, pretty much any movement that wants to improve the lives of people argues for it on the basis of improving the lives and choices of individuals, with community concerns only raised as background arguments and often treated with suspicion.

        Although, that could be just me being cynical. Then again, I think that if it was originated today “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country” would be treated far more suspiciously and as an example of naivete than as the classic line it became.

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