I know you are, but what am I?

I am not a part of the men’s rights movement, nor am I a men’s rights activist. I link to a few of their blogs and forums because, unlike feminists, men’s rights activists discuss issues that concern me. The sites I link represent, in my opinion, the balanced views of the men’s rights movement.

This does not mean that there are no other balanced views out there. However, there are also a lot of hostile views on men’s rights blogs, and I do not want to associate with people like that. There are plenty of movements that began as anger-driven machines. Few of those movements managed to get anything done until the more reasonable members stepped forward.

However, as much as I think  vitriol and hostility have no place in rational discussion, I understand these men’s anger, particularly the anger directed at feminists.

The dynamic between the men’s movement and the feminist movement is akin to that of a younger brother and older sister. The older sister spends her youth demanding her place at the family table and asserting her power. She often does the latter by bullying, harassing, and abusing her younger brother. This goes on until one summer the brother stands up for himself. He copes with his sister’s actions and fights back, and now he has size on his side. His sister thinks twice about slugging him in the face. Of course, the moment the younger brother dishes the abuse back, the older sister complain to their parents, something her brother could never do. And of course, when the sister tells, she conveniently leaves out all the crap she put her brother through. He is the bully. She is the innocent victim.

This is the refrain one hears from feminists about men’s rights activists. As cruel as some of those men can be, they have nothing on feminists. Feminists have spent 40 years going for men’s throats, saying, writing and singing all sorts of horrendous things about men and boys. Feminists often reserve their most cruel and insidious comments for those concerned about men’s issues. For every men’s rights activist who resorts to insults out of sheer hatred of feminists, there are dozens feminists doing the same thing towards men, particularly anyone concerned with men’s issues.

Of course, few feminists admit this. Many feminists regard themselves as innocent victims of MRA vitriol. It never occurs to any of those feminists that perhaps the men’s rights activists who launch into them might do so because they detected the undercurrent of abject hatred of men that those feminists try to hide.

Case in point, Hugo Schwyzer offered these remarks in response to Thaddeus G. Blanchette’s criticism of an article Schwyzer wrote for The Good Men Project Magazine:

fannie, I think it’s a classic case of false equivalence, as if MRAs and feminists are both equally right and wrong. It’s like saying the Klan and the NAACP have two different views on race relations. It adds respectability to the indefensible. That’s not to say, as I always point out, that MRA anger and pain isn’t real. But it’s woefully misdirected and involves a staggering refusal to take responsibility.

When Blanchette asked if all men’s rights activists were akin to Klansmen, Schwyzer responded with:

No, not all MRAs are like the Klan. Then again, I’ve yet to encounter an MRA who won’t call me (either at his own site or at mine) a “mangina” or worse. I haven’t met one authentic MRA — not one — who won’t turn to ad hominem sooner or later. They’re not worth debating when they do that. I don’t talk about “small dick gamma males in their mama’s basement festering with sexual resentment”, but I get plenty of anti-feminist invective hurled my way with the tacit complicity of every leading MRA out there. (Okay, one exception: Glenn Sacks, who is often denounced by other MRAs for being too moderate and too civil.)

Those who argue (as Zeta and others do) that feminism is a system of oppression are indeed akin to those Klan types who argued that the end of Jim Crow was a kind of anti-white racism. I think the analogy stands.

This is not the first time Schwyzer stood by an indefensible comment. However, it is one of the few times that Schwyzer dropped his false sincerity and revealed his actual opinion of the men’s movement. As I stated in a comment which may or may not appear on his blog, in order to counter insults against him, Schwyzer threw out one of the most insidious invectives and ad hominems imaginable against people he disagrees with because they think it is wrong to rape boys, deny fathers visitation, or screw over boys in school. All his comments do is demonstrate that the “misdirected” anger at feminists is on target. He tries to present himself as reasonable, yet his views and positions are neither reasonable or defensible. If they were, he would not need to resort to invectives and ad hominems.

His comments make me feel much more justified in my distrust and repudiation of feminists. The average men’s rights activists has no real effect on the outside world. Schwyzer, however, is a tenured professor whose articles get published in local, national, and international papers and magazines. He has been interviewed by media outlines. His comments reflect part of the mainstream feminist view, and that does effect the outside world.

Granted, I do not care about Schwyzer’s opinions. What irks me is the dishonesty he engages in. Yes, some MRAs attack him, some of probably out of  anger or hatred. Yet how many do so because they see through the veil of false sincerity and catch that when Schwyzer talks about men what he really means is “those Klan types”?

In that sense Schwyzer is very much like the older sister who bullies her little brother and then plays victim when he gets her back. The little brother is not right to bully his sister, but the older sister is not right to bully her brother, nor is she right to pretend that her brother’s actions come from nowhere.

Schwyzer does not have to agree with or like the men’s movement or men’s rights activists, but he is no position to claim the moral high ground.

The Good Men Project Magazine’s recent attempt to portray the men’s rights movement in a non-judgmental fashion is a wonderful initiative that should be lauded. Unfortunately, the series of articles written thus far seem to depend on a common set of tropes when it comes to criticizing men’s rights advocates, tropes that rely on rhetorically attacking the members of the men’s movement rather than directly engaging the points its activists bring up.

45 thoughts on “I know you are, but what am I?

  1. Dr. Schwyzer apparently doesn’t like to engage in discussions with people who disagree with him. Comments are now closed on his blog.

  2. Schwyzer:

    “Then again, I’ve yet to encounter an MRA who won’t call me (either at his own site or at mine) a “mangina” or worse.”

    This is simply a lie. Although it is widely popular, many MRAs actively refuse to use the term “mangina”. It isn’t a word I use myself, as I believe the men being called “manginas” aren’t the slightest bit bothered by it, and only see it as an opportunity to spread more propaganda lies, like Hugo here. Remember, most of these people really do despise their own gender, so being associated with vaginas may in fact please them.

    It is also simply too crude and churlish sounding for something of such tragic consequence. “Collaborationist” fits much better, and carries more weight.

    Schwyzer:

    “I haven’t met one authentic MRA — not one — who won’t turn to ad hominem sooner or later.”

    I’ve seen a very (very) select few. That’s more than can be said of feminists.

  3. You know TS, sometimes I get the vibe that this isn’t actually about different political views.
    Sometimes, just sometimes when he gets really defensive, I feel like he is angry someone else dares to step into his turf.

  4. “Feminists have spent 40 years going for men’s throats, saying, writing and singing all sorts of horrendous things about men and boys”

    Not to argue for MRAs, but this article and rob fedders’ comments are worth reading to realize just what insidiousness lies behind the feminist movement.
    http://drhelen.blogspot.com/2009/03/double-standard-of-teen-rape.html

    The twisting of statistics, law and outright hoaxes perpetrated by feminists right from the start, are now generally accepted as truth or seem to be lesser evils compared to recent ones, have to be pulled down along with the today’s feminism.

  5. And one more thing TS. This has to be the funniest use of that line ever. I read it on my blog roll and knew that it had something to do with the recent MRA/feminist interaction at the Good Men Project.

  6. No Danny, that is, thankfully, not okay.

    Just because someone holds a different political view does not automatically grant you the right to defame them, even if you think their views are wrong, gross or atrocious. And I think resorting to such attacks instead of engaging in an argumentation or discussion is the wrong way of representing your political beliefs.

    It does not further your agenda or convices people of your beliefs, all it does is earning you brownie points from the people already on your side.

    And I am in no way saying that this is the standard feminist MO, quite the contrary actually.

    Wow, I have just seen that he closed comments blogwide, not just in that one topic. Interesting.

  7. “In that sense Schwyzer is very much like the older sister who bullies her little brother and then plays victim when he gets her back. ”

    This is true on so many levels. He is simply blind to the majority of his own advantages in life, hs “privilege”. I really think that on some level his focus on gender oppression is a way of turning his attention from the areas where his real privileges are. For example:

    “Hold up so now its okay to compare activists to KKK (or nazis)? Or is it only okay when feminists do it?”

    No shit. That equivalence is classic erasure. He gives lip service to his race privlege, mainly to claim kumbaya on his students, and he completely denies his class privielge.

    “What irks me is the dishonesty he engages in. ”

    He is no good at analysis at all, and dishonesty is just his biggest of several problems. He tries hard, he can make valid observations, and he ties to be caring and empthetic. But his cherished beliefs always get in the way.

  8. “This does not mean that there are no other balanced views out there. However, there are also a lot of hostile views on men’s rights blogs, and I do not want to associate with people like that. ”

    I agree. I tend to see this more and more–outright hostility, bullying and warfare instead of people engaging in actual discussion, debate and diplomacy. Why must everyone constantly have to choose sides? People seem obsessed at winning at all costs–not problem-solving, and there is a large cost associated with conducting oneself this way.

    The example you use of sibling bullying in family dynamics often results in lifelong hostilities between siblings that may never get worked out. And, in fact, destructive family patterns like that often will lead to a family pattern of estrangement used as a coping mechanism as well, which I would add has its own set of problems. Check out estrangement blogs devoted to that subject.

    I periodically read Hugo’s site and yours as well given time limitations. I usually stay away from other feminist sites given that any kind of divergent viewpoints are usually met with the type of response which you describe. And if you think it can be nasty towards men, being a woman with a divergent viewpoint–construed as a traitor– is no picnic by any stretch of the imagination. I’ve never perused an MRA site as I would not care to experience angry, rageful comments there either–the undercurrent I experience feels toxic to me and that prevents me from wanting to consider their viewpoints at all.

    Using the race analogy is rather unfortunate in my opinion and I’d steer clear of that, but obviously he was/is of a different mindset.

  9. Sometimes, just sometimes when he gets really defensive, I feel like he is angry someone else dares to step into his turf.

    If by turf you mean his political views, then I concur. Schwyzer reminds me of Bill O’Reilley in that both are unwilling to accept the possibility that their views could be wrong, harmful or hateful. It is arrogance and contempt that drives that kind of obstinance.

    Wow, I have just seen that he closed comments blogwide, not just in that one topic. Interesting.

    Actually, he does that from time to time, although usually when one of his posts gets a ton of responses. He heavily moderates his blog, so there are comments that get sucked into the spam filter or immediately placed in moderation. I imagine, however, that his recent comments prompted a number of responses, some civil and some not.

  10. Why must everyone constantly have to choose sides?

    Probably because no one wants to admit they could be wrong. Both sides are invested in certain views, particularly the “us versus them” dichotomy. Both seemingly want compromise, but neither wants to compromise first and neither considers the other side’s offers fair. Sometimes they have a point. Most of the time it is just posturing. Neither really want compromise. They want their way, so that leaves them bickering.

    And if you think it can be nasty towards men, being a woman with a divergent viewpoint–construed as a traitor– is no picnic by any stretch of the imagination.

    I have witnessed that hostility in person, and it is one of the reasons do not associate with feminists.

    Using the race analogy is rather unfortunate in my opinion and I’d steer clear of that, but obviously he was/is of a different mindset.

    Based on past statements Schwyzer has made, going back to his interview on Glenn Sacks’ radio show in 2005, I do not think Schwyzer expects criticism for his comments. Being a tenured professor puts him in a position of power in which is rarely questioned, and by his own admission he tends to associate mostly with people who share his views. It seems like he is used to people either letting his comments slide, being too intimidate to object, or simply agreeing with him. When confronted with an objection, he does not back away from the statement, even when the statement is obviously improbable.

    For instance, on Glenn’s show Schwyzer claimed that he has never heard or read any feminist say anything negative about men. This would be akin to growing up in Alabama and claiming you have never heard any white person say anything negative about black people. Yet rather than walk the statement back or give an inch, Schwyzer stood by his claim when Glenn called foul.

    Whatever issues prompting Schwyzer’s behavior, I do think one of them is that he just does not think anyone will question what he says.

  11. Hold up so now its okay to compare activists to KKK (or nazis)? Or is it only okay when feminists do it?

    That is the irony. Schwyzer objects to MRAs using the same analogies, yet has no problem doing it himself.

  12. Jim:
    He is no good at analysis at all, and dishonesty is just his biggest of several problems. He tries hard, he can make valid observations, and he ties to be caring and empthetic. But his cherished beliefs always get in the way.
    I don’t think its that simple Jim. He can analyze just fine, when its something that men are doing unfairly to women.

    TS:
    For instance, on Glenn’s show Schwyzer claimed that he has never heard or read any feminist say anything negative about men.
    Yeah its amazing what you can and cannot hear when your politics are aligned a certain way and you hold them above question. I’d bet money that he’s not the only feminist that’s never heard another feminist say anything negative about men.

    That is the irony. Schwyzer objects to MRAs using the same analogies, yet has no problem doing it himself.
    Yeah I wonder what David (from manboobz) would think about that comment. Chances are “he’ll never know Schwyzer said such a thing” or “he was making a valid analogy”. Isn’t funny that when a feminist makes an analogy its above question?

    Being a tenured professor puts him in a position of power in which is rarely questioned, and by his own admission he tends to associate mostly with people who share his views. It seems like he is used to people either letting his comments slide, being too intimidate to object, or simply agreeing with him. When confronted with an objection, he does not back away from the statement, even when the statement is obviously improbable.
    Could this be some sort of class privilege?

  13. “And if you think it can be nasty towards men, being a woman with a divergent viewpoint–construed as a traitor– is no picnic by any stretch of the imagination. ”

    Karen, I second TS’s observation. Men on those sites get belittled and dismissed, while dissenting women get attacked with a rabid ferocity mere men don’t merit, (thank God).

    “Whatever issues prompting Schwyzer’s behavior, I do think one of them is that he just does not think anyone will question what he says.”

    That’s avery big part of it, TS. You can tell by the non-responive answers he gives to dissenting comments that he really c’ant be botherd to engage. I have to wonder how he ever got his degree, let alone his position and tenure. It doesn’t very much for the intellectual standards of the “scholarly” community he belongs to.

  14. Jim: That’s because feminists simply dismiss the male viewpoint as irrelevant because he’s male. A female dissenter… I think we’re viewed as dangerous.

  15. I don’t think its that simple Jim. He can analyze just fine, when its something that men are doing unfairly to women.

    I am not sure that is actually an analysis since it technically coincides with Schwyzer’s existing beliefs. I cannot think of an instance in which Schwyzer analyzed discrimination against women without chalking it up to male privilege or patriarchy.

    Could this be some sort of class privilege?

    I suppose that is possible, although I prefer to stay away from claiming anyone has privilege. I do think that many educated or academic people carry a certain amount of arrogance and dislike anyone “beneath” them questioning their authority. I also think that many progressive liberals carry a certain amount of “You know I’m right” attitude that may bleed into Schwyzer’s comments, which he admitted several months ago. Granted, neither academics or progressives are the only people to play those cards.

  16. I have to wonder how he ever got his degree, let alone his position and tenure. It doesn’t very much for the intellectual standards of the “scholarly” community he belongs to.

    Even though I think this comment borders on an ad hominem, I will let it slide because I think you bring up a valid point. Schwyzer’s bias is obvious and it likely is not something he recently developed. Perhaps when he first received his tenure this was less apparent. Perhaps the school he teaches at supports his views. Either way, it seems unlikely that his school and superiors are not at least in part aware of his biases. I am all for any and all views being present on college campuses. However, I do think it is problematic to give tenure to people who hold such overtly hostile views.

  17. I was in the middle of cooking when something hit me.

    fannie, I think it’s a classic case of false equivalence, as if MRAs and feminists are both equally right and wrong. It’s like saying the Klan and the NAACP have two different views on race relations. It adds respectability to the indefensible. That’s not to say, as I always point out, that MRA anger and pain isn’t real. But it’s woefully misdirected and involves a staggering refusal to take responsibility.
    Fine let him have that analogy. Now take into account how the NAACP has been criticized about what battles it picks and how it seems to falter in the eyes of some of the very people it claims to be looking out for (namely black women).

    So if he wants to play that game by his logic what he’s really doing is setting up a dynamic of open haters (MRAs) vs. hypocrites that claim to be on the look out for people but are prone to actions and words that not only directly contradict that claim but has members among them that embrace the very hatred they claim to be above (feminists).

    TS:
    I suppose that is possible, although I prefer to stay away from claiming anyone has privilege.
    Oh I agree TS I don’t like tossing around that word considering how its been so horribly misused by feminists. I just wanted to say for the sake of criticizing a feminist with some of their own abused language.

  18. Sonja: you are correct. Feminists reserve special bile for apostate women. The grudes can last decades

  19. “. However, I do think it is problematic to give tenure to people who hold such overtly hostile views.”

    I don’t think overtly hostile views are the problem when a scholarly community is affirming to the rest of society that a person is a cmopetent practioner. What’s problematic is methodological competence. And my comment went to his methodoligicla prowess as a scholar rather than to his person, thus no “ad hominem” in the sense you are using it.

    Danny, you must have been watching something simmer gently when you had that very penetrating insight. Here you see how a wrong position is bound to crumble of its own weakness regardless of how skilled the rhetor is.

    Sonja, there are more and more women posting articles at places like A Voice for Men. Imagine the hate those women come in for.

  20. “Sonja, there are more and more women posting articles at places like A Voice for Men. Imagine the hate those women come in for.”

    Ooooo… oh noes! :\ 😀

  21. Pingback: Lost in translation « Toy Soldiers

  22. Jim:
    Danny, you must have been watching something simmer gently when you had that very penetrating insight. Here you see how a wrong position is bound to crumble of its own weakness regardless of how skilled the rhetor is.
    Actually I was making an alternate version of rice krispie treats (basically I was just using popped popcorn instead of rice krispies).

  23. Jim,

    “He is simply blind to the majority of his own advantages in life, hs “privilege”. I really think that on some level his focus on gender oppression is a way of turning his attention from the areas where his real privileges are.”

    There’s probably some truth to this observation. When people respond with defensiveness I always wonder what that is about and what is behind the behaviors. Some issues are not really gender-based at all.

    “Whatever issues prompting Schwyzer’s behavior, I do think one of them is that he just does not think anyone will question what he says.”

    Don’t you find this true with academics in general, despite that these environments supposedly suggest that they are open to ideas and trying to offer environments which encourage discussion/debate? For example: fiscally I tend to be more conservative and socially I tend towards being more liberal, but debate of fiscally conservative viewpoints is unwelcome in more liberal enclaves–that is my experience.

    Quiet honestly, I’ve met few people, if any, who position themselves as an authority on any subject who warm to being criticized or refuted publicly. I’m hard pressed to think of anyone as an example. I’m not saying that disagreement isn’t okay either as so-called “experts” need to be called to task–rightfully so and quiet often, otherwise we wouldn’t be in current mess that our economy is in!

    As to Hugo, well usually he doesn’t respond to my posts–it is seldom that he responds and more than a few times his commentors will do it for him, if they don’t like what I have to say and none of it invites healthy dialogue or discussion. My preference would be for people with dissenting views to debate, but rarely does it ever turn to that. It tends to usually digress into ugly behaviors, which is a shame.

  24. Well, one of the problems with being an “expert” on a pop topic is that while you don’t know everything about it, you do tend to know far more than someone who just learned about it froma T.V. movie of the week.

    So when you get up and talk about your area and then have to field questions from people who are trying to grapple with things that you discarded long ago, there’s a natural tendency to get irritated.

    I get this, for example, when I talk to americans who think they’re “in the know”regarding trafficking and sexual slavery in Brazil. Most of the time, these people don’t even realize that we speak Portuguese in Brazil, not Spanish, but they’ll get up at a talk and start spouting a poorly-researched BBC piece which claims that there are 500,000 children prostitutes in Brazil and what do I have to say about that?

    It’s VERY hard at these moments not to respond with snark. ESPECIALLY when you answer the question in all seriousness, showing how and why the BBC is wrong and then you get some response like “Well, I think the BBC knows more about this than you do”, or whatever. You’re playing by the rules of evidence and logic and this clown thinks it’s all one big popularity contest. It’s very hard, in a situation like that, not to tell the guy off.

  25. “Well, one of the problems with being an “expert” on a pop topic is that while you don’t know everything about it, you do tend to know far more than someone who just learned about it froma T.V. movie of the week.”

    Unfortunately ‘feminism’ makes hugo an ‘expert’ on everything to do with gender including men and men’s lives.

    It’s as if, in your example, you fancied yourself not just an expert on sexual slavery in Brazil but also anything to do with coerced labor, sexual or otherwise, everywhere in the globe and throughout time.

  26. “Don’t you find this true with academics in general, despite that these environments supposedly suggest that they are open to ideas and trying to offer environments which encourage discussion/debate? ”

    Sonja, there is a split on this. Instructors tend to see themsleves as the ‘sage on the stage” and not to brook much questioning. Then threre are th researcher types, the ones I call scholars,a dn they welcome that kind of thing because it saves them the trouble of identifying the weak points in thier arguments and im,proves the discussion and the final conclusion. It’s not hard ot tell who is which.

    “It’s VERY hard at these moments not to respond with snark. ”

    Thaddeus, remember in these situations who is participating in these conversations – not just you and the interlocutor, but also that whole roomful of thrid persons, and mayeb snark is exactly the communication tool needed to help them see the vauousness of the intelocutor’s comment.

  27. I think I know what Thadddeus is getting at. it is hard and frustrating to reason against media expertise over and over again, especially when these persons don’t see why their sources might be oversimplifying or -exaggerating.

    As a CS guy, I weep everytime my dad asks me if his computer is save from nigerian email hackers and this virus programm that will destroy the world.

    Nevertheless I think snark is a horrible tool. It serves no obvious porpose to me. All it does is make you, as the snarker, feel superwitty, while everybody else thinks you are a jerk.

  28. Don’t you find this true with academics in general, despite that these environments supposedly suggest that they are open to ideas and trying to offer environments which encourage discussion/debate?

    To an extent, yes. Many academics do possess a certain amount of arrogance due to their status and position. They do get treated as authorities, and few of them are used to having that questioned. I think the difference is that people like Schwyzer consider themselves authorities even in light of people’s lived experiences. This would be akin to an academic on civil war telling people in Libya what the Libyan experience is like, even as Libyans tell this person that his proclamations do not match their experiences.

  29. Well, one of the problems with being an “expert” on a pop topic is that while you don’t know everything about it, you do tend to know far more than someone who just learned about it froma T.V. movie of the week.

    But would that expert know more about the topic than the people who live through it everyday?

  30. Well, academics generally ARE authorities – at least on the topics they study. It’s one of the very definitions of authority: a person writing in support or clarification of a topic or opinion.

    But being an authority on one thing doesn’t mean that they’re an authority on everything. Or that they are always right.

    Frankly, however, I don’t see the “authorities” as being so much of a problem has the run-of-the-mill hoi polloi who have just enough education to be truly dangerous. These are the folks who read something on the Huffington Post, for example, and repeat it verbatum without stopping to think “Wait a minute! How in the hell could they logicaslly make that claim?”

    People who haven’t bothered to do their homework but who think that they are every bit as informed as the people who have are generally the folks who rage about “authorities”. At least in my experience.

    And yes, Toysoldier is right: Hugo does seem to think that he knows what the men he talks to are feeling, better than they do themselves. He doesn’t just make social models based off of this data: he presumes to use said models to predict or describe what an individual feels or thinks.

    Several guys on sexual tourism boards have accused me of doing something of the sme thing, so I’m pretty sensitive now to trying to REALLY listen to what men are saying to me, even when I personally disagree with it.

  31. But would that expert know more about the topic than the people who live through it everyday?

    I know this is going to piss a lot of people off, but frankly, yes. At least if we’re talking about science and such.

    Pragmatics is all well and good and U.S. Americans place a lot of faith in lived experience. In fact, it’s been the country’s signature contribution to philosophy. I don’t want to downplay the value of lived experience, but when you’re talking about social constructs, lived experience is necessarily limited.

    Let’s talk about trafficking, again, because that’s an example I’m very familiar with.

    Most anti-trafficking organizations have a person that my colleagues and I rather snarkily call “the designated victim”. This person is supposedly a trafficking victim and, having lived through the situation, their experiences and oppinions about it are supposed unquestionable and unimpeachable.

    But often we’ll find that the designated victim has had a very atypical experience – many times it’s not something that strictly should be called “trafficking” at all.

    An expert – if they’re good at what they do – tries to see the subject from every angle and incorporate all the stories she hears – not just the ones that are good for her theories. An expert may thus indeed know more about a topic – on a social level – that a person who lives it every day.

  32. I know this is going to piss a lot of people off, but frankly, yes. At least if we’re talking about science and such.

    I suppose I should have qualified my question. What I meant is that would an expert know more about a person’s experience than the person himself? For instance, would an expert on trafficking know more about why a person stayed with their trafficker after the trafficker released them than the person who actually got trafficked?

    I would contend that while it is possible that the expert may know more about trafficking, that expert would not know more about what it was like for each person who gets trafficked, and as a result that expert is no position to tell any victim what that victim’s specific experience was like, especially if the victim recounts something different than what the expert says ought to happen.

    I think that is where experts get caught up. As you noted, they only look at angles that fit their theories rather than incorporating everything and changing their theories to match the new evidence.

  33. No, not at all. But then again, I’m a social scientist. I leave the individual stuff up to psychologists.

    But yeah, it does piss me off when social scientists presume that they know more aboiut the individual’s situation than the individual themselves.

  34. Feminist theory is a hypothesis based on an observation.

    “Most people in visible positions of power are men, therefore society is constructed to benefit men over women.”

    This single hypothesis is supposed to explain the gender relations now and throughout history. It is also considered primary over a man’s own lived experience (or a woman’s).

    The fact that men take on the majority of the physical risk in society is deemed irrelevant; men who say, ‘I don’t feel privileged’ are irrelevant, even when they represent large populations of disenfranchised men, whose disenfranchisement is statistically verifiable.

    Hugo is an expert in gender studies for the simple fact that he believes a single hypothesis explains everything there is to know about gender relations now and historically.

    There isn’t even this much certainty in PHYSICS for God’s sake!

  35. It’s not based on systematic and constant observation, then, Typhon, which is what scientists are supposed to do.

    The theory has huge holes it in which I, for one, think the concept of kyriarchy corrects quite well. But to accept Kyriarchy over patriarchy theory, feminists like Hugo would have to accept the concept that not all women are always, inevitably, as a socio-political disadvantage when it comes to men.

    White, liberal, middle-class American feminism is very much an ideology of “the ladies of the house”. In kyriarchical theory, this sort of woman is at a positional advantage when it comes to the majority of men and is more-or-less “tied” in status with other men.

    Black feminism, for example, has not placed nearly as much emphasis on the supposed oppressive nature of “masculinity” because black women have historically encountered much more oppression by “the ladies of the house” than they have from men, in general.

    In kyriarchical theory, Hugo would perhaps be stylized as a sort of a “talker to barbarians” for “the ladies of the house”: a poor freeman who is hired as an outside expert to deal with “the help”. Thus his comfort on affirming that he knows more about what the men he talks to think than the men himself.

    Me? I’m a metic: a resident foreigner. The master class has uses for me, but I have less rights than the daughters of the house when it comes to speaking my mind.

  36. Interesting. I just tried to put the following offer out to Hugo on his blog, but the comments section has apparently been locked again….

    Dear Hugo,

    On Schussler-Fiorenza (according to the folks that know her, she’s real particular about her name)….

    I’ve just recently been introduced to her work. However, it seems to me that she’s pretty clear about what kyriarchy is and is not: it is not patriarchy, though androcentrism and patriarchical values are present in in it. It has a series of axes of differentiation and power ordination. If you take the concept seriously, Hugo, there is no way that you can make the claim, as you do that men (generic) make the rules and women obey them. In fact, if you take the concept of kyriarchy seriously, there can be no “hegemonic masculinity”: there are masculinities, plural. According to Kyriarchic theory, a very small subset of men are centrally positioned and everyone below them obeys them – men and women alike.

    If you’re interested, I’d be willing to debate this concept with you in the pages of The Good Men Project. You’ve been familiar with her work for awhile now, I take it, so this should be quite easy for you.

    How about it?

  37. Jim,

    “Sonja, there is a split on this. Instructors tend to see themsleves as the ‘sage on the stage” and not to brook much questioning. Then threre are th researcher types, the ones I call scholars,a dn they welcome that kind of thing because it saves them the trouble of identifying the weak points in thier arguments and im,proves the discussion and the final conclusion. It’s not hard ot tell who is which.”

    Well those types–“researchers” may exist, however I’ve seldom encountered them, since unfortunately in my experience divorcing one’s ego from one’s work appears problematic for a large number of people given the desire many have not only for recognition and validation, but also monetary gain. (Not trying to be snarky here either).

    “But being an authority on one thing doesn’t mean that they’re an authority on everything. Or that they are always right.”

    Precisely as they are not infallible.

    TS

    “To an extent, yes. Many academics do possess a certain amount of arrogance due to their status and position. They do get treated as authorities, and few of them are used to having that questioned.”

    “I suppose I should have qualified my question. What I meant is that would an expert know more about a person’s experience than the person himself?”

    Agree with both comments and being naturally skeptical, curious and analytical…I have always, persistently questioned experts and authorities much to their displeasure, frustration and dismay. Curiously, my professors never did seem to appreicate my skeptical qualities.

    As to the second one…well said, although this is what I thought you meant before you qualified your question/statement.

    As to “experts” in the form of academics or researchers in this case social scientists or psychologists, etc…

    Research is often tricky and problematic. First off people have to be aware of their emotions instead of being disconnected, especially people who experience trauma. Then they have to learn how to correctly identify with what they feel to a name and then use common language on the subject—it has to be clearly defined. So teasing out a range of responses can be tricky given those limitations, since people’s experiences and emotions are individual and reactive. And I am in no way suggesting that research is not merited given said limitations either.

  38. Speaking as an instructor to the “sage on stage” criticism, that’s precisely what a professor is and no good instructor forgets that fact.

    What I mean is, we’re not in a bar where we can endlessly discuss someone’s hobby horse theories regarding Martian pyramids, homeopathic healing and 9/11 conspiracies: we’re in a university classroom where the professor has been hired to impart information on certain topic and to work through it with the students for a set amount of time – usually 1 to 4 hours. She has a lesson plan and has planned for discussion time, but that needs to be equably divided between 20+ students – maybe 100+ students in a freshman cattle-call class.

    At some point, the prof needs to say “Look, all this is interesting and if you want to talk more about it, I’ll be happy to, during my office hours, but now we need to get back to the material”.

    If you just endlessly go over some point with a student – especially if it’s obvious that said student absolutely doesn’t accept the same precepts as you but is unwilling or unable to argue for others – you end up wasting the time of everyone else in the “audience”. If they are paying students, you’re wasting their money, too.

    It is indeed performance and that’s why some profs are wary of arguments in class. Personally, I happen to like them, as long as I can get the other students involved, because I feel interactive education is better education.

    But here are two situations I had in the same class last semester, which I eventually had to pull the plug on:

    1) When discussing gender identities, one of my students rooted her feet in the ground and declared that gay dads make gay sons and that she knew this for a fact because she personally knew 5 gay dad/son families. Remember that I teach in a fairly homophobic oil port town of about 200,000 people. I sincerely doubt that the student in question knows 5 openly gay guys, let alone 5 dad/son pairs, which is a pretty rare grouping (salthough anything is possible, I guess). I had to finally deal with it by cutting the discussion and giving her an extra credit assignment where she’d go on the net and discover the best scientific evidence that having gay parents makes for gay children. There’s some small amount of circumstantial evidence to this effect but, as I suspected, the student in question didn’t really come up with anything other than opinion pieces.

    2) I had another student who was firmly and absolutely convinced that Darwin’s theory of evolution was satanistic. Like most people with similar beliefs, she didn’t even really understand the theory to begin with, claiming that “Darwin says we all come from monkeys” and other common creationist memes. I eventually had to put my foot down and say “Look, this is a cultural anthropology class, not a seminar on evolution. For the purposes of this class, we’ll take the theory of evolution axiomatically as the best supported theory for human origins prented to date. If you want to discuss why this is so after class, I’ll be happy to do so, but for now, we’re moving on.”

    I’m quite sure that both young women felt that I was being a “close-minded instructor” who “didn’t like answering hard questions from his students”. The fact of the matter was that I would very much have enjoyed a rip-roaring debate with both students, but what were the other 20 kids going to do while we indulged ourselves? Worse, both students made it quite clear that they were operating on faith-based axioms and were not at all interested in evidences and logic-based arguments where their a priori definitions were concerned. So while I’d be willing to debate them all day, I’d do so without their accepting or changing their opinions in the slightest and without their once bringing up a logical or rational reason why the rest of the world should believe their faith-based postulates.

    Given that I’m a university professor and not a preacher, why should I waste valuable class time on such debates, which truly have no place in the science class room (but may indeed be of interest in the greater community life of the university)?

  39. Given that I’m a university professor and not a preacher, why should I waste valuable class time on such debates, which truly have no place in the science class room (but may indeed be of interest in the greater community life of the university)?

    I agree that some debates can be a waste of valuable class time. However, as a recent student, I found such debates more enlightening than a professor or teacher just giving a lesson. The reason was because this forced both sides to defend their positions and it allowed the class to see which side had more merit and which side was more prepared for such questions. Quite often the only difference between faith-based dissenters and their secular counterparts is that the latter group tends to use bigger words. If one is not afraid of latinate words, one can easily see through them.

    Another reason is because I think colleges should challenge people to question everything, whether or not they agree with it. It is not enough to tell someone that something is so. One should explain why it is so or why it is believed to be so. Granted, that is difficult to do in a classroom setting where the primary goal is to simply feed students information. However, I do think it is worth the effort because it can prevent instances like what happened with two students in your class.

  40. Personally, I agree with you. Professionally…? Do you know how many students there are out there who’ll complain if they think the prof is simply arguing with one or an other student? You do this too much and you get a reputation of wasting the classes’ time.

    My personal line in the sand is this: you are free to argue whatever you want. However, we’re in a science classroom, not a political rally or a church. You need to support your arguments with rason and logic, not dogma and faith. I’ll let a sutdent bring up a dogma or faith-based argument a couple of times, but after that, I’ll cut it short because it’s not a debate: it’s two people proceding from different axioms.

  41. I do think that in a science class is not the place to debate dogma or doctrine. However, social sciences are a different situation in that they are typically based on theories supported by at best anecdotal evidence, and most of those theories have counter theories. As I result, I think both sides should be taught and discussed, not just for the sake of informing the students, but also so as to judge the veracity of what is being taught. Something like “patriarchy” or “rape culture” does not last long under direct scrutiny, but if someone just gives a lecture about it students may accept it as fact just because the professor said it was so. The same thing happens with faith-based theories. Unless someone questions them, the theories can sound very plausible.

    The thing I wish to avoid is what occurred in Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, where his general theory veered off into pure ad hominem and random speculation. That happened because no one critically questioned what he put forth.

  42. Hmmm. Theories and anecdotal evidence? I dunno… First of all, social science is more a descriptive science than it is a predictive science, so mega “explain everything” theories like “patriarchy” are a bad example to use. Frankly, people who base their work around those sorts of theories aren’t very good social scientists.

    Secondly, what makes evidence anecdotal? Unsystematized observation. When observations are systematic, it’s no longer anecdotal. I notice that a lot of people who use theories like “patriarchy” really don’t make systematic observations: they filter the world through a very consciously maintained ideological lens. I mean, all scientists have their blind spots and social scientists are no exception. But I’d say that someone who consciously ascribes to a political theory and is constantly attempting to fit the world into that theory has given up science a long time ago – if they ever were a scientist to begin with.

  43. TS and Thad,

    I appreciate reading these comments and especially some of the later one’s. I see a lot of good points made in both subsequent comments. It’s actually dialogue like this that I much prefer to other sites where it tends to digress into ugliness, which is neither helpful nor useful. I do enjoy spirited, respectful debate, but I seldom see evidence of that.

    Thad–I understand time constraints in the classroom. In my experience I always felt very disappointed in my professors, so I probably tend to have a bias which tends to be unfavorable and at times quite harsh. I also attended a school which is known for science and technology, so that is my background, but I will say that I was unimpressed with the professors in my chosen field. If there was a course about feminism I didn’t take it, because it had nothing to do with either my goal or degree, so knowledge gleaned about it comes from popular magazines, etc., and I don’t tend to read those anymore either.

    I do agree with TS and his observation that colleges should challenge people to question everything, whether or not they agree with it. It is not enough to tell someone that something is so. It sometimes seems people are getting stupider like there’s an intense avoidance of critical thinking and thought, or maybe I’m just cynical.

    Well thank you both for your comments—I enjoyed them.

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