A Dose of Stupid v.15

Originally posted on September 3, 2009

Given a recent discussion over at No, Seriously What About Teh Menz, I thought this old post was particularly relevant. 

It happens every day. In fact, it is pretty hard to avoid it. There are some things that can only be understood with a slap on the forehead. Things so mind-boggling that one wonders how humans managed to evolve thumbs while being this mentally inept. This one happens to be a powerful dose:

There’s a very common misperception that sexism is subjective—that any given incident identified by one person as sexist could be identified by another as not sexist, and either both of them are right, because the whole thing is just a matter of opinion anyway, or the latter is right, because if it’s not equally obvious to everyone, it can’t be sexist. It’s this conventional wisdom about the subjectivity of sexism that underlies the ubiquitous “I don’t see it” rejoinder, particularly recurrent in discussions of expressed sexism against women, on which this post will be focused.

Sexism is, in fact, not subjective. What’s subjective are individual reactions to sexism, but sexism itself can be objectively determined. (I’ll come back to that in a moment.) Individual reactions to sexism will, naturally, be as vast and varied as the individuals who react—but because there are men, or women, who aren’t offended by something, or don’t find it sexist, doesn’t mean it isn’t. One can always find someone who refuses to be offended by something: That Michelle Malkin wrote In Defense of Internment doesn’t American government-built concentration camps any less objectively offensive or wrong.

Well, technically this contradicts the blog’s previous position about sexism which clearly demonstrates that sexism is the result of a subjective theory. However, that is not the one.

Institutionalized misogyny, like any endemic prejudice (racism, homophobia, ageism, ableism, sizism, etc.) should be viewed as a system, with rules and laws governing its existence—although, by virtue of cultural indoctrination, they generally aren’t obvious unless one makes an effort to see them.

Sizism? That is an “endemic” prejudice? Yet, that is not the one either.

The patriarchy is very like the Matrix, in that it is a false construct laid over the top of a reality, that makes things look very different. Viewing the same thing while fully and uncritically socialized into the patriarchy and while cognizant of its falsity creates two very different pictures.

That is the one. I will give you a moment to stop laughing.

Let us continue:

Like the Matrix, which Morpheus described as “everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room… It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth,” the systemic sexism known as the patriarchy is so comprehensive and profound that “seeing it” actually takes some effort, some willingness to see it. And, like those who find themselves awakening from the Matrix, people who find themselves awakening from the patriarchy learn to identify its patterns, upon which it is dependent for the transmission of its ideals and its continual self-generation.

Not so surprisingly, McEwan fails to realize the irony of the comparison. Perhaps had she watched Reloaded and Revolutions she would have learned that Morpheus’ views and explanations are shown to be dogmatic, one-sided and false — just like the Matrix itself. The truth cannot be found simply by realizing that the Matrix is a false reality. That is only the beginning. One should–in fact one must–question every rule, every notion, every item of dogma, including whether one has attained knowledge. This means that one must be like Neo, not Morpheus (who represents systems like feminism), and assume that everything one is told may be false. Why? Simply because one has been shown that the world was not what it seemed to be.

To use the comparison, the “awakening” is only the acknowledgment of sexism… against women. True awakening requires questioning whether males can be victims of sexism, whether women are innocent bystanders and whether power lies totally on one side or if power is in and of itself an illusion.

If feminism is supposed to be Morpheus, then it is dogmatic  and ultimately incapable of leading to true gnosis (knowledge). The best it can do is notice something out there, but it will never present reality objectively or completely. Ironically, following dogmatic views will simply cause the same conflict over and over again, which is what every One before Neo did when they rejoined the Source. It is only by questioning both sets of dogma that one can gain true knowledge. (Interestingly, Morpheus’ views were actually part of the Matrix’s system of control, implying that the machines may have intentionally freed the minds of those unwilling to accept the Matrix. This raises some entertaining questions about feminism and its potential true purpose, if we continue to use McEwan’s comparison.)

Now, all that aside… the Matrix? Who compares themselves to the Matrix? Who has the arrogance to actually make such a comparison? It is just so … immature. And the comparison does not even work. Did she not watch the films and the shorts? The humans were not exactly innocent people. They tried to wipe the machines out of existence and the machines protected themselves. If that is her comparison, then she is tacitly suggesting that women subjugated and oppressed men first. Not only that, the only person who can solve the problem is a man (i.e. machine) who resoundingly rejects feminism (i.e. Morpheus’ dogmatic views).

Seriously, if you are going to make a comparison with a fictional thought experiment, at least to pick one you understand, not one to make you look clever.

UPDATE: McEwan recently reposted the above post on her personal blog. I responded to it, although I did get the sense that there was something familiar about it. Given the time that has passed, I am not so humored (well, still slightly humored) by McEwan’s citing of the Matrix as akin to “patriarchy” that I cannot mount a better criticism of the flaws in her position.  Below is the response I intended. I edited it when I posted on McEwan’s blog to avoid complaints about making it about “teh menz” and for length. This is my intended comment in full:

So: Toss out the idea that women/men are more subjective/objective observers of sexism.

You contradict this statement when you wrote,  “women are generally better at identifying the patterns of misogyny by virtue of having been subjected to them for a lifetime.” It implies that women are more objective observers of misogyny than than men. More so, your explanation of an objective definition is actually not objective. “Institutionalized misogyny” is a political position, i.e. an opinion, which makes it inherently subjective. What one presents is no more objective than citing original sin as the cause for all bad acts. That one believes this is true does not make it any way objective.

In order sexism to be objectively determined, all factors must be considered. This means examining the “system” from all sides, both that of the “oppressed” and the “oppressors.” However, your definition does not. It excludes males as potential victims of sexism (and presumably all things associated with it such as physical and sexual violence) and excludes females as potential oppressors (and presumably abusers, rapists, etc.). Secondly, it excludes the institutionalized misandry being perpetuated by women and men. Thirdly, you present males as inherently less capable of seeing and understanding sexism, although given how you frame sexism one could argue that this is not a contradiction.

The existence of bias inherently creates problems for objective analysis because one may exclude or ignore something due to that bias.

It is curious that you would cite the Matrix as an explanation since you appear to lack any understanding of it beyond the first film’s initial dogmatic approach that was later shown to be wrong. More so, the Machines were later referred to as “endowed with the very spirit of man” and revealed to be a reflection of “man’s inhumanity to man” in The Second Renaissance parts 1 and 2. In your attempt at whatever the above is, you unfortunately misinformed your audience about the films’ actual position. Ironically, you position is the very thing the films, as philosophical tools, demand the viewers to be wary of: “unquestionable” dogma and variant systems of control.

It would seem one missed the most profound message: There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.

Coincidentally, you also missed the most profound point of the Matrix Reloaded: the awakening is just another system of control. The very thing you glamorize is shown to be not only wrong, but profoundly dogmatic. It is just another prison for one’s mind. Like all the Ones before Neo, you chose merely from the paths others set in front of you. You do not seek a third way, and in that way is you are bound to “reload the system” and perpetuate it all over again.

Granted, making a third choice actually takes a willingness to see it. However, like Cypher, one can be willfully blind, which may explain your lopsided view of sexism and your air of intellectual “superiority.”

28 thoughts on “A Dose of Stupid v.15

  1. Hey TS,

    “I will give one a moment to stop laughing.”

    A moment was not enough, not by a long shot. I’m still going as I write this.

    Perhaps McEwan has realised that feminism is fundamentally flawed and is simply stating, tongue in cheek, what has become obvious to her now? On the other hand, maybe she reinforces the stereotype of women in this clip.

  2. I do not think either clip demonstrates what McEwan did. She thought about it well enough to be able to present the theory behind the Matrix. She simply ignored everything else in all three films and the Animatrix shorts just to look clever. I suppose the best comparison is that McEwan’s comments are akin to someone quoting the Bible out of context to prove homosexuality is immoral while conveniently ignoring the New Testament and Jesus’ message of loving everyone regard of who they are or what they have done.

  3. “She simply ignored everything else in all three films and the Animatrix shorts just to look clever.”

    I think this makes her look more bigoted & intellectually dishonest than clever.

  4. True, but bigotry and intellectual dishonesty go hand in hand with perceiving oneself to be enlightened while everyone else remains “asleep.”

  5. Seriously, if one is going to make a comparison with a fictional thought experiment, at least have the foresight to pick a film one understands, not a film to just make one look clever.

    Clearly you are an ableist for mocking someone so mentally challenged.

  6. I think she is quite mentally capable. However, the Matrix is not something that one can just hijack as comparison. The films themselves are complex, confusing and riddled with ambiguity. So to use them in such a sophomoric manner is just pure egotism.

  7. May I disagree on two points?

    a) I think ignoring everything but the first movie is a valid intellectual/cineastic choice.

    b) I do believe that sizism does exist, expressing itself more in subconscious evaluations of people than in crass remarks about small/tall people (when it comes to thin/fat, the crass remarks come in, though).

    However, even ignoring “Reloaded” onwards, people have pointed out Morpheus naivety when first saying “everything you have seen so far was a lie” and later saying “I didn’t believe in [machine city? not sure] until I saw it with my own eyes,” thus referring to one of the methods of gaining knowledge he has found out to be unsuitable.

    Another thing about the Matrix: Imagine someone told you that this world we’re living in really was the Matrix. How can you prove to him he’s wrong? Answer: You can’t, which makes this Matrix-theory fail the falsifiability test (which made some feminists claim that falsafiability is waaay overrated). Taking the comparison Matrix-Patriarchy seriously (yeah, I’m laughing, too), this would mean that Patriarchy doesn’t hold as a scientific theory.

    I wonder if that was what McEwan was trying to say …

  8. I’m more inclined to Herbert.

    In his view a devotion to ritual or dogma – something very apparent in many systems and ideologies – locked one into the past and blinded one to change. Thus it carries the seeds of it’s own destruction.

  9. I think ignoring everything but the first movie is a valid intellectual/cineastic choice.

    Cineastically, I would agree. Intellectually, I would not. Ignoring all but the first film would be akin to ignoring all but the first chapter of the Republic or all but the first book of the New Testament. How can one come to understand a thing when one sees only part of it? One may find the first film more personally interesting and fulfilling, but to ignore the whole for a part is exactly the thing the first film warns against.

    Another thing about the Matrix: Imagine someone told you that this world we’re living in really was the Matrix. How can you prove to him he’s wrong? Answer: You can’t, which makes this Matrix-theory fail the falsifiability test (which made some feminists claim that falsifiability is waaay overrated). Taking the comparison Matrix-Patriarchy seriously (yeah, I’m laughing, too), this would mean that Patriarchy doesn’t hold as a scientific theory.

    I wonder if that was what McEwan was trying to say …

    I doubt that she was in any way trying to question the validity of “patriarchy” as a theory. She seems to genuinely believe it is real and that she lives in it. Her problem is she exists in a state not unlike Neo does at the beginning of the film. She simply perceives something is wrong and has a word to associate with it. She has not actually “freed her mind.” Of course, the logic one mentions above applies in the reverse. Given the nature of the Matrix we cannot know whether we are living inside it at this moment; however, we also cannot prove that we are in the Matrix. Everything that one would use to “prove” the Matrix’s existence can be explained in any number of ways. So the situation is akin to the existence of God: we can neither prove or disprove God’s existence. Therefore, one is left merely with belief (and presumably dogma), which is simply opinion, not fact.

  10. That may go a long way in explaining why feminism has not made the same headway in forty years as other political ideologies have in the same about of time.

  11. I see it all so clearly now.

    Women are continuously bathed in sexism, so they recognize it. Men experience no sexism to recognize.

    Men are continuously bathed in privilege, so they cannot recognize it. Women experience no privilege to recognize.

    Am I an adept of feminist theory yet?

  12. Actually, I quite enjoy turning the logic on itself. When I responded to the remarks on the McEwan’s thread my comment was removed. If you read the comments on the thread that follow my initial remark, the posters state that the Matrix film is a stupid, baseless piece of “adolescent philosophistry.” I agreed with that to the extent that I am more interested in the philosophies that inspired the films rather than the films themselves and have been since I was a teenager. However, I also noted that it never ceases to amaze me when people who consider something asinine reference and employ such apparent juvenile postulations. They seem to believe the concepts from the film are essentially stupid, childish and of little value, so one wonders why they would use the film’s concepts as decent, let alone great, metaphors.

  13. Or, to put it another way…

    All men have an invisible privilege monster hiding under their beds. The less a man sees it, the bigger the monster is. And denying that this monster exists is perfect proof that the monster is gigantic.

    Women simply have no monster. Although this would suggest that, by the same token, their monster is absolutely huge, the rules are different now. Women don’t have one because they know they don’t, therefore they do not.

    So, for instance, men have the “privilege” of not changing their names after marriage. Noting that men are required to go through an expensive and months-long regime of legal machinations in order to change their names whereas women simply write any name they wish on the marriage lisence only means that the male privilege has been disguised– disguised to look like a female option.

    These invisible systems of privilege and oppression really are very Gnostic, are they not?

  14. “That may go a long way in explaining why feminism has not made the same headway in forty years as other political ideologies have in the same about of time.”

    I don’t agree, I’d say that the rise of feminism has slowed as compared to forty years ago, but that it continues to rise at a steady pace. Catherine MacKinnon sexual harassment laws being one prominent example.

    But feminism will soon reach its peak, and eventually it *will* be extinguished. For you see, feminist societies which place extreme emphasis on female sexual choice and female sexual value cannot repopulate sufficiently. This is already bearing out in the numbers. When such a large portion of males are deemed unfit for mating (due to low male sexual value), less sex will happen, and less babies will be made. It’s pretty simple.

    In the end, one of two things must happen: Feminist societies will face a reform or revolt from within, or else they will be invaded and replaced by non-feminist societies.

  15. Hey, TS, have you ever noticed that the more “radical” a feminist self-identifies as, the larger and more insidiously pervasive the patriarchy is said to be?

    This seems to indicate what feminism’s true values are. Although it’s defining value is stated as being “equality between the sexes”, this commitment seems to diminish the more radical a feminist becomes, with some radicals going so far as to claim that men cannot be feminists. What does increase with radicalness is the belief in women’s oppression. The more radical the feminist, the more and more forms oppression takes-on, in ever more subtle and hard to detect ways. Thus, patriarchy, in the mind of a radical feminist, has a truly awesome array of coercive modalities, ranging from violence against women all the way down to women’s shoes occasionally being uncomfortable.

  16. “Hey, TS, have you ever noticed that the more “radical” a feminist self-identifies as, the larger and more insidiously pervasive the patriarchy is said to be?”

    The way Fundies see Satan in everything and the End Times right around the corner?

  17. Satan and End Times? Hah! No, I was talking about the way that certain militias see ZOG conspiracies in everything and hear black UN helicopters flying late at night.

    You know, it’s just acknowledging a reality that any reasonable person can see if they just fine-tune their vision properly.

  18. The more radical an ideology becomes, the more necessary it is to create a hideous evil opponent to be overcome in order to justify the increased radical position. This is true of any ideology. As these things take effect, the more ludicrous the complaints become. I believe these claims are made out of a last ditch effort to win support and out of anger over the lack of support. Of course, the sillier the claims, the less likely reasonable people will support such views without a sufficiently good reason. Feminists, however, appear to lack the ability to sway people on issues that they do not already agree with.

  19. “The more radical an ideology becomes, the more necessary it is to create a hideous evil opponent to be overcome in order to justify the increased radical position.”

    You have to admit, TS, radical feminists have become something of a joke in wider society. In radfem circles, there is no statement which is too logically absurd to be accepted so long as the target is men. The kinds of unintentional parodies flowing-out from that lot are absolutely surreal to behold.

  20. They are a joke in certain circles, which is turn of many radicals from various groups. Unintentional parodies are also quite common (the conservatives wearing tea bags dangling in front of their faces comes to mind). Whether they are taken seriously depends on the reaction people have towards them.

  21. You, sir, are handicapped and hamstrung by your lack of a uterus. A uterus is, of course, an organ which provides the raw, brain-melting, paradigm-shifting, bone-rattling awesome awesome WISDOM that women take for granted…

    …the uterus provides WISDOM, in addition to a secondary, vestigial, side-effect: giving-rise to like-sucking fetuses. Since it is PATRIARCHY which produces these waste products– via the vile evil contaminant of heterosexuality– all items of fetus-garbage are to have their brains sucked-out and flushed down the toilet at a whim. Just as Gaia herself intended!

    Get with the program, MALE!

  22. I find it interesting that many in the Manosphere use the Red Pill/Blue Pill analogy….

    Yes, many people like using the Matrix as an analogy, but few actually understand what they are talking about.

  23. “(Interestingly, Morpheus’ views were actually part of the Matrix’s system of control, implying that the machines may have intentionally freed the minds of those unwilling to accept the Matrix. This raises some entertaining questions about feminism and its potential true purpose, if we continue to use McEwan’s comparison.)”

    In the online game that followed, it was said that red pills were a pressure valve, intentionally released “let go”.

  24. In the online game that followed, it was said that red pills were a pressure valve, intentionally released “let go”.

    While I did not follow the online game, that sounds consistent with the Architect’s explanation in Reloaded. Even though the Wachoskis stated that the world of Zion was real, in a way it is just another prison. So the machines ironically allow humans to choose between two prisons: one they literally cannot see and one they metaphorically cannot see.

  25. Pingback: Red vs Blue « stonerwithaboner

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