A Dose of Stupid v.71

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. Case in point:

Why Women Are More Often Right

Do I even have to tell people who wrote the article? Better yet, let us see who can guess who wrote it just from the quotes. No peeking at the link until you finish reading my responses.

The author’s position is that as a result of “epistemic privilege”, women see sexual imbalances and other disparities more than men, therein making them inherently “right” in any discussion about sex, gender, race, and so on. As the author explains:

This enhanced awareness leads to something called “epistemic privilege.” (Epistemology is the philosophical discipline that deals with how we know things.) Epistemic privilege means that in a heterosexual relationship, it is generally—though not universally—the case that the woman will see gender-based power imbalances more clearly than will her boyfriend or her husband. This isn’t because of “feminine intuition,” it’s because folks in a historically oppressed class are always required to be more aware of power dynamics than those who belong to the dominant group. The same epistemic privilege can occur in race and class relations, regardless of the sex of the people involved.

While this notion is not illogical, it is flawed. The notion fails to take into account whether the person’s observations are objective, whether they were something taught to the person, or whether they result from confirmation bias. It is true, for example, that a black person would see more racism than a white person. A black person is more likely to experience it and therefore be more aware of the nuances of racism. However, it is also possible, and does indeed happen, that as a result of experiencing racism and being told about racism that some black people see racism where there is none.

The same thing happens with sexism. There are plenty of cases where women, particularly feminist women, see sexism where there is none. Confirmation bias, a type of selective thinking in which a person looks for what confirms their beliefs and ignores what contradicts or disproves those beliefs, plays a major role in the way people look at discrimination, which the author graciously demonstrated:

Here’s an obvious example: rape and parking lots. Both men and women are intellectually aware of the reality of rape. Most understand that it is men who almost always do the raping and women who are generally the ones attacked. But because of his privilege, a man can walk into a parking lot by himself at night and forget about rape, because his maleness affords him the luxury of remaining unobservant of the possibility of sexual danger. A woman walking alone in a parking lot at night will have a different experience, rooted in her vulnerability as a member of a class targeted for sexual violence. Not only is she more vulnerable, but her very understanding of the issue is superior to that of a man walking in the parking lot. He has the privileged luxury of ignorance; she’s forced to reflect, constantly, on rape and its threat to her. That means that when the discussion of women’s vulnerability to assault comes up, women ought to enjoy “epistemic privilege” in the conversation.

Firstly, while most people believe only men are rapists and only women are victims, recent studies suggests that sexual violence is likely even between the sexes, particularly child sexual abuse.

Secondly, “privilege” has nothing to do with whether men or women fear going to a particular area. Rather, it is the social norms that tell people how they should outwardly respond and internally feel. Men are not allowed to appear vulnerable, so if men are afraid of being raped, they would not likely admit it. In contrast, women are told to be fearful, so it is hardly surprising that so many women would fear being assaulted if in the “wrong” place.

Thirdly, even if men were not likely to be raped, they are very likely, indeed more likely than women, to be assaulted in some other fashion. Men far more likely to be victims of random violence than women, and they make up the majority of those assaulted by strangers. Men do not have the “privileged luxury of ignorance”; what they have is the social enforcement of feigned self-protection. Men are required to appear strong, and it seems rather telling that a feminist, who should be aware of gender roles, would fail to notice that putting on a tough face is not the same as not being at risk.

Fourthly, there is nothing to support the idea that women have a better understanding of this dynamic even if it were true. Anecdotal experiences are not concrete evidence. Each person’s life experience differs from the next, and there is no guarantee that the conclusion a person reaches is universal, let alone correct.

The author tries to explain away these obvious flaws with the concept of standpoint theory, the idea that “(1) Knowledge is socially situated. (2) Marginalized groups are socially situated in ways that make it more possible for them to be aware of things and ask questions than it is for the non-marginalized. (3) Research, particularly that focused on power relations, should begin with the lives of the marginalized.”

The author further cites another theory called “strong objectivity” to try to shore up this assertion:

Strong objectivity is a term first used by standpoint feminist Sandra Harding to describe research that starts from the experiences of those who have traditionally been left out of the production of knowledge. Harding suggests that starting research from the lives of women “actually strengthens standards of objectivity”. Strong objectivity can be contrasted with the supposed ‘weak objectivity’ of supposed value-neutral research.

The inherent flaw in all this is that no one bothers to test whether any of this is objective. Indeed, if one automatically assumes that women have a better insight than men, one is clearly not objective. The only way to produce an objective analysis is by giving both sides’ experiences the same weight. The reason is because both groups bring different experiences to the table, and it is possible that neither of their understandings of the world is entirely accurate or unbiased. As one commenter named Sam put it:

The thing is, I do find privilege to be an important concept and do agree that those who possess it need to reflect a little harder. So, yeah, totally fine with your conclusion, but you cannot use standpoint epistemology to get to that point, because it doesn’t say “think harder”, or “reflect”, it assigns truth based on a priori criteria, and thus pretty much makes your reflection obsolete in the first place.

This way, interestingly, the very notion of an epistemic privilege *creates* circlular oppression in itself, because the a priori denial of a perspectives admissibility can undoubtedly seen as oppression, which, within the logic, would automatically grant the oppressed epistemic privilege within the debate itself. So, basically, feminists using standpoint epistemology to explain why they’re right basically create a gender discourse in which people who aren’t feminists possess the epistemic privilege. And ad indinitum. The whole thing really doesn’t make much sense, and again, as I said back in 2009, it’s only useful as an epistemic backup of feminist theory on the first glance, because it can be taken apart so easily.

Ultimately, the author is trying to get to a basic point:

Here’s the basic axiom: power conceals itself from those who possess it. And the corollary is that privilege is revealed more clearly to those who don’t have it. […] Again, power obfuscates; oppression clarifies.

The problem is that this is not necessarily true. Those with power can be very aware of the power afforded to them, just as those without power can overestimate the power afforded to others. The idea that oppression clarifies also does not parse because oppression by its nature is blinding. The intent is to keep people in the dark, so the notion that those who are oppressed would have a better understanding than the so-called oppressors is just biased wishful thinking. At best they have a limited view of the world colored by their experiences. This would make them less objective, not more.

As this relates to relationships, which was what the author wrote about, this means that women’s understanding of relationship, sex, and power dynamics are not superior to men’s, just different. And the author is clearly aware of that, hence the inane feminist jiujitsu the author uses in order to support a weak and ironically sexist argument.


20 thoughts on “A Dose of Stupid v.71

  1. Standpoint theory, etc., is aka polylogism: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polylogism

    Originally a Marxist concept which was also put to use by the Nazi party.

    Yeah, it makes no sense, but that’s the POINT – the self-identified “oppressed” class is right a priori, no matter what logical argument you bring to them. I.e. they don’t have to answer to your “logic,” they are unaccountable to the arguments (however watertight) of the “oppressor” class.

    In reality, polylogism is a refuge from difficult arguments and the embarassment of having to admit they are wrong.

  2. Ha. I guessed right. Must admit it was an easy one. Even the title alone almost gives them away.

    There’s another problem with this: The oppressed class that tells itself it is oppressed and almost celebrates that oppression as a distinct part of its identity will inherently feel justified to take retaliatory action. This is why feminism is an expression of slave morality. Under the assumption that women are the oppressed class, any harm women do to men can be ethically excused and any ignorance or dismissal of men’s issues can be ethically justified. Even if the male suicide rate was 10 times greater than it is, society’s treatment of the problem would be identical to what it is now.

    This is why concepts such as patriarchy theory and male privilege will NEVER lead to equality or a healthy dialogue between gender activists. This is why feminists on the whole do not want equality. Nothing about their words and actions suggests that they do. Even the attempts to show how feminism also cares about men’s issues are obvious political token maneuvers in response to those who point out the inherent sexism in taking male privilege axiomatically.

  3. On that thread there is a very good analysis in the comments section by somebody named Sam. He/she points out rightfully that the author’s article creates an infinite loop of oppression which I will shorten here:
    Women are more often right. If that is true then women are privileged relative to men. Therefore, by the logic of the article, men are more often right. etc….

  4. “Here’s the basic axiom: power conceals itself from those who possess it. And the corollary is that privilege is revealed more clearly to those who don’t have it. […] Again, power obfuscates; oppression clarifies.”
    So you could prove women have most of the power from that since I’d say most people believe men to have the most power thus those men would probably know they have power, why isn’t it concealed?

    It’s interesting to know who the author is before seeing their name, but I disagree yet again with Hugo.

  5. Here’s the basic axiom: power conceals itself from those who possess it.
    What’s going on here is that Hugo is pulling this quote, blanketly declaring men as a privileged monolith, assigning them power, and then saying that men don’t see as clearly as women.

    I would agree that there are some cases in which a woman might have a more clear site but that is not what he is doing here. He is teetering just enough on the edge of making the broad presumption of “in the gender realm women are right and men are wrong” to slide it under the radar. Just enough “I’m not saying always” to shut down any dissent.

    But here’s my question. If we are all in this together when it comes to working on gender roles and freeing all people up, why try to start off with the declaration “women are more likely to be right about something than men”? If anything this is just going to cause more division because the first time there is some sort of conflict in how men and women (or groups of men and women) see something they are going to point to this, say that men are not seeing it as clearly, and declare women to be right.

    In short he’s giving women a weapon to shut men out of the conversation.

  6. In short he’s giving women a weapon to shut men out of the conversation.

    Exactly, but what he does not realize is that the weapon is not really long, not sharp, and not very effective. It is like trying to beat someone to death with a Tootsie Roll. Once you unwrap it, you see there is not much to the idea. Worse for Schwyzer is that the idea can easily be turned back on him and other feminists. By his own logic, those with power are blind to it, so if any man complains about misandry and sexism against men, women would never realize the kind of power that they possess. Should any feminist argue against that, the same argument would apply to them: as a result of their privilege they are blind to the ways in which they have power.

  7. Did you see his article last week? http://www.rolereboot.org/culture-and-politics/details/2012-06-how-the-man-crisis-makes-womens-perfectionism-worse

    The gist: While male cases of eating disorders and self-hatred continue to rise, and education rates, employment and success continue to fall the only reason this is even remotely a problem is because it “forces” women to ever worsening cases of “perfectionism” as they attempt to compete for the few remaining “successful men” who are now free to be pickier than ever, the bastards.

    I just can’t fathom the mindset it would take to find this a reasonable and soud argument. Do women have ANY agency at all in Schwyzer’s world? Does he think the men and boys of today sat around going “Huh, you know what would be hilarious? If I intentionally screwed up my life royally so that women would be forced to ever more intense competition over men who, by the way, aren’t me. That sounds like an awesome idea!”

  8. Reading Hugo’s writings is frustrating as is reading anything that fanatics write. In his case, he goes so far that one finds oneself suspecting if he’s actually intentionally trolling in order to discredit feminist causes.

    Certainly his past shoes that he has no place whatsoever lecturing anyone on matters of relationships or men in general. If he’s not a troll, then he’s clearly projecting his filthy thoughts onto all men. I’ve also suspected that he might be a pickup artist in denial or in disguise given how much female attention he gets from his flock of feminist sheep.

    In any case, Hugo’s is apparently getting what he wants since he’s not changed his actions for many years. The question is what exactly he wants – equality is definitely not it.

    I think the best way to deal with him is to ignore him entirely and only use his writing when challenged by feminists to show them examples of harmful and sexist dogma within their movement.

  9. Are these people just stupid? I’m seriously asking. I don’t even have a counter argument because what Hugo is saying is so wrong and nonsensical. How do you argue against something that is so stupidly wrong to any reasonably intelligent person that it shouldn’t need a rebuttal? I can’t believe that anyone really believes this stuff.

    How do they get away with teaching this stuff in universities? Does it only happen in unis that don’t have Philosophy or Science departments who they can check this stuff with?

    Sorry, but this Postmodern mangling of Epistemology is a real bugbear of mine.

  10. Adiabat I know how you feel. Life can be lonely for truth seekers in a world full of deluded fools. It only helps to know that you’re in a tiny minority but not entirely alone.

  11. Some quotes from above comments:

    “I think the best way to deal with him is to ignore him entirely”
    I agree; from the sound of things, that should also be done with the entire rolereboot site, as well as most of the other sites mentioned in the “Dose of Stupid” posts. Even if they can’t be ignored completely because they represent what’s being taught and promoted, it seems like too much time is being spent discussing them and taking them seriously. On a related note:

    “… and only use his writing when challenged by feminists to show them examples of harmful and sexist dogma within their movement.”
    Arguing with feminists, on the other hand, shouldn’t be done; discrediting them and showing men/boys that there’s opposition to them should be done instead. Engaging with feminists simply adds to their current power to define the terms of the discussion; for example, this post and a lot of the comments appear to accept the assumption that women are oppressed, rather than dismissing it out of hand and working from the knowledge that it’s men who are oppressed.

    “I don’t even have a counter argument because what Hugo is saying is so wrong and nonsensical.”
    The phrase “not even wrong” might fit that — it’s used to describe an argument that doesn’t make enough sense even to be considered right or wrong, and it would be good to see it catch on in talking about feminism.

  12. (Sorry for my previous long comment; if it got through, you can delete it). I’m bothered by posts like this which attempt to debunk or argue with feminist arguments as if their goal was actual legitimate discourse rather than the continued oppression of men; engaging with feminists is acknowledging their power to define the terms of the discussion and accepting their Orwellian methods. Instead of arguing with feminism, it would be better to work on showing men/boys that there are those who oppose it.

  13. engaging with feminists is acknowledging their power to define the terms of the discussion and accepting their Orwellian methods.

    I disagree. Engaging with feminists makes them do one of two things: have to explain their ideas or ignore criticism. The former usually results in many feminists admitting that they cannot their positions or that the positions are flawed. The other shows people that plenty of feminists simply are not interested in a true dialogue. Either way, it shows how problematic feminist views are.

  14. Hm, I was guessing Futrelle or McEwan because I didn’t think Hugo was still relevant. After hearing about feminists calling out past instances of him harming his wife ( I think recently, too) I didn’t think the gender based news sites would even let him so much as type another stupid theory of his.

    Also, looking at the link in the above comments regarding the ‘male crisis’: It’s strange how people like Hugo must see the world in terms of gender; I get the feeling his main thesis is the male gender couldn’t possibly be disadvantaged in a society that has favored them via patriarchy, so any problems that men face are not only somehow more harmful to women, but it’s their own fault, too! I believe in personal responsibility and taking care of yourself, but it’s pretty obvious that someone’s failure may be because of a psychological or societally enforeced problem that isn’t entirely their fault.

    I don’t think anyone could properly imagine the internet explosion that would occur if someone said that a woman’s lack of success or personal issues were harmful because they’re making men feel bad, or was merely their own fault/because of their gender. Double standards suck.

  15. Meanwhile, on the other side of the pond, Paul Elam has explicitly said that women, in our society, may be in a position to understand male disenfranchisement better then men. If they’re sympathetic to men.

    I wonder what kind of shit I’d get if I said things like ‘men have epistemological privilege over women and can dictate their experience and motives to them?’

    I’d be rightly tarred as a self-hating female misogynist.

  16. Women have no say or control over what the universe tosses at them. No control over what happens TO them, no control over what happens FOR them and absolutely no control over what happens BY them.

    The male aura of power subsumes all as the source, the afflictor and the effector.

  17. @ gwallan
    You’re right. Hugo and people like him have a view of women that is equal to infants and not men. Any woman with self respect and dignity who truly sees herself as equal to men rejects that. Much of what drives feminists is not a need for equality but, in fact, a deeply held conviction that the sexes are NOT equal. They feel unworthy of equality and in order to get validation, they become feminists.

    You can always tell easily by their behavior in other areas of life. Those who truly want equal treatment already behave as equals from the start (and consequently they get treated accordingly).

    My ex used to complain a lot that people mistake her “assertiveness” with aggression because she’s a woman and that a man would never encounter such misunderstandings. But she never behaved the way a man typically would. Her expectations of how other people should treat her were far greater than the average man’s expectations.

  18. Paul Elam has explicitly said that women, in our society, may be in a position to understand male disenfranchisement better then men. If they’re sympathetic to men.

    I think this is true. Women, and even more so, men listen to women talking about men’s issues far more than they listen to men. It is no coincidence that girlwriteswhat is approaching 10k subscribers with just a handful of videos. With a little more show and more frequent videos she could become a youtube celebrity (and earn $$$ accordingly). I cannot imagine a man sitting in his kitchen could accomplish that even if his videos were as insightful as hers. He’d have to do something outrageous like eat his hand.
    I’m not saying girlwriteswhat only succeeded because she’s a woman. She makes great videos and deserves all her success. I am saying that a man couldn’t have done that so easily and so quickly doing the same thing.

    Given the resistance you face as a man standing up for men’s rights, I feel this struggle absolutely cannot be done without women (just as female emancipation couldn’t be done without men). Women in the west need to start realizing how much power they have and what kind of responsibility goes with it. And men need to stop giving that power away based on genitalia.

    We can’t make society be like that, but we can be like that ourselves. I decided a while back that I won’t accept chivalrous demands from my partners. It has caused a number of problems. But I’d rather die alone, unwanted and unloved under a bridge than be used in that way. Fortunately it probably won’t come to that because there are enough women who want love and respect on equal terms.

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