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June 27, 2006

Comments

Mr. Bad

Hugo wrote: "My students always find it fascinating that during Reconstruction, the US Congress (made up almost entirely of white men) was more willing to countenance the enfranchisement of black male former slaves than they were of their own wives and sisters. Says something about the degree to which a belief in female inferiority and separate spheres was even stronger than racial bias. That isn't normally taught in US History courses -- though it should be!"

Actually Hugo I don't think that you can make a very strong case attributing the enfranchisement of black male former slaves to sexism or a belief in "female inferiority." A more simple (and IMO more plausible) explanation is that those men got the vote becuase they earned it by fighting alongside their white brothers during the Civil War; perhaps they were even promised enfranchisement by the Lincoln administration in return for their service in the Union Army. In essence, they proved to enough of the 'right people' that they were indeed capable of responsible and honorable behavior and thus worthy of having the vote. Do you have any proof that your theory is true and that mine isn't?

Bringing this back on-topic: Again, this example demonstrates a definite bias in the manner in which women's studies adherents approach important topics. It seems to me that professors and students alike are quick to jump to conclusions that support their own beliefs, stereotypes and/or biases rather than take a measured, analytical approach to answering such questions, even - or perhaps especially - when the answers might threaten their ingrained beliefs. In this case a truly diverse coterie of faculty would approach your theory from much broader base than the 'sexism explains the 50-year lag in voting rights' rubric and IMO would provide a much better answer, even if I personally didn't like or agree with it.

perplexed

Looks like to me that white guys are pretty well covered when it comes to classes.

So, Antigone, are you saying that WS is purely some kind of history lesson, with the focus on women? I think not. I think WS encompasses far more than merely historical facts - Hugo's own experiences as a teacher which have been documented on this blog show that WS is married very closely to the feminist ideology. When I studied about 'dead white men' in history, my teacher didn't bang on about men's rights at the same time. It was purely about history. Therefore, your idea is flawed in saying that we men have already got a similar kind of academic course for ourselves. We do not.

That's my point - WS is pure sexism because a complementary study of men is missing - and an ideology that champions men and their concerns. Personally I'd rather not see that - I'd rather see some 'joined-up thinking' here and for men and women to get together and accept both men and women have unique problems and unique experiences of discrimination.

Of course, feminists would oppose this.

The Gonzman

The point, Gonz, is not whether it happened or not. The point is that you can't say that your professor's actions were condoned by feminists the world over if your professor's actions were only part of a private conversation. I haven't been arguing in the alternative at all here.

We had, not too many years ago, a feminist professor observe something to the effect that men can benefit from being falsely accused of rape. A feminist professor who barred men from her classes. In response to this, many feminists objected; however I'd be fascinated to find how many did so with a "..., BUT..." in there somewhere.

Seriously. How far you think I'd get if I started out with, "Well, of course nobody is for rape, BUT..." before someone said "NO BUTS! It's wrong! Always! Period!?" Hm?

This is the same thing that gets me wound up. I might ask for a man to get a fair trial, but you show me a real rapist, and I'll be itching to cut his gonads off. But let Mary Daly et al come out with blatant sexism - which feminism allegedly deplores - and you can't find an unqualified condemnation of it from more than a scant minority of feminists to save your life. There's always a "but." There is always dithering. There is always some discussion sugesting there might be some rightness to sexism.

That's not drawing a line against sexism - that's just arguing over what kinds of sexism will be allowed.

And - if you really think that someone can argue for the exclusion of men from classes, or that being falsely accused of rape might be a positive experience, and get a significant measure of sage approbation from the feminist community, why it is such a stretch to find that lowering a grade as an object lesson or something wouldn't get the same reception?

The Gonzman

Addendum to the above:

Yes - some feminists objected uncategorically to Mary Daly, and things like that. About an equal number also heartily endorsed it.

Let's give the full story.

perplexed

There's always a "but." There is always dithering. There is always some discussion sugesting there might be some rightness to sexism.

My feelings too gonzman - being against sexism can sometimes mean condemning your "own" people of sexism. There's no wiggle room. No "buts".

stanton

To me, the most revealing thing about WS is the blatant proselytization, which is actually the raison d'etre for the entire endeavor. Believe it or not, respected WS professors have directly stated that the primary purpose of their classes is to produce young feminists. Refreshing honesty, at least. So what other major field of study common to nearly all western universities has as its stated primary purpose the production of adherents to a favored "ism"? This makes it abundantly clear that WS is an aberration in the history of higher education that has no place on any campus. Future generations will find it difficult to believe that western society in this age could have become so blindly driven by radical (and self-destructive) ideology that common sense and reason itself was no match for it, even in the institutions of higher learning, just as we shake our heads at the credulity of the ideologues who promoted the inquisition and witch trials in centuries past.

Hugo

Stanton, comparing women's studies to the Inquisition (where folks were burned at the stake for real) is beneath you -- and more importantly, has no place on my blog. I will close this thread if it becomes the sole home of MRAs seeking another opportunity to opine about the evils of women's studies.

stanton

Hugo - it was not my intention to compare them in any way, and I apologize if it across that way. I just meant to say that what can seem so right to many or most people in one age can seem silly to a later age, and used that as an example. Bad choice, and I seriously regret using it now, since the offense taken will probably obscure the entire point I was trying to make.

I would consider this on topic, in that it addresses the concern of your post, about the intellectual bona fides to be established (or not) via an advanced degree in WS vis-a-vis a degree in a different field. (And I did not say WS is evil, either. It's simply out of place at colleges and universities.)

Hugo

Stanton, your apology is appreciated; yes, the original remark obscured your point, but your contrition has unveiled it once again. Mind you, I disagree with it completely -- but accept it as a legitimate argument.

mythago

Let's see your draft card.

You know, back when I was in my early twenties, I did attempt o register for the draft. Somewhere, I have the letter from the poor newbie at the AG's office who got stuck writing a letter to me, stating that the statute specifically said 'males' and I was free to try to get Congress to change its mind, but in the meantime too bad. I never did get a men's-rights group to take me up on my offer to be a test case for that challenge.

Draft = rights is not a real argument; men who are too young, too old, or otherwise ineligible are citizens with full rights. It's especially silly when you realize that supervillain-feminist NOW's position on the draft is that it either shouldn't exist or should include women, and that it wasn't exactly an egalitarian Congress that barred women from service.

On women's studies, I think a broader discipline of gender studies is a fine idea, especially as it would more obviously encompass issues of sex roles and sexual orientation that are tied to gender. Doubt it would ever get feminist-haters to take it as seriously as, oh, British history.

perplexed

To me, the most revealing thing about WS is the blatant proselytization, which is actually the raison d'etre for the entire endeavor

Exactly. Not only is it trying to proselytize an ideology to its students, but the ideology itself holds an incredibly condascending and sexist view of men. This is the weakness of WS and why it is an object of ridicule to many.

perplexed

You know, back when I was in my early twenties, I did attempt o register for the draft. Somewhere, I have the letter from the poor newbie at the AG's office who got stuck writing a letter to me, stating that the statute specifically said 'males' and I was free to try to get Congress to change its mind, but in the meantime too bad. I never did get a men's-rights group to take me up on my offer to be a test case for that challenge.

You could always join the army if you are truly interested in fighting for your country.

The Happy Feminist

Right, Mythago. Maybe we should quit fretting about equal treatment and opportunities for paraplegics like my husband since they will never be called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice.

And Perplexed, plenty of women have joined and do join the army and fight in combat for their country, notwithstanding historic limitations placed on women's opportunities for doing so.

Amyl

I find it highly amusing how afraid some people on this thread seem to be of Women's Studies.

I have a Women's Studies degree -- in fact, the title of the degree program was 'Feminist Cultural Theory and Practice' -- which should make Mr Bad happy.

My program, like Happy Feminist's and I imagine most Women's Studies courses, was interdisciplinary. I took modules in the departments of Educational Research, Sociology and Religious Studies in addition to Women's Studies. One could also take modules given by the Politics, History and English departments amongst others.

The idea that Women's Studies somehow prevents analysis or critical thought is simply erroneous. I found that the WS program encouraged my analytical abilities at least as much as my previous Philosophy degree course. If you want to find out more about a Women's Studies course that actually takes place in reality rather than inside your own heads, then visit the website of the WS program I took.

Interestingly, I probably read more works by men in one year of WS than works by women during three years of Philosophy -- yet which is regarded by anti-feminists as the 'sexist' discipline?!

perplexed

And Perplexed, plenty of women have joined and do join the army and fight in combat for their country, notwithstanding historic limitations placed on women's opportunities for doing so.

Where have I said they haven't? I was just letting mythago know that if she is genuinely interested in fighting for her country, she can join the army - as opposed to trying to sign up for a draft in a futile way.

I find it highly amusing how afraid some people on this thread seem to be of Women's Studies.

Not afraid - I'm usually somewhere between amused and slightly exasperated (depending on the conversation about WS).

I found that the WS program encouraged my analytical abilities at least as much as my previous Philosophy degree course.

Critical analysis though? I doubt it. Can you give me some specifc examples of where your course criticises feminism? I would be interested to read those. Or is everything in lock-step with feminist thinking? Critical analysis takes you out of your comfort zone; sometimes permanently disagreeing on fundamental issues with other students/lecturers. My experience of feminists is that they are always 'on message' - a fear of speaking out if it might make them unpopular.

Interestingly, I probably read more works by men in one year of WS than works by women during three years of Philosophy -- yet which is regarded by anti-feminists as the 'sexist' discipline?!

What I find amusing is this obsession with gender many WS proponents have. Why does it matter that the works you read are by men? I certainly don't care. What I do care about is the content of their works.

Amyl

Can you give me some specifc examples of where your course criticises feminism? I would be interested to read those. Or is everything in lock-step with feminist thinking?

The fact that you regard 'feminist thinking' as a monolithic entity shows that you have little understanding of either feminism or Women's Studies. There are many different perspectives held and debates to be had within 'feminist thought'. If I was 'in lock-step with feminist thinking' then I'd be contradicting myself somewhere, as some feminist positions directly oppose one another. As the WS department website for Lancaster University reads:

'Whichever programme you choose you will gain an understanding of the diversity of feminist perspectives and be able to develop intellectually informed and methodologically skilled ways to identify, define and research your own interests.' (Bold mine)

Many of the feminist readings took me out of my 'comfort zone' (a work by Audre Lorde, for example), and for the module 'Women and Sexuality in the Christian Tradition' we read some avowed anti-feminist authors, including Pat Robertson. I had to read more anti-feminist books for my dissertation.

As in any other course (philosophy, history, English), WS involves a lot of reading. In WS, like in any other course, we had to analyse the readings (and in my course there was film and picture analysis too); the professor didn't stand at the front and tell us what to think. I didn't even know what the professors' personal views were concerning most of the writers whose works we read.

What I find amusing is this obsession with gender many WS proponents have. Why does it matter that the works you read are by men?

If gender is irrelevant to you, then why are you so 'obsessed' with 'men's problems'? Or is discrimination and marginalisation only important to you when it appears to be directed at men?

stanton

Amyl, when I read perplexed's comment, I just knew that the old feminist retort about the diversity of feminist thought would follow, as night follows day. (A topic for a different time: Why do so many of these same apologists also seem to believe that the MRA/FRA people are of a single mind?) You are correct, of course, and I'm glad that some of the "feminisms" made you uncomfortable. That's like options on a car: I am uncomfortable with purple paint on my Buick, Bill won't use a standard transmission on his Buick, most prefer the Lucerne, some just shake their heads at those LeSabre drivers... Variety! So would you say, then, that a person who held what you would call an anti-feminist perspective (the Nissan) - arguing that the present day movement was off track and presenting papers demonstrating this - would have done just fine in your program?

jfpbookworm

Why do so many of these same apologists also seem to believe that the MRA/FRA people are of a single mind?

stanton: I think that it's that disagreements among MRAs aren't as visible to the general public. Go to any feminist blog, and you can usually find at least a reference to some sort of disagreement among feminists, usually (but not always) along the lines of radfem vs. third-wave.

I've really not seen much internal debate among MRAs (though to be fair I don't look at those forums nearly as often). There's been a bit of dissent over Darren Mack, but it seems more along the lines of "should we close ranks or disown him?" than an actual ideological disagreement.

I'm curious - what are some of the big divides among the men's rights crowd, and where can good debate on these topics be found?

Amyl

Why do you assume that I would describe the point of view of someone who argued that the present day movement was off track as an anti-feminist?

There are many reasons a person could give for believing that the present day movement is not all it could be -- and not all such reasons are inherently 'anti-feminist'.

stanton

Thanks for responding, Amyl, but you didn't address the question - you just picked at the wording. So - how would an unreformed and vocal anti-feminist - however you define it - have fared in your program?

jfp - no time for a detailed response, since I'm headed out of town for an overnight with Ammachi (I LOVE her!). I will try to get back tomorrow, if the thread still lives. One thing I will quickly point out, however, is that I disagree with Gonz about Robert Bly, for example, and many MRAs actually identify as feminists as well.

Amyl

I objected to your wording because what you said was incorrect and encouraged the categorisation of 'feminist thought' as narrow and rigid.

Women's Studies, just like every other academic subject operates within a particular paradigm. The concepts essential to the WS paradigm include: the belief that women have historically been oppressed, the beliefs that women continue to be treated unequally today and that this isn't right, and the belief that all people are equal and should be treated as such.

So yes, a person who believed that a certain group of people were inferior would fail the course, assuming they articulated their personal beliefs in their papers. They would also fail most mainstream sociology and history courses that had anything to do with gender/race, just as creationists would fail most mainstream biology courses.

The idea that because there is a (very basic, broad) paradigm means that WS is narrow and that everyone who studies it is walking in 'lock-step' is ludicrous. Every academic discipline operates within a paradigm.

perplexed

Many of the feminist readings took me out of my 'comfort zone' (a work by Audre Lorde, for example), and for the module 'Women and Sexuality in the Christian Tradition' we read some avowed anti-feminist authors, including Pat Robertson. I had to read more anti-feminist books for my dissertation.

You may have read anti-feminist texts, but I can well imagine you've been told to do so with a critical eye. If not, do you know anybody who has graduated from WS who is anti-feminist? Surely if WS is not biased toward any ideology, you would get people graduating with varying beliefs - to the point you will see anti-feminists graduate from WS.

If gender is irrelevant to you, then why are you so 'obsessed' with 'men's problems'? Or is discrimination and marginalisation only important to you when it appears to be directed at men?

Amyl, you didn't actually answer my question:-

Why does it matter that the works you read are by men?

Reading books by male authors is irrelevant. It's what they write about that counts. I found it amusing you felt it important to state they were male authors.

As for problems men face, of course I am interested in them. I am interested in women's problems. I find WS to be strangely (and hypocritically) exclusive when it comes to equality though. It's like somebody campaigning for racial equality, but only for blacks and not other races. Racial and sexual equality are by their definition inclusive. WS is sexist because it is not inclusive in that way.


perplexed

The concepts essential to the WS paradigm include: the belief that women have historically been oppressed, the beliefs that women continue to be treated unequally today and that this isn't right, and the belief that all people are equal and should be treated as such.

I agree with this description. Given this is a fact, WS's existance relies on the idea that women are oppressed. No wonder it perpetuates this idea. It's in its own interest to.

Antigone

It's easy for you to say that you just go off of "Content" when reading a book: 90% are written by people like you.

I'm not saying that I don't enjoy writing by men, but you know? I like to be able to have a role model that I can emulate. And it's easier to emulate a someone like you as opposed to unlike you.

Mr. Bad

"Women's Studies, just like every other academic subject operates within a particular paradigm. The concepts essential to the WS paradigm include: the belief that women have historically been oppressed, the beliefs that women continue to be treated unequally today and that this isn't right, and the belief that all people are equal and should be treated as such."

Nice words but not found in practice. Yes, some women have been historically oppressed, just as some men have. The flip side is that some women have been fantastically pampered and privileged, just as some men have. Much of what WS (really feminist studies) attributes to "sexism" is instead classism. IMO one of the the main reasons that they fail to see this is because of what has been euphamistically described as "the gender lens" (an interesting metaphor, since the primary function of a lens is to distort an image in one way or another), which as I see it is a term used for a meme that focuses solely on sex/gender from a feminist perspective and ignores all other perspectives. Men have been oppressed in the past and are oppressed today; in many ways western women are a privileged class relative to men in the west and elsewhere. A legitimate WS or "gender studies" program would examine the oppression of men from perspectives other than the feminist one, but since WS professors apply the "gender lens" model in their approach this doesn't happen. As I said before, a true Women's Studies approach would consider the viewpoints of, e.g., Phyllis Schafly, Wendy McElroy, Cathy Young, Camille Paglia, et al.

And like stanton, I just knew the "many types of feminist" argument was surely going appear, and I wasn't disappointed. But still, it's like my analogy of a Religion department composed of solely Christians. Sure there are many types of Christians - Catholics, protestants (and all the subdivisions within), Eastern Orthodox, etc. - but in the end they're all Christians. Same thing with women's studies and feminists.

"So yes, a person who believed that a certain group of people were inferior would fail the course, assuming they articulated their personal beliefs in their papers. They would also fail most mainstream sociology and history courses that had anything to do with gender/race..."

Which is why sociology and to a lesse extent history are also suffering serious credibility problems among academics and the public at large.

"...just as creationists would fail most mainstream biology courses."

Except that's also not true. Creationists have successfully completed mainstream biology courses, and some highly reputable biological scientists are in fact adherents of the "intelligent design" theory. What separates them from feminists is that they know when to leave their personal religious convictions out of areas where they don't belong, e.g., their professional work in legitimate academic endeavors.

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