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I wholeheartedly agree with everything you've said. If this is what feminism is, then I am a feminist. However, feminism sometimes goes beyond this. It sometimes makes empirically unsupported claims about the biological equivalence of the sexes, and it sometimes appears to be overly focused on the peccadilloes of "rape jokes" or "sexist language" when far more important matters are at stake. It's priorities are wildly to distorted; feminists are sometimes more eager to nitpick at the crumbs of sexism in enlightened countries while ignoring entire banquets of misogyny in less enlightened countries. This may be due to the difficulty of caring about people in far away places, but I suspect it goes deeper than this. I suspect that the obsession with the trivial may be due to a "hyperactive agency detection device," where the agents detected are not gods or spirits, but rather patriarchal conspiracies or subtle signs of dominance and oppression. Much like the religious see gods and spirits in every gust of wind or bolt of lightning, some feminists see patriarchy and covert misogyny in every turn of phrase and display of body language. Whenever scientists discover a gender difference in test scores, salaries, sexual proclivities, or career goals, feminists are eager to claim that it is a result of discrimination, sexism, or oppression. In this regard, they are somewhat similar to Freud in assuming that every psychological phenomenon is a result of unconscious desires. But Freud was wrong, and so are many feminists. Sometimes there simply is no sexism, discrimination, oppression, or unconscious desires. Sometimes men and women just have different talents, ambitions, and career goals due to differences in biology. The dogmatic unwillingness of feminists to acknowledge this possibility has turned me off from feminism. I don't want to call myself a feminist because I don't want to be associated with this anti-scientific, overly conspiratorial attitude. I don't want to call myself a feminist because I don't want to be associated with their distortion of priorities and their obsession with the trivial. The truth is, any of the positive aspects of feminism can be arrived at through other values: equality, justice, basic human decency. One need not appeal to the word "feminism" to justify any of the things that feminists stand for. The word is superfluous and too often a distraction from the issues of real importance. And so I do not call myself a feminist. Instead, I call myself a person who cares about equality, justice, and basic human decency. Feminism is too often used as a tribal badge, and it is a badge I choose not to wear.
2 years, 8 months ago on Why I Am A Feminist
@SallyStrange Thanks for the reply. It seems like your argument is a bit different from Martin's. Let me see if I can sum it up and let me know if I'm missing anything:
1) A significant number of people in America do not understand that rape is bad.
2) Rape jokes prevent these people from understanding that rape is bad.
3) We ought not to prevent these people from understanding that rape is bad.
4) Therefore, we ought not to make rape jokes.
The logic is sound, and it is definitely a more sophisticated argument than Martin's, though I think there are some holes in it.
For one thing, I am extremely skeptical of premise (1). In Steven Pinker's book "The Better Angels of our Nature," he presents evidence that shows that rape is has been in sharp decline in America since the 1970's, and that pro-feminist attitudes have simultaneously been on the rise since the 1970's, and we are now more feminist than at any time in American history. This evidence, coupled with the overwhelming difficulty I have of imagining a 21st-century rape-apologist, makes premise (1) seem very shaky. Do you have any data on this that would prove me wrong? I'm open to the evidence, but it just seems so implausible to me on the face of it. Maybe I'm wrong, but if anything, I feel like the harsh moral condemnation to which Tosh was subjected makes it seem like we understand the horrors of rape all too well.
But that's not the only issue with your argument; I am also pretty skeptical of premise (2). It's not at all clear how making a joke about something bad will keep ignorant people from understanding that it is bad. I suspect that anyone ignorant and bigoted enough to defend rape these days is not going to be made much worse by a rape joke, nor is that person going to be made much better by a lack of rape jokes. Did Louis C.K.'s holocaust joke make all the anti-semites out there less likely to realize that the holocaust was a bad thing? If Louis had refrained from telling that joke, would anti-semitism have decreased? It seems doubtful. If anyone is still benighted enough to be a misogynist or an anti-semite in this country, I seriously doubt that the absence or presence of a certain kind of joke is going to make much of a difference on their attitudes either way. Then again, maybe I'm wrong on this. If you have any data on the matter, I'd be happy to reconsider my position.
All the best.
2 years, 8 months ago on Rape, Still Not Funny
So it seems to me that your argument is something as follows:
1) Rape jokes "normalize" rape (i.e. they make it seem more socially acceptable).
2) We ought not to make rape seem more socially acceptable.
3) Therefore, we ought not to make rape jokes.
The argument is sound, but I question premise (1). It's not at all clear that making a joke about something makes it more socially acceptable. Louis C.K. appeared on the daily show to talk about the tosh-rape-joke scandal, and at the end of his interview he said "so let's all get together and kill the jews." This line got huge laughs and no one raised an eyebrow, at leas that I'm aware of. What we can be sure of is that his making light of the holocaust did not get people nearly as riled up as tosh's making light of rape. It seems to follow from your argument that Louis C.K. made the holocaust more socially acceptable. Since genocide is about a million times worse than rape, you should have gotten a million times more angry at Louis C.K. than you did at Tosh. Yet you didn't. Either you're being inconsistent or your argument is flawed.
Furthermore, comedians make jokes about murder all the time, yet no one gets nearly as angry at them about this, which is odd considering that murder is a more severe crime than rape. For example, in George Carlin's comedy routine "Complaints and Greivances" he had a whole routine about types of people he wanted to kill, e.g. those who pay for small purchases with credit cards or people who wear visers. He would introduce the next person he was angry at with lines like "here's another group of people who ought to be disembowled with a wooden cooking spoon." Or, "here's another pack of morons that ought to be thrown screaming from a helicopter." This comedy routine was highly successful, and at the time, no one seemed to care that he was making light of grizzly murder. According to your argument, Carlin was making grizzly murders more socially acceptable, and people should have been even more angry at him than people were at Tosh. Yet people weren't.
Finally, it seems that most comedy functions by juxtaposing something horrible with something trivial. Quentin Tarantino is a good example. Pulp Fiction often finds humor in gruesomely violent situations. Your argument would have us condemning Quentin Tarantino with equal ferocity as Tosh. Worse still, it would have us condemning any comedian who makes a joke about something bad, though our condemnation would have to be scaled appropriately to the badness of the thing, with holocaust jokes evoking the most condemnation and jaywalking jokes evoking the least condemnation. I shudder at what the arts would look like if people actually adopted this practice.
My guess is that feminism has distorted your sense of what is horrible. Ideologies tend to have that effect. Yes, rape is bad, but murder is worse. And the holocaust is worse still. If your going to get mad at people for making jokes about horrible things, at least be consistent about it.