Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Liberals Say....

Apropos a class discussion more than anything else, I want to reveal one of my pet peeves. Basically, it involves arguing against a strawman of some liberal bogeyman (feminists, the "political correct") as a justification for opposing a certain group or claim. For example, my roommate once lamented the manner in which politically correct speech has made discourse ridiculous. I asked him for an example, and he cited calling short people "vertically challenged." I then queried if ever, in his life, he had met someone who had demanded he refer to short people as "vertically challenged."

He hadn't, because virtually no one, including the feared arbiters of politcal correctness, is that insane. And when pressed for examples he had actually had experienced, my roommate couldn't think of one directly. Thus we have a problem--a parade of horribles which exists only in the mind somehow gets transfered as a key policy of a group that advocates nothing of the sort. So we hear about how feminists hate men (which ones?), or Democrats want us to lose in the war on terror (name names?). It's not that there are no people who believe spectacularly stupid things out there--and yes, I have encountered self-declared "feminist" writers who really do hate men. But these people are tiny, tiny fringes--completely marginal to the movement at large, with no institutional support and no relative power. Alternatively, you'll have a single position get ascribed to a whole group that really is having an uproarious internal debate on the subject. For example, I can't tell you how many times I hear feminists get blamed for creating our contemporary raunchy, sex obsessed culture, and yet there are plenty of feminists who have been at the forefront of opposing these developments, including the ultimate feminist bogey(wo)men, Catherine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin, who went as far as to call pornography a civil rights violation. Nearly every time I read a conservative "critique" of post-modernism, I am left more convinced than ever that these people don't have the foggiest idea what post-modernism entails--and I suspect some of the more honest ones would admit that they have not read any of the major works. Yet somehow that doesn't stop them from launching into long diatribes about how the post-modern worldview is devilish and evil.

So, moral of the story: When critiquing a group for arguing X, a) make sure that they've actually said it, b) make sure that it's all or most of the group that said it, rather than a point of contention within the group, and c) know exactly what the group is talking about when it says it supports X.

In other words, don't be ignorant. Sheesh.

7 comments:

AustinRoth said...

AustinRoth here. Totally unrelated, but did you get a chance to check any of those bands out?

If so, which ones did you like, and which ones not? Just curious.

David Schraub said...

The only one I looked at prior to this post was the New Pornographers, mostly because I had run across the name before. Too light for my tastes. I just checked The Mars Volta, and the same comment--also, a bit freaky. Kill Hannah looks significantly more promising--I may buy one of their albums.

Thanks for the list though--I'll keep scanning through it.

Anonymous said...

Very true indeed. I long ago figured out that most feminists are authoritarian prudes when it comes to sex. It's not so much about hating men as it is about fearing masculine sexuality. This is the inverse of neo-conservative authoritarians who focus most of their fear of feminine sexuality.

Once I understood this, I was no longer baffled as to how on earth feminists would join forces with the likes of Jerry Falwell in calling for sexual prohibition. There is a debate about this now among feminists, simply because younger women have been drawn into the feminist movement by issues such as reproductive freedom, but many of these women are decidedly more libertarian than their predecesors. So you get the sex-positive feminists.

The ultimate motivation for advocates of sexual prohibition is the irrational fear of sex. Neo-conservative authoritarians fear that slutty women will corrupt society, while authoritarian feminists argue that a sinister male conspiracy (the patriarchy) is using sexuality to corrupt and subjugate women. Both arguments are absurd and neither side presents any plausible solution to the problem they perceive.

No matter how what they do, people are still having sex and nothing is going to stop them.

David Schraub said...

Oh my God, read point "b" of that summary.

Anonymous said...

Conservatives would have us believe that feminists are responsible for unlimited sexual freedom, the proliferation of pornography and sexual promiscuity amongst young women and teens, yet simultaneously are man-hating prudes who hate sex and think all sexual intercourse is rape.

jack said...

Those two sides are actually easily reconciled when you recall that all feminists are also lesbians.

PG said...

Those two sides are actually easily reconciled when you recall that all feminists are also lesbians.

God, my boyfriend wishes.