Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Chivalry vs. Masculinism

As I’ve suggested before, I think one simple reason we don’t already have a movement called “masculinism” that renders men’s complaints about women as pseudo-moral, pseudo-political grievances in the way that feminism turns perennial complaints about men into an ersatz philosophy is simply that this would entail a great deal of whining, which under the twin reign of chivalry and feminism is considered unseemly in males (by the standards of feminist academic discourse, surely whole books could be written about the pain inflicted on males by the use of the word “dick” as an insult, etc.). I take a great risk even in appearing to do it myself, as any fair-minded reader realizes.

Consider that to most males, demonstrating that some harm has been done to them would seem, almost instinctively, to require toting up some sort of demonstrable physical or financial damages (a wonderful basis for the sort of bean-counting, bourgeois thinking necessary to maintain a capitalist or even libertarian regime, incidentally).

By contrast, under most formulations of feminism that I have ever encountered (though I will no doubt be called an idiot or reductionist for having the audacity to think I’ve encountered anything like a representative sample), mere rhetoric can be deemed oppressive. I half-smile and half-wince when I recall seeing conservative Dinesh D’Souza speak at left-wing, feminist Brown University two decades ago and repeatedly use the phrase “the patriarchs of our culture” as praise in describing our most esteemed intellectual forebears. Can you imagine how oppressed — and thus delighted — the hissing, feminist-filled audience must have felt?

At the very least, we know the tiniest such slip can be taken by a leftist to discredit a whole argument. I can only wonder how many feminists have remained immune to economic reasoning due to the use of phrases such as “men engaged in trade” by a Milton Friedman or other advocate of laissez-faire. There’s always something to pounce on in your opponent’s rhetoric in any debate, if you’re the sort of person determined not to be a generous listener — and feminism, by routinely toying with the idea that speech itself is oppressive, or at least that many traditional linguistic constructions are, not only encourages a hyper-attentiveness to such slips but declares rhetorical “errors” real acts of injustice. What a marvelously self-insulating intellectual cocoon.

But if, as a few feminists have tried to convince me (in what I suspect was merely one of those subconsciously-tactical efforts to avoid making an enemy), feminism is primarily concerned with rights-violations in the classic, property-focused libertarian sense, I’d like to know whether most feminists think they are up against, say, a covert movement to make pickpocketing of women legal or something like that. If not, I suspect language-policing, thoughtcrime-spotting, and the occasional lawsuit is pretty much what their movement is now reduced to.


Brain said...

Way back when, women couldn’t vote. They had restrictions on their ability to own property or conduct business. Their ability to control their own reproductive lives were severely curtailed legally.

Those legal impediments are almost totally gone now. Contemporary feminists seek battles when the war has been largely won. The past accomplishments of feminism must be acknowledged. In acknowledging these real gains, we also recognize the futile foolishness of the movement as it is presently constituted.

Ram Adrian said...

“Those legal impediments are almost gone now”. Overcoming legal impediments isn’t what the ‘feminist battle’ is about. What you fail to understand is that feminism concerns itself with understanding the ’systemic’ character of oppression (and not just ‘gender oppression’). By ’systemic’, I am referring to the organization and interaction of social systems, which extend beyond just legal structures; hence, my criticism of your focus on ‘legal impediments’. More importantly, feminism concerns itself with how social structures not only perpetuate certain forms of social inequality between certain groups, but how these structures are informed by our social identities. ‘Social identities’ here cannot be limited to solely ‘gender oppression’ but how gender intersects with race, class, ability, and sexuality within certain historical contexts.

It’s distressing to see how feminist theory as political theory is both misrepresented and misunderstood. In sum, it’s not just about ‘overcoming legal impediments’.

toddseavey said...

Absent some clear-cut criterion like property violation, I fail to see how one distinguishes in any meaningful or objective fashion between all that “system social etc.” you describe and what might just as easily be called “the way all the people around have chosen to behave, which you may not happen to like, so suck it up.”

Ram Adrian said...

I really do enjoy your blog, I will admit that much (I’m currently a student of Prof. Levy’s, and had no idea that such blogs existed).

HOWEVER, this constant reversion to ‘property rights’ is in itself insufficient in describing ‘power relations’ and how they both inform and perpetuate how issues such as ‘property violations’ occur. When property violations occur, they do not just occur in virtue of ‘property’. The violation of ‘property rights’ (in an ahistorical and socially specific sense), is informed by power relations (i.e. racism, sexism, homophobia, and colonialism). The claims of feminism go beyond a mere “the way all the people around have chosen to behave, which you may not happen to like…”. Rather, it is to recognize that if particular instances of ‘property violations’ occur (which you obviously concede that they do), they occur in virtue to the systemic nature of oppression, which transcend legal structures (coming back to the ‘first comment’ of this post).

I think a great book with regards to the points I’m making is Iris Marion Young’s ‘Justice and the Politics of Difference’. But, libertarians seem to be rather disinterested in any attempt and recognition for the importance of ’social justice’.

To avoid boring you any further with more of my comments (you probably think that I’m some annoying “teen” – I’d like to think of myself as somewhat reminiscent of Jubilee from the X-men), I’ll pursue the issue no further (that’s right – even if you respond with something that is so provocative).

Have a splendid day Todd Seavey!

AJI DANIEL said...

Todd you are a man, the world should hear you. it seems the world is heading to an era where women will begin to abuse men and no one is noticing this, so happy to hear you, keep up.