Friday, March 8, 2013

International Women’s Day

(h/t for a couple items below to Frank Pohole and Gina Duclayan, who can in no way be blamed.)

I have sometimes sparred with feminists online, but then I disagree with nearly every identifiable philosophical faction to some extent, so I don’t want the feminists to think that they’re special. 

Or rather: here are sixteen sweet, fairly supportive (and completely true) thoughts in honor of International Women’s Day, including, toward the end, the briefest and most civil possible statement of why I think most formulations of feminism will always be at odds with libertarianism (despite the best reconciliation efforts of the so-called liberal-tarians, such as Sarah Skwire, who recently threw normal libertarians under the bus yet again by suggesting we’re not angry enough about rape...and I’m not at all sure how she’s gauging that, but both she and a Canadian leftist philosophy professor I know should rest assured that libertarians are completely opposed to the initiation of any form of assault – that’s our thing).

1. Coincidentally, a Rwanda-dwelling libertarian acquaintance doing development work lamented online this very week that unpaved roads combined with a lack of sports bras is one of the most challenging parts of development (in some sense of that word). 

I’m not sure exactly what she’s doing there, by the way, but presumably it’s evil, since we all know laissez-faire capitalists hate blacks and poor people.  She’s probably selling the rich tickets to watch the next genocidal massacre.  Q.E.D.

2. I have had sex in an apartment that faces Gloria Steinem’s windows, but I did not charge her a dime for anything she may have seen.  She started out as a comedy writer (also true), and it’s only fitting she be entertained in return once in a while.  

3. Men should always remember that women often find our whole half of the human race sort of frightening – and are also often frightened to say so – and you can’t entirely blame them after seeing things like the epic new trailer for Hangover III.  But it’s still epic. 

4. One of the difficulties of addressing feminist topics is of course that roughly 50-100% of human activities are somehow implicated, and there’s rarely been a greater opportunity for cherry-picking and anecdotal reasoning. 

Thus, if feminists sense a doubter, they can always claim the doubter is dwelling on the wrong, frivolous topics while everything they say should be treated with the reverence due discussions of mass rapes and child soldiers, even if the feminists didn’t really provide specifics and seemed a moment earlier merely to be complaining that a swanky nightclub downtown needs another unisex restroom. 

You are thus never more than an abrupt topic-change away from being declared an insensitive bastard when dealing with feminists, no matter how well-intentioned you may be.  And they have no short-term incentive to make things easier on you. 

Things are only getting more difficult on this front with each passing day, as the boom in media – and its diversification – means that nearly every human utterance (on any topic, not just feminism) now has fifty dissimilar audiences, some just hoping for a Family Guy reference, others deciding whether to leave an abusive boyfriend, and still others hoping not to be killed by Chechen terrorists. 

It’s never been more difficult to keep everyone happy, though we utilitarians honestly try, in part by guessing who’s most likely listening and why.

Nonetheless, the case for feminism undeniably looks strong when you see some of the manifestly-patriarchal things going on under Islam or those unpunished rapes in comparatively civil India (by contrast, and this is partly a semantic issue, I don’t have too much patience for people claiming, as if it requires any heroic exertion on their part, that ardent feminism is needed now in the U.S. to compensate for immense wrongs done to people living in the past – individualists should know it’s dangerous to claim ethics works in this collectivist way and quite often more self-congratulatory than problem-solving; further, patriarchal wrongs don’t change the fact that the West already has coercive feminist laws in place and is likely to impose more, such as the EU’s potential ban on all forms of porn – so much for the days of the uninhibited Continentals and all that).

5. Troubling and closer to home are recent reports (the details of which I don’t pretend to know) that rape is commonplace in the U.S. military and that superior officers are all too frequently harassers themselves and thus not helpful. 

I often suspect the feminists’ first impulse about something like this is to claim that if (A) this is occurring and (B) libertarians exist, then (C) libertarians must be heartless, possibly even pro-rape monsters who don’t care about real violence or finding solutions to it, to which I can only say: Which other significant political faction wants to abolish standing armies altogether? 

Or rather: feminists want to solve all subsidiary problems by tackling the vast, vague problem of relations between the sexes.  Libertarians suggest
you’d get more bang for your buck by tackling the more focused problem of violence (and especially systemic violence, such as government in all its forms, the military included), promulgating the view that it’s always wrong to initiate it. 

Call that the wrong tactic if you like (I admit I can’t promise we’ll accomplish much), but don’t deny it’s a mission libertarians take seriously and one that would also solve many subsidiary problems, arguably far more tidily than an endless and vague culture-war-of-the-sexes.  So many problems and so much animosity in the political realm arises from the childish assumption that anyone not sharing your preferred methods must be hateful and want ends completely opposed to your own (thus every divergence in tactics becomes part of the conspiracy of “rape culture,” etc.).

And God forbid someone should make a joke, of course.

6. Virginia Postrel noted this complicated mostly intra-feminist fight over virtually nothing (given that few of the people involved seem to have read the book that sparked it all), and I would gently suggest for everyone’s sake that the leaping-to-conclusions and hair-trigger fighting going on here may have causes worth considering other than patriarchy. 

Now imagine if some guy were at the center of all that fighting and ask yourself how objective and merciful a hearing he would receive. 

7. But again, skepticism about the wisdom of battles like that one does not mean that one is dismissive of every feminist concern ever voiced.  I’m quite sympathetic to what I suppose might vaguely be called First-and-a-Half Wave feminist concerns like why women still feel inclined to take their husband’s last names, as Jezebel recently wondered. 

See, I think there are plenty of people out there, at least in my age cohort, who simply by being rationalists of one sort or another regarded most practices that smacked of overt bias as silly and retrograde without having to be told to do so by feminists per se, just because bias-in-general was so suspect in the decades immediately following the 60s. 

But then all these natural egalitarians are pounced on once they get to college campuses and told that they must find still more evil subconscious thoughts within themselves to root out or feel guilty about, until all of society and possibly history as well is rewritten around them.  Naturally they feel pressured. 

What a waste that they might thus never even give voice to the sentiments, which we might call “common-sense feminism,” that they already held without, as it were, much effort – such as thinking males and females ought to be equal partners in relationships and that one party being pressured to take the other’s name seems presumptuous.  I’m not likely to be thanked for voicing any vaguely-feminist sentiments unless I voice them in exactly the right self-abasing, politically-formulaic way, so why bother voicing them at all?

I’ve also assumed since childhood that one shouldn’t – except for clearly-ironic, contextualized artistic purposes – use insults built on false pejorative assumptions, such as “bitch” or “fag,” but if you adopt that position without also supporting the whole left-wing affirmative action etc. agenda, you’re less likely to be thanked than to just attract attention to yourself, which will end with a feminist saying something like, “What do you want, a medal, you patriarchal capitalist asshole?” 

So, in short, why bother? 

Just go on trying to be civil and not expecting the effort to be appreciated or noticed – that’s a big component of chivalry anyway, and one of many reasons men spend a lot of time patiently smiling and indulgently nodding when confronted by feminist complaints.  In some sense, we gave up long ago, and most feminists don’t realize it’s really our manly stoicism, more than progressivism, that causes us to appear to keep listening to them and putting up with their often terrible and disjointed arguments. 

8. And again, it being a complex world, none of the preceding item becomes somehow untrue just because we all agree that the ending of this comic book story is morally troubling, as were its times.  (Then again, the two photos nearby may present a more complex tale: Was the past exploitative or a happyland where larger women were accepted and almost no one would even think to look in a sexualized way at a child?)

9. On the other hand, many culture trends fueled more by women than by men will still always get blamed on men.  I can’t imagine that too many males are scandalized, for instance, by the fact that Goldie Hawn is aging just like all other human beings do.  It fascinates other women, though.

10. And I’m sure we all disapprove of the Obama administration’s War on Women.

11. Then again, it’s also important that administration officials not heap honors on women indiscriminately. 

12. And I’m sure we can all agree that a world featuring a genuinely Nice Todd is preferable to a world featuring Jerk Todd or Neutral Todd, this apparently being the terminology used in certain behavioral research about whether chicks dig jerks – but it would be great if feminists were sufficiently open enough to the almost completely taboo idea of criticizing women that they could admit there’s something fishy about how much feminists simultaneously (A) deny they find jerks attractive and (B) now routinely use “Nice Guy” as one of the most vicious and contempt-filled possible insults for those who doubt them. 

(Of course, they claim to think all self-proclaimed nice guys are whining fakers – but funny how that gives them a new, more complicated excuse to dislike the nice guys, in much the same way that complaints about income disparity, even though it no longer exists between genders in the youngest cohort, give them an excuse to think the guy should pay for the drinks even on a date where both parties are progressives.)

13. On a related note, I think the real reason feminism will never win – no, not even in the distant future – is that by definition it cannot come to grips with the inherently gendered fact that for about 97% of the human race, male and female, the most wonderful thing about human existence is that it revolves around two opposite sexes who are not only attracted to their opposites but want them to seem and be opposite. 

And if we stepped back for a moment and really thought about how inhuman it would be to try and undermine all that by encouraging (explicitly or implicitly) androgyny (not just in appearance but in behavior and social roles), most of the feminist enterprise would collapse as quickly as an effort to fill the NBA with dwarfs, guilty as we all might feel about being the ones to tell the dwarfs it’s not going to work out (and I look forward as eagerly as anyone to seeing Peter Dinklage play size-neutral villain Bolivar Trask in next year’s X-Men movie, believe me). 

14. The shortest summary I can give of my reasons for thinking that feminism is and must always be (in virtually all of its formulations, anyway) at odds with libertarianism, though, is that libertarianism has to begin with the recognition that society will not conform to some preferred “master blueprint” where wealth distribution is exactly what the intellectuals want it to be, everyone saves money at the same rate, and so on.  We reject “patterned outcomes.” 

And what on Earth is the claim that men and women should end up wielding roughly equal social influence, if possible in almost all fields – despite differences sufficient to make any person familiar with chaos theory expect wildly different outcomes for the two sexes – if not the ultimate patterned outcome? 

So-called liberal-tarians do not help matters (and indeed may embolden statists by creating false expectations) if they say that this patterned outcome – though morally necessary – may be achieved by purely voluntary means.  So what happens when it isn’t?  Liberal-tarians and libertarian feminists never tire of pretending they’re the sophisticated and thoughtful ones, but few of them seem to have thought that far, not enough to get them to question their leftist premises.

15. As with my earlier comments about harboring what might be considered feminist sentiments that aren’t worth voicing because they won’t be deemed to fit feminist formulations anyway, I’ve actually said since college that I could easily envision a world where women, even if they do possess substantially different capacities than males, ended up dominating society without affirmative action laws for the simple reason that the future might rely upon, say, more social networking and less physical strength (I actually said that back when there was barely even an Internet, let alone “social networking” in the contemporary electronic sense, and there are signs it’s actually happening, which is fine with me).

But you know darn well “let the chips fall where they may” isn’t good enough for feminists until they know the chips will fall their way – and that’s not egalitarianism (not that I want egalitarianism), that’s just partisanship.  And it has no place on the libertarian agenda no matter how great it might be as a recruiting tool for making more libertarian females.  Sorry. 

16. But if you think it would help in some way to watch two women present opposed views of drones and drone warfare, please join us for that as I host another Dionysium, this coming Monday (March 11) at 8pm at Muchmore’s, 2 Havemeyer St. in Williamsburg (near the first L stop in, the Bedford Ave. stop). 

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