A little while back, my best drinking buddy sent me this email:
I had not seen this bloke before, but, having now seen him, ‘interesting’ wouldn’t be my adjective of choice.
To be fair, the above correspondence immediately followed one of my tedious rants about putatively Leftist movements—to which he has often been subjected on those many nights we have drunkenly attempted to solve the world’s problems—and this time, it had been popular liberal feminism. Seemingly, he had inferred that ‘feminism’ was the troublesome part of that equation. (Imagine my surprise upon learning that I can be less than perfectly clear about the object of my criticism when shitfaced!)
What follows is my reply email, which seems to have done little to clarify my position in my friend’s mind, but which he insists others might enjoy:
Okay, so, it gets off to a bad start.
‘The picture you paint is perfectly accurate …’
Except that it’s not. A shitload of first-wave feminists—the suffragettes—were staunch conservatives who belonged to organisations like the Christian Women’s Temperance Union and wanted the vote because they thought the world was going to hell and we needed to outlaw booze and generally be more proper.
‘… lesbianic sort of feminism.’
Presumably, since he’s gay and doesn’t like feminists, all lesbians hate men. Similarly, I don’t much care for grapefruit, which is how I know that oranges are out to get me.
‘The wage gap is a myth.’
Yeah, it demonstrably isn’t. The argument that women are being paid less for doing the same jobs is one that nobody is making. It is true that a lot of popular feminist articles about the wage gap are intellectually lazy, but there are complex structural reasons why women make less money. It is simply not true that women just like nursing better than engineering. What is true is that if the societal roadblocks to women becoming engineers all disappeared (a proposition that, granted, is likely to remain hypothetical for the foreseeable future), there’d be twice as many engineers and their wages would fall to something more in line with those of nurses, because that’s how capitalism works. (See also, Half the Sky’s assumption that doubling the work force in less developed countries will magically create twice as many jobs, and not simply halve real wages; or that a micro-loan for a small businesswoman will somehow also create customers in a destitute country under IMF-imposed austerity measures.)
‘No reputable economist takes this seriously.’
‘Reputable economist’ is an oxymoron, because mathematical models are closed systems and can therefore never account for both growth and value. They also fail to account for time and space. But, all economists use them, because it lends an air of legitimacy to the profession, and they know that policymakers will simply defer to their ‘expertise’. So, you have right-wing economists (like Milton Friedman or Alan Greenspan) working from the assumption that wealthy capitalists will invariably reinvest their profits to create jobs, and left-wing economists (like Thomas Piketty, whose statistics are good, but whose maths is horseshit) assuming that wealthy individuals simply hoard their money; neither of which is true for anything more than a handful of individuals.
‘The most brazen untruths always come from the Left … because they believe in narrative over fact.’
This is somewhat true, except that he’s done that thing that you love to do, which is to conflate liberal progressives with Leftists. And, in doing so, he’s done exactly what he has accused others of doing: giving primacy to a convenient narrative over fact (just as he did with the aforementioned rewritten history of the suffragettes). Even if we accept that ‘liberal progressive’ is what is meant by ‘Leftist’ now, the belief in personal narrative is learned behaviour from the Right, who still do it best. Because, of course they do. Individualism, after all, is the central tenet of their belief system (see, e.g., Tony Abbott’s favourite ‘historian’; or Joe Hockey’s strict-father-as-a-model-for-the-national-economy stories, the idiocy of which sees austerity as the sole prescription for economic growth). That idiot progressives have wholeheartedly embraced individualism does not make it their invention.
‘Christina Hoff Sommers … debunks some of this stuff …’
She does, but offers as an alternative explanation a reality that only exists in the hive-mind of her American Enterprise Institute and similar conservative thinktanks, in which absolute meritocracy is real, everybody is completely free, markets are perfect—or would be, if only that pesky government would get out of the way—and poor people only have themselves to blame.
‘Feminists will never talk to you about this difficult stuff.’
Except, of course, that heaps of them will. It doesn’t generate nearly as many clicks as a story about how Jennifer Lawrence does not earn quite as much as Bradley Cooper, though, so you won’t read it in the mainstream press. This, again, is how capitalism works.
‘… put on Ritalin because … they’re held up to female behavioural standards’
I love how biological determinists always rely on unfalsifiable hypotheses about ‘what the world would be like, if not for [this thing I don’t like]’ and then pretend that it’s science. One might look instead at the ever-expanding DSM and the shift in psychiatry from ‘talking cures’ to writing prescriptions with the advent of drugs like Ritalin and Prozac in the ‘90s, a practice that trickled down to GPs (see, e.g., your doctor’s readiness to prescribe you antidepressants for what was basically a hangover). This is emblematic of the transformation from the old doctor-knows-best model of health to the new ‘consumer model’, in which patients shop around for doctors until they find one that will give them some pills. Also—and this is especially true for Americans, given their fucked healthcare system, but also true everywhere else—pills are just cheaper than alternative treatments. Add to that laws that give special consideration to ADHD-diagnosed kids and the lifting of restrictions against pharmaceutical companies marketing directly to the public, and you’ve got a recipe for overprescription. (Y’know, I suspect this may also be tied to capitalism in some way.) Plus, If Milo’s assertion were true, surely all Ritalin prescriptions would be for males. They’re not.
‘In a Cornell study from 2015 showed that women have a 2:1 advantage going for the same job, just because everybody’s desperate to hire women.’
And just why are they desperate to hire women? Perhaps they find it hard to meet their quota, because (from the study referred to): ‘Despite these successes, Williams and Ceci acknowledge that women face other barriers to entry during adolescence and young adulthood, in graduate school and later in their careers as academic scientists, particularly when balancing motherhood and careers.’
‘As Camille Paglia, the wonderful, dissident, feminist critic says …’
Oh, so now he likes lesbianic feminists.
‘It’s the patriarchy that built [list of everything, ever]; women didn’t want to do that.’
Men didn’t want to do those things either; that’s why they were either paid to do it, paid someone else to do it, or were what we commonly refer to as slaves. Have I mentioned capitalism yet? Remind me, because I really should.
‘We’re perfectly happy to complain about gender representation when there aren’t enough women … but we don’t make the same complaint the other way around.’
And yet, here you are, Milo, doing just that. Say, I wonder a) what these jobs are, and b) what the pay is like. Oh, that’s right: a) nursing, teaching and retail; and b) shithouse.
‘This all comes from the discredited Leftist idea that gender is socially constructed.’
‘And so I shall now counter it with the even-earlier-discredited idea that one’s genes determine everything about them, as though they exist in a vacuum. Because, let’s not admit that it might be a little more complicated than that and that we don’t really know; it has to be one or the other. PICK ONE.’
‘If you can be born with a female brain, there must be such a thing as a “female brain”.’
Or maybe transgender people aren’t neurologists from the future and they don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about either. Maybe they just feel wrong and it’s complicated. Maybe that’s the same reason, despite sensationalist headlines every couple of years or so, we haven’t found that bloody ‘gay gene’ neuroscientists have convinced themselves is a thing. (Camille Paglia maintains that lesbianism is a choice, btw.)
‘She was created by progressives, who said that blackness is a performance … that race is a social construct.’
I mean, in some regards, it quite obviously is. Just not in the actual skin colour regard. Plus, Rachel Dolezal is clearly an idiot. Which is weird, since she’s white. I’d send Mr Yiannopoulos a message asking him to clarify, but, given his name, I can only presume he’d be too innately lazy to respond.
‘We know that people look different …’
That, they do.
‘… and behave differently.’
‘Like that Barack Obama fellow, always “gang-banging” and smoking those “weeds”.’
‘All of this stuff is starting to fall apart now.’
‘It’s like my mind, in that sense.’
‘Certainly, the women I know … they’re not happy people.’
Well, while we’re inferring ridiculous conclusions from a limited understanding of things, and given that the common thread here is knowing Milo, I’d have to say we’ve isolated the source of their unhappiness.
‘If you want to settle down and have a nice happy life, well, there are certain things that men like in women.’
‘All men. We all like the same stuff. Every one of us. Except for those who like other stuff. Fuck those guys, though. Except me. Did I mention I’m a gay? That’s how I know this stuff.’
‘What I want is for people to be happy.’
Oh, I can tell.
‘Very often it’s 30-, 40-year-old, bitter old women, trying to lecture 20-year old girls on how to behave …’
‘… and that’s my job.’
‘Feminism is collapsing in popularity among women.’
Yeah, it isn’t.
All of which is to say, yes, popular feminism can be stupid, but no more so than pop sociobiology, and if Milo were half as bright as he thinks he is, he’d know that.