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Hey Christina Hoff Sommers

Christina Hoff Sommers seems to be getting more unpleasant – or maybe just more active on Twitter, or maybe just retweeted by more people I happen to see. At any rate I find her increasingly unpleasant. I saw one tweet of hers this morning that was so obnoxious I replied to it.

Christina H. Sommers ‏@CHSommers 4h
Hey feminists, will you stop making recklessly false claims like/ “Women own only 1% of world’s property.”http://m.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2013/03/women-own-1-of-world-property-a-feminist-myth-that-wont-die/273840/ …

Ophelia Benson ‏@OpheliaBenson
.@CHSommers Hey Christina Hoff Sommers, will you stop bashing “feminists”?

Someone replied to me and Sommers favorited her reply. Of course she did. I replied back. Sommers won’t be favoriting that. (Nor will Paul Elam, who chimed in.)

Vandy Beth Glenn ‏@RedVelvetCakes 3h
@OpheliaBenson @CHSommers Ophelia, what did she say about “feminists” that is untrue?

Ophelia Benson ‏@OpheliaBenson
@RedVelvetCakes @CHSommers That they all, generically, make the claim she cites. Replace “feminists” with “Jews” & see how it sounds.

Sommers was once a philosopher. That’s kind of sad.

Updated to add:

Sommers replied. Dishonestly.

Christina H. Sommers ‏@CHSommers
@OpheliaBenson Wow! So criticizing your brand of evidence-free feminism is analogous to anti-semitism. Muddled thinking, Ophelia.

So, naturally, I replied.

Ophelia Benson ‏@OpheliaBenson 3m
@CHSommers No. That’s not what you did. You didn’t criticize a particular brand of feminism. You said “Hey feminists” – just that.

Don’t call me muddled because you overstated your case. That’s not respectable.

Comments

  1. Thinking says

    Ophelia Benson ‏@OpheliaBenson
    @RedVelvetCakes @CHSommers That they all, generically, make the claim she cites. Replace “feminists” with “Jews” & see how it sounds.

    I’m not sure your analogy holds. Feminism is an idea. Feminists are those who hold that idea. Feminism is not an ethnic identity. Sure, Judaism is also a religious belief(idea), but I think the implication behind antisemitism is that it is an attack on the ethnic identity more so than the religious idea.

    I think trying to hitch feminism(the idea) a ride on the public derision of antisemitism(bigotry against an ethnic identity) is a little self-serving and maybe even trivializing of the Jewish experience. Especially when it comes from an atheist activist(someone who commonly criticizes religious ideas).

  2. screechymonkey says

    I thought Sommers claimed to be a (n) (equity) feminist herself. Or is she finally dropping the pretense that the whole equity/gender feminism distinction is at all meaningful?

  3. says

    @ 1 – Well that’s true, feminism is an idea, not an ethnic group. On the other hand feminists are a group who get subjected to a lot of organized hatred, rather the way Communists were in the ’50s. That’s what I was getting at with the analogy.

    And frankly I do think Sommers is playing on that kind of thinking, and that she’s doing it knowingly, and that she should stop doing that.

  4. says

    Also amusing to note her point was the MYTH WONT DIE, due to those horribly reckless “gender” feminists… That PDF putting the figure at 15% came out in 2009… So much for that then!

  5. says

    Oh good grief – she’s replied to me – dishonestly. Really, how pathetic. She could have just said “You’re right, that was too general.”

  6. Thinking says

    @3 –

    @ 1 – Well that’s true, feminism is an idea, not an ethnic group. On the other hand feminists are a group who get subjected to a lot of organized hatred, rather the way Communists were in the ’50s. That’s what I was getting at with the analogy.

    And frankly I do think Sommers is playing on that kind of thinking, and that she’s doing it knowingly, and that she should stop doing that.

    I don’t think it unreasonable to recognize what is smuggled in with an analogy to antisemitism that would not be with an analogy to communism. As such, I don’t think your explanation clears up how self-serving your analogy sounds.

    Neither do I think it addresses how it could reasonably be seen as trivializing the past and present bigotry experienced by Jewish people simply for their ethnic identity as if that ethnic identity was nothing more than an idea that could be wrong and therefore open to criticism.

  7. says

    Also, it’s “as if that ethnic identity were nothing more than an idea.” If you’re going to go for the pretentious note, you need to get it right.

  8. cubist says

    Thinking @1, @7: Twitter is a medium in which communication is restricted to 140-character lumps. As such, it is not at all friendly to things like “nuance” and “shades of grey”. How would you have responded to Sommers, had you been in Benson’s shoes?

  9. Thinking says

    @8, @9 –

    Well I didn’t actually “smuggle” anything. Thank you for playing, have a safe journey.

    Also, it’s “as if that ethnic identity were nothing more than an idea.” If you’re going to go for the pretentious note, you need to get it right.

    Playing a snarky gammarian character should not be mistaken for a reasoned response to criticism or disagreement.

    If my explanation for what I think isn’t convincing to you, that’s fine. Your replies quoted above, however, come off as rather petty.

    @10 –

    Thinking @1, @7: Twitter is a medium in which communication is restricted to 140-character lumps. As such, it is not at all friendly to things like “nuance” and “shades of grey”. How would you have responded to Sommers, had you been in Benson’s shoes?

    I’m not sure how I would have replied, but this isn’t about what I would have said. It’s about what Ophelia Benson did say.

  10. John Morales says

    Thinking @11, so you don’t dispute that the claim to which Ophelia objected was tantamount to a fallacy of composition or that the term substitution makes that glaringly obvious, though you object to the particular choice of term because you think that it insinuates anti-feminism is comparable to anti-semitism?

  11. A Hermit says

    From oolon’s excellent link @ 4:

    ” The International Fund for Agriculture and Development (IFAD) reports that in the developing world, the percentage of land owned by women is less than 2%.”

    Maybe she just missed the first part of that sentence. “less than 2%” is pretty close to 1%, so the statement “women only own 1% of property” is true for much of the world.

    But surely Anti feminists wouldn’t ever misrepresent feminist arguments. Would they!?

  12. static says

    ?, she said that feminists shouldn’t make this false claim, not that all feminists make this false claim. Group labels are annoying, but I think that’s part of the point. In order to make feminism strong, be scrupulous with facts.

  13. says

    I’m not sure your analogy holds. Feminism is an idea. Feminists are those who hold that idea. Feminism is not an ethnic identity. Sure, Judaism is also a religious belief(idea), but I think the implication behind antisemitism is that it is an attack on the ethnic identity more so than the religious idea.

    I think trying to hitch feminism(the idea) a ride on the public derision of antisemitism(bigotry against an ethnic identity) is a little self-serving and maybe even trivializing of the Jewish experience. Especially when it comes from an atheist activist(someone who commonly criticizes religious ideas).

    We live in a system, which has been around for a long time, of oppression, exploitation, and devaluation of women. This system, like all systems of oppression, exploitation, and devaluation, harms everyone involved, but some are victimized more than others.

    This system has a multitude of cultural consequences, including epistemic ones (which, again, are harmful for everyone). One epistemic consequence is what I’ve called “hyperskepticredulism”: claims from the dominant class or claims that support the system tend to be privileged while those from women or that challenge the system tend to be vigorously attacked.

    This means, among other things, that those interested in upholding the system will often accept even the most ludicrous claims and evidence (once, just once, I would like to hear Sommers, Pinker, Dawkins, … acknowledge not just that the Alexander and Hines vervet study was itself ludicrous but that the fact that it’s been taken seriously and cited is evidence of the extreme epistemic effects of political biases). The flip side of epistemic injustice is relentless attacks on the claims of those challenging the status quo – of race, sex, class, corporate power, ethnicity, sexuality, gender identity… Unevidenced claims are imputed to the entire subordinate class of people or the movements seeking to challenge the system. Largely or fundamentally accurate challenging claims are sought out for special attention and frisked for any inaccuracy in order to discredit and further marginalize the challengers, while absurd, baseless, or illogical claims that support the status quo are accepted, promoted, or ignored.

    This is precisely what Hoff Sommers is doing here. It’s pathetic that people like Dawkins who talk about moral progress can fail to see how reactionary many of the views they support are.

  14. says

    she said that feminists shouldn’t make this false claim, not that all feminists make this false claim.

    She didn’t, in fact. She said “Hey feminists, will you stop”. True, that’s not 100% equivalent to “all feminists claim that…”, but it’s closer to that than it is to “feminists should avoid claiming that…”.

  15. dmcclean says

    Ophelia has a point in her dispute with Sommers.

    I think Thinking has something of a point too, though. The Jews analogy is problematic for the reason he cites.

    Additionally I think his point quoted below is correct.

    Neither do I think [Ophelia's response @3] addresses how it could reasonably be seen as trivializing the past and present bigotry experienced by Jewish people simply for their ethnic identity as if that ethnic identity was nothing more than an idea that could be wrong and therefore open to criticism.

    The one error in it that is grammatical, and prompted a snarky reply. I think Ophelia would have done well to follow the form of her own advice to Sommers @6, name that “She could have just said ‘You’re right, that was the best choice of analogy.'”

    The central flaw with Sommers’ tweet is that it is beating up on a weak argument for feminism and dancing in the end zone, sidestepping the fact that even though that argument may be a myth, may be false, and may even be “recklessly false”, it’s wrong quantitatively but a qualitatively quite similar claim is true. The tweet also does generalize too broadly (as tweets will, tweeting being what it is, ugggh, tweeting….).

    There’s a significant semantic gap between lumping ones opponents into a single tweet when only the tiniest few of them have done what you are complaining of and doing the same thing to an ethnic group.*

    I have no idea who this Sommers person is, but the literal text of the first tweet in the OP could’ve been written by someone trying to police their own side, too. “Hey atheists, stop making recklessly false claims like that religion is a mental illness”, is something someone might write. It’s more valid to abbreviate this one than the Sommers one, I think, because that claim seems to me to be more widely made than this myth at hand that I had never heard before. So it’s dis-analogous from my position. But it seems to me that Ophelia’s position is that it is analogous, “that they all, generically, make the claim.”

    *But one final thing, when you actually carry out the substitution:

    Hey Jews, will you stop making recklessly false claims like/ “Women own only 1% of world’s property.”http://m.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2013/03/women-own-1-of-world-property-a-feminist-myth-that-wont-die/273840/ …

    Doesn’t really seem that bad to me. Yes, it’s overly general in the grand twitter fashion, which is sloppy.

  16. dmcclean says

    JoshL @16 is on to a good way to avoid the worst of the generalizing while keeping some of the brevity. Instead of saying “All X will you stop doing Y”, just going with “All X, please don’t do Y” is a little better because it carries less of an implication that many/most X have been doing Y in the first place.

    Following through, even better would be to just say “Please don’t do Y.”

  17. John Morales says

    dmcclean @18:

    *But one final thing, when you actually carry out the substitution:

    Hey Jews, will you stop making recklessly false claims like/ “Women own only 1% of world’s property.”http://m.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2013/03/women-own-1-of-world-property-a-feminist-myth-that-wont-die/273840/ …

    Doesn’t really seem that bad to me.

    Actually, when you actually carry out the substitution you get this:
    “Hey Jew advocates, will you stop making recklessly false claims like/ “Jews own only 1% of world’s property.” [URL]”

    I agree a better choice might have been made by Ophelia on the specific term to illustrate the type of claim being made.

    (as tweets will, tweeting being what it is, ugggh, tweeting….)

    Both parties were tweeting, you know. If it excuses one, it excuses the other.

  18. says

    sidestepping the fact that even though that argument may be a myth, may be false, and may even be “recklessly false”, it’s wrong quantitatively but a qualitatively quite similar claim is true. The tweet also does generalize too broadly (as tweets will, tweeting being what it is, ugggh, tweeting….).

    I don’t accept this. If you can’t communicate well in a medium, then don’t attempt to communicate in that medium (or accept that miscommunications are likely your fault). Especially when it has ill effects for other people.

    There’s a significant semantic gap between lumping ones opponents into a single tweet when only the tiniest few of them have done what you are complaining of and doing the same thing to an ethnic group.*

    See my post above. Try to understand it, because I’m not going to explain it.

    ‘Hey Jews, will you stop making recklessly false claims like/ “Women own only 1% of world’s property.”http://m.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2013/03/women-own-1-of-world-property-a-feminist-myth-that-wont-die/273840/ …’

    Imagine 1935: ‘Hey Zionists, will you stop making recklessly false claims like/ “In Germany, people with one Jewish grandparent are being denied citizenship rights.”‘

  19. Drolfe says

    OT, I guess, but SC that was a great re-read and reminder. Andrew Brown is in the comments back then justifying the piece as arguing against dictionary atheists. An lo these many years we still are, even though pretty much all of us have come to admit there is some kind of ‘atheist movement’ and there are communities of atheists.

  20. dmcclean says

    Good point John Morales @ 20, I missed that one. Doesn’t change much AFAICS, but that was a mistake. You would need to modify the 1% too, because that would actually be a 5-fold numerical over-representation, not an under-representation.

    Salty Current, I read and understood your post, I thought it was quite well written, on point, and accurate.

    Your analogy to the Nuremberg Laws is well chosen. The actual number was 3, right? And so it’s a numerical exaggeration of a terrible situation just like the one in the original tweet.

    I think the analogy to the Stedman/religion-is-a-mental-illness thing is also accurate, though. Because I think that if Sommers had credentials as a feminist (and I don’t know if she does or doesn’t, I have never heard of her), these exact same words could’ve meant something a lot closer to that or to “Hey guys, don’t do that” than to the Nuremberg example. Again there is a gap on the scale of how-widespread-is-this-claim/behavior-really, though.

    Even “Hey, (fellow) Zioinists, stop making the recklessly false claim that it’s 1 grandparent [instead of 3 because people are reading on 1935-snopes that it's false and not reading the rest of the article about how what the law is is still terrible]” eliding the bracketed part is also a reading of your analogy.

    This is the problem with vagueness. It is vague.

    As to knowing how to be heard in your chosen medium of communication, that cuts both ways. Where I agree with Thinking is that bringing up analogies to Jews, Judaism or anti-semitism tends to derail the internet pretty quickly, and there were a host of equally good or better analogies at hand.

    For example, both SC and John Morales, for example, amended the analogy to “Jew advocates” and “Zionists”, because those are better analogies for “feminists” than is “Jews”. But Ophelia wrote “Jews.” “Jews” would be analogous to “women”, but Sommers wrote “feminisits.” Thinking’s point that ethnicity is less mutable than ideas wouldn’t have applied to an analogy with Zionism.

  21. dmcclean says

    I wrote “for example” twice in one sentence. But you borked a blockquote in a paragraph lecturing about proper use of the internet, so let’s call it a wash. ;)

  22. says

    Because I think that if Sommers had credentials as a feminist (and I don’t know if she does or doesn’t, I have never heard of her),..

    She has credentials as an antifeminist. Her views are fundamentally sexist. This is an essential part of the context of Ophelia’s post. She’s not speaking to her comrades (…well, she is, but her comrades aren’t women – and men – working to challenge male supremacy but those fighting to uphold it.)

  23. dmcclean says

    That’s fine. Thanks for the contextual information. Generalizing your opposition is of course worse than generalizing your allies, both substantively/morally and tactically.

    As was the very first thing I said, Ophelia had a good point. I think she could’ve made it better, and I think that 8 and 9 were a disproportionate response to 7.

    Assuming that people are aware of context when you only obliquely reference it is also means of communicating that can lead to being misunderstood.

  24. says

    For example, both SC and John Morales, for example, amended the analogy to “Jew advocates” and “Zionists”, because those are better analogies for “feminists” than is “Jews”. But Ophelia wrote “Jews.” “Jews” would be analogous to “women”, but Sommers wrote “feminisits.” Thinking’s point that ethnicity is less mutable than ideas wouldn’t have applied to an analogy with Zionism.

    What’s threatening to the people who cling to the status quo is the challenge to the status quo. In this sense, it’s a distinction without a difference: anti-Semites will use “Jews”* and “Zionists” interchangeably, racists will use “blacks” and “black radicals,” antifeminists will use “women” and ” (radical) feminists,” religious apologists will use “atheists” and “New Atheists,” Islamophobes will use “Muslims” and “Islamists,” homophobes will use “gays” and “gay activists,” and so on.

    * substitute applicable slurs for these first terms in the case of many haters.

  25. dmcclean says

    It doesn’t make a difference, but you both noted it and felt it worth changing?

    It’s a distinction with a difference, it’s the difference that Thinking called out, and all that I’m saying is that Ophelia could’ve conceded that without losing anything.

    (Also when criticizing someone for overgeneralizing, all distinctions are differences, at the very least as a matter of tactics/pragmatics/making-oneseful-understood.)

  26. daniel rotter says

    Sommers could have made the same point in a different, more than-140-characters-allowed medium (newspaper op-ed, radio commentary, etc.) with “I wish some feminists would stop…”.

  27. says

    It doesn’t make a difference, but you both noted it and felt it worth changing?

    It’s a distinction with a difference, it’s the difference that Thinking called out, and all that I’m saying is that Ophelia could’ve conceded that without losing anything.

    I felt it worth changing because it’s a distinction without a difference. “Thinking” didn’t call anything out. It’s the difference between attempting to understand Ophelia’s shorthand, which could be understood by those of us familiar with the comments and their historical-sociological context – and joining the endless attempts to discredit or marginalize feminists/women. In a sense, that comment was a continuation of Hoff Sommers’ post, and it’s incredibly tiresome. Thinking, and you, could have made an effort to understand, but you didn’t (initially – your subsequent posts have been refreshing!).

    Part of practicing epistemic justice, in my view, is stopping to ask yourself before you post if you’re perpetuating the system. We’re not always successful at this, but we should try.

  28. dmcclean says

    I don’t see how you can defend the claim that Thinking didn’t call this out. 7 makes the point that there is this difference between ethnicity and ideas.

    I did understand. Whether Thinking did or didn’t I can’t say. I thought that on this one narrow point that Ophelia could stand to amend her remarks. I said as much, taking care to point out that I understood the broader sense in which Ophelia’s point was correct. I got lectured on not understanding social justice and on 20th century history for no apparent reason, perhaps because you concluded that I was with them just because I was only 99.7% with us.

    Shorthand is good and everyone should understand the context and think about what we mean when we use it, but it’s vague and bad and people should say what they mean when they use it? Part of practicing epistemic justice is recognizing whether we are engaging in tribalistic thinking, and whether we are criticizing someone for what we are saying we are criticizing them for, about making sure that we take pains not to do what we are criticizing others for doing. We’re not always successful at this either, but we should try.

  29. John Morales says

    dmcclean @30:

    and whether we are criticizing someone for what we are saying we are criticizing them for

    No need to be coy; in this case, bashing “feminists”, as Ophelia succinctly put it.

    The criticism’s basis is bleedingly obvious: when you plead for X to stop doing Y where X is some vague grouping rather than a specific person or group, you are implying that Y is a problem within X to a degree worth chiding.

    (Is this true, or is it a recklessly false claim?)

  30. dmcclean says

    I have no idea how to interpret 31. I have entirely lost track of which pronouns are referring to what, and what “the criticism”.

    I was saying that if person A criticizes B for lumping B’s opponents together, they shouldn’t jump to lump anyone who suggests that they could’ve done better in with all of A’s other opponents.

    It is true that the basis for Ophelia’s original criticism is bleedingly obvious, if that is what was meant by 31.

  31. says

    Oh goddamnit. I had to sign back in After this, I’m going to work/sleep.

    I don’t see how you can defend the claim that Thinking didn’t call this out. 7 makes the point that there is this difference between ethnicity and ideas.

    I agree that the Communism analogy was off. Also irrelevant.

    I thought that on this one narrow point that Ophelia could stand to amend her remarks. I said as much, taking care to point out that I understood the broader sense in which Ophelia’s point was correct. I got lectured on not understanding social justice and on 20th century history for no apparent reason, perhaps because you concluded that I was with them just because I was only 99.7% with us.

    Stop and try to approach this from Ophelia’s perspective, or mine. Do your concerns about “one narrow point” seem as significant, relative to the entire context? Does Thinking’s claim of analogical trivialization seem valid or worthwhile? I think you know they don’t/aren’t, but for some reason you seem to believe an intermediate, “objective” ethical and epistemic perspective can be found within a system of oppression.* It can’t.

    Shorthand is good and everyone should understand the context and think about what we mean when we use it, but it’s vague and bad and people should say what they mean when they use it?

    What?

    Part of practicing epistemic justice

    I don’t actually think you’re understanding epistemic justice. I’ll put on an Alice Miller cloak for a moment: Try acting as an advocate for oppressed people rather than as an apologist for oppressors. To be absolutely clear, being an advocate for oppressed people doesn’t mean suppressing or denying reality – that’s a lie repeated by the apologists of oppression.

    Try it.

    OK, good night.

    * It’s a system that encompasses and connects antisemitism and sexism/misogyny.

  32. John Morales says

    dmcclean @32,

    I was saying that if person A criticizes B for lumping B’s opponents together, they shouldn’t jump to lump anyone who suggests that they could’ve done better in with all of A’s other opponents.

    Because it would lay A open to tu quoque protestations?

    (You’re here saying that feminists are B’s opponents, no?)

  33. dmcclean says

    Stop and try to approach this from Ophelia’s perspective, or mine. Do your concerns about “one narrow point” seem as significant, relative to the entire context?

    No, they absolutely don’t seem significant! They never did! I never thought they were significant. I don’t know think they are. So I don’t understand why you would see criticism of the one narrow point as so significant. It wasn’t intended to be. I don’t understand why you wouldn’t just say “yup, she could’ve picked a better example” and move on.

    I apologize for not recognizing that the phrase epistemic justice it was a term of art. I was interpreting it compositionally. So you are quite correct that I didn’t understand it. It is late here as well so I will learn tomorrow. Change what I said to say “Part of how we should practice epistemology while ethically engaging in conversation…”

    Try acting as an advocate for oppressed people rather than as an apologist for oppressors.

    I am not acting as an apologist for anyone. Nothing I’ve said here has been in defense of Sommers. I’ve said several times that she was wrong. I’ve just re-read everything I’ve said, and I can’t see anything that is even open to misinterpretation as having been a defense of Sommers.

    Criticizing A for a possibly improvable choice of examples is not apology for B just because A was talking about B. Instead that criticism of A has nothing to do with B. Certainly it might often be observed alongside apology for A, because often criticism is motivated by disagreement, and someone who disagrees with A might agree with whomever A was disagreeing with, many people operate as if there are only two tribes and everyone must be in one or the other.

  34. dmcclean says

    I was saying that if person A criticizes B for lumping B’s opponents together, they shouldn’t jump to lump anyone who suggests that they could’ve done better in with all of A’s other opponents.

    Because it would lay A open to tu quoque protestations?

    (You’re here saying that feminists are B’s opponents, no?)

    I am saying that if SC criticizes Sommers for lumping Sommers’ opponents together (as SC and I both do), then SC shouldn’t jump to lump me in with all of SC’s other opponents.

    But the truth or falsity of this is independent of the instantiation of A and B. It is just as true when A is good and B is bad as it is when B is good and A is bad.

    Tu quoque is only fallacious when used to try to draw the conclusion that “tu” is wrong about the matter under dispute. SC was lumping me in with SC’s opponents. This is objectionable. If I tried to use that to claim that therefore SC is wrong about the underlying dispute, that would be a tu quoque. What I said is not.

  35. John Morales says

    dmcclean @36, nonsense.

    Tu quoque is always fallacious*, because it doesn’t exculpate its proponent; rather, it personally admits to whatever the malfeasance, actually confirming the accusation** one is supposedly contending by it.

    * Being a fallacy of irrelevance.

    ** Phrased as it may be in the passive and/or subjunctive mood.

  36. says

    I am not acting as an apologist for anyone. Nothing I’ve said here has been in defense of Sommers. I’ve said several times that she was wrong. I’ve just re-read everything I’ve said, and I can’t see anything that is even open to misinterpretation as having been a defense of Sommers.

    Begin again from the beginning. We live in a system of male supremacy, and you know that entails the marginalization and devaluation of the views of especially women who challenge the status quo. When you first read what plainly appeared to be an antifeminist post, your first obligation – within this system – was to investigate. You admittedly didn’t do that. And you don’t think this was a problem. Not only didn’t you do it, but you developed hypotheticals on the basis of your ignorance. You didn’t adopt the position of women/feminists who’ve been dealing with Hoff Sommers’ and similar oppressive nonsense for years. You offered a literal reading of Ophelia’s comments without trying to see the larger picture. You’ve continued to make this about the nonexistent analogy issue because that was the basis for your comments, but it’s stupid. The ethical epistemic obligation of everyone reading this is to adopt the point of view of women/feminists and evaluate the evidence.

    For the most part, I’ve been impressed with your comments. I hope you can step back and put them in perspective.

    …trying again to go to sleep…

  37. John Morales says

    [correction]

    Tu quoque is always fallacious*, because it doesn’t exculpate its proponent; rather, it personally admits to whatever the malfeasance, actually confirming the accusation** one is supposedly contending by it.

    Sorry. That was a stupid thing to put there.

  38. says

    Noteworthy to me was the infestation of MRAs Ophelia mentioned on Twitter. Not only the usual suspects but Elam and Esmay of AVfM wading in to defend Christina! Are they hoping to get a new blogger, or is she already inducted into the AVfM hall of infamy?

    As to the #NotAllFeminist argument, I think CHSommers is fine to say “feminists stop doing Y”, personally. It is inaccurate but given feminists *do* say “Men, stop doing X”, then rightly criticise men who wade in to correct the minor global inaccuracy and ignore the horrible thing being criticised. As an example I see sex workers and trans activists saying things like “feminists stop excluding trans women / sex workers”… To pick on the inaccurate language would be to ignore the much more important point and derail. The only problem is that she was criticising something that is both not that inaccurate (As A.Hermit helpfully pointed out from my link @4) and afaik not commonly pushed by feminists at all. How she got “reckless” from it I don’t know, infographics having dodgy data is endemic across all ideologies, hers included, but I fail to see the negative outcome from this one being believed. It might lead to a bloody matriarchal land grab?

  39. GregB says

    She didn’t say “all, generically, make the claim she cites”. Said that feminists should stop making claims *like* such and thus, giving it as an example.

    Which example, btw, is supported in the text of the article.

    No, you don’t get to spin or add things into “well, it’s true about developing countries”. That’s either stupid or dishonest or both.

    No, you don’t get to re-write the rules of rhetoric when people use words such as “like”, and pretend the are meant to say that all of the subject category uses that exact example each and every time. Nor, even, can you honestly claim that use of the word “feminist” in that context means all feminists, of all time, make such claims.

    Or rather I guess you *could*, but then unless you’d want to act like a rank hypocrite, you’d have to equally call out maybe half Benson’s own commetariat and fellow bloggers at least for using similar language. Which will NEVER happen.

    Sheesh and double sheesh and triple sheesh, and some wonder why they don’t take you people seriously…

  40. dmcclean says

    Tu quoque is always fallacious, that is true. What I said wasn’t a tu quoque for the reason I said.

    SC, my hypothetical that Sommers’ words could’ve been written with the opposite meaning wasn’t intended to exculpate or apologize for Sommers, as I attempted to make quite clear. Rather it was intended to illustrate that the flaw in Sommers’ comments wasn’t that Sommers’ generalized it was that the generalization was spectacularly wrong. As such whether it was true was irrelevant (generally a good property of a hypothetical); I didn’t research it precisely because I relied on my knowledge of Ophelia’s writing to very strongly suspect that Sommers’ was a bad actor and that researching her would be a pointless wade through the internet fever swamps. (Read carefully what I am saying it was irrelevant to; I am not saying it was irrelevant to the question of whether Sommers’ was wrong, I am saying it was relevant to the question of how bad such shorthand generalizations are in and of themselves.)

    Again, no idea why this became such an issue.

    You’ve continued to make this about the nonexistent analogy issue because that was the basis for your comments, but it’s stupid.

    I have? What exactly is the “this” that I’ve tried to make “about the nonexistent analogy issue that was the basis for [my] comments”? I’ve made defending myself about the basis for and wording of my comments, but that seems reasonable. I’ve tried several times to steer the thread back to my agreement with Ophelia and with you about the larger issue, but every time I have you’ve found another reason to make it about me again. You asked why I thought my criticism was so important, and I say again that I do not think that it is at all in any way.

  41. says

    dmcclean – Sorry. My comments from later last night were brought to you by Grays Peak. I apologize for the hostility and for the effort you had to make to try to find sense in them.

    ***

    As to the #NotAllFeminist argument, I think CHSommers is fine to say “feminists stop doing Y”, personally. It is inaccurate but given feminists *do* say “Men, stop doing X”, then rightly criticise men who wade in to correct the minor global inaccuracy and ignore the horrible thing being criticised. As an example I see sex workers and trans activists saying things like “feminists stop excluding trans women / sex workers”… To pick on the inaccurate language would be to ignore the much more important point and derail. The only problem is that she was criticising something that is both not that inaccurate (As A.Hermit helpfully pointed out from my link @4) and afaik not commonly pushed by feminists at all.

    I still don’t agree with this. I don’t think feminists should do that. I don’t think sex workers or trans activists should do it, either. I don’t think anyone should do it. If I’ve done it in the past, I shouldn’t have, but it’s probably been rare because I think people should be more careful with language. If you’re criticizing a person or group for a claim or an action and asking that they stop doing it, you should specify who and what you’re talking about.*

    It’s a general problem, but what Sommers is doing is especially bad. She’s intentionally generalizing for the purpose of discrediting and marginalizing feminists and the cause of fighting women’s oppression. It’s a rhetorical ploy that’s long characterized antifeminism, and has led to endless and exhausting efforts to get antifeminists to provide specific examples and to show that they’re representative. It’s similar to what Andrew Brown was doing to (gnu) atheists in the article I mentioned above. It’s wrong as a general principle, but it’s particularly egregious when used to discredit people who are already oppressed and who are fighting oppression. I have more tolerance for generalizations that “punch up” (as in some of your examples above), but very little for those that punch down.

    * Come to think of it, I was involved in an argument at Pharyngula a while back about a similar point. Melissa McEwan had posted, I think in response to a request from PZ, a list of ways he and other male bloggers could be better allies to women/feminists, and some of the items were things he’d long been doing. I didn’t like that the list implied otherwise (or that it didn’t appear that she had looked to see what he actually was doing), so I found it annoying, and said so.

  42. says

    Twitter isn’t a good forum for nuance and caveats. She cited the groups making the claim she was refuting in the link the tweet pointed to. Have you never over-generalized in a tweet?

  43. says

    Oh, I’m sure I have, but as a matter of fact I do try to avoid generalizing about large or complicated subjects on Twitter because it seems so blindingly obvious to me that Twitter is the wrong medium for that. It’s just as you say – “Twitter isn’t a good forum for nuance and caveats” – so it’s not a good place to discuss large complex subjects. So I don’t do it there.

  44. says

    And I think it’s quite fatuous for Sommers – a philosopher, after all – to use Twitter to issue dopy sound bites the way she does. Dopy sound bites are just that.

  45. says

    So I took a look at the article by Philip Cohen that Hoff Sommers was calling attention to. You might have noticed from the link that it’s from March of 2013. I have no idea why she decided to dredge up this piece from almost a year and a half ago to take a jab at feminists, but her motives don’t appear to be scientifically pure. Nor do I understand what would be “reckless” about this particular claim.

    I have no problem with Cohen’s debunking the claim, but he doesn’t make the case for the article’s title and suggestion that it’s a feminist myth. In fact, “feminist NGOs” are one among many of the groups he says have repeated the claim:

    It has been used by legislators in South Africa, international universities, feminist NGOs, journalists, humanitarians, activists, sociologists, economists—and, amazingly, UN organizations such as UNIFEM and UNDP, speaking today in the present tense.

    Again, debunking false and repeated claims is well and good. If we cite statistics, we should make sure they’re based in solid and recent evidence. But there are several points that can be made here. Discussing wealth disparities is extremely important. There’s increasing attention to income inequality, but many people don’t realize that income (inequality) and wealth (inequality) are not the same thing. The wealth gap is enormous, and many lower-income households have negative wealth: they’re in debt. As with income disparities, there are large wealth disparities along the lines of race and sex. These are easier to determine in the case of race, but measuring sex disparities is more complicated. Cohen, oddly, doesn’t attempt to ascertain and provide the current best estimate. He suggests:

    These things are hard to measure, hard to know, and hard to explain. Setting aside the problem that the data didn’t (and still don’t, completely) exist to fill in the numbers in this famous sequence of facts—the first and perhaps greatest problem is that we can’t easily define the concepts, which is part of the feminist problem.

    I’m not sure what he’s talking about here. We have operative definitions of wealth that are used in various contexts. “Defining the concepts” is not the issue, much less a “feminist problem.” Cohen is a sociologist who works on inequality, and I have to assume his motives were good. But his article is somewhat irresponsible in that it invites readings like Hoff Sommers’, especially the last sentences:

    There is a great, much longer story here, that I hope I have forestalled investigating by getting this much off my chest. It has to do with access to information; and deference to, and cynicism about, statistical authorities—in the context of statistical and demographic (sorry to say) illiteracy; the relationship between feminism and science; and even the role of Twitter in social movements. [my emphasis]

    This leaves the impression for people motivated by hostility to feminism that feminists are particularly prone to distorting science to advance their agenda, when this is really just another example of an old, exaggerated, or questionable statistic that’s been thrown around by various people who haven’t bothered to confirm its validity. That is a (larger) issue, and this could serve as a case study to encourage people to ask for and to provide primary sources to substantiate statistical claims.

  46. noxiousnan says

    GregB @42

    “…and some wonder why they don’t take you people seriously…”

    Who are the people wondering why “you people” are not taken seriously and who are the people not taking “you people” seriously, and finally, who are “you people?” Ophelia alone? All of FTb? Feminists?

    Can you demonstrate why Ophelia and any other “you people” should care at not being taken seriously by this unknown some?

    You made a solid point in your first sentence (albeit a point already made before you by some I’d suspect you might consider “you people”). But in your frustration you revealed your bias, and now I’m finding it very difficult to take you seriously.

  47. dmcclean says

    Thanks SC. I said some impolite things too, sorry.
    It’s quite difficult not to become defensive sometimes.

    Good analysis of the Cohen article.

  48. GregB says

    @49 Doesn’t seem all that hard to me. “You people” would be any and all present who engage in the
    shenanigans (or worse) depicted.

    And if you think objecting to a throwaway line lets you ignore the obvious point (didn’t know someone else had made it–good to hear if true) then that doesn’t really say much for your own reasoning, does it?

    It is very, very hard to think that an experienced wordsmith would not understand employing “like” in that
    instance does not mean “every X always says Y”. An experienced reader (and one not under some shadow of delusion) certainly knows this. So what are we left to conclude? I am sure “you” can figure it out…

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