Apparently the anti-feminist crowd have only just discovered Leonard Shlain’s ridiculous book The Alphabet Versus the Goddess. That’s odd because it was published in 1998; I remember finding it in a bookstore and skimming through it and laughing a disdainful laugh. That was before I had a blog to do my laughing on!
Shlain frames the premise:
Of all the sacred cows allowed to roam unimpeded in our culture, few are as revered as literacy. Its benefits have been so incontestable that in the five millennia since the advent of the written word numerous poets and writers have extolled its virtues. Few paused to consider its costs. . . . One pernicious effect of literacy has gone largely unnoticed: writing subliminally fosters a patriarchal outlook. Writing of any kind, but especially its alphabetic form, diminishes feminine values and with them, women’s power in the culture.
He defines the feminine outlook as a “holistic, simultaneous, synthetic, and concrete view of the world” and the masculine as a “linear, sequential, reductionist” one characterized by abstract thinking, while recognizing — as Susan Sontag did decades earlier in condemning our culture’s artificial polarities— that “every individual is generously endowed with all the features of both.”
Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh fuck off. It’s just the same old shit, you jackass, dressed up as nicer and more spirachool. There is no “feminine outlook” and that “holistic, simultaneous, synthetic” crap is just another way of saying too stupid to think clearly.
They coexist as two closely overlapping bell-shaped curves with no feature superior to its reciprocal. These complementary methods of comprehending reality resemble the ancient Taoist circle symbol of integration and symmetry in which the tension between the energy of the feminine yin and the masculine yang is exactly balanced. One side without the other is incomplete; together, they form a unified whole that is stronger than either half. First writing, and then the alphabet, upset this balance. Affected cultures, especially in the West, acquired a strong yang thrust.
You know who else talks like that? The Vatican.
What is especially interesting is that Shlain was writing in 1998, when the internet as we know it — a medium that lends text and image seemingly equal gravitas — was in its infant stage. The golden age of web video was nearly a decade away, as was the invention of the smartphone camera and its constant connection to the web. Could it be that the world wide web, especially the image-heavy ecosystem of social sharing, would emerge as an equalizer of gender dynamics?