Originally a comment by Maureen on Let’s sit down and discuss that proposition itself.
Richard Dawkins claims to be struggling against the forces of darkness – however defined – in order to have a logical and rational discussion on sensitive subjects. In order to do that, though, you would need facts. I don’t see that he even mentions facts, let alone informed opinion, let alone research.
No-one, not even intellectual super-stars, can be expected to conduct such a discussion as a pure intellectual exercise, nor would a wise man choose Twitter as the forum. How do you have a dialogue when you don’t know to whom you are talking or what knowledge or preconceptions they bring to the imaginary table?
Curiously enough, I have been having logical and rational discussions – some intense, some more relaxed – for a good fifty years on all these “sensitive” subjects but every last one of them informed by knowledge and experience, developing knowledge and experience not 140 characters plucked out of thin air. One is tempted to ask, “Richard Dawkins, where have you been all these decades?”
To take just one example, Dawkins takes it as read (and Brave Sir Brendan in the Telegraph rushes to his aid) that, of course, a rape by a stranger who threatens with a weapon just must be worse than a rape by someone you know. Of course it must be because neither of them sees a person there – just a hole being penetrated with a degree of force. Hooray for fact-free logic!
Except that it’s not getting us very far, is it? Maybe it’s not getting us anywhere because neither of those men can see the woman, perhaps with small children, trapped in an increasingly abusive relationship without a means of escape. Nor do they see the person totally betrayed by someone they’ve grown up with, the family friend who’s always been around who suddenly turns and rapes them. Because we are not talking holes, gentlemen, we are talking people and your first step towards a rational discussion would be to acknowledge their experience, draw on their understanding. Not something you can do on a whiteboard or a computer but a necessary first step.
Do you all remember Sandra Fluke the first time we saw her, fighting to give evidence to a Congressional Committee? Then berated by all and sundry for the dastardly crime of understanding the human reproductive system rather better than Rush Limbaugh? Or the woman member of of a state legislature, thrown out of the chamber for using the word vagina when the subject under discussion was – wait for it! – compulsory intra-vaginal ultrasounds. And all the many hearings down the years where we have laughed at one row of elderly men earnestly taking evidence from a matching row of elderly men? Or watched them take evidence from celibate clerics but refuse to hear from women, even women specialists in the subject? And no matter that in all the cases I list the health and well-being of women were at stake.
We are not irrational because we are feminists or because we are women. Feminism is full of seriously brain-stretching rationality. Nor do we need to start such discussions – on bodily autonomy, on birth control, on sexual identity, whatever – from scratch. They have been going for two, three hundred years. They have involved both men and women and the literature is vast. The handful of texts I own would take even an Oxford professor a week to read. And I have read several times that amount but remain an amateur.
So the question is not will we stop reacting to wild and ill-informed Tweets which serve only to inflame. The question is, rather, will you come down off your kyriarchal pedestal and join as an equal in the logical, rational and fact-based discussions which have been going on since before you were born?