Gender Workshop: How to think like you’re not

Redundant posts are redundant

Except when they aren’t.

Here your gender-workshop-taskmistress Crip Dyke encourages you to revisit the douchegabbery of the Minnesota Child Protection League. PZ did an excellent job of illuminating just that in “Two steps forward, one step back” in December of last year, and the discussion on that thread when it was current included a great many useful comments.

I want, however, not to merely rehash criticisms of MCPL (criticisms well-deserved and well-made the first time around) but to use that example to talk a bit about what “centering” and “marginalized” really mean. In the post on the need for transfeminist critiques of other feminisms, I focussed on Katha Pollit and identified places where, quite frankly, I think she employed some bad thinking to construct some bad feminism. I suggested that marginalization had something to do with this bad thinking on Pollit’s part. Here you can learn more about exactly what marginalization has to do with it …and the extent of my criticism of Pollit, rather than merely Pollit’s column.

I didn’t pick Pollit because her work is low hanging fruit. She has written excellently on many topics. She clearly has the writing chops to be clear about the distinctions between political theorizing and political rhetoric. Yet the only reasonable inference is that she was, in fact, talking about rhetoric when she was using the phrase “political analysis”. She also has the analytical skills to make the distinction between gendered terms like the French pronouns ils and elles, and gender neutral words like people. Yet here, too, she fell down.

So what is the problem with this Katha Pollit person anyway? The problem is the same as one in our community: the inability to think like you’re not.  [Read more…]

Why is Jerry Coyne blocking scientific discussion?

This is a guest blog by Ben Allen of the Plektix blog. I don’t agree entirely with it; Jerry Coyne has the right to police his blog in any way he chooses, and I also don’t find Nowak’s critique of inclusive fitness theory at all convincing — so I’m actually more on Coyne’s side on this issue! But Ben works with Nowak, has some expertise on this subject, and was not allowed to express himself on Coyne’s blog, so I offered him an opportunity to say his piece here.

Posting it here is not an endorsement of Ben’s position, but he has reasonable arguments that I’m willing to give an airing.

PZ Myers

I imagine most readers of this blog are familiar with Jerry Coyne.  If not, he’s a prominent biologist and atheist who maintains the blog Why Evolution is True.   And apparently, he has taken to blocking commenters who disagree with him, even over substantive scientific issues. 

First, some background: A conflict has been brewing over how to model the evolution of social behavior.  At issue is a method called inclusive fitness theory, which emphasizes the role of genetic relatedness between interacting organisms.  In 2011, Martin Nowak, Corina Tarnita, and EO Wilson (hereafter, NTW) published an article arguing that inclusive fitness is a mathematically limited method, and that the role of relatedness has been overemphasized in the evolution of worker castes in social insects. 

NTW’s article generated a strong response—most famously, a letter signed by 137 prominent researchers (also some talking bears).  I happen to agree with Nowak, and have collaborated with him and Wilson on follow-up work.  However, intelligent people can disagree on this issue, and I trust that science will sort it out.

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Another reason Iceland is awesome

breast

It’s full of fierce independent women. Adda Þóreyjardóttir Smáradóttir (also, full of great names) demonstrated for equality by posting a picture of herself bare-breasted on twitter — if men can do it, women ought to have that privilege, too — and as you might expect, immediately got a rash of misogynistic comments. So what did other Icelandic women do? They posted pictures of their breasts in solidarity.

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Gender Workshop: Lecturing at Others Edition

For your perusal, a new Gender Workshop post by Crip Dyke. Herein we discuss how feminists, in particular Katha Pollit, can fail to recognize feminism when it comes in the form of transfeminism. The readers themselves will have to judge the applicability of the title. For more active exercises in the workshop series, this here is a link back.

CaitieCat, a regular commenter here, recently brought to my attention this article, which discusses trans* persons’ reproductive rights in the context of feminist reproductive rights activism.

Along the way, it mentions a recent Katha Pollit piece in the Nation. Together, these pieces have created a good opportunity to explore transfeminism’s role in current feminisms.

Transfeminism, as I have defined it in my teaching, is the integration of feminism into trans* advocacy simultaneously and in coordination with the integration of trans* advocacy into feminism. It is of necessity something that is often labeled “intersectional feminism” (though we’ll critique that in another post). Here I won’t go much further into what transfeminism is. Rather, we’ll take a look at how current feminism demonstrates the need for a strong transfeminist response. [Read more…]

So that’s why I avoid mirrors

I’m going to be speaking in Köln, Germany on the 22nd of May, at the International Atheist conference. They just posted some videos from previous events — I was last there in 2012. I listened to the first bit of this talk (really, I can’t bear to watch videos of myself) just to remind myself of what I talked about then, and to make sure my planned talk doesn’t overlap (it doesn’t). But I did learn something important from my brief glimpse.

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