“We are all feminists now”?

According to Steven Pinker, at least. I guess he’s never looked at Reddit or YouTube or any online community that fails to expunge the riff-raff, where feminism is equated with cancer. Kate Manne really dismantles his claims and his oblivious arrogance here. He has some weird ideas about rape.

Pinker is also getting chewed out for his contribution to Epstein’s defense.

In other disturbing news, Harvard faculty kept right on meeting with Epstein after his 2008 conviction for raping children. Not only did Acosta give him a generous outcome, the faculty at our most prestigious university continued to treat him as a generous patron.


  1. Bruce says

    Manne is right to call out Pinker. In the first quote from him, he claims seeing the UCSB murders as part of a certain pattern is “statistically obtuse.” The first thing an undergrad should know about statistics is that statistics don’t overrule specifics. There is solid specific evidence in the UCSB case that lets it be categorized in various ways. It is not a statistical deduction.
    The key to science is that reality overrules hypotheses. Because this specific case is in the data set of reality, one can’t use statistics to ignore it. In human events, every case has unique aspects, and can’t fit perfectly into generalizations. But that’s not an excuse to run and hide from generalizing some evidence-based patterns. Putting one case into a category is a judgment call, just like every generalization he uses in his books.

  2. says

    The idea that the UCSB murders are part of a pattern of hatred against women is statistically obtuse

    The argument appears to be that if something is statistically rare, it can’t be part of a pattern of behavior. That’s so outrageously idiotic, I must generously assume that he hit his head immediately before writing it.

  3. vucodlak says

    Good god, Pinker is a smug, smarmy, self-satisfied sack of pompous crap. First off, that he would cite anyone who works for National Review as a credible source is cause enough to consider his writing suspect, to say the least. Second, this bit:

    the theory that rape has nothing to do with sex may be more plausible to a gender to whom a desire for impersonal sex with an unwilling stranger is too bizarre to contemplate

    …is both disgusting and revealing. Every man fantasizes about rape is what he’s saying, after which he goes on to dismiss the idea that rape survivors and counselors might understand the subject better than he does.

    It’s no wonder he contributed to Epstein’s defense- he’s not that far off, ideologically. He, too, comes off as a “kibitzer and a dilettante” on the topic of violence against women. He lacks a deeper understanding of both the specific subculture of misogyny that lead to the Isla Vista murders and of violence against women in general. He dismisses those who’ve actually experienced that culture of violence against women in favor of statistics that are rendered inaccurate precisely because people like Pinker dismiss so much that women have to say on the subject.

    It’s easy to claim that the world is objectively better in all ways when you’re willing to ignore and excuse all the ways in which it still sucks. I didn’t think my opinion of Pinker could get much lower, but he still manages to surprise me on occasion.

  4. says

    It is not the case that rape centers “unanimously insist” that rape is about power not sex. For instance, as far as I know, RAINN does not ever say such a thing. Many feminists including myself are critical of the saying “rape is about power, not sex”. And while rape is not entirely about power, neither is it correct to say it’s all about lust. Really the whole thing ought to be unpacked further, but the quotes from Pinker and MacDonald are more interested in a “gotcha” than actually trying to understand anything.

  5. says

    the theory that rape has nothing to do with sex may be more plausible to a gender to whom a desire for impersonal sex with an unwilling stranger is too bizarre to contemplate

    Besides being based on gross gender stereotypes, this is also an inaccurate narrative of where the idea comes from. The idea that rape is about power rather than sex comes from the 70s, and predates the establishment of sexual consent theory. At the time (and presently still) it was common to excuse rape by saying the men were just so lustful they couldn’t help themselves. The saying wasn’t about disbelieving that men could be lustful, it was about observing the clear difference between rape and lust, and trying to identify what that difference was. Nowadays we would say the difference is consent, not power. Nobody is trying to say that people can’t be lustful–except I guess Pinker is trying to say women can’t be lustful for some reason?

  6. drew says

    Pinker isn’t just some guy who said offensive things. He’s a psycholinguist. Not only is he a public speaker and author, he specializes in studying how words affect people.

  7. Ridana says

    I guess there’s just something in the way he writes and his choice of words that set me off even more than what he seems to be trying to say.

    Though feminist agitation deserves credit for the measures that led to American rape decline [which may not even be true – yesterday I brushed that aside assuming it might be part of the overall decline in violent crime in the last 25 years or so],” he allows, “feminists having muscled their way into power and rebalanced the instruments of government to serve their interest…

    “muscled their way into” implies forcing their way into a place they don’t rightfully belong. In all those fantasy tales of the ousted Prince fighting to reclaim his rightful throne (a narrative Americans eat up with a spoon, to my bafflement), he would never be described as “muscling his way into power to serve his interests,” even though that’s exactly what he’s literally doing.
    There’s also the implication that stopping rape only serves women’s interests. He might well believe that, but it’s not a particularly good look.

    the victories came quickly, did not require boycotts or martyrs, and [the activists] did not face dogs or angry mobs.

    Is he 20 or something? Can’t pick up a history book to fill in what he wasn’t around for?
    Moreover, that sparked a memory of Francine Gottfried who in 1968 required a police escort to walk to the subway to get to work through a mob of over 5000 men catcalling, whistling, and jeering, all because she had a nice figure in a sweater. Maybe they weren’t overtly “angry” but she sure was facing a mob of dogs. It’s all part of the same spectrum of aggression.

  8. Ridana says

    8) @ drew:
    Well, that explains why his choice of words gets under my skin so much. Is that the desired effect??

  9. coyote says

    7) @WMDKitty — Survivor

    With all due respect, I understand why that would seem relevant to bring up in order to establish your credibility, but it sounds like you’re assuming what is or isn’t in Siggy’s own background, as well, and that’s not really fair.

  10. says

    @coyote — well, Siggy’s background is irrelevant, they’re making baseless claims about something I’ve experienced multiple times over. Rape is 100% a tool of power over the victim.

  11. unclefrogy says

    The key to science is that reality overrules hypotheses.

    that is a true statement and is amazing it has to be said at all but clearly not everyone understands it and it is an entirely foreign idea.
    why is it that this guy is considered (along with some others) to be a smart guy and important enough that he should be listened to?

    uncle frogy

  12. says

    If you want to say that your experience with rape was 100% about power, I’m not disagreeing with that. But you seem to be making a broader generalization based on your experiences. I want people to understand that there are multiple narratives of rape, because otherwise victims look at the cultural narratives and think to themselves, “What I experienced couldn’t have been rape. It was my own fault.” I don’t want victims to blame themselves that way. I want people to understand that even if it didn’t appear to be 100% about power, it still could have been rape.

  13. lotharloo says

    Pinker is such a scumbag. And a fucking liar. I don’t believe that he didn’t know his note appeared in defense of Eppstein and I don’t believe that he disliked Eppstein either. His letter does not mention anything beyond “Eppstein interrupted me a few times in discussions and changed the topic.”

    His defense is only good for unthinking fan boys like Jerry “bans people for disagreement” Coyne.

  14. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    our most prestigious university continued to treat him as a generous patron.

    looks like they consider money on its own merit and not the provider of the money. All they seem to care about is the cash, regardless of the “person” providing it.
    Never ask how the person got the money their giving, nor what they do with it on their own. The fact that Epstein was exploiting children as party toys sexually, was completely irrelevant to the decision to accept his contributions.
    It is what they will agree to do because of the money that smirches their character even worse. Give us enough cash and we’ll accept your brat as a student regardless of their academic value [wink] [wink].

  15. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    I am curious how anyone could conclude that invading another person’s body without their explicit consent could be about anything but asserting your power over them.
    It is the ultimate dismissal of their autonomy and rights. It is an attempt to dehumanize the victim. At the very least, you are asserting that the victim consent doesn’t matter. To paraphrase Granny Weatherwax, “People as things, that’s how it starts.”

  16. Allison says

    slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) @16:

    looks like they [Harvard U] consider money on its own merit and not the provider of the money. All they seem to care about is the cash, regardless of the “person” providing it.

    It’s also about privilege. Mr. Epstein is a member of the Privileged Class (and still is), even if he might not have been born to it, and his victims, being female, underage, and not from prominent families, are not. Universities have traditionally been about and for the privileged, especially Harvard — its whole reason for existence is Privilege (learning definitely takes second place.)

    So who did you think they would side with?

    And if they do disassociate themselves from Mr. Epstein, it’s only because they’re afraid that his (temporarily?) bad reputation might rub off on them and thus — impact their Privilege.

  17. imback says

    #16 @slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)),

    I totally agree with you.

    Harvard has explicitly stated they consider money an entity devoid from context:

    Conceiving of the endowment not as an economic resource, but as a tool to inject the University into the political process or as a lever to exert economic pressure for social purposes, can entail serious risks to the independence of the academic enterprise. The endowment is a resource, not an instrument to impel social or political change.

    They consider their money totally divorced from its source, as if money is so pure a construct it cannot carry any odor or taint. It makes you wonder what else they’ve profited from. Their amoral attitude makes Harvard even more besmirched.

  18. says

    @a_ray_in_dilbert_space #17,
    If you’re curious, check out my link in #4, and read the comments as well. I get that this may be a new viewpoint to you, but it’s not a new viewpoint in general.

  19. Jane Saz says

    Rape is sex if it is defined by the rapist.
    Defined by the person being raped it is compliance, or assault, or survival, or maybe even a transaction, or many other things.
    Sex it ain’t. From a feminist perspective sex requires the consent of both parties. Yes, this is radical.

  20. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Jane Saz @21
    We’ve had that discussion in the past. What came out of it was Crystal Clear Consent. For some reason, that seems to bother misogynist/PUA/rapists and rape apologists. Doesn’t bother me at all.

  21. peria says

    @WMDKitty I’ve been raped and it was 100% about a desire to have sex with me. I know because he tried to get consent and only turned to force when I wouldn’t give it to him.

    But some rapists probably have different reasons. At least, interviews with convicted rapists have found at least three or four different reasons are commonly given.

  22. says

    @peria — I’m sorry that happened. But you’re wrong as your rapist was, in fact, exerting POWER AND CONTROL over you. It’s ALWAYS about POWER for rapists, if they truly wanted sex, they’d find willing partners.