Friday, August 14, 2009

Contemporary Feminism

This lecture by Christina Hoff Sommers ("What's Wrong and What's Right With Contemporary Feminism?") is worth a read, even if you find some of her points objectionable.

I don't agree with everything that Sommers says, but at least one of her criticisms seems spot-on: contemporary feminism has become largely resistant to counterfactual evidence.

It's not wrong for contemporary feminist to suggest that "modern sexism" is more about disavowing present-day examples of gender discrimination than overtly dehumanizing women, but this conception of sexism has, I think, contributed to a culture of ideological rigidity among feminist writers and advocacy groups.

Those who seek to question the scope of female victimization -- or offer a more gender-balanced assessment -- are often met with harsh and unwarranted criticism from women's organizations. Similarly, those who seek to examine the biology of gender tend to come up against feminist thinkers leveling ad hominem assaults, rather than intellectually engaging with the facts.

To me, this is a big problem.

Sommers puts it best:

One reason that feminist scholarship contains hard-to-kill falsehoods is that reasonable, evidence-backed criticism is regarded as a personal attack.

Many women's advocacy groups continue to disseminate statistics that are either highly questionable, extremely outdated, or blatantly false. These "facts" find their way into our public discourse and inform our policy decisions. There needs to be a way to critique these statistics, without the presumption of bad faith.

Combating violence and discrimination against women remains a pressing social priority, but I think it's important to acknowledge progress when progress occurs, and to know the scope of the problem so that we can accurately formulate policy solutions.

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