Saturday, February 26, 2005

Skewering Academic Feminists

Harvard professor Harvey Mansfield has written an eloquent indictment of contemporary feminism, especially as it is encountered at the university, and particularly as it has been manifest in the events surrounding the Larry Summers faux pas. We offer you a few excerpts with hopes that you will want to read the whole essay:

Summers has supporters, and not all the faculty joined in the game of making him look sick. But the supporters, like Summers himself, were on the defensive, making concessions, and the critics were not. The critics consist of feminist women and their male consorts on the left. But since the left these days looks opportunistically for any promising cause, it is the feminists who are the core opposed to Summers. Together the feminists and the left make up perhaps half the faculty [at Harvard], the other half being moderate liberals who are afraid of the feminists rather than with them.

His accusers were relentless and, as always with feminists, humorless. They complained of being humiliated, but they took no care not to humiliate a proud man. They complained...of being intimidated, but they were doing their best to intimidate Summers - and they succeeded.

Summers lives by straightforward argument. He doesn't care whether he convinces you or you convince him. He isn't looking for victory in argument. But his forceful intelligence often produces it, in the view of those with whom he reasons. Sometimes the professors he speaks with come out feeling that they are victims of "bullying," as one of his feminist critics stated. As if to reason were to bully.

But feminists....insist on a welcoming atmosphere of encouragement to themselves and to their plans. If they do not get it, they will with a straight face accuse you of intimidating them even as they are intimidating you.

It takes one's breath away to watch feminist women at work. At the same time that they denounce traditional stereotypes they conform to them. If at the back of your sexist mind you think that women are emotional, you listen agape as professor Nancy Hopkins of MIT comes out with the threat that she will be sick if she has to hear too much of what she doesn't agree with. If you think women are suggestible, you hear it said that the mere suggestion of an innate inequality in women will keep them from stirring themselves to excel. While denouncing the feminine mystique, feminists behave as if they were devoted to it. They are women who assert their independence but still depend on men to keep women secure and comfortable while admiring their independence. Even in the gender-neutral society, men are expected by feminists to open doors for women. If men do not, they are intimidating women.

Feminists do not like to argue, and they consider you a case if you do not immediately agree with them. "Raising consciousness" is their way of getting you to fall in with their plans, and "tsk, tsk" is the only signal you should need and will get. Anyone who requires evidence and argument is already an enemy because he is considering a possibility hurtful to women.

Mansfield's pellucid analysis of university feminism will resonate with many academics all across the land, we're sure.

Peter Schramm at No Left Turns, who tipped us to this essay, adds this interesting anecdote:

A colleague, a reasonable and quiet gentleman, and I recently met with another professor on a curriculum issue. We engaged in perfectly balanced and quiet conversation for about an hour. Our interlocutor then made clear that the next time we make our case to anyone else (or a committee on campus) we should be less "bullying," less "intimidating." After we left the meeting my colleague and I spent a half an hour trying to figure out what she could have meant since we were certain we did not bully. We concluded that to give reasons for something was to bully, according to our interlocutor. It was a bit of a revelation, I'll admit. But it was true. Mansfield clarifies this problem, and it is a much larger problem than feminists running amok, or mere political correctness, and I thank him for it.

I might add that I have from time to time had students (in each instance they were female)comment that they felt somewhat intimidated by my insistence that they defend claims that they make in class or views that they hold. It always astonishes me that students in a philosophy class would assume that they should be able to say whatever strikes their fancy without being challenged to defend it and that if they are challenged, no matter how gently and politely, they should think this to be somehow intimidating and out of place.

It is not the tone or the demeanor that puts them off, mind you. It is the insistence that they be able to state the reasons behind their opinions, the premises supporting their conclusions, that makes them uncomfortable. In their view, all opinions should be respected and accepted, and to question their claims is to make them feel almost like they have been personally assaulted. It would be amusing were it not so sad.

A Caution and a Hope

Do you have children who will be selecting a college in a year or two? If so, Viewpoint recommends the following two reading assignments. The first is the new novel by Tom Wolfe titled I Am Charlotte Simmons. Wolfe's writing is always superb, and in this novel he is at his best, but that's not why the college parent-to-be should spend time with this particular story. It should be read because it details exactly what our precious sons or daughters are in for after waving goodbye on that first day when they're all moved into their new residence. I Am Charlotte Simmons may only be a novel, but it's not exactly fiction. It will send chills up the spine and knots into the stomach of any parent of a prospective college student.

The second reading is this essay in The American Enterprise written by Naomi Riley and titled God in the Quad. Riley offers hope for those parents who would prefer not to shell out twenty five to thirty grand a year to have their child exposed to the sorts of influences Wolfe describes. For many Americans, secular schools, no matter how highly rated, cannot be considered a viable option for their children, not if they care more for their hearts and minds than they do for the name of the school on their child's diploma.

Taken together the two works issue a caution and a hope. Wolfe lays bare the utter decadence that has befallen so many secular universities and how young people get ground up in them. Riley assures us that there is another, better, option for our children at the more than 700 religious colleges in North America.

Read them both if you can, but read Riley's essay regardless.

Canadian Veto

Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin said yesterday that if there are missiles aimed at the United States flying over Canadian airspace the United States must get permission from Canada before it attempts to intercept them.

This is not a serious man. If he honestly thinks that the United States will waste precious seconds trying to track down Prime Minister Martin while he dines at some fashionable restaurant or is indisposed in the men's room for several minutes while missiles are bearing down on American cities, then he's got some loose wiring somewhere.

It may make the Canadians feel all full of themselves to strut around saying that the Americans have to ask their permission in order to save American lives, but if that awful day ever comes no president is going to wait around until he receives, or is refused, permission from the Canadian Prime Minister to shoot down those missiles. If this reality offends Canadian pride, they'll just have to live with it.

The whole idea of insisting that permission be sought in the midst of some future crisis is silly anyway. Either permission would be granted or it would not. If there is any chance that the Canadians would refuse us permission to intercept an attack upon our territory, then not only should we regard them as a threat to our national security and treat them accordingly, but any refusal should, and would, be ignored.

If, on the other hand, the Canadians assure us that they would certainly grant permission, then why wait until the missiles are in the air to do it? Why not just agree with Washington now on the criteria for interception, etc. and be done with it?

By stating that permission must be obtained before the U.S. can save its nation and its people, Prime Minister Martin looks like either a fool or a grandstander. Maybe he's both.