Author: Claire Lehmann

A Platform for Free Thought

At Quillette we respect ideas. Even dangerous ones. Our writers are a collection of individuals from across the political spectrum, with different life stories and backgrounds. We aim to bring our expertise together into one platform – to create an organic group committed to free thought. How to Submit We aim to provide a platform for original thought and quality cultural criticism. We will feature writing from non-journalists including scientists and artists, and will strive to give writers freedom to take risks and express controversial ideas. But we can’t do it alone, we need you, the reader, to join us. At Quillette, we believe this is achieved through story. If you have a story to tell, that is original and exciting, please send it through to claire@ec2-54-165-31-57.compute-1.amazonaws.com, or use the below contact form, and it will be considered for publication. It may be a personal narrative, a scientific hypothesis, an opinion piece, or investigative journalism. The best pieces will be chosen and featured on Quillette on a weekly basis. – Claire Lehmann, Editor in Chief     …

Feminism must be Reclaimed from Radicals

Few serious thinkers will argue that the women’s movement is no longer necessary. Few would argue that the movement does not have a noble history. Liberal feminists however, need to reclaim it. Although feminism has a noble history, it was hijacked in the 1970s, with motley crews such as the New York Radical Women and the Redstockings stealing the show. After that, “radical” feminism was propelled by the likes of Andrea Dworkin and Catharine Mackinnon. Dworkin, whose contempt for women matched her hatred of men, famously wrote that women who enjoyed heterosexual sex with men were “collaborators, more base than other collaborators have ever been: experiencing pleasure in their own inferiority.”[1] These radical feminists incited a backlash against all of feminism, despite only ever representing its lunatic fringe. In contrast to radical feminism–built on the dubious theory of sexual castes– the philosophy of liberal feminism is empirical and straightforward. Under classical liberalism, women have the inalienable right to be educated, employed and self-determining, and within the broader feminist canon, there is a treasure-trove of pragmatic …

Activists should calm down. Science is not so sexist

 “Academic Science isn’t Sexist” declared Wendy Williams’ and Stephen Ceci’s op-ed in The New York Times last October. Their piece summarised a 67 page review published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest called “Women in Academic Science: A Changing Landscape”[1]. Working alongside two economists, they compiled data from several hundred analyses of women’s participation in sciences – from the life sciences such as psychology – to the more math-intensive disciplines such as engineering and physics. The biggest barrier for women, they found, was that they saw academic jobs as being in conflict with family formation. Despite this, they found that the picture painted was one of “gender fairness, rather than gender bias”. Women across the sciences were more likely to receive hiring offers than men, their grants and articles were accepted at the same rate, they were cited at the same rate, and they were tenured and promoted at the same rate[2]. Just two weeks after Williams’ and Ceci’s op-ed was published, the online fracas ‘shirtstorm’ happened. The lead scientist of the Rosetta Mission, …

Our Generation Did Not Invent Political Correctness, But We Can Fight It

Political correctness is not a new phenomenon. The fact is that many dangerous questions are currently walled off by the baby boomers who dominate our universities (and large sectors of the media). Today’s culture war likes to scapegoat young people for the rise of the illiberal Left, but the responsibility really lies with the generation who came before us. Each one of us has the ability to generate a hypothesis. A hypothesis simply comes from asking a question about the world and then using our imaginations to answer it. Almost every advance in human history first came from a person willing to look at the world, or the status quo, from a different angle. But if questions and hypotheses are going to have any impact they must be articulated. Questions have to come out of our minds and into the world around us. The problem with P.C. is that it constrains the questions that we feel we can ask both of ourselves, and our superiors. It allows orthodoxy to creep in (as it always does). …

Happiness by Design – Paul Dolan

When we think about our ‘happiness’ we may think about the goals we have achieved, how much money we have in the bank, or how prestigious our job is. We may not think about our commute to work, our dreary co-workers or the fact that days at the office seem to drag along, uninspiringly. In doing so, Dolan argues, we privilege our evaluative self over the experiential self (Kahneman & Riis, 2005). And this goes a long way in making us less happy than we could be. The tension between these two selves – the evaluative and the experiential – lies at the heart of Happiness by Design. In these pages, Dolan, a self-described ‘sentimental hedonist’, steps up to advocate for the experiential self. A self, he argues, that often does not have a voice. In 2004–2005 Dolan took up an invitation from Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman to be a Visiting Research Scholar at Princeton; a decision, he says, that set him on the path of subjective wellbeing research. Originally trained as an economist, Dolan …

False Claims Undermine Good Causes

Today is White Ribbon Day. It is an important symbolic event reminding us all to be aware of violence against women. Domestic violence and family abuse are a scourge on all human societies. Events such as White Ribbon Day play an significant role in breaking down the shame and stigma which makes it so hard for individuals to seek help. I wholeheartedly support this aim. What I do not support, however, are dodgy statistics and false claims which belittle this good cause. On Monday, 25th November, 2014, SkyNews Australia published the following tweet: Violence against women is the leading cause of death for women aged 15 to 44 #lunchagenda #auspol — Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) November 24, 2014 This is a sensational claim that is easily fact-checked. Research institutions such as the Australian Institute of Health and Wellbeing (AIHW), the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) keep records of causes of death, and rates of victimisation for people in this age group every year. To fact-check SkyNews Australia’s claim, let’s break down the most recent data we have …

Post-modern assumptions about gender harm women

Until last year, women in the US had been unwittingly overdosing on sleeping pills for nearly twenty years. In January 2013, the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ordered drug companies to slash the dosing of Zolpidem (an insomnia drug known as Ambien) by half for women. Side-effects from over-dosing on Zolpidem (known as Stilnox in Australia) include impaired thinking and reaction time, sleep-driving and sleep-eating. The FDA ordered the makers of Ambien to provide different dosing instructions for males and females. Prior to their decision, the instructions for men and women were exactly the same. Why? Because we still don’t have enough information about how men and women metabolise drugs differently. Phyllis Greenberger, CEO of the Society for Women’s Health Research in the US wrote just last month in a blog for Huffington Post: “the reality is that we do not know whether a drug will harm women until after they have started taking it.” It is the year 2014 and women are at risk of harm from easily preventable biomedical errors. How on …

Bad Feminism

“Pop-feminism,” as a movement, valorises feelings above reason, cynicism above hope. It has regressed to a point where anything at all, no matter how irrational or how narcissistic, can be celebrated as ‘feminist’. Articles such as: I Look Down On Young Women With Husbands And Kids And I’m Not Sorry, or How Accepting Leggings as Pants Made Me a Better Feminist are shared wide and far on social media as feminist political statements. Anyone can identify as a “feminist”. Even men who openly admit to domestic violence, such as Hugo Schwyzer. There are no boundaries, no benchmarks and no standards to which feminism will hold itself accountable. It was not meant to be like this. In 1792, Mary Wollstonecraft published The Vindication of the Rights of Women. Her basic hypothesis was that women are capable of reason; just as men are. Yet because women are denied a rigorous education, this capability is rarely expressed. Wollstonecraft’s achievement was to extend Enlightenment principles to women. Women were rational. Women were not innately ignorant, or naive, but socialised to be that way because …

Lifestyle feminism, because you’re worth it

Women’s magazines, both online and offline, host advertising on their pages and on their websites. The articles in women’s magazines and news-sites are incidental. “Content” exists merely as a delivery device for advertising. Next to the checkout in the supermarket you can spot magazine covers with stories about celebrities who are “too thin” next to stories about celebrities who are “too fat”. Mixed messages hit an audience where it hurts. At the same time as triggering female insecurity, magazines encourage women to be “empowered” by presenting different ways in which it can be bought in the form of fashion tips and beauty advice. Herein lies the hook: conflicting and contradictory messages about modern feminine identity inflames ambivalence. Media influence encourages women to self-obsess over the most trivial minutiae. Women’s unstable identity is then remedied through the act of consumption. If you can’t be confident about who you are or what you are doing with your life, at least you can be confident about what you buy. Say Media, the web advertising firm who own xoJane …