All posts filed under: Feminism

Camille Paglia and the Battle of the Sexes

In the opening to what I consider the most important chapter in Camille Paglia’s new book, Free Women, Free Men—Chapter 17: “The Modern Battle of the Sexes”—Paglia writes the following:  As the millennium approaches, we can look back on 200 years of women’s advance in society after the Industrial Revolution. Women all over the world are moving, country by country, into positions of power in business and politics. That progress is inevitable and unstoppable. However, as we survey personal relationships, it is clear that the sexual weather is cloudy and stormy. There is an atmosphere of tension, of suspicion, of mutual recrimination between the sexes which feminism has not helped but in fact materially worsened. How did we get to this point? What prognosis is there for the future? Unlike Paglia, who’s both a Baby Boomer and a lesbian, I’m a wife and mother who hails from Generation X. I have a daughter who’s 17 and a son who’s 14, so my investment in the question Paglia asks about the future is more personal than …

The Hypocrisy of Sweden’s Feminist Foreign Policy

Sweden is apparently world’s first officially self declared “Feminist” government. The brave sisters, of the foreign affairs department, recently obliterated the patriarchy in the United States, with a staged photo onslaught. But that was before they surrendered to the dictates of an Islamist theocracy, just like all good Western feminists should. In a scenario all too painfully familiar in recent days, a bunch of privileged Western women found liberation in keeping their head down and knowing their place. Look, I have nothing against Iran, in fact, I respect them, that they are iron-spined and strong enough to make Western governments bow down in front of them and their rules, regardless of which continent they are in. I find the weakness and hypocrisy of the other side more abhorrent. In what can be termed as the most abjectly hypocritical turnaround in recent history, Sweden’s annoyingly grandstanding government, paraded (or should I say, reverse-slutwalked) with their heads covered in a visiting delegation to Iran. Why such a fuss with Sweden, you might wonder? After all, from Federica …

A Good Word for the Contemptible Straight White Male

I’m always on the lookout for new writing opportunities, especially with publications funded by the Australia Council for the Arts, as one can usually expect modest remuneration. I was initially pleased, then, to discover the literary magazine called, quite appropriately as you’ll see, SCUM. Its About section notes that it “has filthy feminist leanings and a disregard for propriety.” Terrific, I thought. Perhaps I could pitch an essay or two. I have often detailed the squalid nature of contemporary feminism à la Clementine Ford and the rest of the gang. While I haven’t dipped into her new book, Fight Like A Girl, I’m keeping an open mind, should the opportunity to read it ever come up. To update the old joke, I imagine that Ford’s oeuvre, along with every copy of Fairfax’s Daily Life, will be the only reading material available for borrowing at the single library in hell. There, how’s that for propriety? Of course, a quick glance through its essays and reviews proved that I had badly misread SCUM’s editorial policy — the …

Feminism Needs to Talk About Responsibility — Not Just Rights

At the age of 47 I suffered what I now like to think of as “The Year of Living Stupidly.” Unlike Sigourney Weaver in the film that inspired me, I did not live dangerously, although there was certainly a lot of drama. That was the year I suffered my last serious crush. The man was a volunteer at an organisation I feel passionately about. He was also an artist and writer, a fellow seeker in the creative arts. He was also a schmuck, although it took me almost a year to see that. My knowledge of unruly passions, which I joyously cover in my poetry classes, did give me some insight into my condition. However, managing it outside the classroom was something else entirely. I’m bringing that year out of the darkness and into the light because it’s time for the conversation around women’s rights and responsibilities to change. It’s especially time for those of us who can claim elder feminist statesmanship to ask tough questions of younger women who are dragging bewildered men into court, all in the name of micro-regulating the sex …

Students, Sex, Social Media and Why the Steven Galloway Affair Is so Murky

On a frigid night a few years ago, a friend dragged me to an event at a popular Montreal bar. Students of a local graduate program in creative writing were giving a reading. My friend and I sat close to them. I watched as pitchers of beer came and went and the students danced attendance on an older man, perhaps an instructor or organiser of the event. As the night went on and inhibitions were lowered, evidence of unruly feelings became obvious. Most creative arts departments are proverbial hothouses as far as egos go and this group was no exception. They were living proof of that punk axiom: eventually, love would tear them apart. The emotions I saw guaranteed it. Although I teach literature, I’m wary of university creative writing programs: they may be prestigious and even profitable, but I suspect they are more about buying access to agents and less about incubating talent. The students I heard that night read about relationships — with some texts directed at others in attendance — and yet …

Rehabilitating Feminism

Several years ago, I came across a video of Muslim reformer Maajid Nawaz on Youtube where he explained the difference between Islam and Islamism. Islam, he explained, is a personal faith shared by much of the world’s population, and it enriches a person’s life with meaning, purpose, and community. Islamism is the belief that that personal faith should be implemented as law for the rest of the world to follow. It is, in other words, the belief that government should be an extension of Islam. This is what a nuanced and evolving rhetoric can do for us. In making this distinction, Nawaz was able to give me clarity on a subject that I’d previously found incredibly muddy, all by articulating and naming a difference between two groups of people who claimed the same name for themselves. It allowed me to realize that I wasn’t concerned about the religion itself, but with the ideology that attempted to inflict that religion upon on everyone else. I had been conflating and confusing the two, which, when I wasn’t …

What is a Sexist?

What kinds of statements about men and women constitute sexism? Is it sexist to say, for example, that on average, men are taller than women or that women live longer than men? Most people already accept the obvious truth that men and women differ in these physiological respects, and it would strain credulity to argue that such statements are sexist. Suggestions about psychological differences, however, can stoke controversy. Pressing the issue further by claiming that psychological and cognitive differences might partly explain wage gaps, employment gaps, and the like, will certainly invite harsh rebuke and likely a charge of sexism. Like “racist”, the definition of “sexist” seems to have ballooned in such a way as to include any claim about average differences between males and females from the neck up. Some feminists, in particular, fear that assertions about differences between men and women threaten the social progress we’ve made over the past few centuries. Perhaps they have a point (as we discuss below). But we should consider whether such an expansive definition of sexism is …

Pronoun Wars: Gender Theorists go Head-to-Head with Jordan Peterson

Canada’s new Bill C-16 has free speech advocates worried. At issue is the introduction of social construct definitions of gender identity and gender expression into our country’s Human Rights code. The bill makes it illegal to target those who identify or express themselves differently from their biological gender. Specifically, it protects against genocide and the public or willful incitements of hatred. It’s troubling that those last two offences, which are closely related, have also been added to Canada’s criminal code. They compel speech when it comes to gendered pronouns, and do so with imprecise language, creating the potential for multiple interpretations. Disregarded also is the semantic chill surrounding the pronoun issue, a chill that far exceeds the defined acreage of the written law. As Jordan Peterson, the embattled University of Toronto professor believes, “the PC police are already living in [our] heads.” It’s an opinion he successfully argued in a debate held at the University of Toronto last Saturday. Less successful were the two women who went up against Peterson. First was Law Professor Brenda Cossman, director of the …

Why Colleges Should Stop Teaching “Toxic Masculinity”

On college campuses across the globe, young men are treated to lectures, workshops, and extracurricular activities that teach them their masculinity — an element at the very core of their identity — is dangerous, poisonous, and even toxic. Every week, another news article is published highlighting this fact. A few examples are particularly insightful. This semester, an incoming freshman and his peers at Gettysburg College were ordered to watch a film on toxic masculinity during student orientation. And at both Duke University and the University of North Carolina, seminars are now offered for men to deprogram themselves of their so-called “toxic masculinity.” For every article published highlighting a case of students being taught this ideology, there are dozens of other instances that aren’t covered by the news. As a college student myself, I find this emerging paradigm not just unhelpful, but terrifically harmful for both the young men and women exposed to this ideology. *** Unlike other terms in the feminist canon, “toxic masculinity” was never formally defined in scholarly literature. And this is confirmed …

What I Learned In My Women’s Studies Classes

When I first discovered women’s studies, I was lulled into a comforting sense that I had discovered the “truth.” It was as if my veil of ignorance had been yanked away, and I was blissfully seeing the world for what it really was. I have taken seven women’s studies classes; initially at a nondescript state university and later at a women’s college in Manhattan. After taking those classes, I realize that not only was I deluded, but I was led into an absurd intellectual alcove where objective truth is subordinate to academic theories used as political propaganda. Indeed, since knowledge itself is considered a patriarchal construct, feminist theories are the organizing principles of classes. The theoretical backbone of women’s studies is grounded in three main conjectures: that of the patriarchy, intersectional oppression, and social constructionism. None of these contentions can be proven or falsified. Yet, as a student, good grades are contingent on agreeing with them. So what do they actually represent? No theory is more fundamental to academic feminism than the theory of the …