All posts filed under: Feminism

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 …

Daily Life’s Boy-Bashing Clickbait Reaches New Low

When Daily Life came onto Australia’s media scene in 2012, I used to read it with bemusement, sometimes morbid fascination. About a year after it launched I started blogging in response to some of its articles, but since 2013, I’ve mostly ignored the publication. One gets tired of clickbait. Tabloid magazines have been around for a long time and yellow journalism dates back to the nineteenth century. Daily Life has certainly not created anything new. It is also understandable that The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age need to bolster their dwindling readership with cheap and easy commentary on the latest “hot topics”, including those that involve gender and feminism. In the context of the disruption caused by the Internet, it is not a scandal that a media company would do this. Yet since the public relations fiascos of 2014 and 2015, such as Shirtstorm, and the Tim Hunt affair, it’s also increasingly difficult to become animated by gender politics. From where I sit, the culture war is largely over. No-one serious pays any attention to …

Why Isn’t Sexual Slavery a Feminist Priority?

That Nadia Murad’s #StandforYazidiWomen campaign hasn’t captured the attention of Western feminists is an appalling oversight. Some of the most popular feminist topics on Twitter last year included equality for public nudity, sexism in the tech industry, and racial diversity for Oscar nominations. Yet the topic of global sexual slavery brings a scarcely believable absence of attention. The Yazidis, viewed as devil worshippers by their captors, were overrun by ISIS in north-western Iraq in August 2014 in the beginning of what is now being recognised as a genocide. Most of the men and older women were instantly slaughtered. Thousands of younger women and girls were taken to the Islamic State’s ‘caliphate’, where they were traded among Jihadists as sex slaves. Nadia is a survivor of this mass sexual enslavement, and now a human rights advocate. Regarding her fight, Nadia said “I am continuing to do this, with resiliency, because millions of women and girls have no rights. Their lives were destroyed, and their lives will remain destroyed if we don’t say anything. To bring back …

In Praise of Ambivalence — “Young” Feminism, Gender Identity and Free Speech

Alice Dreger, the historian of science, sex researcher, activist, and author of a much-discussed book of last year, has recently called attention to the loss of ambivalence as an acceptable attitude in contemporary politics and beyond. “Once upon a time,” she writes, “we were allowed to feel ambivalent about people. We were allowed to say, ‘I like what they did here, but that bit over there doesn’t thrill me so much.’ Those days are gone. Today the rule is that if someone — a scientist, a writer, a broadcaster, a politician — does one thing we don’t like, they’re dead to us.” I’m going to suggest that this development leads to another kind of loss: the loss of our ability to work together, or better, learn from each other, despite intense disagreement over certain issues. Whether it’s because our opponent hails from a different political party, or voted differently on a key referendum, or thinks about economics or gun control or immigration or social values — or whatever — in a way we struggle to …

Confessions of a Recovering Tumblr Feminist

When I was in middle-school, I discovered feminism. Always a voracious reader, I devoured every book on it that I could find — eagerly eating the words of feminists like Germaine Greer, Betty Friedan, and Naomi Wolf. When I was done with books, I turned my attention to the interwebs, where communities of social justice warriors congregate. Little did I know it, as a young teen, I tumbled headfirst into the rabbit hole of the social justice feminist orthodoxy — the perverse wonderland where up is down and everything is actually a manifestation of the patriarchy. Now, as a student at a women’s college, surrounded by this ideology, I’ve realized the naivety of my early eagerness. For me, feminism was an enticing religion. Raised in a home devoid of faith, I eagerly accepted its philosophy as my ticket to salvation. As I steeped myself in this type of feminism: the type that emanates from online Tumblr echo chambers and the ideological enclaves of Women’s studies departments, it taught me a number of ideas and values …