All posts filed under: Feminism

Grid Girls and Puritans

Objectification, we are told, is degrading. Why? Because any job that requires employees to be sexually attractive and gazed upon for that reason necessarily dehumanises them. It encourages others to treat them as pretty ‘things’ rather than as autonomous people with their own lives, passions, thoughts, and desires. Or so the thinking goes. ‘Grid Girls’ – models employed by Formula One for promotional purposes – have just discovered that their role is to be discontinued. As Formula One’s managing director of commercial operations explained: “While the practice of employing grid girls has been a staple of Formula 1 Grands Prix for decades, we feel this custom does not resonate with our brand values and clearly is at odds with modern day societal norms.” But in their hurry to spare Grid Girls the indignity of the male gaze, nobody making this argument seems to have stopped to wonder whether Grid Girls might have an interest in defending what they do. Instead, a collective of ostensibly progressive voices leapt to their defence without bothering to ask the girls …

The Dishonesty of #MeToo in Canada’s Literary Scene

When I was a less experienced teacher, I made a big mistake. Students were composing essays in a computer lab, and one young man thought he would be clever. Instead of writing, he spent his time shopping for an online essay. A flash of his parents’ gold card near the end of the class is what alerted me. He let his trick be known to the students around him and a bustle of barely repressed giggles and furtive looks ensued. When he came to the front of the class to hand it in, I handed it back and then pointed to the door. I said, loudly and firmly, “This is unacceptable and I’d like you to get out of my sight.” The class went silent and I was momentarily thrilled that I’d spoken so bluntly. However, I changed my mind when that silence persisted until the end of term. Without meaning to, I’d intimidated every other student in the room, none of whom, as far as I could tell, was cheating. I’d made classroom discussions difficult, …

Catherine Deneuve, #MeToo, and the Fracturing Within Feminism

The letter signed by Catherine Deneuve and 99 other French women offering their take on the #MeToo movement and feminism has stirred many reactions both in France and internationally. Among the responses, the novelist Leïla Slimani wrote a beautiful and heartfelt piece in Libération affirming her right to freedom from being “importuned”. The use of the expression is deliberate to contrast with the original letter’s title which defended the freedom to importune. Slimani’s article has been shared by many to express their disagreement with the Deneuve Letter. That the two opinions are made to sound opposing is, however, more the result of unclear vocabulary rather than conflicting ideologies. The list of odious behaviours that Slimani pleads that we should be free from—“a boss asking for sexual favours in exchange of a promotion” or “a man ejaculating on a woman’s coat”—shows that she and Deneuve are not talking about the same thing. No sensible person could possibly refrain from condemning these acts. The fault perhaps lies with the writers of the original letter, for not using more …

The Empathy Gap in Tech: Interview with a Software Engineer

Last year I was working on an article about the tech industry when I decided to interview a software engineer who writes for Quillette under the pseudonym “Gideon Scopes”. Gideon had mentioned to me in passing that he had Asperger’s Syndrome (a mild variant of autism spectrum disorder) and I wanted to find out more about the industry from the point of view of someone who is not neurotypical. I first asked him when it was that he knew he wanted to work in technology. He told me that he first knew it when he was five. His family got their first home computer and he was transfixed. Later, he would come across a brief introduction to the BASIC programming language in a book and proceed to teach himself his first programming language. He was only seven. As a child he taught himself programming out of books, mostly alone at home. He told me that his family were not particularly supportive of his hobby. His mother was not happy to see him focus so intently on one …

Campus Counsellors and the Politicization of Sexual Assault

A few years ago, a student came to my office in tears. Earlier in the day she’d stood in the doorway of the computer lab, telling me she didn’t think she would make it through class. Her face had been swollen and tear-stained. She was a confident young woman, so her appearance surprised me. When I expressed concern, she said she would drop by my office later. It was the last day of the spring semester. When she showed up, she told me she’d been sexually assaulted several days earlier. We’d established a good rapport over the semester, and so I did my best to console her. She seemed convinced her life had been ruined, but did not want to go to the police. A visit to a rape crisis centre had left her shaken. Her new view of herself was distressing. I’m not sure what inspired me, but I asked her how old she was. When she said 21, I asked her if she wanted to do some math. I reached for a pen …

Are Women Really Victims? Four Women Weigh In

Helen Pluckrose Helen Pluckrose is a writer for Areo Magazine and has research interests in late medieval/early modern religious writing for and about women. Her writing is often critical of postmodernism and cultural constructivism which she sees as currently dominating the humanities. Women can be victims. In this world, there are violent, exploitative people willing to use and abuse their fellow human beings. Sometimes those human beings are women and sometimes they are abused and sexually exploited by powerful men because they are women. But women are not a class of victims. We cannot be victimised by actions and words that men can simply shrug off – an unwanted sexual advance, a strong criticism, an unkind comment, a tasteless joke, a call, a whistle, a wink. We are competent adults, fully equipped to deal with difficult, unpleasant, annoying or simply gauche behaviour. We are possessed of humour, empathy, reason, perspective and charity by which we can evaluate the behaviour of the men around us without developing a siege mentality or constructing a war zone. When …

Sex Through the Looking Glass

A review of The New Politics of Sex: The Sexual Revolution, Civil Liberties, and The Growth of Governmental Power by Stephen Baskerville (Angeliko Press, 2017) 408 pages. One needs to be of a certain age to remember how much of a bounty was promised during the early days of feminism. It was to be a revolution in just about everything, transforming a world made out of male aggression and oppression into a world of feminine love and kindness, of which we would all, men as well as women, be the beneficiaries. For my own field, organizational behavior, the implications seemed to be pretty well laid out in Carol Gilligan’s classic In a Different Voice. Organization would be based, not on the rules that men had developed to keep from killing each other, but on the feelings that women had evolved to connect. Working life would consist in being cared for and loved. Being a hater of rules, this appealed to me. But I had my concerns and I thought they needed airing. In accordance with …

Why I’m Uneasy With the #MeToo Movement

For many women, the breaking of the Weinstein scandal has been a moment of catharsis and deferred justice. In the wake of the appalling revelations of rape and abuse, women were invited to detail their own experiences of sexual assault on social media under the #MeToo hashtag, and the subsequent outpouring of testimony was held up by some campaigners as proof that America is indeed a culture in which women are routinely victimised, and men are routinely complicit. Celebrity journalists and Hollywood stars have been named and shamed; denunciations have proliferated and shamefaced apologies have been offered; unsubstantiated spreadsheets listing alleged offenders have been circulated and leaked; and glittering careers and reputations are being reduced to powder overnight. But as someone who has experienced what many would perceive to be a sexual assault, the momentum of the #MeToo movement makes me uneasy. Before I explain why, I should tell my story and the lessons I learned along the way. Those lessons were painful and the price I paid was steep, but I emerged from the …

Why Feminists Must Understand Evolution

I am a feminist but I am not here to offer opinions, nor to enter into an intra-feminist debate. For all their various ideological differences, all feminists basically advocate the same things: for women and men to have the same rights and duties as citizens, and for women and men to enjoy the same freedom to decide what to do or not to do with their lives. I am here to present empirical evidence which ought to interest feminists, and which can help to explain human behaviour. It is my goal to explain why the causes of male and female difference are not merely cultural or the product of patriarchal indoctrination. Separate athletic competitions and distinct medical disciplines of gynaecology and urology testify to the most obvious biological differences between men and women. But the scientific method − a co-operative, critical, and self-correcting process which has midwifed huge technological and medical advances − can also help us to understand more subtle differences between the sexes in interests and aspirations. And it is understanding what we …

Rethinking Gender, Sexuality, and Violence

Over the past two weeks, America has been rocked by the revelation that the Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein has engaged in numerous instances of sexual harassment and possibly even sexual assault. In response, the actress Alyssa Milano began a social media campaign to raise awareness of these forms of abuse in the world at large, tweeting: While Milano may have had the admirable goal of drawing attention to a serious issue, the subsequent narrative that has been presented has not been entirely accurate, and a non-trivial amount of ugliness has also been unleashed. In the mainstream and on social media, we’ve been told that that all women live under constant threat and that all men are part of the problem.1 If a man had the audacity to say #MeToo and point out that he had also been a victim, he might have been ridiculed for being insensitive to women: One columnist admonished “nice guys” that they were most likely responsible for the bulk of the problem and bore the responsibility for fixing it.3 The …