All posts filed under: Top Stories

Laura Kipnis, Camille Paglia and the Redefinition of Sex

Reading Laura Kipnis’ Unwanted Advances is challenging. Not because Kipnis isn’t a gifted writer, but because her experience with Title IX administrators, today’s campus equivalent of a morality squad, is downright noxious. What landed her in trouble was an article she wrote, “Sexual Paranoia Strikes Academe” (Chronicle of Higher Education, February 2015). Many of us who remember the heady days of 70s and 80s campus life appreciated her candour about sex, especially when it came to the empowerment we felt then. Young campus feminists today, groomed to see themselves as victims disagreed, claiming they found the article “terrifying.” A campus petition to sanction Kipnis at Northwestern followed, as did a Title IX inquiry. Kipnis’ cautionary tale dovetails with Camille Paglia’s collection of essays, Free Women, Free Men. Paglia also draws inspiration from her own life, although her analyses focus more on shifting cultural Zeitgeists, the kind that empower or disempower women. Loosely, both books form a subjective (Kipnis) and objective (Paglia) look at how current iterations of feminism are curbing freedoms and diminishing the quality …

Beauty, Equality, and the Problem with Calling Everything ‘Sexist’

For the literary critic Katie Roiphe, the male sexual passivity depicted by contemporary male novelists masks a “sexism” that is “wilier and shrewder and harder to smoke out” than that of their literary predecessors. “What comes to mind,” she wrote, “is [Jonathan] Franzen’s description of one of his female characters in The Corrections:  ‘Denise at 32 was still beautiful.’ ” Now, for a man, fictional or real, to say of a woman that she is “still beautiful” at a certain age is without doubt to reveal a crass male sensibility and to express a trite sentiment. But such a statement – an aesthetic judgment, actually – is “sexist” only under the greatly expanded meaning this term has acquired since the revolution in consciousness of the 1960s and 1970s. At the heart of this revolution lies the myth of the “authentic self” – the largely or entirely mutable or malleable “self-realizing” person of indifferent gender. This myth was propounded by Charles Reich in The Greening of America, Germaine Greer in The Female Eunuch, Theodore Roszak in …

Who’s Afraid Of Jordan Peterson?

Michael Aaron’s article of June 8th, “Evergreen State and the Battle for Modernity” wasted no time honing in on the central problem driving the current climate on many of university campuses – the conflict between modernism and postmodernism, and the beliefs, attitudes and behavior that they spawn (among faculty and students alike.) My only complaint with Aaron’s article is that he only lists instances of on-campus shenanigans in the United States. Meanwhile, to the North, similar events and debates are unfolding, causing national newspapers – The Globe and Mail and The National Post – to take note. At the center of many of these campus controversies is Jordan Peterson, a clinical psychologist and Professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto, whose outspoken views on Marxism, postmodernism, and the use of gendered pronouns in the classroom have provoked the ire of many social justice warriors across Canada. Indeed, his ideas have been labelled “hate speech” by many who do not share his views, and – depending on who you talk to – he may be …

What Eastern Bloc Dissidents Can Teach Us About ‘Living in Truth’

“Fake news” may be getting lots of headlines, but it is as old as the hills. Propagandists have relied on false evidence for centuries. Of course, not all propaganda campaigns are dishonest; indeed many efforts at persuading people of things are laudable. But the phenomenon of fake news and the “post-truth” culture in which it thrives are clearly a threat to democracy, and to the public sphere that democracy depends on to survive. Everyone has a part to play in pushing back. Most of us probably assume that only other people fall prey to false or exaggerated news stories. This is complacent. Media historians emphasise that propaganda often exploits already-existing trends rather than creating new ones, making subtle use of half-truths as well as outright falsehoods – and it can be much harder to unpick half-truths than to demolish lies. Fortunately, a few decades ago, matters of truth-telling and lying were a major concern for Soviet and Eastern European dissidents living under communism, where propaganda was all-pervasive. Their ideas have long outlasted their times, and …

The De-Professionalization of the Academy

The author of the following essay is a Professor at a top-ranking, metropolitan U.S. university. The names of both university and professor have been fictionalized to protect the professor from retaliation. In the fall of 2005, I began working as a full-time faculty member in the General Studies program at Hudson University. I was promoted to full Professor last year. Thus, the tale I tell does not represent sour grapes. Rather, what follows is a jeremiad decrying the direction that academia has taken in order to underscore the threats posed to academic integrity and institutional legitimacy. Over twelve years, I have watched with increasing dismay and incredulity as academic integrity, fairness, and intellectual rigor have been eroded, with the implicit endorsement of administration and faculty alike. I have witnessed the de-professionalization of the professoriate—hiring policies based on tokenized identity politics and cronyism, the increasing intellectual and ideological conformity expected from faculty and students, and the subsequent curtailment of academic freedom. Just to be clear, most of my faculty colleagues are well-educated, bright, and dedicated teachers. …

Reviving “Essentialism” and Other Scientific Straw Men

Cordelia Fine’s latest attempt at human exceptionalism and biology denial Testosterone Rex has drawn rave reviews from (almost) everyone, from the popular press to Nature. Happy to go against this grain, I would like to suggest that these much-circulated rumours of the death of human nature have been somewhat exaggerated. Most of Fine’s targets are probably quite well deserved chunks of popular science, male chauvinism, and journalistic overreach. However, when she turns her sights on serious science she makes some rather egregious blunders. This is a pity—because there is much in the public understanding of sex differences that could really use some popular explication and myth busting. Let’s start with what is positive about the book. Many will find her anecdotal approach to be engaging and charming. I didn’t, but I’m a miserable old curmudgeon who wants to get to grips with the facts, not be reassured via an anecdote about kangaroo testicles that that the writer “doesn’t hate men really”. On this point: I’m always a little unsettled by people who feel the need …

Q and A on the Syrian Airstrike with Sumantra Maitra

Sumantra Maitra is a regular contributor to Quillette, and is a PhD candidate in International Relations at the University of Nottingham and is a member of the Centre for Conflict, Security and Terrorism (CST). His area of research is in Great power politics and NeoRealism, with a focus on Russian foreign policy and military strategy. What follows is a QandA session regarding the US strikes on Syria. Hi Sumantra. Thanks for chatting with Quillette. You’ve said that the airstrike on Syria is a good show of deterrence from the US? Can you expand on this – who do you think this message of deterrence is aimed at? The airstrike on Syria is a fall back to a more conventional US foreign policy. Since 1993, the United States has been a leader of the Western liberal order, and has often used airstrikes and missile strikes to deter principal adversaries as well as defend liberal norms. It is, of course, questionable how effective that strategy was, but it has been standard practice. That changed during the second …