All posts filed under: Top Stories

I Know what Intersectionality Is, and I Wish it Were Less Important

Having gestated in academia, Intersectionality has escaped into the broader world. It’s a foundational doctrine of third-wave feminism. It’s long had its own study group—the section on race, gender, and class—within the American Sociological Association, with an intellectual heritage in works by Patricia Hill Collins and Evelyn Nakano Glenn that preceded Kimberlé Crenshaw’s 1989 coinage of the i-word. Intersectionality has garnered increasing attention in the past few years, but its big coming out party occurred in December of last year when Senator Kristin Gillibrand (D-NY) tweeted that “our future is … intersectional.” Our future is: FemaleIntersectional Powered by our belief in one another. And we’re just getting started. — Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) December 5, 2018 So it was timely that Anne Sisson Runyan published a primer in the November-December 2018 issue of Academe entitled “What Is Intersectionality and Why Is It Important?” Runyan does a good enough job of defining Intersectionality, but I honestly wish it were a little less important: as it’s typically practiced, Intersectionality is an intellectual straitjacket and an albatross for activism. …

Women Needed a Magazine that Doesn’t Lie to Them. So I Started One

 As founder and editor-in-chief of a new web site aimed at women, I often get asked: Why do we need yet another publication in this already crowded media niche? It’s simple: Until now, all of the major players have had one common characteristic. Can you guess what it is? When Bryan Goldberg announced in a blog post that he had raised $6.5 million to start Bustle.com, a site for women, many competitors weren’t happy. “Isn’t it time for a women’s publication that puts world news and politics alongside beauty tips?” Goldberg wrote. A Jezebel writer, Hazel Cills, responded that such sites already exist. And she was right—perhaps more so than Cills knew: All the publications mentioned in her Jezebel article—The Hairpin, The Toast, Bust, Bitch, xoJane, Autostraddle, Refinery29, AfterEllen and Jezebel itself—push a liberal, feminist message. The same is true of older outlets such as Cosmopolitan, Elle, Glamour and Allure. Go ahead and find me a single successful, mainstream women’s lifestyle-and-culture publication that doesn’t regularly exhibit a bias against conservative points of view. There’s been …

Alternative, Scientifically-Literate Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Boys and Men

The American Psychological Association’s “Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Boys and Men” have received much criticism from journalists and professional psychologists. Much of the opposition has centered on the guideline’s attack on “traditional masculinity” and the privileging of activism over evidence-based treatment. One of the few redeeming features of the guidelines is their acknowledgement that men face unique physical, psychological, educational, and social challenges and are less likely to seek psychological treatment to meet those challenges. But the guidelines fail in their targeted goal of preparing therapists to help the men under their care.   Throughout the entirety of the APA’s guidelines, discussion of evolutionary influences on men’s psychological development is either unintentionally neglected or willfully avoided (“testosterone” appears nowhere in the document and, out of more than 400 citations, only four mention either hormones or anything brain- or neuro-related). Whatever the reason, the fact that a sharp distinction is made between “sex” as biology and “gender” as “psychological, social, and cultural” experience suggests that the authors of the guidelines subscribe to the fallacy of …

ISIS Bride Should Be Judged for What She Did, Not Who She Is

In 2015, Shamima Begum was one of three teenage girls from Bethnal Green, London, who flew to Turkey and then travelled across the border into Syria with the intention of joining ISIS. The girls had done their research, raised funds, and made travel arrangements all (apparently) without the knowledge of their parents, who heard nothing more from their daughters after they entered Syria. It seemed unlikely that they would ever return, even if they wanted to. But then last week The Times published a remarkable story: One of their journalists had found Begum in a refugee camp in Syria, who had fled the collapsing Caliphate and lost contact with her husband, a Dutch Jihadi. Begum was nine months pregnant (she’s now had the child) and, having already lost two children to disease and malnutrition, wants to return to the UK, if only for the sake of her new baby. She has expressed no remorse about her decision to join the terrorist group. In the audio recording of her interview, Begum sounds eerily calm, at one …

The Internet Locusts Descend on Ristretto Roasters

Camila worked for Ristretto Roasters, my husband Din’s coffee roasting company in Portland, Oregon, for five years. She received regular promotions and by 2016 was earning a mid-five figure salary. In October of last year, Camila resigned. The end. Or, the end until last month, when she sent an email to more than two dozen former and current Ristretto Roasters employees, alerting them to the YouTube series, #MeNeither Show, that fellow journalist Leah McSweeney and I launched in December 2018. In three half-hour episodes, we had discussed, among other topics, celebrities who have exploited the #MeToo movement, and the difference between sexual predators and those swept-up in the excesses of the current moment. The show’s “about” page reads, “#MeNeither is an almost-weekly conversation about the cultural issues of the day, and an attempt to create a space where people can find ways to think out loud through uncomfortable topics.” In her email to Ristretto employees, Camila described our show as “vile, dangerous, and extremely misguided” and announced her intention to “take this information to [local newspapers] Willamette Week and The [Portland] …

The Politically Homeless Life of a Gay Conservative 

I knew I was gay when I was eight years old, at least subconsciously. That was the first time I had that feeling, the one deep in my chest that took me decades to understand, for a boy named Ben at summer camp, and his deep blue eyes. I didn’t know that I was a political conservative for many more years, until I came of age in an era of political correctness and resurgent socialism, developments that pushed me away from modern liberalism. When I realized I was both gay and conservative—that’s when I knew that I was a sort of living contradiction, at least insofar as how much of the world would see me. The modern conservative movement still isn’t an entirely welcoming home for gay men. That much is widely known. But the true disgrace is that the progressive movement, to which most gays reflexively adhere, is too deeply ensconced in identity politics to reliably champion real progressive values. They see gay people like me who cross party lines not as independent thinkers …

Postmodern Philosophy is a Debating Strategy

In a recent article, Matt McManus drew a valuable distinction between postmodern culture and postmodern philosophy. Postmodern culture, he argued, was first theorized by neo-Marxists to refer to what they saw as a new phase of capitalism, characterized by heightened skepticism and a preoccupation with subjectivity. However, one need not adopt Marxist social theory in order to agree with the basic point that the social conditions which characterize twenty-first century liberal democracies make it difficult to take our beliefs for granted. The unprecedented degree of cultural and religious pluralism on offer in developed nations today undoubtedly has an impact on what we can take to be certain. Charles Taylor in his masterpiece A Secular Age called this process “fragilization,” the basic idea of which is that it is more difficult to believe in something wholeheartedly when that belief is not shared by the people one is surrounded by (indeed, we might call this sociology of knowledge 101). So, there is a real sense in which we do in fact live in a post- (or what …

High Theory and Low Seriousness

Sixty years ago today, just as Henderson the Rain King was going to print, Saul Bellow penned an article for the New York Times in which he warned against the perils of deep reading. Paying too close attention to hidden meanings and obscure symbols takes all the fun from reading, he wrote. The serious reader spends an inordinate amount of energy trying to find profound representations in the most trivial of details. “A travel folder signifies Death. Coal holes represent the Underworld. Soda crackers are the Host. Three bottles of beer are—it’s obvious.” Moreover, deep reading is such an imprecise game that numerous dull and contradictory interpretations arise from the same passage. “Are you a Marxist? Then Herman Melville’s Pequod in Moby Dick can be a factory, Ahab the manager, the crew the working class. Is your point of view religious? The Pequod sailed on Christmas morning, a floating cathedral headed south. Do you follow Freud or Jung? Then your interpretations may be rich and multitudinous.” One man, Bellow wrote, had volunteered an explanation of Moby Dick as Ahab’s mad quest to overcome …

The Origins of Colourism

When Solange and Beyoncé Knowles’s father Mathew Knowles was asked in 2018 why he preferred to date women of a lighter skin tone, he replied, “I had been conditioned from childhood.” At least as far back as Gunnar Myrdal’s 1949 book An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy, social scientists have recognized discriminatory behaviour among African American males in favour of fairer skinned females, a bias that the 2011 documentary Dark Girls reveals is still unfortunately prevalent today. “I don’t really like dark skinned women, like, they’d look funny beside me,” disclosed one male interviewed for Dark Girls. “I’d like a pretty, light skin girl.” As revealed in the documentary, this view takes an emotional toll on dark women, who are discriminated against in all sorts of ways. Darker skinned women in magazines and film often are airbrushed or photoshopped into a Beyoncé glow, and lighter skinned African American actresses and dancers seem to be cast disproportionately in film roles and music videos compared to some of their darker skinned colleagues. Even children …

Borking Neomi Rao

At the height of the #MeToo ferment over Judge Brett Kavanaugh, hundreds of Harvard and Yale law students shut down their classes to protest Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. The students demanded that Kavanaugh’s sexual assault accusers be believed unconditionally, simply on the basis of having made an uncorroborated accusation.  Many of these elite law students will end up as judges. Yet the media cheered them on, even though their rejection of the presumption of innocence, if carried to the bench, would demolish a cornerstone of Anglo-American jurisprudence.    However, if you argue that female college students have agency to prevent many cases of what feminists label as campus rape then you have unfitted yourself for a judicial career, according to a large segment of the media and the political class. Last week, Democratic Senator and presidential contender Kamala Harris contemptuously grilled a judicial nominee for having written that female students can control whether or not they get drunk, the usual prelude to the hook-up sex that the campus rape industry routinely classifies as …