All posts tagged: women

Naked Yoga and Cuddle Parties: Lap Dancing Clubs for the Woke

My friend Eva, who has accompanied me to a buffet of odd events, is giving me her feedback on the people we’ve encountered there. “I don’t know what it is, but I’ve noticed that if there’s an event with nakedness, the majority of people who turn up will be older guys.” As a journalist writing about weird workshops and unusual classes I’ve covered cuddle parties, rope-binding, naked yoga, and tantra, to name but a few. These classes are popular with the hipsters who are colonising Hackney Wick and other areas of East London in the throes of gentrification. And with each event I cover, I become more suspicious that these “alternative” workshops are simply a way for apparently progressive men to gawp at women—lap dancing clubs for the woke. On the surface, these workshops are all above-board. After all, what could be creepy about a fully-clothed cuddle? Don’t we all need some affection? What could be impure about practising yoga as nature intended? Surely we could all benefit from taking part in such innocuous activities? …

A Girl’s Place in the World

Worth mentioning here is the way in which the boy’s plight differs from the girl’s in almost every known society. Whatever the arrangements in regard to descent or ownership of property…the prestige values always attach to the occupations of men. —Margaret Mead, Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies, 1935 It is no exaggeration to say that the greatest obsession in history is that of man with woman’s body. —David D. Gilmore, Misogyny, 2001 In the volume Gender Rituals: Female Initiation in Melanesia, anthropologist Brigitta Hauser-Schäublin recounts meeting a woman who had undergone a male initiation among the Central Iatmul fisher-foragers of Papua New Guinea. One day years back, when the woman was a young, pre-pubescent girl visiting her mother’s village of Tigowi, she had climbed a Malay apple tree to get some fruit. At that moment, two men were blowing flutes in a fenced-off enclosure nearby and saw the girl in the tree. This was a serious matter, as the flutes were meant to be kept secret from the women and children, who were …

Alessandro Strumia: Another Politically-Correct Witch-Hunt, or a More Complicated Story?

In recent and even not-so-recent years, the quest for gender balance in science and technology has taken some troubling turns—from the collection of male scalps over trifling offenses (such as the pillorying of British physicist Matt Taylor over a shirt adorned with comic-book-style scantily-clad babes) to the squelching of dissent on whether gender gaps in STEM are caused solely by discrimination (heresy that got software engineer James Damore fired from Google two years ago and cost Lawrence Summers his post as Harvard president in 2005). In this climate, it’s easy to see another “politically correct” witch-hunt in the recent drama surrounding Italian physicist Alessandro Strumia. Last month, CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, elected not to extend Strumia’s guest professorship after previously suspending him over a controversial presentation at a CERN gender diversity workshop in September 2018. From the start, the Strumia scandal elicited warnings about an orthodoxy that disallows questioning claims of pervasive anti-female discrimination in science. In a recent article in the French weekly Le Point (reprinted in translation in Quillette), science …

Science Denial Won’t End Sexism

Last week, Nature, one of the top scientific journals in the world, ran a review written by Lise Eliot of Gina Rippon’s new book, The Gendered Brain: The New Neuroscience that Shatters the Myth of the Female Brain. Both Eliot and Rippon, neuroscientists affiliated with Rosalind Franklin University and Aston University, respectively, are vocal supporters of the view that gender, and the corresponding differences we see between men and women, are socially constructed. Not a week goes by without yet another research study, popular science book, or mainstream news article promoting the idea that (a) any differences between men and women in the brain are purely socially constructed and (b) these differences have been exaggerated beyond any meaningful relevance. More recently, this argument has evolved to contend that (c) there are, in fact, no brain differences between the sexes at all. Eliot’s article appears to subscribe to a hodgepodge of all three perspectives, which not only contradict one another but are also factually incorrect. So begins the book review, titled, “Neurosexism: The myth that men …

The Aziz Ansari Paradox

You probably already know—or think you know—what happened on the night of September 25, 2017 between Aziz Ansari and an anonymous woman calling herself “Grace.” These are the accepted facts: she went on a date with Ansari, they went back to his house, and then had some sexual contact that left Grace feeling deeply uncomfortable. No crime was alleged, since Ansari did not force himself on Grace in any way, but this was clearly a nasty encounter for her. The next day, she texted Ansari telling him as much and he apologized for having “misread things.” Several months later, she published her account on the website babe. For a few weeks following the publication of Grace’s story, the internet was awash with claims and counter-claims about the rights and wrongs of what had taken place. Every media outlet offered up its judgment on Ansari. To some commentators, he was the victim of a witch hunt, persecuted by an internet mob with no respect for due process. On the other side, many feminists argued that his …

Who’s Afraid of Ludwig Wittgenstein? Explaining the Lack of Women in Philosophy

While criticism surrounding gender disparity in academia often is concentrated on STEM fields, there is at least one liberal-arts discipline in which the underrepresentation of women is equally as stark: philosophy. While women outnumber men in the humanities, U.S. survey data suggests they earn fewer than 30 percent of the Ph.D.s in philosophy. The philosophy gender gap garnered public attention in 2013, when the sexual harassment case of Colin McGinn, a philosophy professor at the University of Miami, was featured on the front page of The New York Times. The Times then solicited a series of op-eds from female philosophers to get their take on the issue. In one, titled “Women and Philosophy? You do the Math,” Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Sally Haslanger complained that most philosophers are “white men,” and that the small number of women is both “inexcusable” and “appalling.” She then went on to claim that female philosophers also face sexual harassment, “alienation,” “loneliness,” “implicit bias,” “stereotype threat,” “microaggression,” and “outright discrimination.” Since then, philosophy departments have been scrambling to address …

Writing for Quillette Ended My Theater Project

It was suggested that I apologize, and that an apology might help. This wasn’t an assurance, but an idea—if I walked back what I had written, there might be a way forward. I looked around the table at these four women who knew me too well to believe that I would apologize for something I had written. Before each of us sat the full length script on which we’d spent several months collaborating. I’d formed this theater collective precisely to make a play based on a killer idea I’d had, and I’d asked each of these talented, thoughtful, intelligent, creative women to work with me. We were only in the first few months of what was meant to be a year-long residency in a theater space in downtown Manhattan. What I wanted most of all was to develop this project. By the time it was suggested that I apologize, I knew full well that I wouldn’t, and that the project, the theater company, and the residency were all dead in the water. At issue was …

Camille Paglia: It’s Time for a New Map of the Gender World

I discovered Camille Paglia’s work when I was pursuing my undergraduate arts education at The University of Adelaide, South Australia, in the early 2000s. I was deeply disillusioned with the courses in my arts degree and their monomaniacal focus on social constructionism, and was looking for criticism of Michel Foucault on the internet. I stumbled across a 1991 op-ed written by Paglia for The New York Times, in which she described the followers of Lacan, Derrida and Foucault, as “fossilized reactionaries,” and “the perfect prophets for the weak, anxious academic personality.” I was hooked. It wasn’t long before I discovered that my university’s library contained each of her books, including the essay collections Vamps and Tramps and Sex, Art and American Culture. For the final year of my arts degree, (before pursuing my studies in psychology) I spent the bulk of my time at the university reading Paglia in the library. She was like a revelation. Her work was subversive but erudite, and she synthesized insights made in the realm of the arts, ancient history and folk biology—something that no other scholar …

How the #MeToo Movement Helped Create a Script for False Accusers

The complainant, whom I’ll call Chloe, wept as she labored through her testimony. At several points, she was so overcome by emotion that court proceedings had to pause for a break. Throughout that first day of the preliminary hearing, she projected a sense of soft-spoken vulnerability, but also a certain inner strength. In the hallway outside the courtroom, she was surrounded by trained victim-services support workers, who helped her family avoid contact with the accused. As an observer in court that day back in 2016, I can attest that Chloe appeared highly credible. She seemed intent on answering every question to the best of her ability. On the drive home from the British Columbia courthouse where the proceedings were taking place, a colleague who’d accompanied me concluded, quite simply: “She’s very believable.” It had been a year since the alleged assault. Still, she was able to summon up details that brought those past events to life. Her speaking style was natural and unaffected. Absent-mindedly pulling the sleeves of a somewhat ill-fitting cardigan sweater down toward …

Silencing Women in the Name of Trans Activism

It all began with a warm and friendly email from an arts producer who runs a regular London-based project called the Truth to Power Café (TTP). Founder Jeremy Goldstein had seen my writing, and figured I might be a worthy performer. “[The show] includes live and spontaneous testimony from participants rising up in the name of free speech and political activism,” he told me. “During the course of the show, I invite participants to respond to the question, ‘Who has power over you and what do you want to say to them?’ before a live audience. This year, I’ve worked with over 100 participants in four countries including U.K., Australia, Netherlands and Croatia.” I hesitated before accepting. Performance art isn’t really my thing. And I already do a number of events as part of my feminist activism, so I need to be careful about how I allocate my remaining time (especially when, as in this case, I’m not being paid). But the free speech and truth-to-power elements appealed to me, so I agreed to take …