Thursday, October 31, 2013

Stupidity On Parade: Why Movember is Offensive

Quite possibly the stupidest article ever written:

Sarah Sahagian: Why I Think Movember is Offensive

This article really is off-the-scale stupid, even by the standards of the internet.

First sentence:
First, Movember is gender essentialist. What of men who have a hard time growing any facial hair at all? - See more at:
First, Movember is gender essentialist. What of men who have a hard time growing any facial hair at all? - See more at:
First, Movember is gender essentialist. What of men who have a hard time growing any facial hair at all?
No, I did not make that up. 

There are almost too many inanities there to refute.

First, that has nothing to do with essentialism. Unfortunately, the academic po-mo left cannot use terminology precisely to save its life. Furthermore, the folks over there understand approximately no philosophy whatsoever. They throw around the term 'essentialism' because they seem to like the way it sounds...but they have no idea what it means. Essentialism is the view that some things have some of their properties necessarily. There is absolutely nothing about Movember that has anything whatsoever to do with essentialism, gender or otherwise. There is absolutely no suggestion whatsoever that the ability to grow facial hair is an essential characteristic of males. None. Nada. Zip. You've got to be utterly clueless to suggest such an argument. We're talking 'F' on an introductory philosophy quiz clueless. The suggested argument above simply does not make any sense whatsoever.

Second, this has nothing to do with gender whatsoever; it has to do with sex. This is a distinction that was central to old-school feminism...contemporary feminists of Ms. Shagrian's sort, however, seem incapable of understanding even this simple, useful distinction. To the extent that Movember is about either sex or gender, it's about the former not the latter. Though...:

It's really not about either. It's all about a bunch of people who want to grow mustaches and who can do so growing mustaches. If some female out there wants to and can grow mustaches, then more power to her. But the fact that this is mostly going to be something that males do is no more "gender essentialist" than is breast cancer awareness month. Just because activity X is an activity that one sex is more likely to engage in in another does not mean that that activity involves any theory about the essential properties of sexes or genders.

And that's just part of what there is to say about the first two sentences of this ode to idiocy.

Look, I think mustaches invariably look terrible. I've occasionally grown a winter beard, but I'd never grow a mustache by itself (plus, it's one of the very few things JQ has we're on the same page there...). I have no interest whatsoever in defending Movember. But I do have an interest in attacking stupidity... 

This is, sadly, just one tiny example of the enormous tangle of confusion and stupidity that infects the Tumblr left (the "SJW"s, the radical parts of academic feminism, and so on). Fewer and fewer people take feminism seriously as nonsense like this becomes more and more prominent there. Personally, it's this kind of stuff that pushed me away from identifying myself as a feminist. It's not that I am any less committed to the equality of the sexes than I used to's rather that feminism seems to be. Instead of working from clear liberal principles toward real change in the world, feminism has become more and more of a postmodern circlejerk pervaded by nonsense like that in the Sahagian article. I get tired of hearing people suggest that the reason to oppose the sexism and stupidity that seems to have become so common on the extremes of feminism is that it hurts feminism generally. Nonsense. The reason to oppose sexism and stupidity is that sexism and stupidity are bad, no matter where they show up. However, it's also true that feminism is making a mockery of itself by going down this road--the farther it goes down it, the less it warrants respect.

Somebody really needs to make it clear to these people that you can't simply repeat mantras about "essentialism," "privilege," "objectification" and so on and deserve to be taken seriously.

Oh, and, haven't even gotten to the hilarious third sentence:
Movember is also gender essentialist because our social construction of femininity is in part embedded in the "masculine sign" of facial hair.
If it were possible to make less sense than the first two sentences did, this sentence would do it. First, "social construction" is a radically ambiguous, unclear, and defective concept. But let's just pretend we can make sense of it here...  Let's say it just means socially created. femininity  (per se) a social creation? No, it is not. Femininity is simply a property that some people have more than others. Society has in no way invented femininity. It's just a fact that some people tend to be more feminine and some tend to be more masculine--and females tend to be the former, while males tend to be the latter. Society does not create any of this--what it does do is exaggerate and normativize it. So, we have a kind of cultural lore or habit that pushes males to exaggerate their innate tendency to be more masculine, and females to exaggerate their natural tendency to be more feminine. Furthermore, we have a weird collective belief that males ought to be masculine and females ought to be feminine. That just seems like bullshit to me...but what society gets the blame for here is not somehow "inventing femininity" (whatever that could mean), but exaggerating a statistical regularity, and then turning women tend to be more feminine than men into women ought to be more feminine than men. You'd think that people who allegedly specialize in understanding this stuff would, y'know, understand this stuff...  But, furthermore, even if any of what we've seen so far were coherent or true, none of it has anything to do with "gender" "essentialism"... None of that says nor suggests that facial hair is a necessary condition for masculinity. But, oh God, this thing just keeps going...and, believe it or not, it actually gets worse...:
We pretend that facial hair is only something that happens to men (even though it does not happen to all men)...
Again, we're talking about 'F' material on an intro philosophy quiz here...  What she actually seems to mean is not 'we pretend that facial hair is only something that happens to men,' but, rather, 'we pretend that facial hair is something that happens only to men'--which is entirely different (though, incidentally, false: we don't pretend that, actually...). But "even though it does not happen to all men"????  For the love of God...that something does not happen to all men in no way indicates that we should not think that it happens only to men... I mean, we don't pretend that it happens only to men...but if we did think that, the fact that it does not happen to all men would not constitute a reason for us to change our view. Happening to all men and happening only to men are entirely different things. The fact that not all As are Bs casts no doubt whatsoever on only As are Bs. The two claims are perfectly consistent. (Note that the As can be a proper subset of the Bs.)... It's as if the author had said:

We pretend that cancer happens only to men, even though not all men get cancer...

For the love of Pete...that's just embarrassing...

But listen, I've already wasted a half an hour of my life, that I'll never get back, on this. 

You might think I'm being a little hard on the thing--not because the criticisms aren't justified, perhaps, but because the tone is harsh. But we need to put our collective foot down about the proliferation of these moronic attempts to manufacture sexism (not to mention fictional, incoherent charges like "gender essentialism") where they don't exist. It contributes to the moronification of the culture, it involves false accusations against people and organizations, and, finally, it drags down legitimate feminism. 

There's really just no excuse for this kind of crap.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's good to see you getting in some recreational annoyance; it's a sign that you are doing OK. But I do have to wonder: how do you find these things? This link is to a rather small web site in Canada... Is there some sort of bad argumentation meta-data tag that you can add you your searches? "Movember"?

Also, what is intersectional analysis? I know I could just search on the term, but I fear to do so.

2:03 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

LOL "recreational annoyance"... Yeah, that's pretty accurate...

Though, actually, I think that this stuff is potentially dangerous. Some of this sort of nonsense is in the air at universities, where bad ideas on the left fringe of liberalism go to fester...

I do have some Google alerts for this nonsense, though I think I found this by following a series of links from /r/TumblrInAction, but forgot to cite.

7:36 AM  

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