Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Anita Sarkeesian, Back Again

   She claims she'll now do a series on neglected women in history.
   I usually refuse to add this sort of preface, but here it is:  it should go without saying that anyone who is harassing and/or threatening Sarkeesian or anyone else for such reasons is an asshole. (However, that sector of the political spectrum has a long, clear history of fabricating and exaggerating such things... Just for the record...)
   But...the fact that she's been harassed doesn't mean that her arguments are good. They aren't. Sarkeesian's method isn't worse than what passes for method in the more literary humanities these days...it's basically the same: start with politically correct suppositions, fix politically correct conclusions in your sights, and then free-associate until people who really want to agree with you can convince themselves that you've moved rationally from the former to the latter. She cherry-picks evidence, distorts evidence, outright lies about the content of games, and presses criticisms against video games in particular which, if sound at all, are criticisms of the culture generally.
   And I say all this even as someone who thinks that there's a grain or two of plausibility in Sarkeesian's overall view. Those grains aren't new in any way, nor are they clearly right, but they're eminently worth thinking about. For example, women are represented in a sexual manner more than men--or so it seems by the eye test. Now, it's not clear that that's as bad a thing as many feminists make it out to be--feminism has always had a puritanical anti-sex streak. But it's certainly worth thinking about. And when reasonable women (that is: not Sarkeesian et al.) express unhappiness with it, it's something the rest of us ought to think about. However and on the other hand, men just seem to be more interested in looking at attractive women than women are in looking at attractive men. There seems to be a clear difference in preference here--and the puritanical preference isn't the default preference. It's actually a somewhat (but not extremely) complicated set of questions...and a set of questions that's typically dealt with badly because (a) it's typically people like Sarkeesian who think about them and (b) people like Sarkeesian are not good at thinking about complicated questions. It's not that Sarkeesian is dumb...it's not that everybody in the PC sector of the spectrum is dumb...  It's that they have adopted bad, quasi-literary, free-associative methods of thinking, and (b) they have adopted their conclusions ahead of time and they stick to them dogmatically. These are bad individually. But put them together, and you inevitably get scribbles of bullshit that converge on whatever PC nonsense happens to be fashionable with them on Tuesday.

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