Friday, February 24, 2017

Kelly Anne Conway Is Right; Mirriam-Webster Is Wrong--And Stepping Way, Way Out of Line

At the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday, Conway said she did not consider herself a feminist, as the term is usually used.
"It's difficult for me to call myself a feminist in a classic sense because it seems to be very anti-male, and it certainly is very pro-abortion, and I'm neither anti-male or pro-abortion," Conway said.
Merriam-Webster allegedly tweeted the following in response:
Lookups for 'feminism' spiked today. It's "the belief that men & women should have equal rights and opportunities."
   First, substantively: Conway is not disagreeing with the textbook definition of feminism, and to pretend that she is is to be intentionally obtuse. She is saying, roughly, that contemporary feminism [is, as a matter of fact, not definition, associated with the positions in question]. If M-W's tweet really is a response [and I guess it really was, hard as that was for me to believe], it's crap. Consider an analogous case on the other side of the spectrum. Bernie says: "I can't be a Republican because I think it's unfair to the poor." Suppose M-W responded: republicanism is a form of government in which citizens elect representatives authorized to govern on their behalf--the suggestion being, of course, that republicanism (in the generic sense) has nothing to do with the rich and the poor. Not that that would ever happen... But it would be analogous--and analogously dishonest/obtuse.
   Now...perhaps Mr. Melvin is just bullshitting, and M-W did not intend to object to Conway's position. [But I guess that isn't so.] Perhaps they just tweet out definitions of whatever words people tend to be looking up. I kind of suspect that's what it is. But if Melvin is right, M-W is out of line. 
   Also, note that their definitions aren't very good...  Consider:
A fact is a piece of information presented as having objective reality. [my emphasis] A fact is, rather (if we stick with the template, which isn't that great): a piece of information...having objective reality. Representing something false as true doesn't make it a fact. And a fact is a fact whether or not it's ever represented at all. Facts that are never discovered, thought of, nor mentioned are still facts. But, more importantly, of course: 
  You had one job, Merriam-Webster... I'd say: stick to that one and try to do it right.

[Oh and: don't ignore the fact that M-W is basically saying that they have no idea what Conway is talking about when she says that contemporary feminism is pro-abortion. Really? You really have no idea what she's got in mind there? And as for being anti-male: well, that's one of the reasons I stopped considering myself a feminist fifteen or twenty years ago. The anti-male orientation of academic feminism just seems undeniable to me. Egalitarian feminism was very important to me when I was younger. But academic feminism is a different beast. In fact, it's what we might call the anti-rationalism of academic feminism that was the biggest factor in driving me away. I'm just as committed to the thesis of the moral and political equality of the sexes as ever. But it's not clear what the relationship actually is between that thesis and contemporary feminism.]


Blogger Pete Mack said...

There are a lot of actively competing definitions of feminism--just like liberalism, or conservatism for that matter. That you are concerned with one flavor of it does not make the others less real.

9:01 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

It's not a question about the definition, and to pretend it is, as M-W does, is dishonest.

9:02 PM  

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