Thursday, November 24, 2005

Anti-feminist? Moi?

Barry (Ampersand of Alas, a Blog), who posts at this blog and with whom I have engaged in several interesting discussions, has characterized me as an "anti-feminist" on his blog and, most recently, in a thread on the Women's Studies list about my postings here.

In response to Daphne Patai, who questions this label and points out that I have frequently criticized conservative anti-feminists as well, Barry responds:

Cathy knows I respect her, but it remains the case that the overwhelming majority of her writings about feminism are dedicated to attacking feminism and feminists. Why should the word that accurately and concisely describes Cathy's position - anti-feminism - be taboo? I think we lose more than we gain when we say that accurate words cannot be used for fear of hurting someone's feelings.

While I don't think that my feelings can be particularly hurt by any label anyone chooses to slap on me, I think that labeling me (or, say, Wendy McElroy) "anti-feminist" (1) is inaccurate and (2) establishes a rigid ideological definition of what "feminism" is. I also think that, whether or not Barry intends it that way, "anti-feminist" is a pejorative. Indeed, I would say that Barry himself uses it as a pejorative: the section on his blog dedicated to critics of feminism is called "Anti-Feminist Zaniness," and in this 2004 thread (update: link now corrected), he says, in a partial defense of yours truly, "I'm not saying that ... she doesn't say stupid, anti-feminist things..."

What's the dictionary meaning of "anti-feminist"? My Webster's, sadly, offers none, but it defines feminism as "the doctrine advocating social, political and all other rights of women equal to those of men," as well as "an organized movement for the attainment of such rights for women." An anti-feminist, then, must be someone who opposes all that. Meanwhile, here's what we get from The Free Dictionary:

Anti-feminist: Characterized by ideas or behavior reflecting a disbelief in the economic, political, and social equality of the sexes.

And on the same page, a citation from the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (2003):

antifeminist - someone who does not believe in the social or economic or political equality of men and women

The American Heritage dictionary, by the way, lists "bigot" and "male chauvinist" as synonyms for "antifeminist."

I think anyone familiar with my work will know that this does not accurately describe my views.

Here's what I wrote in the introduction to my 1999 book, Ceasefire: Why Women and Men Must Join Forces to Achieve True Equality (the introduction to which is available online at the BarnesandNoble.com website):

Do I still consider myself a feminist? No, if feminism means believing that women in Western industrial nations today are "oppressed" or if it means "solidarity with women," as essayist Barbara Ehrenreich claimed on National Public Radio in 1994. Yes, if it means that men and women meet each other as equals, as individuals first and foremost; if we remember what British philosopher Janet Radcliffe Richards wrote more than fifteen years ago: "No feminist whose concern for women stems from a concern for justice in general can ever legitimately allow her only interest to be the advantage of women."

I still believe the feminist challenge to woman's place was right. I think we can take pride in the fact that a woman is now expected to be her own person and make her own way in the world, and that the public sphere is no longer considered a male domain. ...

....

I believe we still need a philosophy to guide us on the journey of an unprecedented transition: a philosophy that is not pro-woman (or pro-man) but pro-fairness; that stresses flexibility and more options for all; that encourages us to treat people, regardless of sex, as human beings. If sentimental traditionalism won't get us there, neither will the gender warfare that would destroy our common humanity in order to save it. I don't know if this philosophy should be called feminism or something else. But the biggest impediment to its development is what passes for feminism today.


In the same introduction, I talk about how and where, in my view, the "new feminism" has gone astray. Agree or disagree with me, but I think my critique clearly comes from a feminist point of view.

Personally, I prefer the term "dissident feminist." If we're going to assign labels, I could argue that a lot of people currently calling themselves "feminists" are in fact anti-feminists, because they routinely infantilize women (Catharine MacKinnon, for instance, argues that if children cannot meaningfully consent to acting in pornography, then neither can women), or because they don't really believe in equal treatment for men and women (those, for instance, who argue that women who commit domestic assault ought to be treated differently from men who do the same). If they can claim the title of "feminist," then surely so can I. I should add, by the way, that quite a few of my "anti-feminist" positions (for instance, on fathers' rights and on domestic violence as a two-way street) are shared by former National Organization for Women president Karen DeCrow. Is she an "anti-feminist," too? I should also add that Ceasefire got a largely positive review in the New York Times from feminist law professor Cynthia Fuchs Epstein, while Danielle Crittenden (with whom I am lumped together by Barry's "anti-feminist" label) slammed it in The Weekly Standard as too pro-feminist.

Yes, I'm critical of "established" feminism -- so what? Should critics of the traditional family model based on 1950s-style sex roles be labeled "anti-family"? They often are, but I suspect that Barry doesn't consider this label fair. Should liberal Catholic groups which take a critical stance toward the present-day Catholic hierarchy and reject Catholic dogma on abortion, contraception, homosexuality, marriage for clergy and women's roles be called "anti-Catholic"? (Bill Donohue would probably agree, but I doubt that Barry would.) Should people who frequently criticize U.S. policies and regard them as a betrayal of America's true principles be labeled "anti-American"? Again, I can think of a few people who would do that, but somehow I don't think that Barry would agree. In fact, I suspect that Barry may not even agree with calling the late Andrea Dworkin "anti-male" (at least, after her death he wrote that his favorite article about her was one in The Guardian titled "She Never Hated Men"). Yet Dworkin's writing are filled with vitriolic invective against men and maleness that make my critiques of feminism sound like valentines.

Not every critic of feminism objects to the term "anti-feminist" (just as not every feminist objects to being called anti-male: Mary Daly, for instance, proudly designates herself as such). I'm sure Phyllis Schlafly would have no issue with this label. I, on the other hand, find it not only insulting and inflammatory but misleading as well.


65 comments:

Dean said...

I think that labeling me (or, say, Wendy McElroy) "anti-feminist" (1) is inaccurate and...

I agree. The label is highly inaccurate. It seems to me that labeling you as such is just another manifestation of modern "if they ain't with us, they're against us" rhetoric.

(2) establishes a rigid ideological definition of what "feminism" is.

Well, that's the ironic thing, isn't it? By labeling you as anti-feminist, Barry is in effect saying that feminism is anti-logic, anti-reason.

Barry's labeling says more about his view of feminism and reason than it does about you.

Anonymous said...

I had a feeling that the person who posted to WMST-L was already in a "public" "discussion" with you and that the post was more about getting others in on the bashing than about informing us of anything. I refrained from posting that after looking at the supposed targeting of WMST-L posters myself all I saw was a few pages in which you said nothing more nor less than other people who disagreed with the posters in question (admittedly I am neither one of those posters nor a dissenter). But now that I am seeing how circular this whole thing is, I could not help but say so on your site. I know you did not start it, but really, if you two wanted to have a war of words it would be nice if you would stick to the forums you already have (blogs) rather than trying to divert an entire list to this infantile name calling.

As for who is a feminist and who isn't, it never ceases to amaze me how some people think they have the right to label others and or deny them the right to label themselves. Often when you ask these people what their criteria is for such claims the basic answer is: People who think like me, talk like me, and maybe even look like me. It is a problem critiques strongly in an essay from an otherwise throw away recent anthology in WS; the author argues that when your definition of the movement becomes so myopic that you join smaller and smaller factions looking for a "home" sooner or later you find yourself at home staring in a mirror claiming everyone else is anti-feminist. I'm not sure your feminism is mine, in fact I am fairly certain we disagree on many things from what I've read, but I am not arrogant enough to think you have to agree with me or I with you for us to find places in which we might stand together for the equality of women. There are many people calling themselves feminists out there who are uninterested in so many of the world's issues and political and social issues that do not effect them but do effect other women that I do not think anyone of them can point to the ways in which you are guilty of that and claim you are not a feminist and they are. It makes me want to declare, "No, you are all feminists and clearly I am not! If you'll excuse me I have to get back to the business of teaching about, working in solidarity with, and lending my privileges to real abused and oppressed women but you feel free to continue arguing about who can play Barbies and who can't."

Anonymous88 said...

Cathy -

Having been a regular reader (and enjoyer) of your blog since it began, I would agree that the term anti-feminist is inaccurate and unfair to you. It's true that I often don't agree with the degree of your emphasis on certain 'gendered' issues, or even at times your argument, but I recognize and respect *your* respect and veneration for the individual, and for equality between individuals.

Incidentally -- I have said this before, but I would like to state again that yours is one of my favorite blogs. I like the clear-thinking analysis that takes place here; I like the way that my views are challenged and how, as someone who identifies with the left, I'm forced to think about issues in a way I hadn't previously considered, that really deepens my own understanding of the world.

But, finally -- and I hope this doesn't change -- I really appreciate that your blog has not become a vehicle for self-celebration and self-absorption. I used to read Ann Althouse regularly as well, but the self-absorption that seems to characterize her blog as late, particularly as she's gotten more readers and greater popularity, is a turnoff. Not to point her out particularly -- she's just one example, and many bloggers have this attitude --but it makes me appreciate all the more that I can just come to your blog and read your opinions about political and social issues of our day, and that's that.

In any event, this is all a long way of saying - thank you and keep up the good work.

Steven said...

See, maybe it's because I grew up a generation or so later than you, but I've never associated feminism with the mere assertion of equality of the sexes. Feminism to me has always been the doctrine that women are morally superior to men and opressed by non-dominant contact with men; to be called anti-feminist is approximately equivalent to being anti-racist.

The dictionary definitions suffer from neither following the logical construction of the term (if "feminism" means advocacy of sexual equality, why not "masculinism"?) nor actual usage for the last, oh, twenty years. They need to be revised, but won't be until the death grips of three-decades-outdated ideas of the Baby Boomers are broken.

Ampersand said...

and in this 2004 thread (of which, currently, only a cached version seems to exist), he says, in a partial defense of yours truly, "I'm not saying that ... she doesn't say stupid, anti-feminist things..."

The thread is available in a non-cached version here on my blog.

I don't have time to respond today, but I will respond later. In the meanwhile, happy Thanksgiving!

Dean said...

Just as a matter of interest, and sort of by the way, a quote:

"Anti-feminism is also operating whenever any political group is ready to sacrifice one group of women, one faction, some women, some kinds of women, to any element of sex-class oppression: to pornography, to rape, to battery, to economic exploitation, to reproductive exploitation, to prostitution. There are women all along the male-defined political spectrum, including both extreme ends of it, ready to sacrifice some women, usually not themselves, to the brothels or the farms. The sacrifice is profoundly anti-feminist; it is also profoundly immoral..."

That's Andrea Dworkin. Quoted on Wikipedia. It seems to offer at least a partial definition of 'anti-feminist'.

Revenant said...

Supporting the legalization of pornography and prostitution is antifeminist? Damn, that gets me too then.

Pooh said...

The larger point is that 'labeling' is easier than engaging in actual argument.

With so much information available on the 'net, I suppose labels do have some degree of utility. I don't really have time to wade through the body of someone's work/blog to identify or classify their positions, so its useful to know "She's a liberal feminist; he's a free-market libertarian; they are unapologetically partisan right/left" so one can evaluate arguments and statements on those terms.

The problem, as anon#1 put forth very eloquently, is that when others start trying to lable you, they almost certainly exaggerate in a (not-so) subtle attempt to marginalize your positions.

'Cathy is anti-feminist? Well, I don't have to listen to what she has to say...'

In actuality it usually means nothing more than "I disagree, and do so so strongly that rational argument eludes me for a moment."

The aforementioned Althouse s currently getting this from both sides, and its not a pretty picture

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't get too concerned about Ampersand's comments. Anyone with whom he disagrees on gender issues is "anti-feminist" and is therefore a complete reactionary bigot.

Like many well-meaning people on the left, he has trouble understanding that being on the side of justice is not always the same thing as being on the side of women.

thecobrasnose said...

I abandoned the term "feminism" when "feminists" declared the election of women to the top five positions in my state (Arizona) not good for women. Apparently they, that is to say, the officials, didn't support the official feminist agenda enthusiastically enough for the feminists.

Ever since, I've taken the opinions of self-proclaimed feminists with a pillar of salt.

Cathy Young said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone.

Just a few quick replies.

anonymous88: thank you for the kind words. I hope this post is not seen as a descent into self-absorption; I've been called worse than "anti-feminist," and I'm strictly of the "sticks and stones will break my bones..." school of thought. I'm simply trying to clarify my position here, and at the same time address some interesting issues related to the definition of feminism.

Steven: I've run into the same question you raise about the term "feminism." Traditionally, advocating equality of the sexes was seen as synonymous with advocating rights and freedoms for women; and traditionally, I don't think this was wrong. Today, however, we have definitely arrived at a point where (in my opinion) "more rights for women" is not necessarily synonymous with equality or justice.

Barry: thanks for the correct link; I've now edited my post.

pooh: I think you're right about the "labeling," and I think that generally labels such as "anti-feminist" (on the left) or "anti-family" (on the right) serve more to chill debate than to promote it.

To the "anonymous" who posted at 9:02 on Thursday: I think Barry is more open to arguments than you give him credit for. At least, I hope to have a good open-minded argument right here in this thread.

Zack M. Davis said...

"Personally, I prefer the term 'dissident feminist.'"

I like "dictionary feminist" better. "Gender egalitarian" would avoid the misnomer, but that would definitely be less poetic.

mythago said...

I don't know that I'd call you an 'anti-feminist', Cathy, but it is disappointing to see a feminist pretend that inequality (at least in the West) is virtually nonexistent, and that attacking inconsistency or hypocrisy in feminism is more important than attacking sexism.

I realize that part of this stems from being a libertarian--market theory dictates that discrimination shouldn't exist.

Anonymous said...

Some years ago, Barry attacked me for supporting the invasion of Afghanistan. When I went to amptoons to defend my position, the ensuing discussion was reasonably polite but enlightening. Barry and his co-horts informed me that the liberation of Afghani women could not be considered a victory because Republicans were behind it, and anything Republicans are behind cannot lead to a victory for women. So much for Barry's capacity for critical thought.

Cathy Young said...

mythago: actually, I have never put much stock by market theory about why discrimination shouldn't exist or shouldn't work. By that argument, discrimination (against women and minorities) should have also been non-existent in the 1950s and '60s, and I think it would clearly be ridiculous to argue that. I recall reading that in the early 1970s, a study in which otherwise identical resumes from a (fictional) recent college graduate were sent out to employers, with a male name, a female name, and gender-neutral initials, the discrimination against women was massive. (Interestingly, when the same study was repeated in the mid-1980s, virtually no sex bias was found.)

At present, I'm not denying that discrimination exists; I argue only that it is not the principal factor holding women back, that family roles are a far more significant factor, and that women's preferences play a significant part in this. (Unlike, say, Danielle Crittenden, I don't believe these female preferences are necesssarily immutable or necessarily a good thing.) Here's a good example: one study of men and women with MBA degrees in the 1990s found that single women earned virtually the same salaries as single men, women in childless dual-income marriages were behind men of similar family status by a 6% margin, and women with children earned 12% less than fathers in two-earner families and 29% less than sole-breadwinner fathers. You could argue that married women and especially women with children are perceived as less dedicated to their work than single women (while sole-breadwinner fathers are perceived to be the most dedicated to their jobs), and that this accounts for some of the discrepancy. But surely this cannot be the sole factor.

There are, in fact, some areas where I believe recent claims of discrimination against women and girls have been almost wholly fictional, but these are not particularly market-driven areas, and my conclusions are based on a lot of meticulous research, not on any ideological assumptions about the market. I'm talking about claims of gender bias in medicine, particularly medical research, and in public schools.

Anonymous88 said...

Hi Cathy -

No, I definitely did not see this post as a descent into self-absorption. Apologies if my words implied that - I was just reflecting about one of the things I like about your blog b/c I have been frustrated with other bloggers lately on this point. I think this post brought up important definitional questions regarding the meaning of feminism and therefore was quite relevant. And, just to clarify my own point - of course bloggers are going to talk about themselves, and it is interesting, to a point. It's just when you start to get the sense that bloggers are really taken with their own popularity/wittiness/insight that it becomes distracting. In any event, I have never gotten that sense at this blog.

Pooh said...

How does one get this:

"but it is disappointing to see a feminist pretend that inequality (at least in the West) is virtually nonexistent, and that attacking inconsistency or hypocrisy in feminism is more important than attacking sexism."

From this:

"Today, however, we have definitely arrived at a point where (in my opinion) "more rights for women" is not necessarily synonymous with equality or justice"?

Admittedly, these are single, out-of-context statements, but the whole point of this thread is that we should respond to the arguments people have actually made rather than knocking down the strawmen we wish they had put forth.

(Mythago, this is not meant as a personal shot, it was just the easiest example I can come up with.)

mythago said...

I have never put much stock by market theory about why discrimination shouldn't exist or shouldn't work

Shhh! You'll get your Liberatarian membership card revoked. ;)

Where I'd differ with you is that I don't believe women's preferences are merely 'preferences,' like choosing one color of nail polish over another, and that women's and men's choices are shaped by sexism, both internal and external.

Cathy Young said...

Hi mythago,

Actually, I haven't got any membership cards -- libertarian, conservative, feminist, antifeminist, whatever. (Well, there is that Trilateral Commission/Council of Foreign Relations/International Zionist-Masonic conspiracy membership card... but we don't usually talk about that. ;) )

And actually, I agree with you in large part about the cultural sexism factor.

I just think that today, this kind of sexism can be as much about "female privilege" (i.e., both women and men believing that women are entitled to greater options than men when it comes to working part-time or staying home) as it is about male privilege (both women and men believing that women have a greater obligation to suspend or curtail their careers for family needs).

beAzl said...

Cathy,

Suppose (hypothetically) that the employer in the early 1070's could provide evidence that it was rational to give a preference to a male applicant, because, statistically, women were more likely to cut their careers short for family, and that therefore men were, on average, a better investment of training, etc. Should that employer (let's assume it is a private employer) be legally permitted to make that decision? If yes, you are allowed to retain your libertarian membership (not sure about feminist membership, though). ;-)

Cathy Young said...

beazl -- by strictly libertarian standards, a private employer should be able to hire or refuse to hire anyone he/she likes.

Once you allow that an employer should have an obligation to defend his decision not to hire women by producing statistical evidence that this is a "rational" decision, we're no longer in strictly libertarian territory.

And since that's the case, I would say that statistical generalization about a group are not permissible grounds for discriminating against individuals.

Though personally, I'm inclined to think that discrimination against women declined so drastically between the early 1970s (when the Civil Rights Act was already in effect) and the mid-1980s less because anti-discrimination law was strictly enforced than because women's workplace behavior changed. But I to think that anti-discrimination law was probably instrumental in allowing women to get a foot in the door (and a chance to prove themselves).

Cathy Young said...

Oh, and I guess you can have my libertarian card, now! ;)

beAzl said...

And since that's the case, I would say that statistical generalization about a group are not permissible grounds for discriminating against individuals.


Then should it be illegal to charge a man more for car insurance than a woman, even if they have identical driving records? (Note that the employer in my hypothetical was justifying giving a preference, not totally excluding.)

And cannot libertarians take a position between a less pure libertarian vs a more pure libertarian position (even if none are purely libertarian) and justify it by invoking libertarian arguments?

Ampersand said...

Sorry I haven't responded yet; Thanksgiving and work have kept me busy. I plan to post a (hopefully well thought out) response to Cathy early next week.

In the meanwhile, I have brief comments on some of the comments posted here.

Then should it be illegal to charge a man more for car insurance than a woman, even if they have identical driving records?

I think it should be illegal.

Anonymous writes: Anyone with whom he disagrees on gender issues is "anti-feminist" and is therefore a complete reactionary bigot.

To use someone on this thread as an example, I've disagreed with Mythago on gender issues several times over the years, but I think Mythago will agree I've never called her anti-feminist. Or a complete reactionary bigot. I can think of many famous feminists I disagree with regarding some gender issues (Dworkin and MacKinnon are the two most obvious examples), but I'd never call them "anti-feminists" or complete reactionary bigots.

Yet another anonymous poster wrote:

As for who is a feminist and who isn't, it never ceases to amaze me how some people think they have the right to label others and or deny them the right to label themselves.

I wonder who these "some people" are? I think everyone has the right to label themselves in whatever way they want.

And another anonymous poster wrote:

Barry and his co-horts informed me that the liberation of Afghani women could not be considered a victory because Republicans were behind it, and anything Republicans are behind cannot lead to a victory for women.

Without knowing what discussion anonymous is referring to, I'm unable to defend myself in detail; but I'm confident that Anonymous' description of what I said is mistaken.

However, it is true that I've been critical of how many Republicans have approached Afghanistan. As I wrote in a comment:

What I’d really like to see, from either party, is a real dedication to making the civil rights of women a central goal of our activities in both Iraq and Afghanistan. For the Republicans - who, as the party controlling all three branches, should be held responsible for getting things done - that means that toppling a misogynist government but turning a blind eye to misogynist warlords who are our allies is not nearly good enough. For the Democrats, that means that they should be acting like a real opposition party, and yelling, kicking and screaming over every horrible violation of women’s rights that occurs in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Frankly, I don’t think either party is doing its job. The Republicans are so eager to declare "problem solved! We’ve saved the women!," they’re ignoring serious threats to the basic freedoms of women in Iraq and in Afghanistan. And the Democrats are so eager to appear "centrist," they’re running away from anything that sounds like "women’s issues" (as Kerry did during the campaign).


I think that position is substantially different from the "if Republicans did it, it must be bad!" position Anonymous attributes to me.

Cal said...

Feminism, despite the dictionary definition, hasn't meant a simple belief in the equal rights and opportunities of women for many years now--at least a decade.

So I'm not a feminist and, in many cases, am overtly anti-feminist. I actively oppose such feminist goals as government daycare, extended maternity leave, equal pay for "what we think is equal work", and any effort to give women more "rights" in custody cases, to name just a few examples.

I think we should all stop allowing feminists to stop hiding behind the dictionary--and that's what they'll do as long as you cavil about being anti-feminist.

Until more people--and by people, I'm sure I mean women--say, "I think women should have equal rights and responsibilities, so naturally I can't be a feminist", feminists will continue to hide behind the dictionary.

beAzl said...

ampersand,

Why do you think it should be illegal? Your website justifies giving preferences to African-Americans because, overall, they are discriminated against more than whites, and AA makes up for it somewhat.

Do you believe, overall, there is more discrimination against women than against men? If so, wouldn't charging men more for insurance make up for it somewhat? If not, doesn't that make you an anti-feminist?

Ampersand said...

Beazl wrote: Do you believe, overall, there is more discrimination against women than against men? If so, wouldn't charging men more for insurance make up for it somewhat?

I don't know of any evidence that women are discriminated against in auto insurance rates; nor is there any evidence that women are underrepresented in terms of who is offered auto insurance. So to use AA to benefit women in the area of auto insurance wouldn't make sense, in my opinion.

I think you have a basic misunderstanding of how AA works, by the way.

If not, doesn't that make you an anti-feminist?

In my opinion, no, it doesn't.

Pooh said...

Wait, explain to me why insurance companies shouldn't be able to price discriminate? Let me suggest that individual employment decisions and participation in risk-allocation pools (i.e. insurance) are different in kind.

Amp, I think you are missing the point of the 'labeling' argument, in that labeling someone, 'anti-feminist' in this case, is attempting to win the argument definitionally rather than on the merits. Which is odd, because on the basis of your post, you are fully capable of presenting such argument.

Pooh said...

preemptively, I was responding to your first comment not your second, as we appear to have cross-commented...

beAzl said...

ampersand,

This is a somewhat different argument for AA than the one I saw on your website.

I think that the instances of Universities or courts justifying giving admissions preference to African-Americans based on past discrimination in the Univeristy system are few and far between these days. (Some would argue that the outside world's discrimination justifies AA in University admissions, even though there has never been discrimination there, so if we can redress society's wrongs that way, why not use this to justify discrimination in other places like insurance)? Maybe providing cheaper insurance would make it easier for women to get jobs as truck drivers?

Almost all AA programs these days are justified on the underrepresentation (or diversity promotion) argument.

So, if overcoming underrepresentation is a worthy enough goal that we should allow discrimination to achieve it, why isn't deterring unsafe drivers by making it difficult (statistically) for them to get insurance a worthy enough goal?

Ampersand said...

Pooh wrote: Amp, I think you are missing the point of the 'labeling' argument, in that labeling someone, 'anti-feminist' in this case, is attempting to win the argument definitionally rather than on the merits.

I can understand how you think I might use the word that way - just as some right-wingers use the word "liberal" as a perjoritive. It's a natural error for you to make.

But it is an error, in this case. I use the term "anti-feminist" the same way I use the term "republican" or "libertarian" or "liberal." These terms are all shorthand for a certain set of political views, but they are not substitutes for argument.

Since I know I wasn't using "anti-feminist" to substitute for argument, the 'lableling' argument - based on the false assumption that I must have meant the term that way - is not persuasive to me.

Ampersand said...

Pooh wrote: Wait, explain to me why insurance companies shouldn't be able to price discriminate?

I think they should be able to price discriminate, based on factors like one's driving record, or having taking driver safety courses.

I just don't think they should be allowed to price discriminate based on what's between a person's legs (or the color of their skin, or their sexual preference, for that matter).

If you're asking by what right the government can interfere with what car insurers do, I'd remind you that the government already warps that market in many ways that benefit insurers (for instance, requiring all drivers to buy insurance!). Asking for something in return for the vast benefits insurance companies get from the government doesn't seem unjust, to me.

Beazl, your earlier post didn't specify that you were thinking of AA for university admissions in particular. However, I don't see how a "diversity" rational would justify charging men a higher price for car insurance; as far as I can tell, there is no lack of women or men with car insurance. And although I can see a good theory for why education can benefit from a diverse campus population, I don't understand how insurance is supposed to benefit from a diversity of people insured.

So, if overcoming underrepresentation is a worthy enough goal that we should allow discrimination to achieve it, why isn't deterring unsafe drivers by making it difficult (statistically) for them to get insurance a worthy enough goal?

I fail to see any connection between "overcoming underrepresentation" and "deterring unsafe drivers." I really think you're stretching to make a case, here.

That aside, I certainly agree that discriminating against unsafe drivers with higher rates serves a beneficial social purpose (it gives drivers an incentive to drive cautiously). However, I think society also has a strong interest in gender justice, which is ill-served if we let men be charged more based merely on what's between their legs.

In some cases, it might be hard to strike a balance between these two interests. But in this case, it seems pretty simple; allow car insurance companies to raise premiums for bad driving records, but not for sex.

Pooh said...

Well, hang on a minute here, you say "I use the term "anti-feminist" the same way I use the term "republican" or "libertarian" or "liberal." These terms are all shorthand for a certain set of political views, but they are not substitutes for argument."

As 'feminism' means different things to different people, so must 'anti-feminist'. The 'shorthand' you are using serves more to obscure the points of difference than to illuminate why you are right (or not). Not to mention that describing someone as 'anti-feminist' sounds awfully like saying they are 'pro-patriarchy', which is a gross misrepresentation of Cathy's views, I'm sure you will agree. She claims that equality has been reached in enough areas so that arguing that women need more rights than they presently possess is not neccesarily consistent with notions of equality. Challenge that assertion on its face rather than trying to tunnel under it.

I'll accept that you are not intentionally using the term as a pejorative, but do you see how one could see that you were?

beAzl said...

ampersand,

The connection is this: If it is okay to open the door to allow discrimination for one societal goal (diversity) why isn't it okay, now that the door is open, to allow discrimination for other goals, like safe driving (high premiums for teenage boys may discourage parents from allowing their sons to drive) or anti-terrorism or drug-fighting (based on racial and gender profiling) or economically efficient businesses (which might be more efficient if some discrimination is allowed)?

Cathy made a clear statement - none of these, presumably, should be allowed, based on a fundamental principle (which I am personally not sure I agree with, as you might have gathered).

You sort of make that same argument, based on gender justice (why should it matter what's between the legs?), but then where does that leave the policy which I assumed you support - allowing Universities to give preference to female applicants to a program in which they are underrepresented (if you don't support this policy, then I apologize).

Cathy Young said...

Re insurance rates: insurance is a unique industry which uses statistical profiling as part of its standard practice. (In some cases it's women getting the short end of the stick -- paying higher rates due to their higher life expectancy.)

I find it morally problematic, but not really comparable to simply not hiring someone on the basis of gender. No one, after all, is actually denied insurance on the basis of group membership -- in fact, as pooh has pointed out, it's mandatory in most states to have auto insurance. The point is not to make it "more difficult" for men to get insurance, it's to make it easier for the insurance company to cover its losses, which are proportionately greater from male drivers.

I wonder if there is there any documented evidence of women's higher attrition rates in the workplace causing problems for employers? I do know that in the military, you can be required to serve for a certain number of years until you've "worked off" the military's investment in you. That was an issue recently when a female pilot wanted to quit in order to be a full-time mother.

I wonder if a civilian employer could successfully sue an employee if they had invested a lot in the employee's training (e.g. sent the employee to training courses at their expense, etc.) and the employee quit after only a short time?

Barry, getting back to the term "anti-feminist": since the word is clearly often used as a pejorative, and in fact the dictionary defines it in a way that the vast majority of Americans would construe as pejorative (i.e. synonymous to "sexist" or "male chauvinist"), do you think it's fair or productive for you to use the word in the sense that you have assigned to it ("critical of the feminist movement")? (I might add, by the way, that I don't question the need for a women's movement when it arose, and agree with many of its goals; I just think it's been largely on the wrong track for some time.)

beAzl said...

Cathy,

Good points (and sorry for the digression). I don't know what the regulations currently say about it, but auto insurers do at times deny coverage to drivers with bad driving records. My guess would be that, barring regulations that might prevent it, they would more likely deny coverage to a (young) male with a bad driving record, then a female with an identical bad driving record, since (and I am guessing here) statistically the (young) male is still more likely to get in another accident than the female.

Would it be less problematic if the hypothetical employer openly paid women hires less because of the (let's assume it's documented) higher attrition rate they've experienced with past hires?

Cal said...

"I wonder if a civilian employer could successfully sue an employee if they had invested a lot in the employee's training (e.g. sent the employee to training courses at their expense, etc.) and the employee quit after only a short time? "

It's simpler just to change the employee handbook to require employees to reimburse the employer in the event they don't hang around long enough to make the investment worth it. Relatively few employers do this.

As to your larger point, it's certainly true that employers believe women are less likely to be around long enough to justify their investment. Given the number of women who leave the workforce when they have children, it's probably a justified belief.

Leaving a job to go home is worse than leaving a job for other employment. The latter has plenty of networking value.

Anonymous said...

What Barry wrote:

"Cathy knows I respect her, but it remains the case that the overwhelming majority of her writings about feminism are dedicated to attacking feminism and feminists."

Funny. Barry doesn't say anything about feminists & feminists who are RELENTLY attacking men & masculinity.

Cathy isn't anti-feminist. She's PRO-MALE. She isn't anti-feminist. She's anti-male bashing.

Pooh said...

Cathy, to continue the digression, you allude to they key difference between employment and insurance. The employment decision is one to one, any
'statistical' evidence of performance between one group and another is not especially likely to be helpful, and we, as a society have decided that applying such group stereotypes to individuals is not appropriate in that context (and, for the record, I fully agree...). However, in insurance, we are dealing explicitly with the aggregation of risk. Sex remains, for whatever reason, a useful proxy. The thing is, if the insurance companies could figure out a better measure, they would...considering the ease of comparing rates these days, anything that lets a company predict its risk more accurately than a competitor is at a large advantage...so this is defintely one where A) there isn't much of a problem in the first place and B) the market will figure it out quite nicely, thank you.

Anonymous said...

Just came across this word:

Humanist.

Cathy Young isn't anti-feminist. She is a HUMANIST.

She writes about both the misandry as well as misanthropy of both men & women. But then the feminist-infested media is more anti-male than gender-equal. Cathy just points out this imbalance.

That doesn't make her anti-female. It makes her a humanist.

Cathy Young said...

First, on the somewhat tangential issue of paying women less to offset the possible losses caused by their quitting: first of all, this would create a vicious cycle since a company that did engage in such practices would most likely see more women quit.

Second, insurance is different, as pooh points out, because it's all based on a variety of risk factor/group assessments.

According to this article, the gender gap in insurance rates affects only young drivers (16 to 25) and fluctuates from company to company.

I'd like to know how large this gap is, but leaving that aside:

It's quite possible that some of the gender differential in pay -- or rather, some of the part of the gender differential that isn't explained by differences in education, training, experience, etc. -- is actually explained by precisely such "risk assessment."

One big difference, though, is that unlike the insurers, employers would never openly discuss gender as a factor.

Cathy Young said...

anonymous: I consider myself pro-individual, not "pro-male." But "humanist" will do fine (though of course it brings in a whole set of other issues because some interpret it to mean "irreligious"). Or "pro-equality."

By the way, a quick glossary: misogyny = woman-hatred; misandry = male-hatred; misanthropy = hatred of all humanity.

Adrienne said...

I think Ampersand/Barry rejected the word "humanist" some time ago on the late Ms. boards because it wasn't "threatening enough to the patriarchy".

I really want to like Ampersand. I think he has a good heart and that he's well-intentioned. But his crap like this (clearly perjorative) labeling annoys me every time.

Feminists (of the radical kind) like to pull a bait-and-switch on the word "feminist", too, I have learned. If a feminist asks a young woman if she's a feminist, and she outright says "No," then the feminist can pull a look of horror and promptly chastize the young woman for not standing up for equality, women's rights, the hard-won victories like legal abortion, and so on. But when you get to the heart of what people like
Ampersand mean when they say "feminist", it's restricted to those who think along the same lines as MacKinnon, Dworkin, Dowd, Ehrenreich, and so on.

Cathy Young said...

Adrienne: I don't know that many feminists would classify Maureen Dowd as a feminist.

Anyway, I do find it interesting who gets labeled "antifeminist." Wendy Kaminer, for instance, has made a lot of the same criticisms of "rape-crisis feminism" as Katie Roiphe, but somehow she doesn't seem to get lumped into the same "anti-feminist" category. Maybe it's because Kaminer has "earned her stripes" by criticizing gender inequality, while Roiphe came on the scene basically to criticize feminism?

Ampersand said...

For those who are interested, I've posted a response to Cathy's post on my blog.

Adrienne, I don't reject the word "humanist," except in the sense that I don't think it's a substitute for the word "feminist."

Amy said...

I wonder if a civilian employer could successfully sue an employee if they had invested a lot in the employee's training (e.g. sent the employee to training courses at their expense, etc.) and the employee quit after only a short time?

Back in my days of being an IT consultant and DBA, I had at least two different jobs where I had to sign a contract agreeing to repay the company for expensive training if I left before a certain amount of time. I had no problem with this. It seemed perfectly reasonable.

My problem, and the reason why I don't agree that things are all equal and fine now, is with the overwhelming assumptions I see in the corporate world that, because I am a woman, I WILL leave. I have no plans to have children. But I have come in contact with many people in the professional world who assumed I wasn't as good a risk because they ASSUMED that I would. And there is also the issue, of course, of the inherent assumption that the choice to have children only affects women in the workplace. Sure, she's the one who's got to take time off for the actual pregnancy/childbirth thing. But no one ever assumes that a man might want to leave the workplace to be a stay-at-home dad. The assumptions are always that child-rearing is all about women, and that all women want to participate in child-rearing, and those assumptions still do affect professional advancement and salaries, even for women like me who have no plans to have children.

And as long as that is true, along with many other troubling issues of gender equality, things simply aren't equal enough. And I have a hard time accepting the label "feminist" for someone who thinks that things are equal enough, and nothing else needs to be changed. (For the record, I equally abhor the idea of the label "feminist" for someone who uses it to mean, "Men suck and should be put down." Feminism should be about seeking equality, not superiority.)

Richard Bennett said...

I posted this comment on Barry's blog but he moderates my comments so it may not show up.

Is this a feminist or an anti-feminist statement:

WE REJECT the current assumptions that a man must carry the sole burden of supporting himself, his wife, and family, and that a woman is automatically entitled to lifelong support by a man upon her marriage, or that marriage, home and family are primarily woman's world and responsibility -- hers, to dominate -- his to support. We believe that a true partnership between the sexes demands a different concept of marriage, an equitable sharing of the responsibilities of home and children and of the economic burdens of their support. We believe that the proper recognitions should be given to the economic and social value of homemaking and child-care. To these ends, we will seek to open a reexamination of laws and mores governing marriage and divorce, for we believe that the current state of "half-equality" between the sexes discriminates against both men and women, and is the cause of much unnecessary hostility between the sexes.

This is a trick question, of course.

drumgurl said...

Richard, I responded to you on Amp's blog as well. I think that is a feminist statement.

Richard Bennett said...

The NOW opposes that statement now, so I suppose that means they're anti-feminist, in Barry's construction of the term, right?

drumgurl said...

I think in some ways, NOW is anti-feminist. At least in the way I view feminism. I don't think Barry would agree with me on that, though.

drumgurl said...

Cathy, I read your latest comment on Alas (#216) and I think that if you lived in a more conservative area, you might see that there is still a need for the kind feminism you support. There are places right here in the U.S. where the culture is "extremely sexist and drenched in 1950s-style stereotypes". That, of course, isn't anything the law can change. It's more that the ideas of old-school feminism aren't yet accepted in some rural areas.

I have noticed a positive change for me personally, though, since graduating from college this year. I don't think I am "oppressed" at all in my current job. But before I graduated, when I worked factory jobs and Wal-Mart-type jobs, there was a lot of blatant sexism that would never be tolerated in a more liberal area of the U.S.

But that doesn't mean I don't think there's discrimination against men... because I do. I often agree with the father's rights movement. In fact, I think they too are harmed by the same 1950s-style stereotypes you mentioned on Alas.

drumgurl said...

Amy said:
"...the overwhelming assumptions I see in the corporate world that, because I am a woman, I WILL leave. I have no plans to have children. But I have come in contact with many people in the professional world who assumed I wasn't as good a risk because they ASSUMED that I would."

Yes, I agree with that. That stereotype is certainly there. That is one reason I'm a feminist.

However, I feel the more leftist feminists have abandoned women like you and me. They see us as corporate tools of the capitalist patriarchy. It's not politically correct to be a careerist anymore.

Cathy Young said...

Redneck Feminist -- sorry, I wasn't checking this thread the past couple of days and didn't see your comments.

I agree with you about the enduring need for "old-style feminism" in some of the more conservative, small town/rural parts of the U.S. (and the fact that my perceptions are shaped by living in the Northeast).

A few months ago I was reading a Washington Post article about the travails of a gay teenage boy in a small and very conservative town (in Oklahoma, I think). The story had one line that just blew me away, where the boy said that he wasn't sure he was in favor of same-sex marriage because he wasn't quite sure how it was going to work out -- if two men get married, who's going to do the cooking, cleaning, and other women's work?

This may be very naive of me, but I was honestly shocked that someone under the age of 60 would openly articulate the assumption that cooking and cleaning should be done by women.

Anonymous said...

A note from years later. Barry takes days to post a response, and posts that response at another site where he gets paid for clicks, and only after posting several non-responses to other people.

Cathy is an anti-feminist? Only for wankers like Barry. Why is Barry Deutsch taken seriously? Because he has the right emotions and the sense to slam men enough to get the attention of haters and misandrists?

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