thank god we fixed that sexism thing

I love reading Reason -- both the magazine and their blog, Hit & Run. Both are usually chock full of well-reasoned (ha ha) and intelligent commentary. They have a few writers, though, that basically never fail to annoy me. Cathy Young is one of those. In a recently article, she contemplates whether Palin's candicacy was a Good Thing for feminism or not. Contained therein, we encounter this passage:

Palin's rise enraged many liberal and left-wing feminists. At HuffingtonPost.com, novelist Jane Smiley branded her "a woman who reinforces patriarchal power rather than challenges it." (The notion that "patriarchal power" exists in the United States in 2008 is only slightly less delusional than the belief, erroneously attributed to Palin, that God created the dinosaurs 5000 years ago.)

Uh.. What? Was there a big announcement that we finally fixed sexism? Maybe it was right after we also fixed racism, which, as Cathy Young will tell you, is entirely black people's fault these days too. Ugh. Incidentally, if Cathy Young believes patriarchal power no longer exists, what, exactly, is feminism, and what would constitute a "step forward" for it? Why is she even writing about it? It's like she has this knee-jerk inability to admit that any institutional forces exist, and that to admit they do would be admitting some sort of personal weakness or something. It's okay, Cathy! Institutions exist! It's not your fault!

That said, I mostly agree with her answer to the question of whether or not Palin's candicacy was a good thing for women's progress:

Unfortunately, Palin's feminist star was dimmed by a few things, especially the mounting evidence that she was less than qualified for the spot. (Her supporters derided such concerns as "elitism.") The shielding of Palin from the media, and the McCain campaign's request for a less challenging format for her debate with Joseph Biden, would have been embarrassing for any candidate - but especially for the first woman on the Republican ticket. Palin went from Xena, Warrior Princess to damsel in distress, and her candidacy began to smack a particularly pernicious form of faux feminism: gender-based promotion of the less competent.

It goes without saying that I think "less than qualified" is the understatement of the year. I suppose the fact that she was able to do as well as she did while being a woman in theory is some sort of vague victory, but it's vastly overshadowed by the fact that by all measures she was extremely ignorant and vastly unprepared for any position in office. Unfortunately this will probably do far more to reinforce existing stereotypes about women than the fact that she was on the stage at all could undo.

I think the much more interesting feminist issue unfolding on the national stage will be the first-lady-ification of Michelle Obama.

  • Dreidel

    Hey Chris,
    Cathy Young has done a good job of PWNing you in her Nov 20th reply on her website http://www.cathyyoung.blogspot.com (which I can’t link to directly in this “comments” section, but which you can certainly access through your server). If you’re willing to address her specific remarks honestly — as opposed to ad hominem cheap shots amd dishonest generalizations that mischaracterize her beliefs — I’m eagerly awaiting your reply.

  • http://chris.quietlife.net Chris

    Uh, where did I use an ad hominem cheat shot?

  • http://deleted Dreidel

    Two cheap shots, one ad hominem:
    1) “It’s like she has this knee-jerk inability to admit that any institutional forces exist, and that to admit they do would be admitting some sort of personal weakness or something. It’s okay, Cathy! Institutions exist! It’s not your fault!” This is an attack on her personal character, dripping with condescension and ridicule, and thus ad hominem.
    2)”…racism, which, as Cathy Young will tell you, is entirely black people’s fault these days too…” This is not at all what she said about “the culture of poverty,” and your description of her comments is either grossly exaggerated or deliberately dishonest.

    For the record: I am not a right-winger leaping to Cathy Young’s defense. My political views are on average centrist (some right of center, some left of, so the average settles more or less in the mushy middle). But the all-or-none one-dimensional love/hatred coming from both ends of the ideological spectrum over the last two years of this political debate literally makes me sick to my stomach.

  • http://chris.quietlife.net Chris

    This is an attack on her personal character, dripping with condescension and ridicule, and thus ad hominem.

    I think calling that an “ad hominem” is a bit of a stretch — it’s an observation about a trend I’ve noticed in her writing, and, I suppose by extension, her character, but that’s not exactly a fallacious deflection when … that was the point of my post.

    This is not at all what she said about “the culture of poverty,” and your description of her comments is either grossly exaggerated or deliberately dishonest.

    Allow me to quote Cathy, as I did in my original post: “BUT the ”culture of poverty” argument itself cannot be so easily dismissed. Yes, some people are poor because of bad luck or catastrophic illness; but chronic, multigenerational poverty is another matter.” Fair to say based on this that she subscribes to the idea. It’s a generations-old sleight of hand to downplay any institutional forces whatsoever and write off the plight of minorities in this country as the fault of their “culture”. I fail to see how my admittedly ascerbic paraphrasal is inaccurate. “Culture of poverty” is a delicate way of saying “your fault, not our problem”. If it sounds harsh, or ridiculous, that may be a reflection of the infuriating preposterousness of the idea itself.

    I’m also a little perplexed by the assumption (by you and her as well) that I somehow represent “the left” all of a sudden.

  • http://deleted Dreidel

    Well, Chris, I appreciate your willingness to engage me in serious debate rather than insults — an opportunity that you didn’t give Ms. Young, perhaps because you weren’t addressing her directly. But I think that your broad brush assumptions about her statements (that her denial of the “patriarchy” equates to the denial of the existence of “sexism” or of “any institutional forces”) reflect the knee-jerk reaction of the hard left — that you’re either with us 100%, or you’re instantly demonized, with no common ground allowed.

    Admittedly, the hard right shares this belief (albeit from the opposite side of the political sepectrum), with rigid views that are neither “faith-based” nor “reality-based,” but grounded soley in ideology. This is why I respect Cathy Young’s basically humanist, somewhat right-of-center viewpoint: She looks at issues individually, and passes judgement on that specific issue’s merits, regardless of where it falls on the left/right politcal spectrum. (I would respect an equally reasonable left-of-center viewpoint.)

    However, I consider your “admittedly ascerbic paraphrasal(s)” inaccurate because they are so selectively one-sided: They exaggerate the statements with which you disagree, and ignore the modifying statements that show the dishonestly in your exaggerations.

    Cathy Young is clearly biased to the right, and I disagree with many of her opinions. But she is capable of seeing the follies of both the left AND the right, and of calling out the errors of both sides, as she sees the facts, without demonizing everyone who doesn’t share her ideology. This gives her a credibility that her oponents — whether of the left or right– would do well to emulate.

  • anon

    Very interesting.

    I am not Dreidel. I wrote substantially the same comment as Dreidel’s first comment, but it wouldn’t post. Dreidel’s is so close to mine, that I had to look twice to make sure it wasn’t mine!

    Chris, I am Jewish, a lefty, also disgusted by how easily the net and de-evolved to smears and cheap shots like yours, when it could be used for dialog and conversation.

    And I think Cathy pwned you, and you probably owe her an apology and a rethinking of all of the assumptions in your essay.

    Dreidel, I don’t think it’s quite accurate to say Young is biased towards the right. I do think she is a libertarian on most issues pertaining to civil rights, and socially liberal on many.

    Given how so much of feminism erroneously identifies as left even as it promotes authoritarian policies (for instance “keep the gov’t off our bodies” has changed to “we demand the gov’t make injections of gardasil mandatory”), I’d say she is more classically left in these issues than many modern feminists, including perhaps Chris. How do you fall on mandatory injections of gardasil, Chris? And if you’re for it, how do you reconcile that with “gov’t off our bodies?”

  • http://chris.quietlife.net Chris

    Chris, I am Jewish, a lefty, also disgusted by how easily the net and de-evolved to smears and cheap shots like yours, when it could be used for dialog and conversation.

    Please explain how I “smeared” anyone, thanks.

    And I think Cathy pwned you, and you probably owe her an apology and a rethinking of all of the assumptions in your essay.

    Uh yes, “pwned”. MMhmm.. Perhaps in addition to apologizing and rethinking all of my assumptions, I’ll go ahead and construct an altar to Cathy’s infallibility.

    How do you fall on mandatory injections of gardasil, Chris? And if you’re for it, how do you reconcile that with “gov’t off our bodies?”

    I fail to see what this has to do with anything, but I’m opposed to making it mandatory. Are we having a libertarian dick-swinging contest? Do I need to arbitrarily ask you something random now too?