Thursday, May 10, 2007

Philosophy and Patriarchy: Letter to the Editor

When we put up a post about the bogus “pay gap” between men and women, we didn’t expect the amount of controversy it would generate.

We first got an e-mail from Jessica Cushion, defending the feminist position that women are the victims of evil patriarchy, and that she had learned all the details in her Philosophy class.

One parent of a would-be Marquette student wrote to say that he’s glad his daughter is now at the University of Dallas (due to a better financial aid offer).

And then we got these.
Hi John,

I am writing to comment on the letter you received from one of our students who responded to your discussion of the alleged “pay-gap” between men and women. The student appeared to base her response on “an entire class on how patriarchy controls every structure in our society and how women are systematically prevented from being equal to men (Capitalism and Catholicism are among the most guilty parties).”

The first thing that came to my mind after reading this was the term “re-education.”

Greg Rajala
The term “re-education,” of course, has Stalinist connotations.

Which is why it’s probably quite appropriate for a humanities department in a contemporary university.

Then we got this.
As a female philosophy-B.A. holding individual, I’d like to disagree with your student on the claim that, “Other people who have a hard time at their jobs because of their gender:...females in academic disciplines like philosophy and political science (they can’t possibly contribute to the knowledge creation process since they’re so emotional and emotions cloud rationality)...”

I personally never had an issue being taken seriously in academia, probably because I had the ability to argue logically. Those “women are emotional” arguments, though, are prevalent in the 100-level philosophy books because you typically study the ancients or Kant, or other intro-philosophers who, in their time, held that line of thinking. That’s probably where she picked that idea up and took it to still be a common issue for female philosophers. I’d like to let her know: It’s not.

Nevertheless, you ask the question why she picked Catholicism versus Islam or any other religion. My guess: In a 100-level philosophy class centered around feminism, they probably studied the Catholic theologians’ attempts at reconciling faith and philosophy (namely Augustine to Plato and Aquinas to Aristotle). The class probably also centered around western theories. Again, another guess.

I’ll be curious to find out if my guesses are right, or even close.

Cantankerous
http://www.latermeask.blogspot.com
Cushion, in a later e-mail to us, did say that the professor had not dealt with Islam or other religions.

But of course, it makes no sense to blame Catholicism without asking whether any other religious tradition has a “better” record. And why blame capitalism?

Interestingly, the “women are emotional” argument is now perfectly politically correct. But you can’t say it that way.

You have to say that women are more “compassionate” or more “empathetic.”

Of course, some very different gender stereotypes paint women (at least some women) as shrewd, or calculating or conniving. All of which are the precise opposite of “emotional” or, for that matter, “compassionate” or “empathetic.”

[Update]

Jessica Cushion writes, in response to the above post:
Once again, you’ve misquoted me. I said that in fact, we did discuss Islam and other world religions in our class, but didn’t have time in the semester to discuss any religion at length. We spent about 40 minutes on Catholicism, and I’d hardly call that an eternity. To respond to the woman who wrote you the letter, we did focus on western culture, which is why capitalism came up in conversation. Again, we spent about 15 minutes on it. The vast majority of the class was focused on reading feminist philosophers, dissecting their arguments, figuring out where they fit in in terms of other philosophers, and moving chronologically through major authors in the discipline. We didn’t receive some crazy indoctrination -- I chose to subscribe to the belief systems of many of the philosophers we studied because what they wrote made total sense.
We checked the earlier e-mail from Cushion, and she said:
We talked primarily about western culture where those two things are most relevant. We did talk about Islam and other world religions, and they all came under the same blanket critique as Catholicism did. Organized religion is not a place where women can find equality, regardless of what organized religion you subscribe to.
So she is correct about what she said in the e-mail, and we remembered “we talked primarily about western culture.”

But, in her original e-mail, Cushion said:
I just finished up an entire class on how patriarchy controls every structure in our society and how women are systematically prevented from being equal to men (Capitalism and Catholicism are among the most guilty parties).
So we are back to wondering how, if she studied Islam, Catholicism could be “among the most guilty parties.”

Presumably, she means “among the most guilty parties in the west.”

But how does it make sense to condemn capitalism and Catholicism when all the alternatives are even worse?

As for Cushion’s claim that she chose to accept feminist philosophy, and was not indoctrinated, we can’t forget what she said in a previous e-mail to us. Here, the context was the fact that women may choose to stay home with the children:
There is debate about whether women are actually choosing these routes or not. . . . We talked about this kind of stuff in one of my psych classes too, where your socialization can actually cause you to hold negative stereotypes about groups you belong to (i.e. an African-American who is racist against other African-Americans, self-hating Jews, homophobic gays) and especially women who are raised to believe that a woman’s work is in the home or in teaching children or something like that. Women shouldn’t believe that their place is in the kitchen, but if the societal trend is to put them there, it’s not unlikely that a girl will grow up thinking that her purpose in life is to pop out kids and bake for her husband. She may say she’s making the choice to do so, but is she really making that choice on her own? It’s debatable.
So when Cushion adopts a feminist worldview, she has freely “chosen” that worldview.

But when a woman fails to make the choices that feminists think she should, it’s “debatable” whether it is really a “choice on her own.”

Cushion, quite simply, is not willing to accept choices made by women if they are choices with which she disagrees. They have been indoctrinated by society.

But her choices could not possibly be the result of indoctrination.

This unwillingness to respect other people’s choices is what drives so much of the authoritarianism of politically correct people on college campuses. Cushion, for example, has claimed that Marquette should ban speakers who oppose gay marriage, since such a view constitutes “hate speech.”

Ironically, women who choose to stay at home, or (more typically) subordinate their own careers to the demands of child rearing, are resisting the feminist indoctrination that permeates the schools and the media.

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