Feminist ideology

After a flogging: a Mississippi slave. Photograph taken April 2, 1863, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA. In the New World, male slaves outnumbered women by a wide margin.

A reminder that women have often been immeasurably more fortunate than men and that Professor Susan James' generalization (in the 'Concise Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy') and the generalization of her husband, Professor Quentin Skinner (in an interview) amount to gross distortion. She claims that

'Feminism is grounded on the belief that women are oppressed or disadvantaged by comparison with men ... '

He claims that

'Everything remains harder for women, at every stage ... '

What of slave men and free women, such as the free women  who owned slaves? Were these women 'oppressed' or 'disadvantaged' by comparison with male slaves, such as the male slave in the photograph here? Was everything harder for these women?

Below, and in other places on the page, I give examples from many other fields which call into question their ignorant generalization - one which is very widely held.

The section Slavery and serfdom gives more information about this topic. What do Susan James, Quentin Skinner and others make of this, on the compensation of slave owners, including women slave owners?

On 28 August 1833, the Abolition Bill received the royal assent: slavery would be abolished throughout the British colonies. Later in the year, the Slave Compensation Commission was established. It awarded compensation to the slave owners for loss of the property they owned - the slaves. The slaves themselves, 800,000 in number,  received no compensation. The Commission paid out the staggering sum of 20 million GBP, the equivalent of 17 billion GBP in current values. The slave owners who were compensated so generously - 3,000 of them living in this country - included members of the lower middle class - and many, many women.  Over 40% of the 46,000 people who claimed compensation for their loss of property, and were generally successful, were women.

The section on 'Slavery and Serfdom' gives more information about the Slave Compensation Commission. Its records give astonishing insights not only into slavery and its horrors but the status of free women slave owners at the time. One of these is The remarkable case of Dorothy Little  and her energy in pursuing her callous and self-seeking interests.

Women like Dorothy Little who had inherited slaves and lived off the income from slaves until they were compensated for the loss of their slaves - what is a feminist to make of this?  Hugh Thomas, writing about the Dutch trade in slaves, noted that 'planters preferred slaves whom they could work hard and then discard, or leave to die, without the trouble of having to rear their families.' (The Slave Trade: The History of the Atlantic Slave Trade 1440 - 1870.') Were  women slave owners, or many, many free women who were not slave owners, for that matter, 'oppressed' or 'disadvantaged' by comparison with the male slaves who were worked to death? Were these male slaves privileged?

For more information on slavery, see the section on this page, Slavery and serfdom. It includes this testimony:

' ... She was a fearful woman, and a savage mistress to her slaves.

'There were two little slave boys in the house, on whom she vented her bad temper in a special manner. One of these children was a mulatto, called Cyrus, who had been bought while an infant in his mother's arms; the other, Jack, was an African from the coast of Guinea, whom a sailor had given or sold to my master. Seldom a day passed without these boys receiving the most severe treatment, and often for no fault at all. Both my master and mistress seemed to think that they had a right to ill-use them at their pleasure; and very often accompanied their commands with blows, whether the children were behaving well or ill. I have seen their flesh ragged and raw with licks. They were never secure one moment from a blow, and their lives were passed in continual fear. My mistress was not contented with using the whip, but often pinched their cheeks and arms in the most cruel manner. My pity for these poor boys was soon transferred to myself; for I was licked, and flogged, and pinched by her pitiless fingers in the neck and arms, exactly as they were. To strip me naked - to hang me up by the wrists and lay my flesh open with the cow-skin, was an ordinary punishment for even a slight offence. My mistress often robbed me too of the hours that belong to sleep. She used to sit up very late, frequently even until morning; and I had then to stand at a bench and wash during the greater part of the night, or pick wool and cotton; and often I have dropped down overcome by sleep and fatigue, till roused from a state of stupor by the whip, and forced to start up to my tasks.'

Recently,  the Rhodes Must Fall Group demanded the removal of a statue of the colonialist Cecil Rhodes from the buildings of Oriel College, Oxford, and 'a commitment from Oxford University to 'recontextualising iconography celebrating figures of grave injustice' They added, 'Murderous colonists and slave-holders belong in books and museums, not on the sides of buildings. This requires the removal and rehousing of statues and portraits and the renaming of buildings.'

The group seems to be unaware of the contribution of black women to the injustice of slavery and the contribution of black societies in Africa to the injustice of slavery. As a contribution to freedom from illusion (not that I expect the ideologists of the Rhodes Must Fall Group any more than ideological feminists to embrace freedom from illusion), a quotation from 'Slavery and Free Women of Color in Antebellum New Orleans' by Anne Ulentin. It gives information which is resistant to feminist interpretation as well as the activists of 'Rhodes must Fall:'

'My research shows that free women of color traded slaves of all ages - from infants to 60 year-olds. The majority were between the ages of 11 and 30, when they were the most valuable ... Some documents show that slaves ... were to be handed down from parent to child just like any other possession ... The free women of color, for whom we have inventories, often owned significant property, including slaves, houses, lots, and furniture ... It was very common for these women to choose not to emancipate their slaves, and instead to pass them down to children or other relatives ... it is difficult to ignore evidence that free women of color, like whites, engaged in slavery for commercial purposes, and that, in doing so, they prospered.'

Followed immediately by this:

'In North and South America, men made up the majority of slaves.'

'From 'The Slave Trade: A Reflection' (the closing chapter of Hugh Thomas' 'The Slave Trade: The History of the Atlantic Slave Trade 140 - 1870'):

'Some slaves were stolen by Europeans ... and some, as occurred often in Angola, were the victims of military campaigns mounted specifically by Portuguese proconsuls in order to capture slaves. But most slaves carried from Africa between 140 and 1870 were procured as a result of the African's interest in selling their neighbours, usually distant but sometimes close, and, more rarely, their own people.' And,

' ... most of the millions of slaves shipped from Africa were ... ordinary farmers or members of their families, suddenly deprived of their liberty by fellow Africans in response to what a modern economist might call 'growing external demand.' '

The section on 'Slavery and Serfdom' includes this, on serfdom in Russia: 'The writer Turgenev was a young adult in the 1840's. His mother owned 5 000 serfs. She had them flogged and she had Turgenev flogged very often. When two young serfs failed to bow as she was passing them, she made use of her almost absolute power over them by ordering them to be deported to Siberia.'

'From 'Turgenev: His Life and Times' by Leonard Schapiro:

' ... her general practice was to maintain a rule of terror under which complete subordination was exacted from her peasants, who were never allowed to forget that they were serfs or to think of themselves as human beings.

'From childhood he had always felt instinctive sympathy with the domestic serfs as fellow human beings ... '

'One incident:

'Turgenev, hearing that his mother had sold one of her young girl serfs, announced that he would not tolerate the sale of human beings, and hid the girl with a peasant family. The purchaser applied to the police, and the local police chief, with a posse armed with clubs, arrived to demand the girl. He was greeted by Turgenev with a gun, who threatened to shoot.' On this occasion, his mother backed down and she agreed to cancel the sale of the girl.

The title of Jerome Blum's book 'Lord and Peasant in Russia: From the Ninth to the Nineteenth Century' may infuriate some feminists: obviously a sexist title, women excluded. The author does include material on women, such as here:

'The helplessness of the serfs proved too great a temptation for those proprietors in whose natures sadism lay close to the surface. These people inflicted frightful cruelties upon their peasants. One of the most infamous cases was that of Devia Saltykov who in 1756 inherited 600 serfs from her husband.'

(The subject of wealthy heiresses and their plight isn't a flourishing topic in feminist writing.)

'In seven years she tortured scores of them to death for petty or imagined offenses. Her conduct became so atrocious that the authorities decided they had to do something. So in 1762 they began an investigation. It lasted for six years. Finally, she was stripped of her noble rank, pilloried for one hour in Moscow, and then sentenced to spend the rest of her life in confinement in a convent. In contrast to her mild punishment, the serfs who at her command had aided in the torturing of her victims were beaten with the knout and then condemned for life to hard labor in Siberia.'

The section on this page Women in Nazi Germany gives arguments and evidence on the subject. This is a link to a film showing women (oppressed? disadvantaged?) on the staff at Auschwitz:


Were these women oppressed or disadvantaged, to use the words of  Professor Susan James, because none of them had 'top jobs' at Auschwitz? Did these women have a hard time, to use the words of  Professor Quentin Skinner?  The film shows, it would seem, that these Nazi women were having a very good time.

A section of the page where I discuss a number of contrasting but linked issues, Army families, famine, Sophie Scholl, mining includes this:

'The linkages between Sophie Scholl and her brother Hans - they were guillotined by the Nazis on the same day for membership of the White Rose group, which protested against the Nazis - were far more significant than the linkage of gender between Sophie Scholl and the wife of Goebbels or the linkage of gender between Hans Scholl and Goebbels.'

In many pages of this site, including this page, I stress the importance of humane and humanitarian values.  In my page on the philosopher Nietzsche, 'Nietzsche: contra,' in the section Nietzsche and pity, I attack Nietzsche, who had contempt for pity and compassion. These are some others (there are many more): my pages on the death penalty, bullfighting, animal welfare, veganism (I'm a vegetarian but not a vegan, and I oppose veganism), green ideology and ethics: theory and practice

Miss Elizabeth McQuerns, a schoolteacher in South Carolina owned a slave named Jerry and used to hire him out. He raped the wife of a subcontracted master and was burned alive, not by a lynch mob but by judicial process. Rape requires punishment, but any present-day feminists who think that  burning alive is a proper punishment for rape have left enlightenment values far behind. A present-day feminist and gender theorist, Dr Felicity Donohoe of Glasgow university, has defended burning alive - the torturing to death of men by native American women - as a challenge to patriarchy, as I explain in the section A gender theorist's excuses for torture. Another gender theorist, Professor Lisa Downing, has made the astonishing, and very disturbing, claim that Myra Hindley, involved in the torture and murder of children, was a strong woman who refused to follow patriarchal norms. On the evidence of these two 'theorists,' gender theory is in a shocking state. Will other gender theorists make it clear that they can't possibly accept the interpretations of these two, or will they do nothing?

Again and again, in many different jurisdictions, the criminal law treats men far more harshly than women. The section on this page Feminism and the death penalty gives examples, such as this:

'The Death Penalty Information Center in the United States documents and discusses the death penalty in meticulous detail. From the page


'Women account for only 1 in 50 (2%) death sentences imposed at the trial level;
Women account for only 1 in 67 (1.5%) persons presently on death row; and
Women account for only 1 in 100 (1%) persons actually executed in the modern era.'


I write, 'The walk to the execution chamber or conveyance to the execution chamber on a wheeled stretcher of the certainly innocent, the arguably innocent, the mentally ill, the victims of gross childhood abuse, juvenile offenders, and offenders who are none of these things, after the degrading ritual of the 'last meal' (called the 'special meal' in Ohio) has been overwhelmingly the experience of males. At the time of her execution in February 2014, Suzanne Basso was the 510th person to be executed in Texas, the most prolific executing state, since the death penalty was restored in 1976. Of these, 505 were men  ...

'Feminism isn't responsible for the continuance of capital punishment in the United States, but feminism gives the impression that the continuance of the death penalty isn't so important, or not important in the least. For a whole range of issues and not just the death penalty, feminism's tendency is to monopolize attention or to deflect attention from the need for reform.'

From the page


'31. July 8, 1999. Florida. Allen Lee Davis. Electrocution. "Before he was pronounced dead … the blood from his mouth had poured onto the collar of his white shirt, and the blood on his chest had spread to about the size of a dinner plate, even oozing through the buckle holes on the leather chest strap holding him to the chair." His execution was the first in Florida's new electric chair, built especially so it could accommodate a man Davis's size (approximately 350 pounds). Later, when another Florida death row inmate challenged the constitutionality of the electric chair, Florida Supreme Court Justice Leander Shaw commented that "the color photos of Davis depict a man who — for all appearances — was brutally tortured to death by the citizens of Florida." Justice Shaw also described the botched executions of Jesse Tafero and Pedro Medina (q.v.), calling the three executions "barbaric spectacles" and "acts more befitting a violent murderer than a civilized state." Justice Shaw included pictures of Davis's dead body in his opinion. The execution was witnessed by a Florida State Senator, Ginny Brown-Waite, who at first was "shocked" to see the blood, until she realized that the blood was forming the shape of a cross and that it was a message from God saying he supported the execution.'

Above, Ginny Brown-Waite

In 2015, Kelly Gissendaner was executed by the state of Georgia. She was the first woman to be executed by the state for 70 years. I'd point out the disproportion here. Her lawyers argued that her sentence was disproportionate compared to that of her co-defendant. I'm in full agreement. She arranged to have her husband killed by her lover, Greg Owen, who stabbed Doug Gissendaner in the neck and back. Greg Owen testified against Kelly Gissendaner as part of a plea bargain that got him a life sentence instead of death.

Scientific theory is modified by empirical evidence. A scientific theory may be rejected on the basis of empirical evidence. Feminist theory, including gender theory, is different. It deals in certainties - alleged certainties. The idea that a feminist view should be modified or even rejected on the basis of empirical evidence is deeply shocking to feminist theorists.The rest of us are under no compulsion to accept feminist theory.

Since 1973, 156 people who were sentenced to death in the United States have been found to be innocent and freed. They include a man whose death sentence was later changed to life imprisonment - but who spent 39 years in prison before being found innocent and freed. The Death Penalty Information Center's list, with the criteria for inclusion, is at


Of the 156, all but two have been men. I talked with three of them, released from the Pennsylvania death row.

(See also my page on the death penalty.)

Far more often than not, the criminal justice system (which includes a criminal injustice system) is much more lenient to women than to men. The subject of false rape allegations is comprehensively covered in many anti-feminist sites, which is one reason why I give practically no space to the issue here. But I mention one man here in Sheffield who was falsely accused of rape. The consequences must have been devastating for him, although much less devastating than a conviction for rape. He was never convicted. He used a camera-watch to record a meeting with the woman and was able to show conclusively that her allegations were fabricated. A sentence of imprisonment would have been a reasonable, not in the least excessive punishment for the woman. In the event, she was sentenced to - sessions with the 'Together Women' project. In liberal and humane legal systems, deterrence has an essential role. A sentence like this does nothing to deter false accusations.

The hideous case of the Scottsboro Boys is well known. In 1931, nine black males were falsely accused of rape by Ruby Bates and Victoria Price, leading to death sentences for some of the accused in the Alabama electric chair. The path to their exoneration was long and arduous. A page devoted to the case:


This is from a course outline for a course in 'Feminist Legal Theory' at Harvard Law School, under the guidance of Professor Laura Rosenbury:

'In this course, we will read feminist theory, queer theory, and other critical theory in order examine constructions of gender and the roles legal systems play in those constructions. We will explore some of the general themes and debates that have emerged as feminists attempt to understand and critique the law’s explicit and implicit constructions of gender as they relate to various groups of women and men.' 

I doubt very much if the 'feminist theory' and 'other critical theory' accommodates such embarrassing topics as men and the death penalty, men and false rape accusations and women slave owners and slavery. Any notion that all academics are necessarily free of illusion is obviously an illusion.

Humane and humanitarian values are applicable to men and women, to children, and to animals which have sentience and the capacity for suffering. It's one thing to concentrate on one group or one issue rather than all of them. (Even one group or issue makes impossible demands on time and energy.) It's another thing to claim that only one group or issue counts. Too many feminists do claim that, implicitly or explicitly.

This is from the section on this page Women and bullfighting.

'Karla Sanchez San Martin, a female bullfighter, has said that 'she  wants to inspire girls to fight sexism wherever it occurs, as it is something she still faces in her chosen career.' ('The Indepenendent,' 4 January 2015.)

'here are feminists who would claim that the Spanish bullfighter Noelia Mota has faced hideous sexism during her career. Noelia Mota has inflicted hideous cruelty during her career. Watching this film should leave not the slightest doubt:


There are feminists who believe that it's almost impossible for a woman to be deranged or fanatical or stupid. There are feminists who believe that it's very rare for a woman to be deranged or fanatical or stupid. Realities, dismal and horrific so often, have this in their favour at least: the dismal and horrific realities falsify trivial, complacent, unthinking views, and in so doing further richer, deeper, more complex, more realistic views - although convincing entrenched ideologists may be difficult. Feminist ideologists may admit that some women have serious flaws but blame the influence of men - whilst insisting, of course, that women are strong, women aren't in the least the easily-led stereotypes of patriarchy.

Any view of women as intrinsically virtuous is falsified again and again by realities. One example, the role of women in the case of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman under sentence of death in Pakistan. She has five children. Her family has been threatened and has had to go into hiding. Although I concentrate attention on some ignorant women whose complaints began the process that led to the death sentence, for blasphemy, I don't in the least condone the actions of the ignorant men in this case.

These are extracts from the book by Anne-Isabelle Tollet, 'Blasphemy: a Memoir. Sentenced to Death over a Cup of Water.' Asia Bibi can't read or write. Anne-Isabelle Tollet's book is a very valuable record of the case. Sales of the book are raising money on Asia Bib's behalf, for legal costs. Obviously, the dialogue in the book is far from being an accurate record of what was actually said. This is true of he speeches in Thucydides' history of the Peloponnesian War but doesn't invalidate the usefulness of the book as a historical record and historical interpretation. 

'I'm a prisoner because I used the same cup as those Muslim women, because water served by a Christian woman as regarded as unclean by my stupid fellow fruit-pickers.

'Only Governor Salman Taser and the Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti have had the courage to support me in public and to oppose this law from a bygone age ... These two brave men were gunned down in the street for condemning this injustice. One was a Muslim, the other a Christian. They both knew their lives were at risk, because they had received death threats ...

The events which led to her death sentence:

'I look at my fellow pickers, head and hands buried in the bushes ... Despite the heat they're still going at it with the same energy they had at the start.

I pull up a bucketfull of water and dip in the old metal cup resting on the side of the well. The cool water is all I can think of. I gulp it down and feel better; I pull myself together.

'Then I hear muttering. I start to hear muttering. I pay no attention and fill the cup again, this time holding it out to a woman next to me who looks like she's in pain ... At exactly this moment Musarat pokes her ferrety nose from the bush, her eyes full of hate:

' 'Don't drink that water, its haram! Listen, all of you, this Christian has dirtied the water in the well by drinking from our cup and dipping it back in several times. Now the water is unclean and we can't drink it! Because of her!'

'It's so unfair that for once I decide to defend myself and stand up to the old witch. I think Jesus would see it differently from Muhammad.'

'Musarat is furious. 'How dare you think for the Prophet, you filthy animal!'

'Three other women start shouting even louder.

' 'That's right, you're just a filthy Christian! You've contaminated our water and now you dare to speak for our Prophet!'

After she had gone home, a mob came and dragged her away, beating her.

'A woman I can't see screams hysterically, 'She insulted our Prophet, she should have her eyes torn out!' while another yells, 'Put a rope round her neck and drag her through the village like an animal!'

The police arrived and took her to the police station, and then she was taken to prison. Eventually, she was put on trial, found guilty of blasphemy and sentenced to death by hanging.

On this page, and in other places, I stress the importance of technology and other material factors in humanitarian work. After an earthquake, compassion and pity aren't enough. To save life and to relieve suffering, to help the victims with crushed limbs, heavy lifting equipment will be needed, helicopters may well be needed, emergency shelter such as tents will usually be needed. Technology is essential for humanitarian work, the technology of iron and steel to build the heavy lifting equipment and the helicopters, the synthetic materials made from crude oil for the tents and the electrical and electronic circuits of the lifting equipment and the helicopters. The importance of men in making such technological advances as these should be obvious, but I don't think it's acknowledged by too many feminists.

Take away the constructive work and achievements of men and what would life be like? The constructive work includes the work of roofers and scaffolders, brick manufacturers and bricklayers, miners and masons, designers and manufacturers of bulk handling equipment and modern methods of transport, the hauling of stone to build reservoirs and lighthouses, houses and hospitals, harbour facilities and roads, sewers and laboratories, the conversion of raw materials such as iron ore into finished products by processes of immense sophistication and complexity into products which can shelter and protect, save life and make life not just less grim but pleasant and enjoyable. It includes organic chemists who devised the techniques and equipment needed to synthesize such molecules as the ones used in contraceptive pills, in anaesthetics and for a vast range of other uses, and the chemists who painstakingly made all the fundamental advances needed before this progress could take place - as well as the discovery and development of scientific method itself. Many, many men without any humanitarian impulses whatsoever, patient investigators in fields which aren't widely appreciated, such as organic reaction mechanisms and inorganic chemistry, have done as much, or more, for the relief of human and animal suffering as many active humanitarians, let alone the pseudo-activists whose main - or only - claim to helping humanity, or half of humanity, approximately, is overuse and misuse of the words 'sexism' and 'sexist.'

What would life be like without scientific and technological advances? Without clean water and adequate sanitation, a high mortality rate from cholera. Without fundamental scientific discoveries and technological innovation, millions of lives cut short from TB, smallpox and the  other infectious diseases, high birth rates and high rates of infant mortality, subjection to the Malthusian nightmare, not childbirth which is generally safe but dangerous childbirth, difficult and dangerous travel and transport, back-breaking work the rule,  winter dreaded.

In feminist accounts, these and other benefits tend to be very much neglected, to state it kindly.  Feminist ((surveys)) are inadequate, more often than not, or grossly inadequate. The benefits of electricity, in washing clothes, lighting, heating and in a vast range of other applications, are taken for granted. Recognition of the patient, difficult advances, theoretical and practical, needed to make these advances is generally lacking,  not reflected in the balance sheet of the average feminist, which will emphasize the shortcomings and major flaws of men, or some men, real or imagined. There are even feminists, of course, who make the deranged claim that the shortcomings and major flaws are those of all men and the deranged claim that 'all men are useless.'

Feminists can draw attention to the work and achievements of women, but not by denying or neglecting the work and achievements of men. 

These issues are discussed in the sections The material conditions of life and The biological conditions of life and in other places.

Domestic matters aren't neglected here, for example Virginia Woolf's relations with her servants. Virginia Woolf is the author of 'A Room of One's Own,' about the supposed impossibility of a woman making any headway as a writer in Shakespeare's time. Strong women are prominent in feminist discussion, but like so many feminists, Virginia Woolf seems to regard women as helpless creatures.

Completely missing: any mention of the fact that the ruler during much of that time was Elizabeth I, who could certainly have transformed the situation, if she'd had the will. Completely missing, any mention of the fact that women could make headway at the time, quite easily, given the will.  The section The patriarchy thesis and some very powerful women includes discussion of Elizabeth I and other women rulers, as well as information about Grace O' Malley:

'Grace O' Malley, or Gráinne Ni Mháille (c. 1530 - 1600; often corrupted to Granuaile), was the daughter of Owen O' Malley, chief of the west coast islands. Through fearless and non-too-scrupulous warfare and piracy, she made herself queen of the Clew Bay area when he died. She effectively controlled the vigorous trade between Galway and the Continent, as well as running a lucrative business importing Scottish mercenaries for chieftains' wars against Elizabeth I and their cattle-rustling and plundering. She earned her place in Irish legend by being one of the few Irish chiefs to stand up to the English.

' ... When she met Elizabeth I in London in 1593, she insisted on being treated as her regal equal. However, always a canny tactician, Grace switched sides when she realized she couldn't beat the English, and her son was created first Viscount Mayo. Continually mentioned in sixteenth-century dispatches, her exploits included dissolving her Celtic secular marriage to her second husband, Sir Richard Burke of Mayo, by slamming the castle door in his face and then stealing all his castles.'

Like so many feminists and proto-feminists, Virginia Woolf's attitude to women not of her class, not at her level of accomplishment, not at her level of sensitivity, was completely insensitive. From an article in 'The Guardian,'


'In 1938, an unemployed weaver from Huddersfield called Agnes Smith wrote to Virginia Woolf in angry response to her book Three Guineas. She was scathing about the portrayal of the working class, writing that 'to hear some people talk you would think that ... a kitchen maid [was born] of a union between the cooking stove and the kitchen sink'.

'This is the rebuke that none of Woolf's servants puts in writing; unlike the author, who scribbled furiously in private as well as in print, their voices are harder to reconstruct. A writer who attempted to put the hidden folds of consciousness on to paper none the less regarded her servants as functions relating to herself. Their clamorous demands and demurrals she found largely baffling and frustrating, and the resulting friction generated screeds of writing, much of so crazily personal a nature that they prompted Alison Light to explore this fraught psychic territory in a scintillating meeting of biography, social history and literary criticism.

'Until at least the Second World War, British society ran on servants. Most British women, as Light explains, would either have been in service or employed servants. She approaches this subject through perhaps the most minutely examined psyche of British modernism. Although Woolf devoted hours to probing her own consciousness, those of her servants remained hazy to her: it's somehow symptomatic that Woolf always misspelled her cook's first name as 'Nelly', rather than the actual Nellie. Even though they were subject to terrible mental and emotional distress, Woolf dismissed her servants' fury or misery as hysterics, as if sensitivity only kicked in on a certain rung of the class structure.'

From the page


' ... without all the domestic care and hard work that servants provided there would have been no art, no writing, no "Bloomsbury".

'Independence was the great goal of Woolf's generation of feminists - economic, psychological, emotional. Woolf's sympathies led her to champion the needs of women whose lives had long been obscured from history ... Yet her polemical, political writing about women sits uneasily alongside her obnoxious comments on Nellie and the spasms of disgust that disfigure her responses to working women in the flesh.'

But again, we come back to the importance of technology. From 'The Horror of Dirt: Virginia Woolf and her Servants,'


'Technological advances that Americans were quick to adopt–water heaters, vacuum cleaners and other time-saving devices–crept very slowly into British homes. One of the fascinations of Light’s book is its scrub-by-scour account of a servant’s typical day–the beating of rugs and curtains, the emptying of chamber pots, the carrying of buckets of boiling water up many flights of stairs so that the employers could have warmish baths that servants did without, and a great deal more, from dawn until late at night. The kitchen was typically in the basement, which meant cooking with very little light, often with no running hot water, on a temperamental range that needed frequent fueling and stoking.'

Without technological advances, almost entirely the work of men, as a matter of strict fact, contemporary feminists would have hardly any leisure to write their condemnations of patriarchy. Technological advances, such as the railway, had already benefitted Virginia Woolf and her class to a massive extent. Virginia Woolf had no need to live in a shelter made of branches and wash in a stream because of technological advance.

When philosophers write about materialism, then very often, the reference will be to the philosophy of mind and the distinction between materialist and idealist philosophies of mind. In general,  philosophers are far less likely to take into account or to be capable of  discussing at all adequately the material conditions of life.  People who can speak French fluently may well be at a loss when they cross the frontier and enter Germany. People with expertise in one field may well be dilettantes when they cross a frontier of knowledge. When feminist philosophers, such as Susan James, discuss feminism, patriarchy, sexism and other topics, they often neglect completely many, many issues for which they are unprepared. It would be a great mistake to believe that because the scope of Philosophy is so wide, then the views of philosophers on these matters are well informed.

Professor James has made contributions to other areas of Philosophy which I can respect, such as the philosophy of Spinoza. This site contains discussions of Spinoza's philosophy, none of them extensive. This is one instance, an extract from the section Mallarmé: 'Le vierge, le vivace et le bel aujourd' hui' of my page on Metaphor. This is very much supplementary information, but relevant to discussions of feminism. I discuss vivacity and for feminists, as for others, there are issues which have great vivacity and issues which lack all vivacity, or almost all vivacity - but feminists often seem to me to ignore the possibility. (See also, in my page on Metaphor, the discussion of semantic force.)

'Spinoza gives a corrective to this mistaken emphasis [Hume's emphasis, discussed in the previous paragraphs of the page]. In 'Imagination and Consciousness' ('The Principles of Art') R G Collingwood points out that the philosophy of Spinoza is a corrective to domination by feelings. Our life, 'from being a continuous passio, an undergoing of things, can become a continuous actio, or doing of things.' (Although the quotation he gives from Spinoza's 'Ethics' immediately afterwards has no direct bearing on this.) Including R G Collingwood's comment after the quotation, ''Affectus qui passio est, desinit esse passio, simulatque eius claram et distinctam formamus ideam.' (Ethics, part v, prop. 3). As soon as we form a clear and distinct idea of a passion, it ceases to be a passion.'

'My translation of this proposition, 'An emotion which is passive ceases to be passive as soon as we form a clear and distinct idea of it.' R G Collingwood is surely confusing passivity ('passio' in the original) with passion ('affectus' in the original.) 'Affectus' is difficult to translate. Emotion is stressed, but 'affectus' also refers to bodily state and idea.

'Stuart Hampshire, in his book 'Spinoza' refers to 'the helpless irrationality of normal human loves and hates, desires and aversions, and their entire independence of conscious thought and purpose,' and to 'the transition from the normal life of passive emotion and confused ideas' to the free 'life of active emotion and adequate ideas,' which can be achieved by 'making the patient more self-conscious.'

'Spinoza uses the verbs 'agere' and 'pati,' their meanings explained in the definitions of Part III of the 'Ethics.' 'agere' is to be active, 'pati' to be passive, as when our emotions are beyond our control. Nobody is entirely active or entirely passive but to become more active and less passive is a good. Christopher Norris (in 'Spinoza and the Origins of Modern Critical Theory') stresses 'Spinoza's understanding of the constant interaction between 'passive' and 'active' ideas, [although 'ideas' is too restrictive] or the extent to which errors brought about by force of circumstance ... may yet become the starting-point for a process of critical reflection that points a way beyond those errors.'

'Hume's psychology (and ethical theory) reflects a passivity which is inadequate - but this isn't in the least to give it the amplification needed to do it justice. Reading not just immensely self-conscious writers such as Mallarmé but writers such as Seamus Heaney with preliminary notions of passivity, not activity (notions which are applicable to reading as well as to such matters as human folly and weakness) is inadequate. By these preliminary notions, glaciers have an unexamined vivacity which makes them poetically ineffective, but the more active reading may well not give {modification} of ineffectiveness. I think that the conscious isolation of factors, the conscious consideration of the {ordering} of factors and of {restriction}:- (factors) in this case gives results which are close to those obtained by a more passive reading. This is an example of what I call alignment, the alignment in this case of active and passive reading.'






Feminism and the material conditions of life
WOW Cambridge
Lisa Downing (gender theorist) on M. Hindley, murderer
Felicity Donohoe (gender theorist) on torturing to death
Professor Quentin Skinner and hard times
Feminism and freedom of expression

Feminism and 'The Life of Brian'

Feminism and the art of car maintenance
Feminism and the biological conditions of life
Green ideology and feminist ideology
Feminism and feeble fanatics: 'the rape of nature'
'Top jobs'
Babies and bathwater
Mary Wollstonecraft, the famousest feminist
Women and bullfighting, 'sexism' and cruelty
Miriam González Durántez and Nick Clegg
Feminism and animals: the contracting circle
Troubled relationships
Bonds: famine, families, Sophie Scholl, mining
Feminism, the Taliban and the shooting of schoolgirls
Women in traditional Moslem societies
The patriarchy thesis and some very powerful women
Slavery and serfdom
Women in Nazi Germany
Feminism and the death penalty


This is a long page, with more than 100,000 words. If time is short, I'd recommend  reading this introduction and the material in the third column, underneath the photograph of a slave. They covers briefly a wide range of issues  discussed in more detail in other sections. 

The material conditions of life are of fundamental importance. It's overwhelmingly common for feminists to neglect them. The section below  Feminism and the material conditions of life provides argument and evidence. Feminists haven't found in the least congenial an examination or appreciation of the  work of constructing reservoirs (before the hardest manual work was partly replaced by machinery, itself the product of immensely long and arduous work, including intellectual work of a very high order), or the mining of copper to make copper pipes to bring  water to the feminist. Feminists in general find it much more congenial to criticize male plumbers for what they claim is 'patronising' language (their own virtue being supposedly unquestionable) than to empathize with the Chilean copper-miners, trapped undergound by a rock fall. In general, who are the most important people, to feminists? Not the men who discovered laws of chemical combination, for example, and made other advances in chemistry, bringing to an end the Malthusian nightmare which involved the death of countless women in childbirth.  The most important people to so many feminists are feminists, who claim such skill in detecting 'sexism' and 'gender stereotyping.'

My criticism isn't directed at all women, and men, who have described themselves as feminists - for example, women and men who campaigned for the extension of the suffrage to women by more or less rational means, and women and men  who describe themselves as feminists who campaign against abuses to be found in some parts of the Moslem  world, such as female genital circumcision (which, however, is usually performed by women), honour killings, and others. More often than not, the majority of feminists and radical feminists 'play safe:' they neglect these outright abuses, cruelties and injustices and prefer to criticize what  they call 'sexism' in societies with strong legal and other safeguards. This often amounts to outright cowardice. Some information about just one case (from my page Israel, Islamism and Palestinian ideology.)

Above, at a demonstration in Paris against the death penalty in Iran.

'Iran is the most prolific executioner in the world now, after China, executing political prisoners, homosexuals, dissidents, people found guilty of 'enmity against God,' and a 16 year old schoolgirl, Atefeh Rajabi Sahaaleh, on charges of adultery and 'crimes against chastity.' Like the woman in the image above, she was hanged fom a crane in public.

'Haji Rezai was the prosecutor, judge and witness in the trial of Atefeh Rajabi Sahaaleh. He also tortured Atefeh, and he was the hangman. He placed the noose around her neck before she was hoisted on a crane. He was insistent that the verdict and sentence complied with the laws of Islam. No charges have been brought against him. The Supreme Court of Iran gave an order that Atefeh should be freed, although the Court was already aware that she had been executed.

'Previously, she had been arrested three times by the Moral Police and convicted of having sex with unmarried men. For each offence, she was imprisoned and given 100 lashes - the punishment for single women. The punishment for married women is still technically stoning to death - stones which are not too large are specified, as large stones would cause death too quickly. [The image above shows a woman being  partly buried in the soil. After this, she was stoned to death.] Stoning to death is unlikely to be carried out in Iran now - which counts as progress. Even so, at least six people have been stoned to death in Iran since 2006.

'When she appeared in court for having sex with a taxi driver, she removed her hijab at one point. This was regarded as severe contempt of court. No lawyer was provided. She appealed against her death sentence but no lawyer was provided for the appeal.' 

The easiest targets are the most deranged feminists and the most deranged feminist claims, such as Sandra Harding's claim  that  Newton's Principia Mathematica is a 'rape manual' because 'science is a male rape of female nature.' Or Susan Brownmiller's 'From prehistoric times to the present, rape has played a critical function. It is nothing more nor less than a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear. ('Against our Will.') Or Sally Miller Gearhart's ''The proportion of men must be reduced to and maintained at approximately 10 percent of the human race.'  I don't give much space to such feminists as these.
An example of a statement which isn't obviously deranged but  a generalization which amounts to gross falsification: the claim of Susan James and the claim of Quentin Skinner criticized in the third column of the page.

Before the modern era, there were many immensely powerful and immensely wealthy women - I examine a few of them - empresses, queens, heiresses, property owners on a massive scale. And I examine property-owners on a modest scale, such as the black women in Louisiana who owned slaves. It has been convenient for feminists to overlook them, just as it has been convenient to overlook the very hard lives of innumerable men, including the backbreaking work of manual workers.

I outline another fundamental error: treating the linkage between women as usually the most important, whereas in many situations there are other linkages which are often far more important. To make gender the overwhelmingly important criterion  is a reckless distortion in most circumstances. I point out, for example, the stupidity of singling out and emphasizing  the linkage of gender between the Nazi Frau Goebbels and Sophie Scholl, executed for anti-Nazi activity.

The feminist myth of woman, all or nearly all women virtuous and all or nearly all women downtrodden, in the present as in the past, is an outrageous distortion. What? Women don't include in their number many trivial-minded people,  greedy, incorrigibly self-centred people, pampered people,  and people with other  faults? Or is it to be supposed that a woman's faults must always be the fault of a man? Many feminists obviously believe that women are very malleable, very easily influenced, very easily controlled by men - not in the least a robust view of female strength. Of course, not all feminists do believe in the myth.

I discuss and comment on many feminist writers and feminist views here. None of my discussions are very extensive. My objective isn't scholarly exposition but presenting arguments and evidence against which lose nothing by presentation in fairly concise form. 
There are more important and less important necessities. I regard scholarship as one of the most important necessities of cultural and intellectual life. Its value at a time of trivialization and short attention spans is greater than ever. But scholarship doesn't guarantee truth, of course.

If feminist scholars have a 'poor impression' of the arguments and evidence I give here, I hope that some of them will be able to explain exactly what faults are to be found in the arguments and evidence.

An aphorism of mine: 'Ideologists' disdain for answering objections: the need for a clashing of minds if a meeting of minds is impossible.' (Aphorisms: religion, ideology and honesty.) 

Feminism and the material conditions of life

See also my page Industry.

Anyone using the language of oppression  should have the insight, the knowledge and the honesty to distinguish degrees of oppression, so different in intensity that they belong to  different worlds: the 'oppression' a women's studies professor with tenure in the United States claims to be suffering, for example, or the 'oppression' of Professor Susan James at a British university, and the back-breaking work of women in Scottish coal mines in the eighteenth century, carrying on their backs massive loads from the coal face to the mine-shaft, carrying the massive loads up ladders to the pithead again and again, day after day. Robert Bald wrote, in a 'General View of the Coal-Trade of Scotland,' 'it is no uncommon thing to see them, when ascending the pit, weeping most bitterly, from the excessive severity of the labour.' And he writes of a woman, 'groaning under an excessive weight of coals, trembling in every nerve, and almost unable to keep her knees from sinking under her. On coming up, she said in a most plaintive and melancholy voice: "O Sir, this is sore, sore work. I wish to God that the first woman who tried to bear coals had broke her back, and none would have tried it again." ' (Quoted in Anthony Burton's 'The Miners.' All the unattributed quotations in this section come from this compelling, deeply humane, outstanding book.)

Historical study is one of the best defences against parochialism.

In Britain, women hauled coal on their backs only in Scotland and the practice was banned in the Glasgow region by the end of the eighteenth century. In other parts of Britain, men, women and children generally hauled coal in waggons.

 '... between 1841 and 1843, the Reports of the Royal Commission on the Employment of Children in Mines appeared ... It was the illustrations, more even than the words, the interviews, and descriptions, that made an immense impact. Here were portrayed men and women and small children living the life of beasts: a teenage girl struggling on all fours harnessed to a waggon of coal that she was pulling along a narrow seam; little children clinging to a rope as they were lowered down a shaft by an old woman whose rags told of her poverty: boys chained to heavy corves, with only a single candle to light the dark roadways ... In one mine, near Chesterfield, boys had to pull corves weighing at least 1/2 ton and sometimes as heavy as 1 ton, for 60 yards along a roadway that was only 2 feet high ... The boys who worked as hauliers might work as many as fourteen hours a day, from six in the morning to eight at night, and on top of that they would have an often lengthy journey to and from work. (See my poem Mines in the poetry section 'Child Labour.') The pages of the Royal Commission Reports are full of accounts of children returning home too tired to eat, who fell asleep as soon as they sat at table an had to be carried to bed. Some were not even able to walk the distance to their homes, and parents would find them asleep by the roadside.'

Children as young as four, five or six would not have been able to do the back-breaking work of hauling coal, of course. There were various ways to be killed by working in the coal mines - drowning, crushing, or the much slower clogging up of the lungs with coal dust -but the leading cause of death was explosions resulting from the explosive gases of the mines. They accounted for about 90 per cent of deaths.

 'Continuing explosions soon convinced colliery managers that the only solution was to ventilate the the whole pit, so the galleries and roads were turned into a vast labyrinth, along the whole length of which the air was coursed by using a system of trapdoors to keep the air current in its right path.' The system was only effective if the doors were kept shut, except when a waggon was passing through. The youngest children opened and closed these ventilation doors, hour after hour, in deepest darkness.

 Extracts from the 1842 Report:

 'We find in regard to COAL MINES

 1. That instances occur in which children are taken into these mines to work as early as four years of age ...
3. That in several districts female children begin to work in these mines at the same early ages as the males.
8. [Of operating the trapdoors] That although this employment scarcely deserves the name of labour, yet, as the children engaged in it are commonly excluded from light and are always without companions, it would, were it not for the passing and repassing of the coal carriages, amount to solitary confinement of the worst order.

 Susan James writes that 'Feminism is grounded on the belief that women are oppressed or disadvantaged by comparison with men' but here we have suffering in common, the suffering of men and women together, boys and girls together - like the suffering of American slaves, the suffering of Jews in the Warsaw ghetto or Jews walking towards the gas-chambers at Auschwitz or Treblinka. Sometimes men suffer disproportionately, sometimes women, but a very great deal of human suffering - oppression, disadvantage - is like this, inflicted no more on women than on men.

This common suffering of men and women in the mines of this country was ended by The Mines Act of 1842, which prohibited the employment underground of girls and women (and boys under 10 years old). After this time, girls and women were exempted from the dangers and back-breaking work deep underground. After this time, gender equality was replaced by gender inequality. Only males faced the backbreaking work and the dangers. Feminists don't in general acknowledge at all any of the significant ways in which women have been exempted from particular hardships and dangers and men not at all.

 Here are two poems of mine on child labour, from the page Poems in Large Page Design:



Abuses in British workplaces were addressed far too slowly, but at least they were addressed, one by one. Patriarchy didn't show the quietism, the moral apathy, the selective compassion, the lack of interest in practicalities and legislation of innumerable contemporary feminists - failings which Martha Nussbaum addresses in the case of American feminists. So many of these feminists ignore massive abuses against women, not just massive abuses against men. Patriarchy got things done, it achieved, in the area of humanitarian legislation, just as it overcame the barriers of wide rivers, hills and mountains by building massive bridges, constructing massive tunnels, without which travel and transportation of the necessities of life would have been difficult or impossible, constructed thousands of miles of railway line, developed all the techniques of converting iron ore into iron and steel for the achievement of these and many other things. Any feminist travelling by rail in this country to attend a meeting at which 'patriarchy' is denounced is benefitting from such engineering triumphs as these.

  These are a few examples of British legislation (from Key dates in Working Conditions.) Patriarchy, whatever the accusations levelled against it, wasn't selective, it didn't ignore in this legislation the harsh and dangerous working conditions of girls and women, in fact in many cases it exempted girls and women from harsh and dangerous working conditions which continued for males.

1802 Health and Morals of Apprentices Act limited the work of children in textile mills to 12 hours per day; prohibited night work; required minimum standards of accommodation; some elementary education to be provided; factories to be periodically lime washed; and infectious diseases attended to and reported. The act attempted to enforce on all employers the conditions provided by the more humane mill-owners.

1819 Cotton Mills and Factories Act prohibited children under the age of nine years from working in cotton mills, and restricted those over the age of nine to a 12 hour day. Enforcement was in the hands of local magistrates. The act owed much to the efforts of Robert Owen.

1844 Labour in Factories Act amended the regulations concerning factory inspectors and certifying surgeons; for the first time machinery was required to be guarded; the age at which children may be employed was reduced from nine to eight years; and the maximum hours of work for children and women was prescribed.

  1847 Hours of Labour of Young Persons and Females in Factories Act, the Ten Hours Act, reduced the permitted maximum hours of work for women and children to 10
hours per day and 58 hours in any one week.

1850 Coal Mines Inspection Act introduced the appointment of inspectors of coal mines and set out their powers and duties.

1862 John Simon in his fourth annual report to the Privy Council drew attention to the ill effects of much factory work and concluded that "to be able to redress that wrong is perhaps among the greatest opportunities for good which human institutions can afford".

1868 First report of the Royal Commission on the Employment of Children, Young Persons and Women in Agriculture published.

1872 Metalliferous Mines Regulation Act prohibited the employment in the mines of all girls, women and boys under the age of 12 years; introduced powers to appoint inspectors of mines; and set out rules regarding ventilation, blasting and machinery.

1874 Factory Act raised the minimum working age to nine; limited the working day for women and young people to 10 hours in the textile industry, to be between 6 am and 6 pm; and reduced the working week to 56½ hours.

1880 Employers Liability Act extended the law regarding injuries to employees.

1883 Factory and Workshop Act set standards for all white lead factories.

1886 Shop Hours Regulation Act attempted to regulate the hours of work of children and young persons in shops; the hours of work were not to exceed 74 per week, including meal times.

1891 Factory and Workshop Act consolidated and extended safety and sanitary regulations; transferred enforcement in regard to some workshops from the factory inspectors to the local authorities; raised the minimum age for employment in factories to 11 years; prohibited the owner of a factory from knowingly employing a woman within four weeks of giving birth; and introduced some measures to control conditions of “outworkers”.

1893 Women factory inspectors introduced.

1895 Factory and Workshop Act amended and extended previous acts regarding sanitary provisions, safety, employment of children, holidays and accidents; and made certain industrial diseases (lead, phosphorus, arsenic and anthrax) notifiable for the first time.

1897 Workmen’s Compensation Act established the principle that persons injured at work should be compensated.1898 Thomas M Legge (later Sir, 1863-1932), appointed as the first medical inspector of factories.


 Is it true that the few feminists of that age only paid attention to the suffering of the girls and women and had no further interest in conditions in the coal mines once the 1842 Act had been passed? No, it wouldn't be true. It's true to say that most feminists showed no interest in conditions in the mines before the passing of the Act. The suffering of girls and women was invisible to them. They belonged to a section of society which had no interest in such things, except for the 'immorality' of girls and boys working together, half-naked. Nor could they imagine all the other intensely difficult, dirty or dangerous trades. 'There were many occupations as likely to end in fatality - the grinders in Sheffield or Redditch could look forward to no longer life than the miners before they succumbed to chest disease; the lead-glazers of the Potteries needed to spend little time at their trade before the symptoms of poisoning appeared.'
For Mary Wollstonecraft, writing in 'Vindication of the Rights of Woman,' Youth is the season for love in both sexes; but in those days of thoughtless enjoyment provision should be made for the more important years of life, when reflection takes place of sensation.' In the coal mines, before the prohibition of child labour in 1842 (boys, but not girls, over 10 years old continued working) childhood was the season for sitting in complete darkness and nearly complete isolation, youth was the season for hauling almost impossible loads, inhaling coal dust and risking crushing, drowning and being blown limb from limb, the generally short period of adulthood likewise.  The life of the children in the mines was beyond her inner resources.

When women were working in the mines, 'At the end of a shift the family had the walk home to the cottage. They were still in their pit clothes and pit dirt, soaked with water, covered in mud and, in winter, their clothes all but froze stiff as they walked. Once home, there was no brightness, only the deserted house. The babies had to be collected and fed first before life could return slowly to the house.' Once the system of horse-drawn corves was adopted, women in all the Scottish mines stayed at home. The men and boys worked in the mine and at the end of a shift 'they were still in their pit clothes and pit dirt, soaked with water, covered in mud and, in winter, their clothes all but froze still as they walked' but once they reached the house 'the men and boys returned to a warm fire and a hot meal instead of cold and desolation.' How would radical feminists interpret the 'sexual politics' of this? The 'sexism' of women as home-makers rather than working, the 'sexism' of women not admitted to the working world of men?

Susan James ignores the overwhelming importance of innovation in science and technology which has reduced so much human suffering. Feminists who claim that many of these innovations were due to women should provide the necessary evidence.

Some of the suffering in the mines was eventually lessened by developments in bulk-handling, innovations which of course needed innovators - people who actually produced innovations and actually reduced suffering, not people who might have produced innovations but were prevented by 'prejudice' or 'stereotyping.' An early innovation was introduced by John Curr, who described a system of 'corves' in 1797: four-wheeled vehicles running on iron rails or plates. 'One horse, he reckoned, could shift as much as 150 tons a day along a 250-yard roadway. This was very evidently a much more efficient and economical method of moving coal.' Often, though, there was insufficient height for a horse, and man-hauling continued.

 Successive innovations, using increasingly sophisticated advances in engineering based upon increasingly sophisticated advances in Physics and Chemistry, made coal-mining less and less arduous. By the time that George Orwell visited coal-mines in the twentieth century, the work was still desperately hard, impossible for the majority of non-miners to imagine let alone to carry out, but not as degradingly hard as work in an eighteenth century mine. Alongside innovations in bulk-handling which reduced and eventually eliminated the back-breaking work of hauling coal (and freed pit-ponies from a grim life spent entirely or almost entirely underground) there were innovations at the coal-face, such as the technology of compressed air, which reduced and eventually eliminated the back-breaking work of extracting coal at the coal-face with hand-pick and crowbar, although these innovations were much more difficult to implement. Well into the twentieth century, hacking at coal was back-breaking work even when the miner could stand. It was even harder when the seam was narrower and he had to kneel. It was hardest when the seam was very narrow and he had to lie down, contorted. The work was harder, more unpleasant still if this was a 'wet' pit, one in which water was a constant problem.

 In the mines, 'after-damp,' the explosive gas which was a mixture of air and methane, was the cause of many catastrophic mine accidents. Naked flames needed for illumination could ignite the gas very easily. 'The Davy lamp wasn't 'the perfect solution to the problem,' but it was revolutionary in its benefits even so. 'The Davy lamp, because it was invented by the leading chemist of the day, is something of a landmark in the relations between science and technology, as also in the use of technology to serve humanitarian rather than purely economic purposes.' (T K Derry and Trevor I Williams, 'A Short History of Technology.')

 The light from the Davy lamp was not very bright. A better solution to the problem of lighting mines (and the problem of lighting rooms so that feminists could compose their tracts against patriarchy during the hours of darkness) was only found with a spectacular, and spectacularly complex, series of innovations, acts of genius, such as those which made electricity generation practicable. Michael Faraday's demonstration of electromagnetic induction, which was announced to the Royal Society in 1831, was a fundamental first-step. When electric current could be generated, the conversion of electric energy into light energy required further intensely difficult and protracted work. Extracts from the Wikipedia article on incandescent lighting. This supplementary section in italics can be omitted if wished, but it is an instructive case history in the patient, demanding step-by-step overcoming of difficulties:

'The incandescent light bulb, incandescent lamp or incandescent light globe is a source of electric light that works by incandescence (a general term for heat-driven light emissions, which includes the simple case of black body radiation). An electric current passes through a thin filament, heating it to a temperature that produces light. The enclosing glass bulb contains either a vacuum or an inert gas to prevent oxidation of the hot filament. Incandescent bulbs are also sometimes called electric lamps, a term also applied to the original arc lamps.

'In addressing the question "Who invented the incandescent lamp?" historians Robert Friedel and Paul Israel list 22 inventors of incandescent lamps prior to Joseph Wilson Swan and Thomas Edison. They conclude that Edison's version was able to outstrip the others because of a combination of three factors: an effective incandescent material, a higher vacuum than others were able to achieve (by use of the Sprengel pump) and a high resistance lamp that made power distribution from a centralized source economically viable. Another historian, Thomas Hughes, has attributed Edison's success to the fact that he invented an entire, integrated system of electric lighting.

'In 1802, Humphry Davy had what was then the most powerful electrical battery in the world at the Royal Institution of Great Britain. In that year, he created the first incandescent light by passing the current through a thin strip of platinum, chosen because the metal had an extremely high melting point. It was not bright enough nor did it last long enough to be practical, but it was the precedent behind the efforts of scores of experimenters over the next 75 years. In 1809, Davy also created the first arc lamp by making a small but blinding electrical connection between two carbon charcoal rods connected to a 2000-cell battery; it was demonstrated to the Royal Institution in 1810.

'Over the first three-quarters of the 19th century many experimenters worked with various combinations of platinum or iridium wires, carbon rods, and evacuated or semi-evacuated enclosures. Many of these devices were demonstrated and some were patented.

'In 1841, Frederick de Moleyns of England was granted the first patent for an incandescent lamp, with a design using platinum wires contained within a vacuum bulb.

'Joseph Wilson Swan (1828-1914) was a British physicist and chemist. In 1850, he began working with carbonized paper filaments in an evacuated glass bulb. By 1860 he was able to demonstrate a working device but the lack of a good vacuum and an adequate supply of electricity resulted in a short lifetime for the bulb and an inefficient source of light. By the mid-1870s better pumps became available, and Swan returned to his experiments.

'With the help of Charles Stearn, an expert on vacuum pumps, in 1878 Swan developed a method of processing that avoided the early bulb blackening. This received a British Patent No 8 in 1880. On 18 December 1878 a lamp using a slender carbon rod was shown at a meeting of the Newcastle Chemical Society, and Swan gave a working demonstration at their meeting on 17 January 1879. It was also shown to 700 who attended a meeting of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Newcastle on 3 February 1879. These lamps used a carbon rod from an arc lamp rather than a slender filament. Thus they had low resistance and required very large conductors to supply the necessary current, so they were not commercially practical, although they did furnish a demonstration of the possibilities of incandescent lighting with relatively high vacuum, a carbon conductor, and platinum lead-in wires. Besides requiring too much current for a central station electric system to be practical, they had a very short lifetime. Swan turned his attention to producing a better carbon filament and the means of attaching its ends. He devised a method of treating cotton to produce 'parchmentised thread' and obtained British Patent 4933 in 1880. From this year he began installing light bulbs in homes and landmarks in England. His house was the first in the world to be lit by a lightbulb and so the first house in the world to be lit by Hydro Electric power. In the early 1880s he had started his company.

'Thomas Edison began serious research into developing a practical incandescent lamp in 1878. Edison filed his first patent application for "Improvement In Electric Lights" on October 14, 1878 After many experiments with platinum and other metal filaments, Edison returned to a carbon filament. The first successful test was on October 22, 1879, and lasted 13.5 hours. Edison continued to improve this design and by Nov 4, 1879, filed for a U.S. patent for an electric lamp using "a carbon filament or strip coiled and connected ... to platinum contact wires." Although the patent described several ways of creating the carbon filament including using "cotton and linen thread, wood splints, papers coiled in various ways," it was not until several months after the patent was granted that Edison and his team discovered that a carbonized bamboo filament could last over 1200 hours.


'Hiram S. Maxim started a lightbulb company in 1878 to exploit his patents and those of William Sawyer. His United States Electric Lighting Company was the second company, after Edison, to sell practical incandescent electric lamps. They made their first commercial installation of incandescent lamps at the Mercantile Safe Deposit Company in New York City in the fall of 1880, about six months after the Edison incandescent lamps had been installed on the steamer Columbia. In October 1880, Maxim patented a method of coating carbon filaments with hydrocarbons to extend their life. Lewis Latimer, his employee at the time, developed an improved method of heat-treating them which reduced breakage and allowed them to be molded into novel shapes, such as the characteristic "M" shape of Maxim filaments. On January 17, 1882, Latimer received a patent for the "Process of Manufacturing Carbons," an improved method for the production of light bulb filaments which was purchased by the United States Electric Light Company. Latimer patented other improvements such as a better way of attaching filaments to their wire supports.


'In Britain, the Edison and Swan companies merged into the Edison and Swan United Electric Company (later known as Ediswan, which was ultimately incorporated into Thorn Lighting Ltd). Edison was initially against this combination, but after Swan sued him and won, Edison was eventually forced to cooperate, and the merger was made. Eventually, Edison acquired all of Swan's interest in the company. Swan sold his United States patent rights to the Brush Electric Company in June 1882. Swan later wrote that Edison had a greater claim to the light than he did, in order to protect Edison's patents from claims against them in the United States[citation needed]. In 1881, the Savoy Theatre became the first public building in the world to be lit entirely by electric lights. [26]

'By 1964, improvements in efficiency and production of incandescent lamps had reduced the cost of providing a given quantity of light by a factor of thirty, compared with the cost at introduction of Edison's lighting system.'

 The claim that none of the 'humanitarian blessings' of feminism have come anywhere near to equalling the humanitarian blessings of modern contraception isn't an original one. Effective contraception depends on the innovations of scientists and technologists, including the chemical engineers and production engineers who make it possible to manufacture on a large scale.

In nature, there are many progeny but only a few survive. Animals living in the wild are still subject to these harsh Malthusian laws of nature, and so were human societies for so many millennia. As a matter of strict fact, the scientists and technologists who dramatically reduced infant mortality and dramatically reduced the risks of a woman dying in childbirth have almost all been men.

 The material conditions of life, such as water supply and sewage, are almost entirely ignored by feminists. The most significant cause of ill-health and premature death by far has always been failure in supplying water and disposing of sewage, a simple problem with a very complex solution: such as the development by organic chemists of techniques in molecular architecture, a precondition for manufacturing modern pipework, without which modern water supply and sewage systems aren't feasible, more generally advances in iron and steel manufacturing, the manufacture of components for hydraulic drills, petrol and diesel engines, needed for laying the pipes and and maintaining the pipes.

  Water, although not an element, is elemental, a basic requirement of life, but providing this basic requirement isn't at all simple. Water illustrates the complexity of reality. It can carry disease organisms, such as those that cause cholera. The cholera-causing organisms are just as much part of nature as plants and trees, but it's vital to control nature by eradicating them from drinking water. Any notion that 'nature' is feminine, control over nature masculine, to be opposed by feminists, is obviously ridiculous.

 The separation of water for drinking and water for disposal of faeces poses immense practical problems. Gratitude is the only proper response for the work of the engineers who designed dams, for those who built the dams and made the bricks and the materials for the pipes which led the water from the dams, for the foundries and other factories which manufactured the taps, the pumps, for the mathematical and scientific innovators who developed the techniques in calculus, fluid mechanics and the other techniques needed for supplying water efficiently.

Radical feminists have made spectacular use of generalization, as in 'all men are useless' or 'all men are rapists, or potentially rapists.' John Snow is a man who led a blameless life and a man whose contribution to human welfare was surely greater than that of any radical feminist. He was one of the founders of epidemiology. He identified the source of a cholera outbreak in 1854, without the use of any advanced scientific ideas. There was a miasma or 'bad air' theory of cholera: the disease entered the body through the mouth. He disputed this. He investigated the cholera outbreak of 1854 in Soho, London and plotted cholera cases on a map. He identified a water pump in a particular street as the source of the disease. As soon as he had the handle of the pump removed, cases of cholera began to decline. He also used more advanced science. He was a pioneer in the use of anaesthetics and made anaesthetics safer and more effective. But control of life-threatening diseases such as cholera and control of pain by means of anaesthetics aren't high in the priorities of most radical feminists, who would far sooner attack men, any men, such as John Snow.

Earthquakes show that control over nature is sometimes impossible. Patriarchy has developed a method of delaying the crushing effects of a building collapsing so that the occupants have enough time to escape to safety - the technological / humanitarian innovation of metal ties connecting together walls and roof. When victims are trapped under rubble, then of course technological techniques are the only effective ones - the use of heavy lifting equipment, made up of a very large number of separate components, ultimately derived from metal ores, crude oil and other raw materials, which demand techniques of very great complexity, even the screw-threads of the fixings. The precise engineering essential for manufacturing these components wasn't inevitable or easily gained. It was due to the achievements of such particular men - again, representatives of 'patriarchy' - such as Joseph Whitworth, who by 1856 'was regularly using in his workshops a machine capable of measuring to one-millionth part of an inch.' ('A Short History of Technology.') Without the work of Joseph Whitworth and many other innovators, earthquake victims would have to be rescued by bare hands and the simplest of tools. Precision engineering and scientific and technological advances in general, again, almost unimaginably complex, are needed, of course, to transport food and other relief supplies to earthquake zones by air, road or sea. In the absence of these, human labour and pack animals will give aid to only a tiny fraction of those in need.

 Feminists not only fail to acknowledge the work of scientists and technologists working at a high intellectual level, they fail to acknowledge the work of men doing far more humble work. George Orwell, in 'Marrakech:' 'All people who work with their hands are partly invisible, and the more important the work they do, the less visible they are.'

 Unless the sick are to be looked after in simple shelters or in the open, the work of roofers and scaffolders and other manual workers in building hospitals is so important that they deserve heartfelt appreciation - and proper pay and working conditions - but the work of roofers and scaffolders is almost invisible, their work taken for granted. The average roofer or scaffolder lacks refinements and many would fail any tests for political correctness, but few people in possession of those advantages would choose to do physically demanding work at a height in almost all weathers.

 The industrial revolution was harsh, as harsh as the pre-industrial age, but a necessary prelude to this age of comfort and comfortable assumptions and illusions.

 The harshness of the industrial age, like the comfort of this age, wasn't, of course, shared by everyone. The harshness was experienced by people who really are all but invisible today, all but forgotten, such as the navvies.

 'Men of Iron,' the superb book by Sally Dugan, is mainly concerned with the audacious work of the engineers Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Robert Stephenson (she also does justice to the genius of their fathers, Marc Brunel and George Stephenson).

 She writes of the navvies' work, 'Maiming or mutilation came with the job, and navvies were lucky if they escaped with nothing more than the loss of a limb. They worked using picks and shovels, crowbars and wheelbarrows, and their bare hands; the only other aid they had was the occasional blast of gunpowder. Some were blinded by explosions; others were buried in rock falls. All led a life of hard, grinding physical toil, tramping from one construction site to another in search of work. Their reputation for violence and drunkenness made them a frequent focus for missionaries and temperance society members, as well as turning them into the bogeymen of folk myth.' Elizabeth Garnett was the secretary of the Navvy Mission Society and might have been expected to give a harsh verdict on their uncouthness and worse. Far from it. 'Men of Iron' quotes her words: 'Certainly no men in all the world so improve their country as Navvies do England. Their work will last for ages, and if the world remains so long, people will come hundreds of years hence to look at it and wonder at what they have done.'

There are many people who like their reality smoothed out, comfortable, free of unsettling paradoxes and contradictions. How could such people, sometimes drunken and violent people, generally, to a feminist, sexist people, no doubt, have done so much to reduce human suffering, and far, far more, in general, than the genteel and the anti-sexist? The human suffering they reduced was not their own, but the suffering of the wider population, including the suffering of their critics, in far more comfortable circumstances.

 The phrase 'control over nature' offers so much scope to radical feminist interpretation - nature viewed as female, control as male, 'control over nature' as male supremacy and exploitation, to be opposed by radical feminism, as in the 'thought' of Carolyn Merchant.  A little thought shows that this amounts to complete distortion. In this section, as in most of the others, anti-feminists will be familiar with the arguments I use, but not, probably, with all the illustrative examples and the evidence.

Nature offers no easy way of heating rooms or heating water, or constructing rooms or effective shelters against the forces of nature, such as wind, rain and snow. Radical feminists, in societies where the control over nature is at a high level, get up in the morning in modern buildings or older buildings with modern conveniences. Putting on the electric kettle for a first cup of tea or coffee in a centrally heated room after a warm shower has advantages over waking up on a winter morning in a simple shelter constructed of natural materials with only natural fuel, such as branches or logs (cut with a stone-age axe) no obvious or easy way of lighting them, and no convenient source of water, in the absence of technological achievement (if rainwater is collected, in what kind of container? Not one made of PVC, polyvinylchloride) other than the water in streams and rivers probably polluted by human waste, and nowhere to wash away dirt from body and clothes, whatever natural clothes may be available, except for the icy water of those same streams and rivers.

Control over nature, which has given the benefits taken for granted by feminists and others, has required immense human effort and creativity of a very high order, the creativity which for once isn't misnamed - in organic chemistry, physical chemistry, heavy electrical engineering, quantum theory, seemingly remote fields such as the mathematical calculus and linear algebra, and many other fields. It's a matter of strict fact that the contribution of men to all of these has been overwhelmingly important.

For a long period of time, it was coal in this and other countries which offered the only practicable way in most cases to heat homes and heat water and cook food, to carry out innumerable other jobs, such as relieving agricultural workers of a significant part of the back-breaking work on the land by means of steam-driven machinery, pumping water, and of course transporting goods and people on the railways and over the oceans. In 'On the Road to Wigan Pier,' George Orwell wrote, in connection with society's indebtedness to miners at that time, 'all of us really owe the comparative decency of our lives to poor drudges underground, blackened to the eyes, with their throats full of coal dust, driving their shovels forward ...'

 Mining - for lead, copper and other metals as well as for coal - gives illuminating insights into feminism. It illustrates the intersection of humanitarian history and technological history. It illustrates the fact that most human suffering has been caused by nature, not by men, and that the achievement of men in overcoming the harshness of nature is incalculable. The world isn't nearly so dependent on coal mining now, but it's still dependent on technology. Modifying what George Orwell wrote to take account of changed conditions, 'You and I and the radical feminists who write about 'phallocentric' society and 'patriarchal society' and the defects of men really owe the comparative decency of our lives to a large extent to the scientists and technologists, far more often than not representatives of 'phallocentric and patriarchal' society, far more often than not men, who made the innovations which lessened the impact on human life of nature's harshness, and to the labourers who did the hard, often dangerous and dirty work needed to implement their ideas.'

WOW Cambridge

The Twitter page of  WOW Cambridge (Women of the World Festival, Cambridge)



is referred to as twit-WOW here and shown in bigger, brasher, blacker type (Arial black).

WOW Cambridge on some official Cambridge University pages, including this one 



is referred to as official-WOW and shown in a moderately classy font, Times New Roman, despite the fact that the page shows an abysmal disregard for argument and evidence, or conveniently overlooks the need for argument and evidence and is anything but 'classy.'

There are semi-scholarly and even scholarly pages on this site, but this page isn't one of them. I hope that feminist academics will be prepared to overlook the lack of scholarly citations here (such as the year, month and day of twit-WOW quotations, as also the hour and second).

Some Food for Thought from WOW-twit:

'There's no one better at being you than you, you are your own creativity'

This is Junk-Food-Thought, but not the kind of junk food which does contain protein and vitamins and other very useful nutrients. This is something more like Sugar-Water-Thought.

FreddyHarrel (Frédérique Harrel) endorsed it. She was obviously prepared to overlook its deficiencies. She describes herself on Twit-WOW as a 'Top UK Blogger/Stylist/Confidence Consultant/Digital Strategist' who provides 'Confidence & Style Workshops for women.'

 Nothing so commonplace, but useful, as 'Top UK roofing contractor' who provides 'repairs for your roof when the rain's coming in.'  (Contractors who amongst other things work outdoors in the Winter with bankruptcy likely or inevitable if they don't work outdoors in the Winter.)

For Freddy, it seems, work has to be fulfilling. Work which isn't particularly fulfilling for the worker, work which isn't in the least fulfilling for the worker, work which is difficult, dirty and dangerous - even if the work is needed to produce materials essential to the well-being of feminists or to take away the sewage of feminists, for that matter - work which is essential for the whole of society, seems not to meet her approval. The work of Care Home Assistants, who aren't able to skip work on a Thursday, who aren't in the least willing to abandon the people they're looking after on a Thursday - is work which seems to be just as much beyond her comprehension. 

Let's hang this Thursday! We're talking being fulfilled at work with @StylistMagazine ...

Parents can be concerned about their own lack of fulfilment and try to increase their fulfilment, but the dangers of paying too much attention to FreddyHarrel or Stylist Magazine - or any attention to them - should be obvious.

This is Paul, a male feminist, writing for twit-WOW:

"Pessimism is passive, optimism is active", says Jude – we've all got to make changes we want to see happen.

The threats to the steel industry in this country (it's not likely that these threats have preoccupied too many feminists) are immense. Have the steel workers and their supporters 'got to make changes they want to see happen?' If they are pessimistic, are they in danger of forgetting that 'pessimism is passive?' Or is it more difficult than that, far more difficult than that? The extreme difficulties and dangers in Syria. Do humanitarians, and the people they want to help, simply have to ensure that they make the changes they want to see happen? If they are pessimistic, are they in danger of forgetting that 'optimism is active?' Or is it more difficult than that, far more difficult than that?

By the way, who is this 'Jude?' Could it be Jude Kelly, of the South Bank Centre in London? The woman who founded WOW? I haven't though, been able to confirm that she did actually say or write, 'Pessimism is passive, optimism is active.'


Official-WOW is different in tone but, like twitter-WOW is complacent and evasive. Like twitter-WOW, it treats feminism as established truth, beyond the petty sphere of argument and evidence. Their mind is on other things, such as recruitment of  'WOWsers,' who according to the Cambridge University site will have have the privilege of 'Managing WOW Cambridge's social media presence' and 'Escorting VIP's to events.' Not only that, but 'All WOWsers gain a certificate of participation from the University of Cambridge.'

Sorry to be pedantic, but on the page which outlines the benefits of being a WOWser,


there's this, without a question mark:

'What is WOW'

For this question, I do supply a question mark,

'Is Cambridge University an unimportant place for  mediocrities as well as a 'centre of excellence?'

The page 'Sessions'


includes this,

Make way! Women in politics

2015 saw the launch of the Women’s Equality Party and new momentum to ensure women have a voice within politics and social change. A discussion of changing times, chaired by journalist and Principal of Lucy Cavendish College Jackie Ashley and featuring Halla Gunnarsdottir from the Women’s Equality Party, Frances Scott of the 50:50 Campaign, Priscilla Mensah, President of the Cambridge Student’s Union and Dr Helen Pankhurst.

Completely missing, any acknowledgment that women in politics will again and again have irreconcilable differences - women in UKIP, women in the Labour Party who support Jeremy Corbyn, women in the Labour Party who oppose Jeremy Corbyn, Israeli women and Palestinian women, women who admire Margaret Thatcher and women who loathe Margaret Thatcher ... and that the Women's Equality Party has to have, but doesn't have, policies and expertise in all the areas which are essential for the survival and success of a democracy, not forgetting expertise in defence of this country against terrorists and other aggressors (aggressors which have many, many women supporters, by the way.)

The section 'To infinity and beyond' (a title with many philosophical difficulties, of course) includes this:

Are feminism and gender equality changing the universe? A lively panel assesses the difference activism, science, representation and comedy can make. With radical feminist Dr Finn Mackay ...

Finn Mackay's site is grotesque, listing  achievement after achievement, or her view of achievement, in a list which isn't endless but seems it, appearance after appearance at some event or other: the appearance is the achievement, it seems.

She'd claim, perhaps - or probably - that she's deeply oppressed, but she can't possibly claim that life has been completely unfair to her. She's a Senior Lecturer at the University of the West of England. This is her profile on the University site:


The 2016 sessions included some teaching on how to 'punch and kick like a woman!'

Lisa Downing (gender theorist) on M. Hindley, murderer


Above: Professor Lisa Downing

Above, Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, 'The Moors Murderers,' described by the trial judge in his closing remarks as 'sadistic killers.'  The gender theorist Professor Downing of Birmingham University, on the other hand, claims that Myra Hindley was a strong woman who rejected society's oppressive view of women. Myra Hindley rejected the 'burden' of caring for children. Professor Downing's view is very, very disturbing.

The murders were committed between July 1963 and October 1965. The victims were five children aged between 10 and 17—Pauline Reade, John Kilbride, Keith Bennett, Lesley Ann Downey and Edward Evans. At least four of them were sexually assaulted. They are called The Moors Murderers because two of the victims were discovered in graves dug on Saddleworth Moor. A third grave was discovered on the moor in 1987.

Above, a photograph taken by Ian Brady of Myra Hindley with her dog, crouching over John Kilbride's grave on Saddleworth Moor in November 1963.

John Kilbride, 12 years old, was approached by Myra Hindley and lured into her car. He was sexually assaulted by Brady, who slit his throat before strangling him. Keith Bennett, also 12 years old, was lured into Hindley's vehicle. She drove him to Saddleworth Moor, where Brady sexually assaulted and strangled him. Brady and Hindley visited a fairground in search of another victim. She got into Hindley's car and was driven to their home, where she was undressed, gagged, forced to pose for photographs and strangled. The next day, they took her body to Saddleworth Moor and buried her in a shallow grave. Edward Evans was found at a Manchester railway station and lured to Brady's house in Cheshire, where he beat him to death with an axe.

She made a formal confession to police on 10 February 1987, admitting her involvement in all five murders. At the trial she denied any involvement. The tape recording of her statement was over 17 hours long; Detective Chief Superintendent Peter Topping described it as a 'very well worked out performance in which, I believe, she told me just as much as she wanted me to know, and no more ... she was never there when the killings took place. She was in the car, over the brow of the hill, in the bathroom and even, in the case of the Evans murder, in the kitchen.' He felt he 'had witnessed a great performance rather than a genuine confession.' There's evidence that she was an accomplished liar. In 1987she admitted that the plea for parole she had submitted to the Home Secretary eight years earlier was "on the whole ... a pack of lies.'

In a statement in 1992 Myra Hindley said, 'I should have been hanged, I would have absolutely deserved it.' This may well have been not in the least sincere. She tried to obtain parole and this may well have been a dramatic way of claiming to be sorry for what she did, intended to increase her chances of being released from prison. This was long after the last executions in this country. The death penalty wasn't available to the court at the time of the sentences. A few years earlier, the death sentence was available. My view is that the two murderers should not have been hanged. My page on the death penalty discusses the issue. 

There's evidence, surely, conclusive evidence,  that it was Ian Brady who had  greater responsibility for the torture and murders than his accomplice and that, although a hideous sadist in her own right, she was easily led. She claimed,  'He could have told me that the earth was flat, the moon was made of green cheese and the sun rose in the west, I would have believed him, such was his power of persuasion.'

For Professor Lisa Downing of Birmingham University, gender theorist, any notion that this woman could be easily led, any notion that she could not be a murderer in her own right, supposedly strong and independent, is completely misguided. Lisa Downing is the misguided one. Lisa Downing's view is  despicable. Dr Felicity Donohoe of Glasgow University, another gender theorist, regards the women who tortured men to death as strong and independent too, as I explain in my profile of her on this page.

Lisa Downing's profile on the Birmingham University Website includes this:

'I am Professor of French Discourses of Sexuality. My work is located at the intersection of sexuality and gender studies, cultural studies, and critical theory. My research has a European, especially French, bent and also focuses on comparative European and North American contexts. My most recent publications have been on the gendering, sexualization, and othering of the figure of the murderer, and on the history of ‘perversion’ in Europe and America.' The subject of her D.Phil. degree was 'French literature and discourses of necrophilia.'

She claims that Myra Hindley has been badly misunderstood and that the misunderstanding is due to an incorrect understanding of gender. In her review of Professor Downing's  book, 'The Subject of Murder: Gender, Exceptionality, and the Modern Killer,' which may 'facilitate a possible re-conceptualisation of the identity ascribed to Hindley,' Emma Smith makes it completely clear that ordinary notions of ethics aren’t necessarily accepted by gender theorists, or at least gender theorists like Lisa Downing (and Felicity Donoghue):

‘ … Downing interrogates the notion of exceptionality, examining the aspects of Hindley’s police investigations, imprisonment, and her portrayal in media and other cultural forms that were pertinent in the often subjective reading and cultivation of Hindley’s public identity. Gender (and to a lesser extent, class) is a focus in this attempt by the author to understand and facilitate a possible re-conceptualisation of the identity ascribed to Hindley.’

And, ‘Hindley’s motives were questioned, on account of her dissidence from the societal (female) ideals of marriage and raising a family. Hindley’s non-traditional upbringing is also shown to have been a subject of focus; her failure to live with and be brought up by her mother deemed suspicious. By comparison, Brady’s failure to marry and raise a family was rarely interrogated to the same degree. Unrelated, but also suggestive of the degree to which Hindley was a product of her society, is the focus drawn towards Hindley’s physical appearance, often considered transgressive and out of the ordinary compared to contemporary feminine beauty ideals.’

And even more:

‘Downing invites the reader to consider in more detail why Hindley was/is so exceptional. Deconstructing the various elements that led to and underpinned the ‘otherness’ image of Hindley, Downing indicates that Hindley, unlike her male counterpart, was doubly transgressive: Hindley not only deviates from the moral and legal codes that are adhered to by most in society, but crucially, from her preconditioned, social, gendered role of a woman. Hindley was judged on her rejection of the feminine ideals of maternity, child rearing and its associated qualities of care and compassion, suggesting that Hindley’s identity as murderer may have been as much a product of the world she was socialised into, as a source of rejection by that world.’

Chapter Four of the book, “Infanticidal Femininity,” which contains Professor Downing’s discussion of Myra Hindley, offers these generalizations, intended to illuminate the case not just of Myra Hindley but of all women murderers:

‘ … gender role transgression constitutes an extra cause for condemnation in the case of the murderous woman … all women, whether technically mothers or not, are symbolically charged in this culture with maternity, with the burden of caring for children, and that dereliction of this duty carries a heavy penalty.’

Obviously, Professor Downing doesn’t believe in the existence of such a thing as the maternal instinct but does seem to believe in something like universal maternal drudgery – the burden of caring for children. Women who find fulfilment in caring for children or are bitterly disappointed that they can’t have children are in need of  consciousness-raising, –  preferably by means of postgraduate Gender Studies.

Although it may seem that she completely ignores questions of ethics, this isn't so, but her clarifications tend to be impenetrable. Ponder this, for example, in answer to an interview question with 3am: magazine, which declares, 'Whatever it is, we're against it.' What? There's such a thing as truth, and the magazine is against it? Is the magazine against resistance to terrororism? She says,

'The “turn to ethics” describes a current in poststructuralist criticism that is perhaps more strongly associated with literature and textuality than with art or the image. It is characterized by a rejection of the study of cultural products as self-reflexive and hermetic (the principles of structuralism).'

Lunching with Lisa Downing

Triona Kennedy has drawn attention to the scandalous lack of feminist indoctrination/education in schools. Lisa Downing has drawn attention to the scandalous lack of feminist indoctrination/education in universities, in a piece published in the ‘Times Higher Education Supplement.’ (20 June, 2013.) ‘Lisa Downing on why the erosion of women’s, gender and sexuality studies in UK universities is cause for concern.’


A few excerpts from her remarkable article, followed by a radical comparison. She writes,

‘ … young people need to be taught to think critically about how power works with regard to categories including sex, gender, race, (dis)ability and class.'

‘When lunching in London a few weeks ago with an American colleague over here on a research trip, I found myself without a good answer when she asked me, “What has happened to all the women’s studies programmes in this country?” It is true that there are few remaining named programmes of this kind, yet gender, sexuality and feminist studies are still widely taught under the auspices of more traditional degree programmes throughout UK higher education. But I have been wondering ever since that conversation about the effects of the erosion of their distinct academic identity on students and researchers in these areas.

'Widespread in US academia since the 1970s, numerous women’s studies programmes were later established in UK universities, the first named programme being the MA in women’s studies, established in 1980 at the University of Kent at Canterbury. In the 1990s, the concept of “women’s studies” was criticised by some post-structuralist academics as being too narrowly concerned with female identity, and therefore ignoring broader issues that impact on, and intersect with, sexism (such as cultural expectations of masculinity and the stigmatisation of non‑heterosexual, non-monogamous, disabled and transgendered people).

'The discipline [sic] then underwent the partial transition to “gender studies”, aided by the widespread influence of the work of US-based theorists such as Judith Butler and Susan Stryker. In a parallel way, the academic study of sexuality moved from a focus on “lesbian and gay studies” towards “queer” (the branch of theory that, after French historian and philosopher Michel Foucault’s work on the history of sexuality, views identity categories as socially constructed fictions). Within both of these academic fields and activist communities, rigorous [sic] debate has centred on the ways in which identity politics might be balanced with analysis of how different types of oppression intersect with each other. As a result, the lines between women’s studies, gender studies and sexuality studies are far from clear-cut, and all three encompass many methodological and theoretical differences.

'Today, variations of all of these branches of study are taught within UK universities. But, as my lunch companion’s query suggested, very few institutions offer undergraduate degrees in them, or have departments with an undergraduate population named after them. And, at postgraduate level, the struggle to ensure the survival of such programmes can be intense, stressful and seemingly never-ending for those who convene them. I was therefore pleasantly surprised to learn from a colleague the other day that the University of Hull has a named BA programme in gender studies. Yet the “find your course” application on Hull’s website made no mention of it; I only found it later within the department of sociology’s pages.

‘Despite the problems of institutional organisation, graduates of women’s, gender and sexuality studies are vocal about the significance of the subject matter and the value of their studies. When I invited them on Twitter to send me their impressions of their degrees, many responses focused on the benefits of the critical-thinking skills they were taught, both for their own sake and for their application in activist and professional spheres.

'For instance, Linnea Sandström Lange, an alumna of the London School of Economics’ MSc in gender, policy and inequalities, said her degree equipped her with “a whole different layer of analysis and understanding, without which you cannot work against injustice”.'

Is it true that without an MSc degree in gender, policy and inequalities degree ‘you cannot work against injustice’ or that an MSc degree in gender, policy and inequalities is a great advantage in working against injustice? Lisa Downing was ‘lunching in London … with an American colleague over here on a research trip.’ Professor Downing and her American colleague may have felt that they were working against injustice by sharing their views over lunch, but how much truth is there in this?

I don't share Lisa Downing's views on these matters and I don't have any respect for Lisa Downing, at least from what I learn about her here.

In my review of The Cambridge Companion to Seamus Heaney, I discuss in detail some grotesque interpretations by two feminists, in the sections Guinn Batten and the drowned sheep and Fran Brearton: Bowdlerizing and Breatronizing. The interpretations of the two feminists Lisa Downing and Felicity Donohoe are grotesque too, but have this difference: they are to do with acts of  extreme cruelty. Lisa Downing and Felicity Donohoe shouldn't be dismissed from their posts but they should be held to account and they should either defend their interpretations or do something to undo the damage.

Compare and contrast the feminism of these two and the Roman Catholicism of the worker-priests of France and other countries. I don't share the Roman Catholic views of these worker-priests but I do have respect for these priests. This is from James T. Fisher's 'On the Irish Waterfront:'

' ... there remained in the early 1950's a sharp distinction between apostolic work and work as it was commonly understood in industrialised nations. This was a highly charged issue ... The worker-priest movement was authorized in a bold if not quixotic effort to salvage a role for the church among the overwhelmingly disaffected French urban proletariat.

'Many of the worker-priests toiled in factories, but the first and best known was Father Jacques Loew, the "docker priest" of Marseilles. Loew believed that it was "no good wasting time on paper theories: the thing to do was to buy some overalls on the old clothes market, get a job like everyone else, and then, at the end of the day's work, go off and live with the very dregs of the population - the dockers on the port."

'In the winter of 1951 worker-priest Michel Farreau was crushed under a ton of wood on a Bordeax pier. "Through his death," wrote Arnal, "the worker-priesthood joined what hey considered the ranks of the working class martyrs." Over time, however, "hostilities grew" between the Vatican and the worker priests ... " '

This is never going to happen, of course, but if academic gender theorists and other academic feminists spent their sabbatical years not in writing about power and gender or writing about power and gender according to Judith Butler or some other feminist, but in doing difficult, dirty, dangerous work - the kind of work so often done by men -  or at least work completely different from their academic work, it would most likely transform their ideas of power and gender. They would never be able to write or speak in the same way.



Felicity Donohoe (gender theorist) on torturing to death


Dr Donohoe gives examples of torture carried out by native North American women [warning: very graphic - nauseating - description follows] and gives a feminist interpretation of its significance in ' "Hand him over to me and I shall know very well what to do with him": The Gender Map and Ritual Native Female Violence in Early America.'  Felicity Donohoe is an academic in the history department of Glasgow University. Her profile on the Glasgow University site mentions the paper:



Here, I include extracts from


Constructing the Native American Woman

'So the wretch was handed over at once to the women who, like so many Furies, seized him and tied him to a tree trunk with his legs bound together. They built a very hot fire in front of and very near him and, seizing branches, they applied them to the sole of his feet which they had stretched out to the fire ... taking live coals and putting them on the most sensitive part of his body ... using their knives to cut him deeply ... plunging his charred feet and legs into a cauldron of boiling water, and then scalping him. They were unable to make him suffer more, because he died after the last torture. Buy they did cut out his tongue, even though he was dead, planning to force another English prisoner ... to eat it.

'The Abbé Maillard on the Mi'kmaq, c. 1740.

'Their punishment is always left to the women ... The victim's arms are fast pinioned, and a strong grape-vine is tied around his neck, to the top of the war pole, allowing him to track around, about fifteen yards. They fix some tough clay on his head, to secure the scalp from the blazing torches ... The women make a furious onset with their burning torches ... But he is sure to be overpowered by numbers, and after some time the fire affects his tender parts. They pour over a quantity of cold water, and allow him a proper time of respite, till his spirits recover and he is capable of suffering new tortures. Then the like cruelties are repeated until he falls down, and happily becomes insensible of pain. Now they scalp him ... dismember, and carry off all exteriors branches of the body (pudendis non exceptis), in shameful and savage triumph.

'James Adair on the Chickasaws, c. 1744.'

Dr Donohoe goes on to illuminate the challenge posed by the women's practice of  torture for patriarchal notions of gender. According to Dr Donohoe, these were strong women, who refused to conform to conventional ideas of feminine behaviour:

'Observations of the activities were accounts of actions that did little to illuminate the purposes of the acts, or what women were expressing about themselves ...

'For observers it may have been genuinely difficult to comprehend such behaviour as having any direction or rationale, and rarely would such acts have been credited as demonstrating order or as playing an intrinsic part in the native war process ... any part in the western war process was linked to women as supporters and victims of male warfare rather than active participants in their own right ... Any female agency existed only as a consequence of, and in relation to, the primary actions of the male.

'Femininities, Moral Worth and Violent Expression

'James Axtell's 1974 article "The Vengeful Women of Marblehead: Robert Roule's Deposition of 1677" illustrates this point rather well, and shows a number of problems faced by historians when analysing eighteenth-century female violence. Although suffering heavy losses at the hands of Indians, the men of Marblehead, Massachusetts, had sailed home after a daring escape from Indian captivity with two Indian captives of their own. The women of the town had greeted the group then proceeded to attack and kill the captives, "their flesh in a manner pulled from their bones", despite the protestations of the townsmen. Roule's deposition related the colonists' capture, escape and the attack, and his description of the attack revealed a thinly-veiled, masculine disapproval of the women's actions. To Roule, the women's behaviour lacked moral worth. He referred to them as "tumultous" and complained of attacks on the white men who attempted to rescue the captives.'


'The Marblehead women's actions may not have been commonplace any more than ritual torture by native women was an everyday occurrence. The difference lies in the existence of ritual torture as an acceptable social tool of native warfare, part of a complex social role.

'The Abbé was stationed among the Mi'kmaq, and his quotation suggests that in some cases, rather than needing protection, native women inspired genuine fear among white men, which may have presented interpretative problems for white observers. These accounts indicate that time was devoted to the preparation of captives for torture. Areas were designated and platforms for the exhibition of the captive were constructed. Captives were examined and selected or rejected by experienced, sharp-eyed women. There was rarely evidence of compassion or "nurture" among these women at this point. Children were trained from an early age to perform such gruesome acts as amputations, encouraged to eat bodily parts of the victims, and to enjoy their torment. This could take hours or days, and unlucky captives were revived after passing out, and sometimes were forced to watch friends suffer before the same violence was inflicted upon themselves ...

'Accounts of these horrors appear in Early American narratives yet find no definitive home among histories of women or warfare. Philomena Goodman has argued that such historical marginalisation of women's war efforts was directly linked to fears that acknowledging female ability in male space undermined manliness.


'Had ritual torture been a very minor part of native lives, then perhaps traditional historical approaches to it would be understandable. However, the purposes of ritual torture, and the time and care devoted to preparation for the event, indicated that it held a great deal of significance for native peoples, and was considered a vital part of warfare. By extension, this suggests that the roles of native women were far more complex than presently believed, and that status, authority and power were to be found in places that colonists had never thought to look.

' ... the North Carolinian Saponi believed that failure to torture prisoners could result in supernatural punishments, such a [sic] major storm or crop failure, and invested with the blessing of the tribe and the power of the gods, women inflicting violence were obliged to make torments as unpleasant as possible for the captive and the benefit of the people.

' ... One Algonquin Indian told the Jesuit Jackues Buteax that the flesh of the enemy was "not good for eating". Burning, torturing, roasting and renaming of the victim into a relative, purified the enemy, and only then would he or she make acceptable eating. Other tribes cannibalised to absorb the enemy's power, or to show contempt, and another traveller recorded children being fed the still-warm blood of captives, while Huron women would feed enemy fingers to eager children.

' ... Torture was a spiritual battle of wills between captor and captive, and women who challenged enemies in this arena were the conduits of the tribes' true source of power - the spiritual realm. Torture established tribal superiority over the enemy, tested their spiritual worth and ultimately, furnished the means to break the power of the enemy.

All this is preceded in the article by an abstract:


'Native North American women occupy a relatively small portion of colonial American and Canadian historiography and often appear as handmaidens to masculine endeavour in the dynamic age of colonisation and expansion. The construction of their image relied heavily on Euro-American conceptions of recognised femininities but accounts of Native women's warfare activities challenged these preferred images of exotic temptresses or 'squaw' drudges. Much of the evidence now indicates that indigenous peoples recognised a far more complex and nuanced feminity, and such concepts of alternative behaviour present a significant challenge to present historical (mis)constructions of native female identities.

'This discussion is not intended to suggest that ritual torture happened every time captives were brought back to a village, and neither is it stating that torture was practised by every tribe and by women only, What is clear is that almost all tribes used ritual torture that to some degree usually involved female participation, and that there was very often a female-only component. This female-only aspect of torture is worthy of examination because the very existence of such a mechanism in Indian societies can help illuminate native female experience in war. Furthermore, it can act as a "gateway" to exploring alternative female roles and interactions with European men that extended far beyond the present historical comfort zones of mother, wife and concubine.'

Dr Donohoe should be ashamed. Academics tend to avoid words which seem insufficiently measured, such as 'revolting' and 'disgusting' but words like this are no more to be shunned than other words which fit our experience. There are people who never find any use for words like 'beauty' or 'love' (except for such debased applications as 'Love me, love my conifer,' from an organization which promotes the marketing of conifers.) There are areas of our experience which call for such words as 'revolting' and 'disgusting.' Dr Donohoe's 'analysis' is one of them.


From my page on the death penalty, where I defend Enlightenment values:


'Cesare Beccaria, the author of 'On Crimes and Punishments' (Dei lelitti e delle pene), is magnificent, astonishing. His work has had an incalculable effect, wholly for the good. At a time when the criminal justice systems in most countries were hideously barbaric, he cut through all the traditional arguments and traditional complacency and attacked the death penalty and other abuses, such as torture.'


Another Enlightenment representative of 'patriarchy' (as many feminists would describe him):


'Leopold II was an early supporter of Beccaria's ideas. He had refused to allow infliction of death sentences for a long time (the last execution was in 1769), On 30 November 1786, Leopold promulgated the reform of the penal code which abolished the death penalty (and torture) in Tuscany. In 2000, Tuscany's regional authorities instituted an annual holiday on 30 November to commemorate this event.'

Many people who have played an enormously important role in furthering human, and humane, thought, have had no obvious humanitarian motivation. The burning alive of witches was brought to an end not just by people who objected to their suffering but by intellectual sceptics, people who realized the importance of natural causes and could find no evidence that witches could blight crops or harm cattle or people, people who would ridicule claims such as the one put forward by the gullible Dr Donohoe, 'the North Carolinian Saponi believed that failure to torture prisoners could result in supernatural punishments, such a [sic] major storm or crop failure ... '


I've drawn this section to the attention of Dr Donohoe. If she  considers that my account here is insufficiently 'nuanced' then she's welcome to make use of  the Comments page linked with this page.


See also the very brief discussion of Dr Lisa Kemmerer's feminist  views on 'Native American spiritual values,' which confines itself to the realm of  spiritual delusions, spiritual evasion, spiritual wishful-thinking  and spiritual platitude, without any mention of such distasteful topics as contrary evidence.


More examples of native American spirituality in action (from 'History of Orange County' Now York 1888):

'There has been no more intellectual nation among the aborigines of America than the Senecas of Western New York - the most original and determined of the confederated Iroquois - but its warriors were cruel like the others, and their squaws often assisted the men in torturing their captives.'

The treatment of one captive, Boyd:

' ... Boyd was made to suffer lingering miseries. His ears were cut off, his mouth enlarged with knives and his severed nose thrust into it, pieces of flesh were cut from his shoulders and other parts of his body, an incision was made in his abdomen and an intestine fastened to the tree, when he was scourged to make his move around it, and finally as he neared death, was decapitated, and his head raised on a pole.'

Bernard Bailyn, writes about the actions of Susquehannock Indians:

'Fifteen Maryland militiamen were captured, and tortured. They were dropped twice into a raging fire intensified by bear fat and pitch, a contemporary reported, then taken out, bound to flaming poles, and slowly roasted until a designated "devil chaser" tore the flesh from their faces, cut out their tongues, cut off their fingers and toes, which he threaded on strings for necklaces and knee bands, and finally tied them to burning bundles of reeds while boys "with a great noise" shot arrows into their smouldering bodies.'  ('The Barbarous Years: The peopling of British North America - the conflict of civilizations, 1600 - 1675.')

Iroquois society was neither 'patriarchal' nor 'matriarchal.' It was striking in its equality. Women enjoyed great power. But Iroquois society was no paradise. Iroquois society was hideously cruel.

Jacob Soll, in  'Biography of a Torturer' in the 'New Republic remarked,  'In her 2002 book, 'Regarding the Pain of Others,'  Susan Sontag expressed fear that photographs of atrocities would not turn society away from war, torture, and execution, but rather, give an impression of “consensus” that such acts were normal or necessary.' Similarly with accounts of atrocities. He added that ' ... reviewing the writing of the history of atrocities ... can  fall into a dangerous complicity.


Some academics seem very pleased when they can uncover trends and causes and to provide evidence for these trends and causes and to provide citations - although their research may be spurious and ideological and not survive serious critical examination. If they overlook overwhelmingly important moral considerations which are essential in an adequate ((survey)) of the issues, as Dr Felicity Donohoe has certainly done here, the results will be despicable. She has written about women who went beyond the roles of 'mother, wife and concubine,' women who exhibited a 'far more complex and nuanced femininity,' women who, in torturing, were 'active participants in warfare in their own right.'  To view 'the existence of ritual torture as an acceptable social tool of native warfare, part of a complex social role' is despicable.

Dr Donohoe has written not a serious contribution to 'gender studies' but  despicable excuses for torture. 

This botched article, beyond redemption, was published on the Website of the 'Scottish Word and Image Group,' not the most obvious place. The Group promotes 'the study of the interaction of words and images.' There isn't a single image to illustrate the article. Dr Keith Williams, senior lecturer in English at Dundee University, is the Chair of the group. He played a prominent part in 'Debating the difference.'  Chris Murray, a senior lecturer in English at Dundee University, is the Secretary of the group. From the Dundee University English department Website: 'Dr Murray's research area is comics ... ' And this:

'Top tips for students

'Before studying Comics, Chris recommends that you:

Biographical information about contributors of papers at the conference where Dr Donohoe's paper was presented

Abstracts of their papers:

Did none of the other contributors object to Dr Donohoe's paper? Did all of them regard it as a legitimate contribution to 'gender theory,' as a legitimate contribution to the struggle against patriarchy?'

Rachel Jones, at the time an academic at Dundee University, now at George Mason University, played a leading part in organising the conference where this disturbing paper was presented. An extract from her anti-patriarchal introduction to the conference, and her account of Dr Donohoe's thesis, which she obviously approves.

'Debating the Difference: Gender, Representation, Self-Representation

'This collection represents a selection of papers from a conference held at the University of Dundee in September 2007, as well as from related workshops on issues of women, gender and (self-)representation. Together they reflect the multiple 'differences' which we were interested in exploring at these events. These differences are also reflected in the conference organising team, which involved members of the Scottish Word and Image Group (SWIG) as well as the Women, Culture and Society (WCS) postgraduate programme at Dundee. By working together, our aim was to generate an interdisciplinary dialogue assessing constructions of gender in both text and image.

' ...  Our aim was to make a collaborative space in which to explore the representation of gender from a multitude of angles, examining depictions of women by men and men by women, and - given the historically patriarchal culture in which we find ourselves - paying close attention to the ways in which reductive representations of women have been challenged and transformed, as well as the ways women have come to represent themselves.


'If Locke and Sidney defied regulative norms of feminine silence through their textual creations, the next section begins with an examination of female activities which challenged such norms in a far more direct and indeed violent manner. Paradoxically, as Felicity Donohoe shows, precisely because they posed a more overt and troubling challenge, these activities were even more firmly silenced, both at the time and in subsequent historiography. The activity in question is the ritual torture of enemy captives undertaken by native North American women and encountered by European colonists in the course of their expansionist programme of the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

In her paper, 'The Gender Map and Ritual Native Female Violence', Donohoe shows that the involvement of native North American women in ritual violence and torture was not only difficult for eighteenth-century colonists to understand, but that viewing such acts within a frame informed by European gender norms made it almost impossible to recognise the status and nature of these acts in their own terms. This blindspot can be compared to the ways in which the European colonists found it hard to recognise unfenced lands as already inhabited and erased the presence of indigenous peoples via the myth of terra nullius. Donohoe goes on to show how this blindspot is compounded by later historical analysis which has often continued to map the activities of North American Indian women in terms of a gendered framework drawn from a Western historical context. This frame, with its emphasis on the ideological power of the notion of 'separate spheres', tends to erase the ways in which Native American women played a full and crucial role in both the spiritual life of the tribe and its 'public' life in times of war.

'In ways that resonate with Waudby's analysis, Donohoe points out that the tendency to parallel Native American female violence with contemporaneous acts of violence by white (colonist) women leads to an understanding of both as simply 'anomalous'. Such interpretations homogenise female actions on the basis of sex instead of accounting for the heterogeneous significance that violent acts might have for women whose lives were framed by different histories and very different socio-political contexts. By contrast, Donohoe argues for the need to attend to the significance of Native American women's role in ritual torture in its own terms, and provides the basis for such an analysis. Her approach is valuable both because it begins to make visible the very different 'gender map' that seems to have shaped the lives of indigenous North American peoples, and because this alternative mapping challenges some of the most deeply entrenched features of modern western gender norms and models of femininity.'

It could hardly be clearer. Rachel Jones regards Dr Donohoe's paper as challenging 'some of the most deeply entrenched features of modern western gender norms and models of femininity.' I regard the paper, to put it simply, as giving evidence that women can be as barbaric as men, evidence that feminists have to take into account if their feminism isn't to be based on illusion and denial, and evidence that gender studies can put forward morally indefensible theses (.)there are many critics of gender studies who present evidence that gender studies can be intellectually flawed

See also my criticism of Dr Lisa Kemmerer's views on American Indians and Dr Lisa Kemmerer and smallpox, on the page 'Veganism: arguments against'.' Lisa Kemmerer is a vegan feminist.

Another paper presented at the conference ‘Debating the difference’ was  ‘A Touching Text: Dundee, Tehran and The Winter’s Tale’ by  Marion Wynne Davies, now a Professor of English at Surrey University.  'In January 2003, the Dundee Repertory Theatre Company took their production of William Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale to the 21st International Fajr Theatre Festival in Tehran.'


Marion Wynne Davies doesn’t criticize the company’s abject surrender to Iranian censorship. It was a mistake to allow representatives of this barbaric regime to censor the production.  Given the inevitability of censorship and the policies and acts of the regime, it was a mistake to take the production to Tehran at all. The Iranian official who did take a more liberal approach was removed.  Extracts from Professor Wynne Davies’ paper :

‘The Rep had been advised as to what changes would be essential to the production before they set out for Tehran when Hill visited Iran in December 2002. The alterations primarily involved re-costuming, cutting props associated with alcohol, and the removal of all sequences in which men and women touch. The women of the cast all wore scarves and long robes that covered arms, legs and necks. All physical contact between men and women was cut, with the exception of the final embrace, which as has already been pointed out, was a key moment in Hill’s interpretation of the text.

'the Rep’s interpretation of The Winter’s Tale presented the body in its jubilant excesses – bawdy humour, drinking, dancing and touching. Yet these were precisely the elements that had to be cut for an Iranian audience.'

' ... the last production of Shakespeare at the Festival itself, by an American company, had been closed down and the director prosecuted for ‘raping the public innocence.’

The Iranian authorities will have regarded the Dundee Repertory Company as a very well behaved bunch by comparison. ' ... the programme cover image was altered to include only men.' There seem to have been few limits to the  company's compliance.

‘On Sunday 19th the artistic director, Hamish Glen, had a meeting with the director of the festival, Dr Sharifkholdaei, at which point, as Glen notes, ‘it becomes clear that [he] is under growing pressure not to be too liberal in the content.’18 Conversely, Hill also remembers Sharifkholdaei as wanting to push the boundaries of what would be allowed, and that any pressure to alter the production did not come from him. Dr Sharifkholdaei was later removed from his post.19 The dress rehearsal took place on Tuesday 21st, watched by Dr Sharifkholdaei and Iranian officials, whose role was to vet the production.’

Dominic Hill, the director of the play (now with the Citizens’ Theatre, Glasgow), was obviously determined to put on the play no matter what. This is from his abject  piece ‘An Iranian Tale’ in ‘The Guardian’


‘ … 10 minutes before our second performance, a deputation from the theatre department approached me and asked whether it would be possible to remove the hug between Leontes and Hermione at the end of the play. I said it would not be possible as this was the climactic reconciliation between the two. They smiled and disappeared. Two minutes later they returned and said there were some clerics in the audience that night, and "it might cause problems" - that is, we might be shut down if I kept it in. I said I would shorten it but that it had to be there for the ending to make sense. They thanked me and disappeared again, smiling. A few minutes later they returned with the minister, who requested, "in the spirit of cultural exchange", that I remove the offending moment just for that evening. After some debate, and knowing that the show was about to begin, I agreed and rushed backstage to re-rehearse the end.’

She does give some criticisms of the Iranian regime’s policies made by members of the cast, but the visit of the company did absolutely nothing to support those many Iranians who have risked their lives and lost their lives in support of liberal values. Her criticism of the British government is forthright,  as in the casual comment ‘government anti-fundamentalist propaganda. ‘  She should have chosen her words with far more care. To regard opposition to Islamic fundamentalism as ‘propaganda’ is very mistaken.

On my page on Islamism and other topics, a section on some actions of the Iranian regime. including the case of Atefeh Rajabi Sahaaleh, charged with adultery and 'crimes against chastity.' She was hanged in public.

Farshad Hoseini on stoning to death in Iran.


He gives the total number of men and women stoned to death in Iran in the period 1980 - 2010 as more than 150. In 2002, the year before the Dundee Repertory Company’s visit to Iran, he states that 11 people were stoned to death in Iran. The intention is to cause maximum pain by stoning to death.  The procedure is specified and large stones, which might kill the person quickly, are forbidden.

The sentence is imposed most commonly for adultery, but for a variety of other reasons as well. From the site http://www.wfafi.org/Stoning.htm

‘According to reports in the press, an unnamed woman was stoned to death at Evin prison, Tehran, on 20 May 2001.  The woman, aged 35, was arrested eight years ago on charges of acting in pornographic films.’  (There's a Fajr Film Festival as well as the Fajr Theatre Festival. The Iranian authorities will expect that people attending the festival will respect their sensitivities by not drawing attention to such events.)

Marissia Fragkou’s paper, ‘Theatrical Representations: Gender Performativity,Fluidity and Nomadic Subjectivity in Phyllis Nagy'sWeldon Rising  and The Strip’ includes this:

‘The above analysis has attempted to expose the intricacy of gender performativity in the context of theatre and problematize how this resistance does not necessarily imply an exilic notion of subjectivity that is isolated from its community.

She claims that Judith Butler’s ‘account of gender identity … created a new discourse of identity andrepresentation based on the understanding of gender as “an expression of what one does and not what one is” manifested by means of a reiteration of corporeal acts.’ On this page, extracts from Martha Nussbaum’s criticisms of Judith Butler.

I’ve not read much of the paper.  Anyone who wants to persevere is welcome to.  The paper is available at



 Professor Quentin Skinner and hard times

Professor Quentin Skinner of the School of History, Queen Mary, University of London, is a historian with philosophical interests. His academic work has not been concerned with feminism or specifically with the history of women. Here, I give a little more background information and  discuss one of his very few excursions into the field of feminism - or the battlefield of feminism. Amongst all the warring groups of feminists, there are many feminists who would condemn him for failing to put women at the centre of his work, for hardly mentioning the issue of women and their sufferings in his work as a professional historian. 

The Website http://www.artoftheory.com ceased publication after publishing six essays and eight interviews. One of those interviewed is  Professor Skinner. An extract - the interviewer says, ' ... you’re known to be strongly committed to gender equality and have done a lot practically for the advancement of women at Cambridge, yet issues of gender have never been prominent in your philosophical or historical work. Can you say a bit about the connection between scholarship and political context? And do you see problems of social justice or issues like gender inequality as being primarily practical rather than philosophical issues?

Skinner: This is very interesting. The promotion of gender equality is something which matters very much to me ... Everything remains harder for women, at every stage ...'

I write, 'Susan James' generalization (in the 'Concise Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy) amounts to gross distortion. She 'claims that 'Feminism is grounded on the belief that women are oppressed or disadvantaged by comparison with men ... ' ' Quentin Skinner is the husband of Susan James. His generalization that 'Everything remains harder for women, at every stage ... ' amounts to gross distortion too. What? Harder for women slave owners  than for male slaves? Anyone who can't think of many, many more contrary examples, examples which falsify his complacent and unthinking supposition should think longer and harder, read far more widely or try to extend personal experience.  This page does give many, many more contrary examples, including the far greater number of men executed compared to women executed in the United States, and the dirty, difficult and dangerous work disproportionately undertaken by men, such as miners.  I think that Professor Skinner has very little knowledge of these things, or very little understanding, or very little imaginative sympathy. His limitations, on the basis of what I know about him and his work, are very great.


A very brief introduction to some of Quentin Skinner's work. This is the view of  of David Wootton, in a review published in the 'Times Literary Supplement.' Although the focus of attention is Quentin Skinner's book 'Visions of Politics,' the scope of the review is much wider. The date of publication is 14 March 2003, so obviously, his later work isn't considered. The complete review is very much recommended, although you would have to be a subscriber to the 'Times Literary Supplement' to read it. Professor Wootton is an important writer in the field of intellectual and cultural history. He's the author of 'The Invention of Science' amongst other works.

He writes,

Quentin Skinner, Regius Professor of History at the University of Cambridge, is the most distinguished early modern historian employed in a British university, at least now that Sir Keith Thomas has retired. The publication, as Visions of Politics, of three volumes of his essays, including much of his best work, should be an occasion for rejoicing ...

have long admired his work. But I do not believe these volumes should have been published in this form.


t is difficult to describe the extraordinary effect of Skinner’s work over a period of at least a quarter-century. No one had ever done history of ideas before with his combination of meticulous scholarship, intellectual flair and pugnacious independence. Hume and Collingwood excepted, no English-language historian had demonstrated a real grasp of philosophical subtleties, and no English-language philosopher (again apart from Hume and Collingwood) has demonstrated that he had an insider’s understanding of how historians think. 

ne would have to praise any anthology of his best articles, and such an anthology would enable us to study the development of a major intellect. Of course there would also be scope for criticism. Even Skinner at his very best has his limitations, and one may note three obvious ones. The first is that he has no feeling for religion, a major limitation when writing the history of an age of religious warfare, as is all too evident in the Ford Lectures. The second is that he is not interested in social or technological change: he acknowledges that he has no capacity for writing social history, and he seems supremely indifferent to the impact of the invention of the printing press on early modern intellectual life. He is interested in the ways in which ideas shape behaviour, but scarcely at all in the ways in which behaviour shapes ideas. The third is that he has been little interested in the relationship between ideas and emotions.

kinner barely mentions, for example, Hobbes’s preoccupation with fear, an emotion in which Hobbes grounds the whole edifice of his political theory, and which he acknowledges as his own characteristic mental state -fear and he, he tells us, were born twins.

'The ultimate weakness of Quentin Skinner’s history is that it can give no account of itself and its place in the world because it eschews both the psychological and the social: the very questions that one needs to ask in order to situate a text in the world it dismisses as questions about motive not intention.


hese volumes mark simultaneously its triumph and, alas, its failure.'

I would insist on this point: no matter what his achievements, his work and his background leave him without the means to provide the arguments and evidence for his views on gender equality. But this is overwhelmingly common. A background in social and economic history and the history of technology would be advisable. The experience of hard manual work would even be advisable. (I write as someone who earned his living for a time as a builder's labourer and someone who has much more recently done a great deal of manual work to construct the buildings and other structures which I've designed.) But this would only be a start. This page gives, I hope, some indication of the many, many topics which are relevant to any well-informed discussion of 'gender equality' and other feminist issues.


Feminism and freedom of expression


See also Lorna Finlayson, Philosopher Queen, on free speech


From my page Israel, Islamism and Palestinian ideology:

'Many countries that can be considered free have been surrendering more and more of their freedoms. Complacency and lack of resolve have allowed them to slide towards an Age of Post-enlightenment. Most often, freedoms have been eroded by the growth of informal censorship, self-censorship, strong disapproval, but sometimes by new legislation ...

'The definition of 'hate speech' has become enormously wide, taken to include for example, for some ideologues, criticism of the Koran and Mohammed based on careful research and thought, in fact all criticism of Islam.'


I criticize Islam freely on this site, including the treatment of women in many Islamic societies. This site doesn't have comments sections, but If some feminists are offended by my criticisms of feminism, then they are welcome to email me or criticize me and my arguments in a blog or Website or in print, for that matter - to make use of the 'marketplace of ideas.' If a feminist wishes me to publish her (or his) criticism of me on this page, then I'll be glad to publish it, without any censorship.  I'm perfectly capable of defending myself and my ideas, except, of course, when it can be demonstrated that I'm mistaken or my arguments are mistaken.  For a long time, my policy has been to treat emails sent to me as private, no matter what the content (unless the sender of the email requests that it should be published). Please see also the section 'Emails to me: comment and criticism' on the page About this site.

It's surely essential that the academic world should not only allow debate but encourage debate about the claims of feminism. The academic world has to allow more than 'moderated free speech.' When the self-appointed moderators include people who believe that all men are useless and that women are uniquely oppressed, then a robust rejection of their attempt at moderation is in order.

I regard 'sexism' and 'patriarchy,' like 'elitism' as simplification-words. 'Elitism' is often used to establish superiority - the anti-elitist regarded as  superior to the elitist as a self-evident fact. The words 'sexism' and 'patriarchy' are often used by feminists to declare their superiority, it seems to me. The use of the words is conducive to glibness and smugness and lazy-mindedness.  The use of the words can easily become a substitute for the presentation of arguments and evidence. It takes time and effort to construct an argument and reliance on simplification-words offers a short-cut.


My page 'Bullfighting: arguments against and action against' includes a section on Freedom of expression which is relevant, despite the very different context. It includes this:

'I've never at any time attempted to suppress pro-bullfighting views, Anti-bullfighting activists who do try to suppress pro-bullfighting views are very much mistaken - not mistaken about bullfighting, obviously, but very much mistaken in opposing the free flow of ideas.


'All attempts to suppress pro-bullfighting books or other printed materials, to suppress pro-bullfighting films or internet materials, to suppress pro-bullfighting talks and lectures, are deeply misguided. In 'the marketplace of ideas,' I regard anti-bullfighting arguments as decisively, overwhelmingly superior to pro-bullfighting arguments. The anti-bullfighting case needs no censorship of pro-bullfighting views at all.

'The principle that there should be a free flow of ideas, information and evidence is a principle under attack. It's essential to defend it. I know of one organization which called upon a bookseller to remove a pro-bullfighting book from sale, and was successful. This was a bad mistake on the part of the organization and the bookseller. There are many threats to freedom of expression, threats which may be veiled or violent.  They come from believers in  political correctness, Islamists and others. A bookshop should be under no pressure to deny shelf-space to books which criticize political correctness, Islam and bullfighting and books which support political correctness, Islam and bullfighting, and similarly for other issues. Before I could read Alexander Fiske-Harrison's Into the Arena it was necessary for me to buy a copy. The idea that I should be expected to criticize Alexander Fiske-Harrison's defence of bullfighting on the basis of a few things I'd heard, without having read the book, is repugnant ...'


Feminism and 'The Life of Brian'


A group of feminists are in the midst of a  'consciousness-raising' workshop. (What happens in workshops such as these has only the most remote  linkage with what happens in workshops where things are made, of course.) One feminist asks, angrily, 'What have men ever done for us?' Another member of the group, a dissident feminist, has secretly viewed Monty Python's 'The Life of Brian,' and 'What have the Romans done for us?'



 They've bled us white, the bastards. They've taken everything we had, not just from us, from our fathers and from our fathers' fathers.


 And from our fathers' fathers' fathers.




 And our fathers' fathers' fathers' fathers.


 All right, Stan. Don't labour the point. And what havethey ever given us in return?

 He pauses smugly.
Voice from masked


 The aqueduct?




 The aqueduct.


 Oh yeah, yeah they gave us that. Yeah. That's true.


 And the sanitation!


 Oh yes ... sanitation. Reg, you remember what the city used to be like.
Murmurs of agreement.


 All right. I'll grant you that the aqueduct and the sanitation are two things that the Romans have done.


 And the roads ...


Well yes obviously the roads ... the roads go without saying. But apart from the aqueduct, the sanitation and the roads ...


 Irrigation ...


 Medicine ... Education ... Health.


 Yes ... all right, fair enough ...


 And the wine ...


 Oh yes! True!


 Yeah. That's something we'd really miss if the Romans left, Reg.


 Public baths!


 And it's safe to walk in the streets at night now.


 Yes, they certainly know how to keep order ...

 General nodding.

 ... let's face it, they're the only ones who could in a place like this.

 More general murmurs of agreement.


 All right ... all right ... but apart from better sanitation and medicine and education and irrigation and public health and roads and a freshwater system and baths and public order ... what have the Romans done for us ...?


 Brought peace!


 (very angry, he's not having a good meeting at all)
What!? Oh ...


Peace, yes ... shut up!

 The dissident feminist puts the case for men. She has no difficulty in providing abundant, almost never-ending evidence for men's achievements, beginning with the building of aqueducts  and ending with the bringing of peace - but honesty compels her to do far more than mention the bringing of war.




 We're encouraged to 'celebrate' so many things now other than the traditional objects of celebration such as Christmas, weddings and birthdays. 'Celebrating' now often means showing respect for, and more than that, admiring. The great achievements of the pre-industrial age in wood and stone, the great achievements of the industrial age in stone, iron, steel and all the new materials which were created during the industrial age - these and other achievements should give rise to awe as well as respect and admiration.

 Anyone looking at rocky outcrops and quarries can understand that the rock was shaped by cutting and incorporated into buildings and bridges, although the tools used and the explosives now used involve less straightforward transformations. The intricate fan-vaulting of King's College Chapel, Cambridge, was achieved by precise cutting and the lifting into position of heavy loads, but no prosaic account can possibly do justice to the sublime achievement, which gives the appearance of effortlessness despite the enormous difficulties, overcome with enormous effort, the quarrying and transporting and lifting of stone.

 The massive stone blocks which make up the aqueducts which carrying canals over valleys, the railway bridges and road bridges, the massive stone blocks which are used in harbours and ports - how many travellers notice them and 'celebrate' the extraordinary achievement by which these blocks were placed one above another with such precision, sometimes submerged, starting from the sea-bed?

Anyone looking at rocks, fields, the natural or semi-natural world, and then looking at iron or steel should understand that the process by which the ores were converted into iron and steel was a massive human achievement. The uses of iron and steel represent an achievement which couldn't possibly be adequately 'celebrated.'

 How to 'celebrate' the Forth Railway Bridge, which was completed in 1890, the first major bridge made of steel? A recital of some statistics is a tribute, too, to the achievement of the men who played a part in its construction, and for some at the cost of their lives. Although there were boats under each cantilever for rescue, 57 men were killed during construction.

 The bridge is 2.5 km (1.5 miles) long. The spans of the girders are gigantic - 521m (1710 feet). The ties and struts of the bridge are the setting for enormous, balanced forces - tension in the ties and compression in the tubes. Each of the cantilevers, 110 m (361 feet) high is supported on massive granite piers. Granite is a particularly hard rock and the difficulties in cutting and shaping it are extreme. 54 160 tonnes of steel were used, and 4 200 tonnes of rivets. Steel plates were shaped using a 2 000 tonne hydraulic press. The bridge was constructed simultaneously on both sides of the three massive main piers. 'The precision of the assembly, using hydraulic cranes and riveting machines, was such that, when the work from the two sides was to be joined up, it required only hastily improvised fires of wood-shavings and waste to expand it by 1/4 in. for the final bolts to be inserted.' (T K Derry and Trevor I Williams, 'A Short History of Technology.'

 Rail travellers, including feminists, headed for Northern Scotland still use this bridge - but its achievement, like other great bridges, goes far, far beyond usefulness.


 Here, I directly compare 'patriarchy's' attitude to obstacles and that of feminists. Above, in connection with the 'patriarchy' of the first industrial age, I show that patriarchy 'got things done, it achieved, in the area of humanitarian legislation,' just as it overcame, but far more dramatically, natural obstacles.

 In a speech at Newcastle, the great engineer Robert Stephenson said, 'It seems to me but as yesterday that I was engaged as an assistant in laying out the Stockton and Darlington Railway. Since then, the Liverpool & Manchester and a hundred other great works have sprung into existence. As I look back upon these stupendous undertakings, accomplished in so short a time, it seems as if we have realized in our generation the fabled powers of the magician's wand. Hills have been cut down and valleys filled up; and when these simple expedients have not sufficed high and magnificent viaducts have been raised and, if mountains stood in the way, tunnels of unexampled magnitude have pierced them through, bearing their triumphant attestation to the indomitable energy of the nation and the unrivalled skill of our artisans.'

 At the time he spoke, the railway age had been in existence for only twenty years. By then there were 6 084 miles of railway in Great Britain. The achievement is directly relevant to our own age and its concern for sustainability and climate change. Once railway lines have been electrified - another achievement of patriarchy - trains can use, of course, electric current produced by any means, including renewable sources. The cutting down of hills and the filling up of valleys was carried out for one purpose only - to achieve a level foundation. Without it, the railway line could not have been used at all. This was not patriarchal despoliation of nature.

 Robert Stephenson's did far more than assist in laying out the Stockton and Darlington Railway. He built (with the assistance of navvies, of course) the first main railway line to serve London, the London and Birmingham railway. It was completed in 1838 and Thomas Roscoe described it as 'unquestionably the greatest public work ever executed, either in ancient or modern times.' He built the great High Level Bridge, opened in 1849, which links Newcastle-upon-Tyne with Gateshead. He built the Royal Border Bridge, carrying the North Eastern Railway across the River Tweed. This formed the last permanent link in the continuous line of East Coast Railway between London and Edinburgh. His tubular railway bridge by Conway castle was completed in 1848. Each of the wrought-iron tubes weighs more than 1000 tonnes. Robert Stephenson had taken his railway along the coast of North Wales. To take the railway into the island of Anglesey and then to the port of Holyhead, where ships left for Dublin, it was necessary to bridge the natural obstacle of the Menai strait. He did this with his Britannia Bridge, completed in 1850. This was a major advance in engineering. Earlier girders had not exceeded 35 feet but the main spans of this bridge were much longer, 460 feet.

 The Cambridge Biographical Encyclopedia, edited by David Crystal, 'celebrates' Robert Stephenson's achievements in 11 lines, and the engineering achievements of Isambard Kingdom Brunel in 12 lines, whereas their contemporary Horace Bushnell, 'Congregational minister and theologian,' who published Christian nurture in 1847 is given 15 lines.

'Railway mileage in Great Britain reached its peak with 20 443 route-miles of which a total length of about 310 miles was in 1 085 tunnels (excluding the London Underground). The longest was the Severn Tunnel (4 miles 628 yards) and in addition there were eleven tunnels over two miles long and a further forty-five over one mile long. Bridges totalled 62 244 ...' (Charles E Lee, 'Railways,' in 'The Archaeology of the Industrial Revolution,' edited by Brian Bracegirdle.)

 The obstacles overcome by the civil engineer John Metcalf were first of all severe personal ones. 'One of the few civilian road builders of ability active in the eighteen century was the remarkable Yorkshireman, 'Blind Jack of Knaresborough ... born in 1717 and blinded by smallpox at the age of six. Despite this disability he grew up strong and active ... Metcalf's road making career began in 1765, when he succeeded in winning a contract to construct three miles of the new turnpike from Harrogate to Boroughbridge. So superior was his stretch of road that fresh work came pouring in. Altogether he built about 180 miles of road, mostly in Yorkshire and Lancashire but also extending into Derbyshire.' (Anthony Ridley, 'Other Means of Communication,' in 'The Archaeology of the Industrial Revolution.') He built bridges too to carry his roads over rivers.

 Many or most radical feminists claim that 'gender' is socially constructed, they would claim that women have just as much interest as men in technical matters and are just as good as men at solving technical problems, the major technical problems of civil and mechanical engineering and the much smaller technical problems involved in working on car engines, that it's only patriarchal oppression and patriarchal stereotyping which could explain women's seeming lack of interest in technical matters, compared with men.

 Feminists should have realized that the recital of these 'facts' was no substitute for actual achievement, for overcoming obstacles. The obstacles were not so very great, after all. By now, feminists should have organized in every town and city women-only garages, for example, proof that women were not at all dependent on men for servicing cars, for carrying out minor and major repairs on cars. This would not have involved the difficulty of developing the techniques and designing and manufacturing the tools and heavy equipment and the specialist chemical products needed to do the work, the obstacles to be overcome would have amounted to only a tiny fraction of the obstacles overcome by patriarchy, but it would have earned them respect. As it is, feminist talk is cheap, available in vast quantities. It talks about obstacles and how enormous the obstacles are, but the triumphant overcoming of obstacles isn't much in evidence.

Feminism and the art of car maintenance

(The title of the section: see Robert Pirsig's book 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: an Inquiry into Values.')

Feminist attacks on 'gender stereotyping' include attacks on the alleged 'sexist' attitude that generally, women have less interest in mechanical matters than men. To claim that this attitude has no basis in reality is easy. Making every attempt to ensure that the reality corresponds with the claim is far more difficult. Feminists who own a car or some other vehiclecan further their arguments by simply doing mechanical work on their car. My education included absolutely no mechanical components. For a long time I had hardly any  interest in anything mechanical. When I became a car owner, I began to service and repair the car myself, from straightforward jobs such as changing the oil and the oil filter to major mechanical work on the engine, carried out without a garage, the engine parts by necessity put on the pavement. Now that cars are much more complex, major mechanical work is more problematic, but changing the oil and oil filter is still straightforward. So are many other jobs. Any feminist who undertakes these jobs - with proper safety precautions, such as the use of axle stands to support the vehicle -  has made a greater contribution to reducing 'gender stereotyping' than a feminist who leaves all work on a car to men, surely.

If feminists are serious about countering the objection that feminists talk - and write - as a substitute for action in many ways, they will want to set up a national network of women's garages. If they claim that they're deterred by the 'sexism' of  suppliers of automotive tools and equipment, then tey could consider setting up a national network of suppliers.  This is far, far easier than making all the scientific and technological advances - in metallurgy, organic chemistry, electronics and so many other fields - which underlie the manufacture of  automotive tools and equipment.

Instead of complaining endlessly about the deficiencies of male-dominated garages, as they see it, it would be far better if feminists could have their vehicles serviced and repaired by all-women teams of mechanics, for work they can't carry out themselves.  It will require a high degree of organization, financial risk, the learning of a wide range of skills, but innumerable men have overcome these obstacles, gone ahead and opened up garages. Why not women? This is a far, far simpler matter than  Garages, unlike many branches of employment, are still open to independent people, even if there are many national chains. Feminists should stress the importance of independent women mechanics as well as national companies with a women's workforce in combatting 'gender stereotyping.'

Replacing a cylinder head gasket, however, offers none of the superficial pleasure of reciting 'men are useless' or 'car mechanics are sexist.'

 So far, the feminist record is very, very poor, as an internet search with the search term "women's garage" will quickly show. Two feminists in this city - Sheffield - were associated with a couple of short-lived women's garages a long time ago: Karen Griffiths and Rosalind Wollen. Rosalind Wollen has been associated with 'non-traditional" trades for women, Both deserve some credit for their efforts, but feminist inaction in non-traditional trades, motor mechanics and other fields is scandalous. An outline of an intervew with Karen Griffiths is available at 'Feminist archive north,' feministarchivenorth [dot] org [uk] and leaves a dispiriting impression of the garage project: a project abandoned, although the reasons aren't given.  Her feminist activism seem to have been disillusioning, on the evidence that she decided to concentrate on her personal life: 'Comments on how political action took over her life, and how now she wants to focus more on herself.'

 Any woman climber who spent most of her time attacking the 'sexism' of the climbing world instead of grappling with the hard realities of rock, snow and ice, the risks of injury or death from rock-fall or avalanche, could be accused of being a dilettante. There are many, many women climbers who have faced the realities, and often died in the attempt. The realities of mechanical work at least involve only a negligible risk of death and injury.

 Without discussing here the merits and faults of the many branches of feminist theory - theory due to women, such as Judith Butler, and theory due to men such as Derrida which has been incorporated to some extent into feminism and used by feminists - one disadvantage, for intellectual honesty, is the utility of theory, particularly arcane and impenetrable theory in arcane and impenetrable language in offering a refuge from such dilemmas and challenges. Theory blunts their impact.

 There are many, many feminists, of course, with an intense interest in literature, but feminists without the least interest in literature can still practise a form of 'literary criticism,' including  criticism of literary critics, to their own satisfaction and the satisfaction of many feminists: the art of feminist mechanical  criticism: 'mechanical' here to be sharply distinguished from the technological mechanical I discuss later. The mechanical critic notes that the author of a piece of writing is a man, and notes further that this man has an inadequate view of gender. Perhaps he uses 'he' when he should use 's/he' or 'she.'  This is an effortless way to establish superior insights, values and worth. Someone who attempts literary criticism without the least interest in literature I describe as an 'external critic,' practising 'external criticism.'

Feminists who have an intense interest in, an appreciation for, cultural and intellectual achievement outside feminism (and there are many of them) will recognize that feminist objections aren't final in matters of undeniable achievement. There are feminists, although not radical feminists,  who would recognize that  feminism is far from being the key to everything, the summum bonum, always the most important of considerations.

No feminist view of the ancient Greeks which concentrates on the extreme subordination of women at the time and ignores Greek achievement in architecture, sculpture, tragedy, comedy, philosophy, the writing of history and other fields can possibly be taken seriously. Feminists who think otherwise are welcome to present their views.

There are feminists who would refuse to consider that Mozart's opera 'The Magic Flute' has any merit at all, given the misogynistic views in some places (the libretto was mainly  written by Emanuel Schikaneder, but Mozart did choose to use it).  Many feminists would have more sense.

External criticism is rife in feminist discussions of technology. Feminists without the least interest in machine tools, iron and steel rolling mills, shipbuilding or any of the techniques and materials of technology have simply to point out examples of 'sexism' in technology to establish instant superiority over the  people who have.

 'Sex in the head' is an interesting, even enthralling, aspect of sexuality, but sex without human bodies, without material expression, is limited. The social relationships of sexual partners, the sources of bias and distortion in sexual partners have importance, but not to the exclusion of the body itself. 'Technology in the head' is no substitute for grappling with the recalcitrant and harsh world of matter.

 A great deal of my discussion in the page on Rilke and Kafka (two writers from the German-speaking community in Prague) concerns the 'bodied' and the disembodied, the corporeal and the incorporeal, the recalcitrance of matter and the often illusory power of the mind. I think it has great relevance to some weaknesses of feminism, as I see them. An extract:

 'Rilke has 'surface profundity' and very often not much more than that. Now, more than ever, denial of {restriction} is the source of endless illusion and disillusionment. People are unable to acknowledge  harshness, unable to recognize the {restriction} on their freedom of action, the {restriction} on their   happiness. They have 'extravagant expectations' (the title of the book by Paul Hollander.) Rilke's denial of checks, frustrations, obstacles, harshness, undermines so much of his poetic work. His sustained exploration of inwardness is undeniably impressive, but is insufficient compensation for the emphasis on the disembodied life, his neglect of the embodied life ...

 'By contrast, {restriction} is central to Kafka. In 'The Trial,' Joseph K.'s freedom of action is progressively restricted, in 'The Castle,' K. faces insuperable difficulties in reaching the castle.'

Feminism and the biological conditions of life

See also, on my page 'Veganism: against,' material on the vegan feminist academic Dr Lisa Kemmerer and smallpox.

Any society which neglects the material conditions of life faces destruction. It's usual for feminists to neglect these material conditions of life. Any society which neglects the biological conditions of life faces destruction.

Some radical feminists haven't hesitated to support policies which would end human life on earth - if it weren't for artificial techniques developed by patriarchy.

 Charlotte L Graham gives a brief account of a survey of feminist 'theory,' in a piece published under the auspices of the University of Oregon.

 'In Rosemarie Putnam Tong's survey of feminist theory, Feminist Thought: A More Comprehensive Introduction, she uses chapter two to describe the perspective of radical feminism.'

 She distinguishes radical-libertarian feminists from radical-cultural feminists.

 'When it comes to reproduction and mothering, radical-libertarian feminists see reproduction as women's main weakness. They are against biological motherhood and the sooner all reproduction can be done artificially the better. They see no biological imperative for reproduction [!] and propose the possibility that motherhood is a misplaced attempt to fullfill ego needs. In direct opposition to this, radical-cultural feminists see reproduction as a woman's main sourse [sic] of power (this is why men are always trying to control it) and advocate natural procreation. It is the institution of motherhood as controlled by men that is bad, not motherhood itself. If women could be mothers on their own terms, everything would be great.'

 The 'radical-libertarian feminists' are shameless in their promotion of artificial techniques which, as a matter of strict fact, were developed overwhelmingly by men and which rely on scientific and technological advances made predominantly by men. Sally Miller Gearhart advocated use of a different artificial technique, 'ovular merging,' in her 1982  manifesto `The Future–If There Is One–Is Female.' The technique can be used to produce only female offspring. She doesn't, though, wish to eliminate men entirely. Instead, 'The proportion of men must be reduced to and maintained at approximately 10 percent of the human race.' This will obviously require a mass influx of women into non-traditional jobs. Some feminists may well find themselves working in almost all weathers at a height, or trapped underground in mining accidents. (If mining is banned, then feminists and the rest of the population will have to manage without copper, iron ore, and the rest, and manage without copper pipes, copper wiring, stainless steel, and the rest. The list will be a very long one.)

 'Tong ends chapter two with a critique of radical feminism. This theory of women is shown to be ensnared by rigid roles and stereotypes which ignore the flaws of women.' 

 Those feminists with no opposition to motherhood, those feminists who can find fulfilment in motherhood, who nevertheless criticize medical interventions in childhood (they may regard nature itself in maternal terms) have some explaining to do - or explaining away. Childbirth without medical intervention tends to be intensely dangerous. Mother nature, disappointingly arranged things so that many mothers were no better off than mayflies, and died soon after giving birth.

 The sum total of feminist benefits to women come nowhere near the benefits to women of oral contraception - with no implication whatsoever that women have to have sex with men or are expected to have sex with men - although as a matter of strict biological fact - regrettable but inescapable - there will be obvious consequences for population numbers if most women chose not to.

 Feminists very often prefer to stress the personal and the social rather than the biological sphere.

  Similarly, feminists often prefer to stress the personal and the social rather than the material sphere. Issues to do with sharing housework are stressed, the technical ingenuity and overcoming of immense difficulties which were necessary to provide the equipment which overcame the worst drudgery and unending labour of housework are taken for granted - but fortunately, many women, including proto-feminists, were spared much of this drudgery and labour during the long period when vast numbers of domestic servants were available.

 Feminists are more likely to emphasize the work of advocates of contraception such as Marie Stopes than the scientists without whose work Marie Stopes and other campaigners would have had nothing but dangerously unreliable methods to advocate. Marie Stopes argument (in 'Married Love,' 1916) that women were as entitled to the sexual pleasure which can be enjoyed during intercourse as men is completely convincing, unanswerable, of course, but this pleasure, like the pleasures of food, the pleasures of an adequate and varied diet, requires an immense expenditure in knowledge and the implementation of knowlege to achieve. Without efficient methods of contraception, the same pleasure can be enjoyed, but pleasure which isn't in the least risk-free.

 Emily Wilson, in a series of reviews with the title 'On Maternity,' published in the 'Times Literary Supplement' (No. 5720). One of the books she reviews is 'Mothering and Motherhood in Ancient Greece and Rome,' by Lauren Hackworth Petersen and Patricia Salman-Mitchell. She writes (this can be considered as one account of the consequences and implications of the Malthusian nightmare, of course):

 'Even male authors of antiquity were aware that motherhood was a very dangerous business ... Those who survived to adulthood must have been conscious that their mothers could have died giving birth to them; men must have been aware that fathering children on their wives could, and quite likely would, kill them.' ['quite likely would ...' is hyperbole but not in the least a blatant distortion.]

 'Ancient mothers were also likely to watch their babies die. One estimate, cited in this book, suggests that in the ancient Greek world no more than one in three infants survived. Of course, it often happened, then as now, that both mother and child died in a difficult birth. But in other cases, one lived and the other died ...'

 The  bond between mother and baby, the joy and fulfilment which so many women - not all - find in the experience of motherhood - these experiences turn out not to be part of the natural order of things, there to be enjoyed, easily available experiences, but to be fraught. Joy and fulfilment as a possibility for most mothers turns out to have  a disappointing linkage with technical advance.

 Gratitude is in order, surely, for the work of investigators such as Gregory Goodwin Pincus, who introduced the oral contraceptive pill, or the work of the organic chemist W S Johnson, who undertook the complete synthesis of progesterone. Progesterone is an example of a synthetic chemical substance which is practically 100% effective. The diagram which summarizes the Johnson synthesis of progesterone hints at  only a tiny fraction of the work needed to produce progesterone. Without the work of the pioneers in organic chemistry as well as other branches of chemistry (the reactions obviously need inorganic compounds, for example) there would have been no oral contraception. Of course,  many other branches of science play a part in modern organic chemistry, as in the spectroscopic methods which have become indispensable in the field.

 It's self-evident to many feminists that 'men are useless.' They have failed to take into account, not obscure and unimportant evidence to the contrary, not a few extenuating circumstances, not matters which are marginal, but vast areas of experience.

Green ideology and feminist ideology

  My page on green ideology, Green: 'immature, unsophisticated, or gullible' (one meaning of 'green,' in  the entry in Collins English Dictionary) gives my introduction to the subject. It begins by outlining my personal practice, to make it completely clear that green issues are a major concern of mine. Extracts:

 Personal transport I've taken a flight only a few times and haven't flown anywhere for over thirty years. When I've travelled to European countries, more often than not I've travelled by coach ... Food transport and food miles I have two allotments and grow a large proportion of my own food. I'm completely self-sufficient in fruit and almost self-sufficient in vegetables. The transportation of these amounts to far less than a food mile - a few hundred metres. I never buy imported foods, except for coffee, grape juice and, on occasion, tomato products: no oranges, bananas or rice.  Reduction of packaging for food products I never buy processed foods, except, occasionally, for tomato products: no cans of baked beans, no breakfast cereals, none of those things. I don't buy take-aways. Cooking is a significant interest. If I want to eat a pizza, I make it from the usual ingredients, flour and the rest. I never have any tins to dispose of, and very few cardboard boxes which need to be recycled. I make wine in bulk and store it in bulk, reducing energy costs and pollution costs. 

 I'd add that I never shop in a supermarket, but not only for reasons to do with the environment, although there are many environmental objections to supermarkets. My page on supermarkets gives my main reasons, as well as some complications, the imperfect record of many small shops. The page has two sectiions, 'Small shops: for' and 'Small shops: against.' Amongst the reasons for my avoidance of supermarkets are the excessive power of supermarkets. I write, in connection with the promotion of supermarkets by many schools and a university, The Open University.

 ' 'The big power-hungry forces, from ideologies to big business, have got where they are without any help from me.' (The writer John Wain).

 There are many, many schools in this country which can't make the same claim. The Open University in this country can't make the same claim. To be more exact, some decision-makers in these organizations can't make the same claim. They have given help to forces which are powerful, opportunistic, sometimes ruthless, forces which are damaging to the local community, to small businesses, to farming, to the consumers who mistakenly and uncritically use them - or are forced to use them, because the supermarkets have deprived whole communities of real choice.' And,

 'I never shop in a supermarket, but I hope that people who sometimes shop in these places, people who mostly do their shopping in them, as well as people who do nearly all their shopping at supermarkets, won't support the practice of schools advertising supermarkets or a university advertising a supermarket or will actively oppose it. There are institutions which should be as far as possible free from bias. An independent judiciary, a planning system which decides the merits of a case not on economic power but by considering fair-mindedly the merits of an application using criteria such as congestion, social need, existing provision, the preservation of the character or beauty of a place. And an educational system which isn't open to the highest bidder, which recognizes that in a case like this, where there are serious, principled objections to these businesses, based on evidence, it's completely wrong to give them this uncritical support.' (The flagrant promotion of radical feminist views in so many universities contravenes these same principles of independence and fair-mindedness. See the section on this page on the feminist Website The F word. The section is mainly concerned with some  demeaning and deeply disturbing instances of uncritical support for radical feminism in the university sector.)

 A whole section of this site is devoted to gardening and growing, with the emphasis on vegetable and fruit growing but including other topics, such as encouraging wild flowers and wildlife. The page Gardening photographs 3 gives a selection of photographs for this year and links to other pages, which give  photographs from previous years and which discussion techniques, such as composting and water saving. A few photographs, with just a few comments.


 (Water saving: the path on the left has a covering which diverts rainwater to a storage vessel.)


 (Water saving and encouragement of wildlife: the pond is a storage reservoir for water and benefits wildlife. For example, frogs use it and lay frogspawn it it, a benefit to me - natural pest control, and to the frogs.)

 And a photograph from Gardening photographs 2, as I comment on one feature shown here:


 Green ideologists feel no shame in ignoring realities, such as the need for technological advance. It might be supposed, even by people not particularly sympathetic to green ideology, that dependence on technology is minimal when food crops are grown on a small scale.  Here, nature does all the work!  Not at all. Using only examples from one plot of my own, I can easily show that growing fruit and vegetables is unexpectedly complex, very complex, in fact. I I mention, for example, linkages with distant  Central and South America which are inescapable.

 My own preference is for the simplest, including the technologically simplest, solution wherever possible. So, when I make bread, I knead the dough by hand. I would never use a machine to knead the dough, let alone a bread machine for all the stages of the process. An artisan baker who earned a living from bread would be compelled to use machinery, though, or go out of business. Many of the methods which have worked for me in growing food crops would be impossible on a larger scale.

 The two plots I took on were overgrown with rampant weeds. No matter what may be said about 'making friends' with weeds, including edible weeds, weeds can only be the most marginal and negligible of foods (Richard Mabey's 'Food for free,' a useful but often misguided book, makes a case for the weeds of this country, such as chickweed, but exaggerates.)

 Clear the weeds or starve, unless the grower is only playing at growing, like Marie Antoinette cultivating the rural idyll at Versailles. Radical believers in the feminist theory of ecocide, radical feminists who reject patriarchy's invention of steel tools, may prefer to clear brambles by trying to pull  them out of the ground, if sufficiently stupid.  I cleared the brambles, the largest of the weeds, without using a petrol-powered brush-cutter. Instead, I used a very efficient but  technologically simpler tool, a scythe. Even so, the manufacture of scythe blades is very complex, now and  in the past.  The scythe blade I used was manufactured in a factory only ten minutes' walk from here. The valley of the River Rivelin nearby has a succession of small dams, used in past centuriies to operate the machinery for manufacturing cutting tools, including scythe blades. Grinding blades threw up dust which rapidly ruined the lungs and the health of the people who did the grinding. This problem was insoluble until the invention of dust extraction technology, which called upon so many remarkable scientific and technical advances. It was impossible to bypass the problem by stopping the grinding of cutting edge blades. How in that case could the land be cleared for food-growing?

 To clear the smaller weeds, I used, not a chemical weedkiller such as glyphosate, which is absorbed into the roots of the weed plant, but weed-control fabric, which eventually kills the weeds by light starvation. This  material, the method of choice of small-scale organic growers,  derives from oil, one which needs the resources of the oil industry, including massive drilling equipment, huge tankers, enormous oil refineries, and calls upon advances in so many branches of  science, engineering and mathematics, such as  organic chemistry, other branches of chemistry, chemical engineering and calculus (founded independently, of course, by two of patriarchy's most brilliant minds, Newton and Leibniz.) Carpet is sometimes used as a substitute, but it's a poor choice. The heavy, rotting or degraded mess still has to be disposed of, needing vehicles for that purpose, not just the muscle power of people who detest the conquest of nature.

 Surely, once the land has been cleared, nobody needs to give any thought to technology? (until the time comes for cooking, if required). Sow courgette seeds and the plants which grow from the seeds produce courgettes in profusion, even in this country. (One cookery book I bought - not a very good one - has the title, 'What will I do with all those courgettes?') Plant potato tubers and each plant produces many, many potatoes. What could be simpler?

 Kant had a disenchanted, a realistic, view of nature. He saw  nature not as virtuous and helpful but unaccommodating. He wrote of the 'niggardly provision of a step-motherly nature.' 

 In the example I've just given, nature was less than helpful. Courgettes and potatoes, like many other crops grown in this country, French beans, runner beans and tomatoes, for example, aren't native.

 Courgettes, like other members of Cucurbita pepo, was 'originally native  to North America north of Mexico City, but is not now known as a wild species, though related species with small, hard an horribly bitter fruit are still found wild in Mexico an Guatemala.' (Roger Phillips, 'Vegetables.') Potatoes come from the Andes. The tomato plant, a member of the same genus as the potato, Solanum, comes to us from Central and South America. Roger Phillips: 'The early introductions to Europe were probably from Mexico, in the Vera Cruz and Puubla area.' The runner bean is a native of Mexico. The four cultivated species of the Phaseolus bean, including the French bean, originated in central and South America.

 Roger Phillips makes the point that 'Very few of the vegetables grown today originated in northwestern Europe' and 'Few cultivated vegetables originated in North America; those that did were overshadowed by the great variety already domesticated in Mexico and the Andes when Europeans arrived.'

 If a radical feminist grows these food plants, gratitude would be in order, for the men who made the dangerous journey to Central and South America and made the dangerous journey back to Europe with these plants (and to the plant breeders who developed the profusion of varieties). Any radical feminists in this country who prefer to boycott products of patriarchy are welcome to grow and eat such native plants as dandelions and the terrible-tasting wild cabbage.

 The indispensable food plants that came to us from Central and South America were brought in ships across the Atlantic, then. This needed not only  highly developed construction techniques but highly developed navigation techniques and navigational instruments, such as the compass.

 To be without adequate navigational techniques and instruments on the ocean and on the land is not just to be lost but often to lose one's life. The development of navigation, which now relies on complex electronics, of course, has made sea travel as well as air travel so much safer - another occasion for intense gratitude, although it's unlikely that niggardly, step-motherly feminists will be grateful. Latitude was easier to establish than longitude. Dava Sobel's engrossing 'Longitude,' and 'The Illustrated Longitude' describe the enthralling work by which John Harrison solved the problem of finding longitude, which demanded the building of very accurate clocks. She described one of the disasters which were common when navigational knowledge was inadequate, the sinking of four ships on the night of October 22, 1707: ' ... as the sailors continued north, they discovered to their horror that they had misgauged their position near the Scilly Isles' and the ships struck rocks. She explains that for lack of information about longitude, sea journeys were prolonged 'and the extra time at sea condemned sailors to the dread disease of scurvy.' If sailing ships were becalmed, the risks of a sea journey increased enormously. When steam engines were developed, the products of immense ingenuity and immense labour, the extreme disadvantages of sailing ships could no longer be ignored.

 Food plants and any other products shipped back to Europe from the West coast of the Americas had to navigate the dangerous waters of Cape Horn. The Wikipedia entry has this: ' ... the waters around the Cape are particularly hazardous, owing to strong winds, large waves, strong currents and icebergs; these dangers have made it notorious as a sailors' graveyard.' And, of course, a graveyard for women on the ships. The opening of the Panama Canal reduced dramatically the number of ships which needed to go by this route. It represents an enormous benefit to humanity, except for feminists who believe that this vast work of civil engineering (and vast achievement in disease control in the Isthmus of Panama) is no more than patriarchy's subjugation of nature. The achievement (but not the feminist objectionable objections) are recorded in David McCullough's superb 'The Path between the seas:the creation of the Panama Canal 1870 - 1914.

 After sowing seeds or planting young plants, throughout the life of a food plant, nature can't be relied upon. Adequate water supply is crucial, of course, but again and again I call upon the products of patriarchy - as a matter of strict fact, technology is overwhelmingly the achievement of patriarchy - such as a 1 000 litre water-storage tank made from polyethene, which collects water from one side of the large greenhouse, which has panels of PVC, polyvinyl chloride, other water storage containers made of plastic, and most recently, a pond, which has many benefits for wildlife, such as frogs, which is also a water-storage reservoir. This makes use of a pond liner, deriving from crude oil, a villain for all those who condemn patriarchal domination of nature, even as they enjoy its vast range of benefits and advantages. The water-collecting surface I use on a path makes use of another derivative of crude oil. For my work on rainwater collection, please see the gardening page Gardening techniques.

 I rarely need to use the mains water supply provided, but most growers here do, of course, and none of the water I use at home comes from anywhere but the mains, a very sophisticated system, needing advanced techniques for its manufacture, installation and repair. The copper for the pipes comes from distant mines which call upon very advanced technology. The risks that the miners run, all men, of course, are substantial, as the experience of the trapped Chilean miners shows. Their rescue was a heroic and herculean operation.

 At every stage, in all its facets, growing gives a reality check, undermining facile assumptions, except in the case of people who prefer to live in illusion. The brevity of the main growing season in this country is one reality check. The crops are harvested in autumn and there's nothing more between October and the crops available in spring - which amount only to rhubarb and then asparagus, to begin with! Later, there's the 'hungry gap,' when many things are growing but there are few to harvest.  Although there are crops growing slowly throughout the months of late autumn and winter - overwintering onions, leeks, brassicas such as cabbages and sprouting broccoli and broad beans, they won't be available for a long time.

 The pests that visit or live in these plots are of a humdrum kind, not ones as terrifying as locusts, but doing nothing about them is often to lose all the crop. The only effective way of combatting pigeons, which would strip all the cabbage plants and the other brassicas, is to use netting, yet another synthetic product made from oil and yet another product of the industrial complex. Advanced slug pullets which cause no harm to wildlife are a clear-cut advance. I've planted many wildflowers, I'm overjoyed when I find wildflowers which I haven't planted, even humble ones such as Common toadflax or Selfheal give as much pleasure as would the finding of an orchid, I do everything I can to encourage butterflies, bees and other insects, except the harmful ones, but my dependence on technology is substantial.

 After harvesting, there are further choices, including methods of preserving  food crops which aren't eaten soon after harvesting. Again, my preference is for the simpler methods. I've no interest in freezing as a method of preservation. I've used it for a few things - apple juice I've pressed myself, raspberries, blackberries and runner beans - but far prefer to use whatever can be preserved by traditional methods, such as whole apples which store well. This doesn't lessen my interest in the technology of refrigeration and freezing and the intellectual advances which made it possible, such as thermodynamics.

 Cooking, like growing and preserving, can be carried out with the aid of very simple technology or advanced technology (always remembering that obtaining adequate supplies of a simple fuel source may involve advanced technology. This is the case with the felling of trees and the transportation of wood, if inefficient and back-breaking work is to be avoided.

 In places where people are completely dependent upon wood for cooking (or heating,) deforestation is the consequence. In fact, there is no way of assuring an adequate energy source without damaging the environment and without running risks. George Monbiot, a very prominent green campaigner, has put the case for nuclear power very well, as in this article, 'the moral case for nuclear power,' http://www.monbiot.com/2011/08/08/the-moral-case-for-nuclear-power/

 Carolyn Merchant's book 'The Death of Nature' contains some astonishing statements.

 Meteorology is one scientific discipline exposed to the full force of Carolyn Merchant's indignation. Weather-forecasting is 'repressive' to both women and nature. In the introduction (xvii) she writes,

 'The weather forecaster who tells us what Mother Nature has in store for us this weekend and legal systems that treat a women's [sic, not 'woman's'] sexuality as her husband's property are equally guilty of perpetuating a system repressive to both women and nature.

 When the 'guilty' weather forecaster gives prior warning that a hurricane is likely or flooding is likely and people take action in advance, then the weather forecaster may well save lives, perhaps many lives. What legal systems do treat a woman's sexuality as her husband's property? She gives no examples, and doesn't distinguish between the vastly different legal systems of, for example, liberal Western democracies and of traditional Moslem countries, between the legal system of Sweden and the legal system of Saudi Arabia. Throughout the book, she's  forthright in a strictly limited sphere and otherwise, so often, evasive. Feminism, like other forms of political correctness, is partly about appearance, about looking good, what is most likely to gain the approval and admiration of others - obviously, of the mind rather than the body. Withering remarks directed at 'sexism' will be approved, criticism of any Moslems won't in the least.

 On the previous page, Carolyn Merchant mentions nature as the nurturing mother.

 'The ancient identity of nature as a nurturing mother links women's history with the history of the environment and ecological change. The female earth was central to the organic cosmology that was undermined by the Scientific Revolution and the rise of a market-oriented culture in early modern Europe.'

 'Women's history' can be described as a 'reflex phrase,' intended to produce a reflex response - the history of women as subjugated and virtuous. To regard women's history as far more complex, made up of heartening and deeply dispiriting elements, courage and cowardice, virtue and malevolence, women's courage on behalf of good causes and courage on behalf of disgusting causes, the history of self-seeking and selfless women, and so many more distinctions and nuances - this is something well beyond the scope of her analysis.

 Carolyn Merchant often seems to imply that nature is a nurturing mother. What she generally does is to relate past beliefs in nature as a nurturing mother and to strongly imply that something substantial was lost in early modern times when belief in nature as a nurturing mother was lost (although her matter-of-fact style doesn't allow any deep elegiac note.) But she does state that 'It is not the purpose of this analysis to reinstate nature as the mother of humankind nor to advocate that women reassume the role of nurturer dictated by that historical identity.' Guinn Batten, discussed below, shows none of this restraint.

 In the next paragraph, she claims that 'the vision of the ecology movement has been to restore the balance of nature disrupted by industrialization and overpopulation. It has emphasized the need to live within the cycles of nature ...'

 She doesn't mention this, but there's a clear linkage between industrialization and overpopulation. It was industrialization which put an end to nature's own preventive against overpopulation, very high rates of child mortality followed by high mortality rates in adulthood, from a very wide variety of natural causes. Bubonic plague is just one, and she mentions the mass epidemic which is believed to have killed about a third of the population of Europe

 She gives a further comment on one aspect of a 'market-oriented culture.' She writes, ' ... the women's movement has exposed the costs for all human beings of competition in the marketplace ...' An obvious question to ask is, 'What are the costs of having no competition?' What are the costs of having no choice of baker, no choice of electricity supplier, of having a feminist equivalent of the most uncompetitive communist economies of a previous age? (In the chapter, 'Organic society and utopia,' she gives another vision of cooperation rather than competition, which she sees as entailing the loss of individual rights -  and a good thing too, she seems to think. She uses the word 'communism' of this idyll.

 'Although a spectrum of actual communal forms existed in the thousands of European rural village communities, the unifying principle common to all was the good of the group over that of the individual ...

 'Agrarian communism in such villages reached a new level of cooperation with the introduction of compulsory tillage in response to population increases and land shortages: all persons in the village plowed, planted, and harvested at the same time in order to increase productivity.'

 On another page, in my review of 'The Cambridge Companion to Seamus Heaney,' I discuss Guinn Batten, a writer whose interpretations of motherhood are astonishing. See the section Guinn Batten and the drowned sheep. An extract:

 ' ... The world of basic, necessary work - digging turf to heat water to boil potatoes, ploughing as a preliminary to sowing seeds - seems to mean nothing to this writer. It's simply the starting point for speculation (speculation offered as if it amounted to certainty.) 'Yet here, in that second or 'emptying' stage of disempowerment, a paradox emerges: in assuming the place of Mother Ireland, in displacing into his own voice her latent power, the Irish male poet, Coughlan contends, who elsewhere is '(phallically) digging and ploughing like his ancestors', ironically thereby 'becomes the culturally female voice of the subjugated Irish, about to inundate the "masculine" hardness of the planters' boundaries with "feminine" vowel-floods'. ...

  'Larry Zuckerman, 'The Potato:' 'Famine struck France thirteen times in the sixteenth century, eleven in the seventeenth, and sixteen in the eighteenth. And this tally is an estimate, perhaps incomplete, and includes general outbreaks only. It doesn't count local famines that ravaged one area or another almost yearly ...'

  'There was nothing particular about Irish famines, then. The fact that famines no longer occur in developed countries is due to the fact that they are developed, that they have increased agricultural productivity by mechanization, that they have increased productivity in general.

  'These considerations offer none of the deep, or rather shallow, significance of Guinn Batten's interpretations. Centuries ago, life was far more significant for most people than today. If their plans for the day were ruined by poor weather, then the poor weather could be interpreted as 'directed at them personally.' The development of meteorology took away this particular significance. If their cattle produced much less milk or their crops failed, then there were forces to explain it, so much more personal and significant than any humdrum scientific explanation. If a plant has a shape that suggests a part of the human body, then this is significant, not accidental. New Age thinking perpetuates this discredited mode, Guinn Batten's interpretations likewise.'

 In contrast with all these deluded views of nature, the clear-sightedness of David Hume's approach comes as an immense relief. The very widespread view that Hume is the greatest of all philosophers to have written in English is one that I certainly share. In 'A Treatise of Human Nature,' Book III, Part II, Section II, published 1739 - 1740, he writes this (feminists who mechanically determine a philosopher's worth by noting such things as the use of 'man' instead of 'humankind' and 'he' instead of 'she' or 's/he' will be able to dismiss Hume as worthless quite easily, to their own satisfaction):

 'Of all the animals, with which this globe is peopled, there is none towards whom nature seems, at first sight, to have exercis'd more cruelty than towards man, in the numberless wants and necessities, with which she has loaded him, and in the slender means, which she affords to the relieving these necessities ... In man alone, this unnatural conjunction of infirmity, and of necessity, may be observ'd in its greatest perfection ... 'Tis by society alone he is able to supply his defects ... By the conjunction of forces, our power is augmented: By the partition of employments, our ability encreases: And by mutual succour we are less expos'd to fortune and accidents. 'Tis by this additional force, ability, and security, that society becomes advantageous.

 J L Mackie explains and extends Hume's discussion in his 'Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong' (Chapter 5, 'The Object of Morality,' Section 2, 'A device for counteracting limited sympathies.') He refers to Hume's claims concerning human limitations - selfishness and lack of generosity - and 'the scanty provision' nature has made for our needs, and Hume's claim that justice derives from these realities. He adds,

 'Justice (by which he means particularly respect for property and for rules governing its possession and transfer, honesty, and the keeping of promises) is an artificial virtue; it is not something of which we would have any natural, instinctive tendency to approve, but a device which is beneficial because of certain contingent features of the human condition.' If men had been overwhelmingly benevolent, if each had aimed only at the happiness of all, if everyone had loved his neighbour as himself, there would have been no need for the rules that constitute justice. Nor would there have been any need for them if nature had supplied abundantly, and without any effort on our part, all that we could want, if food and warmth had been as inexhaustibly available as, until recently, air and water seemed to be.'

Feminism and feeble fanatics:
'the rape of nature'


Above, a page from Newton's Principia Mathematica

Sandra Harding, in 'The Science Question in Feminism:'  Newton's Principia Mathematica is a 'rape manual' because 'science is a male rape of female nature.' Meera Nanda: 'In her book Is Science Multicultural? Sandra Harding has argued that because modern science is both Eurocentric and androcentric, it is in the common interest of non-Western peoples and feminists everywhere to join forces to confront it.' ('Postcolonial science studies,' Part VII. Restoring Reason, 'Theory's Empire,' edited by Daphne Patai and Will. H. Corral.) Sandra Harding's view of Newton's 'Principia' and modern science amounts to grotesque ignorance.

 To regard Newton's work in mathematics and physics as amongst the greatest of intellectual achievements, to regard classical physics, later advances in  physics and the advances made in other branches of science as incomparable achievements, as I do, compels nobody to accept scientism, to dismiss from serious consideration human values, art, ethics, personality, or to regard them as explainable in principle in scientific terms, or to treat scientific methodology as the only intellectually respectable methodology. The linkage, if there is one, between, say, the world of particles in motion and human values, is mysterious and unexplained. Some feminist views of nature, like some non-feminist views of nature, can seem to have the advantage of 'humanising' nature at least. Nature as mother seems more attractive than the scientific views of nature. But they are radically misguided.

 I'd criticize some feminist (and non-feminist) views for the opposite reason - for using over-exact criteria where exactness is impossible. Radical egalitarianism seems to me to be radically misguided. It's less misguided to use equality of opportunity rather than equality of outcome, but in many situations, equality of opportunity is impossible to achieve. Use of the 50% norm often leads to absurdities. Cesare Beccaria wrote (in Chapter XL of 'Dei Delitti e delle Pene') that 'It is a false idea of utility to wish to impose upon a multitude of sentient beings the symmetry and order [or such criteria as mathematical exactness, I'd add] that is the lot of brute, inanimate matter ... ' ('Falsa idea d' utilità è quella che vorrebbe dare a una moltitudinedi esseri sensibili la simmetria e l' ordine che soffre la materia bruta e inanimata ...')

 But many forms of feminism are surely over-schematic, vastly over-simplified, cut-and-dried views of reality, regarded as anything but untidy, messy, mysterious, baffling, frequently grotesque - tragically grotesque or hilariously grotesque - and as such strongly resistant to feminist ideology and all other ideologies (strongly resistant in many cases to patient, strenuous and honest approaches as well, it has to be said.)

 Nature is indifferent to us and we have no reason whatsoever to think that nature is conscious, but amongst human responses to nature, what's called 'communing with nature' is not just acceptable, legitimate, but can be the source of the most intense joy. For me, there are no more wonderful poetic depictions than the 'spots of time' in Wordsworth's 'The Prelude.'

 My page Interpretations includes concise interpretation of some Newtonian topics and other scientific topics, using {theme} theory. My page Linking metre and meaning gives a technical analysis of one of the spots of time in 'The Prelude,'  the ecstatic excitement of skating on a frozen lake, Esthwaite Water. The technical discussion is intended to complement, not detract from, the intensity of emotion which reading the poetry can arouse.

Major applications of copper - obtained by mining or extraction - include electrical wires (60%) and roofing and plumbing (20%). Shown above, assorted copper fittings.

Carolyn Merchant, 'The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology and the Scientific Revolution,' Chapter 1 ('Nature as Female') 'Sanctioning mining sanctioned the rape or commercial exploration of the earth ... The organic framework, in which the Mother Earth image was a moral restraint against mining, was literally undermined by the new commercial activity.' These new values, which sanctioned mining, replaced the values of the premodern world.

See also, on this page, Green ideology and feminist ideology.

For detailed criticism of Sandra Harding, Carolyn Merchant and other 'postmodernist' writers on science,  'A House Built on Sand: Exposing Postmodernist Myths About Science,' edited by Noretta Koertge (Oxford University Press.) Noretta Koertge is also the author, with Daphne Patai, of 'Professing Feminism: Cautionary Tales from Inside the Strange World of Women's Studies.'

'Top jobs'

  Unemployed people can be excused for not questioning the belief that the job is all that counts: whether the job is useful or harmful, important or trivial, is of no account at all. The plight of unemployed people is of less concern to many feminists than the plight of women seeking 'top jobs.' This arouses  an incandescent fury which is rarely directed at gross deprivation and  extreme suffering. Instead, women's 'under-representation' in top jobs can be regarded as  gross deprivation and extreme suffering.  It's reasonable, I think, to examine these top jobs very carefully. Some of my examples here are to do with issues I examine on other pages.

 I put the case against supermarkets on my page Supermarkets. (I also put the case against some small shops.) To feminists such as Triona Kennedy, it seems, putting more women into senior positions in Wal-Mart, and Tesco and Asda in this country, counts for more - far, far more - than any examination of the retail power of Wal-Mart, Tesco and Asda. What these feminists are doing is supporting uncritically the power of these massive companies and doing nothing to encourage a healthier system, one in which the man or woman who wants to start a business and has the skills and energy to do that, doesn't face extreme or even insuperable difficulties. In general, far too many feminists show an uncritical acceptance of existing patterns of power. The only thing that counts is ensuring that women can become part of these patterns of power, in large numbers. So, independent bookshops can go to the wall, but this will hardly matter to the feminists who want more women in senior positions in the Tesco supermarket chain, which sells books.

 Triona Kennedy wants more women in 'top positions' in the BBC. Any concern for any other issue is lacking, such as dumbing-down and the bias of the BBC. My page The Culture Industry gives some brief observations on the media, including the BBC (which, unlike some media organizations, does produce outstanding programmes as well as dross).

 Getting more women into senior positions in engineering is generally regarded as less important than getting more women into senior positions in the media. In general, feminism gives absolutely no support to women who want to enter engineering, at any level, apart from making the demand. Any recognition of the importance of engineering, any interest in engineering are almost completely lacking.

 A preoccupation with 'top jobs' in established companies and institutions is characteristic of feminism, and a neglect of the long and arduous route to setting up a new company, by, for example, invention, innovation and risk-taking (The vast majority of patents never make any money for the patent-holder.)

 There's often indifference to any conflicts of interest. Women have been making steady or even spectacular gains in the Church of England. In 2010, more women were ordained than men - 290 compared with 273. It's likely that before long, women will become bishops in the Church. This is only an overwhelmingly significant development for people who believe that the Church of England is an overwhelmingly significant institution. If feminist Anglicans believe that they are making a vital contribution to the world-wide community of feminists, they are thinking in naive Anglican terms. There's no such thing as a community of feminists but a disparate group riven by deep divisions. It's certain that the contribution of Anglican feminists, even radical Anglican feminists, won't be gratefully received by radical feminists in general, who are likely to view the Church of England as a complete irrelevance.

Babies and bathwater

  The reference to 'babies and bathwater' has to be explained. I'm not alluding to the well known phrase, 'throwing the baby out with the bathwater.' (Oxford English Dictionary: 'to reject what is essential or beneficial along with what is inessential or harmful; to discard something valuable along with other things that are undesirable.) For the information of feminists who have strong feelings about maternal matters, of whatever kind (defending or rejecting the existence of a 'maternal instinct,' for example) I'm not alluding to maternal matters either.

The meaning of  'baby' here is similar to this, in the Oxford English Dictionary: ' ...a person's particular responsibility, concern, or area of interest; (also) something that a person has invented or brought to fruition, to which he or she has an emotional attachment.' 

'Baby' here means specifically 'well-established topic discussed (or mentioned without any attempt at argument) very often, and very often to the exclusion of other topics. In the case of feminism, 'babies' include references to domestic violence against women, in the case of men's movement Websites references to the feminist views on domestic violence. The topic of domestic violence is very important, obviously, but is very fully covered in other Websites, the Websites of feminists and the 'men's movement.' (feminist answers to the arguments of the 'men's movement aren't in the least plentiful, I think.)

On this page, I discuss many issues which belong to 'the bathwater,' which in my special use here is the wider context, including the wider context which is so often neglected, in books and Websites of the 'men's movement' as well as feminist books and Websites.

These are just a few examples of topics which belong to 'the bathwater,' in this sense:

'Care ethics' is an influential theory of morality. Care ethics 'treats care as central for understanding the nature of morality. The development of care ethics was largely sparked by the psychologist Carol Gilligan's 1982 book, In a different voice.' (Mark Timmons, Moral Theory: An Introduction.') On this page, I argue in various places that compassion is often ineffective - or completely ineffective - without material provision, and I stress 'the material conditions of life.' I understand completely, of course, that not all compassion needs material support, that kindliness, sympathy, empathy, patience can very often be shown without any material conditions. But compassion, and care, often do need to take account of material conditions. To give an example to do with babies, human babies rather than anything figurative, and bathwater, bathwetar which is literally water, without reference to my extended use, as context, if babies obviously need baths, and washing in general, whoever is doing the washing, man or woman, needs a supply of water, and preferably water which has been warmed. To obtain the water, advanced technological civilization provides reservoirs and other water sources and methods of heating the water, which usually involves very complex generating facilities and transmission facilities. The role of men in creating the scientific theory and the technological expertise and the labour for building the facilities should be obvious, even if it isn't obvious to many feminists. Care ethicists, and others, surely have to take account of this context ('the bathwater.')

If care ethicists do happen to be  discussing the care of babies - there are many, many other topics which will interest them, of course - then it may well be relevant to discuss the wider context, the bathwater. This involves consideration of factors which may well be uncongenial, factors which care ethics generally neglects.

Feminists make many different claims, with or without an attempt at supporting argument, in the print, digital and other media - these claims are 'the baby.' The relevant 'bathwater,' the wider context includes the invention of printing, the development of printing techniques and printing technology, the invention of computer communications and the development of computer communications. Any feminist claim that 'men are useless' should take account of the fact that the men involved in these work can't possibly have been as useless as claimed. Their work has been, to me, astonishing, very impressive.

On this page, I discuss the fact that in this country, the main - or only - feminist print publication of any prominence at all, 'Spare Rib,' collapsed amidst recriminations. Why have feminists failed to launch and sustain a variety of print publications?

I also note that feminists, in stark contrast with the energy and achievement of 'patriarchy,' have failed to launch and sustain a nationwide network of women's garages, managed by women, with women mechanics. Feminists often make scathing reference to the 'patronising' language they claim is inflected on them by men at garages run by men. A much more convincing response would be sustained work on setting up feminist garages, run on feminist lines: workshops not the feminist 'talking shops' which are  so common, I think.

If the subject is domestic violence, or rape, then of course feminists (and anti-feminists) are entitled to discuss the subject in relative isolation, but if the impression is given that these subjects, and a restricted range of other subjects, are the only ones which have an influence on the well-being of women (or men), then this is a mistake. It's essential, I think, to stress the importance of external security. If North Korea proves to be engaged only in a war of words and its nuclear capability is never used against other states, another rogue state with nuclear capability or great conventional capability is likely to threaten the well-being of men and women in the future. Domestic violence is far from being the only form of violence, of course. Again, I'd refer to this wider context, often overlooked, as 'the bath water.'

To summarize, 'the baby and the bathwater,' not an established use but a phrase with this new and useful interpretation, refers to the importance of taking into account context (the 'bathwater') in discussing the subject (the 'baby.) The subject here is very often a  widely discussed one and the relevant context often neglected. I hope that any feminists who do contribute arguments against my views take up the challenge of considering this kind of context.

Conjugates can be regarded as an instance of the 'bathwater.' I explain my concept of conjugates on the page Ethics: theory and practice, without giving any feminist examples. A non-feminist illustration of a conjugate which is harmful, I claim: a plausible and reasonable-seeming advocate for the Green Party (there are green parties in other European countries as well as this, but I think particularly of the Green Party in this country, could stress that concern for the environment is very important, that reducing waste is very important, that energy conservation is very important, that action to combat pollution is very important, and the rest. If human adaptability were greater - the kind of well-formed adaptability I refer to as {adjustment} - then there would be no reason why the speaker should not have a whole range of well-formed attitudes going well beyond thinking on the environment. There is no evidence that if the government elected a Green Party as the governing party, that the party's defence policy would be adequate in the least. (My page on veganism gives greater detail, in connection with the similar failings of vegans.) It does seem that lack of attention to defence issues is a conjugate of some views.

I think that feminism has its own harmful conjugates too, and very often in this same field, although the exceptions are many more than in the case of the green party and vegans - not including radical feminists.

A realistic defence policy is essential for a liberal democracy, unless the state has far more powerful and willing protectors. A realistic defence policy is an aspect of physical security, mentioned by John Kekes in his 'The Morality of Pluralism.' He writes, the protection of life, physical security, and some freedom to do as we please are normally good in all historical and cultural contexts.' (Quoted by Geoffrey Scarre in his review, in 'Mind: A Quarterly Review of Philosophy,' Volume 103 Number 411.) To return to the matter of material conditions and material agency, how are protection of life and physical security to be attained without material provision, material infrastructure, equipment and the rest? The concept of the conjugate is value-neutral in itself, and conjugates can be harmful or valuable, essential. Material conditions can be regarded as the enabling context of those values, the protection of life and physical security. As for 'some freedom to do as we please,' this freedom too has a material conjugate. In certain material conditions, this freedom is subject to extreme {restriction}. The freedom to travel requires the material means to travel, the freedom to think and reflect may require the material means to avoid the constant search for food or shelter or warmth,

Mary Wollstonecraft, the famousest feminist: a vindication of the right of criticism

 This is a vindication of the right to criticize Mary Wollstonecraft from an anti-feminist perspective. She has already been criticized from a feminist, particularly a radical feminist perspective.

 See also Feminism and the material conditions of life where I make these comments on Mary Wollstonecraft:

 'For Mary Wollstonecraft, writing in 'Vindication of the Rights of Woman,' Youth is the season for love in both sexes; but in those days of thoughtless enjoyment provision should be made for the more important years of life, when reflection takes place of sensation.' In the coal mines, before the prohibition of child labour in 1842 (boys, but not girls, over 10 years old continued working) childhood was the season for sitting in complete darkness and nearly complete isolation, youth was the season for hauling almost impossible loads, inhaling coal dust and risking crushing, drowning and being blown limb from limb, the generally short period of adulthood likewise.  The life of the children in the mines was beyond her inner resources.'

 And, also, Feminism and the death penalty, for another instance of Mary Wollstonecraft's failures of empathy, and Slavery and serfdom for criticism of her disastrous blurring of the  difference between the lives of slaves, male and female, and the lives of non-slave women, such as women of the middle-class to which she belonged. The information I provide will remove any doubts about the reality of the extreme difference.

 A radical revaluation of Mary Wollstonecraft is long overdue, and not a radical feminist revaluation. Criticism of Mary Wollstonecraft the early feminist and reservations about Mary Wollstonecraft have generally come from feminists, particularly radical feminists, who regard her as too timid, ready to accept far too readily some aspects of 'patriarchy.' This is, I think, the first critical view of Mary Wollstonecraft from a very different perspective, an anti-feminist one - but emphatically not one which opposes such advances as extension of the suffrage and higher education to women. (See my comments on Fidelbogen's Counter-feminist blog. I quote these words of his, 'Again, for the record, I am stating no personal opinion about the issue of women's voting rights. Let the fact be well noted, that I have said nothing either pro or con upon that subject.' I add this comment, 'His failure to state a personal opinion, his failure to support the extension of the franchise, has to be criticized severely. He's right about many things, as I see it, but not right about everything. He's right about many things but misguided about others.'

 I concentrate attention here on these limitations: her self-centredness, quite often amounting to self-pity, and her lack of curiosity and I give further evidence of her lack of empathy. I do far more than acknowledge the importance of her work in furthering female emancipation, for example her pleas for opening up women's access to education, but point out how limited was her conception of education, as of so much else. (In the terminology of {themes}, these limitations all amount to {restriction}:- {scope}.) I begin with evidence from the letters. These unwittingly reveal how much in the 'Vindication' belongs to the word-sphere: ringing declarations are easy, translating them into reality often very difficult.

 Even Janet Todd, a sympathetic feminist commentator, who edited the Collected Letters, finds it impossible to overlook a tone in the letters which I criticize more severely. In the Introduction, she writes, 'The letters sometimes appear melodramatic and self-indulgent but part of this is the fashion of the times, and they need to be judged beside the extreme self-dramatizing of her sister Eliza for example or indeed of her friend Mary Hays, similarly caught up in unrequited love.' I make connections - linkages - with contemporary feminism, which, in the writing of many feminists, has certainly sustained the self-dramatizing of Eliza and the self-indulgence of Mary Wollstonecraft. I also show the linkage between self-centredness and lack of curiosity in Mary Wollstonecraft, as in contemporary feminism.

Janet Todd's mention of 'the fashion of the times' as an extenuating circumstance is far from being a feeble comment, at first sight. Many individuals who transcended their times  or who were far ahead of their times  had limitations which tied them to their times - but the limitations had to do with less central matters, not the achievements themselves. In the case of Mary Wollstonecraft, the weaknesses had to do with her central claims and arguments. They showed the gulf between words and practice, and some severe difficulties in implementing feminist ideals.

The musicologist Hans Keller wrote well on these matters, even if he failed to distinguish central achievement and peripheral weakness. In his book 'Criticism,' he quotes Martin Cooper's review of 'the man and the music,' the man being the composer Benjamin Britten, one of the greatest of English composers: 'It would be rash to attempt a forecast the place that Britten will occupy in the history of European music. He was essentially a child of his day, when music had lost its traditional cosmopolitan idiom and composers had to choose between devising an individual dialect of the old language or following the few radicals into unknown territory. Britten's was perhaps the happiest of all the personal idioms achieved, by modifying rather than defying tradition.'

 Hans Keller finds this useless: 'Britten - like every genius - was essentially not a child of his day: what distinguishes his art is what distinguishes it from every single contemporary trend which, if he used it at all, he used as a background against which he threw his meanings into relief; as a result, and as distinct from the majority of contemporary composers (any age's contemporary composers) he is recognizable within a bar, whereas they, unidentifiable, pass from being contemporary into having been temporary. So estranged did he, in fact, feel from his time, in which he found more than the few radicals which Mr Cooper describes, that his situation in our musical world deeply depressed him.'

 If Mary Wollstonecraft's views had been immediately influential, if they had been implemented immediately, and as fully as she would have wished, one consequence is that women would have been admitted to higher education in large numbers, but she showed minimal interest in the curriculum. It was important that women should have far greater access to education - and it was important, very important. It was very important to consider too what sort of education women, and men, should receive.  Mary Wollstonecraft showed not the least interest in science and technology and in fact higher education at the time gave only patchy coverage to science and practically none at all to technology. The remarkable advances of the early industrial age through which she lived owed very little to higher education. Mary Wollstonecraft showed no interest in these at all. If Mary Wollstonecraft's views had dominated the thinking and practice of society, any advances in science and techonology - including the advances which had profound humanitarian effects - would have owed nothing to her school of thought.

 She died as a result of complications in childbirth, and all the advances which made childbirth so much safer owed nothing to her way of thinking. If she had been much more convincing, much more influential, much more successful in her advocacy, it would have retarded, not advanced, the vastly reduced mortality rates, not just the mortality rates during childbirth but of cholera, smallpox and many, many other causes of premature death.

 Smallpox is now an extinct disease. Nobody suffers from smallpox or dies from smallpox now. Mary Wollstonecraft mentions smallpox in her letter to Everina Wollstonecraft (Paris, September 20, 1794.) In the closing years of the 18th century, smallpox killed an estimated 400 000 Europeans each year. Of cases of blindness, a third were caused by smallpox. Smallpox was responsible for an estimated 300 - 500 million deaths during the 20th century. In 1967, the World Health Organization estimated that two million people died of smallpox. Smallpox was eradicated by vaccination, not by feminism. Men's overwhelmingly important role in eliminating this scourge, such as the work of Edward Jenner, is something which has a place in any ((survey)). It alone is overwhelmingly important evidence than men are far from useless, as so many feminists think.

Mary Wollstonecraft's child caught smallpox, as she records in this letter: 'She is now only four months old - She caught the small-pox at Havre,' where they treated smallpox 'very improperly - I, however, determined to follow the suggestions of my own reason, and saved her much pain, probably her life ... by putting her twice a day into a warm bath.'

Her own reason never suggested anything like scientific method, which gives a rigorous way of comparing useful and useless methods of treatment, in this case vaccination and warm baths. (The overall fatality rate for children less than one year old is 40% - 50%, and the recovery of Mary Wollstonecraft's child owed nothing to the treatment.)

It's fair to assume that education according to Wollstonecraft principles would give no emphasis to scientific method. In general, feminists promote the greater participation of women but are vague when it comes to the objectives and policy of the organization - apart from the objective of greater participation of women and the policy of greater policy of women.

In his essay, 'Charles Dickens,' George Orwell identifies a vagueness and a weakness in his educational ideas. After quoting Dickens, beginning with, 'Doctor Strong's was an excellent school, as different from Mr Creakle's as good is from evil' he comments, In the woolly vagueness of this passage one can see Dickens's utter lack of any educational theory. He can imagine the moral atmosphere of a good school, but nothing further.'

Feminist schools would be nothing like so vague. They would teach feminist theory and feminist history, for sure, but what else? Critical thinking? Scientific method?

She was not one to confront real difficulties, let alone insuperable difficulties, for the most part. In the case of education for working class children, the difficulties were immense. Jane Humphries gives a comprehensive account in 'Childhood and Child Labour in the British Industrial Revolution' of the realities. (Below, I distinguish my own comments by putting them in brackets.)

She claims that children experienced the most violence not at home or in the factories where they worked but in private schools, the 'Dame schools.' The teachers at these schools were incompetent and generally physically abusive. (In fact, most of the teachers at these schools were women. The liberal, refined education which Mary Wollstonecraft advocated so persuasively, at first sight, in the 'Vindication' ovelooked the fact that there was no extensive supply of liberal teachers at the time. Changing conditions so that teachers became more liberal and education lost its brutality was an objective that was general not feminist, to do with human values. It couldn't and shouldn't have been addressed by the spread of feminism alone.)

The economic difficulties confronting any reform of education - the education of boys and girls - are described at length in the book.

Jane Humphries describes the gnawing hunger that dominated every day: working-class childhood 'was one long empty belly.' In these circumstances, (Mary Wollstonecraft's view of education was an unreal one for working-class children. The priority was to assure the supply of sufficient food, and the industrial and agricultural reforms did eventually achieve that objective, by technical means, not feminist means.)

gives information about the brevity of schooling for working-class children. Between 1790 and 1850, the median age at which children started work was 10. Before and after that date it was 12.

Families without fathers and very large families were common, as a result of high mortality and fertility rates. (This is the Malthusian nightmare which was ended in industrial societies.) Children were generally crucial for economic survival. Working class families needed the wages of the children to survive. The wages of children were very significant for these families. Any form of education other  than a brief period of education would have been an impossibility. 'Sons, as well as daughters, were withdrawn from school to hold the domestic fort when mothers went out to work.'

'Before the spread of state financed schooling in the second half of the nineteenth century, it was expensive to send children to school. There were both direct and opportunity costs that were immediate and palpable. In contrast, the benefits were distant and uncertain ... Schools charged fees, and these were substantial relative to families' incomes. When Daniel Chater started at his local 'seat of learning'' his father was only earning 18s per week and there were three younger children in the family. The 6d fee proved 'too high for my parents' pocket' and he was removed. Fortunately a Board school opened nearby that charged only 3d, but Chater senior's wage was not regular, and so 'there were occasions when even that small sum could not be spared.'

William Chadwick (born 1822) lost his father aged five: ' ... To attend day school was out of the question and at eight years of age I was sent to work, for about thirteen hours a day, at a cotton mill.'

She points out that schooling was often seasonal to accommodate pressing demands for labour, particularly in agricultural areas. She gives this example, 'William Stout and his brother were so frequently out of school to assist on the family's farm that they made little progress, 'for what they got in winter we forgot in summer.'

In some areas there were no schools, or the journey to school, always on foot, was simply too long.

Harsh realities - other than a very restricted class of harsh realities -  and concrete proposals to overcome harsh realities, were never a forte of Mary Wollstonecraft. In her letter to Gilbert Imlay (Gothenburg, August 26, 1795) she writes, 'I have lived in an ideal world ...' Or of later feminists, in general. A great variety of other problems has been neglected too. The focus has been almost entirely on the non-material aspects of education, with complete indifference towards making bricks, quarrying stone, felling trees and shaping timber to build the school, the plumbing of the school - providing safe water and taking away sewage - in later times providing electricity for the school, and all the immense ingenuity and labour needed to ensure this.

The plight of poor families became less and less common, eventually, and the Malthusian nightmare was only ended, by wealth creation, the creation of the surpluses that were generally impossible in pre-industrial societies. For most feminists, this requires a journey into uncongenial territory, the absolutely unavoidable and pivotal  dominance of coal as an energy source (and later as a source of carbon for making steel on a large scale) and mechanization, even if they wouldn't for one moment care to be without the benefits of technological advance in the home and at work.

Mary Wollstonecraft's lack of curiosity, her indifference to matters with a direct bearing on her activities as well as matters which might have expanded her limited horizons, are dispiriting. Her lover Gilbert Imlay and his business associates imported alum and soap into France. Alum (hydrated potassium aluminium sulphate) has a variety of uses. Present day uses include extinguishing chemical and oil fires, and treating cloth, wood and paper to increase resistance to fire.  If Gilbert Imlay had said to Mary Wollstonecraft, 'Don't take any interest in this compound. Leave it to us men,' he would have been accused of 'sexism.' If Mary Wollstonecraft declared, 'I have no interest in alum,' leaving it to men such as Gilbert Alum to take care of the compound, this was allawable. In her letter to Gilbert Imlay (Paris, September 22, 1794) she mentions these products and immediately passes to matters of much more concern,

'Well, this you will say is trifling - shall I talk about alum or soap? There is nothing picturesque in your present pursuits; my imagination then rather chuses to ramble back to the barrier with you, or to see you coming to meet me, and my basket of grapes.' Janet Todd explains that 'the barrier' is the Paris gate where Wollstonecraft and Imlay used to meet when the former lived in Neuilly ...' Nobody can blame Mary Wollstonecraft for not discussing alum any further here, but she can be blamed for not taking any interest in practical matters which were of no direct concern to her. Her indifference to such things has relevance to her views on education. Nietzsche, who occasionally wrote sense, who occasionally had remarkable insights, wrote, 'Where neither love nor hatred is in the game, a woman's game is mediocre' ('Beyond Good and Evil,' 'Epigrams and Interludes,' 115). This is an untrue generalization when applied to woman - he wasn't writing sense here, this was no remarkable insight - but it seems true enough of Mary Wollstonecraft.

However, even Nietzsche couldn't rival the gross stupidity of those generalizing feminists who include the humane and the inhumane, the honest and the dishonest, the cruel and the kind, liberators and enslavers, benefactors and barbarians, in the one all-inclusive category of the hated and despised: men.

Janet Todd's edition of 'The Collected Letters' groups a  number of letters under the heading 'Scandinavia 1795.'

She has sailed to Gothenburg in Sweden. At this time, seafaring, like child-bearing, had not become immeasurably safer as a result of technical advance. She shows no curiosity about the hard and dangerous lives in the sailors or the construction of their ships. She is largely oblivious to everything but her own emotions.  Extracts from the series of letters sent to Gilbert Imlay from Gothenburg:

'What I suffered in the vessel I will not now descant upon ... here I could not get a fire to warm me, or any thing warm to eat; the inns are mere stables ... I believe I alluded to the extreme fatigue I endured on ship-board ... I am overwhelmed with civilities on all sides [an interesting way of making kindness into yet another burden] ... a deadly weight of sorrow lies heavily on my heart. I am again tossed on the troubled billows of life; and obliged to cope with difficulties, without being buoyed up by the hopes that alone render them bearable ... I long every night to go to bed, to hide my melancholy face in my pillow; but there is a canker-worm in my bosom that never sleeps ... I labour in vain to calm my mind ... Every thing fatigues me ... My heart is so oppressed, I cannot write with precision ... What peculiar misery has fallen to my share!' ... Love is a want of my heart ... soul and body seem to be fading away before the withering touch of disappointment ... I blush when I recollect my former conduct - and will not in future confound myself with the beings whom I feel to be my inferiors. - I will listen to delicacy, or pride ... though every remembrance stings me to the soul, I think of you, till I make allowance for the very defects of character, that have given such a cruel stab to my peace ... Do not tell me, that you are happier without us ... Ah, why do you not love us with more sentiment? ... With what a cruel sigh have I recollected that I had forgotten to hope!'

A reminder of some others who had 'forgotten to hope,' in very different circumstances. From the section above, The material conditions of life:

'Here were portrayed men and women and small children living the life of beasts: a teenage girl struggling on all fours harnessed to a waggon of coal that she was pulling along a narrow seam; little children clinging to a rope as they were lowered down a shaft by an old woman whose rags told of her poverty: boys chained to heavy corves, with only a single candle to light the dark roadways ... In one mine, near Chesterfield, boys had to pull corves weighing at least 1/2 ton and sometimes as heavy as 1 ton, for 60 yards along a roadway that was only 2 feet high ... The boys who worked as hauliers might work as many as fourteen hours a day, from six in the morning to eight at night, and on top of that they would have an often lengthy journey to and from work. (See my poem Mines in the poetry section 'Child Labour.') The pages of the Royal Commission Reports are full of accounts of children returning home too tired to eat, who fell asleep as soon as they sat at table an had to be carried to bed. Some were not even able to walk the distance to their homes, and parents would find them asleep by the roadside.'

She writes, 'There are misfortunes so great, as to silence the usual expressions of sorrow.' (Letter to Gilbert Imlay, Strömstad, July 7, 1795). She was not thinking of misfortunes of the kind suffered by miners, of course. The letter begins, 'I could not help feeling extremely mortified last post, at not receiving a letter from you.' And she writes, 'There are characters,' she writes, who 'cannot rest satisfied with the common comforts of life.' The 'common comforts of life'were beyond the expectation of the miners, of course. She continues, ' ... had not disappointment cut me off from life, this romantic country, these fine evenings, would interest me ... am I ever to feel alive only to painful sensations?' (But not the painful sensations of struggling on all fours harnessed to a waggon of coal.)

Janet Todd a writes of Mary Wollstoencraft's time in Ireland, (in a  piece on the BBC History Website
not in her edition of the letters), 'After a year of suffering depressive illness, and of surviving prickly encounters with Lady Kingsborough, Mary was dismissed in 1787.' A reading of the letters makes it clear that Mary Wollstonecraft suffered from depressive illness for much of her life, but there have been many, many people of high achievement who suffered from depressive illness (or bipolar illness)  whose interest in other people was not nearly so restricted, whose horizons were not nearly so restricted, and not because their illness wasn't nearly so severe.

Gerard Manley Hopkins, unlike Mary Wollstonecraft, was capable of empathy for people unlike himself, in a sphere remote from his own. He writes in a letter to Robert Bridges (August 2, 1871), 'But it is a dreadful thing for the greatest and most necessary part of a very rich nation to live a hard life without dignity, knowledge, comforts, delight, or hopes in the midst of plenty - which plenty they make ... England has grown hugely wealthy but this wealth has not reached the working classes ... The more I look the more black and deservedly black the future looks ...' Mary Wollstonecraft's absorption in her own black moods dominated her for very long periods, and when she felt happier, she rarely strayed far beyond her own class.

His despair is given artistic expression in the 'terrible sonnets,' which include these lines:

I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day.
What hours, O what black hourswe have spent
This night! what sights you, heart, saw; ways you went!
And more must, in yet longer light's delay.
   With witness I speak this. But where I say
Hours I mean years, mean life ...

And these:

    O the mind, mind has mountains, cliffs of fall
Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap
Mary who ne'er hung there ...

Linked with the terrible sonnets by its desolation is the poem 'Justus es ...'

... See, banks and brakes
Now, leavèd how thick! lacèd they are again
With fretty chervil, look, and fresh wind shakes
Them; birds build - but not I build; no, but strain,
Time's eunuch, and not breed one work that wakes.
Mine, O thou lord of life, send my roots rain.

His nature poetry throws into contrast Mary Wollstonecraft's  obliviousness to nature. If she noticed none of the developments which were transforming life in England, she noticed too very little of natural beauty. The life of the working classes were remote from her but so too, to a lesser extent, was the independent life of an animal or a plant. Hopkins, by contrast, had an intense, ecstatic interest in such animals and plants as the windhover (falcon), the skylark, the woodlark, poplar trees, ash trees.

Letters have often been the occasion for an outpouring of despair, for gloom and experiences much worse than gloom. Mary Wollstonecraft's letters reveal a depression which is repetitious in its expression, one which quickly becomes predictable in its expression, formulaic, a depression which is raley put to good use (empathy with other afflicted people, for instance), depression which is without benefits for herself or her readers.

Janet Todd also wrote of Mary Wollstonecraft, when she was in Ireland  'She noticed little about the social and economic situation around her.' It would have been better if Janet Todd had explored the issue at some length.

The dangers and backbreaking work of the coal miners were unavoidable. What was avoidable was the employment of women as mine-workers and children as mine-workers, and after 1842 in this country, only men and boys over 10 years old worked underground. But the dangers and backdreaking work were not the result of greed, exploitation or incompetence but due to the harshness of reality. The factors included geological conditions, the natural production of explosive and poisonous gases, matter in bulk. The technology needed to reduce the dangers and eliminate much of the backbreaking work was sophisticated and could not be developed quickly. When children opened and closed ventilating flaps deep underground, in complete darkness, children could have been spared the horrors of the task, but the task could not be avoided - someone had to open and close the ventilating flaps, if not children then women and if not women then men.

There was an alternative to the use of coal as an energy source, wood, but wood had insuperable disadvantages, and not only the disadvantages of deforestation. Before the industrial revolution, extensive use was made of water power and wind power for powering machinery, such as the machines used for grinding agricultural and other tools and for grinding wheat and other cereals, but water-powered machines could not be used in periods of drought in summer and wind-powered machines could not be used when there was no wind, with obvious consequences for the livelihood of workers and their families.

 Lack of wind obviously made sailing in a sailing ship impossible. Some of Mary Wollstonecraft's letters record the difficulty (there were no dangers, but the crews and passengers of  vessels becalmed in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean or Pacific Ocean often faced great danger). They give too further instances of her self-pity - her depressive illness is an extenuating circumstance but not in the least a complete excuse - her obliviousness to, her lack of all curiosity about, the crew of the ship, the discomforts and difficulties they faced, not just then but throughout their working lives:

To Gilbert Imlay, Hull, June 17, 1795
I was hurried on board yesterday about three o' clock, the wind having changed. But before evening it veered round to the old point; and here we are, in the midst of mists and water, only taking advantage of the tide to advance a few miles.'

To Gilbert Imlay, Hull, June 18, 1795
Here I am still - and I have just received your letter of Monday by the pilot, who promised to bring it to me, if we were detained, as he expected, by the wind. - It is indeed wearisome to be thus tossed about without going forward ... [Marguerite] is unable to do any thing, she is rendered so sick by the motion of the ship, as we ride at anchor.'

To Gilbert Imlay, Hull, June 20, 1795
This is the fifth dreary day I have been imprisoned by the wind [not, 'we have been imprisoned by the wind], with every outward object to disgust the senses, and unable to banish the remembrances that sadden my heart.

Eventually, a favourable wind takes the vessel to Sweden and she arrives in Gothenburg: 'What I suffered in the vessel I will not now descant upon.' (Letter to Gilbert Imlay, Gothenburg, June 27, 1795.) In a letter written two days later, she mentions 'the extreme fatigue I I endured on ship-board,' one of its causes being 'the roughness of the weather,' of which the crew will have had far more experience. She ends the letter, 'I long every night to go to bed, to hide my melancholy face in my pillow; but there is a canker-worm in my bosom that never sleeps.' What she would have felt if she had had to sleep on bare boards or the ground can only be imagined.

The difficulties of sailing ships when there were no winds or the winds were unfavourable, the difficulties of wind and water powered machinery, were solved by the extraordinary developments, creative and immensely difficult, which created the steam engine. This allowed machines to be powered almost anywhere - there was no need to site the machinery by a source of water power, for example - and the machines could run uninterrupted by the vagaries of wind and water. Ships could run according to schedule. Crew and passengers were not held up for days at a time.

At a very early stage in the 'Vindication,' Mary Wollstonecraft, in the seventh paragraph of Chapter 1, she makes an observation which she never heeded, and which later feminists have practically never heeded. In general, the failure is far more serious for the later feminists with wide-ranging claims than for Mary Wollstonecraft, whose claims are more modest.

 'Men, in general, seem to employ their reason to justify prejudices, which they have imbibed, they can scarcely trace how, rather than to root them out. The mind must be strong that resolutely forms its own principles; for a kind of intellectual cowardice prevails which makes many men shrink from the task, or only do it by halves. Yet the imperfect conclusions thus drawn, are frequently very plausible, because they are built on partial experience, on just, though narrow, views.' [My emphasis.]

If someone is buying an everyday article, then a ((survey)) of factors will include, in many cases, for people who take account of environmental and ethical considerations, ((cost, colour, availability, acceptability in ethical terms, acceptability in environmental terms ... )). In deciding whether or not men are tyrannical or far from tyrannical, the most inadequate basis for decision is the autocentric one: personal experience. This is open to objections based on sampling. The person's experience may be atypical. The factors which a feminist should take into account in deciding on the culpability or otherwise of men are very many. In general, feminists confine themselves to too few: {restriction}:- survey. My page Introduction to {theme} theory explains my terminology and the associated symbolism, and my reasons for using them. I attempt to give a ((survey)) on this page which, though necessarily incomplete, includes a greater range of factors than is usually provided in feminist and anti-feminist discussion.

'Rousseau exerts himself to prove that all was right originally: a crowd of authors that all is now right: And I, that all will be right.'

A generalization (which is a counter-{restriction}:- (scope)) of the principle of falsification: the application-sphere of falsification is not only empirical science, but an application-sphere which includes ideology.  If conclusive certainty in falsification is difficult  in science, far more so in matters of ideology.

Similarly, the principle of the uniformity of nature - inductive inferences applied to nature, future cases resembling past, previously observed cases - can be generalized: what can be called 'the principle of the uniformity of flawed human nature,' and flawed society. Utopianism is denial of this principle, and Mary Wollstonecraft gives approval to a form of utopianism here. Christian doctrines of the Fall of Man entail, of course, a Christian-feminist doctrine of the Fall of Woman too.

The Christian doctrine is subject to excessive {restriction}. The application-sphere of {restriction} in my account is not only human behaviour and motivation, deeply flawed in the Christian account, but the thinking which underlies the origins and continuance of Christianity. Christianity's insights into human imperfection are more realistically based in general than  secular views which are  perfectionistic, but misinterpret the problem and propose a false solution.

The linkage between Mary Wollostenecraft's view (and feminist views in general) and these Christian views: she misinterprets the problem and proposes a false solution. The uniformity of human nature extends to men and women, surely, to the extent that women, like men, have no natural or artificial immunity (to use a linkage with human biology) to gross error, gross failings, all those shortcomings which amount to {restriction}:- ('virtuousness').

'A standing army ... is incompatible with freedom; because subordination and rigour are the very sinews of military discipline; and despotism is necessary to give vigour to enterprizes that one will directs.'

{substitution} of 'police' for 'army' and 'military' gives, 'A standing police force ... is incompatible with freedom; because subordination and rigour are the very sinews of police discipline ...' In Mary Wollstonecraft's time, the army had some of the functions of a police force, when called upon. Abuses of power and mistaken use of power are obviously likely to be vivid in the mind. The horrors which a population is spared because the exercise of power has deterred or otherwise prevented them tend to be harder to grasp. Liberal laws, including laws which rectify injustices, not only have to be passed, they have to be enforced. If women and children are forbidden by law from working underground in coal mines, then in the absence of a police force, they can defy the law with impunity. The Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 had to be enforced, and it was. From the section Slavery and serfdom, 'Slavery was ended not just by reformers who worked for legislative change and eventually achieved it. The legislation had to be enforced. The British Navy (which would count as an agent of patriarchy in most feminist histories, no doubt) played a prominent part in enforcing anti-slavery laws.Between 1811 and 1867, the British Navy's Anti-slavery Squadron liberated 160 000 slaves. In 1845, 36 British vessels were assigned to this squadron.'

Looters and rioters who have no valid reason for rioting, can either be permitted to do exactly as they wish - the absence of a police force would allow that to happen. Invaders can be permitted to invade - the absence of armed forces would allow that to happen. The frequency of invasion in the history of the world is astonishing. Wikipedia  gives a useful and comprehensive List of Invasions.

She hasn't any conception of the reasons for military discipline. It lies well beyond the scope of her insight and experience.

She goes on to lambast sailors and soldiers, and here she becomes insufferable, a  prissy Sunday school teacher of a writer. She criticizes sailors as 'indolent, when not discharging the ceremonials of their station' and the 'active idleness' of soldiers - who were not always marching long distances each day with a full pack, admittedly. She criticizes sailors because they 'acquire a fondness for humour and mischievous tricks.' But in the case of both soldiers and sailors, 'mind is equally out of the question.' 'May I be allowed to extend the comparison to a profession where more mind is certainly to be found.' Who are these paragons? The clergy in fact - who aren't criticized for their idleness.

Women and bullfighting, 'sexism' and cruelty


(See also my page Bullfighting: arguments against and action against.)


Above, Cristina Sánchez, who cut a total of 231 bulls' ears during her career, which began in 1993. (GNU Free Documentation License.)

Karla Sanchez San Martin, a female bullfighter, has said that 'she  wants to inspire girls to fight sexism wherever it occurs, as it is something she still faces in her chosen career.' ('The Indepenendent,' 4 January 2015.)

There are feminists who would claim that the Spanish bullfighter Noelia Mota has faced hideous sexism during her career. More importantly, infinitely more importantly, Noelia Mota has inflicted hideous cruelty during her career. Watching this film should leave not the slightest doubt:


The  film is the third part of a series which depicts scenes of extreme cruelty. It shows Noelia Mota at last killing a bull, after repeated stabbing at the spine.  She is a mounted bullfighter ('rejoneadora'), by this stage dismounted. In the film which forms Part 1 of the series,  she is shown stabbing the bull with the rejones de castigo (lances of punishment), which weaken the bull. Then, she stabs the bull with  banderillas, which further weaken the bull. At 04:35 in Part 2 of the series,  she is shown stabbing the bull with the 'rejon de muerte' ('lance of death') intended to kill the bull. She fails to kill the animal. With the lance embedded in its back, the bull is subjected to a long series of further stabbings, first with other lances, which again fail to kill the bull. Assistants use capes to make the bull move its head from side to side, in a failed attempt to make the lances cut a vital organ, a standard technique. Then, she makes  repeated use of a sword, the descabello,  in an attempt to sever the bull's spine. The descabello has a very sharp, broad blade about 10 cm (4 in) long. The repeated  stabbings with the descabello continue in  the third part,  the animal by now almost helpless. At 0:56 one of the lances of death is pulled out by a member of the audience. Soon after the bull has died,  one of the bull's ears is cut off (not shown in the film.) She is awarded the ear as a trophy and throws it into the audience.


I don't know how many times Noelia Mota stabbed the bull with the descabello. I haven't counted. This repeated hacking at the spine, like the use of the capes to make the embedded sword cut a vital organ, is very common.   'Alexander Fiske-Harrison, an apologist for the bullfight, saw a bull stabbed three times with the 'killing sword' but still alive, and then stabbed repeatedly with the descabello. According to the 'bullfighting critic' of the newspaper 'El Mundo' who counted the stabbings, the bull was stabbed in the spine seventeen times before it died.' Daniel Hannan, another apologist who isn't deterred by any of the scenes he's witnessed, writes about the matador Talavante, 'who gave up trying to kill his first bull after much dreich [Scots word meaning 'miserable,' most usually in connection with weather] hewing with the descabello: 'I lost count after his twelfth attempt.'

How is a feminist to approach bullfighting? Surely, not in purely feminist terms, to call for an end to 'gender stereotyping' in bullfighting, the assumption that a woman is less capable of fighting and killing a bull in the bullring than men, to call for an end to 'gender imbalance,' and to regard a world in which half the bullfighters are women as a victory for feminism.

When feminists routinely stress  the linkages between women, they ignore the  fact that time after time, it's the linkages between men and women which are vastly more important.

There are women who, like myself, loathe bullfighting, who regard it as depraved and disgusting.  Then there are women who attend bullfights and support bullfighting. There are very large numbers of these. One of them is Muriel Feiner, the author of 'Women and the Bullring.' The description of the book on the site for Abebooks includes this:

'The story of Women and the Bullring is one of daring and determined women who overcome countless obstacles and sexist barriers to realize a unique dream--that of becoming a "matadora de toros." In the first English translation of this award-winning book on the subject, Muriel Feiner chronicles the struggle of women to become matadors--not only Spanish and Latin American women but also American, French, and British--from the 17th century to the present day. She also includes women who have attempted to make inroads into the bullfighting world as bull breeders, journalists, photographers, managers, artist, and impresarios, as well as a section devoted to the wives and mothers of some of the most prominent male toreros. Feiner's extensive research included interviews with noteworthy authorities and with the protagonists themselves. The text is complemented by an extraordinary collection of historical and recent photographs. Feiner's investigation into the fears, frustrations, determination, and motivations of these remarkable women provides a unique insight into an often misunderstood spectacle.'

Muriel Feiner's book is endorsed, very enthusiastically, by Allen Josephs (Muriel Feiner has endorsed Allen Joseph's adulatory book on bullfighting just as enthusiastically): 'Muriel Feiner's Women and the Bullring is a ground-breaking work - a feminist treatise sprung from one of the last bastions of male dominance.'

To all committed opponents of bullfighting, men or women, feminist or non-feminist, these 'successes' won't be regarded as anything like a triumph for feminism.

See also the account which forms part of  'Women of Achievement and Herstory' www.thelizlibrary.org ('Compiled and Written by Irene Stuber who is solely responsible for its content'):


'Conchita Cintron, is recognized as the first woman to compete at a high professional level as a bullfighter. In her lifetime she mastered over 1,200 bulls. ['mastered' is a gross euphemism, of course: this includes killing, either instantaneously, or, much more likely, not at all quickly. Another point: 'mastered' is a surprising word to find in a feminist diatribe.]

'She started in Lima, Peru at age 12 in what was to be a lifetime struggle for recognition and respect since bull fighting is one of the most macho sports there is in a culture known for its machismo.

'However, she was so talented that she fought in most of the great rings Europe.' [The word 'of' is missing in the original.]

As a matter of strict fact, many, many women attend bullfights and there are many, many women who are aficionados. The most prominent association of aficionados in this country is the Club Taurino of London. The men who contribute to the club's journal, 'La Divisa,' outnumber the women but not at all overwhelmingly. Diane Strange is one of them. She wrote a piece which included reporting of 'El Toro de la Vega' in the Spanish town of Tordesillas: an event which has a notorious reputation amongst anti-bullfighting campaigners, for very good reasons. It involves spearing and then killing a bull. In the photograph below, only some of the spear wounds are shown, of course. I give further information about the spearing of bulls at Tordesillas on my page 'Bullfighting: arguments against and action against,' including this brief summary: 'The bull is driven by horsemen wielding spears from the town to a meadow. During the run, the horsemen are only allowed to wound the bull. It's only when the badly wounded animal reaches the meadow that it can be killed.'



Diane Strange's view of the multiple stab wounds and the killing is a severely restricted one: she was only concerned about another kind of view and another kind of restriction:

'By this time I was regretting my decision to position myself so far away from the action. If we return another year, we will certainly stand on the other side of the bridge to get a better view of the action.' She knew what 'the event' involved  but she records no reflections, either troubled or otherwise, on its morality. The piece ends, 'A quick drink at a café and we made our way out of Tordesillas, and back to the hotel to catch up on some much needed sleep.'

 www.thebulltribune.org (an excellent site, promoted by the outstanding Spanish organization ADDA, 'la Asociación Defensa Derechos Animal,' http://www.addaong.org/en/)
gives an account of 'the action' (as Diane Strange would refer to it) for 2011 in Tordesillas, and the protests against the disgusting spectacle, as the Antibullfighting  Tribune refers to it:

'This year, more than five hundred animal defenders met in Tordesillas to protest against the macabre festival of Toro de la Vega, where bulls are chased and speared to death ... This year one of the bulls was named the Afflicted one after he fell to ground overcome by the wounds inflicted on him by spears and, unfortunately for him, the person who was supposed to kill him by severing the spinal cord did not appear. Instead the crowd continued to spear him until one finally delivered the coup de grace with a screwdriver. Another disgusting example from this disgusting spectacle.'

'This year one of the bulls was named the Afflicted one after he fell to ground overcome by the wounds inflicted on him by spears and, unfortunately for him, the person who was supposed to kill him by severing the spinal cord did not appear. Instead the crowd continued to spear him until one finally delivered the coup de grace with a screwdriver. Another disgusting example from this disgusting spectacle.'

Is the most important objection to the spearing of the bull at Tordesillas its 'sexism:' only men take part. Is it essential that women should be allowed to take part, preferably in equal numbers? Or will radical feminists agree that often, there are non-feminist considerations, moral and practical, which are not just very important but which must, in fact, be given priority?

How would feminists belonging to one of the less liberal schools of feminist thought judge Diane Strange, other women aficionados, women members of the audience at bullfights, the women bullfighters I discuss in this section, and other women bullfighters? As inherently virtuous, or at least in a different, superior category from the category of all men. Susan Brownmiller belongs to this school of thought (if 'thought' is applicable here). She believes that men use rape as a weapon and that rape is 'a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear.' There are less deranged versions of feminism which still practise {separation}, with approval for women and disapproval, or much worse, for men, and deranged views comparable to  Susan Brownmiller's, applied with relentless, stupid and inhuman consistency. According to Susan Brownmiller's view, it would seem, at Nazi extermination camps, the men kept the women in a state of fear - the men who kept women in a state of fear included the men about to be gassed as well as the men who did the gassing, whilst the women supposedly kept in a state of fear included  the women camp guards, such as Irma Grese at Bergen-Belsen and Maria Mandel at Auschwitz-Birkenau, whilst outside the camps, the men who 'kept women in a state of fear' included members of the resistance to Nazism and men who fought against Nazism, and the women who were kept in a state of fear included Nazi women.

Other contributors to 'La Divisa' in recent years are these women: Shelly Frape, Rosannah Smith, Elizabeth Schraft, Draza Webb, Helen Leary, Diana Webb-Davies, Janet Fisher, Fiona Cook, Barbara Jeffery, Helen Windrath, Lucy Burman, Mareta Sánchez, Fiona Cook, Diana Thurston.

See also my page on A L Kennedy. I strongly criticize her book 'On Bullfighting,' but not the fiction of hers which I review. There's an extract from my review of 'On Bullfighting' on my page, 'Bullfighting: arguments against and action against.'

Some groups and individuals have greater volume, as I put it. My page Ireland and Northern Ireland: distortions and illusions gives an extended criticism of the volume of Irish nationalists. I write, 'According to the mythology of Irish nationalists,  nobody has suffered like the Irish, nobody has exploited others like the English.' I subject the claim to detailed examination and find it unjustified.

The earlier works of Nietzsche made modest claims for his own importance. The later works were misguided not in making very great claims for his own importance but for making distorted claims. 'Ecce Hom' has the chapters entitled 'Why I am so wise,' 'Why I am so clever' and 'Why I write such excellent books,' Nietzsche by now writing at full volume.

My page Bullfighting: arguments against and action against includes criticism of  'the romanticized exaggeration, the flagrant myth-making' of bullfighters and bullfighting supporters, as I see it. For example, many of them give the impression that the dangers of the bullring are extreme and that bullfighters are the most courageous of people. In the section 'the courage of the bullfighters' I show that this isn't so.

Similarly, feminism has its own versions of  flagrant myth-making, exaggeration and distortion. Feminists have been loud - they have had great volume - but it's essential not to leave feminist claims unexamined.

The BBC has broadcast no television programmes about bullfighting for decades. There has been, though, a radio broadcast in the series 'A book at bedtime.' This was based on the novel 'Alex y Robert,' by the American writer Wena Poon. The novel is published by 'Salt Publishing,' which publishes, amongst other things, literary fiction - as well as fiction with literary pretensions, like this one. It has a picture of part of a matador's suit of lights on the front cover, and gushing praise from the crime writer Stav Sherez: 'Alex y Robert drags bullfighting kicking and screaming into the 21st century.' Stav Sherez, and Salt Publishing, seem not to have a bullshit detector and no cliché detector either.

Stav Sherez also claims that the novel is 'perfectly structured and viscerally imagined.' As for 'perfectly structured,' the claim is incomprehensible. Perhaps he was very impressed by the novel's division into three acts, corresponding to the three stages of the bullfight. The acts are described on the Contents page:

ACT ONE The Act of the Spears
[When the picador stabs the bull one or more times with his lance, and when his horse is exposed to the risk of suffering broken ribs or internal injuries.

ACT TWO The Act of the Colorful Darts
[The 'colorful darts' are the six barbed banderillas which are plunged into the back of the bull.]

ACT THREE The Act of the Kill
[very often a long-drawn out affair after the 'killing sword' has been used, often involving more stabbings, sometimes many more.]

Scraps are tipped into the text at intervals. Regurgitated scraps play a prominent part. Since this is a book about bullfighting, one scrap which makes an early appearance is this little bit of didactic prose, which is supposed to correct and enlighten a character who knows nothing about bullfighting. Anyone who has delved into this hideous 'art' will know about this:

" - bullfighting - "
"You don't fight bulls, you torear. Some words just cannot be translated." This makes not the least difference - the words 'bullfighter' and 'bullfighting' are used throughout.

The novel has started much more impressively, quite momentously, giving promise that no matter what objections there are to the author's moral sense, she has descriptive abilities, even if there are obvious faults here:

'The tracks were clean, narrow, intimate. A man could lie down, stretching with his toes and fingers, and spread himself across both sets of tracks. He could stop two trains going in opposite directions if he wanted to.

'There was low fog on the ground that night. In the east, planes lay helplessly on the airport runway, unable to talk off.'

This is sustained for almost two pages, some of the writing very good, but it turns out that this is just a scrap and the novel is a kind of scrap-book, and not in the least 'perfectly structured.'

Here, 'intimate' isn't well chosen, surely. If the man had to stretch out toes and fingers, it would seem that otherwise, he couldn't 'spread himself' across the sets of tracks but the exactness is ludicrous, of course, given the variability in men's heights - short men couldn't possibly manage it, even with toes and fingers stretched out, whilst tall men, presumably, wouldn't have to stretch out toes and fingers at all. Elementary common sense would make it clear that he couldn't possibly  'stop' two trains, unless the drivers saw him in plenty of time and applied the brakes - impossible at night. The man would be reduced to pulp.

The scraps of dire dialogue which are tipped into the mix are never momentous in the least. They provide information about the characters but the characterization in the novel is primitive, apart from the characterization of Robert, and psychological penetration - unlike penetration by picadors' lances, 'colorful darts and swords - is lacking.

"Remember all the bullfighting stuff I told you about?"
"Uh - huh?"
"I'm gonna do it in Spain."

A few lines later:

"Have you ever seen a woman matador?"
"No. So? It's Europe. Anything goes, right? Aren't they all, like, liberal?"
"What I'm going to try to do may get me in a lot of trouble. I just don't want you to be freaked out when the school reports that I never showed up here."
"Um - kay? Like, what kind of trouble? Are you gonna get arrested?"
"I don't know. I might get injured in the bullring."

The only information that stops this from being interpreted as an inconsequential, late adolescent whim is the fact that the heroine has had an interest in bullfighting since childhood, as is made clear by another scrap (anything like an enthralling or disturbing evocation of childhood experience, any kind of complex evocation, is never even attempted.)

'It was Halloween.
Alex, aged five, was dressed in a makeshift matador costume in the backyard of the ranch. There was a party at her house. The grown-ups were indoors. She was surrounded by a ring of older Mexican kids dressed as pirates, ghosts, itches and devils.


'Wielding a plastic sword ... Alex began shouting at a large Australian Shepherd ... she fixed a stern glare at the dog ... She flicked the cape expertly over its head and taunted it again, one arm cocked behind her back and her feet held tightly together ...


Finally, the dog fell down, exhausted, and rolled over to its side. Alex poked it gently between its shoulders with the plastic sword. "I killed it. Now you shake the hanky" She then paused and turned to look back at the older kids, who shook their white tissues in unison.'

Of course, this is the sort of thing that children sometimes like to do, but in the novel, this is leading somewhere - the first stage in the process which leads to an actual kill. (A rare instance of direction.) For anyone who knows about the realities of bullfighting in Mexico, it's hard to ignore them in reading this scrap. Children as young as five learn to become bullfighters. Michelito Lagravere, who hoped to become the youngest bullfighter, first faced a calf at the age of five.

The 'New York Times:' ' ... baby-faced bullfighters are the rage throughout Mexico. Even though some of the school-age children appearing at the country’s scores of bullrings are not much taller than the bulls they confront, these mini-matadors have begun getting top billing from promoters, who view them as a new way to bring people to the arena.

 'It is difficult to know exactly how many of them are fighting across the country, and no Mexican law limits their age. Regional and national bullfighting groups consider the bullfighters’ experience when matching them with the bulls, with the youngest and least experienced starting with year-old bulls.'

 This is a novel not suitable for children (it deals with issues they don't have the maturity to consider carefully) and not suitable for 'grown ups' either (it deals with the issues in an immature way and if it can be classed as literature at all  it's unformed literature.

Alex arrives in Spain and meets Roberto. Intermittently, Wena Poon's descriptive strengths emerge. They go to a construction site, 'full of rusty iron rods, bags of cement, heaps of torn down brick. On one end rose a ghostly eighteenth century façade partly covered with graffiti ... Roberto picked his way through the wheelbarrows and orange construction cones. They came to the center of the old palace. Moonlight fell in a single shaft from the broken roof. Pale frescoes still adorned the walls, speaking of an earlier time. Their footsteps stirred up smoky plaster dust.'

This is the unlikely setting for Alex to show Roberto her bullfighting skills. 'He set his bag on the ground and pulled out a magenta and yellow cape. He handed it to her. "Go ahead. Show me." How has she learned these skills? From a number of instructors, from T.V., from a bullfighting academy in California, where it's illegal to kill the bulls, and 'we have training trips to Mexico and we get to kill bulls there sometimes.' She adds, "I can get them in the right spot with my killing sword. That's the thing I'm best at." She has been training since about the age of ten.

Bullfighters have only a tiny chance of being killed in the bullring, as I make clear in the section The courage of the bullfighters, where I quote some very revealing statistics. It would be too much to expect Wena Poon to forego the chance of furthering the outrageous mythology of bullfighting, according to which  dying in the ring (bullfighters dying in the ring, that is, not bulls) is overwhelmingly common. Sure enough, Roberto claims, 'Our grandfathers were famous because they died in the ring at the height of their fame.' Before penicillin and other antibiotics were available, before modern medical care in the modern bullfighting infirmaries, bullfighters were killed not in the least often. Alex has been on the phone to Robert. (Of another phone call, the author writes, 'He raised the phone to his face to see if he could smell her.') 'They hadn't learned yet to say goodbye, knowing that each goodbye could be the last.' My extended section Alexander Fiske-Harrison: the baboon and bull-killing club includes more discussion of the exaggerations and falsifications of bullfighting apologists, including this:

' ... throughout, as early as  the book's  Prologue, Alexander Fiske-Harrison can be as uncritical as any bullfighting slob who ever slouched on a bullring cushion.

'In his account of  the bullring in Seville, of  the first bullfight he witnessed, he gives us this: 'The gate was opened ... by Manolo Artero, a stout middle-aged man, who shouted to the rustling crowd the words he had shouted for thirty years: 'Silence! A man risks his life here today.' How impressive the words of Manolo Artero sound to bullfighting supporters, how stupid to other people, ones with a healthy sense of the ridiculous and an appreciation  of equally dangerous acts or far more dangerous acts.  The last fatality in this ring was in 1992. This was the last fatality in any bullring in Spain.'

The disillusionment of Roberto is quite well conveyed. He wants to get out of bullfighting. For a short time, the novel seems far less stale and predictable. Quickly, though, the novel reverts to type and empty generalities become more frequent again, including this scrap of outright falsification:

"But women aren't interested in bullfighting," said Roberto, finally." I don't know a single woman who is." There are many films which show the audience at bullfights as well as what happens in the bullring, and as a matter of strict fact, women attend bullfights in very large numbers.

 She sees Roberto fight in the bullring. Her descriptive skills generally fail her when it comes to describing actual bullfighting.

 'The fifth bull finally keeled over, but it was a bad kill. The crowd was unhappy and restless. [Not nearly as unhappy as the bulls, I'd add.] The other matadors' bulls had been problematic and had refused to perform. Yet when the matadors tried to kill them quickly, they refused to die. The bull breeder was in the crowd, angry and ashamed by the animals that he had so carefully reared for so many years.'

In connection with their refusal - a refusal to die as well as a refusal to perform to the satisfaction of the crowd! - see my comments on Daniel Hannan on my page Bullfighting: arguments against and action against:

'He writes in a superior tone about bulls he obviously regards as not nearly as fearless as himself, bulls unwilling to fling themselves on the lance of the picador, the six spiked banderillas or the matador's sword  (not forgetting the weapons used to hack at the spine - more of the descabello later):

'These bulls, by San Miguel, were among the worst I’ve watched: cowardly, weak, lazy and petulant. Their lack of breeding was evident from the moment they sauntered out of the toril, [the holding area where bulls wait before they are made to enter the arena] trembling, fidgeting, lowering.'

'Of a later bullfight:

'The first [bull] set the tone for the entire string, being manso [cowardly] and sulky.' Another stale scrap in the stale mixture is this:

' ... the exotic passes by the matador are akin to foreplay ... the last act - the suerte de matar - is like an exquisite act of copulation. They say that matadors in the old days would boast of ejaculating at the climax of the kill.' No doubt in the old days, psychiatric services in Spain were undeveloped and treatment for sexual pathologies was difficult to find.

The Acknowledgments chapter contains this: 'If there are few women matadors, there are even fewer women writing in English about bullfighting. Sarah Pink's Women and Bullfighting, and A. L. Kennedy's On Bullfighting, are invaluable precedents.

It may be that Wena Poon was inspired by A L Kennedy's book in compiling her account of sexual apotheosis in the bullring. I quote A L Kennedy on the subject and comment in my page on A L Kennedy. My comments include this:

'The fast approaching death of the bull sometimes seems to bring A L Kennedy closer and closer to a kind of orgasmic writing ...

'But she's often denied the fulfilment she craves and the death of the bull is like bad sex, very bad sex. Before the bull can die, though, there's a kind of perverted foreplay, in which the spears of the picadors and the banderillas play their part:

'...the picadors spear as much danger as they can out of the bull.'

'After the picadors have lanced it '...another bull is left, staggering and urinating helplessly, almost too weak to face the muleta.' She comments, prosaically, 'I do appear to be observing considerable distress.' The muleta, as she has explained in a footnote, is 'The small red cape, stiffened with a rod, which is used by the matador during the final passes which lead to the kill.' But before the bull could face the muleta, he still had to endure six more stabbings from the six barbed banderillas. These would bring him to an even more helpless state.'

Those feminist who are indifferent to the sufferings of the bull (some of them may even consider that since the animal is male, it deserves all it gets) and indifferent to the standard of the writing (or, of course, they may disagree about the standard) will be pleased that the novel portrays a young woman not afraid to challenge the 'sexism' of the bullfighting world, but they may well have strong reservations about other things. They may approve of her response to  criticism  only in part:

" ... Most of their criticism involves the frequent mention of the word 'balls'. Half of them are very concerned that I don't have any. The other half calls me a butch lesbian. I'm going to act even more girly just to irritate the hell out of them.

 Today I posted a ton of girly stuff on my fan page on VirtualPeña. I said I love Hannah Montana, teddy bears, and OPI nail polish."

There's also this: 'Roberto appeared in public with a different young woman every night, so they'd stopped photographing his arm candy years ago.' 'Arm candy' is new to me.

In Alex y Robert, the acute suffering of the bull is neglected in favour of the determination of Alex, lover of teddy bears, to kill a bull. Alex gets her chance to kill a bull in a shockingly contrived scene. Roberto is gored in the back of the knee. He fights on. 'The front of Roberto's uniform [an aficionado would shudder at this description of the matador's 'suit of lights' but I'm the opposite of an aficionado] was now completely smeared with blood from the dying animal.' (The bull has been speared by the picador and stabbed by the banderilleros but as a matter of fact, the sword hasn't been used on the bull yet.) Roberto 'stopped it dead in its tracks with a look. He tapped the bull with his sword, chastising the panting animal. Then he rested his hand on the bull's forehead and stared at it sternly.'

He plunges the sword  into the bull, but fails to kill it. 'It pranced about madly; the half-buried sword was flung off and bounced across the sand. There was no way Roberto would be awarded an ear now.' Roberto has had enough. Time to hand over to Alex.

'Kill him,' he rasped, and thrust the red cape at her.' She climbs into the ring and picks up Roberto's sword. 'The beleagured bull ambled restlessly around the ring, bloodied and dismayed.

'Who the hell's this chick?' asked the senior matador, impatient to restore order.

Before long, the bull charged, but 'the darts on its back were weakening it.' And:

'the giant sea anemone wavered, stilled and fell silent.' (The giant sea anemone is the crowd.) She assumed the pose of the recibiendo. She was standing still and urging the bull to charge at her and impale itself on her sword.' And, according to the author,  the bull did so. Since bullfighters of vastly greater experience have such trouble finding the killing spot with the sword  even when the method is the standard one, vastly less tricky than the recibiendo, for someone with no experience in a bullring to kill the bull in this way is nonsensical. It would have been absolutely impossible for anyone in the audience to be allowed to take part in a bullfight, in the way that this farcical book claims for Alex. From time to time, a member of the audience, an espontáneo, jumped into the bullring and tried to make a few passes, in an attempt to gain entry into the world of bullfighting, but these people were generally arrested. They were never allowed to carry on.

Compare the complete implausibility of a very different claim, made earlier in the book: 'In 1889, a great fir swept through the city of San Martin. It was started in the middle of the night by the unlikeliest of culprits - mice. A small house had gotten hold of a box of matches and dragged it into the wainscoting of a townhouse ... Matches spilled all over the interior of the walls ... Then, one night ... a small mouse [as opposed to a large or gigantic mouse] scurried over a match and by chance dragged it against the dry side of the matchbox. The match flared and very quickly ignited the other matches. The flames spread quickly in the paper-dry interior of the walls and up the timbers to the roofs.' How could anyone possibly have found out that this is how the fire started? Back to the barbaric bullring.

'The entire bullring burst into riotous clamor. Seventeen thousand loud verbal opinions rang out in the night.' My own 'verbal opinion' of this preposterous rubbish is very different. This is a  book which manages to be both bland and hideous.
This is how Wena Poon views the novel (from the Website of The International Literary Quarterly): 'T
he story of Alex and Robert, and their transatlantic friendship, is my hope for a new world order ...

'For it is already the 21st century. [Why! What a surprise!] Technology and travel is at our disposal in a way that writers of prior eras would have envied. In many societies, both men and women are free to take advantage of ever-increasingly efficient and inexpensive means of travelling, communicating and understanding each other’s point of view. Now, more than ever, there are no mysteries, no barbarians, no “Other.”

Wena Poon lives, obviously, in a state of extreme innocence, in a state of illusion, a state of  delusion, if she can ignore so completely the barbarians in the world. There are no barbarians! Not President Assad of Syria, to name just one? The people who stone men and women to death for adultery -  not barbarians?  Increased opportunities for travelling and communicating don't seem in the least to have ended  torture, massacre and other horrors. She could hardly be more ignorant if she lived in a world without any modern communications.

She is completely sure of the virtuousness of young people like herself, and people like the fictional Alex and Robert. When the president at a bullfight in Valencia refused to award an ear or two to Roberto, despite his performance, the 'younger crowd' in the audience, 'now energized and defiant. They were upset with the president of the plaza for withholding the trophy. It was an insult to their generation, they thought. Fuck Valencia! they texted each other on their cellphones. They don't know shit!' Of Alex and Robert: 'Separated by the Atlantic Ocean, they’ll rely on Twitter, Facebook, and SMS to forge a glorious alliance against parents and the limitations of their respective societies.'

This is yet another reminder that any feminist view that female insights, opinions and arguments are superior to male insights, opinions and arguments is hopelessly crude and is vulnerable to the obvious objection  that female views are in conflict, just like male views. On the subject of the social media, this is Melanie Philips, writing in 'The Daily Mail. This view, which I share, is far from being obscure, of course.

 'With single Tweets sometimes reaching thousands or even tens of thousands of people, someone’s character can be falsely assassinated and their reputation shredded across the world in a matter of seconds. It is the verbal equivalent of a dirty bomb.

 'Such fabrications, fantasies and  falsehoods take on a life of their own  and can come to represent a settled  view which, despite being without any foundation whatever, starts to supplant reality altogether.

 'The internet has also unleashed  something profoundly evil in the human psyche. On Twitter, Facebook and website chat-lines, insults, obscenities and  death threats abound. Sportsmen have deleted their Twitter accounts after being deluged by torrents of insults, threats and racist abuse.


'What is so astounding is the combination in such attacks of sheer unadulterated viciousness and total, out-to-lunch bonkersness. It’s a bit like an online version of being attacked at random in the street by a psychotic who hasn’t taken his medication.

 'One journalist told yesterday of how, after writing a column criticising cyclists for their behaviour, she received death threats, vile insults and obscene abuse. Cyclists! Who knew?

 'I myself have been the target of this kind of online witch-hunt for years, with lies and distortions making me out to be some kind of ultra-extremist fruitcake on the fringes of society itself — an impression spread by people repeating such drivel on the internet even though they may boast they have not have read a word of what I have actually written.


 'Abuse of the kind that has been hurled at me displays pathological hatred and aggression with epithets such as ‘Kill yourself you ****’, ‘Throw her in the Thames’, and ‘Go and suck a tail pipe, get cancer, GET RAN OVER BY A TRAIN. I hope your ******* house burns down’.

 'What is even more awful is that people who have experienced serious illness or personal tragedy, or exhibit some disability or other vulnerability, attract some of the most vicious abuse. The internet has provided rocket-fuel for sadism.

 'Because it gives everyone a virtual soapbox, it has provided every crank, inadequate and bully with the means to turn into instant celebrities. And the scope for anonymity means people can say whatever they like with impunity.

 'Not only Twitter but other social media and internet sites have unleashed cyber-bullying. As teachers have warned, sites such as Facebook encourage teenage girls to post nasty comments about each other because these domains desensitise girls to the effects on others of what they might say or do.'

 Even though her Website presents her as a modern young woman with a laptop, I'd unhesitatingly describe the bullfighter Noelia Mota as barbaric. Wena Poon writes that there's 'no excuse for denouncing what we do not understand.' She would take that to include Noelia Mota and other bullfighters. Alex y Robert contains this: 'To the dismay of animal rights grops, the interest in girl matadors - and by the same token, in bullfights in general - began spreading like wildfire on social networking sites.'  If it spreads 'like wildfire on social networking sites,' it must be good. To confirm the unquestionable truth of all this, 'Fashion designers took interest.'

This is what Alex is described as writing to Robert (his replies not quoted here).

'So, you know how when you come out to the bullring before a fight, all the women fans outside the gate go crazy and they grab you and kiss you.

Do you kiss them back?

Just curious. Why not?

Oh. So, when I become a matador, when I show up at the bullring, are the men gonna grab me and kiss me the same way?

I think it would be cool. I mean, it might be kinda gross, you know, because of H1N1. But if I get mobbed in the same way, and all these cute guys scream and hug and kiss me, I could get used to it.


I want to be famous so that cute guys are fainting at the sight of me. That would really be the apogee of woman matador achievement.

I want to email one of the girl novilleros and ask them if guys kiss them.

That's all. Thanks. Goodnight.

Weena Poon's complacency seems to be limitless. The smugness and stupidity of some of the people who reviewed the book seem to be limitless. Particularly noteworthy is 'Pam Reader' (real name: Pam McIllroy) of Nottingham, whose review can be found on the site www [dot] pamreader [dot] co [dot] uk She describes herself as 'creative and organised.' Pam Reader shares Wena Poon's almost unlimited faith in 'social media.' (This is still an age of gullible faith, even if the objects of faith are very different.) If she uses twitter so much, how can she not be exciting and scintillating?

After wading through quite a bit of her work, I'd ask, where are the creative bits exactly? Or is it all meant to be creative? Perhaps she believes that cliched writing can be creative too. Extracts from another review: 'Lets face it, the main character ...' and 'she has done a great job in my opinion.'

In her poor pieces (such as her review of 'Alex y Robert')  Pam Reader/Pam McIllroy is what I'd call a 'Pot Noodle Writer.' For the benefit of readers in countries where Pot Noodles aren't available:



A Pot Noodle Writer provides an instant snack, with plenty of spicy, synthetic flavouring, or a trace at least.  Proper food needs far more care and effort.

Pam Reader's worldview has many differences from Wena Poon's, but they share some of the same dismal outlook. From Pam Reader's review of 'Alex y Robert:'

'This book explores the history of bullfighting, from skill of the Matadors to the prejudice against women in the bullring ... Alex instinctively knows she has inherited the ability to fight bulls, but even her own family conspires to keep her out of the ring. Raised in America she dreams of travelling to Spain and fulfilling her dreams ... Robert walks away from his heritage ... Finally, you're deafened by the roar of the crowd, then stunned by the salty blood of the bull that splatters against your lips as it succumbs to the Matador's blade.'

I don't equate stoning a woman to death for adultery and bullfighting in the least - they're very, very different forms of violence -  but I'd suggest that a visceral, physical style of writing, which Pam Reader obviously likes so much, can be used to justify any form of violence, as in this hypothetical account: 'Finally, you're deafened by the roar of the crowd, then stunned by the salty blood of the girl that splatters against your lips as she succumbs to the stones they throw.'

She mentions that the novel includes 'the controversy that surrounds bulls being killed for sport' but the 'controversy' is only mentioned in passing, in various places - the novel is dominated by a very different perspective. Pam Reader is making  the usual token attempt at a balanced viewpoint. Nobody who loathes bullfighting, nobody who wants to see bullfighting banned, could possibly write of 'the prejudice against women in the bullring.'

On my page Seamus Heaney: ethical depth i explore a linkage which isn't a very distant one, between bullfighting and the blood lust at the Colossseum:
Seamus Heaney describes his emotions at a bullfight:

' 'But gradually, I would find myself in a kind of trance: the choreography in the ring and the surge and response of the crowd with the music going on and on just carried you away. And your focus stayed tight on the man and the bull. There was something hypnotic about the cloak-work ... Once you've been there, you're implicated, you have some inkling of what it must have been like in the Colosseum.'

'No great ethical depth would be needed to reject the killing in the Colosseum. Would Seamus Heaney not even have the ethical depth to reject the killing of the Roman arenas? He'd be 'carried away' by 'the surge and response of the crowd?' His focus would stay tight on one man trying to kill another man, or one man trying to kill an elephant, in the case of the animal 'games,' or on Christians being torn apart? There would be something hypnotic about the work of the man with the net swinging the net and trying to trap the other gladiator and then stab him with his spear? He would have watched blood pouring onto the sand of the arena, intestines pouring onto the sand of the arena, wounded gladiators frantically begging for mercy, wounded gladiators having their throat cut after being refused mercy, women fighting, women torn apart, elephants speared - in a trance? Not everyone would have been 'implicated' in all this, not in the least, not everyone would have been without outrage and disgust.'

Seamus Heaney was experiencing a kind of blood-lust, surely, and Pam Reader experienced a kind of blood-lust too, a vicarious, less culpable but still discreditable  reader's blood-lust.

Social media can be used for any purposes, including holocaust denial, calls to behead unbelievers and calls to stone women for adultery. Nobody should get too excited about the limitless possibilities of the social media. In 'Alex y Robert, the social media are used, completely uncritically, for a very different purpose.

Pam Redar writes, 'Alex y Robert is the first book I've come across that integrates social media into the story telling ...  It ... weaves one of the oldest skills in the world - bullfighting, with one of the newest skills - social networking. One of the most exciting moments for me in this book was in the build up to an extraordinary bullfight. Poon has written the entire sequence in twitter posts and it reads like the real thing.'

Wena Poon is writing a sequel to 'Alex y Robert.' She could consider writing a second sequel on something like these lines. It would make it even clearer, I think, how stupid and disturbing is the author's project. Wena Poon comes from Singapore, where the gallows is actively used. If she were to write a novel called 'Hangman and  Hangwoman' it might tell the story of a young American woman whose grandfather was a hangman in Singapore and who is determined to hang people herself, to show that women can hang people just as well as men. When she was five years old, at a Halloween party, where some of the other children are dressed up as devils, she takes a noose and plays at hanging some of her dolls. On a visit to Singapore, she attracts the attention of the hangman and takes lessons from him. Back home in the United States, they exchange texts or phone each other on cellphones every day. Eg (aspiring hangwoman first):

It's kinda hot here.

  It's kinda hot here too.

Hotter than here?

  Sure, much hotter.

Whaddya say to this? I know the tables by heart!

   OK. What are two times two?

Not those tables, stoopid! The table of drops!

     I know, I know. What do the tables say you should give a guy, 158 pounds but big, broad neck, like a bull?

Eight feet six inches.

     Wow! This is something else! What about a small chick, 100 pounds, nice trim, slender neck?

Ten feet nine inches.

     Easy there! You don't want to tear her head off! Better make it 10 feet, no more.

Won't that just strangle her? It's kinda really uncool, to go down and pull on her legs and stuff!

     No way. Just trust me.

You're my hanging guru!

       Read those books I sent you? 'Executioner Pierrepoint' is a MUST READ! One hell of a biography!

Thanks, but no thanks. I thought I told you, I never read books. I borrowed a DVD, though. Pierrepoint -  his wife was a door-mat, completely unliberated.

     The book wasn't written by Pierrepoint himself. The guy who wrote the screenplay for 'Those Incredible Men in their Flying Machines' wrote it. Used the pen-name 'Albert Pierrepoint.'

Men!' He ought to have liberated his language! As for Pierrepoint, I don't want to imitate him. Women who imitate men are lacking in ambition. He hanged hundreds. I want to hang thousands. Do you like do-nuts? Do you like popcorn?

   I love do-nuts and popcorn.

I've got to go charge my cellphone now.

In an amazing development, the hanging guru is caught at the Singapore international airport with marijuana in his suitcase and sentenced to death. (Singapore is really hard on drugs.) His post becomes vacant. She's determined to fight for her right to hang people, even if it means hanging him. She starts a social media campaign and - it goes viral! Hundreds of thousands of people use Twitter and Facebook to attack 'The Male Dinosaurs.' Examples:

This ain't the Middle Ages! Women can hang people too!

21st century executioners for 21st century society!!

Singapore sucks!!!!!!

Gallows babe - go for it!!

How come Texas nurses can give injections but not lethal injections at Huntsville? This is plain WRONG!

The authorities give way and she lands the executioner's job. Her first client is the hanging guru himself.

A moon loomed low and large, the reassuring bulk of the jail  bleached in moonlight. There was a deluge of heat, a downpour. She was carrying a bag but the tools of her trade were already there waiting. Waiting too was the man who would require her attention the next day

He is carried to the gallows and seated on a hanging chair, since he cannot stand. A last tear rolls down his cheek. She looks at him coldly, says nothing, puts the hood over his head, puts the noose round his neck and pulls the lever. Duty done. The spectators are all  wildly enthusiastic: 'The entire execution chamber burst into riotous clamor. A number of loud verbal opinions rang out in the night.' She wipes away a small tear from her own cheek, feels momentary shame about this momentary failure in  professionalism, and checks the messages on her cellphone.

Opposition to the death penalty in Singapore: www.thinkcentre.org I've had material published on  the Website.

Miriam González Durántez and Nick Clegg

I stress that I've no information about the attitude of Miriam González Durántez to bullfighting. Many Spanish people of course are opposed to bullfighting.

Miriam González Durántez is the wife of the British politician Nick Clegg, also a feminist. Here, I put Nick Clegg in second place and  I give much less space to him than to her. As feminists, they shouldn't find this unfair.

She's the founder of the campaign 'Inspiring Women.' It's likely that there won't be many girls in this country who have aspirations to become a bullfighter, but she's Spanish, and bullfighting is deeply entrenched in Spanish society. In Spain, there are girls who aspire to become bullfighters and do become bullfighters. It may be difficult,  it may be acutely embarrassing for her to do it, but it's reasonable to expect her to make her views known on this issue. Is she fearless and strong, or will she be evasive and weak? Miriam González Durántez, a direct question for you to answer - if you're able - do you think that girls in Spain should be inspired to fight bulls or not? Frank Evans is an Englishman who became a bullfighter. W. Would you encourage young British women to 'fight sexism' and to become bullfighters too?

The previous section of this page Women and bullfighting, 'sexism' and cruelty  will be very uncomfortable reading for Miriam González Durántez. It includes this, on a female bullfighter. Like Miriam González Durántez, she wants to inspire girls:

'Karla Sanchez San Martin, a female bullfighter, has said that 'she  wants to inspire girls to fight sexism wherever it occurs, as it is something she still faces in her chosen career.' ('The Indepenendent,' 4 January 2015.)'

What does Miriam González Durántez make of this? Does she think that Karla Sanchez San Martin is an inspiring 'role model' or someone who inflicts gross cruelty?

What does she think of this, from the same section of the page on bullfighting?

'There are feminists who would claim that the Spanish bullfighter Noelia Mota has faced hideous sexism during her career. More importantly, infinitely more importantly, Noelia Mota has inflicted hideous cruelty during her career. Watching this film should leave not the slightest doubt:


The magazine 'Marie Claire' has published an article by Julia Savacool on women bullfighters,


'Killing a large woolly [?] mammal does not top most women's wish lists, but Ana Infante, in her mid-20s, has been training as a bullfighter since age 13. Gender is no obstacle. "The bull doesn't ask what sex someone is," she says. "He just wants respect.'

Most readers of this article are unlikely to have the slightest conception of what this killing involves. My page on bullfighting gives some idea of the grotesque cruelty of the killing (cruelties inflicted on the horses in the bullring are discussed in a separate section).

An article in the 'Daily Mail,' on talking at the table after the meal has been finished in the Miriam González Durántez (and Nick Clegg) household:

'We do not even have to care too much about any subject, the key is just to disagree: from heated discussions about politics to the pros and cons of bullfighting ... ' Is bullfighting a subject you don't care too much about? Do you support bullfighting? If you strongly opposed bullfighting, it's unlikely that you would have written in this way.

In another article published in 'Marie Claire'


Miriam González Durántez gives a short outline of her beliefs: 

‘I’m a feminist because I believe that men and women are equal and we all have the same right to do as we like with our lives.’

Do we all have the same right to do as we like with our lives? Has she given any thought to the implications of this naive and superficial and simple-minded claim and disastrously misguided view? Can't she think of some possible objections? There are so many possible objections - including the claim that the choice of these women bullfighters should not be supported by anyone with a conscience.

There's no universal human right that people should be able to do whatevr they want with their lives - otherwise, there'd be no objection to the women who chose to become guards at the Auschwitz and Belsen camps.

From my page on bullfighting,

'The bull is never wounded and killed under controlled conditions. Whatever the intention, the lance of the picador, the banderillas and the sword regularly penetrate flesh not at all near the targetted area. The picador's horse may be about to fall as the bull's massive weight charges into it, the lance may sever an artery and blood pulses out. Hemingway mentions the fact that the bull 'may be ruined by a banderillero nailing the banderillas into a wound made by the picador, driving them in so deep that the shafts stick up straight.' When blood pours out of the mouth and nose of the bull, which is often, the sword has failed to cut the aorta (the heart is out of reach of the sword.)

When the bull is about to be killed, it will already have had its back torn open by the lance of the picador and will already have had its back lacerated repeatedly by the barbed banderillas. By the time of the sword thrust supposed to kill the bull, the bull will have two or three stab wounds inflicted by the picadors and six stab wounds from the banderillas.

The sword often hits bone, or goes deep into the animal but fails to kill. The bull, staggering, still alive and conscious, with the sword embedded in its body - this is far more common than an instantaneous death. A report by Tristan Wood in 'La Divisa,' the journal of the 'Club Taurino' of London, on the bullfighter Miguel Abellán: ' ... an excellent faena of serious toreo, only for its impact to be dissipated by four swordthrusts.' The excellence and seriousness found here are surely only an aesthete's response.

In the same set of reports, on the bullfighter Morante de la Puebla: 'the  swordwork was very protracted.' Or, alternatively, the bull died a very slow death.

From the gruesome, matter of fact accounts of bullfights on the site 'La Prensa San Diego'



'Capetillo received a difficult first bull and encountered big troubles at the supreme moment, requiring 12 entries with the sword.' 'Moment' is very badly chosen. The hideous writer is Lyn Sherwood.

Daniel Hannan, a Member of the European Parliament and devoted aficionado: 'After the banderillas, as the bull stood spurting fountains of blood ... ' there was  'a miserable excuse for a sword-thrust into the bull’s flank.' 

This shocking video shows  the bullfighter Antoni Losada stabbing a bull  with the 'killing sword' seven times in the bullring at Saint-Gilles, France.

After the 'killing sword' has been used to no effect, a different sword, the descabello, or a short knife, the puntilla, is used to stab the spine, often repeatedly.

Alexander Fiske-Harrison saw a bull stabbed three times with the 'killing sword' but still alive, and then stabbed repeatedly with the descabello. According to the  'bullfighting critic' of the newspaper 'El Mundo'  who counted the stabbings, the bull was stabbed in the spine seventeen times before it died. This experience had a lasting effect on his girlfriend, 'her perspective on bullfights changed for ever,' but Alexander Fiske-Harrison went on attending bullfights, went on to kill a bull himself and opposes the abolition of bullfighting.

From my critical review of A L Kennedy's On Bullfighting, quoting from the book. A L Kennedy is watching a bullfight at the most prominent of all bullrings, Las Ventas in Madrid:

' At the kill, the young man's sword hits bone, again and again and again while the silence presses down against him. He tries for the descabello. Five blows later and the animal finally falls.' The descabello, as the Glossary explains, is 'A heavy, straight sword' used to sever the spine.

' 'I have already watched Curro Romero refuse to have almost anything to do with his bull, never mind its horns. (The severely critical response of a member of the audience to a cowardly bull or a cowardly bullfighter.) He has killed his first with a blade placed so poorly that its tip protruded from the bull's flank...As the animal coughed up blood, staring, bemused, ['bemused?'] at each new flux the peones tried a rueda de peones to make the blade move in the bull's body and sever anything, anything at all that might be quickly fatal, but in the end the bull was finally, messily finished after three descabellos.'

'The suffering of the bull 'left, staggering and urinating helplessly, almost too weak to face the muleta' wasn't ended by a painless and instantaneous death: 'Contreras...misses the kill...Contreras tries again, hooking out the first sword with a new one ...Contreras finally gives the descabello.' So, the sword is embedded in the animal, the sword is pulled out and thrust into the animal yet again, but it's still very much alive, the ungrateful creature. The descabello is hard at work in this book. People who have the illusion that the 'moment of truth' amounts to a single sword-thrust and the immediate death of the bull are disabused of the notion here. More often, the moment of truth is hacking at the spine with the descabello.'

The cutting off of the bull's ears before it's dead - this is less common. What humanitarians these people are! They generally wait until the bull is dead before cutting off the ears! Not always, though. On occasion, they are impatient for some reason and can't wait.


From an article by Nicola Harley published in 'The Daily Telegraph,'


'T-shirts worn by Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and Harriet Harman celebrating feminism are allegedly being produced by poverty stricken migrant workers paid just 62p an hour.


The women making the t-shirts, which carry the slogan "This is what a feminist looks like", are being made in factories in Mauritius where the machinists are paid just 62p an hour, according to an investigation by the Mail On Sunday.

The paper says the women sleep 16 to a room and work 45 hour weeks earning the equivalent of just £120 a month.

The t-shirts retail in the UK at £45 and cost £9 to make.

One factory worker told the Mail On Sunday: "We do not see ourselves as feminists. We see ourselves as trapped."


It comes as Harriet Harman appeared on the front bench of Prime Minister's Questions wearing the controversial shirt.

Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg have both posed in the shirt, which is produced by Whistles on behalf of the Fawcett Society.


Fayzal Ally Beegun, president of the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers Union, told the paper: "The workers in this factory are treated very poorly and the fact that politicians in England are making a statement using these sweatshop t-shirts is appalling." '

Nick Clegg is an outspoken advocate for the Palestinian cause. I pointed out to him that some Palestinian attitudes are very, very troubling. Some Palestinian attitudes aren't in the least pro-feminist. I'm not a pro-feminist, obviously, but I oppose them unreservedly. I drew his attention to some findings, including these:

Hamas is a radical Islamist organization but a large section of Palestinian society has radical Islamist views. Percentages below are from the Pew Research Center's extensive surveys of attitudes in Islamic countries.

Stoning to death for adultery may not be practised in the Palestinian territories but 84% of Palestinians support the punishment. 

Homesexuality is punishable by imprisonment for up to ten years. 89% of people in the Palestinian territories believe that ‘homosexuality is morally wrong.'

Honour killings have increased dramatically in the Palestinian territories. The Palestinian Minister of Women's Affairs, Rabiha Diab, blamed Israel for the increase in honour killings. Claims to victimhood will do nothing to solve the problem.

The conviction that a woman must always obey her husband is widely held, with 87% support in the Palestinian territories.

There are no Pew Research Center results for the issue of wife-beating. A September 2002 poll of the 'Palestinian Center for Public Opinion' found that 59.9% of Palestinians 'believe that a man has the right to beat up his wife if she underestimates his manhood.'  

 Palestinian sanctions against women who have children out of wedlock can be severe. A Palestinian woman was sentenced to six years imprisonment for having an illegitimate child, whose formative years have now been spent in prison.

 Feminism and animals: the contracting circle

'He would just state one case which had occurred at the Westminster pit, it was a fight between an unlucky bear and a bull dog: the lower jaw of the bear was torn off, and he was then not killed and put out of pain, but allowed to languish in torment; the dog had its jugular artery cut, and died. The wretched animals that survived one combat were brought out month after month. He had seen one that had lived two years; its eyes were out, its lip torn off, and the keepers said that it was necessary to shoot it at last, as there was nothing left for the dogs to lay hold of.'

This is Richard Martin, speaking in a debate on 'bear baiting and other cruel sports' in the House of Commons (Hansard, HC Deb 26 February 1824 vol 10 cc485-96). The Cruelty to Animals Act of 1835 banned bear-baiting (bull-baiting had been banned in 1822.) The Act also furthered animal protection and humane treatment of animals in other ways.

Bear-baiting has a very long history in this country. Women as well as men went to see bears baited. Queen Elizabeth I had a passion for bear-baiting. On 36 occasions, she vetoed laws passed by Parliament, as in the case of a law passed in 1585 which prohibited hunting, cock-fighting and bear-baiting from taking place on Sundays.

Taking seriously the suffering of animals - those animals which can be regarded as  sentient beings - challenges the priorities of very many feminists: it becomes even harder to treat seriously the claim that women have a monopoly or near-monopoly of suffering and exploitation if the avoidable sufferings of animals are taken seriously. Very many of these suffering animals suffer in ways which are surely far more severe than the sufferings which are the staple of feminist claims. Feminists who mechanically divide humanity into the virtuous - women, such as Queen Elizabeth I - and the despotic - men, such as Richard Martin - have some explaining to do.

Mary Wollstonecraft advocated kind treatment for animals, as her 'Original Stories from Real Life' of 1788 makes clear, but her advocacy was vague and sentimental. She devoted none of her time and energy to opposing bear-baiting or any other form of animal cruelty.

The campaign against the fur trade in this country tested the priorities of very many feminists. Wearers of fur were overwhelmingly women and criticism of the fur trade entailed criticism of women. The most energetic and determined campaigning organization at the time was 'Lynx,' founded by Lynne Kentish and Mark Glover. Lynx had no hesitation in criticizing women in its poster campaign. It organized large-scale events in which women models took part. Lynx was accused of 'sexism' by feminists. At one of the events I attended, there was a protest by feminists outside the hall, although not many of them - a man and a woman. No matter what the issue, there are feminists who will automatically give precedence to the feminist 'perspective.'

I played a part in this campaign - and other campaigns concerned with other aspects of animal welfare: Animal welfare: arrest and activism. From this page, in connection with the book 'Facts about Furs,' by Greta Nilsson and others:

'The images in the book are shocking, but the book doesn't make the mistake of suggesting that an image can be any substitute for rational argument, the presentation of evidence, although now, when I'm no longer involved in the struggle to end the fur trade, the images do linger in the mind particularly. Above all, the images which show the cruelties of the leghold trap (banned in this country in 1958 but still permitted in most American states and Canada): a beaver which chewed off both its front paws to escape the leghold trap, a raccoon hanging by one leg from a trap, a large hole dug by a badger trying to escape a leghold trap, a coyote dead of apparent starvation in a trap, an animal with all its teeth broken, its jaw bone eroded in the struggle to escape, a golden eagle, a swan and many pets caught, losing limbs or their lives, a bobcat with protruding bones, a trapper killing a coyote by trampling on it. Methods of killing trapped animals aren't regulated in most American states. The cruelties involved in farmed fur are less obvious but real - keeping animals in barren cages until the time comes for their asphyxiation, and all for a completely unnecessary product.'

I've taken part in the campaign to end the battery cage over a long period of time. The life of the battery chicken is  extreme in its deprivation and suffering, of course - the chicken given a space about the size of an A4 sheet of paper, unable to extend a wing, often debeaked to prevent it pecking the other chickens in the cage out of frustration, given no veterinary treatment.

When feminists claim that nobody is as exploited as a woman - a gross falsification applied to people, What if the circle is expanded? Are women the most exploited of sentient beings? Are well-off women, are women in middling circumstances, who buy battery chicken eggs to be pitied for their sufferings?

 Feminists in general approve of higher standards of animal welfare. (I don't explain here my preference for 'animal welfare' rather than 'animal rights.') Some feminists actively campaign for animal welfare. There are many feminist vegetarians and vegans. But there are many feminists who claim that women's degree of exploitation is unique: they are badly mistaken.

'Expanding the circle' is a phrase coined by William Lecky, an Irish writer. In a book published in 1869, he wrote, 'At one time the benevolent affections embrace merely the family, soon the circle expanding includes first a class, then nation, then a coalition of nations, then all humanity and finally, its influence is felt in the dealings of man with the animal world.'

If feminists favour the extension of compassion to animals, there are many of them who are unwilling to overlook the fact that it was a man who wrote these words and who are less interested in the expanding circle than in denouncing the blatant 'sexism' of 'man' in 'the dealings of man.'

The philosopher Peter Singer's influence on animal welfare has been immense. His book 'Animal Liberation' described the sufferings of animals in harrowing detail and gave impetus to the campaign to reduce it. The title of his book 'The Expanding Circle'  follows Lecky. Both Lecky and Singer, to the most uncompromising feminists, are exploiters themselves, with the mentality of rapists.

So is the philosopher Jeremy Bentham, to these people, even though he advocated women's suffrage, long before the suffragettes and in advance of Mary Wollstonecraft, and other women's causes. He saw animals as sentient beings and  wrote powerfully on behalf of animal rights. His breadth can be contrasted with the narrowness of so many feminists, their lack of concern for any people, for any sentient beings, other than women (with the emphasis on the interests of feminists). He wrote,

'The day may come when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those rights which never could have been witholden from them but by the hand of tyranny. The French have already discovered that the blackness of the skin is no reason a human being should be abandoned without redress to the caprice of a tormentor. It may one day come to be recognised that the number of the legs, the villosity  of the skin, or the termination of the os sacrum   are reasons equally insufficient for abandoning a sensitive being to the same fate. What else is it that should trace the insuperable line? Is it the faculty of reason or perhaps the faculty of discourse?  But a full-grown horse or dog, is beyond comparison a more rational, as well as a more conversable animal, than an infant of a day or a week or even a month, old. But suppose the case were otherwise, what would it avail? The question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?'

These claims have become very, very influential in moral philosophy. The philosopher J L Mackie, for example - who criticizes utilitarian thought, particularly act utilitarianism, writes, 'A human disposition is a vital part of the core of morality ...  Such a disposition, if it exists, naturally manifests itself in hostility to and disgust at cruelty and in sympathy with pain and suffering wherever they occur.' This includes the suffering of animals: ' ... we cannot be callous and indifferent, let alone actively cruel ... towards non-human animals.'  ('Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong'. Chapter 8: Practical morality, section 8: Extensions of morality.)

Peter Singer failed to take into account some difficulties in expanding the circle of moral concern. Its expansion weakens feminism's claims to a monopoly or near-monopoly of exploitation, or at least shifts attention from these claims.

A feminist who conceded that the suffering of a battery chicken is greater than that of a very prosperous woman with many, many advantages, forced to live in a liberal democracy which she interprets as 'sexist' and who was determined to act against might, hypothetically, go on to formulate a 'gender-based animal rights programme.' This would be disastrously misguided.

She (or he - after all, there are males who advocate feminist ideology) might advocate vigorous campaigning against the factory farming of battery chickens, female, but not against the factory farming of male chickens reared for their meat. She, or he, would campaign against the confinement of cows in 'zero grazing' systems, in which cows are confined indoors for life, with no access to fields, but not against systems which cause suffering to the males of the species. The female calves born to cows have value for milk production, but not the male calves. In many, countries, the male calves are confined to veal crates, without even the comfort of bedding, without even the opportunity to turn round. Cows are occasionally used in bullfights. The feminist would oppose these bullfights, but not the usual kind, in which only the males, the bulls, are repeatedly stabbed before killing them.

Lisa Kemmerer, of Montana State University Billings - someone whose delusions it would take a very long time to discuss - does mention on her Website


'Sister Species explores the relationships between various forms of oppression, highlighting similarities between the exploitation of female humans and the exploitation of female nonhumans.' What her attitude is towards bullfighting I'm not sure. Bulls are perhaps viewed as inconvenient for her theory.

For more on Lisa Kemmerer's vegan views, see my page Veganism: arguments against.

The morality of this hypothetical programme, the moral depth of this hypothetical programme, is obviously subject to severe {restriction}. Almost always, animal welfare activists, and those who call themselves animal rights activists, aren't guided by considerations like these. Sentient beings capable of suffering are the subject of their concern, not the suffering of a gender. Those people who give most of their time and energy to ending the gross abuse of battery chickens aren't oblivious to the suffering of male animals.

In attacking human suffering, a 'gender-based' approach would usually be just as limited as in this hypothetical example. To cite examples which are mentioned on this page, slavery and serfdom were opposed and ended by people who recognized the suffering of male and female slaves, the death penalty has been opposed, and ended, in the majority of the countries of the world, by people who recognized the suffering of male and female prisoners under sentence of death and their suffering, so often, during the process of execution. 

Troubled relationships

Some poems of mine on the subject, from the page Poems in Large Page Design.

All of these poems were written with a relationship between a man and a woman in mind, although now that they are in the public domain, some of them can be read as referring to two people of the same sex. They were written at a difficult time and are obviously very bleak poems but none of them reflect my personal circumstances. This isn't autobiographical poetry and it isn't thesis poetry It doesn't reflect my anti-feminist views, I would think, although feminist critics who have unrivalled sensitivity in the detection of 'sexism' (without necessarily having great sensitivity in other areas) might well think differently.

Bonds: famine, families, Sophie Scholl, mining, happiness

Linkages include bonds, including the bonds formed by bitter experience. Often, these tie men and women together far more closely than the ties of men to other men and women to other women. Radical feminists isolate linkages between women, they treat the linkage of 'gender' as always the most important. Often, this amounts to a complete distortion. A feminist who claims or assumes that she's speaking for 'women' is more often than not speaking for women similar to herself, not women whose experiences are vastly different.

There are many communities with relative unity of outlook and feeling. Feminists outside those communities aren't speaking for women within those communities. Usually, they have not the least conception of the difficulties they face. The women whose husbands or partners go to fight in Afghanistan won't take seriously the idea that these husbands or partners are oppressors. The inconvenient fact, for feminists, is that these soldiers are doing a very great deal for women, facing risks of course beyond the experience of most Western feminists. See also the next section, Feminism and the Taliban.

'By the waters of Doo Lough we lay down and slept'

During The Great Famine in Ireland, six hundred starving men, women and children walked from Louisburgh in County Mayo to Delphi Lodge to ask, unsuccessfully, for famine relief. Many of them died on the way back, below the stark mountains which overlook Doo Lough. Searing experiences such as these establish linkages which are vastly more significant than any linkage between a starving woman and a prosperous woman, or between a starving man and a prosperous man.

The linkages between Sophie Scholl and her brother Hans - they were guillotined by the Nazis on the same day for membership of the White Rose group, which protested against the Nazis - were far more significant than the linkage of gender between Sophie Scholl and the wife of Goebbels or the linkage of gender between Hans Scholl and Goebbels.

I quote from the account given in William L Shirer's 'The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich:'

'The University of Munich, the city that had given birth to Nazism, became the hotbed of student revolt. It was led by a twenty-five year-old medical student, Hans Scholl, and his twenty-one-year-old sister Sophie, who was studying biology. Their mentor was Kurt Huber, a professor of philosophy. By means of what became known as the 'White Rose Letters' they carried out their anti-Nazi propaganda in other universities; they were also in touch with the plotters in Berlin.'

'...the students, led by the Scholls, began to distribute pamphlets calling on German youth to rise. On February 19 a building superintendent observed Hans and Sophie Scholl hurling their leaflets from the balcony of the university and betrayed them to the Gestapo.'

'Their end was quick and barbaric. Haled before the dreaded People's Court, which was presided over by its president, Roland Freisler...they were found guilty of treason and condemned to death. Sophie Scholl was handled so roughly during her interrogation by the Gestapo that she appeared in court with a broken leg. But her spirit was undimmed. To Freisler's savage browbeating she answered calmly, 'You know as well as we do that the war is lost. Why are you so cowardly that you won't admit it?'

She hobbled on her crutches to the scaffold and died with sublime courage, as did her brother. Professor Huber and several other students were executed a few days later.'

There are photographs of the female camp guards and the male camp guards taken after the liberation of Belsen concentration camp. One of them is shown in Tom Bower's 'Blind Eye to Murder,' which is about the failure of Britain and America to prosecute Nazi war crimes effectively, except in limited cases. Anne Frank died at Belsen. Any bonds of gender between Anne Frank and the female guards are irrelevant. Feminism is irrelevant here.

To return to coal-mining, women worked in the mines in this country until the passing of the Mines Act in 1842. The men and the women working underground had this in common: they did backbreaking work in complete or almost complete darkness, breathing in coal dust, constantly at risk of severe injury or death by explosion, crushing or drowning. These linkages were vastly more significant than the linkage between the women toiling in the mines and the wife of a colliery owner or an aristocratic woman. During the last miners' strike in this country, there were linkages between the miners' wives and Mrs Thatcher based on gender, but the linkages based on shared hardships in the mining communities were far more significant.

There was no linkage of sympathy and empathy between a woman novelist, George Eliot, and the miners, including the miners' wives. 'George Eliot's approach in her novel Felix Holt the Radical is reasonably typical. She introduces the miners into the story as an ignorant mob, preyed on by every kind of agitator, frequently drunk and often riotous. Although they play an important role, they never emerge as characters nor do we ever learn anything about either their work or their lives away from work.' ('The Miners.') The miners and their wives had bonds, George Eliot had no bonds with the miners' wives except 'gender,' which radical feminists would count as the most important bond of all.

An extract from Anthony Burton's 'The Miners' about the rescue of five men trapped underground at Tynewydd Pit in 1877, to illustrate not just these bonds but the heroism of the rescuers - these men, like other men, would be dismissed as 'useless' or 'no more than rapists' by lunatic feminists - of whom there are many. The rescue was the subject of a book by an eyewitness, Charles Williams, 'Buried Alive!'

'Between the rescuers and the trapped men there was a 38-yard barrier of coal, which could only be approached down roadways turned into a vast underground sea. The alternative was to try and reach them through the main floodwater, and divers came who volunteered to attempt to travel the 257 yards of passages flooded from floor to ceiling. They tried and failed. It was clear that if there was to be a rescue, then a way would have to be forced through the coal barrier ...'

[After many difficult operations, complicated by gas seeping into the workings] 'All through the rescue operation, the men kept continuously at the task ... They worked under the double threat of inundation or explosion, but no one hesitated ... on the Friday, the attempt was made. The coal-face was broken in, gas and air rushed out like a hurricane, and, before the waters could fill their refuge, the five prisoners were pulled to safety.

'The Tynewydd accident was not exceptionally bad, nor the rescue exceptionally heroic: it is mainly notable for having been so carefully recorded. But death and injury were familiar enough in every mining village, and the endurance, the carelessness of danger shown by the rescuers, were repeated a hundredfold with no one on hand to record them. Although Williams hardly mentions it, this common experience of sharing hardship, of facing death, drew the mining community together by uniquely strong bonds. when the news of a pit accident reached the village, everyone felt it as a personal disaster. Each wife knew that her husband or her sons stood in the same danger. So too, the rescuers were working to save friends and relations. These strong bonds were reinforced by the nature of the mining village and its community. They were isolated, with the mine often the only source of employment. Miners, looked upon almost as a race apart, ignored by the rest of the world, were content to draw inwards, to make their own lives. Probably only the fishing villages, which shared the same sense of isolation and shared danger and loss, could show a comparable unity of outlook and feeling.'

Happiness and unhappiness are different communities of feeling. Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote in Proposition 6.43 of the 'Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus,' 'Die Welt des Glücklichen ist eine andere als die des Unglücklichen.' C K Ogden translates this, accurately but not gracefully, as 'The world of the happy is quite another than that of the unhappy.' I would give this as one interpretation, which of course leaves out all the possible reasons for being happy or unhappy:

'The world of the happy woman is different from the world of the unhappy woman. The world of the unhappy woman is similar to the world of the unhappy man.'

Feminism, the Taliban and the shooting of schoolgirls


A British soldier conducting security operations as a new turbine is brought from Kandahar Airfield to the Kajaki Dam, Helmand Province, Afghanistan

To expect British  feminists of a certain kind - the predominant kind - to admire the courage of British armed forces in Afghanistan would be asking the impossible.  To expect these feminists to admire and put on record their admiration for the courage of women members of the armed forces serving in Afghanistan is asking too much.

Some instances of harsh reality are freely discussed and condemned, such as the domestic violence of men against women (but not the violence of women against men - that particular demonstrable fact goes unexamined, the arguments of anti-feminists which point it out go unanswered.)

Will feminists whose main concern is 'sexism' in this country, including the sexism faced by women who are pampered, be able to maintain their self-image much longer if they go on ignoring  a wider world of harshness?

Malala Yousafzai, 14 years old, was shot in the head by the Taliban for espousing secular values. The incident  should have aroused an upsurge of comment in feminist blogs and websites throughout the world, including ones where the focus of attention is 'patronising language' and similar issues - or if not this incident, others which are similar.

This is from the BBC's account:  

'Miss Yousafzai came to public attention in 2009 by writing a diary for BBC Urdu   about life under Taliban militants who had taken control of the valley.

'She earned the admiration of many across Pakistan for her courage in speaking out about life under the rule of Taliban militants, correspondents say.

'She was just 11 when she started her diary, two years after the Taliban took over the Swat Valley and ordered girls' schools to close.

'The group captured the Swat Valley in late 2007 and remained in de facto control until they were driven out by Pakistani military forces during an offensive in 2009.

'While in power they closed girls' schools, promulgated Sharia law and introduced measures such as banning the playing of music in cars.

'In the diary, written under the pen-name Gul Makai for the BBC's Urdu service, she exposed the suffering caused by the militants.

'Her identity emerged after the Taliban were driven out of Swat and she later won a national award for bravery, while being nominated for an international children's peace award.

'Since the Taliban were ejected, there have been isolated militant attacks in Swat but the region has largely remained stable and many of the thousands of people who fled during the Taliban years have returned.'

The Taliban were driven out of the Swat valley, of course, by military action.

A simple, direct question for radical feminists. Should Western military action in Afghanistan continue or be ended as soon as possible? Bear this in mind:

Under the Taliban, 4 - 5% of Afghan children received primary education, virtually none of them girls. Now, about half of Afghan children do, about a third of them girls. If the Taliban can be driven out of the areas they still control - by the use of military force, unless radical feminist have a better idea - then the number of girls being educated will rise. If Western armed forces are withdrawn before the Afghan forces are ready, then the Taliban will surely defeat the Afghan armed forces. (But radical feminists may well view the Afghan army, like the coalition forces, as one more manifestation of 'patriarchy.' They are paying a heavy price. At least 616 Afghan national army members were killed in a two month period in 2012.) If the Taliban take control of Afghanistan, then the plight of girls and women (and males) will be extreme. As it is, the Taliban burn school books, bomb schools, murder teachers and plant bombs that kill civilians. The number of civilians killed unintentionally by coalition troops is vastly exceeded by the number of civilians killed by the Taliban.

Radical feminists prefer posturing and  pontificating, are fond of  quoting, some of them, Hélène Cixous or Judith Butler or other feminist luminaries, like the sound of   like 'logocentric' and 'phallogocentric' (see my discussion of Fran Brearton) - far more pleasant and congenial activities than answering legitimate objections, accounting for inconvenient facts, engaging with reality, which is so much harsher and so much more unfair than they suppose, no more designed to fit radical feminist conceptions than Christian ones.

Whether it was advisable or not to go into Afghanistan in the first place is a separate issue. The case for intervention is much stronger than is often supposed. As a matter of strict fact, Western armies were engaged there.

I see every reason why radical feminists should be intensely grateful to these soldiers, whose achievement is all the greater if we remember the massive dangers they face, but of course there isn't the least chance that they will be grateful. But to repeat the question, should Western military action in Afghanistan continue or be ended as soon as possible?

Faced by a situation of extreme difficulty, asked to state how they would resolve the difficulty, if that is possible at all, or how they would at least make it less extreme - lessen its harshness - ideologists often make use of a simple tactic - why, if people had only followed our beliefs, they claim, the difficulty would never have occurred in the first place! So, many vegan ideologists show no interest in opposing factory farming of animals. If people had only followed a vegan diet, there would be no factory farming of animals, or any farming of animals for that matter. If the world would only listen to feminists, there would be no such thing as injustice and barbarity. (But it's highly likely that a vegan feminist world - a complete impossibility, surely - would never have developed the heavy lifting machinery to help people trapped under fallen buildings after an earthquake, or the lorries and helicopters to bring aid to earthquake victims. I give earthquake victims as an example because earthquakes are one catastrophe, which have killed millions, for which even feminists can't hold patriarchy responsible.) The solving of such technical problems isn't in general uppermost in the minds of feminists and vegans.

This was long before the British army went to Afghanistan, but some feminist graffiti which appeared on the walls of the army barracks near here typify the glibness, superficiality, simple-mindedness of radical feminists: 'All war is war on women.' 'War - men make it, women take it.' 'Take the toys from the boys.' When they write at enormous length, the writing isn't always less glib, superficial and simple-minded.

At the time of the graffiti, the most recent operation of the British army had been the one in Northern Ireland. I discuss the British army and terrorism in connection with Seamus Heaney's 'The Toome Road.' Before that, there was the British army's part in defeating fascism, with weapons, of course, not 'toys.' Radical feminists would do well to refresh their memory on such matters as Nazism and the Holocaust by reading some histories of the subject. Fran Brearton's glib comment on the 'emasculation' of British soldiers becomes much worse than glib in the context of The Second World War. I discuss it in the link above.

As a matter of strict fact - although radical feminists show few signs of caring very much for the world of strict facts - men have 'taken it' very, very often in war, if the number of casualties is any criterion, and it is. The name of the barracks is a reminder of that: 'The Somme Barracks.'

The Taliban have been shooting other schoolgirls. Schoolgirls helping with the campaign to eradicate polio in Pakistan by vaccination have been killed, along with adult workers. Feminists who say that all men are useless would do well to consider the case of Jonas Salk, the American medical researcher who developed the first polio vaccine. If gratitude to such benefactors is out of the question, they might just be able to modify their inhuman and inhumane stupidity, which treats the conquerors of infectious disease as simply agents of patriarchy, or even would-be rapists. This is from the Wikipedia entry for Jonas Salk:

'Until 1955, when the Salk vaccine was introduced, polio was considered the most frightening public health problem of the post-war United States. Annual epidemics were increasingly devastating. The 1952 epidemic was the worst outbreak in the nation's history. Of nearly 58,000 cases reported that year, 3,145 people died and 21,269 were left with mild to disabling paralysis,[1] with most of its victims being children. The "public reaction was to a plague," said historian William O'Neill. "Citizens of urban areas were to be terrified every summer when this frightful visitor returned."


' ... The field trial set up to test the Salk vaccine was, according to O'Neill, "the most elaborate program of its kind in history, involving 20,000 physicians and public health officers, 64,000 school personnel, and 220,000 volunteers." Over 1,800,000 school children took part in the trial.[3] When news of the vaccine's success was made public on April 12, 1955, Salk was hailed as a "miracle worker," and the day "almost became a national holiday." His sole focus had been to develop a safe and effective vaccine as rapidly as possible, with no interest in personal profit.


"If Salk the scientist sounds austere", wrote The New York Times, "Salk the man is a person of great warmth and tremendous enthusiasm. People who meet him generally like him." A Washington newspaper correspondent commented, "He could sell me the Brooklyn Bridge, and I never bought anything before." Award-winning geneticist Walter Nelson-Rees  called him "a renaissance scientist: brilliant, sophisticated, driven... a fantastic creature."

He enjoys talking to people he likes, and "he likes a lot of people", wrote the Times. "He talks quickly, articulately, and often in complete paragraphs." And, notes the Times, "He has very little perceptible interest in the things that interest most people—such as making money."

Women in traditional Moslem societies

The incandescent fury of radical feminists when they attack the 'oppression' of women is more often than directed at the alleged failings of liberal democracies, not at the harshness of traditional Moslem societies and traditional Moslem enclaves in liberal democracies. When they attack 'sexism,' they are more likely to be referring to slights, real or imaginary, or disadvantages, real or imagined, which are worse than slights but which  fall well short of such practices as honour killings or the beating of wives which is recommended in the Qu'ran. This is Sura 4.34, translated by Dawood:

' As for those [women] from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and send them to beds apart and beat them. Then if they obey you, take no further action against them. Surely God is high, supreme.'

 This has advantages for them. It allows them to maintain their self-image. But this is moral cowardice.

Feminism isn't an adequate basis for opposing the injustices and abuses of traditional Moslem societies, or in general other injustices and abuses. A radical feminist view of social  and economic history which finds horrifying the atrocious labour of girls in mines in this country and finds nothing wrong in the atrocious labour of boys in mines at the same time - and later, when girls no longer worked underground - is worse than inadequate. A radical feminist view of Moslem punishment which finds horrifying the stoning to death of women but not the stoning to death of men is shockingly inadequate.

Broadly based opposition to Islamism is far better than the  selective opposition which recognizes only the harm done to women, not at all  to men. Broadly based humanitarianism is far better than selective humanitarianism. Qur'an 24:2: "The woman and the man guilty of adultery or fornication,- flog each of them with a hundred stripes: Let not compassion move you in their case, in a matter prescribed by Allah, if ye believe in Allah and the Last Day: and let a party of the Believers witness their punishment."

Hirsi Ali, the Somali former Moslem who is an outspoken critic of Islam and whose life is still threatened, is one of those women whose criticism of Islam goes well beyond a specifically feminist one. She has said that Islam is 'not compatible with the liberal society that has resulted from the Enlightenment.' I  fully agree.

 When Salman Rushdie's life was threatened by Moslem fanatics, many, many writers committed themselves to opposing this assault on free speech. Germaine Greer (the author, of course, of 'The Female Eunuch') wasn't one of them. She refused to support Salman Rushdie.

In the traditional Moslem societies where there is gross injustice in the treatment of women, women who oppose the injustice are outnumbered by women who are willing accomplices. The practice of female genital circumcision is perhaps the most dramatic illustration, practised in various non-Moslem societies as well as in some Moslem societies.

As a matter of strict fact, in societies where female genital circumcision is practised, the women generally carry out the operation, which leaves the woman, very often, with medical problems for life. There are growing numbers of men who try to stop women carrying out circumcision. One case was reported in 'The Times.' A man identified as 'Abdi' tried to stop his wife 'from circumcising their two daughters, aged 2 and 4. She called him from Somalia while on holiday to say she wanted to carry out the procedure.

'But he refused to be swayed, despite his wife’s argument that the girls would improve their chances of attracting a good husband because they would be perceived as being more traditional and pure.

'It is women who believe in the concept as their duty to look after their children,” said Abdi, who is also aware of prospective mother-in-laws examining their sons’ future brides to ensure they are circumcised.

'Women “fear that if they don’t circumcise their daughters then they won’t be able to get them married”, he said.

Here are six translations of  Sura 4: 34 in the Qur'an quoted from


  1. "Men are superior to women on account of the qualities with which God has gifted the one above the other, and on account of the outlay they make from their substance for them. Virtuous women are obedient, careful, during the husband's absence, because God has of them been careful. But chide those for whose refractoriness you have cause to fear; remove them into beds apart, and scourge them: but if they are obedient to you, then seek not occasion against them: verily, God is High, Great!" (Rodwell's version of the Koran, Quran, 4:34)
  2. "Men have authority over women because God has made the one superior to the other, and because they spend their wealth to maintain them. Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because God has guarded them. As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and send them to beds apart and beat them. Then if they obey you, take no further action against them. Surely God is high, supreme." (Dawood's version of the Koran, Quran, 4:34)
  3. "Men are in charge of women, because Allah has made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah has guarded. As for those from whom you fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them. Then if they obey you, seek not a way against them. Lo! Allah is ever High Exalted, Great." (Pickthall's version of the Koran, Quran, 4:34) [The copy of this translation which I have varies from this modernized version, with 'hath' instead of 'has' and 'ye' instead of 'you.']
  4. "Men are the managers of the affairs of women for that God has preferred in bounty one of them over another, and for that they have expended of their property. Righteous women are therefore obedient, guarding the secret for God's guarding. And those you fear may be rebellious admonish; banish them to their couches, and beat them. If they then obey you, look not for any way against them; God is All high, All great." (Arberry's version of the Koran, Quran, 4:34)
  5. "Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property; the good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded; and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in their sleeping places and beat them; then if they obey you, do not seek a way against them; surely Allah is High, Great. (Shakir's version of the Koran, Quran, 4:34)
  6. "Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband's) absence what Allah would have them guard. As to those women on whom part you fear disloyalty and ill conduct, admonish them (first), (next), refuse to share their beds, (and last) beat them (lightly); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance) for Allah is Most High, Great (above you all). (Ali's version of the Koran, Quran, 4:34)

But to be outraged in this case or to oppose these religious beliefs, would be to confront dissonance. As a result, many, many feminists are silent - for once.

'Shayk Muhammad Bin Ibrahim Aal-Al Sheikh [1311-1389 H (1893-1969 AD)], the former Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, said:

Introduction: Free mixing between men and women can be of three types:

  1. Mixing of women with men who are their Mahram (husband and men whom she may never marry, e.g. father, brother, son etc). There is no doubt that this is permissible in Islam.
  2. Mixing of women with non-Mahram men for evil and depraved purposes. There is no doubt that this type is not allowed (haram) in Islam.
  3. Mixing of women with non-Mahram men in educational institutes, shops, offices, hospitals, get-togethers, parties etc. At first a questioner (asking fatwa) really might think that this does not lead to one gender tempting the other. To expose the reality of this type, we will reply (to the questioner) both briefly and in detail.


Brief reply: The brief answer is that Allah made men to have a natural inclination towards women and gave them power over the females. He made women to be naturally inclined towards men though He made them weak and soft in nature. Hence, when free mixing occurs between women and (non-Mahram) men, its effects result in bad intentions, since the human self is inclined towards evil and (carnal) desires make a person blind and dumb, while Satan commands people to do indecent and evil things.

Detailed reply:

The detailed answer is that Islamic Law (Shari’ah) is based on objectives and the means to achieve them. The means for an objective have the same rulings as the objective itself. Women are the object of desire for men, and Islam blocks the doors leading to members of one sex becoming attached to the members of the opposite gender. The evidence from the Qur’an and Sunnah that we will now mention for you will show this clearly.

a) Proofs from the Qur'an: There are six proofs for this from the Qur’an:

  1. Allah says, “

      And she, in whose house he was, sought to seduce him (to do an evil act), she closed the doors and said: “Come on, O you.” He said: “I seek refuge in Allah (or Allah forbid)! Truly, he (your husband) is my master! He made my stay agreeable! (So I will never betray him). Verily, the Zalimoon (wrong and evil-doers) will never be successful.” ” (Surah Yusuf 12:23)  

     It is a proof (for saying that the third type of free mixing is prohibited) because when there was free-mixing between the wife of the Egyptian minister and Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him), she displayed what was hidden (her love for him) and asked him to have illicit sexual relations with her. However, Allah had Mercy on Yusuf and saved him from her (advances), as He said,

      “So his Lord answered his invocation and turned away from him their plot. Verily, He is the All-Hearer, the All-Knower.” (Surah Yusuf 12:34).  

     Similarly, if free-mixing occurs between men and women, members of both genders pick for themselves the one they please from members of the opposite gender and use all means to get that person.


  2. Allah commanded men and women to lower their gaze. He said,

      “Tell the believing men to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts, etc.). That is purer for them. Verily, Allah is All-Aware of what they do. And tell the believing women to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things)…”  

     (Surah Al-Noor 24:30-31). This verse is a proof for what we say since Allah ordered believing men and women to lower their gazes, and His ordering something means it is obligatory. Then Allah tells us that it is purer and that only an accidental (unintentional) glance will be forgiven. ‘Ali bin Abi Talib, may Allah be pleased with him narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said,

      “O ‘Ali, do not follow a glance with another, for you will be forgiven for the first, but not for the second.”

     (Reported by Al-Hakim in Al-Mustadrak (2/212 and 3/133), Ahmed (5/351,353 and 357), al-Tirmithi and others. Al-Hakim said it is authentic according to standard of Muslim, and Al-Dhahabi agreed with him in Talkhis). There are many hadiths with the same meaning. Allah did not order people to lower their gaze except for the fact that looking at objects that are forbidden to see is counted as adultery (zina). Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) said,

      “The adultery of the eyes is the sight (to gaze at a forbidden thing), the adultery of the tongue is the talk,… and the inner self wishes and desires and the private parts testify all this or deny it.”

     [Sahih Al-Bukhari (no. 6612), Muslim (no. 2657), Ahmed (2/276)]. Gazing at forbidden things is adultery since it is enjoying the sight of charms of a woman, results in these images becoming etched in the heart of the person and he tries to commit actual adultery with her. If Islam forbids gazing at her due the resultant evil, then the same evil results from free mixing. Hence, free mixing too is forbidden, since it is the means to the same evil consequences as the forbidden gaze.


  3. The evidences that we mentioned earlier that it is not permissible to gaze at women means that it is obligatory upon a woman to cover her entire body, since exposing it or part of it results in (forbidden) glances towards it, which in turn leads the heart to become attached to her and then utilizing the means to obtain her (for illicit relations). This is also the case with free mixing.


      “And let them (Muslim women) not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment.” (Surah Al-Noor 24:31).  

     Even though the act of stamping feet itself is permissible, still Since Allah forbade women from stamping their feet so that it does not become a reason for men to hear the sound of anklets worn by women. This would arouse men’s desire for women, and the same evil consequences result from free mixing.


  5. Allah says,

      “Allah knows the fraud of the eyes, and all that the breasts conceal.” (Surah Ghafir 40:19).  

     Ibn ‘Abbas and others said,

      “It is (about) a man who visits the house of a family, which includes a beautiful woman too who passes by him. When the members of the family are not watching him, he looks at her, but when they are alert, he lowers his gaze from her. When they are not watching, he gazes at her and when they are observing him, he lowers his gaze. Allah knows that in his heart he wishes to see her naked and if he could, he would commit adultery with her.” (Tafsir Ibn Kathir).

     If Allah described the eye which steals a glance towards what is not permissible for it to look as ‘fraud’, then how about free mixing?


  6. Allah ordered women to stay in their homes. He said,

      “And stay in your houses, and do not display yourselves like that of the times of ignorance.” (Surah Al-Ahzab 33:33).  

     Allah commanded the wives of the Prophet (peace be upon him), who were the most pure and chaste women, to stay in their homes. This commandment is addressed to Muslim women in general too, since it is a well established principle of Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) that directed speech is general in scope, except if there is an evidence proving that it is specific to whom it is addressed. However, there is no evidence to make it specific (the Prophet’s wives) in this case. Hence, if women are commanded to remain at home except in case of a necessity that required them to go out, then how can free mixing between them and men of the kind mentioned earlier be permissible? Moreover, in our times women have become too headstrong, have left modest all-covering garments and expose themselves wantonly to the extent of nudity in front of un-related (non-Mahram) men. Husbands and other guardians of women have little control over women whose well-being they are entrusted with.


The patriarchy thesis and some very powerful women


Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I in the Long Gallery at Hardwick Hall, commisioned by Bess of Hardwick. © Richard Croft and licensed for reuse under a Creative Commons Licence.

Radical feminists generally give the impression that 'patriarchy' has been a constant in the recorded history of government, in the recorded history of the world.  They  fail to mention the  extended periods of 'non-patriarchal' government, the vast power and influence which women have so often exercised. They give the utterly false impression that in all times and in all places women have been downtrodden.

In democracies, a female Prime Minister or President is subject to checks and balances. Instructive examples come from the Age of Absolutism, when the Empress was subject to far less {restriction} in her policies and actions.

From these examples, it would be impossible to conclude that women make a mess of government whenever they are given the chance. Maria Theresa, Empress of Austria, and Elizabeth and Catherine the Great, Tsarinas of Russia, were all strong and effective rulers, the Russian Tsarinas quite enlightened rulers, for their time, but none of them promoted the freedoms of women more than any 'patriarchal' rulers. None of them promoted the freedoms of men and women more than any 'patriarchal' rulers. 'Patriarchy' has achieved far more. More often than not, reality is desperately harsh - or awkward and inconvenient. Reality hardly ever flatters utopian, sentimental or naive illusions, such as those of radical feminists. Their very strong interest in women who reach positions of power and influence and ensuring that there are more of them isn't accompanied by any strong interest in the success or failure of these women, their strengths and weaknesses. The very notion that there can be such a thing as female failure and female weakness is an affront to believers in the inherent virtuousness of women. This is truly living in illusion and estrangement from reality. The only form of female weakness which is acknowledged is the weakness of women who fail to see the attraction of radical feminism and the women who sell out to men, by, for example, posing for advertisements, with the extenuating circumstance that it's men who bear the main responsibility.

It isn't possible to do justice to the achievements and limitations of the three Empresses here, but I mention some facts which suggest falsification of some radical feminist interpretations.

Maria Theresa, Archduchess of Austria and Queen of Hungary and Bohemia, ruled the Habsburg empire between 1740 and 1780 - four decades of non-patriarchal rule. She was succeeded by her eldest son, Joseph II. Like any representative of patriarchy, she was preoccupied for long periods of time with military matters - the Seven Years' War, for example - but here domestic policies were more instructive, for the purposes of the discussion here, and the contrasts between her domestic policies and those of Joseph II.

Toleration for people with religious beliefs different from the state religion and toleration for people with no religious beliefs, the toleration taken for granted now in liberal democracies, was originally denied. It was dangerous, it required courage and a revolution in outlook to bring it about. The Enlightenment gave the powerful ideas of toleration, the rulers of Europe adopted those ideas enthusiastically, cautiously or not at all. Maria Theresa, a Roman Catholic, was virulently anti-semitic and loathed Protestantism. She rejected religious toleration completely. The Enlightenment also promoted humanitarianism. In penal reform, Beccaria and his circle in Milan - representatives of 'patriarchy' - were the most important of all advocates of humanitarianism, such as the abolition of torture. Maria Theresa was opposed to its abolition. She made no practical steps to abolish serfdom in the Habsburg Empire.

The reforms of Joseph II improved the lives of men and women in the Hapsburg Empire dramatically. In 1781, a year after succeeding Maria Theresa, he abolished serfdom and an edict of toleration gave Protestant and Greek Orthodox subjects almost complete equality with Roman Catholics. In 1782, the Jews of the Empire also had their rights recognized to a large extent. His codes of criminal law (1787) abolished torture and even the death penalty, a very rare accomplishment in the eighteenth century, but one shared by the Empress Catherine. Both, though, made use of punishments which were not intended to cause death but did cause death almost as certainly as by execution - forced labour of a very severe kind in the Hapsburg Empire and such punishments as running the gauntlet in Russia.

The most serious humanitarian objection to the rule of the Empress Elizabeth and the Empress Catherine the Great concerns their failure to abolish serfdom in Russia. When she dismissed her lover Lavadovsky in 1777, Catherine gave him, by way of recompense, money - and 4 000 peasants, men and women. It was a representative of patriarchy, Alexander II, although much later, who ended serfdom. In 1861, he freed the serfs from private estates and household serfs. In 1866, he freed the state-owned serfs.

In this country, Queen Elizabeth I was hardly the exploited victim beloved of so many feminists, including feminist scholars, nor was Mary I of Scotland (Mary Queen of Scots.) The conflicts between these two, which ended with Queen Elizabeth's decision to sign Mary's death warrant and the beheading of Mary in 1587, would require considerable ideological 'analysis' to explain in feminist terms. Reality (including harsh historical reality) undermines ideology.

Mary Queen of Scots ('Bloody Mary') came to the throne in 1553. The restoration of the Roman Catholic Church in England was her great aim and she began a relentless persecution of protestants. In 1555, a protestant was burnt alive in full view of his wife and children. In the next five years, over 300 protestants were burned. Torture was used extensively, with no exemption, of course, for women. This reign of terror took precedence over the economy, which was neglected, leading to severe hardship.

In those distant centuries, well before the Birth of Feminism, women who weren't a Queen or an Empress were able to accumulate vast wealth and exercise enormous influence, far beyond the reach of most men of the time. Bess of Hardwick is an instructive example Hardwick Hall is not so far from here, across the county border in Derbyshire. The Hall is owned by the National Trust and open to the public.  There's an excellent National Trust guide to the hall and its remarkable builder - except that Hardwick, like the seven gates of Thebes in Bertolt Brecht's poem 'Fragen eines lesenden Arbeiters,' was built by toiling men, quarrying the stone, hauling the stone, lifting up the stone. This is the beginning of the poem, in my translation:

Who built seven-gated Thebes?
In books stand the names of kings.
Did the kings haul the blocks of stone?
And Babylon, so many times destroyed -
who rebuilt the city so many times?

This is from the section 'The fruits of ambition' in the guide:

'With her second marriage Bess emerged from obscurity, and the main aspects of her character became clear. She was capable, managing, acquisitive, a businesswoman, a money-maker [but the greater part of her money had been made by one man or another - above all her fourth husband, the immensely rich Earl of Shrewsbury], a land-amasser, a builder of great houses, an indefatigable collector of the trappings of wealth and power, and inordinately ambitious, both for herself and her children ... She was immensely tough ... Her amazing vitality carried her unflaggingly through her four marriages and widowhood to her death in her eighties, immensely rich and still formidable.'

In the same era, but in a very different society - on the wild west coast of  Ireland - women could achieve power and influence. Feminists, include the biography of Grace O' Malley, the pirate queen, in your thinking (or, not with condescension but with anger, 'thinking') about patriarchy. This is the account in 'Ireland: The Rough Guide:'

'Grace O' Malley, or Gráinne Ni Mháille (c. 1530 - 1600; often corrupted to Granuaile), was the daughter of Owen O' Malley, chief of the west coast islands. Through fearless and non-too-scrupulous warfare and piracy, she made herself queen of the Clew Bay area when he died. She effectively controlled the vigorous trade between Galway and the Continent, as well as running a lucrative business importing Scottish mercenaries for chieftains' wars against Elizabeth I and their cattle-rustling and plundering. She earned her place in Irish legend by being one of the few Irish chiefs to stand up to the English.

' ... When she met Elizabeth I in London in 1593, she insisted on being treated as her regal equal. However, always a canny tactician, Grace switched sides when she realized she couldn't beat the English, and her son was created first Viscount Mayo. Continually mentioned in sixteenth-century dispatches, her exploits included dissolving her Celtic secular marriage to her second husband, Sir Richard Burke of Mayo, by slamming the castle door in his face and then stealing all his castles.'

Living in illusion and making excuses blight the thinking of so many feminists. If anything is likely to make achievement difficult or impossible, it's the ideological belief that 'sexism' or 'patronising language' hold back women at every turn. Why can't a woman open a garage and service and repair cars? The patronising language of motor-parts suppliers and male customers? If so many obstacles could be overcome centuries ago,  far more so now, when such measures as 'affirmative action' are commonplace. Except that affirmative action is itself an obstacle, giving some people the impression that sustained hard work, often great abilities and the ability to face risk can be dispensed with.

'It was, of course, the period of Ronald Regan and Margaret Thatcher and thus of the near defeat of organized labour within both the U.S. and Britain ...' This is the feminist writer Rosalind C. Morris, in 'Can the Subaltern Speak? Reflections on the History of an Idea.' ('Can the Subaltern Speak?' is the title of an essay by the Marxist - feminst- post-colonial studies writer Gayatri Spivak.)

The linkage of politics between Ronald Regan and Margaret Thatcher is an instance of cross-linkage, as I term it. The linkage of 'gender' between Margaret Thatcher and female feminists is important but outweighed by the massive contrasts. So much of life is like this - considerations of gender may not be primary at all. Putting women into senior positions puts highly competent and incompetent women, clear-sighted and deluded women into senior positions - but feminists and non-feminists are certain to disagree about the criteria of clear-sightedness and delusion.

Rosalind Morriis ought to have paused at this point and given some evidence. As regards Margaret Thatcher, it can be argued that her labour policies were realistic and courageous, disastrous and devoid of insight. (A verdict on the 'community charge' or 'poll tax' need not be ambiguous in the least. The 'community charge' provided for a single flat-rate per-capita tax on every adult, at a rate set by the local authority. It promoted egalitarianism of the worst kind - the rich and the poor paying equal amounts. Its effects were destructive.) The power of some trade unions was excessive, and she showed great determination in opposing it. She  showed no insight into the pride and strength of the mining communities but understood very well the disastrously misguided leadership of Arthur Scargill, the leader of the National Union of Miners.

From 'The Guardian,' 12 March 2009:

'The former Labour leader Neil Kinnock today accused Arthur Scargill of "suicidal vanity" and said that his leadership of the miners' strike was a "gift" to the then prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

'In a devastating critique of the dispute that split the nation 25 years ago, Lord Kinnock said Scargill was responsible for the "ruthless exploitation" of the solidarity displayed on the picket lines.


'Kinnock reiterated his regret that he did not call publicly for a national strike ballot. "A ballot would have been won for the strike," he said. "What it would have done is guarantee unity right across the mining labour force."

'The former Labour leader added: "The strike was ruined the minute it was politicised and in the mind of Arthur Scargill it was always a political struggle … He fed himself the political illusion that as long as the miners were united they had the right to destabilise and overthrow the democratically elected government."

' "The miners didn't deserve him, they deserved much, much better. My view is Margaret Thatcher and Arthur Scargill deserved each other. But no-one else did."

'Praising the "raw courage" of rank and file union members, Kinnock argued that had the coal industry survived, advances in new cleaner coal technologies would "have been at a much more advanced state now".'

Arthur Scargill, like so many feminists, believed in the overwhelming importance of ideological purity.

The complexity of reality requires a far from simple response. The different feminisms are simple-minded responses. The conflicts between these feminisms reflect the complexity of reality. Angela Merkel is to me a very strong, very competent political leader. There are feminists who would agree and feminists who would strongly disagree. Angela Merkel would be regarded as a tool of capitalism by Marxist feminists, for example. In the confrontation between Arthur Scargill and Margaret Thatcher, Marxist feminists would support the man rather than the woman. Harriet Harman, a vastly less impressive politician, has claimed that it's not possible to be a conservative as well as a feminist.

Slavery and serfdom



Many, many men, as well as many, many women, have been 'the property' of - women. ' ... at the beginning of the nineteenth century an estimated three-quarters of all people alive were trapped in bondage against their will either in some form of slavery or serfdom.' (David P Forsythe, 'Encyclopedia of Human Rights.' Oxford University Press.) Slavery and other forms of bondage have been dominant realities in virtually every century of recorded history. 

The male slaves listed as being for sale in the poster above (from 1829) - Hannibal and William  - and  the female slave - Nancy - and the male and female slaves listed as being for hire, shared a common plight.  To claim that women with the status of citizens and women who were slaves shared a common plight, exploitation by men, that this was the most important form of injustice in slave states, is more than misguided.

Slavery has not only involved the buying and selling of people but more often than not negligible protection for the slaves.  In some slave-owning states, the owners, men and women, have had almost unlimited freedom to treat slaves as they wished. In ancient Rome, the owner could impose almost any punishment, for almost any reason. Flogging was one of the mildest punishments, and was generally  carried out in public view. Execution of slaves was generally by crucifixion, most often preceded by flogging, a punishment which was practically never imposed on Roman citizens, men and women.

The Roman poet Juvenal (who was not at all a moral paragon - he went to watch gladiators fight to the death) describes the cruelty of a Roman citizen towards a slave. In this case, the citizen was a woman.  Of course, men as well as  women in ancient Rome bought and sold and mistreated slaves.

'pone crucem servo,' she says, 'crucify the slave!' The husband pleads, 'Where are the witnesses? Who gave evidence against him? Give him a hearing.' (This degree of kind-heartedness wasn't usual.) She replies, 'A slave is a man, is he? He has done no wrong. It may be so. But this is my will. This is what I order.'

Charles Darwin on slavery (from Chapter XXI of 'The Voyage of the Beagle):

On the 19th of August we finally left the shores of Brazil.  I thank God, I shall never again visit a slave-country.  To this day, if I hear a distant scream, it recalls with painful vividness my feelings, when passing a house near Pernambuco, I heard the most pitiable moans, and could not but suspect that some poor slave was being tortured, yet knew that I was as powerless as a child even to remonstrate.  I suspected that these moans were from a tortured slave, for I was told that this was the case in another instance.  Near Rio de Janeiro I lived opposite to an old lady, who kept screws to crush the fingers of her female slaves.  I have staid in a house where a young household mulatto, daily and hourly, was reviled, beaten, and persecuted enough to break the spirit of the lowest animal.  I have seen a little boy, six or seven years old, struck thrice with a horsewhip (before I could interfere) on his naked head, for having handed me a glass of water not quite clean; I saw his father tremble at a mere glance from his master’s eye.  These latter cruelties were witnessed by me in a Spanish colony, in which it has always been said, that slaves are better treated than by the Portuguese, English, or other European nations.  I have seen at Rio de Janeiro a powerful Negro afraid to ward off a blow directed, as he thought, at his face.  I was present when a kind hearted man was on the point of separating for ever the men, women, and little children of a large number of families who had long lived together. 

 To give just one named example of a male slave, and his exceptionally grim fate, which may be sufficient to implant the first signs of uneasiness in those who accept without question the dogma that throughout history, men have enjoyed all the advantages. From the Website executedtoday, an entry for May1.

'On this date in 1830, a slave named Jerry was executed in Abbeville, South Carolina … by burning to death.
The slave was the property of a Miss Elizabeth McQuerns, a schoolteacher who hired him out — in which capacity he raped the wife of his subcontracted master.

This case is treated in an April 1990 piece for The South Carolina Historical Magazine by Lowry Ware, titled “The Burning of Jerry: The Last Slave Execution by Fire in South Carolina?” ... As remembered, decades later, by a minister named Samuel Leard who witnessed the execution as a teenager, thousands of men, women and children, both white and colored, assembled together in an old field not far from the residence of Mr. Donald to witness the execution of a beastly criminal by burning alive at the stake. The crime cannot with propriety be named — the name and the memory of the criminal ought to be consigned to eternal oblivion. But there sat the prisoner, the waiting impatient crowd, the immense pile of pitch pine logs and kindling wood scattered around, the sheriff and his posse, the temporary platform for the preacher … for it was determined that the fiendish criminal should hear his own funeral sermon pronounced … As the poor doomed man ascended the pile, he began to pray audibly and this was kept up continuously during the process of chaining him to the stake, and until the mounting flames deprived him of a wretched life. This was the last execution by fire ever seen in South Carolina.
-Abbeville Press & Banner, July 2, 1879.'

 The views of Mary Astell (1666 - 1731), the English proto-feminist writer who gives her name to Triona Kennedy's 'Astell Project for Women and Gender Studies' should be examined very carefully. Her best known pronouncement is probably this (in 'Reflections'): 'If all Men are born Free, why are all Women born Slaves?' Did she think, did she reflect on realities, before writing this?

During the many, many centuries of slavery, women slave-owners in general were incomparably more fortunate than their male slaves. In many slave-owning societies, women had the power to beat their slaves and in some to have them executed. What would be the feminist interpretation of these incidents?

The slave Henry Bibb 'decided to flee in 1835, when his Kentucky mistress began abusing him physically, "every day flogging me, boxing, pulling my ears, an scolding" (From Peter Kolchin's exceptional analysis, 'American Slavery,' in the chapter 'Antebellum Slavery: Slave Life.'

From the same chapter: 'Virginian William Lee got tired of the beatings he suffered from his mistress, who would hold his head between her knees and "whack away" on his back, so he grabbed her legs and "bodily carried ole missus out an' thro' her on de ground jes' as hard as I could." In this slave society, the penalties for such resistance could include death but far more often more physical punishment. In the slave society of ancient Rome, it would have been crucifixion or some other atrocious form of execution.

  Lewis Clarke, a house slave in Kentucky, Lewis Clarke, a slave in Kentucky, described in his autobiography the behaviour of his mistress: 'Instruments of torture were ordinarily the raw hide, or a bunch of hickory-sprouts seasoned in the fire and tied together. But if these were not at hand, nothing came amiss. She could relish a beating with a chair, the broom, tongs, shovel, shears, knife-handle, the heavy heel of her slipper, and an oak club, a foot and a half in length and an inch and a half square. With this delicate weapon she would beat us upon the hands and upon the feet until they were blistered.'

I don't underestimate feminists. This is one site which offers a feminist perspective on the sufferings of plantation mistresses. Extracts:

'Women in the Civil War era were little more than slaves themselves. Even in the most deluxe of plantations, the mistress of the house was expected to run the household, make clothes, darn socks, make soap, make butter and cream, plan and fix meals, educate children, and keep the valuables locked from the household help.

Plantation mistresses' 'diaries, letters, and other hand written works were FILLED WITH LETTERS OF COMPLAINT, not resignation. Many women of plantations felt that the wife was the most complete slave in it.'


'Health was poor in the South, and death in childbirth as well as stillborn children made many women fear having children. And the rampant epidemics made sure that the majority of the wife’s life was spent nursing ill slaves and family members. The only escape was to be sick themselves.'

This particularly site doesn't in the least give a comprehensive or detailed view, but the perspective of scholarly feminism may be just as selective in its indignation. Observance of the scholarly convention of references and citations is obviously no guarantee that a writer will be providing sense rather than rubbish.

 It would be asking too much to expect even a passing mention of the men whose work drastically reduced morbidity and mortality rates from such conditions as these. Men such as John Snow and William Budd, whose work did so much to reduce the incidence of typhoid and cholera, contracted from contaminated water.
Louis Pasteur
Robert Koch
Edward Jenner, Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin, who worked on vaccines against smallpox and polio, leading to the complete eradication of smallpox and the near eradication of polio.
Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin
Gerhard Domagk, who discovered sulphonamides, the first broad spectrum synthetic antibacterial drugs

and scientists whose work was indispensable for these advances, such as the microscopist Anton van Leeuwenhoek and the chemists who synthesized the compounds used in these advances, and the engineers and labourers who constructed the vast works of civil engineering which supplied safe water.

In the antebellum south, slave owners included black women. 'Opportunists or Saints? Slavery and Free Women of Color in Antebellum New Orleans' by Anne Ulentin gives information which is resistant to feminist interpretation. I view it as the defeat of ideology in the conflict between realitiies and ideology.  Extracts: 'In New Orleans in 1810, a twelve-year old girl, named Francoise, passed from one slaveowner to another, both of whom were free black women ... this story is one instance of a larger trend in antebellum New Orleans: free black women buying, selling and holding slaves ... These women are called Free Women of Color ... they benefited from certain unique opportunities for social and economic advancement in colonial and antebellum New Orleans. Some of them came to hold prominent roles in the society and economy of the city ... Gary B. Mills, in his study of Cane River's Creoles of Color in Louisiana, claims that Louisiana's free persons of color entertained feelings of superiority to "Negroes," just as whites did. Indeed, the development of a caste system separated slaves from free people of color. In such a strict social and racial hierarchy, free persons of color were color conscious just as whites were ... Free women of color did not identify with white women. Scholars such as Jacqueline Dowd Hall and Elizabeth Fox-Genovese showed that women of color and white women did not share bonds of gender because they were "profoundly divided by class and race." ... A general knowledge of the wealth of such women [free women of color] and the extent to which they resorted to legal transactions, may be derived from wills, successions, slave sales and mortgage records. Such records not only show the amount of land and slave free women of color possessed, but they also reveal the nature of the relations between free women of color, slaves, whites, and free men of color. I started my research in the pivotal year of 1810. Free women of color were particularly numerous in New Orleans at that time because of the recent Haitian refugee incursion, and generally played an active role in the city's economy ... Besides the notaries' records, I used the New Orleans Public Library's extensive collection of microfilms and original manuscripts of wills, successions, inventories, suit records, and emancipation petitions ... From this rich documentary record, I concluded that most free women of color viewed slaveholding as a commercial venture ... My research shows that free women of color traded slaves of all ages - from infants to 60 year-olds. The majority were between the ages of 11 and 30, when they were the most valuable ... Some documents show that slaves ... were to be handed down from parent to child just like any other possession ... The free women of color, for whom we have inventories, often owned significant property, including slaves, houses, lots, and furniture ... It was very common for these women to choose not to emancipate their slaves, and instead to pass them down to children or other relatives ... it is difficult to ignore evidence that free women of color, like whites, engaged in slavery for commercial purposes, and that, in doing so, they prospered.'

In North and South America, men made up the majority of slaves.

Hugh Thomas wrote (in 'The Slave Trade: the history of the Atlantic slave trade 1440 - 1870), 'Throughout the slave trade, women and children were less sought after than men in the prime of life. This was a contrast with the Arab trade in West African slaves across the Sahara ...

'In the New World the reverse was often true. A decree in Lisbon of 1618 sought to ban female slaves absolutely, as well as males less than sixteen years old. Two men to one woman was the proportion which the Royal African Company customarily sought. In the Dutch trade between 1675 and 1695 18 000 women slaves seem to have been carried, compared with 34 000 men. The explanation is that planters preferred slaves whom they could work hard and then discard, or leave to die, without the troubles of having to rear their families.'

 I'm not in the least danger of overlooking the male monsters who made the lives of slaves hellish (the whipped slave in the photograph above was whipped by a male overseer. The fact that he was discharged later by the male owner isn't an extenuating circumstance.)  I don't make any excuses for thinkers such as Nietzsche who ignored or attacked humanitarian thought and practice, as my page on Nietzsche makes clear (although it should be obvious to anyone who reads his work with care that he was far from being deluded in everything, that he was a very substantial thinker.)  Many feminists seem to me to have a ridiculous belief in the innate virtue of women. I've no belief whatsoever in the innate virtue of men.

 Mary Wollstonecraft, the proto-feminist author of 'A Vindication of the  Rights of Men' and 'A Vindication of the Rights of Woman,'  opposed slavery but never gave to the issue anything like the prominence it demanded, given the scale and extremity of its cruelties. Moira Ferguson writing in 'Feminist Review,' No. 42, Autumn 1992: 'Whereas the Rights of Men refers to slavery in a variety of contexts only four or five times, the Rights of Woman contains over eighty references; the constituency Wollstonecraft champions - white, middle-class women - is constantly characterized as slaves.' Moira Ferguson goes on to explain this in these terms: 'For her major polemic, that is, Mary Wollstonecraft decided to adopt and adapt the terms of contemporary political debate.' But the overwhelmingly important point to make is that  these white, middle-class women (with unfortunate exceptions) were incomparably more fortunate than slaves (with particularly fortunate exceptions), just as they were incomparably more fortunate than the miners - men, women and children of the Industrial Revolution.

 A concrete objection to the equating of the experience of slaves and the experience of white, middle-class women at the time - a concrete objection not to  the blurring of differences but the bridging of a chasm. There were many slave rebellions during the eighteen century, as in earlier centuries and later times. Slaves found their lives intolerable. They rebelled despite the huge risks. The chances of success were minimal. There was an immense  risk of execution or torture or beating. Their fate was so extreme that they decided they had nothing to lose. If the fate of white, middle-class women could be compared with the fate of slaves, why were there no rebellions of white, middle-class women? If they failed, they would never have been punished with the gallows or burning alive. After Mary Wollstonecraft wrote the 'Rights of Woman,' why was there no unstoppable support from these middle-class victims, eager to escape their bondage? Why did she receive so little support? Can it have been that the lot of these people was far from being unbearable? Feminists who argue that in the case of white, middle-class women the system of repression was much worse than in the case of slaves, making rebellion not just difficult and dangerous in the extreme but absolutely impossible are surely living in a fantasy world.

The records of the Slave Compensation Commission offer astonishing insights, amongst them insights into the status of women at the time.

'On 28 August 1833, the Abolition Bill received the Royal Assent. From 1 August 1834, slavery was to be abolished in the British colonies. The Slave Compensation Commission was established - not to compensate slaves, but to compensate their owners. The massive sum of 20 million GBP was paid to the slave owners, the equivalent of 17 billion GBP in today's values.

'David Olusoga 12 July 2015 'The Guardian'

'The records of the Slave Compensation Commission ... represent a near complete census of British slavery as it was on 1 August, 1834, the day the system ended. For that one day we have a full list of Britain’s slave owners. All of them. The T71s tell us how many slaves each of them owned, where those slaves lived and toiled, and how much compensation the owners received for them. Although the existence of the T71s was never a secret, it was not until 2010 that a team from University College London began to systematically analyse them. The Legacies of British Slave-ownership project, which is still continuing, is led by Professor Catherine Hall and Dr Nick Draper, and the picture of slave ownership that has emerged from their work is not what anyone was expecting.


'Slave ownership, it appears, was far more common than has previously been presumed. Many of these middle-class slave owners had just a few slaves, possessed no land in the Caribbean and rented their slaves out to landowners, in work gangs.These bit-players were home county vicars, iron manufacturers from the Midlands and lots and lots of widows.'

Over 40% of the people who applied for compensation for losing the slaves they owned were women.

From the site


Dorothy Little was a seventy year old widow who claimed £297 13s 6d for 13 slaves in the Jamaican parish of St James ... between mid-1833 and March 1835 she wrote at least five separate letters to the Commission asking for information and advice. She was not simply passively waiting for an award but taking an active involvement in the compensation process ... Despite politics supposedly being a masculine domain she unashamedly reveals that she has “with the greatest attention read every debate in the House of Commons on the West India question”, seeming far more perturbed that the concerns she had previously voiced had not been raised. Indeed, the letters of reply from the Commissioners, which answer her questions fully and comprehensively, paid little heed to the fact that they are writing to a seventy-year old widow: the language, tone and style of the letters is little different to those sent to male inquirers. Perhaps the fact that she was a resident of Clifton, near Bristol, an area with extensive links to the West Indies may explain why Dorothy Little‟s knowledge of the compensation process was so remarkable. Dorothy Little was clearly an intelligent, informed and forthright woman: her cognisant letters to the Slave Compensation Commission highlight the extent to which, in reality, women were not completely restricted by domestic ideology. Indeed, Dorothy Little felt so passionately about the subject of compensation, and the fact that she felt it disproportionally punished those who owned slaves but no land, that she even sent a petition to Lord Stanley, the colonial secretary, voicing her concerns ... upon realising that the Lord Chancellor “took no notice” of the original petition she sent it directly to Lord Stanley herself.  This was accompanied by a warning that if politicians continued to ignore what she believed to be the injustice of the current system she would ensure that “the matters…be brought before the public in the next sitting of Parliament.” Threatening, of all people, the colonial secretary in this manner is hardly the action of someone restricted to the private domestic sphere. Dorothy Little may have sent her first letter anonymously for fear of “seeing my name in the newspapers” but her determination to right the wrongs that she believed lay at the heart of the plans for compensation ensured a dramatic change of heart.  Indeed, that she questions why she cannot be given “£100 a piece for [her slaves]…which is the sum the French received for theirs in America” demonstrates that Dorothy Little had an interest in global as well as domestic politics, and was willing to use this information to achieve her own ends. Similarly, in voicing her fears that an annuity she received from the Clergy Fund was potentially at risk should emancipation “produce anarchy and revolution in the island” she is highlighting her knowledge of the recent slave insurrections in Jamaica and again, using this knowledge to strengthen her argument. The detail and knowledge invoked in Dorothy Little‟s letters and petition highlights that politics was hardly exclusively the preserve of men. Dorothy Little‟s letters also highlight an acute awareness of the situation she found herself in. “There is a wide difference between the situations of those who, like your Petitioner, are Owners of Slaves only and those who are owners of Estates and also of the Slaves” she perceptively noted. As a slave-holder who owned no land she was in a particularly vulnerable position. Whereas at the end of the seven proposed years of apprenticeship those who owned land would probably “find their properties equally valuable as at present” the property of those who owned slaves alone would be “completely annihilated.”Yet they received no greater proportion of the compensation fund, and it was this which Dorothy Little took issue with. An intimate knowledge of her own finances is clear: she explains that she has been receiving £80 sterling a year for “eight working negroes” for the last twenty years, although  “in consequence of a change in the ownership of the Estate [to which they were hired] and the late rebellion” the rental was reduced to £57 sterling. Yet she calculated that at £26 per slave she would receive a sum of £364 sterling “which will produce an [annual] income not exceeding £12 14s 9d.74 Indeed, she ultimately received £310 18s 11d, including interest, which a W.P. Kerridge picked up on her behalf in February 1836.75 Thus, far from being an “unconscious stipendiary of a wicked system” as abolitionists tended to argue widows were, Dorothy Little was aware that emancipation would have severe personal financial implications. Indeed, since women made up a considerable proportion of non-land-holding slave-owners they were, on the whole, disproportionately affected by the privileging of land in the compensation process. Dorothy Little clearly recognised this: “Your Petitioner…believes that there are many in her situation, but they are principally Widows and Orphans and she is sorry to perceive that the large Proprietors have not had the generosity to put forward their peculiar situation.” In lamenting the lack of help she, and others, had received from the large, usually male, landowners Dorothy Little is certainly reinforcing the belief that women are dependent on men‟s help. Yet she is simultaneously, by writing letters and petitions herself, challenging this very notion ... this excerpt from a letter dated May 12th 1834 suggests that a strict distinction between „moral‟ women and „depraved‟ men simply cannot be made: I am anxious to ascertain if there is a prospect of my getting a full and fair compensation for my unattached field labourers. They will I fear be put down as inferior labourers, for out of the whole number  10 of them are females, but from that very circumstance they have been more valuable to me than if they had been strong men, for they have more than doubled their original number, and of course doubled my income. This demonstrates that far from only „slave-masters‟ manipulating the fertility of the female slaves for their own economic advantage, the imperatives of their female counter-parts were hardly rooted in any greater sense of morality. The callous manner in which Dorothy Little proudly talks of how the reproductive capacities of the female slaves have enabled her to “double my income” may initially seem shocking but it suggests that female slave-owners were no less inclined to prioritise their own economic needs over the well-being of slaves.

In the case of slavery, the reformers who opposed it, successfully, in country after country comprised very many men, of course. To treat such men as these as part of a group, the homogeneous enemy or object of contempt, as many feminists do and have done, is deeply shocking. To treat men with other achievements to their credit, including labouring with dignity, as the homogenous enemy or object of contempt, is deeply shocking. Mary Wollstonecraft, writing to Gilbert Imlay, Paris, December 30, 1794: 'You know my opinion of men in general: you know that I think them systematic tyrants ... '

Hugh Thomas, in 'The Slave Trade,'

'The determined efforts of philanthropists, in France, North America, and Britain, and later in Spain, Brazil, and elsewhere, working through the press, parliaments, and diplomacy, eventually achieved the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade and of slavery in the Americas, so paving the way for the beginning at least of the abolition of slavery and the traffic in Africa. Experience of what occurred between 1808 and 1860 suggests that the end of the slave trade came not because, as the French historian Claude Meillassoux put it, 'slavery as a means of production hindered agrarian and industrial growth', but because of the work of individuals, with writers such as Montesquieu playing an essential part. Thomas Clarkson and Wilberforce in England, Benezet and Moses Brown in the United States, and Benjamin Constant and other friends and relations of Madame de Staël in France, were the heroes. The effectiveness of Louis Philippe's first government, in particular of the Minister of the Navy, Count Argout, showed that a determined leader could do much. Isidoro Antillón, who first first spoke against the slave trade in Spain in 1802 and who may have been murdered for repeating his views in Cádiz in 1811, should not be forgotten. Other Spanish abolitionists such as Labra and Vizcarrando should have their places in the Pantheon. Nelson Mandela, during his visit to the British Parliament in 1995, recalled the name of Wilberforce. He might have mentioned others, not to speak of the British West Africa Squadron. In Brazil, Dom Pedro's opposition to the slave trade was continuous ... '

Slavery was ended not just by reformers who worked for legislative change and eventually achieved it. The legislation had to be enforced. The British Navy (which would count as an agent of patriarchy in most feminist histories, no doubt) played a prominent part in enforcing anti-slavery laws. Between 1811 and 1867, the British Navy's Anti-slavery Squadron liberated 160 000 slaves. In 1845, 36 British vessels were assigned to this squadron.

Below, slaves liberated by the British navy in 1869. Photograph in the public domain.



Feminists, particularly pacifist feminists, should not overlook the role of military action in ending slavery in the United States, even if this wasn't uppermost in the minds of many of those who went to war.

Peter Kolchin, in 'American Slavery' gives a very good account in Chapter 7,  'The End of Slavery:'

'The Civil War began as a war for - and against - Southern independence. Although slavery was the issue that both underlay and precipitated the conflict between North and South, the initial war goals of both sides were simple, and only indirectly linked to the peculiar institution: Confederates fought for the right to secede and form their own country; federal forces fought to prevent them from doing so. During the secession crisis preceding the start of hostilities, Abraham Lincoln had promised that the new Republican Administration, although opposed to the expansion of slavery, would pose no threat to slavery in the states where it already existed, and in the early months of the war he took pains to reemphasize his government''s limited war goal: preservation of the Union ...

Lincoln's caution stemmed not from moral equivocation - he constantly reiterated his belief that slavery was wrong and ought to be abolished - but from potent practical considerations. Four slave states - Maryland, Delaware, Missouri, and Kentucky - remained in the Union, and a fifth, West Virginia, was in the process of breaking away from its Confederate parent; defining the war as a struggle over slavery threatened to push these states into the Confederate column ...

As the war dragged on, however, the President ... faced mounting pressures to seize the moment and embrace a new war aim: freedom for the slaves. Such a move appeared increasingly desirable to American diplomats striving to prevent foreign powers - most important, Great Britain - from extending recognition (and assistance) to the Confederacy; so long as the Confederates could portray their rebellion as an exercise in national self-determination, their cause aroused considerable sympathy abroad, but much of this sympathy would be likely to dissipate if the war could be redefined as a struggle over slavery.'

The treatment of serfs in Russia in the nineteenth century, before the abolition of serfdom, poses more questions for feminists.  Radical feminists may feel anger, outrage at the injustice, when they read that '... in the higher classes, it was normal for married women to own property, even landed property, at a time when this was difficult in England. ''On the front of every house in Moscow and St Petersburg'', reported Haxthausen in the 1840s, ''is written the name of the proprietor, and before every third house at least the name is that of a woman.'' ' (Angus Calder, 'Russia Discovered: 19th-Century Fiction from Pushkin to Chekhov.') Anger and outrage because women found it difficult to own property in England, and anger because every third house in St Petersburg has the name of a woman. Why not something like 50 % of the houses, in accordance with the 'gender ratio?' The anger at this further statistic would probably need to be of a complicated kind. It concerns the kind of inequality which feminists would probably prefer not to confront - women valued less than men! During the reign of Catherine the Great in Russia, a pedigree dog could be bought for 2000 roubles. A male serf could be bought for 300 roubles but a female serf cost less than one hundred.

Just as everyday cuts and burns are outweighed by life-threatening injuries, and aches and pains are outweighed by the agony of torture, there was a major injustice, an overwhelmingly important injustice, which made such considerations far less important by comparison: serfdom.

The woman who owned property in Russia, even if less property than men, had incomparably more freedom than the serfs. The property owned by women in Russia often included serfs. The owner of the serfs had almost unlimited power over them. The owner had no right to kill a serf but did have the right to flog the serf with 'the knout,' which tore strips of flesh from the skin. If the serf died under the knout, then this was allowable. Serfs were bought and sold and were hardly distinguishable from slaves. In the census of 1857, the private serfs (not owned by the state) amounted to 23 million out of a total population of 62.5 million Russians.

The writer Turgenev was a young adult in the 1840's. His mother owned 5 000 serfs. She had them flogged and she had Turgenev flogged very often. When two young serfs failed to bow as she was passing them, she made use of her almost absolute power over them by ordering them to be deported to Siberia.

From 'Turgenev: His Life and Times' by Leonard Schapiro:

' ... her general practice was to maintain a rule of terror under which complete subordination was exacted from her peasants, who were never allowed to forget that they were serfs or to think of themselves as human beings.

'From childhood he had always felt instinctive sympathy with the domestic serfs as fellow human beings ... '

One incident:

'Turgenev, hearing that his mother had sold one of her young girl serfs, announced that he would not tolerate the sale of human beings, and hid the girl with a peasant family. The purchaser applied to the police, and the local police chief, with a posse armed with clubs, arrived to demand the girl. He was greeted by Turgenev with a gun, who threatened to shoot.' On this occasion, his mother backed down and she agreed to cancel the sale of the girl.

The title of Jerome Blum's book 'Lord and Peasant in Russia: From the Ninth to the Nineteenth Century' may infuriate some feminists: obviously a sexist title, women excluded. The author does include material on women, such as here:

'The helplessness of the serfs proved too great a temptation for those proprietors in whose natures sadism lay close to the surface. These people inflicted frightful cruelties upon their peasants. One of the most infamous cases was that of Devia Saltykov who in 1756 inherited 600 serfs from her husband.'

(The subject of wealthy heiresses and their plight isn't a flourishing topic in feminist writing.)

'In seven years she tortured scores of them to death for petty or imagined offenses. Her conduct became so atrocious that the authorities decided they had to do something. So in 1762 they began an investigation. It lasted for sex years. Finally, she was stripped of her noble rank, pilloried for one hour in Moscow, and then sentenced to spend the rest of her life in confinement in a convent. In contrast to her mild punishment, the serfs who at her command had aided in the torturing of her victims were beaten with the knout and then condemned for life to hard labor in Siberia.'

The serfs in Russia were liberated not by the Empress Catherine or the Empress Elizabeth - although both were very able rulers - but by Alexander II



who emancipated by decree all Russian serfs. Triona Kennedy complains that 'only a handful of schools ... address feminist thought and history. This act, which of course brought immense benefit to an immense number of women as well as men, would go unrecorded in a history of feminism, but would be recorded in any comprehensive history of humanitarianism.

Women in Nazi Germany

 the policy of deportation and extermination which began to be implemented in 1941 made the favoured status of aryan women and men compared with the fate of Jewish women and men all the more shockingly obvious.

Radical feminist writers prefer to generalize rather than to write about women who may be heroic or cowardly, wonderful or repulsive, civilized or barbaric, and women with all the contradictions and mixture of strengths and weaknesses which are more common in human nature than the absolutes.

They have nothing to say about  Nazi women, the subject of the book by Kathrin Kompisch. She writes, 'Apart from a few particularly cruel examples, the participation of women in the crimes of the Nazis has been blended out of the collective conscious of the Germans for a long time ... The history of National Socialism has long been reduced to one that blamed men for everything. This was and is the popular picture ... Women typed the statistics of the murdered victims of the SS Action Squads in the east, operated the radios which called up for more bullets, were invariably the secretaries - and sometimes much more - in all the Gestapo posts. And at the end of the war they tried to diminish their responsibility by saying they were just cogs in the all-male machine which gave the orders." The Gestapo files in Düsseldorf noted that women "try to change the power balance of the household by denouncing their husbands as spies or Communists or anti-Nazis." Most of the people in apartments who spied on their neighbours and reported them for ideological unsoundness or for being Jewish were women.

Perhaps the best known of the 'particularly cruel examples' was Ilse Koch, who 'had become infamous for her manufacture of lampshades and gloves made out of tattooed skin of dead inmates ... Other accounts detailed her sadism while walking or riding through the camp, ordering SS guards to beat or whip individual inmates who displeased her ... the victims of Buchenwald included 51 000 who had perished ... as a result of straight physical torture and starvation ... Through all this Ilse Koch lived quite voluntarily. She had no military rank, so there was no suggestion of compulsion or fear of death should she refuse to remain. On the contrary, all the evidence suggested that she enjoyed living in Buchenwald. After all, she even stayed on after her husband's dismissal as camp commandant.' (Tom Bower, 'Blind Eye to Murder.')

'Women in Nazi Germany' is the title of the book by Jill Stephenson. She makes it completely clear that the apparatus of terror was set up by men - only someone who was exceptionally stupid could possibly disagree. My views are counter-feminist, not 'masculinist.' I've no belief whatsoever in the intrinsic virtuousness of men. She also makes it clear that the apparatus of terror was actively supported by large numbers of women in Germany and that many women took an active part in the apparatus of terror. Some extracts from the book ('Opponents, perpetrators and the persecuted'). References not included.

‘As Wiggershaus says, ‘in terms of arrogance and self-righteousness, inventiveness in kinds of torment and unbounded sadism, there was no gender-specific difference in women’s favour.’ Women victims were shocked by the pleasure some female warders took in inflicting cruelty from a position of power. For Goldhagen, ‘German women [camp] personnel sought to strip the Jews of all vestiges of humanity.’ Some showed a pitilessness defying belief in their brutality towards women and children. They personally beat and kicked the defenceless to a pulp, unleashed savage dogs on them, drowned them in latrines. In extermination camps, they whipped victims towards the gas chambers.  Wives of SS men and camp commandants sometimes made a sport of tormenting inmates or ‘selecting’ them for death. The most notorious of these was Ilse Koch, at Buchenwald, but there were others.

‘Professionally-qualified people of various kinds … oiled the wheels of the machinery of persecution … Social workers, who were overwhelmingly female, identified candidates for sterilization: as Rosenhaft says, ‘women [in] the welfare service … stood at the cutting edge of Nazism’s most inhumane policies.’ Nurses  in psychiatric institutions participated in the murder (‘euthanasia’) of their charges, or knowingly assisted those who did by moving patients to rooms where the killing took place or preparing lethal medicines …

One of the paradoxes of Nazi Germany is that, while the Gestapo was rather thin on the ground, ‘no one felt far from the scrutiny of the Nazi state whether in public, at work or even at home.’ The reason is that ‘there were many professional and amateur helpers on whom they could rely.’ There were networks of official informers, and, beyond them,  there were thousands of individuals who denounced neighbours, lodgers, acquaintances and even spouses to the police. Franziska Haenel, a clandestine socialist and pacifist, was denounced by a female neighbor in a close-knit community. Her reaction was: ‘I just couldn’t believe such people existed.’ While for the state’s purposes denunciation served political ends, by uncovering nonconformists and dissidents, for the denunciator it was often a means of settling a personal score. Thus wives informed on husbands who were unfaithful or drunken or violent, in the hope of being rid of them for a while. Alternatively, a long-standing grudge against a former husband might be the motive. Women who were not Nazis might exploit state repression to solve their personal problems.

 The accusations varied. A slighted wife might denounce her husband’s lover. Although the Gestapo often recognized personal  grudges for what they were, if the woman denounced was a Jew or had dealings – particularly sexual relations – with Jews, its officers took a strong interest … ‘Aryans’ convicted on the basis of denunciation generally received a prison sentence, but Jews would be sent to a concentration camp; they would be lucky to survive. Denunciation of one ‘Aryan’ by another tended to be of the stronger by the weaker, ‘with both sexes evenly distributed.’

Feminism and the death penalty

See also the page The death penalty: reasoned revulsion.

Feminists have chosen to ignore the complete or almost complete exemption of women from the death penalty in many jurisdictions. Their ((survey)) of women's sufferings and disadvantages, the real and the imagined, the substantial and the trivial, is subject to serious {restriction}.

The Death Penalty Information Center in the United States documents and discusses the death penalty in meticulous detail. From the page


'Women account for only 1 in 50 (2%) death sentences imposed at the trial level;
Women account for only 1 in 67 (1.5%) persons presently on death row; and
Women account for only 1 in 100 (1%) persons actually executed in the modern era.'

Another aspect. From the Abtract of 'Chivalry is Not Dead: Murder, Gender, and the Death Penalty' (Social Science Research Network) by Steven F. Shatz of the University of San Francisco School of Law and Naomi R. Shatz of the New York Civil Liberties Union:

'The data for the article comes from our original study of 1299 first degree murder cases in California, whose death penalty scheme accords prosecutors and juries virtually unlimited discretion in making the death-selection decision ... We ... found substantial gender-of-defendant and gender-of-victim disparities. Women guilty of capital murder are far less likely than men to be sentenced to death, and defendants who kill women are far more likely to be sentenced to death than defendants who kill men.'

The walk to the execution chamber or conveyance to the execution chamber on a wheeled stretcher of the arguably innocent, the mentally ill, the victims of gross childhood abuse, the juvenile offenders, and offenders who are none of these things, after the degrading ritual of the 'last meal' (called the 'special meal' in Ohio) has been overwhelmingly the experience of males. The state of Indiana, like the state of Oregon, has never executed a female offender. At the time of her execution in February 2014, Suzanne Basso was the 510th person to be executed in Texas, the most prolific executing state, since the death penalty was restored in 1976. Of these, 505 were men.

Feminism isn't responsible for the continuance of capital punishment in the United States, which separates it from more civilized countries. But feminism gives the impression that the continuance of the death penalty isn't so important, or not important in the least. For a whole range of issues and not just the death penalty, feminism's tendency is to monopolize attention or to deflect attention from the need for reform.

Only one country in Europe still carries out executions - Belarus. Since March 1, 1994, women have been exempt from the death penalty.

Section 4.5 of the new constitution for Zimbabwe reads in part: 'A law may permit the death penalty to be imposed only on a person convicted of murder committed in aggravating circumstances, and the penalty must not be imposed or carried out on a woman.'

Countess Constance Markievicz played a prominent part in the Easter Rising of 1916 against British rule in Ireland. She was sentenced to death but wasn't shot. Sixteen men went before the firing squad at Kilmainham Gaol but she was reprieved explicitly on grounds of 'gender.'

From information supplied by 'Hands off Cain,' an Italian anti-death penalty organization:

February 14, 2010: Bangladesh has executed more than 400 people since the country became independent in 1971, an official said, and more than 1,000 others are currently sitting on death row.

At least 36 women have been sentenced to death but none went to the gallows, another prison official said, speaking on condition of anonymity as he is not authorised to reveal figures.

"Those hanged were all men," the official said ... '

Any honest ((survey)) of the relative sufferings and disadvantages of men and women should take account of the death penalty.

 Extracts from a newsletter I receive from 'Hands Off Cain,' an Italian anti-death penalty organization (06.10.12):


Child Development and Women’s Affairs Minister Tissa Karaliyadda told the Nation in July that the death penalty should be imposed for those convicted of rape, with no amnesty given. “I hope to present a cabinet memorandum requesting to amend the laws regarding the matter,” the minister said.


September 28, 2012: Damon Thibodeaux, 38, white, was freed from death row through DNA after 15 years.

Today a Jefferson Parish judge overturned the conviction and ordered Thibodeaux released from death row at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, also known as Angola, at 12:35 p.m. Central Time, a corrections spokeswoman told The Times.

Thibodeaux was convicted in October 1997 and sentenced to death after he confessed to the July 19, 1996, rape and murder of his 14-year-old step-cousin, Crystal Champagne. He at first confessed to the attack after a nine-hour interrogation by detectives. He recanted a few hours later and claimed his confession was coerced.

In 2007, Thibodeaux's legal team persuaded Jefferson County Dist. Atty. Paul Connick to reinvestigate the case, and DNA testing showed that Thibodeaux was not the murderer and that the victim had not been raped. Connick, who was elected in 1996, said he supports Thibodeaux's release and would continue to search for Crystal Champagne's killer. Thibodeaux is the 141st person to be exonerated and freed from death row since 1973, and the 18th person released through DNA evidence.

 My page The Death Penalty has evidence concerning the death penalty and arguments against the death penalty but it can only give a brief indication of its horrors, which are the experience almost entirely of men in The United States. This is one more horror which I don't describe on that page. I travelled to London to attend a vigil outside the United States embassy. Gary Graham, a black prisoner, was due to be executed in Texas later that day. At the time I travelled to London he was alive, at the time the vigil started he was alive, but meanwhile, as he was in the holding cell, preparations had been made to kill him. He was a juvenile offender at the time of the offence. Almost all the jurisdictions which still executed never executed anyone under the age of 18 at the time of the offence. The United States was an exception. A couple of hours after I arrived to take part in the vigil, news came that there had been a stay of execution. Who can convey the horror of facing extinction? Dostoevsky could, but he had been sentenced to death himself, led out to execution and only reprieved at the last moment.

A long time later, Gary Graham faced execution again. By this time, he had been given not one execution date, on the day I took part in the vigil, but six times. This was gross cruelty, not the actions of a civilized state. He refused a final meal. (The Web site of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice used to provide details of the last meal but now no longer does. I refused to look at this information even once.) This time he was executed, one of four juvenile offenders executed that year in the United States, all male. He went to the execution chamber protesting his innocence. There was only one eyewitness evidence of the murder and no forensic evidence at all.

The horrors of the execution or attempted execution: 'Ohio prison staff earlier this month failed to administer a lethal injection to another man, Romell Broom, despite 18 attempts to insert a needle into his veins. After two hours, Broom was returned alive to his cell ... the 2007 case of Christopher Newton, when it took more than an hour to find a vein, giving him enough time to go to the bathroom in the middle of the procedure. And there was also the case of Joseph Clark who sobbed in agony during his execution when his vein burst.'

Even if the execution is fast and painless, waiting for execution is very prolonged and far from painless. After being sentenced to death long before (12 years is the average but Cecil Johnson was executed in Tennessee after 29 years on death row), the inmate may in the end, after losing the last appeal, be given an execution date which is eight months ahead, an exact date on which he (or she) will be put to death. Then comes the weekend before the execution, the day before the execution, and unless the inmate has been given a stay, he or she has to reckon with an hour of life left. In 99 cases out of 100 it's a 'he' rather than a 'she.' Radical feminists - what comments do you have to make about this form of 'gender disparity?

The history of the death penalty in this country offers instructive insights into feminism. Two quotations from my page The Death Penalty:

'Rituals of Retribution: capital punishment in Germany 1600 - 1987 by Richard J. Evans. The author writes that "The past, as the famous opening to L.P. Hartley's novel The Go-Between says, is a foreign country; they do things differently there. By visiting this foreign country we can enlarge our conception of what it means to be human, and perhaps gain a better understanding of the limits and possibilities of the human condition. One of the aims of this book, therefore, is to restore a sense of strangeness to the past. We have to make an imaginative leap of understanding by which to comprehend mentalities which present-day Europeans may find at first encounter repulsive and bizarre."

'The Hanging Tree: execution and the English people 1770 - 1868 by V.A.C. Gatrell. I fully agree with the comment on the cover: "This gripping study is essential reading for anyone interested in the processes which have 'civilized' our social life...Panoramic in range, scholarly in method, and compelling in argument, this is one of those rare histories which both shift our sense of the past and speak powerfully to the present." The author writes, "Late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century English people were very familiar with the grimy business of hanging. This is so large a social fact separating this era from our own that although it is not the most obvious way of defining modern times, it must be one of them...What they watched was horrific. There was no nice calculation of body weights and lengths of drop in those days; few died cleanly. Kicking their bound legs, many choked over minutes.'

Mary Wollstonecraft, the author of 'A Vindication of the Rights of Woman,' lived at a time when executions were frequent, the time of the 'Bloody Code.' There was a peak in the 1780's and a decline in (public) executions after that. V A C Gatrell: 'Trevelyan thought the eighteenth century English 'a race that had not yet learned to dislike the sight of pain inflicted'. There's no evidence that Mary Wollstonecraft was any different. She has many, many observations to make on female dress, but makes no comment at all on public hangings, whether of men, women or children.

Lyndall Gordon describes Mary Wollstonecraft's move to London in Chapter 7 of 'Mary Wollstonecraft: A New Genus.' She moved to an area near St Paul's cathedral. 'An eighteenth century drawing showsa bustle of business and shoppers, not far from the Fleet Prison, Newgate Prison with its public hangings, and the skewed old justice of the Old Bailey ...' But living near to the gallows wasn't in the least essential for knowing something about  the realities of the death penalty. The something that Mary Wollstonecraft knew never roused her to indignation, it would seem.

In the Preface to 'The Hanging Tree,' V A C Gattrell writes, 'Complex ... were the defences polite people erected against experiencing the scaffold: this is the subject of Part III.' Part III has the title, 'The Limits of Sensibility.' Mary Wollstonecraft was surely one of those polite people and the limits of her sensibility should never be overlooked, although of course they have been. Her reaction, or lack of reaction, to the lives of people caught up in the Industrial Revolution, the world of mines, mills and other factories, the world of vast works of civil engineering, was similarly the reaction of one of those polite people. He writes further, 'Most middle-class diaries, letters, and newspapers reveal an extraordinary detachment about the spectacle, or else they reveal defences, denials and rationalizations which spoke for anxiety at the least.' The sympathies revealed in Mary Wollstonecraft's letters are heartening but it would be a mistake to ignore their limitations. As for this issue, there's detachment but no defences, denials or rationalizations.

Compare Cesare Beccaria. From my page on the death penalty: 'Cesare Beccaria (1738 - 1794), the author of 'On Crimes and Punishments' (Dei lelitti e delle pene) is magnificent, astonishing. His work has had an incalculable effect, wholly for the good. At a time when the criminal justice systems in almost all countries were hideously barbaric, he cut through all the traditional arguments and traditional complacency and attacked the death penalty and other abuses. From section XXVIII, on the death penalty: 'This vain profusion of punishments, which has never made men better, has moved me to inquire whether capital punishment is truly useful and just in a well-organized state...In order to be just, a penalty should have only the degree of intensity needed to deter other men from crime...If anyone should cite against me the example of practically all ages and nations, which have assigned the death penalty to certain crimes, I shall reply that the example is annihilated in the presence of truth, against which there is no prescription, and that human history leaves us with the impression of a vast sea of errors in which a few confused and widely scattered truths are floating.'

If he had confined himself to attacking the death penalty, this would have been an enormous achievement, but his humanitarianism was very broadly based and deserves to be mentioned here. From the introduction to 'On Crimes and Punishments' (Hackett edition, translated by David Young):

'The criminal justice systems of Europe in the eighteenth century were open to criticism on a number of counts. There was often cruelty in the investigation and punishment of crime. Judicial torture was frequently used, and the death penalty was common even for relatively minor crimes. Almost everywhere, the law reflected the common assumption that political loyalty and good behavior were best secured by religious uniformity. Reliance on tradition and ancient custom tended to reinforce the powers of local courts and parochial elites...and to circumscribe the central authority of the state. In most countries, equality before the law was not recognized, even in principle; different rules applied to different levels of the social hierarchy. The law's vagueness, contradictions, and wide scope for interpretation and discretion tended to reinforce the personal dependence of the disadvantaged on those with inherited property and authority.'

Beccaria wrote against all these abuses, and his writing had a dramatic impact. It should be read, and remembered, with gratitude.'

The risk of executing the innocent is a powerful argument against the death penalty. I mention it on my page The death penalty: reasoned revulsion. I discuss in more detail a further argument against the death penalty, one which is  neglected far too often. I refer to it as  'the risk of executing the damaged.' I discuss the case of Johnny Garrett, executed by the state of Texas - and a juvenile offender: ''Chronically psychotic and brain damaged, Johnny Garrett had a long history of mental illness and was severely physically and sexually abused as a child, which the jury never knew. He was described by a psychiatrist as "one of the most psychiatrically impaired inmates" she had ever examined, and by a psychologist as having "one of the most virulent histories of abuse and neglect... encountered in over 28 years of practice". Garrett was frequently beaten by his father and stepfathers. On one occasion, when he would not stop crying, he was put on the burner of a hot stove, and retained the burn scars until his death.'

Triona Kennedy and feminist sanctity

When Triona Kennedy, the founder of The Astell Project for Women and Gender Studies, wrote a feminist sermon for the liberal readership of The Guardian with the title,  'We need gender studies to battle inequality across the board' there was no mass confession in the comments section - men confessing their inadequacy, men confessing their guilt, men confessing that the insights of Triona Kennedy were vastly superior to their own: instead of repentance, rebellion. Commentators shared none of her unquestioning faith in a 'gender equality impact assessment' or her vision of a curriculum which puts 'gender at the centre of the education agenda,' with no room for doubt or arguments against.

There are men who belong to the strange sect of Feminist Flagellants, forever accusing other men of  hideous sexism and unsparing of themselves, but whining and wailing and denunciations of men were missing from this comments section. Instead, heckling from the pews!

In general, feminist writers tend to have little or no interest in mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, civil engineering or chemical engineering or any branch of engineering except social engineering. Triona Kennedy has an immense faith in social engineering. She sees education as an instrument of social engineering, with great importance attached to lesson plans -  the right kind of lesson plans, obviously. Not mentioned in the 'Guardian' article but stressed in an article of hers published on the  Website of the 'Gender and Education Association: 'Women and Gender' studies is to be a 'compulsory course.'

The comments section was closed after 27 comments had been published. I provide extracts below, very revealing extracts, I think, none of them favourable. Triona Kennedy chose not to respond. Her mind is on higher things, presumably, such as the more elevated positions in parliament and the BBC and what she calls  'top public sector jobs' - although she does permit selective examination of selected lives and livelihoods of selected humbler folk. Rigorously excluded: any inquiry into the most dirty, difficult and dangerous jobs, the ones carried out almost entirely by men, or any inquiry into the innovations (almost entirely the work of men) which have drastically reduced the risk of dying in childbirth, the risk of dying prematurely from a whole range of diseases, the vast changes which have transformed life in a state of nature, described by Hobbes as 'nasty, brutish and short' - or any inquiry into any other areas of reality which would reveal the disastrous limitations of her project - including, very importantly, the dissensions and disputes amongst feminists which raise fundamental difficulties for her project and which I outline on this page.

She has practised as a barrister and is obviously fully aware of the importance of allowing the defence as well as the prosecution to present arguments and evidence, but when the accused are men and the context is gender 'education,' then it seems that drastically unfair procedures are in order.  Men! Obviously guilty! The drastic unfairness, the insidious implications, are concealed, though, by the bland and stilted style.

Comments and extracts from comments after the 'Guardian' article:

(1) Will women's/gender studies encourage women to take up jobs now exclusively held by men unable to rise out of the 'glass cellar' - you know, all those dirty, dangerous, risky jobs that only men do, because women never have to, given that work is a matter of choice for them? (Whatever happened to that Rosie the Riveter spirit, one wonders. Too working class for most feminists, I should think.) Still, it would be good to get more people talking about gender, wouldn't it? Would you include the incipient Male Studies discipline in that? There's some fascinating articles here: http://newmalestudies.com/OJS/

... (2) Gender Studies doesn't battle inequality it creates it. It perpetuates misandry and false statistics about men. Feminism has destroyed the education system and society, causing this global recession, ['causing this global recession' is surely a false claim] by passing laws which demonize and discriminate against men, has stifled progress. Currently women are out earning men, [a false generalization] and out learning them in education, due to the sexist propaganda taught in gender studies, which only focuses on raising up women and beating down men. As this author expressed aptly, men are to police themselves, but women are to set the rules. This is not a equitable situation to go into any deeper. As you can see it has not assisted in social stability or progress, since the 60's there has been very little to call progress taking place. Daily it gets worse. The domestic situation is a bludgeon of anti-male legislation, as is the ideology of feminism; the ideology of attrition. If government is cutting back on feminist programs, it is because obviously these programs have been shown to not further the interests of society, but instead destroy families and lives of individuals.
I think feminism should be thrown away, it is a social plague.

(3) I remember the class being sat down in 1981 for a "little chat", starting with the old Sugar and spice rhyme and leading into a rant about how men had oppressed women by denying them the vote. Conveniently forgetting to mention, of course, that most of the boys in our class wouldn't have got the vote until 1918 either, those that had survived WW1.

Our age at the time? 7-8 years old.

I'd say we already have enough feminist lies in the education system thank you.

(4) Few would deny that they shoulder an additional burden in overcoming discrimination, exclusion and stereotyping, be it simply to stay in the job or climb the ranks"

Really? You should get out more and broaden your circle beyond Coffee Shop feminists. Other opinions are available.

Your assertion is a lie and in perpetuating that lie you are guilty of the very gender bias you say you are fighting against.

When women start dying at the same age as men and at the same rate at work as men, commit suicide in the same numbers as men, are targeted by the CSA in the same way as men, have the same custody rights as men, are discriminated against in government policy in the same way as men, then we can say we do not have gender inequality.

In reality your pursuit is an eternal quest since you cannot have equality between things that are fundamentally different... that's inevitable since you can hardly step back from a position that has become lucrative for you. But just know that your lies are not believed by an increasing proportion of the public so consider yourself and your ilk (Julie Bindel as example) to be viewed by many as an extremists against whom we will fight to restore our equal rights.

I've contributed to Tom's campaign because this needs to stop. Now. (5) We need more female coal miners and nuclear waste disposal technicians.

We need more divorced fathers with custody of their children.


(6) The comments pretty much sum everything up. The article itself - as far as Europe and the USA is concerned - is delusional, misandric and self-serving sexism.

Just check out the stats - on homelessness, victims of attack, secondary school educational performance, degree education, relative pay below 30, health care, grants to groups, 'positive' discrimination, treatment by the courts and police, representation in the media.....men are the worse-off in all these areas. [a carelessly compiled list] I suppose I shouldn't mention the disparity in UK law on male and female circumcision on tiny babies. Your liberal shoutiness goes quiet, then, strangely. Oh yes and men discussed in worse terms than black people and gays were. Shame on you for your hate.

A professional, objective media group should not be promulgating this weary propaganda in 2012.


(7) Triona,

Self-serving, narrow-minded, misandrist, sexism.

We live in matriarchal society. According to Proctor and Gamble, 87% of consumer purchasing decisions are made by women. Consumer spending represents 75% of the economy. In other words, women control the overwhelming majority of our economy.

This is despite the fact that it is men who create most of our intellectual capital (91.4% of UK patents granted in 2010 were to men) knowledge base (87% of peer-reviewed academic papers published in 2008 were written by men) and cultural assets (93% of all UK recorded music copyrights registered in 2010 were authored by men). And don't claim that this is the result of discrimination - there's nothing to stop a woman having an original idea or picking up a guitar.

(8) Don't look now but it appears with all the comments shown, there seems to be a growing concern for men's interests. Bravo, its been a long time coming. The men's movement has to happen and to all you fellas out there give yourselves full permission and let loose your anger...you all have every reason to do so.

(9) I did a degree at LSE, and it was obsessed with women as victims. All the female students soak it up, like men are public enemy number one, and even though they're being funded entirely by their banker dads. I don't know why LSE, the Guardian, or the left wing cater to these horribly privileged princesses.

They're smart enough to know they should be doing men's issues too, but because the coursework ignores men, these princesses are hardly going to rock the boat, so the malice rolls down hill.

I hope this guy bankrupts the whole charade, because they really are morally bankrupt.

I can't wait to hear the squeals of indignation as the gender studies ivory tower brigade have to shut down their operation and get proper jobs where complaining doesn't cut it.

(10) If you want to call it gender studies, then it must study both genders.

Although, why anyone would want to study gender studies rather than something interesting like mechanical engineering is beyond me.

I don't agree with everything here, or in the rest of the published comments. I think that 'gender studies' are important and interesting, but only 'gender studies' which are so different from gender studies as Triona Kennedy would understand them that a different name is needed. In this much wider, much more robust form, everything that Triona Kennedy wishes to state would find a place, as well as the objections to Triona Kennedy's views and the evidence for Triona Kennedy's views and the evidence against them.

Triona Kennedy wrote in her Guardian piece,

'Had any of our current crop of politicians engaged with feminism and gender studies, the public interest in performing a gender equality impact assessment on the proposed cuts would have been apparent, as would the ethical and legal transgression of failing to do one.

'A critically important dimension of philosophy and history is not being passed on from one generation to the next. When feminism and the challenging questions thrown up by gender are overlooked is it any wonder that British institutions – from Parliament to the BBC – continue to be dominated by men?

As for the BBC, it would never exist in the first place if it were not for the extraordinary and  immensely complex series of scientific and technical advances which led to the invention of television by John Logie Baird. the Scottish engineer. What is to stop feminist entrepreneurs from setting up feminist TV channels, or making other advances in the media, such as feminist magazines?

 Fiona Kennedy suppositions are astonishingly naive - the supposition that there is such a thing as 'feminist thought and history' not subject to acrimonious dispute amongst socialist feminists, radical feminists, revolutionary feminists, lesbian feminists, liberal feminists and black feminists, her supposition that any honest programme of study for school pupils in 'gender issues' could ignore these deep-seated divisions (it really does seem that the variety of feminism to be promoted in lesson plans is the variety she supports):

'As long as only a handful of schools teach gender issues and address feminist thought and history, women only discover the tradition when they hit glass ceilings in the workplace, or become mothers, and begin to seek insight into their experiences. 'To understand why it is time to place gender at the centre of the education agenda, it helps to place the 5,400 women "missing" from top public sector jobs in the UK in a broader context. The exclusion of women from positions of power in the public sector is but one manifestation of the cultural devaluation of females.

'We have serious work to do to shift the norms. Teaching about gender is increasingly looked to as a way to make progress in a global culture that continues to uphold men and boys' entitlement to control women and girls.

'The schooling system is one of our most precious assets and holds the key to improving the lot of women and girls in the workplace, family and culture.'

['Improving the lot of women and girls in the workplace.' I discuss  the subject on this page. Evidence that  should find a place in any comprehensive - that is, non-feminist - history of the subject includes 'patriarchy's passing of the '1847 Hours of Labour of Young Persons and Females in Factories Act, the Ten Hours Act,' which  reduced the permitted maximum hours of work for women and children to 10 hours per day and 58 hours in any one week, but left the hours of work of men and boys without restriction, and the fact that in 1893, women factory inspectors were introduced, with no upsurge of support from proto-feminists of the time] To return to Triona Kennedy:

'Empowering girls to fight their individual battles, unsupported, can only take us so far. Educating men and boys – in particular – to question the beliefs, customs, traditions on which the oppression, abuse and devaluing of females depends seems an obvious and profoundly necessary step.


'Young people must be educated to recognise the manifestations of gender inequality. This calls for teachers who have addressed gender in their professional training.

'In addition, headteachers must take care to avoid discriminating against women teachers by failing to promote them or, for example, making it difficult for them to return after becoming parents. [Headteachers in primary and junior schools are far more often women than men, and there are very large numbers of women secondary school teachers - she evades the obvious implications for her statement.]

See also my section on the feminist Website The F Word.   I include an extensive extract from one piece which makes scathing criticisms of  feminists such as Triona Kennedy, including this, 'When are the white, privileged, cis-gendered, university-educated, able-bodied women who too often insist on dominating feminist conversations going to actually start listening? And following on from that, when are we going to start changing? Annika addressed many different issues in her article, all important and inter-connected, but right here and now I want to focus on one strand in particular; namely, the ongoing racism and unchecked white privilege in many feminist communities in the UK.' General acceptance of Triona Kennedy's lesson plans by the feminist community - or the separate feminist communities -  is very, very unlikely.

Even if there could be a measure of agreement amongst feminists on the content of a gender studies course, it would face difficulties which are surely insurmountable: the opposition of other groups which have very different views on priorities in education and the fundamental principles of education. What seems obvious to feminists, what seems unarguable to feminists, is in opposition to some religious teaching, for example. Feminist views of 'abortion rights' are opposed by Roman Catholics, who believe that these 'rights' are non-existent, in contravention of the God-given rights of the unborn. Roman Catholics, apart from a minority, regard women priests and women bishops, let alone a woman pope, as unthinkable.

Moslem objections to making gender studies a central and compulsory element of  secondary education haven't been taken into account by the enthusiastic proponents of gender studies, it seems. Even if Moslem opinion isn't monolithic and there are some very significant divisions,  including a division between more liberal and more conservative believers, feminists have to take account of the strength of conservative Moslem belief, amongst female as well as male believers.

Rachel Bower and the F word

This is Rachel Bower in full flow:

'Verse Matters is back tonight (Thurs 7 April) for another FANTASTIC night of poetry, music and solidarity at the Moor Theatre Delicatessen ...   

'There will be FANTASTIC performances ... It’s going to be fab!'

I submitted this comment for publication on her blog:

'Emily calls your blog 'wonderful' ... There's a feminist Website called 'the F word' but the F word in this section is 'fantastic,' a word you use again and again and again. This is more than a matter of style, although prose style is obviously very important. Your reliance on facile, overblown, gushing, mechanical language calls into question your critical values.

'This is my second attempt to leave a reply. The first time, the reply disappeared without trace. If this too disappears, I'll be commenting on the fact on my Website. Is your blog a vanity blog, where only praise is welcomed, where only praise is allowed? A feminist should be determined to show that feminists are well able to deal with criticism, robustly but honestly. Are feminists strong, or are they weak creatures, unable to cope with honest comment? My own Website doesn't have comments pages but I provide space on my page on The Culture Industry for feminist criticism of me. And I accept any criticism. It will be published without any censorship, without any moderation. I do, of course, reserve the right to answer criticism, and I reserve the right to publicize these issues, which are important ones.'

This second attempt wasn't successful. The comment wasn't accepted for publication on her blog. Again and again, in my experience, feminists do absolutely nothing to disprove the stereotypes that enrage them. Feminists like Rachel Bower respond like fragile, helpless beings when faced with criticism. There's no robust determination to show that feminists are strong in reality, and not just in the feminist word-sphere.

She uses words like 'solidarity' mechanically  and glibly. She gives a list of 'partners' on her blog: WordlifeROMP, Gorilla, A Firm of Poets, Lyrical, Scribble and 'a whole host of other wonderful arts, poetry and musical groups and organisations.' These organizations  could be expected to support her and to oppose my criticisms, if they have any interest in solidarity with Rachel Bower, that is. If I receive any messages of support from 'Friends of Rachel Bower' I'll be glad to publish them on the page 'The Culture Industry,' together with any criticism of me.

Businesses who want to sell things don't usually have any concern for the health of language. They've not in the least bothered if the language they use is stale:

 'Win a FANTASTIC prize in our FANTASTIC prize draw!'

Again and again, Rachel Bower's use of language is just as mechanical and unthinking - the evidence is overwhelming. Poets, at least poets like Rachel Bower, can be abysmally bad users of language.

It's heartening that much, much higher standards can be found in unlikely places. Rachel Bower lives in Sheffield, as I do. If she ever reads the football results in our local newspaper, 'The Star,' she'll know that the language of the writers is far from tired or debased. A report on a Sheffield Wednesday match, for instance, will never include phrases such as 'FANTASTIC match! FANTASTIC goals!' Instead, language which so often is varied and interesting. Even people without much interest in football can find interest in these reports. In football,  harsh realities intrude. Most football clubs can't possibly satisfy the hopes of their supporters for any length of time. It would be excessive to talk about 'the dark night of the soul,' but football supporters are never likely to be spared disappointment for long. In the world of feminist poetry, it seems, there's relentless uplift. Everything is 'fantastic,'

Rachel Bower seems to live in a fantasy world where 'fantastic' achievement is the norm - provided that the 'achievers' are ideologically sound, of course. I find her blog grotesque. These extracts are taken from the page


Most of the items have the 'F word.'  I highlight use of the word with bold capital letters: FANTASTIC.) She seems to believe that because she calls something wonderful, amazing - FANTASTIC - then it must be wonderful, amazing, FANTASTIC.

Rachel Bower's world isn't completely fantastic - for these feminists, men are the problem, men are the difficulty, men blight this carefree fantasy world  - which would be anything but  carefree without the massive achievements of men in bringing safe drinking water to feminists, to mention just one achievement. Feminists who find life hideous in the world of patriarchy would find life infinitely more hideous in a world of unsafe drinking water and untreated sewage, a world of rampant disease and premature death. The illusions of feminists are sustained by massive engineering achievements which have solved problems which are infinitely more serious than the problems which preoccupy them.

So, some extracts from Rachel Bower's pages. (By the way, Rachel Bower has a PhD from the University of Cambridge and has an academic post at the University of Leeds. If she dismisses my criticisms as the criticisms of a 'privileged white male' then she's likely to be undeterred by any evidence that my life has been far from privileged. It includes employment as a builder's labourer.)

Review: Poetic Collaboration in Iraq and Palestine

June 7, 2016

This is the proof of a review that was recently published in the FANTASTIC  poetry magazine, Stand 14.2 (2016) in Leeds ...

Poetry & A Pint’ and ‘Lyrical’

April 13, 2016

  I have guest slots at two FANTASTIC poetry nights this week ...

Poetry, Music, Stories & Seeds!

April 7, 2016

Verse Matters is back tonight (Thurs 7 April) for another FANTASTIC night of poetry, music and solidarity at the Moor Theatre Delicatessen ...   

There will be FANTASTIC performances ... It’s going to be fab!

Verse Matters: International Women’s Day

March 8, 2016

We had a wonderful first night at the Moor Theatre Deli to celebrate International Women’s Day 2016 as part of SheFest Sheffield. Amy Kinsman (Poet) performed a FANTASTIC set of poems ...

Verse Matters on Sheffield Poetry TV

February 17, 2016

I was recently a guest presenter on Sheffield Poetry TV for a special episode on Verse Matters. The Verse Matters episode is now available to watch online (https://vimeo.com/155382260). Check it out for FANTASTIC poems from Louise Clines ...

From Mugen to the Moor Theatre Deli

February 17, 2016

We had a brilliant last night at the FANTASTIC Mugen Tea House on Scotland St on Thursday 4 February ...

Education, Rights and Migration

February 10, 2016

There are lots of FANTASTIC events happening at Universities across the North of England which connect local and international issues.  

I’m excited to announce that we’re moving Verse Matters to the FANTASTIC Moor Theatre Delicatessen in March. We’re super happy about the move ...

We are, of course, very sad to leave Sarah Haigh at the Mugen Tea House who has been AMAZING! Please come along and say thanks to her next week at Verse Matters – February at the Tea House on Thursday 4 February. More details about the next event, which includes FANTASTIC performances from Sai Murray (Tangled Roots Poet), Hannah Chutzpah (Performance Poet) and Arian Sadr (Musician) plus loads of brilliant open mic performers can be found on the Verse Matters Facebook event page.

“Put all weapons down”

January 14, 2016

It was another full house at Verse Matters in January, with 90 people squeezing into the Mugen Tea House for a night of solidarity and FANTASTIC performances.  

SolidarityStarDust 2016

January 7, 2016

Verse Matters is back this Thursday (7 Jan) with another FANTASTIC line up! Sprinkle the start of 2016 with some solidarity star dust! Don’t let January finances stop you – it’s pay what you can on the door. There’s FANTASTIC comedy and poetry from Chella Quint, brilliant poetry from the wonderful Gav Roberts and exciting music…

Soul Seed

December 4, 2015

My poem,”Soul Seed” featured on Pankhearst’s FRESH site yesterday. Pankhearst is a FANTASTIC collective of independent writers ...

Poetry and Sufi Soul

November 11, 2015

It’s the last Verse Matters of 2015 tomorrow! Join us at the Mugen Tea House (Scotland Street) for FANTASTIC poetry from Kate Garrett and Gina Elbow ... 

Freeing verse. And saxophones…

October 27, 2015

There was a FANTASTIC mix of words and music at Verse Matters in October. 

Verse Matters – September

September 15, 2015

Verse Matters was back in September with a fantastic line-up. Everyone loved the featured artists:

Verse Matters – September

September 7, 2015

After another FANTASTIC night in August, Verse Matters is back on Thursday 10 September with more talented artists. There’ll be FANTASTIC poetry from the formidable Toria Garbutt (A Firm of Poets), 

Verse Matters – September

September 7, 2015

After another FANTASTIC night in August, Verse Matters is back on Thursday 10 September with more talented artists. There’ll be fantastic poetry from the formidable Toria Garbutt (A Firm of Poets), 

You have reached your destination!

July 14, 2015

The launch of Verse Matters was wonderful. Helen Mort kicked the evening off by reading a few of her FANTASTIC new poems, 

Once I caught a fish alive…

June 25, 2015

There’s some FANTASTIC spoken word and poetry events going on in Sheffield at the moment

A busy old weekend in Yorkshire

June 7, 2015

It’s a busy weekend in Yorkshire for poetry. Big ROMP kicked us off on Friday night in Rotherham with the usual warm welcome and FANTASTIC poetry. 

South Yorkshire Poetry Festival, 22-24th May

May 22, 2015

There are some FANTASTIC events on this weekend in South Yorkshire. 

Verse Matters: A Feminist Arts Event

May 21, 2015

We’re getting closer to going live with Verse Matters: a new feminist arts event that I am setting up in Sheffield. We’re teaming up with a FANTASTIC new cafe at The Hide on Scotland Street ..

I've contacted Rachel Bower to give her the opportunity to respond to these criticisms. Any response will be published in this section, unmoderated and uncensored. Presumably, like most feminists, she believes than women are intrinsically strong, well able to defend themselves. If you believe that, go ahead.

Lorna Finlayson, Philosopher Queen, on free speech 



The majestic dining hall of King's College, Cambridge, where Dr Lorna Finlayson has often dined and often spoken.

See also
Feminism and freedom of expression.

Dr Finlayson, who has now moved from  King's College to Essex University, is the author of  'Introduction to Feminism.'  From the synopsis:

'As well as providing a clear and critical introduction to the theory, this refreshing overview focuses on the practice of feminism with coverage of actions and activism, bringing the subject to life for newcomers as well as offering fresh perspectives for advanced students.'

Here, I don't discuss her advanced views on feminism for advanced students of feminism but I do discuss her advanced criticism of free speech for advanced students of 'actions and activism' who would like to put a stop to excessive free speech, in her view and their view. She has written,

'Not that people don’t in general talk enough about freedom of speech – it would be better if they talked about it a bit less.  But if people are going to talk about it, they may as well do it properly.'

In 'LF on free speech' she writes,


' ... this is one very valuable outcome of forcing David Willetts off the platform: ' ... an act of destroying certain possibilities' (the possibility of the government minister David Willetts speaking and the possibility that people who came to attend a talk given by David Willetts could actually listen to a talk by David Willetts)  'is always at the same time an act of creating further ones. One valuable thing that came out of the whole episode, to my mind, was that the idea of ‘freedom of speech’ got hauled out of its hiding place ... '

After the disruption of David Willetts' speech, there were now new opportunities, not so much for 'uninformed' people to discuss free speech, but opportunities to listen to people who do it 'properly,' such as Dr Finlayson. If radical Islamists prevent a talk by a non-believer from taking place then this too is creating new possibilities. If 'advanced transgender advocates' prevent a talk by someone they see as less advanced from taking place, such as a feminist whose view of transgender people isn't the same as theirs, if they force feminists 'off the platform,' then this too would be viewed as creating new possibilities, although it's obviously not creating new possibilities for the person who is prevented from speaking.

Transgender activists who prevent feminists such as  Julie Bindel and Julie Burchill  from speaking are badly mistaken but the defence of free speech should go well beyond a single issue. Feminists who object to the denial of free speech to some feminists but see nothing wrong with the denial of free speech to anti-feminists are badly mistaken too.

Dr Finlayson writes that 'in the immediate aftermath of the Willetts action, there was plenty of predictable, well-rehearsed, lazy, ‘free speech’- themed noise-making.'

In the the immediate aftermath of the Willetts action, there were plenty of predictable, well-rehearsed, lazy,  noise-making attempted justifications of shouting down a minister of a democracy, such as 'LF on free speech.'

She says of the invitation to David Willetts to speak, 'we regarded the event itself as an improper procedure.' She declares that it's improper so it must be improper. The dogmatic assumption, the unquestioned assumption of absolute rightness is completely obvious.  In 2013 she contributed to an event in Cambridge on various aspects of free speech. Her talk had the title, 'Free Speech as Liberal Fiction.'

The context here, the disruption of a speech by David Willetts, is explained in my profile of  Jason Scott-Warren,  on my page Israel, Islamism and Palestinian ideology where I also discuss her views on Israel in the section Drs Sebastian Nye, Lorna Finlayson (CU): signing on)

This is Paul Sagar's view of the protest which Lorna Finlayson took part in and which she defends:

'Willetts was introduced – with an explicit appeal for reasonable discussion – and the man himself took the stand. But as he began speaking, he was immediately interrupted. A single individual  [Owen Holland] began shouting.

'His every line was immediately repeated by 20-30 or so others. Thus began a long, ponderous series of declamations, bizarre poetic allegories, and varying denunciations of Willetts, his Government, the future of education, and everything in between.


'Willetts could not get a word in edge ways. The tension in the room was dramatic. It felt like it went on and on. Shout then chant, shout then chant ...


'When the “speech” from the floor was over, the instigators began chants of “Willetts Willetts Willets, Out Out Out”, and surged forward. They took the stage. Willetts had already left. The event was abandoned. A hundred or so other people were forced to exit without being able to voice their opinion or take part in the public debate they were invited to attend.

I don't examine here the issue of free speech at the University of Essex. The page


does give a verdict, one which may or may not give a simplified view: 'The University of Essex and the University of Essex Students' Union collectively create a hostile environment for free speech.' A collective conclusion may well hide complexities, such as individuals who have many, many reservations about the policies of the 'collective,' individuals who are opposed to the policies of the 'collective.' I restrict myself here and discuss only Lorna Finlayson's hostility to free speech.

In the Republic, Plato describes a utopia and argues that this utopia will never come into existence until kings philosophize or philosophers become kings. Political power and philosophy δύναμίς τε πολιτικὴ καὶ φιλοσοφία) must be in the same hands. (Book Five, 473 d.)

I think of Lorna Finlayson as a kind of Philosopher Queen. She's not completely free of some of the associations of 'Drama Queen.' The union of political power and philosophy would be anything but safe in her hands.  She puts people in their place, or tries to. She's fully in the authoritarian tradition to be found in the Platonic tradition, criticized by Karl Popper in 'The Open Society and its Enemies.' I think that Lorna Finlayson is very much an enemy of the Open Society. 

Lorna Finlayson's book 'Introduction to Feminism' is published by Cambridge University Press. I don't think that  Cambridge University Press has published any books which give arguments against feminism. Perhaps the people at Cambridge University Press are unaware that there are arguments against feminism or refuse to examine them!  Perhaps standards of coherent thought at Cambridge University Press and even standards of intellectual honesty at Cambridge University Press aren't uniformly excellent after all? Perhaps Cambridge University's standards aren't beyond criticism?

Philosophy has the reputation of being the academic subject that takes nothing for granted, or the least for granted. Students of philosophy who have only just begun to study the subject may well be astounded to find that in philosophy, even the existence of tables is examined and found to raise many, many problems. They may well feel that philosophy is the most honest and courageous of all academic subjects. But they would be mistaken.

The problems concerning tables and similar objects are well summarized in Bertrand Russell's 'The Problems of Philosophy,' Chapter I, which includes this:

'... the real table, if there is one, is not the same as what we immediately experience by sight or touch or hearing. The real table, if there is one, is not immediately known to us at all, but must be an inference from what is immediately known. Hence, two very difficult questions at once arise; namely, (1) Is there a real table at all? (2) If so, what sort of object can it be?

'It will help us in considering these questions to have a few simple terms of which the meaning is definite and clear. Let us give the name of 'sense-data' to the things that are immediately known in sensation: such things as colours, sounds, smells, hardnesses, roughnesses, and so on. We shall give the name 'sensation' to the experience of being immediately aware of these things. Thus, whenever we see a colour, we have a sensation of the colour, but the colour itself is a sense-datum, not a sensation. The colour is that of which we are immediately aware, and the awareness itself is the sensation. It is plain that if we are to know anything about the table, it must be by means of the sense-data—brown colour, oblong shape, smoothness, etc.—which we associate with the table; but, for the reasons which have been given, we cannot say that the table is the sense-data, or even that the sense-data are directly properties of the table. Thus a problem arises as to the relation of the sense-data to the real table ... '

Difficulties to do with the reality of tables are freely debated in contemporary philosophy. Difficulties to do with feminist argument in general are closed to debate in contemporary philosophy. Feminist interpretation is regarded as correct interpretation.  Here, contemporary philosophy is as dogmatic as Thomist philosophy, which was intellectually very sophisticated but which allowed no questioning of such issues as the existence of God and the main teachings of the Church. Contemporary philosophers are so often adventurous, so often timid and tame. Cambridge University Press published Lorna Finlayson's 'Introduction to Feminism.' It's not in the least likely that the press will publish a book that gives objections to feminism.

From 'The Guardian,' 15 February, 2015:

'We cannot allow censorship and silencing of individuals.'

'The fate of Kate Smurthwaite’s comedy show, cancelled by Goldsmith’s College in London last month ... is part of a worrying pattern of intimidation and silencing of individuals whose views are deemed “transphobic” or “whorephobic”. Most of the people so labelled are feminists or pro-feminist men, some have experience in the sex industry, some are transgender.

'Last month, there were calls for the Cambridge Union to withdraw a speaking invitation to Germaine Greer ... The feminist activist and writer Julie Bindel has been “no-platformed” by the National Union of Students for several years.

'You do not have to agree with the views that are being silenced to find these tactics illiberal and undemocratic. Universities have a particular responsibility to resist this kind of bullying. We call on universities and other organisations to stand up to attempts at intimidation and affirm their support for the basic principles of democratic political exchange.'

Followed by a large number of signatories.

The letter is a good one, but subject to {restriction}. A wider range of examples would have been far better. Free expression is a necessity for anti-feminists as well as feminists.

Dr Finlayson doesn't seem to support in the least the 'basic principles of democratic political exchange' and supports some attempts at intimidation. Does Lorna Finlayson, philosopher,  support the denial of free speech to feminists such as Julie Burchill and Julie Bindel? If she supports their right to speak freely at University events and other events, transphobic activists might well accuse her of minimizing the plight of transphobic people, according to their interpretation. She's supported no-platforming in the case of the minister David Willets but doesn't support no-platforming in the case of Julie Burchill and Julie Bindel, critics of some aspects of transphobia activism? Activists might well conclude, 'What an insult to transphobic people!' To ask this philosopher to support freedom of expression - freedom of expression for transphobic activists and critics of transphobic activists, freedom of expression for feminists and freedom of expression for anti-feminists - may be asking too much. Philosophers don't always follow the dictum ὁ ... ἀνεξέταστος βίος οὐ βιωτὸς ἀνθρώπῳ 'The unexamined life is not worth living.' Or they examine the existence of tables but not the claims of anti-feminists - and ignore or make excuses for transphobic activists who suppress free speech in the case of feminists who seem to have insufficient understanding of 'transphobia.' Contemporary philosophy is flourishing and stagnant, strong and cowardly, massive in its achievement and very undeveloped.

I defend religion as well as criticize it on the page Religions and ideologies. Lorna Finlayson reminds us that non-religious ideologists  can be far more limited and far less impressive than many believers.  Belief in the Trinity and the virgin birth may coexist with robust good sense, realism and fair-mindedness.


Lorna Finlayson certainly has philosophical abilities, fully evident in such an article as 'Kripke, names, and the necessary a priori' but in general, her world is far more dubious and disturbing than the world of  many Christians.


If the past is a foreign country, where they do things differently, the world of military actions, terrorism, fanaticism, intense loathing, fear and suspicion may well be a foreign country for anyone who writes about it from a perspective of safety in a world of reasoned discussion, such as discussion of Saul Kripke. (Fluency in French is of no help when the border has been crossed and what is needed now is fluency in Flemish.)

Lorna Finlayson  on the logician Kripke (followed immediately by Lorna Finlayson on the comedian Russell Brand):

'This is the structure of Kripke’s

(1) It is not conceivable that not-(H=P)7
(2) It is necessary that (H=P) [from (1)]
(3) It is knowable only a posteriori that (H=P)

Therefore, ‘H=P’ expresses a necessary truth knowable only a posteriori.

Premiss (1) seems correct. Kripke has given a convincing alternative explanation of the intuition that we can conceive of not-(H=P). But there is a tension between (1) and (3). Normally, if not-p is not conceivable, we can know a priori that p. For example, we cannot conceive of a married bachelor, and so we know a priori that all bachelors are not married. Yet Kripke seems to be suggesting that the whole of ancient Babylonian society failed to realise a truth of which the negation is inconceivable.'

In an article for the 'London Review of Books,' 'Brand v. Rawls,' Lorna Finlayson defends the comedian Russell Brand


She writes,

The inclusion of Russell Brand on Prospect’s annual list  of ‘world thinkers’ has been met with predictable outrage and ridicule. The Guardian said that his ‘presence looks designed to be provocative’. Reviewing Brand’s book Revolution for Prospect a few months ago, Robin McGhee attacked ‘Brand’s political stupidity’. At the same time, the Telegraph said that ‘Russell Brand’s politics are staggeringly stupid.’ The Spectator called him ‘an adolescent extremist whose hatred of politics is matched by his ignorance’. In the Observer, Nick Cohen once derided Brand’s ‘slack-jawed inability to answer simple questions’. Nathasha Lennard in Vice said she didn’t ‘think Brand is totally idiotic. But, to be clear, he is an idiot.’ Lorna Finlayson may not claim that Russell Brand is a political thinker on quite the same level as John Rawls, the author of 'A Theory of Justice,' or Plato, the author of 'The Republic,' or Aristotle, the author of 'Politics,' but she does seem to claim that he's a deep thinker.

Dr Paul Sagan of King's College, Cambridge, wrote a very interesting, very robust and very accomplished reply, published on the same page, which includes this:

'My colleague Dr. Finlayson’s blog piece cannot, I am afraid, pass without some comment. Partly this is because much of what she argues is dubious, or flatly false. Partly it is because others of us working in the field of political philosophy at the University of Cambridge would like to preserve our collective reputation as people who can, at the very least, do the basics. This makes for less oratorically spectacular grandstanding than Finlayson achieves. But there are principles worth standing up for, even if they make one unfashionable, perhaps even boring.

'I will pass over the question of whether Russell Brand is an idiot (although previous actions may lead us to believe that more than his Essex accent informs such conclusions*), and move straight to Rawls. Finlayson writes, “In A Theory of Justice, John Rawls argued that a just society is one in which things are as equal as possible without making everyone worse off”. This is an error so glaring one would not permit even a first year undergraduate to make it. Rawls’s claim is actually that “social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they are…to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged” (A Theory of Justice, p. 83). There difference between what Finlayson says Rawls says, and what Rawls actually says, is enormous.'

Why are there no national feminist magazines?

Print magazines not only survive but flourish, despite the importance of internet publication. There are print magazines concerned with a vast range of topics, from Allotment gardening to Zymurgy (the magazine of the American Homebrewers' Association.') There are many, many magazines, of course, devoted to trash and trivia.

According to many feminists, very few  women are concerned with trash and trivia,  or none at all. (For my own opinion, see the section Feminism: trash and trivia.) If there are women who seem to have an interest in trash and trivia, then they've been influenced - or oppressed - by patriarchy's promotion of trash and trivia. At the same time, many of these feminists insist that women - all women or almost all women - are strong, not in the least weak beings.

Feminists don't agree about the extent of women's oppression but there's general agreement that women are victims. You'd imagine, then, that these victims, yearning to be free, eager to end their oppression, would welcome nothing more than a feminist magazine to inspire them and guide them and inform them - and not just one magazine, but many magazines. Why, then, is there no widely available feminist magazine in this country, or, so far as I know, in any other country?

There used to be a widely available feminist magazine in this country, 'Spare Rib.' It ceased publication in 1993. Its history isn't encouraging. According to the Wikipedia entry, 'As the women's movement evolved during the 1970s the magazine became a focus for sometimes acrimonious debate between the many streams which emerged within the movement, such as socialist feminism, radical feminism, revolutionary feminism, lesbian feminism, liberal feminism and black feminism.'

In the section Triona Kennedy and feminist sanctity, I point out that she ignores these conflicts. She promotes feminist lesson-plans in schools but it really does seem that the variety of feminism to be promoted in lessons plans is the variety she supports.  See also the section Feminist divisions and in-fighting. 

If patriarchal entrepreneurs and risk-takers have managed to launch succesfully many, many magazines, what about feminist entrepreneurs and risk-takers? What's stopping you?

Feminism: trash and trivia

A significant proportion of women have an intense interest in shopping, in the kind of shopping which is more to do with status and image than with needs - the most trivial ways of enhancing status and the most trivial ways of presenting the right image: the world of rampant consumerism which leads some women to buy things on credit which they can't possibly pay for - they will need to take them back and get a refund but they will have had The Joy of Shopping. These women are unacknowledged by many feminists. 'Facts' are crude or imaginary things according to  higher feminist views. Feminists will either be indifferent to consumerism or give it a low priority, if the consumerism seems to have nothing to do with feminist issues. If women are buying things to please men, then that's a very different thing. Here, as so often, feminist criteria turn out to be completely inadequate.

Mary Wollstonecraft, proto-feminist, like so many later feminists, is fond of the nonsensical generalization, as in this, 'If then women are not a swarm of ephemeron triflers ...' As a matter of fact, there were many women then and there are many women now who could be described as 'ephemeron triflers,' although a less quaint description would be preferable.

This is a man, Paul Kingsnorth, criticizing a woman, name unknown. If there's a distinctively feminist perspective which can illuminate this, what is it? Surely, one conclusion that can be drawn, a non-feminist conclusion, is that in this instance a woman can have debased values and a man can have better values and the man is fully entitled to criticize the woman.  Paul Kingsnorth is writing in 'Real England: The Battle Against the Bland.'

'A few days ago, I was lying in bed listening to a current affairs programme on the radio. A presenter was interviewing a woman who was angry with Tesco. At first, through my fug of half-sleep, I thought this sounded promising. I wondered what was bothering her: the death of the high street, the crucifixion of local farmers, over-packaging, junk food ... there was so much to choose from. But it wasn't any of those.

'The woman was angry because Tesco had refused to accept her brand of credit card when she went shopping. She was so angry, she wanted to tell the nation. She thought it was an outrage. She couldn't see why a big supermarket like that couldn't accept every credit card there was. 'It's my right,' she said - and Tesco was violating that right by telling her to pay some other way. She was going to start a campaign. I felt a strange and alien emotion: sympathy for Tesco was coursing through my veins.

'Some on the political right used to talk a lot about the 'dependency culture' created by the welfare state ... Increasingly, as the Tesco woman showed, we do live in a 'dependency culture' - of  a different kind. We depend on the consumer machine to provide for us - to give us what we want, when we want it. This is our 'right'. The Thing has dehumanised us, and we are all increasingly dependent on it for succour. We expect. We demand. We are like children. Everything must be instant and, if it isn't, somebody must pay.'

In this instance he had a legitimate point but I criticize him severely in the section Paul Kingsnorth and green terrorism of my page  'Immature, unsophisticated, or gullible:' green ideology.'

My page on Supermarkets has extended criticism of Tesco and some other supermarkets - and criticism of some small shops.

'Dumbing down,' the relentless tide of trivialization, the huge numbers of infantile adults, moronic media (moronic TV and radio programmes, moronic magazines and books, not forgetting moronic contributions to the social media) only attract attention from feminists qua feminists if they infringe feminist norms.

There's a place for the trivial in human life - how  would comedy manage without it, for example? - but so much that's trivial is dispiriting. In a world awash with trivia, to meet more of it at every turn depresses the spirits. Not again! And again and again, the trivial is hard to separate from the  moronic

Theodore Dalrymple, writing in 'The Spectator,' 'I have come to the conclusion that ... most thoughts lie too shallow for words. That is why an age of easy communication is almost certain to be an age of absence of communication. There will be no plumbing the shallows of the human heart.'

His starting point (one of a vast number of possible starting points, of course) is the visitor's book for annexe of the Rijksmuseum at Amsterdam Airport: ' ... there is nothing quite like a visitors’ book for appreciating the preponderance of the banal in human thought and existence.

'Some of the praise of the museum was for distinctly extraneous reasons:

 Your couch is really comfy. I will sleep on it again when I return.

 It was a very nice museum. I was able to find my husband here and now we are happily married. Thank you Amsterdam Museum. I love you.

 Best place to fart in the airport.

An Indian wrote:

 Amazing art show. Got new trivia about European culture.

Between a tenth and a twentieth of the comments were bizarre in various revealing ways. First was the purely egotistical:

 Hey Bridget, I can’t believe we’re finally in the same place at the same time, but apart from my flight… I miss you like  crazy and check in your Facebook to see all the fun you’re having… I will leave your present at your house so you can  get it in December. Don’t forget that trip that we’ll plan.

This is signed Hanna, with a little heart that — well, makes the heart sink. Or again:

 From Boston Bar, to Amsterdam, to Kenya and back again. 13 small town members travel half way around the world to help build a primary school in Kenya. What an adventure!

The Great British Bake Off

Yet again:

 All the way from Sac-Town, California! Holla! Always mackin, never slackin.

Egotism is international and not the property of one country:

 I’m from Taiwan.

Next came the patriotic-xenophobic range of comments:

 Bonjour à tous les French people qui passeront par ici! Escale dans cet aeroport en direction Nouméa! Faites bon voyage les français. 

 Hello from Cleveland Ohio, in America, aka USA. The land of the free, if you didn’t know.

 Bien por inculcar cultura en general espero haya variedad de presentaciones en específico México. 

 Thailand rulez.

A foreigner has tried his pidgin Dutch to say something ideological:

 Europeers is niet die beste kunstenaars! (Europeans are not the best artists.)

Or simply:


Then there are the religious enthusiasts:

 He died for our sins – J-C – Praise God for the gift of eternal life.

 Waddup! Shout out to Bethany Church and my second family from Terradise! Love you guys!

Then there is the purely-irrelevant-to–outright-thought-disordered range:

 I love sandwiches.

 Amsterdam 4 ever! But the prices are RIDICULOUSE!

 What’s Jello meat about… thanks, -Belarus!

 Girl don’t play with my fine art! Ain’t gonna put no dance Club or nothin, but as museum? bid please! – Ya heard.

Finally, there is the facetious to vulgar range:

 Wally the pregnant walrus was here.

 Charles son of Darmouth, King of Uranus, we appreciate this here service.

 Please excuse my terrible language. Now bugger off.

 Literally mindblowing, where’s my mind? My breasts just about fill this hell hole.

 Wordup to all you Motherlickas from the nasty nati.

 No me gustó el arte holandés, nunca estuvo de moda. Pongan unas chavas bien chulas! (I didn’t like Dutch art, it was never cool. Put up some pretty chicks!)

To which someone has appended Puto, male prostitute.'

Faced with this list of banalities, the feminist duty - or pleasure - is clear, for so many feminists. Not all feminists would react in the same way, but as for the rest, condemnation consists in finding out  which comments were written by men and then condemning them.

The comments sections of many, many Webs and blogs offer unlimited illustrative material. Here, superficial, inane, moronic and worse than moronic material abounds.

I don't in the least contend that people should spend all their time or most of their time addressing extreme suffering and injustice.  I only object when people seem to actively distort and make distorted claims, claiming that less serious injustices, for instance, are much worse than the worst injustices.

People are fully justified in addressing lesser concerns and other concerns - the problem of litter in a neighbourhood, which may well be a real probelm in that neighbourhood, the decline in the standard of string playing, the choice of wildly unsuitable tempos, after a now conductor has been appointed.

 It pleases me very much that during the Second World War, including the years when Britain's survival was very much in doubt, cultural life was far from coming  to a standstill. Many books to do with the arts were published, for example. Susie Harries' wonderful biography 'Nikolaus Pevsner: The Life' is about the German Jew whose writing on the architecture of this country has very great significance. He wrote most of the volumes in the monumental series, 'The Buildings of England.'

 His book, 'An Outline of European Architecture' was published in the  grim year of 1942. She writes that it , ' ... took the great buildings of Europe and the vocabulary of architecture to a wider and older audience ... 'Thousands,' wrote Banham, 'must have made their discovery of Vierzehnheiligen in an air raid shelter, or the Pazzi Chapel in a transit camp.'

Gretchen Rubin: infantile woman

What are feminists to make of Gretchen Rubin's blatant promotion of infantile attitudes? Don't many, many feminists settle for something similar? This is what she writes on her Website, 'The Happiness Project,' www.happiness-project.com

Why I Treat Myself Like a Toddler. A Cranky Toddler.

'I remember reading somewhere that writer Anne Lamott thinks about herself in the third person, to take better care of herself: “I’m sorry, Anne Lamott can’t accept that invitation to speak; she’s finishing a book so needs to keep her schedule clear.” [No criticisms. Anne Lamott can't be faulted.]

'Similarly, I imagine myself as a toddler. “Gretchen gets cranky when she’s over-tired. We really need to stick to the usual bedtimes.” “Gretchen gets frantic when she’s really hungry, so she can’t wait too long for dinner.” “Gretchen needs some quiet time each day.” “Gretchen really feels the cold, so we can’t be outside for too long."

'The fact is, if you’re dealing with a toddler, you have to plan. You have to think ahead about eating, sleeping, proper winter clothes, necessary equipment, a limit on sweets, etc. Because with a toddler, the consequences can be very unpleasant. In the same way, to be good-humored and well-behaved, I need to make sure I have my coffee, my cell-phone charger, my constant snacks, and my eight hours of sleep.'

Gretchen Rubin is obviously dependent on people who don't follow her example, who couldn't possibly follow her example, such people as loggers, labourers, roofers and trawlermen, who have to be outside 'for too long' whether they like it or not, who become 'over-tired,' exhausted, every working day. Many millions of the world's population do have to 'wait too long for dinner,' or any sort of meal, of course.   This objection is such an  obvious one that only a devoted narcissist could fail to notice it.

Various comments followed, none of them expressing incredulity. This is from Williesha Morris:

'Williesha pretty much likes to sit around and do absolutely nothing for long periods of time. Williesha needs a lot of motivation and excitement to get things done. Williesha needs a buddy. Thankfully she is married to that person.'

This is Mary Sahs:

'When Mary Beth eats too much sugar, she gets very emotional and unhappy, and then she feels sick. She really needs to pay attention and only eat a tiny bit and she really needs to stop sitting there like a lump and go out and play ... or even to the playroom in the basement ... work off some of that bad energy.' (I can't confirm beyond all doubt that this is Mary Sahs the 'Natural Health Consultant and Wellness Planner' and a grown adult, but it seems likely.)

Of the groups mentioned in this section, who are the more privileged and who are the less privileged?

Gretchen Rubin's  devotion to herself does allow for some consideration for her husband. She has given some thought to Maximisation of Married Bliss. Her observations will be an affront to many feminists. They seem to come from a different, and surely better, person than the spoilt brat:

 'I complain about the time I spend paying bills, but I overlook the time my husband spends dealing with our our car. It’s easy to see that over-claiming leads to resentment and an inflated sense of entitlement. So now when I find myself thinking, “I’m the only one around here who bothers to…” or “Why do I always have to be the one who…?” I remind myself of all the tasks I don’t do.


 ' ... Just as I find it easily to overlook the chores done by my husband ... it’s easy for me to forget to appreciate his many virtues and instead focus on his flaws. For example, although I find it hard to resist using an irritable tone, my husband almost never speaks harshly, and that’s really a wonderful trait. I’m trying to stay alert to all the things I love about him, and let go of my petty annoyances. This is easier said than done.'

 As regards car maintenance, see the section Feminism and the art of car maintenance.

 has  importance in feminism  Although her liberal treatment of her husband may disappoint, or outrage, so many feminists, Gretchen Rubin's curriculum vitae will be very encouraging and  heartening  to the many feminists who emphasize the importance of studying at the 'best' universities and being appointed to  'top jobs.' She studied law at Yale University and  she has been a lecturer at Yale Law School and the Yale School of Management.

William Deresiewicz has written well on the disadvantages of an education at Yale and other prestigious universities. The American Scholar gives his very interesting essay The disadvantages of an elite education. It certainly interests me.

His essay isn't in the least an anti-feminist (or pro-feminist) one but I think it contains a great deal which challenges some common feminist norms and tendencies. Do many feminists have any more idea how to talk to a plumber, or a mechanic? (whose jobs, they may forget, are skilled or very highly skilled ones, perhaps demanding more skill than the feminist's own), or to a labourer (whose job is intensely demanding.) When they find the plumber, the mechanic or the labourer 'patronising' we only have their word for it, usually, that they aren't to blame, that they haven't patronised the plumber, the mechanic or the labourer. What William Deresiewicz writes about Ivy League universities is often more widely applicable, surely. Professors of Women's Studies (or other studies, of course) at a very different kind of university may well lack understanding of men's and women's lives if the men and women belong to a section of society which they know next to nothing about. I do think that a knowledge of 'différance,' acquaintance with the important works of Derrida, Kristeva and the rest won't be of any help. What William Deresiewicz writes  about  'top jobs' is highly relevant to feminism, surely. He wrtes from experience. He was a Professor of English at Yale University until he got out.


 'It didn’t dawn on me that there might be a few holes in my education until I was about 35. I’d just bought a house, the pipes needed fixing, and the plumber was standing in my kitchen. There he was, a short, beefy guy with a goatee and a Red Sox cap and a thick Boston accent, and I suddenly learned that I didn’t have the slightest idea what to say to someone like him. So alien was his experience to me, so unguessable his values, so mysterious his very language, that I couldn’t succeed in engaging him in a few minutes of small talk before he got down to work. Fourteen years of higher education and a handful of Ivy League degrees, and there I was, stiff and stupid, struck dumb by my own dumbness. “Ivy retardation,” a friend of mine calls this. I could carry on conversations with people from other countries, in other languages, but I couldn’t talk to the man who was standing in my own house.

 'It’s not surprising that it took me so long to discover the extent of my miseducation, because the last thing an elite education will teach you is its own inadequacy. As two dozen years at Yale and Columbia have shown me, elite colleges relentlessly encourage their students to flatter themselves for being there, and for what being there can do for them. The advantages of an elite education are indeed undeniable. You learn to think, at least in certain ways, and you make the contacts needed to launch yourself into a life rich in all of society’s most cherished rewards. To consider that while some opportunities are being created, others are being cancelled and that while some abilities are being developed, others are being crippled is, within this context, not only outrageous, but inconceivable.


 'The first disadvantage of an elite education, as I learned in my kitchen that day, is that it makes you incapable of talking to people who aren’t like you. Elite schools pride themselves on their diversity, but that diversity is almost entirely a matter of ethnicity and race. With respect to class, these schools are largely—indeed increasingly—homogeneous. Visit any elite campus in our great nation and you can thrill to the heartwarming spectacle of the children of white businesspeople and professionals studying and playing alongside the children of black, Asian, and Latino businesspeople and professionals. At the same time, because these schools tend to cultivate liberal attitudes, they leave their students in the paradoxical position of wanting to advocate on behalf of the working class while being unable to hold a simple conversation with anyone in it. 

 ' ... Graduates of elite schools are not more valuable than stupid people, or talentless people, or even lazy people. Their pain does not hurt more. Their souls do not weigh more. If I were religious, I would say, God does not love them more.

 ' ... When elite universities boast that they teach their students how to think, they mean that they teach them the analytic and rhetorical skills necessary for success in law or medicine or science or business. But a humanistic education is supposed to mean something more than that, as universities still dimly feel. So when students get to college, they hear a couple of speeches telling them to ask the big questions, and when they graduate, they hear a couple more speeches telling them to ask the big questions. And in between, they spend four years taking courses that train them to ask the little questions—specialized courses, taught by specialized professors, aimed at specialized students. Although the notion of breadth is implicit in the very idea of a liberal arts education, the admissions process increasingly selects for kids who have already begun to think of themselves in specialized terms—the junior journalist, the budding astronomer, the language prodigy. We are slouching, even at elite schools, toward a glorified form of vocational training.

 'Indeed, that seems to be exactly what those schools want. There’s a reason elite schools speak of training leaders, not thinkers—holders of power, not its critics. An independent mind is independent of all allegiances, and elite schools, which get a large percentage of their budget from alumni giving, are strongly invested in fostering institutional loyalty.'

More inconvenient facts

 Generally, the 'Men's Movement' opposes particular distortions, such as the notion that all domestic abuse is by men against women. It doesn't claim that men have the monopoly of virtue. Many feminists are close to claiming that women have the monopoly of virtue, or do claim it.

I recognize that many men are irrational, trivial-minded, cruel, vindictive, bullying, infantile, easily-led, and many women likewise. Some feminists give the impression that they believe women are inherently virtuous. If so, this view is vulnerable to experience, I think. Feminists may find that in the workplace, some of the men are unexpectedly and uncomfortably compassionate and that not all the women are all they seem. One very bad woman boss may destroy the illusion for good, just as one very bad male boss may confirm views. A heterosexual feminist loses a husband or partner to another woman. The belief that women are inherently virtuous is diminished. A 'Women's Studies' academic is more often than not competing against other women rather than men and if she fails in an application, she may well blame women rather than men.

The harshness of reality, the injustice of reality, tend to destroy illusions and support deeper thought but sometimes illusions have such a grip that {modification} of reality is more convenient than {modification} of the illusions.

Instances of hostility between women are so common, of course, that it requires an effort to realize this:  according to one stream of feminist thought, disharmony between women is, if not impossible, negligible in comparison with the disharmony between men and women - men and women opposite but not in the least equal. Women are the victims. An instance of disharmony between women, which can be interpreted according to the affiliation of the feminist.

From http://www.pugbus.net/artman/publish/printer_07217002_11

'Harry Potter author, J.K. Rowling, has accused New York Times book reviewer Michiko Kakutani of "gross unprofessionalism" for writing a review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows before she had read the entire book.

'Saying that she was "staggered, gobsmacked" and several other Briticisms that mean "like totally surprised," Ms. Rowling registered her complaint with Rod Bender,THEM Weekly's children's lit editor.

' "An author of my stature and earning power [earning power!] deserves more respect than that Yoko Ono gave me," said Ms. Rowling. "How dare she buy a copy of my book in the morning and post a review of it that same evening? I spent weeks [weeks!] writing that book. The least she could do is give me the courtesy of reading all of it. Besides, she had the cheek to post her review three days before the official release date of Deathly Hallows. I've got a mind to buy the bloody New York Times and fire that woman." [the privileges of wealth!]

'Ms. Kakutani refused to discuss her working method or her reading speed, so we do not know if she had help reading Deathly Hallows. If she did, however, why weren't her elves mentioned in one of those additional-reporting footnotes at the end of her review? At worst she appears guilty of skipping large portions of Deathly Hallows, a short cut that would earn any junior high school student an F on her book report. Or else Ms. Kakutani is guilty of passing off others' work as her own, another F bomb in book report circles.

'Although Ms. Kakutani wouldn't say how much of Deathly Hallows she had read, she was willing to answer Ms. Rowling's criticism of her review.

 ' "Nobody reads her [stuff] cover to cover except ten-year-olds," she said. "Adults, for whom my review was intended, skim the Harry Potter books. I don't know of anyone with a mental age greater than nineteen who reads those books in their entirety.

' "Furthermore, what does Ms. Rowling have to complain about? I said nice things about her book. That woman needs to get over herself." '

 In general, the warm feeling of sisterhood in the face of male opposition is a feeling difficult to maintain indefinitely. Reality is denied, modified to support the illusions but sooner or later, the complexity and harshness of reality make it impossible to continue believing in illusion, except for the most deluded fantasists, those with the weakest grasp of realities - but many feminists are exactly that.

Kingsley Amis

At the end of his novel 'Jake's Thing,' Kingsley Amis, a novelist obviously vastly inferior to such women novelists as George Eliot or Emily Bronte, or male novelists such as Kafka and Coetzee, writes about women. His intended target here isn't one I accept, but it can be reinterpreted as an attack on radical feminists, and then it's surely devastatingly accurate -

 '... their concern ... with seeming to be better and to be right while getting everything wrong, their automatic assumption of the role of injured party in any clash of wills, their certainty that a view is the more credible and useful for the fact that they hold it, their use of misunderstanding and misrepresentation as weapons of debate, their selective sensitivity to tones of voice, their unawareness of the difference in themselves between sincerity and insincerity, their interest in importance (together with noticeable inability to discriminate in that sphere), their fondness for general conversation and directionless discussion, their pre-emption of the major share of feeling, their exaggerated estimate of their own plausibility ...'

These lines from his poem 'A Bookshop Idyll' will probably be just as offensive to feminists:

Women are really much nicer than men:
aaNo wonder we like them.

Here, Kingsley Amis is using generalization, of course. Feminists' use of generalization is almost limitless and just as empty. Feminist claims beginning with 'men are ...' or 'women are ...' should be examined very, very carefully.

Claiming superiority the easy way

In the final paragraph of her book 'Mary Wollstonecraft: A New Genus,' Lyndall Gordon repeats the glib phrase which dismisses from serious consideration not just a few achievements - but achievements which are massive and  momentous -  such as the Periodic Table, Quantum Theory, the building of a masterpiece such as King's College Chapel - but an almost limitless number of achievements. She writes, 'Women who imitate men lack ambition, goes the old phrase.' The phrase isn't likely to motivate any woman to make discoveries in science far more remarkable than the Periodic Table or Quantum Theory or to design and construct buildings far more remarkable than King's College Chapel, but to leave a feminist with the certainty that if she ever did want to achieve on such a scale, it wouldn't be difficult. I think that Lyndall Gordon is deluded here.

Faced with a man's massive achievement, which has directly or indirectly reduced suffering - but only some massive achievement has humanitarian benefits - feminists more often than not overlook the achievement. If the man can be found to be 'sexist' in some way - the criteria used are very broad, the judgment regarded as practically infallible - then of course the matter is clear-cut, but otherwise, simplification-words such as 'phallocentric' and 'patriarchal' will do and the achievement can be dismissed or overlooked. Who are the important people? Why, the feminists. They are spared the necessity of achieving, they can gain a reputation for superiority by this easiest of ways, by using simplification-words, by showing that they know how to use the word 'gender' instead of 'sex.' In any case, 'achievement' may well be a 'masculinist' idea, according to some feminists.

'Sexist' is an easy way of disposing of arguments without the hard work needed to present a case in detail, with supporting evidence. It's far easier to say that a garage is 'sexist' or 'patronising' than for a radical feminist to set up a garage. Lying underneath a vehicle trying to dislodge a rusted part, covered with grime and oil, doesn't offer the same advantages in self-promotion. It's easier to deny angrily that in general women have less interest in mechanical matters and to speak glibly of 'gender stereotyping' than for a feminist car-owner to study a workshop manual and actually carry out major mechanical work on a car.

The sphere of 'strict facts'

 I refuse absolutely to apologize for men or to defend men if their actions seem indefensible, or to defend women if their actions seem indefensible. I follow the principle of cross-linkage. In some cases, 'gender' is the most important linkage, but very often not. I feel ties to, linkages with, men in some cases, not in others. In other cases, I feel ties to, linkages with, women. 'Facts' were under attack for a time, but facts can now be seen as clear-cut in very many cases, open to theoretical objections but no more so than the existence of an external world or the materiality of a stone, a 'fact' of the external world, as shown by kicking it.

In the previous section, on the death penalty, I discussed the use of the death penalty in this country in the eighteenth century, and the failure of Mary Wollstonecraft to show any awareness of its evils.

As a matter of strict fact, the harsh penal code of the later eighteenth and early nineteenth century was imposed by men, not women. As a matter of strict fact, the harsh penal code of the eighteenth and early nineteenth century was opposed by a tiny minority of men but no women, or none that I know of. As a matter of strict fact, the worst excesses of this harsh penal code were ended by men. V A C Gatrell: 'Then suddenly - and I mean suddenly - this ancient killing system collapsed. The 1832 Reform Act ... opened parliament to some hundred independent MPs, largely middle-class advocates of progress and critics of the ancien régime, fervently advocating the bloody code's repeal ... When most capital statutes were at last repealed in 1837, only eight people were killed that year in the whole country, and six in the year following, all murderers ...' As a matter of strict fact, women were denied any political say in such matters. Not as a matter of strict fact, but as a likelihood, if they had been, they would not have been any more humanitarian. As a matter of strict fact, Mrs Thatcher in the twentieth century made determined efforts to reintroduce the death penalty in this country after its abolition in the 1960's by Harold Wilson's government.

As a matter of strict fact, the Nazi terror in Germany was due to men. As a matter of strict fact, the Nazi regime came to be supported actively and passively by the overwhelming majority of Germans. As a matter of strict fact, the Nazi regime was actively opposed by only a tiny proportion of Germans, men and women. As a matter of strict fact, the armed military action which eventually ended the Nazi regime was overwhelmingly due to men rather than women.

As a matter of strict fact, virtually all the scientific and technological advances which have made life longer and less subject to such scourges as famine and epidemic disease have been achieved by men. As a matter of strict fact, feminists have increased human happiness to a far, far lesser extent than the work of these men.


The attempt to be as fair as possible, the attempt to avoid distortion as far as possible, the attempt to take account of evidence, to avoid selective use of evidence, so far as possible, including evidence which is inconvenient to a theory or a view of the world - these aren't characteristic of feminism and feminist 'theory.' The examination of 'gendercide' in the Website www.gendercide.org  does seem to me to follow these principles. From the introduction to the site:

 'Gendercide is gender-selective mass killing. The term was first used by Mary Anne Warren in her 1985 book,Gendercide: The Implications of Sex Selection. Warren drew "an analogy between the concept of genocide" and what she called "gendercide." Citing the Oxford English Dictionary definition of genocide as "the deliberate extermination of a race of people," Warren wrote:

' 'By analogy, gendercide would be the deliberate extermination of persons of a particular sex (or gender). Other terms, such as "gynocide" and "femicide," have been used to refer to the wrongful killing of girls and women. But "gendercide" is a sex-neutral term, in that the victims may be either male or female. There is a need for such a sex-neutral term, since sexually discriminatory killing is just as wrong when the victims happen to be male. The term also calls attention to the fact that gender roles have often had lethal consequences, and that these are in important respects analogous to the lethal consequences of racial, religious, and class prejudice.'

'Warren explores the deliberate extermination of women through analysis of such subjects as female infanticide,maternal mortalitywitch-hunts in early modern Europe, and other atrocities and abuses against women. Gendercide Watch includes all three of these as case-studies of gendercide. In addition, we include cases of mass rape of women followed by murder, as has occurred on a large scale in recent decades (see the case-studies of gendercide against both women and men in Nanjing in 1937-38 and Bangladesh in 1971). We also feature a case-study of the Montreal Massacre (1989), a gender-selective mass execution of young women that is indelibly imprinted in the memories of millions of Canadians, and which shocked many others worldwide.

The difficulty with Warren's framing of gendercide, though -- and this is true for the feminist analysis of gender-selective human-rights abuses as a whole -- is that the inclusive definition is not matched by an inclusive analysis of the mass killing of non-combatant men. [In my terminology, feminists use a defective ((survey)), a ((survey)) subject to unwarranted {restriction}, or {restriction}:- ((survey))]Gendercide Watch was founded to encourage just such an inclusive approach. We believe that state-directed gender-selective mass killings have overwhelmingly targeted men through history, and that this phenomenon is pervasive in the modern world as well. Despite this prevalence of gendercide against males -- especially younger, "battle-age" men -- the subject has received almost no attention across a wide range of policy areas, humanitarian initiatives, and academic disciplines. We at Gendercide Watch feel it is one of the great taboos of the contemporary age, and must be ignored no longer.

'We offer case-study treatments of gendercide against men in political, military, and ethnic conflicts over the last century-and-a-quarter. If the case-studies numerically outweigh those of mass killings of women in wars and other conflicts, this reflects our conviction that men are, indeed, generally the victims of the most severe gender-selective atrocities in such situations.

'Case-studies range from The Paraguayan War of 1864-70 to the gendercides in Kosovo and East Timor in 1999. Other cases of gendercide against men include theIndonesian genocide of 1965-66, Bosnia-Herzegovina,Kashmir/Punjab/The Delhi MassacreSri Lanka,BurundiColombia, and the Anfal Campaign in Iraqi Kurdistan (1988). We analyze little-known gendercides such as the Nazi murder of 2.8 million Soviet prisoners-of-warin just eight months of 1941-42 -- possibly the most concentrated mass killing of any kind in human history. The ambiguous case of Stalin's Purges in the USSR receives case-study treatment because of the sheer scale of the gender-specific killing (tens of millions of men). It is harder to say whether Stalin's mass murders were intentionally gender-selective, in the manner of the Serbs in Kosovo or the Nazis in Occupied Russia. Should they truly be considered acts of "gendercide"? Where such difficulties and ambiguities arise, we will do our best to acknowledge them and open them for discussion.

'As feminists have sought to move beyond traditional political-military framings of conflict and violence, we seek also to understand institutions rooted deep in human history that have consistently been "gendercidal" in their impact on men. Four of these institutions have been discussed alongside "non-traditional" institutions that overwhelmingly or exclusively target women. For men, the case-study institutions are: corvée (forced) labourmilitary conscriptionincarceration/the death penaltyvigilante killings, and violence against gay men. [I discuss the general 'imbalance' in inflicting the death penalty above.]

Academic publishing

This is Hélène Cixous urging women to write: 'Write, let no one hold you back, let nothing stop you: not man; not the imbecilic capitalist machinery, in which publishing houses are the crafty, obsequious relayers of imperatives handed down by an economy that works against us and off our backs; and not yourself. Smug-faced readers, managing editors, and big bosses don't like the true texts of women - female-sexed texts. That kind scares them.'

This, of course, was published by W W Norton and Company, a big publishing house based in the United States which is inextricably linked with 'capitalist machinery,' and one of those 'crafty, obsequious relayers of imperatives ...' It's not true that the managing editors and big bosses of this publishing company 'don't like the true texts of women - female-sexed texts.'

In this book of 2 624 pages (General editor, Vincent B Leitch) there are many, many feminist essays, extensive extracts from such works as Adrienne Rich's 'Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence,' Monique Wittig's 'One is not Born a Woman,' (Monique Wittig is described in the introduction as 'the French writer and radical lesbian theorist,' one who claims that "lesbians are not women"), Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar's 'The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination,' (the extract begins 'What does it mean to be a woman writer in a culture whose fundamental definitions of literary authority are, as we have seen, both overtly and covertly patriarchal?'), Annette Kolodny's 'Dancing through the Minefield: Some Observations on the Theory, Practice, and Politics of a Feminist Literary Criticism,' Donna Haraway's 'A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the 1980's,' Barbara Smith's 'Towards a Black Feminist Criticism,' Susan Bordo's 'Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture and the Body,' Judith Butler's 'Gender Trouble.' There are no 'masculinist' essays at all. In some of the introductions, there are criticisms, but only of particular points. In the whole massive volume, there are no extracts from some of the very many works of sustained criticism of feminist interpretations which exist. Any readers unfamiliar with these works would never know from reading this book that they do exist.

Two of the notes to the Introduction to 'Theory's Empire' concern 'The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism.' From Note 6: 'Harpham's detailed review addresses the great gaps, arbitrariness and presentation of the Norton Anthology, noting the tendentious introductions to the essays included and the tone celebrating the risky business of Theory. See his "From Revolution to Canon," The Kenyon Review, n.s. 25, no. 2 (Spring 2003): 169 - 87. Of course, the Norton Anthology is hardly unusual in its biases. For critiques of major reference works with similar agendas, see, for example, John Ellis's "In Theory It Works," a review of The Penguin Dictionary of Critical Theory, by David Macey, Times Literary Supplement, 29 September 2000, 6 -7. Ellis demonstrates Macey's partisan view of his subject, especially deplorable in reference works, which, Ellis states, have a duty "to represent the real state of opinion in the field, and that means getting [the author's] own commitments under control so that he can present the full range of opinion in a reasonably balanced way." ' In the term I used, a comprehensive reference work should offer a ((survey)).

John Ellis discusses the selectivity of David Macey in the review:

' ... when the topic is feminism, for example, neither text nor bibliography show any sign of the major critiques by Christina Hoff Sommers, or Elizabeth FoxGenovese, or Daphne Patai/Noretta Koertge, among others. Dozens of books that have had an enormous impact - from Higher Superstition by Paul Gross and Norman Levitt to Dinesh D’Souza’s Illiberal Education - are missing from the world of critical theory as presented by Macey.'

The claim that 'female-sexed' texts have no chance of being published by mainstream publishers isn't true in the least.

It's true that general publishers generally don't publish books with such sentences as this, 'As Judith Butler notes in her discussion of the dialectic of Same and Other, that dialectic is 'a false binary, the illusion of a symmetrical difference which consolidates the metaphysical economy of phallogocentrism, the economy of the same.' But so many academic publishers don't hesitate. (This is taken from Fran Brearton on 'Heaney and the Feminine' in the 'Cambridge Companion to Seamus Heaney.') But general publishers do publish novels by women novelists, biographies by women biographers, poetry by women poets, and of course books by women in other fields - but the books may not in general meet the exacting criteria of radical feminists.

Every one of the books in the 'Cambridge Companion' series which I've referred to contains a chapter which could be described as feminist. It's not true that the 'managing editors, and big bosses' of the Cambridge University Press don't like the true texts of women - female-sexed texts.' What they don't appear to like are texts which criticize feminism. In the 1 000 pages (a little more) of 'The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy' there are substantial entries for feminist epistemology and feminist philosophy, but no entries which are critical of feminist epistemology and feminist philosophy. Above, I quote from the article by the feminist Susan James in the 'Concise Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy.' Again, there are entries on feminism but no entries critical of feminism.

These books in general reflect the vigorous debate in contemporary philosophy. They show the extent to which views are vulnerable to criticism as well as the extent to which they can withstand criticism. They fair-mindedly give the case against and the case for. To give just one from innumerable examples, in the Cambridge Dictionary, on the 'moral implications' of utilitarianism, we read 'Most debate about utilitarianism has focused on its moral implications. Critics have argued that its implications sharply conflict with most people's considered moral judgments, and that this is a strong reason to reject utilitarianism. Proponents have argued both that many of these conflicts disappear on a proper understanding of utilitarianism and that the remaining conflicts disappear on a proper understanding of utilitarianism and that the remaining conflicts should throw the particular judgments, not utilitarianism, into doubt. One important controversy concerns utilitarianism's implications for distributive justice ...'

Feminist essays and articles and feminist works published by academic presses in general either contain no criticism of feminist views at all or the criticism is muted, reflecting none of the vigorous, sustained criticism which exists.

It would be far closer to the truth to say that radical feminism has a stranglehold over academic publishing, with few exceptions, and over universities, with few exceptions, than that radical feminism is shunned, not at all welcome.

Martha Nussbaum and radical feminism

Extracts from Martha Nussbaum's 'The Professor of Parody.' The extracts concern only some of the themes in Martha Nussbaum's subtle and well-argued essay.

'In India ... academic feminists have thrown themselves into practical struggles, and feminist theorizing is closely tethered to practical commitments such as female literacy, the reform of unequal land laws, changes in rape law (which, in India today, has most of the flaws that the first generation of American feminists targeted), the effort to get social recognition for problems of sexual harassment and domestic violence. These feminists know that they live in the middle of a fiercely unjust reality; they cannot live with themselves without addressing it more or less daily, in their theoretical writing and in their activities outside the seminar room.

'In the United States, however, things have been changing. One observes a new, disquieting trend. It is not only that feminist theory pays relatively little attention to the struggles of women outside the United States. (This was always a dispiriting feature even of much of the best work of the earlier period.) Something more insidious than provincialism has come to prominence in the American academy. It is the virtually complete turning from the material side of life, toward a type of verbal and symbolic politics that makes only the flimsiest of connections with the real situation of real women.

Feminist thinkers of the new symbolic type would appear to believe that the way to do feminist politics is to use words in a subversive way, in academic publications of lofty obscurity and disdainful abstractness. These symbolic gestures, it is believed, are themselves a form of political resistance; and so one need not engage with messy things such as legislatures and movements in order to act daringly.

'These developments owe much to the recent prominence of French postmodernist thought. Many young feminists, whatever their concrete affiliations with this or that French thinker, have been influenced by the extremely French idea that the intellectual does politics by speaking seditiously, and that this is a significant type of political action.

'One American feminist has shaped these developments more than any other. Judith Butler seems to many young scholars to define what feminism is now. Trained as a philosopher, she is frequently seen (more by people in literature than by philosophers) as a major thinker about gender, power, and the body. As we wonder what has become of old-style feminist politics and the material realities to which it was committed, it seems necessary to reckon with Butler's work and influence, and to scrutinize the arguments that have led so many to adopt a stance that looks very much like quietism and retreat. II.
It is difficult to come to grips with Butler's ideas, because it is difficult to figure out what they are. Butler is a very smart person. In public discussions, she proves that she can speak clearly and has a quick grasp of what is said to her. Her written style, however, is ponderous and obscure. It is dense with allusions to other theorists, drawn from a wide range of different theoretical traditions. In addition to Foucault, and to a more recent focus on Freud, Butler's work relies heavily on the thought of Louis Althusser, the French lesbian theorist Monique Wittig, the American anthropologist Gayle Rubin, Jacques Lacan, J.L. Austin, and the American philosopher of language Saul Kripke. These figures do not all agree with one another, to say the least; so an initial problem in reading Butler is that one is bewildered to find her arguments buttressed by appeal to so many contradictory concepts and doctrines, usually without any account of how the apparent contradictions will be resolved.

'A further problem lies in Butler's casual mode of allusion. The ideas of these thinkers are never described in enough detail to include the uninitiated (if you are not familiar with the Althusserian concept of "interpellation," you are lost for chapters) or to explain to the initiated how, precisely, the difficult ideas are being understood. Of course, much academic writing is allusive in some way: it presupposes prior knowledge of certain doctrines and positions. But in both the continental and the Anglo-American philosophical traditions, academic writers for a specialist audience standardly acknowledge that the figures they mention are complicated, and the object of many different interpretations. They therefore typically assume the responsibility of advancing a definite interpretation among the contested ones, and of showing by argument why they have interpreted the figure as they have, and why their own interpretation is better than others.

'We find none of this in Butler. Divergent interpretations are simply not considered--even where, as in the cases of Foucault and Freud, she is advancing highly contestable interpretations that would not be accepted by many scholars. Thus one is led to the conclusion that the allusiveness of the writing cannot be explained in the usual way, by positing an audience of specialists eager to debate the details of an esoteric academic position. The writing is simply too thin to satisfy any such audience. It is also obvious that Butler's work is not directed at a non-academic audience eager to grapple with actual injustices. Such an audience would simply be baffled by the thick soup of Butler's prose, by its air of in-group knowingness, by its extremely high ratio of names to explanations.
To whom, then, is Butler speaking? It would seem that she is addressing a group of young feminist theorists in the academy who are neither students of philosophy, caring about what Althusser and Freud and Kripke really said, nor outsiders, needing to be informed about the nature of their projects and persuaded of their worth. This implied audience is imagined as remarkably docile. Subservient to the oracular voice of Butler's text, and dazzled by its patina of high-concept abstractness, the imagined reader poses few questions, requests no arguments and no clear definitions of terms.

'Why does Butler prefer to write in this teasing, exasperating way? The style is certainly not unprecedented. Some precincts of the continental philosophical tradition, though surely not all of them, have an unfortunate tendency to regard the philosopher as a star who fascinates, and frequently by obscurity, rather than as an arguer among equals. When ideas are stated clearly, after all, they may be detached from their author: one can take them away and pursue them on one's own. When they remain mysterious (indeed, when they are not quite asserted), one remains dependent on the originating authority. The thinker is heeded only for his or her turgid charisma. One hangs in suspense, eager for the next move. When Butler does follow that "direction for thinking," what will she say? What does it mean, tell us please, for the agency of a subject to presuppose its own subordination? (No clear answer to this question, so far as I can see, is forthcoming.) One is given the impression of a mind so profoundly cogitative that it will not pronounce on anything lightly: so one waits, in awe of its depth, for it finally to do so.

'In this way obscurity creates an aura of importance. It also serves another related purpose. It bullies the reader into granting that, since one cannot figure out what is going on, there must be something significant going on, some complexity of thought, where in reality there are often familiar or even shopworn notions, addressed too simply and too casually to add any new dimension of understanding. When the bullied readers of Butler's books muster the daring to think thus, they will see that the ideas in these books are thin. When Butler's notions are stated clearly and succinctly, one sees that, without a lot more distinctions and arguments, they don't go far, and they are not especially new. Thus obscurity fills the void left by an absence of a real complexity of thought and argument.
Last year Butler won the first prize in the annual Bad Writing Contest sponsored by the journal Philosophy and Literature, for the following sentence:

' "The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power."
Now, Butler might have written: "Marxist accounts, focusing on capital as the central force structuring social relations, depicted the operations of that force as everywhere uniform. By contrast, Althusserian accounts, focusing on power, see the operations of that force as variegated and as shifting over time." Instead, she prefers a verbosity that causes the reader to expend so much effort in deciphering her prose that little energy is left for assessing the truth of the claims.

'Butler gains prestige in the literary world by being a philosopher; many admirers associate her manner of writing with philosophical profundity. But one should ask whether it belongs to the philosophical tradition at all, rather than to the closely related but adversarial traditions of sophistry and rhetoric. Ever since Socrates distinguished philosophy from what the sophists and the rhetoricians were doing, it has been a discourse of equals who trade arguments and counter-arguments without any obscurantist sleight-of-hand. In that way, he claimed, philosophy showed respect for the soul, while the others' manipulative methods showed only disrespect. One afternoon, fatigued by Butler on a long plane trip, I turned to a draft of a student's dissertation on Hume's views of personal identity. I quickly felt my spirits reviving. Doesn't she write clearly, I thought with pleasure, and a tiny bit of pride. And Hume, what a fine, what a gracious spirit: how kindly he respects the reader's intelligence, even at the cost of exposing his own uncertainty.

'The great tragedy in the new feminist theory in America is the loss of a sense of public commitment. In this sense, Butler's self-involved feminism is extremely American, and it is not surprising that it has caught on here, where successful middle-class people prefer to focus on cultivating the self rather than thinking in a way that helps the material condition of others. Even in America, however, it is possible for theorists to be dedicated to the public good and to achieve something through that effort.

'Many feminists in America are still theorizing in a way that supports material change and responds to the situation of the most oppressed. Increasingly, however, the academic and cultural trend is toward the pessimistic flirtatiousness represented by the theorizing of Butler and her followers. Butlerian feminism is in many ways easier than the old feminism. It tells scores of talented young women that they need not work on changing the law, or feeding the hungry, or assailing power through theory harnessed to material politics. They can do politics in safety of their campuses, remaining on the symbolic level, making subversive gestures at power through speech and gesture. This, the theory says, is pretty much all that is available to us anyway, by way of political action, and isn't it exciting and sexy?

'In its small way, of course, this is a hopeful politics. It instructs people that they can, right now, without compromising their security, do something bold. But the boldness is entirely gestural, and insofar as Butler's ideal suggests that these symbolic gestures really are political change, it offers only a false hope. Hungry women are not fed by this, battered women are not sheltered by it, raped women do not find justice in it, gays and lesbians do not achieve legal protections through it.
Finally there is despair at the heart of the cheerful Butlerian enterprise. The big hope, the hope for a world of real justice, where laws and institutions protect the equality and the dignity of all citizens, has been banished, even perhaps mocked as sexually tedious. Judith Butler's hip quietism is a comprehensible response to the difficulty of realizing justice in America. But it is a bad response. It collaborates with evil. Feminism demands more and women deserve better.'

Academic publishing

This is Hélène Cixous urging women to write: 'Write, let no one hold you back, let nothing stop you: not man; not the imbecilic capitalist machinery, in which publishing houses are the crafty, obsequious relayers of imperatives handed down by an economy that works against us and off our backs; and not yourself. Smug-faced readers, managing editors, and big bosses don't like the true texts of women - female-sexed texts. That kind scares them.'

Women who are inspired by these words to write may find that the blissful vision fades very quickly. The editors at radical feminist publishing houses don't, of course, accept for publication all the 'female-sexed texts' they receive. The writer may be obviously a committed feminist, a fierce opponenty of patriarchy, but may lack any skill with words, any skill in organizing material.

The essay of Hélène Cixous was published in 'The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism' by W W Norton and Company, a big publishing house based in the United States which is inextricably linked with 'capitalist machinery,' and 'an economy that works against us and off our backs.' It's not true that the managing editors and big bosses of this publishing company 'don't like the true texts of women - female-sexed texts.'

In this book of 2 624 pages there are many, many feminist essays, extensive extracts from such works as Adrienne Rich's 'Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence,' Monique Wittig's 'One is not Born a Woman,' (Monique Wittig is described in the introduction as 'the French writer and radical lesbian theorist,' one who claims that "lesbians are not women"), Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar's 'The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination,' (the extract begins 'What does it mean to be a woman writer in a culture whose fundamental definitions of literary authority are, as we have seen, both overtly and covertly patriarchal?'), Annette Kolodny's 'Dancing through the Minefield: Some Observations on the Theory, Practice, and Politics of a Feminist Literary Criticism,' Donna Haraway's 'A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the 1980's,' Barbara Smith's 'Towards a Black Feminist Criticism,' Susan Bordo's 'Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture and the Body,' Judith Butler's 'Gender Trouble.' There are no 'masculinist' essays at all. In some of the introductions, there are criticisms, but only of particular points. In the whole massive volume, there are no extracts from some of the very many works of sustained criticism of feminist interpretations which exist. Any readers unfamiliar with these works would never know from reading this book that they do exist.

It's true that general publishers generally don't publish books with such sentences as this, 'As Judith Butler notes in her discussion of the dialectic of Same and Other, that dialectic is 'a false binary, the illusion of a symmetrical difference which consolidates the metaphysical economy of phallogocentrism, the economy of the same.' But so many academic publishers don't hesitate. (This is taken from Fran Brearton on 'Heaney and the Feminine' in the 'Cambridge Companion to Seamus Heaney.') But general publishers do publish novels by women novelists, biographies by women biographers, poetry by women poets, and of course books by women in other fields - but the books may not in general meet the exacting criteria of radical feminists.

Every one of the books in the 'Cambridge Companion' series which I've referred to contains a chapter which could be described as feminist. It's not true that the 'managing editors, and big bosses' of the Cambridge University Press don't like the true texts of women - female-sexed texts.' What they don't appear to like are texts which criticize feminism. In the 1 000 pages (a little more) of 'The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy' there are substantial entries for feminist epistemology and feminist philosophy, but no entries which are critical of feminist epistemology and feminist philosophy. Above, I quote from the article by the feminist Susan James in the 'Concise Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy.' Again, there are entries on feminism but no entries critical of feminism.

These books in general reflect the vigorous debate in contemporary philosophy. They show the extent to which views are vulnerable to criticism as well as the extent to which they can withstand criticism. They fair-mindedly give the case against and the case for. To give just one from innumerable examples, in the Cambridge Dictionary, on the 'moral implications' of utilitarianism, we read 'Most debate about utilitarianism has focused on its moral implications. Critics have argued that its implications sharply conflict with most people's considered moral judgments, and that this is a strong reason to reject utilitarianism. Proponents have argued both that many of these conflicts disappear on a proper understanding of utilitarianism and that the remaining conflicts disappear on a proper understanding of utilitarianism and that the remaining conflicts should throw the particular judgments, not utilitarianism, into doubt. One important controversy concerns utilitarianism's implications for distributive justice ...'

Feminist essays and articles and feminist works published by academic presses in general either contain no criticism of feminist views at all or the criticism is muted, reflecting none of the vigorous, sustained criticism which exists.

It would be far closer to the truth to say that radical feminism has a stranglehold over academic publishing, with few exceptions, and over universities, with few exceptions, than that radical feminism is shunned, not at all welcome.

Martha Nussbaum

Extracts from Martha Nussbaum's 'The Professor of Parody.' The extracts are about only some of the themes in Martha Nussbaum's subtle and well-argued essay.

''In India ... academic feminists have thrown themselves into practical struggles, and feminist theorizing is closely tethered to practical commitments such as female literacy, the reform of unequal land laws, changes in rape law (which, in India today, has most of the flaws that the first generation of American feminists targeted), the effort to get social recognition for problems of sexual harassment and domestic violence. These feminists know that they live in the middle of a fiercely unjust reality; they cannot live with themselves without addressing it more or less daily, in their theoretical writing and in their activities outside the seminar room.

'In the United States, however, things have been changing. One observes a new, disquieting trend. It is not only that feminist theory pays relatively little attention to the struggles of women outside the United States. (This was always a dispiriting feature even of much of the best work of the earlier period.) Something more insidious than provincialism has come to prominence in the American academy. It is the virtually complete turning from the material side of life, toward a type of verbal and symbolic politics that makes only the flimsiest of connections with the real situation of real women.

Feminist thinkers of the new symbolic type would appear to believe that the way to do feminist politics is to use words in a subversive way, in academic publications of lofty obscurity and disdainful abstractness. These symbolic gestures, it is believed, are themselves a form of political resistance; and so one need not engage with messy things such as legislatures and movements in order to act daringly.

'These developments owe much to the recent prominence of French postmodernist thought. Many young feminists, whatever their concrete affiliations with this or that French thinker, have been influenced by the extremely French idea that the intellectual does politics by speaking seditiously, and that this is a significant type of political action.

'One American feminist has shaped these developments more than any other. Judith Butler seems to many young scholars to define what feminism is now. Trained as a philosopher, she is frequently seen (more by people in literature than by philosophers) as a major thinker about gender, power, and the body. As we wonder what has become of old-style feminist politics and the material realities to which it was committed, it seems necessary to reckon with Butler's work and influence, and to scrutinize the arguments that have led so many to adopt a stance that looks very much like quietism and retreat. II.
It is difficult to come to grips with Butler's ideas, because it is difficult to figure out what they are. Butler is a very smart person. In public discussions, she proves that she can speak clearly and has a quick grasp of what is said to her. Her written style, however, is ponderous and obscure. It is dense with allusions to other theorists, drawn from a wide range of different theoretical traditions. In addition to Foucault, and to a more recent focus on Freud, Butler's work relies heavily on the thought of Louis Althusser, the French lesbian theorist Monique Wittig, the American anthropologist Gayle Rubin, Jacques Lacan, J.L. Austin, and the American philosopher of language Saul Kripke. These figures do not all agree with one another, to say the least; so an initial problem in reading Butler is that one is bewildered to find her arguments buttressed by appeal to so many contradictory concepts and doctrines, usually without any account of how the apparent contradictions will be resolved.

'A further problem lies in Butler's casual mode of allusion. The ideas of these thinkers are never described in enough detail to include the uninitiated (if you are not familiar with the Althusserian concept of "interpellation," you are lost for chapters) or to explain to the initiated how, precisely, the difficult ideas are being understood. Of course, much academic writing is allusive in some way: it presupposes prior knowledge of certain doctrines and positions. But in both the continental and the Anglo-American philosophical traditions, academic writers for a specialist audience standardly acknowledge that the figures they mention are complicated, and the object of many different interpretations. They therefore typically assume the responsibility of advancing a definite interpretation among the contested ones, and of showing by argument why they have interpreted the figure as they have, and why their own interpretation is better than others.

'We find none of this in Butler. Divergent interpretations are simply not considered--even where, as in the cases of Foucault and Freud, she is advancing highly contestable interpretations that would not be accepted by many scholars. Thus one is led to the conclusion that the allusiveness of the writing cannot be explained in the usual way, by positing an audience of specialists eager to debate the details of an esoteric academic position. The writing is simply too thin to satisfy any such audience. It is also obvious that Butler's work is not directed at a non-academic audience eager to grapple with actual injustices. Such an audience would simply be baffled by the thick soup of Butler's prose, by its air of in-group knowingness, by its extremely high ratio of names to explanations.
To whom, then, is Butler speaking? It would seem that she is addressing a group of young feminist theorists in the academy who are neither students of philosophy, caring about what Althusser and Freud and Kripke really said, nor outsiders, needing to be informed about the nature of their projects and persuaded of their worth. This implied audience is imagined as remarkably docile. Subservient to the oracular voice of Butler's text, and dazzled by its patina of high-concept abstractness, the imagined reader poses few questions, requests no arguments and no clear definitions of terms.

'Why does Butler prefer to write in this teasing, exasperating way? The style is certainly not unprecedented. Some precincts of the continental philosophical tradition, though surely not all of them, have an unfortunate tendency to regard the philosopher as a star who fascinates, and frequently by obscurity, rather than as an arguer among equals. When ideas are stated clearly, after all, they may be detached from their author: one can take them away and pursue them on one's own. When they remain mysterious (indeed, when they are not quite asserted), one remains dependent on the originating authority. The thinker is heeded only for his or her turgid charisma. One hangs in suspense, eager for the next move. When Butler does follow that "direction for thinking," what will she say? What does it mean, tell us please, for the agency of a subject to presuppose its own subordination? (No clear answer to this question, so far as I can see, is forthcoming.) One is given the impression of a mind so profoundly cogitative that it will not pronounce on anything lightly: so one waits, in awe of its depth, for it finally to do so.

'In this way obscurity creates an aura of importance. It also serves another related purpose. It bullies the reader into granting that, since one cannot figure out what is going on, there must be something significant going on, some complexity of thought, where in reality there are often familiar or even shopworn notions, addressed too simply and too casually to add any new dimension of understanding. When the bullied readers of Butler's books muster the daring to think thus, they will see that the ideas in these books are thin. When Butler's notions are stated clearly and succinctly, one sees that, without a lot more distinctions and arguments, they don't go far, and they are not especially new. Thus obscurity fills the void left by an absence of a real complexity of thought and argument.
Last year Butler won the first prize in the annual Bad Writing Contest sponsored by the journal Philosophy and Literature, for the following sentence:

' "The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power."
Now, Butler might have written: "Marxist accounts, focusing on capital as the central force structuring social relations, depicted the operations of that force as everywhere uniform. By contrast, Althusserian accounts, focusing on power, see the operations of that force as variegated and as shifting over time." Instead, she prefers a verbosity that causes the reader to expend so much effort in deciphering her prose that little energy is left for assessing the truth of the claims.

'Butler gains prestige in the literary world by being a philosopher; many admirers associate her manner of writing with philosophical profundity. But one should ask whether it belongs to the philosophical tradition at all, rather than to the closely related but adversarial traditions of sophistry and rhetoric. Ever since Socrates distinguished philosophy from what the sophists and the rhetoricians were doing, it has been a discourse of equals who trade arguments and counter-arguments without any obscurantist sleight-of-hand. In that way, he claimed, philosophy showed respect for the soul, while the others' manipulative methods showed only disrespect. One afternoon, fatigued by Butler on a long plane trip, I turned to a draft of a student's dissertation on Hume's views of personal identity. I quickly felt my spirits reviving. Doesn't she write clearly, I thought with pleasure, and a tiny bit of pride. And Hume, what a fine, what a gracious spirit: how kindly he respects the reader's intelligence, even at the cost of exposing his own uncertainty.

'The great tragedy in the new feminist theory in America is the loss of a sense of public commitment. In this sense, Butler's self-involved feminism is extremely American, and it is not surprising that it has caught on here, where successful middle-class people prefer to focus on cultivating the self rather than thinking in a way that helps the material condition of others. Even in America, however, it is possible for theorists to be dedicated to the public good and to achieve something through that effort.

'Many feminists in America are still theorizing in a way that supports material change and responds to the situation of the most oppressed. Increasingly, however, the academic and cultural trend is toward the pessimistic flirtatiousness represented by the theorizing of Butler and her followers. Butlerian feminism is in many ways easier than the old feminism. It tells scores of talented young women that they need not work on changing the law, or feeding the hungry, or assailing power through theory harnessed to material politics. They can do politics in safety of their campuses, remaining on the symbolic level, making subversive gestures at power through speech and gesture. This, the theory says, is pretty much all that is available to us anyway, by way of political action, and isn't it exciting and sexy?

'In its small way, of course, this is a hopeful politics. It instructs people that they can, right now, without compromising their security, do something bold. But the boldness is entirely gestural, and insofar as Butler's ideal suggests that these symbolic gestures really are political change, it offers only a false hope. Hungry women are not fed by this, battered women are not sheltered by it, raped women do not find justice in it, gays and lesbians do not achieve legal protections through it.

'Finally there is despair at the heart of the cheerful Butlerian enterprise. The big hope, the hope for a world of real justice, where laws and institutions protect the equality and the dignity of all citizens, has been banished, even perhaps mocked as sexually tedious. Judith Butler's hip quietism is a comprehensible response to the difficulty of realizing justice in America. But it is a bad response. It collaborates with evil. Feminism demands more and women deserve better.'

Feminist and non-feminist chronology

I begin with one date and one event, and then give others, from a little earlier,  with occasional brief comments. The first date and event is the publication of Mary Wollstonecraft's 'Vindication of the Rights of Women' in 1792.

 Although there are  differences of opinion, Mary Wollstonecraft's  book   is still regarded as a very important one by many feminists. I think that radical feminists will be much more united in their attitude to the other dated events I give: a very brief and necessarily very selective list of scientific, technological and other achievements which changed for the better the lives of women, and men and children. The primary question for radical feminists isn't 'Did this change for the better the lives of women, men and children?' or even 'Did this change for the better the lives of women and girls (for many of them, not all, the welfare of men and boys can  be disregarded) but the question 'Was this the work of a sexist? Was this the work of a representative of patriarchy?'

And we're supposed to recognize that arduous, patient scientific work, technological advances achieved against all the odds, including physical danger, amount to very little or nothing in comparison with the superior insights of the radical feminists, whose antennae are uniquely sensitive. In this {ordering}, the radical feminist is given (by radical feminists themselves) the greatest  importance.

In this simple-minded view, it's obvious that a publication by a woman which is concerned with advancing the cause of women must be more important than a development by a man which has no 'gender' implications for the man at all. But just as the unintended consequences of an action may be far more important than the intended consequences, the benefits of an advance pursued by a 'sexist' - or a nationalist, or  some other object of disapproval, rightly or wrongly, a semi-lunatic, for that matter - can be immeasurably more important. But there have been many, many advances by men who led blameless lives, heroic lives, lives of intense difficulty, automatically, mechanically  described as sexist.

Such advances as oral contraception and other modern forms of contraception which have released humanity in part at least from the harsh rule of nature and the Malthusian nightmare in which many are born and many of those born die prematurely, such advances as antisepsis and anaesthetics, are often considered in isolation, with far too much {restriction} of focus.

Each of these advances would have been impossible without, for example,  the genius of  chemists who worked in seemingly remote fields, who put in place the framework of Chemistry, and contributed to such scientific advances as the atomic hypothesis, atomic and molecular masses, the theory of oxidation and reduction, chemical thermodynamics, the isolation of elements, the building of the Periodic Table.

Similarly for non-scientific, non-technological advances. The blighting of the lives of  servant girls who had a child out of wedlock and the blighting of the lives of other women by the harsh code of pre-enlightenment Christianity was dramatically reduced not by claims that this was a wrong or campaigning against this wrong, but by work seemingly very remote. It includes the patient work of scholars such as the textual critics who examined the Pentateuch and other Old Testament writings, and New Testament writings, who put forward abundant evidence that so much in the Bible wasn't at all what it seemed, and that traditional interpretations were certainly or almost certainly mistaken. The authority of the Bible, its hold over law and custom included, was eroded.

The parallels between examination of the Bible and current examination of the Koran are important. Of course, examination of the Koran is resisted very fiercely, but is essential, and is an activity with practical consequences, like the practical consequences which followed the examination of Biblical texts. 

Some of the developments given here illustrate the discussion above (such as the abolition of slavery and serfdom by some jurisdictions, Catherine the Great's work for freedom of religion) and some  extend it, by giving further examples of the complexity of social, economic, technological and humanitarian history: dimensions which are  neglected by radical feminists. The information here gives a little more evidence of the benefits of patriarchy. This explains the inclusion, for example, of Jesse Ramsden's screw cutting lathe of 1770. How could machines which end drudgery and worse, which save lives, which have so many other advantages, have been constructed without screws and other fixings? These are some developments before the publication of 'Vindication of the Rights of Women' in spheres about which she seemed to care little, with few exceptions, notably slavery.

She lived at a time when industrialisation was transforming England and transforming the lives of women, in the longer term very much for the better, in the shorter term generally not, but her neglect of industrialisation, her neglect of the misery endured during this phase of industrialisation, was effectively total. In this regard, she has an instructive cross-linkage with Nietzsche. Later feminists have generally found these matters just as uncongenial. How are people to be clothed? How are textiles to be produced? How is textile machinery to be manufactured and powered? And, of course, many more issues, ones with a far more obvious linkage with human welfare. How are houses to be heated in winter? How is water to be heated? How is sufficient food to be produced to end the risk of famine? Hand tools are insufficient for this purpose? How is agricultural machinery to be manufactured and powered?

The industrial developments mentioned below are also creative acts, stimulated by needs and necessities. Peter Mathias has a good account in 'The First Industrial Nation:'

Once an economy is on the move innovations become cumulative. One innovation breaks an equilibrium in a traditional series of processes, creating a distortion with the others. The flying shuttle created such a demand for yarn by increasing the productivity of weavers that it created great incentives to develop productivity there. Hargreaves' spinning-jenny was born in a flurry of activity to do just this. On a larger scale factory-spinning created the same incentive to develop power-weaving. The distortion, the bottreneck, or the problem created by an innovation could be one of material as well as of the flow of production. When a steam engine was attached to wooden machinery it shook it to pieces and required the innovation of iron machinery. That innovation allowed more complicated, heavier machinery to be built, which created an incentive for a more powerful engine. This lay directly behind Watt's development of the double-acting low-pressure engine. One can multiply such examples without end.'

A closer examination by contemporary feminists of the lives of the poor at this time would, like a closer examination of the lives of slaves and serfs, surely give rise to uncomfortable conclusions. But even a cursory look at the conditions of the poor and the rich would be sufficient. Wealthy  women who had servants had linkages to do with gender with impoverished and malnourished women who lived in  damp cellars and worked an eighty hour week, but other linkages were far more important, the linkages between wealthy women and wealthy men and the linkages between impoverished and malnourished women and impoverished and malnourished men.

Mary Wollstonecraft, 'Vindication of the Rights of Women.'

Abolition of the slave trade by Denmark. (See my discussion of feminism and slavery above. Less powerful countries have often set an example for more powerful ones.)

William Tuke's reformation of the treatment of the mentally ill at the York Retreat. (Although very wide-ranging pronouncements have their importance, important too are the small reforms - but not in the least small for the people who benefit - which together transform an abuse.)

In France, civil marriage and divorce are instituted. This is a reform which owed nothing to feminist pressure but which obviously benefitted innumerable women trapped in unhappy and disastrous marriages. The reform would not have been possible without the prior work of the thinkers and writers of the age of enlightenment, who undermined Catholic and other Christian views, such as the belief that marriage was a sacrament and indissoluble.

For the earlier period, I begin at 1764. I've made a close study of many of the topics I include below, well before the planning of this page but in compiling the brief list below I've made use of the excellent 'Chronology of the Modern World: 1763 - 1965 by Neville Williams.


Publication of Cesare Beccaria's  'Crimes and Punishments,' (see my brief discussion above, which includes a comparison of the author with Mary Wollstonecraft.)

Invention by James Hargreaves of the spinning jenny, which made it possible for one person to produce simultaneously  a number of wool or cotton threads, using eight or more spindles.There were many more advances in textile technology still to come, of course, but this advance, and the later ones, were essential. Without them, clothes could never be cheap enough for the poor, they brought advantages in health, hygiene and comfort. The textile industry was the first industry to be transformed by the industrial revolution.


Pioneering work by L. Spallanzani - preservation of food by hermetic sealing.

Invention by James Cook of the condenser, leading to his construction of a steam engine in 1774.


Henry Cavendish delivers papers to the Royal Society on the chemistry of gases. Without preliminary work on the chemistry of gases - massive in scale - it would not have been possible to introduce anaesthesia by ether and chloroform and later gases, of course.

Catherine the Great introduces freedom of worship in Russia.


Development by John Hill of methods of obtaining specimens for microscopic study.

Publication of the great mathematician Leonhard Euler's 'Introduction to Algebra.'

Jesse Ramsden's screw-cutting lathe.


Abolition of serfdom in Savoy.


Decision by Lord Mansfield that a slave is free upon landing in england.

Discovery by Daneel Rutherford of nitrogen.

Henry Cavendish: 'Attempts to Explain some of the Phenomena of Electricity. The use of electricity in the mines for lighting and to power labour-saving machinery, its use for countless domestic and industrial machinery and appliances, was a long time in the future, but this is one of the pieces of preliminary work.

Leonhard Euler discusses the principles of mechanics, optics and other branches of science and technology.

Thomas Coke begins reform of animal husbandry in Norfolk.


T. F. Pritchard suggested the building of a cast-iron bridge over the Severn near Coalbrookdale, Shropshire, and later designed it - the world's first cast-iron bridge.


Joseph Priestley discovers oxygen.

K. W. Scheele discovers chlorine. The greatest single factor in disease causation now, as in the past, is unsafe drinking water, including pollution of water by sewage. Chlorination of drinking water has saved more human lives than the collective efforts of all radical feminists.

Construction by John Wilkinson of a boring mill which improves the manufacture of cylinders for steam engines.


James Watt makes very notable advances in steam engine design at Matthew Boulton's works in Birmingham.

 . J. Griesbach's critical reading of the Greek New Testament. Later, he gave rules which reflect the new way of reading the New Testament, not now regarded as an infallible document, produced without errors. His first rule:

'The shorter reading is to be preferred over the more verbose ... for scribes were much more prone to add than to omit. They hardly ever leave out anything on purpose, but they added much. It is true indeed that some things fell out by accident; but likewise not a few things, allowed in by the scribes through errors of the eye, ear, memory, imagination, and judgment, have been added to the text.'


The prison reformer John Howard: 'The state of the Prisons of England and Wales.'

Invention by C.A Coulomb of the torsion balance.


David Hume's ''Dialogues concerning Natural Religion' [Given incorrectly in 'Chronology of the Modern World' as 'Dialogues of Natural Religion.] (See my page Religions: observations and reservations.)

Feminism and dressing up

Many feminists like to dress up and have quite a talent for dressing up:  improving - 'dressing up' - the appearance of naked dogmas. I discuss many of these in other sections. In this section, I present some feminist dogmas in a very clear and simple form:  the Empress Feminism with no clothes.

A  feminist who would agree with another feminist in full flow, arguing a feminist case or seeming to argue a feminist case with an abundance of examples, might find it impossible to agree if the argument were to be presented in its bare essentials.

Attempts at persuasion are often successful because the language used is vivid and forceful. The argument clothed in this vivid and forceful language may be a good one or a bad one. It can be useful to examine the argument in a relatively bare form. The language may be anything but vivid and forceful but theory-laden arguments expressed in academic form may be undeservedly convincing. A claim in academic garb may be readily accepted even though there are strong arguments against it and strong reasons for thinking that it's hoplessely misguided, ridiculous. Again, it can be useful to display it in outline form.

To this end, there are only two basic concepts I use here, 'outweighing' and 'linkage.' As I explain on the page Introduction to {theme} theory, I advocate supplementing natural language with symbolic notation. The symbols I use to present some feminist dogmas here unadorned are very few and very simple.

> is read as 'outweighs.' This symbol, an introduction of my own,  has many, many uses in ethical argument and other argument. It allows many ethical views and ethical differences to be presented very clearly and economically. >> is read as 'very much outweighs.' This is a very simple way of showing gradation, but is often useful.

< > is read as 'is linked with.' The application-sphere is very, very wide (not subject to substantial {restriction} but here all the linkages are between people. The people linked are in square brackets, [ ... ].

I don't give each of the feminist claims I examine on this page in this bare format, but I think it would be useful to do that. All I do is to give a few examples.

So, I'd claim that

(disadvantages of women in present-day traditional Islamic societies) >> (disadvantages of women in present-day liberal democracies).

Does feminism have an international dimension? If so, why do so many feminists neglect issues to do with  Islamism? Unless a feminist believes that no women suffer like women in presend-day liberal democracies.

(sufferings of Jewish men and women as a result of the Nazi  Holocaust) >> (treatment of Nazi women at the hands of 'Nazi form of patriarchy.')

[a Jewish woman during the Nazi Holocaust] < > [a Jewish man during the Nazi Holocaust] >> [a Jewish woman during the Nazi Holocaust] < > [a Nazi woman during the Nazi Holocaust]

The denial that gender linkages are always or usually the most important (in my terminology, have prior-{ordering}.

The introduction to {theme} theory introduces a much wider range of symbols than the ones used here. I explain some of my reasons for using symbolic notation:

'Natural language is recognized as a cumbersome and inadequate means of expressing most mathematical argument,. Symbolic notation very often supplements or replaces natural language in logical argument. The information expressed in tabular form, in rows and columns, is superior to continuous prose as a means of expressing information in many cases, allowing comparisons to be made easily.  Tabular display is used in truth tables, the rows showing possible assignments of truth values to the arguments of the truth-functions or truth-functional operators. Philosophers occasionally make use of diagrams. There are a number of  examples in Derek Parfitt's  'Personal Identity'  (1971). Even so, most philosophical argument is in continuous prose. I think that symbolic notation as well as very concise but non-symbolic expression has great utility and can  often replace or supplement  philosophical prose. 

'The symbolic notation I propose for the expression of some concepts has very little in common with Frege’s ‘Begriffsschrift' (1884) : less rigorous but with  a far wider application-sphere (the examination and generalization of ‘application-sphere’ is one of my aims.) I do share Frege’s ambition, expressed in the Preface to the Begriffsschrift, ‘if it is one of the tasks of philosophy to break the domination of the word over the human spirit by laying bare the misconceptions that through the use of language often almost unavoidably arise concerning the relations between concepts and by freeing thought from that which only the means of expression of ordinary language, constituted as they are, saddle it, then my ideography, further developed for these purposes, can become a useful tool for the philosopher.’ Frege’s ideography was difficult to implement. I have taken care to use only symbols which are typographically ready to hand.' 

Wittgenstein and the monotonous diet of feminism

I need to explain the reasons for  the tedium and monotony I find in general in feminist books, articles and Websites, including the feminist Websites discussed below.

Wittgenstein wrote in 'Philosophical Investigations,

'A main cause of philosophical diseases - a one-sided diet: one nourishes one's thinking with only one kind of example.'

'Eine Hauptursache philosophischer Krankheiten - einseitige Diät: man nährt sein Denken mit nur einer Art von Beispielen.' (Section 593.)

This seems applicable to non-philosophical as well as philosophical expression. I don't stress 'diseases' here. I avoid calling opponents diseased or their writings diseased. Otherwise, I'd claim that what Wittgenstein writes can be applied to so many feminists, whose diet is one-sided, who nourish their thinking with only one kind of example.

There are feminists whose non-feminist achievements are substantial. There are feminist philosophers, for example, whose non-feminist achievement is substantial. There are feminists with a very wide range of interests. There are also feminists whose feminism seems to occupy their attention almost exclusively. Their world is etiolated, the focus terrifyingly narrow. Feminist women who intend to succeed in a demanding field are more likely to appreciate the importance of the knowledge, skill, experience and practice which are essential for success. Feminists who fail to recognize the importance of such things may compensate by giving almost exclusive attention to the 50% demand, to 'putting feminism' at the centre of politics, or education, or whatever field they turn their attention to.

If the feminists who campaign for the 50% norm in politics and aim to put feminism at the centre of political life ever succeed in their objective, then they will find that the honeymoon period is very short. Feminist views are no guarantee of competence in any of the skills needed by politicians, which are obviously very varied and demanding, including taxation law, financial administration, and many, many more. Politics gives harsh lessons to politicians who have no understanding of unintended consequences. If feminist politicians already dominated parliament in this country, it's likely that they would vote not just to withdraw British armed forces from Afghanistan but to end defence expenditure. If feminist politicians in other countries which have forces in Afghanistan did the same, then the result would be the control of Afghanistan by the Taliban and the beginning of a new dark age for girls and women there. But I don't in the least  share the cynical view that all politicians are corrupted by power. Power may be a reality check, consigning to irrelevance the naive views of political dilettantes, including bland and glib dilettante feminists, who think that everything they want should be exempt from criticism and everything they want can be achieved.

The feminists whose main interest in politics is in ending 'gender imbalance' seem to imagine that when gender imbalance has been corrected, then women politicians will spend much of their time passing feminist legislation. Missing is any recognition that in the US,republican women politicians may have fundamental disagreements with democratic women politicians, that the objectives of Israeli women politicians are likely to be irreconcilable with the objectives of women politicians in an Arab country, or Iran, that in this country, Labour and Conservative women politicians may not see each other as sisters. These are elementary observations, often overlooked and neglected, particularly in the euphoria of a demonstration, when people are convinced by simple slogans and believe that anything is possible.

There are feminists who will have nothing to do with democratic politics - unsatisfyingly imperfect, unlike satisfying utopian politics. The demands and responsibilities of practical politics, a generally harsh world, would leave far less time for denouncing and disputing. There's now a feminist political party in this country, the 'Women's Equality Party.'  Feminists will be able to  translate their conviction of the centrality of feminism into the sphere of practical politics, with the objective of getting feminists elected to local government and national government. Can the party  counter the common feeling that in general, feminism isn't a movement which 'gets things done?' Is the party electable?  Unfortunately, for many feminists, there is no such thing as a 'reality check.' If patriarchy can be blamed for almost all the imperfections of the world, it would certainly be blamed for the failure of a feminist political party.

If orchestral music or opera is a primary concern, then the narrow feminist may ignore the staggering riches of the orchestral repertoire and opera and concentrate attention on the music of Judith Weir and other women composers, or may ignore the riches of Mozart's opera scores and concentrate on the misogynist references in the libretto of 'The Magic Flute,' or may campaign for the 50% norm in the appointment of conductors or 'top positions' in different sections of the orchestral world. A feminist who wants to become a conductor has to give most attention to the exacting disciplines of conductor, starting with a thorough study of harmony, counterpoint, orchestration and the rest.

A narrow feminist with a concern for the novel may ignore Flaubert, Kafka, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, in fact all novels written by men. A feminist who claims to be interested in literature may have far less interest in literature than in  campaigning for the 50% norm in various sections of the publishing industry. Even so, feminists who are united in their demand for making feminism central to literature may disagree about feminism and resort to in-fighting. Kwame Anthony Appiah includes a very good account of the troubles of Professor Sandra Gilbert, a feminist who wrote 'The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination,' in conjunction with Professor Sandra Gilbert. He writes:

'Despite their own experience of successful feminist collaboration, the response to their scholarly undertaking hardly confirmed this happy conviction. In later years, Susan Gunbar writes, she has found herself ... lambasted by various "insurgent" critics for various purported sins: she was "essentialist," didn't sufficiently acknowledge black women or lesbians, failed to keep pace with high theory - the list was no doubt long ... To judge from her later book, Critical Condition: Feminism at the Turn of the Century, the experience has been demoralizing. The field of feminist criticism - a field she did much to establish - is now, she tells us, cluttered with alienating jargon and riven by divisive identity politics.'

Kwame Anthony Appiah ends his essay ('Battle of the Bien-pensant,' in 'Theory's Empire') on a relatively hopeful note. His opinion is that at the time of writing,  ' ... mirabile dictu, there are more and more literary critics - feminist and otherwise - who actually devote themselves to ... literature. Susan Gubar's field may well be in a "critical condition," but there are signs that it is on the mend.'

Lyndall Gordon: feminist ambition

 'Women who imitate men lack ambition, goes the old phrase.' Lyndall Gordon, 'Mary Wollstonecraft: a new genus,' P. 452.

There are feminists who have aims such as the correction of specific injustices, real or imagined - very often, real - or whose aims are subject to considerable {restriction}: (scope) but many feminist claims are very wide-ranging. Some claims go well beyond such matters as social and economic organization, such as marriage, family norms and employment law and practice, and matters of personal life and extend to nature and the structure of reality. See, for example, Sandra Harding and Carolyn Merchant: the rape of nature.

Objections can be made to the less comprehensive and the more comprehensive forms of feminism by presenting arguments and evidence. To defend the more comprehensive feminist claims the arguments and evidence provided by feminists have to be very comprehensive. Again and again, it's found that feminist argument and evidence is anything but comprehensive: instead, the monotonous diet of feminism.

Feminists who claim that science is 'patriarchal' never seem to go beyond the broad claim and engage with specific areas of science and explain why specific areas of quantum theory, for example, are defective - or to set up a feminist body of scientific knowledge, some of which can be applied in engineering and which has predictive power.

Lyndall Gordon's statement is mentioned in passing, but to give it without any attempt to justify it was reckless and stupid. The clear implication is that men's achievements are limited and that women can easily surpass them. Without any doubt, this is a very comprehensive claim and it would need a very comprehensive examination for Lyndall Gordon or another feminist to defend it.

Lyndall Gordon is a Senior Research Fellow at St Hilda's College, Oxford. The bibliography of her book is over 20 pages long but is the opposite of comprehensive: a prime example of the 'monotonous diet,' with hardly any materials which would give an account which is much less uncritical - although it has many virtues and is very interesting.  My own account of Mary Wollstonecraft, obviously a much shorter one, is an attempt to put her in a much wider context than the one supplied by Lyndall Gordon.

Any case for the remarkable achievements of men (not 'Man') which is more than a bare outline of selected achievements and the men responsible for them in one area, let alone many areas, would need a vast amount of space and a vast amount of time to compile it. Obviously, it would be impossible to give even a list of any length here. On this page, I mention scientists and engineers in various places, but without any detail. Their staggering achievement can only be appreciated by exploring the detail and undertaking an examination in depth - something which feminists who minimize male achievement should do, but won't. I realize, of course, that there are feminists who are accomplished or very accomplished scientists and engineers.

Mathematics is another fruitful field and again, I realize that there are feminists who are accomplished or very accomplished mathematicians.

I'd be very surprised if a feminist  mathematician claimed that a woman who imitated these male  mathematicians, in the sense of wanting to surpass their achievement, was lacking in ambition (obviously, a much larger number of examples could easily have been given):

Karl Friedrich Gauss (1777 - 1855), who contributed to and transformed virtually every area of mathematics.
Leonhard Euler (1707 - 83), the most prolific of all mathematicians.

I'd be very surprised if a feminist physicist claimed that a woman who imitated these male physicists, in the sense of wanting to surpass their achievement, was lacking in ambition (again, a very much longer list of examples could easily have been given):

Erwin Schrödinger (1887 - 1961), the founder of wave mechanics.
Paul Dirac (1902 - 84), a major contributor to quantum mechanics.
Michael Faraday (1791 - 1867), also a chemist of genius, who created classical field theory and invented an electric dynamo, motor and transformer.
James Clerk Maxwell (1831 - 79), who produced a unified theory of electromagnetism and the kinetic theory of gases.

Feminist divisions and in-fighting

The feminist notion of feminine virtue and feminist sisterhood and solidarity  is contradicted by reality again and again. An  instance, from the Website of The National Women's History Museum,' 'Racial Divisions in the Progressive Era:'

' ... black women were largely excluded from white women’s reform organizations. Black women and their clubs were largely excluded from the General Federation of Women’s Clubs and the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Other organizations, such as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and the YWCA, were segregated, with black women forming their own local chapters. In addition, white women’s organizations largely ignored issues of racism, such as lynching or the disenfranchisement of black voters ...

'Examples of cooperation between white and black reformers are few.'

A  University of Michigan page on Lesbian feminism (including, prominently, black lesbian feminism) gives an unintentionally grim and sobering insight into the likely results of a radical feminist triumph in politics: if not a civil war between feminists, dissension and hostility. There are further causes of dissension and hostility not explored by the University's page.

Radical feminism is as unstable as far left politics. A politics which gives almost exclusive attention to radical feminist issues and neglects the material conditions of life, economic, financial and fiscal matters, almost all  considerations except ones which have a bearing on radical feminism, is doomed.

Radical feminist disputes can only be indulged at length because the 'systems of oppression' provide clean drinking water, take away sewage, provide electrical power, provide a guaranteed food supply, and all the other benefits.

Extracts from the page:

From the feminist site 'The F Word,' www.thefword.org.uk  annotated extracts of a piece by Terese Jonsson.  Terese Jonsson is a  PhD student at London Metropolitan University, whose supervisor is the feminist Dr Irene Gedalof. There are still MA and PhD students in one aspect or another of women's studies and feminism, but no BA students. The last department of women's studies, at London Metropolitan University, took no further students after 2005. In various places on this page I criticize the failure of feminists to set up garages with women mechanics. Feminism's failure to sustain viable undergraduate degrees in women's studies in this country is more telling evidence of the weakness of feminism, surely, except for those feminists who explain it as one more manifestation of the power of patriarchy. In general, 'Patriarchy' gets things done. Feminism is infinitely less likely to get things done, even when it involves more opportunity for feminist analysis.

'Piercing the whitening silence

'Terese Jonsson calls for all white feminists (herself included) to step up to the plate [?] on racism and white privilege

'Terese Jonsson, 16 March 2009

' ...  When are the white, privileged, cis-gendered, university-educated, able-bodied women who too often insist on dominating feminist conversations going to actually start listening? And following on from that, when are we going to start changing? Annika addressed many different issues in her article, all important and inter-connected, but right here and now I want to focus on one strand in particular; namely, the ongoing racism and unchecked white privilege in many feminist communities in the UK.

''I should mention at this point that I am a white, middle-class feminist. I'm not saying I have all the answers or that I occupy any moral high-ground on this matter, but I am saying that if we are to build real feminist movements in the UK, if this recent "upsurge in feminist activity" oft-cited in Guardian lifestyle columns is going to mean anything to the women Annika wrote about in her article, white feminists have some serious shit to sort out.


' ... Most white feminists these days know how to adopt a superficial language of anti-racism. But that is far from enough ...

'Feminist conferences, demos, Ladyfests, discussion groups, mailing lists... they all-too-often pay lip service to being inclusive. But saying that you provide a welcoming and safe space for all women is not the same as making it so. Like Annika noted, when filling in the monitoring form at the feminist conference, "There wasn't even a box for me to tick! [The writer seems unaware of some connotations of  'box-ticking.' The entry for 'box ticking' in dictionary.reference.com is 'derogatory  the process of satisfying bureaucratic administrative requirements rather than assessing the actual merit of something.']

How is this progress? The lack of a box on a monitoring form may not seem like a big deal, but the problem is such 'oversights' reveal so much more. They reveal a lack of a meaningful anti-racist perspective which takes the intersection of oppressions such as racism and sexism as it's starting point. They expose white feminists' inability, or more correctly unwillingness, to put anyone other than ourselves at the centre of our organising. [This is what I call the autocentric approach, which should be corrected by a ((survey)) which takes all relevant considerations into account, or as full a range as possible. The idea that a black feminist perspective can also be autocentric, centred on the self, wouldn't appeal to the writer at all.]

'I was called out on some silencing behaviour myself recently. I had failed to address the white-centricity of an event that I had been part of organising. [A classic instance of self-flagellation] The most infuriating realisation for me was that I already knew 'better', but had still let the sense of security and safety afforded to me by my whiteness (as well as a feeling of the inevitability of it ending up this way) lull me into complacency, taking the least challenging route. 'I

'It is only white (middle-class, straight, able-bodied, cis-gendered...) women who have the privilege to separate out gender as a single axis of oppression, to only look at an issue from the 'gender angle...'

'In Britain in 2009, when we talk about women's rights, we need to be talking about the anti-immigrant rhetoric and violence against asylum seekers committed by the British state, about militarist and cultural imperialism, about capitalism and the criminal justice system. In the current climate of xenophobia and racism, a white feminism which does not engage with these issues, leaves itself vulnerable to being co-opted by neo-colonialist and racist agendas and will continue to fail non-white women, in being not only irrelevant, but actually harmful.

'So if you are wondering why there aren't any women of colour joining your feminist group, it probably isn't because they're not interested in women's rights, but because what you have defined as your feminist issues don't have much relevance beyond your own white body. When you talk or write about 'women' or how a particular issue affects women, ask yourself, which women are you talking about? How would it affect a woman who is not like you? Do you think that dealing with racism is a 'distraction' from dealing with sexism? Why?

Listen to women of colour
This one seems pretty straight forward, right? It's pretty damn fundamental, but is it happening?


'So some questions to ask yourself: which groups or organisations are you involved with or support? How do you interact with women who are not white in your organising? How do you value their voices? If you read blogs, do you follow blogs written by people of colour? If you read feminist books, what ethnicity are the authors of the books you read? What ethnicity are your feminist role models? Why?

'The silence is also caused by the deep-seated fear and anxiety that most liberal white people seem to have in talking about racism in British society. The fear of saying the wrong thing, of offending or being racist, not knowing what to say or how to treat non-white people respectfully. It is the silence that is sometimes penetrated (usually in moments of crisis), but then it returns, until next time. It is the silence that we have to smash, and to keep smashing over and over. The conversations, when we have them are useful, but it's not enough to have a workshop once a year, it has to be a constant and ongoing engagement [to the exclusion of so many other concerns, responsibilities - and legitimate joys and pleasures, for that matter]. And us [sic] white feminists should not be waiting for activists of colour to initiate the conversation.

'A good starting point is to accept that all white people in Western society are racist to some extent – it has been ingrained in us since birth. Let's not pretend we're all squeaky clean, but open up our minds and hearts to honest interrogation and the possibilities of change. Yes, we probably will say something stupid and ignorant - there's a good chance I've done so somewhere in this article - but unless we are willing to expose ourselves, there will be no progress. Unlearning racism is a continuous journey, I don't think it really ever ends. Questioning our own attitudes and behaviour, as well as those around us, has to become part of our everyday thought-process. ['Questioning' subject to extreme {restriciction}. This is 'safe' questioning, the kind that confirms an ideology.]

'Learn how to criticise other white feminists
This is connected to silence, but I think it deserves its own heading because I am realising more and more that this is absolutely key if we are to transform exclusionary white feminism into something which has radical and liberatory potential.

'I'm not suggesting that we should forget about the achievements of these women. I'm saying, let's get real and not ignore the less flattering parts of feminist history. Let's not make historical feminists out to be saints. [I'm in full agreement with this sentence at least.]

'When a feminist group is white-dominated, the white women have the power to silence criticism by sticking together and denying (or more commonly, simply ignoring) that anything problematic has happened. Us white feminists need to learn how to challenge each other more; to push ourselves to raise concerns about racism when we see it (even if the person you're challenging is your friend!). When we organise together with other white women, we need to set up ways and time to talk constructively about race. So when we write that mission statement with those buzz words 'inclusion' and 'diversity', we need to think about what they actually mean, agree to continuously review how we are or are not achieving those aims. Otherwise there is no point including those words in the first place.

Learn from history
I've already written above about the importance of learning about the histories of activists of colour (a great place to start for recent history is the book Other kinds of dreams': Black Women's Organisations and the Politics of Transformation by Julia Sudbury). But let's also learn more about the lesser known parts of the histories of white feminists.

There is a fascinating field of historical research into white British feminists' involvement in the Empire, which includes work by historians such as Antoinette Burton, who found in her research that British feminists at the turn of the century "enlisted empire and its values so passionately and so articulately in their arguments for female emancipation" that they must be "counted among the shapers of imperial rhetoric and imperial ideologies". [History does destroy so many illusions, including feminist illusions.]

'I'm not suggesting that we should forget about the achievements of these women. I'm saying, let's get real and not ignore the less flattering parts of feminist history. Let's not make historical feminists out to be saints. [Agreed].


'So the question I want to ask my white sisters right now is this: what is feminism to you? Is it a lifestyle, a way for you to have an outlet about the sexism in your life, as it affects you? Or is it the ongoing fight to radically transform society, to end oppression against ALL women, and ultimately all people?'

[One of my aphorisms on ethics: 'Working towards the eventual elimination of all human (or animal) exploitation is no more realistic than 'End all human exploitation now!' or 'End all animal exploitation now!' Terese Jonsson seems not to have given much thought, or any thought at all, to any problems to do with the treatment of animals. Presumably, in her utopia, chickens would still be confined in battery cages in a large number of countries - and battery chicken eggs would be bought by women as well as men - sows would still be confined in sow stalls and there would be no need to ban bullfighting. (Feminists would, however, see to it that the 'gender bias' was corrected, so that 50% of the matadors, picadors and banderilleros were female.) See also my page on Animal welfare and the section on this page Feminism and animals: the contracting circle.]

Terese Jonsson gives this information on the Website of London Metropolitan University:

'I am a PhD student researching how contemporary feminists in England represent the recent feminist past in relation to issues of race and racism. My aim is to explore what kind of stories of the feminist past are told (as well as what the silences are), where race and racism is located within them, and the effects these narratives have on contemporary feminist politics.

'My methodology involves analysing historical narratives within academic literature, 'popular' feminist books, newspaper articles, memoirs and blogs, as well as other forms of media. I am also interviewing feminist activists and (ex)students of Women's and Gender studies, to explore the stories of the feminist past which circulate in activist and academic feminist communities, but which may not be written down.

'This historiographical approach is guided by the idea that how we tell stories about the feminist past influences how we understand the feminist present. I am hoping through this research to intervene into recurring patterns of white privilege and marginalisation of feminists of colour within white dominated feminist spaces.'

Blatantly ideological treatments can't be converted into respectable academic treatments simply by using terms such as 'methodology' and 'historiographical,' or by providing citations, which will presumably be given in large quantity in the finished dissertation. If Terese Jonsson's piece in 'The F Word' is any guide to her 'methodology' in writing the dissertation, then all the evidence she accumulates will be used to 'prove' the conclusion, not enhancing in the least the academic reputation of  London Metropolitan University. Terese Jonsson's supervisor is Dr Irene Gedalof, The Website of London Metropolitan University gives this information:

'Irene Gedalof has taught Women’s Studies at London Metropolitan University since 1998 and is currently course leader for Women’s Studies and the MA Equality and Diversity. Her current research is on questions of home, identity and belonging in relation to representations of migrant women and migrant women’s practices of cultural reproduction. Her publications are in the areas of identity, power and female embodiment, and the intersections of gender, race and ethnicity in white Western and postcolonial feminist theory. Irene is a member of the Feminist Review editorial collective.' If Dr Gedalof believes strongly in the value of intellectual honesty, then she will take care to make an adequate ((survey)) and not disregard evidence if it happens to be difficult to interpret in feminist terms, such as the evidence in the section on this page concerned with black slave-owning women. The section includes this quotation: 'The free women of color, for whom we have inventories, often owned significant property, including slaves, houses, lots, and furniture ... It was very common for these women to choose not to emancipate their slaves, and instead to pass them down to children or other relatives ... it is difficult to ignore evidence that free women of color, like whites, engaged in slavery for commercial purposes, and that, in doing so, they prospered.'

Extracts from the superb Website of Students for academic freedom which includes this after the title, 'you can't get a good education if they're only telling you half the story.' The extracts are concerned with academic freedom at Penn State University. Similar concerns about academic freedom at London Metropolitan University can be raised, at least in the case of Dr Gedalof. Is she helping students to think for themselves, does she set forth the divergent opinions of investigators, does she provide education rather than a kind of indoctrination?

'For more than fifty years, Penn State University has had one of the strongest and most clearly articulated policies on academic freedom of any institution of higher learning. Known as HR 64, the policy bars Penn State professors from indoctrinating students with "ready-made conclusions on controversial subjects." It instructs professors, instead, “to train students to think for themselves, and provide them access to those materials which they need if they are to think intelligently.” It warns that “in giving instruction on controversial matters the faculty member is expected to be of a fair and judicial mind, and to set forth justly, without supersession or innuendo, the divergent opinions of other investigators” – in other words to present students with more than one perspective on the subject.

'There is nothing ambiguous in these policies. They define the standards of professionalism that Penn State University professors are expected to observe. But examination of a dozen courses in the Penn State curriculum reveals that these principles are often blatantly ignored, and the professional standards they set forth are widely – and in the case of select departments systematically -- violated.
'The following analysis of course descriptions and syllabi in the Penn State catalogue shows that some professors feel free to teach the contentious issues of race, gender and justice in the social order through the frameworks of sectarian political ideologies, making no attempt to familiarize their students with the broad spectrum of scholarly views as required in Penn State’s academic freedom policies. Others presume to teach subjects for which they lack academic credentials. The introduction of such subjects into their courses appears to be motivated by political rather than academic agendas. In some instances, the curricula of entire departments, such as Women’s Studies, are organized to “indoctrinate … students in ready-made conclusions on controversial subjects,” a practice expressly forbidden by Penn State’s academic freedom policies.'

This is an extract from the discussion of Women's studies at Penn State University:

'Department of Women's Studies

'We have discussed two examples of politically influenced and therefore academically dubious courses in American Studies. With Women’s Studies, we encounter an entire program that is itself political rather than academic, and that contravenes Penn State University policy on classroom instruction. 

'The Penn State Women’s Studies Department features a curriculum designed to teach students to be radical feminists, rather than how to approach the study of women in an academic manner.


' ... Because they require students to accept the controversial assumptions of the Women Studies Department and do not subject its viewpoint – radical feminism -- to scrutiny or questioning, the Women’s Studies courses we anaylyzed are little more than for-credit forums for feminist politics.  

Introduction to Women’s Studies
Women’s Studies  001.8.
Instructor, Michael Johnson   

'A catalogue description of Introduction to Women's Studies, taught by emeritus professor Michael Johnson, begins: “Men are privileged relative to women. That’s not right. I’m going to do something about it, even if it's only in my personal life.”

'Professor Johnson explains that he will “spend most of the course on just a few of the ways that men are privileged relative to women. We’ll look at how and why women face more barriers to happiness and fulfillment than do men, and how we might go about helping our world to move in the direction of gender equity.” These contentious propositions are not raised as a potential object of disinterested academic inquiry, but as “truths” students are expected to embrace. The professor commends his course to those students who “want a really full feminist experience.” This is an appropriate invitation to join a political party, not an academic classroom. 

'While Professor Johnson retired in 2005, his courses (there are several -- equally ideological) are still listed in the catalogue). No authority in the Women’s Studies Department or in the Penn State administration appears to have regarded them as problematic.  

'Introduction to Women’s Studies[5]
Section 4. Instructor, Yihuai Cai  

'This section of the Introduction to Women’s Studies course, taught by graduate student Yihuai Cai, focuses on recruiting students to radical feminist causes. To this end, students are asked to consider a number of politically spun “questions” clearly designed to impress on students the feminist claim that America’s democratic society is hierarchical and oppressive:  

'These questions – especially the last -- reflect the mentality of a political operative not an academic teacher. 

'Consistent with the stated goal of the Women’s Studies department “to connect theory and scholarship with feminist activism,” students in the course are required to volunteer for organizations that are both feminist and activist.  The activist programs include the “Penn State Center for Women Students,” which is not just a center for women students but an advocacy group that protests “institutionalized sexism, sex-based discrimination, violence against women and other conditions which impede women students' personal and academic development.” “Peers Helping to Reaffirm, Educate and Empower,” another Penn State sponsored organization, conducts campus programs about “healthy body image;” Men Against Violence, a “peer education group” focuses on “gender violence;” the “Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Support Network;” and the pro-abortion group Planned Parenthood are all part of the Penn State educational experience as conceived by the Women’s Studies program and its affiliates. These programs are housed in the Paul Robeson Cultural Center, named after a famous American Communist and fervent supporter of Stalin, American Communist and fervent supporter of Stalin, who is described in the official announcement of the Center’s launch as a “human rights” activist, who became “an eloquent, often controversial spokesperson against racism and discrimination,” and whose only university affiliation was with Rutgers University in New Jersey. 

'Among the organizations students are offered as options there are only two that appear either ambiguous or non-political. These are the HIV/AIDS Risk Reduction Advisory Council, a student organization that focuses on “health promotion and activism” and the Mid-State Literacy Council, which promotes adult literacy programs. No conservative activist groups with interests in women’s issues are included, nor is there any indication or awareness that encouraging political activism in an academic program might be at all problematic. 

'At the conclusion of their volunteer project, students are asked to write a paper that “summarizes the project and makes connections to the course readings and your own learning experience.” Since all of the course readings are written by radical feminists or “critical theorists” sympathetic to feminism, it is evident that the sole function of this course is to turn students into feminist activists. It is precisely this sort of classroom environment that is specifically prohibited by the Penn State rules under HR 64. This is not education; it is indoctrination.  

'Yihuai Cai is only a graduate student, but she teaches this course regularly, which means the course as she teaches it has the approval of the Department of Women’s Studies. The ideological, non-academic nature of the course she has devised itself calls into question the character of the graduate education she is receiving at Penn State.

 Introduction to Women’s Studies
Women’s Studies 006. Instructor, Marla Jaksch 

'Another section of this course, taught by adjunct lecturer Marla Jaksch, is described as “an introductory feminist, survey course.” This merely spells out what the other course descriptions reflect. This is not an introductory course about women in which, in accordance with the school’s academic freedom policy, students can expect a balanced view of the relevant issues; it is, instead, a course in feminism – a sectarian ideology -- with no option for students to take different or dissenting views. Jaksch explains that her motivation is to “examine (and challenge) the nature of power and privilege in our lives and institutions,” a mission appropriate to a political organization, not an academic class, let alone one funded by the taxpayers of Pennsylvania.  

'One of the principal texts assigned to Jaksch’s students is Feminism is for Everybody by radical author bell hooks. Hooks text is required in many courses in the Women’s Studies Department at Penn State. 

'A plodding ideologue, hooks explains to readers that her book is an exercise in “revolutionary feminist consciousness-raising.” More precisely, it is a manifesto devoted to hooks’ well-known extreme views, including the claim that black women are “never going to have equality within the existing white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.” White supremacist capitalist patriarchy is the way hooks habitually describes America’s democratic system. Hooks is credentialed as a Professor of English Literature at the City University of New York. What her academic expertise on capitalism, race or patriarchy is, is anybody’s guess. Penn State students in Jaksch’s Women’s Studies section are assigned no texts that present a different perspective from hooks’ extreme views.  

'It is not only radical views that Professor Jaksch intends to instill in her students. As she also explains, students are expected not only to learn about feminist politics but to practice them. To this end, the course is designed to “create possible strategies for change through appreciation and engagement with many creative strategies that women have employed historically and contemporarily.”  

'What such strategies entail is explained in her course assignments. One requires students to write a biographical paper on a “feminist” artist, activist, or writer. The purpose of the assignment is not to inspire students to think critically about their subject. Rather, it is to “familiarize you with feminist strategies for telling unique and possibly untold stories.” Students are also required to attend events that promote feminist activism, such as a “feminist film.” An entire section of the course is given over to the subject of feminist activism and presented under the title “Social Justice & Global Feminism,” which makes no secret of its underlying political agendas. 

'In common with other professors in the Women’s Studies program, Professor Jaksch states  that she encourages “critical thinking” and “critically examines” the issues discussed in the course. But ample evidence shows that the term “critical thinking” is a common academic usage that refers to Marxist and post-Marxist critiques of capitalism. It is not a commitment to the kind of scientific skepticism and intellectual pluralism within an academic course that Penn State policy requires.

'This section of Introduction to Women’s Studies is precisely a course in “ready-made conclusions in regard to controversial subjects” that HR64 is designed to prevent. The course violates the core principles of Penn State’s academic freedom policy and the academic standards that Penn State faculty are expected to follow. Indeed, the Women’s Studies Department itself describes its curriculum in terms which are political not academic and thus violate Penn State policy as well.

 Global Feminisms
Women’s Studies 502. Instructor, Melissa Wright“

'Global Feminisms” is a politically lopsided attack on international capitalism and the free-market system taught by Associate Professor Melissa Wright. A principal required text for the course is Feminism, Theory and the Politics of Difference by Chris Weedon, which examines the “political implications” of feminist theory. For Weedon, the implications are that capitalist societies are “both oppressive and hierarchical.” They are also racist and governed by racial stereotypes applied exclusively to Third World people: “Irrationality and violence are stereotypes regularly applied, for example, to Saddam Hussein's Iraq and Muslim fundamentalist regimes,” according to Weedon. Racial stereotypes of white Americans don’t count since white Americans don’t qualify as oppressed people.

'A second required text for Professor Wright’s course is Chandra Mohanty’s Feminism without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity. This book is also required in several other courses in the Women’s Studies Department and also features a an unscholarly, polemical attack on capitalism. A radical feminist, Mohanty is frank about her political (and therefore non-academic) goals in writing the book. Proclaiming her “feminist commitments,” Mohanty proposes her text as a “transnational feminist anti-capitalist critique.” Her utopian vision is a world in which “ecological sustainability” and “the redistribution of wealth form the material basis of people's well being.” Mohanty describes her target audience as the “progressive, left, feminist and anti-imperialist scholars and intellectuals” and further outlines her intention to influence pedagogy by “theorizing and practicing an anticapitalist and democratic critique in education and through collective struggle.” 

'A third required text for Wright’s course is The End of Capitalism (As We Knew It): A Feminist Critique of Political Economy. Employing a vulgar Marxist analysis of free-market economies, the authors (who are not economists) assail “globalization” (the liberalization and integration of global trade) and “capitalist hegemony,” and make many extreme (and debatable) claims about capitalist “oppression.” They assert, for instance, that women are “allocated to subordinate functions of the capitalist system,” as though there were no women ceo’s of Fortune 500 companies, or as though two of the last three secretaries of state and the current Speaker of the House – third in line for the Presidency -- were not female. Of the other texts used in this course all but one, Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran, advance a polemical feminist or anti-capitalist agenda.

'The course’s non-scholarly agendas culminate in its final section, which is dedicated to promoting radical activism, specifically the cause of the anti-globalization movement. Titled “World Forums, Women’s Solidarity and the Human Rights discourse” this part of the syllabus is entirely devoted to an appreciation of  the World Social Forum, its agendas and activities. The World Social Forum is an international conference of Marxists and other anti-capitalist radicals, terrorist organizations like the Columbian FARC and anti-American leaders like Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez. The World Forum’s Manifesto states: “We are building a large alliance from our struggles and resistance against a system based on sexism, racism and violence, which privileges the interests of capitalism and patriarchy over the needs and aspirations of the people.” The Manifesto further declares that, “an urgent task of our movement is to mobilize solidarity for the Palestinian people and their struggle for self-determination as they face brutal occupation by the Israeli state.”

'This is not a course appropriate to an academic institution, let alone to a public university funded by the taxpayers of the state. It presses on students ready-made conclusions to controversial questions, exactly what Penn State policy is designed to prevent.

'Feminist Theory
Women’s Studies 507. Instructor, Joan B. Landes  

“Feminist Theory,” taught by Professor Joan Landes, adopts the language of intellectual pluralism while sharply limiting its scope to the idées fixes of the radical feminist Left. According to its catalogue description the course “aims to introduce students to the range of debate among feminist theorists on questions of patriarchy and male domination; gender, sexuality and desire; identity and subjectivity; experience and performance; maternity and citizenship; universalism and difference.” But by narrowly and exclusively focusing on leftwing perspectives, this approach falls decidedly short of an appropriate spectrum for an academic debate. Such disagreements as exist between the “feminist theorists” analyzed in the course pale in comparison to their shared beliefs, or to the views of those who do not share their assumptions.

'To judge by the assigned readings, the feminist theory as presented in this course is inseparable from a political agenda that describes American society and free-market capitalism as racist and oppressive and urges radical resistance to both. This theme is stressed in a number of essays that students are required to read, including one titled “Theory as Liberatory Practice,” by bell hooks. In this essay, hooks explains her view that feminist theory is primarily a political tool that should be used to “challenge the status quo” and the “patriarchal norm” of American society – assuming without analysis that there is such a norm. The feminist writings of conservative and liberal academic thinkers who do not share these views – Professors Christina Hoff Sommers, Daphne Patai and Camille Paglia come immediately to mind -- are simply ignored.

 It should be noted that one section of Introduction to Women’s Studies (WMST 001) taught by Mary Faulkner does meet the test of providing an actual debate on these issues, at least for one lesson.

'Friday, December 1st:  Future of Women’s Studies?

'Readings:  Daphne Patai, “What’s Wrong with Women’s Studies”; Judith Stacey, “Is Academic Feminism an Oxymoron?”; Harry Brod, “Scholarly Studies of Men:  The New Field is an Essential Complement to Women’s Studies”

'Yet this assignment stands out as an exception among the Women’s Studies courses we looked at and merely highlights the failure of others to do the same.

'It bears mentioning that the bell hooks essay, required for “Feminist Theory” makes no pretense to being a scholarly work. It urges readers to engage in “feminist struggle” against the injustices alleged by the author. Similarly, in the required text by Chris Weedon, Feminist Practice and Poststructuralist Theory, the author writes: “Feminism is a politics.” Echoing the theme of the course, Weedon suggests that feminist theory is largely the instrument of a political cause. Specifically, it “must always be answerable to the needs of women in our struggle to transform the patriarchy.” A theory that is answerable to the needs of the “women’s struggle” as defined by a group of sectarian ideologues, cannot  by its nature be scholarly since it lacks the freedom to challenge the assumptions of those engaged in the “struggle” including the idea that the “women’s struggle” has definable “needs” that everyone can agree on.

'The political agendas that make up the course in Feminist Theory find their most explicit expression in its concluding section. Titled “Transnational Feminism in the New Age of Globalization,” this is yet another leftwing critique of capitalism, a subject in which the course instructor has no academic credentials.

'Typical of the readings in this section is a chapter from Feminism Without Borders, a book by the feminist and anti-globalization activist Chandra Talpade Mohanty, mentioned earlier in this report. In this essay, “Under Western Eyes’ Revisited: Feminist Solidarity Through Anti-capitalist Struggles,” Mohanty laments her disenchantment with what she calls the “increasing privatization and corporatization of public life” in the United States, calls for the revival of a more radical feminist movement, and boasts that her “site of access and struggle has increasingly come to be the U.S. academy.” The purpose of a university is not to be a focus of political struggle, nor were the faculty members in the Women’s Studies Department hired to be political activists in the classroom. Yet that is precisely what they are.

 Women, the Humanities and the Arts
'Women’s Studies 003. Instructor, Stephanie Springgay 

'On its face, a course on art might seem to have little in common with the feminist ideology and political activism promoted throughout the department. But Women’s Studies 003 shows that even a subject with no obvious connection to politics can become a canvas for the political agendas of activists posing as academics. '

'While Assistant Professor Springgay claims that her course does not propose a “right answer” for students to accept and encourages them to think “critically,” there is little evidence that she conducts the course in accordance with these appropriately academic standards. As the course description makes clear, students in this course will not simply learn about art. They will also be trained to “challenge the nature of power and privilege as it relates to gender, race, class and sexuality and in particular how it shapes the lives and experiences of women.”  Additionally, they will be expected to “find spaces of resistance within these terms” and to “understand how women have, at times, been silenced by the constructions of gender, race, class, sexuality, and nationality, and how they have also reformulated those constructions through a variety of creative expressions.” The idea that gender may be innate rather than “socially constructed” – a view common, for example, among neuro-scientists -- does not appear to have a place in Professor Springgay’s curriculum. 

'Not the least of the problems with this course it that is unclear what expertise the instructor, Stephanie Springgay, has to lecture about such complex topics as, for example, class, nationalism and globalization, which is the focus of an entire section of the course, based on three feminist instructional texts, two by professor bell hooks whose expertise is English literature. Professor Springgay is listed as an assistant Professor of Art Education and Women’s Studies and earned her doctorate in art education. How is Art Education an academic credential for teaching about class, race, nationality and globalization?

'In violation of Penn State’s academic freedom provisions, Professor Springgay’s course is structured exclusively around the writings of feminist authors. In a typical reading assignment, author Linda Nochlin asks, “Why have there been no great women artists?” Her answer is that the problem lies with “social structure and [the] institutions” of the art world, specifically that they are dominated by white, middle-class, males: “As we all know, things as they are and as they have been, in the arts as in a hundred other areas, are stultifying, oppressive, and discouraging to all those, women among them, who did not have the good fortune to be born white, preferably middle class and, above all, male.”

'While ignoring great artists like Georgia O’Keefe and Mary Cassatt, this argument fails to explain why there have been so many great women writers throughout history, since they experienced the same social restrictions. Sappho, Jane Austen, Emily Dickinson and the Bronte sisters come to mind, not to mention the greatest writer in a famously patriarchal society, Murasaki Shikibu, the 10th Century author of the Tale of Genji, which is regarded as the Iliad of Japanese civilization.

'The few reading assignments that cannot be classified as feminist in this course nonetheless are overtly political. In this category are essays like “The Other History of Intercultural Performance” by the visual artist and activist Coco Fusco. Fusco describes a performance art project in which she took part and explains that its intent was to “dramatize the colonial unconsciousness of American society.” According to Fusco, “our experiences…suggested that even though the idea of America as a colonial system is met with resistance -- since it contradicts the dominant ideology’s presentation of our system as a democracy -- the audience reactions indicated that colonialist roles have been internalized quite effectively.”

'Not only do students learn about the convergence of art and political activism, but they are also required to create their own political art project. One section of the course asks students to participate in a “public art project as a form of student activism on the Penn State campus;” this form of activism counts for 15 percent of students’ final grade. Another section of the course is actually titled “activism.” Here students read essays that encourage them to participate in political -- particularly feminist -- activism. For instance, in her essay, “Bringing feminism a la casa,” feminist writer Daisy Hernandez asks students to consider the following query: “How do you go off to college, learn about feminism in English, and then bring it home to a working-class community where women call their children in from the street at night in every language -- except ‘standard’ English?” Bringing feminism to a working-class community is a challenge for feminist activists, not for students who have signed up for an academic study of women at a major university.'

The 'Students for academic freedom' Website can't be endorsed in every respect. As so often, there are inclusions that seem unwise, such as the recommendation of the site 'John Christian Ryter's Conservative World,' which contains a great deal of good sense but seems to me stultifyingly conservative. Its conservative approach to a whole range of issues takes predictable forms, although nothing like the predictable forms of the average - or well above average - feminist site, I think.  I dislike the 'Students for Academic Freedom' site's use of 'Islamo-fascism,' in 'Islamo-fascism petition,' just as I dislike use of 'fascism' in connection with feminism - for my reasons, see my comments on Steve Moxon's anti-feminist site. I've no faith in petitions as an agent of {modification}, in general. This particular petition opposes various Islamist aims. I think that the aims are identified correctly but the wording is  poor. It would have been better to have dispensed with the reference to jihad, even though jihad is a prominent part of Islamic religious ideology.  At least the petition makes it clear that women's interests are threatened by Islamic religious ideology, a form of wording I prefer to the petition's 'The Islamo-Fascist Jihad is a war against Women.'

Friendly fire and hostile fire
Anti-feminist Websites: criticism

Causes are  coalitions, as I see it, supported by people with a common linkage, opposition to X, but significant differences.  The causes I support on this site, amongst them opposition to feminism, religion, bullfighting and the death penalty, are coalitions of this kind. The coalition of people opposed to feminism may be made up of people who support religion or oppose it, who support the death penalty or oppose it. This is to recognize the importance of cross-linkage, according to which allies in one sphere may even be enemies in another.

A person who agrees that X should be opposed may, perhaps, have completely unrealistic ideas about the tactics for opposing X. I agree with this person's views only in part. The person may have very sound ideas about opposing X but there may be a superficiality and a glibness in X which is impossible to ignore. I see no reason to exclude these complexities from this page, which is why I make some brief criticisms of  some anti-feminist blogs and Websites here: only a small number, but enough to make clear my views. Anti-feminist blogs and Websites are sometimes badly mistaken, very badly mistaken, but don't generally  come anywhere near the smugness, duplicity, and dishonesty of the average feminist site, let alone the deranged views of many feminist sites.

'Friendly fire and hostile fire' - the allusion refers to friendly amendments and hostile amendments at meetings. (I've listened to quite a number of them at Annual General Meetings of Amnesty International) as well as military fire.

Angry Harry


A very flawed site, with useful information and some interesting insights but often glib or grating in its tone and generally lightweight: a 'tabloid blog.' Tabloid newspapers sometimes  get it right - often get it right. A tabloid style, 'concise and often sensational' (Collins English Dictionary) may well be used to condemn falsity. A scholarly style, with footnotes, references and quotations from some French feminist philosopher or other can be used to defend falsity.

 Angry Harrry's high spirits are in evidence, but often lead him  badly astray, leading him to publish high-spirited rubbish. One of these  errors of judgment, for example is the inclusion of this quote from Winston Churchill, or its inclusion and uncritical endorsement, without any accompanying comment:

'The women’s suffrage movement is only the small end of the wedge, If we allow women to vote it will mean the loss of social structure and the rise of every liberal cause under the sun. Women are well represented by their fathers, brothers and husbands.'

Extension of the vote to women was a reform of fundamental importance. Too often, Angry Harry seems to have the grossly misguided conception that to be an anti-feminist involves opposing all reform which benefits women, or supporting measures which disadvantage women. This is a shameful example from his site. Any anti-feminist who gives such support to Iran (or Saudi Arabia or similar tyrannies) should be ashamed.

'Iran Clamps Down On Women Going To University 36 universities have announced that 77 BA and BSc courses in the coming academic year will be "single gender" and effectively exclusive to men.

Positive discrimination! Affirmative action!


Another example. If he intended this caption underneath a photograph of a baboon's face

Angry Harry's Missus

(On a good day.)

to be whimsy and humour rather than fully intended, then it's a bad misjudgment of another kind.

He includes this quotation from Hilary White: 'Feminism, because it is essentially dishonest, childish and self-serving, will never own up to the logical conclusions of its premises.' He ought at least to eliminate all the tiresome childish parts of his own Website, such as 'LOL!' or this:

 The Dickhead Song - YouTube - to be sent to all feminist poodle boys - LOL!

The song has no linkage with feminism or anti-feminism. It's simply a rubbishy and sub-juvenile piece which includes this (notice the rhyme):

'You're a dickhead,
I hope you'll soon be dead.'

Anti-feminist Theory of Feminism, Male Sexuality, Men's Rights


This is far from being a 'Liability Site' - it has many strengths - but has a tendency to exaggerate on occasion. (At least it's without the facetiousness and glibness of Angry Harry's blog.)  Take this heading, 'British Museum Glorifies Feminist Criminality and Terrorism.' What kind of terrorism would this be? Terrorism involving beheading, suicide bombing, massacre? Only 'terrorism' which is the subject of a British Museum exhibition.

A photograph is provided with 'VOTES FOR WOMEN' stamped on it, and this text from the British Museum: 'In the early 1900s this British penny was defaced to promote the suffragette cause. This bold criminal act catapulted the movement for women’s right to vote into the political limelight.  The penny stands for all those who fought for this monumental change.'

'This coin – a perfectly ordinary penny minted in 1903 – was part of this civil disobedience. Stamped with the suffragette slogan “votes for women”, it circulated as small change, and spread the message of the campaigners. At the time, defacing a coin was a serious criminal offence, and the perpetrators risked a prison sentence had they been caught. We don’t know when the slogan was stamped on this coin, but stamping it on small change rather than a silver coin meant that it was less likely to be taken out of circulation by the banks. The message could have circulated for many years, until the law giving women the same voting rights as men was passed in 1928.'

The Website makes this comment:

'It is now widely recognised by historians that the suffragettes were regarded as an ‘Al Qaeda’ type terrorist organization, which conducted numerous violent outrages and even plotted to murder the British First World War Prime Minister David Lloyd George.' This is gross exaggeration.

I recognize no historical law or law of nature  which guarantees that  opponents of feminism - and any Websites they may -  let alone all men, are be innately virtuous and incapable of stupidity, just as there's no historical law or law of nature which guarantees that  women are the innately virtuous beings of many feminist writers and campaigners.

Writing about the poet Geoffrey Hill and the poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy in 'The Guardian,' Lemn Sissay made this misguided comment: ' ... at a lecture in Oxford, Hill likened Duffy to a Mills and Boon writer. Hill demeans himself. After 350 years of male dominance. Duffy is the first female poet laureate. Hill's comparison of the language of Duffy to Mills & Boon is like a man in the 1950s comparing the first female managing director to a jumped-up office angel.'

Bob Flowerdew wrote a book called 'The no-work garden' - a misleading title, which should obviously have been something like 'The less-work garden.' Lemn Sissay seems to be following the principles of a 'No-work journalism,' or rather 'Less work journalism' here. It's much less work to point out some circumstance or other than to attend to the poetry or the music or the politics, which involves attending to metaphor, metre and so much much else, or modulation, orchestration and so much else, or many of the painstaking skills of a professional historian. Giving just one phrase from the lecture - the comparison with a Mills and Boon writer - is hardly any work at all. (Geoffrey Hill goes on to praise some lines of hers.)

To suppose that a poet's poetry should be exempt from criticism ({restriction}:- criticism) on account of any such circumstances, or that Dame Ethel Smyth's compositions should be exempt from criticism on account of the fewness of acknowledged women composers or that Margaret Thatcher's political policies should be exempt from criticism - it would be 'like a man in the 1950s comparing the first female managing director to a jumped-up office angel' - is a disastrously misguided instance of {substitution}. If a 'Men's Movement' Website uses poor arguments, they have to be challenged. In this case, the linkage claimed between the suffragettes and Al Qaeeda is grotesque.

Fidelbogen's The Counter-feminist


 (See also, on this page, Julian Real's radical pro-feminist attack on Fidelbogen.) Fidelbogen is a very inconsistent, a very unreliable authority on feminism and anti-feminism. He's capable of writing  rubbish, or  rubbish mixed with sense, dross amidst material much more valuable.

This is his advice to feminists: naive, simple-minded rubbish.
' ... for your own sake, take control of the situation NOW, and get the hell out of feminism while the getting is good. You will find honor and dignity for yourself, and achieve a level of heroism, if you come clean and come out. But you've got to do it right soon. Don't wait. If you stall for time too long, your time will run out and you will be caught in the stampede toward the jam-packed exit doors along with all the other desparate fools. And I can assure you there will be no honor, no dignity, and no heroism for you on that day!

So get the hell out of feminism right this very minute.

 You can even drop me an e-mail and tell me about it, if you wish:


 Be a feminist hero. Just do it!'

The 'NOW' is completely unrealistic, of course, but the passage has many other faults.

This is Fidelbogen  on the extension of the franchise to women - an essential step, an inevitable step. To 'take no stand on the question' is just about as bad as opposing extension of the suffrage. But he's right to draw attention to the complexities, which include the misguided tactics used by some suffragettes and the vastly differing attitudes of women at the time. He writes,

'The following short book, published in 1916, contains a series of essays by Massachusetts women who opposed the vote for women. While I personally take no stand upon that question, I am bound to admit that some of their reasonings are cogent. I share this book now in the spirit of historical scholarship:


"Feminism got women the vote" has always been a trusty standby for feminist apologists who wish to pull the spotlight away from feminism's crimes and toxicities. For them, the fact that women formerly didn't have the franchise serves as Exhibit A that "women were oppressed." But the women's voices in this book would very much beg to differ. These women didn't even want to vote in the first place. Not only did they not consider themselves oppressed by not having the vote,  but they would have considered themselves oppressed if they did have it! And that throws a very concerning light on feminist historiography, don't you think so?

'You will enjoy the window into the past which this book provides, and it will amuse you to learn how very little certain matters have changed in nearly a century. Feminist women, and feminist politics, were virtually indistinguishable from what we know today -- we are dealing with the same people, the same behaviors, and the same timeless scenarios, now as then!

'We have all heard that if women controlled the world there would be no war, right? Well check this out, from 1916: 

"The essential dogma of the Woman's Peace Party (none but suffragists admitted!) was that the adoption of woman suffrage was a necessary and effectual step toward abolishing war. "If women had had the vote in all countries now at war," said Mrs. Catt, "the conflict would have been prevented." But history shows women at least as much inclined to war as men--a fact illustrated in the French Revolution, in our Civil War, in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, and in other instances too numerous to mention."
Moving along in the same vein, we read of violent feminists:
"The incongruity of suffragists attempting to pose as a peace party is obvious to anyone with a memory and a sense of humor. Before the war broke out, American suffrage leaders were applauding, feasting, and subsidizing the British virago who instigated the setting on fire of 146 public buildings, churches, and houses, the explosion of 43 bombs, the destruction of property valued at nearly two million dollars (not including priceless works of arts), and many cases of personal assault. In 1912 they justified the destruction of the Rokeby Venus; in 1914 they professed horror at the bombardment of the Cathedral of Rheims. Is this insincerity or hypocrisy, or mere aberration of mind?"
'In the following, we catch an early glint of those radical feminist fangs we presently know so well. Note especially the bits about "personal and political" and "emotionalism", the reference to "complete social revolution", and the prescience of Mr. Gladstone:  
"The confusion of social and personal rights with political, the substitution of emotionalism for investigation and knowledge, the mania for uplift by legislation, have widely advertised the suffrage propaganda. The reforms for which the founders of the suffrage movement declared women needed the vote have all been accomplished by the votes of men. The vote has been withheld through the indifference and opposition of women, for this is the only woman's movement which has been met by the organized opposition of women. Suffragists still demand the vote. Why? Perhaps the answer is found in the cry of the younger suffragists: "We ask the vote as a means to an end--that end being acomplete social revolution!" When we realize that this social revolution involves the economic, social, and sexual independence of women, we know that Gladstone had the prophet's vision when he called woman suffrage a "revolutionary" doctrine."
'By way of counterpoint, here is Miss Edith Melvin describing exactly how oppressed she feels by not having the vote. She was no fluke; women like her were everywhere:
"I have never seen any point or place where the power to cast a ballot would have been of the slightest help to me. For myself I should regard the duties and responsibilities of thorough, well-informed, and faithful participation year after year in political matters as a very great misfortune; even more of a misfortune than the certainty of being mixed up in the bitter strife, the falsifications, and publicity often attendant upon political campaigns."
'Again, for the record, I am stating no personal opinion about the issue of women's voting rights. Let the fact be well noted, that I have said nothing either pro or con upon that subject.'  

His failure to state a personal opinion, his failure to support the extension of the franchise, has to be criticized severely. He's right about many things but misguided about others.

His anti-feminist blog  recognizes the importance of 'intra-criticism,' criticism within the anti-feminist group (criticism of feminists by anti-feminists is inter-criticism. Too bad that he's almost completely lacking a talent for self-criticism.) This alone would give it great interest. The military recognize that not all action against an enemy is good, not all action should be immune from criticism (as I put it: granted exemption.) There's such a thing as irrational, badly thought out, badly planned, badly executed action, action which is absolutely inadvisable, disastrous.  The sharing of a common goal is no excuse. (But whatever may be the flaws of anti-feminist sites, the flaws of so many feminist sites, and not just the lunatic radical feminist sites, are of a different order.) 

These are some comments of Fidelbogen, the writer of the blog. This, or something like it, needed to be said. The phrase he uses below, 'the so-called "men's movement" ' for example is a  healthy corrective. Using the word 'movement' can give a spurious impression of purposive action and activity and achievement. I'd add that it can give a spurious impression of agreement, of unanimity. But I'd add that anti-feminists can never hold  'any kind of governing philosophical worldview.' I don't endorse all his views, as expressed here. Anyone who gives some time to this page and other pages on this site will be able to arrive quite easily at the disagreements I have, so I don't give them here.

Fidelbogen writes,

 'The so-called "men's movement" is a complete train wreck. It is not proceeding efficiently toward any goal. There is nothing of discipline or policy or strategy about it, let alone any kind of governing philosophical worldview. Wise heads do not prevail, and braying jackasses dominate the field everywhere you look.

'I am frankly bored spitless by most of the yakkety-yak I am hearing among our ostensible comrades-in-arms. On and on they go, flogging the same old dead horses. On and on they go, natttering about the same old dreary, unimaginative garbage. Round and round they go, stepping in the same old pitfalls, the same old pisspuddles, the same old dog shit, time after time after time. [some examples would help his case.]


'For the record, there has never been a revolution without a vanguard of some kind. Without a central cadre of some kind. Oh very well: without an elite of some kind. There, I said it!

'To balance the gloomy picture, I will admit there IS an inner circle of philosophers and strategic thinkers -- in fact, several such. I have sat in on some of their tete-a-tetes, and can report that my time was well spent. But such occasions are very much an exception to the general hee-haw, jackassery, and time-wasting bullshit that you will find in our visible realm of public rhetoric.

'Very well, I shall proffer some words to the wise which ought to be sufficient. The vanguard forms HERE. Yes, I hereby appoint myself  dictator and preceptor-general of the non-feminist project, and invite all who have the right stuff to gather in the vicinity. There, I said it. 

'Yes, I know. Nobody wants to be the guy with the big ego, but then again, sometimes that's the only way to get things done. Nowadays, sadly, you are required to apologize like hell for even having an ego at all. This is considered "trendy". You are expected to shrink your ego to the size of a pinto bean and hide it in a drawer, like an unclean secret, under meaningless clutter and old papers that should have been thrown out long ago. 

'Away with all of that! Death to all of that! I don't mind saying that I have an ego of robust and healthy dimension. In fact, I contain multitudes, stretching to the limit of the known universe. . .and even beyond! That is precisely how big my "ego" is, and I wish others could encompass a similar magnitude. I really do. 

'But enough about me.

This is not about me!

'We do not mix the personal with the political, so when I speak ex cathedra as preceptor-general of the non-feminist project it is not about "me", or about any singular personality, or about the personal dimension of reality. It is about powers and principalities, thrones and dominions, forces of nature, forces of history, and other such goodies. In a word, it is about politics in the largest way you can imagine. And that requires the aggrandizement of my ego, and yours, until it breaks through to the other side and . . . pouf! It disappears!

'The enemy wants to rid you of your ego by reducing it to the infinitessimal -- that is, by sucking the life out of it. I, your humble preceptor-general, want to rid you of your ego by ballooning it to the infinite -- that is, by filling it with life in superabundance! Hell's bells, why be a "petty Napoleon" when you can be an  infinitely large one, eh?Pettiness is is the last thing we need around here. Urbanity and collegiality are the order of the day, my friends! And trust me, those things are deadly weapons.'

Whatever view is taken of Fidelbogen's claims to leadership or guiding of the anti-feminist cause (I don't think it's in the least likely that a leader will be accepted, and it's not desirable either) he's to be commended at least for opposing any model in the least similar to the one followed slavishly by the mediocrities (most common in politically-correct circles, perhaps) who believe in a perfect equality of discourse: the mentally lazy should have exactly the same right to be heard, to be listened to with respect, as those who have thought hard, proven incompetents to have the same right to be heard as those who have shown that they are vigorous, alert and hard-working.

Fidelbogen should be commended for this further refusal to tolerate idiocy. He writes, 'The following comment has appeared on the post immediately prior to this:

"Women of today are actually easy to deal understand - if her mouth is open for more than pleasuring a man, she's lying. Just accept that she will lie, cheat, and everything else - so your job is to out-smart her. It isn't difficult she's a female and lacks your reason, and ability. 

"Use your advantage. And never make the mistake of thinking of a woman as more than someone who will lie, cheat, steal, and murder to get what she wants because she has been taught that she is OWED what she wants... 

"Your job is to not give it to her, and use her for your pleasure - they can be trained, but will turn on you if they ever sense fear..."

'And I responded to that comment in the following terms:

Your rhetorical style is not politically efficient, and your declaration of sentiments is not in line with the policy of this blog. Nevertheless, you are quite welcome to your opinion, and I will not censor you. 

However, I would refer you to the four points of rhetorical discipline, which are:

1. Discreet utterance
2. Tonal mastery
3. Narrative frame
4. Message Discipline

One needs to be firing on all four of these cylinders. You lack fire altogether on cylinder no. 1, and partly on cylinders 3 and 4.

The complete manual of rhetorical discipline is available at the following link, and I recommend that you study it: 

 The Practice of Rhetorical Discipline'

The wording isn't to my liking (Fidelbogen is sometimes a clumsy writer) but the sentiment is very important: there are good tactics and bad tactics (and disastrously bad tactics.) Anyone who thinks that outrageous statements can be excused on the grounds that anyone who opposes feminism should be supported is badly mistaken.

Fidelbogen spoils it by going on to speculate that the comment may have been made by a 'feminist provocateur. It's not impossible, but it's far more likely that it was made by an anti-feminist moron - there are such people, after all.

So many feminists have the illusory belief in the inherent virtuousness of women. Anti-feminists should never cherish the belief that men are inherently virtuous. A concern for realities and strict fact should lead anyone to conclude that men, not a few men but many of them, are and have been vile, violent, trivial-minded, deeply flawed, just as a concern for realities and strict fact should lead anyone to conclude that the overwhelmingly important achievement in science, technology, mathematics, philosophy are overwhelmingly due to men and that men have created far more masterpieces in visual art, music and literature than women. The harshness of reality, reality's refusal to follow such illusory principles as 'equal achievement,' is graphically revealed here. Anyone who wants to contest any of this and to engage in debate about high achievement (such as the achievement of, for example, Sylvia Plath, George Eliot, Elizabeth, Lady Wilbraham, the designer of Weston Park in Shropshire, Marie Curie, G E M Anscombe), underachievement and lack of achievement, or any other aspects of this issue, is very welcome to contact me, as in the case of anything else which infuriates or gives rise to disagreement on this page, whether the objections are from a feminist, non-feminist or anti-feminist perspective.

An example of Fidelbogen the very clumsy writer:

'A compendium of foundationally important matters. If you transmit this stuff over and over, it may grab hold in a critical number of minds. These minds, in turn, may crystallize into a community that will function as a seed, and grow.'
But he's sometimes capable of heightened expression which is impressive. I don't endorse everything in the section of his blog, 'Cutting Off Feminism Abruptly,' in particular the wording of some parts, but I like his surging expression of the reality principle and the ability of harsh realities to shatter a distorting ideology. Extracts:

'Feminism, as a project, ignores parts of reality in the process of constructing its narrative ...


'Interesting times lie ahead -- and by that I mean, unpleasant times. Complicated times. Chaotic times. Such is the character of the non-feminist revolution itself: unpleasant, complicated, and chaotic. The non-feminist revolution is not an organization, not a movement, not a precise group of people, and not a plan of any kind. For though it might sometimes include all of those things, it is none of them in itself. No, the non-feminist revolution is simply the full reality of life pushing back against the unreality of feminism in an unpleasant, complicated and chaotic way.'

Steve Moxon's blog and Website



Steve Moxon is an anti-feminist whose observations on feminism and feminists are sometimes valuable, but whose perspective is undermined by a  disastrously misguided reductionism, and disastrously misguided recklessness.  He's capable of writing this, for example (from his blog, with my emphasis):

'Common-sense is always thrown out of the window whenever the culture of 'identity politics' and 'political correctness' becomes salient.
'It will get ever worse, with growing numbers of people harassed, charged and punished for an ever wider definition of what is deemed to be 'hate speech', until the whole obscenity of 'identity politics' and 'PC' is either finally laughed out of town or there are guns and bullets in the streets. The longer the insanity continues to grow, the more likely it is that the only way left will be to shoot all the ideologues.'

His reductionism is ideological. He explains  human culture and human psychology, including the relations between men and women, in biological terms. His contribution to a symposium concerned with the linkage between culture and biology was entitled Biology: Why We Cannot "Transcend" Our Genes - or Ourselves.

From the abstract of the essay What is wrong with reductionist explanations of behaviour? (S. Rose, of the Biology Department, Open University. (Novartis Symposium, 1998;213:176-86; discussion 186-92, 218-21.)

 ' ... the worst problem arises when reductionism becomes an ideology, especially in the context of human behaviour, when it makes the claims to explain complex social phenomena (e.g. violence, alcoholism, the gender division of labour or sexual orientation) in terms of disordered molecular biology or genes. In doing so, ideological reductionism manifests a cascade of errors in method and logic: reification, arbitrary agglomeration, improper quantification, confusion of statistical artefact with biological reality, spurious localization and misplaced causality.'

 Rather than offer amplification here, setting out the arguments against, I recommend an internet search of materials giving arguments against reductionism - and arguments in favour, of course. Raymond Tallis's writing on the issue is one source: : www.raymondtallis.com

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has a technical discussion of reductionism in biology and some of the scientific and philosophical issues, with an extensive bibliography :


Steve Moxon lives nearby. He's someone I know, although not well. His blog is about immigration as well as feminism. He's the author of 'The great immigration scandal,' an impressive investigative book which gave evidence of the laxity of the authorities and their underhand dealings in the management of immigration, measured, painstaking and fair-minded.  He's also the author of 'The woman racket,' which I haven't read as yet. Whatever its strengths, or its strengths and weaknesses, the title of the book isn't a good one. Anyone who wants to buy it at a bookshop is going to present it at the counter or order it at the counter, perhaps from a female assistant or manager or owner and the title may well be an embarrassment at the time. Why deter readers and customers from buying the book and bookshops from stocking it? Steve Moxon didn't think things through, it should be obvious, unless the title was imposed on him by the publisher. (I criticize  the title, whilst endorsing the view that there are some aspects of feminism which do amount to a racket.)

His blog is sometimes off-putting in its style. A general study of  Rhetoric, 'the art of persuasion,' might be beneficial, perhaps. He should at least give some thought to  better and worse ways of attempting to persuade.  He could avoid dire phrasing such as this, for example: 'his vision of civil conflict over the elitist-separatist contempt for and indeed hatred of the mass of ordinary people by the political-media-education uber-class seems all too prescient' (in connection with 'the ironies of Anders Breivik') and, a different kind of fault,' "Got it wrong" on immigration?! You HATE us all, you lying tosser.'

His anti-feminist pieces are undermined for me by a common mistake, his misuse of 'fascist' again and again, as here (in a piece on George Galloway and the rape laws): ' ...the ridiculous sex laws in the UK (as other places in the PC-fascist West).'  He could easily appeal to usage, the fact that 'fascist' has come to mean not much more than 'bad.' The same could be said of the word 'Nazi,' another word often used by anti-feminists. I take the view that usage isn't the ultimate court of appeal. A common usage can be misuse. If glue-sniffing became overwhelmingly common, this would still be misuse of the substance. So I persist in arguing that these are misuses of words, and underlying the misuse a hideous obliviousness to realities and to crucial differences.

Any good or even adequate anti-feminist site deploys arguments and evidence. Steve Moxon has abilities in scholarship, to an extent, but his critical standards are sometimes abysmal, as in this badly-written worse than routine piece, where good sense goes hand in hand with nonsense, 'Rotherham Council exemplifies PC-fascism (November 24, 2012).  I don't attempt the thankless task of disentangling the two here in any detail. I'm sure that my view of what's better and what's worse will be clear enough.

'The behaviour of Rotherham Council re the couple prevented from being foster carers because of their membership of a political party -- a mainstream political party at that (UKIP) -- is not at all incredible but merely an indication of the PC-fascist politicised culture in which we now live.
'Political Correctness' has had a long evolution – see all of the scholarship (including my own: the scene-setting first section in my science journal review paper of the misrepresentation of domestic violence) – being the great backlash by the intelligentsia against the mass of ordinary people: punishment for not responding to the prescription and prediction of the intelligentsia's political-Left (Marxist) mindset.

'In a nutshell, because we didn't all 'rise up' in revolution, this caused what psychologists term 'cognitive dissonance' in the minds of all those with a political-Left mindset, given that this is in direct conflict with reality. It's human nature not to blame your own gullibility for swallowing obvious baloney, and instead to find a fall guy. The fall guy here is collectively all those who were supposed to benefit from Marxist revolution: 'the workers'. [Note this is not any kind of conspiracy but simply the coalescing of individual attitudes emanating from shared normal psychology that was the subject to usual 'groupthink'.]

'The workers stereotypically are – and in the past overwhelmingly were – male, white and heterosexual. By a truly ridiculous inversion, neo-Marxism (cultural Marxism; identity or critical studies) deemed 'the workers' as unworthy, and in their place was put a new 'oppressed' class comprising all those who were non-male, non-white and non-heterosexual – women, ethnic minorities and gays/lesbians/trans-sexuals.

'Correspondingly, in place of the 'boss' class as the main ogre, they deemed the major villains of the peace 'the workers' as the new 'oppressor' class. This inversion likewise is basic human nature. The friend who is seen to become a turncoat is hated more than the erstwhile enemy. Meanwhile, the state, which had hitherto been regarded as the supposed boss's lackey also did a spectacular somersault in political-Left imagination. Being now stuffed full of all those who recoiled from being in the proper, commercial workplace and 'capitalism', the state was magicked into the imagined main agent of social change.
PC has nothing whatsoever to do with being considerate to minorities as claimed, being in fact the very opposite of egalitarian. It wilfully mis-identifies the actually disadvantaged group – lower-status males – and pretends they are instead somehow the main source of what creates disadvantage. Meanwhile those who are actually the most privileged in any and every society – women – are deemed their 'victims'.

'PC is truly the most absurd and nastiest political fraud in all history, and over the past 20 years or more has taken hold of every institution here in the UK, across Europe and in the USA. [Indeed, it began in earnest in the USA, albeit that the main root was in central Europe -- the Frankfurt School (of Marxism) circa 1930.] It has become hegemonic across the whole of the 'Western' world'.

'Anyone who is at all interested in truth and justice has a clear duty to smash it.'

His blog and his Website are sometimes  of a much higher standard, as in this piece, quoted in its entirety. Here, his scholarly abilities are in evidence. This isn't a reductionist account. 

'The text is fully open-access: a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported License applies from the publication date of August 17, 2014, which grants full permission to reproduce, in part or whole, for all (including commercial) uses, on the condition of properly and fully attributing authorship to Steve Moxon.
'The ideology that came to be termed 'identity politics' has an origin and development well documented in scholarship (see below) as a re-shaping of Marxist 'theory' that over time has become the principal feature of contemporary politics. This was generally recognised two decades ago, though written off by some as already as dead as the Marxism that had spawned it, being kept alive, supposedly, mostly in the imagination of conservative counter ideology [Hughes 1993], but this has proved to be the opposite of the case. 'Identity politics' all too apparently has grown to be accepted and predominant everywhere – not least amongst conservative politicians (whole parties, such as the Conservative Party in the UK), police forces, judiciaries, and entire government administrations -- such that it is now a totalitarian quasi-religion. Critique of it had been mocked in the media in the early 1990s by the repetition ad nauseum of the jibe, 'political-correctness gone mad', to misrepresent critique as the inventing of a new 'red peril', on the assumption that the reality of the claims of 'identity politics' was self-evident and no exaggeration. 'Political correctness' has often and popularly been the ideology's tag, used not least by some scholars, but this is rather to confuse the ideology itself with what perhaps is better understood as its surface manifestation, mode of enforcement and expression of its fervency: the seemingly absurd 'speech codes' and blanket gratuitous charges of 'sexism', 'racism' and homophobia [sic] ubiquitous in the media, politics and the workplace. 'Political correctness' is a term with a history that although inter-twining with the history of the ideology of 'identity politics' is a separate one, with a different and slightly earlier origin – in the need to maintain a strict Party line within the Soviet state after 1917 – with its use (in more than one near-identical translation) from the 1920s [Ellis 2002]. The term quite suddenly became prominent in 'Western' politics at the turn of the 1990s when 'identity politics' started to become predominant. Having escaped the confines of academia, it had by then been in the ascendency for over two decades (see below).
'It is well understood that the replacement by 'identity politics' of what by contrast may be dubbed the politics of 'commonality' was through the realisation that 'the workers' were not going to bring about a Marxist 'revolution': "the failure of western working classes to carry out their 'proper' revolutionary (class) interests", as Somers & Gibson put it [1994 p54]. According to Cohen [2007 p196], the political-Left "despised the working class for its weakness and treachery, and condemned its members for their greed and obsession with celebrity. In Liberal-left culture the contempt was manifested by the replacement of social democracy by identity politics". [1994] concluded: "In large measure, things fell apart because the center could not hold, for chronologically, the break-up of commonality politics pre-dates the thickening of identity politics".
'This has quite a long history. Almost a century ago, in the late 1920s, it was already becoming apparent that Marxist 'theory' did not work in practice, as evidenced by the absence of revolutionary overthrow of regimes in Europe according to Marxian prediction and prescription, even though just such a revolution had occurred in Russia a generation previously. The cognitive-dissonance [Festinger 1957, & eg, Tavris & Aronson 2007] this must have produced within the mindset of 'Western'-culture intelligentsia could only persist and grow with the continued complete failure of a political-Left ethos anywhere to effect real change in its own terms. This became especially pointed with the unprecedented rapid implosion of the Soviet Union in 1989 (and the de facto capitulation to a rampant 'capitalist' model by the People's Republic of China, and the exposure of Cuba, the sole significant vestige of the 'communist' world, as a state-impoverished museum-piece which functions at all only through turning a blind eye to mass entrepreneurial activity), still further intensifying cognitive-dissonance. [The former dissident Soviet, Vladimir Bukovsky [2009] points out that the Soviet demise coincides in date with the almost as sudden emergence in the 'West' of the notion of 'political correctness', in a transferred resurgence of essentially the same ideology.]
'With the cognitively-dissonant mindset here being in common across a large group, then it functions as an in-group marker, and as such becomes still more strongly driven, receiving so much investment that any intrusion of reality into the ideology is ever more strongly denied. And the intrusion of reality would be great, given that ideology is in essence a highly partial view of reality emphasising a particular dimension over others, which inevitably is exposed as a mismatch with reality, obliging further ratcheting up of the ideology to try to transcend what becomes a vicious circle; and the only way this can be achieved is to assert an internal consistency to the exclusion of contact with reality in a tautological loop. The ideology becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy [Bottici & Challand 2006], that in groups is subject to a 'synergistic accumulative effect' [Madon et al 2004]. Seemingly with no end, the prospect is, of course, of a catastrophic implosion when finally it arrives; but in the meantime the stress on the belief system can lead to 'shifting the goal posts', with superficial changes over time perhaps to the extent of transmogrifying the whole ideology in effect to subvert itself – potentially so far as even to adopt an opposing position, if this can be passed off either as not incompatible or as the position actually held all along. All of this is in the service of saving face.
'To try to salve their cognitive-dissonance, adherents to an ideology can try to save face by admitting neither their own gullibility nor the falsity of the ideology and instead blame others. In this way the failure of the ideology can be regarded and misrepresented as merely temporary, and the final reckoning postponed apparently indefinitely. In the present case, those blamed – the fall guys, as it were – were those perceived to have 'let the side down': 'the workers'. Collectively intended to benefit from the predicted Marxist 'revolution' (or, at least, the furthering of 'the progressive project'), 'the workers' had been designated the 'agents of social change'; but they did not respond actively in this regard [Raehn 2004, 1997].
'The first attempts to explain this failure to act according to prescription and prediction were by Marxian academics working in the late 1920s onwards in Frankfurt and then New York [see eg, Lind 2004, 1997; Jay 1973]. They devised a fantasy aetiology in terms of Freud's notion of 'repression', which though now comprehensively discredited along with the rest of Freud's 'theory' [eg, Webster 1995, Loftus & Ketcham 1994] at the time it was the only framework in psychology available to them. Freudianism is as unfalsifiable as is Marxism, and therefore is in no sense science, and has long been superseded and abandoned by academic psychologists; yet readings and mis-readings of Freud persisted over the decades in being central to all manifestations of a neo-Marxism, including for all of the 'post-structuralists' and not least Foucault [Zaretsky 1994]. Consequently, as these 'theories' told firm hold across academia and 'trickled down' via the graduate professions to society at large through the enormous expansion in student numbers, there was an enormous popularity from the 1950s onwards of 'Freudian-Marxism' – as most notably in the books of Erich Fromm.
'The central 'theory' was a development of the anti-family rhetoric of nineteenth century socialists taken up and further radicalised by Marx and particularly Engels [Weikart 1994, Engels 1884, Marx & Engels 1848] to conceptualise the family as an aberration resulting, it was imagined, from 'capitalism' somehow 'repressing' 'the workers', to the extent that supposedly they become psychologically dysfunctional [Cerulo 1979]. Marxism per se was supplanted by a theory of culturally based personal relations [Burston 1991], popularised later most notably by Marcuse [1955] amongst many others. The aim was to eliminate what were seen as the mere 'roles' of the mother and father, so that, it was envisaged, all distinction between masculinity and femininity would disappear, taking with it the 'patriarchy' [sic] supposedly the foundation of 'capitalism' [Raehn 1996]. This culminated in the Penguin book, The Death of the Family [Cooper 1971], from the school of a politically extreme academic psychology/sociology calling itself 'existential psychiatry', which advanced the falsehood that schizophrenia is acquired as a result of certain dynamics in a family upbringing. The early/mid-1970s was the time when the works of such as Marcuse and Fromm reached the height of their popularity with students, and as Cohen remarks: "strange ideas that began in the universities were everywhere a generation later" [Cohen 2007 p 375].

'Sotions of 'repression' and 'false consciousness' were enough of a dressing-up of a volte-face from eulogising to blaming 'the workers' to prevent it appearing too transparently to be holding 'the workers' directly culpable, and it was also sufficient a departure from orthodox Marxism that its origin in Marxism was hidden, thereby aiding its acceptance. This would have been important in the USA crucible of these politics when in the aftermath of McCarthyism the political-Left was obliged to present itself differently. With purging of 'communists' having proved resoundingly popular with the American working-classes, a far sharper sense of an 'us and them' vis-á-vis 'the workers' was experienced by the US political-Left, reinforcing its antipathy.
'[This 'theory' re the family lacked even internal consistency. With the family mistakenly considered a product of 'capitalism' (the family has clear homologues throughout the animal kingdom, and therefore clearly has a phylogenetically ancient evolution), then merely removing the family hardly thereby removes 'capitalism', which by the rationale of the 'theory' surely would manifest in other ways to either 'oppress' or somehow 'fool' 'the workers'. But, in any case, 'capitalism' ('free enterprise') is itself an empty 'bogeyman' notion in that it is merely trading (in however complicated a form), and this includes the relationship between the worker and his employer. In even its most simple, prehistoric mode, through the economic 'law' of 'comparative advantage' trading entails both parties acquiring the 'surplus' problematised in Marxism as being somehow antithetical to the interests of those supplying their labour. 'Surplus' is inherent in the market value of any labour: there is little if any labour which does not itself benefit from organisation and/or technology to be value-added sufficient to be competitive in the market pertaining. In other words, 'surplus' necessarily is of genuinely mutual advantage.]
'As the head of the family, the man (husband/father) was held to be the incarnation of 'oppression' from which the woman (wife/mother) needed to be 'liberated'. So it was that 'the workers' as formerly considered 'the agents of change' and the group destined to be 'liberated', were replaced in Marxian imagination by women, heralding the 'feminist Marxism' we see today [Kellner nd] – the centrality to neo-Marxism of 'third-wave' feminism.
'This origin and development has tended to be forgotten in favour of another (though related and complementary) and later rationalisation which subsumes it in a more general conceptualisation that is also the legacy of Engels: 'false consciousness'. [The term was first recorded in an 1893 letter from Engels to Franz Mehring.] Cohen [2007 p158] sums up that: "The Marxists of the early twentieth century took it up to explain away the discomfiting fact that the workers of the most advanced societies were not organising social revolutions as Marx had insisted they would." Cohen elaborates [p374]: "To explain the catastrophic collapse of their hopes they have revived the false consciousness conspiracy theory, which has been present in socialist thought since the early defeats at the turn of the twentieth century, and given it an astonishing prominence. They hold that the masses rejected the Left because brainwashing media corporations 'manufactured consent' for globalisation". This transparently weak 'conspiracy theory' is familiar still today (albeit less in favour than it was), being that it is presentable in vague sociological terms in the wake of sociology eclipsing psychoanalysis as the popular pseudo-science from the late 1960s/ early 1970s. The incorporation of Freud's bogus 'repression' notion to posit a thin conceptualisation of psychological 'brainwashing' became less plausible – not least in its being in the narrow context of the family, from which confines anyway it was taken that everyone was escaping – and it gave way to a nebulous pan-societal conceptualisation of a sociological kind of 'brainwashing'. Both are highly implausible (even as to mechanism, let alone efficacy), but the latter appeared less so than the former. It is lost on the Left that the notion of a society-wide 'false consciousness' created by an economically dominant group is precisely the basis of the Nazi notion of 'Jewish conspiracy' (as Cohen points out [2007 p375]).
'Here we have the core of what became 'identity politics', but it was not known as such until the early 1970s [Knouse 2009]. As Hobsbawn points out [1996], even in the late 1960s there was no entry at all under 'identity' in the International Encyclopaedia of Social Sciences. This is for the very good reason that until this time there was no multiplicity of 'identity' labelled as 'disadvantaged' / 'oppressed'. The decisive development to spur such a complete change in political discourse was the co-option by neo-Marxist 'theory' of a movement with which it had no connection at all. As with any fervent ideology, a hallmark of the political-Left is interpreting anything and everything in its own ideological terms to claim as a manifestation of the ideology and its prophecy – jumping on a bandwagon, so to speak. The bandwagon here was, of course, the American civil rights movement, which though enjoying ubiquitous support within black communities – to the point often of various forms of extremism – featured virtually nil endorsement of socialism (and even in the rare exceptions, any endorsement was equivocal). It is from the time of this co-option that 'identity politics' dates [Kauffman 1990]; many considering that the movement was incorporated into the Left in the wake of King's assassination in 1968 – the major turning-point year in political-Left politics generally with the near-revolution in France and the sustained violence between student demonstrators and the army at the Chicago US Democratic Convention; both taking heart from the onset of the Chinese 'cultural revolution' at this time. Maoism was aped by the rapidly growing US student politics movement in its becoming militantly extremist in the huge opposition to the compulsory draft for the 'anti-communist' Vietnam war. This vibrant student radicalisation functioned as a melting-pot to facilitate incorporation of not just different strands of the Left but movements hitherto entirely separate, to be brought under the umbrella of what was more widely the 'counterculture'. A movement famously setting itself against 'middle-class' norms, this was an attack on the aspiration by 'the workers' to be anything else, when the goal of ordinary people was very much economic advancement ('the American dream'). 'Civil rights', as the first great 'single-issue' campaign, served not least to provide an acceptable cloak for the Left to avoid provoking a resurgence of McCarthyism. The major social upheaval of 'civil rights' with its large-scale and widespread rioting was easily the nearest thing in then recent US history to look like the promised Marxist 'revolution', and obviously was just the practical application the 'theory' was seeking. Moreover, the protagonists (black Americans) were eminently separable from the now despised 'workers' per se, in being presentable as a new 'group' from outside of the former fray of 'boss' versus 'worker'.
'This accident of history served to add 'black' to 'woman' as 'the new oppressed' without any intellectual shift or much if any cerebral effort: on a 'gut' level, so to speak; implicit rather than explicit cognition. 'The worker' in effect was retrospectively stereotyped as both 'man' and 'white'. With the inverse of this stereotype of 'white' being not just 'black American' but 'black' -- that is, ethnic-minority generically; then notwithstanding that many ethnic groups are far from 'disadvantaged' let alone 'oppressed' – some (eg, Chinese, Indian) actually out-performing 'whites' in all key measures -- so it was that the new 'agents of social change' / 'disadvantaged' / 'oppressed' were extended from women to also include all ethnic minorities. It is only with the knowledge of how this developed that sense can be made of why ethnicity is held above the myriad other possible differences that could be utilised as in-group markers, when in fact there is nothing inherent in ethnicity as an in-group marker to produce inter-group prejudice that is particularly more pernicious. Indeed, the worst inter-communal conflicts nominally between different ethnicities usually are between different cultural heritages with no discernable 'racial' differences of any kind – and what (non-ethnic) differences there are can be minimal; the lack of contrast actually fuelling the intensity of conflict, such is the need for groups to feel distinguished from each other. Furthermore, ethnic prejudice is not restricted to or even predominantly 'white' on 'black': inter-ethnic (eg, 'black' on Asian) and ethnic-on-'white' 'racism' can be, often is and may usually be the greater problem; and a negative attitude to a certain ethnicity does not imply a similar attitude to other ethnicities. The specific US experience, given the highly divisive politics in the wake of the American Civil War over the basis of the Southern US economy in African slavery, does not translate to elsewhere; notably not to Europe – as was starkly evidenced in the experience of World War II 'black' American GIs stationed in England in how they were favourably received by locals. 'Racial divides' in European 'white' host countries are the result not of mutual antipathy but affiliative forces, principally within migrant enclaves and secondarily within the 'host' community; in both cases being through in-group 'love', not out-group 'hate' [Yamagashi & Mifune 2009].
'Given the template of a successful incorporation of a 'race rights' movement, then naturally it follows that the next cause generating nationally prominent protest similarly would be ripe for co-option. The opportunity arrived the very next year with the 1969 'gay' Stonewall riots, again prompting in effect a retrospective stereotyping of 'the worker' by contrast as 'heterosexual'. And just as 'black American' was broadened generically to 'ethnic minority', so 'gay' was broadened generically to 'homosexual' – to also include 'lesbians'. This anyway was bound to ensue given that women were already an identified new class of 'the oppressed'. Thus, 'lesbians' were added even though the draconian criminal discrimination and associated harassment by police had been a problem only for male homosexuals, who were the ones raising a grievance. Female homosexuals merely hung on their coat-tails, since 'lesbians' did not themselves have a basis for grievance as a discriminated-against, 'oppressed' or 'disadvantaged' 'group'. 'Homophobic' [sic] bullying is fully part of group male (but not female) socialisation [Pascoe 2013], and consequently is a problem suffered far more by males [Poteat & Rivers 2010]; a disparity which would be even more marked if rumour-spreading was taken out of consideration, with this -- rather than direct confrontation -- accounting for the great bulk of the female manifestation [Minton 2014]. Males in any case are more visible as homosexuals, in that male homosexuality, it is generally agreed, is roughly twice as prevalent as female; and 'gay' behaviour can contrast markedly with that of male heterosexuals (whereas female behaviour intra-sexually is often physically close, resembling in some respects behaviour in heterosexual intimacy).
'What everyone has missed is that it was not homosexuality per se that had led to a 'disadvantage' and severe discrimination, but being male: the combination of being male and exhibiting an extreme difference (differences between males being amplified in male dominance contest, with such an extreme difference as a same-sex preference sending a male to the bottom of the hierarchy, and rendering him a candidate for the unusual occurrence for males of exclusion from the in-group). This calls into question not just the identification of 'homosexuality' generically as a 'disadvantaged' / 'oppressed' category, but it prompts checking of the presumption that women constitute such a category. And the conclusion upon examining all issues male/female is that not the female but the male is clearly the more 'disadvantaged' and 'oppressed' sex [see Moxon 2008, 2012 for summaries: this is a topic far beyond the scope of the present text].
'In the bringing together of these disparate strands of sex, 'race' and sexual orientation there was not just insulation from further McCarthyism, but a much-desired restoration of the lost sense of universalism of the political-Left ethos, now possible through demonising 'the worker'. As Gitlin pointed out [1993], 'identity politics' is a "spurious unity", and that "whatever universalism now remains is based not so much on a common humanity as on a common enemy – the notorious White Male".
'From then on, anyone 'belonging' to a 'group' according to any of the inversions of one or more of the now supposed hallmarks of 'the worker' as male / 'white' / heterosexual, was deemed automatically to belong to the newly identified 'vanguard' of 'agents of social change', and deserving of automatic protection and definition as 'disadvantaged' and 'oppressed'. These three abstracted generic groupings of 'woman', 'ethnic-minority' and 'homosexual', naturally were considered additive in conferring 'victim' status, so that a permutation of two out of the three -- or, best of all, the full house -- was a trump card in what has been dubbed 'intersectionality'. Given the 'gravy train' this spawned, then just as would be expected, further extensions again in effect by inverting 'the worker' retrospective stereotype have since been made. Added were the disabled and the elderly; trans-sexuals, and even the obese – but on such dubious grounds as to reveal further the incoherent basis of 'identity politics' other than as a protracted agitation against 'the workers'.
'The disabled suffer neither discrimination nor any prevailing negative attitude towards them (if anything the contrary): they simply have a hard life, irrespective of how they may be treated. The absence of provision such as ramps to public buildings cannot constitute discrimination, because this would be special treatment, not equitability. Indeed, it could be argued that disabled-access denudes the lives of disabled people, in that in becoming less reliant on others they have still less social interaction, when the lack of this perhaps is the key difficulty in most disabled persons' lives. The elderly likewise necessarily have a harder life, through being physically incapable of some tasks which formerly they carried out with ease; but this is an inevitability for everyone that no form of intervention can reverse or significantly ameliorate. There is compensation in usually being relatively in a good financial position, and without the onus of having to go to work to sustain it: the elderly commonly are better-off than when they were younger, and without the large expenses of younger life. They are hardly 'disadvantaged'. Far from being in receipt of any discrimination or opprobrium, the elderly usually are at worst ignored, and likely to be afforded genuine consideration. [The real phenomenon of age discrimination in employment impacts only on 'the workers', of course: it cannot apply to those over retirement age.] The only sense that can be made of the inclusion within 'identity politics' of both the disabled and the elderly is that they are non-'workers' (if not thus by definition, they are only unusually in employment).
'Trans-sexuals are rare enough (roughly one in 20,000 pooled across sex) as to be effectively an irrelevance, but from the perspective of the basis of 'identity politics' their inclusion is an extension of the homosexuality category in that they revive the mantra of 'homophobia' [sic], and may be thought to challenge male-female dichotomy, along the lines of 'non-essentialist' feminist complaint; but they do not. 'Trans-sexual' is a misnomer in that these individuals simply wish for their somatic sex to match what they strongly feel their sex to be (their 'brain sex', as it were), which usually they accomplish through surgery. [The only actual 'cross-sex' individuals are those possessing an extra sex chromosome: this is the 'intersex' condition, which is vanishingly rare.] Just as for homosexuality, only males suffer any significant 'disadvantage'. Male-to-female (but not, or much less so, female-to-male) trans-sexuals are those enduring opprobrium, and this is because they are regarded as being essentially and irredeemably male, whereas female-to-male trans-sexuals are considered to be females exhibiting gender [sic] flexibility. Opprobrium is most notably from (feminist) lesbians, who are at the core of 'identity politics' activism, and naturally this would be falsely 'projected' on to males as supposedly a generic prejudice. As with homosexuals, the quality attracting any 'oppression' is maleness, not trans-sexuality per se. Again, this is obscured in that most trans-sexuals are male – that is, male-to-female: one in 10,000, as against 1 in 30,000 female-to-male (according to recent APA summary figures across studies).
'The obese constitute an obviously unjustifiable category within 'identity politics', in that being fat is not fixed and irreversible, being hardly an inescapable condition, and one which is not acquired without complicity – a failure to make a better lifestyle choice. That obesity is a 'serious' addition to the 'identity politics' cannon is shown by the actual academic 'discipline' of 'fat studies'. It might be thought that sense is made of this in terms of the 'non-workers' basis of 'identity politics' categorisation, in that non-working, sedentary very-low-income lifestyles are particularly associated with sugar-rich poor diets driving obesity; but the emergence of 'fat studies' was not (or not primarily) a pragmatic inclusion given the very high incidence of obesity in the USA. It arose as a subsidiary of 'women's studies'. It would seem more pertinent that lesbians – as previously pointed out, the keenest activists within 'identity politics' – are more than twice as likely to be obese as heterosexual women [Boehmer, Bowen & Bauer 2007].'Valourising' the obese would be in line with the extreme-feminist notion that a female should not be judged according to her attractiveness (the female-mate-value criterion of fertility) – notwithstanding that there is no issue raised about correspondingly judging a male in terms of male attractiveness (the male-mate-value criterion of status or stature). [This may drive obesity in extreme-feminists, though for lesbians it may be based in not having to face the mate-choice criteria of males, leaving them freer to eschew the usual female concern with weight.]
'The several abstracted faux groups, in entering political centre stage displaced 'class', because with 'the workers' now considered collectively persona non grata, then being 'working class' was no longer recognised as a disadvantage. Class distinction was jettisoned from the neo-Marxist 'progressive project'. The upshot is that a woman who is highly-educated, upper-middle-class and/or belonging to a high-achieving ethnic minority (such as Indian or Chinese), and/or is (or declares herself to be) 'lesbian', is eligible for various forms of state and employer assistance through 'positive action' (an unwritten but effective quota system). By contrast, an 'underclass' 'white' male from a poor family background with neither a job nor the educational qualifications needed to acquire one, is not only offered no assistance but is actively considered an 'oppressor' of all those (apart from other males) far better placed than is he.
'Given that Marxian ideological belief has always been in terms of a 'power' [sic] struggle between one bloc and another within society -- formerly the 'bourgeoisie' versus the 'proletariat' -- such that the 'powerless' [sic] are set to overthrow the 'powerful' [sic]; then it was not a large adjustment to re-envision the underlying dynamic of society as conflict between a more abstract but still supposedly dominant 'group' of generically men – anyone male / 'white' / heterosexual / non-disabled / non-elderly / non-obese – as the one with 'power' [sic], against the one without, being a cobbled-together melange of abstractions – supposedly generically women, ethnic minorities, homosexuals, trans-sexuals, the disabled, the elderly and the obese. Indeed, the adjustment has been seamless, as would be expected from the benefits accruing in terms of saving face. With reality held to result from whichever 'group' is deemed to hold 'power' [sic] [Green 2006], then it follows in internally-consistent imagination that reality is changeable in the mere assertion that a 'powerless' [sic] 'group' somehow is set to take the place of a 'powerful' [sic] 'group'. This self-fulfilling prophecy is the imperative driving 'identity politics' that has come to be dubbed 'political correctness', with its draconian fervency and focus on empty forms of words as if they have inherent efficacy.
'In the absence of any external validity to 'identity politics' reasoning, there was the need for a novel intellectual underpinning, which was supplied in the confused strands of philosophy grouped together as 'postmodernism' (a term that did not share an earlier origin with that denoting a reversion to traditional or classical style in art), that in more concrete guise has a firm grip of the humanities and social sciences in the various forms of 'cultural studies' / 'critical studies' / 'theory'. The incoherence of theory in 'postmodernism' is ascribed, in an excoriating analysis by Gross & Levitt [1998, 71-92], to its being "more a matter of attitude and emotional tonality" [p71]. This is just as would be expected of what is an attempt to obscure the sophistry of 'identity politics'. At root 'postmodernism' is a taking-the-ball-home defensive ruse; a simple declaration that any and every criticism of 'identity politics' is inadmissible. As is widely and well understood, the 'postmodernist' stance is that any text is held to have no significant surface (ostensible) meaning, but an actual meaning supposedly specific to local context: meaning is said to be 'situated'. This is the 'identity politics' contention that given everything concerns 'power' relations, then all depends on someone's vantage point in respect of these -- in terms of their own 'oppressed' status. Whilst all individuals from one particular 'oppressed' 'group' perspective (eg, ethnic-minority female) are deemed to have an identical experience espoused in the same 'narrative', these particular perspectives are sanctified as being entirely opaque to anyone else with a different perspective, even if from what might be considered a parallel one in 'power' relations (eg, ethnic-minority 'gay'), let alone from a non-'oppressed' angle, which in any case is held not to be worthy of taking into account. The perspective of a 'group' 'narrative' is considered to be trapped in the sub-text, rendering it decipherable only through the special technique of 'deconstruction'.
'The obvious fatal flaw in this thin reasoning is that there is no reflexivity in the 'theory' in respect of the texts of the 'postmodernists' themselves. Their own texts uniquely are deemed to be legitimately understood according to their surface meaning; so that within this 'discipline', where it is held that no text is 'privileged' over any other, necessarily a complete exception is made for texts concerning the 'theory' itself; otherwise the 'theories' of 'postmodernism' (and its subsidiaries re 'deconstruction') could not exist. The irony is that if 'postmodernist' principles were applied to 'postmodernism' itself, then the 'theory' would become apparent as being entirely based in the very principles of 'power' relations it purports to reveal. A tautology, the 'theory' is without foundation. 'Postmodernism' is naked special pleading, amounting to a claim that there is a magic unavailable to the uninitiated, which is practised by a priesthood of the political-Left. This is raw elitist-separatism: the very attitude and behaviour that a political-Left ethos purports to be fighting against and deems immoral.
'By way of an absurd extension of the circularity in 'postmodernism': with language being deemed to convey nothing but 'power' relations, by an elementary failure of logic, conversely 'power' is regarded as nothing more than language; and from this is deduced that all that is needed is a change in language to bring about a wholly new set of 'power' relations. This is a flimsy dressing-up of the self-fulfilling prophecy in 'political correctness' and 'identity politics'. Language is an explicit communication form with no access to the vast bulk of cognition, which is implicit (non-conscious); and therefore it cannot possibly be of the nature ascribed to it by 'postmodernists'. The refusal to be 'found out' on this score is, of course, through denial that there is a scientific way of acquiring knowledge about implicit psychology; but this is an argument no less circular than is everything in 'postmodernism'. Gross & Levitt [1998 p75] sum up: "American postmodernism is often accused, with considerable justice, of being little more than mimicry of a few European thinkers, mostly French, who rose to prominence in the midst of the bewilderment afflicting intellectual life when the proto-revolutionary struggles in the late sixties in France, Germany and Italy fizzled out without having produced any real impact on bourgeois society." In other words, 'postmodernism' sprang from the very same place as did 'identity politics'. Rather, it did so indirectly. As it makes little sense in the absence of 'identity politics', then 'postmodernism' apparently is more the offspring of 'identity politics' than its parent.
'In the transition to 'identity politics', the quintessential form of 'oppression' [sic] in Marxian imagination changed with the family replacing the workplace as the putative key locus of conflict; transferring from 'the boss' lording it over 'the worker' to the man 'dominating' the woman. This was a politics in line with natural prejudice (see above), easy to get a handle on, and which mobilised in particular women hitherto sidelined in the UK in local Labour Party associations, as it did people in general in these bodies – with anti-'racism' joining feminism in the new thrust of politics to fragment into related but 'single issue' campaigning -- in the wake of the protracted hopeless position of the Labour Party electorally. So the politics readily hit 'the pavement' when once it was mostly confined to universities.
'The belief system was most apparent within the social work profession [McLaughlin 2005]. Political-Left-minded individuals seeking escape from work in commerce found not only a shelter in the burgeoning state, but a niche where they were able to act according to 'identity politics' principles. Social work became a locus of problematising social issues, most especially intimate-partner violence [IPV], which was ripe for portraying as the supposed exemplification of male/female 'power' [sic] relations in the only portion of IPV that anyone is concerned about – that by males against females. As IPV in the female-to-male direction contributes significantly to undermining the neo-Marxist rationalisation of why 'the revolution' never materialised, then the occurrence and concept of 'non-gendered' [sic] IPV had to be resolutely denied whatever the strength of the evidence; just as has been the case [see eg, Dutton & Nichols 2005, Moxon 2011].
'Facets of human psychology are fertile ground for this ideology to take hold and become entrenched. From the afore-mentioned biological principle that the female is the 'limiting factor' in reproduction: whereas she is treated as being privileged, prejudices evolved against the male through both the differential allocation of reproduction within male hierarchy [Moxon 2009] (and 'policing' associated with this) and, obviously, the close scrutiny of males by females to exclude most males in their mate choices. Making still more plausible the political developments here outlined, is the male reluctance to reveal IPV against them – discussed above. There is also the self-serving utility of the contemporary political-philosophical mindset in salving cognitive-dissonance (and providing within-group status gains, not least through driving in-group-/out-group competition), which further serves as reinforcement. All of this works on the level of implicit as well as or rather than explicit cognition, given that the stronger the motivation the more implicit we might expect to be the associated cognition [Di Conza et al 2006].
'The ideology of 'identity politics' was so readily accepted not least because it is a recapitulation of ideation from Christianity, where the future is deemed inevitable in ending in 'the promised land'. Social development is taken to be teleological: as if 'pulled' towards a 'utopia'(/'dystopia') of equality-of-outcome. This is a secular religion, transferring the notion of a 'god' from being in man's image, via the humanistic deification of mankind, to worship of a supposed mechanism of social development, which is in no way scientific; merely an assumption that it is akin to a mode of reasoning – the 'dialectic'. After Rousseau, the individual is taken to be in essence 'good', but contaminated by 'capitalism'. This contamination is regarded as superficial yet irredeemable without the assistance of the ideology. That all this is very much a residue of Christian thinking is outlined at length by the philosopher John Gray [Gray 2007], who cites (neo-)Marxism as being the apotheosis of humanist political-philosophies, which all spring from an ostensible opposition to religion, that actually itself is a still more entrenched religiosity. This new quasi-religion seems to be as pathological as the closely related former quasi-religious 'revisionist' Marxisms as espoused by Stalin and Hitler (see below). Bukovsky [2009] warns that just as the ideological progenitor of (what he terms) 'political correctness' imprisoned him as a Soviet dissident simply for not being an active supporter, so it will be in the 'West'; the ideology building unstoppably from excess to ever greater excess as adherents to the ideology refuse ever to admit they are wrong.
'In sum, it is no surprise that what began as a desperate rearguard notion in academic political-Left circles to attempt to save face, has evolved over many decades into a mainstream 'given', with supporting notions, such as the previously prevailing theory of intimate-partner violence, resolutely data-proof. This is notwithstanding 'identity politics' notions as to who is 'oppressed' / 'disadvantaged' and why, having no objective plausibility and being deeply at odds with perennial common-sense from any vantage outside of the ideology itself.
'Vith the long development of 'identity politics' over almost a century, its origin had been lost sight of, and some commentators still lazily assuming that it arose in the wake of well-intentioned championing of women, ethnic minorities and gays; rather than this championing being instrumental in attacking 'the workers'. Others imagine that it is merely some result of the experience of modernity; but this is merely to cite symptoms of the cynicism behind which 'identity politics' plays no small part. Commonly credited is post-colonial guilt, even though this hardly squares with the emergence of 'identity politics' initially in the USA rather than in the ex-colonial power that is England, nor the centrality of women rather than or alongside ethnicity; and in any case it would be a moral sensibility rather too rarefied to account for the emotive intensity of the politics. Also suggested is an absence of meaning [Furedi 2013], as if this had not been a major issue at the time of Marx and before; or simply a feeling of anonymity [Calhoun 1994], which, again, does not explain the fervency of the politics when a more resigned or a diffuse political stance would be expected, as in 'existentialism'.
'Based on his mistaken analysis, Calhoun argues retrospectively that nationalist movements should be subsumed under the 'identity politics' umbrella, and that therefore 'identity politics' is nothing new; but nationalism could not better exemplify the politics of 'commonality'. Nationalist movements both contemporary and historical are instances of perennial assertions of in-grouping at the most obvious fully autonomous level of social organisation. This reality was the basis of the early-20th century nationalist revolutions as pragmatic modifications of Marxian 'internationalism'. As such they do share roots with 'identity politics' in that this too is a pragmatic modification of Marxian 'theory'. Indeed, on this basis, 'identity politics' or 'political correctness' could be dubbed 'fascist', as a use of that label to better reflect what actually it is. Stalin engineered "socialism in one country" for Russia in the 1920s to try to keep at bay the rest of Europe in the wake of the failure there of early attempts at 'proletarian' revolt. This exactly paralleled the shift in position by Mussolini (who was the editor of the newspaper of the Italian socialists) a few years before, at the outbreak of World War One, in asserting the Italian 'proletariat' against that of the Austro-Hungarian empire, which it was feared was intent on swallowing Italy. 'Fascism' was 'national socialism', as explicitly labelled in the German copying of the Italian model: a Marxian splintering, not a political-Right manifestation. Revolution overthrowing elites in favour (ostensibly) of the masses was hardly any form of conservatism – and neither was 'fascism' 'racist': the 'racism' of the Nazis was bolted on as an historically deep-rooted aberration peculiar to Germany, which was not shared by Italy. That 'fascism' is the bogeyman of Marxism/socialism is through the former being derived from the latter, leaving little to distinguish them, which on the political-Left famously leads to fierce internecine conflict. All nationalism – whether emerging as a bastardisation of Marxist 'theory' or otherwise – clearly is in essence a politics of commonality, whereas 'identity politics' concerns sub-division of society into abstract categories to constitute faux 'groups' in supposed opposition to the 'group' with 'power'.
'There has been wide discussion within academia that it is difficult to understand the nature of 'identity politics', but this is as would be expected of a system of thought which is not what it purports to be. Calhoun [1994 p29] reveals 'identity politics' to only ostensibly concern actual 'oppression' / 'disadvantage', when he asks: "... rather than being surprised by the prevalence of identity politics and seeking to explain it, should we not consider whether it is more remarkable and at least as much in need of explanation that many people fail to take up projects of transforming shared identities or the treatment afforded them?" The reason is that the identities in 'identity politics' do not arise within 'groups' themselves but are conferred according to what can be posited in opposition to 'the workers'. Thus are ignored actually 'oppressed' and 'disadvantaged' categories wholly or mainly comprising males, whilst included are those not in reality comprising the 'oppressed' and 'disadvantaged', and which may be either stretched in their inclusiveness beyond credulity (as with 'ethnic minority') or narrowed to the point of absurdity (as with the minuscule minority that is trans-sexual).
'Another window on 'identity politics' as being not what it seems is a fatal contradiction that is the major criticism in academic discourse today, highlighted by many, perhaps first by Gitlin [1994]: "For all the talk about the social construction of knowledge, identity politics de facto seems to slide towards the premise that social groups have essential identities. At the outer limit, those who set out to explode a fixed definition of humanity end by fixing their definitions of blacks and women". The paradox is that the insistent political demand that all individuals are the same – not least so as to establish entitlement to equal treatment – itself negates the very purported non-equivalence that supposedly establishes any need that there may be for redress in the first place. And if instead it is held that there are major differences – as those on the 'essentialist' side of the debate contend -- then equality would be better realised not by providing treatments that are the same, but by ones that are accordingly different. Yet, the firm belief that all is socially constructed pretends no difference that is not an arbitrary and merely temporary playing out of 'power' interactions, which equal treatment is intended (supposedly in time) to nullify. The circle of 'reasoning' is vicious. The feminist core of 'identity politics' is a mess of self-contradiction in just this manner: simultaneously holding that women and men are quintessentially different whilst insisting that they are exactly the same. Recognised generally by theorists of feminism as a serious and seemingly intractable problem, it is the source of long-standing internecine fractious debate showing little sign of diminishing.
'These distinct absences of internal consistency in the 'theory' are the direct consequence of its origination and development as an attempt to hide uncomfortable truths within academic political-Left politics; not to address issues in the real world. That it is hopelessly contradictory, in the end may be largely beside the point to the ideologues, but the lack even of internal (let alone external) consistency is a confirmation of the non-sustainability of 'identity politics' 'theory', contributing to what inevitably, as for any and every ideology, is its eventual demise. Yet there is the distinct possibility that this may not arrive until after 'identity politics' (or however else it is tagged, and whatever else to which it morphs) has grown unstoppably to become yet another recapitulation of 'the terror'. It's now well on the way, with the totalitarianism continuing to ratchet upwards. 'Identity politics' is now so entrenched across 'Western' society that it has a life of its own well beyond the latter-day now quite intense critique of it from within the academia that spawned it. Such critique does not, however, extend to uncovering the actual origins of the ideology, indicating that this is just another phase in the endless attempt by the political-Left intelligentsia to try to save face.
'Underlying the more proximal explanations of 'identity politics' and 'postmodernism', ultimately are the wellsprings of politics in general: what might be termed 'competitive altruism' masking perennial universal status-striving. Bidding for social pre-eminence is a combination of trying to acquire rank within society and also to be part of a pre-eminent in-group – one that is almost as separate from society as it is at its apex. Elitist-separatism. Implicitly (that is, beneath any conscious awareness, or in only dim awareness) this is what the political-Left foundationally, if unwittingly, is concerned with achieving. Through the ideological conceptualising of society in terms of cooperation, with any competition considered aberrational, those with a political-Left ethos are left peculiarly blind to their own competitiveness. Indeed, their ideology is very much a displaced expression of it, and explains the peculiarly vehement bigotry of its adherents, and why supposed 'proletarian' revolution invariably produced a tyranny, and one that is actually directed towards the 'proletariat', not by it. The politics espoused of egalitarianism is a competitive-altruistic feint to assist the otherwise standard status-grab. Functioning to deny the legitimacy of any rival elitist-separatists and their ethos, it dupes not only others aspiring though as yet failing to be part of an elite, but precludes even self-awareness of their own elitist-separatist aspirations by political-Left adherents themselves. It is in respect of this, ultimately, that are deployed the intense and protracted attempts to salve cognitive-dissonance so prominent a part of political-Left experience. The great paradox here is that in their strident efforts somehow to transcend human nature, the political-Left confirm its reality. Any such philosophically illiterate notion that we can ever 'transcend' ourselves is unlikely again to so easily hold sway, given the insulation to such a self-evidently foolish idea the political-Left in the end inadvertently looks set to gift us. A related, supreme irony is that the very charge made against 'the workers' of a psychological dysfunctionality in supposedly not being able to see what is in their own best interests, boomerangs back on political-Left adherents as actually their myopia in respect of the psychology of their own ethos. It is not that Neo-Marxism/ 'identity politics'/ 'political correctness'/ 'postmodernism' is an altruism that is in fact disguised self-interest: it's nothing of the sort. In the service of its own ends, the political-Left ethos adopted a deception designed to fail to identify the actually 'disadvantaged' / 'oppressed', expressly so as to make their condition still worse, as a form of revenge on those regarded as ungrateful for past efforts on their behalf (though not that anyway these efforts were other than 'competitive altruism'). It is hard to think of a political fraud as great (as deep, wide, successful and sustained) as this in history, or even to devise one in mischievous imagination.'

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Tavris C & Aronson E (2007) Mistakes Were Made (But not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions and Hurtful Acts. Harcourt
Webster R (1995) Why Freud was Wrong. Harper Collins
Weikart R (1994) Marx, Engels, and the Abolition of the Family. History of European Ideas 18(5) 657-672
Zaretsky E (1994) Identity theory, identity politics: psychoanalysis, Marxism, post-structuralism. In Calhoun (ed) Social Theory and the Politics of Identity. Oxford UK & Cambridge USA: Blackwell 198-214

Justice for Men & Boys


My criticisms here are almost entirely to do with the political aspirations of the site. According to the site, 'J4MB [Justice for Men and Boys] is the only political party in the English-speaking world campaigning for the human rights of men and boys on many fronts ... ' (Posted on the J4MB site January 24, 2016).

And what are the campaigning issues? The post of March 8, 2016 gives this information about the priority of priorities for 'the human rights of men and boys:'

Male circumcision (MGM). It 'remains our #1 campaigning issue.'

Back to the post of January 24. Extracts:

'Our long-term strategy is to challenge the party in power (or parties, in the event of a coalition) because only they have the power to reverse anti-male legislation and policy directions.'

'We’re working towards the 2020 general election, in which we plan to field candidates in the 20 most marginal seats won by the Conservatives in 2015 ... '

'We intend to significantly reduce the Conservatives’ prospects of being re-elected in 2020, in order to raise public awareness of men’s and boys’ issues.'

There are many, many pressure groups, many, many organizations with very strong views about the neglect of their views by politicians. The

The chances of any of the J4MB's candidates being elected is zero. The chances of any of their candidates retaining their deposits is zero. The chances of the party having any significant effect - or insignificant effect - on the Conservatives' prospects of being re-elected in 2020 is zero. The party aims to increase the electoral chances of which other party, then? Would that be the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn (if he lasts that long), currently regarded by many people as unelectable (they include me)?

The Conservative Party has no need to be worried, of course. In the 2015 General Election, Mike Buchanan, the Party Leader, came last with 153 votes out of 47,409 cast. Ray Barry stood in Broxtow and also came last with 63 votes out of 53,440. The fact that in 2016, the Party can make these statements of intent is evidence of not just political innocence or political cluelessness but something worse than that.

The statements made about male circumcision lack all fair-mindedness. Completely missing, any attempt to answer the evidence for the benefits to health of male circumcision. The report of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention fair-mindedly discusses the risks of male circumcision (which are  almost always short-term in their effects). A summary


What the report doesn't cover adequately are the ethical objections to male circumcision: the lack of informed consent when circumcision is carried out in early childhood or later childhood. In the scale of ethical transgressions, male circumcision ranks very low.

Male circumcision is often referred to (by Justice for Men and Boys) as 'Male Genital Mutilation.' As a matter of strict fact, the long-term consequences of Female Genital Mutilation are far more serious and far more frequent.

The party has no prospect of influencing practical politics. It will remain in  in a world of political make-believe. If it's successful in one way, bringing the issue of circumcision to public attention, it's very likely that it would bring the issue of circumcision in Judaism to public attention as well - and bring the issue of circumcision in Judaism to the attention of anti-semites. Anti-semites need no encouragement. At the moment, Oxford University Labour club is under investigation for alleged anti-semitism. Vicki Kirby, a Labour Party member, asked, 'Who is the Zionist God? I am starting to think it may be Hitler.' And, in connection with Islamic State, 'Anyone thought of asking them why they're not attacking the real oppressors, Israel.'  She was suspended from the Labour Party but readmitted and recentlys appointed vice-chair of Woking Labour Party.

It has to be said that the issue of male circumcision is so far down the list of priorities for fanatics as well as people with a mature and well-informed concern for politics that it wouldn't interest them. People with a mature and well-informed concern for politics will continue to believe, rightly, that, to give just one example, defence of the country against the threat of terrorism is vastly more important. If the Conservative Party is far more likely than other parties (such as the Labour Party - or the Justice for Men and Boys Party) to protect the country against terrorist threats, and that's my opinion, then its failure to consider the issue of male circumcision won't count heavily against it, or at all.

The chances of the party damaging the anti-feminist coalition-cause aren't zero. Causes are generally coalitions, made up of people who agree about some things but not everything. The J4MB Political Party is a liability.

If you ignore the political cluelessness criticized here, the J4MB site does have interesting and valuable content, which isn't a liability at all. Some of the interesting and valuable content  isn't always presented as well as it might be. The phrase 'lying feminists' is prominent. This is a sign of laziness, the inability to think of anything better. Phrasing which would go unchallenged in a Socialist Workers' Party document, 'lying tories' or 'lying conservatives,' shouldn't go unchallenged here.

 'Lying' is one of those words which suffer from over-use and misuse. Recommended: a quick tour of some of the philosophical literature. This is from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

' ... lying requires that the person believe the statement to be false; that is, lying requires that the statement be untruthful (untruthfulness condition) ... lying requires that the person intend that that other person believe the untruthful statement to be true (intention to deceive the addressee condition).'

Feminists don't in the least believe that the statements they make are false and they don't intend to deceive. The Justice for Men and Boys Party could have made a powerful case against feminism, based on the inadequate arguments and evidence used by so many feminists, but instead suggests something very different - that these feminists recognize the validity of anti-feminist arguments and evidence but choose not to acknowledge them. I think that cliches aren't always phrases. There are also cliche words - words used again and again and misused again and again - and one of them is a word with so many legitimate uses, but not here, 'lying.'


















Triona Kennedy and feminist sanctity
Rachel Bower and the F word
Lorna Finlayson, Philosopher Queen, on free speech

Why are there no national feminist magazines?
Feminism: trash and trivia
Gretchen Rubin: infantile woman
More inconvenient facts
Kingsley Amis
Claiming superiority the easy way
The sphere of 'strict facts'

Academic publishing
Martha Nussbaum
Feminist and non-feminist chronology

Feminism and dressing up
Wittgenstein and the monotonous diet of feminism
Lyndall Gordon: feminist ambition
Feminist divisions and in-fighting
Friendly fire and hostile fire:
     criticism of some anti-feminist sites

     Angry Harry
     The Anti-feminist
     Steve Moxon
     Justice for Men & Boys

See also

on the page The Culture Industry

Dave Coates and PPC

on the page Veganism: against

Dr Lisa Kemmerer, feminist vegan

on the page The Cambridge Companion to Seamus Heaney

Guinn Batten and the drowned sheep

Fran Brearton: Bowdlerizing and Breartonizing
the pages

Palestinian ideology
Green ideology
Vegan ideology
Irish nationalist ideology

and the page 


which will interest feminists who deny that feminists often have no interest in industry

On the page Religions and ideologies

What is an ideology?
Thesis and anti-thesis

On the page Nietzsche: contra

Nietzsche and pity

Criticism of Nietzsche and a defence of humanitarianism

- and, my page

Ethics: theory and practice


Supplementary material  is in italics