Tag Archives: feminism

This Is Why We Can’t Have Rational Debates…

Of all of our arguments about politics and policy, efforts to level the playing field for women and minorities seem to evoke the most heat and the least light.

A reader recently shared with me a lengthy, rambling letter to the editor  that appeared in a publication called the Carmel Current. (Carmel, for non-Hoosiers–is a bedroom community north of Indianapolis). The female letter writer ripped into organizations like the National Organization for Women and that dreaded group of harridan warriors, the American Association of University Women, accusing them of “gender feminism” that promotes the “inequality of men.”

Among other accusations, the writer argued that calls to reduce the pay gap between men and women aren’t really calls for equity, but rather part of an effort by “gender feminists” to diminish and disadvantage men.

American women make their own choices. They are succeeding at tremendous rates, most especially compared to men. Extensive research has been done on this subject by Professor Christina Hoff Sommers, a self-declared freedom feminist who has multiple publications regarding the misguided policies of gender feminists. The bogus “wage gap” is not a real concern. However, the underachievement of the American male population is. Hoff Sommers quotes education writer Paul Whitmire and literacy expert William Brozo in her book, The War Against Boys, “The global economic race we read so much about—the marathon to produce the most educated workforce and therefore the most prosperous nation—really comes down to a calculation: Whichever nation solves these ‘boy troubles’ wins the race.”

I read a few articles by self-described “freedom feminist” Sommers years ago, when she certainly seemed less confrontational than she later became. I don’t know whether she genuinely went off the rails or decided that taking a fairly unique “libertarian feminist-against-feminism” position would raise her profile and earn her more attention, but I do know that her current diatribes are perfect examples of what is wrong with American argumentation generally.

These days, significant numbers of activists on both the left and right avoid honest discussion by creating straw men, whose arguments are much easier to triumphantly dismiss and disparage than the more considered points raised by real people.

The straw man argument is an age-old tactic in which a debater purports to address an opponent’s argument while actually attacking a position that the opponent didn’t take.

Sommers has created a “straw woman,” dubbed “gender feminist,” who is out to dominate men. The women she invents and then battles are man-haters, not really interested in equal treatment or equal pay for the same work, but in beating down the male of the species.

I’m sure if we looked hard enough, we might find some women like that, but most of us who consider ourselves feminists–and a lot who don’t use the label but believe they should be compensated fairly and not subjected to sexual harassment–are hardly the man-haters Sommer attacks. We have husbands and sons and male friends–and no interest in inverting the current distribution of privilege to diminish them. We want parity, not dominance.

Sommers is hardly the first to paint feminists as radically unfeminine and anti-male. When I was younger, feminists were the butt of jokes about women who didn’t shave their legs, or who couldn’t get a date. (The potency of those descriptions is why many women still shun the label.)

It is much easier to attack–and demolish–caricatures than to engage with the real positions of people with whom you disagree. So we see people on the right claiming that advocates of civil rights for LGBTQ folks want to persecute Christians, or that civil libertarians concerned about due process or critical of police brutality are “pro criminal.” We see people on the left dismissing every objection to a stronger social safety net, or for a different approach to taxation, as evidencing either a lack of human compassion or (in legislators)  corrupt obedience to their donors.

Arguments made by the straw man (or woman) of our imagination are, obviously, much easier to refute than the actual points being raised. But engaging in the tactic in order to avoid confronting the real-life–and invariably more complex– issues at hand is both cowardly and dishonest.

Deliberative democracy it isn’t.

 

 

 

Theater And The Absurd

When the whole world seems nuts–when every morning we wake to some bit of news that causes us to shake our heads and mutter “What the f**k are they thinking??”–the arts become even more essential than they are in more normal times.

(And they’re pretty darn essential in normal times. Assuming there really are normal times, rather than times that are simply a bit less harrowing than others.)

I share this bit of non-wisdom as an introduction to a new theater venture in Indianapolis, where I live.

Indianapolis is already home to a thriving arts community, including performing arts;  this new theater company  (full disclosure: I have joined its Board of Directors) will add a distinctive perspective–a feminist point of view.

Summit Performance Indianapolis was established by two supremely talented young women who are determined to produce top quality theatre exploring the lives and experiences of women.

Summit’s focus is threefold: to employ women of diverse backgrounds as playwrights, theatrical designers, artisans, actors, and staff; to create high quality theatre productions centered on social issues of the moment; and to use these productions as springboards to inspire an ongoing dialogue about those issues in the Indianapolis community through performance talk-backs, guest speakers, and town hall discussions.

The company will be housed in the Phoenix Theatre’s brand new, state-of-the-art facility on  the Glick Peace Walk (a key stretch of the city’s widely-lauded Cultural Trail).  Its two founders are among central Indiana’s most experienced theatre artists: Georgeanna Smith Wade and Lauren Briggeman.  Its goals are lofty: Summit Performance Indianapolis not only aspires to be a pillar of quality entertainment and a cultural hub, but also, in the wake of #metoo and #timesup, to serve as a necessary forum for women’s voices.

If you are curious, you can find more information on the theater’s Facebook Page.

Tumultuous times tend to produce new, exploratory arts outlets. Whether that art is visual,  musical or theatrical, it satisfies a very human need to engage with the social changes we are experiencing, and to understand the disruption that comes with the uprooting of the tried and true. The arts are a way we come to terms with the ever-changing world we inhabit; they help us recognize the truths and passions of others–and perhaps more importantly, of ourselves.

At some point–assuming our insane “Commander in Chief” doesn’t start a nuclear war–Americans will become more comfortable with the reality that women and men are just human beings with different plumbing, who should be seen as the individuals we are. Women’s voices, after all, are human voices, some pathetic, some strong, some profound, some wise, some not.

Until very recently, social structures have ensured that females of the species would have very different life experiences than their male peers. Theater is an ideal place to explore those differences and remind us all that–in the wider scheme of things–they were imposed upon humans whose actual differences are pretty superficial. Theater is a place to listen to, and learn from each other–and to internalize those messages.

It will be fascinating to see how Summit Performance develops. To those of you in Central Indiana, I say–stay tuned!