It’s an outrage!

by Michael Bérubé on March 18, 2009

No, not AIG.  Women’s Studies!

Shorter Mark Bauerlein: When David Horowitz is right, he’s right.  And he’s right to be outraged that the web site of the Women’s Studies program at Penn State proclaims that “as a field of study, Women’s Studies analyzes the unequal distribution of power and resources by gender.”

My reply: I used to be on the left.  But when I heard that the web site of the Women’s Studies program at Penn State proclaims that “as a field of study, Women’s Studies analyzes the unequal distribution of power and resources by gender,” I got really outraged by Mary Daly.

ShorterVerbatim Mark Bauerlein: “what if biased attitudes prevail only in a half-dozen departments? If academics accept those levels, then they exercise a lower standard of accountability than any other profession.”

My reply: My studies show that Women’s Studies is responsible for tainted peanut butter, Rod Blagojevich, juvenile court payoffs, and especially, especially AIG.  Which makes academe the most corrupt profession ever, times infinity.

{ 223 comments }

1

Zamfir 03.18.09 at 4:09 pm

Bauerlein also says: Horowitz/Laskin do not object to Marxist, feminist, and other leftwing perspectives.

2

Adam Kotsko 03.18.09 at 4:21 pm

The only solution is to make Ross Douthat a professor of women’s studies.

3

JM 03.18.09 at 4:26 pm

Didn’t Horowitz say he gave up working in his field (Eng. Lit.) because there was no real work left to do?

Or was that a joke?

Or all of the above?

4

Delicious Pundit 03.18.09 at 4:26 pm

One need only look at Penn State’s 100,000-seat football stadium to know that unequal distribution of resources is a canard.

5

Rich Puchalsky 03.18.09 at 4:44 pm

Since when was feminism leftist? Is anti-racism leftist?

6

AcademicLurker 03.18.09 at 4:55 pm

“Is anti-racism leftist?”

Yes.

“The only solution is to make Ross Douthat a professor of women’s studies.”

I believe this comment officially wins the internet for this week.

7

Mitchell Rowe 03.18.09 at 5:19 pm

“The only solution is to make Ross Douthat a professor of women’s studies.”
Yeah but who would take that class?

8

mollymooly 03.18.09 at 5:19 pm

Any discipline with “Studies” in its title is bogus. (Especially if the discipline has no other words in its title.)

9

Adam Kotsko 03.18.09 at 5:23 pm

Yes, they should rename every “Studies” field to make them more respectable: womanology, African-American-ology, etc.

10

harry b 03.18.09 at 5:25 pm

Study Studies?

11

John Emerson 03.18.09 at 5:33 pm

Haul on the Bauerlein
We sang that melody
Like all tough sailors do
When they are far away at sea

12

Kip Manley 03.18.09 at 5:33 pm

No, ologyology. (What a fun term to google!)

13

Fitz 03.18.09 at 6:13 pm

Mark Bauerlein & David Horowitz’s arguments are not simply accurate but blindingly obvious.

Women’s Studies departments are the most narrow and ideological of all academic “disciples”. Given the breadth of their mandate (anything having to do with “gender” essentially, which means everything practically) they have been able to compel orthodoxy and effectively stifle (and corrupt) scholarship throughout the University.

YES: (to say) “as a field of study, Women’s Studies analyzes the unequal distribution of power and resources by gender.” Is to presuppose that power & resources are unequally divided…and “by gender” – no less, on that basis alone.

It also strongly suggests that this distribution is inhuman or exploitative.

Now – many agree, (as I do now & again) – However, it remains the case that this orthodoxy should not be expressly (much less actually) a litmus test for inquiry in the “field”.

In Short: Contemporary academe owes more to Boss Tweed than Antonio Gramsci.

It’s a naked patronage system…

14

Michael Bérubé 03.18.09 at 6:31 pm

Breaking: Boss Tweed was a feminist. Must credit Fitz!! Related: handful of feminists stifle and corrupt scholarship throughout the University by forcing students to drink menstrual blood.

Indeed, thanks to the efforts of Women’s Studies, some academic fields are now hopelessly corrupted by bias.

15

rea 03.18.09 at 6:34 pm

One need only look at Penn State’s 100,000-seat football stadium

Oh, my–badmouthing Penn State football at a site which includes the holder of the Paterno Chair in Literature among its regular (if, alas, all too infrequent) contributors?

16

Steve LaBonne 03.18.09 at 6:35 pm

Wow, thank goodness Fitz has set me straight. All my life I’ve suffered from the delusion that scholarly fields of inquiry are supposed to be studying reality, and that, since imbalances of power and resources between the genders obviously have existed and maybe, just maybe (that Penn State stadium?) continue to exist, that would certainly need to form part of an inquiry into gender. And I held the equally naive belief that such imbalances, equally obviously, are at least potentially exploitative, so that possibility certainly couldn’t be excluded when trying to understand them. But now the scales have fallen from my eyes, and I realize that Dr. Pangloss should be the model for the modern university, whose real function is to demonstrate that all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds! Thank you, Fitz, for this profound insight.

17

Michael Bérubé 03.18.09 at 6:54 pm

rea @ 15: hey, I’ve stepped up production lately. And not just so that I can qualify for the CT year-end bonus!

And for the record, it’s a 108,000-seat stadium. Interestingly, the allocation of all season tickets and private boxes is controlled by Women’s Studies.

18

LJ 03.18.09 at 7:02 pm

“Blindingly obvious.” Hmm. Interesting choice of cliche.
I’m going to be turning that over in my head for hours.

19

eric 03.18.09 at 7:08 pm

Women’s Studies departments are the most narrow and ideological of all academic “disciples”. Given the breadth of their mandate …

I’m confused. Is Women’s Studies exceptionally narrow or surpassingly broad?

20

Matt Stevens 03.18.09 at 7:11 pm

Fitz, that statement simply assumes that, somewhere and sometime, there was an “unequal distribution of power and resources by gender.” That there may be gender inequality in (say) Afghanistan or Victorian England is utterly non-controversial, and therefore something that can be studied in an academic setting.

21

Fitz 03.18.09 at 7:14 pm

Steve LaBonne & Michael Bérubé snide retorts don’t address the substance of mine and so many others critique.

Simply put: Women Studies departments are gratuitously and nakedly left wing propaganda mills. (And act politically as patronage systems & orthodoxy enforcers)

The pedestrian tact that those who hold this view are simply anti-intellectual or believe nothing about “gender” is worthy of inquiry is to curt to be satisfying.

The mock surprise when a Mark Bauerlein points out this everyday observation, combined with the self serving juxtaposition with recently revealed & headline grabbing “corruptions”…only serves to display the powerful nature of his critique.

Look: the Academy is a bunch of leftists who protect their own: Its an orthodoxy now as is the knee-jerk demand to dismiss that reality.

22

Steve LaBonne 03.18.09 at 7:17 pm

That’s because it has no substance. HTH. HAND.

BTW, acquiring some basic degree of literacy would increase your credibility. Just saying.

23

JM 03.18.09 at 7:29 pm

Was Fitz going to get around to this substance, so we can dismiss it? Holding these drools to be self-evident isn’t getting around to addressing of the substancing of the patronaging of the feminazing, no matter how many linguistic gaffes it sprouts.

24

John Protevi 03.18.09 at 7:30 pm

OK, we’re now 2 for 2. Any bets that Fitz’s next post on “Women Studies” departments will also include the word “naked”?

25

John Emerson 03.18.09 at 7:34 pm

To say that “as a field of study, Women’s Studies analyzes the unequal distribution of power and resources by gender” is to presuppose that power & resources are unequally divided…and “by gender”

Sounds like a truism to me. Are truisms bad? The idea that women have more resources and power than men is laughable, and the idea that they have resources and power equal to those of men is easily refutable.

It also strongly suggests that this distribution is inhuman or exploitative

Terminology aside, Fitz is probably right. Women’s Studies is against gender inequality, and does think that this inequality is a bad thing, and I think that this is where Fitz disagrees. Also, I bet he doesn’t like sluts and uppity bitches.

Perhaps if there were also a second matching Women’s Studies Department (perhaps called “Weaker Vessel Studies” or “Handmaiden Studies”) Fitz would be happy with the equal time.

26

John Protevi 03.18.09 at 7:34 pm

Also Verbatim Mark Bauerlein: “Consider the Women’s Studies department at Penn State. Its Web site proclaims, “As a field of study, Women’s Studies analyzes the unequal distribution of power and resources by gender” (quoted, 93). Political inequality, then, is not one of many aspects of women’s history, literature, art, employment, etc., to study, but instead the basic premise and purpose of the field.”

Political inequality is the purpose of the field of Women’s Studies? And this guy is an English professor?

27

Michael Bérubé 03.18.09 at 7:54 pm

The pedestrian tact that those who hold this view are simply anti-intellectual or believe nothing about “gender” is worthy of inquiry is to curt to be satisfying.

The mock surprise when a Mark Bauerlein points out this everyday observation, combined with the self serving juxtaposition with recently revealed & headline grabbing “corruptions”…only serves to display the powerful nature of his critique.

Fitz pwns us all with the naked truth. Hey, I know I was served by that juxtaposition of Bauerlein’s everyday observation and those recently revealed & headline grabbing “corruptions” — but did it work for the rest of you? And while I have long been known for my pedestrian tact, I take umbrage at the idea that I am to curt.

Sounds like a truism to me. Are truisms bad? The idea that women have more resources and power than men is laughable, and the idea that they have resources and power equal to those of men is easily refutable.

Well, since Bauerlein is objecting not only to the idea that gender inequality is a fit subject of academic study but also to the idea that gender inequality is a truism, it appears that we have to debate this now. Otherwise we’re full of bias. Both sides, you know, that sort of thing.

28

Josh 03.18.09 at 8:50 pm

Maybe the Horowitzian agenda could be served by hiring Men’s Rights Activists like this guy.

Rich, my octagenarian father once said “The Left used to be about labor and racial equality: how’d the feminists and homosexuals get involved?” I’d say to your question, yes, if you characterize “Left” broadly enough to include liberals, feminism is indeed a Left movement, and anti-racism too. Apologies to those libertarians who disagree.

29

MH 03.18.09 at 9:01 pm

So, if the Women’s Studies department controls football at Penn State, I should blame women for the bad out-of-bounds call in the 1982 game with Nebraska?

30

Malaclypse 03.18.09 at 9:04 pm

Look: the Academy is a bunch of leftists who protect their own: Its an orthodoxy now as is the knee-jerk demand to dismiss that reality.

Reality has a well-known Liberal Bias.

31

peter 03.18.09 at 9:21 pm

Fitz (#21): “Simply put: Women Studies departments are gratuitously and nakedly left wing propaganda mills. (And act politically as patronage systems & orthodoxy enforcers)”

Well, there needs to be some academic department to balance the gratuitously and nakedly right wing propaganda mills (acting politically as patronage systems & orthodoxy enforcers), such as most university departments of Economics.

Or is it not propaganda when men do it?

32

Dan S. 03.18.09 at 9:25 pm

“The only solution is to make Ross Douthat a professor of women’s studies.”

Ever since reading that quote DeLong dragged up, there’s been a old flickering silent film playing in the boarded-up theatre of my mind, entitled Ross Douthat and the Brides of Dracula, just looping over and over.

I wish it would stop. Please, make it stop . . . .

33

Rich Puchalsky 03.18.09 at 9:29 pm

If Bauerlein and all like him are willing to agree that feminism is leftist — as anti-racism would be, presumably — then that’s as good as admitting that they and other rightists are misogynists and racists. Which is frankly what I always believed, but it’s odd to see them admitting it.

34

Kathleen 03.18.09 at 9:51 pm

he he. gratuitous naked women.

does Horowitz know his target audience or what?

35

giotto 03.18.09 at 9:57 pm

. . . the Academy is a bunch of leftists. . .

If only it were so.
Anecdote: when the graduate student TA union went on strike last spring at McGill, I waited for all those “tenured radicals” to show up on the picket lines, to flood the administration with protests, and etc… It didn’t happen. With very few exceptions, the tenured professors–who are the only people at a large university in a position to challenge the administration–were worried more that they might have to grade papers than that the administration was treating its TAs shabbily. So much for protecting their own. And this wasn’t a matter of them talking the talk but not walking the walk. There was little talk and less action from the faculty. It is time to acknowledge that this meme (“the academy is a bunch of leftists”) is rubbish. When the corporate model is fully regnant in the universities, it will have happened partly because several generations of professors were tenured but not radical.

36

Michael Bérubé 03.18.09 at 10:04 pm

So, if the Women’s Studies department controls football at Penn State, I should blame women for the bad out-of-bounds call in the 1982 game with Nebraska?

No. Women’s Studies controls the ticket sales, not the officiating. The officiating is controlled by the all-powerful Leftist Philosophy department, where, in addition to assigning Foucault and Rawls at the expense of Hayek and Nozick, they engineered the bizarre calls that gave Michigan those dubious victories over the Nittany Lions in 2002 and 2005.

37

Uncle Kvetch 03.18.09 at 11:21 pm

Women’s Studies controls the ticket sales, not the officiating.

That’s where we sodomites enter the picture. Fitz will be along to explain momentarily.

38

Fitz 03.19.09 at 12:22 am

Excuse me for interrupting the sarcasm and evasion of the subject at hand. It was all very funny and condescending and so forth…

Let’s approach it this way.

At what period of history did women studies departments first appear and what is there justification as a distinct discipline?

I maintain that while often interesting and fruitful intellectually (I’m being generous) This is not enough to justify their existance.

Women Studies Departments

#1. Act as ideological enforcers of feminist orthodoxy throughout the university disciplines and within their own “scholarship”.

#2. They act as a political patronage system to like minded ideologues. (Thereby increasing the clout of feminism & leftist gender doctrine amongst the nations intellectuals)

By Example: PETER (wrote)
”Well, there needs to be some academic department to balance the gratuitously and nakedly right wing propaganda mills (acting politically as patronage systems & orthodoxy enforcers), such as most university departments of Economics.”
Very well… I have heard this referenced often. If true, then it would seem to confirm the contention that (a) Departments can show a pronounced bias (b) Ideologues seek to perpetuate & protect their own.

39

Maurice Meilleur 03.19.09 at 12:39 am

Fitz: Q.E.D. You forgot to add, Q.E.D.

40

Fitz 03.19.09 at 12:47 am

John Emerson (writes)
“The idea that women have more resources and power than men is laughable, and the idea that they have resources and power equal to those of men is easily refutable.”
This is an example of the mindset we see as rigidly pervasive in academia in general and WSD in particular. – We generally don’t view human history and human relations simply as a war for “resources and power”. Indeed such a reduction seems ominously (and relentlessly) like a Hegelian Master/Slave dialectic. Hence the stench of deep Marxism and the moniker “leftist” (as distict from classical “liberal” )

41

John Emerson 03.19.09 at 12:54 am

At what period of history did women studies departments first appear?

In the Not Too High Nor Really Terribly Far Off Times, oh Best Beloved.

Pretty much all disciplines have emerged in the last 150 years or so, in the Only a Little Bit High And Just A Teentsy Bit Far Off Times, and Women’s Studies emerged considerably after that.

42

Walt 03.19.09 at 12:58 am

Fitz’ comments are hilarious. This is how trolling is done folks. Fitz may be the legendary troller who posted to rec.pets.cats recommending masturbating your cat with a Q-tip if it went into heat.

43

John Emerson 03.19.09 at 1:00 am

Who don’t view human history and human relations simply as a war for “resources and power”. People who watch Disney movies? People who sell things on TV? Armageddonist Christians? Mary Poppins?

Historians often highly attentive to wars for resources and power, though they don’t think that history is simply a war for resources and power.

44

John Emerson 03.19.09 at 1:07 am

So anyway, Fitz, why does it infuriate you that there’s a discipline studying power inbalances between men and women?

In confidence, does this have something to do with wife-beating?

45

josh 03.19.09 at 1:10 am

Fun though this pissing-match is, I think that we should all acknowledge the truth of Horowtiz-Bauerlein’s claim, and admit that the discipline of Women’s Studies, by positing gender inequality and implying that this is a bad thing, is hopelessly ideologically biased. So, let’s move on, and talk about some of the other forms of academic bias out there …

You know what really pisses me off, as far as biased academic disciplines go? Public Health. Public Health, as a field, just ASSUMES that there is such a thing as epidemics of disease — and clearly implies that these are BAD. And it also rests on the assumption that this is a PUBLIC problem, requiring public ACTION — what could be more leftist than that?

And you know what else — psychology! I’ve talked to psychologists (my father is one), and I’ve found that many of them assert — just like that! — that individuals and organizations can be dysfunctional! And their whole profession is predicated on this assertion! And is aimed (sometimes very indirectly, it’s true) at trying to cure or managed these dysfunctions! Well, I say (assuming these dysfunctions even exist), what if we don’t WANT to do anything about them?

And the damage isn’t limited to these disciplines. Fitz is right — their influence infects all aspects of intellectual life. I’ve never taken a class in psychology or public health (in case that wasn’t clear from the above), and nor have most of my friends and colleagues. But every day I find them — and myself! — parroting the factual and normative assumptions of these fields (much as every day I find all of my fellow political scientists constantly talking about gender inequality. Or no doubt would if my university had a department of Women’s Studies.)

And you know what else — schools of government! Which clearly ENDORSE the existence of government! Well, what about the anarchist perspective? Do they make equal time for that? I’m betting not …

And it’s absolutely true about ideological patronage/promotion, too. Sure, currently only 1/5th of the tenured faculty in my department are female, and none of them work primarily on questions of gender. But I’m sure its only a matter of time before my university, like all other, is over-run by man-hating feminazis! (I’m sure it’s already over-run by people who believe that disease and mental illness are PROBLEMS. That’s what comes from having ideologically biased disciplines.)

46

Jordan 03.19.09 at 1:26 am

In theory, an academic discipline or a program like this should be viewable independent of any political framework.

In practice, every sentence containing the word “gender” comes from the mouth or pen of a far-left liberal.

47

P O'Neill 03.19.09 at 1:33 am

A bigger outrage than Women’s Studies are those $75/hour wages at GM/Ford/Chrysler Financial Products unit.

48

Maurice Meilleur 03.19.09 at 1:35 am

Look, Horowitz and his band of crazies aside, the proliferation of ‘-studies’ programs–women’s studies, African-American studies, queer studies, gender studies, Amerian Indian studies, and so on–does represent a problem, just not the one we keep hearing about.

The problem is that the existence of these programs, and their associated administrative units, faculty lines, majors and minors, and courses, represents failure: the failure of interested parties successfully to insert their concerns and research interests into their respective disciplines/fields (sociology, history, anthropology, literature, political science). Or, if you like: the failure of people who dominated those disciplines/fields to recognize the importance and credibility of those concerns and interests.

Horowitz’s problem–okay, one of Horowitz’s many problems–is that he thinks these programs were and are nothing but attempts to pursue political programs through academic institutions, and he has a knack for sometimes finding scholars who think exactly that about what they do. Stopped clocks are right twice a day, after all. But even though most of these programs are rigorous academic pursuits, their existence is an administrative fix to intellectual disputes–with political significance, obviously, but intellectual disputes all the same.

Moreover, it’s a fix that depended on the largesse of the postwar American academy that was willing to spend money to smooth over divisions among their faculty. That turned out to be a very precarious solution, as the days of the schools and governments dumping money into the humanities and social sciences are over. I fear that people who settled for, say, a LGBT studies program at their school in place of continuing a frustrating battle with the folks in their sociology or political science departments who wanted nothing to do with those issues may find this out the hard way.

But this fix has a history over a century long (as John E. above suggested). The separate disciplines (at least in American universities and colleges) of political science, economics, sociology, and anthropology are all four of them, with all their institutional and professional trappings, artifacts of a similar intellectual disturbance in the late 19th century. They are all also institutional fixes to intellectual disputes (with political significance, obviously, etc.). I think you might be able to say the same thing about psychology and philosophy.

The problem with the fix regarding these newer programs is that I think it lulled everyone, if not exactly into complacency, then into distraction. The upside to renewed challenges to their existence from asshats like Horowitz and threats from slashed budgets in a down economy is that it might revive and make explicit the arguments that led to their existence in the first place. And maybe there’s a chance that they can be framed properly this time: the problem surrounding the creation of women’s studies programs in the early 1970s, for example, was not that we needed new academic units called ‘women’s studies’. The problem was that established scholars in ‘traditional’ disciplines like sociology and history were ignoring the experience of women as a category of experience worthy of study, attention to which was critical for getting things right in sociological and historical research. There is no intellectual reason for the institutional division.

Allow Horowitz to frame the discussion, though, and we get nowhere. And in case anyone thinks it’s easier for me to make this argument because political science departments would probably survive most budget crises and Horowitz isn’t calling for their destruction, then let me say for the record that as far as I’m concerned, I can’t think of much intellectual reason why they ought to continue to exist, either.

49

bjk 03.19.09 at 1:37 am

Fitz is the only one making sense. Or why not just have a department of “inequalities of power and resources”? Why limit it to gender? It could be called inequality studies, and it would combine the victimology, paranoia, and bad faith of all the other “studies” departments. Or it could be merged with sociology, and then safely forgotten.

50

Michael Bérubé 03.19.09 at 2:01 am

Fitz is the only one making sense.

That is so not true. Alan Keyes is also making sense. But all the way back to Adam @ 2, I have recently become aware that Professor Douthat has written a most engaging treatise on the influence of contraception on male sexual arousal. Christina Hoff Sommers is still my first choice, but if we can’t get her, I’m willing to make an offer to Douthat.

And I think I agree with everything Maurice says @ 47. Just to be serious for a moment.

51

Walt 03.19.09 at 2:01 am

Fitz is a pro, bjk. You’re not in his trolling league.

52

Maurice Meilleur 03.19.09 at 2:12 am

Bless your crazy little heart, bjk, for bringing up an important argument: that folding the ‘-studies’ programs back into ‘traditional’ disciplines would mean to submerge and forget them.

Two responses. First: the way we do things now, students go over here for their sociology, and then they go over here for their study of women’s experiences in society, and then they go over there for their study of Native Americans’ experiences in society … you get my point. I’m not sure this way is working out terribly well, either, cross-listing courses notwithstanding. It’s great for administrators, though, who are needed to keep straight things like general education requirements and course attributes and faculty appointments and enrollment-based funding. It’s the bureaucratic gift that keeps on giving!

Second, sure, there’s an institutional risk of assimilation. But there’s a chance of not being assimilated, too, of actually making a difference in the intellectual lives of people who never thought they’d see the relevance of these bodies of research to what they study. Nothing comes without a risk. Right now some of these programs are facing hiring freezes and budget cuts; if the recession hangs around, the cuts may become severe, and the programs may even face extinction. Then what? Holding on to your academic unit on (misguided) principle and $2 buys you an Americano.

53

rea 03.19.09 at 2:26 am

And for the record, it’s a 108,000-seat stadium. Interestingly, the allocation of all season tickets and private boxes is controlled by Women’s Studies.

Michigan Stadium used to hold more people, until it got sued over handicap access issues. So, evidently, there is a plot by the left to destroy college football.

54

Maurice Meilleur 03.19.09 at 2:28 am

Michael, I am totally stoked that someone agrees with me that political science should be abolished. (Just not until after I retire or find another job.)

55

John Emerson 03.19.09 at 2:42 am

To add to what Maurice said, the bureaucratic work-rules governing hiring, firing, promotion, and funding allow economists, political scientists, psychologists, and sociologists to ignore one another’s work even when they’re studying the same phenomenon. The results can be disastrous for anyone makes the mistake of believing that these sciences are in some way about reality.

For example, economists have been sidling over to “animal spirits” and psychology in order to explain why their science has been so devastatingly wrong just now. (They had forcibly excluded Keynes’s “animal spirits” as soon as the Depression crisis was over). But what I fear (I haven’t got too far with this particular question) is that they’re going to keep the individualist bias that economics and psychology share. You’re not going to understand animal spirits by studying The Mindor The Self; you have to understand communication and group dynamics too, and institutions, and culture, and power, and the state — and suddenly all of those people you kicked out are back in the room with you.

Yeah, yeah, academic disciplines can change. And teeth can be pulled, too, if you have a good pliers and a couple of strong helpers. (Remember to stabilize the guy’s head by putting your foot on his forehead.)

Disciplines promote research programs and paradigms, not ideas; ideas can be questioned, but paradigms and research programs are institutions, and are out of question (apodictic). Institutions differ in what specific topics they refuse to think about; that’s how they define themselves. The bureaucratic institutionalization of thought in enforced paradigms forbidding particular kinds of thought produces docile-bodied professionals only capable of functioning as attendant lords.

Aaron Preston — Analytic Philosophy: The History of an Illusion
Michel Meyer — Rhetoric, Language, and Reason
Jeff Schmidt — Disciplined Minds

56

Matt Steinglass 03.19.09 at 2:53 am

Maurice @47: very interesting, but how would one go about trying to get, say, the African And African-American Studies department abolished and including the relevant issues under history, sociology, etc., yet still maintain departments of Middle Eastern Studies and Medieval Studies? Is it really the case that all of academia should be organized along the lines of “ways of thinking about things” and not along the lines of “things that exist in the world”? Would the science faculties of a university really be trying to get the Forestry Department eliminated and have the relevant issues considered as part of the Chemistry and Biology departments?

57

Karl K 03.19.09 at 3:15 am

Professor, how is the Men’s Studies program going at Penn State. Any word on that?

58

Jonathan 03.19.09 at 3:17 am

Anyway, everyone in Penn State’s Women’s Studies is probably also in another department as well. Most places Women’s Studies is an interdisciplinary program that draws on faculty from various departments–and often is not a tenure-initiating unit. In other words, you have to get your tenure through the normal process in English, History, Anthro, or whatever your “home” department is. This tends to diminish the institutional power of Women’s Studies, despite their iron grip on football seating. You usually cannot get a PhD in Women’s Studies either. At Penn State it looks like you can get it half in that and half in another discipline.

59

John Emerson 03.19.09 at 3:20 am

Incidentally, for someone willing to consider the possibility that I have a point of view and am not just a a foulmouthed pillaging barbarian, the next-to-last paragraph of 54 and the three books cited at the end are where to go.

60

MH 03.19.09 at 3:25 am

John, I’m not looking for additional reading, but do I detect a hint of Imre Lakatos in 54?

61

salient 03.19.09 at 3:47 am

Would the science faculties of a university really be trying to get the Forestry Department eliminated and have the relevant issues considered as part of the Chemistry and Biology departments?

Admittedly, I’ve yet to hear a coherent and persuasive argument for why we should prefer unified departments with specialty professors, instead of specialty departments with specialty professors. It seems obvious a university could offer equivalent research (and equivalent student learning experiences) with subsumed departments.

I suppose it would be nice to have more interdisciplinary engagement? Except, at least around here, I see plenty of panel-type seminars which are hosted by department X with participating professors from departments Y and Z, but perhaps elsewhere there’s much more insularity (that would surprise me). And a quick purview of recent papers’ citations published by sociology profs here, at least those announced on their web-pages, suggests to me that lots of interdisciplinary reading is occurring.

Given that professors/scholars need to specialize in a field of study anyhow, and given that e.g. a history scholar is welcome to specialize in women’s history or African-American history and still officially work in a history department — just checked the history dept website here and there are such specialists — why subsume any of the ‘-studies programs?

Is it a question of an offensive or inappropriate implication of othering, or the explicit othering of these studies? I don’t currently understand how this is substantially more offensive than individual professors specifying that their specialty is ‘-studies.

My take is this: trying to eliminate a Women’s Studies program (for example) is much harder (due to visibility, hence student / “concerned citizen” outcry) than reducing the sociology department’s size and coincidentally eliminating the positions of those who are researching in women’s studies. So, keeping the programs distinct seems to protect or insulate these research topics, ensuring there will be at least a few positions at a given university which devote research to these issues. This is a clear advantage to me that I don’t see outweighed by, e.g., Maurice’s points about the potential benefits of assimilation.

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John Emerson 03.19.09 at 4:00 am

“Research programs” is, according to Deborah Redfield’s “Economics and the Philosophy of Science”, is a Lakatos codeword which was especially beloved by economists, because it allowed them to make their discipline immune to outside criticism and empirical refutation. But I’m not asking you to read Redfield.

I haven’t read Lakatos himself and don’t claim to know anything about his thinking; I don’t cite or reference him, just Redfield.

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MH 03.19.09 at 4:17 am

Just curious. Your 4th paragraph is what I remember of Lakatos (except that he was sort of arguing for research programs).

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Walt 03.19.09 at 4:22 am

I find that fantastically unlikely. Economists basically stick to warmed-over Popperism. I’ve never seen the term “research program” used to justify anything. Instead, they refer to “theory”. “Theory tells us” that the minimum wage destroys jobs, etc.

Despite that, Lakatos’ description of science fits how economics works remarkably well. Economics is full of research programs that proceed on the basis of their own internal logic.

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MH 03.19.09 at 4:25 am

Just to be clear, Lakatos wasn’t arguing for making yourself immune to criticism or empirical refutation. Just saying that you to replace a research program, you need a better research program and not just to punch holes in the old one.

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Maurice Meilleur 03.19.09 at 4:27 am

Matt: not that I have anything like a fully-thought out plan (or else why would I be commenting on blogs?), but I think the answers to your questions are, in order:

– I don’t know that I would be going about trying to abolish any departments, but it’s likely that forces external to the schools and from inside the administration feel more empowered and less constrained;

– I don’t see why in the context of this discussion that African-American Studies differs in any interesting way from Middle Eastern Studies and Medieval Studies, save for differences in the level and nature of specific political significance of the questions and scholarship and the mixed political motives of some of the people doing the scholarship;

– at an abstract enough level, the epistemological differences between thinking about things and thinking about ways of thinking about things would become irrelevant;

– and once you start talking about forestry, you might as well start talking about law and medicine–which is to say, about professional programs, not liberal arts departments.

That last sounds like a dodge, I know, but on the other hand, I don’t know of anyone arguing for women’s studies departments, for example, who claims that defending the disciplinary or administrative boundaries of those departments is going to get anyone a job–well, anyone but scholars of women’s studies.

John E.: thanks for making that point about disciplinary thought. Political science grad students at least through my generation were exposed to the Popper-Kuhn-Lakatos-Feyerabend material as well, and largely for the same reasons as economics grad students were/are: to persuade us that all we need is a research program, a paradigm, in order to be doing ‘normal science’ and hence to deserve the same amount of respect/money/faculty lines as those folks over there in physics. (And, I daresay, to convince ourselves that our methods and programs made our knowledge more authoritative than what passed for scholarship over in the newer upstart programs and departments.)

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MH 03.19.09 at 4:27 am

Also, on the off-chance that my adviser is reading and can pick me out solely on the basis of my initials, I feel compelled to note that I still remember ‘sophisticated methodological falsification’. On the other hand, my PIN number I sometimes forget.

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John Emerson 03.19.09 at 4:36 am

I tend to suspect that economics ruins everything it borrows — Popper, Lakatos, whatever. IIRC Redfield didn’t offer a full interpretation of Lakatos, but just said that he made economists feel good for the reasons I’ve stated.

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MH 03.19.09 at 4:41 am

Found it. My PIN number is 4367.

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MH 03.19.09 at 5:14 am

As a former political science grad student, I’ll second Maurice’s comment on “Popper-Kuhn-Lakatos-Feyerabend” except that we never did the last one.

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Zamfir 03.19.09 at 8:35 am

I have never encountered a field where “paradigms” where postive things to keep. They are always the old paradigm we are stuck in, to be replaced by newer, shinier ones. Is this a change in the use of the word over the decades?

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Maurice Meilleur 03.19.09 at 11:39 am

MH: Feyerabend we read for an ‘only a crazy person would think like that’ moment.

Zamfir: The way that paradigms work in Kuhn, there’s nothing positive or negative about them. They’re just how ‘normal science’ (as I recall, ‘puzzle solving’) gets done. They collapse when their proponents all die and new textbooks get written, etc.

But when you read Kuhn through the eyes of a group of scholars who very much want to be a Real Science–like political scientists–you see paradigms, not as a sociological account of science, but as a blueprint. If you want to be a science, then you need a paradigm. Then yours is the university and everything that’s in it.

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Uncle Kvetch 03.19.09 at 11:40 am

Who’da thunk it–this turned out to be a very interesting and thoughtful thread. Maybe Fitz should troll here more often.

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Fr. 03.19.09 at 11:52 am

Is there a field of study that analyses the equal distribution of power and resources?

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Meh 03.19.09 at 12:05 pm

“Haul on the Bauerlein
We sang that melody
Like all tough sailors do
When they are far away at sea”

Just then the kitchen
exploded from boilin’ douthat
food was flying everywhere
I left without my hat

What is it that we’re doing here?

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salient 03.19.09 at 12:13 pm

Is there a field of study that analyses the equal distribution of power and resources?

(shrug) An entire field? Probably not. In some sense, that’s one exceptional case, so what would there be to study with sufficient depth and variety to support an entire field of study? There’s just not sufficient variety or diversity, in that hypothetical, to justify an entire field / department / etc. Surely plenty of individuals in philosophy, for example, specialize in developing theory which in the ideal case entails equal distribution of resources and/or opportunities, as a pure case which one may contrast with actual, unequal distributions.

Also, by studying inequality, doesn’t one inherently study the corresponding meaning of equality? Some subset of studies of inequality is likely to investigate specific changes that would result in a more equal distribution of power and resources. Another subset, by analyzing and understanding inequality, makes it possible for us to envision the complexities involved and better understand what “equality” would comprise and entail.

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Steve LaBonne 03.19.09 at 12:50 pm

Would the science faculties of a university really be trying to get the Forestry Department eliminated and have the relevant issues considered as part of the Chemistry and Biology departments?

Hell, even “Biology” can sometimes be too broad. Molecular/ cell biology and evolutionary / organismal biology are such different disciplines (and the latter are generally so envious of the financial support available for the former!) that at many universities (eg. my graduate alma mater, Northwestern) they have had trouble existing under one roof and have had to be housed in different departments.

Departments that house a broad range of interests sound like a great idea and probably are, in some ideal sense, but the crude realities of academic politics can make it difficult for them to function. It’s not very fair or enlightening to single out “studies” departments when they’re just one part of a broader phenomenon.

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Keith M Ellis 03.19.09 at 1:46 pm

I recall a moment, long ago when I was young a naive, complaining, heatedly, in a Woman’s Studies class one day that it’s absurd that an academic subject matter which is literally 52 percent of the population was segregated into an academic ghetto, far away from the Humanities departments and out-of-sight and out-of-mind as one of a small collection of modest buildings stuck at the edge of campus.

The prof responded: “But that’s exactly how we like it.”

I became a lot more cynical that day. However, that experience notwithstanding, I’m not sure I endorse Maurice Meilleur’s suggestion. I would have twenty years ago. Today, I’m even more cynical and realize that it’s probably true that the subject would never get the attention it deserves within the context of the mainstream until, ironically, after it is no longer urgent.

Nevertheless—and I very much don’t intend to support the anti-feminists in any way—I think that it’s either ignorant or disingenuous for anyone to claim that most Women’s Studies departments are not extremely ideological and rigid. I think the academic quality of these programs would be much improved were this less the case. Right now, they primarily are serving a political, and not academic, purpose. I support that political purpose wholeheartedly, but I think there’s a large amount of worthwhile research that’s not being done because these programs are primarily political.

I am aware that this is a very old argument and that the critical response to my comment will be that education is inherently political and that’s as it should be. I disagree.

Still, I want to emphasize that I’m a feminist and I support the political effect that Women’s Studies programs has in the US. It’s a very sad fact that these programs are not only the greater part of the feminist movement in the US, they are today almost its entirety. I do think that anti-sexist and feminist ideas have slowly made their way into popular culture—but, even so, there’s very little explicit popular feminist political activity.

And here we return to Maurice Meilleur’s complaint and suggestion: it’s arguable that by allowing themselves to be put into the academic ghetto and becoming comfortable there, academic feminists are doing less for feminism than they should, were they promoting feminist in the mainstream academy. I don’t know. I do know that I’m disappointed in the reduced visibility of feminism in popular culture and civic life and I’ve never been comfortable with the strong ideological conformity and rigidity that is common in Women’s Studies departments. We could be doing better, I think.

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Fitz 03.19.09 at 2:14 pm

Q. Why does a post concerning the overt abuse of our nation’s universities for ideological ends; including no less the establishment of entire departments created to institutionalize and perpetuate this permanent revolution devolve into a conversation centered on maintaining & protecting that very system?

A. Because the likes of David Horowitz & Mark Bauerlein are exactly right. Our Universities house intellectually defensive and ideologically sycophantic scholars infinitely more concerned with advancing and protecting their agenda than in maintaining an authentic liberal environment, rigorous scholarship, or the development of critical thought.

“That leaves our academic philosophers, our year 2000 versions of Immanuel Kant, John Stuart Mill, and David Hume. Here we come upon one of the choicest chapters in the human comedy. Today, at any leading American university, a Kant, with all his dithering about God, freedom, and immortality, or even a Hume, wouldn’t survive a year in graduate school, much less get hired as an instructor. The philosophy departments, history departments, English and comparative literature departments, and, at many universities, anthropology, sociology, and even psychology departments are now divided, in John L’Heureux’s delicious terminology (The Handmaid of Desire), into the Young Turks and the Fools. Most Fools are old, mid-fifties, early sixties, but a Fool can be any age, twenty-eight as easily as fifty-eight, if he is one of that minority on the faculty who still believe in the old nineteenth century Germanic modes of so-called objective scholarship. Today the humanities faculties are hives of abstruse doctrines such as structuralism, poststructuralism, postmodernism, deconstruction, reader-response theory, commodification theory … The names vary, but the subtext is always the same: Marxism may be dead, and the proletariat has proved to be hopeless. They’re all at sea with their third wives. But we can find new proletariats whose ideological benefactors we can be-women, non-whites, put-upon white ethnics, homosexuals, transsexuals, the polymorphously perverse, pornographers, prostitutes (sex workers), hardwood trees – which we can use to express our indignation toward the powers that be and our aloofness to their bourgeois stooges, to keep the flame of skepticism, cynicism, irony, and contempt burning. This will not be Vulgar Marxism; it will be … Rococo Marxism, elegant as a Fragonard, sly as a Watteau.”

Tom Wolfe – In the Land of the Rococco Marxist.

I don’t agree entirely. They never struck me as particularly sly; evasive and determined, but not sly.

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Maurice Meilleur 03.19.09 at 2:18 pm

Keith, in fairness to feminism, feminists are hardly the only ones to have embraced the professional and institutional trappings of what Russell Jacoby called the ‘academic left’.

I do take slight issue with the idea that women’s studies departments should be ‘promoting feminism’ in the academy, or that it’s the job of such departments to promote feminism in society generally. I don’t mean to sound like Stanley Fish, but the vocation of scholarship is the disinterested pursuit of truth. To the extent that pursuing truth means insisting that (to keep this example) women’s experience seriously in social, historical, biological, etc. research, and further to the extent this is part of the broader cause of feminism, then ‘women’s studies’ as a program is inherently and necessarily political. (As is, for another example, institutionalizing the idea that there can be such a thing as ‘policy science’, as political science departments and public policy schools do.) But the point of the programs should not be to get students or scholars to agree with feminist arguments beyond that point. As it happens, taking women’s experiences seriously would and did and does challenge the ‘scientific’ basis of many arguments in favor of discrimination against women. But scholars as scholars should think in that order: first insist on getting things right, then let the political and social and cultural consequences be as they may.

The continued existence of women’s studies programs (or political science departments) I agree in practice is a matter of prudential judgment negotiated under circumstances not all of which we get to choose. I can see why people who support any of the ‘-studies’ programs might accept the risks of the academic ghetto (ideological rigidity, loss of scholarly rigor, institutional marginality) to avoid the risks of disciplinary submergence and institutional annihilation. I happen to think the risks of the former outweigh the risks of the latter, especially in a time when all scholars should concern themselves with larger trends in higher education that threaten us all–well, all of us who can’t draw a direct line between studying our subject on the one hand and getting a job or developing some obviously useful technology that brings in grant money on the other.

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Maurice Meilleur 03.19.09 at 2:31 pm

Fitz, speaking for myself, the day I take a lesson from David Horowitz or Mark Bauerlein on ‘maintaining an authentic liberal environment, rigorous scholarship, or the development of critical thought’ is the day I take a lesson in sartorial judgment from Tom Wolfe.

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Fitz 03.19.09 at 2:49 pm

Maurice Meilleur

Does not take[ing] a lesson from David Horowitz , Mark Bauerlein or Tom Wolfe say anything about your willingness to maintain an “authentic liberal environment”

83

John Protevi 03.19.09 at 2:52 pm

Shorter Fitz: Tom Wolfe is the Jew of Liberal Fascism.

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harry b 03.19.09 at 3:00 pm

That quote from Wolfe is interesting. He either knows nothing of contemporary philosophy, or nothing of Kant and Hume.

85

harry b 03.19.09 at 3:00 pm

or Mill — that’s the most laughable one of the three.

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Colin Danby 03.19.09 at 3:07 pm

Cripes, Keith M, did you miss the part in college about not making vast generalizations from one poorly-understood experience? If you or Bauerlein want to read the current literature in women’s studies and make the case on that basis for “primarily political” or “extremely ideological and rigid” that would be great. Truculence does not make an argument by assertion more persuasive.

87

John Protevi 03.19.09 at 3:07 pm

He either knows nothing of contemporary philosophy, or nothing of Kant and Hume.

Why the disjunct? Why not be inclusive and say he knows nothing of contemporary philosophy AND nothing of Kant, Hume, and Mill?

88

Maurice Meilleur 03.19.09 at 3:08 pm

Fitz: Yes, it does. It says that I know how to tell the difference between intellectual honesty and intellectual dishonesty. And just because John Stuart Mill didn’t build that distinction into his argument in On Liberty doesn’t mean I have to follow him down that rabbit hole.

By the way, Horowitz and Bauerlein do not benefit from comparison to Wolfe. Charlotte Simmons was crap (and a bit nauseating), but Wolfe is generally smart and perceptive, has a sharp eye for detail and incongruity, is a wicked satirist, and often quite funny even when he’s wrong–all qualities conspicuously absent in Horowitz and Bauerlein, not to mention in most of the people who quote his essays and novels as definitive proof of their assertions.

89

John Emerson 03.19.09 at 3:08 pm

77. In the most ideal case, at any given time any given researcher will be studying some sorts of things and not others. And in fact, whole groups of researchers will all be working within the same rather narrow bounds. But in the most ideal case, this is ad hoc and transient, whereas with a disciplinary bureaucratic organization, restrictions become fossilized and last for decades.

I realize that no one else will agree, but I’d be happiest if the university was organized on the classical pattern, with Philosophy, Divinity, Classics, Law, and maybe one other department. We could cede divinity to Horowitz and Glenn Beck, and then maybe they’d leave us alone.

I really doubt Wolfe really gives a shit about Kant. I don’t either, coe to think of it. One Kant is far, far too many. I heartily commend Analytic Philosophy for one single thing: flunking all future Immanuel Kants.

90

ScentOfViolets 03.19.09 at 3:29 pm

No snark here, honest question: is there any theory of significance in any department that was dismissed solely on the grounds that it was a conservative theory? I keep asking this question when people like Fitz pop up, and have yet to receive a satisfactory reply. Some of the loonier types will be up front and say racial inequalities in intelligence fits the criterion; similarly others will point to biblical or moral theories.

But aside from that, I haven’t heard of anything serious.

Otoh, as someone points out, ‘conservative’ theories playing out to the detriment of ‘liberal’ ones on purely ideological grounds seems to happen with some frequency in economics departments across the land.

Got anything for us in that vein, Fritz?

91

bjk 03.19.09 at 3:29 pm

89 comments and not one defending women’s studies . . .

92

Maurice Meilleur 03.19.09 at 3:30 pm

John, how about this idea? Organize the liberal arts university into eight ‘departments': mathematics, philosophy, history, languages and literature, physical sciences, life sciences, human behavior, and human society. Strip them of the institutional and professional expectations that they will be ‘disciplines’ with fixed methodological assumptions and research programs. They act as poles of attraction and organizational bases of resources for students and scholars of various interests who take courses and work with faculty such as they find affinity with.

Each school would have a different constellation of scholars with appointments in and support from different ‘departments': in one school, the American Indian studies scholar works in history and human society, the molecular biologist works in the physical sciences, and the person studying politics works in philosophy; in another school, the American Indian studies scholar works in languages and literature, the molecular biologist works in the life sciences and mathematics, and the scholar of politics works in history.

93

Fitz 03.19.09 at 3:38 pm

Maurice Meilleur

I don’t quote Wolfe’s essays or novels as “definitive proof of [my] assertion.” I quote it as general reference for the commonly held opinion that modern academia (and WSD in particular) is what Horowitz and Bauerlein claim it to be. That is: ill-liberal, anti-intellectual, and the transparent extension of Marxist class war ideology.

94

John Emerson 03.19.09 at 3:40 pm

One thing that I seriously did decide on was merging history and the social sciences. Paul Veyne said that the social sciences are all ways of studying history, or particular collections of tools used in the study of history. He chickened out and granted economics the status of True Science, but I don’t follow him in that.

Otherwise I generally agree.

I really hate “interdisciplinary” books which begin with boring summarizations of Paradigm A from one discipline and Paradigm B from a different discipline, followed by the author’s development of his composite paradigm. Of course, for me interdisciplanry work would be a way of escaping the paradigms, and transparent evasions of that type are quickly squelched.

95

james 03.19.09 at 3:41 pm

Penn State is subsidized by the public at large. As the cost of tuition rises, the university will increasingly be placed in the position of having to justify expenditures. I would expect the Woman studies program at Penn State to receive cuts long before the football program.

96

MH 03.19.09 at 3:49 pm

They really need to start cutting football funding at the following schools: Oklahoma, Texas, Michigan, Penn State, Miami (the one in Florida), and Florida State.

97

John Emerson 03.19.09 at 3:52 pm

ill-liberal, anti-intellectual, and the transparent extension of …. ideology.

Horowitz should talk. He has people invading classrooms and reporting back to the Central Headquarters, which then publishes denunciations of political criminals and circulates them nationally. Horowitz seems to think that the way to expiate your left goon activity is by an equal quantity of right goon activity. YR NOT DOIN IT RITE, HOROWITZ.

I personally haven’t defended Women’s Studies because mostly I haven’t taken the challenges here seriously, and partly because I’m not too enthusiastic about the field (or Black Studies). Partly for the reasons Meilleur sketched, and partly because I think that the liberal arts and the humanities generally are the weakest possible platform from which to launch a political movement, except maybe for the homeless community, and increasingly deadend graduates in subordinate positions in society. If I were a poor parent, minority or not, I’d do what I could to get my kid into some kind of tech program, with liberal arts as a bonus if possible. (And for the record, I was a poor parent in 1990, and my kid did go for a near-Ivy BA, and I think that that was a big mistake.)

98

Maurice Meilleur 03.19.09 at 3:55 pm

Fitz: Even if your somewhat circuitous explanation is genuine (I quote Wolfe to illustrate the view that Horowitz and Bauerlein claim is a common one), you’ll have to forgive a reader for assuming that what follows the leading rhetorical question and the assertion of doctrine must be the citation of scriptural authority in support.

For future reference, Aquinas usually inserted all the straw-horse objections he could think of between the question and the assertion.

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Maurice Meilleur 03.19.09 at 4:16 pm

John, I agree about the present state of ‘interdisciplinarity’, with the added observation that the genuine projects get squelched because, unlike their boring conventional cousins, they don’t tend in the end to reinforce the disciplines they’re standing inter-.

If a scholar could just say, look, I’m really interested in studying algae that could eat petrochemicals, or the history of women’s fashion as a form of conspicuous bodily constraint, or how the way we tell stories affects what we’re willing to accept as authoritative argument in political judgment, and they find scholars to work with who can help them develop the research tools and bodies of information they need to tackle those projects–without having to consider whether their project falls sufficiently within reach of an established disciplinary entity jealous of its borders to get funding and support–that would be great.

But I know: the institution that could support that would be a lot more fluid, its scholars and students a lot more peripatetic, than at least the American context would permit.

100

Fitz 03.19.09 at 4:17 pm

ScentOfViolets (asks)
Is there any theory of significance in any department that was dismissed solely on the grounds that it was a conservative theory?”

Your language of “solely on the grounds that it was a conservative theory” seems a bit loaded, or at he least a rather high burden of proof.

I approach it more in the sense that sacred cows of the left prevent multiple points of view from gaining traction in university environments. This ‘traction” includes references in published work, wide(er) dissemination and discussion, publication in university presses, – Indeed, plain old respect and generosity of spirit.
I can venture to answer your question, but I hope you can clarify.

For instance, I will concede your point about Economic departments and X or Y theory.. If only to establish that indeed ideas have adherents and enforcers.

Also
“Some of the loonier types will be up front and say racial inequalities in intelligence fits the criterion; similarly others will point to biblical or moral theories.”

Here we have phenomena I see quite often, the inclusion of racism in with other subjects of a less definitive ethical clarity. I see this as an often used tactic of the left. As in “racism –sexism –homophobia” I find the latter two infinitely more complex and in legitimate contention than the first. Indeed; it seems racism is always included in such lists to co-opt the moral authority of Americas tortured racial past.

So when you above say “loonier types” and then say “biblical or moral theories” – I see something clearly morally repugnant intentionally grouped with a vast array of different phenomena that could include the breadth of the western humanities experience & learning.

So— Please clarify and I will attempt a serious and sincere answer.

101

dave 03.19.09 at 4:21 pm

The only really plausible objection to Women’s Studies would be one which was based on a critique of the academicisation of politics, not the politicisation of academia.

102

parse 03.19.09 at 4:32 pm

And you know what else—psychology! I’ve talked to psychologists (my father is one), and I’ve found that many of them assert—just like that!—that individuals and organizations can be dysfunctional! And their whole profession is predicated on this assertion! And is aimed (sometimes very indirectly, it’s true) at trying to cure or managed these dysfunctions! Well, I say (assuming these dysfunctions even exist), what if we don’t WANT to do anything about them?

Josh, I don’t believe the entire profession of psychology is predicated on the assertion that individuals and organizations can be dysfunctional. And a university department of psychology that limited its studies psychological dysfunction would be absurdly truncating the discipline. If Fitz’ argument regarding Women’s Studies is that it shouldn’t be limited an analysis of the unequal distribution of power and resources by gender, I would agree. I don’t expect that many Women’s Studies departments really are limited that way, but I don’t know much about them and may be wrong. I don’t even know why the name of the discipline is possesive.

103

Keith M Ellis 03.19.09 at 4:39 pm

Cripes, Keith M, did you miss the part in college about not making vast generalizations from one poorly-understood experience?

No. Why are you assuming that my anecdote represents the full extent of either my experience or my knowledge of the topic? And what is your argument that I poorly understood that experience?

I’m not going to claim that I closely follow the academic literature coming from these departments. But I’ve been an active and informed feminist for twenty-five years. It would be impossible for me not to have fairly extensive experience with Women’s Studies academics and students in addition to firsthand.

In any event, you’ve only contested my assertion that they’re ideologically rigid, not that they are not only representative of the feminist movement, but in fact are its core. This is less than ideal in a number of respects. Women’s Studies as an academic discipline suffers from being too politicized; and the feminist movement suffers from being so closely associated with academia. It should be a popular movement, it once was a popular movement, it is a popular movement outside of the US—and as long as it’s a rarefied academic discipline like critical theory, it will remain marginalized and elitist. In my opinion, at this point Women’s Studies is hurting the feminist movement more than it’s helping.

Just like pretty much anyone who grew up in academia because of a parent’s association, I am well aware of academic turf battles, jealousy, and all the crap that commonly goes on behind the scenes at universities. The ghettoized departments are understandably and necessarily very active players in these games; and I think it is to the detriment of them as disciplines. It encourages partisanship, alienation, and ideological rigidity. This, in conjunction with how Women’s Studies is highly politicized in the wider context, encourages a besieged and self-righteous mentality that is intolerant of dissent. This infects scholarship and, more importantly to me, feminism as a political movement. The latter is bad because it is antithetical to gaining the widespread acceptance that is necessary for political change.

I am not being critical of Women’s Studies as an outsider, as an anti-feminist. I am being critical as an insider, as a feminist—I am not impugning either the motives or character of anyone. I think the people involved are well-intentioned and hard-working. And I prefer the status quo to an even lesser visibility of feminism. I just think that things have gravitated to a far less than ideal situation, and one which is self-reinforcing.

104

Michael Bérubé 03.19.09 at 4:57 pm

Penn State is subsidized by the public at large

No, only by people in Pennsylvania. And our public funding amounts to nine percent of our total budget. That’s right, nine percent. Did I explain about the nine percent part? I meant 9 percent. Sorry to stress the point so, but I’ve remarked on this to innumerable people, online and off, who believe that “public” universities receive the majority (or the entirety) of their funding from the state, and they never seem to get it. It’s kind of weird, really.

I suppose this means that if nine percent of Pennsylvanians are OK with the idea of analyzing the unequal distribution of power and resources by gender, we might be in the clear.

105

John Emerson 03.19.09 at 4:57 pm

I haven’t been responding very seriously to Fitz, and I’m not sure that anyone should. But I’m willing to explain why, at least.

For the record, I’m not part of the university system and am not at all friendly to it. But faced with the likes of Fitz or Horowitz, I’ll defend it. I still plan to destroy it, department by department, but in my own way.

First, the actual conservative movement of today would be very hard to fit into any university system. The hard core right wing is mostly gut thinkers with very low intellectual standards, and the leaders are as bad as, or worse than the followers. Conservatives with any intellectual standards at all end up demoralized and without a party, or else on the right wing of the Democratic Party. Garry Wills, for example, counts as a liberal today, but he really isn’t one.

Second, following from that, and as I said above in 97, Horowitz’s thuggish modus operandi discredits every word that comes out of his mouth. It’s exactly the kind of thing that the New Left, including him, was doing in 1970 or so, and which he now deplores. And anyone who works with Horowitz is equally discredited.

Third, there are plenty of conservative departments in the university, and they tend to be more influential in the real world than the liberal departments are: political theory, economics, much of international relations, much of industrial relations, most of management, forestry, and so on. And there would be more such departments if the Republican party weren’t dominated by Beck, Limbaugh, and O’Reilly.

Fourth, for a lot of reasons there was sure to be an imbalance one way or another. People and professions inevitably sort themselves out politically one way or another, and conservatives tend to go into business and iberals tend to go into the univerity or the professions. A neutral or evenly balanced university could only be attained by purges and the installation of zampolits and political commissars. The opponents of university really want to root out all radicals everywhere; they object to the very existence of radicals anywhere in the world, not to a political imbalance in the university.

Last, in many ways the conservatives are split. The conservatives who control the Republican party are a bunch of deep-pockets business people promoting their selfish, radical, reconstructionist agenda with the help of a demagogic, anti-intellectual political movement. The rest of them tend to be on the right (dominant, neoliberal) wing of the Democratic Party.

The sane, educated American conservative is a neoliberal free trade interventionist or neocon Democrat. And they’re very influential throughout that university. And their conservativism is easy to argue by several different definitions of conservativism.

As I’ve said to Brad DeLong many times: “Be the change you want to see in the world”. Like a lot of people, including the CT crew, he’s always looking for sane, intelligent conservatives to dialogue with. He doesn’t realize, nor do the Crooked Timber people, that he is a sane intelligent conservative for people to dialogue with, and that what he should be looking for is sane, intelligent radicals to dialogue with.

Liberalism really has never escaped the anti-Communist scare of the Fifties, with its resulting purges, “end of ideology”, and forced centrism. The times have changed, but liberals haven’t.

106

John Emerson 03.19.09 at 5:00 pm

The funding of universities is a can of worms, what with tax breaks, bequests, foundations, government contracts, unpaid labor, etc. Parents and students should bargain harder, though.

107

Michael Bérubé 03.19.09 at 5:01 pm

89 comments and not one defending women’s studies . . .

Pwned again by bjk’s powerful logic machine. Unless, of course, one considers the possibility that Women’s Studies needs no defense from the critiques of Horowitz and Bauerlein.

You know what’s really funny about this? Bauerlein has written some very engaging, very cogent analyses of academic groupthink. But to sign on to Horowitz’s attack on Women’s Studies is to sign on to one of the most thoroughly unhinged aspects of the whole Horowitz Enterprise.

108

John Emerson 03.19.09 at 5:08 pm

I refuse to let Horowitz destroy the university. That’s my job. Out of my way, motherfucker!

109

MH 03.19.09 at 5:10 pm

103: That 9% is just the direct PA subsidy to Penn State. Overall public support is much higher and broader if you figure grants, support for loans, etc. And of course, Penn State (and Pitt, where I am) are “state-related” and not strictly public universities.

110

Colin Danby 03.19.09 at 5:25 pm

Again the point, Keith M, is that claims based on evidence would be more persuasive than assertion. Read and critique the literature. Rambling autobiography does not bolster assertion any better than do preemptive accusations against those who don’t share your views.

And your weird assertion that “these programs are not only the greater part of the feminist movement in the US, they are today almost its entirety” does not, ahem, reinforce your claim to vast personal knowledge of contemporary feminism.

111

sleepy 03.19.09 at 5:52 pm

“Examining your own previous values and knowledge, have you consciously or unconsciously participated in one or more of those oppressive ideologies and discourses [sexism, racism, classism, ageism, heterosexism and ablebodism]?” Another course description prompts students to “challenge the nature of power and privilege as it relates to gender, race, class and sexuality.”

So calling yourself a radical makes it so. A Ph.D in rationalist radicalism.
Women’s studies is an important field. But the pretense that it and cultural studies in general aren’t still the the educated bush-wah talking to itself about itself is absurd.

Not that I’m a huge fan of Nussbaum, but Judith Butler and her ilk have done more harm than good. French theory in the US is like the French Bistros in NY: a perfect simulacrum of an aspect of culture removed from its context. Separating French philosophy from French language and culture is like trying to separate Martin Luther King’s language from the black church, or John Rawls’ language from the Anglo American Academy.
Now think about each in terms of scale.

I used to be annoyed by Euro-phil until I began to read it and not just its American interpreters. Now I got no problem with Foucault. Even when I got a problem with him I got no problem with him. But the American professionalization of conversation of expertise takes all the fun out of it.
The American academy is as anti-political as the rest of American culture.
Think on that one for a minute before you defend the academy from Horowitz.

A pox on all your houses.

112

MH 03.19.09 at 5:54 pm

I had a pox on my house, or at least that’s what it looked like. Turns out you just need to paint them from time to time.

113

Tracy W 03.19.09 at 5:58 pm

John Emerson: They had forcibly excluded Keynes’s “animal spirits” as soon as the Depression crisis was over

This is flat out wrong. The failure of Keynesian economics as-then-interpreted happened in the 1970s with the rise of Stagflation, at least 30 years after the Great Depression of the 1930s. And after that in the 1980s the neo-Keynesians came into the macroeconomics theories debate.

“Research programs” is, according to Deborah Redfield’s “Economics and the Philosophy of Science”, is a Lakatos codeword which was especially beloved by economists, because it allowed them to make their discipline immune to outside criticism and empirical refutation.

Okay, where to start? Economics is commonly defined as the study of the allocation of scarce resources. The study of economics cannot be empirically refuted. Even if every single economic theory in existance was proved wrong tomorrow economists could still get up the day after and continue studying the allocation of scarce resources. Equally, if every theory of chemistry was refuted tomorrow, chemists could get up the day after and continue studying chemistry. Even if we reached some world without any real scarcity, you could still study the allocation of scarce resources as a purely theoretical exercise, like mathematicians envisaging what it would be like to live in a 1-d world.
Economic *theories* can be empirically refuted. The idea that there is a stable trade-off between inflation and unemployment was amply refuted by the 1970s. The idea that 100% planned economies would be inherently more efficient than market economies has been empirically refuted by the trials of Communism. The idea that people make risky decisions according to expectations theory has been refuted by empirical trials (including one done on my class by the lecturer who was teaching it – a record for providing empirical support for what was being said in the lecture that none of my engineering professors managed to beat). Macroeconomics does have serious problems refuting theories however in that it’s impossible to perform controlled experiments, so only narrow hypotheses get refuted. For example, it is still possible to argue that a 100% planned economy could do better than a market economy.
Part of the reason that economists often appear immune to outside criticism is that most forms of outside criticism are by people who don’t bother to find out what economists actually do before launching the criticism. (This is not unique to the economics field.)

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Harry 03.19.09 at 6:01 pm

just to agree with something emerson says at 104 — I read Radical Son (don’t ask why) and the lack of self-reflection is amazing (it is a very interesting, and revealing book, but please don’t pay for it). He displays exactly the same self-certainty, intellectual; dishonesty, and thuggish attitude that he attributes to his previous self. It’s as if he wrote the book, then didn’t bother to read it.

Also on 104: are you just saying that DeLong is a smart conservative, or that we are too?

115

Bruce Baugh 03.19.09 at 6:03 pm

Someone asked up above if there are departments dedicated to the study of equal power and distribution. Not exactly, but there really are departments or cross-department groups for peace studies, and the few I’ve encountered tend to be involved in actually for real applied peacemaking. Stories like “Tribes on the edge of the Sahara agree to shared water-use measurements, don’t go to war anymore over waster rights” and “Town suffering loss of logging jobs sees racial violence go down after consolidating and simplifying public relief process” get no hype, but at their bit to available knowledge about what satisfies the passions that drive conflict.

116

Keith M Ellis 03.19.09 at 6:08 pm

Colin, you are simply denying my assertions while criticizing my lack of evidence. Also, you are being uncivil. Were I to argue as you do, I’d have attacked your ability to reason, the rhetorical quality of your comments, and your honesty—while simply denying what you’ve asserted. I really don’t think you’re in a very good position to be critical of the quality of my arguments.

At any rate, my sense is that in another, more congenial context where you were assured of my commitment to feminism, you’d take my point-of-view seriously, even if you disagreed. But in this context, you took an automatic adversarial, even belligerent, stance and there is probably nothing I could say that you wouldn’t simultaneously dismiss as false while suspecting (and implying) that I’m either dishonest or badly-intentioned. There’s no point in continuing our discussion.

117

lemuel pitkin 03.19.09 at 6:16 pm

Economics is commonly defined as the study of the allocation of scarce resources.

Sure, by some people. Others — including all the founders of the discipline — think it’s about trying to understand the economy, in which case allocation is a secondary issue.

118

Michael Bérubé 03.19.09 at 6:34 pm

It’s news to me that Judith Butler is in Women’s Studies. And it’s news to me that Women’s Studies unanimously endorses the work of Judith Butler. Indeed, in my rush to mock the silly huffing and puffing about the unanimity of thought in Women’s Studies, I completely forgot to mention that my experience of the field in the 1990s (when my wife and a couple of close friends held joint appointments in the Illinois WS program) suggested that the debates in Women’s Studies were just as fierce as debates in any other academic program, and that there was no chance of reconciling the poststructuralists with the Mary Dalyites, or the Carole Vance crew with the Catharine McKinnon brigade.

Also, we need more men in this thread.

119

John Emerson 03.19.09 at 6:38 pm

Tracy W: I’m following the recent Akerlof on that. He claims that Keynes was redone very early to fit orthodoxy as best possible, and that bit by bit his ideas were squeezed out of economics. The neo-Keynsians are fixed Keynesians.

“Research programs” are much more specific than just “the study of the allocation of scarce resources. ” As projects or proposals they can’t be refuted but they shouldn’t be immune to outside criticism, and their claims that their counterfactual assumptions are harmless can be refuted. (Keen, Ch. 7, “Debunking Economics”).

Part of the reason that economists often appear immune to outside criticism is that most forms of outside criticism are by people who don’t bother to find out what economists actually do before launching the criticism.

Sure, but it’s a poor argument. Economists ignore criticisms from within the profession too. Keep in mind that we’re entering into an enormous disaster that economists failed to warn us about. You’re talking like an apologist.

Sleepy: I don’t think that American language and culture are the problem, but the American university system. When I rant people assume I must be a Marxist or a Continental, but they’re just “We Try Harder” Brand X Hamilton Burger Washington Generals paradigms as far as I’m concerned. (I cop to actually being a social critic left pragmatist with process philosophy overtones.)

Harry, 114: You too are rational conservatives, in my world. After all, liberalism has been the status quo for how long? 70 years? Most livign Americans grew up with it. Centrist liberals are definitely don’t-rock-the-boat types, and mad-dog anti-populists.

120

Colin Danby 03.19.09 at 6:41 pm

1. Re Keith M. (a) large assertions about the world *need* evidence, (b) for someone who is allegedly decrying Women’s Studies’ politicization, you seem awfully eager to convert this into a discussion about your political commitments. This is not about you. (c.) re civility, your #78 stated “it’s either ignorant or disingenuous for anyone to claim that most Women’s Studies departments are not extremely ideological and rigid”

2. Sleepy’s rant, by contrast, is at least entertaining and informed.

3. While I am usually on the other side of the econ question from John, I have to say that Tracy’s answer is inadequate with respect to Keynes — this is the standard textbook version of JMK, not the _General Theory_. And the “allocation of scarce resources” bit is also a narrow, undergrad-textbook version of what the larger tradition does. I think I can defend, against John’s ongoing jabs of the pitchfork, a larger version of econ / political economy which studies material life — production, allocation, consumption — and make a case for neoclassical econ as part of that larger tradition. But if you pull Tracy’s move and insist on a very narrow construal of the field, John’s criticism gathers a certain force.

121

Colin Danby 03.19.09 at 6:46 pm

“we need more men in this thread”

A good point. OK, sorry for opening up on econ, and I’ll just wander off to my conference now.

122

sleepy 03.19.09 at 6:52 pm

Prof. B,
Again, from the Women’s Studies department at Penn State, quoted by Bauerlein.
“Examining your own previous values and knowledge, have you consciously or unconsciously participated in one or more of those oppressive ideologies and discourses [sexism, racism, classism, ageism, heterosexism and ablebodism]?” Another course description prompts students to “challenge the nature of power and privilege as it relates to gender, race, class and sexuality.”

It’s stupid. And not stupid because it has to do with Women’s Studies but because it’s founded on a specifically academic and false radicalism: intellectually and morally lazy liberalism behind a fog of self-justifying verbiage.
Bauerlein, Horowitz, and you, none of you see the falseness.

“Also, we need more men in this thread.”
And more academic experts.

123

Michael Bérubé 03.19.09 at 7:11 pm

It’s stupid. And not stupid because it has to do with Women’s Studies but because it’s founded on a specifically academic and false radicalism: intellectually and morally lazy liberalism behind a fog of self-justifying verbiage.

You know what’s really stupid? Drawing sweeping conclusions about liberalism and radicalism from course descriptions.

And more academic experts.

Comments from people who know something about actual Women’s Studies programs, and the debates within them, would be nice.

124

Harry 03.19.09 at 7:12 pm

But how many of us are liberals? (Politically, as opposed to philosophically). Not me.

125

praisegod barebones 03.19.09 at 7:13 pm

‘As a former political science grad student, I’ll second Maurice’s comment on “Popper-Kuhn-Lakatos-Feyerabend” except that we never did the last one.’

I think Maurice may have been pulling your leg here: ‘Feyerabend’ is Austrian for ‘beer thirty’ or ‘time to down tools’.

126

Keith M Ellis 03.19.09 at 7:16 pm

Also, we need more men in this thread.

You seem to be male, and you posted on the topic in the first place and have made numerous comments in your own thread.

Also, your comment itself is evidence disproving the claim that WS’s isn’t more about politics than it’s about scholarly research. In the context of feminism as political activism, male participation is problematic. In the context of an academic discipline and a subject of intellectual inquiry, it shouldn’t be, any more than that we require literature professors and students to be writers of literature.

Colin, while my “ignorant or disingenuous” comment was risible, it wasn’t uncivil because it wasn’t directed to anyone in particular. Yours were directed specifically at me. I do understand you may have been pissed-off by my risible assertion. Even so.

Also, there’s a difference between countering an unsupported assertion by asking for evidence, and countering an unsupported assertion by denying it without evidence and then asking for evidence for the initial claim. You can demand evidence from me, or you can make your own argument without evidence, but you can’t do both.

Finally, and similarly, if it’s “not about me”, then why do you keep correcting what you see as my personal flaws? It is from this that I suspected you were reacting to what you perceived as my motivations and so that’s why I clarified them.

By the way, I despise Horowitz and do not mean to agree with or defend him in any way. The man is deranged and his campaign is more about his own self-glorification in seeing himself a persecuted martyr than it is with any supposed failing in academia.

127

John Emerson 03.19.09 at 7:43 pm

Sorry that the ladies didn’t see fit to show up, but this isn’t really mostly about abortion.

128

sleepy 03.19.09 at 8:04 pm

You continue to try to evade it the point. It’s not about women’s studies, it’s about power relations.
If you want to learn about that, go have a coffee or a beer with the people who mop up after you and your students. A lot of them are women.
Talk to the people who lived in your college town before the school was built.
But history begins with you, and the world begins with your perceptions of it;
after that all is logic. And you’re a leftist, because you say so. Self-reporting is problematic unless you have a graduate degree.

I’m done.
I’m banned here anyway.
bored here anyway.

129

salient 03.19.09 at 8:07 pm

Did I explain about the nine percent part? I meant 9 percent.

Yeah, but… but… where does the other 91 percent come from?

HUMAN BEINGS. And, elitists that you are, you are funded specifically by the 25% most well-endowed people! I read about it on the Internet!

Pwnd!

130

Maurice Meilleur 03.19.09 at 9:00 pm

Actually, p.barebones, Paul Feyerabend was the author of Against Method (1975), among other things a direct response to Imre Lakatos’s arguments about the sociology of science.

There was a lot in Feyerabend I disagreed with, but Feyerabend stands out in my mind as one of the most generous critics of someone else’s work I ever read. He and Lakatos went at it hammer and tongs, but Feyerabend praised Lakatos’s work genuinely, and as I recall included some very thoughtful and friendly remarks in the intro to Against Method about his intellectual adversary, who died before the book was published and before they could write a joint volume on their debate. (Feyerabend himself passed away in 1994.)

131

Michael Bérubé 03.19.09 at 9:41 pm

Talk to the people who lived in your college town before the school was built.

You know, even the lefter-than-thou trolls are funny sometimes.

You seem to be male, and you posted on the topic in the first place and have made numerous comments in your own thread.

D’oh!

Also, your comment itself is evidence disproving the claim that WS’s isn’t more about politics than it’s about scholarly research.

Noticing an all-male discussion of WS delegimates WS. D’oh again! And d’oh!

132

sleepy 03.19.09 at 11:59 pm

“You know, even the lefter-than-thou trolls… “
Who says I’m a lefty. Maybe I’m just a janitor.
Or maybe my mother was.

133

MH 03.20.09 at 12:34 am

Penn State is in Happy Valley, so I can’t imaging anyone being too upset.

134

ajay 03.20.09 at 10:08 am

Talk to the people who lived in your college town before the school was built.

Tricky for some of us, as I think they were mostly dead by 1350.

/snob

135

Michael Bérubé 03.20.09 at 11:27 am

Just as tricky for those of us whose college was founded in 1855 — or 1867, in the case of my first gig, Illinois, or 1819 (Virginia, where I did my graduate work), or 1754 (Columbia, undergraduate). But it’s also tricky at places like Colorado State University (1870, six years before Colorado became a state), the University of Oklahoma (1890, seventeen years before Oklahoma’s entry into the union), the University of Montana (1893, four years after Montana’s entry), etc.

The point being, of course, that few people realize how old these little college towns really are. There was once a time in the US when people set up land-grant colleges well before there were any towns — or any states — around them. Those were the good old days, before deconstruction and rococo Marxism ruined everything.

136

John Protevi 03.20.09 at 1:35 pm

Yeah, but Mr Fancy Time Guy, what if you *did* travel back in time, would you then talk to the janitors of the buildings that hadn’t yet been built? Huh, would you? I bet not, you elitist progressive, you.

Also, liberals are the real racists.

137

Keith M Ellis 03.20.09 at 1:59 pm

Noticing an all-male discussion of WS delegitimatesWS. D’oh again! And d’oh!

Well, since the frenzy of your sarcasm seems to have interfered with your ability to reason or argue in good faith, I’ll spell it out for you.

First, though, I have to deal with your misrepresentation of my point. I said that your comment is evidence against the claim that WS is more about scholarship than about politics. I didn’t say that it “delegitimates” it, nor that your comment is, by itself, conclusive.

Your bad-faith aside, your comment is implicitly arguing that the male viewpoint about the academic discipline of Women’s Studies is less valuable/relevant/appropriate than the female. If we were talking about feminism, or women’s experiences, or political women’s issues, or women’s education, your point would be entirely correct and appropriate. But we’re not discussing any of those things. We’re discussing an academic discipline which is concerned with women in the cultural, historical, and political context.

Now, it is arguable that there’s not gender equivalence for those teaching and studying in this discipline. Not self-evident, certainly, but arguable. Yet that isn’t the context here. We’re having a discussion about the discipline, just like we might be having a discussion about any other discipline. It’s far, far less arguable, much less self-evident, that there’s not gender equivalence in this context. When we argue about the best emphasis for, say, a European History program, we don’t require those arguing about it to be predominantly historical Europeans.

Nevertheless, you made your comment as if it were self-evidently salient to the discussion.

Only if Women’s Studies is primarily political in nature—specifically, part of process to reorganize society in a more just manner—would it be appropriate to de-emphasize the voices of those who are not among the group concerned.

Therefore, your comment is evidence that WS is more political than it is scholarly.

It doesn’t delegitimize Women’s Studies. I suppose that if you have some investment in affirming it as primarily a scholarly activity, and that you believe that any discipline in the academy should be primarily scholarly (and not political), then it delegitimizes it. It’s revealing, I think, that your comment implicitly affirms WS as political and yet you read my comment as a claim that yours delegitimizes it. I can only guess that you’re internally at odds with yourself on this matter. In practice, you are well aware that it’s political and are well acquainted with what’s expected of those participating in this political endeavor (i.e., male voices should not predominate); yet, at the same time, you ostensibly maintain that WS is primarily scholarly and like any other department in the university.

In short, I think you exemplify here exactly the problem with Women’s Studies, both with regard to the academy and with regard to feminism as a political movement. It is playing a dual-role, to the detriment of both. Each role is, to some inevitable degree, at cross-purposes…that is, if one makes certain assumptions about the academy and scholarship.

I’m strongly inclined to accept those assumptions. However, I’m not convinced of them, nor do I think there cannot be exceptions. Ideally, I would like to see WS to be mostly apolitical and the bulk of the impetus of feminism to be nurtured and active in greater society, and not in the academy. Barring that ideal, however, I don’t think that it’s some great failure of the academy to be political in this limited way; and I certainly am grateful for the political role that Women’s Studies has played in political feminism in the US. Furthermore, while I think that the ideal of scholarship is that it is apolitical and, forgive me, empirical, I’m quite amenable to the argument that, in practice, it’s always somewhat political.

That said, what I’m not happy with is how people like you, apparently, try to have it both ways. I don’t like the pretense that it’s a scholarly discipline like any other when it’s clearly not—not when it’s taken as self-evident that there’s something improper about predominantly men discussing it. Or when complaints about it are taken to be equivalent to anti-feminism.

138

sleepy 03.20.09 at 2:39 pm

My bad. I was remembering the anger in Bloomington. I was working blue collar jobs and wasn’t a student there (ever). Old locals talked about it had been like before the university took over the town. But IU has been around for a while. When did the takeover begin? WWII? Sputnik? The 70’s? I was there in the mid 80’s. Remember the feud between Gubar and Lentricchia? My girlfriend told me all about it.

So when did universities start becoming expansionist corporations? And how does that tie into the professionalization and bureaucratization of academic discourse? Does radical theory somehow overcome neoliberal practice. Or does practice, human behavior day t0 day, even matter? Or is the debate within one class? I remember a strike in one of the last factories near town. Non union sub for RCA. My boss’s wife worked 30 years there on a machine wrapping wire for small electric motors.

“Examining your own previous values and knowledge, have you consciously or unconsciously participated in one or more of those oppressive ideologies and discourses [sexism, racism, classism, ageism, heterosexism and ablebodism]?”

139

bianca steele 03.20.09 at 2:45 pm

Off-topic, but in 1984, in-state annual tuition at Penn State was $2000/yr. Now, apparently, it’s just over $13,000/yr (or about what tuition at Columbia was in 1984, for tuition and room and board), and $2000 is just about what you could save in each of the first two years by attending the Abington campus instead.

140

John Protevi 03.20.09 at 3:07 pm

Look, sleepy, you may not believe it, but University profs come from a range of social backgrounds (including my own upper lower-middle class / lower middle-middle class) and have a range of political beliefs. I just don’t see how it’s our fault we weren’t able to stop de-industrialization. If you want to read something by an English professor about work conditions in US universities, including the work of the janitors, you could do a lot worse than How the University Works, in a series edited by the author of this post. There’s also a blog: http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/. I wouldn’t advise you do the more blue-collar than thou bit there, though.

141

John Protevi 03.20.09 at 3:14 pm

Scrub the last sentence of my #140. It was uncalled for. Sleepy, you raise good questions. I just want to point out that you’re not the only one who asks them. I would just ask you not to direct your anger about de-industrialization at university professors. Or your anger about the corporate university at Women’s Studies programs.

142

sleepy 03.20.09 at 3:25 pm

John I grew up in and around academia. I know what it was, and what it is.
Hypocrisy and honest contradiction are not the same thing.
Posing is easy. Honesty is hard.
I’m pure as driven sludge. I deal with it.

143

John Protevi 03.20.09 at 3:55 pm

Oh, well in that case, you can KMRIA.

144

Michael Bérubé 03.20.09 at 4:38 pm

Your bad-faith aside, your comment is implicitly arguing that the male viewpoint about the academic discipline of Women’s Studies is less valuable/relevant/appropriate than the female.

You’re not so good at this “reading” thing, Keith. You should give up now.

145

Keith M Ellis 03.20.09 at 5:02 pm

You’re not so good at this “reading” thing, Keith. You should give up now.

Wow, that’s impressive. Really put me in my place. Saying that I can’t read. Huh…really demonstrates the acumen that earned you all those initials after your name.

Also, that snarky of a comment would be considered trollish and reprimanded were it written by anyone not a contributer to CT. But you guys get to be as assholish as you wish, I suppose.

Anyway, as it happens, my reading comprehension is fine. You wrote:

Also, we need more men in this thread.

Unless you’re arguing this was in earnest, and not sarcastic, then obviously you’re saying that there’s too many men in this thread. In what way is that not equivalent to “ arguing that the male viewpoint about [this topic] is less valuable/relevant/appropriate than the [alternative]”?

That you just think, appropo of nothing in particular, that there’s too many men in this thread? Because you personally would like to see more women commenting (regardless of the subject matter)? You’d like to see less men in the world, in general? C’mon, what is it? If you weren’t commenting on the appropriateness of a predominately male discussion of Women’s Studies, then what did you mean?

Or maybe I can’t read and you actually wrote that you really, really like baseball.

Gosh, I’m sorry. I agree: I like baseball, too. I need to work on those reading skills. My bad.

By the way, when are you going to get more women writing on this damn blog? Right now, only one-quarter are women and none of those four believe that precious prose, superciliousness, and snark represent good blog material. No, wait, what this blog needs is more men like Bérubé and Davies! Your style of prose, at least, attracts a large female readership. Or not.

146

Michael Bérubé 03.20.09 at 6:06 pm

My apologies for responding to such prolixity with such brevity. But the simple fact remains that my little remark about this thread just doesn’t imply all the many many things you attributed to it, Mr. Ellis. You know what you’re doing, right? Making up a lot of stuff to get angry about, then posting a bunch of blog comments about why you’re so angry. That’s a strange kind of behavior, and I can’t say I understand it. Surely you have better things to do with your time.

147

jackd 03.20.09 at 6:43 pm

Dunno about you, Keith, but I don’t think wanting to see more women in the thread is the same as “arguing that the male viewpoint about [this topic] is less valuable/relevant/appropriate.”

148

Fitz 03.20.09 at 7:01 pm

Throughout this entire conversation nothing no one (except myslef) have come close to even discussing the thesis that Mark Bauerlein & David Horowitz’s presented.

Women’s Studies departments are the most narrowly ideological of all academic “disciples”. Given the breadth of their mandate (anything having to do with “gender” essentially, which means everything practically) they have been able to compel orthodoxy and effectively stifle (and corrupt) scholarship throughout the University.

149

Keith M Ellis 03.20.09 at 7:20 pm

You know what you’re doing, right? Making up a lot of stuff to get angry about, then posting a bunch of blog comments about why you’re so angry. That’s a strange kind of behavior, and I can’t say I understand it. Surely you have better things to do with your time.

I wasn’t angry until you were sarcastic and then personally insulting. I’d rather you apologize for that rather than for “responding to such prolixity with such brevity”, which is really just another insult, though slightly veiled, and not really an apology for anything, either. It’s not as if I or anyone else misunderstood you in your brevity.

Dunno about you, Keith, but I don’t think wanting to see more women in the thread…

and

But the simple fact remains that my little remark about this thread just doesn’t imply all the many many things you attributed to it, Mr. Ellis

Okay, before I respond to those two quotes, I’d like to try to change the tone.

The reason I don’t like yours and dsquared’s rhetorical style is because it’s so often sarcastic and risible. It’s fun to read (for some, though less often for women, I think…an not-unimportant point in this context) when one agrees with it, much less fun when one disagrees or is the target. And there are always people that disagree and will respond and it’s not as if every one of them are bozos who write at The Corner or are their fans. On many topics that you guys write about, some readers of CT who otherwise mostly agree with you will disagree—and your rhetorical style sets them up as idiots to be mocked.

It doesn’t contribute to productive discussion, which is what I think that blog comments, especially at higher-toned blogs like CT, should be aiming for. Rather, it brings the discussion down to the level of most blogs and their comments.

And I really, really like productive, civil discussion and I really, really hate unproductive and uncivil discussion. Many people who comment like duking it out—that’s the point, as far as they are concerned. I detest it. I dearly wish that I had the temperment such that other people’s uncivil and provocative behavior didn’t bother me and provoke an antagonistic response, but it does. I dearly wish that I had such an equanimous personality that I could respond to antagonism, sarcasm, and insults with good cheer and civil and productive responses that sets a better example and encourages better behavior in others. Unfortunately, I’ve found this difficult.

However, I’m fairly certain that you’re a well-intentioned person and I agree with most of your views, including your mockery of David Horowitz. Additionally, we’re allies in feminism, not enemies.

Is it not possible that we can disagree in good faith about the role that WS is playing in contemporary US universities, and whether this is a good thing?

And, also, to those two quotes, one from you and one from jackd, is it not also possible that I could have, reasonably and in good faith, interpreted your comment as a complaint about the predominantly male point-of-view represented in this thread about the nature and appropriateness of WS programs?

Specifically to jackd, it seems to me that the comment wasn’t so much as asking for more female participation, as you claim, as it was critical of what it saw as excessive male participation. It’s hard to see how the self-evidently sarcastic “also, we need more men in this thread” isn’t more a criticism of the male participation than it is asking for more female participation.

It’s subtle, but I see your point that asking for more female participation does not necessarily make the implicit political argument that I claimed—I suspect that had he written “I’d like to hear what more women think about this” I wouldn’t have made the argument that I made. The difference between a criticism of too many men and an appeal for more women is implicitly normative. Asking for more female participation is not implicitly making a normative argument for the behavior of anyone present. (It may be normative for those it’s asking to participate, though!) But criticizing the participation as being too male-centric is normative. And, being normative, I think it’s self-evidently political in this context (as the context is, after all, Women’s Studies and—explicitly in the original argument—male oppression of women).

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John Protevi 03.20.09 at 7:40 pm

Shorter Keith M Ellis:

OK, I give up, I got nothing. Apparently there *is* no shorter Keith M Ellis.

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Michael Bérubé 03.20.09 at 8:08 pm

Well, Keith, I think you’ll find that I adopt a variety of tones, on this and on my own blog. When I come across an argument like the one that inspired this snarky little post, I treat it with the disdain it deserves. As for the manner of your own entry into this thread: “I think that it’s either ignorant or disingenuous for anyone to claim that most Women’s Studies departments are not extremely ideological and rigid,” you wrote @ 78. Despite your disclaimers — and I do understand that you’re sympathetic to feminism and every bit as disdainful of Horowitz as I am — this sets the terms of engagement quite aggressively. Hereafter, anyone who disagrees with you about the composition of Women’s Studies is ignorant or disingenuous.

I’m sorry, but this really won’t do. The reason I brought up, @ 118, the conflicts between poststructuralism and cultural feminism (Meaghan Morris v. Mary Daly, say) and the dispute over pornography and sexually explicit representation (Carole Vance v. Catharine MacKinnon) is that I know quite well that there is no unanimity in WS on such matters. It’s not ignorant or disingenuous of me to say so. And in the course of making that point, it occurred to me that we were 100+ comments into the thread and no one with any academic expertise in WS had weighed in. “We need more men in this thread” was just a light way of saying so. (Pardon my rudeness, but you really do need to work on taking light remarks lightly; you attributed so much to that remark that I was rather stunned by your response.) For the record, I’d be perfectly fine with someone like Hugo Schwyzer (a male person, that is) chiming in, since he knows a great deal about the field. And now here we are @ 150+, and no one has bothered to engage with my point @ 118, which leads me to believe that either (a) no one here is actually interested in the debates within WS or (b) no one here is familiar with these debates and the figures associated with them.

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Keith M Ellis 03.20.09 at 8:20 pm

OK, I give up, I got nothing. Apparently there is no shorter Keith M Ellis.

No, that’s a wishful misreading of what I wrote. But thanks for attempting to summarize me to “help” those who need clarity.

I’ve got plenty.

Criticizing the extent of male participation in this discussion is a normative declaration. The normative declaration is political, it’s clearly predicated upon a feminist view of correct civil behavior. Yet this declaration is applied to behavior in the context of a discussion that is not about feminism, but about Women’s Studies and in which the claim of those defending WS is that it’s not primarily political, including the person making that normative declaration. Therefore it’s evidence that WS is more political than it is scholarly. It doesn’t prove it; I didn’t say that it proves it.

What should be taught in a Women’s Studies department is not something that inherently requires predominantly or exclusively female input any more than what’s taught in a History department is. If what is taught is oppressive to women, then certainly women should have a voice in addressing this injustice—but even though the topic is women, that doesn’t mean the topic belongs to women. If the discussion was an anthropology program’s specialization in aboriginal peoples, we wouldn’t criticize a discussion that contained few, or no, aboriginals. Insofar as the program be legitimate in the scholarly sense, it should probably exist in a context in which aboriginals interact with it in some fashion. That is to say, it should be truly informed about aboriginals, obviously; and the people themselves are often (though not always) the most trustworthy sources about themselves. Even so, this is a functional argument, not a normative argument. It is not, in itself, unfair for aboriginals to be unrepresented in teaching about aboriginal cultures; it’s only unfair if it results in unfairness.

In contrast, a lack of participation by women in civil discourse about women’s place in civil society is inherently unfair, whether or not the outcome produces unfairness. It doesn’t matter if a group of men argue about and devise a civic structure that is completely equitable and just for women; the exclusion of women from the discussion is itself unfair.

In other words, the scholarly context is quite distinct from the civic context.

When people argue about feminism itself, or anything that explicitly relies upon women’s experiences (such as, say, what is the best kind of female birth control or how best should a mixed gender group of people conduct a conversation), then exclusion of women or domination by men is inherently unfair, regardless of the outcome. There’s lots of topics in which male domination of the discussion is inappropriate or even flat wrong.

But this isn’t one of them. Unless. Unless you take it as a given that Women’s Studies is not like other academic disciplines and it is more like, say, normative discussions about society or individual behavior. If WS exists primarily to correct an unjust, sexist society, then a discussion of the appropriate role of WS requires at least equal participation by women, or it’s itself unjust, just as a predominantly male discussion about abortion is unjust. But if WS exists primarily to correct an social injustice, then it’s political more than it’s scholarly.

On the other hand, if it’s primarily a scholarly investigation of women in a socio-historical context, then it really doesn’t matter whether the people who are arguing about it are male or female, any more than it matters if the people arguing about the scholarly discipline of studying aboriginal cultures are themselves aboriginal.

I’m repeating myself, but I’m not sure how that is unavoidable when someone’s response is to summarize me with “OK, I give up, I got nothing”.

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John Protevi 03.20.09 at 8:41 pm

Dude, I wasn’t summarizing *you* with “I got nothing,” I was using a well-known comedy writers’ complaint about being blocked to say that *I* couldn’t “shorter” you. That’s why I left the line after the colon blank and put the joke on the next line. The joke, you see, is that you write so much, and with such gruesome seriousness, that not even somebody else can provide a shorter version.

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Keith M Ellis 03.20.09 at 8:44 pm

Michael, it’s not clear to me that heated debates within WS excludes a general characterization of WS as being ideological and rigid. I can think of lots of subcultures/organizations that, within their own context, there’s diversity yet in the larger context in which they exist, they are ideological and rigid. That’s pretty common, actually.

In particular, these examples and WS take outside criticism very badly and respond to it in an ideological fashion and are not flexible with how they engage in discourse with the larger context.

For example, I think that contemporary conservative punditry is extremely ideological and rigid. Yet, they argue, vehemently, among themselves all the time. And they would deny that they are “rigid”. Of course they would. Their strong arguments between themselves is not in the least proof that they are not ideological and rigid. Neither is it proof that WS departments aren’t.

I stand by my statement that those who deny this are “ignorant or disingenuous” because I think it’s true. But I apologize for making that point in such a risible manner. You’re right: it was unproductive in exactly the way that I object to. I don’t claim perfection in this context, I just dislike those who don’t even bother acknowledge that this rhetorical style is counter-productive or apologize for it when they employ it; and especially when it is the predominant rhetorical style in their toolbox.

I’m n0t just sympathetic to feminism, I’m a feminist. (I am painfully aware of the ways in which it’s problematic for a man to be a feminist and I would choose to apply a different label to myself if doing so wouldn’t be misleading. In every practical sense—beliefs, education, activism—I’m a feminist.) I’ve taken women’s studies classes and I’ve known many people who have taken women’s studies classes, and I known a few women’s studies professors. Nevertheless, I stand outside of WS because I’m perceived as an an outsider to WS, and I have an outsider’s perspective on WS (in the sense that, unlike you, I don’t see the disagreement within WS as evidence that it’s not ideological or rigid) specifically because I have disagreed with ideologically necessary ideas within WS and so my personal experience of WS—not assumed for the purposes of setting up a strawman, as the conservatives do—is that it’s ideological and rigid.

Ironically, I think that it’s itself evidence that WS is ideological and rigid that my claim that it is is taken to be prima facie evidence that I must not actually know anything about WS (or even feminism). Criticism is inherently suspect and it’s assumed that those who are critical are acting in bad-faith in some way. That’s not the hallmarks of a non-ideological and intellectually flexible institution.

All that said, my complaints against WS are minor in the context of the big picture. I do think that WS is more political than scholarly but I’m perfectly fine with that. More than fine, I’m glad that it is. I’m glad that in some large segment of institutional America we can still find a vibrant feminism. If we can re-light the fires elsewhere, we’ll be glad that WS kept it burning.

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Keith M Ellis 03.20.09 at 8:49 pm

John. Ah, I would have written that with an ellipses rather than a colon. The colon implies that what follows is the summary, not your response to your failure to summarize. I think it’s pretty defensible that I read that line as being the summary. Well, the first sentence. I assumed that the second sentence should have been, but wasn’t, a new paragraph.

So, um, yeah, now that you’ve explained yourself, I take back any hostility I wrote in responding to you. I misunderstood. And you’re right: it’s hard to summarize what I write into something shorter because I go to such pains to qualify what I write—eliding those qualifications results in something that is different from what I wrote in exactly the way I was trying to avoid; i.e., ambiguity.

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G 03.20.09 at 9:24 pm

May I make a suggestion?

Everyone who’s left a comment critical of women’s studies without actually mentioning anyone who actually, you know, publishes stuff in the field of women’s studies should refrain from making any more comments that don’t mention specifics.

‘Cause otherwise it just looks like you’re making stuff up.

Or that your view of women’s studies has been formed not by familiarity with the field but by listening to Rush Limbaugh.

Just a thought.

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Keith M Ellis 03.20.09 at 10:00 pm

Everyone who’s left a comment critical of women’s studies without actually mentioning anyone who actually, you know, publishes stuff in the field of women’s studies should refrain from making any more comments that don’t mention specifics.

I agree with your point, but not the specifics. I don’t follow contemporary Women’s Studies scholarship. It would be dishonest for me to find a specific example merely in order to bolster my credibility. But I have taken WS classes, I have known very many people who have taken WS classes, I have (mostly in the past) read many things written by WS academics, and I’ve known at least a few WS professors (not exclusively those I’ve taken classes from). But I don’t recall any of the authors I’ve read in years past; and that wouldn’t be definitive anyway. Mentioning a single past or present writer is not something a Rush listener couldn’t manage with a bit of Googling. And it would be both pointless and an invasion of privacy to mention by name any of the individuals I’ve known.

I’m not assuming your comment was directed specifically at me. Maybe it wasn’t. It sort of seems to be, given it’s context in the thread. But, if so, then perhaps you could have taken my word when, in my first comment, I mention my own experience in a WS class, and that I’m a feminist—both traits that are strongly counter-indicative of a Rush fan whose arguing about something he knows nothing about.

The tendency to assume that criticism comes from the uninformed and prejudiced, until proven otherwise, is an example of the problem…as I previously argued. I suppose that if there were a blog other than CT, it might be reasonable. There are a very few conservatives who post comments here, but they’re pretty much well-known, aren’t they? This is a relatively niche blog and usually the majority of the dissenters on a topic are not knee-jerk Rush fans but simply fellow liberals/leftists/progressives who disagree with something that the majority here argues. It seems to me to be intemperate, at least, to assume that everyone with a contrary opinion on this subject is a Rushbot until proven otherwise, with the onus of proof on themselves.

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John Emerson 03.20.09 at 10:07 pm

Throughout this entire conversation nothing no one (except myslef) have come close to even discussing the thesis that Mark Bauerlein & David Horowitz’s presented.

We’ve discussed them before many times, and we think that they’re destructive idiots — Bauerlein mostly because he’s associated with Horowitz. Horowitz has a long, nasty agenda and we boycott him completely, except to ridicule him. Some of us, including myself, might be willing to discuss Women’s Studies in a different context.

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lemuel pitkin 03.20.09 at 10:31 pm

Shorter Keith M. Ellis: I don’t follow contemporary Women’s Studies scholarship.

See John, it’s not so hard.

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Keith M Ellis 03.20.09 at 10:31 pm

John, your point is well-taken (by me, anyway) that it’s arguably counter-productive to discuss WS in the context of a Horowitz critique of it. If there’s anyone I think deserves to be taken as unseriously and out-and-out ridiculed and ignored as Coulter and Limbaugh, it’d be Horowitz. Thankfully, he has a much lesser impact on civil discourse than they do.

I also have the misfortune of having read a number of his columns, back when he wrote at Salon. (Hopefully he no longer does; I stopped reading that mag long ago.) I’m not sure why I read him: I guess it was the risible headlines that drew me in from my irritation and incredulity. And then, once reading him, I was inevitably repulsed by his sophistry and his exquisite sense of persecution. He’s instantly recognizable to me as a certain personality type that has little to do with a particular political ideology. It’s no surprise at all that he was a radical leftist in the sixties. I don’t doubt that he was as noxious then, and in mostly the same ways (if not ideology), as he is now.

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Keith M Ellis 03.20.09 at 10:36 pm

Shorter Keith M. Ellis: I don’t follow contemporary Women’s Studies scholarship.

This is an example of why it’s so hard to argue in good-faith on the Internet. One is inevitably forced to argue in the most extreme, un-nuanced and most dishonest manner. If you admit anything that can be used to unfairly invalidate your entire argument, it will be. Because, you know, this is a contest. It is, ironically and sadly in this context, and bunch of dick-swinging.

So, whooweee, what a big dick you got there, lemuel. I feel inferior, just as you intended.

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Jonathan 03.21.09 at 2:12 am

Seriously, you leave a dozen lengthy comments about an academic field in which you can’t name a single scholar you’ve ever read, while blaming other people for forcing you to be extreme and dishonest? Anyone who disagrees is “ignorant,” but you eventually get around to confessing that you know virtually nothing of the field yourself?

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William Berry 03.21.09 at 2:14 am

“The reason I don’t like yours and dsquared’s rhetorical style is because it’s so often sarcastic and risible.”

“I stand by my statement that those who deny this are “ignorant or disingenuous” because I think it’s true. But I apologize for making that point in such a risible manner.”

Keith, you might need to check the definition of “risible”. It doesn’t mean what you appear to think it does. In the contexts, I think you mean something more like “derisive”.

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Fitz 03.21.09 at 4:42 am

We’ve discussed them before many times, and we think that they’re destructive idiots—Bauerlein mostly because he’s associated with Horowitz. Horowitz has a long, nasty agenda and we boycott him completely, except to ridicule him. Some of us, including myself, might be willing to discuss Women’s Studies in a different context.

Well I can only take you at your word. It would seem to me however, that having read the article an the entire thread, that the dismissal of Horowitz is strategic. The thesis as presented -WS is narrow & ideolgical and does a diservice to liberalism, women and students -(indeed the feild) is true.

In the main, this blog seeks to deride Horowitz preciseley in order to protect that sacred cow. Now there may be multiple other sacred cows that deriding Horowitz helps protect (including the leftist nature of the university in general) – and that is why he is considered a “destructive idiot”.

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John Emerson 03.21.09 at 4:55 am

In the main, this blog seeks to deride Horowitz precisely in order to protect that sacred cow.

No, it’s because everything that man has ever done in his life has been shit. As I explained above, he sends agents into teachers’ classes to harass the teachers and gather information on them, and then he smears the teachers spied on at the highest level of the the national media that he can access. This is exactly what he did during his leftist days, which he has supposedly renounced. He’s a Brownshirt whichever side of the line he’s on.

My anti-university bona fides are sterling (ask CT), and I’m in very bad odor with my feminist friends, but Horowitz is a goon I’m going to take care to stay away from. I have no idea what Bauerlein is; his book is too boring to be read by flesh and blood readers.

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PGD 03.21.09 at 6:03 am

As I’ve said to Brad DeLong many times: “Be the change you want to see in the world”. Like a lot of people, including the CT crew, he’s always looking for sane, intelligent conservatives to dialogue with. He doesn’t realize, nor do the Crooked Timber people, that he is a sane intelligent conservative for people to dialogue with, and that what he should be looking for is sane, intelligent radicals to dialogue with.

Liberalism really has never escaped the anti-Communist scare of the Fifties, with its resulting purges, “end of ideology”, and forced centrism. The times have changed, but liberals haven’t.

This is one hundred and ten percent correct. John is a smart guy.

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PGD 03.21.09 at 6:04 am

whoops, screwed up the italics in 166. What’s with this moderation junk?

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John Holbo 03.21.09 at 6:08 am

John Emerson: “My anti-university bona fides are sterling (ask CT)”

Emerson is, indeed, nigh barking-mad on this point and cannot be brought to see the light of reason.

(I’m Crooked Timber and I approve this message)

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sleepy 03.21.09 at 6:18 am

The “light of reason” doesn’t exist. That’s why we have the “rule of law”
But who makes laws!??
Oh, it’s soooo messy.
(I’m Isaac Asimov and I do not approve this message.)
As you were, kids.
Dream on.

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Keith M Ellis 03.21.09 at 7:06 am

…but you eventually get around to confessing that you know virtually nothing of the field yourself?

I confessed no such thing, you’re deeply misrepresenting what I wrote. I have extensive experience with Women’s Studies, but that personal, direct experience is twenty years old. If it were even ten years ago, I could name a number of authors off the top of my head. But it’s not a field I am engaged with anymore and I haven’t for a long time. But, as a feminist, I do engage with many young feminists who are the product of contemporary Women’s Studies departments. In any event, I wouldn’t have expected the culture to significantly change in the last twenty years even if I didn’t have evidence—from younger people who were recently active in the discipline—that it hasn’t.

This sort of objection is a technical “gotchya” that is frequently used to trump an argument one dislikes. You set up a fairly arbitrary yet apparently reasonable standard that you know or suspect your opponent can’t meet; and when he doesn’t, you declare him ignorant and posturing and his arguments instantly dismissable. In a friendlier, more respectful and civil context, my admission of the limitations on my expertise on this topic would have been taken as proof that I’m arguing in good faith, acknowledging my limitations. Here, and everywhere else on the Internet, it’s like blood in shark-infested waters.

I think I am still reasonably well enough informed of this topic that my opinion is valid. I think it is unreasonable to characterize me as someone who knows nothing about it, or that I’ve admitted I know nothing about it. I am perfectly willing to acknowledge that the culture could have substantially changed and therefore I’m wrong; and that anyone with recent and active experience with WS is better informed than I am. But because so few people argue here or elsewhere on the Internet with the aim of actually learning something, as opposed to vanquishing enemies, then I can’t assume that someone with greater experience than I have who opposes my argument is doing so in a fair and productive manner. Usually, people take positions that are somewhat or greatly more extreme than they would take were they arguing with, say, a friend and colleague, and they dig themselves in. In another context—say, a friend and colleague—I’d happily concede (with intent to check for myself) an argument when someone who I believe is more knowledgeable than I says that I am wrong. I don’t have that luxury on the Internet, because anyone on the Internet could actually be a dog.

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Keith M Ellis 03.21.09 at 7:11 am

Keith, you might need to check the definition of ‘risible’. It doesn’t mean what you appear to think it does. In the contexts, I think you mean something more like ‘derisive’.

Wow, you’re right. That hasn’t happened to me in a very long time. I’m embarrassed, but grateful to be corrected.

Derisive would work, but it’s not the meaning I was aiming for. I’d thought risible meant unnecessarily provocative…which I’ll use from now on. Thanks again. It’s odd how often I’ve misused that word and no one’s corrected me before now.

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magistra 03.21.09 at 8:25 am

I’m a woman who works on gender history, but I haven’t weighed into this thread because I’m not an American, and the debate here about women’s studies is actually about a specifically US phenomenon (although I think the Americans here have implictly taken it as universal). You can’t get away from a US context in which discussions of the university are an important part of the culture wars (they’re not in the UK in the same way), and in which the conflicts between academic departments are particularly fierce. Any group of academics who feel their subject/department is under threat are likely to subconsciously or consciously huddle together and stick more closely to one ideology. You don’t say that there are weakness in the current ways of studying Assyriology, because that will give comfort to those who think that universities shouldn’t have Departments of Assyriology. You don’t want the Department of Evolutionary Psychology back with the main School of Psychology, because you know that the faculty there hate evolutionary psychology and will quietly kill off all your classes. Instead you end up stressing how evolutionary psychology is the one true way to do psychology, because you need to justify your own choice of research.

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G 03.21.09 at 1:29 pm

Fitz: “The thesis as presented -WS is narrow & ideological and does a disservice to liberalism, women and students -(indeed the field) is true.”

First, all I’m suggesting is that the thesis be supported not by repetition of assertion, not by memories of classes taken 20 years ago, but by reference to (and engagement with) contemporary published works in the field.

Second, is the goal of an academic field to avoid ideology? If so, why? And how does one define ideology? And why should we focus our attention on the field of women’s studies rather than, say, an academic field that appears to have brought the world economy to the brink of collapse by endorsing uncritically one (ideological?) view of economics? (And I think this was Michael’s original point, which has been lost.)

Actually, now that I think of it, that might be the very reason some want to unlock the armory of the old culture wars to see if there’s any chance of drawing attention away from exactly what’s being taught in B school. “Pay no attention to the man in the wingtips behind the curtain.” Hmm…

If you think critics in this thread are being mocked and dismissed out of a desire to protect left-wing ideology, you’re mistaken.

Critics are being mocked and dismissed because they appear to have no idea what they’re talking about.

Fitz quotes approvingly from Tom Wolfe: “Today the humanities faculties are hives of abstruse doctrines such as structuralism, poststructuralism, postmodernism, deconstruction, reader-response theory, commodification theory … The names vary, but the subtext is always the same..”

This is exactly wrong. The “subtext” is not always the same: structuralists (such as there are) do not use the same theoretical framework as poststructuralists; those who study reader response would be quite surprised to find themselves lumped in deconstruction; commodification theory (?) doesn’t sound at all like something as broad and abstract as postmodernism. It’s ham-handed attempts at critique like this that cause academics to dismiss such critics.

First-wave, second-wave, third-wave feminism…
Essentialists versus non-essentialists…

Women’s studies as one big groupthink party?

As if.

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John Emerson 03.21.09 at 1:31 pm

I’m barking mad, and I approve Magistra’s message. The American university’s departmental paradigm wars, of which the ideological wars are but a small part, have succeeding in forcing almost everyone to be wrong about most things just to keep their membership in the club. Methodological factions might as well wear colors, carry switchblades, and develop identifying facial tattoos.

Incidentally, I’ve beenreading about the Austro-Hungarian Dual Monarchy Holy Roman Empire recently, and I tried to imagine Wittgenstein and Trakl sitting in a cafe, eating enormous decadent chocolate pastries, idly half-watching Lehar’s “Merry Widow”, and flirting with rosy-cheeked Viennese society wives wearing frilly, deeply décolleté dresses. My question is, which of the two is the wingman?

If you only follow philosophy and not poetry, you can can substitute Carnap or Waismann for Trakl. Not Popper, because he was not a gentleman, per Wittgenstein. Not Gödel, because he was a middlebrow and might have enjoyed himself.

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harry b 03.21.09 at 2:01 pm

I’m surprised, and irritated, by the antagonism directed at Keith Ellis — he’s been commenting here off and on for years, is maintaining a very civil stance in this thread despite provocation, and has never (as far as I can tell) argued in bad faith. What he says here — that he is a left/progressive/feminist with past experience of WS — is completely consistent with other things he’s said in the past. Lay off him.

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Fitz 03.21.09 at 3:56 pm

G

I would love to support the assertion of Mark Bauerlein & David Horowitz’s with reference to and engagement with contemporary published works in the field. This is what I expected a conversation referencing the thesis to be; an engagement of the thesis. Instead I found a thread ladled with simply mockery and derision. When I brought up the thesis I was derided. Latley I am informed that they don’t engage Horowitz or anyone associated with Horowitz because he is a Brownshirt thug.
As to your second point I expect a blog post referencing work critical WS to confront that subject. Not to question the nature of ideology itself, or contemplate the ideology of business schools, or ponder if the subject itself is a means of diverting attention away from the business school cabal.

Fitz does quote approvingly from Tom Wolfe – Because one does find the subtext to be the same. Tom Wolfe and I seem to understand that even though each academic fashion may be distinct in method, they are all are similar in end. The subtext is always the oppressor/oppressed ideology of Marxism.

Likewise with WS – It is neither mine, nor Wolfe’s nor of Mark Bauerlein or David Horowitz’s or Laskin’s assertion that each and every feminist shares the same exact approach but rather….

“One Party Classroom poses a straightforward empirical question to the professorate. How extensive is leftwing bias in classrooms, and to what extent is it systemic? When professors accuse Horowitz of faulty documentation and insufficient evidence, the best reply is: “Perhaps, but hasn’t he produced enough indication of unprofessionalism for you to take up the task of inquiry?”

Or is there never enough documentation, personal antidotes, coarse descriptions, text books, reading lists, Curriculum Vitae, journal articles, or plain old common sense to satiate those who seek to protect their sacred cows by denying the obvious & popularly understood truth?

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Jonathan 03.21.09 at 4:14 pm

I’m sorry, I thought we were talking about women’s studies in the current environment, not the faded recollections of someone about those programs twenty years ago. That’s not a narrow “technicality.” Entire ideological debates have come and gone in twenty years time. Gender Trouble was published in 1990, 19 years ago!

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PGD 03.21.09 at 4:27 pm

The thing is, if someone (e.g. Mr. Ellis) doesn’t like a field they are unlikely to stay current in it. A criticism of a field based on “way back when I knew it, I hated it for reasons X and Y” is in part a request for a genuine update on how X and Y might have changed in the intervening time. Just mocking the person for not staying current in something they disapproved of in the first place is not really responsive.

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John Emerson 03.21.09 at 4:34 pm

Go piss up a rope, Fitz. As I said, we gave up on Bauerlein a couple of years ago. I even bought his book, but it was awful and I couldn’t finish it. As for Horowitz, he is, as I explained, an operative recruiting squads of ideologues to pester and spy on teachers he disagrees with. Berube has been actively engaging Horowitz, on the internet, in public appearances, and in the media, for years. But we’re not all devoted to that task.

You don’t have to eat the whole egg to know that it’s bad, as they say. You also don’t need to go back and retaste it over and over again. It’s just a bad egg.

If our purpose here were educational, by merely ridiculing Horowitz we would have failed. And likewise, our were to engage wingers and thugs in debate. But in this case, we were happy to just ridicule the motherfuckers.

Regulars here will appreciate the irony of my defending CT.

Meanwhile, I’ve asked myself, did the Vienna Kreis have a favorite torte, or some other kind of pastry? A favorite waltz or operetta? If not, why not? What about Freud — what was his stance on tortes, operettas, and waltzes? Schoenberg? If Schoenberg had a favorite operetta, which one was it? The unified theory of the Dual Monarchy has yet to be written.

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G 03.21.09 at 4:37 pm

Fitz: “I would love to support the assertion of Mark Bauerlein & David Horowitz’s with reference to and engagement with contemporary published works in the field.”

Then do it, please.

“The subtext is always the oppressor/oppressed ideology of Marxism.”

That is demonstrably false.

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Bruce Baugh 03.21.09 at 4:37 pm

I think that “This is what I found 20 years ago and why I stopped paying attention” is a perfectly valid statement of personal response. “I tuned out 20 years ago because of X and Y, so I know I’m out of touch. What’s the field like now?” would be a fine honest request.

But neither Horowitz nor Fitz is doing that: they’re making assertions about how it all works now, based on garbled and selective recollection of some incidents of years gone by, mixed with ignorance and (certainly in Horowitz’s cases) assertions repeatedly disproven often enough that they have to now be consciously chosen lies. That warrants no sympathy at all.

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John Emerson 03.21.09 at 4:55 pm

The beginnings of an answer. Operetta, in fact, was a guilty pleasure for Schoenberg.

Schoenberg’s mother-in-law Henriette Kolisch was famous for her 12-layered Dobosch Torte, which his daughter Nuria Nono still makes.

183

Fitz 03.21.09 at 5:09 pm

John Emerson (writes)
“You don’t have to eat the whole egg to know that it’s bad, as they say. You also don’t need to go back and retaste it over and over again. It’s just a bad egg.”

Please tell this to Bruce Baugh & G, and the rest of this crowd. It seems this is your response to Horowitz and Co., But it is not allowed to be my or others response to women studies.

“If our purpose here were educational, by merely ridiculing Horowitz we would have failed. And likewise, our were to engage wingers and thugs in debate. But in this case, we were happy to just ridicule the motherfuckers.”

Yes: when adversaries don’t agree with you they get ridicule. Not liberal or substantive debate – but ridicule.

And what’s with the pedantic fit?

Bruce Baugh & G (writes)

“But neither Horowitz nor Fitz is doing that: they’re making assertions about how it all works now, based on garbled and selective recollection of some incidents of years gone by, mixed with ignorance and (certainly in Horowitz’s cases) assertions repeatedly disproven often enough that they have to now be consciously chosen lies. That warrants no sympathy at all.”

I have not brought up anything from 20 years ago or yesterday for that matter. I could, but I have not. You seem to have dismissed Horowitz brand new book without reading it. He uses course syllabi & coarse descriptions. Is this not empirical enough?

I have not brought up anything from 20 years ago or yesterday for that matter. I could, but I have not. You seem to have dismissed Horowitz brand new book without reading it. He uses course syllabi & coarse descriptions. Is this not empirical enough?

184

AcademicLurker 03.21.09 at 5:11 pm

Assuming that Keith Ellis hasn’t given up on this thread entirely: it might be more productive to describe something specific you experienced 20 years ago that led you to conclude that WS is ideologically hidebound to a greater degree than other fields. Or describe specific things you’ve seen recent products of WS programs say or do that suggests that WS is still an unusually rigid/dogmatic discipline.

I think we can debate the specifics more civilly. If you just keep making the unqualified assertion “WS is ideologically rigid”, your interlocutors aren’t left with much to say in response except “Is not!”.

185

G 03.21.09 at 5:11 pm

Fitz: “I would love to support the assertion of Mark Bauerlein & David Horowitz’s with reference to and engagement with contemporary published works in the field.”

Again: Then do it, please.

186

Bruce Baugh 03.21.09 at 5:15 pm

John, you’ve got the makings of a Howard Waldrop story. (For anyone not familiar with Waldrop: In “The Ugly Chickens”, we find out why the dodo survived in the American South and why it’s still extinct; in “God’s Hooks!”, Izaak Walton, author of The Complete Angler, and John Bunyan fish in the Slough of Despond for Leviathan; “Mary Margaret Road-Grader” is about tractor pulls after the collapse of Western civilization.)

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Fitz 03.21.09 at 5:22 pm

G (asks)

“Again: Then do it, please.”

I’m looking for the level of evidence you would find satisfactiory. If Horowitz entire book on the subject is worthy of nothing but derision…what hope do I have?

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Bruce Baugh 03.21.09 at 5:24 pm

Not filling a book-length diatribe with lies already disproven to you would be a good start. See also not doing the sort of tactics John described up above. Horowitz is a bad person doing bad things, but if one were interested in being less of a slimeball, one might very well make interesting and useful criticisms, as several folks in this thread have done.

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G 03.21.09 at 5:26 pm

Let me lower the bar for you: Make reference to 3 specific, contemporary (last 5 years) and influential published works in the field of women’s studies.

Bonus points if those works help support the thesis you are espousing.

190

Fitz 03.21.09 at 5:32 pm

G
What about (say) a family law department faculty at a prominent university?

Would the fact that the entire department takes one side in a currently politically divisive issue (including multiple published works) be evidence of bias? (In your mind)

191

ffrancis 03.21.09 at 5:40 pm

Fitz #183 “He (Horowitz) uses course syllabi and coarse descriptions.”

Perhaps if his descriptions were more genteel…

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Fitz 03.21.09 at 5:43 pm

Bruce Baugh (writes)

“Not filling a book-length diatribe with lies already disproven to you would be a good start. ”

Could you refrence the books or articles supposedly debunking Horowitz.

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G 03.21.09 at 5:47 pm

“What about (say) a family law department faculty at a prominent university?”

That wouldn’t tell us much about the entire field of women’s studies. It would, however, tell us something about those particular faculty members.

“Would the fact that the entire department takes one side in a currently politically divisive issue (including multiple published works) be evidence of bias? (In your mind)”

It would be evidence that everyone in that particular department agrees on that particular issue, either for biased or unbiased reasons. It’s nowhere near evidence that the entire field of women’s studies suffers from uncritical, Marxist groupthink.

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Fitz 03.21.09 at 6:02 pm

“It’s nowhere near evidence that the entire field of women’s studies suffers from uncritical, Marxist groupthink.”

Well you have set the bar higher than I might. I would say their biased across the field. That that bias is most often rooted in the belief that gender relations are built on power & that men “have it” & “women don’t”. That is the Hegelian master/slave dialectic. It dominates the field. It is often the accepted definition of feminism.

But you seem to be saying I need to prove that each and every member of each and every faculty subscribes to X in order for bais to exist.

195

John Protevi 03.21.09 at 6:10 pm

Fitz: Could you refrence the books or articles supposedly debunking Horowitz.

Sure can!
1. Facts Count 50 page pdf from Free Exchange on Campus: link here.

2. A post from the other blog of this post’s author, one of the most dangerous professors in America.

3. The archives of posts devoted to Mr. Horowitz by said dangerous professor.

4. My own humble contributions can be accessedhere, here, and here. (The last displays racism of “bjk” quite nicely).

196

John Protevi 03.21.09 at 6:13 pm

Fitz: Could you refrence the books or articles supposedly debunking Horowitz.

Sure can!
How about Facts Count, a 50 page pdf from Free Exchange on Campus.

197

John Emerson 03.21.09 at 6:15 pm

Fitz, 183: We tasted the Horowitz egg 3 years or so ago. Berube keeps checking in, the poor man. People are saying that you’re talking about Women’s Studies of muchmore than 3 years ago. Furthermore, WS is hundreds or thousands of people, and Horowitz and Bauerlein are two guys.

And you have been lumped in with them, for good reason. Your opening move was a bad one.

By now the torte question should be more interesting for everyone here, not just for me. It seems to me that you could list all the major cultural figures of Austria Hungary for that era, enter data on their tastes in pastries, operettas, and waltzes, find the correlations, and that way reconstruct the Holy Roman Mind in its final stages. Any grant-writers here?

198

G 03.21.09 at 6:18 pm

G @ “Let me lower the bar for you: Make reference to 3 specific, contemporary (last 5 years) and influential published works in the field of women’s studies. Bonus points if those works help support the thesis you are espousing.”

Fitz @ 190: “Would the fact that the entire department takes one side in a currently politically divisive issue (including multiple published works) be evidence of bias? (In your mind)”

G @ 193: “It’s nowhere near evidence that the entire field of women’s studies suffers from uncritical, Marxist groupthink.”

Fitz @ 194: “Well you have set the bar higher than I might.”

Dude, I didn’t set that particular bar. You did.

(Fitz @ 176: “The subtext is always the oppressor/oppressed ideology of Marxism.”)

I’m just asking you to make reference to “3 specific, contemporary (last 5 years) and influential published works in the field of women’s studies.”

That’s it for me, folks. This is not a productive conversation.

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John Emerson 03.21.09 at 6:53 pm

That’s it for me, folks. This is not a productive conversation.

Ya think?

200

magistra 03.21.09 at 8:04 pm

[WS’s] bias is most often rooted in the belief that gender relations are built on power & that men “have it” & “women don’t”. That is the Hegelian master/slave dialectic. It dominates the field. It is often the accepted definition of feminism.

Judith Bennett’s ‘History matters: patriarchy and the challenge of feminism’ (University of Pennsylvania Press), written by a prominent feminist historian (and which a number of feminist historians are blogging about at the moment, including myself) defines feminism (p 8) as ‘simply the conviction that women, like men, should be afforded the opportunity to realize fully their humanity’. Do you object to that as a definition of feminism as well?

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John Protevi 03.21.09 at 10:25 pm

Curious, is it not, that when people actually do what Fitz asks, that is, (1) provide links to rebuttals of Horowitz and (2) provide an alternate definition of feminism, he vanishes. Perhaps I just need to be a little more patient.

202

Fitz 03.22.09 at 5:17 pm

Sorry, I had to go yesterday – I’m well aware that I’m under a charge to produce testimony of the obvious.

John – Thanks for the links.. (I wasn’t doubting, I just wanted to read the rebuttals)

magistra

defines feminism (p 8) as “‘simply the conviction that women, like men, should be afforded the opportunity to realize fully their humanity’.”

Even this definition presupposes the power dynamics of Marxism in as much as it accepts, A priori, that women (unlike men) have not been afforded the opportunity to realize fully their humanity. As such it infers that someone or something (the patriarchy?) has stifled that potential. It also assumes an imbalance (of power?) exists were men are (and have been?) “afforded the opportunity to realize fully their humanity.” (unlike women)

203

John Emerson 03.22.09 at 5:26 pm

Fitz, to you all social criticism is Marxism, and you don’t want any social criticism in the University. You are, in short, a Horowitz goon. It would be a very bad thing if the universities listened to your kind and cut WS, and equally bad if WS reformed themselves to you specifications.

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John Protevi 03.22.09 at 5:32 pm

Even this definition presupposes the power dynamics of Marxism nothing in as much as it but simply accepts, A priori a posteriori, the overwhelming and obvious historical evidence that women (unlike men) have not been afforded the opportunity to realize fully their humanity.

Fixed.

Now, your reaction to the detailed and massively documented discussions of the research methodology and intellectual honesty of Mr. Horowitz?

205

Fitz 03.22.09 at 5:33 pm

John: I have never said ” all social criticism is Marxism” Or that I ” don’t want any social criticism in the University”

Nor am I “a Horowitz goon” – I happen to be the Popes Goon

“It would be a very bad thing if the universities listened to your kind and cut WS, and equally bad if WS reformed themselves to you specifications.”

Is this your admission to the bias that I have yet to “make reference to 3 specific, contemporary (last 5 years) and influential published works in the field of women’s studies. (with) bonus points if those works help support the thesis you are espousing.”

206

Fitz 03.22.09 at 5:42 pm

“Now, your reaction to the detailed and massively documented discussions of the research methodology and intellectual honesty of Mr. Horowitz?”

Well – I have to read it first, John. (Is this another charge?)

Am I allowed to charge you with proving and citing “the overwhelming and obvious historical evidence that women (unlike men) have not been afforded the opportunity to realize fully their humanity.”

While negotiating what “realize fully their humanity” actually means?

Did these men get to “realize fully their humanity” if not… Who’s responsible… ?

207

John Emerson 03.22.09 at 5:44 pm

WS isn’t very Marxist, but you repeatedly say that it is. That’s goonish and simple-minded. You don’t have to like WS or major in it, but the stuff you’re saying here is crap.

And screw the Pope.

208

John Protevi 03.22.09 at 5:57 pm

Fitz, you came in here claiming that not taking Horowitz’s latest book seriously proves ideological rigidity. The reply came that we don’t take him seriously anymore because of having read his previous stuff (simple case of induction — how many bad books do we have to read before we stop taking someone seriously?). You asked for rebuttals. I provided them, and asked for your reaction. It’s not a charge, exactly, but I will say it doesn’t do your reputation much good to champion someone of whom you know nothing of the major controversies in which he’s been involved.

I’ll skip the obvious bullshit in your middle paragraphs and ask you to explain your last sentence. I can’t really see what you’re driving at.

209

magistra 03.22.09 at 7:10 pm

Fitz,

Let’s go back to the original comment on Penn State’s website, to which you objected so much: as a field of study, Women’s Studies analyzes the unequal distribution of power and resources by gender. Here’s a brief experiment. Take 100 relatively prestigious or powerful organisations at random in the US: say big businesses, law firms, universities, trade unions, legislatures, professional organisations etc. Count how many of these have a majority of women in the top management positions. Then count have many of these have a majority of men in the top management positions (you could possibly stop after you get to the first 80). Then explain to me how the claim that power is unequally distributed by gender is not a factually based statement.

As for pointing to dead male soldiers: women’s studies doesn’t claim that men everywhere have had their full potential achieved and women haven’t. What they have usually claimed is that women have been disadvantaged (and therefore less able to achieve their full humanity) relative to men from the same social circumstances. Fewer women than men get well-paid jobs and more have to do unpaid caring work, just to give two basic examples. Until recently in the West (and still today in many parts of the world) there have been harsher penalties for heterosexual women who ‘misbehave’ sexually than heterosexual men who do so. There are a lot of other basic inequalities like this, which it takes hard work to ignore.

210

Fitz 03.22.09 at 7:51 pm

John Emerson (writes)

“WS isn’t very Marxist, but you repeatedly say that it is. That’s goonish and simple-minded. You don’t have to like WS or major in it, but the stuff you’re saying here is crap.”

Feminism is rooted in a Marxist paradigm of the oppressor/oppressed Hegelian dialectic. WS departments are almost exclusively feminist enterprises of this variety. Not every Feminist is an express Marxist feminist. But the majority of feminism is still rooted in this Marxist dialectic. (as I apparently have to prove using 5 yada.. yada..)

Having said that…some feminists & WS produce worthwhile scholarship. Hell…even some Marxist feminism (express or not) is worthwhile scholarship. None of this is to undermine the point that the field is bias toward leftist and Marxist dialectics.

I find you to be “goonish and simple-minded” in your dismissal of Horowitz, Bauerlein and myself. (having said that… this is a blog post – and no one should expect a doctorial thesis)

magistra

YES: (to say) “as a field of study, Women’s Studies analyzes the unequal distribution of power and resources by gender.” Is to presuppose that power & resources are unequally divided…and “by gender” – no less, on that basis alone.

It also strongly suggests that this distribution is inhuman or exploitative.
Now – many agree, (as I do, now & again) – However, it remains the case that this orthodoxy should not be expressly (much less actually) a litmus test for inquiry in the “field”.

In Short: Contemporary academe owes more to Boss Tweed than Antonio Gramsci.
It’s a naked patronage system…

“Then explain to me how the claim that power is unequally distributed by gender is not a factually based statement”

I never claimed that the straw man you just set up wasn’t factually based (how could I -you just set it up!)

What I would claim…is that “top management positions” are not the measure of fully achieving your human potential. That all human dynamics are not reducible to power dynamics. That the divisions of labor within a society reflected in gender are not and have not been necessarily inhuman or exploitative towards women….and so forth.

This very reduction of human history, contemporary norms and gender relations to a dialectic of power relationships – is itself evidence of the very bias within feminism that WS is so famous for.

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Kathleen 03.22.09 at 7:59 pm

oh, my god. This thread is like an insane piece of performance art.

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engels 03.22.09 at 8:35 pm

Fitz #202 Fwiw the definition you quote doesn’t assume that up until now men have been afforded the opportunity to realise their humanity and women haven’t. It defines feminism as the conviction that men and women alike should have such an opportunity. The assumption behind this is more likely to be that at present most men and most women do not have such an opportunity, and that feminists seek a world in which men and women alike will have it, in contrast to those social critics unsympathetic to feminism who are charged with desiring this (unreflectively and unwittingly perhaps) only for men.

Also, do you really think that Marxists believe that “top management positions” are… the measure of fully achieving your human potential? If you do then you really need to read some Marx.

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John Emerson 03.22.09 at 9:46 pm

Have a problem with torte, Kathleen?

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magistra 03.22.09 at 10:21 pm

The thesis as presented -WS is narrow & ideolgical and does a diservice to liberalism, women and students -(indeed the feild) is true.

Fitz, in the wierd world of academia, we like to back up our arguments by something called evidence. You back up your argument by saying ‘Horowitz says so’ or ‘Bauerlain says so’ or ‘Tom Wolfe says’ or ‘it’s a commonly held opinion’. The argument from authority only works when you start with authorities with some, well, actual authority. I’ve tried to give you some contrary evidence and so have other posters on the blog, but you just don’t seem to want to provide any evidence yourself.

Feminism is rooted in a Marxist paradigm of the oppressor/oppressed Hegelian dialectic.

I could point out to you the long tradition of feminist writing that exists before Marx (and indeed Hegel), the significant role of Christianity in some strands of feminism, the enthusiastic support for Obama and Clinton (neither actually very Marxist) on many feminist blogs I’ve been reading, etc, etc, but it’s increasingly clear that you don’t want to hear from a liberal feminist like myself, because I don’t fit into your stereotypes. And also that you haven’t worked out that you can talk about power and inequality without being a Marxist.

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MH 03.22.09 at 11:57 pm

I don’t have a torte, but I have a slice of chocolate cake that I’ve been saving all day.

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Walt 03.23.09 at 3:52 am

Fitz is Dave Sim! Whenever someone starts going on about Marxism-Feminism, that’s a dead giveaway. I’d wondered what he was doing since he finished Cerebus.

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John Emerson 03.23.09 at 4:45 am

In NZ Karl Popper had a fondness for milkshakes and the like. No word on his torte-strudel status.

218

engels 03.23.09 at 12:11 pm

However, you do have to admire anyone who in the space of one comment can pass from the judgment that contemporary academe owes more to Boss Tweed than Antonio Gramsci. It’s a naked patronage system… to complaints about self-same contemporary academia’s reduction of human history, contemporary norms and gender relations to a dialectic of power relationships .

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Fitz 03.23.09 at 4:56 pm

magistra

Don’t assume so much. My point from the beginning was that WS is biased toward the Marxist approach of power dynamics as the predominate lens to see gender relations. It’s not important to my argument that every feminist espouse this position. Simply that the majority of WS professors, courses and text are rooted in this lens. Is this a stereotype..? Of coarse it is…, my point was that it was a justified one.

Engels – I never said that Marxists believe that “top management positions” are… the measure of fully achieving your human potential?” Classical Marxists would not. Reducing human endeavor to simply a question of power dynamics however is well within the Marxist paradigm.

To say Carl Marx has been an extremely influential thinker and has had a profound and obvious influence on feminist theory is not (typically) a controversial statement.
It only tends to be when the person asserting it is right of center and/or attempts to defend Horowitz/Bauerlein.

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Righteous Bubba 03.23.09 at 5:05 pm

To say Carl Marx has been an extremely influential thinker

This is SO HARD TO RESIST.

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Fitz 03.23.09 at 9:20 pm

This is really a terrific series of posts. Once again she nails it.

“By the way, I do understand that is why the “name” matters to gay-marriage advocates. That’s what makes this battle difficult to compromise. But all I ask, of the intellectual class at least, is they stop saying therefore that the defintion of marriage in law (which matters so much to Adam and Steve) won’t matter at all to anyone else.”

I get the feeling that her spirits are down, – dose anyone have her E-mail, or that to IMAPP??

How can I get in touch with her & her organization.

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Fitz 03.23.09 at 9:21 pm

Sorry – wrong site… (really)

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Righteous Bubba 03.23.09 at 9:33 pm

I recommend The Google for all your getting-in-touch-with-the-corrupt-and-kooky-journalist needs.

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