Wednesday, April 20, 2011

So Much To Say, So Little Time. On Wendy Kaminer, the Civil Libertarian Feminist

I read Kaminer's article on the Yale sexual harassment case some time ago and itched to write a long, long, loooong post on it. She makes interesting arguments, such as this one:
Civil libertarian feminists have always been a political minority, but these days we seem on the verge of extinction. Reviewing the charges of sexual harassment underlying the Title IX complaint by a group of Yale students and alumnae, I can't find feminism -- at least not if feminism includes independence, liberty, and power for women. Instead I find femininity -- the assumption that women are incapable of fending for themselves in the marketplace of epithets or ideas, the belief that women are rendered helpless by misogynist speech and the sexist tantrums of their male peers.
Can you see how that could breed books and books? To respond to her properly, I mean. But it might be better to simply think what Kaminer's favored alternative would be for what the women at Yale actually did, which was to go to the authorities.

If you don't remember the most recent bit of macho posturing at Yale, it consisted of fraternity pledges chanting "No Means Yes, Yes Means Anal" outside the Yale Women's Center (the place where the feminazis nest). What response would Kaminer favor? Silence?

Probably not, as silence is not a sign of women's capability "of fending for themselves in the marketplace of epithets or ideas." But then those pledges chanting pro-rape messages were not exactly in some well-lit intellectual marketplace with chairs and tables and microphones and glasses of water for the speakers and a wise moderator channeling the competition.

No. They were outside a building, in the dark, as a group. Sorta menacing, don't you think? At least not an enlightened informational exchange.

But let's return to the idea that there is a marketplace for epithets. Should those women at Yale who were angered or frightened by the misogynistic comments take a walk in the dark, in a group, to the fraternity building, and chant there something suitably misandrist? What would that be? "Come out my dears! We have gelding shears!"?

My point is naturally that some intellectual concepts have a poor fit with real world events, that some types of speech are controlled by the institutions within which the speech takes place and that there is a fine line between just "speech" and threats against someone. Reality is often more complicated than theories, and the way things actually are is sometimes not the way things should be.

I have some sympathy with Kaminer's position. If the number of sexual assaults by women against men equalled the reverse, I would completely support her point.
Did I already mention that I wanted to write a long post on this topic? One thing that this shorter post omits is data on how universities in fact handle cases of alleged sexual assaults. It is not the case, as Kaminer argues, that universities always bend over backwards to treat the alleged victim with kid gloves.