January 19th, 2018

Margaret Atwood: feminist vs. feminist

Margaret Atwood, feminist icon, has gotten into trouble. It’s part of what I’ve come to see as a generational war between certain older feminists who still hold to quaint old-fashioned notions such as due process, and certain younger ones who think they can toss it out the window because the only process they’re interested in is the one that says “believe everything women accusers say, if they’re accusing men of wrongdoing.”

Atwood is a well-known writer (she wrote The Handmaid’s Tale) and has always been politically leftist. She certainly has written a spirited defense of herself. She is mostly spot on here [emphasis mine]:

My fundamental position is that women are human beings, with the full range of saintly and demonic behaviours this entails, including criminal ones. They’re not angels, incapable of wrongdoing. If they were, we wouldn’t need a legal system.

Nor do I believe that women are children, incapable of agency or of making moral decisions…

Furthermore, I believe that in order to have civil and human rights for women there have to be civil and human rights, period, including the right to fundamental justice, just as for women to have the vote, there has to be a vote. Do Good Feminists believe that only women should have such rights? Surely not…

So let us suppose that my Good Feminist accusers, and the Bad Feminist that is me, agree on the above points. Where do we diverge? And how did I get into such hot water with the Good Feminists?…

A fair-minded person would now withhold judgment as to guilt [of an accused male professor whom Atwood believes was denied due process] until the report and the evidence are available for us to see. We are grownups: We can make up our own minds, one way or the other. The signatories of the UBC Accountable letter have always taken this position. My critics have not, because they have already made up their minds. Are these Good Feminists fair-minded people? If not, they are just feeding into the very old narrative that holds women to be incapable of fairness or of considered judgment, and they are giving the opponents of women yet another reason to deny them positions of decision-making in the world.

I bolded that first part—that both Atwood and her feminist accusers “agree on the above points”—because I think she makes a fundamental error with that assumption. However, maybe she’s just being sarcastic and knows that this is the heart of the matter on which the two groups do not agree. It is my distinct impression that the group of young feminists angry at Atwood for defending this man and saying he needs to have a fair hearing (she is not saying he’s innocent; she’s saying we don’t know) are in marked disagreement with her about the importance of human rights. The believe that the word of a woman is as good as a trial or due process—that it replaces and can stand in for due process when a woman is accusing a man.

That second part that I bolded goes like this: “they are just feeding into the very old narrative that holds women to be incapable of fairness or of considered judgment, and they are giving the opponents of women yet another reason to deny them positions of decision-making in the world.” It’s an interesting point, which is that the behavior of these young feminists feeds into traditional criticism of women. And although Atwood doesn’t mention it, part of that “old narrative” is the justice vs. care argument about the difference between men’s and women’s ethics and ethical development.

You may not be familiar with that discussion, which became popular in the 1980s with the publication of Carol Gilligan’s book In a Different Voice. It’s complicated, but the summary version is that Atwood (and I) espouse the supposedly male point of view—justice—and as you might imagine, the young feminists attacking her exhibit the supposedly female one—what matters is feelings, not some abstract principle of justice for all.

Gilligan’s research has been strongly challenged, by the way, so I don’t even know if it’s true that men and women generally exhibit these ways of deciding what’s ethical (if I’m recalling correctly, Gilligan felt they were at equal stages of ethical development, just different from each other). But it’s an interesting framework with which to look at the attacks on Atwood for standing up for simple due process even for accused men.

[NOTE: The Twitter war against Atwood is quite bitter. If you want examples, see this:

And this is of interest, too:

I would say where’ve you been, Matt? This is not sudden; not at all. It’s been brewing for decades. It seems as though it’s only when the Reign of Terror phase comes—feminists fighting a feminist icon like Atwood—that it becomes more noticeable to the left.]

37 Responses to “Margaret Atwood: feminist vs. feminist”

  1. n.n Says:

    Ageism. Ugly stuff.

    Oh, well. Pro-Choice is a philosophy of elective, opportunistic, and congruent principles, that is an anthropogenic first-order forcing of a progressive slope.

    Men and women are equal in rights and complementary in nature, right?

  2. Jamie Says:

    Ageism disguised as a struggle between power and “an idea whose time has come.”

    I think that your first bolded passage, neo, is Atwood’s attempt to civilize the debate (and possibly also to force a concession from the other side, because they must surely still hew – publicly at least – to the principle of due process). I don’t think she either believed it or was being sarcastic; I think she was being realistic and using her no doubt greater intellectual gifts to try to claim the battlespace.

    I’m not a big fan of Atwood, but I do recognize her smarts.

  3. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    “who think they can toss it out the window because the only process they’re interested in is the one that says “believe everything women accusers say, if they’re accusing men of wrongdoing.” neo

    I’m reminded of that passage we all are so fond of from “A Man for All Seasons”. The FemiNazis would cut down all the laws, to get after the evil gender.

    They would emasculate all Western men and turn them into FemDom’d pajama boys. Then they shall have to face alone the thuggish Russians, the amoral Chinese and Shariah Muslims.

    If today’s feminists get their way, it will spell their ruin. And they at least, will deserve their fate.

  4. Baklava Says:

    It isn’t ageism as Lauren Southern will poke Berkeleyites in the eye by saying someone is innocent until proven guilty and those Berkeleyites start screaming hysterically.

    Lauren I’m guessing is in her mid 20’s.

    Another example:
    I’m dismayed to see my friend’s mother (who is about 70) post these extremely negative Betsy Devos NY Times articles repeatedly concerning the due process on campus law changes.

    I want to ask her about her son and whether her son deserves due process if he were to go back to college.

  5. parker Says:

    When there is no rule of law, feelings are all that matter. The self righteous mob takes no prisoners, they forget it is a a two way street.

  6. TBlakely Says:

    Looks like feminists want to weaken this country to the point that barbarians can easily conquer it. Seems like they consciously / unconsciously want to live in a real rape culture.

  7. DENYSE O'LEARY Says:

    Post-moderns do not believe that human consciousness exists. It is an illusion evolved to spread selfish genes. Thus there is no value system by which due process would matter. Everything is only always about feelings and the feelings that the most powerful group – government – caters to are the ones that really matter. Vote for it, get way more of it.

  8. HarvardR Says:

    “They believe that the word of a woman is as good as a trial or due process—that it replaces and can stand in for due process when a woman is accusing a man”

    So how is this substantially different from the sharia law that holds that a women’s testimony is only worth half that of a man’s?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Status_of_women%27s_testimony_in_Islam

  9. None Says:

    “Do Good Feminists believe that only women should have such rights? Surely not…”

    I believe you give your adversaries way too much credit here.

  10. Fractal Rabbit Says:

    She makes a great argument. Not that her opponents care (or have the means to do so…)

    Its hard for me to dredge up any kind of sympathy when I see Leftists devouring each other.

    After all, Atwood’s got her own brand of Leftism: “OMG! The Christian Patriarchy will make breeding slaves of us all, any day now. Any. Day. !11!!!!11”

  11. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    HarvardR,

    There is of course no substantive difference between the two. They are two sides of the same coin and, that ‘coin’ is the acquisition of power. Which is what this is really all about. It’s not equality they want but dominance.

    The irony is that they cannot respect any man so easily susceptible to domination and without respect, intimacy is impossible. So sexual fulfillment is frustrated. Incapable of self-reflection, they typically default to it being the man’s fault…

  12. Bubba Thudd Says:

    Hmm I new t-shirt design; “Atticus Finch Was a Bastard!”

  13. Bill Peschel Says:

    Every other generation has to learn all over again why America has its Bill of Rights. It doesn’t help that schools no longer teach civics.

    What Atwood did at the beginning of her response was the same tactic as Trump’s over Charlottesville, and it worked about as well here.

  14. W. Fleetwood Says:

    Better T-shirt; Believe the woman!! The Scottsboro Boys are GUILTY!!!

    And by the way, just where were Gloria Allred and Lisa Bloom when Victoria Price and Ruby Bates needed them?

  15. Tatterdemalian Says:

    The leftists only notice the damage they do when they are caught in the flames themselves. Even now, as Al Franken and Margaret Atwood burn, the Erika Thorkelsons restock on gasoline and torches, buoyed by the zealot’s confidence that they will never be harmed by the fire they spread.

  16. James Says:

    Atwood: My fundamental position is that women are human beings, with the full range of saintly and demonic behaviours this entails, including criminal ones. They’re not angels, incapable of wrongdoing.”

    Notice that this is the fundamental principle that underpins limited government. People who run the government are people too. Bound by the same qualities as Atwood points out for everyone else. Therefor, power needs to be limited to prevent these flawed humans from having too much power over us.

    Atwood is probably pretty liberal, which means she wants to give government vast powers. Which can’t work unless the people in those powerful positions are saintly, or at least more saintly than the rest of us.

    In some ways, Atwood’s position is less consistent than her deranged opponents. Her opponents are full on leftists, of the “women run everything” type, with no compromises.

  17. AesopFan Says:

    Geoffrey Britain Says:
    January 19th, 2018 at 7:14 pm
    HarvardR,

    There is of course no substantive difference between the two. They are two sides of the same coin and, that ‘coin’ is the acquisition of power. Which is what this is really all about. It’s not equality they want but dominance.

    The irony is that they cannot respect any man so easily susceptible to domination and without respect, intimacy is impossible. So sexual fulfillment is frustrated. Incapable of self-reflection, they typically default to it being the man’s fault…

    * * *

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMcjxSThD54&feature=youtu.be

    Jordan Peterson demolishes one of the Good Feminists, with particular attention to Geoffrey’s point early in the interview.

  18. Ken Says:

    older feminists who still hold to quaint old-fashioned notions such as due process

    Who are you trying to kid? Feminists NEVER believed in due process. Feminism was and is about female supremacy. It has always been the cultural cancer we see today. The difference between yesterday and today is how widespread it is and how much deviancy feminism has normalized.

  19. Ray Says:

    Judith Curry wrote an article you might find interesting.

    https://judithcurry.com/2017/12/10/girls-rules/?wref=pil

  20. Ackler Says:

    I adamantly support free speech (in virtually any venue imaginable), but I can say sincerely and emphatically, the state of our civil discourse and overall social manners would improve fiftyfold if Twitter (and any social media similar to it), were permanently abolished and forgotten.

  21. n.n Says:

    The Feminists held a Slut Walk to protest calls for self-moderation.

    It seems appropriate that the Feminists should hold a Slut Orgy to protest Atwood’s call for self-moderation. Show that geriatric yester-feminist their girls’ slut power.

    #SheKnew #SheColluded #SheProgressed, not limited to female feminists.

  22. n.n Says:

    In the spirit #MeToo and #TimesUp

    Tu m’as promis
    et je t’ai cru

    Tu m’as promis le soleil en hiver et un arc en ciel
    tu m’as promis le sable doré j’ai recu une carte postale
    tu m’as promis le ciel et la terre et une vie d’amour
    tu m’as promis ton coeur ton sourire mais j’ai eu des grimaces

    tu m’as promis
    et je t’ai cru

    tu m’as promis le cheval ailé que j’ai jamais eu
    tu m’as promis le fil d’Ariane mais tu l’as coupé
    tu m’as promis les notes de Mozart pas des plats crassés
    tu m’as promis d’être ta reine, j’ai eu pour sceptre un balai

    tu m’as promis
    et je t’ai cru
    tu es foutu
    tu-tu-tu…
    tu es foutu
    tu-tu-tu…

    #WhyNow

    #MeToo would have greater credibility NOW, if they would have demonstrated solidarity with Sarah Palin when she was harassed and stalked by male and female chauvinists.

    #TooLittle #TooLate #Pretext

  23. Steve57 Says:

    I always love these fights.

  24. Daniel Dover Says:

    The believe that the word of a woman is as good as a trial or due process—that it replaces and can stand in for due process when a woman is accusing a man.

    For what it’s worth, I don’t believe this is true. For example, if an obviously conniving woman accused a man they held in high esteem of something, I think they would defend “due process.” I also don’t think this is a “feminist” thing, but either a “millenial” thing or a left-wing thing, possibly both.

    I see a lot of “I want X. Make it happen, I don’t care how” from that body. Net Neutrality is a good example: They wanted it to happen, so the FCC arbitrarily declaring it so was good enough for them. The long term consequences of this act, such as the fact that the next administration could as easily remove it, didn’t matter to them. Another example is how various LGBTQ+ agendas get pushed through court rather than through congress, because it works and it’s faster. You see the same thing here. Our innocent heroism has a bad encounter with a man and she doesn’t like it and wants something done about it, in which case, bad things should happen to the man, period. “Due Process” and “Innocence until Proven Guilty” are obstacles in the way of what she wants, so they must be torn down. If we turn it around and, say, Heroic Democratic Presidential Candidate 2020 gets hit with an accusation from Wicked Right-Wing Hussy Conspiracy, then that woman is a threat to what they want, and so she needs to disappear.

    This is dangerous, not because it’s a feminist thing, but because it’s rife across everything in our politics now: “The Rule of Law is an obstacle that must be torn down.”

  25. Rick Caird Says:

    I believe what we are seeing here is not a war, per se. What we are seeing is the result of poor education and poor teaching. The whole notions of truth. justice, and ethics have been tossed in favor of propaganda and point of view. This is not just in the domain of feminism, but across the scale. The result is the “point of view” (POV) has come to supersede logic, analysis, and support.

    About a year ago, I had a FB debate with a young man who maintained he only needed a POV. What I told the guy is that a POV that he cannot support is a delusion and a fantasy. Right about then got “unfriended”. But, the point remains: feelings are not facts and giving free rein to feelings leads to unsupported and unsupportable conclusion. These become a mere jumble of thoughts that are basically unrelated and do not build on one another. It is the sign of a poorly educated man educated by poor teachers who would not know Aristotle if he came out if the ether and bit him.

  26. ⚛≠eM Says:

    The woman who wrote Cats Eye and Robber Bride has no illusions about women.

    Nonetheless she – with others like Germaine Greer, Doris Lessing, Fay Weldon – still helped create this insane world which has driven the young women … insane. She (and they) deserve whatever they get.

  27. Mike K Says:

    Civilization is not the default state of society. The Second Law of Thermodynamics has not been repealed.

    This is why I am not a Big L Libertarian. Feminism requires a lawful state to exist. I suspect it is why they ignore the Muslim countries and the women there.

  28. om Says:

    A feminist regrets:

    http://www.nationalreview.com/article/455590/hbos-final-year-samantha-power-reflects

  29. Ann Says:

    It’s also modernism vs. postmodernism, with Atwood still clinging to modernism’s belief in the supreme value of reason, and the young women attacking her being fueled by postmodernism, which instead has “a general suspicion of reason”.

    Encyclopedia Britannica on postmodernism: “Postmodernism, also spelled post-modernism, in Western philosophy, a late 20th-century movement characterized by broad skepticism, subjectivism, or relativism; a general suspicion of reason; and an acute sensitivity to the role of ideology in asserting and maintaining political and economic power.”

  30. AesopFan Says:

    Ann Says:
    January 20th, 2018 at 2:34 pm
    It’s also modernism vs. postmodernism, with Atwood still clinging to modernism’s belief in the supreme value of reason, and the young women attacking her being fueled by postmodernism, which instead has “a general suspicion of reason”.
    * *
    I highly recommend “The Killing of History” by Keith Windschuttle for an outstanding analysis of these ideologies, and their ilk.

  31. AesopFan Says:

    Mike K Says:
    January 20th, 2018 at 9:29 am
    Civilization is not the default state of society. The Second Law of Thermodynamics has not been repealed.

    This is why I am not a Big L Libertarian. Feminism requires a lawful state to exist. I suspect it is why they ignore the Muslim countries and the women there.
    * * *
    Indeed.
    The #Resistance and most other Leftist movements require the substrate of the Constitution to flourish, which is why so many of their LIVs will be so surprised at what happens to them if the American system is actually destroyed by their inane actions.

    To wit:
    ⚛≠eM Says:
    January 20th, 2018 at 7:47 am
    The woman who wrote Cats Eye and Robber Bride has no illusions about women.

    Nonetheless she – with others like Germaine Greer, Doris Lessing, Fay Weldon – still helped create this insane world which has driven the young women … insane. She (and they) deserve whatever they get.

  32. AesopFan Says:

    Rick Caird Says:
    January 20th, 2018 at 7:05 am
    I believe what we are seeing here is not a war, per se. What we are seeing is the result of poor education and poor teaching. The whole notions of truth. justice, and ethics have been tossed in favor of propaganda and point of view. This is not just in the domain of feminism, but across the scale. The result is the “point of view” (POV) has come to supersede logic, analysis, and support.
    * * *
    What you say about the poor education is totally correct, but that doesn’t mean there is no war.

  33. AesopFan Says:

    Daniel Dover Says:
    January 20th, 2018 at 6:16 am

    If we turn it around and, say, Heroic Democratic Presidential Candidate 2020 gets hit with an accusation from Wicked Right-Wing Hussy Conspiracy, then that woman is a threat to what they want, and so she needs to disappear.

    This is dangerous, not because it’s a feminist thing, but because it’s rife across everything in our politics now: “The Rule of Law is an obstacle that must be torn down.”
    * *
    Good points.

  34. AesopFan Says:

    Ray Says:
    January 19th, 2018 at 9:02 pm
    Judith Curry wrote an article you might find interesting.

    https://judithcurry.com/2017/12/10/girls-rules/?wref=pil
    * * *
    Dr. Curry is most notable for her fight against the Climatistas, but she is correct here, and her observation has more general applicability, as I am sure she is aware.

    “My motivation in writing this essay is to remind these young female scientists that female scientists have never had it so good, they are on the cusp of genuine influence (‘girls rule’), but thatthis opportunity can be squandered (individually and collectively) by their inappropriate behavior.”

    The commenters link to some interesting articles.
    http://quillette.com/2017/11/22/women-victims-four-women-respond/
    (the answers: we are not victims)

    https://scout.com/college/kansas/Board/103734/Contents/First-They-Came-for-the-Biologists-108431206
    (excerpt from WSJ post by a professor fired at Evergreen)
    “First, They Came for the Biologists
    The postmodernist left on campus is intolerant not only of opposing views, but of science itself.

    Who would have guessed that when America cleaved, the left would get the National Football League and the right would get uncontested custody of science?”

    https://www.the-american-interest.com/2017/12/06/the-warlock-hunt/
    (I think we’ve seen this one here before, but it’s still good)

  35. AesopFan Says:

    Another link from a “Girls Rules” by Curry commenter. He quotes something germane to the discussion, but I think the whole thing is interesting for the POV from 1974 by a very intelligent man, who gets a lot of things right and other things wrong, because they just weren’t foreseeable at all. That’s typical of all SF, as I have recently been reminded by reading an anthology of what were once considered “important” stories and are mostly just boring; I’m always amused by the juxtaposition of genuinely creative “predictions” of the future couple with amazingly “anachronistic” details (navigating space ships by slide rule is my all-time favorite, but there are lots of examples).

    http://www.asimovonline.com/oldsite/future_of_humanity.html

  36. obinna Says:

    if we have a good view of what feminism is about that will be cool. the fact about feminism is it’s been over blown

  37. Ymar Sakar Says:

    Did they follow that principle during Clinton and Ted Kennedy’s problems?

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