Monday, August 25, 2008

More Hollander Frivolity, An Addendum

My article about Roy Den Hollander's lawsuit deserves an addendum since I just took a look at his class action civil rights frivolous complaint against Columbia (and others) for gender discrimination. [PDF] (All quotes from complaint). Within this complaint you'll find a lot of old hat MRA-type of reasoning within it. You know, men are discriminated against because they are circumcised yadda yadda yawn.

But, there is one rather creative item of note:

Hollander claims that the defendants have violated the 1st Amendment by "aiding the establishment of the religion Feminism" at Columbia University. How is feminism a "religion"? In a nutshell, because feminists hold strong convictions. When men hold strong convictions I suppose they're just being smart objective manly men. But, you see, when women hold strong convictions they're being womanly and subjective and religious. That's why the foremothers of feminism are really a "pantheon of idols such as Mary Wollstonecraft," feminism is complicit in "historical revisionism," it has "de facto disciples and apostles," and more.

That Columbia has "established" such a "religion" isn't fair, you see, because Columbia does not "balance the Feminist doctrine and dogma with a masculine curriculum or program."

Now, this guy's claims are wacky. It's a small tragedy that Columbia and an overtaxed legal system must devote resources to this man's personal vendetta that has arisen from his failed personal relationship with a woman. But if certain internet forums and shrill male pundits are any indication, there are small legions of "oppressed" men who feel very similar to Hollander. It's tough being a triple-y "oppressed" straight white male these days, dontcha know, having to endure the inhumanity of other people taking courses like African-American Studies, Queer Studies, Latino Studies, Asian-American Studies, and Women's Studies. I mean, it's not like straight white guys get to take "special" courses like Caucasian Studies, Men's Studies, or Heterosexual Studies, right?

Or do they?

See, my previous article about Hollander's case was entitled "But, Isn't Every Other Course a Men's Studies Course?" That title sort of gets to the heart of what women's studies is about. The field of women's studies exists precisely because virtually every. other. field. of. study. is or has been male-centric. So, if feminism is a religion because it dares to, for instance, challenge the Dead White Guy Canon of literature, then a course which perpetuates the idea that our most important books were written by dead white men is also a religion. Except, instead of Mary Wollstonecraft, the "pantheon of idols" began eons ago with Homer.

This phenomenon is what I like to call The Case of the Invisible Ideology. Feminist scholarship is not viewed as objective in the same way that other (male-dominated or male-centric) fields of study precisely because feminism notes that other fields are, in fact, dominated by male ideology. Scholar Rita Gross writes,

"Feminist scholarship is often thought to be 'biased' because it self-consciously and deliberately includes information about women, whereas conventional androcentric scholarship is not similarly regarded as biased because it includes more information about men." (in Feminism & Religion, 15)

Here's a little thought experiment. Let's say we're learning about the beginnings of our nation. One history book teaches us about the Founding Fathers and their political contributions. Another book teaches us about how the Founding Fathers excluded women from political roles in this new nation. Which of these accounts is "objective"? Is the second one somehow less objective because it deliberately includes information about women and their political oppression? No. Of course not. The first account is clearly andro-centric. It focuses on men without mentioning why women are absent. The second account, although some would call it "feminist," is actually more gender-balanced. It acknowledges that men made political contributions but it also acknowledges and explores why women were excluded from also doing so.

Yet, men like Hollander inaccurately believe that the first account is the "objective" gender-neutral account and any variation is "biased" and some sort of "historical revision." And that's why andro-centrism is an invisible ideology. We as a nation are so steeped in andro-centric perspectives that most people fail to see andro-centrism as anything other than neutral objectivity.

As Rita Gross writes, "The male norm and the human norm are collapsed and seen as identical.... Femaleness is is viewed as an exception to the norm" (18). Because the male norm has been collapsed into the human norm, the anti-feminist sees his point of view as "objective" and as encompassing the "human" view. Feminism critiques the idea that "placing one gender in the center and the other on the periphery" is in any way "objective" (20). It's not a religion, it's tool that allows us to step outside of our andro-centric society and critique it. That, I suppose, is a pretty large threat to some men who want one gender to remain at the center of everything.

For, throughout his complaint, Hollander whines that there is not a comparable "men's studies" program at Columbia. Generally, a discipline called "Men's Studies" has existed for some time and is offered at other universities. Humorously, what Hollander refers to as "men's studies" in his complaint, which he undoubtedly envisions as some sort of feminist-bashing tirade, bears little resemblance to the actual field of Men's Studies which is largely sympathetic to feminist studies and discusses topics like "the anxiety that some men in developed countries face as a result of their loss of privilege and clear gender roles in light of the feminist movement."

So yeah, Hollander. Go for it. Bring Men's Studies to Columbia. I eagerly await the enlightenment of future generations of Columbia grads and only wish you could have been so enlightened yourself.

To end, it's just really too bad that this man, like so many other defensive MRAs, take feminism personally. What these guys should realize is that if you're not part of the problem, then feminism isn't talking about you. It is by taking everything so personally that you become part of the problem.

*Argumentum Ad Nazium Watch*

If the proceeding pages of Hollander's complaint didn't automatically discredit this guy for you, the argumentum ad Nazium definitely will:

"The defendants' advocacy and furthering of Feminism and training of Feminists derogates males while propagandizing the superiority of females with a harm similar, although not as egregious, as the Nazification of universities in Germany during the 1930s when education demonized the Jews while demanding genuflection to an Aryan throne."

"Although not as egregious," eh? Good thing he added that little qualifier. For a minute I thought we were dealing with someone who is clearly unhinged from reality.

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