Monday, March 8, 2010

Evolutionary Psychologist Mansplains Feminism To Be Unnecessary For Women

Some folks use evolutionary psychology as though it's patriarchy's secular religion. Indeed, evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa over at his aptly-titled The Scientific Fundamentalist blog has written a post entitled "Why modern feminism is illogical, unnecessary, and evil."

You won't be surprised upon reading this article that Kanazawa succeeds mostly in blowing down strawladies of his own creation, failing to respond to any specific feminist or feminist theory. In his sloppy article, "modern feminism" exists as a broad monolith wherein all feminists advance the exact same straw arguments and wherein he, of course, blows them down as though he has just single-handedly obliterated the entirety of feminist thought.

For instance, he argues first that "modern feminism" is illogical because it rests on the "vanilla assumption" that men and women are identical and only display differences because of gender socialization and patriarchy. As a tangential point, it is unclear as to why Kanazawa uses the term "vanilla" in reference to this "feminist" argument. Used as slang, the term "vanilla" generally means conventional or non-edgy. The idea that men and women are born identical is not exactly a conventional argument. Indeed, the converse of that argument would be "vanilla," given that it is a patriarchal self-evident truth that Men And Women Are Very Different.

But I digress.

More importantly, nothing in Kanazawa's article leaves me convinced that we're dealing with a person who is particularly informed with respect to the nuances within feminist argumentation, nor who is even aware of the fact that feminism has multiple theoretical schools.

Sure, Judith Butler for instance advanced a theory of gender performativity wherein gender was a cultured construct that individuals learn, but she is hardly representative of what every single "modern feminist" believes. If we were to generalize "modern feminism's" argument it would be more along the lines of sex differentiation exists but a patriarchal culture exaggerates these differences. (Yes, I totes just defined feminism without consulting the proper feminist authorities).

Instead of acknowledging the real-life nuance that feminism isn't a monolith, Kanazawa instead claims that feminism is illogical because it's based on an untrue premise- a premise that, in actuality, is not a premise at all for many feminists. He makes the classic fallacy of composition, noting that some individuals within the class of feminists believe gender differences are entirely socially constructed and then going on to argue that therefore all feminists believe that.

He goes on to conclude that feminism is unnecessary. Because really, is there anything that resonates more within the cockles of your heart than a dude informing us that feminism is unnecessary? Continuing on, he states:

"It is also not true that women are the 'weaker sex.'"

Now, to many feminists, this is not exactly a Startling Revelation. Men have on average greater physical strength than women, but as Kanazawa notes, boys and men are more susceptible to diseases throughout their lives and have shorter life-spans on average than women. Thus, in some ways, men on average are stronger than women, while in others, women on average are stronger than men. It all depends on how we're defining strength and weakness.

What makes feminism necessary is not so much that women are the "weaker sex," but rather that we live in a patriarchal culture that trains women to be the weaker, frail sex and trains men to be the strong, aggressive sex. In a nutshell.

Finally, true to fundamentalist form, Kanazawa tells us that feminism is evil. Why? Because, citing Stevenson and Wolfer's study on happiness, women used to be happier when they made less money than men. Now, anti-feminists all over the internet have been citing this study as "proof" that feminism and equal pay are bad for women.

Yet, as the study's authors themselves note, it is not clear whether the study reflects the impact of "the women's movement" on women's happiness and they suggest that it may be telling us something about "the (un)reliability of happiness data." In any event, if one actually reads the study, "rather than immediately inferring that the women's movement failed to improve the lot of women," it acknowledges that the study raises questions about this (as opposed to definitively answering that question) and proposes explanations for the paradox of improved conditions and declining happiness.

To conclude that this study somehow proves that higher pay causes women to be unhappy, as Kanazawa does, would be an incredibly poor summary of the study. To conclude that this study proves that feminism is "evil," as Kanazawa also does, is to drawn an absurdly extreme conclusion.

The combined illogic of Kanazawa's case, and I use that word lightly, against "modern feminism" makes one wonder, will men ever stop inventing religions that justify the subjugation of women?

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