The object of political correctness is to make the obvious unsayable, or at least sayable only under the threat of a torrent of criticism or abuse. This does violence to the mind and spirit: those who refrain from objecting to the false pieties of political correctness (which are intoned within organizations as regularly as in public) come to despise themselves.
It’s probably a drag being a liberal, always boycotting things. A Progressive friend who was surprised by my politics once asked me how I could like Radiohead so much, considering its front man Thom Yorke is such a leftist. It seemed a logical error (the “moralistic boycotter’s fallacy”?). I don’t judge songs by the artist’s favorite color, either. The fact is, conservatives can’t afford to discriminate merely to maintain moral cleanliness. I wonder whose music my friend might allow me to enjoy. Kid Rock? (Blah.) Rush? (Eye roll.)
And anyway, even if an artist’s politics do affect his art, what a spiritual poverty to entertain, or be entertained by, only what confirms one’s convictions! As a psychological fact, for many the private determines the political; must we also allow the partisan to constrict the personal?
To read the rage this fall—the angry comments, the push of reporters, the attempt to gin up controversy about Chrissie Hynde’s new rock ’n’ roll memoir Reckless: My Life as a Pretender—was to be tempted to despair. We are at such a crazed point in our culture, I wanted to scream, that to find sanity preached, we have to listen to a washed up 1980s punk rocker recalling her pre-stardom days of drugs and madness.
Feminism expresses, teaches, and even thrives on a contradiction. Put simply, feminism does not know whether to say that women are capable or vulnerable. If women are capable, they deserve to be independent—particularly of men. If they are vulnerable, they need to be protected, particularly from men.
Today’s movement to protect college women from sexual assault, led by the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) in the U.S. Department of Education, is riven right through with that contradiction. So far, universities have meekly submitted to being instructed by what the OCR, with a phrase for the books, calls “significant guidance.”
Before delving into the OCR’s mandate, it is best to examine the contradiction within feminism that both characterizes and inspires it.
Christina Hoff Sommers, a former philosophy professor at Clark University who is now a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, has been trying for more than two decades to rescue feminism from the feminists who have given the word a bad name.
This essay from the Atlantic Magazine website on why older men should not pair with younger women is a highly objectionable one that combines anti-male bias with ignorance. It is not that I think that such pairings are necessarily good – it is a complicated subject – but the analysis in this piece is so weak, and the mistakes it commits are exhibited so frequently these days, that I thought I would point out some of the difficulties. (Hat tip: Glenn Reynolds who has a similar take on it.)
In criticizing pairings between older men and younger women, the piece focuses on the case of 50 year old Johnny Depp and his new girlfriend, 27 year old actress Amber Heard.
I summarize the major arguments of the piece in the numbered paragraphs, and then provide my critique in italics.
1. The pairing of older men and younger women is the fault of men. (This is not explicitly stated, but it is premise of large swaths of the essay.)
This is a common distortion. Older men are not coercing these younger women. Amber Heard wants to be with Johnny Depp. Many people may not like it, but it seems obviously true.
What is missing in this analysis is that not only do men desire young beautiful women, but that women exhibit hypergamy – the desire to pair with high status males (particularly those who are higher status than the women). This desire conflicts with the feminist vision, but it is obviously true in general (if not in every single case).
In fact, the essay shows some evidence for this by noting that when the author has written about this subject in the past, he is “invariably challenged by young women with boyfriends their fathers’ age, demanding that I stop judging their love.”
2. If older men refrained from such relationships, this would benefit the younger women, because “young women come of age surrounded by reminders that they are at their most desirable when they are still at their most uncertain and insecure.”
If women are most desirable at this age, it is not clear we should deprive them of this knowledge. Moreover, if they desire high status men, then depriving these women of these relationships would not help them, but harm them (by their own lights at least).