Sunday, April 17, 2011

Ideas That [Don't] Matter: The Concepts about Feminism A. C. Grayling Gets Wrong in his new book

portrait of A. C. Grayling and some books piled on a desk in a posh room is from here
I would argue that men with very distinct hairstyles want to be known. They want an identity that is viewable. I've seen this with Michel Foucault and Ken Wilber too. Often the people who want to be known for their image are "men of ideas". What is it with white male thinkers making this sort of physical statement? I was going to say "philosophers" but that term is quite overused when it comes to what white men do, and is rarely used to describe men of color or any women, such as Marimba Ani and Andrea Dworkin. Women are called "theorists" perhaps. Men are called Philosophers. There's a difference in status between men and women, and between whites and people of color, in white male supremacist societies I've been part of or have seen depicted, culturally, in film or literature. The differences in status are hierarchically arranged, and are oppressive-to-lethal to those on the bottom.

A. C. Grayling is an author and he teaches at some colleges. Here's how he puts it, on his website:
Anthony Grayling MA, DPhil (Oxon) FRSL, FRSA is Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London, and a Supernumerary Fellow of St Anne's College, Oxford. He has written and edited over twenty books on philosophy and other subjects; among his most recent are "Ideas That Matter", "Liberty in the Age of Terror" and "To Set Prometheus Free". 
For several years he wrote the "Last Word" column for the Guardian newspaper and now writes a column for the Times. He is a frequent contributor to the Literary Review, Observer, Independent on Sunday, Times Literary Supplement, Index on Censorship and New Statesman, and is an equally frequent broadcaster on BBC Radios 4, 3 and the World Service. He writes the Thinking Read column for the Barnes and Noble Review in New York, is the Editor of Online Review London, and a Contributing Editor of Prospect magazine. 
In addition he sits on the editorial boards of several academic journals, and for nearly ten years was the Honorary Secretary of the principal British philosophical association, the Aristotelian Society. He is a past chairman of June Fourth, a human rights group concerned with China, and is a representative to the UN Human Rights Council for the International Humanist and Ethical Union. 
Anthony Grayling was a Fellow of the World Economic Forum for several years, and a member of its C-100 group on relations between the West and the Islamic world. 
He is a Trustee of the London Library, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. In 2003 he was a Booker Prize judge, and in 2010 is a judge of the Art Fund prize.
Here's a list of some of the things he's been published in: http://www.acgrayling.com/publications

Given all this studying, reading, and writing, and gathering of prestigious, status-giving experience (in the eyes of other similarly statused white men, especially), you'd think he might actually be semi-intelligent on the matter of feminism and the global condition of women and how white men, in particular, have a key role in the destruction of women and girls' lives across every continent except Antarctica. (No such luck.)

18 April 2011 note: I've decided to put the uninterrupted text here first. You can then read my thorough analysis and critique afterwards. With only one exception--due to him using a term I object to being used--I present his words as they appear in his book.

What has been typed by me below, posted here for the purposes of much-needed political and ethical critique, appears published on pages 150, 151, and 152 of Grayling's 2009 book titled Ideas That Matter: The Concepts That Shape the 21st Century. It is the entirety of a section on Feminism. As you shall see, I argue it is a truly racist, misleading, sexist, and inaccurate, lie-promoting summary of feminism. And it is likely his understanding of feminism comes primarily or only from secondary sources.

On those three book pages, which doesn't amount to much when typed into a blog post, he presents his racist, white-washed, inaccurate account of "feminism", located by him largely in the U.S. and UK, with the pages' content focusing on 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. He adds truly disgusting, stunningly politically colonialistic, culturally imperialistic 21st century prescriptions for what "advanced" white women ought to do for those supposedly all-poor, allegedly backwards Brown and Black women who don't live where whites do--apparently. (I'm not kidding. He says this C.R.A.P. You'll see.)
Feminism is a complex set of overlapping movements in the political, social and cultural spheres aimed at promoting and defending the interests of women in society. One way of expressing the aim of this set of movements would be to say that feminists seek to achieve equal rights with men, not the least equal pay for equal work; but some more radical feminists wish to bring about a dispensation in which male status and pay cease to be what define women's aspirations.
So diverse are the perspectives and concerns of feminism that it cannot be accounted by a single ideology. Nevertheless there is a core of questions on which much feminist activism and theory focuses, including questions about the nature of sex and gender and their social construction, women's experience, violence against women, the historical and institutional basis of patriarchy (male domination) and the correlative subjection of women, stereotyping and sexual objectification, the right methods required for combating the forces and factors that militate against the achievement of feminist aims, and much besides.
The very first feminism on record might be found in Aristophanes's play Lysistrata, in which the women of Athens and its allies decide to force their menfolk to stop the Peloponnesian War by refusing them sexual favours until they do so. They succeed. If organized activity by women had continued and diversified into areas of social injustice affecting women, the episode dramatized by Aristophanes would have become feminism proper.
One has to look to the eighteenth century to see the first proper intimations of organized feminist consciousness, in the views of the Marquis de Condorcet and later in the writings of the remarkable Mary Wollstonecraft. The term 'feminism' was coined in French (feminisme) by the socialist Charles Fourier, and John Stuart Mill's The Subjection of Women (1869) gives it one of its best early statements; the book begins with the words, 'The object of this Essay is to explain as clearly as I am able ... that the principle which regulates the existing social relations between the two sexes -- the legal subordination of one sex to the other -- is wrong itself, and now one of the chief hindrances to human improvement; and that it ought to be replaced by a principle of perfect equality, admitting no power or privilege on the one side, nor disability on the other.' 
The first great victories for feminism are arguably those of suffragism -- the campaign for the vote -- and access to universities and medical schools. Both campaigns began in the nineteenth century and by the 1920s were more or less assured of victory if not already victorious. But these gains served only to highlight many remaining barriers to fairness; for example, women with university degrees were still denied access to jobs carrying influence, power and high renumeration, either being refused access outright or meeting the 'glass ceiling' that prevented them from rising above a certain level of seniority.
The gainers of the qualified victories just mentioned are often called 'first-wave feminists'. The second wave was given its impetus by two  influential books, Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex and Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique. In the turbulent 1960s, with many interconnected social and political upheavals occurring -- not least the civil liberties movement in the United States over the rights of African Americans -- together with a sexual revolution spurred by the contraceptive pill and liberalized attitudes, feminists found many opportunities to advance their case.
In the early 1970s in the United States two events favouring the situation of women occurred:  the Equal Rights Amendment to the US Constitution was passed by Congress [though not ratified], and the Roe versus Wade abortion case accorded women 'the right to choose'.
Since these major battles, feminism (now 'third-wave feminism') has taken many forms ranging from the liberal to the radical-- from the quest for social and economic equality with men to separatist rejection of men, from theoretical interests to activism, from assertion of equal rights to arguments for special protections for women that (for example) include limiting male free speech (centrally focused on pornography), and much besides-- and there are also movements that deny the male-female dichotomy altogether ('Queer Theory'). On some classifications there are at least two and perhaps three dozen identifiable types of feminist movement. Whereas most people of either sex in the advanced world agree that equal pay and opportunity should be available to all equally qualified people irrespective of sex, race, or any other putative ground of difference, few agree with the extreme feminism exemplified by Andrea Dworkin's claim that all penetrative sexual intercourse is rape.
Feminism of all stripes has benefited from the work of eloquent and powerful advocates for various of its aspects and movements, among them Susan Brownmiller, Judith Butler, Mary Daly, Carol Gilligan, Germaine Greer, Catherine MacKinnon, Juliet Mitchell and Sheila Rowbotham.
In view of the fact that the future health and safety of the world depend on the economic, educational and political advance of women, not least in Third World and developing countries, and among these not least again in the Middle East, it seems that the most vigorous and assertive feminist action should be targeted at a dramatic improvement of the of the lot of women in these places. Among Arab women in Middle East the literacy rate is only 47 per cent; in parts of central and east Africa girls are subjected to the horrors and dangers of [genital cutting]. [I replaced the term you use A.C. No woman I know from any region who experiences these practices appreciates being used by the likes of you to additionally "otherise" them and make them seem only disfigured and disabled]; in many parts of Africa it is found that if women receive just a few years of elementary schooling, they have fewer and healthier children, and gain access to rights and benefits that ignorance seals from them.
If 'First World' women have the means and the knowledge to help their sisters in these disadvantaged circumstances would strain every sinew to do so, the prospects not just for the women themselves but for the world as a whole would be transformed. The feminist challenge should surely place this struggle at its centre. [End.]
Now I offer my commentary and analysis in brackets and bold within the same three-page passage. I'll close with some additional concerns about his professional, public life.
Feminism is a complex set of overlapping movements in the political, social and cultural [and economic] spheres aimed at promoting and defending the interests of women in society [while also unearthing, interrogating, and challenging the underlying misogynist-racist and woman-degrading values and practices, structures and systems, ideologies and institutions that constitute and comprise any given society]. One way of expressing the aim of this set of movements would be to say that feminists seek to achieve equal rights with men, not the least equal pay for equal work; but some more radical [meaning: not 'extreme' but rather 'seeking to get to the root'] feminists wish to bring about a dispensation in which male [defined and protected] status and pay [and woman-degrading and woman-subordinating patriarchal practices] cease to be what define women's aspirations.

So diverse are the perspectives and concerns of feminism [which includes diversity of region, era, race, ethnicity, age, language, and fundamental worldview] that it cannot be accounted by a single ideology. [I agree with him about that. At issue is the narrowness of his grasp of what feminists have been, contemplate, and challenge, which shall be blatantly demonstrated soon.] Nevertheless there is a core of questions on which much feminist activism and theory focuses [particularly, as he will note, in the white West], including questions about the nature of sex and gender and their social construction [and the nature of 'nature' itself, and its theoretical construction as something for men to conquer, assault, and possess], women's experience [and being], [men's] violence against women, the historical and institutional basis of patriarchy (male domination [and the accompanying man-ufactured ideology: male supremacy]) and the correlative [meaning: necessarily and willfully resultant--causally so] subjection [and assault] of women, stereotyping [, erasing, dehumanising, invalidating, ignoring,] and sexual objectification [, fetishisation, pornographisation, demonisation, and enslavement], the right methods required for combating the [male-protected] forces and [the perniciously globalised while socially, culturally, regionally, and temporally specific] factors that militate [meaning: serve as a powerful or conclusive factor in working] against the achievement of feminist aims, and much besides. [I'm curious to know what "and much besides" refers to in his understanding or experience.]

The very first [example of literary] feminism on record might [or, rather, is not to] be found in [comic writer] Aristophanes's play Lysistrata, in which the women of Athens and its allies decide to force their menfolk to stop the Peloponnesian War by refusing them sexual favours until they do so. [There are problems here. First, it is unreasonable to assume that the very first feminist action--literary or otherwise--was written by a man even with many women being prevented from achieving a male supremacist, pro-patriarchal education for centuries to come. Second, to call this play "feminist" is to not understand the play's cultural function as comic theatre at all. Nor is it to understand the political climate: men ruled women. Period. While in some city-states women could own property, not so in Athens. In Athens women were a man's possession--either her father's or her husband's. (And Goddess Athena help the woman who had neither--or either.) There was no such authority of women to demand anything at all, least of all that men stop war, or rape. Third, I find the word choice "decide to force their menfolk to stop ... war"--this alone indicates some comical fantasy of the play writer; Western patriarchal forces were already organised to prevent women from having this power. The phrasing suggests what was likely an absurd idea of the time and place: that men belong to women, which given the treatment of women at the time is, indeed, "comical"; this status of women relative to men has not been the case in reality in the non-Indigenous Western world before or since the era of Aristophanes and Plato. Fourth, the phrase "refusing them sexual favours until they do so" is hardly what one might think: in the play, it involves women dressing scantily; nuff said. The comic play and the presentation of it here as "feminist", carries with it so many misogynistic assumptions: that women might actually have or have had the sexual power over men such that wars can be prevented if only women withdraw sexual rights of access to men that women did not socially or lawfully possess; that men view sex as something women offer men as "favours", rather than something men take from women as a male supremacist and rapist right or entitlement. Women in that society were property; wives were sexual slaves.  Masters aggressively and callously take labor from slaves. Slaves are whipped or beaten for not submitting "properly". Slaves don't offer "favours" to slave-owners. This view of women's almost totalitarian sexual power must have been uproariously funny to the men-only audience, viewing and enjoying a production of this play.] They succeed. [Histerical. That Aristophanes! He's such a laugh riot. To get a sense of what this play is actually about, please see *here*] If organized activity by women had continued [in men's misogynistic imaginations, such as that comic playwright's?] and diversified into areas of social injustice affecting women [unlike anything depicted in that play], the episode dramatized by Aristophanes would have become feminism proper. [What's "feminism proper"? Is that opposed to feminism improper? Regardless, this assessment is not grounded in reality. The power arrangements were not in place for such gendered resistance, let alone for women to have leverage or control over men's behaviors such as rape and war.]

One has to look to the [white West again, this time in the] eighteenth century to see the first proper [there's that 'legitimising' word again] intimations [meaning (perhaps): communicated evidence] of organized feminist consciousness, in the views of the Marquis de Condorcet [another man; he was in favor of some form of equality between the sexes and among the races. But in case you're not getting the "thrust" of this writing--A. C. is intimating that it was men at least as much as women who are responsible for "proper" feminism.  I say: bullshit.] and later in the writings of the remarkable Mary Wollstonecraft. The term 'feminism' was coined in French (feminisme) by the socialist Charles Fourier, and John Stuart Mill's The Subjection of Women (1869) gives it one of its best early statements; the book begins with the words, 'The object of this Essay is to explain as clearly as I am able ... that the principle which regulates the existing social relations between the two sexes -- the legal subordination of one sex to the other -- is wrong itself, and now one of the chief hindrances to human improvement; and that it ought to be replaced by a principle of perfect equality, admitting no power or privilege on the one side, nor disability on the other.' [Even if Grayling can't see feminism beyond the white West, why doesn't he tell us anything about Mary Astell, Lady Chudleigh, Mary Collier, Mme. De Beaumer, Bluestockings, Catherine Sawbridge Macaulay, Constantia (Judith Sargent Stevens Murray), Olympe de Gouges--all women, many of whom wrote before Condorcet, Fourier, and Mill--all men?]

The first great victories for feminism [in the white West as A. C. understands it] are arguably those of suffragism -- the campaign for the vote -- and access to universities and medical schools. [I'll introduce a rather key objection to this way of understanding feminism's roots and early activities: it completely relegates women of color to being non-existent; it ignores how Indigenous, Black, and Brown women introduced key concepts and lived as key figures in their own societies and also in dominant white-majority societies, demonstrating how to "do" gender differently. It is clear, and it becomes far clearer as we progress here, that A. C. cannot and will not consider the possibility that women who were not white are the founders and shapers of contemporary feminist movements because he only can view "ideas that matter" as happening in white societies; and later you'll see how he even assumes that it can only be "advanced" white women who bring "ideas that matter" to poor women of color. He barely considers anyone but white men to be the founders of any worthwhile ideas-that-matter. I am skeptical about the seemingly unrecognised biases A. C. shows, flagrantly, in not being able to conceive, understand, seek out, or promote the ideas, theories, philosophies, of women of color on their own terms, in their own cultural contexts, including in a white-dominant contenxt. Indigenous women's ideas and actions shaped white women's understandings and beliefs in the possibility of equality among the sexes. This has been documented by Sally Roesch Wagner.] Both campaigns began in the nineteenth century and by the 1920s were more or less assured of victory if not already victorious. But these gains served only to highlight many remaining barriers to fairness; for example, women with university degrees were still denied access to jobs carrying influence, power and high renumeration, either being refused access outright or meeting the 'glass ceiling' that prevented them from rising above a certain level of seniority. [By this time two very key figures in feminist herstory have already lived and died, leaving their mark: Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman. Why no mention of them? There were and remain far more fundamental issues to contend with: such as whether girls and women are to be treated as human beings by men; whether women are allowed to possess their own bodies and lives; whether girls and women are to be trafficked--a practice that C. Columbus introduced upon arrival in the islands and land masses later known as the Americas; and whether men's speech, in using women's bodies to say what pimps believe women are for, is more socially important than women's rights to not be depicted and actually used as wh*res and slaves for rape and other abuses. Grayling clues us into his views on some of these matters below. And it's not pretty.]
The gainers of the qualified victories just mentioned are often called 'first-wave feminists'. The second wave was given its impetus by two  influential books, Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex and Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique. In the turbulent 1960s, with many interconnected social and political upheavals occurring -- not least the civil liberties movement in the United States over the rights of African Americans -- together with a sexual revolution spurred by the contraceptive pill and liberalized attitudes, feminists found many opportunities to advance their case. ["African Americans", just above, appears to only refer to men. But we must consider the contributions to feminism that Black women--feminists--in the U.S. made, such as Johnnie Tillmon. I have seen enough white-washed accounts of feminist herstory to know that A. C. is only parroting what he's read in those racist secondary sources. And it is also important to note that what most women do that is organised resistance to patriarchal atrocity and ideology, is not done by women who define themselves necessarily as "feminist". Grayling shows that if the idea-makers are men, they needn't identify as "feminist". But if they are women, they probably ought to identify in ways that white women with education and class privilege identify, or else their ideas don't matter to him because he never sees them as ideas-that-matter to begin with. He makes no mention of the rather important ideas in the books Women, Race, and Class and Yurugu. He can write far more about some forgotten white man (who, prior to reading those few pages in his book, I'd never heard of in my life) and ignore Angela Davis and Marimba Ani's contemporary work because he's white and male and few people will call him out on it. Indeed, few people in his social or academic circles will have read and promote the work--the ideas that matter--of Angela Davis and Marimba Ani. I'll pick up this point of critique later.]
In the early 1970s in the United States two events favouring the situation [situation?? The economic, sexual, and social subordination and gross exploitation of girls and women by men is far more than a "situation"; as a writer he ought to know language choice matters, and one of the ways we shape history is by using minimising terms to describe horrific histories of atrocity; would he say that the Jews in Europe dealt with many "situations" over the centuries? Perhaps he would. But he ought not] of women occurred:  the Equal Rights Amendment to the US Constitution was passed by Congress [though not ratified], and the Roe versus Wade abortion case accorded women 'the right to choose'. [Roe v. Wade was a flawed effort by placing women's bodies under the law as private--arguing the government has no business invading privacy; the issue was not a right to choose at all; it was a right to consider women's bodies private rather than public, no matter how publicly (and privately) harassed and exploited women were. C. A. MacKinnon has argued convincingly that it would have made, and would make, far more sense to frame the issue as a civil rights one, not as a matter of privacy. "Privacy" in practice allows men to do things like commit incest (routine molestation, nightly assault, serial rape) against girls, and routine, serial rape against women to whom the men are married--U.S. white men and UK white men too--lots of men, not just men in Central Asia and Africa that A. C. speaks about condescendingly later on. Historically and currently, many people do not choose to be pregnant but get pregnant nonetheless--including in the West; many people do not choose to be forcibly sterilised--this happens disproportionately to Black, Brown, and Indigenous women and girls in the U.S. and is perpetrated by "civil" and "advanced" white men. Women do not choose whether men will or will not assault them, use a condom during the assault, or beat the shit out of a woman he has forcibly impregnated so that she miscarries the pregnancy. Women do not currently possess their own bodies in any way that resembles or approximates how men possess their own. Why doesn't A. C. Grayling promote the ideas of feminists who accurately call out white men for institutionally rigging the courts in the U.S., UK, and Australia, so that unrepentant raping and battering men get custody of the children they have already abused--abuse that includes beating up and raping their mothers in earshot or in view of the children?]
[I'll address the rest of my comments directly to you, Mr. Grayling.  I welcome your responses to the points raised above and the direct questions and matters I address to you below.]
Since these major battles [and so many others that you don't discuss], feminism (now 'third-wave feminism') [Here you also borrow from flawed and racist academic analyses of feminism as happening in distinct "waves", which are not historically or politically accurate; Indigenous women's resistance to the White Man, for example; Black and Brown women's resistance to the White Man, and to Black and Brown men too, is not accounted for in these allegedly distinct "waves"; and, regardless, you show no understanding at all of how so-called second-wave and third-wave feminism co-exist and interact] has taken many forms ranging from the liberal to the radical [for some, liberal  feminist campaigns are termed 'third-wave'; radical campaigns are understood as 'second-wave': this is also an inaccurate and often racist understanding and perspective; but second-wave feminists are presently active--they weren't a phase that existed and died away, much to misogynist and anti-feminist men's dismay and discontent; RAWA is the oldest revolutionary feminist organisation--and it has never existed in the U.S. or the UK. They've been pro-radical/pro-revolution all many the decades they've existed. So what "wave" are they, A. C.? And why don't you bother to mention them and the work they do--and the ideas-that-matter that they publish? What are the main ideas that rise out of various Indigenous feminists' work? Can you describe and discuss even one?]-- from the quest for social and economic equality with men [with which men, Grayling? With poor white men? With poor Black and Brown men? With Indigenous men? No. It appears, yet again, that people of color barely exist to you and that women of color, specifically, don't even register in your mind as existing in any central way at all] to separatist rejection of men [this is typically mislabeled "second-wave" and is not ever termed a 'third-wave' phenomenon, in my experience; and how male-centric to assume that separatism is a "rejection of men" and not a fully conscious choice to live WITH women? Were men who went to all-male academies, before they admitted women, "rejecting all women"? Why is women choosing to be with women necessarily framed up as something DONE TO MEN, rather than done for women? His misogyny and anti-lesbian biases leak through here], from theoretical interests to activism, from assertion of equal rights to arguments for special protections [special??] for women that (for example) include limiting male free speech (centrally focused on pornography) [ah, more misogyny and anti-feminism leaking into his discourse; the rights of women to not be filmed and photographed being trafficked and raped doesn't register in his mind as conceivable in terms of even being "a right"; the only "right" or "special protection" he advocates is for pimp-speech to dominate and silence women by traumatising women into silence and dissociation], and much besides [like what, A. C.? How about the challenge to end genocide--half of all people murdered genocidally are women, after all; what about stopping wealthy white men from trafficking and purchasing girls from across the globe; what about stopping white men from making Indigenous women and girls in the U.S. the most raped female population by ethnicity or race?]-- and there are also movements that deny the male-female dichotomy altogether ('Queer Theory'). [That's because gender is a social idea, as is "sex"; and feminists were interrogating that issue well before "Queer Theory" took it up in an academic setting. You are aware, aren't you, Grayling, that some societies have more than two genders, more than two sexes, and that the Western identities and labels are historically and regionally specific? You know that for a long time in the West it was assumed, by "smart" and "educated" MEN who would now be called heterosexual, that there was only one sex, right? You know the history of the term "invert", don't you? I'm curious about why there are quotation marks around the term Queer Theory? And I'm wondering also why you assume it has much or any relation to what feminists are doing. Because a significant amount of academic Queer Theory is liberal,  pro-patriarchal, anti-woman, and anti-lesbian.] On some classifications there are at least two and perhaps three dozen identifiable types of feminist movement. [For those who indulge in typology of feminism, rather than the typology of and political challenge to male supremacists and forms of patriarchy.] Whereas most people of either sex in the advanced [!!!] world [which means traditional, uncolonised Indigenous societies are what, A. C.? Behind, inferior, an impediment or obstacle to proper "advancement" of "civilisation"? Has it occurred to you that Western civilisation is in fact grossly savage and sadistic, cruel beyond any imagination, not at all "civil" or "advanced", and is also utterly unsustainable while militantly and egregiously ecocidal? What's the "advanced" part again?] agree that equal pay and opportunity should be available to all equally qualified people irrespective of sex, race, or any other putative ground of difference, few agree with the extreme [didn't you use the word "radical" earlier?] feminism exemplified by Andrea Dworkin's claim that all penetrative sexual intercourse is rape. [Ah. You're a liar, A. C. Please show us all where she wrote that or said it in a recorded speech? Have you seen this about that lie as it has been spread around, starting in pornography, as if either or both Andrea Dworkin or Catharine A. MacKinnon said it? And please note the spelling of the latter political philosopher's name. She's much smarter than you are, by the way. You might want to actually read her work some time.]
Feminism of all stripes [feminism doesn't come in stripes; prisoners do] has benefited from the work of eloquent and powerful advocates for various of its aspects and movements, among them [hey, A. C., just for kicks, let's see how many of the women you list as eloquent and powerful are not white!] Susan Brownmiller [white], Judith Butler [white], Mary Daly [white], Carol Gilligan [white], Germaine Greer [white], Catherine MacKinnon [white] [first name spelled wrong; a certain sign that secondary sources only were referenced], Juliet Mitchell [white] and Sheila Rowbotham [white]. [Hmmm. Your racist sexism is showing, Grayling. No Audre Lorde? Barbara Smith? Alice Walker? bell hooks? Patricia Hill Collins? Andrea Smith? Malalai Joya? Yanar Mohammed? Vandana Shiva? What do you consider the work of Marimba Ani to be? Feminist, anti-racist, or both? Just to clue you in, Audre Lorde's work is far more foundational and important than Butler's in both feminism and queer theory.]

In view of the fact that the future health and safety of the world [of men, for men, by men] depend on the economic, educational and political advance [!! there's that nasty word again] of women [educational as in the genocidal, sexually and spiritually abusive education Indigenous girls and boys got in North America through the 1960s?], not least in Third World and developing countries [your "First World" racism is showing again, this time a bit more nakedly; you may wish to read the collected works of Vandana Shiva before you start your arrogant preaching about how whites must help those poor, only-suffering, only-victimised Brown and Black people on those "other" continents and in those "other" regions--who couldn't possibly be brilliantly organising their own political and economic strategies for survival and beyond], and among these not least again in the Middle East [yeah, like that region: read Ms. Joya and Ms. Mohammed's work, why don't you, and learn something about how unfathomably fucked up your "advanced" society is--and its 'ethics' are] and parts of south Asia [ah, and that region: please study the activist work of Ruchira Gupta and Vandana Shiva--again, for some of the most "advanced" feminist theory you're going to find anywhere in the world], it seems that the most vigorous and assertive feminist action should be targeted [like a coloniser's ethnic-cleansing bomb or a strategic military plan?] at a dramatic improvement of the of the lot of women in these places. [Why not consider the lot of white women and women of color in your own country, sir? Do the women in your country have a "lot"? Or is that just a term you use for people you think of as "not advanced" and "not improved"?] Among Arab women in Middle East the literacy rate is only 47 per cent [you're really just unable to stop yourself from trotting out all these racist-misogynist tropes, in the guise of 'facts', aren't you? I assure you, plenty of Middle Eastern women have had very good educations; Yanar Mohammed is one of them--and she is much smarter than you, sir]; in parts of central and east Africa girls are subjected to the horrors and dangers of [genital cutting]. [I replaced the term you use A.C., which no woman I know from any region who experiences these practices appreciates being used by the likes of you to additionally "otherise" and make them seem only disfigured and disabled]; in many parts of Africa it is found that if women receive just a few years of elementary schooling, they have fewer and healthier children [because no matter what, let's be sure to mention that the social function of women isn't to grow up and be somebody--like you--but to have babies. (Did you produce babies, A. C. How many?) And if you're Black or Brown you're agenda should be to have fewer babies, shouldn't it? What about those extra-large white Christian families I see across the U.S.--conceived not because the women choose to, but because the husband won't use birth control and feels entitled to force himself oh "his" wife? What about the lack of education and health care available to so many children in the West? Oops. We're supposed to pretend we don't have "their" non-advanced problems], and gain access to rights and benefits that ignorance seals from them. [What an ignorant, condescending, socially and culturally illiterate white male supremacist bigot you are. Truly. You should be ashamed of yourself. Why don't you read some of the writings of Dora Byamukama and educate yourself about your own deeply entrenched regional, racial, sexual, and cultural stupidity.]

If 'First World' [if you mean WHITE, why don't you say so? Many of the great feminists I named above are 'First World' but you failed to notice or mention them at all] women have the means and the knowledge to help their sisters [dood: you're a fool. What makes you think women of color regard anyone white as "their sisters" necessarily? And what's your evidence that whites regard people of color as fully human? You get that whites--women and men--unrepentantly and lethally oppress women and men of color, right?] in these disadvantaged circumstances would strain every sinew to do so [and what about white MEN straining some sinews to end things like globalised capitalism, poverty, famine, militarism, overpopulation, trafficking and sexual slavery? Are you able to promote that agenda as a moral or ethical idea that matters? Are you able to understanding how the white West is directly and murderously implicated, causally, with every economic, political atrocity going on in sub-Saharan Africa and Central and South Asia? Men from Europe produce and market munitions to many countries in Africa. Why don't you mention that when you mention Africa? What's the function of rendering invisible how European men influence and enforce rapist-racist atrocities? Are you able to call on "advanced" and "educated" white men to stop being so fucking ignorant and to wake up and start listening to the moral and ethical leaders of this world--who are women of all colors, including especially from Central and South Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa? And also Indigenous women globally? Is that political prescription an idea that might matter?], the prospects not just for the women themselves but for the world [meaning men: the world of men, by men, for men] as a whole would be transformed. [Because you surely don't think men are going to to jack shit to end all the atrocities, do you? And because you won't call on men to take up these issues--the ones that most harm women and girls--you pass off that work to your white, educated, advanced "sisters" don't you, brother?] The feminist challenge should surely place this struggle at its centre. [No, sir. YOU and all your many "brothers" should place the struggles of ALL women at YOUR moral, ethical, and political centre. Or are you morally,  ethically, and politically incapable of calling on men to stop rape, racism, trafficking, using the misogynist court system to give custody of children, immorally and unethically, to battering and incest perpetrating men... oh, and military warfare? You might try suggesting to other class privileged white men like yourself that you all stop traumatising and terrorising women with unwelcomed and unwanted sexual "favours".]
I'll close this post by noting that I am deeply concerned about him ever having been chairperson of June Fourth, a human rights group concerned with China, and do not feel encouraged in him being a non-colonialistic, unbigoted representative to the UN Human Rights Council for the International Humanist and Ethical Union. That he has been a Fellow of the World Economic Forum for several years, and a member of its C-100 group on relations between the West and the Islamic world, only leads me to wonder what those who appointed or approved him having those roles understood his racist, sexist philosophy and ethical position to be. I hope such Union and Forum decision-makers will reconsider offering him such statused positions in the future.

3 comments:

theoreticalgrrrl said...

Thank you for this. I read parts of Grayling's book and that chapter on feminism made me cringe. Well, other parts made me cringe too, but that one was particularly uniformed and poorly researched and just so plain ignorant it blew my mind.

ptittle said...

Hi Julian, this is not to defend Grayling in any way, since he has a lot more power than I did, but people should know...when I wrote the Ethics unit for a high school philosophy text, I took great pains to include references to women philosophers. The publisher changed stuff.

For example, for an accompanying visual for one part, I suggested a picture of Harriet Taylor, and the caption was to have been something she said. The publisher kept the image but replaced the caption with something J. S. Mill said, basically praising Taylor (as if the white man's approval were required).

What they did with my material was so horrendous to me I asked that my name not be on the cover.

Julian Real said...

Wow, ptittle.

That's very discouraging, and, sadly, not surprising.

Cool of you to insist that your name no longer be associated with the material.

I hope you and your work has gotten more respect and less racist-misogynist alteration since then.