Doctor Science Knows

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Contextualizing Amanda Marcotte

For quite a while now I've been a regular reader and commenter at Pandagon and a sporadic reader at Shakespeare's Sister. I was very pleased and impressed when Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan were hired by the Edwards campaign, disgusted by the outcry against them from Bill Donohue and Michelle Malkin and their hordes, and saddened though not surprised when the bloggers had to quit.

[if you've been under an e-rock and don't know what I'm talking about, here is Amanda's description of what went down, and here is Melissa's.]

During the kerfuffle/blogswarm/15 minutes of fame, I didn't post here but did a certain amount of commenting at other blogs, including Orcinus (also here), Obsidian Wings, and Pandagon itself. Over the next few days I'm going to try to post re-worked versions of various of my comments here.

One of the points that kept coming up was needing to put Amanda's remakrs in context. The particular remark that got a lot of people upset was:

Q: What if Mary had taken Plan B after the Lord filled her with his hot, white, sticky Holy Spirit?

A: You’d have to justify your misogyny with another ancient mythology.

Here is the original context.

In brief: Marcotte was writing about official Catholic "pre-Cana" (=pre-marital) teaching on sex & contraception, and the misinformation, misdirection, lies, & misogyny therein. The infamous Q&A
is in the style of the questions & answers found in standard Catholic Catechisms. These catechistic exchanges very often teach standard or dogmatic answers to hypothetical questions.

The core of what Amanda was saying is IMHO completely correct. People who try to discourage the use of any effective contraception are not "pro-life", they are anti-sex and anti-woman. If Catholicism did not exist, such people would still be misogynists, but they'd have to cloak it in a different religion.

In other words, she was saying that Catholicism is *not* the source of all misogyny -- she is certainly not anti-Catholic by feminist standards, nor by atheist standards. She is not at all fond of the current Catholic hierarchy, but I know a lot of practicing Catholics who aren't, either. A number of the other Pandagon posters and commenters are practicing Catholics, and they don't find Amanda's saltier language particularly offensive. She mocks doctrine and assholes, but not well-meaning people.

Now, about that Holy Spirit.

Speaking as a former Catholic schoolgirl, one characteristic of Catholics as compared to the mass of American Protestants is often a much earthier and less glossily reverent approach to the Incarnation [more detail about this on next rock]. Bill Donohue claimed to be shocked, *shocked* that anyone could possibly talk about the Holy Spirit that way, but he knows how Catholics talk when they think the priest isn't listening (and sometimes when he is), and Amanda is just gesturing in the direction of the iceberg. I don't know if she was raised Catholic, but she went to a Catholic college and IMHO she has a right to talk the talk.

And even if you think that non-believers don't have the right to make obvious (and ancient) jokes about matters of sincere religious belief, I agree with Amanda that it is much worse to use sincere religious belief to spread harmful lies. In particular, no religion deserves respect for misogyny, and the best way to combat inappropriate respect is mockery.

Coincidentally (though I would be proud to share her brain), Amanda posted this morning on TPMCafe about criticizing religions that have offensive beliefs.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Wimp Factor

Amanda at Pandagon (I will post my thinky thots about her 15 minutes of fame! really! and long may they wave) just posted a review of Stephen Ducat's The Wimp Factor, which I've been meaning to read for a while. Get cracking, public library! I'm poor!
Ducat’s basic thesis is that boys grow up having a harder time than girls creating a positive gender identity, and therefore grow up too often to define themselves as Not Women, creating misogyny, war, etc. I think there’s little doubt that this is true, though the reasons it is true are in dispute.
Ducat is a Freudian, which I didn't know before this review. Freudians generally write really, really well, have interesting ideas and make wide connections -- and usually go off the tracks toward Looneyville at some point. But at least their sentences aren't dipped in sociologese, so they're never *boring*.

I can't remember if it was in Louise Kaplan's Female Perversions (she's another Freudian) or in a book (by a male author, maybe?) that is linked to Kaplan in my mind, but whichever Freudian it was pointed out that on trouble with dichotomous gender roles is that it restricts what virtues a person can practice.

As Ducat says, sharing *any* quality with women provokes anxious masculinity. Therefore, if feminism lets women cultivate intelligence, anxious men must act stupid. If some women are prudent, men must be reckless. If women do well in school, men must do badly.

I actually think this is where a lot of the anxious-masculine anti-environmentalism comes from. It's not so much that women are associated with nature, but that women are encouraged to show qualities of caring for the future (especially children), of compassion, of prudence and restraint. So a male can only get guy-points by being reckless, greedy, wasteful, and short-sighted.

It's a kind of subtractive masculinity, where the only qualities that make a guy a Real Man are ones women do not display. So if feminism lets women become more fully human, Real Men must become less -- as though being human is a zero-sum game.

This is why we get so much "feminists deny the important differences between men and women! You think everyone should be androgynously bland!" When we say, "the truly important virtues are ones both men and women can display: honesty, courage, intelligence, compassion" they hear, "the important game is one that doesn't define Manhood." And in that way, of course, they're right.

Speaking of Kaplan, one of her most interesting ideas is "homovestism": getting a sexual charge out of dressing up as a member of one's own gender. I think this explains a lot about what fashion means to many women.

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Monday, February 12, 2007

the New World (blogger) Order

I am forced at last to switch to the new blogger interface. I've set it to force commenters to use captcha. If this is a problem, let me know. Now "all" I have to do is go back and delete all the comment spam I'm gotten.

I'm going to try to post more frequently. We'll just see how that works out.