"politics are personal"....

Peterb

Well-Known Member
This has nothing to do with "correct" behavior (a tired old trope), and everything to do with being treated with the respect and dignity that every human being deserves. Feminists are not a group or a clique - they are men and women who believe that both sexes have equal status as human beings on this planet. Feminism spans countries, ethnicities, religions, and political systems. It is a universal acknowledgement of basic human rights.

Look at Wangari Maathai, who managed to fight for both the environment and civil rights while leading a movement that addressed issues of poverty, hunger and economic injustice in Kenya and all across Africa. Talk about loving your fellow beings - there's no greater love than that. Egalitarian, compassionate, and ultimately very realistic about human motivations and needs, her brand of feminism wasn't some ivory tower theorizing by a first world academic, it was a boots-on-the-ground movement to improve the lives of all her people, and it worked.

Feminism is common sense, and nothing more.
Beautifully written Anaesthesine
 

Qvist

Active Member
Pledging allegiance to common sense is the same as aligning yourself with a special interest group. It just happens to be a group so big and so powerful it goes unnoticed.

Feminism taught me that. :guitar:

Well, what precise sectional and special interests does people with common sense represent? One could well argue that this point of view amounts to reductive self-justification and inability to recognise that not all thought processes are just mirror images of their own.
 

Peterb

Well-Known Member
Well, what precise sectional and special interests does people with common sense represent? One could well argue that this point of view amounts to reductive self-justification and inability to recognise that not all thought processes are just mirror images of their own.
Most people would percieve their politics to be a postion derived from common sense, (since that includes me I agree with Worm).
 

Iona Mink

Despitemybetterjudgement
Pledging allegiance to common sense is the same as aligning yourself with a special interest group. It just happens to be a group so big and so powerful it goes unnoticed.

Feminism taught me that. :guitar:

But feminism is not 'common' sense. Not using the definition that is it normal, often appied and shared amongst the majority. You just have to look at how female politicians are treated in Western countries to realise that women are far from being judged as equals.
 

Peterb

Well-Known Member
But feminism is not 'common' sense. Not using the definition that is it normal, often appied and shared amongst the majority. You just have to look at how female politicians are treated in Western countries to realise that women are far from being judged as equals.
Whilst you are obviously correct, we must be honest and realise that when people use the term 'common sense' they are not referencing a majority viewpoint but what seems to them to be self evident.
 

Black Cloud

Case Sensitive
This has nothing to do with "correct" behavior (a tired old trope), and everything to do with being treated with the respect and dignity that every human being deserves. Feminists are not a group or a clique - they are men and women who believe that both sexes have equal status as human beings on this planet. Feminism spans countries, ethnicities, religions, and political systems. It is a universal acknowledgement of basic human rights.

Look at Wangari Maathai, who managed to fight for both the environment and civil rights while leading a movement that addressed issues of poverty, hunger and economic injustice in Kenya and all across Africa. Talk about loving your fellow beings - there's no greater love than that. Egalitarian, compassionate, and ultimately very realistic about human motivations and needs, her brand of feminism wasn't some ivory tower theorizing by a first world academic, it was a boots-on-the-ground movement to improve the lives of all her people, and it worked.

Feminism is common sense, and nothing more.

You still don't get it, and expanding the definition of "feminism" in order to make more people more comfortable with it, isn't going to make people like me get on board. Yes, Wangari Maathai did great things, and the fact that I'm not a feminist won't tarnish her legacy at all! Not even a little! But I reject the idea that now anybody who wants a better world has to say they're a feminist. Because in practice, and I've seen it, it's not about letting women make their own choices, or making sure both sexes have equal status as human beings. It's about coercing people, especially women, into making the choices that powerful women want them to make, and that's very different. I also question whether feminism has been ultimately good or bad for children, especially in the US. Feminism: quo bene?
 

Worm

Taste the diffidence
Well, what precise sectional and special interests does people with common sense represent? One could well argue that this point of view amounts to reductive self-justification and inability to recognise that not all thought processes are just mirror images of their own.

Merriam-Webster defines "common sense" as "sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts". As the term is usually used, however, "common sense" usually means an abstract sphere of logical reasoning, transcending individual biases, to which everyone has access simply by virtue of being human. Anaesthesine and Black Cloud can't agree on what common sense actually means for the typcal reason: Merriam-Webster's definition, just like the standard Enlightenment defintion of empirical reason, blissfully ignores the inconvenient fact that it's nearly impossible for groups of people to have the same "simple perception of the situation or facts" (not only when they differ but also, usually, even when they agree on the main points). A "simple perception of the situation or facts" is harder to find than the Loch Ness Monster, which this forum has proved a million times.

This is a fundamental epistemological problem, and although my comment referred to feminism, it could just as easily go all the way back to some of our oldest foundational ideas, such as Plato's parable of the cave. ABCs: our knowledge has limits. The dominant special interest group, privileged white males, has somehow managed to hit on this truth and neutralize it at the same time-- which is exactly what Hitchens always does. Appeals to reason, logic, common sense, and empirical evidence were used as brickbats to beat down the opposition to the Iraq War, and yet it was precisely in these areas the Iraq War failed, most signally in the easiest measure of all: Saddam had no WMDs.

But your post then restates what I take to be your criticism of feminists, which seems to be that they, like most identity-politics players, are not interested in arriving at anything resembling a larger truth applicable to all people, however flawed or limited, which is usually the claim their critics make for themselves. Rather, they are self-serving, narcissists seeking to justify the bratty, child-like tantrums they like throwing because the world won't wipe their asses for them anymore. No doubt some feminists are guilty of exactly that. Many aren't; and there are many more who have absorbed feminist ideas without actually being "feminists" as such, and they are not even close to being obnoxious narcissists. It seems to me that we are judging an entire philosophy or political movement based on their worst adherents. Yet neither you or I would sit here for a moment and tolerate a woman bashing men as a group based on the behavior of the worst specimens of our gender. Why do we set the bar so high for them? Could it be that deep down we know we have something to lose?

Also, as a side note, I've found that most feminists actually accept and promote the idea that there are a multiplicity of thought processes. In fact, the complaints of historically excluded people are almost always explicitly attached to demands that society embrace all Others, as Others, and not just to put themselves in power at the expense of other groups. There are fringe groups who do want that, but we call them extremists and radicals for a reason.
 
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Worm

Taste the diffidence
It's about coercing people, especially women, into making the choices that powerful women want them to make, and that's very different. I also question whether feminism has been ultimately good or bad for children, especially in the US. Feminism: quo bene?

This is an excellent point. Anyone who wants to see this dynamic in damning black and white should read the recent article in The Atlantic, "What, Me Marry?"

That said, I think our point of view is still too narrow because it is not clear which feminism we're talking about. It's true there's a version of feminism prevalent among women who are powerful, but there are also versions of feminism coming from women who are not.
 
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Worm

Taste the diffidence
But feminism is not 'common' sense. Not using the definition that is it normal, often appied and shared amongst the majority. You just have to look at how female politicians are treated in Western countries to realise that women are far from being judged as equals.

I wasn't claiming feminism was common sense. I was suggesting that when terms such as "common sense" and "reason" are used, they almost always reveal the opposite of what they attempt to signal: a particular, biased, non-universal viewpoint.

I am not a relativist. I do believe people can reach consensus. Reason and truth exist, just in a much more complex way than many people seem to think. But it behooves us to recognize the limits of our knowledge, and throughout history the one group that has repeatedly and tragically failed to do this is privileged white males. And that is a valuable perspective feminism serves up better than any other critique of power, it seems to me.
 

Peterb

Well-Known Member
I wasn't claiming feminism was common sense. I was suggesting that when terms such as "common sense" and "reason" are used, they almost always reveal the opposite of what they attempt to signal: a particular, biased, non-universal viewpoint.

I am not a relativist. I do believe people can reach consensus. Reason and truth exist, just in a much more complex way than many people seem to think. But it behooves us to recognize the limits of our knowledge, and throughout history the one group that has repeatedly and tragically failed to do this is privileged white males. And that is a valuable perspective feminism serves up better than any other critique of power, it seems to me.

In the UK it has been the right that have repeatedly used the term 'common sense' to describe their world view. In my opinion it is usually an excuse for not looking into matters deeper or contextualising or deconstructing.
 

Worm

Taste the diffidence
In the UK it has been the right that have repeatedly used the term 'common sense' to describe their world view. In my opinion it is usually an excuse for not looking into matters deeper or contextualising or deconstructing.

In the U.S., those at the highest levels of media and government are wielding "common sense" as a butcher's knife to slash social spending and inflict "austerity measures" on the middle and lower classes. The "common sense" they speak of is simple: when you spend too much, and get into debt, you should shrink your budget and live within your means. Which is actually, you know, good common sense for you and me. Unfortunately it doesn't work on a broader scale, in the current global economic system, and it's clearly meant to disguise an attempt by the right to achieve their long-held ambition of obliterating the public sector and concentrating wealth in the hands of a tiny elite. It couldn't be more obvious. And yet, and yet, living with one's means is irrefutable "common sense"-- which should not convince us that it's okay to wipe out the social safety net and throw grandma into the gutter, rather, it should make us suspicious of the "common sense" used in the first place.

"Human nature" is the other term, cousin to "common sense". You always hear the right talking about human nature.

Incidentally, lest common sense get too bad a reputation here, I have to point out that "Common Sense" is the name of a book written by one of history's all-time great radicals, Thomas Paine. :)
 
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Peterb

Well-Known Member
In the U.S., those at the highest levels of media and government are wielding "common sense" as a butcher's knife to slash social spending and inflict "austerity measures" on the middle and lower classes. The "common sense" they speak of is simple: when you spend too much, and get into debt, you should shrink your budget and live within your means. Which is actually, you know, good common sense for you and me. Except it doesn't work on a broader scale and it's clearly meant to disguise an attempt by the right to achieve their long-held ambition of obliterating the public sector and concentrating wealth in the hands of a tiny elite. It couldn't be more obvious. And yet, and yet, living with one's means is irrefutable "common sense"-- which should make us suspicious of "common sense".

"Human nature" is the other term, cousin to "common sense". You always hear the right talking about human nature.

Incidentally, lest common sense get too bad a reputation here, I have to point out that "Common Sense" is the name of a book written by one of history's all-time great radicals, Thomas Paine. :)
Yes, 'Human nature' is another one. I find this particularly annoying as who the f*** knows what human nature is.
"It's obvious what human nature is! It's common sense!"
 

Worm

Taste the diffidence
Yes, 'Human nature' is another one. I find this particularly annoying as who the f*** knows what human nature is.
"It's obvious what human nature is! It's common sense!"

Well, as I mentioned above I basically believe in "human nature", just a more complex version. The important thing is to examine how the term is used. Nine times out of ten it's freighted pretty heavily with some ideology or other. Still, there is such a thing as human nature. What is it? Many things. "Nature" means multiplicity and interconnectedness, but it's often spoken of as if it were a set of simple rules, singular and abstract, and that's a mistake.
 

Peterb

Well-Known Member
Well, as I mentioned above I basically believe in "human nature", just a more complex version. The important thing is to examine how the term is used. Nine times out of ten it's freighted pretty heavily with some ideology or other. Still, there is such a thing as human nature. What is it? Many things. "Nature" means multiplicity and interconnectedness, but it's often spoken of as if it were a set of simple rules, singular and abstract, and that's a mistake.
Do you really believe in human nature? I guess I'm agnostic on this because I think if it does exist it is certainly unknowable and at the very least it is, as you say complex. If you're in the mood I'd be interested to hear you expand on this.
 

Worm

Taste the diffidence
What I'm saying isn't very profound.

Think of it like the ocean. The Atlantic Ocean is a huge body of water, it's always there, we know what it means, we can easily conceptualize it. We talk about it all the time as if it were like any other thing (a ball, a boy, a bee).

In reality the Atlantic Ocean is so complex it's dizzying. As soon as you begin to try and understand one aspect of the ocean, you have to understand 30 or 3000 other parts. The ocean is a system, not really a "thing", and within that system there are countless elements (condensation, evaporation, atmospheric patterns, currents, salinity, sealife, man-made pollution, etc). Also, time is also a major factor: what are we talking about, and when are we talking about it? Oceans are always changing.

Humans are just like the ocean or any other complex system in the sense that the only truly permanent aspect of life is that it's always changing. The mind often remains stuck in place, but the rest of us, and the world around us, does not.

That doesn't mean that understanding complex systems is impossible. Many things are knowable. But one has to think fluidly and recognize where and how the parts of these complex systems are shifting, including the observer who is trying to understand them. Nature is in flux. There's no standing outside it. To think we can is an illusion. But that does not mean we should give up and not try as much as possible to reach the truth about ourselves or the world. Understanding isn't zero-sum, all or nothing. It is important to try and understand what human nature is, but in doing so we can't forget our limitations, just as I know something real about the Atlantic Ocean even as I'm aware I know far less than an oceanologist.
 

Peterb

Well-Known Member
What I'm saying isn't very profound.

Think of it like the ocean. The Atlantic Ocean is a huge body of water, it's always there, we know what it means, we can easily conceptualize it. We talk about it all the time as if it were like any other thing (a ball, a boy, a bee).

In reality the Atlantic Ocean is so complex it's dizzying. As soon as you begin to try and understand one aspect of the ocean, you have to understand 30 or 3000 other parts. The ocean is a system, not really a "thing", and within that system there are countless elements (condensation, evaporation, atmospheric patterns, currents, salinity, sealife, man-made pollution, etc). Also, time is also a major factor: what are we talking about, and when are we talking about it? Oceans are always changing.

Humans are just like the ocean or any other complex system in the sense that the only truly permanent aspect of life is that it's always changing. The mind often remains stuck in place, but the rest of us, and the world around us, does not.

That doesn't mean that understanding complex systems is impossible. Many things are knowable. But one has to think fluidly and recognize where and how the parts of these complex systems are shifting, including the observer who is trying to understand them. Nature is in flux. There's no standing outside it. To think we can is an illusion. But that does not mean we should give up and not try as much as possible to reach the truth about ourselves or the world. Understanding isn't zero-sum, all or nothing. It is important to try and understand what human nature is, but in doing so we can't forget our limitations, just as I know something real about the Atlantic Ocean even as I'm aware I know far less than an oceanologist.
Well if you think that isn't profound you're not gonna think much of this; In a way this links up with our previous spat about art. I do agree with what you say about trying to understand even within our limitations. But I think even this is deceptively simple. Do we know the right questions? What is human nature? What is art? I'm not sure if these are the right questions. What sort of answers could we come up with? It's like, how big is the universe? This may be a pointless question with no answer we can understand.
I do not mean to infer that we should not try to understand the human condition (or question the nature of art) but personally, I do not know right questions.
 

Worm

Taste the diffidence
Yes, but "I do not know the right questions" is a starting point to finding the right questions, not a reason to give up looking.

Think of it like the scientific method. A theory is only true until additional evidence disproves it. Scientists attempt to find a single transcendental truth, but as they do so they view their own efforts with skepticism. A good scientist will always try to disprove whatever it is she is trying to prove. Over time, incrementally, they arrive at "truths", solid ground on which they can stand. And they, too, don't limit themselves to scrutiny of the answers, they also constantly question the validity of their questions (as well as the instruments of measurement on which they rely). Read about the latest Higgs boson news, for example.

I don't think it's any different with art or politics or anything else. Nobody agrees on what art is, but that doesn't mean we can't make judgments about what's good or bad, or make positive, qualitative claims about individual works of art. Just because a thing can't be taken as entirely "proven" or "true" doesn't mean the opposite, that anything goes. Minor holes in the theory of evolution do not make the Flying Spaghetti Monster real; a few idiot drummers camped out at Occupy Wall Street did not mean the whole movement was bad, nor give the 1% a free pass; and not being able to define what art is, at all times and in all places, does not strip me of the capacity to think critically and dismiss some art as mere nonsense.
 
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Peterb

Well-Known Member
Yes, but "I do not know the right questions" is a starting point to finding the right questions, not a reason to give up looking.

Think of it like the scientific method. A theory is only true until additional evidence disproves it. Scientists attempt to find a single transcendental truth, but as they do so they view their own efforts with skepticism. A good scientist will always try to disprove whatever it is she is trying to prove. Over time, incrementally, they arrive at "truths", solid ground on which they can stand. And they, too, don't limit themselves to scrutiny of the answers, they also constantly question the validity of their questions (as well as the instruments of measurement on which they rely). Read about the latest Higgs boson news, for example.

I don't think it's any different with art or politics or anything else. Nobody agrees on what art is, but that doesn't mean we can't make judgments about what's good or bad, or make positive, qualitative claims about individual works of art. Just because a thing can't be taken as entirely "proven" or "true" doesn't mean the opposite, that anything goes. Minor holes in the theory of evolution do not make the Flying Spaghetti Monster real; a few idiot drummers camped out at Occupy Wall Street did not mean the whole movement was bad, nor give the 1% a free pass; and not being able to define what art is, at all times and in all places, does not strip me of the capacity to think critically and dismiss some art as mere nonsense.
Yeah, can't argue with any of that. Have a great weekend!
 

Worm

Taste the diffidence
For anyone interested, there was a good, long essay on the state of feminism in the London Review of Books, As Many Pairs Of Shoes As She Likes. Jenny Turner surveys the scene and touches on some of the points mentioned here.

It's too long to condense with any fairness to the material, but there are a few points she makes worth excerpting; her underlying argument is somewhat in agreement with Qvist (and Hitchens), that the mainstream feminist movement lost its way around 1970 with "the personal is the political" choking off other avenues down which women could go. One of these was Marxism, which as Joan Didion noted in 1972 was key to the early stages of the movement. Turner quotes Barbara Ehrenreich's contention that "there is no way to understand sexism as it acts on our lives without putting it in the historical context of capitalism". Turner also notes, as I did, above, that one of the major problems with post-60s feminism is that it became vulnerable for exploitation by the usual capitalist suspects:


Feminism, according to the sociologist Angela McRobbie, has been ‘disarticulated’ and ‘undone’, bits pulled out, reworked and retwisted, and other bits dumped. At the moment, the popular elements include ‘empowerment’, ‘choice’, ‘freedom’ and, above all, ‘economic capacity’ – the basic no-frills neoliberal package. It’s fine for any ‘pleasingly lively, capable and becoming young woman’ to aspire to this. It doesn’t matter if she’s black or white or mixed race or Asian, gay or straight or basically anything, so long as she is hard-working, upbeat, dedicated to self-fashioning, and happy to be photographed clutching her A-level certificate in the Daily Mail. This young woman has been sold a deal, a ‘settlement’. So long as she works hard and doesn’t throw bricks or ask awkward questions, she can have as many qualifications and abortions and pairs of shoes as she likes.​


For me this doesn't necessarily discredit the idea of "the personal is the political", though, because capitalism has forced matters into the personal in new and frightening ways. Turner's second paragarph starts off with an interesting quote from a woman who was commenting on the riots in London earlier this year:


A writer called Charmaine Elliot posted on Blackfeminists.blog, remembering her own youth in London. ‘I took a trip to Selfridges one afternoon to visit a friend and was struck by advertising slogans that said, à la Barbara Kruger, I shop, therefore I am. And I couldn’t help but wonder that as I couldn’t actually shop, ergo what?’​


Just as Britney Spears astutely reminded us, a body is now a political statement in different ways than it was in the 70s. Today corporations are people and if you don't have a high score with the credit agencies you are effectively a non-person.

My own thoughts about uncertainty, multiplicity, etc, above, are echoed in this bit: "To put it schematically: “women” is historically, discursively constructed, and always relative to other categories which themselves change.’ Thus the British poet-philosopher Denise Riley in Am I That Name? (1988), her short, playful, brilliant study of the many ways in which fixed identities never work. ‘That “women” is indeterminate and impossible … is what makes feminism,’ Riley concluded, so long as feminists are willing ‘to develop a speed, foxiness, versatility’". Though I speak as a male, I find this convincing, and certainly very applicable to me. It's a healthy attitude, one I got from feminism-- by way of Morrissey, natch.
 
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