Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Reason is not part of the patriarchy

(note: this post is part of a series on why feminism should embrace the clash of ideas. It can be read in isolation, but would probably be more thoroughly understood in context. Go here for hyperlinks to all posts in this series)

Feminist Argument #5: Open debate is itself part of the patriarchy, because the veneration of reason and logic as superior means of knowing than emotion is merely a tool to marginalize and ridicule women associated with those traits.

I have only encountered this argument at the extremes of the feminist movement, and I desperately hope it remains there. Whereas a prior generation of feminists sought only to remove the association between emotionalism and femininity, this new argument seeks to remove the “stigma” around emotional reactions at all, even in places which were formerly thought to require the use of unclouded reason and abstract logic. What’s so good about reason anyway, it asks? Humans are creatures of emotion, and it’s unnatural to attempt to divorce ourselves from it. Just because ones arguments are more rational, it concludes, does not mean they are right or just, so we should diminish the importance of rationality in our discussions.

If this thinking ever catches on, I fear my differences with feminism will become irreconcilable.

To attack reason is to attack the entire endeavor of comparing ideas by proxy, because without it there is no means to evaluate the ideas we compare. Without the guide of logic, debate is just a bunch of people chaotically shouting at one another. And to attack debate is to attack the virtue of free speech altogether, for who needs alternate viewpoints if there’s nothing to be gained by considering them? It reduces feminism – once a rationally defensible layering of sourced ideas – to a self-sustaining, quasi-religious dogma of circular logic.


I disagree fervently with the notion that free speech is part of “the patriarchy” we rightly fight. But even if I’m wrong about that, the implication to me is not that free speech must go – it’s that not all of the patriarchy must be torn down. Masculine or not (and I think it’s not) freedom of thought is the foundation and guarantor for all other freedoms. It precedes them in order and supersedes them in importance. Free speech trumps the right to bear arms. Free speech trumps the right to own property. Free speech trumps civil rights and the right to a living wage or healthcare or whatever other rights you want to invent. And yes, free speech trumps feminism, because without it, feminism – along with every other ideology under the sun – is a meaningless mockery of a discourse, a sham collection of pre-approved notions masquerading as the battle tested product of reasoned thought. I could not endorse such an illusion of knowledge. I’d rather drink hemlock.

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