Blogs > Liberty and Power > Once again Dr. Hopkins

Aug 8, 2005 1:03 pm

Once again Dr. Hopkins

More Mill, emphasis mine this time:

For, being cognizant of all that can, at least obviously, be said against him, and having taken up his position against all gainsayers - knowing that he has sought for objections and difficulties instead of avoiding them, and has shut out no light which can be thrown upon the subject from any quarter - he has a right to think his judgement better than that of any other person, or any multitude, who have not gone through a similar process.

UPDATE: Folks should also see Wil Wilkinson's neologism"pulling a Hopkins":

pull a Hopkins intr. v. 1. to become faint or nauseated upon hearing a statement contrary to one's ideology or dogma. 2. to leave the room, usually dramatically, because of such faintness or nausea. 3. to feign such faintness or nausea as part of a ploy to establish or reinforce a social convention about the limits of acceptable discourse.

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Steven Horwitz - 1/25/2005

Sorry you feel that way Jeanine. I think you and I agree far more than we disagree and there are plenty of us out there who are far closer to Roderick's understanding of what libertarianism is all about than to the form you object to so strongly. Libertarianism needs more Jeanines as part of who we are.

None of that means I'm about to give in on my fundamental point, but it seems to me that it's not one worth closing up shop for.

Jeanine Ring - 1/25/2005

I agree with Rand that volition is an axiom- that the capability of the mind to reach independent conclusions is implied by the reflexive validity of reason, and that emotions, as Rand had it, are essentitally *evalutive* and their uman independence rises and falls with that of reason. Otherwise, and distrust the whole of positivist scientific research for reasons too comples to document here; I follow Thomas Szasz, and consider the whole concept of social science a fraud.

Oh, but who cares about all this *reasoning*? I once had hope that libertarians, who once believed in the self-made soul, would keep the same elevated standards against sexism and fight patriarchy as a form of collectvism. I thought the implications of individualism were that of volitional libertarianism; that nature is false, and nurture an evil to be overcome.

But for all their talk about polylogism from the left, libertarians do nothing against the more pervasive polylogism of the right, taking at face value the authority of experience and science which would equally sanction the inevitability of statism as of patriarchy. I wonder if, as a structural matter, they can.

* * *

Msr. Long, your intentions are noble, your logic is pure, your courage is admirable, and your transcendence is that of a philosopher... but your cause is hopeless. I know of not a single libertarian in my life who has come to take oppression seriously based on theory; what has mattered is confrontation with structures of power in life. Living as transgendered, as a social woman, and as a sex worker has given me more sharpness of vision that the entirety of libertarian philosophy and vain strivings.

I've known plenty of cultural leftists and feminists who are libertarians in all but name, but gnash their teeth at having anything to do with the libertarian movement.

I fear I betray them to do so myself.

"Don't bother to examine a folly; ask only what it accomplishes." - Ayn Rand

Consider my intellectual apartment put on the market.

Jeanine RIng

Sheldon Richman - 1/25/2005

Sexism = "the denial that 'mind has no sex.'" What does this have to do with Summers's suggestion that physiology may have some influence on specific capabilities? No one said that women have women's minds and men have men's minds, although that statement in itself does not sound outlandish. To attribute all apparent patterns to socialization requires some proof. Research indicates that some differences between boys and girls set in too early for them to be attributable to socialization. There have been studies, for example, on Israeli kibbutzim where every effort is made not to impose sex roles, even subtly. Nevertheless, boys and girls interests and manner of playing diverged at an early age. (Boys uses sticks like guns, while girls used them like dolls or brooms, although everyone on the kibbutz had broom duty.) This happened to such an extent that the researchers, who were firmly in the socialization camp, had to acknowledge that they did not get the results they expected. By the way, even the existence of biased socialization does not establish that this was the cause of the differences. I'd venture to say that more boys are given bar bells by their parents than girls are. But that is not why men tend to be stronger than women. Physiology has something to say about it. Socialization is simply following the physiology.

I hope no one will think I'm a sexist because I harbor these thoughts. That will come as a surprise to many people. And I have references: my two daughters, who have recently reached adulthood.

Jeanine Ring - 1/25/2005

Msr. Horwitz-

Eats. the stupid system ate my response, and I don't have the heart to rewrite it.

Meae apologiae.

To answer omitting supporting argument:

"his sexism is unclear"; you might have a point

"is belief in sex differences sexist?"; yes, like racism, sexism is precisely the denial that 'mind has no sex', to the degree one dissents, one defends sexism... which like racism can be honourably defended but any concession to sexism is a terrible blow to Enlightenment and modernity.

"Objectivism/Roark/flying O'ists"; thank you, I second the motion.


Steven Horwitz - 1/25/2005

I agree with everything you say Jeanine except one important thing: I don't believe it's right to say that the hypothesis that Summers threw out for discussion makes him a sexist. As I understand the incident, he put that idea on the table as one possible explanation of the phenomenon under discussion, and explicitly said he wasn't endorsing it. Your argument assumes he said something sexist, and it's not clear to me he did.

It's also not clear to me that claiming that there are some biological differences between men and women that contribute to explaining differences in their social patterns is necessarily sexist. To argue that there is some biological explanation for why men are better at some things and women at others does not strike me as necessarily sexist, especially if it's true to any degree. To say that women, as a group, "cannot" do X or "should not" do X, is a different story.

But to point to the possibility of different distributions of underlying ability between men and women is NOT the same thing as saying either are "incapable" of doing those things, nor is it the same as saying they should be prevented from doing so. Nor is it necessarily passing judgment on individual men or women.

Let me ask it this way: is it possible to believe that such differences exist and not be a sexist? I think it is. Do you?

And the Objectivists who are hassling you about issues of identity can go take a flying leap off of a Roark-designed skyscraper. :)

Jeanine Ring - 1/25/2005

All right, you make some fair points, and my apologies for presumptions. To be honest, I was less reacting to you than you Msrs. Wilkinson and Richman, and less them than some truly vile things I've read on other libertarian forums, and even moreso to a broad general attitude among libertarians. But you're right... I should not have taken out my steam against libertarians at yourself, and I apologize.

That said, I personally agree in some sense that feminists should spend more time arguing their case and less time in moral condemnation. But i also more than understand how ridiculously insulting it feels to have to *argue* for your perception as an equal and free-willed independent being, and I do not blame feminists for not being philosopher-saints. If a college president had endorsed some moderate but definite racialism, most people would see this as an abuse of power; the only difference with sexism is that most Americans consciously (if often shallowly) oppose racism, while most Americans consciously accept some degree of sexism (including some feminists).

I myself, after repeated attacks from Objectivists on my gender identity, have simply made it a policy to refuse to speak in any gathering where its considered acceptable to debate my validity as a female human being to my face... it means that I am required to accept the contingent possibility of the blanking out of my own existence. For my own sake, I don't really care how philosophically 'plausible' views that destroy my de facto personhood are- it still makes for a society that finds 'plausible' ideologies which I'm not willing to live with... and having moved across the country, left behind a former life, jumped off the deep end into social unrespectability, and broke with the ideologies of the past, I think I have a right to have my disenchantment with their world taken seriously.

I don't blame Hopkins for feeling the same way. Sexism may be 'plausible' to most people, but it's also a slap in the face to her entire life, one ultimately rooted not in her choices but that she made her choices as the being as which she exists. It says to her what Malcolm X meant bitterly when he said: "what do you call a Black man with a P.h.D.? answer: 'nigger'". It denies her validity as a choosing being except by bracketed her off as an honourary non-woman.

I hear the same thing whenever I hear: "oh, you can;t be a real prostitute, not like the others... I can't believe prostitutes are that articulate or intellgient". That kind of speech makes one's hard-won intellectual distinctions a weapon to denigrate ones accidental qualities: Hopkins was being told... "oh, sure, you may be intelligent, but you aren't typical for a woman... as a woman you're just an emotional baby-machine." In my experience, such talk immediately encourages others to say "and if you do make a point about being a woman, including making the point of being a woman scientist, then you'll lose your social priviledge as an honourary non woman and won;t be treated seriosuly as a scientist." I can think of five instances online in the last six months where this ploy has been used to silence my own arguments (I can provide refs if you insist).

Hopkins to my estimate did the only and proper thing you can do (except coercion) in opposition to ideas that deny her an authentic voice. If I had been in that auditorium, I would likely have left too. And I appluad Hopkins for refusing to let such bigotry be regarded as normal or pluasible. Even if such views *are* normal, it's precisely by gestures such as hers- or William Lloyd Garrison's last century- that such views are challenged and changed.

So I should not have attacked you. But I also thank Hopkins for her act of resistance to the latest scientific ratioanlizations for patriarchy.


Jeanine Ring

Steven Horwitz - 1/25/2005

Look, I *am* a libertarian who supports feminism, as my comments on the Long-Johnson paper, as well as publications of my own and teaching a course on gender and the family, should demonstrate. My point with the two original posts here was to point out:

a) The hypothesis put forward by Summers was not so completely out of the bounds of plausibility as to be treated as undiscussable

b) Walking out of a room, and going to the press with your nausea, faced with an argument one disagrees with, but that is nonetheless "in-bounds," does show a certain contempt for scholarly discourse.

Do NOT count me among those arguing, if only tongue-in-cheek, that Hopkins' reaction reinforces stereotypes of women. Do NOT count me among those who think that all gender differences are biological. Do NOT count me among those who think libertarians shouldn't be more interested in gender issues and in broadening their appeal.

I'm sorry, but I don't see complaining about Dr. Hopkins' response to an argument she disagreed with to be a sign of anything but exasperation at the refusal of some folks to engage with opinions different than their own. I made the same comments about the President prior to the election, I would note.

Jeanine Ring - 1/25/2005

Msr. Long-

Thank you.

An officer of the state educational apparatus makes statements demeaning as inferior to a class of the population under his authority, and a member of the institution in that class walks out in protest. And all libertarians can do is equate a statement of protest with incipient political correctness because the ideology in dissent is feminism... to the point of even calling for disciplinary action by the state educational body.

If I didn't know better, I would say that libertarians oppose feminism more deeply than they support dissent, and support the formal structures of education regimentation more highly than individual conscience. Or rather, I would conclude so if it weren't for the presence of more honourable libertarians such as Roderick Long.

To be honest, almost my mind tells me that libertarianism is true, my sense of shame sometimes makes me wish it was not. When I consider the sustantive kinds of values and cultural forms most libertarians accept, I find myself continually apologizing to my colleagues whom I admire for the company I keep, many of whom are quite open to libertarianism in principle (we are capitalists, after all).

Were it not for writers such as Msr. Long, the drag of spiritual embarassment for self-identification as a libertarian would have exceeded the sense of purpose in supporting its ture politics long ago.

There are many feminists who might be libertarians were it not that the cultural stance of the libertarian movement aligns from blindness to cultural oppression to outright endorsement of patriarchy. Libertarians might consider that to the degree they endorse a repressive cultural agenda, they force those who agree with libertarian logic to deny their conditions of social existence in order to remain libertarian. Personally, this is the kind of reason why I seldom argue for libertarianism in feminist company beyond asking respect for my own convictions: I cannot in good conscience advise other feminists to have much to do with the libertarian movement.

Libertarians seem to take it as natural that those interested in their political philosophy are vastly disproportiantely well-off white males. They seldom seem to grasp that if all people really do stand to benefit from libertarian conclusions, the buck for the narrow appeal of libertarianism must lie solely with them. The fact that libertarians mainly folded their hands or carped criticism during the civil rights movement, feminism, and gay liberation just might have something to do with it. Acting like only formal oppression by the state matters is a convenient ideology for those high and respectable on the social pyramid.

And if the less-priviledged as a result feel confident in dismissing libertarianism as a naive or virulent ideology for those in powers, don't ask who made it possible. Brothers, you did.

my regards,

Jeanine Ring )(*)(

...whose business card reads:

Libertarian Feminist Pagan
San Francisco Bay Area

Roderick T. Long - 1/24/2005

I'm tempted to define "pull a Wilkinson" as "to trivialize insulting remarks by treating anyone who takes offense at them as perpetrating a political ploy."

Sheldon Richman - 1/24/2005

No men reported that they were made ill by Summer's speech. Does this mean there is something innate in women that makes them sick when they hear views they disagree with?

Sheldon Richman - 1/24/2005

She ought to be disciplined by her school for unscholarly conduct.