There’s an intellectual war going on, and conservatives are surrendering. In elite universities all over America and Europe, incoherent and destructive ideologies are taking hold. Radical feminism, socialism, cultural relativism: these are philosophies founded on logical fallacies and barefaced dishonesty.
But they’re gaining ground.
Take a look at Brendan O’Neill’s article in The Spectator: universities are getting colonized. Oxford, Harvard, Princeton: the “best and brightest” are buying into the maundering nonsense of the radical Left. And the good guys aren’t fighting back. Libertarian and conservative students — the counterculture — are letting the Left dominate social media and campus activism. Maybe we’re scared of being unhip, the bad guys. Maybe progressivism is so obviously absurd we think we can ignore it.
But in a war of ideas, universities are like forts — they keep the front secure and supply the ammo. It matters who controls them. So it’s time to fight for them.
This is a field manual from the trenches, written for the average soldier. I’m no expert, but I’ve been deep in enemy territory — first at Yale and now at Oxford — for more than five years now. I’ve seen the other side work, and I know their game. So each week, I’ll be writing with new facts and ideas — new intellectual weaponry — to help the average campus conservative pick apart one progressive ideology at a time. To arm the good guys for battle. Our first enemy: radical feminists.
A radical feminist’s standard-issue weapon is called “the patriarchy.” It’s the baseline assumption that sexism is engrained into certain societies — into American society. The idea is that women are oppressed, not by individuals, but by, in one feminist’s words, “a very very old system that has warped everyone’s thinking right down to the sub-rational, axiomatic, non-verbal ideological level.” For radical feminists, many seemingly innocuous niceties, from women shaving their legs to men paying for dinner, are corrupted by this societal brainwashing. This ancient system keeps women — who would otherwise be free and enfranchised — undervalued and mistreated.
To dismantle this nonsense, let’s consider what it implies. If, in their natural state, men and women were so fabulously equal, someone at some point had to establish attitudes and conventions that now insidiously subjugate women. Instead, throughout Western history, men have struggled to liberate women from the position of physical vulnerability that would restrict their freedom in a state of nature. From Plato, to Benjamin Franklin, to the veritable army of men who fought for women’s suffrage in America, men in the West have overwhelmingly argued for more women’s rights, not fewer.
One of the classic statistics a radical feminist will deploy as evidence of the patriarchy is “workplace inequality.” This is the idea that, because women are systematically devalued in America, they get paid less than men for the same work. Feminists have backup on this one — allies like Harvard University and their good pals at the White House, who claim that a woman earns 77 cents to every dollar a man earns, even if she does the same job (and looks way better in heels).
When defending against this attack, resist the urge to point out that private business owners in a free country have a right to pay their employees whatever they damn well please. Advocating for individual liberty will only make a feminist’s hair spontaneously burst into flames which, while amusing, is not enough to defeat a radical feminist. Instead, simply point out that the wage gap statistics aren’t even remotely accurate to begin with. The White House study compares all professions in one big, amorphous blob: nuclear physicists lumped in with janitors. This lazy, undifferentiated mush of data creates a wildly misleading picture (who’d have guessed?). Compare workers by profession, and what do you know: the wage gap basically vanishes. Turns out “smashing the patriarchy” is easier than you might think.
But there’s still the issue of “rape culture.” This is the radical feminist’s nuclear option. BuzzFeed defines it as “a culture in which sexual violence is considered the norm,” in which men and boys are taught to force themselves on women. Rape culture is the great, imagined sin of the patriarchy: our pervasive cultural sexism has lead to a world in which, for example, one in five college women is sexually assaulted. So of course we have to shut down fraternities and other cesspools of male chauvinism: defenseless women are being violently raped.
Watch out! It’s a trap! The trick to the rape culture argument is that it makes anyone who disagrees sound like he’s in favor of rape, or thinks it doesn’t exist. So dodge that land mine: when a radical feminist pulls out the rape stats, say something like, “wow, what a horrifying statistic — is that from a comprehensive study across multiple universities?”
Because of course it’s not. The one-in-five stat is from a survey of two universities. Two!! And even at those schools, a large number of people surveyed didn’t respond. The horror stories ginned up in the media to support rape culture theory — the Duke lacrosse case, for example, or Rolling Stone’s UVA debacle — often turn out to be smoke and mirrors. But that didn’t stop Duke from firing its lacrosse coach, or UVA from suspending its fraternities. False accusations ruin actual lives. Rape is a real and utterly reprehensible crime. It deserves unremitting punishment. That’s why it’s so heinous to lie unrelentingly about who commits rape and why.
Alright, private: at ease. You now have everything you need to defeat your first ideological foe. If you’re a campus conservative like me, you’ve been armed — now speak up! Radical feminism is a threadbare tapestry of irresponsible lies, and it depends on its ability to scare people who know better into silence. If you’ve got your own war stories or battle plans for taking on a radical feminist, share them in the comments. And be sure to tune in next week for the next installment of . . . The Campus Conservative’s Field Manual!