It’s no secret that those who harbor rigid ideological beliefs reject reason and logic as the basis for intellectual inquiry. The ideologue is incapable of examining anything that challenges his narrow orthodoxy, making escape from groupthink nearly impossible.
Hence, political ideologues of the left and right even resist some conclusions of science because one conclusion or another flies in the face of a cherished belief.
The American Council on Science and Health has published a fascinating essay that says modern feminism often rejects scientific fact and, along with another scourge of 21st century rationalism, postmodernism, “is completely at odds with a scientific worldview.”
Now, in an excellent essay for Quillette, former feminist Toni Airaksinen warns about the dangers of modern feminism, particularly as taught in women’s studies classes, which she has described as a “rabbit hole” that leads to a “perverse wonderland where up is down.”
Ms. Airaksinen’s concern is that feminism has been built upon ideas that can neither be proven nor refuted, precisely the sort of evidence-free groupthink that typifies unscientific thinking. Her criticism is blistering. She describes an ideology where supporting facts are few and “knowledge itself is considered a patriarchal construct.” No wonder postmodernists often find common cause with feminists.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise, therefore, that feminists have butted heads with biologists. Social construction, a pillar of modern feminism, posits that characteristics such as gender are determined by culture rather than biology. As Simone de Beauvoir famously said, “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.” Ms. Airaksinen describes just how far modern feminism takes this belief:
[M]erely mentioning biological differences can be wrongthink. Or worse, as I learned in one of my classes, it can be upsetting to genderqueer or transgender students. Thus, some of the root causes of what makes men and women differ — hormonal, neurological, and biological differences — is left out of the discussion.
Obviously, culture does play a large part in shaping behavioral differences between the genders. But to deny the prominent role of biology in our lives is dangerous nonsense. Ignoring it will not empower women but endanger them. Multiple sclerosis, lupus, migraine headaches, chronic fatigue syndrome (myalgic encephalomyelitis), depression and anxiety, and irritable bowel syndrome are more common in women. Will ascribing these pathological differences to patriarchal social constructs help find a cure?
Unfortunately, feminist ideology has already undermined academic freedom. Despite such well documented biological and psychological differences between men and women, some scientists have admitted being afraid to talk about them out of fear of being labeled “sexist.”
Few in a modern, liberal society would doubt the historical benefit of feminism. For a society to be prosperous and just, respectful treatment and equality of opportunity must be extended to all. But modern feminism has advanced well beyond its laudable origins to encapsulate an ideology that is increasingly detached from reality. As Ms. Airaksinen eloquently concludes, “[T]he thick academic prose of feminist scholars confers gravitas to what otherwise could resemble political propaganda.”
That empowers nobody.
I like this from Ms. Airaksinen’s essay published last August:
I have taken seven women’s studies classes; initially at a nondescript state university and later at a women’s college in Manhattan. After taking those classes, I realize that not only was I deluded, but I was led into an absurd intellectual alcove where objective truth is subordinate to academic theories used as political propaganda.
Indeed, since knowledge itself is considered a patriarchal construct, feminist theories are the organizing principles of classes.
The theoretical backbone of women’s studies is grounded in three main conjectures: that of the patriarchy, intersectional oppression, and social constructionism.
None of these contentions can be proven or falsified. Yet, as a student, good grades are contingent on agreeing with them.
The fact that the contentions can’t be proven true or false is what makes them academically beautiful. You can just pull crap out of thin air and as long as you scream “down with the patriarchy” while spouting them, you are considered brilliant.
Conservatism, liberalism, feminism, racialism, fundamentalism — all of these ideologies are fine in moderation and as long as the ideologue accepts the basic premise that he may be misled or wrong about something. Constantly challenging one’s assumptions, seeking out and weighing new evidence against your beliefs is the key to maintaining a hold on rational thinking and avoiding ideological rigidity.
Feminists aren’t the only transgressors against reason and logic. But they may be the most ferocious enforcers of orthodoxy around.