Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course


Systemic Misogyny or Over-sensitivity?

Screenshot courtesy of the Halifax Journal

Noted copy-paste journalist Margaret Wente has an article this week delving into recent events at Dalhousie’s Dental School, allowing us to return to our discussion from last Friday. Wente takes aim at the notion of “rape culture,” and puts the onus for progress squarely on women’s perceived sense of threat:

How did that happen? How did we create an entire class of highly privileged, mostly affluent young women who feel unsafe on campus, microaggressed at every turn, utterly unable to cope with the garden-variety misdemeanours of boys and men, who have been behaving badly since time began despite our many efforts (most quite successful) to civilize them?

Well, you know the answer. The universities are hothouses for a grievance culture that sees racism, sexism and misogyny under every rug. Many of the faculty derive their livelihoods from it. These institutions have constructed increasingly elaborate codes of conduct and large administrative apparatuses to detect and uproot these evils, however subtle and invisible they may be to ordinary people.

In Macleans, Anne Kingston musters a brief but thorough critique of Wente’s dismissal:

Protecting those accused of abusive behaviour is a hallmark of rape culture. So is dismissal of those subject to abuse. We saw it in the hand-wringing after the 2013 conviction  of two teenagers for brutally raping a young girl in Steubenville, Ohio.CNN, for one, fretted how the young men “had such promising futures, star football players, very good students,” not for a moment considering how the assaults might affect the victim’s future. In a similar vein, Wente praised the dentistry students who joked about drugging and sexually assaulting women as “decent people.” If she had a daughter in the class, she writes, the first thing she’d ask her was: “What are these guys like in person? Are they disrespectful pigs or are they decent people? (The answer, evidently, is that they are decent people.)” What evidence she marshalled to conclude the group is anything but “disrespectful pigs” is unclear. The fact they’re enrolled in a professional school? The fact they knew their posts were offensive, and then scrambled to cover up when they were about to be exposed? Equally unclear is why their actions in private shouldn’t be a more significant marker of character than their public personae—a lesson learned in the Jian Ghomeshi scandal.  If these students were decent people, they would come forward with an abject apology. They haven’t. Which means that if anyone needs a retrograde lecture on how to “man up,” it’s them.

Whether you are swayed by either of the pieces, they can be seen to broadly sketch out two fundamental planks of the argument over systemic misogyny and the ‘rape culture’ we discussed last week.

Based on the above readings, a few questions:

  • What do you feel are the merits of these two arguments?
  • Similarly, where do you feel that either of the arguments is vulnerable or weakly articulated?
  • Have you seen others make either case better?
  • Are there further perspectives that these two essays may be leaving out?

As ever, I’d be curious to hear from you in the comments.


3 Responses to Systemic Misogyny or Over-sensitivity?

  1. ktay says:

    What do you feel are the merits of these two arguments?

    Of these two arguments, I feel each has its own merits in different areas.

    I agree with Ms. Wente’s points that women should take action against those who are oppressing them, and that women should not let themselves be oppressed by being told they are weak. I appreciate her inclusion of the feminist movement, because it provides a nice contrast with the rest of her article.

    Ms. Kingston’s article provides a more balanced view to the issue by discussing many valid rebuttals to Ms. Wente’s points. I applaud her view that the perpetrators should be made to face the consequences of their actions.

    Similarly, where do you feel that either of the arguments is vulnerable or weakly articulated?

    From a very biased point of view, I find that Ms. Wente’s description of the females of my generation as “neurotic, quivering piles of jelly” very insulting; this quote shows that she is completely out of touch with the current generation. In addition, I believe that she should use the term “standing up” instead of “manning up”, as it doesn’t have as many negative connotations. In addition, even though females are equal to males in many aspects, there is one aspect that will always be different: physical structure. As we discussed in class last Friday, it is inherently so that males are generally taller, stronger, and broader. This means that females are at a physical disadvantage, which in turn leads to females having to have more self awareness, because we can be taken advantage of more easily. Lastly, rape culture and feminism are at odds; one objectifies women and lowers them below men, while the other strives to raise women to the same level as men. As long as rape culture exists, it will be difficult to erase sexism of any form.

    Ms. Kingston’s point that the “zero tolerance should exist [particularly in educational and professional settings] for behaviour that degrades or promotes violence against any group” is valid, but it does raise concerns about the repression of free speech. An attempt to a politically correct vocabulary which is enforced strictly could result in the creation of “thought police”, which is frankly quite frightening. We should not support violence in any form, but should still respect the fact that everyone has the right to free speech. Instead of pointing fingers at each other, all of us should strive to respect each other’s opinion, and only condemn each other when we feel that particular comments are causing serious harm.

  2. kelseyf says:

    First of all, I would like acknowledge how appalling and upsetting Margaret Wente’s article is, especially being a young girl reading it. I find it disgraceful that she could even truthfully believe that women should “man up” about rape culture because, really, “boys will be boys” and we just need to deal with it. I think that her extreme ideals are out of date and old-fashioned. I believe that she is even encouraging such actions, being a woman and ultimately saying that drugging and raping girls is a-okay. Thanks, Margaret.

    Being someone who is passionate about feminism, I obviously agree with the rebuttals against Margaret Wente’s article. I do think rape and such acts against women are completely unacceptable, and that those male dentist students at Dalhousie are disgraceful pigs. Just as I would agree that such acts against men would be equally unacceptable. However, in a less extreme form, I can see partially where Margaret Wente is coming from.

    I don’t think that as a woman, I should just be waiting around for some guy to rescue me. With Wente’s “man up” idea, I think a better way to put it would be with the cliche of being a “strong independent woman, who don’t need no man”. I think as a woman, I want to be independent, and not in need of a man to make my life fulfilled and to “protect” me. In a better, less offensive way, ladies, just be the strong woman that you are, and fight against any oppression you may face. Don’t be a victim!

  3. Thad says:

    What do you feel are the merits of these two arguments?

    First I do appreciated the attitude Ms.Wente had on women’s rights and freedom since they are vulnerable against “mens” sexual abuse. However, the stand point of the article appears to be excessively overrated on humans’ evil instead of advocating in a logical and neutral approach.

    Secondly, Ms.Kingston’s aggressive attitude of “no tolerance of men’s misbehavior(rape)” is appealing for those who fight for female’s rights in a more vivid and intriguing way which question the nature of men. Frankly speaking, if feminist were to be empowered, I think men should also re-think and perhaps adjust their position in the society, to do so their nature must be deeply self-recognized and develop in a civilized manner instead of a nature exposing one i.e. raping…


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