Trying to Critique Gender Studies

team-stray-gender-studiesI give up.

Between work I’ve been trying to write a more substantive critique of the issues with Gender Studies. The problem is that so much of it is without substance and that criticism of that lack of substance, or the existing bias, is met with a ferocity and fervour unrivalled since the Spanish Inquisition. This environment appears to have made substantive criticism or even scientific studies into gender – and its potential differences – virtually impossible.

Trying to get a handle on what much of the studies say is like trying to hack through jungle undergrowth with a penknife. The jargon is impenetrable and the majority of the work reads like the Sokal affair. Post-modern nonsense with only the loosest of affiliations with science or decent research standards. I even found a lengthy paper trying to justify an existing ideological viewpoint (feminism) as empiricist. Science isn’t aligned with ideology, it is what it is and if it supports an ideology you discover that after the fact – not before. Entering a study with an existing, strong, ideological viewpoint is to invite cognitive bias. Something that should be so obvious as to not need explaining.

Criticism or ideas that are counter to the existing dogma – and let us not forget this is at best a soft science, not a hard science – meet with such vociferous opposition that careers are ruined and the harshest of personal and professional consequences are meted out to those who do dare to take a contrary point of view. One need only look to the treatment of Nyborg, Farrell or Bailey to see this in practice.

Another case in point would be Tom Martin’s case against the London School of Economics, which you may remember from more recent issues of Muslim gender segregated lectures and censorship of Jesus and Mo T-shirts, amongst other issues. Tom entered into their gender studies course and found it to be rife with intolerable gender bias against men, so much so he brought a suit. This suit was dismissed not so much because it didn’t have grounds, but because it wasn’t thought it would succeed by the judge – who also denied appeal. Saying:

 “What Mr Armstrong would have me say, and I use his words, is that this is a hopeless claim. This claim has in my opinion no chance of success at all.”

Which seems reflective, again, of bias against men. Women’s suits have been brought on similar – or lesser – grounds without being dismissed so readily.

So, this turns out to be an article, expanded from a handful of tweets, on why I’m not going to. The bias and sexism is so endemic that criticism is rare and suppressed. That it is virtually impossible to get purchase, that male representation within a field that is supposedly gender studies these days, and not women’s studies, is tiny. Even the newer addition of men’s studies is there primarily as a criticism and a heading off of a potential basis for examining things from a different point of view.

This article by Yiftach Shiloni covers most of the same concerns I have and from another man, like Farrell, who has come through the existing system and emerged with serious misgivings. His most telling point is, in my opinion:

It is hard to imagine a department for Middle Eastern studies without Arab students and lecturers. It is impossible to imagine a conference on the situation of Ethiopian immigrants without a sizable representation of them. Only one thing is indeed possible – totally feminist and female gender studies.

One need only consider the objections to male domination in other fields, or men making political and health decisions about women’s bodies to see how a virtually gender exclusive field cannot help but have an inherent bias, not that this is surprising given Gender Studies is really Women’s Studies and developed from it.

So yeah, this is a longer article, derived from tweets, on why I haven’t been able – or at least haven’t had the energy to – really get into it. It’s just so utterly biased it’s virtually impossible to get a handle on it and it’s simply not worth the fight, though I feel like it should be. From the initial concept of gender as purely a social construct, the entire edifice is shaky and promulgating bad data. Practice that can only harm the cause of equality, not aid it.


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