Male and female brains wired differently, scans reveal

www.theguardian.com

Maps of neural circuitry show women’s brains are suited to social skills and memory, men’s perception and co-ordination.

Men women brains

Neural map of a typical man’s brain. Photograph: National Academy of Sciences/PA

Scientists have drawn on nearly 1,000 brain scans to confirm what many had surely concluded long ago: that stark differences exist in the wiring of male and female brains.

Maps of neural circuitry showed that on average women’s brains were highly connected across the left and right hemispheres, in contrast to men’s brains, where the connections were typically stronger between the front and back regions.

Ragini Verma, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, said the greatest surprise was how much the findings supported old stereotypes, with men’s brains apparently wired more for perception and co-ordinated actions, and women’s for social skills and memory, making them better equipped for multitasking.

“If you look at functional studies, the left of the brain is more for logical thinking, the right of the brain is for more intuitive thinking. So if there’s a task that involves doing both of those things, it would seem that women are hardwired to do those better,” Verma said. “Women are better at intuitive thinking. Women are better at remembering things. When you talk, women are more emotionally involved – they will listen more.”

She added: “I was surprised that it matched a lot of the stereotypes that we think we have in our heads. If I wanted to go to a chef or a hairstylist, they are mainly men.”

Female brain
Neural map of a typical woman’s brain. Photograph: National Academy of Sciences/PA

The findings come from one of the largest studies to look at how brains are wired in healthy males and females. The maps give scientists a more complete picture of what counts as normal for each sex at various ages. Armed with the maps, they hope to learn more about whether abnormalities in brain connectivity affect brain disorders such as schizophrenia and depression.

Verma’s team used a technique called diffusion tensor imaging to map neural connections in the brains of 428 males and 521 females aged eight to 22. The neural connections are much like a road system over which the brain’s traffic travels.

The scans showed greater connectivity between the left and right sides of the brain in women, while the connections in men were mostly confined to individual hemispheres. The only region where men had more connections between the left and right sides of the brain was in the cerebellum, which plays a vital role in motor control. “If you want to learn how to ski, it’s the cerebellum that has to be strong,” Verma said. Details of the study are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Male and female brains showed few differences in connectivity up to the age of 13, but became more differentiated in 14- to 17-year-olds.

“It’s quite striking how complementary the brains of women and men really are,” Ruben Gur, a co-author on the study, said in a statement. “Detailed connectome maps of the brain will not only help us better understand the differences between how men and women think, but it will also give us more insight into the roots of neurological disorders, which are often sex-related.”

The Myth of Moral Equivalence

imprimis.hillsdale.edu |

Harold Lasswell, a rather unlikely source for an argument against the doctrine of moral equivalence, said in his book, World Politics and Personal Insecurity:

The object of revolution, like war, is to attain coercive predominance over the enemy as a means of working one’s will with him. Revolutionary propaganda selects symbols which are calculated to detach the affections of the masses from the existing symbols of authority and to attach their affections to challenging symbols and to direct hostilities toward existing symbols of authority.

He went on to say that constituted authorities perpetuate themselves by shaping the conscience of those who fall within their sphere of control. Hence, great revolutions are always deep ruptures of conscience. We are living today in a revolutionary era in which the force which purports to be the great world revolution of our times, Marxist/Leninism, seeks, by a variety of means, including skillful semantic manipulations, to extend its own hegemony.

The Soviets have made extraordinarily great progress in extending their own influence and projecting their own semantic rules upon the rest of the world. There was a time when an educated person found it persuasive to see important differences between the conceptions of civilization embodied, for example, in the U.S. Constitution or the British Constitution or the United Nations Charter, on the one hand, and the conception of civilization embodied in the theory and practice of the Soviet Constitution in any of its multiple mutations, on the other. And the conception of a bipolar political world has been similarly replaced by a prevalent worldview which rests on the belief that the world is in the grip of a contest between two superpowers. These superpowers contend for dominance and resemble one another in key respects. This image of moral and political symmetry has gained a wide acceptance not only in the Third World, but also among our allies and ourselves. Of my own statements about the false nature of this image, a colleague has said, “She talks about the moral differences between the superpowers, and when we fail to find any moral difference between Afghanistan and Grenada she makes it clear that we are dimwitted.” I believe that anyone who fails to see a difference between Grenada and Afghanistan is not only seriously mistaken but very seriously confused, and that their confusion is a direct consequence of the Soviets’ colossally effective assault on the realms of value and meaning which our civilization holds dear.

That assault has, it must be underscored, had many successes. In the speech which I delivered at Chatham House in London in 1984 on moral equivalence, the question was, “Is there a moral difference between the superpowers?” I quoted a number of English commentators on the United States and I did not name them. That was a demonstration of both restraint and diplomacy on my part. While a Washington Post columnist suggested that I had outdone myself in finding esoteric figures to quote to make my point, I can assure you that the persons whom I quoted were anything but esoteric. They are leading representatives of the major parties of our perhaps closest friend and ally, the United Kingdom. One of those persons, who will remain nameless here (I called him simply, an MP), asserted that there was an uncanny resemblance between the superpowers. Another charged that if governments assign to themselves the right to change the governments of other sovereign states, there can be no peace in this world and that this is perhaps the most dangerous age which the human race has ever known. And, he said, it is quite improper for honorable members to condemn, as we have, the violation of international law by the Soviet Union in its attack on Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan if we do not apply the same standards to the United States’ attack on Grenada. In a recent debate at Oxford our Secretary of Defense barely won. He squeaked through to a victory on the question of whether there is a moral difference between the superpowers. In another debate Congressman Newt Gingrich, comporting himself brilliantly, lost on the question of whether U.S. policy in Central America was consistent with the moral values and traditions of Western civilization. He lost that debate, of course, to a Nicaraguan government official.

To destroy a society it is first necessary to delegitimize its basic institutions so as to detach the identifications and affections of its citizens from the institutions and authorities of the society marked for destruction. This delegitimization may be achieved by attacking a society’s practices in terms of its own deeply held values, or it may be achieved by attacking the values themselves. The latter course was undertaken by the fascists and Nazi movements which rejected outright the basic values of Western liberal democratic civilization. They rejected democracy, liberty, equality, and forthrightly, frankly, embraced principles of leadership, obedience and hierarchy as alternatives to the hated basic values of democracy. Unlike the fascists, Marxists, of course, do not attack our basic values forthrightly. Instead, they denounce our societies in terms of our own values. They do not postulate alternative values; they postulate a radical critique of our societies and institutions by expropriating our language, our values. Thus democracies are attacked as not truly democratic, because they cannot guarantee economic equality. The argument follows that this makes political equality impossible and in the absence of political equality, it has been asserted that there cannot be free elections or freedom of any sort. Or the absence of perfect political equality in an electoral system means that the elections are a fraud. Their point is that a regime whose practices systematically betray their basic values is obviously a failed regime. If our practices betray our own deepest values then we fail; we are a failed regime. If we pretend to hallow values which our practices do not perfectly achieve, then we are guilty of falsification. So we are both a failure and a fraud. Obviously, such a regime does not deserve the loyalty or affection of either its citizens or its friends. Thus, if the United States is a fraudulent, falsifying society which exploits its workers and subjugates all in a facade of democracy, then it is obviously not worthy of respect.

The Soviet assault on liberal democratic legitimacy involves a very complex, comprehensive, multifaceted strategy. First, it involves a demonstration of the failure of Western democracies to meet their own standards which are regarded as utopian measuring rods. Second, it proceeds by continuous falsification of Soviet practices and assertions of Soviet loyalty to basic Western values. At the same time that it is suggested that we do not respect our own values, it is claimed by the Soviets that they do. Our flaws are exaggerated, theirs are simply denied. Third, the conclusion is, of course, inexorably arrived at, that there is, at best, not a dime’s worth of difference between these two regimes.

Marxism incorporates, at the verbal level and the intellectual level, the values of liberal democracy in its assault on liberal democracy and this is precisely why it entraps so many Western intellectuals who are themselves serious liberal democrats. Thus the slightest restriction on, let’s say, the presumption of innocence of the accused is said to demonstrate the absence of the rule of law. The slightest failure of an electoral system demonstrates contempt for political equality. Any use of force in international affairs establishes the lawless character of the society. Now, it is a short step from having demonstrated that a country like the United States is not a law-abiding society to demonstrating that it is lost and that it is like any other lawless society. The Soviets can always claim “We are no worse than you. Even if we are a lawless society, you too are a lawless society, we are no worse than you.” This is the “logic” of the doctrine of moral equivalence.

If practices are measured by abstract, absolute standards, practices are always found wanting. The communists who criticize liberal democratic societies measure our practices by our standards and deny the relevance of their practices to judgments concerning the moral worth of our own society.

An alliance among democracies is based on shared ideals. The process of delegitimization is, therefore, an absolutely ideal instrument for undermining an alliance, as well as for undermining a government. The NATO alliance among democracies simply cannot survive a widespread conviction among its members that there is no difference between the superpowers. It is not necessary to demonstrate that the Soviet Union is flawed, or deplorable. To destroy the alliance, it is only necessary to deprive the citizens of democratic societies of a sense of shared moral purpose which underlies common identifications and common efforts.

When our democratic allies can see no difference between American and Soviet behavior, then obviously there is no moral basis for a continuing association. There may be grounds in wartime under extreme duress for democracies to ally themselves with countries which are morally reprehensible, but there cannot be, for democracies, adequate justification for long-range peacetime association. It’s perfectly clear that the tendency to self-debasement, self-denigration which has been so brilliantly commented upon by the French scholar Jean-Francois Revel and others recently is rooted in this practice of measuring Western democratic societies by utopian standards. There is simply no way that such measurements can result in anything but chronic, continuous self-debasement, self-criticism, and finally, self-disgust. The problem of dealing with this is complicated by the fact that the values in question are our own values. The response, of course, must be that it is not appropriate to judge actual social practices by utopian standards of political values. So, we must simultaneously affirm our values and accept their relevance to our practice while denying that they are the measuring rods that the Soviets claim they are. That is the challenge which confronts us, and is by no means an easy one.

Another major dimension of the Soviet assault on our values takes place through the systematic redefinition of the terms of political discourse. George Orwell, as usual, has said it very well in his Epilogue to 1984. He said the purpose of “Newspeak” was not only to provide a medium of expression for the worldview and mental habits proper to devotees of “Ingsoc,” but to make all other modes of thought impossible. A heretical thought would literally be unthinkable so far as it is dependent on words. The systematic redefinition of terms of political discourse is very far advanced, making it very difficult to think thoughts other than those indicated by the definition. In real life, nowhere is this clearer than in the concept of human rights. Human rights, enshrined as the purpose of the United Nations Charter and at the heart of the American and the Western democratic tradition, have been redefined in contemporary international discourse and utilized by the great human rights organizations in their new definitions.

According to their new definitions, human rights violations are failures of governments, vis-a-vis their citizens. Terrorist groups do not violate human rights in the current vernacular; only governments violate human rights. Thus the government of El Salvador is continually attacked for gross violations of human rights in responding to terrorist assault. Guerillas are not attacked for violations of human rights, although they may massacre half of the inhabitants of a hamlet, dragging them from their beds in the middle of the night. That is not a violation of human rights by definition: That is a protest of a national liberation movement. The guerillas, by definition, are a national liberation movement. National liberation movements do not violate human rights. They have their human rights violated. National liberation movements assault societies and when governments respond, they (the governments) are criticized vigorously as repressive and unethical. I once encountered in a public presentation the assertion from an earnest young man that the government of El Salvador was guilty of the murder of 50,000, and this was proof, obviously, of gross violations of human rights and a sufficient demonstration that the government of El Salvador was unworthy of U.S. support. The fact is, of course, that approximately 50,000 people have died in El Salvador as a consequence of a guerilla war. But the government is simultaneously held responsible for maintaining order, protecting its citizens, and for responding to violence, so it is responsible for all the deaths in the society.

The semantics of human rights and national liberation movements are extraordinary. It is necessary only to look at the sober discussions of human rights in such places as the Amnesty International Reports or the Helsinki Watch discussions to see that those organizations and most of the people who discuss the subject today are using skewed vocabulary which guarantees the outcome of the investigation by definition. The “newspeak” of human rights morally invalidates the governments by definition and morally exculpates the guerillas by definition. The theft of words like genocide and the language which appears in documents like the United Nations Charter and the Geneva Convention are other examples of systematic comprehensive effort at semantic rectification.

In the United Nations, of course, genocide is regularly charged against Israel and only Israel is regularly described as violating the Geneva Convention. Along with the terms go the documents in which the values are enshrined and codified. What further complicates this is the effort not only to redefine values but to eliminate any epistemological standard—any standard of proof—by which events might be objectively observed and through which we might have appeal to the double bind in which the semantic falsification puts us. Totalitarian ideologies, including Marxism, are inevitably, invariably, anti-empirical. Not only do they deny that there is any sort of objective truth, they deny effectively empirical verification and procedures of empirical verification because they make truth, and not only truth, but reality, dependent on power relations, i.e., truth and objective reality are ultimately defined in a totalitarian ideology by those people who hold power. There is an elaborate ideological justification for this, according to which only Marxists are capable of seeing through the layers of obfuscation with which the existing exploiting powers have shrouded reality. Only the bearers of the totalitarian ideology have the capacity to de-mystify and define reality.

The totalitarian ideology, of which Marxism is the supreme example in our times, makes truth a function of power which is finally enforced by terror. Truth and reality are continually readjusted to serve the purposes of power at any given time. This is the reason that in 1984, history is continually re-written. It isn’t just re-written once; it’s re-written on a daily basis. And it is re-written from week to week and year to year to fit the requirements of the moment. Words, relationships, and events are redefined, and reality becomes a sub-category of politics. There is, then, no appeal from the arbitrary definitions of the revolutionary ideology. The redefinition of reality in the United Nations is dramatic. The first and most memorable examples which I witnessed were the attacks (they are annual, I later discovered) of Andrei Gromyko on the United States for intervention in the internal affairs of Afghanistan and for destroying the possibilities for peace in Afghanistan. While that charge might not be too serious if it were uttered by someone in a position of less influence and power than Andrei Gromyko, it is very serious indeed when it is backed by the full power, in an organization like the United Nations, of the Soviet Union and the Soviet bloc. The charge that the United States is guilty of preventing peace in Afghanistan has now become a part of the negotiating position of the Soviet Union in which they suggest that the principle obstacle to the pacification of Afghanistan is American support for resistance forces in Afghanistan. That is an argument which one can hear in the United Nations anytime the question of Afghanistan is discussed. It is an argument which representatives of the mediators come and whisper quietly to us at the U.S. Mission or the State Department: Couldn’t we try harder to understand that perhaps the biggest obstacle for peace is American support for the resistance movement?

Conceptions of reality are continually manipulated as part of the process of redefinition. There are many examples, but none more blatant than in the case of Nicaragua where the first symbolic redefinition/theft took place in the appropriation of the name of Augusto Sandino. Actually, Sandino was a nationalist and a patriot who was explicitly hostile to communism and who broke with the Salvadoran communist leadership precisely on grounds that the communists could betray the nationalist character of the revolution that Sandino stood for. There is a colossal theft and redefinition in the very name Sandinista. It matters because the name of Sandino has great prestige; he is a great national symbol in Nicaragua, a symbol of independence. It is a theft which both falsifies and confuses—confuses the Nicaraguans initially and confuses international observers about whether this government is nationalist, the bearer of authentic nationalist aspirations, or whether it is something else.

Semantic obfuscation in Nicaragua also proceeds apace with regard to the Catholic Church. The Nicaraguan government is probably the first to attempt, systematically, to incorporate the symbols of Christianity into a comprehensive fashion into state ideology. The establishment of a “popular church,” a so-called parallel to the Catholic Church, is but one artifact of that effort to incorporate the symbols of Christianity. Most of the major rallies in Nicaragua today include the symbol of a soldier with his arms outstretched. It is a novel attempt to identify the Sandinista revolution with the cross. Christ is depicted on the cross and in the background there is a sort of shadow with its arms outstretched in the form of a cross. He is a guerilla with a rifle.

Along with this kind of redefinition, falsification, and utopianism goes something and that is a simply colossal historical denial, especially on the part of the Russians. Their systematic continuous denial of their own history and practices is epitomized by their denial of the Ukrainian famine, which was denied for decades successfully and is still denied today. The Ukrainian famine is a non-event in the view of Soviet interpreters of reality. But not only is the Ukrainian famine a non-event like the infamous Kaytn massacre in 1939, but the current shipment of arms from Nicaragua to El Salvador is a non-event as well. The experience of confronting a spokesman for the Nicaraguan government in a public arena and listening to him deny that the Nicaraguan government is engaged in the shipment and transshipment of arms in a deliberate attempt to destabilize the government of El Salvador is simply an extraordinary experience.

There is no more misleading concept abroad today than this concept of superpower rivalry and the concept of superpower equivalence. The concept of superpower rivalry is the first premise in a syllogism in which moral equivalence is the conclusion. Once you view the United States and the Soviet Union as contending for the world, you have already suggested a symmetry between their goals: to dominate the world.

The fact is, of course, that we do not seek to dominate the world. We do not seek colonies. We do, in fact, seek to foster a world of independent nations. But whenever anyone suggests that the world is dominated by superpower rivalries, they imply that we have some goal other than fostering and preserving a world of independent nations. Otherwise the concept of superpower rivalry makes no sense. But if there is only one power which seeks to undermine and subvert the independence of nations, then there is no question of superpower rivalry, and there isn’t even a question of a contest between the United States and that imperialistic power. There is a contest between the imperialistic power and all other countries who desire to preserve their independence.

The very notion of superpower rivalry undermines, at the epistemological level as well as the political level, the notion of a serious distinction between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. and also undermines the reality of the opposition of Soviet goals to the goals of all independent nations and the desires of all independent nations. It is very important to understand that not only are questions of politics involved here, but also the most basic questions of morality and meaning. In a very interesting little book, Ethics of Rhetoric, Richard Weaver said, “It is the nature of the conscious life of man to revolve around some concept of value.” So true is this, Weaver added, that where the concept is withdrawn, the human being suffers an almost intolerable sense of loss. As our lives revolve around values, they also revolve around meaning and epistemological stability. We must recognize and defend a concept of meaning to which that concept of value is, of course, absolutely essential: a concept of epistemological stability, if you will, a concept of reality which is not, in fact, a function of power and does not shift from day to day to fit the political needs of a totalitarian group.

The “Household Fallacy” fallacy

iea.org.uk | Jim Cheoros and Jamie Whyte

Several economists have claimed that “austerity” is not only cruel but based on faulty economic theory. They accuse its supporters of committing the Household Fallacy. Writing in The Guardian earlier this year, Ann Pettifor, director of Policy Research in Macroeconomics, claimed that it is a “fallacy that government budgets conform to ‘the household analogy’: that, as with family budgets, a state’s outgoings cannot exceed its income.”

Or as advocate of People’s Quantitative Easing and inspirer of “Corbynomics”, Richard Murphy, puts it:

… the assumption that the government behaves like a household with regard to debt is just wrong. Households can’t create their own money out of thin air to repay debt but governments with their own currency and central bank (as the UK has) can … Governments and households are not the same at all because households may be constrained by the need to repay debt but governments are not.”

Alas, governments are not magical entities that transcend the borrowing constraints faced by households. Those who talk about a ‘Household Fallacy’ are committing a fallacy.

For a start, households do not need to balance their budgets in every period. They often spend more than they earn, borrowing to make up the difference. And they can do this for as long as creditors believe they will be able to pay it back, with interest. A household whose income keeps increasing can keep increasing its debt.

The real problem with the Fallacy fallacy, however, isn’t that it underestimates households’ ability to borrow, but that it overestimates governments’. Of course, governments can meet interest payments in a way that households cannot: namely, by confiscating money from citizens through taxation. This means the government can usually borrow more than any household in the country. If I had the right to confiscate my neighbours’ property, I would also be able to borrow at lower interest rates. But it doesn’t remove the constraint that households face when borrowing. Like households, governments can keep borrowing only if creditors continue to believe they will be able to meet the interest payments – only, that is, if creditors believe the borrower’s future income will suffice to meet its obligations. Call this the income constraint.

Just as a household’s ability to increase its income to meet extra interest payments is not unconstrained, a government’s ability to increase its tax revenues is not unconstrained. Among other constraints, high tax rates are a deadweight drag on the economy that reduce the output that can be taxed. If the government tried to collect 90% of GDP, for example, it would find itself collecting far less than it does now because GDP would be so much smaller.

“Then the government can simply print money to meet its obligations!”, comes the reply of the Fallacy alleger. Alas, a government that responds to its inability to raise tax revenues by instead paying its bills with freshly printed money will soon find itself being charged very high rates of interest. Who wants to receive interest payments in a currency that is rapidly losing its purchasing power, as currencies do when governments behave in this way? To make these higher interest payments, the government would then need to print yet more money, thereby creating an inflationary spiral which would destroy the currency. Witness Germany in the early 1920s, Zimbabwe in the 2000s and now Venezuela, where inflation is 750%.

The U.K. government has recently been paying some of its bills by printing money. Its central bank has created £435 billion of new (base) money since 2009, with which it has bought U.K. government debt. As Richard Murphy is keen to point out, this amounts to meeting debt obligations by printing money. But it doesn’t prove his point that governments lack the income constraint faced by households. If creditors believed that the U.K. government’s future tax revenues would not suffice to meet its obligations, and that they would always receive nothing but freshly printed money, they would demand dramatically higher rates of interest and an inflationary spiral would begin.

The point of the austerity policy is to make sure that this day does not arrive. You can sensibly argue that this day is farther off than austerity advocates believe, or that deficit spending will help push it farther away by stimulating economic growth and, thereby, increasing tax revenues. But you cannot sensibly claim that the government’s ability to print money means that, unlike households, it faces no income constraint on its borrowing.

Richard Murphy and his ilk are right that the government has a money tree. But there’s nothing magical about it. The money tree is not a wealth tree.

 

What are some valid criticisms of intersectional feminism?

Kes Sparhawk Amesley 

PhD Rhetorical Studies, MFA Writing, organizer, professor

As I see it, one major criticism of “intersectional feminism” is its claim to be a product of the third wave, and something new.

That in itself is a result of the source of the “third wave” concept, who was the daughter of a noted and talented feminist of the second wave who, like many younger feminists, was trying to distinguish her generation’s values and goals from her mother’s generation. An article published through her mother’s contacts in the glossy commercial publication Ms. Magazine made her name nationally known for this claim.

In the process, she ignored the feminist movement’s actual history. Because Rebecca Walker had the privilege of her mother Alice Walker’s name and her parents’ wealth, she was given a national platform for her essay. The irony of the daughter of a second wave African-American feminist published as an ethnic minority in a magazine designed to appeal to middle and upper class suburban women claiming that second wave feminism did not address race or class seems to have been completely lost on her readership.

Other young women with an equal lack of knowledge adopted the idea that they were a third wave, significantly different from their parents, and far more morally pure. This was because they came to define their generation’s difference as the awareness of intersectionality — the points of marginalization where several identity issues overlapped.

Of course, it’s obvious that awareness of intersectionality — and attention to it — existed long before the writing of a ’90s essay. It even existed before the birth of the daughter who appropriated its conceptualization for her generation. To appropriate the idea, these younger feminists made invisible and irrelevant the women of color, disabled women, elderly women, lesbians, working class women, and other intersecting minorities who had published widely and written beautifully about the complications and consequences of being, for example, both black and female, hispanic and lesbian, disabled and old, or any and all of the other possible combinations of oppression from the ’60s on. **

Besides appropriating their mothers’ issues, and invalidating their struggle, third wave feminists then developed what I call “entitlement victimhood.” This developed to privilege certain oppressions more highly than others. That hierarchy of oppressions was combined with the old insight that the powerless should speak up for themselves and those exercising power over them be quiet and listen. Unfortunately, the result is attempts to silence anyone who is not in the privileged categories (which vary depending on feminist site) on the grounds that they’re unqualified to discuss oppression if they’re not from the appropriate victim category.*** Thus, you can be accused of “playing the class card” if you suggest that working class males might in some ways be worse off than upper middle class academic women, slut hating if you suggest prostitution is not a desirable trade for most women, woman-hating if you support sex work as a choice, and so forth. Again, this varies by feminist locus.

So far, I’ve mostly provided theory without evidence. Obviously, providing enough evidentiary examples for this would fill a book in itself. I refer you to the following link for some recent examples from my own experience: Kes Sparhawk Amesley’s answer to Are microaggressions relevant?, which halfway down discusses some microaggression of “intersectional” anarchist feminists, and Kes Sparhawk Amesley’s answer to Are feminist laypeople who learn about feminism from pop culture (“Tumblr feminists”) often misinformed about academic feminist theory?, which directly deals with entitlement victimhood (though I wrote it before I came up with this term).

Now, assuming that becoming entitled by one’s victimhood is the only way intersectionality theory manifests does it a great disservice. The term itself is relatively new; it was coined in the ‘90s, to describe issues that had been struggled with for 30 years and would continue to the present, and beyond.

The term is useful. There is nothing wrong with intersectional feminism as a concept. We undeniably have overlapping oppressions which position us in particular ways; and those must all be explored to understand how they interact, and how they can be dismantled.

What is wrong is the way intersectional feminism has emerged as a practice, and then only when it manifests to privilege some oppressions over others. If I thought people would read this answer indefinitely, I’d discuss how this practice avoids economic oppression as much as possible, and is ultimately liberal. Certain middle class academic people of color, for example, feel perfectly comfortable attacking working class whites for using the wrong language. Some lesbian feminists criticize other women for liking men. Very young feminists may find elderly women uninteresting and unimportant. Invalidation of the concerns of other minorities is rampant. ****

But in all cases, suggesting that your entitled victim has more economic power than you is frowned on. I haven’t found a feminist site yet which gives more than lip service to “class” or “poverty” as one of the intersections. This is probably because most social media sites, and blogs, tend to be written and maintained by raised-middle class people.

I suppose the simplest way to put my criticism is that when intersectionality is used as a theory which informs practice, it’s valuable. When it’s used as a practice to invalidate and/or obscure some oppressions in order to privilege others, and that practice uses the language of the theory to gaslight members of oppressed groups, it’s unacceptable. Attention needs to be drawn to the behavior immediately.

I think we need to move as quickly as possible to directly addressing the problem, because it’s destroying the possibility of alliance. It reflects the problems of our government (two greedy and intellectually dishonest entities which fail at self-reflexivity) but that’s no excuse. The grassroots needs to be more intelligent than its ruling class, because that’s the only way to make changes.

Josh DiGiorgio,

One of the more significant and valid criticisms of intersectional feminism is on an academic level. Much of the work done by intersectional feminists in academia is, to put it politely, less than credible.

Sourcing evidence for this argument is easier than it has ever been before via Twitter. In particular, an account by the name of New Real Peer Review aggregates the realm of academia looking for absurdities. When the owner of the account finds an absurdity, he/she relays that to the account’s followers and the rest of us get to peek into the world of postmodern academia. The sources that follow have been located and distributed via New Real Peer Review.

This is an abstract from a paper written in 1995 by a feminist:

The scientific method is a tool for the construction and justification of dominance in the world. The invention of statistics was a major methodological advance in the descriptive sciences causing a shift from descriptive analysis to mathematical analysis. The new methodological techniques were invented by men who were interested in explaining the inheritance of traits in order to support their political ideology of natural human superiority and inferiority. The statistical techniques transformed the scientific method and resulted in a process that constructs knowledge and establishes “significant differences” between the dominant group as the norm and the subordinate group as the “Other.” The five steps in the process that integrates domination into the scientific method and results in the scientific construction the Other are: (a) Naming, (b) Quantification, (c) Statistical Analysis, (d) Reification, and (e) Objectification.[1]

The conceptualization of a hierarchical system where one group dominates others is a foundational to intersectional “theory”. Intersectional feminism, as seen in the above abstract, wages war against all aspects of society, including the other sciences in an attempt to alter them to conform to its ideology.

It’s important to actually comprehend what has been written in this abstract. The scientific method, a generalized algorithm by which many of the most important questions about our universe have been successfully filtered through, is, in the words of this precursor to intersectionality, a “tool for the construction and justification of dominance in the world”. Just let that sink in for a moment. Science doesn’t tell us how to create vaccines or how much energy we need to get a rocket in space. No, it tells us how to justify our continued oppression of other groups of people. You really have to ask yourself what planet these academics are living on and if, by some chance, they may be mentally ill.

Here’s another example of the harm that intersectionality has done to academia:

“Students should also note that government websites and statistical data are NOT scholarly sources..”

“Scholarly sources are required to be limited to sociological sources.”

So, sociologists shouldn’t use statistical data in their research? How can they possibly answer large-scale questions in a meaningful way without mathematics? Are they supposed to source anecdotal accounts when over-reliance on anecdotal data is a well known logical fallacy?

Here’s yet another example of intersectional encroachment on academia:

“..disrupting space imperialism by ‘queering’ outer space.”

This guy is a PhD candidate at Memorial University in Newfoundland. Someone apparently told him that space anthropology was a real thing since, you know, there’s so many humans currently in space. Even more absurd are his claims that queer folk have a superior capacity for imagination, as if their inability or unwillingness to conform to societal norms regarding sexuality has somehow endowed them with special creative powers.


There are usually a few common themes associated with academics who do this kind of work. One of these underlying themes is that they are almost always intersectional feminists. Intersectional feminism is the mainstream regarding sociology and gender studies. It’s not an outlier. It’s not fringe. Intersectional feminism is also an ideology that is exported to other realms of study.

So, what is the criticism of intersectional feminism?

It’s an academic ideology that pushes pseudoscience in a desperate attempt to be recognized as being as credible as an area of study such as quantum mechanics. This, in turn, harms the general cause of science which is to attempt to explain the world in a demonstrably rational and replicable way. Intersectional feminism is free ammunition for people who are anti-science that they can, in turn, use against the rest of the community in order to poke holes in the credibility of scientific findings.


However for all its controversy, intersectionality has helped to eliminate the racism, homophobia, transphobia, class-ism and able-ism present in earlier strains.

Please observe the following prediction:

These problems will never be solved to the satisfaction of intersectional scholars. Why? Because if they were, these people would be out of a job. For more on why social activism is a business rather than a movement, you can read my argument in another answer that I’ll link below:

Josh DiGiorgio’s answer to What are your thoughts on The Good Men Project’s gendered approach to cheating?

This is the same reason that so many of these academics put the bulk of their work behind internet paywalls. Research is a business. These problems might be solved in the near future, but these solutions won’t be acknowledged by intersectional scholars who need to make a living.


There’s a lot more to write about this subject, specifically the effect of intersectional ideology on the enactment of legislation in westernized nations. We could also talk about Marxism and how it’s being pushed through an intersectional lense. I’ll stop right here though, and present this as a starting point.

Shane Werstan

Non-Feminist Egalitarian

Others have provided some good answers, but I think their points are more criticisms of third wave feminism in general. As far as I’m aware, there is really only one criticism that applies to intersectional feminism specifically:

Intersectional Feminism co-opts other causes to bolster the flagging validity of its own.

Feminism as a whole is a dying ideology, one need look no further than the dozens of online polls to see that this is true. Even the Huffington Post, a liberal, pro-feminist, online ragsheet “news” source, acknowledges this.

Poll: Don’t Call Me This (Even If It’s True)

Intersectional Feminism co-opts other causes in an attempt to reverse this trend. Now one could argue that this is a step towards a more egalitarian version of feminism, which is a good thing. However, intersectional feminists co-opt these other causes and adopt them as a subset of the feminist cause. That is to say, that take an issue like racism, and apply it using the feminist model, using it to show that black women are disadvantaged as compared to white, and then to claim that this proves sexism.

I would not wish to discourage any feminist from broadening their worldview, intersectional feminists really do need to take off the feminist lens before looking at other issues. It skews their perception, and leaves them blind to realities that don’t conform to the preconceived expectations. They need to learn to look at things objectively, and to judge causes by their own merits, not by how much they can be made to look like a feminist issue.

**NOTE**
My answer applies to western feminism. Feminism in the east is facing an entirely different situation, and I am not familiar enough with the specifics to make a fair analysis of it.

My view is that feminism should simply be known as women’s rights and nothing more. Women’s right movements in the past did not really succumb to ideology like feminism had in later years. Poor women, women of color, women in developing countries, etc would already be represented in any woman’s rights movement so in my opinion there’s no need for intersectionality.

Feminism has definitely become more ideological with each subsequent generation, and that has been problematic and is what’s leading to its current scrutiny. Intersectionality just adds more problems to an already problematic movement-ideology. I already disagree with progressives on race issues so to me intersectionality just adds more problems to an already controversial movement-ideology.

LGBT issues are another thing that irk me as a liberal. What I mean is that I don’t agree with the concept of LGBT itself. Whether many progressives want to hear this or not LGBT issues are not as interconnected as they think, something I’ve touched on several occasions.

I can agree with the core notion of intersectionality, but only when it’s relative to each cultural hegemony. Example: America has a white, Christian foundation behind it so it’s obvious that being a straight white cisgender male would be the easiest type of person to live as. However, this changes in each culture and in some cultures it can be Christians or whites that are subjugated instead. However, even considering my latter point, I’m still not entirely sure I agree with many progressives on how to address social justice issues.

I’d support feminism if it was just a woman’s rights movement without the dogmatic ideology. Now with intersectionality we have a multitude of ideas I previously did not agree with merged with another: Nazbol madness. Intersectionality has not only contaminated what should be a woman’s rights movement, but it has also made it more difficult to address different issues in any meaningful way by creating a conglomerate. It’s also exacerbated the let’s blame the white cis gender male for all of the world’s problems mantra, creating more division.

I find this question very vague. Apparently it is about intersectionality, but then OP Tom Ramsay offers some suggestions in a comment on the question, and for most of them I can’t really see how they relate to intersectionality. And other answers to this question come up with similar things and name problems that don’t relate to intersectionality, and talk about “third wave feminism” (I still don’t have a clue what that term even means) instead of intersectionality in particular.

I mean, sure, women feeling entitled to benevolent sexism and justifying it with feminism is objectionable, but what does it have to do with intersectionality? Corporate feminism is pretty bad, but what does it have to do with intersectionality?

If anything, some of these problems listed can be attributed to too little intersectionality. Intersectionality often means more nuance instead of a binary oversimplified classification into oppressors and oppressed, because it acknowledges that power is complex, situational and dynamic, an oppressor can be a victim (and might become an oppressor because they are a victim). Intersectionality is a counter to sweeping generalizations like “all people from demographic X have experienced Y and think Z about issue W”, because it acknowledges that people from demographic X have very diverse backgrounds and have just one property in common. Intersectionality is a counter to misandry.

A frequent objection to feminism is that many feminist analyses of male experiences and gendered power dynamics don’t take class differences into account. That’s insufficient intersectionality, not too much intersectionality. If anything, we can have a discussion about the idea of intersectionality and compare it to its actual implementation in practice, and maybe make a point that in practice the focus on class discrimination (compared to other axes of discrimination) is disproportionally low. But that’s not a problem with intersectionality per se, that’s a problem with its implementation.

Is this really a question about intersectionality or is it a broad, vague question along the lines of “name anything you don’t like about feminism these days” (no matter how heterogeneous feminism is) that just slaps the label “intersectional feminism” on it because intersectionality just happens to be a comparably recent idea that functions as a pars pro toto scapegoat for anything else in feminism that people perceive to be a recent development?

Well. I am aware of one criticism of intersectionality that is actually about intersectionality, and it is the flip side of the above-named acknowledgement of complexity, namely the idea that if you acknowledge more and more complexity and nuance because in theory there are infinite oppression axes, and every issue can be infinitely explored and analysed further and further where you take more and more demographic background and nuance into account … then you’ll never come up with a conclusive result. Then every single analysis and theory is incomplete and imperfect.

Basically, intersectionality is not pleasant for people who feel uncomfortable with ambiguity and open questions and who feel more comfortable when a final decision is made. And arguably, when you go from theorizing to taking action, you’ll need some conclusions. At least preliminary conclusions.

For instance, Rebecca Reilly-Cooper has a problem with it:

We are told that if we accept intersectionality – which we ought to – then we also ought to accept a radical form of identity politics that says we can never generalize from people’s particular experiences, can never legitimately speak for any one other than ourselves, and where personal narrative and testimony are elevated to such a degree that there can be no objective standpoint from which to examine their veracity. This is an unattractive – indeed, an incoherent – picture of what politics should be like, which followed through to its logical conclusions is entirely self-defeating. And as we are sold this vision of politics as part of the intersectionality package, if we can’t accept it we are told that we must reject the intersecting oppressions story too. But this is a mistake.

Starting from the uncontroversial idea that our identities are comprised of many different elements, resulting in complex, possibly unique experiences of oppression for each individual, comes the quite plausible sounding claim that each individual is the best judge of her own experiences. Given that we all have these multifaceted identities and experience multiple and intersecting forms of oppression, each person is likely to be best placed to recognize and understand the oppression she faces. I think this is likely to be true, or at least, most of the time, we should assume it to be true. And if we believe that, then we ought to pay close attention to people’s testimonies, listen carefully to oppressed people, and let them use their own voices to share their experiences and understandings of the injustices they have faced. This is all very sensible and attractive. Any attempt to eradicate injustice and improve the lives of oppressed people ought to begin by listening to those people and learning from their experiences.

But this desire to listen to oppressed people’s testimonies and respect their particular experiences, although motivated by only good intentions, often seems to lead to a wholly counterproductive and self-defeating approach to politics that can’t offer any practical guidance, and can’t do anything to make oppressed people’s lives any better. Listening to people’s stories is important. But if it is to have any value, besides satisfying people’s desire to be heard, then we need to do more than listen. We need to be able to generalize from those stories to more abstract principles, which then inform our action and guide policy. Particular experiences and personal testimonies are of political importance because they can help to illuminate general principles; they cannot trump those general principles.

The reason for this is that there is no way to make sense of concepts like oppression or injustice, unless we understand them as having some objective criteria – that is, criteria that determine whether an action oppressive, independently of how it is experienced by those subject to it. If it did not – if oppression was entirely a matter of whether or not a person feels they have been oppressed – then there would be no way to distinguish between action that is oppressive, and action that I just don’t like very much. And clearly, when people claim to have been oppressed, they think they are saying something different, and more compelling, than merely “I don’t like this”. There are lots of things people could do (or refuse to do) to me that I wouldn’t like very much. I might like to win the lottery, or to borrow your car. We can all agree that the fact I would like to get these things but don’t get them is not oppression, no matter how strongly I might feel about it. And when I say I am being oppressed by something you do, I believe I am saying more than just “I would have liked you to do this”; I believe I am saying, “I have a right to this, and you ought to do it”. And the fact that you ought to do it does not depend on how I feel about it, or on the fact that I would like you to do it; because if it did, there would be no difference between you oppressing me, and you not lending me your car. As soon as I claim to be oppressed, I am appealing to some objective criteria of oppression, criteria that are independent of my subjective feelings and interpretations.

Of course, we still need to determine what those criteria are. And listening to people’s narratives and experiences will be very useful here, for any plausible account of what oppression is presumably needs to fit reasonably well with our intuitions and considered judgements about what oppression is like. These criteria need not be set in stone – they can be open to constant revision. And (hopefully) obviously, the dialogue where we determine what these objective criteria should be needs to be open to as many different voices as possible, especially those who have typically been marginalized and oppressed. But ultimately, we need to try to come to a set of objective criteria about what constitutes oppression. And once we do, then we can use these criteria in specific cases to judge whether a particular claim to be oppressed is correct or not. This leaves open the possibility that the person who feels oppressed may in fact be mistaken. While she may feel strongly and in good faith that she has been the victim of oppression, this is not sufficient for it to be true that she has. She may well have been; but this is determined objectively, independent of her experience, interpretations and feelings. So therefore, it is at least possible for people to be mistaken about their own oppression. Trying to ensure that our beliefs about oppression and injustice are as objective as possible is essential, and I do not mean to deny that less oppressed people frequently fail to recognize the ways in which their beliefs about oppression are clouded by their own unchecked and unacknowledged privilege. In real life politics, this is by far the bigger problem facing social justice activists – people in positions of power and privilege frequently fail to examine the ways in which their privilege has shaped their views abut what justice and oppression are. Without a doubt, people with privilege have much to learn from the voices and experiences of the oppressed. My point is simply that the knowledge they gain is only of use if it informs general and objective principles that guide future political action.

The problem with some versions of intersectional identity politics is that, in elevating subjective experience above objective knowledge, they dissolve the possibility of making coherent, meaningful claims of injustice or oppression at all. On this logic all complaints are reduced to an expression of one’s personal preference or feelings, with no way to distinguish genuine injustice from mere dislike. If we want to hold on to the concepts of injustice and oppression, and if we want them to have real political weight and to signify actions and practices that need to be altered, then we have to understand them as having objective criteria that are defined independently of how any individual experiences them. The intersectionalist demand to attend to people’s narratives and to learn from people’s experiences can, at its best, shed a great deal of light on difficult concepts like oppression and injustice, and help us to understand the forms they take and the remedies they require. But at its worst, it descends into solipsism and narcissism, where we mollify oppressed people with the consolation that they are being listened to, but where we and they ultimately lack any resources with which to end their oppression.

The problem elaborated in this post is probably a consequence of what happens if you take the attitude that you shouldn’t ever make generalizations like “all people from demographic X have experienced Y and think Z about issue W” to its extreme. You don’t end up with theories, you end up with a lot of chaotic data without structure.

(Also, she raises a very interesting point about whether oppression is objective and whose authority decides whether something is oppressive, but that’s another matter.)

I have a slightly different take on this – I believe you can get very far without a clear definition what constitutes oppression – but I see her point.

I would curious to hear SPECIFICALLY how it has done those things, but that is not the point; there are many criticisms of third wave feminism.

First, feminism was a movement about closing the gap between male and female rights and opportunities, in regards to women. All of this “feminism plus” stuff does not work towards that. Essentially, third wave feminism co-opts feminism, because it is easier to hijack a movement than start a new one.

Second, third wave feminism is full of unscientific, nebulous, and even illogical ideological concepts. For example, “the patriarchy”.

Third, third wave feminism is based around perpetuated literal lies. For example, the gender wage gap.

Fourth, third wave feminism pressures women into lifestyles that negatively impact them. Since the 1970’s, women’s happiness and life satisfaction has steadily declined and is now lower than men’s, whose hasn’t changed.

Fifth, third wave feminism has adopted a “”with us or against us” mentality where anyone who is not in lock-step agreement is branded as “mysoginist”, “sexist”, or, in the case of other women, “having internalized mysoginy” (which denies women the agency to think for themselves). This has led to normal people coming to oppose feminism, because they have been branded as these things despite knowing it’s not true.

Sixth, third wave feminists say one thing and do another. Feminists will claim “feminism means gender equality”, yet anyone who believes in gender equality but not any of the countless other concepts in third wave feminism is then attacked. Despite meeting the supposed definition of feminist. Less than 25% of women in the US now identify as feminist, despite 85% believing in gender equality. This alone shows that feminism has lost its way and women know this.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/20…

From what I understand of intersectional feminism, it doesn’t address the core flaw within feminism – it still presumes men are privileged.

Recognising that a black gay poor man has disadvantages for being black and gay and poor is one thing, but if it’s still assumed that a black man is more privileged than a black woman, that doesn’t make feminism particularly well-equipped to address male-specific problems (since it largely downplays or trivialises them) and in my view at least means intersectional feminism is still misdiagnosing the root causes of sexism.

My answer history has already preached a lot about how “misandry is the beginning of the process, misogyny is the end” so I won’t repeat it all here. Still, misogyny rests on male obligation to women, and that misogyny will never be effectively tackled until that expectation of male obligation to women is addressed. Expecting male obligations to disappear once we tackle misogyny is putting the cart before the horse, only not as viable as putting a cart in front of a horse because horses can push.

Intersectionality | Know thine enemy

It’s not that I don’t think we make the world a more just and fair place but intersectionality has morphed from an academic concept published in 1989 to a meaningless word to shout down anyone who thinks that merit is a virtue.

Anyway lets go down the rabbit hole…

Original Paper | Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics by Kimberlé Crenshaw.

Interesting take on it at the New Statesman

Less interesting take at Socialist Review

 

 

Are women paid less than men for the same work?

www.economist.com

When all job differences are accounted for, the pay gap almost disappears

MEDIA organisations aspire to cover news, not make it. But the BBC, Britain’s public broadcaster, has found itself in an uncomfortable spotlight since July 19th, when it published the names of its employees who earn at least £150,000 ($195,000) a year. The ensuing furore was less over the absolute level of pay than about the differences between men’s and women’s incomes. Some female presenters discovered that they made much less than male colleagues they regarded as peers. Just over half of the BBC’s staff are men, but among the 96 high earners listed, two-thirds are male.

In a petition, female presenters said this was evidence that women at the BBC are paid less than men “for the same work”. If that were true for the company as a whole, it would make the BBC an outlier. Although the average woman’s salary in Britain is 29% lower than the average man’s, the bulk of that gap results from differences in rank within companies, firms’ overall compensation rates and the nature of the tasks a job requires. According to data for 8.7m employees worldwide gathered by Korn Ferry, a consultancy, women in Britain make just 1% less than men who have the same function and level at the same employer. In most European countries, the discrepancy is similarly small. These numbers do not show that the labour market is free of sex discrimination. However, they do suggest that the main problem today is not unequal pay for equal work, but whatever it is that leads women to be in lower-ranking jobs at lower-paying organisations.

Moreover, even if the bulk of the BBC’s 9,000 female employees are not underpaid relative to their male colleagues, the list does suggest a problem among the broadcaster’s top brass. That pattern is fairly common. Pay gaps between men and women in the same roles at the same employers are narrow across Europe for 15 of the 16 job levels in Korn Ferry’s database—but the highest one is the exception. In Spain and Germany, top-ranking women make 15-20% less than similarly high-flying men.

A new law in Britain requires all medium-to-large employers to publish data on the pay gap between their male and female workers by April 2018. The reactions to the BBC’s list suggest they would be wise to break these data down for comparable jobs. That will show more precisely where the problem lies.