I thought a lot of rhetoric around feminism…..a lot of feminist narratives were conspiracy theories. I thought the concept of patriarchy keeping of us women down and oppressed…..I thought it was a conspiracy theory because it didn’t correspond with the empirical evidence that I experienced in my own life… that I could see with my own eyes”Claire Lehman (Editor of Quillette) – interview with Coleman Hughes
Coleman Hughes is writer and podcaster and I recommend his YouTube channel Conversations with Coleman. The conversations are always illuminating and devoid of the overblown rhetoric that is prevalent on both sides of the culture wars. His ‘conversation’ on 26th August was with another figure I admire, Claire Lehman who founded the online magazine Quillette. Although, in some quarters, Quillette has been labelled alt-right, this is not correct. Quillette has given a voice to figures who have been cancelled by institutions such as universities and parts of the mainstream media that have been captured by the indentitarain left. However, there is nothing inherently right or left wing about Quillette.
You can see the whole interview with Claire Lehman below or clicking the quotes in the text will take you to the appropriate segment of their dialogue.
At 2.46 (see below) Coleman and Claire discuss the tendency of some figures who challenge identity politics to ‘keep going’ and dismiss everything coming from the mainstream media and ‘the establishment.’ For example, the Guardian has some strange views on identity politics but its science coverage can be good and the media landscape would be poorer if it were to disappear – I don’t disbelieve everything I read in that newspaper. Some figures on what used to be called the Intellectual Dark Web (IDW) become anti-establishment on all issues. Not believing in global climate change, or challenging all public health messages on COVID19 would be good examples of this kind of behaviour. I can see no reason why challenging the identitarian left should also make you believe in Ivermectin as a treatment for COVID. Yet that seems to have happened with figures such as Brett Weinstein. After his brush with SJWs at Evergreen College and justified outrage at the abuse he received, he has promoted some strange and poorly evidenced beliefs on COVID19 treatment. Claire points out that she is not contrarian and anti-establishment -full stop. Though Quillette gives voice to those who are critical of policies that emphasise differences between us on the basis of sex, gender or race, it is not anti-establishment when it comes to matters of public health or global warming. Click on the quote below to land at the right segment of the video.
In as much as the establishment is pursuing identity politics and what I mean by that is the special advantages for women or affirmative action, in as much as ‘the establishment is promoting those policies and those ideas uncritically I am anti-establishment. There are many reasons why I am critical of policies that emphasise the differences between us whether its sex gender or race, and so on and so forth. I don’t like the uncritical acceptance of such policies. However, I don’t see public health as having much to do with identity politics and I am not antiestablishment when it comes to public health. I’m not anti-establishment when t comes to something like national security. So…… I’m on the side of the west when it comes to Ukraine. I don’t have any motivation to make justifications for what Putin is doing in Ukraine. So I think the difficulty has been for many people in our audience …. they seemed to think Quillette was just contrarian and anti-establishment, full stop. And this was meant to come in a package………….. and that’s sort of been a misreading of our ethos.
Coleman Hughes describes how when he met Eric Weinstein he became perturbed by his belief in conspiracy theories. According to Coleman the fundamental difference between figures such as Eric Weinstein and Claire Lehmann is their attitudes to conspiracy thinking. Claire being opposed to this mode of thinking. Those differences in attitudes became exposed during the COVID pandemic.
At 8.32 Claire goes on to say…..
Thats a really interesting way of putting it, because how I first became politicised was through… I Thought a lot of rhetoric around feminism …… a lot of feminist narratives were conspiracy theories. I Thought this concept of patriarchy keeping all of us women down and oppressed, and there was some kind of invisible layer of power, systematic oppression. I thought it was a conspiracy theory because it didn’t correspond with the empirical evidence that I experienced in my own life and I could see with my own eyes. That feeling that this feminism.. these narratives that were constantly being promoted in mainstream media were a low level type of conspiracy theory. That’s what politicised me originally. It was my scepticism towards conspiratorial ideas that got me going in my career. And then the other thing is that as a student of psychology I was aware that there bodies of research that were not politically correct and that journalists or lay people were not familiar with – I do have a tremendous respect for the scientific method and scientific rationalism.
Coleman goes on to say
Thats interesting. Much feminist talk about the patriarchy holding women down felt conspiratorial to you. This is an exact feeling I have had about systemic racism and white supremacy. The idea usually when scholars talk about systemic racism that mean a system that is racist without any individual in the system having to be racist. And it’s become this very amorphous idea where you don’t have to identify any concrete thing that is holding somebody back. I have described it as a conspiracy theory without the conspirators.
I recommend you listen to every measured and thoughtful minute of this interview.
Moving to my own thoughts on this matter. It seems obvious that partriachy is a rewarding belief system for feminists that they are unlikely to give up. Below, I list some of the rewards this theory brings to its adherents.
- It can be used to amplify achievement. ‘I had to fight an oppressive patriarchy to get where I am.’ And, similarly it is used to diminish the achievements of men who, some women believe, are given an easier ride by society.
- It can provide the emotional rewards of being freedom fighter without the attendant dangers faced by rebels in truly oppressive regimes. Even supposedly academic journals such MAI Feminism claim ‘we smash partiarchy’ when all they really smash are normal standards of academic objectivity and critical thinking.
- It can be used to justify hate and retributive justice often delivered to young boys who are least able to fight back.
- It can be used as a justification for special treatment (favouritism). There are numerous schemes to facilitate the progress of women (into the sort of jobs they like) but none to facitilite increased numbers of men in areas where they are sorely needed such as primary school teaching.
It is time to abandon our belief in ‘the patriarchy’ as an explanatory framework. It is no more useful in explaining human affairs than a belief in the Holy Ghost.