Wednesday, July 7, 2010

One more time

Lori Ziganto has devoted her latest post to a commentary on a story by Salon's Stephanie Hughes, "It's off to feminist summer camp: Forget canoeing and roasting s'mores -- this retreat is all about learning how to become a women's activist."  Go ahead and read it and Ziganto's post, in that order.

I'll try to keep my criticisms brief. Ziganto continues to make the same errors I've been criticizing for months now, so I won't mention those. If you're interested, you can search my blog. Ziganto's not interested; her case is hopeless.

The title of Ziganto's piece is "Hey, Remember That Time at Summer Camp? Now With Abortion Workshops!" But Hughes's story doesn't mention anything about abortion workshops. Characterizing it as such is therefore obviously misleading and unfair.

Ziganto writes that feminists are "weaseling their way into the realm of summer camps." There is nothing wrong with this, unless you have already shown that there is something wrong with feminism. (Her readers probably think that there is, so they won't challenge her on this point.) Religions have been weaseling their way into summer camps for years. Most people probably don't have a problem with this, but I think it's wrong to indoctrinate children into religion when they are intellectually vulnerable and defenseless. At least the attendees of feminist summer camp are adults. Ziganto suggests that they have been indoctrinated into the feminist cause anyway. Well, of course they have: they disagree with Ziganto, after all!

Ziganto quotes the story as saying that the young women go to camp "to learn how to be a feminist." Ziganto says that the kind of people who choose to attend the camp "actually choose to label themselves and . . . take some sort of strange pride in being a part of an irrelevant and self-diminishing group-think." Ziganto thus leaves the impression that the attendees are being indoctrinated. But that's not what's happening. According to the story,
Activists Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards started the program for college students after visiting university campuses around the country and realizing that lots of women’s studies students wanted to work as feminists, but didn't know where to look for jobs. They planned the week in order to introduce the campers to as many different feminist organizations as possible: They vary from the Guttmacher Institute, which collects statistics about things like the number of abortions performed each year, to Babeland, a female-friendly sex toy shop. 
Hughes also writes that the camp included "a mixer for bigwigs of the feminist movement," and one attendee "came to the camp to learn skills that she can apply to her work at the YWCA back home." So it appears that the camp was intended for women who were already feminists and wished to network and learn skills useful in activism. It is in this sense that they went to the camp to learn how to be a feminist. Ziganto deceptively made all of this sound sinister. That's a form of lying. I would also point out that conservatives have their own camps. Should we avoid them so as not to diminsh ourselves in exercises of groupthink? Is it wrong to be a conservative activist?

Hughes writes,
When Sara Myles, a student at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, has trouble launching herself onto a trampoline, she shouts to rev herself up. "I can do this. I'm a feminist!" That declaration is one of the overarching themes of feminist summer camp: declaring one’s feminist status proudly, and then figuring out how to put that pride and energy to use. 
Ziganto's advice for Sara? "Hey, here’s an idea. How about being proud of yourself as, you know, a person?" Ziganto completely misses the point here. There is no tension between taking pride in oneself as a feminist and taking pride in oneself as a person; they're not mutually exclusive. In addition, it is because of people like Ziganto that "feminist" has become something like a dirty word; if people like Ziganto did not abuse feminists so gleefully and relentlessly, taking pride in oneself as a feminist might not require such effort. Finally, feminism is all about achieving social, political, economic, and legal equality with men. Declaring oneself to be a feminist is to announce to the world that you will no longer settle for oppression at the hands of people who have told you all of your life that you cannot do this or that simply because you are a woman. Perhaps Ziganto was never the victim of sexism in her life; perhaps she was but didn't recognize it as such. If the former, she should stop assuming that her experience in (what I take to be) her middle class ivory tower * is typical. Ziganto has been so effectively indoctrinated into conservative anti-feminist group think that she can't even understand what feminism is actually all about. Perhaps she went to a camp for that.

Ziganto writes, "Work as feminists? That’s an actual job now? Well, I suppose we should be grateful that they are finally admitting that. It is a job; feminism is a cottage industry that has nothing to do with actual women." Here's the crucial question: what is wrong with feminism being a cottage industry? Again, there's nothing wrong with that unless there's also something wrong with feminism. I've read a lot of Ziganto's stuff, and I'm not aware that she has made a convincing case that there's anything wrong with feminism. Conservatives have their own cottage industries: should we shut those down or something?

Ziganto writes, "Good old 'sexual empowerment' is covered as well via the workshops on sex toys. Either that, or the camp counselors are pervily hoping to see young women at slumber parties having pillow fights in their panties – now with 'appliances'!" From the fact that attendees were introduced to the organization "Babeland, a female-friendly sex toy shop," Ziganto fallaciously infers that there was a workshop on sex toys at the summer camp. What is Ziganto imagining here, exactly: a room full of women arranged in a circle pleasuring themselves with dildos? (Come to think of it, what exactly would be wrong with that?) Wouldn't Voyeur in West Hollywood be a more appropriate venue for that sort of thing? Does anyone really need instruction in this area? Think about it. Ziganto is clearly deceiving her readers. If only Ziganto had more respect for her readers than she does for feminists. If Ziganto really wanted to talk about perverts, she wouldn't need to look any further than those who share her conservative point of view.

I have discussed the material in the final paragraphs of her post repeatedly here at Your Analytic Analeptic.

Update. I posted a comment to Ziganto's post at her blog, directing interested readers to this reply. My comment was gone within 15 minutes time, I estimate. That speaks volumes, doesn't it? What are you afraid of, Ziganto? An actual conversation, rather than the usual obsequious rubbish you're accustomed to? Life is good for you in the conservative echo chamber, isn't it? Unwilling to mix it up with the "idiots" who don't share your view of things from your ivory tower? * Don't want your readers to know about my criticisms of your posts? I guess groupthink is good after all, as long as it serves the interests of Lori Ziganto. If it doesn't, then it's bad. Bad! If anyone wants an example of epistemic closure, Ziganto is Exhibit A. Hogan is Exhibit B.

* Notice how I used one of Ziganto's favorite propaganda techniques here: I used a word to refer to something other than its customary referent. According to Merriam Webster, one meaning of "ivory tower" is "an impractical often escapist attitude marked by aloof lack of concern with or interest in practical matters or urgent problems." That describes Ziganto and her fantasyland belief in the political, social, economic, and legal equality of the sexes perfectly.

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It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence. ---W.K. Clifford

Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear. ---Thomas Jefferson