Today in Evo-psych Gender essentialism…

If you are in the mood for some eyerolling, or need to have a good spit, enjoy this from Clive Hamilton. Please, for the love of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (or deity of your choice),

Categories: Culture, culture wars, gender & feminism, media

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19 replies

  1. Well, it’s certainly garbage, but I don’t see why you think of évo-psych when you read it. Surely a creationist could have written that?

  2. A creationist could have written it for sure. But the evo-psych bits are:

    ”…male mental attributes – those needed to kill.”
    “But didn’t women’s life experiences and history provide distinctive qualities more needed today than ever? We should celebrate the uniquely female…”
    “Women’s morality differs from men’s.”

    That is just in the first three paragraphs. Lots more where that came from.

  3. I see dpm’s point: it’s certainly gender-essentialist, but gender-essentialism comes in both evo-psych and creationist flavours – and not just limited to them.
    Like much of Clive Hamilton’s stuff, I feel he has a gift for seeing socially destructive patterns and agitating for change, but I don’t think he’s so strong on analysis of causation vs correlation and actual solutions.

  4. I have changed the title of the post to reflect the difference between evo-psych and gender essentialism, as it is the latter to which I am referring (I now realise). Thanks for the heads up dpm and Tigtog.

    Also, belatedly, welcome to HaT dpm.

  5. Yeah, I read all that. It’s all very tired essentialism, sure, and I imagine we agree on the merits, if I can speak loosely, of the piece. But he doesn’t say that women’s special hapless nature depends on a bunch of adaptations. I think when he says ‘women’s history’ he just means how women have traditionally behaved in our culture – that’s illiterate, but it’s not specifically evo-psych illiteracy. I don’t think he has any big picture in mind at all, actually, beyond thinking of women as frail flowers.
    This probably doesn’t matter all that much for looking at this, which is just a boring crappy little column that I imagine everyone will soon forget , but I don’t think it’s correct to lump all misognyist generalisations about human nature into the evolutionary psychology folder. The assumptions that lead people to write stuff like this are much more widely shared, and exist among people who’ve never heard of ev-psych.
    (It’s also a bit unfair, I think, on people who study, e.g. the evolution of language, or memory, or perception, and often call themselves evolutionary psychologists. But i think those people are just going to have to pick a new name for what they do, because “evolutionary psychology” has been so polluted by people who hate women.)

  6. oh hell, sorry about the lecture, which I wrote while you guys were talking among yourselves – feel free to delete it. And thanks for the welcome.

  7. He’s very confused about feminism isn’t he? He’d be lucky to pass if he submitted that to his university.

  8. Oh Mindy! I just read his article now and came on here to rant! It’s all over the place! Then I google him and he’s a ‘leading intellectual’. Wtf? It doesn’t appear to take much to become a leading intellectual if this is what they produce.

  9. I read his piece in the paper this morning and thought “who is this idiot” (as one does) and he’s professor of public ethics at Charles Sturt University. Fuzzy thinking, unexamined assumptions and defence of sexism from a professor of ethics. Yay.
    Did anyone else gasp at this bit:
    “We do not want to think about women soldiers returning with their faces blown off, for we know we will feel a special kind of guilty revulsion.”
    He didn’t unpack this at all. What is this “special” reaction he describes? Apparently we are going to feel “revulsion”, presumably because a woman with her face blown off is not going to be attractive anymore. Are we going to feel “guilty” about it because that’s the most important thing for a woman, having a non-revolting face? I wouldn’t assume he was saying we would feel more guilty revulsion than if a man has his face blown off, except that he says we know we will feel a “special kind” of guilty revulsion. And then he says it’s not at all sexist to have this reaction.
    This man is presumably teaching 18 year old about ethics.

  10. I feel like there’s almost a good point here, about society that more values the ‘masculine’ over the ‘feminine’, and so the way to be valued is to act ‘masculine’, but rather than writing about the need to shake this up, the whole thing is buried in paragraphs of won’t someone think of the women!?

  11. I’m particularly charmed by the…
    But why bother putting women into boardrooms if… What is the point of women in cabinet if
    … as if women having the rights to enter those spheres if they wish to aren’t worthy goals in themselves.
    And women are already in combat roles; this is just recognition.

  12. And not just recognition – my understanding is that women in combat are currently (or were previously, rather) excluded from higher combat pay rates.

  13. I considered that part of recognition, but you’re right; the abstract and concrete should be separately cited.

  14. The notion that being able to kill another human being is a specifically “masculine” vice is somewhat ridiculous. Particularly when there have been (in the past month or so) at least three rather public trials of women who have murdered other people in the courts around Australia. The idea that feminism has warped the minds of Australia’s women is equally ridiculous.
    What Professor Hamilton, and his ilk appear to want is for women to go back to their Victorian role of being household angels, acting as an unseen, unheard “reformative” force on brutish, nasty, vicious men[1]. They’re arguing (and Professor Hamilton in particular is arguing very hard in this piece) that since women have had to publicly conform to the values of the kyriarchy in order to obtain public success (as measured by the kyriarchy) within a kyriarchal public environment, feminism as a whole has failed completely and utterly. I would argue instead that the reverse is true.
    Women have shown it is possible for one gender to demonstrate those traits which were previously deemed to belong solely to the other. For the next step forward, is it not time to ask men why they’re not reciprocating – why they aren’t reaching out to embrace their “feminine” side?

    ”But why bother putting women into boardrooms if the corporations they run continue to despoil the environment, evade their taxes and pay their chiefs obscene salaries?
    What is the point of women in cabinet if, to get there, they must be fed into party machines, then extruded as those who can be trusted with levers of power, competent managers of a dysfunctional political system?”

    Oh. Oh, I see. Professor Howard wants women to be acting wholly and solely as reforming angels for our corporate and political systems, rather than actually participating in them. I have to ask – why aren’t these institutions capable of being reformed by men? Professor Hamilton himself has some rather interesting notions about the ways our corporate and economic systems could be reformed – so why isn’t he out there attempting to make his reforms? Is he, perchance, awaiting some female knight-errant to come along and do all the heavy lifting?
    [1] By the way, I’d point out it isn’t feminists who have this opinion of men as being horrible creatures in need of reform – instead, it’s the ones who are proclaiming feminism to be a failed experiment.

  15. Yes, Hamilton’s article is very insulting to men, too. It’s all very men-are-beasts-women-should-tame-them stuff – the usual.

  16. It is a somewhat amazing article – if you strip out the ‘feminism’ and ‘army’ bit Hamilton’s argument wouldn’t be out of place in a 20’s church bulletin against women entering the workplace
    Contra .3tigtog I find it hard to view Hamilton as anything other than an early 21st century wowser, with the prudery and temperance language dressed up in contemporary public health and social welfare jargon.

  17. What an absolute tool. I am now even more glad that I didn’t vote for him when he was the Greens candidate in the Higgins by-election.
    I was filled with incoherent rage when I read the article – mostly an overwhelming sense of “how dare you speak for me?”

  18. They couldn’t find anyone better? A gender studies academic, perhaps? You know someone with any relevant experience or background?
    Oh, I forgot, a white male academic thought something about a thing he has no personal experience in or academic background in- so it must be true and good and worthy of print space- silly me.
    And of females not being killers- tell that to the women in the Isreali army, or Gadafi’s private guard, or queen Catherine, or the Trung sisters, or the countless women currently serving in most western armies, and the women murderers ( as Magpi71 pointed out). Arg and spit.

  19. There’s a great counter-argument up at the Drum.

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