Wednesday, August 28, 2013

No true feminist

"They" are so clever. They've made a name for everything.

I keep having the same fruitless conversation with "conservative" Catholics, who love to tell me I'm being harsh and "judgmental" and "painting with too broad a brush" when I attack feminism.

"MY feminism is just lovely," I'm told. "Sweet and charming and totally compatible with Christianity... That other kind of feminism, that wants to destroy Western Civilisation... that's not the REAL feminism."

Well, I've just remembered that there is a name for this: the "No true Scotsman" fallacy.

It goes like this: I want to retain a selection of the feminist principles because I find them personally convenient and salubrious, and I'm afraid of being seen as some kind of wacko. Therefore I will invent my very own mental construct that fits my needs and preferences, call it 'real feminism,' and condemn anyone who dares to call me on it. Problem solved.

To that I reply, "No true Scotsman":
Imagine Hamish McDonald, a Scotsman, sitting down with his Glasgow Morning Herald and seeing an article about how the "Brighton Sex Maniac Strikes Again". Hamish is shocked and declares that "No Scotsman would do such a thing". The next day he sits down to read his Glasgow Morning Herald again; and, this time, finds an article about an Aberdeen man whose brutal actions make the Brighton sex maniac seem almost gentlemanly. This fact shows that Hamish was wrong in his opinion but is he going to admit this? Not likely. This time he says, "No true Scotsman would do such a thing"



a Christopher said...

Well,... yes. On the other hand...

Everyone knows what makes a Scotsman; equivocation about what makes a feminist can be committed by deluded and seductor alike. So, I think it's closer to the etymological fallacy than the True Scotsman fallacy. (I'm in favour of women, I agree that women are rational animals too, et.c. ... aren't I a feminist, then? ... What else could the word mean, eh? ... Oh.)

a Christopher said...

So, a couple more thoughts occured to me on the way; and to preface, I should say that the True Scotsman fallacy I first heard by that name pretended to hinge on whether Scotsmen salt their porridge.

What your Hamish MacDonald is actually doing (what draws him into the fallacy) is his initial fallacy of non sequitur: all men are fallen, of course, while on the other hand morals and virtue are irrespective of race. By reverting to "no true ___" in the face of an actual moral outrage, Hamish is actually getting closer to the truth: to commit a moral outrage, one has to make (and thereby makes) himself less of a true man, and this is recognized, where authority exists, in eventually abrogating the ordinary rights of men or citizens (e.g., to corporal liberty).

Just to ... er... get that out of the way. Not that it has any bearing on what currency "feminist" trades with in public conversation.

Meredith said...

What do you think of the "wave" division of feminism? I think it's rather a waste of energy for a Catholic woman to call herself a "feminist" when she basically means "first-wave, anti-porn feminism," but aren't we all first-wave feminists now? (except for a few Christians and a lot of Muslims who don't want girls to go to college, ever, or live outside their father's house before marriage)