October 14, 2005

Hugo thinks about anti-feminist women

And mentions my "favourite" "philosopher" in the process:

The other aspect of this anti-feminism I encounter among my students is a disturbing refusal to see any sense of responsibility for and towards other women. Not all anti-feminist young women are selfish. But I have to admit that more than a few of the brighter ones, are alas, going through that depressing stage where they think the Fountainhead is the greatest book ever written, and Ayn Rand has become -- at least temporarily -- their hero. (Thankfully, they usually grow out of it. Lots of young men and women become captivated by the radical self-centeredness of objectivism in their teens and early twenties; most abandon it once they learn what it is to truly love another human being unconditionally.) Young women like this flatter themselves into believing that sexism is just an excuse used by unhappy and unsuccessful women to explain their failures; the Rand devotees insist, with an almost heartbreaking naivete, that in the modern world any young woman can succeed at anything she wants if she tries hard enough, and she can do so by herself. Women's failure to achieve happiness, they defiantly declare, is due to individual shortcomings only, and not to broader social problems.


One thing I know right now: dealing with college freshman and sophomores who are enamored of Atlas Shrugged is something I will have to do again and again over the next forty or fifty years. I expect this to be a monumentally frustrating task, because these are liable to be my 'best' students -- intelligent, literate, hardworking. They'll ask thoughtful, relevant questions and make thoughtful, relevant comments; but then there'll be all the comments that Kant was CLEARLY wrong about the categorical imperative, because, as Ayn Rand shows, blah blah blah. And, of course, as much as I'd like to, I can't just dismiss comments like this offhand. Nor can I just start blatantly arguing with one of my students in the middle of class; the moderator isn't supposed to get involved in the debate!

Maybe I'll just include some Nietzsche in all my Intro to Ethics courses. Start them off with some Genaeology of Morals, which the Randiac should enjoy, and then slip in something to trip them off just when they're gloating.

For a change, I've got some lyrics. But there's a trick: for ten points, name the artist, the song, and the episode of Buffy the song was performed in.
Because nobody knows that's how I nearly fell / Trading clothes and ringing Pavlov's bell / History shows there's not a chance in hell

5 comments:

STAG said...

I thought "Atlas Shrugged" was a rattlin' good read. I first read it in High School, and didn't think it was anything but series of ideas pushed to their limits. Sort of like a whole book version of that sign I saw along the highway the other night....it said "no farmers/no food/no future" I thought her conclusions were pretty much tongue in cheek, but clearly some of your students don't think so.


Mind you I was reading this at a time when my classmates were "tuning in, and opting out". We started calling our teachers "Bob" or "Lucy" instead of Mr. whatever and the sexual revolution was in full swing! Rand's seeds fell onto fertile grounds. My classmates either carried copies of Mao's Little Red Book or copies of the "Fountainhead" with them wherever they went. I wasn't sure which was better, but of course, both work best on an untrained and uneducated mind....

MosBen said...

Good song and good episode of Buffy...

Grumlock the Destroyer said...

Aimee Mann - Pavlov's Bell

I'm just guessing on the Episode, but was it 7x08 Sleeper?

Noumena said...

Right song, but I'm pretty sure you got the episode wrong. I'll check after I put together my brand new chair, though.

Ayn Rand is anything but tongue-in-cheek. Her little group took themselves VERY seriously, often excommunicating former members who 'let irrationality get the better of them', and happened to disagree in some personal or intellectual way with the leader. Anyone who disagrees with them is labelled evil. Not confused, or making unwarranted assumptions, or overlooking some critical detail. Evil. The same sort of zealotry shows up when today's teenagers pick up one of her books; and, admittedly, this same age group are likely to get all worked up over Marx, Chomsky, or Dworkin too (not so much Mao, these days). All five thinkers are passionate writers, who simultaneously give their ideas a veneer of intellectualism and rebelliousness.

And they all oversimplify and fail to examine crucial assumptions. The difference, though, is that I think the criticisms made by Marx, Chomsky, and Dworkin can still stand, though their force might be weakened. That's why Marx and Dworkin are still taken seriously by academics today: there's still some substantial philosophical content in there. By contrast, for all Rand's worship of 'reason' and 'rationality', her ideas are nothing but hollow sophistry: appealing rhetoric (at least, to some people) that crumbles the instant a critical thought is let past the zealous guardians.

Noumena said...

That's the right episode after all. Manda is annoyed with you, Grumlock. She may or may not be tracking you down to take ninjay revenge.