Feminist Philosophers

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Publishing bigotry: what obligations do we have? September 10, 2010

Filed under: academia,bias,silencing,Uncategorized,women in philosophy — annejjacobson @ 11:30 pm

Steve Pyke’s new set of photographs of philosophers contains one of  Slavoj Zizek.  Clicking on it gives one a larger version of the photograph and the following quote:

I HATE philosophy, but I cannot find peace if I do not get rid of a
philosophical problem. Philosophy is for me like women: they are
impossible, but it is even more difficult without them. I am only
happy between the writing of two books – then I relax… and start
thinking of philosophy.

Of course Zizek, who is very often said to be charismatic and brilliant, is really out of anyone’s control, apparently.  I don’t see this fact, though, as mitigating anything.

In academia we are particularly concerned with free speech, and that concern seems particularly appropriate now as many universities see corporations as providing good models.  But does this mean it is permissible to propagate the remarks of a bigot?

I’ve used strong words and I haven’t taken account of the fact that Zizek’s words may have been uttered in a context that lessens or changes the impact of what he’s said.  Nonetheless, as the words are conveyed, all that is lost if it was ever present.

Perhaps, though, we should say that the quote provides a salutory warning to students:  Avoid this guy!

What do you think?

(Thanks to SD for the info.)

 

60 Responses to “Publishing bigotry: what obligations do we have?”

  1. Logoskaieros Says:

    I am really floored that he gave such a banal response.

    On the one hand, I want to say, “Publish it so people can see that he chose to say something careless and hackneyed” but on the other hand, knowing that I’m sure plenty of people won’t see anything wrong with his response, and that will be one more drop in the wet bucket of oppression.

    So I’m torn.

  2. anon Says:

    Perhaps someone could explain what the “bigotry” here is supposed to consist in. I don’t particularly care about Zizek as a philosopher or a person. I just do not understand the force of the response.

    Since he claims at the outset to “HATE” philosophy, I guess one could read the quote as later implying that he also hates women. But I would have thought that the scope of his subsequent comparison of philosophy and women is restricted by the colon–where the issue is how he experiences philosophy, like women (presumably, women with whom he is in a romantic situation), as “impossible” yet ultimately rewarding or existentially necessary.

    Or is Zizek’s “bigotry” supposed to be more simply a function of his echoing the trite saying, “”Women: can’t live with them, can’t live without them”?

  3. Rob Says:

    His segment in “Examined Life” is a manic blast, and The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema is insightful. Doubt I’ll ever actually read anything by him, but as a sort of burlesque intellectual provocateur-performance artist, he does cut an infectiously fervid screen persona (though some might, as I did, find Zizek!/ a bit enervating).

  4. Nemo Says:

    He probably doesn’t *really* hate philosophy, but he should apologize for saying so anyway.

  5. jj Says:

    A bigot is, according to some definitions, a prejudiced person. Is it prejudice to prejudge women in terms of how they serve one’s needs, as his words suggest? One could make that case.

    Rob, there seems to have been a shift in your allegiances on matters like this? Is that wrong?

    Nemo, I have been wondering whether you are a concern troll. I’m not sure, since concern trolls typically present themselves as in sympathy with the general purpose of a blog, and I’m not sure you are doing that. They do, however, act to subvert a blog’s intentions, and perhaps that fits you.

  6. extendedlp Says:

    i took nemo to be making a joke. and i took the force of the joke to be something like ‘how could anyone be confused about why zizek’s comments are taken to be bigoted?’ no?

  7. Rob Says:

    JJ: No shift in allegiances, but since reading Baumeister’s book, and learning more about shifting gender dynamics in education and the economy of the sort explored by Hanna Rosin in The End of Men, I’ve definitely become more receptive to, without necessarily sharing, the concerns of those, like http://www.american.com/archive/2010/june-2010/are-there-more-girl-geniuses and Tierney, who find cause for alarm in the trends they identify with the support of empirical research.

    As for Zizek, as with lots of other artists and thinkers, I don’t see any incompatibility between censuring or even ignoring what’s offensive and ridiculous about them, while still finding value in other aspects of their productions. However, I do try to remind myself that my relative nonchalance might well be the dubious luxury of a hetero white guy with virtually no life-experience of having been subject to gender discrimination.

  8. Rob Says:

    That second link above is supposed to be for this piece by Sommers.

  9. frances Says:

    I think in recent years he’s achieved mediocrity as a state of philosophy. I used to find him engaging in a manner only a few at the time could manage, but lately he seems to be the philosophical shock jock equivalent of Rush Limbaugh.

    What bothers me most is he makes asinine remarks like this (or his Hitler ones) and then when they’re quoted claims he has been taken out of context. I still think he’s somewhat relevant, but it would be nice if he thought a bit before coming across as a right asshole.

  10. Rob Says:

    Yes, my attitude is that this stuff shouldn’t spoil one’s ability to appreciate what valuably interesting in this stuff.

  11. jj Says:

    Thanks for the comments. I did mean to stress what we should think of Pyke’s role in publishing such a comments. Suppose someone had made a horrid bigoted comments about ethnicity; e.g., “What intriguing these days about philosophy is that it’s remained the preserve of white people, so a philosophy degree has not been degraded by having to accommodate people of inferior races.” Would one just shrugged and quote it?

    elp, I think your interpretation of this comment, taken by itself, is at least as good as my more negative one. But there are a number of other times when his comments look a lot like those of a concern troll; for example, the comments on post about homophobia costing an athlete, the one on anti-Muslim feeling in NYC, and the one about ignoring Palin’s Tweet.

    Rob, but why do you believe them? Somers maintains that women’s cognitive profile is substantially the same as it was in the 1930’s. That’s simply false, and, furthermore, in countries with much more gender equality, the differences between male and female scores at the top end don’t exist. We’ve discussed this before, with citations.

  12. Adult Child Says:

    How did someone like Christina Hoff-Sommers come to be known as a feminist anyway? Based on the (admittedly small amount of) stuff I’ve read by her, she’s doesn’t appear to actually be one… I guess it’s the same way where people label Phyllis Schlafly and Camille Paglia “feminists” though.

    I’ve never read anything by Zizek but he strikes me more as “a character” than a as a serious philosopher. Am I just being ignorant and people actually take him seriously or what?

  13. extendedlp Says:

    jj, i see. i hadn’t noticed. sigh.

    adult child, re zizek: my thoughts exactly. it’s always struck me that zizek was only taken to be a philosopher by nonphilosophers. maybe this is just my bias –and that of the circles i run in…

  14. Rob Says:

    JJ: I only heard of Sommers through Baumeister’s book, in which he refers to her as a “careful scholar.” And Baumeister has credibility to me because of his stature, as well as the breadth and diversity of his publication record and research interests, in social psychology. Which is by no means to say I immediately accept as true whatever Sommers claims. But what she says about greater variance among men — more of them clustered at the extremities of the distribution curve along various dimensions — is echoed in much else I’ve read, and I would be very interested to see citations to research showing that this a merely culturally local phenomenon. “Nature rolls the dice more with men than with women,” as Baumeister puts it, and he offers what to me is a powerful speculative hypothesis, drawing upon a wide variety of data points, for why this is so, and why it might provide an explanation for some manifestations of gender inequality. I’m hoping the book gets some serious critical attention, instead of the few lame ones I’ve looked at so far (just as I hope Fine’s “Delusions of Gender” will eventually get reviewed by someone with some expertise in the fields at which she directs her sweeping critique, instead of the ones which have appeared thus far, which do little more than reiterating it).

  15. SD Says:

    SD here. When I posted in the link I wasn’t thinking that Pyke had done anything wrong by publishing Zizek’s remarks. It just struck me that Zizek’s schpiel was (perhaps further) evidence that he’s a class A chauvinist and that readers of this blog might like to know about it. I mean, calling women “impossible” and suggesting that he “HATES” them was particularly distasteful and bizarre given that there are a good number of terrific female philosophers photographed by Pyke on the same site. Has Zizek no shame at all?

    But jj makes a good comment at 4.06 about whether Pyke himself is partially responsible, I’ll have to think about that more.

    Also, it doesn’t seem to matter whether Zizek counts as a philosopher and, if so, whether he counts as a good one. He still sounds like a class A chauvinist.

  16. extendedlp Says:

    rob:

    hyde, et al (2008). gender similarities characterize math performance. Science 321, 494-495.

    there’s also

    feingold, a (1994). gender differences in variability in intellectual abilities: a cross-cultural perspective. sex roles 30(1/2), 81-92.

    i’ve not read either, but both purport to show cultural variation–i think the first by ethnicity (eg, at the 99%ile, white boys outnumber white girls, but asian-american girls outnumber their boy counterparts), and the second geographically–in this men-at-the-extremes stat.

    of course, it’s all elementary, because even if this was totally consistent across cultures, it still wouldn’t prove it was *innate*. it could just as easily be that sexism is simply consistent across cultures, and girls with ability aren’t pushed to be high-achievers, where boys are. (given that it’s only very recently, in most cultures, that anyone even bothered to ask girls what do they want to be when they grow up, this wouldn’t be so surprising.)

  17. Rob Says:

    Pyke discusses his work in this podcast. You can also find a Zizek LSE lecture from last November (“First as Tragedy, Then as Farce: The Double Death of Neoliberalism and the Idea of Communism”), exasperating and intriguing.

  18. Rob Says:

    Thanks for the citations, extendedlp.

    The third paragraph of the Duke study reported on by Tierney comments on your first citation, and in his book Baumeister cites studies, though his emphasis is more on gender differences in motivation.

  19. jj Says:

    Rob, if you search this blog with “hyde” you should see our discussions with more refs.

  20. extendedlp Says:

    rob, it’s weird this mention in your duke study. they cite hyde, et al 2008 as an example of a study that focuses on average test scores. hmm. well, this one that jj’s posted (hyde etc 2009) certainly is looking at high-achievers, and finds similar cultural variation: http://feministphilosophers.wordpress.com/?s=hyde

  21. extendedlp Says:

    btw what does ‘gender difference in motivation’ mean? (i suppose what i’m actually asking is, what sort of evidence does one give for gender difference in motivation?)

  22. Rob Says:

    That Hyde study is interesting.

    On motivational differences, here are some things Baumeister cites:

    http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/bul1352218.pdf

    Work by Eccles:

    http://www.psc.isr.umich.edu/pubs/select.html?ID=475

    Tale of two hormones:

    http://www.arthurhu.com/2000/07/womeng.pdf

  23. jj Says:

    For the record, Jender had a look at Baumeister on motivation here.

  24. Rob Says:

    Thanks, I recently reread that thread, finding myself leaning strongly towards Richard Chappell’s assessment.

  25. Anonymous Says:

    I think this is blowing it WAY out of proportion. Zizek is not a feminist philosopher and is more likely not to be as refined as some of us who are very familiar with feminism. This is not a sexist statement.

    If Zizek had experiences with women that were as frustrating (and maybe rewarding) as his experiences with philosophy, that is not an insult. That’s just his experience. He’s obviously not making a very serious statement here. He does not go out and commit or permit violence against women or philosophy.

    It’s common for people to be frustrated with others they are romantically engaged with. Many heterosexual women have been rightfully frustrated with men. It’s not surprise that there are some burnt bridges.

    It’s as if to say women can’t afford for some men to be upset with them based on their personal romantic (or even platonic) relationships with them.

    Many friends of mine make comments that COULD be interpreted as prejudice. It’s to be addressed or talked about but I don’t think being outraged or offended is warranted base on if I heard a statement like this. I might say the same thing about black people in a romantic sense, but that’s touchy for people.

  26. Anonymous Says:

    At least, I’m making a few assumptions about what he meant. I don’t agree with his statement, and it’s a bit sloppy but i guess i expect most people to make mistakes here and there. Philosophers of any caliber aren’t excused.
    (clarification, i have nothing against romantic commitments with black people, i’m black myself but i know a few black people who won’t date other blacks for particular reasons which i can’t agree with but accept).

    Am i giving Zizek too much credit?

  27. jj Says:

    Anon, there are a number of professions where we understand that remarks like zizek’s are utterly inappropriate: doctors, lawyers and perhaps pastors. At least the pretence is that one can distinguish between personal sexual problems and a general view about women.

    Shouldn’t professors at least pretend along with the others that they can separate sexual interest in some people from their relation to members of a gender?

  28. Kathryn Says:

    I’m torn. I’m inclined to think the right to free speech does not entail the right to a platform from which to be heard (and so those who provide a platform are at least in some way complicit); but then as jj points out it is a good warning…

  29. Hilary Says:

    I don’t see any bigotry in Zizek’s remarks, but they are ‘careless and hackneyed’ as Logoskeiros puts it. Haven’t most women thought ‘men are impossible’ if they, themselves are bad at choosing and/or getting along with the opposite sex? Zizek makes it clear that he is speaking purely from his own point of view and we can see that what he is saying here is ‘I’m no good at relationships but I can’t give them up’. A lot of us share that problem. He is not residing blame in women themselves any more than he is residing his love/hatred of philosophy in that discipline itself. As a woman, I can identify with his feelings about philosophy and about men. I can’t seem to give up searching for love even though it has turned to ashes in my life again and again.

    Seeking to control the remarks of people that are giving personal reflections on their life will not promote the cause of feminism. Being highly sensitive to any slight and demanding that the ‘perpetrators’ be ignored or silenced will only restrict our access to greater understanding of the social world.

  30. SeanH Says:

    He does not go out and commit or permit violence against women

    As a bar for sexism, this is so low as to be more of a speed-bump.

  31. Rob Says:

    Zizek makes it clear that he is speaking purely from his own point of view and we can see that what he is saying here is ‘I’m no good at relationships but I can’t give them up’. (Hilary)

    That’s how I prefer read the passage, which taken literary does appear to make a general claim about women (being “impossible”):

    Philosophy is for me like women: they are impossible, but it is even more difficult without them.

    In other words, somewhat like Nietzsche in section 231 of Beyond Good and Evil, wherein he qualifies the sections on women which follow (232-239) as “my truths”, I read Zizek, perhaps over-charitably (since my only exposure to him is in documentaries which I’ve enjoyed), as really meaning something like:

    Philosophy is for me like what women are to me: they are impossible, but it is even more difficult without them.

    Under this reading, Zizek is likening philosophy to a sentiment with which, I would wager, most heterosexual and sexually interested males have at least an occurrent or episodic familiarity. (No less than something parallel being true for women in regard to men, as some have already indicated.)

  32. Kathryn Says:

    But he doesn’t say relationships are impossible- he says *women* are. And the rate of occurrance of a sentiment does not reduce it’s offensiveness.

  33. Rob Says:

    Kathryn: I’m just suggesting that Zizek is comparing what philosophy is (to him) to a sentiment most people, of both sexes, are familiar with, whatever our attitude to that sentiment might (or should) be.

  34. jj Says:

    Zizek’s private problems with women presumably involve an exceptionally small percentage of women. On one interpretation he is happy to generalize his frustrations and take them to reflect on all women. And then he brings this into a public, professional context.

    This is, of course, very human. In the States many people’s “experiences” with Muslims involve terrorists and they use the feelings aroused by such experiences to generate characterizations of all Muslims. And, as we have recently seen, plenty of politicians and even the occasional pastor are happy to bring these views into public contexts and announce their negative views about all Muslims.

    Taking private disappointments into a public context in which one generalizes about all members of a group just is announcing one’s prejudices, among other things. It’s probably also causing harm, etc.

    I think there’s been another interpretation that has been offered; he’s not generalizing, but rather using general terms just to talk about his own experience. So he’s saying something like “A lot of philosophy leaves me intellectually frustrated and every women I’ve had sex/romantic-relations with has left me sexually/emotionally frustrated.” I am not sure this is better. It raises the question of how he is thinking about women and what about that makes this a relevant thing to say. Why in a public context is he placing his sexual/romantic experience in the foreground?

  35. anonymous Says:

    JJ,

    I’m confused about your attitude towards Pyke’s publishing of Zizek’s idiotic remarks, and I think they betray a confusion about what Pyke is trying to do. What do you think about Pyke’s well-known photograph of Henry Kissinger? It looks like Pyke went out of the way to get Kissinger’s picture – it didn’t appear in the New Yorker or any of the other magazines he works for. It seems clear that Pyke didn’t seek to take this portrait because he *admires* Henry Kissinger. It seems obvious to me that if a philosopher said something racist, Pyke would certainly publish it.Clearly, Pyke doesn’t intend to represent his subjects in only a flattering light – that much should be clear from the first Philosopher’s book. He seems more to be taking a journalistic record – in no sense do his portraits, either of war criminals (such as Kissinger or Pinochet) or philosophers seem to be intended to place their subjects in a particularly flattering light. I would assume the same is true of these 50 word summaries. He’s trying to represent philosophers in this series, however idiotically or hideously they appear. Philosophers often seem like a foreign species in his portraits – in no sense is he going out of his way to represent us in some sort of rose-covered light, or endorse anything we represent, say, or stand for.

  36. Erin Says:

    I’m surprised to see such a strong reaction to a basically generic “can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em” style remark (bigotry–really?). At first I thought that the author of this post must have had some past infraction in mind, because it didn’t occur to me that the blurb in question was actually what she found so heinous.

  37. SD Says:

    Rob, Erin, Hilary: I think you’re missing the context here. No doubt there are occasions when it’s perfectly appropriate for a man to say “ugh, women are impossible!”, e.g. when lamenting with a friend after the end of another relationship. But this is not one of those occasions. This is a public and professional forum in which he has been asked to give his opinion on a subject that is well known to have a gender problem (in terms of numbers of women, if nothing else), and in which his photo is published alongside photos of some of those few female philosophers. What kind of message does it send to those women? What kind of message does it send to would-be female philosophers thinking of entering the field (especially if they consider Zizek a “great” philosopher). Comments like these in an analogous context in, say, investment banking, should not be tolerated; nor should they be tolerated in philosophy.

  38. jj Says:

    I’m surprised that people are thinking one can understand what some of us find objectionable just by looking at the remark. Among other things, this guy is in power relations over women and his remark is in a public venue. Context makes a huge difference.

    Erin, with all respect, I do think inventing explanations for reactions one doesn’t understand is a bad practice. I’m glad you didn’t do it.

    Anon, I meant the question as more gennuinely a question than it might have seemed. I also don’t think there’s one right answer. I should say that my basic worry wasn’t really about the kinds of cases you mentioned. My worry came up during the primaries: Is public negativity about women still permissible in a way that it isn’t when race or disability is involved?

    It’s also related to a problem I think this blog can have. Sometimes we get visitors who have very negative attitudes to women or, more specifically, to women who do something we describe, such as having an abortion. I worry about providing a platform for their very negative portrayals. Sometimes one gets the strong sense that they reinforce each other’s views.

  39. jj Says:

    SD, thanks. I did sort of turn this into something a bit different. I wanted us to think in terms of whether we should take action, rather than just present another dismal case to be depressed about (as I can be).

  40. -- Says:

    regarding whether the photographer Steve Pyke should publish the sexist quote along with the photo of Zizek:

    Pyke is a photographer engaged in an artistic project. He has taken photographs of many philosophers, for two volumes of books. To each philosopher, he has asked a question. He publishes their answers along with the photos of them. Given this, Pyke is not at all endorsing what the philosophers say.

    Of course he could just decide not to publish what someone said, because it is too offensive. But what I want to know is: why should we even want him to do that? This philosopher responded to Pyke’s question with a sexist comment. Having that comment out there as part of the project does reveal that there is sexism out there in philosophy. Is that something we should want hidden?

    No.

  41. Kathryn Says:

    –, I think that’s an excellent point that we don’t want to hide sexism. But with respect to why we wouldn’t want to publish something on account of being too offensive, if it goes unaddressed, it may leave others with the impression that it’s acceptable and hence, perpetuate sexism rather than merely expose it. Of course I don’t think Pyke is endorsing any of the responses by publising them, but there may be forseen, while unintended, consequences.

  42. anon Says:

    “At first I thought that the author of this post must have had some past infraction in mind, because it didn’t occur to me that the blurb in question was actually what she found so heinous.”

    This seems to me a reasonable first thought. But concern for the principle of charity–which would lead us to consider plausible explanations for views, as presented, we might find implausible–could represent a defect in my philosophical training.

    Upon rereading the post and clarifications of it, maybe those of us who wondered about the charge of “bigotry” should realize we were out of line. The purpose was not to discuss whether Zizek’s remarks are deeply bigoted: the purpose was to discuss how to respond, given the claim that they are. I sincerely am sorry for the intrusion.

  43. jj Says:

    Don’t we want to hide the sexism in the profession? Do we want profs and grad students who are sexist to make it clear to their students that they think the women can’t do it?

    If we want to squelch sexist remarks in the classroom, why is a book different? Are the students reading it somehow not going to be affected? Will some male philosophers reading it feel relieved that they aren’t the only ones to think of women faculty and students as not much more than sexual teases, or defective bitches?

    I do think it was a good thing when the general society started to say that racist rants were bad. It gives people a sense that they have to control themselves before they are acceptable members of society. That’s a good thing.

    This isn’t to say we should ban some books, but maybe we should make it clear that people in power in a profession have to control themselves.

  44. Kathryn Says:

    I was thinking of hiding sexism in the sense of it persists but we don’t talk about it- which I think would be harmful; not in the sense of preventing sexist actions.

  45. jj Says:

    Kathryn, I don’t think I meant to refer to you comment.

  46. Bakka Says:

    I was looking through the photographs and the lack of women represented in the photos was immediately apparent. I was also struck by the fact that the women in the photos often lack quotes. It seems most of the men have been quoted, but Susana Siegel is pictured without a quote, and with no place or date noted (as was noted in the other pictures). The same is true for the photo of Judith Thomson, and Ruth Marcus. Not all of the men have quotes, and some of the women do have quotes (e.g. Susan Wolf), but it seems a little unbalanced to me. I wonder why this happened.

  47. sk Says:

    i think that it does a disservice to our students to believe that if we effectively squelch racist or sexist rants, then they won’t perceive philosophy as either racist or sexist. i haven’t seen the book, but as bakka notes, there are problems with its representation of women beyond the zizek quote; i think that the quote could have great explanatory potential in that context, actually. and it’s not as if zizek is voicing a particularly unusual opinion in the history of philosophy, which treats women as the objects, never the agents, of thinking – and vexed objects at that. regardless of whether we address this directly or not, our students do notice. and the silence around that is, i think, worse, since it perpetuates the idea that your experience of sexism (or racism, or ableism, or homophobia, or what have you) is entirely subjective and you are probably crazy.

  48. jj Says:

    SK: “i think that it does a disservice to our students to believe that if we effectively squelch racist or sexist rants, then they won’t perceive philosophy as either racist or sexist.” I don’t think anyone suggested that.

    We do need to remember that it is extremely difficult to predict how people will take something, and our commonsense is probably not to be trusted. E.g., we naturally think that the best way to dispell rumors is to deny them, but it turns out that is not true.

    The main effect of putting remarks like Zizek’s out in public could be to make male philosophers feel comfortable bringing their sexual attitudes into professional contexts. After all, the main effect of the republicans racist rants has been to stir up racism. Of course, people already on the other side, see how ugly it is, just as feminists can often see through sexism. But others … well, who knows?

  49. sk Says:

    i’m sorry jj! when you said: “Don’t we want to hide sexism in the profession?” and “I do think it was a good thing when the general society started to say that racist rants were bad. It gives people a sense that they have to control themselves before they are acceptable members of society. That’s a good thing.” – i took these to mean that we do want to hide sexism in the profession. but hiding the sexism is not necessarily the same thing as ending sexism, and i’m worried that attempting to hide it – not talking about it, not calling it out as you all do so effectively here day in and day out – would result in the same dis-abling silence i’m concerned about.

    i must admit i don’t know how this squares with the evidence that denying rumours often simply affirms those same rumours. i guess this is hard for me to think as a philosopher, that is, as someone still concerned with truth.

  50. Xena Says:

    Is it hitting below the belt to say WELL LOOK AT THE GUY! No wonder women give him a hard time! Maybe the photographer wanted to use a different medium to point out that truth about Zizek, without getting caught in all the traps that people who weave words for a living get caught in when they’re bold enough to speak truth to ugliness.

  51. Hilary Says:

    Xena – that’s an outrageous thing to say! Are you suggesting he is ugly and that women routinely give ugly men a ‘hard time’? Or are you referring to his rather unusual mannerisms and delivery that hint at a difficult personality – would this cause women to give him a hard time? Please clarify what you mean.

    By the way, I find him quite attractive, but I am firmly on the Asperger spectrum and relate well with men that have a similar problem, or should I say, advantage.

  52. Hilary Says:

    It occurs to me that Zizek has a well-developed sense of humour and more than likely threw this comment out in a tongue-in-cheek way during an informal interview or Q and A. He loves to tease, as anyone who has been to his lectures will know. It was Steven Pyke surely, not Zizek, that chose to use such a banal throwaway line to represent his views. What was Pyke’s agenda?

  53. Xena Says:

    I’d love to say that I was only commenting about Zizek’s personality, but I’d be lying if I did. “Difficult to get along with” was in there, but only in the background. Maybe I’m seeing more in the photo than is really there, but something about the skin around his eyes and nose reminds me of the hard drinking types I’ve met. He’s not “ugly” per se. He just looks like he’s had a few too many rough nights.

    If he has Aspergers, I’ll apologize for the ad hominem. He may have meant something entirely different and completely innocent by the apparently sexist remark if that’s the case. And the poochy skin around the eyes might be from any number of sleep stealers that have nothing to do with alcohol.

  54. jj Says:

    SK, I had in mind prohibiting racist and sexist speech before, e.g., students. Not to delude them, but rather to prevent the creation of a hostile environment for them. In any case, these days a professor who said that stuff might well be hauled into the equal opportunities office.

    Hilary, I don’t get the difference made by saying “he’s just teasing” or “he’s just joking.” Of course, in part it’s a jokely little dig. So are the rape jokes that are featured above.

  55. Hilary Says:

    JJ – I think there is a difference between a tease and a joke but perhaps the distinction is not so important here. I was referring to Zizek’s tendency toward using humour, often in a self-deprecating way, to provoke a certain kind of thoughtfulness as well as controversy when he lectures and in some of his less serious books. Do you believe there is no place for humour in philosophy?

    When humour is used, of course there is always scope for misunderstanding and offence but it sometimes cuts through the verbiage and makes a direct connection with the lived experience of the audience. This is a technique that Zizek uses in his more popular books that are incredibly lucid in explaining abstruse Lacanian and philosophical concepts. Similarly, he uses mainstream Hollywood films to illustrate them, showing that these concepts are important because they make their appearance, not only in the rarified realms of philosophy and psychoanalysis but right here in our everyday lives. These mainstream films (unlike art films) form a shared experience that across cultural differences and communicate by using emotional meaning rather than cognitive reasoning. His remark here tries to engage the audience, whether male or female, because it vividly illustrates his conflicted emotional engagement with philosophy by invoking the deadly paradoxes of the erotic life, something we all share. When he says ‘women are impossible’ I agree with him by saying ‘yes, its true, men are impossible’, not because I think that men are impossible in themselves but because I FIND THEM SO. They are impossible to please because they want contradictory things from a woman and they are inconsistent and inconstant. I think it quite likely that (heterosexual) men find the some problem with women. We are all in the same boat – its not sexism.

    I don’t think there is any comparison, however, between joking about rape and this pretty inoccuous comment. ‘Impossible’ is a pretty vague and mild term. Are you saying that all joking that has any reference whatsoever to gender should be banned?

    I have already said that in my opinion his obviously subjective comment has been taken out of context and used by Steven Pyke to suit whatever his own agenda is, perhaps he would like to discredit him. I don’t know. By appending it to the portrait, Pyke makes the comment stand as Zizek’s well-considered final statement about philosophy and this is the way many of the commenters here have taken it, but it was Pyke’s choice to use in such a context, not Zizek’s.

  56. Kathryn Says:

    I’m not taking it as Zizek’s well considered, or final statement on philosophy, and I still find it offensive.

  57. Hilary Says:

    Kathryn – having defended Zizek I will also say that I find it offensive too. However, it is hardly a ‘sexist rant’ or on a par with jokes that belittle rape. It just makes him look an idiot and discredits him.

  58. Kathryn Says:

    I’m not saying it is on par with rape jokes, or that it’s a rant. But I do think it’s sexist. When you say we’re all in the same boat- that might be true, but still, that doesn’t mean it’s not sexist.

  59. Xena Says:

    There was a question in that last comment. Is Zizek neurotypical or not? Like I said, that level of frustration might be understandable and somewhat more forgivable if he’s not. Otherwise, I find the comment offensive enough to justify my attack on him.

    Though I can empathize with his HATRED of the discipline, that approach to any task but those necessary for sustaining life (eg: cooking, pap smears, budgeting, or whatever the individual HATES but must do) isn’t entirely healthy. But a philosophical puzzle isn’t a person. Love it, hate it, or whatever. It won’t be wounded if you mistreat it.

    Though he didn’t actually say so, the placement of the two sentences: I HATE philosophy…and Philosophy is for me like women, gives the impression that women, like philosophy are some annoying thing, like a pimple or a yeast infection that need to be gotten rid of or mastered and subdued for his satisfaction and “peace”. THAT is what’s offensive about the remark.

  60. Xena Says:

    And WTF!?! was that shite about Gandhi and Hitler?!?


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