8 thoughts on “Sally Haslanger on NPR!

  1. Thanks for the heads-up. That author was interviewed on CBC Radio One’s Q recently, and it was awful. Glad to hear Haslanger pwn (as usual)!

  2. Phyllis Schlafly’s neice!!! That woman (PS)’s gall is legendary! She is the quintessential Queen Bee saboteur! WOMEN LIKE HER are what make feminists miserable!

  3. At least Venker and Schlafly are the type of anti-feminists who don’t try to lie and call themselves ‘republican feminists’ or some bs like that.

    The level of treachery with anti-feminists is still appalling, whether they admit to what they are or not. Some woman who uses her daddy’s and then her husband’s name, privilege and political connections to get into lawschool, and then gets through on the backs of feminists, while simultaneously destroying what feminists have worked for, so others can’t reap the rewards! The gall! Being a female anti-feminist truly is like being a black anti-abolitionist.

    I honestly don’t know how Dr. Haslanger manages to be so diplomatic in the face of Venker and Schlafly’s sabotage. Good for her.

  4. I hope I’m not being too uncritical, but I got the impression that few women were buying into the “feminists are mean to us” line inthe discussion Sally linked to.

  5. In response to Venker’s remark on the Radio Boston blog that “you can’t debate a book you haven’t read”, I purchased a .pdf version of the book, and read it this evening.

    The fact that Radio Boston/WBUR/NPR has presented this book (and author) as an authority of any kind is… well, alarming. The publisher of the book, “WND Books”, promotes itself as “fiercely independent, telling the stories that other publishers won’t”, and trumpets titles such as “Manchurian President: Barack Obama’s Ties to Communists, Socialists, and Other Anti-American Extremists” (wndbooks.wnd.com/about/). And “The Flipside of Feminism”, like at least several other WND titles, is almost completely devoid of serious references.

    Take, for example, the chapter “When Mothers Work”, a section that Venker and Schlafly introduce as “emotionally… difficult to read.” (97) The thesis of this chapter is that “the mass exodus of mothers from the home over the past thirty years… has been devastating [to children’s well-being].” (97) Specifically, they focus on “mothers who have remained in the workforce consistently throughout their lives and placed their children in full-time group care.” (98) In targeting mothers who rely on “full-time group care” versus mothers who rely on other forms of child care, one would expect at least *some* data to support the (non-obvious) assumption that group care, or full-time care, has a negative impact on children. No data or research results are offered.

    This would perhaps not be so reprehensible if Venker and Schlafly did not insist on presenting their theses as “the truth” and facts that are “known”. At the beginning of the “When Mothers Work” chapter, for example, they claim, “we now know from research that the most important aspect of a child’s early life is that he has the consistent care and attention of one individual — preferably the mother, but not necessarily.” (98)

    We now *know*? From *research*? Really? Then why not cite the research? Instead, what they offer is a hodge-podge of odd anecdotes, public opinion surveys, and the occasional reference to persons who lack authority or knowledge based on any form of study. So, for example, in support of the idea that children need consistent care from a single individual in early life, they “cite”:

    (1) a “nonpartisan polling agency, Public Agenda”, whose polls allegedly show that 70% of (American? employed?) parents with children under the age of 5 “agree” that “having a parent at home is best.” (98) — I say “allegedly” here because no source is given for this quote in the book, and no Public Agenda poll is listed in the bibliography.

    (2) a book by “former day care owners” William and Wendy Dreskin. (Like Venker and Schlafly’s book, the Dreskins’ book lacks any attempt to substantiate their views through research or anything other than their own anecdotal experience.)

    Later in the chapter, they offer a couple of anecdotes lifted (again, without any citation) from Working Mother Magazine. The authors seem to think these provide additional “support” for the single-care-provider thesis. One is of a mother whose childcare provider tells her that she put the children’s cots together at naptime so that they “could comfort each other through the tears.” (106) Another is of a working mother who forgets her preschooler’s graduation.

    Those of you who share my epistemic values will at this point probably choose to ignore the discussion, thinking that this so-called “debate” has a talk-show sort of feel (aside from the fact that Radio Boston has chosen to pit Venker against a bona fide philosophical heavyweight from MIT), and that further discussion of the book is simply not worth their time. I agree.

    But there is something about the fact that Sally was called in only “after the fact” — i.e., after there was an uproar on the Radio Boston blog — that leaves me with a deep-seated unease. There seems to be a growing divide between the ways of knowing that different (equally educated) segments of our society are appealing to in the current political climate. Venker and Schlafly are not uneducated. Venker is a graduate of BU, and Schlafly has an M.A. from Harvard. Presumably they genuinely believe that they are entitled to the knowledge claims presented in the book. Are we witnessing evidence of a shift in epistemic standards, perhaps prompted in part by the ease of publication in our digital age, and in part by the stresses and challenges of trying to process a constant flood of information? (Did the Radio Boston interviewer or schedulers actually read the book before they agreed to the interview?)

    I am dismayed, and shocked, that Radio Boston would actually have presented Venker as a conservative “thinker” worthy of debate. Conservative she is. A “thinker” she is not. At least not by the standards that prevail in our society — both inside and outside of academia.

    Unless those very standards are themselves in jeopardy?

  6. Excellent point, jj, #6. When I commented on Schlafly’s sabotage, I was referring to the things she said&did 30&40 years ago, when she actually had female supporters. Somebody who was able to watch these events unfolding might not have the same kneejerk responses I had when I saw these events presented as history lessons on powerpoint slides and textbook pages.

    As zenmind pointed out, some of the MRAs on the other thread are whining about those of us who didn’t read the book. Thanks but no thanks. My money is better spent elsewhere. Zenmind’s critique confirmed it for me. I know more than enough about the dozen or so repetetive points of anti-feminist rhetoric, and how these discussions always degenerate from intelligent discourse into a tired rehashing of the absurdly circular “feminists hate men” and “god tells me it’s so, therefore I don’t need to learn how to spell it” choruses.

    All I need to know about Schlafly&Venker’s rhetoric is here:


    You gotta know when Ann Coulter and that painfully bad academic Hoff Sommers whatever are mentioned on the same page, it’s about to get FoxNewsy.

    But times they are a changin. Venker’s only supporters in the discussion with Dr. Haslanger were ALL men. And several male feminists stopped by to offer their support. THAT is a first. So no, Zenmind, I don’t think academic standards or the critical thinking skills of the masses are in jeopardy. It’s just the usual conservative overreaction to a new form of mass media, like the printing press, television, etc. It’ll work itself out in time and like always, knowledge/class/empathy gaps will shrink a little more as a result.

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