Aaron doesn't know what empowerment means, so I thought I'd go to an arbitrary source and see what it says:
1. To invest with power, especially legal power or official authority....
2. To equip or supply with an ability; enable....
Seems pretty clear, but let's look at the "Usage Note" appended below:
...Its modern use originated in the civil rights movement, which sought political empowerment for its followers. The word was then taken up by the women's movement, and its appeal has not flagged. Since people of all political persuasions have a need for a word that makes their constituents feel that they are or are about to become more in control of their destinies, empower has been adopted by conservatives as well as social reformers. It has even migrated out of the political arena into other fields. Â·The Usage Panel has some misgivings about this recent broadening of usage. For the Panelists, the acceptability of the verb empower depends on the context. Eighty percent approve of the example We want to empower ordinary citizens.
Does that make enough sense now? (One of these days I'm going to pull some Second Wave Feminism journals off the shelf and really get into this, but not today.)
Anyway, Aaron took issue with my analysis of Harvard president Summers' remarks. He didn't do the favor of explaining why or how he disagreed, but he did, and took issue with feminist objections:
Guys and girls are different, what blasphemy! Oh wait, we are different. Weâ€™ve got different body structures, different genes, different hardware â€œdownstairs", different things on our torso, different traditions and roles, and more Iâ€™m sure. Iâ€™m not saying that I agree with the comments made by Summers, but as said above I do think that dismissing things simply because they rub you the wrong way is not prudent.
Of course I would say that just because you like what Summers says, it's no reason to think that he actually makes sense.
What really boggles my mind is why men so often place themselves as arbiters of what is and isn't appropriate feminist thought.
Granted some of the criticisms being leveled (in the DailyKos thread and elsewhere) are legitimate: Harvard is in many ways a â€œgood old boys club", and it would be interesting to have a female president in many ways. But the conclusion - that this is cause for Summerâ€™s ouster and that there should be a female president simply for the sake of having a female president - completely miss the mark. Progress is achieved, not through unilateralism, but through the very dialogue provoked by people like Summers.
Actually, I believe progress is achieved when something happens. I have no idea how playing word games with Summers is going to lead to any "progress" at Harvard. Progress is achieved when achievements progress -- and in the face of what is unquestionably appalling achievement in integrating the faculty ranks, it serves nobody to start going on half-cocked about bio-determinist "explanations", especially when so many studies point to just the opposite.
But Aaron is right: Summers has every right to be a horse's ass. And if the Harvard pubas like having him around -- I'm sure his chauvinism appeals to big money right wingers -- that's none of my business. I'm not even an alum.
But I do make it my business to respond to the persistent denials and apologies and delusions that come from the male privilege-esconced end of society, because in the absence of objection, such behavior continues unexamined and unquestioned. And when the president of what is often regarded as the premiere educational institution in the land opens his mouth and inserts his foot, I feel no shame in rebutting. In fact, I take exception to assertions that I should feel any shame about it.
When Bitch, Ph.D. says:
You do not make racist and sexist remarks in a professional forum and then back up and say, "hey, free inquiry, exchange of ideas, blah fucking blah." You do not insult people and then play innocent dumb guy. You do not stand up, white man in charge of major cultural institution, and demonstrate your ignorance and prejudice and then be shocked when people call you on it. You do not pretend that remarks that justify racism and sexism are value-neutral. You do not play the "reverse racism" card or the "those feminazis want to suppress free discussion" card when you are in the middle of demonstrating that you, yourself, are a bigot. And you do not defend bigots by attacking people who refuse to listen to bigotry pretending to be substantive discussion.
...that captures the sentiment a lot of us women feel about the same old party line coming from moguls of the patriarchy and their defenders and apologists.
Then again, I'm probably being unfair to Aaron. He's nothing like the horses asses and raging bulls that litter the landscape, like the goombas and ninnies who pop up periodically to wonder why women bloggers aren't more popular, or the fuckwits who wield misogyny like a phallic sword -- no doubt to make up for inadequacies in the real world.
And it's not so much a matter of a few bad apples, but the whole culture. Just look at how the public went ape shit over Martha Stewart's downfall, while finding all sorts of excuses for Kobe Bryant. Look at how rare it is to see women in public office or holding positions in the corporatocracy.
And yet the men shake their heads. Feminism is outdated. Feminism is unreasonable. Feminism means man-hating. Women got the right to vote ages ago, so what's the big deal? Appeal denied.
When Hugo expresses what sounds to me like a pretty good prescription:
Pro-feminist men are in solidarity with their sisters in the feminist movement. As such, they encourage women to challenge themselves, to better themselves, to become stronger, more empowered and more effective human beings. But pro-feminist men understand that ultimately, the work of transforming women is women's work. Women need to mentor and guide other women. And men need to mentor and guide other men. We are at our most effective when we are ministering to the unique needs of our own sex. And before we can mentor and guide other men effectively, we have to accept responsibility for our own actions and our own lives.
...it just seems so sensible, and I'm left wondering all the more why so many other men are such shmucks.
What is it that drives men to deny that misogyny exists? What is it that makes them dismiss women's opinions? What is it that gives them the sense of entitlement to sit in judgment of women, and actually complain when women protest? Is it fear of impotence? Is it insecurity? Why are men afraid of women?
I truly find it mystifying because this does not seem to track along party lines or political philosophy -- though the wingnut misogynists seem to be much more open in attacking women, perhaps due to cultural traditions of self-expression nurtured in organizations like the KKK.
Also, it does not run consistently throughout the population of men I've known. Many are quite aware of their privilege and are quite the gentlemen, without being at all emasculated. (In fact, it's the emasculated men who seem to express the most vitriolic misogyny.)
Maybe some of these self-appointed experts on what is and isn't good feminism can turn their insightful gaze upon themselves, and explain to us poor hapless females the origins and justifications and reasons for the persistence of male privilege and institutional patriarchy.