Don’t Gaslight on Me

Fenster writes:

This is kind of a continuation of the note to W– I wrote here.


A few more thoughts on Zuckerberg.


I thought her discussion of the Stoics a bit confusing. She is clearer when she bashes than when she explicates. It is clear that she doesn’t like men–those men, anyway–claiming some Stoic turf. But where does she go with that thought?

Feminism has always had a tension between equality feminists and difference feminists, and those arguing the feminist position can switch back and forth, sometimes fudging the distinction. We’re all the same! And we’re different and better!

Here I am not sure what Z is arguing,

The difference feminist in her might want to acknowledge that men’s ways may make them prone to Stoicism, in which case Stoicism would be a suspect philosophy as it would embody a male difference that is not in line with the ways of women. But she defends Stoicism nonetheless more or less, arguing that after all the Stoics were for their time fairly egalitarian.

But that point, even if true, does not really provide much traction relative to the larger claims of Stoicism as regards the conduct of life and its challenges. Let’s face it those aspects seem kinda like what men do. (“Herbert stop being so damn rational! Don’t try to solve my problem. I just want you to hear me!”)

And there she gets a little lost in weaving women into the picture. Tacking toward the equality feminist shore, she evidences some skepticism that males might be predisposed to Stocism.  Can’t women be stoic too?

She ackowledges that may not always appear to be so, like when feminists, say, get angry with obstinate (or stoical?) men. But she resolves this neatly by more or eliding past the point: well, wouldn’t you be angry if you had to deal with this shit? There’s nothing unStoical about righteous anger!

She’s an advocate for sure. A philosopher or a scholar or even a first class thinker? Dunno. Seems kind of thin to me.

I glanced at the abstract of her Princeton dissertation. Oddly it does not seem to tackle progressive, gender or power issues at all. Looks like a standard issue dissertation. If I had to speculate I’d say she was interested enough in the classics per se to study them through her Ph.D. in the conventional way. But then she may have observed that the classics did not align with how she wanted the world to be. Maybe she saw an opening, felt the frustration with her academic training well up, scraped together the money for a trendy online journal from wealthy relatives, and was from there on bound for glory, building a vanguard to both uphold and take down her chosen field.

A glance at her journal, Eidelon, suggests her unease with her chosen field.  Here is her most recent article. She starts by questioning whether Aristotle was on the mark in the first place arguing that tragedy is about catharsis, moves on the children at the border and the function of tragedy in terms of reinforcing imperialism, and concludes by coming quite close to saying don’t read Euripides. Contribute to a progressive cause instead. Some classicist!


I hope you are not taken aback at my critical comments. We live in the Boston area where the default setting is feminist.  But full disclosure for context: while I considered myself as having feminist sensibilities for many decades I will cop as well to a kind of rebalancing later in life.

J— referred to the books we are reading, mostly in the classics and many having a grounding in Stocism, as having an “Ivy League male” orientation. I wasn’t offended by that. Well, maybe I was a little offended at first, but my Stoical training kicked in and I was then able to observe my reaction from . . . a suitable distance.

But I do find it odd that in our current era the doctrinal side of feminism still purports to speak truth to power. So when J– suggests “hey guys I know you are into your frat boy thing but you should open your eyes to how others see things” I think she is several decades too late.

I was around in the sixties when Our Bodies Ourselves came out. A big deal. Was the medical establishment male? Yes. Did it ignore women’s issues? Yes. Was a corrective a good idea? Yes.

But that was a half century ago and a lot can happen in a half century. Despite the fact that we still hear constantly about gender disparities in health that gap seems now to have been closed, if not reversed.

The labor movement went from a necessary countervailing force against rapacious capitalists to featherbedding then corruption then owning elections via the power of public sector unions in about that amount of time.

Cycles evidence regularities related to generations and seasonality. A century is usually enough to complete the circle, with half a century often being enough time for the pendulum to get all the way to the other side before traveling back.

In turn, rhetoric forged in the heat of battle at the beginning of a cycle is often durable enough to last all the way to the other side of the cycle, when the function it plays will be quite different. Rhetoric that once honestly spoke truth to power will serve later as a ritual victory dance for the speakers, and as an instrument of power over those spoken to.

Just the other night I wandered in to the TV room and caught the last 20 minutes of the CBS Evening News. It was Sunday night and the news was perhaps a little softer than during weeknights. For instance I did not see anything on Trump, the coverage of whom dominates most nights.  Yet every segment of the six or so I saw was filled to the brim with progressive ideas, sometimes the main focus of the story sometimes snuck in.

There was a story on The Nutcracker, a common segment this time of the year. But while it nodded in the direction of a holiday offering it was quickly apparent that the segment was an occasion for something else: a tale of the struggle of black dancers.

The story quickly turned from a focus on The Nutcracker to hidden bias and racism in the ballet world. The ballerina (can you still say that word? I know “actress” is frowned on) complained that the company did not have any good ideas of what make up she should use because her skin color was different or what to do about her hair (which in the segment was shown to be lustrous in the Farah Fawcett-Majors style).

Then there was a segment from Takoma Park, Maryland, a hip and progressive inner suburb of Washington DC.  A gas station there has taken the leap, dropping its gas pumps totally in favor of electric chargers. The correspondent agreed it was a risky move and that it may not pay off. But the leftish Mayor had gone to the gas station owner to ask him to give it a go for the good of the planet.

The owner, an Indian immigrant of 33 years standing, was uncertain of the economics. But then his daughter intervened, giving dad a heart to heart about the planet, and he relented. Now, while he is still unsure the idea is sound in terms of business, he is happy to have given the new world a try.  And he and his daughter have bonded over the process.

So this one was a three-fer at least: 1) it’s good to fall on the sword for the planet, 2) immigration is great since look at this hard working Indian guy, and 3) even old fashioned hard working guys need to get schooled by smart young females about things like environmental responsibility, especially if the smart young females are also minorities.

All the stories but one had similar hooks. That one story did focus on whites–white males even. Except this last story concerned white fraternity members who are alleged to have beaten someone up.

It was not a particularly vicious beating. You can see much worse every day on World Star Hip Hop. But these white kids are what Tom Wolfe called The Great White Defendants as far back as the 80s, when he wrote The Bonfire of the Vanities. They are valuable news fodder.  And it’s not what they did it was who they are.  So run the story, dammit! It’s national news!

Just as The Nutcracker story morphed from a story about a Christmas tradition to a morality play about race this one morphed from a routine police blotter story that would at best make the local nightly news into a national morality play about entitled white frat boys. Furrowed brow comments were inserted about the fraternity “problem”, including a reference to the recent ban on fraternities at Syracuse that I wrote about here.

The Syracuse story was itself another instance of the national news jumping on a story way before it ought to have been run, if it ought to have been run at all. But there was no acknowledgement of that fact in the frat beating story. The “Syracuse fraternity ban” was covered on the Nightly News a month back doncha know, so it’s news innit? A mere five second reference is enough to act as a semaphore transmitting a morality gestalt to the viewers.

So if someone suggests I need to broaden my horizons I find myself internally objecting. We all marinating in that world view 24/7, and to pretend otherwise is either naive, disingenuous or cynical.  Don’t gaslight on me.


About Fenster

Gainfully employed for thirty years, including as one of those high paid college administrators faculty complain about. Earned Ph.D. late in life and converted to the faculty side. Those damn administrators are ruining everything.
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