A question for liberals and feminists

There is something I’ve always wanted to say to a liberal, but somehow the right opportunity has never come up. So I’ll share it with readers. Perhaps some will find it useful or even have a chance to try it out in practice.

Let’s say you are talking to a liberal or a feminist who keeps insisting or implying that men and women are the same and that their outcomes ought to be the same.

First say to your interlocutor:

Let me ask you this. Do you believe that men and women have fundamental psychological commonalities as human beings?

Of course your interlocutor will say yes.

Then say to her (I am assuming that your interlocutor is a woman):

Ok. Now do you also believe that men and women have fundamental psychological differences as men and women?

(Note: I stuck in the word “psychological” so that the question about differences could not be reduced to a difference of sex organs and secondary sex characteristics.)

Having agreed that men and women have fundamental commonalities as human beings, how can the liberal/feminist deny that men and women have fundamental differences as men and women? I think she would find it hard to do this with a straight face.

The deeper idea at work here is that existence is multileveled. We have a nature as human beings. We also have a nature as male or female. Every Western human being instinctively knows this to be true, even though it is rarely articulated in plain terms as I am doing here. So, once you get your feminist conversation partner to agree with one part of this larger truth, it will be difficult for her to disagree with the other part of it. You will have led her, at least by one step, away from feminist ideology and toward the truth of existence.

- end of initial entry -

James P. writes:

If you ask a feminist or a liberal, “Do you also believe that men and women have fundamental psychological differences as men and women?”, most likely they will say no. They think such differences are not fundamental but “socially constructed” and thus can be eliminated with proper indoctrination. As someone who is raising male and female children, I think this is total nonsense. I have observed that male and female infants display recognizably male and female psychological characteristics from the very earliest age. I can only conclude that liberal ideology blinds feminists to these fundamental psychological differences, which one would think they surely observed in their own children.

Timothy A. writes:

As soon as I read your proposed question, “social construct” popped into mind and I see that James P. had the same reaction. In fact, liberals have devised a whole bag of tricks to defend their views from empirical evidence which contradicts those views. Observed differences in the psychology of males and females? Social construct. Differences in outcomes of racial and ethnic groups? Discrimination.

Atrocities committed by leftists (or Muslims)? False flag operations. And so on.

Kristor writes:

I have witnessed liberals coping with the undeniable psychological differences between their boys and girls, even at very young ages. They admit the differences are present, but argue that the differences are unimportant in one or both of two different ways:

1. The fact that my two year old boy uses clods of dirt for artillery shells on his doll house is due to my own deeply buried biases. So deeply buried are they that I cannot apprehend them at all, or tell how I might be communicating them to him. But the fact remains that he is bombarding his doll house with clods of dirt and making explosion noises. So I must have those biases. It’s my fault. I must try harder.

2. Sure, my two year old daughter may have an inborn tendency toward pretending that her toy forklift is the daddy, her dump truck is the mommy, and the sports cars are children. But that inborn tendency, if it exists, is wrong, and I must do everything I can to prevent its operation.

LA replies:

Readers’ responses so far in this thread all suggest that I was being unrealistically hopeful in thinking that a liberal might be brought up short by my question.

Here I have to disclose that when I first thought of the question, some years ago, I was thinking of asking it of a certain person, now deceased, who, while on the left, was not dogmatically on the left and made many exceptions to her overall leftism. That person might well have answered “Yes” to my question and readily agreed that there are fundamental differences between men and women. But if we are speaking of more dogmatic leftists/liberals, then I can see James’s, Timothy’s, and Kristor’s point. Such liberals would not say yes to my question.

Kristor continues:

Yet despite experiences of the type I recounted in my previous comment, I do think that the innate, undeniable differences between young boys and girls may be one of the most vulnerable holes in the liberal ideological armor. Such responses as I have limned came from hard-core leftists and feminists. Most run of the mill liberals, on the other hand—the sort of folks who’ve never really thought about politics much, but rather have been immersed in a liberal milieu for their entire lives, and so take it for granted—treat these events (boys playing war with fingers for guns; girls having tea parties with Lego people) as unaccountable mysteries. They shrug, as if to say, “What can you do? They’ll grow out of it.” If upon witnessing such moments we could ask them simply where they think such tendencies come from, most of them would shrug again and say, “genetics.”

The Socratic method works well from that point forward:

Q. Why do you think those psychological differences between the sexes would have survived natural selection?

A. They must have conferred advantages.

Q. How? What sort of advantages?

A. Well, in caveman days, the boys would have needed to grow up into warriors, and the women into mothers. In an emergency situation, the mothers of the clan would scurry to safety with the children, while the men formed a defensive shield. The men are bigger and stronger, so that arrangement makes sense. So it is natural, I suppose, that boys and girls would each be inclined to practice the relevant behaviors and ways of thought in early childhood.

Q. But everything is different now, right?

A. Right … sort of. I mean, it’s getting better. But there is still a long way to go.

Q. You mean there is a better than even likelihood that in a dangerous situation, the boy will be expected to deal with it, whereas the girl will be expected to deal with a problem relating to children.

A. Yeah. I guess.

Q. So, are these psychological differences between boys and girls a good thing, or not?

A. I guess in some ways they are a good thing. It’s going to take a long time to change the world in such a way that boys won’t ever need to fight.

Q. How long do you think it’s going to be before there is no fighting anymore?

And that should put the matter to rest.

P.S. The efficacy of the Socratic method arises of course from the fact that there are certain things that, as you say, everyone knows to be true in his heart of hearts. All the method does is elicit that implicit understanding, that goes along with existing as a human being.

LA replies:

Your imaginary Socratic dialog with a contemporary liberal is first rate.

Also, I’ve glad you recognized the Socratic nature of my question. That wasn’t conscious on my part when I had it in my head all these years, but after I wrote it down and posted it today, I realized the Socratic quality of it. That is, I was asking a logical question which wasn’t just logical but went to what people intuitively know to be true. (Then I forgot about that realization until you mentioned it just now and brought out what I knew but had forgotten. :-) )

LA adds:

It’s ironic that in your dialog you are using the very anti-Platonic Darwinian theory of evolution to drive home your point about innate differences between men and women. But that may as close as our age allows people to come to the idea of an innate nature.

Gintas writes:

“Your imaginary Socratic dialog with a contemporary liberal is first rate.”

I think you’re being way overoptimistic here. There’s a good reason George Orwell came up with the ideas of “thoughtstopping” and “doublethink” and you came up with the “unprincipled exception”. Any Socratic dialogue would be short-circuited by hard-core liberals to any of the canned defects: “racist”, “sexist”, etc.

LA replies:

But hasn’t the discussion already dealt with that point? It depends on the kind of liberal one is dealing with, on how dogmatic he is in his liberalism. Yes, hard-core liberals would short-circuit any Socratic dialog.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at October 13, 2011 02:02 PM | Send

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