October 26, 2005

Review Reviewed Part II

You want a good picture of how completely ridiculous the Review's readership is? Take a look at these comments on the post "Petition Slate Defeated."
Good, glad they went down. In the real world trustees are window dressing and bank accounts... not ideologues and bloggers. In terms of fundraising, what's the effect of letting on some bum law professor instead of an executive? The bum may think he's doing Dartmouth good by fighting his little trustee fights, but he's gotta send his kids to college, and he can't buy new stadium lights, buildings or professors.
Not to mention Zywicki is a horrible writer, as is obvious to anyone who read his petition statement. He's a total C-leaguer, fit for his podunk law school but not for an Ivy League institution.
I agree with his policies, but it's a scandal that a venerable institution like Dartmouth made a riff-raffian like him a trustee. I suppose this is the same logic that will put Miers on the Court over people like Luttig or McConnell. Good job guys.
I hardly need to defend Zywicki (just read his Volokh Conspiracy posts for that) but it needs to be said that this kind of elitism is just plain harmful for the school and self-consuming. I'd like to crack a joke, but the open plutocratic prejudice is absurd enough as it is.

But I had promised a post on Scott Glabe's coverage of the Harvey Mansfield manliness debate. Here it is:

It is clear from reading Glabe’s coverage of the manliness debate that he has never read any feminist theory, which is a problem if he intends to refute it.

Scott gets a little mixed up on what “gender is a socially constructed category” means-—he accuses Professor Travis of both talking about men as if they had an identifiable nature and denying that they have one (by asserting the constructed nature of gender). This would be a keen criticism if “socially constructed” meant “utterly non-existent” and “gender” was perfectly synonymous with “biological sex.” Unfortunately for Mr. Glabe, neither mean what he thinks they mean—“constructed” does not mean “illusory” or “non-existent,” it means “made.” If I say, “My, that building looks constructed,” I am not making a claim about my ability to observe it empirically. I am making a claim about the history of its manufacture. Gender is a manufactured category, but it is undeniably present. It is something you do, and is therefore completely observable and distinguishable from other elements of personality.

Biological sex is different from gender in that it is something that is in most cases innate. While there are some cases where sex is from birth indeterminable or ambiguous, the whole guys’ and girls’ restroom division Glabe employs as a cheap rhetorical trick does work pretty well. And there are undeniably demands on a person for their gender performance to match their biological sex—that’s the situation feminist criticism highlights, not that it seeks to deny. But the point is, there is no single measuring stick for gender—-there are multiple ways of performing gender. Pink popped-collar shirts is one, as is acting like Woody Allen or emulating Sylvester Stallone. Gender performances are recognizable, but not deterministic.

Thus, the question Mansfield asked Travis, “If manliness doesn’t exist, how can it be bad?” is completely answerable. The property of being an ignorant asshole doesn’t exist as an innate factor, but it is identifiable and it is identifiably bad.

Glabe squeaks in delight in a few places where he recounts a showmanly trick or two that Mansfield employs, but the whole article reeks of uninformed obstinance as does the interview with Mansfield, which merely replays the same flaws in understanding Glabe shows us in his article. Well, and Mansfield's musings on education, affirmative action, and gayness, none of which are remotely surprising or interesting.


  1. Anonymous2:28 PM

    I think it's unfair to generalize about the Review's readership based on a few comments on a single blog post.

    First, the comments look like they're written by some asshole flaming the blog, rather than a bona fide "Review reader."

    Second, I read both your blog and the Review's because I find worthwhile content at both places. I could easily disprove your point by posting similarly inane garbage with a liberal bent in your comments. I think the comments on Dartlog are offensively bad. They sound like they're written by a second-rate law student having a bad day. I don't think it says much about the Review or its "readership."

    As for your critique of Glabe's stuff, I haven't read enough feminist theory to comment intelligently, but from what I've seen, a lot of feminists make something of a fetish of generating jargon to insulate themselves from their critics. Even so, Glabe's editorial is too weakly written to change the mind of anyone who doesn't agree with him. He tries to refute an argument that "gender is a social construct" {i.e. that sociology explains many of the differences we see} by equating the argument with the strawman that there *are* no differences between men and women.

    I've met Glabe and read his stuff. He seems like a really smart guy. I think he was overly dismissive and didn't turn the mental wattage up high enough for this piece.

  2. Actually, no: Glabe is not smart.

    He's a big, loutish frat boy with a propensity for saying ignorant shit like this. He doesn't really understand any theory of any kind except possibly trickle-down economics, and even that's a stretch. Additionally, if you look at his facebook profile, you will note that the music that he likes is bad.

  3. Anonymous5:57 PM

    I never thought I would see Sigma Nus tarred as loutish frat boys. The appropriate term, I think, is 'lame frat boys.' Failing to distinguish between the two is an insult to the Greek system.

  4. anonymous #1--Judith Butler may be difficult to read, but she uses "jargon" to be precise, not to insulate herself from other critics. The same goes pretty much as well for other feminist critics, though I would say someone like Irigaray also tries to be poetic and can therefore be obscure. And Kristeva is influenced by Lacan and you can't come from that kind of background and not be loaded with jargon.

    and i try not to read the Review comments, but these are exceptionally bad given any yardstick.

  5. Addendum: Glabe is so secure in his conception of his intelligence that he actually pulled the previous shit I said about him and put it in his facebook profile. Put yourself in his shoes: you get through reading a whole article which slaps you hither and thither with the monstrous dick of logic, and your response is to construct an ironic facade in which you render yourself immune to criticism by pretending to adopt it. It's the standard idiot response when your actions are indefensible. It's like Paris Hilton wearing a shirt that says "Slut" on it- that same kind of implicit preemption.

    Sorry if this is kind of incoherent; I am drunk, and I'm not saying that to show off the fact that I am drunk, but seeing Glabe with that shit on his profile got me pretty fuckin' steamed, cause honestly Glabe does not deserve to have my shit on his profile, and if I could sue him I'd give it a shot.

    Hey, Glabe: since you read this, or have someone who does, I'd like to tell you to go fuck yourself. My name is Connor Shepherd, and you're a Goddamned idiot who's not a tenth of the writer that Ramsay was. People like you, and people like Ramsay, are actively ruining the world, and you don't even have the decency to be sheepish about it. You fucking make me sick.

    Interning at a think tank? That's a joke. You don't even have the skills required to be an evil henchman. Maybe when you grow up you can read the press releases for the Heritage foundation or whatever fucking imperialist garbage barge you're going to spend your life on.

    Hurry up and graduate, or fail out, or whatever.

  6. Anonymous12:07 PM

    Andrew, thanks for the details. My lack of familiarity with feminist theory aside, I think the flaw in Glabe's article is that he beats up on a strawman rather than engaging with what people actually said.

    Connor, go crawl back into your fucking hole. The rest of us are trying to discuss stuff. Knowing only your posts and comments on this blog, you have no right to accuse anyone of being "loutish" or lacking intelligence. Glabe's got a bunch of Review articles to his credit and all you've got is the ironic catch phrase "sounds like something a stupid bitch would say." Either leave this blog, or convince the others to change the title to "something a stupid bitch would say." You're an embarrassment to anyone who's ever been associated with you.