[Update and mea culpa: When I wrote the following, I had only read some of the posts and comments carefully, and had not at all carefully attended to the "manifesto," which actually does veer pretty solidly into Rush Limbaugh "feminazi" territory. Please, if you're reading this post, also read comments numbers 6, 12, and 17 below. I do think a blog that tries to do what the moderators claim to be doing, and presented with minimal attention to relevant scholarship and debates (especially the supposed "three waves" of feminism) would be both interesting and desirable. But after looking more carefully at the manifesto, it's pretty difficult to be optimistic that "Real Feminist Philosophers" is a good faith attempt to do anything like that.]
The blog is here. I think that a lot of people understandably don't want to consider this kind of thing, and I don't know how it's going to pan out. A couple of thoughts:
- The authors' manifesto, as well as the posts themselves, would read much better and I think be taken as less insulting if the writers availed themselves of the distinctions between first, second, and third wave feminism (e.g. Martha Rampton's discussion here) and some of the associated scholarship and critique. Rather than differentiating real feminists from "feminists" (with scare quotes), the authors of the manifesto and blog posts should frame their criticisms in terms of their thinking that second wave feminism went horribly awry (in common with many feminists who identify as "first" and "third wave" feminists, it's clear that this is what the authors think), and that this derailment has led to violations of due process and immoral treatment of people who publicly disagree with the many relevant second wave* shibboleths involving identity, gender, types of appropriate remediation for injustices involving gender, etc.
- This stuff is hard; people lose perspective. I think that it's pretty clear that if we run the utilitarian calculus, the harm caused by the shabby treatment of the politically incorrect among us is vanishingly small compared to the harm caused in the real world by sexism. Perhaps if we just restrict ourselves to academia, it's not vanishingly small though? I don't know. I do know that the disagreements with second-wave feminism as expressed by people at the old philosophy meta-blog at their worst (to be fair, very rarely and until the final implosion always vigorously critiqued) read like a dangerous ex-boyfriend who blames the wreched state of his life on the ex. One person would every few days make outrageous claims in passing about feminists "ruining" philosophy. One person would coin Rush Limbaughisms along the lines of "femi-nazi." As far as I can tell, the people at the new blog don't have any time for that kind of thing. This being said, people who publicly disagree with posts at feminist philosophers very, very easily lose perspective and as a result act like insensitive louts. This maybe just to some extent goes with the territory when trying to discuss appropriate responses to any systematic form of injustice? I don't know.
- On the other hand, I do believe that Plato was right and the sophists were wrong. I tell my students to read left wing and right wing sources, to try to fairly assess the evidence, and let their beliefs fall where they may. If Sellars and Brandom (and Hegel for that matter) are correct, a constitutive part of even knowing what you believe is knowing how those beliefs stand up to challenges. Exploring this space is part of what philosophy is supposed to be. And so the soft censorship of blog moderation combined with public shaming as a way of boundary policing just has been pretty ruinous to large swaths of the philosophical blogosphere as a vehicle for genuine philosophical discussion. Let me be clear that this has happened all over the place, not just with respect to possible public discussions of feminism.
People who are running blogs typically don't understand the silencing effect of their comments policies. From my experiences at a widely read group blog, I know that this is one way it happens. You get lots of junk so you start pre-moderating. But there's a sorites series between trolling-comments, offensive-but-honestly-intended-comments, comments-you-think-are-offensive-but-really-aren't, and comments-you-just-disagree-with. There's no algorithm for sorting these, and not being face to face radically increases the tendency to take the comment in the worst possible way. But then when you don't approve someone's comment, their comments are far more likely to get sucked up by the spam folders of anyone who blogs on the same platform. This has happened to me a few months ago; since then none of my comments appear on feminist philosophers or daily nous (to be clear, I never comment anonymously). I know that I'm not the only one that this has happened to. This is partly why so many blogs (there are important exceptions when the focus is a narrow subarea) tend towards mutual admiration societies now where people blandly preach to the already converted. At best, it makes for pretty boring content.
In any case, I don't think that people running high trafficked blogs have figured out how to navigate between the Scylla of unmoderated madness and the Charibdis of a kind of reigning soft censorship that is equally as bad or worse for philosophical discussion. I do hope some actual real feminists are involved with "real feminist philosophers." The fact that everyone on the thing is anonymous makes it a lot more difficult to determine at this point. But given the vitriol and bullying that people outside the epistemic consensus about political matters are subject to, who's to blame them? In any case, I'm going to lurk there for the next week or so and see how it starts to shake out.
*The three way distinction is a cartoon, albeit a useful one. People called "second wave feminists" by self-proclaimed first or third wave feminists are pretty good at critiquing the division.]