Janice Fiamengo’s Sons Of Feminism

My introduction to Janice Fiamengo came seven years ago, when she gave a presentation at the University of Toronto entitled “What’s Wrong With Women’s Studies?” The presentation itself was delayed, owing to the efforts of the usual cabal of rabble-rousing morons eager to preemptively shut down criticism of their ideas, but eventually it proceeded, and for more than an hour, Janice spoke and took questions in the face of a largely hostile and unlistening audience. She is one of only a handful of Canadian academics who have dared to dissent from the feminist orthodoxy that has gripped humanities departments across the Western world, and in the comparatively short time that she has been speaking she has won a large online audience (her Rubin Report interview has been listened to 700,000 times).

Sons Of Feminism collects essays and personal anecdotes that were sent to Janice, via email, after footage of her 2013 presentation went viral on the Internet, and it is here that I should acknowledge that I was one of the apparently numberless young men who flooded her inbox with missives. I wrote her to thank her for her courage and express my dismay at the rough treatment she received on a Canadian university campus, but many other young men wrote to share stories of pain and suffering that belie the grand narrative we are now fed of male oppression and female victimization, or to recount frightening stories of how loyalty to feminist orthodoxy has perverted workplace HR departments, the tracking of statistics in government, or entire academic fields, including such seemingly apolitical branches as astronomy. The essays vary widely in tone, subject matter and even quality, but the best of them express nuanced and seldom-heard aspects of the male experience or male contribution to society. In one of the most affecting, “My Father,” an author identified only as “Krish” describes how his father’s suicide attempt forced him to reappraise his father’s life, free from the prejudices of his mother, sister and aunt, who could not see past his anger issues, or identify in their own behavior a driving cause of his father’s distress. Krish comes to the belated recognition that, though he never excused his father’s anger, and resented him his every outburst, he made excuses for his mother’s emotional fragility or his sister’s self-centredness. At the same time, the good his father did for the family (the mortgage, the college tuition, and life’s little luxuries, all paid for by one man working himself to the breaking point) was treated as a given, an expectation as reliable as the sunrise, and therefore no sympathy was awarded for his father’s gruelling work schedule or the stresses attendant on being the provider. Krish sums up this paradigm in a passage that might well function as an epitaph for our civilization:

When something good happens, God is great, but when there is a problem, the Lord is working in mysterious ways. It is incredible to see the number of women who derive material benefit from male brilliance and sacrifice, then turn around and denigrate those who achieve results they themselves have never even endeavored to contribute towards. It is cultural blasphemy to admit this.

As more than one commentator has now remarked, the grim irony of the feminist takeover of academia has been generations of students taught to overlook or even despise the contributions of their male ancestors, even as they attend expensive universities overwhelmingly financed by those same men.

Perhaps the most unlikely essay is entitled “Feminist Warriors in Astronomy,” penned by an anonymous astronomer who nonetheless demonstrates an intimate familiarity with the workings of the field, and why it was so ripe for ideological takeover.

Most astronomers have a very limited knowledge and understanding of the social and economic structure of the real world. Their world views are shaped by the green-left activism of their student days and are strongly affected by the ideological social-justice movements sweeping western campuses today with a fervor reminiscent of Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

Moreover, work as an astronomer is unusually contingent on the approval of peers, which has made the entire field vulnerable to ideological orthodoxy.

Grant and fellowship applications, requests to use the over-subscribed major telescopes, and invitations to speak at international conferences are all determined by small panels of colleagues in the same field, based essentially on how much they trust the applicant’s ability as a scientist. In the highly competitive field of astronomical research, it usually takes only one particularly unfavorable assessment to sink a good telescope time application.

This atmosphere of conformity is rigorously policed by a network of insider blogs and social media groups, “whose juvenile rants are foisted upon us at major conferences as if they were divine revelation,” and whose concerns are primarily political grievance-mongering rather than science or astronomy. The consequence of this unchallenged narrative has been a corruption of the hiring process, whereby a seemingly laudable, abstract political goal pronounced from on high (“Parity in astronomy!”) becomes, in practice, both discriminatory and unworkable. In reality, where we humble proles operate, men and women have different preferences, interests, hobbies and pursuits, and astronomy appears to be one of the many fields men gravitate towards in larger numbers. When you then enforce a hiring goal like parity, you cannot achieve anything close to those results without dramatically lowering the criterion for female applicants. “In practice, half of the astronomy jobs will be available to a large pool of male applicants; the other half will be reserved for a smaller pool of female applicants. Already today, to obtain a good job, a male astronomer needs to be in the top 10% of male applicants, while a female astronomer only needs to be average.” This is not opinion but basic mathematics, and would apply equally to female-dominated fields like veterinary medicine, were we ever so foolish as to enforce 50:50 hiring goals: the men would pass muster with middling marks, while many of the best female practitioners would be overlooked.

I am, however, doing Sons Of Feminism a disservice in only summarizing the arguments of two of its essays. Its power lies in the totality of the male experience it conveys: experiences not of power and privilege but of pain, confusion, anger, frustration, and impotence. And at every junction, the essays demonstrate the painful role ideology has played in writing laws and policies so as to create, exacerbate or render invisible all of this terrible suffering.