If you are a regular reader of Men’s News Daily, then you probably have a good grasp of the many different ways that contemporary feminism can be criticized. Feminism tends to:
- use incorrect facts (eg. factoids about domestic violence)
- ignore correct facts (eg. research about innate sex differences)
- present men as guilty and women as victims, no matter what the issue at hand is
- elaborate about every tiny problem that women have while ignoring crucial men’s issues
The list could be made much longer, but you get the drift. There are lots of different ways to demonstrate how feminism rests on incorrect assumptions and how it leads to misandry and a skewed perception of reality.
However, a few months ago, a came across a whole new way of “undressing” feminism, that I hadn’t seen before. This new kind of criticism towards feminism came from Swedish researcher Helen Lindberg, who earlier this year presented her doctoral thesis called Only Women Bleed?: A Critical Reassessment of Comprehensive Feminist Social Theory.
In her thesis she has evaluated four different feminist theories, with regard to internal coherence, and their usefulness as theories in a research context. The feminist theories evaluated are:
- Catharine M MackInnonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Radical Feminism
- Anna G JonasdottirÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Theory of Love Power
- Luce IrigarayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Feminism of Sexual Difference
- Judith ButlerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Queer Feminism
Radical feminism and elements of queer feminism together constitute what could be called postmodern or contemporary feminism, which means that her results are extremely interesting for anyone who’s critical of how feminism is affecting society. Furthermore, women’s study and gender study departments in universities around the world have radical feminism as their theoretical foundation, meaning that Lindberg’s research could be extremely embarrassing for them if she really is able to demonstrate that the theories they are founded on lack internal coherence and are unsuitable to use for research purposes.
The purpose of her doctoral thesis can be understood from her abstract:
Is there a viable specifically feminist social theory that can serve as heuristic devise in our social research? This thesis is a critical reassessment of the ontological and normative assumptions of four social theories with specific and clear claims of being feminist. [...]
The feminist social theories are examined and critically discussed according to their internal coherence and their external relevance; which includes the normative political implications that can be inferred.
Since the English abstract is pretty short and conservative, I will translate parts of the Swedish abstract, so you can see just how severe her criticism is:
The thesis demonstrates that these four feminist theories about society each turn out to be unsatisfactory as tools in social science research, since they rest on strong ideological premises and demonstrate a lack of internal consistency. Even though the theories appear to be different, they display two common theoretical weaknesses where one follows logically from the other. First of all, they all use structuralistic and therefore deterministic assumptions about the relationship between the individual and society, which leaves little room for individual agency and thinking, which in turn leaves little room for developing and changing society. The theories therefore display a theoretical and empirical ignorance of the multidimensionality of society and variance at the individual level. Furthermore, the thesis discusses the political goals and action plans that can be derived from the theories’ ideological and theoretical content, and finds that where they aren’t Utopia-like, they are unilaterally reduced to a monolithic identity or are normatively underdeveloped and unclear. Finally, the relationship between science, politics and ideology is problematized in a general way, and feminism as science, politics and ideology in a specific way. To be able to conduct social science research about gender relations–the author claims–it isn’t useful to use the examined feminist theories, since they are too ideological and theoretically underdeveloped. They should instead be judged and valued the same way other normative and ideological theories are, such as Marxism, especially when it comes to their critical role in defining problems and acting as guides in political practice.
The short version of what she’s saying is that using feminist theory as the basis for conducting research, is about as useful as using Marxist theory to conduct research. She also nullifies the standard feminist reply to criticism (“what branch of feminism are you criticizing?”) by demonstrating that each of the four branches of feminist theory examined have the same theoretical weaknesses.
This confirms what I’ve long been suspecting: gender studies are not a scientific discipline, they are a method for applying a certain ideology onto whatever data you collect during your “research”. Still, gender study departments around the world are allowed to teach generation after generation of women that men are evil oppressors, while hiding behind a respectable academic faÃƒÂ§ade that they certainly do not deserve. How long will this charade go on?
Pelle Billing is an M.D. who writes and lectures about menÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s issues and gender liberation beyond feminism.