Saturday, 30 May 2009

Humourless feminazi *2: why it's not about you.

Yesterday I was interviewed by Natasha Walter for her upcoming book 'Living Dolls'. I absolutely adore talking to feminists who are a bit older than me, and as we bounced ideas off each other I found myself being asked, time and time again, why I was sounding so cynical, so resigned. And that got me thinking.

In the women's movement today, it is easy to feel that problems are insurmountable; that the tyranny of beauty culture and the ubiquitous rhetoric of misogynist pornography can be challenged but never defeated; that female poverty, unequal pay, violence against women and uncertain access to reproductive healthcare will always be salient facts of our societies. This feeling of perpetual frustration is, I believe, more typical of my generation of feminists, who no longer have the luxury of believing that we're dealing with a clear cut war which can be decisively won.

Let me explain.

For the women of our mothers' generation, patriarchy was the screaming head, projected to awesome proportions, the Wizard of Oz in all his terrible fury. Feminists could and did approach the throne confident that they would be able to simply pull back the curtain and drag out the real, shambling perpetrators: a gang of embarrassed men who had been pulling the controls all along and who would then agree to come home with us to a gender-utopian Kansas where we all belonged. But feminists today face a new problem: the horror of pulling back the curtain and finding noone there at all. The shock realisation that perhaps there never was a man behind the curtain. The terror of the absence of any tangible, flesh-and-blood enemy, whilst all the while the wizard's head continues to scream us into submission, a hundred feet high and running, seemingly, on automatic.

Last week, I wrote about date rape, and I felt that an opportunity for constructive discussion was wasted in wrangling over whether or not the particular incident was 'his fault' or 'my fault', when the entire point I was trying to make was that the whole situation was and is much more complicated than 'fault'. Over the past month, I have written about the equality bill, about sex work, about burlesque, and each time the debate has descended into a shouting match over whether or not I believe all men are misognynists, whether or not I'm 'prejudiced against white males'. For god's sake. Guys, it's not about you. Girls, it's not about them.

That's not to say that I think no man is ever culpable in individual acts of misognyny and gender hatred. What I'm saying is that I do not believe all men, or even most men, to be the footsoldiers of patriarchy. On the contrary: women are sometimes just as likely to perpetuate the misogynist lies that keep other women down. Look at Thatcher. Look at Anna Wintour, or Posh Spice, or Sarah Palin: sometimes the man behind the curtain is a woman. I'm not of the school of feminist thought that holds that you never ever point fingers at your own side - because I don't believe in 'sides'. I don't think this is about 'sides' anymore, if it ever truly was. Unfortunately, the notion of 'sides' persists, and is incredibly destructive. The belief by both men and women that activists of the opposite gender hate them, personally and indiscriminately, is a major stumbling block for progress.

So how are we to cut this Gordian knot of pointless conflict? Very simply. For a start, feminists of all stripes need to look carefully at our rhetoric whenever we fall into the trap of blaming *men* - as if *men* were an amorphous block of faceless privilege, rather than one whole half of the human race - for our problems. That doesn't mean that we need to stop calling out male privilege wherever we find it - but it does mean that as liberals we have to entertain the notion that what we're fighting might not be people, but ideas, which are much harder to crush.

Secondly, and even more crucially: men, you need to get over yourselves and stop being so damn paranoid about feminist ideas. It. Is. Not. About. You. Men need to stop interpreting every mutter of the word 'misogyny' as a personal attack: it isn't, not even for those feminists who DO see men as oppressors. We seem, for the most part, to be able to grasp the fact that the gay rights movements is not a direct attack on all straightpeople, and that anti-racist sentiment does not constitute an assault on whitey. Why, then, is it so hard for us to stand together as men and women against the forces of recalcitrance and bigotry?

It might come as a shock to some of you, but most feminists do not spend their time plotting ways to undermine men. Actually, most feminists care far less about men than men would like to imagine. What we want, as feminists, is freedom from the constraints of gender, and if you're a man, there's a good chance that that's not about you at all. We need to stop looking for that man behind the curtain - all of us - and get on with the real work of opposing gender tyranny, the real work of personal and social gender liberation. Are we clear? Good.


  1. I'm NOT a misogynist but I have to ask in plain terms how equal do you want women to be with men? Would you support the right of women soldiers to fight on the front line as full-fledged combatants? Would you encourage women in the armed forces to incinerate men, women and children with phosphor bombs or disembowel enemy soldiers with a bayonet, eye to eye?

    How much parity do you actually want with men?

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Unless your mum's a lot older than me (but as I've got a daughter the same age as you I'm assuming you'd consider me a woman of your mother's generation?) I think you're getting a bit carried away with the rhetoric Laurie, and getting your history slightly confused.

    Maybe (although I doubt it) second wave 60's feminists were more able to identify actual, real, human perpetrators of the patriarchy, but for me and others of my generation, whose political/feminist consciousness was formed in the early 80s under Thatcher et al, the "enemy" was no more easily identifiable than it is for younger feminists nowadays.

    Also, I'm not sure why you seem to think you're coming up with something new by identifying our struggle against the patriarchy as being one against ideas rather than one against people. Surely that's what it's always been about? It's just that some people go out of their way to defend and perpetuate the patriarchy for their own benefit, and thus become some of the focus of our ire.

    But feminism has always recognised patriarchy as being a system of oppression, not as being a specific group of people (ie men). It's basic feminism 101:

  3. Yeah...

    but I don`t like cooking or cleaning.

  4. "Would you support the rights of women soldiers to soldiers to fight on the front line as fully-fledged combatants?"


    "Would you encourage women in the armed forces to incinerate men, women and children with phosphor bombs and disembowel enemy soldiers with a bayonet, eye to eye?"

    No. But if men can get away with it because it has been ordered by the government then women should have the opportunity to as well, no matter how abhorrent and wrong it is.

  5. Personally, I support equality between the sexes.

    So for the female soldier example above: Certainly, if they would like to and can come up to the necessary standards of physical fitness and so on.

    Part of the trouble for men, however, is I suppose the result of a small but vocal minority of feminists, who may or may not overlap:

    A) Those who seem to think that 'equality' means 'shifting things around so that females are in the dominant, advantaged overall position enjoyed by men'. Seems to come up a lot whenever positive discrimination in favour of women or rape is being debated (unconnected to each other).

    B) Those who seem to think that females are nothing but inferiors to the patriarchy in Western society, and possess absolutely no 'advantages' or 'priveleges', because men have all of them. While I'm sure it's nice to feel like the plucky, heroic underdog, this isn't quite true - though I freely acknowledge that when it is all weighed up, both currently and historically, males have been more priveleged than women to a large degree.

    What really has to be done, I think, is get the reasonable people of all sexes together, and then slowly expand the numbers of said reasonable people through education in what feminists actually think, and as Laurie points out, that men are not some faceless, priveleged unitary mass of people who all want to sustain the unequal society in which we live.

  6. Hah!

    ... and there's the rub...

    Feminists like Lo and Serenissima don't seem after all to want men to improve and become better than they have been historically or are currently; you feminists seem merely to want women to be allowed, without condemnation, to behave as badly and violently as men are currently and have been historically!

    What a fool I've been thinking that women were generally better than men. You women have merely been keeping your powder dry and waiting for the chance to load your rifles and spill some blood!

    My word. You learn a little something every day!

  7. Oh wow, Argurious, you've like totally defeated us with your superior reasoning there. Apart from - I'm a pacifist, but if there has to be a front line I fully support women's right to be on it. Simple.

    However, you've unwittingly raised quite an interesting point. Conscription or enlisting of men into the army has long been a specifically male-coded form of social oppression, and that's one of the reasons 'women on the front line' is such a contentious topic. Society is structured so that the male and female bodies of the working classes are expendable in totally different ways - and women willingly being coopted into a male paradigm of oppression is seriously, seriously challenging to the status quo.

  8. Cath - my mum *is* a bit older than you, but I must protest - I don't think I'm coming up with anything new here. I just wanted to make the point, because it's a clarity of vision that's often lost, and I think the lack of anything tangible to attack does actively damage the feminist movement these days, and we need to move on from it.

    I'm sorry if I've got the wrong impression of how women of your age (for simplicity's sake) saw the patriarchy in general - I'm sure it wasn't the case for everyone, it's something I've picked up on in recent conversations with feminists and on re-reading Susan Faludi and Dworkin.

  9. Laurie - Dworkin was my mum's generation not mine :) and I'm guessing not your mum's either. She was born in 1946...

    I think what I'm trying to say is be careful with the (unintentional I know) ageism. Don't assume that every woman over 40 is of the same generation and has seen the same stuff.

  10. Thanks Cath. This is me being suitably chastened. I do need to look at this stuff harder.

  11. The problem is what feminist ideas are men supposed to be paranoid over? The screaming head of Oz was the 1930s, and your parents generation of the 50s and 60s went a long way to overcoming that.

    I (and I think most men) have no problem with the fact that you should be paid equally to men and have equality of opportunity. What I do think though is that equality of opportunity won't result in real equality as women are generally responsible and take time off work for upbringing of children, and this will inevitably reduce opportunity.

    So far as the UK goes, there is nowadays little gender tyranny to be fought, except in small tightly contained pockets.

  12. You girlies conspicuously missed the point I was trying to make implicitly in a humorous fashion. Boy! Are you antagonistic! Instead of women seeking to diminish themselves to achieve mere physical and material parity with men why can't both sexes move upward co-operatively and together toward a new and better kind human co-equality? Both men and women need to improve and become much better than we are now if our species itself is to have a future.

  13. Nicely written Laurie.

  14. I'm 32 and thought this was a bit daft in its obviousness. (I also feel more connected to the second wavers than the third or the post modern set). But then I remembered the much more daft commenters you sometimes get here, who need everything explained slowly.

    It's a mistake to think everyone under 40 is of the same generation and has seen the same stuff, too. Just thought it was worth saying..

  15. I am one, and i think part of the reason why i have been afraid to the most sense i have read in a long time about men and feminism. I have always considered myself to be pro equality, but have not until recently started identifying myself as a feminist. Even now only two people in my circle actually know know that say that i am is because of the fact old fashioned stereotypes such as 'all feminists hate men' and that it is about men, prevail to a greater extent even within our a culture wherein alot of men would readily identify themselves as being nominally pro eqaulity.

  16. eek, sorry the above comment makes no sense (internets went a bit mad)! what i wanted to say was how sensible i felt your post was. having always considered myself to be pro - equality, i have only recently come to identify myself as a feminist. BUT only 2 ppl know this, and i think its because i am still afraid of being confronted with the old cliches that everything is about men, or anti men.

  17. Yaaa... Cath.

    My mum is a geographically (and philosphically) distant contemporary of Dworkin.

    Does that mean i`m not young anymore :(
    maybe an age-addled egg would explain alot...

    Yeah, what I say is - lets have equality under law *but* if I someone wants to look at big boobies or have women make their tea, that`s cool.
    Anyway, aren`t most of the changes which have taken place a function of technology (washing machines, greater mechanisation)rather than social activism? And is there any reason to believe that insisting upon a wholesale change of culture within the family will actually make us happier overall?

  18. Anonymous (2): you'd be surprised. It's one of those things that's stonkingly obvious until you realise how many people are working entirely without those assumptions.

    Mark: come on, you're not seriously suggesting that the washing machine is the greatest implement of female emancipation. I think you're just being wilfully stupid.

    Someone explain all this to the poor man before I lose my patience, please?

  19. I've enjoyed your columns. As a white male who considers himself a feminist, I find it very strange why some men find the label "feminism" so intimidating. Feminism is not "anti-man" any more than anti-racism is "anti-white". Every day I'm amazed at the power of the women in my life and I can't imagine why any intelligent person would want to limit that potential by enforcing stupid stereotypes.

    I should say, that I'm an American, so my perspective might be skewed by being over here, but as a university teacher who often teaches gender issues in the class (I teach rape law and gender in policing, among other topics), I am amazed that the mysogynistic stereotypes about rape, women and force, etc are prevalent in both genders. Women, in fact, in the US are often much more judgmental about a rape victim's behavior than men are in my classes. "Why did she dress that way?" "She shouldn't have flirted with him." "I wouldn't have gone to his room." are comments that women often make in response to rape cases, while men are sometimes too sheepish to speak. Part of the consciousness raising that I do in class is to get them to see that these are all coded language, language that is designed by a society that sees women as "protectors of their own purity". Whoever accepts this logic, be they man or woman, has bought into mysogyny.

    That said, I don't think that some feminists do themselves any favors politically when the use incindiary rhetoric. (I'm thinking of Mackinnon/Dworkin here, people whom I'm sympathetic to, ideologically, but who make my hair curl, when they write.) If you compare it with the civil rights and gay rights movements, which have made great strides using inclusive rhetoric, I can see why the term "feminism" has been given such a bad reputation.

    In short, feminism is not "anti-man" nor is it "pro-woman" (insofar as women are as capable of being sexist as men) it is pro-human and its rhetoric should reflect this.

    Sorry to write so much, but your provocative blog always gives me food for thought.

    - AF

  20. Let me just add that the right in the US has systematically undermined the label of feminism by putting forward ridiculous stereotypes that play on male fears of "castrating bitches". On the other hand, I am amazed at how many basic principles of classical feminism are accepted (political, economic, and social equality) by both the left and the right here (of course, leaving aside the tricky case of abortion).

    Now I'll shut up.


  21. About your point that the potential for constructive discussion was wasted in previous thread... I think you need to recognise that if you want to have a constructive discussion, you have to be prepared to be a bit more draconian with your comments policy. I tried to comment in a previous thread about the importance of class, but got very disenchanted because I was having to argue against the most absurd comments. I'm not sure that comments threads as a format are conducive to constructive discussion anyway, but certainly not when they're a free-for-all. I realise you've arrived at a coments policy recently and may not wish to reopen this question, but your remark above brings the issue back up again.

    However I also think that in the particular thread you're talking about, you chose such a personal example, and one that was obviously still so raw, that I for one felt very uncomfortable about moving from the specific case to more general questions, and I question the sensitivity of any of your commenters who felt comfortable doing that.

    Re generational differences, I have to agree with the people who are saying that you make an unfair 'ageist' distinction. Really this is an old - but still ongoing - debate about subjectivity, i.e. the difference between a subject-centred humanism and a more structuralist or post-structuralist approach, which has played out across questions of class, race and gender.

    But consider the analogy of racism. It's true that racism is a structural problem, rather than an individual one. Nevertheless, surely there is no question that racism is, in the final analysis, and on balance, the *fault* of white people and not of people of colour...? This is still the case even after you accept that races are cultural constructions and not essences. I think the same holds true for patriarchy...

  22. @Argurious: As unfortunate as it is, there's always going to be some sort of conflict in that manner, even with the pleasant outcome of a (benevolent and democratic) unitary world government.

    It's better that those places, for the moment, which do do somewhat better in the freedom stakes than others to continue having some sort of volunteer-based system for defence, so that those places which aren't quite so pleasant are unable to walk in and make things worse than they already are.

    Note that neither Afghanistan nor Iraq were threats, nor was either war defensive in nature, so I do not agree with them at all. And ideally, there'd be no need for wars at all, even defensive ones. Unfortunately, for the long-term and foreseeable future, there will still be armed conflicts.

    Therefore, if there are to be armed conflicts, I'd rather that the group which defends us in these conflicts is an equal and fair one which anyone who meets the requirements - regardless of gender, race, religion, and so on - is free to join, rather than being an enforcing patriarchal and somewhat racist element. If that was the case, I expect we wouldn't see the horrible abuses in Iraq and Afghanistan as we have - mostly because we wouldn't be there in the first place.

  23. Penny, as you'll know if you've read Faludi, women are just as guilty of damaging the feminist movement as men... there are a lot of women out there with mysoginistic values- we can blame the men for keeping us down, but us women play a huge part in prepetrating inequality and gender discrimination. Women who think feminism is a dirty word, women who choose to subordinate themselves in various ways, women who parade themselves as ideals of femininity. They are part of the system, of course, but it's a system they value, so criticising the men behind the curtains of the system alienates these women from the feminist cause.
    These women should be the primary concern of contemporary feminism. Not to rant at the society they are part of, but to show them how their lives can be better. Get half the population on your side, get them to understand how their ideas are holding women and society back, and it no longer matters if men are feeling put out or paranoid.
    That sounds nice... but I'm not sure how it should be done...

  24. Women shouldn't be soldiers because they might be tempted to viciously and repeatedly gang rape the enemy.

  25. I think that a lot of the problem I see is that so often men think women are the ones "behind the curtain", at the same time as feminists say that men are. So there ends up as an argument along the lines of "we can't be behind the curtain because YOU are!" coming from both sides - and no one looking at how the things we do on our own side of the curtain contribute to the screaming head - or indeed, how our own screaming at the other side might in fact be what causes the screaming head in the first place.

    There's a lot more to it than that, of course, but it strikes me that this is one of the big problems we have.

    There's also a problem of logic notation:

    "Men are the oppressor class":

    version 1: All men are oppressors; XY is a man, therefore XY is an oppressor.

    version 2: ∑maleness = oppression (that is, "the sum of all maleness results in oppression"). version 2 has some sense, but version 1 is what too many people hear.

  26. In nature and most human societies the strong oppress the weak. Men ARE stronger and more capable than women in EVERY way that matters, Most geniuses in any field you care to mention ARE male and most men are physically MUCH stronger than women. That's the way it has been and the way it is ladies; it's all down to biology. Women as a sex cannot realistically compete with men on a level playing field unless we choose to positively discriminate in your favour and handicap ourselves in some way to yield you an advantage.

    Get over it!

  27. Argurious:

    "I'm NOT a misogynist but I have to ask in plain terms how equal do you want women to be with men?"

    "You girlies conspicuously missed the point I was trying to make implicitly in a humorous fashion. Boy! Are you antagonistic!"

    Just speaks for itself...

  28. And we all know that the "feminists hate men" line is merely a silencing tactic to preserve the status quo...

  29. Schopenhauer "Men ARE stronger and more capable than women in EVERY way that matters, Most geniuses in any field you care to mention ARE male and most men are physically MUCH stronger than women. That's the way it has been and the way it is ladies blah blah blaaah"*tumbleweed*

  30. > We seem, for the most part, to
    > be able to grasp the fact that...
    > anti-racist sentiment does not
    > constitute an assault on whitey

    I agree with everything in your post except for this bit! Just look at most comment threads on mainstream stories about racism to see that they receive exactly the kind of comment you're talking about in this post.

    I've only just started looking at anti-racist blogs and thinking about the subject, but from my limited understanding so far I really can't work out which movement is making more progress, feminism or anti-racism.

  31. @ Steph

    "I'm NOT a misogynist but I have to ask in plain terms how equal do you want women to be with men?"

    Don't you aspire to be better than a man Steph? Aren't you already? OK. Which of the following relations do you favour?

    (1)Women < Men;
    (2)Women = Men;
    (3)Women > Men.

    "You girlies conspicuously missed the point I was trying to make implicitly in a humorous fashion. Boy! Are you antagonistic!"

    I know that you are very smart and hence must have realised that my inclusion of the word "girlies" in the aforementioned sentence was a deliberate stab on my part at being mischievous and funny. I even qualified the word "girlies" with the adjective "humorous" for goodness sake.

    You are being deliberately critical of my off-the-cuff remarks in a way they don't deserve and trying to pick a fight with me.

    But I forgive you...

    ... go in peace.

  32. @ Cath

    Are you seriously challenging the voracity of my earlier statement? For definiteness let's check out one prestigious example supportive of my thesis. Since 1901 around 789 Nobel prizes have been awarded to individuals; out of these prizes only 35 (about 4%) went to women. It's pretty much the same in respect to every world class prize or award you care to mention.

    I rest my case.

    (But I have the feeling that you'll try the hoary old "award committees are composed mostly of men who award their prizes and medals mostly to men" defense.)

  33. @foolsjourney - I've done it again, haven't I. I think I just hang out in the wrong kind of small circles where I don't see that kind of victim-blaming and wilful misunderstanding going on. Not that it SHOULD be going on anywhere. But still.

  34. Schopenhauer - your disgusting biological determination has no basis in scientific fact, and you know as well as I do that personal excellence in eg. science, business, literature, depends to not a small extent on personal opportunities and education, which have been and indeed are highly gendered.

  35. Penny Red is absolutely correct in this case: Out of those years since 1901, in how many of them has there been properly equal opportunity for women? I'll tell you, for convenience, that it is none of them.

  36. Well, since you continue to dispute my earlier statements I invite you to consider the following research:

    Men ARE more intellectually gifted than womenQ.E.D.

  37. The I.Q. test only takes into account one measurement of intellegence. One that is well known to favour European men, what a shock, since it was European men that devised it. It's easy to generate a sense of superiority when it's your group running the entire show. I.e. white straight men.


  38. Schopenhauer:

    That 'study' has already been pretty much disregarded and disputed, you'll have to offer something a bit better than that.

  39. Ostriches may not bury their heads in the sand but women obviously do scotomize themselves to unpalatable truths. OK. Consider if you will the following from Dr. Paul Irwing as printed in the Independent. I think you must agree that this gentleman's results are unimpeachable.

    Twice as many men with 120+ IQs as women
    Methinks you ladies doth protest too much.

    Game, set and match.

  40. Schopenhauer, even if your claim is true, and there is a marginal but measurable difference in average intelligence levels between the two sexes, it is irrelevant, as humans are individuals, and contain plenty of good and bad examples on both sides of the average.

    Physically, men do tend to be stronger than women on average. Being a soldier is a very demanding job both physically and mentally. However if a female is capable of performing as well a male that can do the job she should not be prevented from joining in. The question "Who makes a better soldier, a man or a woman?" does not make sense, instead you should be asking "Who makes a better soldier, Joe or Jane?".

  41. @Schopenhauer: 'Men are stronger and more capable that women in every way that matters'? Yes, men are absolutely amazing at carrying children to term.

    No-one disputes the (biological) sexes have their differences, but being able to lift heavier things should have gone out of fashion as an indicator of social status a few thousand years ago, and I think we as a culture need to sort our shit out and start working together.

    (Dammit, feeding the troll, sorry. Going to go play in the sun now.)

  42. ^ that was me by the way. I ain't ashamed.

  43. What Schopenhauer suggests is entirely true in terms of the research that has been done on the issues - and also much more hands on anecdotal work; for example, in The Female Eunuch Greer made much the same suggestion from her teaching posts in universities. As she said, and the evidence/research agrees, men tend to have a wider fluctuation, ie. there will be more men at the very top and the very bottom whilst women tend to congregate (figuratively speaking) in the middling positions.

    However, what you then have not taken account of is the process of socialisation which leads to these discrepancies. In particular, the male fluctuation is often seen as the fact that they take a very different approach to the work than the women. The latter, for example, are often seen to work not for themselves but to do what they think they are 'supposed' to do; ie. please the teacher and whatnot. In contrast men tend to do what they generally want, this may mean failing, or it will mean working harder to achieve self-imposed goals. These trends then follow through life.

    What is clear therefore is not a stale determinism of biology but a steady process of socialisation which praises specific sexes for achieving in specific ways. The evidence merely shows how the male develops and is treated in society - to dare, risk etc. - and the female - to help, please etc..

    To change this therefore is not to do with the basic intelligence of the sexes but the way they are treated from a young age; telling girls to act for themselves, to risk, to dare, and to do what they will come hell or high water may well simply be the first step to their Nobel prize.

  44. Hythleday - well, precisely. Also, every study I've read which makes those same claims doesn't argue male *superiority* at all - just a slightly broader bell curve.

    And since when was intellect, especially intellect as measured by IQ, a determinant of anything at all about how a person behaves and achieves? I've got an IQ OF 172. I've also got a mental health condition which means that somedays I'm just not able to get my shit together, although usually I manage. And the fact that I've got a job at all in the current climate isn't only do do with my intelligence, but the fact that I have well-off parents who could fund me through work experience and a determination to be the best a mile wide which was bred into me by an immigrant heritage and a snotty up-and-coming private school. QED.

  45. Schopenhauer:

    Dr Irwing? He's a mate of Prof Lynn who wrote the studies about race difference and IQ and most of those are flawed in their cultural bias.

    Oh, and the Irwing 'research' has been challenged also:

  46. "As a white male who considers himself a feminist"

    You are a cunt.

    "Part of the consciousness raising that I do in class is to get them to see that these are all coded language, language that is designed by a society that sees women as "protectors of their own purity". Whoever accepts this logic, be they man or woman, has bought into mysogyny."

    You're talking total shite. I hope oneof your students tells you to fuck off.

  47. "I've got an IQ OF 172"

    Yes, princess.

  48. Well thank you Feathers for that constructive contribution. Don't call us - we'll call you.

  49. IQ is an absolutely worthless measurement, measuring how good you are at -'IQ' tests-. I sigh every time anyone on any side of a debate quotes it as 'evidence' or to one-up people.

  50. An IQ of 172 means you`re 2/3 again as intelligent as us averagistos.
    I want to thank you for trying to use your powers for good rather than evil.

    Then again, I`ve never met anyone who claimed to have an IQ of under 110 despite 100 being the supposed average. What`s up with that?

  51. Presumably because people are either lying to make themselves sound intelligent (and therefore not giving themselves a low score) or are not talking about it/boasting about it if they didn't get a high score.

    But given the worthlessness of it as a measurement, why bother caring?

  52. So you got a low score and you're blustering to make yourself feel better, eh Serenissima?

  53. @ Penny Red

    You've got an IQ of 172?!

    Erm, that's twelve points higher than Albert Einstein, two points higher than the IQ of the mathematician Andrew Wiles (who proved Fermat's Last Theorem) and twenty points higher than physicist Steven Hawking!

    Come on Penny. Next you'll be telling us that you've got X-ray vision and can fly next as well! I bet you made this up or did a self-marked Mensa test at home which is meaningless. IQ scores are only valid when properly timed and invigilated.

    Naughty... naughty... naughty...

  54. Lie Detector, Above 140-150 the results are not really meaningful. Comparing raw values is also quite meaningless due to differences between different tests, normalisation of data, etc.

    Nevertheless 172 is impressive in any of the tests, that should in theory easily put Penny in the top 100 scores in UK. Is it true, or was the capitalisation of "OF" an indication of humour I/we missed?

    Bharat Patel, Serenissima's comments appear to be among the more intelligent ones around here, so your guess is most likely to be incorrect.

  55. 172 was what a Mensa test gave me back in school - I think I was about 15 at the time. I wouldn't be surprised if my pristine virginal teenage brain has shrunk since then, what with all that self-starving and boozing I did.

    THE POINT, however, apart from the fact that girls can be clever too, is that IQ is more than meaningless. I bet that there are thousands of subsistence farmers in Africa and China who have IQs higher than mine - not many of them have won nobel prizes, either. I bet there have been hundreds of thousands of women with IQs higher than mine who've been forced to play house until their exceptional brains turn to jelly and pour out their ears. Again with the lack of nobel prizes. I wonder why? Could it be that perhaps we really don't live in a meritocratic world?

    And look, if that test was right and everything was done by IQ, I should technically be running at least a government department by now. But that would be the worst idea in the world for several quite important reasons. I mean, I'm sure I'd make a better job of it than Purnell, but so would the pot-smoking 15-year olds next door whose idea of a great time is to practice jumping out of a second-floor window.

  56. Actually Penny, the average IQ in sub-saharan Africa is somewhere around the 70 mark - mentally disabled in the west. It`s because they ain`t used to test taking - don`t have much interest in the old abstract thinking and havn`t neccesarily been trained in the use of logic.
    (Some wags do like to claim it`s due to their inferior genes, but that`s almost certainly nonsense given the way that IQ scores have been increasing in the West over the last 100 years.)

    So basically, as you`re pointing out there - all measures of intelligence (including IQ scores) are at least partially a function of training. Also, other things (charector?) are vastly more important than raw intelligence... reasoning doesn`t provide us with much motivation to do stuff...

    Hmmmm.... thats strange... now that I realise you are a Mekon-style super genius, I feel more inclined to agree with you.

    Inferiorly yours,

    (For the sake of reference I got 100% in the test that troubled the african chaps so much.
    Only got a score of 140 though... )

  57. I'm not a big fan of Posh, but I don't quite understand the charge that she promotes misogyny.

  58. Well, I for one firmly believe that Penny Red has an IQ of AT LEAST 172 (on the Cattell-scale as per Mensa; so about 150 on the Stanford-Binet scale). On a personal note can I appeal for more generosity of spirit on this blog toward James Purnell, whom I believe is as big-hearted and compassionate as he is a political genius.

    Thank you in advance for you co-operation.

  59. "...if that test was right and everything was done by IQ, I should technically be running at least a government department by now..."


    A high intelligence quotient is not needed to be a member of the British cabinet.


    John Prestcott was Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions for several years.


  60. So we finally reach an accommodation and agree that men are superior to women?


    Auf Wiedersehen meine kinder.

  61. Fuck off, 10:17.

  62. I like much of what you say. If the objective is to limit the damage that society does to people in general, not just women, there is no good term for that that parallels "feminism". Marxism, in my part of the world anyway is very unwell these days.

    Feminism itself is a terribly mixed thing. There is sadly a class of feminist who adopts the label as a self defence mechanism rather than as a result of wanting to improve the world. Where I work, a feminist, a woman who rails against the "boys club" also keeps telling me (a male) that men can't multi-task and have no interpersonal skills. If I retorted that women don't think through issues deeply and suffer from a biological form of ADHD she would be outraged. The problem is the old issue of how to pick a nice simple cause for oppression. It used to be the feminist/marxist divide with the cause being an either/or choice of Patriarchy or the Economic Superstructure. Since the triumph of the economists in the ideological sphere and the long retreat of marxism the superstructure has declined as an candidate explanation and the problems of society are on their own with a mixture of feminists and the economists who are pretending an unlikely expertise in social policy.

  63. @Oliver I don't want to take anything from you. You don't know where its been.

  64. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  65. China Mieville for the Socialist review three years ago. Never say I'm not good to you. And that's it from me, I'm now going to go and gorge myself on booze and chocolate in the best British fashion. Merry non-denominational festivities to all, and bollocks to all that. china manufacturing


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