Tom Nichols Calls Out Masculinist Identitarian Politics

Tom Nichols and I see the world differently, but he’s managed to produce an insightful Twitter thread, which I summarize below. Of course, he probably won’t agree with what I’m going to say about it.

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White Guys In Science – E. O. Wilson

And one more

I first gave E. O. Wilson some extended thought when his book Consilience came out in 1999. When I was younger, I was intrigued by grand syntheses, which is what Consilience attempts to be. I don’t think I read it, though, just the summaries. The idea was, as I recall, that at some blessed time in the future all the sciences (all forms of knowledge?) would come together in one synthesis. If that’s wrong, don’t bother to explain to me what it really said. I don’t care.

My second thought was that of course something like this could be published only by a “grand old man.” Someone who had made his name in some part of science and then had gone on to pontificate about other things. Tiresome, but not the first time.

I follow a number of biologists on Twitter, including experts on insects and ants, Wilson’s favorite. They were inspired by him and are now trying to assess his legacy. Consilience wasn’t Wilson’s only attempt at a grand synthesis; he had earlier written on sociobiology, and that was where he got into trouble.

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White Guys In Science – Eric Lander

White guy scientists are in the news again. With E. O. Wilson’s death, his legacy is being reviewed, and some of it is not nice. President Biden’s science adviser, Eric Lander, has had to to apologize to his staff for bullying and other bad behavior toward them.

None of this is a surprise.

When Eric Lander was nominated in 2021, Peter Aldhous at BuzzFeed News collected a number of incidents showing Lander to not work well with women.

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The Fall Of The White Male Novelist

Publishers have a lot of power. Written material shapes thinking and conversations. When they choose a book or article, they are using physical and mental space that might have gone elsewhere.

For many, many years in the English-speaking countries, that space has gone to white cis men, excluding other voices. Compounding the exclusion has been misogyny in many of those men’s writing.

I gave up reading fiction a long time ago. It was all men’s viewpoints. When Henry Miller’s Tropics became legal in the US, I read them. An older male colleague asked me what I thought. I don’t recall my exact response, but it was along the lines of  it being a viewpoint I didn’t recognize. And Norman Mailer and John Cheever and John Updike and Philip Roth and too many others.

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A Woman In Portland

What are the rules of engagement for a mob of highly-equipped men, with layers of protective clothing, against a woman wearing no clothes?

That was the situation in Portland on July 18. The woman was as unidentifiable as the men, wearing only a mask and a knit cap. She appeared, danced, and then sat to expose her vulva to the men. Photo showing nudity after the fold.

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Masks, Condoms, And Treaties

Some time back, I started a Twitter thread which I called “Adventures in Masculinity.” I wanted to bring attention to examples of masculine gendering where it was not needed to explain or talk about something but might go unnoticed. The thread is up to 86 entries now, with the last two example tweets having been deleted by their authors. I guess I need to do screenshots.

The Trump administration is masculinist and patriarchal in all things, with misogyny, racism, and xenophobia thrown in. It’s hard not to notice the photos of white men in suits sitting around tables or chatting with each other. I have tried to avoid such obvious things in my thread.

Recently, I’m seeing a throughline that may not be obvious that starts at macho self-presentation and links to the administration’s dislike of arms control treaties.

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Love And Death In The Incel World

When incels started shooting women, it seemed to me that I had read an analysis of something similar. It took me a while, but I recalled Leslie Fiedler’s Love and Death in the American Novel, from the early 1960s. Seems like now might be a good time to look at that book.

In the early 1960s, second-wave feminism was just getting started in the United States. Birth control pills were new. The civil rights movement was ramping up. AIDS and public recognition of gay issues were in the future. I wondered whether Love and Death could still be relevant. I hadn’t read it in a long time and didn’t remember much of it.

I looked it up and bought a copy of the revised edition from 1966. The original was 1960, before Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique, although after Simone de Beauvoir’s Second Sex. I skimmed the sections about earlier literature, but the critique of 19th century literature, particularly James Fenimore Cooper, Herman Melville, Henry James, and Mark Twain was clearly relevant. Read More

Links – September 20, 2018

How I Learned to Embrace Power as a Woman in Washington. Wendy Sherman was the leader of the US delegation to the talks with Iran that developed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. This is from her book.

Russia’s Military Intelligence Agency Isn’t Stupid. On how the Skripal poisonings were done. How Russia is spreading disinformation on the poisonings.

The Russian propaganda guide to stealing your roommate’s burrito.

Why Climate Change Matters More Than Anything Else.

Congressional Research Service reports are now available. Short, understandable reports on a myriad of topics.

“We’re the only plane in the sky!” The people who were on Air Force One on September 11, 2001, remember.

Russia Should Own Up to Stalin-Hitler Friendship. Russia still would prefer that nobody think about the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939.