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Do you think it is necessary to have good analytical and critical thinking skills be a feminist?

(161 Posts)
QuentinSummers Fri 07-Apr-17 16:38:39

Lots of current "feminist" thinking seems not feminist at all and I wondered if it's because people are not abe to apply critical thinking skills to arguments like "Any choice a woman makes is a feminist choice".
Wondered what you all thought?

CharlieSierra Fri 07-Apr-17 16:52:22

There does appear to be a distinct lack of critical thinking. I think it's incompatible with the safe space policy in our universities. I'm basing that on what I hear and read as my children graduated a decade ago and I didn't notice this then.

VestalVirgin Fri 07-Apr-17 16:55:37

I think the important point is that critical thinking skills are very different from academic education and intelligence as measured by IQ tests.

There's lots of people who went to university and don't have an ounce of critical thinking skills.

Datun Fri 07-Apr-17 16:55:53

I agree. There's no proper analysis. I do wonder if it's a lack of reading about feminist history and feminism in general

Personally, I have no background in feminism, at all. But I have learnt an awful lot from the women on the feminist boards.

It may not be the same as a coherent argument with a start, middle and an end, but questioning, answering, critiquing, justifying, providing evidence, are all things that happen here. On a wide range of feminist issues.

There are certain conclusions that no amount of critical thinking would have let me to because I simply don't have enough information.

Personal experience of the world isn't enough. It goes a long way to forming a cohesive viewpoint, but realising that many women before have reached that stage and analysed it across time, and geography, crystallises things.

OneFlewOverTheDodosNest Fri 07-Apr-17 17:38:45

I think a lot of people don't engage with the "core texts" as it were and so they misunderstand a lot of the base arguments.

I certainly had not read anything properly feminist until I joined MN and lurked in the background absorbing the wisdom of posters. I think there's a bit of fear around some of the 2nd wave works but when I finally engaged they were nowhere near as scary as I'd expected.

I also worry that feminism can get too academic at times - I'm naturally bookish but was still intimidated by some of the terminology used. Ideally feminism ought to be accessible to everyone no matter if they've learnt critical thinking at uni.

BeyondUser24601 Fri 07-Apr-17 17:43:54

I'm in the middle of a science degree, and have spent literally all of this year on a critical reading module, picking articles apart into pieces and finding any tiny problem (basically just a whole year of Bad Science/Pharma grin )

I'm shocked that the millions of other science-basis graduates in the world aren't doing the same, cause they really don't seem to be!

BigDeskBob Fri 07-Apr-17 17:46:45

I think so, and the desire to be nice to everyone. It's almost impossible to have a conversation about male violence, for example, without someone shouting 'not all men', or 'women are violent too'. So the conversation is stopped before it can begin because someone maybe offended.

Also, on a personal level, its far easier to say 'I'm a feminist, therefore all of my choices are feminist ones' than 'why the hell did I do that?' It stops you having to think about your own actions and those around you.

I'm finding it difficult to word this, but I sometimes think that feminism is becoming a badge to be worn, rather than an activism to change things. I wonder if its because the issues are so difficult to solve?

PoochSmooch Fri 07-Apr-17 17:51:03

Good question. I don't think it's just pertinent to feminism, although it definitely is important for the reasons you highlight. Critical thinking shouldn't be seen as scary or impenetrable, or even necessarily an academic skill. In these days of "fake news", isn't it more of a life skill, like household budgeting or computer literacy?

The lack of it is a scourge that I lay at the door of post-modernism, cultural relativism and those types of thinking. There's been too much woolly "all viewpoints are equal, you're entitled to your opinion and I'm entitled to mine", that have completely blurred the ability to distinguish between good theories and positions and bad ones. I like this article called "No, you're not entitled to your opinion".

With feminism in particular, throughout its existence it's been sniped at by people who hate feminists, it's been misrepresented and laughed at, so it can be really hard to engage with the actual debate at hand without being constantly derailed into dismantling straw men as you explain for the eleventy millionth time that no, you don't hate men...it's hard to keep the debate "pure", IYSWIM? So all the critical thinking skills in the world won't help you when someone just responds with "Yeah, your mum".

PoochSmooch Fri 07-Apr-17 17:52:56

Also, on a personal level, its far easier to say 'I'm a feminist, therefore all of my choices are feminist ones' than 'why the hell did I do that?' It stops you having to think about your own actions and those around you

Definitely this. It is hard going when you do actual feminist analysis on the world around you. It's painful. It makes you question everything. If it doesn't, yer not doin it right grin

Coverup890 Fri 07-Apr-17 17:54:53

Im not even sure what that means and most feminism goes right over my head. It often feels like its a club for smart women who went to uni (i didnt/couldnt) or the really extreme every mans a rapist types.

gettinfedduppathis Fri 07-Apr-17 18:01:06

No I don't think it is necessary. What's the alternative? To tell people "Sorry, you can't be a feminist because you're not clever enough"?

VestalVirgin Fri 07-Apr-17 18:02:35

I also worry that feminism can get too academic at times - I'm naturally bookish but was still intimidated by some of the terminology used. Ideally feminism ought to be accessible to everyone no matter if they've learnt critical thinking at uni.

I don't have this fear at all - not about real feminism. Germaine Greer, from what I remember, writes very plain and easy to understand - read The Female Eunuch in my teens, when I had a really bad attention span, and never had a problem.

The only famous feminists whose works I didn't understand (and I went to university!) was Judith Butler, but I don't think I missed anything much there.

People typically do NOT learn critical thinking at university. I know many a feminist who doesn't have any kind of higher education but can plainly see that the Emperor has got no clothes on.

It could even be that being coddled in privilege is bad for critical thinking skills, and getting a dose of reality, however painful, might help developing critical thinking skills.

PoochSmooch Fri 07-Apr-17 18:06:49

I don't think anyone's saying anything about being clever enough or not, or having a degree or not. Critical thinking is a skill that people can learn, like learning to drive.

If you feel feminism excludes you, what do you think could be made different, so you'd feel it includes you? What could change?

QuentinSummers Fri 07-Apr-17 18:15:59

Great article pooch. I hate the BBC think being impartial means having people on to represent batshit ideas as if they were somehow valid angry

QuentinSummers Fri 07-Apr-17 18:19:47

I definitely don't agree you learn critical thinking skills at uni. Or in science. It is learnt but I think through having to discuss and debate ideas, that can happen in any area of life.
Blandly accepting what others say as "their opinion" is going to cause a problem
Lots of people on this board seem to have analytical jobs so I wondered if there was a correlation between liking analysis/feminism

Datun Fri 07-Apr-17 18:20:11

Definitely this. It is hard going when you do actual feminist analysis on the world around you. It's painful. It makes you question everything. If it doesn't, yer not doin it right grin

Yeah, I have to admit, it's ruined a load of stuff for me.

Misogyny is far more rife than I ever imagined. As soon as I analyse a situation, I can often see it stems from misogyny. Whereas before I would've just thought well that's the way things are - if I thought about it at all.

Coverup890

I really had to gird my loins before I posted on the feminist boards - I don't have a background in feminism at all. I only did it because it was over an issue where I had full conviction.

But feminism is a logical standpoint. It's undeniably rational, backed up with evidence.

I always read links provided and it's given me a far better understanding.

If I don't get something or I don't agree, I ask. I have no trouble disagreeing with people, but by the same token, I'm open to listening to argument.

NeonGod73 Fri 07-Apr-17 18:25:47

No. If you are a woman you are a feminist by default. No critical thinking required.

DJBaggySmalls Fri 07-Apr-17 18:31:09

Yes, and I think its a core skill. Its not at all dependant on IQ or ;being clever'.

And no, not all women are feminists NeonGod73. Your definition includes Myra Hindley, wopmen who trans their children because they cant ope with them being gay, and MRA ap[ologists.

PoochSmooch Fri 07-Apr-17 18:38:35

It does sort of ruin stuff, Datun, but I've always been happier with the uncomfortable truth over the comforting lie! (see also religious belief and the answer to the question "does my arse look fat in this?"). The truth will set you free and all that.

As an aside, I wonder how many other political positions get accused of "over-thinking" as much as feminism does?

scallopsrgreat Fri 07-Apr-17 18:41:00

I understand what you are saying Quentin but I thinking being a feminist and critically analysing why women and how women are oppressed are two different things.

Plenty of women can uphold the principles of feminism without engaging in the theory. They can and do fight for refuge shelters for women (for example) because instinctively they know women need them. They may not have the stats to hand but they have eyes, they have their own experiences, they talk to their friends and they know too many women are afraid of their partners. I don't think a great deal of critical analysis needs to take place for women to know they are being oppressed.

Another thing about feminism, which carries on from that is the very simple act of sharing experiences. Validating your own feelings and experiences with other women. Again I don't think that requires critical thinking. Just listening skills. And empathy.

I think there is a place for feminist theory and the critical thinking as that gives us the tools to fight with and move things on. But not every woman wants (or needs) to be at the front pushing. If you go back to basics and why we have a need for feminism - male violence; gender stereotypes; injustices in law and mindsets battles can be fought on several levels and fronts - not all of them needing critical thinking.

Sandsnake Fri 07-Apr-17 18:53:21

I've noticed a distinct lack of critical thinking amongst pretty much all the 'social justice' type causes there are today. There seems to be a high use of very single track, binary type logic and argument. This means that there is only ever one 'right' answer to something, without a proper analysis of all relevant factors. Dissent outside of this does not seem to be tolerated.

I can understand why this way of thinking is attractive, to an extent. It feels far more exciting and empowering to have absolute views that you can wheel out in any given situation rather than forming more nuanced opinions based on context, evidence and listening to others. It reminds me a bit of the zeal of religious fundementalists.

smilingsarahb Fri 07-Apr-17 18:55:56

Probably as half the time I have no idea what people are talking about on these discussions. I have ideas I believe to be feminist (lots around women and work, and around maths education and children's toys) but perhaps my lack of broader critical analysis bars me from being one.

PoochSmooch Fri 07-Apr-17 18:58:25

I like that, scallops. That's a good way of putting it.

It feels far more exciting and empowering to have absolute views that you can wheel out in any given situation rather than forming more nuanced opinions based on context, evidence and listening to others, that makes sense to me, too sandsnake. It's the easy option.

OlennasWimple Fri 07-Apr-17 19:22:37

Yy, scallops

QuentinSummers Fri 07-Apr-17 19:25:56

Great post scallops and of course you are right blush

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