This is the most controversial post I have ever written in ten years of blogging. I wrote it because I was very angry at a specific incident. Not meant as a criticism of feminism, so much as of a certain way of operationalizing feminism. A few days ago, in response to a discussion of sexual harassment at MIT, Aaronson reluctantly opened up about his experience as a young man:
This is the most controversial post I have ever written in ten years of blogging. I wrote it because I was very angry at a specific incident. Not meant as a criticism of feminism, so much as of a certain way of operationalizing feminism.
A few days ago, in response to a discussion of sexual harassment at MIT, Aaronson reluctantly opened up about his experience as a young man: I was terrified that one of my female classmates would somehow find out that I sexually desired her, and that the instant she did, I would be scorned, laughed at, called a creep and a weirdo, maybe even expelled from school or sent to prison.
You can call that my personal psychological problem if you want, but it was strongly reinforced by everything I picked up from my environment: I left each of those workshops with enough fresh paranoia and self-hatred to last me through another year.
Of course, I was smart enough to realize that maybe this was silly, maybe I was overanalyzing things. So I scoured the feminist literature for any statement to the effect that my fears were as silly as I hoped they were.
As Bertrand Russell wrote of his own adolescence: In a different social context—for example, that of my great-grandparents in the shtetl—I would have gotten married at an early age and been completely fine.
That I managed to climb out of the pit with my feminist beliefs mostly intact, you might call a triumph of abstract reason over experience. Guy opens up for the first time about how he was so terrified of accidentally hurting women that he became suicidal and tried to get himself castrated.
The feminist blogosphere, as always, responded completely proportionally. Amanda Marcotte, want to give us a representative sample? The eternal struggle of the sexist: Objective reality suggests that women are people, but the heart wants to believe they are a robot army put here for sexual service and housework.
This would usually be the point where I state for the record that I believe very strongly that all women are human beings. Anyway, Marcotte was bad enough, given that she runs one of the most-read feminist blogs on the Internet.
But there was one small ray of hope.
On further reflection, Other Friend has a point. But I did feel like it treated him like a human being, which is rare and wonderful. Having been a lonely, anxious, horny young person who hated herself and was bullied I can categorically say that it is an awful place to be.
It takes a long time to heal. I can only offer Ms. Penny and the entire staff of the New Statesman the recognition appropriate for their achievement: But by bringing nerd-dom into the picture, Penny has made that basic picture exponentially more complicated. Luckily, this is a post about Scott Aaronson, so things that become exponentially more complicated fit the theme perfectly.
It is a real shame that Aaronson picked up Andrea Dworkin rather than any of the many feminist theorists and writers who manage to combine raw rage with refusal to resort to sexual shame as an instructive tool.
Weaponised shame — male, female or other — has no place in any feminism I subscribe to.
I live in a world where feminists throwing weaponized shame at nerds is an obvious and inescapable part of daily life.
There continue to be a constant stream of feminist cartoons going around Tumblr featuring blubberous neckbearded fedora-wearing monsters threatening the virtue of innocent ladies. Oops, I accidentally included three neo-Nazi caricatures of Jews in there.
You did notice, right? There is a growing trend in Internet feminism that works exactly by conflating the ideas of nerd, misogynist, virgin, person who disagrees with feminist tactics or politics, and unlovable freak.
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