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*Don't Be a Feminist*: The Aaronson Critique
When misfortune strikes close to home, I try to avoid letting it cloud my judgment. Perhaps my family and friends are unrepresentative or unlucky. The fact that they suffer from Problem X does not show that Problem X is in fact important. I strive to focus on the objectively Big Problems.
Once in a while, though, someone I care about has first-hand experience with a genuinely Big Problem, and this motivates me to pull up my sleeves and get to work on it.
Case in point: During the dark days of Covid, I moved to Austin, Texas, where I became good friends with Scott Aaronson. Scott Aaronson, the famed computer scientist. Scott Aaronson, the blogger. Scott Aaronson, the brilliant, funny, and gentle soul. Scott Aaronson, the target of appalling feminist abuse.
As I recently recounted, the main reason I wrote “Don’t Be a Feminist: A Letter to My Daughter,” the title essay of Don’t Be a Feminist, was to prevent my daughter from becoming a feminist. But feminists’ ongoing mistreatment of my friend Scott Aaronson was definitely a secondary motivator.
In the Acknowledgments of my latest book, I refrain from naming the many friends who sent me helpful comments. Scott, however, is brave enough to break anonymity - and allow me to share his thoughts on the manuscript. Consider the rest of this piece a guest post from Scott Aaronson. I’ll reply soon.
Sorry for the delay! I just finished reading your book. I hereby authorize you to use the following blurb:
The way I prefer to use words, I'm a feminist and so is Bryan Caplan.
That's not my only disagreement with this provocative book, which ranges far beyond feminism to immigration policy, IQ, COVID, male circumcision, and more. But I'd much rather read someone like Caplan, who challenges my presuppositions in an unfailingly smart, civil, and generous way, than yet another author who merely confirms them. And since I have tenure, I can write a jacket blurb saying so!
I choose to call myself a feminist, much like I choose to call myself a slavery abolitionist. I take feminists at their word when they say that feminism means the radical notion that women are people, that men and women should have equal rights and obligations. I reserve the right to think for myself about additional claims, as I'm always wary of accepting whole ideologies as "package deals." For example, I wouldn't say that feminists all have to agree with each other about specific MeToo controversies, or about the causes of or solutions to pay gaps or gender disparities in STEM fields.
As I read, though, I couldn't help but try to predict how liberals are going to savage you (because as you must know, they will :-) ). A few passages will provoke their anger/ridicule so much that you might want to consider revising or clarifying them:
(1) "The good news: firmly rejecting feminism will help you network with male co-workers and mentors, who will probably continue to exert greater real-world influence."
"AHA! So Caplan admits that women who reject feminism are just shameless opportunists seeking to advance their careers at the expense of the sisterhood, by flattering the egos of powerful men who even Caplan admits still run the show!"
(2) "A woman can legally choose to abort a child she does not want, but a man cannot legally refuse to fund a child he does not want."
"AHA! So Caplan, despite his libertarian pretensions, is shamefully oblivious to the worst rollback of liberty for American women in our lifetimes! Presumably he wrote this hateful passage before Roe v. Wade was overturned. Even so, the fact that he had the gall complain about so-called 'men's rights' -- a made-up, reactionary concept -- when we now know that one of women's most fundamental rights was fatally in the crosshairs, tells us everything we need to know about his character."
(3) "These days, the world’s best detectives would struggle to find outright racists and sexists."
"AHA! While Caplan wrote that passage before the rise of Donald Trump and his band of openly racist, sexist thugs, the point is that Trump completely vindicated the progressive worldview -- proved that we were 100% right all along to see misogyny and racist backlash and xenophobia behind every corner of American life, even when the white males in power oh-so-sanctimoniously denied it. Could you have even written such a dramatic demonstration of progressive fears as Trump's win as an episode in fiction? Yet even now -- for godsakes, even after the January 6 insurrection -- Caplan still hasn't adjusted to this 20-mile-long asteroid that's slammed into the ideological landscape, sending decades' worth of concealed muck into the air. He still doesn't acknowledge that our civilization is now in a desperate struggle for survival against resurgent, now-open forces of white supremacy and patriarchy. For that reason -- for giving aid and comfort to the enemy side of the incipient Second American Civil War -- Caplan's every word should be condemned and he should be boycotted in all academic and intellectual fora."