Academic journal article Journal of Information Ethics

Feminist Censorship: The Lace Curtain

Academic journal article Journal of Information Ethics

Feminist Censorship: The Lace Curtain

Article excerpt

What Is Meant by Feminism?

In this paper, we shall distinguish between masculism, feminism, and something that could be called egalitarianism or equalism.

By egalitarianism or equalism, we shall understand the ideology that all persons, irrespective of their sex or gender, have equal worth and should have equal rights and equal opportunities. Discrimination is not acceptable, except in a few instances, such as compulsory military service for men but nor for women.

By feminism we shall refer to the notion that equal opportunities are not sufficient to yield satisfactory results. There should in various ways be special favors to women, e.g., to neutralize discrimination, and/or special weight should be given to women's specific way of thinking, because this would somehow lead to a better society.

As a parallel conception, masculism (or linguistically less correct: masculinism) is the idea that special favors should be given to men in certain areas, e.g., to neutralize discrimination, and/or that special weight should be given to men's specific way of thinking, because this would somehow lead to a better society.

Restricting Freedom of Expression for Other Persons

Our present society is built on the principle that people with whom one disagrees may after all be right. This is the principle behind legal justice (I believe the accused is guilty, but he may after all be not guilty, so he should have the right to be heard and defend himself); it is the principle behind science (I believe that my opponent is wrong, but I have a duty to listen to his arguments, and if I cannot disprove his arguments, I have a duty to modify my own theory); it is the principle behind democracy (I dislike the other party, but it may after all turn out that he or she is right, so one should have the right to be heard, and should not be excluded from parliament); and it is more generally the principle behind the freedom of expression (I believe that my opponents' ideas are wrong or harmful; but I admit that it might turn out that they are right, so it is best for society that no voice be silenced).

These ideas are in opposition to totalitarian ideologies. Totalitarians are strongly convinced that their own ideas will lead to a better society, whereas their opponents are bad or evil people who, as long as they are in power, create and maintain a bad or evil society. Because the opponents are evil, they have no right to be heard in legal trials, their scientific ideas may be discarded without further notice, they are not allowed any seats in parliament, they are denied the benefit of doubt, and they are not given freedom of expression. Because they are evil, one should not listen to what they say.

The crucial point that distinguishes a totalitarian system from a nontotalitarian has been expressed well by Noam Chomsky: "If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all" (Berk and Carluccio 2000). Although feminism is not normally understood as a totalitarian ideology, some versions of feminism have a totalitarian character, e.g., the kind of feminism that is very common in women's studies departments at many universities. This has been designated "velvet totalitarianism" (Furedy 1994, 1997); that is, it has most of the characteristics of usual totalitarianism, but differs in that opponents are given relatively mild punishments (such as being excluded from the university, rather than being put in prison). What makes it possible for feminism to become totalitarian is the idea that the opponents (most men) are nearly all bad or evil. An integral element in feminism is the notion that for several thousand years, since the earliest written sources in antiquity, society has been a patriarchy that oppressed women (e.g., Lerner 1986, French 1992). As patriarchy is created by men, men as a group are considered to be evil oppressors. In many classes of women's studies at American universities, the students are taught that everything bad occurs because of men, whereas women are always innocent (Patai & Koertge 1994). …

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