Honing Students’ Critical Thinking Skills

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From Feminist Philosophers:

A tricky but important thing to teach critical thinking students is how to distinguish illegitimate ad hominem attacks from legitimate questions about a source of information. There’s a nice example in this article on Katie Roiphe.  Roiphe wrote a book back in the 1990s arguing that feminist claims about date rape were overblown and that feminism was monolithically anti-sex. A lot of it took the form of personal anecdotes well-summed-up by Rebecca Traister as”I’m too sexy for this movement”. She supported her claim that rape statistics were overblown by noting that none of her friends ever told her they’d been raped. Katha Pollit, in a review, asked,”if Katie Roiphe was your friend, would you tell her if you were raped?”Roiphe now says that she found this an extremely personal and inappropriate attack. Could be a nice exercise to get students to explain why in this case, but not in most, it is legitimate to talk about the nature of an author’s friendships. Of course, there’s also the weakness of anecdotal evidence to be discussed. Lots of good stuff here that could bring politically interesting material into critical thinking courses!

Katie Roiphe’s work interests me because she is typically cited as one of the intellectual antecedents of third-wave feminism (along with Camille Paglia and Rene Denfeld).   Like Roiphe, many third-wave writers use first person narrative to communicate their ideas.   It seems a bit odd, then, that Roiphe objected when the tables were turned, i.e., when Pollit asked readers to imagine  their personal (hypothetical) narrative.

-Bridget Crawford

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0 Responses to Honing Students’ Critical Thinking Skills

  1. Pingback: Feministe » “Intellectual Antecedent” my ass

  2. Pingback: Feministe » “Intellectual Antecedent” my ass

  3. Ann Bartow says:

    Yowza, a scathingly nasty link from Jill Filipovic at Feministe. I’ll let Bridget respond if she wants to, since this is her post, but can’t resist directing the interested reader to the following links:

    (“The women and men writing here are activists, teachers, cultural critics, artists, and journalists. They distinguish themselves from a group of young, conservative feminists, including Naomi Wolf and Katie Roiphe, who criticize second wave feminists and are regularly called on to speak for the “next generation” of feminism.”)

    (“Baumgardner and Richards’s populist strategies also emerge in the second of their larger claims, namely that political differences between types of feminism really don’t, and ideally shouldn’t, matter all that much. Our authors take a staggeringly latitudinarian approach to feminism. They stage extended defenses of Naomi Wolf and Katie Roiphe, both of whom most feminists consider conservative backlashers, in order to assert their rightful membership in the feminist camp. “We have to put down our relentless search for feminist purity,” they argue, ‘…and look at Katie Roiphe, Elizabeth Wurtzel, Naomi Wolf, and the rest of the emerging young women as what they are: feminists, the next generation…. Yes, all feminists deserve critique and debate, but save your political vitriol for the young babes who are right-wing and political.’)

    (footnote 4: “This characterization is actually appropriate to an analysis of the “power feminism” of Katie Roiphe and Rene Denfeld and of Naomi Wolf’s later work. These figures are often identified by critics of third-wave practices as major voices of the third wave. However, the creation of a victim-power binary among feminists by Roiphe, Denfeld, and Wolf is often labeled anti-feminist. These writers are frequently critiqued by feminists, third wave and otherwise, for their arguments that blame feminists for perpetuating the myths that highlight and maintain women’s status as victims, rather than encouraging women to simply reject victimization and seize the power available to them. In Manifesta, for instance, Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards launch an extended critique of Katie Roiphe’s politics (Chapter 7, “Who’s Afraid of Katie Roiphe?” 235-66). However, they ultimately claim that her writings may politicize the movement because she incites intrafeminist debate. They state, “We have to put down our relentless search for feminist purity and look at Katie Roiphe [and others] as what they are: feminists, the next generation, young women who are writers and thus may not represent other feminist occupations. Yes, all feminists deserve critique and debate, but save your political vitriol for the young babes who are right-wing and political” (2000, 258). Though the third wave, like feminism itself, represents a diverse set of texts and practices, Katie Roiphe and other “power feminists” are not major figures therein, and are, in fact, sources of consternation for many, both inside and outside of the third wave.”)

    I guess Jill thinks Jennifer Baumgartner and Amy Richards are “conservative a-holes who call themselves”feminists”in order to up their credibility when they attack feminism.” Go figure.

  4. ebuz says:

    I read Bridget’s comment as simply making the observation that Roiphe is considered by some to be a third-wave standard bearer, something that Ann’s post verifies. Since Bridget is not taking a normative position on Roiphe’s relationship to the third wave, why are the third wavers getting so defensive? Can’t they just reject Roiphe as their personal standard bearer and call it a day?

  5. Hi there,

    For the record, is it safe to assume that besides referring to Katie Rophie, you meant Rene Denfeld (not “Delafield”)?

    Who, for the record, is at least as tiresome as Rophie. A snippet from something I posted to the off our backs listserv on Denfeld, a few years back:

    “…It’s important to open up the subject of female violence and
    culpability in oppression, but it’s just as important to do this very,
    very carefully. In years of writing and activism on these and related
    issues… this has always been a delicate endeavor. Antifeminists
    are ready to exploit all such anecdotal information — as Rene Denfeld
    did in “Kill the Body, The Head Will Fall: A Closer Look at Women,
    Violence, and Aggression” (which was actually a very *cursory,* not to
    mention misleading and insipid “examination”), with the goal of
    blaming women (and mitigating the impact of blame on men) for every
    manifestation of evil in the world….”

    So, that’s Denfeld (charming, huh?).

    Re: Jill’s criticism re: the third wave label, I have to agree, albeit with less vitriol. It is true that Denfeld and Rophie are engaged in quite eager *cooptation* of third wave ideas/authors, but that’s a pretty crucial distinction. (One I think you and Jill would likely agree on if you both thought critically about it.)

    Feminists of all kinds are always being coopted by antifeminists, and thereby dividing actual feminists with common causes against each other. We can’t let them get away with it. We ought to call writers like Rophie and Denfeld what they are: antifeminists, pure and simple.

    Respectfully – Victoria

  6. lawprawf says:

    Bridget didn’t give Roiphe the Third Wave label. She simply said that Roiphe has often been given the Third Wave label, which appears to be true. Does it sound to you like Bridget is endorsing Roiphe? It doesn’t to me.

  7. gordo says:

    Well, I don’t know if it would be possible for me to say that Roiphe had been branded a feminist without adding that Roiphe is actually an anti-feminist. The fact that Bridget felt the need to describe Roiphe’s relationship to the movement indicates that she anticipated having readers who were unfamiliar with Roiphe’s work.

    As for Pollitt’s ad hominem, it was completely appropriate because it was a response to a non-argument. If Roiphe had actually presented either evidence or argument, then Pollitt’s joke would have been out of line.