Brian Leiter talks about Laura Kipnis’s forthcoming book about her experience at Northwestern in 2015, when a frivolous Title IX complaint was filed against her after she wrote a piece about the sexual paranoia that, according to her, prevails in academia. (She wrote another essay after it was over about what happened to her.) To be clear, I completely agree with her on that point, as I explained on various blogs at the time. Indeed, I commented a lot about this back then, because I was outraged by the treatment to which Kipnis had been subjected. This didn’t make everyone happy, to say the least, but I’ve never been particularly moved by the self-righteous indignation of hypocritical, authoritarian morons. Anyway, although I haven’t read her book (which has not been published yet), I already know that I agree with Kipnis on the unfortunate turn that American feminism has taken recently. I remember being struck by how puritan American feminism was back when I first arrived in the US. Now that I’m more familiar with that development, I often say that, had they lived in the 19th century, most feminists of the intersectional variety would have been part of a league of virtue and toured factories to enlighten men working 10 hours a day about the danger of alcohol and the importance of religion…
Leiter quotes this passage of her book, which he was able to read before its publication because the publisher sent him a copy in advance:
Feelings are what’s in fashion. I’m all for feeling; I’m a standard-issue female, after all. But this cult of feeling has an authoritarian underbelly: feelings can’t be questioned or probed, even while furnishing the rationale for sweeping new policies, which can’t be questioned or probed either. (I speak from experience here.)
I think what Kipnis says here is very important, but is often lost on people. I find the increasingly popular demand to replace thinking by emoting absolutely terrifying for precisely the reason she explains in this passage. People like to say that morality cannot be completely detached from emotions, which to some extent is true (although it’s often used as cover for anti-intellectual tendencies), but they rarely appreciate how dangerous it can be to make emotions the measure of all things. Feelings are no excuse for not rationally engaging people and “I can’t even” isn’t a valid argument. If you have nothing to say, then it’s better not to say it. And if you can’t even, then just don’t.