Michael Eriksson
A Swede in Germany
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Feminists and poor argumentation


Over the years, I have encountered many examples of how idiotic Feminist “argumentation” can be. (Some are already discussed elsewhere in this category or in my old Wordpress texts.)

From time to time, I will add some examples below. A particular problem is a common Feminist (or female?) approach to argumentation: Find a statement that sounds good and seems to prove a point, preferably with some degree of superficial cleverness. Then push this statement without regard for whether it actually reflects reality, makes sense, holds up to scrutiny, whatnot. The Astaire–Rogers discussion below is a good example. Another the (repeatedly discussed elsewhere) slogan “My body, my choice!”, which entirely misses the core questions of the abortion debate—if, when, and to what the degree the unborn should have certain human rights and, in case of a conflict of rights, whose rights should be given preference in any given situation. Yet another case was the canned answer when someone pointed to the absence of a “men’s day”, while there was a “woman’s day”, viz. some variation of “All the other 364 days are men’s days!”—a complete bullshit answer and a truly horrible distortion. (By now, there is a “men’s day”, but it receives far, far less attention than the “women’s day”—and I suspect that the answer to pointing this out would be an adaption of the old bullshit answer.)

As always with texts of this type, claims should usually be seen with implied modifiers of “on average” or whatever might be suitable to the claim at hand.

Ginger Rogers ...

... did everything that Fred Astaire did—and she did so backwards, while wearing high heels.

So goes a hackneyed Feminist claim and one of many intended to diminish male and/or enhance female accomplishment in a distorting manner.

Astaire, however, was, by any reasonable standard, a much better dancer than Rogers—as anyone who actually watches their movies can see. Rogers was very good, but by no means extraordinary. Astaire was exactly that—extraordinary. Rogers could have been replaced by many others; Astaire, if at all, only by an extremely limited number of others.

Looking more in detail, one part is true: Rogers wore heels for much of the dancing. (Maybe, all. I have not done a complete review.)

The rest—no.

Firstly, the “backwards” claim is wrong. If we look at “The Gay Divorcee” (which I re-watched a few days ago, have in clear recollection, and which was the trigger for this text) both went backwards, forwards, sideways, whatnot to reasonably similar degrees. Certainly, Astaire could dance backwards without problems.

Secondly, Rogers did not do everything that Astaire did. His dancing was considerably more varied and challenging (and, besides, better executed). A particular scene, towards the end of the movie, might give the impression that the two dance down from a table onto a chair and then onto the floor. In reality, Astaire carries Rogers in this scene. Literally: he dances from a table onto a chair and then onto the floor while physically carrying Rogers, and he does it so smoothly that he might as well have been unloaded instead of carrying a woman. (A woman, notably, who might have been heavier than he, as he was exceptionally thin.)

In conclusion, the Feminist claim might sound good, but is actually nothing but drivel.

From another angle, this claim could actually limit the recognition of female dancers, as it might create or re-enforce an image of Rogers as the peak of female Hollywood dancing. (What about Rita Hayworth, Cyd Charisse, Ann Miller, and many others?)

From yet another angle, it is highly unfair to both Astaire and Rogers, in that it implicitly limits them to dancing. While Astaire was a dancer first, he was also a great singer, a decent comedian, a decent actor, and extraordinarily charming. To boot, some off-screen characteristics might need consideration, e.g. his work with choreography and his work ethic. Had he just been a dancer, let alone lived up (down?) to that “can’t sing, can’t act, can dance a little”, he would never have become the star that he was. Rogers, in turn, might well have had her greatest strengths in comedic acting (!), as seen in e.g. “The Major and the Minor” (much more so than in “The Gay Divorcee”).

Various remarks

  1. Distortions of male and female accomplishments, more generally, might be a topic for a later page. The above case is included for the argumentation-by-quip, which sets it off from most other cases.

    A notable other example, however, is the sometime attempt to put Ada Lovelace above Charles Babbage.

    A general problem is the push to e.g. give female mathematicians more space in math text books, regardless of how few women have, so far, actually been on a level high enough to earn that space. (And note how the proportion even among men is vanishingly small. Should a mathematician be valued for mathematical accomplishments or for having the right sex?)

  2. To the above might be added a great amount of speculation on various points, e.g. that a skirt could make it easier for a woman to achieve a certain impression, as the exact positioning of her feet and legs might be of less importance than for a man. I do not have the practical experiences with dancing to judge such matters. Likewise, I cannot judge how much or little of a hindrance various shoes might have been.

  3. As to who could replace Astaire, this is a tricky question and depends on the criteria used. For instance, making the same movies with a considerable drop in quality would have opened the circle wider than if insisting on a comparable quality. For instance, an adequate dance replacement might have fallen well short over all (cf. above).

    The most notable “rival” that Astaire had was Gene Kelly. (Who also was skilled at much more than just dancing.) He, however, had not even begun his screen career during the Astaire–Rogers era, and had a very different style than Astaire, both with regard to how he danced and how he came across as an actor. If we look at the respective movie that I am most familiar with (“Singing in the Rain”; “Easter Parade”, where Astaire actually was the replacement for Kelly), Astaire and Kelly are not fungible. At best, the movies would have been very different, had the actors been swapped; at worst, the movies would simply not have worked. (I am more open to Kelly in “The Gay Divorcee”, however.)

  4. In parallel, there is an occasional Black complaint that “Astaire got the parts because he was White, while Blacks who were better dancers were left out”. (Notably, with regard to the Nicholas brothers, who, based on a famous film clip, were indeed extraordinary dancers in their own right.) Being White was, no doubt, an advantage over being Black at the time, but this complaint fails to consider the non-dancing qualities that moved Astaire from a novelty to a star. (Even if this-or-that Black dancer actually was better at specifically dancing, which might or might not have been the case.)

Excursion on other errors

A common problem with Feminists (in particular; ditto, Leftists; to a lesser degree, humans in general) is that they simply get the facts wrong, misunderstand the facts in a critical manner, do not think properly, and similar. This can make it hard to judge what is an honest mistake and what deliberately dishonest pseudo-argumentation, what argumentation-by-quip, or similar.

An interesting example is the occasional claim (usually, by women; not necessarily by Feminists) that men would have it easier in romance—because there happens to be more women than men. Superficially viewed, this might be true, but a deeper look shows this to be highly misleading. Here, I do not rule out that the claim is on occasion used to deliberately mislead, but it is much more likely that an honest mistake of some form (ignorance, stupidity, whatnot) is the true explanation.

What then is wrong? Age demographics: There are more boys than girls born, which makes boys more numerous until a comparatively high age, when the greater longevity of women becomes a factor. This is certainly the case for the teenager years and first loves, and for the early twenties to mid-thirties, when most marriages form.

(The situation can, however, be different in different contexts: Wars can cause men to be a minority in wider age groups. Times with higher mortality during childbirth could have made women a minority even at higher ages in the past. The Chinese “one child” policy is claimed to have skewed the proportion of women down even further. The proportion of women in big cities is often larger than in small towns, while it is the opposite with men. Etc.)

Go up to sixty, let alone seventy, eighty, ninety, and we have a different story—but these are not the prime romance years. While I do not know what the future will bring, I doubt that my own interest in women in their sixties will ever be large, no matter how old I am myself. Today, at 49, my interest in women at 49 is minimal. Even those at 40 are rarely physically interesting, and even someone at 30 is almost always past her physical prime. Looks are not everything, true, but this is then often accompanied by other issues, e.g emotional baggage, children from previous relationships, and the disappearance of the youthful optimism that has often attracted me. Even, however, if I eventually do end up in such a romance, it will almost certainly be of a different type from my younger years, with far less (and/or far less enjoyable) sex, no view on even the possibility of future children, whatnot.

Whether a typical woman of 30 would, in turn, be interested in a man of 49, I leave unstated. However, this brings us to yet another complication: The typical age preference among men is lower than among women, which increases the competition for women in the core romantic and/or family-founding ages even further and makes it even tougher for men. Imagine, e.g., being a boy of 15 whose age-peer crush, in turn, has a crush on an 18 y.o. with a car, “maturity”, and whatnot. Also note how she might well have a chance to get that 18 y.o., while the boy of 15 who has the bad luck of crushing on a girl of 18 rarely has such a chance. (A similar effect might also arise if men have a higher preference for their own age at first marriage than women do, which, in my impression, is the case. We might then have a constellation where a woman turns down someone her own age because he wants a casual relationship, while someone a few years older is open to “commitment” and gets her approval.)