The idea was that keeping a diary would help to make the students more aware of sexism in everyday life and to feel more empathy toward the female victims.
But what qualifies as sexism? This is where things get truly interesting. According to our two academic feminists all the incidents below are to be considered sexist. I have copied them directly from the diary list:
- Heard paternalistic stereotypes about women (e.g., women should be cherished and protected by men).
- Heard traditional beliefs about relationships (e.g., men are incomplete without women and that every man ought to have a woman whom he adores).
- Heard complementary beliefs about women and men (e.g., men and women are different but complement each other).
The feminists call these traits "benevolent sexism". They want to abolish them by engaging in what they call "empathy manipulation" in which men are taught that women experience hurt feelings when they encounter such attitudes.
So there are no longer to be close, complementary, romantic relationships between men and women as these are thought of as being forms of hidden sexism.
What else gets judged as sexist in the diaries? Well, there's this:
- Heard negative things about feminists
That's interesting. Feminists here are putting themselves beyond criticism, since such criticism is assumed to be sexist.
What's interesting too is that these feminists reject male protection of women as "paternalistic" but then attempt to set up their own kind of paternalistic shielding of women. All of these are considered sexist:
- Heard comments about sexual behavior someone would like to engage in with you or another person.
- Unwanted flirting.
- Heard comments about parts of your or someone’s body or clothing.
- Heard that women interpret innocent remarks as sexist.
- Heard that women are not able to have a fair competition because when they lose, they typically complain about being discriminated against.
And on it goes. So it's not as if the researchers believe that women can stand robustly on their own two feet without special protection. They want special protection for women alright, but via speech and behaviour codes implemented by feminists. (Exactly how they imagine such codes would abolish unwanted flirting remains a mystery - are men supposed to know in advance if their flirting is going to be received positively or not?)
One other quick thought. The feminists are kidding themselves if they believe that the sexual polarity between men and women can be abolished. The polarity will always be there, what changes is how it's expressed. When I was quite young, it was expressed in everyday life (men giving up their seat etc) which favoured a "gentlemanly" (and gentlewomanly) expression of the polarity - one that tended to foster more refined forms of community life.
But with the decline of those everyday expressions of polarity (polarity in manners and mores), it seems to be expressed now more directly as a physical and sexual polarity. This means that men do well who are sporty and fit and who participate in masculine type sports; women are expected as part of the polarity to appear hot and to be relatively overtly sexual.
Maybe feminists like this shift in the expression of sexual polarity. But I think they'll have a hard time controlling it by "manipulating empathy". What's more likely is that the decline in manners and mores will reach a point that people find demoralising (as an example consider the ladette culture that is developing amongst women in England).