Why Has TIME Become The Hub For Anti-Feminists?

You know, I used to think that TIME magazine was a reputable source of information. When I saw Christina Hoff Sommers’ “5 Feminist Myths That Will Not Die” published on their website, I thought, Alright, maybe they’re just trying to give voice to a different perspective. But then I realized that they’ve been publishing pieces from Hoff Sommers, Cathy Young, and Camille Paglia — all noted anti-feminists — a lot lately, and I started wondering, What the hell is going on at TIME?

Here’s my thing. I don’t really care if they are anti-feminists or if they hold anti-feminist views. That’s fine. They present their arguments in such a non-offensive, kind of bland way that it’s hard to get riled up about their presence or their continued beating of dead-horse stereotypes about men, women, and feminists. It’s better than reading an MRA site like A Voice for Men, that’s for sure. I’ve gleaned a few useful insights from their work, but the biggest insight I’ve gotten is that their arguments lack substance, overall.

Take Cathy Young’s reportage on the CDC’s numbers about the occurrence of rape. She rightly argues that the CDC incorrectly characterized rape in a way that I also find extremely concerning — that a man can only be raped if the rapist was also a man, but assault that involves “forced penetration” by a woman is considered in a different category than rape. That’s kind of horrifying. When you account for those rapes (because they are rape) the numbers across men and women almost equal out. I would like to know more about that.

However, her main argument is that the data-gathering methods the CDC used could have inflated the numbers or biased people to answer positively (i.e. “Yes, I was raped”). Like, that’s the big coup to the CDC’s numbers, in Cathy Young’s opinion. They might be inflated. Might. That gives us no better information than we already had. It’s not a mortal blow to the study. It just means that it’s within the realm of possibility there’s a larger margin of error than we originally thought. It doesn’t mean that women are conclusively not frequently raped, which is the claim that she’s intending to refute.

Christina Hoff Sommers’ work falls into the same trap: She’s also criticized rape statistics without providing better information, and yet treats that work as if calling attention to flaws in the numbers we have means that she is therefore also proving that rape is not a frequent occurrence (there are no statistics that say “rape really doesn’t happen much,” in other words). She’s good, in particular, at looking at wage inequality. She has argued repeatedly that if you account for all the variables, the 77-cents-to-a-dollar trope is wrong and women and men are paid approximately the same. “All the variables” means this, to her:

The 23-cent gender pay gap is simply the difference between the average earnings of all men and women working full-time. It does not account for differences in occupations, positions, education, job tenure, or hours worked per week. When all these relevant factors are taken into consideration, the wage gap narrows to about five cents.

OK, kudos, because simply averaging out pay over all occupations doesn’t mean that people working in the same occupations necessarily get paid less. However, she doesn’t actually take into account all the variables, like the fact that women are more often employed part-time than men are because it’s harder for us to find full-time work. One of the penalties that comes with part-time work is in the area of job benefits: Insurance frequently either doesn’t exist or is more expensive for part-time employees than full-time employees. Part-time employees frequently don’t get investment or retirement plans. Then there’s the fact that many women work part-time jobs because they are caretakers, and the burden of caring for parents, in-laws, cousins, nieces nephews, children, and siblings does unduly fall on women. Hoff Sommers argues that women are just “naturally” caretakers, and that’s why we both end up taking care of relatives and choose to, for instance, be OB-GYNs instead of surgeons (as if there is no social pressure on women to be caretakers or take jobs that pay less than the professions men choose). But the American Psychological Association (APA) disagrees, so there’s that.

Similarly, Camille Paglia just published a really bizarre piece in TIME that claims that men are simply hard-wired to rape and there’s no hope of changing that. So despite the fact that the APA has basically said “gender roles are bollocks,” she persists in the belief that you can’t stop men from raping people, that they’re inherently “evil” by nature (her word!), and that women should just recognize that and stop doing things to provoke men to be evil. It’s worth nothing that she also published another piece in TIME titled “It’s A Man’s World, and It Always Will Be” that argues that men created the socio-economic structures in which we live, and since women didn’t create it, we should stop complaining about men. I don’t even know what to say about that, especially since historically, women were legally barred from owning property, and therefore had no way to have a say in the creation of the modern economy. Facts? Context? Who needs ‘em, apparently.

Mixed into all this insubstantial, middling, and sometimes downright bizarre and factually incorrect theorizing is a general distaste for feminism. Young’s article in support of Woman Against Feminism argues her support for the idea that feminists believe in inequality (what?), that we don’t want women to have choices for their identities (what?), that it casts all women necessarily as victims (what?). Can anyone please point me to the specific quotes from feminist literature that say “we hate men” and “women are all victims and weak” and “we want more rights than we want men to have”? Again, specific quotes, please. Hoff Sommers calls herself “The Factual Feminist” but then goes on to repeatedly say that feminists are hysterical (a gendered word with a violent history), and she’s dedicated her career to working on men’s issues. Which is fine! But it would be even better if she could work on the things that need to be improved for men (like, crucially, education) without casting it as if that work is in opposition to the goals of feminism, because it’s not. It’s so, so, so crucial that we all get on board with the idea that women having more power than we presently have does not mean that women are taking power away from men. It is possible for all of us to be freer and more empowered and more respectful of each other (of course, tell that to Young, who also thinks that #HeForShe is “rotten for men”).

It’s not that TIME doesn’t ever publish pro-feminist articles, of course, but they’ve become a sort of hub for these anti-feminists. And other publications have published these women’s work, but not with nearly the frequency that TIME has. This work is written as if it’s a serious assessment of modern feminism but contains few-to-no arguments with enough substance that they’re even worth feminist writers responding to with any degree of seriousness. They’re regressive, and they aren’t helping the discourse. I would welcome criticism of the feminist movement that had something new to tell me — Sommers, Young, and Paglia don’t.

[Time (1)]
[Time (2)]
[Daily Beast]
[Bureau of Labor Statistics]
[Caregiver.org]
[American Psychological Association]
[Time (3)]
[Time (4)]
[Time (5)]
[Time (6)]
[Salon]

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