[Net-Gold] Re: Persistent Myths in Feminist Scholarship

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[Net-Gold] Re: Persistent Myths in Feminist Scholarship

David P. Dillard


Date: Sun, 5 Jul 2009 17:11:09 -0700
From: Richard Hake <[hidden email]>
Reply-To: [hidden email]
To: [hidden email]
Cc: [hidden email]
Subject: [Net-Gold] Re: Persistent Myths in Feminist Scholarship

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ABSTRACT: Stephen Black, in a TIPS (Teaching in the Psychological
Sciences) post of 3 July 2009 called attention to Christina Hoff
Sommers' (2009) provocative Chronicle article "Persistent Myths in
Feminist Scholarship" at
<http://chronicle.com/free/v55/i40/40sommers.htm>. In the ensuing
discussion:(a) Paul Brandon pointed out that, although he respects
her work, Hoff Sommers is "slightly right-wing" and paid by the
American Enterprise Institute; (b) Allen Esterson then responded that
Hoff Sommers' work "should be treated on its merits, regardless of
whether her socio-political views are right or left of centre!" I
agree with Esterson and point out that, as indicated in "Gender
Issues in Science/Math Education (GISME) [Hake & Mallow (2008)] and
by Esterson, the persistent errors in of some of the feminist
literature have been repeatedly pointed out by many non-AEI-sponsored
authors from all sectors of the socio-political spectrum, e.g.:
Almeder et al. (2003), Esterson (2006), Holton (1993), Koertge
(1998), Newton (1997), Patai & Koertge (2003), & Tobias et al. (2002).


Stephen Black (2009), in a TIPS post "Persistent myths in feminist
scholarship" wrote [slightly edited, my insertion of academic

"The admirable and incisive Christina Hoff Sommers (2009) is at it
again on the myths and fake statistics propagated by certain feminist
authors (for example, the old 'rule of thumb' canard).  Shame on them
for giving scholarship a bad name."

The following reply-button-hitting exchange (accessible on the TIPS archives at
<http://www.mail-archive.com/tips%40acsun.frostburg.edu/>) ensued:


Brandon ".... and slightly right wing, though she often makes good points."

Esterson: "Dare I suggest that Hoff Sommer's work should be treated
on its merits, regardless of whether her socio-political views are
right or left of centre!"

Brandon : "As I indicated, I respect her work. However, she is paid
by the American Enterprise Institute, which has a definite agenda.

Smith: ... and feminists don't?... and gays don't?... and scientists
don't? ... and americans don't? ... and universities don't?... and
.... and ... ad infinitum.


I agree with Esterson (2009) that Hoff Sommers' work should be
treated on its merits, regardless of the fact that she may be
"slightly right-wing" and is "paid by the American Enterprise
Institute [AEI (2009)] which has a definite agenda."

As indicated in "Gender Issues in Science/Math Education (GISME)
[Hake & Mallow (2008)] the persistent errors in of some of the
feminist literature have been repeatedly pointed out by many
non-AEI-sponsored authors from all sectors of the socio-political
spectrum, e.g.: Almeder et al. (2003), Koertge (1998), Holton (1993),
Newton (1997), Tobias et al. (2002).  In addition Esterson (2009) has
pointed to Patai & Koertge (2003) and Esterson (2006).

Richard Hake, Emeritus Professor of Physics, Indiana University
24245 Hatteras Street, Woodland Hills, CA 91367
Honorary Member, Curmudgeon Lodge of Deventer, The Netherlands.
<[hidden email]>

REFERENCES [Tiny URL's courtesy <http://tinyurl.com/create.php>.]
AEI. 2008. American Enterprise Institute <http://www.aei.org/>. At
<http://www.aei.org/about> it is stated that: "The American
Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research is a private,
nonpartisan, not-for-profit institution dedicated to research and
education on issues of government, politics, economics, and social
welfare. Founded in 1943, AEI is home to some of America's most
accomplished public policy experts - from economics, law, political
science, defense and foreign policy studies, ethics, theology, health
care, and other fields. . . . [<http://www.aei.org/scholars>,
including Lynne Cheney, Newt Gingrich, Irving Crystal, Charles
Murray, Richard Perle, Christina Hoff Sommers, Paul Wolfowitz, and
John Yoo  - click on the names at <http://www.aei.org/scholars> to
see short bios]. . . . The Institute sponsors research and
conferences and publishes books, monographs, and periodicals. Its
website <http://www.aei.org/> posts its publications, videos and
transcripts of its conferences, biographies of its scholars and
fellows, and schedules of upcoming events. The Institute's community
of scholars is committed to expanding liberty, increasing individual
opportunity, and strengthening free enterprise. AEI pursues these
unchanging ideals through independent thinking, open debate, reasoned
argument, and the highest standards of research and exposition. AEI's
purpose is to serve leaders and the public through research and
education on the most important issues of the day in the areas of
economics, culture, politics, foreign affairs, and national defense.
Without regard for political ideology, party, or prevailing fashion,
AEI dedicates its work to improving society and government, toward
the goal of a more prosperous, safer, and more democratic nation and
world. AEI's work is addressed to government officials and
legislators, teachers and students, business executives,
professionals, journalists, and all citizens interested in a serious
understanding of government policy, the economy, and important social
and political developments."

Almeder, R.F., N. Koertge, & C.L. Pinnick, eds. 2003. "Scrutinizing
Feminist Epistemology: An Examination of Gender in Science." Rutgers
University Press; publisher's information at
<http://tinyurl.com/4u883j>: "This volume presents the first
systematic evaluation of a feminist epistemology of science's power
to transform both the practice of science and our society. Unlike
existing critiques, *this book questions the fundamental feminist
suggestion that purging science of alleged male biases will advance
the cause of both science and by extension, social justice.* The book
is divided into four sections: the strange status of feminist
epistemology, testing feminist claims about scientific practice,
philosophical and political critiques of feminist epistemology, and
future prospects of feminist epistemology. Each of the essays - most
of which are original to this text - directly confronts the very idea
that there could be a feminist epistemology or philosophy of science.
'Scrutinizing Feminist Epistemology' provides a timely, well-rounded,
and much needed examination of the role of gender in scientific
research." Amazon.com information at <http://tinyurl.com/29rtf4>.

Black, S. 2009. "Re: Persistent myths in feminist scholarship," TIPS
post of 03 Jul 2009 13:00:32-0700; online at

Esterson, A. 2006. "Who did Einstein's Mathematics?: A Response to
Troemel-Ploetz," Butterflies and Wheels, November; online at

Esterson, A. 2009. "Re: Persistent myths in feminist scholarship,"
TIPS post of 04 Jul 2009 04:32:49-0700; online at

Hake, R.R. & J.V. Mallow. 2008. "Gender Issues in Science/Math
Education (GISME): Over Seven Hundred Annotated Reference & 1000
URL's: Part 1 - All References in Alphabetical Order; Part 2 - Some
References in Subject Order; both online as ref. 55 at
<http://www.physics.indiana.edu/~hake/>. Part 2 subjects are (see
especially those CAPITALIZED which contain references to Sommers):
a. Affirmative Action;
b. Constructivism: Educational and Social;
c. Drivers of Educational Reform and Gender Equity: Economic
     Competitiveness and Preservation of Life on Planet Earth;
d. Education and the Brain;
e. Gender and Spatial Visualization;
g. Hollywood Actress Danica McKellar's Book "Math Doesn't Suck";
h. Interactive Engagement;
i. International Comparisons;
j. Introductory Physics "Curriculum S" (for Synthesis);
n. Status of Women at MIT.

Holton. G. 1993. "Science and Anti-Science." Harvard University
Press, publisher's information at
<http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog/HOLSCI.html>. See especially
Chapter 6: "The Anti-Science Phenomenon." Holton wrote: "A fourth
group. . .(who oppose what they conceive of as a hegemony of
science-as-done-today in our culture). . .is a radical wing of the
movement represented by such writers as Sandra Harding who claims
that physics today 'is a poor model [even] for physics itself'
(Harding 1992). For her science now has the fatal flaw of
'androcentrism'; that, together with faith in the progressiveness of
scientific rationality, as brought us to the point where, she writes:
'a more radical intellectual, moral, social, and political revolution
[is called for] than the founders of modern Western cultures could
have imagined' (Harding 1986). One of her like-minded colleagues goes
even further, into the fantasy that science is the projection of
Oedipal obsessions with such notions as force, energy, power, or

Harding, S. 1986. "The Science Question in Feminism." Cornell
University Press. Amazon.com information at
<http://tinyurl.com/3e5k9s>. Note the "Search Inside" feature.

Harding, S. 1992. "Why Physics Is a Bad Model of Physics," in R.Q.
Elvee, ed., "The End of Science? Attack and Defense."University Press
of America, publisher's information at
<http://www.univpress.com/Catalog/Flyer2.shtml?SKU=0819184896>: "The
title 'The End of Science?' asks not whether science itself is about
to end or even to wane, but whether people will stop claiming that
science knows nature as it is. Science, it suggests, may know nature
only as the scientist sees it. Or the title suggests that, in knowing
nature, scientists to some extent create nature. No one bothers to
ask philosophers or theologians, poets, or politicians, workers or
bosses whether they know the world as it is. It is common knowledge
that the world for which they speak has been affected already by
their description of that world. Will not the same fate strike
scientists now? Has it not already? This is the basic issue that the
six distinguished contributors address. They include Sandra Harding,
Sheldon Lee Glashow, Ian Hacking, Mary Hesse, Gerald Holton, and
Gunther S. Stent. Co-published with the Nobel Conference." See
comments by Holton (1993). Amazon.com information at

Koertge, N. ed. 1998. "A House Built on Sand: Exposing Postmodern
Myths About Science." Oxford University Press, publisher's
information at <http://tinyurl.com/3824km>. For anti-postmodernist
comment on the work of Ruth Bleier, Donna Haraway, Sandra Harding,
Evelyn Fox Keller, Helen Longino, and Londa Schiebinger see the
corresponding index headings. For a more recent book in this vein see
"Scrutinizing Feminist Epistemology: An Examination of Gender in
Science" [Almeder et al. (2003)]. The back cover of Koertge (1998)
carries a testimonial from Dudley Herschbach (1986 Chemistry
Nobelist): "Critics as well as admirers of science will find in these
essays much that deserves to be taken to heart, head, and hearth.
Large wings of the rambling postmodern house suffer from shoddy work
and rambling footing. This should help both cultural scholars and
scientists to find bedrock for sturdy construction rather than
cynical deconstruction."

Newton, R. 1997. "The Truth of Science: Physical Theories and
Reality." Harvard University Press, publisher's information at
<http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog/NEWTRU.html>: "To claims that
science is a social construction Newton answers with the working
scientist's credo: 'A body of assertions is true if it forms a
coherent whole and works both in the external world and in our
minds.' The truth of science, for Newton, is nothing more or less
than a relentless questioning of authority combined with a relentless
striving for objectivity in the full awareness that the process never
ends. With its lucid exposition of the ideals, methods, and goals of
science, his book performs a great feat in service of this truth."

Patai, D. & N. Koertge. 2003. "Professing Feminism: Education and
Indoctrination in Women's Studies," Lexington Books. Amazon. com
information at <http://tinyurl.com/r82xbe>. Amazon's product
description:  "In this new and expanded edition of their
controversial 1994 book, the authors update their analysis of what's
gone wrong with Women's Studies programs. Their three new chapters
provide a devastating and detailed examination of the routine
practices found in feminst teaching and research."

Sommers, C. H. 2009a. "Persistent Myths in Feminist Scholarship,"
Chronicle of Higher Education, 29 June; online at
<http://chronicle.com/free/v55/i40/40sommers.htm>, with four comments
at <http://chronicle.com/forums/index.php/topic,61347.0.html> as of 5
July 2009  14:33:00-0700. See also Sommers (2009b).

Sommers, C. H. 2009b. "No Country for Burly Men." The Weekly
Standard, 29 June; online at <http://www.aei.org/article/100658>.

Tobias, S., M. Urry, & A. Venkatesan. 2002. "Physics: For Women, the
Last Frontier, editorial, Science 296: 5571; online at
<http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/summary/296/5571/1201>. Report
on the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics
(IUPAP)-sponsored international conference on women in physics held 7
to 9 March 2002 in Paris Tobias et al. report: "*Neither the speakers
in the formal sessions nor the delegates entertained the
postmodernist position that without women, science must be biased.*
Rather, the distinction was drawn between the conduct of science and
the behavior of scientists, in this case physicists. To be sure,
women need to better understand the mechanisms of hiring, funding,
and promotion; that is, how to play the game. But the game itself has
to be purged of cloning, patronage, and outright discrimination if
transparency in hiring and promotion is to become the rule.
'Excellent men have nothing to fear from transparency,' concluded a
French delegate."