Let it blaze! Let it blaze! For we have done with this ‘education’!
February 24, 2008 3:23 AM   Subscribe

Virginia Woolf: A feminist's view on why we go to war.
posted by hadjiboy (25 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
a bit long, but worth the read
posted by hadjiboy at 3:26 AM on February 24, 2008

(A bit long at 70,000+ words, i.e., the length of a short novel. A Woolf novel, yes, but tough to manage on-screen, hadjiboy. Looks like a good site, though.)
posted by cgc373 at 4:56 AM on February 24, 2008

But since the emotion itself had increased in strength it became necessary to invoke the help of stronger allies to excuse and conceal it. Nature was called in; Nature it was claimed who is not only omniscient but unchanging, had made the brain of woman of the wrong shape or size. ‘Anyone’, writes Bertrand Russell, ‘who desires amusement may be advised to look up the tergiversations of eminent craniologists in their attempts to prove from brain measurements that women are stupider than men.’[45] Science, it would seem, is not sexless; she is a man, a father, and infected too. Science, thus infected, produced measurements to order: the brain was too small to be examined
But science isn't male or female , it is just another word for knowledge. Virginia is referring to phrenology which, as Russel understood, is the fruit of a misapplication of scientific method , but this misapplication wouldn't have yelded more dangerous conclusion has it been made by a female phrenologist. So characterizing phrenology as "wrong" because it was mostly applied by man is quite sexists, as if it would become instantly "less wrong/better" had it been devoloped primarily by women.

Similarly, just because something is said by one self professed feminist, that doesn't make the concept any good for females or humankind. Consider, for instance, these politicians who would like to impose to parties , or by law, that a number of elegible representatives have to be female, on the grounds that females and males should have equal representation and equal power. Interestingly, they measure equality by the number of delegates and say that there ought to be one female for each male representative or vice-versa.

Imagine what would happen if the majority of these female delegates subscribed a practically chauvinist agenda for their own personal gain, which is far from a theoretical possibility, as corruption happens frequently. Would it be good any good, or wouldn't it be better to have delegates, whatever their gender may be, that actually fought against sexist/divisionist agendas and laws ?

I think that being as wicked and corrupt as man should't be a measure of success for any man or woman , but apparently some woman decided it's a lot more convenient to just be controversial and obtain attention and maybe direct some opinion, even if the price is that of suggesting disenfranchisement
"If we took away women's right to vote, we'd never have to worry about another SomeParty president. It's kind of a pipe dream, it's a personal fantasy of mine, but I don't think it's going to happen. And it is a good way of making the point that women are voting so stupidly, at least single women.

"It also makes the point, it is kind of embarrassing, the SomeParty ought to be hanging its head in shame, that it has so much difficulty getting men to vote for it. I mean, you do see it's the party of women and 'We'll pay for health care and tuition and day care -- and here, what else can we give you, soccer moms?'"
I can't phantom anything more idiotic, but some people is bound to accept this suggestion as wise, because it appeals directly to their contempt for SomeParty, as their judgment is clouded by relentless suggestion (which is part of brainwashing) that SomeParty is bad.

On the other hand we have woman such as Isabel Allende, and this particularly interesing talk by her in which she points out , altought indirectly, that feminism can been seen as the constructive reaction to incredible abuses suffered primarily by women that obviously became wary and angered by the mere presence of many men. At the same time, she seems to think that some females are dismissing feminism because of its begin outdate, out of fashion, unsexy. Yet I believe that there is a numer of females who understand the limits of application of feminism , that isn't rooted in the emotive charge, the passion Allende talks about, but in its manipulated extremization , designed to paint out supporter of rights as a bunch "feminazis" , by playing with generalization and suggestion.

Indeed just recently in Italy we have some feminist demonstration in which some extremist were used to paint feminist as male haters, because these extremists pushed away and attacked some male photographers. As apparently the Catholic church is again trying to assert their political power, by suggesting that abortion laws are to be revisited, there is a risiing need for feminists who are able to be passionate about their objectives, without letting too much emotion cloud their judgment, even when skilfully provoked.
posted by elpapacito at 5:48 AM on February 24, 2008

But science isn't male or female , it is just another word for knowledge.

posted by papakwanz at 6:18 AM on February 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Now, watch me attempt to prove myself relevant (and grant-worthy these days) by applying it relentlessly and to all things.
posted by adipocere at 6:56 AM on February 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

See also: Susan Sontag's response.
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:06 AM on February 24, 2008

This is a link to an online edition of a 1938 book by Virginia Woolf. Much as I admire Woolf, I don't see the point of this as a MetaFilter post. Would you post this?

War and Peace: A Russian's view on why we go to war.

If not, why not? What's the difference?
posted by languagehat at 8:08 AM on February 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

languagehat: you've made this point before. perhaps it's time for you to bring it to metatalk?
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:35 AM on February 24, 2008


no yuo
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 8:46 AM on February 24, 2008

But science isn't male or female , it is just another word for knowledge.


Careful, you're gonna get SOKAL'D.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:10 AM on February 24, 2008

languagehat: you've made this point before. perhaps it's time for you to bring it to metatalk?

I have?

*looks through thread*

No, I'm pretty sure I've only made it once. If I thought this post was an egregious violation of MeFi rules, I guess I could take it to MetaTalk, but I presume the poster would prefer I not do that. I like hadjiboy's posts in general, which is why I made him a contact, and I'm genuinely curious why a link to an online edition of a well-known book would be considered a good MeFi post. And, like I said, if this is OK, why not War and Peace? I'm not being snarky; I'm curious.
posted by languagehat at 9:20 AM on February 24, 2008

If the boy wants to link to a book, let 'im link to a book! There are MeTa threads longer than that (which I won't read either). If someone ends up reading it and getting something out of it, then power to hadjiboy and MetaFilter.

(The main point in the posting guidelines: "A good post to MetaFilter is something that meets the following criteria: most people haven't seen it before, there is something interesting about the content on the page, and it might warrant discussion from others."

By the way, Three Guineas happened to be mentioned on some NPR game show last night. That's my contribution to this thread.
/me puts thumbs under suspenders, pulls slightly, beams, and sways from heel to toe.
posted by not_on_display at 10:00 AM on February 24, 2008

For one reason the War and Peace link wouldn't fly, languagehat, www.online-literature.com has been linked a bunch of times already.

One or more of the links you entered were found in 14 previous threads.

http://www.metafilter.com/mefi/65614 (October 16, 2007)
http://www.metafilter.com/mefi/62136 (June 16, 2007)
http://www.metafilter.com/mefi/59851 (March 29, 2007)
http://www.metafilter.com/mefi/58684 (February 16, 2007)
http://www.metafilter.com/mefi/53810 (August 12, 2006)
http://www.metafilter.com/mefi/52721 (July 2, 2006)
http://www.metafilter.com/mefi/52034 (June 2, 2006)
http://www.metafilter.com/mefi/50021 (March 14, 2006)
http://www.metafilter.com/mefi/47902 (December 29, 2005)
http://www.metafilter.com/mefi/46906 (November 22, 2005)
http://www.metafilter.com/mefi/40664 (March 23, 2005)
http://www.metafilter.com/mefi/27550 (August 8, 2003)
http://www.metafilter.com/mefi/26626 (June 25, 2003)
http://www.metafilter.com/mefi/20320 (September 26, 2002)

The umbrella site The Lillith Gallery hasn't been linked before at all, and the Feminist eZine only appears in a supporting link here. I was happy to see the overall site more than the specific (long) essay, and if www.online-literature.com had never appeared on the site, I'd be delighted to see it, whether it were Tolstoy or Tintin (though I admit that Tintin link sucks, and the commentary makes me unhappy in the same way YouTube often does, or Yahoo! Answers—my sphincter tightens; my eyes narrow; I breathe heavily, snorting, wishing harm upon folks I've never met and earning poor karma no doubt thereby).
posted by cgc373 at 10:07 AM on February 24, 2008

No, I'm pretty sure I've only made it once.


I only advise metatalk because it seems that there's a relevant and as-yet unresolved dispute about the purpose and extent of metafilter posts that link to text of more-than-a-Sunday-afternoon's-reading-length broiling here, and it might be worth hearing that out somewhere else so that people in this post can continue their discussion of women, war, the sciences, and the ethics of care.
posted by anotherpanacea at 10:24 AM on February 24, 2008

Excellent post, hadjiboy - thanks for bringing this to my attention. Good Sunday afternoon read.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 10:25 AM on February 24, 2008

BTW, Feminist E-zine went into my del.icio.us bookmarks because of this post, so I'm all for it, though I would have liked to see some more effort to contextualize Woolf's essay.
posted by anotherpanacea at 10:25 AM on February 24, 2008

heh - sorry anotherpanacea - I guess we have different plans for our Sunday afternoons. :D
posted by Baby_Balrog at 10:26 AM on February 24, 2008

teehee! a fortuitous counter to my attempted paraphrase of languagehat's point, Baby_Balrog, so there's no harm done. :-) You should definitely check out the Sontag response, though; I tend to agree with her, and Sontag's book prompted the excellent cannonball investigation by Errol Morris.
posted by anotherpanacea at 10:36 AM on February 24, 2008

Imagine what would happen if the majority of these female delegates subscribed a practically chauvinist agenda for their own personal gain, which is far from a theoretical possibility, as corruption happens frequently.

Oh good lord, what a trainwreck. Single out un-contexted link to a work which should be standard reading in college, followed by a comment from elpapacito which demonstrates bravura levels of shooting one's mouth off without much thought, which he tops off by referring to Woolf as "Virginia", while referring to Bertand Russell in the accepted way, i.e. by his last name. Oy gevalt.

LH is totally right-- if you're going to construct such a post, why not just link to War and Peace?
posted by jokeefe at 12:17 PM on February 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

posted by jokeefe at 12:19 PM on February 24, 2008

Careful, you're gonna get SOKAL'D.

Please. Sokal is a joke. The real "hoax" is that people think his stunt proved something.

posted by papakwanz at 1:24 PM on February 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

Theodore Dalrymple disses Virginia Woolf in general and Three Guineas in particular in the City Journal:

"My mother, with her wrench by day and helmet by night, did more for civilization (a word that Mrs. Woolf enclosed in quotation marks in Three Guineas, as if did not really exist) than Mrs. Woolf had ever done, with her jeweled prose disguising her narcissistic rage."

Oh snap!
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 9:55 PM on February 24, 2008

Oops, I didn't know if this was going to be a good or bad idea, but I was up last night and was googling through something and stumbled upon the Feministezine site, and really enjoyed reading it, especially Miss Woolf's essay (which I have to admit, I was only able to read the First Guinea part of, and to a certain extent, a third or so of the Second Guinea), and I was SO impressed by what I was reading, that I thought Metafilter would (?), no--could be the right place to post it.
I wasn't aware that her novels are part of school/college curriculums over there, but I haven't read any of her work before, but now that I've read that essay, I think I may be more prompted to pick up one of her books and actually sit down with it.

Also, I really respect Language Hat (he's a good guy, and I don't think [no--I know he was being genuine with his question of why anyone should post this link up, and not War and Peace] and I think I have the answer). Even a dumb shmuck like me has heard of War and Peace, but you know something--even though I'd heard of Virginia Woolf, I had no idea what a powerful writer she was. And not knowing that, I wanted to share it with others, maybe not those of you who have already read this essay of hers, or don't agree with it, but those that haven't and think it has something to offer.
posted by hadjiboy at 10:58 PM on February 24, 2008

I'm not really bothered about what she had to say about anything. My favourite Virginia Woolf Quote (And a perfect example of her feelings on morality and equality) is ...
"everyone in that long line was a miserable ineffective shuffling idiotic creature, with no forehead or no chin & and an imbecile grin, or a wild, suspicious stare. It was perfectly horrible. They should certainly be killed."

She was a God Damned Eugenics Loving Moron.
posted by seanyboy at 4:39 AM on February 25, 2008

Fair enough, hadjiboy; I may have been too hasty in my assumption that everyone already knew about Three Guineas. I really wasn't trying to be snarky—thanks for answering my question.
posted by languagehat at 7:09 AM on February 25, 2008

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