The illogical ethical stance of the ethics professor

The great thing about opinion pieces is that you get to see who the douchecanoes are. Like Clive Hamilton who, frighteningly, is a professor of public ethics: Women at war is the final surrender:

With women to take on military combat roles, it is time to sound the Last Post over the rotting corpse of feminism.

I don’t see evidence of a “rotting corpse”. It might not be publicly called feminism all the time, but the push for equality across many parts of society is strong. Look at the numbers wanting marriage equality. Look at all the people working towards equality for Indigenous Australians. Look at the support from the business community for removing the barriers to women in leadership roles in the workplace. Look at the ASX requirement that listed companies must explain why they aren’t improving gender diversity. Look at the warning that if companies don’t improve, the Federal Government will force them to with quotas. Look at all the the research being done – and reported – into the fact that we don’t live in a meritocracy at all, but one in which jobs for the white, middle-class boys is still standard practice in many workplaces. Feminism, dear Clive, is not a rotting corpse at all.

It’s what has to be done to their minds.

Ooh look, a reference to our inferior lady brains. Where would we be without big, strong, smart men like Clive Hamilton to sort our silly brains out for us?

When the Defence Minister says the individual has to have “the right physical, psychological and mental attributes”, he’s thinking of male mental attributes – those needed to kill.

Because a woman has never killed anyone. Ever.

Putting women in the front line is a victory only for the campaign to obliterate difference, as if everything women were before the advent of feminism was the creation of patriarchy. But didn’t women’s life experiences and history provide distinctive qualities more needed today than ever? We should celebrate the uniquely female rather than bury it under the demand for equality.

Firstly, there is no campaign to obliterate difference. Saying – and demanding – that men and women should have the same rights and opportunities is NOT the same as saying that men and women should be the same. It’s about saying that if men and women are equally capable of doing a job, they should both be allowed to do that job. It’s idiotic to claim that they are the same thing. But I suspect Hamilton knows this and he’s just dog-whistling.

And secondly, of course women before feminism were not the “creation of patriarchy”, but what women were able to do with their lives and their bodies was absolutely decided by the patriarchy. And if “women’s life experiences and history provide distinctive qualities more needed today than ever”, then why aren’t these “distinctive qualities” needed in the armed forces? Huh, huh? Bit of a logic flaw there, ol’ Clivey boy. (Note: I don’t think men and women have distinctive qualities, just as I don’t believe that all men are the same and all women are the same.)

Sure, I don’t agree with war, but it’s arrogant to demand that everyone must share my opinion. And the military is not just about killing people – there’s peace-keeping work, re-building work, coordinating assistance during disasters, etc. Talking about army employees as being nothing more than “cannon fodder” is disrespectful to the people who choose a career in the armed forces. And although I think that any person being killed in a war is a terrible terrible thing, and I think that a single death is one death too many, Australians are not being killed in high numbers that would back up the “cannon fodder” claim. And do they even use cannons anymore?

We should celebrate the uniquely female rather than bury it under the demand for equality.

That sounds suspiciously like he’s saying women are sweet, nurturing creatures so men shouldn’t trouble them with things like equal pay for equal work, equal leadership opportunities, and the right to determine their own lives, because they simply won’t be able to cope with it.

Women’s morality differs from men’s.

Really? Where’s your proof of that? You can’t use one philosopher (Carol Gilligan) to claim this is a fact. I want to see peer-reviewed academic studies from every country in the world before I’ll believe that all women have one morality and all men have another. I don’t know Gilligan’s work, but I suspect her argument is more nuanced that Hamilton is claiming.

The facile clamour for equality is the capitulation of the sisterhood to the brotherhood.

Um, what?

Seriously, what?

Patriarchy, it now seems, was not endemic to the social body but was only a blemish that could be wiped away. The six o’clock swill may be gone but our society is more male-oriented than ever – more competitive, more individualistic, more money-hungry. And more sex-soaked.

So, patriarchy bad, feminism bad? Yeah, that makes sense. Sure it does.

Backed by the porn industry and popular media, sex is increasingly presented as a pleasant pastime devoid of sentiment and commitment. The centuries-old male fantasy of “ridding sexuality of any emotional connotation in order to bring it back into the realm of pure entertainment”, as Michel Houellebecq put it, has finally been fulfilled.

In my experience, sex is often pleasant, filled with sentiment, and entertaining. Clearly I am doing it wrong.

Who can argue against the claim that if a woman can meet the physical and psychological criteria, she should be allowed on the front line? Yet the silent discomfort remains. In the arguments for women in combat, we see at work the subtle process of turning a demand for social change into accommodating the aspirations of select individuals. Transforming social threats into individual challenges is the modus operandi of the established order.

Let me get this straight. There are no real arguments against a capable woman being able to fight on the front line, but they shouldn’t be allowed to simply because it makes Clive Hamilton uncomfortable. Then I suggest that you, Clive, have a problem. I’m sure there are psychology professors at Charles Sturt University who can help you deal with this problem. The next part of his argument is rubbish, because opening combat roles to anyone who is capable of performing them IS social change.

So the far-reaching social change envisaged by feminism in the ’60s and ’70s attains its pinnacle with targets to put more women into boardrooms and cabinets. But why bother putting women into boardrooms if the corporations they run continue to despoil the environment, evade their taxes and pay their chiefs obscene salaries?

What is the point of women in cabinet if, to get there, they must be fed into party machines, then extruded as those who can be trusted with levers of power, competent managers of a dysfunctional political system?

Ah, so because some corporations do bad things, and the two major parties are rooted, women shouldn’t be allowed to be a part of it. Business as usual, then.

It was the great betrayal of the women’s movement – diverted to male ends so that young women could be freed to duplicate the boorish behaviour of young men, from driving like hoons to spewing in the gutter after a big night out.

I guess Clive hasn’t noticed that not every woman is doing these things, just as not every man is doing these things. Clive Hamilton is an old fuddy-duddy with his “young people these days” and “young women don’t behave like proper ladies anymore”. It’s just as easy to claim that young men don’t act like proper gentlemen anymore, but I don’t see any gnashing of teeth about that.

We are all so terrified of being accused of sexism that we refuse to acknowledge that most of us shudder at the thought of women going into battle – to slice bodies with bullets, blow them up with mortars and slit throats when ordered.

Clive thinks it’s ok for men to “slice bodies with bullets, blow them up with mortars and slit throats when ordered”. Interesting ethical stance there, Professor.

34 responses to “The illogical ethical stance of the ethics professor

  1. It’s a weird ideological mash-up isn’t it? So irresponsible of a university professor to refer to feminism in the past tense, but so many of them do it, which is in itself perpetuating male hegemony.

  2. That was appalling. I have heard him described (by my brothers, mostly) as a total wowser, but that was really, really appallingly patronising, sexist, bizarrely old-fashioned and illogical. Beyond wowserish.

  3. As a former CSU academic and a Greens voter, I feel really embarrassed. Clive, Clive… mate! 😦 (I still like his book “Requiem for a species”. But this is just… bad.)

    • I’m sure you’re not as embarrassed as he should be feeling… (not that that makes a lot of sense, but you know what I mean).

      Dan, welcome to the News with Nipples.

    • Dan, I entirely concur.

      Newsnips, this is Rhiannon Saxon here with a new user name!

      • I wondered if that would happen. Welcome to the new Rhiannon Davis!

        • Why thank you. I have decided I could get married another five times and I will never change my name ever again! (Not that I intend to, just so you all know.)
          My driving license is still under my ‘maiden’ name anyway, so I barely have to change any ID.


          • I like that ManFriend and I aren’t married. But sometimes I wish I’d been married eight times! I just don’t see marriage as The Most Important Thing You Will Ever Do. I think it’s a public display of love, but one you can do many times.

  4. Phew, Dan, that’s a relief. I recently purchased Requiem and after reading today’s article, had thought it might be a complete waste of time reading anything he wrote…
    glad the renovations are over, News with Nipples…

  5. “Celebrate the uniquely female”
    It’s neat the way, by calling nice, feminine things “unique” to women, he absolves men of the responsibility to emulate them.

    “Why bother putting women in boardrooms… What is the point of women in Cabinet…?”
    Ah, the old equal opportunity is not a valuable end in itself, but is only good when it benefits *me* chestnut. Also note the “putting women in” phrasing makes it something WE MEN do to/for the passive creatures.

    It terrifies me that this man is allowed to teach young adults at all, let alone ethics.

  6. I don’t know what “public” ethics means but I was forced to study ethics in the social sciences at one point and I found the unit itself to be not too ethical. It was all about studying the worldly wisdom of the “great thinkers” who of course are all dead white guys who had way too much time on their hands. Mansplainers. Other than an amazing guest lecture from the amazing Moira Carmody, the material and the way it was delivered was totally pro status quo. If that’s the kind of ethics Hamilton is teaching then he’s probably doing a great job.

  7. They mis-spelled philosophy on that page – beautiful.

    Hamilton’s email address is there.

  8. Here we go again … yet another respected voice of the Left revealing himself to be utterly medieval in his personal gender politics. Welcome to the Bob Ellis School of Progressive Sexism, Clive.

  9. I wondered if you’d be writing response to this as soon as I read the original article earlier today. I feel like men like Clive have such a deep, entrenched hatred for their own gender, and it really makes me sad (when I get past the point of being spitting furious at his dumbfuckery, anyway). He really doesn’t think much of penis-bearers, does he? Apparently they’re good for nothing but being cannon-fodder and murdering people. Way harsh.

  10. Did anyone else gasp at this bit:
    “We do not want to think about women soldiers returning with their faces blown off, for we know we will feel a special kind of guilty revulsion.”

    He didn’t unpack this at all. What is this “special” reaction he describes? Apparently we are going to feel “revulsion”, presumably because a woman with her face blown off is not going to be attractive anymore. Are we going to feel “guilty” about it because that’s the most important thing for a woman, having a non-revolting face? I wouldn’t assume he was saying we would feel more guilty revulsion than if a man has his face blown off, except that he says we know we will feel a “special kind” of guilty revulsion. And then he says it’s not at all sexist to have this reaction.

    • Like all the soldiers returning from wars in the past have not had to face the ‘special’ revulsion people have kindly treated them to. Like people have not previously had to face their own feelings of guilt about being revolted by any soldier with a terribly damaged face. Uh…yeah. Still don’t quite get why that is supposed to be gender-specific, no.

  11. That would be an amusing form of activism, NWN. Paul Sheehan is a candidate too:

    This should be titled, “evil slutty blonde gold-diggers ruin good bloke’s reputations”.

  12. You’ve nailed why Clive is so especially scary: he’s a prof at a tertiary institution (and what about that grab bag of “specialities”? Art and… water? Can’t he just put “jack of all trades, master of none”?). Bettina and Miranda are scary, but at least they’re not instructing Teh Yoof on a daily basis.

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