Feminism

Michael Moore: Women Never Built an Atomic Bomb??? PART 2 of 2

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In my previous video, I talked about the specific details of Michael Moore’s recent Tweet claiming that “No women ever invented an atomic bomb, built a smoke stack, initiated a Holocaust, melted the polar ice caps or organized a school shooting.” Now that we know that each of those points is wrong, let’s move on to the larger problem: the idea that women are biologically predisposed to be more ethical, more compassionate, or less violent than men.

I should clarify that Moore didn’t come out and say that — he may have meant a variety of things by his dumbshit Tweet. But this is the idea that his Tweet reinforces, whether he meant for it to do that or not. Of particular note is the modifier I’ve added, “biologically predisposed.” Men are more violent than women, and that simply cannot be dismissed. Men are responsible for 9 out of 10 of the world’s murders despite only composing about half the population. That’s pretty violent! And yep, they’re also responsible for most of the world’s wars throughout history. Yikes.

But is that because men are just more violent than women? Is Hillary Clinton going to be a more peaceful president than Donald Trump, or Barack Obama, or George W. Bush, because she’s a woman?

No. Come on.

There’s nothing in women’s genes, brains, or hormones that makes them more likely to avoid violent solutions to problems. Vaginas don’t spontaneously emit morality. They emit uterine lining and babies, neither of which is really a pillar of goodness. Seriously, babies can be downright assholes.

Why are men more violent? Well, like everything else in life, it’s complicated! In our society, we tend to reward boys for sublimating their emotions and solving problems through physical violence. We also punish boys in violent ways and in ways that don’t actually solve violence, like incarceration.

Also, men have historically been running the world. When most world leaders have been and are men, and when humans have a predilection for war, of course more men are going to start wars. When women weren’t even allowed to study science for most of human history, of course more men are going to have worked on the atomic bomb. You may as well say that no men have ever given birth to dictators. It’s a pointless fact given that they haven’t exactly had the opportunity.

The belief that women are naturally superior to men is a form of benevolent sexism. It ultimately ends up hurting both men and women — men, by reinforcing the belief that they’re monsters who can’t control themselves; and women, by forcing all women to live up to a perfect ideal that we can never actually reach and by erasing women’s complicated humanity. If you look at our past media, male characters (at least white ones) have long been allowed to be complex anti-heroes because we can accept that a man can be both good and evil. For the most part women and minorities have been forced to be magical angels, manic pixie dream girls, or side characters with no internal dialogue or motivation at all.

And so we have women like Hillary Clinton who have to demonstrate an outward image of perfection in order to gain power. She can’t champion the radical progressive politics of Bernie Sanders, and she certainly can’t demonstrate the blatant bigotry, lack of knowledge, lack of any kind of experience, or deep corruption of Donald Trump. She has to be middle of the road, never smiling too much or too little, and the perfect level of competence without seeming bitchy or weak. It’s a nearly impossible tightrope to balance on, and it’s bad enough with conservatives bashing her constantly. She doesn’t also need ignorant progressives like Michael Moore being just as sexist.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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9 Comments

  1. November 6, 2016 at 3:32 pm —

    There may be something in men’s hormones that make them more prone to violence, though. Look at the response of people who take androgens – they get very aggressive and very impulsive. I’m always surprised by people who think that sex-hormonal effects stop at the hypothalamus. The brain is studded with sex hormone receptors – it’s not unreasonable to think they do something.

  2. November 6, 2016 at 3:58 pm —

    Yep! There are plenty of reasons to vote Clinton over Trump. I mean, you can even vote for her over Trump on conservative grounds, if you want. (Seriously, whether you’re a culture warrior, a fiscal conservative, or a neocon, Trump is literally the embodiment of everything you’ve spent your life fighting. Fortunately, if you’re a labor activist or a pacifist, Trump is also literally the embodiment of everything you’ve spent your life fighting. And if you’re a minority, Trump is literally the embodiment of everyone who has spent your life fighting you.)

    The only thing you can do is elect her, then force her as far to the left as you can. Say, getting her to ditch the New Economy boondoggle her husband bought into. (The once president and future First Lord should have no say in his wife’s economic platform, considering it was his and Newt’s bank deregulation scheme that led to the real estate bubble.) A lot of Clinton’s support comes from the fact that Trump is intolerable.

    (As an aside, I’ve concluded there’s an “alt center” now: Neo-DLC types who openly threaten anyone slightly to the left of them; a lot of my criticism of Hillary Clinton comes specifically from my having been harassed by the alt center. You can see what they’ve left in their wake. Just look at the Alexa rankings on Daily Kos. A normal cycle has Daily Kos being most active in presidential years, slightly less active in midterms, and limited only to hardcore activists and a few specific states like NJ in odd years, with that activity reaching its peak in October, but a smaller peak during the primaries. Kos’s alignment with the alt center has made the site jump the shark: This cycle, October traffic is less than half what it was in February.)

  3. November 6, 2016 at 9:33 pm —

    >There’s nothing in women’s genes, brains, or hormones that makes them more likely to avoid violent solutions to problems

    Aren’t hormonal differences between men and women enough to invalidate this statement? We know, for example, that testosterone is correlated with aggression and men just so happen to have higher levels of testosterone than women. Just by this one fact and all things being equal, would you not expect men to resort to aggression at higher rates than women?

    No doubt biology is not the only factor, and that socialization can certainly mitigate some (most?) of its effects … but it’s still an important factor. I don’t understand how that can be dismissed?

    >Also, men have historically been running the world.

    Yes, that’s true, but you may be begging the question if you use that as an explanation for higher rates of aggression in men. Maybe the propensity of men to be more violent is why men have historically been running the world.

  4. November 6, 2016 at 10:34 pm —

    Well put. I admit I haven’t cared much for Secretary Clinton in the past but the last few months I’ve gained more respect for her.

    As too men being more violent, I’ve wondered if it doesn’t just come down to men being larger and thus violence working better for them, where as women had to find different ways to achieve the same goals. I’ve seen women get pretty violent when the odds were more in their favor.

    I’ve heard psychologists say ‘men are more aggressive but women are more competitive’ and wondered if it wasn’t a differentiation without a difference.

  5. November 7, 2016 at 4:51 am —

    More years ago than I care to admit, I read an article regarding Margret Thatcher (and other prominent women in business). Basically it concluded that the vanguard of women coming into power that are traditional male occupations will more likely ‘behave like men’ (over simplification) and that that won’t change until there is more equity. The reasoning was that you sort of have to be one of the boys to into the job.

  6. November 7, 2016 at 5:06 am —

    re para “Also, men have historically been running the world……..” True, but how did this situation arise, more or less universally? Did violence with the advantage of being stronger, cause this society to arise? Or, did men become ‘leaders’ for some other reason?

    • November 7, 2016 at 3:03 pm —

      Combination of factors, but the primary one is that men and women convinced themselves that it could not be.

      All the strength in the world won’t save you from getting your throat cut. It won’t save you from other ambitious men, and it won’t save you from ambitious women. What *does* make a difference is a society that demeans women and convinces men not to admit women, either. Remember that through the 19th century, women were forbidden from attending university despite clearly wanting to, which surely had significant downstream effects on their impact in the jobs market and government.
      What matters then is not that women aren’t capable, it’s that men banded together to prevent capable women from doing what they could.

      If you want to go back to why this started, remember that women rarely ever had control over their sexuality and pregnancy could be quite debilitating for long stretches of time, plus the strain and effort of caring for and raising a succession of children.

      All of the traits that are best in a leader are not inhibited by either strength or pregnancy, though. If we started over from where we are now, women would probably be in much better shape, because now *most* of us understand that fact, even if in some places the men would band together as they had before.

  7. November 7, 2016 at 11:52 pm —

    I suspect that testosterone plays at least some part in the disparity of violence perpetrated by males vs females. Certainly environment and upbringing both play a role, but to say that biology plays no part I think is also not backed up by evidence.

  8. November 8, 2016 at 4:13 pm —

    I agree with everything in both your videos except for this bit:
    “And so we have women like Hillary Clinton who have to demonstrate an outward image of perfection in order to gain power. She can’t champion the radical progressive politics of Bernie Sanders, and she certainly can’t demonstrate the blatant bigotry, lack of knowledge, lack of any kind of experience, or deep corruption of Donald Trump. She has to be middle of the road, never smiling too much or too little, and the perfect level of competence without seeming bitchy or weak. ”

    It certainly could use some additional explanation. Why couldn’t Clinton (or someone in her position) have been a radical progressive? Indeed on some issues, she is a bigot (or was until 2013) and deeply corrupt (telling Wall Street one thing and the public another). Without evidence, it looks like you are using societal expectations of women to excuse away anything ugly about her actions and positions.

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