For a Magazine Called Reason…

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Reason staffers receive a near-constant stream of e-mail containing the phrase "for a magazine called Reason…," most of which goes on to explain why, in point of fact, a particular position is not reasonable. Over at National Review Online, Carrie Lukas has a souped up version of that e-mail in column form, cleverly headlined "UnReasonable." (It's NROdious!)

Lukas is responding to a review of her book that appears in the October issue of Reason. That review is by Shannon Chamberlain, not, as Lukas calls her, Susan Chamberlain. Susan Chamberlin is a Vice President at Cato; Shannon Chamberlain is a freelance journalist. I'm not sure how my friend Susan Chamberlin feels about Lukas' book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Women, Sex, and Feminism. (I invite her to comment below.) Shannon Chamberlain's double review is an elegant takedown of both the Lukas book and Caitlin Flanagan's To Hell With All That. The review won't be online until later this month, but here's a snippet regarding the Lukas Guide to Womanhood:

… by chapter 11, "Work in the Real World,"the clucking has begun in earnest. In a section entitled "The feminist working girl fantasy," Lukas, by way of Friends and a host of other pop culture references,points out that the lives of Rachel Green, fashion designer, and Average Johanna, career girl, are very different. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Johanna has a roughly 6 percent chance of becoming a secretary. Lawyering and doctoring "don't make the list" of the 20 most common professions for women, a fact that causes Lukas to sniff that "this list of occupations stands in stark contrast to the depiction of working women commonly found on television and in women's magazines" and remind us once again that Young People Can't Tell the Difference Between Television and Reality.

It's an appalling condescension, worthy of the paid-work-as-exploitation crowd. It fails to acknowledge, for one thing, that men's top jobs aren't any more conventionally glamorous. (The top profession is truck driving.)The thought that women might find satisfaction in work that Lukas considers beneath consideration is just as unlikely to occur to her as it is to occur to Caitlin Flanagan.

That's a point about elitism; I think a valid one. Instead of responding, Lukas offers this critique:

Chamberlain doesn't clarify how either Flanagan or I attempt to "command" other women by means of books that can only be purchased and read voluntarily.

Chamberlain never uses the word command, so I don't know why it's in quotes. Nowhere does Chamberlain suggest coercion is involved. But what is the larger point here? Lukas is above criticism because she hasn't tried to force anyone into pregnancy? Lukas conflates criticism of her ideas with a stifling of debate, and somehow blames Chamberlain for "closing the market on a crucial conversation." (What?)

More from Lukas:

Chamberlain is similarly critical of my chapter highlighting research on the effects of daycare on children. She disapproves both of my giving the impression that there are real dangers associated with daycare and my unwillingness to call daycare categorically bad. She seems to prefer not to discuss the issue of daycare at all.

Forgive my slowness—I was a daycare baby—but I'm lost here: If Chamberlain didn't want to discuss the issue, why is she discussing it in a national magazine? Here's her take:

It's then that Lukas begins to sound like The Simpsons' Helen Lovejoy, prone to shouting, "What about the children? Won't someone please think of the children?" Did you know that some children return to empty houses? Or that those who attend day care programs get nits and scabies? (Forget first grade, in that case.) After this hand wringing, Lukas admits, "No researcher I'm familiar with says that daycare will cause serious problems for most children." The ambiguous wording proceeds from the ambiguity of the consensus. Within the single outfit that has studied the question in the greatest detail (the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development), researchers believe that children in day care have better verbal skills at 54 months but that their mothers have less of that biologically useful maternal attachment. The differences in health between day care kids and children at home were statistically insignificant by age 3. Lukas strips away the nuance, covers her tracks with a few grudging caveats, and still manages to create the impression that those feminists have been hiding something all along.

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  1. For a magazine called Reason, you have very long blog posts.

    For a magazine called Reason, you talk about fellatio a lot.

    For a magazine called Reason, you have a lot of distracting animated ads.

  2. I’m going to have to read the whole article when I get home. I love when these types of books get a brutal takedown.

  3. Hey now, fellatio is a very reasonable subject…

  4. Flainigan is the worst. I really loath that woman. I don’t begrudge people having good fortune but I can’t stand people who then go on to write books whining about how hard their lives are. Flannigan writes this whole book whining about how hard it is being a rich housewife with a nanny and pretends to have some clue about what life is like for real people. The whole thing makes me want to vomit.

  5. Flainigan is the worst. I really loath that woman. I don’t begrudge people having good fortune but I can’t stand people who then go on to write books whining about how hard their lives are. Flannigan writes this whole book whining about how hard it is being a rich housewife with a nanny and pretends to have some clue about what life is like for real people. The whole thing makes me want to vomit.

  6. Alas Fellatio, I knew him. But, unfortunately not recently.

  7. How did I get dragged into this mess?

  8. Wow, is this fourth-level blogging?

    A blog…about a response…to a review…of a book.

  9. Alas Fellatio, I knew him. But, unfortunately not recently.

    A man of infinite jest, I see.

  10. For a magazine called Reason…

    oh forget that

    I’m just going to flash a tad of misogynism here =

    “Lukas conflates criticism of her ideas with a stifling of debate.”

    Like, Hello!? Meet my exgirlfriend! (all of them, snif) 🙂

    I would totally take a class titled: When Ladies Debate: 100 passive-agressive tactics to undermine your opponent

    – conflate criticism of your ideas with a stifling of debate

    – conflate criticism of your ideas with a fear of strong women

    – conflate criticism of your ideas with the fact that it’s just another example that they dont know how to listen

    – conflate criticism of your ideas with the other person’s sexual fixations (or) over/underenlarged appetites

    – conflate criticism of your ideas with the other person being fat and ugly and that no one likes them very much but they just dont tell them, so like, sorry, but dont take it out on me, fatty

    JG

    ps. ladies, no really, i’m just kidding. really. you’re cute?

  11. Gilmore….ya made me sneeze my afternoon cocktail out my nose……

  12. sadly enough, no females, besides the one mentioned in the article, were available to post on the issue. Men, in their absence, decided to talk about blowjobs.

  13. mk:

    Perhaps the women are too busy giving blowjobs?

    A joke! A joke! I kid because I love… blowjobs.

  14. GILMORE,

    I feel your pain. There is such a class, it’s called “therapy”. Get some (therapy) before you get some (booty).

    Not all women are passive-aggressive psychopaths,… just the ones that you’re attracted to. Congratulations.

  15. Mr Fax, or should I say Rim,

    it’s called “therapy”. Get some (therapy) before you get some (booty).g

    all my friends in therapy call their fights with their girlfriends, “talking about their feelings.”
    🙂

    I was 50.000009% kidding obviously. I’m not fat at all.

    There must be a compendium of these kinds of rhetorical moves somewhere though. A secret cadre of high priestesses maintain its ancient trove of wisdom. They send out nightly subliminal updates in high-frequency code through the mass media. If you just slow down any Lifetime TV-movie enough…

    har.

    maybe I’ll meet some girls in therapy.

    JG

  16. Chamberlain never uses the word command, so I don’t know why it’s in quotes.

    Lukas’ article does contain a quote of Chamberlain’s article which does use the word “commanders”. Unless the quote is wrong, putting command in quotes seems right to me.

  17. Well, first of all, my thanks to Kerry for doing a better job than I could hope to do at refuting the rather bizarre sentiment that those who criticize your ideas are actually calling for your silence. On the contrary, it’s people like Lukas and Flanagan who keep me in a job, so I can’t do anything right now but resoundingly endorse the free market of ideas that Lukas seems to think I despise.

    Gimme Back My Dog: You’re right to observe that I used the word “commanders” later on, although I, like Kerry, was rather confused by Lukas’ placement of it in her review of a review. This, I’m sorry to say, was a bit of rhetorical flourish meant to go with the martial imagery of the “Mommy Wars”, and only someone who was angry about a bad review could have taken it in its context to mean that I actually thought Lukas or Flanagan was forcing anyone to do anything.

  18. I find it rather creepily dishonest that NRO has apparently corrected the name error without remark. If a writer makes an error like that — assuming it wasn’t a copy editor — it calls into question the accuracy of other portions of her work.

  19. For a magazine called National Review, there sure seems to be little review of their work going on before it gets into print (unless you count hte vetting by GOP officials that seems to go on there). They’re a bunch of hacks of hte worst sort, not even hacks for principle but hacks for party. Why NR contributors it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world… but for a seat at the next Heritage Foundation panel?

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