Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Feminism

In Defense of Shailene Woodley

Actress Shailene Woodley (of The Descendants, The Spectacular Now, and Divergent fame) has recently taken a bit of flak from many practitioners of identity politics for comments she made to Time magazine about feminism. They accuse her of essentializing the feminist literature, of treating it as monolithic and failing to see the diversity of perspectives it encompasses. Their critique is too demanding and ignores something very pressing in what Woodley is saying that the feminist movement as a whole needs to take note of.

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You’re Not the Boss of Me: Don’t Ban Bossy

Recently I’ve been seeing a new identity politics argument circulating around the internet that grinds my gears: Ban Bossy. This is not to say that I don’t agree with the movement’s aims–I think it would be wonderful if women had more self-confidence. My problem is that the arguments for banning bossy are spectacularly unconvincing. Here’s why.

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Rethinking the Word “Privilege”

The word “privilege” has become ubiquitous in the United States, particularly among politically active left-leaning college students and graduates. Many different people are said to be “privileged”. There’s white privilege, rich privilege, male privilege, straight privilege, and so on down the line. We are frequently encouraged to “check” our privilege, to be more aware of the extent to which racial minorities, women, LGBT people, and the poor are denied the same access to resources and social treatment we enjoy and take as given. I agree with the social justice movement that it does people born into affluence some good to remember the widely divergent environments and social circumstances their fellow citizens must endure, but I absolutely hate the use of the word “privilege” for this purpose. Here’s why.

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The Uselessness of Beating Up Eminem

The rapper Eminem released a new album (The Marshall Mathers LP 2). As is his tendency, Eminem dropped some rhymes with morally dubious meanings. And, as has also become the norm, my fellow writers decided to take positions on the matter. Kicking off the discussion was Scott Meslow at The Week, who first drew attention to homophobic lyrics in Eminem’s song, “Rap God”.  Meslow has now followed that piece up with a second one, detailing the reaction to his first piece and what he has gleaned from it. Today I’d like not so much to wade into this discussion as to call its utility into question–what purpose does it serve to write pieces criticizing artists for moral or political messages, either explicit or implicit?

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Playing Necromancer with Structural Functionalism

Today I’d like to raise an old idea from the dead–structural functionalism. Structural functionalism is the idea that society is rightly conceived as an organism, subject to external and internal pressures that it must adapt to via evolving norms, institutions, and other patterns of behavior. If societies cannot adapt, they collapse, either internally, via rebellion, or externally, via foreign subjugation. For structural functionalists, social structures serve stabilizing or adaptive functions. They seek to identify what those functions might be and to sort out which structures are adequately performing their functions and which are not. Systems of institutions, when well-suited to their functions, combine to produce stability and survival. The goal of our various social adaptations is a kind of sustainability, an imperviousness to outside stress or collapse. Structural functionalist began to fall out of favor in social science in the 1960’s as theorists influenced by the endemic social conflict that took place during that period embraced conflict/critical theories (Marxism, feminism, postmodernism, and so on). My aim today is to raise structural functionalism from the dead, adjusting it to reincorporate the various conflict theories back within its larger whole.

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