An amazing robot

Meet “Handle”, the kind of robot we only dreamed about as kids (well, if you’re as old as I). It’s just now been introduced to the world by Boston Dynamics, and the YouTube notes say this:

Handle is a research robot that combines the efficiency of wheels with the versatility of legs. It stands 6.5 ft tall, travels at 9 mph and jumps 4 feet vertically. It uses electric power to operate both electric and hydraulic actuators, with a range of about 15 miles on one battery charge. Handle uses many of the same dynamics, balance and mobile manipulation principles found in the quadruped and biped robots we build, but with only about 10 actuated joints, it is significantly less complex. Wheels work efficiently on flat surfaces while legs can go almost anywhere: by combining wheels and legs Handle can have the best of both worlds.

 There’s a bit more from New Atlas:

Raibert says the robot can “carry a reasonably heavy load on a small footprint” and is essentially an exercise to test the potential for developing a humanoid robot that has less degrees of freedom than a walking robot, and is therefore cheaper to produce, while still retaining comparable mobility capabilities.

This is clearly not yet at the stage where it can replace people, but it’s on the way. I can think of lots of stuff Handle could do, much of which would take jobs away from people: tasks include rendering bombs harmless (we have robots for that already, but this one’s better), going into hostage or crime situations instead of sending in a live human, filling up the baskets for Amazon orders, picking out library books from a stack (we have a semi-automated system to do that at my University), help disabled people, and so on. I’m sure readers can think of more applications.

I was stupified when I saw it jump at the end (1:26 on).

h/t: Michael

HuffPo makes the Oscars about identity politics

Unless you were in Alma-Ata last night, you’ll know about the mixup whereby the Best Picture award was mistakenly given to “La La Land” instead of “Moonlight,” a horribly embarrassing mistake that was rectified immediately, and onstage. I didn’t see it, and I haven’t seen either movie, but I noticed that HuffPo is already claiming this as a victory for “inclusivity,” as if the Oscar voters were deciding on politics rather than quality. Click on the screenshot to go to the article (if you must):

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The HuffPo social justice writer editor said this:

Barry Jenkins’ drama about a black latchkey kid grappling with his sexuality in the Miami projects beat expected front-runner “La La Land” for Best Picture on Sunday. That means the Academy picked a small independent movie that tackles homophobia, class structures and patriarchal norms over a musical-romance fantasy about voters’ favorite topic: Hollywood. This is a leap forward for big-screen storytelling that humanizes marginalized voices.

. . . Because “La La Land” romanticizes a dreamy Hollywood that is unfamiliar to most Americans, some critics and commentators felt that it was less worthy than the vital social stories told in “Moonlight” and “Hidden Figures.” With popular culture inching toward better representation for minorities and women, and Donald Trump’s administration inching away from it, many saw a “Moonlight” or “Hidden Figures” victory as a referendum against the current political regime.

This actually insults the movie, claiming that it won for its topic rather than its quality. It is the racism of low expectations.

Is it not possible that “Moonlight” was simply a better movie than “La La Land”? (That, at least, is what the critics on Rotten Tomatoes decided by a small margin.) If you’ve seen both movies, weigh in.

Perhaps if Martin Luther King, Jr. were alive, he’d say to Jacobs:

“I have a dream that moviegoers will live in a nation where films will not be judged by the color of their actors, but by the content of their stories.” 
(And by this of course, I’m not saying that there’s no discrimination in Hollywood!)

A badly confused piece on free speech

It’s amusing—though sad—to see Leftist after Leftist confect arguments why free speech isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. Isn’t the Left supposed to defend freedom of speech? Sadly, much of that side seems to have abandoned the principle—mainly because they want to suppress what they call “hate speech.” That of course is a dangerous argument, for one person’s “hate speech” (say, criticism of abortion, affirmative action, or Islam) is another person’s free speech—and who is to be the arbiter of which is which?

Nevertheless, the Left persists in its attacks, and now we have a new argument by Mike Sturm at Coffeelicious (reprinted at Medium.com, a venue almost as Regressive Leftist as Puffho). Here’s the title; click on the screenshot to go to the piece—an argument that free speech is overrated:

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I’ll let Sturm give the argument himself (indented):

So here I am asking two questions:

  1. What value do we see in free speech?
  2. Does the current free speech paradigm serve the value we see in speech?

The Proposed Value of Speech

In the world of liberal democracy, freedom in general is a cornerstone value of any society. People ought to be free to live their lives in the best way they see fit — with as little interference as possible. In the case of speech, I think that the reasons that we value free speech fall into two basic categories:

  • We value the freedom to express ourselves — how we feel, who we are, and what we want.
  • We value the freedom to effectively drive change through the things we say. We want our words to matter, and to wield real power — the power of making things happen.

I think that the article of faith, especially in America, for the past 200 years or so has been that both of these aims work together. We have blindly believed that expressing how you feel and what you want end up effectively driving change and giving power to your words, and to you, the speaker. But I see very little reason to believe this.

In fact, I believe that expressing yourself as freely as possible tends to diminish the ability of your words to drive real change.

Now why on earth would expressing yourself freely reduce your effectiveness at creating social change?  He claims that the power of speech derives from both the way it’s enforced (as through law of physical force), and through the power of speech “due to its message and its delivery.” Sturm doesn’t say much about power, but is really concerned with “how you deliver the message.” And, he claims, advocates of free speech tend to deliver their message in maladaptive ways.

What ways are those? They include these (these bullet points are mine):

  • Asserting during your talk that you have the right to free speech.  That, says, Sturm, just turns off the listener: “Whenever your defense of what you say is “I have the right to free speech, I can say this if I please” — you’re closing off 80% of the probability of having a real conversation.” This is a recurrent problem for the article: assuming that a speech itself is a “conversation,” rather than a speech. He completely neglects the possibility that listening to a speech can inspire conversations afterwards.  Further, very few speakers lard their talks with “listen to me because I have free speech.” That would just be dumb. Such assertions are made either beforehand, as in the case of the Chancellor of Berkeley’s statement about Milo Yiannopoulos’s appearance, or afterwards, when we’re arguing about freedom of expression itself.
  • Free speech is only effective insofar as it presents rational arguments and not emotions or desires. As Sturm asserts,

The more your message is expression — of your feelings, desires, or other emotion, the less likely it will be received by those who have reason to fear it. Just think of how much you have gotten done by yelling and venting your frustration at people, as opposed to sitting them down, and trying to make your point calmly. The more you frame your speech as expression, the less effective it will tend to be at achieving any other goal aside from expressing your feelings.”

But that’s not exactly right. True, when you’re arguing about facts you should deal with the facts and the issues, and avoid “yelling”, but to leave out emotion and feeling from a speech is to emasculate it (was that misogynist?). Think of one of the most powerful and effective speeches in American history: Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech of August 28, 1963. That speech is full of emotions about the moral inequity of segregation. It is by no means calm, but was delivered in the emotional cadences of a Southern preacher. It is the quintessential speech of expression: and it’s not too much to say that it galvanized the nation, leading to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  What Sturm is doing is equating “expression” with “yelling,” when in fact they need not be the same thing at all.  It’s arguments like this that make me wonder if Sturm has really thought about the issue. Nobody equates “free expression” with “yelling at one’s opponents,” except perhaps Sturm.

Now Sturm is correct that you can’t convince people to change their minds about issues without giving them reasons to think, and that simply demonizing your opponent as stupid, racist, or misogynist won’t work. But presenting stories, experiences, and an emphasis on moral issues (which don’t count as “reasons” but can resonate with the values of the listener) are valid ways of emoting,

  • No speech is effective unless it is itself a conversation. I mentioned this above, and it’s just wrong. Conversations can occur after speech, either as verbal discussions or as a silent conversation in one’s mind.

Sturm continues:

“My take is this: social media has made it easy for us to favor one motivation for speech (expression), while weakening the other (conversing in order to affect real change). Because more people are seen as simply expressing unfiltered emotion, very few on the other aside care to listen.”

“The more everyone continue to do this, the less we listen to each other. We stop talking with each other, and keep talking at each other — yelling, as well. The chances for any kind of progress fade away.”

First, it is the suppression of free speech, as in the cancellation (or interruption) of talks by universities, that inhibit conversation. Does anybody doubt that? And if you think these disinvitations are infrequent, have a look at FIRE’s list of disinvitations on American campuses between 2000 and 2014. Virtually all the speakers have been demonized as being conservatives, which shows that it’s the Left and not the Right that most often goes after free expression.

Further, social media, particularly YouTube and chat sites, have effected tremendous social change, especially in the weakening of religion. It is through such media, for example, that isolated nonbelievers come to learn that they are not alone, and are strengthened in their conviction. It is through social media that we can learn the arguments of our opponents, whether they be pro-lifers or creationists, and thus develop ways to examine, hone, or refine our own beliefs and arguments. Sturm’s false belief that “expression” and “social change” are at odds with one another is what leads him to conclude, in the quote just above, that free speech has slowed social progress.

But with such a conclusion, what does Sturm suggest we should do? One can gather from the context that he favors limits on “free speech,” though, given Sturm’s failure to be explicit, I’m not sure what those limits are. Does he see someone like Yiannopoulos expressing “unfiltered emotion”, thus impeding any rational discourse and social progress? If so, then he should listen to the libertarian Ben Shapiro, who is far more fact-oriented and less emotional than Milo. I disagree with much of what Shapiro has to say, but nobody could accuse him of yelling. And I think Shapiro, disagreeing with him as I do, is nonetheless a very valuable resource for liberals, as he forces us to examine our arguments more closely if we feel he’s wrong.  Those who simply yell in response to Shapiro’s claims make the Left look unreflective.

Given that Sturm equates “free speech” with “emotional speech and yelling”, it’s hard to know what he thinks of people like the Berkeley protests who prevented Yiannopoulos from speaking. Were they trying to prevent emotional and non-rational speech that could damage society, and thus doing us a service? Or were they themselves yelling and demonizing their opponents in a way that would turn off those who would otherwise listen to their arguments? I don’t know for sure, but I suspect Sturm has no interest in defending Milo, since he says this:

Recently, a big deal has been made about an agitator who lost a book deal about some unabashed commentary regarding pederasty. I won’t dig into the story itself (you can read the link), but the whole thing has made me wonder why we value free speech. I guess like so many of our freedoms, I wonder if it has morphed into a crutch that allows us to be utterly terrible and careless people, rather than making us better.

Milo’s freedom of speech has nothing to do with the subsequent accusations of pedophila that brought him down. Yes, you can say he’s a terrible person, but that’s completely independent of whether, when invited to Berkeley by the College Republicans, he had a right to speak within the limits of the First Amendment.

In the end, Sturm’s piece suffers from a conception of free speech that nobody really holds, from his subsequent conclusion that free speech and positive social change work against each other, and from his failure to be explicit about what he recommends. He winds up sounding like a pablum-fed liberal whose message is simply this: “Why can’t we be nice to each other?”

A new liberal website—and some pieces to read

I’m not sure when the website Areo Magazine started, but it was just called to my attention, and, like Quillette, it’s worth following as a liberal website that eschews the excesses and authoritarianism of the Regressive Left. It’s edited by Malhar Mali, who told me that the site “is focused around Free Expression, Humanism, Politics, Culture, and Science.”  I’ve put screenshots below of a few recent articles, which you can read simply by clicking on the screenshot. As you can see from this sample, it’s a progressive site that’s also critical of the excesses of the Left. Have a look.

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And speaking of Quillette, here are two new articles worth a look (again, click on the screenshot to go to the pieces):

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As I looked through both websites, and read some of these pieces, I felt once again the loss of Christopher Hitchens. Imagine what he’d have to say these days about the excesses of the Left—particularly its attacks on free speech! No one has (or can!) step up to fill his shoes.

 

Nesting time!

My squirrels have waxed plump and fluffy over the winter on their diet of seeds, nuts, and pecans. Now it’s clearly time for them to build their nests before the breeding season. This one was attracted to my breakfast buffet, but dropped the leaves (temporarily) on the windowsill to have a peanut or two:

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Readers’ wildlife photos

We have a potpourri of Ceiling Cat’s creatures today; don’t forget to keep sending in your good wildlife photos (please, nothing out of focus).

Here’s a garden spider from reader Kevin Eisken; does anyone know the species?

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Reader Roh Shaw sent a photo that may be a a Clark’s spiny lizard (Sceloporus clarkii) from Tucson, Arizona.

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Reader Garry VanGelderen sent three pictures of a red fox (Vulpes vulpes), the first on February 20.

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The next day we got another shot:

The same fox  (that I sent you a pic of yesterday) showed up again this morning. Got 2 shots of through a (dirty) window. In the first pic he is crouching to listen for a prey animal (most likely a vole) that is somewhere under the snow. In the second pic he is getting ready to do the classic jump-dive. Missed that last shot of the dive: he didn’t get his target. Saw him do it later again further away from the house and he did get something. I couldn’t identify what it was.

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And a bunch of nature photos from reader Nicole Reggia, who lives in eastern Pennsylvania. I’ll leave it to you to identify the species:

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Chipmunk!

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My favorite is this picture of damselflies mating en masse:

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Monday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

It’s Monday again: February 27, 2017, and remember that tomorrow is the last day of the month. Today is a double food holiday: National Strawberry Day and National Kahlua Day. It’s also International Polar Bear Day, so give a thought to an animal most likely doomed by global warming.

On this day in 1900, the British Labour Party was founded and, on February 27, 1933, the Reichstag Fire took place in Berlin. The Nazis, who may have set the fire themselves, blamed a Dutch communist, which gave them the excuse to crack down on Germany and solidify their power. On this day in 1940, carbon-14 was discovered by Martin Kamen and Sam Rubin; it proved a valuable way to date more recent organic artifacts, but that took 9 years and the technical expertise of Willard Libby, who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for radiocarbon dating. Finally, on February 27, 1951, the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, limiting American Presidents to two terms in office. (Franklin Roosevelt was elected for four terms.)

Notables born on this day include Hugo Black (1886), Marian Anderson (1897), John Steinbeck (1902), Lawrence Durrell (1912; read his superb Alexandria Quartet), Elizabeth Taylor (1932), and Alan Guth (1947). Those who died on this day include Ivan Pavlov (1936), Frankie Lymon (1968), Konrad Lorenz (1989), Spike Milligan (2002), William F. Buckley, Jr. (2008), and Van Cliburn (2013).  Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, editor Hili is kvetching to Andrzej about the disarray of the newsroom:

Hili: Is it possible that he ever tidies this up?
A: Get thee to a nunnery.
(Photo: Sarah Lawson)
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In Polish:
Hili: Czy jest możliwe, że on tu czasem sprząta?
Ja: Idź Ofelio do klasztoru.
(Foto: Sarah Lawson)
 In nearby Wloclawek, the weather has warmed up enough for Leon to start his spring walkies:

Leon: I decided that it finally was warm enough and I deigned to go for a walk.

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As lagniappe, we have a special Gus video today, with the Earless White Cat playing the “Mouse Game” with staff Taskin. Be sure to watch till the end.

New York Times to air anti-Trump ad during Oscars, Trump fights back

In all my life I’ve never seen anything like this. First Trump goes after the press, which of course has alienated the media to the point that it’s striking back—not explicitly at the President, but at the cavalier attitude towards truth held by him and his administration. Here’s a 30-second ad, prepared by the New York Times, that will air during the Oscars.

The message, involving conflicting claims, is clear: it is journalism (e.g., the Times) that is the seeker of the truth, and the truth will out.  It worries me a bit that the press is getting explicitly adversarial, though that doesn’t worry me near as much as do Trump and his shenanigans. I get the feeling, and I may be wrong, that even the good gray Times is becoming somewhat less than objective. But of course what’s happening in our government may have made me mistake rancor for objective press coverage of pervasive idiocy.

Such displays on both sides are unprecedented, even during Nixon’s anti-press Watergate debacle.

Also unprecedented is Trump’s response—on Twitter, of course:

Governance through Twitter repels and sickens me, as does Trump’s nasty remarks about “fake news” and the Times itself.

Expect a lot of political speeches at the Oscars tonight. I won’t be watching, as that ceremony never excites me, and I’m not in the mood for virtue-signaling from Hollywood. I know where I stand—firmly against Trump and his Republican cronies—and I don’t need Meryl Streep to tell me.

 

Michio Kaku gets human evolution all wrong on The Big Thunk

UPDATE: I forgot that I had an earlier post showing Kaku embarrassing himself about his own field, also on The Big Thunk. Go here to see the fun.

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When I saw this video on Larry Moran’s Sandwalk site, I remembered an old Jewish joke that goes something like this (“schnorrer,” by the way, is Yiddish for “beggar”):

A schnorrer knocked on the door of the rich man’s house at 6:30 in the morning.
The rich man cried “How dare you wake me up so early?”
“Listen,” said the schnorrer, “I don’t tell you how to run your business. Don’t tell me how to run mine.”

So I don’t make videos pontificating about the meaning of quantum mechanics, but Michio Kaku, a former physicist and now science popularizer, has the chutzpah to make videos about evolution, and to pronounce on whether evolution is happening in Homo sapiens right now. Here’s his mind-boggling take from The Big Thunk, in which he confidently proclaims that our species has stopped evolving.

How many misstatements can you find in this video? Besides the crazy idea that continents evolve,  and that the large brains of humans evolved to help them “live in the forest” (we got big brains long after we came down from the trees to live on the savannah), he says that evolution happens “every time two people mate” and “in our immune systems”—but doesn’t say what the hell he’s talking about. Our immune systems do respond to the incursion of antigens, but that’s not evolutionary change, i.e., not change that is inherited.

But of course we do have evidence that humans are indeed evolving “on the gross level”. As I’ve written before, we have evidence for humans evolving in “real time” (over two generations) for some traits, and for evolution in the last 10,000 years for many others (see here, herehere, here, and here.) And this is despite the fact that because of transportation, humans are mixing their genes among locations, slowing down any adaptation to local environments.  Further, there may be global evolution of our species that we simply can’t detect because the genes have effects too small to be seen in one or a few human lifetimes (a gene increasing the reproductive output by 0.01%, for example, would sweep through our species but be undetectable in real-time studies.)

Kaku always rubs me the wrong way. Like Bill Nye, he always seems to be communicating a faux excitement (and, like Nye, sometimes he doesn’t get his biology straight)—as if he’s trying to get famous instead of communicating. Neil deGrasse Tyson has a bit of that, too, but I think Tyson really is excited by his subjects as well. For me, Carl Sagan will always be the premier science communicator, because I always sensed true wonder rather than careerism when I heard him. (I get the same impression from David Attenborough.)

Who do you think are the best science communicators, and by that I mean people who know their onions, are engrossing, and are not flawed by visible ambition?

After listening to this travesty, Larry asked this question:

Is there something peculiar about physicists? Does anyone know of any biologists who make YouTube videos about quantum mechanics or black holes? If not, is that because biologists are too stupid … or too smart?

I think it’s the latter. And I won’t be making videos on cosmology for The Big Thunk.

Are “feminist” celebrities really feminist? Jessa Crispin’s take

UPDATE: For a recent critique of intersectional feminism, see this article at the new site Areao by Helen Pluckrose.

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As a male, I bridle at having to define the term “feminism”, as my possession of a Y chromosome gives me a perceived lack of credibility. If pressed, I guess I’d say it’s the proposition that men and women should be considered moral and legal equals, with nobody discriminated against on the grounds of sex (or “gender”). I suppose that makes me an “equity feminist”, a species not in good odor.

But that’s not nearly good enough for Jessa Crispin, whose op-ed in today’s New York Times,What to ask a celebrity instead of ‘Are you a feminist?‘”, is a strong indictment of forms of feminism even more radical than my tepid definition above. Crispin certainly does have street cred: she used to work for Planned Parenthood, and was editor of the feminist literary site Bookslut, which apparently folded last May. She also wrote Why I Am Not a Feminist: A Feminist Manifesto, which came out only five days ago (see the New Yorker‘s summary and review here).

What is Crispin’s beef against feminism? Apparently that the way it’s conceived by most women is it’s not “intersectional” enough, i.e., not tied sufficiently closely to social movements. While most intersectionality for feminists deals with issues of race and ethnicity, Crispin’s view is that feminism is far to cozy with capitalism, neglecting those who are marginalized because they’re poor. As Jia Tolentino in the New Yorker noted:

The most vital strain of thought in “Why I Am Not a Feminist” is Crispin’s unforgiving indictment of individualism and capitalism, value systems that she argues have severely warped feminism, encouraging women to think of the movement only insofar as it leads to individual gains. We have misinterpreted the old adage that the personal is political, she writes—inflecting our personal desires and decisions with political righteousness while neatly avoiding political accountability. We may understand that “the corporations we work for poison the earth, fleece the poor, make the super rich more rich, but hey. Fuck it,” Crispin writes. “We like our apartments, we can subscribe to both Netflix and Hulu, the health insurance covers my SSRI prescription, and the white noise machine I just bought helps me sleep at night.”

That this line of argument seems like a plausible next step for contemporary feminism reflects the recent and rapid leftward turn of liberal politics. Socialism and anti-capitalism, as foils to Donald Trump’s me-first ideology, have taken an accelerated path into the mainstream. “Why I Am Not a Feminist” comes at a time when some portion of liberal women in America might be ready for a major shift—inclined, suddenly, toward a belief system that does not hallow the “markers of success in patriarchal capitalism . . . money and power,” as Crispin puts it.

And Crispin expands this argument in her New York Times piece, which criticizes celebrities who parade their feminism on the red carpet. She takes out, for instance, after someone regarded as a demi-god by places like PuffHo: Beyoncé:

The old feminist archetype — a rejection of all hair products, the swollen bellies and bosoms of the Venus de Willendorf, and oh my god I don’t think they even wear high heels — was at odds with the gazelle-like stature we prefer for female celebrities.That has changed. There has been an aggressive marketing campaign within the feminist community to make it less scary, more sexy. As a result, more women are likely to call themselves feminist, but the word has also lost most of its meaning.

Beyoncé performs in front of a “Feminist” sign. But she is a brazen capitalist who gives private concerts for the executives of corporations like Uber, a company that has a long history of labor and sexual harassment violations. She has been accused of borrowing the work of some female artists, including the choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, or being slow to attribute their work.

What does it mean that she calls herself a feminist? Does it just mean she believes in her ability to make money? Why do we look to famous women to tell us how to feel about feminism?

And that last question is a good one. I wouldn’t, for instance, consider Meryl Streep more of an expert on feminism than someone like Crispin who’s worked in the movement for years.

Although I don’t think Beyoncé performed at Uber before the recent revelations of galloping sexism in the corporation, the excerpt above is a fair indictment. What does Beyoncé mean by “feminism” beyond the fact that she writes about empowering women and becoming successful by taking control of her own life?  I won’t question her self-description, but Crispin does, and then lists eight questions she’d like to pose to celebrities interviewed at events. Here they are:

1. Oh, don’t worry, I’m not going to ask you to justify why you’re making a movie with a man who was recently arrested for domestic abuse! [JAC: Being culturally illiterate, I’m not sure to whom she’s referring here.] None of my business. But when was the last time you chose to work with a female director, producer, director of photography, writer or key grip?

2. As your body is setting the standards for beauty among preteen girls who also want to be pretty and loved, how hungry are you right now?

3. I love your new line of girl power T-shirts! So chic. Do you know how much the Bangladeshi women and children who sewed them were paid for their labor?

4. If you say you are a feminist, are you more of a bell hooks feminist? A Shulamith Firestone feminist? No, no, Shulamith Firestone, the writer, not a juice cleanse. O.K., well, are you an Emma Goldman feminist?

5. Let’s do a multiple choice! I want to know if your feminism is intersectional. Here are five possible definitions for the word “intersectional” — give it your best shot.

6. Do you know how much your male co-stars are making? Do you know how much the cleaning women on set are making?

7. What is the carbon footprint on your private jet?

8. Oh, so you’re thinking of moving to Canada now that Donald Trump is president? Do you think your life, insulated from his policies by your fame and money, has been affected by his administration?

In other words, she indicts celebrity feminism—and by extension many liberal feminists—because they’re not doing enough for poor women, or poor people in general.  They’re concerned with their own status/victimhood/position in society. While some of the questions above are a bit jocular, they all have a serious bite.  And I don’t know how to judge them. Is a “real” feminist involved in multiple issues of social justice? If they talk a good game, or write on their websites, but don’t really improve the lot of the poor, can they call themselves feminists?

I have no dog in this fight, as I think the question of “intersectionality” complicates nearly every ideological issue of the Left. Can you be an anti-racist if you’re not at the same time a Crispin-style feminist? Can Christina Hoff Sommers be seen as a feminist if she favors equality of opportunity but not equality of outcome? Does being a feminist mean passing a purity test on every social issue that presses on us now? (I doubt it, if for no other reason than everybody can’t work on everything. People have priorities.) I consider myself a male feminist (but I am loath to say that for fear of opprobrium), but Crispin would vehemently disagree. But does it even make sense to argue about the meaning of the term?

Crispin apparently thinks it does. I’m not so sure. We can argue about the value of combining moral equality of the sexes with other social causes, but that’s a question of philosophy and social activism, not of semantics. After all, Peter Singer would probably espouse the very same goals as Crispin does, at least for wealth, but isn’t ever seen as a feminist, though his recommendations meet Crispin’s test far more than those of many women.

Give your definition below, or state whether you think that definitions of or purity tests for feminism are useful.

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Jessa Crispin