Very thoughtful and enjoyable post. Your "different values" category is a good example of the problems with cultural relativism - in intro. anthropology, the question of "If all cultural values are equal, what about Hitler's Germany?" is always used to illustrate that.

I've been around more tolerant feminists than not (is that strange?), but I have noticed that an invocation of Patriarchy (as in, "you're a patriarchial tool") often replaces the term false consciousness.

Dilan Esper

Though I am no Marxist, I did get my feminism with a side of Marxism (as well as Lacan) when I studied it, so "false consciousness" was certainly part of the discussion. I think this post gets at some of the categories of what could be called "false consciousness" and also gets at what some of the problems with the concept are.

Nonetheless, it IS a useful concept. A nice example is that in many cultures where female genital mutilation is prevalent, the procedure is performed by and the girls who undergo it are procured by women. And some (though certainly by no means all) women who have underwent the procedure defend it is a useful way of ensuring keeping young women from becoming sexually active at too young an age.

I see no better description for that than "false consciousness". The concept is certainly more debatable when the facts are not so extreme, but there are, unfortunately, circumstances in this world where women help defend and perpetuate practices that are unambiguously bad for women.


Interesting post, but I have to add one additional caveat to your analysis.

If you read Twiggy, for example, in her infamous blowjob post, you get an assertion of false consciousness that is unfalsifiable and undemonstrable. Any attempt or piece of evidence to show that it isn't (or even that does show it) false consciousness is simply seen as an additional rationalization and yet more false consciousness.

I believe it is this property of the concept that separates FC from simply being mistaken.

And that kind of FC is simply never useful in any kind of serious debate. It amounts to really nothing more a refusal to engage in any debate at all, relying entirely on ideology.


By Twiggy, does Patrick mean Twisty? As in Twisty Faster?

May I suggest that Patrick go back and reread the infamous blowjob debate a little more carefully, as he has apparently misread that as woefully as he has misread the great Twisty's name?

thinking girl

oh, how sad, all the slagging of Marxism. I happen to think Marxism is one of the most sophisticated and complex theories in modern economic and political philosophy. But then, I'm Canadian. We don't have such a hate/hate relationship with communism/socialism.

but the point... great post. In my feminist group of friends, and in my feminist theory classes, we talk about false consciousness all the time. I don't htink it's that far removed from modern ACADEMIC feminist thought - but in feminism as a popular social theory perhaps it is. I'm rather surprised to hear that it isn't part of the woodwork, so to speak, of contemporary feminism on a popular level. I agree, I think parhaps "patriarchy" is a common substitute.



I was going to write on exactly this topic, but you beat me to it. And said everything I wanted to say, better than I could.

I think Patrick has a point about falsifiability, though perhaps not in the specific context of Twisty's famous BJ post. Any theory that takes any argument against it as evidence of its truth is flawed. (Of course there are fossil records of evolution... God put them there for us to find! Of course you think doing foo is in your best interest... you've been brainwashed by the patriarchy!)

Sidebar-for the other half

"(By the way, far be it for me to stick up for Ann Coulter, but she has never stated that a woman’s place is in the home. She has said that (a) children benefit from having a full-time parent, and (b) women who choose to be full-time parents should not be looked down upon for making that choice.)"

I think I'm feeling kind of ill. I never thought that I'd agree with that horrid woman--and yet you've proven me wrong. Damn you Richard! A pox on your house!


Oh, c'mon. We all can do basic logic. If children benefit from having a parent in the home full-time, and the only people who are supposed to choose to be at home full-time are women then....gosh! Do you think she's suggesting that a mother's place is in the home?

(And let's drop this "full-time parent" nonsense. Nobody suggests that Dad is a "part-time parent" because he goes to work 9-5, or that he stops being a parent while he's earning a paycheck.)


Mythago wrote: If children benefit from having a parent in the home full-time, and the only people who are supposed to choose to be at home full-time are women then....gosh! Do you think she's suggesting that a mother's place is in the home?

I think maybe you're stuck in the 1950s Mythago. I saw a research survey a few months ago that suggested that the number of stay-at-home fathers has TRIPLED in the last 30 years. That's a 100% increase every 10 years! And I know from personal experience practicing law that the number of FATHERS receiving child support from mother's has also increased significantly, even in the last 15 years. Not only that, but friends of mine who have kids share the child rearing duties, something that didn't happen in the '50s. Do you live in the back waters of Appalachia?


Richard, I think Mythago was saying that the people who make the comments you attribute to Ann Coulter and then claim that they are not saying that mothers are the ones who should be home full time with their kids are being disingenuous. And that by stating that Ann Coulter makes those comments but doesn't say that women should be the ones at home with their kids, you are being disingenuous as well. Mythago, am I correct?

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