July 18, 2016

Things men did to Martha Nussbaum that she didn't react to in a conventionally feminist way.

Sorry but I've got one more New Yorker article to blog about "THE PHILOSOPHER OF FEELINGS/Martha Nussbaum’s far-reaching ideas illuminate the often ignored elements of human life—aging, inequality, and emotion," by Rachel Aviv. I just wanted to pull out 2 things:

1. From her experience in the graduate program in classics at Harvard, in 1969: "When her thesis adviser, G. E. L. Owen, invited her to his office, served sherry, spoke about life’s sadness, recited Auden, and reached over to touch her breasts, she says, she gently pushed him away, careful not to embarrass him. 'Just as I never accused my mother of being drunk, even though she was always drunk,' she wrote, 'so I managed to keep my control with Owen, and I never said a hostile word.' She didn’t experience the imbalance of power that makes sexual harassment so destructive, she said, because she felt 'much healthier and more powerful than he was.'"

2. From the 1990s, when she was in a relationship with Cass Sunstein: "In an influential essay, titled 'Objectification,' Nussbaum builds on a passage written by Sunstein, in which he suggests that some forms of sexual objectification can be both ineradicable and wonderful. Straying from the standard line of feminist thought, Nussbaum defends Sunstein’s idea, arguing that there are circumstances in which being treated as a sex object, a 'mysterious thinglike presence,' can be humanizing, rather than morally harmful. It allows us to achieve a state that her writing often elevates: the 'abnegation of self-containment and self-sufficiency.'"

69 comments:

YoungHegelian said...

...invited her to his office, served sherry, spoke about life’s sadness, recited Auden, and reached over to touch her breasts...

If the sherry Owen served was as bad as the lighter fluid in a bottle they served at receptions at my philosophy grad school, I'd gladly have suffered through some 'nad grabbin' to get the quality improved.

But, I mean, really, what declasse' behavior! Who grabs boobies while reciting that old fairy Auden? There's some great Elizabethan lyric poetry just made tailor-made for ye aged lecher who wishes to coppeth a feel.

n.n said...

The epiphany, if it can be called that, was that she didn't like Owen, but she did like Sunstein.

It's not about involuntary or superior exploitation. It's not about civil rights. It's not about human rights. It's about leverage and the human ego.

The long awaited explanation of life, the universe, and pro-choice. There was an SNL skit with a lot less pomp and circumstance that demonstrated this primitive human trait in less than 60 seconds.

No one actually believes in spontaneous conception and other selective fantasies. Liberalism is an open ideology. Progressive liberalism is a degenerative ideology. Conservatism is only as good as its principles.

That said, feminism is only as good as its male chauvinist counterpart.

Yancey Ward said...

I eagerly await Laslo's take.

Rob said...

Cass Sunstein: "Baby, I'm gonna abnegate you all night long."

traditionalguy said...

The most important human sex organ is the mind. These two went a long way around to get back to accepting fantasy lust as good. Modern day puritans.

YoungHegelian said...

Nussbaum defends Sunstein’s idea, arguing that there are circumstances in which being treated as a sex object, a 'mysterious thinglike presence,' can be humanizing, rather than morally harmful. It allows us to achieve a state that her writing often elevates: the 'abnegation of self-containment and self-sufficiency.'

Oh, wow, over-intellectual Jewish chick discovers she, like many women (& quite a few men) she's a got a streak of the submissive in her.

I remember the article along that line in the Journal of Metaphysics. It began

Dear Journal of Metaphysics,

I never thought I'd be writing this letter...

pm317 said...

As long as the woman is in control of her circumstances, and she knows what to do, ...why is this surprising? I think I woud have reacted the same as she did in the first instance. For the second, let us objectify men in speedos or go to Italy and gawk at statues, David among others.

madAsHell said...

Wie sagen Sie Nut Tree in Deutsch? Nussbaum!!

David Begley said...

"Nussbaum is drawn to the idea that creative urgency—and the commitment to be good—derives from the awareness that we harbor aggression toward the people we love."

What do you creative people think of the above?

Jon Ericson said...

@madAsHell
Sehr witzig!

coupe said...

Kudos on point 1.

I find it highly refined for a woman defend her honor, not by bitching, or wanting attention, or police, but by removing the hand from her breast or from between her legs. Even suggesting that the man go fornicate with himself.

I've always been taught that the first place you touch a woman is on her lips, with your lips, and only after she approves of your aura.

My wife once experienced a man who wanted to consummate their first date, whereupon she stood up and returned to the party from the patio. Later that evening, she saw another woman being led off to the shrubbery by the man. It all depends on your standards she said. All men are savages, you can't go running to the police every time they try to rape you. That's what pistols are for.

Fred Drinkwater said...

I don't "harbor aggression toward the people" I love. But, I know them in various intimate ways, which makes them vulnerable to me, and I have various obligations to them, which makes me vulnerable to them. The intensity of the resulting interactions might look like aggression to an outsider. My creativity, at its best, is driven by the obligations (including to myself) and polished by the intimate knowledge.

coupe said...

Last winter I saw a beautiful woman upon my entering the book store. She looked up at me about the same time, and I smiled. She quickly put the book away and moved to the religious section.

I decided I had to meet her, so I walked over and tried to think of some small talk. I said "So, are you a Jesus freak?" That didn't seem to please her very much.

"No," she said, annoyed, "I moved over here to avoid you." So I asked her if she would join me in a cup of coffee and a danish. "No," she said. So I enticed her with "maybe you can put a hex on me over there. Wouldn't that be fun?"

She looked at me, with sad eyes, and I could tell she felt sorry for me, but she asked "Do you know why God gave men larger brains than dogs?"

"No," I said with interest.

"It's so they won't hump a woman's leg in public."

I decided our first date was over.

Roughcoat said...

Sorry but I've got one more New Yorker article to blog about

Apology not accepted.

Jon Ericson said...

@coupe
Now THAT's funny!

Bay Area Guy said...

Less fancy Nussbaum: "Sometimes, we enjoy being hit on, and sometimes we don't"

Jon Ericson said...

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Ann Althouse said...

"Oh, wow, over-intellectual Jewish chick discovers she, like many women (& quite a few men) she's a got a streak of the submissive in her."

She's not Jewish. Her husband was. Maiden name: Craven.

Clayton Hennesey said...

Will we be enjoying Nussbaum in the downstream gene pool, or will we be restricted to the survival of her writing?

Fred Drinkwater said...

Actually, I think Nussbaum reacted to both of those situations in a conventionally feminist way. That is, if you still believe that feminism is "the belief that women are people too."
In both cases she reacts as a reasonable, civilized, but still human person would. (Or at least, within the range of normal behavior. (Am I still allowed to use that word? "Normal"?))

Doug said...

Count on a feminist to come up with an excuse for failing to uphold feminists principles.

pm317 said...

I would have smiled back at you, @coupe... I am a liberated woman.

pm317 said...

What is a feminist if not a confident, independent woman who does what she thinks is right for her. She is in control, people!

Bob said...

Modern-day feminism has made me so cynical that I'd only give 50-50 odds that the first described event ever happened anywhere except in Nussbaum's literary imagination.

rcocean said...

Sherry and Auden and THEN a grab for the boobs.

Now there's an intellectual for you.

rcocean said...

Guys like Bill Clinton prefer the direct approach:

Whip your dick out and ask a low level employee to kiss it.

rcocean said...

"Modern-day feminism has made me so cynical..."

Yeah, I'm sure a lot of sexual harassment too place back in the ye olden days, but most Leftists are such liars.. so who knows?

pm317 said...

These liberal chicks are so in love with themselves.

rcocean said...

BTW, have any of you read Shirley Temples autobiography? For some reason all the Jewish Hollywood producers had a thing for her. She says Freed whipped his Dick out in a private meeting when she was 11 (maybe inspired by the song "the good ship lolly pop"). She just laughed, which embarrassed Mr. Freed.

Later, almost every producer on every movie grabbed her, or tried to throw her on the proverbial "casting couch".

So, yeah, Feminism isn't all bad.

wholelottasplainin' said...

This goes back a loong way, but an early 60's trio, "The Limelighters", sang this:

She was young, she was pure, she was new, she was nice
She was fair, she was sweet seventeen
He was old, he was vile, and no stranger to vice
He was base, he was bad, he was mean
He had slyly inveigled her up to his flat
To view his collection of stamps
And he said as he hastened to put out the cat
The wine, his cigar and the lamps



Have some madeira, m'dear
You really have nothing to fear
I'm not trying to tempt you, that wouldn't be right
You shouldn't drink spirits at this time of night
Have some madeira, m'dear
It's really much nicer than beer
I don't care for sherry, one cannot drink stout
And port is a wine I can well do without
It's simply a case of chacun a son gout
Have some madeira, m'dear

Here's their performance from the 80's: The singer is doing what I am sure is a perfect Cass Sunstein impersonation:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vrbAyHVVYgI

walter said...

Bay Area Guy said...
Less fancy Nussbaum: "Sometimes, we enjoy being hit on, and sometimes we don't"
--
Objectification is in the eye of the beheld. When they get to the abnegatin', better pack it in.

David said...

"arguing that there are circumstances in which being treated as a sex object, a 'mysterious thinglike presence,' can be humanizing, rather than morally harmful."

Well, Duh. Don't knock it if you haven't tried it.

Fernandinande said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fernandinande said...

Nobody tries to touch my breasts. [SOB]

But if they did I'd file a federal lawsuit with the Department of Tittery.

David said...

So she treated the horny but hopelessly outclassed professor with compassion and dignity, politely rebuffing his advance. What a concept.

rhhardin said...

I'd have gone with Housman

The stinging nettle only
Will still be found to stand:
The numberless, the lonely,
The thronger of the land,
The leaf that hurts the hand.

That thrives, come sun, come showers;
Blow east, blow west, it springs;
It peoples towns, and towers
Above the courts of Kings,
And touch it and it stings.

Moneyrunner said...

The opening of her novel is so hackneyed I'm wondering why she didn't begin with "it was a dark and stormy night."

Sebastian said...

“What I am calling for,” Nussbaum writes, is “a society of citizens who admit that they are needy and vulnerable.” I call BS. Such a society would not have people like MN in it.

“Nussbaum is monumentally confident, intellectually and physically. She is beautiful, in a taut, flinty way, and carries herself like a queen . . . she often seems delighted by the performance of being herself.” Right. Nussbaum, Sen, Sunstein -- is there any alpha male in academia who has not hit on her? By the way, I suspect a few details are missing from the Owen episode. Methinks the lady is quite capable of using some handy feminist jiu-jitsu to turn male infatuation to her advantage.

““I feel that this character is basically saying, ‘Life is treating me badly, so I’m going to give up,’ ” she told me. “And I find that totally unintelligible.”” So the diva does have a sense of humor, albeit of the unintentional kind.

““It was an emotionally barren environment,” he told me. “You were supposed to just soldier on.”
Nussbaum spent her free time alone in the attic, reading books, including many by Dickens. Through literature, she said, she found an “escape from an amoral life into a universe where morality matters.”” But can life with a racist (her label) be amoral? No evidence here her father was either – immoral perhaps, if he did in fact hurt most people.

“I care how men look at me. I like men.” We get that, Martha, we get that.

““Martha, it’s too autobiographical,” Epstein said.” Funny line. Then again, it’s the right philosophy for the age of O.

“Probably the best thing to do with your last words is to say goodbye to the people you love and not to talk about yourself.” If that’s the standard, methinks she won’t be dying a good death.

YoungHegelian said...

@Prof. Althouse,

From Wikipedia on Prof Nussbaum:

This period also saw her marriage to Alan Nussbaum (divorced in 1987), her conversion to Judaism, and the birth of her daughter Rachel, who is currently a history professor at The Evergreen State College.[4]

Nussbaum's interest in Judaism has continued and deepened: on August 16, 2008 she became a bat mitzvah in a service at Temple K. A. M. Isaiah Israel in Chicago's Hyde Park, chanting from the Parashah Va-etchanan and the Haftarah Nahamu, and delivering a D'var Torah about the connection between genuine, non-narcissistic consolation and the pursuit of global justice.


As much fun as I may be making of her here, Prof. Althouse, I know of & admire Prof. Nussbaum's work (and even know some of her students, actually) because she wrote all the time for The New Republic in the 22+ years I subscribed. She was really upfront with her Judaism in those articles. A convert's fervor, I guess.

I really don't have anything against her work. She is a brilliant & accomplished person. It's just that the Analytic (i.e. Anglo-American) tradition's readings of the Greek classics & Analytic moral philosophy were never strong interests of mine, as I was trained in the Continental tradition.

Moneyrunner said...

Horror as 19 people are hospitalised by 17-year-old Afghan refugee wielding an AXE and shouting 'Allahu Akbar' in German train rampage before police shot him dead as he fled the scene

We will never know the motive. He never grabbed anyone's boob.

rcocean said...

"Nussbaum is monumentally confident, intellectually and physically."

Except her last name is "Nussbaum", which is one slight step above "Gopnick".

coupe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
madAsHell said...

Maiden name: Craven.

Oh dear God....she went from Craven to NutTree. Truth is stranger than fiction.

You know there is damn good reason why someone would accept the name NutTree after being labeled Craven.

pm317 said...

We will make Titus the head of Department of Tittery.

mccullough said...

I want to know what Auden lines he recited before evaluating the conduct of the professor

rcocean said...

"Some say love's a little boy,
And some say it's a bird,
Some say it makes the world go round,
Some say that's absurd,
And when I asked the man next door,
Who looked as if he knew,
His wife got very cross indeed,
And said it wouldn't do."

rcocean said...

The closing lines:

"When it comes, will it come without warning
Just as I'm picking my nose?
Will it knock on my door in the morning,
Or tread in the bus on my toes?
Will it come like a change in the weather?
Will its greeting be courteous or rough?
Will it alter my life altogether?
O tell me the truth about love."

The picking my nose line is usually when they start taking their bra off.

Rick said...

So we're supposed to conclude Tom Brady is the age's great philosopher?

Darrell said...

I met that very same woman. The exact conversation happened until--

She looked at me, with sad eyes, and I could tell she felt sorry for me, but she asked "Do you know why God gave men larger brains than dogs?"

"No," I said with interest.

"It's so they won't hump a woman's leg in public."

"Wait, I'm almost finished," I said.

Jupiter said...

I'm exhausted just reading about her.

William said...

Caddish behavior is aspirational. Men are far more likely to be fools than rogues. The upside of quoting poetry is that it takes some of the rapiness out of a boob move. It makes the guy look sad and ineffectual rather than coercive. He probably had a Gregor Samsa moment the next day, and she got to contemplate the power of her sex appeal.

Caroline Walker said...

Inside baseball. Who the hell is Martha mussbaum.

MikeD said...

What does my only believable feminist (Ms. Paglia) think of this? Everything else is BS & burn it down!

rcocean said...

After conversion to Judaism, and the birth of her daughter Rachel, who is currently a history professor at The Evergreen State College

Imagine those lucky people from Washington State. They get a history lesson from Rachael Nussbaum. No doubt lots of stuff about race/gender/class in from awful white male dominated Amerikkka that existed before 19065.

Jupiter said...

"Things men did to Martha Nussbaum..."

Wait a minute. I am perfectly OK with the idea that Cass Sunstein is an Enemy of Mankind, and I shall not mourn his passing, but what exactly did he "do to" Martha Nussbaum?

Actually, it sounds like the first guy made a pass at her, which she did not appreciate, and then Sunstein made a pass at her, which was more to her liking. And in both cases her reaction may not have been "conventionally feminist" (what, she didn't rip off her bra, burn it, and found a silly magazine?), but it sounds pretty unremarkable. Like most mammalian females, she was able by signs, gestures and utterances to select the mate she desired and reject the one she did not. Thus continues the species.

bagoh20 said...

I wish you intellectuals would stop trying to dress up sex as literature. It does not need nor benefit from the attempt. That's why you talk about it and complain about it more than you do it. Just get down and have some fun. You have no ability nor even the mindset to make it better than it is when simply experienced as the heat and abandon that fully describes it in its natural state. Just open the gift and throw the wrapping around the room for god's sake. Literally for God's sake.

Bob said...

^ "I wish you intellectuals would stop trying to dress up sex as literature."

mr youse needn't be so spry
concernin questions arty

each has his tastes but as for i
i likes a certain party

gimme the he-man's solid bliss
for youse ideas i'll match youse

a pretty girl who naked is
is worth a million statues

rcocean said...

"Some say love's a little boy"

Well, Auden was Gay and near-sighted, so that explains THAT line.

Earnest Prole said...

"As the clever hopes expire of a low dishonest decade"

rhhardin said...

Most axes are peaceful.

Mick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eric the Fruit Bat said...

I've got two of Shakespeare's sonnets memorized. The first and the eighteenth. I'd like to do some more, but I'm not fucking reading through every last fucking one of them in the hope that I'll trip over one that won't piss me off.

What the fuck is up with 73, anyway? It starts off great. Becoming decrepit. Something I can relate to. But does the Great Bard® stick the landing? He does not!

This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong, . . .

GET THE FUCK OVER YOURSELF, DUDE!!1!!!!!1!!!

What a smacked ass.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

So anyway, it's looking like it's going to be the 29th and the 30th. Gleaned from the internet and those cheesy cheat-sites with titles like "10 Best Shakespeare Sonnets You Must Love!" I figure, . . . well . . . the guy who picked those out as worthy is just as smart as my high school English teachers so that'll do, pig.

Yeah, yeah, I know, I know. The 29th has that same, you-think-I-rock thing in it and the 30th is pretty darn close.

But you know what? I'll be memorizing them so I can recite them to my dog.

I suspect that maybe he really does kind of like me.

Unknown said...

Jew Jew Jew Jewy Jew. What's with all the Jew talk? What difference does it make? And she's a convert anyway. Are you pigs objecting to the creed or to the bloodline?

I guess you talk like that because you never met one who would put you through a wall.

As if there weren't Catholic, Protestant, atheist, Muslim, Buddhist people doing the same things.

Mike said...

1. A mature self assured woman can handle things with dignity and class. In fact having dignity and self-respect is so much better than having a "safe space" to run to that I wonder why more women don't try this tack.

2. The very personal experience is multidimensional, where one is both object and objectifier, slave and master, submissive and... Well you get it. Laslo can explain if you don't.

Fred Drinkwater said...

Married to Sunstein, eh?
So has she read any of his books? Does she like being covertly manipulated by him to do what he thinks is best?
Or does she think "Oh, he only does that to proles, not to real people like me!"

Mac McConnell said...

In later years she didn't get tenure at Harvard. Seems she didn't know a gal had to put out or be a be fake indian to get tenure.

ALP said...

"...some forms of sexual objectification can be both ineradicable and wonderful. Straying from the standard line of feminist thought, Nussbaum defends Sunstein’s idea, arguing that there are circumstances in which being treated as a sex object, a 'mysterious thinglike presence,' can be humanizing, rather than morally harmful."
*******************
Amen. Feminists fretting over being objectified would keel over and die if they knew how many post-menopausal women look at young women - because they are NUBILE*, sexy young things. I do this ALL the time when I am out and about "Wow, I remember when I turned heads like that" or "Dayum, I remember when my waist that tiny and I could wear the hell out of skirt that tight." Do I give a shit about you as a person when I am doing this? No. I am looking at you as a purely sexual object.

Feminists have no clue. When they get done stamping out the male tendency to look at sexy women as...sexy women, then can then turn their attention to the much larger, constantly growing issue of middle aged and older women objectifying young women.

Lucien said...

@ wholelotasplainin:

Try Flanders & Swan for that "Have some Madeira,M'Dear" song.