Friday, 4 October 2013

Answering Ideas With Ideas

As he had previously remarked on the lack of any audience feedback here at A Moment Of Cerebus, I proudly faxed Dave Sim a batch of recent posted comments (particularly to the Dave Sim: Pariah King Of Comics! and The iPetition: Ray Cornwall posts) and asked if he had any response at all. The following fax arrived a couple of days later...
Cerebus #229 (April 1998)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(Click Image To Enlarge)
(from a fax, 23 September 2013)
The Impossible Things To Believe Before Breakfast are still impossible for any rational, thinking person to believe -- unless their thinking is being "assisted" by totalitarian feminist coercion. As was the case with Lawrence Summers when he stated the generally known fact that women drop out of the higher maths and sciences at university in prodigious numbers and that that should be factored into the way those programs are structured.

I thank Almighty God that, by happenstance rather than design, I occupy a place where totalitarian feminist coercion is close to completely ineffectual, so I am able to be a free-thinking person who recognises when a Thing Is Impossible To Believe.

I also count myself fortunate that, as a societal pariah, I have roughly 500 open-minded friends with whom I can comfortably associate since I don't foresee totalitarian feminism loosening its stranglehold on society in the foreseeable future -- or, in fact, in my lifetime. I accept that -- except for those 500 people -- I'm unwelcome in my society and I have acquiesced in that as graciously as it is within my ability to do so. I discuss things openly when I discuss them with relevant facts and fact-based opinions. That is, generally, no longer permitted in our society so I can't say that I think I'm missing out on anything by being unwelcome. If I was welcomed by people who close off whole areas of discussion for ideological reasons, THEN I would worry.

Ask AMOC viewers to limit their comments to the Impossible Things To Believe Before Breakfast. Those are the point: not who Dave Sim is or what his motives might be or how you WANT Dave Sim to behave. Stick to answering ideas with ideas.


Gabe McCann said...

Can we ask him questions we might come up with in the almost but not quite yet here 3rd great Cerebus re-read at

Anonymous said...

I think it’s a waste of time to respond to Dave’s list because, referring back to the Tangents essay, he doesn’t flesh out his ideas in any satisfactory way, or, on some points, at all. Despite what Dave thinks, it is badly needed.

For instance, point one:

A mother who works a fulltime job and delegates to strangers the raising of her children eight hours a day, five days a week does just as good a job as a mother who hand-rears her children full time.

In the Tangents essay, there is no exposition on this point. But it raises a lot of questions.

First, can Dave point to any particular feminists who advocate that position? Or does Dave think that this is effectively the feminist position, even if actual feminists say otherwise? Or is this effectively the status quo that feminists refuse to explicitly acknowledge? Whichever one it is, that would be worth pointing out and then explaining. Dave risks making a straw man argument without explaining exactly what he is responding to. It’s hard to respond to this point without knowing what Dave is reacting to.

Next, does point one mean that a father couldn’t (or shouldn’t?) raise a child while the mother works? If so, why? If not, why not mention fathers? Are Dave’s only two options for caregiver a) mother and b) stranger? If so, why? Does Dave think this is effectively the feminist position? What about the role of other relatives? What about what feminists say about the role of the entire family in raising children? Or does that not matter? Can Dave point to some feminist arguments in favour of daycare as a best option? Again, not sure what I should be responding to here.

There are studies that say that daycare is neutral or mildly worse for children. These studies are obviously highly politically charged. Does Dave reject these studies? Or are the studies irrelevant to him? Perhaps Dave’s views are instead based on scripture? Or is it both? Since this goes to the epistemological basis for Dave’s belief, it would be very helpful to know, and might save a lot of time.

And what about some real-life examples? What about a single mother who can earn a six-figure salary as a professional? Is Dave saying that she shouldn’t be able to work to afford to take care of her kids? I know several women in that situation. It would mean a drastic diminution for her children’s quality of life for these women to act as stay-at-home moms. What about them? Even if that isn’t the majority example, shouldn’t mothers with good jobs be able to work? Does Dave believe women should be deprived of this choice? Or does he accept that women can choose, but believes that their choice should be deplored? Not clear.

Every point on the list raises similar questions. I could probably write 15-pages of questions in response to the 15 points. I have no interest in doing that. Hopefully, addressing one point is enough.

Perhaps Dave has more thoroughly explained these points somewhere else, but I can’t find it on the Internet.

It’s completely ridiculous to expect people to respond to any of Dave’s points when one would have to guess so much of whatever underlies Dave’s ideas. I have no idea what exactly Dave is responding to. I can’t be sure what his assumptions are. I have no idea what directions Dave would take his ideas or what he thinks the implications for women are. I have no idea whether his beliefs are based on science or religion or both. The only reasonable answer to Dave’s list is, I think, “please explain yourself more thoroughly.”

-Reginald P

Tony Dunlop said...

"Can Dave point to some feminist arguments in favour of daycare as a best option?"

I don't know if Dave can, but I did, a few weeks ago:

Here's an article in a very mainstream source (NY Times) that reinforces Dave's main point in "Reads."

It's an example of what Dave called the "poor us" genre of feminist writing. One finds these everywhere these days. It laments the rather obvious fact that if you leave your job (which mostly goes to pay for day care anyway) for a few years, you won't make as much when you come back as the people who didn't leave for a few years. Why, that's...oppressive! Concluding sentence:

"The most radical solution of all is the most obvious: we need high-quality, universal, subsidized day care. And we should not be ashamed to ask for it."

Articles like this are nigh-ubiquitous in media which caters to the upper-middle class secular white audience (of which NYT is the paradigm).

However, as I'm largely in agreement with Dave's critique of feminism (which is *not* at all the same thing as "hating women," far from it), I'll keep my comments focused on each specific post as it comes up - with the approval of the site moderator, of course.

Anonymous said...

@Tony Dunlop: "However, as I'm largely in agreement with Dave's critique of feminism (which is *not* at all the same thing as "hating women," far from it), I'll keep my comments focused on each specific post as it comes up".

I have no idea how you can be "largely in agreement with Dave's critique of feminism". I don't think it's possible to say with anything close to certainty exactly what his position is.

It would take a substantial amount of guesswork on your part for you to flesh out Dave's 15 points as he sees them (and keep in mind, lots of it is probably based on scripture, perhaps with a few Norman Mailer references thrown in). You'd have to do a ton of work to explain those 15 points yourself, because, to the best of my internet-searching ability, Dave has never explained them to anything remotely close to a satisfactory standard. I don't believe you could expand on Dave's ideas with any degree of confidence.

That is unless Dave has fleshed out these ideas more thoroughly in some difficult to locate spot. If a meaningful exposition is difficult to locate, then it's not reasonable for Dave to complain that no one has refuted his ideas.

Since no intelligible position has been put forth, no one is in much of a position to respond. It is a waste of time to respond to the list because it is not clear what we are supposed to respond to.

I have no idea if Dave is reacting to something like the article you point to, if he thinks that article is typical, what his specific refutation of that article might be, and what sort of alternative he might propose.

Dave has not done nearly enough to flesh out a position and offer an alternative vision (or at least, not that I can find on the Internet), which he really ought to if he thinks feminist ideas are so awful.

What's the program Dave? If a mother, then stay at home and raise the child? Is that a program? It leaves a lot of unanswered questions.

I think Dave has to point to some actual targets, provide specific refutation (hopefully empirical, but I expect there is going to be some scripture), and then offer a program or course of action, laying out its real-world consequences, that Dave proposes would be a better solution.

There are real issues here: Should the taxpayer ever fund the raising of children? If so, to whom and under what circumstances? If not, why not? Should taxpayer funding be limited to only certain groups? If mothers want to increase their earning ability, should the taxpayer ever fund that, or should government policy decline to provide any assistance? Should she be relying on her family alone? What are the husband's responsibilities exactly?

Again, it's for Dave to flesh out what he says much more thoroughly.

Dave should have this laid out clearly, in one easily accessible spot.

It's not unreasonable to ask for this.

And, at the risk of you entirely ignoring the main thrust of this post, I would suggest that the mocking, over-the-top approach of Dave's writing is counterproductive and to be avoided. Calling other's ideas "poor us" writing is simply ad hominem ("us" = the person).

Again, to keep my main point in sight: DAVE needs to provide something fulsome to respond to. You are in no position to do that (unless you have a link).

-Reginald P

Tony Dunlop said...

It's safe to say that Dave's critique of feminism is pretty thoroughly expressed in "Reads." While I wouldn't have used such vivid and even grotesque language as he did, I do think his main points are pretty transparent.
Since the moderator has indicated that he doesn't want these comments to become running conversations, I'm going to lay off this thread hereafter.

Anonymous said...

As I believe I had said in another comment, what Dave seems to want is someone to accept his premises and then refute his arguments (or "arguments"). That is unlikely to happen, because a) someone who accepts his premises is not likely to want to refute his arguments, and b) someone who wants to refute his arguments is unlikely to accept his premises, because c) it is his premises that some people object to, and finally d) Dave is unlikely to accept a refutation should one surface on these terms, but is more likely to move the goalposts as he has in the past. That Dave takes the fact that he doesn't receive these desired responses as some kind of victory is not rational (by which I don't mean "not sane", but "not a reasoned conclusion necessitated by the premises").

So I'm afraid I must agree with Reginal P. that Dave needs to flesh out his arguments more if he wants oppositional arguments in response, and I must disagree with Tony Dunlop "Reads" is a thorough, well-reasoned, and complete refutation of feminism (or even of Dave's ideas (or "ideas") about feminism) -- the proof being that Dave has expanded upon "Reads" in other forums.

And most of all, I would agree with Dell's last comment in the linked "Ray Cornwall" post: "as an anti-feminist writer, Sim adds relatively little value -- there are many others who write similar material. But as a cartoonist, Sim has nearly infinite value, and there is no substitute. So I'd much rather Sim spend his time writing and drawing 'Strange Death' than arguing about politics."

-- Damian T. Lloyd, Esq.

Anonymous said...

I just had a look through Reads and I can't find a word in there about daycare.

As far as daycare in Tangent, Dave's points that are susceptible of a response are these:

- Feminists believe that it is (entirely? primarily? partially?) the government's responsibility to raise their children (not one feminist cited for this extreme and poorly-stated position)

- Government-funded daycare is fiscally irresponsible (Why? no facts or figures cited, no sources. Others have critiqued government-funded daycare, but it’s not clear which version Dave subscribes to, if any.)

- Government-funded daycare is unfair because it only benefits mothers who choose to work (All taxation that targets assistance to one group is subject to this criticism, so why is this kind of supposed tax favouritism any worse? Or is it? Is all “tax favouritism” bad? Can't a working mother also benefit her children, her husband, or society in general. Why aren't there any other beneficiaries besides the working mother? Does Dave think she's just working for fun or to prove a point? Dave's idea of "benefit" seems predicated on a rigid view of proper gender roles: father as disciplinarian, mother as nurturer. Unless he has evidence as to why traditional roles are better, then his point is hopelessly value-laden and is not a fact-based argument.)

- It is central to a civilized society that parents are responsible for their children. (By what standard is daycare an abdication of parental responsibility? Parents are legally obligated to provide the necessities of life to their children. As a society, we expect parents to love their children and do their best to provide for them. But we also expect parents will have assistance. We expect grandparents to take a supportive and loving role with their grandchildren. Tax benefits for parents are widely accepted; reasonable people do not expect parents to raise children without assistance. I think Dave is going to have to fill in a few blanks in the logic chain here as to why government-funded daycare is an abnegation of parental responsibility, or why it does too far. Is all assistance to parents evil? Or only government-mandated? Why? Why does he think that there is any connection between the moral decline of society and government-funded daycare (never mind that this would be a hopelessly value-laden argument)?)

- Government-funded daycare is a cookie-cutter approach to raising children that treats children as interchangeable. (No evidence for this proposition, either that this harms children or that it somehow makes children interchangeable cogs (or “hogs” in Dave’s parlance). You could also make the same argument about public school, all formal education, and all occupations. If a problem of “over-regimentation” exists, it's not clear that abolishing formal education, occupations, or daycare would be the answer. Even if Dave offered some evidence for his belief, and then somehow showed an actual problem, it could be that the solution is reform of the daycare system. But Dave never develops this idea, never considers that there would be alternatives to getting rid of government-funded daycare, and never presents any argument as to why that wouldn't be acceptable.)

Dave's ideas are clearly unsupported and undeveloped. On each point, Dave lacks fact-based support, doesn't point to his sources so that we can know exactly what he means, doesn't consider the implications of his ideas, roots his ideas in values which he assumes are ideal (even though they are actually controversial), makes arguments that properly apply much more broadly, leaves obvious questions unanswered, and doesn’t develop his ideas.

-Reginald P

ChrisW said...

For good or bad, this is one of the things Dave misses by not having internet access. There are many men (and even some women) who regularly post the sorts of things that made "Reads" such a big deal. And they have large followings - not "Avengers" movie-level followings, but pretty good for internet writers - self-publishing books of their work, linking to each other. The first such blog I found, interestingly, was started in March 2004.

Dave is stuck in the comic book medium (not an insult; I wish I was there myself) and has accomplished enough that he doesn't need to be anywhere else. But this is the sort of thing he misses by not being anywhere else. Men Going Their Own Way has its own acronym in the "Manosphere," which is itself a loose confederation of blogs and writers who basically reject feminism and, whether they have wives/kids or not, acknowledge the problems with modern marriage just as Dave spelled out for so long.

Certainly Dave would disagree with many conclusions of many of the writers. My favorites include someone who was raised a Roman Catholic and became an atheist, another who works in the porn industry and is a pagan (I would say a "proud pagan", but he references his individual beliefs so rarely that it's easy to miss) and a foul-mouthed woman who is also an atheist, but recognizes that her kids are different because of gender [she gives nicknames to personal acquaintances; the girl gets a cute alliterative name, the boy is simply 'LittleDude'] and occasionally posts on issues such as 'what if Men failed to show up for work today,' where even stewardesses would be standing around with nothing to do on planes piloted, fuelled, constructed and designed by men. It's a woman making the point that men build civilization, women build a home for men.

Basically Dave's won the argument. It might not help him sell his comic book, but his overall argument has been made and people who know nothing about him are making the similar points. It will be a while before victory becomes apparent, but lines up perfectly with "Going Galt", worthy men denying women their efforts and women making do with the scum that remains.

Dell said...

"Since the moderator has indicated that he doesn't want these comments to become running conversations, I'm going to lay off this thread hereafter."

Are you sure about this? Where did the moderator say this?

The comments policy on the "about" page says "Comments that debate and discuss ideas in a civil, rational manner are always welcome (even if you disagree with Dave Sim!). Comments that are potentially libellous, abusive, childish, generally strange, or just designed to prolong unnecessary and unpleasant arguments, will be deleted without warning." To me, that suggests that prolonged back-and-forths are okay, as long they "discuss ideas in a civil, rational manner" rather than being "unpleasant."

But I may well have missed something the moderator said somewhere else, or be misinterpreting that.

Regarding the discussion here, I mostly agree with what Reginald and Damian have said. The "impossible things" are Dave Sim's caricatures of feminism, or oversimplifications, not actual feminism.

A Moment Of Cerebus said...

"Since the moderator has indicated that he doesn't want these comments to become running conversations, I'm going to lay off this thread hereafter."

Did I say that? Sorry if I gave that impression. If you have anything relevant to say, go right ahead. Just keep it civil, no scratching, gouging or hitting below the belt.


David Birdsong said...

Reginald P it sounds as if you would like Dave Sim to keep explaining himself to your satisfaction. If you haven't gotten the gist by now I doubt you will able to no matter how much he writes on the subject.

My suggestion is that you write to him and request whatever explanations you need. It can take years, but he has never failed to answer any question I have ever put to him.

Tony Dunlop said...

OK; I seem to remember this being said in one of those 20+-comment-long threads somewhere; I don't have the patience to look it up.
So I'll un-censor myself on this thread. It's probably true that Dave has never given a full, philosophical treatment of his views on feminism. It does appear to me, however, that Dave Sim and many feminists agree on one crucial point: that men and women interface with the world in fundamentally different ways. The disagreement seems to be in how to handle the difference; whether to embrace it or to try to "overcome" it. I tend to favor embracing it, which means fully affirming the distinct roles men and women naturally have in society, families, and other social structures. I don't believe that one role is "superior" (as Dave apparently does), but I also don't believe the roles are remotely interchangeable.
Thanks, Tim (I'd forgotten your name, embarrassingly enough) for clarifying your policy on comment threads.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure Dave addressed his criticisms of his Impossible Things at length in Aardvark Comments @297-299 or so.

Doesn't matter though; no one really wants to have the conversation, and I don't think an argument over semantics qualifies. As some pop star put it in response to Miley Cyrus and her spat with Sinead O'Connor, who called her a prostitute or something (sigh): "Truly believe that feminism is being nice to other women, and allowing them to express themselves however they choose, without criticism.”

How can anyone possibly argue rationally against that point of departure?

David C

Jeff Seiler said...

WOW! At the risk of extending this thread, I am reminded of the flame war I had with some. . .dude. . .several years ago over at the Cerebus Yahoo chat group. Despite every attempt to argue rationally with that. . .dude. . .he insisted on making it personal. Finally, I went ballistic on his. . .derriere. . .and it pretty much tapered off. At least, that's how I remember it.

I am surprised that there aren't more of this kind of thread here. It certainly makes for some interesting, if incredibly time-consuming, reading.

As for discussion of the 15 impossible things, I think that it was pretty well-covered in the back pages of Cerebus. For those of you who didn't buy or don't have the original monthly issues, I would just say wait around long enough and Dave will probably finally get around to publishing the Aardvark Comment pages in their entirity, as he has oft threatened to do.

If you really just can't wait, well then, go out and get those monthlies. They're really well worth the time and effort and money to track down, even if you have to get the Bi-weekly reprints of the early ones.

And as for the day-care issue (or, for that matter, any of the 15 things), it is worth remembering that Dave wrote them based, at least in part, as a citizen of one of the most socialistic societies in the civilized world--Canada. Having had some personal experience with Canadian citizens (besides Dave), I really do think that there is a significant difference in the American and the Canadian world view--in a socialist way of thinking, that is.

One man's opinion.