Author Topic: Was Christopher Hitchens sexist in saying "women can work but don't have to"?  (Read 1441 times)

Fruyian

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Hi, I am defending Hitchens here and I basically said in a nutshell, that all he is doing, in is usual witty way, is providing for his family and that his wife can choose to work if she wants but doesn't have to. I see noting wrong with that, but would like other peoples opinion. I also added that any of these accusations about misogyny and sexism doesn't outweigh the many things he said about the fight for women's equal rights and the empowerment of women.

Here is what the guy said about this interview: "A man who says women's innate qualities means they are better off staying at home rather than working is simply a sexist by any definition of the term. Since modern atheism is rife with sexism, it's not surprising you refuse to see that simple fact."

My potential response would be well women are better suited to take care of children and Hitchens said before that, men often look at in awe and wonder at how a female can inherently know what to do with a newborn. And I believe this is backed up with evolutionary studies. (If anyone has citations or peer reviewed papers on this, much appreciated.) His point wasn't that the half of the human race known as female should not work ... his point was that his wife will not need to do so though she has that option.

and If he was in some sort of way sexist, he wasn't sexist in a bad way. He had an opinion that has valid arguments and points behind it and never forbid any woman to not go to work, he in fact said he would be "thrilled if they want to". If so, I can argue that his point has merit and not forcing women to do anything AND that the guy who I am debating against intentionally or unintentionally didn't clarify that Hitchens had good intentions behind that remark.. and everyone can agree it wasn't sinister and probably the mildest remark that people are throwing way out of proportion. What am I trying to say, if it is a form of sexism, it is probably too quaint and mild to delve any deeper, ya know?

EDIT:
Really appreciate any help to argue for my position on this and briefly on what he implied by "modern atheism is rife with sexism" :)
I don't think it is, there may have been a few remarks, often taken out of context, but as a whole it is not in any 'atheist doctrine'.. has we don't have any not like the religious who condemn women to beasts of burden. Side note: Hitchens was against women to being child bearers and slaves, in the interview above he said they can work if they want to, that I believe is advocating freedom of choice and equal rights.

Thank You :D
« Last Edit: June 01, 2016, 01:03:27 PM by Fruyian »

Pasta Chick

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I was going to watch the video and mull this all over until I got to "he wasn't sexist in a bad way". Because, you know, all the fact based ways it's ok to be sexist. I don't want to ramble though. I'm like 18 hours pre-period and you know how us women types get! Lol! SCIENCE!

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So, let me get this straight - you want us to formulate an argument for you so you can win a debate?!
Do we get cited at the end of your posts or will you take any victory as your own?

Welcome to HAF.

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Fruyian

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So, let me get this straight - you want us to formulate an argument for you so you can win a debate?!
Do we get cited at the end of your posts or will you take any victory as your own?

Welcome to HAF.

Well all I am looking for is advice and peoples opinion on the matter but I will cite anything if needs be :)

Fruyian

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I was going to watch the video and mull this all over until I got to "he wasn't sexist in a bad way". Because, you know, all the fact based ways it's ok to be sexist. I don't want to ramble though. I'm like 18 hours pre-period and you know how us women types get! Lol! SCIENCE!

I'm sorry of what I said upset you. But I do believe one can be sexist, rather sound sexist and have good intentions behind it. Very rare as it may be. Hitchens had a lot of charisma which may have come across as sheer misogyny but he disliked/hated people who were hypocrites and idiots, and their sex was never a factor in the equation.

But I would like your in put on this. I welcome it

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So, let me get this straight - you want us to formulate an argument for you so you can win a debate?!
Do we get cited at the end of your posts or will you take any victory as your own?

Welcome to HAF.

Well all I am looking for is advice and peoples opinion on the matter but I will cite anything if needs be :)

My advice is practice debating on subjects you have a clear understanding of before jumping into the ring with topics on which you require help. Noone learned anything from winning an argument. Take it on the chin and move on.

My opinion FWIW? Hitchens is sexist.

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The universe is a cold, uncaring void. The key to happiness isn't a search for meaning, it's to just keep yourself busy with unimportant nonsense, and eventually you'll be dead!

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Funny thing is I can't disagree with some of what Hitchens said because it's exactly what my wife and I chose to do. We made a specific choice that while our children were under school age my wife would not work away from the home. She did work, she got her first degree with the OU. So she set herself up to get back into the workplace once the kids were at school. She went on to get her doctorate and is now an internationally published author and respected expert in her field. And it's not like we couldn't have done with her working when the kids were little it was financially tough. She is a strong supporter of mums bringing up their kids and not farming them out to minders who are not family. She gets a lot of flack for her position.

So is what Hitchens said sexist? Not really because he's only saying what he would do. He's not implying that he limits another persons views or actions. That's freedom of speech and expression. He does not say women should not work. He is saying he would be happier if his partner didn't but again would not stop her. I would expect his views would be very obvious to anybody who met him so he would be highly unlikely to hitch up (see what I did there?) with a person adverse to his views.

I also think there is a bit of Hitch baiting going on there. For all his protestations of innocence he was renowned for winding up interviewers and frankly she was too easy for him.

An easy way of detecting sexism is to reverse the genders in the discussion. So if a woman said what he said but about male partner would there be an issue? Suppose it was a gay/lesbian person making such statements about their partner would there be an issue? I contend not. Thus if sexism exists it's in the people who consider Hitchen's comments sexist because he does not conform to their expectations of political correctness.
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Hello and welcome to HAF, Fruyian:blue smiley:

What Hitchens said about men being "hopeless" with newborns compared to women may have some basis, but I don't think that whatever difference exists is innate. That is, except for the obvious physical difference, it doesn't seem that women are naturally better at caring for infants and young children than men--it's more of a cultural bias. As the eldest child of a rather large family, I'm pretty sure that I would be more comfortable with newborns and very young children than many young women. I looked for studies showing that women are inherently better at childcare, and was unable to find anything substantial. It may be out there, and if you're motivated enough maybe you'll find it, but I tried a couple of different approaches, and the best I could find was not a peer reviewed study but an advice leaflet from the University of Minnesota Center for Early Education and Development.

Quote
Men often have less experience with children than women. In our society, child care skills are practiced throughout life by many girls and women as big sisters, through babysitting, as volunteers, and through work experiences. Boys and young men are offered fewer such opportunities. For this reason, men may initially feel less comfortable with and be less skilled in caring for children.

[Emphasis in original.]

Sexism and misogyny are two different characteristics, though they do intersect. Hitchens' statements in that video are not in the least misogynistic, in my opinion, but some of them do qualify as sexist in the sense that he was stereotyping women.

Thank you for that interesting first post, and I hope you'll stick around and enjoy your time reading and posting here.  :spagwelcome:
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Bad Penny II

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Sexism and misogyny are two different characteristics, though they do intersect. Hitchens' statements in that video are not in the least misogynistic, in my opinion, but some of them do qualify as sexist in the sense that he was stereotyping women.

Thank you for that interesting first post, and I hope you'll stick around and enjoy your time reading and posting here.  :spagwelcome:

I agree with the bold bit, not necessarily the stereotyping.
I think it is good that males feel protective of females but there is probably a downside, not allowing them opportunities in the military for instance.
For some stupids this could probably extend to a general feeling that woman are less capable.
I'm not going to attempt to eliminate my protective instinct, it bears keeping an eye on though.
I don't feel compelled to be 100% with feminist doctrine, though I'd call myself a feminist.

I also think there is a bit of Hitch baiting going on there. For all his protestations of innocence he was renowned for winding up interviewers and frankly she was too easy for him.

The tone of The Book Club isn't hard hitting, it's more a polite chat so stop picking on Jennifer.  ;)
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Bad Penny II

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As I recall (I maybe wrong) in the full length program he said something similar about his daughters not having to work.  That doesn't seem too healthy, encouraging dependence on him or someone else.
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In my limited understanding of the term, sexism has to do with assigning sexes with specific and unique attributes and purposes which transcend biology.

I see no sexism in what Hitch said. It has to do with choices, not forced conformity to tradition or such nonsense.
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Isn't what Hitchens is advocating here, that women should not have to work just after giving birth, one of the things women's rights advocates are working for in the US and have achieved in every other western nation? Maternity leave is one of the few things I agree with modern feminism on.


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I agree with the bold bit, not necessarily the stereotyping.

I saw his characterization of women as better than men at childcare to be stereotyping, as well as the statement: "They're called the gentle sex for good reason. I don't want to see them coarsened in the labour market, no. Not if they don't want to."
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Isn't what Hitchens is advocating here, that women should not have to work just after giving birth, one of the things women's rights advocates are working for in the US and have achieved in every other western nation? Maternity leave is one of the few things I agree with modern feminism on.

It's partly that, but he makes a much broader statement. Beginning around 0:35 in the video: "No. I'm not having any woman of mine go to work. . . . No, they don't need to work. They can if they like, but they don't have to. . . . I would expect to take care. . . . Work if you want, but you don't have to."

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Davin

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I agree with the bold bit, not necessarily the stereotyping.

I saw his characterization of women as better than men at childcare to be stereotyping, as well as the statement: "They're called the gentle sex for good reason. I don't want to see them coarsened in the labour market, no. Not if they don't want to."
I've never had a problem with taking care of babies or kids, I think that it does have a bit to do with being exposed to child care as a young lad. My oldest brother also had to help take care of his younger brothers when we were babies, so he knew how to, but he never wanted to. So, since there is an irrational bias about women being more apt for taking care of babies, he happily (and at least openly with me), takes advantage of it to avoid the gross parts of child care. Essentially, it's in his best interest to perpetuate the inaccurate and sexist stereo type, even though he knows it's bullshit because he is just as able.

As far as the topic at hand with Hitchens, I think he is being sexist in the video, and he was quite sexist in general. I didn't agree with him all the time, but he did say many things that I do agree with. I do not agree, with his sexist statements. Also, I think there is a sexist problem in the atheist community, a problem I think is best solved by having more outspoken women (not necessarily outspoken against the sexism). Because people tend to spout all sorts of bullshit off in the absence of the group they are talking about, but only a few will continue to do so in the face of the group they are talking about.

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