‘Feminism’ Vs FACTS (Anita Sarkeesian DESTROYED)

A Thundering Foot in the Mouth with a Blundering Head up an Ass

Setting up the Problem

In “’Feminism’ versus FACTS (Anita Sarkeesian DESTROYED)” Thunderf00t brings his bullshit detector far afield from his usual expertise, for instead of criticizing science or engineering bunk, or explaining clearly science and engineering marvels, in this video he ventures into philosophy and the humanities, and specifically into feminism, and even more specifically, into Anita Sarkeesian’s “Tropes versus Women in Video Games.”  This raises a rather obvious question: how reliable is his critique compared to his sometimes brilliant explanations and debunkings on scientific and pseudo-scientific topics?  Does he expose Sarkeesian as an intellectual fraud as clearly as he exposes Elon Musk’s Hyperloop project as an engineering fiasco, if not as an outright fraud as well?  In other words, has he pulled off something similar to what Sokal and Bricmont achieve in their hoax and follow-up book, Fashionable Nonsense—to wit, exposing post-modern bullshit on science for what it is?  In that book, two scientists expose bullshit in the consumption and the critique of scientific ideas in post-modern theory, including feminism.  Does Thunderf00t do some analogous bullshit exposure here, one better informed by intellectual honesty than his subject matter?

Sadly no.  In fact, Thunderf00t so misses his mark that one could reasonably say he optimizes stupidity in his critique of Sarkeesian.  This is not to say that Sarkeesian is right because his critique is wrong.  Instead it is to point out that Thunderf00t’s critique is not even wrong; that one probably couldn’t write a better confirmation-bias-driven-narrative to refute a straw man if one sat down with the intent to do so.  In this regard, Thunderf00t is either brilliant or extraordinarily lucky, but in either case he does his viewers a tremendous disservice by caricaturing and mocking ideas he simply doesn’t understand.  This lack of understanding is all pervasive in the video, but it comes out most clearly in his treatment of the feminists’ tackling of the subject/object distinction, discussion to which he recurs several times in text and other videos, and the manipulation of which he bases much of his rebuttal of Sarkeesian . [1]  This manipulation has implications and consequences that he simply does not appreciate, in that the subject/object problem is far more complicated that he lets on.

Simply put, the subject/object distinction is a long-standing and extremely subtle philosophical problem—in other words, as a term of art, it represents a rather technical philosophical issue, one that simply is not limited to the obvious, common sense implications that Thunderf00t exploits as he uses it in his arguments against the feminists in general, and against Sarkeesian in particular.  In fact, quite the contrary: the feminists’ invocation and criticism of this distinction is much more in line with a proper critique than is the belabored and completely trivial points that Thunderf00t makes using it.  For in that invocation and criticism lurks an implicit philosophical commitment, one that goes something like this: as a term of art, the subject/object distinction means ‘I, the knower, am the subject trying to know objects in the world, so I form representations or beliefs about them, representations that reflect their true properties, and in this way I come to know true facts about them.’  Furthermore, inherent in this account of knowledge is some sense of objectification: that which is known, or acted upon, or just related to is intrinsically ‘objectified’.  Thunderf00t clearly doesn’t spell out this philosophical commitment in such explicit terms, but whether he knows it or not, this is the position within which he frames his critique when he enters the subject/object debate with the feminists.  He has, as it were, stepped right into the terms of the debate with his thundering foot, and like it or not, he’s committed to the terms and rules of that game.  And what’s more, he appears completely unaware of this: he manipulates the distinction by simply switching out who is subject and who is the object, without any apparent clue that the subject/object problem is itself a specific philosophical construction, one that has been alternatively embraced and copiously criticized, and in any case one that opens up a whole quagmire of problems and paradoxes implied in the distinction—problems and paradoxes the feminists are addressing (or at least trying to).   Where one falls within this quagmire depends on where one steps, but regardless, simply by entering into the debate one has stepped into it.  Because of this, the subject/object distinction most certainly isn’t limited to the default, common sense meanings Thunderf00t relies on, meanings that can be brought to bear as a rejoinder to feminist obfuscations simply by switching the terms around to make the subjects objects and objects subjects.  In short, to invoke its obvious properties in any respect is simply a mistake that misses what is really at stake in the discussion.  The feminists are up to something far more subtle, although showing how this is so will take some doing.

For starters, it needs noting that very idea of a “subject” and  an “object” in which the roles can be switched as Thunderf00t wants to switch them is itself a recent invention; in ancient and medieval logic, the situation was quite different.  Back then the relationship between the subject and object was a fixed, one way street, so to speak, in that what is today called the “object” was actually the subject (the thing to be known), and the predicates to be known of the thing (the ‘objects’) could only follow from, as it were, the subject.  There was no switching subjects into objects, and vice versa, simply by switching who was doing the looking or knowing—or more generally, who is doing the objectifying: that distinction did not yet exist.  And that is the first point to note in order to contextualize the feminist critique.  What they are objecting to is in fact a recent philosophical invention created for a specific philosophical purpose, not a common sense relation between knowers (subjects) and things known (objects) that was just waiting on the shelf to be invoked.

As a second consideration, it also needs noting that you don’t get today’s so-called “common sense” notions of the knower as subject knowing objects in semi-reversible roles (as Thunderf00t understands the problem) until Rene Descartes, who in fact posed this innovation as a solution to explain a few long-standing epistemological problems, the most noteworthy of which was the realization that some predicates of subjects can depend on the dispositions of the one doing the predication; that is, they do not necessarily reflect the intrinsic properties of the subject itself (for instance, warm water will feel cool if the hand placed in it is warmed first, and so forth: saying the ‘water is cool’ is thus relative to a disposition in the perceiver, when in fact by actual measure of temperature or feeling under normal conditions the water is ‘warm’).  Anyway, to solve this problem and others, Descartes switched the terminology around: he said that first there is a knower (a “subject”) seeking to know something about things (the “objects”), and it does this through representations that reflectively mirror the intrinsic properties of these objects, or not.  So again, where in ancient thought the subjects were once subjected to the predication byobjects’, after Descartes subjects became the ‘predicators’ and objects become the ‘predicated’—with the properties predicated known only through mental representations about them, representations that are intrinsically the result of objectification.  In short, the role of subject and object was fatefully reversed, and in this reversal it was given much more flexibility and explanatory power.  But the take home message here is that this reversal, as an invention, is intrinsically subject to evaluation and critique.  In other words, one always can and should ask: does it fit the purpose it purports to fit?  One can also always ask: since it is an invention, where does it come from—what sources in experience have been selected and abstracted in order to invent it?

With these two points in mind, what Thunderf00t fails to realize about the feminists’ criticisms of the subject/object distinction is that for them, they are asking these questions, and in asking them they are critiquing a specific set of problems endemic to the wheelhouse of philosophy, one with a specific history, and one not confined to the simple, common sense ways in which subject and object can simply be transposed.  And in that wheelhouse, they are right to do so because the subject/object distinction is a mess.  As natural as it might seem today, in fact the subject/object distinction as a theory (which it originally and inevitably is) poses paradoxes of its own as bad as or worse than the ones it was meant to solve.  For instance, just to take the biggest one (and there are several others): if representations in the mind are the sole means through which the subject as knower comes to know the objects as known—and for the distinction they are because that’s about the only way to bridge the gap between subject and object—from what vantage point can the subject compare the representations in his mind to the real properties of the things out there in the world?  How does one determine whether that predication, mediated by the representation, is true or not?  In other words, how can the medium of predication become the check of the veracity of predication itself?  To illustrate this problem, take a simple example from science: how can one estimate the distortions imposed on the pictures of stars because of the defective mirror on the Hubble telescope only using the defective mirror as the sole means of access to viewing the stars?  If it is the sole means of access, how would we even know there are distortions; how would we even be aware of the defective mirror?  We wouldn’t.  Without some ‘third-party’ vantage point it is simply impossible to check the ‘representation’ (the picture taken) against the ‘real thing’ (the arrangement of stars), and to therefore estimate that an adjustment is needed.  The analogy to the epistemological problem of the subject knowing the object through the medium of its own representations is exact, and as persuasive as it might seem as a common sense description of how we come to know—and it is probably so persuasive because through cultural osmosis it has become the basic vocabulary in which we describe knowledge (Descartes was as much a mathematician and a scientist as he was a philosopher)—as a philosophical position, which it ultimately is, it’s bunk—or better put, the unsolvable paradoxes it creates are as bad or worse than the problems it purports to solve, so as a tool for solving them it sucks.[2]  This raises an obvious question: if not through the subject/object distinction, how should we describe knowledge?  What terms should we use?  And with those questions enter the feminists (and others, of course, many others, most of whom probably do a better job, but that is immaterial here).  They try to address this problem.[3]

Feminism Kung Fu-ed.

If feminism is right to question the philosophical division between subject and object because it’s simply a lousy tool for understanding the problems of knowledge—as it surely is, since the technical philosophical distinction is bunk—what is one to make of their efforts?  In other words, since to question the dichotomy isn’t inherently stupid, how should one approach their criticisms?  Any reader has two options.  First, one can solve the problem himself and then tell them that their solution, if different, is in fact the wrong one.  Or second, one can assess their efforts in its proper philosophical context, giving their arguments the best possible construal, then seeing if their approach collapses in on itself in some kind of inconsistency, contradiction, or intolerable paradox.  Thunderf00t takes neither approach.  Instead he steam-rolls over the subtlety of the underlying issue and then offers the worst possible construal of feminist theory, a construal so juvenile it wouldn’t pass muster on any elementary philosophy exam (itself not setting the bar high, but apparently it works fine for YouTube, which is apparently where he gets his information on the topic anyway).   To see this, one need only compare his trivial railing about how subjects can become objects and objects can become subjects (and therefore the distinction is either meaningless or hypocritically applied) to what follows next—a plausible construal of what feminists are driving at, one that might actually make enough sense to fairly criticize it as a philosophical position.

As a first step, consider this: as a humanly devised construction—as a tool we (or actually Descartes) made to describe how we come to know the world, and to solve some problems about how we conceptualize that process—the subject/object distinction probably had to come from somewhere; that is, it probably has to be rooted in some disposition or tendency of how we engage with the world and reflect on that engagement.  In other words, it probably wasn’t just pulled out of our asses or thin air.  So a legitimate question is (and it’s one feminists ask): where did it come from?  Whence the error? And to that point, a reasonable case can be made for some role played by the differences between the sexes, if in fact some difference between them seemingly relates to what is at stake in the distinction.  In other words, perhaps something related to gender played a role in its origin and emphasis.  Can a reasonable case for this be made?  Has one?  If so, maybe it’s just that most feminists posting on YouTube aren’t very bright or very reasonable about the best work in their own field… (and in that regard they wouldn’t be much different than any other group or profession, taken as a whole).  In any case, since they are on the right track in rejecting the subject/object dichotomy as bunk, perhaps a construal of feminist theory into a best reasonable case might be possible for any fair and informative critique…

Applying the cardinal rule of Kung Fu (make the position criticized as strong and as cogent as it can be)…as a beginning to making this reasonable case, it can be noted that men as a tendency tend to ‘objectify’ when engaging with their own bodies, with the world, and with others, and in so doing they set up a ‘distance’ between things and others and themselves.  Furthermore, they can ‘compartmentalize’ their minds and emotions quite well as a benefit from setting up this ‘distance, even as this distance that occurs  prior to conversation may in some ways inhibit authentic expression within it.  In contrast to this, women tend to ‘subjectify’; they are often captivated by or get caught up in the organic connections among things without compartmentalization, thus their mental space, as it were, lacks an ‘objectifying’ (both positive and negative) distance.  Furthermore, they’ll feel the need to work out these connections and establish some kind of compartmentalization in conversation, as opposed to having compartmentalized prior to conversation to such an extent that authentic expression is inhibited.  These two “male” and “female” tendencies can be seen all over the place; anyone who has honestly reflected on his or her own interactions with the opposite sex can appreciate them; and while not hard and fast indicators exclusive to men as men and women as women as such (much less an imposition men place on women through some idiotic conceptual patriarchy), these trends represent observable empirical patterns.  Perhaps something about the subject/object dichotomy could have its origin there.  It may not, of course, but given its status as philosophical bunk and the fact that that bunk has to come from somewhere, it’s prima facie not stupid to suggest it might be related to these observable trends among ‘men’ and ‘women’ in thinking and feeling.  After all, objectification, clear distinction, distance, and subjectification are all in play, and what else if not those things is the subject/object distinction about?

With this caveat in mind, Kung Fu can go even deeper in its exploration of ‘feminism’—its best forms, not the comic book versions that Thunderf00t describes from YouTube (again, probably like in any profession, the most common).  For instance, one can compare the relative ways in which sexual desire is aroused in men and women.  To that point, one can simply observe the role that visual stimulus plays in male sexual arousal: men are more turned on by visual imagery than women, and to view something is to view it from somewhere, to emphasize or rely on the distance from it—in short, it is to set up a relation of distance between the viewer and the viewed, to establish, as it were, a subject/object relation.   To the second part of the point, consider the role that touch tends to play in female sexual arousal: touch establishes an immediate relationship between the ‘subject’ and the ‘object’; by definition there is no distance between them.  So in a real way, relative to distance and ‘objectification’, the subject/object distinction relied on in visual arousal dissolves.  The contrast couldn’t be more apparent: in male sexual desire a subject/object distinction is established, while in female sexual desire, a subject/object distinction is dissolved.   Now obviously—and admittedly feminists often get this wrong, but so does Thunderf00t, just from insouciance and overzealousness in the other direction—these trends are not hard and fast metaphysical realities: both occur in relative degrees in various men and women, and to some extent everyone does both (they have to, otherwise they couldn’t function in the world, or even just have sex).  Furthermore, observing this differential arousal is clearly not to say that men don’t like to be touched and women don’t like to look at erotic images.  And finally, and most obviously, even though there is no such thing as metaphysical patriarchy as the imposition of the ‘male’ reality through science and rationality, much less onto society as a whole, as observable trends between the sexes these tendencies are clearly real.  In light of that reality, it is perfectly sensible to say that, in some sense, the way in which we structure our patterns of thinking and feeling and desire will borrow from or follow one or both of these trends, depending on whether one is ‘more masculine’ or ‘more feminine.’   In other words, given these empirical realities, is it not stupid (as Thunderf00t would have us believe) to consider them relevant to the subject/object distinction, or even to our intellectual lives in general.  That is, it is not stupid to think that modes of objectification or not, and even whether something gets objectified or not, has something to do with gender (and by extension biological sex as well).  For recall, the subject/object distinction is no more a common sense metaphysical truth than a hammer or a nail is an inevitable tool: it is a construct and a tool devised to solve a particular problem.  As such, it has to have its origin in some real need and tendency somehow.  Perhaps these observed tendencies are related to that origin and its persistent emphasis…

Now take Kung Fu to the final step.  Suppose these gender related trends exist (actually, this is a fact, not a supposition).  Now suppose a world where in fact one gender dominates.  Suppose that gender makes the laws, produces the arts and sciences, sets the patterns for cultural, social, and legal interaction, and so forth.  As a statement of historical fact, it so happens that until relatively recently men have been that dominant gender.  Now if so, doesn’t it stand to reason that if a certain tendency toward objectification relative to a subject/object distinction in patterning thought and feeling and desire exists in one gender more than another, and if that one gender in fact is ‘running things’, just to abbreviate, doesn’t it stand to reason that that tendency will become the norm, that it will become the default position against which the other form is judged?  It is a perfectly valid question.  The model is so simple as to be almost obvious, and so obvious as to almost be missed.  In its best form, this is what feminists have been trying to say: they have successfully said so in medical and psychological research, where their work has had an important influence.  In other words, they have been trying to say that tendencies specific to men have come to dominate activities and professions and habits of thinking where men in fact dominate, to the exclusion and therefore to the detriment of women—or for that matter, to anyone in which the other tendencies prevail, including other men.  And to be frank about it, after all the metaphysical bullshit about patriarchy as some insidious all pervasive force is discarded, rather obviously they are probably right: as a statement of fact activities dominated by any group will almost by definition adopt the tendencies and trends specific to that group, and it just so happens that in video games—to bring the Kung Fu home to this particular example—that might be exactly what has happened when it comes to objectification, sexuality and women—more or less the main point in Sarkeesian’s critique.  As a genre even though video games are now played by women as almost as, if not as frequently as men, they are still designed, produced, and marketed predominantly by men.  The idea that producers will impose on a product tendencies from their own in-group instead of a the sensibilities of a newly emergent consumer market is about as easy a layup as one ever gets in business and the social sciences.  It may even be an Achilles heel of firms and one of the, if not the, engine so much social and economic change.

This “might be” of prospective formulations and analysis is where Thunderf00t should have both started and ended up, if he were as universally wise in the ways of Kung Fu as he presumes to be.  For by venturing so far from his chosen field, he certainly professes a general mastery of some sort, and in other cases where he applies himself to scientifically absurd or neat ideas, he clearly has expertise to spare.  But here—to put it charitably—he completely and utterly fails.  For construed in the most charitable way, one that requires perhaps more expertise than he has (or maybe just more effort than he is willing to exert), Sarkeesian’s series on “Tropes versus Women in Video Games” boils down to the perfectly sensible proposition that in an activity that has previously been dominated by men, where the product is produced almost exclusively by men but is now almost equally consumed by women, tendencies and trends and preferences specific to men still dominate, to the exclusion of the sensibilities and such specific to women.  Whether this is a great social injustice or even a social problem has no bearing on whether or not it is an empirical fact, and Thunderf00t simply presents himself as a hostile and illiterate buffoon in dismissing the very possibility that it might be a fact simply because he denies it’s a problem if it is.   Even granting that in most forms the analytical tools third-wave feminists bring to the table are just silly, it just so happens that criticism of the subject/object distinction is not one of them, nor is the idea that male-oriented tropes, stereotypes and tendencies in video games probably dominate the industry.   As misguided as their specific arguments can be (rooted in caricatures of sexual difference as they all too often are), criticism of the subject/object dichotomy has an immaculate intellectual pedigree, one available to anyone who takes the time to familiarize himself or herself with the field in which that pedigree originates—or alternatively, one can just avoid the clutter and nonsense and think through the issues for oneself, as the Anus has presumed to do here.

To wrap this up, Thunderf00t seems blithely unware of what he is actually delving into when he takes on Sarkeesian in “Tropes versus Women in Video Games.”   This is demonstrated not just in that he invariably misses every point she tries to make, and/or makes quite well; it is equally demonstrated  because he consistently does so either by changing the subject (and thus displaying intellectual dishonesty), or by arguing against a caricature of his own creation (ditto).  In short, Thunderf00t omits all the important elements of a good critique.  Whatever the causes of that omission—and it’s hard to see how ignorance isn’t one of them—the result is the same: a confirmation-bias driven “analysis” [sic] that refutes nothing but its own irrelevant constructions.  In pointing this out, no defense of the content of feminist critiques of culture or science or rationality is implied, much less any statement that Sarkeesian is right because Thunderf00t is not even wrong.  All that is stated is that Thunderf00t’s so-called ‘destruction’ of “Tropes versus Women” using FACTS is nothing more than a pile of useless rubbish—a heap of non-sequiturs, side-steps, distortions, innuendos, and outright errors.  As such it is best ignored by his subscribers, mainly because it’s so idiotic that appreciating this would only shake their faith in his otherwise great work, but also because it only contributes to the distressingly enlarged field of Internet non-sense and noise.  Everyone deserves better than that, and Thunderf00t usually delivers.  It’s just this time he’s not even close, and what’s worst from the standpoint of intellectual integrity, he’s a sarcastic and conceited dickhead about it.  That just wastes everyone’s time, including his own, and what good can come of that?

_______________________________________

[1] Since the focus here is on a broader philosophical topic that feminists grapple with but Thunderf00t simply blunders over, it may be unfortunately abstract and beyond the interests (at first, at least) of some readers.  Therefore the Anus feels obligated to provide specific examples of his obtuseness, dishonesty, and total ignorance.  Here are three, each taken from specific instances of first citing Sarkeesian and then “refuting” her point.

First, Sarkeesian says the tropes and stereotypes in the media consumed (video games in this case) reinforces the stereotypes and tropes the consumer brings to the media.  This is not a controversial a claim because mainly she is saying that they reinforce an existing stereotype, not that it necessarily plants a new one or causes one to form.   Virtually everyone who produces media content knows something like the reinforcement is true.  That is, they know how important it is to play to the preferences of an audience, and all Sarkeesian is adding is that this playing to them implicitly validates them.  Thunderf00t calls this total bullshit, and as an argument against her he points out that there has been no uptick in mass murders mirroring the kinds one can act out in video games, or any statistical change in the murder rates at all, despite the murder and violence in video games.  That may be true—it almost certainly is—but as true as it is, it is equally irrelevant.  Sarkeesian is not saying that video games cause behavior; she is certainly not saying that the specific things one does in video games causes one to behave that way.   All she is saying is that when game developers cater to the prejudices and stereotypes and what not of its players—when they include content employing those stereotypes—they are implicitly validating those stereotypes, if in fact those stereotypes already exist, and that this implicit validation is not harmless.  Her point about it not being “harmless” may or may not be true in a broader context, but Thunderf00t’s so-called “rebuttal” is either completely deluded (he’s criticizing a view that is evidently not there but he thinks really is) or it’s completely dishonest (he just doesn’t want to see the point that is there because he just doesn’t like it).  Complete ignorance is also a possibility, to wit, he just doesn’t understand her point.

Second, Sarkeesian says that treating women as disposable sex objects for male gratification is intrinsically degrading to women, and that presenting this option in video games reinforces (again, not necessarily causes) the disposition to think of women that way, if the person tends to think that way in real life.  This too is not a controversial point, as disposable objects are almost by definition inferiorly valued versions of the things one wants to cherish and/or keep around—so a prostitute is not valued like a spouse, etc.—and being given the option to dispose of something clearly validates the option to do so.  Thunderf00t’s response: whether or not a woman wants to be an object for male gratification is a life choice, and he observes some women choose to be in porn, even mature educated ones, and to that point he interviews a young educated woman who likes to do porn.  The interview is surely valid as an example of a life choice, even as the issue of “life choice” is completely irrelevant to the question of sexual degradation through demeaning disposability.  In the first place, the choice to be a degraded female object (if that is what porn is, and Sarkeesian is not making that argument) only proves that women too can willingly participate in the degradation of women and not see it as a problem, just as men sometimes do.  And in the second, it fallaciously argues that degradation cannot occur involuntarily in a given act because sometimes that act can be in other instances voluntary.  That is pretty much like saying rape is not a problem because sometimes women choose to have sex.  This time Thunderf00t’s confident and strident “rebuttal” is at best a deflection and at worst completely idiotic.

Third, Sarkeesian complains about the sexism inherent in being able to dehumanize and objectify sexualized women as pawns in the course of playing out the game (in Hitman), and Tunderf00t’s reply is that men are objectified as objects too: just look at all the violence against men, how they are merely disposed of—he even shows a clip where a fully clothed man is disposed of, one almost identical to the clip that he’s already shown of the player disposing of a nearly nude female body.  The complaint is hypocrisy, Thunderf00t insinuates: both men and women are objectified and disposed of, and the feminists focus only on the women.  Never mind that Sarkeesian is talking about sexuality in video games, not violence, and that she convincingly shows that men are never sexualized but women almost always are (Thunderf00t’s own evidence in the rebuttal even shows this). Never mind too that she even notes elsewhere that both men and women engage in violence against objectified opponents—an engagement she doesn’t criticize.  Finally, never mind that Sarkeesian explicitly says the answer to objectifying and degrading women’s sexuality is not to objectify and degrade men’s sexuality; the solution is not equal opportunity sexualization and degradation.   Set all this bad faith and intellectual dishonesty aside.  In other words, set aside the fact that Thunderf00t is simply changing the subject to make his argument against a straw man.  His argument as it stands is still stupid.  It amounts to saying to the cops in a domestic violence call: it’s ok to rape my wife because I beat my brothers too.  Sarkeesian may or may not be wrong to take issue with the sexual objectification and degradation in the video games she analyzes, but since she does so within the context that this sexualization only occurs with women and not with men, despite the fact that men and women are equally engaged in objectifying violence against opponents, this context completely immunizes her from changing the subject, as Thunderfoot does.  That his own clips in his rebuttal perfectly illustrate the very point Sarkeesian is making (to wit, the female victim is sexualized but the male victim is not) indicates that Thunderf00t is being either utterly dishonest or utterly stupid.

These three are analyses should be enough.  They could be continued with literally every rebuttal he makes in the video.

[2] The reader will just have to take this assessment on faith here, but for more actual details he or she can refer to the Essay section of this blog, specifically the discussion of this very problem (though in slightly different but completely compatible terms) in “The Unnecessary and ‘Naïve’ Epistemology in The End of Faith”)

[3] Feminists principally attack the subject/object dichotomy endemic to the Cartesian knower/known by discussing aspects of human being and knowing that Descartes and the tradition following him either left out or explicitly excluded.  Specifically, they emphasize issues like embodiment, situatedness, sexuality and gender—all things which for Descartes were inessential to the knower/known relationship that related the subject to the world through objectification in the search for theoretical knowledge.  In fact, for him the soul knew best absent the contributions of its own embodiment and situatedness, plus it certainly didn’t have sexuality, much less a gender.   The merits of these critiques are immaterial to the point being made here, namely, that when they are attacking the subject/object distinction, feminists have in their sights this disembodied and objectifying relationship between the knower and the known.  Even when not explicitly discussing it, that Cartesian target serves as the background and context for what they are trying to say.

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