Coda On (Male) Feminists
A hundred and fifty years ago, Charles Eliot, then President of Harvard College and now namesake of my house, delivered my favorite speech in the history of academia,[begins on page 29] from which I'll quote twice today, mostly because I'm too lazy to write my own poetry this week:
It were a bitter mockery to suggest that any subject whatsoever should be taught less than it is now in American colleges. ... It will be generations before the best of American institutions of education will get growth enough to bear pruning.
The endless controversies whether language, philosophy, mathematics, or science supply the best mental training, whether general education should be chiefly literary or chiefly scientific, have no practical lessons for us today. This University recognizes no real antagonism between literature and science, and consents to no such narrow alternatives as "mathematics or classics", "science or metaphysics". We would have them all, and at their best. To observe keenly, to reason soundly, and to imagine vividly are operations as essential as that of clear and forcible expression; and to develop one of these faculties it is not necessary to repress and dwarf the others.
On Sunday, I had lots of things to say by way of staking out my stance on feminism, but it's worth reiterating at least once more what I didn't mean.
I don't mean to say that any thing called feminism should be less widely practiced. (I also am not claiming that this is false; I don't want to touch it right now.) Perhaps we're not literally generations away from the point of "growth enough worth pruning" (actually, I hope not...), but it is a truism spoken by Knuth that "[p]remature optimization is the root of all evil."
And, without pointing any particular fingers:
The endless controversies whether [W], [X], [Y], or [Z] supply the best [modes of engagement], whether [the movement] should be chiefly [A-positive] or chiefly [A-critical], have no practical lessons for us today. [We] recognize no real antagonism between [W] and [Z], and consent to no such narrow alternatives as "[Y] or [W]", "[Z] or [X]". We would have them all, and at their best. [T]o develop one of these [stances] it is not necessary to repress and dwarf the others.
All that I mean to claim (for now) is that there should be more people who are feminists and fighting for mens' issues; I certainly do not mean that there should be fewer fighting for womens' issues.