The Sexist

Lionel Tiger: The Closest Reading

Ladysquires of writing blog Shitty First Drafts provides a lengthy stylistic analysis of the first two paragraphs of Lionel Tiger's latest: "What the hell is Tiger even saying? I recognize that academic prose is necessarily dense. We’re talking about complex theoretical ideas here. . . . The problem is that he is allowing the overuse of mundane language to make the reading experience torturous." She does say this: "I am totally going to use 'acidulous hostility' in my next conference paper."

  • ladysquires

    I heart you, Amanda Hess. I heart you so much!

  • Eo

    Outside of the boys are icky/man hating media the book seems to be well recieved. The writing itself is only packaging for the ideas and research, secondary and kind of irrlevant, unless you are looking for a strawman to attack because you know, boys are icky an' all.

  • Toysoldier

    Yes, Tiger's writing style makes for a difficult read. I can usually get through books in two days. The Decline of Males took me a week because of the prose. I understand the point of the ad hominem is to discredit and avoid discussing Tiger's positions. However, I do not see the connection between Tiger's egregious abuse of modifiers and the veracity of his ideas.

  • squirrely girl

    I frequently write, publish, and review in an academic setting and writers like this irritate the piss out me. I can appreciate a rather expansive vernacular as much as the next person but I think there comes a point where it's simply employed to stroke/inflate the ego of the writer.

    If people are truly concerned with the dissemination of academic discourse they should write in a manner that is conducive to this purpose. In other words, if people have to "work" to read your material, you're missing the point of publishing... which is to share ideas.

    Additionally, some people purposely use big words to mask the (lack of) content. Just because a person in an "academic" doesn't mean they have honorable intentions. See: The Sokal Affair/Hoax or the book Impostures Intellectuelles

  • Eo

    Squirrely girl

    You said you were a student....?

    and this isnt a publication for the academic community, the ideas and research are wrapped up in a book for public consumption.

    Feminists would be better off policing the misinformation, factoids and out right lies (95% of rape victims are female, women dont falsly accuse etc) that are published by feminists rather than making childish attacks on others bacause they belong to a group that you hate.

    Here is a good resource for you....

    Combatting Feminist Ms-Information

    by Robert Sheaffer

    Refuting the Most Common Feminist Lies and Pseudo-Scholarship

    Heres a bit about Daphney Patai

    "After spending ten years with a joint appointment in women's studies and in Portuguese, Patai became highly critical of what she saw as the imposition of a political agenda on educational programs. In Patai's view, this politicization not only debases education, but also threatens the integrity of education generally. Having done, earlier in her career, a good deal of research using personal interview techniques, she drew on these techniques in her book Professing Feminism (1994, written with philosophy of science professor and novelist Noretta Koertge). Their research included personal interviews with feminist professors who had become disillusioned with feminist initiatives in education. Drawing on these interviews and on materials defining and defending women's studies programs, the book analyzed practices within women's studies that the authors felt were incompatible with serious education and scholarship — above all, the explicit subservience of educational to political aims.

    A recent enlarged edition of this book provided extensive documentation from current feminist writings of the continuation, and indeed exacerbation, of these practices. Routinely challenged by feminists who declare that "all education is political," Patai has responded with the claim that this view is simplistic. She argues that a significant difference exists between the reality that education may have political implications and the intentional use of education to indoctrinate. The latter, she argues, is no more acceptable when done by feminists than when done by fundamentalists".

  • SophieK

    My own words fail me, so instead, I'm going to one of my favorite songs for inspiration. This is taken from a calypso battle between Atilla and Lion, circa 1934.

    I hate to tell you this but I must
    Your nonsensical oration fills me with disgust
    If there is a thing I greatly detest
    Is to hear the English language badly expressed
    You are brutalizing etymology
    And crucifying syntax and orthography
    For you are a man of no psychology
    And you will never sing grammatically

    Atilla & Lion 'Asteroid'

  • Toysoldier

    @squirrely girl: In my experience many academics are so caught up in their own community that they fail to realize that most people will not know how or have the patience to decipher their "sophisticated" language. That said, some authors may not intend their work to be read by those not in the know. Tiger's problem is not a lack of content, but poor presentation of his ideas.

    @Eo: It is interesting that you mentioned Professing Feminism because I thought of that book when squirrely girl mentioned the Sokal Affair. I read the book last year and found it interesting that the biases I saw and experienced were part of Women's Studies programs practically from the outset. I assumed it was a recent development.

  • ladysquires

    I had an MRA troll comment in my mod queue this morning and did a little dance of glee. Guys, I've been at this for like 5 days! And my blog is about dangling modifiers and shit!

    But seriously, some people seem to be misreading the post. My critique was focused on the very poorly edited prose in Tiger's book. It was offered up as an example of how grammatical correctness =/= readability. But on the way there, I noted a few things that have gone amiss:

    1) The prose was not sophisticated. I mean there are a few $500 words in there that some people might have to look up, but that's not really the problem. The problem is a circuitous sentence structure and overuse of unnecessary modifiers that, honestly, most fourth graders would recognize. There isn't even any "jargon" in this thing. The problem isn't that it speaks only to academics but that it doesn't really speak to anyone.

    2) I find this to be a problem precisely BECAUSE I FIND THE IDEAS IN THE BOOK INTERESTING. "Cognitive theory of religion: Great!" is what I say in the post. And someone really should be distilling that stuff for a popular audience. I also like that he is calling out the academic community on their squeamishness when it comes to approaching religious matters. As someone whose dissertation concerns a controversial religious group, I'm glad someone is out there making that argument.

    So, all in all, it seems like the book was rushed to press or that someone in the editorial department was too afraid to challenge the author on some things (I'm not sure why. I work for a pretty famous academic, and his editors jerk him around all the time). Or maybe they fired all of their copyeditors due to the recession. And that is a real shame.

    I did not, however, address Male Studies. Why? Because that has been covered here and by numerous other feminist bloggers. Furthermore, I haven't done enough of the legwork to figure out how I might do that. Oh, and also? My blog is about dangling modifiers and shit, if you missed that before. It is a writing blog run by a feminist, but that doesn't mean that every post will be about feminism.

    So, folks who come on to my blog to trash Amanda or rail on about Male Studies or why feminists suck or otherwise REFUSE TO ENGAGE THE POST I ACTUALLY WROTE aren't going to see their comments published, so don't waste your precious time.

  • Eo


    Amanda took your comments and used them to continue an ongoing attack on this mans work and character.

  • Pingback: Why I’m Not Proud of You for Correcting Other People’s Grammar, Part Deux « Shitty First Drafts

  • Sarah #13

    I hereby declare a ban on the word "straw man" and all variants thereof, since Eo and his ilk seem to be using the term to confound and stupefy and stall conversation, in the same way that Lionel Tiger abuses the English language to confound and stupefy and stall conversation.

    I also pledge love to Amanda Hess and Ladysquires's o.p.

  • Pingback: Celebrity Professors, Theodore Dreiser, George Lucas, and the Myth of Inviolable Genius « Shitty First Drafts

  • Jesus son


    From your link:

    "Women suffer only 6% of the work-related fatalities (the other 94% are suffered by men). Women are the victim of only about 35% of violent crimes, and only about 25% of all murders, yet because of our society's exaggerated concern and respect for them, special legislation has been passed to punish "violence against women" as if it were a more heinous crime than "violence against men"."

    I like how this cites the fact that "only" 35% of violent crimes and "only" 25% of all murder victims are women as evidence of societal bias against men.

    It however fails to mention that 80-90% of violent crime is committed by males and only about 10-12% of homicides are committed by females.

    What a beautiful example of "lies and pseudo-scholarship."

  • Jesus son

    @squirrely girl

    Sokal wasn't aiming to bring down academic jargon as much as post-modern academic jargon--which as you probably know radical feminist theory and queer theory is steeped in.