Feminism, circular logic, burden of proof and confirmation bias.
So you used circular logic for explaining patriarchy and systems of oppression, someone said that your reasoning was fallacious and redirected you to this
video article. You
might be wondering: why would I listen to read a cis white man explaining how my
argument is wrong, that’s mansplaining, he’s probably a masculinist. First of
all, thanks for the labels! Stereotyping is always fun to disprove! Second,
this video article is not trying to be condescending, I really think it will make you
reconsider your argument so the least you can do is listen read, then go complain
about my privilege on twitter.
So what is circular reasoning exactly? Circular reasoning is when you link multiple concepts or objects, usually two, and claim that the causal link between them is that they cause each others (it’s also known as assuming the conclusion). You might be thinking at this point: ‘’well what is wrong with that, plenty of things cause each others.’’ And that would be true if you oversimplified reality. Let’s take the water cycle for example. Someone could say: ‘’water bodies cause rain clouds to appear and the rain from those clouds cause water bodies to appear’’. That statement, in this state, would be false, as it is blatant circular logic. Water bodies don’t directly create rain clouds and vice-versa, it’s the different state of matter (liquid gases and solids) that cause this phenomenon, so someone explaining how temperatures change the state of water from liquid to gas and then from gas to liquid to explain the water cycle would not be using circular reasoning. Why? Because you change the causal link, yet the correlation between water bodies and rain clouds was maintained. Let’s think about this again. the first proposition: ‘’water bodies cause rain clouds to appear and the rain from those clouds cause water bodies to appear’’ was saying A (water bodies) caused B (rain clouds) and B caused A, an obvious circular logic. But the second statement ‘’ temperatures change the state of water from liquid to gas and then from gas to liquid to explain the water cycle’’ say A (Different states of matter because of the temperature of particles) cause B (a cycle of C, water bodies, turning into D, rain clouds, and then back to C) But does not say that B (the water cycle) cause A (the different states of matter). As you can see you can prove the existence of a cycle but the cause must be exterior to the cycle itself. Also remember that correlation does not equal causation. If I see a rise in air conditioners sales and a rise in the numbers of ice cream sold, there is correlation, both graphics showing an increase at the same time, but any sane person would understand that there is probably no link at all between those two phenomenon (The number of ice cream sold do not increase the number of air conditioners sold and vice-versa). But there could be a third factor, like let’s say, summer temperatures, that link those two things by being their common cause.
So now to put back your argument in context. You probably said, in a convoluted way, that patriarchy cause oppression of women, that this oppression cause sexism, and that this sexism reinforces or cause patriarchies to exist. As you can see yourself, adding an element or a thousand elements to a circular reasoning does not make it any better: it is still fallacious. If you could manage to prove this as a cycle with an external cause it would be a very strong argument. I know what you are thinking: that external cause would be gendered socialization.
Well thought! You are sharp! However, because of the burden of proof, you failed to prove that gendered socialization is the direct cause of this cycle. What do I mean by burden of proof? Well burden of proof is simply that when someone make a claim, the person claiming the existence of something need to produce the evidence for it, without actually needing that something to prove his existence. I don’t need to travel to France to know that France exist, and I don’t need to see a horse in person to know they exists, there is plenty of evidence of the existence of both of those things, despite their obvious state of being. So when someone claim that gendered socialization is a thing, AND have severe consequences on the real world, like a so-called ‘’rape culture’’ for example, the burden of proof is on the shoulders of those making those claims, not those refuting and doubting those claims. You cannot prove the non existence of something, only the existence of something, therefore when there is not enough good evidence supporting existence of, let’s say, unicorns, the default position is to assume that the said thing, like unicorns, does not exist until proven wrong. That they probably don’t exist. Because all the opposing party have to produce is convincing evidence, you don’t even have to show me an unicorn for that, and then I’ll have to support your claim if the evidence is good enough. But that isn’t the case with gendered socialization and rape culture, there is simply not enough evidence, or unbiased evidence, supporting those claims, also just because a study shows that in mixed conversations, for example, men interrupt women more than they do it, does not prove male domination or rape culture, it simply shows that men interrupt women more. There could be a lot of reasons for that, too many in fact, to say that the reasons or conclusions you hypothesized are absolutely right. But you might say ‘’well it’s up to my opponent to produce evidence supporting their different claims’’, and yes, in many cases, your opponent will try to reproduce your experiments to see if the results are the same (and challenge you if the results diverge). But no one need to produce content to criticize yours. If your methodology is biased and unscientific, people can point it out as discrediting the value of your conclusions, and therefore any argument based on those conclusions. If your study is done right, but your interpretations are flimsy and exaggerated, people can also say that you are being intellectually dishonest to make such a conclusion on your study. You could still be right in the end, but meanwhile good science is needed. So, yes, burden of proof is on your side, not them. But remember that you are naturally advantaged, privileged even: Those who proven the existence of something, like horses, France, or that the Earth is not flat (by proving it is round), can rarely be discredited afterwards.
Now the last issue I want to take on with you: confirmation bias. Confirmation bias happens whenever someone reject an argument without refuting it, cherry pick, voluntarily or involuntarily information to suit their views, or use mental gymnastics to transform an opposing argument into a supporting argument. I even got an example of mental gymnastic. When people point out to feminists that men too can be discriminated for their gender they usually bring up those examples: the child custody cases favor women, men get longer sentences than women for the same crimes and men get laughed at when they report sexual harassment from women. Feminists will usually refute those arguments by either rejecting them entirely (like claiming that ‘’reverse sexism’’ isn’t a thing, despite sexism simply describing gender discrimination, not the gender being discriminated against), or using mental gymnastics. They could say that women getting child custody reinforce the idea that woman are better caretakers than men and therefore it is sexist mainly to women. But they didn’t really address the argument ‘’men can be discriminated against too’’ they just bypassed it entirely. Next one. A feminist could say men getting longer sentences is because women are perceived as weaker and more emotionally fragile and thus are being discriminated against by getting shorter sentences. But how does getting more lenient sentences is negative discrimination against women? By changing the argument, a feminist would use a fallacy, a ‘’begging the question’’ informal fallacy, because the conclusion of that counter argument is a premise in itself. That premise being ‘’women are perceived as weaker’’. That has to be proven as well. Therefore, that counter argument say that the conclusion is right despite being a premise, which is very much fallacious. For the third statement: ‘’ men get laughed at when they report sexual harassment from women’’ a feminist would often ask for more evidence of this, thus using a ‘’move the goalposts’’ fallacy by dismissing a specific argument evidence and asking for greater evidence, which could be impossible or highly difficult to produce. That person could also change the argument to ‘’So we should just assume women never get harassed either, because men get laughed at?’’ thus creating a strawman, or misrepresentation of the opposing argument by exaggerating it. The feminist could also claim, for any of the three statements, that you don’t understand their point of view either because you are not a person of color, a woman or an homosexual and thus cannot see your own privilege or because you are actively profiting and contributing to the White cisgender straight patriarchy. This is incredibly fallacious. It is a special case of bulverism, bulverism being a fallacious mix between a genetic fallacy and circular reasoning. I already explained what was circular reasoning (assuming conclusions) so I’ll explain what is a genetic fallacy. A genetic fallacy is to think that someone or something history, origin or source have the same meaning or context nowadays. So the special type of bulverism feminists constantly use is the appeal to identity, by claiming that someone arguments are invalid because of their identity. Similar bulverisms, easier to understand, exist, like the appeal to motives. For example, claiming that someone believe in an after life because he or she is afraid of death implicitly assuming that there is no after life is wrong, the motive for that position could be otherwise. Another example, an appeal to profession, would be to assume that a salesman argument of sale is wrong because he has a personal interest in you buying what he sells. It does not make what that person say false, because the logical value of an argument does not depend on who say it, but rather that that argument make sense. So I think you got the points of this
video article. The confirmation bias, that tendency to believe and reinforce our own
beliefs is strong so it is tempting to get rid of the burden of proof and
resort to circular reasoning. But please think thoroughly about that the next
time you argue with someone else! I invite you to either check the definitions
of common fallacies to be more aware of their existences and exact definitions or
to watch read more of my videos posts if you want to see content like this. Thanks for
watching reading! And have sweet dreams! -KeLvin
P.S This is a script I have for a youtube video, but I suck at video editing and don't own video/audio filming material. So if you are interested in helping me or giving me a platform please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org