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Common sense or not?

Layered within the writings of Antonio Gramsci is the notion of “common sense”. This kind of common sense is not the kind of common sense that means you don’t cross the road when a car is coming, it is the kind of common sense which leads to statements like “communism can never work” “renewables could never provide baseload power” “women shouldn’t be in combat roles” “proportional representation would never work” etc etc etc. The kind of statements that reinforce dominant ideology without any real evidence base; the things we all believe just because “it makes sense.”

These common sense ideas are not mystical revelations that have come to us from on high. They are learned ideas which are reinforced and reinforced through our exposure to ideologically driven notions which are there to reinforce the status quo. They are the kind of assumptions that we, as active citizens and intellectuals, should always question, always challenge, always look for what the dominant social hegemony is that is driving the idea.

That is why articles like this one from the Sydney Morning Herald today about women not supporting other women just drive me insane. It is blatant generalisation dressed up as fact with no questioning as to why this generalisation might have been made in the first place. And more annoying it is written by someone whose writings I usually enjoy. Yes, it is true that some women do not help out or mentor or support other women and might actually actively undermine them. But guess what – that is also true of men! And it is true of men with men! And men with women! Some women, on the other hand, actively support and go out of their way to support other women. But it serves the purposes of patriarchy to consider in general that women are horrible to other women. It reinforces the stereotype that women who succeed have to be brutal and brutalising, mean bitches who care about no one but themselves.

So, while I didn’t really mean this to be a didactic rant, it has certainly turned out this way. So I’ll finish by saying, please please please question the stereotypes, question those ideas which are common sense. Ask for the evidence which goes beyond anecdote and “well, everyone thinks this way.” Otherwise we can never change anyone’s ideas. Ever.



2 responses to “Common sense or not?

  1. One of the most anoying things that people say when you’re arguing with them is ‘but that’s how we’ve always done it!’. Doesn’t mean you haven’t always been wrong!

  2. Citizen_Re ⋅

    Dr Cannold clearly prefaces the topic with two questions she claims to often receive: “Why is it that older women often don’t support younger ones?” and “Why do women join anti-women causes?”.

    While the first question is generalising and badly qualifying it with the use of ‘often’ (often as in breathes, has breakfast or votes?) the second question is paraphrasing by the author. This infers the second question is closer to what the author wants to address.

    Without wishing to speak to the mind of the author it is no stretch to interpret the question to mean “How is it that any woman could lend support to an anti-woman cause” with ‘women’ a lazy pluralisation rather than a label.

    In defence of the interpretation of the first question it is the author’s appeal to the number of responses which implies some experiential basis behind the question. Regardless, the author doesn’t validate the generalisation but couches the reply about motivations in the qualifiers ‘can’ and ‘some’ instead of ‘do’ and ‘all’. An appeal to numbers would be a fallacy and rightly challenged, were it in the form of an argument.

    With poorly framed questions asking the learned Dr to speculate on what motivates an ‘other’ an article is born and column inches filled.

    Trying to strip the questions of the stereotypes I would pose the question “What can you do when you believe you are being undermined without reason? How do you recruit someone to your cause who you believe should be a natural ally?”. On these question I find no helpful guidance from the Dr.

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