The Second Sexism -- to read it, or not to read it? We will certainly review it at The Philosophers' Magazine and Benatar is writing an essay on discrimination against men for the magazine. If nothing else, the book is intriguing, and it sure has a clever title. But ...
Honestly, I cannot say that I feel the problem of sexism against men looms large, especially compared with the problem of sexism against women. I laughed when I read a column at the Guardian that accuses Benatar of "victim-envy". Next thing we'll be finding out that rich people are terribly mistreated too. And don't forget to pity the poor gorgeous people! On the other hand, in The New Stateman Ally Fogg says Benatar gives full credit to feminism and just wants proper attention paid to anti-male discrimination as well. So I will do my best to withhold judgment until I've read the book or learned more about it from a reliable reviewer. (Full disclosure: my own book Animalkind is in the same series as Benatar's.)
OK, now for the mysteries. One is about the connection between The Second Sexism and Benatar's last book Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence. Women have traditionally played the larger role in creating and raising children and Benatar thinks we harm people by bringing them into the world. Does that anti-natal stance make him less sympathetic to women? Just asking. (I was gratified to learn that I'm not the only one "just asking"--Christine Overall asks similar questions in her recent book Why Have Children?)
The other mystery...
First let me refer you to an interesting blog post by James Garvey on whether it's legitimate to be interested in the personal lives of philosophers. I say "of course". Being interested in people's lives is the engine behind literature and movies, and I make no apologies for my curiosity. Now, whether people's lives shed any light on the believability of their philosophical views is another matter. I'd even say "quite possibly" to that. But let's keep the focus just on lives, period. I like to know what people look like, at the very least, but in the case of someone with views as extraordinary as Benatar's, I'll go a little further. It would be fun to know some personal details. Does the author of Better Never to Have Been has 10 children? Does the author of The Second Sexism have three angry ex-wives? Probably not, but it would be fun to know.
No, I refuse to be ashamed of myself for wondering. (Perhaps Emrys Westacott's book The Virtues of Our Vices could help me defend myself. I believe he's got a defense of gossip in there.)
OK, so here's mystery #2. I was curious to know what Benatar looks like, but that's been hard to find out. Yesterday I thought I'd hit the jackpot, because I found a YouTube video of a debate he participated in (about admissions at the University of Cape Town--he argues against race-based affirmative action). However the videographer trains his/her camera on the other five panelists, but deliberately keeps Benatar out of view (he's the speaker furthest to the right). The minute it's his turn to talk, we see him for a spit second (at 8:54), and then the camera focuses on the audience and avoids him (see 10:19 and 12:55). What's up here?
Sherlock, take it away!