Home / General / “A memoir might conveniently free Flanagan from one of her fiercest hostilities — her resistance to empirical data or any evidence at all.”

“A memoir might conveniently free Flanagan from one of her fiercest hostilities — her resistance to empirical data or any evidence at all.”

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The pay at online journals being what it is, I’m pretty sure Irin Carmon isn’t getting paid nearly enough to justify consuming 200+ pages of Caitlin Flanagan in a narrow time frame.   But fortunately for us, we get an excellent takedown out of the deal.   On the phenomenon described in the post title, I loved this:

Flanagan mocks, for example, the suggestion on a Planned Parenthood site that abstinence-only education is linked to the rise of previously exotic forms of sexual activity (read: oral and anal) for teens who want to stay “virgins.” She concedes the existence of a Columbia University study that found that abstinence pledgers were far more likely to have those forms of sex, but sniffs, “I would hardly count Columbia as the go-to source for information on the hearts and minds of evangelical teenagers.” Yes, what do those wine-sniffing Upper West Side liberals know — except that the study, published in a peer-reviewed journal, actually drew on longitudinal data of 12,000 teenagers. This is rich coming from an author whose most decisively cited sources include “a friend who attended a leadership conference for girls” and “every woman I’ve known.”

But what’s particularly striking about Flanagan is not only that she seems to think entirely in terms of one-dimensional essentialist stereotypes, but these stereotypes often fail even to plausibly describe any known partial or contingent reality. My favorite example:

Roll your eyes all you want, and I did, at declarations like “one of the signal differences between adolescent girls and boys is that a boy does not fetishize the tokens of his childhood.”

I….Jesus. Right, The Phantom Menace took in nearly a billion dollars because young men everywhere were inherently hankering for a horribly written and acted 2 and a half hour movie about an intergalactic trade dispute or something. And maybe after Flanagan has looked into that she can google “Judd Apatow.”

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