Saturday, December 08, 2018

The Hillarization Of Female Politicians: Fun For The Whole Pundit Family

"Yell loud enough at a female leader and eventually she’ll go away. Convince her that her disappearance is necessary for the party, and soon everyone will get to return to the avuncular comfort of a dude like Joe Biden."  Monica Hesse wrote that in a late November Washington Post article about the attempts to oust Nancy Pelosi as the incoming House Majority Leader.

It's not the amount of yelling that the powerful female politicians get that is the problem, in my opinion; it's the type of yelling they tend to receive.  Anything is grist for the attack mills, and not just the policies that the politician favors or has accomplished or has failed to accomplish.

It's everything else, too, from what type of a person the woman's husband might be via how her voice sounds to others to how she dresses, and even how frequently she gets told that she should exit politics or not run* for the sake of the common good. 

The tilt in political coverage I address here is more quantitative than qualitative (though it's the latter, too):  Some male politicians may also get criticized for, say, their clothes, but not as often and not for the same reasons.  The men are criticized for the political tactics they used and how those backfired, as well as for the policies they pursued.**

On top of that criticism female politicians also elicit a different type of scrutiny, one which tries to find the hidden worm in the superficially perfect-looking apple, which tries to find something that is very very wrong in her basic values or her basic competence.

The worm MUST be there, for why otherwise would we find her so unauthentic, her voice so grating, her ambition so calculating?

And once the worm has been found, it is turned into a boa constrictor and then that boa constrictor is turned against the politician herself.

Add to that my impression that for female politicians the rules about making mistakes, in general, are different.  One strike and you are out.  There are no excuses for, say, youthful failings, no real recovery from one error of judgement or one misstep.

I call all this by the awkward term "Hillarization," for fairly obvious reasons (the decades-long campaign against Hillary Clinton).  The US right is particularly good at committing Hillarization on female Democrats it dislikes, but the phenomenon is not completely tied to one party.

*   That Boston Globe article is not the only negative Warren piece that has been published in the last few days.  All the others are about Warren's DNA debacle.

Unless something is going on behind the curtains of power that I am unaware of,
so many different journalists choosing to write about Warren almost simultaneously is odd, given that the DNA test stuff happened well over a month ago and was thoroughly discussed then.

There's also something odd about the argument that because of the DNA debacle, Warren should now utterly forget about running for the presidency in 2020.  She had her one chance and spoiled it!

Compare this to, say, Ted Kennedy's career after the Chappaquiddick incident which cost Mary Jo Kopechne her life.

I am not defending what Warren did, and neither am I demanding that nobody criticize her.   But I strongly suspect that her ethical and moral failings and/or her lack of judgement would be covered less fiercely and less frequently if her name was not Elizabeth but, say,  Elliot.

**  And, of course, for actual crimes and such, though the 2016 presidential campaign taught all of us that "journalistic balance" can mean redefining crimes differently for male and female politicians.  It didn't really matter what scandals were revealed from Donald Trump's past; certain august newspapers would publish them and then publish yet another rehash of Hillary Clinton's emails.  Just to show that they are measured, objective and balanced.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Short Posts 6/12/18. Ice Swimming, The Kindness Of Women, And Online Warfare

1.  It's the Finnish Independence Day today.  Wave a little Finnish flag for me.

Here's a nice winter pastime popular among some really weird Finns (coughmybrotherandsistercough).

2.  All cultures (pretty much) expect women to be kinder, more empathetic and more inclusive than men.  It's codified in our subconscious gender norms*.  And all cultures (pretty much) criticize and even punish women who deviate from those norms more harshly than they would criticize or punish men acting in an identical manner.

I was thinking about that yesterday when a few right-wing newspapers asked if Hillary Clinton snubbed Donald Trump at George H.W. Bush's funeral.  Even those newspapers concluded that she had not done so, and that the occasion required a dignified and aloof demeanor from everyone.  But they did ask the question about a female politician who was repeatedly called a "nasty woman" and a "crooked woman" by Donald Trump and who is still the target of "lock her up" shouts at Trump rallies.

In any realistic scenario Donald Trump should have been snubbed by most reasonable people.

The online harassment of women who give their opinions publicly might be a partial reflection of those same gender norms (though some of it may be based on a different ancient gender norm:  that women should be silent in the public sphere). 

When Jill makes a controversial comment it looks more controversial than had Jack made it, because of how we interpret the two names.  She both says something that upsets others and violates gender norms while he only does the former.

I spot this subconscious gender norm working away quietly in all sorts of online conversations, even among feminists.  Women are supposed to be kind.**

3.  Speaking of online communications, this article argues that we are now engaged in not hot war or cold war but in warm information war.  Whatever you might think about the geopolitical arguments in the article, it's certainly true that nuanced conversation is close to impossible on Twitter, and that its algorithms rewards wrath speech and quick, nasty comebacks.  It's also pretty cheap and easy to introduce a lot of chaos in social media.  This makes establishing facts harder work than it has to be.

The following pyramid is a good reminder of the higher levels online debates could take:

4.  This is a hilarious take on diversity in tech.

*  Whether these are partly innate temperament differences or not is not probably something that can be studied with the tools we have right now. But I'm completely sure that they are strengthened and magnified by the way we are brought up, and in particular by the kinds of behavior which are given positive or negative feedback by parents, peer groups and other authorities, and how that approval and disapproval varies by the sex of the child.

** I am not arguing for random unkindness, of course.  Neither am I arguing for some kind of a permission to just rant and rave without any consequences.  My point is that the rules differ between men and women, and that makes criticism a riskier field for the latter.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Making Murka Great Again. The Fate Of The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

This is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau now, under the leadership of Trump appointee Mick Mulvaney:

One year after Mulvaney’s arrival, he and his political aides have constrained the agency from within, achieving what conservatives on Capitol Hill had been unable to do for years, according to agency data and interviews with career officials.
Publicly announced enforcement actions by the bureau have dropped by about 75 percent from average in recent years, while consumer complaints have risen to new highs, according to a Washington Post analysis of bureau data. 
Over the past year, the agency’s workforce has dropped by at least 129 employees amid the largest exodus since its creation in 2010, agency data shows.
Created by Congress to protect Americans from financial abuses, the bureau under Mulvaney has adopted the role of promoting “free markets” and guarding the rights of banks and financial firms as well as those of consumers, according to statements by Mulvaney and bureau documents.

Bolds are mine.

Mulvaney has also stated this:

“We don’t just work for the government, we work for the people,” he wrote in an “All Hands” email later that month. “And that means everyone: those who use credit cards, and those who provide those cards; those who take loans, and those who make them.”

It's as if there was a government organization called The Sheep's Protection Agency, and suddenly it was run by someone who wanted it to work to promote the interests of not only the sheep but also the wolves and coyotes which eat them.

Short Posts, 12/4/18. Dante's Inferno Misread, Hate Crimes, Another Measure of Gender Gap in Earnings And Mueller Dancing

1. This is beautiful

In the middle of the journey of our life
I found myself astray in a dark wood
where the straight road had been lost sight of.
How hard it is to say what it was like
in the thick of thickets, in a wood so dense
and gnarled
the very thought of it renews my panic.
It is bitter almost as death itself is bitter.

Dante's Inferno Canto I, translated by Seamus Heaney 

I first misread the top two lines in that translated bit of Dante's Inferno as:

In the middle of the journey of our life
I found myself in an ash tray in a dark wood.

So it goes.  That reading is more appropriate for me, and not only because of my warped sense of humor.

Monday, December 03, 2018

The Demographic Representativeness of the 116th Congress

This table* about the demographics of the 116th Congress is fun to analyze:


To see what it tells us about how representative the new Congress is, let's compare it to the population proportions of various demographic groups in it.  The last column gives the overall totals, and the third and fifth give the totals by the two parties.

Starting from the total percentages column, it's clear that among the larger groups women are quite seriously underrepresented, that blacks are represented in proportion to their population percentage (though these data don't let us see if this is true separately for black women and black men), and that Hispanics, as a group,  are also quite seriously underrepresented**.

The more fascinating columns to study are of course the party percentage columns.  Those reveal that the Republican Party really is the party of white men. Only seven percent of Republican Congress critters are women,  non-Hispanic whites are ninety-five percent of the total,  and the figures for all racial or ethnic minorities are as tiny as fly specks.  That the black representation matches the black population percentages overall is because the Republican under-representation is compensated for by relative numerical over-representation in the Democratic Party.

May I use this opportunity to, once again, complain about the diversity concept.  If you look at the rows in that table they show diversity, right?  There are wimminz there and all sorts of other demographic groups are represented.  So all is good.

But many of the table percentages are not the same as the population percentages of various groups***.   The system is clearly not representative of the country.  The diversity concept does not reflect that. 

In a sense "diversity" is not about fairness in the same manner as fair representation is.  Why it's so popular might be because it can be used by both sides for their own purposes.  Those who don't really want to see fair representation can add a couple of tokens to various committees, and, presto, diversity is achieved and complaining voices are silenced.  Those who fight for the rights of a numerically very small marginalized group may be able to get it over-represented by using the diversity argument.


*  My apologies for not crediting the creator of the table.  I copied it in this form from somewhere online.  If you know the name of the creator(s) please let me know and I will add the acknowledgement.

**  Once again, this table doesn't show Latinos and Latinas separately.

Note, also, that the Hispanic category is the one where the comparison of Congress percentages to population percentages are less useful.  This is because roughly one third of all individuals in this category were first generation immigrants in 2013. 

It takes time to become integrated into a culture, including seeking a political career.  A better comparison for the overall statistical representativeness of this group might consist of the population percentage of Hispanics who are at least in the second generation in the US (though that would be a very rough guide, too).

*** Depending on the context in which we examine diversity, the correct comparison might not be to population percentages but to, say, the percentages of people in various demographic groups who have been trained for certain jobs and so on.  Still, in all those cases the goal is to see if the system works fairly.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Natalie Wynn Responds to Jordan Peterson

Heim Yankel in the comments directed me to a Lawyers, Gun and Money post which, in turn, directed me to the following YouTube response to Jordan Peterson, the new right-wing professor/prophet.

The response is by Natalie Wynn.  She nicely interrogates the chaotic enemy that Jordan Peterson has decided to battle with.

If you would like to learn more about Peterson's views about women and feminism, I recommend (because I show what's wrong with his arguments) my earlier post about the Channel 4 interview which began Peterson's meteoric rise in our collective consciousness.  I still also recommend my book review of his self-help book from that womanly angle.  Read at least the third and final part.

As an aside, Wynn calls certain young men "neckbeards."  Here's one of my ancestors with an actual neckbeard:

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Short Posts 11/24/18: Bad News on Black Friday, Political Exhaustion, Home Economics And Poetry

1.  It has long been a custom for newspapers to publish those articles they have to publish but which go against that particular newspaper's ideology on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, because that's the day the smallest number of people will read anything.  Or watch anything.

What you don't know can't hurt you, right?  In any case, the climate change report came out yesterday and it is not good.

2.  About a week ago a piece in the New York Times talked about people who are not into politics in the fierce there-will-be-blood way the online political participants are.  It suggests that as many as two thirds of all Americans are exhausted by the political fighting and don't want much to do with it.

The reactions to the piece among those in the my-fangs-are-around-your-ankles crowd are mostly about the danger of not caring about politics when Donald Trump is steering, carelessly, the body politics.  But it's also true that most people, everywhere and at all times, are not really following politics, for many different reasons.

I spent sixteen hours last weekend in a workshop with people whom I didn't know at all at first.  They were male and female,  all ages, races, ethnic groups and so on, and they were all wonderfully sweet and kind and we had such a good time.  I never asked if any of them had voted for Trump or if they followed politics or not.  By the end of the time spent together we were all pretty comfortable with each other and I made some new friends.

The point is that the world I spend so much of my time in (political activism, in-fighting and writing) is not a world which reflects reality in all its aspects.

The online debates have a tendency to go aggressive, a tendency to forget that it's people on the other side of that screen, not some abstract monsters, and the tendency to forget that we are talking to individuals, not some weird representatives of "all women," "all white people," "all black people,"  "all men" and so on.

So if the uninterested should pay more attention to politics, perhaps the politically obsessed should pay more attention to humanity.

3.  A Guardian opinion piece suggests that a return of home economics, taught to both boys and girls might be a way to talk to young people not only about how to change a light bulb and boil an egg (do not confuse those tasks with each other), but about how to divide labor at home when there is children in a marriage or a partnership, and other similar questions.

It had this bit in it which is not quite on the topic but echoed in me because I have seen a similar thing happen:

In the 1980s, after conducting a study on working mothers, the time-use expert John Robinson proclaimed that they were spending far less time with their children than previous generations of mothers had. The media exploded with headlines reinforcing the long-held belief that mothers in the workplace would result in the total destruction of the American family.

Far less reported was the correction Robinson made shortly after publishing his findings. He had miscalculated. In fact, working mothers were spending as much or more time with their kids.
But the damage was done, and the expectation that working mothers will spend ever more time with their children – usually at the expense of sleep, exercise and personal hygiene – has never stopped rising.
Bolds are mine.  Compare the above to what happened a piece which reported that women orgasm more often when they have sex with men who are rich than when they have sex with men who are not rich.  And what happened when the study was found to have an error in it and the correct calculations showed that there was no difference in women's orgasmic frequency by the partner's wealth or income levels.

4.  For something completely different, this was my favorite poem when I was an itty bitty goddess, though I read it in Swedish:

I saw a tree…
I saw a tree that was greater than all others
and hung full of cones out of reach;
I saw a tall church with open door
and all who came out were pale and strong
and ready to die;
I saw a woman who smiling and rouged
threw dice for her luck
and saw she had lost.
A circle was drawn around these things
that no one crosses over.
The day cools

I still like it.  You can read more about Edith Södergran here.

 Or if you don't care for poetry, how about a Finnish folk song, named the saddest song in the whole world (well, by me, anyway)?  It's about yearning for one's home, even if that home is nothing to write home about (err).

My rough translation of the words:

So vast is the emptiness of your shores,
yet I long for it.
How the lament of the wild mallard
echoes in the reeds at night.

Someone lonely, someone lost
someone crying of the cold,
who has circled the reeds
but cannot find its mother.

I have seen your grey waves
through tears in my eyes. 
On your shores my youth
wept its first sorrows.

Deep is your image etched in me
and I long for it.
 I have heard the wild mallard
there many a night. 

Monday, November 19, 2018

Very Very Short Posts, Monday, 11/19/2018

1.  I eagerly look forward to all the stories in the New York Times and the Washington Post about people who voted for the Democrats in the midterms as a protest against Trump.  You know, the sort of stories we have been fed for the last two years about Trump voters: what makes them tick and what they like to cook for dinner.  Now I'd like the same for the other side.  Or better still, perhaps the right-wing press should cover a few lefties with empathy and understanding?

2.  Dear Concerned (from my mailbag):  No, I don't really believe that I am a Greek goddess of snakes.  My blog handle has to do with the story about Eve and the snake (which has been used to justify women's subjugation), the ancient belief that snakes were the messengers of the divines, the slipperiness of snakes (good for getting rid of problems by slithering away),  and their fangs.  They have nice fangs.

I'm still going to hell, most likely, as you warned. 

3.  The Finnish social media is now full of funny stories about Finns raking the forests, clipping evergreens with nail scissors and so on (my favorite is the woman who is out there vacuuming the forest floor)*.

This is a response to Our Dear Leader's theories about how one might care for forests so that they don't burn down. Raking is an important part of his theory. 

Beside being hilarious to contemplate, Trump's comments reveal that he has never held a rake in his hand.  But should he wish to try it, he should know that the wide end goes downward.

And no, being a rake is not the same thing.

4.  The New York Times has a story about an African-American female composer, Florence Price, whose work is now being re-discovered.  She wrote in 1943:

“Unfortunately the work of a woman composer is preconceived by many to be light, froth, lacking in depth, logic and virility,” she wrote. “Add to that the incident of race — I have Colored blood in my veins — and you will understand some of the difficulties that confront one in such a position.”

She was intersectional and disliked gender stereotypes.  I look forward to hearing her music.


Here is one example which uses an old Finnish painting to show Trump among raking Finns in the woods.