Saturday, March 26, 2011
(The first part of this post can be found here.)
Let's jump straight into Adams' theories about discrimination against women. The short version: It does not exist. The long version:
Women will counter with their own list of wrongs, starting with the well-known statistic that women earn only 80 cents on the dollar, on average, compared to what men earn for the same jobs. My readers will argue that if any two groups of people act differently, on average, one group is likely to get better results. On average, men negotiate pay differently and approach risk differently than women.Mmm. I so envy people who can interpret evidence quickly and decisively, even without evidence. I also envy people who see one set of data, figure out one possible reason for that data and then conclude that it must be that reason which explains the data! I also envy people who have at least eleven people to interview in their non-scientific samples, with not a single one of them wondering what "family time" might mean and if it involves being responsible for the children and the vacuuming and the cooking and the laundry and the grocery shopping and the scheduling of everyone's day and if any of that could be moved to the person asking the question.
Women will point out that few females are in top management jobs. Men will argue that if you ask a sample group of young men and young women if they would be willing to take the personal sacrifices needed to someday achieve such power, men are far more likely to say yes. In my personal non-scientific polling, men are about ten times more likely than women to trade family time for the highest level of career success.
I'm not making fun of Adams, or of him alone. Everyone and their great-step-granduncle know the real reason for the earnings difference and it's whatever they want it to be! I come across this All. The. Time, especially with right-wingers and MRAs.
That I myself had to study the question fairly intensively and over a long period of time humbles me. Others know the answer without needing to do the work! Or without needing any detailed data or regression analyses or anything! Still, for those who are interested in the longer explanation I offer my three-part series on the gender gap in earnings. It's a little out of date in terms of numbers but all the theory still applies. And the answer is that it's complicated, but discrimination certainly plays some role. That Adams doesn't see it is probably because he only thought about all this for a few minutes and he's not a girl after all, thank god.
Back to the Adams post. Things get really fun now, because the MRAs are going to get called names! Yessss:
Now I would like to speak directly to my male readers who feel unjustly treated by the widespread suppression of men’s rights:The bolds above are italics in the original where the rest is not in italics.
Get over it, you bunch of pussies.
The reality is that women are treated differently by society for exactly the same reason that children and the mentally handicapped are treated differently. It’s just easier this way for everyone. You don’t argue with a four-year old about why he shouldn’t eat candy for dinner. You don’t punch a mentally handicapped guy even if he punches you first. And you don’t argue when a women tells you she’s only making 80 cents to your dollar. It’s the path of least resistance. You save your energy for more important battles.
How many times do we men suppress our natural instincts for sex and aggression just to get something better in the long run? It’s called a strategy. Sometimes you sacrifice a pawn to nail the queen. If you’re still crying about your pawn when you’re having your way with the queen, there’s something wrong with you and it isn’t men’s rights.
The term "pussy" has several meanings:
1. Informal A cat.
2. Botany A fuzzy catkin, especially of the pussy willow.
3. Vulgar Slang
a. The vulva.
b. Sexual intercourse with a woman.
4. Offensive Slang Used as a disparaging term for a woman.
5. Slang A man regarded as weak, timid, or unmanly
My take would be that Adams uses "pussy" in the last sense. He calls the men who care about men's rights weak, timid or unmanly. Sorta like women, I guess. His advice to these pussies is to keep their eyes on the prize which just might be to get laid.
Adams then explains that the society treats women differently for exactly the same reason that children and the mentally handicapped are treated differently.
There's nothing I can add to that sentence because it stands on its own, though later Adams qualifies it some:
I realize I might take some heat for lumping women, children and the mentally handicapped in the same group. So I want to be perfectly clear. I’m not saying women are similar to either group. I’m saying that a man’s best strategy for dealing with each group is disturbingly similar. If he’s smart, he takes the path of least resistance most of the time, which involves considering the emotional realities of other people. A man only digs in for a good fight on the few issues that matter to him, and for which he has some chance of winning. This is a strategy that men are uniquely suited for because, on average, we genuinely don’t care about 90% of what is happening around us.Which doesn't really qualify it at all.
The rest of Adams' post explains to us his joy in belonging to the team guyz, with all its special advantages. He also explains why women living longer, on average, isn't such a great thing:
Fairness is an illusion. It’s unobtainable in the real world. I’m happy that I can open jars with my bare hands. I like being able to lift heavy objects. And I don’t mind that women get served first in restaurants because I don’t like staring at food that I can’t yet eat.I'm not quite sure what to make of that last bit. It sounds as if Adams argues for a male supremacist position. Being a guy is just better because of the ability to open jars, to lift heavy objects and to pull people from burning cars.
If you’re feeling unfairly treated because women outlive men, try visiting an Assisted Living facility and see how delighted the old ladies are about the extra ten years of pushing the walker around. It makes dying look like a bargain.
I don’t like the fact that the legal system treats men more harshly than women. But part of being male is the automatic feeling of team. If someone on the team screws up, we all take the hit. Don’t kid yourself that men haven’t earned some harsh treatment from the legal system. On the plus side, if I’m trapped in a burning car someday, a man will be the one pulling me out. That’s the team I want to be on.
On the other hand, he sees men as a team, perhaps playing ball against women? Pun not intended. And he prefers to be on the winning team, even if that team gets more penalty calls (to mix my sports metaphors).
But how does he see women? That's what troubled me after first reading the post. He certainly thinks that women (and the mentally handicapped) are emotion-driven creatures incapable of logical arguments, and he also sees them as not being on his team. They are among the "others."
Of course I may have gotten the whole post wrong. It could be humor for the Vogons. Also, as some commentators argued, the post bashes both Men's Rights Activists and feminists. Except that the former group gets a tap on the head and the latter group gets steamrolled, together with all women. Other than that, yes, everybody gets bashed equally. Well, save men in general.
Do you wonder why I spent three or four hours of my divine time on a two-week old vanished post? I wondered about that myself. The reason is similar to those nightmares I have had where a person you know and love suddenly peels the face off and something truly ghastly appears and attacks you.
Experiences like that need to be exorcised, to be brought into the bright light of the day. Writing does that for me.
Here's a fun story for you. Scott Adams, the cartoonist who draws Dilbert, has a blog on his website. Early this month he asked his readers to suggest a blog topic for him and promised to write on the one which got the most votes.
A Men's Rights site freeped the vote. "Freeped" means that a call went around to all the MRAs who then went and voted for one particular topic, most likely a topic they themselves proposed. The topic, naturally, was men's rights.
Adams then wrote a post on that very topic on March 7 and later deleted it. His explanation for the deletion:
I deleted today's post. My regular readers have the capacity to deal with this sort of topic but it gained a bit too much attention from outside my normal reading circle.That last sentence is like catnip for me! Goddess-nip? Whatever, I simply had to find the post and see what this knowledge is that he had to hide because us outsiders are not worthy.
Knowledge is a dangerous thing.
Well, it turns out to be the kind of knowledge you acquire when you have a ten-minute-think over a glass of beer. Or two. Or shix. I'm used to hearing that concise knowledge and understand that not everyone can be a goddess who actually studies stuff. But I don't have a lot of respect for those crash-courses on gender issues. Unless the outcome is funny.
And perhaps that's what we get from a comic, something really funny on gender relations? I decided to be careful in how to read the post so that I don't fall into the trap of feminazi-without-a-sense-of-humor-it-was-only-a-joke-bitch.
Here is the mysteriously disappeared post, in pieces, because I'm going to insert my nasty comments into it:
The topic my readers most want me to address is something called men’s rights. (See previous post.) This is a surprisingly good topic. It’s dangerous. It’s relevant. It isn’t overdone. And apparently you care.I have written about most of the items on this laundry list before. If it is desired I shall do so again. But because this post is going to be long enough as it is, let me just point out that the laundry in that list has not been properly sorted or even described. For instance, "many elements of the legal system" is so fuzzy that I don't know if it even should go in the washer. If we are not told what those elements are how we can decide what the relevant evidence might tell?
Let’s start with the laundry list.
According to my readers, examples of unfair treatment of men include many elements of the legal system, the military draft in some cases, the lower life expectancies of men, the higher suicide rates for men, circumcision, and the growing number of government agencies that are primarily for women.
Likewise, "the growing number of government agencies that are primarily for women" is not a development which started from a system in which men and women were absolutely and perfectly equally covered in the functions of the government. Those agencies for women are an attempt to balance the scales. Because the traditional definition of a human being pretty well matched the traditional definition of a man.
And I completely agree that circumcision of small children is horrible. So lucky that it is never done to female children!
Adams seems to take this laundry list as real evidence about discrimination against men. Or perhaps his humor is so difficult that I, a mere woman, don't get it? In any case, he adds to the list:
I'm going to pack my bags and move to that world where men open doors for women and where women get served first in restaurants. It's a fair trade for lower female earnings and for conservatives who think women can't drive (one reason for the lower life expectancy of men, by the way, is the higher car accident death rate of young men) and for the misogyny of many so-called Men's Rights Activists. Indeed, it's a fair trade for overall fairness, right?
You might add to this list the entire area of manners. We take for granted that men should hold doors for women, and women should be served first in restaurants. Can you even imagine that situation in reverse?
Generally speaking, society discourages male behavior whereas female behavior is celebrated. Exceptions are the fields of sports, humor, and war. Men are allowed to do what they want in those areas.
Add to our list of inequities the fact that women have overtaken men in college attendance. If the situation were reversed it would be considered a national emergency.
And now we come to the part in Adams' post where I got the humor, the one about how the society celebrates female behavior and discourages male behavior. Only in sports, humor and wars are men allowed to rule the roost, totally! That's what he meant, right? Because those areas are what we call male dominated, meaning chock full of men, with nary a woman in sight. Unless Adams means that women rule everything else? Politics? The media? Religious organizations? Academia?
But what IS "female behavior" or "male behavior?" Fixing your bra strap vs. scratching your groin? Something of that sort?
I also got the joke about the college enrollment figures, this one:"
Add to our list of inequities the fact that women have overtaken men in college attendance. If the situation were reversed it would be considered a national emergency." It's funny because nobody thought it was a national emergency when the situation actually was reversed for, oh, a couple of centuries.
How about the higher rates for car insurance that young men pay compared to young women? Statistics support this inequity, but I don’t think anyone believes the situation would be legal if women were charged more for car insurance, no matter what the statistics said.Somewhere I have a long and erudite (rejected) manuscript on the very topic of gender discrimination in various types of insurance. It's completely true that charging young men more for car insurance discriminates against careful young male drivers who end up paying more than they deserve to pay. It also discriminates for bad young female drivers who end up paying less than they deserve to pay.
But what happens if the rates are equalized? Then young women as a class will pay more than they should and young men as a class will pay less than they should. And note who would really get subsidized now? Yup, the worst young male drivers. Similarly, the equal-rates system would severely discriminate against the best young female drivers.
Neither system is ideal, of course. The "ideal" would be to get better information on the driving habits of individuals so that insurance companies didn't use gender as a proxy.
At the same time, it is most certainly not true that nobody would believe "the situation would be legal if women were charged more for car insurance." Women are routinely charged more for individual health insurance policies than men, simply because they belong to the class "women," and women, on average, use more health care services until a certain age (after which Medicare takes over and doesn't charge men more for their now-higher costs). Whether this will continue after the Health Care Reform is something I haven't studied, but Europe is moving away from gender-based car insurance premia* and perhaps the US will follow suit.
This is a good place to pause, because we have now covered the men's rights part of the Adams post. Next he will address the reasons why what may look like unfair treatment of women really isn't, because us women have done it to ourselves. Join me at the next post if you are interested in learning more. The best part is still to come, I promise.
*Also from the effect of gender in all insurance pricing. For example:
It would also have an effect on how premiums for life insurance and pension funds are calculated. Until now women have paid higher premiums and received smaller payouts because, on average, they live longer than men.
Friday, March 25, 2011
What is the Republican governor of Wisconsin all about? Where does he get his marching orders? Who sent this large new group of Nazgul governors out into the world? Who is Sauron?
Just kidding there. But a professor of history at University of Wisconsin, William Cronon, has written an interesting blog post that sheds some light on the Ringwraith governors and their lock-step plans for demolishing unions in every state they have taken over. The relevant post is a long one, but I recommend reading it all the way through. It is worth it. Here's a sample:
If you run across a conservative organization you’ve never heard of before and would like to know more about it, two websites can sometimes be helpful for quick overviews:Fascinating stuff. As Cronon points out, ALEC is not doing anything illegal. But organizations of that type might be behind the message coordination of the Republicans. Why do we suddenly find an open war against unions? Why was Planned Parenthood clearly slated to be the first course in the Republican victory dinner after the last election, followed by the NPR, both linked to that Mad Editor guy? Why do we suddenly all discuss the same Republican talking points?
Right Wing Watch: http://www.rightwingwatch.org/
Both of these lean left in their politics, so they obviously can’t be counted on to provide sympathetic descriptions of conservative groups. (If I knew of comparable sites whose politics were more conservative, I’d gladly provide them here; please contact me if you know of any and I’ll add them to this note.) But for obvious reasons, many of these groups prefer not to be monitored very closely. Many maintain a low profile, so one sometimes learns more about them from their left-leaning critics than from the groups themselves.
I don’t want this to become an endless professorial lecture on the general outlines of American conservatism today, so let me turn to the question at hand: who’s really behind recent Republican legislation in Wisconsin and elsewhere? I’m professionally interested in this question as a historian, and since I can’t bring myself to believe that the Koch brothers single-handedly masterminded all this, I’ve been trying to discover the deeper networks from which this legislation emerged.
Here’s my preliminary answer.
Telling Your State Legislators What to Do:
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)
The most important group, I’m pretty sure, is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which was founded in 1973 by Henry Hyde, Lou Barnett, and (surprise, surprise) Paul Weyrich. Its goal for the past forty years has been to draft “model bills” that conservative legislators can introduce in the 50 states. Its website claims that in each legislative cycle, its members introduce 1000 pieces of legislation based on its work, and claims that roughly 18% of these bills are enacted into law. (Among them was the controversial 2010 anti-immigrant law in Arizona.)
If you’re as impressed by these numbers as I am, I’m hoping you’ll agree with me that it may be time to start paying more attention to ALEC and the bills its seeks to promote.
Becoming a Member of ALEC: Not So Easy to Do
How do you become a member? Simple. Two ways. You can be an elected Republican legislator who, after being individually vetted, pays a token fee of roughly $100 per biennium to join. Here’s the membership brochure to use if you meet this criterion:
What if you’re not a Republican elected official? Not to worry. You can apply to join ALEC as a “private sector” member by paying at least a few thousand dollars depending on which legislative domains most interest you. Here’s the membership brochure if you meet this criterion:
Then again, even if most of us had this kind of money to contribute to ALEC, I have a feeling that membership might not necessarily be open to just anyone who is willing to pay the fee. But maybe I’m being cynical here.
Which Wisconsin Republican politicians are members of ALEC? Good question. How would we know? ALEC doesn’t provide this information on its website unless you’re able to log in as a member.
Some of that could be coincidence or just the way the Republican agenda is rolled out. But to me it sounds orchestrated. If you read right-wing blogs (as I do) you find the same topics on many of them on the same day, even when the topic itself doesn't appear to deserve such a strong focus. It's as if the topics are being sent out to the world.
I'm envious, because the liberal/progressive side is like cats all hunting on their own and hissing at each other when their paths cross. And the less said about the message coordination of the official Democratic Party or the Obama administration the better.
How did the Republicans respond to Cronon? Perhaps there is a careful written response somewhere? But what certainly happened to Cronon after that blog post and an OpEd in the New York Times is this:
Wisconsin Republicans have demanded access to his personal email records.I'm not sure if Cronon's work e-mail account counts as a personal one within Wisconsin's legal framework. Still, that the Republican Party of Wisconsin decided to seek an open records request to study Cronon's e-mails tells me that he has hit on something important. Either that or the Wisconsin Republicans routinely intimidate everyone who dares to criticize them.
Yes, personal. Cronon has a wisconsin.edu email address — but nobody, and I mean nobody, considers such academic email addresses something specially reserved for university business. Actually, according to Cronon he has been especially careful, maintaining a separate personal account — but nobody would have considered it out of the ordinary if he mingled personal correspondence with official business on the dot edu address. And no, the fact that he’s at a public university doesn’t change that: when my students take jobs at Berkeley or SUNY, they don’t imagine that they’re entering into a special fishbowl environment that they wouldn’t encounter at Georgetown or Haverford.
But then, we know perfectly well what’s going on here. Republicans aren’t looking for some abuse of Cronon’s position; they’re hoping to find some statement that can be quoted out of context to discredit him. At the very least, they hope that other academics will henceforth feel intimidated.
What's quite funny is the second round response of the Republicans to Cronon complaining about the open records request:
“Like anyone else who makes an open records request in Wisconsin, the Republican Party of Wisconsin does not have to give a reason for doing so.Bolds are mine. It's a lovely, lovely reversal.
“I have never seen such a concerted effort to intimidate someone from lawfully seeking information about their government.
“Further, it is chilling to see that so many members of the media would take up the cause of a professor who seeks to quash a lawful open records request. Taxpayers have a right to accountable government and a right to know if public officials are conducting themselves in an ethical manner. The Left is far more aggressive in this state than the Right in its use of open records requests, yet these rights do extend beyond the liberal left and members of the media.
“Finally, I find it appalling that Professor Cronin seems to have plenty of time to round up reporters from around the nation to push the Republican Party of Wisconsin into explaining its motives behind a lawful open records request, but has apparently not found time to provide any of the requested information.
“We look forward to the University’s prompt response to our request and hope those who seek to intimidate us from making such requests will reconsider their actions.”
Frances Perkins, the first female Cabinet member in the United States and the secretary of labor under Franklin D. Roosevelt, witnessed the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire herself (warning: contains graphic images of death):
...1911 which was the year of the great Triangle Fire in New York City, a terrible industrial accident which burned out the contents of a 9th and 10th floor loft building factory where they made light cotton shirt waists for women.Perkins then recounts the aftermath of this disaster, including a labor organizing meeting:
It caught on fire and the blaze spread very rapidly. There was only one means of exit available, the other two means of exits were the elevator which was ablaze almost immediately as the flames got into this open shaft and spread from floor to floor and the second exit was locked. It was an exit to the roof, not a very good means of exit at best but it would have saved most of the people in that building if it had not been locked.
It had been locked by the employer himself because he feared that on a Saturday afternoon which he was working just before Easter on a lot of shirtwaists for the market, he feared that some of the people in the shop might stroll out over the roof exit with a few shirtwaists rolled up under their jackets or that somebody might come in and take a few shirtwaists. In other words, he was - I only know what he said on the stand - he was afraid he would be robbed either by his employees or by the outsider. Not so much by the outsider, mostly afraid of his employees. I remember the judge in righteous indignation reproached him for his attitude toward his employees. It may have been a perfectly legitimate attitude. He may have lost goods that way, one doesn't know, but it was at least bad judgement to tell it to the judge on that particular occasion.
I remember that, the accident happened on a Saturday, I happened to have been visiting a friend on the other side of the park and we heard the engines and we heard the screams and rushed out and rushed over where we could see what the trouble was. We could see this building from Washington Square and the people had just begun to jump when we got there. They had been holding until that time, standing in the windowsills, being crowded by others behind them, the fire pressing closer and closer, the smoke closer and closer. Finally the men were trying to get out this thing that the firemen carry with them, a net to catch people if they do jump, there were trying to get that out and they couldn't wait any longer. They began to jump. The window was too crowded and they would jump and they hit the sidewalk. The net broke, they ______a terrible distance, the weight of the bodies was so great, at the speed at which they were traveling that they broke through the net. Every one of them was killed, everybody who jumped was killed. It was a horrifying spectacle.
So almost immediately at this meeting, people spoke, and I'll never forget this was the first time I ever had heard Rose Schneiderman speak. I think it is the first time I had ever seen her, as a matter of fact. She was an unknown little girl, a little red headed girl; she couldn't have been, - well, she couldn't have come up to my shoulder. Very small type but with red hair, fiery red hair, and blazing eyes and pretty too, I mean. She had a ___ but a voice that carried in the Metropolitan Opera House. Wonderful what a speech she made, and I remember how moved we all were by this girl who was a member of that union, you see, the Ladies' Dress and Waist Union. She was a member of that union and most, not all of these members because it wasn't a union shop, not all of these members but many of them were members of her union. Anyhow they were all eligible for membership in her union, and she took them all in with the most beautiful speech.Perkins later called the date of the Triangle fire as "the day the New Deal began."
That was one hundred years ago. Whether we are now close to the death of the New Deal remains to be seen. But the two developments which made disasters like the Triangle Fire less likely: the unionization of labor and the creation of laws concerning working conditions, are now both threatened.
I have written about the threats unions face as well as about the importance of unions in a world where the employers consist of large and powerful firms. Given this importance, how sad to observe their gradual disappearance:
Government data show that labor unions have become less of a factor in the overall U.S. economy in recent decades -- most notably in the private sector. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 11.9% of wage and salary workers in the United States belonged to unions in 2010. That is down slightly from the 12.3% in 2009, but much lower than the 20.1% that belonged to unions in 1983, the first year when comparable data are available. BLS also reports that now more public sector workers belong to a union than do private sector workers.
Legislation concerning workplace safety is not as threatened as unions are though that may well change if the Republicans have their way:
Congressional Republicans are promising to scrub the government for what they say are "job killing" regulations. One of their primary targets is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA.------------
Republicans say OSHA enacts expensive rules without regard to their effect on business. They've proposed cutting its budget this year by 20 percent, a reduction the director says would be devastating to the agency's efforts to protect worker safety.
OSHA has long been on the front edge of the divide between labor and management, and Democrats and Republicans. Where during the Bush administration the agency stressed voluntary compliance with worker safety standards on the part of business, the Obama administration stepped up enforcement. It hired more inspectors and increased OSHA's budget.
Now, Republicans in control of the House are trying to push the pendulum back. As part of their drive to cut about $61 billion from federal spending in the current fiscal year, they've targeted OSHA for a $99 million reduction.
"The Republicans have proposed a 20 percent cut and given [that] half a year's over, that really means a 40 percent cut," OSHA administrator David Michaels says. "It would really have a devastating effect on all of our activities."
The Kheel Center of Cornell University has many pictures of the Triangle Fire and its aftermath.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
That's the current era in terms of gender equality (Ogg has rock. Ogg bang head of Oggette! bangbangbang! Oggette stupid. Ogg smart, look at Ogg bang!).
We don't live in a feminist era, whatever the nuttiest types of Men's Rights Activists say, and we don't live in a post-feminist era, unless by "post-feminism" we mean that feminism came and went, like a dirty ring around the collar. All gone now! Besides, it was all about man-hating, unshaved armpits and ugly women not being able to get laid.
Women don't want equality, Counterpunch, an extreme left-wing site, tells us, borrowing heavily from non-existing research from a British wingnut. Women can't drive and shouldn't wear the pants, right-wingers tell us when it looks like female advisers persuaded the president to make a certain decision. And the president is now effete, weak and contemptible, because women should not have power.
Elsewhere, the American invasion troops in Afghanistan have decided to back-pedal on the topic of women's rights. Trying to change the oppression of women there is like rolling that stone up the hill, only having it roll back down again. (Poor Sisyphus. I know how he felt.) But we must all be pragmatic! What can be achieved in Afghanistan is something safer for the west and something better for the Afghan men and that must serve us.
In Egypt, the transitional government has no women and the Muslim Brotherhood (not sisterhood) is likely to win many seats in the next parliament. Tunisia's revolution has a similar male flavor and so it goes.
And in the ivory towers, new theories are created every day in those weird type of evolutionary psychology workshops about the innermost nature of women as coy, not very smart, keen on trading sex for money and best judged by how close to a human-sized Barbie doll* she might look, preferably with blond hair and blue eyes.
Most people are comfortably numb with this state of affairs. Even many feminists have switched their focus from women to oppressions of every kind.
But of course things have much improved in this country and in many other countries when it comes to the acceptable roles of women. Even international progress is visible if you squint hard enough.
The reason for my rant is not that. It's the obliviousness with which writers carefully pen the term "post-feminist," the pretend-seriousness with which they discuss the imaginary coming era of men's oppression by women, all combined with jokes about women as bad drivers or worries about whether women should be in power. It's the opining on feminist topics by many who appear to have done their research by having a ten-minute thought one night over a beer or two, and it's our willingness to take such thoughts every bit as seriously (if not more so) than the writings of people who actually have done the necessary research.
Take, for instance, the often expressed view that we now live in a post-feminist world? When honor killings exist? When the United States has never had a female president? When the Erick Ericksons of this world can proudly compare the US Secretary of State to bad women drivers? When work-life balance is just yet another women's issue? When I can watch a week of Japanese television about the earthquake-tsunami-nuclear-disaster combination and not see one female expert or politician interviewed, when all those rooms of power are full of only men? When the US Republican Party has declared an all-out war on women, and few notice this? Post-feminist, indeed, but only in the sense of feminism being irrelevant.
What about the ominous rise of the new matriarchy, some of you might ask**. Aren't women now dominant among university students? Isn't the world soon going to be run by those bad female drivers? Perhaps it is time for a counter-revolution! Perhaps we have gone too far in the direction of favoring women. And look what that got us? As commentators from both the left and the right told us, weren't women supposed to be the peaceful sex, the sex that will stop the wars? But look what three women did in the case of president Obama's Libya decision! They were the heedless warmongers. Which means...what?
Iran fixed the too-many-women problem in its universities by putting up quotas against female students in "manly" disciplines, such as engineering. The US tries to fix it by telling us stories about how bad it is ultimately for women (not for men, mind you, or for all of us) if they are the majority of college graduates:
They have nobody higher up or equal to marry! That something which we would applaud in a randomly picked student (hard work and drive) is so often presented as a problem: too-many-women, should make you think. It's a sign of the neolithic age of gender relationships: Zero-sum thinking, gender myths based on man-the-provider-and-leader and woman-the-subservient-housewife and generalized diffuse sexism which always leads us to the conclusion that women should do with something slightly less than full equality.
As I mention in the title of this post, this is a rant. But if it still comes across as too earnest and serious, think about why that might be the case.
Gender equality is not something that is taken seriously, in general. That's why Erickson can present his contempt of women as a joke and that's why we don't all riot when we are told that women should cut back on higher education so as to leave more space for men which they then could marry. We are uncomfortable with taking the topic seriously because we are still living the neolithic era of gender relationships. And that is what makes us uncomfortable with feminazi rants.
*These link to the first posts of two series, not to the specific posts in which those arguments are presented. You can find loads more in my archives if you are bent that way.
**Just an aside: Note how outdated some of the arguments made about the "end of men" are less than one year later. The mancession, for instance, is rapidly disappearing and there are some signs that a womancession might come next.
One year ago CNN hired Erick Erickson, a wingnut, and described him like this:
"Erick's a perfect fit for John King, USA, because not only is he an agenda-setter whose words are closely watched in Washington, but as a person who still lives in small-town America, Erick is in touch with the very people John hopes to reach," said Sam Feist, CNN political director and vice president of Washington-based programming. "With Erick's exceptional knowledge of politics, as well as his role as a conservative opinion leader, he will add an important voice to CNN's ideologically diverse group of political contributors."
CNN loves sexists. Erick Erickson has his very own radio show, and this is what he said about Obama's Libya decision:
Here's another Erickson theory about Libya, also from the his March 21 radio show:Bolds are mine. You can listen to Erickson if you wish. He then continues, in a nasal voice, by not being able to remember numbers and by not being able to pronounce Russian names. Note that I make no conclusions about men's ability to remember numbers or to learn foreign languages from that.
ERICKSON: By the way, it's the women's fault. … It's, apparently, the women in the Obama administration who have decided we needed to go to war in Libya. … This is typical. This is so typ-- i'm mean, I'm going to bring my inner sexist out I'm afraid tonight, some of you are going to be very upset with me. But this is like women drivers. We're going to war in Libya, we have no plan, we have no map, even if we have a map of war, um, it wasn't going to get read, they were going to pull over and ask the French apparently for help, or at least make the guy pull over and ask the French for help. This is crazy.
ERICKSON: This is just silly. I mean, back-seat driving by the women, and they're gonna get Barack Obama lost. What is it with Barack Obama caving to the women? I mean, now we know who rules his personal life. I guess Michelle is firmly in charge as well, if Barack Obama is going to cave that easy to three women in his administration over what to do with Libya.
And even more:
ERICKSON: It took the women to get him involved, and the women apparently went in without a clear plan. No shopping list.
Neither do I point out that George Bush went to Iraq with no exit plan or with no obvious planning at all, and I make no conclusions about other men on that basis. That's because I'm not a sexist.
But Erickson is a proud sexist. And "an important voice", according to CNN.
Pause here for a moment and ask yourself what would happen to a conservative commentator who let his or her "inner racist" go wild in a radio show. That person wouldn't have a commenting job to return to, at least for a few months. But an inner sexist? Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. We all know how women are. But those Ay-rabs, they sure oppress their little brainless women, don't they?
That's the conservative non-religious take on women. The religious take is worse. In either case, I don't understand women who vote Republican, especially without complaining loudly and long about total miscarried zygotes such as Erickson.
Not that it's necessary loads better elsewhere on the political spectrum, except for the blatant blurting out of the nastiest statements about one half of all humanity: That, my friends, the conservatives excel in. And they think it is funny and fair.
In any case, now we know what CNN thinks of women, too.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
She has died of congestive heart failure at the age of 79.
To me her most interesting performance was in the "National Velvet", which made this description of her role in it sound pretty weird:
Her teenage performance in 1944's "National Velvet" created a template for the obligatory infatuation with the majesty of horses by young girls that has been mined for comedic gold by everything from the spoof movie "Hot Shots!" to the "Carol Burnett Show" and dozens of online memes.I would have thought that the themes of "National Velvet" were much more complicated than mere girls' infatuation with the majesty of horses! One of those themes had to do with what was allowed for women and girls in 1944 and to what extent they were allowed to excel in their lives.
This short plot summary omits a few of the twists in that sub-theme:
National Velvet is the story of a twelve-year girl, Velvet Brown, living in Sewels, in Sussex, England, who saves a horse from the knacker's yard and trains it for the Grand National steeplechase, aided by her father's hired hand, a young drifter, Mi Taylor. The fictional horse which Velvet Brown trained and rode in the National is called "Pie." When she discovers that the Latvian jockey hired to ride Pie doesn't believe he can win, she disguises herself as a male jockey and rides the horse to victory.Velvet collapses after her victory, is examined by a doctor, and her achievement is disqualified because of her sex. Note how all this, both positive and negative, is about the limits of gender?
Earlier in the movie Mrs. Brown, Velvet's mother, talks with Velvet about her own background. She swam the English Channel as a young woman, but tells Velvet that such feats as hers, or the one Velvet contemplates, can be attempted only once in a lifetime. Thus, the overall message of the movie is an ambiguous one when it comes to female achievement. Velvet is determined in the face of opposition and she succeeds. But ultimately her victory is nullified and she is shown as not really minding. Or perhaps she sees her victory in a different light.
(Let's see how this works with a snot-filled head. Yes, I'm still sick which should be impossible for us divines)
Unions increase the negotiating power of workers. This is important when the other side in the negotiations consists of humongous firms, such as is the case with oligopolies or monopolies or with state governments. It makes no sense to pretend that someone interviewing for a janitor's job at a large firm has the same negotiating power as the firm. Indeed, the very term "negotiation" makes no sense in that context. As Galbraith has argued, unions provide the necessary countervailing power for large employers. Even with all their imperfections, unions can guarantee that the janitor in my example has rest breaks and some protection against hazardous chemicals, say.
Those who wish to kill unions because of their market power should also wish to kill firms with market power. All the negative arguments (and more) about unions apply, in mirror image, to the large employers. They have the ability to depress earnings of those they hire and the ability to make the working conditions dangerous. That the enemies of the unions tend to be the friends of monopolized industries shows that the concern about market power doesn't extend everywhere.
Unions also matter in the political market place. Out of the ten largest donors to political parties, three are unions, and those are the only three which do not donate only to Republicans. If unions can be de-fanged altogether (and we are almost there), one of the few wider channels of donations to the Democratic Party will also die. That the Democrats in the Congress don't appear overly worried about this makes me wonder what color the sky might be in their world.
(Why are longer words and cumbersome sentences easier to make when one is not feeling well?)
Now this is just hilarious (via):
Maine Gov. Paul LePage has ordered the removal of a 36-foot mural depicting the state's labor history from the lobby of the Department of Labor headquarters building in Augusta.Orwellian! LePage is one the Republican Nazgûls who have ridden their ghost horses into the governorships of several US states.
In addition, the LePage administration is renaming several department conference rooms that carry the names of pro-labor icons such as Cesar Chavez.
LePage spokesman Dan Demeritt says the mural and the conference room names are not in keeping with the department's pro-business goals and some business owners complained.
But why not rename the Department of Labor something more attractive for business? The Department of Easily-Scrapped-Non-Durable-Inputs? Such inputs can't have unions, clearly.
Here are three panels from the mural. The rightmost one depicts textile workers of the past:
I can see how some of those panels might make a business person uncomfortable. But isn't that a good thing? Don't we want a world where work is safe and provides a sufficient living?
Who am I kidding there?
Hilda Solis has finally come out in support of unionization rights. Too little too late?
Ask the Nazgûls:
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
It's not only the wingnuts who have trouble with female politicians. Here's the progressive Robert Dreyfuss in the Nation:
Obama's Women Advisers Pushed War Against Libya
So three or four of Obama’s advisers, all women, wanted war against Libya.
We’d like to think that women in power would somehow be less pro-war, but in the Obama administration at least it appears that the bellicosity is worst among Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice and Samantha Power. All three are liberal interventionists, and all three seem to believe that when the United States exercises military force it has some profound, moral, life-saving character to it. Far from it. Unless President Obama’s better instincts manage to reign in his warrior women—and happily, there’s a chance of that—the United States could find itself engaged in open war in Libya, and soon.
Compare that to the National Review's Mark Krikorian, an arch-conservative:
They Know Who Wears the Pants in This CountryOh my. Two men from the opposite extremes of the American political discourse, and both of them are really bothered by the gender of these advisors! Dreyfuss wants all women to be non-bellicose or if that's not possible then at least he wants Obama to "reign" those bellicose broads in.
Look, I’m a sensitive New Age guy — I cook, I do laundry, I choke up at movies (well, Gladiator, anyway). But does anyone think our enemies abroad are as enlightened as we are about feminism? Steyn is right that the specific lesson they’re learning is that nukes are the best insurance against invasion — but a broader one is that our commander-in-chief is an effete vacillator who is pushed around by his female subordinates. Prof. Althouse notes, “A feminist milestone: Our male President has been pulled into war by 3 women,” and Senator Graham scored points with “I Thank God for Strong Women in the Obama Administration,” but we’re going to pay for this.
Krikorian is much ruder in his sexism. He hints that no proper Islamofascist would ever respect a president who listens to women, that men must be the bosses. But both these gentlemen address the gender of Clinton, Rice and Power. Indeed, both of them focus more on the general class of "women" than on the particular individuals. It's sexism when women are stripped of their individuality in this manner, when they are turned into mere samples of some larger mass of womanhood.
Some days I despair, I do. I don't expect anything better from the Krikorians of this world. But Dreyfuss disappointed me. Or as Katha Pollitt puts it in her response to Dreyfuss:
In any case, the fact that three women argued for it skillfully and won their point is not very interesting. So why stress it, except that it mobilizes a raft of misogynist tropes about castrating females, the dangers of petticoat government and the folly of expecting anything good to come out of gender equality? After all, can you imagine a piece in The Nation titled “Black President Opts for Bombs” or “Qaddafi, a Man, Threatens to Massacre Rebels, Most of Whom Are Also Men”?
Misogyny—it’s the last acceptable prejudice of the left.
So the Republicans tell us. And no, sexism is not only lingering (as the quote below suggests). It is thriving:
"When we have [French] President [Nicolas] Sarkozy dictating the pace and terms and conditions for security initiatives in the world, we know that we've entered a new era in terms of America's place and leadership and vision for security around the world, and that concerns me greatly," former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, who just announced a presidential exploratory committee, said Monday.So. Girls still have cooties and the best way to ridicule a man is to suggest that he listens to women (or the French). He will then deny ever having listened to women in the first place!
Speaking from Chile Monday afternoon, Mr. Obama again stressed that America is working "with our international partners" on the offensive against Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, stating the action has been solely "in support of an international mandate from the Security Council." Longtime Republican strategist Ed Rollins says that sort of rhetoric presents an opportunity to critics like Pawlenty, who can point to it as evidence that Mr. Obama doesn't see America as the preeminent nation in the world.
"To a Republican audience, it's what they want to believe," said Rollins. "They want to believe the president is weak and hasn't been decisive."
That perception may have been reinforced over the weekend with a spate of stories like this one in the New York Times, which suggested that a trio of women - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Senior National Security Council aide Samantha Power and ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice - pushed Mr. Obama to take a harder line with Libya.
The White House tried Monday to rebut that narrative, with a senior administration official maintaining that Mr. Obama has led the debate and telling Politico that Clinton and Power weren't present in the meeting where he made his decision. It has good reason to push back: No president wants to be seen, particularly in an era of lingering sexism and anti-French sentiment, as being told what to do by a coalition of women and a country populated by what some conservative commentators are prone to call "cheese eating surrender monkeys."
I can't but admire the light touch in this piece. Lingering sexism! Like the smell of last night's garlic dish! Nothing active about that odor, nothing purposeful in the Republican campaign. It is, after all, based on the very idea that no man would ever take advice from wimmin. And the author of this article isn't exactly disagreeing.
I forgot to add a genuine wingnut voice to this choir:
Before you send me any burning bras, the problem is not with women leaders — the enemies of the Virgin Queen and the Iron Lady can attest to that. The problem is not even with the president having strong female subordinates. Rather, Obama's pusillanimity has been hugely magnified by the contrast with the women directing his foreign policy and the fact that they nagged him to attack Libya until he gave in. Maybe it's unfair and there shouldn't be any difference from having a male secretary of state do the same thing, but there is.Girls have cooties.
Monday, March 21, 2011
It's a good thing that the Senate is not yet under Republican control, because the bill proposes to cut 200 million dollars from international family planning. That is about one third of the total currently allocated.
The Guttmacher numbers suggest that if the Republicans in the House had their way about 10,000 more women would die while giving birth and about 1,600,000 additional abortions would be performed, 1,200,000 of them unsafe.
The specific estimates can probably be debated. But what cannot be debated is the fact that the Republican focus on banning abortions always translates into more suffering for the women, and especially for those women who cannot vote in the United States. Even the women in the United States should not have access to reproductive medical care if that might mean access to abortions. We have learned that from the Planned Parenthood debacle.
What's so weird about all this is that the Republicans didn't run on forced birth arguments in the last elections. Those are what we are getting, however, on all levels of government. The Republicans don't seem at all concerned about jobs, and the only kind of labor that concerns them is the kind associated with giving birth.
And yes, this post relates to my previous one.
Added later: Read Shakespeare's Sister on more domestic examples.
Rheality Check asks president Obama to pay more attention to women's reproductive rights when he visits Brazil, Chile and El Salvador. To be quite honest with you, I don't think the president has much of a personal opinion on reproductive rights. They are certainly one of the items in his to-be-compromised-over toolkit.
That aside, I was shocked to read that abortion is illegal in both Chile and El Salvador under all conditions:
Abortion is illegal under any circumstance in Chile, even in cases of rape or when a pregnant woman’s life is in danger. And for the past decade, U.N. human rights committees have recommended that Chile loosen its abortion ban in order to comply with its human rights obligations, but the government has refused.Of course the illegality of abortion does not mean that abortion wouldn't exist in those countries.
Similarly, since 1998 El Salvador, the last stop on President Obama’s trip, has criminalized abortion on all grounds. El Salvador’s restrictive abortion law contributes to its high maternal mortality ratio, more than twice the average in Latin America. The government vigilantly enforces the ban, prosecuting women who have had abortions as murderers.
But take a step back and consider the kind of world which the US radical religious right would desire: There would be no legal abortion and the contraceptive pill would be banned as an abortifacient. A woman going out of her own home in such a world could, in theory, be made pregnant by a stranger against her own will and that would be it. She would have to give birth. Likewise, her husband could most likely make sure that she becomes pregnant whenever he wishes it to happen, whatever her desires.
That is an extreme scenario, sure. But it shows how essential reproductive control is for women's equal rights in general. And it also shows why the battle over abortion is also a battle over who gets to control fertility. If it is not the women themselves they will, logically, have fewer rights and less freedom than men, especially given who is expected to take care of children and given the radical right's emphasis on mothers staying at home.
It is a pity that the US abortion rights are based on the concept of privacy rather than the concept of equal rights. The latter make a much stronger case for reproductive rights.
JOICFP is working with the Japanese Midwives Association to provide direct care for Maternal and Infant care. They are on the ground, know the situation, have experience in crisis settings, and will focus on making sure women and their families have access to maternal and newborn care and that issues around gender-based violence, something that often sky-rockets in times of crisis, remain an important component of relief efforts. COHI and its volunteers will be called upon by these organizations, as they deem needed. For now, the best way we can help is by providing these organizations with the funds needed to work within Japan.You can donate through COHI or the International Planned Parenthood Federation. JOICFP gives more specifics:
We plan to distribute relief supplies, such as diapers, sanitary napkins, and relief clothing for women and newborns to meet their daily needs. We will also support healthcare activities, such as providing healthcare services for mothers and newborns, and psychological care for women who are suffering from severe stress after this disaster.If you know of any other nonprofits helping women specifically, please leave the information in the comments.
Sunday, March 20, 2011
The ultimate disrespect he has shown me, as a woman, is by calling me "sleazy." With his checkered history with women and women’s issues, and his elitist attitude, I’m not surprised. ... Mr. Buckhorn stop your attacks on women!
Bob’s attempt to diminish the status of women in politics and the progress that’s been made over the last 100 years is unacceptable.
But Amazante Valesco, as relentlessly buoyant as she is deeply poor, hears the news from Japan of the earth trembling and monster waves cascading and thinks, “What happened to them is worse.’’
Before Haiti’s earthquake, the 56-year-old mother of five lived in a neighborhood of this capital city known among the locals as Tokyo, although Valesco isn’t sure why. “When the tsunami hit, I saw that even a train full of people got washed away,’’ she said. “That makes me very, very sad.’’
I am working on a long piece about Marilynne Robinson's Absence of Mind, the book form of her Terry Lectures from 2009. I would recommend reading them but you can hear her delivery of them here. The central essay, The Strange History of Altruism, is a revelation.
The Wall Street Journal has an opinion piece
on the way young girls dress:
In the pale-turquoise ladies' room, they congregate in front of the mirror, re-applying mascara and lip gloss, brushing their hair, straightening panty hose and gossiping: This one is "skanky," that one is "really cute," and so forth. Dressed in minidresses, perilously high heels, and glittery, dangling earrings, their eyes heavily shadowed in black-pearl and jade, they look like a flock of tropical birds. A few minutes later, they return to the dance floor, where they shake everything they've got under the party lights.Why do we let them do that, the author asks. She is not asking why some parents let their sons get laid, by the way. She is focusing on trying to understand "Why Girls Dress Like Sluts" but refuses to look for it in the right places.
But for the most part, there isn't all that much to shake. This particular group of party-goers consists of 12- and 13-year-old girls. Along with their male counterparts, they are celebrating the bat mitzvah of a classmate in a cushy East Coast suburb.
All of which brings me to a question: Why do so many of us not only permit our teenage daughters to dress like this—like prostitutes, if we're being honest with ourselves—but pay for them to do it with our AmEx cards?
Thus, she ends up writing about feminism and post-feminism and the contraceptive pill, as if the current fashions in young girls' clothes were somehow a consequence of the contraceptive pill or of feminism! We are all so confused! None of us knows the answers! But perhaps we all regret having had premarital sex ourselves. The mothers, she means. She hasn't asked the fathers what they think of their own past sexual experimentation.
No wonder that the conclusion is confusion if one refuses to search for the real reasons. Let's help her a little there:
The first thing to notice is that young teenage girls dress for their peer groups. It is the values of those peers which matter, and the root of those values lies in popular culture and the way it portrays young women.
The second thing to notice, as the author does admit, is that the young girls don't dress a certain way because they want to, say, get laid. They dress that way because it makes them popular. Most of them have only a limited idea how that way of dressing might look to someone of their parents' generation or perhaps even more generally.
Then the third and most important thing: The images of young women in popular culture have changed in the last few decades. This began with the early music videos and was much intensified by the widespread consumption of Internet pron and its impact on the competition for clickable images by non-pron producers. In short, for a woman to be viewed as worthy of attention she must be much more sexually explicit in her demeanor and dress than was the case before*. Just think of the Fox News female news readers.
I'm not arguing that some wholesale change has taken place. But change there has been, and none of it is directly related to feminism or the contraceptive pill.
A better candidate for the best explanation is the pornification of the culture. Ignoring that candidate (and the whole question of what parents let their sons do) means that this opinion piece ends up blaming the mothers for the way their daughters dress. The mothers can then blame their daughters for disobeying any attempts to make them dress differently. This creates a beautiful circle of blaming and confusion which takes us absolutely nowhere.
*Here is a picture of Lady Gaga, as an example: