Friday, January 13, 2012

The hermeneutics of Glenn Greenwald (by Suzie)

I view Salon lawyer/blogger Glenn Greenwald the way I do Ron Paul: They have some interesting views, but I don't want to enhance their credibility in any way.

On Jan. 2, Echidne dissected what Greenwald wrote in praise of Paul. Oh, wait, I wonder if I'm misinterpreting him by using the word "praise." Perhaps I should say that his column mentioned Paul in a way that a reasonable person would construe as positive. I want to be really careful, lest he refer to me as using "grotesque accusatory innuendo," as he did Katha Pollitt and others.

We can get a glimpse of how Greenwald argues from this exchange on Twitter about Obama signing a military-spending bill (NDAA) that allows the use of indefinite military detention of terrorist suspects.

Greenwald quotes an ACLU headline: "President Obama Signs Indefinite Detention Bill Into Law." Imani Gandy, a k a Angry Black Lady, a Grio blogger/lawyer, raises the issue of civil custody. Seems like a good point since the law refers to military detention, and Obama promised not to apply it to U.S. citizens. (Nevertheless, I oppose this law, just fyi.) The conversation quickly turns ugly, with Greenwald and supporters disparaging Gandy.
DrDawg: ABL, Obama could rape a nun live on NBC and you'd say we weren't seeing what we were seeing.
Greenwald: No - she'd say it was justified & noble- that he only did it to teach us about the evils of rape.
ABL and others tell him rape jokes aren't funny. (This also is debated among liberals. See this interesting post by the Funny Feminist.)

"Learn how to use Twitter - I didn't offer that example - just replied to it," Greenwald snaps. (This is disingenuous. His reply made the example more extreme.) DrDawg says, "I assure you, I wasn't making a joke, but a point."

It's not like those two things are mutually exclusive. People often use humor to make serious points. Twitterers also say that using rape to make a point is offensive because it trivializes rape. They say that talking about a black male president raping someone can be seen as racist. Jennifer Pozner, founder of Women in Media & News, tweets:
"Turns out I have to start 2012 by explaining to a respected progressive political journalist why cheap rape metaphors are bogus. #neverends"
Finally, Greenwald switches arguments. He no longer says he simply replied to someone else. Instead, he acknowledges that he talked about rape, but assures readers that it wasn't a joke or a metaphor. "It's a statement" that "blind defenders" of Obama would "defend ANY evil: assassinations, child-killings: EVEN rape."

I have criticized Obama many times, but I'm outraged by the idea that he's a killer capable of rape, supported by people who don't care. Talk about "grotesque accusatory innuendo."

Zerlina Maxwell, who writes at Feministing, Loop21 and the Grio, has an excellent post about Greenwald, noting:
... an irony of the infusion of rape into a debate in which it doesn't belong, is that the NDAA that Greenwald finds so offensive, also includes a provision which finally addresses the serious problem of rape, abuse and sexual harassment in the military.
I didn't know that much about Greenwald last week when I mistakenly suggested he was another white-male blogger who supported Obama, only to get disenchanted. The more I read about him, the more convinced I am that I'll need a second part to this post to address why Greenwald is regarded as a "respected progressive."

This Is Awesome

A video of a women's volleyball game in China. Do watch it, even if you don't like volleyball.

Possibly Good News From Saudi Arabia

About the morality police:
Saudi Arabia's king replaced the hard-line chief of the country's morality police with a more liberal cleric who has encouraged greater women's rights, a change welcomed by activists as a sign that the monarchy would continue to pursue cautious social reforms in the face of political upheaval in the Middle East.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Should the Times Be A Truth Vigilante?

That's the question Arthur Brisbane, the New York Times public editor posed today. It has to do with the responsibilities reporters might or might not have to correct statements that they know to be untrue.

Brisbane puts it like this:
I’m looking for reader input on whether and when New York Times news reporters should challenge “facts” that are asserted by newsmakers they write about.

One example mentioned recently by a reader: As cited in an Adam Liptak article on the Supreme Court, a court spokeswoman said Clarence Thomas had “misunderstood” a financial disclosure form when he failed to report his wife’s earnings from the Heritage Foundation. The reader thought it not likely that Mr. Thomas “misunderstood,” and instead that he simply chose not to report the information.

Another example: on the campaign trail, Mitt Romney often says President Obama has made speeches “apologizing for America,” a phrase to which Paul Krugman objected in a December 23 column arguing that politics has advanced to the “post-truth” stage.

As an Op-Ed columnist, Mr. Krugman clearly has the freedom to call out what he thinks is a lie. My question for readers is: should news reporters do the same?
Nah. Just insert a disclaimer in cat-sized letters on top of any article you publish. My suggestion:

Dear Reader,

Nothing you read here has been checked for truthfulness.


That should get you off the hook. If some things have actually been checked, then you can add a list of them in the disclaimer, together with their truth-or-false values.

I'm not completely joking when I make that proposal. The reason is simple:

Many readers clearly still believe that something published in the NYT that looks like a fact indeed is a fact. A disclaimer would take care of that belief.

But if we wish to do something more complicated, how about using the old [sic] to denote a presumably factual statement that is well known to be false? That could be inserted into quotes and such.

When Right to Religious Freedom Clashes With Other Rights

The rights to religious freedom often clash with various types of human rights. The most obvious example of this in the United States is Wisconsin v. Yoder, about whether compulsory education should be applied to the children of the Amish, a religious sect which did not desire such an education to their children:
Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972), is the case in which the United States Supreme Court found that Amish children could not be placed under compulsory education past 8th grade, as it violated their parents' fundamental right to freedom of religion.
The partly dissenting opinion in this case notes the potential clash in rights though does not frame it quite in those terms:
On this important and vital matter of education, I think the children should be entitled to be heard. While the parents, absent dissent, normally speak for the entire family, the education of the child is a matter on which the child will often have decided views. He may want to be a pianist or an astronaut or an oceanographer. To do so he will have to break from the Amish tradition. It is the future of the students, not the future of the parents, that is imperiled by today's decision. If a parent keeps his child out of school beyond the grade school, then the child will be forever barred from entry into the new and amazing world of diversity that we have today.
More recent examples of religious and other rights clashing include the cases (in Brooklyn, US but mostly in Israel) where certain religious sects demand the segregation of sexes inside buses and trains, even if not all the passengers in those vehicles follow the same religious interpretations. In practice this means that women are asked to move to the back of the bus.

The back-of-the-bus cases differ from the Amish court case in a very important respect, however. The latter happen at the fringes, in those places where members of a religious group and outsiders are bound to meet, and thus the disputes apply to the question whether outsiders should change their behavior in order to satisfy the religious norms of a particular group. Including their views about women.

In Israel these clashes are with the ultra-Orthodox community. Examples:
But there were no female speakers at the Puah Institute for Fertility and Medicine According to Halacha’s 12th-annual “Innovations in Gynecology, Obstetrics and Jewish Law”conference Wednesday in Jerusalem – there were only 13 rabbis and eight male physicians or PhDs on the podium during the daylong gathering.

Despite the brouhaha raised during the past week in the general media over its “exclusion of women,” and the counterattacks by the haredi world, there were no secular or haredi journalists. But I (who am neither) was there to listen and cover the sessions, as I have been for the past decade.

The discussions, as always, included terminology such as ejaculation and male orgasm, as well as other subjects that would have caused haredi men to blush even without the presence of women, and which are routinely censored in the haredi media. And as with the previous conferences, there was an equal number of women and men (more than 1,000 in all) – separated by cloth-covered dividers – in attendance, and closed-circuit TV screens showing the speakers.

Although nothing had really changed, the audience had more haredim in black kippot, and fewer national religious men in crocheted kippot. And there was tension in the air – resulting from Kadima MK (and gynecologist) Rachel Adatto’s objection last week to Puah’s policy of not allowing women experts to address the crowd.

And the case about ultra-Orthodox taunting and spitting at merely Orthodox schoolgirls:
The spectacle of haredi -- that is, ultra-Orthodox -- thugs spitting on Naama Margolis, an 8-year-old schoolgirl in the Israeli town of Beit Shemesh has exacerbated the already frayed relations between the fundamentalist religious sector of the Jewish community, in Israel and elsewhere, and the rest of us, that is, Conservative, Reform, Modern Orthodox and secular Jews.

The Beit Shemesh incident was triggered not only by the zealots' belief that the child, a religious girl from an observant family, was immodestly dressed -- she was wearing a regulation school uniform -- but by their conviction that they have the right to physically and verbally abuse women and girls of whose attire, demeanor or behavior they disapprove.

Another haredi paragon, one Shlomo Fuchs, recently called Doron Matalon, a female Israeli soldier returning to her base, a "slut" on a public bus in Jerusalem. When the soldier pointed out accurately that she protects him and his way of life, Fuchs responded by saying, "She protects me? I sit at shul from eight in the morning till midnight and study, and she's protecting me? I protect her."

Isn't it interesting how very similar the views about women are among all the extremist groups within the three large Abrahamic religions? They amount to an almost-eradication of women. That is done to keep men pure, though the onus for that is completely on women.

But when it comes to how women dress or behave, no amount of modesty will ultimately keep some men from having sexual thoughts. If all women cover their arms and upper legs, then it is the women's ankles which are seen as arousing. If the ankles are covered, it will be the hands or wrists. If those are covered, it will be the faces. Finally, even just the eyes showing may be too much for some men.

That conference example, with the women sitting behind a screen, also reminded me of one of the experiences of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, an American suffragist:
The seed for the first Woman's Rights Convention was planted in 1840, when Elizabeth Cady Stanton met Lucretia Mott at the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London, the conference that refused to seat Mott and other women delegates from America because of their sex. Stanton, the young bride of an antislavery agent, and Mott, a Quaker preacher and veteran of reform, talked then of calling a convention to address the condition of women. Eight years later, it came about as a spontaneous event.
I predict that we will see more clashes between the right to religious freedom and women's rights in the future, but also clashes which involve other types of human rights and religious rights. Now might be a good time to think about what is at stake.

A Final Note on the Mars/Venus Study

I asked the awesome stats wizard Andrew Gelman to comment on the Mars/Venus study and he was kind enough to do so. His post gives answers to the questions I posed earlier.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Translating Mitt Romney's New Hampshire Remarks

Athenae did it so well that I probably should not. But it looks like a really fun game!

And you can try it at home! Here's the original text. Have a go.

My translation of the important points in the speech:

The speech:
Today, we are faced with the disappointing record of a failed President. The last three years have held a lot of change, but they haven’t offered much hope.

The middle class has been crushed. Nearly 24 million of our fellow Americans are still out of work, struggling to find work, or have just stopped looking. The median income has dropped 10% in four years. Soldiers returning from the front lines are waiting in unemployment lines. Our debt is too high and our opportunities too few.

And this President wakes up every morning, looks out across America and is proud to announce, “It could be worse.”

My translation:

There was no president called George Walker Bush! He did not exist. And because he did not exist, he had nothing to do with this recession. Nothing! It was all Obama!

The speech:
It could be worse? Is that what it means to be an American? It could be worse?

Of course not.

What defines us as Americans is our unwavering conviction that we know it must be better.
That conviction guides our campaign. It has rallied millions of Americans in every corner of this country to our cause.
Over the last six months, I’ve listened to anxious voices in town meetings and visited with students and soldiers. In break rooms and living rooms, I’ve heard stories of families getting by on less, of carefully planned retirements now replaced by jobs at minimum wage. But even now, amidst the worst economy since the Great Depression, I’ve rarely heard a refrain of hopelessness.
Americans know that our future is brighter and better than these troubled times. We still believe in the hope, the promise, and the dream of America. We still believe in that shining city on a hill.

My translation:

Forget George Walker but never, ever forget Ronald Reagan! That "shining city on a hill" is code for that as well as code for the Bible! Just talking bubblegum stuff about hope worked for him (and for Obama), so it better work for me, too.

The speech:

President Obama wants to put free enterprise on trial. In the last few days, we have seen some desperate Republicans join forces with him. This is such a mistake for our Party and for our nation. This country already has a leader who divides us with the bitter politics of envy. We must offer an alternative vision. I stand ready to lead us down a different path, where we are lifted up by our desire to succeed, not dragged down by a resentment of success. In these difficult times, we cannot abandon the core values that define us as unique -- We are One Nation, Under God.

My translation:

Banksters should remain banksters and in charge of the markets they ruined. This is called free enterprise. The 1% were successful (never mind how or why), and the 99% should shut up because envy is unbecoming. Also, I will pretend that the poor schmucks have a chance to become successful, too. If that's not enough, I believe in God.

The speech:

Make no mistake, in this campaign, I will offer the American ideals of economic freedom a clear and unapologetic defense.

Our campaign is about more than replacing a President; it is about saving the soul of America. This election is a choice between two very different destinies.

President Obama wants to “fundamentally transform” America. We want to restore America to the founding principles that made this country great.

He wants to turn America into a European-style entitlement society. We want to ensure that we remain a free and prosperous land of opportunity.

My translation:

Everyone in this country will have the right to live under the bridges. The European surrender-monkeys have bad things such as vacations. I call them entitlements to show how bad those things are, and because Americans still have some entitlements, too, I hint here that I will get rid of them. This is what a free land of opportunity means! You, too, can live under a bridge if you wish.

The speech:

This President puts his faith in government. We put our faith in the American people.

He is making the federal government bigger, burdensome, and bloated. I will make it simpler, smaller, and smarter.

He raised the national debt. I will cut, cap, and balance the budget.

He enacted job-killing regulations; I’ll eliminate them.

He lost our AAA credit rating; I’ll restore it.

He passed Obamacare; I’ll repeal it.

My translation:

I will snip and snip at the safety net until there is nothing left of it. I will adopt austerity as my best friend because it won't touch me or my people. I will let your job make you sick and when it does that I will let the health insurers deny you coverage.

The speech:

Internationally, President Obama has adopted an appeasement strategy. He believes America’s role as leader in the world is a thing of the past. I believe a strong America must – and will – lead the future.

He doesn’t see the need for overwhelming American military superiority. I will insist on a military so powerful no one would think of challenging it.

He chastises friends like Israel; I’ll stand with our friends.

My translation:

I promise you at least one new war. And because you are unthinking dolts, I don't mention the fact that the US already spends more on the military than the next fourteen biggest spenders put together.

The speech:

He apologizes for America; I will never apologize for the greatest nation in the history of the Earth.
My translation:

USA! USA! USA! Like they chant in the Olympics

Today's Quote

It is by Dahlia Lithwick:
Imagine a Democratic presidential nominee running on promises to reshape, remake, make over, hog-tie, or even just refinish the federal bench. It doesn’t happen. And so, even though the most conservative Supreme Court in decades sits poised to decide cases ranging from the constitutionality of President Obama’s health care legislation to the future of affirmative action in schools, the rights to gay marriage, and the fate of the voting rights act, Republicans portray both the Supreme Court and the lower courts as a collective of lefty hippies. And Democrats mainly just look at their fingernails.
Read the whole article.

What Is Austerity Good For?

Read this article about Greece and weep:
Deeply indebted and nearly bankrupt, this Mediterranean nation was forced to adopt tough austerity measures to slash its deficit and secure an international bailout. But as Greece’s economy slides into free fall, critics are scanning the devastated landscape here and asking a probing question: Does austerity really work?

Unemployment has surged to 18.8 percent from 13.3 percent only a year ago. Overburdened public hospitals are facing acute shortages of everything from syringes to bandages because of budget cuts, with hiring freezes forcing the mothballing of operating rooms even as more unemployed are relying on the public health system. Rates of homelessness, suicide, crime and HIV cases from intravenous drug use are jumping.

Greece has been forced to cut spending and raise taxes in the middle of a severe downturn, slashing pensions as well as state salaries, jobs and services. As public confidence has evaporated, consumer spending — the biggest driver of the economy — has plunged, generating cascading losses at private firms. The result is a dizzying economic plummet and social crisis that is bringing the cradle of Western civilization to its knees.

That quote asks whether austerity really works! But of course! A country is almost demolished in a few years! Those who were living high on the hog are whipped and put on low rations if peasants, left alone if feudal lords and ladies. The value of thrift is drilled into the Greek skulls. A moral lesson is being taught. And doors open for the Shock Doctrine.

But that's probably not the politically correct answer to the question. (Note that I'm using the dated p.c. term here in the correct form.) That has to do with something called expansionary austerity, the idea that cutting government spending could result in the expansion of economic activity.

Dean Baker explains the theory of expansionary austerity and also the reasons why it's mostly a mythical beast and Paul Krugman links to another study with similar results.

More from Krugman on that linked Washington Post story about Greece:
Most of that is right — but not the bit about regaining the confidence of investors — or at any rate, that’s not what it’s about these days. For it’s quite clear that at this point investor confidence is unregainable. Greek borrowing costs aren’t coming down to affordable levels for a very long time.

So now the austerity isn’t market-driven — it’s political, the pound of flesh official lenders are demanding for maintaining the trickle of cash. And it really is in large part about punishment; we’ve now seen a fairly impressive demonstration that big budget cuts in a depressed economy hardly even reduce the deficit, because they drive the economy down and tax receipts with it.

Visiting David Brooks

I try to do this very rarely, for obvious reasons, the most important of them being this:
When you want a truly vile opinion dressed up to sound innocuous, Brooks is your guy.

Last Friday his column was about Santorum and his values:
Santorum doesn’t yet see that once you start thinking about how to foster an economic system that would nurture our virtues, you wind up with an agenda far more drastic and transformational.
If you believe in the dignity of labor, it makes sense to support an infrastructure program that allows more people to practice the habits of industry. If you believe in personal responsibility, you have to force Americans to receive only as much government as they are willing to pay for. If you believe in the centrality of family, you have to have a government that both encourages marriage and also supplies wage subsidies to men to make them marriageable.
Bolds are mine. Does Brooks really propose to pay men extra for just being men?

James Taranto thinks so. He doesn't think this would fly, for pretty obvious reasons, but he notes that other proposals could have the same effect albeit under disguise, and only for men with low earnings:
The problem is evident immediately. As the Supreme Court held in Mississippi University for Women v. Hogan (1982), sex discrimination by the government is unconstitutional absent an "exceedingly persuasive justification." It strains credulity to think that the goal of making men "marriageable" would meet this standard of scrutiny.
The way around this problem would be to structure the Brooks subsidy so that it predominately benefits men but is also available to women. In a 2009 piece for The American Prospect, a left-liberal magazine (hat tip: Ira Stoll), writer Dick Mendel proposed doubling the Earned Income Tax Credit for "low-wage workers without children [in their care], primarily noncustodial fathers and men without children."
It's an upside-down world, the one these guys inhabit. Why not propose an extra tax on all single women? That way they stay relatively poorer and will have to marry someone to survive. -- I'm not proposing that. Just pointing out that it's really the same thing these guys discuss above.

In his most recent column Brooks asks where all the Liberals have gone:
Why aren’t there more liberals in America?
It’s not because liberalism lacks cultural power. Many polls suggest that a majority of college professors and national journalists vote Democratic. The movie, TV, music and publishing industries are dominated by liberals*.
It’s not because recent events have disproved the liberal worldview. On the contrary, we’re still recovering from a financial crisis caused, in large measure, by Wall Street excess. Corporate profits are zooming while worker salaries are flat.
It’s not because liberalism’s opponents are going from strength to strength. The Republican Party is unpopular and sometimes embarrassing.
Given the circumstances, this should be a golden age of liberalism. Yet the percentage of Americans who call themselves liberals is either flat or in decline. There are now two conservatives in this country for every liberal. Over the past 40 years, liberalism has been astonishingly incapable at expanding its market share.
Brooks then presents his answer to this conundrum. A better one can be found in one of the comments to his column:
The most brilliant thing the conservatives ever did was brand democrats as tax and spend liberals. The media loved it then and loves it now. Then, they - the conservatives - ran up the deficit under Reagan. But still the democrats are the tax and spend liberals. Then, they did it under the first Bush. But still, it's the tax and spend liberals. Then Clinton erased the deficit, delivered a projected surplus and began paying down the debt. But still, it's the tax and spend liberals. Then Bush II took the deficit to levels unimaginable and brought the economy to the brink. LIBERAL IS A FOUR LETTER WORD.
Yes, pretty much. It's a cuss word.

This does not mean that liberal stances on issues wouldn't be liked by many more Americans. They just hesitate to adopt the liberal label or assume that "liberal" means the conservative framing of the word. Many call themselves progressives, instead of liberals, too.
*This argument about the cultural elite consisting of liberals is much more complicated than Brooks allows. What he argues is that the workers in certain "cultural" industries tend have liberal values. This does not mean that they use liberal bias in their work. Sometimes they seem to bend over backwards in an attempt to not show any such bias, resulting in the reverse bias.

Neither does this tell us what the political values of those are who own the media companies. Rupert Murdoch is unlikely to be the only conservative media mogul out there. It is the owners who have the final say when it comes to the contents of what the company produces.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

And Even More On The Men-Are-From-Mars-Women-Are-From-Venus Study

The Huffington Post has an article about this study which interviews one of the study authors, Paul Irwing and also Janet Hyde who authored the earlier study that this one essentially attacks.

I am still trying to find the answer to the following question about the basic study: If another set of researchers took the same data and applied the same method, would they unavoidably get the same overall results?

So far I have not been able to find an answer to that question. It matters greatly, because of this:
In past studies on this topic, researchers would simply add up all the survey responses, according to Del Giudice. This led to imperfect results because of careless responses and misreadings. Through a sophisticated method called "structure equation modeling," the researchers claim they were able to remove this random error. When asked if he could translate this concept for a lay person, Irwing replied: "I teach courses on this and it takes me approximately 20 hours."
Thus, the method which produces the new results (from old data, by the way) cannot be explained. Which makes it pretty nigh impossible to join in the conversation about what the new findings mean.

For example, think of possible interpretations for this:
"If you translate it into the simplest terms," said Irwing, "only 18 percent of men and women match in terms of personality profiles, and that's staggeringly different from the consensus view."
What does this mean? That 18% of the respondents in the study scored on the same points on all the various scales? And if they did not, how different were their "personality profiles?" Completely different? A bit different on one or two dimensions?

It is this opaqueness that makes it so hard to talk about the findings.

The other bit in that interview I want to talk about is this:
Irwing thinks that some researchers in the past may have been biased in their methods, in order to reduce any gender difference. "It's for totally laudable reasons," he said. "People are very concerned, or were very concerned, that women didn't get equal opportunities, and that there was a lot of bias in selection processes."
"People are afraid that studies like ours will turn the clock back," Irwing added.
Hyde is one of those people. "This huge difference is not only scientifically false," she said, "it has unfortunate consequences for places like the workplace and education and heterosexual romantic relationships."
But the authors stand by their results, and are currently drafting a lengthy response to Hyde's objections. "I think distorting science because of what you would like to believe, or because of what you think the political consequences are, is very dangerous," said Irwing.

This sets Irwing and Del Giudice as the objective scientists and Hyde as the person who distorted her results because of political consequences. Hmm.

The problem is that all researchers would like to believe something. It's not necessarily only feminists who have those beliefs.

For instance, if your study frame is evolutionary psychology, then you initially have accepted the idea that gender differences in personality are something that was caused by sexual selection a long time ago and is now retained in our stone age brains. So you like results that support that and dislike results that don't support that.

I'm not going to use a word as strong as "distorting" when I mention that studies can be written up in ways which support one view rather than the other. For instance, the Del Giudice-Irwing study uses US data which seems to over-sample both white Americans and educated Americans. The study write-up does not address the fact that the data is drawn that way. It simply applies the findings to all men and women, never mind the culture the self-reported results are drawn from.

Then there is this quote by Irwing, on women and men:
They're almost like "different species," Paul Irwing, one of the researchers, told The Huffington Post.
This may be a subtle thing, but I don't think objective scientists describe their results that way. People who have an axe to grind might, perhaps.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Blogger's Block and Nakke, the Finnish-Speaking Parrot

Say "blogger's block" several times in a row. Mine will pass soon, I hope.

Here's yet another video of Nakke, the parrot who speaks Finnish. This time he explores the bathroom:

Rough translation, with a few guesses:

At the beginning he mutters "no" when deciding to attack the toilet brush. It tips over and he seems to say "Did it hit?"

The owner's voice can be heard to say "Nakke does
NOT break" and "What have you done?"

Nakke then gives what sounds to me like a shitty laugh. He then says "nooh" and "I'm going to get/prepare some water." He says "nooh" again.

When he steps onto the stool next to the toilet and nearly loses his balance he says "Oh dear"/"oh damn." He then repeats "I'm going to get/prepare some water." speaks some Dutch, copies a dog barking and starts pecking away at the back of the toilet while saying " you break?" and "Do NOT break."

For more Nakke vidoes with rough translations, go here and here.

Body Image And Men

The UK Guardian summarizes a study about men and body image problems with this fascinating headline: "Body image concerns more men than women, research finds."

But I couldn't find the study (about 394 British men) or the other study which must have produced the numbers for women that are used in that comparison. I suspect that the participants in this study were not drawn randomly from the general population of British men because of this:
Respondents, of whom about a quarter were gay men, blamed the media and celebrities for unhelpfully reinforcing unrealistic ideals of physical perfection.
I don't think a quarter of British men are gay, so the sample is not representative of the population the overall conclusions are applied to.

If I had to guess, I'd plunge for self-selection as the way the study got its subjects. You put up advertisements in various places and see who signs up to be in your study. The problem, of course, is that this approach will attract more people who are concerned about the topic of the study than those who are not. That, in turn, means that the percentages you get in the study cannot be assumed to apply to all men or even all British men.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Ani DiFranco & the ERA (by Suzie)

I've been reveling in Ani DiFranco's new CD, "Which Side Are You On?" which can be pre-ordered at her label, Righteous Babe Records. It will be released in stores Jan. 17. In an interview in No Depression, Kim Ruehl calls "Amendment" "the most explicit feminist song you’ve ever recorded." That's saying a lot, considering this is DiFranco, for goddess' sake. It's wonderful to hear her call for the ERA, but it's also saddening/maddening that civil rights for women are "pushing the envelope" in 2012.
Here are the opening lines:
Wouldn't it be nice if we had an amendment to give civil rights to women, to once and for all just really lay it down from the point of view of women?

Meanwhile*, in Egypt

Islamists have done exceedingly well in the Egyptian elections:
The Brotherhood’s party said on its website that it has won 41 percent of seats in the new parliament.

The Salafi Al-Nour party trailed second, winning nearly 27 percent of seats.

The two Islamist parties together chalked up nearly 65 percent of seats in the new parliament.

The liberal Egyptian Bloc and Al-Wafd party won 9 percent of seats each, while Mubarak loyalists took nearly 4 percent, according to results published on the FJP’s website.

The Revolution Continues, a coalition of youth activists, took only 2 percent of seats and the moderate Islamist Al Wasat won 2 percent, while the rest were taken by independents.

Not sure why the numbers for the two Islamic parties getting the most votes don't add up to the total given above. But in any case they are the clear winners.

What does this mean for the women of Egypt? This is difficult to predict in detail but the odds are reduced freedoms:
The role of religion in defining the relationship between citizens and the state has for some time been mainly limited issues of personal status. Many Egyptians are religious, and yet the impact of religion on people's daily lives tends to be independent to a large degree of any kind of state interference.
Perhaps this is why, with the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and the Salafi-orinted Nour Party picking up more than half the seats in recent parliamentary elections, Cairo residents, and others across the country, are voicing their concern.
The FJP has said there will be no major changes in the relationship between society, the state and religion, and that there is nothing to worry about. However, some Nour Party candidates and Salafi politicians have been speaking as though the extremist Islamification of Egyptian society is just around the corner. Although the newly elected parliament has yet to make any laws, the statements of Salafis have had many moderate and secular Egyptians up in arms.


Mohamed Emara, a member of the Nour Party and its victorious candidate in the South Cairo constituency, declared on 3 December that stricter regulations would be applied to alcohol sales, bank lending, and beach attire.
The future MP noted in an interview with state-run daily Akhbar al-Youm that the phrase “civil state” is ambiguous. He added that the imposition of Islamic banking is the key to a flourishing Egyptian economy. The application of Islamic banking rules would only entail changing so-called "profit" structures, without fundamental changes to the conventional banking system now in place — except for a ban on investments in alcohol, gambling or anything else that is seen as forbidden by Islam.
"There is very little political awareness among the majority of Egyptians," claims Sanaa Abdel Rahman, a hairdresser who lives in a neighborhood around the pyramids. "When people voted for Salafi and Brotherhood candidates, they were supporting what they thought were religious elders and were unaware that these people would destroy their livelihood. Almost everyone in our neighborhood works in tourism, but they all voted for the Nour Party."
While bankers and tour guides spend sleepless nights over the financial implications of an Islamist state, women worry about being forced to cover their hair and stay out of restaurants and cafes where they would mix with men.
Perhaps the most controversial declarations have to do with the veil. A recent Nour Party advertisement claims that it would "never force women to wear the niqab," which covers the face as well as the hair. However, no mention is made of the headscarf, a fact which leaves open the possibility that the latter could be imposed by law. Other Salafi rulings have forbidden neck ties for men, as well as trousers for women, unless in the company of a husband, brothers or father.
Then there are those rumors about vigilante gangs who pretend to be something like the Saudi morality police:
Vigilante gangs of ultra-conservative Salafi men have been harassing shop owners and female customers in rural towns around Egypt for “indecent behavior,” according to reports in the Egyptian news media. But when they burst into a beauty salon in the Nile delta town of Benha this week and ordered the women inside to stop what they were doing or face physical punishment, the women struck back, whipping them with their own canes before kicking them out to the street in front of an astonished crowd of onlookers.
Modeling themselves after Saudi Arabia’s morality police as a “Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice,” the young men raided clothing and other retail shops around the Qalubiya province over New Year’s weekend declaring they were there to enforce Islamic law, according to the Tahrir News.
Shop owners were told they could no longer sell “indecent” clothing, barbers could no longer shave men’s beards, and that all retail businesses should expect regular and surprise inspections to check for compliance. Frightened customers were ordered to cover up and threatened with severe punishment if they did not abide by “God’s law on earth.”
But when the women in a Benha beauty salon stood up to the young Salafi enforcers, they found support on the streets as well as online, with one amused reader suggesting that women should be deputized to protect the revolution’s democratic values.
A wonderful ending to that story! Of course a government-sanctioned morality police could not be fought that way.

I cannot forecast the future, and much depends on how coalitions are going to be built within the new government. But the future is not rosy for those Egyptians who want equality between men and women.

A different aspect of the changes that the Nour party would support has to do with Egyptian tourism. As I have written before, tourism is an important industry in Egypt. If alcohol were to be completely banned and beach attire severely regulated, the number of tourists to Egypt would drop by a very large percentage. Introducing something like morality police or sex segregation in general would have an even stronger impact. Large problems in the tourism industry would increase unemployment and poverty in several areas of Egypt.

*The "meanwhile" denotes that the post will be about something nasty happening to women somewhere in the world.