Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Speed Posting, 1/14/14. On Male and Female Virtue, Afghan Women And the US Unemployment Rate

1.  Here's advice about how to make a marriage work:  Wifely obedience:
A former star of the US family sitcom Full House who has been married for 17 years thinks she has the answer to marital happiness: be a submissive wife.

 Candace Cameron Bure has shared her controversial advice for other married women in her new book, ‘Balancing It all’.
“I am not a passive person but I chose to fall into a more submissive role in our relationship because I wanted to do everything in my power to make my marriage and family work,” said Bure, who is married to hockey player Val Bure and has three children.
When challenged about her use of the word submissive in an interview with the Huffington Post, Bure said she was using it in the Biblical sense.
"The definition that I'm using with submissive is the biblical definition. It's meekness. It is not weakness. It's strength under control. It's bridled strength," she said.
So religion rears its head here, again, by suggesting that meekness is an important womanly virtue.  Whether practicing such a virtue makes the woman happy in her marriage is up to her, I guess.  Always submitting might not work for the average woman or man, in terms of happiness.  It might not even make the marriage a particularly successful one.

2.  If meekness is a female virtue, then Paul S. Kemp tells us what masculine virtues are (via Lawyers, Guns & Money:

So, I write masculine stories. And what I mean by that is that they feature characters whose behaviors and characteristics are what I consider traditionally masculine. They’re almost hyper-masculine, really.  Further, those masculine behaviors and characteristics are shown (implicitly or explicitly) as virtuous.  Essentially what I’m often trying to show are characters who embody the Roman concept of virtus.
Now, that’s not true of all my characters, of course, but it’s true of many of them.  As a rule they’re men. They drink a lot. They sometimes womanize. They answer violence with violence.  They’re courageous in the face of danger. They’re stoic in the face of challenges/pain.  They have their emotions mostly in check. And they act in accordance with a code of honor of some kind.  Thematic elements in a lot of my work that square with this involve the obligations of fatherhood, the depths of friendship between men who’ve faced death together, the bonds of brotherhood (figuratively).  Hell, there are even damsels in distress sometimes (though I like to play with that notion and things aren’t always what they seem; see, e.g., The Hammer and the Blade).  The price of faith and the difficulties of redemption appear in a lot of my work, too, but that’s neither here nor there for purposes of this blog post.
Now, why do I write stories that focus on those elements and not others?  Is it because I’m a throwback Neanderthal pig?  It is not!  ;-)
The answer is pretty basic.  Like many of you, when I was young I read a lot.  Often what I read featured the kind of characters and storytelling I describe above — masculine stories, stories with characters who demonstrate virtus (I’m looking at you Le Morte d’Arthur, and you, Conan).  And what I read shaped how I viewed myself, how I viewed the world and my place in it, and indirectly (and along with a lot of other obvious things) helped shape and refine my moral code — Honor, courtesy, respect for self and others, even (a kind of modified) chivalry.  It’s served me well in life.  So I try in my own small way to carry that torch forward and provide the kind of exemplars of virtus that I found and find so compelling.  I don’t think there can ever be too many.  And that’s it.  Well, that’s almost it.
Reading those two links close in time made me think about how those concepts of  gender-linked virtues are very much dependent on the other gender acting a certain way.   Men cannot be chivalrous if women aren't a bit helpless and in need of that.  Women cannot be meek if men aren't prepared to make all decisions within families, and women cannot be caring (a common virtue assigned to women) if other people won't let them take that role.

Likewise, those types of virtues can easily flip into the negative sphere.  An overly passive and meek person is like a wet sponge, ultimately requiring others to take care of her or him, and an overly chivalrous or caring person can easily become a butt-in-sky, dominating over everything.

And if, say,  honor is a masculine virtue, what are women, then?  Dishonorable by our very natures?

3.  The news about Afghan women's struggles are not good.  The parliament has lowered the provincial council seats set aside for women from 25% to 20%,  and much of the progress in women's legal rights seems to be unraveling.

On the other hand, gender equality is not a topic of utmost importance for the majority of people in Afghanistan.

For example, a 2012 article suggests that most women in Afghanistan accept the right of husbands to beat their wives for various reasons:

Overall, 92 percent of women in Afghanistan feel that a husband is justified in hitting or beating his wife for at least one of these reasons: going out without telling the husband, neglecting the children, arguing with the husband, refusing sex, and burning the food. Seventy-eight percent of women believe that going out without telling the husband is justification for beating, while 31 percent think the same about burning the food.
So my writing about any of this brings up questions about the meaning of something like "gender justice."  Is it a value to be defined separately by each culture, a universal human rights value or something in-between these two extremes?  And what is the proper role of us outside observers?

I struggle with these questions.  But I still think that universal human rights should include equal rights for men and women irrespective of religious and cultural differences, though the road to equal rights probably does depend on local knowledge and activism.  And I wish to support those who are fighting for more gender equality within Afghanistan or within any country or culture.

4.  Finally, this is a good (though long) article on the current macroeconomic aspects of US unemployment.  It explains why the commonly used unemployment rate is not as good a measure of unemployment as it may have been in the past.  I'm planning to write more on unemployment later and this article is a good basic source for it.  There will, however, be no test.