1. Shania Clifford, 17, won a gold medal in the SkillsUSA Ohio masonry competition in late April, but she found in May (via Facebook!) that she would not be representing her area in the next stage of the competition, a national level leadership and skills competition. Instead, the young man who initially came third in the competition would:
Judges in the masonry program, a field usually dominated by men, originally awarded Clifford first place by a whopping 72 points.
Larry Moore, her instructor, said the scores of the top performers usually vary by only a couple of points, but Clifford’s column for the state competition was exceptional.
“She had the best plumb there,” Moore said. “Two or three corners were perfect.” Plumb refers to how straight a vertical edge is.
Stan Jennings, superintendent of the Scioto County Career Technical Center, was notified by SkillsUSA Ohio that Clifford would no longer be competing. A vague explanation was given: “The scores were inappropriately put in.”
Mike Cowles, director of Ohio’s SkillsUSA, did not return calls seeking comment.
Brittany Halpin, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Education, which sponsors the competition, said in an email, “An error was made during the entry of scores into the final score spreadsheet.”
“This error affected results for several students,” Halpin said in the email, “and resulted in the rankings showing an incorrect winner of the competition.” Halpin added that no errors were made on the judges’ scoring sheets.
The Mason Contractors Association of America, after hearing about this mess, offered Clifford a chance to compete in its national competition next year:
"I figured it'd be a great opportunity to right a wrong," said Tim O'Toole, association spokesman.
Hmm. I'd dearly love to know more about that error made in entering the scores, especially if there were no errors in the judges' scoring sheets.
My point is this: It's not impossible that a weird kind of scoring mistake would occur at the same time as another rather unusual event: A girl wins the masonry competition. But because I can easily see other reasons than a scoring error which would explain that sudden reversal in the rankings, a more precise explanation about the type of error, how it happened, and which competitors it affected is necessary.
In the absence of such an explanation I'd temporarily go for the sexism explanation:
Instead of viewing Shania Clifford as just an individual who has studied and worked hard in her chosen field, someone in power may have seen her as a symbol of all womanhood stomping into an area carefully colored male for all times. And not only that, she beat the guys in their game! This, my friends, is simply not acceptable. It is humiliating.
I can imagine someone feeling an existential threat of that type, a threat which must be snuffed in the bud. Then we get scoring errors to reach the right conclusion, and the day is saved.
Note, also that this is an example of what works to keep women away from the traditionally male blue-collar occupations, so that the Men's Rights Activists can keep telling us that women don't want to do the nasty menz jobs but just want all the nice menz benefits. What could be more humiliating than to win the competition and then to hear, via Facebook (!), that the victory has been canceled?
On the other hand, the nice gesture of the Mason Contractors Association of America makes me feel more optimistic about the future. Clifford is a person, not a symbol of any of that wider stuff, and she should be treated with the respect any other competitor receives.
2. Former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson has sued Fox Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes for sexual harassment. I mentioned to a friend that I thought such things would be obvious, even expected, given the clear secondary role of female Fox screen people as sex candy for male viewers. Think of the identical sexy-panther makeup on all the faces, think of how almost all the women wear mini-length dresses or skirts, think how some guys on Fox look like teabags left out to soak while none of the women do. Fox sells with certain Playboy-magazine type devices, and one of them is that for a woman to be shown on television she must be fuckable. Men? Not so much.
But as my friend pointed out to me, none of that means that the organization would allow sexual harassment in the meat-space, only the objectification and ogling of women in the cyberspace. So I stand corrected, and the case should be given the same scrutiny as all other sexual harassment cases. Perhaps Carlson's case is a revenge case, caused by her contract not being renewed?
Though of course her contract might not have been renewed because she refused Ailes's sexual advances, and it's also possible that her program wasn't doing well and that Ailes and/or others sexually harass the female workers at Fox.
Still, I doubt that an organization can so gladly and consistently objectify the women it employs as newsreaders or television hosts and not have its corporate culture be affected by that policy. "Hi, Gretchen! Appreciate your careful work on topic x and how is the family? Oh, by the way, show more tit next time."
Nah. Whether Ailes did the exact things he has been accused of or not, I believe that the internal Fox culture would reflect the same corporate values concerning women's bodies as its external treatment of women demonstrates.
3. A NYC opinion piece about how the men on Wall Street bond by objectifying women has a slight link to the previous story. Defining others as outsiders to a particular group strengthens bonding, and the objectification of women is a useful trick in that tool kit for heterosexual men. Those little quips tell the other guy that one is a normal guy, liking the normal guy things, but they also tell the other guy that girlz are not allowed in the boyz' tree-house.
I've even seen this happen (on the European net) between a racist man and a recent male immigrant of a racial group the racist detests. Once the two agreed on the proper role of women (silent and locked up in the house under male authority), the racist was willing to accept the recent immigrant into his country!
And then I remember, from my karate times, of stretching out in the dojo, while listening to one guy advising the other "not to think like a girl." Which was hilarious on too many levels to even write about.
4. Here's one of those news which look like progress but which in reality is nothing like it: Two women are now the finalists in the competition to be the next Prime Minister of Britain:
The race to be Britain’s next prime minister was whittled to two on Thursday, with Conservative Party lawmakers ensuring that the country will have a female head of government — the nation’s first since Margaret Thatcher stepped down more than a quarter century ago.
The contest will pit the home affairs secretary, Theresa May, against Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom in a race that features contenders who were on opposite sides of last month’s European Union referendum.
Why is this not good news for us women's libbers? Because the job of Britain's Prime Minister right now is probably slightly worse than the job of cleaning public toilets after some very rowdy public carnival, and it leaves the winner's career equally stained, barring a miracle.
5. The last news item is several orders more horrible than anything above. It is about the continuing slavery ISIS openly and approvingly practices, including the sexual slavery of women and young children who are bought and sold in slave markets ISIS supports, and whose chances of escaping are now narrower than before:
KHANKE, Iraq: The advertisement on the Telegram app is as chilling as it is incongruous: A girl for sale is "Virgin. Beautiful. 12 years old.... Her price has reached $12,500 and she will be sold soon."
The posting in Arabic appeared on an encrypted conversation along with ads for kittens, weapons and tactical gear. It was shared with the Associated Press by an activist with the minority Yazidi community , whose women and children are being held as sex slaves by the extremists.
While the Islamic State group is losing territory in its self-styled caliphate, it is tightening its grip on the estimated 3,000 women and girls held as sex slaves. In a fusion of ancient barbaric practices and modern technology, IS sells the women like chattel on smart phone apps and shares databases that contain their photographs and the names of their "owners" to prevent their escape through IS checkpoints. The fighters are assassinating smugglers who rescue the captives, just as funds to buy the women out of slavery are drying up.
Mirza Danai, founder of the German-Iraqi aid organization Luftbrucke Irak, said in the last two or three months, escape has become more difficult and dangerous.
"They register every slave, every person under their owner, and therefore if she escapes, every Daesh control or checkpoint, or security force - they know that this girl ... has escaped from this owner," he said, using the Arabic acronym for the group.
I have tried to understand why this horrible topic gets relatively little attention in the Western newspapers. The reasons are possibly the utter horror of what is going on, the difficulty of getting any help to reach those slaves without killing large numbers of innocents in the endeavor, and the danger of some people using these news for general anti-Muslim bigotry.
But ISIS is to Islam like the KKK is to Christianity, and while it is true that the Koran doesn't directly condemn slavery neither does the Bible. If only people stopped trying to interpret old texts as direct messages from divine powers...