Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Short Posts, 1/24/18: Ursula Le Guin, Sex And Traditional Hierarchies, and A Men-Only Charity Dinner in London

1.  Ursula Le Guin died yesterday at the age of 88.  I love her books, both fantasy and science fiction.  Some of them I keep on the Kindle by my bed for those moments when I wake up, heart beating like a jackhammer, out of some nightmare.  Her later writing is so simple and deep, like clear water with iridescent shadows.

The Left Hand of Darkness and the Dispossessed are her most famous works.  My current favorite, however, is her 2011 short story collection The Other Wind.

2.  It truly pays to spar with the other side in political debates, if not out loud, then at least inside our brains.

I benefited from my recent watching of Jordan Peterson's arguments in that sense.  In one of the YouTube videos he asks why the "radical far left" privileges tackling race and sex discrimination* over, say, the discrimination people viewed as ugly might face, or over the bad treatment of individuals on all sorts of grounds.

The answer is fairly obvious once we consider it together with Peterson's arguments that hierarchies are innate for human beings.  Traditional human hierarchies, the kinds where the top positions are reserved mostly for men, were built on both the general exclusion of women from those positions and on the social rules that women exist to carry out the necessary reproductive and support work so that the traditional hierarchy can exist.

Likewise, "outsiders" (including those of other races and foreigners) are excluded from such group hierarchies.  To the extent that they live in the same culture, their role has usually been limited to low-level physical labor, even slavery, or their cultures have been segregated from the mainstream cultural hierarchy.

In other words, Peterson's traditional concept of human hierarchies has historically depended  on the control of women and also of racial and ethnic minorities, when present.   This can be seen in the large number of laws which in the past have been used to exclude, say,  women from certain occupations, higher education, equal rights to inherit property or to own wealth, and so on.  There have been few (if any) laws which ban ugly people from climbing hierarchies, however badly they might be treated on the individual level.

3.  Yesterday's Financial Times  reported on** an exclusive men-only black-tie charity dinner in which all the guests were wealthy men, out for the night to help good causes, eat good food, drink good alcohol and at least grope, if not eat,  pretty women.

How could they grope pretty women, you might ask, given that the event wasn't at all "inclusive" and there were no invited female guests?

The answer:

British politicians, charities and businesses voiced outrage on Wednesday after a report that some of the men who attended an all-male black-tie charity dinner had groped, verbally harassed or propositioned young women hired as servers.
The fallout from the report, by The Financial Times, reached the floor of Parliament, where Jess Phillips, a Labour lawmaker, said, “What happened was women were bought as bait for men, who were rich men.”


The Financial Times sent reporters under cover to work as “hostesses” for the Presidents Club dinner and auction last Thursday. The annual ritual for prominent men in business and media, where alcohol flows freely, raised about $3 million this year. The newspaper reported that criteria for the job included being “tall, thin and pretty,” and wearing “skimpy black outfits with matching underwear and high heels.”

Mmm.  Bait for the fishing of rich men.

The New York Times' headline for the article is "U.K.'s Most 'Un-P.C.' Charity Dinner Faces Harassment Accusations."  That is extremely weak tea, that reference to political correctness.

The Financial Times article strongly suggests that the servers were picked on the basis of their sexiness and looks, that they were required to match that expectation in their skimpy dress, high heels and makeup,  and that they were encouraged, in a pimping style, to be available for groping and perhaps more.

But they were paid only for being servers and weren't even allowed to keep any tips they received

Though I guess we could view this dinner as the most politically "incorrect" in that it assumes women's presence at this charity dinner is only desirable in the form of paid fresh sexual bait, and not as equal guests.

Addendum:  The organizer of this event, the Presidents Club, announced today that it is closing down after a day of strong criticism in the British Parliament and the disavowal by the charities the dinner was supposed to benefit.

*  The lesser treatment of gays and Lesbians shares at least some of the same hierarchy-propping reasons.

** This may be behind the paywall for you, but if not, it's well worth reading, having much more detail.  It states, for example, that the servers were encouraged to drink alcohol, and those who tried to hide in the toilets in order to avoid the gropers were pushed back into the activity.