Thursday, December 06, 2018

Short Posts 6/12/18. Ice Swimming, The Kindness Of Women, And Online Warfare

1.  It's the Finnish Independence Day today.  Wave a little Finnish flag for me.

Here's a nice winter pastime popular among some really weird Finns (coughmybrotherandsistercough).

2.  All cultures (pretty much) expect women to be kinder, more empathetic and more inclusive than men.  It's codified in our subconscious gender norms*.  And all cultures (pretty much) criticize and even punish women who deviate from those norms more harshly than they would criticize or punish men acting in an identical manner.

I was thinking about that yesterday when a few right-wing newspapers asked if Hillary Clinton snubbed Donald Trump at George H.W. Bush's funeral.  Even those newspapers concluded that she had not done so, and that the occasion required a dignified and aloof demeanor from everyone.  But they did ask the question about a female politician who was repeatedly called a "nasty woman" and a "crooked woman" by Donald Trump and who is still the target of "lock her up" shouts at Trump rallies.

In any realistic scenario Donald Trump should have been snubbed by most reasonable people.

The online harassment of women who give their opinions publicly might be a partial reflection of those same gender norms (though some of it may be based on a different ancient gender norm:  that women should be silent in the public sphere). 

When Jill makes a controversial comment it looks more controversial than had Jack made it, because of how we interpret the two names.  She both says something that upsets others and violates gender norms while he only does the former.

I spot this subconscious gender norm working away quietly in all sorts of online conversations, even among feminists.  Women are supposed to be kind.**

3.  Speaking of online communications, this article argues that we are now engaged in not hot war or cold war but in warm information war.  Whatever you might think about the geopolitical arguments in the article, it's certainly true that nuanced conversation is close to impossible on Twitter, and that its algorithms rewards wrath speech and quick, nasty comebacks.  It's also pretty cheap and easy to introduce a lot of chaos in social media.  This makes establishing facts harder work than it has to be.

The following pyramid is a good reminder of the higher levels online debates could take:

4.  This is a hilarious take on diversity in tech.

*  Whether these are partly innate temperament differences or not is not probably something that can be studied with the tools we have right now. But I'm completely sure that they are strengthened and magnified by the way we are brought up, and in particular by the kinds of behavior which are given positive or negative feedback by parents, peer groups and other authorities, and how that approval and disapproval varies by the sex of the child.

** I am not arguing for random unkindness, of course.  Neither am I arguing for some kind of a permission to just rant and rave without any consequences.  My point is that the rules differ between men and women, and that makes criticism a riskier field for the latter.