Saturday, October 08, 2011

Gutting Greg Gutfeld

Have to use that title! It's not meant completely seriously. For instance, I'm not going to prepare a dish out of him. I'm a vegetarian!

Greg Gutfeld is a Fox television personality who has a thing about women. He is not that interesting, but his statements can be used to point out the subtle devices people like Gutfeld use to put women back into their proper places.

First set of examples:
Gutfeld: Janeane Garofalo "Is As Sensible As She Is Attractive." Responding to comments Garofalo made that were critical of the tea party, Gutfeld said: "She is as sensible as she is attractive." [Fox News, The Five, 9/29/11]

Gutfeld Weighed In On Palin's "Hotness." Discussing the possibility that Sarah Palin might seek the Republican presidential nomination, co-host Andrea Tantaros said to Gutfeld: "Greg, I know you think that Palin's hot. Can she win based just on her hotness?" Gutfeld replied: "I'm turned on by her brains." When co-host Bob Beckel called him a "liar," Gutfeld responded: "I am a liar. I am lying right now." [Fox News, The Five, 7/11/11]

Gutfeld Declared Himself "A Jon Huntsman Supporter" After Seeing Pictures Of Huntsman's Daughters. During a discussion of candidates seeking the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, Gutfeld said:
GUTFELD: Can I just tell you? I've been so confused about who I want to support in the election and then I was on Twitter and I saw a picture of Jon Huntsman's family. I am -- because these are his daughters -- I am now a Jon Huntsman supporter. [Fox News, The Five, 8/19/11]
These are all about the value of women being in their looks. Even men can benefit from the looks of the women they are related to, which is good for Jon Huntsman. But ultimately these comments tell us not that much about the idea of a woman's value being in her f***ability as they tell us about Greg Gutfeld's feelings of entitlement to pronounce on this f***ability or the lack of it.

If you think about this a bit, you will find it to be the case that women pundits, as a rule, don't feel entitled to discuss male politicians' general looks, in terms of attractiveness to them. I italized that bit because all kinds of pundits can discuss the appearance of a politician when green light is given for it. But there's a difference between that and the kind of entitlement Gutfeld reveals.

Second set of examples:
Gutfeld On Solyndra: "This Story Would Be So Much More Interesting If Solyndra Was A Stripper." Discussing a federal loan guarantee for Solyndra, a solar panel manufacturer that has declared bankruptcy, Gutfeld said:
GUTFELD: Can I just say something? This story would be so much more interesting if Solyndra was a stripper. [Fox News, The Five, 10/4/11]

Gutfeld Twice Compared Government Spending To "A Wife And Her Credit Cards." Discussing the debt ceiling, Gutfeld said: "That's the problem with being president: You love raising the debt ceiling. It's like a wife and her credit cards. Americans have to be the husband that takes the credit card and breaks it up." He later said of President Obama: "He's like your wife running around with your credit cards." [Fox News, The Five, 7/11/11]

Gutfeld: Government Is "Your Mistress." During a debate over energy efficiency standards for light bulbs, Gutfeld said: "The government is not your mom and dad, it's your mistress. So you call her -- she never calls you, and she never comes to your house." [Fox News, The Five, 7/11/11]
These are very easy to analyze! Just imagine yourself as a woman in his audience. He's telling you that the government is like your mistress, he is telling you to think of the government as a wife spending madly on your credit cards and he's telling you that you'd be more fascinated by the Solyndra case if Solyndra was a stripper.

Gutfeld is talking to an imaginary audience consisting only of heterosexual men, possibly only of heterosexual men who have mistresses and go and watch strippers and who have wives who spend their money.

All this may look quite subtle. But when we get enough pundits like Gutfeld, far too many political programs can become Man Shows of this type. And of course most women have learned to read the message as if they belonged to the imaginary audience, too. If you have not learned that lesson you are a humorless feminazi.

The third example:
Gutfeld's Own Fox Colleague Called Him Out For His "Creepy" Comment About Her Appearance
Fox's Huddy Called Gutfeld's Comment About Her Outfit "Real Creepy." Discussing rental property laws, co-host Juliet Huddy offered Gutfeld the last word in the debate:
HUDDY: Greg, I'll give you, what, like a five-second answer.
GUTFELD: Uh, I like your top.
HUDDY: On that note. That's creepy -- real creepy. [Fox News, The Five, 8/12/11]

This example differs from the first set, even though it's about the appearance of a woman in the public sector. The difference is that Gutfeld focuses his comments on his own colleague.

He may be trying to be funny, but the possible responses Huddy has are very few. Gutfeld has pushed her against that wall. What is she supposed to say?

Bat her eyelashes and coo thanks? Stay silent? Say what she actually did? Make some nasty comment about Gutfeld's own looks?

I prefer her choice to the alternatives. But it was Gutfeld who put her into that awkward position, by deciding that he could comment on her clothing, by implying, however subtly, that she is there for her looks rather than for her competence, or that at least he has the right to discuss those looks.

And Gutfeld's comment there must be put into the wider framework that is revealed in the Media Matters examples. He's not just some clumsy oaf who tried to be nice to a woman. He's a clumsy oaf who tried to put her back in her place.

Friday, October 07, 2011

The Nobel Peace Prize in 2011

Went to three women, all of whom clearly deserve it:
The Nobel Peace Prize for 2011 was awarded Friday to three influential women from Africa and the Middle East, a decision intended at once to draw attention to the suppression of women’s rights around the world and to spur their fight for greater freedoms and equality in conservative, male-dominated societies.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia became the first woman to be elected president in post-colonial Africa. Peace activist Leymah Gbowee, also from Liberia, mobilized women across ethnic and religious lines to help end war in Liberia and ensure women’s participation in elections there. Tawakkol Karman, a Yemeni human rights activist, has been a leading figure in the nation’s populist revolt this year and inspired thousands of women to rise up in a region where women are considered second-class citizens.
You can watch the award speech here.

Short snippets from descriptions of the winners:
In 2006 Johnson Sirleaf took over a government that lacked policies and procedures. She inherited a collapsed economy, with low human capacity, a highly corrupt government, no running water or light, unpaved primary roads, and few functional schools. But because of peace and stability in the country, Liberia has attracted $16bn in investment and it is erasing its international debt.
As president, Johnson Sirleaf has received numerous international accolades, including America's highest civilian honour: the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Women currently occupy many top positions in her government, including the ministers of justice, commerce, and agriculture, and head of the Liberian anti-corruption commission, to name a few. The president established a rape law, and a rape court that made it an unbailable crime. She has given hope to Liberian women that they can be anything they want to be, if they try.

Gbowee grew up in Bong County, in central Liberia, and left for the capital when she was 17, just before the war started in 1990. She trained as a trauma counsellor and started working with ex-child soldiers who had fought for Taylor. She then became the spokeswoman for the women's group and led the protest for peace, concluding that: "If any changes were to be made in society it had to be by the mothers.
"I started to cry and to pray. The women kept coming. Market women. Displaced women from the camps. Some of them had been walking for hours,'' she said in her book, The President Will See You Now.
Her strength was evident in 2003 when she led hundreds of women to Monrovia's City Hall, demanding an end to the war. "We the women of Liberia will no more allow ourselves to be raped, abused, misused, maimed and killed," she shouted. "Our children and grandchildren will not be used as killing machines and sex slaves!"
The women protested until Taylor agreed to a meeting. Under Gbowee's leadership, they gave the three warring factions three days to deliver an unconditional ceasefire, an intervention force and for the government and rebels to sit down and talk. They got what they asked for and soon after, the Accra Peace Accord was signed in Ghana.

Karman identifies herself first and foremost as a campaigner for Yemen's alienated youth, but she is also a member of Yemen's leading Islamic opposition party, the Islah, which has been co-ordinating many of the protests against Saleh and buying food and medical supplies for the thousands camped out in Change Square. It has caused alarm in the west, mainly because of its most notorious member, Abdul Majeed al-Zindani, a former adviser to Osama bin Laden considered a terrorist by the US.
But Karman's relationship with the Islah is complicated. She maintains it is the best party in Yemen for supporting female members, but last October ran into trouble after publishing a paper condemning ultra-conservative party members for blocking a bill to make it illegal to marry girls under the age of 17. "The extremist people hate me. They speak about me in the mosques and pass round leaflets condemning me as un-Islamic. They say I'm trying to take women away from their houses," she told the Guardian in March.
Some student protesters have accused her and her party of trying to hijack their movement in a bid for power. Karman responded: "Our party needs the youth but the youth also need the parties to help them organise. Neither will succeed in overthrowing this regime without the other. We don't want the international community to label our revolution an Islamic one." Last year she narrowly escaped with her life when a female assassin tried to stab her with a traditional dagger known as a jambiya. Karman says her crowds of supporters helped her survive the attack.
Many see Karman's award as recognition of the growing involvement of Yemen's women in the uprising. In a country where most women are neither seen nor heard, thousands have taken to the streets in recent months, defying authority and the weight of tradition to call for the fall of the regime, and the sight of 10,000 of them marching down a six-lane motorway in mid-April after Saleh accused them of "mingling with men" was too much for some to bear.

The political intention of this year's Peace Prize is clear: It's to draw attention to the oppression of women and the fact that peace defined without any input from women is not going to be a general peace or create a fair society:
Jagland, a former Norwegian prime minister, said the Nobel committee hopes that the 2011 prize “will help to bring an end to the suppression of women that still occurs in many countries, and to realize the great potential for democracy and peace that women can represent.”
In the fight for democracy in the Arab world, he said, “one must include the women and not set them aside.”
But deep challenges for women remain in both Africa and the Middle East. A United Nations report this year said many African countries have made “notable progress” in improving equal access to primary education, but that unemployment and poverty remain higher for women than for men in many countries, and access to health care remains inadequate.
Although women have played crucial roles in the protests still rocking the Arab world, a conservative backlash in places such as Egypt has prompted efforts in some instances to push them out of the spotlight.
I am pleased with this year's choices. At the same time, reading about these brave women shows us the constraints they work under, what roles are possible for women to assume in a conservative society and why. For someone like me (a cynical-but-idealistic goddess) the road ahead is a very long one before the fact that these recipients are women would matter not a whit. That's the kind of world I would like to live in.

Friday critter blogging (by Suzie)

I'm happy that our government builds such nice bird perches.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Followup (by res ipsa)

Trigger Warning: Domestic Violence.

A few months ago, I told you about the case of Barbara Sheehan, who killed her husband after being battered by him for years and years.

Well, tonight, Barbara Sheehan was acquitted of the murder charge against her. I have been following this case (Jim Dwyer of the NYT has been on it for a long time, too), and I can tell you that the prosecutor, a woman named Debra Pomodore, and her boss, Queens D.A. Richard A. Brown, absolutely disgraced themselves the course of this prosecution. God help us all if we ever find ourselves in their crosshairs.

Head Cold Thoughts

It took me a long time to emotionally accept that I don't have energy for all the things I feel interested in or guilty about or responsible for. I don't have the energy to write on every cause I believe in, I don't have the energy to learn enough to write about some of them in a way which would justify the energy you, my sweet and erudite reader, must spend to read me. Our energy levels are limited, some days more than others, and we have to consider how best to allocate them.

For me that means not writing about topics I know little about, even if they are important topics. It's good to belong to the audience and to learn what others are saying. (It's also OK, say, not to want to drive in the rush hour traffic in New York City, even if you are a goddess. Because it is not worth the energy sacrifice it requires.)

All this has political implications, of course. Are you spending your energy in the best possible way? This way depends on each individual, but thinking about what you like and dislike among various political forms of activism may sometimes reveal to you where your energy sinks might be. A particular form of activism may not be inefficient in general; it may just be inefficient for you. You may not dislike the activity because of its inherent nature but because it exhausts you faster than other types of activities. Unless it is the very thing in which you excel your energy might best be employed in other ways.

Taking this small thought to the rest of our lives could produce some fascinating findings!

Today's YouTube

This video has a very good summary of the problems behind the financial debacle. I have written about the need for proper regulation of markets, because real-world markets without functioning regulation are like a baseball game or poker game without any final rules. But the video makes the point more succinctly.

Men Posing The Way Women Do

These pictures are interesting. A photographer took pictures of men with one exception: They assumed the kinds of poses women usually do. Pay attention to the faces.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Today's Hilarious Quote

Comes from Rush Limbaugh, who else:
So, today during his radio show, he pointed out the clear issue with people mocking Chris Christie for his weight; there are so many fat ladies for us to make fun of as well!
The truth and the fact of the matter is that female politicians get a pass on every aspect on their appearance. You would never have stories about how some female politician’s fat like there are stories about Christie being fat. You wouldn’t have those. When’s the last time you heard a story about Barnie Frank being fat? When’s the last time you…well…it still fits. All these stories about Christie being fat are all over the place. ‘Will he have the stamina? The energy? There are plenty of lard-ass women in politics?”
I have bolded the hilarious bit.

I admire his gall, I do. He's one of the noisiest of the wingnut trumpets on what's wrong with women in general and their bodies in particular. His attacks on Michelle Obama are non-stop, and often on her body.

Then there's Rush on Hillary Clinton.

I grew tired of putting in more links from Rush The Misogynist. Which is all he is, these days. And boring. But Dick Cheney thinks Rush is great. So there's that.

The question of Christie's weight and how it is handled in the press is a whole different question and one this post is not about.

On Political Anger

Americans are very angry. A recent poll (which I cannot find again) lists the percentages of voters in various groups, from Tea Party to DFHs, who are very angry. The reason I looked for the poll so hard is that the percentages are not that different. But for some reason the media has decided to take the Tea Party as a symbol for political anger in general. Singling out that group means that all the other anger is ignored and that the focus on articles slants towards the goals of the Tea Party.

An earlier poll I did find gives some breakdowns, though it doesn't have Tea Partiers as a separate category:

The ebb-and-flow anger is usually pretty predictable. People are angry when their party is not in power. But something different seems to be happening right now: a general anger or frustration, touching on almost everyone.

It's high time for a different kind of study to be made, one which asks in detail what it is that people are angry about. Is it the economy? The gridlocked government? I would love it if someone peeled back the layers, starting from the media treatment of issues, the birth of the partisan news corporations and the way debates have become more extreme all the way to the basic questions concerning the type of society people desire.

Not going to happen, of course.

Michael Lewis on the International Financial Crisis. And on Gender.

He talks about his new book with Charlie Rose here. The whole interview is fascinating and I recommend all of it.

But this post is about the bit which runs from minute 31 to minute 38 on Iceland's financial collapse. Lewis argues that the Icelandic financial crisis was an especially male one and that this maleness was part of the reason for the collapse, given what he calls "male overconfidence." After the collapse the Icelanders elected women, to clean house, so to say.

That is the traditional role for women in politics. It's also a thankless role, because if you only get elected to clean house, it means that you always inherit a messy house, and you will not get much credit for those cleanup efforts.

Even if they succeed. In that case the house is ready for another round of getting messed up. But mostly such cleanup efforts will not succeed, because by the time the women are called in the situation is pretty bad. Then the female politicians look powerless and not very efficient, and so it goes.

Something subtler drew my attention in those seven minutes of the interview, and that was the way Lewis explained why women would be especially suited to clean up after a financial crisis caused by overconfidence.

He used an example taken from heterosexual pair experiences: The one about men refusing to ask for directions while driving, even if their wives tell them to, and then the couple getting lost. That was his way of demonstrating the "male overconfidence."

The nuanced bit is this: When I try to understand some behavior which is supposedly stereotypically male, I don't have to use examples from heterosexual pairs in that way. I don't have to think of a "husband" or a "boyfriend" to moor my thinking, because I have worked with many friends and I have male friends and male relatives. Or perhaps because I live in this society as a woman.

I guess those types of examples (which are common in the mainstream media when gender is discussed) strike me a bit like trying to explain a strange land (women) by relating anecdotes about the one woman (a wife) many heterosexual men have some knowledge about. But people behave differently inside the pair relationship than, say, at work, and too many examples of the former kind can bias our understanding of what might be going on with overconfidence in general, as opposed to overconfidence vis-a-vis one's wife or girlfriend. Or the lack of confidence vis-a-vis one's husband or boyfriend, especially if he is driving.

None of this should be taken as a criticism of Lewis' statements. They are just thoughts I had when listening to the interview. And Lewis has a lot of good stuff to say about women and Wall Street.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Remembering Janis Joplin

The reason:
On this day in 1970, singer Janis Joplin was found dead at the Landmark Hotel in Hollywood after an accidental heroin overdose.

Women On Stilts

I went out on the town on Saturday night and somehow ended counting the number of women on stilts. Probably one in five, among the partying crowd. This wouldn't matter if the stilts were truly high ones, because then the stilt-user could cross above people in a crowd and move really fast. But the stilts are not like that. They are around six inches. Even with those you need to practice, a lot, before you go out in them. But according to the websites I found, you should wear them only a few hours now and then, to avoid medical problems with your back and feet. That doesn't give much time for practicing.

I tried to find something comparable in Google images of high-heeled shoes. But, believe it or not, most of the ones they show are too low-heeled to give you an idea of the average heel height I saw last Saturday.

Shoes with six-inch heels are bad for you. Not only in terms of what they do to the bones of your feet or your back. They are bad for you, because I did not see one single woman who could walk in them without tottering and teetering. There's no way you can run in them, and unless you have thought this out very carefully beforehand by thinking how you are going to use the heels as a weapon if you get attacked, the shoes also turn you into a pretty helpless victim for predators.

Why not carry them with you if you want them for a party? You could wear sneakers outside and then change when you get to the party.

I blame the popular media. Watch television and you see the majority of the women in the talk shows wearing stilts, especially on Fox News. That they are sitting down means the awkwardness of the shoes is not made clear. And yes, high heeled shoes make your legs look longer, leaner and more muscular, the latter because you are standing on your tiptoes all the time. They also make your butt stick out more.

But they are not functional footwear. A fashion system which wants women to wear non-functional footwear is very wrong. A fashion system which admits that this non-functional footwear is bad for you but still necessary for proper female sexiness is simply evil.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Amanda Knox freed (by Suzie)

Amanda Knox, convicted of being a witch and a slutty she-devil sexually assaulting and murdering her British roommate Meredith Kercher in Italy, has been freed by an Italian court that threw out her conviction. She can return to the U.S.

Nina Burleigh has an account of the misogyny heaped on Knox by the British and Italian press and the Italian prosecutor. This was not the fear and hatred of a murderer, but the fear and hatred of a woman whose behavior does not conform. Rudy Guede, who had prior convictions and whose DNA was all over Kercher, was quickly convicted. He is serving 16 years for rape and murder. His motive was like so many other men who take their rage out on women.

Much more interesting to the prosecutor and the media were Knox, hyped as an innocent-looking woman who used her sexuality to make men commit unspeakable crimes. In addition to being attractive and having sex with different men, Knox was condemned for what appeared to be a callous attitude after Kercher was killed. I wish the media would do a better job of acknowledging that people have different reactions to shocking and bad news, and some of their reactions may seem strange and offensive to others.

Today's Feeble Thought

"Scales of justice" should be about me. In my snake avatar, naturally.

The Bankers And The Revolutionaries

Nicholas Kristof wrote about the Wall Street protesters under that title. He gives them some advice:
The protesters are dazzling in their Internet skills, and impressive in their organization. The square is divided into a reception area, a media zone, a medical clinic, a library and a cafeteria. The protesters’ Web site includes links allowing supporters anywhere in the world to go online and order pizzas (vegan preferred) from a local pizzeria that delivers them to the square.
In a tribute to the ingenuity of capitalism, the pizzeria quickly added a new item to its menu: the “OccuPie special.”
Where the movement falters is in its demands: It doesn’t really have any. The participants pursue causes that are sometimes quixotic — like the protester who calls for removing Andrew Jackson from the $20 bill because of his brutality to American Indians. So let me try to help.
Except that the protesters do have a fairly clear list of demands, and pertinent ones, too.

Fran Tarkenton on How Teachers Are Exactly Like Football Players. Echidne on How They Are Not.

He sounds really convincing, too:
Former NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton excoriated teachers unions in a Monday Wall Street Journal editorial that envisions what would happen if some of America’s education policies were applied to the football field.

“Imagine the National Football League in an alternate reality. Each player’s salary is based on how long he’s been in the league,” writes Tarkenton. “And if a player makes it through his third season, he can never be cut from the roster until he chooses to retire, except in the most extreme cases of misconduct.”

Anyone who tried to change the way football was played would be vilified as vengeful and anti-football, Tarkenton said.


“The on-field product would steadily decline. Why bother playing harder or better and risk getting hurt? No matter how much money was poured into the league, it wouldn’t get better. In fact, in many ways the disincentive to play harder or to try to stand out would be even stronger with more money,” said Tarkenton.

Tarkenton says that this alternate reality seems obviously foolish, but that it reflects the ongoing reality in the country’s education system.
Mmm. Except for a few problems.

The first, and by far the biggest of them is this:

Professional sports are always used as the best example of the type of labor markets where a worker's output is fairly easy to measure. Education is used as an example of the type of labor markets where a worker's output is really hard to measure in an objective way.

So Tarkenton uses the one case where most economists agree that productivity measurement is pretty objective and applies it to one of the cases where productivity measurement is difficult because it is intertwined with what the students do, what they are like to begin with and how the general resources are.

You give a good teacher a very poorly prepared class with lots of problems, you give that same teacher very few resources and then you try to measure the output of that student. See how objective you can get. Alternatively, set up a system like the present one where teachers are rewarded by how well their students pass a particular (and perhaps simplistic) test. Watch the incentives to cheat, watch the demoralizing effect all this has, and watch teachers burn out.

This is the biggest problem in Tarkenton's arguments, by far. The actual output of a teacher is very hard to measure, the actual output of a football player can be measured.

The second problem has to do with the definitions of football and teaching as careers. Football is acutely and essentially based on physical strength and speed, both of which decline with age. Not so with teaching. In fact, a good teacher does get better with experience. So Tarkenton is comparing apples with oranges.

The third problem is the way Tarkenton pays no attention to one aspect of football which does not apply to teaching: The humongous salaries! Indeed, those salaries are there partly because the career is so short, because the players can be kicked out of a team so easily and because it is accepted that after the few years of play the players can retire on their football earnings.

Now think of the pay in education! Then laugh at anyone who thinks that applying the football incentives without pay would give us good teachers. Nobody in their right minds would enter a career path with really bad pay, lots of public anger aimed at the profession and then the likelihood that you can be fired at any moment for reasons which have little to do with how hard you work. Especially now that the retirement benefits of teachers are being cut. Why, it would be better to try football! (Unless you are a woman, of course, and teaching is a female-dominated field.)


Sunday, October 02, 2011

Today's Sermon. From Rocco Grimaldi.

We can combine sports coverage and religion in one post! Love it.

Here's Rocco Grimaldi, a hockey player, giving girls some advice:

There you have it!

But it gets better!

Rocco moved on to the fellas after that:

"Guys, when did sleeping with every girl u can make u a man? Anyone can lay with a woman. And don't blame the women for how they dress. Don't say it's because they want attention. Don't blame ur "curiosity" or that u just wanted a little taste of what it would be like. Women are not an object for playing with. Sex is a gift from God. We have made it idolatry by how we use it. We blame the women for what they're wearing, we blame the media for what they're producing, but we never blame OURSELVES for how WE'VE twisted God's gift to only glorify ourselves. WE are the men and WE are to blame. God put US in charge of this earth so WE are the ones who need to man up and lay down our lust. Don't fall into that temptation. If you don't do this, you may be a boy for the rest of ur life #ManUp"
Bolds are mine. Men were put in charge of this earth! Women are not, however, an object to be played with. They are the handmaidens who are put on earth to obey Rocco and other men.

They are a gift, really. Like something under the Christmas tree. And they should be properly wrapped up. As Rocco kindly and condescendingly explains above.

Writing about these particular religious interpretations makes me feel dizzy, because these days they are sprinkled with pseudo-feminist bits and because some of the basic ideas are not bad. For instance, there are strong societal pressures to equate beautiful with extremely sexual when it comes to women's fashions, and we should be much more aware of that.

But then our Rocco inserts his reverse societal pressure and quickly slides into women-should-cover-up-because-it-is-better-for-men. He argues that men should take more responsibility, sure! But it's not because men should take equal responsibility. It's because men are the bosses of women.

People like Grimaldi remind me of someone who wants to care for and re-stock wild pheasant populations so that hunting can continue, yet calls himself an animal rights' activist.
Link via Moe Szyslak.