Saturday, September 01, 2012

Things To Read

Shulamith Firestone has died.  You can read the first chapter of The Dialectic of Sex here.

This essay on children of rape (CONTENT WARNING FOR RAPE) sets Akin's stupid statement about the impossibility of conceiving from rape into its proper (and painful) perspective.  Despite its title, the essay is mostly not about the children  but about women who gave birth after rape.

This BBC piece about women accused of witchcraft in Ghana reminded me of a book I read about the likely characteristics of women who were caught in the European and late American witch hunts.  They tended to be elderly or without husbands, and in many cases they owned land someone else desired or had an argument with someone in the village:

"The camps are a dramatic manifestation of the status of women in Ghana," says Professor Dzodzi Tsikata of the University of Ghana. "Older women become a target because they are no longer useful to society."
Women who do not conform to society's expectations also fall victim to the accusations of witchcraft, according to Lamnatu Adam of the women's rights group Songtaba.

"Women are expected to be submissive so once you start to be outspoken in your views or even successful in your trade, people assume you must be possessed."

Note that these witch searches have the secondary outcome of controlling women, especially at an age when they might not otherwise be so easy to control.

Finally, Matthew Yglesias has written a piece on the  question: If Ann Romney's work at home is harder and more important (as Mitt has argued), why isn't it Ann who is running for president?

The answer is obvious, of course.  But a more interesting question would have been:  If Ann Romney's work at home is harder and more important (as Mitt has argued), why didn't he want to do it?

Duh.  The Anglo-Saxon cult of motherhood is rife with empty praise for those who parent but very few material rewards, barring a wealthy husband.  And the answer to both those questions can be found in the belief that gender roles are innate and god-given.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

More About the Republican War on Women

This is a neat timeline (to June 2012) of the Republican political initiatives having to do with women.  Remember that Chris Christie argues that his party shouldn't have to cater to women?

Well, they do not.  Based on the last few years the Republican Party uses enormous amounts of time and effort on attempts to control women.  I see no reason why they would change that strategy in the future,  both because all that is meat thrown to the Christianist base and because limiting women's reproductive rights or their ability to seek legal redress to discrimination are no-money-cost initiatives.  The latter also leaves more money in the corporate wallets.

And yes, I promise to write about something else as soon as I'm able!  It's getting to a point where I bore myself.

The Evils of Central Planning: A Soviet Factory In Every Uterus!

Yeah, that headline makes little sense.  It's the thought I have after the Paul Ryan speech in which he mentions the evils of central planning in general and the great unbridled joys of jungle markets in particular. 

Except that none of that applies to wimminz and their womb factories.  Those, my sweetings, are to be run by central planning, not by the factories themselves.

The odd combination of anarchy in the markets and strict fundamentalism in social relations has been the central platform of the Republican Party for so long that few even think about how very odd it is, how very much the two basic blocks of that party contradict each other.  Freedom for some, forced births for others.

Kudos When Deserved

Last night I was grumbling about bad journalism.  This morning I saw a proper fact check article on the Paul Ryan speech.  I haven't fact-checked the fact checks...

Added later:  Two more fact check pieces.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Political Journalists Are Now Just Style Judges?

Atrios linked to a story which suggests that this the new job of political journalists:

Blitzer: So there he is, the republican vice presidential nominee and his beautiful family there. His mom is up there. This is exactly what this crowd of republicans here certainly republicans all across the country were hoping for. He delivered a powerful speech. Erin, a powerful speech. Although I marked at least seven or eight points I’m sure the fact checkers will have some opportunities to dispute if they want to go forward, I’m sure they will. As far as mitt romney’s campaign is concerned, paul ryan on this night delivered.

Judges, your style marks, please.

Chris Christie. Blind as A Bat?

This video of Chris Christie speaking about why the Republican Party shouldn't have to cater to women voters or the minorities made me grind my fangs.  Bad.

Christie is saying that there is no reason to have a different message to female voters than to male voters, that it is a fallacy to have to cater to a particular sector of the society, that it is condescending to expect to have a different message to women than to men.

Why I'm spouting flames right now:

First, the Republican Party does have a separate message to women.  No, they are not catered to.  They are catered as the main meal in that big fratboy-cum-Christianist dinner party of the GOP.

Women are supposed to give birth on demand, even when the pregnancy is caused by rape.  Women are not supposed to have access to laws which protect them against domestic violence.  Women are not supposed to have protection against labor market discrimination,  or to have maternity leaves or any chance of equal earnings and so on.  Indeed, women are supposed to do as they are told, to focus on Kinder, K├╝che und Kirche, and to leave the deciding bidness to men.

Second, the Republican Party does have a separate message to minorities.  Which is pretty much that minorities can go and f**k themselves.  There will be no protection against labor market discrimination based on race or ethnicity, and the hunt for "illegals" is certainly not about illegal Irish or Finnish immigrants to this country.

Third, the Republican Party caters very much to particular sectors of the society.  Those sectors are rich people, mostly older white men, and the Christianist hordes.  The latter are needed for their votes, and the former are the true base of the GOP.  But Republicans are quite willing to cater to misogynists, too.

Thus, Christie is full of crap.  He is insulting, perhaps because he wears blinders.

From the Fringes of The Republican Convention

A nasty racist incident led to the culprit being thrown out of the Convention. 

Then there was this:

An unscripted moment happened late this afternoon that caused the assembled mainstream media to turn away in the hope that it would disappear. As I was standing in line for a sandwich next to an Italian and a Puerto Rican correspondent, a controversy was unfolding on the floor. The RonPaulites, whose furious devotion to a single idea have made them the Ellen Jamesians of the right, were protesting a decision by RNC officials not to seat members of the Maine delegation, which was split between Paul and Romney supporters following rule changes made just prior to the convention. There were energetic shouts of “Aye!” and “Nay!” as a Puerto Rican party functionary—Zoraida Fonalledas, the chairwoman of the Committee on Permanent Organization—took her turn at the main-stage lectern. As she began speaking in her accented English, some in the crowd started shouting “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!”The chanting carried on for nearly a minute while most of the other delegates and the media stood by in stunned silence. The Puerto Rican correspondent turned to me and asked, “Is this happening?” I said I honestly didn’t know what was happening—it was astonishing to see all the brittle work of narrative construction that is a modern political convention suddenly crack before our eyes. None of us could quite believe what we were seeing: A sea of twentysomething bowties and cowboy hats morphing into frat bros apparently shrieking over (or at) a Latina.

You can watch the video on the linked site.   Perhaps the chant wasn't occasioned by the Puerto Rican party functionary.  But perhaps they were.

Finally, and not really from the fringes, Bill Keller writes about the crude editing of Obama's statements in a video aired at the Convention.

Ann Romney Speaks. Echidne Listens.

More from the Republican Convention.  Ann Romney, the wife of Mitt Romney, gave a speech yesterday.  The transcript is here and the video here.

The purpose of the speech was to tell American women that if the Republican Party doesn't love them, well, Ann Romney does!  It's almost as good, honest.

I may be too nasty there, because Ann Romney wanted to speak about her husband and how much she loves him.  She also made this comment:

Sometimes, I think that, late at night, if we were all
silent for just a few moments and listened carefully, we could
hear a collective sigh from the moms and dads across America who
made it through another day, and know that they will make it
through another one tomorrow. But in the end of that day moment,
they are just aren't sure how.
   And if you listen carefully, you'll hear the men sighing
a little bit more than the women.  It's how it is, isn't it?  It's
the dads who have always had to work a little harder to make
everything right.  It's the dad's of this nation, single,
married, widowed, who really hold the country together.  We're
the fathers.  We're the husbands.  We're the grandfathers.  We're
the big brothers.  We're the little brothers and we are the
   You know it's true, don't you?
   I love you,  men!
   And I hear your voices.  Those are my favorite fans down

OK, she didn't.  It was that Evil Echidne who switched all the gender signifiers to their opposites, to show you how ultimately insincere I found that particular part of the speech was.  Women are loved because they have kinship ties to other people and because  they worry a bit more about the economy than the men.  Who also, of course, have kinship ties to all sorts of other people, but that has never been used as a justification to love them, in general.  It suffices for us wimminfolk, however.

Ann Romney does give specific examples of the Americans who suffer from the current economic situation.  I looked at those examples more carefully, given the pro-woman angle of this speech.  Here are few of those examples:

  And the working moms who love their jobs, but would like to 
work just a little less to spend more time with the kids, but 
that is just out of the question with this economy.
   Or how about that couple who would like to have another
 child but wonder how they will afford it?  I have been all
 across this country and I know a lot of you guys.
   And I have seen and heard stories of how hard it is to get
ahead now.  You know what?  I have heard your voices.  They have 
said to me, I am running in place and we just cannot get ahead.


 You are the ones that have to do a little bit more and you 
know what it is like to earn a little bit harder earn the 
respect you deserve at work and then you come home to help with 
the book report just because it has to be done.

Mmm.  Let's see what the Republican Party has done for those working women, recently:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Monday that Senate Republicans oppose equal pay for women, citing as evidence their expected opposition to the Democrats' Paycheck Fairness Act in a scheduled Tuesday vote.

"They don't agree with this, they don't want women to make the same amount of money, so they're filibustering this," Reid said on the Senate floor. "They are filibustering us even getting on the bill."

More examples from Ann Romney:

You know what those late-night phone calls with an elderly 
parent are like, and those long weekend drives just to see how
 they're doing.
   You know the fastest route to the local emergency room and
 which doctors actually answers the phone call when you call at
 night, and by the way, I know all about that.

The Republican Party is very much opposed to any changes in the old health care system which made the local emergency room the only place of care for many of those worried working mothers.

And yet more from Ann Romney:

I  am not sure if men really understand this, but I don't
 think there is a woman in America who really expects her life to 
be easy. In our own ways, we all know better.  You know what,
 and that's fine. We don't want easy.  But the last few years 
have been harder than they needed to be.  It is all the little 
things, the price of the pump you could not believe and the 
grocery bills that just get bigger, all those things that used
 to be free, like school sports are now one more bill to pay.
   It's all the little things become the big things.  And the 
big things, the good jobs, the chance at college and the home
 you want to buy just get harder.  Everything has become harder.
We're too smart and know that there are no easy answers, but
 we're not dumb enough to accept that there are not better

So.  Given that the price at the pump went up partly because of the wars of the previous Republican president, what are we to conclude from this?  Given that the school costs are going up because of the decision of mostly Republican state governments with the desire to squash the public sector like an annoying gnat, what are we to conclude from this?  And given that college funding is also slashed by the same Republicans on state level, what are we to conclude from this?

The women Ann Romney speaks to (or so I imagine) are not at all worried that the Republican Party wanted to get rid of the Violence Against Women Act or that the draft platform of the Republican Party appears to include that bit about the Rapists' Fatherhood Rights.  Neither does she mention that her party is overwhelmingly white and overwhelmingly male, and that there are good reasons for that to be the case.

But whatever.  The big thing seems to be to point out that women are necessary in their traditional roles for this particular economic and social system to work, and that to praise them for their traditional work suffices to keep them faithful to the GOP.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Governor Chris Christie Speaks. Echidne Listens.

I watched Chris Christie's speech at the RNC Convention.  My, he was good on the emotions!  Your task:  Find a transcript of that speech and circle around all the possibly factual assertions.

You will be astonished that they are so few.  He argues that the "truth" has to do with too large a government, one which needs to be shrunk to size, that this shrinking will require equal sacrifices from all (has it in the past?), that the Murkan people are unselfish and willing to do that very thing, all quite equally!  And that Murka will, once again, be exceptional!  That all grandchildren can be proud of living in the kind of exceptional banana republic Christie desires.

That the "truths" might also be about such unimportant matters as joblessness and suffering and the loss of much wealth in the Bush-abetted financial markets crash was not part of Christie's speech.

Then there was that odd bit about the need to cut the pay of teachers!  Teachers are really evil people and the cause of much suffering in this country because they are for teachers' unions and not for the children.  Christie even mentions, fleetingly, that teachers are not motivated by pay but by the love of children.  Or should be.

On the other hand, in the rest of the economy those who work hard should get paid well.   And the kind of education system Christie desires is the exact opposite of the education systems in this world which do well.

The Finnish system, for instance, is based on government funding, high salaries for teachers, and quite a bit of respect for the teaching profession.  Christie wants teachers to teach because of their love for children, Christie wants teachers to be rewarded only for the very best results (which, naturally, depend on the circumstances and problems of the children, and therefore results in differential teaching rewards in poorer areas where children have many more problems).

Despite the scarcity of factual assertions, Christie's speech was very good on all that hindbrain stuff.  FEEL GOOD!  Even if your life is not good.  FEEL UNSELFISH!  Even if the choices work for the selfish desires of the few on top.  SHARE EQUALLY IN SACRIFICES!  Even though this is impossible to achieve if those sacrifices mean unemployment and hunger for some,  one less yacht for some others.

Most importantly, the good feelings cost the Republicans nothing at all.  That's always an important consideration for that party.

On the other hand, Christie never mentioned the misogynistic policies of his party,  despite using the idea of the government not getting between a woman and her doctor in his reference to the health care policies of the Obama administration.

That up is down and east is west is to be expected from Christie and his ilk.  Still, I've been flabbergasted by the general Republican argument that women don't care about reproductive choice because the economic problems are more serious.  Why should these two be mutually exclusive alternatives?   How, exactly, do the Republican economic policies require that raped women give birth to the children of their rapists?

The answer, naturally, is that this is all bullshit.  Reproductive choice costs the Republican Party nothing in money, and might save the government some in later welfare payments.  But the lack of reproductive choice is a demand made by the extreme Christian patriarchs of that party, and it's something the misogynistic element in the party doesn't care about.  Hence, Republican women are told what they should choose:  American exceptionalism for their grandchildren!

What kind of exceptionalism that might be?  Especially for their granddaughters.

Added later:  Here's a piece about the Christie economic miracle!

On Trigger Warnings

Roxane Gay has written a beautiful article on the futility of trigger warnings:

Many feminist communities use trigger warnings, particularly when discussing rape, sexual abuse, and violence. By using these warnings, these communities are saying, “This is a safe space. We will protect you from unexpected reminders of your history.” Members of these communities are given the illusion they can be protected.
There are a great many potential trigger warnings. Over the years, I have seen trigger warnings for eating disorders, poverty, self-injury, bullying, heteronormativity, suicide, sizeism, genocide, slavery, mental illness, explicit fiction, explicit discussions of sexuality, homosexuality, homophobia, addiction, alcoholism, racism, the Holocaust, ableism, and Dan Savage.
Life, apparently, requires a trigger warning.
This is the uncomfortable truth—everything is a trigger for someone. There are things you cannot tell just by looking at her or him.
And she has a point.  More than one point, because trigger warnings cannot guarantee a safe space and because almost everything can trigger a flood of memories in some reader.  She also makes a related point later in the article:

It all seems so futile, so impotent and, at times, belittling. When I see trigger warnings, I think, “How dare you presume what I need to be protected from?”
Trigger warnings also, when used in excess, start to feel like censorship. They suggest that there are experiences or perspectives too inappropriate, too explicit, too bare to be voiced publicly. As a writer, I bristle when people say, “This should have had a trigger warning.” I think, “For what?”
I do not understand the unspoken rules of trigger warnings. I cannot write the way I want to write and consider using trigger warnings. After a while, I would second guess myself, temper the intensity of what I have to say. I don’t want to do that. I don’t intend to ever do that.
Writers cannot protect their readers for themselves nor should they be expected to.
There is also this: maybe trigger warnings allow people to avoid learning how to deal with triggers, getting help. I say this with the understanding that having access to professional resources for getting help is a privilege. I say this with the understanding that sometimes there is not enough help in the world. That said, there is value in learning, where possible,  how to deal with and respond to the triggers that cut you open, the triggers that put you back in terrible places, that remind you of painful history.

These points all carry their own kind of truth.  It's a partial truth and a subjective truth but a truth.

My own use of trigger warnings is also partial.  It's based on trying not to set up sneaky assassin triggers for anybody, the kinds of triggers which could open up a flood of flashbacks in a PTSD sufferer, without any warning, without any time for her or him to set up the brick walls or to take up the defensive weaponry.

Thus, I use them when the topic of a blog is different from what readers might usually expect from this site.  I often (always?) write about hate and loathing and disgusting behaviors, and to label all those topics would require permanent trigger warnings.  But when a post describes human evil and human suffering in such detail that it can provoke flashbacks, that's when I put up the warning.

I don't know if it works, and I worry over the fact that I don't know which posts truly deserve those warnings.  My own history is not the same as the history of others, and I may happily skip across a topic of dire importance to someone else.  I know this because this has happened to me in other places and at other times.

But marking everything is not a feasible approach.  The general contents of this blog provide information about whether reading me is ever recommended (!).

No place can ultimately be a safe space, in the sense of being impermeable, of being able to take any attack.  People die in their own bedrooms, friends and family  can take us down.  But what I have tried to do with this blog  is to create a space of respect, a space where the fighting is fair when it happens.

I have failed miserably and frequently, of course.  Still, I think the conversations we have here are closer to that feeling of respect than they would have been without any such choices.

Monday, August 27, 2012


Well, goddesses are.  When I was five I drew this picture of a horse.  As you can see I already questioned received wisdom in at least two ways: the udders and the best kind of tail. 

It's not very sharp because of damage from storage.  My  apologies for that.  The thing in the upper left-hand corner is a practice for drawing a foot, of course.  The thing below it is "horse" in Finnish.

On Those Alpha Males

The wolf ones.  The ones that the Pickup Artists tell us they emulate.  Manboobs has an interesting piece about actual wolves:

Because the qualities of the Alpha Male (such as social dominance and leadership) are attractive to women, many PUAs have adopted these ideals as models of emulation. In fact, the term “alpha” has come be shorthand for the qualities of an attractive man, and it is a common refrain among PUAs to be “more alpha” or to “out alpha” competitors.
There’s a certain logic to all this. But unfortunately for the PUAs and other manospherians the notion of the Alpha male is based on bad science. The notion of Alpha dominance, as the definition above notes, came originally from studies of wolf packs. Even if we assume that wolf behavior is somehow a good model upon which to base our understanding of human romance  – as manosphere men and evolutionary psychologists tend to do – the science behind the Alpha male wolf has now come completely undone, with many of those who promulgated the theory in the first place decades ago now explicitly repudiating it.
The problem, you see, is that the studies underlying the notion of the alpha male wolf, who aggressively asserts his dominance over beta males in order to rule the pack, were all based on observations of wolves in captivity. In the real world, wolf packs don’t work that way at all. Most wolf packs are basically wolf families, with a breeding pair and their pups. When male pups reach adulthood, they don’t fight their fathers for dominance — they go out and start their own families.

Presumably the female pups leave, too, to start their own families.  Otherwise those new families couldn't be created.

I haven't yet read the actual study but I have for some time been concerned with how much of our animal research has taken place with captive animals.  For instance, the early mother-infant bonding studies were carried out with caged chimpanzees.  In a sense humans studied how chimpanzees might mother in a concentration camp.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Republican Party Loves Women!

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Texas)  has told us that the Republican Party doesn't have a problem with women!   So that's all right then.

A letter-to-the-editor in my Google news (which I now can't find to link to) argued the same.  The reasons:  Republican men breed with women, you see!  And about a hundred years ago many suffragettes were Republicans.  So that's all right then.

Except that neponset in Eschaton comments brought up a few problems:

Stop insulting my intelligence.  When Rs had to choose between giving women the chance to sue for equal pay and employers they picked employers.  When they had to choose between women who need birth control and catholic employers' religious freedom they picked catholic employers.  When they had to choose between their anti-gay base and the Violence Against Women act they picked the anti gays.  When they had to choose between the anti choice movement and rape and incest victims they picked the anti choicers.  I could go on.
Add to that the types of stories that get published on the conservative site, Townhall.  I've read several stories there about the dreadful mistake that was the Nineteenth Amendment (voting rights for women).  In general, if I want to write on misogyny I just go to Townhall and push my cart along the aisles there.   Then the National Review can also be a bargain basement for misogyny.

The war on women is not a brand new thing with the Republican Party but a branding thing:

Much of the so-called “gender gap” is simply the natural order of American politics; women favor Democrats more, while men are closer to the GOP. Even as Republicans might struggle among women, they can make up for it by winning men by a bigger margin.

That's far too facile.   First, it's mostly only white men who vote reliably Republican, as a group.  Second, does the writer imply that Akin et al.  bash women to attract men?  That the misogyny of the Party is an intended feature to attract those men who are also misogynists?   Or does he imply that it's the rest of the Republican platform (no taxes!  lotsa wars!) which appeals to men?

I once read a rant about many women voting for the Democrats.  It explained to me that women are gold-diggers and unable to make it on their own so of course they look up to the Big Daddy for sustenance!   I think that was on Townhall...

In short, the interesting question here is to what extent the misogyny  is a planned part of the Republican brand.

It's also true that many, many women do vote for the Republican Party.  The gender gap in voting is not humongous.  People vote on many different issues and many people vote whatever their parents voted (or the exact opposite, depending on family dynamics).  And most people don't follow the political fights in any detail at all.  Thus, it's difficult to know if the open contempt of so many Republicans towards women matters much when it comes to actual voting choices.

But then all this is something which happens against the background of general societal misogynistic chatter.  The Republicans aren't that extreme in that context.