Friday, October 04, 2013

Cromulent Imprecations. On Reading.

Or a Friday-Fun post.  Because of the swine flu (in a snake!!), I've had that flu fatigue which made me re-read old books, the more difficult the better.  You may have had that experience with illness.  The emotional centers must be shut off or they are dead but you still need brain food.

So I read through the Canterbury Tales again (Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote) and then Virginia Woolf's The Waves. 

That latter is one of the hardest books I've read that is worthwhile, and it's also a book I need to read with a dictionary (imprecations! %&@!).  A book which requires several readings (I hated it the first time around.)

She tries to achieve an extremely difficult thing in that book:  to capture the rhythm of life/consciousness and the three-dimensionality of life/consciousness in writing which can only be organized as words after words.  I think she partially succeeds but only with tremendous work from the reader.  Whether a complete success in something like that is even feasible is an interesting question.  Or desirable? 

I also re-read some Jane Austen,  just to piss some people off.  She has been called the writers' writer, and I finally felt that, as opposed to just knowing about it.  Because her genius is in the writing (how every sentence is necessary, how every sentence carries several burdens), she reads terribly in  bad translations.  And because her genius is mostly in the writing, the plot and topics of her books are ultimately irrelevant (though not completely as she is a social critic).  But if you turn this upside down and see Austen as the creator of the chick-lit genre you miss the whole point of her.

Yes, I know that books might be dead or dying, which is too bad for future generations.  They are not just an imperfect way of picturing reality or dreams.  They are a different way of doing that from movies, a way which allows you to set the pace, you to decide on the colors and scents and sounds, and the speed with which events unfold, and you are the ultimate ruler of that imaginary world.  This gives more degrees of freedom to the possible interpretations.

I also read lots of Terry Pratchett's Diskworld while recuperating.  Recommended as escape literature. 

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Something Rotten In Denmark. For Pickup Artists

Pickup artists (PUAs) are men who believe in a cartoonish version of evolutionary psychology, where women are coy and need to be persuaded to have sex but want to have it only with something called "alpha males."  Pickup artists view promiscuous sex as a game.  They are the offense, the women are the defense (and the ball or puck), and the goal is to get laid as often as possible.

A courting game for misogynists, really.  And it's a game because the rules require lying and pretending.  It's misogynist because it's a hunt for pu**y, and the stand for it is mostly immaterial.  And it's a game for men who feel cheated by mother nature in their looks, the society in their wealth, the women in their astonishing tendency not to always be available for sex as their underlying feelings of entitlement require them to be.  Hence the need to invent rules to get laid by the reluctant women.

Now one of the better-known PUAs, Roosh, has written about his experiences in Denmark in his series about how to bang one's way around the world.  He seems to have been "cockblocked" by the women in Hamlet's country!  And he believes that the reason is Denmark's excellent welfare state which makes it unnecessary for women to bed unpleasant assholes just so that they can get someone to support them in marriage.

That's not quite how Roosh puts it, of course:

Thirty-three-year-old Daryush Valizadeh, known to his predominantly heterosexual male fan base as Roosh, is a well-known pick-up artist within the worldwide “Seduction Community,” which relies on pop evolutionary psychology to teach the art of getting laid.
Pick-up artists believe that all women are the same: submissive, choosier than men when picking sexual partners, entranced by shiny objects. In the Community, players are self-made; most renowned pick-up artists claim they were socially awkward losers until they learned the tricks of the trade. If a pick-up artist hones his “inner game” (confidence) as well as his “outer game” (appearance), he can control his sexual future. When women come with cheat codes, rejection is not an option; if a play fails, the player tweaks his strategy instead of conceding defeat. 
Roosh enjoys middling success as the author of the “Bang” series of travel guides, which trains readers to seduce women based on derogatory ethnic stereotypes. In Bang Brazil, Roosh warns his followers that “poor favela chicks are very easy, but quality is a serious problem.” He vows never to return to the Polish city of Katowice unless forced to “maintain the pussy flow.” Roosh’s predations haven’t gone without recognition. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organization, included Roosh’s personal blog in a March 2012 report on American hate groups; it quotes an Icelandic feminist group that described Bang Iceland as a “rape guide.” 
But Roosh’s Denmark directory diverges from his usual frat-boy Casanova fantasies liberally seasoned with rape jokes. Don’t Bang Denmark—note the dramatic title change—is a cranky volume that (spoiler alert!) probably won’t help any Roosh acolytes score. Roosh calls it the “most angry book” he’s ever written. “This book is a warning of how bad things can get for a single man looking for beautiful, feminine, sexy women.”
What’s blocking the pussy flow in Denmark? The country’s excellent social welfare services. Really.

And Roosh hates the Danish women he meets:

Danish women “won’t defer to your masculinity,” he writes. “They can fuck you, but no more. What they do have are pussies and opinions you don’t really care about hearing. That’s it.” Advocates of Nordic social democracy should be thrilled to discover a perk of gender-equalizing work-family reconciliation policies: they combat skeeviness.
Roosh comes to the conclusion that women who aren’t as dependent on men for financial support are not susceptible to the narcissistic salesmanship that constitutes phase one: “attraction.” That’s why Roosh fails to advance to the second level—”trust”—without being creepy. Thus “seduction” is almost always out of the question.

Here we come to the interesting stuff.  I repeat, from that quote:

Roosh comes to the conclusion that women who aren’t as dependent on men for financial support are not susceptible to the narcissistic salesmanship that constitutes phase one: “attraction.”

But that refutes his evo-psycho theories about what women want!  If women were hard-wired to go for the dominant growling alpha monkey, then women would do that even in Denmark.  That they do not suggests that dating rules and what appeals to people is also culture-dependent and affected by economic realities.

Roosh's theories are inane, of course, and so is his welfare state theory (which, to repeat, conflicts with his evo-psycho theory).  The reasons why Danish women won't go to bed with a particular PUA are probably far more nuanced.  The way Danes talk to each other, the way women and men talk to each other, the way they date or don't date; all those are affected by culture, history and women's and men's roles over long time periods.

Here's the wider problem with the PUA experiment, even if we somehow lost our brains and accepted the basic misogynistic premises:  There is no way of properly testing the PUA game against alternatives, other ways of seeking heterosexual experiences.  There is no way to prove that acting like a PUA gets a man more pu**y than approaching someone with confidence, humor and kindness, say.  I get that the Cinderella story among the PUAs is a rise from being a social outcast whom women ridiculed to being the one silver-back ape in the group and getting a carpal tunnel syndrome in the p**ck.  But those are anecdotes, Cinderella stories, and attempts to sell books when presented by the authors.

They don't hold looks and personality etc. constant while changing the "game" of the man.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Quiet NIght

Trying to relax myself after a day of fighting shitty computer crap and following shitty political crap and still recovering from a meatspace virus.

Speed Blogging, Oct 2, 2013: On Income Inequality, Tea Party Rage and the Defense of Roman Polanski

Contents:  Includes discussion of child rape.

This is a fascinating post to read and to ponder over:  Are we returning to the nineteenth century economic circumstances?

Samantha Geimer in the UK Guardian argues that we should be more nuanced about the rape of children if the culprit had a horrible life and creates beautiful and moving art and if the victim herself thinks that children should take some responsibility for their behavior.  I don't agree, at least not in the sense that Geimer adopts.   Or rather, the crime remains the crime.  If other factors are to be considered in the sentencing of the criminal, that is a different question altogether.

Kevin Drum  asks where the rage of the Tea Party comes from.  The answers (many in the comments to his post) are both obvious (loss of power and prestige for just being born into a certain group, real loss of income and relative standing, gerrymandering of districts which benefits the most extreme candidates, Fox News and other capitalist-funded populist movements) and elusive (why now?  why no real anger aimed at the out-sourcers, the inequality-creators, the free-marketers? why is the populism right-wing?).

I don't have the miracle answer to this one, but I'd argue that one important straw to carry to the pile is the fact that the Democrats, due to needing the money from the wealthy, stopped being blunt and open about being for the working classes.  They have dropped the unions and now employ euphemisms about that group (working families which sounds like child-labor to me).  So when the right-wing radio began, there were few opposing voices, if any, and all the foaming anger was channeled into the river which tries to sweep out immigrants, minorities and uppity women, to leave the majority of us fighting for the crumbs which fall from the dinner tables of the powerful few. 

Finally, and just for its interest, these historic photographs are fascinating.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Pictures of the GOP Powers-That-Be

One can be found here, about the House leaders.  And then there is this:

Photo by  Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

This is all in the context of the government shutdown, but the problem is much more general.  For instance, 75.6% of the women in the House of Representatives are Democrats and only 24.4% Republicans.  Put in a different way, 29% of the House Democrats are women, only 8.2% of the House Republicans are women.

Similar patterns apply to the Senate, where 32% of Democratic Senators are women, but only 9% of Republican Senators.

The conclusions one can draw from this are interesting. 

One, pointed out by a smart reader in my earlier comments, is that there's not much chance of a gender-equal Congress as long as the Republican Party is the party of (mostly white) men. 

Another one has to do with the question whether the Republican platform really is explicitly anti-women in the sense that this is what is appealing in the party to some voters.  Perhaps there are so few Republican women in politics, because that is what the Republican ideology demands (women at home etc.) so the women don't run or perhaps the women don't get voted in, even if they run, because that is part of the party ideology. 

The causal relationships can run in different directions at the same time, too.  For instance, the Republican War on Women isn't exactly the kind of message uppity women interested in politics like to hear.

What we read in places like the conservative Townhall is that women are not Republicans because women want a Big Government Daddy to provide for them and because women aren't that smart.  So take your pick, I guess.

Monday, September 30, 2013

On The Potential Government Shutdown

I have been mouse-silent on it.   There's not that much to say about a two-year-old's temper tantrums and that's the only good analog I can think of to this tea-party-driven show of power.

Except that the tea-partiers don't have the excuse of very young age and not much opportunity to learn.  So you might as well read this Slate piece about how the press would report the likely shutdown if it was happening in some other country.

Well, there is that continuing resolution the House passed:

Late Saturday night, the House of Representatives passed a continuing resolution (CR) that would keep the government open only if the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is delayed for a year and only if bosses are allowed to make their female employees’ health decisions. The House bill singles out women’s health care for this interference.

Specifically, the House-passed CR would exempt bosses from complying with the ACA’s Women’s Health Amendment if they oppose it for “religious or moral” reasons.   This means that bosses could impose their religious beliefs on their employees, or block their employees’ access to needed women’s health care for vague and undefined “moral” reasons. Female employees and dependents – just like men – are capable of making their own health decisions and must be allowed to do so without interference from their bosses.
It smells a bit like mafia politics to me.  "Nice country you have here.  It would be too bad if something happened to it."

The continuing resolution is naturally about contraceptives, the Catholic Church, and, on a very deep level, about the general conservative sentiment that both sex and its consequences should have large costs  to women.

This applies even to contraception which, by its very nature, will also benefit the woman's male partner. With the exception of the cases where the contraceptive pill is taken for other medical reasons, its subsidized price benefits approximately as many heterosexual men as women, I think*.  But if one wants the woman to pay for sex (by taking care of contraception or by giving birth and then taking care of the child), any kind of subsidy smells wrong.

*People in long-term heterosexual relationships have roughly the same number of men and women.  Those who have more than one sex partner can be of either sex, and if we consider the fact that protection ten times with ten different partners adds up to protection ten times with the same partner, it doesn't seem unlikely that the benefits of the contraceptive subsidies are ultimately pretty gender-neutral.  All this looks at only those people who wish to avoid pregnancy.  But that's the majority of people most of the time.
For recent events in all this, read here. 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Consequences of Firing A Gun Near Someone

If your name is Aaron Alexis and you later become famous for killing twelve people, you can fire a gun in the ceiling and not get prosecuted:

On Sept. 5, 2010, he was arrested in Fort Worth on suspicion of discharging a weapon. Alexis reportedly told officials that the gun had discharged accidentally when he was cleaning it. The Tarrant County district attorney did not prosecute.
If your name is Allen West and you later become famous as a politician, you can fire a gun near a military prisoner and end up with a $5000.00 fine:
While serving as a battalion commander in Iraq in 2003, the Palm Beach Gardens Republican fired a gun near a prisoner's head to scare the prisoner into giving up information on ambush plans. He was fined $5,000 for misconduct and assault. The Army opted against a court martial, however, and he was honorably discharged with benefits.

If your name is Marissa Alexander, and you fire a gun in the air as a warning during a struggle with your abusive husband, you get sentenced for twenty years in prison:

Marissa Alexander, the African-American woman who was sentenced to 20 years for discharging a firearm in Florida despite pleading Stand Your Ground against her husband, will get a new trial. Alexander, 32, said she fired a bullet at the ceiling because she was afraid of her husband. No one was injured. It took 12 minutes for the jury to convict her.
“We reject her contention that the trial court erred in declining to grant her immunity from prosecution under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law,” wrote Judge James H. Daniel, “but we remand for a new trial because the jury instructions on self-defense were erroneous.”
Alexander, who had given birth the week before, testified that after an altercation regarding texts from her ex-husband, she locked herself in the bathroom. Her husband Rico Gray broke through the door, grabbed her by the neck, and shoved her into the door. She ran to the garage, found she couldn’t get the door open, and returned with a gun. When Gray saw the gun, he said, “Bitch, I’ll kill you.” Alexander testified that firing the gun into the air as a warning shot was “the lesser of two evils.”
The jury rejected her self-defense argument, and instead Alexander was sentenced under the “10-20-Life” law, which carries a series of mandatory minimum sentences related to gun crimes. The prosecutor in her case was Angela Corey, who also prosecuted George Zimmerman who was acquitted in the death of Trayvon Martin. After an outcry at the apparent racial double standard in the application of Stand Your Ground, Corey told the Washington Post, “I think social media is going to be the destruction of this country.”
 I am glad that she gets a new trial.

I understand that these three cases were not judged under the same legal rules.  But still.

Driving Damages Women's Ovaries. According to a Saudi Cleric.

This is in connection with a campaign challenging the ban on women drivers in Saudi Arabia:

Saudi traffic police have fined several car owners after six women were found defying the kingdom's male-only driving rules, a Saudi daily reported on Wednesday.
The fines in Eastern Province coincide with a campaign called by women's rights activists to challenge the ban on women driving in the conservative Islamic kingdom late next month.
Traffic police issued fines totalling 5,400 riyals ($1,400) for allowing "an unqualified person to drive", al-Sharq newspaper reported, quoting an acting police spokesman.
"The cases were stopped near the beach and in uninhabited areas that are still being developed," Major Mansour al-Shakra said. "They were driving for fun and not to learn how to drive."

Women are told to put reason ahead their hearts and passions by a Saudi cleric who tells us this:

"If a woman drives a car, not out of pure necessity, that could have negative physiological impacts as functional and physiological medical studies show that it automatically affects the ovaries and pushes the pelvis upwards," he told Sabq.
"That is why we find those who regularly drive have children with clinical problems of varying degrees," he said.

Let's use that reason, then.  If driving is bad because it tilts the pelvis upwards, so is all sitting.   And if driving is bad because of some movement related aspects, well, then sitting in the car as a passenger is equally bad, right?  Finally, there are no studies showing that driving causes the kinds of problems this cleric makes up.

All this reminds me of the Victorians' arguments against higher education for women in Europe and the US.  Your uterus will leak out of your head if you cram your brain with facts!  It will start roaming about and you end up hysterical!  And the puny energies of women are not sufficient for both studying and birth-giving.

That's because the two are motivated by the same imperative urges, of course:  to keep women out of some activity.

In somewhat related news:

Two prominent female rights activists who went to the aid of a woman they believed to be in distress are expected to go to jail in Saudi Arabia on Sunday after the failure of their appeal against a 10-month prison sentence and a two-year travel ban.
Wajeha al-Huwaider, a writer who has repeatedly defied Saudi laws by driving a car, and Fawzia al-Oyouni were arrested for taking a food parcel to the house of someone they thought was in an abusive relationship. In June they were found guilty on a sharia law charge of takhbib – incitement of a wife to defy the authority of her husband, thus undermining the marriage.
Campaigners say they are "heroes" who have been given heavy sentences to punish them for speaking out against Saudi restrictions on women's rights, which include limited access to education and child marriage as well as not being able to drive or even travel in a car without a male relative being present.