Friday, September 05, 2014

Men are More Harassed On The Net Than Women. So Cathy Young Tells Us.

She does so in a recent Daily Beast article with the title "Men Are Harassed More Than Women Online."

It's worth thinking about that title, even knowing that Young herself didn't pick it.  That's because the only evidence she offers for men being harassed MORE than women is a Demos study, which argues that famous men receive more Twitter abuse than famous women.  More about that study later.

The rest of Young's argument consists of anecdotes about individual men who have been harassed (and does not consist of of anecdotes about individual women who have been harassed), the extent of the harassment they have suffered, examples of feminists harassing anti-feminists and so on, as well as the fact that a sizable minority of what Young regards as harassers are female, even though the majority are male.

She then tells us to ignore the 2006 study which found chat room bots given female usernames receiving twenty-five times more threatening or sexually explicit messages than bots with male and neutral usernames.  And why should we ignore the study?  Because Young tells us that the Internet has changed since 2006.  But the study wasn't about something which could be affected by such change, given that it isolated one single question:  That about the impact of being taken for a woman rather than a man on the net, all other aspects being held constant.

Unless we assume that the current cross-section of Internet users is quite different from the 2006 version, with far less sexist behavior, it's difficult to see why that study wouldn't still matter.  It's not a decisive study, of course, but then neither are the studies Young prefers.

She refers to two studies.  The first one is a Pew Institute study about Internet use with a focus on privacy and security of Internet use.  That study has a question (p. 94) which relates to Internet harassment and stalking but does not define these terms to the respondents and does not distinguish stranger harassment from harassment by acquaintances (including people from the respondent's past) or even by advertisers.  Eleven percent of the men interviewed and thirteen percent of the women interviewed stated that they had experienced Internet harassment or stalking.

The study also asks (p. 98) whether the respondent agreed with the statement "Something happened online which led me to physical danger."  Five percent of the female respondents and three percent of the male respondents answered in the affirmative.  But it's hard to know what specific types of examples those answers might have reflected.  Anything that could lead a person to physical danger could qualify, not just harassment by strangers on the net.

Whatever our interpretation of that study, it doesn't demonstrate that men are harassed more on the net than women, right?

That assertion is based on the Demos study.  I tried to find the study at the link given here but was unsuccessful. Thus, what I have to say about the study is based on the summary information the people at Demos have provided and a couple of takes on the study found elsewhere.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

The Rotherham Report On Child Sexual Exploitation. My Analysis.

1.  The Events

Welcome to Rotherham, England, a manufacturing town near Sheffield.  Right now the town is famous for a reason it would not have chosen:  The Rotherham Report:  In this town of 250,000 inhabitants at least 1400 young girls were sexually groomed, raped, gang-raped and pimped over a period of sixteen years while many of the authorities responsible for protecting the girls did nothing or actively suppressed information about the wide-spread abuse.

Fourteen hundred is probably a low estimate of the extent of this abuse.  But even that number turns out to mean one new victim every few days over that time period. Professor Alexis Jay, the author of the report, quotes several examples of the abuse these girls faced and the responses of the police and the local politicians to earlier reports on the same problem:

At least 1,400 children were subjected to appalling sexual exploitation in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013, a report has found.
Children as young as 11 were raped by multiple perpetrators, abducted, trafficked to other cities in England, beaten and intimidated, it said.
The inquiry team found examples of "children who had been doused in petrol and threatened with being set alight, threatened with guns, made to witness brutally violent rapes and threatened they would be next if they told anyone".
Failures by those charged with protecting children happened despite three reports between 2002 and 2006 which both the council and police were aware of, and "which could not have been clearer in the description of the situation in Rotherham".
Prof Jay said the first of these reports was "effectively suppressed" because senior officers did not believe the data. The other two were ignored, she said.
The inquiry team found that in the early-2000s when a group of professionals attempted to monitor a number of children believed to be at risk, "managers gave little help or support to their efforts".
The report revealed some people at a senior level in the police and children's social care thought the extent of the problem was being "exaggerated".

What accounts for the way these children (mostly girls (1)) were failed by the society?

These were broken girls to begin with, most of them, often coming from homes with mental illness, drug abuse and other problems, frequently taken into care by the social services.  These were the kind of girls who traditionally are not allowed to have a childhood.  These were the kind of girls who act out, who believe the grooming for sex to be love, the love they so desperately seek for.  These were the kind of girls the police sometimes regarded as adults, fully able to consent to sex with strangers.  And these were often the kind of girls that social workers despair over:  Difficult cases, refusing help, refusing to name their torturers for fear of further violence to them or their families or because the tainted "love" they received was taken as real love and affection or because they had been beaten and dulled into slave-like submission.

But in the Rotherham case these were also white girls and their descriptions of the perpetrators of the abuse singled out men of Asian origin.  Hence the second proffered explanation for the societal failure here has to do with the fear of being accused of racism(2) and the fear of hurting community relations between different races:
The majority of those behind the abuse were described as Asian, while the victims were young white girls.
Yet the report found that councillors failed to engage with the town's Pakistani-heritage community during the inquiry period.
Some councillors were said to have hoped the issue would "go away", thinking it was a "one-off problem".
The report said several staff members were afraid they would be labelled racist if they identified the race of the perpetrators, while others said they were instructed by their managers not to do so.
Several councillors interviewed believed highlighting the race element would "give oxygen" to racist ideas and threaten community cohesion.
To understand the reference to the failure of "engaging with the town's Pakistani-heritage community" can be difficult for an outsider.  My reading suggests that the two communities were viewed as two separate worlds and that the "ambassadors" from the Pakistani community were old men, imams and wealthy businessmen.  They were the ones who appear to have interpreted that community to the rest of Rotherham and they were the ones who were deemed the proper representatives of that community.  Several articles address the sexual abuse of Pakistani girls in Rotherham and elsewhere and point out that the women in that community were not able to get their voices heard.

What this means is that we don't know the number of Pakistani victims in Rotherham.  But whites are the majority group in that town and thus would be most of the victims of any group of sexual abusers.  In short, the alleged perpetrators didn't have to "target" white girls for their victims to mostly consist of white girls.

Come On, Give Us The Names, Senator Gillibrand!

This is the current storm in the teacup of US gender politics.  Or the teacup in the storm, depending on how you view the case of what Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) wrote in her new book Off The Sidelines and what happened then.

Her book states that several (male?) senators made inappropriate comments about her body, her weight and her looks:
“Good thing you’re working out, because you wouldn’t want to get porky,” Gillibrand revealed a senator said to her in a story in People.
“Don’t lose too much weight now. I like my girls chubby,” Gillibrand said another senator said to her.
“You know, Kirsten, you’re even pretty when you’re fat,” Gillibrand added another senator said to her.
Now at least a couple of Beltway Boyz want her to name names.  If there are no names, it didn't happen.  And if she is not willing to name names why put the stuff in her book in the first place? What if these were Democratic senators, and Gillibrand is protecting them?  What if she is trying to "pull a Hillary on us" (a move named after Hillary Clinton) by implying that she's going to be the brave girl who will climb into the old boys' tree-house, and also into power, while the old boys aren't allowed to defend themselves.

All this is boring (Would you name someone who has a lot of power over you or with whom you need to work closely in the future?  But might you still not want to point out stuff about the culture in which people in the US Senate work?) and impossible to prove or disprove without more evidence.

But the events are still worth examining.  For instance, the demand for naming names is aimed at Gillibrand, not at the unnamed senators she writes about.  This suggests to me that Gillibrand is not believed.

That took me on a detour to an article which uses transgender people to learn more about gender roles and the reactions to someone's gender:

Ben Barres is a biologist at Stanford who lived and worked as Barbara Barres until he was in his forties. For most of his career, he experienced bias, but didn’t give much weight to it—seeing incidents as discrete events. (When he solved a tough math problem, for example, a professor said, “You must have had your boyfriend solve it.”) When he became Ben, however, he immediately noticed a difference in his everyday experience: “People who don't know I am transgendered treat me with much more respect,” he says. He was more carefully listened to and his authority less frequently questioned. He stopped being interrupted in meetings. At one conference, another scientist said, "Ben gave a great seminar today—but then his work is so much better than his sister's." (The scientist didn't know Ben and Barbara were the same person.) “This is why women are not breaking into academic jobs at any appreciable rate,” he wrote in response to Larry Summers’s famous gaffe implying women were less innately capable at the hard sciences. “Not childcare. Not family responsibilities,” he says. “I have had the thought a million times: I am taken more seriously.”

Bolds are mine.  It's a detour because the idea of women having less authority, the idea that women are questioned more and believed less readily is one which rings a very loud bell in my own experiences. *

But it's only a detour, because the Gillibrand example is about something different than the questioning of her expertise as a politician, and one could argue that to suggest that a group of eighty male Senators (out of a total of one hundred) contains at least three guys who make inappropriate comments to women smears all the men in the Senate.  At least it gives each of them a probability of 0.04 of being the kind of guy who talks about a woman's porkiness.  I wouldn't worry about that probability myself.

Onwards and upwards, my friends.  Suppose that these events did happen.  Are they just examples of how men talk to each other, innocent quips not intended to mean anything?  I read that comment somewhere.  Let's try it out.  Imagine a heterosexual male senator telling another heterosexual male senator:  "You know Bob/Jim/Bill, you're even pretty when you're fat."  Or:  "Don't lose too much weight now.  I like my boys chubby."

Or do a gender reversal on those comments by assuming that the recipient is a man and the commenter a woman.

The first of the three comments linked to above might pass those sieves or colanders.  The other two certainly would not.
*I'd like everybody to be equally questioned.  It makes me very prepared and guarantees that I fairly rarely spout on stuff I know nothing about.  On the other hand, it takes a lot of time and the hurdles of disbelief really get tiresome as the decades roll by, not to mention wondering what opportunities all this has made me miss.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Convert Or Kill Them

That's the advice Phil Robertson, a reality television star, gave Sean Hannity on the Hannity show when it comes to the Islamic State.  Now why anyone would interview a reality television star on the best US foreign policy with regards to the Islamic State beats me.

The other odd thing about that advice is that it exactly mirrors the views of the Islamic State, which has offered various religious minorities those very options:  Either convert or lose your life.

The utterances of Phil Robertson don't have the same weight as the utterances of the spokesmen of the Islamic State.  Neither do American right-wing Christians kill people the way the soldiers of the Islamic State do.  But it's still worth pointing out the mirroring:  You (the other people) work for Satan, we work for the real god.  All the billions of people in the middle do not matter for either side.  Not really.

None of this is intended as some sort of a "we do it, too" defense of the horrors that the Islamic State is carrying out.  But the reasons why it uses the media to advertize its cruelty are much more complicated than Phil Robertson or Sean Hannity understand, and the best long-run US reaction is very unlikely to be proposed on Fox.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Happy Labor Day

Things to think about:

The Five Day Workweek
The Forty-Hour Week
Annual paid vacation time
Paid parental leave
Safety Rules At Work
Guaranteed Minimum Wage

Some of those exist in various places, some of those used to exist but seem to be passing or never existed at all.  All of those allow us ordinary humans to be productive in the society while also having families, fragile bodies and the need to spend a few minutes of the day admiring the beautiful sky.

Add to the list.