Saturday, March 26, 2016

Why It Matters How Donald Trump Loves Women

A clarification to my post below.  Imagine this:

It is 2016 and the front-runner of the Republican presidential primary thinks women are cheese sandwiches.  It has taken until now for the media to fully address that fascinating aspect of the race.  How would president Trump's decisions affect more than half of the US population, given his opinions on women?  How many women would his cabinet have?  Would they be picked on the tits-waist-butt measurements (and for being yes-women for Trump in everything) or based on actual relevant ability?

None of this is new, of course.  Just watch the rules Fox News uses on how to select female talking heads for their programs.  It's obvious that  a beauty pageant is part of the entry requirement into those jobs, but only for women.  Men can look like a sheep's butt-hole as long as they otherwise make sense.

The point that escapes Trump and others who think like him is that those cheese sandwiches have votes.  Indeed, women don't like Trump very much:

Though Trump continues to outdistance Cruz in the delegates that will decide the GOP nomination, recent polls have shown the billionaire's favorability on the decline, particularly among women.
In a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 70 percent of women had a negative opinion of Trump. Nearly three quarters of women overall, and 39 percent of Republican women, had an unfavorable view of him in a recent CNN poll.
"He already had a gender gap prior to all this," said Republican pollster David Winston. "The potential for that to be bigger now looms on the horizon."
But even that message doesn't hit home with him.  He just utters, once again, how much he loves and respects women, that weird species that's created to give him sex and adulation.  Not votes, I guess.

Now imagine a general election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton!  We are going to have such fun, us cheese sandwiches*.

*  In terms of gender politics.  But Trump might keep his loud mouth closed about wimminz and we would still get gender politics.

One study of New Jersey voters suggests that men support Trump over Clinton much more strongly when primed with thoughts about who takes how much money home in their families.  A reverse, though much weaker, shift is seen among women who are primed the same way.  See here for the tables.  Note that the shift doesn't happen in the Sanders v. Trump comparison.  That supports the idea that this is about gender.


Donald Trump Loves Women!

That horrible, horrible media is pretending otherwise:

Where is the press uttering such awful lies?  Well, Anna Holmes started it in her 2011 Washington Post article, then Franklin Foer brought up the same issues a few days ago at Slate, and now Buzz Feed has joined in by quoting out of Donald Trump's own book about his views on women:

Later in the chapter, Trump discusses telling a friend who said his wife said he was “working too hard and too long and wasn’t devoting enough time or energy to her” to divorce his wife.
“If he doesn’t lose the ballbreaker, his career will go nowhere,” Trump wrote.
See how they do it?  That quote was clearly taken out of context!  The woman was a ball-breaker, walking around carrying a giant hammer, ready to smash the testicles of her husband into small grains and then feeding those to him in his breakfast porridge.  This is about proper masculinity, friends and admirers*, not about disliking women.  If a man can't expect an obedient wife at home, what can he expect? 

Duh.  Donald Trump loves women.  He loved them in 1991 when he told us:

“You know, it doesn’t really matter what [the media] write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of [expletive],”...

And when

He told the journalist Timothy L. O’Brien, “My favorite part [of the movie Pulp Fiction] is when Sam has his gun out in the diner and he tells the guy to tell his girlfriend to shut up. Tell that bitch to be cool. Say: ‘Bitch be cool.’ I love those lines.” Or as he elegantly summed up his view to New York magazine in the early ’90s, “Women, you have to treat them like shit.”
Well, perhaps that last quote isn't strong support for my argument.  But mostly the Donald loves women. 

He loves them the way I love risotto with mushrooms and truffle oil:  Tasty, hot and ready to be eaten.

He loves them the way I love a beautiful painting or sculpture:  For their beauty, for their pristine appeal and for their availability to his gaze.

And of course if that is his love for women, ugly women hurt him viscerally, older women hurt him, women who are not tasty, hot, ready to be eaten (but never sampled before!) and beautiful:  all those hurt him.  That doesn't mean that he wouldn't love women!  Even I don't love stale risotto or risotto which suddenly walks away and has a vote.  Have some empathy, people!

Want more proof that the Donald adores women?  He's had three wives so far.  He can't get enough of women!  He thinks his daughter has a good figure and that he might date her if she wasn't his daughter.  Notice the eye of the connoisseur there?

Sure, there's a slight locker-room smell in some of his utterances, such as talking about how much pussy he has had.  But let's be honest:  Haven't we all been there when we were thirteen and sprouting the first inconvenient beard hairs and a few zits, while our voices went from soprano to baritone and back?**

No.  This guy loves women.  He wants many, many helpings of women, with cream sauce.  Isn't that real love?


*  Admirers are added, because that's one thing I should learn from teh Donald:  Blow your own trumpet, whether between your legs and up on top, under that famous hair.

**  No, we haven't all been there.  But remember that I'm writing the way teh Donald would, and to the audience he visualizes.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Today's Hilarious Post: Hillary Clinton Is A Founding Member of ISIS

Rudy Giuliani came out with that assertion!  And in the Fox News bubble his statement was discussed,  with only one guest strongly disagreeing about president Obama and Hillary Clinton somehow creating the terrorism bubble in Iraq and Syria.  That guy called George W. Bush, he slipped down the memory hole with his Mission Accomplished statement.:

I'd love to have amnesia, too.

When Social Justice Goals Clash. The Case of the Annual Dinner of LSE's Islamic Society

This case from the London School of Economics (LSE) is worth a longer post, because it highlights the possible clashes between feminism and various other social justice concerns, in particular the avoidance of anti-Muslim bigotry, and what happens when such clashes do occur.  The case is this:

The Islamic Society of LSE, a religious student organization, organized its annual dinner as gender segregated, beginning with different contact telephone numbers for women and men who wanted to tell that they were coming.  The room with laid-out dinner tables was bisected by a seven-foot-tall screen, with women sitting on one side of the screen and men on the other side of the screen.

Several British newspapers then wrote about the event, some with pictures of it, all taken from the male side.  The head of the LSE Student Union, Nona Buckley-Irvine, a feminist,  attended the event and had no problem with the gender segregation.  This is what she said:

‘I had a lovely time at the dinner and barely noticed the separation between men and women,’ she told MailOnline.

She added: ‘Where groups would like to organise themselves in a way that fits with their religious, cultural and personal beliefs, both genders consent, and there is no issue I have no problem.
‘It is not for me to decide what is right or wrong with our Islamic society and they are one of the most inclusive societies I have ever worked with.’
It is that second paragraph that deserves strong scrutiny.   

First, how can one tell that both genders consent?  A "gender" cannot consent, only individuals can, and those individuals who do not consent probably didn't turn up at the dinner at all.  Indeed, they might have left the Islamic Society's activities earlier because of the segregation of men and women:*

However, other students were less positive about the segregation, one telling the MailOnline it had intimidated some Muslims who want to celebrate their faith without gender segregation.
‘It’s been going on for quite a while,’ the LSE undergraduate said.
‘I have a friend who says she’s really intimidated because she doesn’t believe in gender segregation at all so she stopped going.’

Muslim women are not a hive mind, all thinking alike, and opposing and supporting views can be found on this issue.  But the view of marginalized religious or ethnic communities far too often assigns one opinion to the whole community, thus marginalizing certain individuals inside those communities.

Second, why is it not for Nona Buckley-Irvine to have opinions about the Islamic Society's gender segregation practice?  I get that she doesn't have the power to do anything about those principles, but she certainly has opinions about related questions.  From her tweets:

In what sense are these tweets relevant here?  Because the American Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case essentially argued that "separate cannot be equal."  Race-segregated school systems in the US resulted not only in race segregation but also less resources and less power for the black schools.  Race segregation put an upper limit to what blacks in the United States could achieve.  The same consequences follow from gender segregated systems, even if those who support them don't explicitly strive for that outcome.

If I had to make a guess about her statement concerning the Islamic Society segregated dinner party, it would be that she doesn't want to fan the flames of anti-Muslim bigotry, of the kind the Daily Mail demonstrates in its take of the dinner where the same article discusses radicalized UK Muslim terrorists.

But there should be a difference between that honorable stance and the refusal to criticize cultural norms which have the vaguest of religious justifications**.

That's my opinion.  What are the views of the "other side?"

The statement from the LSE's Student Union states:

There has been significant media coverage of LSESU Islamic Society’s Annual Dinner which was held last Sunday. The event has been successfully held every year and celebrates the achievements of students as well as commemorating those who are graduating.
Media coverage has singled in on ‘segregation’. Voluntarily, the society had different seating areas for women and men in line with religious requirements. This falls in line with the Equality and Human Rights guidance on gender equality and we are confident that there has been no breach of the law.

What does "voluntarily" mean in this context?  The Islamic Society Facebook page conversations assert that there was an area where men and women could mingle, but it's unclear whether any tables were set up in that area.  Without equal integrated seating, the segregation cannot be viewed as "voluntary."  That would require a valid choice to exist, one which allows the person to participate in all the activities while seated and eating in the integrated area.

The Islamic Society itself has created an answer which addresses mostly the dreadful treatment of the event in the Daily Mail, in particular the way that newspaper's article seems to hint at gender segregation as the first step in how terrorists are created.  But it also says this:

The report in The Daily Mail spoke against the seating arrangement by suggesting that it may be in violation of the university’s policy on gender equality. As a society, we reject any suggestion that our Annual Dinner contravened the LSE’s Equality Policy. The guidelines explicitly state that segregation is permissible both in the event of religious ceremonies and when it is voluntarily chosen. The curtain was in fact set up at the request of our members and the layout of the room was necessary for the facilitation of three prayers, a spiritual sermon, and Quran recitation. Furthermore, the seating arrangement at the event was not mandatory, as there were numerous spaces around the venue that allowed men and women to mix freely. It is important to note that the coverage of the event was entirely false and written with an islamophobic agenda.

The question, then, is a) whether the occasion was religious and b) whether the gender segregation was voluntarily chosen.  I have already written about the latter question.  In terms of the former, I cannot quite see where there is space for the requisite kind of prayer, what with tables everywhere, but perhaps the pictures don't show those spaces.  But even if the occasion was religious and not an annual gala dinner, couldn't the screen have been removed after the prayers were over?  In any case, note my footnote * which shows that the segregation policy has not been applied as narrowly as the above quote suggests.


*  While reading the Facebook site of the Islamic Society, I noticed this post from before the annual dinner gala:

Thus, the gender segregation is not something that was initiated at the time of the dinner party and may well have caused some women (and men) to leave the society.

**  The Koran references to gender segregation are to prophet Mohammad's wives, not to all Muslim women, and they specifically apply to a period when he and his family were staying in a military camp.  In other words, it would be completely reasonable to argue that gender segregation is not a required aspect of Islam.


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Echidne Thoughts, 23 March 2016: On Terrorism, Group Guilt and Tosca Cakes

I have finally beaten the stomach flu which was especially bad because I had gastritis at the same time.  Let's hope that my writing is now clearer.

1.  The recent terrorist bombings, the last one in Brussels, are always an abundant source for despair about the human race.  I wish recovery for the wounded and peace to those who lost someone their lives meshed with in love and meaning.

The reactions to the events on the Internet are predictable.  Not much focus on the victims as real people, except for the obligatory nod from the politicians, and most political activists I read on Twitter and on political blogs  instantly started working to accommodate these events into the ready-made explanatory diagrams, the ones they already had, the ones which argue that the cause is either evil Islam or evil United States and Western colonialism.

What strikes me about that false dualism is that is impermeable to all evidence which doesn't fit it, that it seems to be unable to accept both-and explanations and also unable to replace appealing simplifications by nuanced analysis.  And both sides remove all agency from the culprits.  They are mere puppets with strings held by either evil mullahs or evil Western capitalists.

2.  The previous thought links to this one:  Sexism and racism and homophobia and other similar concepts owe something to the idea of false generalizations, of picking one experience with a person from the disliked group and then generalizing from that experience to the group, or of picking the worst caricatures of the group and then using those as the proper way to define the group.

Thus, because one woman treated some man very badly, that man now goes around hating all women and taking his revenge on them.  Because in that misogynist's mind all women are like the one woman who hurt him and, therefore, all women are responsible for that hurt.

I now see similar generalizations about all sorts of larger groups tossed about as so much candy to the children.  All Muslims are responsible for the Brussels massacre!  All white people are responsible for Western colonialism!  All men are responsible for rape!

It's important to note that men, as a class, do have power to talk to individual men and make sure that the culture doesn't giggle at rape or accept the idea that rape is somehow manly.   Men, as a class, also benefit from sexism which cuts back on competition in the labor markets and education. 

It's also important to note that Muslims, as a religious group, do have power, and the responsibility,  to ask how their religious leaders work to stop terrorism as a potentially religiously accepted alternative.

And it's important to note that white people who live in those countries who carried out Western colonialism will have benefited from the fruits of that colonialism, if only very indirectly.  Likewise, the institutional structures in the US have benefited white citizens over black citizens during long stretches of its history, and those benefits matter.

But all that is very different from this common spreading of genetic or group guilt.  I get that it makes writing easier and stronger, but when something is incorrect it's just more strongly and more easily incorrect.  Besides, yelling at large groups about their perfidy is just the most perfect psychological way to start a fruitful conversation on important topics!


And no, it's not really an excuse that some of those groups have much more power than other groups, that it's OK to apply the same tools which are used in sexism and racism if only those tools are used upwards in the social hierarchies.  It doesn't make it right.  Because then the misogynists on their sites will use that argument to bash women.  After all, they think women run the world so they have the right to bash upwards.

What is the solution to this problem?  Be precise.  If a particular person says something vile and disgusting, attribute it to that person, don't attribute it to all people who wear eyeglasses with similar shapes.  Assign guilt to decision-makers who make vile decisions, preachers who preach disgusting messages and those who pay for that preaching with the goal of getting those messages out.  Avoid over-generalizations about individuals.  That does not, however, mean that we shouldn't criticize ideas.  They don't have that kind of human rights protection.

3.  A recipe.  I add that because the whole post is so very miserable!
This is a recipe from my childhood.  It's really scrumptious, but you have to make sure there is not too much cake compared to the icing, so keep the cake surface low.  If you are like me (greedy) you might want to use less cake and more icing than this official recipe tells you.

Tosca Cakes

For the cake, buy:

150 grams of butter
150 grams (1.75 dls) sugar
2 eggs
200 grams (3 dls) flour
1.5 teaspoons of baking powder
0.5 dls milk

Beat the egg and the sugar until foamy.  Add eggs (shelled!), one by one, while beating.  Mix baking powder with flour in a separate container.  Add some milk to the butter-sugar-egg mixture, then some of the flour, and so on, until all is combined.  Mix until smooth.

Prepare a large oven tin.  Line it with baking paper and heat the oven to 200 centigrades.  Pour the batter into the tin.  Bake for 15-20 minutes.  Then add the icing (from below), return the tin to the oven and bake for a further 15-20 minutes.

Let cool to room temperature, then cut the cake into suitable one-person-sized pieces.

For the icing, buy:

150 grams of butter
100 grams of flaked almonds
100 grams (1 dl) of sugar
6 tablespoons of whipping cream
3 tablespoons of flour

Mix all the icing ingredients in a pot capable of going on top of your stove/cooker.   Heat the ingredients together to the point where it is ready to boil but do not let it boil.
Then add to the cake as described above.  You spread the stuff out evenly over the half-baked cake.

If you can't find flaked almonds you could use a spice mill or a food processor to make a rough blend of almonds.  I've done that and it worked fine.

Monday, March 21, 2016

From The "How Religion Keeps Women Subjugated" Files

You could skip this post if you don't want to get angry or despondent.  I'd much rather not write these posts but Echidne, whose avatar I am, insists.  So there you are.

1.  The Nigerian Senate has rejected a gender equality law.  Because it is against religions:

Women's rights activists condemned the Nigerian Senate on Thursday for rejecting a gender and equality law that pledged to eliminate discrimination in politics, education and employment, protect women's land rights and tackle violence against women.
The Gender and Equal Opportunity Bill was thrown out on Tuesday after several lawmakers opposed it on religious grounds.
Some quoted the Bible while others said the bill defied sharia, which is recognized by the constitution in Nigeria - home to the world's largest equal mix of Christians and Muslims.
Activists said the dismissal of the bill demonstrated that the government was ignoring the dangers facing Nigerian women, ranging from sexual assault and abduction to forced marriages.

Bolds are mine.

(Isn't it wonderful that the all-powerful creator of everything wants women to have the same rights as toasters or bicycles?)

2.   In Pakistan, a powerful religious body which advises the government on the compatibility of its laws with Islam last week declared a new Punjab law criminalizing violence against women as "un-Islamic."  Koran verses were cited to support that argument.

(How does one debate a book written over a thousand years ago, when those who quote it reject the possibility that its ideas were based on the norms of that era and instead insist that it is presenting the eternal, never-changing rules of the divine power?)

3. In some countries, religious family advice television shows teach about the Proper Control And Feeding of the Woman:

One can watch hours and hours of these shows, at all times of day from morning to evening prime time. For years, religious clerics have been the primary source of information on marital relationships, and at the core of their teaching is men’s superiority to women. One of the most popular hosts, with millions of viewers, is Mohammad Al Arifi. He presides over a salon format, talking to young men about various issues. In one segment, he explains to men the rules for beating their wives. “Just like you don’t beat a donkey or a camel from its face if you want to steer it in a certain direction, you should not beat a woman from her face,” he said. “There are other areas of her body where you are allowed to beat her from, such as her arms or her legs or back where it does not show to the public.”

Bolds are mine.

(Why avoid showing the bruises to the public?  If beating your wife is just following religious rules, shouldn't those bruises be proudly flaunted?)

These examples are mostly about the use of anti-woman interpretations of Islam (literal readings of extremely old texts by men,  reflecting the opinions of men living in a very different culture and era). 

That's not because Islam would be the only religion capable of being used as a tool to keeping women subjugated.  The religious justifications of forced-birthers in the US and the effects of the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case remind us of the real danger to American women should the right-wing reading of Christianity become even more politically powerful in this country than it already is.  In short, Islam is over-represented in these examples because anti-woman versions of Islamic interpretations are more politically powerful than anti-woman interpretations of Christianity and Judaism.

This suggests to me that those who work for women's right to be viewed as fully human beings should also work for anything that would raise the profile and power of more liberal and egalitarian versions of all religions.