Thursday, April 06, 2017

Oh Really, O'Reilly? On Fox, Women and The Demand For Foxy Women

One day's worth of Fox News is sufficient to teach anyone that the requirements to get a speaking head job at Fox differ for men and women:  Men can look like a very lonely sprouting and withered potato, as long as they know how to be a pundit, but women must also be eye-candy, as this 2015 compilation of many of the Fox television faces demonstrates:

And two witnesses have stated that the women Fox employs are not allowed to wear long pants while punditing, probably because they must show some leg to those Fox views watchers who tilt older, white and male.

A discrimination case could be built against Fox News from  just the above evidence, because it looks like no competent female pundit can hope to get a job at Fox News without having the required eye-candy quotient.  That is an extra requirement applied to only female pundits.

Still, there's more:  At least two powerful men at Fox News:  Bill O'Reilly of the O'Reilly Factor, and former Fox chair Roger Ailes seemed unable to understand that all those foxy ladies the network has hired are only to be ogled at and not to be groped:

Much has happened in the three days since the New York Times published revelations that Bill O’Reilly and Fox News had paid $13 million in settlements to five women who accused the network star of harassment. On Monday, another Fox contributor filed a lawsuit alleging that she’d been victimized by former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, who she says was enabled and supported by current Co-President Bill Shine. Then, one of O’Reilly’s accusers, who never received and is not seeking a settlement, joined her lawyer in a call for a New York City or state investigation into patterns of sexual harassment, retaliation, and cover-up at Fox News.
The reason we have not heard about those thirteen million dollar settlements before is that they were private.  Now our Dear Leader has signed an executive order to make such secret settlements much more common in the future:

On March 27, Trump revoked the 2014 Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces order then-President Barack Obama put in place to ensure that companies with federal contracts comply with 14 labor and civil rights laws. The Fair Pay order was put in place after a 2010 Government Accountability Office investigation showed that companies with rampant violations were being awarded millions in federal contracts.
In an attempt to keep the worst violators from receiving taxpayer dollars, the Fair Pay order included two rules that impacted women workers: paycheck transparency and a ban on forced arbitration clauses for sexual harassment, sexual assault or discrimination claims.
 It's that last sentence (bolded by me) which matters in this context.  Forced arbitration clauses (which are now perfectly AOK again) mean that we might never learn about other places where rampant sexual harassment is part of the corporate culture, as it clearly is at Fox News.

Gretchen Carlson's original lawsuit ran around the arbitration clause in her contract by suing not Fox News but Roger Ailes directly.  Ailes's lawyers argued that Carlson had broken her contract and tried to make her go into secret arbitration.  Had they succeeded in that the many women at Fox News who had been sexually harassed might have all thought that they were the only ones.  And the culture of harassment would have been allowed to thrive.

Now Trump is contributing to that very future for all American women in the labor force.

But the news are not all negative:  The O'Reilly Factor is losing advertisers at a rapid clip.  Mercedes Benz, BMW, Hyundai and many other companies have pulled their advertising from being contaminated by close proximity to The O'Reilly Factor and its host's views about women.

Then a deeper question:  Doesn't even the most superficial watching of Fox News tell any prospective employee that the role of women in that network is not the same as the role of men? 

Women are meant to be decorative and sexually attractive, men are not (rather the reverse, in my honest opinion).  So what would make a prospective female employee believe that this difference wouldn't affect promotion chances, pay and perhaps even the odds of being expected to cater for the sexual needs of some of the powerful men at Fox News?

My intention is not to blame the victims here.  Rather, I wonder if all the television jobs share enough of that eye-candy demand for women so that the more extreme conditions at Fox News are less obvious to those in the industry than they are to me?

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Echidne The Seamstress/Tailor

I couldn't, after all, return the too large jeans I bought online.  So last night I decided to make them smaller. 

Seam rippers are wonderful:  They let you turn a pair of pants partly into bits which look like something from outer space (three-dimensional mental rotation abilities are a must, of course). 

Sewing machines are also wonderful, except the one I have.  It is very ancient, and its technology is a bit like the Model T Ford technology in cars compared to today's Mercedes Bentz. 

What's nice about that is my ability to fix everything in the machine, to clean it, to oil it, and to regulate all the various tensions etc on my very own.  What's not so nice about it is that it runs like a tractor over rocky ground, even when it is perfectly tuned, instead of the way a Maserati runs on a smooth highway (which would be the metaphor for modern machines) so that I have to physically restrain its operations by half-lying on the fabric, clinging on to it for dear life,  while vigorously stomping on the foot pedal.

Never mind.  I managed to put the jeans back together, considerably smaller, and all I lost in the operations was one belt loop (and one sewing machine needle which fell on the wood floor and disappeared in one of the cracks).  But the only thread I had in sufficient amounts was too light a color.  My hypothesis was that it would sink into the fabric so as not to be noticeable.

That hypothesis failed.  So I took a pen and colored all the stitches carefully darker!  We shall see if the ink is water-proof.  If it's not, I can just color the seams in again.

I am almost ready for the post-apocalypse life after Trump, where we make our own clothes and plant our own potatoes in our tiny window boxes.  And make our own shoes out of corrugated cardboard.

Speaking of cardboard, I finally went through all the cardboard boxes full of pieces of fabric.  They are my embroidery stash, saved over the years in case creativity suddenly strikes and makes it obligatory for me to finish that embroidery of the Happy Vampire Family (they all have red horns in the half-finished work).

Now most of the tiny pieces of cloth have been sent to recycling.  That is very sad, but ordinary goddesses don't have the guest room closet completely overtaken by bits of fabric from old clothes and flea market finds.

Here's one example of what I have done with those fabrics in the past:

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Patriarchy Strikes Back: The Trump Era

Picture from here.  The women are dressed as Margaret Atwood's handmaids, to protest the loss of women's reproductive rights.

1.  What Might Have Been.  Thomas Geoghegan's lament on the liberal Supreme Court he will never now see made my eyes misty.  It condenses all our future losses into one long jeremiad by telling us how a liberal Supreme Court would have overturned Citizens United, how money could no longer have determined who it is who will rule the politics of this country, how the death penalty might have disappeared and so on.

But Geoghegan says nothing about the future of reproductive choice.  Hmm.

2.  That may be part and parcel of this new era we live in:  Patriarchy Has Struck Back.  Jeet Heer suggests that the Trump era is the patriarchal counterrevolution:

Trump defeated the first woman who had a realistic chance of becoming the president of the United States, and he defeated her while using sexist tropes of the most obnoxious kinds. His administration has more white men in it than any administration has had since Ronald Reagan, and the four women he appointed hold lowly positions, suitable for their sex.

Heer points out that the gender imbalance in Trump's administration is the worst for thirty years.

Jill Filipovic also suggests that this is not some weird coincidence:

That’s why Mr. Trump’s infamous lewd comments about his conduct with women weren’t actually a liability. The people those comments offended weren’t going to vote for him in the first place, and the people most drawn to Mr. Trump liked him because he’s an unrepentant chauvinist, not in spite of it.
The Trump team is well aware of this dynamic, which is why it doesn’t spend much time worrying about even putting forward a facade of diversity. The great America it promised has white men at the top, and that’s the image they’re projecting, figuratively and literally. It’s not an error, it’s the game plan.
If it is a game plan, then the pair of Trump and Pence have both types of sexism covered:  Trump is the pussygrabber-in-chief while Pence tries to turn the Handmaid's Tale into reality through religious misogyny.*

But American women (and men) are not taking this lying down.  First there were the Women's Marches, three million strong.  Then:

Many women have kept up the pressure since then. The Huffington Post’s Ariel Edwards-Levy recently reported that the wave of popular opposition to Trump— as measured by citizen phone calls to their representatives, organized by activist group Daily Action—skews female. “The activists flooding congressional offices with those calls are overwhelmingly female, according to a survey conducted by Democratic pollsters Lake Research Partners and shared with HuffPost,” Edwards-Levy wrote. “Of the more than 28,000 of the group’s members who responded to a poll sent out by text message, 86 percent were women.”
3.  So did sexism and/or racism have nothing to do with the votes of those who picked the pussygrabber-in-chief to run this country?  Bernie Sanders doesn't believe so, but studies suggest that those who expressed racist or sexist views were more likely to  prefer Trump.

And then there is this odd opinion column, which seems to demand that Hillary Clinton never set foot outside her house again, lest people interpret that as the continuing reign of Clintonism.  The writer suffers from the Clinton derangement syndrome**. I cannot imagine similar stories written about male politicians, however hated they might be.

Neither am I quite sure if a male politician would get a long piece written about his bad polling numbers headlined like this:

Why Is Elizabeth Warren So Hard to Love?
That headline takes it for granted that she is not loved and only wonders about why that might be the case***.

Could this have anything to do with the dislike a sufficient number of voters feels towards ambitious and uppity and smart women?


Today's news are probably thanks to the fundamentalist Trumpians in the United States and their boy, Pence:

The Trump administration informed Congress on Monday that it had terminated United States funding for the United Nations Population Fund, the world’s leading provider of family planning services, including contraception, to women in at least 155 countries.
The United States is one of the top donor nations to the United Nations, and the denial of funding was one of President Trump’s biggest moves yet to reduce financing for family planning.
While the administration had signaled back in January that was adopting a tougher stance toward family planning services that provide abortion counseling, the move was nonetheless a stunning piece of news to advocates for women’s and children’s health, particularly in the developing world.
This is very dangerous, because unintended pregnancies make all of Africa's poverty problems worse.

**  The author, Timothy Stanley, writes

Of course, Hillary Clinton is back. I am convinced she will run for the presidency as many times as it takes to win -- even if she is still being wheeled through the streets of Iowa at 108, kept alive by robotics and a refusal to surrender.

Well, Bernie Sanders is still in politics.   Donald Trump ran for president three times.  Newt Gingrich is still mouthing on television.    And so on.  But there is something very different about presumed female ambition.   As an aside, there is no evidence at all that Hillary Clinton would consider running again.  She has simply given a few speeches, but that is too ghastly for words. 

The Clinton derangement syndrome is not a solely right-wing one, though it was initially created by the complete demonization of Hillary Clinton.  For another example, from the left, read this.

 *** Some time ago I read the opinion poll that the above article refers to.  Warren is approved by Democrats and by those who have college degrees  She is disapproved by Republicans and by those whose highest education level is high school.  Surely some of the disapproval is sexism or its rationalizations?

But Warren should attend more Patriot's games and advertise what she has achieved at home.  Smiling  more wouldn't hurt, either.  That last sentence was snark.

How the Health Insurance Game Can Be Played: On Who Can Afford Insurance

A New York Times article addresses a wonderful magic trick, proposed by some Republicans,  which might give birth to a health insurance system where people with pre-existing health conditions can buy insurance in theory, but not in practice.

The trick goes like this:  First, get rid of the community rating:  the requirement (in this context) that people of the same age must be offered the same health insurance policies at the same prices.  Second, do away with a required minimum list of health care goods and services which the insurance policy must cover.

These two, in combination, can easily equal denial of coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions:

The ability to opt out of the benefit requirements could substantially reduce the value of insurance on the market. A patient with cancer might, for example, still be allowed to buy a plan, but it wouldn’t do her much good if that plan was not required to cover chemotherapy drugs.
The second opt-out would make the insurance options for those with pre-existing conditions even more meaningless.
Technically, the deal would still prevent insurers from denying coverage to people with a history of illness. But without community rating, health plans would be free to charge those patients as much as they wanted. If both of the Obamacare provisions went away, the hypothetical cancer patient might be able to buy only a plan, without chemotherapy coverage, that costs many times more than a similar plan costs a healthy customer.

Don't you just love the ingenuity of this trick?  It would turn most health insurance into a market for virgins:  those who have never ever been ill.  That would mean low premia for the healthy and miserable care for the sick.

Given that almost all of us are one day going to belong to the groups "sick," even the healthy shouldn't be overjoyed by this way of getting cheap health insurance.

Sigh.  The fundamental theoretical problem is that the health care needs do not fit well into the insurance paradigm.  Few illnesses are like lightning from a blue sky, never to reappear in exactly the same form, and most individuals need more and more care as they age.

National health insurance systems do away with this problem (and several others*) by simply offering all citizens health insurance which is usually funded from progressive income taxes.  In such systems the healthy and the young do subsidize the sick and the old, but the healthy and the young will one day turn into the sick and the old and then they get their turn to be subsidized by the new generations.**

But, alas, Americans do not want single payer health coverage in sufficient numbers.
*  Other examples:  Good health coverage is not tied to one's work, so entrepreneurship is more likely because it is less risky, the severely ill do not have to try to recover from expensive care while simultaneously battling the myriads of bills insurance companies, doctors and hospitals send them,  and medical bankruptcy is pretty much unthinkable.

Such systems are not perfect.  But then no method of covering health care needs is without its problems.

** One could argue that the rich also subsidize the poor in those systems. But that depends on how we view the burden of taxation:  Because a dollar is worth less to a rich person than a poor person, progressive taxes, properly set, could equalize the actual felt burden of taxation. 

Monday, April 03, 2017

On "Legitimate" Rape. Examples from Canada, Finland, Mexico and the US.


I have the computer equivalent of scrap books for all the topics I might want to write on.  They contain many times the material that ultimately finds its way into my published writings:  Other references to verify what the ones I post say, news about all sorts of events that make that tiny click sound in my brain or turn on the creativity faucet/tap,  items that I feel I should write on but never will, because I don't have the expertise (climate change) or fear the responses (any intra-feminism fights).

Every once in a while I start a new scrap book and this is one of the times.  Before I put the old one in the attic, I quickly scan the newest pages to see if it covers anything that deserves more daylight.  The topic of this post comes from such gleanings.

That topic is one of the unintended consequences that might follow when a victim or an alleged victim of sexual violence decides to take the case to court.  It may not be suitable reading for all.