Saturday, December 23, 2017

Alt Right Stories About Uppity Women

These three little stories share quite a lot:

First, an Alt Right activist plastered pictures of Meryl Streep in Los Angeles, with "She Knew" covering her eyes:  

The reference to "she knew" is about the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse allegations which the Alt Righter argues Streep knew about, long before they became public knowledge.  Note that he chose a woman as the only symbol of institutional silence on sexual harassment.  And as far as I can tell, there's no evidence suggesting that Streep was aware of what Weinstein was up to.

Second, an Alt Right group massaged the Rotten Tomatoes ratings of the movie The Last Jedi.  A moderator of the Alt Right group has claimed that the group used bots to bring the ratings of the movie down.

Why?  Here's the moderator's answer:

The moderator explained to The Huffington Post that the group is upset with “Star Wars” for “introducing more female characters into the franchise’s universe.” The group is also not happy that Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) has become a “victim of the anti-mansplaining movement” and that characters like Poe and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) are in danger of being “turned gay.” The moderator said men should be “reinstated as rulers of society,” and expressed distaste for the way “The Last Jedi” disrespects the franchise’s history.

Third, the weirdest of all weird interviews by a editor quizzes some presumed expert about the connections between witchcraft and feminism.

My eyes hurt from trying to keep them parallel while reading an expert opinion like this:

According to Nash, feminist witches are joining together against Trump and are building elaborate “altars and tables with candles and pentagrams,” to create an “almost—a sense of sisterhood.”
“They have these other women which they can kind of get together and have a weird time with,’ he explained. “Secondly, I think it scares religious people. Obviously, a lot of these people are atheistic. They like to wind up the Christians. And thirdly, I think they also have a kind of—they feel like they have a connection to the persecuted women of the Salem witch trials. They look at these women and see them as kind of as victims of patriarchy, almost.”
Just one factual correction:  Wiccans are not atheists.  But the whole interview has no real point, except for the one religiously follows which would be attacking uppity women (or any women, really).

So what do these stories share?  It's as if they were stuff from the most sexist parts of the manosphere, and of course they probably are.  Only now we call people there Alt Right, a label which sorta protects them.

It's useful to remember that some information bubbles online indeed are poisonous, and that there are people who get all their information in those poison puddles.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Some Echidne News

1.  I have written a book review ("Neither Fish, nor Peacocks, nor Elephant Seals") on Cordelia Fine's Testosterone Rex: Myths of Sex, Science and Society.  It's in the November/December 2017 issue of Women's Review of Books, but, sadly, behind a paywall, though you can buy the issue (Vol. 34, issue 6) for six dollars.

I recommend Fine's book.  It's not the easiest of reading for a non-specialist, but it provides a lot of ammunition for those exciting cocktail party debates about whether women's feet evolved smaller so that we can stand closer to the sink while doing the dishes.

2.  My thanks to all who are helping to finance this blog.  PayPal has created some odd changes which mean that it's much harder for me to write individual thank-you letters or even to learn that someone has sent me chocolate funds.

3.  I wish you the best of whatever holidays you might celebrate.  I'm going to sacrifice some carrots and rutabagas/swedes so that the sun will come back.  That might not work, but why take the risk?        

The Culture of Institutional Silence and Sexual Abuse

The news about the death of cardinal Bernard Law made me re-read the Boston Globe material from 2002 and watch the movie Spotlight (about the Globe investigation into the Catholic Church's intentional protection of child abusing priests).  It is upsetting material to (re-)absorb.

Now, think of that institutional protection the church (and cardinal Law) awarded the pederasts, and then compare it to the institutional protection we now know that many, many sexual harassers (revealed in the #MeToo hurricane)  have received from their employers or from other institutions with which they were associated.   The examples are too many to list, but they range from Fox News, USA Gymnastics and Pennsylvania State University all the way to the US Congress.

The crucial aspect of that protection is silence.  The victims may be financially compensated, to "buy" their silence, but even when they are not compensated it is the silence that is clearly the final goal of all that protection, to protect the reputation of the institution and of the accused individuals if they are crucial for the well-being of the institution.

The costs of that silence fall on any future victims of serial sexual abusers.   The case of John Geoghan, one of Law's proteges in the Catholic Church's sexual abuse scandal, is a prime example of the damage that silence causes.  He was repeatedly moved from parish to parish, despite accusations that he had molested children in his previous parishes.  This made it possible for him to molest a much larger number of children.

Why the silence to protect institutions?  The obvious answer is that if one's conscience can take it then silence is the least-cost strategy for all others but the victim*.  No material rewards come to those who go public or defend the victims when those material rewards are on the say-so of the institutions. 

But I also believe that tribalism plays a role here:  Colleagues have each others' backs**, it matters who the insiders are and who the outsiders are, and "the institution" is often seen as a family which must be protected, even at the expense of the weakest and most vulnerable of its members***.

This culture of silence is not the same as a rape culture, but it's something that very much needs to be investigated so that we can dispense with it.  If possible.


*  A good example of the tendency for even individual workers to side with the firm for monetary reasons (the fear of jobs gone if sexual harassment court cases cause the factory to be moved) can be found in this article about sexual harassment in a blue-collar occupation.
** This is true even more generally.  One reason for that is the "tainting of the brand."  If some/many priests molest children, then all priests might be suspected of that tendency, and if some/many powerful men in the media molest women, then all powerful men in the media might be suspected of that tendency.

***  My impression is that the children most likely to be abused in the Catholic Church's sexual abuse cases were those who were poor, came from dysfunctional backgrounds (with less parental oversight) and were therefore least likely to be believed.  Likewise, many of the women serial predators seem to pick are young women with less experience and power. 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The Proper Court Etiquette in the Trump White House. Follow the Example of Mike Pence.

Do you want to learn how the courtiers of olden times had to act in the courts of vicious dictators?  Mike Pence demonstrates the proper behavior:

That is also how one deals with someone who has a borderline personality disorder with a strong narcissistic component:  Butter the flattery on the toast of humility.  Make sure you get both sides.

Speaking of Mike "the Handmaid's Tale" Pence:  He is a prime example of the kind of a "Christian" that Jesus would whip out of the temple.  He is very pleased with a tax plan which will ultimately hurt the least among us.   

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Merry Christmas, Ebenezer Scrooge. Or on The Republican Tax Plan.

Charles Dickens' Christmas Carol tells the conversion story of one Ebenezer Scrooge, a tightwad curmudgeon who exploits his workers, never donates money for charity, and, in general, leads a gloomy, lonely and capitalist existence.  He is then visited by three spirits of Christmas which frighten him into a kind, benevolent  and compassionate human being.

The Republican tax reform, which just passed in the House, is the reverse of that story.  Just replace "Scrooge" with "the US."  It takes from the middle class and the poor and gives to the rich, at least over time.

It is going to make the already extreme income and wealth inequality in this country even more extreme, paving the way toward the world's largest Banana Republic.  And the consequences will be even worse when future deficits, caused by these tax cuts for the wealthy, make Republicans yell for cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and other public programs they don't personally need.

It's all unpleasant to watch, though I must admit that I get a kick seeing the very open groveling the Republican politicians are doing, how they openly state that they must ram through the kinds of policies their rich donors have ordered and paid for.  Very oligarchic of them.