Saturday, December 08, 2018

The Hillarization Of Female Politicians: Fun For The Whole Pundit Family

"Yell loud enough at a female leader and eventually she’ll go away. Convince her that her disappearance is necessary for the party, and soon everyone will get to return to the avuncular comfort of a dude like Joe Biden."  Monica Hesse wrote that in a late November Washington Post article about the attempts to oust Nancy Pelosi as the incoming House Majority Leader.

It's not the amount of yelling that the powerful female politicians get that is the problem, in my opinion; it's the type of yelling they tend to receive.  Anything is grist for the attack mills, and not just the policies that the politician favors or has accomplished or has failed to accomplish.

It's everything else, too, from what type of a person the woman's husband might be via how her voice sounds to others to how she dresses, and even how frequently she gets told that she should exit politics or not run* for the sake of the common good. 

The tilt in political coverage I address here is more quantitative than qualitative (though it's the latter, too):  Some male politicians may also get criticized for, say, their clothes, but not as often and not for the same reasons.  The men are criticized for the political tactics they used and how those backfired, as well as for the policies they pursued.**

On top of that criticism female politicians also elicit a different type of scrutiny, one which tries to find the hidden worm in the superficially perfect-looking apple, which tries to find something that is very very wrong in her basic values or her basic competence.

The worm MUST be there, for why otherwise would we find her so unauthentic, her voice so grating, her ambition so calculating?

And once the worm has been found, it is turned into a boa constrictor and then that boa constrictor is turned against the politician herself.

Add to that my impression that for female politicians the rules about making mistakes, in general, are different.  One strike and you are out.  There are no excuses for, say, youthful failings, no real recovery from one error of judgement or one misstep.

I call all this by the awkward term "Hillarization," for fairly obvious reasons (the decades-long campaign against Hillary Clinton).  The US right is particularly good at committing Hillarization on female Democrats it dislikes, but the phenomenon is not completely tied to one party.

*   That Boston Globe article is not the only negative Warren piece that has been published in the last few days.  All the others are about Warren's DNA debacle.

Unless something is going on behind the curtains of power that I am unaware of,
so many different journalists choosing to write about Warren almost simultaneously is odd, given that the DNA test stuff happened well over a month ago and was thoroughly discussed then.

There's also something odd about the argument that because of the DNA debacle, Warren should now utterly forget about running for the presidency in 2020.  She had her one chance and spoiled it!

Compare this to, say, Ted Kennedy's career after the Chappaquiddick incident which cost Mary Jo Kopechne her life.

I am not defending what Warren did, and neither am I demanding that nobody criticize her.   But I strongly suspect that her ethical and moral failings and/or her lack of judgement would be covered less fiercely and less frequently if her name was not Elizabeth but, say,  Elliot.

**  And, of course, for actual crimes and such, though the 2016 presidential campaign taught all of us that "journalistic balance" can mean redefining crimes differently for male and female politicians.  It didn't really matter what scandals were revealed from Donald Trump's past; certain august newspapers would publish them and then publish yet another rehash of Hillary Clinton's emails.  Just to show that they are measured, objective and balanced.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Short Posts 6/12/18. Ice Swimming, The Kindness Of Women, And Online Warfare

1.  It's the Finnish Independence Day today.  Wave a little Finnish flag for me.

Here's a nice winter pastime popular among some really weird Finns (coughmybrotherandsistercough).

2.  All cultures (pretty much) expect women to be kinder, more empathetic and more inclusive than men.  It's codified in our subconscious gender norms*.  And all cultures (pretty much) criticize and even punish women who deviate from those norms more harshly than they would criticize or punish men acting in an identical manner.

I was thinking about that yesterday when a few right-wing newspapers asked if Hillary Clinton snubbed Donald Trump at George H.W. Bush's funeral.  Even those newspapers concluded that she had not done so, and that the occasion required a dignified and aloof demeanor from everyone.  But they did ask the question about a female politician who was repeatedly called a "nasty woman" and a "crooked woman" by Donald Trump and who is still the target of "lock her up" shouts at Trump rallies.

In any realistic scenario Donald Trump should have been snubbed by most reasonable people.

The online harassment of women who give their opinions publicly might be a partial reflection of those same gender norms (though some of it may be based on a different ancient gender norm:  that women should be silent in the public sphere). 

When Jill makes a controversial comment it looks more controversial than had Jack made it, because of how we interpret the two names.  She both says something that upsets others and violates gender norms while he only does the former.

I spot this subconscious gender norm working away quietly in all sorts of online conversations, even among feminists.  Women are supposed to be kind.**

3.  Speaking of online communications, this article argues that we are now engaged in not hot war or cold war but in warm information war.  Whatever you might think about the geopolitical arguments in the article, it's certainly true that nuanced conversation is close to impossible on Twitter, and that its algorithms rewards wrath speech and quick, nasty comebacks.  It's also pretty cheap and easy to introduce a lot of chaos in social media.  This makes establishing facts harder work than it has to be.

The following pyramid is a good reminder of the higher levels online debates could take:

4.  This is a hilarious take on diversity in tech.

*  Whether these are partly innate temperament differences or not is not probably something that can be studied with the tools we have right now. But I'm completely sure that they are strengthened and magnified by the way we are brought up, and in particular by the kinds of behavior which are given positive or negative feedback by parents, peer groups and other authorities, and how that approval and disapproval varies by the sex of the child.

** I am not arguing for random unkindness, of course.  Neither am I arguing for some kind of a permission to just rant and rave without any consequences.  My point is that the rules differ between men and women, and that makes criticism a riskier field for the latter.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Making Murka Great Again. The Fate Of The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

This is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau now, under the leadership of Trump appointee Mick Mulvaney:

One year after Mulvaney’s arrival, he and his political aides have constrained the agency from within, achieving what conservatives on Capitol Hill had been unable to do for years, according to agency data and interviews with career officials.
Publicly announced enforcement actions by the bureau have dropped by about 75 percent from average in recent years, while consumer complaints have risen to new highs, according to a Washington Post analysis of bureau data. 
Over the past year, the agency’s workforce has dropped by at least 129 employees amid the largest exodus since its creation in 2010, agency data shows.
Created by Congress to protect Americans from financial abuses, the bureau under Mulvaney has adopted the role of promoting “free markets” and guarding the rights of banks and financial firms as well as those of consumers, according to statements by Mulvaney and bureau documents.

Bolds are mine.

Mulvaney has also stated this:

“We don’t just work for the government, we work for the people,” he wrote in an “All Hands” email later that month. “And that means everyone: those who use credit cards, and those who provide those cards; those who take loans, and those who make them.”

It's as if there was a government organization called The Sheep's Protection Agency, and suddenly it was run by someone who wanted it to work to promote the interests of not only the sheep but also the wolves and coyotes which eat them.

Short Posts, 12/4/18. Dante's Inferno Misread, Hate Crimes, Another Measure of Gender Gap in Earnings And Mueller Dancing

1. This is beautiful

In the middle of the journey of our life
I found myself astray in a dark wood
where the straight road had been lost sight of.
How hard it is to say what it was like
in the thick of thickets, in a wood so dense
and gnarled
the very thought of it renews my panic.
It is bitter almost as death itself is bitter.

Dante's Inferno Canto I, translated by Seamus Heaney 

I first misread the top two lines in that translated bit of Dante's Inferno as:

In the middle of the journey of our life
I found myself in an ash tray in a dark wood.

So it goes.  That reading is more appropriate for me, and not only because of my warped sense of humor.

Monday, December 03, 2018

The Demographic Representativeness of the 116th Congress

This table* about the demographics of the 116th Congress is fun to analyze:


To see what it tells us about how representative the new Congress is, let's compare it to the population proportions of various demographic groups in it.  The last column gives the overall totals, and the third and fifth give the totals by the two parties.

Starting from the total percentages column, it's clear that among the larger groups women are quite seriously underrepresented, that blacks are represented in proportion to their population percentage (though these data don't let us see if this is true separately for black women and black men), and that Hispanics, as a group,  are also quite seriously underrepresented**.

The more fascinating columns to study are of course the party percentage columns.  Those reveal that the Republican Party really is the party of white men. Only seven percent of Republican Congress critters are women,  non-Hispanic whites are ninety-five percent of the total,  and the figures for all racial or ethnic minorities are as tiny as fly specks.  That the black representation matches the black population percentages overall is because the Republican under-representation is compensated for by relative numerical over-representation in the Democratic Party.

May I use this opportunity to, once again, complain about the diversity concept.  If you look at the rows in that table they show diversity, right?  There are wimminz there and all sorts of other demographic groups are represented.  So all is good.

But many of the table percentages are not the same as the population percentages of various groups***.   The system is clearly not representative of the country.  The diversity concept does not reflect that. 

In a sense "diversity" is not about fairness in the same manner as fair representation is.  Why it's so popular might be because it can be used by both sides for their own purposes.  Those who don't really want to see fair representation can add a couple of tokens to various committees, and, presto, diversity is achieved and complaining voices are silenced.  Those who fight for the rights of a numerically very small marginalized group may be able to get it over-represented by using the diversity argument.


*  My apologies for not crediting the creator of the table.  I copied it in this form from somewhere online.  If you know the name of the creator(s) please let me know and I will add the acknowledgement.

**  Once again, this table doesn't show Latinos and Latinas separately.

Note, also, that the Hispanic category is the one where the comparison of Congress percentages to population percentages are less useful.  This is because roughly one third of all individuals in this category were first generation immigrants in 2013. 

It takes time to become integrated into a culture, including seeking a political career.  A better comparison for the overall statistical representativeness of this group might consist of the population percentage of Hispanics who are at least in the second generation in the US (though that would be a very rough guide, too).

*** Depending on the context in which we examine diversity, the correct comparison might not be to population percentages but to, say, the percentages of people in various demographic groups who have been trained for certain jobs and so on.  Still, in all those cases the goal is to see if the system works fairly.