Friday, March 22, 2019

Short Posts on Women's Issues, March 22, 2019

1.  The first woman has won the coveted Abel prize in mathematics:

Karen Keskulla Uhlenbeck, a mathematician and professor at the University of Texas, has become the first woman in history to receive the Abel Prize, one of the most prestigious mathematics awards in the world.
The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters announced that Uhlenbeck was the award’s newest recipient on Tuesday.
I report on it, despite how I know the MRAs interpret any advances in gender equality (as encroachments to areas they deem as rightly theirs), because the harmful stereotype of women not being able to do well in mathematics is still very much alive in most cultures.  So it's worthwhile to report on the various "firsts."

Thursday, March 21, 2019

The Family Values Boyz: Trump and Bolsonaro

Jair Bolsonaro is the Trump Of The Tropics, an openly misogynist and racist guy who is also the current president of Brazil.  Given that, it was such fun to see the two of them together in the Rose Garden:

But what was perhaps most jarring about Bolsonaro and Trump’s meeting was how closely their worldviews seemed to align. This came across most clearly when Bolsonaro vowed that the US would stand against “fake news.”
“Brazil and the United States stand side by side in their efforts to ensure liberties and respect to traditional family lifestyles, respect to God our creator, and stand against gender ideologies and politically incorrect attitudes and against fake news,” Bolsonaro said Tuesday, through a translator.
His statement, made alongside the US president, was striking, and a direct example of how he ran his campaign and his presidency so far. Bolsonaro and the cabinet he appointed often promote so-called traditional values, and Bolsonaro consistently attacks “gender ideology” — a kind of catchall that refers to LGBTQ rights, feminism, and leftist ideals that he sees as undermining the social order.
Bolsonaro also flings the term “fake news” at his critics, including those in media. He stirs fears over “gender ideology” and berates “fake news” to rally his base and distract from scandals in his administration and his increasingly unpopular agenda; in February, his approval rating fell to about 39 percent.
None of what Bolsonaro said about “gender ideology” received endorsement from Trump — but neither did it get any pushback.

So for Bolsonaro "gender ideologies" is anything that would stop heterosexual men from ruling the roost alone.  In fact, Bolsonaro's use of "gender ideologies" covers even worse shit than that, for in the past he has been openly misogynist.*

The bit about respecting traditional family lifestyles is utterly ludicrous:

We saw two men standing in the Rose Garden, each purporting to defend "family values," each on their third wife, each of those wives younger than the previous one, as if wives were cars to be traded in for a more recent model whenever they look a little bit scuffed.  And I'm pretty sure that neither Trump nor Bolsonaro had much to do with the care of their own children.


* From Wikipedia:

In a public speech in April 2017, Bolsonaro said that he had five children, that the first four were male and that for the fifth he produced a daughter out of "a moment of weakness"


Journalist Glenn Greenwald called Bolsonaro "the most misogynistic, hateful elected official in the democratic world".[124] wondered whether Bolsonaro was "the world's most repulsive politician".[121] British news magazine The Economist referred to him as a "radical", "religious nationalist", a "right-wing demagogue", and "apologist of dictators".[125]

Note that it doesn't matter if Bolsonaro's statement about his daughter is a joke.  For it to be a joke, the basis must lie in the implicit assumption that daughters are inferior to sons.  That's what the laughter would be about:  a strongman conceived something inferior.


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

News From The Weird-World. Or The New Political Reality.

Our Supreme Leader is waging a Twitter war against a dead man:

Last weekend, Trump attacked the late senator in several tweets that targeted McCain's ties to the controversial Russia dossier and his vote against repealing Obamacare. He also referred to McCain as being "last in his class" at the US Naval Academy.
On Tuesday, he continued his criticism of McCain, telling reporters at the White House that "I was never a fan of John McCain and I never will be."

If Trump wasn't the leader of what used to be called the free world* before he ran it to ground, this would be the funniest thing since American cheese was invented.

And forty-five percent of registered voters approve the way Trump carries out his job!**  That would be hilarious, too, if we could watch this comedy from another planet.

All humor aside, fighting to get Trump out must be our first priority, if we wish to save democracy and some scraps of the environment.

*  Whether it was free or not, at least its leaders used to pay lip service to human rights and pushed a little in that direction.  Now our Supreme Leader pushes in the opposite direction and adores dictators.  The new trend toward "strongmen" in this world does not bode well for democracy or for human rights, and Trump is the prime example of that trend.
**  Because almost all the political shit is tribal, these days.  It's as if people are saying "Trump is an asshole, but he is our asshole."

And, sadly, I see that tribalism rearing its ugly head among the Democrats, too, where the primary fights will solidify those nasty tribal borders.  If we don't earnestly try to be less tribal, Trump will win again, because his tribe consists of almost all the Republicans, while the lefty tribes a multitude. 

Monday, March 18, 2019

How To Confuse With A Poll

The new USAA poll finds that

Amid signs that special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election interference may be near its conclusion, a new USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll finds that trust in Mueller has eroded and half of Americans agree with President Donald Trump's contention that he has been the victim of a "witch hunt."
 Bolds are mine.

Here is the actual question that tells us half of Americans agree with Trump's contention that he has been the victim of a "witch hunt":

Table Q20 Page 1520. President Trump has called the Special Counsel ́s investigation a “witch hunt”and said he ́s been subjected to more investigations than previous presidents because of politics. Do you agree?

Bolds are mine.

Now that question, my friends, is an example of how NOT to frame polling questions.

It is, in one sense, asking agreement or disagreement with  two Trump assertions, the two separated by the word "and."

Suppose you want to answer "no" to the first question and "yes" to the second question.  Well, you can't!  You have to agree or disagree with the whole quote.

But the second question, asking if Trump has been subjected more investigations than previous presidents, clearly has a big part which is true.  He has been investigated more than previous presidents.

Whether someone thinks the reason is in his politics or in the fact that he is a rather corrupt man or both, it's still true that there have been many investigations.

It's not correct to conclude from those answers that half of Americans agree with the first part of Trump's statement, the one about a witch hunt.  The respondents may have chosen agreement to the whole question because there is a truthful bit in the second part.

In sum, that question was formulated very poorly.  It should have been split into two separate questions. 

Born To Be In It, Says Beto O'Rourke. Would That Work For Female Politicians?

Beto O'Rourke has thrown his hat in the Democratic presidential primary ring.  He is a charismatic guy, with the looks of a young Kennedy and the fame of having had almost not lost to the conservative ringwraith Ted Cruz in last year's senate race in Texas.  That's like succeeding in almost baptizing the devil in Hell, I assume.

I have nothing against most of O'Rourke's policies (the ones I know about) so my comments here apply only to what he has chosen to reveal about himself in this presidential race.

Take the Vanity Fair cover he has already scored!  Here it is:

It has everything!  A good-looking guy looking relaxed in jeans, next to a Labrador and a pickup truck.  What's not to like**?   Here's just your "ordinary working class truck-driving guy with his dog", possibly listening to Country&Western music.  Or that's how I would decode the symbolism of the cover.

But the text next to the picture begins to open that Pandora's box I am interested in when I slice and dice gender and sex.

The text says:

Beto's choice.  "I want to be in it.  Man, I'm just born to be in it."  

The "it" in that quote is the campaign for the president of the United States in 2020.

And why not?  I, for instance, strongly feel that I was born to be a goddess.

But saying "I'm just born to be in it" really wouldn't work for female candidates.  I read a thousand online comments about how entitled Hillary Clinton was, how it was "her turn" now and so on.

Many people find women who express personal ambition unlikable.   Being unlikable is worse for female politicians than male politicians, because we expect (in almost all cultures) women to be more likable than men and therefore punish them more severely when they are not.

Then there is Beto's joke about his wife taking care of their three children, sometimes with his help.  He apologized for the joke later** and I don't think it was that terrible a joke.  It would have been perfectly funny in 1956.

Still, I wonder if the situation could successfully be reversed.  Could a female politician go on a campaign trail and joke about her husband taking care of their three children, sometimes with her help, without having her political chances seriously damaged?

I doubt that very much.

Finally, O'Rourke left an online trace of juvenile comments for which he has also strongly apologized.  Those included a few pretty sexist and misogynist comments:

In one text file that was dated to 1989, when O’Rourke was 16 or 17, “Psychedelic Warlord” described a “new creature: THE ULTRA TRENDY.” In an over-the-top sarcastic tone, Psychedelic Warlord declared these “ultra trendies” to be “a cancer that might cause the death of each and every scene across the nation.” Psychedelic Warlord went on to say that many of these “ultra trendies” are female “sluts.”
“ULTRA TRENDIES are usually the ‘scene sluts’ that many of the menfolk admire so. They show up, get drunk with the band, and tell the lead singer, ‘I really like your music. I think it’s a lot like the Sex Pistols. Sooo… you wanna fuck?’” Psychedelic Warlord wrote.
The writer went on to accuse these women of “only” liking the Sex Pistols and the group’s frontman, Sid Vicious, and suggested this affinity led them to enter into abusive relationships.
“ULTRA TRENDY females hook-up with violent boyfriends because, (yeah… you guessed it) ‘He’s so much like Sid Vicious!’” Psychedelic Warlord wrote.
After describing the characteristics of these “ultra trendies,” Psychedelic Warlord offered suggestions for how to handle these people. The ideas included encouraging interactions between the “ultra trendies” and neo-Nazis as well as mocking their appearance.
“Tell the Nazi Skins in your area that this certain ULTRA TRENDY has AIDS. … To kill an ULTRA TRENDY female, show her a picture of what she’d look like without make-up. … Tell him or her that they’re completely ugly,” Psychedelic Warlord wrote.

Now try to do a reversal on that!  I can't even imagine a female politician having anything of that sort in her past, but who knows.  I'm sure, however, that she would not be forgiven for something similar.

None of the above is aimed at O'Rourke, specifically.  Indeed, he has acted beautifully in not belittling his Democratic opponents, and I like the way he is good at thinking on his feet.

But it does point out that the rules, they are different, when it comes to women and men in politics.  The tightrope politicians work when trying to garner public approval is narrower and more frayed for women (and even more so African-American women),  and even the safety net below the female tightrope walkers is full of holes.

That's why women who commit political blunders might not be lifted up again.


*  Remember John Edwards?  He was once, too, photographed in jeans and next to a pickup truck.  That didn't ultimately work for him.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

On The Christchurch, NZ, Terrorist Massacre

I have little of any use to say about it.  I wish peace, if at all possible,  to those who lost loved ones and I wish those who were wounded a speedy return to full health, if possible.

Many terrorist attacks strike at innocent people (people who have nothing to do with any real or imaginary grievances the terrorists have) in places which are supposed to be safe, joyous and peaceful. 

Hence the choice of mosques in this case and houses of worship more generally.  Although those places are also selected so as to maximize the likelihood that the victims will belong to the loathed group alone, the choice also serves to maximize the effect of terror:  Nowhere is safe, the terrorists want all of us non-terrorists to think.

They also want to divide us into thought camps, based on the terrorists' own definitions.  That we must NOT do.  It's the extreme fringes which wage these terrorist wars against each other and, of course, mostly against the rest of us.  We must refuse to participate on either side in their private wars.

Politicians, clerics and media talking heads must take some responsibility when they sow seeds of genocidal hatred on purpose.  We must remember how the radio sowed such seeds in the Rwandan genocide. 

And we must find some way of getting a grip on the online radicalization of what looks to be mainly young men with extremist tendencies, with much more emphasis on not only Islamic radicalization but also the radicalization of white men inside the new white supremacy and ethno-nationalist movements.

All that is weak tea.  My heart is heavy today.


Rodrigo Duterte on Putas And Crazy Women. Or The Upside-Down World Of Right-Wing Autocrats.

Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines, is a silver-tongued song-lark who hates women with a hatred stronger than a thousand suns.  That's why I don't quite get how he can be the president of a country where half the citizens are female.

Duh.  Of course I get how he can be the president:  Deep, deep inside our hind brains we, including women,  are ultimately not that bothered by how women are viewed.  We are used to that.  We drink it in from the culture from almost our first breath.

But Rodrigo doesn't have to dig in his hind brain for nasty slurs about women.  They are right on the tip of that silver tongue:

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte addressed female police officers and military staff at an event intended to celebrate them earlier this week as “puta,” which translates to “bitch” in English.
While delivering remarks at an event that was meant to honor the Southeast Asian country’s Outstanding Women in Law Enforcement and National Security on Monday, Duterte addressed the overwhelmingly female audience using the profane remark, The Guardian reports. 
He also addressed them as “you crazy women” and lamented women who he said deprive him “of my freedom of expression,” according to the international news agency. 
Duterte also reportedly told the crowd at one point, “I love women.”
“That’s why you see I have two wives. That means I like women,” he continued.*

Does any of that sound familiar to you?  A little Trumpish?  Or like some of the comments of Brazil's right-wing president, Jair Bolsanaro?

Hungary's president Victor Orban, Russia's president Vladimir Putin and Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan tend not to use such vulgar language when speaking about women, but they, too, are very much invested in getting women back into the kitchen and into their main business of breeding more citizens.  And so are the leaders of ISIS and right-wing white terrorist movements.

The Boyz of Patriarchy.

If you are interested in learning more on this topic, consult my earlier post and the references in it.


*  That last paragraph is a really common trick among misogynists.  They tell us that they love women roughly the same way I love spaghetti with pesto.

The message is intended to confuse us and it also gives them a little giggle at managing yet another little slur against women while pretending to give a compliment.

The real point, of course, is to remind women of their proper role in life. Rush Limbaugh did that when he said that he loves the Women's Movement, especially from behind.