Friday, June 07, 2019

He Always Hated Women. Or WaPo on Misogyny and the Alt Right.

About ten years ago I spent quite a bit time surfing some of the nastiest male supremacy sites, and became very troubled by the trends I saw taking shape:

These sites were (and are) bubbles of reinforcement for misogynist beliefs as the correct beliefs.* 

The next step, advocating violence against women, seemed then quite predictable.  It, too, got and gets reinforcement on those sites.

But when I brought up the danger I saw developing, like a dark cloud moving swiftly in from a distance, I was (in many different venues) viewed as a bit deranged myself.  Mostly I was told that the men who hate women on those sites are a tiny and deranged minority and better ignored lest they get more prominence**.

That is the angle from which I read today's Washington Post article on Scott Paul Beierle, a man who shot at six women, killing two, on November 2, 2018 at a Tallahassee yoga studio.  The headline of the piece is "He Always Hated Women."

It's not only Beierle's own history as a hater of women the article covers.  It cites several other mass murders where the search for an explanation led pretty directly to the worst types of misogyny sites, and it highlights the way the misogyny and male supremacy sites are one of the channels into all the other beliefs of Alt Right***.

Sigh.  I hate being Cassandra

*  Beliefs such as

a) that women are genetically inferior, meant to be treated as such or as property or as domestic animals, and to be excluded from all public life,

b) that women, all billions of them,  are inherently and biologically nothing but scheming whores and gold-digger,


c) that any man is entitled to have sex with any woman he desires who is not  already the property of another man, which makes it unacceptable that women have any boundaries or any right of refusal.

These beliefs are reinforced on those sites, because anyone trying to introduce a bit more balanced ideas will be banned immediately.

As an aside, there is at least one male in academia who thinks of women as pecan pies or something similar in this context.

** I was also concerned over the fact that these sites are similar to those anorexia sites which encouraged starving and offered applause when someone had managed to go from 110 pounds to 90 pounds. In other words, the actual pain of the men commenting on those sites did not get the professional help it requires.

*** From the WaPo article:

“Incels are full of rage, and it is trivial to turn these guys into kike haters,” explained one of Anglin’s sidekicks, Andrew Auernheimer, known online as Weev, in a Daily Stormer post. “Few people have ever personally had their life harmed by a Jew (in a direct, personally observable sense), but every single breathing man has had it f----- up by multiple selfish, scheming hookers (likely starting with their own mothers).”
The ugly rhetoric can lead to violence. The 19-year-old nursing student alleged to have opened fire in a San Diego-area synagogue in April cited, among a litany of anti-Semitic conspiracies, the role of Jews in promoting feminism.
Incel adherents in particular — who dream of destroying the women they long for, derisively nicknamed “Stacys,” and the attractive men, “Chads,” who have better luck — have emerged as killers.

Books As An Anti-Depressant in the Trump Era

My own fiction reading for pleasure is rapidly sliding back in history.  The further I am from the present era and its myriad problems, the more relaxed I become.

This trend began right around the Day of the Apocalypse in November of 2016 when my light reading turned into re-reading 1920s and 1930s novels and detective stories.

At some point I began reading all of the 19th century British novels (and reading some I hadn't read before):  Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, William Makepeace Thackeray's Vanity Fair, Thomas Hardy,  George Eliot, Charles Dickens and many more.

My poetry reading has also crept backward in time so that I now mainly read Emily Dickinson, TS Eliot and Ezra Pound, as well as poets from much further in the past.

All those lists are only about those who wrote in English, of course.  But Dostoyevsky, Turgenev, Gogol, Camus and many other writers who did not write in English are also back in my daily reading schedule.

As my emotional agony grew with every new example of how terrible Trump, the right-wingers and also some left-wing circular firing squads are now, and how very little any kind of logic or facts matter in politics, my reading moved  even further back in time:  I am now re-reading Miguel de Cervantes' Don Quixote.

Very soon I will have to read The Tale of Genji again!  Some consider it the first known novel.  It was written in the 11th century in Japan by Murasaki Shikibu, a noblewoman and lady-in-waiting.

Reading very old books takes me away from the unreal reality we live in today.  This is not something dystopian science-fiction novels would do, because they might now have to be reclassified as non-fiction.

But an added gift I receive from those old books is to be reminded that every place in every past time period thought that the values, biases, social hierarchies and sex roles which then prevailed were the obvious, natural and god-given ones*.

Some classics challenged the biases of the time when they written, true, but even then the challenges were partial.  Dickens, for example, drew attention to the plight of the poor and the dangers of capitalistic greed, but at the same time was quite adamant that women belonged in the home (first mis-typed that as "hole") and that families should be patriarchal.

The other way that realization was a gift to me is this:  We should take care that we don't repeat that same mistake today.  It seems to be a human tendency, a widespread human arrogance, to view one's own era as the one in which all answers are going to be  found, when every medical study is going to be the final word on how to cure some illness (only to be refuted in the next era), and so on.

We need more humility, skepticism and debates.  Oh, and a lot more use of that thing which some assume to exist only to keep our ears apart and to give head hair a flat surface to grow on.


* The Tale of Genji is such a good example of that.  He is the hero of the book, even though his love life we would now call the life of a serial rapist.  But in that time and place noblemen were allowed to have almost any woman they lusted for.  That behavior does not count against Genji in the book.  Indeed, in one story he is praised for the gentle way he extorted sex from a young woman.

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

The Centenary of The Nineteenth Amendment

The Nineteenth Amendment passed the US Senate exactly one hundred years ago, the House having passed it a few days earlier:

The opening of the Amendment's text reads, "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation."
The passing of the Nineteenth Amendment did not initially mean a new-and-immediate franchise for all American women*, but it was a necessary stage in the very long, and still uncompleted,  progress to more equality in the rights of men and women.  Some of that equality is now endangered.


* This WaPo article discusses the history of African-American women's participation in the suffrage-movement and the racism within the movement.

It also covers the fact that many Native American women wielded political power long before the white settlers arrived to this continent:

“It didn’t start with white women; that’s not the point of entry into women having political voice,” said Sally Roesch Wagner, who received one of the first doctorates in the country for women’s studies, while at the University of California at Santa Cruz. “Indigenous women have had a political voice in their nations long before white settlers arrived.”
All of which is important to add to the American form of how-women-won-the-suffrage.

However, that article — and almost all the coverage of the Nineteenth Amendment I have skimmed today — ignores the fact that women already had the vote in many other countries with different histories.

For instance, in Finland:

The area that in 1809 became Finland was a group of integral provinces of the Kingdom of Sweden for over 600 years. Thus, women in Finland were allowed to vote during the Swedish Age of Liberty (1718–1772), during which conditional suffrage was granted to tax-paying female members of guilds.[113] However, this right was controversial. In Vaasa, there was opposition against women participating in the town hall discussing political issues, as this was not seen as their right place, and women's suffrage appears to have been opposed in practice in some parts of the realm: when Anna Elisabeth Baer and two other women petitioned to vote in Turku in 1771, they were not allowed to do so by town officials.[114]
The predecessor state of modern Finland, the Grand Duchy of Finland, was part of the Russian Empire from 1809 to 1917 and enjoyed a high degree of autonomy. In 1863, taxpaying women were granted municipal suffrage in the country side, and in 1872, the same reform was given to the cities.[109] In 1906, it became the first country in the world to implement full universal suffrage, as women could also stand as candidates. It also elected the world's first female members of parliament the following year.[115][116]

My point is not to single out Finland for praise (well, not my only point...), but to remind you, my sweet and erudite readers (who would never be guilty of this), that the general thought frames used in analyzing US politics often simply ignore everything that happened or happens elsewhere as unimportant, because of the assumed special role and elevated place of the United States), or treat most other countries as if they had or have no agency at all (because of the immense power of American imperialism).

That just might be one of the few cases where it's true that "both sides do it," though for different reasons.

Sunday, June 02, 2019

Echidne's Music Hour. Pekka Streng

I learned about Pekka Streng, a Finnish musician,  only yesterday.  He died in 1975 at the age of twenty-six, of cancer.  He knew that he was terminally ill when he began making songs and recording, and the lyrics show this.  He seems to have reached a higher spiritual plane of existence, able to feel joy in circumstances where others would only find despair.

This is his song about reincarnation:

 It's called Back In The Stream.

My translation of the lyrics:

Back in the stream,
to the dawn of my time.
My face turns into countless others.
My color changes, my race changes
When back in the stream I receive
ancient shapes*.

Back in the stream.
Back in the stream.

Back in the stream,
to the time of childhood.
I will be born and I will die
and again I shall be allowed to
live old age.

I am an Indian woman
or a tiny infant.
Centuries pass, all changes shape.

Back in the stream.
Back in the stream.

Back in the stream,
the dark bird of the night
rises on its wings,
flies into the past time,
into the colorful procession of days,
and there I see that the causes for my present time
are my choices.

Back in the stream.
Back in the stream.

To the dawn of humankind
Into the wordless pain of suffering eyes.
Now I know, now I know:
After this birth
when I return to the past
something wonderful
will follow.

Back in the stream.
Back in the stream.

I also like this piece by him:

It's called In the Garden

My translation:

Leafy trees and perennials,
vines, fruit, bleached bones.
Plants which during the day watch with gentle eyes
and which during the night sing a lament.
Plants which take years off our age when we watch them
and plants which deepen the grooves in our faces when they die.

Annabella dances in the garden
where she walks around,
watering the seedlings.
Robert the Hat** tells stories to the plants,
for flowers make excellent listeners.

Tree ferns and frogs
goblins, fairies and daisies.
From your heart flow many springs.

*  This is a really tough bit to translate.  "Menneet hahmot saan."  A literal translation is that he will be given shapes from the past or past shapes.  I interpret this as meaning that when one dies one returns to the very beginning where all the possible shapes already exist.  But other readings are possible and perhaps better.

** I have no idea who or what this is.  So I translated the name from the Finnish Roope to the English Robert.