Saturday, November 23, 2019

Echidne Thoughts, 11/23/19. On the Online World, Misogyny, Choking And Other Stuff

1.  If nothing else comes out of the impeachment hearings, at least more people have become familiar with the term quid pro quo.

2.  It's great fun to notice how many people in online debates say that something has been rebutted by studies without being able to bring up any of those studies.  Because few people will put their wading boots on to enter the deep waters of research to check on such assertions, those who are most assertive tend to look persuasive.

3.  Though of course giant chunks of political debates are not about facts and evidence in the first place, but about fee-fees and anger and desire for power.  Not that there's anything wrong with those latter things, but facts and evidence should also matter*.  Says she while filing her nails into talons.

4.  One of those Perfect-Hate-Combo professors has been vocal at Indiana University about the inferiority of women, gays and people of color (and those who share more than one of those groups get double- or triple-wammied by him).

He's not worth my attention, of course, but reading about his views reminded me of the way how the explanation for women's inferiority keeps changing over time.  Every time one explanation has been refuted, a new one will be created**.  It's a whack-a-mole game, my sweetings.

5.  Anal cancer cases and deaths from anal cancer are both rising in the US:

Since the 1950s, there have been substantial changes in risk factors for anal cancer, including shifts in sexual behaviors and an increased number of sexual partners, according to the study, both of which increase the likelihood of contracting HPV.
Shifts in sexual behavior may also be contributing to deaths from choking.  A recent Guardian article argues that the so-called "rough sex" defense for killing someone has become more common in court cases in the UK, and speculates about the possible reasons for it:

Prof Susan Edwards, a barrister who teaches law at the University of Buckingham, believes strangulation should be made a stand-alone offence.
“Strangulation is the cause of death in around a third of all spousal homicides,” she said. “Now there’s a burgeoning use of [rough sex excuses] because there’s greater acceptance of BDSM [bondage and sadomasochism] in relationships.”
Thirty years ago, she said, the more common excuse from a violent partner would have been that they were provoked, that it was unintentional or they lost control.
Campaigners partly blame the cultural normalisation of rough sex on the growth of violent online pornography and books such as Fifty Shades of Grey with its themes of sadomasochism.
While studying this topic I found an earlier article with this astonishing bit:

One young man who spoke to the Guardian for this piece said he chokes his girlfriend, and has done for several years, “because she likes it”. Days later, he got in touch again. “I thought about our conversation and asked her about it. She said she doesn’t actually like it; she thought I liked it. But the thing is, I don’t: I thought it’s what she wanted.”
Clearly there should be much better communication between sexual partners, better spread of health information and a strong movement to clarify to young people that online porn*** is not depicting actual sexual counters or teaching young boys and girls what women might like in sex.

6.  And a cat picture

That face reminds me of the face I get when I hear what new horror Trump has tweeted...

* For more on my thoughts about the online debates, see this post from 2018.

**  In this case he retweets a new argument that has been created to try to explain why the presence of women in academia is a bad thing.  The most common earlier argument against women getting educated was that educated women will never be able to find a partner and will live and die alone, surrounded by only multiple cats which will then eat their dead corpses.  But statistics doesn't support that argument, so something else had to be created.

Well, there's always the argument that whatever is good for girls and women must be bad for boys and men, but that doesn't really fly terribly well, either.  Or the nineteenth century argument that educating women withers away their wombs and causes mental illness.

So this time we learn that the academia should have more men than women, because men are much more likely to be geniuses.   We are told that to be a genius requires not only that one has a very high IQ but also that one has a specific personality type which is regarded to be slightly more common in men (based on self-reported surveys, mind you, and not addressing the question to what extent personality types are affected by gender stereotypes). That personality type sounds to me a bit like being an asshole, to be honest.

But I know of no research that would suggest being an asshole correlates with being a genius, and I very much doubt that it does.  Besides, this particular professor probably scores very high on assholery but not on being a genius, as is clear from his arguments.

*** A 2010 study describes the prevalence and the direction of aggression in online porn:
This current study analyzes the content of popular pornographic videos, with the objectives of updating depictions of aggression, degradation, and sexual practices and comparing the study's results to previous content analysis studies.
Findings indicate high levels of aggression in pornography in both verbal and physical forms. Of the 304 scenes analyzed, 88.2% contained physical aggression, principally spanking, gagging, and slapping, while 48.7% of scenes contained verbal aggression, primarily name-calling. Perpetrators of aggression were usually male, whereas targets of aggression were overwhelmingly female. Targets most often showed pleasure or responded neutrally to the aggression.



Tuesday, November 19, 2019

On Short Hair And Gender. Or Back To The 50s Gender Norms, With A Twist?

I have very very short hair, in a pixie cut.  I have worn two pairs of Converse All Stars to ground over the years, one black and one red pair, and I often buy jeans made for pre-teen boys because their cut suits me.  I spent much of my childhood playing cops and robbers and war with my boy cousins, though we also played house. 

If I asked the advice of Alex Marzano-Lesnevich on what this might mean in terms of my gender identity, they would probably suggest that I might be genderqueer.  This is because Marzano-Lesnevich  uses the above examples to explain their own road from girlhood through gayness to identifying as genderqueer in an opinion piece in this December's Harper's Bazaar.

Yet I am not genderqueer.  Indeed, I have no inner gender identity that would not be directly based on living inside this female body or on the way others have treated me because of that body (1).

To see the point where Marzano-Lesnevich's story clearly diverged from mine, read this quote about their childhood:

Soon after, I began to ignore the long hair that marked me so firmly as a girl, leaving it in the same ponytail for days on end, until it knotted into a solid, dark mass. All my friends were boys, and my dearest hours were spent playing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the lawn with my twin brother and the neighbor boy. My room was blue, and my teddy bear was blue, and the turtle I wanted to be was Leonardo, not only because he was smart but because his color was blue. When my twin brother got something I didn’t—to go to the baseball game, though we were all fans; to camp with the Boy Scouts while my sisters and I were shuttled off to the ballet; to keep the porn mags I discovered in his bedroom—and the reason given was that he was a boy, rage choked me with tears. That was grief, I think now, the grief of being misunderstood.

My own childhood rage-and-grief experiences about gender roles and sexist stereotypes primed me for my later re-birth as a feminist. I saw the whole valuation system as arbitrary and rigged and I saw the little holes into which we were slotted, presumably based on our biological sex, as horribly wrong, stifling and the basis of sex-based social hierarchies.

Marzano-Lesnevich's  childhood rage-and-grief experiences primed them to accept the system of gender rules for most others but not for themselves.  They didn't see the gender slots wrong, only insufficient in numbers and not reflecting their own gender identity.

Who is to say which of our approaches, if either, would be more effective in changing the world?  Have the years I have toiled writing feminism trying to push an immovable mountain of misogyny aside been productively spent?

Given the rapid acceptance of the alternative approach, the type espoused by Marsano-Lesnevich and many others, I now harbor grave doubts about the value of my work (2).

The new gender theory approach (3), with its essentialist assumptions about  gender roles and norms and its frequent references to pink (for those who identify as girls) and blue (for those who identify as boys) brains sounds familiar yet also revolutionary (4).

It's familiar because it partly echoes the conservative views of gender roles and norms as rigid and permanently set by our biological sex (it's girls who play with dolls), even though it dispenses with the essentialism about biological sex and chooses to essentialize gender roles, norms and stereotypes directly (if you play with dolls then you are a girl) (5).

But it's also revolutionary.  It preserves the sex-based social hierarchies but allows individuals to leap frog them as long as they settle into one gender slot and act according to that slot's requirements.  You can be anything you wish as long as you are the right gender for that (6)!

But can this new system of defining gender produce, say, economic equality between both the two old genders and all new ones?  I don't see how it could, but I of course hope to be convinced otherwise.


(1)  According to the new essentialist gender theory, I should therefore identify as agender.

But nobody would stop treating me as a woman if I did that!  That's because large chunks of sexism and gender discrimination are not based on inner identities but on how others see us.  For others not to see our biological sex, body modifications through hormones or surgery are necessary for most.  That is a steep price to pay for gender equality.  And it would be a private solution of no help for the billions of other women who suffer from sex-based oppression in this world.

That I have no gender identity myself does not mean that I would not allow others to use the concept to define their own gender, mind you.  I also get that the reasons for transitioning are serious and painful ones and may have nothing to do with attempts to evade being a target for misogyny. For some trans women, at least, the transitioning leads into more oppression.

(2)  For instance, I have spent over a decade trying to show the errors in neurosexist research biased toward digging up innate sex differences between men and women.  This effort looks rather pointless in today's political climate where both the political right and much of the political left view traditional gender roles, norms and stereotypes as essentialist, not as at least partially culturally constructed ot as the way women's subjugation is actually maintained.

(3) I hasten to add that what I am writing in this post is not about the reasons why transgender people transition, in general, but about one particular "woke" story concerning a nonbinary gender identity and its not-so-woke shadow.

(4)  Familiar because of the popularity of the search for distinctly female (pink) and male (blue) brains in neurosexist research,  though in that they are still firmly linked to female and male bodies.  In the new gender theory that link is broken so that anyone can possess a pink brain, for example. 

(5)  Linked to footnote (3),  I stress that the above is a false (but common) popularized version of what it means to work with gender identities rather than with biological sex.  It's not the way psychologists identify transgender teens (or should identify them), for instance. But it's not a rare take on the issues in online writings.

(6)  Note that for some individuals to be nonbinary, it's necessary for most others to be regarded as firmly binary.

To be "genderqueer" (a gender which seems to be defined as consisting of breaking binary gender norms) requires the assumption that most others enforce those binary gender norms and roles.  To be a feminist doesn't require any such identification, yet, at least in my view, results in the exactly same breaking of gender norms, and, at least in theory, to the benefit of more people.