Friday, December 20, 2019

My Word For 2019

Would have to be "gaslighting."  The wild, wonderful and frightening world of online politics is full of gaslighting, and that's why we have so much trouble seeing clearly.

I keep catching myself being successfully gaslit ever so often, from misogyny (franchised, trademarked and sold as something seemingly reasonable) to economics to general politics and, in particular, Trumpian political arguments.

The difficulty with gaslighting, as with some other concepts one starts to come across frequently, is that because it has become so common the brain no longer gets that instantaneous red alert signal.  I thank all the divines that my brain is equipped with some creature with a tiny voice but an insistent knock at the doors of my awareness until I open the imaginary door and a notice is put through it saying "psst! you got taken there."  This helps me nine times out of ten, though usually a few hours or days after the event happened.

Given that it's now going to be the season of candles, I wish that those gas lights could be turned off.

The Global Gender Gap Report 2019

I have written about these annual global gender gap reports* before.  Here's the 2009 report, here's the 2015 report, and here are the 2016 and 2018 reports.  To explain what these reports are based on, I quote my 2018 post:**

The World Economic Forum has published an annual global gender gap report since 2006.  Four sub-indexes are aggregated to get an overall measure about average differences between men and women in four areas:  economic participation and opportunity, health and survival, educational attainment and political participation.

The index has its problems.  For example, the health sub-index does not measure reproductive choice.  But it also has certain advantages.  It compares countries with others of roughly the same income level, and because it has been published for over a decade, it lets us analyze progress (or lack of progress) over time.

The United States in the most recent report*** ranks 53rd among the included countries, two ranks below last year's placement.  According to the report, progress in the United States has stalled, and it has dropped two ranks in the overall results mostly due to a "small retraction in its Economic Participation and Opportunity performance, where the progress towards equal wages takes a step back and at the same time income (wages and non-wages) gaps remain large."

The ten highest ranking countries in gender equality are, from the first to the tenth:  Iceland, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Nicaragua, New Zealand, Ireland, Spain, Rwanda and Germany.  The Nordic countries always lead this particular pack (a partial explanation for why I turned out as irritating as I did...) and Rwanda has been in the top ten since 2015 at least****. 

The ten countries at the bottom of the ranking are, from the tenth from the bottom to the country ranked the worst in gender equality:  Oman, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Chad, Iran, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria, Pakistan, Iraq and Yemen. Though Iraq, Syria and Yemen are all war-torn countries, Yemen has been the lowest ranked country many years before the current hostilities.  As I wrote in my last year's post, the Muslim countries urgently need strong feminist movements.

As has been the case in the past, the report calculates how many years it would take to achieve gender parity (based on the definitions and data the report uses), assuming that progress (or its opposite) continues at the same pace in the future:

Projecting current trends into the future, the overall global gender gap will close in 99.5 years, on average, across the 107 countries covered continuously since the first edition of the report. 

Lack of progress in closing the Economic Participation and Opportunity gap leads to an extension of the time it will be needed to close this gap. At the slow speed experienced over the period 2006–2020, it will take 257 years to close this gap. 

The second area where gender gaps will take longest to close is Political Empowerment. This year’s evolution speeds up the pace of progress towards parity, yet it will still take 94.5 years—even at this faster rate—to close the gender gap.

Third, the Educational Attainment gender gap is on track to be closed over the next 12 years, mainly thanks to advancements in some developing countries. The Health and Survival gender gap remains virtually unchanged since last year. Globally, the time to fully close this gap remains undefined, while gender parity has been already fully achieved in 40 countries among the 153 covered by this edition of the report.
That 99.5 year figure looks quite depressing, though not as depressing as the 257 years estimated for the reaching of economic equality between men and women.  But it's probably even more depressing to contemplate the possibility that the recent slow-down in the reduction of the economic opportunity gap might be the first sign of a future reversal in that progress.

So let's not contemplate that.  Rather, let's take the justifiably optimistic view that so much progress in just a few hundred years is something to celebrate (with wine and chocolate), given that the system we are trying to dismantle here is thousands of years old. 
* For some reason this year's report is called the report for 2020, but it's actually for 2019.  Note that "gender" in these reports is essentially the same as biological sex, so the reports measure the impact of being biologically female and viewed as one or at least the latter.

**  As I mention in the 2018 post, the health index used in creating the aggregate index does not include reproductive health measures.  Keep that in mind when you wonder why some unlikely countries seem to rank fairly high.

***  All the quotes in this post are from the downloaded report which you can access at this link.

****  You can read more about the ten top countries in the report itself, starting on page 27.  US is discussed in the section following that one.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

The Funeral Of Feminist Blogs

The blog Feministing is ceasing its operations, New York Times tells us, while also telling us that the heyday of feminist blogs is over.  It does look like that, of course, given the long list of sites which have stopped operations (or changed, over time, into something rather different and not very feminist):  Feministing, the Establishment, Broadly, the Hairpin, Xo Jane and on and on and on.  And the sites which remain have often become corporate ones:

...Jezebel is under new management, part of a stable of publications run by the hedge fund-controlled ownership group, G/O Media, that recently set off a staff exodus at the sports site Deadspin. Feminist media has been especially hard hit by the financial turbulence in the news industry.


The Frisky is still around (sort of), but it has lost its old identity under its new owner, Nebojsa Vujinovic, a Serbian music producer. Recent headlines on the site include “Justin Bieber Has a New Tattoo!” and “Meghan Markle and Adele Had a Secret Meeting!” That’s a long way from the mix of political and sharp lifestyle coverage that filled the welcome page before the sale.

The linked article suggests that these funeral feasts are because success eats its own parents:  Many of the writers who began those blogs are now working in mainstream media and many of the issues those blogs advanced are now included in the mainstream media.

That could be the case, sure.  But then it would also be true that those pipelines the feminist blogs once created to feed talented women into mainstream media are now ceasing operations. 

Other explanations* for the graveyard of feminist blogs are possible:  Feminism can be co-opted to serve other purposes**, whether political or commercial, and watered-down or obfuscated takes on feminism are now pretty common.

Or so I think. But then I am a dinosaur, of course, outdated, fossilized and all that.

This is very freeing.  Because I never totally focused my feminist analysis on popular culture or the general (sexist) social norms affecting young women, the demise of feminist blogs which did just that doesn't affect me directly (though of course I grieve their passing).  Pseudoscience about sex differences, evolutionary psychology, and women's global issues have never been topics which attracted lots of feminist blogs.  Writing on them has always been a solitary activity, suitable for the last dinosaur standing.  Or  for weird snake goddesses***.


*  Such as the difficulty of starting anything similar to a feminist blog today, what with a much more mature online environment where few niches are left unfilled. 

But mostly, and this is important, Twitter and Facebook have taken over from blogs in general, and from feminist blogs, in particular.  Blogs were used as places to chat with other people who shared similar interests (or who violently disagreed with those).  Today those chats can be had in many other places.

** Because feminist causes can still attract a fairly wide audience, commercial uses of feminism are not uncommon, and if other political causes can be linked to feminism that wide audience can be harnessed for all sorts of purposes having nothing to do with the goal of equal treatment and rights of men and women.

*** This doesn't mean that I will go on forever, especially in the current political and social climate where my type of feminist work is like fighting a simultaneous war on many fronts.