When you can't live without bananas

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Saturday, December 28, 2013

There lived a King

DON AL. There lived a King, as I've been told,
  In the wonder-working days of old,
  When hearts were twice as good as gold,
   And twenty times as mellow.
  Good-temper triumphed in his face,
  And in his heart he found a place
  For all the erring human race
   And every wretched fellow.
  When he had Rhenish wine to drink
  It made him very sad to think
  That some, at junket or at jink,
   Must be content with toddy.

MAR. and GIU. With toddy, must be content with toddy.

DON AL. He wished all men as rich as he
  (And he was rich as rich could be),
  So to the top of every tree
   Promoted everybody.

MAR. and GIU. Now, that's the kind of King for me.
  He wished all men as rich as he,
  So to the top of every tree
   Promoted everybody!

DON AL. Lord Chancellors were cheap as sprats,
  And Bishops in their shovel hats
  Were plentiful as tabby cats--
   In point of fact, too many.
  Ambassadors cropped up like hay,
  Prime Ministers and such as they
  Grew like asparagus in May,
   And Dukes were three a penny.
  On every side Field-Marshals gleamed,
  Small beer were Lords-Lieutenant deemed,
  With Admirals the ocean teemed
   All round his wide dominions.

MAR. and GIU. With Admirals all round his wide dominions.

DON AL. And Party Leaders you might meet
  In twos and threes in every street
  Maintaining, with no little heat,
   Their various opinions.

MAR. and GIU. Now that's a sight you couldn't beat--
  Two Party Leaders in each street
  Maintaining, with no little heat,
   Their various opinions.

DON AL. That King, although no one denies
  His heart was of abnormal size,
  Yet he'd have acted otherwise
   If he had been acuter.
  The end is easily foretold,
  When every blessed thing you hold
  Is made of silver, or of gold,
   You long for simple pewter.
  When you have nothing else to wear
  But cloth of gold and satins rare,
  For cloth of gold you cease to care--
   Up goes the price of shoddy.

MAR. and GIU. Of shoddy, up goes the price of shoddy.

DON AL. In short, whoever you may be,
  To this conclusion you'll agree,
  When every one is somebodee,
   Then no one's anybody!

MAR. and GIU. Now that's as plain as plain can be,
  To this conclusion we agree--

ALL.  When every one is somebodee,
   Then no one's anybody!

From: The Gondoliers / Gilbert and Sullivan

This is usually quoted as:

"When every one is somebody, Then no one's anybody!"

See also:

Balderdash: Against Equality Again

Friday, December 27, 2013

The problem with privilege-checking

The problem with privilege-checking

"The left, it’s fair to say, has a long tradition of infighting. Groups with only a hair’s breadth difference in ideology splinter off into rival factions, aggressively defending their interpretation of the One True Path. It’s the perfect example of what Freud called “the narcissism of small differences”: communities with adjoining territories and seemingly identical goals who engage in constant feuding, striking outlandish poses to differentiate themselves from one another...

While the idea is obviously born out of honourable intentions, I believe the whole discourse around privilege is inherently destructive – at best, a colossal distraction, and at worst a means of turning us all into self-appointed moral guardians out to aggressively police even fellow travellers’ speech and behaviour.

Why does this matter, you ask? The answer is simple: it matters because privilege-checking has thoroughly infected progressive thought. While large swathes of the left are obsessively pouncing on verbal slips on Twitter, the right are acting: systematically deconstructing not just the welfare state, but the state itself.

Privilege-checking plays into the dangerous postmodern fallacy that we can only understand things we have direct experience of. In place of concepts like empathy and imagination, which help us recognise our shared humanity, it atomises us into a series of ever-smaller taxonomical groups: working class transsexual, disabled black woman, heteronormative male.

Worse still, it emasculates political activity. A very talented blogger friend of mine read Owen Jones’ Chavs and said it made them “very aware of my middle class privilege”. Personally, it made me want to burn down the Department of Work and Pensions. My friend is deeply involved in activism, but for many simply being aware of their privilege has taken on the same function as an online petition, a way of feeling like you’ve made a difference without actually getting involved.

In many respects, the system of privilege-checking is the perverse mirror reflection of unregulated capitalism: whereas an unstinting belief in free markets requires an attitude of triumphalism and an aggressive lack of empathy, “privilege” requires an attitude of constant self-abasement worthy of someone going through a 12-step program...

There’s a world of difference between taking someone to task for voicing racist, sexist or transphobic views and snarkily asking someone to check their privilege because they expressed themselves slightly clumsily. Rather than stopping at calling out bigots, privilege-checking turns us all into private sleuths, constantly on the lookout for linguistic slip-ups.

The kind of semantic nit-picking that “privilege” encourages is aloof thought, un-coupled from questioning or attempting to change the hegemonic order. It’s a kind of identity politics which assumes the post-ideological position as fact and embraces the idea that nothing will change beyond small shifts. Within this assumed safety net you’re given your own playspace to act out divisive and willifully obscurantist verbal games. Corporate lobbyists couldn’t invent a better system for neutralising collective action if they tried.

Also implicit in this new conception of “privilege” is a simple idea: the more points you score on the privilege bingo card, the less weight your view carries. This has the catastrophic effect of turning debates about racism, sexism, transphobia, class and disability into a game of Top Trumps, but equally importantly, it ignores the long history of social progressives, from Karl Marx to Tony Benn, who hail from privileged backgrounds.

Privilege becomes an inescapable feedback loop: any attempt to critique privilege-checking is met with the retort: “You’re privileged enough to have the luxury not to think about privilege.” But that’s not it. I’ve always been aware that as a child of a white, middle-class family, I have life easier than some people – but that’s precisely what drives me on to seek social justice for those less fortunate than myself. Prejudice exists. We live in a radically unjust world. But turning our personal circumstances into some sort of pissing contest achieves precisely nothing.

If you want an example of how ridiculous the culture of privilege-checking has become, take this from male transsexual Gethin Jones’s piece on transphobia for brilliant feminist site The F-Word: “As a trans man, they [transphobic bloggers] accuse me of being a misogynist, having transitioned to gain male privilege and of being a "lesbian in denial" (unlikely, considering my bisexuality). Allegations of transitioning for the purpose of gaining privilege irritate me, considering the cisgender privilege I’ve lost through doing so.”

This is a textbook example of this kind of privilege-checking taken to its logical conclusion. Is this really how we want to live? Constantly weighing up our every action against some theoretical checklist? The cosmic irony at play here is that the very concept of “privilege” is inherently privileged, requiring a nuanced understanding of complex sociological ideas on race, sexuality and gender."


"If "check your privilege" wasn't mainly used as a different way of saying "I can't refute your argument, so I have to shut you up", I'd be more sympathetic."

"The 'social justice warrior' who informed a Jewish friend of mine that the Holocaust was 'ages ago', that she ought to get over it and check her privilege, and that she couldn't possibly understand discrimination because she wasn't black is a particularly egregious example in my own social circle. Bingo...."

"Regardless of whether or not the concept is valid (I don't think it is, because it applies group statistics e.g. how much more men get paid than women to individuals) I'm only human and there is only so long I am willing to sit and be told off for my ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender. Why am I going to associate with a movement where the tendency is to insult me in these terms whenever I try to contribute anything?"

"I am increasingly reluctant to describe myself as a feminist because of the level of semantic wanking that seems to be going on at present. The people who tend to be the worst offenders also seem to be the most practically ineffectual. I'm reminded of Marxist Man at university (we all knew him) who would lecture you for hours on linguistic and conceptual minutiae and not let you get a word in edgeways."

"You should both scurry back to tumblr where you can fight the good fight against the cissarchy without having any disgusting heteronormative white males invade your tolerance sphere with their horrifying trigger words."

[In response to a Marxist] "My Grandfather and 3 of his brothers were "subsistence farmers" in Europe before the second world war, they came to Canada for a better life because being a subsistence farmer sucks.
You obviously not know what you're talking about!"

"Marxist orginial interpretation is already understood from the Critical School and the structural theory as falling in the same iron-cage as liberalism, labelling all forms of humanity according to ideals reified and uncontestables, and an exacerbated individualism that destroys any form of meaningful tradition, instead, selling people as mere organic elements to a system that only recognizes them as productive unit. Yet a man named Marx still left us a certain understanding of the super-structures that ride modern society, we should, just perhaps, point against them, instead of creating new cathegories, breaking gender identity, for the market agents to enslave difference under consumer cathegories and imaginary egoistical distinctions."

"you will mostly come across this doctrine in feminist circles, not anti-cuts circles."

"My brother in law was trying to renew his insurance ona car or something- he was told he wasn't mrs lewis- he asked why it mattered and was answered with some nonsense about data protection. He promptly insisted that he was mrs Lewis without changing his voice on bit. He was challenged, at which point he counterd with a risk of lawsuit on the grounds of discrimnation against his male sounding voice! They took his money and we all enjoyed the laugh...
It's the small victories!"

"The problem is that people who complain about the destructiveness of privilege-checking invariably have names like "Ariel Meadows Stalling.""

"How exactly is a person's name or their upbringing more important than the integrity of their argument or the scope of their ideas?"

"My name (which is actually Ariel Meadow Stallings as opposed to Meadows Stalling), is definitely not an upper class thing. It's the result of being born to two hippie parents in 1975 on the West Coast of the United States. My middle name is actually the place of my conception. (True story!)"

"What names would you find acceptable? Oliver Twist maybe?"

Author's comment:

"When I talk about people "pouncing on linguistic slip-ups on Twitter" that is NOT code for "I want to be able to say lots of offensive things with impunity". I'm not referring to people using the N-word or calling someone a "tranny". I'm talking about people trawling looking to find offence. The response to this piece has thrown up some beautiful examples. Among the many valid criticisms, I've also been called out for:

- using the phrase "12-step programme" (disrespectful to alcoholics and drug users)
- using the phrase "pissing contest" (sexist, although as far as I'm aware, women do urinate too)
- using the word "emasculate" (phallocentric)"

Thursday, December 26, 2013

God Hates the Privileged

Online bullying – a new and ugly sport for liberal commenters | Ariel Meadow Stallings | Comment is free | theguardian.com

I'm the Seattle-based publisher of a network of lifestyle websites read by roughly one million people each month. Almost all of our readers are women, most of them are educated and many of them are quite politically liberal. Because of this large, diverse and progressive readership, we deal with community issues that perhaps wouldn't be such a problem on smaller sites. And lately, I've started to notice a disturbing trend.

Over the past couple of years, I've watched the rise of a new form of online performance art, where liberal internet commenters make public sport of flagging potentially problematic language as insensitive, and gleefully calling out authors as needing to "check their privilege" (admit their privileged position within society and its associated benefits).

As a publisher serving readers who identify as both progressive and marginalised (in many different, varying ways), this issue is hugely important to me – I'm protective of the quality of debate on my sites. As a progressive myself, it's also complex and challenging because while I very much share the political values of the folks who engage in this kind of thing, I'm not on board with the tactics – which essentially amount to liberal bullying, and are way worse than anything I see from the conservatives who swing by my publications. The sad truth is that when it comes to the motivations behind this kind of commenting, it's basically the same as the GOD HATES FAGS guys – even though the values are the polar opposite.

Common trends in this online behaviour:

• Focus on very public complaints. I can think of exactly one time when someone emailed their concern about problematic language. These complaints seem to be always intended for an audience.

• Lack of interest in a dialogue. These complaints aren't questions or invitations to discuss the issue. They're harshly worded accusations and scoldings (which I've written about before).

Lack of consideration for the context or intent. The focus is on this isolated incident (this one post, this one word, this one time), with de-emphasis on the author's background, experience, or the context of the website on which the post appears.

• And on a more stylistic note, these complaints are often prefaced with phrases like "Um," and other condescending affectations.

It's challenging for me because the values motivating these complaints are completely in line with both my personal politics and my professional passion for catering to niche markets and semi-marginalised cultures (I say "semi-marginalised" because let's get real here: readers of my websites are more likely to be a 20-something white plus-size roller derby player or an introverted 30-something information sciences grad student – neither of whom who are marginalised in the same way as, say, a gay Cambodian amputee immigrant living in Mexico City).

Increasingly, I've started recognising this kind of behaviour for what it is: privilege-checking as a form of internet sport. It's a kind of trolling, with all the politics I agree with, but motivations and execution that turns my stomach. It's well-intended (so well-intended), but when the motivations seem to be less about opening dialogue about the issues, and more about performance, righteousness, and intolerance toward those who don't agree with you … well, I'm not on board.

This is where it starts to feel like the "GOD HATES FAGS!" sign-wavers. While the political sentiments are exactly opposite, the motivations are remarkably similar: I WOULD LIKE TO DERAIL THIS CONVERSATION AND HAVE AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE WITNESS HOW RIGHT I AM. I don't care if your politics are progressive and your focus is on social justice: if you're shouting at people online and refusing to have a dialogue, you're bullying. I don't care if you're fighting the good fight: if you're fighting in a way that's more about public performance, shaming and righteousness, I'm not fighting with you.

… Even if I agree with your goals.

My big challenge is knowing how to respond to this kind of feedback, which comes in almost daily. Sometimes it feels like I have two options:

• Acquiesce to every complaint of anyone anywhere on the internet, until we're putting trigger warnings at the top of posts that mention balloons because some people are globophobic (TRUE STORY!).

• Align myself with insensitive assholes who defend their right to hate speech.

Again, as a liberal I'm deeply conflicted about this issue. I love observing and following the ways that language shifts. It's exciting and fascinating to watch as the semantics of marginalised communities evolve. I recently had to talk to my ageing lesbian mother and her partner about how the word "tranny" causes a lot of issues for folks in the transgender community. My mothers are totally aligned with the cause and totally active in LGBT communities … they just hadn't got the latest memo.

I'm totally on board with the reasoning behind shifting the language from "illegal immigrants" to "undocumented immigrants." I get why the word "gypsy" is problematic. I've appreciated the lively discussions I've had with readers about words like "Derp" and "Tribe" (because these were discussions. Dialogues).

I love learning new things about how cultures are defining themselves. I love that people take the time to try to improve my publications by sharing the latest language that communities are using. I love that readers feel safe enough to voice their concerns. I love this shared concern for sensitivity around language. I love the social justice motivations, and the encouragement that we all be self-aware of how the language we use has powerful, sometime unexpected impacts on the people around us.

BUT. But. Seriously, I'm just not down with:

• The derailing of conversations to debate semantics.

• The need to process it all publicly ("Look at me look at me look at meeee! I am the very MOST aware of my privilege and am therefore the very BEST progressive on the entire internet!").

• The righteousness.

• The intolerance and inability to respect that those who share your values might not share your opinions on this particular subject.

This is where this kind of conversation begins to feel more like liberal bullying, where the only correct response is agreeing and acquiescing. Any other response is seen as ignorant at best, hateful at worst.

My priorities with online discourse are dialogue and respect. In my little corner of the online world, I keep my focus on constructive critique and articulate, compassionate communication. Shouting down people who disagree with you (even if I agree with your argument) simply doesn't feel productive or helpful. If I had a dollar for every time we have to delete a blog comment that I personally agreed with because it was stated as an attack … I could shift my whole business model. Being an asshole: it's not just for the GOD HATES FAGS people any more.

Ultimately, when these complaints come up (which has slowly gone from "monthly" to "weekly" to "almost daily"), my editors respond with comments like: "I understand what you're saying, and share your concern – but I disagree that this usage is problematic." Alternately, sometimes we just say: "I agree that this usage is problematic, but I'm going to leave it." I want to make sure that folks know readers' concerns are heard, but that it doesn't always guarantee that we'll make changes.

We're especially unlikely to make changes when readers engage in performance art privilege checking and refuse to have a direct dialogue with us. I often respond to a semantics-debating comment with an invitation for the commenter to email me directly to discuss the issue. Almost no one ever does. Apparently, having a one-on-one dialogue with a publisher isn't as edifying as performance art.

For those of you who like to fight the good fight for social justice and language sensitivity online, before writing that Tumblr missive or firing off that privilege-checking comment, I'd love to encourage you to take a moment to ask yourself these questions:

• Am I living my values with this exchange? If my goal is tolerance and sensitivity, am I embodying both those values in this conversation?

• What are my motivations here? Do I want to make a difference, or just feel like I'm right? What would "making a difference" look like in this context?

• Is this person an ally? How can I best communicate with them to ensure they stay that way?

• What is my ultimate goal in my activism? Is this exchange the best use of my time to achieve that ultimate goal?

In terms of my ultimate goal with this post: I want to support progressive activists in their very important work for social justice, but also beg them to carefully consider their methods and strategies with online communication. We're fighting for the same team, here. I wish we didn't have to spend so much time fighting with each other.


"[Talking about Privilege] ends up devolving into people shouting at each other about how privileged they are, dog-piling commentators/authors for an innocent use of insulting words (on a different forum I saw an absolute free for all because someone had used the gender-loaded term "feisty" to describe a woman) and all manner of horrors. Perhaps the worst is when "privilege wars" kick off... again on a different forum I saw one author (a female) using racially insensitive terms which led to her being dog-piled... but in doing so one of the commentators called her a "bitch" so that commentator got dog-piled... until someone described them as "retarded" and they were dog-piled and so on and so forth...

Shouldn't "motherfucker" have been immediately nixxed as a clear trigger for those who have been affected by incest, regardless of the offence of the term in general?"

Links - 26th December 2013

Muscle-Pain Reliever Is Blamed for Staten Island Runner’s Death - New York Times - "The athlete, Arielle Newman, a cross-country runner at Notre Dame Academy on Staten Island, died after her body absorbed high levels of methyl salicylate, an anti-inflammatory found in sports creams like Bengay and Icy Hot"

Getting and using a horse passport - GOV.UK - "All horses, ponies and donkeys must have a horse passport.
The passport helps:
make sure horses treated with certain medicines don’t end up as food for people
prevent the sale of a stolen horse, pony or donkey, as the passport proves its identity
The animal’s rider or keeper must have the passport with them at all times when they’re with the animal, unless it’s in a stable, grazing in a field, or being moved by foot. Owners can take their animals for short rides without one.
You (or the animal’s main keeper) may have to show the passport to a Trading Standards inspector or an animal health officer."

Badass of the Week: Murad IV - "Murad then outlawed coffee, smoking, and drinking in his empire, made these offenses all punishable by death, and closed every bar and coffee shop in Turkey claiming that they were places where people could meet up and talk shit about the government and play a lot of shitty music he wasn't in the mood to hear... Of course, it also bears mentioning here that even though the sentence for public intoxication was immediate no-questions-asked summary execution by scimitar, Murad himself was a crazy raging alcoholic who once wrote, "Even if rivers become wine they wouldn't fill my glass." When someone asked him about the double standard, he said, "Wine is such a devil that I have to protect my people by drinking all of it"... In order to ensure that his rules were being followed, Murad was famous for going out into the city in the middle of the day, dressed in normal robes, and carrying a sword under his clothes. If he saw someone doing something he didn't approve of, he whipped out his blade and decapitated them. Of course, the things he didn't like weren't always things that were specifically illegal – like one time he beheaded a musician for playing a Persian song in a bazaar. Another time some annoying chicks were singing really loudly and really badly so he had them all tied into sacks and thrown in the river. On yet another occasion he saw some perverted asshole climbing onto the roof of his house to try and look into the Sultan's harem (the place where his hundreds of hot girlfriends lived) so he drew a rifle and sniped the would-be Peeping Tom from a hundred yards away"

Someone needs to fight the selfish, short-sighted old - "One of the Conservatives' key election promises was to protect NHS spending in real terms. More health spending means overwhelmingly more spending on the old, and more tax paid by the young. Old: 4. Young: 0.
Take climate change. For the old, the slowness of environmental ruin spells little lifetime danger. Instead, it means the inconvenience of wind turbines spoiling a view. So we have offshore turbines costing 60% more: it is more expensive repairing a turbine from a boat on the Dogger Bank than from a Land-Rover in Yorkshire. Old: 5. Young: 0."

The Overwhelming Heteronormativity Of ‘Born This Way’ - "We have potential. We make choices. We change. We grow. Many of us have the potential to be different to what we are- and maybe someday we will. Or we won’t. Life is complicated, and it sends us in unexpected directions sometimes. The idea of ‘born this way’ ignores all of that. ’Born this way’ introduces the idea that we have no choice in who we are, who we love, and what we do. On one hand, it encourages a horrible narrative in supporting equality- the idea that we simply can’t help who we are. Who, it asks, would ever choose such a terrible fate as to be queer? If we could be cishet we would, right? ‘Born this way’ doesn’t challenge heteronormative ideals of the superiority of particular relationship forms. It doesn’t celebrate anything about queerness- not the relationships we have, the cultures and families we create, and the things we have to teach cishet society. Instead, it asks for ‘normal’ people’s pity. Don’t be mean to us. We can’t help it. We were born this way."

AE FAQs - "Do I need a licence to import paintball guns into Singapore?
Paintball guns fall under the definition of "arms" under the Arms & Explosives Act and hence, you need a licence to import paintball guns. You can apply for a licence through a forwarding agent. However, we do not allow possession by an individual in Singapore"

Foreign Workers Paid Only $2.25 an Hour! - "Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Law K Shanmugam had visited a foreign workers’ dormitory in Yishun and had said that the foreign workers “have no complaints about working conditions, about salaries, about their employers”. It was also reported that, “he also urged the foreign workers to voice out any other concerns with regards to their wages and living conditions”... In a survey that was conducted by the Singapore Management University (SMU), it was found that, “65% of injured and salary-claim workers reported that they had been threatened by their employers with premature repatriation. Of working workers, 12% have been so threatened”. In another study conducted by TWC2, it was found that, “only 28 percent of injured workers have been offered accommodation by their employer (sometimes, MOM) post-injury”. In fact, in a study conducted by the Ministry of Manpower, it was found that, “slightly more than half of total costs (to recover from workplace injuries and ill-health actually) fall on workers themselves, when quantified into dollar terms”... Yesterday, we received a pay slip of a foreign worker. The job of the foreign worker is to be a welder and he is paid only $2.25 an hour. His monthly overall wage is only $500.13... Perhaps our policymakers might consider them as labour to be contracted, used and sent back – which might explain the knee-jerk reaction to suspend “25 private bus services which ferry workers to the area”, to take away the only leisure activity that they can have, and to even consider “housing some foreign workers at nearby offshore islands”, as National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan had suggested. In case our policymakers have forgotten, these foreign workers are human as well, and any human being should be treated with the basic respect and dignity that we would want to confer onto ourselves as well... It would be highly questionable if our policymakers deem it fit to pay themselves the highest political salaries in the world, but pay Singaporeans and foreign workers the lowest wages among the high-income countries. Such exploitation of the workers say a lot about a government, who would rather believe in “growth at all cost”, while allowing the “weakest” to be left behind. Indeed, Singaporeans have to ask ourselves – if we have a government which would treat the “weakest members” in our society with such disdain that would they treat the citizens with such unkind actions as well, and I think for many Singaporeans, we already have the answer."

London: Muslims demand ban on alcohol, threaten sellers with 40 lashes - "Brick Lane is renowned as a popular location for office Christmas parties. Protest organizers told The Times the protest was held on Friday to coincide with the large number of office workers who would be in the area for Christmas parties. The protest was led by Anjem Choudary, one of Britain’s most controversial preachers, and the former leader of the Al-Muhajiroun group, which was banned under terrorism laws. Choudary told those gathered at the protest it was his wish that Sharia law, banning alcohol, should be enforced in Britain. Around 60 men and women in burkas distributed warning letters to Muslim-owned businesses in the area. They also held up banners with slogans including: "Save lives, don't drink or sell alcohol! Stand for Shariah!" and “Islam is the perfect system for all mankind.”"

Stupidity works - The People's Funny Pictures Blog - Quora

Social encounter networks: characterizing Great Britain - "We observe that children, public-sector and healthcare workers have the highest number of total contact hours and are therefore most likely to catch and transmit infectious disease"
Children: cesspools of disease

Chinese girls still prefer sugar daddies to empty wallets - "Compared to Western men, Chinese men seem to be more willing to assume the role of financial provider. I don't want to stereotype here, and I'm sure there are exceptions, but in general Chinese girls are less shy to admit they judge men by their bank accounts and Chinese men seem to accept it as the most natural thing in the world... Chinese men tend to assume they have to do everything for their girlfriends, in trivial ways that are rarely seen in the US or Europe... Out of curiosity I once asked one of my male friends, who pays all the rent for the apartment where he and his girlfriend live together, "Why do you have to pay for everything?" His answer was, "She's such a fine girl and she spends the best years of her life with me. That's her youth and I have to cherish it and be nice to her." But isn't a guy's youth also precious? Why is it only girls' best time that is worth money?... In big cities you actually see more single girls who hunt for available men. It's not ridiculous. The reason is simple: There're just not enough good, that is, rich, guys for them. The girls would rather be single than go out with a boy with an empty wallet... if women want to be treated equally, maybe they should stop looking for men who treat them like little girls"

Games Definitely Don't Harm Kids, Says Huge Study - "A decade-long study of over 11,000 children in the UK has found no association between playing video games from as young as five, and mood or behavioural problems in later life... watching more than three hours of TV a day at the age of five did lead to a small increase in behavioural problems in youngsters between the ages of five and seven. It's worth noting too, that a much lower number of children spent as long playing video games as they did watching TV... We've reported before how video games have been found to help dyslexic children read better, and how they can also increase spacial orientation and memory formation."

Men Still Paying For Dates ... And Women Are Partly Responsible - "New research presented at the American Sociological Association's annual meeting this week found that 84 percent of men and 58 percent of women say men pay for most entertainment expenses -- even after they have been dating for some time. And while 57 percent of women say they offer to help pay, 39 percent admitted that they hoped men would reject their offers, while 44 percent were bothered when men expected them to chip in. Nearly two-thirds of men believe women should contribute to dating expenses. "One of the reasons we are interested in looking at who pays for dates is because it is one arena where women may be resisting gender changes more than men," study researcher David Frederick, an assistant professor of psychology at Chapman University in California, told The Huffington Post. "As social roles start to change, people often embrace the changes that make their lives easier, but resist the changes that make their lives more difficult"... Younger men were more likely to agree that if they paid the bill, women should engage in sexual activity"
People fight for their interests harder than for other people's rights

‘Just kidding’ not an out for online slurs (poll) - "most young people now say it’s wrong to use racist or sexist slurs online, even if you’re just kidding. But when they see them, they don’t take much personal offense. A majority of teens and young adults who use the Internet say they at least sometimes see derogatory words and images targeting various groups. They often dismiss that stuff as just joking around, not meant to be hurtful... Americans ages 14 to 24 say people who are overweight are the most frequent target, followed by gay people. Next in line for online abuse: blacks and women... Racial insults are not that likely to be seen as hurtful, yet a strong majority of those surveyed — 6 in 10 — felt comments and images targeting transgender people or Muslims are... “It’s still socially acceptable to comment on someone’s weight and what someone is eating,” said Caprigno, 18, of Norwood, Mass. “We need to change that about our culture before people realize posting stuff like that online is going to be offensive to someone.”"

Why Racism and Sexism will never go away

I was intrigued to read stories like New Research Details Strong Relationship Between White Racism and Gun Ownership and Sexist men and women -- made for each other?.

Partly it was because of the novel (even if not totally unexpected) findings, but it was more because the studies had ways of measuring racism and sexism.

Yet, when I looked more closely at how racism and sexism were measured, they were very problematic. The two scales are the Symbolic Racism Scale and the Ambivalent Sexism Inventory.

In short, these scales are fatally flawed because they do not really measure racism or sexism, but rather disagreement with standard anti-racist and anti-sexist discourse. They also confuse prescriptive and descriptive statements, i.e. what is and what should be. They are also very dependent on the American social and temporal context, making them limited in application to other countries and time periods.

Let us look at each scale.

Ambivalent Sexism Inventory: Hostile Sexism (ASI)
(I will not deal with Benevolent Sexism since I think the way it is measured is not problematic)

1) Women exaggerate problems at work
2) Women are too easily offended
3) Most women interpret innocent remarks as sexist
4) When women lose fairly, they claim discrimination
5) Women seek special favors under guise of equality
6) Feminists are making reasonable demands
7) Feminists not seeking more power than men
8) Women seek power by gaining control over men
9) Few women tease men sexually
10) Once a man commits, she puts him on a tight leash
11) Women fail to appreciate all men do for them

Source: The Ambivalent Sexism Inventory: Differentiating Hostile and Benevolent Sexism / Glick, Fiske (1996)

As can be seen, all of these items have some relationship with the real world and cannot be considered outside of this context. In other words, even if we assume for the sake of argument that in 1996 America, women did not exaggerate problems at work and so accusing them of doing so was sexist (assuming further that this is not a problem of misperception but due to bona fide sexism), if in 2016 America women really *did* exaggerate problems at work, the ASI would take this as evidence of sexism.

Of course, these are in reality propositions which are both contestable and contested (for example, women are really more easily offended than men). And some are just plain bizarre, like 11) Women fail to appreciate all men do for them; among other things, it is standard feminist dogma that men fail to appreciate all women do for them; does this mean that feminists are sexist against men?

In conclusion, the ASI is extremely dishonest - even if you believe that to be anti-feminist is to be (hostilely) sexist, the ASI makes expansive claims that define sexism extremely broadly.

(Minor point: note that this is all about sexism against women - sexism against men is ignored)

Interestingly enough, one notes that there is no item on the scale that most people would consider sexist. So in their eagerness to expose "hostile" "sexism", the authors have totally missed out real hostile sexism.

What would a real measure of Hostile Sexism look like, then? Here are some suggestions:

1) A woman's place is in the home
2) Women are inferior to men
3) Woman, without her man, is nothing
4) Things were better when women did not have the right to vote
5) Women exist to make men happy
6) Make me a sandwich

But then, using these real measures of sexism would fail to result in the "finding" that "hostile" "sexism" is well and alive even in the developed world.

For comparison, here is the The Symbolic Racism 2000 Scale, which suffers from similar problems:

1. It’s really a matter of some people not trying hard enough; if blacks would only try harder they could be just as well off as whites.
2. Irish, Italian, Jewish and many other minorities overcame prejudice and worked their way up. Blacks should do the same.
3. Some say that black leaders have been trying to push too fast. Others feel that they haven’t pushed fast enough. What do you think?
4. How much of the racial tension that exists in the United States today do you think blacks are responsible for creating?
5. How much discrimination against blacks do you feel there is in the United States today, limiting their chances to get ahead?
6. Generations of slavery and discrimination have created conditions that make it difficult for blacks to work their way out of the lower class.
7. Over the past few years, blacks have gotten less than they deserve.
8. Over the past few years, blacks have gotten more economically than they deserve.

Here I note that 2) is particularly egregious - apparently to be informed by history is to be Racist, and that 4) denies black agency in creating racial tension (we can blame White People for the Black Panthers, presumably).

Disturbingly, all the discussion of the Ambivalent Sexism Inventory I've seen takes it at face value (I haven't seen much about the Symbolic Racism Scale, but I haven't looked as hard). But then usually people who discuss these issues have a certain way of thinking already.

If racism and sexism disappear, then people whose careers revolve around studying and fighting them will be out of a job. Though at some level I'm sure they believe in what they are doing and don't recognise the problems with their assumptions. This is similar to how Communist Parties justify their holding of power on behalf of the proletariat, while awaiting a Communist Utopia that will never - and can never - arrive.


It is instructive to look at the Ambivalence Toward Men Inventory (AMI) too. Via reddit:

Hostility toward Men:

- A man who is sexually attracted to a woman typically has no morals about doing whatever it takes to get her in bed.
- When men act to "help" women, they are often trying to prove they are better than women.
- Men would be lost in this world if women weren't there to guide them.
- Men act like babies when they are sick.
- Men will always fight to have greater control in society than women.
- Even men who claim to be sensitive to women's rights really want a traditional relationship at home, with the woman performing most of the housekeeping and child care.
- Men usually try to dominate conversations when talking to women.
- Most men pay lip service to equality for women but can't handle having a woman as an equal.
- When it comes down to it, most men are really like children.
- Most men sexually harass women, even if only in subtle ways, once they are in a position of power over them.

Benevolence toward Men:

- Even if both members of a couple work, the woman ought to be more attentive to taking care of her man at home.
- Men are less likely to fall apart in emergencies than women are.
- Every woman needs a male partner who will cherish her.
- A woman will never be truly fulfilled in life if she doesn’t have a committed, long-term relationship with a man.
- Men are mainly useful to provide financial security for women.
- Every woman ought to have a man she adores.
- Men are more willing to put themselves in danger to protect others.
- Women are incomplete without men.
- Men are more willing to take risks than women.
- Women ought to take care of their men at home, because men would fall apart if they had to fend for themselves.

That would explain why there's a study that "debunks" the "myth" that feminists are man haters: Are Feminists man Haters? Feminists' and Nonfeminists' Attitudes Toward Men

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Confusing Literary Truth with Real Truth: the Horrors of the First World War

Morality of Remembrance - Moral Maze, 06/11/2013

"I was interested in Michael Montperlego (sp?) saying, you know, go to the words of the people who were there. I've actually done quite a bit of this at the Imperial War Museum, going through people's diaries and so on. The Owen-Sassoon view of the war - powerful, amazingly powerful though their poetry - Owen's particularly was, was exceptional, actually. Because if you read most of the diaries, there's a much more upbeat, robust, patriotic - an entirely different mindset than what we impose on them..."

"Over the years, it does begin in the 1930s, when people can see there's going to be a Second World War, which makes the First World War appear more futile than it did before. But then very much in the 60s, with What Lovely War and so on... there has been, you know, a revision of the way that war is seen. That is to say it is seen differently from the way it was seen by most people at the time. And therefore I entirely agree with Hugh Straughn (sp?) that the next 5 years is an opportunity to get some balance into the way that we look at the war"

"I think it is true as well that a lot of children - I love Wilfred Owen, and I know, English teacher I've done the First World War poetry lessons like everyone else and had them crying in the aisles as they say. And it's beautiful. And poignant, and you feel it does make young people understand something about the things that we can do to each other. But, I've also got to say that there wasn't many mutinies in the British Army, I have to admit. I do feel uncomfortable. But it's almost like the only version. And although I am an anti-Imperialist, I would've opposed the war. I don't want us to have a kind of soft soaped, one-dimensional view of it"

"And I suppose we ought to remember that the most popular war poet until about 1930 was Rupert Brooke"


If I should die, think only this of me;
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England's, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

--- The Soldier / Rupert Brooke (1914)
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