Saturday, December 20, 2003

Today's Quote:

One thing I acknowledge about the right is that they're much better haters than liberals are. Your basic liberal--milk of human kindness flowing through every vein, and heart bleeding over everyone from the milk-shy Hottentot to the glandular obese--is pretty much a strikeout on the hatred front. Maybe further out on the left you can hit some good righteous anger, but liberals, and I am one, are generally real wusses. Guys like Rush Limbaugh figured that out a long time ago--attack a liberal and the first thing he says is, "You may have a point there."

Molly Ivins, in "Call Me a Bush-Hater"; an article well worth reading.

The Eternal Shortage of Marriageable Men

1870's: Harper's Bazar: Men could get wives "at a discount", and "eight melancholy maides" clung to the same bachelor's arm at parties. "The universal cry is 'No husbands! No husbands!'"

1890's: A marriage study concluded that only 28 percent of college-educated women could get married.

1940's: A Cornell University study said that college-educated single women had no more than a 65 percent chance of getting married.

1940's: This Week (a Sunday magazine): A college education "skyrockets your chances of becoming an old maid."

1980's: San Francisco Chronicle: "There's a terrific scramble going on now, and in two years there just isn't going to be anyone left out there. There aren't going to be all these great surplus older guys."

1980's: Newsweek: "Do you know that...forty-year-olds are more likely to be killed by a terrorist than find a husband?"

2000's: Sylvia Ann Hewlett, in Creating a Life: Professional Women and the Quest for Children, (2002):"Nowadays, the rule of thumb seems to be that the more successful a woman, the less likely it is she will find a husband or bear a child."

2000's: On Point (12/8/03) on WBUR: "What's your brand? If you're a single woman 35 years or older and want to get married, you'd better come up with one, and fast..."

Hmmm. Does one see a pattern? If there is a man shortage at regularly occurring intervals, why the recurring cries of impending doom? Why does this become an apocalyptic item of news at intervals, when the actual demographics have not changed for the last hundred years or so? Why is being educated a handicap for women who want to find a partner? Could it be that they might be...too uppity?

And my final question: Whom does it benefit if women are in fact scared into scrambling desperately for partners?

All but the last two items are based on Susan Faludi's Backlash.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Lingerie Cup?

The Lingerie Bowl seems to be shrinking. Kelli told me about the news that Chrysler-Dodge has decided to pull out as the main promoter. Cowards as they are. Also

Proceeds from the event were originally due to benefit the American Foundation for AIDS (news - web sites) Research, but it too severed ties with the game.

I hope that they find a better event to benefit them, but I am glad that they pulled out of this one.

But this looks suspicious:

A source close to Chrysler said conservative lobbying groups had flooded the company's e-mail system with complaints about the upcoming spectacle.

Conservative lobbying groups, my divine ass! They were all echidneites, of course!

Oh no, there's more! Guess who's willing to come to the aid of the ailing Lingerie Bowl?

For the right price, we, the EIB Network, are willing to step in and sponsor the Lingerie Bowl on Super Bowl Sunday. They probably can't meet our perks, but we'll try.

The patron saint of the Irremediably Idiotic: Rush Limbaugh!
My original story on the Lingerie Bowl has now slipped into the December archives.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Rara Avis, Part I

It's people like Wendy McElroy that makes human-watching a rewarding hobby. If identification guides were available for this pursuit as they are for bird-watching, she'd need a whole volume just for herself. What is she exactly?

She is the mother of the modern ifeminism, though she argues that her ideas have many worthy precedents. Ifeminism has its own website, and I have just spent hours there studying and researching the habitat of this odd human. Here's the authoritative definition of ifeminism for those of you who still think it might have something to do with the internet:

Individualist feminism, or ifeminism, advocates the equal treatment of men and women as individuals under just law. The core principle of individualist feminism is that all human beings have a moral and legal claim to their own persons and property. It is sometimes called libertarian feminism.

Clear enough. So McElroy is a feminist with a libertarian slant. Just to double-check on this tentative identification I searched the ifeminist site for more direct evidence, and found it in the FAQ pages of the site:

Why call yourself a 'feminist?' Why not just call yourself an individualist?

Being a feminist is a form of specialization. In fighting for individual rights, some people focus upon injustice to women just as others focus upon injustice to gays or children.

As McElroy calls herself an ifeminist, her focus must be upon injustice to women. At this point I felt very confident about how to classify her: she is a feminist, though one with some unusual views, such as on the proper solution for sexual violence (...Abhorrent as it is, however, it has become evident that the solution to such problems is not more government intervention...), or for domestic violence (...ifeminism recognizes that governments offer little in the way of solutions to domestic violence...) or what to do instead of more government intervention to combat violence (...Firearms have been widely referred to as "the great equalizer" because they give individuals who would otherwise make attractive targets the ability to defend themselves against more powerful attackers....).

There's no logical reason to assume that the government would be any more successful in combating other types of crimes, or firearms any less useful in that chore. It seems, then, that McElroy advocates a return to the mythical Wild West, albeit with a feminist slant.

Deeper investigations into her behavior and principles taught me that she dislikes political correctness and actively hates PC feminism, which she believes is a mainstream view. She must wade in different streams from the rest of humanity...

She is also a weekly commentator for Fox News. Given their wide exposure, her columns seem a perfect source material for finding out what the ifeminists regard as the major problems facing women. I read through roughly six months worth of her columns (from June 10 to December 16 2003), a total of 28 stories, and classified them into the following scientific categories by numbers:

1. Essays advocating improved treatment of men 8 (29%)
2. Essays attacking PC feminism 5 (18%)
3. Essays that aim at both of these goals 3 (10%)
4. Essays attacking political correctness, affirmative action, 11 (40%)
government intervention, gender-based foreign policy, speech
codes and questionable legal practises
5. Essay welcoming the introduction of Christian feminism 1 ( 3%)

My tentative conclusion is that McElroy finds the most serious problem facing women to be the unfair treatment of men. (Though category 4. is more frequent in her writings, it is really a ragbag collection of many unrelated topics, none of which surfaces with the same urgency as the question of men's rights.) Another serious problem for women appears to be the politically correct mainstream feminism that McElroy believes to exist.

These concerns are also reflected in her choice of titles for her columns. For example, the June 10 column is titled The Anti-Male New York Times (Yep. Notice the absence of men in the front page news...), and the July 15 Feminists Slurping at Public Trough (Does this remind anyone of pigs?).

By now I was thoroughly confused, and had to remind myself of the definition of an ifeminist:

Why call yourself a 'feminist?' Why not just call yourself an individualist?

Being a feminist is a form of specialization. In fighting for individual rights, some people focus upon injustice to women just as others focus upon injustice to gays or children
(bolds mine)

What kind of a human is McElroy? Is she a feminist or is she not? Some further digging in her column archives unearthed this gem from the May 13, 2003 essay titled Cut Men - Do not they Bleed?

Judging by the backlash, masculinists are having an impact. I know this personally because my Web site, which advances equal rights for men, has experienced a dramatic increase in harassment and hate mail from gender feminists in recent months. Every blast centers on men's rights.

The tension will only heighten. Men who claim the right to be an active part of their children's lives will not back down. Women who recognize the justice of those claims are not intimidated.
On May 24, the Independent Women's Forum (IWF) published an open "" which spoke of "countless bright young women frustrated by rigid feminist propaganda of male hatred ..." With their funding doubled, IWF announced, "We're issuing fair warning: extreme feminists, get to your foxholes because IWF is on the attack."

The gender war has shifted toward direct confrontation. Men should take heart from that fact. As Gandhi once explained: "First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win."
(bolds mine)

This quotation is not a gem because McElroy uses 'gender war', 'direct confrontation' and Gandhi in the same paragraph, but because it allows my final identification of this rara avis:

Wendy McElroy is an imasculinist.

But why doesn't she call herself that then? I give up. Can someone send me the McElroy volume of the human-identification guide, please?

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Today's Quotes

1. "Liberals are not guilty of much deep thinking....I just don't think that they are very bright people."

Source: Dick Armey, former House majority leader and outspoken conservative, in On Point radio interview, December 16, 2003.

2. "Although it may not be true that all conservatives are stupid people, it is true that most stupid people are conservative."

Source: John Stuart Mill. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy lists his major works as follows:

His first great intellectual work was his System of Logic, R atiocinative and Inductive, which appeared in 1843. This was followed, in due course by his Essays on some Unsettled Questions of Political Economy (1844), and Principles of Political Economy (1848). In 1859 appeared his little treatise On Liberty, and his Thoughts on Parliamentary Reform. His Considerations on Representative Government belongs to the year 1860; and in 1863 (after first appearing in magazine form) came his Utilitarianism. In the Parliament of 1865-68, he sat as Radical member for Westminister. He advocated three major things in the House of Commonswomen suffrage, the interests of the laboring classes, and land reform in Ireland. In 1865, came his Examination of Sir William Hamilton's Philosophy; in 1867, his Rectorial Inaugural Address at St. Andrews University, on the value of culture; in 1868, his pamphlet on England and Ireland; and in 1869, his treatise on The Subjection of Women. Also in 1869, his edition of his father's Analysis of the Phenomena of the Human Mind was published. Mill died at Avignon in 1873. After his death were published his Autobiography (1873) and Three Essays on Religion: Nature, the Utility of Religion, and Theism (1874), written between 1830 and 1870.

Hmmm.....Whom to believe?

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

A Naive Goddess Looks at: Big Spenders and Social Engineers

This is the Democrats, right? The party which Ronald Reagan successfully labeled as the Big Government meanie. The party which supported affirmative action and forced busing of children to assure racial equality in education. The party that's responsible for leaving the future generations with the bill to pay for their recklessness. Right?

I'm not sure. Consider this:

President Clinton's persistent eight-year "glidepath" to solvency was unglamorous (and virtually thankless) work. But, helped by taxes and good times, the annual budget deficit fell steadily from $290 billion in 1992 to an actual surplus in 2000.
Well, here we go again. President Bush II has twice talked Congress into tax cuts ($1.6 trillion more debt?), mainly for those who need them least (but who do contribute to political campaigns). Now there's a $450 billion annual deficit and no money left.

and this:

The federal government will spend $1.4 billion during the next six years to promote and support marriage, a move that opponents and supporters agree is an unprecedented bit of social engineering.

and this:

While the concept of a sex-ed program designed to discourage sexual activity among young people has been around since the early 1980s, they've only recently gained traction, which is to say, federal funding.

Most are the product of Title V of the 1996 federal welfare reform act, which today legitimizes abstinence programs with about $100 million worth of respect. Suddenly, school-based sex-ed programs that for 30 years had been the exclusive domain of Planned Parenthood's credo of sexual non-judgmentalism have competition.

In 1988, programs teaching abstinence as the sole means of preventing pregnancy were taught in just 2 percent of U.S. school districts. By 1999, 23 percent reported using them.

Even "traditional" sex-ed programmers - who previously had scorned and mocked the concept - started popping up with abstinence tracks. Bryan Howard proudly declares that Planned Parenthood includes abstinence as "an option." It may be the 40th option on a 40-item menu, but it's an option now. Who says money can't change minds?

The year is 2003, and the party in power is the Republicans. Maybe it's just terminology, a political war of words: what the hated other side does is 'big spending', what we do is 'wise investments'; what they advocate is 'social engineering', what we advocate is 'return to virtues and values that make sense'. Or maybe it's that social engineering and spending are good when they advance our goals, bad when they detract from them. Still, what happened to all those fervent anti tax-and-spend Republicans that were all over the place only ten years ago? Have they all been born again?

Monday, December 15, 2003

Why Women Like J.R. Tolkien Though He Didn't Care for Them

During long rainy childhood afternoons a friend of mine curled up in her grandmother's attic with her uncles' old comic books. She devoured stories about brave British and American pilots during WWII, Tarzan and anything else her uncles had saved. But she was most excited about the Robin Hood comics with their stories about outsider justice. When the rain stopped she'd go out and play Robin Hood and his merry men.

She herself was Robin, of course. It was he who had the juiciest parts in the stories.

I asked her if she ever worried about her not being of the 'right' sex to play Robin. She answered:

"I was a little girl those days. But it never occurred to me to play Maid Marian. She never DID anything. I can't remember if I was even aware of the fact that Robin Hood was male and I wasn't. If so, it didn't bother me."

Many girls probably shared this experience of identifying with the hero of a story even when the hero was a boy or a man. Boys and men don't seem to be as able to do this; they will not read stories about heroic girls or women. Perhaps this is why Harry Potter was created as a boy rather than as a girl: girls like the Harry Potter books as well as boys, so potential markets are maximized by this choice of sex. But I bet that when girls play Harry Potter stories, they are Harry.

Even adult women have this ability to identify with heroes of the opposite sex. J.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit are popular among female readers. The world these books depict is one curiously devoid of women in most important aspects, probably reflecting Tolkien's own sex-segregated lifestyle and the limited, stereotypical views about women he held in accordance with his times. This doesn't appear to stop women from identifying with Tolkien's heroes.

What is it that allows female readers to identify with Robin Hood, Harry Potter or the hobbits? I doubt that it has anything to do with 'inappropriate' gender identification or admiration of all things male. It is much more likely to be caused by the fact that all these heroes are underdogs: Robin Hood is an outlaw, forced to hide in the forests and hunted by the powerful in the society. Harry Potter is an orphan, unvalued by his aunt and uncle with whom he lives, and always found less lovable than his obnoxious cousin who stands in a brother relationship to Harry. Frodo, Bilbo and the other hobbits in Tolkien's books are males but not human males. They are small, nonaggressive, peace-loving and scared of the larger and more powerful races who look down on them. In fact, they are a lot like women.

Yet all these underdogs rise in their respective worlds, and are shown to be as worthy as others, if not more so. This is a story that resonates with many women, at least on a subconscious level, and lets them see the hero as a person akin to themselves.

The underdog appeals to men, too, and women as well as men may value the tales of Robin Hood, Harry Potter and the hobbits for their other messages. But I think that if the underdog motif was removed, we'd find few female readers of such male-centered stories, and a lot more criticism about the absence of women in them. For in a very real sense these tales of the underdog who succeeds against all odds are women's tales, or at least the dreams of what women's tales could be.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

This blog needs some peppy advertizing, so I'm trying to think of good slogans. This is what I've come up with so far:

"Echidne - a direct line to divinity. Now George Bush isn't the only one with it!"
"Eve listened to the snake; you can do better. You can listen to the goddess of snakes!"
"What would Echidne do?"
"Sadam Hussein was easy to find. But where in the world is Echidne?"

And very warm thanks to everybody who linked to my post in the New Blog Showcase . I really appreciate it. The competition was rigged, for otherwise a goddess would surely have won... Still, it was fun and interesting, and many of the other entries were very thought-provoking.