Saturday, June 19, 2010

More on "The Killer Inside Me"

I wrote about a review of this movie earlier. Here is a review by someone who has seen the movie. A trigger warning is warranted before clicking on this Guardian review. Or on my older post on this topic.

The Dangers of Pretending Politics Is A Geometric Construct [Anthony McCarthy]

Our educations and what our culture teaches us are often useful and on occasion produce a good model of reality to manipulate and find further clarity. But what is presented can also be a really rotten model of reality and when it is over simplified or unrealistic and precludes a more realistic view of life, it can be extremely destructive. A lot of the modeling that we do is unconscious, the product of long habit and unconsidered acceptance of what we’ve been handed. From our earliest years we are taught to esteem this kind of model making and diagram drawing. Being good at it will get you good grades in school and a lot of approval. A lot of that paper and ruler work is for the production of simple lines derived from the alleged identification of two points on that line.

Consider the linear definition of political identity. The line from left to right*. In a recent, lighthearted blog discussion, which motivated this short post, people were trying to place themselves on that line.

I’m not going to go into how to place yourself on it, or to place other people on it I’m going to ask a different question altogether, one which, I suspect, will be very confusing because it challenges one of the most common automatic habits of thinking.

Why would anyone think that politics, among the most complex and dynamically changing of social, moral, geographic, cultural, and, in some rare cases, even rational, phenomena we commonly deal with, would fit into far less than just three dimensions is worth considering. And, I suspect, it’s a good beginning for considering one of the habits that are alleged to produce an understanding of complex reality when it only produces a deceptive and artificial form.

The idea that the analysis of politics could possibly be realistically squeezed into a two dimensional flatland entity and then compressed further, onto the simplest of one dimensional figures is rather obviously absurd. Just defining what one of the points that allegedly comprise political identity, a “position”, is at least as elusive as defining a subatomic particle. Placing that nebulous entity onto a line in order to compare it to other points on the line is an activity that is most likely to lead away from precision and clarity, not to it. And those are the mere positions. If there is anything obvious about people’s lives and minds, the actual beginning and substance of politics, we aren’t those artificial, nonexisting entities, POINTS in space.

This habit of drawing geometric figures on paper and thinking we’ve gotten complex phenomena nailed down is absurd, it is the denial of complex reality. It only kinda works for very simple and well defined things. Even defined by two or more coordinates in a plane or in three dimensional space you won’t find even the most simple person. None of us are points in any kind of space.

I suspect that this habit of trying to reduce very complex entities and phenomena in order to analyze them is a relic of our intellectual history. In order to generalize about the physical world we’ve been making representations of it since before Pythagoras. And for very simple physical phenomena it has worked reasonably well. That success has led us to the habit of assuming that success, that ability to find reliable truth about these simple, physical phenomena, was transferable to all of reality. But that ignores that the success was due to the ability to capture enough of the essential information about those phenomena in the model. You can move a shape around in space and assume the same geometric descriptions will match, but only as long as the shape remains exactly the same. Plane geometry is a set of assumptions about a range of different shapes just as more complex mathematics dealing with space is a collection about more complex entities. And, least anyone forget, the forms of pure mathematics aren’t actually there. People are hardly the same kinds of entities. We are far, far more complex than the most complex forms that mathematics can deal with and far more variable, containing contrasting and often contradictory ideas, many of those seemingly paradoxical. Our societies, comprised of many different people interacting over time, might be even more complex. And it is that human, social “space” that the analogues for points and lines in politics would be found, none of them one dimensional.

In some other reading I’ve been doing , there was this interesting passage from the mathematician Ruben Hersh

The aspects of the cosmos studied in physics yield to mathematical analysis. That's far from saying the cosmos is altogether mathematical. There can be no basis for such a statement except religious faith. But it's a familiar human tendency to think that what we don't know must look a lot like what we do know. This is a good principle for guiding scientific research. It's not credible as a philosophical principle.

I think a good part of the post-enlightenment cultural tradition has been a struggle between those who try to force overly-complex realities into a tight geometric form, ignoring much of the most exigent issues of reality in order to do that and those who reject that habit. In its most absurdly and dogmatic reductive stands it denies those fully experienced issues and denies the part they play in some of the most important and at times dangerous activities people engage in. Officially, the reductionists have been the winners, but reality doesn’t depend on who was given the gold star in that struggle.

Elsewhere in the same piece, Hersh says this in response to a statement by Martin Gardner:

“For this reason, he places great importance on the uncertainty of mathematics”, Martin Gardner

No, not for this reason. The reason the uncertainty of mathematics is so important is that for centuries the search for certainty in both mathematics and religion has been a major motive for Platonism, or, as Gardner prefers to call it, realism.

I was looking into Gardner’s** and his associates work for several years before his recent death and what struck me most is how they seemed to want to relax into a position of easy certainty. Anything that upset that relaxing equilibrium of post-war intellectual culture would motivate him to exert his, admittedly, brilliant, though not always honest, mind to restore his balance. And Gardner was the best of them. But in that, he was anything but a brave and bold questioner of his local orthodoxy, he was one of its most esteemed pillars. Even well informed people like to pigeon hole things in order to ignore them. But that certainly isn’t what is going to save us, the ease which we can lull ourselves into isn’t going to last for eternity like the imagined forms of pure mathematics are alleged to.

I think that search for certainty, in at least a form that can be published in scholarly publications and withstand the competitive professional struggle which that form of political activity lives on, is what leads us into a myriad of false assumptions about reality, constructing an artificial intellectual universe that isn’t a good model of real life. And I think it is one of the major contributing factors in the failure of our political institutions as well as others. That certainty isn’t there, it’s never going to be there, people and societies, the biosphere and the nonliving physical basis of those aren’t comprised of static forms lying outside of time. The extent to which a political system or a philosophy denies the reality of real life the more you can expect bad results from it.

It’s no coincidence that demagogues and fascists are among those who draw the simplest pictures of political reality. As seen in the Tea Party phenomenon, the people listening to them don’t care that those pictures aren’t real. When presented with the most solid of evidence that those positions are lies, that doesn’t matter to them. As long as the person lying to them is believed to occupy the same point they put themselves on the line of political identity, anything they say suffices. They relax into a false certainty and the most awful things result. And in that, we can see the dangers of these well esteemed habits of extreme reduction and analysis don’t just produce good results.

* I plead as guilty as anyone to doing that, to making reference to that phony line as a lie of convenience in trying to get other ideas across. I’m trying to break the habit and find new ways to talk about it, but doing that and getting people to understand your point isn’t easy.

** I regret that Gardner died just as some of that research was leading to conclusions that are important. But he never let up on the people he attacked because they had died and couldn’t answer him, so I don’t have any qualms about criticizing him on that basis. I have begun a new blog, as yet without any contents, called The Thought Criminal. I will be posting some of the material I have written for this and other blogs in it and some new material that I suspect will be very controversial.
Things I Want My Nieces To Always Keep In Mind

Barbara Acklin

You've Been In Love Too Long

The teens and twenties are some of the scariest years for everyone involved, especially the adults who know what the teenagers haven't learned yet. Other than driving and drinking, dating and romantic relationships are some of the most dangerous. Having been through it with my older nieces and nephews, I wish some of the older ones had known this. I'm making sure the youngest ones at least hear it, whether from Martha and the Vandellas or Bonnie Raitt or wherever. All I know is I'd sleep better at night if everyone would keep it in mind.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Friday critter blogging (by Suzie)

This is Sebastian, courtesy of my friend Don. Well, actually, it was courtesy of his Facebook page, where I took it without permission because I'm still unpacking and I don't have time for permission and other niceties.

P.S. Many Chihuahuas like to burrow under blankets.

Meanwhile, in Israel

This is so extreme that it almost comes around to something seen as racism: The Ultra-Orthodox Jews of Ashkenazi descent don't want their daughters educated with the daughters of Ultra-Orthodox Jews not of Ashkenazi descent!

But it probably isn't racism, not at least the obvious kind. Instead, it's an extreme form of sexism: Denying girls an education which reflects the world:

The reason for wanting separate education, the parents claim, is not racism but a desire to remove their daughters from the influence of those they consider less strict in their religious observance. Watching TV at home, having access to the internet, and a laxer dress code among the Sephardi ultra-Orthodox have been cited.

The ultra-Orthodox school in the illegal West Bank settlement of Emmanuel segregated the girls, a move that was subject to a legal challenge resulting in an order to reintegrate. The parents of the 43 girls refused to send them back to mixed classes, leading to sentences for contempt of court.

Underlying the case is the rejection of what the ultra-Orthodox community's sees as state interference in their religious practice and life. "We don't give our girls all the knowledge that there is in the world," said Esther Bark, 50, a mother of seven daughters watching the male-only demonstration today. "We shelter them, and that's why they need a sheltered school. We can't mix a whole assortment of girls in one school."


Great Men: John James Audubon (by Suzie)

Yesterday, I came back from a vacation in Key West, where I visited the Audubon House, among other historic sites. My photos are from the home's tropical gardens.

There are times when I cannot bear to visit one more monument to a Great Man, but I'm thankful that I went to this one. Once again, I was reminded of the women who made it possible for the man to achieve.

I find little to like about John James Audubon as a person. Like a lot of people who achieve fame, he seemed focused and ambitious to the point of selfishness. But I understand his importance, and I enjoy his drawings. I have two small, hand-colored 19th-century prints, handed down from my grandparents. I learned that the larger birds were often drawn in poses that I find gothic so that they could fit onto a page.

For a while, I was intrigued that Audubon might have had African ancestry, but reputable sources suggest that his mother was a white French chambermaid. He would have been considered Creole, but not in the sense of mixed-race, as the word is often used today. (I'm taking most of my information from a book by Richard Rhodes, linked above; our tour guide at the Audubon House; and Wikipedia.)

His mother died a few months after he was born, and his father's biracial housekeeper cared for the boy. She also had three children by the father, a French naval officer and slave trader. (When I hear accounts like this, I can't help but wonder what choice the women had.) The father brought Audubon back to France, where his stepmother cared for him.

When he was 18, his father sent him to New York so that he didn't have to fight in the Napoleonic Wars. "A draft-dodger," the tour guide noted. Since he had a fake passport, it appears that he also was an undocumented immigrant. (History keeps repeating.) He got yellow fever, but Quaker women gave him boarding, nursed him back to health and taught him English.

He married Lucy Bakewell, who cared for their children and home as he traveled. Both came from wealthy families, but they lost money and struggled for years. Lucy Audubon outlived her husband and their children, but not her family's debts. She ended up selling most of his original copper plates for scrap metal. From the Berman Museum of Art:
During periods of their marriage, particularly during Audubon's prolonged absences, it was Lucy Audubon who supported the family financially, for years at a time, by teaching. And yet it was also Lucy Audubon who, in 1830, joined her husband in traveling back to England and along with her sons played the role of her husband's most active helpmeet in realizing his dream of The Birds of America. Lucy wrote to her cousin in July 1831 that "our great Book demands all our funds, time, and attention, and since I came to England we have not indulged in anything that did not appertain to the advancement and publication of the 'Birds of America'."
As more prints were sold, women often did the hand-coloring, our tour guide said. I'm guessing this was part of the trend toward women working outside the home in urban areas.

Of course, it wasn't just women who made it possible for John James Audubon to do his life's work. Many prominent men helped. He and Lucy also owned slaves, both men and women, for six years, while they still had money.

Back to the Audubon House: He never lived there, but he did draw birds on the property. The three-story house and its antiques show daily life for the prosperous owners. The website says:
Slated for demolition in 1958, the house was saved by the Mitchell Wolfson Family Foundation. The Foundation is a nonprofit educational institution. This was the first restoration project in Key West, and is still considered the gem of the island's restoration movement.
The late Jessie Porter was a leader in historic preservation on the island, including the preservation of the Audubon House. I was sad to learn that her own home, which was turned into the Heritage House Museum, closed a couple of months ago. (Women have been the prime movers in historic preservation, by the way.)

My thanks to the kind women at the Audubon House who helped me even after closing time.

Key West, which was hotter than hell this week, bills itself as "The Only Frost Free City in The Continental United States." Not so. Robert Frost spent 16 consecutive winters in a cottage behind the Heritage House. (Sorry for the joke, but this trivia did seem to fit the post.)
Take-away lesson: Historic sites may carry the names of great men, but well-run ones will give you a glimpse into the lives of the legions who helped make and preserve history.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Storming Out Of The Room

I've imagined doing that oh so many times in my blogging years. But Keith Olbermann actually did it at Daily Kos. We are not in the same class and I understand that, but it's always good to see how antagonism works for those not of the girly persuasion. Girls are supposed to stomp their foot when attacked but not guys:

For years, from the Katrina days onward, whenever I stuck my neck out, I usually visited here as the cliched guy in the desert stopping by the oasis. I never got universal support, and never expected it, nor wanted it (who wants an automatic "Yes" machine?). But I used to read a lot about how people here would 'always have my back' and trust me this was of palpable value as I fought opponents external and internal who try to knock me and Rachel off the air, all the time, in ways you can imagine and others you can't.

Now I get to read how we pre-planned our anger because 'beating up on the President has been good for ratings'.

If I can understand people's frustration with seeing a speech by a Democratic president criticized in a venue such as mine, why is it impossible for some people here to accept my frustration about the speech? You don't agree with me, fine. You don't want to watch because you don't agree with me, fine. But to accuse me, after five years of risking what I have to present the truth as I see it, of staging something for effect, is deeply offensive to me and is an indication of what has happened here.

You want Cheerleaders? Hire the Buffalo Jills. You want diaries with conspiracy theories, go nuts. If you want this site the way it was even a year ago, let me know and I'll be back.

Presumably Buffalo Jills are female cheerleaders?

The Internet is a weird not-place place, and can be a very rude one, true, because of that anonymity. It's also true that progressives and liberals (and feminists) are not terribly good at supporting each other. Just think back to the Democratic Primaries. But storming out of the room cannot be the final answer for most of us.

Incidentally, I spot something in that quote I've noticed before: The tendency to view a blog or at least all its commenters as one lump. Someone gets angry at a particular comment and suddenly it's the blogger who is at fault or the whole readership of the blog. This, too, may have something to do with anonymity and not seeing the many, many pairs of eyes which read on these sites. Then storming out of the room appears justified because the whole place is rotten to the core.

Are Laws For Little People?

That appears to be the case:

On the issue of the blowout preventer's capabilities, Grassley asked BP to show that it is in compliance with the Code of Federal Regulations Chapter 30, Section 250.416(e), which requires oil companies to provide the Minerals Management Service with proof that the massive safety devices they use to close off wells are "capable of shearing the drill pipe in the hole under maximum anticipated surface pressures."

The company responded that it applies for permits to drill oil wells "in accordance with the process prescribed by MMS officials," but goes on to say that it was not "MMS practice" to require anyone to comply with that particular section of the law.

"I find it very disturbing that BP asserts that the 'practice' in oil drilling is to avoid current laws designed to keep our beaches safe," Grassley responded in his letter. "And I am outraged that MMS is looking the other way."

Now juxtapose the above with this one:

Rep. Joe Barton, a Texas Republican, noting that he was speaking for himself and not the GOP or any other member, said he was "ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday," referring to BP's agreement to put $20 billion in escrow to cover damages from the oil spill.

"I think it is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown," said Burton, ranking member of the Energy committee.

I'm grasping for something nebulous in putting these two together. It's nebulous because the things one is supposed to say about the oil disaster have changed as the public opinion has changed. But under that surface layer there is a deeper layer which has to do with the question of what laws are for, whether all laws should be obeyed and who is a person for the purposes of not only the laws but our empathy.

Or perhaps the question: What were these mega-corporations thinking? What did they get away with? And did anyone fight them?

It's a bit like lifting a rock in the garden and suddenly seeing all that life wriggling around. Not the people speaking for their corporations, naturally, but my sudden realization that those people indeed are completely cut off from us little people, that they most likely think of us as little people if they think of us at all. It's the stunning ineptness of their PR efforts for the first weeks. It's their continuing efforts to disguise the true amount of oil that is released. The life under the rock was different. It had different rules, secret rules.

And that is linked to the view of corporations as people when they are not. Corporations don't bleed, don't hurt, don't give birth to living children, don't die in the biological sense. The people owning corporations can do all that and their rights should be included in the rights of persons. But we have moved beyond that, to something where corporations in the United States have legal personhood (except when they decide not to follow the laws). This gives the owners of corporations more rights than other persons.

It also makes some of us use the term 'tragedy' not when speaking about what is happening in the sea and on its shores but when speaking about making BP pay for the damage it caused.

Thursday Manna From Heaven

This has turned out to be a week of philosophical musings for me. I will try to do much better next week because I'm going to have a fund drive. The plan is to do what the public television stations do: Figure out the demographics of who might have some spare change under the sofa cushions and then write only on stuff which appeals to that group!


I might have to delay that fund drive a little. At least until we feminazis are ruling over everything and there's plenty of money to finance this little blog. I think I deserve a genius grant from that McArthur Foundation or whatever its name is, and here's the reason: I'm the only goddess who writes to you regularly, as in Now And Here. Not two thousand years ago or so. Doesn't that show some brain power, hmh?

My deepest thanks to all who do send me money. You are wonderful people and get to be priestesses and priests in Echidneism, with your own tax-deductible temples (shaped like the ouroboros). Equally deep thanks to all those who would send me money had they any. The thought does count.

Sex Segregation -- The Return

Ruth Rosen has written an excellent article on the new sex segregation in media:

Forty years ago, feminists demanded that special "women's pages," which featured fashion, society and cooking, be banished from newspapers. Instead, they insisted, newspapers should mainstream serious stories about the lives of women throughout their regular news.

Forty years later, the new media have re-segregated women's sections. The good news is that they are no longer about society, cooking and fashion. Most are tough, smart, incisive, analytic,and focus on events, trends or stories that the mainstream online news still ignores. The bad news is that they are not on the "front page" where men might learn about women's lives.

Read the whole thing, as they say.

I have noticed this trend when writing about serious matters concerning women. After finishing the post I make sure that the links work properly and that's when I tend to realize that I'm linking to "Fashion" or "Lifestyles!" It's so bad that I recently wondered if the obituaries of famous women will from now on be found on the Fashion pages in the NYT?

The Guardian in the U.K. does the same thing. Maybe I should rename this blog something like Lifestyles of the Poor And Not-Yet-Famous? Or What Goddesses Wear This Season? (the answer: scales)

More seriously, a good case can be made for separate women's pages. They allow a focus on news about women, they allow those news a serious reception (because the readers are not there after some accidental surfing) and they also keep many journalists fed and with a roof over their heads.

But it's depressing that matters having to do with women are still put into that subcategory that so beautifully fits into my series on why feminism is still needed.

A long time ago I wrote an article just for myself (I have books and books full of those) about sex segregation. It is doubtful that REAL sex segregation has ever existed. What goes on in Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan is not real sex segregation, because the only people who can travel in all the zones are men, as long as they are men related by blood or marriage to the women they are guarding, and because the women's world consists of itsy-bitsy rooms scattered here and there inside the vast men's world, and naturally because it is the men who rule over the world of women.

A real sex segregation would mean two equal and parallel but separate worlds, one run by men and consisting of men, and another run by women and consisting of women. They would probably trade with each other (sperm being sent in one direction and boy babies in the other), but the rulers of the men would not rule over women and vice versa. We don't have that and probably have never had that unless the Amazons were real.

Doesn't my version sound like science fiction? That the other one (the much more horrible one) doesn't sound like science fiction should make your ears stand up and the rest of you take notice.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Still Not Writing on The Oil Disaster

What could I say that makes any difference?

I have already written about the lessons we should learn here: That the corporations should not be allowed to own oceans or land masses or seeds that have been around for centuries or clean drinking water, that the governments should stop kissing their asses at every possible turn, that ordinary people (aka little people) should wake up and start bearing some responsibility here, because the earth is not some free lunch plate of tasty shrimp and salmon (oh please do not show me those pictures of the animals) and so on.

In any case, anyone reading me is already well-informed, smart and doing all the right things (such as reading me). But we should all keep the pressure on the powers-that-be. As my first proposal, I recommend community service as the proper punishment for the BP executives. Among the little people of Louisiana. And cleaning birds. And watching over the dying animals. That's a good start.

The rest of us can get serious about conservation and alternative energies, and I mean serious.

And let's start discussing the optimal population size again. I know it is completely out of the fashion, what with those scary uppity women refusing to breed enough to keep the white race triumphant, and I also know that it is out of fashion even among feminists. But I do not believe that human beings will ever accept the idea of permanent poverty as a lifestyle, and if we are all to have the Good Life while leaving space for animals and plants, too, we need to seriously talk about birth control. Either that or get ready for the energy wars of the future.

Back Home

I've been on the road since Monday morning. I stopped at Ikea on the way back. It's like the poor woman's trip to Scandinavia, because the cafeteria offerings and even the cafeteria furniture are identical to what you'd get there. So I had my Scandinavian dinner and refills of Scandinavian coffee, walked out, and suddenly I was back in Murka! What a wonderful world we live in.

Though I'd prefer instant transfer by thought. Traveling wears me out and gives me dark and gloomy thoughts and brain shivers. And a comparison basis for the Snakepit Inc. which sorely needs a new roof and repainting and something that eats ivy.

And no, I have no Ikea furniture. Not a single piece.

It's Called Love

So many studies simply beg to be looked at in greater detail and I don't have enough time. My beady eye spotted this one some days ago:

A rocky romantic relationship can cause significant stress, but contrary to conventional wisdom, its impact may be harder on young men than on young women, new research indicates.

Though previous research has long suggested that unmarried young women are more vulnerable than men to tough times in romantic relationships, the opposite seems to be true, according to research by sociologists at Wake Forest University and Florida State University.

As a complete aside, think of the difference between 'conventional wisdom' and 'old wives' tales.'

It's always tricky to do survey research, you know, especially on a topic where the answers themselves probably are at least partly affected by societal gender roles and what one thinks of as the proper answers. I'm not saying that this study wouldn't be a well done study or that the write-up would not be acceptable. I just find the summary a bit confusing.

But this is rather interesting if true:

* Problems in relationships seem to threaten young men's identity and feelings of self-worth, but this doesn't seem to be the case for young women.

It is 180 degrees from that 'conventional wisdom.' Women are supposed to be defined by their relationships, like totally, and men are supposed to be defined by their jobs.

I have now idea if that conclusion in the quotes is warranted or not. Just pointing out that we are not going to have the researchers of this study on every morning television program or daytime television show, telling the eager audience about how men and women really are.

It's going to go down the Memory Hole because it is not the received wisdom. But if true it's evidence against many of the current pseudo-trends.

For example, take the conservative argument that young women are destroying themselves and their chances of any happiness in life (through heterosexual marriage, natch) by refusing to be the gatekeepers for premarital sex, the kind of gatekeepers which keep the gate shut while young men are eagerly battering on it, trying to be admitted, as is their obvious role in life.

This view of men and women and romance assumes that men don't need any or want any and that the only reason why they'd ever date or get married is so that they can get through that gate. It's a commercial game, this conservative definition of love: I'll let you in if you buy me dinner for the next decades.

So I kinda like that finding because it points out that all human beings are affected by love. It's a real thing. The first symptom is usually sheep's eyes. Check for those.

At the same time, I'm not sure if we can conclude that men are more affected by relationships troubles in general:

Robin Simon, PhD, a professor at Wake Forest, and Anne Barrett, PhD, of FSU, studied the emotional reactions of 1,611 unmarried adults between the ages of 18 and 23.

They conclude that:

* The harmful stress of a roller-coaster relationship is more likely to affect the mental health of young men than young women.
* A recent breakup from a romantic relationship affects the mental health of young women more than young men.
* Young women are more emotionally affected than their romantic partners when it comes to being in a relationship or not. Young men, on the other hand, are more affected emotionally by the quality of their current relationships.

Simon tells WebMD that young men and women "are both affected by negative aspects, and by good ones, but when you look at both, men are more affected emotionally by both good and bad relationships."

Perhaps. I'd need to look at the study itself to assess that. But note that the border between a roller-coaster relationship and one that has ended is a rather vague and also note that the quality of a relationship also sorta fades into not having one at some point.

Note also that if the study had been written to just look at young people in general and their reactions to relationships and romance nobody would have bothered to even summarize the study. You gotta have a gender difference, gotta.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Al Franken The Feminist

He's a good guy. He recently gave an interview about his feminist beliefs which had this bit:

CA: Who is your favorite fictional heroine, and who are your heroines in real life?

AF: First, let me say I was shocked at how difficult it was to come up with a good fictional feminist. I'm a reader, I didn't think this would be tricky. I asked my wife and my daughter, male and female members of my staff (which includes a couple literature majors), I asked friends of all ages. And it was hard! Do you pick Anna Karenina or does the ending ruin her feminist credentials? What about Simone de Beauvoir's fictional alter ego - is that really fiction? Do you want to count Hester Prynne? Is Xena really the best we can do? Eventually I decided to go with Jo March from Little Women. Or Ripley from Aliens. The point is this genre is sadly lacking. The feminist heroines who inspire us tend to be real-life women, which is wonderful. But shouldn't some writers out there seek to fill this void? Let's see what a feminist heroine can do when they're not confined to non-fiction format. I'd read it.

A fun question that. Who IS your favorite fictional feminist? Though the interviewer didn't ask him quite that question, it's a good one.

Fantasy teems with fictional feminists, though most of them live in a world where they don't meet much resistance. Not sure if they count for that reason. Then there's Buffy. Sure, these are super-heroes but so are the men in the corresponding genres.

I would be satisfied with a female heroine who is a full human being. No need for her to have superhuman powers (though they can be OK, too). But she should be three-dimensional.

On Jo Marsh: She begins as a feminist. What she ends up as is harder to determine, because she becomes a background figure in the later books. I think Alcott tried to make her into a compromise between the Angel In The House of the Victorian era and the Modern Woman of those days. She is a bit of each.

I like her but I'd have to say that she did not achieve what she was capable of.

There are strong female characters in many of the classics but I'm not sure if that's enough to qualify as a feminist character. For more ideas, check here.

Where The Wimminz Are

Politico has a not-bad post on the scarcity of women in Sunday morning political shows. It covers many of the issues fairly well:

How can we have more women on those shows when women are 17% in the Congress (congrats, U.S. for doing so very poorly in the international comparisons of female representation in politics)? How can we make the same small number of women work more shows just so that more women can be on television, especially when women are expected to be at home on Sundays with their famblies? Shouldn't the shows reflect reality rather than some desired world of equal representation (odd how quickly we fall back from that other world I recently wrote about, the one in which feminazis rule over everything)?

But then if we don't see any women in public roles, women will have greater difficulty running for office and people never get jostled out of their comfort with a mostly male public sector. And the rules and norms still are different for women, beginning with focus on hair (and armpit hair, too).

The reason I call it a not-bad post rather than a good post is that the focus is solely on elected women in politics. What those Sunday shows do more generally is have more men in all roles, even in roles where the percentage of women should be much greater than 17%, and the piece doesn't address that. And several of the women who do get invited regularly to some of the shows are misogynists from the conservative gals' organizations. Indeed, the representation of feminists on all those shows is pretty much at zero (despite the fact that we rule the world).

Likewise, women I've talked to have a slightly different idea of how the gate-keeping works.

Out of Sync

Something odd I noticed the other day is that while the contents of much of feminism have changed in the last twenty years or so, the contents of misogyny have not changed nearly as much. It's as if the two are out of sync with each other.

Misogyny is still about the rotting flesh of all womankind, of all races, all religions, all ethnic groups and all classes. It certainly takes different forms depending on intersections between gender, class, race, ethnicity and religion, but it applies to women just because they are women. It doesn't matter if the woman is good or bad as a person, if the woman is old or young, if she is pretty or not, if she is good at math or not, if she stays at home with small children or is out working with small children or without them. Misogynists hate her or at least deeply despise her for her gender.

Movement feminists don't have a good response to that, because they are splintered into groups working on issues such as reproductive choice, women in the labor force, domestic violence, women in racial or ethnic minorities, immigrant women, women in the military etcetera. They don't have an Anti-Misogyny Squad.

Should there be one? I'm not sure. Can one discuss something with a misogynist? My experiences suggest that this is no more possible than teaching a stone to tango. Perhaps ignoring misogyny is the way to go? Ignorance is mentally healthier and less damaging to the young women, in particular. And not paying attention to woman haters is safer. We all like to feel safe.

But then a generalized contempt toward women is what ultimately underlies everything feminists battle. Everything.

What are your thoughts?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Who Are You?

This video is the conservative talking point right now:

Fox News writes about it:

A North Carolina congressman is under fire after a video surfaced Monday showing him in a physical confrontation with a young man on a street in Washington.

Rep. Bob Etheridge, a Democrat, is seen in the amateur video grabbing the wrist and neck of the unidentified man after he approached him and asked if he supported the "Obama agenda."

It is difficult to know what might have been edited out of the video, of course, but it's never acceptable to grab someone like that. Etheridge lost it.

And now we are to draw conclusions about the Democrats based on what he did. I understand the political game. The intended conclusion is that the Democrats are horrible to poor conservative students. Well, that is the intended conclusion for Republicans.

But think of how something like this would have been used if the politician in that video was a woman. Think. It's worth it, because it tells you that I am missing one hell of a chance here to point out that the representative indeed is a man, and that perhaps we shouldn't have men anywhere in the public sector, what with their inability to restrain their innate biological tendency toward violent behavior.

Note that I don't write posts like that, based on some single anecdote! But the anti-feminists do exactly the comparable thing, all the time. Hillary Clinton is a monster because she is female. Her tears are a sign that women should not be in politics. She should remind you of your wife nagging you to take out the trash.

It is never-ending and we don't notice how one-sided it is because us feminists don't do the same thing.

And the reason we don't do the same thing is that we are not sexists. But damn if it doesn't handicap us.

The Mean, Lean World Of Blogs

Last Saturday Atrios linked to this post:

In February, a NYT blogger, Zachery Kouwe, was fired for plagiarism. The proximate cause of the firing was a complaint from the WSJ, but he'd had run-ins with other publications in the past, including nicking a memo from Dealbreaker without attribution. That didn't stop Dealbreaker hiring Kouwe in April. Which seemed a bit odd at the time, and which in hindsight was certainly a mistake, since now they've gone and fired him. But it wasn't for plagiarism, this time.

I spoke to Matt Creamer, the executive editor of Breaking Media, Dealbreaker's parent. He sent me this statement:

Zachery Kouwe was a freelance contributor on Dealbreaker for just over two months. We ended the relationship on Thursday after it came to our attention that he wrote emails to Dealbreaker commenters referencing their workplaces. Our readers and commenters trust us with personal information and we take that responsibility very seriously. Anyone who registers on our sites should feel confident their information is secure.

Atrios then pointed out that:

One of those things you learn very quickly when you start blogging and get a commenting audience is that if you can't take a steady stream of not necessarily friendly criticism then blogging really isn't for you.

What Zachery Kouwe is alleged to have done is wrong, of course, and blogs indeed do get a fair amount of critical comments and a blogger must be able to take that.

But. I bet you knew that was coming, that but. But the situation is not the same for all bloggers. Some of us get lots more critical comments than others (though I'm not necessarily speaking of my divine self here). Women do seem to attract more than a per blogger share of nastiness. All women are subject to this, not only those who blog but also those who comment, based on a study that was done some time ago. Women who write on feminist topics are, however, especially attack-worthy.

It's easy to see why that would be the case. A feminist blogger is going to get the usual valid debates, the usual silly criticisms and so on. On top of that she is going to get the misogynists. They are drawn to feminist blogs like wasps to picnic lunches in parks. Hence the registration requirement on most large feminist blogs now.

Rather than writing about why that is the case (you know, in any case) I want to write about its impact. This might be chilling, because women considering a (so-well-paying) career as feminist bloggers must be able to take not only the usual level of criticism that all bloggers face but much more.

It's like an extra entrance fee to the field, one which you may or may not be willing and able to pay. It also wears you down over time, though of course it also reminds you of the reasons why you write in this field in the first place. It might also radicalize you further. Come to think of it, that is a pretty likely danger caused by those trolls and exactly the thing they don't want to happen.

Take me, for example. In my meatspace life I avoid woman-haters quite successfully. Most people I meet are OK. To have the woman-haters write me letters and such reminds me of their existence and of the strength of their hatred. After a while I had to start doing reality-checks to make sure that I don't become a reverse sexist on this blog or in my concrete life. I hope I have avoided that. But those constant reminders do serve as -- reminders of the fact that, yes, indeed, misogynists are out there and in some force. And they hates us, my precious, they do.
For an earlier post on this topic go here.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan

Women are not going to rule the roost any time soon:

Dr. Massouda Jalal once embodied all the possibility that was promised by the overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Now, the former cabinet minister and presidential candidate, says she is in danger of being silenced once again, as are all the country's women.

The human rights campaigner and one-time Minister of Women's Affairs under President Hamid Karzai was in Ottawa Tuesday to warn Canadians that after 30 years of war and uncertain leadership, her country is taking a troubling turn for the worse.

The most recent efforts to end the conflict between the western-backed Karzai government and the outlaw Taliban are compromising the hard-fought fundamental values that have only started to take root in Afghanistan.


"In the beginning a lot of hope was created… We thought that a government made of civilians will be made a civil government," she said, noting that laws have been passed prohibiting violence against women or affirming women's rights.

But there have been more, and more prominent, steps backward in the last few years. More schools being burned, more female students being threatened and attacked, more instances of local laws barring women from travelling outside the house unaccompanied.

It's truly disorienting to move between the two posts below this and this one....

I'm pretty sure that the peace deal being brokered will mean more silenced women living in narrower and narrower circles. But that's nowhere as scary or interesting as the fantasy of the end of men in the U.S..

And Even More On The End of Men

I forgot my major criticism of Hanna Rosin's weird article in the Atlantic Monthly which has to do with the arguments WHY we are suddenly supposed to be so close to a matriarchy in this country (while elsewhere the Taliban and so on are busy). I quote from her:

The postindustrial economy is indifferent to men's size and strength. The attributes that are most valuable today—social intelligence, open communication, the ability to sit still and focus—are, at a minimum, not predominantly male. In fact, the opposite may be true.

Ya think? That really is so stupid. So there were never any great male authors? No male journalists at the Atlantic Monthly? No male psychologists specializing on the differences between girl and boy brains and other similar crap? No male host on political television shows?

Men cannot sit still and focus? Computer geeks run around and don't focus on anything at all? How does one become a researcher without those skills? Do professors skip and jump around all day long?

And didn't I read in some other anti-woman version that men are all focused on narrow topics and that's why they end up reaping all the laurels for scientific work and so on, whereas women are busily multi-tasking everything in a scatterbrained manner?

This is such utter crap. I can call it crap, because it was intended as compost, to grow the horrible harvest in those comments. The magazine supported those comments, watered them and allowed them to flourish without any moderation. The magazine wants those kinds of readers, readers who at least despise women very very openly.

They wanted this. Now they own it.

The End Of Men

That is the title of an Atlantic Monthly article by Hanna Rosin which I just finished reading. It's not about all men being killed, though it does sound like it and is meant to sound like it so that you are prepared with your panic juices flowing. It's about a world in which women rule and men are nothing, hear me, nothing!

And this is the world we are going to live in the future.

I wasn't surprised seeing that article because a) Atlantic Monthly is now famous for handing all matters feminine to the capable hands of one misogynistic Caitlin Flanagan and also famous for general bashing of women and such, and b) you can always trust that people will read a story like this one. Nothing is better for clicks and circulation than something that engages our reptile brains and awakens the MRA guys from their testosterone perfumed caves.

The Comments

The best way to read it is probably to wade through the comments first. They are fun if you have a masochistic bend. Probably about 70% are from MRA guys based on the same talking points they get given, a handful of feminist commentary and the rest people seriously fearing a world in which men are NOTHING! and women rule everything. In the whole world!

Lots of comments about how men create everything of any value: houses, inventions, physical protection, arts and sciences, and how women create nothing. Lots of comments about testosterone and the inevitability of male power, lots of comments about how there is no wage gap whatsoever not caused by women's own behavior, how men are the ones who always had the hard time and how the society will now implode, completely. Because women have taken over all the power.

But the most upsetting bit was the subtext in several comments: We have a choice between patriarchy and matriarchy, nothing else, and we should choose patriarchy, because in a matriarchy we get violent young men in the streets and in a patriarchy we don't. That, my friends, sounds like a threat.

Not sure why I keep reading comments like that, unless it is for understanding. If so, I'm struck by the hostility of the comments, the extremely militaristic division of people into "us" and "them" (most of those, for obvious reasons, classifying men as "us"). I'm a feminazi of the highest caliber and I don't do that! But people who hate people like me do exactly that. It's one of the wonders of the world.

The comments are not logical when read all together. For example, women do so well in academia, I read, because of affirmative action that chivalrous men decided to offer to women, and they can always take it away. Women do poorly as CEOs and in sciences because women are inherently not good in those fields, but men do poorly in college because they are discriminated against by this society in which feminists are in power.

Feminists demand more affirmative action only in fields that pay well! Why don't feminists demand more men in low-paying fields such as social work? Which, in any case, would pay nothing at all if men had not been so chivalrous and allowed women to have more money than the marketplace would award them. No, don't mention to me that men don't want to enter those low-paying fields.

And so on and so on.

The Beginning of the Article

Then to the article itself. I should notice that perception is a funny thing. I read it as an anti-feminist piece, for reasons that I shall come to shortly. Several comments stated that it was a feminist victory song: We had finally gotten the world where men are NOTHING!

Rosin begins her article with sex selection. She argues that Americans now prefer girls to boys. The evidence? This kind of stuff:

Even more unsettling for Ericsson, it has become clear that in choosing the sex of the next generation, he is no longer the boss. "It's the women who are driving all the decisions," he says—a change the MicroSort spokespeople I met with also mentioned. At first, Ericsson says, women who called his clinics would apologize and shyly explain that they already had two boys. "Now they just call and [say] outright, 'I want a girl.' These mothers look at their lives and think their daughters will have a bright future their mother and grandmother didn't have, brighter than their sons, even, so why wouldn't you choose a girl?"

We are talking about fertility clinics, and we are asking individuals there what the general trend in the United States might be.

I happened to research that topic once when writing on gender selection in India, and I found that the trend in the U.S. is toward greater parity of boys and girls as the desired sex for the next child in the family. But there is a slight preference for boys, shown in surveys from mid-2000s and from 2007.

That bit about "These mothers look at their lives" is totally anecdotal. In fact, it could have been pulled out of one's ass. But note that this is what sets the stage for the piece: It's women who want to have girls because their own lives are so wonderful, and that information is provided by a not-quite-neutral Mr. Ericsson.

I am spending so much time with these beginning paragraphs because they point out one of the main tactics of the article when it comes to evidence:

It is to a large extent anecdotal, a case being built by interviewing individuals who agree with the thesis of the author or even by pulling movies as evidence for what is actually happening or by quickly listing arguments by linking them to their creators*, without giving any information about the credibility of the arguments or the evidence they are based on.

We spend some more time with Mr. Ericsson's family and are to draw conclusions from that. Next we move to patriarchy and its eternal aspect. Wonderful stuff it was, but now it's changing and changing so quickly! Perhaps too quickly. And back to the idea that girls are now preferred by parents in the U.S.:

American parents are beginning to choose to have girls over boys. As they imagine the pride of watching a child grow and develop and succeed as an adult, it is more often a girl that they see in their mind's eye.

How does she know this? Was there a study which demonstrated such a trend? If so, I missed it and would love the link.

Its Major Thesis

Next comes the major thesis which is written so that even the simplest misogynist can get its relevance;

What if the modern, postindustrial economy is simply more congenial to women than to men? For a long time, evolutionary psychologists have claimed that we are all imprinted with adaptive imperatives from a distant past: men are faster and stronger and hardwired to fight for scarce resources, and that shows up now as a drive to win on Wall Street; women are programmed to find good providers and to care for their offspring, and that is manifested in more- nurturing and more-flexible behavior, ordaining them to domesticity. This kind of thinking frames our sense of the natural order. But what if men and women were fulfilling not biological imperatives but social roles, based on what was more efficient throughout a long era of human history? What if that era has now come to an end? More to the point, what if the economics of the new era are better suited to women?

I hate this shit. I hate it, and having to go bang my head against the garage door. Women in the past could not specialize in flexibility and nurturing behavior. They were first fucking gatherers/hunters and then fucking farmers who worked from dawn to dusk and past it. They were not prehistoric Victorian housewives and men were not prehistoric Rambos or whatever the newest killer hero is called: They, too, worked their asses off all day long, most of the history. I hate intellectual laziness and nastiness.

Pardon me for that outbreak of my nurturing flexibility. Let's look at that paragraph just a little more: If this new era is better suited to women, were all those prior eras better suited for men? And exactly why and how? Is the only thing that has changed technology? No legal changes, say?

And why can't she ask if the new era is equally suited for both men and women? My guess is that she wants to sow gender war seeds, to get clicks.

So there you have it. We are at the dawn of a matriarchy where women rule:

Once you open your eyes to this possibility, the evidence is all around you. It can be found, most immediately, in the wreckage of the Great Recession, in which three-quarters of the 8 million jobs lost were lost by men. The worst-hit industries were overwhelmingly male and deeply identified with macho: construction, manufacturing, high finance. Some of these jobs will come back, but the overall pattern of dislocation is neither temporary nor random. The recession merely revealed—and accelerated—a profound economic shift that has been going on for at least 30 years, and in some respects even longer.

What is this "profound economic shift" she talks about? She doesn't quite define it so we are left with guesses. Mine would be that she talks about women's increasing entry into the labor force in the 1970s and into higher education during the same time period. That women were in the labor force in larger numbers before 1950s goes unnoticed. That women actually entered higher education in large numbers in the 1920s and got pushed back in the next decade gets unreported. History is simplified, made simple, made to support the idea of the dawn of matriarchy.

Even the seasonal canary aspect of construction and so on are here treated as permanent changes. It's also construction industry where jobs come back first when recession turns into the beginning of the boom. The financial industry and its problems are more specific to this time and place, but I very much doubt that all those laid off stockbrokers will now remain unemployed forevermore.

It's Chicken Little stuff, intended to make men fear that the end is night, the way the title frames it. Men are becoming useless because their role as --- what? --- is ending. The author doesn't really state what that role is but clearly it is based on the idea of women at home and men out there working:

Earlier this year, for the first time in American history, the balance of the workforce tipped toward women, who now hold a majority of the nation's jobs. The working class, which has long defined our notions of masculinity, is slowly turning into a matriarchy, with men increasingly absent from the home and women making all the decisions. Women dominate today's colleges and professional schools—for every two men who will receive a B.A. this year, three women will do the same. Of the 15 job categories projected to grow the most in the next decade in the U.S., all but two are occupied primarily by women. Indeed, the U.S. economy is in some ways becoming a kind of traveling sisterhood: upper-class women leave home and enter the workforce, creating domestic jobs for other women to fill.

That paragraph has three different things linked together (by being in the same paragraph). Thus we are told that women are now the majority of the labor force (of course women are also the majority of Americans), that working class families are matriarchies and that universities are full of women. Putting all this together implies that the issues are linked by some dawn of matriarchy.

But what is the actual evidence for them being linked that way?

The percentage of women out of all people in the civilian labor force fluctuates around fifty percent now, and so does the percentage of women in the population. Why is that a sign of some impending doom? Haven't most women always worked, in any case, even if only for their bed and board on the farms and inside families?

What is happening in working class families (IF it is happening) has much more to do with outsourcing and globalization than anything some matriarchal schemers are planning to do. Though it probably also has to do with the idea that the role of men is to be the heads of the households and that requires that they make the money.

"Women dominate today's colleges and professional schools—for every two men who will receive a B.A. this year, three women will do the same." This, too, is linked to outsourcing and globalization, at least partly, because the traditionally well-paying male blue-collar jobs have been outsourced and their place has been taken by McDonald-type jobs for all. As the author points out later in the piece:

It makes some economic sense that women attend community colleges—and in fact, all colleges—in greater numbers than men. Women ages 25 to 34 with only a high-school diploma currently have a median income of $25,474, while men in the same position earn $32,469. But it makes sense only up to a point. The well-paid lifetime union job has been disappearing for at least 30 years. Kansas City, for example, has shifted from steel manufacturing to pharmaceuticals and information technologies. "The economy isn't as friendly to men as it once was," says Jacqueline King, of the American Council on Education. "You would think men and women would go to these colleges at the same rate." But they don't.

Look at those income numbers. Then look at them again. Then remember that college is a financial investment. You need to pay at least some of those costs and there's one pretty concrete reason why women would be more willing to pay for college than men.

But she is also right that more boys should go to college. The solution, however, is not a system which pushes girls down while pulling boys up. The solution is equal opportunity. Funny how that way of thinking is totally alien to the article I'm criticizing here. It's either the frightening rule of the petticoats or Biblical/Koranic patriarchy for all.

And that last bit about "the traveling sisterhood" is just plain mean. All it points out is that women are still responsible for child-rearing and that to be released from that role you have to hire another woman in your place. Then it's your fault that she can't be with her own children.

Masculinity Equals Being A Patriarch

Come to think of it, the whole article mixes the idea of what men are with the idea of what the patriarchal roles for men are, and argues that the change or demise of the latter means the end of the former. Here's the obvious example of that, a story about a support group for divorced men who are not paying their child maintenance:

Like them, he explains, he grew up watching Bill Cosby living behind his metaphorical "white picket fence"—one man, one woman, and a bunch of happy kids. "Well, that check bounced a long time ago," he says. "Let's see," he continues, reading from a worksheet. What are the four kinds of paternal authority? Moral, emotional, social, and physical. "But you ain't none of those in that house. All you are is a paycheck, and now you ain't even that. And if you try to exercise your authority, she'll call 911. How does that make you feel? You're supposed to be the authority, and she says, 'Get out of the house, bitch.' She's calling you 'bitch'!"

The men are black and white, their ages ranging from about 20 to 40. A couple look like they might have spent a night or two on the streets, but the rest look like they work, or used to. Now they have put down their sodas, and El-Scari has their attention, so he gets a little more philosophical. "Who's doing what?" he asks them. "What is our role? Everyone's telling us we're supposed to be the head of a nuclear family, so you feel like you got robbed. It's toxic, and poisonous, and it's setting us up for failure." He writes on the board: $85,000. "This is her salary." Then: $12,000. "This is your salary. Who's the damn man? Who's the man now?" A murmur rises. "That's right. She's the man."

"You are supposed to be the authority." There you have it, and indeed, there you have the thesis of the article. It's not about the end of men. It's not even about the demise of male power in general. It's about the demise of the system of patriarchal domination where masculinity means being in control of the women and children and being able to dictate the rules within families and in the society in general.

If you don't have it, men are NOTHING! And the only alternative is to bring back the good-ole-boy patriarchy in a much stronger form, honestly. That women are NOTHING in it is unimportant, probably because women who are nothing sit at home and are not out in the streets killing people or some such thing. (They certainly aren't allowed to go and study mathematics which makes it easier to point out that women are better suited to staying at home and so on.)

My Opinion Summary

The theory Rosin presents is a form of tipping. She argues that we are going to go from eternal patriarchy, quite suddenly, to a matriarchy (now that would be news to the Talibans of this world and indeed to most continents in general), and she also argues that men can't survive that in some oddly defined sense of survival where survival seems to be associated with being the male head of the household and the breadwinner. That equal opportunity for women means no more heads of households and equal access to jobs and careers and, yes, child-rearing is completely ignored in the article.

It's unclear why men couldn't survive a matriarchy, given that women have survived a patriarchy. It's unclear what should be done about men's inability to survive in a world which actually is still pretty male-dominated and where just writing this kind of a fairy-tale article makes people seriously discuss a world in which women rule and how on earth men could survive it except that, of course, men are the genetically superior sex in the first place.

But then the women in Rosin's world have zero problems! They are the matriarchs in the working class family, muttering "my way or highway", they are the Cougars picking from young men for some careless sex, they are the women carting away all the degrees and all the good jobs, they don't have one single problem in the whole world! They rule.

Yes, I know. You can do a reversal on that paragraph and find out what patriarchy has consisted of centuries. What it still consists of, in many places on this planet. But instead of discussing that we are speculating on a reversal of the reversal: The monstrous regiment of the petticoats.

And all women are set on one side of the chess board, all men are set on the other side and the game begins! You might find this a very odd criticism from a feminazi like me, but ultimately my feminism is informed by the desire to be included in the group, to be seen as an individual, not to be judged on the basis of my gender allthefuckingtime.

Articles like this make achieving those goals (impossible in any case, I know) more and more difficult because the unquestioningly accept masculinity as subtractive: Whatever women are men don't want to be and whatever men are women cannot be, must not be allowed to be. They set up a seesaw where any gains women make are seen as losses to the men: IF being a man requires that one is the head of the household and the breadwinner, THEN that also requires that women cannot be breadwinners and that they must subject themselves to male authority. You cannot talk about the former without mentioning the latter.

Articles like this set up the world as consisting of two enemy armies, fighting an eternal war where the only reason for not utterly annihilating the other side is that pesky fertility thing. They stereotype and simplify in doing that in too many ways for me to count, but the obvious one is that the metaphor should not apply. Men and women are of the same species, belong to the same families and are largely pretty similar to each other. They even often love each other!

Now imagine a feminazi writing that. I must get treatment.

For a better take (one I read after writing this), check out Ann
* Throughout the '90s, various authors and researchers agonized over why boys seemed to be failing at every level of education, from elementary school on up, and identified various culprits: a misguided feminism that treated normal boys as incipient harassers (Christina Hoff Sommers); different brain chemistry (Michael Gurian); a demanding, verbally focused curriculum that ignored boys' interests (Richard Whitmire).

American pop culture keeps producing endless variations on the omega male, who ranks even below the beta in the wolf pack. This often-unemployed, romantically challenged loser can show up as a perpetual adolescent (in Judd Apatow's Knocked Up or The 40-Year-Old Virgin), or a charmless misanthrope (in Noah Baumbach's Greenberg), or a happy couch potato (in a Bud Light commercial). He can be sweet, bitter, nostalgic, or cynical, but he cannot figure out how to be a man. "We call each other 'man,'" says Ben Stiller's character in Greenberg, "but it's a joke. It's like imitating other people." The American male novelist, meanwhile, has lost his mojo and entirely given up on sex as a way for his characters to assert macho dominance, Katie Roiphe explains in her essay "The Naked and the Conflicted." Instead, she writes, "the current sexual style is more childlike; innocence is more fashionable than virility, the cuddle preferable to sex."