Category Archives: Sethics vs. Misandry

SethBlogs is opposed to bigotry… even when it’s against men. :)

TOXIC ACTIVISM vs. TOXIC MASCULINITY

Currently, in a bus shelter advertisement near me (in metro Vancouver, BC), the Children of the Street Society presents a picture of a teenage boy crossing his arms to form the toxic symbol of crossbones that we might see on dangerous chemical products. Below him are the words, “Know the signs of toxic masculinity.

The term “toxic masculinity” has made me feel queasy before, but this scarlet lettering of boys brought the bile to my forefront.

The problem, to my critical stomach, isn’t that “toxic masculinity” is a definitionally-flawed concept. No doubt masculinity is a human condition, which I acknowledge may in certain cases render itself in a toxic way. Those who enjoy burning our ears off with their frequent announcements of motorcycle power, for instance, strike me as individuals who are emitting toxic noise, and, as far as I can speculate, the behaviour seems linked to a performative version of masculinity.

So, were we living in a purely theoretical world, where ideas had no political implications, I could accept the notion of “toxic masculinity” as a legitimate field of inquiry, and along the way, I would assume it would be equally acceptable to look into whether there exists a parallel “toxic femininity” worthy of critique.

As Dr. James Lindsay (one of the three co-authors of the famous “grievance studies hoax” papers) argues:

“I would like to see a shift in our [culture]—and, in particular, the culture within academia, our attitudes towards… issues of social justice, where we say things like, ‘Yeah, I believe there are issues regarding sex, race, sexuality, gender, etcetera, and I think that they’re important, but I want to see them studied rigorously. I don’t want ‘gender theory’ informing me of this… I want to see real work being done. And I want to see sociological rigor behind things before we use it to make policy decisions or institutionalize anything.’” (Intro and 1:44:02-1:44:34 of this video.)

For good or bad, we do not currently reside in such a theoretical utopia. Instead, mainstream thought has decided that, in general, we should avoid generalizing claims about race, sex, gender, and sexuality. It’s not that mainstream thought doesn’t believe there are some genuine generalities, but given human nature’s predilection for tribalism and bigotry, we are wary of critiques of general groups for fear that such criticism will lead to racial and/or sexual discrimination.

Today, the one exception to this caution is when we are talking about a group that is presumed to be privileged, and so deemed incapable of being hindered by generalizations gone wild.

Thus, we hear phrases such as:

“X group of people cannot be the victims of bigotry, because they are in power.”

Such exclusion from compassion is a familiar pattern: a society that rightly calls for the equal treatment of us all will sometimes realize that—for practical purposes—they want to omit certain people from that equality, and so the society will dehumanize the inconvenient group so that they can hold onto their call for egalitarianism—for those who are worthy—and ignore it, too.

(George Orwell captured this contradiction in his Animal Farm wherein the righteously revolutionary animal leaders began with “All animals are equal,” but eventually came to prefer, “All animals are equal. But some animals are more equal than others.”)

The notion of “toxic masculinity” is an exquisite example of such bigotry dressed as virtue. In this case, the false moral wisdom passes for the real thing because our society is so used to sexism against men that egregious examples of misandry don’t stand out. If that sounds like a far-fetched, man-spiracy theory, imagine for a moment any public campaign (in Western society) which not only centered girls’ femininity as problematic, but also pathologized it.

In theory, there may be some general aspects of femininity worthy of critique, but how many mainstream public commentators would sit on their microphones upon witnessing an image of teenage girls being asked to confess their feminine sins by pantomiming crossbones on their chests?

In contrast, the organizers of this toxic masculinity campaign list among their top donors a high-profile convoy of businesses, charities, municipal governments, and even a school district. (I recognize that supporters can’t always vet what’s happening with their money, but I submit that if such a campaign were about girls’ alleged toxicity, there would be a wee bit of media pressure on the public supporters to both cancel, and apologize for, their funding.)

The unchecked toxic masculinity campaign, itself, reads like a grade 8 essay written the night it was due, as it fills the screen with wild, nuance-free, and often self-contradictory assertions, but surrounds them with popular platitudes to smooth out the incoherence.

For instance, we learn that one of the “signs” of toxic masculinity is:

“The reinforcement of gender stereotypes which highlight that men are aggressive by nature while women are submissive.”

I don’t mean to be pedantic here, but isn’t that kind of what the term “toxic masculinity,” itself, is doing?—Accusing the male people of having a problem with over-aggression that the female people apparently do not?

In fact, the campaign lists among the traits of toxic masculinity:

“Being violent, aggressive or abusive…”

So, confuse me, is it the contention of the stereotype-hunting campaign that only male people are ever violent, aggressive, or abusive? Even the most feminist of advocacy data won’t back up such a fantastical claim, so I think not. Therefore, in those cases where ladies do stray into such anti-social behaviours, are they being toxically feminine? No, that can’t be. That would be a sexist utterance that would get one’s organization fired from mainstream conversation, so when women are abusive, are they also exhibiting toxic masculinity? In theory, that’s not necessarily contradictory, since our campaigners do argue that gender is a social construct. But why then does the campaign seem to only target boys who are suffering from toxic masculinity? (I see no girls wearing their own arms as crossbones.)

If the campaigners genuinely believe that the virus of masculinity is not an innately male problem, I wonder whether they need the male-sounding notion of toxic masculinity at all. Why not just discuss “toxic behaviour” and avoid the gendering of the problem altogether?

I don’t deny that males are more often violent than are females, but there are also forms of toxicity more common to females, including the very “whispered insults” that our campaigners also suggest is a boy problem.

As social psychologist, Dr. Jonathan Haidt, says of boy-girl generalities:

“Boys’ bullying is physical… Boys are physically dominating and the risk is that they’re going to get punched… Girls’ aggression—girls are actually as aggressive as boys. There’s research from the 80s and 90s on this. If you include relational aggression, girls don’t bully each other by threatening to punch each other in the face; girls bully each other by damaging the other girls’ social relationships, spreading rumours, spreading lies, spreading a doctored photograph, saying bad things, excluding them. It’s relational aggression.” (7:10-7:50 of this video.)

To my egalitarian eye, all forms of toxicity are participated in—to varying degrees—by both males and females. I have no doubt that on average men and women would attain slightly different toxicity scores, but I am disturbed by the current mainstream Western conversation which reserves all condemnations for one sex (“man-splaining,” “male dominated,” “male ego,” etc), and all commendations for the other (“Because I’m a girl,” “the future is feminine,” “strong female characters,” etc).

Meanwhile, another supposed indicator of toxic masculinity is, “…the perpetuation of rape culture and locker room talk,” as though there were no air to breath between those two concepts. As a long-time competitive sports participant, I have very occasionally heard locker room discussions that were more bravado-fueled than my delicate and prudish soul enjoyed, and while sometimes those rare discussions yielded talk of violence against men, I have never heard a squeak of approval for any violence against women—let alone sexual violence.

My anecdotal evidence, of course, does not disprove the notion of “locker room talk” being a popular “rape culture” sanctuary, but if the campaigners are going to make such a profound claim about average male banter, maybe they could provide some evidence for it.

Another sigh-worthy example of the campaign’s avoidance of nuance is its claim that a sign of toxic masculinity is:

“The expectation that ‘boys will be boys’ and they do not need to be held accountable for their actions.”

I’m not a connoisseur of the expression “boys will be boys,” but, for what it’s worth, I’ve never thought it meant that boys shouldn’t be considered responsible for their worst behaviours. Instead—as with the term “kids are mean”—I took it as a general comment on boys’ nature that, when they’re overly rumbustious, we shouldn’t be surprised, because boys are like that. Far from celebrating suspect behaviour, I always read the phrase as rolling its eyes at boys, and teasing all of them for the behaviors of some.

But even if the Children of the Street Society’s interpretation is correct and the “boys will be boys” phrase has commonly been used in the hope of excusing excessive behaviour, the notion that it’s been successful, and that males in general are given a pass on accountability is tough to reconcile with the “punishment gap” between boys and girls in school, and the “sentencing gap” between men and women for similar crimes.

Moreover, in North America, while women have the right to financially-divorce themselves from their offspring by giving them up for adoption, men have no such automatic right, and can be forced to pay child support for kids they previously didn’t know existed (and may be labeled a “dead-beat dad” along the way).

The accountability-gap argument is certainly a common trope in our feminist-fed society, but sadly it was discredited (inadvertently) last year by tennis mega star, and sometimes toxic personality, Serena Williams (she’s actually quite delightful when she wins, but less so when the calls aren’t going her way). As I describe in IF YOU CAN’T BULLY ‘EM, ACCUSE ‘EM, after Williams was correctly sanctioned for verbally abusing an official at the US Open (calling him a “a liar,” and “a thief,”  and threatening his livelihood), she claimed that the penalization was evidence of sexism, and that a male tennis player would have gotten away with much worse. This bias accusation was an obvious deflection; the umpire was patient with Williams’s insulting tirade beyond anything I’ve witnessed in a men’s match, but far from asking her to take accountability for her lack of accountability, the feminist-fearing tennis media supported Williams’s claim of a double standard.

Since then, commentator and retired footballer, Kaylyn Kyle sinned against feminism when she criticized the American women’s soccer team for unsportsmanlike behaviour (exuberantly celebrating goals in a 13-0 victory against an overmatched opponent at the Women’s World Cup). Such enthusiastic celebrating of oversized victories is a well-documented no-no in competitive sports, but the American women’s coach (and various fear-sighted pundits) pulled out the Serena Defence and argued wildly that a men’s soccer team wouldn’t have received the same criticism for the same obnoxious actions.

Meanwhile, Nike has joined the call for no accountability for unsportsmanlike female athletes, hiring Williams to narrate a commercial celebrating female athletes for standing up to alleged sexism, and for expressing their on-court anger as they see fit.

“If we show emotion,” says Williams’s somber voice, “we’re called dramatic… When we stand for something, we’re unhinged… And, if we get angry, we’re hysterical, irrational, or just being crazy.”

No, Ms. Williams, berating an Umpire for making a decision with which you disagree is not a principled stand: it is abusive behaviour that deserves accountability, regardless of your sex.

Perhaps there is merit to the claim that not-so-long ago in mainstream Western society, certain men’s caustic presentation was more likely to be dismissed as them “blowing off steam,” but in today’s public conversation—where any criticism of a woman’s behaviour or argument can be suffocated with accusations of sexism—the public accountability gap is pointed in the opposite direction.

There are, I’m sure, many flaws past and present that are more common to men than women, but some of these accusations from The Children of the Street Society strike me as wild stereotypes thrown at their toxic canvass without any concern for veracity. It’s an understandable strategy; they live in an ideologically homogeneous “progressive” community that is unlikely to ever check them for errors.

The incoherence is most expertly rendered in the campaign’s concluding advice to boys who would like to resist their toxic programming:

“Be an ally,” it says, “in the fight to end violence against women and girls. You can do so by confronting your own male privilege, social norms that support sexism, and oppressive behaviours.”

The doublethink is strong with this one. In a campaign titled “Toxic Masculinity,” where young men—and young men only—label themselves toxic, they are asked to confront sexism against girls. And then—even though the campaign, itself, argued that one of the signs of toxic masculinity is, “The assumption that real men cannot be victims of abuse”—it only asks our sinners to combat violence against women and girls.

So the campaigners are sexist in their solitary condemnation of male people as the cause of abuse, and then sexist in their sole focus on the female victims of that abuse. And then they tie their incoherent knot together with the common feminist accusation that the very gender—which is both blamed for abuse, and undeserving of protection from abuse—is privileged.

Now, our gentle campaigners would likely defend themselves—if they were ever asked to—by pointing out that they made sure to note that:

“Being a man doesn’t make one toxic.”

And I appreciate the implied acknowledgment (while it lasts) that it would be sexist to define all men as toxic. However, let us not pretend that such a curated caveat would have protected a government-sponsored organization from demolition if it had caricatured femininity in this way. No amount of friendly backtracking would have shielded such an agency from being universally labeled a misogynist cult. Google would have fired them for stereotyping; the University College London would have sacked them for sexism; and Minnie Driver would have told them:

 “The time right now is for men just to listen and not have an opinion about it for once.”

But, since this campaign is criticizing boys and claiming to protect girls, the local TV news program, Global News Morning, invited in project leader, Hayden Averill (along with two teenage disciples), to sweetly tell us of the anti-toxic workshops. And, with a soothing voice, Mr. Averill made it clear to the Global host that the gently-spiked Kool-Aid he was providing us would be easy on the tummy.

TO ACCUSE A MOCKINGBIRD

“The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”

—Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird is the first movie in my childhood viewing experience in which a happy outcome failed to punctuate my viewing enjoyment. Instead, collective bigotry overpowered justice, and Tom Robinson, a black man in an anti-black time and place, was found guilty of a rape that his lawyer, Atticus Finch, provided compelling evidence he did not commit.

As I grew up, I came to believe that this cautionary tale, while profound in its rendering, was unnecessary in our bigotry-fading times. Mob justice was something of which our fore-parents were guilty, not us moderners. Indeed, as I further learned about long-ago alleged witches subjected to drowning tests to see if they were witches, I recall feeling relieved that I had chosen a more just time in history to be born.

What I did not realize was that, even though our culture had come through an impressive collection of enlightenment, we still carried the same genetic disposition towards mob justice. It is in our nature to judge others by the instructions of our emotions, assumptions, and most powerful of all, our group consensus. Most of us want to believe ourselves to be morally righteous, and so when our friends, neighbours, and activists all have their fingers pointed in the same accusatory direction, it is not easy to resist the pull of their conviction. In turn, I suspect that the many mob jurists who once convicted real life Tom Robinsons in that anti-black time and place did so not because they were amoral, but because their peer pressure and prejudiced emotions had manipulated them into believing they were protecting their society (women, in particular) from evil.

Today, I believe the #MeToo style of justice being called for by advocates and pandered to by pundits and politicians utilizes the same emotional trickery, whereby those countering it with calls for due process are accused of being complicit in “rape culture.”

It is not an easy charge to allay. After all, due process necessarily means that some violent criminals will not be found guilty. Until, that is, humans acquire omniscience, our justice system will forever be unable to prove every case of evil it encounters.

Nevertheless, I thought our society was settled on the notion that it is better for ten guilty people to go free than for one innocent person to be sent to prison. And, consequently, to be considered criminally guilty of a crime, a person must be found so beyond a reasonable doubt. I believe in such a system of justice not because I don’t care about victims, but because I think our society has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that it cannot be trusted with a lower standard.

For those with faith in our modern brains, I refer you to the curious cases of Jian Ghomeshi and Brett Kavanaugh, both alleged sexual predators, and both presumed guilty by mob jurists. In Ghomeshi’s encounter, not only was there no corroborative evidence that the former CBC pontificator was guilty of the crimes of which he was accused, the communication between Ghomeshi and his accusers post “incidents” strongly indicated that he was innocent.

Undaunted by reason, though, a feminist mob chanted outside the Toronto courtroom (and on the streets of my own far away city) that the accusers should be believed, because, after all, they were members of a gender too pure to ever lie. And, yes, I know, mobs will be mobs: surely the society at large was not so deluded by the sexist rantings of evidence-resistant protestors. Maybe so, but many influential journalists, pundits, and celebrities (including literary legend, Margaret Atwood, and Ghomeshi’s own former bandmates) publicly helped themselves to a presumption of Ghomeshian guilt. And, even though Ghomeshi was found by the court to be not guilty, two years on, the fired radio host continues to be in public exile for crimes he is assumed without evidence to have committed.

Meanwhile, during the recent Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings for his spot on the US Supreme Court, the Senate called Professor Christine Blasey Ford to testify that the judge had sexually assaulted her 36 years ago. Now, even if we were to adopt the feminist standard of justice where one automatically believes the sincerity of female accusers, the case would still be a daunting one to prove. While Kavanaugh and Ford evidently spent some teenaged time in nearby circles, there is no corroborative testimony from either’s friends that they knew each other. So, it is perfectly possible that the 15-year-old Ford met someone who looked like the Kavanaugh she may have seen in passing and mistook him for the genuine Kavanaugh.

Even so, if the police were able to find credible evidence to verify Dr. Ford’s accusation, then the justice system should be free to pursue a conviction.

However, what happened here—senators asking their questions of Kavanaugh and Ford, mixing in partisan, faith-based pronouncements of justice—was trial by political peer pressure.

It is a token victory for due process that the Republican partisanship overruled the Democratic partisanship and approved the accused judge. But neither side, not even Kavanaugh, himself, pointed out that it was unjust for them to be guessing at the veracity of a criminal accusation.

As many have already said, Kavanaugh seemed rather unjudgely in his avoidance-testimony of  Democratic senators’ questions about his teenaged drinking habits, and whether he was ever drunk to the point that he might have unknowingly done what Ford had claimed. His response was to ask a questioning senator if she had ever gotten black-out drunk. While this obfuscation was unfitting of a judge, the spirit of Kavanaugh’s evasive manoeuvre is understandable. It is already difficult to prove any negative—that one didn’t do something—but it is especially daunting to prove that approximately 36 years ago at an unnamed place and time, one did not do something. There was no good answer for Kavanaugh. Given that he admits he drank a fair amount in those years, he likely does have a compromised memory of the parties he attended, but if he admits that, then he’s acknowledging it’s theoretically possible that he committed the assault. That, of course, is not actual evidence that he was a sexual assaulter, but faith-based jurists don’t care. In their emotion-led minds, failure to disprove a negative is proof of guilt.

By contrast, in courts of law where due process is in effect, there is no requirement of the accused to prove their innocence; instead, the state is obligated to prove guilt.

So, instead of obfuscating these questions, I wish Judge Kavanaugh had answered his senate interrogators with a soliloquy on due process. That asking him to prove that it was impossible for him to have committed the crime of which he was accused was like asking a witch to prove she was not a witch. That even though alleged victims of violent crime deserved access to justice, faith in accusation without due process and corroborative evidence was a dangerous precedent that he would not stand for. That he would not answer their questions regarding accusations of a crime that should be brought before a court of law or not at all. And that if this refusal disqualified him from their confirmation, then so be it, but he would not sacrifice his or anyone else’s due process for personal gain.

As it was, by answering the senators’ unjust questions, Justice Kavanaugh legitimized them. And so the mob jurists outside, and in the media, continued without resistance to pronounce their verdict that the system had “failed women.”

I am envious of these advocates for faith-based justice; unlike childhood me, #BelieveWomen activists can witness To Kill a Mockingbird with a smile as Tom Robinson’s conviction grants them a happy preview of the sort of justice they are seeking.

SELF-AGGRANDALISM VII: If You Can’t Bully ‘Em, Accuse ‘Em

In the face of difficult questions, the most talented egos use impeccable sleights of language to rebrand their behaviours to seem heroic. This series is dedicated to those rhetorician-magicians.

SELF-AGGRANDALISM SERIES:

I: NEVER LET THEM SEE YOU CARE

II: IF YOUR CRITICS DON’T BELIEVE IN YOU, NO ONE WILL

III: WINNING MEANS NEVER HAVING TO SAY YOU’RE SORRY

IV: POET KNOWS BEST

V: HUMILTY IS AS HUMILTY DOES

VI: HOW TO AVOID QUESTIONS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE

VII: IF YOU CAN’T BULLY ‘EM, ACCUSE ‘EM (you are here)


Tennis mega star, Serena Williams, has titillated us with her temper on the tennis courts more than a few times in her long tenure. Nevertheless—after watching Ms. Williams reclaim her position at the top of tennis after taking a year’s sabbatical to have a baby—I considered temporarily waiving my personal embargo on the obnoxious athlete in favour of appreciating her superhuman accomplishment.

Then this past Saturday, Ms. Williams’ took her toddler’s disposition to work with her in the championship match of the US Open versus Naomi Osaka. When, that is, Williams was displeased with a legitimate pair of code violation penalties she received from the chair umpire of the match, she unleashed at him a series of tirades.

And yet, with magic rhetoric, Williams has subsequently convinced many that her childish behaviour was in fact the righteously passionate speech of an unjustly treated hero who is fighting for the rights of others.

The key to Williams’ magic here is to take the incident as far away from context as she can, and to reframe her aggressive actions with minimizing, faintly true descriptors while simultaneously reinventing the umpire’s punitive response with maximizing language. And, sadly, many in her audience, including reporters and pundits, are unable or unwilling to recognize Williams’ simple tricks of language.

So let me put the incident back into the context Serena Williams is hoping we’ll forget:

(1) The Coaching Controversy

Early on in the match, the American struggled with her Japanese counterpart, but Williams’ coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, had a strategic idea that might help, and so he made a fancy hand gesture towards the star.

In tennis, strangely, such expert in-game assistance from one’s team is against the rules, and so chair umpire Carlos Ramos charged Williams a code violation warning for her coach’s attempted influence. After the match, Mouratoglou admitted he was coaching, but he argued that such infractions occur frequently without penalty, “…so,” he said, “we have to stop this hypocrite thing.”

ESPN analyst, and tennis legend, Chrissie Evert concurred:

“Every coach does it, so you need to re-address that rule.”

I accept Evert’s expertise, but this wasn’t a subtle piece of coaching that an umpire could pretend not to notice; it was a blatant signaling from coach to player. So, if Ramos saw it as clearly as the ESPN cameras did, I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect him to ignore it on the grounds that the opposing coach was probably also breaking the rules.

Williams, meanwhile, also couldn’t support the chair umpire’s decision, and she politely explained to Ramos that:

“[Mouratoglou and I] don’t have any code, and I know you don’t know that. And I understand why you may have thought that was coaching, but I’m telling you it’s not. I don’t cheat to win. I’d rather lose.”

Ramos’s reply is not legible to me on the tape, but he seemed to acknowledge her concern, and she replied, “Okay, thank you, because I’m like, ‘I don’t cheat’… Yeah, so thank you so much.’”

So all seemed fine in love and tennis.

(2) The Racquet Demolition

A while later, Williams lost a point, which she would have preferred to have won, and so she released her irritation by smashing and destroying her racquet against the court. Once again, Umpire Ramos had his eyes open and spotted the unsporting gesture, and so—per tennis rules—he supplied Williams with her second code violation strike, which meant that she was to be automatically docked a point in the next game of the match.

This did not please our hero. Williams apparently had thought she’d clarified with Ramos that she did not deserve that first code violation, and so had continued in the match under the false apprehension that she still had a free code violation warning available to her for any desired racquet-smashing.

(3) The Tirades

Less politely this time, Ms. Williams returned to Mr. Ramos and explained:

“I didn’t get coaching. I didn’t get coaching. I didn’t get coaching. You need to make an announcement that I didn’t get coaching. I don’t cheat. I didn’t get coaching. How can you say that?… You owe me an apology. You owe me an apology. [Now shouting.] I have never cheated in my life. I have a daughter, and I stand for what’s right for her, and I have never cheated. You owe me an apology.”

Now, I can understand Ms. Williams’ frustration that she would be punished for her coach’s behaviour (especially if she was being honest that she wasn’t aware of it). But, unfortunately for Serena, one’s coach is part of one’s team, and so—just as she gains from his expertise—she is also subject to his mistakes. (In fact, my ESPN pundits tell me that the “coaching” penalty is not a measure of whether the athlete received it, but whether the coach sent it.) Regardless of how offended Serena claimed to be, it is not reasonable to expect a referee to overrule what he witnessed just because an athlete insists that they wouldn’t be a party to it.

Nevertheless, given both the significance of the moment and Williams’ conceivably understandable frustration at being blamed for the actions of her coach, I could forgive her a brief rant towards the umpire. Instead, though, the superstar binged on her anger, and unleashed a series of hostile sermons against Ramos, while Ramos replied only with politeness and calm.

“For you to attack my character,” Williams continued, “is something that’s wrong. You’re attacking my character. Yes you are. You owe me an apology. You will never ever ever be on another court of mine as long as you live. You are the liar.”

Now—whether or not Serena Williams actually has the influence to control umpiring assignments—from my umpire’s chair, her threat against the official’s livelihood ought to have earned her a code violation for abuse of official.

But Umpire Ramos—with the most patient of expressions—nodded and turned away from his accuser when she seemed done. But Ms. Williams still wasn’t satisfied and called his attention back for more:

“When are you going to give me my apology?… You owe me an apology. Say it. Say you’re sorry. [Ramos declined the invitation.] Well, then, don’t talk to me.”

Ramos complied, and turned away once more, but Serena had a little left in the tantrum tank:

“You stole a point from me. You’re a thief, too.”

That was finally sufficient for Umpire Ramos, and he provided Williams the long-earned “Abuse of Official,” code violation, which—being the Williams’ team’s third code violation of the day—meant that she was now to automatically receive a one game penalty in the match.

(4) The Magic Rhetoric

Soon after, tournament referee Brian Earley arrived to try to calm the waters, but that is when the bully of our story turned into a magician and pulled a rabbit out of her tennis bag.

“I know the rules,” she explained to Earley, “but I said a simple thing like ‘thief,’ because he stole a point from me. [Now crying.] There are men out here that do a lot worse, but because I’m a woman, because I’m a woman, you’re going to take this away from me? That is not right. And you know it. And I know you can’t admit it, but I know you know it’s not right.”

I was baffled by the audacity of the trick. Did Williams really believe that after all the abuse she had launched at Ramos that anyone would see her as the heroic victim here? Apparently so. During her post-match press conference, Serena-dini tried the trick again.

“I’ve seen… men call other umpires several things, and I’m here fighting for women’s rights, and for women’s equality… and for me to say, ‘thief,’ and for him to take a game, it made me feel like it was a sexist remark. He’s never [taken] a game from a man, because they said ‘thief.’”

It was a beautiful rhetorical trick by Williams. Technically, yes, her accusation that Ramos was a “thief” was the final denunciation that had cost her a game, and out of context, that single word doesn’t seem so bad. But neither does “received coaching” sound so terrible without context, and yet Williams had used it as a catalyst for repeated demands for an apology. So let us play in context, shall we, Ms. Williams?

When we place the “thief” accusation back in the context of a prolonged collection of demands, accusations, and even a threat towards the umpire’s career, and remember that Ramos did not penalize Williams a game for the culminating insult, but instead simply charged her a third code violation—which in conjunction with the two others that she had already legitimately received—added up to the large penalty.

But the mesmerized reporters present weren’t going to interrupt their favourite magician in the middle of a trick, so Williams continued with exasperated confidence. “For me, it blows my mind, but I’m going to continue to fight for women… The fact that I have to go through this is just an example for the next person that has emotions and that wants to express themselves and they want to be a strong woman, and they’re going to be allowed to do that because of today. Maybe it didn’t work out for me, but it’s going to work out for the next person.”

At that point in the press conference, some of the reporters on duty were inspired to applaud the teary-eyed Serena and her heroic characterization of her behaviour.

The reporters’ apparent inability to spot Williams’ sleight of blame is baffling. They had watched a person unfairly berate another person, and somehow they had now decided to cheer on the aggressor because she was “expressing herself” as a “strong woman” as though all female exposition, no matter how hostile and unreasonable, is a virtue.

The reporters’ empathy gap was showing. If this controversy had been the result of the world’s greatest male tennis player telling a female umpire she would never work one of his matches again, and that she was a “liar” and a “thief,” and not to talk to him until she apologized, I doubt the journalists would have been so appreciative.

(5) The Alleged Double Standard

This argument that female assertion is dismissed—more often than men’s—as excess emotion is a common complaint (and not only from biased feminists), and it’s certainly possible that there is (or used to be) some truth to it in our general society. (Although, as ever, with every double standard against women there is usually a mirrored double standard against men; I suspect, for instance, that female tears call upon our society’s compassion more quickly than male tears.) But, if indeed there are double standards in our general society against female assertion, that differential is not necessarily applicable to all subcultures. Tennis is well-stocked with fiery female athletes, and so umpires with instinctual expectations to the contrary may well have updated their gender anticipations. In fact, I have witnessed many female tennis stars assertively argue their cases on court without retribution from the chair umpires.

Nevertheless, if there is evidence that female tennis players on average are sanctioned more harshly than their male colleagues for unsporting behaviour on the court, then that should certainly be corrected, and not just for the sake of fairness to the ladies, but also for the gentleman. (If it’s true that the unruliest tennis women get away with less aggression than the unruliest of tennis men, then simultaneously the most courteous male players are having to put up with more of the intimidating distraction than the most courteous female players.)

If indeed there is evidence of a double standard, my etiquette-cheering amendment would not be to allow the women’s side more abuse of officials, but to level the playing surface by reducing the amount of abuse tolerated on the men’s side. Ms. Williams, though, argues to rectify the alleged problem in the opposite manner, by increasing the abuse women are authorized to direct toward umpires.

Adding more baffling commentary to the flames, retired tennis great, Billie Jean King, argued on Twitter:

“When a woman is emotional, she’s ‘hysterical,’ and she’s penalized for it. When a man does the same thing, he’s ‘outspoken’ & there are no repercussions. Thank you @SerenaWilliams for calling out this double standard.”

Again, if Ms. King has evidence of this double standard in tennis umpiring, I support her call for correction. However, this is not the case from which to launch the inquiry. The supposedly sexist crime that Chair Umpire Ramos committed here was to charge Williams with a single code violation for abuse of official, which would have amounted to simply a warning if she hadn’t already smashed her racquet, and her coach hadn’t already been caught breaking the rules.

Even if some male tennis players have sometimes been forgiven abuse of officials that most female tennis players wouldn’t have, we also know that some male tennis players have been sanctioned for less than Williams’ prolific offering here. According to Wikipedia, the now demonized-as-sexist Umpire Carlos Ramos has called several controversial code violations against superstar male players, including Andy Murray who was penalized after calling out Ramos for “stupid umpiring.” So, to accuse Ramos of sexism for drawing a line after several doses of hostility from Williams, is a hefty strain on credulity.

What we have here is a superstar bully, who has called upon “women’s rights” to magically justify her bad behaviours. She is self-aggrandizing a temper tantrum, and we should tell her, “No.”


SELF-AGGRANDALISM SERIES:

I: NEVER LET THEM SEE YOU CARE

II: IF YOUR CRITICS DON’T BELIEVE IN YOU, NO ONE WILL

III: WINNING MEANS NEVER HAVING TO SAY YOU’RE SORRY

IV: POET KNOWS BEST

V: HUMILTY IS AS HUMILTY DOES

VI: HOW TO AVOID QUESTIONS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE

VII: IF YOU CAN’T BULLY ‘EM, ACCUSE ‘EM (you were just here)

THE DOUBLE STANDARD OF DOUBLE STANDARDS IV: Digging For Glass

Sexism is a problem. So, too, is sexism. And the fact that we can openly discuss the one and not the other is doubling down on sexism.

THE DOUBLE STANDARD OF DOUBLE STANDARD SERIES:

I: THE BATTLE OF THE SEXISM

II: LOOK ONE WAY BEFORE CROSSING

III: HEADS, YOU’RE SEXIST; TAILS, I’M NOT

IV: DIGGING FOR GLASS (you are here)


My argument in this DOUBLE STANDARD OF DOUBLE STANDARD series is that mainstream feminist academics, advocates, and journalists are adept at pointing out possible double standards against women, but they are not as keen to discuss equally as compelling and numerous cases where men might be encountering a double standard.

In this essay, I shall illustrate that phenomenon by pointing out what I perceive to be a chief feminist strategy that allows this double standard of double standards to go unscrutinized. The feminist policy is simple: when you’re searching through our many layers of human social interaction, stop any time you find data that could indicate a glass ceiling (or glass wall), and then claim that this single level of inquiry tells the whole story.


Consider the woman’s legal advocacy group, West Coast Leaf, which argued in 2017 to the BC Supreme Court that the use of solitary confinement was unconstitutional because it “disproportionately affected female inmates.”

CBC Radio’s feminist-hugging show, On the Coast, was eager to hear about that, and so host Gloria Macarenko asked WCL’s Director of Litigation, Raji Mangat to tell us more.

“Obviously,” Mangat said, “prolonged solitary confinement has a negative, deleterious impact on anyone. The focus of our group is on the gendered impacts of solitary confinement, and that’s because disproportionally to male inmates—who make up the vast number of the population of people in prison—…women are at an increased risk of being put in solitary confinement for their numbers.”

Now, some might think that, given the greater total population of men in solitary that maybe it is men who are more significantly harmed by the policy than women.  But, if you’re a feminist advocate who comes across a layer of data that makes it seem like men have it worse, you must keep digging. Thus, WCL ignored the surface level of information which would have pointed their concern at men, and dug until they landed on their per capita finding, at which point they immediately stopped the search. They had the glass they were looking for.

“Part of that [the overrepresentation of per capita women in solitary confinement],” Mangat continued,  “comes from the fact that many women who find themselves in prison in Canada are folks that have had some traumatic experience, some history of physical, emotional, psychological, violence in their past, and that’s only exacerbated and made worse by placement in solitary confinement.”

The gendered implication here is that, whereas men in solitary confinement are cold-blooded villains with no excuse for their evil deeds but their own psychopathy, the women are victims of those same men, and so eventually resort to crime as a coping mechanism.

I doubt that the distinction between villain-without-a-cause and victim-turned-villain is as gendered as Mangat implies, but let’s assume that women-inmates are much more likely than men-inmates to have been abused into their life of crime. It is still likely the case—given how many more male inmates we have—that a higher number of men than women in solitary confinement are former victims of the sort for which WCL is expressing concern.

In fact, sociologists tell us that the highest per capita population of Canadian inmates in solitary confinement are First Nations men. As a “progressive” organization, I wonder if West Coast Leaf is comfortable with their implication that those indigenous men are all born anti-social psychopaths with no trauma that nudged them towards criminality. But, worry not, Mangat didn’t have to answer that inconvenient question, because her interrogator didn’t ask it.

Indeed, without any resistance from her gentle interviewer, our glass-seeking advocate was able to triple down on her gendered outrage by attempting to prove that those women in solitary confinement are suffering psychologically more than their isolated male counterparts.

“Women,” Mangat said, “also have higher incidents of self-harm and suicide ideation in prisons. Again these are factors that result in an exacerbation of pre-existing conditions to be put into solitary confinement knowing that there is this makeup of the female offender population.”

I don’t distrust Manga’s data here; after all, women outside of prison are also more likely to self-harm and report suicidal ideation. But our noble pundit neglected to point out to our admiring interviewer that—in spite of women’s higher rate of reported suicidal ideation—it is men who complete 80% of suicides. Indeed, if our advocate weren’t so blinded by her search for glass, she might have noticed the obvious conclusion that it is the men (with their higher suicide rate multiplied by their higher solitary population) who are most likely to die while in solitary confinement. But again that was not the data we were looking for.

Meanwhile, during a BBC debate on how women are treated in the workplace, a sociologist was asked for verification of the feminist claim that “manterrupting” (i.e. men interrupting women disproportionately) is a problem.

“Well,” our feminist expert said  (approximately, as I haven’t yet been able to find the debate on youtube), “in terms of raw data, women interrupt men more than the reverse, BUT what we found was that men interrupt women more often when women are saying something important.”

So, while technically the assumption of men-us interruptus wasn’t true, the spirit of it—that men are talking over women too much—was, by our researcher’s estimation, valid.

Now, I don’t know how this researcher defined what counted as important conversation points that should especially not be interrupted, but let us assume that she had made a cogent distinction. The results of her findings—if she were an objective examiner of them—ought to have been one of ambivalence, wherein she pointed out that both generalized genders might have a beef with their counterparts depending on where you focussed your lens. But once again our researcher skimmed over the level of analysis that seemed to vindicate men, and didn’t stop digging until she found the glass for which she was searching.

Clearly, feminists prefer to identify general results—and not details—when those meta-facts match their accusations. So, since there are more total men than women in STEM, politics, and board rooms, feminists know that those places are all currently societies of unmitigated anti-female sexism. No further study required. However, any time the numbers go the other way, and women are more populous on the happy side of a distinction (university participation, the medical profession, longevity), we must dig for nuance until we find something—anything—that could show that women are the victims in those arenas. As Hilary Clinton infamously put it:

“Women have always been the primary victims of war. Women lose their husbands, their fathers, their sons in combat.”

Moreover, if men are more likely than women to do something positive for society, the feminist glass diggers will begin calling for intervention even if there is no evidence that those men are excluding women along the way.

For instance, our friends at CBC Radio have reported to me a few times on the “problematic” fact that Wikipedia writers (who are volunteer contributors) are more often men than women; this, according to CBC Radio, is a troubling result that requires intervention to support women to feel more included in the work.

In contrast, if it were women who were leading this voluntary project—and even if they had openly discriminated against men in the process—they would have been lauded as heroes for their inspiring work. In fact, CBC Radio recently celebrated a story of exclusively women scientists going to the North Pole to figure how to save the environment. This baffling feminist double standard would be amusing if it weren’t so successful.

Indeed, given that most Western media (save for the occasional holdout) treats feminist advocates as impartial bystanders on our society’s goings on, we have little defence against their one-thinking-fits-all.

When women-first feminist pundits are interviewed, for instance, on CBC Radio (a daily occurrence), I do not recall any of them ever receiving a single skeptical question about the premises or conclusions of their arguments. Instead, it is assumed by both “expert” and interrogator that we are living in a society that desperately needs gendered recalibration, and that the negative imbalance is always in the direction of women.

In contrast, in the last few years I can only remember hearing two critics of feminism on CBC Radio:

(A) Camille Paglia, a second-wave feminist who criticizes third-wave feminism for what she claims is man-hating and female infantilization, and

(B) Cassie Jaye, who—as a feminist—created what she intended to be a documentary hit piece on her natural enemy, the men’s rights movement, only to discover along the way that their arguments were niggling away at her sense of fairness to the point that she renounced her feminist label, and is now a friend to men’s rights advocates.

Now, I’m proud of CBC Radio for talking to these two critics of feminism, but notice that—far from receiving the unlimited agreement that women-first feminists are treated to—these two pundits each encountered a bounty of critical questions from their interlocutors.

And that’s good. Skepticism, as I’ve argued many times, is the best nutrition for our arguments. However, the lack of similar skepticism for women-are-always-victims feminists is dangerous.

This not to say that such feminists are incapable of presenting us with concepts fit for consideration. If, for instance, there is evidence of a significant sexual harassment problem in Hollywood, that’s worth investigating. But, by virtue of its no-critical-inquiry-allowed principles (such as #BelieveWomen), the #MeToo movement has become an anti-due-process, faith-based, guilt-by-association, misandrist, nuance-resistant mob (or a collection of “MeCarthyism” as pundit-comedian Bill Maher described it).

As ever, in order to stop women-first feminists and their narrowly-focused ideology from overtaking us, our media, academia, and governments must be willing to openly question them. And one way to do that is to occasionally ask feminists about the other items they find in the area while they are searching for glass.


THE DOUBLE STANDARD OF DOUBLE STANDARD SERIES:

I: THE BATTLE OF THE SEXISM

II: LOOK ONE WAY BEFORE CROSSING

III: HEADS, YOU’RE SEXIST; TAILS, I’M NOT

IV: DIGGING FOR GLASS (you were just here)

BIAS OVER #LOVEOVERBIAS

There’s a very sweet-seeming Olympic ad campaign from P&G visiting our TV screens presently, which I must admit causes my gullible hairs to stand on end as various kid-athletes struggle against alleged bias in their lives. I feel like a truly devilish advocate to question such a compassion-claiming sentiment, but my ever-tedious brain niggles away at me every time the campaign interrupts my Olympic curling.

So here goes. (May Darwin strike me down.)

As far as my Olympic viewing can tell, there are five main stories featured in this “anti-bias” campaign, each serenaded by a warm, motherly voiceover singing, “Child, things are going to get easier.”

All five stories star a mother watching her child struggle against bias and supporting him or her through it; each mom’s eyes glimmer as she sees the best in that kid. And the maternal performances are lovely and sometimes coax a tear out of my eye. Each story is then emphasized with supposedly inspirational text, such as:

“When the world sees labels, a mom sees love. #LoveOverBias”

Or

“When the world sees differences, a mom sees pride. #LoveOverBias”

Or

“Imagine if the world could see what a mom sees. #LoveOverBias. Thank you, Mom. P&G PROUND SPONSOR OF MOMS”

So, amidst such positive-seeming messages, I must apologize because I have two blasphemous criticisms:

(1) I wonder why we are celebrating mothers instead of parents, in general. Is the campaign suggesting that mothers intrinsically care about and support their children more than fathers?

I may seem oversensitive here, but I remind you that this campaign is applauding love over bias, and we live in a society that still treats motherhood as more valuable than fatherhood. From a biased court system in favour of mothers’ rights over fathers’ rights, to the government opening shelters for single mothers instead of single parents, to the mainstream media’s lack of criticism of such mom-centered programs.

I would have thought that the LOVE OVER BIAS people might have considered avoiding such widespread preferential treatment. Instead, while the LOVE OVER BIAS folks are pretending to be subversive by questioning our societal biases, they are actually as conventional as ever as they merely criticize the biases that the mainstream media has identified as bad.

(2) Now, while the LOVE OVER BIAS people are incapable of seeing anything but the correct biases that one is supposed to see, that doesn’t mean that those biases are not worthy of discussing. And four out of five of the biases seem like fair comments to me. We have a boy missing a leg trying to ski, a Muslim girl receiving sideways glances from her competitors, a poor kid putting on cheap skates and getting laughed at for it, and an effeminate boy with a black eye tossing away his hockey skates in favour of what looks like plans to figure skate. My hopeful sense is that these stories are a bit out of date, but I do think that bullies—conventional thinkers, themselves—do tend to focus on those whose cultures and situations seem different from the norm.

But our fifth story inadvertently features not bias from the population surrounding the kid in the story, but bias from the mom in regard to the population. In this case, a girl who dreams of being an elite skier is merrily jumping up and down on her bed in preparation for a ski trip, but her mom watches on and shakes her head with concern as the warm lyric once again touches our ears, “Child, things are going to get easier.” You see, the girl is black, while the posters on her bedroom wall feature the superstar skiers of her time, who are all white. And that, according to the ad, is an obstacle to overcome.

This notion that it is psychologically daunting to have role models who are of a different colour than you is a highly conventional claim about race that I hear frequently emphasized in the “progressive” media. CBC Radio, for instance, loves to talk about the challenge of being the only blue jay in a sea of problematic doves. Now, if that blue jay suffers bigotry from those doves, then we certainly have something to be concerned about. But what I’m referring to here is the additional claim that—even when there isn’t bigotry per se—the very feeling of being a different colour than one’s peers and/or one’s role models is, by definition, suffering a racial indignity.

Now, I can’t prove such prejudice to be incorrect. Maybe it is difficult to be have a different skin tone than one’s cohort and/or one’s role models, but I see no evidence for this unfortunate assumption, and my experience tells me that it’s wrong.

When I was a youngster, my first sporting love was football, and my three favourite players were Roy Dewalt, Keyvan Jenkins, and of course “Swervin” Mervyn Fernandez, who were all black (while I was white). My appreciation for these non-white athletes had nothing to with me being a racially progressive kid, but instead had everything to do with them happening to be the three best players for my BC Lions. And, since my parents didn’t tell me that that those star athletes’ racial difference from me was significant, it never occurred to me to be troubled by it. Instead, I planned to be a professional football player when I grew up just like my heroes.

A year earlier, my family had moved to Bella Bella (a predominantly First Nations village in Northern British Columbia) where my mother had gotten a job as school principal. But my parents didn’t tell me in advance that being of the racial minority would be a problem for me so I wasn’t troubled being one of the only white kids in my class learning the Heiltsuk language from the elders. If only my parents had told me that I was experiencing a hardship, I might have thought to be wary of my classmates, but instead once again, my parents made it seem as though kids of all races are just like any other kids. So I forgot to notice that I wore a different flavour of skin from my new peers, and I even made a friend or two. Indeed, throughout my childhood, I had friends of various races, nationalities, and religions, and I didn’t think I was special for it. I just liked to hang out with the kids whom I liked and who liked me back.

My lack of racial phobia is not the result of me possessing a wonderful colour-blind soul; it is merely the consequence of having good parents. They never seemed concerned with race, so neither was I. Not that my brain doesn’t see colour, but in the absence of bigotry and CBC Radio’s insistence that race always matters, race really is only skin deep.

(Ironically, I notice that “progressive” pundits now describe people of colour as “racialized minorities.” I’m sorry, but it’s you, racially-obsessed pundits, who are most often racializing people these days. It seems to me that most of us in Canada agree with Morgan Freeman and would like you to treat people as individuals. But, sadly, I notice that as an adult, I see race much more than I did as a kid, because the alleged progressives keep telling me that it’s important that I always pay attention to race.)

In the case of LOVE OVER BIAS’s young black girl excitedly planning her skiing career, the grin on her face while she dances in front of posters of the white role models suggests that she’s not at all troubled by her differently-coloured heroes. It is clearly her mother who assumes that there is something lacking in those theoretical mentors, so it is she who is imposing an impediment on her daughter where one may not exist.

Racism is terrible. But so, too, is racism.

No white “progressive” would object to being surrounded by people of a different colour (as they shouldn’t), so why do they assume the opposite is an intrinsic hardship even where racism isn’t shown to be present?

Indeed, when British Columbia basketballer Steve Nash looked out at the NBA when he was growing up he would have seen a league whose stars were mostly of a different race than him. Quite rightly, no pundit would ever claim that the white Nash overcame a racial indignity as he made it to the NBA and won two league MVPs. So why is conventional thinking so quick to assume that black kids automatically need us to tell them they are at a disadvantage when they decide to pursue a passion featuring souls with a different colour wrapping than they have?

If there is racism in a particular discipline, please provide evidence for it so we can criticize it. And, if there is sound research that suggests that being racially different—even without bigotry—is daunting, and/or that my parents’ racially-blind parenting was the wrong way to go, let’s hear it. Otherwise, LOVE OVER BIAS people (and your “progressive” muses), it’s time to let go of your bias about what constitutes bias, and stop racializing people.

WONDERSTRUCK

I watched Wonder Woman last week, and I’m pleased to admit that I enjoyed it. The film featured plenty of humour (albeit standard, fish-out-of-water comedy, as in Wonder Woman being awestruck by her first encounter with ice cream), back story (which is my favourite kind of super hero story), 3-Dimensional characters (although, I saw the movie in 2D), and an unusually clear rendering of action (in fact, Wonder Woman and her fellow Amazonians had an inventive fighting style that was entertaining to my non-video-gamed eye).

Most impressive of all, the movie was not overrun by an infestation of “Girl Power.” This may sound like a contradiction since Wonder Woman is a girl with lots of power. However, by “Girl Power,” I mean the “Because I’m a girl” attitude that is exhibited increasingly often in movies (and advertising) these days where a person of female persuasion is treated as extra powerful by the very definition of her being a girl, as opposed to her particular circumstance and character having led her to that powerful place. In the case of Wonder Woman, her position of power is not parachuted in by her gender, but instead is explained by her supernatural back story and training.

And, while the film occasionally panders to its feminist godmothers (comparing a 1910s’ female secretary to a slave), it is not as blatant in that gendered agenda (“agender,” if you will?) that so many rival mega action franchises are today. Consequently, I found it to be relatively refreshing.

Nevertheless, the media portrayal of this movie has been much more Girl-Powered than the movie, itself. For instance, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Austin, Texas decided to have a women-and-girls only showing of the film on opening night (and women-only staff of it), and when a few equal-gender-defenders criticized the policy, they were dismissed by many mainstream pundits as sexist simpletons.

I believe the following soliloquy from a Mashable.com commentator fairly sums up the pro-women-only argument:

“Sounds like a good idea, right? Women getting together to celebrate a strong, empowered, three-dimensional female superhero on the big screen. Of course. It makes perfect sense. But, as we all know, we can’t have nice things… The Drafthouse received hundreds of comments from angry men who felt ‘excluded’ from the event… Of course there were also many people who loved the idea who understand that this film is a celebration of women finally being included in the world of superheroes and finally being represented on the big screen. Let’s hope these dudes can get themselves together…”

I’m happy to hear arguments in favour of the discriminatory screening, but it is daunting to listen to such smug commentary, which seems to imply this controversy is merely about whether countering perceived injustice is worthy or not. Such “of course it makes sense” pundits are either unwilling or unable to consider the possibility that direct discrimination based on sex, no matter how noble it may be in intention and platitude, is an ethically dicey enterprise.

It’s not obvious to me whether men or women on average deal with more real-world discrimination in the West today, but it is indisputable that men are the only sex that is currently the victim of open discrimination for which there is no recourse. I recently attended a BC Human Rights workshop in which I learned that it is illegal to discriminate in the workplace against a person on the basis of sex (and other irrelevant traits), unless of course you’re working on a special project to uplift a group that is historically disadvantaged. And, since we all know that the official gender policy of our society is that it is only women who have ever been disadvantaged (forget about wars, coal mines, and parental custody disputes), that means you can discriminate against men so long as you provide clear evidence that you stated that you were empowering women in the process.

Political parties are doing it, too. From Justin Trudeau’s quota-based promoting of women to cabinet positions “Because it’s 2015,” to the BC NDP limiting the number of men allowed to run for office, it is clear that our society not only wants to ensure equal access to powerful positions, but also to discriminate against men along the way. The defenders of such policies, as well as those defending the Women-Only screening, seem unable to consider the possibility that a principle of discrimination might be dangerous even it is supported by a pleasing symbolic message.

Indeed, my neck hurt from shaking my head as the hosts on a local Vancouver radio show, “Steele and Drex,” could apparently not comprehend why anyone would have any issue with a fun opportunity for women and girls to celebrate their potential.

Thus, I penned the following letter to those local pundits, but as ever, I did not get a reply, so I am posting it here. Some might see my argument as melodramatic and overstating the impact of a tiny incident, especially as I ponder a hypothetical autistic man who might’ve been excluded from the theatre. However, as our modern, anti-“privilege” discrimination unveils new examples each day, I think it’s vital that we at least consider the possibility that by leaving people out because of their sex, race, or sexuality (even if they are of the demographic that is presumed to be advantaged), we are playing with ethical fire. Despite our best intentions, when you tell any person that they are less worthy because of what they are, instead of who they are (to paraphrase Youtube star, Sargon of Akkad), we are setting a worrisome precedent.

As it is, not only do our mainstream pundits not consider the downsides of “affirmative” discrimination, but also, when they do learn of dissenters, they accuse such skeptics of being cranially-challenged bigots. So the counter conversation is not just ignored, it is ostracized. Perhaps I’m wrong in my assessment that the current level of popular discrimination is dangerous, but if we do not openly discuss this delicate subject now, how will we know when such exclusion has gone too far?

And, with that, I give you me in epistolary form:

Some friendly wonderings about the Wonder Woman Policy:

Dear [guest host] Jody [Vance] and Drex:

I wonder if you would consider a friendly counter argument to your analysis yesterday regarding the appropriateness of having a women-only screening of Wonder Woman (hereafter the “The Wonder Policy”).

Correct me if I’m wrong, but you both seem to be arguing that a business restricting its audience to women for one occasion is benign, and just a fun thing to do given the circumstance of the movie being about a female superhero.

Personally, I dislike the Wonder policy on principle, not because I’m opposed to fun and creative ways to take in movies, but because I’m opposed to discrimination based on sex (even if that sex is male). I suspect that most defenders of the Wonder policy would be less willing to support a men-only screening of Superman, and the distinction they would likely make would be that it’s okay to discriminate against men in this way because they are the historically privileged group.

For the record, I do not think that assumed truth is as clear cut as we’re told; it seems to me that both men and women have been discriminated against in multiple different ways for a long time. For instance, women got the vote later than men, but it is only men who were drafted into wars.

Nevertheless, even if it were clear that women have been significantly more oppressed than men throughout history, are you so sure that is still the case today? There are many categories today in which men are more often doing worse in North America than women (for instances, homelessness, workplace death, suicide). That does not necessarily mean those men are oppressed, but it does mean that the question of “male privilege” is more complicated than most gender scholars will allow, especially given how many more resources, advocacy groups, and scholarships are currently focussed first on women.

But, even if I were to stipulate that in North America today, men are privileged, I still find the women-only movie viewing to be ethically suspect. The Wonder Policy is not just saying, “Yay, girls!” It is implying that the experience of seeing Wonder Women for the first time would be losing something if the boys were there, too. Every time you say, “X People Only,” you are saying, “Y People are NOT welcome.” And, while it may seem fun and benign in the moment because we generally don’t think of men as victims of discrimination, if you look for it, you can see male-excluding language and sentiment has become ubiquitous today in politics, advocacy, academia, and even the media (examples available upon request). The Wonder Policy is just one more pronouncement that it’s okay to discriminate against men because, well, there’s something different about them that makes it okay to exclude them.

Maybe there’s an autistic man who’s loved Wonder Woman since he was a kid, and wants to attend the movie on opening night with his best friend in the town where the Wonder Policy is in place, but he’s going to be turned away, because he has the incorrect gender for that viewing. Are you sure such a scenario doesn’t make you question for a tiny moment whether the Wonder Policy is morally correct?

I don’t anticipate that I have convinced you, and that’s fine if we have differing moral codes on what constitutes unethical discrimination. But I wonder if you would be willing to consider the possibility that, just because someone has an ethical objection to the Wonder Policy, doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re a sexist. Maybe some of us, on principle, think the policy is sexist, and would equally object to a hypothetical Superman Policy.

Yours in Wonder,
Seth

THE DOUBLE STANDARD OF DOUBLE STANDARDS III: Heads, You’re Sexist; Tails, I’m Not

Sexism is a problem. So, too, is sexism. And the fact that we can openly discuss the one and not the other is doubling down on sexism.

THE DOUBLE STANDARD OF DOUBLE STANDARD SERIES:

I: THE BATTLE OF THE SEXISM

II: LOOK ONE WAY BEFORE CROSSING

III: HEADS, YOU’RE SEXIST; TAILS, I’M NOT (you are here)

IV: DIGGING FOR GLASS


Last month I heard on my local Vancouver radio a discussion about allegedly low male parenting expectations wherein we celebrate dads for standard parenting behavior. While it was a gentle and playful prodding at men, it was ultimately still a criticism of men for having it so easy.

It struck me as a poignant example of our society’s double standard in the way we interpret double standards (which I first pointed out in THE BATTLE OF SEXISM). In most mainstream conversation, when there is a perception that we expect less of women, that’s called sexism against women; meanwhile, when there is a perception that we expect less of men—as in this case—that’s also described as sexism against women.

Thus I keyboarded the following letter to the lead host of the show. I did not receive a reply, so I publish it here now. I’m not identifying the hosts (one male and one female) of the broadcast because I do not want to make it seem like I think those two people, in particular, have ill-will towards men. Instead, they seem like good-natured people who have trouble seeing the feminist lens that informs their viewing of double standards.

Here, then, is my letter to an anonymous lead radio host, mildly redacted:


Dear [Radio Talk-Show Host]:

I was intrigued by your discussion on Thursday February 9 in which you asked, “Do we expect too little from dads?”

Nevertheless, I wonder whether your parenting philosophy duo is over-simplifying this matter.

I must acknowledge I was startled to hear about your (and your callers’) observation that men are treated like overachievers when they’re just out being parents; if this indeed occurs frequently, I agree that it is a double standard, but—correct me if I’m wrong—you seem to be implying from the tone of your conversation that it is evidence that our society treats women unfairly (because we have lower expectations of men, thus putting greater demands on women).

Another way of looking at your observed result, though, is that it is an indication of sexism against men that we don’t expect them to be as capable parents as women. That is, maybe we see men as inferior in this arena. So—as when we see a 4-year old doing something beyond our expectations—we pat them on the head and say, “Good job!” for something that would be simple for a female parent.

It’s also possible that this double standard is unfair to both sexers. Maybe it’s condescending to male parents, while simultaneously contributing to a higher demand for female parenting perfection.

For comparison, consider how we view similar double standards in the workplace. If one looks at popular media discussions these days, it would be difficult to dispute that we often celebrate female professionals’ achievements disproportionately to men’s. For instance, a female scientist in a high-percentage male field is viewed by most pundits as doing something exceptional because she has been outnumbered by the opposite gender. But, women also outnumber men in the stay-at-home parenting role, so why do we object to the “You go boy” remarks in the parenting case, but think it’s okay to cheer “You go girl” to women who achieve success in a high-percentage male workplace?

Now, one might argue that there’s a difference here: women, one might say, are actively discriminated against in STEM fields, while men are not actively discriminated against in parenting.

However, there is lots of evidence (available upon request) that today’s gender disparity in professions is not the consequence of gender discrimination, but instead is primarily the result of the different career choices the genders tend to make based on their personal preferences and aspirations. (For instance, while there are more men than women currently graduating in engineering, there are more women graduating in medicine.)

Meanwhile, on the other side of the comparison, I see several ways in which male parents are treated worse than female parents:

(A) In family court, women are still assumed to be best parent for the job.

(B) While perhaps not given as many pats on the head, single moms are provided more resources than single dads. Recently, for instance, the YWCA and the city of Vancouver opened a new shelter for “single moms and their children,” yet I did not hear any Vancouver media pundit ask why single dads and their families were excluded. Even if the majority of poor, single parents are female, imagine a similar on-the-books exclusion of women in the workplace (or any other arena). Would the media have been equally as accepting of that kind of official, government discrimination?

(C) To my perception, the emotional connection between mothers and children is given more deference in our society than any other bond: for instance, other than creating a poignant acronym, why do we have an organization called Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, instead of all parents equally opposing the early demise of their children?

(D) Note that you talked about “macho” male culture, which one of your callers said used to cause some men to fear being seen taking care of their kids. And maybe that was and is sometimes the case, but notice how the blame goes towards men for giving into pressure to be “masculine.” But when there is perceived pressure on women to be more “feminine,” we blame society, and never the women themselves. Why this double standard?

I do not mean to suggest that double standards only hurt men. However, with every double standard, both genders are being treated differently, so I think it’s worth considering the benefits and disadvantages for everyone in each case. As it is, our public discussion tends only to see the benefits for men and disadvantages for women any time a double standard is observed.

Consider one of greatest movies of all time, The Princess Pride. Its lone imperfection, to my eye, is the scene in which Wesley is attacked by an ROUS (rodent of unusual size), and his true love, Princess Buttercup, seems only to care about her own safety. Although she grabs a stick to protect herself, she doesn’t help Wesley fight the beast until it approaches her feet. I would bet my entire argument that you, [Radio pundit, who’s a child of the 80s], are also a fan of this movie, but were equally as annoyed by this scene as I was, and that like me, I suspect you found this female characterization to be evidence of sexism towards women (that the writers thought her incapable of both courage and action). But, if we’re right that that was sexist towards women, then why do we see similar condescension towards men (in the form of low parenting expectations) as sexism towards women as well?


THE DOUBLE STANDARD OF DOUBLE STANDARD SERIES:

I: THE BATTLE OF THE SEXISM

II: LOOK ONE WAY BEFORE CROSSING

III: HEADS, YOU’RE SEXIST; TAILS, I’M NOT (you were just here)

IV: DIGGING FOR GLASS

CBC, NOW PRINCIPLE FREE II: CBC Radio Endorses Exclusivity Policy

CBC Radio’s Editorial policy is clear:

(1) CBC Radio promises to tell every story from the perspective of truth and justice, and

(2) CBC Radio endeavours to alter their definition of truth and justice depending on who the players are in each story.

CBC, NOW PRINCIPLE FREE SERIES:

I: CBC RADIO CELEBRATES PRE-FORMANCE ART

II: CBC RADIO ENDORSES EXCLUSIVITY POLICY (you are here)

III: CBC RADIO DECLARES MORAL BANKRUPTCY

IV: CBC RADIO’S HONOURS THE ROBIN HOOD OF RACISM


Imagine you’re a reporter for your public broadcaster covering this story:

During the recent fentanyl overdoes epidemic, the BC government has been criticized for not doing enough to combat the suffering. On January 24th, the province, along with Vancouver Coastal Health, announced that they were making available 38 new beds exclusively for women looking for help with their addiction.

With those facts, you might be wondering why beds were being opened up to just one sex for a problem that affects both. The answer given by CBC reporter Farrah Merali was this:

In 2016, of the 914 British Columbians who died because of overdosing on drugs, 176 were women.

Now, maybe the government-funded discrimination is justified: perhaps there is evidence that one or both of the sexes fare better in segregated addiction support; and perhaps there are an equally proportioned number of men-only beds.

But, if you were a reporter for the CBC—i.e. the taxpayer-funded broadcaster that’s supposed to represent all of us—might you not quickly ask why the group who is making up a minority of sufferers seems to be getting special treatment?

If so, you would be the rarest of all CBC commentators. In my many years of listening to CBC radio, I have discovered that it is standard procedure never to question the word of women’s advocates.

In keeping with this tradition, Merali did not mention the men who would be ineligible for the new treatment spaces. After all, we have a crisis affecting women 19% of the time, so it makes sense to create beds exclusively for women.

Sometimes, I’m sure, journalistic skepticism is daunting when the claim being made is subjective, such that bias and evidence are difficult to disentangle. However, in this case, our reporter had objective information that men were dying at four times the rate that women were, yet women were now getting exclusive treatment opportunities. The skeptical question should have written itself:

Why are we segregating? And, If segregation has been shown to be beneficial, what are we doing for the other 81%?

Again, I am open to the possibility that the government’s gendered plan is justified by the science. But there is no excuse for a reporter from our national broadcaster failing to look into the counter-intuitive discrimination.  Such critical questioning could have illuminated whether the politicians and advocates might have missed a few people in their consideration.


CBC, NOW PRINCIPLE FREE SERIES:

I: CBC RADIO CELEBRATES PRE-FORMANCE ART

II: CBC RADIO ENDORSES EXCLUSIVITY POLICY (you were just here)

III: CBC RADIO DECLARES MORAL BANKRUPTCY

IV: CBC RADIO’S HONOURS THE ROBIN HOOD OF RACISM

ORWELLING UP II: Featuring CBC Feminism

The warnings of George Orwell play a significant role in the official philosophical anxiety of SethBlogs.

ORWELLING UP SERIES:

I: FEATURING DJ MORALS

II: FEATURING CBC FEMINISM (you are here)


In the first episode of ORWELLING UP—which I wrote while I was reading George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-FourI questioned the notion of excommunicating artists for behaviours in their personal lives. Now, upon finishing Orwell’s dystopian imagining, I’ll peek in on what I increasingly perceive to be CBC Radio’s Orwellian policy on “thought crimes” against their patron ideology, feminism.


In George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four “nothing was illegal,” but, if you were caught doing something aberrant (i.e. outside the undefined but easily inferred Party lines), “it was reasonably certain that it would be punishable by death, or at least by twenty-five years in a forced labour camp.” Similarly, CBC Radio never speaks of a feminist policy. However, the consequences of drifting from CBC feminist party lines are undeniable:

(1) If you have incorrect opinions, you will generally be excluded from this grand, publically funded conversation. And

(2) If you do Houdini your way through that first barrier, but you nudge a toe out of feminist line, you will be challenged by the normally gushing hosts.

Meanwhile, the benefits of colouring neatly between the feminist lines are equally obvious:

(A) If you never question feminism, and always treat individual feminists as infallible equality-seekers, you will have a much greater chance of being promoted to valuable hosting and guest roles, regardless of your talent and intelligence in the areas you are discussing. And

(B) If you say something that is evidence and/or decency free, you will be supported with adulation, so long as it supports the orthodoxy of feminism.

In this blog, I have criticized what I perceive to be examples of CBC’s unstated but relentless pro-feminist slant, and how its hosts never question feminist dogma. Such yielding to this particular Big Sibling is understandable given both the risks of being pushed out of CBC for “thoughtcrime,” and—if I may offer a matching Orwellian term—the benefits of demonstrating virtuethink.

But these pressures to conform are never officially acknowledged. Indeed, if questioned, the host would likely say they were always expressing their own opinions. And they’re very convincing. Many of them probably are sincere (they were, after all, likely chosen for that apparent sincerity). But, if feminists are right that their excommunicated hero, Jian Ghomeshi, was a long closeted misogynist, then they must admit that any of these other beloved feminist personalities might also be faking their commitment to the faith for the benefits of such conformity.

This unstated but ever-present thought policing is a disservice to both critics of feminism, as well as proponents, who are able to release morally and intellectually inept statements into our public airways without challenge. And, while that surely feels good to them and their congregation at the time, it deprives them of the scrutiny we all need to improve our thinking. Meanwhile, those outside of the margins of correct feminist opinion are nearly always dismissed as sexists and/or misogynists because they hint at opinions that feminists have already deemed incorrect. CBC Radio thus treats intellectual debate as unnecessary (and potentially harmful) in such cases.

In this episode of ORWELLLING UP, I consider a June 20th CBC Q interview in which both the throughtcrime and virtuethink styles of silent feminist influence took turns leading a discussion. The conversation starred the ever warm, eloquent, and feminist-flavoured Gill Deacon interviewing Ali Wong, a rant-and-dirty-joke-wielding comedian who had both pleased and displeased feminist pastors.

Wong’s correct thinking was itemized first. Deacon played a clip from the comedian’s special, Baby Cobra, in which the then 7.5 months’ pregnant comic noted that male comedians just having a baby can merrily:

“…get up on stage a week afterwards, and they’ll be like, ‘Guys, I just had this baby. It’s so annoying and boring. And all these uppity dads in the audience are like, ‘That’s hilarious. I identify.’ And their fame just swells. Because they become this relatable, family funny man all of a sudden.”

Meanwhile, Wong hollered, just-becoming-mom comedians are a little too “busy!” producing and nursing the baby to return to the stage so quickly.

I thought this was a fair diatribe, which seemed to me not so much a hostile complaint about men as much as a playful, old-style, battle-of-the-sexes teasing of them.

CBC interviewer Gill Deacon, though, helped herself to a feminist reading of the comedy, marking the rant down in her Approved Feminist Grievance column as she celebrated it as a “fairly spot on” identification of a “double standard.”

I heard no evidence, nor claim, from Wong that she had been accosted by a double standard. A double standard implies that she was being dealt with by a different standard than her male rivals. That would mean her business and/or audience was not open to her pregnancy-or-post-pregnancy comedy in the way they would be if she were male. She made no such argument. As far as I can tell, she’s just claiming that it’s extra difficult for soon-to-be or just-become mothers to do stand up comedy. Fair enough. That doesn’t mean that there is sexist discrimination going on in this case; it might just mean that pregnancy and nursing needs can be hard on one’s comedy career. And, given that women are more often pregnant and nursing than men, they have that burden more often.

Curiously, then, after Deacon rewarded Wong for a feminist claim that she had not made, she scolded the comedian for some decidedly unfeminist material. Consider this interaction:

DEACON: You are a very professionally accomplished woman… You also joke a lot… about wanting to be a housewife… Is that really a fantasy of yours? You kind of make it seem like housewives are the geniuses of our time.

WONG: …I’m joking, because I obviously really love doing stand up. The desire, though, to not work anymore is real…

DEACON: And there’s no bells of concern that go off for you at all when your mind starts to go there?

WONG: No, I mean I think that’s real. I think a lot of my other friends, who are professional women, are like… “What the Hell am I doing?” when they see women who have super rich husbands… It’s all a fantasy…

DEACON: You say that feminism’s ruined it for us. Now we’re expected to work. Have you heard any complaints from women in any of your audiences with jokes like that?

WONG: Not really. I think most women understand that I’m joking…

DEACON: It doesn’t come across that clearly that you’re joking, I have to say. I found myself going, “Hmm, does she really think this? It’s hard to tell.”

WONG: Um, yeah.

DEACON: It sounds like I wasn’t all wrong. You kind of… do believe in the fantasy.

WONG: Yeah, part of me believes in the fantasy. But part of me also knows that it’s a fantasy. And the reality of it comes with consequences…

DEACON: ….At the end of your special, you do twist things around a little bit to sort of prove that point. But do you worry that men in your audience might think that they’re seeing what women actually secretly think?

WONG: I don’t really worry about that. I’m worried about if they’re laughing. I’m not worried about what really they’re thinking. …I’m not a teacher. I’m not a politician. I’m a stand up comic.

Notice that Wong had not only committed the speechcrime of joking about having blasphemous thoughts, but, with a little prodding, Deacon detected that Wong was doing more than just joking. Wong was admitting to taking genuine pleasure in imagining something unfeminist. She had committed a thoughtcrime: she had coveted an unapproved feminist lifestyle! If this weren’t bad enough, she had allowed men-folk to overhear her forbidden dreams.

So, far from being a freeing ideology that allows people more choice in their lives, this version of feminism is telling women not that they can be career-oriented if they choose, but that they should be. And not only should they be, but they should never enjoy dreams of greater leisure. That would clearly be fantasycrime! And, if you’re going to have these evil fantasies, the least you could do is not let the drooling men hear about it: men are too simple to understand that one woman’s favourite imagining neither means it automatically overpowers her simultaneous desire to have a career, nor does it represent all women at all times.

Next, Deacon “pushed [Wong]” for telling her audience about sexual desires that were also not feminist approved.

Wong responded to these shake-of-the-head questions by pointing out that her comedy is not a TED TALK: her goal, she said, is to just make people laugh.

Deacon did not seem impressed to hear it.

“So it’s just going for the laughs?” she asked.

Wong had clearly once again committed both a thoughtcrime (the desire) and a speechcrime (talking about it).

I’m not objecting to Deacon questioning anyone’s moral justification for their creative renderings. If Deacon wanted to explore the social implications of an artist’s material, that would be fine. However, my greatest trouble here is that Deacon and her fellow feminist interviewers at CBC are incapable of nuance both in their support and condemnation.

First, there is rarely exploration into the details and/or veracity within feminist—or, in this case, feminist-seeming—arguments. I have little doubt that pregnant women and new mothers have a particularly daunting time in stand-up comedy, but a good interviewer might have explored why the comedian thought that was so, and whether it was, as Deacon diagnosed it, a double standard, or an unavoidable consequence of biology, or something in between. Instead, in CBC Feminism’s world, any claim that a woman is treated worse than a man is approved without question or contextual consideration. Essentially, You have said something that confirms the Party doctrine, therefore I agree.

Then, on the disapproving side of the conversation, if ever someone says something that doesn’t coincide with the correct feminist opinion, the blasphemer is first given the option to renounce the position, and when, in this case, the comedian held onto her incorrect thoughts, there was no exploration of whether the comedian was nevertheless morally justified in her comedy. Instead, Deacon simply pointed out that Wong really did seem to be sincere about her wrongthink, and moved onto the next question.

This lack of nuance suffocates these conversations. We are left with vacant approvals and accusations without any moral foundation to hold them up. Instead, CBC Feminism (intentionally or otherwise) relies on fear of Party excommunication to keep their members from diverging too far from virtuethink.


ORWELLING UP SERIES:

I: FEATURING DJ MORALS

II: FEATURING CBC FEMINISM (you were just here)

ORWELLING UP I: Featuring DJ Morals

The warnings of George Orwell play a significant role in the official philosophical anxiety of SethBlogs.

THE ORWELLING UP SERIES:

I: FEATURING DJ MORALS (you are here)

II: FEATURING CBC FEMINISM


I am currently reading Orwell’s most famous contemplation of a thought-controlled society, Nineteen Eighty-Four, and as I read about Winston Smith and his work at the Ministry of Truth, I find myself increasingly perceiving Orwellian thoughts and policies around me.


On the May 1st “Stepping up and speaking out” episode of CBC radio’s Unreserved, Rosanna Deerchild interviewed Deejay NDN (Ian Campeau), who says he now restricts the content he plays (and listens to) on the basis of two moral maxims:

(1) If the lyrics are “oppressive,” and/or

(2) if the musician is “oppressive” in their personal life, then Campeau will not play the associated tunes for his audience, nor will he keep them on his personal playlist.

For instance, when it comes to sexism, Campeau says:

“I guess it was kinda just like waking up to the idea of misogyny, and how I fit into the role of perpetuating it… And, you know, playing specific artists who have [been] known to have been misogynistic or have been harmful to women. I just choose not to promote them anymore. And it’s just kind of, you know, I just don’t align with those ideas anymore.”

Maxim 1 is, I think, an understandable rule of play. I can appreciate why a DJ would not want to lend their volume to content they believe is unethical.  Yet I think this is a delicate and potentially damaging code of curation; if we’re not careful, we may find ourselves excommunicating music that seems unethical, or tiptoes near the promotion of troubling ideas, but is actually commentary that is morally and/or artistically beneficial. As Campeau says:

“I try to not listen to any music that’s oppressive in any sort of way… it’s been a real learning curve and real, you know, prioritizing of values.” For instance, “…you have things like Kendrick Lamar’s last album, which was incredibly racially advanced in the way he was discussing topics… but he was still misogynistic within it, so as much as he was trying to elevate his community, he was still oppressing half of it.”

I see a few moral quandaries that will be difficult to solve here, but ultimately I think it’s reasonable for a private curator not to propagate art to which they are morally opposed. Regardless, my concerns are doubled in the second maxim, so I’ll focus my criticism there.

Maxim 2 calls for the DJ to assess the moral merits of people whose artwork they would otherwise endorse. For instance, Campeau says he’s:

“…not going to play Chris Brown anymore after what happened with Rihanna, that was a really easy choice…”

[Brown was charged with assault and making criminal threats towards Rihanna, and he pled guilty to “assault with intent of doing great bodily injury.”]

But, Campeau says, this culling of his playlist

“…gets really, really tough when you start realizing how all of your heroes are not exactly what they appear… There are so many… things like David Bowie, Led Zeppelin, Africa Bambaataa… like, there’s all these people who have done harm, it seems that everybody seems to be okay with that as long as they make good music?”

Campeau’s  (hereafter DJ Morals’) code of ethics calls for a purity of artistic souls, which—if it catches on as an ethical maxim—will unduly limit the art we’ll be able to experience.

BILL: Are you going to see the new Hamlet production?

TED: Haven’t you heard? It’s been discovered that Shakespeare once said something sexist, so he’s officially been removed from the Approved Artists List.

BILL: Seriously? Damn, I liked him.

TED: I know. So did I. But we can’t very well endorse that kind of sexism by enjoying his so-called art.

BILL: Of course. You’re right. To be sexist, or not to be sexist, that is the question.

TED: Um, even alluding to one of his quotes is kind of sexist. Sorry, I can’t be friends with you anymore.

BILL: Fair enough.

Now, dear DJ Morals, I’m not saying you shouldn’t criticize behaviour that you think is harmful (I’m doing so right now ;). I’m arguing that, unfortunately, artistic and moral merit are not always linked. And so, to limit your catalog of musicians to those who have lived perfect moral existences will clip the wings of the music you play.

There may be enough “moral” musicians (or at least potentially “immoral” ones who haven’t been caught yet) for individual DJs to still put out good stuff, but since DJ Morals is making a moral argument (he said he’s aiming to “end racism in Canada” and “to change society…” such that his “daughters [feel] safe walking home alone at night”), he’s arguing others should follow his lead. And, since he is clearly a member of the movement of so-called “social justice” which currently dominates popular media, his policy could conceivably be confused for good ethics and become the common moral code of music appreciation.

Consequently, as our ethics become more nuanced over time, there may be increasing numbers of artists (including the next Beatles or Wayne Gretzky) who will be ineligible to perform for us. And, if it’s the case that historically oppressed cultures are more likely to be uneducated, perhaps they’re more likely to be caught on the wrong side of the moral law, and so DJ Moral’s policy may disproportionately affect the artistic output of the very communities he argues need “elevation.”

Moreover, while our ethics may be improving over time, our public moral consensus is still fallible, and so if we limit ourselves only to the artists who are currently morally correct, we may be closing our minds to new moral considerations.

This moral purity requirement for performers isn’t a far-fetched fantasy/fear. As I discussed in THE SEPARATION OF WORK AND PLAY, there are many popular pundits who already demand that sports leagues suspend players who are accused of crimes. Blasphemously enough, I don’t think workers should be suspended for anything outside of work that doesn’t make them a danger to their co-workers, but at the very least, I am baffled that even those who are still legally presumed innocent should be excommunicated from their profession on the grounds that they are believed by the public to be guilty.

Even more drastically, recall that Jian Ghomeshi was fired from the CBC, not for illegal acts, but for admitting to his bosses that he took part in consensual sexual behaviour that they deemed immoral. If the rumors are true that—along with being a doubleplus sexual wrongdoer (to use Orwell’s “newspeak”)—Ghomeshi was a workplace bully, then that would have been an understandable reason to fire him. But the CBC has no place in the bedrooms of its hosts.

Nevertheless, the CBC and DJ Morals are burgeoning Big Brothers. They seem to believe it is their duty not simply to discuss morality with their audience, but to punish those they believe have crossed moral lines in their personal lives. This would be dangerous enough if the CBC and DJ Morals were infallible ethicists, but what if they’re moral morons? The CBC daily demonstrates their eligibility for such a description with their sexist policy on all gender discussions. Meanwhile, DJ Morals is an admitted former enjoyer of misogynistic rap music. (I have always despised such lyrics, so—by his moral math—it seems I get to announce that I am a better person than he is.)

Our ongoing attempts to improve our ethics have potential for much good. But we must be careful in our zeal to promote good behavior to avoid becoming thought police who not only challenge the ideas and behaviours with which we disagree, but also vaporize anyone who disagrees, or is accused of terrible actions or words outside of their artistic life.


THE ORWELLING UP SERIES:

I: FEATURING DJ MORALS (you were just here)

II: FEATURING CBC FEMINISM