• Welcome to The Anti-Misandry Blog within SethBlogs! Confused? Click here for The Anti-Misandry Blog Introduction. Intrigued/enraged? Click on the “Anti-Misandry” link in the CATEGORY section to the right of this post for further episodes.

    THE ANTI-MISANDRY BLOG: EPISODE VIII

    A CASE STUDY: THE CURRENT vs. THOSE WHO “DON’T GET IT”

    In my recent post GHOMESHI’S FEMINISM I argued that Jian Ghomeshi has been tried and convicted in the media by the same uncritical uniformity of feminist thought that Mr. Ghomeshi, himself, so often exemplified when he flavoured CBC’s airwaves. I argued that, even though the persona of the former host would have supported the feminist assumption of guilt that he has now received from his former colleagues, he nevertheless deserves a right to a fair and legal hearing of the facts before he is thrown off the ship.

    As evidence of the Canadian mainstream media’s indestructible desire to prove itself to be pro-women, and anti-Ghomeshi, consider a recent panel discussion on The Current, in which Anna Marie Temonti interviewed a balanced collective of feminists. The topic up for consensus was a question of whether the Ghomeshi scandal would be a breakthrough “watershed moment” for female victims, or would too many chauvinists still “not getting it” block the enlightenment?

    http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/episode/2014/11/06/sexism-misogyny-watershed-moment/

    Below is my resulting letter to The Current asking for a smidge of balance in their presentation of such discussions:

    [Note: I have since re-listened to the broadcast and provided in square brackets below some specific quotes and points in the timeline of The Current discussion to verify my claims.]

    _____________________________________________
    Subject: Re Feminist discussion on Thursday: A friendly request from a listener who “doesn’t get it”

    Dear Anna Maria Tremonti:

    I was frustrated as I listened to your interview with three feminists on Thursday [November 6th] in regard to whether the Jian Ghomeshi scandal would be a breakthrough moment for women (and sexual assault victims in general).

    Your three guests seemed to agree that the problem for [western] women, in particular, was still towering over us, and that men need to get in the conversation and start to better understand the plight of women. I heard you respond with the phrase, “Some people still don’t get it,” and ask a question to the effect of, “Why would a man not want to protect women from violence?” [Tremonti’s actual question at 15:11 was: “But Joe you make the point that you realize that you know a lot more women than you realized who are up against this. We’re talking about, for men, we’re talking about women who are their partners, their mothers, their daughters, their sisters, why the disconnect? They would never want this to happen to their sister, but they look the other way if it’s happens to their neighbour?” This is not just straw man argument, it’s a straw, psychopathic man argument.]

    You may be surprised that I am a caring person who nevertheless found the discussion to be philosophically painful to listen to, not because I don’t like and worry about women, but because your guests seemed to be unwilling to contemplate the potential that good people might disagree with them. With respect, I propose that when you say that anyone who questions a feminist argument “still doesn’t get it,” you’re dismissing those of us who may have thought carefully and compassionately about these topics and sincerely come to disagree with feminist theory.

    There are critics of feminist orthodoxy (including “the factual feminist,” Christina Hoff Sommers) who have persuasively argued that much of feminist data regarding the prevalence of sexual assault (in the west) has been unscientifically inflated to support feminist ideology. [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lNsJ1DhqQ-s] Before you stop reading, I am not suggesting that, because feminist numbers are problematic, we shouldn’t care deeply about female victims (and feel outrage toward their offenders), nor that we should stop trying to combat whatever number of sexual offenders there are. Instead, my contention is that the western media is afraid to question feminist data, and that the consequence is unfortunate: feminists have little reason to be scientific and honest in their work. It’s simple human nature: in the absence of serious criticism, few of us will be as rigorous in our arguments as we would be if we knew our research would be genuinely challenged.

    The result is a feminist advocacy movement which has painted a tilted landscape of western culture in which women suffer much more than men. And yet, there are rumours that men are in trouble, too: as Sommers argues, men are more likely to kill themselves, be the victim of violence in general, be injured at work, and more. [3:55-4:20 of 3:55-4:20 of https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KM5XpSTPcTo&index=5&list=PLytTJqkSQqtr7BqC1Jf4nv3g2yDfu7Xmd or 1:50-3:00 of https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LbvcAtNJTls]

    When your guests spoke about sexual violence, you noted that there are male victims of sexual violence, too, which was compassionate and open-minded of you. Nevertheless, the focus in the media seems most frequently to be on the type of violence directed more towards women. The disparity in female as opposed to male victims of sexual violence is then taken as proof that we live in a misogynistic society. However, if programs such as yours were to look as frequently, and with the same reasoning, at the type of violence more likely to hit men (such as random violence on the street), you might start to wonder whether we in fact live in a misandrist arena.

    (Notice that, when women are victims of violence, national and local media often convene expert and/or survivor discussions to consider the problem of violence against women, but when men are the wounded parties, I have yet to hear mainstream media gather similar thought leaders and/or victims to talk about the particular dangers that men tend to encounter.)

    While feminism, by its dictionary definition, may be simply about fighting for equal rights, in practice it is weighed down by a lot of philosophical dogma regarding how to achieve them. Thus, contrary to the claims of “You’re with us or against us” feminists, it is possible to agree with the ends proposed by feminists, but not the means they suggest for acquiring them. However, once again, it seems that mainstream media in Canada is terrified of questioning any branch of feminist leadership.

    If you’re skeptical that feminist perspectives aren’t challenged in the media, consider, for example, how you responded to your guest when she told you that dealing with the justice system was a worse experience than being sexually assaulted. [The quote of this claim was played at 1:02-1:17, and then discussed per below at 11:15-15:00 and 16:37-17:03.] To illustrate this shocking claim, she talked of feeling re-victimized when the parole officer of her former assailant told her that the offender, her ex-boyfriend, would like to apologize to her. She suggested that this was evidence that the parole officer was on the assailant’s “team” and not hers. But, instead of asking your guest why exactly that was evidence of such bias, you seemed to accept that her conclusion was self-evident. Another of your guests then pointed out that he imagined a lot of the listeners to the show wouldn’t understand why the parole officer’s behaviour was so inappropriate.

    Please count me among the confused. There is a branch of social work called “restorative justice,” which seeks to help victims and rehabilitate assailants by connecting them in safe communication.

    Is it not possible that there are people working in the field who care deeply about the victims and think that restorative justice is an effective means of helping those who have suffered (while simultaneously giving assailants a better understanding of the consequences of their violence on real people)?

    (Moreover, what would have happened if the parole officer hadn’t told the victim of the apology offer? If your guest had found out about such protective behaviour later, I wonder if her feminist side would have argued that that too was demonstrating his patriarchal bias.)

    Regardless, if your guest has an argument for why restorative justice is too hard on victims, I would be interested to hear her case, but I am surprised that you did you not ask her for details of why she was offended by the parole officer’s behaviour. Did you really think the basis for your guest’s controversial claim was so obvious that it needn’t be explained? Or is it possible that you didn’t ask because you were afraid that people might think that you “didn’t get it”?

    (I ask that question not in an accusatory way, but instead to suggest the possibility that feminist ideology scares even the most strong-minded journalists into censoring their natural curiosity for fear that it might poke the dogma.)

    Sincerely,
    Seth McDonough (www.sethblogs.com)

    P.S. If you’re even a smidge compelled by my argument, please consider contacting Erin Pizzey, who I understand started one of the first-ever women’s shelters, but generally disagrees with feminist theory in regard to therapy, and so would likely give you an interesting (and respectful) counter balance.
    ___________________________

    Thus far, to my everlasting surprise (sarcasm alert!), The Current has not replied to my email. However, on November 12th, they put on a show presenting male voices regarding violence against women. [http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/episode/2014/11/12/men-need-to-get-involved-in-the-fight-against-sexism-and-misogyny/] Men who have been falsely accused, you ask? No, good one. It was, of course, a panel discussion (identified on CBC’s website under the prescriptive headline “Men need to get involved in the fight against sexism and misogyny in Canada”) regarding a white ribbon campaign that calls for men to stop hurting women.

    I have no objection to advocating for the better treatment of others (I hate violence as much as the next pacifist), but I am weary of the omnipresent suggestions that (A) all men are culpable for the crimes of terrible men, and (B) we should rank our concern for victims of violence based on their gender. I can understand that we may feel more protective of those who generally have fewer physical attributes with which to defend themselves, but when a man is murdered should it really matter to us that, in theory, he had a better chance of fighting back? Indeed, should we be even less bothered if it turns out he was a martial arts expert? I’m not saying that the vulnerability of certain people (or even groups of people) shouldn’t play into our discussions of violence in our society, but it would be refreshing if a mainstream broadcaster (especially a public broadcaster meant to represent all of us) would occasionally consider the possibility that being male doesn’t make one immune to danger, serious injury, and the psychological stress and trauma of each.

  • Welcome to The Anti-Misandry Blog within SethBlogs! Confused? Click here for The Anti-Misandry Blog Introduction. Intrigued/enraged? Click on the “Anti-Misandry” link in the CATEGORY section to the right of this post for further episodes.

    THE ANTI-MISANDRY BLOG: EPISODE VIII

    “I don’t know whether Jian Ghomeshi is guilty or not, and neither does anyone who wasn’t present if and when the alleged crimes occurred. If he is proven guilty, I will still be ashamed of how many Canadians have sacrificed a person’s right to a fair trial for the sake of proving their own feminist pedigree.”

    Modern feminists are infamous for bullying their adversaries with the false dichotomy, “You either agree with feminist theory or you’re a misogynist.” Popular screenwriter and pop feminist Joss Whedon, for instance, tells those weary of being identified as feminists, “There’s no fuzzy middle ground. You either believe that women are people or you don’t. It’s that simple.”

    http://www.themarysue.com/joss-whedon-tweets-about-anita-sarkeesian/

    The intimidation has worked. When interviewing feminists, the otherwise serious western media tend to disavow their traditional skepticism, criticism, or even cautiousness of agreement. After all, to imply a hint of incredulity regarding a shocking feminist statistic is (according to popular feminist rhetoric) to advocate for the very horrors their numbers claim to represent. I have ranted a few times in this series against feminist-fearing journalists for bobbing their heads in adulation as feminist advocates have made baffling, illogical, and sometimes offensive statements. Perhaps the worst and yet most charming patsy was Jian Ghomeshi. He never heard a feminist argument he couldn’t cheer on with the most soft and inviting questions for the inflammatory claims to land on.

    Ghomeshi’s style of “with us or against us” feminism is a bed that he must now lie in as allegations that he abuses women have provoked his former feminist friends to convict him without trial.

    At first, many fans of Ghomeshi irrationally defended him on social media (i.e. they proclaimed his innocence without having direct interaction with the facts in the case). Recently, Angelina Chapin, Blogs Editor for The Huffington Post Canada, has written an eloquent piece entitled, “The Jian Ghomeshi Story Turned Us Into Social Media Fools,” in which she argues persuasively why it was wrong for anyone not involved in the case to assume that Ghomeshi was in the right. She aptly quotes a psychologist, Ann Friedman, who points out that drawing conclusions in such social media wars tends to leave us supporting the perspective with which we most identify.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/angelina-chapin/jian-ghomeshi-social-media_b_6091358.html

    Chapin counts herself among the too-quick-to-defend-Ghomeshi (although, to be fair, she never argued that he was innocent). It’s a noble admission from Chapin that her initial public reaction to Ghomeshi’s firing was one of emotion over reason. The trouble is that this confessed conclusion jumper is only criticizing the side that has tweeted in defence of Mr. Ghomeshi. Far from adding that no one but the alleged victims have the right to assume his guilt, she goes on to say, “The Ghomeshi story has proved that we desperately need to have open dialogues about consent, sexual abuse and powerful figures.” So apparently, while she was wrong to assume his innocence initially, she’s now right to imply that he’s guilty. Ms. Chapin’s transition from irrationally defending to irrationally accusing is right on trend.

    I believe the general shift was provoked when Ghomeshi defenders asked why his accusers didn’t come forward at the time of the alleged assaults. It is a question that could be asked of delayed claims by victims in other crimes. After all, the longer one waits to tell the police of a crime, the more daunting it will be to prove, and so waiting not only hurts one’s own chances of finding justice, but also lessens one’s opportunity to protect future victims from the same trauma. Thus, given the counter-intuitive and problematic nature of delayed reporting, asking adults what caused them to wait may be useful to police in assessing the veracity of the complaints. However, if the crime is violent, and the alleged victim is female, feminists take this otherwise reasonable question as proof of misogyny.

    And so, upon hearing the blasphemous question, the feminist army’s ears’ perked up. Quickly, they announced that the “Why did you wait?” question was tantamount to blaming the victim and was further proof of our rape culture. This immediately terrified the press, and so the media commentators who might have been willing to stay neutral in this scandal cowered as they saw their political betters approaching.

    Both of the radio stations (CBC and CKNW) that I follow, for instance, began to interview “experts” (i.e. feminist advocates) regarding sexual violence against women: they asked the advocates to explain why Ghomeshi’s “victims” would have waited to come forward. Thus the stations were officially abdicating neutrality as they assumed in their questions that the alleged victims must have had good reasons for announcing themselves belatedly. If CKNW or CBC had asked, “In your judgement, why might these women have waited to come forward?” and then also interviewed an expert regarding false claims (perhaps asking, “In your judgment, what are the distinguishing symptoms in those rare cases where allegations have been proven to be false?”) the radio stations could have held onto their claims of objectivity. Instead, the broadcasters’ neutrality was now permanently in hiding.

    Of course, given the initially aggressive defence from some of Ghomeshi’s fans, I understand why victims’ advocates may have felt compelled to defend delayed victim reporting by pointing out that accusing a celebrity of sexual assault may come with special challenges (especially given that we currently live a Troll’s paradise that may devour such accusers). But they could have said something to the effect of, “Please be careful of assuming facts about these alleged victims. In our experience, many victims are terrified to come forward when attacked, so the delay in their accusations is not necessarily evidence that they are not telling the truth.” Sadly, the victims’ advocates knew that such circumspection was unnecessary: after all, they recognized that no member of the media was going to raise a single eyebrow against their political claims.

    For instance, on CBC Vancouver’s Early Edition, Dayla Israel, Manager of Victim Services for WAVAW (Women Against Violence Against Women) told host Rick Cluff that only “.8%” of claims of sexual assault lead to convictions. Cluff sounded appropriately baffled by the shocking number.

    “Point eight?” he said.

    Were he interviewing a person representing any other issue, he would likely have asked for details of how such startling numbers were derived. But Cluff was speaking to a feminist advocate so he did not question her.

    Meanwhile, when the same advocate said that false claims of violence occur in under 1% of cases (the feminist implication being that they’re so rare that they’re not worth considering), Cluff was again deferential (just as his former colleague Ghomeshi had been many times before him) and did not ask, “But how can we ever know what percentage of allegations are false? Instead, do you mean less than 1% of allegations are proven to be false?”

    http://www.cbc.ca/earlyedition/podcast/2014/10/30/dalya-israel-from-wavaw/

    Almost as significantly, Cluff did not point out the conspicuous feminist double standard in how Israel was interpreting her data.  Consider the two cases:

    CASE A:

    PREMISE: A low percentage of accused men are proven to be guilty (of a crime).

    CONCLUSION: Therefore, not enough men are being prosecuted.

    CASE B:

    PREMISE: A low percentage of accused women are proven to be guilty (of false accusations).

    CONCLUSION: Therefore, not enough women are being believed.

    In the latter case (against women), the results that have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt are depicted as identifying the maximum possible number of wrongdoers, whereas in the former case (against men), the results that are proven beyond the same reasonable doubt are implied to represent well below the minimum number of wrongdoers.

    Thus, when statistics seem to support feminist theory, feminists portray them as bottled truth, but when the stats don’t fit their narrative, they reference them as proof of a biased system against women. It’s possible, of course, that they’re right that the system has significant internal biases against female victims of crime, but evidence is required beyond these one-sided interpretations of data. And the only way to push feminists into a neutral corner is if the media occasionally challenges their statements.

    Instead, most media treat social justice agencies as truth beacons. The consequence is the same as it would be for an unchallenged politician. As with political parties, non-profit agencies have missions, which they’re naturally disposed to prop up by tweaking the data and information to best fit their narrative. That’s an unfortunate necessity of modern non-profit warfare, which can only be minimized with checks and balances such as skepticism from the press.

    Meanwhile, with the critical press away from its desk, social media has continued to build its case against Ghomeshi. A petition, calling on former Q guests to “support the women,” (i.e. presume Ghomeshi’s guilt) has been signed by a variety of celebrities, including Shawn Majumder (of This Hour Has 22 Minutes), who stated: “I have considered [Ghomeshi] a pal. However these allegations and even more, how he tried to use a statement to shame anyone in coming to speak the truth about his actions makes me lose all respect for him. I support every woman who has been dealt a blow. From him or anyone.”

    http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/10/31/ghomeshi-petition-q-guests_n_6083008.html

    Feminist and Canadian superstar author Margaret Atwood has also decided to lend her reputation to the modern-day McCarthyism. It’s baffling to see such a high-minded person add herself to the list of those unwilling to wait for Ghomeshi to be charged with, let alone convicted of, a crime before proclaiming his guilt.

    Even more unnerving, several so-called friends of Ghomeshi have also helped themselves to a pre-trial guilty verdict. His former Moxy Fruvous bandmates stated: “As former colleagues of Jian (our last show was in 2000), we are sickened and saddened by this week’s news. We had no inkling that Jian engaged in this type of behaviour… We abhor the idea of a sexual relationship of any sort being entered into without full consent from both parties and condemn violence against women in any form.”

    
http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/10/31/moxy-fruvous-jian-ghomeshi_n_6084860.html

    While they don’t directly state that he’s guilty, they clearly imply so with their language regarding “this type of behaviour,” followed by a description of the illegal behaviour to which they’re heroically opposed.

    Most egregiously, Owen Pallett, who claims to be a friend of Ghomeshi’s, said: “I was challenged by a friend to say something about the recent allegations against Jian Ghomeshi. Jian is my friend. I have appeared twice on Q. But there is no grey area here. Three women have been beaten by Jian Ghomeshi.”

    https://www.facebook.com/owenpalletteternal/posts/1491910081073780

    This post was made after only three anonymous accusations had been announced, and from it we can deduce that either (A) Pallett already had evidence that his alleged friend was guilty of criminal violence before these accusations came out, but didn’t do anything about it; or (B) he’s merrily convicting his friend of a crime without a trial. With friends like that, who needs a lynch mob?

    Finally, Ruth Spencer, who says she’s a former girlfriend of Ghomeshi, has also announced that he’s guilty, because, although he never assaulted her during their relationship, he had some strange behaviours, which she’s now decided are proof that he was “grooming [her] for the same violence he inflicted on other women.”

    
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/nov/01/jian-ghomeshi-i-dated-him

    According to Spencer, for instance, Ghomeshi had anxiety issues, so voila, let’s grab onto the trope of the socially awkward (and/or mentally ill) male as a symptom that he’s a violent sociopath, and we have ourselves a bigger Twitter following than ever before!

    I have no idea whether Ghomeshi is guilty or not, and neither does anyone who wasn’t present if and when the alleged crimes occurred. If he is proven guilty, I will still be ashamed of how many Canadians have sacrificed a person’s right to a fair trial for the sake of proving their own feminist pedigree. Ghomeshi, the feminist whom they thought they knew on Q, would have been proud.

    Jian Ghomeshi may turn out to have been the vicious abuser Margaret Atwood has already decided he is, but that will not retroactively justify this attack on his right to reasonable doubt. To paraphrase Mr. Whedon, There’s no fuzzy middle ground here. You either believe that everyone has the right to a fair trial or you don’t. It’s that simple.

    NOTE: For a case and point of Ghomesian Feminism in further action, see: GHOMESHI’S FEMINISM – A CASE STUDY.

  • Welcome to The Anti-Misandry Blog within SethBlogs! Confused? Click here for The Anti-Misandry Blog Introduction. Intrigued/enraged? Click on the “Anti-Misandry” link in the CATEGORY section to the right of this post for further episodes.

    THE ANTI-MISANDRY BLOG: EPISODE VII

    A CASE STUDY: FREE SPEECH vs. FREE SPEECH

    In my recent posts FREE SPEECH FROM FEMINISM Part 1 & Part 2, I describe what I believe have been disruptions to free expression in the last few years by so-called feminists on Canadian universities who not only protested, but also attempted to bar men’s and equal rights groups from presenting speakers who possessed counter-narratives to academic feminism. I referenced a debate on The Agenda with Steve Paikin, with English professor and feminist skeptic Dr. Janice Fiamengo and free speech advocate Justin Trottier (National Policy Director at the Centre for Inquiry) arguing on the one side that the above-described campus feminists were indeed exhibiting actions that infringed on free thought, while their opponents in the discussion, feminist and philosophy professor Dr. Alice MacLachlan along with feminist, writer, and activist Rachel Décoste countered that the protests were beautiful examples of the sort of free expression that fuel free thought.

    In this spin-off post, I’d like to examine a pair of contentions made by the MacLachlan-Décoste team, which I found to be logically objectionable.

    (1) The “You benefitted from it” argument:

    In trying to prove that the suppressing treatment that Fiamengo received on university campuses was, in fact, an example of free speech, MacLachlan points out that Fiamengo’s ideas may have received greater exposure as a result.

    “I was only recently made familiar with Janice’s [Fiamengo’s] experiences,” MacLachlan said. “I had the chance to watch them on youtube. And what I saw warmed me. I saw people who cared very much about gender issues, some identifying as feminists, some identifying as men’s rights activists, vigorously, wholeheartedly, and determinedly engaging with each other. Yelling, not always being polite. And as a result, I know that Janice’s work has received a much wider audience, including a platform on this show. I think this is the very opposite of silencing and it’s how a society of free speech works.”

    Later, Fiamengo asked MacLachlan “how [she] would feel if [she] were giving a talk and [she was] shut down by a group of protesters? Would [she] say, ‘This was a wonderful example of freedom of speech,’ if [she] never got to say [her] first sentence?”

    This provoked MacLachlan to reiterate her argument that the protests had ultimately served Fiamengo well.

    “I would certainly not frame it in terms of freedom of speech,” she said. “How I would feel is I would feel shocked. If that led to a much wider platform for my views, including an entire episode of The Agenda being dedicated to them, I’d probably be pretty pleased about the whole thing, and I suspect that’s the case for [Fiamengo] as well.”

    This is a dangerous game of unintended consequences justifying troubling means. It may be the case that Fiamengo’s career has, in the long run, been enhanced by the discussion provoked by the problematic actions of these protestors; it’s also possible that Fiamengo’s reputation has been injured by the shameful and baseless accusations that she is a misogynist and a rape apologist. I have no idea whether, on the balance, Fiamengo has benefitted or not from these protests, but for the purpose of this discussion, I will stipulate that she has done well by them. However, such a result does not retroactively justify crimes and attempts to censor Fiamengo and other speakers.

    The question in this debate is whether particular actions of the protestors were legitimate or not. The notion that some of their alleged victims inadvertently benefitted from their alleged crimes should have no weight whatsoever upon our assessment. Similarly, someone who is the victim of an assault may consequently receive positive public attention that offers them career opportunities that they might not have otherwise had. However, I hope that we all agree that such unintended proceeds do not justify the assault. I see no difference here.

    (2) The “You started it” argument:

    This one requires some context. In her defense of the notion of quelling Fiamengo’s public presence in universities, Décoste argued that Canadian civil rights do not promise her a platform.

    “The charter of rights and freedoms guarantees freedom of expression,” she explained. “It doesn’t guarantee you the right to dispel your drivel, really, just untruths, to impressionable minds with a mic, and amplifier, and an audience of impressionable students.”

    Thus, she concluded that, while she technically disagreed with pulling fire alarms, it was not appropriate for Dr. Fiamengo to spread her counter-to-feminist-gospel ideas at a university of all places.

    “I don’t agree with the fire alarms pulled,” she said, “but when somebody says that the statistics that we’ve been based on forever are wrong, and therefore rape is not as much of an issue as it should be, I think that draws laughter, if not crying, because it’s just so preposterous. So, if she wants to speak, that’s fine, but she doesn’t get to have the forum of our publicly funded universities, paid for my and your taxes, to disseminate that information that’s just not right.”

    Apparently, while Décoste may not agree with something as dangerous as fire alarm pulling, she does ask the state to pull a metaphorical alarm before such a scandalous talk.

    Her philosophical opponent, Trottier, argued in reply that drivel-banning would be problematic, because, strangely, not everyone would have the same definition of unworthy speech.

    “These are public universities,” he said. “We all pay through tuition subsidies, that kind of thing, from the government. Many of us are students at these universities, and have differences of opinion. We all pay tuition to attend them. The thing, though, is if we can pull back for a second, free speech starts from the very simple premise. I may be wrong. I am fallible in my opinion. You were just referring to what happened, and what Janice was saying as ‘drivel.’ I don’t think that I’m in a position or I can decide for everyone’s sake what’s drivel and what’s to be heard. And, when we have opponents who set themselves up as arbiters who block the doors so that other students can’t judge for themselves what’s drivel, and what’s maybe a gem of wisdom, I think there’s a problem there.”

    This provoked both Décoste and her compatriot MacLachlan to claim that Fiamengo had put herself in that very role of speech-arbiter when she criticized feminism:

    “Janice [Fiamengo],” Décoste said, “first talked about how it was ‘radicals’ who were against her. So she’s characterized people who were against her as radicals when they’re just citizens with opinions that are offended by what she’s saying, and the characterization of radicals is already starting in that direction that she started, actually.”

    “I might add,” MacLachlan echoed, “that many of Professor Fiamengo’s talks start by her characterizing a whole swath of her colleagues as ‘intellectually empty, incoherent, and dishonest.’ This is exactly the sort of conversation move that’s designed to provoke a fierce, angry, or laughing response.”

    A major problem with this “She started it” defense is that it’s a false parallel. Fiamengo did not load her criticism with the additional weight of telling those with whom she disagreed that they had no right to speak. Unlike Décoste, she did not tell her opposing “citizens” that they should not be allowed an audience.

    “My challenge to you all tonight,” Fiamengo said, at the conclusion of her talk at the University of Toronto, “is to be true scholars, real thinkers, genuine intellectuals. For those of you who are doing feminist work, let it be genuine feminist work. Be open to evidence that might take you in surprising directions. Research your subject fully. Do not mistake self-righteousness for scholarly passion. It’s an intoxicating emotion, but it is ultimately hollow and unreliable. And avoid the temptation of blaming the usual suspects. For those men and women of good will here tonight who are uneasy with things you hear in university classrooms, educate yourselves so that you can challenge the myths of academic feminism. And do it with style, not with nastiness, not with slander, not with personal attacks, especially not with hatred.”

    While Fiamengo does express the view that modern academic feminists have lacked scholarship in their work, she does not argue that they should be silenced; instead she suggests that both wings of the discussion feed their arguments with facts, and engage in respectful debate. In no way does she live down to Décoste and MacLachlan’s accusation of hypocrisy: she does not, that is, advocate reaching for the nearest fire alarm when one is bothered by feminist arguments. Nor does she suggest that her harsh diagnosis is justification for universities to cancel feminist presentations on campus.

    Nevertheless, MacLachlan expanded upon the “you started it” defense by arguing that being yelled at by protestors was a natural consequence of insulting them in the first place.

    “If you set out to say things designed to offend and harm people,” she explained, “you can’t complain that your free speech is being violated when people respond with offense, anger, and protest… [free speech] doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed a platform to speak.”

    Once again, this is a mischaracterization of Fiamengo’s argument: she is not saying that protestors don’t have the right to argue or protest (although I suspect she would criticize some of their methods as anti-intellectual); the only behaviours that she refers to as infringements of free speech are those that physically bar others from being heard. It is only that kind of physically imposed dogma that she and Trottier argue crosses a crucial protective line that a free society must have.

    MacLachlan, though, is not dissuaded by this distinction; instead, she delicately transitions from the (probably true) premise that Fiamengo offended some students, to subtly advocate for university censorship.

    “[Free speech] doesn’t mean you get to speak all the time,” she said. “It doesn’t mean that public universities necessarily have to make a place for you or that, if students at those universities want to protest you being given a platform to expound ideas they find harmful, offensive, insulting to their experiences, that they don’t have the right to object to that, by whatever means they have.”

    It is only MacLachlan and Décoste who actually suggest or imply in this debate that university censorship may have a legitimate place in such disputes. Never does Fiamengo or Trottier argue for censoring dissent.

    “I would certainly never complain,” Fiamengo said (in response to MacLachlan’s argument above), “that my free speech was violated because people responded with anger or laughter. My point about the Queen’s speech [where students called out and sarcastically laughed during the presentation, but no fire alarms were pulled] was that that was an ideal example of freedom of expression and of lively debate… [But] To say that objection and absolutely shutting someone down who has been invited by a university group, who has rented the space that that university group’s dues go to pay for, and has been invited to speak to a group of students, some of whom want to hear what the speaker has to say, to say that it’s okay to shut that down, that that doesn’t somehow count as a suppression of free speech, seems to me absolutely non-sensical.”

    Nevertheless, this strange reversal of claiming for one’s own side the injury of censorship when one is criticized for having advocated censorship is an interesting phenomenon (which is not localized to this debate: see the Intelligence Squared debate regarding whether “Free speech must include the license to offend”). Whether it is sincere or not, the “You censor me when you criticize me” defense demonstrates that even the censorship-apologists (to borrow from a vicious phrase) want to protect some controversial speech. This overlap between both sides ought to have brought us back to Trottier’s vital question: when censorship is contemplated, who, indeed, should be the deciders as to which controversial presentations are unfit for public contemplation?

    As the late journalist and intellectual Christopher Hitchens argued in the above-referenced Intelligence Squared debate, “Who is going to decide?… Who will you appoint? Who will be the one who says, ‘I know exactly where the limit [on free speech] should be. I know how far you can go. And I know when you’ve gone too far. And I’ll decide that’? Who do you think, who do you know, who have you heard of, who have you read about in history who you would give that job?”

    It may be the most challenging question that the true believer in the limiting of free expression must contemplate. Even righteous free speech will sometimes offend, so what moral framework can be utilized to make a distinction between what is offensive and worthy of consideration, and what is offensive and unworthy?

    Unfortunately, due to the red-herring claim that the protestors were being censored, too, MacLachlan and Décoste were spared taking on this daunting question.

    P.S. If you would like to examine my examination of this debate for fairness of quoting, I have included a transcript of their conversation as the first comment on this post.

  • Welcome to The Anti-Misandry Blog within SethBlogs! Confused? Click here for The Anti-Misandry Blog Introduction. Intrigued/enraged? Click on the “Anti-Misandry” link in the CATEGORY section to the right of this post for further episodes.

    THE ANTI-MISANDRY BLOG – EPISODE VII

    PART 2: FREEDOM FROM CRITICISM

    In PART 1 of this essay, I described various feminist resistance movements which protested critics of women’s studies in ways that many fans of free speech have found morally objectionable. In PART 2 below, I intend to give a possible explanation for what may have caused women’s studies to lose its moral and intellectual way.

    Justin Trottier National Policy Director at the Centre for Inquiry describes the situation as a re-invention of censorship ideals once pointed in the opposite political direction.

    “If we go back to the 50s and 60s,” he says, “there was a time when it was the left, and their protests against perhaps the Vietnam war, their protests in favour of civil liberty legislations, ending desegregated schooling, that sort of thing, that was the contentious idea that was subject to censorship. But these days it is criticism of feminism, or radical feminism, it is men’s issues, it is abortion debates. My organization has been involved in debating abortion on campus. We take the pro-choice side. But very often these debates get shut down by well meaning, but unfortunately not well applying student unions that use the wrong methods to defend their morals, which they see to be superior to the rest of us.”

    Where do such delusions of infallibility come from?

    For a possible explanation, consider Dr. Janice Fiamengo’s March 27, 2014 talk at Queen’s University regarding what she called, “Feminism’s Double Standards,” in which she cogently articulated (A) examples of the ways that she says men are currently gender-discriminated against in Canadian society, as well as discussing (B) the complementary rigor-free, patriarchy-focussed work that she claims is done in gender studies classes.

    If you watch the video of this talk, note the reaction from the feminists in the crowd who groaned, shouted out disagreements, and sarcastically laughed while Dr. Fiamengo presented her case. They had every right to not be convinced, and to question Fiamengo, but their vocal disdain throughout her presentation articulated to me that they weren’t willing—as they should have been taught in university—to consider her argument. True intellectual inquiry involves pondering exactly what one’s natural philosophical enemy is saying, imagining what would constitute evidence for their claims, and then considering whether they might have provided a modicum of persuasive currency. Instead, the laughing students already knew that Fiamengo was wrong before she said a word.

    When it came time for Q&A, a woman calling herself a philosophy professor stood up to counter Fiamengo. “I have been [at Queen’s University] for twenty years, I am a feminist…,” pause for applause, “…and a mother of three young men, and so I am very concerned about men in our society; I am a teacher of many young men in this group, and I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about!”

    Her side of the room cheered as though Fiamengo had been vanquished by a brilliant logical proof. In lieu of taking on any one of the professor’s fine-tuned examples, and/or pointing to possible errors in Fiamengo’s reasoning, apparently the simple claim, ‘But you’re wrong!’ counted for intellectual discourse from the supposedly feminist side of the academic ledger.

    Of course an individual feminist commentator’s emptiness of argument is not a smoking gun either (she may be one anomalous anti-intellectual, which I’m sure even the most intellectually correct movements possess), but the steel-door-closed-minded celebration of her content-free rhetoric from the audience is, I submit, a symptom of the anti-intellectualism within feminist discourse to which Fiamengo refers.

    I don’t think that such anti-intellectualism is intrinsic to a fight for women’s equality; instead, I believe it is the inevitable result of a club that has been free from academic scrutiny for a long time.

    Philosopher Dr. Christina Hoff Sommers asks rhetorically Who Stole Feminism? as she describes in her 1994 book (and her work as the “Factual Feminist” since) an academic feminist culture that, she says, has been dominated by statistical untruths and “advocacy data.”

    “Unfortunately,” she says, “[inaccurate and unsubstantiated statistics] are typical of the quality of information we are getting on many women’s issues from feminist researchers, women’s advocates, and journalists. More often than not, a closer look at the supporting evidence—the studies and statistics on eating disorders, domestic battery, rape, sexual harassment, bias against girls in school, wage differentials, or the demise of the nuclear family—will raise grave questions about credibility, not to speak of objectivity.” (Who Stole Feminism, Page 15.)

    As I suggest in THE USEFUL CRUELTY OF SCRUTINY, my belief is that, if indeed Sommers is right that feminism has been stolen (even partly) from the original equity feminist movement, the primary ally to the robbers has been our society’s unwillingness to demand a security guard, in the forms of academic and media criticism, which would have protected the movement from its own worst ideas. I submit that feminism has achieved this criticism-free existence by two means:

    (A) Academic feminism has divorced itself from the standard expectations of intellectual discourse that all ideas—even the best, most intuitively righteous ones—must be scrutinized; instead, it has lived in an insular world of yes-people, who concur with its ideology—no matter where it takes them—or perish. This provokes wild, evidence-free ideas to become doctrine.

    According to Dr. Fiamengo (a self-described former “feminist radical,” herself), “Modern day academic feminism, as it is currently practiced and disseminated in our universities, is overwhelmingly intellectually empty, incoherent, and dishonest.”

    (Again, this is not a flaw that is necessarily intrinsic or unique to feminist inquiry, but one which I think would likely apply to any ideology spared the burden of serious critique.)

    (B) Popular feminists—trained by the academic clique above—have utilized a false dichotomy in public discussion wherein criticism of feminist philosophy and “facts” equals misogyny. This, I suspect, has served to scare some would-be critics into either softening their criticisms or not speaking at all. More importantly, the terrified media has generally puddled to the will of feminist ideology (and the threat of the scarlet misogyny label); instead of taking the position of neutrality that journalists would at least aim for in regard to other philosophies, they refer to clearly ideological feminists as “experts” and their often questionable statistics as “facts.”

    (See my posts THE UNEXAMINED STRIFE and ATTACKING MEN for examples of the otherwise critical media turning to mush when speaking to a feminist.)

    I do not have the widespread sociological expertise to prove my “when the critical cats are away, the ideological mice will play” assessments of academic feminism; my intention here is only to suggest that (A) such ideological blindness is more likely to happen in a movement that has reduced critical protections, and (B) that it’s possible that modern feminism might be existing in such a state of general freedom from serious criticism. Even those who tend to be persuaded by feminist arguments surely can contemplate the possibility that feminists have gotten a soft ride in academia and the mainstream media in the last couple of decades. And, if it’s conceivable (however unlikely) that feminism is blessed/cursed with fewer opportunities than most disciplines for genuine critique, then, just to be safe, should we not promote—or at least allow—sober intellectual critics to join the discussion?

    (See PART 1 for evidence that such open criticism is currently being shouted down in Canadian universities. Or, for more details of how such anti-intellectualism is defended, see my CASE STUDY.)

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    THE ANTI-MISANDRY BLOG – EPISODE VII

    PART 1: FREEDOM FROM SPEECH

    Recently there has been some resistance on university campuses to academic and mainstream feminist discourse; critics of feminism argue that gender and women’s studies are often anti-intellectual, statistically inaccurate (sometimes statistically abusive), and misandrist, yet possessing of great powers of influence. Whether your current philosophical and sociological positions would have you agreeing with these critics of modern feminism, the vocal feminist response to them should give you reason to wonder.

    In the past three years, men’s and equal rights groups at Canadian schools such as The University of Toronto, The University of Ottawa, Ryerson, and Queen’s have attempted to present a variety of radical speakers who question feminist orthodoxy. In response, some vocal feminists on these campuses reacted not just with counter arguments, but also with attempts to silence the skeptics from asserting their “hateful” ideas. The so-called feminist advocates have promoted this censorship by three means.

    (1) They call on their institutions to block the formation of dissenting groups and discussions:

    For examples, the Canadian Federation of Students, the University of Toronto Student Union, and The Ryerson Student Union have have all tried to stop men’s awareness and equal rights student groups from forming. In particular, in 2013, the RSU refused to ratify the Ryerson Equality Association because:

    (A) They reject “The concept of misandry because it ignores structural inequality that exist between men and women.”

    In other words, the RSU is telling a group that its claims of injustice are wrong by definition of the gender of the alleged victims. Indeed, the RSU argument, in its attempt to prove that a phenomenon does not exist, inadvertently does the opposite by exemplifying the very notion it sought to deny.

    Moreover, while criticism of feminism may in fact be baseless today, it is dangerous to assume that those at the helm of women’s studies will always be unassailable. If we don’t allow feminist leaders to be openly criticized, how will we know in the future if such criticism does come to be needed? Indeed, if only feminists are allowed to lead the conversation, they have a self-interested reason (the preservation of the institutions that have made them successful) to always allege that men are running the show.

    (B) They reject: “Groups, meetings, events or initiatives [that] negate the need to centre women’s voices in the struggle for gender equality.”

    Why should a club be obligated to deliberately focus on any particular group’s perspective in their conversation? I don’t object to outlawing discrimination in terms of membership, but if students at a university want to discuss a topic, it sounds rather discriminatory and conversation-controlling to demand that a particular subset of the thinkers leads the discussion.

    Perhaps I’m misunderstanding what the RSU means by “center[ing] women’s voices.” Given the group they refused to ratify was actually led by two female students and one male student, the RSU may have meant that they wanted women’s voices centered in a metaphorical sense; perhaps, that is, their intention was that any discussion of gender must be directed by a female-voice-centered framework, such as feminism. But that sounds even more dangerous to free thought. Do we really want to require student groups to focus on the orthodox ideology of their time?

    (Excuse the cheap shot, but I imagine that, if Galileo had attempted to start an astronomy club at his university, he would similarly have been refused on the basis that he failed to centre the earth in his discussion.)

    According to many feminists, the answer to the above question is Yes, we should expect students groups to adhere to feminist philosophy because feminists, after all, are representing the rights of women (i.e. if you are skeptical of any of their claims, you are, by definition, anti-women). Once again, even if women’s studies professors are right that they are right in all cases, how can we be so sure of their infallibility if we don’t allow them to be subject to review? If they are as omniscient as they say, surely their arguments are strong enough that they can defend themselves against criticism. And, if they’re only mostly right, then would they not benefit from some criticisms so as to chisel their arguments down to their best (as happens in other disciplines)?

    On the contrary, these anti-discussion policies were supported by feminist protestors who chanted (to a rather catchy tune, I must admit), “Shame on U of T for allowing Misogyny” in opposition to a talk given by Drs. Katherine Young and Paul Nathanson regarding their unusual takes on misogyny and misandry. So the protestors weren’t just criticizing the two McGill academics (using outlandish, mischaracterizing language to do so), they were advocating that Young and Nathanson not be allowed to speak at their university where apparently academic feminism has landed on the truth, and so really has no need to be critiqued – thanks anyway.

    (It should be noted that not all feminists necessarily agree with such totalitarian tactics and arguments, but nevertheless, I don’t see any academic feminists criticizing them in the public square.)

    (2) They physically block free speech:

    Along with opposing the formation of anti-misandry groups, some feminists have physically attempted to stop university groups from presenting controversial speakers by (A) blocking entrances (see former National Organization of Women insider turned anti-misandry leader Dr. Warren Farrell’s attempted talk at the University of Toronto in 2012), and (B) pulling fire alarms (see feminist critic and English Professor Dr. Janice Fiamengo’s talk at the University of Ottawa in 2013, and Drs. Young and Nathanson’s talk at the University of Toronto in 2013).

    I wish this were a straw opponent I’ve set myself up to argue against; surely, every intelligent commentator agrees that literally blocking people from discussing a topic is a contravention of free speech. Not necessarily. Consider a debate on The agenda with Steve Paikin, with Dr. Fiamengo and Justin Trottier (National Policy Director at the Centre for Inquiry) arguing on the one side that free speech must be unfettered, while their opponents, Dr. Alice MacLachlan (Professor of Philosophy at York University) and Rachel Décoste (identified as “community organizer, motivational speaker, and Huffington Post blogger”) countered that these protests were an example of such freedom.

    Said Décoste :

    “I don’t agree with the fire alarms pulled, but when somebody says that the statistics that we’ve been based on forever are wrong, and therefore rape is not as much of an issue as it should be, I think that draws laughter, if not crying, because it’s just so preposterous. So, if [Dr. Fiamengo] wants to speak, that’s fine, but she doesn’t get to have the forum of our publicly funded universities, paid for by my and your taxes to disseminate that information that’s just not right.”

    So, while Décoste officially doesn’t agree with using fire alarms to shut down the professor, she doesn’t condemn the behaviour; instead, she defends the censorship ideals that seem to have provoked it.

    Meanwhile, her ally in the discussion, Dr. Alice MacLachlan, argued that, while “No mainstream feminist, including [herself] are ever going to defend the pulling of the fire alarm…,” the protests, themselves, “warmed her.”

    “I think it’s important,” she argues, “to talk about what we mean by free speech. I care a lot about free speech. I teach John Stuart Mill. I’m committed to philosophy. We started because Socrates was silenced. Free speech means freedom from government interference and sanction. It doesn’t mean freedom from consequences. And these consequences can include vigorous reactions, criticisms, protests. Unfortunately, it can even mean that the debate doesn’t happen…”

    Free speech versus Freedom from consequences is, of course, a noble distinction. Yes, those who utter terrible and/or controversial ideas should be free to say whatever they like, but they cannot expect the rest of us not to criticize them for it. But this protest went beyond the consequence of criticism: it was an attempt to physically stop the talk before it happened and while it was in progress.

    (Note: while the fire alarm may have been pulled by one criminal, the resulting exit bell was cheered by the gathering of protestors.)

    Dr. MacLachlan is free to have her spirits buoyed by the protestors, but, instead of saying she won’t defend the pulling of fire alarms (we don’t know her opinion of blocking entrances), why doesn’t she call out those who supported these actions as traitors to free speech? Instead, McLachlan abdicates her duty to philosophical rigor by helping herself to the most beneficent symbolic interpretation of the protestors without incorporating into her analysis their clear breach with freedom of speech. She says to Dr. Fiamengo that some vigorous protests can lead to a debate not happening. That may be, but what is the professor’s position on the moral legitimacy of the means by which these talks were stopped and/or delayed? It wasn’t the noble protesting that disrupted the talks; it was actions such as fire-alarm-pulling and entrance-blocking. If Dr. McLachlan approves the end effects of these protests, is she not obligated to either admit that she is also in favour of the means, or that she thinks these protestors were well-meaning, but ethically disabled in the way in which they achieved their results?

    (I’ll spend more time on the above debate in an upcoming spin-off post titled FREE SPEECH vs. FREE SPEECH.)

    (3) They bully those who disagree with them (or those who want to learn about those who disagree with them):

    Setting aside what I wish were just a straw-human argument (the problematic claim that physically stopping free expression should be considered free expression, too), there is, I think, something anti-intellectual contained within protesting university talks aimed at presenting ideas. I am of course not suggesting that the resisters don’t have a right to protest, but I am criticizing them for being anti-intellectual in doing so. There is, as Dr. MacLachlan argued, a vital history of civil protests against governments even if the slogans within such resistance movements are necessarily simple and free of nuance. Such anti-government protests may be crucial to our democracy because they resist those in power; they tell our leaders (and fellow citizens) that some or many of their people are dissatisfied with government policy.

    In the case of resisting ideas, however, I am not convinced that protestors can help themselves to the same ethical justification for their loud actions. Individual, non-government thinkers may have influence, but they are not in power, so I don’t think such a blunt instrument as shouting simple slogans at one’s opposite thinkers is a necessary or appropriate tool of resistance on a university campus.

    I repeat: protestors have (and should have) the right to criticize any group they choose, but I’m troubled that a philosophy professor, such as Dr. MacLachlan, is unwilling to question their intellectual righteousness. Capital C censorship involves blocking people from speaking (check!), but small C censorship includes bullying and intimidating those who hold contrary views to the established orthodoxy. If, in Dr. MacLachlan’s philosophy class, some students shouted down others for expressing their ideas, I hope (and suspect) she would she tell the intellectual gathering that, in a philosophy class, there is an expectation of respectful discourse such that everyone is allowed to freely express themselves. Universities, I understand, are intended to be places where all ideas are given opportunities to be heard (and criticized); isn’t that why we think it’s so important to give professors life-time tenure, so they’ll never be afraid to speak out when they disagree with popular thought? So why is Dr. MacLachlan so unwilling to say that, while the student protestors had every right to yell at the feminist critics, they were in fact anti-intellectual for doing so?

    To my thinking, the primary reason campus feminists are so loud in their resistance to criticism of academic feminism is because, like toddlers being told No for the first time, they are not used to it. I will make my case for this “terrible twos” hypothesis in PART 2 of this essay.

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    THE ANTI-MISANDRY BLOG: EPISODE VI

    INTRODUCTION:

    In the last few weeks, CBC’s BC-based public affairs radio broadcast, On the Coast, has interviewed two UBC graduate students who respectively argued that (1) male-“dominated” workplaces may be more likely to nourish higher levels of counterproductive risk than gender-balanced work sites, and (2) international students suffer significant racism at UBC. To my ear, the latter study was untroubled by the nuisance of scientific rigor or neutrality, while the former could benefit from some serious ethical meta questions about the consequences of research that intends to differentiate the sexes with the hopes of influencing hiring policies. Just as troubling, however, was the inability or unwillingness of the interviewer, CBC’s Matthew Lazin-Ryder, to ask the intrepid sociologists difficult questions.

    Case 1 is featured below as part of my misandry collective, while Case 2 (which is parallel to, but not an example of, misandry), stars in a subsequent post, THE UNEXAMINED STRIFE: PART 2.

    THE UNEXAMINED STRIFE – PART 1:

    Men-in-groups-take-extra-risks-so-perhaps-we-should-have-more-women-in-such-occupations PhD student, Hazel Hollingdale, seemed, in my hearing during her interview with CBC’s Matthew Lazin-Ryder, to be a legitimate investigator as she sounded interested in daunting things like evidence.

    She explained that in professions in which there are normally more men than women, there seem to be more instances of bodily injury (in the case of blue-collar occupations) and strategic failures (in the case of white-collar workplaces), both of which she attributes to detrimentally high-risk behaviour:

    “I started getting interested in male-dominated work organizations during my Masters when I actually looked at blue-collar sectors, so construction, and iron workers, that sort of thing, and I looked at safety violations, and occupational health and safety outcomes, and realizing that that sort of male-dominated culture often resulted in a normalization of risk there, which resulted in occupational health and safety incidents. And then I started thinking, well, what does risk-taking look like in other male-dominated occupations, stock brokers, for instance [where] an estimated 90% of their workforce is men, and irresponsible risks there [don’t] come from bodily harm, but what happens is that there are undesirable outcomes potentially, like losing a lot of money, or even a financial crash if enough people are engaging in those irresponsible risks…”

    Hollingdale goes on to discuss the potentially positive effects of larger numbers of women being in traditionally male white-collar roles:

    “There’s research actually from UBC, the Sauder School of business, that’s recently shown that more women on board of directors actually increases the investment potential and that sort of thing, but the Lehman Sisters hypothesis, which is what I’m testing, this idea of more women in financial firms leading to greater, more stable economic markets, hasn’t been formally tested in a large scale, so there are no numbers yet, which is why I hope to find support for it in my own research.”

    Although she didn’t mention it in the piece (possibly because she wasn’t asked), let’s assume that her study fairly took into account factors outside of gender (including occupational personality traits) that could be causing the apparent gender discrepancies that she’s finding. These considerations, however, should not eliminate the controversy. On a meta level, a study that differentiates between the sexes and their ability to create cohesive and effective workplaces ought to be scrutinized not just for scientific validity, but also for its assumed ethical implications. It does seem like the province of sociologists to investigate the sub-cultural forces within societies and their effects on the workplace, even if that research includes a controversial gender aptitude comparison; however, when one attempts to prove that a particular race or sex is better or worse than another, one should recognize that one is playing with ethically delicate issues. If we prove that male people tend not to do well in groups, then, rather inconveniently to activist sociologists, the question remains as to whether there is something we should do about it? Should we discriminate against individual men because groups of men sometimes don’t work well together?

    As I’ve argued in my anti-misandry post THE DOUBLE STANDARD OF DOUBLE STANDARDS, if it is the case that, on average, women have a higher aptitude than men in a particular area that is considered valuable in certain environments, then the only legitimate way to handle such a discrepancy would be to seek out candidates (of either gender, indiscriminately) who possess the traits that are provoking those improved results. Thus, if the research is right, we’ll naturally end up with a more effective workplace (which might turn out to include more women than men), while not excluding the occasional men who also possess the useful skill in question, or over-including the women who do not.

    The matter may not be as simple, though, in the case posited by the researcher here, because her results may not demonstrate that women are superior to men in the traits she argues are good, but instead that, when men make up a vast majority in a profession, there is a tendency to behave ineffectively or unsafely. Therefore, it may be the case that, even if all the men in the male-dominated profession have a high level of aptitude for the work, the sum of the skills of such a homogenous (male) group may be inherently inferior to a mixed-gender environment.

    Nevertheless, questions ought still to be asked: if a certain percentage of gender or racial balance is shown to be less optimal than another, do we gender or racially profile to acquire the best result? That is, do those efficiency ends justify discriminatory means? (These are the sort of questions that a CBC interviewer ought to, but never would, ask of a sociologist.)

    Moreover, have we considered other options? Maybe we can find new measures of reducing the sort of negative risk (possibly provoked by mostly-male environments) that the researcher says are bad for business; for instance, perhaps employers could require personality tests that assess the applicant’s susceptibility to male peer pressure. If not, does the argued-for discrimination based on homogenous flaws apply to groups that society currently wants to protect? Presumably, that is, if it’s the case that male-dominated professions have weaknesses that a more mixed group would not, then surely it’s possible that female-dominated professions might do better with a greater mix as well? (But I suspect that studies of this nature are less likely to receive funding in UBC’s sociology department, and certainly wouldn’t be cheered on by CBC).

    Ultimately, sociologists may be willing to accept (even if they won’t study) the possibility that nursing and elementary school teaching could use a greater percentage of men, but what would happen if they were to find results that are even more counter to current politically correct thinking? What if these studies were to find evidence that promotes patriarchal ideas? What if it turned out that a particular male-dominated profession would do better with fewer women? I’m not suggesting that it’s likely, but it’s possible, so before approving the implications of these anti-male studies for influence on society, shouldn’t we ask ourselves whether optimal racial and gender divides are more important than freedom from gender and racial profiling in the workplace?

    I’m not opposed to sociologists looking into these matters (as long as they do it scientifically) so that we can try to figure out what, in a perfect world, would be the most cohesive and efficient workplace environment, but before we force that result, independent of human rights, I submit that we ought to look for an equity-based means of striving for said efficiency.

    This is daunting ethical terrain that demands serious consideration, but the CBC’s ordinarily intelligent interviewer Matthew Lazin-Ryder – apparently terrified of asking politically inappropriate questions – could only muster the following impersonation of a critical question about Hollingdale’s hopes for her work to provoke pro-female hiring policies:

    “Gender issues can often get political, and stir up angry debate, and I could see, imagine this: if you prove your hypothesis that, it’ll be kind of big headlines all over the place. ‘More women on boards and in executive roles decreases the risk or irresponsible risk taking’ and then we’ll have all kinds of reaction of a political kind, saying that, well, this is politically correct: you’re just trying to get more equality, and all of that issue. Are you prepared for that kind of reaction?”

    The question was so soft that it almost fell to the ground before it reached Hollingdale, who predictably went with an “If equality is wrong, I don’t want to be right” type response.

    “Well,” she said, “honestly, I’m hoping to get more support for this hypothesis because when 3-5% of top positions are held by women, there is clearly a problem. And I don’t think equality within these organizations is a bad goal to work towards. So, yeah, I think definitely people get upset by these sorts of things, but it’s just a reality that there’s so much inequality and it needs to find support in order to garner motivations for firms to actually hire women into these positions.”

    I don’t necessarily blame the interviewee for her simple reply since the question was so empty of content. However, her answer does demonstrate that she may not merely be playing the role of sociologist here, but also ethicist and social engineer, as she appears to be suggesting that her results should have an effect on hiring policies. Or maybe she is simply being candid about her bias, and will leave the ethical contemplations to others; in any case, her hopes for particular results do suggest that she may be analyzing the data with preferential expectations. I don’t think that that’s an unforgivable quality in a social scientist (so long as she is vigilant about keeping her hopes out of her data analysis), but it should be a concern to a CBC interviewer, who ought to have asked, “Given that you are hoping for results that will provoke these changes in the world, what do you do to ensure that you don’t let those preferences impact how you interpret your work?”

    Alas, no, the interviewer had clearly left his brain in the cloak roam and continued to cheerlead his subject. The result was a discussion of research, which, while possibly legitimate, has serious potential consequences. And yet it was treated as though it were unassailable. I doubt that a study that found problems with a predominantly female workforce would have been treated so gently.

    (For PART 2, click here.)

    P.S. In case you would like to examine my examination of Lazin-Ryder’s interview with Hollingdale, I have included the transcript of their conversation as the first comment on this post.

  • Welcome to The Anti-Misandry Blog within SethBlogs! Confused? Click here for The Anti-Misandry Blog Introduction. Intrigued/enraged? Click on the “Anti-Misandry” link in the CATEGORY section to the right of this post for further episodes.

    THE ANTI-MISANDRY BLOG: EPISODE V – A CASE STUDY

    Per my DOUBLE STANDARD OF DOUBLE STANDARDS post, I would like to nominate chauvinism watchdog website, Madam Premier, due to its excellence in treating anti-female chauvinism differently than anti-male chauvinism, for a “Misandrist of the Year” award. Madam Premier (who has been interviewed for its expertise by both CKNW and CBC Radio) looks for examples where Canadian premiers are treated differently than male politicians, which once again, I think is a laudable goal: let’s highlight any instances of sexism so that we can figure out why they’re still happening, and whether they’re having a significant effect on our political process. Unfortunately, the organization seems to seek the answer it already has in mind, as opposed to simply documenting what it discovers.

    First, Madam Premier only identifies examples where it perceives female Premiers to be treated differently in a negative or sexist way, but it does not cite cases where the opposite occurs, that is, where her gender protects her from scrutiny (as in the case noted in the above-mentioned post in which Christy Clark made a phallic dysfunction joke). Nor does it note examples in which male Premiers are targeted with sexist remarks.

    Second, Madam Premier commonly notes cases where Premier Clark’s appearance is questioned; I think this is a reasonable criticism since “looks” should have nothing to do with political office, and the Canadian media does not usually examine politicians’ appearance. Madam Premier, however, seems unwilling to acknowledge that there have also been instances where male politicians are singled out for their looks (talk to Dalton McGuinty, Gregor Robertson, and Justin Trudeau for verification). It may be the case that Ms. Clark is hit more often (or in a different way) by such devolved and irrelevant talk, but until Madam Premier is willing to compare her to analogous male politicians, the alleged double standard is impossible to assess fairly.

    Third, a major portion of Madam Premier’s collection is filled by instances of citizens making vile and/or sexist comments online. My objection here is that, along with identifying this disgusting material, Madam Premier implies that our society in general embodies a matching level of chauvinism. The website seems oblivious to the nature of anonymous internet fiends (commonly referred to as “trolls”) who slither around the web making the most insidious comments they can fuse together with their limited brain cells. It is because sexism against women is taboo that they make use of it. They want to be shocking. In my experience, they spew equally awful statements against men, but because anti-male sexism is not currently taboo, they attack from other angles that they think will be more damaging.
 Assessing society’s mores by collecting the thoughts of the internet’s most vicious is highly problematic. I’m not saying that we can’t learn something from the trend within such a compilation, but Madam Premier ought to temper their accusations against the rest of us by recognizing the particular antisocial source of these cruel tirades.

    On the other hand, Madam Premier and other supposedly anti-discrimination groups do not collect any of the anti-male sexist language that is used every day by much more influential pundits on radio and television. For one of many never-discussed instances, during Barrack Obama’s US presidential debate with Mitt Romney, commentators on CNN accused the two would-be leaders of the world—-who both had the audacity to assertively argue for their candidacy—-of being “little boys,” “puffing out their chests,” and displaying “too much testosterone.” Not only were these misandrist statements sanctioned by other media, they were supported as the phrases de jour, and echoed on many talk shows (including BC talk shows). In contrast, similar commentary against two female politicians would have been instantly (and correctly) condemned, and led to the firing of the perpetrators.

    Fourth, Madam Premier helps itself to some impressive assumptions of intention about the writers they deride. Consider their current lead “misogyny” story from a 2011 editorial by Times columnist Iain Hunter. Along with identifying what sounds like some sexist or at least offensive comments from Hunter, it also makes some wild extrapolations about his intentions in cases where he appears to be empathizing with perceived extra challenges for women in politics; its criticisms of Hunter, in those cases, rely on unsubstantiated interpretations of him, which could easily be applied to Madame Premier with the same result. The double standard is growing.

    P.S. I’ve included the entire anti-Hunter transcript here (with three perspectives, (A) Hunter’s offending comments identified by Madam Premier, (B) Madam Premier’s response to Hunter, and (C) my response to Madam Premier’s response).

    MADAM PREMIER: “From today’s Times Colonist newspaper comes a truly enraging column. Iain Hunter makes jokes about eating disorders, dismissive comments about the gender of a female premier, and more. (The full column is available here.) Some quotes:”

    HUNTER: “If the legislative precinct makes her sick, as she has said it does, why is Christy Clark so keen, apparently, to stay there as premier? Is there such a thing as political bulimia?”

    MADAM PREMIER: “Hunter makes casual jokes about bulimia.”

    SETHBLOGS: Hunter’s use of bulimia may be tasteless, but from a pundit who likes to write on the edge, the metaphor is not necessarily sexist. I’m not sure I see the difference between referencing this disease and others so commonly called upon in the rhetoric, such as cancer, schizophrenia (although it is usually confused with disassociative personality disorder), and, of course, impotence. I realize that bulimia is much more common to women than men, so Hunter may have intended it as a sexist remark, but I don’t think we can assume so.

    HUNTER: “A lot of it has to do with [Clark’s] sex.”

    MADAM PREMIER: “Hunter suggests that her unpopularity is because she’s a woman.”

    SETHBLOGS: Taken in context, I’m not sure that’s what Hunter meant: it sounded, to me, more like he was arguing that Clark is at a disadvantage because she’s a women. Either way, if Hunter is accusing the political process and/or the electorate of being sexist, how does that prove that he is sexist against women? He may be wrong, but isn’t he arguing the same thing as Madam Premier, that politics are harder on women than men? In fact:

    HUNTER: “Political leadership makes hard demands of women.”

    MADAM PREMIER: “Hunter condescendingly suggests that all women aren’t up for leadership.”

    SETHBLOGS: Again, even if Hunter is wrong that politics are especially demanding on women, why does Madam Premier think his argument contains an implication that women can’t handle politics? Could Hunter not be arguing that politics are more work for women because he believes we still live in a chauvinistic society, in the same way that Madam Premier argues in its mission statement, “It’s not easy being a woman in politics – even when you’re the Premier of a Canadian province”?

    HUNTER: “Trying to be more like men throws away the only advantage they have. Floppy grey pant suits don’t suit.”

    MADAM PREMIER: “Hunter implies that ‘the only advantage’ women in politics have is their sexuality and appearance.”

    SETHBLOGS: And, finally, I think Madam Premier has a legitimate complaint (although I think they targeted the wrong part of Hunter’s argument). Hunter’s suggestion that female politicians are “trying to be more like men” is a grand assumption of his own that women are pretending to be “masculine” at the expense of their natural femininity. I’m not sure in what way he thinks Clark is acting like a male, but it may be that she’s acting like herself, even if that person does not match Hunter’s expectation of how women normally behave. (Certainly, from my perspective, Clark sounds the same as when I listened to her on the radio as a talk show host.) Moreover, Hunter’s floppy pant suit metaphor strikes me as cheap and potentially sexist since it reduces the conversation about a politician to her choice of outfit.

    HUNTER: “… delegates chose a leader, not for leadership abilities, but because they thought a woman had the best chance of keeping their party in power.”

    MADAM PREMIER: “Hunter says that BC Liberal Party members – who democratically elected Premier Clark as leader – only picked her because they decided to take a ‘chance’ on a woman.”

    SETHBLOGS: Certainly, Hunter is insulting the BC Liberal Party for playing politics with their choice of leader, but it’s not necessarily sexist for someone to suggest that a political party had faulty motives. In my reading of Hunter’s entire article, he doesn’t seem to be arguing that by definition every vote for a female is a vote for her gender. However, Hunter is suggesting that, in this particular case, if Clark were a male radio star who had been out of politics for several years, he would not have been elected by his party. This may be wrong, but it’s not necessarily sexist to suggest that particular voters are gender biased; isn’t that what Madam Premier argues every day?

    To that end, I’d like to submit the following for consideration as a future entry in Madam Premier’s archive of chauvinism:

    Check out this condescending mission statement from Madam Premier about women in politics:

    MADAM PREMIER: “It’s not easy being a woman in politics…”

    MADAM PREMIER (suggested by SETHBLOGS): Madam Premier assumes that women want an easy ride in politics.

    MADAM PREMIER: “…even when you’re the Premier of a Canadian province.”

    MADAM PREMIER (suggested by Sethblogs): Madam Premier assumes that women working in a powerful male-dominated profession ought to have an easier life than women working in female-dominated professions.

    MADAM PREMIER: “Follow along as we share some upsetting examples of continued sexism in Canadian politics.”

    MADAM PREMIER (suggested by Sethblogs): Madam Premier capitalizes on the stereotype that women are overly emotional and easily upset.

    For the sense of humourless among us, let me state for the Sethblogs record that I am joking. I am attempting to satirize Madam Premier’s style of assumption by using it against them. Of course, there is nothing misogynistic about Madam Premier’s mission statement, but if they applied the same style of jumping to conclusions to themselves that they do when analyzing literature they perceive as sexist, they unfortunately would have no choice but to indite themselves as well.

  • Welcome to The Anti-Misandry Blog within SethBlogs! Confused? Click here for The Anti-Misandry Blog Introduction. Intrigued/enraged? Click on the “Anti-Misandry” link in the CATEGORY section to the right of this post for further episodes.

    THE ANTI-MISANDRY BLOG: EPISODE V

    British Columbia is an interesting place in which to study the battle of sexism. As of the most recent election, the ratio of women to men in the legislature, while the highest it has ever been, is still 16% below the 50-50 ratio that one might expect in a sexism-free society. The ongoing disparity has provoked the BC NDP to create a diversity quota that restricts future candidates by gender (as well as race, disability, and sexuality); that is to say, that modern pariah, the white, heterosexual, bi-pedal male should wait at the back of the line before applying. Meanwhile, upon noticing in 2012 that she was less popular with women than she was with men, BC premier Christy Clark held a women-only meeting. Both policies are discriminatory against men, and yet many feel that they are justified by the gender imbalance in BC politics. I disagree.

    Discriminating against anyone, for any reason other than merit in the area to which they are applying, is serious business. Allowing gender to be the deciding distinction between candidates is a dangerous precedent to set, and so before tacitly authorizing political agencies to undertake such a drastic action, we must demand critical study in the area where they claim there is an unnatural disparity.

    When considering if intervention is required, we must first establish that there is a likelihood of systemic sexism that is causing the alleged problem. If fewer women are elected to the BC legislature because (or partly because) some of the voters are sexist, then that would not be an example of systemic sexism. Unfortunate as it may be, the rules of democracy are clear: the voters get to decide. We cannot tell the people who to vote for, no matter how egalitarian and well-meaning our intentions.

    Personally, for example, I think society would do better with more academics in politics (to the chagrin of Canadian voters who hated intellectuals such as Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff, while adoring man-of-the people, Jack Layton, who did his best to hide his academic pedigree). As much as our government may be better served by a more intellectual culture, the people have the right to their prejudice against the erudite among us. This may not be ideal, but the benefits of allowing everyone in on electoral decisions necessitates the unfortunate result that we allow everyone—even bigots—in on the decisions.

    If, however, it can be found that there is sexism inherent in the infrastructure of our political process, then that would be antidemocratic, as it would suggest that a few people running the system are influencing the results that represent all of us. The people have a right to be sexist; our institutions do not. And so, given the continuing disparity of women versus men reaching political office (and complaints that women still have an unfair disadvantage), I would favour a nonpartisan, academic investigation into our political framework to see if the intuition that there is a systemic problem can be verified.

    Thus far (without such a targeted study), the only potential culprit of systemic sexism I have heard mentioned is that women have a more difficult time becoming candidates because, while the electorate will vote for them, those with the chequebooks to fund political campaigns are less likely to support women than men. It’s possible, of course, that this is a nonsexist discrepancy: it’s conceivable that, if there are general differences in the personalities and aptitudes of the genders, the style by which men tend to fundraise may happen to resonate more with financial supporters. However, by allowing fundraising success to be a significant factor in determining the candidates for public office, we are inviting a small percentage of people (the wealthy) to have a greater impact on our elections than the rest. Thus, if it turns out that such high-income people tend to be sexist in their decision making, then by a loophole in the democratic process, we would be condoning systemic sexism.

    But the solution to systemic sexism is not NDP-style systemic sexism in the opposite direction, which is a blunt instrument that may overcompensate for the problem. Far from combatting systemic sexism, such a policy increases it, while hoping that the offsetting discrimination will create a zero-sum level of sexism.

    Instead, then, if we agree that the ability to convince a few wealthy citizens to contribute money to one’s campaign is not a quality that is intrinsically relevant to political office, then we should take such fundraising out of the equation. Political candidates ought to be allotted equal funds by their parties. This may be a major change to our political system, but given that the NDP have successfully imposed a discriminatory policy based on race, gender, and sexuality to choose their candidates (without a major backlash), there is clearly an appetite for a significant adjustment in the name of egalitarianism.

    Nevertheless, in spite of that commonsense antidote for possible systemic sexism in political fundraising, the muddy waters in which BC’s discussion of sexism resides have blocked any consideration of it. All sexism is bundled together as one problem that can only be solved by parachuting more women into politics.

    Women-in-politics advocacy group, Equal Voice BC, argues for increased female representation by noting that women are more likely to work on important women’s issues, and that, in general, governments that include a critical mass of women tend to accomplish more because they are less combative. In other words, Equal Voice BC supports gender-profiling political candidates. I would say this anti-male argument was despicable if it weren’t so common, and unquestioned in the media.

    I have yet to witness a BC commentator acknowledge the distinction between gender representation quotas (where we require a minimum percentage of one or both genders for more balanced gender representation) and gender profiling quotas (where we require an increased percentage of one gender in a particular arena because they are thought to have superior abilities); while gender representation quotas at least have a theoretical basis in fairness, gender profiling quotas are openly claiming that one gender is more valuable than the other. Yet gender profiling quotas are able to ride the coat tails of the perceived fairness contained within gender representation quotas, and thus keep pundits from questioning them.

    Moreover, the fact that the gender profiling of candidates is spoken of so freely among advocates (without fear of being branded by pundits as gender-discrimination purveyors) is evidence of a double standard with regard to how the media treats anti-male and anti-female sexism. If advocacy groups were ever to gender-profile in men’s favour, they would be promptly denounced as chauvinistic. That is, if someone suggested that we need a higher percentage of men in an occupation by arguing that there is a critical mass of men that would allow us to achieve a particular goal, that advocate would be wearing tar and feathers within the day (and rightfully so).

    It may be the case that more women in politics would cause more work to be done on behalf of causes that benefit women (which may or may not be justified, depending on the society in which such work would happen), as well as generally getting more government tasks accomplished, but ethically, we ought to be asking whether those potential ends justify such discriminatory means.

    Gender profiling quotas are a dangerous type of discrimination. Even if it can be established that one gender tends to be superior to the other in a particular trait, the real world disparity in the two genders’ abilities would never fit the profile quota exactly, and so we would be dismissing qualified people because the group to which they belong happened to generally fare worse in the aptitude we were seeking. Although it is more work, I suggest that, instead of identifying the gender that more often coincides with a desired characteristic, advocacy groups should simply look for people who demonstrate the experience or aptitude in question. For instance, if a feminist watchdog organization has evidence that a crucial issue is being ignored, they should promote candidates who seem to support their concern. Such politicians may happen to be more often women than men, but so long as they are selected for their individual merits, men would have no reason to complain of gender discrimination.

    The blanket notion, in contrast, that we should aim for more women in politics because women will produce better results is an affront to the collective value that a person should be measured by his or her individual ideas and skills as opposed to his or her gender or race. If advocacy groups want to argue against that guiding principle, so be it, but they should be challenged by the same assertiveness from the media that would automatically be aimed at a group or person who would suggest that we should choose more men for a particular job “because they’re better at it.” And yet, when interviewing such sexist advocacy groups, most pundits don’t acknowledge the drastic measures being suggested.

    I think the reason for such uncritical thought is twofold: (1) pundits are afraid to be seen as sexist if they criticize a women’s advocacy group, and (2) sexism has so many layers to it that commentators tend to treat it as one big black-and-white question: are you in favour of a society that discriminates against women or not? You’re either with them or against them, and if you’re with them, you can’t question the means they suggest for solving the problem. The fact is, there are still fewer women in politics than men, and this very well could be the result of something chauvinistic; consequently, any means of combating the apparent problem is seen as righteous, regardless of whether it crosses ethical lines.

    Some argue that such a double standard is justified by the double standards that likely caused the disparity in the first place. Once again, this line of reasoning compounds the problem by multiplying the double standards against each other; instead, then, I submit that our goal should be to seek out and destroy all sexism, regardless of its orientation: give egalitarianism a chance by having a genuine zero-tolerance policy for anything that contradicts it.

    This means that one rule fits all. Commentators tend to point out examples where female politicians are treated more harshly because of their gender. I think this is a worthwhile exercise. The standard of investigation, however, is not applied equally to identifying examples of male politicians being treated more negatively because of their gender, or female politicians receiving less harsh treatment because of theirs. Such non-traditional sexism cases are sometimes noticed by the pundits, but they are rarely scrutinized with the same outrage as those where female politicians seem to be disadvantaged.

    For instance, when Premier Christy Clark was criticized for making a phallic dysfunction joke at the expense of her ex-husband (after her microphone stand failed to perform at a speaking engagement), a regular pundit on CKNW’s Bill Good Show laughed and noted that Mr. Good’s microphone was bigger than she recalled. This piling onto the controversial joke prefaced her commentary that Ms. Clark’s irreverent remarks were being taken too seriously. Perhaps the commentator was right, and we should allow our politicians more room for “edgy” humour, but I suspect that if the joke were on the other gender, a Mr. Christy Clark would not have escaped criticism so quickly, and might even be out of a career by now.

    Clearly, we possess a double standard in the way we respond to double standards: double standards against men are rarely treated as seriously as those against women. Until this trend is combated, a sexism-free political process is even further away than we hope.

    P.S. For an additional example of the above double standard expressed by feminist organizations, see my upcoming THE DOUBLE STANDARD OF DOUBLE STANDARDS: A CASE STUDY regarding the heavily biased work of feminist watchdog website, Madam Premier.

    P.P.S. And looking through my portal-to-the-future, I see that in 2017, I’ll publish THE DOUBLE STANDARD OF DOUBLE STANDARDS: ANOTHER CASE STUDY, this time in regard to allegedly low parenting expectations for men being categorized as sexism against women.

  • Welcome to The Anti-Misandry Blog within SethBlogs! Confused? Click here for The Anti-Misandry Blog Introduction. Intrigued/enraged? Click on the “Anti-Misandry” link in the CATEGORY section to the right of this post for further episodes.

    THE ANTI-MISANDRY BLOG: EPISODE IV

    Recently, a passenger on a WestJet flight, calling him (or her) self “David,” left a chauvinistic note about the female pilot, who had the audacity to desert her homemaking obligations in favour of taking a position at the head of the plane. Said the passenger: “The cockpit of an airliner is no place for a woman. And woman being a mother is the most honor. Not as ‘Captain’…” So went the grammatically-challenged rant that would have made the men of Mad Men feel sheepish. It’s clearly an awful and sexist note, but I’m amazed to see the symphony of reaction to it from both social and traditional media as though it’s significant. Before jumping 30,000 feet to conclusions, I think we should consider three questions:

    (1) Do we have any idea of the personal context of the writer of the rant?

    He could be mentally ill, mentally deficient, or, judging from his apparent struggles with English, a visitor from a misogynistic culture, so why are the mutterings of one potentially deranged individual, who is probably not a public figure and may not be a person with influence in our country, getting us worked up?

    (2) Even if “David” is as sane and educated as the next Sethblogs reader, why does it matter if one citizen expresses sexist opinions?

    In her interview with CTV, the victim of the note, 17-year veteran pilot Carey Steacy, said that this is her first encounter with such unabashed sexism; so, while this experience may be worthy of her blog as a disturbing (or “funny,” as she put it) example of humanity, in the grand scheme of public discourse, why do we care about the rantings of one equity-challenged moron? (I’m estimating, based on what the pilot said, that she’s received direct sexism from 0.0001% of the people she’s encountered.)

    While (hopefully) we as a society have managed to outlaw sexism in the workplace, and in public institutions, did anyone really think that all minds (from all bigotries of life) would immediately agree? I’m surprised and delighted that the pilot has received so few sexist remarks given that she’s of such a significant minority in her field, but in this social networking world, it doesn’t matter how often something sinister happens, it only matters how often it’s re-tweeted.

    I don’t feel sorry for “David”: since he openly insulted his pilot, people are free to retaliate, but what baffles me is that they seem to be arguing with him as though he’s more than an individual citizen with radical opinions. They burn him in a straw man effigy and then they suggest that he is a symptom of a serious problem in the airline industry that needs to be fixed.

    (3) So, most significantly, why are we not criticizing feminist leaders for using the tiny rantings of a single passenger as a muse for misandry?

    In the CBC Radio version of the story, they asked a women’s advocacy group what they thought about this circumstance, and the one-track-minded agency predictably helped themselves to the “chauvinism for chauvinism” conclusion that the incident demonstrated that we should have more women at the helm of planes. Wow, that’s a serious policy initiative provoked by one stupid note, and yet the CBC reporter announced the suggestion with a straight voice as though there was no need for her as a journalist to question it.

    If WestJet wants to ban “David” from their flights because he was openly rude to one of their employees, I would have no objection, but for an advocacy group to leap from the behaviour of one bad customer to a major human resources policy change deserves serious discussion. In the absence of proven sexist hiring policies against women, the notion of purposely hiring more women pilots (to teach David a lesson) means that airlines would have to reduce the number of successful male applicants; that is to say, airlines would have to discriminate against men. And based on what evidence?

    Yes, it’s the case that not every citizen believes in equal rights for women, but individual people have a right to believe whatever they choose. It’s not the airline’s job to educate their passengers; it’s their job to have fair hiring policies, and if there is evidence that they don’t, then that should be protested and rectified.

    No matter how educated and egalitarian our population becomes, we will probably never rid our society completely of sexist minds. So it is society’s job to try to protect our population from those bigots, not to the let the bigots provoke discrimination of a different kind.

  • Welcome to The Anti-Misandry Blog within SethBlogs! Confused? Click here for The Anti-Misandry Blog Introduction. Intrigued/enraged? Click on the “Anti-Misandry” link in the CATEGORY section to the right of this post for further episodes.

    THE ANTI-MISANDRY BLOG: EPISODE III

    A few weeks ago I listened to an interview by CBC Q alternate host Gill Deacon with performance artist, Heather Cassils, which landed a thorn in my paw that I haven’t been able to remove.

    I should admit, before I begin my ranting attempt to extricate my irritation, that I am uneducated and often unkind in my viewing of performance art. I instinctively find it to be bogus, in part because it seems wild and meaningless, but also because of the way the artists themselves seem to hide from explaining their work. Infuriating responses such as, “What does my work mean to you?” leave me rolling my eyes. It is a tendency that invades all art forms, I’m sure: poetry, sculpture, and abstract painting being also among the most guilty, not necessarily because they are inherently meaningless art forms, but because their cultural worlds have promoted subjectivity at the expense of comprehensive analysis.

    Studies suggest that wine connoisseurs will think a drink tastes better if they are told it costs more; similarly, I suspect, some devotees of performance art and sculpture will more highly value a work if it is not limited by legible communication. It is an exchange that benefits both sides as the artist is able to either randomly or simplistically put their confusing whims on a canvass, call it the workings of a soul in turmoil, and wait for the grand interpretations to come in. “What does the work mean to you?” is a question that allows the greatness of the piece to not be restricted by the merits/intentions of the artist, but instead be (unwittingly?) manufactured by the imaginations and contemplations of the beholders. So, while the artists get to create work without the necessity of substance, their interpreters get to freely express their wild (sometimes brilliant) analysis without fear of contradiction from the source.

    But Heather Cassils, in her interview, did not annoy me by this standard artistic babbling. Instead, I was disconcerted to find her straightforward and articulate. However, while my inner critic was not able to mock her for hiding from artistic analysis, it was able to be quenched by the fact that her work, unfettered by ambiguity, seemed shockingly simple to be receiving Q’s attention.

    Ms. Cassils had been asked by Los Angles Contemporary Exhibitions to produce a work that paid homage to the history of performance in Southern California. The artistic dynamo then searched their archives and found a 1972 sculpture of photographs by feminist artist, Elinor Antin, who had starved herself for seventy-two days and taken pictures of herself “wasting away” to portray social expectations put on women.

    (While this may have been a worthwhile feminist conversation to engage in regarding western culture and how it seems to glamorize thin femininity to the point that girls may feel pressured to stay lean by any means, I wondered at this point in the interview whether such blatant artwork added anything new or helpful to the 1972 discussion. I would be surprised, that is, if such a heavy-handed and simple artistic rendering of this standard feminist argument provoked a change in any entrenched minds. But maybe at the time it was a revelatory point. Moreover, at least the artwork in this case was transparent and communicating directly with its audience.)

    In response, Cassils wanted to make her own point through changing her body, but instead of a feminist criticism of how society misuses the female body, she wanted to “empower” women through a show of strength. Already a fitness trainer herself, she hired professional bodybuilding experts to help her load as much muscle onto her physique as possible in six months. The result was an appearance that, to her apparent delight, baffled conventional gender guidelines as people had trouble wrapping their eyes around a woman looking similar to a well-muscled man. As a result, she says she was mocked by strangers and challenged to arm wrestling matches.

    While I admire her strength (literally and figuratively), and recognize the pain she must have gone through to achieve this result, her product once again seems boring to me. Yes, with extra work, women can acquire muscle, too, and our brains – so used to large muscles primarily highlighting male bodies – will be surprised and perhaps disconcerted. But has Cassils taught us anything profound that we couldn’t have achieved from a few moments’ contemplation (or looking at female bodybuilders)? But my biases are showing. According to Cassils, at one of her shows, a person approached her and said that, if he had seen her ten years before, he would have made different (presumably healthier) choices with his body. So, simple as it may seem on her surface, perhaps Cassils’s particular rendering can intuitively provoke some troubled observers to see themselves from a new (psychologically helpful) perspective.

    The thorn that landed in my paw, however, was not Cassils’s presentation, but was derived from her interpretation of her own work. When asked about the experience of overloading her body, Cassils admitted that, while she had intended it to be empowering, it was, in fact, uncomfortable, explaining that “…the regime of the act of creating that transformation became very rigid: I couldn’t leave the city, I had to eat every three hours, the workouts became gruelling, I lost flexibility, I couldn’t do any kind of heart rate training, and so it became difficult to walk up stairs because I had twenty-three pounds of extra meat hanging off my body… and so something that I had initially thought would be this empowering thing became this oppressive thing.”

    “So,” she ought to have concluded in reference to the ‘wasting away women’ metaphor that had first inspired her, “my artistic result makes me wonder if western society also puts pressure on men to imprison themselves in a painful, obsessive exercise regimen that may eventually break their over-muscled bodies.”

    Nope. Instead, the pains she felt while increasing her “masculinity” were not observed through the same lens that had told us how hard it was to be “feminine.”

    Nor did the interviewer ask a question that would bring this obvious conclusion to the forefront. I suppose I can’t blame the artist or the interviewer. We live in a culture that rarely acknowledges that there may be painful pressures experienced by men that parallel those felt by women. Anorexia is considered a disease (or a form of cultural murder, according to some feminists), while excessive steroid use is a sign of men’s obsession with power. Cultural analysts rarely acknowledge that boys might feel pressured by images of shirtless large-muscled male superheroes in the same way that we think girls are influenced by images of uber-thin women in tiny clothing.

    (I recall the Special K ad campaign a few years ago that tried to tease women out of their body image concerns through a series of vignettes of fictionalized men, such as a truck driver or a Harley Davidson rider, concerned with their bodies, and saying unexpected lines such as, “I just wish I could fit into my skinny jeans again.” These phrases from men were meant to be comical since it was far from how we see men seeing themselves. The ad concluded with a message that “Men don’t obsess about these things. Why do we?” This was a ridiculous and offensive assertion that did not consider the possibility that many men do aggressively scrutinize their own physiques, but they don’t express it as openly or in the same way that women do.)

    It seems to me that part of what could make Cassils’s performance art interesting is that she is experimenting with her body to see what happens. I don’t like this style of body manipulation (why do something so unhealthy for philosophical exploration that my simple brain thinks could just as easily be made through an essay or a drawing?). However, I would respect Cassils if she had held herself to her experimental results. The fact that she ignored the unambiguous conclusion that being overly masculine might hurt, too, demonstrates that she was not going to deviate from her feminist argument, regardless of the results. Thus, Cassils’s message, in addition to lacking profound insight, does not possess an openness to discovery that would have justified it living in Cassils’s experimental medium. But at least now the thorn is out of my paw.

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