Category Archives: Sethics vs. Misandry

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

FLIGHTS OF FEMINISM

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 more gendered and/or sexist culture, so why are the mutterings of one 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 equality-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 informed us of 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 (and vice versa), 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.

CBC, NOW PRINCIPLE FREE I: CBC Radio Celebrates Pre-Formance Art

CBC Radio’s Editorial policy is clear:

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

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

CBC, NOW PRINCIPLE FREE SERIES:

I: CBC RADIO CELEBRATES PRE-FORMANCE ART (you are here)

II: CBC RADIO ENDORSES EXCLUSIVITY POLICY

III: CBC RADIO DECLARES MORAL BANKRUPTCY

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


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. Yet 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’ exploration 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.


Here’s a look at the above mentioned Special K ad campagin. It’s handy because, whether your bias matches mine (that modern Western society minimizes male body issues) or feminists’ (that modern society puts more body pressure on women than men), the ad can serve your purpose.


CBC, NOW PRINCIPLE FREE SERIES:

I: CBC RADIO CELEBRATES PRE-FORMANCE ART (you were just here)

II: CBC RADIO ENDORSES EXCLUSIVITY POLICY

III: CBC RADIO DECLARES MORAL BANKRUPTCY

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

 

ATTACKING MEN

According to Translink (British Columbia edition), sexual assaults on Metro Vancouver transit are becoming more frequent. If they’re right, then that’s troubling (especially if it’s a significant rate of increase), and I hope that transit, and society in general, is able to reverse this trend.

My concern on this blog, however, is the misandrist rhetoric that seems to inevitably result any time there is news of individual men assaulting women. As in the case of the apparent serial rapist who terrified the citizens of the UBC campus last year, there seems to be a belief amongst some feminist commentators (who are unchecked by the media that interviews them) that, because most reported sexual assaults are committed by men, most men are guilty.

Consider Angela Marie MacDougall, the Executive Director of Battered Women’s Support Services, who told CKNW’s Simi Sara that:

“…the biggest thing that we have to say is that men have to stop. It’s just really something about our culture where there’s this idea that men can do this type of sexual violence with impunity.”

By the word impunity, MacDougall seems to imply that our culture condones, or at least doesn’t care about, men attacking women. Oddly, in my couple of decades of riding transit several times a week, I’ve never witnessed a sexual assault (even though I’m the sort who’s naturally wary that a bad agent could board my bus at any time, so I’m usually watching for misconduct). Nevertheless, MacDougall says that:

“… 90% of [women], in terms of the straw poll that [she’s] done, and some surveys that [she’s] seen, and research that [she’s] done, experience at least one form of sexual harassment or sexual assault while on public transportation.”

That is an extraordinarily high number, for which I would like to see the source study and its parameters (I think we should always be respectful but skeptical of high numbers coming from non-profit agencies who have a vested interest in convincing donors that their area of work needs significant aid).

Nevertheless, even if the true number is considerably less than 90%, it may still be a deplorable total. That doesn’t mean, however, that men in general are committing these crimes: instead, it’s likely that a tiny but prolific percentage of males are performing these ugly deeds. But MacDougall uses the 90% victim number, before calling out men in general, as a means of luring our brains into thinking that a high percentage of men commit sexual assault.

This trick of language echoes the anti-male word choice used by feminists at UBC last year when there appeared to be a serial rapist on campus. As I articulated in my post TAKING OFFENCE, after the rapist had attacked a fourth woman, and police asked students—women in particular—to be extra careful when walking at night, feminist students complained that this safety plea was offensive:

Instead of telling women not to get raped, they said, we should be telling men not to rape women.

Men? What do men in general have to do with an individual predator?

The anti-male claim that masculinity in general provokes male sexual violence requires evidence beyond speculation. It’s conceivable that our society’s construction (or lack of deconstruction) of gender is partly to blame for some sexual assaults on women. However, that still does not justify blaming men, altogether. There are many men who despise macho culture (which is allegedly to blame), and have no interest in preserving it (for that matter, there are some women who support and cheer on macho men: go to a Canucks’ game and notice that it’s not only the male fans who celebrate the fights). So what does the average male who politely goes about his day have to do with violent criminals?

While the design of our society may have something to do with why some men assault women, and it may be a higher percentage of men who contribute to a psychopathic belief that rape is permissible, I would bet that the vast majority of Canadian men believe that rape is a horrific crime. And yet, without evidence to the contrary, “men” are treated as though they are all complicit in the actions of individual rapists.

(It is an odd extrapolation, which, against any other group, would be denounced as bigotry: for instance, if the assailant turned out to be a member of a racial minority, would we call out that racial group and tell them to stop raping women?)

Nevertheless, not only do misandrist feminists blame all men for the sins of terrible individuals, they also argue that mens’s shared choice of washroom obligates the apparently few of us who don’t directly assault women to take responsibility for our gender’s alleged embarrassment and to talk to our friends about their bad habits. Says MacDougall:

“…this is a social issue that really goes beyond what the police can do. So it does take for the men… to speak with other men about the importance of respecting women, of looking at that culture of masculinity, and the ways in which gender violence is endemic in that, and for those men that choose not to be violent, or to do sexual violence on transit, to raise their voice to those that do. That really matters, and I think that goes a long way.”

I’m touched by the way she says, “for those men that choose not to be violent…,” as though we all have urges to attack women. Who are these men that MacDougall wants me to talk to? I’m not aware that I’ve ever met such a person. In my many years of playing a variety of sports, I’ve never heard a man tell another guy that he enjoys sexually assaulting women in his free time.

I’d say if anyone ever hears anyone else plotting to assault a woman (or any person) on transit, the best thing to do is to call the police. If the assault is in progress, I think that most people will do what they can for their fellow citizens, and I certainly hope that I would step in. Perhaps the strongest people present (usually men) are the best candidates for such an intervention, but I would not do so because I felt guilty as a man that another man was a criminal; instead, if I had the courage to intervene in such a dangerous situation (and I hope I would), it would simply be because I wanted to help a fellow citizen who might otherwise get hurt.

TAKING OFFENCE

For today’s rant, I’d like to zoom in on how some university students have been trained by their gender studies professors to view their world, and how the media is terrified to question them.


As a result of the six sexual assaults against female students at UBC this past summer (crimes that police say were probably committed by one violent individual), officials increased campus patrols and asked students—especially female students—to be extra careful when walking at night. According to CKNW news reporters, some students said they were “offended” by this request because it “implies that [female students] are asking for trouble.”

Oh my: where have all the good arguments gone? Asking students to be careful, when someone is, literally, out to get them, is not in any way blaming the victims; instead, it is simply trying to reduce students’ risks of further attacks. Sadly, there will probably always be violent human predators in our society: they seem to be a fact of nature (and/or nurture), and like other such powerful forces, the act of preparing for them, so as to mitigate their reach, is a reasonable thing to do. Asking students to participate in their own safety is not insulting them; it is showing care and respect for them, as it suggests that they can be proactive in their own safety.

I am aware of the concern with blaming victims, and I think it is legitimate to check law enforcement for language that seems to suggest the victims are culpable for crimes committed against them. However, what is the basis for criticism here? If these critics were to script the perfect phrases for the police in cases where there is a dangerous offender in their neighbourhood, what would they suggest? And if such critics were aware of precautions that, in their experience, seem to reduce one’s chance of becoming a victim, would they withhold the information just to avoid suggesting that one could reduce one’s risk? (To that end, would they consider the suggestion of taking a self-defence class also to be offensive?)

I am baffled by the lack of critical thinking exhibited by these complaining university students from my alma matter. What exactly are they arguing? Should one never adjust one’s behaviour for the sake of safety? Are these auto-offended students really advocating that their classmates go solo wherever they normally would at night, and not worry about a possible assault, because after all, they’re not doing anything wrong? (By that same argument, one shouldn’t practice defensive driving either.) This is a dangerous suggestion that could put easily-persuaded students at increased risk, which makes me wonder why the journalists who reported the students’ radical argument (that safety suggestions are offensive) didn’t seem to challenge them.

Why didn’t the reporters ask the allegedly offended students what the alternative was to the police’s request for students to be vigilant (and avoid being alone as much as possible) when walking at night until the rapist was caught? I realize reporters are loathe to criticize female university students who are claiming to be feminists, but when those students are making potentially dangerous arguments, is it not the duty of journalists to challenge them?

One such feminist student was, in fact, given a forum on CKNW to explain why the safety request was offensive: instead of telling women “not to get raped,” she explained, “we should tell men not to rape women.”

I’ll take on the misandrist element of this remark in my next post Attacking Men, but for now, I would like to clarify something: law enforcement agencies that advocate being careful in dangerous situations are not necessarily suggesting that criminals have a right to commit violent crimes in poorly lit areas. Instead, it’s conceivable that the police want to catch the bad guys, but are aware that they cannot be omnipresent, and so, until they have cleared the streets of all violent offenders, they are suggesting, that—for our own safety—we the citizens avoid dangerous situations when feasible. I think the police probably thought it was implied—by their increased patrols apparently aimed at catching the rapist—that they are, in fact, opposed to rape. Indeed, I think all but a tiny fraction of the male population consider rape to be a moral outrage. So telling men not to rape when there’s a serial rapist in our neighbourhood would be like reminding citizens not to murder when there’s a serial murderer out there.

Nevertheless, these bizarre arguments were published without any criticism by the Vancouver media. This is not good news for the pursuit of gender equality: when the worst arguments are allowed to spread without contradiction as representatives of feminism, genuine equality-persuing feminism is unlikely to see much time in the spotlight.

MEET THE MISANDRY

Misandry, the hatred of men, is rarely identified in popular Canadian culture, and yet it seems—to my increasingly sensitive ears—to be growing in popularity. It is difficult to know whether or not misandry is, in fact, now more prevalent in Canada than its anti-female sibling, but it is clear that, whereas misogyny has been effectively pushed to the shadows (such that it is politically dangerous for any public person to be perceived as under its influence), anti-male sexism is openly practiced on our public airwaves every day.


SETHBLOGS UPDATE: Reviewing this post after many years of studying the battles of sexism, I see that—in these next paragraphs—I will be guilty of that which I accuse present-day Western culture. That is, I will presume that, during certain times and places (for instance, Western society’s deep past), sexism has been much harsher against women and girls than it has been against men and boys. I now see that such an assumption is not as easily assumed as I assumed. As with those I accuse in the present, my no-nuance conclusion relies on me forgetting to consider the obligations and privileges of both sexes.

For instance, while, yes, team men acquired the franchise before women as a group , those men were simultaneously being drafted into wars that their female counterparts were not. Certainly, in that past—as well as in current-day religion-run cultures—gender was a thicker dividing line which restricted women’s freedom, but I negelected to observe that it also demanded particular duties of men. I stand by modern agnosticism that I don’t know which sex has in total been most mistreated by gender expectations, but I retract my unearned conclusion that women necessarily suffered greater mistreatment in our past than men did. As with those who jump to that thesis about men and women today, I was riding a stereotype, which may or not have been right. 

Nevertheless, the spirit of this post remains a match for my current feelings. Regardless of the status of the historical scorecard, in modern discussions of sexism, the consensus is that women are the sole victims of it, and men are the leading perpetrators. I believe such generalizations are sexist and have potentital to hurt our society, and so I intend to take them on.

And now back to SethBlogs 2014 oversimplifying the backstory.

—SethBlogs, April 2021


I believe that, in the history of this world, anti-female chauvinism has had more power than the reverse, but, as we’ve seen in the last century, our society can change rapidly. As George Orwell expressed in Animal Farm, the oppressed can become the oppressors if we don’t scrutinize them with the same intensity as we did their predecessors. It is not my intention to argue that public misandry in Canada is as influential today as misogyny may have been previously (and perhaps continues to be in nations where chauvinistic religious teachings overpower secular democratic philosophy); instead, I am arguing that no one should be the victim of bigotry, even if one’s gender-similar ancestors started it.

Thus, with this post at its launching pad, I intend to write an Anti-Misandry series within SethBlogs (simply click the Sethics vs. Misandry link in the Categories to the right of this post to see all future arguments). In this introduction, I am not yet making the case that misandry is running free in our public discourse: I will leave that to my upcoming posts. However, I will suggest here, for those who are skeptical that such pervasive sexism against men could possibly exist in a world that has for so long been ruled by Kings before Queens, that the swinging of the pendulum may be an inevitable result of human nature.

For the average human ego, a disadvantage is as good as an achievement. We will often highly esteem in ourselves the obstacles we believe we have endured as much as we appreciate our official results. (It’s simple mathematics of the ego: if getting to the top rung on whatever ladder of success one is climbing is considered good, then arriving there from the bottom rung is more impressive than inheriting the position.)

The tricky thing is, then, since most human egos yearn to see their life in the most complimentary possible analysis, we will want to credit ourselves with as many disadvantages as we can get away with. This means that, even if the freedoms and opportunities for our particular group improve, our natural tendency will be to resist noticing or acknowledging when things change for our better. (This is not to say that those who claim disadvantage are incorrect, but merely that we cannot, as many gender analysis studies do, take self-reporting as infallible.)

Moreover, on the other side of the distinction, it is also predictable that those people who are accused of continuing to enjoy condemned historical advantages will be reticent to question their accusers (especially if they want to be seen as progressive). Many men, for instance, who believe in gender equality—or at least want to be perceived so—would prefer to err on the side of anti-male language (and get credit for being a friend to all women) than to admit to feeling skeptical of a feminist claim.

These two inevitable forces, under the influence of politically correct rage against divergent opinion (as depicted in my posts, NO QUESTIONS ASKED and ONE OPINION FITS ALL), has yielded a media culture that is collectively incapable of critically assessing chauvinism. I have no doubt that there is still much anti-female sexism lingering in Canada, but—in the absence of genuine criticism of modern feminism—it’s difficult to know where we’re at.

(See, for instance, my post THE USEFUL CRUELTY OF SCRUTINY which documented CBC’s forced and condescending “International Women’s Day” piece regarding three allegedly disadvantaged women of Bay Street in Toronto.)

Thus, in opposition to these one-sided sexism discussions, this Anti-Misandry series will seek to identify cases of anti-male language which are allowed to roam free in the public discourse, unchecked by the Canadian (and sometimes American) media.

This is not meant to be an anti-feminist production. (That is, it is not opposed to feminism’s stated goal of persuing equality.) On the contrary, it is an egalitarian project: to my mind, the best nutrition for any philosophy is not to patronize it, but rather to criticize it so that only its best arguments persist.


Don’t take my word for it: before sampling my rant-filled waters, I suggest reading the foremother of anti-misandry, one of my philosophical heroes, Christina Hoff Sommers, in particular her book, Who Stole Feminism?

THE FREE EXPUNGE OF IDEAS II: No Questions Asked

“A person who only knows their own side of an argument knows little of that.”

—SethBlogs paraphrasing social psychologist and Heterodox Academy co-founder, Jonathan Haidt, paraphrasing philosopher and free speech defender, John Stuart Mill.

THE FREE EXPUNGE OF IDEAS SERIES:

I: I MAY AGREE WITH WHAT YOU SAY BUT I’LL FIGHT TO THE DEATH YOUR RIGHT TO SAY IT.
II: NO QUESTIONS ASKED
(you are here)
III: ONE OPINION FITS ALL
IV: NOTHING TO SEE HERE
V: DEFINE YOUR WAY TO INFALLBILITY (1 of 2)

VI: THE INFALLIBILITY CLOAK (2 of 2)
VII: THE SHAME OF THE GAME


Recently TV psychologist “Dr. Phil” McGraw promoted an upcoming show regarding sexual assault via a question on his Twitter feed that asked his audience if it would be okay to sleep with a drunk female. From my vantage point, Dr. Phil’s question seemed crass, given that he was asking for a Yes or No response to an inquiry that should provoke us to consider the complex question of where we draw a line in the long and grey spectrum between consent and assault. However, I am much more disconcerted (although not surprised) by the politically correct club’s outrage that Dr. Phil had the audacity to ask his audience for their opinions on this topic: clearly (yelled the critics, in their usual fervor of trial by “ism”plication) Dr. Phil was looking to promote sexual assault in university dorm rooms.

As Ottawa Citizen commentator Angelina Chapin noted:

“People immediately labelled Phil McGraw… a rape apologist. It was like watching a minnow dropped into a piranha tank. Aside from the innocuous snark that characterizes Twitter—’Aren’t you married?’ — the criticisms were an ugly distortion of the original message.

“‘Why are you looking for a green light to rape from Twitter?’ asked Twitter.com/SettlerColonial and ‘You know good and goddamn well that ‘asking’ when a girl ‘deserves’ to be raped is a destructive question in itself,’ tweeted Twitter.com/@femme_esq…

“The message spurred a change.org petition demanding Dr. Phil apologize and ‘produce a show that shines a light on survivors of rape and sexual assault and… a national conversation about the specifics of consent.'”

The change.org petition is the work of activist Carmen Rios, who was subsequently a guest on CKNW’s The Simi Sara Show. She argues that Dr. Phil’s inquiry is akin to the police asking a possible rape victim the ridiculous and irrelevant question, “What were you wearing [to potentially provoke this assault]?”; this is a straw man argument of the worst kind because she associates a question that apparently seeks to blame a victim with an important philosophical one that society ought to—and has a right to—ask. Even if this topic is as simple as Ms. Rios suggests (that there is no grey area between consent and assault), what has happened to our moral conversation that we cannot ask about it?

Apparently, we’re now living in a moral orthodoxy that will ostracize not only those who disagree with it, but also people who have the temerity to inquire about it, by assuming the most sinister interpretations of their questions. And yet, I think Dr. McGraw’s inquiry (or, at least, the actual implications of it) is one of the most daunting in all of moral philosophy: how do we define consent? Finding an answer that takes into account our elusive line between protecting our citizens and allowing them the right to choose is tough work, and I fear any results arrived at through censored discussion.

I think most moral philosophers would agree that a passed out or barely conscious person cannot give consent, but suggesting that people who are slurring their words can no longer choose, in that moment, to take someone home provokes difficult questions. For instance, where is the line between sobriety and the point at which a person is no longer aware of their circumstances enough to consent?

I’m not saying there isn’t a line, but it’s a tricky one for a reasonable person to define. What about cases where two people are in a relationship? If a women comes home drunk from a work party, and initiates something with her husband and he consents, has he sexually assaulted her? Also, are inebriated males victims of sexual assault, too? If not, then we’re saying that drunk male citizens have the ability to choose while intoxicated female citizens do not. That’s a scary conclusion for both sexes. Moreover, if both members of a sexual encounter are drunk, have both of them assaulted each other? These may not be the cases intended by arguments that one must be sober to consent, but they are logically in its catchment area, so how do we deal with them?

The outraged social policy rulers are unwilling to consider any contemplation that does not fit within their rules of acceptable thought. Along with demanding an apology from Dr. Phil, Ms. Rios has called for him to tailor his show to fit the philosophy she has prescribed for this topic; indeed, she notes that various media outlets need to do a better job—when covering such debates—of focusing on the victims. So, along with curtailing free discussion, she’s asking journalists to cast aside their oaths of objectivity when describing the conversation that remains. No need to look at more than one aspect of an issue, just read Ms. Rios’s blog and report her infallible opinion as fact.

The new censorship is upon us.


THE FREE EXPUNGE OF IDEAS SERIES:

I: I MAY AGREE WITH WHAT YOU SAY BUT I’LL FIGHT TO THE DEATH YOUR RIGHT TO SAY IT.
II: NO QUESTIONS ASKED
(you were just here)
III: ONE OPINION FITS ALL
IV: NOTHING TO SEE HERE
V: DEFINE YOUR WAY TO INFALLBILITY (1 of 2)

VI: THE INFALLIBILITY CLOAK (2 of 2)
VII: THE SHAME OF THE GAME

THE MORALITY POLICE AGAINST EXOTIC VIEWING

Recently, students in Charles Best Secondary School’s “Social Justice” class decided to protest against a “gentlemen’s club” in my home city of New Westminster. Both the teacher of the class (interviewed by Bill Good on CKNW), and one of the students (interviewed by Simi Sara on the same station), seemed disappointed and perplexed by the negative reaction they received to their attempts to “educate.” Those leading this protest seem to be following the examples of the “Occupy” and “Idle No More” movements, which proclaim themselves to be society’s moral elite, and then are baffled by those who have the audacity to disagree.

When you question people’s character, do they not have a right to be just as passionate in defending themselves as you are in accusing them? These protests could have real consequences for people’s livelihoods and so demand to be rigorously scrutinized.

From what I can gather, the students’ argument against the club comes in two parts:

(1) First, the protestors claim that the business is a part of the sex trade, and so by definition is harmful to the women dancers.

This is a significant charge which requires serious consideration before being levied at an individual business. My understanding is that prevailing opinion amongst social scientists is that those marketing their bodies are best off in a decriminalized “industry” as opposed to being pushed into the shadows by the law. If the students have credible evidence that contradicts that, I would be interested to hear their case. But I suggest they ought to do more than simply associating exotic dancing with all ills of prostitution, which is akin to protesting London Drugs by pointing at all the wrongs of the pharmaceutical industry and illegal drug dealers.

(2) The students’ second argument against the club is that it is sexist (and archaic) for men to go to a club for the purpose of watching unclad female strangers.

Most feminist thinking would agree with the students that such nudity “objectifies women,” but what exactly is the argument behind this truism? I don’t know if men watching naked women think of them as objects or not, but even if such a claim can be demonstrated, is it morally correct for us to tell others how they should think in such situations?

It’s dangerous to condemn anyone’s sexuality, regardless of how unseemly it may seem to the students. A cohort of “social justice” advocates ought to have definitive evidence  that the customers are doing something harmful in their actions before making public judgments of sexual righteousness. From what I’ve heard so far, the students have provided no such argument beyond linking exotic dancing with prostitution. Their case seems to ignore some critical questions:

(A) Is there any evidence of abusive or unsafe work conditions in the particular club they’re protesting?

(B) Are there any academic studies showing that exotic dancers suffer psychologically as a direct result of their occupation (beyond what they would experience in more “respectable” occupations for which they would be qualified)? If yes, then the students may have an interesting moral claim.

(C) But, if not, do these social justice advocates really want to be the morality police who dictate sexual thought?

The students, of course, have the right to protest anything they wish on the basis of any reason they perceive, but when we proclaim ourselves to be the moral judges of our neighbours, we should not be surprised when those judged don’t gratefully accept the lecture.

UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF LAZY JOURNALISM I: The Useful Cruelty of Scrutiny

Journalism is vital to a free society; so too is criticism of the media. And yet SethBlogs doesn’t see as much oversight of the media’s methods as there are for other vital societal resources. SethBlogs suspects that this oversight oversight provokes lazy complacency among our favourite journalistic representatives.

UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF LAZY JOURNALISM SERIES:

I: THE USEFUL CRUELTY OF SCRUTINY (OF IDEAS) (you are here)

II: EXTRA SENSORY PRESUMPTIONS (OF EMOTION)

III: SMYTH vs. THE FALSE DICHOTOMY (OF ROLES)

IV: EXTRA SENSORY PRESUMPTIONS (OF INTENTION)

V: THE EMPEROR HAS NO QUESTIONS (ON SEXISM)

VI: THE EMPEROR HAS NO QUESTIONS (ON RACISM)


In honour of International Women’s Day, CBC Radio sent a journalist straight into the heart of capitalism to find out how women are doing. The small survey provoked an eloquent, but, I would say, somewhat unsubstantial response. Nevertheless, instead of taking the women he interviewed seriously enough to critically question them, the reporter cheered on his three key witnesses as though they had courageously unearthed the soul of male chauvinism in our society. It was a puff piece of the worst kind because, to my mind, it lacked respect for the people it seemed to want to celebrate.

Thus, in belated honour of International Women’s Day, I would like to point out what I perceive to be a significant impediment to genuine feminism in Canada: most Canadian media refuse to grant the Canadian feminists the right to be questioned.

In the CBC report, our concerned and sensitive “journalist” travelled to Toronto’s Bay Street, where he apparently intended to acquire an insightful look at the plight of career women in the great metropolis by interviewing three female employees of capitalism. From their diverse stations in the economy, he received three stories of woe that he could only listen to with compassion.

(1) The first presenter, a lawyer, explained that she had lost her opportunity to make partner in her firm because she wasn’t willing to sacrifice her family life in order to work the relentless hours required. She therefore hoped in future that the lawyering world would desist in holding back those who wanted to succeed professionally and raise a family at the same time.

Now it would seem to me that a good journalist would question this argument. Does our heroine’s unfortunate circumstance have anything do with the mistreatment of women, or might it simply be a matter of pragmatism on the part of the law firm? In their highly competitive world, perhaps legal firms promote the people who put in the most work hours, regardless of what such over-working does to their personal lives. If it happens to be that more men than women are willing to let their home lives suffer, then—their bosses might say–so be it. Would they be wrong?

Such a promote-the-workaholics system may be harmful to the health of our society, and so may be worth looking into, but it would be logistically daunting—and perhaps ethically questionable—to force firms to restrict their employees’ efforts. This doesn’t mean that it is not a cause that should be pursued if the alternative is dire, but, by not asking his subject specifically what she would have her company—or society—do differently, and instead essentially saying, “You go girl!”, the reporter condescendingly cheers for women, but does nothing to further the discussion that could conceivably have influence on their actual circumstances.

(2) We next met a newly-acquired member of the Bay Street economy whose complaint—if it was one—was simply that so far she found it difficult working in a world where she was outnumbered by men. She said nothing in the piece about any patriarchal bias from the majority; apparently, simply the presence of more of one type of person than another should be sufficient to garner our sympathies for the outnumbered. Perhaps it should, but I would think a journalist would ask the minority representative for details of why the imperfect ratio troubled her.

Personally, I think the complaint deserves significant criticism: everyone is in the minority in some way or another in their life and, unless in that capacity you are experiencing actual bigotry, what’s the problem? (I’m not saying there isn’t a problem, but I would like to know what it is if it’s going to be used as an argument for change.) The reporter apparently felt the answer was self-evident and so did not see any need to ask his honoured victim a follow-up question. In doing so, he neglected his journalistic responsibility.

By not respecting the Bay Street critic with the same investigation he would impose on, let’s say, a male nurse who might complain about being outnumbered in his profession by women, the reporter cost us either a worthwhile justification for the dissatisfaction (which I—previously not sensitive to this difficulty—could have learned from), or perhaps he might have found evidence that he was, in fact, dealing with an unreasonable claim. In either case, to ask tough questions is to give the speaker the same consideration the reporter would any other interviewee: it would show that he sees her as responsible for (perhaps even capable of) defending her own argument.

But, when we laud any group’s claims as righteous no matter what, we avoid investigating their nuances. Surely, sometimes, being an objective journalist means we will find that a complaint is invalid (much, perhaps, to our chagrin), but sometimes it means we will find precisely why it is valid, which in turn may give us a better idea of what can be done about it.

(3) Finally, the interviewer approached what I found to be the most interesting commentator, a food court business owner. She explained that she was exhausted from playing the role of both full-time entrepreneur and leader of her family life. In the latter, she said she was lucky because she had a wonderful and supportive husband; nevertheless, her dream was to live in a world that assumed an equal domestic balance between the sexes.

This startled me that a husband could be described as wonderful and supportive, and yet not apparently willing to take on 50% of total chores in a dual-income family. Given again the reporter didn’t seem to ask any probing questions, we’ll just have to assume that the business owner was including in her math all work done by both members of the couple, including not only the traditionally female tasks, but also the traditionally male duties, and so I was intrigued by the discrepancy in her final count. While such an imbalance does not readily demonstrate sexism in her business world, it may indeed indicate that discrepracncies in work done at home makes professional work more fatiguing for women in general, and thus more difficult to succeed in.

I find this to be an intriguing complaint with no obvious solution, and so I would have been interested to hear if our third heroine had any suggestions for dealing with it. In some heterosexual teams, of course, it may be that the couple is content with the man taking on more of the paid work, while the women does more of the home work. But for those women and men who would rather the opposite, it may be difficult to find a teammate who matches their preferences. We can’t really legislate responsibilities within marriages, I wouldn’t think. Committed relationships are replete with personalities of various flavours, so maybe, as individuals, we simply have to take responsibility for our own needs and weed out out candidates until we find someone with the values/qualities we want. This is a disatisfying answer, I’m sure. Perhaps the alleged unwillingness of men in general to share in 50% of household chores is so prevalent that heterosexual women are left with little choice if they want to be in a relationship.

Or perhaps there is no problem at all, and our speaker was simply under-valuing the contributions of her husband.

I’m not sure what the answer is to these questions, but I would have been very interested to hear what the contributors had to say about them.

Instead, the reporter once again treated the feminist complaint as infallible, and so not worthy of investigation. In this paradigm, women are not diverse collections of traits just like men, capable sometimes of brilliance and occasionally of the opposite; instead, they are compressed into one category wherein all of their opinions are beautiful, by definition. That, to my thinking, is a good way to impede moral progress. As with any project, if the planner is never subjected to the cruelty of scrutiny, their results will suffer.


UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF LAZY JOURNALISM SERIES:

I: THE USEFUL CRUELTY OF SCRUTINY (OF IDEAS) (you were just here)

II: EXTRA SENSORY PRESUMPTIONS (OF EMOTION)

III: SMYTH vs. THE FALSE DICHOTOMY (OF ROLES)

IV: EXTRA SENSORY PRESUMPTIONS (OF INTENTION)

V: THE EMPEROR HAS NO QUESTIONS (ON SEXISM)

VI: THE EMPEROR HAS NO QUESTIONS (ON RACISM)