Friday, July 11, 2014

Appeal to Averages

I recently encountered the most bizarre appeal to authority. Someone actually rested his case for a U.S. domestic policy issue on what the “average global citizen” thinks about the issue. While the argument is fallacious on its face, I admit, I’m curious to meet this representative citizen of the world. What is he like?

First of all, he is male (1.014 males / 1.0 females as of 2014). He expects to live to the ripe old age of 66 (global male life expectancy 2014), the age at which the average American expects to retire. Average Global will die 16 years earlier than Average American, who is female and enjoys a life expectancy of 82. Both enjoy a similar death rate, however (around 8 / 1,000), but Average American (who will birth 2 children) is looking forward to facing an infant mortality rate of 6.17 / 1,000 compared to Average Global’s 2.5 kids, who will have to deal with a rate of 37 / 1,000.

Average Global probably thinks the Average American’s 2013 opinion that the minimum wage should be raised to $9 per hour is completely nuts, since he makes just $5 per hour (global median income for 2014 is $10,000). Average American is completely out of touch with Average Global, what with her being a part of the global 1% with her income of $51,000 (2012 median American income). She also enjoys the benefits of a per capita GDP 4 x Average Global’s $13,100 (2013).

Since we’re looking to assess public policy, we should consider how educated Average Global is compared to Average American. Average Global will spend 12 years in school compared to Average American’s 17 years. He will be 80% literate, while she will be 99% literate. Average American can communicate and learn about the world by using the 1.5 phones and 80% rate of internet use at her disposal. Average Global- well, he’s lucky to have 1.2 phones available, but he’s pretty much in the dark when it comes to the internet (30% rate of internet use.)

All in all, things don’t look too good for our Average Global Citizen. While he may deserve our consideration, respect, and sympathy, the weight we should give to his opinion when it comes to U.S. domestic policy is, on average, exactly zero.

With average affection,

S. Misanthrope

Friday, June 27, 2014

Some Racist Bullshit

So there was this meme:

I originally saw this on Facebook via a white friend, whom I know to be anti-gun. However it was originally from NewsOne, the self-described "Black America's #1 news source." My initial reaction was that this is some racist-ass bullshit, and although there are multiple interpretations here, I think that stands up to scrutiny no matter how you slice it.

Let's start with the worse case: where the poster intends this as an argument against open carry. That's basically the most racist thing I've ever seen in my actual life. In the best case scenario of this worse case, the poster is actually hoping that pro-open carry people are anti-black racists and is encouraging them to act on that racism when deciding public policy. Holy fuck. In the lazy middle scenario, the poster is assuming open carry supporters hate or fear blacks, and they're hoping to confuse or guilt them into either changing their position or shutting up. Disgusting. But the worst-worst case is that the poster is actually the biggest fucking racist of all time, legitimately thinks that black people with guns are the scariest thing outside of bat-eating centipedes and geese, and blithely believes that everyone else is a racist fuckhead too. Ugh.

There's a slightly better case, though, in which the poster intends this as a commentary on lingering racism in our culture, with the open carry issue serving as merely a convenient foil. That still would mean the poster is racistly assuming the supporters of open carry fit a certain, uh, type. Let's not beat around the bush here: we all know open carry fans are WHITE and MALE and from the SOUTH. Except for oh wait, a third of U.S. households have guns with a fairly even distribution nationwide. Half the people I shoot with are non-white, and I move in some pretty pasty circles generally. But sure, let's be racist about this. Everyone else is.

If this meme is interpreted as being about racism, which was likely NewsOne's intent, I'm still left wondering: so what? Are there laws being passed or corporate policies being set that only whites can carry guns at Target? Nope, but ironically the first gun control laws were Jim Crow laws deliberately designed to make blacks helpless against the violence perpetrated by the KKK. But we all know Democrats would never do anything to harm blacks in America, right? Maybe they thought KKK stood for Kute Kuddly Kittens. Who would want to shoot itty bitty kitties? Awwww.

I guess at the end of it all, I agree that if you feel differently about a person with a gun purely on the basis of skin color (or sex), you definitely need to check yourself. But I can't help feeling like the creator of this meme was simply against open carry. He obviously believes that supporters of open carry will be uncomfortable with the image and it seems like that would persuade more people to be against open carry rather than not-racist. He's also letting people who feel uncomfortable with the image but who already oppose open carry off the hook, regardless of their bigotry (which is often racial, but even when not, it's still fucking bigotry; do I legislate what hobbies you can have? I thought we got over that with Lawrence v. Texas.)

Basically I come away from this feeling that the #1 black news source in America, with its "Justice for Trayvon" cover photo, actually wants me to be racist, and not just against "white-Hispanics." Which the economist in me thinks makes perfect sense. How else are they going to stay in business?

Openly yours,

S. Misanthrope

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Random Observation

I've occasionally observed O'ists making claims like "Dr. Martin Luther King wasn't so great. He was a Communist!" Setting aside the fact that it wasn't until the end of his life that he started sporting a Communist ideology, it's odd to me that this, of all things, is what O'ists choose to nit-pick with Dr. King. You guys do realize what he was a doctor of, right? Hint: it wasn't a Ph.D. in "having a rational worldview."

CNN's current special on "The 60s," which I am unfortunately subjected to at the gym, includes a number of clips of Dr. King. I was particularly struck by an impassioned speech he gave in which he criticized President Kennedy for not living up to the ideals that had gained him the votes of King and his supporters. Repeatedly, throughout the speech, King stated that he had "spoken with God," and that God had told him "not to stop fighting until he'd secured the freedom of his people." His entire case in this particular speech rested on his personal relationship with an invisible man in the sky.

Years ago, I read some of King's essays, and consequently I know that he had better ideas at his disposal than "God said so." But it's also true that God had the final say in his book. And let's face it, no matter how many people believe in this crap, it's so irrational it's almost insane. So here's the question:

Who the fuck cares?

Dr. King's heroic acts aren't lessened by his partially (a very small part) wrong-headed motivations. He demonstrated extreme commitment to values- objective values- and he deserves unequivocal praise for that. And so does Edward Snowden. Oh yeah, I went there.

Peace out bitchez,

S. Misanthrope

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Game of Soap

Dear Game of Thrones Fans:

I’m quite familiar with the pain of realizing that that show you like is in reality merely a polished rendition of that most embarrassing form of narrative entertainment: the daytime soap. It’s happened to me again and again and again. So often, in fact, that I was eventually forced to admit that there’s something pretty entertaining about this whole soap opera thing. Shows don’t run for over 50 years for no reason, after all.

For most of us, if not all of us, trashy, twisty, silly stories will always have a place in our lives. A place where we go to relax and get carried away by the goofy, soapy drama.

Westeros is such a place.

The outrageous plot of Game of Thrones follows one simple rule: create drama. Whether that is done through simple shock tactics and salaciousness or through ignoring logic, consistency of characterization, and narrative cohesion, the end result is the same: a surprised audience collectively gasping “Oh no he didn’t!”

I realize you probably aren’t ready to accept this fact. I can understand that. You probably haven’t read the books, for one thing. It took even me over 1,500 pages to realize that what was I was reading was daytime television trash in faux-literary form. Soaps belong in the TV medium; they excel there. Reading a soap opera is quite a different experience, an altogether unpleasant one.

Since you haven’t read the books, you’re probably telling yourself that all of this is going somewhere. You’re probably rooting for Tyrion or Jon Snow, thinking the writers wouldn’t dare Red Wedding you again. Maybe you think Arya is going somewhere. Maybe you think Dany is actually going to do something soon. I’d be willing to bet you aren’t so much celebrating the horrors of that universe as you are tolerating them, thinking that the darker the road, the greater the ultimate glory. You’re probably expecting some form of justice at some point.


There’s nothing here but arbitrary drama. It’s not building to anything, and it doesn’t mean anything. There is no “Aha!” moment, only an endless, unanswerable question: “So what was the point?”

I’m not going to tell you that you’re wrong to get off on this drama. I’m not going to tell you that there’s something perverted in your soul that draws you to the soap opera’s darkest possible form. But you are wrong not to recognize it for what it is: mindless drama for drama’s sake.

I’m sure you’re now kicking and screaming in denial. I understand. The HBO blinders are thick and hard to shake off. Give it a few more books. When you can no longer escape the truth, I’ll be here, and we can all have a good laugh about how we were taken in by production value and cheap thrills. And we’ll take from all of this a very important lesson.

Sometimes the only way to win the game is not to play.

See you on the other side,

S. Misanthrope

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The 4 Stages of Recovery (When You Realize Your Favorite Show Is a Soap Opera)

If you think, as I once did, that soap operas are easy to identify and avoid because they only air between 10am and 3pm on weekdays and look like they were filmed with your granddad's camcorder, you're wrong. Soaps are everywhere. They can appear at any time, on any channel, and often have extraordinarily high budgets that allow them to feature mind-blowing sets and special effects in high definition.

Three main qualities will help you identify soap operas:

1. Everyone sleeps with everyone

This is the obvious one. Soap operas are the whole reason we're taught combinatorics in middle school. If a soap opera has 7 main characters, how many distinct couples will be formed by the end up the series? How many love triangles will occur by season 4? How many times will each male character be slapped for cheating?* These days, the classier soap operas take it a step further: everyone marries everyone, because nothing says high-class like haphazardly entering into a legally binding contract.

It is possible to have a show where everyone sleeps with everyone without it being a soap opera, but it's rare. It really depends on the reason why everyone is sleeping with everyone, which brings us to...

2. The Memoryless Property

Like the exponential random variable, what happened last episode has nothing to do with what happens in today's episode on a soap opera. A character's ideas, values and basic identity are infinitely changeable and constantly mutate to maximize drama. The only constant is hair color, without which it would be impossible to tell the characters apart. Literally everything else is up for grabs, and I do mean literally. Which brings us to...

3. The L Word

If a soap opera continues for more than two seasons, some female character must somehow become a lesbian. The more out of nowhere this change is, the better, really. It's not like sexual orientation is a deeply rooted and fundamental part of a person's psyche and identity. Anyone, or at least any female, can, at any time, flip that internal lesbo switch if the writers run out of ideas.

Popular soaps masquerading as prime time dramas include Grey's Anatomy (partner-swapping: check; memoryless: check; lesbian: check!), E.R., Private Practice- well, pretty much any medical drama, I suppose. Also most legal dramas, detective dramas, and drama dramas. Yes, soaps are utterly pervasive, so how do you deal when you discover the horrifying truth: that the show you love is actually a horrendous hodgepodge of meaningless drama and inconstant characters who never develop or act remotely like real people? How do you find the courage to face the abyss you find in your soul where your good taste in television used to reside?

There are four stages of recovery after you realize that your favorite show is really an over-hyped soap:

Stage 1: Denial

Yes, everything begins with denial. Every time your brain picks up a new bit of evidence condemning your show, it runs frantically in the other direction. Maybe Brittany really is a lesbian, you think. Maybe they weren't just doing that for the drama. But more evidence accumulates, and you can't rationalize it forever. Maybe Britt's just an over-sexed ditz. No, wait, but now she really cares about Artie. Okay, maybe she was just confused before, I mean, she's always confused, right? Wait, I thought the whole deal was that they do modern songs, so why is Gwyneth saying they never do stuff the kids can relate to? Don't they remember that the whole Journey thing was Finn's idea? So now why are they doing a hokey 80s song no one likes for sectionals? Why do the writers never follow up on these story lines? Do they even watch the show? Oh my god, is Mr. Schuster seriously going to have a fleeting romance with every non-student female on this show? What the fuck is going on?!

Stage 2: Anger


Once you can't deny any longer, you move to anger. You start to hate the show. You refuse to watch it and mock the people who do. You make snide, offhand remarks about the show in conversation. Maybe you, I don't know, blog about it or something. You start to catalog every single thing that doesn't make sense about the show. You track, in detail, all the utterly schizophrenic behaviors and decisions of the characters. It's probable that you will spend far more time on these activities than the shows writers ever will.

Stage 3: Indifference

Once your catalog of inconsistencies has grown to be almost the size of the original script, you abruptly drop it. Turns out, people aren’t watching that show so much anymore anyway, and the ones who are can’t actually focus long enough to process your damning evidence of soapness. You’ve picked up another show, anyway, and this one is definitely not a soap opera, because it’s critically acclaimed, made by HBO, and based on a series of books. Books can never be soaps, right? Right?

Stage 4: Acceptance

Years go by, and one day the entire series of that old soapy show is available on Netflix Instant. Suddenly you remember all the fun you had together- the quirky characters, the entertaining twists, how pretty everyone is. With enough distance, you’re finally able to sit down and enjoy the show for what it is: daytime television with better production value.

Happy watching,

S. Misanthrope

*Answers: 21 (allowing for changeable sexual orientation; see 3); 35 (regardless of sexual orientation); 12 if straight or butch, 1 otherwise.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Feminists Will Be Feminists

A teenaged girl’s Tumblr post has been published as an article in theHuffington Post. I’ll give you a minute to process the sound of society crumbling around you while I brace myself for the humiliating act of tearing apart a child’s writing.

The feminist revolutionaries soon regretted instituting an all-female fire department.

 The headline reads “Why I’m Taking a Stand against My School’s ‘Dress Code.’” I assume the scare-quotes around “dress code” are there because the post/article has nothing to do with taking a stand against a school’s dress code. It’s actually an objection to the way the dress code was communicated by the principal to “a class.”

Let’s proceed line-by-line, shall we?

Why I’m Taking a Stand against My School’s ‘Dress Code’

The new principal at my school used two phrases while addressing new dress code rules to a class: "Modest is hottest" and "boys will be boys."

These are the first and last words we will hear from the poor, disenfranchised principal. How did he use these phrases? The author doesn’t see fit to tell us. In fact, since she said “a class” rather than the more natural phrasing “my class,” it wouldn’t surprise me if she has no idea what he actually said because her source is hearsay.

Still more reliable than CNN.

He should have said something more along the lines of: "The school dress code was established to provide our students with a safe and orderly learning environment that is free from distractions."

Is this meant to imply that he addressed none of these concerns, that his entire presentation to the class consisted of the seven horrible words previously mentioned? Is that even remotely probable? Perhaps we should email the principal about his student’s inability to write an expository paragraph.

Let's start with the phrase "modest is hottest," shall we?

Modest means having or showing a moderate estimation of one's own talents, abilities and value. If modest is hottest, then it's not modest.

In true high school form, she begins by throwing the dictionary at us. At least we were spared a famous quotation. According to her unconventional understanding of the English language, modesty cannot be hot. Huh, that’s odd, particularly since she goes on to claim that hotness is in the eye of the beholder. Are we not allowed to find modesty attractive? What exactly are we allowed to do? What dictionary are you getting this ridiculous definition from anyway?

Unfortunately the false constructions are only just beginning.

You are literally sending the message to young girls, who are already struggling with self-confidence, that hiding their body makes them more attractive.

Ok, full stop: no.

Number one, the message is directed at the girls who are resistant to the dress code changes. I have to make an assumption here that the changes are in the more conservative direction (less cleavage, longer skirts, no bare stomachs, that kind of thing) since again, you don’t actually bother to give us any context. Girls who can feel comfortable baring their bodies to the world are not the ones with body-image issues, and they’re not the ones the dress code is there to protect primarily. It’s the girls whose hips grew before their breasts, the chubby girls, the awkward girls, the girls whose parents don’t buy them trendy, titillating clothes whose body-image issues are assuaged by these kinds of rules.

Of course, in an ideal world, we would all have the self-confidence not to feel threatened by the girls who gain all of their puberty weight in their breasts (and who willfully show it off to every pair of eyeballs), but guess what? That’s part of growing up. It’s something you learn, and learning it is easier in an environment that encourages people to focus on less superficial aspects of ourselves.

It's like this movie never happened.

Number two, the message is actually “You will still look good when dressed in accordance with the dress code, maybe even better,” not “You look like shit with that disgusting body of yours exposed to the world.” Again he’s talking to the girls who are comfortable putting their bodies out there in an enticing manner, who want to be seen as looking good and who enjoy the attention it draws. These girls are naturally going to be worried that they will lose some of this power when forced to cover up more. The principal is merely trying to communicate, through a dorky half-rhyme, that these fears are unwarranted, because you will likely look even better when dressed appropriately for school.

You are establishing a sense of shame in these young, developing minds and bodies.

I just want to point out that shame does not dwell within the body, except insofar as brains are part of our bodies and consciousness is in a sense “in” the brain. I mention this because a mind-body dichotomy viewpoint underlies many of her subsequent claims.

A human has the right to wear whatever they feel comfortable in. 

This is an unsupported claim and certainly not a commonly held belief. Regardless, rights are a tricky issue best left out of this discussion.

Showing less skin doesn't make you any more attractive. Showing more skin does not make you any less attractive. 

This is patently false. The vast majority of people look better with clothes on. That’s why a $1.5 trillion dollar fashion industry exists. The very few who don’t (mostly men, in my opinion, but I’m probably biased in this area), well, of course they look better showing more skin! It’s all good, though, because guess what? For the most part, you can dress to look your best (or not- however you choose). Unless you’re a man, that is.

Get back to me when men can be taken seriously while dressed like this.

I’ve never understood this incessant refrain that informing someone that they have the ability to control how well they look harms their self-esteem. Why? I just gave you agency. I just gave you power. I just gave you metaphysical efficacy, for fuck’s sake! Take it, it’s yours!

"No, you can't have sleeves on your armor. What are you, a woman?"

Instead our author seems to believe that the path to self-esteem lies just to the left of internalizing the idea of attractiveness as a fixed, immutable quantity tied irrevocably to your naked form. That’s surely going to boost the self-esteem of some people, namely well-endowed teenage girls who foolishly believe their anime bodies will stick around forever. For the unfortunate girls who won’t grow breasts until they secretly go on the pill during college, well, I guess self-esteem is just out of your reach.

When someone calls you attractive that just means that they are attracted to you.

But actually at the same time, attractiveness is completely mutable, she says with grammatically dubious phrasing. Your attractiveness, while not dependent on your state of dress, is dependent on what other people think. And then I guess somehow this other-orientation is turned into a recipe for self-esteem?

I hate to be a pain about a teen blogger’s English comprehension skills again, but where did she get the idea that saying “That’s attractive” means the same thing as “I’m attracted to you?” That must make for some really awkward social situations. Does her father never tell her she looks pretty? Or is he not permitted to speak in her feminist household? In human-speak, different phrasings connote different meanings, and saying “I’m attracted to you” carries a much, much more personal and sexual meaning than “You are attractive.”

Then again, she might merely be employing a cheap rhetorical trick to sneak in a fourth term that might, oh I don’t know, insinuate pedophilic intent on the part of her principal.

At what point in your career did you find it appropriate to define my "hotness"? Why are you at all concerned with how "hot" I am? You are teaching us, through modesty, to be objects of sexual arousal. 

"I get off on skirts that hit below the knee."

Oh, good, right on schedule. “Why are you, you older man you, thinking about my attractiveness anyway? You disgusting perv.” Then she becomes truly unhinged. Rather than seeing the obvious- that he was trying to assure girls that following the dress code would not make them look less attractive- she declares he’s brain-washing them into becoming sex objects, and in an extremely literal sense, too, given her use of the unusually graphic term “arousal.” Utterly bizarre.

I'm sorry, but I don't dress myself to look "hot" for anyone. I dress myself as a way of expressing my body and myself. If covering up my body is supposed to make people sexually and physically attracted to me, then how would those people feel if I decide to have sexual relations with them, without clothes on?

Now it’s time to lie through her teeth. “I don't dress myself to look ‘hot’ for anyone” has got to be the tiredest line in the book, and it’s only spouted by people who a) are definitely dressing to look hot for others and b) have internalized an anti-sex attitude. Like we’re not supposed to pursue sex, it’s just supposed to fall into our laps. Like we’re the only species on earth that reproduces sexually but has no mating rituals. Like Shakespeare didn’t write the perfect comeback to such nonsense 400 years ago. I guess when you spend an hour more getting ready for a date versus a regular school day, it’s just that you’re really trying to express yourself extra hard, huh?

"I'm a sexy woman so STOP OBJECTIFYING ME!"

Let’s suppose, Marion dear, you really are the one cute girl in history who isn’t trying to attract attention with her looks. Well, then, his comments weren’t about you, were they? Did you ever stop to think for a second that maybe probably definitely there are other girls who do care about how attractive they are and that possibly your principal was talking to them? Did it even occur to you that it might not be all about you?

I don’t mean to be overly harsh, my sweet girl. It’s just that I know. I spouted the exact same drivel when I was your age and too ashamed to admit that I was trying to look hot for fear of being unsuccessful. Adults do it, too, and it’s frankly an embarrassment. The infamous duckface was invented for this exact purpose- as a hedge to hide behind in case your attempt at a sexy selfie doesn’t work out. “Oh, no, I wasn’t really trying to look hot, I was just being silly. Lulz, duckface!”

"Stop treating me like I'm 2-dimensional."

Btw do you see how I mix metaphors like an absolute pro?

Moving on:

How am I supposed to love and feel proud of my naked body and develop a sense of sexuality when exposing my body is deemed shameful and unattractive?

Not sure about the how, but I’m damn sure about the where: NOT AT SCHOOL. You’re not being asked to cover up because it’s shameful to be exposed; you’re being asked to cover up because it’s impolite and illegal to run around buck naked. Whether that ought to be a social norm or not is another discussion, but you need only observe the widespread use of clothing across human societies- even on the equator- to induce that a practical purpose underlies the practice. It’s not about shame, it’s about keeping the sand out of your vagina, something the author clearly needs help with.

Since when should being "hot" be my concern? I don't want to be with someone who just thinks I'm hot. I want to be with someone who loves and respects all the parts of my mind, personality and body. THAT'S what you should be teaching, not "how to be hot."

And we’re now about as far off-topic as we can get. A dress code discussion is supposed to teach you how to choose a romantic partner? Remind me again whether your principal should be thinking about your sex life or not; it’s so hard to keep track, Marion.

Now’s a good time to take a look at the argument map Marion offers up. For convenience, I’ll skip over any wholly irrelevant claims:

Out-of-context quotation “modest is hottest” -> false construction based on inapplicable definition of “modesty” -> fourth term smuggled in (“shame”) -> insertion of mind-body dichotomy -> false assertion that attractiveness is based on body alone -> assertion that attractiveness is based on other’s perception -> false construction and package-dealing attractiveness with sex based on inapplicable definition of “attractive” -> dishonest questions and ad hominems (ad pedophilia) -> package-dealing sexual attraction with sexual objectification -> series of non-sequiturs reinforcing the previous mind-body dichotomy and package-dealing -> one final fourth term equating “looks matter” (a previously employed fourth term) with “only looks matter” -> conclusion that a dress code discussion should teach minors what to look for in a romantic relationship

Look what a mess you've made (of your argument)! I am *not* cleaning this up for you.

At least one out of the 90 commenters on HuffPo managed to catch wind of this bullshit, although he failed to recognize the extent of it.

I do want to draw particular attention to the last smuggled fourth term (perhaps better called the “umpteenth term”): the claim that any attempt to look or even to have awareness of hotness necessarily excludes concern for anything else. We’re all familiar with such package-dealing when it comes to physical attractiveness, where valuing it at all is morphed by feeble minds into valuing it at the expense of intelligence or good character or other spiritual qualities. This is the kind of sloppy thinking that gets my panties in a particularly Gordian bunch. It’s such a lame rhetorical trick that should be obvious to anyone, yet even very intelligent people fall for it over and over and over, especially when a sense of moral righteousness or a “cause” has clouded their judgment.

But it’s extra offensive here because guess what? Encouraging teens to focus on spiritual values is another big reason why we don’t allow kids to dress like prostitutes at school! She’s basically taken us full circle, from “Conservative dress codes (somehow) cause body shame” to “Focusing on my body demeans my mind (somehow)” without ever noticing the incredibly obvious link between conservative dress codes and an emphasis on the value of the mind. Incredible.

Now for some feminist modern poetry:

My body is not a sinful temptation that needs to be hidden.
My body is not your personal, sexual object.
My body does not overshadow my character.
My body is not any more sexual than a man's body.
My body is not here to look "hot" for you.

Ooh, this looks like fun. Let me try:

This statement is not an accurate characterization of what was said.
This statement is not something anyone said, and it says more about you than about your opponents that you’re so eager to couch the argument in such terms.
This statement is not likely true based on what you’ve shown of your character thus far.
This statement is not remotely relevant, but I will say that tea prices in Beijing have gone way up recently.
This statement is not false, but unfortunately your body doesn’t seem to be housing your brain either. What is your body here for, exactly?

On to part deux:

Next up is his second statement, "boys will be boys."

Being a boy refers to your gender. That's all.

It does not make you constantly sexually aroused, animalistic or sexually uncontrollable, but for some reason society has come to the conclusion that you are this stereotype. This is extremely sad. This gender stereotype is unfair to all men. By telling them who they are as a man you are absolutely taking away their moral agency. "But he's a teenager. He's raging with hormones." You don't think I'm raging with hormones as well? Believe me I am.

Once again, we start with a definition that is shady as fuck. “Boy” refers to gender and nothing else, huh? Ummmmmyeeeeah, no. “Boy” can refer to sex, gender, age, status, masculinity, or any of the associated behaviors, attitudes, physical attributes, or preferences. Yes, Marion, there is a Context Clause. For extra credit, why don’t you try calling the next black man you meet “boy” and see how that only-gender definition works in your defense. But, hey, kudos, I guess, for the part where you pretend for a second to treat men and boys as human beings. Let’s see how long it takes to make this about rape, shall we?

When the people who do sexually harass other people happen to be male and you use the excuse "boys will be boys," you are not only excusing their behavior, you are condoning it.

Sexual harassment. Close, but I think we can do better.

It's this "boys will be boys" mentality, culture and attitude that condone sexual assault. Whenever the excuse "boys will be boys" is used, it's just an exercise of male privilege. You are telling them that it's okay for them to be sexually violent.

We have a winner: “condoning sexual assault,” “male privilege,” *and* “sexual violence” in the same paragraph. Lord have mercy, we’ve struck radfem gold.

Why am I being so derisive here? After all, sexual assault is very serious blah blah blah. Well, that’s why. By taking the phrase “boys will be boys” out of a discussion of dress code, in which it would mean “we can’t have distractions in the classroom and unfortunately given the nature of teenaged boys your cleavage is a distraction,” and turning it into some kind of perpetuation of our mythical rape culture, the author is horrifically trivializing rape. She essentially wants to draw a straight line from children staring at cleavage to violent sexual assault. That’s as offensive as it is idiotic.

She admits to her share of raging hormones, so does she equally acknowledge that her drooling over the school heartthrob could easily turn into raping him in a broom closet? Well, statistically speaking that’s equally likely as the scenario with the genders reversed. I guess girls will be girls, too, huh? In fact, I bet if I give her a little more time, she’ll prove my point for me.

Sex needs to stop being about “no - it's bad dirty gross shameful,” and start being about, “yes - let's have consenting sex because I want to.”

Care to guess what the scariest word in that sentence is? Let’s have consenting sex because I want to. Not because we want to. There’s no “we” in sex, after all. While her next beat poem chides those who treat boys as incapable of controlling their sexuality, she seems to blithely assume that boys are constantly ready and willing to bang and merely awaiting her go-ahead.

That must be a real comfort to the 1.2 million men forcibly raped by women every year.

It needs to be about consent. That's what you should be teaching. Not, "well, you know how they are... boys will be boys!"

Take note, educators everywhere: any explanation of your school’s dress code should include first a thorough explanation of the proper criteria for choosing a romantic partner and second a detailed discussion of sex and consent. These are completely on-topic and not at all weird things to bring up. They will absolutely not upset any parents; result in any lawsuits, statutory rape charges, or firings; cost your district any federal funding; nor violate Title IX or state sexual harassment laws in any way. Your duty is first and foremost to guide your students down the path toward becoming sexual beings, even the ones too young to legally consent in your state. It’s all about sex, don’t you see? So stop being a perv and making it about sex with your talk of modesty and so-called “boys,” you creepy old man, you!
Non-sequitur poetry time!

Boys are not sexually uncontrollable. ->You must be new to the conversation. The topic is “dress codes.”
Boys do not have a genetic, animalistic, violent nature.
->Apparently boys don’t have DNA.
Boys are not born with a natural desire for destruction or control.
->Funny how the mere mention of how boys behave makes you bring up destruction and control. You don’t think “goofy” or “playful” or “easily distracted” or something more mildly hateful like “smelly” or “gross.” Nope, it’s straight to violence stemming from power-lust, with a “rape is about power” artificial cherry on top. Maybe you should stop for a minute and ask yourself why that is.

Despite what society and culture keeps trying to cram down everyone's throat, having a penis doesn't make it okay to sexually harass someone. The false idea that men can't control themselves is so unfair and completely ridiculous.

Seriously? First you use the words “cram,” “throat,” and “penis” in the same sentence and can’t even manage to make a decent joke out of it, and then you repeat the unfair and completely ridiculous claim that society somehow approves of sexual harassment despite, oh I don’t know, having laws against it, multimillion dollar lawsuits punishing it, a billion-dollar industry dedicated to eradicating it, and a major news source reprinting your stupid fucking rant about it? Does that sound like a culture that “condones” sexual harassment? Maybe try reading something like, I don’t know, not Tumblr before you try to comment on what the world is like. Jesus.

And now for my intended audience (not you, my five regular readers, but I do hope you’ll follow along just for fun): how on this floating ball of magma are there so many of you praising this tripe? Just praising would be bad enough, but I’ve seen people doxxing the principal by publishing his name and work email on Facebook while Maid Marion gets to enjoy the anonymity granted by her minor status. That is totally outrageous.

Look, I’m sympathetic to the “sex-positive” folks out there (except for the part where the sex-positive movement was pretty much entirely manufactured by fourth wave feminists and is frequently used for ends far more nefarious than email-bombing a hapless high school principal; but I digress). Yes, we live in a puritanical society. Yes, sex is often demonized. Yes, sexual behavior is healthy and normal for teens and should not be repressed. But it’s simply fucking retarded to think that these problems ought to be solved in a public school setting. Aside from inviting an enormous encroachment on civil liberties- including the rights of parents- it’s just fucking weird to “teach” sex in a classroom setting. In fact that is the only legitimately “rapey” suggestion in this entire hoopla.

As with all issues in education, the fundamental answer is that we’re doing basically everything wrong in that department, and fixing one bit here or there isn’t going to make much of a difference. We’ve still been poisoned by Progressive education, as Ms. Marion sadly illustrates, and we’re not going to turn it around and start producing people who can think by making a few tweaks to what is a fundamentally broken system. However, since systemic overhaul is unlikely to happen any time soon, I’m open to debating the question of how to make things slightly less horrifically bad. Might this include introducing some pro-sex talking points into public school curriculums? Not really, in my opinion, but if you’d like to try that approach write your fucking Congressman, not a random principal. Talk to the person who designs the machine, not the cog in the wheel.

I'm running out of picture ideas, so have this cute duck.

And while you’re at it, maybe address the systemic censorship schools enact via dress codes literally everywhere. Maybe mention the kids (mostly boys) sent home for their self-expression in the form of words and images on t-shirts. Images like weapons or the silhouette of a curvaceous woman or the logo of an organization. Words supporting political causes or groups, in favor of or against various wars, pro-life or pro-choice, or touching on gay rights. Time and time again, schools have to be reminded that the First Amendment applies to them, too, while time and time again the dress codes change only in enforcement, not in principle.

Shutting down this type of self-expression- words on shirts as opposed to cleavage pouring out of them- is frankly more important than the marginal impact one principal’s comments might have on some teen’s sex life. Actually, it’s the most important. This censorship cuts off discussion, arrests thought, and does severe damage to the self-esteem and identities of kids who are trying to find their voices and define their values. So forgive me if I think it’s pathetic to put any effort toward Marion’s cause. I’m too busy concerning myself with the people punished for displaying the ideas in their minds rather than the tits on their chests.

Yours in Modesty,

S. Misanthrope

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Politics without Awareness

Today, I was supposed to take a break. I was supposed to spend my lunch hour reading about something happier, like the IRS or the Holocaust. I was supposed to get a break from this shit. But, no, I just had to see this, and now I have to stop everything and address gender politics AGAIN.

God fucking dammit.

I believe the point of PwoG’s article is to illustrate ways in which the rights of women are not fully protected in the U.S. today. I know the author is uniquely concerned about women, because if an Objectivist wanted to point to rights women lack today, she would point to income tax or the IRS or the EPA or any of dozens of other infringements far more out of whack with proper human rights than comments on the internet or 1872 laws governing the difficult question of fraudulently obtained sex. So we’re definitely talking about rights specifically- meaning uniquely- denied to women, right?

Wrong. Not one of the supposed rights violations mentioned in the article is gendered. They are, however, each great examples of how women are automatically painted as victims even by those who should know better. They also illustrate how hard you have to work to get that same victim label to stick to a man.

Part I: It’s Not Rape When She Is Naked Is a Slut Enjoys It Is a Man

Whatever the extent of victim-blaming online or anywhere else, the fact remains that raping a nude woman is a crime. That’s the very definition of a respected right. The Klansman’s right to free speech isn’t violated when people criticize what he’s saying or even when they shout over him or kick him out of their homes, businesses, and newspapers. His rights aren’t even violated when a private citizen suggests that his speech be censored by the government. Indeed, raping the sluttiest slut who’s wearing nothing but body paint reading “I am a slut” is the same crime under the law as any other rape.

Well, not exactly any other rape, because according to the FBI, forcing a man to have sex is not rape.

Outside of prisons, men and women rape and are raped in approximately equal numbers in the United States [1], yet there is less protection of the law (not to mention other forms of support like victim’s services) afforded to men. Rape is not a women’s issue- it’s a human issue. And if we have to measure dicks, so to speak, and decide who’s hurt more, guess what? The answer is definitively, unequivocally the group whose victimization is not even acknowledged as being possible by key parts of our law enforcement system: men.

We need only think for a minute about this 1872 law to see this to full effect [2]. While a woman was protected by that law from men who would impersonate her husband, a man was not similarly protected from a woman who would impersonate his wife. In fact the statute in question (Section 261 of the California Criminal Code) is the one that defines all non-marital rape. The protection originally afforded to male victims of rape? Exactly none. The recognition that women can be rapists too? Exactly none. The law was not made gender-neutral until 1979.

Again: the ONLY law defining non-marital rape specifically excluded men from being raped and excluded women from being rapists for over a century. No men were ever legally raped in California until 1979.

I can see the Jezebel headlines now: 19th Century Rape Law Excludes Men, Women Suffer, Patriarchy to Blame. Tell me again how misandry don’t real.

Part II: Rape by Spouse-Impersonation

Let’s be fair, though. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Why should spousal impersonation be the only sort defined as rape? Well, originally because of implied consent. An ongoing sexual relationship is treated differently under the law because it is different in reality. It’s the difference between a wife stroking her sleeping husband until he wakes up and they make love and a woman doing the same thing to a man she’s never met. While the spouse may withdraw consent, the initial approach, so to speak, is not rape due to the consent implied by sharing a bed and having sex regularly. In 1872 it was naturally presumed that only spouses would (or should) do that kind of thing, and so it was spouses who were exempt under the law and whose identity, if falsely assumed, was uniquely protected.

Certainly this focus on spouses has been out of date for some time, which is probably why the People v. Morales opinion (had anyone actually bothered to read it) patiently explains that the statute has sometimes been interpreted to apply to unmarried lovers. However a proper interpretation, encompassing the legal concepts of “fraud in inducement,” “fraud in fact,” and “statutory construction,” according to the Second District Court of Appeals, must be limited to spouses. They also begged the legislature to revise the law.

And guess what? The legislature did so within a few months.

Less than a year to correct a minor injustice that affected one woman. 107 years to correct a severe injustice affecting vast numbers of men.

Seems legit.

PwoG deems this oddity in the letter of the law “barbaric,” an absurd claim considering the incredible rarity of it being relevant (or applied even when relevant) and the obvious fact that it was the result of mere oversight. Even more absurd is tying it back to women’s rights, since any injustice in the spouse-impersonation law would apply equally to a male victim. If it’s post-1979, that is. But then that’s what you get for relying on Jezebel for your legal opinions.

To top it off, PwoG quotes a section of the Jezebel article (without citation) that blames the law on a belief that unmarried women are always down for sex. Really? You think a law drafted in 1872 to protect women to the exclusion of men somehow had behind it the opinion that unmarried women just fuck all the time? For those of us with functioning brains, it’s patently obvious that just the opposite idea was at play. You fucking retards. Wait, no, I’m insulting retards. You fucking…feminists. Ugh.

An Aside for LP

There are two other major points made in the PwoG post that need to be addressed: the semi-nude protestor and Leonard Peikoff. Thankfully these are not the same person. Peikoff I don’t want to get into in detail except to say that I hope no one takes the post’s perspective on his comments unchallenged. You can listen to what he actually said on his website [3]. I personally find the post’s characterization of his remarks inaccurate and unfair, however I am not going to spend any more time on that old, outdated topic

Man, old, outdated things certainly do make up a big chunk of this post, don’t they? But I digress.

Part III: Teaching Men a Lesson by Showing Them Your Boobs

Even though it’s not my fucking job, I decided to track down the pilfered image that started it all [4]. PwoG got it from Facebook, who got it from a Tumblr eloquently titled “STFU Conservatives” (that’s “Shut the Fuck up Conservatives” for the less Tumblr-savvy among you). Another Tumblr claims this is “Ashley from Chicago SlutWalk 2012,” but it seems equally likely to be from a 2011 SlutWalk in NYC. In any event, it seems safe to assume we’re dealing with a  SlutWalk participant here.

In order to judge properly, we need to understand to whom Miss Tape-on-Tits is addressing her protest. Is the intended audience would-be rapists? The idea is absurd. Rape is primarily a crime of opportunity; rapists apply similar logic to the fucker who stole my umbrella at that pottery painting place. My umbrella wasn’t stolen because an otherwise normal human being interpreted its location by the door as an early Christmas present. It was stolen because a depraved human being saw an opportunity to take something without getting caught. If I had put a sign on my umbrella reading “Still not asking for you to steal me,” it wouldn’t have made an ounce of difference, except perhaps the addition of littering to the offenses when the crook tosses the sign into the gutter without even a first glance at what I’d written let alone a second.

If she’s a SlutWalk purist, she’s addressing a Canadian police constable who, when answering a question from female students about what they can do to reduce their risk of sexual assault, allegedly said “You know, I think we're beating around the bush here. I've been told I'm not supposed to say this - however, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised.” Kind of like how my parents advised me to keep my designer umbrella with me instead of using that convenient container by the door. Those umbrella-theft-apologizing bastards!

Seriously, though, if I had been a woman in that audience, I’d’ve thanked the man for risking the ire of his superiors to deliver advice that’s actually going to help me. I may have followed up to ask how effective is it or how does he know that’s an effective strategy, but honestly as a woman who has lived in multiple highly dangerous areas, I already know the answer to those questions. Hint: pretty fucking effective.

The laughable origin of the SlutWalk has been pretty well obscured over the years, however, so it’s also reasonable to assume this boob-billboard is addressing, well, men in general. How fucked up is that? Imagine a PurseWalk through Harlem where white women flaunt their Prada bags with signs reading “Don’t Steal This, Black People!” They’d be labeled a hate group instantly. Yet the SlutWalk persists, year after year, shaming men who would never in a million years rape anyone while having zero effect on the few who do. Bravo, sluts.

This particular slut’s intent aside, however, we can see PwoG’s intent in the ensuing discussion of the comments on the picture (sharks/not sharks and all that). While I applaud treating men like human beings instead of mindless animals, aquatic (and awesome) or otherwise, this entire discussion is straw-man city. God, I hate referencing that fallacy. Why do you make me do these things? Why do you make me hurt you(r arguments)?

Anyway, the shark-commenter is at worst guilty of a false analogy. The response from STFU is wildly disproportionate. It infers meaning (that rape is deserved) that simply isn’t there out of what can only be a presumption that most men, while not sharks pre-programmed to commit violence, are generally ready to rape at the drop of a bra due to some failure to grasp the concept that people’s bodies are their own.

Shark-person did not say “No, wear a meat suit and get chomped.” S/he did not say “Her nudity makes her complicit and lessens the crime committed against her to something less than rape.” S/he merely said “but then again, its [sic] kind like putting a meat suit on and telling a shark not to eat you.” A level-headed person would probably interpret this as “While that’s true, it’s also a dumb move to walk around naked and maybe one ought to own one’s shit,” but not the valiant white knight defenders of the cooch! Oh no, female responsibility is far too much to ask. Is misogynist! It’s rapey! It’s Patriarchy!

Oh, and note s/he said “a shark,” not “a pool of sharks” or any other turn of phrase that would have indicated that the shark represented all men rather than the rare rapist amongst men.

Part IV: False Generalizations

While the SlutWalkers falsely generalize all men as rapists, PwoG falsely generalizes societal attitudes with a clear bias toward finding anti-female sexism where none exists (and even where it's blatantly contradicted). Even if the assessment of STFU's selachimorphic commenter were accurate, it remains ludicrous to take one comment on Tumblr as representative of the world we live in. Tumblr is well known as a cesspool, an echo-chamber, and troll's smorgasbord. With a name like "STFU Conservatives," what would you guess would be the level of troll-feeding on this particular Tumblr? Somewhere between "Infinite" and "Uncountably Infinite" I'd say.

And say, why was it this comment even came to PwoG's attention in the first place? Oh, that's right, because of the enormous backlash against it. Yeah, "rape culture." Whatever.

So in evidence we have: a kink in the law that was instantly ironed out upon discovery, a backlash against a commenter who came within maybe a mile of the victim-blaming border in response to a misandrist protest against a cop who was doing his job, and a podcast by Leonard Peikoff, that well respected barometer of public opinion. Not looking so good; what else ya got?

PwoG also links to some rambling post that doesn’t do a good job of distinguishing between responsibility, reasonable caution, and desert while making a bunch of unsupported assumptions about how people in general and the reader in particular feel about things. A great example is her discussion of what shocks people. No shit we aren’t shocked when a violent rape occurs in fucking India. We hear nothing about India except that they have a rape problem. I’d be “shocked” if there was a non-Indian American who thought that India was anything but one giant rape-fest. I mean come on.

Shock has to do with context. Of course it’s fucking shocking to see a topless woman with tape on her nipples walking down the street in a culture where we normally have to go indoors and pay cover to see something like that. It’s shocking because it’s out of the ordinary. How about ask us if it’s horrifying, if you want to be genuine about it. I will personally turn in my MRA badge if you can demonstrate that Tape-Tits registers higher on the “horrifying” scale for the average American than that one (one! Out of 1.2 billion people!) Indian gang rape.

God, all of these links are a year old. Why are we still talking about this?

With endless affection,

S. Misanthrope


Unforgivable mistakes in this posting:
-Reliance on outdated information, the statute having been revised essentially as soon as the error became known.
-Reliance on unreliable sources *cough* Jezebel *cough cough*.
-Reliance on secondary sources (Jezebel, Volokh, Jason Stotts).
-Reliance on a clearly biased source, including quoting from that source’s unreasonable interpretation of legislative intent.
-Reliance on a source meant for an audience with specialized knowledge when lacking that knowledge oneself.

Forgivable ones:
-Making common but false assumptions about inequalities between men and women.
-Attempting to draw a larger conclusion than the facts in evidence support.
-Mixing claims about rights with claims about common attitudes.
-Relying on inadequate evidence to identify common attitudes.


[1] An abbreviated version of a long discussion: the NIPSVS tracks men forced to penetrate but calls this “other sexual violence” rather than rape; if we compare men forced to penetrate to women forcibly penetrated in the last 12 months, we find exact equality (a rate of 1.1%). Other studies that track “forced to penetrate” show similar results.
Full citation: Black M., Basile K. C., Breiding M. J. , Smith S. G. , Walters M. L. , Merrick M. T, Chen J. and Steven M. R., The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey(NIPSVS): 2010 Summary Report , National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, November 2011

[2] Here are the sources from the PwoG post:
Here is the actual opinion, which includes citations for the 1872 law as well as the relevant changes to it over time.
Here is the current law.

[3] Here is the original podcast.
Here is the follow-up.
I will note that PwoG links to a blog post disagreeing with Peikoff (vehemently) rather than to Peikoff himself for the original podcast. PwoG does link directly to the podcast containing Peikoff’s clarification and of course links directly to Ms. Hsieh’s own podcast on the topic.

[4] PwoG uses this an unnamed source found on Facebook, which itself links to the STFU Conservatives Tumblr here.