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

Epilogue

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.

Endnotes:

[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.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Phyllida Lloyd's Lincoln

I’m ready for my big break, Hollywood, so, without further ado, I present to you: an excerpt from my screenplay.

Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln as directed by Phyllida Lloyd, director of The Iron Lady

We open on a room in Petersen House on April 14th, 1865. On a bed is ABRAHAM LINCOLN in a coma. Around the bed are MRS. LINCOLN, Army surgeon CHARLES LEALE, and, for some reason, also LINCOLN’S #1 FAN.

LINCOLN: Breathes laboriously

LEALE: The fever is on him. Also the coma.

Or maybe it’s always been on him! Has he always been in a coma?

LEALE: Increase the morphine.

MRS. LINCOLN complies. She has the morphine because MRS. LINCOLN always carries morphine with her. Maybe LINCOLN was always on morphine!

LINCOLN continues to breathe and bleed and slowly die for like 20 fucking minutes while everyone stares at him. Finally LINCOLN’S #1 FAN approaches the bed.

LINCOLN’S #1 FAN: Mr. Lincoln, I just want to say you’ve been an inspiration to me.

LINCOLN: Says nothing because he’s in a fucking coma. Daniel Day Lewis does act the shit out of that coma, though.

LINCOLN’S #1 FAN: Your words and ideas have been so powerful.

LINCOLN continues to slowly die.

LINCOLN’S #1 FAN: Maybe you could say a few words for the ages.

LINCOLN’s non-responsive comatose state continues unabated.

LINCOLN’S #1 FAN: Uh…

MRS. LINCOLN: It’s alright dear.

LINCOLN’S #1 FAN walks away dejected because his hero turned out to have feet of clay and was no better than anyone else really.

MRS. LINCOLN: You know, a moderately supportive spouse would probably say something about how great a leader LINCOLN was, but I’m not going to do that. Instead I’m going to point out that this was the only time in like ten freakin’ years that he took me to the theatre. Ten years! I mean, I know there was, like, a war and stuff going on, but how could someone just ignore their family and spend all their time and energy leading a nation in crisis? I had stuff going on too! Like I took a carriage-driving class and one time I baked a cake. Where was LINCOLN when I needed him?

The camera does that zoomy thing into LINCON’S bullet-ridden skull so we know it’s time for some flashback-like hallucinations inside this “hero’s” brain, which incidentally is made of the same clay as his feet.
 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

It only gets better from there, let me tell you. We go through a series of flashbacks not of formative events in Lincoln’s life or illustrations of how his actions affected world events but of shit like his crippling guilt over his three dead sons, his depression, and his possible homosexuality. There’s also an extended sequence about his hat and beard. The comatose Lincoln wonders: did I spend too much time being President and not enough time exploring my sexuality and haberdashery options? How many people did I hurt by leading this nation to end slavery? Like at least two, right? And seriously, have I been in a coma this whole time?

Obviously Phyllida Lloyd is the ideal director for this picture, and I do hope Abi Morgan, writer of The Iron Lady, will come aboard to consult on my script. I think I do a good job of focusing on non-essentials and reducing a massively important historical figure to little more than a hairstyle, but Ms. Morgan can really take that to the next level of inanity for me.

Seriously, though, did you know that Lincoln was shot? In the brain? How good of a leader could he really be if he ended up with a brain that didn’t work? Plus his wife and children possibly weren’t 100% happy all the time. What’s up with that? Does his success as President really matter if his family were sometimes inconvenienced by his obligations?

Ah, well, at least he wasn’t a woman.

Fuck off, Phyllida,

S. Misanthrope