Browsing the archives for the Women’s Issues category.


What We Don’t See

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abortion, big picture stuff, Social Issues, Women's Issues

Of all the conceits common to humankind possibly the most insidious is that any of us are entirely rational. And often the most irrational people are those who brag about how rational they are.

Even if a person’s basic reasoning skills are sound, the outcome of his reasoning nearly always will be imperfect. That’s because nearly all of us “live” within limited conceptual frameworks that filter and sort information in artificial ways. The way we conceptually interface with reality is based partly on our own experience and partly on how we are culturally conditioned to understand things.  And most of us are blind to this, because if we and everyone we know is artificially filtering and sorting information in pretty much the same way, we assume our understanding of reality is the only possible one.

(I wrote quite a lot about this in my book, by the way, explaining the way our limited conceptual frameworks have impacted religion and have largely rendered it ridiculous, but it doesn’t have to be that way.)

Breaking out of the conceptual box we live in usually takes some extraordinary experience — and often a shocking one — to see that we’re living in an artificial world and that the “real” one outside the limits of our awareness is largely alien to us. And most of us amble through life without ever having that experience.

Even though few of us ever perceive that we’re living inside a conceptual box, if we run into people whose conceptual boxes are very different from ours we think those people just don’t understand the real world (meaning our “real world”). I could define maturity, even wisdom, as the ability to appreciate  and respect that other people’s “worlds” are just as valid as ours even if they are wildly different. I wrote a few years ago,

My view is that everything we think comes from a complex of psychological discriminations and impulses, little of which have anything to do with “logic.” The way we understand ourselves and the world begins to be shaped from the moment we’re born and continues to be shaped by the culture we grow up and live in. In other words, all of our understandings are biased. This is pervasive and inescapable. Often the difference between “logical” and “empathic” people is that an “empathic” person has at least a dim appreciation of his own biases, whereas a “logical” person is utterly oblivious to them. …

… Our conscious, cognitive understandings of things are based on internalized models of what we’ve been conditioned to believe is “normal.” We may be able to articulate our ideas and perceptions in a coolly logical way, but the process by which we arrive at our ideas and perception is “complex, unconscious and emotional.” This is always true, whether we want to admit it or not. …

… Generally being “fair” is not losing one’s biases, but perceiving one’s biases as biases. If you recognize your biases as biases, you are in a position to overrule them as the facts dictate. But if you are so unconscious of yourself that you don’t recognize your biases as biases, then your “thinking” generally amounts to casting around for support for your biases. Then you put the biases and the cobbled-together “support” together and call it “reason.”

And this takes me to what we don’t see. I’ve written before about the “default norm” syndrome, also called the invisible baseline fallacy, which in our culture means white maledom is the default norm, and perspectives and experiences that deviate from those common to white men are not respected as legitimate. If you are a woman or racial minority in this country you have bumped into this iron wall of assumption many times, but the iron wall is invisible to a lot of white men. Not all, thank goodness.

This is basically the same thing that people are calling “male privilege” or “white privilege,” although I don’t like those terms. The degree to which one’s assumptions, biases and experiences are “privileged” depends on a complex of factors that include health or physical condition, class, and wealth. A white male lower-income paraplegic is considerably less “privileged” than the Koch brothers, for example. As wealth inequality becomes more extreme a whole lot of white people are being left behind to a degree I believe is unprecedented in American history, and I assure you most of these people don’t feel all that “privileged.”

Money is privilege. People who have always been financially comfortable have no idea how much lack of money can be an obstacle to basic functionality in our society. The poor are taxed in myriad ways, from paying higher bank account fees on their meager balances — causing the very poor to not use banks at all, but then one must use check cashing services that also take a bite. Without a car you take public transportation, which eats a lot more time out of your day. And if you don’t have money for a bus you simply don’t go anywhere out of walking distance, which puts a huge limit on your job opportunities. Those left out of Medicaid expansion still have limited access to health care, and chronic, debilitating conditions often go untreated. Poor parents often are caught in the day care trap — they aren’t paid enough to afford reliable day care, but without that it’s hard to hold a job at all. So one is perpetually making seat-of-the-pants arrangements with people to watch the children, and then worrying if the kids are safe. Etc. etc. Many conveniences people with money take for granted are not available to the poor, and the inconveniences pile up and make day-to-day life an exhausting exercise in barely coping.

And then it is assumed the poor can’t get ahead because they are lazy. And it is just about impossible to explain the problem to someone who has been cocooned from it. It’s not part of his, or her, experience; therefore, it isn’t “real.”

As a woman I am sometimes surprised at how much even liberal men are oblivious to the extreme misogyny that still lingers in our culture. I wrote earlier this year,

Even those of us who have never experienced physical assault have experienced sexual intimidation, belittling and humiliation, aimed at us only because of our gender. And most of the time we put up with it, because what else can we do? Confronting some sexist bozo could turn an unpleasant situation into something genuinely dangerous. So how has the political Right responded to #YesAllWomen? Mostly with more belittling. Charles Cooke at NRO, for example, dismisses the social media phenomenon as “groupthink.” We women can’t possibly know our own experiences, apparently, and simply imagine misogyny because we’ve read about it.

Especially to conservatives, problems that middle- and upper-income white men rarely if ever encounter are not “real” issues worthy of being addressed by society or government, but are exceptions that the individuals affected must take care of on their own. The fact that these issues may impact all of us, directly or indirectly, and that the cause may be widespread cultural and institutional bias that upper-income whites feed on a daily basis, is invisible to them.  And you can’t explain it to them. No amount of real-world data or well-constructed logic makes dent in the iron wall. If it doesn’t conform to the conceptual box they live in, it can’t be true.

This is why it is good to have diversity of experience represented in decision-making bodies such as governments, for example. White men like to tell themselves they can make decisions that affect everybody else just fine because they will apply reason. But their reason is based on biased perspectives that fail to take many things into account. Publius provides a good example here — many rape laws used to require a woman to show she had resisted an assault to prove she had not consented. But this is a male-centric view. A woman understands that if she is being assaulted by a violent man much stronger than she is, her only hope of surviving may be in not resisting. (I remember a bitter joke from many years ago that the only woman almost certain to win a rape case is a dead nun.)

And don’t get me started on reproductive issues. Just a few days ago I was told I was too emotional because I passionately disagreed that abortion must be criminalized. Naturally it was a man, who will never be pregnant, who said this. Yes it’s easier to be emotionally detached from a issue when it’s not personal, and when the real-world experiences and consequences of that issue are merely hypothetical. It’s easier to be emotionally detached when you’re behind the iron wall.

Michael Brown is being buried today. If his killing, and what we’ve learned about Ferguson, hasn’t given us a clear picture of the evils and pervasiveness of institutional racism I don’t know what else will. Yet just last week I encountered a forum populated largely by white men who couldn’t understand why people are always going on about race. Why is race such a big deal? Isn’t it  all about making white men feel guilty?

But I certainly don’t give a rodent’s posterior whether anybody feels guilty. Guilt doesn’t so much as butter toast. Our country is becoming increasingly dysfunctional, in part because our institutions, especially government, increasingly reflect the views of only the most sheltered and privileged among us. And it is increasingly unresponsive to everyone else. And, weirdly, a big chunk of the population being left behind still clings to the cognitive biases that support policies that are hurting them.  Their collective conceptual frameworks are not adjusting; they still can’t see past the iron wall.

See also: Andrew O’Hehir, “White Privilege: An Insidious Virus That’s Eating America from Within.”

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Watch All the Nasty Beasties Crawl Out From Under the Rocks

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Wingnuts Being Wingnuts, Women's Issues

Although you’d think the Right couldn’t do anything to surprise me any more, I have been unsettled by the visceral disgust of female sexuality that’s spewed forth from the Right in the past few days. In tweets, on blogs, in most of the usual quarters, the monster being revealed is something terrible to behold.

But let us not forget this is an old beast that’s been with us all along. It’s just that recent events have coaxed the creature into the light of day.

That right-wing extremists see women as a substandard Other is a given; it is, in fact, a universal characteristic of reactionary politics and religions, in all their many forms. But it’s been fifty years since The Pill became available, and wingnuts still can’t handle the thought of women as sexual free agents. Male sexuality is fine with them, of course. I don’t see objections on the Right to Viagra, or the idea of health insurance paying for Viagra, even though its primary application is to allow some men to have more sex. But The Pill, which has a variety of medical applications beside contraception, is Evil and Immoral because it allows women to have “consequence-free sex,” a condition not placed upon Viagra-enhanced men. And Erick Son of Erick is not the only troglodyte spouting that line.

Even though religion is the most common excuse given for this sick view of women, there is nothing in the Bible that forbids women from using birth control. I don’t know enough about the Q’ran to comment on that, but it appears opinions against birth control are coming only from the most conservative parts of Islam.

I’ve never heard of objections to birth control coming from Buddhism or any other Asian religion, even though Asian cultures often are as patriarchal as cultures get. However, these cultures generally are less hung up about enjoying sex.

Some religious traditions, such as Orthodox Judaism (although not Conservative or Reformed), point to the “be fruitful and multiply” line from Genesis to declare that God forbids birth control. But notice that nobody’s running around demanding restrictions on the sale of condoms. This is because of deeply entrenched sociocultural values, not religion. Those values say “consequence-free sex” is a birthright for men. It’s only when women are given some power over their own sexuality and reproduction that alarm bells go off, and the sickos grab frantically for anything they can grab to support their bigotries. And some grotesque misapplication of religious dogma is about all they’ve got, although I have seen some other even more bizarre and fact-free appeals to “science” and “nature.”

If you’ve read my book (Rethinking Religion: Finding a Place for Religion in a Modern, Tolerant, Progressive, Peaceful and Science-affirming World), or if you’ve read up on current research in sociology, you know that our moral views are mostly dictated by our emotions, and the “moral judgments” we create in our rational minds are all post hoc. See, for example, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by social psychologist Jonathan Haidt (Pantheon Books, 2012).

Why is this craziness apparently coming from right-wing Abrahamic religion? This is from my book –

… Haidt says that’s basically what we’re all doing — allowing our rudimentary emotions to dictate what we think. And the rudimentary emotions come from our cultural programming and many other influences, such as the groups we hang out with. Researchers have found they also can influence people’s responses to moral questions by exposing them to foul odors, giving them something pleasant or unpleasant to drink, or even keeping a hand sanitizer within view. Reason actually has little to do with it, however much we might want to think otherwise.

When you understand that much of “morality” is about rudimentary emotions and biases, you might also understand why conservative and dogmatic religions of all persuasion tend to get hung up on sex and on keeping women under control, often going way outside the teachings of revered founders as they do this.

For example — going by the Gospels, Jesus said very little about sex and nothing at all about homosexuality, abortion, or birth control. And we know that there was homosexual sex, abortion, and attempts at birth control going on in his time, and he must have been aware of these things. But it appears he didn’t bother to address them.

Instead, he went on and on about loving God and everybody else, including your enemies. He was also big on feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, and visiting prisoners. The episode with the money changers in the Temple suggests he was not keen on people trying to make themselves wealthy on other peoples’ piety. For a man of his time and culture he was extraordinarily courteous to women, sometimes speaking to them in public (which was a tad scandalous, I’m told) and telling Martha that Mary didn’t have to go to the kitchen to make coffee and sandwiches if she’d rather listen to his sermon.

Flash forward to today’s right-wing Christianity. See the difference? Do I really have to point it out to you?

The obsession with sex and repressing women and their tempting ways is one of the most common features of conservative, dogmatic religion, whether we’re talking about Christianity or Islam or any other major spiritual tradition. Currently factions within Islam are going to unprecedented and grotesque extremes to subdue women. But I say there are factions within many other faith traditions that differ from the Taliban only in degree, not in kind.

And this tells me that the men in charge of things are channeling their own anxieties about sex and women and projecting them into their scriptures. In doing so, they sometimes wander quite a distance from what their scriptures actually say, revealing how pathologically deep those anxieties are.

Ultimately, all this flap about birth control has nothing to do with genuine religious devotion. It’s coming from sick, neurotic weenie-men (and some women, e.g. Ingraham and Coulter, who notably are unmarried and childless, although Ingraham has adopted children) who are terrified of female sexuality and can’t deal with the world unless women are kept under control. They are using the authority of religion — with assistance from conservative men in the courts — to impose their bigotries and emotional pathologies on the rest of us.

So let us be clear that the Great Divide in the birth control issue is not between the secular and the religious; it’s been the emotionally healthy and the deranged.

See also:

Why Patriarchal Men Are Utterly Petrified of Birth Control — And Why We’ll Still Be Fighting About it 100 Years From Now

Rape Victims At Christian College Told To Repent For Their Sins

Clergy Pass Out Condoms at Hobby Lobby in Protest

Biblical birth control: The surprisingly contraception-friendly Old Testament

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The Court Ladies Are Pissed

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Supreme Court, Women's Issues

Adam Liptak at the NY Times:

In a decision that drew an unusually fierce dissent from the three female justices, the Supreme Court sided Thursday with religiously affiliated nonprofit groups in a clash between religious freedom and women’s rights.

The decision temporarily exempts a Christian college from part of the regulations that provide contraception coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

The court’s order was brief, provisional and unsigned, but it drew a furious reaction from the three female members, Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan. The order, Justice Sotomayor wrote, was at odds with the 5-to-4 decision on Monday in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, which involved for-profit corporations.

“Those who are bound by our decisions usually believe they can take us at our word,” Justice Sotomayor wrote. “Not so today.”

The court’s action, she added, even “undermines confidence in this institution.”

Preach it, Sister Justice Sonia! See SCOTUSblog for more detailed explanation. Sister Justice Sonia wrote a 15-page dissent that probably is still smoking. See also Corporations race into Ginsburg’s ‘minefield’ to claim post-Hobby Lobby religious exemptions.

By Their Tweets Ye Shall Know Them. People who are celebrating the Hobby Lobby and subsequent decisions do seem to have one thing in common, which is huge disgust at female sexuality. No surprise.

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Rally Round the IUD

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Obama Administration, Women's Issues

One of the several weird things about the Hobby Lobby decision is that it appears to leave open the possibility that just about any employer can withhold mandated coverage from employees for any “religious” belief, whether that belief makes factual sense or not. For example, Dahlia Lithwick writes,

Having read the opinion only briefly I am not at all clear on why Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority, is so certain that he can hold the line here to closely held corporations and that the parade of “me too” litigants promised by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing in dissent, won’t show up on the court steps in the coming months and years. For one thing we are—going forward—no longer allowed to argue the science. “It is not for us to say that their religious beliefs are mistaken or insubstantial,” writes Alito. Also, going forward, we are not allowed to argue the depth of religious conviction. Once those are off the table in this case, they are either off the table forever, or the court will decide in the future what’s off and what’s on.

The science part refers to the fact that Hobby Lobby objected to emergency contraception and IUDs, in the belief that they cause abortions, and medical science says they don’t. Justice Alito apparently said that it doesn’t matter what the science says, it’s the belief itself that is sacred and unquestionable. But neither are we allowed to question the sincerity of that belief. This seems to me to open many industrial-size cans of big, nasty worms..

I don’t think most employers are going to suddenly drop contraception coverage, if only because it probably wouldn’t reduce their insurance costs much, if at all. It wouldn’t be worth the bad publicity. But the world is full of whackjobs who own companies and employ people.

Justice Alito claims this decision won’t open the door to denial of other kinds of coverage, but why it wouldn’t is not clear. Lithwick says this either means some religions — Christian Scientists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Wiccans — are not to be taken seriously. Or, he’s saying that some kinds of medical coverage don’t need to be taken seriously.

… while they concede that the government has a meaningful interest in assuring that Americans receive reproductive care, it’s actually only kind of serious, and not nearly as serious as the interest in preventing, say, the spread of disease (in the case of denied vaccinations). Here is Justice Alito: “HHS asserts that the contraceptive mandate serves a variety of important interests, but many of these are couched in very broad terms, such as promoting ‘public health’ and ‘gender equality.’ ”

Silly, silly gender equality. In silly quotation marks! You know what isn’t in quotation marks in this opinion? Infectious diseases. Because there’s a real government interest. Or, as Erick Erickson, the conservative blogger put it today: “My religion trumps your ‘right’ to employer subsidized consequence free sex.”

Erick Son of Erick is such a prince, ain’t he?

Anyway, early indications are that Dems intend to campaign on this decision. Dave Weigel writes that this decision potentially could cost the Republicans in November. Let’s hope.

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First Annual Convention of the He-Man Woman Hater’s Club

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Feminism, Women's Issues

This weekend the International Conference on Men’s Issues was held in a VFW hall in St. Clair Shores, Michigan. It was originally going to be at the DoubleTree Hilton in Detroit, but some feminist groups protested and the terrorized He-Men chose to move the venue, adding that they had sold too many tickets to remain at the DoubleTree. The surplus of ticket-buyers apparently couldn’t find the VFW hall, however, because by all accounts only about 100 guys showed up.

I direct your attention to what TBogg wrote about it. He nails them pretty darn well. But I have a little more to say.

Like BooMan, I am prepared to acknowledge and address systemic bias wherever it might be found. However, as BooMan says, the He-Men seem less interested in actually doing something about these alleged systemic biases than in expressing hatred for women, particularly feminists. I’ve run into this with these guys many times before. Whatever their cause du jour, they are incapable of rational, productive discussion about it because within seconds they will turn the conversation around to how those evil women hate them because they are men and how feminists are destroying manhood and America and western civilization generally. It’s all they really want to talk about.

I do think there are factors in our society and culture that impact men in harmful ways and which need to be addressed. But these trends had been written about long before second-wave feminism emerged in the 1960s. Back in the late 1940s, for example, Joseph Campbell wrote some interesting stuff about how industrial-age culture had alienated men from their families and made them more emotionally infantile and brutish.

The post-World War II era really did lock both men and women in tightly confined gender-role boxes that restricted their emotional and personal growth and perpetrated a weirdly adolescent view of sex, as exemplified by Playboy magazine and the auxiliary clubs and bunnies. In the 1960s women rebelled, but men, on the whole, did not. Individual men grew out of it, but men collectively never had the cathartic consciousness-raising moment when they perceived the confinements of the box they’d been shoved into.

I see the He-Men as guys locked tightly inside a conceptual box — the box of who they think they are and how they think life should be — that is out of sync with what’s going on in our culture generally. And they feel great unease about this, no doubt. But instead of confronting what’s really wrong they hunker down and scapegoat “feminism” as the source of their unease. Most “men’s movements” that have emerged in the 50 years since Betty Friedan wrote The Feminist Mystique have been reactionary attempts to reinforce the box, when what they really need to do to be happy is break out of the damn thing.

And I don’t know of any way to reach them; they’re too invested in their collective fantasy to accept help. I only ask that the majority of men who have outgrown the box to more frequently stand up to the He-Men and say, no. This is not who we are. This is not what manhood is. Maybe fewer younger men will get sucked into it.

I also want to address the women speakers at the conference. TBogg wrote of one:

Surprisingly, many of the speakers at Manstock, were women who were there to validate the attendees worst fears…. for a modest speaking fee:

Dr. Tara Palmatier, a men’s rights activist who advertises herself as a “shrink for men,” explained that “feminism has evolved from the radical notion that women are people, to the radical notion that women are superior.”
She diagnosed some women with what she called “golden uterus syndrome,” which she explained as what happens when a mother will “fleece your ex-husband in divorce court and take assets you didn’t earn, you deserve it, take that bastard to the cleaners, force a man into fatherhood with an accidental pregnancy, hey, if he wouldn’t commit, sometimes you gotta push him into it.”

So, instead of fleecing “your ex-husband in divorce court and take assets you didn’t earn,” Palmatier fleeces men by telling them that their problem is not their own shortcomings. Nope, it all on their ex-wives. That’ll be $220 please, same time next week?

Yeah, there always will be people who will exploit the pain of others to make money. But women do occasionally exhibit what I call the “Daddy’s Good Girl” syndrome. It’s basically a strategy to gain the approval of men by giving them whatever they want and being whomever men want them to be. Show me a “Daddy’s Good Girl” and I will show you someone who is desperately and neurotically needy. Tara Palmatier sounds like one, although she may be just an old-fashioned grifter, of course.

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Screen Capture Art

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Women's Issues

Found on Salon this morning. I added the caption.

Update: You’ve probably heard about the hashtag #YesAllWomen set up for women “to share their stories of everyday sexism and misogyny – and to tell the world that enough is enough.” Even those of us who have never experienced physical assault have experienced sexual intimidation, belittling and humiliation, aimed at us only because of our gender. And most of the time we put up with it, because what else can we do? Confronting some sexist bozo could turn an unpleasant situation into something genuinely dangerous.

So how has the poitical Right responded to #YesAllWomen? Mostly with more belittling. Charles Cooke at NRO, for example, dismisses the social media phenomenon as “groupthink.” We women can’t possibly know our own experiences, apparently, and simply imagine misogyny because we’ve read about it. Assimilated tool that she is, Mollie Hemingway ridiculed the hashtag as “asinine.” One of Hemingway’s points is that “It’s A Mockery Of The Real Problems Women Face Throughout The World.”

As the #YesAllWomen craze spread, a woman was stoned by her family in Pakistan for marrying someone of her choice as opposed to someone of their arrangement. While the #YesAllWomen crowds talked about the unbearable horror of being whistled at on the street, annoyingly being told to smile, and being given gendered McDonald’s toys, more than 200 Nigerian girls remained in slavery to Islamist extremist rebels. While we turn the murder of six into a narcissistic contest of victimhood, a Sudanese Christian woman married to an American Christian man gave birth to a daughter in prison.

As I said above, it’s a difference in degree, not in kind. Apparently we’re not supposed to mind violations of our human dignity because other women have real problems.

And conservatives wonder why there’s a gender gap.

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The Heart of Darkness

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Feminism, firearms, Women's Issues

It shouldn’t surprise you that the “manosphere” is blaming the Isla Vista shootings on feminism and western anti-male culture generally. Here is an actual blog post from just two days ago:

Rodger should have checked his male privilege at the door and atoned for the sins of thousands of years of “male patriarchy.” He was likely exposed to infantile “trigger warnings” during the course of his education. He received direct propaganda that insinuates all men are potential rapists. American universities are becoming firmly anti-male with their extreme left ideology and policies. Just recently, the Justice Department has ushered in directives that attempt to restrict the definition of consensual sex, making any attempt by Rodger to fornicate with a female at a college party a potential rape encounter that would have gotten him kicked out of school without a trial. Pro-female policies now dominate most American universities. Rodger would definitely not have received a sympathetic ear to his plight. . . .

. . . Seven people are dead because society has decided that shy and awkward men like Elliot Rodger do not deserve a girlfriend and that there is absolutely no way to improve his loneliness and loserdom through learning game or any other social behavior. At the same time men like him are ostracized, there is no legal means for him to solicit prostitution (in California) to release his biological and very pressing urge for fornication. Current cultural dogma wants to sweep the millions of lonely men like Rodger under the rug while instead focusing on gay marriage, “street harassment,” lack of empowered girls in video games, “rape culture,” and the horrors of letting young girls wear pink and play with dolls.

The new “let them eat cake” is “let these socially awkward privileged losers have xbox and pornhub.” Yet we still feign outrage and surprise when every so often one of them picks up a gun and starts shooting. The same people who attack game refuse to give men like Rodger a way to achieve sexual happiness, and for that they are indirectly responsible for these deaths, which could have been avoided if Rodger was steered into game and not shamed for it.

More people will die unless you give men sexual options

Until you give men like Rodger a way to have sex, either by encouraging them to learn game, seek out a Thai wife, or engage in legalized prostitution—three things that the American media and cultural elite venomously attack, it’s inevitable for another massacre to occur.

The author of the post also expressed outrage that anyone would find his site offensive or the “manosphere” misogynistic.

The thing is, this guy is no lone outlier. He represents multitudes of men. There are vast swarms of these guys online. Since I don’t tend to blog about feminist issues except for reproductive rights, which doesn’t seem to interest the “men’s rights” crew (except for their belief that they should have a “choice” to not pay child support if they don’t want to), they don’t often show up here. But I’ve bumped into them in countless discussion threads on other sites. There are certain topics that will draw them like ants to a picnic, and when that happens they will completely dominate the thread and make rational discussion impossible. They are quite certain the world (which, apparently, is run by women) is discriminating against them, and they are seething with hostility about it.

Beside the “men’s choice” argument, they are particularly obsessed with the belief that civil courts and the justice system discriminate against men, as well as the educational establishment and the health care system (breast cancer research gets more money than prostate cancer research). There’s also a subset of them who are convinced their lives and manhood were ruined because they were circumcised as infants, without their consent, and routine male circumcision is just as bad — maybe worse — than female genital mutilation. But only women get sympathy for their “circumcisions” because women are privileged. Check out the discussion thread on this Salon article for examples. (Don’t assume you understand their arguments until you read them. There probably is a rational argument that routine circumcision is unnecessary, but that’s not the argument the MRAs are making.)

What usually happens on these threads is that maybe one or two emotionally healthy men will comment to gently suggest that the haters are off base, and then they disappear, and the only male voices on the thread will be MRAs venting their pathological hatred of women. I’ve seen this happen countless times. And what do you want to bet there is considerable overlap between the MRAs and gun rights crowd?

Last January Jill Filipovic and Amanda Hess wrote widely read articles on women being threatened and harassed online. These articles drew much sympathy but not much action or follow up.

For more on the MRA phenomenon do check out this anti-MRA website (run by a man, bless him) and its glossary, which is as good a primer on the MRA subculture as I’ve seen anywhere.

The anti-MRA blogger linked to a paper on “aggrieved entitlement” as a factor in violence, mass shootings in particular. This is close to a point I wrote about quite a bit in My Book, which says a combination of holy cause/fanatical grievance is a common feature of violent mass movements, whether religious or political or something else. In some cases, the sense of entitlement stands in as the holy cause.

Although I doubt those who are deep into MRA/PUA culture are likely to change I do think it’s important that more emotionally healthy men get involved in standing up to the MRAs. I suspect the widespread disapproval of other men could prevent more younger men from getting sucked into MRA-ism. This is not a fight women can wage alone.

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Let’s Call It a Hate Crime

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firearms, Women's Issues

In just about any comment threat on the Isla Vista shooting you can find on the web, someone is arguing that the shooter was “mentally ill” or “psychotic,” which means that misogyny had nothing to do with the crime. I responded to this in the last post — there’s no indication he was psychotic, and it’s doubtful any court in America would have let Rodger off on an insanity defense.

A few more observations:

First, it has long seemed to me that most Americans know next to nothing about psychiatric disorders, and basic information about mental health and psychiatric disorders ought to be taught in school, maybe beginning at middle school level. If nothing else, it might be useful to know that if your reclusive offspring insists on keeping his windows taped shut and covered with black plastic bags, he probably shouldn’t be allowed access to sharp objects, never mind guns.

Second, it seems to me that if Rodger’s videos showed him ranting about gays, Jews, racial minorities or the government, we’d be seeing a different reaction.

From what I have read, Rodger tried to break into a sorority house, and when he failed he shot three young women who were outside of the house — two killed, one wounded — then started shooting random people, killing one young man. He had already killed three young men who were in his apartment, two of whom were his roommates. So that was personal. The fact that he killed more men than women is supposed to be “proof” that it wasn’t about misogyny, in spite of the fact that he had explicitly said he wanted to break into that sorority house and kill women in it.

Let’s consider that after killing the three not-Jewish men in his apartment, he had attempted to break into a synagogue to kill Jews. He failed to get in but shot and killed two rabbis who were outside, then drove around and randomly shot another man, who was not Jewish. He left behind videos ranting that Jews were ruining his life and he wanted to break into a synagogue and kill them. Would anyone now be seriously arguing that antisemitism was not an issue?

And as far as crazy is concerned, there are entire websites of comments from men not substantially different from what Rodger said in his videos. For that matter, look at politicians. A Florida state lawmaker was ranting last week that the Common Core curriculum would turn students gay. Has anyone checked to see if that guy owns guns?

See also Echidne of the Snakes.

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Under the Crazy Rug

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Social Issues, Women's Issues

We’re now well into the “whose fault is it, anyway” phase of our standard post-shooting process, including our usual do-si-do over gun control versus gun rights. You know how that one goes.

A wrinkle in the Isla Vista shootings is that the alleged perp, Elliot Rodger, appears to have been deeply into the online “Men’s Rights” culture, which I think of as the He-Man Women Hater’s Club. Women are “targets” or “game” to this crew, although it would be wrong to say that they speak of women the same way a duck hunter speaks of mallards. Duck hunters are not seething with resentment of mallards. Duck hunters do not imagine that mallards are ruining their lives or plotting against them out of sheer inbred evil.

So on the one hand there are articles by Katie McDonough blaming “toxic male entitlement” and one by Amanda Hess calling out online “pick up” culture.

The counter-argument is expressed in a comment to McDonough’s article:

So if society were more respectful of women this would not have happened?

Misogyny played no role in this, mental illness did. Instead of addressing that issue, that is so clear you can see it from space. You turn it into a soap box for your favourite agenda.

Basically you are saying, misogyny turned this perfectly normal kid into a killer.

Wrong, mental illness did.

The problem with the “mental illness” theory is that there’s no indication the shooter was psychotic. Maladjusted, yes. A walking catalog of personality disorders, no doubt. Badly socialized, certainly. But he was not “insane.” He didn’t believe he was being controlled by Alpha Waves from Mars. He was capable of knowing right from wrong. Had he lived, he would have been fit to stand trial.

So, to all those who would sweep any motivation for the shootings under the crazy rug — I don’t think so.

The “Men’s Rights” culture really is a toxic soup of misogyny, and as with many online cultures there’s a tendency for participants to push each other into becoming more and more extreme. If Rodger was “mentally ill” so are a lot of the other jerks who write stuff like this:

I’m trying to think of ways our enemies will come after us because of this, but if anything, we’re the solution to this sort of murder rampage. This is the society that progressives wanted, where women are fully able to choose the top 10% of alpha males while shaming masculinity, leaving beta males with modest resources in the dust. Of course they will simply push a ban on guns, but this wholly neglects the cause. Seven people died because this guy couldn’t get laid, at the same time the Federal government is pursuing kangaroo courts to kick men out of college for “rape” that doesn’t need to be proved in a court of law. How can they not see this connection?

Society gave beta males a bargain—they work hard with the expectation of a wife and family. That bargain no longer exists so we can’t be surprised when one loses his mind and starts shooting. At the very least, prostitution should be legalized as a release valve. If the killer had access to some high quality hookers for $150 a pop, it would have given him some meaning.

This is an in-group culture that encourages the sexual objectification of women while also nurturing a fanatical grievance against them. In my book I argue that the combination of “holy cause” and “fanatical grievance” is at the root of most mass violence in the world. I’m not sure about the holy cause part, but these guys have got the fanatical grievance in spades.

This is a culture that not only winks at misogyny; it’s also one that makes oppressing women seem heroic. A guy who can somehow demean women is scoring one for the team. Of course, other men, the ones who get along with women, are resented as well.

If you combine that toxic culture with someone with a personality or socialization disorder, anything is possible. And I suspect most of these guys have personality or socialization disorders, or they wouldn’t be drawn to the culture. And their online interaction sets up a feedback loop that makes them all worse. I don’t think most of them will become mass murderers, but that’s only because most of them aren’t suicidal. If they weren’t concerned about repercussions they would be very dangerous, indeed.

See also Steve M.

Update: See also Strangely Blogged.

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Stupid Pundits Being Stupid

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Women's Issues

Erik Loomis at Lawyers, Guns & Money had nominated this David Brooks column as the dumbest article you’ll read today, but then he found a Richard Cohen column that is even dumber. These columns are self-evidently stupid enough to not need further commentary from me explaining why they are stupid.

If the prize is not yet awarded, I’d also like to nominate this William Saletan column as the dumbest article you’ll read today. Really, Saletan should stick to concern trolling about abortion and stop revealing how oblivious he can be about other issues as well. See Steve M for explanatory snark.

But my real purpose here is to nominate a blog post by Ross Douthat, called “Why French Women Don’t Get Promoted,” as at least a runner-up for the dumbest article you’ll read today. He presents data showing that U.S. career women have a higher glass ceiling than women in other developed countries, which may be true. But he thinks the reason for this is that those other countries have governments that provide more support for families, including working mothers — what Douthat calls “family-friendly socialism” — than in the U.S., where working mothers are on their own to patch together whatever arrangements they can make to balance office and home. He writes that family-friendly socialism . . .

helps explain the persistence of “the glass ceilings, as well as stubbornly large wage gaps in more progressive countries,” because working women tend to be shunted more decisively onto a mommy track than they are in the United States.

… but at no point does he attempt to explain why that would be true. And the sources he cites, the ones available online, don’t really explain why that would be true, either. It’s a correlation-must-be-causation argument.

One of the sources cited explains that women get so much maternity leave in France it makes employers nervous about hiring them. But it’s not like women here don’t get pregnant and choose to cut back hours or leave their jobs altogether. And, anyway, the same source says later that French companies find ways to punish excessive maternity-leave taking.

Basically, though, Douthat blames France for providing women with all these incentives to stay home and have more children, and he says that’s why they are less successful in their careers. The thing is, though, that women who really want to be a success in business are not going to have four or five babies to get more maternity leave and receive a government stipend. I suspect the women who most take advantage of France’s family-friendly socialism to spend more time with their children are the ones who choose to do that, whereas here low-wage service jobs are mostly filled up by women who have to work to earn the money but who would rather be home with their kids.

I’ve got two words for Douthat: Affirmative Action. People forget that Affirmative Action was and is as much about ending gender discrimination as racial discrimination. And early on, probably the biggest beneficiaries of Affirmative Action were younger college-educated women, mostly white, who no longer were being sidetracked into secretarial jobs just because they were girls while young men with exactly the same qualifications started up the career ladder. Now, after 40 years, it has made a huge difference.

Have any of these other developed countries with lower glass ceilings attempted anything as rigorous as Affirmative Action to address gender discrimination? I doubt it. If the glass ceilings are lower in France, I suspect the real culprit is old-fashioned sexism.

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