Friday, August 12, 2011

When the Baby Should Be Thrown Out with the Bathwater

Mary Daly was one messed up lady. I've never read her books, but I've read interviews and other writings she's done. I have a hard time following her - she's a bit too Postmodern for me - and I can't follow her points because of the flowery prose she writes with.

Mary Daly was also trans-phobic and misandrist, although, without a doubt, she would say that misandry is impossible because men are the ruling class.

Realistically speaking, Mary Daly was, in my opinion one of the few, true, unarguably misandrist Feminist leaders the movement has had. I'm aware many MRAs will point to countless others they believe to be misandrist, and that's fine. They might be right.

But Mary Daly's misandry is beyond doubt. This quote makes my point:
"If life is to survive on this planet, there must be a decontamination of the Earth. I think this will be accompanied by an evolutionary process that will result in a drastic reduction of the population of males."
I don't appreciate it when people say she was calling for genocide here - notice she was saying that evolutionary process would be responsible, not human intervention.

But still - her belief was that men - by definition of having penises - were going to bring about the end of humanity. Men are unredeemable - there is no salvation for them.

She might as well have said "Men are intrinsically evil - they can never do good for humanity."

Now, to test if a statement is misandrist, all we have to do is plug in some other language ... so let's give it a shot:
"If life is to survive on this planet, there must be a decontamination of the Earth. I think this will be accompanied by an evolutionary process that will result in a drastic reduction of the population of white people."

Yup - that's hate language. Mary Daly hated men - no further discussion necessary.

Back to the point of this post, now.

The question has arisen - can we salvage any of Daly's work when she held these terrible views?

That question was posed just yesterday at Feminist Critics. Danny said:
If its unfair to dismiss Daly and all her work because of her misandry (which BTW most feminist sites acted like they didn’t want to acknowledge) and declare that she is not a feminist then how is it then fair for feminists to point to Spearhead and the selective writings of manboobz as supposed evidence that the entire men’s rights movement is nothing but a vehicle of hatred that hopes to keep women oppressed so men can have the right to beat and rape their wives at will?
Ah, the "baby and bathwater" dilemma.

Let's run an experiment, shall we? Let's remove gender issues and feminism from the mix - because we're all a bit prejudiced here on that issue.

Let's say you're having trouble in your garden behind your house. Your tomato plants aren't growing tomatoes, your pear tree is an ugly yellow color, your grass is spotty and gray and your roses smell like tuna fish.

You call up two gardening consultants to help you fix your lawn.

The first consultant, Gary, spends 30 minutes examining your back yard and gives you some recommendations about watering, trimming and fertilizing your garden, lawn and bushes. He explains a little about the soil composition in the area and the amount of light your back yard receives and how that affects your plants. As you pay him for his time, and walk back towards his truck, he engages you in polite small talk and mentions how none of his advice will matter because the world is coming to an end in a week, and he knows this because aliens are projecting their plans into his head when he sleeps at night. You nod, thank Gary for his time, and say goodbye.

Later that same day, the second consultant you hired stops by. Roger spends 30 minutes examining your back yard and gives you some recommendations that are a little bit different than what Gary advised. As you pay him and walk him back to his van, he explains to you that he knows how to take care of plants because they can speak to him. He says that the plants are planning a secret revolution and will soon be our rulers. He said that your garden is doing so poorly because the plants are angry with you because you drive an SUV and don't recycle your plastic bags. He advises you to trade in your car and start using reusable grocery bags if you want your plants to forgive you and your garden to flourish. You nod, thank Roger for his time, and say goodbye.

You go into your house, close, lock and dead-bolt the door, and now must choose whose advice to follow.

Both gardening consultants are, to be kind, operating with some very faulty conceptions regarding how the world works. Less kind folks would call them crazy.

But ultimately, you can only follow one of the consultants advice. I suspect most of you would follow Gary's advice. Gary held some wrong views, but they were not related to his area of expertise.

Roger's views were intrinsic to his gardening advice - and even if he had some good advice for you in general (reusable bags and trading in your SUV) his purposes behind that advice is indelibly linked to his perverted perception of reality.

Now, what does this mean about his advice? I believe that, in the same way that a broken clock is right twice, the fact that Roger may have given you some good advice - you can not rely on him because of this taint. If you want to find GOOD reasons to take his advice, you can (such as saving money and reducing waste by switching bags and cars) but you can't use "Because Roger Said So" when trying to convince others.

Therefore, I claim that any and all works by Mary Daly (relating to gender issues) may not be used due to her unrepentant misandry.

If she has some cookbooks somewhere that I don't know about - feel free to read and quote from them.

But you don't take investment advice from a communist.
You don't take legal advice from a guy in jail.
You don't take dieting advice from fat people.

Don't expect to improve gender issues while quoting and reading Mary Daly.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Seeking Validity: Romance

This is a true story from my youth. I've done my best to recall the details of the day to the best of my ability - but it was an important day for me - so I remember it well.

Tara, Ron and I were sitting at the large, circular unused teacher's table during lunch of my senior year. We were all in Drama class together - and we were lumped into the same lunch block because of it. Incidentally, this was the only year in high school where I didn't share lunch with my two best childhood friends. Tara and Ron were new friends to me - because we spent so much time together during rehearsals after school - we made a pretty strong bond relatively quickly.

Being born in New York and transplanted to the rural south at a young age can be traumatizing. I don't expect anyone to quite understand that unique pain that comes from being a Yankee in Billy Bob's Court. Especially when you're a child.

So, growing up - I never had girlfriends. Not even the lame kind where you never talk and just wave in the hallway. It wasn't until I was 14 that I actively started to want a girlfriend - and when a year had passed, and I was 15 still with no girlfriend - I started to get frustrated. Luckily - I got through being 15 by convincing myself that I needed to have a driver's license and a car to have a girlfriend.

That bought me some time - or so I thought. The reality was that when I did finally end up having a drivers license, awesome parents who would let me drive where and when I wanted (within reason), and a completely awesome car:

Oh man, do I miss that thing.

Wait ... no I don't.

Where was I?

So when I finally turned 16 and had a car, money to spend and permission to take girls out on dates - my singleness became almost unbearable. Luckily, I had a new female friend, Tara, who I could vent on.

Tara was a tall, shapely blonde and our salutatorian. She was extremely intelligent if slightly condescending. Bad acne and a poor family (little make-up and ill-fitting, out of date clothes handed down from her older sisters) meant that she didn't get much attention from the boys in our school.

Ron was new to the school - he'd transferred in after some trouble (bullying?) at another school district. He was very, very poor but extremely good looking. That said, he had self-confidence issues and wasn't very smooth.

Tara, Ron and I made a close, if odd group of friends that year. I regularly vented to both Tara and Ron about my inability to find a girlfriend. Ron was no help at all. He kept offering pickup lines. Tara wasn't much help either - but one day she got sick of my complaining and decided to lead me to water and shove my head into the trough.

"So exactly how many girls have you asked out?" she said.

"Well, I asked Amanda after rehearsal a few weeks ago, I asked Leslie out last month," I offered.

"Right, but those were your friends before you asked them. You can't do that. You need to find a girl you think is cute, and just ask her."

I scoffed. "Right! That would not end well. She'd probably laugh in my face - there's no way that would work."

She crossed her arms and sat back in her chair. "You've never tried it. You don't know that."

"Fine! I'll do it right now - just to prove you wrong!" I spun around in my seat and decided to find the most attractive girl I could at the table behind us. Of course, I wanted to be right more than I actually wanted a date with a girl at this moment, so I picked the absolute hottest girl at the table behind me. Kirsten Sweetwater (yes, that was almost exactly her name - although I didn't know it at the time.)

She had long, natural blonde hair - cute freckles and a beautiful smile. She was athletic and wore nice clothes. I chuckled to myself - I was sure to crash and burn and prove my point.

At the last second, I hesitated. I spun back to my table - there's a certain self preservation instinct that makes it hard to face unavoidable rejection. "That would be rude."

Tara rolled her eyes - "It won't be rude, it will be a compliment. Trust me."

Ron spoke up - "Look, dude, I'll do it, it's easy."

Suddenly, a fire rushed over me, from my spine, over my shoulders and down the front of my chest and through my legs. I was not going to let Ron ask her. I spun around.

I tapped on her shoulder in the noisy lunchroom. She turned around. "Hey, I've noticed you before, I wanted to know if you'd like to go out on a date with me."

The girls sitting with her made bug eyes. I braced myself. "Uhhhh ..." She turned beet-red. "I'm not sure." She started laughing.

"Ok, thanks." I turned around - that wasn't nearly as bad as I expected. I looked right at Tara. "See? What did I tell you!"

Tara gave me this face:

"Are you serious? She did not turn you down! She said she didn't know!"

"Isn't that the same thing?"

"Of course it's not the same thing! Did you see her face? She was smiling like an idiot and turned bright red! She was clearly interested!"

"Really?" I said.

Tara and Ron chimed in unison, "Yes!"

I turned around again, and tapped the girl on the shoulder. She was still red. Her friends stopped talking.

"So you said 'I don't know.' What does that mean exactly?"

"Well I'd have to ask my parents first."

"So ... you mean would go out with me on a date if your parents said you could?"

"Oh, yeah! Of course."

"Great!" I said, and turned around. Lunch was almost over. Tara was the embodiment of I-told-you-so. Ron gave me an approving smile. I fought an epic war internally to contain my excitement.

Kirsten came by after she took up her tray and handed me a note with her name and home phone number and walked away saying "Call me tonight, OK?"

Long story short, her parents said no to a proper "date" but they did invite me over for dinner (I got along really well with her father) and allowed us to spend the day at a local fair - and sit together and watch fireworks that night. It didn't matter - at that point in my life I wasn't terribly concerned with a first kiss or more - I was 16 and desperately seeking romantic validation - and I got it by randomly approaching a cute girl and asking her out.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Blame the Victim?

This local story has me a bit befuddled.

Is it ok, in this situation, to say "Well they shouldn't have been running from the loss prevention officer. If they hadn't shoplifted - they wouldn't be dead right now ... etc.?"

Friday, August 5, 2011

Maybe I'm Being Oversensitive

But this internet meme rubs me the wrong way:

I resent the idea that a girlfriend is "best" when she watches you play video games.


Who wants a woman to shout "Kill him!" when she could be saying "Let's kill him!"

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Blue Shirt Confession

A good deal of conversation has been going on regarding men feeling sexy, men feeling sexually harassed and men's sexuality.

I wasn't quite sure how to respond.

I completely realize - and experience - the way that men's sexual value is minimalized, fetishized or parodied in mainstream, heterosexual media.

The idea that women could be sexually attracted to men is taboo. They can be attracted to his wealth, his power, prestige, fame or talent - but his body? Hah! C'mon now ... we're being SERIOUS.

Now of course GAY men find men attractive - that's because they're men! Men in general find all sorts of things sexually attractive - women, other men, children, animals, high-heeled shoes ... that's cause they're perverts. No more discussion needed.

So earlier this week I wore my totally out-of-place Carribean Blue dress shirt to work.

The men in my office have a uniform. It is the blue pinstripe shirt with black or dark blue slacks. Close your eyes - think of wall-street execs minus the tie and jacket. Boom - that's my office (other than the women who wear dresses like this vvv ... but that's another post.)

But it was laundry day, so I wore that blue shirt with some black slacks. I pulled in to the parking garage behind a small Corolla. She got the space closer to the office building, I had to pull in a few spaces down from her. I grabbed my coffee and lunch and got out of my car.

As I headed towards the office building, I saw a short, mocha-skinned (Filipino?) woman about my age get out of her car and open her trunk. It was the same woman who I pulled in behind.

(Edit: I understand how important a woman's appearance is, so here's the best description I can give: She was about 30 years old, 5'1" and 100 lbs. She was wearing a tight tan skirt that came up about 4 inches above her knees, and a very light blue button-up blouse. Her hair was the same as the woman in the photo below, and she was wearing heavy-but natural make-up to cover her lightly pock-marked cheeks. She has olive-shaped eyes and full lips.)

She opened her trunk, slung her shoulderbag over her shoulder, and in one swift movement, tossed her hair back, made eye contact and gave me "the smile."

That is the smile. It's mostly in the eyes - but it's absolutely different from the "friendly smile" and the "cordial smile" and the "professional smile." [I'll be happy to talk about these later, but for now, I need to stay focused.]

So she gave me a smile that I don't get very often. She got her bag, closed her trunk and headed towards the main building. At this point I was about one pace behind her. We walked out from the parking garage toward the covered walkway that led to the office building.

A couple dozen feet from the door, she looked over her right shoulder at me - first at my chest, then up to my eyes. She was smiling.

She grabbed the door, opened it and let me go through first. I nodded at her and walked through first. I hesitated after walking through - looked behind me and watched her as she followed me through the door, and started walking next to me.

I said, "I'm not used to women holding the door and letting me go through first."

She replied, "I like your shirt. It's uplifting and festive. It makes me feel alive."

As she said "alive" she looked up at my eyes as we continued walking.

I did my best to respond quickly, "Well, I'm a philanthropist of sorts. I actually hate this shirt but I wear it to cheer up women's days."

She did the giggle. (The giggle is really hard to describe. But it's usually a sign of flirting because she's laughing at something that ISN'T actually funny - the other possibility is that she's just trying to occupy dead air time.)

We walk the rest of the way to the elevators, and she presses the UP button. I suspect she was being polite with her "giggle" so I whip out my Blackberry and look at it intently.
(Of course, my Blackberry is a piece of shit, so I was actually staring at a blank screen while it struggled to activate it's main screen, but that's not important.)

"So what do you do for AMC?" She wasn't trying to be polite. The giggle was a flirt. The blood drained from my face. I can deal with women I don't know - as long as they're not flirting with me. Attractive women flirting with me is so far out of my everyday experience that it causes a meltdown of sorts in my reasoning cortex.
(I don't actually work for AMC - I work for the equivalent of A&C ... but people often confuse the ampersand for an M ...)

The elevator arrived and I let her in first. I entered and pressed the 7 button. She stepped forward and pushed the 6 button.

I spent the rest of our solitary elevator trip up to her floor (6) telling her about my job.

The sixth floor arrived - she got off, looked over her shoulder and said "It was really nice talking with you," and swished her sexy little ass around the corner.

The doors closed.

I realized, shortly after that I had been holding my lunch box in my left hand - obscuring my ring finger. Even later, I realized that there were no offices on the sixth floor of our office building (It's very new, many floors haven't been leased yet.)

Now to the confession part: My interaction with her made me feel GOOD. I felt invigorated and confident. It's been a while since I felt that way - because no matter how much encouragement your spouse gives you, an "outside opinion" is always bolstering to your self confidence.

From here on out, that blue shirt is going to be my 'sexy' shirt, and there's not anything anyone can do about it.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Request Aggression Formula

In a thread over at Daylight Atheism, a commenter named "monkeymind" makes this statement:

"The more trust you are requesting, the more unearned the trust is, the more aggressive the request."

Of course, this thread was relating to Elevatorgate - which I've promised I would revisit.

I've become more soft towards Rebecca Watson's position in the past weeks. It isn't because I had any sudden realization, or some reasoned argument I've been given has shown me how I was wrong.

Actually, in hearing so many people try to express online why Rebecca Watson was right to say what she said and others explain why she shouldn't have said it - I realized that there was a >0% chance that I had misunderstood her original comment.

In her first video, her exact words were: “A word to the wise, guys, uh, don’t do that.”

I initially thought that Rebecca was saying "To the men who want more women to participate in Atheist conferences, uh, you all must stop propositioning women at these events."

That interpretation really rubs me the wrong way. Luckily, I don't think that's what RW meant anymore.
(Although I would not be surprised if she held this position - I think she's gone on record saying that this would be a good way to get women to participate more - but either way, that wasn't what she was getting at in this video.)

But now that more people who know her have spoken out, it seems that she was probably saying "Men - it is a bad idea to proposition women you've just met in an enclosed space - you will make them feel uncomfortable and it's socially unacceptable."

This interpretation doesn't raise my hackles nearly as much. It could be wrong (based on how likely it is for women to feel uncomfortable and its social acceptance - but I don't want to discuss that right now) - but it's not as offensive as my original interpretation - that she was basically calling for men (and only men?) to postpone their sexuality during a convention.

OK, so that's my stance regarding Elevatorgate.

But regarding monkeymind's statement - I thought it was incredibly ... succinct. It is a really insightful way to look at how we make requests of other people and how aggressive those requests are.

I feel like there should be some sort of mathematical formula for it.

For example, something like

(Objective Value X Portion of Wealth) / (Requestor Trust Level) = Request Agression

So let's say my life-long best friend in the world (RTL=10) asks to use a car (OV=3,000) but I have another car of equal value (PoW=50%) I can drive.
(3,000 X .5)/10= 150

So in that case, the Request Aggression would be a score of 150.

If we contrast that with this situation:
Let's say a person I just met in a bar (RTL=2) asks to use my car (OV=3,000) but I have another care of equal value (PoW=50%) I can drive.
(3,000 X .5)/2= 750

In that case, that person asking to use a car of mine is much higher Request Aggression score of 750.

So let's just play with this model for a bit and see if we can break it - let's see if it makes much sense.

Let's say a complete stranger (RTL=1) asks for $5 for lunch (OV=5) but I have a bank account with $2,000 in it so (PoW=0.0025%) however, because this complete stranger does not know about how much money I have in the bank, he loses the benefit of the PoW.
(5)/1= 5

So we can see that, in reality, the aggressiveness of this request is rather low at only 5 points.

Although I'm not entirely happy with the way this works out - it would make a stranger asking you for $150 as aggressive as your friend asking to borrow your second car - which seems way out of wack.
Also, there is no mechanism for the likelihood of returning something. With a complete stranger, you just can't know. Whereas my best friend would be throwing away an entire lifetime of friendship and trust if he failed to return my car after borrowing it - a stranger would have far less to lose.

Also, this method doesn't account for the reality of the situation. I really don't have a problem buying a homeless man a lunch or some food. I've actually done it before when I used to work downtown. I also don't completely despise giving them pittance in change. However, I never, ever, ever take my wallet out at someone else's request in public. I just don't do it. I don't take out my smart phone at someone else's request, either - not event to check what time it is.*

So in this way, a person with a RTL of <4 would be laden with the entire value of my bank account by whipping out my wallet in front of him. Whereas a person with a high RTL >7 would only be held to account for the actual property I gave them, not that which was made available - For example:
If a friend wants to borrow a nice set of pans so he can cook dinner for his wife, I might lend him my keys to my house to pick them up while I'm at work. Technically I'm giving him access to nearly all of my worldly possessions, but his high trust level privileges him to have ACCESS to that which is not actually granted access to. If we do some coding- maybe the formula should look like this:
(OV/PoW) [if RTL is >7, leave as is] /RTL = RA
(OV/PoW) [if RTL is <4, increase OV to level of increased access exploit] /RTL = RA

So then, we'd see that if a stranger with a trust level of 1 asked me for $5, which required me to take out my wallet (OV of wallet, including Identity Theft, is $5,000) then I could easily claim this man's RA to be much, much higher than my friend asking to borrow an extra car.

I dunno, but this was fun to think about. I'm not a math person. I'm only barely capable with simple arithmetic, and my attempts above at algebra are probably open to improvement.

But I ask, if you are going to tweak my formula, please try to do it with math that an average 13-year-old can understand, because that's my math skill level - and I'd like to try to understand what you're doing with my formula.

*The risk of me taking my wallet/smartphone out (and you now having the ability to grab it and run) is not worth your mild inconvenience of needing to make a phone call or knowing what time it is. If you are bleeding and need me to dial 911, that's another story - as your medical needs over-ride my fear of having my phone stolen from me.