politics · wellbeing

Mental Health Awareness Week and male tears.

Mental health awareness week has highlighted an interesting theme in gender politics.

I’ve long thought that talk of delicious male tears and other ‘ironic misandry’ is toxic and unhelpful. MHAW highlights where it’s most damaging.

Here’s some example posts I’ve been seeing:

There’s also Terry Crew’s vulnerable revelation about his experience as a victim of sexual assault, in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein saga.

This kind of appreciation that it’s ok to be vulnerable and it’s good to talk talk about your feelings runs into an uncomfortable friction with some themes amongst internet feminism – mocking male fragility and male tears.

bahar-mustafa-white-men-diversity-ban-male-tears-killallmen-featured-image

If we google ‘male tears feminism’ we get a few good articles on the top page:

Slate.com: The Rise of the Ironic Man-Hater – Summary: Ironic misandry is ‘reductio ad absurdum’ – intentionally exaggerating the stereotype of feminists as man haters to point out how absurd it is.

Time.com: Ironic Misandry: Why Feminists Pretending to Hate Men Isn’t Funny – Summary: Even if ironic misandry is in jest – it’s bad PR for feminism to use it.

The Guardian: Feminists don’t hate men. But it wouldn’t matter if we did – Summary: Misandry is a way of blowing off steam and men complaining about it grasping at straws to find victimhood.

I’ll concede that being the victim of disrespectful jokes doesn’t entail the same amount of harm as being subject to sexual assault or being systemically paid less.

I would argue that ‘male tears’, ‘#killallmen’ jokes are more on par with ‘make me a sandwich’ and rape jokes.

A point that the slate article makes – is that genuine feminist men are ok with these jokes:

“The men who get annoyed by misandry jokes are in my experience universally brittle, insecure, humorless weenies with victim complexes,” while the “many intelligent, warm, confident feminist men in my life … mostly get the joke immediately and play along. They’re not worried I actually want to milk them for their tears.”

This is similar to saying the pledges in a hazing ritual are actually ok with the hazing. They might say that – and the harm of the hazing may be outweighed by their desire for social approval – but that doesn’t making the hazing ok.

It’s a form of gaslighting to suggest that – ‘if you’re not ok with being the subject of bullying – it’s because you’re not a good person’.

It may be that many men simply don’t care – but we should acknowledge that some men are more sensitive than others. The idea that a good man is an insensitive one – is precisely the conception of traditional norms of masculinity.

The reason that ‘male tears’ is such an effective insult, is because goes to the heart of the traditional conception of what it is to be a man. Speaking up about it – only exposes one to more ridicule – revealing oneself to be a weak man with feelings.

It’s precisely having feelings, I imagine, that causes men to kill themselfs – which they do at about three times the rate that women do – depending on what part of the world you look at.

The argument that the misandry is merely ironic identically reflects the arguments that many on the alt-right make about using racist terminology.

For example, Jeffry Lord tweeted ‘Seig heil’ and later defended it as ironic mocking of white supremacists.

If you’re interested in reading more – here’s a good article by Vox about ‘ironic racism’ and the alt-right.

There is a key difference of course – alt right ‘ironic racism’ is enforcing an existing dynamic, whereas feminist ‘ironic misandry’ seeks to flip an existing dynamic.

But in either case – they’re both toxic and bigoted. Ironic misandry is bullying, basically. I have a very hard time believing that someone who thinks it’s ok to mock male emotional vulnerability has men’s interests at heart.

Advertisements
politics · social philosophy

Tinder’s #menprovement campaign is looking like some cheap misandric bullshit.

Tinder has launched a new advertising/social awareness campaign, they’re calling #menprovement.

22141089_1413388888730892_1312093210497322896_n

The premise is that there a lot of douchebags on Tinder, and so there’s a scientifically themed effort to improve the quality of men on Tinder.

It features videos of women scientists like these:

And charts like these:

Now obviously this is intended to be a fairly lighthearted kind of campaign – but humour like this doesn’t exist in a vacuum. The reason that this campaign is considered a good idea, is because there is genuine sentiment that there are too many douchey men on Tinder.

A starting point – let’s acknowledge the existence of douchey men and abuse women face on the internet.

I want to be clear. I acknowledge that women on the internet, and on dating apps like Tinder, likely face a lot of verbal/written abuse in the face of rejection, sleazy messages, unsolicited dick pics etc.

I’m generally of the opinion that men and women have opposite problems on online dating – where women suffer through unwanted attention – men suffer from a vacuum of attention, and loneliness.

If we consider the wider issue of rape culture / consent culture – it’s very reasonable to consider conducting social campaigns aimed at changing the way people behave, and in this case, the way men behave in the context of a dating app.

So getting that out of the way – I acknowledge that there’s a problem of douchey behaviour from men on dating apps like Tinder, and it would be a good thing to improve on that.

Tinder’s campaign does not address actual douchey behaviour

This image is probably the egregious example:

Wanting a partner who has a job and is nice to your mother? Great – that’s just the kind of thing we want to encourage.

Being six feet tall? – Is that really the problem with Tinder? That there’s not enough tall men? Are short men guilty of being douchebags?

I’m not going to pretend that we shouldn’t have physical qualities that we find attractive, and I’m not offended by the proposition that many women prefer a man taller than them.

The issue I have with this image is the gross insensitivity it demonstrates.

For example, where I think the fat acceptance movement is dangerous; I think obesity should be treated as a health condition, not an acceptable lifestyle, I think all people should be treated with respect – and not be the subject of cruel jokes.

So while I think it’s ok for someone to have a preference for slim women for example – I don’t think it’s ok to make fat jokes. The same goes for short men – show some sensitivity.

Let’s examine some qualities of what Tinder considers douches

 

  • A self employed CEO
  • Has a bluetooth
  • Tips minimum
  • Late because charging vape
  • Is into fitness, and you should be too
  • Posts gym sessions on instagram
  • ‘This body wasn’t built for monogamy’
  • Eggplant emojis as opener
  • Come hungry as closer

Of this list, I’d say tipping minimum is perhaps the only actual douche behavior, and eggplant emoji, depending on whether you’re into that kind of thing.

Here’s where Tinder needs to get it straight:

There’s nothing wrong with being into the gym, being non-monogamous, or owning your own business. 

It’s straight up misandric bullshit to try shame men for possessing these qualities – things that they’re probably quite proud of.

If I’m to hazard a guess here – that these stereotypes are seen as acceptable targets – because they’re ‘successful men’ – and can therefore take take being taken down a notch.

However – what Tinder needs to realise – is that it’s not just men fitting the stereotype, or men who water rolls of the duck’s back of,  that sees these videos.

I think we need to consider men in the context of having higher rates of suicide, and higher rates of computer and video game addiction. Within that context – we shouldn’t be trying to tear men’s sense of self esteem and value away from them. If men get that from owning their own business, or working out – that that should be encouraged, not criticised for being douchey.

What it suggests to me – is that Tinder’s willingness to go along with this campaign – means that they don’t value men’s feelings nearly as highly as women’s. That again reinforces the social norm of male disposability.

Douchey behaviour that Tinder could have used.

The thing is – this could have been quite an interesting and positive campaign – if Tinder had seeked to address actual toxic or unappealing behaviour.

Here’s a quick list, if they need inspiration:

  • Boring first messages, ‘Sup’, ‘How are you’ guy.
  • Main hobbies are playing video games and trolling on the internet, and nothing outside of that guy.
  • Ten days unwashed dishes guy.
  • Responds with abuse at rejection guy.
  • Only wants to talk about you guy.
  • Only wants to talk about him guy.
  • Never suggests going on a date guy.
  • Insists on a first date at your place guy.
  • Is cheating on his girlfriend guy.
  • Selfish lover guy.

How women can foster non-douchey behaviour Tinder

Let’s get this ball rolling.

  • Send the first message. Set the frame for the conversation. Want flirty banter? Want a challenging argument? Want a standard get to know each other conversation? Your message determines that.
  • Unmatch severe douches. Train men with negative reinforcement.
  • Call out mild douchey behaviour. See if there’s a correction of behaviour.
  • Respond to desired behaviour with positive reinforcement. Personally, I like the 😍 emoji

God. This must be what being a Cosmopoliton writer must feel like.

‘But it’s just a joke David, stop taking it so seriously’.

Jokes are never just jokes. Jokes are generally funny because they have a kernel of truth (or what the joke teller purports to be the truth).

Just like how telling racist jokes creates a hostile environment for black people, or telling sexist jokes creates a hostile environment for women  – these guys of jokes create an hostile environment for men.

Now – I would suggest that there’s a brand of feminism that is ok with this – men need to be taken down a notch because either that’s justice, or because that makes it easier for women to achieve equality. I don’t want to get get into this line of argument here – but I would make two points – that this is likely to be not effective, it’s just likely to cause division between men and women, and that this philosophy directly contradicts the argument that ‘feminism is for the interests of both men and women’.

Reactions from the internet

The reactions on their Twitter and Facebook threads has been almost entirely negative – mostly pointing out that it’s sexist and douchey in itself. There’s also a lot of comments from men saying how they don’t get matches – would would seem to confirm comment I made in the first section.

This does take us to a point of personal conflict for me. While I clearly agree with the commenters in this instance – in other gendered hot topics on the internet – there is often a reaction of faux victimisation from what can be fairly considered alt-right types. (I’m struggling to think of examples here right now though – maybe revisit this later).

Bottom Line

A pretty gross campaign.

Not the right way to go about creating a society of confident, respectful men, at all.

I’m curious to hear from my feminist friends about this. While Tinder has faced a bit of criticism on social media about this – the feminist community as a whole are quite quiet about it. There’s definitely no social media storm about it – which does suggest that people simply don’t care about this kind of toxic gender dynamic.

There is though – the chance that this is a long running deeper social critique – that explores things like gender norms around height attraction, and all will be revealed in time. If I was taking a bet, I’d bet against that happening though.

movie reviews · politics

The Red Pill documentary – Not the cesspool of misogyny you might think it is.

Image result for the red pill documentary

The Red Pill is a documentary film about a self identified feminist Cassie Hayes and her investigating the Men’s Right’s Activism movement. The film features interviews with prominent MRAs like Paul Elam, counterpoint interviews with feminists, and footage of confrontations between feminists and MRAs.

The film starts with Cassie explaining that she’d heard of deeply misogynistic MRAs and so looks in to investigate. The film ends with her saying ‘I don’t know where I’m headed, but I know what I’ve left behind – I no longer call myself a feminist’.

My overall impressions on this film as a film is positive. The production quality is good, and I was engaged throughout. This film is easy to watch.

I think it’s fair to say that the film is a pro-MRA film, despite its claim that it started out as critical investigation of MRAs.

I found the film very convincing, it that it made persuasive arguments that MRAs can be reasonable people with legitimate grievances.

The film covers a few specific MRA issues, which I’ll cover – but I think the main point of the film is not intended as a comprehensive run down of men’s rights issues, but to portray MRAs as reasonable people, and also to highlight the conflict between MRAs and feminists, or to suggest that the portrayal of MRAs as misogynists is unfounded.

Some of the issues covered were:

  • Men are subject to wrongful paternity or paternity fraud, and in some cases legislation prevents men from having recourse. (For example, the film mentions how in France paternity testing is illegal without the mother’s consent).
  • It presents the example of Carnell Alexander, where the law in some places is such that in order for a woman to qualify for welfare they need to put a name on a birth certificate, which has some men being put on birth certificates when they’re not the father.
  • One MRA tells a heartbreaking story about the parenting dispute with his ex over their son. He alleges that she was intentionally overfeeding him, and whereby he eventually gives up custody. In this story – I wish I could have heard the other side of the story, not that interviewing the mother was necessarily possible.

One bit that did give me pause was when an MRA was giving an example of wrong paternity, the example he gives is ‘Ok, we went to a party, I had sex with six guys, I think it was when I was hanging out the window I got pregnant I’m not sure.. and then she names one of the other guys who didn’t have sex with her’.
I thought this hypothetical situation was gratuitous and fell on the slutshaming siding of things. A more neutral example of wrongful paternity could have been given.

There are several moments that to me do strike me as legitimate grievances of men’s rights activists or criticisms of feminism.

For example, there’s footage of feminists confronting men’s rights activists that looks pretty awful.

Or this scene from a talk show where women cheer tricking a man into concieving a child:

 

There were a couple of points that I found poignant, and that I hadn’t considered:

  • The concept of men being objectified as a ‘success object’ in the same way that women have been objectified as sex objects.
  • Cassie mentions that whenever MRAs bring up men’s issues, she feels the need to respond with women’s issues. She then considers that perhaps when MRAs have been doing this in response to feminist talking points, it’s same thing, suggesting that the conflict between MRAs and feminists maybe due to each failing to empathise with each other.

 

Criticisms and thoughts about the men’s rights movement in general

The title of the film is unnecessarily inflamatory.

The term ‘The Red Pill’ initially comes from the move The Matrix, describing the choice to to see the real world.

The term has since been adopted by a reddit community /r/theredpill which subscribes to a toxic gender essentialism which suggest that women like being dominated, and also by alt right / 4chan types as verb to mean ‘what’s the hidden truth about’.

Image result for red pill me on

I think the term does a disservice to the film, by associating with these toxic men’s movements. I suspect the term was intentionally used, to court controversy and get exposure.

An alternative view would be that if Cassie genuinely did set out with the view that she was investigating a misogynistic movement, then she couldn’t change the name once she realised that there was a distinction between MRAs and redpillers. (This does appear to be the case – as is evidenced in this reddit AMA).

Cassie briefly that there’s a distinction between men’s rights activists, red pillers and men going their own way (MGTOW), right at the end of the film.

I think this is where male gender politics deserves a good look it.

I’m of the opinion that there are genuine issues that men uniquely or disproportionally face, and also that there is a toxic form of misandric feminism that is being left unchecked. I think the instant dismissal of men’s rights activists is unwarranted and unconstructive.

However, I acknowledge that there is a huge amount of crossover between men’s rights activism, and what I consider genuinely toxic male subcultures such as red pillers, the alt right and gamer gate.

Giving feminists the benefit of the doubt, I would suggest many feminists see toxic cultures like gamer gate or /r/theredpill and erroneously conflate that with what I’d consider genuine men’s rights activism.

I think the term ‘men’s rights activism’ has its own problems too. It’s been effectively stigmatised as anti-feminist or misogynistic – and as a result I think many liberal minded level headed men, although sympathetic to men’s rights issues, are unwilling to adopt the label themselves. The remaining men are then more likely to be of a more bitter or dug in persuasion.

For example, I don’t agree with Paul Elam’s strategy in writing  ‘Bash a violent bitch month‘, where he’s satirizing using a deliberately inflammatory tone in response to this Jezebel article. I think Elam’s technique is misguided, if not outright misogynistic and it’s not constructive. The Jezebel article I think is callous in its tone, I suspect it’s meant to received with a tone on apology, but they don’t make that explicit. Elam’s response on the other hand, is pretty disturbing.

That brings me to where I’m at: stuck between not really wanting to associate with the bitterness or misogyny that I see as common in the men’s rights movement, and also not wanting to be stigmatised as a misogynist myself; but also wanting to talk about men’s issues and be critical of what I think is some pretty toxic elements of feminism – such as wanting to suppress the discussion of men’s issues or dismissed it as either deserved or misogynistic.

This is where I would like Cassie Jaye to go next. She’s created one documentary that starts out investigating an apparently misogynistic subculture and then presented as reasonable and with legitimate grievances. What I’d like to see a documentary that investigates the genuinely misogynistic subcultures, and draws a distinction between their various political ideologies, as well as presenting where men’s rights activists and feminist identifying men are positioned in relation.

 

Conclusion

Well produced film. Cassie Jaye definitely has talent as a film producer. Having watched the film, it’s hard to see how it warrants people wanting to shut the film down for being misogynistic. At most, any criticism of the film should be on its academic merits, and for me it’s more concerning that there’s a culture of actively trying to censor this kind of film.

I recommend this movie to anyone with an interest in gender politics. Regardless of what you think about men’s rights activism, I think this movie is a good start for men and women to start talking about the issues men face.

As final insight of how this film has been received – here’s a video showing the creator on morning news show – where it’s apparent they’ve made their mind up about the film without watching it. I suspect that for many feminists who haven’t seen the film, they too may hold the same preconception. If you need something to convince you to watch the film, then watch this clip – she’s a very persuasive speaker and holds herself well.

 

 

politics · Uncategorized

Female empowerment, success objects, and male mental health.

Here’s a chart I discovered recently that concerns me:

Capture2
Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1414751/

It shows a steady increase in the male teen suicide rate, while the suicide rate for female teens remains flat.

On my Twitter feed today, this article from Sophia Graham of the Mental Foundation responds to Mark Dawson’s editorial suggesting that increasing male suicide is linked to their relative less prominent role in society.

Mark says:

One explanation for this disproportion may be the growing empowerment of women and their increasing role in society.

Is an unfortunate side effect that men feel less secure, less sure of their place in a world where they were once more dominant?

Perhaps it reflects the work pressures on men – still usually the main bread-winner. Working males make up a significant proportion of the grim statistics.

Sophia is critical of Mark’s editorial. The headline reads ‘A response to the newspaper editor who thinks feminism may cause male suicide’ though Mark never mentions the term ‘feminism’.

Sophia makes a few points I take issue with:

  • Male suicide rates have always been higher than female suicide rates.
    • This is true – but male suicide rates are also growing. She doesn’t acknowledge this. Correction: in New Zealand suicide rates appear to be on the decline. The excel spread sheet linked from here from Stats NZ  shows a steady increase of suicide rate of both women and men of about 50% from 1985 to 1998 and then a steady decline since then.
  • She says his comments are dangerous. She makes the argument that Mark’s article contributes to the traditional culture of male stoicism.
    • I fail to see how this is the case. Mark’s article is precisely highlighting that one aspect of traditional masculinity is seeing men’s value as an economic provider, and that their changing role in society may lead men feeling disempowered and turning to suicide as a result.
    • Instead it’s Sophia that is reinforcing this gender norm, by shutting down an attempt to encourage looking at the the changing definition of masculinity and how that’s affecting men today. Sophia shames men for talking about their  response to currently defined masculinity by labeling it as dangerous and anti-woman’s empowerment.
  • She makes the point that ” male suicide rates are tied more closely to economic pressures than changing social roles”.
    • The source she cites does indeed mention the decline of traditional male industries as a factor in male suicide. However, the same source also makes a point that traditional conceptions of masculinity also play a role – one of those expressions of masculinity being providing for the family, especially amongst working class men.
  • She says that he shows a lack of compassion towards females who live with depression or anxiety.
    • Mark’s article was specifically talking about male suicide. Sophia’s criticism is a ‘whataboutism’ argument. Given that in New Zealand 3/4 suicides are men, it make sense to pay special attention to why men are doing it.

The one thing I would criticise about Mark’s article is where he says

[suicide is] one area where women don’t want gender equality

this is a cheap shot and is a broad generalisation that serves to paint an uncaring picture of women.

Overall – this was an incredibly disappointing response from the Mental Health Foundation. Instead of congratulating Mark for starting a discussion about this one particular aspect of mental health – she attempts to shut it down by labeling it as dangerous.

The Mental Health Foundation is an organisation that I respect and support, but this is one case of I think them doing exactly the wrong thing.

Sophia ends the piece with

I acknowledge your editorial contained some valid and interesting remarks on the how the pressures men face can contribute to suicide. It’s a shame these were left unexplored.

and to be fair – Mark’s article was quite short, all he’s really doing is saying ‘this is an issue that men are uniquely facing, and we need to do more to focus on it’.

But instead of taking advantage of a teachable moment – and articulating just what the factors and trends of male suicide are, she instead just the discussion as dangerous – without, in my opinion, really conclusively refuting it.

So here I go to further expound what I think Mark was getting at.

Sex objects vs success objects. 

The term sex object or sexual objectification has been used in feminist discourse to describe how society reduces women’s value to society as their function to provide sexual gratification.

This has been frustrating to women, where they’ve felt that their potential contributions to business, science etc has been marginalized because of this.

Using the same lens to look at men’s roles in society – we can use the term ‘success object’.

That is – men’s value to society is a function of their ability to win, to be an economic provider.

In our historic society with traditional gender roles this was easier to achieve for the man – even a single low skilled worker’s pay was enough to support a family.

However in modern times average guy’s ability to get this kind of role has disappeared, while the expectation that he can do this remains.

Research shows that despite women’s increased participation in the economy – educated women still prefer to marry men who earn than them. 

Pointing this out isn’t an argument against female empowerment. It’s argument for redefining masculinity in the modern era – and that involves allowing men to say ‘I feel pressure to earn a lot of money so I can attract a mate’. Perhaps then we’ll get a conversation about what society values in men instead.

But shutting these conversations down as dangerous or disempowering to women is not the right way to go. That only causes feelings of male disempowerment to fester unseen.

 

politics

Emma Watson identifies as a feminist, and that’s ok.

I start from a starting point of being critical of the feminist label.

I’ve written before about how I don’t identify as a feminist (amongst other things).

I don’t buy the argument that ‘feminism is simply a set of political beliefs that encompass advocating equality between the sexes’. If it were, whether one identifies as a feminist or not, wouldn’t be controversial, as it was when Meryl Streep said that she doesn’t identify as a feminist.

I would say that any argument that dismisses the personal identity aspect of the feminist label (like this Jezebel argument does) , is a No True Scotsman fallacy. 

In my experience of online dating, in particular on OKCupid (which tends to have a more political and pro-kink ambience than Tinder) it’s common to see the label feminist used, or even specific mentions that ‘I only want to date feminists’.

In one of my OKCupid profiles, I mentioned that I think there’s a cult-like pressure to conform – to adopt the feminist label. I think that attitude is reflected in the Jezebel article I mentioned.

What I’m critical of here, is the pressure to adopt the label and associated political beliefs at the expense of critical political reasoning.

So that’s my starting point – I’m critical of pressure to adopt the feminist label.

With that starting point, let’s take a step back and look at someone who arguably is the world’s most famous contemporary feminist – Emma Watson.

emmawatson

Emma Watson has been an outspoken proponent of feminism, notably being the UN Women Goodwill ambassador and creating a feminist book club.

Emma Watson is in a position of influence. If her statements identifying as a feminist, as well as her actions, inspire or enable women around the world to be more empowered then that’s a good thing. Emma Watson has the position of a role model – in this case encouraging women to be empowered women, which I can only see as a good thing.

I see this as the same kind of goodness as if Emma Watson spent her efforts advocating healthy eating (like Michelle Obama has done) or encouraging people to get in to tech.

If then, it’s ok for Emma Watson to identify as a feminist – I don’t think it’s any different for a woman on OKCupid. A woman on OKCupid identifying as a feminist may either empower other women reading her profile, or influence men reading her profile to respect empowered women.

I’m still critical of dogmatic feminist attitudes, but sending loud feminist social signals, in itself, I don’t think is a bad thing.

politics

A redrawing of political lines.

The election of Donald Trump and the subsequent discourse demonstrates a radical redrawing of political lines.

Previously, I think we could have drawn political divide the following way:

Left Right
Socially progressive (pro LGBT+ rights, minority rights, pro abortion rights) Socially conservative. ‘Traditional values’, pro-life
Believes climate change Climate change deniers
More athiestic More religious (Christian)
Rationality based reasoning Values based reasoning
Suspicious of ‘corporate America’ Corporate America an example of American values

In the wake of Donald Trump’s election, I’ve noticed a radical divergence from this model – where people who I’d previously put on the left of the spectrum, now appear to either support or apologise (defend) for Donald Trump.

On the other hand – the pro-trump community takes pride in being a pro-LGBT community.

The Skeptic Community

The skeptic community is one that is typically atheistic, rational, and tends to be liberal leaning. What we see now is members of the skeptic community supporting or apologising for Trump primarily  out of a reaction to the SJW community, or because they believe that Hillary is worse than Trump.

This tends to be justified with ‘science isn’t the most important thing’

Conspiracy Theorists

Conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones, (full disclosure: I don’t follow Alex Jones, so my research for this section is just a few google searches I’ve made now) haven’t ever been particularly supportive of any government.

For example, look at this old article from when George W. Bush was in power.

Now have a look at this video of Alex Jones talking about Donald Trump:

Alex Jones appears to like Donald Trump – because he’s an anti-establishment politician, I guess.

It’s an interesting pivot – from always being critical of those in power, to now supporting the current government.

Trump supporters aren’t just idiot rednecks.

It’s clear to me that Trump supporters, or Trump apologists aren’t just idiots who couldn’t see through his lies. There are clearly quite a few Trump supporters or apologists who are capable of reasoned debate.

I think the difference between a rational person who opposes Trump, and a rational person who supports Trump (over Hillary) comes down to values. Note I stop short of saying ‘I don’t think all Trump supporters are hateful’, because I think that that is the essence of it.

I think rational Trump supporters don’t mind watching the world burn. 

Perhaps this is a reflection of my own privilege. I think the world has been becoming a better place. People are more educated, people are more informed (or perhaps not?), we have more freedom over our careers, we are healthier and living longer, we’re more comfortable. Climate change is concerning, but we appear to be making progress.

But of course, I say that as an educated, middle class white man, who works in IT. I can see my career progressing. If I a working class man in the manufacturing industry, not knowing whether I was going to have a job next year – I might not share my optimism.

It’s my optimism that has me dispelling the idea that Hillary Clinton would be awful. Sure, Hillary Clinton might be the status quo, but the status quo has been serving us OK.

I get the argument that Trump might shake up the political establishment, and cause more radical change, but I don’t think things are so desperately bad that they warrant electing someone with such hateful and alarming rhetoric.

I can accept the argument that the disenfranchisement  of white lower or middle class voters caused the election of Donald Trump, but that doesn’t make it right or a good result.

Sure, the election of Donald Trump shows that there are issues societal disenfranchisement, but the election of Donald Trump is not the right solution.

On ‘Trump is a reaction to social justice warriors’

I agree that the left has a problem with letting SJWs run unchecked. In my opinion, a lot of what is labelled as SJWry is people finding reasons to hate others, in the guise of social justice.

However, there are extremists on all ends of political spectrums, I don’t think SJWs are a problem with left itself. I do think think that the left needs to take bigger efforts to shut it down.

I don’t buy the argument that ‘feminism is redundant’ for example. Glass ceilings still exist, our dating culture can be improved, and certainly in the US, several states make it difficult to get abortions. I make a distinction between feminism that is aimed at improving our dating culture, getting consent being added to the sexual health curriculum, and feminism that is aimed at shaming men for the way they sit on a bus.

However, I don’t buy the argument that SJWs are so bad, that you’d elect someone who thinks we should bomb terrorists’ families, or questions why we can’t use nukes. Instead I would suggest viewing SJWs as a concerning bubble, which should be addressed isolation, just as we address anti-vaxxers or 9/11 conspiracy theorists. That is – address them for sure, but don’t throw out your whole political ideology to do so.

book reviews

Book Review: I am Malala

About a year ago I dated a feminist who had a thing where, with the exception of music, she’d prefer to consume media that was produced by women.

This inspired me, as part of my 2016 New Year Resolutions, to read a book written by a woman.

When I tell people this, they laugh – as if I’m implying that it’s so hard to read a book written by a woman. Actually – this book is the only book I’ve read this year.

It took several attempts to find a book that I could get into. Before I started I Am Malala, I also tried:

  • A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin
    This is a fantasy novel. I got about one quarter through this book. It was well written, but I gave up when it started giving the ins and outs of how magic works. I felt it was too much work for make believe, but maybe I should have stuck with it.
  • The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton.
    I don’t think I made it through the first chapter of this Man Booker prize winning novel. Every person I mentioned this to who had attempted the book had the same experience.
  • Hard Choices by Hillary Clinton
    I got a couple of chapters through this non-fiction account. It’s quite a dry and logistical account of things – ‘and then I appointed so and so’. It’s not an autobiography, it starts from when she was appointed Secretary of State, and it assumes that you already know a lot about the context of her life and career.

Eventually I picked up I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb, which I was able to finish.

Malala Yousafzai is woman from the Swat region of Pakistan, who in 2012, when she was 15, was shot by members of the Taliban for her involvement in activism advocating education for girls. She survived the shooting and made international headlines.

iammalala

I was impressed with the content of this book. It’s comprehensive. She talks about the history of military coups in Pakistan, the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, the change of politics since 9/11, and rise of the Taliban in Pakistan.

I learned a lot reading this book. For example:

  • That the Taliban had a very active presence in Pakistan (not just Afghanistan).
  • The history of military coups in Pakistan.
  • The changing nature of politics in the region. For example the conservative, anti-woman politics were something that only arose due to the growing influence of the Taliban.

What’s apparent from the book, and she gives a great deal of attention to – is the role her father played in her becoming the person she is now, and her being targeted by the Taliban. Her father, Ziauddan Yousafzai is an (incredibly brave) outspoken activist for girls’ education and ran a school in the region.

I was impressed with the content of the book, but the writing itself, was a bit overwritten and boring.

A good book for me, makes itself easy to be read. I found with this book, it was quite an effort to read it. Maybe I have a bad reading atttitude, but then I said the same thing when I was reading The Ethical Slut, and found it wasn’t a the case when I read a book that I particularly enjoyed (Everything I ever needed to know about economics, I learned from online dating).

The single thing I would say would make the book better, would be to make it a lot shorter. Shorten all the sentences, and eliminate the cruft. I think the book could about 50-75% of it’s current length.

I suspect that there’s a bit of optics being played here. I imagine the publishers or other advisers felt that a shorter book wouldn’t be taken as seriously, and wouldn’t play into the ‘child genius’ portrayal of Malala. I don’t think Malala isn’t a child genius – she’s clearly very smart – but I don’t think she needs to write an long book to prove it.

Throughout the book Malala consistently asserts her Muslim faith and the book ends with a profession to her faith.

Islam is of course is a central theme in the book. The Taliban are using Islam to justify their world view (where girls shouldn’t be educated, and women should often not be heard from), while Malala holds the view that this world view is not the correct interpretation of Islam.

She doesn’t address atheism, which is disappointing, but perhaps something for a future book. As I’ve said before, I think we should be more critical of religious belief, and so while I like Malala’s politics, I would like to see her address the question of ‘What about athiesm? Is Islamic belief irrational and counter to the science you advocate?’.

Overall – a book packed with good content. I look forward to further books by Malala Yousafzai.