Thursday, 25 June 2015

More Feminist Bullshit

This cartoon has been doing the rounds again. Reading it pissed me off in a unique way so I thought I'd set about immediately de-bunking some of it's bullshit.

The question put forward is that, if we live in a society that is dominated by the routine sexual harassment of women, then why is it apparently invisible? I think the important thing to note is that this cartoon, whilst stressing various types of examples of perceived harassment, does not actually demonstrate that such harassment is endemic. It doesn't answer the question, because, of course, it can't. Sexual harassment exists - of course it does, the crime figures alone speak for that - but it is not endemic. According to a recent crime survey published by the ONS, sexual offences number approximately 500,000 per year, out of a population of 64 million. That is approximately 0.78% - in other words, less than one in a hundred people experience sexual abuse, including harassment, in any one year. Of those complainants, 440,000 were women - clearly indicating that sexual abuse/harassment is a bigger problem for women than it is for men. But on that basis, the occurrence rate is still only 1.4% - less than one in fifty. I would hardly describe that as endemic. The cartoon is therefore already operating under a false premise - that sexual harassment is endemic. But it's not. We've just used facts to disprove that. Moving on.

The cartoon maintains that harassment, like rape, is a method of control, rather than a product of sexual desire. Really? The jury is far from settled on that argument. There is a convincing argument that rape can be used as a mechanism for control and humiliation, but to say that it is completely removed from sexual desire is dubious at best. If sexual desire is not a factor, then why are younger women more likely to be raped than older women? Why are women wearing short skirts and skimpy tops in night clubs more likely to be groped than others? Of course control is a factor, but to argue that harassment and other forms of sexual abuse are totally divorced from sexual desire is hugely misleading.

The cartoon then goes on to give several examples of how women's bodies are regarded as 'public property', in an attempt to justify how it believes that women are subject to social controls. The two examples cited are:

  • Abortion Law - the cartoon implies that it is unjust that women are forced to endure a 'waiting period' of 24 hours before they undergo a safe, routine operation. This is based on two false premises:
    • Firstly, that abortion is solely a decision that affects women and their bodies. It is not. It affects another individual to a far greater degree; indeed, it is a matter of life and death. The person in question is of course, the unborn child. Given that we ascribe more rights in law to some animals than we do to a foetus, I don't think that making someone wait 24 hours to consider what is, in effect, infanticide, is too much of an ask;
    • Secondly, an abortion is not necessarily a safe operation. Depending on the term carried to date, it involves either a vacuum pump or surgical instrument being inserted into the womb via the vagina, which is then used to 'evacuate' (i.e. chop up & hoover) the unborn foetus. Either is obviously terminal for the foetus, but can cause harm to the mother, be it either physical or emotional;
    • This is without even starting on the ethical and philosophical points which concern the father, and the merits of giving him a say on the life or death of his child. But without going into that particular area, it's fair to say that a 24-hour cooling off period is certainly not a cultural attempt to exert control over women's bodies, but more a balanced attempt of making women realise the consequences of their actions.
  • Slut-Shaming - a social idiom that postulates that women are perfectly entitled to dress how they like, and no matter their appearance, men should be calm and respectful around them at all times. Regrettably, this is somewhat removed from reality. Of course, women should be entitled to dress how they will. I (a male, which no doubt you have guessed) am also entitled to dress how I like. But if I decide to walk down the street in ass-less chaps, aviator sunglasses and dancing to YMCA, I think it's fair to assume that I would attract some attention from homosexual men. Hence, I do not dress in that manner. Likewise, when a woman walks down the street dressed in a mini-skirt and a boob-tube, of course it will attract male attention. That's a basic tenet of human sexuality - generally, men like to look at women, and women like men to look at them. Of course, this does not justify sexual assault or rape, which are still crimes, but to pretend that women are perfectly entitled to walk around in a protective bubble, insulated from the realities of life and the consequences of their decisions, is a ridiculous, infantile and contemptible notion. This is not an attempt to control women - it is merely an obvious consequence of human sexuality, i.e. that men are attracted to women, and the more they approach nakedness, the more attractive they will appear. Mostly.

The next frame highlights groping, wherein I agree with its stance - groping is a sexual assault, and therefore unjustified and criminal. If you like a girl, and feel the need to make a pass at her, start out with a smile, for fuck's sake. However, I disagree in its implication that such behaviour is endemic, which we have already discussed.

The cartoon then goes on to suggest that men see public spaces as 'their' spaces, and therefore women passing through them need to be controlled through this 'micro-aggressive' behaviour. It goes on to give examples, such as:
  • Calling someone 'sweetheart' - apparently this is sexist. I will correct the nice lady in the supermarket who calls me 'darling' every time I go in to buy my lunch. Don't be fucking ridiculous - it's a general term of endearment, and not every deployment of it will be sexist or patronising. It depends entirely on context and inflection. This hypersensitivity and propensity to take offence at every single fucking thing is part of the reason why modern feminism is so damned infantile;
  • A man sitting down(!) - this alludes to 'manspreading', a feminist theory where men deliberately spread their legs, breaching a woman's 'personal space' in order to make her feel insecure. What fucking bollocks. Seriously, women get stoned to death for being raped in the Middle East, and modern feminism dreams up 'manspreading'. How fucking childish. Let's talk about 'femspreading', shall we, where women take up additional seats with their handbags/shopping? Or a social expectation that a man must give up his seat to a woman? Utter shite - grow up. There is limited space on public transport, and just because you're a woman doesn't give you the right to an invisible force field that extends for six feet around your body. If a bloke's legs are touching yours, you could politely ask him to shift them. He'd probably say, 'of course! Sorry, didn't even realise what I was doing!' But no. The myth of micro-aggression suits the feminist agenda better;
  • Criticising the way women speak - this would be pretty patronising, I'll admit - but again, I challenge the tacit assumption that it's endemic. I cannot recall anyone ever saying that to a woman that I've heard. Of course, that is anecdotal, but so is the implication that it's endemic.

Again, it seeks to reinforce that sexual harassment is exclusively about control, particularly the control of public spaces and the women in them. Yet this is a straw man argument - sexual harassment does have an element of sexual desire. There can be some harassment with negative sexual connotations, but this does not fall into the definition of sexual harassment. Grabbing a woman's arse without her consent is assault - calling her fat is merely rude.

We then have the postulation that women accompanied by men are less likely to be the victims of sexual harassment, as other men see them as being the property of the man accompanying them. This, again, is pure conjecture, with very little evidence to back this up. True, lone women are more likely to be the victims of sexual assault, but the definition of company does not extend just to men. Women in a group are less likely to be victims. Sexual harassment, like other forms of crime, exhibits opportunist characteristics - offenders pick victims who pose the least risk to them. This is risk management driven by the desire to achieve an outcome, i.e. sexual gratification. And in terms of the postulation that such offenders are less likely to challenge a man... again, this is pure bullshit. Men are more likely to be the victims of crime. Granted, they are less likely to be sexually harassed... they are more likely to be assaulted, robbed, or murdered. A man is not a deterrent to crime, he is a magnet.

What follows is a series of anecdotal examples to justify this assertion. The first is the 'he is so whipped' scenario - implying a man who is not in control of a woman is less of a man, and therefore deserving of an insult. The truth behind the statement, which many feminists cannot possibly understand, is that it is rarely delivered by men as a genuine insult, but more as a statement of pity. Men tend to feel more controlled in a relationship than women.

The next is a man apologising to another man for making advances to 'his' girl - this is not a symptom of control, but rather a symptom of human sexuality. Women, by virtue of their higher reproductive risks, tend to be more selective in their choices of partner. They tend to choose men who are more likely to provide them with healthy offspring, e.g. good-looking men, and provide them with shelter and security, e.g. rich men. Men therefore have to compete with each other for a finite resource, i.e. women's attention. If a man is making advances to a woman and another man turns up, he is very rarely apologetic. If anything, the natural response is frustration that someone else has beaten him to it. This situation is therefore incredibly rare. It is not an issue of control for men. It is an issue of competition, brought about by women's selective tendencies.

The next example, where a woman stops an insistent man's advances by indicating that she is 'taken', is accurate, but not for the motives implied. Again, it is not about control, it is about competition. A man is unlikely to try further advances with a woman who is 'taken', for several reasons:
  • We live in a society which values monogamy. To pursue an already-taken woman would therefore come at a certain social cost, which may even erect barriers to developing further relationships;
  • Again, men tend to regard other men as competitors - for resources and sex. Another cock in the hen house is the last thing a man wants, and a man making advances knows damn well what his first emotional response would be to someone moving on his girlfriend - a strong desire to see off that competitor with his fists. It's a risk assessment exercise - generally, men don't want to get beaten up.
The last example is where a man objectifies a woman, referring to her as an object, i.e. 'wouldn't mind having that for a night'. Seriously? We're putting this forward as evidence of endemic sexism against women? In that case, just about every woman on the planet is guilty of exactly the same thing. Here's a quick newsflash: humans sexually objectify each other all the time, regardless of gender. If women didn't objectify men, then there would be no such thing as Diet Coke adverts, fireman's calendars, Magic Mike, Fifty Shades of Grey, footballers doing modelling shoots, rich old men with wives 20 years younger than them, etc. Do men regard these things as evidence of endemic sexism against men? No. Perhaps they should.

A man commenting that a woman is sexually attractive to him is not, repeat not, sexual harassment. It is a simple expression of sexuality. A bit like walking down the street in high heels and a mini-skirt. You know, something we should be free to do?

So what does the feminist cartoon implore men to do? Help them perpetuate this mythos, of course! But the first thing is to 'believe us! Don't deny or minimise our experiences!' In other words, take what women say at face value, without bothering to check up on things like rationality or evidence. The implication of this is that whatever a woman says must be correct, because a woman said it. This is absolute bollocks, as it refuses to countenance the possibility that a woman could exaggerate, or even outright lie. This is so patently false that it is beyond my ability to express contempt.

And of course, it then encourages men to close down apparently 'sexist' behaviour, even when such behaviour is nowhere near as prevalent as implied. It also implies that sticking up for women is a 'good thing to do', and that it will therefore have positive consequences for the man. This is classic 'white knight' behaviour, which is an exploitation of the male psyche. Our society conditions us that the best thing a man can do is to 'look after' a woman, and that you'll be effectively rewarded for doing so. The greatest reward that a man desires is sex, plain and simple. It is the very essence of our biological programming, and the only way we can actually succeed as an individual lifeform, i.e. by passing on our genetic material to our offspring. So this 'white knight' mentality implies - through flawed reasoning on our part and social conditioning on the other - that men who 'stick up' for women will be rewarded with sex.

Except that this is incorrect. Women do not tend to reward 'white knight' behaviour with sex, because it does not match their selection criteria, which as previously discussed, tend to focus on a man's looks and his wealth. 'White knight' behaviour does not increase either a man's looks or his wealth, and therefore is highly unlikely to increase his chances of having sex. Nice guys finish last.

Sexism is a problem in our society, but sexism against women is nowhere near as prevalent as feminists would have us all believe. Sexism against men, on the other hand, is largely ignored. If women want to work with men to build a better world without prejudice, the best thing to do would be to face up to facts rather than distributing stupid cartoons which only serve to pander to invalid arguments. I'm not suggesting that women should feel obliged to shag guys who 'defend' them, nor am I suggesting that men should ignore any kind of sexism against women. But maybe, just maybe, we should all think long and hard about the society we have, and where it's going. Because as a father of both a son and a daughter, I don't want a society where men are either emotionally enslaved or reviled as predators, nor do I want a society which ignores women's concerns.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Ed Miliband: Too Good For Us?

I've seen a few op-eds since the election waxing lyrical about the former Labour leader, Ed Miliband, and how he was an all-round good egg. There's also been a couple of sound-bites from Labourites about how he will be sorely missed, and even that he's 'too good for this fucking country'. I thought that I've got to weigh in on this discussion.

Let's start with my own perceptions of Ed. From the various speeches I saw, I took him to be a reasonably honest man. He had a set of principles which guided him, although he wasn't afraid of being brutal if necessary. He had a good knack of being able to identify the problems the country faced, such as food-banks, in-work poverty, vested interests in various markets and the media and disproportionate influence in politics. He wasn't afraid of confronting these issues and trying to grapple with them.

All that being said, he led the Labour Party to its worst defeat at the ballot box since 1987, and its worst thrashing in Scotland since it was founded. So why did the electorate reject him? The answer is simple.

Ed Miliband was a very good Leader of the Opposition. His job was to identify and highlight flaws in Government policy, which he did extremely well. The problem is, if you're Leader of the Opposition, then you have to simultaneously paint yourself as Prime Minister in Waiting. And that was what Ed Miliband was terrible at.

Voters do not elect parties that simply identify problems. Voters elect parties that put forward practical solutions. Any bore in the local boozer can tell you what's wrong with the country, but it takes someone special to create a compelling vision of how to improve things. Ed Miliband did not convince on that measure. He was asking all the right questions, but his solutions left a lot to be desired. And so the British people looked at him, listened to what he had to say, and then said, 'very nice, but you ain't the man for the job.'

The reason that Miliband was so popular with the Left was that he took them well into their comfort zone. For five years, they had tremendous fun, having a go a baby-eating, benefit-cutting Tories. They took to the streets, waved their placards, had deep intellectual conversations about the 'progressive majority', and the popular desire for socialism, radicalism, statism and just about every other -ism going. It made them feel brilliant, because that's what they did when they were teenagers, and who doesn't want to remember those heady days of youth?

And they achieved precisely fuck-all, because most people in this country aren't teenagers, and have grown up. Most people in this country don't have time to cock about London being kettled and sitting in a smelly tent outside St. Paul's, because they're too busy working full time. Most people are pretty fucking pissed that their rents are too high and their energy bills mean they have to wear jumpers all the fucking time, but they also recognise that slapping arbitrary price controls onto something probably won't work. Most people are pretty fucked off that the great train of state was rather unceremoniously derailed a few years back, driven too fast around the curve by twatty bankers and incompetent regulators. They're also pretty pissed with the train mechanics, who didn't check the fucking brakes properly, and certainly aren't minded to give them their jobs back.

Ed Miliband was a good Leader of the Opposition, and is probably a decent human being as well. But he would've been a fucking awful Prime Minister, and all the nicest op-eds in the world aren't going to change that