Friday, 16 July 2010

The Rather Wonderful Christina Hoff Sommers

There are, to be fair, some good people out there working under the banner of feminism. Here is my favourite, Christina Hoff Sommers, author of the classics Who Stole Feminism & The War Against Boys. She is a tremendously inspiring example of how to speak fairly & honestly to both men & women.

The Equal Pay Day Reality Check

By Christina Hoff Sommers

The claim that American women as a group face systemic wage discrimination is groundless.

Today [April 20] is Equal Pay Day. Feminist groups and political leaders have set aside this day to protest the fact that women’s wages are, on average, 78 percent of men’s wages. “This date symbolizes how far into 2010 women must work to earn what men earned in 2009,”says the National Committee on Pay Equity. The American Association of University Women (AAUW) has enlisted supporters to wear red “to represent the way the pay gap puts women ‘in the red.’” There will be rallies, speak outs, mass mailings of equity e-cards, and even bake sales featuring cookies with a “bite” taken out to represent women’s losses to men. The National Organization for Women (NOW) suggests women gather together at local bars for “Un-happy Hours” where they can share their dissatisfactions. “See if a local bar, club, or restaurant (try the women-owned ones first!) will give you drink specials [where] women pay 78% of their tabs and men pay 100%.”

Excuse me for interrupting, but this holiday has no basis in reality. Even feminist economists acknowledge that today’s pay disparities are almost entirely the result of women's different life choices—what they study in school, where they work, and how they balance home and career. This is not to deny that some employers will try to pay Jill 78 cents and Jack $1.00 for an identical job. But our strict laws give Jill the right to take that employer to court. The claim that American women as a group face systemic wage discrimination is groundless.

There are by now many reputable studies that refute the assertion that women are being cheated out of a fair salary by unscrupulous employers. In January 2009, the Labor Department posted a study prepared by the CONSAD Research Corporation, “An Analysis of the Reasons for the Disparity in Wages Between Men and Women." It analyzed more than 50 peer-reviewed papers. Labor Department official Charles E. James Sr. summed up the results in his foreword:
This study leads to the unambiguous conclusion that the differences in the compensation of men and women are the result of a multitude of factors and that the raw wage gap should not be used as the basis to justify corrective action. Indeed, there may be nothing to correct. The differences in raw wages may be almost entirely the result of the individual choices being made by both male and female workers.
Psychologist Susan Pinker has aptly noted that men are more likely than women to give priority to salary and promotions over personal fulfillment. Women are not as ready to sacrifice their deep interests in, say, history, psychology, or public policy—“all in order to fix, sell, or distribute widgets” or “to spend the best years of [their lives] planning air conditioning ductwork for luxury condos.” Men also work longer hours and are more willing than women to take dangerous but well-paid jobs as truck drivers, loggers, coal miners, or oil riggers. (My American Enterprise Institute colleague Mark Perry has suggested we designate October 11, 2020, Equal Occupational Fatality Day. That is how far into the future women will have to work to experience the same number of work-related deaths that men experienced in 2008 alone. )

How Misguided Feminism Prevents Relationships

by Pelle Billing

Do men avoid dating successful women? It certainly seems to be a common perception, and British writer Zoe Lewis is so sure of the phenomenon that she claims to understand why men won’t date successful women. According to Lewis, one of her former boyfriends explicitly broke up with her due to her intelligence and professional success:
He told me that he just didn’t want to go out with a woman who was clever and successful. He said it meant that I could never let any discussion go, or concede a flawed argument; I had to solve problems when they arose, and would argue political points with him.
Apparently Zoe Lewis cannot take a hint. The problem quite obviously was not her intelligence nor her success, but the fact that she would never let any discussion go or concede a flawed argument. That kind of behavior has nothing to do with being clever or successful, it is simply the behavior of an obnoxious person!

Let us have a look at another of Lewis’ examples of how men supposedly cannot handle a strong woman:
I invited my new boyfriend to see me perform my one-woman show on stage in London. Before he walked in to the play, we were tactile and it struck me that I had high hopes for the relationship.

An hour later, after watching me on stage and then networking with a group of high-powered theatre people at the aftershow party, he became distant.
Of course he became distant! You invited him to come with you and then you proceeded to ignore him. If you wanted to be able to network freely then it would have been better not to bring a date. Why are you blaming him for becoming distant when you are the one who ignored him first?

The problem here is not that she is a strong and intelligent person, the problem is that she tries too hard to be strong and independent. A relationship cannot be about independence only, if it is, then there is no actual relating going on. How can you form a relationship without vulnerability and connecting to your partner?

Surpringly, Lewis seems to have grasped some of these insights, in spite of her inability to correctly interpret why men pull away from her:
Modern women have learned to regard men as the competition, in order to get ahead professionally. And while men can accept this female aggression in the workplace, they evidently can’t in relationships.
Why would you want to be aggressive towards a man you’re dating? And why would you expect men to accept female aggression in a relationship? These expectations are absurd, and I’m happy that you’ve finally figured out what should have been self-evident.

These days I try to focus less on the flaws of feminism, and more on the potential in educating people about men’s issues. However, in this case I cannot help but blame feminism. Why else would a woman have these strange ideas about relationships? Common sense tells us that being cold, argumentative and aggressive is a lousy strategy for having a nurturing relationship, and yet this seems to be exactly what the writer has pursued in her dating life.

Towards the end of her article, the writer comes up with the most odd quote of them all:
Men love vulnerable women. We need to accept that, just because we’ve changed, we can’t expect them to. I don’t think they can.
So we cannot expect men to start liking cold, argumentative and aggressive women? Wow, that is a surprise. Do you as a woman like men who are cold, argumentative and aggressive? If not, then why do you expect men to like that kind of behavior in you?

Personally, I believe that men and women (on average) have some different preferences when looking for a relationship. Men place more importance on looks and softness, and women on status and confidence. But there are a lot of similarities too, especially when looking for a long term mate. Men and women alike appreciate a partner who is warm, relaxed and not overtly aggressive.

How can these common sense insights have been lost? The only answer I can come up with is that misguided feminism has taught a generation of women that men are opponents and not allies. This insight makes me tremendously sad.

The Feminism Topic

Wonderful video from the ever-fascinating k-rina on the pay gap, sexism, perceived inequality, etc. Most of what needs to be said on all these matters is put here with admirable concision:

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Geldof On Fathers Rights

Excellent documentary from Sir Bob on how fathers are seen in the eyes of the law in Britain at present. Double click on the video to find the other parts.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Arguing with feminists

From Heresy Corner:
According to a now-notorious post by Melissa McEwan, causing great excitement over at CIF this afternoon, it's a form of misogyny to argue with a feminist.
There are the occasions that men – intellectual men, clever men, engaged men – insist on playing devil's advocate, desirous of a debate on some aspect of feminist theory or reproductive rights or some other subject generally filed under the heading Women's Issues. These intellectual, clever, engaged men want to endlessly probe my argument for weaknesses, wrestle over details, argue just for fun. And they wonder, these intellectual, clever, engaged men, why my voice keeps rising and why my face is flushed and why, after an hour of fighting my corner, hot tears burn the corners of my eyes.

Why do you have to take this stuff so personally? ask the intellectual, clever, and engaged men, who have never considered that the content of the abstract exercise that's so much fun for them is the stuff of my life.
Not surprisingly, this line of thought hasn't gone down well with everyone (and to judge by the number of deleted comments, some people have taken it personally). A couple of things strike me - and I realise that even by attempting to be objective about this I am already, by McEwan's lights, displaying my deep-seated hatred of women. So be it. First, there's an essentialism that, in another context, would seem deeply sexist. McEwan appears to be saying that women - or at least women like her, feminists, whatever - are what generations of patriarchal oppressors have assumed that they are, irrational and emotionally (or hormonally) driven creatures incapable of abstract thought, or at least incapable of talking about ideas that affect them personally without becoming overwrought.

Perhaps she's like that herself, where feminist theory is concerned. But then so - in other contexts - are many men. Men who take personally any criticism of their religious traditions, for example. Although McEwan chooses to frame her experience in a Mars/Venus type of explanation - these clever, cynical men playing intellectual games over the stuff of women's deepest pain, they just don't get it - she could just as well be a spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain explaining how some fairly innocuous cartoon is a source of untold personal suffering for believers. Instead of engagement with the argument, answering objections (which do presumably have answers) - and thus, potentially, winning new supporters - comes the demand to shut up, acknowledge the profundity of feeling, show respect.
There is the perplexity at my fury that my life experience is not considered more relevant than the opinionated pronouncements of men who make a pastime of informal observation, as if womanhood were an exotic locale which provides magnificent fodder for the amateur ethnographer. And there is the haughty dismissal of my assertion that being on the outside looking in doesn't make one more objective. It merely provides a different perspective.
That, however, cuts both ways: for what McEwan is surely saying isn't that the insider's perspective is merely different but that it is superior, privileged (as of course in some ways it is) and that therefore it must prevail - that to even engage in discussion is to concede the high ground. And that does not make for an inclusive conversation or a harmonious society. It is the victim-mentality embodied in multiculturalism and its offshoots: the claim that only a black person has a right to an opinion on the black experience, only a gay person can understand homophobia, only a Muslim can express an opinion about the Koran, only a Jew can criticise Israel. It leads to intellectual ghettoisation, in which arguments are never challenged, only reinforced, until eventually we stop speaking to each other.

Now oddly enough McEwan does have some sort of point, though she doesn't make it at all well. The kernel of truth in her argument is this: she does know a great deal more about feminism than the men who casually try to engage her in debate. What to her (stereotypically male) interlocutors might seem good points (because any debating point seems brilliant at the moment it occurs to you) are from her point of view tired old arguments that the high priestesses of feminism dealt with long before she or her sparring partner were born. Any system of thought - religion, philosophy, politics, science - creates its own logical universe, its own modes of discourse, language and assumptions which insiders take for granted. And the whole mystery cannot be revealed at once. Just as in Scientology the information about Xenu is too deep for neophytes to grasp, so feminist concepts that seem patently barking to outsiders (mainly, but not exclusively, men) will turn out - to anyone who bothers to study the subject properly - to be the result of hard and thorough intellectual effort carried out over decades. So it is naturally aggravating to have some outsider muscling in on "your" intellectual terrain, acting like they have all the answers or can prick all your balloons.

People who have spent their entire lives convinced of the centrality of some intellectual project don't take kindly to hearing it rubbished. Richard Dawkins, for example, got ticked off by bishops and theologians (and wannabe theologians like Armstrong and Eagleton) for not knowing much about theology - and, worse, not realising that theology mattered or had anything useful to say. They weren't threatening to kill him, or accusing him of being filled with hatred, merely of being unsophisticated. But the defence mechanism is much the same: shoring up the edifice of a system by rejecting even the possibility of valid criticism by an outsider. All worldviews have the intellectual equivalent of an immune system to enable them to repel invaders. And the more all-embracing a system is, the more it incorporates within itself an explanation for every possible objection.

Imagine members of two rival religious sects, each convinced of the truth of their claims and the falsity of the other's. It might seem obvious to each that the other was under the control of Satanic powers - how else could their wrong-headedness be explained? Or say you believed in a conspiracy for which no convincing evidence had ever been supplied: is not the very lack of evidence proof of the diabolical efficiency of the conspirators? Now feminism (of McEwan's type), like many -isms, is very like a conspiracy theory, in that it proposes a single overarching explanation for most of the problems of the world, viz "the patriarchy". It is patriarchy's fault when women are kept at home, and it is patriarchy's fault when women are forced out to work. It is patriarchy's fault when women wear too many clothes, and when they wear too little. Patriarchy is to blame when Britney Spears is criticised for behaving in ways that the patriarchy has forced her to behave. It's patriarchy that restricts women's access to abortion, and explains the high rate of terminations. So it's scarcely surprising that patriarchy - or its underpinning, misogyny - also explains the otherwise perplexing fact that anyone might attempt to argue with a feminist.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Questions From Feminists

Excellent post from excellent blog  TheDamned Olde Man answering common feminist questions with clear, well-thought out responses. You should know all this stuff already but it's rare to hear it put so well. I would reproduce it here in its entirety but the author prefers his work to remain in context so I won't. It's not a long piece but is (slightly inconveniently) broken up into smaller chunks which you can read here:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5