Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Temporary change in comments policy

The blog has been bombarded by spam the last few days, all from the same source. I've turned comment moderation back on for a little while until these clowns give up and go away. 

Monday, September 18, 2017

What is this image selling?

I saw this at the curb for garbage collection day this week.

I can imagine the planning meeting.

Project manager: "We need a cover for a new book for children called Looking at Insects by David Suzuki."

Graphic artist: "How about a photograph of David Suzuki and a couple of children looking at insects?"

That's a 1986 edition. By 1992, the cover looked like this:

That's meant to be more inclusive but it strikes me as a little creepy that Suzuki appearing to look at the little girl that way rather than the butterflies. The decision-making process here is interesting. They decided to stay with a white girl but update her fashion choices while going with a black boy. Is Suzuki looking towards the girl meant to encourage girls to study sciences? I would think it more likely to encourage girls to seek adult approval by doing whatever adults want them to do. The more independent little boy is the sort of role model you should use to if you actually want children to study science. This is a study in sexism disguised as anti-sexism.

I don't know how the little girl gets her hand on Suzuki's shoulder here without having a longer right arm than left. My guess it's not her hand—that they took an outtake from the session used in the first cover and edited the new butterflies, the  girl and the boy into the shot and changed the colouring a bit to get this. You can just imagine the angst-ridden decision not to have the little boy touching Suzuki: what messages are we most scared of appearing to send?

Not related to the design: this is a book on a subject that Suzuki is actually an expert in. Most of what Suzuki writes about he is not an expert in. There is nothing wrong with that. I think anyone should be able to write a book about anything. The problem is that when someone such as Suzuki or Bill Nye or Neil deGrasse Tyson writes about matters they are not experts in we get something I call expertise creep. None of those men, for example, is an expert in climate science so we shouldn't attribute any more authority on the subject to them than we do to any interested amateur. Unfortunately, it doesn't work out that way.

The pattern that we actually see played out works like this. A scientist with an actual area of expertise branches out into science education after their career doing real science (or, in Nye's case, engineering) has passed its prime. They prove to be very good at science education but they aren't content to stop there and get a taste for telling other people how they ought to be living. Thereafter they produce a series of preachy books and TV shows that are mostly political activism mixed with a very little science in fields they have no expertise in. Despite this, we're all supposed to rollover like good little puppies because SCIENCE!!!

I suspect the implied argument goes like this: "Okay, these guys aren't experts in climate but they are experts in science." And it pretty much has to be implicit. Make it explicit and the stupidity at work becomes obvious.

Monday, September 4, 2017

The men are revolting

I listen to two podcasts hosted by rabid, hate filled men. I do this because the subjects of their podcasts is not politics so their rabid, hate-filled side rarely comes to the surface. One, Creek of the Week, is about Dawson's Creek  and the the other, Beyond Yacht Rock, is about music I hated when it was new but have come to love. There are two things about these shows I find a little off-putting but can easily overlook. One is the regular tirades against politics and people the hosts hate and fear. The other, and this is a bit odd, is the constant stream of really vulgar commentary. In fact, I occasionally find myself laughing along with the vulgar jokes. As I listen to my podcasts in bed as I fall asleep at night, I have to laugh quietly and I manage this but sometimes I laugh so hard the bed shakes.

Last week, I played the Beyond Yacht Rock podcast for my wife as we were on vacation. When it got really vulgar I said to her, in case you've eve wondered what locker-room talk is actually like, it's like this. I said that because women tend to have an erroneous notion of what locker-room talk is like, a subject for another day.

Anyway, it hit me this morning that this attitude, which seems more and more common on the left and the right, is part of a growing man rebellion. I know, I know, I'm late to the party. Others have been writing about men being on strike and so forth for years. Most notably, Dr, Helen, whom I quoted yesterday, has written a book about it. Her argument, however, is about men being own strike and a strike is something that happens when you mean to return to work. I think something far more basic has happened—men have told women to take this job and shove it. They quit.

Our society has lost the power to manipulate men. This will have huge ramifications. I think women are already feeling the impact of this.

Case in point. I was listening to a feminist podcast I like called Stuff Mom Never Told You. A recent episode (August 11) dealt with a fairly extreme male movement called Men Going Their Own Way. These are men who refuse to enter into committed relationships, refuse to earn any more than they need to survive and refuse to engage with society. I suspect it's a pretty small, fringe movement. So how are feminist podcasters going to deal with this? I was expecting mockery and fear, fully expecting to hear the expression "white supremacist" applied to them. Instead there was a mixture of alarm and sympathy. The two women hosting the podcast ended up showing a lot of sympathy for these men, allowing that they did have grievances. Their only real counter argument was that the men were taking the wrong approach by dealing themselves out. They argued, I'm not making tis up, that men should embrace feminism instead because that is where they will find real freedom.

I suspect that what had the two hosts, Emilie Aries and Bridget Todd, sense that the Men Going Their Own Way movement, while small and a little silly, represents something much larger. Men are less interested in entering into committed relationships with women and, as a consequence, much less committed to the larger society around them. That spells TROUBLE. And they don't have the foggiest notion what to do about it.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

The return of the bitter pill argument

The bitter pill argument (see here and here), for those who aren't familiar with it, is the claim that the sexual revolution has been a bad deal for women. That they were pushed into accepting greater sexual freedom and birth control and now are in a bad position where men have all the power in sexual relationships and are not marrying because it's so easy to get "cheap sex".
The share of Americans ages 25-34 who are married dropped 13 percentage points from 2000 to 2014. A new book by sociologist Mark Regnerus blames this declining rate on how easy it is for men to get off. 
Regnerus calls it “cheap sex,” an economic term meant to describe sex that has very little cost in terms of time or emotional investment, giving it little value. 
Regnerus bases his ideas, in part, on the work of British social theorist Anthony Giddens, who argued that the pill isolated sex from marriage and children. Add online pornography and dating sites to the mix and you don’t even need relationships.
"Isolated sex from marriage and children" in this context means that it used to be that sex carried a high risk of pregnancy and, therefore, women were very unlikely to give it outside of marriage. The pill and abortion removed this possibility and made pre-marital sex common. This gives men too  much power and leaves women their victims because men no longer feel they have to get married in order to get sex.

That's an interesting claim to say the least given that many feminists would argue the exact opposite saying that the high risk of pregnancy forced women into marriages they did not want along with a life of economic servitude. I'm inclined to give the most credence to feminists here as I don't see any evidence that most women are anything less than very enthusiastic for the pill and the freedom it gives them. In addition, I've never heard a man say that he wasn't getting married because he was already getting all the sex he wanted. Indeed, I've never heard a man say that he was getting married because that way he could get regular sex. The more common answer is that we get married because we are in love.

The more likely explanation, it seems to me, is on the other end of the equation: marriage has gotten too expensive. Marriage always was an expensive proposition for men not just in terms of financial exposure but, more significantly, in terms of emotional exposure. The situation for men has gotten much worse with divorce laws that make it easier for women to leave us and courts that tend to rule against men on matters of custody and child support. As the risk associated with marriage for men have gone up, fewer men are signing on.

But there is more than that as Dr. Helen, who also makes the point about the expense of marriage, notes.
It is harder to control men now than it was in the past and many control freaks don't like that sort of thing. Men are doing more than going their own way: they are finding ways to maintain autonomy and freedom in a world of increasing restrictions on their sexuality and livelihoods. Sex may be "cheap," but marriage is not -- and until our society understands that men are not pawns to be used by women and politicians for their own purposes, men will continue to go their own way, whether researchers want to believe it or not.
I'd go on to make a couple of other points that Dr. Helen is perhaps too polite to make.

  1. One of the consequences of the sexual revolution is that most men now have first-hand experience with multiple women. When you do that you can't help notice that there are huge differences between women sexually. To be blunt, some women are better than others and, more to the point, some women are a lot worse at sex that others.
  2. On top of that, women's enthusiasm for sex drops off considerably after an initial honeymoon period. That is inevitable and no one's fault. That said, there are huge differences in the way women react to this cooling off. Some take it as their responsibility to keep the flame alive and some don't. Some treat it as not their responsibility or even assume that it's a sign that love has died row as just an illusion and want to leave. 
Marriage is about more than sex but it is a sexual relationship at base and being married to a woman who doesn't care enough to put a lot of effort into sex is like slow death. In the past, it was just part of the deal. You made your vows and you took your chances. Most men didn't know there was any other possibility than what they got. Our expectations are now changed and we're simply not going to settle for the deal that was good enough in the past anymore.

Final point, even marriage-minded men will be very cautious about entering into a deal because it is no longer possible assume that women will hold to their commitments. Calling me sexist for saying so but most women are far more susceptible to the mood of the moment than men are. A woman's feelings about her marriage, about sex and about her job are highly influenced by the way she feels right now. Even her memories are conditioned by what she feels right now.  Only a woman who feels that marriage is a sacred trust that must be held out even through her dark times can be depended on and they are few and far between.

Bottom line: if you want more men to marry you'll have to make marriage a better deal for us. Dr. Helen nails it, "men are not pawns to be used by women and politicians for their own purposes." So stop trying to treat us as if we were.