Trump and Sexual Assault

Reluctant as I am to be defending Donald Trump on this point but it keeps coming up. Take a random example:

Look at these men. Look at them. Gathered around the most powerful man in the world – a man who has openly bragged of sexual assault, who refers to a vulva as a woman’s “wherever” – as he signs away the reproductive rights of women in developing countries.

I assume the author is referring to Trump’s “grap ’em by the pussy” remark when she says he has openly bragged of sexual assault. This is what he actually said:

Trump: Yeah, that’s her. With the gold. I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.

Bush: Whatever you want.

Trump: Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.

The key point here is “when you’re a star, they let you do it”. I’m not going to defend what Trump said or dismiss it as locker-room talk, but he is making the point that when you’re a star you can do anything, they let you do it. This may be distasteful but it appears to be true, which I suspect is why so many women have gotten upset about it. I cannot condone the actions of somebody behaving in this way, and that is also the case with Trump: he was speaking like a dick and boasting of acting like a dick.

But he was not bragging of sexual assault: it would be sexual assault if the pussy grabbing was not consensual, but he clearly says “they let you do it”. He’s not saying he grabs their pussy whether they like it or not, which would be sexual assault in the case of the latter. Of course such behaviour looks like a quick way to find yourself fending off accusations of sexual assault and I understand Trump has done so in the past, but what he describes is by definition consensual.

This may seem like nitpicking on my part, but accuracy is important in these matters. A lot of women seem to have marched on DC on the basis of something that simply isn’t true, and they continue to repeat it. It’s yet another reason why they are not being taken seriously enough to mount any sort of opposition to his Presidency.

The Ugly Face of Women’s Rights

I realised after I published yesterday’s post that I’d not included certain photos taken at the Women’s March, and I’ll do so now to reinforce a point.

It is beyond my powers of reasoning to understand how displays like those above are a coherent reaction to Trump’s Presidency. It is also incredible, at least to me, that people can behave in this manner and claim with a straight face that they are doing so to preserve the dignity of women. This is bordering on mental illness.

Regardless of what she thinks of Trump, and even she believes he is a sexist, misogynistic twat who should never have become President, I would hope that no decent woman anywhere would want any part of this, and especially not want their kids exposed to it.

Seriously, how many normal, functioning women out there would want their daughters and nieces around this stuff, or behaving in such a way themselves? There surely must be better ways to campaign for women’s rights than this.

Thoughts on a Very Political Protest March

The news yesterday was dominated by coverage of the Women’s Rights march that took place across the US and in other cities around the world. So important was this march that articles covering President Trump’s executive order repealing Obamacare was knocked off the front page and one had to go hunting for it. The media clearly has its priorities.

I watched the footage of the march and saw the photos, but – as is often the case with “progressive” demonstrations – I struggled to see what it was for. Ostensibly it was a march for women’s rights, but it was unclear which rights they wished to obtain. On every measure, American women in 2017 enjoy more rights, freedoms, and opportunities than any women in history. They already have equality with men: fortunately Christina Hoff Sommers (no agent of the patriarchy she) has debunked the myth of the gender pay gap, and any man emerging from an American divorce court would emit a bitter laugh at the idea that American womenfolk are under the jackboot of its men.

There were vague references to “reproductive rights” and a woman having control over her own body, but these did more to confuse than inform. On the rare occasion somebody went into specifics, it appears they are demanding the right to free contraception and to have an abortion. Free condoms seems an odd thing to turn out by the million for, and Roe v Wade dealt with abortion in 1973: since then nobody has gone to jail for having an abortion.

I confess, I’m being obtuse here. I know exactly what they mean by  “reproductive rights”: what they want is for a woman to have an abortion whenever she wants and the taxpayer to fund it. My own views on abortion are as follows: it is a necessary evil, I don’t think abortion is murder, I’d rather it didn’t happen but it always will and I see advantages in allowing it and drawbacks in banning it. On balance, I think the UK has got it approximately right. In a democracy sometimes your taxes end up paying for things you disapprove of. If I were a British taxpayer I would object to paying for Tony Blair’s security detail when he travels abroad, for example. But such are the compromises one must make for living in a democracy. However, if enough people object to paying for something that they form a majority and elect somebody so they will not have to pay for it any more, then the minority has no basis on which to force them to do so: it becomes a matter of democratic politics. What the “reproductive rights” crowd are trying to do is portray abortion as a human right such that the (now) majority who find it abhorrent must be forced to continue to pay for it. That is, the minority are attempting to force the majority to do something they find morally repugnant. This is nothing to do with rights and everything to do with compulsion. Cutting off the funding to Planned Parenthood is not criminalising abortion, nor is it depriving women of the right to have one. It is merely reflecting the wishes of the majority that they do not wish to pay for it any longer. If this indeed was a central plank of yesterday’s march then it was not so much about women’s rights as forcing people to pay for benefits. If anyone doubts there is confusion between rights and benefits, take a look at the photo below taken at yesterday’s march that has been circulated widely on social media.

Others say the march was in support of women’s dignity in the face of Trump’s supposed overt sexism. Trump’s attitudes to women have been known since the 1980s, and he probably is sexist and a womaniser. I don’t know anyone who has said Trump is anything else, but plenty of us have considered whether or not he is sexist to the degree that he constantly demeans and belittles all women all the time such that he shouldn’t be President. The electorate were asked this very question, and yet they still voted in Trump. If they’re anything like me they would have concluded that Trump is a dick and at times hasn’t been particularly respectful to women, but consolidating a dozen allegedly sexist remarks cherry-picked over forty years looks more like a partisan hatchet job than a something that should rule him out of being president. They might also consider that, if sexist and misogynistic behaviour is a yardstick on which to judge a president’s suitability for office, why the media and the left in general defended Bill Clinton to the hilt and worship at the altar of JFK. The electorate did consider that and decided this was nothing to do with sexism and everything to do with politics. And that’s what the march yesterday was about: politics. Those marching were unhappy that the election didn’t go their way and the seized on the topic of women’s rights as a pretext for carrying out an overtly political demonstration.

If indeed this was a march conducted to restore the dignity of women so savagely dismissed by Trump, one would have thought we’d not be seeing things like this:

Personally I can’t see how overt displays of foul language, childish humour, and sexual innuendo are supposed to empower women and remind us of their dignity, but obviously these lot can. Yet somehow I get the impression this will have the opposite effect: these tactics, wholly encouraged by the media, failed them miserably during the election campaign and contributed as much to Trump’s victory as anything else I can think of. If women want to be taken seriously – particularly by other women – they need to distance themselves from this infantile behaviour. Thus far this is a lesson they seem hellbent on not learning.

As usual with these “progressive” marches, the message – insofar as there one exists – is not only all over the place but also contradictory. It appears the wearing of the hijab was put forward as something to be celebrated in the cause of women’s rights:

This is perhaps not surprising given one of the event’s organisers was Linda Sarsour, an American-Palestinian who herself wears the hijab and appears to have taken to Twitter to speak approvingly of Sharia law. The irony is that while searching for “women’s rights march hijab” I came across this photo from 1979 where 100,000 Iranian women turned out to protest the newly introduced law obliging women to wear a hijab.

And that’s the difference, isn’t it? The women in Tehran turned out because the law would – and did – have a serious impact on their liberty and their status as women. Ultimately the protest failed, and they are still forced to wear one to this day. The women who marched yesterday will change absolutely nothing, and what material difference will this have on their lives? None whatsoever. They knew damned well the stakes were zero and they were engaged in nothing more than political agitation and cheap virtue signalling, and on Monday morning they can get on with their lives and nothing will change. The sad thing is I bet a handful of Iranian women turned out on those marches yesterday. I know there were Turkish women there, who – like the journalist featured here – appear to have forgotten what actual oppression looks like and now believe the situation for women in America in 2017 is not one to be embraced and thankful for, but one to criticise and protest about even going so far as demonstrating against a government that was elected freely and fairly. I wonder how many women around the world would swap places with them in an instant? I would have been far happier to see American citizens who hail from places where women are genuinely oppressed to tell these marching women that they don’t know how lucky they are and to concentrate their efforts on more worthy cases than what some asshole politician said on a bus eleven years ago.

Incidentally (and I appreciate I am rambling a bit here), this is one of the reasons why I like Russians. In general, they do not turn up in a new country and start agitating for political change and protesting the sitting government. I suspect this is because Russians know what genuine hardship looks like: they remember the Soviet Union and the tales their grandparents told them about the war, the famines, and the Siege of Leningrad. They don’t agitate for political change because they know all to well what happens when the established order is suddenly toppled, and it is isn’t pretty. They remember the currency crash of 1998 and the lawlessness of the post-Soviet era and the rise of the gangster class and so they don’t turn up in the West and start complaining about how oppressed they are. They know genuine suffering and so don’t need to invent it where it doesn’t exist. It came to me as no surprise that the one Russian I know who bought into third-wave feminism and the sort of policies favoured by the Democrats was one who had an extraordinarily privileged life growing up mainly in the West as the daughter of diplomats and who got parachuted by her parents into Moscow’s most exclusive university before moving to New York and marrying her way to a Green Card at the first opportunity. Yes, I’ve mentioned her before but her story is relevant here: yesterday’s march was a demonstration of the privileged middle classes, not the downtrodden masses. How many academics, journalists, lawyers, and corporate middle-managers do you think were at that march? And how many Wal-Mart checkout girls or McDonald’s staff?

Finally (and I’ll wrap this up soon I promise), I’ve already said this march was political and it was. It is for this reason I think it was hugely counterproductive and will set women’s rights movements back some way. For starters, few people are going to take displays like the ones in the photos above seriously. But worse, they have conflated adolescent political posturing with genuine women’s rights movements abroad. If the subject of women’s rights comes up again, what are the neutrals and waverers to think? Are they being asked to surrender their cash, time, and political capital on behalf of Kurdish women faced with honour killings, or for wealthy middle-aged women in New York universities to protest the American presidential system? They’ve hijacked an ostensibly noble cause for their own political ends.

But it’s worse than that. Women’s rights should not be based in politics but in fundamental principles of freedom, liberty, and equality. By making it political they have handed an excuse to oppressive governments the world over to avoid making any concessions. A good parallel is the gay rights movement, which for years was apolitical and made the point that what two men do in the privacy of their own home is none of the government’s business. But that soon changed and now gay rights is as politically charged as foreign policy. No sooner had gay men secured the right to be left alone by the government a subset demanded victim status and hence special treatment, and the transgenders jumped aboard the bandwagon in order to secure special privileges for themselves. We are now faced with the ludicrous situation where the federal government is passing laws stating whether or not men who “self identify” as women can use women’s locker rooms and toilets. People are being prosecuted for not making a cake for a gay wedding. This bullshit is wholly rejected by a huge swathe of people who, like me, believed gay men should not be persecuted by the government and should be left well alone to do as they please. Once again, this is not about rights any more but about obtaining benefits and privileges and imposing views on others. When this circus is looked on by governments which still persecute homosexuals they can, and do, justify their policies by saying that if they allow gay men to sleep with one another and consort in special clubs the next step is political agitation funded by wealthy outsiders, demands that gay marriage become a human right, insistence that transgenders must be addressed by their preferred pronouns, and anyone who doesn’t fall into line will be prosecuted. And the sad thing is, the real disgrace, is that they are right: once the gay rights camel has its nose in the tent, it’s a short journey from there to the ridiculous situation we are seeing in the US now. I know, because I have spoken to them, that there are Russians who believe gay men should not be persecuted but stop considerably short of thinking teaching homosexuality in schools to five-year-olds is a good idea or desirable. The West has shown that one will follow the other, and so they won’t put any pressure on their government to relax their current, oppressive policies.

Yesterday’s march shows that people are determined to make the same mistake with women’s rights. “Give women the vote,” oppressive regimes will argue “and before you know it they are in government passing laws making abortion a human right. Allow them to remove the hijab, and within a year they’ll be protesting against the elected government. Let’s nip this in the bud.” Whether they realise it or not, the modern women’s rights movement as depicted in yesterday’s march is based on politics not principles, and it therefore it will be treated as such. How this is supposed to help women in the long run I have no idea.

More on Madonna

Commentator David Moore has posted this link underneath my previous article on Madonna:

This month, the singer covers the latest issue of Harper’s Bazaar, in which she talks about her out-of-the-ordinary lifestyle, touring the globe and dating much-younger men

I’ve created a very unconventional family. I have lovers who are three decades younger than me. This makes people very uncomfortable. I feel like everything I do makes people feel really uncomfortable,” she said.

No, it doesn’t make people feel uncomfortable.  What it does is attract commentary, some of which might be unflattering, and some of which might consist of speculation as to your overall happiness despite your wealth, fame, and fortune.

Most recently, those ‘lovers’ included 25-year-old model Aboubakar Soumahoro. In 2014, she dated now-29-year-old back-up dancer Timor Steffens, and she famously dated Brazilian model Jesus Luz, who was 29 years her junior, from 2008 to 2010.

While people have always had much to say about her younger lovers, though, there isn’t usually as much buzz about men who date much-younger women. In fact, Madonna said, she faces a lot of criticism and commentary for things that men do without comments from the outside.

Firstly, let’s just dispel a myth.  Everyone is aware that wealthy, famous men can attract women much younger than them, many of whom are very good looking.  However, nobody thinks this is something especially noteworthy other than the fact that young women are often attracted by money and fame in a way that young men are usually not.  Although men might give the occasional grunt of approval towards famous men who serially date much younger women, the practice is hardly universally admired, let alone seen as something to be emulated.  To use a contemporary example, for all of Trump’s womanising he seems to be on good terms with his ex-wife and children and has been married to his current, ex-model wife for 11 years.  Men will always admire a guy who settles with a beautiful woman and starts a family more than they will a perpetual bed-hopper.

Secondly, any older guy who hooks up with a young, beautiful foreign girl always stands accused of being used for a passport, especially if she is from an altogether different culture.  The same applies to women.  Aboubakar Soumahoro is from the Ivory Coast.  Timor Steffens is born in the Netherlands of Moroccan origin.  Jesus Luz is Brazilian, as the article says.  What you don’t see is high-profile American male celebrities dating exotic foreigners who may need money and a passport.  What you do see is wealthy but ageing European women dating exotic young men in places like Egypt and Gambia who turn out to be interested in a residency visa, cash, and not much else.  Madonna is of course free to date whom she likes, but people are also free to draw their own conclusions and those conclusions aren’t all that different when the situation applies to men.

Speaking about why she continues to work into her 50s, Madonna said: “It’s inexplicable; it’s like breathing, and I can’t imagine not doing it.

“That is one of the arguments I would get into with my ex-husband, who used to say to me, ‘But why do you have to do this again? Why do you have to make another record? Why do you have to go on tour? Why do you have to make a movie?’ And I’m like, ‘Why do I have to explain myself?’ I feel like that’s a very sexist thing to say.”

Perhaps he just wanted to spend more time with you, and didn’t like you being away?  Then you called him sexist, went and did whatever the hell you wanted, and now you’re divorced and dating a string of foreign kids.

“Does somebody ask Steven Spielberg why he’s still making movies?”

Yes, ever since Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Hasn’t he had enough success? Hasn’t he made enough money? Hasn’t he made a name for himself? Did somebody go to Pablo Picasso and say, ‘Okay, you’re 80 years old. Haven’t you painted enough paintings?’ No. I’m so tired of that question.”

It’s a reasonable question to ask though, isn’t it?  I mean it’s just a question, and nobody is disputing her answer.  And I imagine the wives of Spielberg and Picasso did ask them whether they didn’t fancy taking it easy for a while and spending more time at home, and one would hope they had an adult discussion about it rather than an argument that ends in accusations of sexism, divorce, and lingering bitterness.

“I’m political. I believe in freedom of expression, I don’t believe in censorship,’ she said. ‘I believe in equal rights for all people. And I believe women should own their sexuality and sexual expression. I don’t believe there’s a certain age where you can’t say and feel and be who you want to be.”

Then thank heavens you were born in the modern United States and thus have enjoyed such freedoms your entire life.

She often speaks out about this issue. In 2016, she took to Instagram to decry ageism after she met criticism for a very revealing dress at the Met Gala.

Madonna, dear: being free to do what you want is not the same as being free from criticism of your wardrobe choices for high-profile events.

“When it comes to Women’s rights we are still in the dark ages,” she wrote on Instagram at the time.

She either doesn’t know much about women’s rights or she doesn’t know much about the Dark Ages.  Or both.

“My dress at the Met Ball was a political statement as well as a fashion statement. The fact that people actually believe a woman is not allowed to express her sexuality and be adventurous past a certain age is proof that we still live in an age-ist and sexist society.

Nobody is saying you cannot express your sexuality.  You can do whatever you please, and indeed you do just that.  What you cannot do is make, by your own admission, a political statement and expect to be free from criticism.

I have never thought in a limited way and I’m not going to start. We cannot effect change unless we are willing to take risks By being fearless and By taking the road leas traveled by.

Wearing a certain dress to a celebrity ball is being fearless, is it?  And turning up in risqué outfits is “the road less traveled” in celebrity circles?  Really?

Thats how we change history.

Another one talking up her own legacy.  Leave that to others to decide, eh?

If you have a problem with the way I dress it is simply a reflection of your prejudice. I’m not afraid to pave the way for all the girls behind me.

As the David Moore says in his comment: it all comes across as rather desperate.

Feminism According to Madonna

My underpaid but highly appreciated research assistant has pointed me towards this video of Madonna’s acceptance speech at the 2016 Billboard Women in Music awards in which she won Woman of the Year, or something.  It deserves a bit of a fisking, and thankfully somebody has produced a transcript here.

She starts like this:

It’s better this way. I always feel better with something hard between my legs.

[Crowd laughs.]

What is it with modern-day feminists that they believe making crude, unfunny jokes of a sexual nature is somehow useful to the cause of women being afforded more respect?  Let’s remember this opening as the speech goes on.

Thank you for acknowledging my ability to continue my career for 34 years in the face of blatant misogyny, sexism, constant bullying and relentless abuse.

Madonna is by far and away the most successful female pop star to date.  Her career has been absolutely staggering: her latest tour alone saw her rake in $170m.  Much of her success has come from the shock value of her challenging societal norms regarding women and sexuality, and hundreds of millions of people bought her music because they liked what she did.  This tells us two things: she is far more popular than she is disliked, and her career has depended on the existence of misogyny and sexism to generate the controversy which fueled her fame.

When I first started writing songs I didn’t think in a gender-specific way.

Like a Virgin and Material Girl were not gender specific?  Papa Don’t Preach?  How dense do you think we are?

I just wanted to be an artist. I was of course inspired by Debbie Harry and Chrissie Hynde and Aretha Franklin

All of whom were miles better singers than you, but didn’t feel the need to court controversy at every step in their careers: they relied purely on musical ability.

There are no rules  –  if you’re a boy. If you’re a girl, you have to play the game. What is that game? You are allowed to be pretty and cute and sexy. But don’t act too smart. Don’t have an opinion. Don’t have an opinion that is out of line with the status quo, at least. You are allowed to be objectified by men and dress like a slut, but don’t own your sluttiness. And do not, I repeat, do not, share your own sexual fantasies with the world.

And if you do break those rules?  Why, you become the most successful female pop artist of all time and a multimillionaire!  Don’t do it, girls!

Be what men want you to be. But more importantly, be what women feel comfortable with you being around other men. And finally, do not age. Because to age, is a sin. You will be criticized, you will be vilified, and you will definitely not be played on the radio.

Madonna isn’t played on the radio?  Whut?  And yes, you will be criticised, you will be vilified: every celebrity is.  The important thing is whether the criticism and vilification prevent genuine talent from shining through, and in the case of Madonna that is clearly not the case.  Cristiano Ronaldo is vilified and I remember David Beckham being subject to appalling abuse in his prime.  It’s not nice, but unfortunately it comes with the territory, and it is not limited to women.

When I first became famous, there were nude photos of me in Playboy and Penthouse magazine. Photos that were taken from art schools that I posed for, back in the day to make money.

And there is nothing wrong with that: it’s a woman’s choice, after all.  But let’s not forget all those women who choose not to take their clothes off when they need money, eh?

They weren’t very sexy. In fact, I looked quite bored. I was. But I was expected to feel ashamed when these photos came out, and I was not. And this puzzled people.

Which people?  Not being ashamed of posing for nude photos is absolutely fine, but people can and will make judgements about your character depending on whether you do or not.  Personally I have no problem with your decisions, nor of your lack of shame, but I’m not going to place you in the same category as a woman who either kept her clothes on or is capable of some self-reflection regarding daft things she did when young.  My guess would be that those who were puzzled expected higher standards, or something.

Eventually I was left alone because I married Sean Penn, and not only would he would bust a cap in your ass,

Fine qualities in a husband that all feminists can aspire to, I’m sure.

Years later, divorced and single – sorry Sean –  I made my Erotica album and my Sex book was released. I remember being the headline of every newspaper and magazine. And everything I read about myself was damning. I was called ‘a whore’ and ‘a witch.’ One headline compared me to Satan. I said, ‘Wait a minute, isn’t Prince running around with fishnets and high heels and lipstick with his butt hanging out?’ Yes, he was. But he was a man. This was the first time I truly understood that women really do not have the same freedom as men.

Except you were free to do so: you made an absolutely fortune in the process, and your career went from strength to strength.  And for all your complaints about the headlines and the damnation, it was this very notoriety that you carefully nurtured because it translated directly into record sales.  True, Prince might not have come in for the same criticism but I notice you didn’t use Michael Jackson as an example: had you done so, your argument that men don’t get vilified for controversial and weird behaviour while selling millions of records would have fallen a bit flat.

I remember feeling paralyzed. It took me a while to put myself together and get on with my creative life — to get on with my life.

You experienced unprecedented, staggering musical success but you needed to “get on with your creative life”?  This is supposed to be a rallying speech for oppressed, downtrodden women everywhere?

I remember wishing that I had a female peer that I could look to for support.

That you didn’t have one speaks volumes, don’t you think?

Camille Paglia, the famous feminist writer, said that I set women back by objectifying myself sexually.

Imagine.

Oh, I thought, ‘so, if you’re a feminist, you don’t have sexuality, you deny it.’

If that’s what you thought then you’re an idiot.  It is perfectly possible to be a feminist who is both sexy and comfortable with their sexuality without flaunting it everywhere in the crudest, most classless way possible.  One of the biggest failures of modern feminism is believing that adopting the worst aspects of male behaviour will advance the cause of women.  That “joke” she told at the start of her speech was unfunny and the sort of thing a twelve year old boy would say.  If this is the behaviour modern women want to emulate, God help them.

So I said ‘ **** it. I’m a different kind of feminist. I’m a bad feminist.’

[Crowd applause]

Yes, and your sort seem hell-bent on undoing the work of the good feminists.  Here, have an award!

People say I’m so controversial. But I think the most controversial thing I have ever done is to stick around.

No, your ability to stick around is not controversial, it is remarkable.  People say you are controversial for wholly unrelated reasons.  But hey, don’t let me stop you from telling us what you think about yourself.

What I would like to say to all the women here today, is this: Women have been so oppressed for so long, they believe what men have to say about them.

Presumably men do nothing but lie to women.

And they believe they have to back a man to get the job done.

Which women believe this?  The ones in the audience?  Really?

And there are some very good men worth backing, but not because they’re men –  because they’re worthy.

In other words exercise good judgement about men, says the twice-divorced single woman.

As women, we have to start appreciating our own worth and each other’s worth.

Right, but women have a nasty habit of looking beyond another woman’s net wealth and musical talent and forming an opinion about their character based on their behaviour and appearance.  If women don’t appreciate you as much as you think they should, there are probably reasons why.  What this has to do with men, misogyny, and sexism I don’t know.

Seek out strong women to befriend, to align yourself with, to learn from, to be inspired by, to collaborate with, to support, to be enlightened by.

Women need Madonna to tell them this?  Only let’s hope that when choosing “strong women” they don’t entangle themselves with a bunch of demented, third-wave feminists sporting neck-tattoos and like Madonna believe sexual promiscuity is something to be celebrated.

Look, I think Madonna is an incredible entertainer and her ability to reinvent herself and sustain a career that long is astonishing, and I am happy that she receives so many awards and has made so much money for herself.  Good on her.  But in the face of such astounding success her complaints of sexism and misogyny ring somewhat hollow, particularly when one considers how she went about building her career by shocking people and continually courting controversy.  The violence she experienced in New York notwithstanding, downtrodden and oppressed she is not: sure she’s faced obstacles and criticism, but haven’t we all?  She’s good at what she does but the brand of feminism she is pushing is poisonous rot, and young women would do well to listen to her music rather than her speeches.

One Pair of Trousers, Two Women, No Surprise

Apparently Theresa May’s trousers are causing people to pass remarks:

It’s just over a fortnight since Theresa May gave an “at home” interview to the Sunday Times, telling the paper about her childhood and explaining how Brexit keeps her awake at night. But it was her choice of trousers – which cost a reported £995 – that provoked most discussion.

“I don’t have leather trousers. I don’t think I’ve ever spent that much on anything apart from my wedding dress,” former Education Secretary Nicky Morgan told The Times, adding that the trousers had been “noticed and discussed” in Tory circles.

Great.  We’ve been battered over the head for the past decade by relentless campaigns telling us that women deserve the same respect, pay, and opportunities as men and holding open doors is sexist hence all-female shortlists are necessary and glass ceilings must be smashed, etc.  Yet here we have a female MP publicly criticising another’s woman’s wardrobe choices.

There is a school of thought out there that says that women cannot but help themselves from fighting like ferrets in a sack, and even attaining senior corporate positions or high office doesn’t stop them from indulging in petty sniping at one another as if they were still in school.  This latest episode is hardly going to prove them wrong, is it?

But the story, inevitably by now dubbed “trousergate”, was not going away, and at the weekend the Mail on Sunday revealed a terse exchange of text messages involving Mrs Morgan and the PM’s joint chief of staff, Fiona Hill.

Two middle-aged women engaged in a text-spat over another woman’s trousers?  The Patriarchy is kind of redundant at the moment, isn’t it?

While the Amanda Wakeley-designed “bitter chocolate” clothing has made the headlines, the spat plays into a wider row, largely about Brexit.

Mrs Morgan, who was sacked as education secretary by the PM when she took over in Number 10, has been vocal in calling on the government to set out details of its EU exit strategy, despite its refusal to offer a “running commentary”.

Well, yes.  Rather than deal with the main issue at hand, Woman A has taken to making snide remarks about Woman B’s clothing.  Hands up those who are surprised at this?

I’ve said it before: the biggest enemy of a smart, ambitious, professional woman is another smart, ambitious, professional woman.  How many male MPs made public comments about May’s trousers?  Those who are forever ramming diversity policies down our throats and forcing corporations to shoe-horn women into ever more senior positions might want to stop and think about this for a minute.

Wrong Lesson Learned

Professional troubleshootermaker and former blogger TNA points me to this story:

Former Telstra CEO David Thodey has shared the story of how he was publicly shamed in front of an arena crowd by world-renowned diversity trainer Jane Elliott in what he calls “one of the most significant moments of my career.”

This ought to be good.  We need more senior executives finally waking up to the sham that is “diversity” in modern corporations and the destructive effect of identity politics.

While working for IBM around 2000, Thodey was invited to an event sponsored by Big Blue at which Jane Elliott would be talking.

Elliott is famous for her then controversial Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes experiment which started in an Iowa classroom in the days after Martin Luther King was assassinated. Elliott, then a primary schoolteacher, segregated the class into the blue eyed and brown eyed. She then gave one group special privileges and chastised the other, before reversing the special treatment the following week.

Thus ramming home the point that people ought not to be divided into groups based on physical characteristics and then treated differently?  I’m fully on board.

She went on to become a leading workplace diversity trainer for the likes of IBM, General Electric, Exxon, and AT&T, notoriety that brought her to Sydney to speak to a 3,500 strong Sydney Entertainment Centre crowd.

Thodey was brought up to stand on one side of the stage and a Torres Strait Islander woman was brought up to stand on the opposite side. Elliott then asked Thodey how tall he was and how he felt about it.

“I said, ‘I don’t really think about it’. She turned to the Torres Strait Islander woman and asked. She said ‘I’m 5 foot one and well it’s really hard actually. I go into rooms and I can’t see people. I tend to be looking up and it’s really hard and I find it really quite difficult.’”

I’m 6’4″ tall, and were I Thodey I’d have had a simple response to that: economy-class travel.  And why does it matter that the woman was a Torres Strait Islander?  Why not just say it was a woman?

Elliott then asked Thodey how he felt about being a man. He said: “I was just born that way and I don’t think about it”. The woman said: “It’s very hard being a Torres Strait Islander woman. People don’t listen to me when I say things.”

This is hardly unique to women who hail from islands in the Torres Strait and people not listening to you is probably not the best example of a life of hardship: that would put every wife on the planet into the category of Mumbai Street-Urchin.

“This went on. I was totally unconscious of the awareness of my perspective and someone else’s. This is in front of thousands of people. And I got smaller and smaller. I was really embarrassed,” Thodey said.

Yeah, I’d be pretty embarrassed at this ludicrous display of virtue signalling, too.  I’m beginning to understand why the penny dropped.

But the humiliation wasn’t over. As Thodey left the stage he remembers touching Elliott on the back.

A kidney punch?

“She turned and said – ‘What gives you the right to touch me!?’ At which point I ran off the stage completely! That was probably one of the most significant moments of my career. It’s always caused me to reflect.”

I can well believe it!  This would cause any half-sensible executive to tear up their Corporate Diversity Policy, cancel all associated training courses, and fire the idiot who booked this Elliott woman to speak in the first place.

Oh wait.

Oh no.

That’s not what he did at all.

During his time as head of Telstra, Thodey enacted a ‘flexible working for all roles’ policy and set-up a diversity council.

Oh dear lord.

He also enforced a ‘50/50 if not why not?’ missive to all levels of the telco and was a founding member of the Male Champions of Change group.

The problem of gender equity had to be tackled on a personal level, he said.

What I thought was an article on a brainwashed fool waking up and smelling the roses has turned out to be one whereby a feeble-minded climber of the greasy pole is bullied into buying a barrow of fresh horseshit before spreading it around a large corporation.

“You can get all carried away with inclusion and gender equity as an ethical or equality or egalitarian perspective.

An issue that has yet to plague me.

But this goes deeper and often we don’t have very honest discussions about it and I think it’s really important we do. This needs to be personal because if it isn’t it won’t change.”

Lots of discussions bring about change?  Have all these people been educated in France?

Success would only come from being bold, Thodey added.

Would examples of such boldness include running off the stage when some harpy levels some ludicrous accusation against you?

“You need to be bold. The problem is it’s easy to get into the status quo and not change. The only way I know how to change is push the boundaries. You’ve got to be willing to be unaccepting of bad behaviour, you’ve got to call it out, and you’ve got to be really strong with it,” Thodey said.

Right, but what’s this got to do with a Torres Strait Islander woman being short?  Will she be offered free sessions on the rack they have down in the local museum of medieval torture?  Or is Longshanks Newman requested to come to the conference room for leg amputation?

“You need to measure you need to be incredibly detailed in terms of the data.

A CEO meticulously collecting data on his employees?  Sounds wonderful.

Then you’ve got to put in good programmes to support it. Then you’ve got to look for the unseen signals. Talk to people and ask them how things are going because people will actually put up with too much.”

I wonder who was doing the CEO’s job when this Thodey clown was playing Social Worker?

UPDATE

Adam has recently written on the Male Champions of Change that Thodey helped found.  Do go and read, but don’t expect him to be any more forgiving than I am.

What became of the University of Manchester?

Regular readers will know that I am an alumnus of the University of Manchester, and for some reason I signed up to the Alumni Society and so receive their annual magazine.  The latest edition dropped through my letterbox last week and even the front cover is enough to tell you what’s inside and, by extension, what has gone deeply wrong with that institution and, I suspect, academia as a whole in Britain and the Western World.  Perhaps I’m extrapolating too much, but here is the front cover:

It’s hard to know where to start.  The title of “your manchester” dispensing of capital letters is the type of crap rebranding we saw in the New Labour era where anything with pedigree and reputation was thrown out in favour of being cool and edgy.  “Accelerate gender parity” makes no sense whatsoever, and looks as though it was dreamed up by somebody who didn’t really understand all three words on their own, let alone how they could form a sentence.  Then they have a statement regarding “the power of challenging stereotypes” underneath a picture of a token ethnic woman and the words “building our future together” in what must be the most cliché-driven magazine cover one can imagine.  Seriously, take away the Manchester University logo and this could have been issued by an airline, a local authority, a charity, a corporation, a hospital, or just about anybody else. It’s as generic as they come.  Challenging stereotypes, indeed.

Bad though the front cover is, it goes downhill from there.  Page 3 gives us a piece by the President and Vice Chancellor – a woman – complete with photo in which she tells us that following Brexit “both the city and the University are and will remain irrevocably part of Europe.”  Never mind the referendum result then, we’re just supposed to accept her political desires.

Page 4 gives us this picture of Lemn Sissay, the university’s chancellor since 2015:

Now doesn’t he just personify academic rigour and gravitas? Page 5 gives us an interview with him, in which we find out:

A year into his Chancellorship, Lemn is still learning a lot, still getting to grips with the enormity of the role and what he describes as the vastness of the University.

Experience?  Who needs it?

But he’s enjoying himself.

And that’s the main thing.

I was in Broadway Market in Hackney the other day when I saw five young women, bright as summer, sharp as a pin, looking fantastic, synapses sparkling and they shouted ‘Chancellor, Chancellor!’.  It turns out they were all newly graduated alumni.  We took a selfie and I put it on my Facebook page.

I’m not making this up.

Page 14 and 15 contain a feature on a lecture given by Manchester University alumnus Winnie Byanyima, who is now Oxfam’s International Executive Director.  Here’s what she had to say:

[S]he began by reminiscing about her arrival in Manchester as a refugee from the brutal dictatorship of Idi Amin in Uganda.

“I was angry from having to leave my country.  But it was my experience here in Manchester that gave me the opportunity to turn that anger into activism,” she told a packed audience.  “I immediately joined other students.  We protested.  We organised.  We got involved in fierce intellectual debates.  We supported the anti-apartheid struggle and the decolonisation struggles in Africa at the time.”

So she was forced to flee a brutal, post-colonial African dictator who ate people and when she arrived in a safe haven she immediately started protesting against those who had taken her in and agitating for more of Africa to come under local rule.  That she can say this with a sense of pride, and the University of Manchester thinks putting this in their magazine is a good thing, speaks volumes.

Winnie went on to talk of major challenges that must be confronted, and the inequalities of income and wealth in a global economy that works for a few at the expense of the many, where almost a billion people go to bed hungry every night.

Apparently this is considered a good advertisement for the sort of education you can expect at Manchester.

She focused on the young women who work in factories producing clothes for high-street brands, working up to 23 hours a day and earning less than $4 for their labour.

Naturally, there is no mention of whether these women wanted the attentions of people like Winnie Byanyima.  It is just casually assumed that they need her help.

“We need to create a more human economy that works for people, rather than the other way round –  a human economy rather than an economy for the one per cent.”

Here we have an African-born woman who fled Idi Amin’s Uganda failing to notice the billions who have been lifted out of poverty by the phenomenal growth of the global economy over the past two or three decades.  Presumably the vast improvements in her native country since the mid-1990s put its population in the 1%.

Pages 19-21 consist of a piece about an award-winning electrical engineer, who also happens to be a woman.

Which is great, but back in 1999 I dated a girl who was studying Mechanical Engineering in the year below me.  She went by the name of Wendy and came from somewhere near Nottingham, and she was probably the cleverest person I’ve ever met anywhere, one of those extraordinarily gifted people who just turn up out of nowhere.  I think she completed her four year course with an average mark across all subjects of around 90%, and won every damned prize going in the engineering school such that even after her second year her name graced most of the plaques in the foyer.  I remember her sitting a 2-hour engineering maths exam and walking out at the earliest opportunity, which was 30 minutes.  She told me she’d finished after 20 minutes and that included checking.  She got 100%.  She was also a Grade 8 at piano and clarinet.  Like I say, an absolute genius (although not clever enough to keep clear of me).  My point is that exceptionally clever women have been excelling in hard engineering subjects at Manchester University for at least 20 years, it is nothing new.

Which is why pages 19 and 20 are particularly grating, containing the story from the cover about “accelerating gender parity” with one Naa Acquah – a Londoner born to Ghanaian parents – as the featured individual:

She became the first black female General Secretary (of  the Students’ Union) in 2015…presiding over the most diverse Executive Team mix in the history of the Union.

A diverse Union, you say? This would be the same Union that banned the feminist Julie Bindel from speaking at an event on, ironically, free speech and then followed that up by banning Milo Yiannopoulos from the same event.  But of course, at a modern university the colour of somebody’s skin is so much more important than maintaining diversity of thought.  The entire article is a litany of third-wave feminist claptrap complete with myths about the gender pay gap and sexual assault “on campus”, followed by an admission that Ms Acquah finds Beyoncé “inspirational”.  This Beyoncé:

Page 28-29 features an article on how a former graduate from Manchester is now mentoring a current student who is from Nigeria, just in case we haven’t got the message that Manchester University is so very diverse:

In case there are still spectacularly thick people reading the magazine that still haven’t got the message, the editors treat us to an article on a “widening participation programme” featuring one Dr Valeed Ghafoor who came from a disadvantaged background otherwise known as “the state school system”.

Page 36 gives us the profiles of three people who have won awards for being “outstanding and inspirational”:

Tell me you didn’t see that coming!

Pages 40-45 contain pictures of various people: 11 are women, 12 are ethnic minorities, 1 is a half-normal looking white male.

The back page is devoted to begging alumni for donations, motivating us to do so by including a picture of “Britain’s first black professor” and this picture:

Nah, sorry.  I’m not giving money to a university that has embraced poisonous identity politics, thinks nothing of ramming third-wave feminism down the throats of its students and alumni, and advertises itself as nothing more than a hive of dumbed-down, PC conformity.

Twenty years ago us students at Manchester were told the colour of people’s skin didn’t matter, and nobody batted an eyelid at a woman doing engineering or thought there was a shortage of female students occupying key positions.  Now all that’s changed, and the message I am getting loud and clear is that as a white British male I am no longer welcome.

Time to withdraw from the alumni association, I think.

The Factual Feminist

Careful readers may think that I give feminists a hard time on these pages, and they’d be right: I consider third-wave feminists to be preaching a vicious and highly destructive creed which ought to be starved of the oxygen of publicity and, more importantly, state funding.

But being against the screeching harpies of third-wave feminism does not mean I’m against equality for women, and nor does it mean I’m against much of what first-wave feminists campaigned for.  For indeed, there are many old-school feminists who fought to convince the world that women were not fragile creatures who needed to be wrapped in cotton wool, and wanted only to be allowed to compete in the same fields as men, but are now aghast at what has become of their movement.

For example, I have been reading the output of Christina Hoff Sommers for some time now, and a few days ago she wrote this excellent article in the Washington Post:

First of all, it’s time to stop calling the United States a patriarchy. A patriarchy is a system where men hold the power and women do not. Women do hold power in the United States — they lead major universities and giant corporations, write influential books, serve as state and federal judges and even manage winning presidential campaigns. American women, especially college-educated women, are the freest and most self-determining in human history. Why pretend otherwise?

Feminism is drowning in myth-information. Advocates never tire of telling us that women arecheated out of nearly a quarter of their salary; that one in four college women is sexually assaulted, or that women are facing an epidemic of online abuse and violence. Such claims are hugely distorted, but they have been repeated so often that they have taken on the aura of truth. Workplace discrimination, sexual assault and online threats are genuine problems, but to solve them women need sober analysis, not hype and spin. Exaggerated claims and crying wolf discredit good causes and send scarce resources in the wrong direction.

Too often, feminism focuses on gender inequities among elites: CEOs, MIT astrophysicists, U.S. senators. It is true that there are too few women in those positions, but we need to consider the entire workforce for context. Most backbreaking, lethally dangerous jobs — roofer, logger, roustabout and coal miner, to name a few — are done by men. It is men — especially working-class men — who are disproportionately crushed, mutilated, electrocuted or mangled at work. Activists lament the dearth of women in the Fortune 500, but they fail to mention the Unfortunate 4,500 — the approximate number of men killed on the job every year.

Big Feminism is a narrow, take-no-prisoners special-interest group. It sees the world as a zero-sum struggle between Venus and Mars. But most women want equality — not war. Men aren’t their adversaries — they are their brothers, sons, husbands and friends. As Henry Kissinger reportedly said, “No one will ever win the battle of the sexes. There’s too much fraternizing with the enemy.”

Women’s activists are now planning a Women’s March on Washington on Jan. 21. The organizers want to remind the new administration that women’s rights are human rights and for the world to “HEAR OUR VOICE,” in all caps. If I may offer some unsolicited advice: If that voice is calm and judicious rather than hyperbolic and harping, people just might listen.

I don’t agree with all of it (the notion that there are too few female CEOs, for example) and nor am I on board with everything the original feminists campaigned for, but I’m glad there are people like Hoff Sommers who are taking on the third-wave lunatics from within the feminist camp.  At least it shows opposition to these people is not simply down to misogyny and a desire to keep women down.

How Swedish Women have Chosen

Something I like to do whenever I encounter a woman who implies Western women are subject to societal pressure not to fulfill their career potential, e.g. by not pursuing STEM subjects, is to sympathise with them heavily to the point of condescension.

“Oh, that’s awful!” I’ll say.  “So you really wanted to be an engineer.  Yes, I can see why you’d be pretty upset now doing…what are you, again?  You’re a Welfare Officer at a third-rate university?  That must be awful, how do you feel about not being aware of the options available to you back then?”

The response is always the same. “Oh no, I am happy in my career and am fully aware of what my options are or were.  But there are other women out there who are too dim to know they can study engineering or too feeble-minded to resist the societal pressure that is exerted upon them.  But me, oh no, I am happy with my choices.”

It appears these mysterious “other women” don’t live in Sweden.  Via Christina Hoff-Sommers I came across this article on choices women are making:

Oh, to be in Sweden, a feminist paradise on Earth! Gender equality is baked into the nation’s DNA. Swedish women have advantages we can only only dream of – free universal child care, for example. Mothers and fathers get 480 (!) days of parental leave. An extensive welfare system makes it easy to balance work and family life.

Sweden and the other Nordic nations always seem to lead the rankings of the world’s best countries for women. (Canada is lucky to crack the top 20.) So they’re an ideal laboratory for finding out what women really want. What choices will women make when the playing field is as level as social policy can make it?

The trouble is that the world’s most liberated women aren’t leaning in – in fact, many are leaning back. They work fewer hours and make less money than men, just as Canadian women do. In fact, Swedish women are much more likely to have part-time jobs and far less likely to hold top managerial positions or be CEOs. On top of that, Scandinavian labour markets are the most gender-segregated in the developed world.

Women do make up 25 per cent of Swedish corporate boards, but only because of quotas. The greatest concentration of senior managers, CEOs and other highly paid power women isn’t in Scandinavia. It’s here in North America, where working women’s lives are much tougher.

It turns out that all these family-friendly policies have an unintended impact on the gender gap, as Kay Hymowitz and many others have noted. By making it easy for women to drop out of the work force and work shorter hours, they make it harder for women to progress in their careers. Swedish men have these options too, but they don’t take them. So women don’t advance as far as men. And they are also considered less desirable by corporate employers who need people on the job 24/7.

In any event, only a small proportion of Nordic women choose to work as managers and professionals. Most choose lower-paid, highly gender-segregated work. As Alison Wolf has written in her excellent book The XX Factor, Scandinavian countries “hold the record for gender segregation because they have gone the furthest in outsourcing traditional female activities and turning unpaid home-based ‘caring’ into formal employment.”

Despite vigorous efforts to stamp out gender stereotyping, most Swedish girls would still rather be daycare workers and nurses when they grow up. And boys would rather be welders and truck drivers. And that’s not all. To the extreme chagrin of social engineers throughout Scandinavia, mothers still take the bulk of parental leave. Most men take parental leave only when a certain part of it is designated for fathers only.

So given the choice, women make decisions which result in the same situation that the Patriarchy is forcing on them in the first place.  Or perhaps women are simply enlightened individuals exercising free will and there is no Patriarchy?  A tricky one, that.