Laurie Penny is not a nerd, and never will be

This caught my attention yesterday:

For those who might not know, Laurie Penny is a feminist journalist and author who studied English at Oxford and has appeared on the BBC, Channel 4, and in the New Statesmen, Guardian, and Morning Star almost always to express her political views. She is extremely outspoken and loves both stirring up trouble and getting attention, including writing about her polyamorous lifestyle in a national newspaper. The Daily Telegraph called her “”without doubt the loudest and most controversial female voice on the radical left.”

Does this sound like a nerd to you? No, me neither.

There was a time when to be a nerd you had to be good at science, technology, engineering, or maths (STEM) to the detriment of everything else. Or at least you had to be more interested in these subjects than most other people were, which made you socially inept as a teenager. Given that I studied maths, physics, and chemisty for A-level, did a Mechanical Engineering degree, and have (sort of) worked as an engineer for most of my career, believe me when I say I know what nerds are.

Nerds can be women. My first girlfriend back in university was a nerd, one of those one-in-million geniuses who could understand calculus without being taught, was blind as a bat, and if she spilled a glass of water the next thing she’d do was step in it by mistake. I knew another female nerd here in Paris, some maths whizz who worked for one of the international finance groups and numbers excited her. Wander around the geoscience department of a major oil company and you’ll see plenty of female nerds, although they are outnumbered by the men. The geologists are the most weird of all. They wear cargo pants and lumberjack shirts and take two-week holidays to go and visit an outcrop somewhere.

Being a nerd is about personality, which drives what you study. Nerds pay obsessive attention to detail, which suits STEM subjects where accuracy is more important than creativity. This is why nerds never really grow out of it. The engineers I work with are no longer the awkward teenagers they once were, but they still engage in the same hobbies. A colleague and friend of mine is from Malaysia, has a PhD, and wears glasses. His hobby is building amplifiers the old fashioned way using valves. Sometimes the stereotypes write themselves. Another colleague, a Venezuelan, heard about this and the two of them built one together. Both of them are around forty. Other engineer friends of mine are obsessed with whatever kit and equipment is associated to their hobby: biking, skiing, sailing, music. For them fiddling with the kit is three-quarters of the fun. Me? I have been known to build Airfix models as an adult and if I had the time and space I’d build a model railway. And I play the banjo. Enough said? I think so.

So why would an obvious non-nerd like Laurie claim to be one? Simple: in the modern world nerds are successful (once they grow up) and nerds are one of the few female groups who genuinely don’t need looks to gain attention, recognition, and progress in their careers. By claiming to be a nerd, Laurie is implying that she is highly intelligent and is respected in a field which requires a lot of hard work and dedication to enter. She says this in order to offset the physical disparity between her and the models, something nerds of both sexes do. Laurie is intelligent, but nobody would call a polemical feminist writer with such a craving for attention a nerd. Except herself, when asked to stand alongside a bunch of models.

It cannot be ignored that nerds tend to get well-paying jobs in stark contrast to those who study sociology or gender studies. Whatever it is nerds have, employers like it. Also, TV shows like Mythbusters and The Big Bang Theory repainted the nerd as an eccentric with a certain charm. The combination is to make the adult nerd somewhat endearing in terms of character and overall station in life (with the caveat that there are limits to the nerdiness). By calling herself a nerd, Laurie is attempting to portray herself as a loveable eccentric whose idiosyncrasies and quirks will be overlooked in light of her superior intellect and high-standing among like-minded peers.

Naturally, there are men falling over themselves to validate Laurie’s claims in the replies to her Tweet, probably thinking it will get them laid, but she’s not a nerd and never will be. That title is bestowed upon you by others, not awarded to yourself whenever you need a cutesy persona.

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Bad Hair

There’s something I find rather annoying about certain British women, an example of which is below:

Look at the state of her hair: it looks as though she’s just got out of bed, yet she’s happy to have this picture at the masthead of her opinion pieces in a national newspaper.

You see this a lot with British women. Watch the evening news and stick around until they interview a council spokeswoman, or a university lecturer, or some other “modern” woman of leftist bent and you’ll see the same thing: hair all over the place.

They do this deliberately, believing it displays casual indifference to their appearance which implies they instead express themselves with intellect, compassion, and other non-physical traits. Only to me it makes them seem slovenly.

This isn’t about looks – I don’t care whether the women are young or pretty – it is about effort. If I were asked to come on TV, or to provide a photo for a column, I would make damned sure I had shaved that morning and I’d probably be in a suit and tie. Anything else and I’d not be taken seriously, and rightly so.

British women, alas, have somewhat of a reputation among foreigners. One phrase I hear often is “they don’t know how to take care of themselves”. Is it true? I don’t know. But one thing is for sure: you’d not see a French, Italian, or Russian woman appearing in a national newspaper with hair like that.

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Poisoning Minds

Laurie Penny, the radical feminist and polyamorist, caught hold of the developments surrounding Julian Assange last week and decided to make them all about her. Her article starts off with a warning:

This post comes with a trigger warning for rape and sexual assault that should be visible from space.

I don’t know about trigger warnings, but a Martian would have certainly caught the wokeness.

Some of them are just everyday internet idiots who happen to believe that if a man who you have previously consented to sex with holds you down and fucks you, that isn’t rape. If you were wearing a short skirt and flirting, that isn’t rape. If a man penetrates you without a condom while you’re asleep, against your will, that isn’t rape, not, in Akin’s words, “legitimate rape”.

Or, if it’s Roman Polanski we’re talking about, it’s not “rape-rape“.

Old, white, powerful men know what rape is, much better, it seems, than rape victims.

Whoopi Goldberg aside, it’s old white men to blame. Who else?

As a culture, we still refuse collectively to accept that most rapes are committed by ordinary men, men who have friends and families, men who may even have done great or admirable things with their lives. We refuse to accept that nice guys rape, and they do it often.

We do? Actually, normal people believe most rapes are carried out by sickened individuals who inhabit the criminal fringes of society with the remainder falling to men who otherwise appear ordinary and whom you’d never suspect of such a crime. I’m sure Penny knows this, but:

This is not an article about Julian Assange.

No, it’s an article about Penny:

The man who raped me wasn’t a bad guy.

He was one of the good rapists?

He was in his early thirties, a well-liked and well-respected member of a social circle of which I am no longer a part,  a fun-loving, left-leaning chap who was friends with a number of strong, feminist women I admired.  I was nineteen. I admired him too.

Note the importance of his political orientation in Penny’s explanation as to why she ended up in bed with a rapist. Had he been a paid-up Republican I somehow think Penny would not be using sentences such as “the man who raped me wasn’t a bad guy”. Her judgement was found wanting then, and I’m wondering whether it’s any better now.

One night, a group of my friends held a big party in a hotel. Afterwards, a few of the older guests, including this man, invited me up to the room they had rented. I knew that some drinking and kissing and groping might happen. I started to feel ill, and asked if It would be alright if I went to sleep in the room – and I felt safe, because other people were still there. I wasn’t planning to have sex with this man or with anyone else that night, but if I had been, that wouldn’t have made it okay for him to push his penis inside me without a condom or my consent.

The next thing I remember is waking up to find myself being penetrated, and realising that my body wasn’t doing what I told it to. Either I was being held down or – more likely – I was too sick to move. I’ve never been great at drinking, which is why I don’t really do it any more, but this feeling was more profound, and to this day I don’t know if somebody put something in my drink that night. I was horrified at the way his face looked, fucking me, contorted and sweating. My head span. I couldn’t move. I was frightened, but he was already inside me, and I decided it was simplest to turn my face away and let him finish. When he did, I crawled to the corner of the enormous bed and lay there until the sun came up.

In the morning I got up, feeling sick and hurting inside, and took a long, long shower in the hotel’s fancy bathroom. The man who had fucked me without my consent was awake when I came out. He tried to push me down on the bed for oral, but I stood up quickly and put on my dress and shoes. I asked him if he had used a condom. He told me that he ‘wasn’t into latex’, and asked if I was on the pill.

I’m going to take Penny’s word for it that this actually happened. Granted she has made stuff up before, but the purpose of this post is not to cast doubt on her version of events. As she describes above, she was raped. Which is a pretty shit thing to happen.

I don’t remember thinking ‘I have just been raped’. After all, this guy wasn’t behaving in the manner I had learned to associate with rapists. Rapists are evil people.

So who taught you, at age 19, what rapists were like? I’ll hazard a guess that the “number of strong, feminist women” she admired who were friends with this rapist made the same political points you did, i.e. that old, powerful white men are largely are the ones to look out for and that being left-leaning automatically made him “decent”. Thus leaving you hopelessly ill-equipped to deal with a real-life rapist.

They’re not nice blokes who everybody respects who simply happen to think it’s ok to stick your dick in a teenager who’s sleeping in the same bed as you, without a condom. This guy seemed, if anything, confused as to why I was scrabbling for my things and bolting out the door. He even sent me an email a few days later, chiding me for being rude.

The point of Penny’s post appears to be that her rapist appeared nice but turned out not to be, on the assumption that it was an easy mistake to make. But what exactly was this social-circle of which she is no longer a part, and who the hell were these friends? This man appears to be engaging in behaviour deemed acceptable to the group: where is their culpability in all of this? Did he treat others in the same way? Note that the age gap is at least 12 years, which at the respective ages speaks volumes.

I had to wait two weeks for test results which showed that the man who raped me had given me a curable infection.

Why do I get the impression that this individual is not half as normal and decent as Penny is letting us believe. At a guess, I would say he is a slimy fucker of the first water who hangs around lefty circles hoping to get into the knickers of women, usually much younger and with low self-esteem and few morals, throwing out leftist and feminist platitudes to get himself accepted with no further scrutiny. Penny, at nineteen years of age, ought to have stayed well away from him even if she didn’t think he was a rapist.

I told my friend that I felt dirty and ashamed of myself. She said she was sorry I felt that way. Everybody else in that social circle seemed to agree that by going to that hotel room and taking off my nice lace dress I had asked for whatever happened next, and so I dropped the issue. They were right and I was wrong.

Some friends. Who, let’s not forget, were feminists.

It’s so common that – sorry if this hurts to hear – there’s a good chance you know somebody who might have raped someone else.

I can believe this, but it is more a reflection of Penny’s social circles and readership than the presence of rapists among menfolk in general.

I didn’t report my rape. It took me months even to understand it as rape. I stopped talking about it, because I was sick of being called a liar, and I got the shut-up message fairly fast. I tried to stop thinking about it.

By whom? Your family? Friends?

But this week brought it all up again.

That was yesterday. And that’s why I’m writing this post now. I’ve actually written it three times, and deleted it twice, and I’ve decided to bite my lip and click ‘publish’, because this vicious drift towards victim-blaming must stop. It’s not about Julian Assange, not really, not any more.

No Penny, it’s about you. Only it’s inadvertently about your appalling judgement, both then and now. Not in a way that implies you shouldn’t have gone to bed with him or led him on or that you deserved it. Not at all. Just that you should never have even met him in the first place, let alone admired him, and nor should you have entered a social circle of people who allow this sort of thing to happen and then blame you afterwards.

Had Penny wanted to write an article about her experiences, she could have listed the reasons why she, being young an impressionable, fell into this circle and made contact with these people and how she could have done with some sensible advice at the time. That may have been of some use to any young woman – and there will be many – who finds themselves in a similar situation of falling in with rather unpleasant older women who appear to share their values yet who consort with rapists. But that would require challenging her deep beliefs surrounding the nature of modern-day feminism and wouldn’t supply an opportunity to score political points and insinuate that every third male is a rapist.

I write this partly because the damage these so-called feminists do to impressionable young women is shameful, and twofold: firstly they encourage women to make extremely poor decisions which are very difficult to reverse, and then they deny them the ability to deal with what has happened and move on. Instead they fill their heads with the same garbage that got them into the mess in the first place and encourage them to preach the same poison to the younger generation – as Penny is now doing. Her brand of politically-charged feminism is going to make it more likely impressionable young women get raped because she is presenting ordinary, decent men as rapists and encouraging them to adopt the same misguided attitudes towards sex, friendship, and social interaction that landed her in such trouble. She’s learned something from her experience, but alas she ought to have learned a lot more.

The other reason I write this is because it aligns closely with the main character in my book, based on somebody I knew, who made some appalling decisions as a young and impressionable young woman in the absence of a decent set of friends and competent family members, and – almost a decade later – utterly failed to deal with any of it thanks to surrounding herself with older, radical feminists that encouraged her to embrace the lifestyle further, avoid any self-reflection, and angrily reject criticism.

These people have a lot to answer for.

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Reading Between The Lines

Somebody on Twitter trawled through adverts for housemates in the Washington Post and noticed several of them required potential applicants to pass a political test:

I found something profoundly depressing about that advert. Here we have a group of women, most likely with degrees from high-ranking universities, probably all of them right-on feminists and as politically correct as they come, and no doubt enjoying promising careers in the capital. On the surface their lives sound like fun, but the manner in which they go out of their way to say – in an advert – what a fun bunch of gals they are makes me pause. It’s almost like they are trying too hard, as if they think they’re the women from Sex and the City, or something. Note the admission of drinking quantity rather than quality, and singing badly. Oh, the larks!

I’m going to be cruel here and take a stab at the real situation. Here you have three or four absolute bitches, all of whom are backstabbing and scheming their way to senior management positions overseeing process-driven functions in pointless organisations that are solely dependent on government largesse. If they don’t already, each will fit the description of “power skirt” in a few years and will introduce policies which ultimately cost their employers a lot of money and get awards for doing so. They’ll all be middle or upper class but will think they are down wiv the masses because they voted for Hillary, and will never have met a Trump supporter in their lives save for the well-built, handsome lawyer one of them fucked one Friday night after a drunken cocktail party. She thought he was very arrogant and “it could never have worked” but she didn’t shut up about him for the next three months.

They are earning good money but the prices in DC mean they have to houseshare, which none of them will actually like but they are pretending to. As soon as they can afford it they’ll move out and rent an overpriced hovel where they’ll live alone. And that is likely how they’ll stay for their entire lives, unless you include the cats they’ll purchase for company when they pass forty. For my guess is right now they are “concentrating on their careers” and in the few hours they’re not working they are engaging in pointless political posturing (e.g. by joining the seemingly endless stream of protest marches that take place in their city), getting drunk, and generally behaving in a way that will put off any half-decent man of husband material. As I said here, most men settle down with the woman they will eventually marry in their late twenties, usually with women a couple of years younger than they are, i.e. in their mid-twenties. Any woman who thinks she’s going to start looking for decent husband material in her thirties is in for a rather rude awakening as she discovers almost all of it has been taken already by women who got their priorities straight early on.

I’d bet that none of the women referred to in that advert has a steady boyfriend that they’ll still be with in five years time, and right now they believe they can have it all: the career, the social life, and – later – the rich husband and the family. Or maybe not: perhaps I’m completely wrong about all of this.

But what I would do if I were thinking of renting that spare room is to find out why it is suddenly available, get in touch with the person that vacated it, and ask them what it was like living in that household. Take a notepad, because I reckon there would be enough material for an entire book.

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Sexist Language in Performance Reviews

Early in March I wrote a post on the future for men in a corporate world which often appears only interested in attracting and promoting women. In it I said:

Where you don’t find as many women is in the technical and production side of a business, i.e. the bit that makes the company money. In other words, women prevail in the support services and men tend to dominate the departments which create the product that brings in the revenue.

The main difference between the production side and support services is that the former is very much goal-driven, while the latter is process-driven. Modern corporations have reached the point that huge swathes of their organisation, perhaps even most of it, is taken up by processes: ensuring various bureaucratic steps are followed to the letter with the involvement of myriad people and with maximum discussion, with the outcome being of secondary importance. It is these areas, particularly in relation to subjects such as HR and financial and legal compliance, that have driven the growth of corporation headcounts in recent years. Meanwhile it is the goal-driven parts of the business, where the process is important but nevertheless very much secondary to achieving a set outcome, which has seen headcounts reduced as automation, outsourcing, and efficiency improvements have been applied.

In short, the percentage of employees engaged in process-driven activities (compliance, HR, legal, finance, general services, etc.) has increased relative to those engaged in goal-driven activities (sales, production, maintenance, etc.) This brings me onto this article in the BBC on hidden sexist language in the workplace that contains this passage:

In performance reviews, women tend to receive feedback that’s vague (“you had a great year” for example) or sexist, such as a disproportionate amount of comments on communication style, while men get clearer feedback about specific skills related to actual job performance.

Of course you wouldn’t expect somebody at the BBC to consider this, but could it be different language is used for women during their appraisals because their objectives are so much more difficult to define, working as they do in process-driven positions? Perhaps men tend to get clearer feedback on specific skills related to actual job performance because they are working in roles where performance can be measured, i.e. in goal-driven roles. When setting employee objectives, managers in modern corporations have been advised to use the SMART acronym: Specific, Measurable, Agreed upon, Realistic, Time-related.

It’s easy to see how this would apply to objectives related to positions in production or maintenance, and especially sales. But for process-driven roles? I bet half the people in the support services couldn’t come up with a single objective that was measurable. How do you give somebody working in a diversity or HR department a SMART objective that doesn’t break down into vague, woolly guff or contain the words “managed to avoid a lawsuit”? An employee in charge of maintenance will be given an objective of 95% uptime on the piece of machinery under their supervision, and come the appraisal will be told:

“Well done, you kept the damned thing running! Your intervention during that unplanned shutdown that occurred at 4am that wet, November night was particularly impressive, as you’d arranged for spares to be kept on hand for just that eventuality.”

But what do you tell somebody who is working in the travel department?

“Yeah, erm…I see you managed to process one stage of the paperwork involved with the booking of hotels and you checked the concerned employee obtained the correct signatures each time, and when he didn’t you sent it back. Oh, and also you were quick to inform that other employee when he was trying to book into a hotel that was conveniently located but, alas, not on our approved list. Erm, well done.”

Or the diversity department:

“Right, I see you have sent out an email informing everybody that it is International Women’s Day. Yes, good. Well done. And your participation in the meeting about which ratio of Africans to Asians we should have on the front of our annual report was appreciated, although perhaps next time don’t point out so loudly that the people in the photo don’t actually work for us and we bought the image from a PR firm.”

Faced with carrying out an appraisal for somebody in a process-driven position with a vague, woolly job description which makes setting SMART objectives extremely difficult, is it any wonder managers simply say “you had a great year” instead of going into details of what they have actually achieved?

I suspect this supposed language disparity between the performance reviews of men and women is less about sexism and more reflective of the sorts of job each sex is employed in. A good way to test this theory would be to look at how women doing the same jobs as men are spoken to in appraisals, and probably the best place to do this would be in sales and marketing departments: they are very much goal-driven and are chock-full of women.

The next step would be to find those employees to whom vague feedback has been given and ask their managers to set some SMART objectives. If they struggle to do so then the employees should be fired along with the managers because they shouldn’t even be there in the first place.

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Pence, Dinners, and Mythbusters

I’m back from Budapest: more on that later.

While I was away the US Vice President Mike Pence seems to have subjected himself to ridicule and outrage from various quarters due to a confession that he will not dine alone with any woman other than his wife of 32 years.

Some people believed that this may harm the careers of those women who interact with Pence professionally:

Social-science research shows this practice extends beyond politics and into the business world, and it can hold women back from key advancement opportunities.

So, is dining alone with a boss or colleague a necessary condition for professional success? The answer can be found in a rather unlikely story:

Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman have worked closely with each other for 14 seasons on “Mythbusters,” but that doesn’t mean they were close.

Possibly the biggest myth the duo has busted is the belief that you can’t work with someone you don’t get along with.

I say unlikely because when you watch Mythbusters (and being a mechanical engineer who has spent a period unemployed, trust me when I tell you I have) the dynamic between the two is such that you can’t believe they are not friends in real life. But apparently not, and the article is worth reading because it shows how they moulded two conflicting personalities into a show that worked. So what’s this got to do with Pence? This:

“We don’t get along very well together on a personal level. In 25 years we’ve known each other, we’ve never had dinner alone together.”

So one of the most successful working relationships in modern times occurred between two people who never had dinner alone together. At this stage one is entitled to ask why some think women’s careers will suffer under Pence’s cruel no-dinners policy and, more importantly, what they believe women would do alone with Pence that they would not do in company. It seems to me those complaining about it either have a rather dim view of women and how they progress in their careers, or they’re projecting from how they advanced their own.

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Feminists and Film

The Oilfield Expat put up a good post about a year ago asking why, if the Patriarchy is busy dissuading women from studying engineering and pursuing it as a career, so many women nevertheless studied chemical engineering, leading to the process engineering departments of oil companies being full of them:

If there is a patriarchy preventing women from becoming well-paid and successful engineers, they’ve overlooked the Process department.

I was reminded of that yesterday when I saw the good folk at Samizdata link to this Spiked! article on what they call feminism’s war on art:

The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) announced last week that it had adopted a system called the ‘F-rating’, intended to draw attention to films regarded as feminist.

These ratings are intended more as a provocation, designed to make people think about how women are depicted in film, and represented in the industry. As the F-rated website describes it: ‘The stories we see on screen need to be told by a broad spectrum of people to represent our diverse culture. Without change, we will train the next generation to only recognise white males as the protagonists and the ones in control of the cameras, scripts and budgets.’

The underlying assumption with feminists is that in the arts world, as with everywhere else, women are kept from participating fully by the deliberate actions of, presumably, men. The idea that perhaps women might not want to go into the film industry in the same numbers as men, or that they might simply be crap at the tasks therein, doesn’t seem to enter the mind of the modern feminist.

The problem with the feminists’ assumptions over women in the arts is the same as the one that The Oilfield Expat highlights in a different context. Whereas he asks “What about the Process Engineers?”, I ask “What about the literary world?” If there is an overbearing Patriarchy keeping women from being scriptwriters and film directors, you’d have thought a similar mechanism would be in force in publishing and literature.

Regardless of whether a Patriarchy exists, in the arts or wider society, literature is one area where women have indisputably held their own against men, and they have done for generations. Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters are canons of English literature, held in the same regard as Dickens and Hardy. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein achieved unprecedented commercial success and spawned an entire genre of horror stories, films, and plays. Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind is considered one of the cornerstones of American literature selling over 30 million copies, as is Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. The most successful children’s author by quite some margin is Enid Blyton, although perhaps she ran into some Patriarchy at the beginning:

Blyton’s manuscripts had been rejected by publishers on many occasions, which only made her more determined to succeed: “it is partly the struggle that helps you so much, that gives you determination, character, self-reliance – all things that help in any profession or trade, and most certainly in writing”.

Or perhaps not. Note the emphasis on hard work and lack of demands for an F-rating in publishing. A lot of kids today might not be familiar with Blyton’s works, but they will certainly know J.K. Rowling, another female author who has enjoyed staggering success. Less well known would be Richmal Crompton of the William series and Sue Townsend who created Adrian Mole. I could also mention Daphne du Maurier and Joan Aitken, but I think I’ve made my point: if there is a Patriarchal system at work in the arts keeping talented women from realising their full potential, then it is doing a shockingly poor job insofar as female authors are concerned.

The Spiked! article attempts to address this:

Film is unique among artforms. Its emblematical qualities, of capturing and representing appearances, means it often carries the burden of postmodern theories of representation. As such, it has been one of the main focuses of feminist scrutiny.

If you have to resort to language as woolly as that, you’re clutching at straws. My guess is that it is a lot easier for feminists to muscle in on a cushy job around a film set than it is to sit down and write a decent book that people want to buy.

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Suicides in Canada

The BBC attempts to tackle the subject of young women committing suicide in Canada, and does so in typically garbled fashion. Let’s take a look.

Suicide amongst young women is on the rise. When it comes to mental health, is gender the elephant in the room?

That’s a good question. Let’s see how the BBC answers it.

Across the country, suicide amongst teen girls and young women is on the rise, while male suicide in the same age group declines, according to data released by Statistics Canada on Thursday.

Health experts have long been concerned with the prevalence of suicide amongst young men. It has been called a “silent epidemic” and for good reason. In 2013, men were three times as likely to kill themselves as women, the latest data shows.

But while men are still much more likely to kill themselves in Canada, young women are starting to catch up. Over the past decade, the suicide rate amongst girls has increased by 38%, while male suicide decreased by 34%.

So while men have been killing themselves at three times the rate of women for decades, it becomes a “gender elephant in the room” if the statistics start to converge slightly? Uh-huh.

The growth has helped level out the gender-gap, with women accounting for 42% of all suicide deaths under 20 in 2013. In 2003, they accounted for just over a quarter.

Hmmm. Some absolute numbers would be good here. Has the number of male suicides stayed the same, or dropped? And why cite data from 2013 in an article published in 2017. Updated suicide data can’t be that hard to get hold of. Some proper journalism would be nice.

A 2012 report by the Public Health Agency of Canada urged researchers to look at why suicide had declined in teen boys since the 1980s, but not in girls. With the government expected to earmark considerable funds for mental health in the next annual budget, due in mid-March, health experts are wondering if Canada needs to rethink the role of gender in suicide prevention.

If men are offing themselves, then fuck them and fuck the patriarchy. If the female suicide stats start to pick up a notch, then health experts suddenly become interested in the role of gender. Somebody wants to get their mitts on those funds, don’t they?

“It definitely warrants some really dedicated attention to why there has been such an increase, particularly when we are seeing children and youth dying by suicide,” says Renee Linklater, director of Aboriginal community engagement at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto.

Ms Linklater says she’s been concerned about growing suicide rates amongst young indigenous women for some time, and limited data suggests they are more vulnerable than non-indigenous girls. Data obtained by the BBC for 2015 shows that indigenous women are more likely to kill themselves than non-indigenous women.

Could that be cultural, do you think? Surely this is more worthy of further research than the role of gender?

Women made up more than half of all indigenous suicides in 2015, compared to the non-aboriginal population where women made up just one quarter of all suicides. Between 2006 and 2015, the number of female suicides climbed 1.5 times faster in indigenous women than it did for non-indigenous women.

So being an indigenous woman sucks big time and it’s getting worse. Is this more related to gender or culture or a combination of both? Either way, I think the BBC has got its headline wrong.

Ms Linklater says we should be paying more attention to this disparity, and the affects that gender and colonialism have on young indigenous women, whom she says experience “double oppression”.

Colonialism? That doesn’t explain the increase, does it? Or is the colonisation of Canada’s First Nation peoples proceeding apace and nobody told me?

Researchers in Canada and abroad are not sure why suicide is rising amongst young women. Some have suggested it could be because women are using deadlier methods. Others say it might be because coroners are reporting female suicide more.

Random bloggers in Paris suggest filling their heads with third-wave feminist garbage leaving them confused, conflicted, and depressed might have something to do with it.

In Canada, women make three to four times as many suicide attempts as men do. Studies indicate that there is a strong link between a history of sexual abuse and suicide attempts.

If this paragraph appeared a little earlier it would imply that indigenous girls are more frequently subject to sexual abuse. “Let’s not put that there,” said the BBC editor.

Yet gender is rarely discussed when we talk about youth suicide, says Ms Oockay, who works in suicide prevention in Woodstock.

That’s because it’s mainly been men who kill themselves, and who gives a fuck about them?

Arielle Sheftall, a researcher at the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research at the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in the United States, says that more research is needed into the role that gender and age play in suicide prevalence.

“Research has shown that the age of puberty is getting younger, and the age of onset for psychiatric disorders especially depression, is highly correlated with the age of puberty,” says Ms Sheftall.

Women go through puberty earlier than men, yet is is men who are killing themselves at far higher rates. Still, let’s give Ms Sheftall some taxpayer funds anyway.

Another culprit might be sexism, research into suicide in developing countries suggests. Dr Suzanne Petroni, the senior director for gender, population and development at the International Center for Research on Women, believes that lack of opportunity and rigid gender roles may be to blame for the high rate of young female suicides in developing countries, like India.

Eh? Have gender roles become more or less rigid in places like India over the past few decades? My guess would be less so. In which case, women are more likely to kill themselves as traditional gender roles are relaxed. Would any feminist like to comment on that?

“Rampant sexism, harmful gender norms, perceptions of girls not being valued as anything other than a wife and a mother, very likely is contributing to mental-health problems and suicide,” she told the BBC.

Maybe, but what this has to do with ultra-liberal Canada is anyone’s guess.

These harmful stereotypes, or “visions of what they should be, but aren’t”, have only been amplified by the spread of social media around the globe, Dr Petroni says.

It’s not every day you hear a “senior director for gender, population and development at the International Center for Research on Women” parroting the lines of ultra-conservatives regarding the dangers of exposing “traditional” women to the depravities of the West.

Although Woodstock is far from the developing world, this explanation rings true to Ms Ookcay, who teaches suicide prevention.

“Our youth live in a world that the pressure and stress is way different than it ever has been. I see high levels of perfectionism and the need to be on it all the time, and be the best at everything you do,” she told the BBC.

So Millenials in Ontario are just as oppressed as peasant women in Burkina Faso, only differently. Right.

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The Future for Men

Via Twitter I stumbled across this blog post about the grim future facing young boys in a world seemingly hell-bent on promoting women simply for being women:

I must say that when I read of Hillary Clinton’s recent video proclamation…that “the future is female,” my mind immediately raced to my four grandsons, ages 3, 7, 10, and 11. What would the two older ones think if and when they heard or read of this statement, which emanated from someone who came very close to being our president (and for whom I had voted)? In fact, what does this say to Clinton’s own grandson, Aidan, who is now eight months old? The message to her granddaughter, 2-year-old Charlotte is clear and encouraging. But what about Aidan? And all his baby boy peers?

Yes, due to the incredible energy and persistence of second wave feminism, the world—read, the developed world—has changed positively for women, and especially for girls and young women.

Just one example: Education. In 1975, men slightly outnumbered women on college campuses, and vastly outnumbered them in graduate school, medical school, and law school. Today, women substantially outnumber men on college campuses, and are essentially 50 percent of postgraduate programs. In fact, in the last several years there have been more doctorates awarded to women than to men.

By comparison, boys and young men have, at best, languished.

That education systems in the West have been transformed to benefit girls, i.e. by putting more weight on coursework and collaborative projects than all-or-nothing exams has been known for years. It has also been noted that teachers and school staff are overwhelmingly female:

Female staff make up an even higher percentage of teaching
assistants, 92 per cent, and school support staff, 82 per cent. In total
80 per cent of the school workforce are female.

There has been very little change between 2012 and 2013 in the
percentage of teachers who are female/male. In 2013, 73.6 per cent of
teachers were female, 26.4 per cent male. In 2012, the split was 73.3
per cent of teachers were female, 26.6 per cent male.

The detrimental effect this has had on boys has been known for a long time. The fact that young men are the most likely to commit suicide is something that doesn’t garner as much attention as it ought to.

The blog post I quoted at the beginning asks what boys and young men are supposed to make of campaigns, often supported by government, which state categorically that the future belongs to women. I myself have wondered a similar thing when it comes to the corporate world. It is difficult to identify a major corporation these days which does not openly cite “gender equality” as one of its core missions and actively campaigns internally and externally for more women to fill the prestigious and better-paid positions. Audi recently embarrassed itself by perpetuating the gender pay gap myth in an advert it showed during the Superbowl in a sign that modern corporations have adopted third-wave feminist agendas without even bothering to check whether the complaints are real, let alone whether the solutions are desirable.

This will come as no surprise to those who have bothered to look at a major corporation. For all the talk of women being underrepresented in modern business, anyone who has had to deal with an HR department will find it staffed almost exclusively with women. Take a look at a marketing department in any given corporation and count the number of men versus women, particularly those in management. Admin and general services aren’t much different, and nor is public relations. The legal department will probably be around a 50:50 split, as will the accounts department. If anything, they’ll be top-heavy with women.

Where you don’t find as many women is in the technical and production side of a business, i.e. the bit that makes the company money. In other words, women prevail in the support services and men tend to dominate the departments which create the product that brings in the revenue. And this is what the campaigns are trying to change: the problem facing modern corporations isn’t that there are not enough women employed, but that they are not employed in the right areas, i.e. those which require technical skills and pay well. Rather than accept the rather obvious truth that women are under-represented in these areas mostly because they choose not to go into them nor study the university subjects that lead there, corporations have decided to aim for equality of outcome rather than equality of opportunity. In practice, this means promoting women ahead of men in order that the gender statistics balance to a degree satisfactory to the Diversity Department.

Which is fine: companies may do as they please if they think it will help them in some way. But don’t expect young men leaving university (or thinking about going to university) to be overly impressed with a graduate recruitment programme that talks incessantly about women as if men didn’t matter any more: chances are they’ll get the message and think about doing something else.

So what else will they do? Well, that’s the thing, isn’t it? For a while I believed the future of employment lay with giant corporations wedded to government-imposed regulations that kill off smaller competition and create insurmountable barriers to entry. But now I’m not so sure. Whereas I always thought industries were destined to consolidate, now it looks as though they may well do the opposite. Look at my own industry: the supermajors are struggling to come to terms with an era of lower oil prices and have adopted strategies of effectively waiting for it to go back up again. Meanwhile light, nimble shale operators you’ve never heard of in the United States have popped up out of nowhere and are back producing again. The growth areas of employment in France are not giant, lumbering industrial champions but much smaller IT service companies (not many people know this, but the French are really good at IT, particularly stuff like point-of-sale technologies). Logistics is an enormous growth area which the Internet has opened up: how many people does Amazon employ now compared to ten years ago? Whereas years ago manufacturing was done in giant factories, now a combination of the Internet and CNC machines means small-scale fabrication can be done anywhere. At the moment it is still being done in China, but there is every chance that as 3D printing develops further we could see the benefits of tiny, one or two-man cottage industries in every town making things on demand with a delivery time measured in hours beating the current model of making everything in China and shipping it over. It is speculation on my part, but I can see a future in fragmented, tiny enterprises scattered everywhere and linked to the customer by the Internet and brilliant, on-demand logistics. I also think this will represent a better opportunity for economic growth than further consolidation of massive, established companies. It’s hard to see what more can be done with the latter, whereas the possibilities for the former are endless.

Which raises the question: into which model do men and women fit? As I said before, women seem to prefer working in sprawling bureaucracies masquerading as support functions in huge companies. Men tend to drift towards the sharp end of the business where the core function is carried out and the most value added. I am also fairly certain that it will be men who are setting up the small, nimble businesses that aim to cash in on technologies such as the Internet, drones, and 3D printing. There will be female entrepreneurs, but their numbers will be dwarfed by those who are men. For whatever reason, young men in their twenties have a habit of risking all for a big reward instead of seeking security and certainty, at least in comparison to their female peers.

If the future of economic growth and employment opportunities are going to be in smaller, lightweight companies with minimal overheads working in fragmented industries scattered all over the place, the brightest men will be drawn to these areas of the economy. This will only get worse if established employers continue to favour women over men in their recruitment and career development policies, as most are doing now. I appreciate I can’t see the future and I might be wrong about all this, but we could find ourselves in a situation whereby large corporations become the employers of choice for women while the men head off into the areas of the economy that represent the future. And how do you think that’s going to work out for each group?

In short, those taking advantage of corporate policies designed to give better opportunities and outcomes to women may find themselves enjoying a glittering career in an organisation that is being bypassed by small companies of men who collectively wield far more clout. It’s all very well being fast-tracked up the corporate ladder to the rousing applause of your fellow female colleagues, but it won’t mean much if they’re working for the equivalent of Blockbuster Video and Netflix has just launched.

Tomorrow is International Women’s Day and no doubt the Western media will be filled with puff pieces on women in politics, business, and education (unlike in Russia where the girls turn up in short skirts and knee boots, get given flowers, and then go out at lunchtime to get smashed on cheap champagne). I’ll do my best to ignore them, but I reckon in another generation there will be a few household names who will wish they hadn’t chased the men away quite so quickly.

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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.

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