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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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.

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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.

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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.

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