Tuesday 17 February 2015

Response to a semi-reasonable feminist

Today, a (more reasonable than typical) feminist in a comment thread on YouTube asked me what I think of this article. My response is simply too long to relegate to a comment thread, so I'm putting it here.

So without further ado, let's get stuck into it:

1) "Women's integration in the workforce after World War II translated into massive macroeconomic gains. Given that ladies make up approximately half of the workforce, their integration had huge positive ripple effects in all industries. And we shouldn't stop there: Incorporating even more women in the workforce can help keep our economy vibrant."

Post WWII, women's wages began to steadily rise relative to men's, while men's wages in adjusted dollars stagnated or fell relative to what they had previously been. Housing prices increased, inflation went through the roof, and worst of all, the tax burden on individuals and families has gone up year by year. Personal consumer debt has also steadily increased, and most of that increase has been debt owing on depreciable assets (furniture, cars and even groceries--not houses or business loans). 

I see that the study linked discusses these "gains" in terms of raw GDP, rather than adjusted GDP. The raw GDP does not take into account the economic health of individuals or families, but rather the overall productivity of economies. Progressives have made much of the increasing gap between the very rich and everyone else in the US and elsewhere, and the emergence of a new oligarchy (think The 1%). Yet none of them seem able to grasp what doubling the available labor pool might have done to drive up competition for jobs, drive wages downward, and simultaneously inflate people's reliance on consumer goods and services (such as day care and fast food) provided by the very corporations that are paying workers less in adjusted wages than ever. 

To these types of bean counters, the poisonous, rotten beans are worth as much as the healthy, nutritious ones. Considering that every car accident, every diagnosis of cancer, every divorce, every war and every prison built and staffed to house a growing number of criminals boosts the GDP, increasing numbers of economists are starting to realize that GDP in isolation cannot be used as an indicator of economic prosperity. Every woman on WIC boosts the GDP. Every new layer of bureaucracy constructed to separate working people from their money boosts the GDP. Heck, I'm sure the "GDP" of the average cotton plantation in the 1820s was pretty healthy, but that doesn't mean the majority of its "citizens" were in a good place, does it?

It's called the "broken window fallacy". Google it.

Women's increased participation in the workforce has brought economic "gains". But gains for whom? For families? Is the average, working class family better off now than in 1950? Do they have less debt? Do they enjoy more leisure time? 

So how, exactly, has this state of affairs economically affected individual men? Other than driving their wages down, while increasing their reliance on consumer goods and services, and their tax burden, that is? 

And no, I'm not arguing that women should not have every right to work. Nor am I advocating a return to the "good old days". But idiots using the raw GDP to paint a rosy picture about women and work that seems WAY too easily swallowed by the very same people who most object to the ever-growing gap between the rich and the poor... well, that beggars belief. And lets not forget about the legions of poor women, many of them women of color, many of them easily exploitable foreign workers, who often work for less than minimum wage looking after the houses and children of those luckier, educated women who have "benefitted" from feminism. 

More than this, polls have shown that about 2/3 of working women would rather work less than more, and a large number wouldn't work at all if they had a choice. But many don't have that choice. In fact, the ones least likely to have that choice are the ones furthest removed from the experience of the ivory tower academics who write these studies and influence public policy. The reason these women often feel that way is because they don't have careers. They have jobs. They went from making sandwiches at home for people they love to making sandwiches at Subway for chump change and never seeing their families because 99% of working class people now need two incomes just to get by.

Well done, feminism!

2) It's a well-known fact that women highly respect a guy who's willing to do his share around the house. Judging by the number of gawk-worthy "porn for women" slideshows, ladies are turned on when their partners reveal a little more of their domestic side. But what about men? What do they stand to gain? 

It's a well-known fact that women SAY they highly respect a guy who's willing to do his share around the house, and that they're turned on by men who do the dishes.

Unfortunately, research reveals otherwise. Research also reveals that economically egalitarian marriages, even in highly egalitarian societies, have a higher rate of divorce. About 2/3 of divorces across the board, from Sweden to Iran, are initiated by women. 

Whether feminist women are better in bed, well, it's entirely likely that they are. But a sample size of less than 600 isn't anything conclusive, and there's no indication in the Science Daily article regarding response rates or margins of error (or even effect size). 

They found that having a feminist partner was linked to healthier heterosexual relationships for women.  Men with feminist partners also reported both more stable relationships and greater sexual satisfaction. According to these results, feminism does not predict poor romantic relationships, in fact quite the opposite.
How much healthier and more stable? How much greater satisfaction? How much the opposite? 2%? 50%? 200%? What was the feminist status of each couple as a whole? Was it more likely that either both partners were feminist, or both not? Because that might have a lot to do with relationship stability, no? What other variables were controlled for? Unfortunately, if a person wants to find out any of that, they have to fork over some cash...

I have read some hideous reports in the mainstream media regarding the "findings" of feminist advocacy researchers. Here's a criticism of a recent one that was all over the news, reported by people who hadn't even read it as if it was the final word on the subject.

3) In 1976, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional to treat women and men differently under the law. The case, Craig v. Boren, was filled by a plaintiff in Oklahoma over its gender-specific drinking age policy, which prohibited men from drinking before age 21, but allowed women to drink when as young as 18. This implied that men are inherently more reckless and women are more responsible. After the law was struck down, the drinking age became 21 for all. According to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the ruling determined much more than just Oklahoma's drinking age. It determined that the "familiar stereotype: the active boy, aggressive and assertive; the passive girl, docile and submissive" was "not fit to be written into law." So the next time you're drinking, raise a glass in honor of RBG.

Did the law lower the drinking age for men? Nope. It raised it for women, as having a different drinking age for men and women violated equal treatment under the constitution. So no, this decision did nothing to counter the idea that men are inherently reckless. It could be argued that the decision might have enshrined in law that women are equally as reckless as men, but only a decision to lower the male drinking age to 18 would have been an assertion that men are not reckless.

More than this, it's altogether possible that at that time, in the context of a culture like that in Oklahoma, young women WERE more socially responsible, on average, than young men, at least regarding certain harmful or dangerous behaviors, in part due to the enculturation of gender roles. 

It might also interest you to know that the average age of onset of puberty has historically been measured in terms of average age of menarche in girls, and the average age of a notable spike in injuries in boys. While testosterone does not promote aggression (a once-commonly accepted correlation that has been quite thoroughly been debunked), it does correlate with a decreased aversion to risk. Given that testosterone spikes during puberty, and young men enter a phase of their lives when they hurt themselves plenty without adding in booze, and that boys both enter and finish this phase later than girls on average... well, it seems to me that different drinking ages (and driving ages) might make a certain sense. 

Insurance companies are fully aware that young men present the highest liability when it comes to insuring drivers (which is why they pay more than any other class of people). Some of this will be due to culture, and some to biology. It seems clear to me that Oklahoma wasn't willing to bet the farm on the idea that 18 year old boys with driver's licenses were responsible enough to drink alcohol, so no, it didn't really change society's view of men one iota. 

While I would call the decision fair and egalitarian, I can't argue that it benefitted males. And if a legal precedent that changed absolutely nothing for males, and that in the provided link doesn't even hint that said case was pursued by a feminist man or a feminist attorney, is the best this article can come up with as far as helping men in the legal sense, well...

A better example of an actual self-identified feminist, who actually headed the National Organization for Women at one time, who has actively pursued the equal rights of men under the law, would be Karen Decrow. She actually won a case of paternal responsibility on behalf of a defendant who claimed the woman intentionally went off birth control and got pregnant against his express wishes. She won her case on the argument that women making unilateral reproductive decisions should not expect men to finance those unilateral decisions. The decision was overturned on appeal, and the dude got stuck with child support.

I will take a single Karen Decrow, even though she ultimately failed, over 1000 Craig v. Borens any day. 

4) Over the course of their lengthy legal careers, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her husband joined forces only once, to advocate for single men. The case, Moritz v. Commissioner, challenged the fact that not all men could request dependent care deductions. Although tax deductions were given to women, widowers and divorced men, single males slipped through the cracks. Ending this discriminatory policy was one of Ginsburg's many victories using the 14th Amendment to end the enshrinement of gender discrimination into law.

Amazing. A law that was enshrined by feminists to protect women was actually exploited by a feminist to help men. It's like finding a unicorn. 

Although the following might have something to do with Ginsburg's decision to take on the case:

The taxpayer, Charles E. Moritz, appeals from a decision of the Tax Court holding that he was not entitled to a deduction for expenses in 1968 for the care of his dependent invalid mother. [emphasis mine]

Helping Moritz directly benefitted his dependent invalid mother. Helping this man helped a woman, and a particularly vulnerable one who was entirely dependent on him, at that...

I have challenged feminists in the past to show me a single advocacy effort on the part of feminists to not only advocate for the rights or liberties of men, but to do so within a context where such advocacy doesn't just not benefit women, but actually disadvantages them relative to their current status.

That is, don't show me a feminist who lobbies against male circumcision, because a world of intact men doesn't change one thing for women (other than making their sex lives better and causing Astroglide's quarterly profits to plummet). Show me a sincere effort toward fairness and equity that actually hits women right where it hurts--in their privilege.

Karen Decrow, who does not appear in your Mic article, would be one such feminist, who at least tried to advocate a concept of justice for men that didn't amount to, "well, okay, but only if it also benefits women, or at least doesn't actually harm them." 

5) Last time I checked, men enjoy sex, and many of them enjoy having sex with women. The sexual revolution affected women as well as men: It gave women the ability to pursue sexual activities much more freely, which naturally altered sexual dynamics in this country.

Of course it altered the sexual dynamics in the country. It essentially ended the association of marriage (you know, long term monogamy) and access to sex. What most feminists don't seem to realize is that this has indeed been a boon (at least in the short term) for women, and for the most attractive 20% or so of men, but for the average man, sex (at least outside of marriage) didn't become that much easier to come by than it was 70 years ago. 

Being a slut is still easy, and being a stud is still about as difficult as it ever was. 

On online dating sites, women still receive many more initial messages than men do, and women have some seriously high standards as to what kind of men they consider datable and fuckable. Unrealistically high standards, considering they deem 80% of men as "below average".

On the other hand, feminist lobbyists, organizations and groups have turned attempting to get sex into a veritable minefield for men. Groups like Hollaback have redefined "good morning" and "have a nice evening" as "street harassment" (at least when such sentiments are made by minority unattractive men). Campus feminists and powerful women such as Russlyn Ali and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand have helped eliminate due process and reverse burden of proof in sexual misconduct cases on campuses so booze-soaked that it's likely huge numbers of both women and men who engage in sex have little to no memory of what happened, and when research shows that across the board, women are twice as likely as men to describe their experiences of casual sex as negative. At some universities now, sexual misconduct policies regarding consent lie in direct conflict with policies on harassment--that is, men must obtain verbal consent for sex in order to avoid a misconduct charge, but even asking for consent can qualify as sexual harassment, based entirely on the woman's level of internal reciprocity. 

And further:

And birth control is not just about sex: It's also about reproductive control. Most men enjoy determining the spacing of each child.
Dash certainly does. "I've been able to make smarter, more thoughtful decisions about how to time my career, my being a parent and my other obligations because of the flexibility and freedom afforded to me by having easy access to birth control," he said. "It let me hold off on becoming a dad until I had gotten closer to being a man worthy of being one."
Birth control is exactly that. It's not birth prevention, it's birth control. And it is largely in women's hands. In fact, the sole non-permanent means of birth control at men's disposal is one that's been around since the 1800s. And, incidentally, one which feminists of the day actively attempted to keep OUT of the hands of men.

Dash is living at the mercy of his partner. It is not he who gets to choose how to space his children--that is entirely up to his partner and her many, many invisible options regarding contraception. Options that he not only cannot see with his own eyes to determine she's using them properly, but which he has no legal right to confirm through other means (such as asking her doctor) that she is using at all. A man cannot prevent himself from being fertile. He can prevent himself from impregnating a woman ONLY if he insists on using a condom and spermicide every single time he has sex (and even then, it's no guarantee, as condoms are one of the least effective forms of birth control of all).

Since women gained access to contraception and abortion, and men began to be held financially accountable for illegitimate children, the rate of "accidental" pregnancy and out of wedlock birth has only increased. Hmmm....

So, women have over 20 different ways to control their own fertility. Men have abstinence, condoms and trust. 

And if you're going to chastise me for suggesting women can't be trusted with this, I'll direct you here. Because women can't be trusted with this.

6) Although the burdens of pregnancy and childbirth biologically fall on women, men bear the consequences of children too. Because the expansion of reproductive rights affects their personal lives, they are a central part of the conversation. Anil Dash believes that liberating women ultimately gives men more freedom.
Really? Dash can insist his wife get an abortion, if she wants the baby and he doesn't? Dash can insist his wife bring the pregnancy to term, if he wants the baby and she doesn't?

No? So how does abortion make Dash more liberated? How does abortion give Dash more choices?

How about this. Can Dash, if he doesn't want the child and his wife does... can he say, "well, I didn't want or agree to have this baby, so I shouldn't be held financially responsible for it"?

No? Then how does the right of a woman to choose or not choose motherhood increase a man's rights or choices regarding the burdens of parenthood. Whatever her decision is, he is forced to, in the words of Nathaniel from Last of the Mohicans, "live by another's leave." Living by another's leave is not freedom.

I'm pro choice. But I'm pro choice for everyone, and like Karen Decrow, I do not believe men should be held financially responsible for decisions only women have any right to make.

Choice for women only "liberates" the men who would have made the same choice as the woman. 

7) Did you know that until recently, the FBI's definition of rape was as old-fashioned as the horse and buggy? That is, until feminist activists decided to change that. Thanks to the "Rape Is Rape" campaign launched by the Feminist Majority Foundation and Ms. magazine, more than 160,000 emails were sent to the FBI pressuring it to change its archaic definition of rape. The old definition, "carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will," hadn't been changed since 1921. It meant that many types of sexual assaults, including the rape of men, weren't counted as part of the bureau's annual Uniform Crime Report.

The vast majority of feminists seem to believe rape is almost entirely male perpetrated, and that male victims outside of prison are few and far between. 

The old definition of rape pertained only to forcible penetration of a vagina with a penis. It did not apply to penetration with objects, or oral or anal penetration of women. I can very much see why the old definition is inadequate. But this does not mean that feminists pushing for these changes intended them to include the largest cohort of male victims outside of prison--male victims of female perpetrators. After all, most feminists don't seem to think such victims are remotely common. Look at their poster campaigns.

Very inclusive to male victims... of male perpetrators. No mention of the approximately 20% of college aged men who report they've been forced or coerced into unwanted sexual intercourse by a woman.


No depiction of the 15-40% of women who have self-reported having engaged in sexual aggression to get sex from an unwilling man.


And don't even get me started on feminist Mary P Koss, who consulted on the definitions for the CDC's National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, and who says this:

We acknowledge the inappropriateness of female verbal coercion and the legitimacy of male perceptions that they have had unwanted sex. Although men may sometimes sexually penetrate women when ambivalent about their own desires [emphasis mine], these acts fail to meet legal definitions of rape that are based on penetration of the body of the victim....
...We worked diligently to develop item wording that captured men’s sense of pressure to have sex and draw their responses into an appropriate category of coercion instead of to rape items. 

This feminist works for the CDC. She is responsible for helping to conceal millions of male victims of rape, and millions of female perpetrators, each year.

The wording of the new FBI definition is ambiguous enough that it is unclear from a straight reading whether male victims who were forced to penetrate female perpetrators are included. In fact, a colleague of mine wrote repeated emails for months asking for confirmation as to whether the definition did include such situations before finally receiving a response that yes it does, but perhaps, given the ambiguity, there needs to be some outreach to police organizations in order to make it clearer to them that yes, a man being "made to penetrate" counts as rape. My suspicion is that the question didn't really occur to them until it was asked, and that's why it took so long for them to answer it.

One thing the new definition DOES do, unambiguously, is classify a metric shit-ton of things that didn't used to be considered rape as rape. Picture two inexperienced teenagers getting hot and heavy, and the guy tries to round third base. The tip of his finger penetrates her vagina for just a moment, before she tells him she's not ready to go that far. Within nanoseconds, he backs off and apologizes, but it's too late. He's technically a rapist under the new FBI definition. 

Now you might think that feminists really were interested in including male victims of the most common form of rape outside of prison--men raped by women. But given Koss's assertions, and given the standard feminist claim that nearly all rapes are committed by men, and given the CDC's response as outlined here (which amounts to "but it's just different"), I highly doubt that the intentions of feminists were to help the majority of sexually assaulted men.

For clarification, this was their argument in large part:

To explain, in NISVS we define rape as “any completed or attempted unwanted vaginal (for women), oral, or anal penetration through the use of physical force (such as being pinned or held down, or by the use of violence) or threats to physically harm and includes times when the victim was drunk, high, drugged, or passed out and unable to consent.”We defined sexual violence other than rape to include being made to penetrate someone else, sexual coercion, unwanted sexual contact, and non-contact unwanted sexual experiences.

Made to penetrate is defined as including “times when the victim was made to, or there was an attempt to make them, sexually penetrate someone without the victim’s consent because the victim was physically forced (such as being pinned or held down, or by the use of violence) or threatened with physical harm, or when the victim was drunk, high, drugged, or passed out and unable to consent.”

The difference between “rape” and “being made to penetrate” is that in the definition of rape the victim is penetrated; “made to penetrate” by definition refers to cases where the victim penetrated someone else.

While there are multiple definitions of rape and sexual violence used in the field, CDC, with the help of experts in the field, has developed these specific definitions of rape and other forms of sexual violence (such as made to penetrate, sexual coercion, unwanted sexual contact, and non-contact unwanted sexual experiences). We use these definitions to help guide our analytical decisions.

In other words, people can't assert that men are raped by women nearly as frequently as women are raped by men because we decided to call someone forcing a woman into sexual intercourse rape and someone forcing a man into sexual intercourse something other than rape. See? It all makes perfect sense!

There are other issues with the math used to attempt to estimate the percentage of perpetrators that are female--the primary one being that the CDC declined to reveal the gender of the perpetrator for any of the previous-year stats. They claimed it is inappropriate to combine the previous year numbers of male victims with the lifetime data on perpetrator gender, and I agree. I agree because all available evidence on the psychology of male victims of sexual abuse indicates the percentage of female perpetrators reported would be much higher over the prior 12 months than over a lifetime.

I'll leave it up to others to see if they can't wrestle that particular bit of information out of the CDC.

Now I'm going to bring your attention to Murray Straus. He's the first researcher to ask the same questions of both men and women on a domestic violence survey in the US (and hence the first researcher to find gender symmetry in domestic violence). When asked why he performed that study, he claimed that at the time he was a feminist. He believed in the "patriarchal terrorism" or Duluth model of domestic violence--you know. The feminist model. When people raised questions about his previous research, that had asked women only about their victimization and men only about their perpetration, he took up the challenge. He says that at the time, he believed it would be a slam dunk for "patriarchal terrorism". He was fully confident his findings would remain the same. He believed wholeheartedly that he would find, as before, that men hit women and women only ever hit in self defence. 

Of course, what he discovered was something entirely different, and he has made it a mission to change attitudes toward domestic violence treatment and prevention based on those findings.

Feminists also have a model regarding rape culture and sexual violence. As evidenced by those poster campaigns, it is a model based on male sexual aggression. Every feminist I have spoken to has reacted with incredulity and extreme resistance to the idea that women are just as capable of sexual aggression and coercion as men, and at similar rates of prevalence. 

Basically, what I'm saying is, what is the purpose of the feminist push to change the definition? As far as I can tell, it was to further protect women and, to a lesser degree, men who are victims of male perpetrators by expanding the definition of what is considered rape. They have never really been capable of acknowledging the vast numbers of men victimized by women (and who will be on the hook for child support even if they were raped at age 14 by an adult woman!), or the significant portion of the female population who admit not to thinking they might just maybe do it if the situation presented itself and no one would know (like that bogus 1 in 3 study), but to having actually engaged in the behavior.

In other words, I'm guessing that, like Straus, it never occurred to them that what they were doing might result in helping male victims of female perpetrators, because, like Straus did, they don't really believe male victims of female perpetrators exist. 

Anyway, I'll probably get to the next 7 or 8 items in a week or so. This post is long enough already.