Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Archive for August 2013

Diamonds are a girl’s best friend—but what about the advertising?

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During the time of my absence I have of course received many comment notifications from other blogs, including the publishing and response to a comment that I had assumed had been censored due to dissent and where I had planned to write a post on the topic under discussion. Seeing that the eventual reply contained a number of further fallacies and misleading claims, I will go ahead with my own post, despite the almost ridiculous delays involved: My comment 2011-08-20; publishing of the comment by the poster (lizzyflax) 2012-09-02; my own post 2013-08-18—with almost a year between each event. (In fact, I am slightly tempted to wait another two days…)

The poste consists of four photographs of “fantastically offensive” adverts for diamonds, each followed by a hard-to-justify condemnation for sexism and whatnot.

To start with, I give my answer with the relevant text of the corresponding adverts inserted in square brackets (with reservations for transliteration errors).

Looking at these adverts, I would say that you are overreacting—while failing to attack the true insults, namely that the viewer would be sufficiently stupid to buy/want a piece of extremely over-priced and mostly useless [piece of] carbon, resp. sufficiently stupid that he would be moved to make such an expensive buying decision by advertising.

1.

[HEY, WHAT DO YOU KNOW. SHE THINKS YOU’RE FUNNY AGAIN.]

Is a swing-and-a-miss, but not really offensive—and sadly there is a grain of truth in it: There are quite a few women out there who either confuse true affection in a man with the giving of gifts or are opportunistic enough to “play nice” when given gifts. Notably, these women tend to be more common around men with enough money to buy diamonds for other occasions than proposals (and the ad does appear to be directed at non-proposal situations).

2.

[What she says: “Any ring is fine so long as I have you.” What she is thinking: “No diamond? How cheap! [Lethal revenge threats]” Get Her A Diamond, idiot! ]

May be a bit exaggerated, but is spot on as a psychological observation: The typical woman will be disappointed when her man does not go the extra mile. She may not contemplate cutting his break lines, but the absense of a diamond for a proposal will not sit well, even when she has claimed otherwise in advance. Similar pitfalls include e.g. agreements not to give each other Christmas gifts and many “It’s OK. You don’t have to do X.” situations.

The truly offensive part here is the “idiot” directed at the male buyer.

3.

[Make her speechless. For a change.]

Is an old joke played very well. It may not be a hit with women, but then it is directed at male buyers and it does reflect a sentiment that most men share—that women talk too much. (And you might want to reflect on the number of jokes directed at men in modern advertising.)

4.

[Buy her a diamond ahhh… a moment of silence.]

Is a more amateurish version of the same joke.

Selected parts from the author’s reply:

At first I was loathe to respond to your comment because in characterising my article as overreaction, you seem (mind I don’t know you or your intent, this is only what I can surmise from your comment) to be using an age-old tactic of painting any woman who speaks her mind as overly emotional, even hysterical. This isn’t a good way to start an exchange of ideas.

On the contrary, the age old tactic is painting factual criticism of one individual woman as an attack on women in general and/or implying that the criticism is related to the the fact that the woman was a woman. In as far as women are begin painted as over-emotional, it is almost invariably in situations were they actually are over-emotional. Women who speak their mind with good sense and solid arguments are welcome to do so as far as I am concerned—and this is the opinion of practically every man whose opinion I can actually judge. (Including many, say Pär Ström, who have been severely maligned as e.g. misogynist for their pro-true-equality engagement.)

Applying Hanlon’s Razor, the conclusion would be that lizzyflax considerably strengthens my interpretation that she was over-reacting by … over-reacting. In both cases, it can pay to bear the problem of gender-glasses in mind.

On the other hand, similar claims (including accusations of mansplaining) are so common among feminists that I find my ability to use Hanlon’s Razor very limited by now.

1. I find this point pretty offensive, not to mention weirdly anecdotal. For example (to use your model of argument), I know of no women in my acquaintance who equate gifts with love, nor do I personally know any women who are drawn to men with money because they are opportunistic/greedy. In no way am I saying these women don’t exist, however I don’t think they are as plentiful as you or the media would like to imagine. I also don’t happen to think these traits are sex-linked and it is irresponsible and simplistic to believe in something as patently manipulative as the trophy wife/gold digger caricature.

Apart from offering nothing beyond the anecdotal in return, the last sentence is an entirely unwarranted attack based on a non sequitur.

Looking at the more constructive points of the arguments: Irrespective of lizzyflax’ claim, women very often tend to see gifts (and similar attentions) as a (not necessarily conscious) gauge of their SOs love (or lack thereof). (Whether her formulation, “equate gifts with love”, applies to the phenomenon I refer to is another matter.) Notably, I do not claim that these gifts have to be diamonds: It is a matter of “signs of love”, including anything from diamonds to an end-of-the-day compliment, where women on average simply have a different thinking than men on average.

The gold-digger/being-drawn-by-greed part goes considerably further than anything I say, well into strawman territory. Notably, my “play nice” means nothing more than just that: The (already existing!) boyfriend is treated a little better than usual. Corresponding to the add, this could for instance include laughing at a joke that would otherwise have been ignored.

In addition, gold-diggers are very real. They may be common or they may be rare, but they do exist and they are predominantly found around men with money. (The rarity or commonality will likely depend on matters of definition: Is a woman who accepts a drink in a bar under false pretenses of mutual interest a gold-digger?) Correspondingly, even had I (or the add) spoken of gold-digging, her criticism would have been faulty. Incidentally, parallel to writing the first draft, I stumbled on an interesting storye with topic relevancy.

Finally, that a woman is attracted to a rich man or a man who gives gifts need not have anything to do with opportunism, greed, or deliberate gold-digging. Such attraction often has strong automatic or even unconscious component—just like a man’s feeling for a female “10” is mostly an automatic reaction (as opposed to e.g. deliberations on the jelousy of his friends if she became his partner or on the looks of their common children).

2. Again, who are these women? Perhaps you should consider widening your social circle. I find your broad generalizations about women pretty ghastly and most definitely dangerous. And, by the way, you leveled the same charge of “idiot” at anyone who would think it necessary to cement an emotional tie with an expensive bauble.

These women are probably an out-right majority: Pick-up a book on relationships or ask your friends how they would actually feel in situations like the ones given (or, worse, when a birthday is forgotten). The situation is often even worse than I imply: During my readings of online diaries and relationship forums, I saw many examples of women expecting a man to “propose” with a ring and what-not—even though an agreement of marriage already existed, sometimes even with a wedding-date already set… (In other words, where the actual proposal, i.e. the suggestion of marriage, had already taken place, making the “proposal” a purely ritual act.)

I note that lizzyflax continues her unwarranted attacks, without anything resembling actual arguments.

3. I don’t think I ever argued this isn’t a genius marketing strategy, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t rooted in the misogynistic trope of the woman-as-scold. Although this piece wasn’t written to explore misandric tropes (therefore it wasn’t relevant to discuss), I would be happy to consider doing a piece about this as I consider it every bit as dangerous (particularly the trope of the bubbling father).

Firstly: The characterization is not a matter of women being scolds—but of women talking too much and reacting positively to gifts. Secondly: Is it misogynist to describe women as they actually are? (With the typical reservations for individual variations vs. the average/typical, and similar.) In feminist rhetoric: Yes. In my book: No.

(More generally, even stereotypisations and exaggerations need not be any type of “-ism”, but can, depending on context, be just mutually enjoyable humor. Consider e.g. the extremely stereotyped portrayals of some types of Jews, in particular “the Jewish mother”, that are common among Jewish comedians. Cf. e.g. “The Nanny”. For that matter, the main protagonist of that show was a bimbo, who obsessed about her looks and about finding a husband—an extreme caricature of a woman. Still, the show’s creator and leading force was a woman (Fran Drescher)—and she, herself, played that bimbo…)

4. Yeah, see, it’s every. How revolting.

Makes no sense, but I note the spurious use of “revolting”. Compare with some highly negative statements towards me above.

In closing: stereotypes. They’re dangerous and effective (especially when used in advertising) and I’m sorry to see you seem to have bought into quite a few of them.

I have not bought into stereotypes: I have developed insights that lizzyflax lacks, through long years of observation (to a lesser degree also experimentation) in my own life, through readings of at least half-a-dozen books and dozens of articles on relationships (many or most with female authors), and through very long readings of what women themselves say and do through e.g. online diaries and relationship forums. Of course, also what other men have said and observed; however, here some degree of partiality cannot be ruled out.

Here we see a constant problem with feminists (and the politically correct in general): They have a world-view which does not match reality, often based in preconceptions and ideas of how the world “should” be, and when someone points to the reality, he is condemned as prejudiced and unenlightened (in some form or other).

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Written by michaeleriksson

August 18, 2013 at 6:38 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Blogroll update

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Munich is a wonderful city, but it (and Bavaria as a whole) is regrettably regressive when opening hours are concerned: For a large part of the 20th century, Germany had outrageous laws on opening hours, for decades forcing stores to close as early as 6 p.m. on weekdays, even earlier on Saturdays, and allowing no opening hours at all on Sundays (with some minor exceptions, e.g. bakeries). The contrast to Sweden with its generous opening hours, including Sundays, was enormous as I first came to Germany—as were the practical hindrances. As time has gone by, the laws have have been continually softened and as of a few years ago, regrettably still excepting the “closed” Sundays, opening hours are pretty much up to the discretion of the stores. The hitch: Concurrent changes have moved opening hours from federal law to state law—and two of the sixteen have opted to keep an entirely outdated limit of 8 p.m. Bavaria is one of the two.

To make a minor contribution to the betterment of this situation, I extend the temporary section of my blog roll with

http://www.ladenschluss-bayern.com/blog/e.

This site is dedicated to removing the arbitrary limit on opening hours in Bavaria too.


Side-note:

For the sake of precision: In my first working year, when opening hours really became relevant to me, the laws had already been softened to 8 p.m. weekdays/4 p.m. Saturdays. However, I had landed in a comparatively small town with mostly small stores, and with the inertia of the system, most of them still closed around 6 p.m. weekdays/2 p.m (or even earlier) Saturdays. Buying groceries often meant that I had to leave work early—and if I wanted to give Saturday a leisurely start, with a long sleep-in and a few hours of relaxation, then I had to finish my shopping on Friday.


Written by michaeleriksson

August 18, 2013 at 6:34 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Getting nowhere

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With regard to my “come-back” post and dealing with the backlog, I have the feeling of getting nowhere.

The main reason is that I currently work in Munich (while having my official residence and my desktop computer in Düsseldorf). I spent June living in hotels with heavy travel on Mondays and Fridays. With too little energy on the weekend, nothing much got done. Since July I have a company-rented apartment in Munich and have remained here for most weekends, but with my desktop still in Düsseldorf there has not been much opportunity (although I have over time brought copies of everything I need). In addition, working on a laptop is much less comfortable than my setup in Düsseldorf.

A major further complication has been Aldi Talk (cf. the earlier entry): Here too, major incompetence on behalf of the provider led to an interruption of service for almost two weeks and the mid-term need to search for a new provider. Considering that both Aldi Talk and the previously discussed Fonic are brands ultimately run by E-Plus, I can only very strongly encourage my readers to stay away from them all. (The downside is that the entire mobile-communications field appears to be rotten to its core, rife with incompetence and using customer hostile methods bordering on the illegal, e.g. through making greatly misleading claim in their information material. In other words: The choice is not between good and bad, but bad and worse.)

For my part, after my second one-month-flat-rate at Aldi Talk expired (the one with the two-week interruption in it), I switched to services provided by Vodafone branded as RTL (a German television station—there is no end to the companies who want a piece of the cake…). From what I have gathered on the Internet, this is likely the best pre-paid alternative (knock on wood). However, my experiences started with a severe delay in delivery of the (not available in stores) SIM card: The alleged maximum of 5 working days for delivery was exceeded by a full week…

As for the backlog, I hope to make some progress in the future, with most obstacles out of the way (again: knock on wood); however, considering the size of the backlog, this will still likely take a number of months.

As for WordPress, I will likely not publish that many posts here in the future (despite the multiple entries from today): My website is more suitable for my purposes and easier for me to work with. In addition, some bug or other in WordPress currently makes it impossible for me to set tags/categories, implying that the traffic-driving advantages of WordPress for new posts are almost eliminated. (While my website has a decidedly larger traffic on “old” entries.)

Written by michaeleriksson

August 18, 2013 at 6:32 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The simplistic this-is-x’s-blog-he-can-do-whatever-he-likes argument for allowing arbitrary censorship

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As the regular reader of this blog is bound to have noticed, I consider undue censorship to be one of the worst problems in various forums of debate, including the blogosphere as the possibly paramount example outside of dictatorships. This is a topic that I will try to avoid in the future, with little more to say that would not merely be re-hashing and re-stating. (Not to mention boring to my readers…)

However, today is an exception for two reasons:

  1. The beginning and announcement of a second blog

    http://blogoflostcomments.wordpress.com/

    This blog will serve as a channel for independent publishing of such censored (or otherwise lost) comments that have previously occasionally been published on my main blog. This will reduce the information-to-noise ratio here for the readers and make my job as the writer somewhat easier. For obvious reasons, the entries will be of limited interest to others, except in as far as they are interested in the discussion where the comment originally belonged.

  2. There is one aspect of the censorship issue that I have left unaddressed for far too long: The simplistic this-is-x’s-blog-he-can-do-whatever-he-likes argument for allowing arbitrary censorship (as opposed to censoring e.g. spam), most notably comments that express dissent. The rest of this entry will deal with this topic.

This argument is superficially plausible and is often the first stop for people who have just dropped in on the topic without any greater experience and depth of thought in the area. It is also fundamentally flawed and a proof of this lack of insight. No further right to censor can reasonable be inferred beyond cases already legitimate (most notably spam; however, e.g. violations of a blogs policy concerning profanity, but not opinion!, can be legitimate). Notably, blog-ownership is not always analogous to more conventional forms of ownership.

Consider that:

  1. There is no automatic connection between blog ownership and right to moderate or censor: That the comments fall within the technical purview of the blog owner is not a question of ethical right, but of technical almost-necessity (stand-alone blog) and convenience/laziness of the blog provider (for e.g. the central WordPress or Blogger sites). In the latter case, it would be just as plausible to have the comments centrally moderated by WordPress employees without involvement of the blog owners—the main reason why it is not, is simply that this would be too resource intensive. (A secondary reason is that blog owners will be somewhat more likely to prefer a platform where they do have control. This too is a question of pragmaticism, not divine right.) Alternatively, if Google’s (now discontinued) Sidewiki had been around ten or fifteen years earlier, it is quite possible that blogs never would have had an internal comment function, with everyone using Sidewiki instead. Even today there is theoretically nothing preventing third parties from providing their own comment implementations and comment contents independently. That they do not is simply a result of the opportunity advantage of the built-in comment functions: Most surfers will simply not bother to look for the alternatives, instead opting to use the immediately available built-in functions, partly for convenience, partly through the vicious circle of fewer comments and commenters, less reach of own comments, fewer comments and commenters, …

  2. Owning a blog does not make one owner of the comments. These remain the intellectual creation and typically the intellectual property of the commenter. Correspondingly, distortions of content, disemvoweling, and most cases of partial censorship are unacceptable outright. This applies in particular when the alterations can give other people a faulty impression of the commenter or where they lose the ability to form any other opinion than that dictated by the censor (including cases where a piece of the text is replaced by e.g. “sexist content removed”—in particular, considering that most accusations of sexism, racism, whatnot, tend to be unfounded). A complete removal is not affected by the preceding, but some concern should be given to the risk of disallowing the commenter access to his own comment.

  3. Even where a completely free right to speech is not present, there still remains the right to fair treatment. If, for instance, the blog owner or a sycophant has just delivered a scathing attack on the commenter, then the latter must be allowed to defend himself; if his position has been dishonestly misrepresented or honestly misunderstood, he must be given the right to clarify; if arguments are presented against his position, he must be given the right to give his counter-arguments; and so on. This applies irrespective of blog ownership and irrespective of factors like on/off topic. (However, there are many cases where it can be legitimate to ask two unnecessarily long-winded, off-topic, or disruptive debaters to collectively take their discussion elsewhere. In such cases, they should still be granted the right to post information (e.g. an URL) as to where the remainder of the discussion can be visited (if held publicly).

    By analogy, a host who finds a house guest increasingly annoying has all rights to throw him out; however, he must still consider the conscionability and proportionality of any action. If an over-night guest is currently in the shower, he must at a minimum (barring truly exceptional circumstances) be given the right to get dressed before leaving. More typically, he would and should also be granted a reasonable time to pack and make other preparations (where “reasonable” will depend on many factors, including train/flight schedules, how much there is to pack, and the length of the stay), the opportunity to call for a taxi or other transport, and other actions that may be appropriate.

  4. Depending on the circumstances, the blog owner can have an ethical obligation towards his readers to not cut the discussion short or selectively suppress particular points of view. The step where censoring becomes equivalent to lying is comparatively easy to reach. In extreme cases, the area of fraud (in the legal sense) can be reached.

  5. Finally, even if we grant the right, in theory, to do so something, it does not follow that one should do so in practice. It is perfectly legal to, say, dump an SO per text message, buy a Monet and set fire to it, or eat four Big Mac meals a day for twenty years. Should one actually do so? No. Is there anything wrong with calling those who do idiots? No. (This barring some very special set of circumstances making the respective specific example acceptable.)

In addition previous and more general discussions of censorship apply—including that the vast majority of cases I have encountered (be it as the censored party or as an observer) have had the intellectually dishonest intent of silencing dissent. Further, irrespective of right and wrong, the blog owner who fails to listen to his commenters loses an opportunity to learn something—and, indeed, censors tend to be found among those who have the most to learn, show the greatest prejudice, or are otherwise the most in need of other perspectives.

Written by michaeleriksson

August 18, 2013 at 6:29 pm

Posted in Uncategorized