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A Swede in Germany

Posts Tagged ‘feminism

Overlooked explorations of the male role, etc.

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After my recent review of “Pride and Prejudice”, I have spent some time thinking on actually and apparently simplistic literature vs. something that has long annoyed me immensely: Common claims from (almost invariably female) “gender theorists” and their ilk that men would spend too little time analyzing the “male role”, that questions of “manhood” or “masculinity” would not be sufficiently explored, and similar. (While the same, apparently, does not apply to women—presumably, courtesy of the same “gender theorists”.)

These claims show a gross ignorance of the type of influences those men who are interested in fiction are exposed to since childhood—and the considerable efforts, conscious or not, spent exploring such topics in fiction, since long before “gender studies” arose as a social construct*. To boot, it severely underestimates the amount of time many men spend privately contemplating related issues, let alone the apparently universal** male question of when one ceases to be boy and becomes a man.

*Two can play that game…

**With reservations for societies where some type of initiation ritual is involved, as well as sub-cultures where it is tied to first having sexual intercourse. (Going by my own experiences, I suspect that the question is raised so commonly mostly because the process is gradual, both in one’s own eyes and in the eyes of the surroundings.)

Take “The Lord of the Rings” and consider the wide variety of characters, character developments, and situations: Take as positive examples Frodo and his heroic march; Sam and his undying loyalty; Merry and Pippin, and the sacrifices they make for friendship; and how all four grew to become so much stronger than they originally were (or proved themselves to be vs. thought that they were). Take as negative examples Boromir committing evil* in an effort to do good; Saruman being corrupted by a wish for power; Theoden falling prey to his personal Iago; or even Frodo, unable to give up the Ring during the deciding moment. (With many other examples to be found.) There are (mentally/morally/whatnot) small men and great men, there are small men growing, there are great men shrinking. There are dilemmas and decisions. There is heroism and cowardliness. There are good ends and means; and there are bad ends and means—even intermingled (cf. Boromir). A particular point of note is the epilogue in the Shire—unlike in so many other stories, defeating the main evil does not ensure that the world is safe and sound, and the work still goes on. (Incidentally, while the text is dominated by male characters, the few women that do occur are by no means house-wives focused on child-rearing. Most notably, Galadriel is a ruling queen, is one of the most powerful beings that appear in the story, and appears to wear the pants in her own family; while Eowyn disguises as a man, rides to battle, and slays one of Sauron’s greatest champions—both much worthier examples** than any of the female characters in “Pride and Prejudice”.)

*And from another perspective, we have the ethical dilemma of when what actions are justifiable, and the opportunity to consider ourselves in different situations (also see another recent text.) Unlike many other instances of evil being done in the name of good (or “the greater good”, as case may have it), the attempted evil was, on the surface, small and the situation one involving the fate of the world, making his actions easier to understand. (The more severe flaw was, likely, that he failed to comprehend the nature of the Ring, and that things would have ended much worse, had he been successful, than they actually did. My last reading being too far back, I do not recall the degree to which his actions were caused by an active influence by the Ring. The interpretation of these actions might need some corresponding adjustment.) Similar concerns about motivations and what-would-the-reader-do-in-the-same-situation apply in other cases too.

**I caught myself originally writing “examples for a young woman”. I immediately stopped to change this, although not unreasonable in this specific context: While their might be some areas where the sex of an example or role-model is relevant, it is almost always better to focus on the admirable characteristics. The feminist insistence that young women be given female role-models for this-and-that is highly misguided and contra-productive. If we want a role-model, we should pick someone suitable in a manner that ignores both our own and the role-models sex (and color, religion, nationality, whatnot).

Take “Hamlet”; take the “Iliad”; take “Le Morte D’Arthur”; take any number of other works by a great number of authors, even (particularly?) in the fantasy and sci-fi genres; take, even, the lives and adventures of Spiderman and the Hulk, in those despised super-hero comics, those heights of male “immaturity”. To a thinking mind, the right work can raise more questions around what it is and takes to be a man, how to be good, what dilemmas and problems can arise in life, whatnot, than the field of “gender studies” does (even discounting problems like ideological bias within that field). Moreover, in my impression, they do so to a far higher degree than does, m.m., the corresponding age-group literature for women, as demonstrated by e.g. “Pride and Prejudice”.*

*I must make the great reservation that I am not overly well-read in this area; however, what works I have read/watched with a similarly “for girls/women” image (as e.g. “The Lord of the Rings” has a “for boys/men” image), have usually fallen similarly short as “Pride and Prejudice”—with questions like “Who gets whom?”, “Does he love me?” (or even “Do I love him?”), “Which of my two suitors should I pick?”, “Do I dare to have that chocolate bar?”, “Should I remain friends with that other woman, even though she is a horrible person?”, and similar shallowness. While some of these questions might, on a personal level, be important, they do not contribute much to personal growth, to developing a sense of ethics, to gaining insights, whatnot. (Note the difference between works written for women and works written by women—the latter can be quite insightful.)

These works often (similar to “Pride and Prejudice”) work with shallower and more unnuanced characters, proving that this, in and by it self, need not be a problem. However, where “Pride and Prejudice” gives the impression of either lack of insight or lack of effort (which, I will not presume to judge), they often do so for deliberate reasons, in order to e.g. make a point more obvious or to be allegorical.* (Also note that my complaint against “Pride and Prejudice” was not lack of character depth, per se, but the compounded lack of almost everything, character depth included.) More generally, many works of fiction can be quite thought-worthy despite having a reputation that goes more towards entertainment literature. For instance, many with only a fleeting familiarity see Terry Pratchett as just a humorist (he was much more); for instance, many see the “Narnia” books as just children’s literature (they have insight even for the adult reader and can be read on several levels). Also see an excursion in the aforementioned review.

*However, many, especially for younger readers, can take this to a point that important insights are lost, most notably the realization that the bad guys usually consider themselves to be the good guys.

Interestingly, questions like those discussed above do not necessarily have any stronger connection with being-a-man-as-opposed-to-a-woman*. Instead, they center on being-a-man-as-opposed-to-a-boy, or, more generically, an-adult-as-opposed-to-a-child; or forego such divisions entirely to focus on e.g. what is right, with no restrictions on who is concerned (being-good-as-opposed-to-bad**, to stick to the pattern). If then, a criticism against one of the sexes should be extended, it would be better directed at women*** for not paying enough attention to the child–adult (or good–bad) division and favoring the female–male division. To some degree, a man is a plain vanilla adult, making issues like a (specifically) male role largely uninteresting; while a woman is a strawberry adult with a scope of cream, chocolate flakes, and a cherry on top, making an investigation of a female role more understandable. (And while I have no objection to women being strawberry instead of vanilla, do they really need all those extras?)

*However, some do, at least in public perception, e.g. in that the demands on a man to take responsibility are larger, ditto to be a provider or protector, ditto to, in a life-or-death situation, give his life to protect his wife’s, etc. Apart from these being unlikely to cause dissatisfaction among feminists, they are also usually of a type that does not require an adjustment of the male self-image or whatnot—if anything, they suggest that women should step up more, that society should to put larger demands on women, and/or that women should revise their image of men.

**I use “bad” over “evil” for two reasons: Firstly, it is not necessarily a matter of e.g. ethics or consequences for others, it can also be a matter of e.g. capabilities and consequences for one self. Secondly, even when ethics is concerned, “evil” might push the contrast too far. For instance, in the parable of the good Samaritan, do we really wish to call those just walking by “evil”? Indeed, even “bad” might be too strong a word in at least some contexts.

***Or at least the type of women who tend to be found in areas like “gender studies” and feminism. Still, in my personal impression to date, women often see “being an adult” as the equivalent of “having a family”—while a man might be more focused on “carrying responsibility” or “doing the right thing”.

But here we might have the crux: These efforts deal with topics like right and wrong, good and evil, positive and negative behavior and developments, human strengths and weakness; often contrasting or putting in conflict egoism and altruism, loyalty towards two different things (say, a brother and country), duty and safety/comfortability, whatnot. What they do not do, is ask questions like “Should I wear a skirt to work?”—and why should they? That is a small and mostly irrelevant question, starting with the low probability that a man would want to do so. (The reverse questions around some women can have a greater value, e.g. to move them towards more practical clothing, but are still not truly important.)

True, in the area between these extremes, there are questions that might be worthy of some exploration (and do not obviously fit in the context of an epic fantasy adventure). For instance, we might consider “Is it unmanly to be a stay-at-home dad?”: It could be argued that someone who avoids that role for that reason is lacking in maturity. On the other hand, this constellation is not very common, with more common reasons including a greater drive to accomplish something professionally and a lesser tolerance of children. A typical intelligent and educated man will not fear what his blokes in the pub will say,* but he will have concerns like loosing ground in his career**, earning less, being bored by a less intellectual type of work, being driven up the wall after spending the whole day, week in and week out, with his children,*** etc. In contrast, here duty can come in, and a man who unexpectedly finds himself a single parent, might very well stay at home out of a sense of duty. His friends might give him a minor ribbing, but they would hardly think less of him—they would see a man doing something manly (viz. doing his duty by his children).

*A recurring issue is that “gender theorists” and feminists present a very stereotypical, prejudiced, and often outright incorrect image of men, e.g. through ignoring individual variation and over-focusing on sit-com “proles”—if men are painted as Al Bundy, then we should equally paint women as Peg Bundy. Similarly, if we do not look at the people with some modicum of intelligence, there is no point in discussing the matter: Stupid people will, barring a revolutionary medical break-through, remain stupid, no matter how many treatises are written on their behavior—and if we look at the behavior of stupid women, they are certainly not something for the female sex to be proud of.

**But is not a career drive also something to analyze/problematize/deconstruct/…? That depends on why the drive is there. Believers in the out-dated “tabula rasa” model of the human mind might jump to the conclusion that a career drive is necessarily something artificial, which explains much of their wish for further investigation (but, obviously, only within their own “everything is a construct” frame-work). However, there are strong signs that such differences are largely caused by biology, making a further investigation a low priority—if in doubt, because this drive is mostly beneficial. A major reason behind the continual failure of various modern feminist, PC, Leftist, whatnot attempts to create equality of outcome is simply that they push past the point where inborn characteristics become a deciding factor—they fail to realize that differences in outcome are not ipso-facto proof of differences in opportunity. (Similar arguments apply to other points above.)

***Note that a love of one’s children is not an obstacle to such irritation.

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Written by michaeleriksson

October 19, 2018 at 5:07 am

The 2018 Nobel Prizes: Women and the Nobel Prize

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Time for the yearly Nobel-Prize update:

Unlike 2017, women did reasonable well, with participiations in three out of five categories and putting up a total of three laureates out of twelve.* This even included a share in the Physics Prize—for only the third time, after 1903 and 1963.

*Including the Economy Prize. The Literature Prize is moot (cf. below).

The Literature Prize was not awarded (so far?) for 2018, due to an extremely chaotic situation within the awarding “Swedish Academy”. The situation is worthy of a longer text of its own; however, the information that has reached me through the press over months has been confusing, incomplete, and often looked like a game of mutual blame, which makes me unwilling/unable to write said text.

With this chaos on top of my previous criticism of both the Literature and Peace Prizes, and factoring in their very different character, I will probably ignore both of them in any future updates—I can no longer take either seriously. (And to the degree that they can be taken seriously, they are not that relevant to the original context of my interest.)

Written by michaeleriksson

October 11, 2018 at 2:19 pm

Changes to Swedish rape laws

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Themes like the “Rechtsstaat” and government intervention into the lives of the citizens are important in my recent writings, including several upcoming texts. The greater my annoyance as I learned that my native Sweden had just* fallen victim to a moronic rape law, which not only weakens Sweden’s status as a Rechtsstaat, but also potentially interferes considerably with the “normal” behavior of its citizens:

*The law took effect on 2018-07-01, but was decided months earlier. I am unclear how the original decision got by me: I do recall hearing repeatedly of suggestions for laws like this, but was under the impression that they had always been defeated in light of heavy criticism from e.g. jurists and defenders of civic rights. This including lagrådet.

Sexual acts now require an (almost: see below) explicit consent from both* parties. This does not only turn human behavior on its head**, but it also introduces enormous difficulties of interpretation for both the involved parties and, in case of trial, judges (cf. below).

*In theory: In reality, this will likely amount to “the woman must have consented; the man could not conceivably not have consented”. (While the law, obviously, makes no difference between hetero- and homosexual couples, I will assume a heterosexual for the purposes of this text. This partially for simplicity of formulation; partially because the bulk of the problem cases caused by this law are likely to be in heterosexual relationships.)

**Notably, very many sexual interactions include gradual and unspoken escalation by one or both parties, with the expectation that a party that wants to draw a line is explicit about not consenting to a certain step (e.g. in the form of a “not yet”, “not today”, or a slapping away of a hand). With this law, taken literally, both parties would need to give repeated consent at each stage. Absurdly, it is likely theoretically possible for a mutually consensual sexual act to amount to a mutual rape…

To make a brief comparison of parts of the old and new version of the law (Brottsbalk, 6 kap. Om sexualbrott)*/**:

*With some reservations for my translations, especially with regard to legal language, exact legal definitions, etc. Notably, the Swedish original is manifestly not written with clarity in mind.

**Here I focus on the respective “1 §”, dealing with rape/full intercourse and equivalent scenarios. The respective “2 §” extends, with lower punishments, the more-or-less same reasoning to sexual interactions falling short of full intercourse. (“sexuell handling”/“sexual act” other than mentioned in “1 §”.) I lack the specialist knowledge to judge exactly what acts will fall in the realm of which paragraph, and what might fall outside entirely; however, it is clear that an escalation, e.g. going through the “bases” and ending in a “home run”, will require multiple instances of consent. Note that this law, unlike some similar and similarly heavily criticized U.S. college rules, is not targeted at teenagers having their first experiences—it also includes e.g. what happens between indisputable adults, married to each other with children…

Old:

Den som genom misshandel eller annars med våld eller genom hot om brottslig gärning tvingar en person till samlag […]

(Whoever forces a person to intercourse through assault, violence, or threat of criminal deed […])

Detsamma gäller den som med en person genomför ett samlag eller en sexuell handling som enligt första stycket är jämförlig med samlag genom att otillbörligt utnyttja att personen på grund av medvetslöshet, sömn, allvarlig rädsla, berusning eller annan drogpåverkan, sjukdom, kroppsskada eller psykisk störning eller annars med hänsyn till omständigheterna befinner sig i en särskilt utsatt situation.

(The same [punishment etc.] applies to whoever performs intercourse or a sexual act comparable to intercourse according to the first part with a person, through undue exploitation of the person being in a particularly exposed situation through unconsciousness, sleep, serious fear, intoxication or other drug influence, sickness, bodily injury or psychological disturbances, or otherwise [original phrasing is hard to translate, but “otherwise” catches the gist].)

This is not an unreasonable definition, which mostly should work. Off the top of my head, I would offer four, partially related, criticisms: Firstly, the text is open to interpretation when the unwilling party verbally declines but passively complies; here it would be better to be explicit, especially since the involved parties can legitimately experience some such situations differently. Secondly, the circumstances of the second paragraph can be hard to judge, e.g. if one party has an unwarranted fear that the other party is not aware of*, and this would be better combined with a responsibility for the fearing or whatnot party to be explicit about not consenting (if in a position to speak, obviously); this in particular when we come to the vague “otherwise”. Thirdly, in a strict interpretation, this could be seen to rule out some entirely consensual situations. It might e.g. be illegal for two drunk spouses to have sex with each other… Something more along on the lines of a generic “is physically or mentally unable to consent” might be better than such a listing. Fourthly, the “comparable to intercourse” phrasing could, depending on intentions, stretch the rape concept too far, and is certainly a point where different interpretations are possible.**

*To give a specific example that I read of in a Swedish news paper during, likely, the early 1990s: A man and a woman were alone in a sauna. The man requested oral sex. The woman complied, later claiming that she was afraid, but apparently without protesting and apparently with no actual threat uttered by the man. She then proceeded to file rape charges… There might, obviously, have been important details left out of the paper; however, even so, this stands as a type example of why non-consent should always be explicit and the immense problems that can occur otherwise. I note that some feminist extremists actually have proposed variations of retroactive revokal of consent: If a man and a woman have consensual sex today, and she changes her mind tomorrow, then the event was a rape. What happens to a man who has sex with such a feminist in a country with so vague laws?

**This might even be the main source of the problematic extension of the rape concept compared to other countries.

New:

Den som, med en person som inte deltar frivilligt, genomför ett samlag eller en annan sexuell handling som med hänsyn till kränkningens allvar är jämförlig med samlag, […] Vid bedömningen av om ett deltagande är frivilligt eller inte ska det särskilt beaktas om frivillighet har kommit till uttryck genom ord eller handling eller på annat sätt. En person kan aldrig anses delta frivilligt om […]

(Whoever performs intercourse or another comparable sexual act with a person who does not participate voluntarily […] For estimating whether participation is voluntary or not, particular attention should be given to whether/if consent [literally roughly: “voluntariness”] was signaled by word, act, or by some other means. A person can never be considered a voluntary participant if [listing similar to the description of the original].

A first observation is that this leaves some of the criticisms against the original unchanged—and jumps from the ashes into the fire with the rest…

While the “voluntarily” part is obviously a good thing on paper, things get iffy quite fast in practice: How, absent explicit verbal confirmation, can someone be certain of consent? (And how is sex to be practically workable if verbal confirmation must be given again and again?) For instance, a man might take it as a positive invitation if, naked in bed, the woman spreads her legs—but this could have other implications. If she extends this by grabbing his penis and trying to guide him in the right direction, he can now be reasonable certain—but how does she know that he consented to the penis grabbing? The situation is absurd! It is even unclear whether the judge* is allowed to assume consent absent explicit signs, which could reduce the intended protection for the victims.** To boot, we have the “whether/if” in the translation that goes back to an ambiguity in the original; depending on which reading is chosen, the implications could be different.

*Sweden has no jury trials.

**However, from the context of the law and the discussion that I have seen, some explicit sign is almost certainly needed, even if this is not clear from the law it self: The intent is to satisfy feminist demands for explicit consent only.

Some light might have been shed by the new “1 a §”; however, it does more harm than good. The main effect is to introduce a new category of rape—“oaktsam våldtäkt” (roughly, “negligent rape”). This has the implication that if someone is “grovt oaktsam” (“grossly negligent”) when it comes to not noticing the absence of consent, it still counts as rape, no matter whether “mens rea” was present—someone might be raping someone without even knowing it! On the positive side, there seems to be some room for letting off people who acted in good faith; however, this increases the room for interpretation further yet. A special complication is that while the main text speaks of “gross negligence”, the qualifications do not discuss “lesser negligence”—only a lesser deed. Is the intention now lesser negligence or is it rather that someone who is grossly negligent will be left off if the deed, it self, was less serious?

A particular complication is the increased possibility for false accusations, a woman changing her mind after the fact (cf. above), whatnot: Contrary to feminist propaganda, false accusations already form a considerable portion of all accusations. With the combination of added vagueness and greater need for confirmation, the falsely accused will have greater problems with reaching “reasonable doubt”. In a worst case scenario, we could end up with cases like a man and a woman lying naked in bed, consensual sex spontaneously resulting, and the woman later claiming that she never explicitly consented—ergo, he “raped” her. Word-against-word cases were bad enough with the old law; the new makes it that much worse. With a law like this, chances are that fanatic feminist, unfair debater, and false accuser Anna Ardin would have been successful in getting Julian Assange into a Swedish jail (cf. [1] and links from there).

Looking at Swedish “sex legislation” in general, the tendency over the last decades has been depressing, with characteristics like fairness and Rechtsstaatlichkeit being ignored in favor of feminist whims. I note e.g. the absolutely idiotic ban on prostitution: Not only is such a ban highly disputable in it self, but the law actually turns reasonable procedures on their head and makes only the purchase, not the selling*, of sexual services illegal—something so patently absurd that I would not have believed it, had I not been used to the mindset** of Swedish feminists. An interesting consequence of law changes is that Sweden, going by naive interpretation of statistics, has one of the highest rape frequencies in the “civilized” world, despite (a) the male population being exposed to feminist messages from early childhood, (b) Sweden being one of the last countries even someone willing to rape should consider doing it in***. Many see the Swedish laws, including a very wide definition of rape, as the reason for this.****

*When the buyer/seller situation is asymmetric, it is common sense and established practice to make the selling illegal, while giving the buyer some leeway, as e.g. with drugs in some jurisdictions. It is the professional drug-seller that brings the for-own-use buyer to commit a crime—not the other way around. It is the prostitute (i.e. professional sex-seller) that brings the buyer to commit a crime—not the other way around. (Assuming that prostitution is considered illegal in any form—which really should not be the case in modern society.)

**Including e.g. a world-view based on men as oppressors and women as victims and the misogynist attitude that women are incapable of consent and self-determination (unless properly indoctrinated).

***Based on both laws and the unusually large tendency to believe female accusers.

****Others blame the immigrants.

Excursion on rape occurrence:
To put the “problem” of rape in perspective: Looking e.g. at a Wikipedia page titled Rape in Sweden, we can see that there is considerably less than one rape reported per 1000 people and year—even with these wide definitions. (Something feminists like to explain away with the unsubstantiated claim that only a small fraction of all rapes would be reported.) The simple truth is that the vast majority of all women will never in their lives be raped—and the vast majority of all men will never in their lives commit a rape.

Excursion on statutory rape:
The legal fiction of rape through “statutory rape” is a major weakness in many jurisdictions: It is very possible that even consensual sex involving someone from a particular group (notably those below some age) should be illegal. However, the abuse of the term “rape” for cases where this is the sole* cause of illegality is indefensible—they should be referred to by a more appropriate term**. In addition, it is very important that these not be considered strict liability crimes: Not only is strict liability something which must never be part of the criminal code for natural*** persons acting in a private**** capacity, in general, but with sex we often have a disproportionate risk of innocent mistakes and compliance by the “criminal” to the wishes of the “victim”, especially in countries with a high “age of consent”: Consider e.g. someone in the U.S. being picked up by a 17 y.o., who claims to be 21, shows an ID implying 21, is in a bar drinking alcohol, …***** With strict liability and the idiotic term “statutory rape”, this someone would suddenly be a rapist in the eyes of the law.

*Obviously, the term “rape” should be used if the criteria for non-statutory rape are also met.

**Exactly what would depend on the group and the circumstances.

***There might be cases where strict liability makes sense for e.g. corporations and government agencies, for reasons that include their greater expected knowledge of the law, the greater expected general competence level, and the greater risk and/or consequences of abuse.

****For similar reasons as in the previous footnote, an individual acting e.g. as a government agent might need to underlie stricter criteria.

*****Note that many U.S. states have 21 as the legal minimum age for alcohol consumption.

Written by michaeleriksson

July 2, 2018 at 6:37 am

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Why women’s roles have changed

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In a recent text, I had an excursion on moving and an out-dated world view. The first time I entertained such thoughts was in my early years in Germany, specifically concerning opening hours*, and how my lack of a house-wife put me at a disadvantage. In a next step, the observation presented it self that the opening hours could be a hindrance for women who wanted to work (or move from part- to full-time). Used as I was to the Swedish feminists, I even wondered why there were no loud protests requiring that the restrictive “sexist”/“Patriarchal” regulations were loosened.

*While the current opening hours are fairly civilized, excepting Sundays, the situation used to be horrifying. For instance, when I started working in the late 1990s (and lost the flexibility of the student) there was a blanket ban after 8 PM on weekdays, after 4 (!) PM on Saturdays, and during the entire Sunday. To boot, I lived in a small town where even the legal limits were usually not exhausted: Most stores might have closed at 6 resp. 2 PM or less on week- resp. Saturdays. Correspondingly, going shopping after a long workday was often stressful or outright impossible; and Saturdays were almost as bad. I actually often resorted to buying groceries in the morning and going to work correspondingly later—even though this increased the distance to walk considerably. (Instead of just making a short detour on the way from office to apartment, I now had to go from apartment to store, from store to apartment, and then from apartment to office.)

Ruminating on this and a few other recent posts, I have to question how many societal changes in e.g. “gender roles” or opportunities for women actually go back directly* to legislation**, “enlightened attitudes”, whatnot—and how many to a naturally changing environment.

*As with e.g. a law intended to increase equality and as opposed to a law intended to liberalize the market that happens to have a positive side-effect.

**Irrespective of who is to credit or blame for the changes. The common feminist claim that they deserve the credit is usually unwarranted, at least the positive changes typically being the result of a much wider movement, societal tendency, whatnot. (Note that not all changes have been positive. Consider the U.S. “Title IX” in conjuncture with college sports for a negative example.)

Look at e.g. a typical low- or mid-income* household a hundred years ago compared to today: No dish-washer, no washing-machine, no electric iron, no vacuum cleaner, … and consider how much extra work this implied to keep the household in shape and how much less time there was to go to an office or a factory floor. Or consider what was available to purchase at what prices, adding even more work, e.g. to mend clothes that today would just be thrown away, to grind coffee beans, to bake bread, to make meals from scratch, …

*Upper-income households were more likely to have hired help, making the practical burden of work less dependent on such factors. Indeed, with the relative rarity of household servants today, it is not inconceivable that some upper-income households are worse of today, when it comes to household work.

Or take a look at the number of children: A typical modern Western women has her 1.x children. Compare the effort involved, even technology etc. aside, with having three, four, five children*; or consider how the typically more physical work made it harder to be employed when pregnant.

*Or more, depending on when and where we look. One of my great-grandfathers had nine or ten, if I recall my grandmother’s statements correctly. He was likely already unusual by then, but such numbers are not extraordinary if we go back further yet in time.

Or look at the care for others: Daycare for children? At best rare. Severely sick family members? Often still cared for at home. Retirement homes for the previous generations? Unless we count the poor-house—no.

Or consider the types of jobs available: The proportion of the workforce engaging in heavy* manual labor was considerably larger than today (and larger still if we go back a bit further in time). Such work was simply not on the table for the clear majority of women, because they would not be physically able to handle it—and unlike with e.g. modern day firemen, this would have been obvious from day one, not just on that rare occasion when a maximum effort was needed.

*Also note that “heavy” usually had a different meaning from today, including both longer work-days and, like above, fewer helpful tools. Try, e.g., to cut down a tree with a chain-saw and an axe, respectively.

A deeper analysis might reveal quite a few other similar differences between then and now. However, even from the above, it is quite clear that e.g. the relative benefits and opportunity costs of a woman staying at home and going to work were very different from today.

As an aside, there are at least two changes that I have heard given somewhat similar credit in other sources:

Firstly, the birth-control pill, which is given credit* specifically for contributing to the sexual revolution. This, especially when extended to include other contraceptives and more tolerance against abortions, is probably correct. It would also play in with some of the above, because not all pregnancies of the past were wanted and improvements in various forms of birth-control are very likely to have led to fewer children, even assuming unchanged attitudes.

*Whether the sexual revolution is actually a positive is a matter of dispute, but in e.g. feminist discussions it is invariably seen as positive. (My own feelings are a little mixed.)

Secondly, the impact of WWII on female employment (in at least the U.S.): With a lack of available men, women were drawn upon as a source of labor in some “traditionally male” occupations, which in turn gave them a foot in the door for the future and could have indirectly impacted attitudes. On the other hand, that women were used as labor in WWII could be taken as an indication that attitudes were not the problem, but (as above) that roles resulted from a pragmatic use of people where they brought the greater utility—the war might have done less to change attitudes and more to change utility.

Written by michaeleriksson

June 30, 2018 at 10:46 pm

A few guidelines on when not to use “feminist”

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The word (and, by implication, the associated concept) “feminist” and its variations are extremely overused. A few, likely incomplete, guidelines for when not to use it:

  1. Never use the word to refer to someone who does not self-identify as feminist.

    Note particularly that many (including women, including those who see men and women as equal) see the word as an insult. For this reason, particular care should be taken with those who are already dead or will be otherwise unable to defend themselves against what can amount to an accusation.

    Even among those who do not, the use is often too speculative or commits the fellow-traveler fallacy (which I recommend keeping in mind through-out this post).

    A fortiori, never use the word about someone who died before the word was coined (preferably, became mainstream with a stable meaning)*. This is particularly important, because by associating it self with successful or important women from the past, many of which might have viewed it as absurd, feminism can create an unduly positive perception of it self.

    *The earliest mentions, in a somewhat current sense, appear to have been in the 1890s. A more reasonable cut-off might be the 1949 publication of de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, which arguably brought a change of character in the women’s right movements; and at which time there had been considerable changes in women’s opportunities and rights through e.g. WWII and various law changes in various countries, and the word had reached a greater popularity than in the 1890s. Beware that the spread of the word necessarily progressed differently in different countries.

  2. Be cautious about applying the word to someone who does self-identify as feminist, but is unlikely to be fully aware of the implications. Notably, every second young actress appears to self-identify as feminist, without having any actual understanding, instead being “feminist” because it is what is expected of the “enlightened” or because they have fallen into one of the traps of meaning discussed below. To boot, they give reason to suspect me-too-ism.

    More generally, a disturbing amount of supporters of feminism fall into the category of “useful idiots”, e.g. through declaring themselves supporters after uncritically accepting faulty claims by feminist propagandists. Obviously, however, a significant portion of these do qualify as feminists. (By analogy, someone who follows a certain religion based on flawed evidence should still be considered a follower, while someone who has misunderstood what the religion teaches often should not.)

  3. Never use the word because someone supports equality between the sexes. Very many non-feminists do to; very many feminists do not*.

    *Contrary to their regular self-portrayal, which has even lead to some grossly misleading dictionary definitions. Notably, the red thread of the feminist movement has been women’s rights, which only coincides with a fight for equality in a world where women are sufficiently disadvantaged. The inappropriateness of this self-portrayal is manifestly obvious when we look at e.g. today’s Sweden, where men now form the disadvantaged sex and feminist still clamor for more rights for women—but hardly ever mention rights of men or equal responsibilities for both sexes.

    Notably, I believe in equality and very clearly identify as anti-feminist. Cf. e.g. an older post.

    Equating “wanting equality” with “feminism” is comparable to equating “wanting freedom” with “liberalism” or “wanting [socio-economic] equality” with “communism”. (However, there is an interesting parallel between feminism and the political left in that both seem to focus mostly on “equality of outcome”, which is of course not equality at all, seeing that it is incompatible with “equality of opportunity”, except under extreme and contrary-to-science tabula-rasa assumptions.)

  4. Never use the word because someone believes in strong women, takes women seriously, writes fiction with a focus on women or showing women in power, or similar.

    None of this has any actual bearing on whether someone is a feminist or not. Indeed, much of feminist rhetoric seems based on the assumption that women are weak, in need of protection, unable to make their own minds up*, unable to make sexual decisions for themselves, and similar.

    *Or, make their minds up correctly, i.e. in accordance with the opinion that feminists believe that they should have. (For instance, through not professing themselves to be feminists, or through prefering to be house-wifes.)

  5. Never use the word because someone agrees with feminists on a small number of core issues, even if these have symbolic value within the feminist movement.

    For instance, it is perfectly possible to have a very liberal stance on abortion without otherwise being a feminist. (And feminists that oppose abortion, e.g. for religious reason, exist too, even though they might be considerably rarer.)

Addressing the issue from the opposite direction, it would be good to give guidelines on when the word should be applied. This, however, is tricky, seeing that there is a considerable heterogeneity within the movement. An indisputably safe area, however, is that of gender-feminism, which has dominated feminist self-representation, reporting, politics, …, for decades, and likely has the largest number of adherents once non-feminists (per the above) and useful idiots are discounted. The use can with a high degree of likelihood safely be extended to variations that are otherwise strongly rooted in quasi-Marxism, a tabula-rasa model of the human mind, and/or de Beauvoir’s writings.*

*With the reservation that we, for some aspects, might have to differ between those who actually apply a certain criticism or whatnot to the modern society and those who merely do so when looking at past societies.

I personally do not use it to refer to e.g. “equity feminism”, which is so contradictory to gender-feminism as to border on an oxymoron—and I strongly advise others to follow my example, for reasons that include the risk of bagatellizing or legitimizing gender-feminism through “innocence by association” and, vice versa, demonizing “equity feminists” through guilt by association. However, the case is less clear-cut, in either direction, than the cases discussed above.

Written by michaeleriksson

June 10, 2018 at 1:02 pm

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The fellow-traveler fallacy

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I am currently writing a shorter post on the use of the word “feminism”. As a result of my contemplations, I suggest the existence of a “fellow-traveler fallacy” (based on the originally Soviet concept of a fellow traveler and its later generalizations):

If a group of travelers take a ship from London to New York, can we assume that they share the same eventual destination? No: One might remain in New York indefinitely. Another might go back to London a week later. Yet another might take a different ship to cruise the Caribbean. Yet another might travel across the continent to Los Angeles. Yet another might move on to Anchorage. For some time, they are fellow travelers, but not because they wanted to reach the same destination: They merely had a part of the road in common, before their paths diverged.

During their time together, they might very well have enjoyed each others company, they might have helped each other, they might have even have collaborated to survive a ship-wreck. This, however, does not imply that their destinies and interests are forever bound to each other. Those who did not intend to remain in New York would have been grossly mistreated if forced to do so. The one heading for the Caribbean could hardly have been expected to be pleased about going to Anchorage instead. For the one to entrust his suit-case to the other (and not to collect it again in New York) would be silly. Etc. Even this does not directly consider the underlying reasons for the respective journey: What if the one was returning from a vacation and the other just starting his? What if one was going to a conference, another visiting a relative, and a third taking up a new position? With factors like these in the mix, even people who are fellow travelers through-out the journey might have so different objectives that grouping them together becomes misleading.

By analogy, it is a fallacy to assume that people who at some point have the same current goals and/or strive in the same current direction will continue to do so, will remain allies, can be permanently grouped together, whatnot—and, above all, to allow one of the temporary fellow travelers to permanently speak for the entire group. Similarly, if there is disagreement about methods, a status as fellow traveler is not necessarily a good thing: If the one buys a plane ticket to Cuba and the other, even for the exact same reason, forces a plane to go to Cuba at gun point, are they really the same?

An easily understood example is how the U.S. and the Soviet Union were close allies during WWII, only to become bitter enemies for the rest of the latter’s existence—they traveled together for a short span, forced by external circumstance, and then went their own, very different, ways for more than four decades. Ideologically, they were as night and day; but as long as they had a common all-important goal (i.e. defeating the Axis powers) they still fought on the same side. Those naive or uninformed enough to commit the fallacy by expecting a post-WWII friendship were severely disappointed; those who actually saw the alliance for what it was, an unnatural union of natural enemies to defeat a common enemy, were not surprised. (This is also a good example of why the saying “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” (a) is at best a semi-truth, (b) gives no guarantees once the common enemy is defeated.)

Most examples, however, are likely to be less obvious (and, therefore, more dangerous). Consider e.g. how the goals of feminism might be almost identical to those of a true equality movement when women are considerably disadvantaged, only to grow further and further apart as female disadvantages are removed or supplanted by new privileges, while male disadvantages remain or are increased and privileges removed, until, eventually, they are on opposing sides. Similarly, a classical liberal or a libertarian might have a considerable overlap with feminism in the original situation, only to end up on opposing sides as the situation changes.

Other potential examples include stretches of classical liberals and social-democrats or social-democrats and communists going hand-in-hand at various times and in various countries, as well as many other political cooperations or “common enemy”/“common goal” situations—even groups like vegetarians-for-health-reasons and vegetarians-for-animal-rights-reasons could conceivably be relevant. I am a little loath to be more specific and definite, because “fellow traveling”, in and by it self, does not automatically imply that the fallacy is present. To boot, even when the fallacy does occur, it will not necessarily affect the majority. (Feminism, in contrast, is an example where the fallacy is extremely common.)

As a sub-category of this fallacy, the temporary fellow travelers who fail to understand that later destinations will diverge, or who are apologetic for misbehavior by their current fellow travelers, are an ample source of “useful idiots”. (Feminism, again, provides many examples.) This becomes a great danger when apologeticism extends to methods, not just opinions, as when lies, censorship, or even violence is tolerated because “they are on our side”, “it helps our cause”, or similar, by someone who would condemn the exact same actions from a group that is not a current fellow traveler.

Another potential sub-category is those that identify some group as fellow travelers, fail to consider the fallacy, and then start to adopt opinions that they “should” have in order to conform further with the fellow travelers, leading themselves astray through committing a second fallacy. (Cf. parts of two older posts: [1], [2])

Written by michaeleriksson

June 9, 2018 at 6:47 am

Swedish gender nonsense and bandy

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I have written about the absurd Swedish take on equality (in general) and equality in sports (in particular) in the past. (For example in [1].) The last few weeks, the sports police have been at it again—with what might take the cake:

The fact that the women’s bandy world championship is played on the ice of a lake instead of in a rink is proof that women are mistreated, men and bandy are sexist, or whatnot…

Well:

  1. Even if the decision was wrong, this is not necessarily proof of anything. I am not privy to the decision-making process, but it could quite easily have been something along the line of the international federation giving the championships to China to expand the sport* (cf. below) and the Chinese simply not having a rink** suitable for a world championship (or having promised to build one, only to find themselves out of money). For that matter, they could have wanted to give an authentic (cf. below) introduction to the sport. If worst comes to worst, chances are that any sexism involved was restricted to one or several individuals—nothing more, nothing less. Moreover, in as far as sex played a role, it is very likely to have been in an indirect manner, based on the state of the men’s and women’s bandy (cf. below) or the expected costs and earnings from the event.

    *China only even having a national federation since 2014…

    **Note that the playing field in bandy is more like a soccer field than an ice-hockey field/rink, making the setup that much more resource intense and ruling out the use of many existing artificial ice areas, including typical hockey and ice-skating rinks.

  2. What is wrong with playing on a lake in the first place? It does seem a little unprofessional and there is chance that e.g. the element of chance is increased—but not to a degree that it would have a major impact on the results (considering the state of the women’s sport; cf. below). There are, obviously, differences to playing in a proper rink, but they are not earth-shatteringly large—and the differences present will likely introduce complications of a type that, say, skiers and golfers have to deal with every single time. That games are played outside is the rule either which way—unlike with ice-hockey, question like “with or without a roof” are of little relevance. For that matter, bandy is usually considered a sport for people willing to put up with quite a lot from nature, notably several hours of sometimes biting cold; and to complain about playing on a lake does not seem to be in this traditional spirit.

    Moreover, a great many men’s games have been played on lakes over the years; and for a long time it might even have been the most common setting. (No matter whether rinks are more common today.)

    Considering the low number of expected spectators, it might even have been a better experience for them than using a rink…

  3. In terms of participation, money, popularity, and whatnot, bandy is small sport even among men—with the exception of Sweden (and possibly Sweden’s closest neighbors). For the women, the situation is far worse, as is demonstrated by the medal table in the world championships:

    After the current and 9th championships (played this week), we have little Sweden a dominant leader with 8 Golds and 1 Silver—followed by Russia with 1 Gold and 8 Silvers… The Bronze medals are more even, divided between Norway at 5 and Finland at 4, but still show the limited depth of the sport. Even the 4th places are limited, being divided between Canada and the aforementioned Norway and Finland.

    This year, we saw a whole of 8 teams participating—after the federation failed to find the planned 12 teams willing and able to compete… The medals went Sweden–Russia–Norway (surprise!), with Sweden and Russia being entirely unthreatened in all games but two—the ones they played each other (winning one each). Norway beat Finland a convincing 5–2 in the Bronze game and USA 4–0 in a group game. In its other three games, this Bronze winner was destroyed, losing once to Russia (5–0) and Sweden (9(!)–0) in the group phase and a semi-final re-match against Sweden (5–0).

    The international standard is so low (as is often the case with small sports) that the two groups were deliberately lop-sided to keep things “exciting”. In fact, this to the degree that the real championship arguably consisted of just the four teams from Group A, who took three automatic semi-final places and all three medals, and was a hair’s breadth from taking all four and the fourth place to boot.

    Hair’s breadth? Well, the fourth placer in group A, USA, who failed to score a single goal or winning a single point, played the utterly dominant winner of group B, Finland, for the fourth semi-final—and lost after a penalty shot-out. Finland was then taken down 4–0 by runner-up Russia in its semi-final.

    Utterly dominant? Well, if you think that some of the previous wins were large, consider that Finland went 9–0, 10–0, and 27(!!!)–0 against respectively Estonia, China, and Switzerland.

    Moreover, looking at the sum of 19 games played, only 5 (!) saw the losing team even score a goal—and only three were won with less than three goals. (Specifically, the two Sweden–Russia games and the Finland–USA game.)

    With these differences, I would be unsurprised if the women’s Swedish championships has better depth and (outside the two games between Sweden and Russia) quality than these, as it were, world championships—and there are likely hundreds of men’s soccer teams in Germany alone that play on a higher international level than eight-placer Switzerland…

  4. As for spectators? The Wikipedia page currently links to four match reports. One, home-team China’s first game, show a whopping 350 spectators; the other three 50* each… While this might (or might not) have improved in later games, I feel confident that the grand-total of (physically present) spectators for the entire tournament would have been seen as a fiasco had they occurred in a single game of the men’s soccer Bundesliga. (Unless, that is, the Chinese regime decided to force participation during the later stages…)

    *Some rounding or rough estimation might be involved.

For the above, I have drawn data from the Wikipedia pages on bandy, the 2018 World Championship, and Women’s Bandy World Championship; as well as the Swedish videotext* to supplement the (currently still) incomplete data for 2018 on Wikipedia.

*Note that content here is not preserved in the long-term. Readers should not expect this link to deliver the right contents for more than a few days; however, the same contents should appear on Wikipedia in due time.

Written by michaeleriksson

January 13, 2018 at 11:55 pm