Tuesday, July 1, 2008


shorters and longers.


Kathy G. is absolutely right; I have no empirical data to back up my claim that Jesus weeps about coding problems. Once again, she has caught me, though in my defense, I don't think she has produced convincing evidence that Jesus does not weep about coding problem. Nonetheless, I think that at this point we have to regard this assertion as unproven. I regret the error.
I believe Megan considers this to be a comeback. I almost feel sorry for her.

The peculiar institution: Oh, no. Nonononononononononono. Megan wants to relate an attempt to argue slavery wasn't so bad to her problems with feminism. Really.
Bear with me. Most traditional feminists would say that being pro-life is an automatic disqualifier for calling yourself a feminist. I find this argument dramatically uncompelling. Fetal personhood is a quasi-empirical value judgement [sic] that should not be made for instrumental reasons--we can't decide that six year old children aren't persons simply because this would possibly make it easier to advance female equality.
This seems like an appropriate time to randomly bring up this quote, from not so very long ago, on Jonah Goldberg's... work.
They didn't call themselves "National Socialists" for no reason, and pointing this out is, so far as I am concerned, God's work.
Megan doesn't know what many words mean.
And now, an extraordinary moment.
The South posed no immediate military threat to the North; they wanted to leave the Union, not invade it. If you don't think that, say, Saddam's awful behavior posed a valid moral reason to invade*, then it's hard to make an argument that we had a right to invade to end slavery. Even a prudential argument doesn't work very well on this metric--we killed more confederates than Iraqis both in absolute numbers and as a percentage of the population, and the south was far more economically devastated by the war than Iraq will have been.
That's right, if you think the Civil War should have been fought, you have to also think we should have invaded Iraq. Megan says so, end of discussion.

Let's get this out of the way: Question; which have there been more of, rationales for why we invaded Iraq, or excuses by Megan for thr 2x4 crack?
I suspect that I shall spend the rest of my life being pursued by lefty bloggers who think that linking this six year old post is a substitute for argument. Nonetheless, it occurs to me that while I have repeatedly dealt with it in various places, I probably haven't here. So here's the deal. I'm going to talk about it now, because it was, frankly, a pretty stupid thing to write, and mea culpas are good for the soul. Then I'm never going to talk about it again. I have yet to see anyone deploy it against me who could even vaguely be accused of acting in good faith. On the other hand, there are readers in good faith who are surprised by it, and I think I owe them an explanation.
I don't know how I can add to that.
Not because I'm particularly sympathetic to rioters--which is what people who think it would be fun to turn a peaceful protest into a violent scene are The proper response to such people is to restrain them, by violent force if necessary. I certainly hope that if I were standing behind such people at a protest, I would have the physical courage to jump on them and use my 140 pounds of bony mass to wrestle them to the ground.
You suggested preemptive assault with a 2x4, not preventing a riot. That your suggestion was more along the lines of how to start a riot is one small sliver of the massive reality you're missing, Megan.
I shouldn't have written it because even if whacking a rioter in the head is necessary to stop the riot, it's not funny. It's not funny even when the rioter is a total scumwrangler who is deliberately wreaking mayhem--any more than it is ever funny when a thoroughly repulsive criminal gets raped in prison. To the extent that either the state or private citizens are forced to use violence to prevent violence, it should always be more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger. This is not amusing.
You were not talking about rioters, Megan, but potential rioters based on a fucking internet rumor. That carefully ignored distinction kinda suggests this is not a genuine display of contrition, shockingly.
So I shouldn't have written it, full stop. No excuses. But the way it's used in the blogosphere is, for want of a better word, pathetic. Those who link it never, ever mention that it referred to violent protesters, even when they have to do some exceptionally creative editing to avoid that fairly central fact. Indeed, they often explicitly state that it referred to peaceful protesters, even though there is no possible reasonable reading of that post which interprets it as randomly exhorting violence against people who were lawfully marching in protest of the war.
Megan keeps mentioning having been a peaceful protester at an event which became violent thanks to an overreaction by the police in the comparatively... I can't say peaceful but less emotionally stressed context of 1991 Philadelphia, yet can't see how the suggestion of "preemptive" violence in a city less than a year removed from the trauma of 9/11 could be interpreted as an outburst of eliminationist rhetoric. And Megan, those of us who were NYC residents at the time, and still are, and were in the protests might have our own negatively charged emotional response? You're blathering on about your feelings, yet dismissing the feelings of others.
That post is supposed to impugn my character. What does it say that the people who link it are invariably either outright lying, or deliberately misleading inflicting creative omissions on their readers?
Projection, thy name is Megan.

Should I call myself a feminist?:
This is not exactly a burning question for America. Nonetheless, it raises some interesting issues that are worth exploring, so heck, I'll explore them.
Normally I would ignore concern trolling such as is about to follow, but since this isn't a feminist blog I'm not giving Megan the kind of negative attention she's seeking, so it's ok.
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to attend a group dinner with Kenji Yoshino, a gay law professor who wrote a fascinating book called Covering. The book talks about the way that pressure to conform to group norms prevents people from fully participating in society.
He talked at length about the phenomenon of "reverse covering"--the way in which members of non-dominant groups are forced to reinforce their identity as members of those groups, even when they don't want to. This can come from either inside the group, as in the case of black teenagers who are punished by their peers for "acting white", or from members of the dominant culture. Women, for example, are pressured to both cover and reverse-cover; as he says, "to be 'masculine' enough to be respected as workers, but also 'feminine' enough to be respected as women."
It's as if Megan is determined to prove she has absolutely no excuse for being as dim and retrograde as she is.
What I asked him, after the dinner, is how far you can reasonably press a dislike of reverse covering. For a group to be a group, it must be able to say, not only "this is what we do", but "this is what we don't do"--you can't call yourself a Christian if you worship the risen Christ, and also Moloch.
His answer, the right one, I think, was "that's a hard question". You can't call yourself gay if you aren't sexually attracted to members of your own sex--well, I mean, you can, but you shouldn't, not that I think this is a real problem. But gay culture has defined any number of other characteristics that it views as central enough to a gay identity that it punishes defectors pretty severely. Is being liberal an important component of gayness? On most dimensions, it doesn't seem like it should be--yet the gay conservatives among my friends and loved ones, particularly the lesbians, are often punished for their views by the community.
This is unintentionally revealing. Megan basically thinks her vagina and degrees and desire for an equitable workplace entitle her to call herself a feminist, the way a gay man's desire for other men lets him call himself gay.
Which brings us to feminism. I view myself as feminist(ish) because I believe the following:
1) Society is set up in ways that limit women's choices and opportunities--men's too (it's awful hard to make the choice to stay home with kids, or become a nurse), but women more. Men are not, for example, socially punished for monogamy the way that women are socially punished for promiscuity.
2) Privilege exists, and is in many unfortunate ways invisible to those who possess it.
3) We should try to change those things
Megan sees herself as a feminist because she wants a better deal for herself. Sure, she's been a rich, entitled brat her entire life, but if she'd had a penis she'd have been ever so slightly more entitled and coddled.
I differ from the feminist mainstream on many of the questions of how we should change this.
And also on a large number of crucially important core components of modern feminism.
I don't think that subsidized childcare should be a civil right, I think comparable worth is a very bad idea, and I don't view abortion rights as fundamentally a question of female equality, but rather as an incredibly complicated attempt to trade off two important and incommensurable values that has no overwhelmingly obvious answer. I'm probably more willing than most feminists to give credence to the possibility that, say, women have lower IQ variance than men and are therefore less likely to show up in the tails of the cognitive/income distribution--though I also think that people often see what they want and expect to see, which makes those kinds of arguments rather more tenuous than their advocates allow.
Lemme translate that last bit; unlike feminists who recognize the racist underpinnings of The Bell Curve, I'm willing to use it to argue that women are exactly as homogeneous as I'm claiming.
But the basic thing, to me, is that I endorse the project of changing social values to increase the scope of human possibility.
Provided you're rich enough to afford those possibilities, of course.
But for many feminists, that's too basic. For many, to be a feminist, you have to want to make radical state-sponsored change to the economic system in order to promote equality. You have to grant rape accusers extraordinary presumption of truth-telling. You must endorse a hard line on abortion rights. If you do not agree with these propositions, you are a non-feminist, or an anti-feminist.
Yes, all 'real' feminists want accusations of rape to result in automatic castration, just to be safe. Duke and blaaaaaah dee fucking blah blah. In no way is it anti-feminist to reinforce negative stereotypes about feminists.
And maybe this is fair, at least the "non-feminist" part. I think increasing the equality of women is a very important project--but I think society has a lot of important projects. I also think that when you're trying to orchestrate these kinds of social and political change, you should think hard about whether you're actually increasing the scope of human freedom, or restricting it. Radically coercive social or economic regimes may increase women's equality in part by decreasing everyone's freedom, and given my values, I don't think that's a win. So if you define being a feminist as someone for whom fuller equality is the most important consideration, rather than simply something that we should all work pretty hard for, then you should probably exclude me from the list.
To again translate; your identity politics don't taste as good as the identity politics of being rich. Feminists who don't engage in identity politics don't count.
Thankfully, we're almost done.
Personally, I'd like to see feminism take on as expansionist a definition as possible without rendering the concept meaningless--something closer to my list than whatever, exactly in the head of people who label me an "antifeminist". Not because it particularly matters whether I get to wear the proud Scarlet F, but because bringing more people into the tent would make feminism less of a dirty word in many quarters.
And if Democrats would only cater to people who would never vote Democratic, everyone could live in Happy Bipartisanlandworldia, brought to you by the wise council of the Washington punditry.
It would give what I view as the movement's most important work--that of exposing and trying to change the structural problems in society that limit women's choices--more reach, albeit at the expense of driving many radical solutions to those problems.
It would mean Megan could call a selfish degree of self-interest being a good feminist, which would make it so much easier for her to sleep at night.
But it's not something I'm going to have a fight about.
(Aside from the passive aggressive assault on the Mean Girls this very post is a part of, that is.)
The feminist movement has a right to define what constitutes being a member, and I'm not going to appropriate their label if it bothers them, any more than I'm going to start calling myself a Catholic who just doesn't happen recognize the authority of the Church. If you read any feminist blogs, you'll know that they spend an enormous amount of time trying to define the core values of feminism, and while I may disagree with the definitions they end up with, if they dislike my opinions on the matter, well, it's their movement.
Yes, making clear to people like Megan that self-interest does not equal feminism does eat up too much of their time, unfortunately. And do you believe that they bother to be self-aware, and examine their own values? Sheesh.
But that does leave women (and I suppose men) like me with a bothersome question: what do we call ourselves? I share a lot of opinions on structural cultural issues with feminists, even when we disagree on the solutions these imply; I think we've come a long way, baby, but I don't think we're quite there yet. If I am to leave feminists in peace, I need my own word. Suggestions are welcome.
How about agnofeminist?

That's that, thank Jebus. I think Megan's strategy is to make her writing and arguments too painful to fully read, let alone respond to seriously, thus taking a "win" out of a dismissive non-response. We'll call it the Jonah Goldberg maneuver.


Clever Pseudonym said...

You really ought to break these down into multiple posts; there's too much idiocy to digest in one sitting.

"I suspect that I shall spend the rest of my life being pursued by lefty bloggers who think that linking this six year old post is a substitute for argument."

No, as I wrote in NoT's post above, it's almost always distinctly brough up in response to her multiple cries for civility to merely point out that she herself has been guilty of lacking in it from time to time. She doesn't care if people are civil to each other, only if they are civil to her, and a narrowly defined definition at that. Megan's idea of "civilized" is to never criticize her or question her writing or analysis ever for any reason, no matter how constructive or rational it may be.

And most of us here are educated people - will someone please take the time to explain to me just what in the hell a "quasi-empirical value judgement" is? I'm not Megan, so I'm too stupid to understand.

Clever Pseudonym said...

"A narrowly defined definition." Blarney...the McArdlism is rubbing off on me.

brad said...

Yeah, these longers are draining sometimes. I just get in a mindset where I gotta get it all done at once, else I never will.
It'd probably be easier on me to divide them up, n slightly easier to read.

NutellaonToast said...

Ugh, does this mean you're going to start "delegating?"

brad said...

Heh, no. I mean I'll turn a post like this one into 2 or 3 posts.