Posts Tagged ‘feminism’

Fair Pay …

June 28, 2019

I was watching television yesterday afternoon, and a commercial came on that featured a boy and a girl (both black, if that matters to anyone) talking about what they were going to do when they got older. Specifically, they were talking about all of the things they were going to achieve playing basketball from that age right through their university careers. The commercial focused on them either achieving the same things or the girl achieving even greater things — the boy talking about getting to state once while the girl talked about getting there three straight years — all through their career. And then, at the end, they talked about their rookie salaries in professional sports. The boy said that his would be $4 million, while the girl talked about hers being $40,000. This then led into a comment about a specific WNBA player fighting for fair pay (it ended up being a wealth management commercial).

There are a number of problems with this commercial wrt the notion of fair pay. The first is that while I suspect that this comparison was based on real people, having the girl’s projected achievements be so over-the-top works against the comparison. Treating the comparisons as identical and them having roughly the same amount of talent, she comes across as unrealistic or bragging. But this goes away once we consider that maybe her achievements are more realistic, but only because the competition isn’t as stiff in the women’s game and so one good school and one good player really can be that dominant. But then the attempt to show that her equal accomplishments are being underappreciated due to her significantly lower salary falls flat, as we start to think that they aren’t that comparable after all.

The second problem is comparing the starting salaries themselves and looking at what counts as fair pay. Now, a problem, in my opinion, with the debates over fair pay on the national teams is that it often focuses — on both sides — on how much revenue the teams bring in. National teams don’t exist to make money, so how much revenue each brings in, or even percentages of that, are irrelevant. The teams — and from that, the players — should get the funding they need to put together teams that can win big tournaments and titles. If that means that women need to get paid more even if they bring in less revenue, then that’s what should be done, and vice versa. The big issue is treating the two teams identically and as if they were a league team that has to worry about revenue and percentage of revenue and the like. That’s the wrong approach for either to take.

But here we’re talking about the NBA and the WNBA. And so, here, revenue matters. There is no way that the starting rookie salary for the WNBA could be $4 million because the revenue is not there to pay that much. An admittedly conservative estimate of the WNBA revenue is $60 million. 12 teams times 11 players at the $4 million minimum would be, in and of itself, $528 million. If we assumed that only big stars would get that to start — or at all — and posited an average of $1 million per player, that’s still $132 million or twice as much as the revenue taken in. And, remember, that’s revenue not profit. There might be one or two WNBA teams that actually make some profit at the existing salaries, but all of them would be deeply underwater if the salaries increased to anything near what that rookie NBA player would get.

This is why the smarter arguments — like the one linked above — focus on percentage of revenue rather than on absolute dollars. This, of course, has its own issues — fixed costs will take up a greater percentage of the revenue the less revenue you have — but it at least takes the vast revenue differences into account. The commercial, however, simply tosses out the dollar amounts as if that’s supposed to get us to see how unfair this all is. But an average salary of $100,000 is $13 million, which is a significant amount of the revenue — it’s actually close to what the article above claims is already the case, being slightly higher — which is far, far less than that rookie salary, and yet as it’s slightly higher than what is being paid today it would still result in most of the WNBA teams not making any profits. Going any higher, then, would likely simply push the teams under water. The article linked above wants the salary cap to go to 50% of revenue, which would represent an average salary of about $220,000 a season. That’s about as high as you can fairly go given revenue, and yet it’s still dramatically lower than the NBA rookie salary and — as this wouldn’t bring in more revenue on its own — would result in each team having to eat $1.4 million dollars in additional losses when, again, most of them don’t make profits now. An even split of revenue seems a dicey prospect, let alone trying to pay anything like equivalent salaries for the NBA and the WNBA.

Look, you can’t just look at the men’s and women’s pay and say that they should be paid exactly the same. You have to take the context into account, or else you make really stupid arguments. I sense a lot of stupid arguments in this commercial.

Are Women Too Picky?

January 4, 2019

Over at “We Hunted the Mammoth”, Dave Futrelle has made another entry in his on-going quest to seek out comments from the worst of the MRA and incel communities and mock them incessantly. This one is about a couple of experiments translating Tinder matching to real life and seeing how men and women react to that. The comment he’s jumping on is someone saying that it shows that the woman is too picky and then talking about how that implies in some way that a rape should happen. While the last part is, obviously, completely out-of-line, as usual Futrelle also mocks the first part along with it even if it isn’t as unreasonably mockable, and that’s what I want to focus on here. So, no, I’m not going to delve in any way into the rape comments, but will instead talk only about the comments about women and men being “picky”.

Futrelle says this about that specifically:

In one, a young women was confronted with a line of 30 men and told to swipe left or right as they presented themselves to her one by one; she swiped left — that is, she rejected — most of the men. After sitting down and talking to the remaining men individually, she decided she didn’t want to go on a date with any of them.

In the other video, the genders were reversed, and a man had to pick potential dates from a group of 30 women. He ultimately found one he was interested in going on a date with, and got her number.

This, however, greatly misrepresents what happened in the videos themselves. The videos themselves are set up like this: the person gets to select from 30 people of what I presume is at least average attractiveness level (some more, some less, and so on) and those 30 people then line up in front of the selecting person who has a couple of seconds to either “Swipe left” or “Swipe right” where to the left is reject and the right is accept, mirroring Tinder’s. After that, the remaining people get to decide if they would have accepted or rejected that person based on their quick impression. Then the remaining people all sit down to talk for a short time — kinda like a Speed Date, if you know what that is — and then at the end my impression of it, at least — and this will be important when dealing with one of the comments later — is that the selecting person could select one person to follow up with or, if there wasn’t anyone interesting, none of them.

So, in the video with the woman doing the selecting out of the 30 presumably around average looking men that cute but average looking woman was presented with, she rejected 22 of them, well over half. Out of that remaining 8, 2 of the men decided that they would have rejected her. At the end of it all, she decided that there was no one that she was interested in seeing again. In the video with the man doing the selecting, he rejected only 14 of them of those around average women, leaving over half that he, presumably an average man as well, was interested in following up with. However, out of them 10 decided they would have rejected him, well over half of those remaining. At the end of it all, he did manage to choose someone to follow up with.

So Futrelle’s summary hints that she rejected most of the men but never notes that he accepted most of the women in the complementary video. He also presents it as him ultimately finding one when my impression, at least, was that he couldn’t have chosen more than one and was having a hard time narrowing it down to one, while no matter how hard she tried she couldn’t even find one that interested her enough to follow up with. Presuming that they were relatively close in terms of overall attractiveness to the majority of people and the people presented to them were equally close in terms of overall attractiveness and there weren’t any extra odd selection criteria in the mix — an example of that would be my strong preference for glasses, for example — then it’s clear that she was pickier than he was in this.

And what is left out as well is the fact that at every stage the women were more picky than the men. She selected less than he did on first impressions, despite the stereotype that men are more shallow than women. She couldn’t even find one to go out with at the end of it all, whereas he did. The only one that isn’t obvious is the case where after being selected over half of the women he selected rejected him while far less than half did so for her. It seems obvious, but one could argue that if she had selected more men more of them would have rejected her as well. That … seems unlikely, though, because she presumably would have been selecting men who were less attractive overall or at least in the same category as the others and most of them would have wanted to take a shot with her. Still, we can’t know for certain, but she presumably wasn’t rejecting the men that most women would accept and so had more options and so would be willing to walk away from this chance.

So, it seems like she was indeed pickier than he was. And yet both Futrelle and a number of comments mock that idea.

From Steph:

What’s remarkable is that the man was barely interested in more women than the women was.

She went 0/30 he went 1/30. But for some reason men being picky / selective is fine yet women doing likewise is beyond the pale.

From the initial selection, it was 16 to 8 in his favour. He was willing to find out more about over half of them, while she rejected well over half. Add in that he couldn’t choose more than one but almost certainly wanted to give his number to more than one of them and there’s really no sense in which he can be said to be “picky”, or as picky/selective as she was. You can argue that being that selective isn’t a bad thing and so shouldn’t be called “picky”, but she was definitely more selective than he was.

From Bina, in response to Steph above:

Right? If anything, this just illustrates how both are about equal when it comes to choosiness. And also how it’s about equally hard for both to find just one person to go out with once, never mind form a full-on relationship with.

But trust these Nazis not to understand that oh-so-subtle nuance.

Well, not a Nazi, but I don’t get that nuance either because, well, it’s false. She was far more choosy than he was, and he certainly seemed, to me, to have found more than one person to go out with once and that his struggle was with narrowing it down to just one, while she struggled and failed to even find one person she was willing to go out with.

From Gatecrasher, again in response to Steph:

I think this is a very good point. Also, I wonder what the correct number of men she would choose to date would be. Because, ok, so rejecting them all was being picky and choosy. But picking just one man would still leave 29 poor men dateless. What about them? At the same time, I strongly suspect dating them all would be considered slutty and thus bad.

But I guess the real problem here is that she gets to choose at all.

If she’s rejecting almost three quarters of the men that might be approaching her on a two second initial impression, then that just might be being a little too picky. And shallow, come to think of it. More on that later. Still, though, rejecting well over half of the men presented here should at least raise some eyebrows, especially when the equivalent man accepted half. And that she couldn’t even find one to go out with later means rejecting all 30, most before even knowing anything about them. We could easily forgive the one here because it looks like she couldn’t choose more than one, and she couldn’t even do that. And sure, some people might call her out for being “slutty” for accepting more, but we would commonly refer to those people as “idiots”, because this was about first/coffee dates here, not sex.

And finally on this front there’s this comment from Jane Done that rather impressively misses the point:

When I saw that “tinder in real life” video in my sponsered suggestions on youtube it immediately threw off red flags.

‘Swiping’ on tinder is just like walking by someone on the street. Does every ****ing man on the street “deserve” a date with any woman who walks by him? What is the point of this video? To guilt people into relationships that make them miserable? To disparage free will?

Of course the real point is that women should just stop being choosy, shut up and start making babies already.

Tinder is a dating app. It is specifically there to facilitate the efficient finding of dates. So, if you see someone on the app, you should be considering whether they’d be a good coffee or first date for you. This is, of course, not what would normally be the case when you simply walk past someone on the street. And if you’re on that app, you should be looking for dates, and if there’s such a disparity where women reject over 70% of their potential dates while men accept over half, that’s a disparity worth looking into and figuring out the reasons for. If the women on that site don’t want relationships, then they shouldn’t use the app. And if they are willing to use that app, finding out why they’re swiping past so many can only help everyone.

I’ll use this comment by friendly arab girl to address a potential issue here:

Also, returning to comment again since I hadn’t watched the Tinder videos before commenting the first time –

I HATED watching these videos. It’s just kind of a stark reminder of why I am incapable of using dating apps. I tend to empathise with others far too much and feel unbelievably guilty saying no to anybody, because a) I’m terrified of hurting their feelings and b) I don’t want to be seen as an empty-headed, shallow bimbo who cares only about, like, looks and money or whatever.

Which is also why these alt-right lot who complain about “picky” women really get under my skin. These sorts of comments tend to stick in my brain and make me extremely self-conscious that if I ever reject a guy, then I’m turning into this “picky” girl they all complain about… I’ve said yes to and dated guys who I had a bad gut feeling about, purely because I didn’t want to hurt their feelings… and sure enough they turned out to be kinda terrible people. Of the four people I’ve dated in the past year, I stuck with two of them a lot longer than I should have, because they managed to guilt-trip me very easily (they’d say things like “I understand why you wouldn’t want to be with someone as fat/ugly/etc. as me…”). Despite the fact that I knew I had nothing in common with them (one of them was very self-absorbed and controlling, the other was quite childish), I stuck with them. And regretted it.

First, nobody seems to worry about that when complaining that men are too picky or shallow, which is a common stereotype. Second, this is about an initial date when you’ve had a short interaction or just seen their picture, not about a full-on relationship, so we should be focusing on women not being as picky with initial contacts and more picky when it comes to actual relationships, separating the two.

But we can ask the question: does this really matter? Should we really care about figuring out if women are too picky and if so, what we should do about it?

The first reason, to me, why this is important is because of the stereotypes that I’ve referenced earlier: men are seen as being shallow and only caring about looks, while women are seen as being more open and less focused on looks, and in fact often tout that as being one of their main traits. But what if that’s not true? What if women really are more focused on that initial impression of looks than men are and men are, in fact, actually more likely to give women that strike a less impressive first impression a chance than women are? Not only would this undercut an as it turns out invalid moral superiority claim for women in the dating area, it would be incredibly useful to people trying to get dates. Moreover, it also would strike against the stereotype that women very, very often will not reject someone who makes an approach because of politeness — as referenced in friendly arab girl’s comment — or the now more common “fear of violent and angry reactions” argument. The woman felt bad about rejecting, and yet had no problem rejecting over half of the men on the basis of a two second impression of them, and the other six after talking to them for a while. Now, this might be seen as a bit “safer” and so there’s less risk of violence, but this still should call into question the idea that women are too polite or too scared to reject men, even if for no other reason than for men to understand that if they were rejected by someone it doesn’t mean that they’re just that terrible a person because women are so hesitant to reject. They may not be as hesitant to reject as they imply, and it even turns out that if we combine the theories that the men who get rejected outright as seen as better men because they are the ones they want to reject but that they don’t fear violence from.

But the biggest reason to care about this is that dating and relationships matter to people. If people are struggling to get into a relationship, we want to find ways to help them get one, whether they are men or women. But if we base our advice on outdated and incorrect ideas and stereotypes, then we’ll be giving them the exact wrong advice to help them get that relationship that they desperately want. We’ll be telling men to improve their lives when we should be telling them to fix that first impression they give by changing their clothes and initial lines. We’ll be telling women to change their clothing when that might be the thing that actually works for them and that they need to double-down on their image or, else, figure out what else about them is actually off-putting. If we get this advice and especially the common advice wrong, we’re going to hurt a lot of people for a long time. That’s probably something that we should really try to avoid doing if we can.

I’m going to hypothesize here that there are significant differences in how men and women approach relationships that mean that women are more selective with initial approaches than men are. Now, I can already hear the cries of “Evolutionary Psychology!” here, but you’d be wrong, because what I’m going to use instead is Social Psychology. I’m going to argue that at least the traditional Western society that these experiments were run in is structure to give different strategies for men and women seeking relationships, and that those strategies mean that women are more selective than men are, at least with initial approaches or, rather, impressions.

That last correction is important, because the key social factor that I’m relying on here is one that was a major part of “patriarchal” societies and one that hasn’t actually changed that much with the advent of feminism: men are generally expected to directly approach and women are generally expected to, at most, make indirect approaches. We can see how this shakes out by looking at a standard party or social situation with lots of new people to meet for potential relationships. A man entering the party will likely want to check out the available women, but will quite soon want to “make a move” on one of them there. This is because since he isn’t likely to get approached by a woman any time he spends standing around not approaching is time he won’t be using to get any kind of date. So he can only justify doing so on the basis that that time will help him with the approach, like assessing the available dates or finding out more about them to make a better approach. This part is something that shy men often end up wallowing in, looking for more acceptable or reasonable dating partners, a better time to approach, or to find out more to make that approach more successful, but do so for so long that they miss any reasonable chance to do so. What I think we generally see, then, is that men in a standard “pick-up” social gathering will assess the potential dates, find the one that they themselves are most attracted to, and then try to approach them. They would always start at the top of the list — often even if that person is kinda “out of their league” — because a failed approach is more useful than no approach at all and, hey, they might get lucky and have it pay off.

For women, this isn’t the case. Since they can’t approach themselves, they have to wait to be approached. But in general if a man is talking to them or they’ve accepted his approach no other man will approach until that man leaves, and if they seem to be “taken” that man might move on to someone else. So there is a benefit to them checking out the available men and deciding which ones they would like to approach them, and even sending subtle signals to them to try to encourage them to approach. But what there is absolutely no benefit to them doing is accepting an approach from a man they are less interested in when the men they are more interested in are still out there. This mirrors the situation for men above: even if that person might be acceptable to you and might even be better for you, you aren’t going to approach or accept their approach unless they’re the only ones available.

The lists, though, work slightly differently for men and women as well (and it’s important to note here that all of what I comment on here might be and likely is entirely subconscious). For men, it’s mostly an inclusion list: anyone on the list is fine, but they’d rather the ones higher on the list than the ones lower on the list. For women, it’s mostly an exclusion list: if you aren’t on the list, then you’re out, while they still would like ones higher on the list than lower they care less about that.

Now, the problem with this sort of situation follows from this one fact: the people on or higher on the list are almost always going to have more options and so are far more likely to reject you in some way, either by not being responsive to your approach or by not approaching you. So, early in the evening, the woman might be rejecting that perfectly acceptable man while waiting for the guys on her list who are busy with successful approaches to women more attractive to them that she is, while the man is working his way down the list and getting rejected because he’s not what the women are looking for. In fact, this aligns perfectly with the traditional complaints men and women have about approaches: men complain that women are too picky and that they constantly get rejected, while women complain that they never meet any “good men”. The men are approaching women that aren’t interested and have better options, and so get rejected, while women are getting approached by men that they at least feel they aren’t interested in and have better options than. Both are probably, in some sense, being too picky, but the irony is that in most cases even if the man decided to approach her she’d probably reject him despite them being pretty close to each other in terms of overall attractiveness and potentially them being wonderful partners for each other.

Note that people here might complain that there is no such standard of overall attractiveness as everyone likes different things. I, of course, talked about that a long time ago. But there is clustering, and those who are more in line with the things that most people find in some way attractive will do better at first impressions on that marker than those who don’t. Even for myself, a very attractive woman with glasses will draw me in, but for most other men the only difference will be that the glasses won’t be a specific appeal for them, but she’d still be attractive to them. The same, I presume, happens for women. So because of that clustering the people that have more of the traits that most people find attractive will find all of this easier and so know they have more choices and so will be even pickier than everyone else. These are precisely the people that the list model I outlined above will have at the top of everyone’s lists, making this even worse.

The rise of things like Internet dating and Speed Dating and the like were aimed at limiting this by giving more than an initial impression based only on looks to judge by. Once we get into personality, hobbies and other quirks there’s a lot more things to separate people than just how appealing they look to you. And we immediately — as Tinder itself attests to — turned it right into that sort of thing by scanning on the basis of pictures and treating it primarily as a way to meet more people as opposed to a way to find out more about people before deciding on them. From my own personal experience with Speed Dating — in the 30s range — this also revealed a divide between men and women that’s in line with my hypothesis. I found that there were a lot of women there that I wondered why they were there, as they were definitely attractive enough to meet men easily (and didn’t even seem shy enough to have that be a problem). But it quickly became clear to me that they were using it as a way to simply cast a wider net and meet more people, and so it seemed to me would only accept men who were better than what they were meeting without it. At the end of the original Tinder video, after her not finding that complete connection that she was looking for, she said that she’d stay off the apps and “put herself out there more”, meaning simply go out in real life to meet people, which expresses a confidence that she would, in fact, meet people. So this seems to reflect that sentiment that none of them were better than the ones she was already meeting, which was my view of Speed Dating as well. For men, they seemed to be going there in the hopes of meeting someone, with numerous tales of putting down everyone and getting no matches. While Speed Dating worked for some people, this disparity would also be problematic.

I suspect that when you get into the upper 30s – early 40s, the women there are more interested in looking for someone and less in someone better than they have right now. By the time I could attend those, I was too busy and apathetic to bother.

Anyway, despite the stereotypes, women are indeed not only pickier than men at the shallow level, but inclined to be so. But men are probably pickier than they should be much of the time, too. While this method seems to work for a lot of people, for people struggling with it this method simply locks them into a crappy system that can’t work. People will bring up that you see “less attractive” people with “more attractive” people all the time, but I submit that those generally happen because the relationship skips over this initial phase entirely by finding a way for them to “meet” at more than the looks level from the start and skipping that initial assessment, which doesn’t work for everyone. Or else there’s some kind of specific trait that’s drawing the interest (money being the typical one, but others could play a role as well). So what we’d need at a minimum is to find ways to promote looking beyond simple looks-based first impressions. But since the popular people constantly co-opt anything that tries to do that I’m not confident in that being a success, beyond introducing society-wide forced computer matching (Note to self: consider that play idea of yours on that very topic again).

Anyway, yeah, she’s probably being too picky, and is certainly more selective than he is, probably due to those social constraints that I’ve talked about. And so the best advice for both men and women — but especially women — who aren’t having the dating success they’d like is to first look at what approaches they accept or make and ask themselves why they are doing those and not others, and if the criteria they’re using is the right criteria to give them a happy relationship. In short, to decide what’s really important to them and determine if their criteria are the best ones to get them that. This will put aside notions of being “picky”, recognize their own subjective interests, and work to short-circuit the looks-based first impression crap that’s not really working that well for at least them anyway.

Or they can insist that there’s nothing wrong with them and the problem is all with other people. At which point my advice to them is to just give up and learn to be happy single. Yes, that can be done, so those are the choices. Figure it out.

Work vs Family

December 28, 2018

So, over at “Love, Joy, Feminism” Libby Anne has written a post called “Why Paid Maternity Leave and Subsidized Childcare Are Not Enough”. The post talks about the fact that in South Korea they have paid maternity leave and subsidized childcare — which her jurisdiction, the U.S., lacks — and yet birth rates aren’t increasing. Libby Anne notes that South Korea also has a pretty strict work culture, with long hours being expected and so jobs aren’t at all family friendly. She notes this:

The next time I hear someone complaining about millennials not having children, I’ll make doubly sure my response is dual—we need both childcare subsidies and paid maternity leave, and family-friendly workplace cultures. Women need to know that they can have children without passing up promotions or being pressured to put work over family.

Well, with a site named “Love, Joy, Feminism”, obviously she was going to turn it into a feminist issue. But, in general, if a proposed solution isn’t working, we start to think that maybe the solution isn’t one. Here, obviously, she doubles down: not only do we need the first solution of paid maternity leave and subsidized childcare — which, you know, might actually be two separate solutions — we also need this family-friendly workplace to make this work. But if we keep having to add more and more and more programs and aid to make the situation work, maybe there’s a deeper problem here that we need to fix first.

She summarizes it this way:

Paid maternity leave and childcare subsidies are necessary, but they are not sufficient. If we want to create a world where every woman who is interested in raising children has the resources and space to do so effectively (and sanely), there is work to be done.

The problem here, though, is that she isn’t really interested in a world where women who want to have children has the resources and space to do so effectively. Her solutions don’t address that for all women. Instead, they address it for a certain type of woman: those who are interested in having children and in working full-time outside the home, and so want to have a household where neither parent can stay home to give primary care to their children but instead where both are spending much if not most of their time working instead.

(The “interested” line above is indicative, BTW. It places those women being interested in having children at about the same level as I’m “interested” in blog writing or writing novels, like a hobby rather than like something critically important).

So, keeping this all in mind, let’s break down what might be happening here.

The first thing that we have to note — and it seems obvious — is that children require direct care for most of the day for many years. If both parents are working and cannot provide that care, then that care has to be done by someone, which means that it has to be done by someone else. Thus, if both parents choose to work, then they have to find someone else to provide that care, as it is indeed their primary responsibility to provide the needs of the child (which feminists cannot deny since that statement is the underlying argument to their claims that child support must be provided in pretty much any circumstance where a child results from any kind of a relationship, where since women get primary custody more often is something that primarily impacts/benefits women and so is a feminist issue). So what really happens here is that the parents decide that their time is best spent working, and so they have to find another option to provide that primary and direct care for their children.

This can obviously be seen as them choosing their work and careers over their children and family. I’m sure Libby Anne and most feminists will cry out that this is a sexist interpretation, because it’s only used against women and rarely, if ever, against men. The problem with this is that it actually misunderstands why men focus on their careers in the first place. Feminism insists that the big selling points of work and careers were things like personal fulfillment and independence, but this was never the case for most men. The main reason men put so much effort into building and maintaining a career was because that was their contribution to family life. Thus, for men, the idea of choosing their work over their family was nonsensical: their work was their primary contribution to their family, and they sacrificed time spent with their children to ensure that their work provided as best they could for their family. This is why we have all the stories about men after divorce who wanted to change to a more fulfilling career rather than the more lucrative one that they were in on the grounds that if it wasn’t going to maintain their family they didn’t see the point in working so hard and in the job they didn’t like to do so. It’s also why you can see in a number of posts at Dalrock’s site (I’m not going to search through the posts to find one) stories about how women in their 30s and 40s who are now looking to find a man to marry often find the remnants to be woefully unprepared career-wise to do so: those men didn’t find that having a career helped their chances of getting a family, and so feel no need to work that hard and get that great a career to have one. For men, their career tends to be aimed at preparing for a family, attracting a woman for a family with how well their career will provide for one, or supporting and maintaining the family they already have. So for men, working hard is generally not seen as being a choice, and particularly not a choice between their work and their family. Instead, it’s seen as the sacrifice they have to make for their family.

Feminism did not do this for women. Women, it seems to me, don’t particularly feel any pressure to work as a primary way to support their family (except in one increasingly common case, which I’ll get into later). They’ve been encouraged by feminism to see their jobs as liberation, as a means to independence, as personally fulfilling. So any woman who has a successful career is likely hesitant to give it up because she’d lose all of that to gain something that she at least doesn’t see as being as valuable. The example of women in their 30s and 40s mentioned above highlights this: they spent their 20s and early 30s building their career for the sake of building their career, and then start to look towards having a family. At this point, they have less time to have children and there are less acceptable men available. This, obviously, has to impact birth rates.

Now, here is where the example I alluded to above comes in: for many couples, both parents have to work in order to afford having a family. This leaves them in the unenviable position where in order to afford to have a family, both parents have to work, but unless they have an extended family willing to help out they have to pay someone to look after their children while they work. This claws back the benefits of both of them working and if child care is expensive enough — and the more people who use child care the more expensive it will be, especially if the new ones coming in can afford to pay more for it — make it so that having that second job doesn’t actually benefit them at all. This is where things like subsidized child care and paid parental — let’s not call it maternity — leave can come into play. The idea would be that for these families one parent stays home until the child is old enough to go into child care, at which point that parent returns to work. Of course, by the reasoning I just gave this would be income-locked, where only families whose household income is low enough that both parents would have to work in order to support the family would get the benefits.

Most of the women pushing the hardest for these things, though, are women who have good enough careers that they could probably afford to raise a family only on her salary, or at least with one salary. Perhaps not to the extent that they could maintain the lifestyle they had before having children — it’s a lot easier to splurge on purchases if you don’t have to make sure that your kids have everything they need first — but they’d be able to manage. I’m not up on the most recent feminist thought on this, but making these things available based only on income doesn’t seem to be a big component of it, despite the fact that presenting it that way should make it far more palatable to almost anyone considering it. This suggests that it’s not need that drives this, but the desire to have that fulfilling career as well as a family, and the need to have someone help out with that if they’re “going to have it all”. The concerns of those who have to provide the help or what impact that might have on other people and even other parents seems to get short-shrift.

The idea of “family-friendly workplaces” tends to demonstrate this. Most of the focus is on making workplaces, well, friendly to those with families, allowing them to adjust their schedules in a way that allows them to fulfill their family responsibilities easier. If this is strictly limited to families, then they’d be getting privileges that people without families don’t get. If these are extended to everyone, then this may result in those without families getting an entire set of privileges that are useless to them on the basis of fairness, which would make it fairness in letter but not in spirit. No matter how it all goes, either those without families will pick up the slack or productivity will suffer. On top of that, those without families might willingly choose to pick up the slack for various reasons, but then would simply be more reliable, which would mean that they’d be relied upon more, which in general should lead to more raises and promotions and opportunities, which will then end up putting pressure on those who have families to keep up. But you can’t say to those who could, say, come in at the last minute because of some work crisis or because someone got sick or, heck, because someone had to run off to deal with a family crisis that they can’t do the thing that really needs to be done or needs to be done now because it might put pressure on those who have families to do the same sort of thing. And the sort of person who is willing to sacrifice their time to solve these sorts of problems is the sort of employee you want to have. Sure, it’s easier for people without families, but it’s still a sacrifice. Someone who is willing to sacrifice to ensure things work out at work hoping for some sort of compensation is a pretty good employee. You don’t really want to punish good employees who have generally manageable responsibilities outside of work that might cause conflicts like this, but you certainly want to reward the ones who put their work responsibilities over their outside responsibilities when it is necessary.

The ultimate problem, though, is that we don’t value having a family enough anymore. And I’m not talking about society not providing for subsidized child care or paid parental leave or family-friendly workplaces or with people not stepping up enough to help families in general. No, what I mean is that very few believe that having a family is an important vocation or part of people’s lives. As Libby Anne said, people are “interested” in having families, not considering it to be something that they should do. As such, we have lots of people who are willingly placing their jobs and careers ahead of having a family, and then treating that family as an afterthought, or as something “on the side” to make their lives complete. It’s also why we aren’t at all concerned about the fact that more and more families have to have both parents working to be able to support a family when the ideal situation is to have one parent provide that primary care for the child instead of them having to rely on — or pay — someone else to do it. This is why women are pushing their careers in their 20s and 30s despite that in no way helping them towards starting a family (especially since even career women marry men who make less than them infrequently). It’s why more and more men are deciding that a career isn’t all that important to them. We’ve decided that having a family isn’t a main priority in our lives. No wonder, then, that birth rates are falling.

Just looking at the labour required and the division of labour, the ideal situation is always to have both parents directly involved in the child’s life, and one parent to stay at home to provide the direct primary care required until at least the children go off to school and can be on their own for at least short periods of time. Feminists, not unfairly, tend to dislike this suggestion because typically that meant that women were the ones who stayed home, and even when we look at seemingly objective measures like which parent makes the most it tends to leave women with that role, whether they want it or not. But, for me, this should primarily be decided on who is best suited for the role with the secondary consideration of which income the parents can afford to leave. My primary concern, then, is with the fact that increasingly they couldn’t afford to lose either income. Once we fix that, then we can start looking into considerations of who could stay-at-home and still manage to do some paid work, either part-time or at home or whatever. But all of these things require us to put having a family ahead of careers and personal lifestyle desires, and this is what we increasingly do not choose to do.

And it should be obvious that if having kids isn’t that important to most people, then birth rates will fall. So before we try all of those things that Libby Anne wants us to try, we really need to make having children a priority again. And nothing that she or most people say does that in any way. Thus, when all is said and done, it won’t make things any better.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

December 14, 2018

So, there’s been a bit of a kerfuffle over the song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”. CBC recently dropped it from and then reinstated it on their Christmas playlists due to the controversy. The arguments against the song are over how creepy and “date rapey” the song seems today, usually trying to make a link to the #MeToo movement about sexual harassment, and so linking the song to that. Defenders of the song usually appeal to it being written in a different time and not meaning the things that those opposed to it think it means.

There are probably two big arguments about it. The first is that throughout most of the song there is a conversation between a woman who wants to go home for the night and her erstwhile boyfriend who keeps trying to convince her to stay, which can seem like coercion. The second usually focuses around one line where she accepts a drink from him and then asks “Say, what’s in this drink?” which is often translated by people who have no idea what they’re talking about into some link to the Date Rape drug, despite the fact that such a thing wasn’t in common use around that time.

While others hint otherwise, I think that the most common and reasonable interpretation of the “Say, what’s in this drink?” line is that there might be a little more alcohol in it than she expected, which might be an attempt to get her to loosen up a bit. But doing that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, some advice for shy people in social situations is to have a drink so that their inhibitions will be lowered. Having your inhibitions lowered isn’t a bad thing unless your inhibitions are actually telling you to not do things that you really shouldn’t do; if those inhibitions are stopping you from doing things that you should or should be able to do, then lowering them is probably a good thing, as long as the lowering itself doesn’t cause any kind of issues.

So, then, we need to look at the rest of the song to see what is happening here. Given the context of the entire song and the time it was written, I definitely think that the most reasonable interpretation is that she wants to stay but is running up against social strictures against doing so — that aren’t as strict for men — and so she’s giving the standard excuses and he’s trying to give her excuses for not following that wisdom, particularly that it would be an extreme hardship and even dangerous for her to leave due to the weather. At the end, depending on the version of the song, she seems to accept willingly and not reluctantly, which supports the idea that she wanted to stay and was talked out of her inhibitions, not talked into doing something that she didn’t want to do.

That being said, it’s not as easy to see that in the modern context. While the same sorts of social strictures can be in place, they aren’t as common anymore. Thus, a woman giving those excuses is less likely to be doing so on the basis of “What would people think?” but instead as excuses to leave so that she doesn’t have to stay. And in that context, he’s trying to coerce her into staying when she doesn’t want to. I can see how that might bother some people, and make them feel like she’s giving in rather than ultimately being convinced to do what she really wanted to do anyway, if not for those invalid social strictures.

So, turning to the radio stations: I can see that some of them might want to drop it because the song has implications today that it didn’t have then, there are plenty of older and modern Christmas songs to play, and they don’t really want to deal with that hassle. I think that that argument, if that’s what was used, would work: it implies things that don’t work as well today as they did back then, which can spoil the enjoyment of the song for some people, and there are lots of enjoyable Christmas songs to play. On top of that, if people want to listen to it, they can always get versions of it all over the place to listen to themselves in the privacy of their own home. So it would really be more of a “We don’t really want to get into this issue over implications”. Unfortunately, most of the radio stations and critics tend to outright say that it’s creepy or date rapey, which it actually isn’t, which then causes controversy and outcries.

By the same token, however, if a station wants to keep playing it on the grounds that it doesn’t mean that, that’s fine, too. Just because some people interpret a song a certain way doesn’t mean that they’re right to do so, and if they are interpreting it wrong and that causes them to take a creepy meaning from the song no one need humour their wrong interpretation. So I’m fine here with pretty much any choice CBC had made … well, except perhaps deciding to drop it and then reinstating it, which seems wishy-washy.

Now, you could ask that if it was the religious Christmas carols that were being dropped simply because they had religious connotations in a modern world that was less religious, would I feel the same way? The situations are different, though. The first big difference is that if a station wanted to ban all religious Christmas carols, they’d have to get rid of most of their playlist, including some of the most famous and most beloved Christmas carols. Dropping one semi-popular song is no where near that extreme, and so doesn’t need as much justification. Second, the argument that it has a different implication in modern society doesn’t hold. Society is less religious, certainly, but that alone doesn’t give a religious song any different or problematic implications. The most that could happen is that in a less religious society fewer people would want to listen to religious carols, but then their popularity would drop and the market would take care of it. There’s a direct argument about the specific song here, and clearly it isn’t “People aren’t listening to it anymore”. And finally, until Christmas stops being a religious holiday entirely, it’s going to be accurate to imply that Christmas has a link to religion, thus dealing with any possible implications. There is nothing in “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” to make its modern implications accurate and, in fact, nothing to actually link it to Christmas. You could replace that song entirely with “Winter Wonderland” and lose absolutely nothing.

I don’t mind the song, and listen to it not infrequently. But if it disappeared from playlists I wouldn’t miss it one bit, and I can see that it has implications today that it didn’t have back then which stations might not want to deal with. All in all, I think this really has to be up to the individual stations to decide what to do, and if they play it or not — and if people listen to it or not — it says very little about them as people. Or, rather, it says more about those people who don’t play it or refuse to listen to it than it says about people who still enjoy it given its original context, but for the former it doesn’t say enough for me to hang them from the highest bough.

Sexism in the Atheist Movement

March 30, 2018

So, P.Z. Myers made a post talking about the Just Us Women podcast ending. He quotes the reason for its demise as follows:

I will no longer be interviewing women who have left religion, since I cannot in good conscience refer them to the atheist community, where they could find support. … All the resources are tainted with connections to the top tier of misogynist, sexist men.

People in the comments have noted the oddity that she’s not going to interview women who have left religion because somehow doing that would mean referring them to the atheist movement, even though she doesn’t have to do that and has no reason to unless she’s still going to stay in the atheist movement, or considers herself such a tainted resource. I don’t want to talk about that oddity. I want to talk about another oddity, which comes from considering that these women have left religion, and so in general have left religions that the atheist movement considers incredibly sexist, and as sexist as something can possibly be. So, by that, these women have likely experienced the worst sexism that they possibly could have experienced. Unless the atheist movement is worse than the average religion when it comes to sexism — and I’ve argued in the past that it seems like it clearly isn’t — then surely even referring them to the current atheist movement would mean an improvement in the sexism they face from the movement that is so critical to supporting them.

Unless the atheist movement really is more sexist than religions. But that can’t be the case, can it?

When it comes to sexual harassment … maybe it is. See, one of the main differences is that the atheist movement attached itself to progressivism, and progressivism embraced the idea of “sex positivity”. Indeed, one of the main criticism the atheist movement leveled against religion was how repressed and prudish they were about sex and sexuality, particularly in women. Sex was supposed to be fun, and something that everyone should participate in, and that attempting to limit that in any way was denying people not only great experiences, but a critical part of themselves. So free sexuality was important, and all of the traditional sexual mores were done away with, with people embracing things like polyamory and casual sex so that even the idea that sex was something that was supposed to happen between people who were in a committed relationship was lost. As long as the sex was consensual, anything went.

This, of course, ended up being controversial, as it clashed with feminism. The problem was that a lot of the “anything goes” were things that feminism traditionally considered objectifying. This included all forms of sex work, leading to the characterization of some of them as SWERFs. While some denied that sex positivity and feminism weren’t at all in conflict — because of the insistence that it was all consensual — the issue remained. And it’s clear what the underlying issue was: if women were going to be having sex and being sexual, unless they were all going to be lesbians and only have sexual relations with women, that sex and those sexual things were going to be done with and for men … and at least some forms of feminism insisted that doing that would be objectifying. Yes, sex with men and doing sex shows for men could definitely be consensual and could derive from the woman’s desires, but all of that would involve doing things that feminism said men expected women to do in order to please them. Which could lead to them thinking that they were entitled to that from women. The more women who were willing to do those things for men — even for their own pleasure — the more men could justify the idea that those things were what women should do for men. The counter to that is the standard “Restricting women from pursuing what they enjoy is just as bad as what patriarchy did”, which has generally not convinced anyone on the other side.

So what we have is sex positivity which chides anyone for restricting the sexual fun that people can have or seek out, and a sex positivity that is a critical differentiating factor between atheism and religion. At that point, all of the traditional sex norms are gone, and thus all ways of enforcing those sexual norms. In traditional or religious social circles, sex is supposed to be limited to couples in a serious relationship that could lead to marriage. Yes, that wasn’t always followed, but at least if someone “took advantage” of a woman to get sex without commitment the woman could easily be consoled by saying that the man was immoral and bad, and would get sympathy from the social group for that. And someone who called that man out as a cad would be appealing to the overarching social structure, and so would at least get some consideration for saying that the person was breaking the social rules.

But that didn’t exist in the sex positive atheist movement. Casual sex — and the pursuit thereof — wasn’t a bad thing anymore. I wonder how many atheists who noticed some of the more … aggressive approaches refused to intervene not because they were intimidated by the power of the person making the approach, but because they were afraid of being called prudish or its modern equivalent of “sex negative” for interfering with two consenting adults seeking sexual pleasure.

If they couldn’t use that they were essentially being tricked by promises of a long-term relationship into having casual sex — and that therefore that they were being “used” in that way — but still felt “used” in some way, what could they appeal to? Well, the only thing left was consent. If they could claim that it wasn’t really consensual, then they could still condemn the men who took those actions without having to reject sex positivity. For example, with the Michael Shermer allegations, Smith said that he “coerced me into a position where I could not consent, and then had sex with me”, which is incredibly vague and could range from convincing her to let him tie her up to, well, what she ended up claiming, which was that he encouraged her to drink more heavily than she should and had sex with her while she was intoxicated, and presumably too intoxicated to give consent, which tied into the long-standing feminist claim that a woman who was intoxicated could not give consent. Of course, people pointed out that it didn’t seem reasonable to claim that someone else offering someone alcohol, even if they weren’t drinking that heavily themselves, was a kind of coercion that we couldn’t expect people to resist, and the debate was on. But the key was that all of this was being used to insist that she didn’t really consent, and so the sex was wrong, as that’s the only line left that she could pursue.

This led to the reinstatement of some of the old mores, as people insisted that you shouldn’t have simple casual sex with a stranger, but should have sex with someone you knew well and respected so that you could read their cues and so get affirmative consent. This, and the harassment policies, clashed with the sex positivity of people who thought that it meant that they could pursue and get guilt-free sex, and that it was all okay as long as the other person agreed. In fact, most of the clash around harassment policies was indeed about having to put restrictions on who you could pursue and when, with some of the restrictions seeming inconsistent unless you looked at it from the perspective of trying to replace the old “taking advantage of” sexual mores.

Now, which side is right or wrong is beside the point (I think both are in some ways). But the key point here is that in the “sex positive” atheist movement, women were going to get more invitations for sex, those invitations would be more direct, and a sexual atmosphere was going to be more present and more open, and there would be more pressure to be sexually open. For women who found that uncomfortable, there was no real way to deal with that. And even those women who were more comfortable with that were going to have a problem when they ended up feeling taken advantage of. So it is possible that, when it comes to sexual harassment, the atheist movement was worse than religions because it would be more open and there were no social structures in place to deal with it, and attempts to add in those structures felt like ruining all of the fun for those — men and women — who had no problem with the way it was.

Personally, I still think that the impression of egregious sexism more reflects disappointment than reality. They expected the atheist movement to be better than everything else because they came to it from certain progressive and feminist worldviews, and so expected that everyone else did, too. When they found out that they couldn’t, they felt a disappointment akin to finding out that their hero had feet of clay, except that it was the entire movement that had that and not just one or two people. Myers’ entire argument against dictionary atheists is that atheism has to imply the liberal, progressive, feminist values that he supports, even if people disagree with them. When these atheists became convinced that the atheist movement wasn’t going to adopt their entire set of values, the atheist movement itself was seen as unethical, and that caused them to abandon it … even as they ignored that the religious alternative was supposed to be worse by their own arguments.

In their disappointment, they risk abandoning burgeoning atheists to an alternative that they should find even less acceptable. That can’t be what they wanted, but it’s what they’re going to end up with.

If not for you …

March 28, 2018

In “Nine Princes in Amber”, the first book in the Amber series by Roger Zelazny, Eric of Amber says this to his brother Corwin: “I might have pardoned him, save for your present recommendation”. He goes on to say that because Corwin wanted their brother Random spared, it had to be for some ulterior motive, so Eric couldn’t trust that recommendation.

I now feel the same way about “Ready Player One”.

I heard about the book from numerous sources. Despite being in the age range to get the nostalgia hit, it didn’t seem to me like a book that I’d want to read. And after giving up on popular sci-fi — and pretty much any sci-fi — after the whole Hugo Awards thing and my assessment that the winners in 2016 were at best mediocre, I certainly wasn’t inclined to try out something else that some people liked and some people griped about.

But P.Z. Myers hates it.

Now, this is not the first time Myers has griped about it, and it’s not the case that I’d do anything or seek out something just because Myers hates it, because if you look up the word “curmudgeon” in the dictionary you’ll probably see his picture (or Jerry Coyne’s, which makes it all the more ironic that they even dislike each other). If I tried everything he hated I’d never get done. But in the latest post he linked to another post talking about other people disliking it:

Let’s not beat around the bush: Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One is a circle jerk of male geek culture sustained over a grueling 400 pages.

Well, now I’m interested, just to see what it did to tick them off so much (despite her later commenting that there’s nothing wrong with a movie about that, despite the harsh response). So, I bought it, and I’m going to read it. I’m going to read it with the same attitude as I read all of those Hugo nominees from 2016, and attempt to give an objective assessment of how good or bad it is. I could think it terrible. I could think it great. I’m expecting to find it “Meh”. But we’ll see. And it’s filling up the Amazon free shipping for the Infinity War TPB, which I’m looking forward to reading after really enjoying Infinity Gauntlet. So, there’s that.

But let me talk about the rest of Jess Joho’s article above, because her main point is indeed less that “Ready Player One”‘s focus is bad, and more that it leaves out all of the girl pop culture from the same time periods, and goes on to suggest things that could be done to make up the gap:

That why everything from Transformers to The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles can get reimagined with CGI reverence — but the idea of a blockbuster live-action American Girl Dolls or The Powerpuff Girls franchise sounds laughable.

So, why did those two specific things get their movies? Well, let’s start with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. See, the reason it got reimagined might have something to do with the fact that in 1990 it actually had a live action movie, that was successful enough to spawn two sequels. If you were looking for something from that era to reboot as a live action movie, that one was a pretty good bet, especially after Transformers worked. And for Transformers, it was actually still running incarnations of the cartoons up until 2006 (the first movie was made in 2007). Oh, and it had a theatrical movie, too, which was poorly received at the time but has gone on to be a cult classic. So if you were going to try out a couple of old cartoons to turn them into modern movies, these were pretty good bets for having, you know, actually been movies at some point.

But it’s far more enlightening to look at what she left out. She left out the G.I. Joe movies, and since Transformers and G.I. Joe were both Hasbro products, it only makes sense that they’d try those two, and also explains what she finds inexplicable that the “Battleship” board game would get a movie before the “girl” movies she wants. And given that Hasbro is involved, we might want to ask about a Jem and the Holograms movie … except that it had one, which was poorly received, and so didn’t get a second movie even though they clearly planned for a sequel and even planned for a potential crossover with G.I. Joe and the Transformers, which was killed by how poorly the Jem movie did. Wonder why she left that one out. And she could have asked about “My Little Pony” … except that it got a theatrical release in 2017. Again, wonder why she left that one out. So far, her post is more noteworthy for what she ignores than for what she says.

So let’s look at her seven suggestions:

1. An HBO The Baby-Sitters Club mini-series

The original #girlbosses, Baby-Sitters Club is lowkey one of the most enduring feminist staples of girlhood. Long before Time’s Up made pay equity a central cultural conversation, these young entrepreneurs were making business plans and getting ****ing paid. Yes, there was a 1995 movie, but the time is ripe for a reboot (Hollywood loves those!). So we propose HBO takes this on to deliver a Big Little Lies for the younger generation.

I’ve heard of this series. I’m not sure how it would work on HBO, given that it’s not likely to be a deep or complicated story, and if they made it that way it would probably end up a lot like the Jem movie. And it also had a movie. Still, it’s hard to see this one working in the same way as Transformers or TMNT did, because Michael Bay took the source material and built a somewhat credible set of action movies out of it, which meant it had an audience beyond those who wanted to watch it out of nostalgia (and good thing, because Transformers, at least, for the most part ignored what made the original shows so interesting and so killed most people’s nostalgia anyway).

2. A live-action Sailor Moon franchise

Sailor Moon was the ’90s kid Saturday morning cartoon blast in the face of lady power. Aside from being a radical school girl who could turn into a magical goddamn moon princess, she also taught us about the enduring power of female friendship. We’re envisioning something that’s Sucker Punch levels of extra — only without all the gross male gaze-y bullshit.

I watched this show. I liked it (Sailor Mercury was my favourite). I think it would make a crap live action movie. First, because it was an anime, and unlike cartoons anime tends to stretch their storylines out over an entire season and so it’s hard to isolate a storyline that can fit nicely into one movie (and a planned trilogy can fall apart if it isn’t done right, like Jem and the Holograms) and second because it’s a magical girl story and I think that would be hard to pull off credibly in live action. I suspect that such a movie would turn into some kind of action movie a la Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which I don’t think would please any audience that might be inclined to see it.

3. Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle Trilogy

This Victorian-era fantasy trilogy is not only beautifully written, but one of the starkest YA portrayals of how girls must navigate complicated relationships to power, patriarchy, and friendship. We got pretty close to seeing them made into movies when Icon Productions licensed it in 2006. Then nothing happened… until the company recently relinquished the rights — leaving it totally open for grabs (are you listening, Warner Bros.?!)

The what now? I’ve never heard of this, and if you’re looking to get comparisons to Transformers and the like you’d think I’d have heard of it, having heard of the first two and Powerpuff Girls …

4. A feminist reboot of Life-Size

Who could forget Trya Banks’ acting debut in 2000 as a Barbie brought to life. But while the original Disney movie played Eve’s inability to perform Barbie’s many jobs (doctor, astronaut, lawyer, etc) for laughs, there’s a real metaphor there. There are endless possibilities in a feminist reboot that actually critiques the cultural messages we send young girls through marketing and toys. And, yeah, we know: a sequel was actually announced. But we want less made-for-TV Life-Size 2, and more of a wide theatrical release for Life-Size: The Reckoning.

Well, at least it being from 2000 explains why I’ve never heard of it … but it also doesn’t make it fit the sort of nostalgia narrative that the other series hit.

5. The Song of the Lioness series, or anything from the Tortall Universe

Wouldn’t you know it — here’s another beloved, classic female-oriented YA series that almost got made into a movie, and then didn’t. But for the love of god, if we can get an Eragon movie and two Percy Jackson movies made, then I think we can spare one measly Hollywood adaptation to Tamora Pierce. This book follows the story of Alanna of Trebond, a noble girl that disguises herself as a boy so she can train to become a knight.

Seriously: everyone wants this adapted, for too many reasons to count. Just call Maisie Williams and tell her to clear her schedule already.

I guess I’m not everyone, because I could care less. Mostly because I have no idea what it is or was. Then again, the same could be said for Eragon or Percy Jackson … but then I didn’t watch those either and they clearly don’t have the same cultural cache as the things she originally talked about.

6. A Daria movie that isn’t a joke

Do we even need to defend this? The fake College Humor trailer for a live-action Daria starring Aubrey Plaza basically did the work for us. And it feels like a sin that no one’s taken up the task of turning that dream into a reality. I mean, we can all agree that Daria is an icon for apathetic millennials everywhere, regardless of gender — right?

I’ve heard of Daria, watched it, liked it. Am not convinced that you can turn it into a movie, although a live action series could work. Still, it might be worth someone taking a stab at it, but on the other hand it’s not like anyone tried to do a reboot movie of Beavis and Butthead yet, either.

7. Skip the Bright sequel, and make Tithe instead

Bright already felt pretty much like a really bad, racist knock-off of Tithe, a well-respected YA novel that brought fairies into cityscapes. Holly Black’s Tithe didn’t originate the gritty urban fairytale genre, but it grounded it in girlhood experiences through protagonist Kaye Fierch. You can find Kaye struggling to reconcile with her musician mother’s unconventional lifestyle, while also dealing with hangovers from a night out partying with the faery folk in their (literal) underground bars. Think Lord of the Rings if it was dropped into the Gossip Girl universe (and a lot less reductive.)

The what now? I haven’t heard of either … and I’ve heard of “Sweet Valley High”.

Okay, what’s clear is that Joho is really simply posting a list of things she wants to see made into movies or TV series or whatever, but that don’t really have any kind of logical link to the male geek culture nostalgia movies and shows that have been made. While I think it intentional, the main reason to gripe about male geek culture being made is that she thinks that making arguments like that are more likely to get attention than simple arguments about how good this series would be if it was made into a movie. It also lets her hide behind the excuse of sexism if they don’t get made or if they are made and fail, without her ever having to admit that it wasn’t a good idea in the first place. So we can see that people are using the excuse of sexism to argue for personal preferences as opposed to things that really highlight sexism, ignoring things that would cast doubt on the sexism interpretation and hyping up the parts that neatly fit that narrative. This clutters the landscape and makes it hard for us to know when things are really sexist and when it’s just a result of personal preferences that aren’t shared by most people and so don’t have an audience. There’s no real consideration of who the audience might be or if that sort of thing can work. This results in people demanding that customers who are not interested in those things buy it anyway in the name of fighting sexism even though the intended audience itself won’t buy enough of it to make it work. This, of course, is very, very bad for any media that actually listens to them.

And remember, I liked some of these things, and still am wary about trying to find a way to give her what she wants (because I think we can’t). If she can’t appeal on the basis of there being enough of an intended audience to make that work, we should not let her get away with appealing to how important it is to women to do it.

Hostility …

March 23, 2018

Recently, Ophelia Benson at Butterflies and Wheels wrote a post talking about Russell Blackford’s and Jerry Coyne’s defenses of James Damore. What’s important about it is that she says this:

But this wasn’t a disinterested discussion at a think tank. It was a non-supervisory male employee writing up his unsolicited opinions on why there are fewer women than men in jobs like the ones at Google – in other words a contribution to a hostile work environment. It’s not just a matter of “oh my god this man’s valuable academic opinion on a completely random abstract subject has been suppressed!!” – it’s also a matter of person from favored group explaining to disfavored group that it’s disfavored because of its own psychological quirks, in the workplace.

The problem, though, is that Benson is ignoring that Damore didn’t just wake up one morning and decide to talk about this, or decided to use this method to put out a personal screed. At the time he wrote this — and, obviously, still today — there were lots and lots of discussions over the lack of women in the workplace and what could or should be done to get more women into the workplace. If the methods being proposed were based on a false idea of what women want, they wouldn’t have the appropriate impact and could be harmful. Damore’s main point was that instead of pushing for this sort of loose diversity, what they should do is refine the work and work environment to what it should be — which would mean changing some things that the “male-dominated” workforce had put in that weren’t necessary or good — and then let the chips fall where they may. So Damore’s memo was commenting on things that the company was trying to implement and replying to things that people at all levels of the company were talking about, and that he thought were factually incorrect and/or would cause harm to the company.

You don’t get to declare someone correcting or challenging your facts to be a hostile working environment.

I didn’t want to talk about this for fear of it looking like whining, but after reading this post it’s actually relevant. On a guest post there, Maureen Brian based an entire conclusion about men on a narrative describing Elevatorgate. A narrative that was, in fact, factually incorrect, because it said that men blew a fuse over Watson’s purportedly innocuous comment of “Guys don’t do that!” and used that to conclude that that happened because men didn’t want to deal with that small point, when the truth of the matter is that that didn’t happen at all. I made a long comment there — which, sure, I recognize could be annoying — and the only two comments on it was one from Screechy Monkey linking me to Gamergate for some reason, and Benson commenting on the length and, most importantly, asking this:

Also, boy is there anything we need more than a verbose relitigation of “guys don’t do that” a mere SEVEN YEARS later.

Well, if you don’t want people relitigating Elevatorgate, you might not want to use that as the basis for your arguments, and you especially might not want to do so with an incredibly misleading narrative. This leads to the first rule that everyone in any sort of discussion and argument needs to accept: if you bring something up, you have to expect that your opponents are going to talk about it. So if you want to talk about Elevatorgate and use your interpretation of that event to drive your argument, you have to expect that people who have a different interpretation will call you out on that, verbose or no. And if you want to talk about why there’s a lack of women in a workplace or field and advocate for measures based on your interpretation, you have to expect that people might question your interpretations and talk about that. And if you want to advocate for a specific philosophical view, even at times heatedly, you have to expect that people who disagree might do the same thing.

To be honest, this is where the focus on “feels” really makes its mark. While some may conclude that attempting to shut down opposing viewpoints is the point of making those claims, I don’t think that’s true for most of those who advocate for this. I think it is all about “feels”. If something makes them feel good and aligns with their view of the world, then no matter how verbose or distorted it is it’s perfectly fine, and anyone who dares say that it isn’t is just ignoring their “experience”. But if the speech makes them feel bad, then it’s hostile and dangerous, even if it merely expresses different views in the same manner and in the same places and follows the same rules as the things that make them feel good.

I think this is behind the defenses of “no-platforming”. P.Z. Myers recently linked to a post talking about “Free Speech Grifters”, and endorsed it and used it to endorse the “no-platforming” protests despite the post saying that the “no-platforming” tactics were a bad idea (which he never mentioned nor responded to in the comments). If you read the comments, there are a number of people saying that universities shouldn’t be allowing those in the first place because some students oppose it, despite the fact that some students oppose the liberal views that Myers and his commenters support and so would have the same right to disrupt events that they put on. The “no-platformed” speakers go through the same procedures to get access to university facilities as everyone else, and would potentially have the same sorts of security issues as liberal speakers if those who opposed liberal speakers would try to disrupt their speeches in the same way. But those ideas make them feel bad, so it’s okay to do whatever it takes to shut them up, while speakers that make them feel good should not only be allowed to speak, but have the right to speak. And we can see this when we look past the “Nazis”, but to a group that Benson, at least, thinks are being invalidly “no-platformed”, so-called TERFs. Trans activists think that TERFs create hostile environments, too, but Benson doesn’t think that that’s enough to stop them from expressing their ideas. But that’s all she needs to try to stop Damore from expressing his ideas as a reaction to expressed ideas in a forum designed for that sort of expression.

So when Benson says this:

But the point isn’t that the ideas “offend”; the point is that they can contribute to an environment perceived as hostile.

We can see that, no, the point really is that they offend, and offend a specific group, because all of the other factors are identical except for the fact that what those other people say offends them personally for whatever reason, while similar ideas that don’t offend them are just fine. After all, it can’t possibly contribute to an environment perceived as hostile if they don’t find it hostile, even if others do, right? I’m sure no feminist or liberal activist has ever said something so crazy.

No, that you are offended is the point, whether you see it or not. And that’s a bad criteria to use when determining what speech should get a platform, and one that can just as easily be turned on you when you express something that the powers-that-be find offensive, as Benson herself found out with the whole TERF thing. That she misses that fact when she approves of the speech is sad, but entirely in keeping with the mindset.

19 and I like it …

December 1, 2017

I really should stop, but it unfortunately has become a habit — and I still like Blue — and so I still read Sinfest, despite it currently being pretty much a comic dedicated to making dubious at best arguments supporting feminism. I also occasionally dip into the forums — to read, not to post — and a comment was raised on the thread about a comic talking about the future being female — whatever that means — that I wanted to talk about, because one part of it highlights some common issues with a lot of feminist arguments:

And for reference that concept of ‘Based on Merit’ is still part of the problem, ‘I shouldn’t lose out on a job that “I” am more qualified for because of some special government mandated program. ALL jobs should be based on the ‘MERIT’ of the individual applying, not their ‘categories’.’ If someone has had ALL the opportunites, all the benefits, and went from a 15 to a 19, and someone else started at a 4 and made it to a 17, by ‘MERIT’ the 19 is still better, regardless of the fact that the 17 worked longer, harder and though more **** to get where they are. But NO, because 19’s grades didn’t suffer because he didn’t need a second part time job to pay for University, he got the better Number and that’s all that should matter.

The only reason this seems like an attack on you, is because you feel like someone is trying to TAKE something that you EARNED, but how much have you EARNED? Did you EARN a safe neighborhood to live in? Did you EARN the protection of a Police Force, and the Safety of a Fire Department? Did you EARN a school filled with teachers willing to educate you towards a self sustaining future? Or were those things GIVEN to you by society? And how much of that was given to you by who you lucked into being born to?

First of all, from the perspective of a business, what they are interested is indeed the person who will be best at the job. If the 19 really is objectively better at the job than the 17 — presuming that this takes into account all relevant factors — then that’s who the company should hire. End of story. But what is missed here is that someone who has had to work harder to get where they are is almost certainly an objectively better employee, because they’ve both clearly had to develop a work ethic, and did so successfully. So instead of not hiring on the basis of “MERIT”, maybe we should include more things in our considerations of merit. And note that affirmative action programs, which seek to correct these purported imbalances, actually make things worse here, because the adjustments would mean that those people wouldn’t have to work as hard, and so would lose what should be an advantage.

Secondly, these distinctions don’t actually work for sex/gender like they might work for race. Girls grow up in the same neighbourhoods and with the same economic benefits as boys do, since girls and boys tend to be parts of the same family. So it’s rarely the case that women are disadvantaged economically with respect to boys, so they aren’t working a second part time job where a comparable boy isn’t. Where women are disadvantaged, especially today, is with respect to encouragement to enter into certain fields or to study certain subjects in school. They have the safe neighbourhoods, the police forces and fire departments, and generally teachers willing to educate them. At worst they have expectations that they need to overcome, both theirs and those of others, which is a completely different story.

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly you can’t look at the race or gender of an applicant and determine that they had it harder than someone else did. I grew up in one of the poorest areas of my province. The school system, thus, used out-of-date materials and wasn’t incredibly well-equipped. It also was a rural area where, since the jobs were mostly manufacturing and labour, university schooling wasn’t encouraged for boys. I was the first to go to university or college on one side of my family and the first boy on the other side, and it took a specific guidance counselor at the school to convince my parents that this was a good idea. I was lucky enough to not have to work part-time jobs during the school year, but I did work every summer to earn my half of the costs (I paid for school related expenses, my parents paid for room and board). If you only looked at my race and gender, you could argue that I didn’t work as hard as a girl or black person who grew up in an upper class family where going to university was assumed and where all of their costs were paid by their parents, but that would be completely false. Thus, justifying any kind of affirmative action on the basis that the “minority” had to work harder or was disadvantaged with respect to the majority is basing that justification on utter falsehoods. You can argue that statistically it’s the case but all that means is that eventually, sooner or later, you will decide that someone who had all of the advantages in their life will be chosen over someone who had none and that person will be told that it was just or fair that you did so because they, despite having none of the advantages, actually had all of the advantages just because of their race or sex/gender.

This is where the objections to Bernie Sanders’ “Let’s fix poverty, which will help black people more than white people” derail, because if it is true that blacks are disproportionately poorer than whites then those programs will disproportionately help black people. Sure, there may be special issues around racism to deal with, but surely part of fixing poverty could then be seen to require addressing those issues. And even if it was a bad idea, it still wouldn’t apply to women, who do not disproportionately grow up in poverty with respect to men.

So, about Joss Whedon …

August 25, 2017

So, Joss Whedon’s ex-wife, Kai Cole, just recently wrote an article talking about how Joss Whedon is a hypocrite for claiming that he was a feminist while acting decidedly non-feminist in his marriage to her. Of course, something like this garners comment from pretty much all corners of the web, with both Vox Day and John Scalzi commenting on it, with Vox Day claiming that this is indicative of male feminists and Scalzi mostly claiming that he’s not like that. But the one that most inspired me to write this post is a video by Liana Kerzner, where she admittedly rants about the situation and then blames it all on Anita Sarkeesian. Since she’s been critical of Sarkeesian in the past, one’s first reaction might well be to tell her to lighten up a bit on Sarkeesian, because not everything is Sarkeesian’s fault. But she makes an interesting argument on the link that I think is worth exploring a bit.

Now, the issue here is that Whedon allegedly had a number of affairs while married to Cole, and hid them from her. And when she expressed concerns about how much time he was spending with attractive women, he allegedly insisted that he didn’t feel lust for them, but admired and respected them because his mother raised him as a feminist. This, of course, is what is triggering all of the complaints about Whedon’s hypocrisy about feminism, as it looks like he was using his purported feminism as a way to deflect criticism in this case and, perhaps, in many others.

Liana K’s argument is this, as best I understand it: the problem is that feminism like Anita Sarkeesian’s holds that any sort of sexual attraction on the part of men is in some sense wrong. And if all ways of thinking about sex with women are wrong, then all you have is, at best, a kind of continuum of wrong, with, say, looking at attractive women on one end and things like rape, sexual harassment and adultery on the other. But since this is a continuum, the lines get blurred. Instead of arguing whether the sexual action is right or wrong, you end up arguing over how bad the action is. But it’s wrong anyway. So being attracted to those young actresses and fans is only arguable a bit less wrong than sleeping with them. This makes it easier to rationalize away taking the arguably worse actions, by arguing that you’re already doing wrong, and this is just a bit more wrong.

I think that there’s a bit of a flaw in her argument, though, and I think it centres around, in fact, arguing strictly in terms of right and wrong, and particularly in not recognizing the idea of an action being understandable and yet still, in fact, wrong. What usually happens is that either people end up insisting that someone who succumbs to temptation is completely morally wrong, or they end up excusing them as not really having done anything wrong, because that’s a situation where most people would also succumb. And, to me, the real approach is to argue that you can understand why they failed and did the wrong thing — so they aren’t just an evil, immoral person — while insisting that, nevertheless, the action was still wrong and something that they definitely ought not have done, and ought not do in the future.

I see Whedon as being in that position. From the letter from him that Cole quoted from:

When I was running ‘Buffy,’ I was surrounded by beautiful, needy, aggressive young women. It felt like I had a disease, like something from a Greek myth. Suddenly I am a powerful producer and the world is laid out at my feet and I can’t touch it.

A lot of people are using this as a prime example of his attempts to shift the blame to the women instead of accepting it himself, including Liana K. The problem is … we should be able to see how this is, well, true. Once Whedon had wealth, power and influence in the entertainment business, he was going to attract a number of very attractive women who would want to sleep with him for various reasons, from being intoxicated by his fame and potentially his genius to hoping to influence him into helping their careers along. So suddenly he moved from being an average guy who those sorts of women wouldn’t look twice at to being a guy that they all in fact were aggressively pursuing, for whatever reason. It shouldn’t take any great feat of empathy or anything beyond simple reasoning to determine that this would be a very powerful temptation.

Let me relate to me personally here. I haven’t had a lot of success with women and women of that quality certainly wouldn’t have never have given me that sort of chance. And yet, years ago, a friend of mine who had just broken up with his girlfriend (because she cheated on him) that he had had trouble with the fact that at most events I attended with his girlfriend — we were on the same debating team in university — I spent a fair amount of time with his girlfriend — when he was busy doing other things — because I got along with her relatively well and she seemed to welcome the company. He pointed out that he figured that if I had wanted to sleep with her, I almost certainly could have. Which, I didn’t. And yet I have to concede that it would have been a temptation, not only because she was attractive, but because in terms of looks she pretty much hit my preferences, too.

I’d like to say that I made a heroic resistance to her charms, but truthfully if she was at all hinting at that I missed the signs, or at least it didn’t even cross my mind because she was dating my friend, and that tends to encourage me to, at least, not think of them that way (or at least, not seriously). And if she had been more direct, she would have certainly turned me off. But the point is that it would have been a strong temptation, and while I like to think that I could have resisted it, I’d have to concede that it wouldn’t have been easy.

So, by the same token, I’d like to think that if I was in Whedon’s position I would be able to resist inappropriate relationships, however that’s defined. But I have to concede that it wouldn’t be easy to resist that temptation. Thus, I can understand why Whedon found it overwhelming and in fact gave into that temptation, while still saying that what he did was wrong.

So I don’t buy that it’s this blurring of the rights and wrongs that’s the issue here. It’s not that he was confused about what was right or wrong here and was just shifting from the lesser wrong to the greater wrong, but instead was that he was giving in to a temptation that he seems to have known that he should resist and yet did it anyway.

Or, perhaps there was some of that. I think that feminist theory could indeed be adding something here, and that something is the idea of objectification. See, feminist theory drives its criticism of male sexuality on the notion of objectification, the idea that it reduces women to sexual objects and at that points stops treating them as people. And, thus, what makes a sexual action wrong is that objectification, and much of the feminist criticism focused on arguing that this is, in fact, what Whedon.

The problem is that the evidence doesn’t really support that idea. If Whedon was pulling the typical “casting couch” kind of relation, that might make sense, but it doesn’t really seem like that’s the case. Cole castigates him for both inappropriate sexual and emotional relationships, and the list includes friends and colleagues. It’s actually pretty reasonable to think that Whedon was in some sense seduced into thinking that his relationships didn’t really contradict his feminism because he didn’t objectify them, sticking to women that he respected and admired. As a potential example, imagine that one of his encounters was with a long-time collaborator, Felicia Day. Now I’m not saying that they did have an affair and not even insinuating it, just taking it as a good example that could have happened. Now, Felicia Day is attractive, but she’s also noted for having a unique personality that might attract some people, and Whedon has expressed how much he likes her personality in the past. It’d be pretty easy for him to justify his actions with her being willing and with him not just caring about her looks or her being needy, but instead liking her as a person, and then having sex with her out of that sort of connection. It would justify his claim that he didn’t lust after women, but instead “admired” them, because he admired and respected them for more than just their looks. So he wasn’t treating them as objects, and so was maintaining his feminism.

And, ironically, if he had been objectifying them the temptation might have been easier to resist. If the only thing he liked about them was their looks but found them annoying twits otherwise, all he would have had to do to avoid them was ignore them and never hang around with them, which if they were annoying enough would be easy. But if instead he found that he liked them and liked to be around them, that obvious move would be much, much harder, and he’d be more likely to try to rely on his own willpower which, then, failed.

So what I think we really need to recognize is that there is purely sexual attraction — which much feminist theory will consider objectification — and there is platonic respect and admiration and there is deeper love. No one should want to exchange the latter two for sexual attraction, but flashes of inappropriate sexual attraction are not a problem as long as they are not acted on. If you have those flashes, take them out and look at them for what they are, put them away, and find a way to ensure that they don’t make you act inappropriately. Too many people simply forgive them which risks them impacting future actions, and feminism demonizes them which stops people from looking at them and taking actions to limit the actions they can influence in the future, so instead they bury them deep down and repress them in the hopes that no one will find out how bad they are. Neither way is the right way to go.

Friendzoning Myths …

July 12, 2017

So, over at Everyday Feminism, there’s a post about 5 myths about Friendzones, or 5 reasons why we need to ditch the concept entirely, depending on what parts you believe. The problem is that it fundamentally misunderstands both the original concept and how it is used in its more recent and more combative form, and so all of the myths and recommendations are, well, at best wrong and at worst damaging.

Before getting into the purported myths/reasons, let me first talk a little bit about the friendzone concept itself. Originally, this concept was nothing more than describing someone — usually a man, since they have to in general do the approaching to start a relationship — who had wanted to be in a relationship with someone that they knew well and when they finally made that clear received the “Let’s just be friends” line. Thus, while it was always seen as a negative and as a rejection — which it was, at least for a romantic relationship — it wasn’t seen as something bad that women did to men. However, with the rise of MRA attitudes, the usage changed to focus on cases where a woman knew or ought to have known that a man was interested in her and yet “strung him along”, using that attraction to get him to treat her better than he would someone that he was just friends with and had no romantic interest in, while knowing that she was never going to actually date him. This often would have to rely on her just being flirty enough to make him think that he had a chance while never following through on any of it.

Now, the new connotation describes the vast minority of friendzone cases, and that this has become a prominent view of friendzoning reflects, I think, two things. The first is an overgeneralization of those cases; they exist, certainly, but most women aren’t really doing anything like that. The second is a bitter and angry reaction to what is perceived, in general, as women using sexual attraction to get things that they don’t really deserve, often by — it is claimed — misrepresenting themselves and the situations. This also applies to “Fake Geek Girls” — women who are not really interested in geeks or geek hobbies but who can get a lot of attention being an even moderately attractive woman in those areas — and “White Knights”. Now, in all of these cases there are indeed examples where that happens, but it’s nowhere near as prevalent as the new concepts make it appear.

Thus, friendzoning as a concept ought to be considered in its original form: someone who wants a relationship with someone beyond friendship who is told that friendship is as far as the relationship will go.

I want to start with her fourth point here, to highlight why the concept is still valid and something that we need to address with more than platitudes:

When say people are ‘friendzoned’ it communicates the idea that they can’t escape being seen in a certain light. In other words, it implies that relationships don’t change – that once you are viewed as a platonic friend, you can’t be viewed as a potential partner.

But friendship doesn’t inherently prevent different relationships from developing further along the line. In fact, I’d argue that friendship is the best basis for romantic and sexual relationships.

This advice is precisely the reason why the friendzone exists and can be so devastating for both sides. The common relationship advice — generally from women — is that if you want to get into a relationship in general and into a relationship with someone in particular, the best way is to become “Friends first”, and then transition that into a romantic relationship. This is precisely the sort of behaviour that many women then call out as indicating that the man wasn’t actually interested in friendship, but was only interested in having sex with them, and so that makes him bad, somehow. Somehow, doing the commonly given advice for getting into a relationship makes them a bad person if it doesn’t succeed.

And the fact is that unless the person you have become friends with was either attracted to you originally and so was playing the “Friends to relationship” game, too, converting a friendship to a romantic relationship isn’t actually all that easy to do. Yes, it happens. Yes, sometimes people will be friends with someone and suddenly realize that they find them attractive or that they would make a good relationship partner. But in general if you start a friendship with someone that you aren’t interested in a relationship with you are far more likely to simply settle into that sort of relationship, and so if they ever make it clear that they are interested in you for more than that your initial reaction is going to be that, well, you aren’t interested in them that way. Because you, in fact, actually aren’t.

And here is where the PUA mindset actually works better. What they insist on is that you don’t do the “Friends first” approach, but that if you want a sexual relationship you start from the idea that that’s what you want. And this works out so much better because from the start he’s making his desires clear — so there’s no feeling that he was hiding that under just wanting to be friends — and she can make it clear from the start whether or not she thinks it possible. Now, since people are people nothing is set in stone and things can change — either way — but starting from what is desired makes everything a lot better. In fact, I propose that what we should be starting from is essentially “I find you attractive enough to actually date, so let’s start with casual dating to see if that still holds and if the personalities match”. And if that’s the attitude we have, then if it doesn’t work out the implication between two nice and reasonable people is “It didn’t work out because our personalities don’t align enough for a relationship”. And then that can move to friendship if that works out.

But pushing the “The best way to get a relationship is to start as friends!” line only fosters all of the things that made people bitter and angry over the friendzone in the first place. And this leads me to the second point I want to address, which is her fifth one:

Myth #5: If You’re In Love with Someone Who Doesn’t Return Your Affections, You Will Be Unhappy

Which also dovetails with her third point:

The idea of the friendzone implies that being friends with someone is inferior to dating or sleeping with someone. It implies that friendship is punishment, or at least, that it’s not as desirable as a romantic and/or sexual relationship.

The thing is, if you want to be in a romantic relationship with someone and they only want to be friends, that’s hard. First, it is a rejection. Second, one of the examples that is constantly given of how this is hard is the woman who complains that she can’t find any decent men to date … to the guy she friendzoned in order to date all of those men who are not “decent”. How should that guy feel there? While this also applies to women, too, at least in general she could console herself with the societal impression that most men are shallow and that it’s just that she isn’t attractive enough — which is cold comfort, I know, but at least she can blame him for that — while for a man in this situation since women traditionally aren’t supposed to be that shallow it has to be a judgement of him as a person. And we see this with the comments that someone who actually tries the “Friends first” approach isn’t really a “Nice Guy”, and so her dating jerks is really her dating the better people … which then would lead to the question of why she ever wanted to be friends with him in the first place.

The fact is that if you want a romantic relationship with someone, being friends with them is, in fact, an inferior relationship. The inverse is also true, but we don’t talk about that because, outside of arranged marriages and the like it never happens. Thus, a someone relegated to the friendzone might, for various reasons, find the friendship too difficult for them and decide to bow out of the friendship. And that’s perfectly acceptable. And if they do stay, we have to recognize that keeping the friendship up is hard for them, in a way that it isn’t hard for the friendzoner, unless that person keeps thinking of them as someone who is primarily interested in them for a relationship and so isn’t really a friend. Keeping the friendzone concept in its original form allows us to recognize this without insisting that the friendzonee just isn’t, in fact, a true friend merely because they are interested in more.

Which then leads to comments on what nice people should have:

Myth #1: Nice Men Deserve to Be with The Women They Desire

To return to the first point, if a man is nice and is following the accepted social rules, then he should have a better than average chance of getting the relationships he desires, just as a woman who does the same ought to. But the accepted social rule of “Friends first” actually gives him less of a chance at succeeding. Thus, those men who are less “nice” have more success, not because they are better or more deserving, but instead because they start from the context of a relationship and if that isn’t forthcoming move on to the next candidate. On the other hand, the “Nice Guys” who are trying to not come across as being primarily interested in sex and are trying to follow the social rules so that they make her more comfortable and don’t risk offending her spend a lot of time chasing people who aren’t and would never be interested in that sort of relationship with them.

So I want to keep the original friendzone concept to say “If you follow the ‘Friends first’ approach, you are likely to end up in the ‘friendzone’, where they see you only as a friend while you are interested in something more. If you are, in fact, interested in something more it is far better to just approach with that in mind.”

Let me wrap up with how the misunderstanding of the friendzone impacts her most Social Justice point, the second one which is the idea that is is heterosexist. She describes a friendship she has with a male friend of hers:

I have a really close male friend who I love and appreciate dearly. A few years ago, a couple of our friends teased us, saying that we were a textbook example of the ‘friendzone’ in action.

In reality, neither of us wanted a committed romantic relationship with one another. But because of the common idea of the friendzone, people simply assumed that my male friend wanted a sexual and romantic relationship with me.

Something our friends didn’t know at the time was that he’s asexual – he experiences very little, if any, sexual attraction to people. He did not have the capacity to be sexually attracted to me, even though our friends assumed he did.

The thing is … that’s not a case of the friendzone. Not because he’s asexual, but because neither of them are interested in a relationship with the other person. Yes, it’s a problem to simply assume it because one person is a woman and another is a man, but it might not have been an assumption and might have been based on how they acted towards each other. So example, did she act flirty towards him while making it relatively clear that they were just friends? That starts to fall into the deliberate friendzoning thing that I mentioned above which is what she claimed her friends teased her about. Maybe it’s not a heterosexist assumption, but instead an assumption based on how they interact.

Look, we do need to understand that people who might be of the appropriate genders or whatever for a relationship might not want one with each other. I myself have had cases where I got along well with someone, found her attractive, and yet figured that our personalities didn’t work for a relationship. Understanding that this happens is important, but the original concept of friendzone allows for that, as it only applies in the case where one person wants a relationship and the other person doesn’t. Thus if we follow that we can easily deal with these situations by pointing out that neither is interested in anything more, for whatever reason that actually is. Then, any “teasing” is either teasing in recognition that it doesn’t actually apply, or teasing on the basis that one of the parties might not be being honest about that. Which cycles back to “if you’re interested, be direct about that”.

Ultimately, the friendzone concept has to exist because it’s a thing that happens. Even the really negative and exploitative example happens in the real world. We need to avoid overgeneralizing the cases and need to stop assuming that any friendship between people who might be interested in each other is one of these, but it happens and we need to address it, and address the way the social rules actually create these situations. Because no matter what people assert, being in the friendzone is not fun. People might be able to take it, but it’s not going to be what they really want, and it works out badly for friendzoner and friendzonee, and so we need to find ways to minimize the instances and minimize the pain this causes. Abandoning the concept is not going to help with that one bit.