Quotulatiousness

February 18, 2018

“The minority of one is the most oppressed minority of all”

Filed under: Britain, Liberty, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

Matt Ridley on the rising tide of neo-Victorian prudery in western society:

Is it so different here or are we slipping down the same slope? Pre-Raphaelite paintings that show the top halves of female nudes are temporarily removed from an art gallery’s walls; young girls are forced to wear headscarves in school; darts players and racing drivers may not be accompanied by women in short skirts; women are treated differently from men at universities, as if they were the weaker sex, and saved from seeing upsetting paragraphs in novels; sex is negotiated in advance with the help of chaperones. We have been here before.

In Orlando, Virginia Woolf’s novel of 1928, she portrayed the transition from the 18th century to the Victorian period thus: “Love, birth, and death were all swaddled in a variety of fine phrases. The sexes drew further and further apart. No open conversation was tolerated. Evasions and concealments were sedulously practised on both sides.”

How we laughed at such absurdity in my youth. But even for making the point that some of the new feminism seems “retrograde” in promoting the view that women are fragile, the American academic Katie Roiphe suffered a vicious campaign to have her article in Harper’s magazine banned before publication. “I find the Stalinist tenor of this conversation shocking,” she told The Sunday Times. “The basic assumption of freedom of speech is imperilled in our culture right now.”

The sin of blasphemy is back. There are things you simply cannot say about Islam and increasingly about Christianity, about climate change, about gender, to mention a few from a very long and growing list, without being accused of, and possibly prosecuted for, “hate speech”. Is it hate speech to say that Muhammad “delivers his country to iron and flame; that he cuts the throats of fathers and kidnaps daughters; that he gives to the defeated the choice of his religion or death: this is assuredly nothing any man can excuse”? That was Voltaire, one of my heroes. You may disagree with him but you should, in accordance with his principle, defend his right to say it. In demanding tolerance of minorities, many younger people seem to be remarkably intolerant.

There is an odd contradiction between the declared wish to live and let live — “diversity!”, “don’t judge!” — and the actual behaviour, which is ruthlessly and priggishly judgmental. They never stop drafting acts of uniformity, always in the name of the collective against the individual. The minority of one is the most oppressed minority of all.

February 16, 2018

Differences in interest drives gender disparity in STEM fields

Filed under: Education, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

David C. Geary and Gijsbert Stoet examine the STEM fields’ renowned gender disparities:

Many academics in the modern world seem obsessed with the sex difference in engagement with science, technology, mathematics, and engineering (STEM) fields. Or rather they are obsessed with the fact that there are more men than women in some of these fields. There is particular concern about the lack of women in prestigious STEM fields, such as Ph.D.-level faculty positions, but surprisingly there is no concern about the under-representation of women in lower-level technical jobs, such as car mechanics or plumbing.

The concerned academics have been especially effective in convincing others, or at least intimidating them, into accepting their preferred interpretations regarding the source of these sex differences (as illustrated in the Google memo debate). These interpretations are not surprising and they include sexism, stereotype threat, and more recently implicit bias and microaggression. Each of these ideas has gained traction in the mainstream media and in many academic circles but their scientific foundations are shaky. In this essay, we’ll provide some background on the STEM controversy and consider multiple factors that might contribute to these sex differences.

[…]

We’ve recently found that countries renowned for gender equality show some of the largest sex differences in interest in and pursuit of STEM degrees, which is not only inconsistent with an oppression narrative, it is positive evidence against it. Consider that Finland excels in gender equality, its adolescent girls outperform boys in science, and it ranks near the top in European educational performance. With these high levels of educational performance and overall gender equality, Finland is poised to close the sex differences gap in STEM. Yet, Finland has one of the world’s largest sex differences in college degrees in STEM fields. Norway and Sweden, also leading in gender equality rankings, are not far behind. This is only the tip of the iceberg, as this general pattern of increasing sex differences with national increases in gender equality is found throughout the world.

The recent uptick in interest in concepts such as stereotype threat, implicit bias, and microaggression may be a reaction to the low female STEM participation in highly developed nations. At one time, there were substantive social and educational impediments to women’s participation in these (and other) fields, but as explicit sexism and restricted educational opportunities faded into history, the sex differences (e.g., fewer women than men physicists) attributed to them should have faded as well. Some of them have even reversed, such that more women than men attend and graduate from college and women may now have structural advantages (e.g., hiring practices) in STEM fields. Even with these changes, many other sex differences remain or have become larger over time. The latter are serious problems for anyone with strong beliefs about purely or largely social influences on sex differences; if the obvious social causes have been addressed, then there must be other, more subtle oppressive factors afoot. This is where stereotype threat, implicit bias, microaggression and related concepts enter the oppression narrative.

We believe that with economic development and advances in human rights, including gender equality, people are better able to pursue their individual interests and in doing so more basic sex differences are more fully expressed. The differences in STEM are related in part to student’s personal and occupational interests and relative academic strengths. Sex differences in occupational interests are large, well-documented, and reflect a more basic sex difference in interest in things versus people. Men prefer occupations that involve working with things (e.g., engineering, mechanics) and abstract ideas (e.g., scientific theory) and women prefer working with and directly contributing to the wellbeing of others (e.g., physician, teacher). The sex difference in interest in people extends to a more general interest in living things, which would explain why women who are interested in science are much more likely to pursue a career in biology or veterinary medicine than computer science.

Programs designed to steer women into inorganic STEM fields would in effect steer these same women away from the life sciences. Such programs would, in our opinion, only be justifiable if women are not provided a fair opportunity to pursue inorganic STEM fields (for which there is no good evidence). The main argument from gender activists is that inorganic STEM fields are a better choice for women either because these jobs lead to higher incomes or that there is a labor market demand for them. Both arguments are fundamentally capitalist and dehumanizing in the sense that considerations of personal interest are overridden by considerations of societal demand. This is ironic, given that the agenda arguing for more women in STEM seems most popular among left-leaning people.

February 10, 2018

Protecting (some) women from their own decisions

Filed under: Business, Liberty, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Kirio Birks on the Formula One “grid girls”:

Objectification, we are told, is degrading. Why? Because any job that requires employees to be sexually attractive and gazed upon for that reason necessarily dehumanises them. It encourages others to treat them as pretty ‘things’ rather than as autonomous people with their own lives, passions, thoughts, and desires. Or so the thinking goes. ‘Grid Girls’ – models employed by Formula One for promotional purposes – have just discovered that their role is to be discontinued. As Formula One’s managing director of commercial operations explained: “While the practice of employing grid girls has been a staple of Formula 1 Grands Prix for decades, we feel this custom does not resonate with our brand values and clearly is at odds with modern day societal norms.”

But in their hurry to spare Grid Girls the indignity of the male gaze, nobody making this argument seems to have stopped to wonder whether Grid Girls might have an interest in defending what they do. Instead, a collective of ostensibly progressive voices leapt to their defence without bothering to ask the girls themselves if they needed defending at all. In response, Formula One abandoned its Grid Girls so that it can be seen to be moving with the times and hip to contemporary mores. In doing so, Formula One’s executives have implicitly conceded that they have spent too long objectifying women instead of empowering them. They would like it to known that they’d rather see women driving the cars, or as members of the engineering teams, or just about anywhere other than track-side holding a driver’s name-board and looking beautiful.

What baffles me is that a move supposed to empower women came at the expense of other women, and only because a minority of outsiders found Grid Girls inappropriate, problematic, and otherwise an offence against good taste. But even if Grid Girls are being objectified, then – contra the explanation offered above – it’s not at all clear that objectification is wrong in and of itself. It is acceptable to use people as a means to an end – that’s called employment. Grid Girls obviously know that they will be objectified and they make an autonomous, informed decision to take the job anyway. They are not harmed, they are paid for their time and their work, and many of them have come forward to say, with understandable indignation, that they enjoy what they do. Needless to say, this has not impressed those feminists who applauded their redundancies. But surely a woman has a right to be the object of somebody else’s desire if she wants and surely it doesn’t matter if she is being paid for it?

Opponents may suggest that Grid Girls have internalised their own oppression in a society shaped by patriarchal values, but not without making two claims: (1) that Grid Girls are unable to adequately think for themselves because of the society they live in and (2) that thinking for yourself is only evidenced by acknowledging the existence of a patriarchal status quo and resisting it.

February 4, 2018

QotD: Modern feminism

Filed under: Liberty, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Feminism now regularly calls for women to be treated as eggshells instead of equals. And through this, it does something pernicious to the women it claims to advocate for: Feminism has become a movement for female disempowerment, or what I call “encouraged helplessness” (from psychologist Martin Seligman’s “learned helplessness”—the feeling that there’s nothing you can do to escape your fate).

In fact, feminism, bizarrely, has morphed into paternalism — instructing women that they are fragile, passive, powerless victims who need authority figures to advocate for them.

That’s a movement I want no part of. Or, as I like to put it — because I’m neither a feminist nor much of a lady: Count me the fuck out.

If you’re a woman, I encourage you to join me — count yourself the fuck out of what feminism has become.

This doesn’t require you to be fearless. You just need to shove your fears aside and do what needs to be done — say, getting up on your hind legs and telling some co-worker, “Stop saying that thing to me” or “…treating me this way.”

Now, if they persist after you’ve told them to stop a few times, that’s harassment and you can seek support to get them to stop. But consider that it’s less likely to get to that point if you simply act like men’s equal—act as if you’re powerful — instead of acting like you’re a feminist.

Amy Alkon, “Are Women Really Victims? Four Women Weigh In”, Quillette, 2017-11-22.

January 16, 2018

QotD: Intersectionality

Filed under: Education, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The term and concept were presented in a 1989 essay by Kimberlé Crenshaw, a law professor at UCLA, who made the very reasonable point that a black woman’s experience in America is not captured by the summation of the black experience and the female experience. She analyzed a legal case in which black women were victims of discrimination at General Motors, even when the company could show that it hired plenty of blacks (in factory jobs dominated by men), and it hired plenty of women (in clerical jobs dominated by whites). So even though GM was found not guilty of discriminating against blacks or women, it ended up hiring hardly any black women. This is an excellent argument. What academic could oppose the claim that when analyzing a complex system, we must look at interaction effects, not just main effects?

But what happens when young people study intersectionality? In some majors, it’s woven into many courses. Students memorize diagrams showing matrices of privilege and oppression. It’s not just white privilege causing black oppression, and male privilege causing female oppression; its heterosexual vs. LGBTQ, able-bodied vs. disabled; young vs. old, attractive vs. unattractive, even fertile vs. infertile. Anything that a group has that is good or valued is seen as a kind of privilege, which causes a kind of oppression in those who don’t have it. A funny thing happens when you take young human beings, whose minds evolved for tribal warfare and us/them thinking, and you fill those minds full of binary dimensions. You tell them that one side of each binary is good and the other is bad. You turn on their ancient tribal circuits, preparing them for battle. Many students find it thrilling; it floods them with a sense of meaning and purpose.

And here’s the strategically brilliant move made by intersectionality: all of the binary dimensions of oppression are said to be interlocking and overlapping. America is said to be one giant matrix of oppression, and its victims cannot fight their battles separately. They must all come together to fight their common enemy, the group that sits at the top of the pyramid of oppression: the straight, white, cis-gendered, able-bodied Christian or Jewish or possibly atheist male. This is why a perceived slight against one victim group calls forth protest from all victim groups. This is why so many campus groups now align against Israel. Intersectionality is like NATO for social-justice activists.

This means that on any campus where intersectionality thrives, conflict will be eternal, because no campus can eliminate all offense, all microaggressions, and all misunderstandings. This is why the use of shout-downs, intimidation, and even violence in response to words and ideas is most common at our most progressive universities, in the most progressive regions of the country. It’s schools such as Yale, Brown, and Middlebury in New England, and U.C. Berkeley, Evergreen, and Reed on the West Coast. Are those the places where oppression is worst, or are they the places where this new way of thinking is most widespread?

Jonathan Haidt, “The Age of Outrage: What the current political climate is doing to our country and our universities”, City Journal, 2017-12-17.

January 7, 2018

Now we know how to get more women in the STEM fields

Filed under: Education, Science, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Toni Airaksinen reviews the findings of Professors Parson and Ozaki, who believe they’ve identified the key factors holding back young women from studying STEM subjects:

Two professors believe that “masculine STEM ideals”—like “asking good questions” and “putting school first” — are to blame for the lack of women in math and science courses.

Laura Parson, a professor at Auburn University, and Casey Ozaki, who teaches education at the University of North Dakota, advanced the notion in an article published in the latest issue of the NASPA Journal About Women in Higher Education, noting that women are not only “less likely to major in STEM fields” than are men, but those who do study science, technology, engineering, and math are less likely to graduate than their male classmates.

Together, Parson and Ozaki interviewed eight female students majoring in math or physics to learn more about why women struggle in STEM. From their interviews, the professors learned that many women feel pressure to conform to so-called “masculine” norms.

According to the professors, these masculine norms include “asking good questions,” “capacity for abstract thought and rational thought processes,” “motivation,” the expectation that students would be “independent” thinkers, and a relatively low fear of failure.

“This requirement that the average student asks questions and speaks in class is based on the typical undergraduate man,” they contend.

Unfortunately for the female students, many of them indicated difficulty embodying these traits, reporting that they tend to ask fewer questions in class than do their male peers, and have noticed that other women in their classes share the same inclination.

So what’s to be done? How can we ensure that female students significantly outnumber men in the STEM departments as they now do in most other university departments?

Parson and Ozaki spell out a few recommendations for STEM programs, saying for instance that academic departments should “redefine success by changing expectations,” such as letting women write down questions instead of asking them out-loud. They also recommended that more women are hired, but notably did not mention any concerns over merit.

They also declare that “an important aspect of changing the masculine nature of STEM is diversifying STEM fields,” and suggest that hiring more female faculty members could lead to increased enrollment of female students because “women faculty have been found to increase participation, feelings of inclusion and belonging, and women’s perceptions of identity compatibility.”

Achieving “a critical mass of women” in STEM, the professors predict, would serve to weaken “the masculine STEM discourses of individualism and competition” while promoting “connectivity and relatedness,” which they believe will help to create the sense of “community” desired by the students they interviewed.

“Improving the chilly climate in STEM fields requires revising the STEM institution from one that is masculine to one that is inclusive for non-men, non-White students,” they conclude.

I mean, it’s obvious now that they’ve spelled it out for us, isn’t it?

December 19, 2017

The imminent threat of Neo-Victorianism

Filed under: Business, Education, Government, Media, USA — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Megan McArdle on the moral panic currently gripping modern American public life:

The same logic applies to the burdens of proof. If unsubstantiated claims are accepted at face value, then eventually enough will turn out to be false that many future claims will be disregarded — whether they are plausible or not, whether they are substantiated or not. That was the harm done by cases like the Duke Lacrosse scandal, the UVA rape case, the Tawana Brawley accusations, and many others. But there’s another potential harm we also have to think about.

Let’s say that we do manage to establish a social norm that a single accusation of “inappropriate sexual behavior” toward a woman is enough to get you fired and drummed out of your industry. It’s the crux of the issue so eloquently explored recently by Claire Berlinski: What would a reasonable and innocent heterosexual man do to protect himself from the economic death penalty?

One thing he might do is avoid being alone with anyone of the opposite sex — not in the office and not even in social situations. You might, in other words, adopt something like the Pence Rule, so recently mocked for its Victorian overtones. (Or worse still, work hard not to hire any women who could become a liability.)

This would obviously be bad for women, who would lose countless opportunities for learning, advancement, friendship, even romance — the human connections that make us human workers superior to robots, for now.

On the radio recently, I pointed out that this might be a logical result of a “one strike and you’re out” policy. The host, aghast, remarked that this was obviously not what we wanted. And of course, that isn’t what anyone wants. It might nonetheless be the logical result of the rules we’re setting up.

It’s easy for me to think of all the things I would have lost out on under a strict Pence Rule. The creative writing professor who conducted my independent study in his house, for example. It was perhaps a more innocent time, but even then I was not unaware of the sexual overtones our culture would see in a young female student going to a much older male professor’s home while his wife was at work. He was a perfect gentleman who made me cabbage soup, taught me to insert little slivers of garlic into a beef roast, and savagely critiqued my prose. David Slavitt, wherever you are, thank you for making me a better writer. And my condolences to all the female students today who will never have similar opportunities — if I may judge by the bemusement/horror of male professors to whom I have told this story.

December 16, 2017

When righteous fury slides into moral panic

Filed under: Business, Law, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Megan McArdle on the dangers of believing all accusations of sexual impropriety and eliding mere crass behaviour with violent sexual assault:

Unfortunately, when we accept no limits on what constitutes a crime, and when we lower the standards of evidence for believing a crime has occurred, we aren’t necessarily furthering the cause of crime-reduction.

Of course, some people might say that that’s just too bad, but we’re going to have to expect some casualties in the war on the patriarchy. Women have left jobs for years because they couldn’t stand the harassment; have found their careers stalled because they wouldn’t play along; have spent far too many hours desperately trying to dodge creeping hands. Why should we weep because a few innocent men are now victims?

One answer is that “truth and justice matters.” That’s a good answer. But if it doesn’t satisfy you, here’s another: Moral panics aren’t good for anyone, including the victims they’re trying to protect.

In the early days of the University of Virginia rape scandal, when questions were first raised about Rolling Stone’s story, battle lines developed between those who wondered about the rather cinematic details, and those who asserted “#IBelieveWomen.” In truth, even many of the people asking the questions confessed how uncomfortable it made them to do so (and you can add my confession to the list). How can we risk adding insult to the already-grievous injuries of a woman who has been raped, by also demanding that she prove she’s not a liar? And yet, if we don’t, we risk convicting people who are innocent, and damaging our own cause.

Ultimately the norm of reflexively believing every accusation, and meting out harsh treatment to every man who is accused, does grave harm to the cause of fighting rape and harassment. #BelieveAllWomen elides the messy reality that women, like the rest of humanity, aren’t always telling the truth — and that even when they are, their interpretations of events is not always the most reasonable one. If we reify too many weak or false claims, the norm will quickly slide toward “believe no women.”

QotD: Ending the risk of sexual assault in the workplace

Filed under: Business, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

As an economist I always try to find the simplest, cheapest, and most effective solutions to society’s problems. However, whereas mere mediocre economists talk about multi-factor productivity, education, etc., the reason I’m one of the best economists is because I do something most others don’t.

I think outside the box.

And so, just like I was (in theory) able to prevent the Dotcom Bubble, the Asian Currency Crisis, the Housing Bubble, Education Bubble, and Retirement Bubble, I have found a way to bring the epidemic of sexual harassment and sexual assault to a screeching halt, and at practically no expense to America.

Force men to work from home.

It seems to me that “boys are just going to be boys” and while I know feminists, academians, HR departments, CSR departments, and non-profits are doing their best to eliminate toxic masculinity and bring out the more feminine side of men, until that noble goal is achieved, it may be best to avail ourselves of already available technology and require that men only work from home.

This will bring about a lot of benefits to society that go well beyond ending work place sexual harassment and assault. Women won’t be bothered by men at the office or in the downtown eateries come lunch time. They will not be harassed, allowing for much safer work place environments. An all-women workplace environment will FINALLY come to fruition allowing them the chance to excel that was traditionally the preserve of men. Plus, the highways won’t be as crowded come the morning and evening commutes. One might even say this would force men to be the house husbands, forcing them to see what it was like to be oppressed as a stay at home mom.

Captain Capitalism, “End Sexual Assault by Forcing Men to Work from Home”, Captain Capitalism, 2017-11-13.

November 3, 2017

Egyptian lawyer discovers a “duty to rape” women who wear revealing clothes

Filed under: Law, Middle East, Religion — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

It may be just a vivid fantasy on western university campuses, but rape culture is real … in Egypt:

An Egyptian lawyer has sparked a controversy by saying that it is a “national duty” to rape women who wear revealing clothes. During a heated television debate on prostitution aired on a local television channel, the lawyer said it would be a “patriotic duty” of citizens to sexually harass such women.

Nabih al-Wahsh, a locally popular lawyer with strong conservative views, was among several guests who were debating a new draft law on prostitution broadcast on the Egyptian television channel, al-Assema. When the panel’s debates became more heated, Wahsh, at one point insisted that females wearing revealing clothes deserve to be punished.

“Would you accept a girl walking around with half of her thigh showing?” he shouted at a fellow panellist before quickly adding: “I say when a girl is walking around like that, harassing her is a patriotic duty, and raping her is a national duty.”

October 6, 2017

A modest proposal for introducing true equality into the NFL

Filed under: Football, Humour — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

ESR linked to this proposal from Scott Swett that would revolutionize the NFL in terms of true equality:

Football players who call for equality are throwing rocks from a glass stadium. The NFL’s high-paying jobs are only given to men with specific physical skills, while the rest of the people are pushed aside.

It’s time for the league to start leading by example. The time is right for the NFL Equality Plan.

The first step in the plan is to guarantee everyone’s right to participate in the games.

Every player in today’s NFL is male, which is obviously unfair. The new balance will be 51% women, 47% men, and 2% transgenders. This means the 53-player roster of every team will have 27 women, 25 men, and one transgender person. Each team shall have 32 Caucasians, seven African-Americans, 10 Hispanics, three Asians, and one person of Native American heritage. At least three players will be gay.

Nor can we ignore age discrimination. Each NFL roster shall include seven players between ages 19 and 25, eight from ages 26-34, seventeen from 35-54, nine from 55-64, and ten players who are 65 or older.

The disabled will be fully represented in the new, inclusive league. Every team shall have no fewer than ten players with physical or mental impairments that significantly affect their major life activities.

The Office of Player Equality will monitor the composition of each team and assess penalties for non-compliance. Temporary, minor variations may be allowed – requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis. The demographic ratios will be regularly adjusted to stay current with population trends.

Next summer, the NFL will host gala events in every stadium to celebrate and welcome the newcomers, who will be called “rainbow players” to honor the complimentary aspects of humanity they represent.

To make room for the rainbow players, many current NFL players will be released from their contracts. This should not be a source of regret, since all these men have benefited unfairly from their physical privilege. The former players will be provided with job-placement services and exit counselling.

September 15, 2017

QotD: The sexist TV shows of the 1960s

Filed under: History, Media, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Speaking of a different world, there was one big barrier to entry into [the original Star Trek]: its ladies. I’m still not quite sure how to deal with the way women were treated in the show. I’ve found that when watching many movies or shows from the ’60s and ’70s, it’s incredibly hard to relate the characters — not just because plot pacing was slower and diction was different than it is on TV today, but because I’m almost guaranteed to be disappointed by the way the story treats women. Generally, one just has to accept that there is going to be out-and-out sexism in a lot of old movies and TV, and you can either toss out the whole thing or watch it from afar like you’re in a museum, analyzing an ancient culture.

Megan Geuss, “I watched Star Trek: The Original Series in order; you can too, Or: Filling the gaps in your cultural knowledge is equal parts boring and fun”, Ars Technica, 2015-09-05.

August 28, 2017

Sexism in the original Star Trek

Filed under: Media, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Dave Leigh stands up for Gene Roddenberry:

… the most infamous case is in part a running gag throughout the series. It’s dictated in the Guide, runs the length of the series, and culminates in the final episode. And I’m pretty sure that very few people other than Gene Roddenberry himself knew that it was a running gag.

It’s sexism.

First… history. And this part is well-known. When the first pilot (“The Cage”) was delivered, Roddenberry cast his future wife, Majel Barrett, as “Number One”, the coldly logical second-in-command of the Enterprise. When the studio rejected that pilot and commissioned a second one, they made a few demands. They wanted to “get rid of the guy with the ears” (as Roddenberry told it). They also wanted to axe Number One, because they claimed that their test audiences didn’t like a woman as executive officer. For decades, Roddenberry told the joke that he kept the alien and married the woman because the other way ’round wouldn’t be legal. He also transferred Number One’s coldly logical nature to Mister Spock.

In the years that followed, many fans and critics completely forgot this story when examining the rest of the series. For instance, there’s the fact that the captain’s yeoman is always a pretty female. This is by decree. In fact, the Guide describes the character as follows:

    YEOMAN — Played by a succession of young actresses, always lovely. One such character has been well established in the first year, “YEOMAN JANICE RAND”, played by the lovely Grace Lee Whitney. Whether Yeoman Rand or a new character provided by the writer, this female Yeoman serves Kirk as his combination Executive Secretary-Valet-Military Aide. As such, she is always capable, a highly professional career girl. As with all female Crewman aboard, during duty hours she is treated co-equal with males of the same rank, and the same level of efficient performance is expected. The Yeoman often carries a small over-the-shoulder case, a TRICORDER, about the size of a small handbag, which is also an electronic recorder-camera-sensor combination, immediately available to the Captain should he be away from his Command Console.

In the real-world Navy, a yeoman is simply a clerk. Most of them are men. But in Star Fleet, this is women’s work, at least superficially. Note that in other respects these women were to be treated co-equally. What isn’t women’s work — ever (in the original series) — is the Captaincy. And this is stated explicitly in the very last episode of the series, “The Turnabout Intruder”.

Now, this has been retconned over and over, but this episode was deliberate, and it was conceived and outlined by Gene Roddenberry. By now you probably know that I don’t like retcons because they suck. They’re poor explanations that say, “it didn’t happen”. It’s better to explain why it did happen. And to do that, we have to start with an understanding of what Star Trek was for. It was first and foremost a platform for storytelling. Fantastic elements were readily employed whenever they served a storytelling need. It’s one of the strengths of science fiction:

    “I was working in a medium, television, which is heavily censored, and in contemporary shows I found I couldn’t talk about sex, religion, politics and all or the other things I wanted to talk about. It seemed to me that if I had things happen to little polka-dotted people on a far-off planet I might get past the network censors, as Swift did in his day. And indeed that’s what we did.”

    — Gene Roddenberry

April 3, 2017

Decoding TLAs among the PUAs

Filed under: Humour, Randomness, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Kim du Toit on a specific example of the use of jargon heavily sprinkled with three-letter acronyms (TLAs) and extended three-letter acronyms (ETLAs, or four-letter acronyms) to create or enhance the impression of their specialized insider knowledge, in this case among the pick-up artists (PUAs):

In every cult, there are people who try to set their group aside from the rest of the population with language — in other words, creating a shorthand that only the initiates or insiders know, which (I guess) makes them feel superior to outsiders. Many times, this language is made up of abbreviations or (my particular bête noir) acronyms that create a level of inscrutability to the casual reader or onlooker and render the simplest of statements completely opaque to the uninitiated. (I’ll talk another time about academic language, which shuns abbreviation and acronym in favor of dense, elliptical words and phrases used as a shorthand among fellow academics and gives the users a veneer of erudition, usually false.)

[…]

All this pales into insignificance by comparison to people who toss off expressions like “This beta orbiter tried to neg the AMOG in front of the SHB to increase his SMV.” Allow me to translate: “This weakling who hangs around pretty women trying to curry favor with them tried to cut down a charismatic man in front of a beautiful woman, in order to make himself more attractive to her.” (AMOG = Alpha Male Of [the] Group or Alpha Male Other Guy, SHB = Smokin’ Hot Babe [sometimes V(very)H(ot)B(abe), and SMV = Sexual Market Value.)

I speak here, of course, of the PUA (pick-up artist) community, in which the High Priests have created this entire glossary of acronyms to show that, yes, they are the gate-keepers of knowledge which, if you buy their training manuals or pay to attend their seminars, you too, Mr. Sad Beta Male, can unlock the secrets of access to SHB pudenda (Latin alert) and become a “notch collector” similar to these skilled exponents of the art.

It’s bad enough when used in a sentence, but when used graphically or in a chart to illustrate a concept or theory, it becomes completely opaque. Here’s a beauty which attempts to show the correlation between a woman’s looks and the likelihood of her being bitchy:

VHB10 -> BQ 0
HB9 -> BQ 0-1
HB8 -> BQ 1-2
PJ7 -> BQ 3-4
PJ6 -> BQ 5-7
PJ5 -> BQ 6-10
PJ4 -> BQ 4-10
UG3 -> BQ 1-8
UG2 -> BQ 1-4
UG1 -> BQ 0-3
VUG0 -> BQ 0-1

VHB = Very Hot Babe, HB = Hot Babe, PJ = Plain Jane, UG = Ugly Girl, VUG = Very Ugly Girl, and the numeric qualifiers 1-10 are the common delimiters on the Female Hotness Scale (FHS). BQ, by the way, is Bitchiness Quotient, and the numeric qualifiers there are the levels thereof.

Note that this is presented as a scientific analysis or model, when in fact it’s no such thing: it’s a creation solely of the writer’s observation or theory and not by actual, you know, data — but creating acronyms gives it quasi-scientific gravitas — damn it, another Latin word, but you know what I mean, right? It’s kind of a pity, because the author at Chateau Artiste has an excellent way with the English language, when he’s not talking utter bullshit like the above. (Credit where it’s due, though: he also called Trump for the overwhelming electoral victory long before anyone else did, so he’s a more-insightful observer of trends than most mainstream media pundits.)

March 14, 2017

QotD: Individual conscience and collective guilt

Filed under: Europe, Germany, History, WW1 — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

I’m sure there are good men in Saudi Arabia who find it abhorrent and painful that women can’t drive, for instance. I’m also sure they enforce that rule on their women because they don’t want them fined or imprisoned or worse. They can’t DO anything. Not as individuals. And they’re too busy feeding their families to organize and run campaigns [to] free women. Also, there have been some men who have organized and tried to make a difference, but there weren’t enough of them. That “grain of sand” stuff only works dramatically in movies. In real life, it’s more one generation raising the other; one friend talking to the other – until the balance TIPS.

And once it does making them feel guilty would be a counterproductive. Sorry for breaking Godwin’s law, but did we persecute ALL of the German people for Hitler’s crimes? No. Could any of them have spoken up? Many did. But most people who were alive at that time were good people caught in a social mechanic they couldn’t break out of – not individually. And they weren’t connected enough to form cohesive groups.

While we’re speaking of Germany, look at collective guilt and collective punishment for “crimes” that people supposedly committed which no individual could have stopped. If you’ve studied the mechanics of the avalanche leading to WWI (I have. There’s a novel about the Red Baron and time traveling started, and it will eventually get done) there was a certain unstoppable force to it. It was going to start sometime. Someone was going to fire the first shot.

It was Germany. They invaded other countries. The “Hun” entered European mythology of the early twentieth for reasons both good and bad. (Google WWI Belgian Nuns, for instance. Much of it was propaganda, but a lot of it, doubtless, happened.)

When they lost the war, they were treated as if they and they alone and they collectively were guilty. The penalty levied was so high they could not and would not pay and that it was crushing the man in the street.

There were other reasons leading to the rise of Hitler. However, THAT punishment facilitated it. It might not have happened without it. The “in for a lamb, in for a sheep” is a normal human reaction. If you’re held constantly guilty of things you did NOT do and could not have changed, you’re going to DO something anyway. I mean, how can it get worse?

To a certain type of woman – or man, though we’re only giving some tenured college professor males that kind of power – it is sweet to be able to play the victim ad nauseam. Particularly when you’ve never actually been victimized. And it is great to be able to make men squirm with stories of past injustice and feel guilty for things they are either way too young to have done (anyone born after the fifties, pretty much) or could not have changed if they tried, but which many of them mitigated in small ways.

And to a certain type of man – or woman, but in this case it doesn’t apply – it’s a great feeling to go around apologizing for the crimes of your ancestors. If you feel your accomplishments are diminished by theirs, apologizing gives a quick leveling. You recognize they did wrong, therefore you must be better than them. It’s a stupid feeling that ignores that you’re probably also doing things that your descendants will apologize for, but hey, it’s much better than actually trying to achieve something. Less work. Instant boost.

This dynamic gives power to passive-aggressives and bullies, the exact type of person you don’t want to have any power. And it makes good people feel like they’re bad and if they’re bad they might as well act it. It can, for instance, make young men very attracted to religions that DO oppress women (and no, sorry, that’s not most main line Christian religions, where you can leave if you want to.) Frankly, I think it’s a miracle more of my son’s generation hasn’t converted to one of those. I think it’s a witness to their essential decency, given the books, the movies and everything else designed to make them feel guilty for crimes they never committed.

Sarah Hoyt, “The Sharp Edge of Guilt, a blast from the past March 2010”, According to Hoyt, 2015-06-05.

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