Quotulatiousness

April 21, 2017

The oddly appropriate subtext to New York’s “Fearless Girl” statue

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Media, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In the New York Post, Nicole Gelinas points out that Mayor De Blasio has set a precedent that might well come back to bite the city (the example she cites would be “Black Lives Matter protesters want a statue of police brutalizing a black man in front of One Police Plaza”. She also explains why the statue highlights an uncomfortable detail about the role of women on Wall Street:

The “Fearless Girl” statue faces the Arturo Di Modica “Charging Bull” on Wall Street (Wikipedia)

But the bigger problem with Fearless Girl is that it casts stereotypes in bronze: Men do important things, and women get in the way.

The bull is the primary actor: He is charging. The girl’s job is to impede him. This is how Wall Street has long worked — and it’s changing, but slowly.

Take the management committee of State Street’s parent company. Of its 14 members, two are women. One, the chief administrative officer, is a top regulatory official. The other is the human-resources chief and “citizenship officer.”

On Goldman Sachs’ 33-member management committee, five of our women — at least four of whom are in similar, growth-restraining positions.

Yes, growth-restraining: These are great jobs and require deep skill. But they’re bureaucratic rather than entrepreneurial. If a department head — a man — wants to start up a new unit, it’s the regulatory experts who will say, no, you can’t.

Similarly, a trading head may want to hire someone — but the human-resources chief nixes it.

Indeed, the area of “compliance” — which sounds like an S&M activity but has to do with ensuring that the bank and its employees don’t launder money, steal or do other bad things — is where women have done well.

[…]

This work is necessary. A company can’t grow if it’s convicted of money-laundering or if its employees are thieves (in theory).

But it’s also the depressing age-old relationship: A man wants to do something fun and cool, like take the children paragliding before they’ve had a proper breakfast. His wife says, “But honey, the kids have band practice today, and maybe we should save the money for the mortgage.”

Fearless Girl fails in another way. It’s terrific to have courage and fight important battles. But it’s not a good idea — for men, women or children — to be recklessly fearless.

Fear is a good thing. If a bull is charging you, according to the farming manuals, the best thing to do is what you instinctively do: get out of the way. If you don’t pick your battles, you’ll lose them.

April 12, 2017

Why wasn’t Lucy Maud Montgomery considered for inclusion on a banknote?

Filed under: Books, Cancon, History — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Colby Cosh uncharacteristically praises-to-the-skies Lucy Maud Montgomery as even a shortlist candidate to appear on a Canadian banknote:

The choice of Viola Desmond came at the end of a formal search for historic women to put on a banknote, and I am still baffled by the absence of one name from the shortlist: that of the novelist L.M. Montgomery. If you think about the global noteworthiness standard, there are not many Canadians of any race or gender who can meet it. In its highest form it would exclude, for example, Wayne Gretzky, who must be one of the two or three most famous Canadians: there are too many places on Earth that know or care nothing of ice hockey.

They play Bach on keyboard instruments everywhere, so you could put Glenn Gould on a banknote under this rule. I start running out of names pretty damn fast after that, which may suggest a truth about our country that we do not like to confront. But Lucy Maud Montgomery is surely near the top of any such list.

Think what an extraordinary thing it is that we are still arguing about the merits of new adaptations of (and posters for) Anne of Green Gables. Those books are literature of a type that almost revels in its ephemerality. They were meant to be affordable components of a homogenous literary diet for the young. Montgomery could never have imagined that she would end up as the most enduring, best-travelled Canadian fiction author of all.

But how many cycles of fashion has Anne outlived; how many avant-garde authors and poets of her time has she seen off into oblivion? There is something about her that has unfailingly charmed readers of 1960 and 1990 and 2017. Nothing about this phenomenon is insincere or contrived, and it seems to transcend the English-speaking world with ease. Progressives and feminists are not reluctant to give the Anne books to their children. There has been no attack that I know of on Montgomery’s political bona fides. Her intellectual ambitions were small, and confined to an out-of-the-way place, yet her imagination conquered a world.

All of which does not even take into account the merely commercial argument for a banknote with Anne of Green Gables and/or her creator on it: the Japanese would hoard it like treasure. Then again, maybe that is what the Bank of Canada is afraid of — unpredictable monetary effects from an important currency denomination being too popular as a collectible. But I cannot see any other reason for them to keep missing this layup. Maybe they are prudently keeping Anne in reserve for the advent of the five-dollar coin, in order that the annie might join the loonie and the toonie?

April 10, 2017

QotD: Noblesse Oblige, pre-teens, and teenagers

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

This – ah – female privilege of course established “the way girls fight” usually underhanded, and without the adult noticing. Pinches, kicks to the ankle (my poor male friends in middle school) and also gossip and character destruction and other, less physical means of retaliation.

Because women are still human and will still fight.

But by middle school, we had it well established. A boy understood he would take whatever the girl dished out physically, if a girl were so uncouth as to hit him, and treat it as a joke. (And by that time they were that much stronger – thanks to testosterone – that they could do that, in most cases.) The girl in turn knew if she’d hit a boy, short of self-defense in a dark classroom, where he ambushed her, thereby putting himself beyond the protection of social rules, she’d committed a social sin and broken a major unspoken rule.

This kept fist fights between the sexes from happening. And most girls, though they might character assassinate one another, had learned to keep the boys out of it, because they weren’t adroit in the art and therefore were as vulnerable to that type of war as women to punches.

Or to put it another way, as the good professor says, “Chivalry imposed obligations upon both sexes.” And it can’t continue when one breaks the compact. The same way that other imbalances of power in society can’t continue unless both parts play by the rules.

When one part forgets the rules, they don’t leave the peasants enough to live on, and the peasants chop their necks off.

Look, I’m a libertarian and in the US. I believe all men and women should be equal under the law. But you can’t eliminate imbalances of power unless you stop being human. Communism fails, in large measure, because it wants to eliminate imbalances of power completely by making humans into something different. They believe they can shape a social ape into something more like ants or bees (don’t argue. Yeah, they do want to have rulers. One ruler over faceless millions. Because someone has to enforce equality. Yes, I know about the myth of the vanishing state.) Hence the myth of the homo Sovieticus, the selfless, perfectly acting man who would emerge once the distortions of capitalism were removed from the “natural” man who was of course a Rousseaunian noble savage. No, I don’t believe it. No one should believe it. The rejects of that culling program have filled a hundred million graves and bid fair to fill more. Because Rousseau was wrong and the mythology of communism is a hot and sticky repulsive mess.

Some people will always be taller, larger, stronger. Some will be smarter. Some will, for whatever reason like “my ancestors got here earlier” have the advantage of a better adaption to the society they live in.

I, for instance, got both sides of the noblesse oblige speech because I was taller than most of my male teachers by 13, and probably stronger too. It took. Sort of. I knew how to subdue a badly acting male without hitting him by the time I was 20, and only psychopaths did not respond. (And for those there was hitting, hence the weaponized umbrella.)

Because I WAS a walking imbalance of power, frankly.

Noblesse oblige is needed to keep things from coming to extremes.

Sarah Hoyt, “Noblesse Oblige and Mare’s Nests”, According to Hoyt, 2015-05-05.

April 3, 2017

QotD: Female “pacifism”

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

I’m really bad at fighting. Oh, not physical fighting, though I suppose I’m bad at that too at this point, since I haven’t been exercising like I used to and I’m not twenty anymore.

And I don’t mean I’m not good at landing metaphorical blows. No. The part I’m bad at is staying angry.

It’s funny, as much as we get accused of “hating” the only things and people I’ve hated are historical people and regimes that have killed millions of their citizens. Yeah, yeah, I hate red and black fascism, aka Nazism and Communism like I hate hell, all Capulets and … well. Not thee. The other things I hate are more things I strongly dislike: Licorice, bad, preachy books, teachers who don’t do their job, cold days. I don’t spend my time sitting around and going “I hate you snow, I do.” I just mumble disconsolately about not being able to walk and my fingers hurting with cold even while inside.

There is on the left this certainty that women are more peaceful than men that I think comes from two things: first the empathy which women have, or at least display more, which is part of raising infants; two women’s inability to stay burning at peak flame and the ability to find excuses for even the worst misdeeds, in order to keep their “tribe” together. What my mom called “Mothers always love the worst child the best.” (I never asked whether this was an admission I’m her favorite.)

This doesn’t mean, mind you, that women are not capable of aggression and war. I’ve said before that having attended an all-girl high school I could tell these people something about women and fighting.

It’s just that when women are bad, they’re very, very bad. They tend to fight in an underhanded way that leaves plausible deniability and the ability to pose as an angel before the world.

Sarah A. Hoyt, “Weaponized Empathy”, According to Hoyt, 2015-09-06.

March 22, 2017

QotD: Sharia and women’s rights

Filed under: Liberty, Middle East, Quotations, Religion — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

As a moral and legal code, Sharia law is demeaning and degrading to women. It requires women to be placed under the care of male guardians; it views a woman’s testimony in court as worth half that of a man’s; and it permits a husband to beat his wife. It’s not only women’s legal and sexual freedoms that are curtailed under Sharia but their economic freedoms as well. Women generally inherit half of the amount that men inherit, and their male guardian must consent to their choosing education, work, or travel.

In Saudi Arabia, Iran, Sudan, and parts of Nigeria, where Sharia law underpins the judicial system, women’s rights suffer greatly.

There is a growing trend among some feminists to make excuses for Sharia law and claim it is nothing more than a personal moral guide, and therefore consistent with American constitutional liberties. Yet the rules that such “Sharia-lite feminists” voluntarily choose to follow are also invoked to oppress women — to marry them off, to constrain their economic and human rights, and to limit their freedom of expression — who have not consented to them. The moral conflict between Sharia and universal human rights should not be dismissed as a misunderstanding, but openly discussed.

Many Western feminists struggle to embrace universal women’s rights. Decades ago, Germaine Greer argued that attempts to outlaw female genital mutilation amounted to “an attack on cultural identity.” That type of deference to traditional practices, in the name of cultural sensitivity, hurts vulnerable women. These days, relativism remains strong. Too many feminists in the West are reluctant to condemn cultural practices that clearly harm women — female genital mutilation, polygamy, child marriage, marital rape, and honor violence, particularly in non-Western societies. Women’s rights are universal, and such practices cannot be accepted.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, “On This ‘Day Without a Woman,’ Don’t Leave Women Oppressed by Sharia Law Behind”, The Daily Beast, 2017-03-08.

March 21, 2017

QotD: Society’s unspoken rules and modern iconoclasts

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

Unfortunately for us, starting with Rousseau, someone mistook those rules for “arbitrary and unnecessary.” Now, a lot of them were, of course. Human societies acquire unspoken rules, a lot of them dross, like a dog acquires fleas. And yep, if you follow all the unspoken rules, you’ll reinforce the power of the elites because that’s what the rules are designed to do. […]

But the Rousseau attempt to change those rules started from the idea that all unspoken societal rules were wrong. ALL of them. And that absent them, humans would live in a sort of paradise. I wish he’d been acquainted with some savages, not the least because then he probably wouldn’t have lived to pen his awfully misguided ideas. His ideas have been bouncing around society for a while, aided by Marxism (Marx MUST have been Asperger’s. No, I mean that. He looked at society and had no clue why things functioned, and couldn’t see people as people but as widgets belonging to particular groups which MUST of course be opposed to other groups they interacted with) in its feminist and racialist versions, cut the threads of things that were actually important, functional, and so early-set-in that they were never spoken of.

So women didn’t see the two sides of the bargain and just saw the way their side of it “oppressed” them, which led them to lose the power they did have in society, and now they want it back – see the way they’re racing back to the fainting couch where men can’t touch them or look at them – but since they don’t understand its origins, they’re trying to get it back in all the wrong ways. It’s all “check your privilege” but without ever checking their own privilege, even as it causes white knights to run to their defense. I don’t know how long a society or a culture can last like this. Every time I know of in history, it ended in tears or guillotines.

Sarah Hoyt, “Noblesse Oblige and Mare’s Nests”, According to Hoyt, 2015-05-05.

March 18, 2017

QotD: MILFs

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

I’m not sure if my predilection for MILFs came naturally or if it was learned over time. I came of age in the ’70s and ’80s and back then, only pedophiles liked young girls. All our pinups were old. When Raquel Welch appeared on The Muppet Show, I started having feelings I’d never felt before. We all did and we talked about her on the swings at school. She was 38. Pretty much every man of my generation has Olivia Newton-John at the end of Grease burned into his boner. She was 30 in that movie. Bailey was over 30 when WKRP was on. Loni Anderson was in her late 30s. Mary Ann wasn’t quite 30 on Gilligan’s Island, but Ginger was 33. Mr. Kotter’s wife was 31 when the show ended. Chrissy Amphlett was 10 years older than me when the Divinyls released “I Touch Myself,” but I almost had a heart attack looking at her thigh-high socks. Nobody paid attention to young girls when I was a young man. It was considered creepy. If one of them wore a Catholic school uniform on Halloween, we’d barf. There may be some disgusting perverts in the world, but in America, “MILF” tops the list of porn searches. Sure, there’s some extra meat around the waist and a little more junk in the trunk. What tepid eunuch can’t handle that? Real men are into women, not girls. No wonder blacks and Hispanics are trampling our masculinity like we’re a bunch of bitch-ass maricóns. We can barely handle a fat ass. You can keep your perky tits. I want breasts with a bit of hang to them. I’m not talking about National Geographic saggy, but if you can hold five pencils under your left one, I’ll write you a love letter. It’s like my friend Trevor once said: “I dated a chick with droopers when I was 19 and I really wasn’t into it — but I sure wouldn’t mind messing with them right now!” He looms in for the second part with a leering grin on his face. This is something young men will never understand. As Steve Coogan points out in The Trip, the spectrum of what you find attractive widens greatly as you get older.

Gavin McInnes, “In Praise of the Benjamin Button Babes”, Taki’s Magazine, 2015-07-24.

March 16, 2017

QotD: Sex and the twentysomethings

Filed under: Health, Humour, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

To be clear: The ideal female mate is young. You’re going to want three kids, and to do that you really need to get going by 25. My wife had our first in her early 30s and at the hospital she was wheeled through a door that said “Geriatric Mothers.” I thank my lucky stars we were able to defy biology and churn out three so late in life. I know you twentysomethings are convinced you don’t want kids, and I was the same way at your age, but you’re wrong. Talk to social workers who deal with the elderly. The deathbed moans from those with no kids are all about their total lack of legacy. Defying the biological imperative isn’t empowering. It’s a curse. So if you settle down with a woman over 35, you are making a huge mistake.

That being said, I’m not into women under 35. I remember having sex with young women when I was a young man and it sucked. Teenagers were the worst. It was like we were both trying to go through a doorway at the same time as we grunted, “Not there,” and apologized. My single friends often text me pictures of the twentysomethings they’re paired up with and I almost feel sorry for them. Sex lasts, what, 10 minutes? Now you have 23 hours and 50 minutes to talk to someone who says “like” every third word. The sex is terrible, too. They pump away like they’re working at a pump factory and there’s no intellect or imagination involved. It’s like playing tennis with a toddler. I want a woman who has been around the block and knows what she’s doing. I’ll spare you the details, but there are techniques you learn with time that only a wife can know.

Gavin McInnes, “In Praise of the Benjamin Button Babes”, Taki’s Magazine, 2015-07-24.

March 9, 2017

Words & Numbers: Women Prosper When Markets Are Free

Filed under: Economics, Education, Liberty — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 8 Mar 2017

This week, in honor of International Women’s Day, Antony & James discuss the strong correlation between economic freedom and gender equality found across the world. They argue that if you want to see a world of increasing equality and opportunity for women, you also want to free the economy from central planning and control.

March 7, 2017

QotD: Boys, girls, and Noblesse oblige

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

Men are bigger and stronger than women. We’re talking women on average, of course. I think right now I’m bigger than my husband, though he’s still stronger. And probably Lizzy Lifter is stronger than Geoffrey Geek who spends his entire time playing computer games and never sees the sun. BUT on average, over the population, men are so much stronger/faster/physically able than women that any random man can overpower any given woman.

So, why aren’t ALL women victims of domestic abuse? Why are women even outside, without being raped? (And if you think all women are victims, you must be living in an Arab country, where those two above are the pre-assumptions of the cultural norms.) How is this possible? Why don’t men press home their advantage?

Well, first because men aren’t a group with “group consciousness.” Contrary to what “feminists” seem to think, men are not alien creatures who reproduce by fission. They’re women’s children, friends, brothers, fathers. So of course, being human, they care for some women and they’re decent enough to extrapolate their feelings to strange women. (And Women’s Studies programs make a lot of those.)

But more than that, there’s a built in noblesse oblige that prevents men from pressing home their last advantage. Our society runs with it, and is soaked deep with strains of female privilege.

No?

Well, take your three year old boy to a playground. Have him get in a fight with a girl. At that age, their strengths are equivalent, and the girl might be larger and stronger (girls develop faster.) Have him punch her. What do you do? You pull him back and say “you don’t hit a girl. Ever, ever, ever.”

At which point if the girl is a little sh*t who wasn’t taught her part in the bargain, she will beat him to a pulp, but never mind.

You do it because you have to. This is not some fossilized rule. It’s because if your boy doesn’t have that trained into him REALLY early, he’ll hit thirteen and seriously injure a girl. Worse, in an intimate relationship with a girl (should he turn out to like them) he will lose his cool (we all do) and suddenly become a wife abuser. Because the chances his wife will be smaller and weaker than himself are high.

So you tell your three year old this “arbitrary” rule and establish the boundaries of “female privilege” to stop him from becoming a monster when the imbalance of (physical) power sets in.

Of course, the rule has its opposite. Because women have power too, in the relationship. Oh, sure, not at three, when they’re just annoying, extra-whiney little boys as far as boys are concerned. (Average, statistical girls, that is. Some of us were Vengeance of G-d hellions.)

I tell you as the girl who was often pulled back from these with “girls don’t fight” or “girls don’t hit boys in public” but most often (my being outsized for my time and place) with “you don’t hit people smaller than you. Ever, ever, ever.”

Sarah Hoyt, “Noblesse Oblige and Mare’s Nests”, According to Hoyt, 2015-05-05.

March 1, 2017

QotD: What we mean by “equality of the sexes”

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

The question of “sex-equality” is, like all questions affecting human relationships, delicate and complicated. It cannot be settled by loud slogans or hard-and-fast assertions like “a woman is as good as a man” — or “woman’s place is the home” — or “women ought not to take men’s jobs.” The minute one makes such assertions, one finds one has to qualify them. “A woman is as good as a man” is as meaningless as to say, “a Kaffir is as good as a Frenchman” or “a poet is as good as an engineer” or “an elephant is as good as a racehorse” — it means nothing whatever until you add: “at doing what?” In a religious sense, no doubt, the Kaffir is as valuable in the eyes of God as a Frenchman — but the average Kaffir is probably less skilled in literary criticism than the average Frenchman, and the average Frenchman less skilled than the average Kaffir in tracing the spoor of big game. There might be exceptions on either side: it is largely a matter of heredity and education. When we balance the poet against the engineer, we are faced with a fundamental difference of temperament — so that here our question is complicated by the enormous social problem whether poetry or engineering is “better” for the State, or for humanity in general. There may be people who would like a world that was all engineers or all poets — but most of us would like to have a certain number of each; though here again, we should all differ about the desirable proportion of engineering to poetry. The only proviso we should make is that people with dreaming and poetical temperaments should not entangle themselves in engines, and that mechanically-minded persons should not issue booklets of bad verse. When we come to the elephant and the racehorse, we come down to bed-rock physical differences — the elephant would make a poor showing in the Derby, and the unbeaten Eclipse himself would be speedily eclipsed by an elephant when it came to hauling logs.

That is so obvious that it hardly seems worth saying. But it is the mark of all movements, however well-intentioned, that their pioneers tend, by much lashing of themselves into excitement, to lose sight of the obvious. In reaction against the age-old slogan, “woman is the weaker vessel,” or the still more offensive, “woman is a divine creature,” we have, I think, allowed ourselves to drift into asserting that “a woman is as good as a man,” without always pausing to think what exactly we mean by that. What, I feel, we ought to mean is something so obvious that it is apt to escape attention altogether, viz: not that every woman is, in virtue of her sex, as strong, clever, artistic, level-headed, industrious and so forth as any man that can be mentioned; but, that a woman is just as much an ordinary human being as a man, with the same individual preferences, and with just as much right to the tastes and preferences of an individual. What is repugnant to every human being is to be reckoned always as a member of a class and not as an individual person.

Dorothy L. Sayers, “Are Women Human? Address Given to a Women’s Society”, 1938.

February 17, 2017

QotD: The rise of the geekgirls

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

When I was a teenager in the 1970s, there was not yet anything you could call “geek culture”. Sure, there were bright kids fascinated by computers or math or science, kids who were often “poorly socialized” in the jargon of the day and hung together as a defensive measure; I was one of them. But we didn’t see ourselves as having a social identity or affiliation the way the jocks or surfers or hippies did. We weren’t a subculture, nor even a community; we didn’t even have a label for ourselves.

Slowly, slowly that began to change. One key event was the eruption of science fiction into pop culture that began with the first Star Wars movie in 1977. This was our stuff and we knew it, even though most of us never joined the subculture of SF fandom proper. Personal computers made another big difference after 1980; suddenly, technology was cool and sexy in a way it hadn’t been for decades, and people who were into it started to get respect rather than (or in addition to) faint or not-so-faint scorn.

You could see the trend in movies. War Games in 1983; Revenge of the Nerds in 1984; Real Genius in 1985. To kids today Revenge of the Nerds doesn’t seem remarkable, because geek culture is more secure and confident today than a lot of older tribes like bikers or hippies. But at the time, the idea that you could have an entire fraternity of geeks — an autonomous social group with reason to be proud of itself and a recognized place in the social ecology — was funny; all by itself it was a comedy premise.

The heroes of Revenge of the Nerds were people who created a fraternity of their own, who bootstrapped a niche for themselves in Grant McCracken’s culture of plenitude. The movie was an extended joke, but it described and perhaps helped create a real phenomenon.

The term ‘geek’ didn’t emerge as a common label, displacing the older and much more sporadically-used ‘nerd’, until around the time of the Internet explosion of 1993-1994. I noticed this development because I didn’t like it; I still prefer to tell people I hang out with hackers (all hackers are geeks, but not all geeks are hackers). Another index of the success of the emerging geek culture is that around that time it stopped being an almost exclusively male phenomenon.

Yes, you catch my implication. When I was growing up we didn’t have geekgirls. Even if the label ‘geek’ had been in use at the time, the idea that women could be so into computers or games or math that they would identify with and hang out with geek guys would have struck us as sheerest fantasy. Even the small minority of geek guys who were good with women (and thus had much less reason to consider them an alien species) would have found the implications of the term ‘geekgirl’ unbelievable before 1995 or so.

(There are people who cannot read an account like the above without assuming that the author is simply projecting his own social and sexual isolation onto others. For the benefit of those people, I will report here that I had good relations with women long before this was anything but rare in my peer group. This only made the isolation of my peers easier to notice.)

What changed? Several things. One is that geek guys are, on the whole, better adjusted and healthier and more presentable today than they were when I was a teenager. Kids today have trouble believing the amount of negative social pressure on intelligent people to pass as normal and boring that was typical before 1980, the situation Revenge of the Nerds satirized and inverted. It meant that the nascent geek culture of the time attracted only the most extreme geniuses and misfits — freaks, borderline autists, obsessives, and other people in reaction against the mainstream. Women generally looked at this and went “ugh!”

But over time, geeky interests became more respectable, even high-status (thanks at least in part to the public spectacle of übergeeks making millions). The whole notion of opposition to the mainstream started to seem dated as ‘mainstream’ culture gradually effloresced into dozens of tribes freakier than geeks (two words: “body piercings”). Thus we started to attract people who were more normal, in psychology if not in talent. Women noticed this. I believe it was in 1992, at a transhumanist party in California, that I first heard a woman matter-of-factly describe the Internet hacker culture as “a source of good boyfriends”. A few years after that we started to get a noticeable intake of women who wanted to become geeks themselves, as opposed to just sleeping with or living with geeks.

The loner/obsessive/perfectionist tendencies of your archetypal geek are rare in women, who are culturally encouraged (and perhaps instinct-wired) to value social support and conformity more. Thus, women entering the geek subculture was a strong sign that it had joined the set of social identities that people think of as ‘normal’. This is still a very recent development; I can’t recall the term ‘geekgirl’ being used at all before about 1998, and I don’t think it became commonly self-applied until 2000 or so.

Eric S. Raymond, “The Revenge of the Nerds is Living Well”, Armed and Dangerous, 2004-12-20.

February 14, 2017

QotD: Explaining why men tend to be slobs, but women very much don’t

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

The central fact that controls the the preferences of both sexes is that bearing children is difficult and dangerous for women, but fertilizing a woman is almost trivially easy for a man. Furthermore, the female investment in childbearing is front-loaded (proportionally more of the risk is before and at birth) while the male investment is back-loaded (proportionately more of the risks and costs are incurred after birth).

Moderns living in a largely disease-free environment seldom realize how cruel and pressing these differences were over most of our species history. But before modern sanitation, death in childbirth was so common that men wealthy enough to afford it expected to have several wives during their lifetimes, losing many of them to childbed fever and other complications.

Also relevant is the extremely high rate of childhood death from infectious diseases and parasites that was characteristic of premodern societies. Disease resistance in humans is highly variable and generally increases with genetic mixing (the same reason a mongrel puppy or kitten is less likely to catch a disease than a purebreed). Thus, both men and women have instincts intended to maximize genetic variety in their offspring in order to maximize the chances that some will survive to reproductive age.

Our instincts evolved to cope with these patterns of life and death. The next piece we need to understand those instincts is what physical beauty means. Recent anthropology revealing strong cross-cultural patterns in the perception of pulchritude is helpful here.

In both sexes, the most important beauty indicators include symmetrical features and a good complexion (clear skin without blemishes, warts, etc.). It turns out these are indicators of resistance to infection and parasites, especially resistance in childhood and during adolescent growth. Good hair is also a health indicator.

In men, physical signs of strength, dexterity, and agility are also favored; this reflects the value female instinctive wiring puts on male specializations in burst exertion, hunting, and warfare. In women, signs of fertility and fitness to bear are favored (healthy and generous breasts, a certain range of hip-to-waist ratios).

Men fixate on physical beauty and youth because under primitive conditions it is a leading indicator of the ability to bear and suckle children. Through most of history, plain or ugly women were bad risks for the next round of infectious diseases — and their children, carrying their genes, were too.

The last piece of the puzzle is that men and women have asymmetrical information about the parentage of their children. A woman is seldom in doubt about which children are the issue of her womb; a man, by contrast, can never be as sure which are the fruit of his seed. Thus, genetic selfishness motivates the woman in a mated pair to sacrifice more for her children than it does the man. This is why women abandon their children far less often than men do.

While women do respond to male good looks, it’s not the agenda-topper for them that it is for men. To understand why this is, it helps to know that the optimal mating strategy for a woman begins with hooking a good provider, a man who will stick around to support the kids in spite of not being as sure that he’s their father as the woman is of being their mother. Where men look for fitness to bear children, women seek the capability and willingness to raise them.

Thus, robust health and infection resistance, while desirable in a potential husband, are not the be-all and end-all. Behavior traits indicating attachment, loyalty, nurturance, and kindness are more important than a tight six-pack. Men instinctively worry about these things less because they know women are more certain of parentage and thus more tightly bonded to their children. Fitness-to-raise also means that indicators of success and social status count for more in men. Men marry health and beauty, women marry security and good prospects.

There is, however, one important exception — one circumstance under which women are just as physical, beauty-oriented, and “shallow” in their mating preferences as men. That’s when they’re cheating.

Both sexes have a genetic-diversity incentive to screw around, but it manifests in different ways. Again, the reason is parentage uncertainty. For a man, diversity tactics are simple — boff as many hot babes as possible, accepting that you don’t know which of their kids are yours and counting on stronger maternal bonding to ensure they will have at least one devoted parent around. Because a woman can be more sure of who her offspring are, her most effective diversity tactic is different — get married to a good provider and then cheat on him.

Under those circumstances, she doesn’t have to value good character in a mating partner as much; hubby, who can’t tell the kids aren’t his, will supply that. Thus the relative value of handsomeness goes up when a woman is taking a lover on the sly. Marrying the lord and screwing the gardener is an old game, and from a genetic-selfishness point of view a very effective one.

Eric S. Raymond, “A Unified Theory of Male Slobbishness and Female Preening”, Armed and Dangerous, 2005-01- 06.

February 13, 2017

QotD: Guilt as a tool, guilt as a weapon

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

Yesterday I was hanging around in the kitchen with my older son, waiting for the coffee to brew, and he made some joking comment about my being oppressed when I was growing up.

I told him I was oppressed enough, or at least women were, in that time and in that place – as they still are in many times and in many places.

Yes, I like to point out and do – often – that it wasn’t a gigantic conspiracy of men against women that kept women down for six thousand years because frankly most men can’t conspire their way out of a paperbag. (I suspect women are naturally better at it. No, don’t hurt me. Just women seem to be naturally more socially adept. But even women couldn’t manage a conspiracy of that magnitude.) And I like to point out – and do – it wasn’t shoulder to shoulder but the pill and changes in technology that liberated women or at least that made attempts at liberation reasonable instead of insane. (Of course, shoulder to shoulder makes for better movies and books, which is why everyone believes it.)

However, as I told the boy, given the conditions biology set up, women were “oppressed” enough in most cultures and in most places. Yes, men were oppressed too at the same time, because this type of shackles is double-sided, but the oppression of women lingered a bit longer than that of men – say a good couple of generations by habit and custom and because humans simply don’t change that fast. Which is why the oppression of women is remembered as such and the men are remembered as being on top.

So I told him in Portugal, until the seventies, women weren’t allowed to vote and, oh, by the way, a married woman couldn’t get a job outside the house unless her husband signed papers saying that they needed it, due to economic hardship. (Which of course, meant the dumb bastard had to sign a paper saying he wasn’t man enough to support his family. Made it really easy on him, it did.) I’m sure there were other legal and economic hobbles that went with that. And I told him of course in many many countries in the world that inequality persists, only much worse.

Which is when I realized he was squirming and looking like he’d done something wrong.

Guilt. My poor kid was feeling guilty of being born male.

Guilt is a useful enough emotion, in small doses and well administered. For instance when I was three I stole some very small coin from money my mom had left on the kitchen table. I don’t remember what – the equivalent of five cents. I stole it to buy a couple of peanuts at the store across the street (they sold them by weight. In the shell.) My mom made it clear to me I’d made it impossible for her to buy her normal bread order when the bakery delivery (no, don’t ask. Delivered. Door to door. Every morning. I missed it terribly my first years in the US, but now they don’t do it in Portugal either, anymore) came by the next morning because she didn’t have the exact change. It wasn’t strictly true. The money amount was so small she just said “I’ll make the rest up tomorrow.” But she told me it was, and how she had to be short a roll. My understanding there were larger consequences for my stupid theft made me feel guilty, and that ensured I never did it again. The same, with varying degrees of justice, managed to instill the semblance of a work ethic in me in relation to school work.

However, the guilt my son was feeling was stupid, counterproductive, all too widespread AND poisonous.

Stupid because he could hardly be held accountable for something that happened thirty years before his birth, even if he has the same outward form as the people who benefitted from an inequity. (And benefitted should be taken with a grain of salt here. Countries in which women are kept down might offer an ego bo for the guys, but they are far less materially prosperous on average. Everyone suffers.) Counterproductive because guilt by definition can never be collective. Well, not beyond a small group like, say the Manson family. You get beyond that and you can’t assign blame with any degree of accuracy. So, going and yelling at my father, say, for “keeping women down” when I was little would be as insane as yelling at my son. Why? Well, because a) he didn’t and wouldn’t (he was raised by a strong woman, practically on her own, while my grandfather was in Brazil, working and grandma ruled the extended family with an iron fist.) b) to the extent he enforced societal rules, it was usually to keep us from getting in trouble with society in general (which, btw, included women. In fact women were the greatest enforcers of “you shall not be seen anywhere with a young man you’re not dating” rule that got me in the most trouble.) c) his standing up and talking given who he was and the amount of social power he had (or in fact didn’t have) would have changed nothing except get him treated like a lunatic.

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

February 8, 2017

QotD: Camille Paglia on who should have run for president

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

reason: So what is it about Hillary that bothers you?

Paglia: She’s a fraud!

reason: Explain how.

Paglia: She can’t have an opinion without poll-testing it. She’s a liar. This is not a strong candidate for our first woman president. To me, Dianne Feinstein should have presented herself.

reason: Ah! Are you kidding?

Paglia: No. I don’t care what her views are. What I’m saying is, for the post of president — that’s commander in chief of the military. It’s got to be a woman with a familiarity with military matters and [who] also has gravitas. And Dianne Feinstein, I first became aware of her after those murders [of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk] that occurred in City Hall…

reason: She certainly never lets you forget that she was there.

Paglia: No. But I have never forgotten because it was one of the great moments where a woman took charge in absolute chaos after a barbarous murder. The whole government was falling apart, and she came to the media and gave the news and was steady. And I said, “That’s it. That’s the formula for the first woman president.”

So what I’m interested in is what is very important in this modern era: How do you use the media to communicate? If you’re going to be a woman president, she must communicate strength, reserve, and yet compassion. That formula — I’ve been waiting, and waiting, and waiting for it. The only person in America who’s had it as far as I’m concerned was Dianne Feinstein, and she didn’t put herself forward for whatever reason as president.

But Hillary does not have it. Hillary is a mess. And we’re going to award the presidency to a woman who’s enabled the depredations and exploitation of women by that cornpone husband of hers? The way feminists have spoken makes us blind to Hillary’s record of trashing [women]. They were going to try to destroy Monica Lewinsky. It’s a scandal! Anyone who believes in sexual harassment guidelines should have seen that the disparity of power between [Bill] Clinton and Monica Lewinsky was one of the most grotesque ever in the history of sex crime. He’s a sex criminal! We’re going to put that guy back in the White House? Hillary’s ridden on his coattails. This is not a woman who has made her own career. The woman failed the bar exam in Washington! The only reason she went to Arkansas and got a job in the Rose Law Firm was because her husband was a politician.

Camille Paglia, “Everything’s Awesome and Camille Paglia Is Unhappy!”, Reason, 2015-05-30.

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