Notes and Comment Blog

Our short and pithy observations on the passing scene as it relates to the mission of Butterflies and Wheels. Woolly-headed or razor-sharp comments in the media, anti-rationalist rhetoric in books or magazines or overheard on the bus, it’s all grist to our mill. And sometimes we will hold forth on the basis of no inspiration at all beyond what happens to occur to us.


That was before the money went into it

Oct 11th, 2014 3:24 pm | By

The New York Times has a whole lot more on the Sayreville football team and the “bullying and harassment” that got the season shut down. Seven players are accused of “hazing of a sexual nature.” It also has more on the pathetic football-worship in Sayreville and the way it motivates grown-ass adults to minimize the hazing.

The charges were announced by Andrew C. Carey, the Middlesex County prosecutor, in a joint statement with Chief John Zebrowski of the Sayreville Police Department.

Richard Labbe, the district superintendent, released a statement.

“As should be evident by now, the Sayreville Board of Education takes this matter extremely seriously,” Mr. Labbe said, “and thus will continue to make the safety and welfare of our students, particularly the victims of these horrendous alleged acts, our highest priority.”

But around town, there were questions about the four separate attacks that the police said occurred from Sept. 19 to Sept. 29. Were they isolated events this season, or had hazing been a ritualistic part of Coach George Najjar’s team, known as the Bombers?

The accusations alone were “absolutely shocking” to Robert Keating, 52, who was walking through Kennedy Park with his two children.

“What were those kids thinking?” he said, shaking his head. “I went to this high school. I don’t remember any trouble like this every happening. But the football team was never very good then. That was before the money went into it and people started making such a big deal out of it.”

Ah now why did that happen? Why is football made such a big deal? Especially high school football? Some people in Sayreville wonder the same thing.

Inside Angelo’s, a pizzeria on Main Street, that was what baffled John Shara, 56, a 20-year Sayreville resident. He motioned to the store owner at the counter and said: “They play a game on Friday night and he tells me that no one comes in here because everyone’s at the field. They play on Saturday, you go into the diner down the street and you’ve got all these 50-year-old men in their Bombers caps and sweatshirts.

“Honestly, I don’t get it. I understand if you’re in Texas, or Iowa, in a town where there’s nothing else around for 20 miles.”

Even in Texas, or in Iowa, why not do something that a lot more kids can participate in, and a lot less violent? Drama, music, singing, dance?

“I hear people from here calling up radio stations and saying it’s just a little hazing and screaming about losing the season,” Mr. Shara said. “Hazing is hitting a kid with a towel or jockstrap. What we’re talking about here is not hazing, it’s criminal. If it’s true, they should shut it down for five years. I mean, how do you leave 60 or 70 kids alone in a locker room?”

Earlier in the week, Mr. Labbe said that coaches were unaware of any incidents, which Stuart Green, the director of the New Jersey Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention, considered excuse-making, if not exoneration.

“At any level, even the N.F.L, with the question of bullying and abuse, the media focuses on the players and not enough on the culture,” Mr. Green said in a telephone interview. “Not to excuse the behavior, but it’s the job of the adults to not put these kids in that kind of environment and expect them to police themselves.”

I would like to see everyone focus a whole lot more on the culture. The culture sucks.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Guest post: That was the sort of mindset this “game” created

Oct 11th, 2014 12:43 pm | By

Originally a comment by Blanche Quizno on But football is a necessity of life.

My 6’4″ son went out for football last year and, when he realized how much time it would require, he voted for his studies instead and quit the team. A half a dozen other young men then quit the team – it’s like they didn’t realize they COULD quit or something. In fact, one of his friends, who had just the week before talked of hoping to be team captain that year, quit a few days after my son did. That really shocked me – “football player” had been a huge part of his apparent identity/persona. I remember him telling me that, at the end of a tackle, if someone from the other team were slow in getting up, he’d gladly stomp his hand as hard as he could with his cleats. This kid is a devout Christian hoping for a career in youth ministry, BTW. When he was talking about quitting the team, he said that football brought out the worst in him, aggression-wise. I reminded him of the hand-stomping comment. He agreed that was the sort of mindset this “game” created, and that he’d realized he didn’t want to be that guy – he wanted to “love on” people instead.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Remember, #gamergate isn’t about attacking women

Oct 11th, 2014 12:07 pm | By

So tweeted Brianna Wu, along with a series of explicitly threatening tweets she received, and

The police just came by. Husband and I are going somewhere safe.

Warning: explicit sexualized violence.

Embedded image permalink

Can we take this seriously now?

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



But football is a necessity of life

Oct 11th, 2014 11:36 am | By

Another item for the annals of “people take football way too seriously.”

A town that found encouragement in its winning high school football team after the devastation of Superstorm Sandy was left to absorb another blow Tuesday after school officials canceled the season over allegations of bullying, intimidation and harassment among players.

The rest of the story is about how sad and upset everyone is…about the cancellation, not about the bullying, intimidation and harassment. They want their football and they don’t care about bullying, intimidation and harassment. That’s fucked up.

“There was enough evidence that there were incidents of harassment, of intimidation and bullying that took place on a pervasive level, on a wide-scale level and at a level at which the players knew, tolerated and generally accepted,” Superintendent Richard Labbe told reporters Monday night. “Based upon what has been substantiated to have occurred, we have canceled the remainder of the football season.”

Labbe said he could not discuss the investigation, and the prosecutor’s office has declined to release details. No charges have been filed, but Labbe said Prosecutor Andrew Carey told him there is credible evidence to back up the allegations of bullying and harassment within the program.

Maybe there’s something about football that isn’t good for people? Maybe it fosters aggression, and that fosters other kinds of aggression, like bullying and harassment?

Corinne Kalev, whose daughter attends the middle school adjacent to high school, said football is a big part of fall for the town.

“I think the parents might be more upset than the kids, because this might be these kids’ future,” Kalev said. “Some of them are really good players and it seems like because of a couple of kids, the whole team is being punished.”

This is a school we’re talking about. The job of schools is to teach. Football is peripheral. It’s recreation. It’s sport. It’s not the core of the school. Most kids’ futures are based far more on what they learn in the classroom than it is on football.

Labbe said Monday he was sending a message with his decision.

“We need all of our student-athletes, all of our students, heck, all students in the state, in this nation, to understand that the one true way to stop bullying is for those bystanders to do the right thing and become up-standers and report to an adult or someone at an authority level of what is going on.”

That’s more important than having a football season. A lot more important.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



The guardians who have kindly taken upon themselves the work of supervision

Oct 11th, 2014 11:21 am | By

Daniel Anderson at the Lawyers’ Secular Society draws on Kant for thoughts on the Law Society’s Sharia guidance. In his essay on enlightenment, Kant wrote that enlightenment is having the courage to use your own understanding, instead of being so cowardly and lazy that you leave it to others to understand for you.

Kant goes on to further state that the failure to think for ourselves, as human beings, will lead to the rights of fellow human beings to be trampled upon.

The failure to think for ourselves will lead us to distrust others and so hand over complete control to a select few:

The guardians who have kindly taken upon themselves the work of supervision will soon see to it that by far the largest part of mankind (including the entire fair sex) should consider the step forward to maturity not only as difficult but also as highly dangerous.

The entire fair sex? That means women. We (women) are considered peculiarly incapable of thinking and understanding for ourselves. Sam Harris’s recent foray into explaining how women think made it clear – not for the first time – that even putatively enlightened people think that about women. Harris thinks and writes that our estrogen vibe makes us uncomfortable with the activity of criticizing bad ideas.

Turning back to the 21st century, does the Law Society’s Sharia Succession Rules Practice Note enable us all, as human beings, to think for ourselves? It is submitted that it emphatically does not. In the Practice Note is extremely detailed prescriptive guidance on how the estate of a deceased person must be divided. We all should be familiar by now as to what this detailed prescriptive guidance is. Nevertheless, it is worth reiterating again what is actually in the Practice Note (at section 3.6):

“The male heirs in most cases receive double the amount inherited by a female heir of the same class. Non-Muslims may not inherit at all, and only Muslim marriages are recognised. Similarly, a divorced spouse is no longer a Sharia heir, as the entitlement depends on a valid Muslim marriage existing at the date of death.”

“…illegitimate and adopted children are not Sharia heirs.”

This highly detailed prescriptive guidance wouldn’t look out of place coming from a fundamentalist Wahhabi school. And yet the Law Society has simply accepted such guidance uncritically without any apparent thoughts of its own.

And that’s laziness and cowardice.

The Law Society, by unequivocally adopting and endorsing Sharia, is showing the exact laziness and cowardice that Kant warns against. Furthermore, by stating that solicitors should follow the Practice Note the Law Society is actually asking the profession to follow in its laziness and cowardice.

It is easier to let others do the understanding for you, but “easier” is seldom the best quality.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Nalin Afrin

Oct 11th, 2014 10:55 am | By

Maajid Nawaz on Twitter.

Hero. Remember her name: Nalin Afrin. General commander of Kurdish forces defending city of #Kobane against ISIL scourge.

Embedded image permalink

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



You have the right to an attorney…

Oct 10th, 2014 3:45 pm | By

Talk about “fetal personhood”

This spring, Alabama Republicans passed an extreme new law that would force minors who want to have an abortion without a parent’s permission to undergo a grueling court trial—and it would give judges the right to appoint a lawyer for the fetus. Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union asked a federal court to block the law, prompting national headlines.

Alabama’s new law sets up time-consuming inquisitions. It requires district attorneys to cross-examine minors who want an abortion without parental approval, and it allows DAs and lawyers for fetuses to call witnesses to testify against the pregnant girls. Under this measure, a judge can adjourn bypass hearings for long periods of time, and a judge can disclose the minor’s identity to any person who “needs to know.” If a minor’s parents become aware of a bypass hearing—which the Supreme Court intended to be confidential—the law allows the parents to participate in the hearing and be represented by a lawyer.

In other words, Alabama’s law is unprecedented. But the practice of appointing attorneys to represent fetuses in judicial bypass hearings is not. An Alabama judge tried to appoint representation for a fetus in the state’s very first bypass hearing in 1987. A 1988 Ms. cover story on that case reported that the judge, Charles Nice, reassigned an attorney who wanted to represent the minor to represent the minor’s fetus instead. The attorney refused to cooperate, and Judge Nice dropped the idea.

The fetus is way more important than the woman or girl who contains the fetus. If the fetus is born a girl…well she loses most of her importance right then and there. It’s kind of like the way a new car “depreciates” as it’s driven off the lot.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



The archbishop’s hobby

Oct 10th, 2014 3:05 pm | By

The Catholic Herald reported a couple of weeks ago that the Vatican had arrested an archbishop for sexually abusing young boys.

Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi released a statement yesterday regarding the case of former archbishop Józef Wesołowski, a Pole who served as nuncio to the Dominican Republic until August 2013.

The Vatican announced in June that a canonical court had investigated Wesołowski on charges of sex abuse in the Dominican Republic and concluded by dismissing him from the clerical state, depriving him of all rights and duties associated with being a priest except the obligation of celibacy. Wesołowski would face a criminal trial under the laws of Vatican City State, the Vatican said at the time.

Yesterday, Fr Lombardi said, a Vatican prosecutor summoned Wesołowski and informed him of the charges against him.

Because of the “gravity of the accusations,” investigators decided to arrest the former ambassador, the spokesman said, but “in light of the medical condition of the accused, supported by medical documentation”, he was placed under house arrest in Vatican City.

A couple of days later it was being reported that investigators had found a shit-ton of  child porn on the archbish’s computers. Child porn can’t be made without sexually abusing the children involved.

Vatican detectives analysed the PC Wesolowski used in his office in Santo Domingo, where he served as Holy See envoy from 2008 to 2012 as part of an investigation into the alleged sexual abuse of underage boys.

The probe reportedly revealed a collection of horrors. The Polish native held more than 100,000 sexually-explicit files, Il Corriere della Sera newspaper reported.

Some 160 videos showing teenage boys forced to perform sexual acts on themselves and on adults and more than 86,000 pornographic photos were meticulously archived in several category-based folders, the paper said.

Investigators said that at least another 45,000 pictures were deleted, while a second stash of material was found on a laptop Wesolowski used during his trips abroad.

That’s a lot of child abuse the archbishop was consuming.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Her wings are intact

Oct 10th, 2014 2:32 pm | By

Malala was in chemistry class, learning about electrolysis, when she got the news that she’d won the Peace Prize.

Yousafazi, who received a standing ovation when she made a powerful address to the United Nations on her 16th birthday, express hope that the leaders of Pakistan and India would come together on education and asked for them to jointly attend the award presentation in December.

“I’m proud that I am the first Pakistani and I am honored that I am the first young woman or the first young person to be receive this award,” she said in a press conference from Britain, where she is still receiving treatment for her injuries. “I’m thankful to my father for not clipping my wings and for letting me to fly.”

Fathers who don’t clip their daughters’ wings may get to see them fly very far.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



To seriously reconsider the concept of scriptural inerrancy

Oct 10th, 2014 11:58 am | By

Ali Rizvi asks an important question in his open letter to moderate Muslims in the Huffington Post:

What would you do if this situation was reversed? What are non-Muslims supposed to think when even moderate Muslims like yourselves defend the very same words and book that these fundamentalists effortlessly quote as justification for killing them — as perfect and infallible?

What indeed?

There are murderous passages in the bible, too, to put it mildly. They should not be defended either.

This is the danger in holy books – the refusal or inability to reject parts.

If any kind of literature is to be interpreted “metaphorically,” it has to at least represent the original idea. Metaphors are meant to illustrate and clarify ideas, not twist and obscure them. When the literal words speak of blatant violence but are claimed to really mean peace and unity, we’re not in interpretation/metaphor zone anymore; we’re heading into distortion/misrepresentation territory.

And there are always people who do – reasonably enough, from one point of view – read the literal words literally. There are some of them who act on those words.

Having grown up as part of a Muslim family in several Muslim-majority countries, I’ve been hearing discussions about an Islamic reformation for as long as I can remember. Ultimately, I came to believe that the first step to any kind of substantive reformation is to seriously reconsider the concept of scriptural inerrancy.

And I’m not the only one. Maajid Nawaz, a committed Muslim, speaks openly about acknowledging problems in the Quran. Recently, in a brave article here right here on The Huffington Post, Imra Nazeer also asked Muslims to reconsider treating the Quran as infallible.

Is she right? At first glance, this may be a shocking thought. But it’s possible, and it actually has precedent.

What’s needed, he sums up at the end, is not moderation but reform.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



The role that some artists play

Oct 10th, 2014 10:51 am | By

Another video. It seems to be video day. I didn’t plan it that way, but I keep turning them up while looking around.

This one is Deeyah at the UN, talking about the role of artists in human rights.

//www.youtube.com/watch?v=lnAL5dvvS34

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



What about the strip club?

Oct 10th, 2014 10:33 am | By

From last October – Maajid Nawaz explains to Bill Maher, Richard Dawkins, Michael Moore, Valerie Plame and Al Sharpton the ideological narrative behind the rise of Islamism. He says it’s a peculiar mix of fascism and religion.

//www.youtube.com/watch?v=9EqSuNewrQs

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



People who are making the lives of vulnerable human beings safer and better

Oct 10th, 2014 9:38 am | By

Nobel laureate Amartya Sen responds to the Nobel awarded to Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai. (Sen is a bit of a hero of mine. Yes, I do still have a-bit heroes. Or maybe not hero, since from there it’s a short step to thought leaders, and we know where that goes. But someone I admire.)

A Nobel prize “messes up one’s life a bit, because it comes with so many commitments—but it also gives you greater opportunity to pursue those things that are valuable to you,” said Amartya Sen, reacting to the news that Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi have been named Nobel peace laureates.

Sen, a professor of economics and philosophy at Harvard University, received the 1998 Nobel in economic sciences.

Speaking to Quartz from Geneva, Sen said he was “very happy that the award has gone to people who are making the lives of vulnerable human beings safer and better.” Of Yousafzai and Satyarthi, he added, “They are both admirable people, and the Nobel marks them out as leaders of thought in this very important area [children's rights].”

“The fact that they are sub-continentals is a matter of celebration for me,” Sen said.

Ok, Nobel committee, next year? How about another sub-continental? Give the lit prize to Taslima Nasreen.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Kailash Satyarthi’s Anthem

Oct 10th, 2014 9:28 am | By

Kailash Satyarthi composed an Anthem Against Child Labour.

From the YouTube introduction:

Anthem Against Child Labour is not merely a song, but the musical spark to liberate shackled innocence and robbed off childhood. It is the loudest chorus to unite all voices, minds and souls for emancipation from child slavery. My feelings and emotions along with the children’s quest for freedom have been brought alive by noted singer Jassi’s magical voice and reverberating music.

//www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQMJDSSLtb8

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



The Nobel Peace Prize announcement

Oct 10th, 2014 9:21 am | By

For two people who work to end the exploitation and oppression of children.

//www.youtube.com/watch?v=vGmEf7GVimw

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



The pope? No. Putin? No.

Oct 10th, 2014 8:56 am | By

As I’m sure you already know, because we are THE LAST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD TO WAKE UP over here on the West Coast of the US, Malala Yousafzai has won the Nobel Peace Prize, along with Kailash Satyarthi, an Indian children’s rights activist.

This is good news. It’s good news for one thing because it means the pope and Vladimir Putin did not win the Nobel Peace Prize.

In a statement, the Nobel committee said: “Despite her youth, Malala Yousafzai has already fought for several years for the right of girls to education, and has shown by example that children and young people, too, can contribute to improving their own situations.

“This she has done under the most dangerous circumstances. Through her heroic struggle she has become a leading spokesperson for girls’ rights to education.”

Satyarthi, the Nobel committee said, had maintained the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi and headed various forms of peaceful protests.

We already know a fair bit about Malala, so let’s focus on Satyarthi.

“Showing great personal courage, Kailash Satyarthi, maintaining Gandhi’s tradition, has headed various forms of protests and demonstrations, all peaceful, focusing on the grave exploitation of children for financial gain,” the committee said. “He has also contributed to the development of important international conventions on children’s rights.”

The Nobel committee said it “regards it as an important point for a Hindu and a Muslim, an Indian and a Pakistani, to join in a common struggle for education and against extremism”.

Satyarthi, 60, dedicated his prize to children in slavery, telling CNN-IBN: “It’s an honour to all those children who are still suffering in slavery, bonded labour and trafficking.”

He founded Bachpan Bachao Andolan – or the Save the Childhood Movement – in 1980 and has acted to protect the rights of 80,000 children.

The more prizes that go to people like that, the better.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



xoxoMom

Oct 9th, 2014 5:38 pm | By

Update 2: People kept pointing out that “my bad” isn’t an apology, which is true, but honestly I didn’t and don’t see much point in apologizing here. It would be crass and revolting to do it on Twitter. I don’t know Sommers personally so I don’t have her email address. But then a way of finding one occurred to me, and I did find it, so I apologized to her directly.

Update: Oops. I didn’t realize Sommers’s husband just died, so these are notes and flowers sent to the bereaved.

My bad.

Although…honestly…it’s a little sickening that she uses #Gamergate to thank her new pals. More than a little. But still, if I’d known that’s what the flowers were for I wouldn’t have posted.

Christina Hoff Sommers is congratulating herself on playing a part in #GamerGate.

chs

Christina H. Sommers @CHSommers · Oct 8
.@Nero & others from #GamerGate sent me wonderful notes, tweets,and exquisite flowers. All deeply appreciated.xoxoMom

@Nero is an associate editor at Breitbart. Here’s what Anita Sarkeesian thinks of #GamerGate:

Feminist Frequency ‏@femfreq 18 hours ago
#GamerGate is best described as a sexist temper-tantrum targeting women, feminists, and allies working for change in the games industry.

RationalWiki has more:

A number of op-ed pieces critical of gaming culture were published in the wake of the new wave of harassment against Quinn. These pieces heralded the “end” of the “gamer” identity, in the sense that video games have become mainstream in recent years, and their audience expanded, trying to move on from and distance themselves from the gaming enthusiast (and primarily male) audience that gaming media traditionally catered to.[8][9][10][11] Many gamers aware of the controversy reacted negatively to these articles, accusing the gaming journalists of perpetuating harmful stereotypes of gamers as misogynistic white males or even going as far as seeing it as another example of “corruption” in video game journalism. Some of them expressed disappointment at the gaming journalists and other people surrounding the controversy for othering and distancing themselves from gaming enthusiasts instead of being pro-consumer and fostering progressive dialogue.[12] Either way these articles only ended up feeding the Gamergate movement and the controversy surrounding it.

Several commentators of conservative and libertarian persuasions chose to throw their support behind the Gamergate controversy. Christina Hoff Sommers of the conservative think tank the American Enterprise Institutereleased a video on YouTube which dismissed the existence of sexism in games and gaming culture.[13]Milo Yiannopoulos wrote a piece for Breitbart decrying the “feminist bullies” he alleges are “tearing the video game industry apart.”[14] The piece is arguably an example of cynical opportunism, as he tweeted “If you’re a grown man with hands clamped to an Xbox controller instead of a pair of tits you need a good slap” just days before its publication,[15] and bemoaned the level of “sex, drugs and violence” in video games in a piece in The Kernel in 2013.[16]

Various largely interchangeable conspiracy theories are in circulation within the blogosphere about what Gamergate is really about and what the media don’t want you to know about it, most of them involving terms like “corruption and collusion” and clichés about “social justice warriors“, along with dog whistle nonsense about “cultural Marxism“, “social engineering” and “mind control”.[17]

I keep saying…Sommers used to be an academic, a philosopher. Now she’s down in the muck with Breitbart hacks. It’s pathetic.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



That’s between a girl and her…judge?

Oct 9th, 2014 1:08 pm | By

Then there’s the parental notification requirement. Mother Jones looks at the problems.

Susan Hays, a Texas attorney who represents minors through a group called Jane’s Due Process, says about a third of the girls she works with don’t have the option of asking their parents for permission—they’re undocumented immigrants whose parents are not in the country, orphans, or what Hays calls “de facto orphans”: “Mom’s dead, Dad’s in prison, they never liked me much anyway.”

She once represented a minor whose parents ran a meth ring: “She had split because she had the distinct impression they were going to start pimping her out.” Legal guardians may grant permission for an abortion in most states. But this is no help to girls who live with family members who never established guardianship.

It isn’t supposed to be this way. In 1979, the Supreme Court ruled that a girl’s parents can’t exercise an absolute veto over her right to an abortion: States requiring parental notification or consent had to provide an escape hatch. The court did not mandate what form this escape hatch should take. Maine, for example, allows a physician to decide whether the minor is competent enough to make her own decision. But that’s not good enough for anti-abortion activists. Led by Americans United for Life, the legislative wing of the pro-life movement, they’ve advanced laws to put the decision in the hands of judges instead.

Why stop there? Why not just let parents and judges decide that underage girls must get pregnant?

…in practice, girls are at the mercy of whichever judge they happen to draw, says Anne Dellinger, a retired University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill professor who has studied the bypass system. “If a girl wanders into the wrong [court], she doesn’t have a chance,” Dellinger says. With few checks on the system, Hays adds, judges are free to impose their beliefs on the girls who appear before them: “It’s the law of bullies.”

Bullies who get to ruin the lives of teenage girls by forcing them to stay pregnant against their wills.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Only unapproachable

Oct 9th, 2014 12:38 pm | By

Oh gosh, a helpful guy in Chicago wrote an open letter to the available single ladies of Chicago on how to make themselves more what he wants them to be, and he’s so helpful that he underlines the very point I was just making. The very same one!

I’m dying to stop you on the street and pay you the occasional compliment (“You’re really rocking that tweed dress today – I love your style.”). But I can’t – because you’re always walking around with your damn earbuds in (“Don’t talk to me!”) and your sunglasses on, even when they’re not necessary (which incidentally doesn’t make you look cool or sexy, only unapproachable).

See there? Unapproachable. Women are supposed to be, and to look, approachable. Either that, or like a bundle of dirty laundry.

Kara Brown at Jezebel points out that it’s no accident, this unapproachable look.

Little does this idiot know that he’s confirming to women around the globe that the tactics we’ve developed to avoid street harassment are working. They’re wearing the earbuds to ward off men exactly like you, genius. You ever notice how women don’t wear earbuds when they’re out to brunch with friends? Or when they’re with someone they actually like? Maybe there’s something to that.

Chicago guy ends with the old classic.

P.S.: Oh, and by the way, it’d be nice if your default expression was a smile – or, at worst, a merely neutral expression – instead of a scowl that says, “I’ll cut you off at the knees if you try to talk to me.” C’mon, is life really that bad? Just sayin’.

No it isn’t life that’s that bad.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



The Likability obligation

Oct 9th, 2014 11:14 am | By

One thing about being a woman is that there’s more expectation of having an approachable personality. A woman who seems less approachable than the norm is off-putting. I’m pretty sure I have that feeling myself, which is sad and embarrassing, especially since I’m about as approachable as a rock. But that doesn’t make any difference, does it – we have these feelings of discomfort or ease, wrongness or rightness, independent of how well we conform to them ourselves.

Laura Bates wrote about this discrepancy in expectations in the Guardian last week.

A study by linguist and tech entrepreneur Kieran Snyder was published by fortune.com in August, under the headline: “The abrasiveness trap: High-achieving men and women are described differently in reviews”.

“Described differently” was an enormous understatement.

Snyder’s study, which involved comparing 248 workplace performance reviews from 180 people at 28 different companies, revealed startling results.

Only 58.9% of the reviews submitted by men contained critical feedback, compared to 87.9% of those submitted by women. For male employees, the feedback tended to take the form of constructive suggestions for improvement, but for women it got a lot more personal. Snyder pulled out any reviews that contained what she described as “negative personality criticism”, including words such as “bossy”, “abrasive”, “strident”, “emotional” and “irrational”. Out of the 83 critical reviews received by men, just two contained such personality criticism. But it showed up in 71 of the 94 critical reviews received by women.

There’s a kind of Personality Duty that women seem to have, that men don’t so much. A chilly or irritable or forthright woman seems more so than an equivalent man. As I say, I’m pretty sure I recognize that in myself, despite being chilly and irritable and forthright (aka rude) my own self. What is that? A permanent mommy-image, or what? I don’t know, but it’s discouraging.

Bates goes on to give examples of women being belittled and reduced to their hairdos – a cosmonaut, a fighter pilot, a human rights lawyer.

These different cases reveal a pattern – successful women make people feel uncomfortable. They are seen as somehow unfeminine or unnatural and in need of being brought down a peg or two. And the best way to wrangle them back into manageability is to remind them of the fact that, regardless of their achievements, they will be judged first and foremost as women, and found wanting. Girls, after all, are supposed to be likable, pliant, polite, quiet and gentle. Be too smart, too successful, too accomplished, and risk facing a sharp reminder that you’ve done so at the cost of your feminine “appeal”.

I think the expectation of “quiet and gentle” is a lot less universal than it once was. I think that one is relatively superficial and easy to change by writing articles like the one Bates wrote, and by talking about it, and by making movies and tv shows with women who aren’t quiet and gentle. But the “likable” one is a much tougher nut to crack.

These sentiments are still more common than you might like to think: it was only this week that Stella McCartney said: “Strength on its own in a woman is quite abrasive and not terribly attractive all the time.” Doesn’t that word “abrasive” have a funny habit of popping up?

This is not a problem that will have a quick fix. It’s deeply ingrained in our societal ideas about what it means for a woman to be attractive and how successful we are prepared to allow women to be before feeling the need to tear them down. Getting more women into prominent business roles should help, because the more of them there are, the harder it will be to stereotype them as “ballbreakers” or “harpies”. We can all play a part by examining our own unconscious bias and watching the language we use, especially while in the workplace or speaking to young people.

Just so. It’s deeply ingrained – I think perhaps even more deeply than purely “societal” ideas. Then again maybe not, maybe it’s just that I too grew up embedded in media that featured Likable women.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)