Men, women, and polarity

The following is an essay I posted elsewhere, reproduced here for continuity, ease of access, and as a part of a series of essays I intent to author regarding the concept of polarity and how it manifests itself in our paradigm.

                                                                                                                                                                    

Okay, I’m going to articulate a notion of mine that has been brewing in my head for quite some time now. It has to do with the essence of masculinity, the essence of femininity, and how they fit into the “yin/yang” model that seems to define reality as a whole – the idea of counterbalance and every force depending on an equal and opposite force for stability.

Two of the most compelling, engrossing, engaging, and addicting vices that grip society as a whole are sports and pornography, the former being the quintessential expression of competition, the other being the quintessintial expression of unity and social consummation.

I have concluded that sports and pornography are expressions of equal but opposite social complusions. As humans, we ultimately have two social alternatives… to impose our will on people or to capitulate our will to others. Sports is nothing if not an exercise in the former. Sex is nothing if not an exercise in the latter.

The essence of masculinity is domination and survival. This manifests itself with competitors essentially eliminating the competition. In other words, if at the end of a competition there is one person still standing, that person has essentially defeated and *vanquished* all competitors. That’s why competitive endeavors such as UFC, NFL, etc. are largely the province of men. It is the ultimate, unvarnished act of competition on display. Women do sometimes get involved, but the men are the real draw.

The essence of femininity, on the other hand, is unity, nurturing, and reproduction. This manifests itself in some interesting ways. For example, heterosexual women (and girls) are routinely physically affectionate (sometimes even sexual) with each other, without it being relevant to their sexuality. Also, women tend to take on professionals as care providers, teachers, and babysitters more frequently than men. That’s why pornography is largely the province of women – it is the ultimate, unvarnished act of “unity” on full display. Yes, men get involved, but women are the real draw.

Just as magnetic poles operate, so do humans.

If you put two like poles together, they repel. This is absolutely natural, and unquestioned. This is analagous to competition (and by extension sports, which is competition on display). There cannot be two winners. There can only be one winner. The amount of losers is irrelevant… only one person wins. It is the ultimate act of “standing alone”, in which the dominant figure denies the submissive figure access to the will of the dominant figure’s being and instead imposes his or her own access to the being of the submissive figure against that figure’s wishes. This is why winning in sports feels so good, and losing feels so bad. This is what is referred to as “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” You will never see a competitor express a desire to share their victory with another competitor. Being the sole victor, at the expense of the interest of all other parties involved, is paramount in this polarity.

If you put two opposite poles together, they attract. Again, this is natural and unquestioned. This is analagous to sex (and by extension, porn – which is sex on display). Sex is not possible alone (notwithstanding masturbation, which is merely self-simulated sex). It must involve two or more people, all of whom are in agreement and willing to consummate this agreement. It is the ultimate act of “coming together” – an ultimate act of unity in which each has full access to the other’s body. This is why ALL figures in sexual activity are gratified. There are no losers – everyone wins during sex. You will never see a sexual partner express a desire for their partner to not be as gratified as they are. Gratification for all, at the expense of none, is paramount in this polarity.

It seems clear that sports are an expression of the ultimate “like poles” dynamic and that sex is and expression of the ultimate “opposite poles” dynamic. And the former is of the “masculine” essence (which is why it is male-dominated), which the latter is of the “feminine” essence (which is why it is female dominated).

Let’s face it… when we think of sports, we think of men. When we think of sex, we think of women. Can any honest person suggest otherwise?

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The most commonly overlooked aspect of skepticism (or, why PZ Myers doesn’t understand skepticism)

PZ Myers recently blogged about how a person known to him confided a story to him about how she had been raped by a prominent member of the skeptic community.

Now I’ve been sitting here trying to resolve my dilemma — to reveal it or not — and goddamn it, what’s dominating my head isn’t the consequences, but the question of what is the right thing to do. Do I stand up for the one who has no recourse, no way out, no other option to help others, or do I shelter the powerful big name guy from an accusation I can’t personally vouch for, except to say that I know the author, and that she’s not trying to acquire notoriety (she wants her name kept out of it)?

So he told the story as it was told to him. Well, the important parts, anyway.

Of course, the blogosphere erupted. Those who don’t much care for PZ pointed out to him that it’s a pretty big deal to level unverifiable accusations from an anonymous source at someone whose career might be affected by such accusations. Those who have always liked PZ immediately ran to his defense. That was to be expected.

Much of the furious debate raging about the charges involve pointing out to PZ that it is inappropriate to take an anonymous, third-hand account at face value, particularly where such a grave charge is concerned.  As a general rule, the consensus on that side of the debate is that no matter how serious the charges, we don’t just check our skepticism at the door. If we don’t just take the word of anonymous third-hand accounts from other, we shouldn’t be expected to accept it from PZ. Moreover, a purported skeptic like him ought to know that.

PZ’s faction seems to believe that a charge this serious warrants an immediate suspension of our normal skeptical standards. With a serious charge such as rape, you ought to just believe it. Take it on faith, you know?

(I’ve already written on why one can and should remain a skeptic while still acting appropriately, so I won’t get into that here.)

In fact, PZ and his band of merry men have gone out of their way now to argue against skepticism (where women’s claims are involved, of course!), deriding “Extreme Skepticism (TM)” as too much of a good thing, I guess, and instead branding it “denialism“.

See, when you require evidence for a scientific or philosophic claim, it’s skepticism.

When you require evidence for a criminal complaint, it’s denialism. Got it? Good.

So PZ writes a little short sketch called “SkepticDoc MD” which delighted his devoted fan base. It’s a little story about a doctor who won’t believe anything his patients tell him and demands concrete proof for everything. Funny, right?

I don’t know what it is, but some skeptics have adopted this calcified attitude towards what constitutes reasonable evidence and reasonable claims. It seems to me that these are nothing but excuses contrived to justify denying reality, and that they are actually toxic to any kind of functional, societally useful version of skepticism; this is the skepticism of the status quo.

He begins his little story by immediately showing off his ability to drop context.

What if people actually operated as these advocates for purblind skepticism suggest? So I paid a call on SkepticDoc, M.D., the very acme of this form of skepticism. Here is how the visit went.

PZ: Doctor, lately I’ve been experiencing shortness of breath and an ache in my left shoulder when I exert myself…

SkepticDoc: Whoa, whoa, whoa, slow down! See the name on the shingle? It’s SkepticDoc. Do you have anything other than your feelings to justify wasting my time here?

See that little trick he pulled there? The man complained about a sensation he had been experiencing. To feel something in this context means to experience it through sensory apparatus. But SkepticDoc responds by using the word feeling in an emotional context.

Those are two very different things. But what’s a little context dropping for the sake of good satire, right?

PZ: What? I’m telling you my symptoms…

SkepticDoc: Yeah, yeah, your feelings. Do you have some physical evidence that you felt pain? Some independent corroboration that you felt this remarkable “ache”? So far, this is just gossip.

Here PZ equivocates first-hand experience with “gossip”,which is, by definition, the second hand telling of a story. Bad, bad skeptic.

I won’t parse through the entire sad attempt at comedy (it just gets worse from there). But the claims of Extreme Skepticism(TM) and denialism got me to thinking about one of the most commonly overlooked aspects of critical thought and skepticism. And it made me realize how poorly understood skepticism is even among those who claim to be skeptics.

I described skepticism in an earlier post.

Skepticism is the deliberate act of ensuring that one’s degree of certainty regarding the truth of any given proposition is proportionate to the weight of the evidence supporting the proposition, without reference to personal feelings or conjecture.

Skepticism is widely understood to be the refusal to believe something without evidence. But this is not the whole story. The flip side of skepticism is the refusal to disbelieve something for which compelling evidence exists.

Galileo provided a fantastic example of this aspect of skepticism. His telescope and calculations presented unmistakable evidence for heliocentricity. Although he officially recanted (on pain of death), he took his knowledge to the grave with him. In his heart, he absolutely refused to relinquish his belief in the evidence presented to him by his senses and reasoning mind.

But it’s not one or the other. Since new discoveries are always possible, absolute certainty of the truth or falsehood of any proposition is inappropriate. Certainty can only properly be held in degrees, and reason demands that the degree of certainty be proportionate to the amount of evidence for or against the proposition. That’s the “rational” aspect of rational skepticism.

And that’s how I know PZ and his ilk do not understand skepticism. If they did, they would know that extreme skepticism would be nothing more than scaling your certainly with extreme precision. It would not merely be doubting, as they have described it, but rather extremely well-calibrated degrees of certainty.

And that would be great! I’d take extremely well-calibrated, extremely rational, extremely well-researched skepticism over normal, frivilous skepticism any day of the week.

The caricature of skepticism presented by PZ and celebrated by his cronies was all the evidence I needed to see that PZ Myers is a sham of a skeptic and no intellectual ally to anyone who values critical thought. He’s a fraud with a gossip column. That’s all he is.

Should rational skepticism be abandoned in emergency situations?

Skepticism is the deliberate act of ensuring that one’s degree of certainty regarding the truth of any given proposition is proportionate to the weight of the evidence supporting the proposition, without reference to personal feelings or conjecture.

For this reason, it is common practice among skeptics to, as a general rule, withhold judgment on any truth claim until enough time has passed to have all of the relevant, discoverable facts fleshed out. A seasoned skeptic also understands that, as omniscience is impossible, there always remains the possibility of new discoveries that may warrant a revision of ones appraisal of the proposition, even after reasonable certainty has been established.

And this is a reasonable, practical approach under normal circumstances. But is it the most practical approach in all circumstances?

An emergency situation is a situation in which a chain of events has been initiated that, if left un-interfered with, will result in an undesired or adverse outcome. It doesn’t matter whether the emergency situation is active (there’s a guy with a gun to my head saying he’ll kill me unless I give him my wallet) or passive (I’m bleeding badly and I need a bandage), the nature of an emergency is such that if it’s left unaffected, an undesired outcome will result.

Emergencies, by their nature, have a critical time constraint where action is concerned. What that constraint is, is not always known, but the fact that such a constraint exists must be.

As skeptics, we are conditioned to ensure that all propositions are accepted as true only when appropriate evidence is presented. Sometimes that takes time and thorough investigation. Clearly in emergency situations this isn’t always possible. How, then, can rational skepticism be applied? Are we to believe all claims of emergencies, since the claimant has no chance at providing the necessary evidence within the time available before the critical moment of an adverse outcome? Should we refuse to believe claims of emergencies, citing skepticism as an out-of-context value that trumps all other values?

Clearly neither answer provides a universally desired outcome. People frequently manufacture “emergencies”, so the former option makes the skeptic vulnerable to fraud. On the other hand, people (including skeptics!) frequently find themselves in legitimate emergency situations where the provision of sufficient evidence is untenable, so the latter answer fails.

The key to solving this mystery is to remember that one need not fully accept a claim in order to respond appropriately to it.

If a man tells me that he’s having chest pains, I do not need to fully accept his claim in order to call an ambulance. If a child runs into the yard and tells me his sister is drowning in the backyard pool, I do not need to accept his claim with certainty in order to make a mad dash to the backyard and jump into the pool if I see someone in it. If a woman tells me she was just raped by a friend of mine at a party, I do not need verification in order to contact the authorities and get her whatever medical attention, moral support, and crisis intervention/police support she might require.

The nature of an emergency situation is such that action must be taken immediately in order to interrupt a potentially disastrous chain of events. Neither belief, acceptance, or certainty is required for action. A rational judge of values will generally know right away that the price of demanding evidence for claims of an emergency situation is almost always higher than the risk one assumes by simply acting on it. 

Might the kid be lying about his sister drowning? Sure, he might be. But I’d rather find out I’ve been pranked than to find out I allowed a kid to drown.

Might the guy be lying about his chest pains? Sure. But I’d rather find out I’ve had the wool pulled over my eyes than to find out I’ve let a man die who I could’ve helped live.

Might the woman have lied about being raped? Sure, she might have. But I’d rather find out that I’ve been the victim of fraud than to find out I’ve failed to assist a victim of rape.

This might help to clear up some of the murkiness being purported by our friends over at Freethought Blogs, where the false dichotomy of “either you believe the purported victim and help her or you withhold judgment and abandon her has been the new line in the sand between Atheism plussers and their antagonists. The fallacy here is in the dishonest “package-dealing” of the withholding of judgment with “believing the rapist”, as though a refusal to accept one side uncritically is tantamount to going all-in with the other.

Nothing could be farther from the truth, and it is perfectly consistent with the “You’re either with us or you’re against us” mentality that pervades the FTB cult.

The fact that there is a risk associated with refusing to act when someone claims an emergency situation means that there is a value judgment required when such a claim is made.  The fact that the cost associated with the risk one assumes by refusing to act is often higher than the risk associated by acting means that it is often in a skeptics best interest to act in the absence of information.

It is for this reason that the statement “I am withholding judgment on that claim” does not translate into “I am refusing to act on the claim”, despite what our friends over in the pseudo-skeptic community might have us believe.

To act on someone’s claim that an emergency situation is taking place (even while withholding judgment on the truth of that claim) is consistent with rational skepticism. To claim that one must immediately decide whether they believe the claim or not before acting is a false dichotomy, and those who propagate this false dichotomy do so for the usual reasons – to justify moral condemnation toward all those who won’t accept their claims on faith.

To put it simply: When someone says they need help or that they’ve been victimized, in the absence of any other information, a rational person acts as though the claim is true. No need to know whether or not it is. And it is unjustified to demand that the claim be believed. Belief is not a prerequisite for appropriate action.

Thus we see the problem with the demand that one must automatically believe a claim of victimization such a rape.  First off, when someone claims they’ve been raped by someone else, it is logically impossible to believe the victim’s story uncritically without accepting the accused party’s guilt uncritically. The problem with that is obvious. But more importantly, as we’ve seen, it is not necessary to do so in order to respond appropriately.

If someone claims they’ve been raped (or otherwise victimized), get them the help they need right away. Alert those who need to be alerted. Continue providing support. That is the extent of your role. If a specific accusation is involved, let the professionals sort out the facts and handle them appropriately. Determining someone’s guilt without sufficient evidence is neither your right nor your responsibility.

Skepticism should be applied in all situation. A skeptical position does not require inaction, insensitivity, or any hesitation to help someone in need. There is no reason, ever, to check your skepticism at the door.

The underappreciated damage of fraud

The Huffington Post reports on a con man named Jim McCormick who took a joke golf ball finder (basically a modified dowsing rod) and converted it into an equally effective Bomb Detection Device, named it the ADE 651, and then somehow convinced the military and police forces of 20 nations (including Britain and Iraq who attempted to use the device in the global war on terror) that it would be such an effective tool in keeping troops alive that he was able to charge them up to $42k per unit.

He sold tens of thousands of these units, and netted a profit of over $78 million. Thousands of people were injured and killed when these useless devices failed to detect bombs at various checkpoints. 

And now the sentence for this has been handed down – 10 years in prison.

This story reminded me of a conversation I once had on the Objectivist Living forum. I was irritated by the story of psychic Sylvia Browne‘s “reading” that Amanda Berry was dead. As a result, Ms. Berry’s mother Louwana Miller went to her grave filled with anguish that her daughter had been murdered.

If Ms. Miller really believed that her daughter was dead, it isn’t a far stretch to imagine that her motivation to maintain the search for her daughter abated as well. It’s impossible to know if this resulted in a prolonged period of being kidnapped for Ms. Berry, but it is certainly not out of the realm of possibility. This would be another unintended consequence of the fraudulent reading provided by Ms. Browne.

I tried making the point that fraud is illegal, and that it ought to be treated as such, even if the results aren’t immediate and obvious. In doing so, I was accused of advocating nanny-state politics by my friends (and trolls) on the OL forum.

Steve Novella over at SkepticBlog makes some good points that speak to the overall principle, as well as why McCormick should be held responsible for each and every death caused by his fraud.

My question is – why didn’t the “cavalier disregard” for killing people with his fraudulent scheme warrant more than just 10 years? This seems to be a hole in the law. (I’m sure this varies widely from country to country.) There should be a separate charge when fraud predictably leads to horrific outcomes, such as death. I know that if someone dies in the course of committing a crime, even though the death was not intended, it’s still felony murder. Why doesn’t this also apply to fraud?

As I attempted to point out over at OL, damage is damage, whether caused directly by force, or caused indirectly by fooling someone into injuring themselves. Novella makes a valiant attempt at sharing responsibility by pointing out that victims of fraud do have a responsibility to conduct due diligence, and that is similar to the point that my friends at OL were trying to make.

And it’s true – due diligence is the responsibility of each and every person who endeavors to invest real, social, or emotional capital. But there is also the responsibility of those who would profit from that investment to be honest brokers. This is why the term “due diligence” has the word “due” in it – it draws that line of demarcation between the diligent work that is “due” from the investor, and the expectation from the profiteer that he or she will be an honest broker.

As I pointed out on OL, I am happy to debate where that line of demarcation should be – but I will not debate whether or not that line ought to exist.

My contention is that psychics ought to be required to inform their clientele that the have no powers that ordinary people do not possess. To claim to have the power to provide a service that you do not have the power to provide is fraudulent, and ought to be illegal.

I also believe that McCormick should be held responsible for all who died as a result of his deliberate fraud.

And I think that legislators need to rethink the effect that ordinary frauds, snake-oil salesmen, and shysters have on ordinary citizens. Defrauding people is not a right, it’s not harmless, and it should be treated with no less gravity than the direct use of force.

It’s no less destructive to trick someone into putting a gun to their head and pulling the trigger than it is to put that gun to their head and pull the trigger yourself.

Stranger Danger

Polyamorous blogger Ginny tells a horror story about how a woman she didn’t know had the temerity to presume that it would be okay to move her tank-top strap over an inch so that she could see the rest of the tattoo on her shoulder. The back of her shoulder.

They were brought to my active attention when I heard a woman’s voice directly over my left ear say, “Can I look at your tattoo?” I made some sort of uninvolved affirmative answer like “Sure,” or “Uh huh,”…

Mind you, I still haven’t turned around, so I have no idea who the woman is who’s asked me to look at my tattoo, except I think maybe she’s a waitress? The next thing I know she’s pulling the strap of my wide-strapped tank top to the side, then lifting it away from my shoulder so she can peer underneath. I sort of freeze at that point, thinking, “Whoa, this lady is manhandling my shoulder and my clothing in a way I was not prepared for and am not really happy about.”

The unmitigated audacity, I tell ya! And apparently some dude behind Ginny agreed, and mildly rebuked the hapless tattoo admirer.

Then one of the other people in the cluster, a man, said, “Dude, she didn’t say you could look down her shirt.” And she responded, “It’s just the shoulder, it’s not like I’m looking down the front of her shirt,” and then she added, “I just really like tattoos,” and maybe he said something else, I’m not sure, because I was just sitting there staring fixedly at the menu and thinking, “Why is this person touching me what is going on i don’t even know.” But something the guy said, or maybe just the way I was sitting there rigidly instead of turning around to engage in friendly conversation made the woman realize she was maybe being a tad inappropriate, so she let go of my clothes and patted me soothingly on the arm and said some half-apologetic patter. To which I didn’t really respond because I was still in my “I am so weirded out right now and your soothing pat is STILL YOU TOUCHING ME” frozen zone. And I think by this point she got that I was really uncomfortable, so she broke out the magic words to make it all better: “It’s okay honey, I didn’t mean anything by it, I mean, I like men, ha ha.”

Ginny then articulates what she would have liked to have said to the personal-space invader, if doing so would not have required prolonged interaction:

If I was the kind of person who addressed near-strangers with frankness and a desire to improve the world, I’d have stopped her at some point and said, “Listen, lady, I wasn’t weirded out because I thought you were hitting on me. I date women. I was weirded out because you were tugging my clothes around and peering underneath them, and even in such an innocuous area as the shoulder that’s not really okay to do to someone you don’t know. Keep that in mind for future reference, and also keep in mind that just because someone has a tattoo doesn’t mean it’s okay to touch them or put your face right up close to their body unless they invite you to. And also don’t touch pregnant women’s bellies unless they invite you to, because I’m 90% sure you probably do that too. In fact, in general don’t go around touching strangers and very casual acquaintances without their consent. Some of us really don’t like that, but we’re conditioned by social norms not to say anything about it and just to let it happen. And by the way, have you heard of rape culture?” [Emphasis mine – KR]

Of course, she realizes that the rape culture line is a bit drastic:

Okay, I probably would have ended my PSA somewhere before “rape culture.” But of course I didn’t give her any kind of PSA, because when someone is invasive and makes me uncomfortable the last thing I want to do is prolong my interaction with them by carefully explaining why what they did was wrong. [Emphasis mine – KR]

FTB Blogger Miri, also commenting on this story, offered her thoughts on the act of physically touching someone without their consent.

There are plenty of reasons why someone might be uncomfortable with being touched, regardless of the sexual orientation of the person touching them. Some people have triggers as a result of past trauma. Some people just don’t know your intentions because they don’t know you or your sexual orientation, so they don’t know if you’re a friendly stranger expressing physical affection because…I don’t know, you like to do that? or if you’re someone who intends to harass and/or assault them. And, most importantly, some people–many people, I’m sure–just want to be left the hell alone by strangers. Sometimes being touched by someone you don’t know is just unpleasant, scary, and uncomfortable. [Emphasis in article]

Of course, women are not the only victims of this. [Emphasis mine – KR]

Reading over this, I found myself feeling a bit ill-at-ease about the synopsis here. I fully agree that people have the right not to be touched if they don’t want to be, by anyone at all. I’m pretty serious about autonomy and the ownership of our own bodies (to wit: I support abortion rights, the right to terminate one’s own life, drug law repeal, etc.) I repudiate any suggestion that one person has the right or “privilege” to lay a hand on another.

What bugged me about these posts is the aspect of moral condemnation, the automatic projection of sinister motives, and even the suggestion that such behavior somehow perpetuates “rape culture”.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Recently, we were getting ready to stop at a port, and a “cultural awareness” power point presentation made the rounds in our inboxes. In one of the slides, we were advised that if any of us men – specifically men – were engaged in conversation with one of the local men, and the local were to take hold of our hand and hold it while talking to us, that we should not yank our hands away. The right thing to do is deal with it as long as you can until you can find a way to politely remove it. The reason for this is that in the Middle East, this is perfectly normal – actually expected – behavior. They have a very different sense of personal space than we have in the west (“different” meaning… none exists).

Would I let a Mid-Eastern dude hold my hand? No, I wouldn’t. But would I condemn him for presuming to be able to do so? Absolutely not. It’s how the men were raised. It is as natural to hold each others hands there as it is for us to hold the hands of our spouses here.

Moreover, would I feel victimized? Not in the least. I might feel a bit violated. Maybe awkward and uncomfortable. But I would not feel like a victim. I’d feel like I was exactly what I was – a visitor in the paradigm of a person whose cultural context was different than mine.

And that is the glaring omission in Ms. Miri’s blog post, in Ginny’s blog post, and in the minds of gender feminists in general. It’s the obliviousness to, or refusal to acknowledge, the fact that not every action which you find personally invasive, intrusive, or objectionable is a morally reprehensible act on the part of the actor. Not all of these acts are the product of a culture that feels it has the right to grab your ass whenever it wants. Nor does it perpetuate such a culture. Some times good people are simply brought up in an environment different from yours, and some actions that seem perfectly natural and appropriate to them seem invasive to you. Sometimes that’s just how it is.

But these gender feminists use terms like “victim”, “rape culture”, and “wrong” to describe aspects of actions that clearly had no malicious intent. To characterize benevolent, innocent, or ethically neutral actions using such sinister terms is a disservice to victims of actual sinister acts, and only serves to create ambiguity to otherwise clear moral assessments. This is a specific case of a larger moral principle – to claim to have been victimized when you have not been victimized is a disservice to true victims.

It’s a perfect example of what those of us who reject gender feminism refer to as “professional victimhood”. It is the tendency of gender feminists to view any and all affronts to their own personal senses as a literal assault – just another expression of male privilege. And that such assaults, if accepted by society, can only lead to one place – a culture where rape is accepted and encouraged.

This is the how the logic works, see? If you do not have a problem with a women (who actually did ask permission to see the tattoo, by the way) pulling a piece of fabric over a couple inches so that she could view the whole tattoo on another woman’s shoulder, then you must not have a problem with aggression. This means that you must support rape culture. And since only a sexist misogynist would support rape culture, you must be one of those.

Miri pointed out that men sometimes have to endure this aggression from time to time, and shared the anecdote of a black man being touched by a strange white woman:

Of course, women are not the only victims of this. On the June 14 episode of Citizen Radio, Jamie Kilstein recounts a scene he witnessed on the subway in which two white women–clearly tourists–sat next to a Black man who had headphones on. They tried to talk to him, but he either didn’t hear or ignored them (reasonable in New York City). So one of the women put her hand on his knee and made a comment about it being a “tight squeeze” on the subway, and he immediately responded, “Don’t touch me.” There didn’t seem to be anything sexual about the situation, but that doesn’t make the woman’s behavior any less inappropriate. (While I don’t want to read too much into this, it definitely makes me think about the entitlement that many white people feel to touch Black people, especially their hair.)

I want to emphasize – I support people’s autonomy and their right to be touched only by those they personally approve of. It seems clear that there are people who have no concept of personal space and touching is not something they even notice, there are people who do not like to be touched by anyone (I personally know a few people like this), and there is an entire of spectrum in between those extremes.

As for me, I recognize that the spectrum exists. I recognize that not every breach of my own personal boundaries is a malicious manifestation of some sinister aspect of the culture in which we live. Sometimes these violations of personal space damn well are aggressive and malicious. Often times they are not. When they are, they are to be condemned.

Gender feminists don’t seem to recognize this. To them, all violations are a moral failure. To them, all are aggressive manifestations of privilege. To them, all are to be condemned.

I feel very fortunate not to such a malevolent sense of life. I don’t particularly like being touched by men I don’t know, but unless it’s clearly aggressive or inappropriate (which did happen to me recently), I shrug it off and deal with it.

(Note: I have no problem being touched by women, and I cannot relate to any feeling of revulsion associated with being touched by a member of the sex to which I am attracted [unless the woman herself is particularly repulsive]. But this has no bearing on my assessment – I realize that not everyone is just like me.)

Your desire to touch someone sexually or nonsexually for whatever reason does not outweigh their desire not to be touched. It doesn’t matter why they don’t want to be touched; that’s their business. Just like you wouldn’t touch a bag or a purse that belongs to someone else, don’t touch a body that belongs to someone else–which, by definition, is every body except your own.

To be fair, gender feminists aren’t the only subculture that maintains the delusion that the world ought to conform to their own personal tastes and proclivities. Far from it. But can you imagine how unrealistic this goal is? How small must one’s view of the world be when one believes one ought to be able to dictate one’s own preferences onto all of society – as a moral imperative, no less?

I recognize that society isn’t going to conform to my own personal tastes. I’m going to hear people say things I don’t like to hear. I am going to see people do things I don’t like to see. I’m going to smell things things people do that I don’t like to smell. And from time to time, some dude I don’t particularly like is going to grab my shoulders thinking that he’s being all chummy and cool.

These things happen. Your choice is to accept it and negotiate it as best as you can (as I will do if I ever find my hand being taken by some mid-eastern dude) or rage against it and view yourself as a helpless victim in a malevolent world.

Inside the mind of the indoctrinated

Radical feminist Greta Christina is hopping mad about the Center for Inquiry’s recent statement dismissing the concerns of her and her rad-fem faction regarding CFI CEO Rod Lindsay’s opening comments at the Women in Secularism II conference.

So mad, in fact, that she is cancelling her magazine subscription. That oughtta show ’em!

Well, she also broke off all professional ties with them. CFI is a better organization today.

What I found most interesting about Greta’s “parsing” is that it appears she uses the term parsing as a euphamism for re-writing. Notice she uses the term “Translation” no fewer than 10 times. In doing so, she manages to re-write the entire statement.

This sort of thing is instructive, as it provides the means to see inside the mind of a dyed-in-the-wool, fully indoctrinated radical feminist.

Observe CFI’s statement:

The mission of the Center for Inquiry is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values.

The Center for Inquiry, including its CEO, is dedicated to advancing the status of women and promoting women’s issues, and this was the motivation for its sponsorship of the two Women in Secularism conferences. The CFI Board wishes to express its unhappiness with the controversy surrounding the recent Women in Secularism Conference 2.

CFI believes in respectful debate and dialogue. We appreciate the many insights and varied opinions communicated to us. Going forward, we will endeavor to work with all elements of the secular movement to enhance our common values and strengthen our solidarity as we struggle together for full equality and respect for women around the world.

Here is how that statement was translated in Greta’s mind:

The CFI board is going to start right out of the gate by declining to speak clearly and directly about this matter, and by prioritizing spin control over content. Also, we’re not going to make it easy for people to Google this.

Gee, we’re awesome.

Gee, we’re awesome. We are especially awesome when it comes to women’s rights. See, we put on this conference and everything! We therefore are totally feminist and stuff. So stop yelling at us about how our CEO acted like a sexist asshole and treated the feminists in this movement with contempt. The CFI Board wishes to express its unhappiness with the people who raised a shitstorm about this incident, and with the fact that so many people got so pissed off about it. This has been a huge pain in the ass for us, and we’re really irritated about it — but we don’t actually understand why people are so angry. Either that, or we don’t care.

The CFI board wishes to use misdirection, equivocation, obfuscation, and corporate bafflegab to deflect attention away from the anger at Ron Lindsay, and to re-direct it towards the conference itself. The CFI board is taking the cowardly position of valuing debate on important issues that concern the community, without being willing to actually take a stand on these issues. To assist us in this endeavor, we are going to create false equivalencies and use the golden mean fallacy.

Fuck the divisive feminists who want us to disavow the abusively misogynist element in this movement. We are willing to work with all elements of the secular movement — including the ones who have been targeting a persistent campaign of hatred, harassment, abuse, and threats of violence, rape, and death towards feminist women in this movement. And including the ones who respond to this hatred, harassment, abuse, and threats with dismissal, denial, trivialization, hyper-skepticism, false equivalencies, derailing, changing the subject, and accusations of divisiveness. After all — some of these people are big names, or big donors to our organization, and we can’t afford to alienate them! We expect the feminists in this movement to make peace and play nice with the people who have been harassing, abusing, and threatening them — as well with the people who have been ignoring, denying, deflecting, and trivializing this issue. And we expect the feminists in this movement to stop making us uncomfortable with their demands that we take a stand on this.

But really — we’re awesome! We’re in favor of women’s rights and stuff! We’re just not willing to actually do anything about it that’s in any way difficult.

Then she again translates – this time the entire statement as a whole:

We don’t see anything wrong with what Ron Lindsay said, or the context in which he said it. At any rate, we’re not willing to publicly acknowledge that we see anything wrong with what Ron Lindsay said or the context in which he said it. We are deeply unhappy that we have to deal with this controversy. We really wish this whole thing would just die down and go away. But we’re not willing to do anything at all in response to it. We are not willing to take even a symbolic action of censuring Lindsay, or asking him to apologize, or apologizing on his behalf. We are not willing to make any gesture at all indicating that Lindsay’s words and actions in this incident do not represent CFI, and that this is not the direction CFI intends to take in the future. So we’re going to issue a bland, equivocating, weaselly, double-speak statement that doesn’t address the issue in any substantial way, or even in any insubstantial and symbolic way.

See? Message received, clear as a bell.

I found this example very instructive, because it applies not only to radical feminists with an axe to grind, but to all who have drunk the kool-aid of their dogma. Keep this in mind when you are engaged in dialogue with the dogmatic.

To paraphrase my wife’s description of this sort of exchange: When you are talking to them, there are always two conversations taking place – the one you (both) are having, and the one they (alone) are having.