Why ask why?

Not all questions are asked for the same reason.

That’s a point that Larry King should have brought up to Jerry Seinfeld a few years back. While interviewing Seinfeld, Larry asked a question that he undoubtedly knew the answer to.

“You gave it up, right? They didn’t cancel you.”

Seinfelds incredulous reaction to that question was an embarrassingly obtuse moment for an otherwise intelligent actor. He berated King for asking a question that he should’ve damn well known the answer to, as King was well familiar with Hollywood and the entertainment industry. King, a bit shocked at Jerry‘s response, was so caught up in trying to deflect Jerry’s incredulity that he was probably too flustered to mention what seemed pretty damn obvious to me – the question wasn’t being asked for King’s sake. King hosted a show which was watched by millions of people – people who may or may not have given enough of a fuck about the Seinfeld show to know why the show went off the air. (I fell into that category, by the way).

He asked the question for the benefit of his viewing audience. Not because he himself didn’t know the answer.

Bill Engvall and company like to play on this theme – the “stupid question” joke, referring to how people ask questions whose answers are obvious. Understanding that his business is comedy, it makes sense that he would drop context for the sake of a laugh. I am all about twisting intellectual considerations for a laugh, so I’m not criticizing comedians for doing so, but I’d like to point out that they do it deliberately, and they do it because they know it works. People laugh because they don’t realize that context has been switched.

The joke works because not all questions are asked for the same reason. Some are asked to gain the information ostensibly requested by the questioner. Others (such as in Kings case) are asked in order for the answer to be explicitly communicated to all who may be listening. Others may be asked for lack of a better way to demonstrate concern (“Are you hurt?”). Other’s may be asked in cases when the answer is obvious, yet the asker wants to make it clear that he or she is not making assumptions. There are many different legitimate reasons for asking a question other than the standard reason of wanting to gain information. 

That’s why I get so irritated at the kind of bullshit I saw directed at Dr. Phil in this article today. 

Dr. Phil McGraw, a well-known TV personality and generally likable guy, drew the ire of feminists and liberals all over the country by posing the question on Twitter, “If a girl is drunk, is it okay to have sex with her? Reply Yes or No to @DrPhil #teenaccused”

To me, it was clearly a question asked with the intent of provoking conversation, and possibly to demonstrate how many people may answer in the affirmative. That in itself would have been a worthwhile endeavor – demonstrating how many people potentially believe that it’s quite find to take advantage of vulnerable women. Shit, if you’re truly interested in bringing attention to mass victimization, then you such a demonstration should be welcomed!

But no….

Instead Dr. Phil was fucking cruci-twied.

“You know good and goddamn well that “asking” when a girl “deserves” to be raped is a destructive question in itself. #DrPhilQuestions

— Rad-Femme Lawyer. (@femme_esq) August 21, 2013 ”

“If Dr Phil asks a hateful misogynistic question, is it okay to rename him Dr Landphil?#DrPhilQuestions — Harold Itzkowitz (@HaroldItz) August 21, 2013

“If a TV Shrink makes my daughter feel guilty b/c she was date raped while drunk, can I punch him in his dick? #DrPhilQuestions @DrPhil

— Patrick (@QuadCityPat) August 20, 2013

This is just another instance in a long list of manufactured outrage by hard-left politically correct alarmists that are so goddamned concerned with “appearing” concerned that they are willing to martyr an ally to their cause. Sometimes a question is asked as a lead-in. Sometimes it’s asked in order to ensure all interlocutors are on the same page before moving the conversation forward. Sometimes a question is a statement phrased as a question.

The salient point of all this is the uncharitableness with which any and all apparent violations of political correctness is returned. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or an amatuer blogger to understand that Dr. Phil might have been asking that question not for the purpose of actually gaining information, but as a lead-in to a larger discussion of victimization. And that would’ve been a great discussion to have, if only these fucking politically correct asshats would’ve let him have it.

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”.

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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.