Cancel culture and celebrity worship

“Cancel culture” is an alleged pattern in progressive spaces, wherein people boycott the work of someone who is said to have done something problematic. For a mainstream perspective on cancel culture, I suggest The New York Times, and for a perspective more critical of the concept, I suggest The New Republic.

I won’t review all the arguments surrounding “cancel culture”, but will draw a comparison to the adjacent concept of “callout culture”. Callout culture is also an alleged pattern in progressive spaces, but instead of boycotting problematic people, it was about the harassment of problematic people. Callout culture was extensively discussed circa 2015, when I made a linkspam about it. My feelings about it were mixed at best.

Whatever my feelings about “callout culture”, I feel that “cancel culture” is simply an inferior concept. Compared to harassment, boycotts are less obviously bad, and obviously less bad.

Furthermore, where the target of harassment could be anyone, the target of “cancellation” is almost always cultural creators who are very popular and successful. Their supposed punishment, is that they become less popular and successful–and yet they are still more popular and successful than either I or most of my readers. “Cancel culture” completely centers the top 1% of cultural creators. It is, essentially, a complaint that the gods among us are sometimes granted slightly shorter pedestals.
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What is a “positive male role model”?

On the subject of how feminism can do better to help men, one suggestion I’ve heard many times, is that we need to provide better role models for men.

Honest question: what does that even mean? I don’t understand what “role model” is, why I would want one, or how it would solve anything.  To me, “Who are your role models?” is a writing prompt they give you in elementary school, which was endlessly frustrating and never made the least bit of sense.

My frustration is compounded when people go on to suggest specific celebrities to be role models.  For example, “Terry Crews is a great guy, and a great model for 21st century masculinity.”  So, I know Terry Crews as someone who has done work against sexual violence, but that doesn’t make him a role model to me.  I’m confused about how that would even work.  Are you suggesting that I follow news about Terry Crews and imitate what little I can glean of his viewpoints and habits?  The solution to the crisis of masculinity is… more celebrity news?  Color me skeptical.

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In (reluctant) defense of the atheist movement

Something I hear people say, is that self-identified atheists, and “new atheists”, are terrible. They’re racist and sexist, and their main mission is to bring about the death of religion through a series of trite “gotcha” arguments. Now, as someone who was involved in “new atheism” from 2007 to 2017, and then quit for some of those very same reasons, I always want to say, “Yes, but also no.”

Yes, the atheist movement is terrible, but no it has not always been so, and is not wholly so. In particular, you should not assume that every self-identified atheist is just a Dawkins fanboy armed with a series of atheist proverbs. I mean, I participated in the atheist movement for a decade and I was in fact never a Dawkins fan, and I spent many years complaining about atheist proverbs myself. Yes, be critical of the atheist movement, but be careful that it doesn’t veer into stereotyping and sweeping generalizations.

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The incoherence of race and ethnicity

As I’ve mentioned many times, I hold a lead position on The Ace Community Survey. One of the things we track, is ethnicity/race. Many years of dealing with that nightmare of a section has greatly impressed upon me the complexity and ambiguity of the concepts.

One of the big complications is, we’re an international survey. Well, the survey is in English and recruits from English-speaking online communities, so it tends to be biased towards predominantly White countries and the US in particular. But you know what they say about race being a social construct? The primary consequence is that different cultures have constructed race in different ways. The secondary consequence is that even within a single country there are multiple interacting constructions of race. There’s basically no neutral way to ask about race, nor analyze the results.

So I’m going to talk about the ins and outs of race, drawing upon my experiences with our international (but US-dominated) survey.

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Social Reproduction

In my series discussing capitalism and socialism, I want to discuss another Marxist idea: the social reproduction of labor.  Basically it refers to a collection of social activities needed to maintain a labor pool.  An introductory article (suggested by Coyote) has a good description of how social reproduction occurs:

1. By activities that regenerate the worker outside the production process and allow her to return to it. These include, among a host of others, food, a bed to sleep in, but also care in psychical ways that keep a person whole.

2. By activities that maintain and regenerate non-workers outside the production process–i.e. those who are future or past workers, such as children, adults out of the workforce for whatever reason, be it old age, disability or unemployment.

3. By reproducing fresh workers, meaning childbirth.

It may be noted that social reproduction is essentially unpaid labor, and is disproportionately performed by women.  Thus, social reproduction theory draws a connection between Marxist and feminist theory.

However, I would fault the introductory article for failing to offer any good explanatory narrative.  Why is social reproduction unpaid, as compared to more “ordinary” labor being merely underpaid?  “Capitalism”, “neoliberalism”, and “sexism” don’t cut it as explanations.  So in this post, I’m going to offer a basic explanatory narrative, based on externalized costs.

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Reject alcohol sponsorship

I cross-posted this article to The Asexual Agenda.

Recently, Budweiser UK announced its “Fly the Flag” campaign, which aims to support LGBT+ diversity by highlighting nine specific groups. For each group, they’re offering money to an associated charity, and are releasing a limited edition cup with a flag design. Based on Twitter engagement, the group that got the most attention is asexuality.

Budweiser also seems to have made further arrangements with asexual activists. They are hosting a three-day asexual event at London Pride, called “Ace of Clubs”. AVEN has described it as an open bar with additional activities. It was spearheaded by UK activist Yasmin Benoit.

There has been quite a flurry in response. Mainstream news articles have nearly uniformly expressed incredulity at asexuality and grey-asexuality–if they discuss it at all. They’re much more interested in discussing the problems with brand support for LGBT groups. In the ace community, some have responded positively, others have not. There are also many responses focused on combating negativity, especially in the Twitter thread.

I take the following viewpoint: sponsorship from alcohol companies is a special kind of bad. AVEN should refuse Budweiser’s donation, and while I’m guessing Ace of Clubs is a done deal, asexuality activists should avoid making such deals in the future.

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I can’t take Slavoj Zizek seriously

cn: apologetics for sexual violence

I don’t know why, but YouTube keeps on recommending me videos about philosopher Slavoj Zizek.  For some reason as of late he has been held up as a great leftist thinker, the anti-Jordan Peterson.  No, seriously, he’s apparently planning to debate Jordan Peterson or something.  Hard pass.

Honestly, I hate the guy.  The first and only time I had cause to encounter Slavoj Zizek, was in relation to the controversy over Avital Ronell.  (I don’t feel like finding all the relevant links, so you’ll have to accept my own disjointed commentary and the links therein.)  Avital Ronell sexually harassed students for years, and when someone stepped forward, Slavoj Zizek was one of many academics signing a petition defending her, basically on the grounds that it would be such a shame if someone so important as Ronell were to face consequences.

The petition got leaked to the public, along with some rather damning evidence against Ronell, and many of the signatories (including Judith Butler) backed off.  Not Zizek!  He continued to defend Ronell in several editorials, claiming he was privy to additional evidence, that he refused to share.  I speculated that his “additional evidence” was that the victim reciprocated–which is irrelevant, the victim was coerced by the power imbalance.  Zizek later revealed that this was exactly his reasoning.

Sorry, I cannot take seriously a Marxist theorist, of all people, who cannot recognize a power imbalance right under his nose.  How can a professor who studies power be so ignorant of the sheer power that professors have over grad students?