Accountability Is The ONLY Radical Idea: Oh, and look what we have here!

I’ve been saying for years now that accountability is the only radical idea. You can propose single payer health care, you can propose shutting down entire federal agencies, you can propose a post-racial, post-sexual orientation society where everyone gets randomly assigned sex partners for 6 days before sex partners are randomly reassigned for the next 6 days, but nothing about any of those ideas is radical unless there are actual consequences for failing to implement them.

You can have the most hare-brained scheme proposed by the most hairy-eyed word-bomb thrower*1, but hare-brained schemes tend not to get actual implementation, and when things get hard, people will give up unless the consequences for giving up are worse than the consequences for moving forward.

So think about it: which would produce more screaming about radical change, a US president saying that they’re working on a proposal to tighten the laws and increase the penalties for white collar crimes, or a US president restructuring the justice department’s priorities so that no laws are changed, no new crimes are created, but every time a company is found to have committed a crime, the justice department actually sends the people that run the company to jail for conspiracy to commit that crime? ShearsonLehman defrauds investors and profits to the tune of US$12 billion, then negotiates with the feds to reduce the financial penalty down to US$250 million? Okay. That sucks. We’re incentivizing lawbreaking right? But if the top 200 corporate officers each spend a minimum of 12 years in prison, that’s a fuck of a lot more incentive for ShearsonLehman not to break the law going forward than the profit is an incentive to break the law. Also, when fucking EVERYONE involved in the conspiracy goes to jail, you get a fuckload more whistleblowers because they don’t want to be the least powerful person in the conspiracy, with no way to stop the fraud from getting too brazen, but with just as much criminal culpability as the persons at the very top of the corporation. The net result is a hell of a lot more effective than adding new penalties to some dusty book of laws without ever providing a credible threat than any executives will face any consequences at all.

Accountability, then, is the ultimate – and ultimately the only – radical idea. This is also why accountability is as rare as a mountain-dwelling tree wearing a tricorn and denying the existence of the FSM in front of CNN’s cameras on Talk Like A Pirate Day.

But wouldn’t you know it, while NBC isn’t willing to create actual structures of accountability, it appears that they’re actually going ahead with a little accountability mimicry. And not just NBC, but apparently at least one talent agency as well. “What’s that?” you ask. “What is our fair Crip Dyke on about?” It is just this: Megyn Kelly has been mutually dumped by her current talent-rep agency, and while apparently there has been a movement towards separation for a while now, the agency that Kelly was courting for her next monagentous relationship called off the engagement. You want more? Kelly’s ultimate boss, NBC News Chair Andy Lack, has made it clear he’s kicking her to the curb.

“But accountability mimicry?” you say. “Dear Crip Dyke, wouldn’t this be actual accountability?” I understand the inclination to think so, but that’s not exactly likely. If you read the article, NBC has been upset with Kelly about ratings, they’ve been upset about her insensitivity pissing off her guests in ways that created bad publicity for the show, and most of all they’ve been upset because – with notable exceptions during discussions of Kavanaugh and the guys to whom she wants to show actual favoritism – she repeatedly returns to the topic of sexual harassment in the workplace and expresses the opinion that guys should get fired for that shit. Of particular note, she has criticized NBC personalities and the NBC brass – including, yes, Andy Lack – for an environment in which sexual harassment is allowed to flourish. Andy Lack might be particularly upset about that last one because it comes across as actually being true, given all the evidence and shit.

So now when Megyn Kelly decides to rant about how blackface is just a jolly-happy-funtime and can’t we all just agree to let a little racism slide between whites, the outrage among many people around the country is certainly genuine, and the outrage among prominent Black presenters on NBC is probably genuine, but there are good reasons to question whether consequences imposed by management are actually motivated by her racism. This may not be accountability so much as backstabbing, revenge, and an effort to secure impunity for sexual harassers and the managers who enable them.

Nonetheless, I say celebrate. Break open that juice box and take a good, hard suck at that straw, because when people get fired on the pretext of their racism, sooner or later the 300 million people who aren’t following inside politics at the big media companies are going to think that racism is an actual fireable offense. This is a classic example of the seemingly paradoxical phenomenon unintentional performativity. Performativity is a concept most frequently associated with feminist Judith Butler, and is intended to describe acts that create the truths they portray. Someone who has no wife, but who tells your friendly, neighborhood Crip Dyke, “I take you as my wife,” may very well (if certain preconditions are met) actually gain a wife by saying those words. Performativity is especially important in the Butlerian analysis of gender where a person say, “I am a woman,” far less frequently using actual language as such a person might do by brushing on some eye shadow or donning a dress. And, in performing gender in this way, one may very well become a woman at least for the purposes of how others will treat you on that day. But here’s the thing, if one does that often enough, then one gets treated as a woman with regularity, and in being treated as a woman with regularity, the psychological and sociological traits that adhere to women eventually adhere to the person performing womanhood. At that point, one might be said to have become a woman through performing womanhood and the performativity cycle, though much longer than even a wedding, is finally complete.

In the case of unintentional performativity, one can accidentally initiate this cycle. Of course, it’s not actually peformativity if the performance does not eventually create the reality, so unintentional performativity is not a one-off. It must actually begin or continue a pattern that eventually creates the reality it depicts.

Let me be clear: I do not think that NBC is getting rid of Kelly because of her racism. However, taking advantage of her racism to fire someone that NBC dislikes for other reasons requires making the case that it is reasonable to fire someone for their racism. Moreover, Kelly has a contract which is guaranteed unless she is fired for a sufficiently serious cause. So if NBC really wants to keep their money, and/or if they really want to hurt Kelly (the latter being the more likely motive), they have to make the case that it is not only reasonable to fire someone for a defense of blackface, but that it is unreasonable not to fire someone for such statements.

NBC, then, while clearly anti-accountability judging by the tolerance they showed to Matt Lauer and others, is going to be making the public case that those who use prominent media positions to spread racism must always be fired. We may suspect that an institution like NBC with its history of tolerating sexism and racism has other motives, but in portraying racism as a fireable offense, NBC is making racism a fireable offense.

Make no mistake, this is a feud between different members of the wealthy and powerful, and none of those directly involved actually want accountability for the wealthy and powerful. And yet, what today begins as mere consequence will someday become the outcome of accountability.

Today is a very, very good day.

*1: One of my favorite commenting pseudonyms in the ever!

I’m Convinced: Pineapple Does Not Belong On Pizza. Also? Feminism is better than its defenders argue.

Although what led me to that first conclusion wasn’t Hitler’s Pineapple Pizza rant.

HJ over at Reprobate Spreadsheet has been discussing – in quite helpful details – a number of aspects of the recent Boghossian, Linday & Pluckrose*1 hoax.

But I’ve read a bit about this hoax at quite a number of outlets – not just here at FtB – and one of the things I’ve found to be glaringly omitted amongst the accounts of this hoax is the possibility that the hoax does more to disprove the claims of BLP than it does to support them.

The central claim of B, L & P is that feminists will accept any assertion that claims to be feminist and pays a certain lip service to feminist dogmas (real or imagined). To prove this, BLP borrowed some words, phrases & structures from a certain segment of Mein Kampf and used them to dress up some vague bullshit about how solidarity and single-mindedness win political victories generally, so solidarity and single-mindedness would probably have defeated sexism by now had feminists embraced those two qualities earlier and more universally.

But here’s the thing: I fucking am a feminist, and as a trans* woman who tries very hard to balance harm reduction with eradication, I’m constantly finding feminist opposition to my identity, my views, or both. Seriously, at the extreme margins feminists have disagreed whether it is even possible to do more to dismantle sexism during a lifetime than participating in heterosexual marriages promotes it, and thus whether or not it’s possible for any woman to have a net-positive effect on the feminist cause if ever once that woman gets married to a man. There is “dogma” in feminism, but really only by definition: if you love sexism and want to support it, by definition you can’t be a feminist. Also by definition, to be actually feminist one must believe that sexism deserves opposition. This inevitably leads to certain broad sharing of opinions, but this is a consequence of defining a group of people in ways that they must oppose sexism to be included in the group.

So what about this conclusion: feminists are willing to entertain a wide variety of ideas, even vague, daffy or ill-conceived ones, for long enough to be sure that they’re being rejected for their vagueness, daffiness, or poor conception*2.

Let’s consider for a moment what it would mean if the BLP paper had actually been published but feminists reading the paper wrote new papers opposing the ideas presented, showing (or attempting to show) that reflexive solidarity and true single-mindedness do not lead toward the feminist society most feminists want. In that case, the BLP paper would have played a role in the debate by sparking thought and making a new articulation against a rigid feminist movement once again relevant. It would not have made english-speaking feminist movements more fascist (or fascist at all).

It is not shocking that such bad thinkers as BLP wrote a paper advocating that feminism embrace movement-totalitarianism, a concept that has been rejected in feminism over and over again. It is also not shocking that BLP thought that feminists being willing to publish an idea that has been rejected time and again by movement feminism signals a feminism that is dogmatic.

What is shocking, however, is that no one seems to be pointing out that publishing ideas with which the majority of feminists disagree actually constitutes evidence consistent with the opposite of BLP’s hypothesis.

I strongly suspect, not being a reviewer of this journal article, that the reviewers may very well have thought something like “the benefits of single-mindedness haven’t ever convinced a majority of feminists, and since the general topic has been well covered it might seem appropriate to reject this, but if current feminists are deriving an argument for single-mindedness from important feminist writings, then those current feminists should have their ideas distributed and critiqued so that either they learn better or the current feminist movement has a chance to consider rejected strategies in light of new scholarship.”

Thinking like that, which is entirely consistent with acceptance of the Mein Kampf rework, is antithetical to the BLP hypothesis.

So what did BLP do to enable them to consider and reject that interpretation? Well… nothing.

So the antithesis position can’t yet be said to be proven by BLP’s own study, but the failure of BLP to even consider this explanation of their hoax’s success in getting a few papers published further demonstrates that BLP cannot collectively think themselves out of a paper bag.

I wish that more of the persons writing about BLP’s hoax in the immediate aftermath of their original article (especially but not only the higher-profile articles included in well-funded media outlets) had challenged BLP on this specific point.

*1: Lest anyone think otherwise, I put these in alphabetical order, not knowing whether any of them are more responsible for the approach and/or content of the hoax then others. Partitioning of credit and blame is neither implied nor should it be inferred from this order.

*2: As the right often fails to appreciate, feminists fully support good conception.

Andy Lewis’ Gendered Gotcha

I rarely do this outside of classrooms, but I’m going to give folks here some definitions that are in common use among people that seriously study gender. Why? In part because Andy Lewis seems to think that there is no coherent definition of gender generally and woman specifically because gender is an inherently incoherent concept while sex is an inherently coherent concept and that to the extent that we use the words gender or woman or man we should use them only in reference to underlying, coherent categories of sex. The Andy Lewises of the world appear to believe that this definitional challenge – and the poor response most people give when asked to meet it – proves the fundamental rightness of an anti-trans*, pro-TERF feminist philosophical position.

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Andy Lewis Is A Stable Genius Who Wishes You Morans Would Get A Brian

So, I deliberately stayed out of PZ’s When humanists go bad thread. But y’know, I didn’t realize it had gone on quite this long. When I saw a spate of comments all directed to that thread, however, I had to check in again just to know what is keeping that thread alive.

The answer? Andy Lewis.

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Achievement Unlocked! We don’t know what sexism is!

So in this great conversation we’re having that began with discussing whether TERFs are feminists ultimately required addressing the question, What is feminism? I gave an answer here:

if you work to end sexism, you’re probably a feminist.

After Hj Hornbeck posted a riff on Siggy’s original question (that riff is found here), I felt compelled to create my own post, with failed sarcasm calling this discussion a Fiiiiiiiiiggghht. In that, I repeated my proto-definition of feminism where Hj Hornbeck and others found it, furthering the conversation by discussing the perils of gate-keeping as well as other topics.

But let’s allow those topics to continue being discussed in their original venues. I’m interested in this astute reply to my definition delivered by Hj Hornbeck:

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Rewatching To Catch A Predator: Rape Culture Makes Accurate Predictions

One of the less appreciated aspects of rape culture is how rapists are demonized, literally portrayed as animals, violently and obviously deranged, or otherwise clearly outside the human norm.

Part of this is addressed through push back against the “stranger in the bushes” myth. But even where we have been successful in raising awareness that

  1. a large amount of rape is perpetrated against children or vulnerable adults who know and are being supervised by their rapists and
  2. another large chunk of rape is perpetrated against people who first accept a date with someone who eventually rapes them

there is still a lingering myth that these rapists are somehow disguised demons, but demonic nonetheless. There is massive resistance to the idea that there’s a continuum of violation, instead insisting that, for instance, when Rebecca Watson asked repeatedly during a conference – even during her plenary address – not to be propositioned as she wasn’t at the conference for sex, someone ignoring that “no” and propositioning her anyway is completely and utterly different from someone who ignores a “no” to sex.

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PZ is Right in Everything He Says, But He Didn’t Say Everything

There have been many articles and classes and books and lectures that have attempted to productively address toxic masculinity. And, though this may surprise many of you, there have been blog posts as well. PZ has his own up right now, which is itself responding to another (and thoroughly incompetent) attempt to address toxic masculinity in a blog post.

Nothing PZ says is wrong, but it reminds me that I am ever surprised at how often 2 of the most important points to remember about TM are left unstated. It’s not that people aren’t aware of them, at some level, but I think we get much farther much faster if we make them explicit.

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Feminist Friday: Countdown

Feminist waves have been endlessly debated, and wave theory has been perpetually (and perhaps deliberately) misunderstood amongst the public generally and anti-feminists specifically. To give feminists the credit they are due and also to help clear up consistent misunderstandings, I have encouraged you all, my wonderful readers, to name feminists about whom you’d like to know more.

My series on the ethics and thought of various feminists will (I hope) be a regular Frigga’s Day feature here, but for various reasons it will not start until next week. In the meantime, I hope that you celebrate this Friday by reading (if you haven’t already) my post on the Seneca Falls convention which gave contractarian feminisms their initial shape, the document produced by the Seneca Falls attendees, my writing on why Crenshaw first elaborated the metaphor of intersectionality and how it is/was useful, or my thoughts on the limits of her initial articulation of intersectionality.

Or, perhaps, you could simply give me more ideas for which feminists deserve the attention of Pervert Justice in the comments of this post or the original announcement of this effort.

In the meantime, have a good Friday and a good weekend!

…And a Suffragist To Be Named Later

Pierce R Butler, a regular reader of this blog and the author of many thoughtful comments around FtB, recently asked an important question about Margaret Sanger, one which I answered in the comments of Killing Black Agency. But it also got me thinking about a project in which I’ve been interested for some time: writing about individual feminists’ philosophies and ethics.

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