The gun-fondlers have now found a more appropriate venue for their videos

YouTube is cracking down, and banning all those macho gun-flogging videos that have apparently been so popular with the more violent segment of society. So the poor gun exhibitionists have had to find a venue that will tolerate them.

They have. It’s called PornHub.

I can’t imagine a more appropriate choice. Not to disparage the harmless people who just like to show off their primary and secondary sexual characteristics in action, but gun-nuts do at least have something in common with obsessive and unrealistic displays of penises in ecstasy.

Watch out for pretexts for war!

John Bolton is our new national security advisor. Trump has once again picked the worst man for the job.

He has now selected John Bolton, former US ambassador to the United Nations. Bolton has distinguished himself as one of America’s most hawkish and ineffective diplomats for decades. He is known as an architect of the Iraq War, an enemy of multilateralism and foe of the United Nations, where he served during the George W. Bush administration through a recess appointment when he could not win Senate confirmation. He is also a harsh critic of the Iran nuclear deal and of North Korea, and is seen as someone who might promote conflict in both cases.

Few prominent national security figures are as ill-suited to the job of national security adviser as Bolton when you consider his views, his temperament and his ability be an honest broker. In fact, he is actually one of the few people on earth who would be worse than Mike Flynn, who was the worst national security adviser of all time.

Really, Bolton is terrible. For anything.

Keep your eyes open. There’s going to be a desperate search for excuses to go to war with someone, anyone, to prop up the president’s plummeting popularity. There are going to be more inventions, like “WMDs in country X”, or “Aluminum tubes!” and there are going to be assholes promoting pre-emptive nuclear strikes, and there will be torture advocates in the CIA slavering at the thought of getting to clean up afterwards.

I wouldn’t put anything past them. The only provocation to war that I’ll believe wasn’t engineered by John Bolton and his vicious crew would be the assassination of our national security advisor. I don’t think he’s mad enough to go that far. But I could be wrong.

Jordan Peterson is a bit touchy

Jordan Peterson is quick to deflect accusations of bigotry by standing tall, throwing his shoulders back, and declaring that he was made a member of the Kwakwaka’wakw tribe, and he’s also quick to complain if anyone questions it.

Unfortunately for him, though, all those protestations motivated Robert Jago to actually investigate them.

What first drew my attention to Peterson’s ties to the Kwakwaka’wakw, however, was the way he seemed to be exploiting that “friendship.” He appeared to be deploying it as a talisman to ward off any social consequences for helping spread racial stereotypes about Indigenous people. It was a defence rooted in identity politics—his language was okay, because he is, after all, an “Indian” through his connection to Charles Joseph. Yet Peterson himself, in a Youtube video, called that “whole group-identity thing” a “pathology” and “reprehensible.”

So he did the obvious thing: he asked the Kwakwaka’wakw people if Peterson was a member of the tribe. Whoops, he’s not. Everyone agrees he’s not. He’s been formally recognized as a good friend of one family, which is nice, but that’s it.

Peterson’s Twitter outburst against what he called Mishra’s “lies and halftruths” has ignited a heated debate within the Kwakwaka’wakw people. The debate isn’t about whether or not Peterson is truly a member of the tribe. I spoke to community members, and each confirmed that the naming ceremony that Peterson took part in does not grant him membership. Instead, there is concern about the harm caused by the way he has boasted of and exaggerated his Kwakwaka’wakw connections. Juli Holloway, a Kwakwaka’wakw community member whose family is in the process of arranging for a similar adoption ceremony for a non-Native friend, describes how she sees the problem: “It’s the lack of humility that bothers me the most, I guess. It should not be a badge of honour. It’s for within the community, not for without.”

#NotYourShield, Dr Peterson.

Peterson has posted a “rebuttal“, only it’s not, not at all. He posts a lot of photos of his naming ceremony, which no one disputes happened, and tells of his long friendship with a Kwakwaka’wakw artist, which no one has denied, but it doesn’t address at all the accusation that he has misrepresented the purpose of the ceremony. He does declare that Jago is “chock full of underhanded allegations” and was “a muckraker with an agenda and not to be trusted”. I guess that settles that.

Role models for the modern man

Guys — you’ve been told that Nature wants you to be like lobsters, or fiddler crabs, or bighorn sheep. Those suggestions are all superseded by the True Message of Mother Nature — you’ve been doing everything wrong. You are ambulatory bags of sperm, and your one goal should be to fling yourself at a female, who will extract the entirety of your purpose to propagate offspring. Like the deep sea anglerfish. Isn’t she beautiful? Wouldn’t you love to become…attached?

Or behold the Brown Widow Spider. The older the female, the more likely she is to cannibalize her suitors…but at the same time, the more alluring she is to the males, and the more likely they are to discard all discretion and throw themselves at her gonopore, and subsequently, to stagger from their dalliance into her chelicerae.

Just letting you know that you should fear the naturalistic fallacy, if you didn’t already.

NWA

A couple of chuckleheaded incompetent cops go running through a residential neighborhood, with their guns out.

Will they be fired for that recklessness? They should be. They won’t.

They were acting on a complaint that someone was breaking windows. Is that a death penalty offense? Were people in danger? No. So why did they need guns? Will they even be disciplined for that? No.

They see a black man standing in a yard. He runs from the two strangers, who did not announce that they were cops — all he knows is they are two chuckleheads with guns. Is running from guys with guns, even if he knew they were cops, a crime deserving of death? No. Will the cops suffer any consequences for terrorizing a neighborhood? No.

The asshole cops shoot an innocent man twenty times, because they think the white iPhone he holds is a gun. They murder him, because they think lethal force is an appropriate response to a property crime, to a man trying to avoid trouble, to a black man with a phone.

Will there be justice for Stephan Clark? Hell no.

Do not ever forget. The police are running amuck in this country, and are not ever, under any circumstances, to be trusted.

For all the political nerds out there

Wired has a very nice summary of the statistical evidence that shows how badly gerrymandered Pennsylvania has been. It’s interesting for biologists, too — it’s actually a problem in morphology, and detecting bias in the distribution of a field. I once tried to do an analysis of the shape of terminal sensory fields of spinal neurons, and was stymied by a shortage of reliable data (it was hard to get complete labeling of delicate peripheral arbors), but now if I were to repeat it, at least I’d know who to consult for good statistical analysis: political scientists.

And, oh yeah, Pennsylvania Republicans were lousy cheating crooks.

Are all evolutionary psychologists this bad at thinking?

Uh-oh. Gad Saad is polluting the discourse again, this time in a vain attempt to discredit the concept of toxic masculinity. It’s embarrassingly bad. I would say that you need to first understand the concept if you hope to debunk it, and Saad does not; if you do not, then all your floundering about will simply reinforce the idea and lead you to use examples that actually demonstrate the phenomenon.

Toxic masculinity is actually not that hard to understand. It’s not a rejection of masculinity itself; it’s a problem that arises when men are socialized to conform to a cultural stereotype that doesn’t actually match their nature.

bell hooks wrote this quote in her chapter called Comrades in Struggle: “…Yet the poor or working class man who has been socialized via sexist ideology to believe that there are privileges and powers he should possess solely because he is male often finds that few if any of these benefits are automatically bestowed him in life.” One of the “powers” that men are socialized to believe that they have to embody is masculinity. Masculinity seems to be the running force of patriarchy, but this term has a very specific definition under patriarchy that is not inclusive of all forms of masculinity. This phenomenon is called toxic masculinity. Toxic masculinity “refers to the socially-constructed attitudes that describe the masculine gender role as violent, unemotional, sexually aggressive, and so forth.”

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? It’s the stereotype of the steely-eyed muscular man who compels women to obey his will. The True Man is sexually aggressive. And what does Gad Saad do? He opens with examples of animals that engage in aggressive competition for mates!

Female fiddler crabs and hens prefer males with extravagantly large claws and tails respectively. Ewes (female rams) will mate with the ram that wins the brutal intrasexual head-butting contest. They reward targeted aggression by granting sexual access. Needless to say, there are innumerable other examples of sexual selection that I might describe, but I suspect that you get the general gist. Are rams exhibiting toxic masculinity? Are female fiddler crabs succumbing to antiquated notions of masculinity as promulgated by the crab patriarchy?

We are not crabs or rams. Saad has cherry-picked a few examples of species with the ideal behavior he’d like to see humans exhibit, which curiously enough, are all about sexual aggression, males beating up on each other to win access to mates. Not only is this the naturalistic fallacy, not only is this selective use of the data, but it also reveals that he doesn’t know what toxic masculinity is. You need to look at animals with more behavioral plasticity and a greater range of potential roles to see toxic masculinity, where among a range of possibilities, males are confined to a narrower and often uncomfortable role by cultural pressures. Rams and crabs do not have that flexibility.

Oh, but let’s watch Saad show off his evolutionary psychology bullshit.

Let’s now apply the exact same evolutionary process (sexual selection) to humans. Evolutionary psychologists have documented universal patterns of mating preferences that are invariant across time and place. In no culture ever studied have women repeatedly preferred to mate with pear-shaped, low-status, tepid men possessing high-pitched, nasal voices. In no documented culture do women’s sexual fantasies revolve around granting sexual access to unemployed, unambitious men who occupy the lowest stratum of the social hierarchy.

First, yes, let’s look at human evolution. The lesson ought to be that humans have not evolved by a strategy of beating up your competition, mating, and wandering away, like a ram or a crab. Relationships between males and females have been far more complex, involving prolonged association, integration with larger social groups, and shared responsibilities in food gathering and child rearing. The “exact same evolutionary process (sexual selection)”? Nonsense.

As for his ideal preferences by women, I will note that both Saad and I share similar physiques, lack a booming baritone, and are in professions that aren’t regarded as particularly manly, and in fact are being ‘taken over’ by women, numerically. Yet we’re both married! And, I assume, we’re both married to women who are happy with their choices! How did that happen?

He also sneers at unemployed, unambitious men who occupy the lowest stratum of the social hierarchy, and yet, unemployed men somehow acquire willing partners. They can even be good partners. I have to think of my own parents, who were loving and dedicated to their family, who were also part of the lower classes that Saad would probably spit upon, and had qualities that Saad has elided — my father was a caring parent, hard-working, a good storyteller, loyal to his friends, sociable, and thoughtful. My parents married for love, against the wishes of her parents, yet most of my childhood was spent watching him bounce from job to job, struggling to get a reliable income, not because he was lazy and unambitious, but because good jobs were hard to find and fleeting when you got one in Seattle in the 1960s-1970s.

Saad relies on stereotyping of lowest stratum men, deciding that they’re ugly and undesirable, and that no woman would desire them, despite the obvious evidence that they do. That’s toxic masculinity! It’s the judgment that there is an ideal man based on a narrow, biased set of criteria, and then heaping contempt on the men who don’t match it in every particular.

Then he uses this bias to stereotype women.

Instead, women are attracted to “toxic masculine” male phenotypes that correlate with testosterone, and they are desirous of men who are socially dominant, who are strategically risk-taking in their behaviors, and who exhibit patterns of behaviors that will allow them to ascend the social hierarchy and defend their positions from encroachers.

Jesus. How did I ever end up with an attractive, intelligent wife? I’ve never had to battle encroachers, ever. Maybe it’s because Saad’s entire argument rests on denying the richness and complexity of human interactions.

Of course this does not imply that women are not attracted to intelligent, sensitive, kind, warm, and compassionate men. The ideal man is rugged and sensitive; masculine and caring; aggressive in some pursuits and gentle in others. Think of the male archetype in romance novels, which is a literary form almost exclusively read by women. He is a tall prince and a neurosurgeon. He is a risk-taker who wrestles alligators and subdues them on his six-pack abs, and yet is sensitive enough to be tamed by the love of a good woman. This archetype is universally found in romance novels read by women in Egypt, Japan, and Bolivia, precisely because it caters to women’s universal evolved sexual fantasies.

Uh, “six-pack abs” are a culturally constructed archetype. They require very low body fat and a rigorous pattern of focused body building to create, and wouldn’t have been at all common in evolving human populations. Likewise, alligator wrestling would have been a lethal hobby that would have led to grossly reduced fitness. Romance novels are also an artificial phenomenon, and probably represent a kind of super-stimulus, just like the bad sex portrayed in the porn consumed by men. They are a poor guide to the kind of deeper decision-making made by human beings in choosing life-long partners.

When engaging in sexual role-playing in the bedroom, few women ask that their male partners wear their Google C++ programmer uniform. They ask for the fireman suit to make its presence. James Bond, the epitome of “toxic masculinity,” does not cry at Taylor Swift concerts. His archetype is desired by women and envied by men.

Wait…a “fireman suit”? Like this? Once again, Saad seems to confuse reality with fantasy. Most women are going to have a more realistic attitude towards prospective partners.

I do agree that James Bond is an epitome of “toxic masculinity”, and he makes my case for me. If you desire to be like Bond, you are going to be an aspiring asshole. This is not a good thing. I shouldn’t have to say that, but really, not a good thing. I’ve also noticed that James Bond movies are not particularly popular among women — they tend to notice that all of his partners end up murdered or abandoned. And how do you know he doesn’t cry at Taylor Swift concerts? It seems to me that women would favor men with shared passions, and this claim that a truly desirable man would not be brought to tears by music is yet another example of toxic masculinity.

The inimitable equity feminist Christina Hoff Sommers wrote a book back in 2001 titled The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men (see our chat on my show THE SAAD TRUTH_144 (link is external)). How prescient she was! There has been a relentless ideological attack on masculinity, stemming from radical feminism, the most recent example of which is the bogus term “toxic masculinity.” It literally seeks to pathologize masculinity in ways that are profoundly harmful to the existential sense of self of young men.

But this whole essay is about pathologizing masculinity! Men are supposed to have six-pack abs, be rich, and live like James Bond — if you were seriously concerned about the existential sense of self of young men, you wouldn’t be promoting these ridiculous and harmful delusions about how men should be. You wouldn’t be setting up rams butting heads as an evolutionary ideal for human beings. There has not been on ideological attack on masculinity by anyone other than the anti-feminists, who set up this unrealistic cartoon of how men are supposed to be that denies the reality of human potential — that thinks that men should be more like James Bond than Mr Rogers. (By the way, if we were setting up an artificial ideal that said all men have to be like Mr Rogers, that would be a different kind of toxic masculinity, perhaps more benign, but also denying the range of human lives.)

Saad really needs to step back and look at what feminists actually say about toxic masculinity.

When men seek that control — when we feel it’s our due — and don’t achieve it, we can resent and hate. Toxic masculinity sets expectations that prime us for disappointment. We turn that disappointment on ourselves and others as anger and hatred.

— James Hamblin

That’s toxic masculinity. And Gad Saad’s article is the pear-shaped embodiment of defining unrealistic expectations for men.

Rather than that phony, Christina Hoff Sommers, perhaps Saad ought to be reading a real inimitable feminist.

All men support and perpetuate sexism and sexist oppression in one form or another … Like women, men have been socialized to passively accept sexist ideology. While they need not blame themselves for accepting sexism, they must assume responsibility for eliminating it.

— bell hooks

I have a feeling I’ll just be ignored if I mention this to the administration

Student evaluations suck, mostly.

Imagine that you’re up for a promotion at your job, but before your superior decides whether you deserve it, you have to submit the comments section of an internet article that was written about you for assessment.

Sound a little absurd?

That’s in essence what we ask professors in higher education to do when they submit their teaching evaluations in their tenure and promotion portfolios. At the end of each semester, students are asked to fill out an evaluation of their professor. Typically, they are asked both to rate their professors on an ordinal scale (think 1­–5, 5 being highest) and provide written comments about their experience in the course.

We’ve repeatedly seen studies that show that student evaluations are skewed to favor popularity and attractiveness of the professor (damn, I lose), and this article points out that there is a gender bias as well: male professors tend to get higher ratings than female professors (so that’s how I’ve managed to get along), and that means these evaluations are discriminatory. And therefore illegal. Cool.

Now I said that student evals suck, mostly. They’re sometimes helpful — not the goofy numerical scores, and I ignore comments that whine about how hard the class is — but the productive, thoughtful comments can be very helpful. If a student says “X worked for me, Y didn’t”, I’ll seriously reconsider X and Y.

The last batch of evaluations I got back I just ignored the numerical scores and browsed through the comments for practical concerns. I got one: there’s a lot of grade anxiety out there, and they really wanted the gradebook available online, so they could see exactly where they stand, point by point. OK, I can do that. Not with our existing software, Moodle, in which the gradebook is a confusing nightmare, but we’re switching to new courseware next year, so I’ll look into it.

I guess it’s good that that was the biggest problem they had with the course. But it’s the stupid numbers that the administration will care about.