And Now For Something Completely Different

I’ve been a negative Nelly lately, haven’t I? How hate feeds into itself, why Boghossian is wrong, OMG TRUMP… I think it’s time for something more uplifting. Ever since including this link on one of the Boghossian articles, I’ve wanted to promote it to a full post. It’s Michael Kimmel talking about gender equality, and how it benefits men as well as everyone else.

Gender equality is good for countries. It turns out, according to most studies, that those countries that are the most gender equal are also the countries that score highest on the happiness scale. And that’s not just because they’re all in Europe. Even within Europe, those countries that are more gender equal also have the highest levels of happiness.

It is also good for companies. Research by Catalyst and others has shown conclusively that the more gender-equal companies are, the better it is for workers, the happier their labor force is. They have lower job turnover. They have lower levels of attrition. They have an easier time recruiting. They have higher rates of retention, higher job satisfaction, higher rates of productivity. So the question I’m often asked in companies is, “Boy, this gender equality thing, that’s really going to be expensive, huh?” And I say, “Oh no, in fact, what you have to start calculating is how much gender inequality is already costing you. It is extremely expensive.” So it is good for business.

When you know where to look, there’s actually quite a few videos in this genre. For instance, here’s Tony Porter (warning, he gets explicit about sexual assault)…

… we as men are taught to have less value in women, to view them as property and the objects of men. We see that as an equation that equals violence against women. We as men, good men, the large majority of men, we operate on the foundation of this whole collective socialization. We kind of see ourselves separate, but we’re very much a part of it. You see, we have to come to understand that less value, property and objectification is the foundation and the violence can’t happen without it. So we’re very much a part of the solution as well as the problem.

And Jackson Katz (double warning, he focuses on sexual assault)…

… there’s an awful lot of men who care deeply about these issues. I know this, I work with men, and I’ve been working with tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of men for many decades now. It’s scary, when you think about it, how many years. But there’s so many men who care deeply about these issues, but caring deeply is not enough. We need more men with the guts, with the courage, with the strength, with the moral integrity to break our complicit silence and challenge each other and stand with women and not against them.

By the way, we owe it to women. There’s no question about it. But we also owe it to our sons. We also owe it to young men who are growing up all over the world in situations where they didn’t make the choice to be a man in a culture that tells them that manhood is a certain way. They didn’t make the choice. We that have a choice, have an opportunity and a responsibility to them as well.

But my favorite has to be Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

“You should aim to be successful, but not too successful, otherwise you would threaten the man.” If you are the breadwinner in your relationship with a man, you have to pretend that you’re not, especially in public, otherwise you will emasculate him.

But what if we question the premise itself? Why should a woman’s success be a threat to a man? What if we decide to simply dispose of that word, and I don’t think there’s an English word I dislike more than “emasculation.” A Nigerian acquaintance once asked me if I was worried that men would be intimidated by me. I was not worried at all. In fact, it had not occurred to me to be worried because a man who would be intimidated by me is exactly the kind of man I would have no interest in.

It’s easy to feel ground down by the endless parade of sexist bullshit in the news. Outrage and train wrecks tend to steal our gaze, but if you keep mindful and dig a little, you’ll find no shortage of people pushing back. Take inspiration from them, and if the time is right, join them.

The Ouroboros of Hate

I’ll confess I’ve said that if bigots were smart, they wouldn’t be bigots. Reality is a bit more complicated than that, but there is a way to rescue the sentiment.

  1. Opponents of Social Justice movements generally have a poor grasp of social justice concepts.
  2. As a consequence, some of them think these concepts lack any firm meaning. They instead act either as in-group/out-group signifiers, or as synonyms for “I don’t like you.”
  3. As a consequence, some of them have difficulty telling if these concepts are used in their proper manner.
  4. A few opponents of social justice, motivated either by a desire to show #2 to be true or simply to grief, will stage faux social justice campaigns.
  5. As a consequence, the subset mentioned in #3 will think the opponents from #4 are sincere, and given enough exposure may start thinking social justice concepts lack meaning.

I’ve seen this in action; while one group of bigots were trolling me, I saw another group think the trolling was sincere. Just recently, I spotted another example.

Older members of the crowd carried Confederate flags, while the younger, internet-driven masses wore patches with 4chan’s Kekistan banner. Rally-goers in homemade armor and semi-automatic rifles paced Houston’s Hermann Park, waiting for an enemy to appear.

The crowd, several hundred strong, gathered in the park on Saturday to defend a statue of Sam Houston, a slaveholder. They had gathered in response to reports that leftist protesters had planned a rally to remove the statue, despite Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner publicly stating that removing the statue wasn’t “even on my agenda.” But as sniper rifles and Infowars-branded jackets crowded the park, it became evident that the left protesters were not coming. They had never planned to come. The rumors of an antifa protest were actually a hoax, orchestrated by an anti-left group defending Confederate monuments.

I suspect these scenarios are more common than we realize, if only because the same thing happened again a month later.

A “patriot” who brought a revolver to Gettysburg National Military Park Saturday amid rumors of desecration of memorials accidentally shot himself in the leg Saturday. […]

Dozens of self-described Patriots came to the park about noon Saturday after hearing rumors that Antifa protesters might crash the park’s events and try to desecrate memorials. Members of Antifa caused a ruckus in Harrisburg recently at an Anti-Sharia rally and one member was arrested for swinging a wooden pole with a nail attached at a police horse.

The rumors on Saturday appeared to be just that: rumors, as no Antifa members were seen at Gettysburg park Saturday.

The result of all this is a self-supporting feedback loop, where people opposed to social justice keep getting fooled by false flags into thinking social justice is as loopy as they’ve been told, and some of them graduate to generate those false flag campaigns.

Bookmark This One

Not this one, mind, but this one from Shiv.

So, without further ado, let’s dive into the latest candy-glossed hate piece to make waves in feminist discourse: “I am not a ‘cis’ Woman, I am a Woman and that Matters.

Hands down, it’s the best counter-argument to the “E” in TERF that I’ve read.

I mean, hey, it’s taken a good ~2,400 words but now we can answer the question, “why is it wrong for cis women to have some spaces just for them to feel safe in a world where they don’t?”

It’s not wrong to want safety. However, the motivations for this trans-free “women only” space…

  1. Perpetrate rape culture by overstating stranger danger;
  2. Perpetrate rape culture by obscuring the actual tactics of serial predators;
  3. Assumes trans women are as likely to be violent as cis men, which is factually incorrect;
  4. Assumes violence is an essential property of certain persons, which is also factually incorrect–not to mention the rhetorical flourish liberally employed by white supremacists;

…all of which are complaints which have nothing to do with “trying to take away cis women’s safety.”

And all of those prior 2,400 words are well-cited and argued. I do two minor nitpicks, but the first only strengthens the argument. The second:

Please note, I have not once accused Broustra of being transphobic in this piece, nor will I.

I’ll go two steps farther. Broustra denies gender identity, via calling for the explicit exclusion of trans* women in “women-only” spaces; she shows a familiarity with TERF culture, through her Xeroxing of their ideas and arguments; and as a bonus, she is actively working to exclude trans* women, because she is campaigning for her point of view in a public forum. In my books, that makes her a TERF.

That first? I’ll post it over on Shiv’s piece as a comment, when I get a chance. So go read and bookmark her post!

The Mechanisation of Hate

Over time, I’ve believed anti-feminism is a cult of sorts. Their use of memes was a deciding factor, but there are other tells. One exploits our instincts as a social species.

In order to encourage those social bonds, we have a need to be loved. This creates a loyalty to a social group, which we repay by advancing the needs of the group. We band together to gather food, fend off predators or other groups, and so on.
But if love forms bonds, couldn’t a lot of love form a really strong bond? Or overcome resistance to forming a bond? This is the rationale behind “love-bombing:” by showering your target with love, you hope to generate a relationship that otherwise wouldn’t happen. The term was even coined by a cult. The flip-side is hate-bombing, or showering someone with hate in the hope of causing emotional distress.

Via PZ, I learned that anti-feminists have a very similar concept: red-pilling.

“Redpill,” for the blissfully unaware, is a slang term in certain alt-right-adjacent internet communities like the men’s rights crew. It refers to that famous Matrix scene where Neo takes the red pill and sees things as they really are. When alt-right dudes use it, they generally mean “convince other white people that we’re better than others,” and many of them are not shy about trying to redpill their friends and families.

“It’s a new label for an old idea,” said Ryan Lenz, who gathers information on hate groups for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, and edits their Hatewatch blog.

That Vice article points out some common tactics, like building empathy and using bargaining to expose people to your propaganda. Laci Green appears to be the latest person to fall victim.

In late May, seemingly out of the blue, Green dramatically shifted her tone on harassment. Where once she supported the abused, she suddenly began questioning why there’s “more than two genders” and arguing that “both sides of the argument are valid” for everything from racism to transphobia to misogyny. In a stunning example of her newfound hypocrisy, she called feminist YouTuber and fellow member of her anti-harassment Facebook group Kat Blaque a “sociopath,” […]

In a series of videos, Green revealed that her shift was a result of “red pilling,” the term for a twisted Matrix-inspired recruitment process coined by men’s rights advocates, pick-up artists, and the “alt right.” The process involves a recruiter who attempts to position white supremacists as oppressed truth tellers while spinning phony racial and gender science as “free speech” that’s being trampled on by feminists and the political left.

The parallels between religious cults and the anti-feminist movement are chilling; I didn’t even realise there was a flip-side to love-bombing until I thought of examples drawn from anti-feminism. But there’s an ingredient we can add which makes things oh-so-much worse.

You can see the outlines of it in message boards like 4chan: someone announces a target, and other commenters swarm that person with love or hate. This is the early steps of the mechanisation of hate, in this case the automation of love/hate-bombing, and it’s gotten very sophisticated. The next logical step would be to get money involved in the process, and that’s already happened.

When Green created her anti-harassment Facebook group, it was largely in response to the rising trend of “response videos,” YouTube videos created by trolls who have devoted their lives to attacking feminist content. Creators of these videos often claim that their content does not itself constitute harassment, while simultaneously ignoring the actions of their followers, who frequently bombard their targets with an overwhelming number of slurs and violent messages. […]

Troublingly, up until recently, such videos were not only supported by YouTube, but incentivized. Because response videos are so easy to make, it was easy for reactionary YouTubers to churn out a lot of content, which YouTube then prioritized in an algorithm that favored prolific output, high view counts, and abundant comments — even if those comments were toxic. Gaming the very closely held secret of the YouTube algorithm became a de facto path to internet stardom, and the format was perfect for response-video creators.

This puts a dollar tag on hate. It’s no longer just about promoting your group or winning new members, you can actually make a good living off of hating on feminism. This is yet another parallel to religion, especially Christianity, which has always used various means to extract funds from its supporters to line the pockets of its preachers. It feeds into a self-feeding cycle of hate, where preachers clamber to earn the cash of followers by whipping up their hatred.

There is no easy way to defeat this, as it relies on deeply embedded parts of our psyche. Speaking up about it and educating people is probably the best tactic in the short-term, while in the long-term we work on dismantling or altering systems which promote it.

Quotas are Awesome

I’ve always been a fan of gender quotas. Think about it: sexism is largely unconscious and subtle, which means it has a disproportionate impact on subtle or indirect means of correcting gender imbalances. Blunt methods are more likely to succeed, and are more honest. If we truly think the genders are equal, why not bake that into our policies? Just be sure to incorporate non-binary people, too.

But there’s another good reason to endorse them. Emphasis mine:

Our study provides a unique window on quotas and, at the same time, pushes forward the measurement of competence in political selection. It uses the fact that, in 1993, Sweden’s Social Democratic party voluntarily introduced a strict gender quota for its candidates. In internal discussions of the reform, the party’s Women’s branch observed that some men were more critical than others. The quota became known colloquially as the “Crisis of the Mediocre Man,” since the incompetent men had the most to fear from an influx of women into politics.

If all genders are equal, but one gender has more representatives than the others, then by necessity there must be more mediocre members of that gender represented. Their average competence would be less than that of all other genders. We can measure that! And as yet another study found, quotas do indeed increase overall competence.

Within each local party, we compare the proportion of competent politicians in elections after the quota to the 1991 level. The figure below show some striking results. The left panel illustrates our estimates for politicians of both genders with black dots showing the change in the proportion of competent representatives in a party which is forced to increase their share of women (by 100 percentage points). The right panel splits the results by men and women (blue dots for men and pink dots for women). It shows distinctly that the average competence of male politicians increased in the places where the quota had a larger impact, and that the effect is concentrated to the three elections following the quota. On average, a higher female representation by 10 percentage points raised the proportion of competent men by 3 percentage points! For the competence of women, we observe little discernible effect.

Figure 1, from http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/businessreview/2017/03/13/gender-quotas-and-the-crisis-of-the-mediocre-man/Subdividing the men into leaders and followers reveals another interesting finding; there is clear evidence of a reduction in the proportion of male leaders (those at the top of the ballot) with mediocre competence. This suggests that quotas work in part by shifting incentives in the composing party ballots. Mediocre leaders are either kicked out or resign in the wake of more gender parity. Because new leaders – on average – are more competent, they feel less threatened by selecting more able candidates, which starts a virtuous circle of higher competence.

Embrace your inner socialist, and consider gender quotas. It’s good for business!

Abolish Gender, unless it’s convenient for us

I was mulling over a post on Meghan Murphy, someone I’d heard about via Bill C-16, when I noticed Shiv beat me to it and did a much better job than I could. She even makes the same point I would have reached for:

… socialization cannot be both something that is possible to reject–as these feminists do with feminine gender roles–and also inevitable destiny. These are obviously mutually exclusive states. That women buck against the subordination expected of them by patriarchs is plain evidence that these socialized experiences are not fixed points of references but experiences that can be continuously and willfully re-contextualized. And if that’s the case, so-called “male socialization”–the standard idea of which does not map neatly to trans women’s experiences–is not as useful if one’s intention is to drive a wedge between cis and trans womanhood. That this observation is seldom accounted for in the TERF mythology speaks to its importance in these kinds of narratives.

This bugged me when I first learned of TERFs, I found it bizarre that they simultaneously argued gender is fluid like water, yet sticks to you like superglue.

… if anatomy is so strongly associated with a tendency to violence, how can you hope to improve things by destroying the concept of “gender?” …  I have yet to see a single TERF with a self-coherent view of sex/gender. That’s because their “criticism” isn’t actually a critique, based on solid evidence and analysis, but a fig leaf to disguise their bigotry.

I prefer Shiv’s phrasing, though, and her post covers a lot more than one note. Give it a boo.

The Cry of the Bigot

Hmph, yet again I find myself late to the party. Shiv has an excellent article up on Jesse Singal.
Back when Singal first started cluelessly meandering into trans issues, virtually every trans feminist academic I read approached him with kiddie gloves. Julia Serano gave an interview with him to help orient his slant on a Ken Zucker piece in relation to empirical evidence–he declined to use any of the information she provided. Same thing with Parker Molloy, who goes to great lengths to avoid calling Singal transphobic despite his omission of Molloy’s attempt to introduce the evidence to him. A blogger by the pseudonym of Cerberus has meticulously documented Singal’s foray into trans issues, and spends several years trying to patiently explain the sheer amount of denialism necessary to maintain the opinions Singal defends.
The chain of causality is a bit convoluted. Rebecca Tuvel wrote a clueless article comparing “transracialism” to gender identity. Some academics popped up to say “you missed the boat, and here’s why.”[2] Singal responded with, in part:
This is a witch hunt. There has simply been an explosive amount of misinformation circulating online about what is and isn’t in Tuvel’s article, which few of her most vociferous critics appear to have even skimmed, based on their inability to accurately describe its contents.
Yeeeah. There’s meatier arguments within Singal’s article, but the histrionics are well out of line. Myers noticed this too, but I want to highlight the hyperbole as a warning flag.
[9:35] HARRIS: The purpose of the podcast was to set the record straight, because I find the dishonesty and hypocrisy and moral cowardice of Murray’s critics shocking, and the fact that I was taken in by this defamation of him and effectively became part of a silent mob that was just watching what amounted to a modern witch-burning, that was intolerable to me. So it is with real pleasure (and some trepidation) that I bring you a very controversial conversation, on points about which there is virtually no scientific controversy. […]

In thinking about the frenzied monstering of me on Freethought Blogs over the past few weeks, I realized I must have been laboring under a misapprehension all the time I was there. I thought it was a network that was partly about thinking – thinking as such, thinking as a value, thinking as a goal and a pursuit and a method. I knew it was about other things too, of course, especially secularism and atheism and also progressive causes, but I did think it put the “thought” part front and center. […]

I think Freethought Blogs the network has taken a hard turn to anti-intellectualism for the sake of absolutist political commitment. I think political commitments need to be accompanied by thinking.

Benson in particular makes a fine example of this, as not only has she endorsed describing any pushback against transphobia as “witch hunts,” she’s also mocked people for playing the “witch hunt” card and hosted a co-blogger who speaks out against actual witch hunts. It’s amazing to watch the ease with which she pulls out hyperbole right to this day, to paint herself as the victim of a vast conspiracy of the blind.

One of the things I loathe most about the “SHUN HER NOW” school of non-thought is the way it forbids all that and insists that thinking has to be replaced with formulas and that the formulas have to be repeated exactly or dire punishment will follow. In short I loathe the banning of thought and probing and questions. I think I knew I couldn’t stay at FTB any longer when the goons started mocking me for daring to say it made a difference whether we were talking about ontology or politics. Fucking hell, if we can’t make distinctions as basic as that how can we think at all?

Back in the day, I pointed out this feeds “into the heightened emotions and paranoia Benson needs to keep other people (and perhaps herself) from looking at the evidence.” It is the cry of the bigot: hyperbolic and emotionally charged, so as to drive out self-reflection and critical thought. Watch for it.

Intersex and Sex Denialism

This was a pleasant surprise.

For generations those who, for biological reasons, don’t fit the usual male/female categories have faced violence and stigma in Kenya. Intersex people – as they are commonly known in Kenya – were traditionally seen as a bad omen bringing a curse upon their family and neighbours. Most were kept in hiding and many were killed at birth. But now a new generation of home-grown activists and medical experts are helping intersex people to come out into the open. They’re rejecting the old idea that intersex people must be assigned a gender in infancy and stick to it and are calling on the government to instead grant them legal recognition.

While some of those people are trans*, that podcast does talk with a number of intersex people as well. It’s great to see more advocacy, I just wish I’d see more of it in North America and less of this.

The facts of the world generally don’t support transphobic arguments, and transphobes don’t really have the option of making robust arguments based on an honest assessment of the current state of our knowledge. They know this – they make use of this same technique of pondering counterfactuals. The difference is that they work backwards to fabricate an entirely new counter-reality, tailored to support their positions and vast enough that it can substitute for reality itself in a person’s mind. It’s called denialism: an entire ideological support system made to preserve a desired belief by rejecting the overwhelming evidence that would threaten this belief.

Denialism is wrongness with an infrastructure – ignorance with an armored shell, a whole fake world weaponized against the real world.

Less of “denialism,” that is, not good analysis or Zinnia Jones. She gets a bit meta behind the link, and the contents are applicable to much more than transphobia. It’s worth a full read.
(That last item comes courtesy of Shiv. Support her work, too!)

Intelligence and Race, in sub-populations

I’ve read a fair number of papers covering race and genes. In fact, before I go farther, here’s a bibliography:

In this article, the authors argue that the overwhelming portion of the literature on intelligence, race, and genetics is based on folk taxonomies rather than scientific analysis. They suggest that because theorists of intelligence disagree as to what it is, any consideration of its relationships to other constructs must be tentative at best. They further argue that race is a social construction with no scientific definition. Thus, studies of the relationship between race and other constructs may serve social ends but cannot serve scientific ends. No gene has yet been conclusively linked to intelligence, so attempts to provide a compelling genetic link of race to intelligence are not feasible at this time. The authors also show that heritability, a behavior-genetic concept, is inadequate in regard to providing such a link.

Sternberg, Robert J., Elena L. Grigorenko, and Kenneth K. Kidd. “Intelligence, race, and genetics.” American Psychologist 60.1 (2005): 46.

The literature on candidate gene associations is full of reports that have not stood up to rigorous replication. This is the case both for straightforward main effects and for candidate gene-by-environment interactions (Duncan and Keller 2011). As a result, the psychiatric and behavior genetics literature has become confusing and it now seems likely that many of the published findings of the last decade are wrong or misleading and have not contributed to real advances in knowledge. The reasons for this are complex, but include the likelihood that effect sizes of individual polymorphisms are small, that studies have therefore been underpowered, and that multiple hypotheses and methods of analysis have been explored; these conditions will result in an unacceptably high proportion of false findings (Ioannidis 2005).

Hewitt, John K. “Editorial Policy on Candidate Gene Association and Candidate Gene-by-Environment Interaction Studies of Complex Traits.” Behavior Genetics 42, no. 1 (January 1, 2012): 1–2. doi:10.1007/s10519-011-9504-z.

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