Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

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I’m Reading Europe’s Angry Muslims

I’m reading Europe’s Angry Muslims: The Revolt of The Second Generation, and it’s really good. There is very impressive research behind it, I’m spotting no idiocies at all, and I’m learning some really eye-opening stuff. The author makes it very clear that different Muslim communities in different European countries are, in fact, very different, and it’s absolutely crucial not to generalize. And there is not a single whiff of “Islam makes people violent” or, actually, “Islam makes people anything” crap, which is rare and hugely refreshing.

I’m only about 15% in at this point, but one curious insight I want to share in order to create some suspense for my forthcoming Book Notes post on the book is the following. The author argues (based on a plethora of information) that one big reason why the young European Muslims are getting radicalized, turning towards fundamentalist trends in Islam, putting on head-coverings, etc. is because this is their way to try to break the patriarchal hold their families have on them. Before it becomes a revolt against the European societies where they find themselves, it is a revolt against their religiously more lax and secularized parents. For instance, one girl in France who made a huge scandal with her hijab and with how crucial it was for her to have it on is a daughter of a Jewish man and a non-veiled Muslim woman. And there are many more cases of young people who became fundamentalist terrorists after growing up in families who practice Islam in as lax a way as the rest of the French, for instance, practice Catholicism or Judaism.

Putting Identities to Good Use

Reader Cliff Arroyo left an interesting comment:

It is true that the “men and women are different!!!!” is often code-speech for the meta-message:

I treasure my emotional problems and intend to use them as an excuse to act in a horrible self-centered way and if you protest I’m going to get hysterical and/or violent.

On the other hand, no society exists that doesn’t socialize the sexes differently and it’s not clear what the benefits of taking that approach would be.

There would be no benefits, Cliff is absolutely right. Identities allow people to alleviate the burden of living in a complex, incomprehensible world. And that’s fine. We all use identities to make our lives easier.

So I’m not advocating that we all move away from identities. All I want is for more people to begin to understand that identities are artificially created and are only good inasmuch as they make things better for us. We should control the identities and not vice versa. All that’s needed is to generate a little bit of a critical distance from identities.

For instance, I have warm and fuzzy feelings when I see a Ukrainian flag and I’m choked with tears when I hear the Ukrainian anthem. But I’m fully aware that this response was conditioned in me. This was created artificially and purposefully by someone other than me. I’m letting it exist because I’m in control of these feelings and only let them exist while they benefit me. The “me” is not subjugated to the identity. And that’s my only goal in what identities entail.

Taking gender identities as an example, if a guy is into sports, cars and track suits because he was told that this is what guys do, good for him. But if the same guy takes this manufactured identity so seriously that he doesn’t go to a doctor and shortens his life span as a result, that is taking it too far. Or, if a woman is into makeup, frilly dresses, and spas, that’s fantastic. I’m that woman, and let me tell you, it’s fun. But if I hated all this stuff and tried to force myself into it because I take the identity script too seriously, that would not be good. 

Just a little critical distance, that’s all I’m asking for.

Crazy Baker Bill Is Agonizing

Even Walmart is repudiating the “Crazy Baker Bill”:

image

And Pence was stumbling and mumbling over his own bill yesterday, looking like a scared toddler.

Now that this battle has so obviously been won, it would be great to see citizens show up for higher ed in the same strong way. We could chase those useless Rauners back to the caves that they came from in just a few days of concerted pressure.

Articulate

In the CNN discussion of Trevor Noah, three white dudes try to shut up a black woman who is talking about racism, yelling over her and interrupting. Finally,  one of the dudes praises her for being articulate.

You cannot make this shit up.

Trevor Noah

So some raging anti-Semite had to be dug out of somewhere in South Africa to grace the Daily Show with his absent sense of humor? Because everybody around here is even less funny, or something?

Cute.

I Don’t Want to Hire Women: Spillover Thread

This is a spillover thread for the massive post from May of 2014 that has attracted 650 comments. If you still have something to add, please do so. Just a small recap, however, to prevent people from reproducing that mammoth thread verbatim:

1. The only reason why men and women sometimes behave differently is that this is what they’ve been told they should be doing.

2. Scientists are desperate to please the public and find proof of inherent psychological, emotional, and cognitive differences between all men and all women. Still in spite of the enormous confirmation bias, not a shred of evidence supporting the belief that “men and women are different” in anything but the basic physiology of their reproductive apparatuses has been found.

3. It is very useful to analyze the reasons why you experience the desperate need to repeat “but men and women ARE different!” like a crazed parrot. To offer an example of how one can approach oneself in an honest and critical way, I can explain why I keep repeating “no, they are not.” I am from a different culture. My scripts of what men and women “are like” are different from yours. More often than not, they are the opposite of yours. Your screechings about the way “all women are supposed to be” define me as somebody who is not a woman. And I’m reacting against that. Now you take a few very deep breaths and try to do this exercise. What is it that you think I’m taking away when I tell you that “men” and “women” do not think, feel, process information, etc. in inherently different ways?

Will There Be a Civil Society in Russia?

I never thought I would see a functioning civil society within my lifetime anywhere in the world. But then I saw it come into existence in Ukraine and realized that it’s a beautiful thing. Now I’m searching for evidence that there can be a civil society in Russia, as well. That is the only hope for Russia, really. When the people of Russia stop waiting for the good tsar and start doing for themselves, this will be the greatest positive development the country has known in. . . well, in forever, actually.

nemtsov bridge

The memorial on the Nemtsov Bridge

After the assassination of the dissident Boris Nemtsov, people created a small memorial at the bridge where he’d been murdered. There were flowers, cards, small posters, candles, wreaths, etc. that commemorated the slain politician. And then, of course, vandals showed up and defaced the memorial. The authorities used the act of vandalism to remove the entire memorial, making the bridge look like nothing had happened there.

So a group of volunteers got together and decided to restore the memorial. They put up their own money and relied on their own effort to do it. And as a result, the memorial is now even bigger and more beautiful than it had been before the act of vandalism. This is the most potent evidence I have seen that not all is lost in Russia. In spite of everything, I want the people of Russia to find their own way and to be happy in a productive way that does not involve invading other countries and seething in rage against the rest of the world.

Of course, the efforts of the volunteers have been greeted with suspicion and even anger. They are now fending off endless accusations that they are only trying to restore the memorial as a way of promoting flower delivery companies. The organizer of this volunteer efforts is swearing up and down that even though he is a Jew, this does not automatically mean that he is trying to enrich himself through recreating the memorial. 

The abrupt entrance into capitalism was traumatic for the FSU countries. All of us have seen our friends, relatives, and neighbors lose face and do some really shitty things to us and each other for the sake of making money back in the 1990s. The result of that experience is that now Russian-speaking people find it enormously hard to believe that anybody can be motivated to engage in any activity by anything other than the desire to stiff others out of a quick rouble or two.

Ukrainians managed to get over this trauma and have organized a volunteer movement that is supplying an entire army and helping out over 1,000,000 of refugees within the country. Let’s hope that the bouquets on the Nemtsov Bridge (as it is now known among the volunteers) will serve as a foundation for the birth of Russia’s civil society.

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Russia Glorifies Wehrmacht

Russia is getting ready to celebrate the victory over Nazism 70 years ago. Or not.

In a booklet printed in the annexed Crimea, the following picture was used to glorify the troops that took part in the fighting:

mannstein

I don’t think you need to be a huge World War II buff to figure out that this guy is not a Soviet soldier. He actually belongs to the troops of Erich von Manstein, the Wehrmacht Field Marshal who invaded the Soviet Crimea.

Here is the booklet with the offending image:

crimea craziness

Yes, it’s probably just a mistake. But it is one more among the “Goebbels was such a talented guy” and “when the Nazis occupied Leningrad” kind of mistakes that keep plaguing Russia’s official discourse on WWII. Given that Russia is currently fighting a costly war in Ukraine because Russians supposedly feel that Ukrainians disrespected the memory of the war over Nazism, you’d expect a more careful approach to the issue.

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