It Simply Isn’t a Gender Issue!

The reason why I don’t participate in the #mencallmethings campaign that collects nasty names that male readers call female bloggers is that I don’t think this is a gender issue. I’ve been called names, insulted, stalked, harassed, and bullied by readers who are both male and female. I’m a feminist blogger but I honestly can’t say I see any special viciousness that male readers address to female readers. The anonymous commenting format of online communications brings a lot of nastiness out in people. There is no gender difference in how vile, threatening, and annoying online commenters can become.

Of course, when you cull out of discussions comments that men address to women, you end up with a very scary picture. But when you add nasty comments that women aim at women, women aim at men and men aim at other men, you immediately realize that this is not a gender issue.

Here is another example of what is essentially a non-gender issue that has been transformed into a feminist cause. One of the commonplaces of feminist discussions (if people need links, I can look for them but this has been discussed so often that I feel there is no need to make a separate search) is that women are socialized to please men. As a result, even in professional settings, women rarely dare to contradict men and formulate their objections in the form of questions. Often, they leave their sentences unfinished or use interrogatory intonations to avoid displeasing their male peers. This was even discussed at length in gender studies classes I took in college.

I was present at an intellectual discussion among fellow academics recently and I decided to observe people carefully to see if this was true. I’m not very observant by nature and usually just listen to myself speak during discussions, so here I decided to make a special effort to see if the theory about women trying to please men was true. Almost immediately, I noticed that it was. Female scholars of impeccable academic and intellectual credentials did, indeed, seem very eager to please even those of their male peers who didn’t have nearly the same kind of renown as they did. The star of the gathering, a female scholar who was light years ahead of all of us in terms of publications and scholarly recognition, addressed every response she made to male academics, even those who were beginning graduate students, in the form of questions. The men would sometimes say something completely silly, but she would invariably respond, “That’s very interesting. But don’t you think that. . .?” In her communications with female scholars, she was a lot more blunt and never used the question format.

“Hah!” I thought. “I guess all the theory I read on the subject was right. Women (of course, women from cultures other than mine because we have a very different history of gender relations) do try to please men to their own detriment.”

I was planning to write a post about that but never had the time to do so. And then I attended another gathering of academics. Once again, I decided to remain observant and see whether women were especially eager to please men and to avoid antagonizing them by being too argumentative.

The intellectual discussion in question consisted of two very strong, argumentative and aggressive women (yours truly being one of them) and six male academics. I immediately noticed that these male academics (several of them in a much higher standing than the women in question) were very eager to please the women. They worded their objections in the form of questions, allowed their sentences to trail off, and were inordinately pleased when women offered any kind of agreement with their ideas.

And then I had a valuable insight. Some people are more interested in pleasing others, I realized. There are also many people, however, who are not familiar with the concept of pleasing anybody. This is not a gender issue. This is an issue of personal psychology.

There are really crucial issues feminism still has to address. However, by transforming things that have nothing to do with gender into feminist causes, we dilute the power of feminist activism and serve no useful purpose.

How to Argue With Autistics

1. If an autistic presents a logical argument that appeals to reason, say “You are just saying this because you are autistic. We all know you guys are incapable of empathy and your emotional range is limited.”

2. If an autistic appeals to emotions and shares what s/he feels about certain things, say “You are just reacting like this because you are autistic. Certain things that are easy for the regular people are very hard for you, which is why you get so emotional about this.”

3. Whenever an autistic says something you dislike, share a story of an autistic you met (or your friend’s neighbor’s acquaintance met) who was a total jerk.

4. If the preceding piece of advice doesn’t manage to shut the pesky autistic up, share with him or her a bit of wisdom about autism you gleaned from an article you read (or your acquaintance’s sister’s girlfriend read and told you about).

5. Never miss an opportunity to explain to an autistic what autism is really all about.

Greedy Banks

Protesting greed. But why stop here? Wouldn't it be so much cooler to protest human mortality? Also, the weather could take some protesting.

Yes, banks are greedy. That’s kind of in their job description. Which is why that’s where we keep our money. For some reason, we don’t keep it in charitable institutions which will immediately distribute our savings to the needy. A bank that is not driven by greed, by the desire to make as much money as possible is no bank at all.

Since people often choose to be very obtuse about this topic, I’ll provide the following disclaimer: the banking industry in this country has engaged in activities that are outright criminal. They were aided in robbing the country blind by corrupt politicians. The removal of the regulations of the financial system has been a disaster and resulted in a global financial crisis. These issues need to be addressed, discussed, and protested as loudly as possible. Vague discussions of the big, bad greed annoy me so much precisely because they rob protesters of all credibility and make them sound like whiny, pseudo-Christian proselytizers.

In my efforts to find out more about the #Occupy movement, I only and exclusively consult sources that are very supportive of the movement. Whenever I see an article that sounds like it might be hostile to the protesters, I scroll it down without reading it. I do it because I really, really, really don’t want to be disappointed in the movement. But the images and the stories that the passionate advocates of the #Occupiers provide, do the job of disillusioning me about the protests perfectly well on their own.