I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts yesterday, called Invisibilia, and the show focused on a unique attempt to counter Islamic Extremism, which was to run an American Idol type reality show in Somalia. If you don’t have time to read the 40 minute podcast, you can read about it here. If you don’t have time for either, the gist of this was that there was a plan supported by the U.N fight extremism by impacting the emotional landscape of the country. The government at the time was unstable but had recently replaced the far more extreme Al-Shabab government that had previously held Mogadishu. So things were better, but delicate. Previously Al Shabab had forbit music, even at weddings, and went so far as to kill many important Somalian musicians and poets.
Hearing this story brought a number of thoughts to my head. One was how pop culture might be used to transform a culture in a positive way. In my last post I talked about the harms of excessive moral outrage exacerbated by social media, which polarizes and brings more instability to a culture. Here was an attempt to do the opposite. It might seem surprising but some of the advantages that American Idol has are:
democratic voting process
a panel of judges that are both men and women
one mean/tough judge, that increases the joy of the contestant when the mean judge soften to approve the contestant
It may not seem like much, but when you think about the just act of getting into the habit of voting, and getting a say in an outcome, seeing authority that is both mean and women, and a nation of people watching and sharing in the joy of a contestant who has overcome a number of hurdles. Well maybe it’s the upper the country needs to continue to stem the tide against extremism.
Of course this also made me think how easy it is to erode culture with western culture, and that’s an entire other conversation, but the good thing here is that they not only made it about music, but also included a poetry, as part of the competition, which is big in Somali culture. At the very least they were trying to adapt their idea to fit Somali values and traditions.
These are of course only seeds, and real change will happen slowly. As the article says:
Which brings us to this question: Did this reality show actually change reality in any way?
It would be impossible to make the case that Somalia is a completely different country now. It isn’t.
But there is at least one undeniable change since 2013. Music is back in the streets. Brought back, slowly and painfully, through a complicated combination of political strategy and personal courage.
Anyway, I thought this was an interesting story and wanted to share it.
Since I have left Facebook, I want to do more to create conversation that is productive and civil, so I’m hoping to have more discussion posts like this where I post a little bit of info that I hope leads to more expansive dialogue.
Part of the reason that I left Facebook was how angry I was often getting. One could argue that I wasn’t strong enough to resist the trappings of Facebook but it should be noted that this is part of the design of social media – to manufacture outrage. I strongly recommend reading this article on the topic, and I think reading the link to Dr. Molly Crockett’s Nature article on the topic is also an excellent read. From the CSM article:
“Moral outrage plays an essential role in human society. It drives people to expose and rise against injustice. At its best, social media can channel moral outrage into action, as seen in the success of petition drives, boycott campaigns, and protest planning.
But under the attention-driven model that underpins social media, there is little incentive to steer users toward action offscreen. Instead, it is in the interest of the social media companies to encourage sharing of moral outrage in a way that fosters amplification rather than action. Decoupling user attention from profit could break that cycle, say observers.”
On Facebook I would often see people expressing the same level of vitriol for those who might commit minor offenses against societal norms, to those who were truly monsters causing great levels of harm against other humans. As an example the amount of outrage towards comments from Matt Damon in regards to the #MeToo movement at times seemed indistinguishable from things said about Harvey Weinstein. Some questions come to mind and you can feel to address some or all of them:
Are there times when you have felt yourself feeling equal levels of anger for different levels of offensive behavior? Or do you think that equal levels of moral outrage are justified even for the full gamut of what might be considered microaggressions to serious offenses against societal norms. This seems very much like the “broken windows” approach to moral outrage. Is this valid?
Is social media causing us to lose our way in really addressing the big problems by diminishing our ability to detect nuance among the “bad actors” in our society? And as a byproduct of this do we risk pushing those who might just be slightly on the wrong side of some reasonable set of moral behaviors, further away from where we would like them to be? It seems like we so easily ostracize and shame even small offenses on social media.
Perhaps the net effect of social media is still positive, but even so how can we use social media to be more positive, given that the current model, as it stands, is designed to exacerbate outrage, and not promote productive conversation?
This decision does not come lightly or easily, but I think that I need to leave Facebook. Actually I am 100% sure of it. I am not 100% sure for how long, or if it will be for good, but the latter is certainly a possibility. Before I explain to you my personal reasons for doing so, I want to say that my reasons are no judgment on anybody else. Maybe you’ll connect with some of what I feel, maybe you won’t. I know there are many of you who seem to be able to use Facebook in a way that I wish I can do. Some of my reasons are broad and for what I feel are based on reasoning, others are simply based on personal reflections and knowing myself and my own weaknesses.
I will start with some broader ethical concerns that make me feel it is the right thing to do. All of that can be best summed up by this TED talk. We live in an attention economy and companies are working to grab hold of my attention, and they’ve succeeded. There are people out there who are starting to think about ethics in this realm, but as it stands I don’t think I want to be part of this game where possible. I probably can’t get away from Google or Amazon, but I can do something. There are entities out there who want to learn about us and dictate how we want to live, and I want to at least take back some control and make more decisions about how I want to live. I don’t think that Zuckerberg or any of his crew are evil or anything, but I don’t think they put a lot of thought into what they are actually doing and wondering how they might change society for the better with this powerful tool.
But really it boils down to personal reasons. I don’t believe social media is inherently bad. When I see how useful it is for mobilizing something like March for our Lives, I think social media is a tool we need. Through Facebook I have met some incredible people. People I know will be friends for life. I have many friends who have helped expose me to insightful articles that help me learn and have meaningful discussions. But there is another side to all of it. There is seeing friends all posting the same horror stories on their news feeds. It’s not that they shouldn’t, they care about these things, but when you see the same headline over and over again it gets to you. Then there are the idiotic and poorly reasoned comments and this is where I fall into the trap over and over again of getting into these conversations. They get me angry, and I find myself unable to calm my mind. Sometimes these thought linger with me while I’m trying to sleep, trying to meditate, or when I get up in the morning. I’m getting angry at people I don’t even know and will never meet, even when I try to remain civil in the conversation. And then as comments and status mount, I’m seeing who replied, who reacted to my comment or status, and it all adds up. And I wonder, what am I really counting, and is there a point to it. If I make a comment that a lot of people like does that mean anything? Is this how I should be deriving a sense of value? I ask this question a lot. Facebook feels noisy to me now. The best analogy I can think of (and this dates me) is that it’s like a radio station with a lot of static and interference. There is definitely a signal I want from social media, but I can disentangle it from the noise. I fight to just focus on the part I want to hear, but I can’t tune out the static. I see other people do this and I know it’s possible. It just doesn’t seem possible for me right now. It just seems like the best idea to turn the radio off and read a book instead. It doesn’t feel like it’s increasing my happiness, contentedness or peace in life.
The weight of the world has been heavy on me these recent years. Even before Trump (Trump certainly hasn’t helped). I know this has been true for many friends my age. As you become more aware of what’s going on, there is a price to pay for that, you want to do something, you want to make a difference. In that vein I decided do some volunteer work in my local community to help neglected and abused children. With a second kid arriving, the responsibilities of now being a department chair, I am more acutely aware of my own limitations in both time and energy. I contemplated giving up my volunteer work with the second kid coming, but given the amount of time I spend on Facebook it just became crazy to me to give up the volunteer work. Don’t get me wrong, it means a lot that I mean something to people who might feel sad that I’m leaving, and there is obviously value in maintaining a relationship between people you value and admire, but as of right now, while I’m unable to shut out all the noise I have to truly ask myself, “Is the time and energy I’m putting into Facebook the most effective way I can use my time and energy?” I have to ask myself “Am I inspiring, teaching, helping by being on Facebook?” Now maybe I am, but it doesn’t feel that way. It often feels like I’ve just used Facebook as a way to ‘feel’ like I’m doing something; to ‘feel’ like I’m helping. I feel like I can’t know the answer to these questions until I break away from Facebook for awhile; to sort of de-clutter, and see what paths lay out before me. I was very inspired by this TED talk recently about how we can affect change in the world and I believe that sometimes I on Facebook when there is value I could be adding to the lives of family and friends just a few feet away from me.
I started this blog as outline to express myself intellectually and creatively. Whether people have enjoyed my blog posts are not, I have found it immensely helpful to me as an individual and this is also something I don’t want to give up as my time grows shorter with a new family member on the way. I don’t plan on leaving Facebook until the end of April. In that time I hope that those of you who read this, and who want to keep in touch will talk to me so we can find out a way to do that. But certainly following this blog is a good way to do that. There is a way to follow this blog by e-mail, and am happy to have discussions with you on here. There are other messenger services (like gchat) where we can still have conversations, and there is e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org), twitter (@profswarn) for quick shout outs, and you can message me for my number for texting. I realize though that there is going to be losses with this. And while this decision might seem sudden, please know, that with all life decisions I have put in a great deal of thought into it, and this is something that has been growing in my mind for the last 3 years as I have tried, unsuccessfully, to have mastery over Facebook. I hope that maybe after a good break I can come back to it with better control and use it in a way that compliments my life. Right now I just feel like I’m in a mire and I just need to get out for awhile. At the very least it will make me a more present father, and that alone has value. I hope you can support me in this decision. And for all the people that enjoy my company on Facebook and who might not interact as much once I leave, just remember that my doors are always open if ever you are in the Pittsburgh area. Just give me a heads up even if a lot of time has passed. The memory in my brain might not be reliable but the memory in my heart always looks forward to interacting with a friend.
Thank you for traveling with me along my journey in life, I hope that many of you will continue.
Be good to each other and do good in this world in the way that serves you best.
A friend of mine linked me an article that she said pissed her off, and when I responded she asked me to turn the response into a blog post because she said I articulated her thoughts better than she could. I have elaborated on my response a bit here for more clarity. The article in question is here. Reading at least a portion of it will put my response in context, but I suspect many of you have read posts by the men’s rights and so my response might just make sense on those grounds. For the record, I think the article has some valuable points that are worthy of further discussion.
As is often the case with these types of arguments some valid points are mixed in with just some unnecessary vilification which makes me less apt to take it seriously. I would agree that if we are going to tear down men for their inappropriate sexual behavior then I don’t think it’s unreasonable to have those same standards apply to women, and in the article he discusses an incident involving Mariah Carey. I do think there is a case to be made about men not being believed when they are victims of domestic violence or harassment. However when this argument is framed in devaluing the experience of what women have gone through I think this is where this person and others like him begin to lose my sympathy.
I think one can see part of the reason why the person feels the way they do because they sort of give the game away with rejecting the idea of systemic oppression. The model isn’t flawed it’s just more far reaching than he is able to recognize. First, his analogy about terrorism is a poor one, because he’s the reason why we don’t take Muslim deaths at the hands of Christians seriously is because of systemic anti-Muslim prejudice, not because terrorism isn’t systemic oppression. In a way his analogy actually contradicts his argument about systemic oppression of women. More importantly what all such people like this lose sight of is that the systemic oppression of women does oppress men as well. And a lot of feminists get that. For instance, if we value some hyper-masculine version of man the result of this is that it defines both women AND men in a certain way. In a binary view of gender, whatever a man is, a woman therefore is not. Any deviations outside of those category definitions results in criticism and a loss of freedom for both genders. Both genders suffer. The man holds the power to be sure in some respects and this is his advantage, but his humanity is diminished. Want to be emotional? You can’t. Want to think football is stupid? You can’t. Hate cars? Too bad. Want to become a florist? You’re being a pussy. So men do suffer in at least some ways (maybe not as many ways) from the systemic oppression against women.
I would also suggest that most of the “disbelieving” of men comes not from unsympathetic women (and sure there are likely some) but more likely from other men who maintain this hyper-masculine view of society. I mean let’s ask why you might not be believed as a victim of sexual harassment or domestic abuse. The arguments might go something like this:
“I mean you’re a man, you’re supposed to be tough. Just hit that woman back, show her whose boss. And if you did get hit, well you’re a man, you’re just supposed to suck it up.”
“Did you get sexually harassed? You’re a man you’re supposed to like women touching you, anywhere and at anytime. It’s sexy when women want you. You must be gay if you don’t like women coming on to you. I mean every man wants to be as irresistible to women as you are.”
Such attitudes are the result of systemic oppression of women in which hyper-masculinity is valued and femininity is not valued. The quote on the cover photo here is about a male victim from another male, but one could easily see how such a dismissive attitude would even be enhanced if the perpetrator was a woman. Complaining about sexual harassment, being the victim of violence inflicted by a woman, these are all considered feminine qualities and are devalued in a patriarchy. Thus you are treated just like a woman. Disbelieved at best, and at worst ridiculed for being essentially a traitor to your gender. The attitude can even be bore by women, because we are all born into a society that normalizes the patriarchal structure.
As I’ve always argued, being feminist has advantages to both men and women. The sooner we tear down the patriarchy, we improve the condition for all genders and sexual orientation.
The recent stream of women standing up against sexual harassment and sexual criminal activity has once again brought to the fore the idea of heroes and perfection. Something I said I was done talking about, but the subject I guess is just an intriguing one to me and thought I’d share a few more thoughts. I’d like to extend this discussion beyond those accused of sexual harassment or other sex crimes in general, but to a discussion of flaws and the severity of those flaws.
I’ve been listening and reading discussions about where do we draw the line and forgive someone’s acts? I’ve wrote a piece about Bill Cosby some time ago, and I think most people agree that given he is a serial rapist it’s hard to ever watch him again. But some feel differently about Louis CK or Al Franken. Now some might say this is because politics are playing a role, like in the case of Franken, or because you are just such a big fan of their comedy in the case Louis CK. It’s hard to say that’s not the case, but I do think it’s more than that.
As I try to learn about human behavior there are two things that seem clear to me. We are all morally inconsistent to varying degrees, and we all draw lines that cannot be crossed and those lines are different for different people. As I’ve written before, I think we have this ability to elevate celebrities, leaders, and historical figures to unrealistic expectations of perfection. With historical figures of course we might be applying today’s moral standards to those people and unfairly judge them, but I don’t always think that doesn’t have value. We don’t have to judge, but I think there is value in looking at the flaws and inconsistencies in their thinking so that we can avoid those same pitfalls of character today. Gandhi was someone I idolized, and still do to a certain extent, but more reading into his character has revealed his racism against black people, and his misogyny. Should I throw away Gandhi as someone who is a waste of my time to even try to appreciate now that I know? I don’t think so, but I certainly see how he could have been more than he was, and can take those good parts, acknowledge (without judgment) the bad parts and move forward.
But what of those people who we find to be less than perfect today? People who we deem should know better. It’s a tricky business. There might be an average moral perspective, and that perspective might even be backed by empirical data that shows it is a more moral behavior, but culture varies widely, and even when we see the overwhelming benefits of something like gender equality it seems very hard to get everybody on board. If we investigate the most common set of moral values of people in a white evangelical community in the South, we’d find many differences between them and a community in Boulder, Colorado. And the difference may even deviate greater as we go beyond the borders of our country. What seems to be the prevailing moral view of our times is heavily biased by the culture we are currently in. It could be we are in the minority. And even if we are right about what is a more moral actions, and we are right to push those views on to society, it may be difficult for others to agree with our perspective. Of course it’s also true that any one moral perspective is not all that we care about in this world. We all have sets of moral values, and while it would be nice to think that anybody who is a feminist must automatically be also pro-environment, pro marriage equality, or against racism, the dots don’t always connect, nor do I think we should expect them to. If we can have a head of the human genome project also be an evangelical Christian, I think that we should expect that any human is able to hold as true, two widely disparate views on how the universe works.
But where does that leave the rest of us. It seems that it’s human nature to be constantly looking for people that we can look up to, that we can celebrate and that we can strive to be like. It maybe isn’t surprising that we should do this. Seeing something we value, embodied by another human being makes us feel like it’s possible for us to be that way to. Such people can also make us care about things we didn’t before, or care about things in a deep way we never thought possible. And when we find out their flaws there is a feeling of betrayal that feels personal even if we didn’t know them personally. But I think that on a deeper level what we really worry about is what it says about us. “This person I admired is not who I thought, so am I not who I thought as well?” I certainly had these thoughts growing up with an alcoholic father. My dad went from superhero to an extremely flawed individual, and I wondered how I might be flawed and how I would even recognize it? And to be honest I still do sometimes.
I’ve tried to incorporate the best of my dad into who I am, because there is no changing the past. I was born with dad I had, and there is no getting around that. I can be a better dad myself going forward and that’s all I can do. I’m not for burning people to the ground because of their flaws. Even with Bill Cosby I can acknowledge the skill in which he told jokes and stories, and his passion for education and I can say that these are good things and are meaningful. Maybe I can’t watch him anymore, but there was at least some goodness in him. I feel similarly for Scott Orson Card who wrote an incredibly beautiful science fiction story and won a well-deserved Hugo award. He is now a strong anti-gay activist in the Mormon community. But the ideas and themes in his story are worth preserving and even celebrating. I don’t want to turn those ideas to dust just because there is now a side of him I fundamentally disagree with. When I think of heroes in my personal life right now, there are 3 ladies that are supervisors for the program I do volunteer work for helping neglected and abused children. They work long hours, train volunteers, do fundraisers, and deeply care about the welfare of the most vulnerable members of our society. What if I found out that one of them donated money to a pro-life organization, or was racist? Does this invalidate all that they are? Have they still not made the lives better for 100s if not 1000s of children? At what point does the line get crossed? Perhaps if I found out they have abuse their own children. I in no way imagine that’s possible, but maybe given that we are walking paradoxes I should accept that such things are possible.
In the end maybe we all at least share some of the blame for the expectations we place on people, who can never be perfect. Perhaps the reason I think about “heroes” so much is because with an alcoholic father these are questions I’ve been asking all my life. What I’ve tried to do is to understand human behavior and accept the imperfections we all have. I’ve also tried to place value on growth. Knowing we all do things or have done things that are bad, what’s most important is that we accept responsibility, have true remorse and try to do better. I think the exposure of these imperfections is helpful to all of us in this respect, and even when it is sometimes hard to hear (or read) I am thankful to see the cracks in perfection. I actually prefer such a world, because it simply feels truer. It feels like there is somewhere to go. And it is a reminder to be humble, for we all have our cracks and flaws. It’s easy to push the famous people and the historical figures away, because they really aren’t part of our everyday life, but that line we draw can become real hard to draw when it’s someone who is actually close to us. So I think it’s always important to recognize that complexity, the dynamic nature, and the shades of gray in humans. Maybe it’s significant that the devil was only made by being cast down to the very depths of hell. Maybe we can make our stands and still find ways to love.
Hollywood, CA – Today horror and shock turned into sympathy and understanding as serial murderer Harry Weinberg admitted to the public that he is in fact a victim of murder addiction. Just a week ago it was finally discovered that Weinberg had been murdering young female actresses for over 2 decades, and police had thought they caught one of the most monstrous serial killers in U.S. history, but todays heartfelt speech by Weinberg softened the hearts of many when they realized, that like many of us or people we know, he too was suffering from addiction.
Weinberg is a Hollywood mogul known to many for producing some of the most prolific films over the last 30 years and owner of one of the biggest Hollywood Studios Mallowmax. Having scores of great films under his belt it was hard for even this journalist to not give him some leeway after his impassioned words. Weinberg said, “I guess you could say that I might be responsible for that first murder, but you know I felt I had pretty good reasons for it. You never think that doing it once will spark a lifelong desire that you can’t explain. Before I knew it I had murdered 5 more young actresses in a week. It’s like it didn’t even matter if they were talented or not at first, and then it became sort of a game. Like the more talented they were, the more I wanted to murder them. It really escalated in ways I never imagined. But now I know I need help and am going to check myself into a clinic that specializes in murder addiction and get the treatment I need…finally…it’s been so long…” Weinberg then broke into sobs at which point law enforcement officer Sgt. David Wolski, who had initially arrested Weinberg, also became overwhelmed by emotion. We had a chance to talk to Wolski after Weinberg’s announcement. “When I first started investigating this case I was in a state of horror. Finding out how he took advantage of the dreams and hopes of young actresses who had no recourse but to trust him and walk into his home. This type of manipulation is typical of your average serial killer. FBI profilers made this quite clear. But now after hearing about how he’s struggling with addiction…well to be honest I don’t know if it’s moral anymore to put him in jail. He’s sick, and he needs help. Law enforcement will be meeting with the District Attorney’s office later today to discuss our next move. But I think it’s clear at this point that a lot lighter sentence is warranted.”
Others in Hollywood have also come under fire during this scandal for not alerting authorities earlier of the murders that were heavily rumored to be taking place. Several big actors have been named in knowing about Weinberg’s behavior including Hollywood star Bob Afflert. Afflert, however denies any explicit knowledge when we talked to him, “Listen you hear rumors sure. It happens all the time. This is a tough business. Sometimes people say it’s murder getting ahead here, but you know…you think that’s just an expression. I never thought someone would actually be getting murdered. I mean sure there are many days that go by where a young actress doesn’t show up to a set, but dreams are dashed 20 times a minute in this industry, you just figure, here’s another actress who couldn’t make it and has gone back to her farm in Iowa or something. As I look back, yeah I can see now that a lot of them were probably being murdered. It’s sad to look back and think of all those lives lost. But no more sad than a powerful and wealthy man suffering from addiction. I hope he gets the help he needs. As a powerful and wealthy male myself, I realize it’s all too easy to fall into addiction like this. Nobody is going to bring those girls back to life, so I hope that moving forward we can focus more on the help he needs and not the hurt he caused.”
Nevertheless public outrage remains high and questions the structure of an industry that could support this type of behavior so long. They worry that Weinberg isn’t the only one who has behaved this way, as young actresses going missing has been a common theme throughout Hollywood’s history. People wonder if this incident will finally change the culture of silence and looking the other way that has been a mainstay in the industry, or whether more young actresses will be murdered under the guise of everybody’s favorite cliché: “That’s show business!”
Yoga. It sounds like a friendly word. Sounds a little like yogurt. Smooth and creamy. Maybe a little like a low mobility shriveled old alien spouting words of wisdom in Star Wars. Or Maybe it reminds you a little of Yogi Bear: that lovable cartoon animal that really just wanted picnic baskets. He didn’t want to ravage people, he was just hungry for a sandwich. So what harm could come from doing yoga? Plenty. It’s a horrible practice that should have been outlawed by the Geneva Convention. The non-threatening name only exacerbates the horror and trauma it causes. I shall now attempt to explain how this system of abuse works.
It begins by a suggestion from your wife that yoga will be beneficial to you and that it’s something you can do together. While I don’t blame my wife for the suffering endured, she is responsible for tending to injuries afterwards. Anyway, what husband wouldn’t agree with that suggestion – so off to yoga I go. Keep in mind this suggestion has been made for a couple years before I finally relented. This is a great way to spend a Saturday morning if you aren’t a fan of sleeping or taking it easy on the weekend. I am not sure what every yoga studio looks like but the ones I have seen are similar to this. A big open space and as you walk in you feel comforted by its openness. It’s similar to one of those big empty warehouses the mob might ask you a few questions in with just a chair sitting at the center. Except there are no chairs. Off to the side the room is stocked with many implements of your future torture. Unlike in typical torture situations where the torturer has to at least expend some effort to get the equipment, you have to get it yourself. There is the razor thin mat, which gives you little protection from the floor, but prevents your feet and hands from sliding on the floor into a comfortable position which might save you from the pain you will have to experience. There are straps which you use to bind yourself with, there are blocks and pillows that you use to prop yourself up with (more will be explained later about how these will be used to weaken you psychologically).
The class is largely full of women. If you are a single man interested in women, you might think this is the place for you, but you’d be mistaken. The only way you can impress a woman here is through your ability to take pain. Some women might be impressed by that, but probably only the kind that want a man they can inflict pain on. Others might feel sorry for you and take pity. I submit that nothing here is the basis for building a meaningful relationship. My suggestion is that you hone other skills and impress women elsewhere. And as I’ll soon explain, it’s unclear how many people here aren’t part of the grift that is yoga.
Your instructor is the true deceiver here and you will look at her and really think everything will be alright. She is friendly and welcoming. She doesn’t look overly imposing although a careful glance will see strong muscles safely tucked into her yoga pants. Of course, she need not be too formidable in appearance as the method of torture comes from what she tells you to do to yourself, not what she does to you directly. This is the brilliance of it all.
As the session begins the trap is sprung. Why? Because this is the beginning of the psychological manipulation to follow. You start by sitting and breathing. Her voice is calming as she tries to relax you so you become more pliable later. Often there is some music in the background played at the exact right volume to make you more compliant and ensure complete submission to her orders. So there I am sitting and breathing. Pretty easy stuff. I’m getting relaxed. I look around the room…I feel a sense of unity as we are all sitting and breathing and I am on par with the rest of the class at this activity so I’m feeling good about myself. But this peaceful feeling doesn’t last. It’s not long before you have to start doing poses. This by the way is also the beginning of many Hindi words that I’m pretty sure mean rather insidious things, but sound spiritual.
I got to do a cow. That was easy. I pretended like I had a really heavy udder. Then there was the cat. That was also not bad, except cats are ready to pounce and flee at a moment’s notice. This was only making me more stationary. Then there was the cobra. All I know is that if a mongoose found me it would be over quick. Then I am doing something called “a child”, which is not like my child at all who is energetic and obstinate. In this position you are more like a worshipper praising the teacher for the pleasure of being tortured. Then I’m told to take the strap and put it around my foot to hold my leg straight up in the air. I quickly notice how my leg doesn’t go straight up in the air. It is roughly at a 20 degree angle above the floor in order to remain straight. Everybody else in the room is like a fucking submarine and I begin to feel shame. I begin to wonder is yoga really just part of the feminist agenda so we know what it feels like to constantly feel shame over our own bodies in a patriarchal system? As a feminist I quickly agree that yoga is for the betterment of society and continue. My hamstring already feels angry as the teacher calmly has me moving my leg to the left and right. Her language becomes a maze of confusion. “Turn to the right, but open your shoulders. Pin your hips to the floor as if you are breathing through your thigh.” I quickly notice that my thigh is completely without the requisite respiratory system and begin to worry. That worry is quickly forgotten as I am told to lose the strap and do a cobra again. Now it’s downward facing dog. You will, in this moment, realize that no dog would ever pose like this. My arms quiver under the weight of my body. “No”, she says, “the weight is supposed to mostly on your legs.” I quickly try to work out how this is humanly possible because hard as I try I can only make my hamstrings scream. I collapse on to my knees and look around as everyone looks like statues and my complete incompetence becomes glaring. I’m sweating as I glance up at the clock. Only 15 minutes have passed. Also why does my sweat smell worse in this environment?
As I alluded to earlier the extreme shame you experience is what makes you go along with the instructor. Every move you try to follow her on reminds you that you aren’t worthy. All the while she will say things like, “Lift your arm up straight so that it brushes your ear. Now drop your shoulder.” What? How do I drop my shoulder while lifting up my arm? And on and on it goes, “Open your shoulders, stretch your spine, drop your tailbone, turn your pinkies inward to work your triceps, reach out with your ring finger to feel it in your armpit, bend down to left while lowering your right hip.” Basically the rule of thumb is that whatever direction they want you to move, you are supposed to, somehow, at the same time also move in the other direction. And I begin to realize that yoga is simply the art of tearing your own body apart as slowly and painfully as possible.
I am on the ground, left leg over right and told “turn to the left, but not to move my neck, and to keep my buttocks on the ground, and to reach behind me, turn my hand, open my shoulders, but now look back in the other direction, without using my neck, only my shoulders, also open up the sides of your body, push your ribs against your tailbone.” Somehow no time has passed since my last excruciating look at the clock. As I look around, illegally, using my neck, I am reminded once again that I am surround by flexible supple women who look like dancers and begin to realize that they are all part of the plan to torture you. The teacher beforehand selected them to make you look as pathetic as possible. And as you look over at the teacher, you can’t even feel aggression, which would be the normal way to get out of this situation, but shame weakens you. You are ready to tell her where the bomb is located, what the encryption code is, turn over your family to the authorities, but your tormentor doesn’t want any information and only wants you to experience pain. A 5’1″ sadist who somehow manages to say “namaste” with a smile on her face from the well of darkness that must be her soul. You want to run out of the room, but this would only add to the humiliation. Peppered throughout her tormenting instruction is “Don’t do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable.” Even though, minus the sitting and breathing, everything she’s asked you to do since makes you uncomfortable. If my comfort was her concern she would ask me to leave.
The final mockery comes with the warrior poses. As a man my instinct is to think that this is finally something I can sink my teeth in, but again she exposes the patriarchy for what it is. I look around and I see women who could very well be Amazonian soldiers ready to strike me with a deadly blow. I on the other hand feel like a Chihuahua who has less that confidently stood in front of Doberman Pincher, only to realize that not only do I have a sprained ankle, but I’ve also got spinach between my teeth when I try to growl. I listen to Yanni playing now. I hate Yanni. That bastard plays a note for 30 seconds while sipping a coffee, making millions and leads a pleasurable life, while his new age feeble “compositions” are now a soundtrack for my pain.
The best part of it all is that this was called “gentle yoga”. Imagine lying on the ground while a crane slowly in small increments lowers a 1 ton weight on to you. At first you are like it’s just touching me, now it’s a bit of a massage, and then “Oh my bones are being crushed and I will soon be flat as a pancake”. This is really the only way I can me sense of the use of the word “gentle”. Gentle and continuous pressure will still ruin your day.
After a length of time which can only be measured on the geologic time scale, the barefoot punisher allows you to relax and asks for you to reflect on what you did today. Afraid to relive the trauma I decide to think of the bagels I have at home and which flavor cream cheese I want. I do some more very competent breathing. She wishes us all happiness, and that we cause no harm, remorseless for the harm she caused me. I get up and put my torture implements away obediently, wipe down my mat, smelling the residue of my fear. As I leave, hips wobbling, the teacher smiles at me and I say “See you next week!”
In response to bloggers who say I don’t talk about women’s issues very much I thought I’d capitulate and see if I can come up with something that they would like. Of course if I were to be honest, I’d say the real reason is because the inspiration I felt from the women’s march on inauguration day gave me so much strength. It was a great way to begin what are likely going to be 4 hard years.
An article that I thought was very well written was a response to post that made its rounds on inauguration day that was no in support of the women’s march. That response is titled “You Are Not Equal. I’m Sorry.”
Not surprisingly this article elicited a response and I’ve chosen to critique this response for two reasons. One this article was posted on a website called Future Female Leaders – America’s leading social movement for young conservative women. They have merchandise by the way, and all future female leaders are apparently thin, white, and pretty (and also apparently only two women), but I digress. I also wanted to critique this article because I found the rhetoric in the article to be full of the very things that tend to harm women. There are Christian undertones without actually talking about Christianity, there are weak and fallacious arguments that do nothing to demonstrate that there are strong intelligent women out there, and then there is also the beginning sprouts of the Republican establishment philosophy which I am sure will make the author quite popular with the patriarchy and those who wish to be complicit with it. So feel free to check it out for yourself, it’s called: “Yes, I Am Equal. I’m Sorry You Are Offended By Us Women Who Lack A Victim Mindset”.
From the very start we have one logical fallacy. The title contains a strawman argument. If you’re a feminist who believes that women should be equal to men in society, and apparently disagree with her, then you must have a victim mindset. Apparently that’s what feminists are.
The first point here begins with a misquote and demonstrate that this future female leader is someone who is unable to research well and is willing to take things out of context to argue her points. Here is a well-researched article from politifact about Sanger’s quote.
“Those who think Sanger wanted black genocide cite the Negro Project. But even their strongest evidence, a passage from a letter she wrote advocating that organizers recruit black ministers for the project, does not come close to proving a genocidal plot.
Sanger wrote that “We don’t want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs.”
But her correspondence shows this sentence advocates for black doctors and ministers to play leadership roles in the Negro Project to avoid misunderstandings. Lynchings and Jim Crow laws gave blacks good reason to be wary of attempts to limit the number of children they bore. In Harlem, she hired a black doctor and social worker to quell those fears.”
This should be enough to not take this writer seriously, but since she might be a future female leader let’s move on.
It’s true that we have laws set up that give women equal pay for equal work. But this isn’t at the heart of gender gap in pay. The wage gap is based not on a straight calculation of pay, but other factors that impact the careers options women have in society. Most jobs if they do give parental leave, it’s only for the women. What the pay gap is about is demonstrating that we still live in a society where women are the ones expected to shoulder a larger share of the parenting duties in favor of their career. This impacts the careers they choose, and the fact that they often choose flexibility over pay as a result of this as well. Women also face difficulties where their assertiveness is not valued, even though for men it would be. They are seen as a bitch or abrasive. Asking for raises is such a behavior and is often not looked kindly on in the workplace.
Scientifically speaking, a fetus also isn’t a tenant in a woman’s body who can come and go if it pleases and compensates each month with rent. Also a fetus is NOT the very definition of a human being, which makes me wonder if this future leader has picked up the dictionary. Look, I know the debate about personhood may never be resolved. But the fact remains that the fetus takes from the mother in order to live. It’s not even a symbiotic relationship, it’s closer to parasitic. Now you can chide me for being unromantic about the most beautiful experience ever, and, believe me, when my son was born it was a beautiful thing. But I also saw my wife go through pregnancy and I am aware of how taxing it can be, how delicate her life becomes for a mother when something is trying to feed off of her in order to survive. My wife had very high blood pressure near the end, and was essentially on bed rest. In the end it is her body, and her right to decide what happens to it. A fetus is not a human being, and if you want to call it that, fine, but consider the woman’s humanity too. That seems to always get lost on so many pro-lifers.
Not sure what her argument is here. There is an issue about the Tampon Tax. I could find no evidence of it being taxed more than other items, but there has been lots of research that women pay more for identical products than men. Whether this is sexism, or price gouging, or both, we can debate, but certainly points to the emphasis in society of female appearance.
She thinks rape and sexual assault is because society lack of morals. And apparently the way to deal with a lack of morals is to carry a gun. She’s a regular Republican talking point there. Whether you carry mace or a gun isn’t the point, and it does nothing to solve the moral problem. People are getting raped. That’s the problem. Also why is it society’s lack of morals? Isn’t a rapist’s lack of morals? Which as it turns out, tend to be men.
Yes both men and women are objectified. But I think we might be a bit confusion on the issue of proportion as well as the attitudes such things generate toward the different genders. I think there is pretty clear evidence that women are objectified more than men. An interesting study here demonstrates why that might be.
While it’s true that men are also victims of domestic violence, the one place where this future female leader decided to post a link in support of her argument is irrelevant at demonstrating the women have little to fear, but seems aimed to try to demonstrate that women are more dangerous than men. Overall statistics that look at violence against women demonstrate that women are most often victims (in the U.S. it’s better than in many other countries in the world), and when you factor in things like stalking, and rape, the level of fear that women experience is far greater than what men go through.
Talk about a reductionist argument here. This is about how girls are raised, and treated by others, not meeting them on the street.
Legally guaranteed rights doesn’t mean that oppression goes away. I mean the same laws exist to protect African-Americans but racism still exists. Of course I suppose since she a future female conservative leader she probably disagrees. I mean we had a black president right?! The constitution has guaranteed equal rights for all citizens of India, so the caste system is gone as well! Millennia of oppression is always instantly wiped out with laws! Sorry for the sarcasm here, but I couldn’t help it.
Well she doesn’t think that women are less than equal here in the U.S. So not much to say here. But it’s insulting. And apparently if you’re a feminist if you’re fighting for the right to legislate your own body you aren’t a real feminist.
Feminism is about empowering women. I know many who have been empowered by the ideals of feminism. I am not sure where you are getting your definition. Perhaps you are getting it from the most extreme in the particular group. Every group has it. There are those that call themselves feminists who are not after equality but dominance. These are small amount. Just as there are small amount of Christians who are the Westboro Baptist Church. Thus your argument is a fallacy of composition. And it may be true that many women are afraid to label themselves feminist. Because labels carry with them complications. But maybe they are afraid of the label because of people like you who misunderstand feminism. I consider myself a feminist and am unafraid of that label, because I know what the movement is really about.
And this young lady’s response of course ignores many of the statistics in the first article, and so there is a lot of intellectual dishonesty here, whether purposeful or not. Look I’m not going to make assumptions about her back ground but if this is the attitude behind our future female leaders, I am going to say no thanks for now. The fact that you can even have a dream of being a future female leaders is because of this feminist movement that you are denigrating. Elisa is still young, just a college student. I hope in that time she will learn more, and most importantly get to know more women. Not just ones like her. Really understand what women go through and realize that there are many strong women who don’t consider themselves victims but would steadily oppose her views as I do. And for her to put down this march is really insulting to so many women. We have a president right now who is very much a misogynist. It’s not just about abortion. It’s about having a leader who normalized sexual assault, and the objectification of women in the way he speaks. And how that wasn’t enough to prevent over 60 million people to vote for him. Most of them men. Women have cause for concern, and the millions of women who marched for the purposes of saying their freedom, their autonomy, their equality, and their humanity should not be belittled. Especially from a future female leader, who hasn’t done her homework.
For many people that I know and that I see around this country, the idea that a person like Donald Trump could be this close to the presidency is simply baffling. A place we find it hard to empathize. I am a person who always tries to remain optimistic. The more pessimistic about things, the more I try to find that silver lining, that thread of understanding, and try to open the door to a more enlightened and positive mindset. It is very difficult to do this about Trump and those who support him. However in that journey I came across a couple of media pieces that have help. One is this video piece done by The Guardian in the UK. It is very well done and closely examines McDowell county in West Virginia and speaks to the desperation that many people are facing and why they would hang their hopes on someone like Trump.
The main thing that I want to discuss is this article from Cracked.Com. Every once and awhile I’ll across a thought provoking article from this satirical site and this is one of them. There are many points that I agree with, and few points that are hard to swallow, and I had to remind myself that I did have to open my heart a little bit more than I had. There are also some important points that I disagree with, or rather omitted points that I think provide for a more fair approach to the subject.
The main thrust of the piece is that when you look at a map of blue vs. red, the state map that we often look at during elections gives us a false idea for how that break down happen. The map in the article clearly shows that blue vs red is really urban vs. rural. The fact that blue has been taking precedence nationally I think is fairly indicative of that demographic shift to an urban dominated country. My state of Pennsylvania is a good example of how the urban centers of Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, and Philadelphia dominate the voting population even though most counties tend to be very conservative. There are very many counties like the one investigated in WV in The Guardian video, and poverty and drug use is high. As the Cracked article points out, rural America is a forgotten group of people and grows smaller and thus is paid less attention to over time. Our country was once much more agrarian, many rural counties had factories or mines and all these things allowed small town and rural America to thrive. This however is not the world we live in anymore. As the article points out, even for the most part pop culture has left rural societies out of the conversation. We forget where food comes from. We are concerned about the mistreatment of urban minorities, but show little concern for the extreme poverty that many who live in rural areas or small towns live in. The deterioration of their livelihood with no plan put into place for how to give these people a chance to better their situation.
Republican politicians often talk about two Americas, and in some way they are right. They often talk about the good hard working folks in “any town” USA, and they are right. How many times do democratic politicians even really actively campaigned in rural areas and made their concerns part of their platform? I will concede that to many liberals, the needs and lives of rural America are forgotten or ignored. I included. We may find their attitudes deplorable, but let us also, at the very least consider how deplorable their lives have become over the past 40 years as jobs have moved overseas and that most of our food is produced by big companies and industrial farming. And here comes Trump, who addresses the “common man” who says he’s going to bring coal jobs back (even though they aren’t coming back), who says he’s going to lower everybody’s taxes, who says that he’s going to bring companies from overseas back (he’s not), and make America great again.
My criticism with the article I linked is that (and maybe this is a problem with the media) we aren’t getting people who come to the fore, supporting Trump, and really making nuanced arguments about the difficulties in rural America. What we have is a slick NYC businessman as far from rural as you can get being supported by people who rail against immigrants (even though they themselves were immigrants), who want religious law to influence government law (no abortion, end marriage equality), who shout patriotism without substance, who want to build gigantic walls that would only further their economic challenges, and who literally find their candidate’s offensive views on women to literally be no problem at all.
I think the article makes some great points and I think that in the end if we are going to survive as a nation than “WE the people” has to mean something. We all have to do a better job at reaching across the aisle. And this is one of my posts that is much as a call to action to me as anyone else. I struggle sometimes when I see someone come on TV speaking hate and intolerance, but I don’t want to become a person who writes that person off as a loss cause. So if there is this other America that is disenfranchised and needs are help than I am happy to do so, but that doesn’t mean I am going to turn my back on women, on racial minorities, religious minorities, on LGBQT people to do so. Both sides have to want to heal the divide and that means that we have to start seeing everybody as important whether it is racial vs urban, all races, creeds, sexual orientation. There are a lot of problems that we all have in common. Let’s start there, and I think you’ll find that if we worked out those things first, a lot of the other things wouldn’t matter so much.
Washington, D.C. – Last week, the bombing of Aleppo, Syria caused social media in the U.S. to surge with evanescent concern for their over 500,000 homeless people. Experts are saying that the plight of Syrians has been one of the best tragedies for getting people to feign interest over the increasingly prevalent problem of homelessness in the U.S. One of the more moving scenes from last week’s bombing was the vacant expression on the face of a young boy, Omran Dagneesh, who was pulled from the rubble in the aftermath and bolstered vast amounts of fleeting sympathy for homeless people. Once his wounds had been tended to, reporters had a chance to speak to him about his reactions to the near end of homelessness in the U.S. “Of course,” remarked the traumatized young boy, “I am pleased that my town, my neighbors, could all be bombed so that people in America could demonstrate momentary outrage at the terrible homelessness problem. I mean it’s the most powerful economy of any country on Earth so I was glad that bricks and cement could bury me like that so that people could seem to care for homeless people, even if just for a day.”
Omran Dagneesh’s father echoed his son’s joy at being part of the short-lived concern for homeless people in the U.S. “I only wish,” said the smiling father whose life was recently destroyed, “that we could have shown pictures of the other children, particularly the ones that died. Oh and my neighbor who was pregnant and whose unborn baby was killed in her womb. I’m certain that concern for homelessness could have trended on Facebook in the U.S. in a much more significant way.”
But social media experts say last week’s wave of false concern was small in comparison to last year’s overwhelming spurious concern for the homeless. Reporters asked Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg whether this was true. “There is no doubt that when millions of Syrians were desperately fleeing the deteriorated conditions in Syria last year, the concern for homeless people was so great that it almost felt tangible.” Zuckerberg added, “not tangible enough to do anything, but boy you really felt liked homelessness would be over soon.”
Long time Facebook user David Olsen of Battlecreek, MI remembers the time well. “I don’t know what came over me,” reflected Olsen, “as I saw so many articles being posted about taking in all these Syrians who were completely destitute and in need of help, I suddenly become aware of all those who were destitute and in need of help, and thought about our own homeless. Unfortunately, I was too busy reminding everybody about them to donate any money or volunteer any time to actually help them. But you know it really felt good to get the information out. When news about the Syrians disappeared from my newsfeed, it was like the homeless problem disappeared as well. Problem essentialy solved.”
Other Facebook users like Shirley Potter of Enid, OK however had a difficult time showing overall temporary care for homelessness. “In general I think homeless people just need to pull themselves off their bootstraps,” said a resolute Potter, “but I am very pro-military, and when I found out that many of our vets were homeless as I learned about how much help the Syrians needed, I was able to join the chorus of people with transient sympathy for homeless people.”
To get the opinion of those who were at the receiving end of this ersatz concern, reporters asked homeless man Barton Kirby how he felt. Kirby however was too moved to respond by the fact that in 12 years nobody had asked him his name and also that reporters didn’t spit at him.
At the political end of the spectrum Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY) answered numerous questions from reporters at a press conference last week. “Ultimately as a nation we can only act like we care for so many things at once, and we simply don’t have the resources to be helping Syrians with so many homeless people about,” exclaimed the senator from the nation that spends a higher percentage of their GDP on health care than any other developed nation. “Currently we lead all developed nations in the category of child homelessness. This problem isn’t going to go away unless we really get exposed to some long term suffering of the Syrian people so we can generate some solid and temporary concern for the homeless.” The senator then added “We also have other problems we need to pay lip service to. There are our veterans.” asserted the senator from the country that spends more per capita on defense than any other nation over 30 million people, and still has homeless veterans and veterans without proper physical and mental health care after their service. “We also have many people unemployed,” declared the senator, part of a congress whose work to pass jobs bills has been dwarfed by the over 60 times they tried to repeal the ACA, “so you see we have our hands full with all these other things we pretend are important, and can’t possibly help Syrian refugees. And we’d like to thank the media for exposing the issues the good people of Syria face so we can continue this very moral and serious façade of being too busy working on our own problems to help others.”
Some detractors say that ultimately helping people is really more about the political and popular will to do so, but Dave Olsen disagrees. “The only way we can solve homelessness through mock empathy is if we remain vigilant to stories about the suffering of the Syrian people. I, along with many others on social media, are working together as a community to make sure that the Syrians never get helped while inspiring us to keep talking, but not actually doing anything, about the very important topic of homelessness.”