The Recipe for a Shooter

On June 14th, 2017, James T. Hodgkinson walked into a baseball field where the Republican congressional baseball team was practicing and opened fire.  In the end 6 people had been injured and the shooter was killed by law enforcement on the scene in a shootout.  It should be no surprise that this is a situation that can easily be made political.  This was not a random act of terrorism.  The intent was to attack members of the GOP, and the shooter knew who would be at the baseball diamond that day, and the political views of this shooter were that of a “liberal”.

Given the growing unreasonableness on the left, such as the suppression of free speech on university campuses and even outbreaks of violence, it might be easy to say that conservatives are under attack by liberals and that we must increasingly become concerned about liberals.  If we look at the trends of mass shootings over the past 10 years I think we can easily see that this is not a partisan problem.  This is just another of many mass shootings in this country.  Another act of terror of the many that go through our news cycle, where nothing gets done.  But if we want to look at direct response to shootings that were politically based, when Gabby Giffords was shot, nothing was done legislatively because of that incident so it doesn’t seem likely anything will change now.  However, this administration hasn’t been terribly predictable so who knows?

When the name of the shooter was identified, knowing that he shot at Republican politicians, I was immediately interested in who the man was, because I was worried that his political views would be on the democratic side and that in the face of our current administration this might spell trouble for other liberals.  I imagine it is similar to the feeling a good law abiding Muslim must feel when a shooting happens.  Hoping the shooter isn’t a follower of Islam.  My Google search brought me to his Facebook profile.  This was literally a minute after his name had been released by the news.  I immediately saw that he was a Bernie supporter and was anti-Trump and naturally I groaned.  Several posts were public as is typical on any profile that shares stories.  What happened next was something I did not expect.  People began commenting on those posts.  Within a minute, hundreds of comments had been made with the larger proportion of those comments being insults hurled at the shooter.  The ugliness of humanity laid bare before me, and it was painful to see watch some meaningless rage.  One might argue that had this rage been directed to the actual shooter, maybe we could somehow have sympathy for such actions, but the shooter was dead.  The only people that could possible see this was family.  The anger could only hurt people who were only guilty of knowing the shooter.  No information about his family supporting him had been reported.  He could have been divorced, estranged, hated by them.  Perhaps they knew the man he once was and were simply saddened by the whole situation.  They were perhaps as appalled as anyone else at what Mr. Hodgkinson had done, and were simply grieving at the death of a man they thought they knew, or once knew.  I don’t understand people.  Unless a shooter actually killed somebody that I loved, I can’t imagine myself feeling enough rage to do the equivalent of “spitting on his grave”.

But I then reflected on my initial reactions to the shooting.  They were none too virtuous either.  Worried about how my “group” might be perceived in the future.  And yes even the thought of the irony of Republicans against gun laws, paying some penance for their views floated through my brain.  I am not proud of it, but perhaps this is what we’ve become in a society full of these incidents.  Of course, it’s also natural to have such thoughts, but what actions you take are, in the end, more important.  Despite my thoughts I did not get angry and lash out at anybody.  No shame or mocking.  This is a serious and sad incident and that is the most important position we should take on this matter. And as I saw comment after comment pour out I knew there was something important to be learned here, and wanted to take a few days to collect some thoughts and see what that might be.  I am not sure I’ve completely figured it out, but unfortunately I can’t help but worry that things aren’t going to get better here in the U.S. anytime soon.

CNN laid out quite distinctly all his liberal viewpoints, and that he was anti-GOP, and frustrated by the corruption and income inequality in this country.  The entire laundry list describes most people I know in my life who would never do something like this.  And yes, of course you never know, but I can at least say that probabilistically 99% of the people I know will not do something like this.  When we say that shooters like Dylann Roof are racist and that’s why he did what he did, or that Mr. Hodgkinson was a liberal or Bernie supporter and that’s why he did what he did, is this a fair thing to say?  I don’t believe so.  It ignores the many people who share similar views but don’t do these types of things.  We know John Lennon’s shooter was inspired by Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye, but we know that millions of schoolchildren have read the book and certainly had no murderous thoughts because of the book.  The first thing that we have to be honest about, if we truly hope to lessen violent crimes like this in our culture, is that people who do these kinds of things are the confluence of more than one factor.  For any one behavior or trait, or any one environmental influence that you find in the shooter, you will find no solution to what makes somebody do this.  In the population of people that represent any one behavior or influence you will find far more non-killers than killers.

I should point out that there is one trait that all these acts of terrorism have in common.  The killer is male.  Yet of course we will still find far more males who aren’t killers, but it should at least make us ponder, what is it about being male through nature or nurture that increases the odds that they will become a perpetrator of these types of mass shootings?

One of the main points to come out about the shooter is his domestic abuse charge.  Why would someone like this be able to legally own firearms?  I’d like to look at this from two perspectives.  On one hand, it’s easy for everyone to get up in arms about a domestic abuser having a gun, given how often women are the target of incidents with firearms, this should be a no-brainer.  And maybe it is, although there are apparently some loopholes as discussed in the Slate article I just linked, but here is the problem:  he was never convicted.  This matters.  It must.  If we simply start denying people rights based on charges, then the rule of law has no value.

On the other hand, women know all too well about this kind of abuse.  It is very difficult to get a conviction for domestic violence.  What happens if your abuser threatens worse if you report them?  What happens if you do report them thinking, well they will be behind bars so I’ll be okay.  But what happens if you report it, but the cop doesn’t take you seriously?  Or the justice system fails you?  In reading about Mr. Hodgkinson’s domestic abuse case (it was against a daughter and a friend of the daughter), the case seemed a bit strange.  Though charged, he was never convicted because the victims never appeared in court?  Why would this be?  Perhaps they knew his temper.  Perhaps he threatened them. These are all likely scenarios and so the question then becomes, how do we deal with this type of person.  If we believe that evidence is still necessary for conviction, how do we get more people to come forward about their abusers?  How do we protect those victims adequately during and after their case, win or lose?  This is a problem we’ve been trying to tackle for years and there has been some progress, but not enough.  The progress that has been made has been a result of the rise of feminism.  Yes you may actually have to become a feminist if you want to make the situation better for those who experience domestic abuse.  And just because I am sure somebody reading this might say men are the victims of domestic abuse too, I shall freely admit that, yes, this is true.  But that doesn’t mean believing in gender equality is going to make you forget about male victims.  In fact, fighting gender stereotypes that oppress women actually makes things better for men.  Narrow definitions of masculinity and femininity also play into why a lot of men don’t get believed when they say they are victims of abuse.

Finally, we can’t ignore the role mental health plays when it comes to these types of incidences.  In reading about the shooter, beyond the domestic violence incidences, it is clear that he has a history of anger problems.  Anger has been linked recently to gun violence (link is an article that links to the peer-reviewed study but is only the abstract).  From the article:

“Swanson believes that it could be more effective to, instead of looking at mental health history, look at a prospective gun buyer’s record of misdemeanor convictions that could indicate impulsive, explosive and violent behavior.”

The paper also has a somewhat alarming graphic about men who experience excessive anger and gun ownership.

This is only one study and hopefully more research will be done in this area.  It seems also relevant then to ask, where does the shooter’s anger stem from?  Something in his childhood?  Is it some chemical imbalance in his body?  Is too much anger a mental health issue?  I would say yes, but there are a lot of people out there who get angry.  Like many things, any emotional reaction you find exists on a spectrum among people.  We could easily find someone out there who has anger problems but not quite as much as Mr. Hodgkinson, and some people with a little more.  Where do we draw the line and say, “this amount of anger is unhealthy, this amount of anger is healthy?”  And isn’t it more on how we act on that anger?  The study points again to convictions, but if there are none what then? How else might we learn about anger issues?  There are still stigmas for receiving treatment for any type of emotional struggle we are going through are still strong, especially for men.  In our society being aggressive and angry is valued for a man.  Such stereotypes imply that if you were to get help you would be seen as weak and less masculine.  Also, many people think of mental illness as only some condition you are born with or as something serious like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or dementia.  Things like anxiety, depression, anger are things people think we should always be able to control.  Unfortunately, this is not the case and excessive bouts of these things, even if it is temporary within your lifetime can lead to some pretty unhealthy outcomes.

So far, I don’t think I’ve said much new, but I guess one of the other facets of this incidents that inspired me to write this post was to look at the political activism of Mr. Hodgkinson.  Here is a person who has been active politically for some time.  He was a local business owner, was constantly engaged in various political causes.  Signing petitions, getting others to sign.  He was wrote opinion pieces to his local paper.  He volunteered for political campaigns.  Despite his anger problems, here is a man who, at least for a solid portion of his life, tried to solve the problems in society through engagement with people and the system on a non-violent platform.  I’ll quote once again from Sam Harris, because I think these words are very poignant here “…all we have is conversation…you have conversation and violence.  That’s how we can influence one another.  When things really matter and words are insufficient, people show up with guns. That’s the way things are.”  The end of Mr. Hodgkinson’s life are indicative of a man who was suffering mentally.  He was living out of a van, he looked like he was homeless.  Had sold most of his things just to move to D.C.  These aren’t the normal decisions someone makes and at the age of 66, it seems likely that there was at least some brain deterioration going on.  But here was a man who believed strongly about the world not being right, and he wanted to make it right.  And for many years he engaged in that activity non-violently.  Maybe he wasn’t the best representative for his cause, but he also wasn’t wrong.  There has been growing income inequality, the government is corrupt and colluding with the top 1%, and poverty increases in this country.  These are good things to get angry about.  Here is a man who tried for much of his life to use words, and I couldn’t help but thinking of the Sam Harris quote.  The causes the shooter was fighting for really matter, for many of us it feels like words ARE insufficient, and here we have someone showing up with a gun.

I am not trying to make this man seem like some sort of hero, but it made me wonder, given that this was clearly an attack on a political party, what is the difference between a terrorist and a revolutionary?  Numbers and organization?  I think the collective population, regardless of their beliefs, can feel helpless as words seem ineffectual in influencing change.  There are so many people in this world and the weight of it is enormous given the rate we can receive information about all the terrible things happening in it.  It’s more weight than our evolution prepared us for, and as one person it can easily feel like the only way to make an impact in it is to really get noticed.  And violence gets you noticed.  Mr. Hodgkinson has far more people thinking about him then he ever did being involved in politics throughout his life.  So when you have anger issues, problems with gun laws, problems with domestic abuse, a patriarchal society, a corrupt government that doesn’t respond to the people, increasing poverty, how many more people like Mr. Hodgkinson will pop out of the woodwork?  Can we stop them all?  Perhaps this is a commonality among all of these types of shooters.  A desire to be impactful in a world that feels unchangeable or a world that is changing with the feeling that it’s leaving you behind.  Either way, the amount of women doing these things is so negligible that it seems worth asking the question why men seem more susceptible to this type of behavior.

There are no easy answers here, and it’s time we stopped pretending there were.  One’s politics and religion certainly play a role, but so many other things do as well.  Let’s not aim for simple correlations and blame that solve nothing.  We know there are societies where this isn’t as big of a problem.  We are NOT helpless when we work together to build something better.  Change, however, does not happen overnight.  It takes patience and perseverance.  I still hold hope that we can find that change through conversation instead of violence, but I won’t lie and say that a worry that violence will continue to rise grows in the back of my mind.  As I think about all those people hurling out rage on Mr. Hodgkinson’s Facebook page, I wonder which angry person is the next to become violent.  Which one of those angry people has a gun, and with the right confluence of factors is the next one to use it.  For all my talk about conversation, I worry that not enough people are listening anymore.

An Evening To Remember

She opened the car door and stepped out.  Had someone been watching they would have thought it was one of those intentionally shot, sexy scenes as a bare leg clad in a sexy black pump hit the pavement.  As the rest of her emerged she was the vision of beauty and elegance.  Her carefully chosen evening gown with the slit up the left side was sure to catch the attention of many, but it wasn’t because she was vain.  She simply had good taste, and liked to look good for a special night out.  Her husband was being honored today.   Her husband had won another big case.  Civil rights cases were tough to win, and he had been winning it for the little guy for years now, in several high-profile cases.   When she had met him, it seemed they were just heading to a normal upper middle class future, with the normal rate of advance as lawyers.  But practicing law was different than learning it.  As having a family came into the picture, her passion for the law was less.  She had been offered being partner at her law firm, but it just didn’t seem all that appealing.  She also saw how much her husband loved practicing law, and how good he was at it, and it wasn’t a difficult decision for her to pull back and practice law part time.  Children and family meant something to her, and she knew that she would never find enough happiness in her career to compensate for not seeing her children more often.  They would have had no trouble affording a nanny, but it killed her thinking about a stranger spending more time with her children than her.  They would still be very comfortable, they had a nice house, and a good life was about more than money. She hooked her arm in his and walked together into the venue for the evening.

It was a reasonably big crowd as they entered the room.  People were dressed to kill, and she was equal to the task.  Some familiar faces approached them to welcome them.  She felt a bit like a celebrity as she saw more people swarm towards them.  This was their life now.  They had made it.  They were doing positive things in the world, and she had the right balance in her life in terms of career and family.  But as the people came and went the focus was not on her.  There was requisite smiling and small talk.  Even genuine heartfelt warmth.  There were good people in the room, but even they wanted their time with the man of the hour, and in many ways conversations with them were the worst.  “What was it like to be married to such a great lawyer?  How proud are you of your husband?  Did you think he would win the case?”  She tried to remain positive.  Of course he would be congratulated, schmoozed, networked, and charmed for his accolades.  What else did she expect?

She expected to be seen as important.  She expected to have value.  The way that she saw herself.  Was it so hard to believe that as talented as her husband was that he might have married someone equally talented, with equal intellect, and with an admirable moral center?  The magnificence of her dress felt like it was fading into the scenery.  She felt like an object attached her husband’s arm.  No one seemed to see her as having value, even when she knew that it wasn’t true.  She could put up with it for night though.  Right?

But if this case was any indication, he would become busier and he would get bigger cases, and his fame would continue to grow.  She realized in that moment she would not be putting up with this for one night.  It wouldn’t stop.  How long could she take being solely defined by her husband’s career and success?  Why didn’t it matter that the only reason her husband had so much time to be a great lawyer and have two children was because of her?  Why didn’t the excellence in the choices she made for her life, marriage, and family, make less difference than his?  And she was invaluable as someone to talk to when he’d come home and talk about his cases.  After all she was a lawyer too.  It wasn’t her husband’s fault society was like this, but she couldn’t help but wonder if it even entered his head to think about these things.  If he was he’d make more of an effort, wouldn’t he?  She wondered, if the situation was reversed, would any man be treated with as much indifference as she felt from others right now?  Suddenly she was jolted out of her grim analysis.

“What a stunning dress!  It must be nice to buy such expensive clothes after your husband’s big win!?”  She nodded and smiled and hoped that she look convincingly gracious for that horrible compliment.  She had the dress for several years and she could afford it all on her own.  It was like people thought she had suddenly been invented for the purpose of accompanying her husband.  She expertly stopped herself from crying and made an excuse to her husband to go to the lady’s room.  She stared in the mirror, not knowing whether a flood of tears or pure rage would come next.  It dawned on her that the rest of the evening would be spent wondering whether it was better to just continuing being small and hide in a hole somewhere, or to be visible in the crowd but still feel alone.  She decided the former was the easier choice, but then she’d have let this superficial group of people chill her into hiding.  She was better than that.  It might be a hollow victory, but she held her head high and walked out again.  There was a loose line of people waiting to talk to her husband.  Eventually they would sit down at a table to eat, and he would give everyone else their undivided attention.  With the grace of an empress she crossed the room and sidled up next to him.  Outside darkness gave a respectful wave goodbye to the dusk, and inside she was content to be the stars shining through the night, even if the heads in the room were too heavy to ever look up.

Female Future Leaders

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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. Talk about a reductionist argument here. This is about how girls are raised, and treated by others, not meeting them on the street.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.

Double Binds

As always the NPR podcast The Hidden Brain had my mind churning today (Episode 48*).  This one was talking about the double bind women find themselves in when they strive for leadership positions.  I am sure any woman reading this doesn’t need much explaining.  The basic idea is that if you’re nice (as you are stereotypically supposed to be) you’re weak, and if you’re a competent strong leader you’re unlikable. The lack of representation of women in government and as CEO’s of fortune 500 companies is pretty good evidence of this.  And I know professional women experience shades of this regardless of whether or not they are vying for top leadership positions.  Just asserting yourself can have you seen as bossy, bitchy, abrasive.  Attributes that rarely get prescribed to men when they are assertive.  And there are other double binds beyond the scope of the podcast such as additional judgments that go along with their appearance that men often don’t have to face.  The expectation to maintain the home, and take a lead role in parenting in addition to their own personal ambitions.  For many women it seems like there are consequences no matter what they choose.

What my mind started to think about, in addition to the challenges women face, is why would we consider a “nice” woman a “weak” woman?  In terms of leadership attributes studies are showing the importance of empathy in a leader.  Another episode from the same podcast (Episode 43) reported that people who were empathetic inspired more people to follow them than those that were authoritarian.

research-women-frenemies-friends-390x285One thing that has always bothered me about the oppression of women and I feel doesn’t get talked about as much is the devaluing of those qualities that we typically associate with women.  Why is kind, nurturing, or emotional a bad thing?  In a fascinating story (also in podcast form, but written about here) a new method for improving safety on oil rigs was employed where employees (all male) were trained to become more openly emotional.  To be vulnerable.  The results were astounding with an 84% drop in the accident rate.  Many of the workers also forged more meaningful relationships with their spouses and children as a result of being more emotionally open.  Today we see how many of the stereotypes that men face, as a consequence of those feminine characteristics that we devalue, are equally harmful and dehumanizing to them as well.  The key difference between these gender stereotypes is that one is valued and one is not.   Maleness is the standard.  I wrote about this in one of my earliest blog posts concerning a biologist who talked about how the male of every species is the one usually depicted in textbooks and used as the star in major animated features.  Feminism is a fight for gender equality and important one.  But I worry sometimes that too often the fight is women trying to achieve that standard of maleness, as opposed to celebrating those feminine qualities and seeing them as having value, seeing those a strengths, and not weaknesses.  I’ve always gotten along with women better than men, because I have always been drawn to that dialogue that is open emotionally.  It has helped me grow, become wiser, become stronger, and in my opinion is a superior way to be human.

And that’s what it really boils down to:  defining what qualities make for a healthy human.  I don’t mean to be binary here in my discussion because there are so many qualities that are beneficial to us as human beings. Distributing those qualities among men and women and automatically assigning value to one because it belongs to a certain gender isn’t really what we should be after.  To put it another way, is gender equality about having more female Donald Trumps, or is it about having more female Bernie Sanders?  Maybe it’s both, but I’d certainly like a world with less Donald Trumps.

I don’t mean to criticize feminism here, because in the end I believe in the value of a woman’s right for self-determination.  If she wants to be a power-hungry authoritarian leader then so be it.  I simply have never found much to like in such an individual.  Man or woman.  My friend Victoria over at Victoria Neuronotes has told me that I am a man who is in touch with my feminine side.  I take that as a compliment, but I’d rather think that I have gained a better understanding of how to be human.  Women, at least the ones I have known, have always represented the best in humanity to me.  As a man I have often felt that I would be better off to try and reach their standard as opposed to what the patriarchy has decided as the standard.

Women have and still do bear so much in this world at the hands of men.  Maybe it’s because they’ve been given the freedom to be more human that has helped them survive through so much unspeakable dehumanization by men.  Those emotional, empathetic creatures who are great at listening and nurturing.  Maybe true gender equality is only reached when we recognize what qualities put humanity at their best and that these qualities are ones we all should strive for.  This is why feminism, to me, is not just a plight for women, but something that we all should see as important.

*Note:  The Hidden Brain Podcast on Women and Leadership challenged each listener to share it with one man and one woman.  I thought it was worth it for more to hear it.  I’d love to hear what you have to say about it.

Huma Abedin = Radical Islam = Radical Christianity

Today I decided to address a trending topic on Facebook to show the world that I’m paying attention to what’s important. 🙂

A NY Post article that exposes Hillary Clinton as someone who is going to bring the

Huma Abedin

dangers of Islam into the white house.  Now how does the article do this?  By pointing out that her possible future chief of staff and campaign aide Human Abedin has ties to radical Islam because she was an assistant editor for the Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, and because her mother is still editor-in-chief of that publication. The NY Post claims is a radical Islamic publication, because of the content of what it publishes and because the journal was founded by the Muslim World League and then refers to a radical article posted in the journal from 1996 (yes 1996) by one of the top members in that organization.

This radical article says all sorts of nasty Muslim things that I guess imply that should Hillary Clinton and Huma Abedin be in the Whitehouse, radical Islamic values will be forced onto the American People.

The article represents all sorts of fun stuff for conspiracy theorists and people who love to play the game 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon.  Forget the fact that the journal is an academic one, and they misunderstand what an editor actually does.  Also let’s ignore the fact that an important part of every academic field is discord, debate, and even in opinion.  Editors don’t usually censor opinion provided that it is clear that it is opinion, and would rather leave it up for debate in the community. The NY Post also says that this radical article destroys Hillary Clinton’s progressive feminist views because this article is very anti-feminist.  So even if this unconstitutional forcing of Sharia Law on everybody were to come to pass in the post apocalyptic vision that is being painted of  a Clinton presidency, it all rests on the idea that this Journal actually produces material that represents radical Islam, which the NY Post doesn’t really go to prove other than quoting passages from this 1996 article.  So therefore I decided to look at this article which I was able to find through my University Library.  I couldn’t find it free on-line, but I will quote passages here and reference it at the end of this article. So let’s look at what the NY Post says about this article:

Headlined “Women’s Rights Are Islamic Rights,” a 1996 article argues that single moms, working moms and gay couples with children should not be recognized as families. It also states that more revealing dress ushered in by women’s liberation “directly translates into unwanted results of sexual promiscuity and irresponsibility and indirectly promote violence against women.” In other words, sexually liberated women are just asking to be raped.

“A conjugal family established through a marriage contract between a man and a woman, and extended through procreation is the only definition of family a Muslim can accept,” the author, a Saudi official with the Muslim World League, asserted, while warning of “the dangers of alternative lifestyles.” (Abedin’s journal was founded and funded by the former head of the Muslim World League.)

“Pushing [mothers] out into the open labor market is a clear demonstration of a lack of respect of womanhood and motherhood,” it added.

The NY Post goes on to quote plenty of opinions by Huma Abedin’s mother such as:

““Among all systems of belief, Islam goes the farthest in restoring equality across gender,” she claimed. “Acknowledging the very central role women play in procreation, child-raising and homemaking, Islam places the economic responsibility of supporting the family primarily on the male members.”

Now I was not able to find her mother’s 31 page treatise report in the NY Post because they did not name that article, but given the selective quoting they did for the first article they talk about, I have no doubt there is a much large message that was being discussed than what they are trying to portray.

Let’s also remember the context.  American progressive values are not going to transform Islam instantly.  If Islam is going to become more moderate and enlightened such things happen in stages.  So despite some disturbing things that are quoted out of context some of views are going to remain conservative and not very progressive at all.  Also as to why the daughter, who clearly has a career and has entered the labor market, would have the same views as her mother is not clear either.  Ronald Reagan has a son who is an outspoken atheist.

To quote some of the article entitled “Women’s Rights are Islamic Rights” here are some other quotes which are quote progressive:

“We need not only to provide more opportunities for women but we need to increase the involvement and responsibilities of men in family life. We should recall here that the Cairo Conference resoundingly endorsed the principle that the full participation and partnership of both men and women, including shared responsibilities for the care and nurturing of children and maintenance of household is essential. The burden of poverty on woman can be lightened not just by placing greater economic responsibilities on them that will ensue from their increased participation in the economic sector. Evidence indicates that this burden is intensified when men do not discharge their obligations towards their families.”

This is actually quite progressive as it is a call to men to be more active in family life and sharing responsibilities in the home.  This point also appears before the quote about pushing women out into the labor market.  Without men taking more of a responsibility in domestic duties this does put additional stress and strain on women.  Hell we have that problem here.  Our society proves that point.  There are many articles by feminist who talk about this very thing.  The article also says:

“…we feel that the declared objectives of equality, development and peace can be achieved only by recognizing the inherent and inalienable dignity of women, by respecting the fundamental values and universal norms prevalent within each society and by accepting the importance of women’s presence and participation in all aspects of social life.”

And:

The Islamic package of women’s rights is, therefore, tailored to women’s specific needs, under which women enjoy all the basic rights that men are entitled to as members of the human race, plus additional privileges as mothers, wives, sisters and women. Islamic women’s rights recognize women’s specific needs and honor their special role in the family and society with a view to maintaining harmony and peace in society.

Radical indeed.

But look I’m not saying that there aren’t some issues with the Islamic view of women’s rights and I would like to see Islam be even more radical when it comes to women’s rights and become radically progressive, but that isn’t going to happen overnight.  However what caught my eyes is how what is considered radically dangerous Islamic views by the author are so amazingly similar to the extreme views of the conservative Christian right.

  • No family structure is valid but that of one man and one woman (in the U.S. this is referred to as traditional marriage)
  • alternative lifestyles are harmful to children and therefore society
  • A woman’s place is in the home to raise children.  Much like he article they quote nothing forbids a woman working outside the home as long as she is doing her wifely and family duties first.
  • Accusing the female victim for being to blame for the abuse.  For example here, and here.
  • Laying blame on women for their provocative clothing and the sexual violence enacted upon them.

Now I’m not saying that all these views represent mainstream Christianity today, but they were certainly more prevalent in 1996 and the fact that a conservative paper like the NY Post would criticize Hillary Clinton’s aide for views that are espoused by radical elements in the U.S. which you never see right leaning publications criticizing seemed very hypocritical.  But that’s par for the course for fundamental Christian conservatives in the U.S.

two-women1

The article fails to prove that Huma Abedin has any radical Islamic views, or even held them at one time.  It fails to recognize that the article in question was an exerpt by an address to the U.N. not some biased academic research and was the opinion of the speaker.  It’s pure fear mongering.  Let’s worry about the radically conservative views against women by our current group of citizens before we worry about such an influence from a different religion. A fundamentalist Christian recently told me that if I didn’t like America I could go to the middle east with my liberal ways.  I think that person might be confused on who should move.

  • Women’s rights are Islamic rights. By: Ali, Ahmad Mohammad, Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, 13602004, Jul96, Vol. 16, Issue 2

Women in the Man Cave

I was at the gym the other day and there are a number of TV’s there and as is often the case ESPN Sports Center was on.  I couldn’t help but notice the difference between the male and female anchors.  The females standing in there skirts or dresses, never below knee length, always wearing heels.  In fact one anchor, Nicole Briscoe, was recently complimented with “respect for being pregnant while also wearing heels”.  Alternatively, the men were well dressed and looking comfortable.  It is of course a massive double standard and sports isn’t the only place where such a double standard exists, but I couldn’t help but thinking even if we have a standard of beauty that we say we want to appear on TV such a standard is not evenly applied to men.   Men aren’t forced to wear tight fitting clothes, clothes that actually might be restrictive or uncomfortable.  When you look at the the bios of all the ESPN staff, anchors, reporters and columnists, you can see through these many pages a trend in the women all being fairly attractive and reasonably young unless they are a very famous former player.  What’s clear is that when you look at the men there is no similar standard.  While they all may be required to be smartly dressed the standard deviation in age, height, and, in my estimation, attractiveness is far greater.  Women must fit a narrow mold, while men are allowed to represent the diversity of body shapes, facial features, ages, and levels of balding.

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Yes those heels probably are uncomfortable. Pregnant or not.

More disturbingly than this is the level of vitriol that often women face who are involved with sports writing and sports reporting.  I recently posted this video on Facebook but I thought it was important enough to post on my blog as well, because I think it’s important that we be vigilant about counteractive the horrible comments these women received.  This video was hard to watch, and that’s what tells me that it might be worth it for a lot of people to watch it.  The comments these women received reminded me a lot of the type of comments that Anita Sarkeesian has received by trying to introduce a more balanced female perspective into the video game world.  It seems to me that sports are still seen as a male domain, and intruding on that domain has costs to women who try to do so.  If you aren’t pretty to look at, you shouldn’t be there.  And if you try to be more than just a pretty face, like have a mind, then you are going to be sorry.  This seems to be the overall message.  Just anecdotally I tried to look at a couple of the female profiles on twitter to see I could see additional evidence, and what I found is that horrible comments, like the ones in the video happen but are rare.  However, what you also see are plenty of comments objectifying the reporter/anchor.  Comments about how hot she is, or her legs, and as you can imagine worse at times.

I try to focus on the progress that has been made and try to remain hopeful.  Double standards are getting less in the music and entertainment industry.  Sports for women are gaining more popularity and more air time.  I try to remind myself that 20 years ago, seeing a female at all reporting or as an anchor on a sports show was unheard of unless it was a sport which actually involved women.  There seems to be these last bastions of maleness in our culture which is being fought against with all the misogynistic vitriol they can muster.  Some might argue that it is the internet that allows these people to express such horrible words in a largely anonymous fashion, and maybe that’s true to a certain extent, but it also exposes such behavior as well.  I have a hard time believing that such attitudes are a function of the internet, but rather just a larger forum of expression for attitudes that already existed.  This video reminds us that even if we aren’t saying the words to someone’s face they still have the same impact, and I also hope that this video reminds men to pay attention.  These men had an extremely hard time saying these things to the women, and it is likely that they aren’t the type of men who say such things, but they can be part of the solution which is to call out such despicable and hurtful behavior.  Not to be chivalrous or to gain favor with an attractive sports personality on, but simply because it is the right thing to do.  Do it equitably, to all women who are trying to make a living doing something they enjoy, whether it is on social media or a night out with the boys.  And maybe you won’t change any minds, but to be apathetic to such attitudes towards women is the same as compliance in my opinion.  And even if it is only words, we all know what a short road from words to cari_champion_espn_by_lowerrider-d8ry2f0actions there is.  I’m not saying twitter attacks are always the best way to combat these attitudes, but I encourage men to take up the mantle of fighting these attitudes in a manner that seems most effective to them.  At the same time maybe we can also change the standards by which women are placed into these roles.  So it’s not just about what they wear and how pretty they are, but by their passion and knowledge for sports (or whatever subject they are passionate about).  Perhaps if we only want a woman on TV for her pretty face and tight clothing, is it any wonder that so many men only see them as being valuable for such superficial qualities?

Creeps and Cat Calls

catcallsI posted the above graphic on my Facebook page the other day and it elicited a good bit of discussion.  I had started writing a response to someone’s comment and it was getting a bit long so I thought I would turn it into a blog post since it goes to the very roots of how I became a feminist.  Actually I would rather say “how I began my journey to become a feminist” because I don’t know if I truly am yet.  It takes a lot of time to overcome social conditioning in a world tilted against half of the population.

It wasn’t until the age of 23 that I had really fallen in love and had what I considered my first serious relationship.  Her name was Anna (well still is) and she was just a wonderful human being.  She announced to me early on that she was a feminist and studied gender sociology.  The word feminist at that time, and even still today, had a negative connotation and I was not unaware of it, but I’ve always been one to go beyond the label to know the quality of the person, but one can’t help but have the only ideas that you know about feminists in your brain, even though I knew that there was no reason for men and women to be treated differently, and so I had no problem having her teach me more.  The fact that she was crazy about me made me feel pretty good about myself because it meant that I wasn’t like other guys and that there had to be some spark of equality in me that made her feel safe.  She taught me a lot of things, but it’s interesting how academic it can all feel.  Not that I don’t take academic research seriously, or even feel a certain level of outrage, but sometimes things don’t hit home until you really see it and it becomes personal.

We were both grad students at the University of Oklahoma and while I had roommates she had her own place and our relationship got to the point where I was spending most nights there.  One night we were fast asleep in bed, when the phone rang, which was next to her bed.  It woke me slightly and I heard her pick up the phone and say “Hello?” A few seconds passed and she once again said “Hello?”. And then after a few more seconds she yelled “Oh my God!” and hung up the phone.  When I asked her what was wrong she said it was a guy on the other end of the phone and he asked her to keep talking so he could masturbate to her voice.  It was an incident so befuddling to me that I almost couldn’t process it in the moment.  I know I held her, but I don’t think at the time I could truly understand how it made her feel.  However, I did know at the moment that something was wrong.  Something was fundamentally wrong in the world.  This was not the first time she had experienced something like this.  And it was by far not a rare experience for women in general.

kate-nash-quote-feminismFeminism has come far, fighting a lot of the big and obvious things that have been suppressing women in our society, but the undercurrent of misogyny remains.  I realized the day after that night time phone call that there were simply certain things in this world that I would never have to face.  While laws had been passed to protect women, to give them better opportunities for jobs, better pay, a wider variety of careers, there were certain things that I would never feel.  I would never be cat called, and I would never have some creepy person calling me in the middle of the night using me for purposes of masturbation, and I would never have a guy honk at me because I of the clothes I was wearing.  It would be easy to be glib here and say as guys we would love all these things, but it’s a position of privilege to feel this way because I could enjoy the fantasy and then once it’s over I would go back to being a man.  Someone who isn’t judged based on the most superficial qualities about myself.  No one would really question my morals for wanting to be sexy or liking sex.  No one would criticize me if I wanted to be more modest.  I would never have to deal with a date who seemed nice, but felt that if he was going to pay for dinner I had to put out.  That he had a right to my body at a certain point, and that being physically weaker I might not be able to fight him off.  I would never have to face the humiliation afterward when my body, when my very personhood was violated and reported the rape that so many women have faced by having the finger pointed at me.  What was I wearing?  Did I have any alcohol?  Did I lead him on?  Did I invite him into my home?  None of these things are permission for rape.  And so like so many women I might also make the decision to not say anything.  Just suck it up and move on so as not to invite criticism and judgment, and possible even more violence at the hands of the person who raped me.

traditionThese incidents are not rare.  They are not spread out sparsely across the multitude of women.  They are common, there is no hiding from them, they happen every day.  It is the totality of all these things a woman has to face.  This oppression and disregard is sometimes more obvious and sometimes less so, but they are ever present.  Is it any wonder that many women begin to think the worst of men?  Find it hard to trust them?  Find it hard to trust themselves when it comes to even telling one of the good ones from the bad ones.  At times I have been one of those men who complained about women not appreciating a nice guy.  I was wrong to do so, because even if I am nice, given what so many women have gone through, my compassion should always have been at the fore.  And if all this isn’t sad enough, it’s important to remember that this is one of the countries where women can consider themselves having it good compared to many places.

Look, I’m not blind that there are issues that negatively impact men as well, but the issues men face aren’t even close.  I also find that as we actually truly start to value those things that we consider feminine those culturally narrow definitions of masculinity also begin to fade.  While I may not know yet whether I am the feminist I want to be, I know that it’s the fight for equality is everybody’s responsibility and that it lifts us all to a better position morally, ethically, and spiritually.  The only way for everyone to have power is through equality.  Power combined with inequality means that someone is losing.  And women have been losing for far too long.