What a shame – Pharyngula on strike

This is too bad. PZ Myers is on a blogging strike over internal (and to an extent, external) issues going on at Scienceblogs.com. From what I’ve read, people are upset they aren’t being consulted first on a number of issues, not to mention the concerns PZ lists. This has resulted in something crazy like 20 of the 80+ bloggers shutting their doors and moving on. (I can’t say I’m sad to see that Suzanne Franks is leaving; Scienceblogs needs people more honest than that.)

The most unfortunate aspect of this is that PZ pulls in a boatload of hits – 190,000 yesterday alone (though this was somewhat of a spike). He’s a huge resource for science lovers and atheists. Aside from bringing a lot of knowledge and extremely strong argumentation skills to the table, he gets all the good links. This give a lot of cues to other bloggers (myself included), both in direct content as well as auxiliary leads.

I hope this is resolved quickly and for the better.

Society and the individual

I’ve pissed off feminists in my day. The reasons they give are going to revolve around me not understanding this or that, not automatically agreeing with them in the details, etc. (‘You don’t agree with me on this issue! Sexist!’ … ‘Why?’ … ‘Because!’) Basically, nothing specific.

But the problem isn’t some deep misogyny on my part. (Disagreement about what a picture of fat people means does not somehow magically equal hating women.) The problem, instead, is one of philosophical structure.

Feminism, as I’ve argued in the past, is a philosophy of consequence. It largely ignores intention, instead focusing upon the result of an action. It’s about as advanced as libertarianism. Of course, both philosophies have value, but when they’re promoted at the expense of everything else, they’re mere ideologies which inevitably lead to absurd conclusions. The same is true of all ethical and moral systems, including the ever-so-popular utilitarianism and egalitarianism (both of which I tend towards).

I got thinking about this because of a post by PZ on the lack of women in atheist and skeptic groups.

So I’m going to try something a little different. Instead of telling you my opinion, I’m going to forgo the essential principle of blogging (which is “Me! Me!”) and just ask people, especially women, to leave links to their godless/skeptical feminist blog or make suggestions or gripe or tell me what these stupid male-dominated conventions have to do to correct the imbalance…I shall be a passive receptacle for your ideas.

I do have to make one suggestion (the testosterone compels me) for something I’d really like to see happen…

Don’t mind his suggestion here (but at his site, he says a female-run conference on atheism/skepticism would be good). Take a look at the emphasis I’ve added. He says he is compelled, inherently, by the fact of being male. This is in line with a good bit of feminism, including the caricatures that haunt the Internet, but it’s a load of bull.

This idea that someone is compelled to do this or that may have a basis in sex, but philosophy is not the way to determine that. I want hard evidence. And, depending on just what is being discussed, there is plenty of evidence that men and women will tend towards certain behaviors because of their sex. Of course, that data often comes with the compounding factor of just what influence nurture has had, and the sociologists have a say there. But philosophy is not data. Logic can tell us nothing new; logic can only interpret the data we have.

What PZ does when he says it’s his maleness that makes him act one way or another is he devalues himself. (Hell, he even goes counter to all the feminist arguments that say the individual is responsible for rape/sexual abuse and ought not blame society – something with which I agree.) It’s a devaluing of the individual to place blame on some external source – especially without evidence. We may be able to blame an act of violence by a mentally ill person on his mental illness, but that principle does not extend to most people and most actions. It isn’t some external source that is to blame for individual actions among competent people 95% of the time. It’s the individual.

That said, there certainly is value to the arguments that say society is dominated by men and that that is an impediment to true equality between the sexes. Again, that doesn’t somehow magically mean a picture of two fat women is sexual objectification, but there are plenty of incidents where that domination is a serious problem, ones we gloss over on a daily basis. Watch just about any TV show. Women will be objectified and our culture allows it. That’s not a problem with the individual, but society. But it’s ridiculous, devaluing, and plainly wrong to claim that society is the whole problem.

The individual bears responsibility.

Franks, please

Suzanne Franks doesn’t even realize the principles behind her caricature ideology. That’s the only reason she would say something like this.

March is women’s history month, but don’t let that circumscribe your fun. You can get together with a posse of your like-minded women friends and mock mansplainers anytime. Now, I know many of you have just recently learned that there even existed a name you could attach to this annoying behavior plaguing your existence. Believe me, I know how important naming experience is – that’s why I have a whole category assigned to the topic. But your joy need not begin and end with just knowing that the craptastic manifestations you’ve been subjected to are (1) not your fault, (2) part of a larger system of patriarchy, and (3) mocked by many, many, many women all over the place.

Feminism is a philosophy of consequence. Intention is largely ignored and emphasis is placed upon the results. For example, non-sexually based images are considered sexist in (caricature) feminism due to that number (2) Franks mentioned – “a larger system of patriarchy”. Let that sink in for a moment. Okay, now review (1), which I made bold. If Franks was consistent at all, she would consider her explanations of where blame lies to be useless. That is, if consequence is what matters, then the fact that caricature feminists are presenting their ‘case’ in a way that seems to fix blame on men should be disconcerting to them. The very thing against which they rail – negative consequences that make people feel guilty, ashamed, bad, etc – is what Franks has promoted.

And there it is

Suzanne Franks has officially declared herself right by banning me from her blog. For someone as educated as she is, it’s surprising that she doesn’t realize it is unreasonable to say “Here’s why you’re wrong…hey! why are you responding?!?”

But then, she’s the sort of person who gets offended when others won’t play her Internet fantasy games by calling her “Zuska”.

It’s only clever when we do it

Suzanne Franks has another post about ‘mansplaining‘.

Over at the mansplaining thread, you can read literally hundreds of hilarious, annoying, frustrating, heartbreaking stories of how women are constantly subjected to intrusive, incessant, insensitive, inane mansplaining. Interspersed you will also find comments from d00dly d00ds whinging away about how awful it is that women are talking so MEAN about men, and their mansplanations about how mansplaining doesn’t exist. Then some douche tried to coin the phrase femsplaining.

Well, if she’s going to phonetically spell things and replace numbers with letters, I just don’t know how I’m going to compete.

I’m not about to defend the use of the word “femsplaining”. If it means to reference a particular ideological group that addresses dissent with condescension and disdain, then it may be accurate, but it isn’t useful. These are caricature feminists. They represent a minority which has developed a sort of in-group mentality, not some mainstream way of thought that is going to change much of anything.

The reason, though, that I don’t want to defend “femsplaining” is that it’s as dumb as “mansplaining”. Each loose (and always piss-poor) definition allows an extension that goes beyond sex and gender. In fact, at least one user picked up on this fact. Even the tried and true caricatures have pointed out in several places that ‘mansplaining’ is not specific to men. One is only left to wonder why they would bother even using it at all. (I think I just mansplained?)

Oh, and this isn’t a post for mocking ‘mansplainers’. While Franks and friends are interested in furthering their fuzzy community feeling by screeching “You don’t geeeeeeeeeeettttttt iiiiiiitttt!!!”, I am not. The caricature Gish Gallop is getting tiresome. “You don’t get it, you don’t get it, you don’t get it! This is mansplaining, this is sexist, these pictures are ALL misogynistic. Your perspective is bunk! Bunk, bunk, bunk! Almost all people think like you do! (Because I know how you think, you straight, white male – and I know your sexual orientation, didn’t you know.)” …well, let me just respond to your first point by saying…”MANSPLAINING!”

Finally, dissent over language does not equal some big, sexist conspiracy. Sometimes terms just suck. Get over it.

The mind of the caricature feminist

Here is what happens in reality.

Here is that reality after it has gone through the mind of a caricature feminist.

Suzanne Franks gets something right

For those who weren’t here for Femi-crazy Invasion 2010 here at FTSOS, Suzanne Franks is one of those caricatures of feminists that really has no place in rational discussion. Hell, she demands people refer to her as “Zuska”, and should one refuse to delve into her weird Internet fantasy game, she’s liable to start throwing down some bans (or call you sexist: whatever works at the moment to get her whiny way).

She’s a forgettable character in the blogosphere, but I am still getting hits from her post all about me; I admit I clicked around a little recently. And one of the things I clicked was this post. It’s all about this image.

For Franks, there is no distinction between this image and the one in her post about CNN. She believes that virtually all images of the female body are sexist. The basis seems to be that since men tend to dominate and run things, pictures of women are only meant for the sake of objectification (except maybe face shots). In reality, this is just a ridiculous tool Franks and her friends use so they can whine that everything is sexist. And there’s no practical way that sexism can ever go away under this mis-definition. In essence, Franks should be pointing out nearly every picture of a woman under her caricature philosophy. The fact that she focuses on particular images belies what she probably actually recognizes – not all images are sexist.

In the image in question here, yes, it is actually sexist. Lindsey Vonn’s body is specifically being viewed at the expense of her other talents. One sports writer disagrees and it’s here that Franks takes out her frustrations and anger.

Silly ladeez! Chris Chase mansplains why you are WRONG!!!! (Though I note, alas, poor Chris is unable to actually directly link to the womentalksports.com post he is mansplaining.)

Because the ladybranes are tiny, I am here to help. I am going to translate Chris’s mansplaining post into a more direct communication that really gets the message across, so that even the teeniest tiniest ladybraned ladeez out there will understand what is meant. Chase’s original text is in boldface. Here we go!

She goes on and on from there, inserting some imaginary conversation she’s having in her head. This is where Franks is generally wrong. All she’s showing anyone (except her faithful in-group commenters) is that there are certain things that might please her if any reasonable man actually said them. She seems to have this sort of desire to hear a man say “but Vonn’s cover is awesome because, while she is posed in a classic come-hither-and-fuck-me-hard-you-know-you-wanna stance…” just so she can validate her philosophy in her head. If a man actually says it, then I’m right! Until then, I’ll just pretend really, really hard that men actually think this way.

One final, bit of a non-sequitur point on the term “mansplaining”. In the past Franks has tried to define the term, claiming that it isn’t just the act of explaining while male. Instead, it’s giving a condescending explanation to someone who does not need one. This is a lie because within that definition is the qualifier that it’s really a man explaining something to a woman, but that can be ignored for a moment because Franks and friends also point out that women can be guilty of “mansplaining”. Of course, they’d never be able to give any examples, but I can take this at face value. Let’s say, sure, anyone can mansplain. But then wherein lies the intrinsic masculinity? If anyone can do it, then there are two options. Either there is nothing inherently masculine about condescending explanation or Franks and friends are grouping the majority of men together as if there is something inherently wrong with how men behave. This is itself sexist since it is discriminating against one sex based upon an unfounded stereotype. (And here I use “sexist” correctly, i.e., discrimination based upon sex, not the doltish ‘it’s just discrimination of women’ definition caricature feminists have to offer.)

Okay, okay, this is the final thought on the topic

I know I recently said this was my final thought on the silly sort of sexism that Suzanne Franks and co promote, but I just can’t resist two more things.

First, I think most people know about Poe’s Law.

Similar to Murphy’s Law, Poe’s Law concerns internet debates, particularly regarding religion or politics.

“Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is impossible to create a parody of Fundamentalism that SOMEONE won’t mistake for the real thing.”

In other words, no matter how bizarre, outrageous, or just plain idiotic a parody of a Fundamentalist may seem, there will always be someone who cannot tell that it is a parody, having seen similar REAL ideas from real religious/political Fundamentalists.

I want to extend this law to deep-end, crazy feminism. This isn’t just the regular ol’ feminism that’s all about equality and all that good jazz. I mean the real crazy stuff. I’m talking about the sort of stuff that makes for terrible sitcom caricatures of the average feminist. Some of this stuff is so far out there, it must be fake. It just must. So just as when someone declares Poe’s Law on a possible fundie, I shall henceforth declare Hawkins’ Law on fundie feminism. There’s just no way to tell if these people really believe the sort of junk they crap all over the Internet or if they’re just trolling for their own laughs.

Second, I am having a ball* reading the freak outs of one feminist.** To watch all the false bravado fall into ruins is hilarious.

*Was that sexist? Probably.

**Remember Hawkins’ Law. It’s entirely possible everyone has been duped given the high caricature toxicity.

Update: Apparently Franks is freaking out too because I won’t participate in her Internet fantasy and call her by her play name. Not as entertaining as the other caricature’s meltdown, but vaguely interesting.

Okay, okay, this is the final thought on the topic

I know I recently said this was my final thought on the silly sort of sexism that Suzanne Franks and co promote, but I just can’t resist two more things.

First, I think most people know about Poe’s Law.

Similar to Murphy’s Law, Poe’s Law concerns internet debates, particularly regarding religion or politics.

“Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is impossible to create a parody of Fundamentalism that SOMEONE won’t mistake for the real thing.”

In other words, no matter how bizarre, outrageous, or just plain idiotic a parody of a Fundamentalist may seem, there will always be someone who cannot tell that it is a parody, having seen similar REAL ideas from real religious/political Fundamentalists.

I want to extend this law to deep-end, crazy feminism. This isn’t just the regular ol’ feminism that’s all about equality and all that good jazz. I mean the real crazy stuff. I’m talking about the sort of stuff that makes for terrible sitcom caricatures of the average feminist. Some of this stuff is so far out there, it must be fake. It just must. So just as when someone declares Poe’s Law on a possible fundie, I shall henceforth declare Hawkins’ Law on fundie feminism. There’s just no way to tell if these people really believe the sort of junk they crap all over the Internet or if they’re just trolling for their own laughs.

Second, I am having a ball* reading the freak outs of one feminist.** To watch all the false bravado fall into ruins is hilarious.

*Was that sexist? Probably.

**Remember Hawkins’ Law. It’s entirely possible everyone has been duped given the high caricature toxicity.

Update: Apparently Franks is freaking out too because I won’t participate in her Internet fantasy and call her by her play name. Not as entertaining as the other caricature’s meltdown, but vaguely interesting.

Obesity

In my recent post where I show how Suzanne Franks wants to find sexism where it doesn’t exist, I skipped one important point because I didn’t want to derail the specific topic at hand. The truth is that my concern over her post stems in part from a disdain for active obesity. But that term needs explaining because it just begs to be misinterpreted.

By “active” I mean obesity which is still receiving contributions, if you will. People who are obese and do nothing about it are immoral. Here’s the way I get to that conclusion.

If it is agreed that one ought to treat humans with respect and a certain level of care, then that principle should be extended to one’s self (henceforth referred to as “the self”). No convincing reason exists for why the self should be excluded from generalizations of how one ought to treat humans. Afterall, a human is a human is a human.

This then means that if overeating can be considered a mistreatment of a human being (and I think it can), active obesity is thus immoral. But just to be sure there are no misunderstandings, this is not to say that merely being overweight or obese is inherently immoral. Plenty of such unhealthy people do things to improve their health. No one expects them to be perfect at it; it’s a struggle. But the fact that they have put forth a reasonable effort brings them into morality.

Now, there are a huge number of caveats to this and I won’t be able to address them all. Are obese kids immoral? On the whole, no, because blame can generally be placed upon the parents (not to mention the inherent short-sightedness of being a child). Those with disorders or disabilities? Presuming a reasonable effort is being put forth (which may be well less than what an average person can do), then of course not. Should one expect a perfect exercise and diet regiment in order to call a person moral? Here I would appeal to a utilitarian perspective where it is necessary to maximize pleasure. Whereas overeating inherently undermines pleasure for most (because it increases the likelihood of death, not to mention all the other displeasing things that come with obesity), living an anal retentive life of absolute health will probably also not make one very happy. I don’t think an exact point of balance can be drawn for anyone, but it is possible to find a reasonable balance of a healthy lifestyle and still having fun. And the caveats go on and on.

So when I see that picture on CNN (see my post on Franks), I see a somewhat justified objectification. Active obesity is a bad thing and should not be respected. Now, there’s no way to know if the obese people in the image are trying to correct their behavior or not (hence the phrase “somewhat justified”), but it is obvious that most overweight and obese people do not put forth an honest effort. (In fact, even thin people don’t put forth much of an effort.) We should roundly denounce that and actively tell them to take care of their bodies. And, again because misinterpretation is begging to happen here, that doesn’t mean we ought to mock and belittle the overweight and obese. Personally, I favor doing what I can to help. In my own life, I will often discourage others from eating crappy food (provided they do it as a routine, not a rare treat). I don’t go too far, however, because I am careful not to tread on their personal choices. Unlike the bigots who have so often made marriage a privilege for heterosexuals, I do not believe my ideas of morality should be imposed upon others.

Finally on an aside, all this philosophy originally comes from a consideration of why suicide might be wrong. I always had a fascination with the laws many places have which make suicide illegal, so that naturally raised the question of why it ought to be illegal. Ultimately, I concluded it was equivalent to homicide based upon the principle embodied in “a human is a human is a human”.