Sunday, October 31, 2010

What is wrong with the men's rights movement?

The men's rights movement (MRM) continues to grow in size, but politically is deeply flawed.

The average men's rights activist (MRA) is hostile to feminism. And yet he also agrees fundamentally with the feminist agenda.

This leads to the odd situation of feminists arriving at MRA websites, liking what they read, proposing a grand alliance with the MRM, before being angrily chased away by the MRAs.

How has this situation come about? It seems to me that there are two major wings of the MRM. The first is a liberal one. There are now plenty of men involved in the MRM who describe themselves not only as "very liberal" but even as being radically left-liberal.

These men, understandably, don't like the way that men are portrayed as being privileged oppressors (i.e. bad guys) on the mainstream, feminist left. Rather than rethinking leftist politics, they respond by pointing to areas in which it is men who are treated unequally.

There's the usual range of liberal attitudes amongst these men. Some of the more right-liberal ones limit themselves to calls for procedural equality. But others are more radical and want to follow through more consistently with the liberal ideal of making gender not matter.

It's therefore often assumed at MRM sites that masculinity is an oppressive construct; that the aim of the MRM is to liberate men from masculinity; that society should be strictly gender neutral, including in parental roles and in having women drafted into combat roles; and that feminist countries like Sweden are the models for the rest of the world to follow.

The second wing of the MRM are the male separatists (who call themselves "men going their own way" or MGTOW).

These are men who have grown up in an age of female individualism. Their experience is of a society which is geared toward maximising female autonomy, whether it's in terms of education, careers or family.

They have been particularly burned when it comes to relationships. Some of them have lost out in the divorce courts. Some of them are men whose female peers have been "liberated" to waste their 20s chasing a few alpha guys. For these reasons they are not very trusting of, or sympathetic toward, women.

How do men react to female individualism? One way (the traditionalist way) is to criticise a radical individualism, for both sexes, as socially destructive. But the male separatists don't do this. They respond instead by trying to imagine an individualism of their own.

How can men lead a more individualistic, autonomous life? How, in other words, do men "go their own way"? Above all, by not marrying. The male separatists vary a bit here. Some want to shack up with non-Western women (there is much hostility to white/Western women). Others promote the idea of occasional sexual encounters. Others don't want any contact at all.

In order to persuade men not to marry, the male separatists push the idea that men are harmed by marriage. They also portray women in very negative terms (gold diggers, sluts etc).

It ends up sounding uncannily like the feminism of the 1970s, but with the sexes reversed. In the 1970s, it was feminists who thought marriage was oppressive to women, who promoted separatist solutions, and who therefore painted men in the most unflattering light possible.

The liberal and the separatist MRAs get along quite well, as both groups are committed to the idea of male autonomy or individualism. The separatists aren't quite as motivated by the aim of deconstructing masculinity. Even so, they've managed to find common ground with the liberals here, since they believe that "manning up" means having to take on the responsibility of being a husband and father - which they fundamentally reject.

Both groups also react vehemently against the idea of chivalry. The liberals see it as being one reason why equality hasn't been fully implemented; they believe that conservative judges treat women more favourably on chivalrous grounds. The separatists believe that chivalry encourages men to make sacrifices for women, which cuts right across the separatist aim of men living for themselves alone. Conservatives and traditionalists are blamed for perpetuating chivalry and holding back men's rights.

Oddly, there are MRAs who are concerned about the presence of traditionalists within the movement. They believe that traditionalists will rob the MRM of respectability.

It's more likely, though, that it's the liberal/separatist alliance which will hold back the MRM from going mainstream. Just how mainstream did the radical separatist feminists become, even with the backing of the liberal establishment? Weren't they correctly perceived by nearly all men, and by many women, to be man-hating types without a realistic political program?

Where does the current strategy of the MRM get men? What are those men who want relationships with women, and children of their own, to do? You hear MRAs talk about sex with robots, or hiring surrogates to have children without the need for a wife, or developing affectionate male companionship, or hiring prostitutes. It just sounds desperate and unrealistic.

And will the average man gravitate toward a movement which takes just as grim a view of masculinity as the feminists have done?

And consider this. For years feminists have complained that men haven't gotten with the program. Feminists believe that careers are the ultimate in achieving female autonomy, but that women are restricted in pursuing careers by the fact that men haven't abandoned masculinity quickly enough. Too many men, complain the feminists, are still working away in careers rather than accepting androgynous roles and devoting themselves to childcare and keeping house.

The feminist message has fallen on deaf ears. So the latest feminist strategy has been to get men themselves to spread the message. More and more it is male feminists who are pushing the feminist line to men.

But feminists needn't have worried. Because it is now an "anti-feminist" men's rights movement which is doing all the heavy lifting for them. It is the MRM which is getting men to accept the idea that being a provider is oppressive to men; that society should be gender neutral and accept the idea of men as nurturers; that men should reject masculine norms of behaviour and so on.

It's a problem I've seen over and over. People feel the oppressive effect of liberal changes to society. They get motivated to act politically. But political clarity is lacking and so they end up trying to cure liberalism by adopting some more radical form of liberalism. And so nothing changes, despite all the expenditure of energy.

So what should traditionalists do? I think we have to accept, realistically, that the men's rights movement is likely to go the wrong way, just like feminism did (maybe MGTOW should be renamed MGTWW - "men going the wrong way").

But I don't think we should abandon it. The MRAs are, at least, open to criticisms of feminism. So there's an opportunity to make principled criticisms of feminism at MRA sites. And we will be the only alternative at such sites for those men who identify positively with masculinity.

We won't be part of the mainstream, but we can put forward a different approach. I'll outline some of the arguments I think we should be making at MRA sites in a future post.

Update:  A reader has reminded me of some MRM sites which are not liberal/separatist politically. I do believe my post accurately describes the trends at some of the larger, influential sites, but perhaps I should have recognised the existence of a third, generally non-liberal strand of thought within the MRM.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A limerick for Lauren

There once was a sister of Blair
For her people she didn't much care
First she worshipped the Other
Then decided she'd rather
Wear the hijab over her hair.

Losing ideas

This started out as a good poll. A survey by the Australian National University has found that a majority of Australians are opposed to high levels of population growth.

But the details are disappointing. It turns out that the focus of many Australians is on limiting family size rather than immigration levels:

Families should have no more than two children to limit their environmental impact, one in three Australian say...

The Australian National University survey found most Australians want the population to stay at or below current levels, suggesting Julia Gillard hit the right note by rejecting Kevin Rudd's "big Australia" push.

Just 44 per cent of respondents favoured population growth.

About 52 per cent said Australia had enough people already, and further population growth would harm the environment, push up house prices and place pressure on water resources.

But there were also concerns that skills shortages could hold back the economy, with 83 per cent of respondents calling for more skilled migrants to be allowed into Australia.

That really is a losing combination of ideas. First, aiming for each couple to have two children will not lead to stable population growth, but to massive population loss.

To explain why, just consider my own family. Both myself and two siblings have married and had the standard two children. But one of my brothers hasn't married and looks unlikely to do so. So the four of us have produced six children. That's a fertility rate of 1.5. If that were the standard, then Australia would lose a quarter of its population (initially 5 million people) every generation.

In short, to have stable population growth you need a large percentage of couples to have 3 children to make up for those having none. Limiting families to 2 children won't work.

Perhaps someone will object at this point, by claiming that it would be a good thing for the environment if the population were to trend downward.

But that argument doesn't work either. The open borders lobby uses the below replacement fertility statistics to justify massive immigration into Australia. And it is open borders which is the much greater environmental threat in the long term than the already very modest family size we have in Australia.

In other words, we need at the very least to get to replacement fertility levels in this country if we are to take on the open borders lobby. There is no way that the business lobby would accept a situation of massive population loss through sub replacement fertility.

Finally, it shows a loss of faith in ourselves to want to limit population growth by restricting family size, whilst at the same time calling for more immigration. That's like saying that there should be fewer of us, but more of everyone else.

The more spirited outlook is to train our own young to lead future economic growth.

Update: It seems that similar attitudes exist in Germany. I was reading an article on poverty in Germany, which found (unsurprisingly) that poverty was highest amongst single mothers and lowest amongst the standard family of dad, mum and two children.

One of the commenters at the site couldn't even bear the thought of a two child family. He wrote:

Those who don't have any children don't contribute to the further overpopulation and destruction of this planet. To protect the environment and to conserve resources, children ought to attract tax penalties.

That's how crazy it gets. Germany had a woeful fertility rate of 1.37 in the year 2007. It's a nation which desperately needs more children. And yet our German commenter wants to apply tax penalties to those few Germans who are actually having children.

I'm generally supportive of environmentalism, but I fear that there are some in the West who will use it to express their own nihilistic tendencies.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What can no longer be pretended

In my previous post, I wrote about the conversion of Tony Blair's sister-in-law, Lauren Booth, to Islam. There was a lot of thought provoking commentary on the story, both at this site and elsewhere. Over at The Thinking Housewife, Laura Wood made this interesting argument:

My guess is that she sought to embrace God in socially acceptable form. She might have lost more friends if she had become a pious Christian than a pious Muslim. She did not risk social annihilation, not in the self-annihilating, anti-Christian Europe of today.

And at View from the Right, Sage McLaughlin wrote an excellent comment (worth reading in full), in which he argued that women like Lauren Booth were becoming wearied by aspects of the liberalism they subscribed to:

the real fantasy that is wearying to them right now is the desolating and exhausting make-believe world offered by liberalism. What they cannot forever pretend to accept is the universal sameness of all peoples (contradicted both by reason and by daily experience), the lack of differences between men and women that matter socially (ditto), the impossibility of miracles, and a self-created multiverse of cosmic exiles, estranged in essence and locked in their own drab mental prisons impervious to the liberating expansiveness of real transcendence. Nothing could be more pathologically masculine than such an oppressively abstract wonderland, at odds with women's natural desires and so hostile to the natural bonds of family and community.

There's evidence for what Sage McLaughlin asserts in a few of Lauren Booth's newspaper columns. For instance, Lauren Booth moved with her family some years ago to the French countryside in order to enjoy the lifestyle. But it turned out badly.

In part, this was because she felt the loss of connection, as Sage McLaughlin puts it, "to the natural bonds of community":

We have become part of the statistics of the boredom and loneliness that expats with limited French can experience, even as they portray themselves as having that ‘dream life’ in the sun.

She also felt the loss of connection to her own family. She spent years commuting to England to work whilst her husband stayed home with their daughters. It was an arrangement which bred mutual resentment:

I have been the partner who earns a living, continuing to travel back and forth to the UK ... With bank accounts in two countries, a partner with no income and the turbulence of both the financial and the job market to take into consideration, I needed to be a fiscal pedant to get the books right. I never trained as an accountant.

Soon I was feeling disjointed, neither able to pursue career choices in the UK fully, nor be a constant part of either my children’s lives nor my husband’s friendships locally. We were soon in trouble. With the banks. With the taxman. And with our marriage...

Last year, in secret, Craig went to see a lawyer. He was told that as I worked away from the home, he would get the house, the kids, a cut of my income – everything – in a divorce.

...I don’t know what the future holds, only that the time has come for me to put my children’s need to be close to me at all times before our love of la vie en rose.

It's also true that Lauren Booth feels uncomfortable with the growing ladette culture in the UK. She has complained that ladette culture,

tells young women that being female means less than being a male.

And here’s the crux of the matter, the very heart of why more and more young women ape the worst excesses of some men: if mothers don’t hail the attributes of being a woman to our daughters then why shouldn’t those daughters aspire to be young men instead?

By female attributes, or social mores, I mean that we have it in our genes to be ‘the gentler sex’.

That playing with dolls leads to caring about how we dress, that by encouraging our daughters’ interest in neighbours’ babies (and good old babysitting) we also encourage the gentler aspects of a girl’s character.

Oh how unfashionable! What next, eye-fluttering and giggling? Well, why not? In British culture, sexual competitiveness has replaced mutual respect. So why aspire to something so ultimately self-defeating as sameness?

How tragic that being a young woman is significant for many girls only because by baring their flesh they can use this to win male attention.

France, where I live with my daughters, is not (yet) experiencing the same level of teen-girl violence. I watch in fascination as my daughters Alex and Holly, aged eight and six, behave differently when they speak French than they do English.

They tilt their heads and a little smile that can best be described as coquettish (in its most innocent form) plays on their lips. In English they are blunt, bold and straightforward.

This may just be a language-based social tic. Except that what they are learning at school is undoubtedly how to be young ladies. Here, you see, girls are both consciously and unconsciously encouraged to be coy, polite and ‘coquinne’ (cute).

We can all cringe at these words but bigger values seem to hide just behind them. This idea of femininity means that girls are considered as worth protecting, by society and their male peers.

...Girl violence comes from self-loathing and insecurity. No happy, stable human being gets a ‘kick’ out of harming another. Girls who carry out such attacks have been brutalised by society. The message in UK schools and beyond is this: be the same, to be different is to be the ‘weaker’ sex, fight for your rights.

I will fight for something a little different. I want my girls to be ... girls.

Now, that could have been written by a traditionalist, rather than by a woman who has devoted much of her life to the left.

I think we should be encouraged by this. It shows the possibility, as Sage McLaughlin wrote in his comment, of women becoming wearied by the liberal fantasy of making gender not matter.

Unfortunately, Lauren Booth chose to respond to her feelings of loss of community, of womanhood and of transcendence by turning to a non-Western tradition. But her case does show how individuals can turn, how they can weary of what liberalism offers and seek alternatives.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Lauren Booth's conversion story

Back in 2003, Peter Hitchens wrote a column on the prospect of Britons converting to Islam. He thought that women were more likely to convert, in response to the social chaos brought about by family breakdown, sexual permissiveness and drunkenness. Christianity, he wrote, wasn't well placed to offer an alternative to women, with the mainstream churches being empty and in decline. Furthermore, the trendy middle-class types associated Christianity negatively with an imperial past:

Might Islam become respectable among the politically correct middle classes, in a way that Christianity never really can, because Christianity is always associated in this country with the conservative, imperial past?

I remembered this column because it describes so well the recent conversion of Tony Blair's sister-in-law to Islam.

Lauren Booth was one of those politically correct middle class types. She began her journalism career as a sex columnist for a lads magazine, then started writing for the left-wing New Statesman paper. She became an activist for the feminist V-Day movement and for the Palestinians. She married and had two daughters, moved to the French countryside where her husband stayed home whilst she commuted to work. She drank much wine.

I was smashing the glass ceiling, Craig was breaking the mould. We (nervously) patted ourselves on the back.

She rejected Christianity along the lines predicted by Peter Hitchens. She went to one church but had conniptions when she found out it was Catholic:

The dreaded words "Holy Roman Catholic Church" swam before my eyes. Had I been giving money to the Catholic Church all these weeks? Dear God.

That's it, then. I won't be going back this Sunday. Catholicism is religion's answer to McDonald's. Their main motivation is to create a world full of their customers and rake in the cash at the same time. And both have committed atrocities and leave you with a sense of guilt.

The Baptist church was beautiful but empty save for a few old ladies:

Last Sunday, we tried the grand, red-bricked, Baptist church. The interior was breathtaking. Wood on wood with more wood, interspersed with impressive, brightly coloured stained glass. We sat in the cosily rounded pews and waited for the show to begin. Two very aged white matrons and a big black lady in a bright pink hat with what looked like her granddaughter were our only companions. At two minutes to eleven, it was clear that there would be no last-minute rush for the sermon. I began to dread the thought of singing the first hymn, a jazzy-sounding number called "Higher, Higher, Higher". A miffed-looking school-marm in round glasses and a black trouser-suit stalked sulkily on to the small "stage" - it turned out she was the "pastor". She looked at row upon row of empty seats and sighed.

Her marriage began to break down. After one argument her drunk husband tore off on his motorbike, crashed and badly injured himself. They divorced. She threw herself into campaigns for the Palestinians and got a job for an Iranian based news agency.

And now she has converted to Islam, writing of the "comfort and strength" it gives to her. She has given up wine, reads the Koran, wears a headscarf and hasn't ruled out wearing a burqa.

She got burned by a modern girl Western lifestyle and so jumped to a more traditional non-Western alternative - just as Peter Hitchens predicted Western women might do. (In one recent column, for instance, she criticises the violence, drunkenness and crime of ladette culture in Britain and calls for a return of a more traditional femininity.)

Of course, for a Western traditionalist like myself this is a frustrating story. It doesn't surprise me that the modern girl life she planned for herself didn't work out well. But instead of returning to her own tradition, she has changed her allegiances entirely.

She has swung suddenly from feminist V-Day campaigns and boasting about breaking the mould of the traditional family to wearing a headscarf and considering wearing a burqa. She has jumped from rejecting Catholicism for its supposed "atrocities" to accepting Islam despite its association with terrorist attacks.

She seems to have a prejudice against her own tradition. What is mild in her own tradition is rejected as oppressive, whilst something more onerous in another tradition is accepted as "comforting".

Hitchens got her right; I hope there aren't too many others.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

And after the election?

During the recent Australian election campaign both major parties made a big effort to appear firm on border security. Presumably the focus groups were telling them that this was an issue of concern to voters.

And so PM Julia Gillard made statements like the following:

I don't support the idea of a big Australia... We need to stop, take a breath...


For people to say they're anxious about border security doesn't make them intolerant ... It means that they're expressing a genuine view that they're anxious about border security...

Former Labor leader Mark Latham wasn't buying it:

Former Labor leader Mark Latham has labelled Labor's position on population growth "a fraud of the worst order", saying immigration numbers must be slashed...

Ms Gillard's "sustainable" population call was not backed with any substance and was a "fraud" designed to appeal to western Sydney voters sensitive to the asylum seeker issue, Mr Latham said.

"It's clever politics but it's a fraud. It's a fraud of the worst order," he said.

Just a few months later, Latham has been proven correct. Gillard has announced two new policies on asylum seekers. The first is that women and children who arrive illegally won't live in detention centres but in the community. As has been pointed out in the media, this almost guarantees that anyone who arrives will stay. Once established in the community it becomes very difficult to reject asylum claims and to return people back to their own country.

The second new policy is even more significant. The Gillard Government, understandably, doesn't want people getting into boats to try to claim refugee status in Australia. So they are going to allow people who claim they are refugees from anywhere in Asia to be flown, at Australian taxpayers' expense, to an Australian processing facility:

The Federal Government has revealed its East Timor detention centre would see asylum seekers from across Asia able to apply to come to Australia.

The Opposition says the plan risks creating a regional dumping ground that would serve as a magnet for asylum seekers.

The secretary of the Immigration Department, Andrew Metcalfe, revealed in Senate Estimates that potential refugees who reached countries as far away as the Philippines, Cambodia, Malaysia and Thailand could apply to go to the proposed Timor centre.

Mr Metcalfe said Prime Minister Julia Gillard's "overarching concept is that there would be collective responsibility for displaced persons in the region" and they could send them to the centre to determine whether they were refugees.

"Therefore risking your life in getting on a boat would not occur and people smugglers would not be able to offer the automatic destination of Australia in terms of what they are selling," he said.

Mr Metcalfe was unable to say who would pay for the movement of asylum seekers about the region under the scheme, but indicated Australia would bear most of the burden.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said asylum seekers would take the view they had a new spread of countries from where they can access Australia. "They haven't thought through the magnet effect," he said. "They have comprehended that anybody who crosses the line is eligible for processing in East Timor.

"It creates a magnet and you are effectively extending Australia's migration zone to the borders of this region, wherever the hell this is."

Obviously there is going to be an upsurge in the number of people claiming refugee status in Australia. First, if you bring your wife and kids they will be placed in the community and will be almost guaranteed to be granted permanent residency. Second, you can apply from anywhere within Asia.

So, yes, the stance Gillard took on border security during the election was a fraud. That has become typical of Australian elections. Every few years the liberal political class has to appeal to the rank and file for support. And so we get a few weeks of politicians saying things they don't mean and won't follow through with.

We cannot rely on simply casting a vote to really change things - not when the major parties are committed to liberal political philosophies. We need to actively work to change the political culture, so that the people who put themselves forward for political leadership really do mean what they say when they talk about issues such as border security.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A simple truth about the divorce rate

It's sometimes reported that the divorce rate is 50%. That figure, apparently, was a prediction based on the peak rate of divorce in the US in the mid-90s: it was the highest estimate of what the lifetime risk might be (current predictions seem to be around 40%).

Understandably the 50% figure spooks many young men. Under current no fault divorce laws, a man can be divorced by his wife without having done anything wrong and end up paying child support to help finance her life with a new man. It's reasonable for men to consider this unjust and to believe that they are not being protected under current laws.

So let me start by saying that divorce laws need to be reformed and, if we want to restore faith in marriage as an institution, we need to find ways to lower the overall divorce rate.

But having said that, something important needs to be pointed out. The divorce rate is not so high for everyone. Some people have an extremely high risk of divorce, others a low risk.

I looked up my own risk of divorce using a "divorce calculator" (which I'll link to later on) and it showed only an 8% risk of divorce after eight years of marriage.

So what are the factors affecting the risk of divorce?

a) The risk is much higher if the wife marries at a very young age. For instance, 8 years after marriage 42% of women who married under the age of 18 are divorced; 35% of women who married at ages 18 and 19; but only 25% of those aged 20 to 24.

The protective effect of waiting doesn't continue after age 25, at least not when longer term trends are considered.

b)  Parental marital stability. If your parents divorced you're 40% more likely to divorce yourself. If your parents married others after divorce the figure rises to 90%.

c) Education & income. Any university level education reduces the risk of divorce by 13%. Having an income over US$50,000 reduces the risk by 30%.

d) Ethnicity. Divorce risk varies by ethnicity, with Asian couples being least likely to divorce, then whites, then blacks (the white rate of divorce in the US is 32%). Interracial marriages are less stable on average, with black male/white female marriages having double the risk of divorce compared to the white average.

e) It seems too that the more sexual partners a woman has before marriage, and the younger she becomes sexually active, the higher the risk of divorce.

These are just some of the more easily measurable factors connected to marital instability. There are no doubt others, including attitudes held to both marriage and divorce, mental health, financial responsibility, the level marital stability or instability within a peer group and so on.

The point to be made is that the risk of divorce for some men at least is still relatively low. There may be some men out there who believe that they have a 50% risk when the real risk is more like 15%. There's a "marriage calculator" here which plots in a few of the factors involved; as I wrote earlier, my own risk of divorce at this point in time was 8% (rising to 10% after ten years).

Monday, October 18, 2010

Penelope Trunk: women should be paid more than men

I'm not quite sure what to make of Penelope Trunk. She's a feminist of sorts, who takes a set of modern girl attitudes and runs with them to places most would pull back from.

Take, for instance, her reaction to the Karen Owen story. Karen Owen was a Duke University student who bedded 13 sportsmen and wrote a detailed report on her experiences, the report then being leaked to the internet.

According to Penelope Trunk, Karen Owen is an empowered modern girl:

Owen's slides capture the shift in women's empowerment, which is happening at the workplace and having the ripple effect of empowering women in sex. Owen's slides make me excited about the new generation of women and how much they take their own power for granted. I'm excited to see what they will do with it.

How is sleeping around empowering? Penelope Trunk sees young women using sex appeal to get what they want in the workplace, in particular by outcompeting young men. This is the sense in which she connects sex to female empowerment:

So middle-aged men are often alone, day after day, with single, hot young women. When has this happened in history? At this point, there is a culture of men being smitten with young women, and young women feeling empowered enough to leverage that without actually giving in.

And, when it comes to young men, they are not earning as much as the women (the Wall Street Journal reports that in Atlanta young women earn an incredible 21% more than their male counterparts). Men are not as in high demand compared to women and since young women are sexy, and young men do not have power that can make them sexy, that's not likely to change. So twentysomething women are running circles around men of all ages. These slides do a good deal to confirm that.

What about the wages gap? Penelope Trunk doesn't think that women are discriminated against when it comes to wages. So is she satisfied with the situation? No, because she believes that women ought to be (and in some cases already are) paid more than men.

Why? Her argument runs like this. It's more difficult for women than for men to give up looking after their children. Business needs women to give up looking after their children. Therefore, women should be compensated more than men for contributing to the needs of business:

Women need to be compensated at a higher rate than men if they are to give up their personal lives in order to work. Law firms accomplish this by keeping women on partner track even when they’re part-time. Corporations do this by offering flex time and other business-bending options for high-performing women who want to take care of kids.

VCs talk endlessly about why there are so few women running venture backed companies, but it’s incredulous talk. The reason is that VCs don’t pay women more.

What else does Penelope Trunk want to see changed? She believes that women are discriminated against by not being allowed to have as much fun as men. By fun, she means getting drunk and having casual sex:

As soon as men and women start aging, the men are happier. Maybe they have had more training on how to have fun...

You can see the gap at the bar. Alcohol makes us have a more broad imagination and do a wider range of things. So why is it more acceptable for professional men than professional women to go out with friends and get drunk? Why is it okay for men to get drunk in order to have an easier time hooking up, but it’s not okay for women? This is such a serious problem that New York magazine calls the gap the the last frontier of feminism.

There's one last piece of advice Penelope Trunk has for women. She believes that women start to lose their competitive edge over men when they have children. So, no matter how much women love children, her advice is not to have any:

Having kids complicates a woman's life in ways that are not so difficult for men ... children affect women so much that they don't start earning less than men until they have kids...

I'm sure a bunch of women will write to tell me that their kids are the love of their life. But don't bother. Because I'm not saying women don't love their kids, and maybe I am saying that the lack of happiness is precisely because women love their kids so much ...

Don't have kids ... Kids give great joy but also wreak great havoc. People used to think there is something wrong with women who don't want kids. But really, there is something wrong with people who tell you that their kids make them happier: they are lying...

So Penelope's world view ends up dismally with a call for women to remain childless.

How does she get it so wrong? It's her assumption that what matters is individual career advancement and money. That's why she takes such a triumphalist view of young women using their sex appeal at work to get ahead of their male peers. She's not aware of how mercenary this sounds, how loveless. Nor does she seem aware that by trouncing their male peers women are reducing their chances of finding future happiness in marriage. The young men are seen as workplace competitors rather than as future husbands.

Similarly, the commitment of women to children has significance for her mostly in business terms. She thinks that it justifies women being compensated more for their hours at work, but she also worries that it reduces a woman's competitive edge later in life and that women should therefore not have children, no matter how much they love them and no matter how important it is for perpetuating families and communities.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Chilton Williamson on the Tea Party movement

In an article on the American Tea Party movement, Chilton Williamson Jnr writes:

Liberalism as a political movement ... never made sense in spite of the fact that the majority of Americans since the War Between the States have been liberals, whether they knew it or not. It took what James Kalb calls advanced liberalism, coming in the last quarter of the 20th century, to bring the American public to a sort of political Great Awakening, in which they find themselves, somewhat groggily, shaking themselves and rubbing their eyes. Or rather, one half of the American public, the other having converted—as it seems, irredeemably—to the advanced-liberal ideology, which is really the old liberalism stretched and distorted and pummeled from its youthful naive falsity into senile surrealism. The arrival of advanced liberalism has divided the United States between the New and the Old America, a division that is unlikely to be resolved in the foreseeable future but is becoming, rather, more fixed and rigid ... Liberals blame an unenlightened reactionary mass for the divide, but in truth the fault is theirs, and all theirs. Advanced liberalism demands that people think, believe, and act in ways that it is simply unnatural for human beings to think, believe, and act ...

One take on the Tea Party movement is that it is essentially libertarian in character and therefore not such a departure from liberalism. Williamson prefers the idea that the movement reflects a divison in the US between those who do and do not accept an advanced liberalism (he does portray the Tea Party, though, as a largely unfocused, populist movement rather than one with a clear anti-liberal aim).

It's not easy to get a good understanding of the real character of the movement from here in Australia. I intend to write some posts in coming weeks looking at the different interpretations of the Tea Party.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Slightly seedy, bald and cauliflower-nosed bloggers?

UK journalist Andrew Marr doesn't like bloggers:

A lot of bloggers seem to be socially inadequate, pimpled, single, slightly seedy, bald, cauliflower-nosed, young men sitting in their mother's basements and ranting. They are very angry people.

OK - the country is full of very angry people. Many of us are angry people at times. Some of us are angry and drunk. But the so-called citizen journalism is the spewings and rantings of very drunk people late at night.

Umm, Andrew, isn't the above an angry rant? A rant so over the top that it's funny in its own way? And are you really the person to be claiming physical superiority over bloggers? Isn't this how you appeared to one of your fellow journos:

It is reassuring to see Andrew Marr devouring a plate of thick, rare-beef sandwiches. He looks so worryingly iron-deficient that he should probably have them on prescription.

His skin is the colour of a household candle and his body as tenuously constructed as one of those elastic-jointed wooden toys that collapse when you press the base. It is many years since his light dusting of hair was not a subject for melancholy.

What triggered Andrew Marr's hostility? It seems that bloggers like myself are impacting on sales of mainstream newspapers:

The former newspaper editor pointed out that established newspapers were suffering as people turn to the internet.

It was a sad fact that the media would be employing fewer journalists as sales of hard copies declined, he said.

Perhaps Andrew Marr should ask himself why so many people are turning to alternative sources of news and commentary. Couldn't it have something to do with the liberal bias of the mainstream media?

Andrew Marr was political editor of BBC News from 2000 to 2005. In 2006 he admitted,

The BBC is not impartial or neutral ... It has a liberal bias not so much a party-political bias. It is better expressed as a cultural liberal bias

So what are those of us who don't like liberalism to do? Isn't it likely that we'll seek out alternatives?

Consider some of the online reactions to Andrew Marr's comments:

Chris: Actually, the comfortable world of privileged and self-serving liberal dominance that allowed the likes of Marr to preclude the non-PC from the mainstream media has come to an end. This is just the dying whinge of the dispossessed.

Daj: Of course Marr doesn't like Citizen Journalism, as it means that people don't have to rely on the propaganda from people like him and 99.9% of the BBC's News & Current Affairs department.

Joe: Of course one advantage that Marr's 'amateur hacks' do have is that they are not in the pocket of the political establishment.

Dave: I'll take citizen journalism any day of the week over the biased propaganda that Marr's been spouting all his working life.

I wouldn't go so far as to claim that the mainstream media is dying. It remains a powerful influence on society. But it's a lot more possible now than it was 20 years ago to get alternative political commentary. And that is something that Andrew Marr, with his ill-chosen taunts, clearly finds unsettling.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

What does privilege mean for a liberal?

Liberals believe that whites and men are privileged. But how exactly? The answer is important, because the liberal starting point leads to an ultimately contradictory position.

The starting point is that the good in life is autonomy. Therefore, being privileged means having more autonomy than others. But there are different ways of having more autonomy:

1) We can have more autonomy as men or as whites. Liberals claim that these are artificial categories set up in order to get an unearned privilege (more autonomy) at the expense of those designated as the "other" (non-whites, women). So whites and men are thought to be upholding a gendered or raced identity in order to keep for themselves advantages over others.

2) We can have more autonomy by escaping a gendered or raced identity in favour of a human one. Our sex and our race are unchosen, predetermined qualities. Therefore, they get in the way of being self-defined. So it is a privilege according to the liberal world view to be unsexed and deracinated. So if whites and men get to live the default "human" position, rather than a sexed or raced one, they are privileged.

3) We can have more autonomy if we do not need to be defined in terms of anyone else but ourselves, i.e. if we can ignore the influence of the "other" and have things our own way. Therefore, whites or men are privileged if they are unaffected by the views or the power of others and can choose to live on their own terms.

So these three positions flow logically from the liberal starting point. But unfortunately for liberals, the end result isn't easily made consistent. There are two major tensions in the liberal account of privilege.

First, men and whites are damned for upholding categories of race and gender, but at the same time they are damned for the privilege of transcending categories of race or gender, of existing above these. There is a contortion of the male/white psyche here. We are held to desperately uphold categories of being male or white in order to keep grasping onto advantages denied to others, but then we are criticised for the privilege of living unaware of gender or race and occupying the default "human" position instead.

Second, men and whites are thought to maintain privilege by actively "othering" those we want to dominate, but at the same time we are held to be privileged by being able to live in our own little bubble, unaware and unaffected by the lives of others, being purely self-defined. But which is it? If we are guilty of having the privilege of leaving others alone, of not needing to have relations with them, then how are we setting up relations of domination via an active process of othering?

I'll run through some examples further on. I think it's useful to look first at where this liberal account of privilege came from. I think it's likely that the culprit was Simone de Beauvoir, particularly the introduction to her book The Second Sex (1949). Consider these excerpts from the chapter in question:

there is an absolute human type, the masculine. Woman has ovaries, a uterus: these peculiarities imprison her in her subjectivity, circumscribe her within the limits of her own nature ...

Thus humanity is male and man defines woman not in herself but as relative to him; she is not regarded as an autonomous being.

... And she is simply what man decrees; thus she is called ‘the sex’, by which is meant that she appears essentially to the male as a sexual being. For him she is sex – absolute sex, no less. She is defined and differentiated with reference to man and not he with reference to her ... He is the Subject, he is the Absolute – she is the Other.

... The native travelling abroad is shocked to find himself in turn regarded as a ‘stranger’ by the natives of neighbouring countries. As a matter of fact, wars, festivals, trading, treaties, and contests among tribes, nations, and classes tend to deprive the concept Other of its absolute sense and to make manifest its relativity; willy-nilly, individuals and groups are forced to realize the reciprocity of their relations. How is it, then, that this reciprocity has not been recognised between the sexes, that one of the contrasting terms is set up as the sole essential, denying any relativity in regard to its correlative and defining the latter as pure otherness?

How does Simone de Beauvoir portray men as privileged? Clearly, she believes that men get to be more autonomous in the second sense I described above: she thinks that women are sexed, whereas men get to be human (non-sexed).

She also believes that men get to be autonomous in the third sense: men don't have to be defined in reference to women, they get to escape reciprocity by being the "sole essential".

De Beauvoir also thinks men are privileged in the first, most basic sense described above; she believes that femininity is an artificial category:

The biological and social sciences no longer admit the existence of unchangeably fixed entities that determine given characteristics, such as those ascribed to woman ... If today femininity no longer exists, then it never existed. 

Having dismissed the idea of natural distinctions between the sexes, De Beauvoir argues that these distinctions are explained by men wanting to keep women subordinate (i.e. men sought to uphold the artificial categories of gender for their own class interests):

But why should man have won from the start? It seems possible that women could have won the victory; or that the outcome of the conflict might never have been decided. How is it that this world has always belonged to the men ....?

... the very fact that woman is the Other tends to cast suspicion upon all the justifications that men have ever been able to provide for it. These have all too evidently been dictated by men’s interest.

Legislators, priests, philosophers, writers, and scientists have striven to show that the subordinate position of woman is willed in heaven and advantageous on earth. The religions invented by men reflect this wish for domination ...

In proving woman’s inferiority, the anti-feminists then began to draw not only upon religion, philosophy, and theology, as before, but also upon science – biology, experimental psychology, etc. At most they were willing to grant ‘equality in difference’ to the other sex ...

So already in The Second Sex, way back in 1949, we have the three pronged liberal theory of male privilege.

De Beauvoir's theory has been taken up by modern feminists. Consider these quotes from one feminist website: a patriarchy, all women belong to the sex class, and are defined in terms of men. Men, on the other hand, belong to the default human class, and get to define themselves (and everything else).

...the concept of femininity extends to the full set of unique behaviors performed by the sex class to appease its oppressor ... My position is that the construct recognized as “femininity” represents the dominant social order’s successful attempt to otherize an entire class of people for the purpose of oppressing them.

Another example of De Beauvoir's influence is the work of Peggy McIntosh on white privilege. She has drawn up a list of 50 ways in which whites are privileged over others in daily life.

The 50 items don't make much sense outside of De Beauvoir's theoretical framework. Some are based on the idea (privilege 1) that whites are "raced" for the purposes of denying opportunities to others. So Peggy McIntosh's list often sounds paranoid about how whites treat others:

37. I can be pretty sure of finding people who would be willing to talk with me and advise me about my next steps, professionally.

41. I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help, my race will not work against me.

McIntosh is suggesting that whites in everyday life will only help each other and wouldn't help non-whites with career advice, or legal or medical services. This sounds delusional but it is what the theory predicts: that whites exist as a class of people to keep unearned privileges for themselves.

Some of McIntosh's items are based on privilege 2, the idea that whites get to live not as whites but as the non-raced human default. Here are some examples of items in which whites are privileged because, unlike non-whites, they get to be non-raced:

39. I can be late to a meeting without having the lateness reflect on my race.

16. I can be pretty sure that my children's teachers and employers will tolerate them if they fit school and workplace norms; my chief worries about them do not concern others' attitudes toward their race.

19. I can speak in public to a powerful male group without putting my race on trial.

36. If my day, week or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether it had racial overtones.

So whites are thought to be acutely ethnocentric in the first group of items, but then to be privileged by living outside the prism of race in the second. It doesn't fit well together. Furthermore, McIntosh then also includes privilege 3: the idea that whites get to live in their own self-defining, self-referencing bubble. So she has items like this:

8. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.

45. I can expect figurative language and imagery in all of the arts to testify to experiences of my race.

The dominant group gets to be normative and therefore to live within their own race as the "sole essential". But if there is a privilege in living within your own race (to have things "testify to the existence of your race"), how can it also be a privilege to occupy the human, non-raced category?

Again, some of the items make little sense except that they fit the Beauvoirian theory that the dominant, oppressor group can self-define and ignore reciprocal relationships:

31. I can choose to ignore developments in minority writing and minority activist programs, or disparage them, or learn from them, but in any case, I can find ways to be more or less protected from negative consequences of any of these choices.

32. My culture gives me little fear about ignoring the perspectives and powers of people of other races.

So whether we whites are defined in terms of the other, or whether we are self-defining; and whether we live as part of a racial category, or whether we live outside of race in a "human" category - we are in all these circumstances considered guilty of an unbearable privilege.

As I wrote earlier, the starting point to all this was a logical one under the terms of liberalism. If autonomy is the key good then we are privileged by having more autonomy, whether it's through a dominant racial relationship, through transcending race or through a capacity to self-define racially. But this framework, for the reasons I've outlined in this post, ends up lacking coherence.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The quest for feminine identity

Monsignor Cormac Burke has written an interesting essay on sex distinctions, one which challenges the orthodox liberal view on sex distinctions.


What makes up our identity? Monsignor Burke writes:

one’s identity is made up of certain characteristics which we have in common with others, and certain characteristics we have differently: and again of some qualities we have as “givens” and others we have acquired. It is only by knowing these that we can identify ourselves. The person incapable of self-identification just does not know himself or herself.

This is already outside the liberal orthodoxy. Although Monsignor Burke does allow that we acquire some aspects of our identity ourselves, others are given to us. So we are not, as liberals usually claim, blank slates, without limitations on our ability to self-define.

Monsignor Burke is aware that he is contradicting trends within modern thought:

The current confusion about identity is mainly rooted in the idea of the self-identifying or the self-defining person. ‘My life is mine and I can make whatever I want of it’. This is not so, in the first place because I only possess my life precisely insofar as it has been given to me; it is a gift.

He goes on to write:

When I receive a gift, it becomes mine; yes, that is true. But if I am sensible, I want to know the nature of the gift so as to use or handle it wisely; for it can be spoiled, even completely, by bad use. If I am given a paperweight of gold, I may drop it and nothing is lost. If the gift is a precious porcelain vase and I drop it, the gift itself is lost. It is important to know that some things given to us in life are both precious and breakable, and not easily recovered if broken.


According to liberalism, we are to define our own good. Monsignor Burke points out that this has disenchanting consequences:

We live in a thoroughly ‘disenchanted’ secular age (as Charles Taylor brings out so well). There is nothing beyond what I see, nothing underlying what I feel, nothing that promises more than what I have ... Things, events, relationships, have no more meaning than what I choose to give them. I decide their value. But, at the best, that value is limited, for I do not, I will not, believe in absolute values. I identify things by how they suit me — my satisfaction, my advantage — not by any value they have in themselves.

What follows is a passage on what is (potentially) spiritually inspiring in the connection between the masculine and feminine:

But there is an enchantment in creation. God himself, the Bible tells us, was pleased, very pleased, with what he had created. He saw it all as good, very good (Gen 1:31). For God, it is a very good world. For man, the summit of his creation, God wished it to be an enchanted world, a world where everything, as an imago Dei, can point to the hidden, ultimate and infinite wonder of God’s existence and life.

It was Adam’s experience when he saw Eve. He was thrilled, she was an enchantment for him; something that seemed to come from another world, or to promise another world. And similarly when Eve saw Adam. In that mutual attraction of theirs, the physical differences were seen, undisturbedly, as a sign of a much richer human reality; and indeed as imaging an infinitely higher reality.

Male and female God made them; and the closer they are, the more they live in mutual understanding, the more they reflect something of the image of God. This closeness is only secondarily expressed in physical coupling. It is in the meeting of souls more than of bodies, in the harmonising of a masculine and a feminine way of being, that they image a perfection much higher than anything either can achieve on his or her own.

There is, or was, truth in that old saying that 'woman promises to man what only God can give’; truth also if the promise is expressed the other way round. Today it is not clear what the sexes promise to each other, and less still what they mean to each other. Romance, so it seems, is almost gone. The enchantment is gone, as is also the sense that there is something of magic in sexuality that has to be protected ... We have to restore the enchantment.

That, I maintain, is not possible without a restored sense of sexual identity; a sense of what it means to be a man, what it means to be a woman, what it can mean to show together a better image of God.

I'm not sure how this passage would strike a non-religious reader (hopefully as impressively non-liberal). But I would be disappointed if it didn't encourage Christian readers to seriously question the liberal position on sex distinctions (the view that masculinity and femininity are negative restrictions on a self-defining lifestyle.)

Isn't it clear that liberalism contradicts key tenets of Christianity?

Sunday, October 03, 2010

What limits our response?

Note to readers: this is the latest distribution piece for Eltham traditionalists. It is therefore in the format of a brief explanatory overview of traditionalist politics.

Liberalism is the ruling ideology of our age. It is the dominant political belief which is radically transforming our society. As Professor John Schwarzmantel puts it:

Contemporary liberal-democracy is an ideological society, where a particular version of liberalism prevails

There is a destructive side to liberalism. The key liberal belief is that we are made human through autonomy: through our ability to self-determine or to self-define. Professor John Kekes writes:

the true core of liberalism, the inner citadel for whose protection all the liberal battles are waged [is] autonomy

How are people made autonomous? They must be “liberated” from whatever is predetermined rather than self-determined. This includes their sex (being masculine or feminine), their ethny (inherited forms of communal identity), traditional forms of family life (since these are given to us rather than self-defined), and objective forms of morality (since under the logic of liberalism the good must also be self-defined).

What liberalism replaces these with is a vision of a society made up of blank slate, atomised individuals, in pursuit of their own subjective, self-generated good.

This is destructive because it means having to make things which matter a great deal not matter. Most people, for instance, do identify in important ways with a distinct, inherited national tradition; they do not look forward to its replacement by a more radically individualistic existence within an international system.

Similarly, most people identify positively with being a man or a woman and do not wish to suppress this identity within an androgynous society which is hostile to sex distinctions.

The effects of liberalism are felt by many people to be symptoms of social breakdown or decline. But this then raises the question of how liberalism has been able to maintain its dominance. How has liberalism been able to limit effective opposition to its grip on Western societies?

Second tier arguments

One part of the answer is that liberalism has been able to limit political debate to second tier arguments. The underlying assumptions of liberalism are rarely brought to the surface and argued about. Instead, debate is limited to a secondary question, namely how do you best regulate a liberal society made up of millions of atomised, individual wills?

How you answer this question determines where you are placed on the political spectrum. Those on the right tend to believe that society is best regulated by the free market. It is typical for right-liberals to believe that individuals can compete in the market for their own profit and that the hidden hand of the market will regulate the outcome for the overall prosperity and progress of society.

Right-liberals therefore tend to focus on Economic Man: man in his role as a rational economic agent. Originally, right-liberals tended to be anti-statist, as they saw state intervention as distorting the mechanism of the market. These days it is the more radical right-liberals, the libertarians, who maintain this anti-statist position.

Those on the left are more skeptical that a liberal society can be regulated by the market. They see the market as generating inequalities, which then makes it harder for some to pursue a self-defining lifestyle. They think it more egalitarian and more rational for society to be regulated by the neutral expertise of a state bureaucracy. The focus of the left is not so much on Economic Man but on Social Man.

The further left you go on the political spectrum, the more anti-capitalist you become (so that Marxism is correctly thought of as being far left).

The case of the UK

Let’s take the UK as an example. A newspaper columnist like Theo Hobson is not shy when it comes to declaring his support for the state ideology:

All we seek is a reassertion of liberalism as the nation's common ideology.

He can assert this confidently because both major parties in the UK are committed to liberalism. The so-called Conservative Party, for instance, is currently led by David Cameron. He looks on his party as a “champion of liberal values”:

today we have a Conservative Party … which wants Britain to be a positive participant in the EU, as a champion of liberal values.

So the Conservatives are liberals. More specifically they are right-liberals, as they prefer to have society regulated by a free market rather than by a centralised state. That’s why Cameron has declared that his party “supports open markets,” is “committed to decentralisation and localism," and aims to strengthen “our economy by freeing the creators of wealth, especially small businesses, to create the jobs and prosperity we need.”

And what of the left? Beatrice Webb defined the project of the left back in 1928. Rather than relying on the market to regulate society, the left was motivated by,

our common faith in a deliberately organised society – our belief in the application of science to human relations … the common people, served by an elite of unassuming experts

This is the technocratic solution to regulating liberal society. Ed Miliband is the current leader of the Labour Party in the UK. In setting out his political agenda he warned,

Our society is at risk of being reshaped in ways that will devastate the proud legacy of liberalism. We see a free market philosophy being applied to our schools …

Miliband is defining his politics exactly as you would expect a left-liberal to do: he commits himself to liberalism, but is not so keen on free market solutions.

Those who support the two main parties can be passionate in their allegiances. That can make it seem as if we have more choice than we really do. We really only get a choice as to how best to regulate liberalism, not whether we want to continue to run society along liberal lines. And yet it is the liberalism itself that is doing the damage.

We need to open up politics, so that the important first tier issues are more widely understood and discussed.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Are the gatekeepers really so objective?

Andrew Keen doesn't like the new, internet based media. So much so that he has written a book with the title, The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet Is Killing Our Culture. Keen want the media to remain under the control of experts:

Keen quotes social philosopher Jurgen Habermas about the internet and related technologies: "The price we pay for the growth in egalitarianism offered by the Internet is the decentralized access to unedited stories. In this medium, contributions by intellectuals lose their power to create a focus." Keen states that most of modern social culture has existed with specific gatekeepers analyzing and regulating information as it reaches the masses. He views this expert-based filtering process as beneficial, improving the quality of popular discourse, and argues that it is being circumvented.

Keen has been answered, very well I think, by Edwin Dyga (it's well worth reading the entire essay here and here). Keen wants us to believe that the mainstream media is objective and engaged in a "careful aggregation of truth". But it's clear, even to insiders, that the mainstream media is biased not only toward liberalism, but more particularly toward left-liberalism. Dyga writes:

In his exposé Bias (2002), former CBS senior executive Bernard Goldberg catalogues a litany of examples of how truth has become a casualty to the political sensitivities of the editorial boards in both print and television media. He writes that “the liberal media elites are not an alien species. They’re part of the bigger liberal community.” In Colouring the News (2002) William McGowan writes that reporters “have all attended the same universities and all been exposed to the same politically correct pieties”. Likewise, former sixties radical Harry Stein confirms that “a great many of us who similarly emerged from the campus culture of the sixties did our bit—and then some. For as we came to populate and then dominate the nation’s newsrooms, we remade the news media in our image” (City Journal, Spring 2008).

What Keen describes as the “craft of news gathering’, its “careful aggregation of truth” has become no more than a shallow pretence to objectivity. In the words of McGowan, “without counterbalancing influences, the worldview and prejudices of the liberal-left leaning newsroom majority manufacture what become philosophical ‘givens’”. This means that one of the most important pillars of good journalism, an inquisitive but strongly sceptical outlook, is exercised selectively, social controversy is analysed through an ideological prism, blind eyes are turned to the indiscretions of the in-group and outsiders are pursued with extraordinary zeal. 

It is this lack of objectivity, argues Dyga, that has helped to fuel support for alternative media:

How the politicisation of the media leads to its ultimate demise should be self-evident to an individual of any political disposition. Claims to objectivity are hollow when journalists become advocates for a cause. A chronic lack of ideological diversity among the commentariat leads to fading public trust in “news”. This naturally leads to the gradual evaporation of the media’s authority as well as a popular reaction against the “philosophical givens” of the editorial board, or as McGowan puts it:

The increasing liberalism of the newsroom combined with more parochialism amplifies a disconnect from the rest of mainstream society ... By siding so openly with the cultural left ... the press has compounded the estrangement and anger of much of the electorate, unintentionally feeding the cultural and political backlash against that agenda.

...As the levels of trust for the traditional media dwindle, it should be no surprise that the public will take matters into its own hands and seek refuge in a far less restrictive medium.

There's much more to Edwin Dyga's excellent essay; I'll return to some of its other themes in future posts.