Monday, June 27, 2011

Swedish push to abolish sex distinctions hits mainstream media

I know I've been pushing this theme lately, but I thought it worthwhile noting that the mainstream media is starting to pick up on the efforts to abolish sex distinctions in Swedish schools.

Yahoo news is running a story on the "Egalia" preschool in Stockholm. At this preschool students are not addressed as boys and girls, nor are there books which show a traditional family with a father, mother and children. The staff don't use words like "him" and "her", having invented a gender neutral pronoun to refer to both sexes.

The reason for this social engineering? Predictably it's based on two aspects of liberalism. One of the preschool teachers says that Egalia allows students to 'be whoever they want to be'. That's the liberal idea that we should, as the highest aim in life, be autonomous and determine our own self. Our sex is not something we get to self-determine so it's looked on negatively as a limitation or a restriction on what we can choose.

But why then did sex distinctions exist in the past? Left-liberals answer that it was because one group in society, men, wanted to get an unearned privilege (more autonomy) at the expense of an oppressed group (women). Therefore, left-liberals also assume that sex distinctions are based on inequality and should be redistributed more evenly amongst girls and boys. Tanja Bergqvist, a Swedish blogger critical of the preschool policy, believes that,

Those bent on shattering gender roles "say there's a hierarchy where everything that boys do is given higher value"

The Swedish policy does allow for the idea that boys and girls have different anatomies. But that's it. For everything else, they are held to be the same. The director of the preschool believes that to be equal the sexes must be held to be the same:

What matters is that children understand that their biological differences "don't mean boys and girls have different interests and abilities," Rajalin says. "This is about democracy. About human equality."

A few observations. First, I'm not suggesting that ordinary Swedes are as committed to these ideas as the political class. The fault in Sweden is with the state ideology that is being imposed on children.

Second, note how radical the state ideology of liberalism is. In a previous post, I compared it to indoctrination with Marxism-Leninism during the communist period in Russia. But a reader who had been brought up in a communist school thought that indoctrination in Russia was not quite as extreme:

I have gone to school in Soviet Union in the 1980s and we had less indoctrination than that. At least ... they did not try to convince us that there were no sexual distinctions.

Third, note the importance of political ideas. Whatever the political class of a society adopts as the highest good is going to be gradually implemented as social policy. So political theories like liberalism need to be fiercely contested.

Fourth, Tanja Bergqvist shows what can be done with the independent media. She's an intelligent Swedish woman who runs a blog criticising Swedish gender policy. She's become something like the official opposition within Sweden and now she's even being quoted in the foreign media. Well done Tanja!

Here's the text of the yahoo article:

STOCKHOLM – At the "Egalia" preschool, staff avoid using words like "him" or "her" and address the 33 kids as "friends" rather than girls and boys.

From the color and placement of toys to the choice of books, every detail has been carefully planned to make sure the children don't fall into gender stereotypes.

"Society expects girls to be girlie, nice and pretty and boys to be manly, rough and outgoing," says Jenny Johnsson, a 31-year-old teacher. "Egalia gives them a fantastic opportunity to be whoever they want to be."

The taxpayer-funded preschool which opened last year in the liberal Sodermalm district of Stockholm for kids aged 1 to 6 is among the most radical examples of Sweden's efforts to engineer equality between the sexes from childhood onward.

Breaking down gender roles is a core mission in the national curriculum for preschools, underpinned by the theory that even in highly egalitarian-minded Sweden, society gives boys an unfair edge.

To even things out, many preschools have hired "gender pedagogues" to help staff identify language and behavior that risk reinforcing stereotypes.

Some parents worry things have gone too far. An obsession with obliterating gender roles, they say, could make the children confused and ill-prepared to face the world outside kindergarten.

"Different gender roles aren't problematic as long as they are equally valued," says Tanja Bergkvist, a 37-year-old blogger and a leading voice against what she calls "gender madness" in Sweden.

Those bent on shattering gender roles "say there's a hierarchy where everything that boys do is given higher value, but I wonder who decides that it has higher value," she says. "Why is there higher value in playing with cars?"

At Egalia — the title connotes "equality" — boys and girls play together with a toy kitchen, waving plastic utensils and pretending to cook. One boy hides inside the toy stove, his head popping out through a hole.

Lego bricks and other building blocks are intentionally placed next to the kitchen, to make sure the children draw no mental barriers between cooking and construction.

Director Lotta Rajalin notes that Egalia places a special emphasis on fostering an environment tolerant of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. From a bookcase, she pulls out a story about two male giraffes who are sad to be childless — until they come across an abandoned crocodile egg.

Nearly all the children's books deal with homosexual couples, single parents or adopted children. There are no "Snow White," "Cinderella" or other classic fairy tales seen as cementing stereotypes.

Rajalin, 52, says the staff also try to help the children discover new ideas when they play.

"A concrete example could be when they're playing 'house' and the role of the mom already is taken and they start to squabble," she says. "Then we suggest two moms or three moms and so on."

Egalia's methods are controversial; some say they amount to mind control. Rajalin says the staff have received threats from racists apparently upset about the preschool's use of black dolls.

But she says that there's a long waiting list for admission to Egalia, and that only one couple has pulled a child out of the school.

Jukka Korpi, 44, says he and his wife chose Egalia "to give our children all the possibilities based on who they are and not on their gender."

Sweden has promoted women's rights for decades, and more recently was a pioneer among European countries in allowing gay and lesbian couples to legalize their partnerships and adopt children.

Gender studies permeate academic life in Sweden. Bergkvist noted on her blog that the state-funded Swedish Science Council had granted $80,000 for a postdoctoral fellowship aimed at analyzing "the trumpet as a symbol of gender."

Jay Belsky, a child psychologist at the University of California, Davis, said he's not aware of any other school like Egalia, and he questioned whether it was the right way to go.

"The kind of things that boys like to do — run around and turn sticks into swords — will soon be disapproved of," he said. "So gender neutrality at its worst is emasculating maleness."

Egalia is unusual even for Sweden. Staff try to shed masculine and feminine references from their speech, including the pronouns him or her — "han" or "hon" in Swedish. Instead, they've have adopted the genderless "hen," a word that doesn't exist in Swedish but is used in some feminist and gay circles.

"We use the word "Hen" for example when a doctor, police, electrician or plumber or such is coming to the kindergarten," Rajalin says. "We don't know if it's a he or a she so we just say 'Hen is coming around 2 p.m.' Then the children can imagine both a man or a woman. This widens their view."

Egalia doesn't deny the biological differences between boys and girls — the dolls the children play with are anatomically correct.

What matters is that children understand that their biological differences "don't mean boys and girls have different interests and abilities," Rajalin says. "This is about democracy. About human equality."

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Let's not get too nostalgic for Rudd

It's a year since Julia Gillard replaced Kevin Rudd as Australian PM. Gillard has very low popularity ratings and the press is beginning to talk about a Rudd comeback:

Voters in key marginal seats have forgiven Kevin Rudd and are clamouring for him to return to the Labor leadership.
I do understand Gillard's unpopularity. She is proposing a carbon tax at a time when many families are already having to cope with rising costs. But Rudd? He was the guy who sent immigration levels to a record high.

In 2008 under Kevin Rudd net migration hit 316,000. Given that there are usually around 80,000 departures, that means that even on official figures there were about 400,000 arrivals. That's an enormous number of arrivals for a country with Australia's population: it would be the equivalent of about 5,500,000 arrivals in the USA in single year.

It led to a welcome backlash with both the Labor and Liberal parties backing away from Rudd's commitment to a "big Australia". And the Labor Party under Gillard does seem to have drawn the figures back down a little, with net migration being cut to 171,000 in 2010 - which, if I remember correctly, is exactly the figure Tony Abbott promised the Liberal Party would cut the number to.

So whatever Gillard's failings, I wouldn't be in too much of a hurry to turn back to Kevin Rudd.

A Swedish school wants to make conception gender neutral

Sweden has embarked on an effort to abolish sex distinctions. I reported this week on preschools in Sweden which proudly offer princess costumes for the boys to wear. And now comes the news that there are youngsters in Sweden who are getting "gender neutral" sex ed lessons:

"The teaching of sex and relationships has fallen behind. This fall a new curriculum was introduced requiring the topic be included in more subject areas. But Freya School in Gnesta is one step ahead. "Activities in this school are likely to constitute a model for other schools in the country that must operate in accordance with the curriculum that takes effect in autumn 2011 and that "includes clearer descriptions of how sex education should be integrated in the different subjects in school." Both municipal strategists and math and science teachers are engaged in the work:

"The important thing is that students can see how it all fits together, says Maja (math and science teacher) and Karina (Municipal equality strategist). How sexuality is often influenced by others' standards and values. Therefore, teaching is also done in a neutral manner. In the anatomical teaching, they try to be as clear as possible.

"We want to get away from metaphors that sperm are active and eggs passive in the fertilization process, or that men's and women's genitalia are described as complementary. Such descriptions serve only to reinforce traditional gender norms and heteronormativity", they say.

Several things spring to mind. First, at the same time that they are ramming a political ideology down the throats of youngsters, they are telling themselves that they are teaching "in a neutral manner". Swedes have to start calling them out on this. It has to be openly recognised that Sweden has a state ideology into which students are being involuntarily indoctrinated.

Second, regardless of how active the sperm and the egg are in the fertilisation process, it shows how far things have gone in Sweden that this is all a politically sensitive subject. In other words, it shows how radical and far reaching the Swedish authorities intend to be in carrying out their programme of abolishing traditional sex distinctions.

Third, how would you like to live in a place which has a "municipal equality strategist" wanting to mainstream such ideas not just in sex ed classes but throughout the curriculum, even in maths classes? It would be like living in the Soviet Union and having every subject area taught within a Marxist-Leninist perspective.

Anyway, this is how one Swede suggests that the gender equality people would prefer to imagine the process of fertilisation:

The idea that sperm actually swim to the egg is a social construction produced in the mind of the patriarchy. The egg is not only there, but it actually swim into the penis, where it immediately "takes its share" of life by grabbing the nearest confused sperm, abducts it, runs over everything in its path and then returns with the passive sperm to the womb where it locks into it, and then drills into it, causing a fusion, if the sperm does not die during the egg's wild rampage. If so the egg goes back into the penis and takes a more capable passive sperm that can withstand some beating - it's so evolution favored the swift eggs and rugged sperm that do not dare move a muscle.  

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Greek crisis

The Melbourne Age has run as its main opinion piece today a column on the Greek crisis. Unusually for The Age the piece, by Simon Jenkins, has a hint of traditionalism about it. Jenkins's argument is that closer European union is a mistake because it is an attempt to force uniformity on significantly different cultures:

Closer European union, so called, was a bad idea for precisely the reason now seen on the streets of Athens. It was an attempt by a supranational economic authority to supersede national democracy. Bluntly, it assumed the commercial culture of ''greater Germany'' could be imposed on a wide variety of cultures by virtue of geographical propinquity. Countries with a high propensity to work and save would discipline those with a lower one. Banks would finance it all. It was fantasy born of utopia, the perfect precondition for a sovereign credit bubble
He writes too:

The lesson is clear. Sovereign states with distinct political cultures should never surrender control over internal affairs to foreign agencies

Federation can make sense when people share a common tradition, as was the case when the Australian states federated. But that's not so much the case in Europe. The English have a long history together distinct from the Russians who are again distinct from the Spanish. The European project ought to have been one of co-operation between sovereign nations rather than an imposed, top down, bureaucratic move toward federation.

Mayholes and Swedish boy princesses

I don't know how seriously we're meant to take this story. But even if it is meant humorously, it says something about the modern world.

Swedes have traditionally danced around a maypole during midsummer festivals. But now a feminist group wants them to dance around a "mayhole" instead. Why? Because they regard the maypole as a phallic symbol, and because other aspects of the festival are too heteronormative and patriarchal:

Chamberland ... who launched the group on Facebook in 2008, believes the traditional Midsummer maypole is a sexist phallic symbol that should be replaced by something of a more feminine flavour.

Rather than erecting a maypole, he and other members in the group want Swedes to spend time fashioning 'mayholes' by digging a hole in the ground or arranging tree branches in the shape of a vagina.

“It could be all different sizes, laid on the ground, or erected into the sky. It could be built from flowers, fabric, leafs, stones or glass," says Chamberland, who believes Sweden's current Midsummer tradition is too "heteronormative".

“It’s not just the pole," he explains.

"The tradition of girls picking seven different flowers to put under their pillow to dream about their future man is also very heteronormative and patriarchal."

Some Swedes have responded that men and women are represented equally in the maypole tradition because the earth represents the woman, but:

such explanations fail to convince Chamberland, who has just finished his master degree in gender studies, that Midsummer celebrations don’t need changing.

“That still reflects the different gender roles and the view that there are only two genders and that sex should only be vaginal and between a man and a woman when in fact there are lots of different ways to have sex,” he argues.

Stina Svensson, a spokesperson for the feminist political party Feminist Initiative welcomes Chamberland's efforts.

“I think it seems like a creative new way to celebrate Midsummer and I think it’s good when people celebrate the way they want to instead of how they should,” she says.

Another story from Sweden concerns the efforts to deconstruct gender roles in Swedish preschools. A reporter from the Dagens Nyheter went to a preschool and spoke to the boys about wearing princess costumes. The reporter then interviewed the staff about their efforts to break down the sex distinctions between the children:

Sanna Karlsson and Mia Smith's preschool teacher at Ã…rstaberg. Mia is in charge of operations and works in a young group, True is working with slightly older children.

In the pre-school curriculum, it is clear such that we will offer boys and girls the same opportunities and that we should discourage children from being confined by gender stereotypes. An awareness of gender is part of the pedagogue mission, says Sanna Karlsson.

The assumption is that all children should have access to the same material regardless of sex, says Mia Svensson.

Often, it is about offering princess costumes to the boys and building materials to the girls. Although the response of individual children is something you think about.

How do the staff work?

We are in constant discussion, says Mia.

The boys in young departments will be happy about being in a skirt, coming to preschool in nail polish and want to make themselves beautiful. But somewhere along the way something happens.

The older the children begin to comment on each other, become more aware of what they and others are wearing. Just the clothes are clear markers of status as they get older.

Yet there is a lot of experimentation with different roles among the boys.

A good example is that when they dress up as Batman or in very masculine attributes, but it does not seem to control the game. Maybe they stand there in the Spiderman costume and prepare food or walk around with dolls, says Mia Svensson.

The staff works consciously so that the boys should dare to speak freely outside of gender conventions. But much is also about the attitudes they encounter at home. Both she and Sanna Karlsson face sometimes bad parents.

Even if they think it's OK that the boys dress as a princess, they are worried that they will be teased or about the negative response of other adults and children.

Awareness of gender is a fair question, and gives tremendous gains in the environment among children, says Sanna. We notice it becomes a more tolerant atmosphere in which children signal to each other that you can be who you are.

For the staff at Ã…rstaberg it's not about trying to get kids to do something they do not want, but about individual freedom.

This is liberal autonomy theory in action (Dagens Nyheter describes its editorial stance as "independently liberal"). If the highest good is autonomy - a freedom to self-determine - and our sex is something we don't get to self-determine, then sex roles will be thought of negatively as something that limit us. That's why the article talks about children being "confined by gender stereotypes", whereas boys dressing as princesses is held to signal an "individual freedom" to "be who you are".

Swedish preschool teachers are bound to follow this view of the world:

Preschool curriculum developed in 1998 is a guiding document with legal bearing capacity as all the staff at the country's pre-schools must consider.

It says: "The pre-school is to counteract traditional gender patterns and gender roles.

As I've noted before, the Swedish state is not neutral. Liberalism is the state ideology.

Monday, June 20, 2011

How does an 8-year-old girl please her kickboxing daddy?

This is not Australia at its finest:

There were tears in the ring when two little girls went to toe to toe in a kick-boxing bout at the weekend.

But one of the girls' fathers says his eight-year-old daughter loves the rough and tumble of the sport.

Jasmine Parr cried during her first Muay Thai fight, on the Gold Coast.

She admitted she had been scared of her opponent, seven-year-old Georgina "Punchout" Barton, from Brisbane.

Health experts had criticised the fight, saying the girls were too young to be slugging it out and could suffer brain damage.

But kick-boxing world champion John Wayne Parr has defended his decision to allow his daughter to glove up and step into the ring.

Parr, who has eight world titles, said the fight was "beautiful to watch" and Jasmine had "loved it".

"My daughter and I shared an experience which no medical expert will ever understand," he said.

"It was amazing, it was history and something we'll never forget.

"Jasmine is already talking about her next fight."

...Parr said Muay Thai was safer than ordinary boxing because it involved body kicking as well as punching.

"She might have two fights a year - I'm not trying to smash her," he said.

A seven-year-old girl named Georgina "Punchout" Barton kickboxes a crying 8-year-old girl in front of an audience of mostly adult men.

My theory is this: there are some men who want sons to mentor and when they end up with daughters they treat them like the sons they don't have.

I don't think they're respecting the unique qualities of their daughters in doing this.

Nor are they looking ahead to their daughters' future lives. A childhood spent violently fighting other girls is not exactly going to cultivate the feminine qualities these girls will need as wives and mothers.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Feminists: cherishing women is sexist

Two academic feminists have come up with some interesting research. Julia Becker and Janet Swim believe that not enough attention is paid to the hidden sexism suffered by women. So they got their male and female students to keep a diary recording the daily incidents of sexism they observed.

The idea was that keeping a diary would help to make the students more aware of sexism in everyday life and to feel more empathy toward the female victims.

But what qualifies as sexism? This is where things get truly interesting. According to our two academic feminists all the incidents below are to be considered sexist. I have copied them directly from the diary list:
  • Heard paternalistic stereotypes about women (e.g., women should be cherished and protected by men).
  • Heard traditional beliefs about relationships (e.g., men are incomplete without women and that every man ought to have a woman whom he adores).
  • Heard complementary beliefs about women and men (e.g., men and women are different but complement each other).

The feminists call these traits "benevolent sexism". They want to abolish them by engaging in what they call "empathy manipulation" in which men are taught that women experience hurt feelings when they encounter such attitudes.

So there are no longer to be close, complementary, romantic relationships between men and women as these are thought of as being forms of hidden sexism.

What else gets judged as sexist in the diaries? Well, there's this:

  • Heard negative things about feminists

That's interesting. Feminists here are putting themselves beyond criticism, since such criticism is assumed to be sexist.

What's interesting too is that these feminists reject male protection of women as "paternalistic" but then attempt to set up their own kind of paternalistic shielding of women. All of these are considered sexist:

  • Heard comments about sexual behavior someone would like to engage in with you or another person.
  • Unwanted flirting.
  • Heard comments about parts of your or someone’s body or clothing.
  • Heard that women interpret innocent remarks as sexist.
  • Heard that women are not able to have a fair competition because when they lose, they typically complain about being discriminated against.

And on it goes. So it's not as if the researchers believe that women can stand robustly on their own two feet without special protection. They want special protection for women alright, but via speech and behaviour codes implemented by feminists. (Exactly how they imagine such codes would abolish unwanted flirting remains a mystery - are men supposed to know in advance if their flirting is going to be received positively or not?)

One other quick thought. The feminists are kidding themselves if they believe that the sexual polarity between men and women can be abolished. The polarity will always be there, what changes is how it's expressed. When I was quite young, it was expressed in everyday life (men giving up their seat etc) which favoured a "gentlemanly" (and gentlewomanly) expression of the polarity - one that tended to foster more refined forms of community life.

But with the decline of those everyday expressions of polarity (polarity in manners and mores), it seems to be expressed now more directly as a physical and sexual polarity. This means that men do well who are sporty and fit and who participate in masculine type sports; women are expected as part of the polarity to appear hot and to be relatively overtly sexual.

Maybe feminists like this shift in the expression of sexual polarity. But I think they'll have a hard time controlling it by "manipulating empathy". What's more likely is that the decline in manners and mores will reach a point that people find demoralising (as an example consider the ladette culture that is developing amongst women in England).

Friday, June 17, 2011

Profound intellectual discomfort

Deborah Orr has done a rare thing. She's written a column for a left-liberal newspaper, the Guardian, in which she discusses why so many women don't identify with feminism. She writes that many women like herself feel a "profound intellectual discomfort" when it comes to feminism.

Why would a left-liberal woman feel doubt and uncertainty about feminism? I'll quote the relevant passages in a moment. But her argument seems to be this. Women feel vulnerable in life. The feminist response is to empower women by making them autonomous careerists. But this autonomy is, first of all, illusory as it has to be propped up by the state on which women then become dependent. Second, women were ushered en masse into the workforce just as much to supply cheap labour as to make women economically independent. Third, when women have children their priorities often change and they can become less ambitious at work and more committed to caring for their children.

Here's the first relevant passage:

The archetypal feminist of the 80s and 90s had a fulfilling and dynamic career, wonderful children, a lovely home and fabulous grooming. Consensus on the impossibility of such a lifestyle for any but the wealthiest has been long-since reached. But the recession and its subsequent deficit have shown all too starkly that even the seeming achievement of more modest autonomy for women is heavily subsidised by the state.

The stock response is that the state has, and should have, a duty to support parents and their children, and that's true up to a point. But it is hard to foster dependence without fostering vulnerability as well. Feminism, in truth, is entirely concerned with limiting female vulnerability, real as well as perceived. But its rhetoric can seem instead to be all about asserting and celebrating female strength.

In the next passage she correctly notes that women were fast-tracked into the workforce for economic reasons:

The mass entry of women into the workplace in the latter half of the last century was claimed too unequivocally as a purely feminist achievement. Yet the door opened so easily when pushed because the needs of capitalism had undone the bolt. Everyone knows the Empire Windrush didn't dock at Tilbury in 1948 to promote multiculturalism. It arrived to provide cheap labour in the employment marketplace, as women did too. Likewise, the fast-burgeoning demand for professionals did as much to usher women into flashy jobs as female liberation did.

Deborah Orr then admits that the wage gap as it exists today is due more to women's preferences than to discrimination:

But equal opportunity in the workplace has not resulted in equal achievement, and not all of this is the fault of continuing chauvinism. Women bear the children and, far more often than not, they wish to be the primary carer for those children. At its most strident, feminism can be mistaken for an ideology designed to make women feel they are wrong to want that.

Worse, feminism has accidentally promoted the idea that it's pretty easy to work and have children, with the right support in place. On even an average income, it's never easy, even once children are at secondary school (though it's certainly easier then). Your priorities change. Work is no longer the most important thing, for a while anyway. Ambition can dissipate.

Finally, she criticises feminism for being unwilling to openly discuss these issues:

For many women, that's a self-evident truth. But feminism forbids women from admitting too many self-evident truths, for fear that the utterance of them will encourage discrimination.

I'll finish with a thought of my own. Deborah Orr writes about women feeling vulnerable and seeking economic and material security by being autonomous career girls. She is aware, though, that this kind of independence has to be propped up precariously by the state.

Why not seek security through marriage to a man who is committed to supporting his family? Feminism tells women that men, far from being protectors, are a threat. Men are portrayed as exploiting women and as being the perpetrators of domestic violence and rape. Feminists suggest that it is average men who are committing such acts to a threatening degree.

That's why it's important for traditionalists to continue to scrutinise the statistics that feminists throw around when it comes to family life. When feminists come up with the "1 in 3" statistics, they do so knowing the effect that it will have - that it will make women feel as if they cannot rely on a man and that being a mother at home will be too great a risk to endure.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Roman virtues: pietas

Pietas has been described as the central Roman virtue. The Encyclopaedia Britannica defines it this way:

a respectful and faithful attachment to gods, country, and relatives, especially parents

Wikipedia has this:

Around the year 70 BC, Cicero defined pietas as the virtue "which admonishes us to do our duty to our country or our parents or other blood relations."

According to the Nova Roma website:

More than religious piety, it is closer to the idea of "Dutifulness", a respect for the natural order socially, politically, and religiously. This includes the ideas of patriotism and devotion to others.

Sondra Steinbrenner writes that:

Pietas is a traditional Roman value which can be defined as duty, honor, and responsibility to others, and the taking of these obligations seriously.

The hero Aeneas was said to embody the virtue of pietas:

Aeneas ... represents "pietas" which to the Romans meant dutifulness, doing what was right for the family, the community, the civilization, and the gods.

The idea of pietas seems to be that it is part of the natural law to demonstrate a loving devotion to your family, to your nation and to the gods and that the duty towards others derived from this should override impetuous acts of selfish emotion.

I think we can learn from the ancient Romans when it comes to this particular virtue.

Cultural blindness

Front page of the Herald Sun newspaper today is the story of a man found guilty of rape being granted a retrial. This is how the case is reported:

Getachew, 28, was accused of raping the woman as they shared a mattress at a mutual friend's house in Melbourne in June 2007.

The County Court was told the woman, who was drunk on champagne and bourbon after a night out, had twice pushed him away before passing out.

She later awakened to find him raping her, it was alleged.

Getachew allegedly told the victim he had pressed against her for warmth and later told a friend the woman had "pushed back" into him, causing penetration.

The judge jailed Getachew for at least 33 months.

I'm going to be accused of blaming the victim here, even though that's not my aim. The point I want to make is a larger one, that our culture seems to have lost the plot when it comes to understanding male and female interaction.

A hundred years ago, it wouldn't have been uncommon for young men and women to be chaperoned when out together. Today, a drunk woman is put to bed for the night on a mattress with a young man - with predictably disastrous results.

I'm not entirely sure what has gone wrong. Is it that our liberal culture refuses to recognise distinctions between the sexes? Is it that no-one wants to be seen to be limiting choice by warning that some choices are imprudent? Is it that modern birth control has made the issue seem less pressing?

The incident struck me, I suppose, because it seems to me to be a sign of a culture that is less able to deal with things as they really are.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The stagnant male wage

I thought these graphs were interesting. They show the median male and female income in the US relative to real GDP per capita.

Here's the male median income:

As you can see the median male income has stagnated since the early 1970s, whilst real GDP per capita has risen steadily. Now here's the female median:

Unlike male income, the median female income has risen steadily alongside the growth in real GDP per capita.

So it seems that large numbers of men haven't benefited from the growth in the US economy since the 1970s.

(Hat tip: Laura Grace Robins)

Monday, June 13, 2011


Asher Keddie & Kat Stewart
There's a show on Australian TV my wife likes to watch called Offspring. On the positive side, Offspring does show some of the nicer bits of inner Melbourne; it is quirkily humorous; and it shows the female characters as being just as flawed as the male ones. And the two lead female characters, Asher Keddie and Kat Stewart, are both attractive women.

But there is one aspect of the show which grates. Offspring brings delayed family formation into prime time.

The show is relationships focused. One sister (Keddie) is still dating inappropriate men; the other (Stewart) is partnered to an arty type of inner city man and is attempting to embark on motherhood.

The problem is that Keddie is a 37-year-old actress and Stewart is 38. The character played by Keddie is not really grown up yet. Nor is she choosing men she might reasonably end up marrying.

So we're expected to sit down and watch two actresses in their late 30s in the midst of dating and relationships drama you would more reasonably expect from women in their 20s.

What's more, the show plays to the vanities of "late bloomer" women by showing them going out with younger men (Stewart's on screen partner is played by a 34-year-old man; the Keddie character is going out with a young intern).

If the answer to this is "it's just a TV show, it's not real life, no-one would take the message seriously", then I'd point to the real life circumstances of both actresses. This is how things stand with Kat Stewart:

Stewart .... hopes to have a family. "That's something I definitely want to do," she says. "I do love children. In five years' time, it would be nice to have a kid or two."

She admits starting a family isn't something she'd given a lot of thought to until recently... But given she'll turn 39 in November, she's all too aware that priorities now have to be made.   [Sunday Herald Sun Magazine, June 12, 2011]

Priorities now have to be made? She's about to turn 39! As for Asher Keddie, she still, at age 37, hasn't made up her mind about children:

Keddie has always been open about the fact she isn’t sure if children are on the cards. “I feel so good about the way life is unfolding with my incredible husband. We’re living the life we always wanted and I just don’t know if children are going to be part of it.”

Which makes her curious as to why the question keeps coming up. “Why do people want to know? I don’t care if people want to have kids or not. But I’m not sure how I feel about it, so to discuss it any further would feel too personal, I suppose.”

I think it's a pity. Here we have two intelligent, attractive, married women and it's possible that neither of them will become mothers because the whole issue of motherhood has been pushed back in their lives to such a late age.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Kuwaiti woman wants captured Westerners to be sold as concubines

Salwa al Mutairi
A Kuwaiti woman has called for sex slavery to be reintroduced into her country. Not only that, she believes the slaves should be non-Muslim women captured in war, such as Russian women captured in the conflict in Chechnya:

A Kuwaiti woman who once ran for parliament has called for sex slavery to be legalised - and suggested that non-Muslim prisoners from war-torn countries would make suitable concubines.

Salwa al Mutairi argued buying a sex-slave would protect decent, devout and 'virile' Kuwaiti men from adultery because buying an imported sex partner would be tantamount to marriage.

And she even had an idea of where to 'purchase' these sex-salves - browsing through female prisoners of war in other countries.

Mutairi claimed: 'There was no shame in it and it is not haram' (forbidden) under Islamic Sharia law.'

She suggested shopping for prisoners of war so as to protect Kuwaiti men from being tempted to commit adultery or being seduced by other women's beauty.

'For example, in the Chechnyan war, surely there are female Russian captives,' she said.

'So go and buy those and sell them here in Kuwait. Better than to have our men engage in forbidden sexual relations.'

In an attempt to consider the woman's feelings in the arrangement, Mutari conceded that the enslaved women, however, should be at least 15.

Mutairi said free women must be married with a contract but with concubines 'the man just buys her and that’s it. That’s enough to serve as marriage.'

Mutairi said that during a recent visit to Mecca, she asked Saudi muftis – Muslim religious scholars – what the Islamic ruling was on owning sex slaves. They are said to have told her that it is not haram [forbidden].

The ruling was confirmed by 'specialized people of the faith' in Kuwait, she claimed.

'They said, that’s right, the only solution for a decent man who has the means, who is overpowered by desire and who does not want to commit fornication, is to acquire jawari.' Jawari is the plural of the Arabic term jariya, meaning 'concubine' or 'sex slave'.

One Saudi mufti supposedly told Mutairi: 'The context must be that of a Muslim nation conquering a non-Muslim nation, so these jawari have to be prisoners of war.'

Concubines, she argued, would suit Muslim men who fear being 'seduced or tempted into immoral behaviour by the beauty of their female servants'.

Where would such an idea come from? From the history of the Muslim Middle-East. Russian and Ukrainian women were captured in raids and sold as concubines for a lengthy historic period of nearly 1000 years. It was called the harvest of the steppe. One of the roles of the Cossacks in Russian history was to defend the southern borders from such raids:

Until the beginning of the 18th century, Crimean Tatars were known for frequent devastating raids into Ukraine and Russia. For a long time, until the early 18th century, Crimean Khanate maintained a massive slave trade with the Ottoman Empire and the Middle East which was one of the fundaments of its economy. One of the most known and important trading ports and slave markets was Kefe. Some researchers estimate that altogether more than 3 million people, predominantly Ukrainians but also Russians, Belarusians and Poles, were captured and enslaved during the time of the Crimean Khanate in what was called "the harvest of the steppe". A constant threat from Crimean Tatars supported the appearance of cossackdom. The Cossacks often answered with similar raids into Crimea during which many Christian slaves were liberated.

Eventually the Russians became too powerful and won some decisive military victories and the raids ceased. But you can see where Salwa al Mutairi gets her idea of enslaving Russian women as concubines from - it was part of the history of the region for a very long time.

It's true that she is a minority voice within modern Kuwait, but I think it's worthwhile publicising her views. Left-liberals have picked out white Christian males as a dominant oppressor group in history and have therefore blamed us for the existence of inequality and injustice in the world. We are the ones, therefore, who are treated as illegitimate and who are targeted for deconstruction.

But look at the real history here. When the Russians were not dominant what happened? Was there peace and equality in Russia and in neighbouring lands? No, their lack of strength simply meant that they were exploited by others - they were raided by the Muslim nations to their south and their young women were carried off as booty. There was no virtue in being weak. When the Russians did finally dominate their southern neighbours they were able to put an end to an injustice inflicted on their own population.

So here are two important conclusions. First, it is wrong for left-liberals to assume that the white, Christian lands were always dominant. There have been long periods of history in which Europe was vulnerable to conquest by other peoples. Second, when European nations were weak it did not create equality and justice in the world; it meant that the Western populations were vulnerable to exploitation by others.

One final point. Salwa al Mutairi is not alone in calling for Muslims to profit from the invasion of non-Islamic countries. Some years ago an Egyptian Islamic cleric, Abu Ishaq al-Huwaini, said:

If only we can conduct a jihadist invasion at least once a year or if possible twice or three times, then many people on earth would become Muslims. And if anyone prevents our dawa or stands in our way, then we must kill them or take as hostage and confiscate their wealth, women and children. Such battles will fill the pockets of the Mujahid who can return home with 3 or 4 slaves, 3 or 4 women and 3 or 4 children. This can be a profitable business if you multiply each head by 300 or 400 dirham. This can be like financial shelter whereby a jihadist, in time of financial need, can always sell one of these heads [meaning slavery].

Huwaini recently clarified his earlier position:

According to Huwaini, after Muslims invade and conquer a non-Muslim nation—in the course of waging an offensive jihad—the properties and persons of those infidels who refuse to convert or pay jizya and live as subjugated dhimmis, are to be seized as ghanima or "spoils of war."

Huwaini cited the Koran as his authority—boasting that it has an entire chapter named "spoils"—and the sunna of Muhammad, specifically as recorded in the famous Sahih Muslim hadith wherein the prophet ordered the Muslim armies to offer non-Muslims three choices: conversion, subjugation, or death/enslavement.

Huwaini said that infidel captives, the "spoils of war," are to be distributed among the Muslim combatants (i.e., jihadists) and taken to "the slave market, where slave-girls and concubines are sold." He referred to these latter by their dehumanizing name in the Koran, ma malakat aymanukum—"what your right hands possess"—in this context, sex-slaves: "You go to the market and buy her, and she becomes like your legal mate—though without a contract, a guardian, or any of that stuff—and this is agreed upon by the ulema." [The ulema or ulama refers to "the educated class of Muslim legal scholars."]

"In other words," Huwaini concluded, "when I want a sex-slave, I go to the market and pick whichever female I desire and buy her."...

Left-liberals might like to bear in mind the existence of views like these when judging the historical record of the West.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Tom Hayden's wedding speech

Tom Hayden is an American left-wing activist, particularly well known for his part in the political campaigns of the 1960s. He was married at one time to the actress Jane Fonda and they had a son together whom they named Troy O'Donovan Hayden. The "Troy" was in honour of Nguyen Van Troi, a Viet Cong assassin, and the "O'Donovan" was for Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa, an Irish Republican who organised dynamite campaigns in English cities.

The son is now called Troy Garity. A few years ago he married Simone Bent who is of African descent. It has been reported in the May 9th issue of The New Yorker that Tom Hayden honoured his son's marriage in the following manner:

As the evening progressed, the parents of both the bride and groom made speeches. Speaking off the cuff, Garity's father, the political activist and politician Tom Hayden, who was Fonda's second husband (neither parent want Troy to bear the weight of a famous last name), said that he was especially happy about his son's union with Bent, who is black, because, among other things, it was "another step in a long-term goal of mine: the peaceful, nonviolent disappearance of the white race."

Tom Hayden wants the white race to disappear. Not all the races - just the white one.

Why? The likely answer is that Tom Hayden sees the world through a left-liberal lens. Liberals assume that autonomy, or the power to do as we will, is the good that defines us as human. Therefore, if one group has more such power than another (if it is "privileged") then it is denying human equality in the most literal sense.

Left liberals have a theory as to why such inequality exists. They believe that the dominant group is socially constructed to win for its members an unearned privilege. Because whites were dominant when such theories were being formed, whites (and particularly white males) were assumed to be the source of inequality, injustice and oppression in the world.

If the left-liberal theory were correct, then you can see why Tom Hayden would want whites to disappear. Whiteness, in the left-liberal theory, is simply a pathway to privilege (or supremacy) which causes others to be treated as less than human.

You can see this left-liberal mindset at work in Hayden's book discussing his own identity (Irish on the Inside: In Search of the Soul of Irish America). Hayden grew up in a middle-class family of Irish descent but of mainstream white American identity. But when he became a political activist in the 1960s, he turned back to an Irish identity:

After a decade in the civil rights movement, I associated being "white" with either supremacy or emptiness. Then, in 1968 ... I saw marchers in Northern Ireland singing "We Shall Overcome" and, in an epiphany, discovered that I was Irish on the inside.

But there's a problem. If the Irish are white, then they too must be classified as "supremacist" according to the left-liberal logic. Which then makes them illegitimate.

So Hayden is very keen to keep the Anglo-Saxons as the villainous privileged supremacists. He warns the Irish against assimilating into the white mainstream, preferring them instead to help defeat the whites by assimilating into coloured minority groups.

Because the Irish harbor a racial memory, however fogged by amnesia, of what it means to be treated as nonhuman, there still remains the possibility of Irish solidarity with people of color. When the Irish leave whiteness, there goes the neighborhood.

....To be genuinely Irish is to challenge WASP dominance and to assimilate ourselves not only into advanced Western societies but also into the non-white, non-English speaking world. (p.6)

Why not identify with whiteness? Because Hayden believes that those who identify as white do so to embrace privilege, just as the Ulstermen in Northern Ireland identify with Britain for their own advantage:

To identify with the Union with Britain - as with whiteness - is to embrace economic, political and cultural advantage. (p.7)

Here is Hayden once again proposing a "deeper" Irish assimilation not with the white mainstream but with a coloured multicultural America:

a deeper assimilation will mean assimilation into the nonwhite world with whom we share a common experience of colonialism, starvation, poverty and threats of extinction.

The only alternative to this reassessment will be our shallow incorporation into the Western establishment. Then we will lose the historic opportunity to play a meaningful role in the emergence of multicultural America. (pp. 29-30)

Finally there is this from Hayden:

In our long day's journey toward success, Irish Americans are in danger of becoming lost souls ... We can reap the privileges of being white or, remembering the shame of being classified as simians [i.e. as nonhumans] and asking what is whiteness but privilege?, we can transcend the superficiality of skin color to join in solidarity with the majority who are darker than ourselves. (pp.268-269)

It's clear that Tom Hayden's wedding speech to his son was meant sincerely. It was not spoken as a throwaway line; it reflects Tom Hayden's deeply held beliefs about how the Irish in America should act morally in the world to bring about justice.

But look at where Tom Hayden's left-liberalism has brought him. He wants the Irish to assert themselves as an ethny, but to do so as non-whites - in fact, to do so by assimilating into the non-white peoples of the world. But this is, at its heart, a denial of Irish ethnicity, one which ultimately would leave little trace of the Irish in the world.

And look at what he writes of whiteness: "what is whiteness but privilege?". That's the left-liberal theory in a nutshell. Being a white American has no meaning at all to Hayden apart from its connection to privilege or supremacy.

Left-liberalism is not exactly a subtle instrument when it comes to issues of identity. The culture, the achievements and the sacrifices of whites in America are all smashed into oblivion with the idea that whiteness was constructed as a means to privilege.

For something to survive, it's little use trying to appeal to those who already operate with the left-liberal assumptions. The assumptions have to be brought into the light of day and criticised.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

The politics of Paul Ryan

Lawrence Auster wrote a post recently about Paul Ryan, a Republican congressman. Ryan's take on American identity is this:

America's "exceptionalism" is just this--while most nations at most times have claimed their own history or culture to be exclusive, America's foundations are not our own--they belong equally to every person everywhere. The truth that all human beings are created equal in their natural rights is the most "inclusive" social truth ever discovered as a foundation for a free society. "All" means "all"! You can't get more "inclusive" than that!

That's not a helpful position to take if you want to maintain your own distinct national identity. It means that an American identity is so inclusive that it applies to everyone. Open borders follow as a logical consequence - and Paul Ryan has supported legislation that would make the US borders more porous:

Ryan has cosponsored five amnesties, including the misnamed Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act, which was identical to a bill introduced by Ted Kennedy and John McCain and would have granted amnesty to virtually every single illegal alien in the country and massively increased legal immigration.

In a book published last year on Ryan and two other Republicans (Young Guns: a New Generation of Conservative Leaders), Fred Barnes writes:

In short, Cantor, Ryan and McCarthy would like to fill the ranks of House Republicans with members, like themselves, committed to policies and legislation infused with the principles of limited government, free markets, and individual freedom. Young Guns is not for "me-too" Republicans, those comfortable with a scaled-down version of the Democratic agenda.

Limited government, free markets and individual freedom. That might be a better option than large, intrusive government, and it might express one part of an American tradition, but by itself it is not adequate as a conservative formula. How can the historic American nation conserve itself on such terms?

That formula is really an expression of a right-liberalism, i.e. a belief that a liberal society is best regulated by the free market rather than by a state bureaucracy.

If the Republicans are ever to be taken seriously as conservatives they need to extend their formula, to include a defence of a particular historic tradition and people.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

What does a hippie father want for his daughters?

Promiscuity is in the news again with the slutwalks. I thought it was timely, therefore, that the Australian Women's Weekly (May 2011) should run an interview with Richard Neville. Neville was one of the Australians most influential in bringing about the 1960s:

certain essential aspects of the Sixties, even overseas, were in part the creation of two late hangers-on of the Push, Richard Neville and Germaine Greer.

Neville and Greer both believed in the therapeutic effects of "free love". They did so for very specific reasons, which I'll cover in a future post. What I want to point out now is that Richard Neville went on to have two very attractive daughters. On having his daughters, he suddenly gave up on the 60s mantra of free love and drugs, becoming instead a strict dad:

Lucy Neville, his 28-year-old daughter, still chafes at the memory of her teenage years. "Dad became a colonel when I was a teenager...We used to call him Colonel Neville...I wasn't allowed to do stuff that everyone else was allowed to do...I was always screaming at them [my parents] and telling them they were hypocrites"

Julie and Richard had strict rules about boyfriends. They had to come home first to meet them, say hello, shake hands (a firm handshake was compulsory) and look them straight in the eye...

According to Lucy her parents went into a "state of hysteria" when they overheard her talking about drugs on the telephone. "Mum used to pick up the phone on the other end and listen," she says. "They were full on. They threatened to send me to a boarding school in the desert. The fact that my father had written glowingly in the 1970s about recreational drugs was irrelevant."

It shows, I think, that the hopes that Richard Neville had for his daughters involved something more than casual sex and drug use. His 1960s hippie philosophy just didn't cut it when it came to those closest to him. His protective paternal instincts kicked in.

While we're on this topic, Dalrock has penned an interesting piece on the slutwalks. His theory is that women respond to male validation more than most men realise. Hence the wounded response of feminist women to criticisms of slutty behaviour and the attempt by feminists to make such criticisms socially unacceptable.

Also interesting is a comment following Dalrock's piece on feminist Jaclyn Friedman. She admits that she doesn't find her feminist male allies sexually appealing because they are too deferential and therefore come across as unmasculine:

Interviewer: So do you meet guys who pass the feminist test but then turn out to be disappointments for other reasons?

Friedman: Oh God. There is a type of feminist guy who is so eager to fall over himself to be deferential to women and to prove his feminist bona fides and flagellate himself in front of you, to the point that it really turns me off. And it makes me sad, because politically, these are the guys that I should be sleeping with! You know what I’m talking about?

Interviewer: YES.

Friedman: Everyone knows what I’m talking about. And some of them are even really cute! I want to say to them, “If you could be a person, like a whole, complicated person, who I feel like I could crack jokes around, then I would really like you.” But they’re so serious about their feminism at every moment that I don’t feel like a person to them. I feel like I’m on a pedestal, almost. I know that they’re not going to disagree with anything I say under any circumstances. . . I hate to be critical of our allies in any way, because we need them, but there’s something about that certain kind of hyperfeminist guy that makes them unappealing to date, to me. I suspect it has something to do with our internal conceptions of masculinity, which is terrible on my part.

Here, again, feminism is like a "beta test" for men: a left-wing girlfriend might want you to say the politically correct things, but how she really wants you to act is something else again.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Choice for men?

Let's say a man and a woman have a sexual encounter and the woman falls pregnant. The woman claims a right to reproductive choice. She can choose either to have the baby or abort it. The man has no choice at all. If the woman chooses to abort he has to accept it; if she chooses to have the child then he is at the very least left with child support payments.

If, as liberals claim, autonomy is the highest good, then it seems as if men are being treated like second class citizens (as the liberal phrase goes). All the autonomy goes to the woman and none to the man.

There are men in the men's rights movement who think the answer is for men to have the same reproductive choice as women. The proposal is that men would be able to opt out of fatherhood at some early stage of the pregnancy and be released from any obligations to support the mother and child.

So what do feminists think about this idea? Some prefer to hold to a double standard:

Should men have the same reproductive rights as women?

In a recent column, feminist Ellen Goodman answers this question in the negative, writing "Some men protest that they are left with no rights and all the bills. But when push comes to shove, one of two people has to make the decision. Those decisions belong to the one who will bear the child." For Goodman, reproductive rights are only for humans with the right genitalia.

But there are others who want to be ideologically consistent:

Christie Brewster, of the Reproductive Choice Association at the California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, says "I think men should have a choice." Other members of the group were equally sympathetic. "I totally understand what they [the NCM] mean," said one. Teresa Wright, another member, was also interested in the idea.

...none other than Karen DeCrow, former president of the National Organization for Women, was quoted as saying that "men should not automatically have to pay for a child they don't want. It's the only logical feminist position to take."

DeCrow wrote a letter to the editor of New York Times Magazine a decade ago in which she endorsed the idea of male choice. "Justice..." she wrote, "dictates that if a woman makes a unilateral decision to bring pregnancy to term, and the biological father does not, and cannot, share in this decision, he should not be liable for 21 years of support. Or put another way, autonomous women, making independent decisions about their lives should not expect men to finance their choice."

Interesting. A former president of the National Organisation for Women believes that in a more just world men would choose whether or not to support the children they father. She is a feminist who supports a policy that would leave women and children in a more difficult position. But she is right that it is a logical position for a feminist woman to take: if autonomy is the highest good, then it is just to distribute it equally between men and women. The arbitrary double standard can't last forever.

What this shows, I think, is how important first principles are to intellectual/political type people. Karen DeCrow is willing to make women worse off because she believes she is supporting a just measure based on her first principles.

But it also suggests just how wrong her first principles are. When you have a father, mother and child then how can autonomous choice be made the highest good? The choice made by the mother impacts on the other two parties, as would the choice made by the father. But if you then arbitrarily declare that only the mother's choice counts, you violate the principle of "equal freedom".

And what if there was an attempt to make things equal by letting men opt out? Who would then pay to support the mother and child? In many cases, the state would pay the bills. And even if the mother herself covered the costs, the society would then be faced with very large numbers of fatherless boys.

Nor would the proposal necessarily make things easier for men. If the state were to accept it, that would mean official recognition of the idea that fathers were optional rather than necessary within family life. The status of men as husbands and fathers would further decline.

The autonomy approach doesn't work. It is maintained currently by picking out the mother as the sole rights bearer in contravention of the insistence on equal rights. But if men were given the same rights, then you would be faced with a further decline in the position of men within the family, alongside a considerable growth in state subsidised single motherhood. And the rights of the child would continue to be ignored.

The solution to the imbalance in rights is to reject the underlying principle that what matters most of all is the freedom to choose (which then becomes a contest to see whose choice trumps the other), in favour of the view that there is an objective moral standard applying equally to both men and women.