Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Friendly Fire: The Demise of the Social Justice Warrior

Every so often, we are asked to contemplate the "culture war" - what it is, what defines each 'side', and who might be winning.

One such piece was recently rebroadcast by BoingBoing, an article by Laurie Penny entitled "Social Justice Warriors and the New Culture War".

The piece was originally written in 2014, with topical references to the photo leaks of Jennifer Lawrence and other celebrities.

It replays the typical story:

This a song we know by now. It starts and ends, almost always, with attacks on our sexuality, on our bodies as meat and function: our sexual and relationship history is broadcast everywhere, which is what happened to games developer Quinn, after an ex-boyfriend posted a disturbed, disturbing novella-length attack on everything she is and everything she stands for. The gamersphere then collectively wet its knickers over not being allowed to mercilessly slut-shame their chosen target without being called out, because freedom of speech.

It builds a very stark difference - on the one side, an army of misogynists and free-speech absolutists ready to verbally abuse everyone. On the other, the valiant group of social justice warriors, that will save the world and avenge Jennifer Lawrence.

This view of the world casts the world as two groups - one "ignorant" or "bigoted", one "progressive" or "inclusive". The thinking is the bigots need to be dragged kicking and screaming into the future, as they have been throughout history.

Of course, this framing is complete nonsense. How do we know this?

We know this by watching Laurie Penny being smeared online. Not by misogynists, racists and other malcontents - but by people in her own social justice league. Her own merry band of would-be ideologues.

Laurie Penny, the co-opting capitalist

A beautiful thing happens when Laurie Penny types a strongly worded thinkpiece for a liberal-minded paper. A certain segment of Twitter shows up to let her know she's co-opting marginalized voices and profiting from it.

Further, people that seem to be misreading Penny claim her articles of "win" are actually simply more erasure from white feminists. These people are apparently serious, so much so that Penny herself feels the need to respond to their concerns. Even transgender activists are found telling Penny to "pass the mic" to the underprivileged.

Laurie Penny cannot herself write an article without getting privilege checked. Oddly enough, she is not alone.

Getting Catty about Catcalling

Jessica Valenti is a writer for The Guardian, a writer who has a particular habit of writing rather absurd things. One recent example was an article about catcalling, which Valenti shared a very personal story about catcalling (and lack thereof) and how it impacted her self esteem.

The story in the article titled "One perk of older age? Fewer catcalls" is explained quite directly by its subtitle: "To my great shame, the thought of not being worth men’s notice bothers me, even though I’m a seasoned feminist and I know better".

There are many angles of this that could be deconstructed and dissected. Are the contents of Valenti's self-esteem actually the result of street harassment? Do women sort of like catcalling in the same way they sort of like vampires and 50 Shades? Does catcalling actually somehow work for the catcallers?

Unfortunately before anything resembling a critique of what qualifies as "feminism" could be established, Valenti was already derailed by a social justice warrior. The well-meaning concerned 'activist' invaded Valenti's mentions to say:

I appreciate the honesty, but this feels like a very white, cis piece. [For] WOC & trans women, catcalls can be life threatening
Jessica Valenti's piece was certainly quite ridiculous. But it was also very personal, very subjective, and not at all as ridiculous as privilege checking her experiences and emotions. Valenti provided an empty response of "I hear you", which is analogous to apologizing for her perspective.

This privilege check is amazingly silly because catcalls are not life threatening. Catcalls can be made in an environment is life threatening, can precede an assault, but they are in themselves sufficient to cause injury. A catcall has yet to put anyone in the hospital.

By example, let's revisit how generic and therefore boring this argument is.

Jessica Valenti: NY!
Concerned Social Justice Warrior: I appreciate the honesty, but this feels like a very white, cis, heterosexual sentiment. For women of color, trans women, immigrants and the poor, NY can be life threatening.

It's almost a blessing - from here on, one can expect all subjective claptrap about the feelings of privileged liberals to be derailed by the same victimhood mentality they've worked so hard to build. The "progressives" that have long thought comparisons of their cultural critiques to the reality in developing nations were needless distractions (e.g. akin to "Dear Muslima") find themselves torn to bits from a neighbor that seizes the opportunity to share their own melodrama.

The common refrain of "What about the menz?" can be dismissed with ease - but to be checked by the gilded underprivileged is something of immediate concern, as the armchair social media activists must not think of one as a bad ally.

Escaping a Lesbian Lasso 

One may think what we are witnessing is the destruction of the old guard of feminism - the college educated, rich white blogging women are simply having to hand their baton to the leaders in the next cultural conquest. A type of Culture War 2.0 - this time, it's intersectional and inclusive. It's no longer simply about a binarist gender divide - it's about sexuality, gender identity and race!

If one needs evidence that this is perhaps nothing more than an internet soap opera, consider the following story about a hashtag based community.

Once upon a time a number of people participated in #ThisTweetCalledMyBack - the tag was about many things, but one big piece of the commentary was the co-opting and plagiarism that was similar in substance to the aforementioned debate surrounding Laurie Penny. For quite some time, things went swimmingly. Friends were made and electronic hugs were traded.

Tragically, one young woman read quite a bit into the plethora of heart-shaped emojis and thought one of the other ladies was looking for something more than the destruction of white supremacist cisheteronormative patriarchy, if one gets the message.

Private messages were exchanged and it turned out the recipient of the messages and advances, Zahira (@bad_dominicana) was having none of it. As is the norm for failed sexual endeavors in social justice circles, it ended up being blown up as Zahira labelled the interested party as creepy and "rapey". Alliances formed and friends of the lustful lesbian published an obsessively documented Tumblr outlining their grievances over how Zahira handled the situation.

The battle raged, many retweets and favorites were spilled and the damage done to the hashtag was immeasurable. Friendships were strained, followers were lost. Hopefully those involved had an adequate amount of social justice insurance.

To revisit the theory that social justice warriors are "winning" some sort of culture war, consider that a great amount of unwinding happened when it appeared that a mostly virtual relationship was going to get a little bit physical and a little bit gay.

"Social justice" is not winning a war. "Social justice" is nothing more socially awkward penguins abusing each other, wading through their own hypocrisy, misunderstanding the law, comedy and math. The future will undoubtedly be further enveloped in their own fears. Sadly, the only way out of social justice club is to be forgotten and distrusted or cast out as a bigot.

A victory, indeed.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

When Good Feminists Do Nothing

Rape is a crime that is continually in the headlines. The story usually follows a familiar pattern - the victim has been awfully mistreated and disbelieved. The rapist is said to have a history of violence. Bystanders have done nothing, and people are daring to say that the victim has made it all up.

With this background, one difficult scenario to contemplate is what changes when the people in the story are those you know personally. Not unknown people that one judges from afar, but people that one has interacted with in real life.

Imagine for the sake of argument, that a female feminist blogger pal was kidnapped and raped. Then, instead of getting the treatment and support she needed, she had to leave a clinic before completing a rape kit. Even though the clinic did next to nothing, she received a bill for $200 for their trouble.

This is about as bad as it gets, right? This is rape culture enforced by the state, as it literally makes the victim pay for their own assault.

What would a concerned, vocal feminist do in this situation?

Here are some ideas:

Start a crowdfunding campaign. The friend is out $200 after being kidnapped and violently assaulted. The least anyone could do is crowdfund for a friend. Crowdfunding is currently used for blog posts, YouTube videos, and lawsuits that did not happen. Surely a crowdfunding campaign could happen for the criminal case that will happen.
Send support. Letting a survivor know they are supported and have allies is free and possibly the easiest thing someone can do
Petition the government for change. Paying for a rape kit is outrageous and victimizes people. 
Signal boost. As it turns out, your friend is brave enough to share her story on her personal blog. This action should be commended and this courage should be shared with the world.

As it turns out, none of this is a hypothetical situation. It all happened about three weeks ago, to Elyse, a former writer at SkepChick that remains one of their most prolific contributors, blogging for six years and possibly being only second in post count to the founder of the website.

Elyse is a person that is well known within secular liberal feminist blogosphere, with people like Amanda Marcotte, Ophelia Benson, PZ Myers and others being mutual followers of her on Twitter. And it isn't that these people follow just anyone - all three of these people follow under 1000 people. Furthermore, it's very likely Elyse has met several of these people in person during events like SkepchickCon.

Elyse is also Facebook friends with the same people - Amanda Marcotte, Ophelia Benson, PZ Myers - basically everyone who has written for Skepchick and Freethought Blogs, but with some notable exceptions. But more on that later.

On September 8th, Elyse wrote the following in a post titled "I thought I retired from getting raped"

I also thought that when I wrote my article about having been raped by 4 different men on 4 different occasions, I had hung up my getting-raped hat. 4 was a good number to just retire on. I didn't need more rapes. I was pretty okay with that being a part of my past.
Now, don't call it a comeback, but I collected my 5th sexual assault last Wednesday. I'm like the fucking Michael Jordan of getting date raped. I swear to god.
I was shaken and confused and not particularly co-operative. I agreed to go to the hospital to get a rape kit done. I was not allowed to have anyone with me in the ambulance or in the emergency room. Not my husband. Not my friend. Not even a victim advocate from a crisis center. I was terrified and alone and I don't know how long I was in the ER, but eventually my anxiety was just too much. I fled the ER. I just stormed out.

The story continues. It is an absolutely harrowing tale. Not only was it told in this blog post, but there was a post-rape selfie in an ambulance posted to Instagram and several conversations on Twitter about that happened. And a copy of the bill for $200 was also shared.

Why is this probably the first one has heard of this? Why isn't this story on the front page of Skepchick, DoubleX. Pandagon or FreethoughtBlogs? Where is the solidarity for a friend?

For several reasons, Elyse is an "imperfect victim":
Elyse is promiscuous. Elyse needed her husband to save her from a date she was on. This explains a lot about her current living arrangements.
Elyse is mentally ill. Elyse is regularly sharing about her medications and her problems with mental health.

Elyse is a drug user. Beyond the prescribed medications, Elyse has a history of drugs and alcohol. Elyse is often seen sharing moments of questionable levels of sobriety. 
Elyse has been charged with assaulting a police officer. On August 8th 2015 Elyse was allegedly found walking intoxicated along a highway. When police officers interrupted her Elyse is said to have kicked and spit on them.  
Rape kits will be free next year. As it turns out, being billed for a rape kit in the State of Illinois will be made illegal on January 1st, 2016. This particular aspect of "rape culture" is a battle that is already over - being mad about it at this point will have absolutely no impact.

There are plenty of reasons to not share Elyse's story. Sharing the story may make this person "hypervisible" and subject to more scrutiny and harassing critics. Sharing the story may further exacerbate her mental health issues. Sharing the story may have some sort of anti-feminist result that can be rationalized.

But there is a simpler reason that Elyse is not the spokesperson leading the charge against rape culture.

Elyse has burned all the bridges with her feminist blogger clique.

Elyse and Skepchick had a brutal parting last year: 

Elyse mocked Rebecca's legal defense fund and was then criticized by Skepchick and FreeThoughtBlogs pundits:

Elyse has spent her time since her assault smashing the products of her former friends:

As it turns out, Elyse has bitten the hand that feeds and damaged her relationship with Rebecca Watson. Elyse has found herself in a smaller band of sisters with a considerably smaller footprint. Elyse presents herself as a victim of trolling, when in reality she spends an incredible amount of time tweeting photos of herself on the toilet and blasting her former friends for not being supportive of her.

It could be that all Elyse's acquaintances are burying her story for her own sake - for the sake of her fragile mental state. That would be understandable... but also something that they do not do for other people as it follows a condescending, erasing logic that they've often railed against. "Listen and believe" is the word of the day, always.

Thus, the simplest explanation is that "feminists" are trying to no-platform a victim simply because this victim might have bad things to say about how supportive they've been in the past. "Feminists" have abandoned their religion for the sake of optics.

Besides, Skepchick has better things to raise money for.

Donate today.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Grape Can Be Funny

Murder. One would hope that such an event would be one researched, investigated and reported on by knowledgeable and diligent people that invest a great amount of time bringing relevant and timely information to light.

Unfortunately, in the days of BuzzFeed, HuffingtonPost and Gawker, murder is just an excuse to publish a poorly researched "investigation" into some fake crisis created by and maintained for poor journalists in need of clicks.

Grace Mann was a student at University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia and a member of the "Feminists United on Campus" (FUC) student group. Grace Mann was found dead on April 17, 2015. The suspected murderer is one of her roommates, a 30 year old man who is now facing trial and has pleaded not guilty.

Apparently the murder did not happen within a tranquil campus environment, as in May the FUC group filed a Title IX complaint alleging the campus administration did nothing to stop threats against outspoken student feminists.

As Washington Post covered the complaint:
Banks, the attorney, said a majority of the 700 comments aimed at Feminists United were name-calling or sexist, but a handful were direct threats. In one, members were threatened with rape “in the mouth,” and at another point, someone posted about killing a “bitch.”
Threatening oral rape is no laughing matter. It is outrageous that school administrators did nothing. How could this be? Something must be done!

BuzzFeed sheds more light, with some screenshots:

Yik Yak users began posting derogatory messages about FUC last November when its then-president Paige McKinsey spoke out against fraternities on campus and their reported relationship to increasing incidents of sexual assaults.

HuffingtonPost shares the same concerning threat (as does Mic):

On the app, students also joked that McKinsey "makes her boyfriend sleep in a dog crate," feeds him pepperonis through the wires, and that she does meth. Yik Yak bans certain keywords that are typically assumed to be offensive, but posters found a way around that to threaten to rape members of the Feminist United Club:

Jezebel (a Gawker property that does not deserve a link) picked up on the story from HuffingtonPost: 

At this point, many concerned emphatic human beings are rightly worried about the safety of the feminist club and UMW. However, any person well versed in comedy and popular culture is shaking their head in disbelief.

For this "threat" is actually a silly reference to a famous sketch:

At least four media outlets and one campus feminist club did not pick up on the reference. It is not a question about not agreeing with the "rape joke" being appropriate or not - it is a question of whether or not they even understood that this wasn't original material. One cannot even begin to discuss a threat on its merits if people do not even understand the reference or perhaps even maliciously cover up the connection.

Not only is it absurd that this is floated as an example of threatening abuse to be covered by the Title IX obligations of the university, it is absurd to believe the university had the authority to police anonymous social media applications used by students. How would the university legally act on this?

The simple fact is Title IX is toothless and worthless, and modern "feminist journalism" is a gendered version of a hyped-up ebola paranoia. No evidence has been presented that suggests that Mann's homicidal roommate spent his time trolling campus feminists by quoting WKUK on social media. That a tragedy is being used as a springboard to speak about farcical 'threats' that speaks volumes about our "think of the children!" culture that cries wolf before thinking critically.

The Return of FHRITP

For those who don't know, FHRITP is a vulgar phrase with vulgar and fraudulent origins. FHRITP is a YouTube meme that has seen tremendous growth in popularity precisely because it's obscene and outrageous - the thought of someone shouting it during a live TV broadcast boggles the mind.

Yet that is what some men are doing. The Toronto Star describes the situation:

On Sunday, Hunt hit her breaking point when it happened to her while reporting from outside BMO Field. Instead of ignoring the men or apologizing to viewers or yelling back a one-liner, all of which she says she’s done in the past, she calmly confronted two huddling nearby, conspicuous by their giant smirks.
They admitted their plans. The one with the Top Gun sunglasses called the phrase “quite substantial.” His friend with the FC scarf said that it was “hilarious” and “amazing,” that Hunt was lucky they didn’t stuff a vibrator in her ear like they do in Britain.
Their goon friends grinned and leaned back in that manly belly-laugh way. It gave me flashbacks of those terrible frat parties where the price of female admission is degradation.
Not one stopped their friends. Not one passing soccer fan stepped in to support Hunt.
Not that she needed help: she handled the situation flawlessly. Still, the silence that grew around her spoke volumes about this city.
Many men in Toronto find entertainment in verbally raping women.
Apparently ruining a live TV broadcast is "verbally raping" women. And to some extent, there is a distasteful gendered component that is reminiscent of catcalling. The yelling is usually done by men, the professional embarrassment is usually felt by women. One hopes that this trend balances out by having more women yelling something nonsexual at the male anchors doing live broadcasts.

As distasteful as the FHRITP prank is, comparing a YouTube gag with rape and sexual assault is an insulting equivalence. Furthermore, the "live TV broadcast with pretty lady standing in front of a drunk crowd" is arguably a vestigial form of the booth babe made extinct by concerned "feminist" activism, it's simply a matter of time before the entire trope is rendered problematic.

Enter the Ironic Misandrist

Bahar Mustafa is a student union "diversity" officer at Goldsmiths, University of London. Mustafa became widely known as word spread that diversity meetings on campus were to specifically exclude white people and men. Some people found this absurd, and managed to find past tweets that Mustafa had made that allegedly included the hashtags "#Misandry" and "#KillAllMen".

Online petitions were created that asked the administration to remove Mustafa from her post. Whatever the merits of Mustafa's exclusion of men and white people, what seems to have been really provocative was the indifference and abrasive way this message was communicated. It is difficult to imagine Mustafa as a literal misandrist or actually wishing to kill all white people. 

Fast forward to Amanda Hess' coverage of the Mustafa drama:

Mustafa is not the first to have her reputation raked across the Web on account of some lousy tweets. But she may be the first to crumble over a case of ironic misandry, a tongue-in-cheek form of discourse favored by the young feminist Internet natives. You may have spied them on Twitter or Tumblr, working on their “KILL ALL MEN” cross-stitch or sipping from a mug labeled “MALE TEARS.” Ironic misandrists say they’re poking fun at long-standing stereotypes about militant feminist man-haters. That seems to fit Mustafa’s tweets. In a statement to Goldsmiths students, she owned up to using the hashtags, calling them “in-jokes” between herself and other members of “the queer feminist community.” If some people failed to get the joke, well, that was kind of the point.
Apparently it's just ironic misandry and people that do not get the joke only have themselves to blame. Nothing to see here.

Moving on... 

The Triumph of the Social Justice Edgelord

Once upon a time, there was an internet drama called #GamerGate, which had something to do with videogames and misogyny. Two participants in this was Milo Yiannopoulos, a pro-#GamerGate man with a great number of opinions, and Sarah Nyberg, an anti-#GamerGate advocate and outspoken Twitter "feminist" and "social justice" activist.

As it happens, there were chat logs of Sarah Nyberg saying a lot of things that were decidedly not politically correct and perhaps illegal. Milo Yiannopoulos compiled this evidence into an article that essentially alleged that Nyberg may have been a racist tax evading software pirate that was attracted to children

Amazingly enough, Sarah Nyberg responded not by saying that the evidence was false, but by saying she was a reformed "edgelord" that was being unjustly harassed. More surprising was that the count of Nyberg's allies largely remained the same - with a great number of concerned Twitter "activists" sharing Nyberg's post and actually thinking Milo Yiannopoulos was leading a "harassment campaign" for publishing words Nyberg has not denied writing.

Let's recap what this all means.

If you reference sketch comedy on an anonymous chat application, people will believe you're about to commit murder.

If you troll a live broadcast, people will say you're sexually assaulting a reporter.

At the same time, if you write "kill all men" or advocate for nonconsensual sexual encounters and fail to pay your taxes, you're just being very "ironic" and people are failing to treat you like a human being.

Eventually everyone must decide if everything is serious or everything is funny, with the latter choice being the only option unless someone never feels the need to say something they do not literally mean. At the very least, pick a standard and stick with it. Dongle jokes cannot be forbidden while bad inverted scrotum jokes are said to "punch up".

A key part of humor is who says what, when and how. It's entirely possible that context matters a great deal. But it simply is not the case that the rules of comedy are as moronic as to nearly always absolve what one gender says while policing the other. This is the dogma of a "social justice" that values identity over all, with the content of the message being secondary to one's race, sexual preference and gender identity. 

Let's not check our minds at the door to appear to be better "activists" or "allies". Growing a thicker skin is not actually an activity that always must help the "privileged", but rather an activity that helps one pick meaningful battles.

If one has a hard time understanding this, there is a radiator one can be tied to.

Sorry, Men Are Not Technology Wizards

As long as there was an ability to do anything, there has been a debate about which gender is better at it. Humans love nothing better than a simple explanation, and nothing is much simpler than an age old gendered competition.

The latest iteration of this drama is possibly the "women in tech" debate, in which everyone is gathering to explain the gender disparity in the workforce.

One vocal person in this debate is a one Milo Yiannopoulos. Yiannopoulos is undeniably an interesting character - when not opining about women in tech, he finds the time to use stereotypes of cishet men to troll the insecurities of cishet women by writing of a coming "sexodus", a John Galt like departure of men caused by distasteful feminism and attractive sexbots.

Milo definitely has interesting ideas about women and feminism - but it is wrong to denounce him for being intentionally provocative. Such silencing criticism would undeniably be the evil "tone trolling", a crime worse than being a prankster.

Sexodus aside, Milo wrote an article in July titled: "14 Facts the 'Women in tech' Movement Doesn't Want You To Know".

The article contains many truths, but there are a few points that sound much like many other criticisms of 'women in tech' that needs further exploration.

Specifically the points -
"Most Women Aren’t Interested In Tech, And They Never Will Be" (#2)
"Women’s Brains Aren’t As Well Suited To Programming As Men’s" (#3)
Diehard latest generation feminists will dismiss these points as "biological determinism" and "gender essentialism". At the same time, critics will cite studies that show men may in fact occupy a larger "range" of intellectual abilities - it is said that the population of men contains more geniuses, but also more dunces.

Science says the population of men is likely to contain more Albert Einsteins. Or that is what we are led to believe. Furthermore, in a more lazy manner, it is said that data shows men and boys prefer more science and tech related activities.

It could all be true - men could be a bit more clever and want to tinker more. But to what extent does this create the employment disparity we see in tech fields?

Implied in "women aren't interested in tech" messaging is the idea that men generally are. Men are just following their dreams and their abilities. Dominance in engineering and the tech industry was inevitable. Once sold on this idea, it can be applied to any field that appears to be clever or nerdy - advanced maths, astrophysics, etc.

It's a quaint explanation, and from a certain perspective does explain disparity. If we understand "tech" as just another field for clever people with particular tastes, it all works out.

However if we understand "tech" as a potentially bottomless pit of money, the reasoning is plainly and obviously bullshit. And to a great many men, tech is precisely this.

The reality of "Silicon Valley" and the tech industry is often not of simple preferences and science fairs. Venture capitalists are not in the game because they think transistors can change the world. Our planet's  gadget gods are not in the game to find out how a watch works. They're in the game to make money, not to make particularly good timepieces. (As recent history demonstrates)

One becomes the alpha male of tech not by being a creative, but rather being a creative capitalist. This is obviously true among the CEOs and startup founders in the "tech" industry, but this is quite a small sample of the entire population within tech. More surprising is that there may be legions of henchmen that do not have the tinkering attitude or intellectual aptitude that is the force we're led to believe motivates men into tech.

Believe it or not, the Apple's "Genius Bar" does not employ very many literal geniuses. Higher up the food chain, the workforce does not become more inspired. There are the gadget makers that does not care to SnapChat, the videogame programmers that do not care to participate in all-night deathmatches, and the consultant that does not actually think their calling is applying software updates.

Watch the most common job in the United States change from the late 1970s until today. A few positions stand out as dominated by women ("Secretary", "Teacher"), the rest we can safely assume as mostly male ("Software Developer", "Truck Driver", "Computer Analyst", "Farmer").

Let's compare one popular industry to another - software development to truck driving. Some have said the gender disparity in truck driving is worse than that of the tech industry. We can devise similar arguments for trucking - all the women that want to drive trucks are driving trucks, men are more interested in driving trucks, men are more physically capable of driving trucks, etc.

Whatever rationale is invented for truck driving being only 5% to 6% women, hinting that men just want to drive trucks that much more may be "true" in some sense but also an oddly hilarious explanation. For it's difficult to imagine that a great number of men would choose to drive a truck all day every day as if it tickled their fancy.

Men have made something of themselves in trucking for the same reasons they've made something of themselves in the tech sector - it's in-demand work that represents the most money they can make in alignment with their skills and abilities. A number of aptitude tests can devise that men are predisposed to do well in particular component, a number of anecdotes may be shared about what each gender did during childhood, but it rather crudely erases the simple cash transaction that is occurring.

Many more things are explained when men are thought to be money gathering automatons rather than beings of superior intellect driven out of a feeling of whimsy. Consider that for whatever reason, nature or nurture, men may overweight the importance of salary in their sense of self. Therefore an industry - whether clever or not - stands to be visited by masculinity so long as it pays the bills.

Back to tech, what then explains tech having somewhere around a 3 to 1 (or up to 5 to 1, depending what you read) ratio of men to women? It's a combination - a mixture of competence, curiosity and self-interest. But these factors are interrelated, as the question creates a chicken/egg problem. For several decades now, it's been obvious that tech is printing money. This goes far to create a lot of stories of "childhood curiosity" that are nice to retell during an interview.

Many "tech" fields of study, like computer science and engineering, have just as much in common with MBA programs as they do advanced math degrees. MBA programs also have a gender balance issue that tends the same way, with just over 60% of all degrees earned by men.

The vast majority of men in the tech industry are not would-be chess grandmasters or clones of Stephen Hawking. They're refugees from the implosion of other sectors, the demise of which came about through free trade and technology itself. They're men that would have been working at a factory. They're men that would have been selling insurance. They're men that would be just as happy working for a bank or an oil company, but did not bet on these industries finding room for them.

Are men uniquely clever or simply spent the last few decades successfully playing "show me the money"? Could it be true that women failed to follow the gold rush as effectively? There are many theories as to why this could be the case that do not need to be rehashed here.

Why are more men in tech? Some innate features may account for some disparity, a large factor must be that men just want to be involved more for purely social reasons. Men latch on to the tech industry not because they're smarter or more "passionate" about the field, but because they want to cash in and are more acutely aware of what wealth means to them.

Or when the day comes, they hope to simply have enough money to afford that sexbot.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Show me where TSA touched you

Every September 11 is a strange day on social media. Twitter is already a mirror of vanity and asinine problems every day of the year, but something about September 11 makes for particularly nauseating oversharing.

Every tragic anniversary is met with elements of poor taste. Contemplation is often difficult within the shameless parade of amateur patriotic art, political slogans, and Vogon poetry. And it seems like every poorly written television series manages to treat major catastrophes as props to give a shallow plotline some emotional depth.

September 11 is treated like a big red "sad" button to be pressed for effect.

But not every narrative is the same kid of sad. But as it turns out, there is a marginalized type of sad. It is the sad that is not the sad on television. It is the sad muslims feel in the post-9/11 world. As it turns out, if there was a "World Islamophobia Awareness Day" it would be September 11 due to the tragic comedy that is the internet.

Every year, without fail, fans of Islam take to social media to share how Islam and muslims have been unfairly maligned or violently assaulted since September 11. And much of it is true - it's undeniable that muslims in primary school are familiar with Islamophobic slurs. And several people have been murdered in revenge killings. Disturbingly, attackers also have a habit of confusing muslims with members of the Sikh faith, showing that many of the most violent people are the least educated and the least deliberate.

No rational person endorses violence against innocent muslims. Yet at the same time, no rational person is being given a reason to believe there is an epidemic of Islamophobia, despite the numbers the media may provide. One could absolutely believe that the western world is descending into an abyss of Islamophobia and white supremacist retribution. Similarly, one could absolutely believe that Sharia law is coming to Kentucky. (Word is still out on how Sharia-compatible Kim Davis county is)

The difference is one group of people is eating Fox "News" hysteria while another is deeply enamored with social justice "math" (1 , 2) that aims to measure nothing but feelings and fears.

The reality is that muslims actually are the primary victims of Islamist violence - but not because post-9/11 anti-muslim animus is a threat. It is because Islamists typically injure other muslims before reaching the front door of the infidel. Islamists beat their wives, beat their kids, kill their neighbours long before reaching the jannah that is self-destruction in a bi-curious bar in Tel Aviv.

Instead of any true analysis of the situation, we're left feeling guilty that a backscatter x-ray machine is currently inspecting the nipple of a hijabi while a TSA agent gives her the side-eye. The climate of distrust is making someone feel slightly uncomfortable before reaching the Starbucks past the security gate. Boys on the playground with the middle name "Hussein" need to learn a better comeback. Imams need to learn how to rationalize scripture with modernity and convince a brother not to join al-Shabbab or ISIS.

Sounds difficult. Difficult things tend to marginalize people.

Time to do the privileged American thing. Create a hashtag, a Patreon, a Tumblr. Put the focus on yourself and start tweeting about how stressful high school is as you fight "the system". Inshallah the ummah will show up for you because the rest of America is soooo different and doesn't get it.

Nobody else truly understands, surely.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Future Hates Women

The recent murder of Alison Parker and Adam Ward is an event that created a lot of subjects to consider. Some pundits, like Sally Kohn and the usual suspects on Twitter, arrived at questionable conclusions in record time.

A more interesting perspective to consider was raised by a writer at ThinkProgress who brought the data about workplace homicide. One interesting aspect to the data homicide is a greater overall share of total number of women killed at work. That is, if you are a woman killed at work, the chance that it is a homicide is greater than if you were a man being killed.

The language the article chose to run with was "Women are far more susceptible to being murdered at work than men." which is perhaps in some sense correct but still a rather objectionable sentence to choose as men are overall still four to five times more likely to be murdered at work. This is due to the total number of men's workplace deaths far outnumbering those of women.

On the topic of phrasing, another way of stating the current situation is that "Around two women are killed every month by a husband, boyfriend, or ex."

That's bad, right? It is. And it's going to get worse. Both in absolute and relative terms. All thanks to technology.

Let's look at some other numbers. Distracted driving in America killed 3154 people in 2013. If we say that men drive 60% of distance travelled on the road, then we can apply some assumptions and say that 1261 distracted driving deaths were women. Meaning "around 105 women are killed every month by distracted driving."

Imagine for a moment that we have a magic wand to make all the distracted driving deaths disappear. Not just all distracted driving deaths, but drunk driving deaths as well. In fact, make nearly all driving deaths disappear. And this might be a possibility, thanks to the evil of the self-driving car.

Architect of dystopia
It should be a happy day when we can finally be assured to not die on the road. To not be mercilessly smashed by tools meant to serve us. What could be more grand?

But this is not how the human mind works. A world without fatalities of indifference, the "accidents" that claim so many, will simply focus our thoughts on the remaining threats - crimes of passion. When the only things that could possibly bring you to your end are your loved ones, fear will not vanish but merely be moved. A safe journey home gives one more time to contemplate the terror of arriving at one's destination.

When safety transitions from a game of inflatable bags of air and becomes entirely about managing expectations and emotions, in spite of all rational thought the world may seem less friendly and less predictable. This will happen regardless of actual likelihood of victimization being much different than what it is today.

This change will have a vastly different impact on women as it will on men - as women are "more likely than males to be the victim of intimate killings (63.7%) and sex-related homicides (81.7%)."

Mass shootings, terrorism and domestic homicide will dominate more of our concern and there is good evidence to suggest there will remain a gendered component that is biased against women. Improvement in any area will be elusive. Demands to manage guns and mental health will become louder.

Without a doubt, the math will become more concerning as time goes on. Remember, the majority roadway fatalities (60%-70%) and workplace deaths (93%) are deaths of men. Technology will easily work to diminish these categories of injury. Although, to put it bluntly, these advances will ultimately fail to make this saved population of men less likely to intentionally injure each other or their partners.

Further freedom from mishaps and disease may give us more time to enjoy one another's company. But it'll also allow us more time to brood over people who have wronged us and stew about who may intend to harm us. Social media is already an excellent example of this eventuality, with nearly every virtual community touched by waves distrust and resentment created from minutia. It's not online anonymity that is our undoing, but idle thoughts and the memory capacity to store an infinite number of grudges.

Everyone is doomed to have more time to police and fear each other. Share with the entire world what we think about one another's actions, appearance and tastes -- and then immediately cower from possible retribution from those criticized.

Volumes will be written about depressing datapoints, a constant mirror of failings that will be often viewed as some sort of retrogression. Evidence that we all somehow hate each other more than we used to.

Progress is easy to forget.

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Futility of Title IX

Activists and laws like Title IX require colleges and universities to take "immediate and effective steps to end sexual harassment and sexual violence."

Let's look at a specific example of these steps, as outlined by one Boston University student's letter to the editor:
My story is also a familiar one: it starts at a frat party and it ends seven months later with a thick folder of official paperwork and nothing to show for it except a figurative and patronizing pat on the head. My assailant will not be punished by the university for what he did to me.
I am not going to re-hash the details of my assault here; this letter is not about the violence that occurred on that one night (nor the emotional trauma it has caused me since then). It is about the ongoing violence of administrative negligence. It is an answer to the question, “why don’t more survivors report?”
At the end of the first judicial process, my assailant admitted to the investigators that he “made an assumption” and that he was “wrong.” The judicial committee found him responsible for rape and suspended him for a semester. I was relieved. I was proud of BU. It had taken most of my first semester, but they had come to the right decision. They told my assailant his behavior was unacceptable, and they thanked me for coming forward.
Then, my assailant was automatically granted an appeal based on no new evidence. For some reason, he was allowed to bypass a hearing board and appeal directly to the provost, eliminating any chance of appeal for me, something the Dean of Students and the investigators told me multiple times I would have. My assailant requested a stay of suspension from the provost. I sent an email to the provost asking what grounds he had for this request. She did not respond. This was on a Friday. I submitted my official response to his request on the following Monday (the time limit I was given for responding), and the provost approved his stay of suspension the next day, around lunchtime. He was once again allowed to take classes here.

The rest of the letter describes how BU has failed in this case by taking back the suspension.

Whether or not the university is right to take back the suspension is irrelevant - what is surprising is that a single semester suspension could possibly fulfill Boston University's Title IX requirements. One could imagine that the accused student is fighting this charge out of pride for his record and not out of want to avoid the pain of the punishment.

Anyone familiar with modern brands of feminism know that one dastardly sin to commit is to create a "rape culture". A "rape culture" can be grown from many things, but two important methods would include:
  • Creating "gradations" of rape.
  • Normalizing rape by regarding it as an accident that happens sometimes.
A single semester suspension from a university does both these things. Apparently there is a version of rape that is only punished by forcing the perpetrator to do something other than study for a while. Further, the punishment is mundane enough to be everyday. Legions of accused students could grow to accept the "semester off" as just something one has to do to placate the well meaning but toothless university administration and student activists.

There are many blessings in a semester away from school. It provides a lot of time to  research one's accuser and follow them around while looking for evidence that would undermine their credibility. And it's absolutely not illegal to visit any bar that students like and find another potential victim.

Actions taken by schools to keep Title IX and "feminist" advocacy happy is simply lip service paid to liberals that are confused by or outright despise the role of the police and the existing justice system. It would be fine to create a justice system in parallel, and use the same words for crimes, if it was not entirely incapable of protecting the public at large in any way.

It's only a matter of time until universities and campus "feminism" creates their own version of Willie Horton or Lakewood shooting. At some point, one of these banned-for-a-semester students will get in serious trouble off campus and all will be amazed how little the typical justice system was involved in their behavior.

Defenders of university administrations will use a reasoning used by vigilantes everywhere - "it's better to do something rather than nothing". Above that, it's well within the institution's rights and responsibilities to uphold its own moral code - whatever that may be.

The problem arises when the moral code overlaps with abhorrent criminality. If a person stole something from campus, it's hard to believe the action would be a consequence-free action as long as the person was not a registered student or employee of the university. The university would absolutely report the theft to the police - not merely brand the person a thief in its own records, render its own punishment and then forget about the entire affair.

At the same time, it makes sense to not push every problem through the police. Not every drunken vandalism at college or argumentative idiocy in a boardroom needs to be recorded as an infraction by the government and subject to penalty. Every punch thrown in a dorm room or at a frat party need not always end in formal assault charges.

Yet this logic does not apply to rape, as rape is presumed to be a serious crime. Universities cannot be in the business of stating simply that a rape occurred and doling out meager punishments to people it will label as rapists. This is worse than doing nothing, as it has the effect of doing nothing while wasting everyone's time. 

Advocacy for universities to force the primary punishment campus rape relies on three key things to be of a very specific nature. If these things are not just so, the institution either proves to be unwilling or unable to create an effective intervention.

A certain type of crime is necessary - the assault must not raise a campus-wide panic or have too much conclusive evidence. It cannot be a serial stranger rape at knifepoint behind a lecture hall. It cannot cause bruises or other injuries that would be visible during class. Witnesses at the time of the assault must not be too certain what had happened and must also not be a member of law enforcement or medical authority.

The crime also must occur somewhere near campus grounds. Universities probably will not be held responsible for punishing students for what they are said to have done over summer break. Luckily, rape usually happens in the fall and winter, right?

A certain type of victim is a part of the picture, of course, as the victim needs to be a student. Not a visitor, not a university employee, and definitely not a faculty member. There is perhaps some room for a non-student to petition for a student to be punished, but there is very little reason to suggest that many universities would carry the allegations any further than the police would as universities are not generally enthusiastic about acting as an primary intermediary between all matters concerning staff, students, alumni and outsiders.

A certain type of perpetrator is of the utmost importance. The perpetrator must be a student and must care about their future at the university enough to care about not being expelled or suspended, or subject to the limited number of punishments a university may invent. The perpetrator cannot be someone that actually intimidates any of the institution's staff. The perpetrator must not be a sociopathic recidivist. If the student may actually assault someone again and the university did not immediately ban them forever from campus grounds, the institution would be open to all kinds of future lawsuits about negligence.

The perpetrator must be disturbed enough to rape someone yet together enough to cut it out entirely when subjected to the most diluted scared-straight punishment available on the planet. A campus tribunal is intimidating only to those accustomed to punishment not being anything more than detention after class.

In some way, the campus interventions are doing alleged rapists a favor by creating the appearance of double jeopardy when there is none. For example, in the previous story wherein the institution, victim and perpetrator are presumably fine after the "semester off" is complete, what purpose is served by the actual authorities trying to punish the accused?

Instead of waiting for this trinity of stars to align to dole out some sad excuse for justice, universities should be in the business of actually creating the safe spaces many speak about but never define. That is, a "safe space" should not simply mean a space absent of any controversial opinions. A safe space ought to be what the words describe - a space where physical assault of any kind is actually less likely to occur.

Campuses are already safer spaces when compared to other environments (more on this in other discussions) but more can always be done to supervise the Tumblr generation that apparently only begins to face adult consequences for actions after completing a four year degree. Hire the staff needed to monitor alcohol use, escort students all hours of the day and audit the movements of people in dormitories. Identify the socially awkward penguins that will be a sizable portion of the population of both perpetrators and victims. Create mandatory lectures about acceptable human behavior and social skills that students apparently did not gather while in their creationist high schools.

What will pay for this effort?

Tuition fees. Raise them and pay for it. The institutions that do not do this can be publicly shamed as creating rape cultures or participating in rape apologia in the face of an "epidemic". If prospective students need to work a few years after high school to pay for these services, it would create a virtuous cycle by making universities less likely to have to manage people in their tumultuous teens or younger than a legal drinking age.

Despite the scary statistics and many concerned "journalists", nothing will change. Nothing will change as students and their guardians do not see university campuses as substantially more threatening than the ignored and irreparable disaster that is the final years of high school.

In an nation that has witnessed every type of violence descend upon primary schools, it is absolutely rational to not much care about how many symbolic days off a preppy fratboy receives for misbehavior. And "misbehavior" is the proper word in this context, as the institution places itself under no obligation to actually prove that a crime actually occurred.

It's a ineffective system for timid people with flimsy results.

Truly, a modern activist's dream.