Thursday, February 02, 2017
Feminists should face their own flaws, not sneer at Melania Trump
Her husband was inaugurated on a Friday. By Monday, America’s new first lady had become an internet meme. An eight-second gif that showed her flashing her husband a broad smile when he turned to look at her, which quickly evaporated when he turned around, went viral within hours.
The narrative quickly caught on. #FreeMelania trended across social media. “Melania, blink twice if you need help!” urged some of the banners on display at the Women’s Marches held the day after the inauguration. Liberal media outlets weighed in. “Watch this clip of Melania Trump during the inauguration then pray for her” tweeted the Huffington Post. Slate offered us a “detailed forensic analysis of Melania’s creepy, devastating inauguration smile/frown”. An image of the Tiffany gift box she gave Michelle Obama – open and containing a note pleading “HELP” – was shared thousands of times.
Much of this was couched in ironic liberal jest. Because yes, making light of domestic violence is simply hilarious. But some have gone so far as to earnestly argue that we should be genuinely concerned for Melania Trump’s welfare. The feminist writer Laurie Penny wrote a column last year imploring us to feel sympathy for America’s “first victim”. She speculates about Trump’s smile as the smile of a woman who is afraid; about her speech on cyber-bullying as a veiled cry for help; and paints a picture of her as someone “with a gun discreetly pointed at her back, with her necklines so high her clothes seem to be trying to strangle her and that rictus smile that never reaches her eyes”.
First Lady Melania Trump and President Donald Trump © Hopkins/Rex Images First Lady Melania Trump and President Donald Trump
In jest or in earnest, there is a rank hypocrisy here that sits uncomfortably with me. It’s deeply sexist to erode a woman’s agency, imposing an abuse narrative on her to fit your own political take on the world, on the basis of little more than conjecture.
It hardly needs pointing out there are any number of reasons Trump might have momentarily frowned. A quick online search throws up dozens of stills from past inaugurations where the stiff awkwardness of an incoming presidential couple contrasts starkly with the easy grace of their soon-to-be predecessors, much more comfortable in their skins.
And reading a self-professed feminist commenting on another woman’s high necklines left me feeling more than a little queasy. At the heart of #FreeMelania sits a patronising assumption of a feminist false consciousness: how else could a woman marry a blatant misogynist, and defend his birtherism and anti-immigration positions, unless she’s a puppet in an abusive relationship?
There’s nothing new about women in public life being held to a very different standard to men in terms of their appearance and how they conduct themselves in front of the cameras. But #FreeMelania has been perpetrated by people who really ought to know better. People who would be the first to call out men such as Trump who pass off their disgusting remarks about sexually harassing women as “locker-room talk”. Or to challenge the idea that Hillary Clinton might be too old to be president, when she would have been younger than Ronald Reagan was at his inauguration.
None of this is to distract from the enormous fight feminists have on their hands, with a self-confessed, p-----grabbing misogynist, who thinks nothing of trashing women based on their looks or signing away their reproductive rights, now firmly entrenched in the White House.
But #FreeMelania is neither just a harmless joke, nor just an opportunity for some women superciliously to question other women’s feminist credentials in a way that distracts from the real fight. I think it betrays an important truth about how discrimination manifests itself.
Our collective dirty secret is that none of us is entirely above discriminating against others on the basis of their gender, ethnicity, class or age. Very few of us are immune to the unconscious bias that creeps in as a result of the way we’re socialised from early childhood. If you don’t believe me, take an online implicit bias test. I did and it showed that I have a slight unconscious gender bias. If I’m totally honest, I know it, too. I can’t be the only person who sometimes catches myself horrified and mid-thought in a social situation, realising I’m about to make an assumption about someone because of their age or gender.
Some #FreeMelaniers may have been fully aware and not particularly bothered they were perpetrating a sexist trope. But I bet some didn’t even think about it, which is an important reminder that combating sexism isn’t just about going on marches, campaigning for change and demanding others behave differently. It is also about practising what you preach.
This is where feminism on the left sometimes falls down; when people get so caught up in the self-righteousness of their own political narrative that they forget to also hold themselves to account. Feminists should constantly be asking themselves difficult questions. Am I supporting the progression of younger women in the male-dominated environments in which I work? If I’ve bagged myself a spot at the top table, am I doing what I can to make sure there are other women there? I bet if a lot of us were straight with ourselves, we’d admit there’s more we could do.
“When they go low, we go high,” declared Michelle Obama in one of the best political speeches of last year. Some on the left seem to think that what they do is, by definition, going high. #FreeMelania is a useful reminder that going high isn’t just about loftily calling out the behaviour of others from our morally superior heights. It must also be about holding up a mirror to ourselves.
Lower Conduct Standards for Liberals
By Walter E. Williams
One can only imagine the widespread media, political and intellectual condemnation of Republicans and conservatives if, after the inauguration of Barack Obama, they had gone on a violent and vicious tear all over the nation as did Democrats and liberals after the inauguration of President Donald Trump. They committed acts such as assaulting Trump supporters, setting fires and stoning police. Suppose Republicans/conservatives had carried signs that read "F— Obama" or talked about "blowing up the White House." The news media, instead of calling them protesters, would have labeled them evil racists, obstructionists and everything else except a child of God. The reason for the difference in treatment is simple. Republicans and conservatives are held — and hold themselves — to higher standards of behavior. By contrast, Democrats and liberals are held — and hold themselves — to less civilized standards of behavior. Let's look at some of the history of conservative and liberal behavior.
One of the nastiest more recent liberal events was the Occupy movement around the nation. During Occupy protests, there were rapes, assaults, robberies and holdups. These people publicly defecated and urinated on police cars. The mess they left after their demonstrations can be described as no more than a pigsty. Does anybody recall any Democratic official, from the president on down, admonishing them to behave? Contrast their behavior with that of tea party protesters. Tea partyers didn't set fires, stone police or engage in the other kinds of despicable behavior the liberal Democrats did. On top of that, they left the areas where they protested clean.
Ask yourself whether you have ever seen Republicans/conservatives rioting, turning over police cars, looting, setting places of business on fire and shouting obscenities while marching. Have you ever seen conservatives marching with chants calling for the murder of police officers? You may have heard liberals yelling, "What do we want? Dead cops! When do we want it? Now!" In fact, virtually all of the violence against police — whether it's throwing stones, ambushing or murdering — is committed by liberals or people who'd identify as Democrats. The fact of the matter is that if we were to examine criminality in America — whether talking about murderers, muggers or prisoners — it would be dominated by people who would be described as liberals, Democrats and Hillary Clinton supporters.
Democrats and liberals accuse Republicans of conducting a war on women. Assault, rape and murder are the worst things that can be done to a woman. I would bet a lot of money that most of the assaults, rapes and murders of women are done by people who identify as liberals, and if they voted or had a party affiliation, it would be Democratic.
One of the most glaring examples of how liberals are held to lower standards comes when we look at what they control. The nation's most dangerous big cities in 2012 were Detroit, Oakland, St. Louis, Memphis, Stockton, Birmingham, Baltimore, Cleveland, Atlanta and Milwaukee. The most common characteristic of these cities is that for decades, all of them have been run by Democratic and presumably liberal administrations. Some cities — such as Detroit, Buffalo, Newark and Philadelphia — haven't elected a Republican mayor for more than a half-century. It's not just personal safety. These Democratic-controlled cities have the poorest-quality public education despite the fact that they have large and growing school budgets. Most of these dangerous cities have suffered massive decreases in population. Some observers have suggested that racism has caused white flight to the suburbs. But these observers ignore the fact that black flight has become increasingly significant. It turns out that black people do not like to be mugged and live in unsafe neighborhoods any more than white people.
Republicans and conservatives, including President Trump, should not gripe or whine about different treatment by the liberal media. Magnanimity commands that we have compassion and try to understand our fallen brethren. We should make every effort to sell them on the moral superiority of personal liberty and its main ingredient — limited government.
My Vagina Doesn’t Care for Your Identity Politics
By Abigail R. Hall Blanco
A couple years ago I arrived in New Orleans for a small conference. Prior to the opening dinner and reception, I went to the hotel gym to exercise. There was a man on one of the other cardio machines, and a national news network was on the TV. I got on the treadmill and start running.
On the screen appeared Hillary Clinton, then seeking the Democratic nomination for president. The story centered on Clinton’s historic run. In particular, the reporters were asking women what they thought of Hillary Clinton and the idea of voting for a woman. The respondents stated that voting for a woman would be an amazing experience. They mentioned nothing of her politics, only her gender.
At this point, the man on the other machine said,
Excuse me. Can I ask you a question?
Would you ever vote for someone because of their gender?
My response was quick.
I’d much prefer to know what’s going on between someone’s ears than their legs.
He seemed pleased with this answer. We chatted a bit more and uncovered we were both attending the same conference. We’d talk more that weekend about Clinton’s run, politics, and economics.
That quick conversation in the gym stuck with me. First of all, it’s a pretty bold way to start a discussion. But more importantly, I suppose it was the first time I’d really thought about the idea of voting for someone based on a particular characteristic or basing my decisions off of my gender. Such an idea seemed downright nuts.
Apparently, the world’s gone mad.
This past election has centered around identity politics—the notion that one’s political positions are based on the groups with which they identify (e.g. female, black, gay, disabled, white, male, etc.). On social media, it wasn’t uncommon to have articles, posts, and comments qualified with things like, “as a cis-gendered white male,” or “as a woman of color,” or “as a genderqueer Hispanic.”
When offering one’s opinion about a particular topic, sometimes it’s helpful to articulate a part of one’s identity. It’s a way of letting people know how our backgrounds relate to our opinions. For instance, when discussing trends in education, I will often say, “as a college professor,” as a way of telling people that what I’m about to say is based on my experiences in higher education. But the current culture of identity politics seems to have little to do with helping one another understand different perspectives. Instead, it serves to divide and dismiss other people—particularly those who don’t toe the party line of the progressive left. If you disagree, it’s because you’re [fill in the blank] and should probably “check your privilege.”
Nowhere is this more apparent than with “women issues.” Are you a man with an opinion about abortion, Planned Parenthood, traditional gender roles, etc.? In the era of identity politics, your penis apparently invalidates your opinion.
But don’t feel too bad. I have written against things like mandated paid maternity leave and doubted the veracity of the supposed “gender wage gap.” While you’d think my two X chromosomes would allow me to talk about these issues in the realm of identity politics, you’d be wrong. Since I don’t have children yet, I’m apparently unqualified in some circles to talk about maternity leave. Since I deny a meaningful gender wage gap, I’m either “privileged” and totally out of touch or I’ve fallen victim to the narrative put forward by, you guessed it, men. Forget the PhD in economics, the fact I work in a male-dominated field, or that I grew up in a middle class family. Such information is apparently unimportant.
I’m certainly not the one who has experienced such a dismissal. In the most recent “women’s march” in Washington, D.C., pro-life women’s groups were purposefully excluded. Women who expressed their dislike or disapproval of the march have been met with backlash. Women who articulate the idea that American women aren’t oppressed, or who disagree with various other ideas and policies are accused of being “privileged.” It’s said they don’t understand the plight of women and are forgetting those who fought for things like birth control and women’s suffrage.
This kind of identity politics is positively poisonous.
Dismissing a person or their opinions because of some, often unchosen, characteristic flies in the face of practically every social movement in the history of mankind. When the original feminists fought to vote, they were looking for equality and to have their voices heard. Civil rights leaders fought for equality and to have their voices heard. Gay rights activists have fought for equality and to have their voices heard. These groups all fought for a life in which they wouldn’t be discriminated against, dismissed, or defined because of one piece of their identity. Given these goals, it seems positively mind-blowing that many people within these groups and others would seek to dismiss someone else based on their identity. It’s positively antithetical to their supposed goals!
Moreover, to base one’s opinions and politics around a particular piece of one’s identity isn’t a sign of dedication or self-awareness. It’s a sign of complete and utter ignorance and an inability to reflect on complex issues, in a complicated world, with complicated, multifaceted people. Identity politics places everyone in a box. If someone disagrees with you, this isn’t a time to reflect on your own priors and opinions. It’s time to dismiss their ideas. They’re in a different box. They must be wrong.
I’m voting for Hillary Clinton because she’s a woman.
I’m voting for Donald Trump because he has a comb over.
Both of these statements are equally absurd, but one is viewed as a reasonable way to anchor one’s politics.
Here’s hoping the next few years will usher in a return to critical thinking and movement away from identity politics. As I said to the man on the treadmill, I judge people based on their brains, not their genitals. I’d prefer the same treatment. Keep your identity politics away from my vagina.
Australia: PC culture ‘muzzling free speech’, says poll
Australians are resentful of a culture of political correctness preventing people expressing opinions on sensitive cultural issues, says the chairman leading the parliamentary inquiry into freedom of speech, as a new poll reveals increasing support to remove the words “insult” and “offend” from controversial section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.
Liberal MP Ian Goodenough, a migrant of Eurasian heritage who is heading the inquiry ordered by Malcolm Turnbull, said his objective was to simplify the law to protect ethnic and racial minorities while preventing “reverse discrimination” against mainstream Australians.
Mr Goodenough said resources should be directed at stopping material racial discrimination and serious conduct resulting in harm, violence or incitement to violent acts and “not cartoons and trivial matters”.
“What we are trying to achieve is to protect ethnic and racial groups from harm and detriment but it is not the role of government to police petty social misdemeanours,” Mr Goodenough told The Australian.
The committee has received more than 11,000 written submissions and is this week conducting hearings in five capital cities. Today in Melbourne it will be given polling by Galaxy Research commissioned by the Institute of Public Affairs showing rising public support for changes to counter criticism that the campaign is a niche or fringe issue.
The poll of 1000 people taken last month shows 48 per cent approve of calls to remove the words “insult’ and “offend” from section 18C, an increase of three points from the previous survey in November.
Some 36 per cent of people were opposed to the change, down from 38 per cent. The Galaxy Poll found 52 per cent of men approved of the change to remove the words compared with 44 per cent of women.
Section 18C makes it unlawful to behave in a way that is reasonably likely to “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” someone because of their race or ethnicity. Among the states, support was strongest in Western Australia where 54 per cent were in favour and in NSW where 50 per cent agreed while 49 per cent approved in Queensland. Support was weakest in Victoria and South Australia where 43 per cent agreed with the change, although it remained higher than the number who disapproved.
The change was most embraced by people aged over 50 with 53 per cent in support and those aged 25 to 49 were also more likely to approve than disapprove. However, people aged 18 to 24 were the strongest opponents with 49 per cent against the change, with only 39 per cent in support.
IPA director of policy Simon Breheny said the poll also showed that 95 per cent of Australians rated freedom of speech as important with 57 per cent saying it was very important. “Much to the surprise of some members of the media and the political class, free speech matters,” Mr Breheny said.
“It is time for our elected representatives to listen rather than trying to tell the public it is a niche or fringe issue.
“On top of the incredible overwhelming support for freedom of speech, support is also growing for changes to be made to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act so that it is no longer unlawful to insult or offend someone.”
Section 18C was used successfully in a legal action against Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt and unsuccessfully against three Queensland University of Technology students. A Newspoll last year found 57 per cent of people opposed the action against the QUT students. Complaints against a cartoon by The Australian’s Bill Leak were dropped.
The Prime Minister asked the parliament’s human rights committee to look at whether the Racial Discrimination Act and section 18C imposes unreasonable limits on free speech and to recommend whether the law should be changed and the role of the Human Rights Commission altered.
Mr Goodenough said 20 years had elapsed since section 18C was introduced and the inquiry was about allowing constructive criticism and facilitating robust debate of sensitive cultural issues and for disputes to be settled with minimal impact from the referee in a manner that was affordable and timely.
“It is misleading to say that reforms to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act will promote race hate speech, because there are already laws in place which prevent abusive or threatening speech,” he said. “Many mainstream Australians are resentful of the emerging culture of political correctness, which prevents them from expressing their opinions on certain sensitive cultural issues in workplace and social settings where minorities are involved.
“Anecdotally, there is a perception that certain ethnic minorities are afforded greater protections from constructive criticism than mainstream Australians through political correctness. Rightly or wrongly, this perception does exist, and I would like to see the playing field levelled.
“There is a distinction between expressing a view that you disagree with a certain cultural issue or practice in a respectful manner, and being abusive or vilifying a group.”
Mr Goodenough said the challenge for the committee was to find the right balance in recommending changes to the legislation. “As a migrant of Eurasian heritage I see the need to protect ethnic and racial minorities on one hand but also the duty to protect mainstream Australians from situations of reverse discrimination. The sentiment in the pub often is resentment that sometimes ethnic minorities use the provisions in the law to take things too far. Our challenge is to make the law fair to all.”
But the deputy chair of the inquiry, Labor MP Graham Perrett, said evidence given to a hearing in Hobart yesterday from Equal Opportunity Tasmania, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law and the University of Tasmania was “overwhelmingly in favour of keeping the current protections” in section 18C.
“The committee heard that racism, including ‘everyday racism’ caused widespread damage to Aboriginal and culturally and linguistically diverse Australians and their communities,” he said.
“As parliamentarians in positions of relative power, it would be arrogant and irresponsible for us to assume we could have any understanding of what it is like to face the type of racism experienced by many Australians every day.”
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.