Feminism, Marriage and Xbox

My apologies to the many good men I know. You're totally marriage material!

[T]here’s a strong case that both sexes would be better off if working-class women demanded more of the men in their lives and working-class men demanded more of themselves

That’s from Ross Douthat’s blog post on marriage.  He’s talking about Matt Yglesias’ response to Charles Murray (frequent subject of Paull et All!) who argued that, in a nutshell, marriage rates and male workforce participation have declined since 1960 and that’s a terrible thing.

Those two trends are probably not a good thing. But Yglesias point out that we’re not all idiots (thanks!): women are remaining single and men are dropping out of the workforce because it makes economic sense to do so.  Since it’s easier to enjoy a leisurely life than it was in 1960, why yolk oneself to a partner-in-breadwinning if sisters are doin’ the breadwinning for themselves.  And why get a full-time job when, if you’re demographically situated, men can do just fine with a semi-decent part-time job and an Xbox.

Some things—college tuition, apartments in Manhattan, health care—have gotten more expensive much faster than average. This means that people who buy a below-average amount of those things are better off than the statistics show. A healthy person living in an unfashionable city with no student loans to pay off can get by on a fairly modest income.

Consider the contrast: As it becomes harder and harder to find a full-time job with benefits, opportunities for advancement, and stability, men are altogether dropping out of the workforce or opting for more part-time opportunities.  And at the same time, women are earning enough money that they choose to support not only themselves, but also their children, without a partner.  Douthat cleanly summarizes our attractive short-term incentives:

[T]he understandable female desire to have children without taking on the burden of husbands who are often basically children themselves, and the understandable male desire not to take a steady but low-paying job when they can work part-time, goof off on the XBox, and still find willing sexual partners

Five points for the women’s equality movement…in a two steps forward one step back kind of way. Because even though it now more feasible and worthwhile to do the opposite, it’s difficult to argue that there aren’t structural, non-immediate benefits to getting married, getting a job, and raising kids with two parents.

It’s admittedly difficult to get a good full-time job right now, especially without a college degree. But male labor force participation rates have been declining since the 50s. Men are not just not finding jobs; they’re increasingly choosing to not look for jobs.  And if the marriage market were the parallel to the job market, women are pretty much doing the same thing.   The solution, then, is to realign incentives from the ground up:

If men want to tempt women back into marriage, [men] will have to use more of their free time to pitch in with housework and child care, building a more egalitarian tomorrow. If employers want to tempt people back into working, they’ll have to offer higher pay or more pleasant jobs.


Bully, the Documentary: High schoolers can’t watch what actual high schoolers do

The trailer for Harvey Weinstein and Lee Hirsch’s much anticipated documentary Bully is out and it looks amazing.  It’s an honest, tough look at school bullying and the adults who have stood by for too long.

But what’s interesting is that the Motion Picture Association of America gave it an R rating — so now high school kids can’t watch a documentary of the things actual high school kids say and do.  Get that blows the middle and high school school tour.  Phew!

GOOD has a concise overview of the problem, brought to light by 2006’s documentary on the MPAA This Film Is Not Yet Rated.  It “railed against the MPAA’s puritanical and often arbitrary rating system.”

The documentary exposed the MPAA’s cadre of untrained anonymous raters, who are meant to represent regular American parents, but are really free to impose their own backwards values on the rest of the population. These untouchable judges rate gay sex as more explicit than straight sex, view sexual content and crass language as more troubling than horrific violence, are directly influenced by members of the clergy and are not necessarily even parents of teens.

Weinstein, the producer, has threatened to withdraw all of his movies from the MPAAs rating system (so then all the movies would carry a “this film is not rated”).  Because giving a movie like Bully an R rating, which that group of anonymous untrained raters at least knows will bar anyone under 18 from seeing, is wrong.  As director Lee Hirsch said,

“I made Bully for kids to see –- the bullies as well as the bullied. We have to change hearts and minds in order to stop this epidemic, which has scarred countless lives and driven many children to suicide.”

I love Nicki Freaking Minaj: An Ode.

This girl is off her rocker.  Crazy.  Cray-zay.  But tell me she is not the best thing to hit hip hop since Kanye.  TELL ME.

I can see why you might be hesitating.  You’re thinking she’s just another female MC (because we have too many of those?).  She spits lewd, eff’d up, incomprehensible, offensive lyrics. She perpetuates the rap world’s blatant and incurable misogyny, she uses her (bi)sexuality as a trope to lure male fans.

But you’d be wrong.

Well, mostly wrong.  She’s full of contradictions, but relatively speaking, far less than most chart-toppers in all genres and really, they don’t out weigh the goods.

And the girl got goods!!

Where, on the surface, her sexuality and WILD persona are just attention-getting schemes, her lyrics tell a different story.  So she’s sexual and… weird.  But she’s also in charge.  She’s choosing it and owning her choices. And she loves her beauty, which is miles from our Euro-centric ideal (“she’s on a diet but her pockets eating cheese cake…pink wig thick ass give em whiplash”).  April Gregory at Racialicious:

Everything she does is of her own volition, and she is not submissive to patriarchy. Rather, Nicki takes patriarchal notions of femininity and womanhood, reclaims them, and makes them work for her.

If that isn’t the definitely of a feminist I don’t know what it.

“You Could Be the King But Watch the Queen Conquer”

And she goes toe-to-toe, peer-to-peer with the boys.  Kanye, Jay-Z, Will.I.Am, Drake, Lil Wayne.  She’s not just singing background, she’s got equal weight of the verses with these guys.  From MTV’s My Time Now documentary:

“I don’t have anything else to fall back on. […] I’ve been told forever that you’re not gonna sell. No one’s gonna get you. Don’t sound too smart. You can only be a part of a crew. And I just know there are so many women who get told these things every day. I used to think this was all about me. But I’m not doing this for me, I’m doing it for them.”

By “them”, she means the girls that make up her relatively young fan base. As she’s risen, she’s taken herself as role model seriously:

all the girls will come in, as long as they understand
that i’m fighting for the girls, that never thought they could win
cause before they could begin you told’em it was the end
but I am here to reverse the curse that they live in
(“I’m the Best”)

She’s relevant, she’s on 7 tracks in the Hot 100 at once, and she’s a bad-ass role model, all at the same time. MMMM.

And her verses ohmygod.  Her rhythm, staccato, variety — she’s got at least five distinct personalities — are impressive.  And they’re all on her verse in Kanye’s song Monster.  I could go on, but writing does no justice to listening.  GO!

Of course she’s still rapping about money, exploits, cars, women, men, all the above.  But she’s doing it a.) well, b.) because she wants to and c.) on many continuums: weird,  beauty, sexuality.  FULL PACKAGE!!

I’m all up all up all up in the bank with the funny face
and if I’m fake I ain’t notice cause my money ain’t

Hate Crime Laws, or… Three Lesbians Walk Into a Bar

Assume these are lesbians. It's not that much of a stretch.

Well, they walked into a T station.  And then beat up a man for being gay.

The women were arraigned today for committing a hate crime, a charge they and their family deny could be possible since all three are out lesbians.

Is your head spinning yet?

Of course it’s not impossible for lesbians to be biased — or hate — gay men (I’ve always found it odd that two groups that could not be more different are yolked together in the fight for gay equality).  Nor is it impossible for Jews to be anti-semitic.  Or for any member of a protected class to have hatred for other members who may not wear their identity differently.

And herein lies a problem with hate crime laws: they lead to a lot of arbitrary, bizarre results because proving motivation is an abstract, subjective thing to do.  And humans don’t readily fit into neat categories.

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Making friends with the gaybors

I’m coming around to you, Charles Murray.

As I’ve written before, Charles Murray (of The Bell Curve fame) has just published a book called, “Coming Apart: The State of White America 1960-2010”.  I should really read this book before writing one more thing about it, but this is striking.

One of his quotes from the book was:

Data can bear on policy issues, but many of our opinions about policy are grounded on premises about the nature of human life and human society that are beyond the reach of data. Try to think of any new data that would change your position on abortion, the death penalty, legalization of marijuana, same-sex marriage or the inheritance tax. If you cannot, you are not necessarily being unreasonable.

I, of course, lost it.  But what’s interesting is that Murray has changed his mind on at least one of these things.  In this Charlie Rose interview (17:45), Murray says on same-sex marriage,

I’ve changed my mind on this one … the fact is that my wife and I know many same-sex couples and they have great marriages.

Interesting that what took to change his mind — and it was not an easy mind to change — was people and relationships, not facts and data.  I think that’s a fair way to change one’s mind because what is data without the real people to live it out and back it up?

We can produce all kinds of studies on how kids raised by same-sex parents are just like every other kid on the block, how marriage equality is good for everyone, how the promise of  equality can save gay kids’ lives, and how, yano, gays are going to save the world someday.  But that means nothing if you don’t actually know happy, well-adjusted, independent gay people who have a positive impact on your life.  Most of us are not very good at abstracting lessons from data in any meaningful way.  We need to bear out the facts in our lives with the people we know, love, and trust before changing our minds.

So, make friends with your local gays/straights.  They’re probably more interesting than you anyway.

Thoughts on Which I Have Lots of Authority to Speak: Marriage Equality in Jerz Edition

The NJ State Senate has passed the marriage equality bill by a vote of 24-10, a gain of TEN yea’s since the 2010 vote (TEN!). It’s going to the Assembly next where it’s likely to pass and then on to the Governor’s desk where it’s likely to be approved quickly because our governor is committed to freedom, equality, respect, and true conservatism.

Just kidding!

It’ll actually be vetoed with aplomb.  But, Governor, as a fan of yours, allow me to remind you why marriage equality is a mark of a real conservative and your approval will only help you in your next race.

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Thoughts on Things On Which I Have Little Authority To Speak: Affirmative Action Edition

I bet you didn’t know you wanted to hear about Affirmative Action today! Well, you did, and I’ve got the perfect blog post.  A plethora of follow-ups, addenda, qualifications, nuances, exceptions, new thoughts, etc. are likely on their way.  

Affirmative action has well-intentioned and even effective underpinnings.  In practice, however, formalized affirmative action lends itself to rigid quotas and uses minority status as a proxy for all kinds of potentially unrelated characteristics.  It’s a huge disservice as it only furthers negative stereotyping, bitterness, and distance between majorities and minorities.

It makes sense to recognize that success and potential success don’t always translate into GPAs and SATs or degrees. That one must take into account the whole person — including background, race, gender, geography, income, family, etc. — when reviewing an application.  And, most importantly, it makes sense to promote and reward and empower people from historically underserved communities.

Because having a role model who looks like you, who talks like you, who comes from where you come from, who has banged up against the same glass ceiling as you did can make or break your own path to achievement.

But when all you are is a minority to a college admissions counselor or an employer, the totality of your experience is lost in the balck-and-white waves, and your success or failure becomes a metaphor for the success or failure of those you represent. U of Mich philosophy professor Carl Cohen:

Preferences…“do serious, long-lasting injury to the minorities concerned. Terrible damage,” said Cohen. “It raises questions about their competency for their whole lifetimes. It reinforces outrageous racial stereotypes.” If those admitted with lower academic qualifications turn out to do less well, “racists will say, ‘We told you so,’” he predicted.

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