Dismissing Philosophers

“Yes, well, that’s a philosophical question, isn’t it.” So, what, the question’s unimportant? Because it can’t be answered with quantitative certainty? But philosophical questions can be answered with more or less strength, more or less adequacy.

Also, since there’s no absolutely right or wrong answer to most philosophical questions, the consensus seems to be that anyone can ‘do’ philosophy.  In one sense, that’s true.  Anyone can do philosophy.  Anyone can do physics too.  It’s just that incompetence, inadequacy, will be more apparent in the latter case.  Because there are right and wrong answers.  Most of the time.  At least at the lower levels.

But that’s true of much philosophy too.  It’s just that we haven’t trained people to see mistakes in reasoning as much as we’ve trained them to see mistakes in arithmetic.  (Which is, partly, why people mistakenly think all opinions are equally valid.)

Not only are philosophical questions dismissed, philosophers too are dismissed.  After all, they’re no better than the rest of us.  Their opinions are no more valid.  I’m starting to see the dismissal of scientists in the same way: it occurs when the person doesn’t understand science – after all, if you don’t understand the scientific process of hypothesis formulation and testing, if you don’t understand how scientists arrive at their opinions, you won’t consider scientific opinions any more valid.  Similarly with philosophers: if you don’t understand the relationship of premise and conclusion, the necessity of relevance…

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So you want to be a Nurselady

And even though you don’t know any other guys who want to be nurseladies, you persist.  Because quite simply, you think you’ll like nursing, as a career, a job, an endeavour.  So you take your high school maths and sciences, you do quite well, and you get accepted into nursing school.

Where almost all the students are women.  You feel like you don’t really belong, you feel odd, you stand out.  There are a few other men in the class and at first you hang around with them, but you don’t really like them.  Part of you thinks you should like them, but, well, you just don’t.  You try hanging around with some of the women, and they’re pleasant enough and they talk to you, but you never get included in their group things outside of class.  So you become a loner, part of nothing, sort of invisible.  But you persist, you keep coming to class.

All the profs are women and they keep saying things like “Well, ladies…” as if you weren’t there.  There’s one who makes a point of adding, as a cute afterthought, “and gentlemen”, but something in her tone bugs you and you’d rather she just stick to “Well, ladies”.  And there’s another one who asked once why, with your build, you weren’t playing football instead.  You were speechless.  But you persist, you don’t drop out.  (Even though you wonder sometimes at the average marks you get for work you think is above average.)

There’s only one men’s washroom in the whole building.  On particularly bad days, it annoys you when you have to go to a different floor just to go to the washroom.

And it seems that some knowledge is assumed as background.  Things like how to hold a baby.  How are you supposed to know what they haven’t taught you yet?

And there are no nursing uniforms for you in the campus shop.  Something special has to be ordered.  It’s different, of course, and makes you stand out even more, as someone who doesn’t really belong with the group.  This is especially bad in the training hospital – people keep thinking you’re security or something.  Sometimes it seems you have to spend so much time and effort just getting accepted as a nurse, you don’t have anything left to actually do any nursing.

But you persist.  Even though you probably won’t get a job when you graduate – men are thought to be not as emotionally sensitive, you’ve already been criticized for being gruff (you swear you were just speaking normally).  And if you do get a job, it’ll probably be in some no-name hospital god-knows-where with no chance for advancement.  None of the headnurses in any of the hospitals you’ve been in were men.  But you persist.

One day it occurs to you that it would help if they stopped calling it ‘nurselady’ and just called it ‘nurse’.  When you suggest that, you get weird looks as if you’re obsessed with sex or over-reacting (or both).  A few agree to use just ‘nurse’, but the way they say it defeats the purpose.  The same sort of thing happened when you said something about the uniforms and the washrooms.  You were criticized for making a fuss.  But you persist.  Because damn it you want to be a nurse!

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Cellphone Syndrome

Originally written when cellphones first appeared.  Don’t think I’d change a thing.

Has there been a more transparent advertisement of insecurity?

Look at me, I’m so popular!  Everyone’s calling me!  I have so many friends!  Answer that thing one more time when I’m with you, you’ll have one less.

Look at me, I’m so busy!  I have so many calls to make, so many calls to take!  What you have is a total inability to actually enjoy life.

Look at me, I’m so important!  Excuse me, I have to take this call!  No.  You don’t.  You are not a doctor on call.  You are not a top-level executive.  Neither your presence nor your opinion is urgently required.  Anywhere.  By anyone.

Frankly, it’s frightening.  Suddenly all these men are making calls on their cellphones while they’re driving.  Just yesterday they couldn’t even dial a phone while sitting at a desk, they had to get their secretaries to do it for them.

And of course it’s annoying as hell.  Just what makes people think the rest of the world wants to listen to every word of their unbearably inane conversations?  “Hey, Jen.  We’re at the Van Houtte on St. Laurent.  Yeah.  Just ordered.  No.  Not yet.  We’re waiting.  Coffee.”

Of course people have been having conversations in cafes and stores, and on sidewalks and buses, for quite some time.  It’s not an invasion of public space.  Unless the person TALKS LOUDLY ENOUGH EVERYONE CAN’T HELP BUT HEAR.  Then it’s an advertisement of the immaturity of overriding self-importance.

But that doesn’t explain why a person talking loudly on a cellphone in public is even more annoying than two people having a loud conversation in public.  Why is that?  I think it’s because in the case of the cellphone conversation, we hear only half of the conversation.  However annoying the whole conversation would be, half of it is even worse.  It’s like hearing only every second work in a sentence.  (Speaking of which, remember the early “ – ar ph – s”?)  This occurred to me when I heard someone speaking on a cellphone in a language I didn’t understand.  It wasn’t quite as bad.  I wasn’t engaged against my will in a frustrating half-comprehensible experience.

But what’s most worrisome about the widespread use of cellphones is that it indicates not progress, but regress.  We are, in fact, devolving.  Imagine, for a moment, what it would’ve been like to have been the first one in your cave to discover thought, the first one to hear words, inside your head.  It’s a neat and handy trick – not having to say out loud everything that occurs to you.  And one of the more valuable side-effects of being able to think is being able to evaluate – to deliberate, to compare, to measure.  (And to realize that not everything that occurs to you is worth saying out loud.)  But we’ve gone backwards – from “I think, therefore I am” to “I talk, therefore I am.”  (I wonder if cellphone users can read without moving their lips.)

Given the recent increase in attention deficit (what we used to call ‘a short attention span’) (usually in reference to children and other less advanced creatures), the cellphone phenomenon is not surprising: it takes a certain amount of attention or concentration to think – to focus on and follow that little voice inside your head.  It used to be that doing two things at once meant your ability to concentrate was so good, you could divide your attention.  Now it means that your ability to concentrate is so bad, you can’t pay attention to any one thing for more than ten seconds.

(Either that or you don’t care enough to pay attention to anything or anyone for more than ten seconds.)

And maybe cellphones wouldn’t have become the annoyance they are if everyone hadn’t ditched their landline phones.  Because now the ONLY place you can have a phone conversation is OUTSIDE.  Wherever the signal is good.  Whether that happens to be outside someone’s bedroom window or one foot away from a stranger waiting for a bus, well, no matter.  Your conversation takes priority.  To everything and everyone.  Apparently.

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This weather brought to you by…

“A deep freeze continues to sweep through Europe, mudslides and avalanches caused by heavy rains and snowmelt in Oregon and Washington have prompted evacuation notices, prolonged drought continues to devastate much of the American Midwest, Texas, and Mexico, with many areas now being without rain for over 200 days, and flash fires continue to rage throughout those areas, a heat wave in Australia continues unabated with temperatures well over 100 degrees, there are tornado alerts for regions throughout Tennessee and Oklahoma, Hurricane Gordon has touched down in Florida, swift on the heels of Hurricane Florence, flash floods are rampant in southern parts of Africa, and torrential rains have Brazil still in a state of emergency.”

This weather brought to you by everyone who’s driven a gas-guzzling minivan, pick-up, or SUV in the last thirty years, everyone who still makes unnecessary trips, and everyone who still lets their vehicle idle while they’re somewhere else doing whatever the fuck they’re doing.

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“Office Help”

Anyone remember the job ads titled “Office Help”?  You knew, when a job ad was titled that way, that they expected, or wanted, a woman.  Women help.  They don’t actually do a job, they just help someone else do a job.  So the someone else gets the credit.  And the big bucks and the benefits.  After all, you’re just helping out, you’re just doing a favor.  Because you’re nice.  That’s what women are.  You never saw “Maintenance Help” or “Engineering Help” ads.

Another give-away was, and maybe still is, when the job was for something like “10:00 to 2:00”.  A man wouldn’t take a part-time job.  Men needed a full-time job.  Even if they hadn’t made a couple kids they then needed to support.   (Did I ever get paid more to support my choices?  Don’t think so.) 

And they’d get it too.  The full-time job.  Men are good at talking about their needs.  Because having needs makes you important,  If you’re a man.  (If you’re a woman, needing something makes you weak, dependent.)

(‘Course everything makes you weak if you’re a woman.  Even ethics.  It’s called ‘sentiment’.  In a man, it’s called ‘integrity’.)

Have things changed?

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Mainstream and Alternative

So I was browsing the movie collection at my online DVD rental site and feeling so very tired and bored with movies by men, about men, for men.  My request list had dwindled to almost zero, and I wasn’t finding anything I was interested in.  So I decided to check out the “Alternative” section for at least an off-beat movie (by men, about men, for men) and WOH.  There they were! The movies by women. About women. For women. Lots and lots of movies with women front and center. Strong, interesting women. 

So I’m thinking, what a labeling mistake.  Why don’t they just call the mainstream ‘male’ and the alternative/indie ‘female’.   (Oh.  Right.)

                       

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Porn’s Harmless and Pigs Fly

The fact that ‘you’ claim porn doesn’t harm women is proof that it does.  Because such a claim indicates that you are so accustomed to seeing women sexually subordinated you think there’s nothing wrong with it.  Such a claim proves that that porn has skewed your perceptions so much you actually believe the women are enjoying, asking for, whatever it is you see.  (They’re pretending, asshole.  They’re acting.  According to some guy’s fantasy script.  And they’re doing so because they’re getting paid.)

Such a claim also proves you haven’t read the research: for example, compared to those who did not watch porn, men who watched porn were more likely to have aggressive and hostile sexual fantasies, more likely to say that women enjoy forced sex, less likely to be bothered by rape and slashing, and more likely to consider women subordinate and submissive.

The research also indicates that males are starting to watch porn as young as eleven these days.

 

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Snowmobiles Rule – Only in Canada. Pity.

Snowmobilers are often presented as enjoying the natural beauty of the North.  Oh please.  Not at the speeds they drive.  Not while their exhaust pipes spew fumes into our air.  And their engines roar at a volume that must be endured by everyone within five miles.  And their tossed beer cans litter the forest until someone comes by and picks up after them.

What snowmobiling is all about adolescent males going VROOM VROOM.

Which means that our government has handed over thousands of miles of crown land to a bunch of young men to use as their personal racetrack.  How fair is that?  And did they ask us first?

When a friend of mine contacted the MNR to ask about putting up signs at each end of a short trail through crown land that snowmobilers are using as a short cut to get to their trail and, in the process, making it dangerous (not to mention extremely unpleasant because of the fumes and the noise) for the rest of us to use (for walking and cross-country skiing), she was told No, they can’t put up signs prohibiting snowmobilers from using it because everyone has access to crown land.  Right.  Then why do the signs on the snowmobile club trails say ‘No Trespassing – You must have a permit to use this trail’?

Why has the government done this?  Because they’re adolescent males themselves.  Who still want to go VROOM VROOM.

And because local businesses asked them to, because they want to make money from the snowmobilers.

Snowmobilers are a minority.  Local business owners are a minority.  Why do they get to determine policy and practice?  Policy and practice that affects other people?

When snowmobilers (and ATVers and dirtbikers – essentially, all motorized ‘recreational’ vehicles) use crown land the way they want, no one else can use it the way they want.  Consider the trails, mentioned above, unsafe and unpleasant now for hikers and skiers.  Consider the lake we all live on.  In winter (and in summer too – jetskis, another motorized recreational vehicle), our properties may as well be backing on, well, a racetrack.  (So much for sitting outside and – well, so much for sitting outside.  Not to mention canoeing or kayaking.)  Consider all the backroads we live on, the ones without sidewalks.  It’s nice that we can hear a snowmobile coming from miles away so we have time to get off the road, but it’s not enough to get off to the side (assuming that’s not where we already are), because that’s where the snowmobiles drive.  It’s not even enough to get off the road and up onto the snowbank, because they like to ride the banks.  You have to climb up and over the snowbanks to be safe.  In some countries, pedestrians have the right of way.  In Canada, gas-guzzling, fume-spewing, noise-farting, male-driven snowmobiles do.

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Being Josh

[Another old one, but it still applies...]

It’s Monday night basketball, an all-comers pick-up game, supposed to be fun and a good sweat. But week after week I steel myself against the anger, the frustration of not knowing how to correct the problem, and the despair of not being able to even begin to do just that. Eventually it happens: this time it’s Josh who yells at me to switch, to guard the new grade niner who’s just come onto the court to sub for the guy who’d been guarding Josh and Josh would guard the guy I’d been guarding.

I am distracted, as always, by the insult, the unwarranted assumption that I’m always the worst player there (even worse than the new grade niners) (although I’m thirty-five and played basketball throughout high school), and by the faulty logic that weak offensive players* are weak defensive players and should therefore guard other weak offensive players.

Nevertheless, I manage to focus on yet another problematic aspect of the shouted order: that it was an order, and it was given with the full expectation of compliance. How is it, I thus have occasion to wonder yet again, that a kid, a 17-year-old less than half my age, believes he can tell me what to do, believes he knows better than me? The answer is simple: he’s male. And I’m female. If I were a man over twice his age, he’d keep his thoughts to himself. And if he were a girl, he wouldn’t even have such thoughts.

When Chodorow wrote “Being and Doing”, a ground-breaking analysis of sexism in terms of passivity (of being, of women) and activity (of doing, of men), she got it right – but she also got it wrong. Josh is so easy in his authority over me simply because he’s male, simply because he is male. He hasn’t had to do anything to gain that authority, or the respect I feel myself giving him just before I catch myself acting like Pavlov’s dog. The confidence, the assurance, the arrogance that he must have to even think he can just tell me what to do – he has it just because he’s male. And he probably started developing it as soon as he realized he was indeed male: I’ve heard 5-year-old boys speak with the same kind of authority.

Women, on the other hand, have to do – we have to earn respect, we don’t just get it automatically. And I’m not sure we ever achieve any authority, no matter what we do.

And of course it’s not just respect and authority men feel entitled to just because they’re men: they also feel entitled to money (pay, and higher pay) and power (supervisory positions). In short, they feel entitled to dominance, just because of who, of what, they are (not because of what they do).

* I concede on this point, especially when I’m playing with people who are taller than me, who play with a slightly larger ball than I learned to play with, and who, most importantly, recognize only a hotshotting inside kind of game.

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Why do you read the paper every day?

Why do you read the paper (or listen to/watch the news) every day?  Certainly not for an objective account of events.  Because surely you’re aware of editorial bias – what gets in (or not), where it goes, and how much space it gets there.  And reporter bias – who gets interviewed, what gets asked (or not), and what gets put at the beginning of the piece.

And how it’s said.  To describe an incident with complete objectivity is to give a phenomenological account.  And anyone who’s taken Phenomenology 101 knows how difficult that is.  Even to say “There is a brown house” is to have made an assumption, is to have imposed your subjectivity.  You can’t see the house.  From your perspective, standing in front of it, all you see is one, or maybe two walls.  You assume there’s a third and a fourth.  Your subjectivity fills in the gaps.  All the time.

It gets worse.  Read the rest of this entry »

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