Women Discover Life on Mars

“Should we fund a mission to Mars?  Sure.  Give us a bit of time and we can make that planet uninhabitable too.”  (jassrichards.com)

That said, I thoroughly enjoyed watching MARS.   Why?  Because the three astronauts who walk out onto the planet’s surface at the end to discover life on Mars are all women.  Not a token one of three.  Not even a remarkable two of three.  But ALL THREE.  All three are women.

AND the bureaucrat back on Earth who makes the announcement?  Again, a woman.

AND none of this was presented as in-your-face feminist.  Not one line in the entire script made reference to their being women.  There was no male resentment, no resistance, no snide comment about quotas or reverse discrimination.  There was no undue praise, no celebration for having achieved the status of being the first humans to discover life on Mars.

They just were.

I can’t tell you how gratifying it would be to just be.  To be an astronaut if I wanted to be.  To be the one to discover life on Mars.  To be the head of a Mars mission program.  Just because I was qualified to do so and lucky enough to make it through the selection process.  And my sex had as little to do with it as my hair.

Furthermore, throughout the expedition, there was as much female presence as male.   Sure, okay, one of the women became leader only because one of the men died, but when the second crew arrived, its leader was a woman.  And if I’ve got this mistaken, it’s only because regardless of the actual hierarchy, women were as central, as important, as valuable, as active.

They were just living their lives. 

And yet, seven of the eight writers are men.  The director is a man.  All ten executive producers are men.  Even so, they had THREE WOMEN discover life on Mars.  Three women, all by themselves.  They didn’t need a man to go with them to protect them.  They didn’t need a man to go with them in case they got lost.

Amazing.  Truly amazing.

And so truly … gratifying.  To see this.  To actually see this.

Thank you.

Telling our Members of Parliament How to Dress

So I recently found this on the Parliament of Canada website:

While there is no Standing Order setting down a dress code for Members participating in debate, [84]  Speakers have ruled that to be recognized to speak in debate, on points of order or during Question Period, tradition and practice require all Members, male or female, to dress in contemporary business attire. [85]  The contemporary practice and unwritten rule require, therefore, that male Members wear a jacket, shirt and tie as standard dress. Clerical collars have been allowed, although ascots and turtlenecks have been ruled inappropriate for male Members participating in debate. [86]  The Chair has even stated that wearing a kilt is permissible on certain occasions (for example, Robert Burns Day). [87]  Members of the House who are in the armed forces have been permitted to wear their uniforms in the House. [88]

What could possibly justify this Speakers’ rule?

Could it be that our Members of Parliament can’t dress themselves?  The people we’ve voted into positions of power? Doubtful.  They’re adults.  Many of them even have a university degree.  (Okay, I know …)

Could it be somebody in a higher position of power is prioritizing appearance over reality?  What you look like is more important than what you are like.  That bodes well for, well, the world.

Could it be someone in a higher position of power is making a series of non sequiturs from clothing to behaviour and character?  If you wear a business suit, you must be honest, hard-working, mature – respectable.  Say what?

It is certainly that someone in a higher position of power is appealing to tradition and practice.  Philosophers rightly consider that fallacious reasoning.  Just because we’ve always done it that way, just because we do it that way, doesn’t mean we should.

And the other thing to note?  There’s no mention of what exactly female members must wear.  Because there’s no standard business attire for women?  No, that can’t be right.  To judge by the Speakers’ own criteria, tradition and practice, it is standard for women to wear shoes with high heels (that will be uncomfortable for standing, difficult for walking, and eventually cause postural pain), to wear a skirt or dress (that will ensure their legs are showing, because – men want to see women’s legs at all times?), and at the very least to not wear a jacket, shirt, and tie – because we MUST MUST MUST enforce the gender norms.  Our patriarchy depends on it.

(Oh, one other thing to note: “..male Members wear a jacket, shirt and tie” – what, no trousers?)

The Sci Phi Journal!

Check out the Sci Phi Journal: a journal about science fiction and philosophy!

Not just about though, there are many cool stories to read and think about…

Planning is Sinister?

In This Changes Everything,* Naomi Klein makes an interesting observation, intended to explain why we aren’t building the kind of economy we need: “… there is something sinister, indeed vaguely communist, about having a plan to build the kind of economy we need, even in the face of existential crisis” (125, my emphasis).

Is that why we don’t plan?

At the individual level.  People are so que sera even about creating other human beings.  ‘You’re pregnant?  I didn’t know you wanted to spend twenty years of your life looking after someone.’  ‘Oh, it just happened ….’

And at the community level.  If lakes were zoned, for example, everyone—jetskiers, and people-with-screeching-kids, and canoeists —could be happy.  But as it is, the first group is angry with the third, the second group is angry with the first, the third group is angry with both the first and the second.

This lack of planning—it’s all because it’s communistBecause a pre-determined society is somehow against individual freedom?  

Not planning is against individual freedom.  Not planning is allowing yourself to be tossed about at random, by chance—and that’s not being free.

I wonder if there’s also a religious element involved.  To plan, to choose your future, is to reject, or at least challenge, God’s plan.  For you, your future.

Also, planning requires foresight, and foresight requires imagination.  Which, I’m realizing, most people don’t have.

Planning also requires strong desires, for X over Y.  Again, I’m realizing that most people—don’t really care.  (Which means they get in the way of those of us who do.)

 

*very highly recommended, by the way

Calm down. Don’t think about— Don’t think.

One day when I was talking to a neighbour about something that I wished we could do something about—someone tossing their garbage out of their car onto the road where we walk every day, someone letting their kid drive a dirt bike with no muffler throughout the neighbourhood, someone burning leaves and sending toxic smoke everywhere—and she said something like ‘Calm down, your blood pressure’s going up!’

Well, it wasn’t (my blood pressure has finally creeped up into the normal range, ten years after I stopped running forty miles a week), but I realized then that she wasn’t distinguishing between my cognitive anger, my critical thinking—I was making a point about civility, and respect for others, and the difference between public and private space—and some emotional rant that might end in screaming and slamming doors.  I suppose the latter can elevate one’s blood pressure, and if it’s high to begin with, if you’re on blood pressure medication, like so many people are these days, then yeah—calm down.  So no wonder people develop a sort of blind and deaf veneer.  No wonder they just ‘go with the flow’ and never object.  No wonder they avoid thinking about—  Well, thinking.  It’s literally bad for their health.

But what this means—this inability to distinguish argument from rage, along with the increasing number of people with high blood pressure—is that the more we eat at McDonald’s, the less we’ll get angry about McDonald’s.  The more zombied out people are, sprawled on the couch in front of the tv, the more zombied out people will strive to remain.  Sprawled on the couch in front of the tv.

Not thinking.

 

 

Another poem from chris wind – thought this one especially apt since it’s September and students are back at university…it’s from her book dreaming of kaleidoscopes

 

To My Philosophy Professors

 

Why didn’t you tell me?

When I was all set to achieve Eudamonia

through the exercise of Right Reason,

When I was eager to fulfil my part

of the Social Contract,

When I was willing, as my moral duty,

to abide by the Categorical Imperative

When I was focussed on Becoming,

through Thesis and Antithesis to Synthesis–

 

Why didn’t you correct me?

Tell me that Aristotle didn’t think I had any reason,

That according to Rousseau,

I couldn’t be party to the contract,

That Kierkegaard believes I have no sense of duty

because I live by feeling alone,

That Hegel says I should spend my life

in self-sacrifice, not self-development,

That Nietzsche thinks I’m good for pregnancy

and that’s about it–

 

Why didn’t you tell me I wasn’t included?

 

(Perhaps because you too had excluded me

from serious consideration;

Or did you think I wouldn’t understand?)

 

(I do.           I do understand.)

 

1987

AI Indeed

So I first heard of the movie Ex Machina when I read a review (by Chris DiCarlo) in Humanist Perspectives—and was so disgusted that I wrote a letter to the editor.  Why?  Because the reviewer had revealed his own misogyny by failing to address the elephant in the room: the fact that the body the guy created for his AI was that of a female, a sexy female, a young female, is what—mere coincidence?  The picture they’d chosen to accompany the review (no doubt, the one chosen to promote the movie) showed her bound.  In fishnet.*  Her pose was right out of a BDSM scene.  Not worth mention? As I said in my letter,

That you failed to remark on any of this disturbingly telling.  It indicates just how much men have come to expect to see women as young and sexy.  Apparently it’s the norm, it’s normal, to pornify women, to present their bodies as sexually available.

Well, fuck you.

(Have you heard of sexism?  Feminism?  Check it out, why don’t you.)

The letter was not published.  The editor wrote back and said,

I don’t know if this changes anything, but Chris had nothing to do with the selection of photos for the review. That was done by a woman who helps me with the onerous task of laying out the magazine.

—a comment that opens up a whole ‘nother area worth investigation.  How is it that people think that if a woman does X, it must be okay?  This notion informs the currently popular misconception of feminism as indiscriminate female solidarity.  (As a commenter said recently in response to one of my posts on BlogHer, implying that I was not a feminist, “My feminist sisters support all woman in whatever choices they make…” At the very least, that stance would be rife with internal contradictions.)

But onwards.  Does it change anything?  No.  As long as the image is from the movie, then the movie is evidence of the normalized pornification of women, and DiCarlo still ignores that elephant in the room.

If the AI had been black-skinned and called ‘boy’ and given menial tasks and whipped, I suspect it would have been noticed.  I suspect DiCarlo would have made at least passing mention to the implied racism.

But—and I’ve just watched the movie.  Not only is “Ava” sexy woman-child (there’s even a ‘play dress up’ scene), the guy has a hall full of closets of similar AIs.  He’s not making AIs.  He’s making fucktoys.  He actually tells his (male) guest that they have fully functioning holes.  We see him using said holes for his apparent pleasure.  The guest realizes that the guy has created Ava to match his porn file.  (What the hell is a porn file?  Oh.)

All very unremarkable, apparently.

There was one promising line—the guy insists that consciousness is gendered.  But the claim isn’t really challenged.  And it becomes clear that he has come to that conclusion because his ‘source material’ (his ‘blue book’) for Ava comes from a net cast wide upon the world-as-is.  That is, he’s just grabbed all the sexist sociocultural conditioning in the world and built something from it.  No wonder, Ava.

Ex Machina is just another movie that objectifies women.  It just pretends to be about AI, but it’s not even a little bit past Asimov’s I, Robot.

Is it redeemed by the fact that Ava escapes, after killing the guy (and leaving the guest imprisoned, facing the same outcome)?  Not really.  Because she does so by sexual manipulation (“I want to be with you,” she tells the guest in her soft, little-girl voice.  “Do you want to be with me?”).  (“Yes,” I imagine the guest replying.  “I’d like the girlfriend experience, please.”)  That’s apparently what the script writer and director believe intelligence is, at least when female-bodied.

And she escapes into the forest wearing high heels—fuck-me heels.  Though, okay, that’s probably all that was available to her, and we do see that she takes them off.  But she doesn’t throw them away.  Once in the real world, does she choose instead Doc Martens, loose pants with pockets, a comfortable sweatshirt, and a jacket?  No.  She remains sexualized.  Artificial intelligence indeed.

 

 

*Right, okay, it was actually metal mesh, I get that.  And the similarity to fishnet is also mere coincidence?  (If you think so, you are too naïve for words.  Certainly too naïve to be writing movie reviews.)

(You know we’re laughing at you, right?  [When we’re not screaming at you.]  You who investigate artifical intelligence but are too stupid to recognize your own immaturity, you who have conferences on “The Future of Humanity” with all-male panels, you who publish special issues called “Speaking of Humanism” featuring nothing but male faces…)

 

 

 

 

 

Blood & Oil

[since I’m at it — posting about tv that happened oh, a year ago…see June 1 post]

About a year ago, the weather reports became dramatic.  Forecasters started talking about “extreme weather events” with voices and gestures that rivalled sports game commentary, making droughts, wildfires, floods, tornados, and high temperatures all so—exciting.  My god, I realized one day with horror, they’re making the evidence of our imminent death into entertainment.

There was no mention of short-term, let alone long-term, implications for things like, oh, food and water…  There was no mention of why our weather is changing.  No mention of who’s to blame.  (The oil industry for providing the supply, and not telling people about the consequences of use.  The media for agreeing to censorship on that point [whenever any public interest group tries to put out an advertisement informing us, the media refuses to sell them airtime].  And most Americans and Canadians for allowing their worldview to be formed by forementioned censored media.)

I imagined the world actually ending as people continued mainlining television, utterly oblivious.  And that was bad enough.

Then I saw the trailers for the new tv series, Blood & Oil.  Oh    my    god.

They’re making oil sexy.  They’ve got Don Johnson, they’ve got two bare-backed supermodel female bodies, they’ve got a phallic fire-gushing oil rig.  They’re making it exciting (at least to the male brain), what with the sex, the fire, and the blood.

Why?  Why have the oil companies commissioned a tv series that makes oil sexy and exciting?

Do they think too many of us are limiting our fossil fuel use?  Carpooling?  Reducing air travel?  Turning down the heat during these colder winters? Not turning on the air conditioning during these hotter summers?  (Like residential resource use comes anywhere close to the unbridled industrial use…)  (Just for example, it takes 4.3 barrels of water to produce one barrel of oil from tar sands mining, and once the water’s used, it’s radioactive, toxic, pretty much useless.)

This is decade zero.  We’re halfway through.  Decade zero.  And we’ve already pretty much eliminated the possibility of staying under two degrees.  Given what we’ve already done, we’re certain to reach 1.5 degrees.  Certain.  Cause and effect.  It’s a done deal.  (To stay under two degrees, we need to limit our carbon dioxide concentration to 450ppm.  We hit 400 ppm in 2013.  And we’re adding 2-3 ppm every year.  Do the math.)

So what’s the point, now, of encouraging us to maintain, even to increase our use of fossil fuels?

Are they trying to distract us, play a little pretty music on our way to the gas chambers?  (No, that’s the least plausible explanation.  They clearly don’t care about us.  And there is no need for oil in that pretty little music.)

Do they really not know they’ve already guaranteed the end of the world as we know it?  (According to Naomi Klein’s research, if we don’t get our emissions under control by 2017, “our fossil fuel economy will ‘lock-in’ extremely dangerous warming” [This Changes Everything, p.23].)  (And “under control” means leaving 80% of the claimed oil where it is.  Underground.)

Are they trying to hasten our death?  Move the predicted date of extinction from 2100 (we’ll be at five degrees by then) to 2050? (Watch the insurance companies.  Watch what riders, exclusions, they start attaching to our policies.  Refusing to insure for damages and injuries resulting from nuclear accidents will be the least of it.)

Are they trying to rush the return on their investment so they can buy one more company before we all die?  Guarantee their ticket to ride on the shuttle to the new world—on Mars?

Have they forgotten that the free trade agreements they paid our governments to sign guarantee that their profits trump the planet?   (Never mind that the $775 billion in subsidies that they’ve received from taxpayers make their profits ours.)

Or are they trying to minimize the likelihood that someone, someone, will eventually go all vigilante for justice and target them with a semi-automatic.

Or did Hollywood come up with the idea all on its own?  Could they really not know what they’re doing?  (Just like they don’t know they have single-handedly desensitized millions of people to violence, to harm, injury, pain, death.)  (Ah.)

Given the facts, Blood & Oil is the equivalent of making heroin or the plague exciting.  And making vomit and pus sexy.

Men, Women, and Fairness

Men, Women, and Fairness

It’s not that men aren’t fair. It’s that they don’t even think about fairness. When Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever (Women Don’t Ask) asked people whether they deserved what they wanted, women typically responded with something like “…my training—what is really engrained in me—is that you’re never quite deserving of what you might want” (58).

Men, however, said things like “Um, sure, I deserve the things I want—yeah” (58) (he obviously hasn’t really thought about it) and “Interesting question! … The sense that I deserve something is not a sense that I carry with me, generally. Do I deserve this, or deserve that?” (59)

The authors summarized, “Where women are often preoccupied with ascertaining what exactly they deserve, it doesn’t really cross Mike’s mind to consider whether he deserves something or not—this approach isn’t relevant to his thinking” (59).

Which explains this: “Because Linda hadn’t asked to be promoted, the dean never even thought of her—she was off his radar” (64).

So, it’s not that men aren’t fair to women. It’s that they really just don’t think about it.

*

“It turned out that only 7 percent of the female students had negotiated [for a higher initial salary] but 57 percent (eight times as many) of the men had asked for more money” (2). Why? I suggest it’s because men think their wants are needs; it’s because men think what they want is important; it’s because men think they’re entitled to get what they want; it’s because men think they’ll get what they ask for (and they’re right), and women don’t (and they’re right).

*

“…modern Western culture—strongly discourages women from asking for what they want” (14). So true. women are taught to be generous and to give (not to get). Women are taught to defer to people.

“‘…as a man I have been raised with this sense of entitlement, that I should get what I want. And I almost think that societally women are conditioned that you don’t always get what you want’” (74).

*

“‘We don’t accept from women what we do from men’” says Roberta Nutt, former chair of the Psychology of Women Division of the APA (94). Yes, yes, there you go!

“You might think that women also need to be assertive to negotiate successfully—able to present strong arguments, defend their interests and positions … Unfortunately, research has revealed that assertive women are less well liked … This means that an assertive woman, no matter how well she presents her arguments in a negotiation, risks decreasing her likeability and therefore her ability to influence the other side to agree with her point of view” (96). Proof!

*

Regarding an instance in which a man asked for more money out of a discretionary fund and the woman didn’t, she says, ‘This fund—I never knew of its existence … It had never been publicized … There is no application procedure…’ (20). How is it the man knew about it and the woman didn’t?

*

“‘…his father had taken them [the boys] out and … taught them how to tip—basically, taught them how to slip the maitre d’ money for good tables or give some money to the guys who were in the band to play a good song… how to circumvent the system’ to get what [they] wanted” (34). Yeah, my father didn’t teach me that shit.

chris wind’s “Portia”

Remember The Merchant of Venice? This is “Portia”, from Soliloquies: The Lady Doth Indeed Protest by chris wind, another one of my favourite authors. (posted with permission)

If I’m the one with the property
You’d think I’d be the buyer
Not the bought;
A lot of faith my father has in me:
He distrusts my ability to judge, to discriminate—
A decision made by chance,
A decision inevitably and ultimately irrational,
Is preferable to a decision made by me.
But no, you say,
The decision was not to be by chance
But choice, and thus reveal the suitor’s character—
That is, he who chose lead would be wise,
To forsake appearance, and realize its irrelevance;
True, but you forget the inscription:
To choose lead, to choose ‘to give and hazard all’
Is to my mind not wise,
For its foolish risk (all!);
Is it not better to choose silver,
And ‘get what one deserves’?
It seems to me a mature perspective;
So, to judge by appearance
(And thus forsake appearance)
Or to judge by words
—That is the choice.
Words have meaning,
And unless the words be false or deceiving,
Is it not better to judge according to content,
Than to judge according to form
To substance, rather than pretence?
So if it was to be a test of character,
’twas thus a poor test,
For who was to guess what my father intended:
The form did contradict the content;
And so choice becomes chance, after all.

That I am not allowed to choose
Is in principle, intolerable,
But in practice, just as well—
For there is really not a one worth choosing:
A prince who boasts of his precious Porsche
And can fix it himself;
The County Palatine, who believes
A real man never smiles;
Falconbridge, a pin-up boy
With a mind as two-dimensional;
A Scottish Lord interested in nothing
But a good fight;
An alcoholic (the duke’s nephew, yes);
The Prince of Morocco, a blood-thirsty Rambo;
And Bassanio, attracted by wealth and beauty,
Willing in a moment to sacrifice his wife for his friend.
There is not one.

If I so despise men,
Why did I disguise as one?
’twas not my choice:
Shakespeare (a man) created my costume
(And that of Viola and Rosalind),
And in his cowardice, he refused to challenge the reality
That to be able to interact
Without having to defend against
Sexual or romantic intentions,
One must be male;
That to be taken seriously,
And to be exempt from compliments that essentially trivialize
One must be male;
That to be effective at an endeavour
Of the intellectual arts,
One must be male;
That to be dominant, influential, powerful,
One must be male
In patterns of appearance, behaviour, speech, and thought
—Patterns of thought?
But didn’t I put forward
The feminine concept of mercy over justice?
Didn’t care and compassion win over fairness?
No, look again:
The Duke first pleaded for mercy, not I;
My case was won on a technicality,
On the letter of the law.
(Though it is worth mention
That recourse to such a legal loophole
Was my last resort.)
The masculist mode won out;
But this is not surprising in a masculist court.

Where there is no challenge,
There can be no change.
For when the disguise is finally revealed
It is not recognized
That to be what I was (what I am)
One can be female—
It is recognized only that I am female.
And their response concerns only themselves—
Relief, that they won’t be cuckolds.